Laura G Owens ~ Writer

Humanity. Health. Happiness.

Author: Laura G Owens Page 10 of 14

Tiger or pussycat mom? Amy Chua’s book stirs parenting controversy

amy chua, tiger mom, parenting advice, parenting philosophy

Amy Chua makes no apologies because she once called her daughter “garbage.” As a child, her father called her garbage after she was disrespectful to her mother. “It worked really well. I felt terrible and deeply ashamed of what I had done. But it didn’t damage my self-esteem,” Chua writes in her Jan. 8, 2011, article for The Wall Street Journal online.

Chua says Chinese moms and dads demand their kids respect them and excel, forcing children by cultural default to live up to their parents’ highest expectations in every area: discipline, school, music and even appearance. Read more… 

(copyright Sheknows.com). 

Photo credit: Michal Marcol

 

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New and improved: What’s interrupting YOUR joy?

Happy New Year 2012I’m not one for making lists of resolutions because I think if you want to change, today is as good a time as any. But, when January 1st nears it’s ingrained to think about resolutions, to use the date as our deadline to get going, or at least start simmering ideas for what to improve, change, add, drop or enhance.

Having recently come out the other side of some pretty severe “chronic” insomnia (I don’t believe anything has to be chronic) that wreaked absolute hell on my mind and body (and poor husband), I can finally focus on what I want the New Year to look like.

Before Christmas, I was too self-absorbed in my exhaustion and misery (sleep deprivation was used as torture for soldiers — I now know why) to think too much about transformation and goal-setting.

My singular goal was to fall asleep, to stay asleep and to feel like the person I once knew, void of the wretched anxiety and depression that crept in every day and night (the side effect of the mind and body not getting regular REM sleep, and the despair of spending hundreds, gulp thousands? on supplements, sleep medications, a pricey sleep lab and insomnia books to figure out what was keeping me up — only to come up empty and tired).  After I did about 200 hours of research and ordered my own tests the answers came (adrenal fatigue and gluten-intolerance, more posts to come on that topic).

Health is wealth might be a trite saying but it is irrefutably true.

When you’re swimming in the middle of physical or emotional pain, any state of unbalance in your mind and body, most everything and everyone around you dims and fades to the background. Pain of any kind is all-consuming and selfish, because chronic pain takes you into its clutches and moves all other facets of your life to the periphery.

You forget about better days even when you know  from years of your own attitude adjustments and experience and from loved ones that crappy stuff eventually changes. When you’re stuck in a mud hole and you’ve tried countless ways to dig out you tend to forget you can get out.

The excitement of possibility, your child’s cool project and silly laugh, your husband’s latest joke, a visit from a good friend, a jog in a brilliant sunset, a girl’s night out, stellar pizza, that ridiculous Will Ferrell movie — none if it feels like much but white noise.  For weeks, what used to easily tune me into life’s vibrancy felt like constant interruptions to what I was obsessively trying to figure out — how to sleep.

Is there anything right now interrupting your joy?

And if you feel joy after you came out from despair, please share.  The most inspirational and contagious stories are those that detail triumph.

Everything can improve. Everyone can prevail.

We’re empowered as humans, we’re programmed to survive and evolve.

We sometimes forget this in the eye of pain, with our bills, loss, envy, ills, pills, the nightly news, economic forecasts, political mudslinging, unemployment rates.

So turn off the bad news, and look for, search and dig hard — for the good.

Look for what it is you want to see.

And if you haven’t found your answers yet, keep looking. The answers will come. Keep asking, and asking, and asking, and asking and asking……..If a doctor tells you something you don’t want to hear, find a new doctor, a holistic practitioner who will help you find the healing that is waiting for you.   If a friend makes you feel worse when you’re around her, find a new “friend.” If someone tells you the world is going to hell in a hand basket, tell them — only if they want it to.

To your new year and new you —

With joy,

Laura

 

 

 

 

 

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High levels of homocysteine and depression – certain supplements may help

Researchers believe that depression, particularly in the elderly, may be related to elevated homocysteine levels. A deficiency in B vitamins may be the cause.

(Click here for supplements that lower homocysteine)

While elevated homocysteine levels are linked to heart disease and stroke, it may also contribute to depression, particularly in older people.

Negative effects of homocysteine

Homocysteine is a harmful amino acid that naturally occurs in all humans. It is involved in cellular metabolism and the manufacture of proteins.

Homocysteine irritates the lining of the blood vessels causing them to become scarred, hardened, and narrowed. This inflammation makes the heart work harder which can lead to heart disease. High levels of homocysteine also cause increased blood clotting. Blood clots decrease or block the flow of blood through blood vessels, resulting in strokes and heart attacks.

Homocysteine levels naturally vary according to age, gender, diet, hereditary factors, and general health. Approximately 5-10% of the population have levels that are too high.

In the 2000s, studies suggested that high levels of homocysteine were associated with poorer mental functioning, which lead to ongoing investigations into the role of homocysteine in Alzheimer’s disease. Additional studies suggested that high levels of homocysteine can lead to osteoporosis and an increased risk of broken bones in the elderly.

Depression and homocysteine

Our bodies naturally use vitamin B12 and folic acid to convert homocysteine into a compound called SAMe – a source of methyl-groups. Without sufficient B-vitamins, blood homocysteine levels rise. Elevated homocysteine levels are linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular, neurological and psychiatric diseases, including stroke and dementia.

Researchers believe that high homocysteine levels contribute to cerebral vascular disease and neurotransmitter deficiency, both which can lead to depression. A study conducted in 2005 found that total homocysteine levels were higher in elderly patients with late-onset major depression (Chen CS et al 2005).

Cause of elevated homocysteine 

Plasma homocysteine levels are strongly influenced by diet, genetic factorsa deficiency in folic acid, B6 and B12 vitamins, aging and smoking. Large amounts of coffee can elevate homocysteine as well as some medications.

Mayoclinic.com writes: 

High homocysteine levels in the blood (hyperhomocysteinemia) has been suggested as being a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, blood clotting abnormalities, atherosclerosis, myocardial infarction (heart attack), and ischemic stroke. Taking vitamin B12 supplements in combination with other B vitamins (mainly folic acid) has been shown to be effective for lowering homocysteine levels. It is not clear whether lowering homocysteine levels results in reduced cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. More evidence is needed to fully explain the association of total homocysteine levels with vascular risk and the potential use of vitamin supplementation.

People using the following drugs should discuss increasing their intake of folic acid, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12 with their doctor:

  • Lipid-lowering drugs such as fenofibrate (Tricor) and bezafibrate (Bezalip);
  • Metformin (Glucophage), a drug to modify insulin resistance;
  • Anti-epileptic drugs such as phenobarbital, phenytoin (Dilantin), primidone (Mysoline) and carbamazepine (Tegretol);
  • Levadopa (Sinemet) for treatment of Parkinson’s disease;
  • Methotrexate (Rheumatrex, Trexall) for treatment of cancer, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, and systemic lupus erythematosus;
  • Androgen treatment; and
  • Nitrous oxide (“laughing gas”), a mild anesthetic.

