Category Archives: Lifestyle
Avoiding All Alcohol Helps the Heart Beat Better
The longer you refrain from drinking, the lower your risk of a common heart rhythm disorder.
That’s the message of a new long-range study examining alcohol use and atrial fibrillation, or Afib. This is when electrical impulses in the upper chambers of the heart are chaotic and cause an irregular heartbeat, which increases the risk of blood clots that can cause stroke or heart attacks.
One in four adults older than 40 is at risk for Afib, and nearly 6 million people in the United States could have the condition by 2050.
But the researchers from the University of California, San Francisco found that every decade of non-drinking decreased the risk of Afib by 20 percent, regardless of the type of alcohol.
Women who drink in any amount before conception and during pregnancy will cause a higher risk of problems for your infant.
The study included heart-risk data generated over 25 years on more than 15,000 American adults
Past drinkers were at increased risk for Afib, the researchers found. Every additional decade in which alcohol was consumed in the past was associated with a 13 percent increased risk of Afib, and every additional drink per day during former drinking was associated with a 4 percent increased risk.
“For a disease that affects millions and is one of the most important causes of stroke, identifying modifiable risk factors is especially important,” study senior author Dr. Gregory Marcus said in a UCSF news release. He directs clinical research at the university’s division of cardiology.
“Future research may help identify patients particularly prone to alcohol-related [Afib], and, when done, targeted counseling to those patients may be especially effective,” he added.
“Our finding suggests there may be chronic cardiac remodeling effects from alcohol that don’t rely on alcohol as an acute trigger, and further research into why this occurs is needed,” Marcus concluded.
Health and Wellness Associates
Dr C Carney
Buffalo Cauliflower with Blue Cheese Sauce
1/3 cup nonfat sour cream
2 tablespoons crumbled blue cheese
1 tablespoon skim milk
2 teaspoons mayonnaise
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup hot sauce, such as Frank’s
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 cups cauliflower florets (from about 1 medium head)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
For the cheese sauce: Whisk together the sour cream, blue cheese, milk, mayonnaise, 1/8 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate until chilled, about 30 minutes
For the Buffalo cauliflower: Meanwhile, microwave the butter in a small microwave-safe bowl on high until melted. Whisk in the hot sauce and lemon juice and set aside.
Mix olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 cup water in a large bowl. Add the cauliflower and toss until well coated. Spread the cauliflower on a rimmed baking sheet and roast until beginning to brown and just tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Whisk the hot sauce mixture again, drizzle over the cauliflower and toss with tongs to coat. Roast the cauliflower until the sauce is bubbling and browned around the edges, 5 to 7 minutes more. Serve hot with the cheese sauce.
Health and Wellness Associates
What Your Instagram Photos say about You, According to Harvard Psychologists.
Your Instagram photos might reveal much more about you than what you had for breakfast or who your #mancrushmonday is, new research suggests.
Whether you like it or not, Instagram has become an integral part of our generation’s lives and, be it a picture of a cute puppy, your partner or a duck-faced selfie, what we post pictures of says a lot.
In fact, according to scientific and psychological analysis from Harvard psychologists, your images can reveal if you’re popular, conscientious or even depressed, Sheerluxe reports.
So, what do you social media posts say about you?
If you’re the kind of person that shares snaps of your other half then, far from being publicly affectionate, you could in fact be insecure about your relationship.
Relationship experts have suggested that people who post gushing images might be doing so to mask problems, while using captions like “my girl” or “bae” can also be signs of possessiveness.
Alternatively, if you post selfies in which you’re dressed to impress then you’re more likely to be self-disciplined and enjoy orderliness. Researchers also notes that these types of people are more likely to appear older than they actually are as they tend to post about more “mature activities.”
Another type of photo that’s significantly telling is the #gymselfie. The study revealed that those who place great emphasis on fitness progress and physical appearance on social media are in fact narcissists.
Aside from the images themselves, experts also found that the type of filter used can be telling. It found that, while those who use warm filters like Valencia tend to be more popular than their peers, people who use Inkwell or black and white filters could be depressed.
Researchers at Harvard University recently had a higher success rate than doctors at diagnosing depression just by looking at patients’ Instagrams.
Depressed people in the study posted photos that were bluer, darker and greyer than their healthy peers.
Health and Wellness Associates
Dr M Williams
Keeping Your Emotional Health
Emotional health is an important part of overall health. People who are emotionally healthy are in control of their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. They are able to cope with life’s challenges. They can keep problems in perspective and bounce back from setbacks. They feel good about themselves and have good relationships.
Being emotionally healthy does not mean you are happy all the time. It means you are aware of your emotions. You can deal with them, whether they are positive or negative. Emotionally healthy people still feel stress, anger, and sadness. But they know how to manage their negative feelings. They can tell when a problem is more than they can handle on their own. They also know when to seek help from their doctor.
Research shows that emotional health is a skill. There are steps you can take to improve your emotional health and be happier.
