Tag Archives: depression

Exercise improves mood for those with chronic illnesses

Reuters reports patients with chronic illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, and back pain improve their mood by working out on a regular basis, according to a study published in Archives of Internal Medicine. Continue reading

How to prevent holiday depression and stress

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

30% of SAMe supplements fail to pass testing

Dietary supplements containing SAMe (S-adenosyl-methionine) can be effective in treating osteoarthritis as well as depression and mood disorders, but only 7 out of ten SAM-e supplements recently selected for testing by ConsumerLab.com met all quality criteria. Furthermore, the cost of SAMe varied almost 6-fold … with the most expensive product failing! Continue reading

Secondhand smoke exposure linked to psychological problems in children, adolescents

The Los Angeles Times “Booster Shots” blog reported, “Children and teens exposed to secondhand smoke are more likely to develop symptoms for a variety of mental health problems,” according to a study in the journal Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. Continue reading

Overweight Children Are Affected More By Stress

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.

Holiday Depression And Stress

Yesterday, my last day in the medical office before Christmas, I saw three patients 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.

Indeed, the holiday season can be a time full of joy, cheer, parties, and family gatherings. But for many people, it is a time of self-evaluation, loneliness, reflection on past failures and anxiety about an uncertain future.

So, here’s some information on the holiday blues for you and yours from Mental Healthy America:

What Causes Holiday Blues?

Many factors can cause the “holiday blues”: stress, fatigue, unrealistic expectations, over-commercialization, financial constraints, and the inability to be with one’s family and friends. The demands of shopping, parties, family reunions and house guests also contribute to feelings of tension. People may also develop other stress responses such as headaches, excessive drinking, over-eating and difficulty sleeping. Even more people experience post-holiday let down after January 1. This can result from disappointments during the preceding months compounded by the excess fatigue and stress.

Tips for Coping with Stress & Depression During the Holidays

  • Keep expectations for the holiday season manageable. Try to set realistic goals for yourself. Pace yourself. Organize your time. Make a list and prioritize the important activities.
  • Be realistic about what you can and cannot do. Don’t put the entire focus on just one day (i.e., Christmas Day). Remember that it’s a season of holiday sentiment, and activities can be spread out to lessen stress and increase enjoyment.
  • Remember the holiday season does not banish reasons for feeling sad or lonely; there is room for these feelings to be present, even if the person chooses not to express them.
  • Leave “yesteryear” in the past and look toward the future. Life brings changes. Each season is different and can be enjoyed in its own way. Don’t set yourself up in comparing today with the “good ol’ days.”
  • Do something for someone else. Try volunteering some of your time to help others.
  • Enjoy activities that are free, such as taking a drive to look at holiday decorations, going window shopping or making a snowperson with children.
  • Be aware that excessive drinking will only increase your feelings of depression.
  • Try something new. Celebrate the holidays in a new way.
  • Spend time with supportive and caring people. Reach out and make new friends, or contact someone you haven’t heard from in a while.
  • Save time for yourself! Recharge your batteries! Let others share in the responsibility of planning activities.

Exercise Reduces Depression Risk

In past blogs I’ve told you about how exercise can help both prevent and treat depression. I also discuss this phenomena in my book, 10 Essentials of Happy, Healthy People: Becoming and staying highly healthy.

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Now, along comes one of the largest studies ever published on the topic (of 40,000 Norwegians), which found that people who take regular exercise during their free time are less likely to have symptoms of depression and anxiety, a study of 40,000 Norwegians has found.

However, physical activity which is part and parcel of the working day does NOT have the same effect. Writing in the British Journal of Psychiatry, the researchers said it was probably because there was not the same level of social interaction. Here are the details from the BBC:

The mental health charity Mind said that exercise and interaction aids our mental health. Higher levels of social interaction during leisure time were found to be part of the reason for the link.

Researchers from the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London teamed up with academics from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health and the University of Bergen in Norway to conduct the study.

Participants were asked how often, and to what degree, they undertook physical activity in their leisure time and during the course of their work.

Researchers also measured participants’ depression and anxiety using the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale.

