How processed food depletes your Feel-Good Receptors (Just like any other addiction)

How processed food depletes your Feel-Good Receptors (Just like any other addiction)
In an eye-opening exploration of food's grip on our minds and bodies, Dr. Joan Ifland, a renowned expert in food addiction, delves into the striking similarities between food and drug addictions at the "The Truth about Weight Loss" summit hosted by Better Life Summits. Dr. Ifland illuminates how processed foods, much like drugs, can hijack our brains' reward pathways, leading to a cycle of intense cravings and crashes. This cycle, driven by the corporations that once sold us tobacco, now exploit our biological responses to keep us reaching for processed food products that are deliberately designed to be addictive.

Dr. Ifland also highlights the insidious role of the food industry, tracing it back to tactics originally developed by tobacco companies. By uncovering documents from the tobacco industry's past, Dr. Ifland reveals how companies like RJ Reynolds have maneuvered their way into our diets, turning products like Hawaiian Punch and Oreo cookies into staples of childhood and beyond. These strategies, coupled with modern digital marketing, continue to entice and addict consumers from a young age, leveraging familiar mascots and social media to engage and ensnare the next generation in unhealthy eating habits.

Moreover, Dr. Ifland provides a stark analysis of the neurological impact of food addiction, detailing how the overstimulation of neurotransmitters like dopamine leads to a detrimental cycle of seeking substances to avoid withdrawal rather than for pleasure. However, she offers a glimmer of hope, suggesting that through understanding and consciously shifting our behaviors, we can begin to repair the damage and recover from addiction. By fostering connections and nurturing the oxytocin pathway, which is associated with love and bonding, there is a pathway towards healing, allowing us to reclaim control over our health and well-being.

Natural endocannabinoids to Improve Mood and Wellness

Natural endocannabinoids to Improve Mood and Wellness
In a recent Mind Body Green training course, Dr. Robert Rountree shared his insights into the endocannabinoid system (ECS), a critical yet often overlooked aspect of our physiological functioning. The ECS, a complex cell-signaling system identified in the early 1990s, plays a key role in maintaining the body's homeostasis by regulating mood, memory, pain sensation, appetite, metabolism, and more. Dr. Rountree's experience in Colorado, a pioneer in legalizing medical marijuana, has allowed him to witness firsthand the benefits of nurturing the ECS to manage chronic conditions.

Activation of the ECS receptors, found throughout the body including the nervous system and the digestive tract, has far-reaching effects on our health. These receptors support various bodily functions, from neurotransmission and neurogenesis to managing stress responses and influencing our fight or flight mechanisms. Through his training, Dr. Rountree emphasized the system's adaptogenic nature, capable of down-regulating or up-regulating neuronal excitability to maintain equilibrium within the body.

Dr. Rountree also shared practical advice on how to support the ECS through diet and lifestyle changes. He highlighted the importance of consuming fatty acids, dietary phytocannabinoids from foods like dark chocolate, black pepper, and hemp products, and engaging in stress-reducing practices such as meditation and mindful movement. This holistic approach not only contributes to a balanced ECS but also enhances overall wellness, illustrating the significant impact of the ECS on our physical and mental health.

Genes and Mental Health

We have more than 20,000 genes in the body which hold the instructions for producing the proteins that perform every single function in the body. 
Certain genetic variations affect the nerve cells of the brain, can alter nerve growth and neural circuitry in ways that can predispose us to mental health challenges like anxiety. These genes can also affect the levels of neurotransmitters, the chemical messengers that cells use to communicate. 
Genetics research into twins has revealed that both anxiety and the traits that predispose us to anxiety, for example, are highly inheritable. 

While there does not appear to be a single gene that contributes to anxiety, there are several genes and their variants under investigation for their potential to work together, essentially increasing the or decreasing the likelihood that we will be affected by anxiety. 

SLC6A4 - One gene in particular that has shown a slightly increased link for social anxiety disorder risk is the serotonin transporter gene called SLC6A4 gene. This gene codes for the serotonin transporter (SERT) and stops serotonin activity by transporting serotonin back into the brain cells that release it.  An entire class of anti-depressant medications, known as SSRI or serotonin reuptake inhibitors work by blocking this regulation. Several conditions have been linked to SLC6A4 genes including:

Autism Spectrum Disorder
Drug Dependencies
Cardiovascular disease

Mutations of the SLC6A4 Gene have been shown to affect the rate of serotonin uptake and can contribute to SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome), aggressive behavior, Alzheimer's Disease patients, and those susceptible to depression or have experienced trauma. 

GLRB (Glycine Receptor Gene B)- There are four variants of this gene associated with increased risk for anxiety. Researchers believe these variants may cause the brains fear center to be over-reactive.

OXTR- Changes to the Oxytocin receptor gene involved in emotional regulation has also been linked with anxiety disorder. This gene codes for the oxytocin receptor which mediates the levels of oxytocin, commonly referred to as the love hormone. Oxytocin plays important roles in emotional bonding, social behavior, mood, stress, empathy. Oxytocin is released during childbirth and lactation to facilitate the bonding between mother and child.  It is believed that polymorphisms may influence social interactions and relationships. 

