Regular crafting helps undo damage from screentime

Regular crafting helps undo damage from screentime

If you’re like most people today, you spend hours a day in front of a screen. Americans now spend at least half their lives in front of a screen, five times as long compared to 50 years ago. This excessive screen time has been linked with neurodevelopmental issues in children and “digital dementia” in adults, not to mention depression, isolation, sleep disorders, and anxiety.

While the answer is to spend less time using screens, the problem is screen time also appears to be uniquely addictive for us all.

Is there an antidote? Studies show spending time working with your hands crafting, building, gardening, etc. can provide unique qualities that boost your physical and neurological health. If you’re working to manage a chronic condition such as autoimmune disease of gastrointestinal disease, regular craft time can be a fun and beneficial tool in your health toolbox.

For instance, knitting, crocheting, sewing, and other textile crafts have been shown to have the same neurological benefits as meditation and mindfulness.

Regular knitters have reported knitting makes them feel happy and they are drawn to the craft for its stress relief and anti-anxiety effects. People who knit three or more times a week reported more benefit than those who knitted less frequently.

What’s more, people who knitted in a group or did some other type of group craft activity were even happier than those who knitted solo, thanks to the proven health benefits of socialization.

About three quarters of patients with anorexia nervosa reported knitting distracted them from obsessive, ruminating thoughts about food and weight and helped them feel more relaxed.

Oncology nurses reported knitting reduced compassion fatigue and stress in one study, and another found people with chronic fatigue, depression, and other chronic health disorders experienced increased positivity and well being engaging in textile crafts.

While these crafts are associated primarily with women, research has also found traditionally male crafts, such as woodworking, repair jobs, and “tinkering” impart the same benefits.

The benefits of crafting are believed to be derived from the “flow state” of repetitive mindful action crafts require.

If you would like help understanding Handicrafts related to brain health, you can schedule a FREE 15-MINUTE CONSULTATION with Dr. Celaya.

Working with your hands is good for the brain

Although crafting delivers psychological benefits that translate into biochemical mood boosts, there is another important aspect of crafting — working with your hands is great for the brain.

In an era when many of us use our hands primarily for texting, typing, and swiping, handiwork and crafting can activate long dormant areas of the brain. And healthy brain activity in one area, such as the “hands” area, will help improve activity throughout the rest of the brain, contributing to overall improved brain health.

Working with your hands on something physical boosts reward circuits in the brain in ways working abstractly only with your brain doesn’t. This in turn triggers a cascade of neurochemical reactions that improve motivation and self-esteem and relieve depression.

The repetition, memory, and learning required when engaging in a task keeps the brain engaged in a mindful manner while freeing up the “thinking” centers of the brain that are engaged for knowledge tasks. This is not only calming and therapeutic for anxiety and obsessive thoughts, but many people report that this cognitive brain break allows problem solving and creative solutions to spontaneously arrive while crafting.

Knitting, woodworking, scrapbooking, and other crafts may seem like an odd recovery tool when you’re working to manage autoimmunity, gastrointestinal disease, or other chronic health disorders, but once you understand their physical and mental benefits, it makes perfect sense to ditch the screen for some handiwork on a frequent basis.

Want to know more? Schedule a FREE 15-MINUTE CONSULTATION with Dr. Celaya.

New study shows mold triggers brain-based issues

New study shows mold triggers brain-based issues

Landlords dismiss it, friends and family think you’re making it up, and doctors have no idea what you’re talking about — but mold illness is often an unsuspected trigger of chronic health problems. The recent revelation of a string pediatric deaths at a Seattle hospital due to mold in the air system brought national attention to the gravity of mold illness.

Newer construction methods and materials, water damage that was not properly addressed, high indoor humidity levels, and genetic susceptibility are all factors that play a role in whether a person becomes sick from mold. Estimates vary, but some research shows up to 85 percent of building inspected had past water damage.

A new study found that people affected by mold illness experienced:

  • Brain inflammation in the hippocampus, the area of the brain that governs memory, learning, and the sleep-wake cycle.
  • Decreased neurogenesis, or the formation of new brain cells.
  • Impaired memory.
  • Increased sensitivity to pain.
  • Increased anxiety.

The study also noted that the mold spore alone is not necessary to trigger mold reactions and mold illness. We’ve long known that mycotoxins, toxic compounds produced by mold spores small enough to pass through most materials, are the primary trigger in mold illness.

The study also found that mold spore skeletal elements and other mold metabolites also cause symptoms of mold illness.

Researchers link mold-triggered immune activation with these symptoms in the brain and the body, concluding that mold causes symptoms and illness through its inflammatory effects.

Symptoms of mold illness

Symptoms of mold illness vary from person to person, although mold has been correlated with a significant increase in asthma.

People who live, work, or go to school in moldy buildings complain of pain, fatigue, increased anxiety, depression, and cognitive defects such as memory loss. Researchers say the symptoms are similar to those from bacterial or viral infections, due to the inflammatory cascades mold triggers.

The effects of mold illness on the brain have gone largely dismissed by the standard health care model due to insufficient research on the neurological effects of mold illness.

However, this study demonstrates what people with mold illness already know — it messes with your brain. Hopefully similar studies will follow.

If you would like help understanding Mold Illness, you can schedule a FREE 15-MINUTE CONSULTATION with Dr. Celaya.

In the study, researchers observed that mice inoculated with mold spores showed increased inflammation in the hippocampus, causing notable losses of memory, increased pain, and more anxious behavior compared to mice inoculated with saline.

Addressing mold illness

If you suspect you suffer from mold illness, a variety of in-home tests can show whether the building has high levels of mold and which kinds. Lab testing can show whether you are dealing with high mold mycotoxin levels and if so, which molds are the culprits.

