Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Brain Plasticity and Deep Meditation / Mindfulness

Countless studies are now showing us, that through mental training the brain can permanently be altered, a process now referred to as top-down plasticity (Begley, 2007).

Since my undergraduate work was in Genetics and Molecular biology, I have enthusiastically followed the epigenetics research, how environmental conditions can play a significant role in whether you will or will not get a specific disease – it’s not all in the genes, but rather in the gene expression.

Interestingly, the brain is no different.   Gene expression is turned on by novelty and surprise, thus, deep meditation or hypnosis (a state of altered brain wave patterns) can stimulate neurogenesis and the building of new neural pathways, hence, insight.

I guarantee you've experienced this yourselves.  You’ve spaced out for a few minutes, when all of a sudden a brilliant insight pops into your mind – that ‘spaced out’ feeling you experienced was a trance or hypnotic state.  As a matter of fact, the average person moves through natural neural rhythms of arousal to relaxation 12 times a day.

Mindfulness, deep meditation or hypnosis is a method to quickly induce the brain circuitry for plasticity.  PET scans show thought during deep relaxation, the left pre frontal lobe is activated and the right pre frontal lobe activity decreases.  The left pre-frontal lobe is associated with positive feelings, while the right with anger and anxiety.

Using this knowledge, experiments have been conducted on patients with anxiety, depression and OCD, all showing significant improvement when mindfulness techniques were included in treatment.

I’m a sucker when it comes to positive genetic changes in the brain, and love meditation but don’t have the time for it, nor do most of my patients – thus, my keen interested in hypnotherapy. Almost finished my 100 hours training, and can’t wait to start making positive change with my patients.
Dr. D

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Sick Fat - The link between gut health, inflammation and metabolic challenges

Consider for a moment – your fat.  The fat around your belly, thighs, breasts, arms – this is not inert, benign tissue, this is a function organ, influencing your endocrine and immune system.

Which fat is the most problematic?  Let’s have a look at each kind:

1.       Subcutaneous fat – upper arms, back, legs, buttocks and subcutaneous abdominal fat – more benign, little harmful immune or metabolic effects

2.       Visceral fat – apple shaped, deep, around organs, men with ‘hard’ bellies – highly inflammatory and very biologically active fat

When fat cells become enlarged, their oxygen supply becomes inadequate, the cells begin to release hormones such as leptin – making you hungry and immune cells infiltrate, causing free fatty acids to be released into the body causing inflammation.  Since we know that almost all chronic degenerate disease is in an inflammatory, acidic environment, this isn’t just a, on no, I have to loose a few pounds problem, this become as a serious health risk and its dubbed – SICK FAT.

Do you have sick fat?  Consider your waist circumference to estimate your visceral or belly fat.Ideally, a waist circumference of < 70-75 cm in women and less than 75- 80 cm.

All you skinny people, don’t think you’re automatically off the hook.  “skinny fat” was a term coined for those who are metabolically obese, but normal weight.  So assessing actual fat levels is important for optimal health.

Why is this worth talking about.  Because, it means that your body’s fat is making you sick, it’s changing the way your immune system is responding to stimuli and leaving you primed for illness.  FAT cells release hormones (yup, its not just the brain or sex organs) which lead to this cycle of hunger, immune activation and increased fat.  It even causes a reallocation of nutrients, so even though you may think you’re getting enough nutrients from your daily multi, they’re not going where you need them to, leaving you fat yet undernourished!

The good news – there is a way to stop the cycle.  The link between gut health, inflammation and metabolic challenges is clear and resolvable.



Monday, March 24, 2014

Money Healthy Kids

 On the way home from camping last summer we stopped and bought the kids a treat to tide them over until we got home.  My daughter threw her arms around me and said “thank you thank you for buy me a treat mommy, thank you for paying for it and not making me spend my money.”  Why the overwhelming gratitude?  No, not because she’s treat deprived – Samantha just started getting an allowance.

