9 Foods that Affect Your Mental Health

Greg Burzynski originally published this post on LinkedIn.


The brain works 24/7 to control thoughts, movements, breathing, heartbeat and senses; as a result, it requires constant supply of fuel, which come from the food you eat on a daily basis. However, your brain can only function well if you eat the right kind of food. This post will explore the foods that are likely to affect your brain negatively and positively.

Foods Likely to Affect Your Brain Positively

1. Blueberries

Blueberries contain compounds that protect the brain against oxidative stress and reduce the risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. These compounds also improve the function of the part of the brain that controls learning and motor skills.

2. Nuts

Nuts contain vitamin E. High levels of vitamin E reduce the rate of cognitive decline in adults. Suitable nuts include cashews, almonds, filberts, flax seeds, sesame, sunflower seeds, and walnuts.

3. Salmon

Salmon fish contains omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to reduce the symptoms of depression, schizophrenia, anxiety, and other mental disorders. This is possible because omega-3s stimulate the production of brain chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin.

4. Whole Grains

Whole grains are the prime source of energy. They provide a steady source of fuel to the brain, enabling it to perform its functions effectively. Healthy whole grains include oats, barley, beans, soy, wheat and bulgur.

5. Leafy Vegetables

Leafy vegetables contain high amounts of folic acid and vitamin B. A deficiency in these nutrients can lead to depression, fatigue and insomnia. Best examples of leafy vegetables include romaine, turnip, broccoli, mustard greens and spinach.

Foods Likely to Affect Your Brain Negatively

6. Tuna

Many people love tuna because of its taste. However, tuna contains high amounts of mercury, which can take a toll on the brain function. A research conducted by the University of South Florida found that high levels of mercury in the blood contribute to a five percent cognitive decline.

7. White Rice

White rice has a high glycemic index that increases the risk of depression. A studyconducted in 2015 found out that women who have eaten food high glycemic-index foods were more likely to report new-onset depression than those who ate foods rich in lactose and fiber.

8. Fruit Juice/Sugary Drinks

Fruit juice contains a lot of sugar. Consistent intake of sugar can reduce cognitive flexibility and memory. This is possible because sugar promotes the growth of clostridiales, a gut bacteria that increases gut inflammation and downstream the brain is affected.

9. Cheese

Cheese contains a lot of saturated fats that contribute to memory decline and inflammation in the brain. The saturated fats also damage the hypothalamus, the part of the brain which has many important functions including directing the release of hormones from the pituitary gland vital for regulating weight and metabolism.

The Incredible Health Benefits of Practicing Tai Chi

Greg Burzynski originally published this post on LinkedIn.


Tai Chi Chuan means “Supreme Ultimate Fist,” a name that harkens back to arts roots as a combat system. Over time, Tai Chi evolved into a meditative art designed more for health and fitness. The Yang 24 form, a shortened version of the traditional kata, was developed more for physical fitness than combative application. Today, people practice the breathing exercises, forms, and drills of Tai Chi as part of a low-impact exercise program. A lot is said in general about the health benefits of Tai Chi, so let’s take a look at the specific ones.

Improved Balance

Performance of Tai Chi movements assists with developing better balance. At first assessment, the connection between improved balance and health enhancements fails to be obvious. Closer inspection reveals improved balance can reduce the chances of suffering an errant fall, the impact of which can cause serious injury. Anything that cuts down on the chances of a fall can be called beneficial.

A Sense of Calmness

Stress reduction remains a major reason why people undertake the practice of Tai Chi. The slow, peaceful movements are performed in conjunction with deep breathing allowing the practitioner to take part in a form of moving meditation. People deal with all different sources of stress, which can be overwhelming, and without an outlet for the stress, a person’s disposition doesn’t exactly become pleasant. Tai Chi serves as a nice, calming outlet for stress.

Weight Loss

Tai Chi definitely does not fall under the category of high-impact aerobics. Those looking to shed significant weight shouldn’t look to Tai Chi as their primary form of exercise. That being said, Tai Chi does involve movement and physical activity helps with burning calories. The addition of Tai Chi into a standard weight loss program certainly wouldn’t hurt and likely would lend an assist toward achieving one’s goals.

Improved Flexibility

Tai Chi does bring about the potential to improve flexibility since the circular and flowing movements could enhance range of motion. Improved flexibility can be beneficial to those hoping to reduce strains while increasing their body’s ability to perform daily tasks and is important for everyone, not just athletes.

