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Kathy Marshack News

Does Your Gut Health Really Affect Your Mental Health?

Thursday, April 23, 2015


good gut health promotes good mental healthYou’ve heard the expression “it’s a gut-feeling.” Is it merely a coincidence that the gut has been associated with our feelings and our mental health?? Science is revealing some fascinating insights into this question.

Scientific American reports that when a person’s digestion is impaired or leaky gut is present, the symptoms of depression worsen. This may be due to increased autoimmune responses and inflammation. A more recent article explores the connections between gut health and autism.

A NPR story about Dr Emeran Mayer, a profession of medicine and psychiatry at U.C.L.A. reports that gut bacteria influences our minds. He’s researching MRI scans to see how the brain structure compares to the type of bacteria found in the gut. He’s already found some interesting connections. This same story talks about a study on mice and how their brain chemistry and behavior changed when gut microbes were introduced.

Nature reported on a study that found that feeding mice the bacterium Bacteroides fragilis can reverse autism-like symptoms. They found that mice born by caesarean section had significantly more symptoms of depression since they didn’t pick up their mother’s microbes, which they would have done during a vaginal birth.

A recent Huffington Post article reports that treating participants with probiotics lessens negative thinking and depression.

Will all of these findings translate into real treatments for humans? Time will tell. I find these studies fascinating because of their impact on the world of Autistics. They often suffer from gut problems and learning new treatments for them is always exciting.

Improving a person’s physical health will improve their mental health. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA and would like assistance in reaching your optimal physical and mental health through holistic methods, please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

Pets Are Good for Your Physical and Mental Health

Wednesday, April 22, 2015


owning a pet is good for your physical and mental healthAhhh…who can resist those puppy eyes? We’ve known for sometime that pets are good therapy for those who suffer from anxiety, depression and PTSD. Now a recent New York Times article adds further proof that there is a beneficial hormonal change occurring when you and your dog makes eye contact.

Research shows that gazing into those big puppy eyes elevates the level of oxytocin in your brain. Oxytocin is the hormone that bonds a parent with a child and is related to stress and anxiety relief, thereby lowering blood pressure and cortisol levels.

In a Smithsonian article about how dogs help veterans with PTSD, Meg Daley Olmert who works for a program called Warrior Canine Connection, says, “Oxytocin improves trust, the ability to interpret facial expressions, the overcoming of paranoia and other pro-social effects—the opposite of PTSD symptoms.”

Psychologists at Miami University and Saint Louis University conducted a 2011 study on the potential benefits of pet ownership physically and mentally. Some of the benefits of pet ownership were increased feelings of belonging, self-esteem and meaningful existence while staving off feelings of rejection. Pet owners were more physically fit and less lonely or fearful.

Psychiatrist, Ian Cook, MD, who is also director of the Depression Research and Clinic Program at UCLA, adds another benefit, "Pets offer an unconditional love that can be very helpful to people with depression. Other studies show that children raised with pets have fewer allergies.

Have you tried owning a pet and still are struggling with anxiety, depression or PTSD? If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment so we can discuss more options for helping you obtain your optimal physical and mental health.

Sleep Awareness Week™ - Do You See Room for Improvement?

Tuesday, March 03, 2015


Sleep Awareness Week draws attention to critical need for sleep in order to have good mental and physical healthEvery year since 1991 the National Sleep Foundation (a charitable, educational and scientific not-for-profit organization located in Washington, D.C) has surveyed America’s sleep behavior and has used the information to promote greater awareness and education about the importance of sleep with their Sleep Awareness Week™. This year it falls on March 2-8, 2015, culminating with the change to Daylight Saving Time on March 8th.

Their recent press release reveals that pain is a significant factor in sleeplessness. They report, “21 percent of Americans experience chronic pain and 36 percent have had acute pain in the past week.” That’s over half of the U.S. population! It also found that stress and poor health are contributing factors to poor sleep patterns.

Why is loss of sleep so critical? Because the following activities, to name just a few, are impacted…

  • Job performance.
  • Mood.
  • Concentration.
  • Relationships.
  • Quality of life.
  • Overall health.

What do they recommend? “Make sleep a priority.” Just getting 15 more minutes of sleep every night will improve your overall health. David Cloud, CEO of the National Sleep Foundation, says, “Taking control of your sleep by being motivated, setting a routine bedtime and creating a supportive sleep environment are relevant even for those with pain. Sleep is a key marker of health, and good sleep habits are critical for improving the quality of life of those living with chronic or acute pain.”

Is stress and pain keeping you awake at night? If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment to discover new ways of coping.

