This last week, I saw three patients in the office all suffering from holiday depression. One was a grandmother who had suffered the tragic loss of her first grandchild this summer. Two others were people who had lost dear ones over the last few months. It was a good reminder to me to keep an eye out this season for those around me to whom Christmas may not be a joy, but an emotional roller coaster. Continue reading
American kids are really stressed out — not least of all overweight and obese kids, according to a new survey from the American Psychological Association. The report found that children who are overweight or obese feel particularly stressed, more so than their normal-weighted peers. And such stress has a lasting impact on other lifestyle behaviors that negatively affect overweight kids’ health.
Below I have some of the details from a report in Time. If, however, your kids are overweight or obese, you may want to pick up a copy of my book, SuperSized Kids: How to protect your child from the obesity threat. The book is currently on sale in HARDCOVER for $4.99 here (save $18) and in SOFTCOVER for $1.99 here (save $11). The book is chock-full of ways you, as a parent, can help your children make wise decisions about activity, nutrition, and sleep.
If you have children or teens who are overweight, NOW is the time to make some changes. And, my book has an 8-week plan your family can put into action to start the New Year. The reason to do so is that to NOT act is to doom your kids to a shorter life with lower quality.
The new report, “Stress in America 2010,” found that the majority of Americans continue to live with moderate to high levels of stress, and while they know this isn’t healthy, they say they face obstacles that prevent them from managing or reducing their stress. They also acknowledge that they have trouble adopting other healthy behaviors like eating right, exercising and getting enough sleep. (More here on Study: Parent-Only Education Helps Children Lose Weight)
The effects of all of that appears to be trickling down to their families, particularly in households with overweight or obese parents. Obese parents were more likely than normal-weight parents to have overweight kids, and parents with overweight kids were less likely to report often or always eating healthy foods, compared with parents of thin children. What’s more, thin parents said they engaged in physical activity with their families more often than fat parents.
Along with the tendency toward unhealthy lifestyle behaviors, fat parents and fat children shared higher levels of stress.
For instance, while 31% of overweight children reported worrying about their lives, only 14% of their healthy weighted counterparts did the same.
When researchers asked about specific symptoms of stress and depression, the rates of positive responses in overweight children went up and stayed higher than in normal-weight kids: overweight children were more likely than children of healthy weight to have trouble:
- sleeping at night (48% vs. 33%),
- feel angry or get into fights (22% vs. 13%),
- experience headaches (43% vs. 28%) or
- feel listless and like they didn’t want to do anything (34% vs. 21%).
Further, children who believed they were overweight were more likely to report a parent who was “always” or often stressed out in the past month (39% vs. 30%). (More here on Do Parents Discriminate Against Their Own Chubby Children?)
Although the majority of parents didn’t their kids were affected by their stress, 91% of all children surveyed said they could tell when a parent was upset about something, and could perceive their emotional distress when they argued, complained or acted worried.
Nearly half of “tween” children aged 8 to 12 and one-third of teens aged 13 to 17 reported feeling sad in response to a parent’s distress, while large proportions also felt worried or frustrated. And while 86% of tweens said they felt comfortable talking to their parents about stressful situations, only 50% had done so in the previous month.
Additional survey data suggested that while overweight kids feel more stress, stress can also lead to additional weight gain.
Most of the children interviewed said they used sedentary activities to manage their stress:
- 36% of tweens and 66% of teens listened to music,
- 56% of tweens and 41% of teens played video games, and
- 34% of tweens and 30% of teens watched TV.
- Further, 48% of overweight teens and tweens reported disordered eating (either too much or too little) when stressed out, compared with only 16% of children at a healthy weight. (More here on Study: Fast-Food Ads Target Kids with Unhealthy Food, and It Works)
With nearly 1 in 5 children in America being overweight, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, managing stress as part of a total weight-control plan can only help.
For more data on stress in America, see the full report here.
A number of Christian scriptures recommend meditation as a spiritual discipline:
- Psalm 77:12: I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds.
- Psalm 119:15: meditate on your precepts and consider your ways.
- Psalm 119:27: Let me understand the teaching of your precepts; then I will meditate on your wonders.
- Psalm 19:14: May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.
- Psalm 104:34: May my meditation be pleasing to him, as I rejoice in the LORD.
