Nutrition and Mental Health

imagesThe phrase “mind over matter” has been going around for many years. The idea that the brain is who we are, and our bodies simply a machine that our brain controls. Mental illness, then, is seen as a problem of the mind, the brain going wrong. The belief in psychoanalysis has stemmed from this notion, where mental illness is seen as a problem with the abstract mind and not the physical brain. However this couldn’t be further from the truth; the brain and body are completely interconnected and interdependent. The brain is an organ of our body just like all of the other organs in our body.

Aspects of Mental Health

There are multiple influences on our mental health. The first being our environment which includes the nutrients or lack of nutrients that we ingest. Deficiencies in certain vitamins, minerals, essential fats, and amino acids cause mental health problems. Our genetics determine if we are more or less susceptible to brain chemistry imbalances or if we need more or less of an essential nutrient for optimum mental health. Levels of stress in our lives and how we cope with such stress and interpret life events can contribute to the development of mental illness. Practices such as meditation and psychotherapy help develop a more positive mind frame to promote mental well being.

Biochemical Imbalances

Mental health problems are incredibly common. Too few health practitioners test their patients presenting with mental illness for nutritional deficiencies, stimulant addictions, or hormone imbalances, all of which can cause symptoms of mental illness. Particular biochemical imbalances in the body can result in symptoms of mental illness. The brain is more sensitive to biochemical imbalances than any other organ of the body. All of these can be tested and a more accurate assessment of their contribution to a person’s mental health can be evaluated. Diagnoses can then be made on the basis of objective biochemical tests along with a subjective symptom assessment. Some of the common biochemicals that may be imbalanced are listed below:

– Hypoglycemia/Blood sugar problems (measured via glycosylated hemoglobin)
– Allergy, especially wheat gluten
– Under- or overactive thyroid
– Heavy metal toxicity – copper, lead, cadmium, etc
– Pyroluria and porphyria, resulting in zinc deficiency
– High histamine levels
– Low serotonin
– Dopamine/adrenaline imbalance
– Acetylcholine deficiency
– Faulty methylation and B vitamin deficiencies
– Essential fat and prostaglandin deficiency or imbalance

If you have mental health problems, it is important to investigate whether or not you have any of these common biochemical imbalances that can cause mental illness.

Examples of Biochemical Imbalances Causing Mental Health Problems, and how to fix them!

High-Histamine levels, or histadelia, is caused by an excess of the neurotransmitter histamine. It can cause malaise, hyperactivity, and irritability. Other symptoms include; white markings on finger nails, headaches or migraines, salivate easily, fast metabolism, depression, light sleeper, seasonal allergies, excessive body heat, and good tolerance of alcohol. Histamine levels can be tested directly or as part of a neurotransmitter screening test. Supplementing with vitamin C, zinc, and methionine may eliminate symptoms of histadelia.

Serotonin deficiency is a very common finding in people with mental health problems. Symptoms of serotonin deficiency include; depression, anxiety, aggressive thoughts, mood swings including PMS, low pain threshold, sleeping problems, craving sweet foods, and alcohol or drug abuse. Serotonin levels can also be measured directly or via a neurotransmitter screening test. Serotonin levels can be increased with the nutrient 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP).

Blood sugar imbalance is also a very common imbalance with those with mental health problems. Those with fluctuating blood-sugar levels, or hypoglycemia, crave sweet foods and other stimulants such as tea, coffee, and cigarettes, all of which affect blood sugar levels. The most common symptoms of hypoglycemia include; difficulty concentrating, palpitations, dizziness, excessive thirst, chronic fatigue, mood swings, forgetfulness, anxiety and irritability, and drowsiness after meals. Rather than measuring blood-glucose levels, glycosylated hemoglobin must be measured. Your Nutritionist can advise on how to stabilize blood sugar levels.

My Recommendation 

All of the biochemicals mentioned above can often be addressed with dietary changes or supplementation. If you are suffering from any mental health ailments such as fatigue, anxiety, depression, insomnia, headaches, irritability, and anxiety you may want to visit a Naturopath, Holistic or Integrative Nutritionist to obtain a biochemical profile blood test in order to rule out or address any biochemical imbalances that you may be suffering from. If an imbalance is present, your Nutritionist or Naturopath can advise on which dietary changes or supplements you can take to stabilize biochemical imbalances.

 

For further reading on this subject:

 

Infant Vitamin K Injection

 

downloadWhy are babies given a Vitamin K injection at birth?