People who were not active in their leisure time were almost twice as likely to have symptoms of depression compared to the most active individuals, the study found.

But the intensity of the exercise did not seem to make any difference.

Social benefits

Lead researcher Dr Samuel Harvey, from the Institute of Psychiatry, said: “Our study shows that people who engage in regular leisure-time activity of any intensity are less likely to have symptoms of depression.

“We also found that the context in which activity takes place is vital and that the social benefits associated with exercise, like increased numbers of friends and social support, are more important in understanding how exercise may be linked to improved mental health than any biological markers of fitness.

“This may explain why leisure activity appears to have benefits not seen with physical activity undertaken as part of a working day.”

Paul Farmer, chief executive of the mental health charity Mind, said that lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise are known to have a positive impact on mental well-being.

“Exercise gives you a natural high and is a great way to boost your mood. However, another mental health benefit of physical activity is derived from social interaction.

“So going out with a running club, taking part in a team sport or working on a communal allotment is far better for your mental well-being than a physically demanding job.

“Mind has found that after just a short country walk 90% of people had increased self-esteem,” Mr Farmer said.

SAMe and Depression

SAMe (S-adenosyl methionine) is getting renewed attention as an option for patients with mild-to-moderate major depression. New guidelines from the American Psychiatric Association now suggest SAMe as an alternative to conventional antidepressants (e.g., paroxetine, venlafaxine, etc) for patients interested in alternative therapies.

New research also shows that SAMe might be effective for treatment-resistant depression. Adding SAMe (SAMe Complete 400 mg, Nature Made) 400 mg twice daily to conventional treatment in nonresponders increased remission rates by about 14% after 6 weeks of treatment.

About 7 patients need to be treated with SAMe for 6 weeks for one additional patient to have remission.

The experts at the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database tell physicians, “Explain to patients that SAMe is an option worth considering. Keep in mind that SAMe isn’t covered by insurance. It can be expensive – $65 or more for a month’s supply.”

Fish oil supplements do not boost babies’ cognitive development or prevent postpartum depression

The New York Times reports, “Many women take fish oil supplements during pregnancy, encouraged by obstetricians, marketing campaigns, or the popular view that a key fish oil ingredient — docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA — is beneficial to a baby’s cognitive development.” However, a study published “in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that the DHA supplements taken by pregnant women show no clear cognitive benefit to their babies.” What’s more, researchers “found no evidence that DHA can reduce postpartum depression, except perhaps for women already at high risk for it.”

“In the new study, 2,399 women at the midpoint of their pregnancies were divided into two groups,” the Los Angeles Times reports. “One took a daily capsule of 800 mg of DHA derived from fish oil until giving birth; the other took an identical capsule filled with vegetable oil.”

Then, “six weeks and six months after each woman delivered her baby, researchers had her complete a psychological inventory to check for symptoms of depression.” Next, when the babies were about 18 months old, investigators subjected them to comprehensive batteries of tests to measure their cognitive ability.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the study authors found no evidence that the fish oil supplements prevented new mothers from postpartum depression or enhanced cognitive development in their babies. However, the study indicated that 800 mg of fish oil daily appeared to decrease the chances of developing postpartum depression by about four percent in women who already had a history of clinical depression. This was not considered a statistically significant difference, however.

According to a report in Bloomberg News, an editorial accompanying the study “said pregnant women shouldn’t give up eating low-mercury fish or taking recommended doses of fish oil, as the mineral does help prevent preterm labor and may have benefits not shown in the study.”

“The study did find that significantly fewer infants from the DHA group spent time in the neonatal intensive care unit, compared to infants in the control group — something that researchers attributed to fewer preterm births in the DHA group,” HealthDay reported. “DHA supplementation was associated with a ‘small to modest increase in the duration of gestation,’ they reported.”

WebMD reported that, despite the study’s conclusions, the authors “concede that further work is needed to determine the benefits of DHA for women with a history of depression or those at risk of delivering prematurely,” a concession echoed by the authors of the accompanying editorial.

