Mental Illness in America

We’ve come a long way as far as cultural perception and stigma surrounding mental illness are concerned. As far back as ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome, mental illness was viewed as divine punishment or unholy possession, and this perception continued on through the Middle Ages. In America, by the time the 18th century rolled around the perceptions had changed but the stigma had not. Although supernatural factors were no longer believed to be the common cause of mental illnesses, the lack of understanding and preconceived ideas about mental illnesses perpetuated the desire for the confinement of these individuals.

The first major move in the treatment of mental illness in America came from Dorothea Dix, an American teacher and author turned activist who sought to expose and change the horrific conditions of the mental institutions that existed throughout the nation. In the 1800s, the stipulations for institutionalization were vast and arbitrary. On top of the horrific terms on which people could be committed, the conditions in these places were shockingly terrible. One example of this occurred at Auburn Prison in 1821where the majority of 80 male patients in solitary confinement either broke down mentally or committed suicide. Dorothea saw the injustices these people faced — in her words, being kept “in cages, closets, cellars, stalls, pens! Chained, naked, beaten with rods, and lashed into obedience!” —and pledged to help them the best she could.

Over a 40-year period, Dorothea was directly responsible for the United States government’s funding of 32 state psychiatric hospitals across the country. While her work did wonders for the advancement of people who are mentally ill, it also lead to mass institutionalization where any people seen as public nuisances or were viewed as dangerous were committed to these institutions.

The early 1900s offered some strides as well as some fallbacks. The use of electroshock therapy became widespread in the treatment of mental illness, often without the use of anesthesia. Patients were also subjected to frontal lobotomies and hydrotherapy where patients were submerged in or blasted with water as means of treatment. However, in the 1950s, new medications that could help stabilize unstable patients mixed with funding cuts to large, scandal-ridden state hospitals lead to deinstitutionalization which dramatically reduced the number of patients being held at these centers.

Stay tuned for Part 2 in the series of Mental Illness in America.

Houseplants to Help You Breath Easily

The average adult American spends 8.8 hours a day working and 7.8 hours a night sleeping. That means that nearly 16 hours each day or two-thirds of our lives are split between only two spaces where we work, socialize, eat and drink, and most importantly, breathe. This means that any allergens, dust, pollen, and chemicals that wind up in the air of your home or workspace are being filtered through your lungs constantly during those hours. The levels of airborne pollutants can be anywhere from two to 100 times more concentrated than levels outdoors. Cleaning products,      even things that are fire retardant or waterproof can contain chemicals that are able to leech into the air and thus, into our bodies.

These airborne toxins and chemicals can lead to health problems like headaches, sinus pressure, nausea, difficulty breathing, and can even exacerbate existing medical conditions like asthma, respiratory conditions, and allergies. Fortunately, it’s easy for you to do your part to help keep the air you breathe cleaner and healthier; all you need are some potted plants!

Plant life converts CO2 into oxygen through photosynthesis, and it filters the air around it in the process. Keeping a few specific plants around your home and office can help remove chemicals and toxins. To help you breathe easier and healthier, here are a few houseplants to keep around that will help filter your air.

Spider Plant – Chlorophytum comosum

Bromeliad – Bromeliaceae

  • If you want a functional plant that doesn’t require too much maintenance and will also liven up the room, bromeliads are a good choice for you. They actively work to clean the air at night, and are hearty enough that they don’t require much water or sunlight to do so. Oh, and they’re incredibly vibrantly colored.

Aloe VeraAloe Vera

  • If you sunburn easily, chances are in the summer months you’ve eased the pain with some sort of aloe vera-based lotion. Aloe vera’s use dates back to 2100 BCE, and its mineral-and-vitamin-rich composition has kept it relevant ever since. It’s used in everything from lotions to cosmetics to even food (where the list of the plants’ benefits extends even further), and it also made NASA’s list of plants that help improve air quality. Like the spider plant, aloe vera also removes formaldehyde from the air.

Bamboo Palm – Dypsis lutescens

  • The third most effective at overall purification, the bamboo palm needs a bit more room than some of the others but will definitely make up for it with the benefits it provides. NASA found that bamboo is effective at not only removing formaldehyde but also benzene, a chemical found in gasoline and crude oil, and trichloroethylene, a chemical often found in solvents. As a bonus, it doesn’t require too much water and sunlight.