The human newborn are for un-explainable reasons born with insufficient vitamin K levels which is essential for blood clotting. The Canadian Pediatric Society (CPS) recommends that Vitamin K1 should be given as a single intramuscular dose of 0.5 mg (birthweight 1500 g or less) or 1.0 mg (birthweight greater than 1500 g) to all newborns within the first 6 hours after birth. This is to avoid hemorrhagic disease of the newborn (HDNB) which presents as unexpected bleeding, often with gastrointestinal hemorrhage and ecchymosis, and, in many cases, intracranial hemorrhage. The risk factors for HDNB include; Preterm delivery, low birth weight, a forceps or vacuum extraction delivery, mother’s use of antibiotics, anticoagulants, anticonvulsants, and some other medications during pregnancy, undetected liver disease, extremely fast, or extremely prolonged labor, particularly during the pushing phase, and delivery by Cesarean section.

At five days of age, there is no difference between a blood measurement of vitamin K via the oral or intramuscular route but between 4-6 weeks, biochemical signs of vitamin K deficiency are observed in up to 19% of infants given 2.0 mg of vitamin K orally at birth; by comparison, only 5.5% of those given 1.0 mg intramuscularly have biochemical signs of vitamin K deficiency. For this reason the CPS recommends against oral vitamin K. However, the CPS does not pay heed to the alternate treatment of multiple, sustained oral vitamin K doses.

What is wrong with giving the vitamin K injection to newborns?

Vitamin K is necessary, but there are much gentler, noninvasive ways of providing an infant with adequate vitamin K. Despite the pain and trauma to the newborn just hours after birth, the amount of vitamin K injected into newborns is 20,000 times the needed dose. The injection also contains preservatives that can be toxic for your baby’s delicate, young immune system. The manufacturer’s package insert states that “Hemolysis, jaundice, and hyperbilirubinemia in newborns, particularly in premature infants, may be related to the dose of Phytonadione” and “severe hypersensitivity reactions, including anaphylactoid reactions and deaths have been reported following parenteral administration; hyperbilirubinemia has been observed in the newborn following administration of Phytonadione”.

imagePotential risks of vitamin K injection are jaundice, flushing, rash, or a mild reaction at the injection site. The inactive ingredients listed on the manufacturer’s package insert include; Polyoxyl 35 Castor Oil (used in the manufacturing of soaps, lubricants, hydraulic and brake fluids, paints, dyes, coatings, inks, cold resistant plastics, waxes and polishes, nylon, pharmaceuticals and perfumes), Dextrose Monohydrate (this natural sugar has been used as a sweetening and texturizing agent, or as a fermentation substrate), Water, Benzyl Alcohol (used as a genera solvent for inks, paints, lacquers and epoxy resin coatings), and Hydrochloric Acid (used in the chemical industry as a chemical reagent in the large-scale production of vinyl chloride for PVC plastic, and MDI/TDI for polyurethane). Other brands such as Hospira Inc also contain aluminium; “Warnings: This injection should be administered subcutaneously (just under the skin) because severe reactions including fatalities have occurred immediately after intramuscular (deep muscle) and intravenous injection (via a drip). Those reactions include hypersensitivity, anaphylactic shock, and cardiac and respiratory arrest. Benzyl Alcohol as a preservative as been associated with toxicity in newborns”.

Is there any evidence against the vitamin K injection?

The World Health Organization (WHO)  recommends that “administering vitamin K to the baby if country policy prescribes it, either by injection or orally. However, the evidence for routine administration of vitamin K to all newborns to prevent the relatively rare haemorrhagic disease of the newborn is still lacking.” This is quite intriguing, since many developed countries choose routine vitamin K injections despite lack of evidence to support such a practice as stated by the WHO; “Practices for which insufficient evidence exists to support a clear recommendation and which should be used with caution while further research clarifies the issue: Routine administration of vitamin K to all healthy newborns or to all newborns that will be breastfed.”

It has been observed that vitamin K deficiency is not reported in the literature before the modern practice of premature cutting of the umbilical cord at birth, suggesting that it is the premature cutting or clamping of the umbilical cord that can contribute to vitamin K deficiencies in newborns.

As early as April 17, 1977, an article by Van Doorm et al. in one of the world’s most esteemed medical journals, the Lancet, discredited the policy of routine vitamin K injections; “We conclude that healthy babies, contrary to current beliefs, are not likely to have a vitamin K deficiency.. the administration of vitamin K is not supported by our findings.” There has been much peer-reviewed evidence generated which questions the efficacy of routine vitamin K injections as sound public health policy.