Devotional for Men – Healthy Through and Through – Part 4 – The Emotional Wheel of Health

Here’s the fourth of an eight-part devotional for men based upon my chapter on health in Coach Joe Gibbs best-selling book, Gameplan for Life. The devotional was featured by the Men of Integrity ministry of Christianity Today. I hope you enjoy the series. Here’s Part 4 of 8:

THE SERIES’ THEME: Healthy Through and Through. What does it mean to be a truly healthy man of God?

THE EMOTIONAL WHEEL

KEY BIBLE VERSE: A cheerful disposition is good for your health; gloom and doom leave you bone-tired. (Proverbs 17:22, The Message) Dig Deeper: Proverbs 14:30, 15:13

My friend Ben is a model of emotional health. For years, I’ve watched him handle whatever life throws at him. He doesn’t pretend things are better than they are, nor does he treat the inevitable letdowns of human existence as catastrophes.

Ben is comfortable with his own emotions, neither running from nor chasing down the lows and highs along his journey. Now in his 40s, Ben is one of the most authentic people I’ve ever known. His willingness to lean into and experience the rich scope of emotion inspires me to do the same, even when it’s uncomfortable.

Being mentally healthy requires healthy brain function. Charles, a former patient of mine, lives with a severe, inherited form of chemical depression. This dysfunction, if untreated, throws his physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual wheels out of balance.

At his worst, Charles loses his appetite, motivation, and concentration. But by taking a prescribed medication, eating right, exercising, and proactively balancing his other wheels, Charles has been able to dramatically decrease the impact that his depression would otherwise have on his mental and emotional health.

MY RESPONSE: What lessons about caring for my emotional health could I take from Ben? From Charles?

1)

2)

3)

THOUGHT TO APPLY: Cheerfulness, sir, is the principle ingredient in the composition of health.—Arthur Murphy (Irish actor, writer)

I have a free assessment tool that can help you evaluate your four wheels of health. You can take it now, or at the end of this devotional series. You can download it for free here.

You can learn more about this principle in my book, 10 Essentials of Happy, Healthy People: Becoming and staying highly healthy. Autographed copies are available here.

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Here’s the entire series:

Adapted from Game Plan for Life (Tyndale, 2009) by permission. All rights reserved by the copyright holder and/or the publisher. May not be reproduced.

Positive Brain Changes Seen After Meditation (What is Christian meditation?)

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.

CAUTIONS

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.

Recommendations:

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.

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 Bible’s teaching on meditation will be examined below.
The type of meditation recommended as an alter- native 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 peace- ful environment. Most sit comfortably, focusing

Too much chocolate may be connected to depression

The Wall Street Journal reports that, according to a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, people who consume larger amounts of chocolate may be more depressed than those who eat lesser amounts of it.

“Researchers at UC San Diego and UC Davis examined chocolate consumption and other dietary intake patterns among 931 men and women who were not using antidepressants,” then screened them for depression, the Los Angeles Times reports.

“Those who screened positive for possible depression consumed an average of 8.4 servings of chocolate – defined as one ounce of chocolate candy – per month,” compared “with 5.4 servings per month among people who were not depressed.”

Bloomberg News reports that “the scientists didn’t find any evidence of a benefit from chocolate, as it didn’t seem to help people overcome their depressed mood on average.”

According to the Washington Post “The Checkup” blog, “the researchers were able to pinpoint, though, that it’s the chocolate itself – not the fat, carbs or caffeine therein – that was related to mood.”

They called for more research “to determine which of five potential scenarios best explains the chocolate-depression connection.”

So, what’s the bottom line? While, as reported in this blog in the past, small amounts of dark chocolate may be heart healthy, too much chocolate may be harmful to your mood and your waist line.

So, once again, moderation may be wise.

Most St. John’s Wort Supplements Fail Quality Tests

As I report in my best-selling book, Alternative Medicine: The claims, the options, the evidence, how to choose wisely, St. John’s wort can be a safe and effective antidepressant herb for mild to moderate depression. But, as I warned in my book, and as yet another independent quality testing lab reports, heavy metal contamination and low potency are still concerns.