Oxytocin is one of the main neurotransmitters responsible for inhibiting the fear center in the amygdala. The more oxytocin activity we have, the better protection against stress, fear and anxiety, because it counteracts the parts of the brain that respond to stress signals. There are two main factors that determine how sensitive we are to negative moods, one is the sensitivity of the amygdala- the larger and more active the amygdala, the more easily it will be triggered into negative moods. The second factor that impacts our sensitivity to negative experience is the amount of oxytocin receptors in the brain. The more oxytocin activity, the less susceptible we will be to negative moods and emotions. 

The OXTR gene plays a role in both of these factors. The gene itself codes for oxytocin receptors which allow oxytocin to shape and control how the brain processes information. So, this gene determines how many receptors we have for oxytocin. Secondarily, because oxytocin suppresses amygdala activity, this gene also affects the sensitivity of the amygdala.

While these genes may increase our susceptibility to stress-induced mental health conditions, carrying a specific genetic mutation is not a death sentence.
We used to think, carrying a genetic mutation meant we were destined to a life of dysfunction, but through the field of epigenetics, we now recognize that it is both nature and nurture that influences the activity of the gene. While a genetic encoding may increase our propensity for a certain condition, it is ultimately lifestyle which determines how the gene will respond the environment. 

Stress management and self-care are necessary elements to ensure the cooperation of our genes, whether mutated or not. 
Self-care activities like exercise, yoga, breathwork and meditation give the body and mind some time to slow down and self-repair. 
Positive relationships, massage, a hug, cuddling up with your love on the couch, these are all things that can influence our genes respond to stress by increasing oxytocin which counters the negative effects of cortisol. 

While there are genetic tests that can help us determine our propensity for a condition, lifestyle changes are the only way we can influence what those genes are doing.

1. Diet - Everything starts in the gut, if the gut does not get the raw materials required to do all the things, then it will prioritize life over other functions. This means if we aren't giving ourselves all the necessary vitamins and minerals for the body to create all the neurochemicals and proteins that do all things our body does, we will more likely experience the negative effects of our lifestyle, regardless of what genes we carry.

2. Exercise- I talk about this a lot. Exercise is necessary to move the energy created by the stress chemicals. Think about something that causes you stress, you may be familiar with the rush of adrenaline and cortisol that causes your heartrate to beat faster and your breathing to get shallow and your pulse to quicken. Without expending that energy, it has no where to go, think of it as a corrosive chemical in the body, just waiting to be emptied out. All you have to do is expend the energy. Take a walk, dance it out, life weights, do yoga, whatever you have to do to move that corrosive energy out of the body. Remember, that cortisol is catabolic by design, meaning it breaks the body down quickly in order to get fast energy. Muscle is quickly broken down to make energy. Do your body a favor and give your mind a break with some routine movement. Think of it as routine maintenance.

3. Massage is such a relaxing way to get into your body. The gentle strokes of a massage can activate oxytocin, the love hormone that counteracts the negative effects of stress. 

If you are interested in decoding your own genetics and deciphering your own genetic risk of stress related mental health conditions or any other condition, contact me today to discuss your Precision health package. 

If you need support reaching your health goals, contact me to see how health coaching can help you. 

Mental Health begins in the gut

Mental Health begins in the gut
Discover the fascinating connection between your gut and brain in our latest blog post! Recent scientific research reveals that the gut plays a crucial role in regulating our mood and motivation. It turns out that the gut produces around 90% of the mood-regulating serotonin and 50% of the dopamine responsible for our motivation and reward systems.

While scientists are still unraveling the exact mechanisms of this gut-brain connection, there's no denying the impact it has on our overall well-being. Low levels of serotonin can lead to mental health issues like anxiety and depression, while decreased dopamine can result in a lack of motivation. To keep these neurotransmitters flowing, make sure to consume tryptophan-rich foods like salmon and eggs for serotonin, and tyrosine-packed foods like steak and cheese for dopamine.

Taking care of your gut health by nourishing it with the right nutrients is vital. The trillions of microorganisms in your gut rely on the food you eat to produce essential brain chemicals. By maintaining a diverse and nutritious diet, you can support your gut microbiome and reap the benefits of a healthier brain and body. So, become a gut guru and embrace the good vibes that come from a well-nourished gut!

Unveiling the Gut-Mind Connection: Exploring the Impact of Gut Health on Mental Wellbeing

Unveiling the Gut-Mind Connection: Exploring the Impact of Gut Health on Mental Wellbeing
Discover the fascinating connection between gut health and mental wellbeing in our latest article. Recent scientific research has highlighted the profound impact the gut can have on our emotional and psychological state. The gut-brain axis, a bidirectional pathway between the gut and brain, plays a crucial role in this relationship, with the gut microbiome emerging as a key player. Imbalances in the gut microbiome have been linked to conditions such as depression, anxiety, and neurodevelopmental disorders.

Nurturing a healthy gut microbiome can be achieved through a varied, whole foods-based diet, incorporating probiotic and prebiotic-rich foods or supplements, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Additionally, seeking professional support is crucial for those experiencing persistent mental health symptoms. By understanding and optimizing our gut health, we can potentially enhance our emotional resilience, support mood regulation, and improve overall mental wellbeing.
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