Path to improved well being
Emotional health is an important part of your life. It allows you to realize your full potential. You can work productively and cope with the stresses of everyday life. It helps you work with other people and contribute to society.
It also affects your physical health. Research shows a link between an upbeat mental state and physical signs of good health. These include lower blood pressure, reduced risk of heart disease, and a healthier weight
There are many ways to improve or maintain good emotional health.
Be aware of your emotions and reactions. Notice what in your life makes you sad, frustrated, or angry. Try to address or change those things.
Express your feelings in appropriate ways. Let people close to you know when something is bothering you. Keeping feelings of sadness or anger inside adds to stress. It can cause problems in your relationships and at work or school.
Think before you act. Emotions can be powerful. Give yourself time to think, and be calm before you say or do something you might regret.
Manage stress. Try to change situations causing you stress. Learn relaxation methods to cope with stress. These could include deep breathing, meditation, and exercise.
Strive for balance. Find a healthy balance between work and play and between activity and rest. Make time for things you enjoy. Focus on positive things in your life.
Take care of your physical health. Your physical health can affect your emotional health. Exercise regularly, eat healthy meals, and get enough sleep. Don’t abuse drugs or alcohol.
Connect with others. We are social creatures. We need positive connections with other people. Make a lunch date, join a group, and say hi to strangers.
Find purpose and meaning. Figure out what it is important to you in life, and focus on that. This could be your work, your family, volunteering, caregiving, or something else. Spend your time doing what feels meaningful to you.
Stay positive. Focus on the good things in your life. Forgive yourself for making mistakes, and forgive others. Spend time with healthy, positive people.
Things to consider
People who have good emotional health can still have emotional problems or mental illness. Mental illness often has a physical cause. This could be a chemical imbalance in the brain. Stress and problems with family, work, or school can trigger mental illness or make it worse.
Counseling, support groups, and medicines can help people who have emotional problems or mental illness. If you have an ongoing emotional problem, talk to your family doctor. He or she can help you find the right type of treatment.
Questions to ask your doctor
What steps should I take to improve my emotional health?
Would medicine help me be able to cope better?
Should I see a therapist or counselor?
How does my physical health affect my emotional health?
What stress management techniques would work best for me?
Health and Wellness Associates
Dr M Williams
Depression In Teens
It’s not unusual for young people to experience “the blues” or feel “down in the dumps” occasionally. Adolescence is always an unsettling time, with the many physical, emotional, psychological and social changes that accompany this stage of life.
Unrealistic academic, social, or family expectations can create a strong sense of rejection and can lead to deep disappointment. When things go wrong at school or at home, teens often overreact. Many young people feel that life is not fair or that things “never go their way.” They feel “stressed out” and confused. To make matters worse, teens are bombarded by conflicting messages from parents, friends and society. Today’s teens see more of what life has to offer — both good and bad — on television, at school, in magazines and on the Internet. They are also forced to learn about the threat of AIDS, even if they are not sexually active or using drugs.
Teens need adult guidance more than ever to understand all the emotional and physical changes they are experiencing. When teens’ moods disrupt their ability to function on a day-to-day basis, it may indicate a serious emotional or mental disorder that needs attention — adolescent depression. Parents or caregivers must take action.
Dealing With Adolescent Pressures
When teens feel down, there are ways they can cope with these feelings to avoid serious depression. All of these suggestions help develop a sense of acceptance and belonging that is so important to adolescents.
Try to make new friends. Healthy relationships with peers are central to teens’ self-esteem and provide an important social outlet.
Participate in sports, job, school activities or hobbies. Staying busy helps teens focus on positive activities rather than negative feelings or behaviors.
Join organizations that offer programs for young people. Special programs geared to the needs of adolescents help develop additional interests.
Ask a trusted adult for help. When problems are too much to handle alone, teens should not be afraid to ask for help.
But sometimes, despite everyone’s best efforts, teens become depressed. Many factors can contribute to depression. Studies show that some depressed people have too much or too little of certain brain chemicals. Also, a family history of depression may increase the risk for developing depression. Other factors that can contribute to depression are difficult life events (such as death or divorce), side-effects from some medications and negative thought patterns.
Recognizing Adolescent Depression
Adolescent depression is increasing at an alarming rate. Recent surveys indicate that as many as one in five teens suffers from clinical depression. This is a serious problem that calls for prompt, appropriate treatment. Depression can take several forms, including bipolar disorder (formally called manic-depression), which is a condition that alternates between periods of euphoria and depression.
Depression can be difficult to diagnose in teens because adults may expect teens to act moody. Also, adolescents do not always understand or express their feelings very well. They may not be aware of the symptoms of depression and may not seek help.
