So often in the world of wellness, we find ourselves getting caught up in chasing optimal health yet finding out that there’s always a better goal, diet, plan, solution, etc.
Heather Creekmore is a body image expert, speaker, and the author of Compared to Who along with the newly published The Burden of Better.
In this episode we discuss her newest book, the inspiration behind it, and WHY we need to stop comparing and set aside the heavy burden of better. Download the episode here or listen wherever you get podcasts!
But that’s not all! Heather and I are excited to share that we are partnering together one last time in 2020 to bring you our 14 day ecourse, Re-Focus 2020! In this course, we tackle the topics of body image, wellness, spiritual health, nutrition, and so much more!
To learn more about Re-Focus 2020, and to sign up, click here.
We are in the middle of a mental illness epidemic. According to a report done by the CDC in June, 25% of people between the ages of 18-24 seriously have considered suicide since March. The percentage was 16% for adults 25-44. 31% of all age groups reported experiencing anxiety or depressive disorder, and over 40% experienced adverse or behavioral health symptoms. “The prevalence of symptoms of anxiety disorder was approximately three times those reported in the second quarter of 2019 (25.5% versus 8.1%), and prevalence of depressive disorder was approximately four times that reported in the second quarter of 2019 (24.3% versus 6.5%) (2).” See full report here.
These numbers affect me on a very personal level.
I was diagnosed with PTSD at a young age, followed by depression, followed by a diagnosis of bipolar disorder by the time I was 18. I was on many different medications to attempt to treat my mental disconnect, and while some of the worked, some did more harm than good. I understand what it is like to experience the deepest of lows and the highest of highs. I know what it feels like to have a brain that you can’t control, a mind that races and thoughts that spin around and threaten any kind of peace or stability.
One thing I have learned, in my last decade of mental stability, is that our mental health symptoms are always responses to an imbalance in our internal or external environment. External triggers could be grief, stress, or lifestyle disruption. Internal triggers could be something like blood sugar issues, thyroid dysfunction, nutrient deficiencies… or poor gut health. Learning about the gut/brain connection and addressing key areas in my physical health made a huge impact on my mental health.
Now, there is no one size fits all. What worked for me is not going to work exactly the same in someone else. But I do believe everyone can benefit from improving gut health.
In a perfect world, the lining of the intestine allows entry to nutrients from our food to be absorbed and go where they’re needed. This lining is supposed to prevent toxins, bacterial overgrowth, and food products from exiting the gut lining. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work that way. When you have poor gut health, thanks to stress, toxins in the environment, overconsumption of sugar and processed foods, overuse of antibiotics or other common medications, and a whole lot of other triggers, the intestinal barrier becomes permeable, and endotoxins leak out. This is what the phrase “leaky gut” refers to. The inflammation that results leads to a myriad of health issues, but what is being studied a lot right now is the effect on the brain and mental health. Many psychiatrists are suggesting that poor gut health is at the root of many of our mental illnesses.
To further that point, it’s important to note that over 90% of our serotonin (the “happy” neurotransmitter) is produced in the gut, and serotonin cannot be produced without the assistance of amino acids. So if what we eat impacts the way our neurotransmitters are produced, it stands to reason that what we eat impacts the way our brains receive neurotransmitters and find mental wealth.
There are many lifestyle interventions that are FREE, that can benefit our brain function as well as our gut. To break it down in the most simple form possible, here’s the acronym LIVE to help you get started and give you some practical ways to start taking nourishing your gut and brain together!
In an era of information overload, it is hard to discern what is truth and what is biased. To be your own health advocate, it is important to be open to all sides, then form an assessment and make an evaluation. I dip my toes into some controversial waters to look at a different perspective in order to take a deeper look at the pre-conceived notions I have about medical research.
Dr. Jim Meehan champions honest science deployed to create genuine health. He has advanced training and experience in ophthalmology, ocular inflammation and immunology, preventive medicine, addiction medicine, and endocrinology.
In this episode that aims to challenge listeners, Dr. Meehan flips the narrative and calls into question many of our beliefs about medical research and encourages us to prove ourselves wrong and dig into the research in order to fight for our health.
This episode may make some listeners uncomfortable. But if we TRULY want to become personal health advocates and find true health, we need to do some digging. It doesn’t mean we agree with everything on all sides, but it does mean being open to other outlooks about health.
Dark ages of medical research
Should we be allowed to do our own research?
