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: email@example.com
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
Can a Common Spice Treat Depression?
If you find yourself grappling with depression, you are—for better or worse—not alone. However, if you do suffer from depression, you do feel alone.
As of 2012, diagnoses of depression are growing at an alarming rate and, as if depression alone weren’t enough, states that report high rates of depression also report accompanying physical manifestations of stress with greater obesity rates and incidences of heart disease.
Perhaps you have tried talking with a therapist or counselor, which is an effective way to tackle this often desperation-inducing condition, but it often works even better when you treat the chemical side of the issue. Doctors often prescribe a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) such as Fluoxentine, Sertraline and Citalopram, and they are often effective but they sometimes come with side effects that may complicate treatment, at the very least.
Another option you might consider is looking into natural treatments for depression. You might even ask your physician or psychiatric professional what experience and information they have regarding natural approaches to treating depression.
Some of the most common treatments include St. John’s Wort, 5HTP, SAMe, L-Theanine, Vitamin D3, B-vitamins and Fish Oil.
Treatment with Turmeric
Lurking in your spice rack is a potentially powerful component of your depression treatment. Something as delightful and delectable as turmeric that adds the beautiful yellow color to your curry dishes and mustard can actually become an integral part of your wellness. Turmeric has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for a wide range of conditions, illnesses and disorders for more than 4,000 years and in China from 700 A.D.
Curcumin and Neurogenesis
Curcumin, which is turmeric’s active ingredient, has been tested on animals and has shown effective improvement over depression in the animals. According to Dr. Weil, curcumin spurs nerve growth in the frontal cortex and hippocampal portions of the brain. One line of thinking attributes depression to damage to the hippocampal neurons, so anything that serves to repair that area might serve as the secret weapon against depression. Along with high impact exercise, bright light and learning, Curcumin has the potential to increase neurogenesis to decrease the negative effects of depression, if not the depression itself.
Curcumin and Turmeric Increase Serotonin and Dopamine in the Brain
Similar to the benefits of SSRIs, turmeric and curcumin increase serotonin levels, which help regulate sleep, learning, memory and mood. To a lesser degree, curcumin increases the level of dopamine in the brain, which controls emotional responses to situations and movement.
Turmeric On Its Own for Treating Depression?
While turmeric is effective in conjunction with SSRIs, it is not yet certain whether you could eschew your antidepressant prescription quite yet. Your doctor might have more information about the synergistic effects of taking turmeric or curcumin as a complement to your SSRI prescription or any other medication you might take to help with depression.
Health and Wellness Associates
Dr G Carney
An Over-Toxified Body Could Be Causing Fibromyalgia
Are you fatigued or in pain? It may be time to check underlying toxic exposures that create conditions which may be exacerbating how you feel.
We are electrical beings. There are many things in our world today that can deplete electricity. Causes of depleted electricity can be linked to Fluoride, and medications containing fluoride such as SSRI’s, toxic cosmetics containing aluminum, mercury, and vaccines. Addictions causing a toxic liver can be a cause of depleted oxygen and energy. These include smoking, excessive alcohol, and sugar. Food choices that can steal our energy and disrupt our hormones are pesticides in processed foods, MSG, Aspartame, HFCS and the SAD diet, all which can lead to increased risk for inflammation and other autoimmunity disorders. According to Science News, chronic fatigue is in our gut and not our head. A toxic liver and toxic gut will affect all organs without exception. It could deter healing, slow down recovery, cause fatigue, weaken immunity, cause low energy, increase weight gain, depression, and ailments of all sorts including autoimmunity disorders. EMF’s can deplete our energy and disrupt our sleep patterns which continue to stress the mind and body. A high caffeine diet can exhaust adrenal glands. And finally, deficiencies in Magnesium can steal our energy and oxygen-rich red blood cell count can be low.
There is a blood test called FM/a that identifies possible markers produced by immune system blood cells in people with fibromyalgia. But a diagnosis is really dependent on how you feel. Fibromyalgia includes body pain, fatigue, and insomnia. But Fibromyalgia can also be called a skin condition. Trigger points are inflamed tissue that’s located just below the skin and is generally especially sensitive to the touch. The pain symptoms of fibromyalgia are believed by many researchers to be related to the fascia of the body. In fibromyalgia, the amount of blood flow to the peripheral tissues (the skin) is substantially reduced.
In layman terms, the immune system within the skin is acting up and this involves the capillaries and small blood vessels. To make matters worst, fibromyalgia is found in our gut. Fibromyalgia pain is found mostly in the back of the head, neck, stomach, hip and knees. Most complaints are chronic headaches and nausea.
But, fibromyalgia is no longer considered to be similar to the arthritic condition. (a disease of the joints) If we were to take a step back -we could possibly find the hidden connections. There is a mental health concern with fibromyalgia that is not with arthritis.
Today our children from about age 7 to 10 years old are diagnosed with fibromyalgia. You may find this shocking. But if we check, it’s no surprise to find that these children can also have a toxic internal environment from a poor diet and lack of movement. They are also stressed. Subsidized school lunches can increase the risk for obesity. Increase wi-fi use can increase toxicities. Being overweight can play a causative role in pain, inflammation, and low energy levels. Secondly, children are prescribed more antibiotics, Ritalin, statins and antidepressants in the last decade. Medications can decrease good gut microbiome, decrease the quality of sleep and cause weight issues.
Dont ever treat fibromyalgia with another toxin or chemical, such as an unnecessary prescription.