Set Up a Routine

Accessing the benefits of Tai Chi practice requires consistency. Even as little as ten minutes of forms work every other day could begin to yield some results. Learning a simple routine from a qualified instructor might be all someone needs to get a good foundation in the art’s basics.

Online Therapy

Psychotherapy is a great tool in mental health and is often used to combat the symptoms of depression, anxiety, panic disorder, schizophrenia, and many other mental health issues. However, for some people accessing a therapist just isn’t feasible, whether due to transportation issues, disability, or physical limitations, meaning that traditional therapy likely isn’t an option. Fortunately, there are new ways to access the same care received with talk therapy without even needing to leave your home through online therapy.

A major benefit the American Psychological Association (APA) has seen with online therapy is the comfortability level of being online rather than face to face. Patients, especially young adults, find that sharing their personal thoughts and concerns with a stranger is less intimidating via email, text, and even video calls.

There is still much to be pioneered in the future of online therapy. One of the most recent developments has been the tool named the  Mind Elevator. “A client enters a thought or feeling, hits submit and the tool evaluates that thought or feeling on a colorful scale that is like a big rainbow with sad and happy faces. The tool then provides a sentence of feedback and encourage the person to modify that thought or feeling to make it more positive, less self-critical or less negative or pessimistic. It also keeps track of several successive entries, so it responds to a whole chain of thoughts and feelings, not just the one that was most recently submitted,” as described by Dr. Sherry Benton in her article titled Reducing mental health disparities through online therapy. Artificial intelligence tools such as this can help aid those who are in need when a friend or a therapist isn’t available. They are specifically beneficial to patients with low-intensity needs and high motivation for engagement.

There are a few factors to be cognizant of when beginning your online therapy. In the United States especially, laws regarding psychiatry, psychology, therapy, and counseling differ from state to state. It is important to check the licensing of any “professional” you seek out as it is easy for someone to imitate these types of professionals online. Because of this, many insurance companies do not support this type of mental health care, therefore will not cover the cost. Just like starting at any other doctor’s office, make sure you do the proper research because the benefits you reap from online therapy can be extremely rewarding.

Integrative Medicine in Pediatric Care

Integrative medicine is being practiced more and more regularly as a part of a holistic approach to medicine for adults, and recently it has begun making waves in pediatric care as well. 1 in 10 children receive integrative medicine, and more than 50% of children with a chronic illness partake. As I am not a pediatrician but internal medicine doc, and realize toddlers are not just little people I do respect the opinion of those that have been trained in this tender age group. Most recently our son came down with a cough which lasted a bit longer than a few days, and I was strongly recommended by the many women in our family to take our young son to the urgent care “just to make sure” there was nothing else making him ill given my limitations. I was nicely surprised when the pediatrician recommended tea with honey to relieve a post nasal drip cough which was the final diagnosis. Therefore, it is vital to understand how integrative medicine works and why it can be useful for parents to incorporate it. In order to understand the positive effects, let’s look at some examples.

Massage

Nobody is going to complain about getting a massage, but did you know massages do more for your body than simply make you feel good? Livestrong posted an article about the positive effects of massage therapy. Some of the most common include decreased stress, pain relief, increased circulation, and immune system function. All of these benefits are good for anyone at any age, but starting massage therapy at a young age can increase the benefits as time goes on.

Nutrition

Diet is an important part of everyone’s life, and instilling good diet habits early can set a child up for a healthy, happy life. It is shown that a poor diet has lasting negative consequences in children. This includes both physical and mental troubles, which can range from obesity to depression. Poor nutrition can also correlate to a number of eating disorders down the line, and studies have shown that eating disorders are popping up in younger children all the time. In order to combat diseases down the line, stick to a well-rounded nutritional plan.

Yoga

Exercise is good for everyone, but yoga is a specific type of exercise that incorporates flexibility, strength, and mental focus. The physical benefits of yoga can often be greater in children than in adults, as children are continuing to grow. Furthermore, yoga can be incorporated with meditation to provide an outlet for calm introspection, which children may not naturally have.

Art/Dance/Music

Art and music are some of the most popular forms of self-expression. There are numerous studies about the positive effects in children, at Arts.gov recently there was a published study linking art and music involvement to lower alcohol and marijuana consumption, higher optimism about attending college, and less engagement in delinquency. Dance is also lumped into the arts, and even better it has the added benefit of exercise.

Integrative medicine is a large topic that includes many categories. Not every category is right for every child, but exploring the possibilities can allow you to make the best decision on what is right for your family. At the end of the day, it is crucial to understand and acknowledge that integrative medicine is an important part of life and it is unlikely to go away.