The current Dutch vitamin K practice guideline consists of prophylactic administration of 1 mg vitamin K orally directly after birth and a daily dose of 25 μg from day 8 onwards. The current prophylactic treatment provides good protection against HDNB for healthy, breastfed infants. However, the current prophylactic treatment provides insufficient protection for a specific group of infants, namely breastfed infants with defective fat absorption, leading to less efficient absorption of vitamin K by the body. Anually approximately 5 infants from this group suffer serious haemorrhage. After evaluation of current literature and advice from The Health Council of the Netherlands, vitamin K dosage was adapted for all breastfed infants from day 8 to 3 months (12th week of life) following birth: the daily dose was raised from 25 µg to 150 µg per day. According to Dr. Cees Vermeer, PhD, Associate Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Maastricht (in The Netherlands), the world’s leading specialist in vitamin K, “Vitamin K shots are completely unnecessary for your newborn.”

imagesHow do we give oral vitamin K to our baby?

Oral vitamin K is safe and equally as effective as intramuscular vitamin K. Because oral vitamin K is not as well absorbed as intramuscular vitamin K, a higher dose must be given.

Vitamin K stores can also be built up during pregnancy if the mother increases vitamin K rich foods in her diet and/or takes a vitamin K supplement. This also applies to breastfeeding since vitamin K transmits to breast milk.

My Conclusion

Given that the incidence rate of vitamin K deficiency is only 1 per 100 000 infants and the evidence against routine vitamin K injections, vitamin K supplementation is not entirely necessary. If you and your baby are free from risk factors and your baby is full term and healthy, there is no necessity of vitamin K supplementation at all. If you are worried or you present with any risk factors listed above, opt for oral vitamin K.

 

 

Sources:

Canadian Pediatric Society: http://www.cps.ca/documents/position/administration-vitamin-K-newborns

World Health Organization: http://www.who.int/maternal_child_adolescent/documents/who_rht_msm_983/en/

Vitamin K Injection: http://www.drugs.com/pro/phytonadione.htmlhttp://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/lookup.cfm?setid=e8808230-2c44-44c6-8cab-8f29b6b34051

Van Doorm J, Muller A. and Hemker, H. Heparin-like inhibitor, not vitamin-K deficiency, in the newborn (letter). Lancet 1977;i:852-3.

McMullin, D. (1996). Administration of Vitamin K to Newborns: Implications and Recommendations. Canadian Medical Association 154(3).

de Winter JP, Joosten KF, Ijland MM, Verkade HJ, Offringa M, Dorrius MD, van Hasselt PM; Spaarne Ziekenhuis, afd. Kindergeneeskunde.
Ned Tijdschr Geneeskd. 2011;155(18):A936.

http://www.gentlebirth.org/archives/vitktop.html

Orange Coconut Pancakes

My mother always made orange coconut pancakes while I was growing up, and it was quite the treat! These pancakes are now also a Saturday morning favorite in our house, even for our 1 year old daughter! Super quick and easy, I hope you give them a try 🙂

  • 3 Eggs
  • 1/2 C Orange Juice
  • 1/2 C Shredded Coconut
  • 1/2 C Flour (Spelt, Buckwheat, Coconut… any will do!)
  • 1/4 C Flaxmeal

Add a bit of orange juice or flour to make it to your desired pancake consistency. Fry in coconut oil, top with maple syrup, and enjoy a delicious breakfast!

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Peanut Butter Banana Muffins

*Can be made as dairy and/or grain free!

Muffins are one of the most well-rounded baked good! Muffins that are full of goodness make an excellent on the go snack, a great addition to breakfast, and are great for getting super healthy ingredients into your kids! These muffins are super moist and yummy, no doubt they will be a hit for all.

  • 1 C Peanut Butter(natural, unsalted/unsweetened always the best choice!)
  • 3 Mashed Bananas
  • 1/4 C Honey or Maple Syrup
  • 3 T Butter or Coconut Oil
  • 1/4 C Applesauce or Plain Yogurt
  • 2 Eggs (or Egg Replacer)
  • 1/4 C flour (I used spelt but any would work)
  • 1/2 t each baking soda and salt
  • 2 t cinnamon
  • 1/4 C filler goodness, I added sunflower seeds and flaxmeal. Use whatever you have on hand; raisins, choc chips, hemp hearts, etc!

Pour desired amount into muffin liners or greased muffin tin, bake at 325 for 35 minutes, let cool, and enjoy!

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The Dairy Dilemma

“The countries with the highest rates of osteoporosis are the ones where people drink the most milk and have the most calcium in their diets. The connection between calcium consumption and bone health is actually very weak, and the connection between dairy consumption and bone health is almost nonexistent.”

– Amy Lanou, nutrition director for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in Washington, D.C.

 

Cow’s milk and whether or not it is good for you is a question that I have been struggling to confidently answer for a long time now. I have done much research and it seems to go in circles. So although I have not yet come to a set conclusion, I will lay out the arguments and let you make an informed decision on the goodness of cow’s milk. I had eliminated cow’s milk from mine and my family’s diet, until I moved to Norway where almond and coconut milk is not readily available in the supermarkets. Knowing the negatives of pasteurized cow’s milk, we turned to a local dairy farmer who raises his cows on pasture and has a close relationship with all of his animals. So for the time being we are drinking raw cow’s milk, but I am still of two mind’s regarding cow’s milk in general.