Aside from purifying the air, houseplants can provide your home or workspace with other benefits. Because plants undergo transpiration during which they emit water vapors, they can also work to help you control the levels of humidity in your room or home.

There are countless benefits to incorporating houseplants and greenery into your home, office, and life.

Foods That Keep You Fuller Longer

Let’s face it, one of the most difficult things to do while trying to lose weight is portion control. We’ve all been there. I mean, if you love food, cutting it back can be quite a task! Won’t it be awesome if there was a way to eat fewer calories and still not have to starve yourself to death? Well, I am here to tell you, there is! The best way to do this is to pick food items that are healthy, low in calories and still keep you full for a longer time. So, give your unhealthy snacks the boot and try these wholesome foods that will keep you fuller longer!

1. Eggs

Eggs, preferably organic, are arguably the best breakfast food. They have a great combination of protein and fat that satisfy hunger than almost any other breakfast food. Research has also shown that people eating eggs for breakfast take a longer time to feel hungry. Eggs can suppress the release of a hormone called Ghrelin which is an appetite-stimulating hormone telling the brain to eat. Many people try to avoid eggs because of the cholesterol. However, studies have shown that the cholesterol content in eggs is not the main culprit of causing high cholesterol levels. If you are still concerned, you can try eating egg whites that have no cholesterol whatsoever.

2. Legumes and beans

All kinds of beans, lentils, and chickpeas are full of lean protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates. This combination can keep you full for a longer time. Research has shown that the combination of these three ingredients can help to stabilize the blood glucose level leading to the feeling of satiety for a longer time. As a bonus beans and legumes have a ton of fiber as well. And the fact that they taste so good is a huge plus too; don’t you think?

3. Greek yogurt

Greek yogurt, or how I like to call it “Real Yogurt”, is a delicious way to cut down the calories and still staying full. It is packed with protein, calcium and has very few calories. The high protein content keeps you full longer. As a matter of fact, one six-ounce serving of Greek yogurt has about 15-20 grams of protein. Protein makes you feel satisfied for a longer time and does not cause a spike in insulin levels either. The combined effect is you eat less and feel full longer! As not to offend other nationalities, Icelandic, Swiss, Blugarian and Indian yogurt are also outstanding.

4. Almonds and other nuts

It is no secret that nuts are good for you. They are packed with healthy fat that is good for the heart. They also have a lot of fiber, especially Almonds. The high fiber content of almonds keeps you full for a long time. So, instead of eating any processed snack, try a few almonds during your mid-day snack breaks. They are delicious, nutritious and keep you full longer. What else can you ask for, right?

5. Water

Yes, good old water, preferably filtered! Water has no calories at all and occupies a lot of space in your stomach. Apart from the obvious benefits of keeping yourself hydrated, water can also reduce your appetite. A study had shown that participants who drank just one glass of water before each meal, consumed up to 90 fewer calories per meal. So, raise your glasses, to H2O!

6. Avocadoes

Avocados are nature’s gift to humanity! They are rich in heart-healthy fats and did I say delicious! They also have a lots of fiber as well. The combination of monounsaturated fat and fiber make them ideal for keeping you fuller longer. Try and include Avocadoes in your meals. They go great in salads and sandwiches as well!

7. Apples

When they said, an apple a day keeps the doctor away; they were not exaggerating. Well, maybe a little bit! Nonetheless, apples are perfect for snacking in between your meals. They are rich in fiber and vitamins and of course delicious. If you feel a bit peckish during the day, grab an organic apple rather than a bag of chips from the vending machine!

How Common are Mental Health Problems?

Mental health problems in the U.S. are more common than you realize; every year over 42 million people in the U.S. suffer from some kind of mental illness such as bipolar disorder, depression or schizophrenia. Other types of mental illness are anxiety disorders, mood disorders, psychotic disorders, eating disorders and personality disorders.

Additional mental health problems include stress response syndromes. Stress response syndromes happen when a person develops emotional or behavioral symptoms when faced with a stressful event or situation. Stress events that cause stress responses are a major illness, a natural disaster like a tornado, death of a loved one, divorce or marriage, or a major move overseas. Those who suffer from these dissociative disorders suffer with severe disturbances or changes in memory or identity.

