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  • Articles in 'Mental Health'

    Bacteria & The Brain:

    The Powerful Behavior-Modifying Effects of The Gut

    Digestive-System2-Dream-DesignsThe gut has been called “the second brain”. Research reveals that the enteric nervous system (ENS), a branch of the autonomic nervous system that is found in the GI tract, can communicate with, and function independently of the brain. The enteric nervous system of the gut is comprised of about 500 million neurons. The enteric nervous system can “think”, “remember” and “learn” on its own accord.

    The enteric nervous system lines the mucosa of various organs: esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, pancreas, gall bladder, and biliary tree.

    The ENS is involved in the regulation of several essential digestive functions. Most notably:

    • Peristalsis, intestinal motility: bowel muscular contractions
    • Digestive enzyme secretion: to break down food particles
    • Participates in the regulation of esophageal muscles: moving food to your stomach
    • Motility of the gall bladder, releasing bile into the duodenum
    • Assists the hormone secretin in releasing pancreatic enzymes
    • Exchange of fluids and electrolytes in the gut
    • Blood flow through the gastric mucosa
    • Also involved in the regulation of the gastic and esophageal sphincters: preventing acid food from entering the throat, and allowing food to pass into the duodenum from the stomach
    •  Uses more than 30 neurotransmitters, including serotonin, GABA, dopamine, acetylcholine

    Many researchers postulate that the enteric neurons have an important role to play in regulating behavior. This is likely due to the fact that the enteric nervous system communicates with the brain via the vagus nerve. It is known that strains of intestinal bacteria have a powerful regulatory effect on the enteric neurons. It is also known that these same bacterial colonies can induce behavior-modifying effects.

    In 2011, researchers from the Journal of Neurogastroenterology stated: “As Bifidobacterium longum decreases excitability of enteric neurons, it may signal to the central nervous system by activating vagal pathways at the level of the enteric nervous system.”

    What this means is that behavior is directly linked to intestinal bacteria and gut function.

    Behavior & Leaky Gut

    It is now well established that gut permeability, known as “leaky gut” has a direct effect on behavior. Studies such as this have demonstrated the link between intestinal permeability, gut infections and depression.

    A key mechanism with how intestinal permeability plays a crucial role in behavioral disorders is most due to the effect that pathogens and bacterial species have on brain and neurotransmitter function. For example, streptococcal infections have shown to cause symptoms of OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), tics, and Tourette’s. Additionally, the immune response that is invoked from strep and other infections, causes tremendous systemic inflammation, including to that of the brain.

    The outer casing of gram-negative bacteria, known as lipo-polysaccharides (LPS), have shown in studies to induce massive systemic inflammation, including the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines such as TNF-a in the brain, as well as brain microglial activation.

    Because of the essential role of “tight junctions” in the gut lining for protecting the organism from invading antigens, a diminishment of the tight junctions leads to an increased level of permeability, allowing various pathogenic microbes easy access into circulation. This permeability of the gut wall induces high levels of inflammatory activity in the brain, nervous system and in many other locations in the body.

    Additionally, leaky gut will also feature imbalanced gut flora, and especially in the presence of pathogens and with an overgrowth of opportunistic organisms. This may involve imbalances in the same gut bacteria that communicate with the brain via the vagus nerve. So behavior and brain function are affected by the gut in more than one way.

    The Role Of Intestinal Flora In Modifying Behavior: Gut Microbiome Axis

    The intestinal flora makes up roughly 80% of the total immune defenses of the body. The gut is lined with more than 100 trillion micro-organisms, nearly ten times the amount of cells that make up the human body. There are thought to be between 400-1000 different species of bacteria that are normally found in the gut, and there exist intrinsic relationships and complex communication networks among the bacterial species.

    Immediately following birth, the act of breastfeeding results in the implantation of essential floral colonies into the infant’s gut. Studies have demonstrated that breast feeding significantly reduces the risk of childhood asthma. Breast feeding for more than 12 months has been shown to be protective against the development of rheumatoid arthritis. One study found a correlation between a shorter duration of breast feeding and the development of ADHD in children.

    Many recent studies have focused on the role that certain probiotic strains have on regulating behavior. This is fascinating because it shows the relationship between bacteria and the brain. The probiotic strain bifido infantis 35624 has been studied for its role in possibly reducing depression. Additionally, bifido infantis powerfully reduces IBS symptoms.