The Importance of Taking Care of Your Mental Health

Better physical health

Physical health and mental health are tightly connected. Many mental health issues, including depression and anxiety, can worsen your blood pressure and put a strain on your heart. People with these illnesses are more likely to die from heart-related illnesses. According to the WHO, poor mental health is a risk factor for chronic physical conditions, including chronic pain and chronic fatigue.

And this connection goes both ways. So, if you develop a chronic physical condition as a result of your chronic mental health issues, the stress of the physical conditions can cause your mental health to worsen. On the other hand, working to improve your physical health, for example through careful eating and exercise, can have a positive impact on your mental health by reducing your stress levels, improving your memory, releasing mood-boosting endorphins, and improving your sleep.

More productive

People experiencing mental health conditions struggle to be productive. Mental illnesses can make it harder for you to motivate yourself to work, and harder to focus on the work once you’re doing it. And over time, mental illnesses can severely decrease your sense of self-worth, leaving you feeling like you wouldn’t be able to produce anything worthwhile even if you could put the time in.

Even if you haven’t been diagnosed with a mental illness, you’ve probably noticed this phenomenon in your own life. Everyone has good days and bad days, and you’ve probably realized that you work better on your good days. And inversely, you’ve probably realized that when you are most productive, you feel better.

Better relationships

Bad mental health can cause your relationships to suffer. Mental illness can cause you to miss engagements, lash out at loved ones, or isolate yourself for long stretches of time. The overall stress of dealing with a mental illness, like any chronic illness, can also saturate your personal life. On the farthest end of the spectrum, people with severe mental illnesses can wind up completely isolated or stuck in an abusive relationship.

Again, even if you don’t have a mental illness, you will find yourself struggling socially when you’re tired, crabby, or stressed. Improving your mental health improves your relationship with your friends, your families, and your romantic partner. And having that support network there to help you is essential in maintaining your mental health.

The Health Benefits of Massages

They release stress and anxiety: Modern life is full of stress, but massages make you feel calmer and more relaxed. If your life has you feeling overwhelmed, schedule an appointment with a massage therapist today.

They relieve pain: Messages relieve many forms of pain, including chronic back pain, chronic neck pain, fibromyalgia pain, pain from osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, and postoperative pain.

They reduce muscle tension: Muscle tension can lead to muscle pain, back pain, and stiffness. Getting a massage relaxes your muscles, helping to alleviate these symptoms and leaving you feeling looser and happier.

You exercise better after a massage: If you work out or participate in a sport, a massage can put you at your peak performance.

They help you sleep better: If you suffer from insomnia, or just have been feeling tired lately, a relaxing massage can help you get the rest you need.

They improve your heart health: Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of deaths in Americans. But by reducing stress and improving your circulation, messages can make your heart healthier.

They improve balance in older people: Misaligned joints and stiff muscles can cause older people to feel off-balance, which can cause pain and difficulty walking, and put them more at risk for falls. A massage can improve balance for a short period of time, and regular massages can have longer-term effects.

They improve flexibility and range of motion: If you’re struggling to touch your toes, a massage can improve your flexibility by reducing pain and muscle stiffness.

They help people with cancer: Cancer patients can benefit from messages. Cancer treatment is extremely stressful, and massages can help alleviate that stress. Additionally, massages may help reduce the nausea that results from chemotherapy.

They reduce headaches: If you experience frequent tension headaches, or even migraines, the frequency of these headaches will decrease after a massage.

They improve your mental health: Just by reading the other health benefits on this list, you can probably see how a message can be great for your mental health. If you’re sleeping well, feeling good during exercise, less stressed, pain- and tension-free, and just feeling overall healthier, your mental health will improve. And for older patients, regular massages can even temper the effects of dementia.

They boost your immunity: People who get massages are less likely to fall ill when cold and flu season hits the workplace, by reducing risk factors such as stress and insomnia, and increasing levels of oxytocin in the blood which has an impact on mood.

How Effective is Medication in the Treatment of Addiction

Treatment for addiction with medicine-based therapy does not amount to pushing the envelope in the process of curing any addiction but it can make people productive again and lead normal lives as opposed to craving and seeking an illegal substance.

Misinformation or a lack of knowledge on Medication-Assisted Treatment/Therapy (MAT) may drive you to search for other methods of recovery from addiction.  This is why it is necessary to get well-versed with MAT.

Medication-Assisted Treatment/Therapy works by using opiates that are released in the neurological system. They cross the barrier of blood-brain and attach to receptors that are present on the brain cells. This process triggers an outpour of neurotransmitters and generates a high that is felt by the receiver.