Sam-e and other supplements may lower homocysteine 

Many nutrients and supplements influence the body’s use of the brain’s neurotransmitters. Similar to prescription drugs used to treat depression, these natural therapies increase the production of neurotransmitters or reduce their rate of breakdown. Unlike prescription drugs, however, natural therapies can also minimize the effects of oxidative stress and inflammation that contributes to depression.

(Click here for supplements that lower homocysteine)

According to an article by Life Extension on natural treatments for depression, the following supplements may decrease homocysteine levels and improve or eliminate depressive symptoms:

  • Folic acid
  • Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) (sublingual (under the tongue), transdermal (skin) or injection form only)
  • Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)
  • Trimethylglycine and zinc
  • SAMe (“Does SAMe increase or decrease homocysteine?”)
  • N-acetylcysteine
  • Cysteine
  • Creatine & choline-producing nutrients (inhibits the release of homocysteine)

While high plasma homocysteine levels increase the risk of heart disease and stroke, it can also lead to depression, particularly in elderly patients who are often deficient in folic acid and vitamins B6 and B12. People struggling with depression that has not responded to other therapies may want to have their homocysteine levels tested and begin supplementing with B vitamins.

(Click here for supplements that lower homocysteine)Sources:

Chen CS, Tsai JC et al, “Homocysteine levels, MTHFR C677T genotype, and MRI Hyperintensities in late-onset major depressive disorder,” American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 2005 Oct;13(10):869–75.

Folstein M, Liu T, Peter I, Buell J, Arsenault L, Scott T, Qiu WW, “The homocysteine hypothesis of depression,” The American Journal of Psychiatry, June 2007.

“Depression,” Life Extension online, Accessed November 18th, 2009, http://www.lef.org/protocols/emotional_health/depression_01.htm.

Parkavi Chellappa; Radhakrishnan Ramaraj, “Depression, Homocysteine Concentration, and Cardiovascular Events,” Journal of American Medical Association. 2009;301(15):1541-b-1542.

Henning Tiemeier, H. Ruud van Tuijl, Albert Hofman, John Meijer, Amanda J. Kiliaan, and Monique M.B. Breteler, “Vitamin B12, Folate, and Homocysteine in Depression: The Rotterdam Study,” American Journal of Psychiatry, Dec 2002; 159: 2099 – 2101.

Simon Gilbody Tracy Lightfoot Trevor Sheldon J, “Is low folate a risk factor for depression? A meta-analysis and exploration of heterogeneity,” Epidemiology Community Health2007;61:631-637

“Cardiovascular disease/hyperhomocysteinemia.” Mayoclinic.com. Updated October 1. 2011. Accessed January 9th, 2012.

McCully, Kilmer S. The Homocysteine Revolution. 2nd ed. New York: McGraw Hill 1999.American Heart Association. 7272 Greenville Ave., Dallas, TX 75231. (800)242-8721.

Homocysteine.net, May 10, 2004. [cited March 23, 2005]. http://www.homocysteine.net.

“Serum Folate, Vitamin B12, and homocysteine in Major Depressive Disorder, Part 2: Predictors of Relapse During the Continuation Phase of Pharmacotherapy,” Journal of Clinical Psychiatry 65, No. 8 (August 2004).

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The Duggar family of 19 kids: Extreme families stir curiosity.

Fourteen years ago my husband and I had a child. I wanted her more than anything in the world and was consumed with getting pregnant. After my daughter was born my husband and I felt filled, completed by the three of us and so we didn’t have any more kids.

Early on a few of my friends after hearing my motherhood horror stories decided the reason I wanted only one child was because I had postpartum depression, because I didn’t love being a stay at home mom despite being grateful that I had the choice in the first place, because my labor and delivery was long and off the charts painful, but that next time, they said – things would be different.

But hoping for different doesn’t feel like the best reason to have a child, does it?

The Duggar Family: What size is the right size?

When I think about the controversy with the Duggar family, (“19 and Counting”) I wonder, beyond the obvious issue of overpopulation why people feel so strongly about how many kids is the right amount?

Most people agree that bringing little ones into the world if parents can’t love and care for them to the highest level isn’t in a child’s best interest — but barring that, how many kids should someone have?

Is there some exact recipe like if you don’t add enough salt to your soup it’s missing something, add too much and you’ve ruined the whole batch?

When my daughter was around three, the age when people begin to ask when number two is coming, the questions about why we weren’t growing our family were for the most part few and far between. People nowadays generally assume a singleton family stays that way because a couple can’t have more kids — not because they choose to.

Women who have one child by choice don’t readily admit it although I have many times because it’s just simply part of who I am.  I think it’s hard for some people to wrap their head around the idea that having one child can be just as motherly and nurturing and fulfilling as having two. Maybe it looks like we’ve left some unfinished business or that we’ve thumbed our noses at our biological imperative women have.

But with deeper inspection behind the argument that bringing more and more kids into a stable loving home is the mark of selflessness, I feel compelled to point out that having kids, biologically or adopting for the right reason is what gets my selfless vote, that is – having kids because you have an unquenchable desire to add the love of a child to your already stable and loving relationship.

Michelle Duggar keeps having kids, I’m happy with one.

Our extremes defy the norm for what some people think is best for kids which is seems like at least one sibling but not too many.

People assume an only child misses out on what only a sibling can give (it’s true they do) and that each subsequent Duggar is exponentially less likely to receive the same amount of parental attention (that’s true too).

But kids can get love and attention from the “village” that surrounds them whether they’re short on siblings or short on parent time.

I won’t debate why the Duggars shun birth control and insist on having so many kids, I understand it’s for religious reasons.  Despite our very, very different points of view on who should orchestrate reproduction, the Duggar’s seem remarkably happy. Either they fake it well or the show’s editor is masterful at depicting a balanced family.

Admittedly the Duggars get proceeds from the show, and exploitation is a fair argument against having reality shows with kids, but from my sense this group is no more dysfunctional than the average family, and some might say, they seem even happier. 

I prefer, which is not to say I’m right, having kids be mostly well thought-out, but I’d never suggest “surprise” kids aren’t loved as deeply as planned ones.

But what we mostly ignore when we say want want only the best for kids as a whole is that the best is first an issue of intention. 

Intention is best for kids.

It’s the purpose behind having twenty children, one or none that honors kids. Do we have kids to fill ourselves, to mend a marriage to heal an emotional void? Or do we have kids to add exponential beauty to what is already healthy in our lives?

We’re still new at sorting out what having children means in this country. Our identity as women is still largely informed by our biological ability to have kids, to have one or to have six. Making babies has been hard-wired into our human survival so I understand it might take another half century or so to evolve to the point where we won’t feel our species is threatened if a percentage of the female population opts out entirely, or has one child.

But I have to think there’s no set formula for what makes a woman maternal enough. Women who want kids get their fill with different amounts of mothering— but there is a clear and painfully obvious formula for what makes an entirely bad mother.

One child or twenty 

My husband and I started our family when I turned 31. I  knew when I was 19 I’d need some form of infertility intervention, diagnosed at the time with a benign pituitary disorder called Empty Sella Syndrome. This meant Mother Nature would need a little kick in the pants (or in my case injections in the butt) with super hormones if I wanted to have kids. Not one to hail from the school of “if kids ares meant to be they will be” I decided, my child WOULD be — no matter what.