If you think you have fibromyalgia, and you want to know how to cure this, please give us a call and set up a consultation.
Health and Wellness Associates
Dr P Carrothers
The Link Between Sugar and Depression
Men consuming more than 67 grams of sugar per day were 23 percent more likely to develop anxiety or depression over the course of five years than those whose sugar consumption was less than 40 grams per day
Other studies have also linked high-sugar diets to a higher risk of depression and anxiety, showing a low-sugar diet is an important part of the prevention and treatment of common mental health problems
Sugar increases your risk of depression by contributing to insulin and leptin resistance, suppressing BDNF, affecting dopamine, damaging your mitochondria and promoting chronic inflammation
How Sugar Raises Your Depression Risk
A number of other studies have also identified mechanisms by which excessive sugar consumption can wreak havoc with your mental health. For example, eating excessive amounts of sugar:
- Contributes to insulin and leptin resistance and impaired signaling, which play a significant role in mental health.
- Suppresses activity of brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a key growth hormone that promotes healthy brain neurons. BDNF levels tend to be critically low in both depression and schizophrenia, and animal models suggest this may actually be a causative factor.
- Affects dopamine, a neurotransmitter that fuels your brain’s reward system9 (hence sugar’s addictive potential10,11,12) and is known to play a role in mood disorders.13
- Damages your mitochondria, which can have body-wide effects. Your mitochondria generate the vast majority of the energy (adenosine triphosphate or ATP) in your body. When sugar is your primary fuel, excessive reactive oxygen species (ROS) and secondary free radicals are created, which damage cellular mitochondrial membranes and DNA.
Needless to say, as your mitochondria are damaged, the energy currency in your body declines and your brain will struggle to work properly. Healthy dietary fats, on the other hand, create far fewer ROS and free radicals. Fats are also critical for the health of cellular membranes and many other biological functions, including and especially the functioning of your brain.
Among the most important fats for brain function and mental health are the long-chained animal-based omega-3 fats DHA and EPA. Not only are they anti-inflammatory, but DHA is actually a component in every cell of your body, and 90 percent of the omega-3 fat found in brain tissue is DHA.
- Promotes chronic inflammation which, in the long term, disrupts the normal functioning of your immune system, thereby raising your risk of depression. A 2004 cross-cultural analysis14 of the relationship between diet and mental illness found a strong link between high sugar consumption and the risk for depression and schizophrenia.
It also concluded that dietary predictors of depression are similar to those for diabetes and heart disease. One of the hallmarks of these diseases is chronic inflammation, which sugar is a primary driver of. So, excessive amounts of sugar can truly set off an avalanche of negative health events — both physical and mental.
Inflammation May Be the No. 1 Risk Factor for Depression
Another previous study published in the International Breastfeeding Journal15 found inflammation may be more than just another risk factor. It may actually be the primary risk factor that underlies all others. According to the researchers:
“The old paradigm described inflammation as simply one of many risk factors for depression. The new paradigm is based on more recent research that has indicated that physical and psychological stressors increase inflammation. These recent studies constitute an important shift in the depression paradigm: inflammation is not simply a risk factor; it is the risk factor that underlies all the others.
Moreover, inflammation explains why psychosocial, behavioral and physical risk factors increase the risk of depression. This is true for depression in general and for postpartum depression in particular.”
In another study,16 the researchers suggested “depression may be a neuropsychiatric manifestation of a chronic inflammatory syndrome.” Here, they refer specifically to inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. Studies have also found depression is closely linked to dysfunction in the gut-brain axis, in which gut inflammation plays an important role.
Artificial Sweeteners Are Also Strongly Associated With Depression
Unfortunately, many are under the mistaken belief they can protect their health by swapping refined sugar for artificial sweeteners. Nothing could be further from the truth, as research suggests artificial sweeteners may actually be more detrimental to your health than regular sugar. For example:
- In a 1986 evaluation of reactions to food additives,17 aspartame (in commonly consumed amounts) was linked to mood alterations such as anxiety, agitation, irritability and depression.
- A 1993 study18 found that individuals with mood disorders are particularly sensitive to aspartame, suggesting its use in this population should be discouraged. In the clinical study, the project was halted by the Institutional Review Board after a total of 13 individuals had completed the study because of the severity of reactions within the group of patients with a history of depression.
- In 2008, researchers asserted that excessive aspartame ingestion might be involved in the pathogenesis of certain mental disorders and may compromise emotional functioning.19
- Research presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in 2013 found that consumption of sweetened beverages — whether they’re sweetened with sugar or artificial sweeteners — was associated with an increased risk of depression.20,21 The study included nearly 264,000 American adults over the age of 50 who were enrolled in an AARP diet and health study.
At the outset, participants filled out a detailed dietary survey. At a 10-year follow-up, they were asked whether they’d been diagnosed with depression at any point during the past decade.
Those who drank more than four cans or glasses of diet soda or other artificially sweetened beverages had a nearly 30 percent higher risk of depression compared to those who did not consume diet drinks. Regular soda drinkers had a 22 percent increased risk.
To Cure Depression, Be Sure to Address Root Causes
According to the World Health Organization, depression is now the leading cause of ill health and disability worldwide,22,23 affecting an estimated 322 million people, including more than 16 million Americans. Globally, rates of depression increased by 18 percent between 2005 and 2015.24 According to the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health, 11 percent of Americans over the age of 12 are on antidepressant drugs. Among women in their 40 and 50s, 1 in 4 is on antidepressants.25
While a number of different factors can contribute to depression, I’m convinced diet plays an enormous role. There’s no doubt in my mind that radically reducing or eliminating sugar and artificial sweeteners from your diet is a crucial step to prevent and/or address depression.
