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Thursday, December 31, 2015

Does unhappiness cause poor health?

People tend to think that unhappiness causes disease or illness, but a recent study shows that this is not true.

Dr Bette Liu from the University of New South Wales in Australia looked at over a million women (aged 55-63) over a 10 year span.

The researcher found that only after becoming sick did rates of happiness decrease, not the other way around.  The conclusion of this study is that poor health causes unhappiness. Dr Lie says: "We found no direct effect of unhappiness or stress on mortality".

Therefore, it makes very good sense to focus on being healthy, as a way to stay happy.

It's almost obvious that if focused on health ( good nutrition, exercise, sleep hygiene, hydration),  that happiness would follow.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

What is the Blood-Brain Barrier (BBB)?

The BBB is a semi-permeable membrane (of glial cells) which protects the Central Nervous System (brain & spinal cord) from toxins and changes in blood composition.

The BBB can be broken down by high blood pressure, microwaves, hyperosmolitity, radiation, infection, trauma, inflammation, schema, and pressure.

BBB dysfunction can lead to neural damage. Diseases such as MS, encephalitis, stroke, or tumours can also damage the BBB.

The brain is metabolically one of the most active of all organs in the body. The brain does not store energy so it therefore needs a continuous supply of glucose and oxygen to meet it's energy requirements. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

What is potassium (K)?

Potassium is a mineral and an electrolyte essential for healthy organ function. It is needed to build protein, break down and use carbs, build muscle, control the acid base balance in the body, and control the electrical activity of the heart. It also protects blood vessels from oxidative damage.

Adults should consume about 4,700 mg/daily and the mineral is found in bananas, avocados, nuts, citrus, green vegetables, milk, potatoes, yam, parsley, fish, meat, chocolate, coconut water, bran. Dried apricots have the highest concentration of potassium per calorie of any food. Many processed foods contain no potassium.

A low level of potassium is called hypokalemia and a high level called hyperkalemia. Low levels are caused from alcoholism, use of diurectics, abuse of laxatives, magnesium depletion, bulimia, anorexia nervosa, and diet of only processed foods.

Studies show that diets high in potassium can reduce the risk of hypertension and stroke.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Why is fat bad for the brain?

A high fat diet produces inflammation in the body, including in the brain.

Inflammation stimulates the microglia, which are part of the brains' immune system, and whose function is to destroy infection, by moving (staying active).

In obesity, these cells stop moving but eat brain synapses instead of the infectious bodies they are meant to destroy.  Functioning synapses are needed for learning which is a very important brain function.

On a mouse study, it was found that the effects of a high fat diet can be reversed in two weeks.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

What are microglia?

Microglia is a type of glial cell which acts as the main form of immune defense in the central nervous system (brain and spine).

They make up between 10-15% of all brain cells, and are extremely sensitive; they are  supported by potassium.

These cells move about and "eat" plaque, damaged neurons, and infectious agents.

The blood-brain barrier prevents most infectious material from entering the brain, but if it does, microglia must act very quicky to decrease inflammation and destroy the infection.

Because the blood-brain barrier (BBB), prevents antibodies from crossing it, microglia do the job of fighting infection instead.

If inflammation increases instead of decreases, the microglia stop functioning effectively.

Monday, November 30, 2015

What is REM sleep?

REM stands for Rapid Eye Movement sleep and is the phase of sleep during which dreaming occurs. REM sleep follows the 3 stages on Non-REM sleep and is also know as active sleep.

REM sleep happens about 90 minutes after falling alseep and initially lasts about 10 minutes. Each stage of REM sleep gets longer; the last one can last up to an hour. We can have from 4 to 6 sleep cycles a night meaning we can experience REM sleep 4 to 6 times every sleep.

During REM sleep the body repairs tissues, build bones, and strengthens the immune system.

Adults can spend about 20% of their sleep in REM whereas babies about 50%.

REM is sometimes called paradoxical sleep because oxygen consumption is also very high, often higher than when awake.

Monday, November 23, 2015

What is Non-REM sleep?

Our sleep is divided into 2 categories of sleep, REM and Non-REM sleep.

Non-REM sleep has 3 stages:

Stage 1 Drowsy sleep (N1)  is the stage between wakefulness and deep sleep. It lasts about 10 minutes or 5% of overall sleep time. The sleeper may be aware of sounds byt be unwilling to respond to them.