Now, comes a study showing that positive brain changes take hold after just 11 hours of practicing a form of meditation. Here are the details in a report from HealthDay News:
The study included 45 University of Oregon students who were randomly selected to be in either a study group that did integrative body-mind training (IBMT) or a control group that did relaxation training.
IBMT was adapted from traditional Chinese medicine in the 1990s.
A comparison of scans taken of the students’ brains before and after the training showed that those in the IBMT group had increased brain connectivity. The changes were strongest in connections involving the anterior cingulate, an area that plays a role in the regulation of emotions and behavior, Yi-Yuan Tang of Dalian University of Technology in China, University of Oregon psychologist Michael I. Posner, and colleagues found.
The boost in brain connectivity began after six hours of IBMT and became more apparent after 11 hours of practice, according to the report published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The meditation-induced changes may be due to a reorganization of white-matter tracts or due to an increase of myelin that surrounds the brain connections, the study authors suggested.
“The importance of our finding relates to the ability to make structural changes in a brain network related to self-regulation. The pathway that has the largest change due to IBMT is one that previously was shown to relate to individual differences in the person’s ability to regulate conflict,” Posner said in a university news release.
In my book, Alternative Medicine: The Christian Handbook, I write this about meditation:
What it is:
Meditation is a word that has been so broadly applied to an array of both healthy and harmful activities that it is difficult to get consistent agreement about its impact on health.
For example, one person’s idea of meditating may be to sit quietly while encouraging his body to relax. He will inhale deeply, exhale slowly, and create a moment of restful quiet in the midst of an otherwise hectic day.
Another person’s idea is to tune out everything while daydreaming or concentrating on something that is not the primary concern of the moment.
When discussing meditation, it is crucial to make sure that everyone knows what everyone means by the term.
In general, it refers to a whole range of practices generally designed to take our minds off everyday business and stressful activities, helping us become more relaxed and reflective. Some use it to reduce or eliminate rational thoughts.
The type of meditation recommended as an alternative therapy sometimes has its origin in Eastern religions and mysticism.
Transcendental Meditation (TM) is a recent adaptation of these older concepts.
In general, the meditator wants to relax in a peaceful environment. Most sit comfortably, focusing their thoughts on something that minimizes troubling or distracting thoughts.
Some focus on their own breathing, concentrating on the movement of air in and out of their lungs. Others repeat a mantra — a sacred word or formula given by a spiritual master — or just an ordinary phrase. With practice, people can consciously relax their muscles and learn to control other bodily functions not usually under their control.
What the research shows:
Clinical studies have confirmed that meditation can provide short-term benefits in reducing stress, relieving chronic pain, and reducing blood pressure.
Studies also have shown that meditation can give some people a better sense of happiness and control of their bodies.
However, what has not been shown is whether these changes have long-term health benefits.
For example, a 2001 review found twenty-seven studies examining the impact of patients’ anxiety levels before surgery on their recovery after surgery. These studies didn’t examine the impact of any relaxation techniques, just whether anxiety was related to recovery.
Clear connections were shown between pre-surgery anxiety and post-surgery mood and pain. However, no clear associations were found between anxiety and more objective measures of recovery such as length of stay in hospital or rate of wound healing.
The field of research examining the impact of anxiety and relaxation on physical recovery and healing is relatively new, with evidence not yet available for many interesting issues.
Meditation has been documented to cause problems.
Transcendental Meditation, initially promoted by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, was very popular in the 1960s and did much to familiarize Americans with meditation and Hinduism. But studies have found that its results are not always positive.
Almost half of those active as TM trainers reported episodes of anxiety, depression, confusion, frustration, mental and physical tension, and inexplicable outbursts of antisocial behavior.
Other studies have documented adverse effects as serious as psychiatric hospitalization and attempted suicide.
Problems can arise when meditation is viewed as a simple exercise, when in fact it has considerable power to deeply impact a person psychologically and spiritually.
The spiritual enlightenment some maintain occurs in meditation can involve contact with spirit guides.
The desire to rely more on one’s own intuition contrasts with the biblical declaration that our intuition can lead to falsehood and deception.
In many ways, humanity’s problems stem from our reliance on ourselves to know what is best. God told Moses to have the Israelites sew tassels onto the corners of their garments to remind them of this important teaching. “You will have these tassels to look at and so you will remember all the commands of the LORD, that you may obey them and not prostitute yourselves by going after the lusts of your own hearts and eyes” (Numbers 15:39; see also Deuteronomy 12:8; Judges 17:6).
