Earlier this week I attended another fantastic seminar presented by Metagenics.
It was a summary of information covered at the International Congress on Natural Medicine – an event that is held annually, and is the biggest natural medicine seminar held in the southern hemisphere! Unfortunately this year I didn’t make it to Congress, but this shorter seminar still covered a lot of ground.
The topic was ‘Functional Psychiatry: The Biology of Emotion’ – in other words, the seminar was all about latest research and natural strategies for helping relieve mood disorders such as depression, anxiety, insomnia and addictions.
All in all, quite a bit of interesting information was covered in the seminar, and I thought I would share some of it with you. Here are a few of the points that were raised*:
- Australia has the 2nd highest level of antidepressant medication prescriptions per capita in the world, and this is increasing by around 25% each year (particularly in our young people, which is extremely concerning). Iceland has the highest level, in case you are interested in who got the top spot! However, the most recent research suggests that conventional antidepressants work less than 50% of the time. Antidepressant medications target the levels of certain chemical messengers in the brain, but it now appears that mood disorders are caused by more than just a single chemical imbalance.
- It used to be thought that the brain, from 25 years of age, was fixed – that is, that brain cells could not grow or regenerate. This has been found to not be the case – the brain can actually grow and reshape from stimulation at any stage of life. Positive stimulation can mean new connections and growth in the brain, and stress can make certain parts of the brain shrink.
- There is such a thing as ‘good stress’ – in fact, having some stress (such as healthy goals, deadlines and challenges) is actually good for enriching and sustaining us as human beings. It is when stress is high and prolonged that it becomes bad for both your brain and your body.
- When you suffer from acute stress, your body rids itself of extra magnesium, via the urine. This is really quite a remarkable phenomenon, as magnesium is a crucial mineral needed for a calm and balanced mental state, and the majority of people are deficient in magnesium. Low magnesium levels have consistently been found in those suffering depression. One study found that giving depressed people a therapeutic dosage of magnesium was found to be just as effective for relieving depression as a popular anti-depressant medication. And with far fewer side effects!
- Inflammation can play a role in mental health – in fact, inflammation in the body has been linked to sleep disturbances and depression, as well as many other illnesses. Inflammation is a natural response to physical trauma or infection, and is part of the fight-or-flight response to stress. Our current fast-paced Western lifestyle and often poor dietary habits contribute to inflammation in the body. Luckily, one of the valuable medicinal herbs we have at our disposal to help control inflammation is turmeric. However, turmeric is quite difficult for the body to absorb, so it is really important to make sure you are getting the right dose through a targeted supplement. In the clinic my preferred turmeric product is a proprietary form, which actually enhances the bioavailability of the turmeric (how well your body can absorb and utilize it) by 700%.
If you suffer from stress, anxiety, depression or insomnia, here are some tips to relieve stress and help you feel calmer:
- Increase whole foods in your diet. This doesn’t mean you have to eat perfectly 100% of the time, and become a Nigel No-Fun! It is what you do most consistently that is important. If you don’t eat many vegetables, try adding an extra cup or two to your daily intake, and reach for nuts, seeds or a piece of fruit for a snack rather than pre-packaged biscuits or chips. Drink sparkling mineral water with a dash of lemon juice instead of sugary soft drink. Several studies have shown that if you eat a healthy diet you have a healthier brain and a significantly lower risk of depression.
- There are many quick and easy anti-inflammatory herbal teas that you can incorporate into your daily routine (maybe swap out a coffee or two?). These include chamomile, fennel, ginger and green tea. Always remember with herbal teas to let them steep for at least 5 minutes so that the goodness of the herbs can be properly absorbed into the hot water.
- Walk regularly – not only has exercise been shown to be good for your body, it is also great for your brain and mental health. If you want some extra ‘bang for your buck’, aim for some ‘green-time’ – walk in nature where you can (a park, garden or forest – we certainly have plenty of options in our region). Green-time walking has been shown to increase relaxation and reduce stress levels considerably more than walking in suburbia.
- Other useful ways to achieve a brighter mood include volunteering, meditating, gratitude and nurturing optimistic thinking.
Buddha was asked, “What have you gained from meditation?”
He replied, “Nothing!”
However, Buddha said, “Let me tell you what I lost:
Anger, Anxiety, Depression, Insecurity, Fear of Old Age and Death.”