Stage 2(N2) proceeds as awareness of the outside world fades. Breathing and heart rate slow down. This stage takes about 45-50% of overall sleep time.

Stage 3 Slow-wave sleep (N3) occurs in larger periods during the first part of the night. Heart rate, blood pressure, temperature are lowest during Stage 3 with limited muscle activity. Information processing and memory consolidation mostly take place during this stage which covers about 15-20% of sleep time.  

Monday, November 16, 2015

What are our sleep cycles?

We have 2 types of sleep: Non-REM sleep (known as quiet sleep) and REM sleep (known as active sleep). Each cycle of sleep lasts about 90 minutes and repeats itself between 4-6 times a night. Non-REM sleep  has 3 stages (known as N1, N2, N3).

Monday, November 9, 2015

What is circadian rhythm?

Our circadian rhythm controls our 24 hour cycle or body clock, and regulates our sleep cycles.

Our body clock is contolled by the SCN (Suprachiasmatic Nucleas), which are a group of cells in the hypothalamus which respond to light and dark signals.

The rhythm can be disrupted by shift work, jet lag, or teenage hormonal change.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

What is emotional resilience?

Emotional resilience is the capacity to adapt well to difficult situations such as severe stress, illness, high conflict, trauma, illness, etc.

Resilience can be nurtured through:

  • close friends/family
  • feeling in control
  • helping others
  • managing strong feelings
  • changing thinking patterns
  • making meaning from disturbing events.

Why does "patience" matter?

Patience is the capacity to wait out uncomfortable situations without getting irritated or angry.

Developing patience takes practise, especially if it doesn't come naturally.

Patience feels peaceful and calm and can help prevent stress related illnesses or other conditions. Patience can also help turn off anger.

To be patient can also mean to be persistent , that is, to keep going forwards despite frustration. It can also mean to be accepting of the ways things are in the moment, and then to stay calm in response to that moment.

"Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience". Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Patience is the key to paradise". Turkish proverb.

Monday, November 2, 2015

What is sleep inertia?

Sleep inertia is the groggy feeling which lasts about 30 minutes after waking up from a 30-60 minute nap. Waking up during REM sleep (deep sleep) results in this grogginess.

Sleep inertia is avoided  by taking a longer (90 min.) nap because an entire sleep cycle (including the REM sleep) is thus concluded.

Sleep inertia can also be avoided by taking shorter (10-20 min.)  naps, meaning waking up before hitting the REM phase of a sleep cycle.

Monday, October 26, 2015

What is the "set point"?

Set point is one's ideal body weight which the body aims to achieve. This body weight is "defended" over time, by interacting physiological processes which are not under conscious control.

This means that if one's set point is on the heavier side, it would be next to impossible to maintain long term weight loss as the body physiology will keep adjusting to maintain the set point.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

What is N.E.A.T.

N.E.A.T.  stands for non-exercise activity thermogenesis, or the energy expended during normal life which does not include sleeping, eating, or exercise.

N.E.A.T includes things like walking to work, fidgeting, housework, and/or yard work.

Office workers have low N.E.A.T.; farm workers have high N.E.A.T.

N.E.A.T. also increases with overfeeding and decreases with underfeeding.

The mechanism which regulates N.E.A.T. is unknown.

Monday, October 19, 2015

What is productive confusion?

A 2012 study from the University of Notre Dame, University of Memphis, and University of Munich found that confused learners can learn more effectively than leaners who are spoon fed new information.

Many people, when confused, give up. But confused learners who take the effort and time to clarify ideas, learn and remember more effectively.

The key is that learners are productively confused, not hopelessly confused. The information must not deliberately be presented in a way that would never ever make sense.

People who want to learn must accept the challenge offered by confusion, must be willing to risk failure, and also be able to manage negative emotion.

Monday, October 12, 2015

What is anosmia?

Smell can be defined as an olfactory experience . Humans have about 12 million olfactory receptor cells which can detect about 10 thousand odours. (Dogs have 100-200 million receptors which can detect 40 thousand odours).

Anosmia is the loss of sense of smell. It can be a result of a head injury, stroke, Parkinson's Disease, or aging.