Insight received during meditation is especially problematic.
Divination and visions are altered states of consciousness used to gain spiritual insight. Yet unless this insight comes from God, it only reveals the futility and deception of people’s own minds.
“Then the LORD said to me, ‘The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I have not sent them or appointed them or spoken to them. They are prophesying to you false visions, divinations, idolatries and the delusions of their own minds’.” (Jeremiah 14:14; see also 23:16 – 17, 25 – 32).
God spoke through the prophet Ezekiel to warn the Israelites about “those who prophesy out of their own imagination” (Ezekiel 13:2).
What is learned during meditation must be evaluated, both medically and biblically.
Christians should relax and reduce unnecessary stress in their lives. “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth” (Psalm 46:10).
The Bible tells us to meditate: “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful” (Joshua 1:8; see also Psalms 1:2–3; 19:14; 49:3; 104:34; 119:97, 99).
But Christian meditation is not emptying one’s mind or focusing on one’s inner self.
Rather, it is filling one’s mind with biblical truth while focusing on the Creator God of the universe.
We will gain insight when we meditate on biblical truth. But this insight is based on the revealed Word of God and should lead to a life more in conformity with his ways.
Christians should make every effort to retain control over their thought life. “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).
Altered states of consciousness can open people to spiritual suggestion, making them vulnerable to demonic or other unwholesome influences. Meditation should therefore be seen as a method of promoting reasoned reflection on God and his Word.
For my book, Alternative Medicine: The Christian Handbook:
- You can order an signed copy here.
- You can see the Table of Contents here.
- You can read the First Chapter here.
We’ve known for many years that stress and anxiety can affect a woman’s pregnancy, labor, and delivery. Now, a new study is connecting stress and conception.
The new “study involved 274 British women 18 to 40 years old” who “were followed for six menstrual cycles or until they got pregnant, whichever came first.”
The Time “Wellness” blog reported that the study found “no correlation between women’s levels of cortisol, another more commonly measured stress hormone, and their chance of conception,” however.
But, “the researchers worry that, in a cruel twist, the inability to conceive may create a vicious cycle of stress for some women. ‘It has been suggested that stress may increase with the disappointment of several failed attempts at getting pregnant, setting off a cycle in which pregnancy becomes even more difficult to achieve,’ said study collaborator [Germaine] Buck Louis in a statement from” the National Institutes of Health.
According to the CNN “The Chart” blog, the study does not explain “why high levels of alpha-amylase may reduce the chance of getting pregnant, but it could be because stressful situations may reduce blood flow and delay the transport of fertilized eggs, which can contribute to the failure to conceive.”
CQ HealthBeat noted, “Finding ways to relax could increase the odds of becoming pregnant, but researchers said turning to tobacco or alcohol to unwind wouldn’t do the trick since they reduce the likelihood of pregnancy.”
I wanted you to read an excerpted from, “Belief in God Relieves Depression,” an interesting article in the The Washington Times by Jennifer Harper:
The “Big Man Upstairs” is getting accolades from mental health specialists who say they are finding that a belief in God plays a positive role in the treatment of anxiety and depression. University of Toronto psychologists reported last year that “believing in God can help block anxiety and minimize stress,” their research showcasing “distinct brain differences” between believers and nonbelievers.
In patients diagnosed with clinical depression, “belief in a concerned God can improve response to medical treatment,” said the new research, which has been published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology. The operative term here is “caring,” the researchers said.
“The study found that those with strong beliefs in a personal and concerned God were more likely to experience an improvement.”
“In our study, the positive response to medication had little to do with the feeling of hope that typically accompanies spiritual belief,” said study director Patricia Murphy, a chaplain at Rush and an assistant professor of religion, health and human values. “It was tied specifically to the belief that a Supreme Being cared,” she said.
“We found that religious people or even people who simply believe in the existence of God show significantly less brain activity in relation to their own errors,” said Michael Inzlicht, assistant psychology professor at the University of Toronto, who led the research. “They’re much less anxious and feel less stressed when they have made an error,” he said.
A fellow member of the Christian Medical and Dental Associations with me, lawyer and psychiatrist Robert Rogan, DO, JD, wrote this in response:
Faith is “the substance of things hoped for.”