These symptoms may indicate depression, particularly when they last for more than two weeks:
Poor performance in school
Withdrawal from friends and activities
Sadness and hopelessness
Lack of enthusiasm, energy or motivation
Anger and rage
Overreaction to criticism
Feelings of being unable to satisfy ideals
Poor self-esteem or guilt
Indecision, lack of concentration or forgetfulness
Restlessness and agitation
Changes in eating or sleeping patterns
Problems with authority
Suicidal thoughts or actions
Teens may experiment with drugs or alcohol or become sexually promiscuous to avoid feelings of depression. Teens also may express their depression through hostile, aggressive, risk-taking behavior. But such behaviors only lead to new problems, deeper levels of depression and destroyed relationships with friends, family, law enforcement or school officials.
Treating Adolescent Depression
It is extremely important that depressed teens receive prompt, professional treatment.
Depression is serious and, if left untreated, can worsen to the point of becoming life-threatening. If depressed teens refuse treatment, it may be necessary for family members or other concerned adults to seek professional advice.
Therapy can help teens understand why they are depressed and learn how to cope with stressful situations. Depending on the situation, treatment may consist of individual, group or family counseling. Medications that can be prescribed by a psychiatrist may be necessary to help teens feel better.
Some of the most common and effective ways to treat depression in adolescents are:
Psychotherapy provides teens an opportunity to explore events and feelings that are painful or troubling to them. Psychotherapy also teaches them coping skills.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps teens change negative patterns of thinking and behaving.
Interpersonal therapy focuses on how to develop healthier relationships at home and at school.
Medication relieves some symptoms of depression and is often prescribed along with therapy.
When depressed adolescents recognize the need for help, they have taken a major step toward recovery. However, remember that few adolescents seek help on their own. They may need encouragement from their friends and support from concerned adults to seek help and follow treatment recommendations.
Facing the Danger Of Teen Suicide
Sometimes teens feel so depressed that they consider ending their lives. Each year, almost 5,000 young people, ages 15 to 24, kill themselves. The rate of suicide for this age group has nearly tripled since 1960, making it the third leading cause of death in adolescents and the second leading cause of death among college-age youth.
Studies show that suicide attempts among young people may be based on long-standing problems triggered by a specific event. Suicidal adolescents may view a temporary situation as a permanent condition. Feelings of anger and resentment combined with exaggerated guilt can lead to impulsive, self-destructive acts.
Recognizing the Warning Signs
Four out of five teens who attempt suicide have given clear warnings. Pay attention to these warning signs:
Suicide threats, direct and indirect
Obsession with death
Poems, essays and drawings that refer to death
Giving away belongings
Dramatic change in personality or appearance
Irrational, bizarre behavior
Overwhelming sense of guilt, shame or rejection
Changed eating or sleeping patterns
Severe drop in school performance
REMEMBER!!! These warning signs should be taken seriously. Obtain help immediately. Caring and support can save a young life.
Helping Suicidal Teens
Offer help and listen. Encourage depressed teens to talk about their feelings. Listen, don’t lecture.
Trust your instincts. If it seems that the situation may be serious, seek prompt help. Break a confidence if necessary, in order to save a life.
Pay attention to talk about suicide. Ask direct questions and don’t be afraid of frank discussions. Silence is deadly!
Seek professional help. It is essential to seek expert advice from a mental health professional who has experience helping depressed teens. Also, alert key adults in the teen’s life — family, friends and teachers.
Looking To The Future
When adolescents are depressed, they have a tough time believing that their outlook can improve. But professional treatment can have a dramatic impact on their lives. It can put them back on track and bring them hope for the future.
If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, call 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).
The Boys Town National Hotline. (800)-448-3000.
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
3615 Wisconsin Ave., N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20016-3007
Phone Number: (202) 966-7300
Email Address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Website URL: http://www.aacap.org
American Association of Suicidology
4201 Connecticut Avenue NW; Suite 310
Washington, DC 20008
Suicide Awareness/Voices of Prevention
The Jed Foundation. Suicide prevention for college students.
The Nine Line. (800) 999-9999. Covenant Hours crisis counseling for homeless and at-risk children.
Health and Wellness Associates
Dr. M Williams
How to tell if you are in a bad relationship
Have you been dumped, betrayed or left so heartbroken that you didn’t ever want to love again? Are you still stuck on an ex and don’t know how to move on? And how do you know when it’s time to let go and look for love somewhere else?
If you’re “the other woman” who’s waiting for a man to leave his lover, don’t waste your time. “If he’ll do it with you, he’ll do it to you,”. The man you want lacks integrity and can’t make a commitment.
Are your standards too low? “What is it about you that causes you to settle for somebody that you know will cheat on you, know will lie to you, know will make a commitment and then break it? What is it about you that you believe about yourself that you’re willing to settle for that?” Recognize that you’re settling and that you deserve more. Set a higher standard for yourself.
