If you believe in the paranormal you might not be surprised if you hear stories of deceased loved ones appearing during the night, huge explosions heard just as someone is drifting off with no obvious cause, and other peculiar occurrences. But what if you don’t?
My interest in the paranormal started with an impromptu coffee with a colleague, Chris French, who researches reports of paranormal experiences. He told me stories of countless people who had recounted such events. These experiences tended to start while lying in bed. Then something unusual would happen – perhaps a demon would appear or the environment would seem strange or there would be a sensed presence. The person having this experience might also report being glued to their mattress, tarmacked into the bed, totally unable to move.
It’s unsurprising that people who experience such things might interpret them as paranormal. But certain phenomena such as sleep paralysis provide an alternative to paranormal explanations for such occurrences. Hence my interest in the subject, as a sleep researcher.
When we sleep, we cycle through different stages. We start the night in non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep – which gets progressively deeper. We then cycle back until we hit rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. During REM sleep we are most likely to have vivid dreams. At this stage we are also paralysed, perhaps as a safety mechanism to stop us acting out our dreams so that we don’t end up attempting to fly.
But during sleep paralysis, features of REM sleep continue into waking life. Those who experience it will feel awake yet might experience dream-like hallucinations and struggle to move. This experience is pretty common, occurring in around 8% of people (although estimates vary dramatically depending on who we are asking). It’s even possible to induce sleep paralysis in some people, by disrupting their sleep in specific ways.
Certain researchers, French among them, believe that this explains a huge number of paranormal accounts. Information about sleep paralysis is finally seeping into public awareness, but we now need to understand more about this common complaint.
Sleep paralysis aside, how else are sleep researchers helping to explain paranormal experiences? People sometimes describe experiencing huge explosions during the night which simply can’t be explained. There is no sign that a shelf has fallen down or a car has backfired. There is no one playing the electric guitar next to their head.
Again, this can be linked to our sleep – this time explained by “exploding head syndrome”, a term coined relatively recently by the neurologist JMS Pearce. When we fall asleep, the reticular formation of the brainstem (a part of our brain involved in consciousness) typically starts to inhibit our ability to move, see and hear things. When we experience a “bang” in our sleep this might be because of a delay in this process. Instead of the reticular formation shutting down the auditory neurons, they might fire at once.
As with sleep paralysis, this phenomenon is also under-researched. For this very reason, in 2017 my colleagues and I joined forces with BBC Focus and Brian Sharpless, a leading expert on this phenomenon, to collect data on this topic.
Imps and ghouls
Finally, what might scientists make of precognitive dreams? We might dream of a friend we haven’t seen for years only to have them call us the very next day. French thinks science can provide an explanation for this too. Referencing work by John Allen Paulos that focuses on probabilities, he explains how such an occurrence may be surprising on any single day, but over time, quite likely to occur.
Researching my book, I spoke to Mrs Sinclair, who is 70, and lives alone. She told me about what she had thought was a ghost living in her house, an imp throttling her during the night and other things that had left her petrified. Having scientific explanations provided her with immense comfort and she no longer believes in paranormal explanations for the things that she experienced.
Our hope is that scientific explanations of paranormal experiences might help others by lowering anxiety. Decreasing anxiety has also been hypothesised as a potential method by which to reduce sleep paralysis. So, perhaps providing more information about these unusual experiences might even mean that things are less likely to go bump in the night.
This article is copyrighted by GreenMedInfo LLC, 2018
As if depression or anxiety is not enough to deal with, many people have to deal with both. Alarmingly, about 85% of people with depression also experience some anxiety; about 90% of people with anxiety suffer some depression (Eur Arch Psychiatry Clin Neurosci 2016;266(8):725–736). When people suffer from depression and anxiety simultaneously, the condition is more disabling and harder to treat
There is also a condition called Mixed Anxiety and Depressive Disorder (MADD), in which neither one predominates or is severe enough to warrant a psychiatric diagnosis separately, but, combined, do warrant a diagnosis.
Several natural supplements are effective for treating both depression and anxiety. Knowing about these treatments can be important from a perspective both of cost and of effectiveness.
An important emerging herb for the treatment of depression is saffron. When people with depression were given 30mg of saffron extract or 100mg of the drug imipramine, the improvement was equal in the two groups, but the saffron was better because it was safer (BMC Complement Altern Med 2004;4:12). When 15mg of saffron petal extract or 10mg of Prozac are taken twice a day by people with depression, saffron brings about a significant effect that is equal to the effect of Prozac (JEthnopharmacol 2005;97:281-284; Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry 2007;31:439-442). Meta-analyses of saffron and depression have found the herb to be better than placebo and at least as good as drugs with the advantage of being safer (J Integr Med 2013;11:377-383; Hum Psychopharmacol 2014;29:517-527).
Excitingly, a recent study has shown for the first time that saffron is also an effective treatment for anxiety in people with depression and anxiety. This double-blind study gave 54 people with both mild to moderate depression and anxiety, according to the Beck Inventory, either a placebo or 100mg of saffron a day for twelve weeks. The saffron group had significantly greater improvement in depression than the placebo group with a 2 point greater improvement. The significant improvement in depression is consistent with the earlier saffron studies. What is new and exciting about this study is that the saffron group also had a significantly greater improvement in anxiety: the improvement was 3 points better than the placebo group (J Complement Integr Med 2016;13(2):195-199).
