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WHAT IS GABA AND WHY DO I NEED IT?

GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) is one of the body’s most calming neurotransmitters and plays a powerful role in anxiety and depression. Like serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine, GABA is not directly available in food. But the amino acid, glutamine, is present in food and converts to GABA. GABA is available as a supplement but most medical professionals do not believe it can cross the blood-brain barrier to enter the brain. However, there are many people who take GABA as a supplement and report that it relieves their anxiety. It is possible that due to malnutrition or inflammation the blood-brain barrier could weaken, allowing a substance to cross. Glutamine is an amino acid that can cross the blood-brain barrier and can convert to GABA in the brain. Glutamine is found in many different foods. Low levels of GABA are associated with: Anxiety Irritability Fatigue Panic attacks Insomnia Restlessness Low stress tolerance Feelings of dread Short temper There is no established daily recommendation for glutamine. The body can make its own glutamine but it is diminished under stressful conditions, including mental stress or physical stress like intensive exercise. Because of this, sometimes the body is not able to keep up with glutamine production making it a “conditionally essential” amino acid, so it becomes “essential” during these times to obtain glutamine from the diet. Supplementation of 10 grams per day has been found to be safe. An individual’s actual needs are difficult to determine because it will depend on stress levels, physical exertion, or mental or physical trauma, all of which can cause a deficiency in glutamine. While it is not recommended for people with neurological disorders to take supplements containing glutamine, consumption of glutamine from food sources is not known to cause any harmful effects and in a whole foods organic diet, you will be supplying all the building blocks needed for the body to produce its own needed glutamine. Foods high in glutamine are: Grass-fed beef Bison Free range chicken Free range eggs Whey protein Red cabbage Beets Beans Ensuring that your glutamine levels are adequate will help your brain make the GABA it needs to prevent or correct the anxiety and depression that can result from low levels of GABA. Eating good quality protein several times a day should provide you with adequate glutamine for GABA...

SELENIUM – A Micro-Nutrient with a Mega-Impact!...

Selenium improves the immune system against bacterial and viral infections, against cancer cells and herpes virus, cold sores, and shingles. It also regulates cholesterol and benefits the skin during healing from burn injuries. Selenium contributes to healthy skin and shampoo containing selenium can alleviate dandruff problems. Selenium also plays an important role in preventing and decreasing depression and anxiety. There has probably been more research on selenium and its relationship to depression and anxiety than any other nutrient. Back in 1991, Benton & Cook’s study, “The impact of selenium supplementation on mood” published in Biological Psychiatry showed a strong correlation between depressive symptoms and selenium in 50 British subjects. In their double-blind study, subjects received either a placebo or 100 mcg selenium daily. A food frequency questionnaire was used to estimate the intake of selenium in the diet. The subjects consuming the highest amounts of selenium had the highest elevation of mood and lower anxiety. The lower the level of selenium in the diet the more reports of anxiety, depression, and tiredness, which were all reversed following 5 weeks of selenium therapy. Ongoing studies have continued to confirm that lower dietary selenium intakes are associated with an increased risk of depression. SELENIUM PREVENTS POST-PARTUM DEPRESSION Recently, researchers at the University of Calgary in Canada studied 475 pregnant women to see if selenium played a role in preventing postpartum depression. They found that prenatal supplementation with selenium decreased the risk of postpartum depression. A 2011 study of 166 pregnant women in Iran reached the same conclusion; selenium supplementation during pregnancy significantly decreased the risk of postpartum depression. While selenium supplementation reduces the risk of depression, deficiencies in vitamin D, zinc, and selenium all contribute to the development of postpartum depression. SELENIUM IMPROVES DEPRESSION AMONG THE ELDERLY Selenium has improved depressive symptoms among the elderly living in nursing and residential homes. This is very good news since it is estimated that one third of older people in elderly care facilities have significant symptoms of depression, although I suspect that number is actually higher. Since the elderly are no longer able to cook for themselves, they are at the mercy of the facilities for their meals. It is too often the case that dietary regimens in institutions of all kinds are woefully lacking in nutrients necessary for good mental health. A BRAZIL NUT A DAY KEEPS DEPRESSION AWAY Adequate selenium levels are crucial for the prevention of depression and anxiety. Consuming the recommended amount of selenium has been demonstrated to relieve depression and anxiety caused by major life stressors. Numerous studies have supported its effectiveness at preventing postpartum depression...