One simple way to dramatically reduce your sugar intake is to replace processed foods with real whole foods. Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables is associated with lower odds of depression and anxiety,26,27 an effect ascribed to antioxidants that help combat inflammation in your body. Certain nutrients are also known to cause symptoms of depression when lacking, so it’s important to eat a varied whole food diet.
Another major contributor to depression and anxiety is microwave exposure from wireless technologies, which I address below. To suggest that depression is rooted in poor diet and other lifestyle factors does not detract from the fact that it’s a serious problem that needs to be addressed with compassion and non-judgment. It simply shifts the conversation about what the most appropriate answers and remedies are.
Considering the many hazards associated with antidepressants (the efficacy of which have been repeatedly found to be right on par with placebo), it would be wise to address the known root causes of depression, which are primarily lifestyle-based. Drugs, even when they do work, do not actually fix the problem. They only mask it.
Antidepressants may also worsen the situation, as many are associated with an increased risk of suicide, violence and worsened mental health in the long term. So, before you resort to medication, please consider addressing the lifestyle strategies listed below.
Nondrug Solutions for Depression
Limit microwave exposure from wireless technologies
Studies have linked excessive exposure to electromagnetic fields to an increased risk of both depression and suicide.28 Power lines and high-voltage cables appear to be particularly troublesome. Addiction to or “high engagement” with mobile devices can also trigger depression and anxiety, according to recent research from the University of Illinois.29
Research30 by Dr. Martin Pall reveals a previously unknown mechanism of biological harm from microwaves emitted by cellphones and other wireless technologies, which helps explain why these technologies can have such a potent impact on your mental health.
Embedded in your cell membranes are voltage gated calcium channels (VGCCs), which are activated by microwaves. When that happens, about 1 million calcium ions per second are released, which stimulates the release of nitric oxide (NO) inside your cell and mitochondria. The NO then combines with superoxide to form peroxynitrite, which in turn creates hydroxyl free radicals, which are the most destructive free radicals known to man.
Hydroxyl free radicals decimate mitochondrial and nuclear DNA, their membranes and proteins. The end result is mitochondrial dysfunction, which we now know is at the heart of most chronic disease. The tissues with the highest density of VGCCs are your brain, the pacemaker in your heart and male testes.
Hence, health problems such as Alzheimer’s, anxiety, depression, autism, cardiac arrhythmias and infertility can be directly linked to excessive microwave exposure.
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.
Call us for information and help with preventative medicine. If you are not comfortable with that, make sure your physician is certified or had done a specialty in preventative medicine. The trick question to ask is, where did you go to school for that. Easy to look up, not many schools offer it.
Health and Wellness Associates
Dr Anna Sullivan
Depression Harms Heart as Much as Obesity and Cholesterol
Depression is as big a risk for cardiovascular disease in men as high cholesterol and obesity, according to a study published in the journal Atherosclerosis.
“There is little doubt that depression is a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases,” explained researcher Karl-Heinz Ladwig. “The question now is: What is the relationship between depression and other risk factors like tobacco smoke, high cholesterol levels, obesity or hypertension — how big a role does each factor play?”
To answer the question, German researchers analyzed data from 3,428 male patients between the ages of 45 and 74 years over a period of 10 years. They compared the impact of depression with the four major risk factors.
“Our investigation shows that the risk of a fatal cardiovascular disease due to depression is almost as great as that due to elevated cholesterol levels or obesity,” Ladwig said. Only high blood pressure and smoking were found to be associated with a greater risk.
The researchers came to the conclusion that depression accounts for roughly 15 percent of deaths from cardiovascular disease. “That is comparable to the other risk factors, such as hypercholesterolemia, obesity and smoking,” Ladwig states. These factors cause 8.4 to 21.4 percent of the cardiovascular deaths.
Cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 killer in the U.S. and throughout the world, and accounts for about 1 in 3 deaths in America.
Depression is also prevalent in the U.S., affecting approximately 14.8 million Americans each year. Studies have shown that depression raises the risk of heart attack fourfold.
Health and Wellness Associates
Dr Sylvia Hubbard
Yoga Reduces Major Depression: Harvard Study
A study published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that yoga combined with coherent breathing instruction significantly reduced symptoms in people with major depressive disorder.
Major depressive disorder (MDD), which is also known simply as depression, is characterized by persistent depressed mood along with a loss of interest in daily activities, low energy, and pain without an obvious cause that interferes with daily activities and enjoyment of life. It is commonly treated with medication or psychotherapy (talk therapy), or a combination of the two.
In the study, adults 18 to 64 years of age with MDD participated in either three (high-dose intervention) or two (low-dose) yoga classes per week and practiced coherent breathing at five breaths per minute. Symptoms of depression were measured at the beginning and throughout the 12-week study.
Volunteers who took three yoga classes a week were more likely to achieve lower depression scores after 12 weeks than subjects who took two classes.
“The practical findings for this integrative health intervention is that it worked for participants who were both on and off antidepressant medications, and for those time-pressed, the two times per week dose also performed well,” says John Weeks, Editor-in-Chief of The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.
The study was conducted by researchers from major institutions including Harvard School of Medicine and Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.
