Author: IntraBalance

5 Myths About Psychiatry

IntraBalance, Integrative Psychiatry & Sleep Specialist in San Francisco, California

In this video, I’ll be debunking 5 common myths about Psychiatry and I’ll be sharing an exciting new (but old!) paradigm in mental health that will help you sleep better, perform better, and achieve optimal wellbeing.

Seven Simple Steps to Improve Diet and Digestion

Seven Simple Steps to Improve Diet and Digestion

When diet is wrong, medicine is of no use; when diet is correct, medicine is of no need.

Ayurvedic Proverb

“What should I be eating?” is a question I hear frequently from my patients. Research shows that diet affects not only physical health, but also has a significant impact on mental health and wellbeing. Gastrointestinal and digestive complaints are common in psychiatric disorders and maintaining a well-balanced diet and healthy digestion is a cornerstone of holistic psychiatric treatment. As an Integrative Psychiatrist, my appointments are not complete without a discussion of diet and nutrition. From ketogenic, to paleo, gluten-free, vegan, intermittent fasting, and Atkins, there are so many diets to choose from and the plethora of information available can be overwhelming and confusing. There is no one size fits all approach and what works for one person may not be right for the next. So, when counseling my patients on diet, I offer seven basic Ayurvedic principles that apply to everyone:

1. Make gradual changes

In Ayurveda, quick, drastic changes in diet are not advisable. Rather, gradual, gentle changes are recommended to allow time for the body to adjust to your new dietary routine. Taking things slow and steady is also easier to implement and more likely to bring lasting success. For example, if you are currently consuming a Standard American Diet (SAD) and having trouble getting enough fresh fruits and vegetables, instead of a complete overhaul, start by dividing your plate in half. Fill one side with colorful fruits and veggies and the other with a half size portion of your usual food. With consistent small changes over time, you’ll find that your food choices naturally start to shift.

2. Slow down and chew well

Many of us eat on the go, while in our cars, or at our desks working, checking email, or reading, not paying attention to what we’re eating or how we’re eating it. In Ayurveda, it is understood that the way we eat impacts digestion and overall health. First, slow it down. Take at least 10 to 15 minutes to eat while sitting in a calm environment, keeping distractions to a minimum. Chewing the food well is another simple but fundamental step that most of us forget about. Digestion begins in the mouth, thus it is important to chew thoroughly, as much as 30 times per bite for very dense foods. Lastly, whatever you are eating, take it with confidence! Enjoy and savor it, paying attention, slowing down, letting go of any associated guilt. If you are reading this right now while eating, close your browser, pay attention to your meal, chew it well, and enjoy!

3. Stay on a schedule

Even 5,000 years ago, the importance of regulating the circadian rhythm was understood in Ayurveda. Eating at the same time every day helps to synchronize circadian cycles, improves sleep and energy, helps with weight loss, regulates blood sugar and hormone secretion, and improves digestion. Try to eat your meals around the same time every day, give or take an hour. Give yourself bonus points if your largest meal is midday when digestive power is at its peak. Eating your largest meal at lunch will help fuel you throughout the day and reduce the likelihood of overeating in the evening when metabolism slows down. Studies show that people who eat their largest meal at lunch time also have an easier time losing weight.

4. Use herbs and spices

Spices are a key component of the Ayurvedic armamentarium. In addition to providing flavor, they also aid digestion, promote a healthy gut microbiome, and have myriad other health benefits. Fennel and cumin, for example, are effective for bloating, turmeric is recognized for its anti-inflammatory properties, cardamom is an anti-oxidant and anti-spasmodic, and cinnamon can help balance blood sugar levels. Have fun and experiment with different herbs and spices in your food. Indian, Mexican, and Mediterranean recipes are a great place to start. A caveat – be careful with hot spices like ginger or cayenne if you have any issues with heartburn, GERD, or inflammation of the GI tract.

5. Eat more (lightly cooked) plants

Eating whole, minimally processed foods with an emphasis on plants provides a multitude of health benefits and is compatible with most diets. The tendency may be to include more salads or smoothies, but raw vegetables may not be suitable for everyone depending on your digestive balance and dosha type. Raw plants are harder to digest and can cause issues with bloating, gas, dryness, and feeling cold when the digestion system is not functioning optimally. In Ayurveda, lightly cooking vegetables on low heat is preferred and helps ease digestion.