    Lactobacillus reuteri has been studied for its anti-anxiety effects and for its powerful modulation of the immune system, especially the inhibition of TNF-a. Additionally, L-reuteri is well established to modify the activity of the neurotransmitter GABA in the central nervous system. The same is true for lactobacillus rhamnosous.

    L-helveticus and B-longum have been studied for effectively reducing stress, anxiety and depression.

    There are a plethora of additional studies that demonstrate the role of gut microbes in regulating behavior.

    Without a doubt, continual research will emerge that identifies the intricate but profound role that bacterial balance in the gut plays at modifying behavior.

    Repair the Gut: Reduce Inflammation, Improve Cognition

    Any serious health-improvement program should address the function of the gut flora and mucosal barrier. This is magnified exponentially if one has chronic gut issues, inflammatory conditions, autoimmune disorders, and behavioral issues.

    Because there are so many factors that will impede upon your intestinal flora, maintaining proper digestion, assimilation and intestinal immunity is paramount. All of these factors work together.

    It is extremely common that when the gut is severely compromised, the mucsoal barrier is damaged, and the “tight junctions” that normally exist to keep pathogens at bay, are compromised. If this is the case, there will most likely be a greater degree of inflammation that can manifest at places in the body you wouldn’t necessarily suspect (such as the brain).

    Often accompanying gut flora imbalances are food intolerances of varying degrees. In fact, food allergies and sensitivities may be amplified when one’s gut flora is compromised. For some individuals eliminating gluten, dairy and eggs may be essential. For others, low-oxalate diets may be important.

    In many instances, it may take years of persistent attention to the gut before long-term results are achieved.

    It is the opinion of this author, from firsthand experience, that proper, individualized nutrition is the foundation for restoring the function of the gut mucosal barrier.

    Michael McEvoy has a private nutritional consulting practice. He works with clients nationally and internationally. Please contact him to learn more about his nutritional consulting services and programs.

    Sources:

    http://journals.lww.com/co-gastroenterology/Abstract/1999/07000/Pathogenesis_of_inflammatory_bowel_disease.3.aspx

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19235895

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0165032712001371

    http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0001308

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0091674904020810

    http://www.nature.com/ajg/journal/v101/n7/abs/ajg2006294a.html

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15765388

    British Journal of Nutrition (2011)Michae ̈l Messaoudi1*, Robert Lalonde2, Nicolas Violle1, Herve ́ Javelot3, Didier Desor4, Amine Nejdi1, Jean-Franc ̧ois Bisson1, Catherine Rougeot5, Matthieu Pichelin6, Murielle Cazaubiel6 and Jean-Marc Cazaubiel6: “Assessment of psychotropic-like properties of a probiotic formulation (Lactobacillus helveticus R0052 and Bifidobacterium longum R0175) in rats and human subjects”

    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2982.2011.01796.x/abstract?deniedAccessCustomisedMessage=&userIsAuthenticated=false

     

     

    Proper Eating is Key to Healthy Neurotransmitters

    By Liz Koch

    Feeling moody, anxious or depressed are normal emotions that come and go with living life — until they become chronic. Insomnia and cravings may be signals of unmet emotional needs until they just won’t go away. Our body sends zillions of messages in an attempt to maintain balance. Given the necessary raw materials, the human brain automatically manufactures the types and quantity of chemicals needed to handle the ups and downs of life, growth, and even exceptional stress. But when symptoms become chronic, they may be a strong indicator that body chemistry needs improving. Seeing a qualified health care professional can be a vital step in finding a solution but there are also everyday steps one can take to maintain a natural balance.

    Our brain uses large quantities of chemicals called neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters keep us alert and action-ready. But due to modern-day stress, lifestyle and dietchoices, our brain can run out of the necessary chemicals needed to maintain healthy functioning. Stress and poor diet can be pinpointed as some of the main culprits.

    Stress is a normal part of the animal world. When a rabbit runs from a fox, his body signals the threat. In an attempt to be efficient, neurotransmitters, in a blink of an eye, put life-protecting reflexes in motion. Flee, fight or freeze are essential survival responses.

    But when an animal flees, it doesn’t stop to smell the lush green grass or taste the juicy berries. All of its sensory perceptions are geared up and focusing on safety. Once safe, recovery begins. Shaking, bathing and a deep state of rest are the body’s means of getting rid of excess and unnecessary chemicals. It is Mother Nature’s way of shifting from the sympathetic (survival mode) back to every day parasympathetic (relaxation mode).

