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Kathy Marshack News

Your Gut Bacteria is Changing Your Brain More Than You Think

Wednesday, June 07, 2017


Our gut bacteria affect our digestion, allergies and metabolism, now scientist are finding more links between gut bacteria, our moods and thinking ability.It’s become common knowledge that our gut bacteria affect our digestion, allergies, metabolism and mental health. Now scientist are finding more links between gut bacteria and our moods and thinking ability.

A recent article in The Atlantic lists a number of studies conducted on mice and humans that tested gut bacteria and it’s affect on anxiety, depression, and autism. Their results are fascinating.

“A growing group of researchers around the world are investigating how the microbiome, as this bacterial ecosystem is known, regulates how people think and feel. Scientists have found evidence that this assemblage—about a thousand different species of bacteria, trillions of cells that together weigh between one and three pounds—could play a crucial role in autism, anxiety, depression, and other disorders.”

Did you know that about three-quarters of people with autism also have some gastrointestinal abnormality, like food allergies or gluten sensitivity? Because of this, scientists are examining the potential connections between gut microbes and autism. Here are the highlights from just one of the studies this article mentions:

Microbiologist Sarkis Mazmanian of The California Institute of Technology saw that some autistic children had less Bacteroides fragilis. He and his colleagues fed Bacteroides fragilis from humans to mice with symptoms similar to autism. The treatment changed the animals’ microbiome, and improved their behavior. “They became less anxious, communicated more with other mice, and showed less repetitive behavior.”

They also discovered that when a chemical called 4-ethylphenylsulphate (4EPS) which seems to be produced by gut bacteria was injected into mice, they developed autism-like symptoms. Mazmanian says, “We may be able to reverse these ailments. If you turn off the faucet that produces this compound, then the symptoms disappear.”

Another study showed that eating yogurt containing live bacteria (bifidobacterium,streptococcus, lactococcus, and lactobacillus) twice a day created a significant increase in calmness. He speculates that, “the bacteria in the yogurt changed the makeup of the subjects’ gut microbes, and that this led to the production of compounds that modified brain chemistry.”

For years, I’ve advocated a holistic approach toward health and well-being. Our physical, mental and spiritual health is so interconnected that we must obtain a balance. Healthful nutrition is obviously one of the key components to wellness.

Make sure to sign-up for my newsletter, Enriching Your Life, to stay up-to-date on new findings that impact your health and wellness. Simply enter your information in the box on the left to start receiving your copy.

Read more on my website: Holistic Health.

Read The Atlantic article in its entirety.

How Much Are Those Sleepless Nights Costing You?

Wednesday, April 05, 2017


Sleep deprivation or interrupted sleepless nights break down your physical and mental health, making you susceptible to obesity, diabetes, disease and more.Sleep is essential for wellness. Without it, we aren’t happy, healthy or safe. Not everyone needs the same amount of sleep, but if you’re not getting at least 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night, it’s time to re-evaluate your sleep habits.

Recently the New York Times carried a comprehensive article on sleep. Much of it may be a review for you, but the information is important. Here are some highlights:

A number of chronic physical and mental health problems are caused by insufficient sleep:
  • Obesity
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Compromised immune system
  • Depression
  • Poor memory and decision making skills
  • Irritable moods

People who are sleep deprived make more mistakes. One sleep survey estimated that in 2012, 274,000 workplace accidents were directly related to sleep problems, costing $31.1 billion annually.

The article writer, Tara Parker-Pope had an interesting analogy for how the brain works while you sleep…

Think of your brain like a computer that uses the nighttime to back up all your data. It consolidates memories, links with old memories and creates paths for you to retrieve memories, and forms connections between disparate thoughts or ideas. That’s why, when you don’t sleep, your thinking and memory are fuzzy. Some research suggests that when you don’t sleep your ability to learn new information is reduced by almost half.”

Sleep deprivation also make you more susceptible to mental health problems. Why? Your brain does its housekeeping while you sleep. In mouse studies, researchers found that during sleep, the space between brain cells enlarge, allowing toxins to flush out. This research suggests that not sleeping allows toxins to build up, triggering brain diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. We’ll need further research to know for sure.