6. Avoid extremes in temperature

As drastic changes in diet are not advisable in Ayurveda, nor are extremes in the temperature of food and beverages. Ice cold foods and beverages may dampen the digestive fire and affect metabolism, while piping hot foods can aggravate inflammatory conditions in the gut. Although the types of foods to consume may vary according to your constitution and digestive type, consuming room temperature or warm foods is a good rule of thumb for most people.

7. Listen to your body

Your body has an innate intelligence and will tell you what’s working for your system and what isn’t. Many different factors determine what types of foods are best suited for you, and a diet that seems to work wonders for your best friend or coworker may not be right for you. Slow down and pay attention to how different types of foods interact with your system. How does the food you eat affect your energy, bowel movements, digestion, skin, sleep, mood, and cognitive functioning? Listening to your body will not only provide you with invaluable information, but the act of slowing down and paying attention can itself be therapeutic.

From Light To Dark: Transform Your Sleep This Season

From Light To Dark: Transform Your Sleep This Season

Moving from downtown Chicago to the valleys of Marin County, California was a lifestyle change in many ways, but one change was particularly striking: it was dark at night. I was accustomed to the bright lights of Chicago’s many street lamps and neon signs streaming in through my windows as if to call out that the day was not yet over, but in Marin it felt like bedtime at 5:30pm.

Light is a powerful force that affects our sleep cycles and the enveloping darkness of my new environment was like a velvety blanket inviting me to curl up into a deep slumber.

As a psychiatrist and sleep specialist, I am acutely aware of the impact of light exposure on mood and the circadian rhythm. During the daytime, sunlight stimulates light sensitive cells in the retina at the back of the eye. This results in a cascade of information being sent to different brain regions including the suprachiastmatic nucleus (SCN), the clock center of the brain. Peripheral clocks located in other organs interact with the central clock as part of the regulatory system. External cues such as light and temperature reset our body clock, or circadian rhythm. Every living organism, from individual cells to plants and animals have a circadian rhythm, which is set approximately to a 24-hour cycle.

The circadian rhythm is what drives our sleep cycles, hormone secretion, and metabolic processes. Exposure to light, specifically blue light, suppresses our brain’s natural production of the sleep hormone melatonin and stimulates the parts of the brain involved in alertness and attention.

Before the advent of the light bulb, we were exposed to blue light only during the daytime hours and the warm glow of firelight in the evenings encouraged a state of relaxation. Now, we are bombarded by blue light at all hours as it is found almost everywhere, from our televisions to smart phones, to fluorescent bulbs and LED lights. Exposure to blue light wavelengths in the evenings alters our sleep rhythms by inhibiting our brain’s natural production of melatonin, resulting in altered sleep patterns, insomnia, and daytime sleepiness.

Research has shown that people who are exposed to blue light at night, such as shift workers, have higher rates of chronic diseases like obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and depression.

In our 24/7 society, there is no getting around technology and artificial lighting. So, what can be done? Regulating the timing of blue light exposure is a simple but critical way to reset our circadian rhythms and sleep cycle.

  • Dim the lights in your home a few hours before bedtime. This may include turning off overhead lights and using table lamps or installing dimmer switches to better control the level of ambient light.
  • Minimize blue light exposure in the evenings by turning down the brightness on cell phone screens, laptops, tablets, and e-book readers. Apps such as Twilight and f.lux filter out blue light from smart phones and computers by changing the color temperature of the screen. Wearing amber colored, blue blocking glasses in the evening is also a safe and effective way to avoid blue light. Keep TVs out of the bedroom and set a curfew for using screens in the evening, preferably 1-2 hours before bed to allow your brain time to start producing melatonin naturally.
  • Keep it dark during your sleep zone. Waking up in the middle of the night is normal and typically not a cause of concern. However, just a little burst of light from looking at screens, opening the fridge, or turning on the lights to use the bathroom during awakenings can make it harder to fall back asleep. Minimize any light exposure during the night by avoiding use of screens and using a nightlight instead of overhead lights if you need to get out of bed.
  • Maintain a consistent wake-up time and expose yourself to bright light at the same time every morning. If it is still very dark in the morning or you struggle with getting up on time, consider using a sunrise alarm that gradually simulates a sunrise in the bedroom.
  • Stay in bright light during the daytime to help with alertness and to keep the circadian rhythm aligned with your daily routines.

Source: TMO
Read the full article -> From Light to Dark: Transform Your Sleep This New Year

Ready to optimize your sleep? Click here to get our FREE sleep guide.