Learn more: Enter the word SLEEP in the search box to the right to find more articles about the importance of sleep.

Seven Tips for a Healthier Brain

Thursday, February 26, 2015


seven tips for a healthier brain

Imagine what it would be like to feel more cheerful…to think more clearly…to have a better memory…


Who of us wouldn’t like that? If there was a magic pill that you could take once a day that guaranteed those results, wouldn’t you take it? If only it was that easy! Since you’re willing to DO something to improve your brain health, what realistically can you do?

Here are seven proven tips to improve the health of your brain:

  1. Focus on promoting good blood circulation because a third of your brain’s volume is blood vessels.
  2. Walk 20 minutes three times a week because this increases flow of oxygenated blood to the brain and prevents or reduces plaque buildup.
  3. Eat food rich in omega-3 fatty acids, including vegetables, whole grains, wild salmon, grass fed beef, fruit, good fats like avocado and olive oil.
  4. Get vitamin B12 and folic acid from eating green leafy veggies, meat, fish and yogurt because this gives you the amino acid homocysteine, which is associated with reducing the risk of memory loss and Alzheimer’s.
  5. Strive for better stress relief, which is as easy as increasing your laughter, because this reduces the stress hormone cortisol, which damages the hippocampus. Meditation also increases the size of the hippocampus.
  6. Socialize more because this provides mental stimulation, plus helps you deal with stress.
  7. Challenge your brain by playing games, learning a musical instrument or a new language.

Perhaps you’ve tried making these changes in the past. However, you quickly gave up because it felt too overwhelming.

As with any habit, it’s best to tackle one goal at a time. So pick one thing from the list that you’d like to change in your life and focus on that for the next three months. Write out your intention. Schedule on your calendar how you’re going to implement it every day, every week for the next three months. When you go to bed at night, create a picture in your mind about how you’re going to feel and look so much better because you make these changes. All of these tips will help you make your goal part of your new routine. When you’ve created that new habit, pick another goal and work on that one.

Do you need someone to guide you and hold you accountable as you create new healthy habits? That’s nothing to be ashamed of. We spend a lifetime creating the bad habits, so it’s not surprising that it’s not easy to change. A mental health professional can help you create new patterns that will support you in your quest for optimal health. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

Want to learn more? The CNN article and slideshow, Chronic Stress Can Hurt Your Memory is very helpful.

Snoring, Sleep Apnea and Heart Disease – How Are They Connected?

Wednesday, February 25, 2015


snoring sleep apnea heart disease insomniaDo you associate snoring with heart disease? Should you? A recent CNN article 

shows us why there is a very real link between snoring and serious health concerns such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and heart disease. Here are some highlights from the article…

What causes snoring? It occurs when something is obstructing the airway. Often it’s because the muscles in the roof of the mouth or the back of the throat relax and partially block the airflow. Some of the common factors are:

  • Sleeping on your back
  • Drinking alcohol before bedtime
  • Suffering from allergies or a cold
  • Being overweight
  • Having an enlarged uvula – the tissue hanging at the back of your mouth

Sleep apnea becomes a problem because you’re brain and heart aren’t getting enough oxygen to function properly. According to the article, between 5% and 15% of middle-aged adults probably suffer from sleep apnea. Apnea refers to episode where the signal is sent to the brain to force a gasp because the breathing has stopped. These on-off oxygen levels are causing stress and damage to your body cells. Your brain should be resting and restoring itself, instead it’s forced into high-alert because of the sleep apnea. This disrupts your deep sleep, causing exhaustion and a host of other health issues.

The good news is that sleep apnea is very treatable. Lifestyle changes, such as losing weight or sleeping on your side, may be helpful. Another possibility is using a CPAP machine. You should discuss with your own doctor the best solution for you.

Sleep therapy can effectively help treat mood disorders, anxiety and depression. Do you want to explore positive and lasting ways to optimize your health? Have you been struggling with weight loss? Poor sleep patterns? Perhaps it’s time to get help from a NET practitioner who focuses on holistic health solutions. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

How Much Do You Know About Memory?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015


how much do you know about memoryMemory is such an important part of our lives. It helps define who we are. It assists us in our relationships with others. And it definitely affects the decisions we make. So much of this is done without our even thinking about it. That is…until we start to lose our ability to remember. Then we wish we could do something to decrease memory loss. The good news is that there are things you can do to support your brain’s memory functions.