Carl and I went to my long time endocrinologist and after hormone injections and regular monitoring I got pregnant the first month — record time by infertility standards.  In our first consultation I asked the doctor what my chances were of conceiving if I wanted one or two kids and he said it was as high or nearly as high as any woman’s on any given month.

Click here for books on only children

Because I was adopted and never met my biological parents my craving to have a child of my own flesh was primal and ferocious. Whatever it took, for however long, for whatever amount of money in whatever country, I would do anything legal to have my own, and given my mindset at the time I probably would have skated on the legal fringes if it came down to it.

Failing wasn’t an option — while I totally supported adoption for other people, there was no plan B. There’s a kind of blind madness behind maternal drive, and yet women who don’t have this in my opinion, aren’t mad. Our conviction to opt out of having kids, to have one or twenty is equally irrepressible, equally non-negotiable.

Click here for books on only children

Michelle Duggar and I: Two different moms, same love

The first time I watched the Duggars on their reality show “17 and Counting” (at the time) I remember wondering beyond the obvious head-scratcher why a woman would ever want to go through childbirth seventeen times and raise that many kids. I self-righteously assumed such an enormous group of kids from parents who clearly bred offspring like puppies had to be really messed up.

But to assume a family as big as the Duggars is seething with emotionally neglected kids and middle-child syndromes is as prejudicial as believing a family with one child is missing something.

Extreme family sizes make us want to re-calibrate to the middle, to adjust the dimensions of another parent’s life to come closer to ours, and so reinforce what we think to be right.

Years back a friend of mine was grocery shopping and saw a frantic mother trying to get her three kids who were running between the aisles to settle down.  My friend remarked that she totally understood because she had three of her own at home, the woman said, “Yeah, it’s like those moms with one child aren’t really parents.”

Is it because of the discomfort of our mixed emotions, that squirrely motherhood ambivalence — that we adore our kids but hate the grind, that we sling arrows at a family that doesn’t match ours?

The number of children Michelle Duggar and I have are driven by the same intention — because of what defines us, because of what we feel kids deserve, both of us immune to the parameters society sets.

I’d guess Michelle and I both feel kids spring from a powerful power — mine from a spiritual place within that’s been quenched by my daughter, hers from a force above that perhaps wants more.

At first I was drawn to the Duggar family because I was fascinated with their bizarre world, and then because I liked watching them.  What goes on in their lives when the camera’s aren’t watching, what level of function or dysfunction sits in their family compared to mine is impossible to say, but small family or enormous — the intention is the love that fills the household.

Click here for books about only children

 

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Depression and Dopamine: Natural Ways to Increase Key Neurotransmitter

Natural ways to increase dopamine to improve depressionWhile the number of drugs to treat dopamine-dependent depression is growing, people interested in avoiding medication can try natural alternatives to increase dopamine. Dopamine is involved in arousal and motor function and is a precursor to adrenaline and a closely related molecule, noradrenaline. This key brain chemical is made from the amino acid tyrosine and can convert into norepinephrine and epinephrine.

This key brain chemical is produced in several areas of the brain, including the nucleus accumbens, the region that acts as the “reward center.” In addition, dopamine is a neurohormone released by the hypothalamus where its main function is to inhibit the release of prolactin from the anterior lobe of the pituitary.

Dopamine is central to the creation of reward systems such as food, sex, positive social interactions, even humor. Nearly all drug abuse and forms of addiction, including heroine and other opiates, alcohol, cocaine and amphetamines involve dopamine neuronal systems. As a result, elevating dopamine levels can improve mood, alertness, libido, yet too much or an imbalance can lead to a tendency towards addictive behaviors.

(Click here for supplements to naturally increase dopamine and improve depression)

A dopamine imbalance is associated with schizophrenia, Parkinson’s disease, fibromyalgia and mood disorders, including certain types of depression.

Depression and dopamine levels

To date, depression medications have largely been developed based on a deficiency or imbalance of the brain chemicals serotonin and norepinephrine. Yet a 2005 review of the serotonin-depression studies revealed little scientific evidence to support the hypothesis that too little serotonin “causes” depression.

“This new study highlights the importance of the dopamine system, a less appreciated target in the current antidepression therapies,” says researcher Li-Huei Tsai, a professor of pathology at Harvard Medical School, for a news release on the dopamine animal study findings.

(Click here for supplements to naturally increase dopamine and improve depression)

While a growing number of antidepressants that mediate dopamine activity are becoming available, people interested in avoiding the dangers and side effects of medications can increase their dopamine with natural methods.

People with major depression disorder (MDD) may have difficulty sufficiently boosting their dopamine levels with only nutrition, exercise, and supplementation. They may however be able to improve symptoms, gradually lower their antidepressant dose to eventually come off medication altogether.

Increasing dopamine levels through nutrition

Dr. Eric Braverman, author of the book, “The Edge Effect,” offers specific nutritional and supplementation plans to increase the levels of key neurotransmitters in the brain depending on a person’s deficiency. “The goal of a dopamine diet is to ensure that the body has enough raw materials for a steady supply of tyrosine and phenylalanine, two amino acids that are precursors to dopamine. These amino acids are found in many protein-rich foods.” Many protein foods such as meats and dairy products have tyrosine that converts to dopamine including:

  • apples, bananas, and watermelon
  • beets
  • beans and legumes
  • black or green tea
  • cottage cheese, cheeses including ricotta
  • chicken, pork
  • cucumbers
  • dark chocolate
  • duck, wild game
  • egg
  • granola/oats
  • honey
  • milk
  • ricotta
  • soybeans
  • turkey
  • walnuts
  • wheat germ

Supplements to increase dopamine

There are a number of supplements that increase dopamine levels in the brain. Dr. Braverman recommends the following:

  • Phenylalnine: An essential amino acid found in the brain and blood plasma that can convert in the body to tyrosine, which in turn is used to synthesize dopamine.
  • Tyrosine: Another amino acid and precursor to dopamine. Tyrosine is converted from phenylalnine
  • Methione: An essential amino acid protein that is provided to the body only through diet.L-Methionine is the precursor to SAMe, l-cysteine, taurine, and sulfate. SAM-e supplements can increase dopamine.
  • Rhodiola: a native plant of Russia. Rhodiola balances the Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis, or HPA, the body’s stress regulation center. Rhodiola balances the neurotransmitters dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine.
  • Pyridoxine: A form of vitamin B6 that has a beneficial effect on red blood cell production, cardiovascular health, the immune system and hormone balance. It is necessary for the production of epinephrine, norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin in the body.
  • Mucuna pruriens: one of the popular Ayurvedic herbs, is also known as velvet bean or cowhage. This herb contains L-Dopa, a precursor to the neurotransmitter dopamine.
  • Phosphatidylserine: A specialized lipid (fat) that occurs naturally in the body. It is a necessary component to regulate the function of all cells and is found in the highest concentration in the brain.
  • B Complex: Cofactors in the synthesis and proper function of neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine
  • Ginkgo Biloba: Ginkgo extract, from the leaves of the Ginkgo biloba tree is the most commonly used herbal medicine in Europe, can increase dopamine. Ginko enhances the flow of oxygen and blood to the brain and promoting healthy transmission of nerve impulses.
  • NADH an activated form of the B vitamin niacin, the amino acid L-theanine, and Omega-3 fatty acids can also elevate dopamine levels.

