Offering a unique reference point on alternative medicine and complementary therapies.

Mental Health

The Second Brain

The second brain is a phrase that has been mentioned in various books and articles, but what actually is our second brain, what does it do and how can we look after it? Many studies have been conducted over the past few years which have analysed the importance of the second brain and its connection to various chronic illnesses that in the past would have been overlooked. The second brain is actually the gut, which starts at the oesophagus and ends at the anus. The wall of the gut consists of various types of neurons and neurotransmitters that produce up to 95% of all serotonin in the body. These neurotransmitters also produce 50% of all dopamine that is produced in the body. The vagus nerve connects the digestive system to the brain. Serotonin and dopamine are widely regarded as “feel-good” molecules that are involved in the prevention of depression and in the regulation of appetite and sleep. Dopamine is also heavily involved in illnesses such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. A simple example of the connection between the two brains is how fatty foods can make us feel good, and the digestive reaction to stress such as the feeling of “butterflies” in the stomach. This indicates that the second brain could potentially play a vital role in the prevention and treatment of illnesses such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders, insomnia, obesity, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. With this connection in mind, how can we look after and nourish our second brain? Studies have found that certain strains of probiotics can result in the production of neurotransmitters including serotonin, dopamine and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) which are necessary for a healthy neuro function. Scientists have also found that these beneficial bacteria change the expression of certain receptors in the brain. This is communicated via the vagus nerve, which is a direct link between the gut and the brain. Preliminary animal research has found that a variety of these friendly bacteria may help to treat a number of mental illnesses such as depression, autism and anxiety. We can help to maintain our digestive health, by eating a diet rich in fruit and vegetables and avoiding excess sugar, salt, animal fats and processed foods....

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Understanding Depression

Understanding Depression

As can be seen the effects of depression can be varied not only in terms of severity but also in the myriad ways that these effects can manifest themselves.  Fortunately there are an ever increasing number of ways that one can help themselves cope with depression.  There are a plethora of organisations dedicated with dealing with depression, these include Mind and the Depression Alliance. As well as the use of drug therapy there also a number of alternative and complementary ways that can help with understanding depression.  These include: Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is based on the premise of how you think about yourself and your environment (your surroundings and other people ) and also on how your behaviours (actions) affect your thoughts and feelings.  It is a talking based therapy whereby the therapist will help you break down each problem and help you become aware of how helpful and realistic your thoughts and behaviours are and will then help you change the ones that are unhelpful and harmful.  According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, this treatment is as effective as antidepressants for many types of depression. CBT was found to benefit nearly half of the 234 patients who received it combined with normal care from their GP and up to two thirds of people with depression do not respond to anti-depressants according to a study in the Lancet.   St John’s Wort St John’s Wort is a wild yellow flower that has been used for treating mental problems for hundreds of years and is a herbal remedy that has been labelled ‘nature’s Prozac’.  It has been found to be effective in mild to moderate depression but it is important that you check with your GP before taking it as it can have side effects and can interfere with existing medication.   Exercise Exercise has been proven to really help with the effects of depression.  It has been proven to boost serotonin, endorphins and other feel-good chemicals in the brain.  The best news is you don’t have to train for a marathon but it can be as little as 20 minutes of moderate exercise a day.  This can include walking, aerobic exercise or even...

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Understanding Depression Part 1

Understanding Depression Part 1

Depression is a word that is becoming increasingly familiar these days, and helping people with understanding depression that can only be a good thing in terms stepping out of the shadows of shame, denial and perceived weakness. What is depression? According to dictionary.com, Depresssion is defined as : Severe despondency and dejection, accompanied by feelings of hopelessness and inadequacy. A condition of mental disturbance, typically with lack of energy and difficulty in maintaining concentration or interest in life. Based on this definition and generally talking about depression, I think that most of us have experienced feelings of hopelessness and inadequacy, lack of energy and lack of concentration from time to time but the difference is that for most of us these feelings subside fairly quickly and are not disruptive to our everyday lives. According to MIND there are also some specific forms of depression: • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) – this is seasonal depression which is related to day length. It usually comes on in the autumn and winter, when days are short and the sun is low in the sky, and gets better as the days get longer and brighter. • Postnatal depression – many mothers have ‘the baby blues’ soon after the birth of their baby, but it usually passes after a day or two. Postnatal depression is a much more serious problem and can occur any time between two weeks and two years after the birth. • Bipolar disorder (manic depression) – some people have major mood swings, when periods of depression alternate with periods of mania. When manic, they are in a state of high excitement, and may plan and may try to carry out over-ambitious schemes and ideas. They often then have periods of severe depression. In its mildest form, depression can mean just being in low spirits. It doesn’t stop you leading your normal life, but makes everything harder to do and seem less worthwhile. At its most severe, major depression (clinical depression) can be life-threatening, because it can make you feel suicidal or simply give up the will to live. The symptoms of depression can be varied and can include (list courtesy of NHS Choices): Psychological symptoms include: continuous low mood or sadness feeling hopeless...

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