Posted in Health & Wellbeing

Food and Serotonin

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCG7WdmLGzacESLc9DMyZb-A

“Growing pains” the doctor said. I was 10 years old and keen to get back to gymnastics and all activity associated with childhood. 31 years later and my growing pains are still rife, only now the label has changed to rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia. Chronic pain combined with anxiety is a crippling combination, that has taken me on a journey of self discovery, mindfulness, wellbeing and self care.

Struggling to find any benefit from conventional medicine, I now follow a more holistic approach to maintaining a calmer and reduced pain life. Currently studying Holistic Pain Management, I have researched in-depth the neurotransmitter serotonin. And with ‘Let’s Chat Tasty Matters’ in mind, I decided to look into foods rich in tryptophan, the amino acid serotonin is derived from.

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Posted in Health & Wellbeing

Getting Back on the Weight Loss Wagon

Photo by Polina Tankilevitch from Pexels

Strength is the capacity to break a chocolate bar into four pieces with your bare hands – and then eat just one of the pieces.

— Judith Viortst

Britain like so many other privileged countries are tipping the scales toward a global obesity pandemic. Two thirds of the nation are overweight, with half of that figure considered obese. Covid-19 and the resulting lockdown has further fuelled the problem as a third of Britons admit gaining half a stone or more, which the media were quick to name the Covid Stone. Now the NHS have released data stating, death from Covid-19 increases by forty percent in obese patients. The government has responded with an initiative to tackle obesity.

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Posted in Health & Wellbeing

Reap the Benefits of an Anti-Inflammatory Diet

Inflammation is the bodies natural bodyguard, protecting damaged tissue at times of infection or injury and aiding the healing process. Essential blood cells and proteins required to do this, reach the damaged tissue by increased blood flow. This is why the skin around the area becomes inflamed, appearing red and warm to the touch. And in the case of infection these increased cells will appear as pus.

Inflammatory diseases are natures bodyguard gone rogue, sending in the tough guys to tackle a non existent antigen and instead attacking healthy tissue. Known as autoimmunity symptoms they include: fatigue, aches and pains, depression, food intolerances, skin problems and weight retention. Treatment is a complex balancing process with varying levels of success. However scientists have identified certain food types with anti-inflammatory benefits. Here are a few known edible Ibuprofen.

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Posted in Health & Wellbeing

Independent Lab Tests Reveal Positive Results of Holland & Barrett CBD Oil

Image by Julia Teichmann from Pixabay

Jacob Hooey CBD Oil manufactured in the Netherlands and sold by leading Health and wellness brand Holland & Barrett is considered a quality product, after CBD Shopy had three independent laboratories test the product.

Three independent tests revealed Jacob Hooey CBD Oil sold by Holland & Barrett contains the advertised 5% of CBD. And the THC content is below the legal limit. The second laboratory report confirmed no heavy metals were detected including: arsenic, lead, mercury, and cadmium. Each laboratory had slight variation in their results due to variation of testing methods and facilities, the slight difference falls within the accepted scientific range for accuracy.

As popularity of CBD oil products increase, so does the number of brands on the market. Cost varies immensely, and although reputable manufacturers will have independent product lab tests results readily available, UK regulations have not yet made it a legal requirement. Consumers could be at best paying for a placebo, and at worst, risk health and legal consequences.

In June 2019 the Centre for Medical Cannabis published a report on CBD in the United Kingdom. It revealed some startling results:

  • Only 38% of the products were within 10% of the advertised CBD content and 38% actually had less than 50% of the advertised CBD content. One product had 0% CBD.
  • 45% of the selected products had measurable levels of THC and are thus technically illegal in the UK.
  • One high street pharmacy product retailing at £90 for 30mls contained zero cannabinoid content.
  • One product qualifies as an alcoholic beverage containing 3.8% of ethanol
  • Seven products contained percentages of solvents and heavy metals above food limit safety levels.