Many sleep problems can be corrected by better nutrition, exercise, relaxation techniques and better sleep habits. However, if you’re experiencing chronic sleep deprivation, you might want to consult with your doctor to see if there’s a physiological reason, like sleep apnea, that can be treated.

Another option is to try Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (C.B.T.-I.) to learn how to shut your mind off. I’ve personally discovered that Neuro Emotional Technique (N.E.T.) is very effective for removing blocks to your well-being. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

Alternative Therapies for PTSD – Which Are Effective?

Wednesday, October 12, 2016


Alternative Therapies for PTSD – Which Are Effective?Do you remember when you first heard about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder? It wasn’t formally recognized until 1980. That really wasn’t long ago, so therapies for treating PTSD are still in their infancy.

One traditional medical approach involves using medication and controlled re-experiencing of trauma, called exposure therapy. However, veterans aren’t finding this as helpful as hoped. Rehashing the event, without giving them coping skills, leaves them feeling helpless, which compounds the problem.

As a result, many alternative therapies are springing up. According to a recent New York Times article, some of them are: “therapeutic fishing, rafting and backpacking trips, horse riding, combat yoga, dogs, art collectives, dolphin swims, sweat lodge vision quests and parrot husbandry centers, among many, many others.”

Are these viable options or are they just ways to avoid the issue?

Some of these therapies challenge veterans to overcome fears and build new experiences that put traumatic memories into perspective, which can be helpful.

However, the overall effectiveness of alternative therapies is hard to assess, beyond anecdotal evidence. Yet I believe that a combination of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Neuro-Emotional Technique, Yoga, meditation or pet therapy can help PTSD sufferers maintain lasting gains. I’ve seen it reduce PTSD symptoms of depression and anxiety without any side effects, plus there’s no stigma attached to it.

I’m by no means alone in believing this. For example, in 2006, Dr. van der Kolk published one of the first studies about the effects of yoga on PTSD. He said that even “after six months the positive effects of yoga are still there.”

If you are a veteran or are experiencing PTSD for another reason, you deserve these life-empowering skills. You don’t have to settle for feeling broken, helpless and hopeless for the rest of your life. With patience and the help of a professional, you can get your life back. Please contact a qualified health care specialist in your area as soon as possible to discuss your options. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment so we can determine and get started on the best therapy for you.

Read more on my website: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Letting Go to Achieve Greater Happiness and Health

Wednesday, October 05, 2016


There isn’t anything you can’t learn to gracefully surrender to and let go of as you become okay with the situation and experience greater health and calm.Many people today are dealing with chronic problems – mental issues, broken relationships and ongoing pain, to name just a few. An important phase of healing is to quit fighting it and begin surrendering to it.

Surrendering or “letting go” doesn’t mean you’re giving up on yourself, that you start self-medicating to forget, or that you’re practicing avoidance behavior. It simply means that accept the way things really are. Rather than continually knocking your head against the proverbial wall, you’ll be able to move in a better direction. When you come to terms with your situation in life, your happiness and health will improve.

One of the most powerful things you can do is to become congruent with your present-day situations. Yes, some of the life challenges in the following list can be really tough to handle. But with the right tools and support there isn’t anything you can’t learn to gracefully surrender to and let go of in time. A few of the difficult life situations we face are and need to become okay with might include:
  • Your current health level.
  • Your current level of pain.
  • Your limitations.
  • The death of a loved one.
  • Being lonely.
  • Your body image.
  • Who you are.
  • Your single or marital status.

It’s important to note that being okay with something doesn’t mean you like it. Many of life challenges require that we practice self-compassion when addressing a chronic negative reality. Be patient with yourself as you process it and learn to live with it.

Never give up on finding a treatment that works for you. One type of treatment may work for one person, whereas a different treatment will help another person better. As a qualified psychologist and N.E.T practitioner, I’ve seen many clients respond well to alternative, holistic treatments. These include dietary supplements, mind-body therapies, chiropractic or osteopathic manipulation, massage, movement therapies, specialized diets, and neuro-emotional technique.

There are ups and downs in the process of living. Sometimes our problems turn out to be gifts that provide us opportunities to grow as individuals. If you’d like to explore your options and you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

Read more on my website: Holistic Health.