Does he really even make you happy? Be honest with yourself about the extent to which he’s really meeting your needs. Chances are you’re longing for the relationship that you wish it could be, and that you want to be in love with the person you wish he was. “There are times when you break up with somebody and you start missing them and you start thinking about all the good things. And then you’re back with them for about 10 minutes and you go ‘Oh yeah! Now I remember why I hate you!’” Don’t kid yourself about what it was really like or glorify the past.
Don’t wait around because you think he’s going to change. The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior, so the chance that he’s going to ride in on his white horse and do the right thing is pretty slim. “To the extent that there’s some history, you don’t have to speculate, you just have to measure.”
Don’t put your life on hold. Every minute you spend focusing on your ex is a minute that’s holding you back from a better future. “As long you are obsessed on this guy, you will never put your heart, soul and mind into getting your life in order and starting another relationship if you want one.” Set some goals and start putting your life back together.
Ask yourself: Are you hiding in the relationship so you don’t have to face the reality of being on your own? Don’t stay with someone because it’s comfortable and safe. It may seem more secure, but it’s not healthy for you and it certainly won’t help you get to a better place. Why would you want to settle and waste your life away just to avoid getting back in the game?
Be clear with him. “You’ve got to say not just ‘no,’ but ‘hell no,'”. “‘Get out of my life. Stay away from me. Don’t call me.'” If you live together, it’s time to move out, or you may need to change your phone number. “Do what you have to do.” If the circumstances are more complicated or severe, you may need to get a lawyer in order to get child support or to hold him accountable for any other outstanding issues.
Don’t hold all men responsible for the mistake your ex made. Why should he pay for the sins of someone else who may have wronged you?
Learn to trust again — by trusting yourself. It tells a man who’s having a hard time letting women back into his life: “Trust is not about how much you trust one person or another to do right or wrong. How much you trust another person is a function of how much you trust yourself to be strong enough to deal with their imperfections.” Have enough faith in yourself to be able to put yourself on the line with someone, without any guarantee of what will happen next. If you’re playing the game with sweaty palms, it’s because you’re afraid of what you can or can’t do, or dealing with your own imperfections — it’s not about the other person.
Know that you will get hurt if you’re in a relationship. There is no perfect person without flaws. Even a well-intended guy is going to hurt his partner. He’s going to hurt your feelings. He’s going to say things that you don’t want him to say. He’s going to do things you wish he wouldn’t do and not do things you wish he would do. A relationship is an imperfect union between two willing spirits who say, ”I’d rather be in a relationship and share my life, share my joys, share my fun, share my activities, share my life than do it alone.” If you want to be in a relationship, know that getting hurt comes with the territory. You just have to decide that you are durable enough, that you have enough confidence in yourself that you can handle it.
Don’t invest more than you can afford to lose. While it’s important to move forward, you need to take things one step at a time. Don’t put so much out there that you’ll be emotionally bankrupt if things go south.
Don’t beat yourself up. You got through your last experience, you’ve learned from it, and now it’s time to move forward. “You’ll move on and be a champion in your next endeavor as you did in your past … Life is not a success-only journey. You are going to get beat up along the way.”
Focus on yourself. All of us come into relationships with baggage, but you need to have closure on past experiences before you can start a new relationship with the odds in your favor. “Unless and until you’ve figured out everything you’ve got to figure out about that and you get closure, you will never come into a relationship with a fresh and clean heart and mind and expectancy and attitude.” You’re probably not ready to get into another relationship until you heal the wounds of your past.
Listen to what he’s saying. If he’s telling you that you want different things out of life and there’s no way you can work as a couple, don’t turn his words around into what you want to hear. He’s being quite clear.
Know the statistics. “There’s a 50/50 chance a marriage is going to work if both people are head over heels in love, passionate and willing to climb the mountain, swim the river and slay the dragon to get to each other. That’s with everybody crazy in love and running toward each other in that field that we see in the commercials. The problem you’ve got here is he’s running the other way in the field! So if it’s 50/50 when you’re running toward each other, what do you think it is when the other person is running out of the field and hiding in the woods?”
Health and Wellness Associates
Dr. M Williams
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: The Symptoms
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a complex anxiety disorder that may develop after exposure to an extremely stressful or life-threatening event — involving death, the threat of death or serious injury — with resulting intense fear, helplessness or horror. If you experience these symptoms for a duration of more than a month, you could be suffering from PTSD.
Persistently Re-Experiencing the Event Having recurring dreams about the event or having persistent and distressing recollections of the event. Feeling and acting as if the trauma was reoccurring — hallucinations or flashbacks — and experiencing distress when exposed to cues. For example, Dr. Phil’s guest, Shelia, was attacked at gunpoint in her house, so when she is at home, she often replays the event in her mind.
Avoiding Stimuli Associated with the Trauma Making efforts to avoid thoughts, conversations, people, places and activities associated with the trauma, and avoiding activities, places or people that arouse recollections of the trauma. Shelia makes every effort to avoid being inside her house. She often spends long periods of time at the mall and sits in her car outside her home so she doesn’t have to go inside.