First, though, WebMD has a fun and interesting memory quiz to test how much you already know about how memory works and what affect our choices have on the quality of memory. You’ll learn the answers to the following questions:

Can sex trigger amnesia?
Does pregnancy cause “baby brain”?
How long do memory problems due to smoking marijuana last?
How does déjà vu work?
At what age do we start losing brain cells?
Why can you remember a song from your youth, but can’t remember someone’s name?
Why and how does – skipping breakfast, poor eyesight, working crosswords, drinking alcohol, taking statin drugs, antihistamines and sleeping pills – affect your memory?
Why does a sudden, high-stress event boost your memory?
Is the memory loss from perimenopause permanent?
Why does rest or sleep enhance memory?
What foods can boost memory?
Why do some diseases cause “brain fog”?

The function of the brain can be improved by holistic health choices that help you control memory-damaging stress, getting enough exercise, keeping your mind active and improving your concentration. A NET practitioner can help you not only protect your brain but even retrain your brain to cope with the brain fog caused by painful illnesses such as fibromyalgia. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

Read more about memory on Psychology Today and PsychCentral.

Think Yourself Younger – Is It Possible?

Monday, December 22, 2014


our attitude toward aging Do you feel your biological age? Some days do you feel like your 18 again and others you could be 100? A recent CNN article discussed new research published by JAMA Internal Medicine online about our attitude toward aging and how it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. (Check out their slide show of 10 centenarians and their amazing accomplishments during “old age” like running a marathon and competing in the AU World Masters Games.) The way you perceive your health, limitations and wellbeing can greatly affect your mortality.

Researchers found that those who feel younger than their chronological age live longer than those who feel their age or feel older. While they don’t fully understand why, the researchers have noticed the following similar traits among the long-lived:

  • This “youthful” group keeps more active.
  • They maintain a healthy weight.
  • They nurture their happyinterest in life.
  • They engage in healthy behavior instead of risky behavior.
  • They feel more in control.
  • They have greater resilience.
  • They have good social relationships.
  • They keep a positive, optimistic attitude.
  • They are content with their lives.

The two main characteristics that seem to help people live a longer life are consciousness and optimism. While the findings of this latest research are not new, it does reinforce that our conscious choices shape our quality of life. So what does your future look like?

It’s never too late to start living a more meaningful and happy life. I had the privilege of having one of my essays published in a wonderful book entitled, Sixty Things To Do When You Turn Sixty. (You can purchase a copy of the book here.) The big 6-0 is just the beginning! Do you have any stories of people who have accomplished remarkable things in their 80’s, 90’s, and 100’s? Please come to my Facebook page and share them with us.

Morning Person or Night Owl – Which Are You? Does It Matter?

Thursday, December 18, 2014


this woman is a night owl who is sleeping inHave you ever heard the word chronotype? It’s a way of classifying whether your internal circadian clock is set for you to be a night owl or a morning person. Our society is greatly shaped by the belief that early risers will be the movers and shakers and those who are night owls are the partiers and are more creative. We’ve all heard this sentiment in sayings such as “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise” or “The early bird gets the worm”.

The Harvard Review carries an article by Christoph Randler, a professor of biology at the University of Education in Heidelberg, Germany on his study of morning people verses evening people and their role in job performance. He found that there’s a genetic predisposition to whether you’re a morning person or night owl. And those who wake up early are more likely to be productive. Morning people anticipate problems and try to minimize them. Evening people, on the other hand, tend to be more creative.

The Huffington Post has an article by Dr. Michael Breus, clinical psychologist and board certified sleep specialist, and he reports that the brain structure actually differs between night owls and early risers. “Compared to early risers and intermediates, night owls showed reduced integrity of white matter in several areas of the brain. White matter is fatty tissue in the brain that facilitates communication among nerve cells. Diminished integrity of the brain's white matter has been linked to depression and to disruptions of normal cognitive function.” The article also said night owls are prone to significant tobacco and alcohol use. They are inclined to eat more and have less healthful diets. On the positive side, they tend to be more analytical and have more stamina.

Can a person change from night owl to morning person? According to a recent CNN article, there are 19 ways to trick yourself into becoming a morning person. They involve creating a new routine and having a definite goal in mind. Some of them include:

  • Make the change in 15-minute increments.
  • Turn off the electronics at least 1 hour before bedtime.
  • Use that hour to prepare for the next day.
  • Write out your to-do list and get those things off of your mind.
  • Create an environment conducive to sleep – darken the room, turn the temperature down to 65˚F.
  • Avoid eating or drinking a lot before going to bed.
  • Don’t hit the snooze button, but get up. Going back to sleep may put you into a deep sleep stage, which will make you really groggy.