This medicine-based treatment technique generally works in one of the two ways:

  1. Doctors may prescribe patients opioids that will trigger the same receptors that but are      absorbed in the blood over a longer period of time, rebutting the withdrawal symptoms and breaking a psychological link between consuming a drug and instantly feeling high.  Methadone is an example of such a medication, and is officially referred to as a full mu-opioid receptor agonist.  Another example isbuprenorphine which is a partial mu-opioid agonist.
  2. Doctors may prescribe antagonist opioids such as naltrexone or naloxone. They are drugs that cover the same receptors and creates barriers against them. And if the condition of any patient deteriorates or relapses, they should not feel euphoria if an illegal opioid is used, unless that dose is large enough to displace the blocking drug.  Opioid cravings are reduced as well and there is no abuse potential with naltrexone, or naloxone.

Is MAT genuinely the way to go to cure any addiction?

So far, the data and the statistics that show the success rate of MAT is significantly high enough to outweigh any drawbacks. Better outcomes are seen with this form of therapy than those without medication assistance. It reduces the danger of relapses, has the potential to prevent grave diseases like HIV, and has been known to be effective in preventing overdoses.

In spite of all the positive outcomes, experts believe there are quite a few gaps in this technique. One of the gaps is determining the suitability of each drug for an individual. It is of utmost importance to choose the right drug for the right patient. Each drug has different risks and benefits for different psychological states. For instance, the patient can overdose and die on methadone whereas they cannot have any such ill effects from naltrexone and with buprenorphine it becomes less likely.

Ultimately, the decision is made through discussions between the patient and the medical professional who decides the best course of treatment. Working together is the best course to determining what the right treatment for each patient will be.

Consume your Way to Fight Inflammation

Our body is devised with an amazingly astonishing mechanism: when an alien object tries to enter your body, it works to shield itself from the foreign element. 

The immune system of our body is designed in such a way that, when it fights off invaders like plant pollens or chemical elements of a microbe, the body reacts to the process in multiple ways. One of the reactions is inflammation.

Inflammation is the defense process of our immune system in which a part of the body becomes red and begins to swell. This is a perfectly natural reaction to an infection or an injury, as your blood cells rush to the area to assist in healing. However, if the inflammation persists chronically, the repercussions can turn life threatening. 

Sometimes inflammation occurs without an infection or a bruise caused by external factors, and that is when you need to start paying attention. Inflammation can be a gateway to a number of fatal illnesses like cancer, heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, depression, and even Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases. 

Remedies to combat inflammation lie in our kitchens. Many experimental studies have concluded that consuming right nutrients can actually influence the onset, or stymie the occurrence, of inflammation in the human body.

Here are some of the most dangerous foods to consume for their role in causing inflammation:

  • Overconsumption of refined carbohydrates like white bread, pastries, and white rice to name a few examples.  If the bread is soft and easily compressed most likely it’s going to quickly turn into sugar in one’s body.
  • Fried foods and other pre-prepared packaged junk foods such chips that are excessively consumed can speed up the occurrence of inflammation.
  • Sugar-laden and sweetened beverages, drinks, sodas, and over consumption of alcohol.  The liquid consumption of sugar causes other health hazards too, besides inflammation and fuels the metabolic syndrome affecting many today.
  • Processed meat like hot dogs, sausages, salami, bacon, luncheon meats.
  • Corn fed red meat like steaks, burgers, and other “meat pie” dishes.
  • Spreads of animal fat origin like margarine, lard, and shortening.

It is not a revelation that most of the food items mentioned above are associated with diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and obesity since inflammation is an underlying cause of each of these diseases.

What must be consumed to keep inflammation at bay?

Take a look at some of the best fresh foods, preferably organic, you can consume to reduce inflammation:

  • Fibrous green leafy and cruciferous vegetables like spinach, collards, lettuce, swiss chards, kale, broccoli trying to go for various colors of the rainbow
  • Tomatoes, which contain anti-inflammatory compounds such as lycopene.
  • Almonds, walnuts, and cashews
  • Fruits, including citruses, like oranges, cherries, strawberries, and other berries
  • Fatty fish like sardines packed in water or olive oil, mackerel, wild salmon and, herring, and black cod. If eating these fish is not possible than take a high quality fish oil supplement
  • Lets not forget about the mushrooms.  If available in your area maitake, shiitake, enokitake, and oyster mushrooms provide powerful health benefits.
  • Beverages like green or white tea, matcha, and coffee have anti-inflammatory benefits too, but mind the additives, which can negate the benefits.

