Anita Kemp Ph.D. Blog

Ideas for a healthy body, mind and spirit.

Evidence Based Nutritional Strategies for the Aging Brain

I recently had a training from Michael Lara MD on nutrition and healthy brain. Here are a few tidbits from that training.

The brain ages due to chronic stress which up regulates inflammation, increases cortisol, increases free radicals and synaptic glutamate. Depression also increases inflammation. So both stress and depression are killers for the brain. The brain under these stresses has reduction of the hippocampus with the consequence of short-term memory reduction among other changes.

Chronic low level inflammation is related to dementia but also cancer, diabetes, heart disease, obesity and depression.

Dr. Lara recommends anti-inflammatory nutrients of Omega 3 Fatty Acids and polyphenols (green tea, berries, turmeric, cinnamon, green vegetables). The Mediterranean Diet is also anti-inflammatory. He shares a recipe for Smart Coffee which has 1/2 TB of coconut oil and cinnamon. Also noted were intermittent fasting (12 hours without food on 3 non-consecutive days), aerobic exercise and resistance training.

Mainly good healthy habits for food and exercise should keep our brains in shape.

December 8, 2018 Posted by | Depression, health | , , | Leave a comment

Compassion versus Empathy

Joan Halifax has just published a wonderful book STANDING AT THE EDGE: FINDING FREEDOM WHERE FEAR AND COURAGE MEET.  For all of you who suffer from empathy burn-out – this is your book. It is Buddhist based because Joan is a Roshi and has an incredible background in many areas. Empathy is necessary as a starting point for compassion. But staying there is a prescription for stress and illness. Feeling another’s feelings and staying with these feelings accentuates suffering and really does not help the other person. The move to compassion keeps your heart open but you don’t take on the other’s burden. There is a clear boundary between you and the other person which is healthy. This is essential at this time when we are bombarded with violence in our country and abroad. Joan talks about the edge states of altruism, empathy, integrity, respect and engagement. She discusses how you can lose your footing on the edge state. Altruism can turn into another form – pathological altruism. Empathy can become empathic distress. If you take on others emotional or physical feelings, please read this book.

June 3, 2018 Posted by | Emotional Well Being | , | Leave a comment

Stress Is Good For You!

Here is an amazing concept which is beneficial for all of us. We can not avoid stress. Trying to avoid only leads to a shut-down in life and less joy and well-being. Here is the paradoxical answer as to how to have stress beneficial for you – welcome stress. Kelly McGonigal Ph.D. has written a summary of the stress research and how to apply this to your life. The title is The Upside of Stress: Why Stress Is Good For You and How To Get Good at It. 

How you think about stress impacts the neurotransmitters released and the impact on your body and mind. “The effect you expect is the effect you get.”  Research has shown that people who believe stress is enhancing are healthier, happier, more productive, more satisfied with their lives than those who believe otherwise with the same amount of stress.

There are three categories of benefits of stress and the concomitant mindset.

  1. Stress helps you rise to the challenge by mobilizing energy
  2. Stress helps you connect with others and increases courage
  3.  Stress helps the brain learn and grow

The book has helpful exercises to get to this new place around stress as well as lots of examples and research. http://www.kellymcgonigal.com.

 

 

 

 

March 4, 2018 Posted by | Emotional Well Being, health | , , | Leave a comment

Benefits of Mindfulness Meditation

This information is extracted from a new book by Daniel Goleman and Richard Davidson, ALTERED TRAITS: SCIENCE REVEALS HOW MEDITATION CHANGES YOUR MIND, BRAIN AND BODY.  It is fairly dense reading about the controlled scientific studies done to date. The importance of these new studies is that they are demonstrating changes in the brain through fMRIs that with continued meditation become traits or permanent changes in the brain.

These authors look at studies that used Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy, Compassion practice and different types of meditation practices.

Studies are showing certain areas of the brain enlarge. These areas help attention and self-regulation. It is less likely to become hijacked by emotions and to fall into anxiety or depression or impulsive action. The amygdala has reduction in activity which leads to a calmer state of being.

Other benefits: age-related brain atrophy slowed, reduction in shortening of telomerase, reduction in pain.

 

 

 

January 20, 2018 Posted by | Depression, Emotional Well Being, meditation | , , | Leave a comment

Fight Depression with Diet, Exercise and Meditation

If you are contemplating taking antidepressants or are already on antidepressants and they are not working, here is the information you need now. Kelly Brogan MD had written a book that summarizes what we know about depression and antidepressants and then presents her plan to help women especially to get healthy without drugs. The book is A Mind of Your Own: The Truth About Depression and How Women Can Heal Their Bodies to Reclaim Their Lives. She reviews the research that basically says antidepressants are a placebo but have negative side effects that are not worth the minimal help. Healthy diet, exercise and meditation are the answer. Her diet is very restrictive and you have to be very motivated to follow this. For 30 days, she asks you to be off gluten, dairy, sugar, potatoes, rice, soy and legumes. And only drink water. No other beverages. Wow! However this is for 30 days and then you add back foods to see if they work for you or not. Even if you don’t want to do this sort of eating, please read the book. The information is invaluable.