The evidence continues to mount for this impressive herb. When sixty people with mild to moderate depression and anxiety were given the SSRI citalopram or 30mg of saffron for six weeks, the response to both treatments for depression and anxiety was significant and equal, meaning that saffron was as good as the drug (Pharmacopsychiatry 2017;50(04):152-60).
And now, in a just published study that seems to be the first study of kids with MADD, 68 kids between the ages of 12 and 16 were given either a placebo or 14mg of standardized saffron extract twice a day for eight weeks. All of the kids suffered from mild to moderate depression and anxiety. They were then evaluated for separation anxiety, social phobia, generalized anxiety, panic, obsessions/compulsions, and depression. The saffron produced significantly better improvements in overall symptoms and separately on separation anxiety, social phobia and depression. Overall, the saffron group had a 33% reduction in their symptoms compared to a reduction of only 17% in the placebo group. Anyone who had a greater than 50% improvement in total score was considered to be a responder. While only 11% of the placebo group were responders, 37% of the saffron group were (J Affect Disord 2018;232:349-357).
This gentle herb is as powerful as the not so gentle anti-anxiety drugs. Lavender oil capsules were compared to the benzodiazepine lorazepam in a six week study of people with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). The results were the same for both treatments: lavender produced a 45% improvement on the Hamilton Anxiety Scale (HAMA) and lorazepam produced a 46% improvement. Unlike benzodiazepines, though, the lavender oil was safe, non-sedating and non-addictive (Phytomed 2010;17(2):94-9).
Lavender can also compete with antidepressant drugs. People suffering from depression were given 60 drops of lavender tincture and placebo or 100mg of the antidepressant drug imipramine and placebo or 60 drops of lavender and 100mg of imipramine in a double-blind study. After 4 weeks, all 3 groups improved significantly. The group taking both imipramine and lavender experienced a significantly greater improvement than those taking either treatment alone (Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry 2003;27(1):123-7).
But what if you suffer from both anxiety and depression? When people with MADD were given 80mg of lavender oil or placebo for seventy days in a double-blind study, scores on the HAMA dropped significantly more in the lavender group: 10.8 points versus 8.4. Depression scores also dropped significantly more in the lavender group: 9.2 points versus 6.1. People on lavender had better clinical outcomes and better improvement in quality of life (Eur Neuropsychopharmacol 2016;26:331–40).
Adding to the evidence is a study that compared 160mg of lavender oil a day to the SSRI paroxetine in people with GAD. After 10 weeks, HAMA scores decreased by 14.1 points on lavender but only by 11.3 points on paroxetine. 60.3% of people on lavender oil reduced their HAMA score by at least 50% compared to 43.2% on paroxetine. 46.3% of the lavender oil group now had scores below 10 versus only 34.1% of the paroxetine group. Interestingly for our topic, the lavender oil also showed “a pronounced antidepressant effect.” The researchers concluded that, for GAD, lavender oil is better and safer than paroxetine (Int J Neuropsychopharmacol 2014;17(6):859-869).
And one more intriguing thing about lavender, depression and anxiety. Anxiety, stress and depression during pregnancy can have a negative effect on the health of both the mother and child. So, in a double-blind study, researchers asked 141 healthy pregnant women to rub either placebo cream or lavender cream onto their legs for ten to twenty minutes 1.5 hours before going to bed. The lavender cream contained 1.25% lavender essential oil. At the end of the eight week study, there was significant improvement in anxiety, stress and depression in the lavender group compared to the placebo group. By the end of only the fourth week, there was already significant improvement in stress and anxiety (J Caring Sci 2015;4:63-73).
St. John’s Wort
St. John’s wort is well known as a herb for depression. Less well known is that one double-blind study has also demonstrated that St. John’s wort reduces anxiety (Fortschr Med 1995;113:404-8).
In an impressive study, 43% of people who had not responded to any antidepressant drug responded to 5-HTP. An additional 8% improved significantly (Neuropsychobiol 1980;6:230-40). A review of studies determined that 5-HTP is as effective as tricyclic antidepressant drugs (Biol Psychiatry 1981;16:291-310). 5-HTP beat an SSRI, the leading class of antidepressant drug: 60.7% responded to the 5-HTP versus 56.1% to the drug. 5-HTP brought about a greater response, and it did it faster and safer (Psychopathology 1991;24:53–81). And in a double-blind study, 5-HTP was the equal of Prozac (Asian J Psychiatr 2013;6:29-34).
But a placebo-controlled study has now also shown that 200mg of 5-HTP significantly reduces the reaction to a panic challenge in people with panic disorders. There was improvement in anxiety, panic symptom score and the number of panic attacks (Psychiatry Res 2002;113:237-43).
Rhodiola has the impressive ability to calm you down and energize you at the same time. Rhodiola calms stress, improves well-being and decreases mental and physical fatigue. When 80 people with mild anxiety were given either 200mg of Rhodiola rosea or nothing twice a day for two weeks, compared to the control group, the rhodiola group experienced significant reductions in anxiety, stress, anger, depression and confusion. They also had significant improvement in overall mood (Phytother Res 2015; 29(12):1934-9). So, rhodiola also helps both anxiety and depression.