    Lifestyle choices and poor diet disrupt neurotransmitters functions. Where the hunter-gathers stress was primarily physical, our modern-day stress is of a different nature. Traffic, TV, video games and other forms of perceptual stimulants can bombard the body with subtle cues. Exposure to mercury, lead and other heavy metals has been found to have a profound effect on neurotransmitters.
    Recently, researchers at the University Of Calgary Medical School Of Medicine demonstrated via microscopic video how growing brain neurons begin to dramatically wither within 20 minutes after exposure to even minor levels of mercury. Chemical foods such as aspartame, NutraSweet and the multitude of preservatives and additives found in soda, gums, mints and many packaged foods release chemicals that disrupt neurotransmitter functions, according to studies.
    According to Dr. Russell L. Blaylock, professor of neurosurgery at the University of Mississippi’s medical center and author of “Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills,” aspartate and glutamate (found in the chemically related substance MSG) are neurotransmitters normally found in the brain and spinal cord, but when aspartate reaches certain levels it causes the death of brain neurons.

    Otto Loewi, an Austrian scientist, discovered the first neurotransmitter back in 1921. Built primarily from amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, neurotransmitters are constantly being created. With a limited ability to store proteins, we need a constant source of high quality whole-food proteins to constantly rebuild, repair and function well.

    Adrenaline-pumping substances such as coffee, sugar and chocolate, along with a lack of nutritionally supportive foods, can drive neurotransmitters to dysfunction. Processed fast food consumed on the run may put many people on the fast track to being overwhelmed.

    Feeding our neurotransmitters includes exercising the art of relaxation. A natural soothing environment helps calm high levels of stress. Taking warm baths, an evening walk, enjoying a cup of herbal tea and making time to be with loved ones or simply by our self helps us to regain chemical perspective.

    Slowing down and sitting down is another way to reap the benefits of what you eat. By feeling calm, we are better able to actually assimilate and utilize the food we eat. Most important is eating whole foods rich in protein. If a child goes off to school having consumed a quick bowl of sugar cereal with 2 percent milk, they have ingested a substance not only too high in carbohydrates but too low in proteins. The body will not receive the amino acids essential to fuel let alone rebuild neurotransmitters.

    When eating a salad for lunch, including a hard-boiled egg, whey shake or adding two or three ounces of chicken, turkey, fish, cheese can mean the world of difference to our brain chemistry. For most of us, protein should show up in all three meals.

    Way of Life nutritional consultant and Bauman College of Nutrition instructor Ramona Richard explains, “If we lack adequate protein, our body simply cannot build the neurotransmitters it needs. Rather than needing to rely on chemical drugs such as Prozac, we may be experiencing a deficiency of one or more neurotransmitters. Over time chronic imbalances can even contribute to more serious conditions such as panic attacks, eating disorders and attention deficits.”
    Keeping neurotransmitters in good supply is required if we are to feel content, peaceful, happy and joyful — our birthright as human beings.

    Liz Koch is the Way of Life health education coordinator.

    Understanding Thought: Finding Emotional Health & Immunity From Stress

    By Ami Chen Mills-Naim

    “Nothing is good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” —William Shakespeare.

    For decades, researchers have shown that “stress” impacts physical health. To date, doctors, therapists, and the media have generally defined stress as a traumatic experience: a divorce, or breakup, the death of someone close, a health or financial crisis or other “major” life event most would interpret as negative.

    In my work of two decades, however, learning and then teaching people in a range of settings (from young people in juvenile hall to organizational executives) the role that Thought—as a creative, causal principle—has in creating emotional reality, my conclusion is much different. Life circumstances have impact, of course, but it is the way we think about such circumstances that creates “stress,” or even well-being, in the face of life’s events.

    One young woman I know, who was a student of the “3 Principles” I teach, and then became a teacher herself, has lived with advanced multiple sclerosis for several years. She has difficulty walking and climbing stairs, and must be helped eating, because of her tremors. At a retreat she attended with us at Mount Madonna Center, she described her condition as “a gift” that had opened her to new worlds of learning. “I am one of the luckiest people in the world,” she said.

    Dr. Peter Ubel, author of “You’re Stronger Than You Think,” found in his research that people who had gone through “stressful events” in their lives, had lost both their legs, or undergone complete colonoscopies, for example, were actually just as happy as their healthy counterparts with more “normal” lives. Studies by Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel-prize winning psychologist, showed that what society thinks of as “positive” circumstances, such as wealth and its perceived freedom, or power, has almost no effect on happiness and well-being, after people escape from poverty.