Anosmia can contribute to depression and loneliness. Smells trigger the limbic system of the brain via the olfactory nerve. The limbic system regulates memory, mood, and emotion which is why smells can trigger old memories. So if a person can't smell, their limbic brains are not triggered, contributing to depression.

Studies show that humans subconsciously transmit emotions via smell. This may explain why dogs seem so sensitive to human feeling (we call it intuitive, but it may be smell).

Studies show that the fear of smell is contagious.

Monday, October 5, 2015

What is Interleaving?

Interleaving is a learning style whereby you mix-up practising or learning different skills in the same session.

Studies show that mixing up learning can increase performance compared to practising the same thing over and over again.

This probably works better because of forcing the mind to work harder when learning.

Monday, September 28, 2015

What is metabolic syndrome?

Metabolic syndrome is a combination of 4 conditions which can also be seen as prediabetes.

The co-existing conditions are high blood pressure, high levels of LDL cholesterol & triglycerides, low levels of HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) and excess fat around the waist.

In the US about 34% of the population have this condition which is also known as CHAOS (in Australia), Reaven's Syndrome, and Metabolic Syndrome X.

This condition may be a result of stress, age, sedentary behaviour, diet, as well as excessive alcohol use.

The first line of treatment is a change of lifestyle.

Monday, September 21, 2015

What is "prediabetes"?

Prediabetes is a condition of higher blood sugar levels (fasting plasma glucose level of 7), but not high enough to be diagnosed as Type 2 Diabetes.

Some of the same long term complications associated with diabetes (heart disease and nerve damage) may begin during prediabetes.

Prediabetes is treated by loosing 5-10% of total body weight through lifestyle changes.

Monday, September 14, 2015

What is Glycemic Index or GI?

Glycemic Index is a number which represents that food's effect on a person's blood sugar and insulin levels.

The lower the number (index) the longer it takes to digest meaning one feels full longer and appetite is controlled for a longer time.

The foods with higher GI are metabolized quickly and therefore cause blood sugar spikes and more insulin production.

Foods with lower GI lowers the risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes and heart disease. They also help control cholesterol.

Low GI is less that 55.
Medium GI is between 56-69.
High GI is greater than 70.

For example, hummus has a GI of 6, yams have a GI of 54, Pizza is 80, and Russet potatoes are 111.

The rule of thumb is that white, starchy foods or processed foods have high GIs.

Monday, September 7, 2015


Password therapy is when passwords are goals you're working towards, meaning you need to use the goal every time your computer locks or everytime it's necessary to change your password. 

Using your goals as passwords keeps them current and fresh in your consciousness. It's a constant reminder of what you want.

Passwords like Save20aweek, Walkeveryday, Nosugartoday, Drink8glassesofwater can do wonders towards reaching your goals.

Friday, June 26, 2015

What is "fermented food"?

Fermentation is when a food is exposed to bacteria and yeasts either naturally or through the air. It is the bacterial conversion of starches and sugars into lactic acid and acetic acid.

Fermentation was discovered thousands of years ago, before refrigeration, as a form of food preservation.

Common fermented foods are:

Vegetables: sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles.

Soyfoods: miso, tempeh, natto, say sauce.

Dairy: kefir, yogurt, sour cream, buttermilk, cottage cheese.

Beverages: kombucha, rejuvelac.

Fermented food are now seen as super foods  for their amazing health benefits. 

Friday, June 19, 2015

What does stubborness mean?

A stubborn person shows dogged determination not to change one's attitude or position on something, especially in spite of good arguments or reasons to do so.

It is the tendency to resist any form of change.

Stubborness is effectively a resistance to life itself and leads nowhere.

Anything new or different or involving change is perceived (perhaps unconsciously) as a direct threat- even if the change in question is positive and in the person's best interest.

If you think you may be stubborn ask yourself: Why do I resist change?

What am I afraid of?

What do I fear would happen to me if I allowed uncontrollable changes to happen?

If looking deeper ask yourself, How was I hurt in the past? Can I let it go?

Friday, June 12, 2015

Why are fermented foods good for health?

Fermented foods are good for the digestive system which is extremely important as this system controls 85% of the immune system.

The digestive system has about 100 trillion bacteria which need to stay balanced between good and bad bacteria in order to function best.