A strange addition to the list is probiotics: not usually thought of as a psychological supplement. In the first ever study of probiotics and psychological conditions, people with depression had significantly better improvement in mood on a probiotic than on a placebo (Eur J Clin Nutr 2007;61:355-61). That study introduced probiotics as a supplement for depression. A second study found that a month of probiotics significantly improved depression and anger (Gut Microbes 2011;2:256-61). But, the same study also found significant improvement in anxiety. An earlier study had already hinted at an antianxiety effect for probiotics: a placebo-controlled study of people with chronic fatigue syndrome found that probiotics significantly reduced their anxiety scores (Gut Pathology 2009;1:6-10). So, the research also points to probiotics as a supplement for people with both depression and anxiety.
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Worldwide, depression is the leading cause of ill health and disability, and anxiety is the most common mental illness in the U.S.
In the U.S., more than 16 million people struggle with depression, and 1 in 4 women in their 40s and 50s are on antidepressant drugs. Up to 14 percent of pregnant women are also on antidepressants, despite the risk of birth defects
There are compelling links between a high-sugar, processed food diet and poor mental health outcomes, and studies investigating the connection between obesity and mental health add further support to the diet-depression link
Studies have shown women with abdominal obesity are at increased risk of anxiety and depression
On the whole, a diet that nourishes your gut microbiome, reduces insulin resistance and optimizes mitochondrial function — such as a cyclical ketogenic diet — is going to have a beneficial impact on both your physical and mental health
By Dr. Mercola
Depression and anxiety are two leading mental health problems that have seen a dramatic rise in incidence in recent years. Worldwide, depression is now the leading cause of ill health and disability,1,2 with rates rising 18 percent in the decade between 2005 and 2015.3
In the U.S., more than 16 million people struggle with the condition, and 1 in 4 women in their 40s and 50s are on antidepressant drugs.4 This, despite the fact that antidepressants have been proven to work no better than placebo.5,6,7,8 Eight9 to 14 percent10 of pregnant women are also on antidepressants, even though studies have linked their use during pregnancy to birth defects.11
Meanwhile, data from the National Institute of Mental Health suggests the prevalence of anxiety disorders — which include generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety and panic disorder — may be as high as 40 million in the U.S. — about 18 percent of the population over the age of 18 — making it the most common mental illness in the nation,12,13 and 800 percent more prevalent than all forms of cancer.14
As described by Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love, panic attacks — which are on the more severe end of the anxiety spectrum — can occur “out of nowhere” without warning.15 Love had his first panic attack during a game against the Atlanta Hawks, and has since spoken out about this particular mental health challenge to break the stigma and encourage others to seek treatment.
Abdominal Obesity Linked to Depression
Just what might account for this remarkable rise in anxiety and depression? I’ve previously written about the compelling links between a high-sugar, processed food diet and poor mental health outcomes, and studies investigating the connection between obesity and mental health add further support to the diet-depression link. As noted in Prevent Disease:16
“Abdominal fat distribution (as measured by waist-hip ratio) appears to be a key mediator in the relationship between obesity and depression … Several studies have found that a disproportionate number of patients with mental illness are obese compared to the general population. A study17 comprising randomly selected outpatients receiving psychiatric care in Maryland found that their body mass index was almost twice that of the comparison group.”
Another more recent study18 looking at body fat distribution and depression found very similar results. Postmenopausal women who had abdominal obesity were significantly more likely to struggle with depression than not (37.6 percent versus 27.5 percent respectively), leading the researchers to conclude that “visceral fat accumulation was an independent and positive factor significantly associated with the presence of depressive symptoms.”
How Your Waist Size Influences Your Anxiety Risk
A third paper,19,20 published earlier this month, found a woman’s waist-to-height ratio was associated with anxiety. This was the first time this body measurement has been linked to anxiety specifically. As a general rule, a woman is considered obese if her waist measurement is more than half of her height measurement.
Data from 5,580 Latin American women between the ages of 40 and 59 were evaluated. Overall, those with waist-to-height ratios in the middle and upper thirds were at significantly higher risk for anxiety than those with less abdominal obesity. Those with the greatest abdominal obesity were also the most likely to actually exhibit outward signs of anxiety. As reported in the featured article:21
“Anxiety is a concern because it is linked to heart disease, diabetes, thyroid problems, respiratory disorders and drug abuse, among other documented medical problems. Research has shown an increase in the frequency of anxiety in women during midlife, likely as a result of decreased levels of estrogen, which has a neuroprotective role.
‘Hormone changes may be involved in the development of both anxiety and abdominal obesity because of their roles in the brain as well as in fat distribution. This study provides valuable insights for health care providers treating middle-aged women, because it implies that waist-to-height ratio could be a good marker for evaluating patients for anxiety,’ says Dr. JoAnn Pinkerton, [North American Menopause Society] executive director.”
Insulin Resistance Is a Major Factor in Mental Health
Insulin resistance is a driving factor not only in obesity but also in most chronic diseases, and based on the evidence, it’s clear it plays a significant role in your mental health as well. After all, your physical and psychological health are closely linked. For example, your vagus nerve connects your gut to your brain, which is why gut dysfunction can wreak such havoc on your psychological states.
On the whole, any diet that nourishes your gut microbiome, reduces insulin resistance and optimizes mitochondrial function — such as a cyclical ketogenic diet — is going to have a beneficial impact on both your physical and mental health. A key dietary culprit that does none of those beneficial things is sugar, and research has repeatedly found that high-sugar diets encourage depression and anxiety. Among them:
Research22 published in 2002, which correlated per capita consumption of sugar with prevalence of major depression in six countries, found “a highly significant correlation between sugar consumption and the annual rate of depression.”