How the studies can be biased
How to discern what is based on the true scientific method and what is “pseudoscience”
The two studies he submitted that were rejected for not fitting the narrative
The importance of trying to prove yourself wrong
How randomized controlled trials are used to determine effectiveness
How to look for research that isn’t biased
The research on wearing masks
How fear suppresses the immune system
Tips to build up a healthy immune system and take control of your health
A survey from the CDC in June reported that since March, 25% of young adults ages 18-25 had seriously considered suicide since the start of the pandemic. The number for adults ages 26-44 was was 16%. This is NOT okay. We have a problem. Correction: we have HAD a problem with mental health concerns, but it seems as if the stress and isolation and fear from this pandemic have just exacerbated all of them!
I am on a continual quest to discover why. I want to know why our brains are suffering and why mental health issues are rising and why we have all the meds in the world – but we still have an epidemic of mental illness.
I don’t typically do book reviews, but these three books have been so helpful for me the last few months as I dig into all my why questions and seek to understand the root of mental health concerns. These issues will not be going away anytime soon. But we can support our bodies and brains through a variety of tools in the toolkit.
Book #1: This is Your Brain On Food by Dr. Uma Naidoo
Recently, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Dr. Naidoo and discussing her new book. Listen to the interview here. What sets this book apart, and the reason I list it number one, is that Dr. Uma is a psychiatrist AND a nutrition specialist AND a professional chef. She understands food on multiple levels, from food as medicine to food as an art to food as comfort. In her book, she details the gut/brain connection and why our food choices matter so much. Then she divides each chapter up by specific issue (depression, anxiety, bipolar, etc), and she explains a bit about the diagnosis, what foods improve that condition, what foods hinder it, along with what supplements to include. The recipes in the back of the book are simple and delicious, and I’m always a fan of adding new recipes to my repertoire!
Book #2: Brain Wash by David Perlmutter, MD and Austin Perlmutter, MD
Lately social media has been annoying me. I mean, this isn’t a new thing. There are periods of time (like election years) where it seems like comments get more heated than usual. So take an election year, add in a pandemic and a whole lot of confusion and it’s a recipe for a social media disaster! What I love about this book, Brain Wash, is that it breaks down how our brains work and why we respond the way we do under stressful circumstances. It ends with a 10 day brain detox program, incorporating all of the suggestions made in the book. I’ll be honest – I read the first half of the book twice, because it was so helpful for me. The difficult concepts are explained in a way that everyone can understand.
Book #3: The End of Mental Illness by Dr. Daniel Amen
Dr. Daniel Amen is someone I follow religiously on social media, and I admire his approach to psychiatry. Unlike most psychiatrists, he performs brain scans on his patients. He seeks to address root causes to the brain dysfunction being presented. He doesn’t diagnose and slap a prescription in someone’s hand, he looks at other tools that are helpful. In this book, he outlines all the principles he adopts with his patients and all the factors that impact our brain wellness – from blood flow to toxins to inflammation to genetics to head trauma and so much more. This book gives a lot of practical guidance on suggested supplements and changes to make to have a clear, healthy brain.
All books are available on Amazon or wherever books are sold.
Because we are in the middle of a mental health epidemic, we have a battle to fight with our brain health. There are so many tools available to support a healthy brain. These three books are excellent resources for anyone seeking to get to the root of their mental health issues.
Are there alternatives to medication for mental illness? Is there a way to avoid all the long-term side effects? What other tools can we utilize to help balance our neurotransmitters naturally?
In this interview with Dr. Josh Friedman, we take a deep dive into neurotransmitters and how to optimize them for mental wellness, via food as well as amino acid supplementation.
Dr. Friedman has a doctorate in Psychology from New York University and did post-doctoral training in Psychoanalysis from the Training and Research Institute for Self Psychology (TRISP) in New York City. He also is certified as a Holistic Health Counselor from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York and earned a Diploma of Comprehensive Nutrition (Dip.CN) from Huntington College of Health Sciences.
Download this episode wherever you get podcasts!
Key Topics include:
– The importance of digesting protein to create the right neurotransmitters
– The struggle with treatment-resistant depression
– Why B12 is essential for mental health
– How enzymes aid in digesting protein in order to benefit our mental health
– Amino acid suggestions for low serotonin, low dopamine, and low endorphins
Today is the first day of fall. The changing of seasons always feels special to me. But the shift from summer into fall is especially meaningful. The autumn season is associated with transformation and letting go of the old.
Because of this, I am partnering with my friend, fellow holistic health coach and master sports nutritionist and personal trainer, Melissa McGaughey, to bring an online 14 day coaching group for the low price of only $29 – and it starts Monday, September 28!
Melissa and I recently discussed a few of our favorite health tips on my podcast, sharing simple tools to creating healthy habits, and we thought what better way to implement some of our ideas than through a group coaching experience?!
This group is all about adding in real food, movement, and mindset, in order to nourish our bodies and minds as best as we can in this new season. The format will be through a closed Facebook group, which will encourage participation and accountability from participants and coaches. Sign up here!
