Tagged with 'Mental Health'

Fatigue: Why Am I So Tired All The Time?

Fatigue
Our bodies are great at sending us signals when something is wrong. We just have to learn to read them. Whether you wake up exhausted, feel like you're dragging your feet throughout the entire day, or always hit that afternoon energy slump, there are reasons to investigate further. Nutrient Deficiencies  The standard North American diet is full of opportunities for improvement. With an emphasis placed on simple carbohydrates (white bread, pasta, and rice); sugar (juices, sodas, and baked goods); and saturated fats (deep-fried items, meats, and butter); it comes as no surprise that overall nutrient intake is low. In the busy lifestyles of our fast-paced "go-go-go" society, quick and easy meals are often the norm These quick and easy meals are usually void of substantial healthy nutrients, but high in calories. This means that although we feel full, our bodies still crave nutrients, and this will trigger a hunger response that doesn't have to do with being hungry. When we fuel our bodies and mind with the right nutrients, energy is more balanced and cravings are kept in check. Having a diet full of fruits and vegetables is a great way to ensure nutrient intake is high. Poor digestion is another big cause of nutrient deficiencies. Even if you are eating all the right foods, your gut has to be able to break down your food properly and absorb nutrients from it. The phrase "you are what you absorb" is a much better analogy to the commonly heard "you are what you eat." Symptoms such as frequent bloating, excess gas, constipation, diarrhea, and acid reflux are indications that your digestive tract may not be functioning optimally.  Common nutrient deficiencies include iron, magnesium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12 (especially if you are a vegan/vegetarian). Although water isn't a "nutrient" per se, inadequate intake can also cause fatigue. Be sure to compensate for caffeine items such as coffee, which can dehydrate you further. Thyroid Concerns  The thyroid is a small but mighty gland that sits at the base of your throat. This gland is involved in numerous processes in the body, including metabolism, body temperature, digestion, period health, cognition, and skin health. A low-functioning thyroid (hypothyroidism) can be a big contributing factor to fatigue, sensitivity to cold, dry skin, heavy and/or irregular periods, resistant weight loss, and anxiety/depression. Often, the thyroid will become dysfunctional due to stress, impaired gut health, and autoimmune conditions.  There is a genetic component to thyroid dysfunction, so it may be a good idea to get assessed if you have a family history. If you have reason to suspect a thyroid concern, speak to your healthcare professional about getting a full thyroid panel checked through blood work.  Mental Health  Health is comprised of your physical, mental, and emotional realms. Unfortunately, our physical health often takes precedence over our mental health, sometimes simply because it’s more externally visible. As such, it's important to distinguish mental and emotional energy from physical energy. For example, an excess mental load can result in burnout fatigue. This can cause mood fluctuations (including being quick to anger and impatience), feeling "wired but tired," and feeling overwhelmed when decision-making. This can also cause difficulties sleeping, which in turn results in poor mental, emotional, and physical energy because our bodies aren't able to properly restore from the previous day. Sometimes, what we deem as fatigue is actually mental and emotional exhaustion from depression or anxiety. A key question to ask yourself would be, "Am I lacking motivation or the physical capacity to do what I want to do?" The latter describes a lack of physical energy. Lack of motivation and disinterest in things that used to bring you joy are signs that your mental health may need tending to. Many physical concerns, such as unrestful sleep despite adequate hours of shut-eye and brain fog, can be signs of depression or anxiety. Although it can be scary to face, you are not alone. Mental health concerns have skyrocketed throughout the young and old alike, and have been increasingly evident throughout the COVID pandemic. Stress (Hpa Axis)  The hypothalamus–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis describes the link between the brain and the adrenal glands. While stress impacts all body organ systems, the adrenal glands are a key player in regulating the stress hormone called cortisol. Stress is not inherently a bad thing. It’s a great driver for productivity and allows our senses to heighten in dangerous situations to get us to safety. When the body's stress response is activated, it quickly mobilizes resources so that they are readily available for use. However, when stress becomes chronically high without adequate support for restoration, it begins to rapidly deplete the body's resources to keep up with demand.  “When we don ...