In 2011, Spanish researchers linked depression specifically to consumption of baked goods. Those who ate the most baked goods had a 38 percent higher risk of depression than those who ate the least.23
A 2016 study24 found a strong link between diets high in processed foods, sweetened beverages and refined grains and depression in post-menopausal women. The higher a woman’s dietary glycemic index, the higher her risk of depression. Meanwhile, diets high in whole fruit, fiber, vegetables and lactose were associated with lowered odds of depression.
A 2017 study found that men who consumed more than 67 grams of sugar per day were 23 percent more likely to develop anxiety or depression over the course of five years compared to those who ate less than 40 grams of sugar per day.25
The Importance of Healthy Dietary Fats for Brain Health
Most notably, high-sugar, processed food diets promote insulin resistance, which in turn encourages fat accumulation and Type 2 diabetes. According to work by the late Dr. Joseph Kraft, author of “Diabetes Epidemic and You: Should Everyone Be Tested?” 80 percent — 8 out of 10 — Americans are in fact insulin resistant.26,27 It’s no wonder then that conditions rooted in insulin resistance — including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression and anxiety — are all skyrocketing.
Sugar is also incredibly inflammatory, and chronic inflammation has also been identified as a major factor in depression. Some believe it’s causative.28,29,30 The inflammatory cascade triggered by excessive amounts of sugar also damage your mitochondria. Your mitochondria generate the vast majority of the energy (adenosine triphosphate or ATP) in your body.
When your body uses sugar as its primary fuel, excessive reactive oxygen species (ROS) and secondary free radicals are created, which damage cellular mitochondrial membranes and DNA. Needless to say, as your mitochondria become dysfunctional, the cellular energy your body can produce goes down, which means your entire body will struggle to work properly, including your brain. Since your brain is a heavy energy feeder, even a small dip will result in impaired function that can translate into depressed mood.
Healthy dietary fats, on the other hand, create far fewer ROS and free radicals when burned for fuel. Fats are also critical for the health of cellular membranes and many other biological functions, especially the functioning of your brain. This is one of several reasons why a cyclical ketogenic diet is so beneficial for your mental health. In fact, mental clarity is often one of the first “side effects” people notice when going ketogenic.
Nutrition to the Rescue
While anxiety and depression can be triggered by any number of factors, there’s ample evidence to support the idea that your diet can have a tremendous impact, as it lays the groundwork for your physical and mental functioning. For this reason, it would be foolish to ignore it.
Again, one of the root contributors to depression is insulin resistance, which brings inflammation in its wake. The good news is that insulin resistance is an easily corrected health problem, and I detail the dietary protocol for this in my book “Fat for Fuel.” Here are a few key points to remember:
• Dramatically reduce your sugar intake by replacing processed foods with real whole foods. Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables is associated with lower odds of depression and anxiety,31 an effect ascribed to antioxidants that help combat inflammation.
Certain nutrients are also known to cause symptoms of depression when lacking, so it’s important to eat a varied whole food diet. As a general rule, if you’re insulin resistant, limit your added sugar intake to 15 grams per day until your insulin resistance has resolved. At that point, you can go up to 25 grams.
• Replace sugar and grain carbs with healthy fats. Examples include avocados, grass fed meats, pastured butter, organic pastured eggs, coconut oil, MCT oil, raw cacao butter and raw nuts. To learn more, see the beginner’s section of my nutritional plan.
Most people need anywhere from 60 to 80 percent of their daily calories in the form of healthy fats. Just be sure to avoid vegetable oils, such as soy, canola and corn oil, which are toxic to the human body. Dr. Cate Shanahan’s book “Deep Nutrition” provides an in-depth review of dietary fats and how processed vegetable oils harm your health.
• Limit protein to 0.5 grams per pound of lean body mass (or for the Europeans: 1 gram per kilo of lean body mass). In addition to stimulating mTOR, protein also affects your insulin and leptin. Dietary fats do not affect either. As a result, a low-carb, high-protein diet may still be troublesome if you’re struggling with obesity, insulin resistance or diabetes. To learn more about the importance of protein restriction, see “Precision Matters When It Comes to Protein.”
• Consider intermittent fasting and/or multiday water-only fasts, which will jump-start your body’s ability to burn fat for fuel and dramatically improve your insulin sensitivity. Water fasting can be particularly powerful if you’re obese. However, it’s significantly easier to transition into water fasting if you start with intermittent fasting.
Once you’ve worked your way up to the point where you’ve been intermittently fasting for 20 hours a day for a month, then doing a four or five-day water fast will not be particularly difficult.
Nondrug Solutions for Depression and Anxiety Disorders
Remember, to suggest that depression is rooted in poor diet and other lifestyle factors does not detract from the fact that it’s a serious problem that needs to be addressed with compassion and nonjudgment. It simply shifts the conversation about what the most appropriate answers and remedies are. Considering the many hazards associated with antidepressants, it would be wise to address the known root causes of depression, which are primarily lifestyle-based.
Drugs, even when they do work, do not actually fix the problem. They only mask it. Antidepressants may also worsen the situation, as many are associated with an increased risk of suicide, violence and worsened mental health in the long term. So, before you resort to medication, please consider addressing your diet (above) and try out several of the lifestyle strategies listed below until you find a combination that works for you.