Also included in the group:
Kick-off meeting through Zoom
Daily educational posts
Accountability from other participants along with the coaches
Pantry/Grocery store list
Melissa and I both strive to empower women to become their own health advocates, and this is a great time to do it! For only $29 (which is just a teensy fraction of the cost of our private coaching sessions) you are getting the encouragement from two experts for a full two weeks!
Together, we can let go of old habits that are weighing us down and embrace this new season with a complete reset – body, mind, and spirit! Contact me for more information or sign up here and I will email you a confirmation.
“People don’t make the connection between how they eat and how they feel emotionally through the brain. They don’t realize there is a connection to food and the brain and emotional well-being.”
Dr. Uma Naidoo is a board certified psychiatrist, professional chef, and nutrition specialist. She is the director of Nutritional and Lifestyle Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital and also on faculty at Harvard Medical School.
In this fascinating episode, we discuss her exciting new book, This Is Your Brain On Food, which I highly recommend. Listen to the entire episode and subscribe wherever you get podcasts or listen here.
Key topics of our conversation include:
Dr. Naidoo’s journey as a psychiatrist and professional chef
How what we eat affects our brain
The origin of the gut/brain connection
The rise of mental health concerns
Food to avoid for mental well-being
Orthorexia and food obsession
How to add more diversity in your diet
The impact of caffeine and alcohol on mental health
So much more!
Learn more about Dr. Naidoo here. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter at @drumanaidoo
Find her book on Amazon or your favorite bookstore. This book is so helpful and needs to be part of your mental health library!
I don’t remember a lot from my Latin class in college, but I remember this one phrase: “Dum spiro, spero.” It means, “While I breathe, I hope.” This quote has been heavy on my mind in light of everything going on today.
There is so much confusion and uncertainty causing mental distress and pain. It seems as if everyone is divided, and we are required to take extreme stances for every issue. I swear, if I wrote up a post about why I love having a dog, the cat people would come after me and attack my character. Totally kidding, but do you get what I’m saying? Have you felt the same way recently? It’s like everyone is on edge and forcing each other to pick sides… but when it’s the “wrong side” – you’re cancelled.
It’s exhausting. I find myself tense and edgy as a result, quick to react instead of thoughtfully respond. It keeps me in a triggered state. It keeps me STRESSED.
Chronic stress, or being in a constant state of fight or flight, can have negative effects on our immune system, digestive function, blood sugar, blood pressure, reproductive organs, decision-making ability, empathy, and so much more!
However, a regular practice of breathwork (deep intentional breathing) has been proven, time and time again, to take our body out of chronic “fight or flight” and straight into “rest and digest” mode. When we are only taking short, shallow breathes through the mouth, we perpetuate that stressed state. I’ve recently found that wearing a mask for a long time disrupts my breathing. I start breathing through my mouth more and I begin to feel a little panicked. I know that’s no bueno for my overall health.
If you could do JUST ONE THING for your health today, can you promise me you will take a few deep breaths? As you may know, I’m a big fan of the simple 4-7-8 approach. Breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds, hold for 7, and out through your mouth for 8. Repeat two to three times. There are excellent apps to help get you started in a regular breathing practice as well, from Headspace to Insight Timer, to faith-based apps like One Minute Pause and Abide.
For more on the importance of deep breathing and how to incoporate it into your daily life, check out my video below!
I take eating for my mental health seriously. I don’t prescribe to a specific diet or style of eating, but there are numerous studies out there showing that food IS mood. For those of us who fight a mood disorder of any kind, the way we eat can impact brain health.
Because our gut microbiome produces necessary neurotransmitters like dopamine and GABA, plus 90% of our mood neurotransmitter serotonin, what we digest in our gut matters. What we feed our gut impacts what our brain receives.
Not all things will be digested equally by all people. Every BODY is unique, just like every brain is unique. But generally speaking, the foods I list here can be a wonderful addition to any body and brain!
Here are 5 of my favorite mood-boosters that I always try to add to my day:
With everything going on in the world, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. I recently sat down with my friend, fellow health coach, Melissa McGaughey, and we discussed how to simplify our daily needs into just THREE things we are focusing on for our continued health.
But we didn’t just stop with us and our needs. We expanded the conversation to include the top three things that our kids need every day. You can listen to the entire episode here.
Key topics include:
Our favorite easy ways to include more whole foods into our daily diet
Why sunshine is the best way to “charge your battery”
The types of exercise we’re loving right now
Sleep hygiene and why it’s time to find some blue light blocking glasses
The importance of meditation and intentional breathing
Mindset and gratitude and the impact it makes on our whole body health
No matter where you are in your health journey, this episode will help inspire you to keep going and incorporate tiny habits to make a big impact.