We’ll start with pasteurization. The widespread practice of the pasteurization of cow’s milk (heated to very high temperatures, 71*C, in order to eliminate pathogens) began upon the industrialization of cities, when the length of transportation and storage of cow’s milk allowed for the increased growth of pathogens.

The issue with pasteurization is that it not only eliminates potential pathogens but also the healthy, beneficial enzymes, probiotics, vitamins and minerals naturally present in cow’s milk. The enzymes that are eliminated during pasteurization are also meant to help the body absorb the available calcium, so in pasteurized cow’s milk the readily available calcium is very low. Pasteurized cow’s milk is NOT an efficient source of calcium or vitamin D. Some companies add synthetic vitamins to milk, in which case it is the same as taking an over the counter vitamin.

the life of a corporate cow

the life of a corporate cow

“Raw milk” is unpasteurized cow’s milk, often available at small, local farms. People who are lactose intolerant are able to digest raw milk without a problem. Cows on these farms are often raised on pasture, rather than indefinitely held up in a crowded barn being fed grain, when cows have evolved to thrive on eating grass, and are given no or much less steroids and antibiotics. Pasture-raised cows are much healthier, live much longer, and are obviously much happier. It has been compulsory pasteurization laws that have put many small, family farms out of business, and handed the business of milk and meat to big corporations. The argument is that unpasteurized cow’s milk will cause illness, but there are more illnesses reported as a result of contaminated salads, fruit, and eggs than raw milk. Raw milk also does not sour or curdle.

naturally healthier cows. wouldn't you rather drink milk from these guys?

naturally healthier cows. wouldn’t you rather drink milk from these guys?

Is cow’s milk, in any form, good for us at all? Do humans even need to drink cow’s milk in order to be healthy? Humans have evolved to rely on human milk in infancy, when we have naturally occurring lactase enzymes to break down the lactose in milk. After age 3, the human digestive tract begins to deplete lactase as we no longer depend on our mother’s milk for nutrition. However many populations have mutated to have this enzyme throughout their lives. Humans are the only species on the planet that regularly consumes another species’ lactation, as well as the only species who consumes any type of milk beyond infancy. When explaining to my three year old that we were picking up milk from the farm and exactly where it comes from, his response was “but the baby cow’s need the milk from their mommy’s!” Good point, kid.

could this really be evolution?

could this really be evolution?

DSC00022

It was the documentary film Forks Over Knives that had convinced me that consuming meat and dairy products was unnecessary, and even damaging, to our health. One study that had been repeated dozens of times was the study of casein (animal protein) and how it was a powerful promoter of experimental cancer. Scientists can turn cancer growth on and off by changing the amount of dietary casein. Another main study that was illustrated in the film was the China Study, the largest comprehensive study of human nutrition ever conducted. It was launched via a partnership between Cornell University, Oxford University, and the Chinese Academy of Preventative Medicine. Essentially, people who ate the most animal-based foods got the most chronic disease and people who ate the most plant-based foods were the healthiest. This conclusion is based on very statistically significant findings of 8,000 associations between lifestyle, diet, and disease variables. The studies and information presented in this documentary, as well as other documentaries such as Food Matters and Healthy for Change, as well as my own reading and research, was enough to convince me that my family and I were better off not consuming, or consuming very little, animal products.

A part of the China Study

A part of the China Study

Until I came across this video, where a dentist Dr. Weston A. Price embarks on an adventure around the world to study indigenous people who are isolated from modern society. Price asked about their dietary habits, then examined and took photographs of their teeth. At the same time, he undertook similar studies and took similar photos of people from the same cultures who had become exposed to Western foods. The findings were alarming; people who were eating native diets were in fabulous health and had very few if any dental caries, and their counterparts on a Western/modern diet exhibited much tooth decay, dental malformations, and were not in good overall health. Price identified that tooth decay was caused by nutritional deficiencies, and that those deficiencies also promoted illness elsewhere in the body. The majority of these very healthy populations consumed raw cow’s milk, eggs, raw cheese, fish, as well as a lot of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. When animals were eaten, it was not very often and the entire animal was consumed, including the organs.

image-healthy-seminoles-teeth

Should we drink cow’s milk? If at all, drink raw cow’s milk. I have yet to conclude my thoughts on consuming cow’s milk, I will have to come back and update this post as I progress in my nutrition studies. Until then, what do YOU think?

img_pod_Tha-Sophat-suckles-milk-cow-Nokor-Pheas-village

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