3 SURPRISING THINGS ABOUT CALCIUM

CALCIUM DEFICIENCY IS STRONGLY LINKED TO DEPRESSION Most of us know that calcium is important for strong teeth and bones. Your heart, muscles and nerves also need calcium to function properly. One thing that may come as a surprise is that calcium is important for regulating our mood. Calcium is one of Nature’s sedatives with calming and relaxing effects. It has recently been shown to be significantly more effective than acetaminophen in long-term pain reduction in orthodontic treatment. So, in addition to relaxation and stress relief, calcium also provides relief from pain. People who have depression and anxiety have been found to be deficient in calcium. A negative association was found in middle-aged Korean women between dietary intake of calcium and depression; the less calcium they consumed in their diets, the more depressed they were. YOU NEED FAT TO ABSORB CALCIUM Calcium needs to be consumed along with fat in order to be utilized by the body. One of the consequences of “low fat” diets is the body can’t use the calcium from fat-free foods. For instance, while cow’s milk is a good source of calcium, the calcium in skim milk is essentially wasted unless you add some other source of fat at the same time. If, along with your skim milk, you ate a piece of toast with butter, you would be able to absorb and use the calcium. But in the absence of fat, no matter how much calcium is listed on the label, you aren’t getting any of it! It’s better to drink milk with at least 1% milkfat to utilize the calcium. CALCIUM ISN’T ONLY IN DAIRY PRODUCTS Of course milk and cheese are excellent sources of calcium but so are dark leafy greens like kale, turnip greens and collards. Almonds are also high in calcium, making almond milk a good alternative to cow’s milk for calcium. Almonds and almond milk also naturally contain fat so the calcium is readily available. A variety of fruits are also good sources of calcium including oranges and strawberries. An adult needs around 1000 mg of calcium each day. I include dark leafy greens in my diet every day, either in green smoothies in the morning, salad at lunch, or cooked greens with dinner or all three! I include a teaspoon of flax oil with my greens, in my smoothies, salad dressing and squirted directly on cooked greens to insure good calcium absorption and a powerpunch of omega 3’s! Flax oil has a sweet, nutty taste and is the perfect compliment to dark leafy greens. Sauteing dark green leafy...

JUNK FOOD, DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY

  America’s love of junk food and fast food and the high incidence of mental illness compared to other countries may be more than coincidence. America’s 26% of the population currently diagnosed with mental illness is in stark contrast to the worldwide prevalence of 4.3%. This could, in part, be attributed to a difference in diagnostic criteria but could also be due to a lack of nutrients in processed food compared to diets richer in less processed foods in other parts of the world. Unfortunately, this American trend is now creeping into other developed countries and affecting their populations in the same negative ways. JUNK FOOD IS LINKED TO DEPRESSION For instance, researchers in Britain followed 3,000 middle-aged office workers over a period of 5 years monitoring their diets and reported levels of depression. Those who ate a diet high in junk food including processed meat, chocolate, sweet desserts, fried food, refined cereals, and high-fat dairy products were more likely to report depression. Those who ate a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and fish were less likely to report being depressed. In a larger European study of over 12,000 volunteers whose diets and lifestyles were followed for 6 years, researchers found that participants whose diets were high in trans-fats (present in commercially baked goods and fast-food) were 48% more likely to develop depression than those who did not consume trans-fats. Additionally, participants who consumed most of their fats in the form of fish and olive oil had a lower risk of suffering depression. Where there are trans-fats there is often sugar and a study conducted in 6 countries established a highly significant correlation between sugar consumption and the prevalence of depression. While we are still uncertain what the relationship is, there is reason to suspect that a high intake of sugar may interfere with the balance, production or reception of neurotransmitters. Similarly, researchers at the University of Melbourne examined over 1000 randomly selected women, ages 20-93, assessing for symptoms of depression and anxiety and comparing “traditional” diets to “western” diets. They found that the women who ate a “traditional” diet of vegetables, fruit, meat, fish, and whole grains had less depression and anxiety than those who ate a “western” diet of processed or fried foods, refined grains, sugary products, and beer. A 2009 study by the University of Navarra also showed that a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, fish, and whole grains and low in red meat and dairy was associated with a lower risk of depression. Another large study of 2579 college students over 7 cities in China...

VITAMIN D, DEPRESSION AND WINTER

Numerous studies have linked vitamin D to depression. When we don’t get enough vitamin D, we are at greater risk of depression.

Trytophan and Serotonin

  A neurotransmitter is a chemical substance that is produced in the brain and carries messages from one nerve cell to another. It seems obvious that the brain is part of the body. And, yet, I think many people think of the brain as a closed system that operates separate from the body. We’ve probably all heard depression referred to as “a chemical imbalance” in the brain. We have chemicals in our brains that are supposed to somehow be “in balance”. It follows then that if we have a “chemical imbalance” we need to take chemicals to restore that balance. That is the idea behind taking anti-depressants – to correct the “chemical imbalance” in our brains. What many people don’t realize is that nutrients are involved in creating neurotransmitters. For instance, when we eat turkey, vitamin B-6 along with the amino acid, tryptophan, work together to convert the tryptophan from the turkey into the neurotransmitter, serotonin, in the brain. Serotonin is known as the “feel good” neurotransmitter and is one of the major mood regulators. Since low levels of serotonin are linked to depression, most anti-depressants target serotonin with the goal of increasing available serotonin levels in the brain. We can increase the serotonin levels in our brains with the proper foods. In fact, anti-depressants do not increase serotonin in the brain. Anti-depressants work to make better use of what serotonin is already there. The only way to increase serotonin is by ingesting tryptophan. Men typically have higher levels of serotonin than women, which could be one explanation for why women have higher rates of depression. Foods high in tryptophan include: Chicken Turkey Dairy products Nuts Wild Game and fowl Tuna Salmon Lobster Crab Cod Sardines Beans Eggs Pumpkin seeds Wheat germ Tryptophan converts to serotonin with the help of other nutrients, most notably vitamin B-6. Vitamin B-6 is also present in the foods that contain tryptophan. Tryptophan competes with other amino acids in protein-rich foods fighting for entry into the brain. Tryptophan will often get beat out by other amino acids and get left behind unless it is eaten together with starchy food. Whether this is because the starch causes the body to release insulin and the insulin aids in carrying the tryptophan from the bloodstream to the brain or whether it is because the starch itself or the fiber in the starchy food slows the digestive process giving the tryptophan more time to reach the brain is not entirely clear. But, if you eat foods containing tryptophan together with starchy carbohydrates, you are more likely to be...