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

my top prescription for seasonal affective disorder

Filed under: depression,mood cures,sleep,Vitamin N — Orna @ 3:30 pm

How do you stay sane during Cascadia’s dark, wet winters?

 

When I first moved here, I got some great advice that I completely ignored. It was logical, sure, but it went against deeply ingrained biases. When I finally started heeding it, though, everything about our 9-month rainy season changed for me.

 

But let me backtrack for a minute. (more…)

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 sleep Rx for weight loss

Trying to lose weight? A recent raft of studies show that more sleep may be just what you need.

 

Here’s how it works.

 

First, well-rested people make better food choices. But when you’re sleep deprived, the parts of your brain associated with addiction do more of the decision making. That makes the doughnut look far more appealing than a yummy salmon salad — with predictable consequences for health and weight.

 

Second, inadequate sleep messes up hormones that control your hunger, satiety and ability to manage blood sugar — the latter having many negative health effects including taking you down the diabetes road.

 

From that article:

 

“Researchers from the Pennsylvania State University analyzed studies looking at the impact of sleep deprivation on weight and energy balance that were published between 1996 and 2011. They found in several studies that getting fewer than six hours of sleep a night is linked with increases in the hunger-stimulating hormone ghrelin, decreases in insulin sensitivity (a risk factor for diabetes) and decreases in the hormone leptin (which is key for energy balance and food intake).

 

Scientific American reports the good news: Good sleep helps you lose significantly more weight:

 

“Researchers found that if dieters got a full night’s rest, they more than doubled the amount of weight lost from fat reserves.”

 

So how much sleep is enough?

 

This awesome New York Times article, part of a handout I now give all my patients, describes a couple of research studies that came to the same conclusion: Almost everyone needs 8 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Just two weeks of getting  6 to 7 hours nightly leads to reaction and cognitive deficits equivalent to being legally drunk. Even worse, those folks are so used to the sleep deficit they don’t even realize how impaired they are. These are the folks who insist they’re fine with just 5 hours of sleep each night. They’re almost definitely not.

 

So make sure you get your zzzzs. If you’re having trouble, give the clinic a call or click the button below to make an appointment. We have tools to help. 

 

book now

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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