Dopamine levels rise after exercise

Michael Lardon, a doctor and researcher on the neuroelectric assessment of athletic peak performance explains in an online article for the Modesto Bee that everyone who exercises reaps the benefits from the “dopamine buzz.”

(Click here for supplements to naturally increase dopamine and improve depression)

“Dopamine is released within just 20 minutes of moderate exercise, says Lardon, “and triggers within your brain positive feelings about yourself even after your first session of exercise, before your body has had a chance to firmly establish an association between the exercise and the great feelings. The dopamine response system is powerfully motivating.

While dopamine-dependent depression may respond well to medications, people interested in natural alternatives to antidepressants may want to consider exercise, dopamine-boosting foods and targeted supplementation.

(Click here for supplements to naturally increase dopamine and improve depression)

Photo credit: Vlado

Sources

Podea, Delia et al, “The Role of Dopamine in Depression,” The Romanian Journal of Psychopharmacology, 2008.

Lacasse JR, Leo J, “Serotonin and depression: a disconnect between the advertisements and the scientific literature,” Florida State University College of Social Work, Tallahassee, Fl., 2005 Dec;2(12):e392.

“The under-recognized role of dopamine in the treatment of major depressive disorder,” International Clinical Psychopharmacology, Imperial College School of Medicine, London, UK. stuart@samontgomery.co.uk, March 2008.

Carolyn Perrini, CLS, CNC,”L-Theanine: How a Unique Anxiety Reducer and Mood Enhancer Increases Alpha Waves and Alertness.”Accessed March 28, 2010.

Chalon, S.,”Omega-3 fatty acids and monoamine neurotransmission,”Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2006 Oct-Nov;75(4-5):259-69. Epub 2006 Sep 11.

Bove AA, Dewey JD, Tyce GM, “Increased conjugated dopamine in plasma after exercise training,”Journal of Laboratory Clinical Medicine, 1984 Jul;104(1):77-85.

Heiden, Eric,”How to get your own gold-medal high with dopamine,” Modbee.com,Tribune Media Services, Feb. 23, 2010.

Copyright Laura Owens. Contact the author to obtain permission for republication.

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Vitamin D Deficiency May Contribue to Crohn’s Disease

Vitamin D Deficiency Could Contribute to Crohn's DiseaseResearch findings suggest that low levels of vitamin D may contribute to Crohn’s and other inflammatory bowel diseases. This inexpensive vitamin, actually a hormone, may alleviate Crohns symptoms in some patients. And because Crohns often has a genetic components, taken prophylactically, vitamin D may prevent Crohn’s’ siblings and offspring from manifesting the disease.

Crohn’s is a chronic condition characterized by inflammation and ulcers (open sores) along the innermost layer of the digestive tract.   Inflammation can appear along the entire gastrointestinal tract (from the mouth to anus), although the majority of cases involve the small intestine or the first part of the large intestine. The cause of the disease is largely unknown; although genetic and environmental factors may play a role.

Vitamin D 

Vitamin D, in its active form (1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D), is a hormone that binds to receptors in the body’s cells. Despite the name, vitamin D is actually a secosteroid hormone that targets over 2000 genes. Vitamin D has been shown to have a positive effect on bone health, the immune system, helping prevent some cancers, and reducing inflammation.

Taken orally, vitamin D is absorbed with fat through the intestinal walls as well as in the fat cells of the liver, skin, brain and bones, in amounts sufficient for many months. While not readily available in foods, vitamin D is made in large quantities when sunlight strikes bare skin which is why a deficiency is more common in the winter.  Other factors contribute to low vitamin D including malabsorption, common in people with an inflammatory bowel disease.  Vitamin D production is also affected by anything that blocks ultra violet light including skin pigment, smog, fog, sunscreen, windows and hats.

Vitamin D Deficiency, Crohn’s and Inflammatory Bowel Diseases

Researchers in a 2009 report wrote that “Western studies show that up to 65 per cent of patients with Crohn’s disease have low serum 25-hydroxy vitamin D concentrations, and 45 per cent of these patients have metabolic bone disease.”  In the study, scientists found that vitamin D levels were significantly lower among patients with Crohn’s disease compared to subjects the same and age and gender.  Further, D levels in patients with Crohn’s disease were lower in those with severe disease activity and less sun exposure.  

In a 2010 study, Dr. John White and his team found evidence to suggest that sufficient vitamin D may counter the effects of Crohn’s disease.  Although the researchers were initially studying the effects of D on cancer; the results consistently pointed to D’s impact on the immune system, specifically on the innate immune system, the process that acts as the body’s first defense against microbial invaders, “It’s a defect in innate immune handling of intestinal bacteria that leads to an inflammatory response that may lead to an autoimmune condition,” White explains.

Click Here for Vitamin D Supplements

Several other studies suggest a link between vitamin D and inflammatory bowel disease, including a 2006 finding out of Ireland. Researchers found that a high proportion of Crohn’s patients had some level of vitamin D deficiency during late-wintertime.   The researchers suggest people with Crohn’s consider taking supplemental vitamin D, particularly patients with small intestinal involvement, quit smoking, get adequate but responsible exposure to summer sunlight, and maintain a body mass index in the normal range. 

Vitamin D and Innate Immunity

Vitamin D’s role in intestinal health is believed to involve the beta defensin 2 gene, a gene coding for an important defense molecule of the body. Defensins are part of the arsenal of weapons used by the human immune system. Patients with Crohn’s disease of the colon (colonic CD) have a lower level of beta-defensins in the mucous membranes. Beta defensin encodes an antimicrobial peptide and the NOD2 gene that alerts cells to the presence of invading microbes. If NOD2 is deficient or defective, it can’t attack invaders in the intestinal tract.

An international research team with the Robert Bosch Hospital in Stuttgart and the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg discovered a possible cause of the chronic inflammation. They believe Crohn’s patients have one less copy of the protective beta-defensin 2 gene which may be associated with a lower production of the endogenous antibiotic and therefore, lower defensin level.  A lower defensin level causes the protective intestinal mucous membrane to become so porous that bacteria can attach to and invade the mucous membrane, which leads to the typical inflammatory hot spots of Crohn’s disease.

Implications for Vitamin D and Inflammatory Diseases

Dr. White believes these findings have significant implications for Crohn’s patients and their families, “Siblings of patients with Crohn’s disease that haven’t yet developed the disease might be well advised to make sure they’re vitamin D sufficient. It’s something that’s easy to do, because they can simply go to a pharmacy, health food store, or online and buy vitamin D supplements. The vast majority of people would be candidates for vitamin D treatment,”  he writes. 

Click Here for Vitamin D Supplements

Marc J. Servant, a professor at the Université de Montréal’s Faculty of Pharmacy and study collaborator agrees. “This discovery is exciting, since it shows how an over-the-counter supplement such as vitamin D could help people defend themselves against Crohn’s disease,” he says. Although researchers believe many people in the general population are low in vitamin D, patients with Crohn’s disease or other inflammatory bowel disease may be particularly vulnerable to a deficiency.

(Photo Credit: Shezamm, Flickr)

 

Sources

“Crohn’s Disease: One Gene Copy Too Few Leads To Weakened Defense,” Medical News Today. Accessed April 15, 2010.http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/47508.php

Gilman J, Shanahan F, Cashman KD, “Determinants of vitamin D status in adult Crohn’s disease patients, with particular emphasis on supplemental vitamin D use.” European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2006 Jul.