Alcohol Consumption – Do the Cons Finally Far Outweigh the Pros?

Wednesday, June 01, 2016


Red wine in moderation is heart healthy, but alcohol causes holes in your brain as well as a host of other health problems, so is it really worth it?We’ve all heard the reports that drinking red wine daily is heart healthy. But what is it doing to our brains?

Recently Dr. Daniel Amen published an article about debunking the myth that alcohol is a health food. His SPECT Imaging shows the holes and gaps that appear in the brains of even moderate drinkers. He also quotes a 2008 study from the Archives of Neurology, which found that “people who drink just one to seven drinks per week have smaller brains than nondrinkers, and those who have two or more drinks a day have even more brain shrinkage.”

In 2015, the journal Lancet published a research review that found that alcohol use does decrease the risk of heart attacks. That’s good news. The bad news is that they also found that it increased the risk of cancer and physical injuries. Dr Amen goes on to list other negative affects that alcohol has on the brain and body. It:

  • Increases the risk of fatty liver disease,
  • Contributes to peripheral neuropathies (pain and tingling in hands, legs, and feet),
  • Damages neurons, especially those in the cerebellum.
  • Interferes with vitamin b1 absorption, leading to serious cognitive problems.
  • Decreases firing in the prefrontal cortex.
  • Disrupts sleep.
  • Predisposes you to sugar abuse.
  • Stimulates appetite and is associated with continued eating after feeling full.
  • Increases the production of insulin in the pancreas leading to low blood sugar levels and impaired decision making skills.

I appreciate his warnings, because it makes us stop and reassess our own actions and choices. Are they healthy choices? If not, is there an underlying reason for choosing ongoing self-destructive behavior like alcohol abuse?

Personally, I enjoy an occasional glass of wine, especially when entertaining my friends. If we are consistently nurturing and caring for our health, any damage done from drinking a glass of wine or having a beer can quickly be repaired.

However, people who abuse alcohol usually also neglect their nutritional and sleep requirements. Plus they participate in risky behavior. If you find that this article alerts you to a problem, and you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment so we can get you onto the road to recovery.

Read more on my website: Mind and Body Health.

Stress Can Be a Friend or an Enemy

Monday, May 23, 2016


Stress is your friend because it’s telling you that something isn’t right in your life and you need to do something; it’s how you react to stress that’s good or bad.“What?! Everyone says stress is bad, Dr. Marshack. How can you say stress is your friend?”

It’s true that we hear everyday about how stress is killing us. It’s often associated with problems such as:


Increased appetite for sugar and fats
Abdominal obesity
No energy
Poor concentration
High cholesterol levels
Heart disease and hypertension
Risk for strokes
Diabetes
Alzheimer’s disease
Osteoporosis
Anxiety
Depression
Compromised immune system

But without stress you wouldn’t be motivated to do anything. You wouldn’t get out of bed. You wouldn’t leave your home. You wouldn’t work to solve problems. You wouldn’t strive for excellence. You wouldn’t work at patching up relationships. You wouldn’t get out of the way of a speeding car.

Stress is simply a red flag that you NEED TO DO SOMETHING. It’s telling you that something is not right in your life. How you react to that red flag is the good or bad part of stress. Often you know what you should do, but you don’t follow through, so you add fighting against yourself to the original stressor, which launches the dangerous threat to your health.

It’s your choice to get angry at something someone says or let it go. It’s your choice to suffer in silence or to stand up for yourself. You can decide to sit on the couch watching TV eating bags of chips or go outside and walk in the sunshine. You can choose to tell yourself, “You’re so stupid and you can’t do it.” Or instead say, “I am capable. What I do is good enough.”

However, if stress is prolonged and has already caused serious health problems or is the result of trauma, a chemical imbalance or a nutritional imbalance, you’ll need more than positive thinking and meditation to get you back on track to optimal health. Maybe it’s been going on so long you don’t even know where your stress is coming from.

A psychologist experienced in a holistic health, NET and varying forms of psychotherapy can provide you with a mental and physical health program tailored to your specific biochemical, emotional and mental needs. If you’re experiencing unrelieved stress, please consult with a professional as soon as possible. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

Read more: Mind and Body Health.