Other recent studies have found that yoga is beneficial for a number of health issues. A study by scientists at the University of Maryland School of Medicine concluded that yoga may ease low back pain and improve ease of movement in patients.
Researchers from Boston’s Massachusetts General Hospital found that people who practice deep relaxation techniques, including yoga and meditation, make 42 percent fewer trips to their doctors, and lab use dropped by 44 percent when compared to the year before training.
Yoga may also be a safe and effective way for people with arthritis to keep moving, according to a study from Johns Hopkins. A group of 75 volunteers with two common forms of arthritis, knee osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, were either put on a wait list or participated in twice-weekly yoga classes plus a weekly at-home session.
After eight weeks, those who were in the yoga group reported a 20 percent improvement in pain, mood, and the ability to perform daily activities when compared to the control group.
Health and Wellness Associates
Dr Anna Sullivan
Roseroot — also called Rhodiola — is a plant that has been used in medicine for a variety of conditions.
Roseroot or Arctic root or golden root, is considered an adaptogenic herb, meaning that it acts in non-specific ways to increase resistance to stress, without disturbing normal biological functions. The herb Rhodiola rosea grows at high altitudes in the arctic areas of Europe and Asia, and its root has been used in traditional medicine in Russia and the Scandinavian countries for centuries. Studies of Rhodiola rosea’s medicinal applications have appeared in the scientific literature of Sweden, Norway, France, Germany, the Soviet Union and Iceland. Rhodiola rosea is still widely used in Russia as a tonic and remedy for fatigue, poor attention span, and decreased memory; it is also believed to make workers more productive. In Sweden and other Scandinavian countries, it is used to increase the capacity for mental work and to boost general strength and vitality.
As for rhodiola extract benefits, a review in HerbalGram, the journal of the American Botanical Council, reported that numerous studies of rhodiola in both humans and animals have indicated that it helps prevent fatigue, stress, and the damaging effects of oxygen deprivation. Evidence also suggests that it acts as an antioxidant, enhances immune system function, and can increase sexual energy. Rhodiola’s efficacy was confirmed in a 2011 review of 11 placebo-controlled human studies. The reviewers considered studies that all had study designs rated as moderate to good quality, and the analysis of their combined data concluded that Rhodiola rosea might have beneficial effects on physical performance, mental performance, and certain mental health conditions. The reviewers noted that very few adverse events are reported, suggesting a good safety profile.
In addition, a study published in 2007 in the Nordic Journal of Psychiatry, showed that patients with mild-to-moderate depression who took a rhodiola extract reported fewer symptoms of depression than those who took a placebo. A small human trial of rhodiola at UCLA published in 2008, reported significant improvement in 10 people with generalized anxiety who took the herb for 10 weeks. Side effects were generally mild or moderate in severity. The most common unwanted effects were dizziness and dry mouth. Rhodiola appears to work faster than conventional antidepressants, often in less than a week.
A pilot study from the University of Pennsylvania offers support for the possibility that it may improve depression.
Dr. Jun Mao and his colleagues compared roseroot to the antidepressant sertraline and placebo in 57 patients with depression.
After three months, the antidepressant as well as roseroot reduced depression symptoms compared with placebo, but side effects such as sexual dysfunction or nausea were fewer in patients taking the herbal treatment.
You should be able to find roseroot in capsule form. According to Tieraona Low Dog M.D., says that it is one of her favorite herbs for treatment of patients suffering from “21st century stress”: fatigue, mental fog, trouble concentrating, low energy and, perhaps, mild depression. She recommends using a standardized extract. Look for products that are similar to those studied in clinical trials containing 2-3% rosavin and 0.8-1% salidroside. Start with 100 mg once a day for a week and then increase the dosage by 100 mg every week, up to 400 mg a day, if needed. Dr. Low Dog notes that while studies suggest that rhodiola reduces anxiety, some people might feel “revved” up from it. She advises taking it early in the day to avoid any interference with sleep.
Health and Wellness Associates
Why Women Suffer From Anxiety More Than Men, Leading To Increased Risk For Depression And Suicide
Anxiety disorders – defined by excessive fear, restlessness, and muscle tension – are debilitating, disabling, and can increase the risk for depression and suicide. They are some of the most common mental health conditions around the world, affecting around four out of every 100 people and costing the health care system and job employers over US$42 billion each year.
People with anxiety are more likely to miss days from work and are less productive. Young people with anxiety are also less likely to enter school and complete it – translating into fewer life chances. Even though this evidence points to anxiety disorders as being important mental health issues, insufficient attention is being given to them by researchers, clinicians, and policy makers.
Researchers and I at the University of Cambridge wanted to find out who is most affected by anxiety disorders. To do this, we conducted a systematic review of studies that reported on the proportion of people with anxiety in a variety of contexts around the world, and used rigorous methods to retain the highest quality studies. Our results showed that women are almost twice as likely to suffer from anxiety as men, and that people living in Europe and North America are disproportionately affected.
But why are women more likely to experience anxiety than men? It could be because of differences in brain chemistry and hormone fluctuations. Reproductive events across a woman’s life are associated with hormonal changes, which have been linked to anxiety. The surge in oestrogen and progesterone that occurs during pregnancy can increase the risk for obsessive compulsive disorder, characterized by disturbing and repetitive thoughts, impulses and obsessions that are distressing and debilitating.
But in addition to biological mechanisms, women and men seem to experience and react to events in their life differently. Women tend to be more prone to stress, which can increase their anxiety. Also, when faced with stressful situations, women and men tend to use different coping strategies.