Joseph AJ, George B, Pulimood AB, Seshadri MS, Chacko A. “25 (OH) vitamin D level in Crohn’s disease: association with sun exposure & disease activity. ”  Indian J Med Res. August 2009. 

White, JH et al., “Direct and indirect induction by 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 of theNOD2/CARD15-beta defensin 2 innate immune pathway defective in Crohn’s disease.” The Journal of Biological Chemistry. January, 2010.


 

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Apple Cider Vinegar May Lower Blood Sugar, Help Type 2 Diabetes, Reduce Ab Fat

Apple Cider Vinegar May Lower Blood Sugar, Help Type 2 Diabetes, Reduce Ab FatStudies suggest a substance in apple cider vinegar can reduce blood sugar in type 2 diabetics, lower blood pressure and decrease hunger & fat accumulation.

Researchers have uncovered a signaling mechanism that occurs within the excess abdominal fat of obese people and is associated with cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Fatty liver disease however, may be more likely the root cause of these metabolic disorders, an earlier study suggests.

Health Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar Supported by Research 

While it may be too early to make vinegar a weight loss staple, the evidence is promising. A study published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry(1) found that vinegar helps prevent the accumulation of body fat.

Lab mice fed a high-fat diet along with acetic acid, gained significantly less body fat (up to 10 percent less) than mice fed a high fat diet without acetic acid. Researchers believe acetic acid turns on genes that produces proteins involved in breaking down fats, which in turn suppresses body fat accumulation.

Lower Blood Sugar

Several small sample studies showed that vinegar lowers glucose levels in the body and increases insulin sensitivity, issues of particular concern for people at risk for or managing, type 2 diabetes. Insulin sensitivity is the body’s ability to handle excess sugar after eating high glycemic index foods, foods that cause sharp spikes and drops in blood sugar. Insulin sensitivity is one measure of someone’s risk for heart disease; the more sensitive someone is, the lower their risk for heart problems.

Results from a study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition(2) found that vinegar lowered glucose and insulin levels in healthy subjects and increased their feeling of being full.

In a study published in Diabetes Care conducted by the Arizona State University’s Department of Nutrition(3), researchers divided 29 subjects into three groups: people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes; prediabetics; and healthy subjects. Each group consumed vinegar before eating a high carbohydrate test meal. Subjects in all three groups showed improved blood glucose levels and increased sensitivity to insulin compared to the control group who did not consume vinegar.

Researchers in the 2009 study, “Preliminary evidence that regular vinegar ingestion favorably influences hemoglobin A1c values in individuals with type 2 diabetes mellitus,(4)” compared the affect of the acetic acid found in vinegar, a dill pickle and a commercial vinegar pill on hemoglobin A1c in people with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Hemoglobin A1c is a measure of how much sugar has been around in the body for the preceding three months, a more accurate measure of sugar levels than the finger stick. Results showed Hemoglobin A1c values dropped with the vinegar but increased with the commercial vinegar pill and the dill pickle.

Reduce Blood Pressure

Gamma-aminobutryic acid (GABA), an inhibitory neurotransmitter involved in creating a state of focused calm, has been shown to also decrease blood pressure.(5,6). In a study conducted in Japan,(7) researchers measured the effect of adding GABA to vinegar on people with mild or moderate hypertension (high blood pressure).

After a pre-treatment period of two weeks, subjects with mild or moderate hypertension drank fermented drinking water with vinegar mixed with a flavoring base of fish flakes (dried bonito), with or without GABA added (in the form of sodium glutamate). Blood pressure rates dropped in both the GABA and the non-GABA groups, suggesting vinegar was the compound that lowered the subjects’ blood pressure.

Apple Cider Vinegar: Form, Dose & Warnings

Dr. Mercola, a physician, health and nutritional expert, suggests in his article, “Apple Cider Vinegar: Healing Wonder or Hype,” that people use apple cider vinegar, and in the form that is murky and brown. “Organic, unfiltered and unprocessed apple cider vinegar has a tiny, cobweb-like substance floating in it, called the “mother,” which indicates good quality,” Dr. Mercola explains. “Since the benefits of the apple cider vinegar are still being studied, there is no clear-cut guide on how to take it.” One or two tablespoons before a meal is generally the reccomended dose.

Dr. Mercola warns that because apple cider vinegar is extremely acidic to dilute it with water or juice. Straight cider ingested over time can harm tooth enamel or the tissues of the mouth and throat. An excess can also lead to low potassium levels and lower bone density.

While more research needs to be done on the health benefits, dosing and long term effects of vinegar, studies suggest the acetic acid in vinegar can lower fat accumulation, reduce blood pressure, hunger and glucose levels and increase insulin sensitivity, issues of importance to pre-diabetics and people with type 2 diabetes.

Photo credit: Andy Roberts Photo
Sources:

Kondo et al. “Acetic Acid Upregulates the Expression of Genes for Fatty Acid Oxidation Enzymes in Liver To Suppress Body Fat Accumulation.” Journal of Agricral and Food Chemistry, 2009.

E. Östman, E et al, “Vinegar supplementation lowers glucose and insulin responses and increases satiety after a bread meal in healthy subjects,” European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2005.

Johnson, CS, Kim, CM, Buller, AA, “Vinegar improves insulin sensitivity to a high-carbohydrate meal in subjects with insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes,” Diabetes Care, January 2004

Johnston CS, White AM, Kent SM, “Preliminary evidence that regular vinegar ingestion favorably influences hemoglobin A1c values in individuals with type 2 diabetes mellitus,” Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice, May, 2009.

Inoue K, Shirai T, Ochiai H, et al, “Blood-pressure-lowering effect of a novel fermented milk containing gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in mild hypertensives,” European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2003.

Hirata H, Kimura M, Nakagawa S, et al. Hypotensive effect of fermented milk containing gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in subjects with high normal blood pressure,”Journal of the Japanese Society for Food Science and Technology, 2004.

Tanaka H et al, “The Effects of gamma-Aminobutyric Acid, Vinegar, and Dried Bonito on Blood Pressure in Normotensive and Mildly or Moderately Hypertensive Volunteers,”Journal of Clinical Biochemical Nutrition, July 2009.

Mercola, Joseph, DO, “Apple Cider Vinegar: Healing Wonder or Hype,” http://www.drmercola.net/search/label/vinegar, June 12, 2009.

Copyright Laura Owens. Contact the author to obtain permission for republication.

 

 

 

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Triple amputee Ironman: journey and humility inspires

Regardless of our differences, shared stories leap across our muddy rivers of misunderstanding and meet in streams of friendship ~ Laura

rajesh durbal, world's first triple amputee to compete and Ironman, inspiration, overcoming obstacles

Rajesh Durbal’s website – Live-free.net

A couple years ago I heard an extraordinary young man share his message in a non-extraordinary way, that is with humble tones tucked inside a truly remarkable story.