Keep in mind; there are many things which can cause mental illness such as inherited traits. It probably is no surprise that mental illness is more common in those who have blood relatives who have a mental illness, and genes linking certain conditions are being described frequently. Another factor is exposure to environmental stressors before birth such as alcohol or drugs.  In utero exposure or circumstances can bring about epigenetic changes which will shape one’s life for better or for worse.  Imbalances in neurochemistry or brain chemistry are often biochemical reason or a cause of mental illness.

It’s no surprise, I’m sure especially to the younger generation which carries much school debt that stressful life situations include financial problems and can be an additive factor to one suffering from mental illness.  A childhood with abuse or neglect, and a limited social network can set the stage for mental illness.

There are several effective strategies that can be taken that reduce and in some cases reverse mental illness.  One of these pillars is psychotherapy.  Psychotherapy is when mental illness is treated by a trained mental health professional through counseling discussions. Psychotherapy delves into a person’s feelings, thoughts and behaviors to begin heal or improve a person’s well-being. Medication is also prescribed for some mental illness conditions. Case management is another way to treat mental illness and coordinates services for a person with the help of a case manager which can be likened to a “project manager”.  Hospitalization may be necessary for certain patients given circumstances.  Group therapy through support groups, or peer support also may be beneficial in numerous cases.

Other treatments that you can do for yourself, include treating yourself with respect and kindness, not being overly critical of yourself, making time for hobbies or other relaxation strategies.  Even small things like finding time to read a book or do a crossword puzzle. It can not be emphasized enough how important it is to eat nutritious food, exercise, get enough sleep, and to be surrounded by positive or nurturing people; those who are family-oriented and those who support you with your way of life.  Giving back by volunteering to help others, being mindful and learning how to deal with stress through journal writing or simply looking for the humor in life. Taking a moment to be grateful or just going outside for awhile and appreciating what you see; all are activities that can help treat and prevent certain mental health problems.

To conclude, mental health problems in the U.S. are more common than you realize; however, there are many effective treatment strategies which can mitigate mental illness or ideally prevent.

Be Kind To Your GI tract: Understanding Prebiotics VS. Probiotics

You’ve seen them at the drugstore. Boxes and boxes of probiotics that make claims about helping all manner of the stomach, gastrointestinal issues from supporting digestive immunity to straightening out digestive issues. It’s all a bit confusing, but this discussion offers a primer on both:

What Are Probiotics?

Probiotics naturally live in some foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, Kimchi, pickles and other dairy products, but they can also be prescribed or purchased in a pill form. People are often advised to take them to combat the gastrointestinal side effects of some medications such antibiotics. Some people also opt to take them as a daily supplement to replace the good bacteria in their digestive tracts that can disappear for a variety of reasons. Studies have shown that probiotics have the ability to combat some gastrointestinal disorders but must not forget about prebiotics, which also is very important.

What is a Prebiotic?

A prebiotic is classified as a specialized plant fiber that encourages the nourishment of good bacteria that is already in the digestive tract. While probiotics produce good bacteria back into the digestive system, probiotics are in a sense a fertilizer for the good bacteria that already resides there. Studies show that by using prebiotics to increase the good to bad ratio of bacteria has a positive effect on well-being including digestive function, brain function and more.

In short, here is a comparison of the two:

Probiotics:

  •      Control the growth of harmful strains of bacteria in the GI tract.
  •      Hundreds of available brands.
  •      Live in yogurt, fermented foods, and pills.
  •      Can be killed by stomach acid, heat, or time.
  •      Have been shown to induce remission of Ulcerative Colitis US when refractory to medication
  •      Reduce the frequency of diarrhea in patients with stable, active Crohn’s Disease (CD) however postoperative CD has not benefited

Prebiotics:

  •      A special form of non-digestible dietary fiber that helps grow the good bacteria in your GI tract.
  •      Comes in powder form or in some foods like bananas, oatmeal, asparagus, bran, psyllium husk, and more.
  •      Chicory Root has the highest density of prebiotics.
  •      Nourishes the good bacteria in the gut.
  •      Have been shown to be effective for some chronic GI disorders such as ulcerative colitis.