CBD (cannabidiol) is naturally sourced from hemp paste, made from the leaves and flowers of hemp plants bred for nutritional purposes. A secondary source of CBD is hemp seeds. CBD oil is put under the tongue 2-3 times a day, and the stated maximum dosage should not be exceeded. CBD capsules should be taken as directed by package instructions. CBD oil has a distinctive taste. A drink should quickly disperse the taste, alternatively use CBD capsules.

So What is the Difference Between CBD and THC?

CBD and THC have identical chemical makeup: 21 carbon atoms, 30 hydrogen atoms, and 2 oxygen atoms. The difference between CBD and THC is the arrangement of a single atom, and how the molecular structures interact with CB1 and CB2 receptors. CB1 receptors are found in abundance in the area of the brain responsible for mental and physiological processes. CB2 receptors are located in the immune and central nervous system. Both CBD and THC bind to CB2. But only THC is able to bind directly with CB1, which causes the psychoactive effects of getting high.

Research surrounding medical cannabis is limited, thus medical practitioners remain sceptical about the benefits and risks. Currently only patients with certain forms of epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and undergoing chemotherapy will be considered for medical cannabis prescriptions.

Posted in Health & Wellbeing

Baby Blues or More

Baby Blues

Seventy percent of new mothers experience baby blues, usually within the first week after birth. The cause is unclear, but physically it is likely linked to hormonal changes, and the come down from a surge of adrenaline during labour. Psychologically, giving birth is a massive emotional upheaval. As a new mother comes to terms with the massive change in responsibility, it can be an unnerving surprise not to feel as ecstatic as they perceived. Symptoms include: low mood, feeling emotional and tearful, insomnia, feeling anxious, restless and irritable.

The baby blues are not postnatal depression, and usually pass within a few days. However it is important to seek support from those around you. Friends and family should be sensitive and reassuring: offering help without taking over, encouraging rest, listening, and allowing the mother to cry.

Postnatal Depression

Postnatal depression can start at any time in the first year after giving birth. It can develop gradually or come on suddenly. It is important to seek medical advice, and talk with friends and family, if you start to exhibit signs of postnatal depression. Symptoms include: intense sadness, low mood, loss of interest in everything, lack of energy, feeling tired but unable to sleep, poor concentration and indecisiveness, loss of appetite or increased hunger, feeling apathetic, agitated or irritable, and thoughts of self-harm or suicide. Postnatal depression takes control of the way you connect and bond with your baby. You can feel a sense of indifference in their company, this will then lead to feelings of guilt and hopelessness, with a sense of belief you are unable to care for your baby.

It is essential you speak to your GP or health visitor as soon as possible. Like any form of depression it takes hold of every aspect of your life: relationships, activities, work and chores. It will not go away on its own. Health professionals will help you access support, expressing you are not alone despite feeling like you are.

Traditional treatments are a combination of self-help strategies, therapy, and medication. In extreme cases mothers will be referred to a mental health team and possibly admitted into hospital. Babies can either remain with fathers, designated family members, or stay with the mother in a mother and baby mental health unit.

Guided self-help strategies on average takes 9-12 weeks to complete. It is a book or online course which focusses on problematic issues, offering practical advice to tackle them. The course can be worked through alone, or with a therapist.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a proactive therapy that takes 3-4 months to complete. It concentrates on how thoughts, feelings, actions, and personal sensations are connected. It considers how unrealistic and unhelpful thinking leads to negative behaviour. Unlike many therapies CBT focusses on the present oppose to the past. It aims to break down negative cycles and find proactive ways of thinking, that help you behave in a positive way. It can be beneficial to mothers suffering with postnatal depression, by addressing unrealistic expectations of themselves and motherhood.

Interpersonal Therapy is essentially a time limited and structured talking psychotherapy. It concentrates on the patients various types of relationships and how they affect them, considering on the flip side, how depressive mood impinges on the quality of relationships. The therapist will initially learn about the patient concentrating on building trust, before discussing what the patient needs help with. Throughout the process the patient will complete questionnaires, which they will then discuss with their therapist. The purpose of this is to gage progress, and flag up any unresolved issues. Sessions are usually done on a weekly basis, lasting 3-4 months. Therapists may chase up how their patient is doing after a 6 month cooling off period.