Many of us can still recall what living without Christ was like – everything was up to us. Striving and uncertainty were the norm for many of us. A serious disease was terrible and overwhelming with seemingly no chance of hope.
Realizing there is Someone infinitely greater who really cares about us, even loves us, brings great assurance and relief.
Today, unfortunately, we’re taught to be an “army of one.”
As per the article the belief that a Supreme being cared for the patient made the difference in healing and recovery. We can even believe that our mistakes and failures are for a good (perhaps divine) purpose.
Have we not as physicians noticed the trend that patients with faith recover sooner and may even have ‘thinner’ charts?
Of course the researchers did not cover the actual experience of salvation through Christ and the freedom associated therewith. Also the article did not specify the actual brain responses revealed in the study.
Nevertheless, for us as Christian physicians we need to stay alert to the patient’s faith and work with that faith to develop the best treatment plan for them.
Our faith is in that same Supreme being (in most cases). But, our current politically correct environment makes our work more challenging and that is where our faith comes into play.
Let us not forget that God designed our brain’s neurochemistry too.
All I can say, is, “Amen.”
LifeNews.com is reporting on a new study from researchers at a university in New Zealand which found that 85 percent of women who had abortions report negative mental health issues as a result. The report is the latest from professor David Fergusson and his team showing abortions cause problems for women.
According to the LifeNews report, the University of Otago team examined the medical history of over 500 women and concluded having an abortion generally “leads to significant distress” in women who have them.
It noted women reporting adverse reactions to their abortions were up to 80 percent more likely to have mental health problems and risk of mental illness was “proportional to the degree of distress” associated with the abortion.
The study, which appears in the latest issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry, examined data from women who had been interviewed six times between the ages of 15 and 30 and who were asked if they were pregnant and, if so, the outcome of the pregnancy.
More than 85 percent of women reported negative reactions to their abortions including sorrow, sadness, guilt, regret, grief and disappointment.
The study revealed that women who have abortions face more negative mental health problems resulting from that pregnancy outcome as compared with women who keep their baby and carry to term. Women having abortions had rates of mental health problems “approximately 1.4 to 1.8 times higher than women not exposed to abortion.”
Ultimately, Fergusson and his team said there is little justification for saying that legal abortions should be promoted on the basis of a improving a woman’s mental health.
“Collectively, this evidence raises important questions about the practice of justifying termination of pregnancy on the grounds that this procedure will reduce risks of mental health problems in women having unwanted pregnancy,” the team wrote.
The team said the study showed no reason to “support strong pro-choice positions that claim unwanted pregnancy terminated by abortion is without mental health risks.”
The new study is a follow-up to previous studies Fergusson and his team conducted showing women who have abortions are more likely to become severely depressed.
The original 2006 study found some 42 percent of the women who had abortions had experienced major depression within the last four years. That’s almost double the rate of women who never became pregnant. The risk of anxiety disorders also doubled.
According to the study, women who have abortions were twice as likely to drink alcohol at dangerous levels and three times as likely to be addicted to illegal drugs.
A second study Fergusson’s team released found that women who had abortions had rates of mental health problems about 30% higher than other women. The conditions most associated with abortion included anxiety disorders and substance abuse disorders.
The authors concluded that anywhere from 1.5 to 5.5 percent of all mental health disorders seen in New Zealand result from women having abortions.
British Victims of Abortion, which helps women who suffer medical and mental health problems after an abortion, has welcomed the results of the new report.
Margaret Cuthill of BVA commented: “What we at British Victims of Abortion hear in the counseling room confirms the truth of Professor Fergusson’s results.”
You can read my other blogs on the topic here:
Amy Sobie is the editor of The Post-Abortion Review, a quarterly publication of the Elliot Institute. The organization is a widely respected leader in research and analysis of medical, mental health, and other complications resulting from abortions. This very informative article of hers was carried in Life News.
More Information: Continue reading
A water-soluble extract of the plant kava was found to be safe and highly effective for the short-term treatment of anxiety in a new study. But concerns about its long-term safety and the safety of other kava formulations remain. Should you consider using it?
More Information: Continue reading
According to the BBC, a Swedish study is reporting that anxiety, depression, and sleepless nights increase the risk of diabetes in men. Researchers found men with high levels of “psychological distress” had more than double the risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those with low levels.
My Take? Continue reading