Limit microwave exposure from wireless technologies
Studies have linked excessive exposure to electromagnetic fields to an increased risk of both depression and suicide.32 Addiction to or “high engagement” with mobile devices can also trigger depression and anxiety.33 Research34 by Martin Pall, Ph.D., helps explain why these technologies can have such a potent impact on your mental health.
Embedded in your cell membranes are voltage gated calcium channels (VGCCs), which are activated by microwaves. When that happens, about 1 million calcium ions per second are released, which triggers a biochemical cascade that results in mitochondrial dysfunction.
Your brain, along with the pacemaker in your heart, has the highest density of VGCCs of the organs in your body, which is why Alzheimer’s, autism, anxiety, depression appears to be strongly linked to excessive microwave exposure.
So, if you struggle with anxiety or depression, be sure to limit your exposure to wireless technology. Simple measures include turning your Wi-Fi off at night and, carrying your cellphone on your body, and not keeping portable phones, cellphones and other electric devices in your bedroom.
Get regular exercise
Studies have shown there is a strong correlation between improved mood and aerobic capacity. Exercising creates new GABA-producing neurons that help induce a natural state of calm. It also boosts your levels of serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine, which help buffer the effects of stress.
Animal research also suggests exercise can benefit your mental health by allowing your body to eliminate kynurenine, a harmful protein associated with depression.35
Spend more time outdoors
Spending time in nature has been shown to lower stress, improve mood and significantly reduce symptoms of depression.36 Outdoor activities could be just about anything, from walking a nature trail to gardening, or simply taking your exercise outdoors.
Listen to nature sounds
Nature sounds have a distinct and powerful effect on your brain, lowering fight-or-flight instincts, activating your rest-and-digest autonomic nervous system,37,38,39 and produce brain activity associated with outward-directed focus, a trait associated with a lower risk for depression and anxiety.
Previous research has also demonstrated that listening to nature sounds help you recover faster after a stressful event. So, seek out parks, or create a natural sanctuary on your balcony, or indoors using plants and an environmental sound machine. YouTube also has a number of very long videos of natural sounds. You could simply turn it on and leave it on while you’re indoors.
Practice proper breathing
The way you breathe is intricately connected to your mental state. I’ve previously published interviews with Patrick McKeown, a leading expert on the Buteyko Breathing Method, where he explains how breathing affects your mind, body and health.
According to Buteyko, the founder of the method, anxiety is triggered by an imbalance between gases in your body, specifically the ratio between carbon dioxide (CO2) and oxygen. Your breathing affects the ratio of these gases, and by learning proper breathing techniques, you can quite literally breathe your way into a calmer state of mind.
Here’s a Buteyko breathing exercise that can help quell anxiety. This sequence helps retain and gently accumulate CO2, leading to calmer breathing and reduced anxiety. In other words, the urge to breathe will decline as you go into a more relaxed state.
Take a small breath into your nose, a small breath out; hold your nose for five seconds in order to hold your breath, and then release to resume breathing.
Breathe normally for 10 seconds.
Repeat the sequence several more times: small breath in through your nose, small breath out; hold your breath for five seconds, then let go and breathe normally for 10 seconds.
Get plenty of restorative sleep
Sleep and depression are so intimately linked that a sleep disorder is actually part of the definition of the symptom complex that gives the label depression. Ideally, get eight hours of sleep each night, and address factors that impede good sleep.
Address negative emotions
I believe it’s helpful to view depression as a sign that your body and life are out of balance, rather than as a disease. It’s a message telling you you’ve veered too far off course, and you need to regain your balance. One of the ways to do this involves addressing negative emotions that may be trapped beneath your level of awareness. My favorite method of emotional cleansing is Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), a form of psychological acupressure.
Research shows EFT significantly increases positive emotions and decreases negative emotional states.40,41,42 It’s particularly powerful for treating anxiety because it specifically targets your amygdala and hippocampus, parts of your brain that help you decide whether or not something is a threat.43
For serious or complex issues, seek out a qualified health care professional that is trained in EFT44 to help guide you through the process. That said, for most of you with depression symptoms, this is a technique you can learn to do effectively on your own. In the video below, EFT practitioner Julie Schiffman shows how you can use EFT to relieve symptoms of depression.
Optimize your gut health
Your mental health is closely linked to your gut health. A number of studies have confirmed gastrointestinal inflammation can play a critical role in the development of depression.45 Optimizing your gut flora will also help regulate a number of neurotransmitters and mood-related hormones, including GABA and corticosterone, resulting in reduced anxiety and depression-related behavior.46
To nourish your gut microbiome, be sure to eat plenty of fresh vegetables and traditionally fermented foods. Healthy choices include fermented vegetables, lassi, kefir and natto. If you do not eat fermented foods on a regular basis, taking a high-quality probiotic supplement is recommended.
Optimize your vitamin D with sensible sun exposure
Studies have shown vitamin D deficiency can predispose you to depression, and that depression can respond favorably to optimizing your vitamin D stores, ideally by getting sensible sun exposure.47,48,49
In one such study, people with a vitamin D level below 20 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL) had an 85 percent increased risk of depression compared to those with a level greater than 30 ng/mL.50 For optimal health, you’ll want to make sure your vitamin D level is between 60 and 80 ng/mL year-round, so be sure to get a vitamin D test at least twice a year.