Antidepressants may be offered on there own, or alongside therapy. They alter chemicals in the brain to stabilize mood. It is important they are taken consistently and given time to work. But they can ease symptoms, and allow a person to function better on a day-to-day basis. Like all medication there can be side effects: blurred vision and dizziness, feeling sick, constipation, dry mouth, feeling agitated or shaky. They will usually be prescribed for a minimum of 6 months. It is important to take the advice of a doctor before weening off antidepressants, to avoid a relapse into depression.

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is an invasive procedure that is used in severe cases of postnatal depression, usually only if all other treatments have failed. It involves sending an electric current through the brain to induce a seizure. Treatment is administered under a general anaesthetic and can relieve symptoms.

Postpartum Psychosis

Postpartum Psychosis occurs in 1-2 of every 1,000 deliveries. It is an extremely serious mental illness, occurring suddenly within 2-3 weeks after birth. Symptoms include: delusions, hallucinations, mania, feeling irritated, decreased need for sleep or insomnia, difficulty communicating, paranoia and low mood. It is important to seek emergency medical treatment, and will likely be sought by an eye witness, as the mother will not consider herself unwell. The risk of postpartum psychosis rises by 25-30% if there is a family history of mental illness, the mother has previously suffered bouts of psychosis, or has any kind of brain disease. First time mums are more likely to develop psychosis. And complications during labour and birth, including caesarean sections, can increase the risk. Immediate treatment is imperative, usually in hospital. A full evaluation will take place, with a physical examination and laboratory tests to rule out a biological cause for psychosis. A full medical history including family members will be taken, and a neurological assessment completed. Treatment will be a combination of antipsychotic medications, mood stabilizers and therapy. Once the psychosis subsides patients usually suffer with depression, anxiety and low self esteem. At this stage GPs will usually make a referral for therapy. During recovery the support of family and friends is important, keeping the home quiet and calm. On average recovery time is anything between 6-12 months.

A List of Support and Advisory Lines

Action on Postpartum Psychosis

Association for Postnatal Illness (APNI)

Maternal Mental Health Alliance

Mind

NCT

Pre and Postnatal Advice and Support (PANDAS)

Royal College of Psychiatrists: Postpartum Psychosis

Posted in Health & Wellbeing, Journal

Willpower Recharged

Image by artistlike from Pixabay

I start the day with a low calorie breakfast. Lunch consists of soup, salad, sandwiches. By mid afternoon I stave off the munchies with an apple, even a banana if getting desperate. Willpower is chomping at the bit by evening meal, but I limit fat and carbs. An hour later it all goes wrong. Out come the biscuits, chocolate and crisps. Bread popping out of the toaster, scoffed dripping in butter. Cereal and yoghurts to offset the junk food, too late damage done.

This was my dietry habit and I was sneaky with it: I would lie to my fellow weight lossers. So the lbs stayed the same or steadily increased, leading me recently to salute the weight loss success stories. They deserve a shake of the hand a slap on the back, after all I can’t do it.

So 2019 bid farewell with a chinese takeaway and an explosion of colour. 2020 awoke to the air thick with sulphur, coal and potassium nitrate. I don’t make resolutions. Don’t want to clutter the crisp blank page of a new year, new diary. But I am returning to my diet I whisper. This time with a few changes: strict calorie counting, weighing ingredients and writing everything consumed down (nothing left off).

White female, almost 41, 5″2 and moderately active, weighing in at 14st 7lbs I am clinically obesse. My recommended daily calorie intake is 1,596 – 2,053 kcals, sticking to the lower end of the scale to lose 1-2lbs a week. Yes folks I have been doing it. Strict and honest I have been averaging 1,400kcals a day. Then yesterday something went wrong. I was going strong until evening dinner. Then a bag of munchies, giant hula hoops and two mint clubs were consumed before bed. Old habits resume. No wait! I lie in bed, my stomach bloated growling like an angry grizzly, my chest is on fire burping up acid. I feel sick.