Numbing of General Responsiveness Pulling back and having a diminished interest in activities that are significant, and suffering low energy. Feeling detached or estranged from others. Displaying a restricted range of affect — unable to have loving feelings, or don’t want to become excited and happy or let scared emotions out.
Increased Arousal Symptoms Not Present before the Trauma Being easily startled, having difficulty sleeping or concentrating. Developing a heightened irritability and/or having angry outbursts. Becoming hypervigilant — behaviors you did not experience before the event.
Disturbance Impairs Other Areas of Functioning Experiencing significant impairment in social or occupational activities or any other important areas of functioning. Shelia has a difficult time working, because loud noises easily startle her.
If you have any questions or concerns about this or any area of healthcare please call us.
Health and Wellness Associates
Dr. M Williams
Cheese really is crack. Study reveals cheese is as addictive as drugs
For years you have been telling people how much you love cheese. Cheese on everything at every meal if you could. Now, will you listen that you’re addicted to cheese. It’s a part of every meal or snack, and you think about it constantly. A new study suggests food addiction is a real thing.
The study, published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine, examines why certain foods are more addictive than others. Researchers identified addictive foods from about 500 people who completed the Yale Food Addiction Scale, designed to measure if someone has a food addiction.
Pizza, unsurprisingly, came out on top of the most addictive food list. Besides being a basic food group for kids, college students and adults, there’s a scientific reason we all love pizza, and it has to do with the cheese.
The study found certain foods are addictive because of the way they are processed. The more processed and fatty the food, the more it was associated with addictive eating behaviors.
Cheese happens to be especially addictive because of an ingredient called casein, a protein found in all milk products. During digestion, casein releases opiates called casomorphins. Casomorphins are created from chemicals that are in the milk, and work with the processing of cheeses.
“[Casomorphins] really play with the dopamine receptors and trigger that addictive element,” registered dietitian Cameron Wells told Mic.
There are new studies ahead of how eating cheese as a child will have an effect on their ability to resist addictions in adulthood. In a quick study in Los Angeles CA., college students went to people on the street and in shelters and asked the residents “If you could have any food right now, what would you ask for?” Almost 100% said cheese.
So there you have it. Your cheese addiction has been validated by science.
Health and Wellness Associates
Dr G Carney
Restaurant Rules for Weight Loss
Is eating out your diet downfall? Getting together with friends is fun, but a tempting menu can quickly derail your weight loss efforts.
Try these restaurant rules to stay on the calorie track.
First, choose a restaurant that offers healthier fare. Japanese, Thai and other Asian cuisines are usually vegetable-based with little saturated fat in the other ingredients. Greek and Spanish restaurants serve foods from the healthy Mediterranean diet, so you’ll likely be able to choose from fish, grilled lean meats and salads.
If your willpower fades the second you face a menu, decide what to order before you set foot in the restaurant. If its menu isn’t online, call ahead and ask for recommendations by phone. Remember that restaurants want to accommodate you.
If you’re trying a new cuisine and want to sample unique dishes, make it your goal to limit calories. Never go ravenous, or you’ll be tempted to fill up on bread. Try ordering two small appetizers instead of an appetizer and an entree, and split just one dessert with everyone at the table — all you need is a taste to appreciate it.
If eating out is a spur-of-the-moment decision with no time for pre-planning, choose dishes that emphasize lean meat and fresh vegetables and that are steamed, broiled, baked or lightly sauteed. Avoid anything that’s described as breaded, fried or smothered with gravy, butter, cream or cheese sauce — the calories and fat are too hard to control.
And if you do happen to overindulge, simply get back to all your good habits at the very next meal.
Health and Wellness Associates
Dr. J Jaronson
1 in 6 Women Take This Nightmare Pill While Many Studies Suggest It’s Useless
Use of Antidepressants Continue to Rise
Major depression is one of the most common disorders in the U.S.,1 with 16 million adults reporting at least one major depressive episode in the past year.2,3 When you look at all forms of depression, that number goes even higher. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 24 million Americans experience some form of depression,4 which can interfere with personal and work relationships, reduce work or academic performance and affect physical health.
Depression reduces your ability to care for yourself properly and make adequate decisions about your health, including nutrition and sleep. Imbalances in nutrition, weight fluctuations and poor sleep habits may lead to compromised immune function.5
If ignored, depression can become chronic and can lead to self-harming behaviors such as drug or alcohol abuse6 and even be terminal if the person commits suicide. Up to 70 percent of people who commit suicide are clinically depressed,7 and 90 percent of people who struggle with suicidal thoughts experience a combination of depression and substance abuse.8
Antidepressant Use Continues to Rise
According to the latest statistics,9,10,11,12 use of antidepressants in the U.S. rose by 65 percent between 1999 and 2014. As of 2014:
- Nearly 1 in 8 Americans (13 percent) over the age of 12 reported being on antidepressant medication
- 1 in 6 women (16.5 percent) reported antidepressant use compared to 1 in 11 men (9 percent)
- About one-quarter of those who had taken an antidepressant in the past month reported being on them for 10 years or more
- Caucasians were more than three times more likely to use antidepressants than Blacks, Hispanics or Asians (16.5 percent compared to 5.6 percent, 5 percent and 3.3 percent respectively)
In Scotland, researchers also warn that antidepressant use among children under the age of 12 has risen dramatically.13 Between 2009 and 2016, use in this age group quadrupled. Use among children under 18 doubled in the same time frame.