    How people think, how much gratitude they feel (no matter what their lives look like) and how much they engage in thoughts and feelings of love and generosity are the causal factors for emotional resiliency and well-being. I experienced a miscarriage during my first pregnancy, after I got married. I was sad for some time, of course. But by understanding the role Thought played in my life, I had no inclination to “carry thinking” about the miscarriage into my future, or to interpret the event as especially negative.

    Seeing Thought is a wonderful opportunity for all of us to gain emotional health and immunity from stress, because the truth is that we are not our thoughts. The truth is also that life will continuously throw apparent “problems” our way—death, illness, wayward children, conflict, and difficult family members.

    We do not even need to resolve our problems to become happy and emotionally strong. Rather, our very perceptions of such “problems” constitutes the mental “soup,” or consciousness, we live in. When we perceive problems as difficult and un-resolvable, for instance, our thoughts create feelings of hopelessness and despair—mental “stress” that ignites a chemical cascade throughout our bodies, and ultimately impacts physical health.

    When we create a more objective relationship to Thought, as the great spiritual teachings of the world have taught, we see that peace of mind and well-being exist within us already, at our core, regardless of what we are going through. Indeed, peace of mind helps us navigate life’s obstacles with wisdom, grace and clarity.

    Ami Chen Mills-Naim is an award-winning freelance writer, poet, and journalist and the co-founder and director of the Center For Sustainable Change (www.centerforsustainablechange.org) committed to applying a Principles-Based/Innate Health Psychology to communities and schools across the nation. A national and international speaker, and author of the The Spark Inside: A Special Book for Youth. Ami works across the country and internationally teaching organizations, parents, educators, and youths. Her work ranges from youth in detention settings to executives and managers for government, and private institutions. Ami will be teaching a class, Finding Inner Resilience in Times of Change on Wednesday May 11th, 7:30 – 9:00 pm. Ami is a mother of two and blogs on family and spirituality at www.mysticalmama.com.

    Understanding Trauma As A Biological Response

    Excerpted from Somatic Traumatology by David Berceli PhD

    Website: www.traumaprevention.com

    One only has to read the most basic of the literature on the function of the brain, the nervous system and the physiology of stress to understand that the mind and the body are undeniably linked. Rothschild (1994).

    Until recently most research programs on trauma and post traumatic stress symptomatology were conducted in the field of psychology. Subsequently all of the recovery programs designed to help relieve symptoms of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) addressed the psycho-emotional behaviors of the individual. However, the most recent research in the field of traumatology is helping to dispel this limited view of trauma and PTSD. The cross-fertilization of fields of study such as psychobiology, neuro-physiology and physiological psychology are revealing new levels of understanding of the effects of trauma on the human organism. This dialogue among diverse fields of medical science has increased scientific awareness of the critical interaction and mutual interdependency of autonomic body responses and neurological processes.

    This shift in awareness is increasing the recognition that trauma is primarily an autonomic, physiological and neurological response and this somatic reaction creates a secondary psychological response. Acknowledging that the human organism has a systematic set of autonomic responses that become engaged during the time of trauma allows us to study these unconscious responses. If these autonomic responses can be reversed, then the secondary psychological disruptions can be limited and the psyche of the individual can be restored to health much more readily.

    To understand these unconscious physiological reactions, we have to look at the human person as an animal species in the process of evolution. During any traumatic experience the extensor muscles are inhibited so that the flexor muscles can contract. This allows the body to bring the extremities together, creating an enclosure that gives us a sense of safety while protecting the soft, vulnerable parts: the genitals, vital organs, and the head and its contents the eyes, ears, nose and mouth. (Koch, 1997 – The Psoas Book).

    A key set of muscles that assist in this complex series of contractions are the Psoas muscles. This pair of muscles that connect the trunk, pelvis and legs are considered the fight/flight muscles. These muscles stand guard like sentinels protecting the center of gravity located just in front of C3 of the spine. These muscles help pull the body into a semi-fetal position as a way of protecting it from anticipated harm.

