Anita Kemp Ph.D. Blog

Ideas for a healthy body, mind and spirit.

Taming Dragons That Control Your Mental State

If you have never heard of Daniel Amen MD, you should. He has been a leader in the mental health field with using SPECT brain scans to assess emotional, cognitive and behavioral problems. His clinics do a thorough assessment of the mental health issue and then provide treatment which includes nutritional supplements. He has demonstrated that his program can heal brain trauma in NFL players. You can check out his website He also has a brain fitness program on line

His latest book (Your Brain Is Always Listening: Tame the Hidden Dragons That Control Your Happiness, Habits and Hang-ups) is a fun one. Using metaphor of dragons, he tackles various emotional issues like anxiety, anger, grief, low self-esteem. For example for the Hopeless and Helpless Dragon, he gives antidotes of creating a positivity bias, gratitude practice, writing down your accomplishments and strengths, and getting your brain healthy with Omega-3’s. All his suggestions are doable and make sense. Then he tackles ANTS – Automatic Negative Thoughts for each of the issues. This is the good old cognitive-behavioral work. Mainly this book would be for someone new to the arena of psychology.

May 29, 2021 Posted by | anxiety, Depression, Emotional Well Being | Leave a comment

Eating to End Depression and Anxiety

Wouldn’t it be better to eat your way to emotional health than to take medications that have side effects? It’s not that hard and really just involves healthy eating that you already know. However to help with this process Drew Ramsey MD has written a book – Eat to Beat Depression and Anxiety: Nourish Your Way to Better Mental Health in Six Weeks.

He reviews the 12 essential nutrients to heal anxiety and depression – Folate, Iron, Omega-3 Fats, Magnesium, Potassium, Selenium, Vitamin B1, Vitamin A, Vitamin B6, B12, Vitamin C and Zinc. Don’t worry. The food sources for these are outlined.

There are sections on inflammation and gut microbiome which are both involved in anxiety and depression. Then at the end of the book are recipes. The Mushroom and Chicken Cassoulet was good but the Potato Pancakes with Smoked Salmon and Crème Fraiche was wonderful.

Who knew that you can eat well and heal your emotional health.

May 28, 2021 Posted by | anxiety, Depression, health | Leave a comment


Here is a new concept for our times – EMOTIONAL INFLAMMATION. Lise Van Sustern MD, a psychiatrists, has written this book before the COVID-19 and how relevant it is. She discusses all the stressors present in our world now- hunger, homelessness, drug use, crime, federal budget deficit, poor health care, environmental crisis, income inequality, too many guns, poor race relations. Now we can add more. The result is anxiety, preoccupation with threats, rumination, fears. Even worse is that emotions are contagious. We have mirror neurons that pick up other’s emotions and help us resonate with these. All very good if the emotions are positive. Not so good in our current environment.

Given this contagious effect, she counsels that you may need to disengage from some friends, redirect conversations to less stressful topics, using positive visualizations and other stress management tools. She then outlines types of reactors: nervous reactor, revved-up reactor, molten reactor and retreating reactor. Then she delineates all the negative impacts of reactivity on us before she helps with ideas to “steady your body’s natural rhythms.” Then she presents ideas for managing distressful thoughts. Then the last part of her program for well-being is to “reclaim the gifts of nature.”  Here is the beautiful concept of forest bathing.

The last section presents some ideas for action. This includes smaller and larger steps. Action reduces depression and anxiety. It empowers us and as we all take action, big changes can happen. Let us all move forward in a positive way and heal our world.

Many will find comfort in the recognition Van Sustern gives to the distress we are feeling living in this world.





