Trees

exercise. the best medicine. (podcast!)

Growing up, I was a kid who hid in the back corner during gym — because dodgeballs are hard and kids are mean. I never developed a sense of myself as athletic, and mostly didn’t miss it.

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Instead, I found my physicality by carrying my life essentials on my back for four days on a backpacking trail. It was life altering — but somewhat location dependent.

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Several years ago, I hit a personal low. I had tried pretty much all the things, but wasn’t feeling any better. After being strongly advised by a non-medical friend to consider pharmaceutical medications, a Facebook post from a doctor friend jumped out at me: Weight-bearing improves mood.

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So I tried it. And it made a huge difference.

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The research literature has long supported exercise as a treatment for depression and anxiety. The side effects of exercise, properly applied, are increased strength, improved blood sugar balance, better immune function and more.

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(Note that I don’t tout weight loss here. Not everyone loses weight, and not everyone needs to. Overall health should be the goal, with weight optimization a possible secondary side effect.)

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When it comes to depression, research shows that while medications may work faster, exercise is equally effective after 16 weeks and better than drugs after 10 months. And it doesn’t take much: Just 20 minutes three times a week of moderate-intensity exercise makes a significant difference. (PMID: 15361924.)

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The same pattern holds for anxiety. Even a single round of resistance exercise can lower anxiety significantly. (PMID: 25071694)

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My patients will attest to this experience. Many of them start exercising and find the stressors that would stop their lives cold no longer affect them nearly as strongly. It’s been a lifesaver for them, as it has been for me.

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I mention my story because it’s not unique: Many of us have traumas and resistance around athleticism, gyms and “exercise” in general. You don’t have to even want to be an athlete to get these benefits. You just need to do the things.

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I started going to the gym with the idea that it was something I had to do regardless of whether I found a strong community or even liked the activity. It was a prescription. In the end, it surprised me with both community and an activity I enjoy. I’m still no athlete, but having exercise as a tool in times of stress is a huge help.

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The podcast below is one I did two years ago with Michael Skogg, the owner of Skogg Gym in Portland. (If you’re not local, he’s got both videos and virtual memberships available.) In it I review the science behind exercise as a treatment for depression and anxiety.

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If you find it useful, I hope you’ll pass this post along.

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Dr. Orna Izakson | natural mental health | exercise with kettle bells

does summer make you SAD?

Working in the Pacific Northwest, I see a lot of patients who have issues with seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

 

 

Most people understand SAD as a depression response to the short, dark days of winter. And indeed, that is the most common form.

 

 

But summer SAD is also truly a thing: hot days, unrelenting brightness that makes you think you have to be cheery and energetic, wildfire smoke in certain parts of the country — all of these contribute to seasonal depression in the summer.

 

 

Seasonal affective disorder, whenever it hits, has some common characteristics: depression is key, but also over- or undersleeping, anxiety and others. And some of the herbal and, if necessary, pharmacological prescriptions can help both types.

 

 

One simple treatment that works well for most types of depression is especially suited to summer SAD: getting into cold water.

 

 

 

natural mental health | wild water | summer SAD | depression | Dr. Orna Izakson

Cold water helps beat depression.

(more…)

zebrafish and brain repair

Filed under: healthy living,insomnia,sleep — Tags: , , — Orna @ 1:58 pm

Healthy brains require healthy sleep.

 

Really, you can’t fudge on this. At least not for long.

 

This cool study looked at zebrafish (fun in itself.) (more…)

the third level of healthcare

You’ve been to your primary-care doctor. You’ve been to a specialist. Maybe you’ve even been to multiple specialists.

 

And they’ve given you bad news, or confusing news, or they say there’s nothing wrong when clearly something is.

 

That’s where the third level of care comes in. And that’s my specialty.

 

 

If you’ve got health issues and aren’t sure where to go, consider naturopathic medicine. You can even book your appointment online. We look forward to seeing you soon!

 

Learn more about naturopathic medicine here.

 

 

 

flower essence training with Dr. Izakson

It’s no secret I’m a plant lover. It’s why I went into medicine.

 

I love that plants reinforce our connection to nature, while helping us navigate the modern world. Nearly every patient I treat gets some kind of plant-based prescription, whether it’s a powdered herb, a tea or an herbal extract such as a tincture or a gemmo.

 

The plant medicines I use most in practice are flower essences. They’re safe and gentle, don’t interfere with any other prescriptions and reliably make big changes in my patients’ well being.

 

Here’s one patient’s testimonial: (more…)

new year’s resolutions: biotransformation in 2014

December 31, 2013

 

Wishing you joy, laughter, freedom and light in 2014.

‘Tis the season to make resolutions. A time to reevaluate our choices, to envision a hopeful future in which we move forward into more perfect lives.

 

Although it hasn’t always been this way, as the Atlantic magazine explains in a Dec. 31 article, many of us make resolutions around our health. If you follow any blogs, Facebook pages or tweets on the subject, this is the time of year when you’ll be overwhelmed with possibilities for a New Year’s cleanse or detox program. You’ll lose weight! You’ll have more energy! That brain fog? Gone!

 

My friend and colleague Dr. Mahalia Freed wrote about this phenomenon on Facebook this time last year. Paraphrased (she said it so much better than I): You are not dirty, you don’t need to cleanse.

 

To which I said — and say again — hallelujah.

 

Health is not about fitting into your high-school prom dress. It’s not about just not being sick. We all have our definitions, but mine, today, is this: Health is enjoying our minds and our bodies, connecting with individuals and community and place, and fully living a life animated with meaning and purpose. (more…)

smell yourself to sleep

Filed under: herbal medicines,insomnia,sleep,Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Orna @ 6:45 am

Sedatives and sleeping pills are some of the most commonly prescribed drugs, despite having serious side effects and becoming addictive to many people. Now German researchers have found a sweet alternative in an aromatic form: The scent of jasmine (Gardenia jasminoides) seems to activate the same chemical pathways in the brain as do drugs like valium. Benzodiazepenes, barbituates and anesthetics work by making receptors in the brain more responsive to GABA, a calming neurotransmitter. The researchers studied the effects of specific natural and synthetic jasmine fragrances and discovered they work exactly the same way as the drugs do, and are just as potent. (Via ScienceDaily.com.)

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