Women faced with life stressors are more likely to ruminate about them, which can increase their anxiety, while men engage more in active, problem-focused coping. Other studies suggest that women are more likely to experience physical and mental abuse than men, and abuse has been linked to the development of anxiety disorders. Child abuse has been associated with changes in brain chemistry and structure, and according to previous research, women who have experienced sexual abuse may have abnormal blood flow in the hippocampus, a brain region involved in emotion processing.
THE ANXIOUS WEST
Our review also showed that people from North America and Western Europe are more likely to be affected by anxiety than people living in other parts of the world. It is unclear what could be accounting for these differences. It could be that the criteria and instruments we are using to measure anxiety, which were largely developed on Western populations, might not be capturing cultural presentations of anxiety.
Anxiety might be manifested differently in non-Western cultures. For example, social anxiety in the West is typically manifested as an intense fear of social situations, high self-consciousness, and fear of being judged and criticized by others during interactions and performance situations.
However, in Asia, a closely related construct is taijin kyofusho, which manifests as persistent and irrational fears about causing offence and embarrassment to others, because of perceived personal inadequacies. In addition, people from other cultures might feel too embarrassed to disclose symptoms of anxiety that people in Western cultures are comfortable discussing – this would mean that the figures reported in studies on developing and underdeveloped parts of the world might be underestimates of the true proportions.
Most of the research on mental health has also been done in Europe and North America, and very few studies have examined anxiety in other parts of the world. There could indeed be large differences in the burden of anxiety between cultures, but further research using better anxiety assessment methods is needed on this.
Either way, we now know that anxiety disorders are common, costly, and associated with substantial human suffering. We also know that women and people living in developed countries seem to be most affected. This awareness of who is disproportionately affected by anxiety can help direct health service planning and provision, and treatment efforts.
WHAT CAN BE DONE?
Anxiety disorders tend to start early in life, are chronic, and more than a decade can elapse between the time when symptoms develop and help is first sought from the doctor. At this point, the anxiety has become quite severe and other mental health problems, such as depression, have developed. This makes successful treatment of any of the disorders much harder.
Early recognition of symptoms is important so that treatment can be administered. Many people have turned to cognitive behavioral therapy, which has been shown to be effective in reducing anxiety. There is also medication, and there are lifestyle changes people can make to improve their mental health, such as engaging in regular physical activity, doing mindfulness meditation and yoga.
Many people who suffer from anxiety, are actually experiencing internal hives from food allergies. Just think of how hives are on the outside of your body, and you cannot itch them enough. Now, envision those on the inside of your body, on your organs and what do you do. You develop anxiety, bitchy, and possibly want to jump through your skin. Taking medication before this has been determined is a rather large error.
Always call us, or someone who can help you determine food allergies and addictions.
Health and Wellness Associates
Yoga Benefits Your Brain Function and Mental Health
Low-impact exercises such as yoga have a number of benefits. Not only can it provide the physical benefits of exercise, yoga may also help stave off cognitive decline, according to a recent study of older adults with early warning signs of waning memory.
While I believe most benefit from high-intensity interval training (HIIT) for optimal health, there’s no doubt that yoga can also be beneficial. It has mental, emotional and even spiritual benefits that can be very helpful for those struggling with stress-related health problems.
Yoga can be viewed as a form of moving meditation that demands your full attention as you gently shift your body from one asana (yoga position) to another.
As you learn new ways of moving and responding to your body, your mind and emotions may shift and change as well. In a sense, you not only become more physically flexible, but your mental outlook and approach to life may gain some needed flexibility as well.
Yoga Helps Mitigate Cognitive Decline
Studies have repeatedly demonstrated that physical activity helps keep your mind sharp with age, and this goes for activities such as yoga as well. Overall, inactivity is enemy No. 1 if you seek to optimize your cognitive function. According to The New York Times:1
“There also is growing evidence that combining physical activity with meditation might intensify the benefits of both pursuits.
In an interesting study2 … people with depression who meditated before they went for a run showed greater improvements in their mood than people who did either of those activities alone.
But many people do not have the physical capacity or taste for running or other similarly vigorous activities. So for the new study … researchers … decided to test whether yoga, a relatively mild, meditative activity, could alter people’s brains and fortify their ability to think.3,4
They began by recruiting 29 middle-aged and older adults … who … were anxious about the state of their memories and who, during evaluations … were found to have mild cognitive impairment, a mental condition that can be a precursor to eventual dementia.
The volunteers also underwent a sophisticated type of brain scan that tracks how different parts of the brain communicate with one another.”
The participants were divided into two groups. One group enrolled in a brain-training program consisting of mental exercises for one hour per week. They were also asked to practice at home for 15 minutes a day.
The second group participated in a Kundalini yoga class for one hour per week. They were also taught Kirtan Kriya meditation, which involves the use of mantras and fluid hand movements. They were asked to practice this meditation at home for 15 minutes each day.
Yoga Outperforms Standard Brain Training
After 12 weeks, all subjects again underwent cognitive tests and brain scans. Overall, all participants had improved to some degree, but the yoga group not only fared slightly better on memory tests, they also reported improvements in their mood. As reported in the featured article:
“The brain scans in both groups displayed more communication now between parts of their brains involved in memory and language skills.
Those who had practiced yoga, however, also had developed more communication between parts of the brain that control attention, suggesting a greater ability now to focus and multitask.