How much weight I lose is almost irrelevant, until that evening I was already feeling healthier. For the first time I experienced the benefits, consequences of falling off the wagon. Last night I tossed and turned struggling to sleep, but with a smile on my face. This morning healthy eating resumes, with low fat natural yoghurt and fruit for breakfast.

So once more congratulations to the success stories. And to those like me, embarking on the journey “keep going. We can do it”.

Posted in Health & Wellbeing

Surprising Symptoms of Anxiety

Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

Last night was consumed with bad dreams and disturbed sleep. More than once I jumped up in bed because I saw an imaginary figure in the corner of the room. And my paranoia landed a few wild punches in my partners direction.

This morning in medical outpatients more than once I stood up to leave, seeking strength from the quiet of the toilet. I had an appointment with a neurologist, to discuss my dissociative episodes. These are not epileptic seizures caused by unusual electrical activity in the brain, but a response to thoughts and emotions, more often relating to past and present events.

Ultimately anxiety is complex, with some surprising symptoms. Below are a few possible signs of anxiety that you may never have considered.

Burning Mouth Syndrome

This is the medical term for somebody who suffers with recurrent burning in the mouth with no cause. The sensation can resemble scalding and affect all areas of your mouth and lips. Other symptoms include: stinging, tingling numbness, increased thirst, loss of taste, or a bitter metallic taste. Anxiety is just one of a number of causes for burning mouth syndrome, and it is important to seek medical advice from a dentist and doctor to determine possible causes and treatment.

Cold Hands and Feet

Anxiety can be the cause of cold hands and feet, leading to the phrase getting cold feet. The reason for this is the bodies physical response to impending danger.

  1. Small triangular shaped glands located on top of both kidneys secrete epinephrine (adrenaline). This dilates blood vessels to the heart, allowing it to pump more effectively. Getting a quicker supply of blood to the brain, organs and muscles prepares the body to fight or flee. However, as the heart pumps quicker, blood supply to the hands and feet is reduced causing them to feel cold.
  2. Sweating is how the body prevents itself from overheating. If stressed or anxious, sweating is increased in preparation to keep cool when running away or fighting.
  3. Anxiety increases focus on sensations within the body. For example aches, pains, cold hands and feet.

Burping

If experiencing anxiety, there are two possible reasons for excessive burping.

  1. An involuntary response to anxiety is to swallow larger amounts of air. The excess expels itself, up through the esophagus and out the mouth as a burp. Alternatively it will travel the entire digestive system, leaving the body at the other end.
  2. Acid reflux is caused by the lower esophageal sphincter allowing stomach acid to escape into the esophagus, this causes a burning sensation known as heartburn. The connection between anxiety and acid reflux is complex, they feed off each other, causing a snake eating its own tail scenario. When stressed or anxious the brain increases the response of pain receptors, combined with a lower production of prostaglandins which protect the stomach lining, acid reflux symptoms will become increased.

Yawning

Hyperventilating is a common symptom of anxiety. Increased erratic breathing alters the way our body takes in oxygen, and the body feels like it cannot get enough air. Yawning expands the ribcage, convincing the body it did indeed get enough air. Essentially yawning is a tool, telling the body to calm down.

Globus Hystericus

Or simply a lump in your throat. It feels like something is stuck in your throat, restricting breathing and swallowing. This sensation is rarely due to a physical obstructive growth, but a psychological response to anxiety.

Symptoms of stress and anxiety are exhaustive which is why it is such a debilitating condition. Do not suffer alone. Whether experiencing a few or many symptoms of stress and anxiety, open up and talk about it, if necessary seek medical advice.

You are not alone.

It is possible to surf the wave of anxiety.