Can I use either one to replace medications for stomach disorders?

No, you should never stop taking any medication without consulting your doctor. Studies on both prebiotics and probiotics are very preliminary, but they may help alleviate some symptoms.

Can I take both probiotics and prebiotics?

Yes, it’s safe to take both at the same time, but it’s still advisable to speak to your doctor first before doing this.

Do things like soy and almond milk contain probiotics?

No, most of them do not contain probiotics.

When should I take prebiotics or probiotics?

Any time is a good time to try taking them to see if they make a difference to the functioning of your digestive system and support your general health.  Again, studies are still in the early stages, and our knowledge of the GI microflora is still in its infancy.  That being said, there is a large amount of anecdotal evidence from patients that say they do help tremendously, and anticipation of clinical data is eagerly anticipated.

Who should not take probiotics?

Immunocompromised or critically people should, for the most part, avoid probiotics. Please check with your doctor as each case is unique.


To learn more about how Houston Concierge Medicine & Wellness Center can develop personalized diagnostic and treatment plans using integrative medical care, call 713-333-6464 or schedule an appointment online.

Immigration Medical Exams

Immigration medical examinations conducted inside the United States must be performed by a certified civil surgeon who has been designated by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). In order to apply for a U.S. green card, you must undergo a medical examination. The purpose of the examination is to ensure that you are not inadmissible to the U.S. on public health grounds.immigration-flag-rv-420x199

However, you cannot simply undergo a medical examination with your regular doctor. Instead, a civil surgeon who has been specially designated by the relevant immigration authorities must perform the required medical examination. The civil surgeons who are qualified to perform green card medical examinations receive special, ongoing training about immigration issues.

How to find a civil surgeon or an authorized physician  

If you are applying for your green card from within the United States, otherwise known as “adjusting status,” you can use the list of qualified civil surgeons from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The easiest way is probably by checking the “USCIS Civil Surgeons Locator” page of the USCIS website.

If you’re adjusting status, you can alternately call the USCIS National Customer Service Center at 800-375-5283 or make an INFOPASS appointment to pick up the list at your local USCIS office.

What the doctor will examine?

During your examination, the doctor will speak with you, review your medical and vaccination history, and perform a physical examination, as well as necessary immunizations and blood work.

Current screenings include tuberculosis, syphilis, gonorrhea, other communicable diseases, drug abuse, addiction, physical or mental disorders and other medical conditions.

Required vaccinations are aged based and may include:

  • Hepatitis A and B
  • Influenza
  • Haemophilus Influenzae type B
  • Measles, mumps,rubella
  • Meningococcal
  • Pneumococcal
  • Polio
  • Tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis
  • Varicella

immigration-medical-exams

 

For more on immigration exams and follow-up questions, follow me on Quora.  

Three Early Signs of Opioid Addiction

What are OPIOIDS?
Opioids are drugs that react on the nervous system relieving pain anywhere in the body. Many Opioids are common drugs like Robitussin A-C, Tylenol with Codeine, Empirin with Codeine, Fiorinal with Codeine, Roxanol, Duramorph, and Demerol and others.

Their names sound pretty common, many are everyday medications, and significantly make a difference in the lives of millions of people when properly taken.

OPIOID Abuse
Opioid abuse delivers many effects on the body. It is no longer the relief of pain, or the feeling received with the ease of movement, and a euphoric feeling as the pain subsides. Internally, the effects on the body can go unnoticed because of the relief from suffering is welcomed and enjoyed.

Causes of OPIOID Abuse
Although there is no direct evidence of genetic factors causing addiction to opiates, studies have indicated individuals with a direct family member addicted to opioids are more inclined to become addicted themselves. This could also be a factor of lifestyle and the people a person chooses as close friends.

What Signifies Addiction
The risk of dependency is dependent on the drug was taken. All opioids are addictive, but some are more quickly addictive than others, and dosage of the opioid taken is detrimental to addiction and the person’s health. Also included in the effects of opioids is the height and weight of the consumer and the time frame in which the dosage was taken. Of course, the mixture of alcohol and opioids is forbidden and extremely dangerous. Mixing alcohol and opioids is life-threatening and harmful to bodily organs and their ability to properly function.