Rajesh Durbal, the world’s first triple amputee to complete the Ironman, spoke to the Seminole County YMCA Prayer Breakfast without pomp or projecting his voice.  He wasn’t a particularly dynamic speaker except for a brilliant smile he showed easily.  But the volume of his voice didn’t matter.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta knew how extraordinary Rajesh was when he interviewed him on CNN. The city of Orlando understood when they created a “Rajesh Durbal” day in his honor. Despite the national fanfare Rajesh told our small YMCA Prayer Breakfast that morning, a room with no more than 150 people, how grateful he was to be exactly where he was.

Image credit: Live-free.net

Rajesh stammered from time to time, confessing that he was used to talking to groups about his physical hurdles, not his faith, but that he was excited to have the rare opportunity to publically share how Jesus saved his life.  He didn’t sound preachy or insistent, his words felt like an intimate testimony for how his faith carried him through seeming insurmountable challenges.

I can’t imagine bringing my faith forward without stumbling all over myself.  Because for every inch of my extroversion, spirit is unquestionably a power that mutes my vocal cords, as much because my beliefs are unconventional as for how spirit can move through even the loudest people in the most whispered, private nudges.

When Rajesh was born he had several bones missing from both legs and his right arm was partially developed.  Doctors amputated both his legs when he turned one and put him in a full body cast for 3 months.

Image credit: Live-free.net

After his cast was removed he was fitted for leg prosthetics and began the grueling process of learning how to walk.   For years he struggled with agonizing pain, feeling alienated from his peers and depression. Rajesh often thought about suicide.  Eventually he began to pray and in time he connected with Jesus.  Through his faith and hundreds of hours of training for races (Rajesh created his own prosthetics for his triathlons) he finally felt free within himself.

When he spoke to us that morning Rajesh was supremely humble about his accomplishments. After he finished the Central Florida YMCA CFO, a bold, confident New York edged guy who easily commands an audience, walked up to the podium and announced that while he wasn’t scheduled to speak, he had to say a few words about how Rajesh inspired him.

Motivated to keep going by a smile

Mark told the audience that over the years he’d competed in a number of races but that his finishes had slowed thanks to some new aches and pains. During one event he was struggling more than usual and was in so much pain he wanted to quit.  When he looked up he saw a young man with two prosthetic legs run by him, beaming.

Rajesh’s perseverance despite his challenges inspired him to keep moving.   And beyond that, Mark said, I want to share that when you move about your day realize something as small as a smile can have a profound effect on someone, something so insignificant can impact someone’s life in a positive way, and it doesn’t cost a dime.

As I listened my friend Alicia looked transfixed, her own story likely weighing on her heart.  Alicia is a personal trainer who runs a triathlon training business. Several years ago she finished her own Florida version of an Ironman, coming in so much faster than she expected that her family (who took a dinner break) missed her finish.

A few years ago Alicia was diagnosed with a degenerative disease that over time leads to muscle-wasting. She’s had to stop running because her feet go numb now and her balance is wobbly.  Alicia can’t bike her usual 80 to 100 miles and she gets more tired than she used to.  While she’s a couple paces slower; she’s not stopping.

She still looks like the poster woman for the fit, zero body fat premier athlete.  Doctors credit her extraordinary fitness level to slowing the disease’s progression.  Alicia told me she tries to strike a balance between doing too much and not enough, but that there’s no definitive way to tell when her fitness activity is helping or setting her back but by trial and error and how she feels.

After Rajesh finished speaking Alicia said she was going to her car to get one of her company training shirts for Rajesh because she hoped he would  “do her the honor” and wear it during one of his events.  A few minutes later she waved me down, a shirt bunched in her hand.  She was clearly excited and nervous.

When we walked up to Rajesh he was politely listening to a man talk about some business deal or another. Likely this was the thousandth time Rajesh had heard a pitch from someone hoping to promote a product through his story. When the man left Alicia stepped forward and introduced herself.  She told Rajesh she was a certified tri trainer and that she hoped he would do her the honor of one day wearing her company shirt during a race.

With a flat expression Rajesh said, “No sorry, I only wear extra small.”

Alicia looked startled but managed to mutter something about how it was fine, she could get him another size.  By then my exalted view of the triple amputee Ironman was gone. “Even someone in a wheelchair can be an asshole”  I once told my husband, spewing one of my home spun philosophies on human nature.

“I’m just kidding” Rajesh said and laughed, his smile spread across his face.

Alicia and I laughed. I moved forward, said hello and nervously shook his hand.  Rajesh wasn’t an ounce intimidating but for some reason the power some people have to overcome the worst and still remain soft can be so overwhelming, their exalted image swallows me.

Alicia is just as humble about her accomplishments and ability to overcome her health challenges. I needed Rajesh to know this.  After she handed Rajesh the shirt I blurted out in one breathy sentence, “Alicia finished her own Ironman in Florida she’s really amazing and inspires her clients all the time she has some health stuff going on but she still keeps going. ”

She smiled and shook her head, brushing off the attention. Behind me one of Alicia’s training clients who had been listening stepped forward.  She told Rajesh that yes it’s true, Alicia is a great trainer and motivator, that many, many people appreciate her inspiration.

Alicia usually so careful to keep her emotions tucked in started to cry. This “wasn’t about her,” she insisted repeatedly.  Rajesh smiled a little and then silently let the moment move over us.

The day before I saw Rajesh speak I told my 13 year old daughter Tara all about him. This guy is something isn’t he I said? Now that’s inspiration. Tara asked me to take his picture.  I told her I’d gauge if it was appropriate because I didn’t want to make him feel uncomfortable.  But Rajesh didn’t seem to care, he casually leaned in for pictures with the lines of people waiting for him without any impatience or awkwardness. When it was my turn for a picture I told him, “My daughter would have come but she’s a teenager so this was way too early to get up.”

Rajesh laughed and muttered that the only way to get a teenager up in the morning was to throw water on them.

Triple Amputee Finishes Ironman, Rajesh Durbal.

These are the people who elevate me the most in life.  Those who have earned the right to bellow their accomplishments a little and yet without false modesty,  stay grateful and humble. Men and women who overcome blows and still rise with optimism, with humility, with easy laughter and inspired tears. They cry with you and you smile with them. In these moments if we’re lucky we find the sacred, inside a silence that understands.

 

 

Afterword:

In 2009, Rajesh took, writes the bio on his website live-free.net, “his first leap of faith by running in the City of Orlando corporate 5k. He didn’t even come close to finishing first, but he finished.  That inspired him to challenge himself even further.  He decided to do something no one had ever attempted.  He was going to compete in the Ford 2010 World Iron Man. His peers did not believe it was safe for him to do.  But Rajesh was determined to prove that all things were possible through Christ that strengthened him. He trained day and night, hours at a time running, biking and swimming.  He spent the late nights building his running shoes from an old pair of Nike sneakers. Four versions later of the same sneaker he was able to run a Half Marathon race on his walking legs. Determined to progress, he visited Home Depot to build his own bike legs, often spending multiple hours on the floor in the aisle piecing together his creation.”

Rajesh Durbal’s website – Live-free.net

 

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Marriage After Baby – At Home Date Nights & More Tips to Gradually Re-ignite

marriage after baby, marriage after kids, when partners become parents

It’s natural for new parents to settle in at home with their baby, to “cocoon,” too exhausted to go out and too anxious to leave their child with a babysitter or even trusted parents and in-laws.

As priorities re-order couple time often gets pushed aside. Yet often putting the marriage on the back-burner becomes a permanent pattern in the family and over time, the relationship suffers, the kids notice.