ConsumerLab reports, “St. John’s wort has been shown to be effective in treating mild to moderate forms of major depression.” But, the independent quality testing lab’s newest report found that only a few of the herbal supplement brands recently tested met quality standards.

Among the ten St. John’s wort supplements selected for testing, only four (40%) met ConsumerLab.com’s quality standards. In other words, 60% of the brands tested FAILED quality testing.

Americans purchased $55 million of St. John’s wort supplements in 2008 according to the Nutrition Business Journal, down significantly from a high of $315 million in 1998. And, since natural medicines (herbs, vitamins, and supplements) are essentially unregulated in the U.S., consumers can have a difficult time finding product that is both safe and effective.

This is why I recommend to my patients, that before you invest your hard earned money in a natural medicine, spend a bit to get a quality testing labs results on the herb(s), vitamin(s), and/or supplement(s) you are considering. Single reviews of products by ConsumerLab.com cost less than a bottle of most natural medications, and can help protect your from contaminated or mislabeled product.

With St. John’s wort this is particularly important, as the herb is known to naturally heavy metals from the soil. There are more details about the ConsumerLab results below, but if you’d like an evidence-based, best-selling review of alternative medicine (including the most popular alternative therapies and natural medicines used in the U.S.) consider:

  • Purchasing a copy of Alternative Medicine: The claims, the options, the evidence, how to choose wisely here.
  • You can view the Table of Contents here.
  • You can read the First Chapter here.

Now, here are more details from the ConsumerLab.com report on St. John’s wort:

Four supplements (40% of those tested) failed testing due to contamination with cadmium, a heavy metal that can cause cancer and be a kidney toxin.

One of these four products (25%) was also contaminated with an amount of lead that, although small, would necessitate a warning label in the State of California if the company was required to test for it.

Three products (30% of those tested), including one of those contaminated with cadmium, contained only 22.6% to 36.2% of St. John’s wort plant chemicals (hypericin or hyperforin) expected from their labels.

ConsumerLab.com’s Product Review of St. John’s Wort Supplements is available here and includes results for thirteen supplements.

Ten were selected by ConsumerLab.com and three others are included in the report for having passed the same evaluation through ConsumerLab.com’s Voluntary Certification Program.

Also listed are two products similar to ones that passed but sold under different brand names.

Brands included in the report are CVS, FreeLife Depeze, Kira, L.A. Naturals, Nature’s Answer, Nature’s Bounty, Nature’s Sunshine, Nature’s Way, New Chapter, Puritan’s Pride, Rite Aid, Solaray, Standard Process, Vitamin Shoppe, and Vitamin World.  The report provides evaluations, ingredient comparisons, and expert tips on buying and using these supplements.

ConsumerLab.com is a leading provider of consumer information and independent evaluations of products that affect health and nutrition.

Reviews of St. John’s wort and many other popular types of herbs, vitamins, and supplements are available here.  Subscription to ConsumerLab.com is available online.  The company is privately held and based in Westchester, New York.  It has no ownership from, or interest in, companies that manufacture, distribute, or sell consumer products.

As readers of this blog know, I highly recommend ConsumerLab and use it almost daily in my office practice.

Belief in God Relieves Depression

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.”

If you take St. John’s wort, here’s another potential side effect you need to know about

My favorite natural medicines website is the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database and the NMCD has a new warning about St. John’s wort (SJW) and your eyesight: St. John’s wort  has now been linked to an increased risk of cataracts in new research.

There have been concerns for years, based upon animal studies, that SJW might increase cataract risk. Why? The hypericin constituent of SJW is known to be photoactive. In the presence of light, hypericin might damage lens proteins and precipitate cataracts. However, this risk has never been studied in humans — until now.

A new population study shows that taking St. John’s wort is associated with risk of developing cataracts. The researchers used self-reported data on SJW use in the past 12 months and cataracts that were obtained from the 2002 National Health Interview Survey, a nationally representative population-based sample.

