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Twitter Therapy

June 24, 2010 Written by JP       [Font too small?]

The topic of this week’s Twitter Thursday is the interplay between the body and mind. There is an erroneous perception out there that we have body related health issues and brain related health issues – the physiological and the psychological. However, an increasing body of research suggests that how we care for our body has both positive and negative consequences on many aspects of mental health and vice versa.

Dr. Mark Hyman is among the leading voices in the integrative health movement. He is currently the Chairman of the Institute for Functional Medicine and is on the Board of Directors of The Center for Mind-Body Medicine. Dr. Hyman is also an avid tweeter. In a recent post, he offered some natural suggestions about how to manage PMS symptoms without resorting to questionable medications. Here are a few of his recommendations:

  • “Balance your blood sugar by eating protein, such as a protein shake, eggs and nut butters, for breakfast.”
  • “Increase fiber in your diet from vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, beans, and whole grains. Two tablespoons of ground flax seeds a day are especially helpful in correcting constipation and balancing hormones.”
  • “Increase omega-3 fats by eating more wild fish like sardines, herring, and wild salmon, as well as omega-3 eggs and walnuts.”
  • “Exercise is very important for balancing hormones. Aim for 30 minutes of aerobic exercise, four to five times a week.”
  • “Dealing with stress is also critical. Take a hot bath at night, get a massage, try yoga, learn deep breathing or meditation. These techniques and others can help balance hormones.”

Dr. Hyman goes on to describe the importance of select dietary supplements including calcium, evening primrose oil, fish oil, magnesium, probiotics, Vitamin B6 and several others. He notes that the judicious use of supplementation can improve hormonal metabolism and overall metabolic function. I personally think that the addition of krill oil to that list is warranted – please refer to footnote number 3. (1,2,3)

One of the more common symptoms of PMS is depression. On Tuesday, a tweet from the Natural Products Insider alerted “followers” about a new study on the use of fish oil in the management of major depressive episodes (MDEs). A total of 432 adults with depression took part in this 8 week intervention. Half of the participants were given 1,050 mg/day of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and 150 mg/day of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and the remainder received a placebo (sunflower oil). DHA and EPA are the primary fatty acids contained in fish oil. The results of the trial found “a clear benefit of omega-3 supplementation among patients with MDE without comorbid anxiety disorders”. (4,5)

Light Therapy May Benefit Both Seasonal and Non-Seasonal Forms of Depression

Source: Am J Psychiatry 162:656-662, April 2005 (link)

Our final tweet of the day comes courtesy of Dr. Robin Eckert, an assistant clinical professor with the Department of Family Medicine at the U.C. Irvine Medical Center. Dr. Eckert also heads an integrative health practice in Laguna Beach, California in which she practices medical acupuncture and teaches Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction. One of her most recent messages on Twitter links to an article about 31 Natural Ways to Boost Your Mood Naturally. A few of my favorite suggestions include: (6,7)

  • Swap Out Your Light Bulbs - Replace incandescent bulbs with the compact fluorescent variety in “high traffic areas like the kitchen and family room”. Light therapy has been shown to combat both seasonal and non-seasonal depression. (8)
  • Spend Some Quality Time with a Cat or Dog - Petting a cat or dog for just 15 minutes appears to release the “feel-good hormones serotonin, prolactin, and oxytocin, and lowers the stress hormone cortisol“. According to a recent study in the Journal of Social Psychology, these effects may be even more pronounced in single adults and women. (9)
  • Draw or Paint, Don’t Vent! - Taking your mind off of negative emotions and engaging in artwork with a happier theme may be more effective than venting your feelings. These are the findings of a group of researchers from Boston College and Harvard University. Their research was published in the December 2008 issue of the journal Motivation and Emotion. (10)

The use of exercise, nutrition and supplementation are physical means of improving psychological states. The acts involved don’t specifically affect the brain but they do so indirectly. The simple fact is that most lifestyle measures that positively affect mood also improve general health. But conversely, tackling emotional issues can lead to better decisions about how we care for our bodies. This is one of the clearest illustrations of the mind-body connection which is often preached about in the fields of holistic and integrative medicine. Simply put, the mind cannot be genuinely healthy without the support of a healthy body and the opposite is equally true.

Be well!

JP

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