    Since this contraction response of the human body is autonomic, instinctual and primarily unconscious it is not necessarily under the control or awareness of the individual. Because the human organism is genetically encoded to preserve its existence, this process of contraction is the emergency survival system designed to engage itself in any real or imagined life threatening experience. Since this emergency mode is not under the control of the conscious brain, the behaviors, actions and reactions of the individual(s) are instinctual rather than calculated and conscious. So, unlike other psychological issues, traumatic experiences cannot be immediately dealt with via conscious and logical methods to achieve a resolution…

    Constructive Rest Position: Simply rest on your back. Knees bent and the feet placed parallel to each other, the width apart of the front of your hip sockets. Place your heels approximately 12-16 inches away from your buttocks. Do not push your lower back to the floor or tuck your pelvis. Rest in the position for 10 –20 minutes. Keep your arms below shoulder height letting them rest over your ribcage, to your sides or on your pelvis. Gravity releases your Psoas, calming an over active sympathetic nervous system while refreshing both body and soul.

    Gaining Psychological Health

    by Liz Koch

    Maintaining psychological health today includes a wide range of approaches. If one expands beyond contemporary medications and talk therapy there is a variety of modalities to choose from which are all very beneficial. These include body somatic awareness, nutritional/chemical balancing, family pattern dynamics, energy, light, and color therapy. What these modalities share in common is not only a holistic approach to health which includes seeing the person’s life in its wholeness, but also an understanding of all humans in context to a larger field of influence.

    “Emotional or psychological distress is an indication that in some way an individual’s humanity has been compromised or violated,” explains Dr. Toby Watson, executive clinical director of Wisconsin’s Associated Psychological Health Services. “Restoration and cultivation of the integrity of the person’s humanity is the sole purpose of psychotherapy. There may be many roads that serve this purpose; however, regardless of orientation or technique, the creation of a healing environment that respects the person’s dignity, autonomy, and values is the foundation for emotional healing and is the essence of good psychotherapy.” On his web site http://www.icspp.org/ he continues to articulate that “although it is possible to hide emotional wounds through drugs, electrical shock and other forms of technology, true healing, comes from restoring and renewing the things that define and reflect our humanity. Things like intimacy, community, art, music, spirituality and play.”

    Brazilian professor and psychologist Tina de Souza couldn’t agree more. She weaves together her native Afro-Brazilian traditions with her Western educational training to redefine psychological health. “Psychological symptoms and their expressions have been with humanity for a long time” she explains. “For example, depression is a rather old sickness that has been defined in many strange ways throughout history. In the Mayan Age it was viewed as a form of divine punishment and, in more serious cases, viewed as form of demonic possession. By Renaissance time, it was depicted as a sign of one having a deep soul. Today it may be defined by allopathic medicine as an illness that results from an imbalance of the neurotransmitters chemical substances present in our brain.”

    Depression, she clarifies, can take on different characteristics. Using the symbolism of her Afro-Brazilian traditions, Dr de Souza looks at depression as an expression of the subtle essence of a human being. Made of fire, earth, water, and air each of these elemental qualities she feels has a well-defined psychological connotation and like other Eastern healing traditions she seeks to balance the elemental aspects within as a means of resolving emotional imbalances.

    Color therapy is another tradition that can be traced back through ancient Egypt, Greece, China, and India. By the 1800s therapist Augustus Pleasanton was stimulating the glands, organs, and nervous system with blue light; Seth Pancoast used red and blue light to balance the autonomic nervous system. A then leading color therapist, Dr. Edwin Babbitt, applied colored light to the body and successfully treated stubborn medical conditions, which he said were simply unresponsive to the conventional treatments of his time. By the late 19th century, color light was prescribed in Western medicine in a variety of ways: Sunlight was used for tuberculosis, blue light and full spectrum light was effective for jaundiced newborns, and ultraviolet light was employed in surgical rooms to limit air-borne bacteria. The pioneers in color therapy, which include Dr. Dinshah Ghadiali, PhD, MD; Steven Vasquez, Ph.D.; Dr. John Downing, and Dr. Harry Spitler, all have demonstrated the powerful neurophysiological and neurohormonal effects of color light stimulation on both our physiological and psychological states.

    No matter which type of therapy one tries, the intention of all holistic healing approaches is the same: to return to a state of integrity. As Souza so aptly describes “Restoring harmony brings a person back to a state of personal plenitude, whereby he can return to his original state of vibrant essence.” To restore this state of personal integrity and psychological health does not necessarily mean solving all of our problems, but it does offer a powerful sense of well being and an access to internal resources that fosters our capacity for maintaining a healthy state of being.