Research Reveals Antidepressants Are Rarely the Right Answer
Unfortunately, the most widely used remedy for depression is also among the least effective. In addition to a long list of potential side effects14,15 (which include worsening depression and suicide), 40 percent of people with major depressive disorder treated with antidepressants do not achieve full remission.16
Perhaps more importantly, studies17,18,19 have repeatedly shown antidepressants work no better than placebo for mild to moderate depression, so you’re taking grave risks for a very small chance of benefit. As noted in a 2014 paper on antidepressants and the placebo effect:20
“Antidepressants are supposed to work by fixing a chemical imbalance, specifically, a lack of serotonin in the brain … But analyses of the published data and the unpublished data that were hidden by drug companies reveals that most (if not all) of the benefits are due to the placebo effect …
Analyzing the data we had found, we were not surprised to find a substantial placebo effect on depression. What surprised us was how small the drug effect was. Seventy-five percent of the improvement in the drug group also occurred when people were give dummy pills with no active ingredient in them.
The serotonin theory is as close as any theory in the history of science to having been proved wrong. Instead of curing depression, popular antidepressants may induce a biological vulnerability making people more likely to become depressed in the future.”
Placebo Effect Accounts for 82 Percent of Drug Response
The author of that 2014 study, Irving Kirsch, is a psychotherapist who has performed a number of analyses on antidepressants. In 2002, his team filed a Freedom of Information Act request to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), asking for the trial data provided by drug companies as part of the drug approval process.
The FDA requires drug companies to provide data on all clinical trials they’ve sponsored, including unpublished trials. As it turned out, nearly half of all clinical trials on antidepressants remained unpublished. When both published and unpublished trials were included, 57 percent showed the drug had no clinical benefit over placebo. What’s more, the placebo response actually accounted for 82 PERCENT of the beneficial response to antidepressants!
These results were reproduced in a 2008 study21 using another, even larger set of FDA trial data. According to Kirsch, “Once again, 82 percent of the drug response was duplicated by placebo.” A major benefit of evaluating FDA trial data was that all of the trials used the same primary measure of depression, which made the drug-to-placebo effects very easy to identify and compare.
The primary measure of depression used in these studies was the Hamilton depression scale, a 17-item scale with a possible score of 0 to 53 points. The higher your score, the more severe your depression. Importantly, the mean difference between antidepressants and placebo was less than two points (1.8) on this scale, which is considered clinically insignificant.
To illustrate just how insignificant of a difference this is, you can score a 6-point difference simply by changing sleep patterns without any reported change in other depressive symptoms.
EMFs — A Not Well-Known Cause of Anxiety and Depression
About one year ago Dr. Martin Pall published a review22 in the Journal of Neuroanatomy showing how microwave radiation from cell phones, Wi-Fi routers and computers and tablets not in airplane mode is clearly associated with many neuropsychiatric disorders. I recently did an interview with him that will air on September 3. In the meantime, you can view my interview on EMFs that I discussed on my recent trip to visit with Dave Asprey, founder and CEO of Bulletproof.23
These microwave EMFs increase intracellular calcium through voltage gated calcium channels (VGCCs) and the tissue with the highest density of VGCCs is the brain. Once these VGCCs are stimulated they also cause the release of neurotransmitters and neuroendocrine hormones leading to not only anxiety and depression, but neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and brain cancer.
So, if you struggle with anxiety or depression, be sure to limit your exposure to wireless technology. Simple measures include turning your Wi-Fi off at night, not carrying your cellphone on your body and not keeping portable phones, cellphones and other electric devices in your bedroom.
Studies have also confirmed the therapeutic effects of spending time in nature. Ecotherapy has been shown to lower stress, improve mood and significantly reduce symptoms of depression.24 Outdoor activities could be just about anything, from walking a nature trail to gardening, or simply taking your exercise outdoors.
Breath work such as the Buteyko breathing technique also has enormous psychological benefits and can quickly reduce anxiety by increasing the partial pressure of carbon dioxide in your body. These three techniques are a perfect complement to each other, and cost nothing. Simply turn off your electronics, head outside and practice proper breathing.
America Struggles With Notable Decline in Mental Health
While prescriptions for psychiatric drugs keep increasing (when you include other drugs beside antidepressants, such as anti-anxiety drugs, nearly 17 percent of American adults are medicated25,26), several parameters show mental health in the U.S. is declining.
