Herbal Supplements Often Not What They Claim

A recent study concluded that herbal supplements are often not what they claim to be. The study was published in the journal BMC Medicine and it got front-page coverage on the New York Times website. Using DNA analysis, researchers tested 44 products from a dozen companies. The DNA signatures were compared with samples obtained from horticultural greenhouses. The study was summarized in the New …

Changing Hormone Levels and Mood

I was on the phone yesterday having an urgent consultation with a woman we have worked for 15 years. She has had a pretty straight forward history of depression and anxiety that we’ve treated primarily with antidepressants and cognitive behavioral therapy. She’s had a good response to this treatment approach. The two things about her depression that are a little …

Depression and Inflammation

Recently there has been increasing interest in the relationship between depression and chronic overactivity of the body’s biological defense system – inflammation. When we have an infection, or an injury, or almost any other kind of illness, the body activates a series of processes designed to respond to the threat. Unfortunately, the inflammation system, especially if it is turned on …

Hormones and Food

In an earlier post we talked about some of the research on appetite. We reviewed some of the peptide hormones that regulate appetite and how the entire system that controls appetite is really designed to cope better with a time of scarcity than a time of plenty. Here I want to talk more specifically about the interplay between other hormone …

Hunger Regulation

Recently several folks have asked us questions about diet, hunger, weight gain, and nutrition. Certainly for many people with depression, gaining weight is an important issue, both as a cause and consequence of depression. Let’s begin by trying to make some sense of hunger. In other posts we will be talking about how stress and the hormone system relates to …

Ginseng

If you are a ginseng believer, then ginseng is the one supplement that all of us should be taking. Russian scientist Israel Brekhman coined the term “adoptegens” to refer to agents that helped individuals deal with stress. The prime example of this, in his view, was ginseng. [If you are interested in an example of the controversy that surrounds many …

The Loving Brain

Get ready, because the month of July has an exciting event coming up! Rick Hanson, Ph.D. is hosting a free interview series called the Loving Brain starting July 15. For the 8 following Mondays, experts will be giving talks on how to develop positive relationships with others and establish a healthy self image. If you happen to miss a speaker …

Runner’s High

A great way to gain both physical and mental strength is to make running a part of your workout. A lifestyle that includes running promotes well being and reaps both cognitive and mental benefits. When running, the body releases endogenous opioids, like endorphins, that relieve stress. The feeling some people call a runner’s high is due to the activation of …

Know Your Body

Geneen Roth talks about how infatuated she was with her imperfections while growing up. She was constantly thinking of how much better looking she would be if she didn’t have certain features. If only she could cut out all the flaws, so just her best features would remain she could be happy.  Roth tried to reach self improvement through shaming …

Stress and Your Brain

Stress has a major affect on our bodies and our brain. The release of catecholamines (adrenaline and related chemicals) and cortisol causes significant changes throughout our body that are designed to prepare us for “fight or flight.” By shutting down all non-essential functions the stress response system prepares us for a life and death struggle Nowadays there are no life …

Depression and Heart Disease: Inflammation

A large study published in April of 2013 in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology followed 667 people with heart disease for 5 years and found that depression appears to lead to inflammation rather than inflammation leading to depression. Excessive inflammation is one of the main causes of heart disease, because it is associated with blockages in the blood vessels that deliver blood to …

Iron for PMS

A recent study suggested that women who consumed higher amounts of iron (from plant not animal sources) had a lower rate of premenstrual symptoms. Those who consumed more than 20 milligrams per day had about a 30% reduction in PMS symptoms compared with those who consumed less than the average amount  (average intake of 9.4 milligrams per day). This study …

Drug Companies

This blog has mostly not dealt with questions related to medications for treating mood disorders.  When we looked around to see what was out there on the Internet, it seemed to us that there was no dearth of information about medications.  The problem was finding reliable information about non-medication approaches to living with moods. This morning I met with an …

Mood and Food

Today’s post was inspired by Disorderly Chickadee’s blog. She has been in an unstable (irritable) mood but her post is about how proud she is of the fact that she has been losing weight. For some reason, several people we have been working with have also been feeling irritable and agitated, and using some of that energy to lose weight…It …

Power out of Depression

It sometimes can be very hard to think of ways of getting out of a lurking depression. A recent email from Moodscope (a site with a mood tracking program that many people find very useful) highlights one very useful strategy: instead of staying stuck in your brain, switch your focus to physical activity. This strategy can be surprisingly effective. If …

Body Work

Several months ago a young attorney who I have been seeing for a couple of years came in and, reluctantly, told me that he and his wife had not had sex for the past year. It took two or three months to get him to consider going for couples counseling.  I found a therapist who specialized in working with couples …

Exercise and Brain Health

According to the Exercise and Brain Health: Good Points to Remember article in the December 27, 2012 issue of Bipolar Network News, “(…) exercise is extremely important in (…) helping to improve depressed mood, increasing cardiovascular fitness, and maintaining healthy cognition.” It is also suggested that aerobic fitness may increase the size of the hippocampus which in turn decreases risk factors for …