In effect, yoga and meditation had equaled and then topped the benefits of 12 weeks of brain training. ‘We were a bit surprised by the magnitude’ of the brain effects, said Dr. Helen Lavretsky … who oversaw the study.”
Why Yoga Is so Beneficial for Your Brain
Over the years, a number of studies have honed in on the brain benefits of yoga. For example, studies have found that:
- Twenty minutes of Hatha yoga improves your brain function (speed and accuracy of mental processing) to a greater degree than 20 minutes of aerobic exercise (jogging).5,6 Potential mechanisms include enhanced self-awareness and reduced stress.
- Yoga helps improve mental health, including psychiatric disorders like depression, anxiety, attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and schizophrenia.7,8,9,10
Some of the studies suggest yoga can have a similar effect to antidepressants and psychotherapy.
- Yoga helps improve teenagers’ emotional resilience and ability to manage anger. As noted by yoga educator and writer Iona Smith:11
“During adolescence, the frontal lobes of the brain (the seat of language and reason) are still being formed, leaving teens to overly rely on their amygdala (the seat of emotions) …
The brain’s malleability during adolescence marks a crucial stage in both cognitive and emotional development.
Luckily, researchers are now able to paint a clearer picture of some of the factors that allow students to thrive throughout high school and into adulthood, such as self-awareness, managing distressing emotions, empathy, and navigating relationships smoothly.
When students hone these skills, they are not only happier and healthier emotionally, but are also better able to focus on academics.”
- By improving stress-related imbalances in your nervous system, yoga can help relieve a range of symptoms found in common mental health disorders.
Researchers also believe yoga can be helpful for conditions like epilepsy, chronic pain, depression, anxiety and PTSD by increasing brain chemicals like gamma amino-butyric acid (GABA).12
Other Mind-Body Benefits of Yoga
Other studies have demonstrated that regular yoga practice can impart a number of different physical, mental and emotional benefits, including the ones listed below.13,14,15,16
One explanation for yoga’s wide-ranging effects is that it actually alters genetic expression — through its beneficial effects on your mind! In fact, the relaxation response triggered by meditative practices has been shown to affect at least 2,209 genes.17
Improved immune function18
Reduced risk for migraines21
Lowered risk of hypertension and heart disease22,23
Lowered cortisol (stress hormone) level by down regulating hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and calming sympathetic nervous system24
Improved sexual performance and satisfaction in both sexes25,26
How Yoga Aids Weight Loss and Promotes Good Health
Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, yoga has also been shown to aid weight loss. In one study,27 overweight yoga participants lost an average of 5 pounds whereas the non-yoga group gained 13 pounds. This held true even when accounting for differences in diet. Typically, HIIT is the most effective for weight loss, and the key to its effectiveness is the intensity. So how can the effectiveness of yoga — which is the converse of HIIT in terms of intensity — be explained?
According to Tiffany Field, Ph.D., director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine, yoga’s benefits are related to the fact that it does the opposite of more strenuous exercise. Rather than boosting your heart rate and stimulating your nervous system, yoga puts you in a parasympathetic state that lowers both your blood pressure and heart rate, and this helps promote a positive cascade of health effects.
This makes sense if you consider the adverse biological effects of stress. By promoting systemic inflammation, chronic stress can be a factor in everything from weight gain to high blood pressure and heart disease. It’s also been shown to trigger the onset of dementia. What’s worse, stress-induced weight gain typically involves an increase in belly fat, which is the most dangerous fat for your body to accumulate as it increases your risk for cardiovascular disease.
Stress actually alters the way fat is deposited because of the specific hormones and other chemicals your body produces when you’re stressed. For example, recent research28 shows that chronic stress stimulates your body to produce betatrophin, a protein that blocks an enzyme that breaks down body fat. So by reducing stress you reduce inflammation, and along with it your risk for any number of health problems, including stubborn weight.
A 2011 review29 of published clinical studies on yoga also concluded that yoga movements stimulate skin pressure receptors that boost activity in your brain and vagus nerve, both of which influence the production and release of various hormones. As vagus nerve activity increases, the levels of stress hormones like cortisol decrease. It also triggers the release of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that plays a role not only in your mood, but also in appetite control and sleep patterns.
The Importance of a Comprehensive Fitness Program
Yoga and other simple restorative exercises tone and strengthen your body, increase circulation and oxygen flow, energize you for the day and help you unwind in the evening. However, studies support the use of yoga to strengthen brain function and improve common psychiatric disorders (along with many other health benefits, including pain relief and increased flexibility and strength).
I believe it’s important to incorporate a variety of exercises into your routine for optimal results. Ideally, you’ll want a comprehensive fitness program that includes HIIT and resistance training, along with flexibility- and core-building exercises like yoga. Daily non-exercise movement is also important, and simply walking more each day can go a long way toward warding off many common health problems.
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A Tiny Dose of This Can Help Protect Against Cancer, MS, and Depression
How Melatonin May Benefit Depression, Autoimmune Disorders, and Cancer
The hormone melatonin plays many important roles in your health, from helping you sleep better to strengthening your immune system, slowing down brain aging, reducing migraine attacks, protecting bone mass, and preventing cancer.
Lack of sun exposure during the day combined with artificial lighting late into the night disrupts your biological clock and hence, your melatonin production, and this disruption can provoke a number of adverse health effects.
In fact, melatonin has been the subject of preclinical research on over 100 different disease applications, many of which go hand in hand with your need for sleep.