As drug use increases, the frequency of doses increases, and the time between doses is shortened as a person gravitates to addiction.

What Are Three Early Key Signs of Addiction?

  • Feeling that you must use the drug regularly, or taking the drug several times each day not only when needed.
  • Feeling more of the opioid drug is required to obtain the same euphoric feeling. Pleasure in feeling euphoria rather than the relief of pain.
  • Doing things you would normally not do just to get a supply of the opioid, keeping a supply on hand for special events.

Recognizing Drug Abuse in Family and Friends

  • School work, attendance, activities and performance drop for no apparent reason.
  • Motivation decreases and health problems begin to appear.
  • The sudden lack of personal hygiene and grooming.
  • Behavioral changes, manners, family connection, secretive, and isolates themselves from family activities.
  • Excessive spending of money or the need for unusual amounts of money.

Dr. Gregory Burzynski Tips on How to Stay Mentally Healthy

 

Enjoying mental health means having a sense of well-being, being able to function during everyday life and feeling confident to rise to a challenge when the opportunity arises.

Just like your physical health, there are actions you can take to increase your mental health. Boost your wellbeing and stay mentally healthy by following a few of these simple steps outlined below.

Dr. Gregory Burzynski mental health

Connect with others

Develop and maintain strong relationships with people around you who will support and enrich your life. The quality of our personal relationships has a great effect on our wellbeing. Putting time and effort into building strong relationships can bring great rewards.

Take time to enjoy

Set aside time for activities, hobbies and projects you enjoy. Let yourself be spontaneous and creative when the urge takes you.

Participate and share interests

Join a club or group of people who share your interests. Being part of a group of people with a common interest provides a sense of belonging and is good for your mental health.

Contribute to your community

Volunteer your time for a cause or issue that you care about. Help out a neighbor, work in a community garden or do something nice for a friend. There are many great ways to contribute that can help you feel good about yourself and your place in the world. An effort to improve the lives of others is sure to improve your life too.

Take care of yourself

Being active and eating well helps maintain a healthy body. Physical and mental health are closely linked; it’s easier to feel good about life if your body feels good. Having a physical and mental balance radiates health.

Exercise can help raise serotonin levels. It helps you feel physically better and more in touch with your body. Combine physical activity with a balanced diet to nourish your body and mind and keep you feeling good, inside and out. Try yoga, a local fitness class, or spinning. Start slowly as going from zero to 100 can be counter-productive.

Meditation is another important factor in mental health. Daily practice can train the mind to relax and relieve stress.

 

Probiotics Emerge as an Effective Cure Against ADHD

Both Western and Eastern medical practices have been teaching that your gut (Gastrointestinal Tract or GI) is essentially your second brain. “The Second Brain” published by Michael D. Gershone in October of 1998 provides substantial evidence that gut care is imperative in keeping humans healthy. Probiotics are a nutritional supplement that help keep the gut’s bacteria in balance, which in turn helps the human body to function properly.

Bad Bacteria in the GI Tract

According to DrMurray.com children with ADHD tend to have GI disturbances. In other words, the GI tract is not functioning as it should in a normal child. One of his studies finds that children who have lower levels of the good bacteria, Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria, have a higher level of bad bacteria that produces toxins. While on treatment with antibiotics, which eliminated the bad bacteria, ADHD behavior improved. This study indicates that probiotics, which also sufficiently decrease bad gut bacteria, may improve the behavior of children with ADHD.

Good Bacteria in The GI Tract

Livestrong.com also states the fact that individuals with ADHD often have higher amounts of bad bacteria in their gut as well as very little good bacteria. Higher amounts of bad bacteria allow the leakage of toxins that contribute to conditions like ADHD. Higher amounts of good bacteria, provided by probiotics, can lead to a decrease in ADHD symptoms.

Food Allergies and ADHD

According to Livestrong.com, many researchers believe that food allergies impact ADHD. While research has demonstrated that the behavior problems associated with ADHD can be reduced on a restricted diet, doctors recommend against doing this. Regular use of probiotics, however, have been shown effective in combating food allergies. One can easily make the conclusion that combating food allergies with probiotics will also lead to improved behavior for individuals with ADHD. As the probiotics remove the effects of the food allergies, the effects of food allergies on ADHD will be mitigated.