Letting Go and Holding On: Reflections For A Healthier You

Letting Go and Holding On
Human minds have been conditioned for years (and through experience) to run away from things we dislike and run toward things we like. We escape avoiding discomfort, pain, and unease while we chase what brings us immediate pleasure, gratification, or a sense of control. This is an interesting concept to observe and understand. Today as we change homes, jobs, and relationships, we can see that the same principles apply. Let’s walk together, mindfully, as we take a closer look at the mind’s tendencies and how they affect us, our families, our workplaces, and the world around us. Letting go When we go through difficult times, we’ve all heard a close friend or family member say, “Just let it go.” you may have noticed that sometimes the mind will replay these difficult times repeatedly, and what we remember about the incident can change dramatically over time. We may also remember things differently from others involved. Even people who feel they have a perfect memory will be biased in their mental perspectives. As a result, we may not speak kindly of a person or an experience that has hurt us, and we may even act differently because of our “understanding” of it. This can happen both in our personal and professional lives. “the truth is, unless you let go unless you forgive yourself unless you forgive the situation unless you realize that the situation is over, you cannot move forward.” This means that two people can look at the same moment from different perspectives—through the “vision” each person carries from past life experiences. So, if we go to a party and I remember it as having a fabulous spread of tasty treats because I love fruit, you may have found it awful because you are a pastry maker looking for unique baked creations. If either of us tells the other to “let it go,” the hurt that one may feel from that comment will be based on how much we have self-identified by our preferences. I might look forward to interacting with people more at parties, and you may look forward to the food itself. All of this affects us when we think of letting go. Similarly, in the workplace, the more one identifies with the work or work environment, the less easy it would be to “let go” in times of change. If one loves the job, it’s not easy to let it go if there’s a job loss; however, if one focuses on finances and loses the job to get a higher-paying one, it may feel easier. If someone values working with different people, almost any job may be satisfying. Once again, it helps to know what people may identify with to fully understand why we do what we do, and what makes letting go easier for some and harder for others. Once we have this understanding, moving forward after let- ting go (or being let go) in any situation can be easier. Resentment, anger, guilt, and judgment toward oneself or others only build resistance to the reality of the situation. Letting go is easier when one comes from a forgiving space, as steve maraboli’s quote shows us. Remember, when moving away from what is not liked, let- ting go is easier. It’s less easy to let go in situations that were once loved—whether it’s a job or a relationship. When one grieves deeply, this is the best time to try to understand oneself deeply too. Since we are all interconnected, under- standing oneself honestly and fully often opens awareness and understanding of others as well. This space of under- standing allows for true forgiveness in a situation; this is the space that allows us to let go of opinions, beliefs, and judgments. This then opens a world of possibilities that the mind will be ready to see and receive joyfully. Holding on The mind truly loves to hold on to what it finds pleasurable. This may be a sensory-related item, such as food or the touch of another. Sometimes it’s the feeling of power or authority over others, which can happen personally or professionally. Tactics such as using money or yelling can become a power “weapon” in these scenarios. You’ve likely heard of incidents where neither of these tactics has been obvious at first, but drastic incidents have occurred as a result, leading to domestic and/or public violence. Many relationship break-ups have this history, where someone has learned to hold on to their “power” secretively. Can you believe that holding on can lead to such experiences- es? Perhaps you even know of an employee who walked out of their office at a moment’s notice, or a partner that was suddenly handed divorce papers. This happens more often than you might think. Sometimes holding on when one feels wronged even has financial repercussions, as these cases might go to court at great cost to all involved. I hope you can see that the act of “holding on”- if not accompanied by love, honesty, and integrity—can easily lead to greed, jealousy, competition, and anger. Unfortunately, many of us have experienced these sorts of situations or heard about them i ...

