Laura G Owens ~ Writer

Humanity. Health. Happiness.

Page 10 of 14

When is it okay to let your teenager get cosmetic surgery?

plastic surgery, cosmetic surgery, plastic surgery in teenagers, teenagers, teen makeover

BullyingStatistics.org reports that in 2010, one in seven children grades kindergarten through 12th was a bully or a victim of one. With the surge of social media, schoolyard teasing can become a viral onslaught, forcing some teenagers into acts of desperation.

Child psychologist Richard Gallagher told ABC News Nightline (“Bullied on Facebook, Teen, 13, Gets Nose Job,” Oct. 2011)parents should keep kids off social media until they’re at least 15. And while a child might be physically ready for plastic surgery, he says the child not be emotionally prepared. Gallagher suggests instead of surgery, parents teach kids how to combat bullying. (originally posted on Sheknows.com)

Read more…

 

Are your kids getting enough vitamin D? Likely not.

vitamin d, kids and vitamin d

Photo credit: David Castillo Dominici

You might think your kids are getting enough vitamin D but a 2009 study published in Pediatrics found that 9 percent of kids ages 1 to 25 were deficient in vitamin D and 61 percent were low. The researchers linked their findings to increased cardiovascular risk.

Kids with levels less than 30 ng/mL of vitamin D were more likely to have low serum calcium and HDL (good cholesterol) and higher blood pressure…

Read more at Sheknows.com

Photo credit: David Castillo Dominici 

 

 

Joe Paterno’s death reminds us of most complicated emotion – ambivalence

joe paternao, ambivalence, loss of a loved one, deathI recently experienced a death in our family. I’m not ready to write about it because it feels disrespectful to my departed and to my loved ones to talk directly about my ambivalent feelings.

Instead, I’ll write around my feelings.

I started to think about ambivalence, about loving someone “but” having mixed emotions.   Today I ran across an article about Joe Paterno, his death and how of course his family grieved. Along with mention of his passing was a link to his role in the sex scandal case.

Joe Paterno was revered, he was respected by an entire community — “and/but” the world was horrified.

Talk show show host Dr. Phil tells his guests when you follow a sentence with the word “but” you’ve nullified everything you just said.  I think love can be conditional, or rather, how you want to feel when that person is around has conditions.

How you feel about a person’s death depending on their age or circumstances, depending on the life they led, depending on the impact they had in your life or in your mind’s eye, can make “but” the only word that pulls incongruent thoughts together and softens your cognitive dissonance.

Without disclaimers we lie to ourselves and change history to our blurry convenience.

And while blurry memories may bring us closer to closure, to forgiving and emotional freedom, maybe we should SEE clearly before we fuzzy our thoughts so long that time muddies the truth — and then the truth no longer exists.

Anyone who followed Paterno’s role in the child sex scandal case knows the outrage over his failures, they knew about the fortress of worship and blind loyalty behind Paterno’s protected kingdom of collegiate football, an institution where it was blasphemous to question the ruling class of winning coaches.

This was a hierarchy not unlike the Vatican where power and prestige is sometimes cloaked in cheers, chants, prayers and scorekeeping, (Sinner Zero, Repenter 1) where the very highest servants of the Almighty God and Almighty Win keep the People looking UP with distanced worship, bowing from afar until evil is out of focus, recognition or even possibility — until all that’s left to see is what we want to see.

To speak ill of the departed is to slap the living and pummel the deceased.  Yet,  uncomfortable residue after someone dies while it doesn’t, (and shouldn’t) ever steer how we live our own lives, unresolved ambivalence about someone or something needs to be laid to rest for peace, for comfort to come.

Ambivalence is a topic that fascinates me endlessly. The paradox of emotions we carry with us, more, how we react to our ambivalence and what this creates in its wake.

Over the past ten years I’ve written about The Ambivalence of Motherhood, an institution so idealized, romanticized and revered that (at one time) to speak of anything but glory and gratitude and sheer bliss at bottles, bibs, breastfeeding and hours of laundry and Barney was akin to saying you hated your child and rebuked womanhood.

I never felt motherhood was black and white. I only felt my love for my daughter was crystal clear.

Betty Friedan in her landmark, groundbreaking book The Feminine Mystique, coined the vagabond emotion women used to chase with therapy sessions and valium as “the problem that has no name.”

Ambivalence is in fact, that wispy unharnessed inner nudge we can’t quite put into words or hold with utter confidence.

In the early revolution of inner discontent about something or someone, ambivalence doesn’t get a comforting nod of knowing from others who privately feel the same.  Ambivalence is at first a maverick, uncomfortable and unsettled and lonely. It never invites others to join the revolution until enough people say it’s okay — and then the shouting rolls out from every doorway and blog.

Ambivalence is left for people with “issues” or for pioneers to shape into slow and eventual acceptance.

To love and yet……

I now write so openly about ambivalence —  because I’ve written so openly about ambivalence.  The endless gnawing has to feed itself or it can never become peaceful resolve — at least for me.

Ambivalence feels as innate for me as saying I love you to people I trust, and even so, I feel compelled to frame my thoughts about motherhood into something people can easily reconcile, to put my disclaimer for those who can’t feel two sides of the same story at the same time, so they won’t think me a monster.  

So, this is what ambivalence feels like:

That you can love your child so deeply, so intensely so passionately so fully so gratefully and yet not love what as a new mother, motherhood takes away.

That you can love your child and hate the boredom of at home. That you can want to be home and yet want to be at a career you worked big hours to achieve — that you want enough hours for you, but not too much away from her.  That men can grapple this with zero societal reproach but when women grapple out loud they are selfish. 

Resolved ambivalence is having a secure foot in both doors, it is to acknowledge and finally shrug at ying and yang, dark and light, cold and warm. It is to admit to wanting it all and why you want it all. It is to know that one feeling can exist with another and yet you are still full and complete and good and enough.

I know this unharnessed emotion doesn’t sit well for most people because it asks for confessions that haven’t been reconciled and approved by others.

I know it’s why after my loved one died and I carefully with pause, emailed my family my feelings of ambivalence — that no one responded. Urgent and pressing matters trumped my ruminating about my mixed emotions. I genuinely understand that the unfinished business and feelings simmering behind “the one who died” will need to sit in escrow until/if, people are ready, that it is not for me to make someone else’s ambivalence come to light.

Ambivalence is “the problem with no name” until it is time to give it one.

Where does your ambivalence sit?

Photo credit: David Castillo Dominici

 

 

 

 

Conserve your willpower, because it can get tired and run out……

willpower, decision fatigue, ego depletionDecision fatigue, a phenomenon increasingly intriguing psychologists today given the growing culture of endless distractions and over-stimulation, is a term coined by social psychologist Roy F. Baumeister. Vaguely introduced by Freud, he believed people constantly struggle to manage their inner desires against the external pressures of the ego, which in turn requires mental energy.   Willpower is much like a muscle and when fatigued through overuse or when the brain is deprived of the energy necessary to sustain willpower, e.g. glucose etc — your willpower wanes.

Every decision you make, even insignificant ones like whether to have lemonade or water, and every temptation you avoid depletes your willpower.

How can you prevent ego depletion and bolster your willpower for what really matters to you? Read more…. (original article on Healthmango.com).

Photo credit: Ambro

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

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).

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

 

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.

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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