After adjusting for potential confounding characteristics, participants that reported having cataracts were 59% more likely to report SJW use (OR 1.59; 95% CI 1.02-2.46). The researchers concluded, “The results of the current study provide support for an association between SJW use and cataracts.”

They also state, “Based on the methodological limitations of this study, further investigation is required.” Nevertheless, people who spend a significant amount of time in the sun may want to consider NOT taking St. John’s wort. And, people who take it may want to wear dark sunglasses whenever outside.

St. John’s wort may cool the hot flashes of menopause

Reuters Health has a nice report on the popular herbal remedy, St. John’s wort, and some news from a small study that says it may help ease menopausal hot flashes. St. John’s wort is probably best known as an herbal antidepressant, with some clinical trials suggesting that it can help relieve mild to moderate depression symptoms. A few studies have also investigated the herb’s effects on menopausal symptoms, but have focused on its impact on mood — and not the so-called vasomotor symptoms of menopause, which include hot flashes and night sweats. Here’s the Reuter’s report:

“(The) findings of our study suggest that this herbal medicine can be used to treat hot flashes due to menopause, and it is a new finding about the usage of St. John’s wort,” Marjan Khajehei, of Shiraz University of Medical Sciences in Iran, told Reuters Health in an email.

Khajehei and her colleagues found that among a group of women they randomly assigned to take either St. John’s wort or an inactive placebo for eight weeks, those using the herb saw a greater reduction in daily hot flashes.

Among women taking St. John’s wort, the average number of hot flashes declined from roughly four per day at the start of the study to fewer than two per day at week eight. In contrast, women in the placebo group were having an average of 2.6 hot flashes per day by the eighth week. The herb also appeared to lessen the duration and severity of the women’s hot flashes, Khajehei and her colleagues report in the journal Menopause.

The study included 100 women who were 50 years old, on average, and had been having moderate to severe hot flashes at least once per day. The women were randomly assigned to take either drops containing St. John’s wort extract or placebo drops three times a day for eight weeks. While women in both groups saw their hot flashes improve, those taking the herbal extract had a better response, on average.

St. John’s wort contains estrogen-like plant compounds called phytoestrogens, and it’s possible that these compounds explain the benefits seen in this study, according to Khajehei. However, she said, further research is needed to confirm that the herb eases hot flashes and that phytoestrogens are the reason.

St. John’s wort is generally considered safe when taken as directed, Khajehei noted. Still, she added, since phytoestrogens have mild estrogen-like effects in the body, women who have any contraindications to using estrogen — such as a history of breast or endometrial cancers — should talk with their doctors before starting St. John’s wort.

The herb has also been shown to interact with certain medications, including antidepressants, the heart medication digoxin, the birth control pill, and the blood thinner warfarin.

I join with many other experts who generally recommend that people on any medication talk with their doctors or pharmacists before starting an herbal remedy.

The study is published in the journal Menopause, March 2010. You can find the table of contents of this edition here. The abstract of the study is available for free toward the bottom of the page.

To learn more about alternative medicine, take a look at my best-selling book, Alternative Medicine: The Christian Handbook. You can also view the table of contents here and read the first chapter here.

You can read more on this topic at my blog entry, Natural Medications (Herbs, Vitamins, and Supplements) for Menopausal Symptomshere.

Could being bored be bad for your health?

Can you really be bored to death? According to a report in USA Today, in a commentary to be published in the International Journal of Epidemiology in April, experts will write that there’s a possibility that the more bored you are, the more likely you are to die early. After reading this report, if you feel you suffer from more boredom than you’d like, you might want to check out my book 10 Essentials of Happy, Healthy People: Becoming and staying highly healthy. You can see the Table of Contents here, and read the first chapter here.

In the USA Today article, Annie Britton and Martin Shipley of University College London caution that boredom alone isn’t likely to kill you — but it could be a symptom of other risky behavior like drinking, smoking, taking drugs or having a psychological problem.

The researchers analyzed questionnaires completed between 1985 and 1988 by more than 7,500 London civil servants ages 35 to 55. The civil servants were asked if they had felt bored at work during the previous month.