Optimize your omega-3
The animal-based omega-3 fat DHA is perhaps the single most important nutrient for optimal brain function and prevention of depression. While you can obtain DHA from krill or fish oil, it is far better to obtain it from clean, low-mercury fish such as wild Alaskan salmon, sardines, herring, anchovies and fish roe.
In addition to getting your vitamin D checked, I recommend getting an omega-3 index test to make sure you’re getting enough. Ideally, you want your omega-3 index to be 8 percent or higher.
Make sure your cholesterol levels aren’t too low for optimal mental health
Low cholesterol is linked to dramatically increased rates of suicide, as well as aggression toward others.51 This increased expression of violence toward self and others may be due to the fact that low membrane cholesterol decreases the number of serotonin receptors in the brain, which are approximately 30 percent cholesterol by weight.
Lower serum cholesterol concentrations therefore may contribute to decreasing brain serotonin, which not only contributes to suicidal-associated depression, but prevents the suppression of aggressive behavior and violence toward self and others.
Increase your vitamin B intake
Low dietary folate is a risk factor for severe depression, raising your risk by as much as 300 percent.52,53 If using a supplement, I suggest methylfolate, as this form of folic acid is the most effective. Other B vitamin deficiencies, including B1, B2, B3, B6, B8 and B12 also have the ability to produce symptoms of neuropsychiatric disorders. Vitamin B12 deficiency, in particular, can contribute to depression and affects 1 in 4 people.
A number of herbs and supplements can be used in lieu of drugs to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. These include:
St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum). This medicinal plant has a long historical use for depression, and is thought to work similarly to antidepressants, raising brain chemicals associated with mood such as serotonin, dopamine and noradrenaline.54
S-Adenosyl methionine (SAMe). SAMe is an amino acid derivative that occurs naturally in all cells. It plays a role in many biological reactions by transferring its methyl group to DNA, proteins, phospholipids and biogenic amines. Several scientific studies indicate that SAMe may be useful in the treatment of depression.
5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP). 5-HTP is another natural alternative to traditional antidepressants. When your body sets about manufacturing serotonin, it first makes 5-HTP. Taking 5-HTP as a supplement may raise serotonin levels. Evidence suggests 5-HTP outperforms a placebo when it comes to alleviating depression,55 which is more than can be said about antidepressants.
XingPiJieYu. This Chinese herb, available from doctors of traditional Chinese medicine, has been found to reduce the effects of “chronic and unpredictable stress,” thereby lowering your risk of depression.56
Summary: Researchers identify a link between waist-to-height ratio and risk of developing anxiety in menopausal women.Source: NAMS.Anxiety is one of the most common mental health disorders, and it’s more likely to affect women, especially middle-aged women. Although anxiety can be caused by many factors, a new study suggests that the amount of abdominal fat a woman has could increase her chances of developing anxiety. Study results are published online today in Menopause.
Everyone is familiar with the term “stress eating” that, among other things, can lead to a thicker waistline. In this study that analyzed data from more than 5,580 middle-aged Latin American women (mean age, 49.7 years), the cause-and-effect relationship was flipped to determine whether greater abdominal fat (defined as waist-to-height ratio in this instance) could increase a woman’s chances of developing anxiety. Although this is not the first time this relationship has been examined, this study is the first of its kind known to use waist-to-height ratio as the specific link to anxiety. Waist-to-height ratio has been shown to be the indicator that best assesses cardiometabolic risk. A general guideline is that a woman is considered obese if her waist measures more than half of her height.
The article “Association between waist-to-height ratio and anxiety in middle-aged women: a secondary analysis of a cross-sectional multicenter Latin American study” reports that 58% of the study population were postmenopausal, and 61.3% reported experiencing anxiety. The study found that those women in the middle and upper thirds of waist-to-height ratios were significantly more likely to have anxiety, and those in the upper third were more likely to actually display signs of anxiety compared with women in the lower two-thirds.
The study found that those women in the middle and upper thirds of waist-to-height ratios were significantly more likely to have anxiety, and those in the upper third were more likely to actually display signs of anxiety compared with women in the lower two-thirds. NeuroscienceNews.com image is in the public domain.
Anxiety is a concern because it is linked to heart disease, diabetes, thyroid problems, respiratory disorders, and drug abuse, among other documented medical problems. Research has shown an increase in the frequency of anxiety in women during midlife, likely as a result of decreased levels of estrogen, which has a neuroprotective role.
“Hormone changes may be involved in the development of both anxiety and abdominal obesity because of their roles in the brain as well as in fat distribution. This study provides valuable insights for healthcare providers treating middle-aged women, because it implies that waist-to-height ratio could be a good marker for evaluating patients for anxiety,” says Dr. JoAnn Pinkerton, NAMS executive director.
About this neuroscience research article
Source: Eileen Petridis – NAMS Publisher: Organized by NeuroscienceNews.com. Image Source: NeuroscienceNews.com image is in the public domain. Original Research: The study will appear in Menopause.
In the United States, there are one million children under the age of six on psychiatric drugs. This number is particularly disturbing, considering the horrifying side effects and ineffectiveness of a good number of these types of harmful drugs.
One in six Americans overall regularly take some type of medication in this category. However, children are now being swept up in Big Pharma’s desire to make money, not improve health. Mental health watchdog group Citizens Commission on Human Rights is drawing attention to the concerning fact that more than a million kids younger than six in our nation are currently taking these psychiatric drugs.