The stomach is very acidic, and designed to kill off bad organisms (fungi, viruses, worms, bad bacteria, parasites) so that only acid-tolerant-good microbes move through into the small intestine where nutrition absorption takes place.

Stomach acidity declines with age, meaning that more and more bad microbes pass through into the small intestine as peoeple age. Studies are now linking dementia, age related disease to pathogenic microbes found in the small intestines.

Fermented foods are acidic and help the stomach maintain it's acidity. They also help with keeping the stomach detoxified so that it can do it's job better. Fermented foods also have a very high level of probiotics (good bacteria) which pass through into the small intestine.

Fermented foods also help produce acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter which helps with bowel movements, and therefore help prevent constipation.

Fermented foods also help prevent obesity and diabetes, regulate fat absorption, and help with mineral absorption.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Why are diets so hard to stick to?

A public health researcher at the University of Buffalo recently looked into the question of why follow through on diets is so difficult.

He found that maintaining a diet is a "thinking" event requiring planning, scheming, will power, etc. which are all cognitive skills.

But follow-through on a diet requires good "feelings" in  order to be successful. If one doesn't enjoy the foods in a diet, the diet will fail. A successful diet needs to have a very strong emotional component. If the "thinking" and the "feeling" of a diet are not congruent, the health change will fail.

So the key issue, in designing a new diet, is much more than what's healthiest to eat....but also what are the most enjoyable as well as the healthiest foods to eat. 

Thursday, May 28, 2015

What is Pyroluria?

Pyroluria is a genetic error in B6 and Zinc metabolism; Zinc and B6 are needed in the production of GABA and Seretonin.

People who are not effectively producing GABA and Seretonin have poor stress control, anxiety, mood swings, poor short term memory, explosive tempers, and depression.

Pyrolurics also have poor dream recall, abnormal fat distribution, and sensitivity to light & sound. 

Friday, May 22, 2015

What is Magnesium?

Magnesium is a chemical element needed for over 300 chemical reactions in the body. It's also known as an anti-stress mineral and natural tranquilizer.

Magnesium is depleted in people whose diets consist of processed foods, baked goods, soda, more than 7 alcohol units/week, caffeinated drinks, calcium supplements.

Magnesium is also depleted in people who are under alot of stress and who have poor diets.

Lack of magnesium looks like hyperexcitability, muscle weakness, sleepiness, aggression.

Studies done with high risk youth have found diets rich in magnesium are associated with reduced aggression and for reduced ADHD symptoms.

Magnesium can be found in dark, leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, and cocoa.

Friday, May 15, 2015

What is GABA?

GABA is a neurotranamittor which controls fear and anxiety when neurons become overexcited.

A deficiency of GABA can help explain why some people have anxiety disorders or panic attacks.

GABA is also directly responsible for the regulation of muscle tone.

GABA does not cross the blood-brain barrier which is why supplementation is probably ineffective.

The amino acid L-glutamine is the precursor to GABA production.

Zinc and B6 also help in the production of GABA.

Some foods can stimulate the body to produce more GABA; such as oolong tea, cherry tomatoes, anything fermented (kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, tempeh).  

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Does chewing gum help promote weight loss?

Studies have shown that chewing gum can help promote weight loss.

In a University of Rhode Island research study, gum chewers ate 68 fewer calories at lunch, plus burned 5% more calories than non-gum chewers.

A Louisiana State University (Dr Paula J Geiselman) study, found  that chewing gum helped control appetites and decreased daily intake of food by 40 calories.

Cutting 100 calories a day can result in loosing up to 10 pounds a year.

Reaching for a piece of gum instead of high caloried junk food, can help you loose up to two pounds a year.

Friday, May 8, 2015

What is the Therapeutic Lifestyle Change (TLC) for Depression?

Studies are showing the healthy lifestyles can be just as effective as pharmaceuticals for the treatment of depression. The following six have been identified as being particularly useful for healing from depression. Depression is an illness of decreased motivation; so the challenge is how to sustain these lifestyle changes until depression is erased or reduced.

1) Social connection.
2) Enhanced sleep.
3) Sunlight exposure.
4) Physical exercise.
5) Engaging activity.
6) Omega-3 fatty acids.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

What are 10 effects of sleep deprivation?