Suicide rates are at a 30-year high, mental disorders are now the second most common cause of disability, having risen sharply since 1980,27 and prescription drug abuse and overdose deaths have become a public health emergency. While opioid pain killers are among the most lethal, psychiatric drugs also take their toll. In 2013, anti-anxiety benzodiazepine drugs accounted for nearly one-third of prescription overdose deaths.28
All of these statistics suggest that far from being helpful, antidepressants and other psychiatric drugs are making the situation worse. Sure, these drugs may be helpful for a small minority of people with very severe mental health problems, such as schizophrenia, but clearly, the vast majority of people using these drugs do not suffer from severe psychiatric illness.
Most are struggling with sadness, grief, anxiety, “the blues” and depression, which are in many ways part of your body’s communication system, revealing nutritional or sunlight deficiencies and/or spiritual disconnect, for example. The underlying reasons for these kinds of troubles are manifold, but you can be sure that, whatever the cause, an antidepressant will not correct it.
Women also need to be mindful of the fact that use of antidepressants during pregnancy can significantly increase your chances of having a child with autism. One study found antidepressant use during the second or third trimester was associated with an 87 percent increased risk of autism.29 The use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors was associated with double the risk of autism in the child, while the use of two or more antidepressants increased the risk more than fourfold.
Which Treatments Actually Work?
If you’re at all interested in following science-based recommendations, you’d place antidepressants at the very bottom of your list of treatment candidates. Far more effective treatments for depression include:
- Exercise — A number of studies have shown exercise outperforms drug treatment. Exercise helps create new GABA-producing neurons that help induce a natural state of calm, and boosts serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine, which helps buffer the effects of stress.
Studies have shown there is a strong correlation between improved mood and aerobic capacity, but even gentle forms of exercise can be effective. Yoga, for example, has received particular attention in a number of studies. A study published this spring found 90-minute yoga sessions three times a week reduced symptoms of major depression by at least 50 percent.30
- Nutritional intervention — Keeping inflammation in check is an important part of any effective treatment plan. If you’re gluten sensitive, you will need to remove all gluten from your diet. A food sensitivity test can help ascertain this. Reducing lectins may also be a good idea. As a general guideline, eating a whole food diet as described in my optimal nutrition plan can go a long way toward lowering your inflammation level. Certain nutritional deficiencies are also notorious contributors to depression, especially:
◦ Omega-3 fats. I recommend getting an omega-3 index test to make sure you’re getting enough. Ideally, you want your omega-3 index to be 8 percent or higher.
◦ B vitamins (including B1, B2, B3, B6, B8 and B12). Low dietary folate can raise your risk by as much as 300 percent.31,32 One of the most recent studies33,34 showing the importance of vitamin deficiencies in depression involved suicidal teens. Most turned out to be deficient in cerebral folate and all of them showed improvement after treatment with folinic acid.
- Vitamin D — Studies have shown vitamin D deficiency can predispose you to depression and that depression can respond favorably to optimizing your vitamin D stores, ideally by getting sensible sun exposure.35,36 In one such study,37 people with a vitamin D level below 20 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL) had an 85 percent increased risk of depression compared to those with a level greater than 30 ng/mL.
A double-blind randomized trial38 published in 2008 concluded that supplementing with high doses of vitamin D “seems to ameliorate [depression] symptoms indicating a possible causal relationship. “Recent research39 also claims that low vitamin D levels appear to be associated with suicide attempts. For optimal health, make sure your vitamin D level is between 40 and 60 ng/mL year-round. Ideally, get a vitamin D test at least twice a year to monitor your level.
- Probiotics — Keeping your gut microbiome healthy also has a significant effect on your moods, emotions and brain. You can read more in my previous article, “Mental Health May Depend on the Health of Your Gut Flora.”
- Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) — EFT is a form of psychological acupressure that has been shown to be quite effective for depression and anxiety.40,41,42,43 For serious or complex issues, seek out a qualified health care professional that is trained in EFT44 to guide you through the process. That said, for most of you with depression symptoms, this is a technique you can learn to do effectively on your own.
One of my new favorites. My mom passed away unexpectedly in July and I am very grateful she did not have cancer or struggles with any abuses from the conventional health system that many of our readers do. However, losing my mother was a major challenge in grief management for me.
I realize grief is not depression but the book “Letting Go: The Pathway of Surrender”45 by Dr. David Hawkins, was one of the best books I have read this year and helped teach me the useful tool of how to free yourself of painful emotions. I have read many of Hawkins’ previous books but this was his last one as he also recently passed.
Other Helpful Treatment Strategies
Here are several other strategies that can help improve your mental health:46
Clean up your sleep hygiene
Make sure you’re getting enough high-quality sleep, as sleep is essential for optimal mood and mental health. A fitness tracker that tracks your sleep can be a useful tool. The inability to fall asleep and stay asleep can be due to elevated cortisol levels, so if you have trouble sleeping, you may want to get your saliva cortisol level tested with an Adrenal Stress Index test.