A No Cost Treatment for Depression, Memory Loss and ADHD – Go for a Hike!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016


A No Cost Treatment for Depression, Memory Loss and ADHD – Go for a Hike!How would you like a no cost way to stay in shape, clear your mind, spark creativity, reduce depression and anxiety, and change the way your brain works? It’s easy. Just go for a hike! Now that spring weather is warming up here in the Pacific Northwest, it’s a great time to get outside and take a hike in the woods. Not only will you see beautiful scenery, smell wonderful woodsy scents, and exercise your muscles, you’ll actually be making positive changes to your brain, as the following studies show.

University of British Columbia researchers found that aerobic exercise increases hippocampal volume in women over the age of 70. That’s the part of the brain associated with spatial and episodic memory. Who doesn’t want a better memory? Hiking will do that and so much more. It also reduces stress and anxiety, boosts self-esteem, and releases endorphins.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reports on a study about how rumination (repetitive negative thought about self) is affected by urban setting versus a 90 minute walk in the woodsy park. Not surprisingly, they found that spending time in nature significantly decreases obsessive, negative thoughts. It also reduces neural activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain related to mental illness. Those who walked through an urban setting, however, didn’t receive these benefits. In fact, the researchers discovered that increased urbanization correlates to increased mental illnesses.

When you go for your hike, leave your phone off! Here’s why…Psychologists Ruth Ann Atchley and David L. Strayer found that creative problem-solving skills are greatly improved by ditching technology and going for a hike. After a 4 day backpacking tip, (without any tech tools turned on), the participants’ creative thinking and problem-solving skills improved 50%. It also improves your relationships since you’ll have more of an opportunity to talk. For your safety, I would suggest having the phone with you, but only turn it on if you experience problems and need help.

Hiking also helps children with ADHD. Frances E Kup, Ph.D. and Andrea Faber Taylor, Ph.D. found that children with ADHD improved their ability to pay attention and control their impulsive behavior when they engaged in nature activities.

We live in such a beautiful area. I hope I’ve motivated you to find a few trails and recharge. However, it’s important to realize if you or your loved one is experiencing serious mental health issues such as persistent anxiety or depression, it’s important to consult a mental health professional for proper diagnosis and treatment. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

Seven Weight Loss Misconceptions that May Be Keeping You Overweight

Thursday, January 14, 2016


Seven Weight Loss Misconceptions that May Be Keeping You OverweightYou’ve no doubt heard the statistics that the obesity rate is on the rise in the United States. And you know that excess weight not only increases your risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, stroke and cancer, but it compromises your psychological welfare. Being overweight lowers self-esteem and heightened vulnerability to anxiety and depression.

Yet, many people have misconceptions about weight loss. Take a look at the following false statements. Have any of them influenced your thinking?

1. “You can’t lose a lot of weight and keep it off.”
Researchers have been surprised at how easy it was to find people who have achieved major weight loss goals. The National Weight Loss Registry found that the project’s 2,800 respondents have maintained an average 67-pound weight loss for five years, with up to 14% of them staving off a more than 100-pound weight loss.

2. “Your ‘set-point’ determines how much you weigh.”
Studies show that when you lose weight, your metabolism actually shifts to a normal rate for that new weight, in spite of your individual differences. Some want to blame their bodies rather than their own behavior for their weight-loss failure.

3.”Poor willpower is to blame for excess weight.”

It’s not that simple. There are genetic, metabolic, biochemical, cultural and psychosocial factors. It doesn’t help that there’s an increase in easy-access, delicious, high-fat foods. Nor does it help that our lives are more sedentary. Willpower helps but to lose weight and keep it off, an active lifestyle is a must.

4. “The best weight loss regimens incorporate structured exercise three to five times a week.”

A physically active lifestyle is important, but you don’t have to live at the gym to do it. Walking 30 minutes most days may be all you need to effectively lower body fat.

5. “I have to lose a lot of weight to make a significant impact on my health.”
Even small weight changes can have a major impact on your health and quality of life. A five-pound loss can improve depression, anxiety, psychosocial functioning, and mood.