A good sleep routine is crucial to optimum health, job performance, and quality of life. A night owl trying to fit into a morning person society may suffer from sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation can have serious long-term effects as it can escalate into psychological disorders like depression and anxiety. If you feel this is a problem for you, please contact a mental health care professional in your area. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA, please contact my office and schedule an appointment today.

By proactively managing your sleep pattern, you could create an extra hour in your day. How would you use it? Please join me on my Facebook page and tell me about it.

Your Thoughts – Are They Making You Healthier or Making You Sicker?

Thursday, December 04, 2014


our thoughts can make us healthier or make us sickerWe know that our thoughts can change the way we feel. Have you ever been so stressed out you got a stomachache or a headache? Your thoughts did that to you. But can your thoughts actually change the brain’s physical make-up?

Scientists, who are studying the neuroplasticity of the brain, are discovering how much our thoughts really do shape our brain and our health. In an earlier article, I shared how different forms of meditation change the structure of the brain. This isn’t surprising because thoughts have physical properties. Every thought sends electrical signals through your brain, which in turn influences every cell of the body. Learning to control negative thinking is one of the most effective ways to have better health.

What health benefits may positive thinking provide?

  • Increase your life span
  • Lessen depression
  • Lessen distress
  • Gain a greater resistance to the common cold
  • Create better psychological and physical well-being
  • Reduce risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Improve coping skills during times of stress

But why exactly does positive thinking cause these improvements? Science is still researching this question, yet we do know that there are a number of reasons…

  • Positive people take better care of themselves – they eat a healthier diet, exercise regularly and get plenty of rest.
  • They avoid unhealthy behaviors such as overeating, smoking, and risky sex, which protects the body from debilitating diseases. 
  • An optimistic outlook lowers the level of cortisol associated with inflammation and raises the chemical that fosters communication between the two halves of the brain.
  • A can-do attitude generates a sense of empowerment and confidence in your abilities in contrast to the self-defeating I-can’t attitude.
  • The qualities of forgiveness, resilience, commitment, challenge, and control combat the harmful feelings of hopelessness, bitterness, resentment, anger and cynicism.
  • Optimistic people are more fun to be around, so they have better relationships with friends and family.

Positive thinking often starts with how you talk to yourself. The best advice is to only say things to yourself that you would say to a dear friend. When a negative thought enters your head, use positive affirmation to replace it. This will keep your brain chemistry in balance.

If you find you’re being controlled by habitually negative patterns of thinking, it’s time to seek professional help. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA, please contact my office and schedule an appointment. Healing everyday thought patterns is crucial to gaining optimum health.

New Research: Is the Risk of ASD or ADHD Increased by Taking Depression Medicine during Pregnancy?

Thursday, November 13, 2014


depression and pregnancyResearch shows that genetic factors play a large role in autism spectrum disorder. However, not as much is known about the role of medications prescribed during pregnancy. Do antidepressants and antipsychotics increase the risk of ASD and ADHD? Or is it the mother’s depression a greater contributing factor? That’s what researchers are trying to find out.

New research suggests that increased risk of autism after medication use during pregnancy may actually be reflecting the increased risk associated with severe maternal depression instead. According to SFARI (Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative), “Women who have a history of bipolar disorder or depression are more likely to have a child with Asperger syndrome than classic autism.” They base this statement on a study published in the 2012 issue of Autism Research and Treatment.

PsychCentral reports on a study conducted by Massachusetts General Hospital researchers, which discovered, “While a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder was more common in the children of mothers prescribed antidepressants during pregnancy than in those with no prenatal exposure, when the severity of the mother’s depression was accounted for, that increased risk was no longer statistically significant.”  They did, however, discover an increased risk for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). And antipsychotic drugs sometimes used to treat severe, treatment-resistant depression appeared to increase the risk for autism.

The senior author of the report, Roy Perlis, M.D., M.Sc., M.G.H., made this comment, “Untreated depression can pose serious health risks to both a mother and child, so it’s important that women being treated with antidepressants who become pregnant, or who are thinking about becoming pregnant, know that these medications will not increase their child’s risk of autism.”

Depression is not something you want to ignore because you’re afraid of what medication will do to you or your unborn child. There are a variety of depression treatment options available, with medication and without medication. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and a holistic health approach are beneficial in helping anxious or depressed people lower medication requirements. Please discuss these options with your doctor. You don’t need to stay in the darkness. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and set up an appointment so we can discuss the best treatment for you.

Wondering if you or someone you love has depression? Take the online PsychCentral Depression Quiz. If depression is indicated, please contact your physician or a mental health professional immediately.

Read more on my website: Overcoming Depression.



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