June 3, 2020 Posted by | anxiety, Depression, Emotional Well Being | Leave a comment

Dangers of Antidepressants

Information has been out there for many years now that antidepressants have no more than a placebo effect. People do benefit if they believe the drugs will help, for sure. The problems with antidepressants are becoming clearer and everyone should consider  the use of this drug carefully. Unfortunately getting off an antidepressant is very difficult and can take months of tapering off along with nutritional support. Most medical practitioners are not knowledgeable about this process. There is withdrawal in coming off an antidepressant and the physical/emotional effects can be very difficult.

I am working through a course in nutritional and herbal treatment for mental health by Leslie Korn PHD that has been approved by the American Psychological Association. She recommends a three month plan at least and gradual reduction of antidepressant in this time period. Why does she recommend getting off these drugs? She notes that antidepressants increase vulnerability to chronic depression, increase suicide risk, contribute to mitochondrial dysfunction and lead to higher all-cause mortality.

Another resource to check out is Kelly Brogan MD and her new book “OWN YOURSELF”. her argument against antidepressants:

  1. They are ineffective
  2. They can induce psychosis and violence
  3. They are addictive and withdrawal is difficult

There can also be many side effects: anxiety, indigestion, insomnia, low sex drive, weight gain, heart rhythm problems etc.

So what can you do for depression? You probably already know – healthy diet, detox, exercise, manage stress, and live your life purpose.  Integrative medicine professionals also have an arsenal of herbal and nutritional support.  Dr. Brogan also recommends meditation, yoga, Qigong, breathwork, ecstatic dance.


November 27, 2019 Posted by | Depression | | Leave a comment

CBD for Anxiety/Depression?

CBD (cannabiol) is now getting a lot of press and increasing use by indivduals wanting relief from anxiety and depression as well as physical ailments. CBD does not produce the high that THC does and therefore is not addictive. Please note that we produce a similar chemical in our bodies (endocannabioid) and this has an impact on a lot of processes in our body and mind. If you also take it in externally, it will impact our natural system and perhaps lower our ability to produce this.

That said CBD is increasing being prescribed to quell anxiety and PTSD symptoms by mental health professionals. Studies that have looked at this use large amounts from 400 mg to 1000 mg and the typical available capsule is between 10-25 mg.  Also the products available vary in the amount of CBD actually in the capsule despite what they say and may have various contaminants like pesticides, since this is not well regulated yet.

Little evidence has yet been produced for benefit for depression. Limited research shows  some improvement for insomnia at low doses but increased wakefulness at higher doses.

So the bottom line is  BE CAREFUL and use non-drug means to handle anxiety before you start any drug.



September 28, 2019 Posted by | anxiety, Depression, Emotional Well Being, health | | Leave a comment

The Mind-Gut Connection

Another good book on the mind-gut connection, The Mind-Gut Connection by Emeran Mayer MD. Here is a summary of some of the points that are most critical for mental health. The lining of the gut has specialized cells that can release up to 20 different hormones and this is greater that any other endocrine organ. 95% of the serotonin is stored here and its release is impacted by what we eat, by the chemicals released from gut microbes and from signals of the brain. Ninety percent of the signals between the gut-brain go from the gut to the brain through the vagus nerve and only 10% from the brain to the gut. With more than 100 trillion microbes n the gut, who is in charge?

Excessive dietary fat and reduced fiber compromise the intestinal barrier leading to inflammation with subsequent decreased energy, increased pain sensitivity and increased likelihood of depression. There is a growing link between this and Alzheimer’s. Maybe ice cream feels better in the short term but then what? Interesting that patients can be classified as having depression just be examining their gut microbes.

Sobering news is that the gut microbes that play such an important role in mental and physical health are mainly set by age 3. Various probiotics and diets do not alter the gut microbes much but they do impact the metabolites produced by the microbes. So yes eat yogurt. However, diet alone is not an answer. Anxiety, anger and stress need to be reduced to have healthy gut microbes.

The bottom line is to eat healthy while reducing stress and know that our thinking brain is only a small part of our mental health.

January 1, 2019 Posted by | Depression, Emotional Well Being | , , | Leave a comment

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

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


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