December 10, 2017 Posted by | Depression, Emotional Well Being | , , | Leave a comment

Meditation Changes Your Brain

Research keeps coming on the benefits of meditation. Please check out the new book Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain and Body by Daniel Goleman and Richard Davidson. Some of the interesting findings summarized in this book you may already know. But here goes the list – faster recovery from stress, less amygdala reactivity (less hijacking by emotional ups and downs), improved happiness circuitry in brain, stronger ability to focus, improves working memory, inhibits impulsiveness, takes you out of negative self-focus, reduces pain, reduces inflammation, slows the usual shrinkage of brain upon aging (long-time meditators are “younger” by 7.5 years).  They review the literature and let you know how solid the results are. Some of the changes are viewed as traits – meaning that they stay with you – and others are temporary changes for as long as you keep the practice. Do you need more incentive to meditate? Of course, it is now recommended for anxiety, depression, addictions etc.

November 26, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Chronic Pain, Opioids, Thoughts

Yes, by now, we all know that there is an opioid addiction epidemic. For most people, it starts out innocently with an surgery and an MD readily giving a prescription for pain killers. Then the medication’s additive effects get going and you are trapped. Now MDs are getting wiser and prescribing less. So what do you do if you have chronic pain?  First realize all the negative effects of these drugs. Yes opioids dampen pain but tolerance develops and you need more. The drugs slow the gut with result of constipation which can be severe and the drugs can cause intense itching. Most seriously the drugs can lead to respiratory depression and death.

What are the choices for pain control? The power of the mind and relaxation provide the answer. Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) provides a program that is available online and has been effective in reducing chronic pain. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has also been effective by reducing catastrophic thinking. Those thoughts that say “This is really bad and what if …..”  In fact this catastrophizing is the largest factor in determining the impact of chronic pain on one’s life. There are things in your control and you can learn to control thoughts that impede your quality of life. Other approaches are hypnosis, mindfulness and guided imagery. There are better options than pain killers.

June 18, 2017 Posted by | health | , | Leave a comment

DEPRESSION AND INFLAMMATION

Andrew Weil MD ha summarized new research about inflammation and depression. The marker of inflammatory disease is  C-reactive protein and things like rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory disease. In one study, it was found that C-reactive protein- is 46% higher in those who have depression compared with those who do not. When individuals are given medication to reduce inflammation, depression is reduced.  Of course, this is still in the investigatory stages and you don’t want to start taking anti inflammatory drugs at this point for depression. Dr. Weil recommends an anti-inflammatory diet which is all the good stuff – fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, nuts and seeds along with exercise.  He also suggested adding turmeric because it is a natural anti-inflammatory. It is always worth looking at diet and exercise if you have depression. It can make the difference.

May 14, 2017 Posted by | Depression, health | | Leave a comment

Thyroid and Mood

This little organ – the thyroid- does amazing things for the body and needs to be in balance for your physical and mental health. If you have symptoms of stress, insomnia, feel overwhelmed, have trouble losing weight, feels depressed or anxious, take a look at this wonderful book – ADRENAL THYROID REVOLUTION by Aviva Romm MD.

Her focus is on hypothyroid and adrenal fatigue. Imbalances occur through chronic stress, toxins, infections, food triggers and problems with the gut. The  solution is to work on all the relevant areas. Stress management is central and here is where yoga and meditation can be a tremendous help. Other areas need to be assessed by  WHOLISTIC DOCTOR.  These come under various names like integrative medicine doctor, functional medicine doctor or naturopathic doctor. Visit websites for American Board of Integrative Medicine, Institute of Functional Medicine.

 

March 26, 2017 Posted by | Emotional Well Being, health, weight management | , , | Leave a comment

Why Gut Microbes Matter

More information keeps coming out on the benefits of healthy gut flora. A diversity is needed because each different strain has different benefits. Besides the physical health benefits for chronic fatigue syndrome, multiple sclerosis, Type I diabetes and obesity, there are mental health benefits. A new study found benefits for PTSD. More research needs to occur because this study was on mice and there is a long stretch to say that mice meet the criteria for PTSD because they cannot report the symptoms. However, new mental health treatments might just involve diet and/or fecal transplants. Dr. Andrew Weil’s Self Healing Newsletter of Sept. 2016 has a good article on this. He advises including in your diet leafy green vegetables, and fermented foods along with exercise, avoiding antibiotics and not being a germophobe.

October 17, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment