Category Archives: Nutrition and Fitness

Exercise as a Treatment for Depression

An extensive body of research throughout the past decade indicates that exercise may be an effective treatment for depression, and could potentially act as a preventive measure against depression. Outcomes from research, and a 2016 pool of studies involving over one million men and women, strongly suggest that regular exercise can not only alter our bodies, but also transform the brain so that the resistance to despair & depression is heightened and increased.

For many years, scientists have investigated the correlation between physical activity and mental health. While it has long been understood that exercise alters the body, how physical activity affects emotional health is less clear: some randomized controlled trials have found that exercise programs ease symptoms in people with major depression.

A group of global researchers in public health, however, has worked to further support the case for exercise as a treatment for–and preventive measure against–depression. For the newer analyses, they initially gathered all of the most recent and most well-designed studies surrounding depression and exercise. The ‘most innovative’ of the new studies, published in 2016 in Preventive Medicine, focused on whether exercise could help to prevent the development of depression.

Due to the frequent unreliability of how we report our exercise and workouts, the researchers solely utilized past studies that had “objectively measured participants’ aerobic fitness,” which will rise or fall depending on whether and how much someone exercises. Other parameters for the study included a measurement of participants’ mental health, at both the initial outset and conclusion of the study, coupled with follow-up time of at least a year.

The researchers found several large-scale past studies that met their criteria, which collectively contained data on more than 1,140,000 adult men and women. Among these million-plus people, the links between mental health and fitness was fairly strong. When the researchers divided the group into thirds, based on their respective aerobic fitness, those men and women with the lowest fitness were about 75 percent more likely to have been given diagnoses of depression than the people with the greatest fitness. The men and women in the middle third were almost 25 percent more likely to develop depression than those who were the most fit.

In a separate study (some of the scientists were involved in each of the reviews), researchers looked at whether exercise might be useful as a treatment for depression. In that analysis, which was published in Journal of Psychiatric Research in June 2016, they pooled data from 25 past studies in which people with clinically diagnosed depression began some type of exercise program. The pooled results demonstrated that exercise, specifically a moderately strenuous workout such as brisk walking or jogging, has a “large and significant effect” against depression. People’s mental health tended to improve considerably if they were physically active. The final review further clarifies reasons as to why this may be true. Published in Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews in February 2016, it sought to understand what happens to the body during and after exercise that might impact and enhance mood. The researchers analyzed 20 previous studies, all of which included results from blood samples from people with major depression before and after they had exercised. Overall, the findings in the samples indicated that exercise “significantly reduced various markers of inflammation and increased levels of a number of different hormones and other biochemicals that are thought to contribute to brain health.”

As reported in The New York Times, Felipe Barreto Schuch, an exercise scientist at the Centro Universitário La Salle in Canoas, Brazil and primary author on all of the reviews, confirms that the studies provide a strong case regarding the link between exercise and mental health. While further experiments are needed to specify the types and amounts of exercise, Dr. Schuch stated that “the main message” of the reviews “is that people need to be active to improve their mental health.”

SOURCES
https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/03/for-depression-prescribing-exercise-before-medication/284587/
https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/in-depth/depression-and-exercise/art-20046495
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC474733/

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Gut & Autoimmunity: The Intimate Ties

The ways in which factors like genes, infections, the microbiome/gut, and environment—the formulaic composition of the autoimmune system—interact collectively create environments that promote either disease or health. Though genes cannot technically be altered, they can easily be influenced, and manifest themselves differently through the microbiome, infections, and environment.

Autoimmune diseases are the third leading cause of morbidity in the industrialized world, surpassed only by cancer and heart disease. Several researchers are proponents of a framework that uses scientifically based targeted nutritional therapies to address the underlying systemic imbalances of these diseases.

This approach, rooted in Functional Medicine, concentrates on the body holistically, as a whole, rather than a collection of separate entities and organs. Because autoimmune diseases can be influenced through food and nutrition, and the gastrointestinal track ‘controls’ between 70 and 80% of the body’s immune cells, certain dietary changes can both feed the microbiome and reduce inflammation: ultimately lessening allergies and autoimmunity.

The gut is the gateway to health, as it houses 80% of the immune system, and it is impossible to have a healthy immune system without a healthy gut. Research from Alessio Fassano confirms that if you have an autoimmune disease, your gut has become leaky, meaning the tight junctions that typically hold gut lining together have become loose, allowing undigested food particles, microbes, toxins, and more to escape your gut and enter your bloodstream.

All of these particles are recognized by the immune system as foreign invaders, sending the immune system into high alert and triggering an extreme spike in inflammation. This continual strain on the immune system ultimately causes it to go haywire, and it ends up attacking the body’s own tissues by mistake.

Moreover, gluten contributes to autoimmune disease in three key ways. It is the primary cause of leaky gut because gluten triggers the release of zonulin in the intestines, a chemical that tells gut lining to “open up.” Gluten is also highly inflammatory, causing stress to the immune system. Additionally, the gluten protein has a similar chemical structure to some of the body’s tissues (specifically the thyroid), which can lead to molecular mimicry: wherein the body mistakes its own tissues for gluten and attacks them.

Toxic molds, like mycotoxins, and heavy metals such as mercury are the two primary toxins found in those with autoimmune conditions. Mycotoxins are volatile compounds produced by toxic molds that wreak havoc on the immune system. We are exposed to heavy metals like mercury in different ways: mercury amalgam fillings in teeth, fish consumption, and the environment–yet mercury is toxic to the human body.

Some other interventions include eating more plant foods, particularly fermented foods such as kefir, kimchi, and kombucha; removing cow’s milk and adding supplements and vitamins can also help fight disease—rather than feed it. If you are interested in comprehensive metabolic, functional, and nutritional approaches to gastrointestinal dysfunction and diseases, sign up for our Module IV: Gastroenterology, taking place in Nashville, Tennessee from September 27-30, 2018. 

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Weight Loss

Many of our patients who don’t usually partake in the practice of medicine other than their regularly required annual physician visits, would be appalled to learn the truth about the lack of nutrition training in medical school.

Our A4M fellows and faculty assure us every day that most traditional physicians practicing medicine in our country today are not given ample time or training on nutrition during their many years as students.

Globally, studies indicate that more than two billion adults and children across the globe are overweight or obese, and suffer from related health problems. This number equates to one-third of the world’s population.

The saddest part about this topic is that our own country is suffering from an obesity epidemic where more than one in three U.S. adults and one in six children (ages 2-19) are obese; this data includes that one in 11 young children (ages 2-5) are obese.1

Obesity is one of the leading causes of preventable death and as physicians, we would be lying if we did not say these numbers do not reflect in our practices.

How many obese patients do you see? How many of your patients are overweight?

Do you feel fully equipped to discuss eating, diets, and exercise with them?

We know from experience that this is not an easy topic. Harvard Medical School published an article on habits to encourage weight loss that we have shared with our community. It brings to light the fact that “eating healthier” is not so much the mystery here; it is more the changing of a person’s everyday habits that make them able to combat being overweight.

Eating slower, consuming more even-sized meals and making the time to prepare healthier meals while at home were among the likely habit-changing suggestions in this article2. A daily weigh-in on a digital scale was suggested as more effective than calorie tracking since evidence of weight loss on an actual scale proved to remove weight and keep it off. But the most surprising habit listed was regarding sleep.

Sleep, another topic we have covered in our education at A4M was classified as a habit tied to weight loss. Studies show that the shorter time someone sleeps, the more at risk they are to becoming obese or overweight. Recent articles suggest that these people are up eating…and those same people who are up and eating, are not eating kale and nuts. They are eating the things that hurt like ice cream, chips, and cookies.

If you want to learn more about fighting weight and helping your overweight patients with their related health issues, we can help. We will provide you with proven clinical strategies that can be used to optimize your patients’ health and provide diagnostic, preventive, and therapeutic interventions. Visit us this December at our 25th Annual World Congress and get actively involved in fighting this epidemic and ultimately changing your patients’ lives.

1National Center for Health Statistics. NCHS Fact Sheet: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/factsheets/factsheet_nhanes.pdf. January 2016. Accessed October 4, 2017.
2Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School. 5 Habits that Foster Weight Loss. https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/5-habits-that-foster-weight-loss? February 2017. Accessed October 4, 2017.
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