Posted in Health & Wellbeing

Magnesium: Natures Chill Pill

Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay

The pressures of the developed world is hardly conducive of a stress free existence, and poor mental health has become a global pandemic. Numerous external aspects of the 21st Century are considered to play a part in our declining emotional well being. Most of us consider our mobile devices as a third arm. Expected to respond to vast forms of communication instantly, whether via: social media, text, email or talking on the telephone. Taking a break from the outside world is increasingly difficult. Consumerism, and pressure to climb the social and financial ladder is also prevalent. Widely encouraged to always want more, frowning upon contentment. The ethos of many is live for the future and rarely stop to enjoy the present.

In May 2019 the World Health Organisation reflected on this when it included burn-out, in the 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases. Defining it as:

“a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”

World Health Organisation

Could there be another internal factor involved in our overall declining mental health? Scientists have noticed a correlation between rising anxiety and plummeting magnesium intake in the last half century. To strengthen this theory, researchers have discovered they can induce anxiety in laboratory animals by simply depriving them of magnesium (apologies to animal rights activists, I am only the messenger). Involved in more than 300 biochemical reactions magnesium has two roles directly related to stress.

  1. Cortisol is a steroid hormone produced by the adrenal glands and is mainly released at times of stress. It has various important functions and is directly responsible for the necessary fight or flight response required to deal with imminent danger. However to much cortisol contributes to: mood swings, anxiety, insomnia, depression, brain fog, concentration issues, dementia, mental illness and memory loss. Magnesium acts as a filter, restricting the release of cortisol and preventing it from entering the brain.
  2. Gamma Aminobutyric Acid (GABA) is a naturally present amino acid. Its role as an inhibitory neurotransmitter is to slow brain activity. Magnesium is essential for GABA to work effectively, by binding to and stimulating the receptors in the brain to counteract stress. Not enough GABA makes it impossible to relax, causing people to become: disorganized, easily overwhelmed, suffer with racing thoughts and excessive worrying.

An intricate balance is essential for these biochemical reactions to be effective. The whole process is a bit like the snake chasing its own tail. Increased stress requires more magnesium, but prolonged stress depletes the body of its magnesium.

So how much magnesium does the body need?

Recommended Dietary Allowance of Magnesium in (mg)

AgeMaleFemalePregnantLactating
Birth – 6 months30mg30mg
7 – 12 months75mg75mg
1 – 3 years80mg80mg
4 – 8 years130mg130mg
9 – 13 years240mg240mg
14 – 18 years410mg360mg400mg360mg
19 – 30 years400mg310mg350mg310mg
31 – 50 years420mg320mg360mg320mg
51+ years420mg320mg

The mineral is found naturally in the body, and is present in many foods including: green leafy vegetables, fruit, seafood, legumes, nuts and seeds. Certain medicines such as laxatives and antacids contain magnesium. It is added to certain foods and is available as a supplement (but always seek professional advice before taking).

One positive thing to come from increasing poor mental health is societies increasing willingness to speak out about this once taboo subject, gradually prioritizing mental and emotional well being in much the same way as physical health. Currently medical professionals encourage a combination of talking therapies and medication to improve mental health. Could tackling magnesium deficiency be added to the list.

Posted in Health & Wellbeing, Social Issues

Stop Social Stigma

Treat Neurological and Mental Illness Equal to Physical Illness

We are all a little broken. But last time I checked broken crayons still colour the same.

Trent Shelton

Deep in the green belt of Buckinghamshire is the Epilepsy Society headquarters. Densely lined with trees, its secluded location is a stark reminder of the historical social stigma surrounding the neurological condition. The word epilepsy derives from the Greek word epilepsia, meaning falling sickness. In many cultures sufferers were victims of prejudice, considered possessed and even contagious. Like mental health patients they were often hidden away from public view, in hospitals and asylums. The uncorroborated, yet plausible origin of the term going round the bend, may literally refer to the journey up the long winding drive to incarceration.

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