Children can sense when their parents begin to seem emotionally distant.  The unspoken hostility, (or spoken), the disconnect between the couple creates a family “climate” that can feel off-balance.  This marital “gap” can start very gradually (see my post on divorces due to “low conflict” marriages) and over time widen into a great relationship chasm.

And it’s really no surprise.

New mothers rarely have the time, energy or interest to do much more than keep up with the growing demands of their baby and new demands. In addition a new mother’s body and biochemistry is often still re-adjusting which affects mood, stamina and sleep.

Sleep understandably becomes mom’s best friend, watching television the easiest and least expensive entertainment. Exhaustion and the added responsibilities of combing parenting with all other aspects of her life, particularly for a woman whose husband doesn’t share her load, can begin to create quiet, simmering disconnect in the marriage. The husband’s might begin to feel resentful that while he and his wife are deeply grateful, and the baby is the new love of his life, the baby also takes center stage, replacing the attention, intimacy and connection he once shared with his wife.

Click for Marriage after Baby Books

As a result, I suggest new parents begin re-connecting as soon as possible, starting small, but making a mindful effort to nurture their relationship from time to time.

What’s Good for the Parents is Good for the Children 

“Kids whose parents’ relationship has cooled are more likely to have behavioral or academic problems than kids of happy couples,” says Philip Cowan, PhD, in the Parents.com article “Happy Parents, Happy Kids.
“Dr. Cowan and his wife, psychologist Carolyn Pape Cowan, PhD. have studied families for decades “Even if you can’t see yourself going out on a date for yourselves, do it for your kids,” says Dr. Cowan.

And while there’s no timetable for when new parents should get their marriage back on track particularly because the physical and life transition can feel different for each woman, there are simple ways couples can gradually begin to re-ignite their pre-baby relationship.

Making an effort to make the marriage as important as parenting sets the priorities for the future of the relationship, particularly once the kids are out of the house and the couple faces an empty nest.

Dating Again: Bistro in a Bag for Nervous First Time Parents

While spit up and dirty diapers are hardly props for a romantic evening, even small sporadic moments can help couples re-connect.  At home date nights, while not ideal when a child is young and in constant need of attention, can set the stage for couples to put their relationship as priority.

It doesn’t take much to create a spontaneous romantic setting if the baby is asleep. Parents can set up the following in a pleasant area of the home such as the front or back porch or on a blanket in the family room by the fire.

The at home date night might include:

  • Table cloth
  • Small blanket (for picnic style)
  • Two elegant placemats and cloth napkins
  • Candle in a protected candle holder (aromatherapy is ideal)
  • Lighter Small FM radio or CD player
  • Relaxing, upbeat or romantic CD
  • Flowers from the garden, or inexpensive bouquet from the grocery store
  • Soothing or energetic aromatherapy air spray.

A no-hassle delectable plate of finger foods can be an easy and fun dinner, raw veggies, frozen appetizers, cheese, salami, crackers, crusty breads with dips, olives, essentially an Italian antipasto platter that makes for a flavorful, interesting meal with easy clean up.

Click for Marriage after Baby Books

“Relationship re-entry” as I call it, is reason enough to pull out the good china, letting the dirty dishes soak overnight, taking a break from clean up. Even small efforts like these that put the focus back on couple time, while seeming impractical for parents trying to juggle a baby, send a message to the brain, “our relationship matters.”

No matter what the couple does for an at home or outside date night, the point is to put the focus back on the relationship on a regular basis.   If going out for wine and a gourmet meal or setting an elegant table at home isn’t what feels right, then taquitos and takeout with some good conversation is fine.  It’s not what the couple does, only that from time to time, they focus on each other.

Flexible Fondue for Home Date Night

Who doesn’t love food drenched in melted cheese or rich chocolate? Fondue offers a convenient way for parents to create an impromptu romantic dinner that can hold up to interruptions. Baby starts to cry? Turn off the pot and re-light later. 


Inexpensive fondue pots are available online or at local discount retailers (sometimes these are only seasonal during the holidays).  Dippers can be very inexpensive and include anything that tastes good covered in cheese or chocolate (almost everything), a loaf of crusty French bread broken it into bites, some cauliflower and broccoli florets, sliced carrots, pretzels, strawberries, mini brownies etc.

Pre-made cheese and chocolate fondue packages are available at most grocery stores and while the cheese packets can be pricey, it’s easier and more affordable than buying the assorted grated cheeses, wine, and Kirsch (often used in fondue) and trying to mix the perfect pot.

Regular Communication Keeps Parent Connected

Parents often move to autopilot, moving from day-to-day, joyful and appreciative for their child and each other, yet unaware of what they may be leaving behind, communication and couple time. One of the most important habits new parents can adopt for their family’s long-term emotional health is to regularly  talk about how they feel.  

Ideally couples might try sitting down once a week, putting on calm music and talking, disconnecting cell phones, letting the answering machine pick up, because while the world can wait, the relationship can’t.  If parents get interrupted because the baby is awake or needs attention, the effort alone sends a positive message to the couple and over time, to the children. Kids who see their parents making their own relationship as important as the children’s’, receive, in my personal opinion, powerful and positive messaging.

As the family grows and the demands exponentially increase, making couple time a regular priority becomes a juggling game and a matter of choice, but doing so is critical to maintain a healthy long-term marriage.

Couples should try to keep the conversation honest yet non-defensive and constructive, steering away from “You never, you always” and instead explain what he/she appreciates, then what they need. For example mom might say,  “I really appreciate that you do (x,y,z) and you’re a phenomenal dad, but when you come home from work and want to decompress and I’ve been with the baby all day I need you to either take over with her, make dinner or pick up dinner so that I can get some time to myself, go for a walk, whatever.”

Couples Benefit from Informal Climate Survey 

One way to foster positive communication that’s a little more goal-oriented is to do an informal “climate survey” after the baby is about three to six months old, when the massive changes begin to settle into a “new normal.” A climate survey is a process companies use to measure employee satisfaction and to spot potential red flags. And while it sounds formal, the concept is something I use to simply describe couples making a habit of touching base with each other, with getting a feel for the overall tone in their family.

To begin, parents ask each other how they generally feel in their lives, then about their expectations and short and long-term goals, noting how these areas have changed since becoming parents. Some questions might include:

  • “How do you feel physically and mentally?” (Mom needs to pay special attention to her physical and emotional health).”
  • “What has surprised you about the changes that come with parenting? What are your unexpected joys and disappointments?”
  • “What realistic changes can I/you/we make?”

Couples should strive to be non-defensive and completely honest. They should avoid statements like “You always, you never” and instead say “I feel that” and “I would really appreciate if.” The goal isn’t to sugarcoat, stuff feelings or to avoid conflict, but rather to foster communication in a non-defensive manner, to provide useful constructive feedback for the health of the marriage, and to build a solid family foundation based on regular communication.

Click for Marriage after Baby Books

While re-igniting the marriage after a new baby is inherently challenging as priorities dramatically shift, couples who take a gradual and realistic approach to reconnecting with each other as soon as possible, communicating regularly and creating date nights, are building a healthy dynamic and model for their relationship and for their children’s future relationships.