If you’re already taking hormones, you can try applying a small dab of progesterone cream on your neck or face when you awaken during the night and can’t call back to sleep. Another alternative is to take adaptogens, herbal products that help lower cortisol and adjust your body to stress. There are also other excellent herbs and amino acids that help you to fall asleep and stay asleep. Meditation can also help.
Optimize your gut health
A number of studies have confirmed gastrointestinal inflammation can play a critical role in the development of depression.47 Optimizing your gut microbiome will also help regulate a number of neurotransmitters and mood-related hormones, including GABA and corticosterone, resulting in reduced anxiety and depression-related behavior.48
To nourish your gut microbiome, be sure to eat plenty of fresh vegetables and traditionally fermented foods. Healthy choices include fermented vegetables, lassi, kefir and natto. If you do not eat fermented foods on a regular basis, taking a high-quality probiotic supplement is recommended.
Also remember to severely limit sugars, especially fructose, as well as grains, to rebalance your gut flora. As a standard recommendation, I suggest limiting your daily fructose consumption from all sources to 25 grams per day or less.
Visualization and guided imagery have been used for decades by elite athletes prior to an event, successful business people and cancer patients — all to achieve better results through convincing your mind you have already achieved successful results.49,50 Similar success has been found in people with depression.51
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
CBT has been used successfully to treat depression.52,53 This therapy assumes mood is related to the pattern of thought. CBT attempts to change mood and reverse depression by directing your thought patterns.
Make sure your cholesterol levels aren’t too low for optimal mental health
You may also want to check your cholesterol to make sure it’s not too low. Low cholesterol is linked to dramatically increased rates of suicide, as well as aggression toward others.54 This increased expression of violence toward self and others may be due to the fact that low membrane cholesterol decreases the number of serotonin receptors in the brain, which are approximately 30 percent cholesterol by weight.
Lower serum cholesterol concentrations therefore may contribute to decreasing brain serotonin, which not only contributes to suicidal-associated depression, but prevents the suppression of aggressive behavior and violence toward self and others.
A number of herbs and supplements can be used in lieu of drugs to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. These include:
- St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum). This medicinal plant has a long historical use for depression, and is thought to work similarly to antidepressants, raising brain chemicals associated with mood such as serotonin, dopamine and noradrenaline.55
- S-Adenosylmethionine (SAMe). SAMe is an amino acid derivative that occurs naturally in all cells. It plays a role in many biological reactions by transferring its methyl group to DNA, proteins, phospholipids and biogenic amines. Several scientific studies indicate that SAMe may be useful in the treatment of depression.
- 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP). 5-HTP is another natural alternative to traditional antidepressants. When your body sets about manufacturing serotonin, it first makes 5-HTP. Taking 5-HTP as a supplement may raise serotonin levels. Evidence suggests 5-HTP outperforms a placebo when it comes to alleviating depression,56 which is more than can be said about antidepressants.
- XingPiJieYu. This Chinese herb, available from doctors of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), has been found to reduce the effects of “chronic and unpredictable stress,” thereby lowering your risk of depression.57
Guidelines for Safe Drug Withdrawal
If you’re currently on an antidepressant and want to get off it, ideally, you’ll want to have the cooperation of your prescribing physician. It would also be wise to do some homework on how to best proceed. Dr. Joseph Glenmullen from Harvard has written a helpful book on how to withdraw called “The Antidepressant Solution: A Step-by-Step Guide to Overcoming Antidepressant Withdrawal, Dependence, and Addiction.”
You can also turn to an organization with a referral list of doctors who practice more biologically or naturally, such as the American College for Advancement in Medicine at http://www.ACAM.org. A holistic psychiatrist will have a number of treatment options in their tool box that conventional doctors do not, and will typically be familiar with nutritional supplementation.
Once you have the cooperation of your prescribing physician, start lowering the dosage of the medication you’re taking. There are protocols for gradually reducing the dose that your doctor should be well aware of. At the same time, it may be wise to add in a multivitamin and/or other nutritional supplements or herbs. Again, your best bet would be to work with a holistic psychiatrist who is well-versed in the use of nutritional support.
If you have a friend or family member who struggles with depression, perhaps one of the most helpful things you can do is to help guide them toward healthier eating and lifestyle habits, as making changes can be particularly difficult when you’re feeling blue — or worse, suicidal. Encourage them to unplug and meet you outside for walks. We should not underestimate the power of human connection, and the power of connection with nature. Both, I believe, are essential for mental health and emotional stability.
If you are feeling desperate or have any thoughts of suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a toll-free number: 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or call 911, or simply go to your nearest hospital emergency department. You cannot make long-term plans for lifestyle changes when you are in the middle of a crisis.
Health Wellness Associates
Dr. J Mercola
Dr. P Carrothers