Britton and Shipley then tracked down how many of the participants had died by April 2009. Those who reported they had been very bored were two and a half times more likely to die of a heart problem than those who hadn’t reported being bored.

But when the authors made a statistical adjustment for other potential risk factors, like physical activity levels and employment grade, the effect was reduced.

Other experts said while the research was preliminary, the link between boredom and increased heart problems was possible — if not direct.

“Someone who is bored may not be motivated to eat well, exercise, and have a heart-healthy lifestyle. That may make them more likely to have a cardiovascular event,” said Dr. Christopher Cannon, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard University and spokesman for the American College of Cardiology.

He also said if people’s boredom was ultimately linked to depression, it wouldn’t be surprising if they were more susceptible to heart attacks; depression has long been recognized as a risk factor for heart disease. Cannon also said it was possible that when people are bored, dangerous hormones are released in the body that stress the heart.

Britton and Shipley said boredom was probably not in itself that deadly. “The state of boredom is almost certainly a proxy for other risk factors,” they wrote. “It is likely that those who were bored were also in poor health.”

Others said boredom was potentially as dangerous as stress.

“Boredom is not innocuous,” said Sandi Mann, a senior lecturer in occupational psychology at the University of Central Lancashire who studies boredom.

She said boredom is linked to anger suppression, which can raise blood pressure and suppress the body’s natural immunity. “People who are bored also tend to eat and drink more, and they’re probably not eating carrots and celery sticks,” she said.

Still, Mann said it was only people who were chronically bored who should be worried.

“Everybody is bored from time to time,” she said.

New Study Shows 85% of Women Say Abortions Cause Mental Health Issues

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:

Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — A new report from researchers at a university in New Zealand indicates 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.
The University of Otago team examined the medical history of over 500 women and concluded having an abortion generally “leads to significant distress in some” 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 http://www.lifenews.com/nat1941.html  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 http://www.lifenews.com/int1008.html  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.”

Loneliness is increasing and it can harm your health

In my new book (to be released in a couple of weeks), 10 Essentials of Happy, Healthy People, I have a chapter on “Avoid Loneliness Like the Plague.” Now, another expert and author on loneliness told a session Thursday on the opening day of the American Psychological Association annual meeting in Toronto that “being lonely isn’t bad for you, but staying lonely is!”

More Information: Continue reading

Study: Abortion Has More Negative Parenting Impact Than Other Pregnancy Loss

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.

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Kava for Anxiety: Is Short-Term Use Safe?

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?

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Gardening Not Only Saves Money, It’s Highly Healthy

I don’t know about your part of the world, but here in Colorado, the weather was downright balmy last week. And on Friday spring was sprung! These facts turned my and Barb’s minds toward preparing for this year’s gardening. So, I wanted to remind myself, and you, of why gardening can be highly healthy to you and those you love.

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HEADLINE: “Abortion not seen linked with depression.” Don’t believe it for a second.

Reuters is reporting today that “No high-quality study done to date can document that having an abortion causes psychological distress, or a “post-abortion syndrome,” and “efforts to show it does occur appear to be politically motivated.” They base this upon a new report by U.S. researchers. Should you believe this? Not for a New York second.

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Researchers Dismissing Abortion-Depression Link Funded by Planned Parenthood

The results of a new study from a Johns Hopkins University research team claiming that there is no link between abortions and mental health problems for women should come as no surprise. The authors of the study, which the mainstream media touted Thursday, are bankrolled by Planned Parenthood.

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Johns Hopkins Review of Abortion, Depression Link Ignores Three New Studies

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University have looked at more than a dozen studies on abortion and mental health issues and they claim there is no link. However the review failed to include three new studies all showing abortion leads to significant mental health problems for women.

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Study Agrees with Dr. Walt – St. John’s Wort effective for depression – with caveats!

The herbal remedy St. John’s Wort effectively treats symptoms of major depression, an analysis of previous studies found on Wednesday. St. John’s Wort extracts tested in the different trials were better than placebos and as effective as standard antidepressants with fewer side effects, the researchers reported in the Cochrane review, a journal that analyses medical and scientific studies.

My Take: Continue reading