    Health Educator Liz Koch is an international somatic educator, and creator of Core Awareness TM focusing on awareness for developing human potential. With 30 years experience working with and specializing in the iliopsoas, she is recognized in the somatic, bodywork and fitness professions as an authority on the core muscle. Liz is the author of The Psoas Book, Unraveling Scoliosis CD, Core Awareness; Enhancing Yoga, Pilates, Exercise & Dance, and The Psoas & Back Pain CD. Please visit www.coreawareness.com for workshop information and to join her quarterly newsletter.

    Your Personal Myth

    Make it One of Vision and Potential

    by Patricia Majio
    may09_newsletter2In the Japanese language, liminal has a variety of nuances, but the richness of the concept is telling in a word that has daily usage, tsuki-ma, meaning the space between things; the invisible mystery that holds it all together. The liminal infers a transitional phase. Every society has members however that live in that state permanently and serve the community, if it is healthy enough to incorporate their gifts. Some of the liminal citizens are the homeless, criminals, handicapped, insane, visionaries, artists and innovative thinkers. The truly liminal is not a place of hope or hopelessness, but one of trust.

    Carol Pearson, author and management consultant in the new business model believes that there is a fundamental shift taking place in the Hero/Heroine journey, from the Warrior of duality to the Magician, the archetype that links the body knowing with intellect and spirit. In The Hero Within, Pearson talks about the archetypes we can easily identify with as the steps to educate the Magician.

    1. Hearing the Call
    2. Using the transcend principle to transform the old perspective
    3. Using trial to forge clarity and commitment
    4. Drawing success out of failure
    5. “Casting the circle”

    Quick evaluation of what part of your journey needs attention from Magic at Work by C. Pearson:

    • If you are short of ideas or hope for the future, you are being called by air to take the journey of initiation.
    • If you are short of courage to persist in living your dreams, you are being called by fire to embark on a new trial.
    • If you find you are failing to live up to your best self, you are being called by ether to follow your grail, even if it takes you through a waste land.
    • If you do not have the support from others you desire, you are being called by water to experience illumination at a new level.
    • Finally if you are lacking money or energy, you are being called by earth to restructure the forms and habits of your life.
    • If you are short of ideas or hope for the future, you are being called by air to take the journey of initiation.

    Whole brain learning

    A new frontier for science

    LIZ KOCH – SENTINEL CORRESPONDENT
    Article Launched: 03/07/2005 3:00:00 AM PST

    The French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau once wrote that human beings are born free, but everywhere are in chains. Current research on brain functioning and intelligence are forging a new perspective that when embraced may unlock the way we think about ourselves and our loved ones.

    Coined as “Whole Brain Learning” this exciting new frontier gathers professionals from a multitude of diverse disciplines: neurology, biology, psychology, education and child development and from a marrying of fields such as neurobiology, biophysics and psychoneuroendocrinology.

    Grasping this field with both hands Joan Harrington is an educator in Santa Cruz County and she will be talking on this subject Wednesday at Way of Life. Harrington has taken to heart all she has learned from numerous science research studies and applies it to children and adults. Seeing these ideas in action, she blends the educational/biological field called “brain-based learning” to redefine intelligence, learning and disabilities.

    What is whole brain learning? Whole brain learning affects each and every one of us throughout every stage of life. Brain science helps determine what experiences and substances are most likely to contribute to having a healthy brain. Katherine Benziger, Ph.D. author of “The Human Brain: A Reservoir of Diverse Flexible Strength or Chaotic Raging Violence” explain that every brain is unique and complex but is ultimately designed to thrive. “any brain can change its own approaches to thinking, dramatically changing its own metabolic profile as well as its neural nets and their level of connectivity.”

    How well it does this depends upon both internal processing, i.e. how we listen and respectfully respond to our internal information and external pressures. Current social, personal, educational, economic and work patterns Benzinger explains plays an important part by rewarding specific capabilities. At the forefront of brain motility she hypotheses that “although fundamentally the human brain is designed to respond to many, many ‘problems’ or ‘situations’ appropriately” that ” in practice it is how we actually live that diminishes our brains flexibility.”

    Research suggests that -modal learning creates more connected and efficient brains. Susan Rich Sheridian explains it as a lifelong process. Children naturally scribble, draw and write affecting brain growth and integration.

    “The two hemispheres are connected. Each hemisphere depends upon the other. It is at the very intersection of visual and verbal representations — where image and text collide — that heightened meaning occurs.”

    For example children start by drawing. “No one teaches us how. We are drawing the shapes of our thoughts. We are organizing our brains through intentional action,” she says in her book.