This is based on a research subject who stayed awake for 11 days without the use of coffee or any medication.  Sleep deprivation is often used as a torture technique. Here's why.

1) Tired brains have to work harder to pump energy into the prefrontal cortex.

2) Simple tasks like dialing a phone number become impossible because of short term memory loss.

3) Long term memory becomes impaired because the brains integrates/stores  memory as experience while sleeping.

4) A tired brain can't focus or keep attention on any one thing; a tired brain is a scattered brain.

5) A tired brain can't plan or make decisions.

6) Automatic systems (habits) become repetitive which is fine if your habits are all good ones, not so good if you are trying to quit smoking or eating junk food.

7) A sleep deprived person takes more risks because a tired brain does not remember consequences or make easy decisions (see # 5)

8) When mice were studied with prolonged sleep deprivation, it showed that they had lost up to 25% of their brain cells.

9) Sleep deprivation can cuase aggression, paranoia, hallucination, mania.

10) Driving while sleep deprived is more dangerous than driving while intoxicated; this is why professional drivers (bus drivers, etc) are banned from working if they have untreated sleep apnea).

Saturday, May 2, 2015

What are 10 easy tricks to stop cravings for food?

These have all been tested in research:

1) Tap your forehead (distraction)

2) Change how you think (MRI scans show that people who think about the ill effects of poor eating, increase the activity in the part of the brain responsible for self-regulation.

3) Play a computer game for 3 minutes (based on Elaborated Intrusion Theory)

4) Imagine colours, smells, sounds which will ground you in present time.

5) Surround yourself with pictures of food (The Instagram Diet).

6) Go for a walk (or any physical activity).

7) Eat protein rich breakfasts.

8) Chew gum.

9) Sleep well (frontol lobes which help provide self-control are less active in the sleep deprived)

10) Pay attention to your emotions.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

What is the Instagram diet?

A study by Dr Ryan Elder found that looking at pictures of a particular food, can make that food less enjoyable to eat.

The more pictures of a certain food one looks at, the less pleasure one gains from eating it.

The implication is that if one craves, let's say chocolate, to spend time every day looking at pictures of chocolate. Eventually the cravings to eat and gain pleasure from it will diminish.

The old saying: "Out of sight, out of mind" no longer applies.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Can imagining eating a specific food decease a craving for it?

A study found that imagining eating a specific food, let's say ice cream, can decrease the cravings for that food.

This idea is counterintuitive, as most people think that to suppress thoughts of a particular food, will eliminate cravings for it.

The key is to imagine eating a specific food, rather than thinking about that food. Imagine the feel of smooth ice cream in your mouth.  Imagine your favourite flavour, like chocolate....or the smell of strawberry ice cream. Imagine the coldness of ice cream  with your first spoon full.

Eating the food you crave, in your mind... with your imagination...will  decreases the motivation to eat that food, and also creates boredom with it.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Why does eating a protein rich breakfast help reduce cravings?

1) Protein takes loger to metabolize in the body, therefore one feels fuller (satiated) longer after eating protein.

2) Protein boosts levels of  dopamine in the brain which regulates cravings.

3) Protein reduces brain signals controlling food motivation and reward driven eating behaviour.

The worst thing someone could do is skip breakfast altogether.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Is food addictive?

A recent study on 120 University of Michigan students found that the more processed the food, the more addictive it was. Highly processed foods (that is, added fats and/or refined carbs) are altered specifically to be rewarding and therefore trigger the addictive-like response in the human brain.

Friday, January 16, 2015

What feelings or issues lie underneath procrastination?

This question was recently asked to a group of young mothers and here are their answers.

Procrastination is:

Avoiding change because change is scary.
Feeling unmotivated or depressed.
Fear of success or failure, so better not even to try.
Not knowing how to prioritize.
Struggling with commitment.
Fear of loss, so staying the same is safer.
Fear of the unknown.
Lack of organizational skills.
Poor or non-existent work habits.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Is sugar bad for our brains?

A recent study at the Center for Stroke Research in Berlin, Germany studied healthy people who also had high blood sugar levels. They found that the lower their blood sugar levels, the more words they could remember.

Other studies have shown that people with Type 2 diabetes or those with other glucose issues may have higher rates of Alzheimers or dementia.

The hippocampus can be the first part of the brain to be damaged by high sugar intake.