It all started when she wanted to have a lemon aid and sell the juice at 5 cents a glass.  I tried to explain to her it would cost me more than 5 cents to supply the glasses and lemon aid, “but if it’s too expensive, people won’t buy it, so we need to make it cheap’ she told me.  I applauded my little entrepreneur’s spirit but realized it was about time we taught her the value of money.  She was also coveting a Lalaloopsy doll which she was saving up for with her tooth fairy money – the time was right.

The book Money Smart Kids by Gail van Oxlade was recommended to me by a friend, I read it, liked the concept and decided to implement it with my daughter just as she was finishing grade 1.  The premise is by giving kids money and a set of rules, they will develop lifelong habits on how to save and spend money, an important lesson that in today’s consumer society, kids often don’t understand.  It also gives them the opportunity to make money mistakes, better now at age 6 than age 26.

My husband balked when I told him Samantha was going to get $6 allowance a week, 1 dollar per year.  Yes, that seems like a lot, but here’s the catch, we no longer can dole out money.  Consider how much money you spend on your kids, the treat at the grocery store, ice cream truck, school book fairs, pizza day, class trips – it adds up.  No more dole (well, with only $6 a week sometimes you have to make an exception, i.e. she’ll have to pay for only half the class trip).   Shouldn’t she be earning her allowance?  According  Vax-Oxlade, the purpose of this exercise is to,  teach kids about money, not make them do chores or show your control over them – I have the money, I have the power kind of idea.  Also, it’s for a lot more than just fun money, they’ll be making some real decisions on how the money will be spent.  The $6 would be divided up – 10% long term savings, put towards University or a car, 5% charity, 45% planned spending (her Lalaloopsy doll or school trip) and the remaining %40 her ‘mad money’ to be spend on ice cream, food at Wonderland, book fair, Freezy Friday’s or whatever grabs her fancy. 

The ice cream truck went by our house a few weeks ago, not a common occurrence for us and usually the kids are allowed to indulge on these special occasions.  Samantha heard the truck, said, “Zacky, there’s the ice cream truck but I’m out of mad money so we can’t get one’ she didn’t even ask.  We decided to go out for dinner as a family last week, Samantha studied the menu hard, then quietly asked me with a very concerned look on her face, “mommy, do I have to pay for my own dinner”.? At $6 a week, not yet baby, not yet but soon.

It has been amazing so far.  Trips to the grocery store, toy store, even the candy store no longer have her begging for a treat, and she makes more of an effort to keep her room clean and help around the house, even though it’s not a requirement for the allowance.  After spending all her mad money at Canada’s wonderland one week, she quietly watched as her baby brother got an ice cream cone a few days later and she didn’t, a friend we were with asked her why she wasn’t getting one and she calmly informed her that she was out of mad money, she didn’t even ask.

So not only is my daughter learning the value of money, but I’m actually being appreciated when I do buy her something, thank you Gail Vax-Oxlade.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Happy Hormone - do you have what it takes?

Serotonin the body’s Happy Hormone is classified as a neurotransmitter and is what gives you a feeling of wellbeing and overall happiness.  As long as we have all the proper co-factors, are absorbing our food properly and are not blocking the pathways by anti-nutrients, we can make it.  So the question is, do you have what it takes? 

Co Factors needed in the production of Serotonin

1.      To absorb protein, we need enough HCL (stomach acid) in the gut, which needs a good supply of zinc, and B6 to be produced.

2.     Zinc, magnesium, Folate (the active form of folic acid, iron, B3 (niacin), Vitamin C, B6 and calcium are needed to convert the amino acid tryptophan to serotonin.

Anti – Nutrients

Anti-oxidants, alcohol, smoking, medications such as the birth control bill and even over the counter pain meds, pollutants are heavy metals can all leach these important nutrients out of the body – leaving you feeling blue.
The Gut Link
The gut produces 2/3 of your body’s serotonin!  No wonder there’s such a link to stomach inflammation disorders, anxiety and depression.
Testing available:

1.       Dysbiosis (inflammation due to candida or other stomach overgrowth) - $20
2.       Zinc Tally test - $5
3.       Heavy metal challenge test with minerals or hair mineral analysis $85 – 150
4.       Food sensitivity (causes inflammation in the gut) - $215 – 315
5.       Blood or urine Candida test