Melatonin for Sleep and Beyond
Your master biological clock resides in the suprachiasmatic nucleus of your brain (SCN), which is part of your hypothalamus. Based on signals of light and darkness, your SCN tells your pineal gland when it’s time to secrete melatonin, and when to turn it off.
In scientific studies, melatonin supplementation has been shown to help people fall asleep faster and stay asleep, experience less restlessness, and prevent daytime fatigue.
Keep in mind that you may only need a very minimal dose. I recommend taking only 0.25 mg or 0.5 mg to start, and adjusting upward from there. Taking higher doses, such as 3 mg, can sometimes make you more wakeful instead of sleepier, so start low and adjust your dose as needed.
Melatonin has also been found to reduce the effects of jet lag when traveling across multiple time zones.1 And children suffering with eczema, a condition that oftentimes prevents good sleep, may also get more shut-eye with melatonin supplementation,2 according to recent research.
Interestingly, melatonin also helped dampen the severity of the eczema, hinting at its anti-inflammatory effects. However, the benefits of melatonin go far beyond sleep. Three specific areas I’ll address in this article are its role in depression, multiple sclerosis, and cancer.
Normalizing Your Circadian System Helps Alleviate Depressive Symptoms
Your melatonin level inversely rises and falls with light and darkness, and both your physical and mental health is intricately tied to this rhythm of light and dark. When it’s dark, your melatonin levels increase, which is why you may feel tired when the sun starts to set.
Conversely, when you’re exposed to bright artificial lighting at night, including blue light emitted from TVs and electronic screens, you may have trouble falling asleep due to suppressed melatonin levels.
Light exposure when you wake up at night can also be problematic as I explain in my video above. However you don’t have to stumble around as red and orange wavelengths will not suppress melatonin production.
You can use a red light to guide you to the bathroom. If you have a clock in your bedroom make sure it has a red LED display. Blue would be the worst as it is the one that shuts down melatonin most effectively.
Winter Blues SAD
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD, also called “the winter blues”) is associated with lack of sun exposure, and scientists generally recommend full-spectrum light therapy over SSRIs like Prozac or Zoloft for this condition.
Interestingly, recent research suggests light therapy may be preferable even for major depression, outperforming Prozac in those with moderate to severe depression. One of the reasons it works so well likely has to do with the fact that bright light helps reset your biological clock, or circadian rhythm.
Melatonin supplementation can help do this to a certain extent as well, but not as effectively as exposure to bright light during daytime. Light may also work in a way similar to antidepressants by regulating neurotransmitter function.
Light Therapy — More Effective Than Prozac
The study3,4,5,6,7 in question set out to compare the effectiveness of light therapy alone and in conjunction with the antidepressant fluoxetine (Prozac).
The eight-week long trial included 122 adults between the ages of 19 and 60, who were diagnosed with moderate to severe depression. The participants were divided into four groups, receiving:
Light therapy (30 minutes per day upon waking using a 10,000 lux Carex brand day-light device, classic model) plus a placebo pill
Prozac (20 mg/day) plus a deactivated ion generator serving as a placebo light device
Light therapy plus Prozac
Placebo light device plus placebo pill (control group)
In conclusion, the study found that the combination of light therapy and Prozac was the most effective — but light therapy-only came in close second, followed by placebo.
That’s right, the drug treatment was the least effective of all, and LESS effective than placebo! At the end of the study, remission was achieved by:
Just over 19 percent in the Prozac only group
30 percent in the placebo group
Nearly 44 percent in the light therapy only group
Nearly 59 percent in the active combination group
How Melatonin May Aid in the Treatment of Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disorder that, like SAD, has been linked to vitamin D deficiency from lack of sun exposure. Interestingly, recent research suggests that a drop in autumn and winter relapses may be linked to peak melatonin levels, which occurs during these darker months.
Conversely, spikes in relapses occurring during spring and summer — which tend to be less common but do occur — may be related to decreased melatonin levels. The research,8 led by neuroscientist Mauricio Farez at the Dr. Raúl Carrea Institute for Neurological Research, looked at 139 MS patients living in Buenos Aires.
Thirty-two percent of them experienced a reduction in relapses during fall and winter, compared to spring and summer. As reported by Scientific American:9
“Past research has shown that melatonin can have a protective effect against MS and that shift work, which disturbs melatonin production, can increase the risk of developing the disease. According to the authors, this research is one of the first to bring together epidemiological evidence with results from both human cells and animal models …
[And it] may help to resolve a ‘seasonal paradox’ — MS flare-ups should decrease during warmer, brighter months when people receive more exposure to sunlight and thus produce more vitamin D, which also has anti-inflammatory properties. But some studies, including this one, show that relapses increase in the spring and summer pointing to the possibility that other environmental factors, such as melatonin levels, are involved.”