    Sheridan looks at the living brain as an oscillator; there is an ebb and flow of neural activity, like tides — working in a back and forth manner between modes of understanding continually expanding and deepening our awareness.

    Seven distinct learning styles or multiple intelligences are recognized and defined by Howard Gardener, professor of cognition and education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He is also adjunct professor of psychology at Harvard University and adjunct professor of Neurology at the Boston University School of Medicine (see what I mean about marrying disciplines!).

    “We are all able to know the world through language, logical-mathematical analysis, spatial representation, musical thinking and the use of the body to solve problems or to make things, an understanding of other individuals and an understanding of ourselves,” he says.

    Kinesthetic learning, for example, is experienced through the body. Physical movement is the mode of learning. But children and adults who use this as their primary source of learning are often labeled as hyperactive.

    Thomas Armstrong Ph.D. author of “To Empower! Not Control! A Holistic Approach to ADHD” is interested in casting off those labeling chains that keep individuals from realizing their full human potential.

    To that end he explains, “I do not support labels such as ‘learning disability’ or ‘ADHD’ that put negative limits on human capacity, and I do support positive models of learning, such as the theory of multiple intelligences, that value human diversity and provide the means for people to achieve success in life.”

    Interpersonal learning, another intelligence that happens through feelings, was not considered relevant in the workplace until The Institute of HeartMath, an innovative nonprofit research and education organization, scientifically proved that what an executive is feeling effects their thinking.

    Located in Boulder Creek, HeartMath proved that our hearts, which oscillate electromagnetically four times greater than the human brain, influences many aspects of our learning and performance.

    Looking at the role of stress hormones in how brain neurons die, Robert Sapolsky, Ph.D., a neuroendocrinologist at Stanford University and author of “Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers” has focused on issues of stress and neuron degeneration.

    Sapolsky was among the first to document that sustained stress can damage the hippocampus, a region of the brain central to learning and memory. He examines how prolonged stress (physical or emotional) can cause or contribute to damaging physical and mental afflictions.

    Exploding into public awareness, professor of physiology and biophysics Candice Pert, Ph.D. at Georgetown University Medical School and author of “Molecules of Emotions” presented her scientific research that this melting of emotions and mind exposed how our brain, mind and body are a single psychosomatic network of information molecules which controls our health and physiology.

    Pert explains, “For a long time, neuroscientists agreed that emotions are controlled by certain parts of the brain. This is a big, neurocentric, assumption that I now think is either wrong or incomplete. But when I was a believer in the brain as the most important organ in the body, this assumption led me to do the right analysis in the lab for the wrong reason. Ultimately, it fueled my conviction that there are such things as molecules of emotion.”

    She elucidated her understanding by saying that body and mind are simultaneous. “I like to speculate that the mind is the flow of information as it moves among the cells, organs, and systems of the body,” she says.

    Biochemist, neuroscientist and author of “Genetic Determinism: Life Beyond Genes,” Dr. Steven Rose spends his career studying the complexities of the brain and sums up his unchained holistic understanding of genetics and the brain.

    He suggests we need “an alternative vision of living systems, a vision which recognizes the power and role of genes without subscribing to genetic determinism.”

    Another chain drops away and the possibilities for each of us seem endless.

    Proper eating is key

    …to maintain healthy neurotransmitters

    Article Launched: 10/11/2004 12:00:00 AM PDT

    by LIZ KOCH SENTINEL CORRESPONDENT

    Feeling moody, anxious or depressed are normal emotions that come and go with living life — until they become chronic. Insomnia and cravings may be signals of unmet emotional needs until they just won’t go away. Our body sends zillions of messages in an attempt to maintain balance. Given the necessary raw materials, the human brain automatically manufactures the types and quantity of chemicals needed to handle the ups and downs of life, growth and even exceptional stress.

    But when symptoms become chronic, they may be a strong indicator that body chemistry needs improving. Seeing a qualified health care professional can be a vital step in finding a solution but there are also everyday steps one can take to maintain a natural balance.

    Our brain uses large quantities of chemicals called neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters keep us alert and action-ready. But due to modern-day stress, lifestyle and diet choices, our brain can run out of the necessary chemicals needed to maintain healthy functioning. Stress and poor diet can be pinpointed as some of the main culprits.