6. “You should eat only low-fat and no-fat foods.”
Many people avoid fatty food only to overeat “low-fat” foods. According to the American Medical Association, reducing fat intake is only effective if we reduce calories as well. And our brains need a limited measure of good fats from foods like avocados and nuts in order to function properly.

7. “Dieting doesn’t work.”

We absolutely need to be aware of what we put in our mouths. If you have a sensible diet plan that focuses on substituting healthy choices for the junk food you’ve been eating, you’ll see results.

Do you find yourself consistently struggling to keep the weight off because you’re an emotional eater? It may be time to request the assistance of a mental health professional who is trained in methods of permanent weight control. It’s not easy to change an ingrained lifestyle but if you use a psychologist as your coach you can do it. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

Feeling like a Hypochondriac? Don't Give Up Until You Get an Accurate Diagnosis

Monday, December 07, 2015


Feeling like a hypochondriac - don't give up until you get an accurate diagnosisDo you or a loved one feel like something isn't quite right with your health, but doctors haven't been able to diagnose anything wrong with you? Perhaps you feel like a hypochondriac for persisting in your search for answers. It's important that you don't quit searching, even if no one believes you yet. And when you get a diagnosis, it's good to ask for a second or third opinion. Why?

A recent NYTimes article highlights the need to have a complete health screen when seeking help for psychological problems. The wife of Actor Robin Williams reveals that unbeknownst to them, Mr. Williams didn’t just suffer from depression. He had a relatively unknown disease called Lewy body dementia where abnormal protein deposits are spread throughout the brain disrupt its normal functioning.

This disease is frequently confused with Parkinson's and Alzheimer's, with its long list of symptoms like depression, anxiety, chronic sleep problems, stiffness, movement problems, fluctuations in thinking ability and persistent hallucinations that mimic schizophrenia. It estimated that about 1.4 million in the U.S., especially men, suffer from Lewy body dementia. And it often takes multiple visits and more than a year to diagnose it accurately. It progresses much more rapidly than Alzheimer's does. So it needs an accurate diagnosis as soon as possible.

You are a whole person, not a head separated from your body. Diet, stress, environmental toxins, head injuries, and so much more, contribute to mental health issues. It's important that all of these factors be considered in your diagnosis and treatment. I’ve discovered that Neuro Emotional Technique is very successful at getting to the root of stress related illnesses. If you haven’t found a medical explanation yet for the way you feel, and would like to schedule an appointment with me, please contact my Portland OR/Vancouver, WA office.

Read more on my website: Mind and Body Health.

5 Ways to Recharge Even If You Can’t Take a Long Vacation

Monday, October 12, 2015


5 ways to refresh yourself without taking a long vacationHasn’t summer flown by? Have you been able to make some down time to enjoy it? I was able to get out of the office for a couple of weeks and it made me feel recharged and invigorated to get going again.

Even if you can’t take weeks off or get out of town, what are some simple ways to reinvigorate yourself?

Disconnect from technology.
Even if you have to check in now and then, don’t start your morning by checking emails. That can ruin your day. And rather than spending time surfing the net, watching TV, or texting, it’s so much healthier for us physically and mentally to get outside into the fresh air and sunshine and enjoy the company of friends and family in person.

Disconnect from work.
You may not be going to the office today, but is your mind worrying about a business matter? We all need to take a complete break from our work routine so we can refresh ourselves.

Connect with what makes you feel good.
Have you fallen into a rut of routines and habits? Are they making you feel good about yourself and your life? Maybe you work at home and it’s tempting to spend all day in your PJ’s and just grab whatever food is handy. I guarantee you’ll feel and act more confidently if you honor yourself by eating a nourishing meal and wearing your best clothes.

Connect with people you admire and love.
How long has it been since you’ve had a really in depth conversation with a loved one? When we have these real conversations they refresh us and help us to grow.

Connect with what makes you joyful.
When was the last time you gave yourself the gift of doing what bring you joy, like singing, dancing, hiking, or a hobby? We all need to pay attention to what makes us feel vibrantly alive.

If you’re not living the life that you want, and you don’t know how to break out of whatever is holding you back, talking with a mental health professional may be exactly what you need. Just as we need yearly physicals to remaining optimally healthy, regular mental checkups are helpful too. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

Read more on my website: Mind and Body Health.


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