To test their hypothesis, mice with autoimmune encephalomyelitis (the animal model of MS) received daily injections of melatonin. As a result, clinical symptoms were reduced, and harmful T cells, which are pro-inflammatory, were reduced, whereas regulatory T cells were increased. Similar effects were shown in petri dish experiments. As noted in the featured article:
“Melatonin regulates pathways central to the immune response, so these results may pertain to other autoimmune diseases, particularly where seasonal flare-ups occur, such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis …”
Melatonin’s Role in Fighting Cancer
Cancer is another area where melatonin plays a major role. The evidence suggests it may be an important adjunct to cancer treatment,10 as it also helps protect against the toxic effects of radiation therapy. Cells throughout your body — even cancer cells — have melatonin receptors, and melatonin is in and of itself cytotoxic, meaning can induce tumor cell death (apoptosis). It also:11
Boosts production of immune-optimizing substances such as interleukin-2, which helps identify and attack mutated cells that lead to malignant cancer
Inhibits development of new tumor blood vessels (tumor angiogenesis), which slows the spread of the cancer
Retards cancer progression by activating the cytokine system, which helps inhibit tumor growth, and by stimulating the cytotoxic activity of macrophages and monocytes
By its antioxidant action it also limits oxidative damage to DNA
Inhibits tumor growth by counteracting estrogen. (At night, when melatonin production peaks, cell division slows. And when melatonin latches onto a breast cancer cell, it has been found to counteract estrogen’s tendency to stimulate cell growth)
Melatonin has a calming effect on other reproductive hormones besides estrogen as well, which may explain why it seems to protect most effectively against sex hormone-driven cancers, including ovarian, endometrial, prostate, testicular and breast cancers12 — the latter of which has received the greatest amount of scientific attention. Some of the studies on melatonin for breast cancer include the following:
The journal Epidemiology13 reported increased breast cancer risk among women who work predominantly night shifts
Women who live in neighborhoods with large amounts of nighttime illumination are more likely to get breast cancer than those who live in areas where nocturnal darkness prevails, according to an Israeli study14
From participants in the Nurses’ Health Study,15 it was found that nurses who work nights had 36 percent higher rates of breast cancer
Blind women, whose eyes cannot detect light and therefore have robust production of melatonin, have lower-than-average breast cancer rates16
When the body of epidemiological studies are considered in their totality, women who work night shift are found to have breast cancer rates 60 percent above normal, even when other factors, such as differences in diet, are accounted for17
Melatonin May Improve Outcomes for Lung Cancer Patients
Other cancers may also benefit. In 2004, the Life Extension Foundation collaborated with Cancer Treatment Centers of America on the first clinical trial evaluating melatonin’s effect in patients with lung cancer.
The results,18 which were published in conjunction with the 2014 American Society of Clinical Oncology Meeting, found a tumor response in just over 29 percent of those receiving melatonin at night, compared to just under 8 percent of those receiving it in the morning, and 10.5 percent of placebo recipients. As reported by Life Extension Magazine:19
“European clinical studies indicate that in patients with metastatic non-small-cell lung cancer, five-year survival and overall tumor regression rates were higher in patients concomitantly treated with melatonin than in those treated with chemotherapy alone. While no patient treated with chemotherapy survived after two years, five-year survival was achieved in 3 of 49 patients treated with chemotherapy and melatonin.
The researchers hope that similarly promising results could eventually convince mainstream medical practitioners to administer melatonin in combination with standard cancer treatment regimens to patients in earlier stages of cancer treatment.”
The Importance of Light and Dark for the Synchronization of Your Body Clocks
Melatonin production is stimulated by darkness and suppressed by light, which is why your levels should be highest just prior to bedtime. This perfectly orchestrated system allows you to fall asleep when the sun sets and awaken refreshed with the sunrise, while also providing potential anti-aging and disease-fighting benefits.
If you’re having trouble sleeping, which is a signal that your melatonin production is off, I suggest making sure you’re sleeping in total darkness and to turn lights down at least an hour or so before bedtime. Also, avoid watching TV and using computers and other electronic gadgets at least an hour prior to bed.
All of these devices emit blue light, which will decrease your melatonin if you work past dark, so ideally you’d want to turn these items off once the sun goes down. If you have to use these devices you can wear yellow glasses that filter the blue wavelengths out and/or use free software like f.lux.
To light rooms at night, use “low blue” light bulbs that emit an amber light instead of the blue that suppresses melatonin production. An equally important factor is the quality of light you’re exposed to during the day. Without sufficient sunlight during the day, your circadian clock may fall out of sync.
Most incandescent and fluorescent lights emit very poor-quality light. What your body needs for optimal functioning is the full-spectrum light you get outdoors, but most of us do not spend much time outside to take advantage of this healthy light.
Using full-spectrum light bulbs in your home and office can help ameliorate this lack of high-quality sunlight during the day, but cannot fully replace it. So do make an effort to go outside for at least 30 to 60 minutes each day during the brightest portion of the day, i.e. right around noon. This will help “set” your circadian clock and help you sleep better.
For Optimal Health, Make Sure You Sleep Well
Remember, when your circadian rhythms are disrupted, your body produces less melatonin, which means it has less ability to fight cancer, and less protection against free radicals that may accelerate aging and disease. So if you’re having even slight trouble sleeping, I suggest you review my “33 Secrets to a Good Night’s Sleep” for more guidance on how to improve your sleep-wake cycle.
If you’ve made the necessary changes to your sleep routine and find you’re still having trouble sleeping, a high-quality melatonin supplement may be helpful.
The amount of melatonin you create and release every night varies depending on your age. Children usually have much higher levels of melatonin than adults, and as you grow older your levels typically continue to decrease. This is why some older adults may benefit from extra melatonin.
The same goes for those who perform night shift work, travel often and experience jet lag, or otherwise suffer from occasional sleeplessness due to stress or other reasons. Start with a dose of about 0.25 to 0.5 mg, and increase it as necessary from there. If you start feeling more alert, you’ve likely taken too much and need to lower your dose.
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