    Stress is a normal part of the animal world. When a rabbit runs from a fox, his body signals the threat. In an attempt to be efficient, neurotransmitters, in a blink of an eye, put life protecting reflexes in motion. Flee, fight or freeze are essential survival responses.

    But when an animal flees, it doesn’t stop to smell the lush green grass or taste the yummy berries. All of its sensory perceptions are geared up and focus on one intent — safety. Once safe, recovery begins. Shaking, bathing and a deep state of rest are the body’s means of getting rid of excess and unnecessary chemicals. It is Mother Nature’s way of shifting from the sympathetic (survival mode) back to every day parasympathetic (relaxation mode). Lifestyle choices and poor diet disrupt neurotransmitters functions. Where the hunter-gathers stress was primarily physical, our modern-day stress is of a different nature.

    Traffic, TV, video games and other forms of perceptual stimulants can bombard the body with subtle cues. Exposure to mercury, lead and other heavy metals has been found to have a profound effect on neurotransmitters. Recently, researchers at the University Of Calgary Medical School Of Medicine demonstrated via microscopic video how growing brain neurons begin to dramatically wither within 20 minutes after exposure to even minor levels of mercury.

    Chemical foods such as aspartame, NutraSweet and the multitude of preservatives and additives found in soda, gums, mints and many packaged foods release chemicals that disrupt neurotransmitter functions, according to studies.

    According to Dr. Russell L. Blaylock, professor of neurosurgery at the University of Mississippi’s medical center and author of “Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills,” aspartate and glutamate (found in the chemically related substance MSG) are neurotransmitters normally found in the brain and spinal cord, but when aspartate reaches certain levels it causes the death of brain neurons.

    Otto Loewi, an Austrian scientist, discovered the first neurotransmitter back in 1921. Built primarily from amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, neurotransmitters are constantly being created. With a limited ability to store proteins, we need a constant source of high quality whole-food proteins to constantly rebuild, repair and function well.
    Adrenaline-pumping substances such as coffee, sugar and chocolate, along with a lack of nutritionally supportive foods, can drive neurotransmitters to dysfunction. Processed fast food consumed on the run may put many people on the fast track to being overwhelmed.

    Feeding our neurotransmitters includes exercising the art of relaxation. A natural soothing environment helps calm high levels of stress. Taking warm baths, an evening walk, a cup of herbal tea and time to be with loved ones or ourselves helps regain chemical perspective.

    Slowing down and sitting down is another way to reap the benefits of what you eat.
    By feeling calm, we are better able to actually assimilate and utilize the food we eat. Most important is eating whole foods rich in protein. If a child goes off to school having consumed a quick bowl of sugar cereal with 2 percent milk, they have ingested a substance not only too high in carbohydrates but too low in proteins. The body will not receive the amino acids essential to fuel let alone rebuild neurotransmitters.

    When eating a salad for lunch, including a hard-boiled egg, whey shake or adding two or three ounces of chicken, turkey, fish, cheese can mean the world of difference to our brain chemistry. For most of us, protein should show up in all three meals.
    Nutritional consultant and instructor at the Bauman College of Nutrition Ramona Richard explains, “If we lack adequate protein, our body simply cannot build the neurotransmitters it needs. Rather than needing to rely on chemical drugs such as Prozac, we may be experiencing a deficiency of one or more neurotransmitters. Over time chronic imbalances can even contribute to more serious conditions such as panic attacks, eating disorders and attention deficits.”
    Keeping neurotransmitters in good supply is required if we are to feel content, peaceful, happy and joyful — our birthright as human beings.

    Editor’s note: Way of Life offers a free lecture series twice a month on natural remedies to health challenges and alternative approaches to health. Liz Koch is their education coordinator. As with any medical condition, please consult a doctor or trained professional for treatment of specific illnesses. This column contains opinion and is not meant as medical advice
    Liz Koch is the Way of Life health education coordinator.

    Learn to live with stress

    LIZ KOCH – Special to the Sentinel Article Launched: 05/13/2002 3:00:00 AM PDT

    It’s natural when in pain to try and get out of it as quickly as possible. Chronic pain can leave a person feeling exhausted, distracted and hopeless.

    Our culture is inundated with drugs to kill pain, but drugs have limitations and a heavy price to bear with long-term use.

    Bob Stahl has studied the use of meditation and relaxation to deal with pain. As director of the mindfulness-based stress-reduction programs at Dominican Hospital and the Santa Cruz Medical Clinic, he approaches pain not by trying to get rid of it — but by embracing it with awareness. Read more…