The Gut Microbiome and Mental Health: They Are Connected

Gut Microbiome and Mental Health
The "gut microbiome" has been an increasingly popular buzzword and the importance of gut health has gained momentum. To define it properly, our gut microbiome is the collection of microorganisms present in our digestive tract. This involves bacteria, viruses, protozoa, and fungi. Emerg- ing research in the last decade has identified the microbiome as an essential target for health that impacts our ability to lose weight and the risk of atopic diseases, such as asthma, allergies, eczema, cardiovascular disease, mental health disorders, and more. Mental Health The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the prevalence of mental health concerns. Mental health connects all our human experiences, regardless of age, race, language, time zone, or country; we've all been touched by its positive and negative effects. There is a strong bidirectional relationship between the health of our gut and our mental health. Patients with gastrointestinal concerns also tend to have at least one psychiatric medical condition. These patients can experience chronic stress, anxiety, depression, fatigue, and insomnia—all as a result of their symptoms and poor gut health.2,3 Gastrointestinal conditions can include irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), ulcerative colitis (UC), inflammatory bowel disorder (IBD), small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), celiac disease, and Crohn's disease. The gut-brain axis influences many regular body processes, including our immune, endocrine, and neural pathways. This means that to take care of our mental health, we must also take care of our gut microbiome. Microbiome Disruption Factors that disrupt our gut microbiome include stress, the use of antibiotics and/or pharmaceuticals (including the birth control pill), consuming food additives and preservatives, and overly restrictive diets. These can all alter the balance of good vs. bad bacteria in the gut, and encourage the growth of bad bacteria. Symptoms such as diarrhea, constipation, bloating, and gas can be a sign that the gut microbiome is disrupted. Another not-so-obvious sign of a damaged gut is skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema, and acne. These symptoms can occur because our skin is the largest organ of elimination. When our body isn't properly able to eliminate toxins and waste products through our bowels, urine, and sweat, it often turns to release them through the skin. It’s important to address these health conditions early on to avoid further harm to your gut microbiome. “Diversity In Your Gut Microbiome Appears To Improve Resilience Against Infection And Illness.” Supporting The Microbiome The beautiful thing about using food as medicine is that better health can begin as early as your very next bite. The food we eat plays an important part in how our gut microbiome develops. The habits we follow each day determine what our gut microbiome is colonized with (i.e., whether the good or bad microorganisms dominate). While there is never a "one size fits all" approach to nutrition, one finding appears to be true across the gut microbiome literature: diversity in your gut microbiome appears to improve resilience against infection and illness. This is be- cause different microorganisms serve different functions. For example, xyloglucans (commonly found in vegetables such as onions and lettuce) are uniquely digested by a specific species of Bacteroides.4 This means that the greater microbiome diversity there is, the greater the chance you'll always have microorganisms that are "working." Multiple studies have noted a positive relationship between increased fruit and vegetable intake and positive psychological well-being.5,6,7 For instance, a 2018 systemic review and meta-analysis of epidemiological studies noted a 14 percent lower risk of depression in cohort studies (a type of long-term study that follows participants over an extended period) and a 25 percent lower risk of depression in cross-sectional studies (a type of observational study that compares participants at a certain snapshot in time). A probiotic often comes in the form of  a supplement, and is deemed the "beneficial bacteria." Taking probiotics consistently can help repopulate your gut microbiome with microorganisms that help in digestion, immune function, skin health, and—you guessed it—mental health. There's even some evidence that probiotics can be used both acutely and preventatively for disease. There is so much variation in probiotics that it's important to start a supplement regime under the guidance of a naturopathic doctor. Probiotics vary in: 1)Amount of bacteria 2)Types of bacterial strains 3)Frequency of dosing Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium are two of the most popular bacterial strains. Many factors determine whether probiotics are a good fit for you, and which are your best options. Prebiotic foods are the foods that feed the good microorganisms in the gut.9 Incorporating prebiotic foods daily helps to maintain a healthy mi ...