According to Natural News, around half of these children are four to five years old and an incredible 274,804 of them are younger than a year old. That’s right: babies are being given psychiatric drugs. The number rises for toddlers aged two to three, with 370,778 kids in this category taking psychiatric drugs overall. If this isn’t horrifying to you, congratulations on your brainwashing.
Data from IMS Health shows that the drug situation only gets worse as kids get older, with 4,130,340 kids aged 6 to 12 taking some type of psychiatric drug.
You might be forgiven for assuming that most of these statistics are made up by kids taking ADHD drugs given how common that approach seems to be nowadays, but it really only accounts for a small portion of it, with 1,422 of those younger than a year old and just over 181,000 of those aged four to five taking ADHD drugs. –Natural News
The biggest category of psychotic drugs given to children appears to be anti-anxiety drugs. Just over 227,132 babies under one-year-old and nearly 248,000 of those aged four to five take these medications. Again, babies are being given mind-altering drugs before their first birthday. But the news just gets worse from there. Experts believe these estimates are far too low and the real numbers are actually much higher, due in part to the tendency for some doctors to hand out psychiatric medications for “off-label” uses. This risky practice entails giving out a drug to treat something that it is not indicated for, and the long-term effects of such an approach are completely unknown.
When adults choose to take psychiatric medication, it may be ill-advised in many cases, but it is still their choice to make. Children, on the other hand, lack the cognition to fully understand the lifelong impact of such a choice, and this essentially amounts to forced medication. We already know that many doctors have a financial incentive to get young people to start taking these drugs, but why are their parents so willing to get on board? Many of them are also taking psychiatric medications, of course. In fact, it has practically become a way of life in our nation and many people think of these meds as harmless.
The side effects of these drugs are nothing to scoff at, however, with antianxiety, antidepressant and antipsychotic drugs linked to heart attacks, psychosis, suicidal ideation, diabetes, stroke, mania and sudden death. As if that weren’t bad enough, there’s also the fact that many of the high-profile public shootings in recent years were perpetrated by young people on such drugs, so not only do kids have the risk of dying when they take these meds, but they could also take out a whole classroom or movie theater with them. –Natural News
Is this a war on our children perpetrated by Big Pharma and condoned by the government? Maybe. Nothing seems impossible anymore.
“The gut is the epicenter of our health, and its functioning affects most, if not all, other aspects in the body,” explains Frank Lipman, MD, author of How to Be Well and founder of Be Well. A greater understanding of both mental illness and microbiome interactions has lead scientists to study the relationship between the two systems, and there’s mounting evidence that supports a link between gut health and anxiety. With this continually growing and evolving information, you may soon be on your way to treating mental illness with proper nutrition. Ahead, Lipman explains how gut health and anxiety may be linked and what foods you should eat to take advantage of this connection.
Gut Health and Anxiety
“More and more, we are seeing the direct correlation between gut health and mood,” says Lipman. This is because the gut produces neurotransmitters and hormones that can affect a person’s mood. “If these bugs are compromised in any way, the production of these neurotransmitters and hormones will also be compromised and will affect how we function and how we feel,” he says.
There are multiple scientific studies that back up these statements. A 2016 study conducted by Emily Deans, MD, at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital at Harvard Medical School looked into the role of microbiota in mental health. According to the study, the modern microbiome is drastically different than that of human ancestors due to diet, antibiotic exposure, and differences in the environment. All of this may contribute to changes in brain health.
In 2015, researchers tested theories about gut health and mood on people. They gave healthy participants without mood disorders a four-week probiotic food supplement. Compared to those who received a placebo, participants who took the probiotic had a significantly reduced reactivity to sad moods. Researchers concluded that these results were evidence that probiotics could reduce negative thoughts associated with sad mood.
Additionally, a 2017 study performed on mice concluded that the microbiome is necessary for balancing gene regulators in the brain known as miRNAs. Its findings were based on observations of mice living in germ-free environments that ended up with unusual amounts of anxiety. After researchers reintroduced gut bacteria to the mice, the gene regulators normalized, proving that probiotics could be necessary for maintaining mental health.
Maintaining a Healthy Gut
So how do you keep your gut health in check? “Generally speaking, a diet filled with a variety of real, whole foods is ideal for supporting gut function,” says Lipman. That means green, leafy vegetables, healthy fats, and quality protein like well-sourced animal proteins, wild-caught fish, beans, and lentils.
“Sadly, the Standard America Diet is the epitome of foods that should be avoided for gut health, brain health, energy, and everything in between,” Lipman explains. In order to keep your gut in top condition, you’ll want to avoid processed and packaged foods that contain preservatives, coloring, and sweeteners. Lipman also advises steering clear of sugar, gluten, nonorganic soy, factory-farmed meats and dairy, processed vegetable oils, and even some gluten-free grains.
Gut Health Red Flags
“The most common signs of gut problems present as digestive issues,” shares Lipman. If you think you may have an imbalance in your gut that could be impacting your mental health, look out for symptoms like bloating, gas, constipation, loose stool, digestive discomfort, and heartburn. There are also less obvious symptoms like skin irritations, joint pain, foggy thinking, imbalanced mood, and fatigue. “If someone is feeling like that they are not functioning optimally and that they should be feeling better, they probably could be, and the gut is often a great place to start,” Lipman says.