Children only know what they see and what they sense. Twenty years from now will your kids see a parents who were (for the most part), emotionally connected or parents who were living under the same roof but slowly drifting apart, parents who lived for the lives of their kids, but forgot about the life of their marriage?

Sources

Robinson, Holly. “Happy Parents, Happy Kids,” Parents.com (accessed March 2, 2010).

Photo credit: Photostock 

Copyright Laura Owens. Contact the author to obtain permission for republication.

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DHEA Improves Stress Resilience & Depression – Anti-Aging Hormone Offers Mood Benefits

stress, depression, dhea, dhea for mood, dhea for depression

 

DHEA, a natural steroid and precursor hormone produced by the adrenals, has been shown to provide several anti-aging benefits, and research suggests DHEA may also improve mid-life onset depression in people who don’t respond to first line depression therapies, as well as improve resilience to stress.

DHEA Improves Stress Resilience 

DHEA levels tend to peak around age 20 and then gradually decline with only about 20 percent circulating in the body by age 70.
 (Click image)

Referred to as the “mother hormone,” DHEA is a precursor to all major sex hormones: estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone with its molecular structure closely related to testosterone, according to Marcelle Pick, Ob & Gyn NP for Women in Balance.org in an article on DHEA.  While more research needs to be conducted to understand DHEA’s role in regulating other hormones, there is evidence DHEA may improve depression and the ability to cope with stress in some people.

“It’s likely that DHEA and adrenal function are related to neurotransmitter-release rates, based on the mood elevation our patients report after just two weeks of adrenal support.” Marcelle Pick.

A report by ScienceDaily cites a study conducted by Yale University and the VA National Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder where researchers examined the biological mechanisms that contribute to a person’s level of resilience when under extreme stress, such as that experienced by soldiers, police, and firefighters.

(Click image)

Researchers worked closely with Special Forces Underwater Warfare Operations Center to study special operations soldiers enrolled in the military Combat Diver Qualification Course (CDQC). Results showed that soldiers with higher levels of DHEA did better during the final underwater navigation exam than those with less DHEA.

The ability to navigate underwater relies on an area of the brain called the hippocampus that is sensitive to the negative effects of stress. Dr. Charles A. Morgan, a researcher on the study said, “Animal studies have shown that DHEA buffers against stress, in part, by modulating receptors in this region of the brain. These findings are important in understanding why and how soldiers may differ in their ability to tolerate stress and also raise the possibility that, in the future, compounds like DHEA might be used to protect military personnel from the negative impact of operational stress.”

DHEA and Mid-Life Depression 

In addition to adrenal synthesis, evidence also indicates that DHEA and DHEAS are synthesized in the brain, further suggesting a role of these hormones in brain function and development.

A study published in the February 2005 issue of The Archives of General Psychiatry found that 23 subjects in a study on DHEA and depression had a 50 percent or more improvement on their depression rating scale.

Click here for DHEA lab test

Researchers studied 23 men and 23 women aged 45 to 65 with midlife onset major or minor depression of moderate severity. Six weeks of DHEA treatment contributed to significant improvements in depression and sexual functioning compared to the subjects’ baseline scores and the placebo subjects.

Peter J. Schmidt, M.D., and his colleagues from the Behavioral Endocrinology Branch of the National Institute of Mental Health, Rockville, Md. wrote, “At present, there are no predictors of response, and with a 50 percent response rate one would obviously select more reliable first-line treatments for this condition. However, in the 50 percent of depressed outpatients who do not respond to first-line antidepressant treatment, or in those unwilling to take traditional antidepressants, DHEA may have a useful role in the treatment of mild to moderately severe midlife-onset major and minor depression.”

Owen Wolkowitz, M.D. with the Department of Psychiatry at the University of San Francisco, has extensively researched the effects of stress and stress hormones on the brain and behavior, as well as the identification of mechanisms underlying depression, including DHEA’s role as an antidepressant in middle-aged and older individuals. Wolkowitz’s research has “consistently shown that DHEA supplementation improves mood [in these groups].”

DHEA Dosing and Safety

Because hormones are extremely powerful chemicals, people considering supplementing with DHEA should have their baseline and subsequent levels evaluated by a physician. The National Institute of Health (NIH) indicates there is sufficient evidence for the use of DHEA for adrenal insufficiency, depression, induction of labor, and systemic lupus erythematosus. The NIH provides their recommendation for dosing, safety and side effects.

“Many of the DHEA supplements I see at my local store have very high dosages — way too high for most women (often as much as 20 times what I start my patients on!). While there’s no way to tell how much of that you might actually absorb, I think it’s especially unwise to experiment with DHEA at these levels without medical supervision.”  Marcelle Pick.

There is little research on the long-term effects of DHEA. DHEA may however, cause higher than normal levels of androgens and estrogens in some, and therefore increase the risk of prostate, breast, ovarian, and other hormone-sensitive cancers.

(Photo credit, Ambro)

Sources

Washington University School Of Medicine (2004, November 17). Abdominal Fat Decreases, Insulin Action Improves When Elderly Take Hormone. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 24, 2009, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/11/04111623

Charles A. Morgan III et al. Relationships Among Plasma Dehydroepiandrosterone and Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate, Cortisol, Symptoms of Dissociation, and Objective Performance in Humans Exposed to Underwater Navigation Stress. Biological Psychiatry, Volume 66, Issue 4 (August 15, 2009)

Peter J. Schmidt, et al., “Dehydroepiandrosterone Monotherapy in Midlife-Onset Major and Minor Depression,” Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2005;62:154-162.

Pick, Marcelle, Ob & Gyn NP, “Dhea and the Adrenal Glands.” Women to Women.org, Accessed September 13th, 2011.

Wolkowitz OM, et al,”Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) treatment of depression,”Biol Psychiatry. 1997 Feb 1;41(3):311-8.Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine 94143-0984, USA.

Footnote

A few years ago I consulted with a hormone and mood specialist, a former Ob/Gyn who told me after years of working in her field she grew tired of women receiving inadequate or ineffective treatment for a number of hormone-brain-endocrine changes, including peri and full menopause, PMS, anxiety, depression, etc.

In addition to answering a long questionnaire to measure my symptoms (the result of a pituitary disorder I have called Empty Sella Syndrome), the doctor ordered a saliva hormone and urine neurotransmitter test.  The results indicated my DHEA levels were extremely low. Instead of prescribing her usual 5mg per day for women, (men can take higher levels) she recommended 10mg daily.

As someone who believes in becoming our own health manager, while it’s tempting to throw supplements at an issue and see if they work,  it’s important to be very careful particularly with hormones, endocrine agents that impact a wide range of processes in the body and as a result, can have a cascading positive or negative affect.

“Without a comprehensive medical test it’s impossible to know what your DHEA levels are. Just because you’re getting older doesn’t automatically mean you’re deficient. Remember, this is a natural substance — our bodies can produce more or less of it depending on our nutrient support, metabolism, hormonal balance, activity level and emotional state.” Marcelle Pick.

Test, track and monitor your symptoms carefully under the supervision of a holistic (preferably) health care practitioner. 

Click here for DHEA lab test

I reccomend ZRT labs for a number of key saliva and/or blood tests. You can order these online or with a prescription from your doctor.

(Click image)

Copyright Laura Owens. Contact the author to obtain permission for republication.

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