The Mediterranean diet, which is composed primarily of plant, healthy fat and protein consumption, is said to be an ideal and healthy dietary lifestyle if one wishes to lean towards anti-inflammatory eating.

A Look into Mind-Body Medicine

In most Western medical practices, mental health and physical health are viewed as two separate entities; physical health is handled by a primary care physician and mental health is covered by a psychologist or psychiatrist as needed. However, newer practices are pulling from centuries-old beliefs that the health of the mind and the health of the body are more interconnected than we’ve been practicing.

Mens sana in corpore sano.

In ancient Greek times, there was a firm and widely held belief that the mind and body are connected and influence the health of one another. A well-known Latin phrase was developed from this belief: “mens sana in corpore sano” translates to mean “a healthy mind in a healthy body.” In essence, total, holistic wellness is wellness in both your mental and physical health. This duality between mind and body remained the common belief and practice until the Renaissance and Enlightenment periods when they were separated into two different entities. In the 17th century, Rene Descarte described humans as being comprised of two contrasting substances which could not unify with one another; the mind being sentient and able to reason but without substance, and the body with substance but constricted to the physics of earth whereas the mind is not.

Reconnecting the mind and body.

As medical knowledge progressed and our understanding of health deepened, the importance and influence of the mind began to creep its way back into discussions of physical health in the 20th century. They began to study the power that the mind has over the body in the wake of studies on how placebos can affect the body’s ability to control pain.

Mind-body health today.

Today, an entire sector of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is devoted to researching the connection between mind and body health. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) studies the impact that mental, social, emotional, spiritual, and behavioral factors can directly affect a person’s health.

Some mind-body medicine practices from the NCCIH include mindfulness, meditation, tai chi, yoga, deep breathing, massage, and homeopathy. Mind-body practices also promote the use of natural products like herbs, minerals, probiotics, and vitamins.

The designation that mind-body health practices are “alternative medicine” presents a misinforming picture of the power that incorporating these holistic practices in life can have. “Alternative” gives the impression that all typical Western health practices are abandoned when in reality it just expands the scope through with which we view these practices and understand their impact.

3 Common Complementary Health Practices

In healthcare you’ll often hear the words “alternative”, “integrative”, and “complementary” being used, sometimes interchangeably, but they each denote a different practice of medicine. “Alternative” medicine is the term for when you substitute conventional treatments with unconventional or non-mainstream ones, using the unconventional method in place of standard practice. “Complementary” medicine practices involve supplementing conventional practices with non-mainstream practices. Finally, “integrative” health practices are ones that bring together conventional health practices with complementary ones in order to give the most holistic solutions for and picture of health.

Incorporating these practices into your daily life doesn’t have to change your entire world, but the impact that taking better care of your mind and body could have can be life-changing. Here are a few common complementary health practices you can integrate into your daily life.

  • Deep Breathing

    • When we’re experiencing situations of high-stress or pain, one of our bodies’ natural reactions is to hold our breath during the incident. However, deep breathing not only helps to relax you but can help you fight pain and reduce your stress levels. During periods of stress, practicing deep breathing can help you retrain your body to control its release of stress hormones which, long-term, have damaging effects on your body. Whether you suffer from stress often or rarely at all, anyone can benefit from controlled and mindful deep breathing. The 4-7-8 breathing method is one that I highly recommend using.

  • Yoga

    • Yoga uses poses, meditation, and breathing exercises to bring the mind and body together. The practice is thousands of years old, with the word “yoga” translating from Sanskrit as “union.” It is a relatively low-impact and safe means of exercise, especially for those who may not be able to participate in high-impact workouts. In the United States, yoga is the sixth most commonly practiced complementary health exercise and has been proven to aid in the relief of a number of health concerns. It has been shown to help reduce the severity of anxiety, insomnia, and depression. It’s also linked to lower stress levels, lower heart rate, and increases your overall flexibility, balance, and strength. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) is also actively supporting research that looks into the effects that yoga may have on diabetes, PTSD, multiple sclerosis, HIV, and the immune system.

  • Massage

    • As frivolous and extravagant as treating yourself to a massage can feel, they can actually provide a number of benefits that go beyond simply feeling relaxed; it has been proven effective in reducing stress, relieving pain, and releasing muscle tension. Although further study is needed to prove the benefits conclusively, some reports show that it may also prove beneficial for those suffering from headaches, anxiety, sports injuries, stress-related insomnia, digestive problems, fibromyalgia, and more.