“Although diet can be extremely helpful for some, it is not the answer for everyone,” Lipman says. When a change in diet just isn’t enough, there are supplements that can be used to improve the balance of bacteria in your gut. “Probiotics can also be extremely beneficial, as they constantly inoculate our gut with the beneficial bacteria that support proper gut function.”
While there’s not yet evidence that proves a healthy diet can cure all mental health issues or that food alone is an effective form of treatment for anxiety or depression, focusing on nurturing your gut health isn’t a bad place to start. Turn to natural, whole foods packed with powerful nutrients to keep your gut healthy so your mind can heal, too.
Anxiety, depression, and fear ravage so many today, but few pause to consider that in addition to the material influences in our lives, we may be also under the influence of beings which exist in dimensions outside of our ordinary perception.
But there is much more to reality than what we can see. feel, hear, taste and touch. In fact, an accounting of the matter that makes up the universe reveals that some 73% of it is made up of dark energy, and another 23% is made up of dark matter, neither of which can we see, nor understand. Furthermore, the human eye is only capable of seeing around .0035% of the entire spectrum of electromagnetic (EM) radiation. When we look into the heavens, 96% of it is invisible to us. Include in this the spiritual realms and there is an entire universe of possibilities which exists beyond our five senses.
Very few scientists today are willing to explore metaphysics to examine life beyond ordinary perception in order to make a connection between the seen and the unseen.
Rudolf Steiner, though, one of the most prolific and gifted scientists, philosophers, and esotericists of his time, devoted much of his work to the task of peering behind the veil, sharing his insight into the deeper nature of life and of the world beyond.
Regarding anxiety and depression, Steiner spoke of hostile beings in the spiritual world which influence and feed off of human emotion; a concept flatly rejected by most today. Yet this also analysis holds true for shamans and others who access the spiritual dimensions in order to alleviate mental suffering for their patients.
Many are familiar with the notion of energy vampires, or people who suck your energy and feed off your negative emotions. On the existence of similar entities which exist in other dimensions, Steiner wrote:
“There are beings in the spiritual realms for whom anxiety and fear emanating from human beings offer welcome food. When humans have no anxiety and fear, then these creatures starve. People not yet sufficiently convinced of this statement could understand it to be meant comparatively only. But for those who are familiar with this phenomenon, it is a reality. If fear and anxiety radiates from people and they break out in panic, then these creatures find welcome nutrition and they become more and more powerful. These beings are hostile towards humanity.
Everything that feeds on negative feelings, on anxiety, fear and superstition, despair or doubt, are in reality hostile forces in supersensible worlds, launching cruel attacks on human beings, while they are being fed. Therefore, it is above all necessary to begin with that the person who enters the spiritual world overcomes fear, feelings of helplessness, despair and anxiety. But these are exactly the feelings that belong to contemporary culture and materialism; because it estranges people from the spiritual world, it is especially suited to evoke hopelessness and fear of the unknown in people, thereby calling up the above mentioned hostile forces against them.” ~Rudolf Steiner
Negative emotions are food for inimical spirits.
A concept such as this isn’t readily accepted into the everyday conversation steered by rigid skepticism and scientific materialism. The traditions of today have sought to expel ancient metaphysical wisdom and its practical application from our lives, and though scientific inquiry is exceptionally valuable, spiritual perception has always been a part of our experience.
“And yet, despite the cynical skepticism, all of the ancient mystery schools, true shamanic insights, and esoteric teachings (much of which have been suppressed and/or distorted over thousands of years for obvious reasons) have conveyed this truth for ‘the ones with eyes to see and ears to hear’, using their own language and symbolism, be it “The General Law” (Esoteric Christianity), Archons (Gnostics), “Lords of Destiny” (Hermeticism), Predator/Fliers – “The topic of all topics” (Shamanism, Castaneda), “The Evil Magician” (Gurdjieff), The Shaitans (Sufism), The Jinn (Arabian mythology), Wetiko (Native American Spirituality), Occult Hostile Forces (Sri Aurobindo & The Mother, The Integral Yoga), etc.” ~Bernhard Guenther
Dealings with extra-sensory or hyper-dimensional beings have long been a part of our history, and are directly accessible to any of us when proper practice and attention is given to the matter. I know this to be true from my experiences with plant medicine shamanism where it is entirely possible to enter into states of consciousness where entire cosmologies of life exist and are available to interact with.
Finding oneself in the rut of spiraling negative self-talk, depression, crippling anxiety, or uncontrollable, irrational fear, is a sign, as Steiner points out, of a disconnection from our true spiritual nature, exacerbated by beings who operate in the spiritual realms. This is why some consider disorders like this to be spiritual illnesses, and until the rift is healed with proper attention given to the development of spirit, the feelings tend to exacerbate and drive one further into distress.
“When humans have no anxiety and fear, then these creatures starve.” ~Rudolph Steiner
Dylan Charles is the editor of Waking Times and co-host of Redesigning Reality, both dedicated to ideas of personal transformation, societal awakening, and planetary renewal. His personal journey is deeply inspired by shamanic plant medicines and the arts of Kung Fu, Qi Gong and Yoga. After seven years of living in Costa Rica, he now lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains, where he practices Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and enjoys spending time with family. He has written hundreds of articles, reaching and inspiring millions of people around the world.
“Our citizens should know the urgent facts…but they don’t because our media serves imperial, not popular interests. They lie, deceive, connive and suppress what everyone needs to know, substituting managed news misinformation and rubbish for hard truths…”—Oliver Stone