One Thing For Certain

Nutrition plays a powerful role in preventing diseases and treating all types of conditions. Keeping the gut’s bacteria in healthy balance will go a long way to ensure better health and reduced symptoms of ADHD. Probiotics are relatively side effect free, nutritional supplements that are affordable and readily available. They can be combined with nearly every treatment plan. As you see the benefits of taking probiotics, you can begin to reduce ADHD medication with your Physician’s Guidance.

Meditation Offers a Powerful Integrated Treatment Option

Meditation has been a common spiritual and religious practice for thousands of years. More recently, the practice has been making its way into mainstream and secular use as a strategy to improve stress management, mindfulness, and overall quality of life. Researchers are beginning to take note as meditation becomes increasingly popular and shows promise as an integrative treatment option. Currently, 8% of Americans engage in meditation, and 11% spend time practicing deep breathing. Almost 1 out of every 10 Americans do yoga, which is considered by most to be a form of meditation, and 45% of those who don’t say they are interested in trying it.

Mediation’s growing popularity is easy to understand. Anyone can practice, anytime, anywhere. Meditation requires no special equipment or training. Although teachers and classes certainly exist and techniques vary, practicing meditation can be as simple as spending 15 minutes a day quietly focusing on your breath. Practitioners swear by these simple methods, with many reporting that they feel calmer and more relaxed throughout their day, more compassionate, and better equipped to handle difficult interpersonal situations. Many also report benefits in the form of new perspective and mental clarity, increased intuition and creativity, an ability to live in and appreciate each present moment, and an overall increase in happiness and wellbeing.

Meditation water fall

Scientific and medical research on the effects of meditation are still in the early stages, but a growing body of data promises a strong future for the use of meditation as a healthy, available, drug-free integrative medical treatment option.

Americans today face an epidemic of stress, and meditation may offer a powerful source of relief. Stress-related health problems are at the root of up to 80% of doctor appointments and make up the third highest health care expenditures, behind only heart disease and cancer. Given these numbers, it is shocking that only 3% of doctors attempt to address stress reduction techniques with their patients. A recent study suggests meditation goes a long way to address the problem.

People who participated in a meditation based relaxation program found that they required 43% less medical services compared to the previous year, and the newly relaxed patients enjoyed health care savings from $640 to as much as $25,500 per year. Also indicative of the success of such programs is that Aetna, a health insurance provider, offered its own employees a mindfulness program as an experiment of their own. The company itself enjoyed an increase in worker productivity of over an hour each week, or $3,000 yearly – a 1:11 return on their investment. The employees reported 28% less stress, 19% less pain, and 20% better sleep.

In a similar vein, mindfulness meditation is a natural match for treating both garden variety anxiety and patients suffering from Generalized Anxiety disorder. Based on her research, Dr. Elizabeth Hoge, a psychiatrist at the Center for Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Disorders at Massachusetts General Hospital and an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, recommends mediation for anyone “dealing with distracting thoughts that have too much power” and “nagging worry that has no benefit.”

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New research suggests that the positive shifts in subjective emotional states that mindful meditators have been reporting for years may even have an objective, traceable physical basis. Harvard neuroscientist Sara Lazar has been studying the effects of meditation on the brain, and she is reporting some fascinating results. After just an 8 week meditation program, brain scans showed increased grey matter in the frontal cortex, an area of the brain associated with memory and decision making.

They also found thickening in the left hippocampus, which is associated with learning, cognition and emotional regulation, as well as areas which assist with perspective taking, empathy, and compassion. Most notably the amygdala, a brain structure famously called the “fight or flight” center and closely linked to fear, anxiety, and stress, shrank considerably in people who had practiced meditation for 8 weeks. Finally, Lazer found that 50 year old meditators had grey matter density in the prefrontal cortex that rivaled an average 25 year old, instead of the shrunken cortex she would expect to find in someone at that age.

Researchers continue to study and learn about the myriad effects of meditation, but you can start reaping the benefits right now. Even 10-15 minutes a day spent meditating is thought to improve quality of life and reduce stress and anxiety. Meditation certainly can’t cure everything, but it can serve as a powerful tool alongside other therapy and treatment, or simply help to improve your stressful day.

 

 

Click here to check out some downloadable guided meditations