It’s important to have this information because the type of mold you’re dealing with will help determine the best course of action for recovery.

You must take action to deal with mold illness. Sometimes this can mean dramatic changes, such as moving or leaving a job. If the mold contamination is advanced, it can also mean getting rid of all your belongings. However, without action, the inflammation will continue to ravage your system and progressively damage the brain and body. Mold can also trigger or exacerbate autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, multiple sclerosis, vitiligo, and more.

Ask my office how we can help you address possible mold illness.

Want to know more? Schedule a FREE 15-MINUTE CONSULTATION with Dr. Celaya.

New study links inflammation with brain fog

New study links inflammation with brain fog

A new study has shown what we have known for some time in functional medicine: Chronic inflammation causes brain fog and mental sluggishness — many people with chronic health conditions report these symptoms.

In the study, 20 healthy young male volunteers received a salmonella typhoid vaccine, which temporarily spikes inflammation. On separate days they received a placebo shot of saline and did not know on which day they received the vaccine.

They were then given cognitive testing in areas challenging alertness, prioritizing sensory information, and the ability to make executive decisions when presented with conflicting information.

The results showed that the area affected by the inflammation from the vaccine was alertness. The other two areas did not change.

The researchers suggested that inflammation impacts brain networks involved in mental alertness and that anti-inflammatory drugs may be warranted.

Functional medicine approaches to brain inflammation and brain fog

Fortunately, functional medicine offers solutions for brain fog and mental sluggishness. The key is to find and address the source of chronic inflammation.

But first, do you suffer from these symptoms associated with brain inflammation?

  • Brain fog
  • Unclear thoughts
  • Low brain endurance
  • Slow mental speed
  • Loss of brain function after trauma
  • Brain fog and fatigue and poor mental focus after meals
  • Brain fog and fatigue from chemicals, scents, and pollutants
  • Brain fog and fatigue from certain foods
  • Depression

While the brain can become inflamed, we may not necessarily know it as we don’t feel pain from brain inflammation (headaches are caused by other mechanisms although brain inflammation can play a role).

Instead, brain inflammation most often manifests as brain fog and sluggish brain function.

This is because brain inflammation hinders energy production in neurons, making it harder for them to communicate with one another. This causes the brain to slow down and fatigue more easily. Things like reading, working, concentrating, or driving for any length cause fatigue.

The brain has its own immune system made primarily of microglia cells. In the past they were considered nothing more than glue that held brain cells together, but now we know they are very important and outnumber neurons ten to one.

The brain’s immune cells do not have a built-in off switch like the body’s immune cells. As a result, brain inflammation can burn through brain tissue like a slow-moving fire, worsening brain function over time. We see this often in people suffering from symptoms from a brain injury they had years ago.

Also, when not fighting inflammation, the microglia cells carry out very important and necessary “housekeeping” work that keeps the brain healthy and functioning.

Healthy microglia get rid of dead neurons, beta amyloid plaque, and other debris that interfere with nerve communication. They also support neuron metabolism and synapses.

This is especially true in children, whose brain immune cells help “prune” developing neural pathways so that the brain develops as it should. Children whose brains are besieged by inflammation suffer from glitches in these pathways and their brain does not follow healthy developmental patterns.

Brain inflammation not only causes brain fog and mental sluggishness, it also accelerates the degeneration of the brain. This raises the risk of neurodegenerative conditions such as dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, and more.

In fact, brain aging is linked more to brain inflammation than simply getting older.

What leads to brain inflammation and brain fog?

Basically, chronic inflammation anywhere in the body can inflame the brain. This can include chronic joint pain, infections from bacteria, viruses, or parasites, leaky gut or gut inflammation, or an undiagnosed and unmanaged autoimmune condition.

Inflammation in the body releases immune cells called cytokines. These cytokines can trigger inflammation in the brain.

Brain inflammation is now being recognized as a primary cause of chronic, unresponsive depression. After all, antidepressants do not address brain inflammation.

If you have brain fog or mental sluggishness, see if any of these factors could be contributing:

  • Diabetes and high blood sugar
  • Poor circulation
  • Lack of exercise
  • Chronic stress
  • Heart disease
  • Respiratory issues
  • Anemia
  • Previous head trauma
  • Neurological autoimmunity
  • Gluten and dairy intolerance
  • Alcohol and drug abuse
  • Environmental pollutants
  • Systemic inflammation
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Inflammatory bowel conditions
  • Leaky blood-brain barrier

Taming brain inflammation

If you start to feel more mental clarity when addressing underlying causes of brain fog, that means you’re on the right track.

While working on the dietary and lifestyle factors that trigger brain fog, the following compounds can also help dampen brain inflammation:

  • Rutin
  • Catechin
  • Curcumin
  • Apigenin
  • Luteolin
  • Baicalein
  • Resveratrol

The amount you take depends on the degree of brain inflammation. Ask my office for more information.

Exercise shown to improve autoimmunity outcomes

Exercise shown to improve autoimmunity outcomes

Exercise may seem like a bad idea when you feel run down, in pain, or fatigued from an autoimmune disease. Autoimmunity, a disease in which the immune system attacks and destroys body tissue, can make exercise feel like an impossible feat when you’re not feeling good.

However, studies show daily physical activity improves outcomes and helps manage symptoms compared to not exercising at all. This even extends to patients who may stop exercising due to pain, such as in the case of rheumatoid arthritis. No matter how small the effort, something is better than nothing when it comes to regular physical activity and autoimmunity.

Exercise guidelines for autoimmunity

Exercise has many general benefits, the best perhaps being that it simply makes you feel better. People who engage in regular physical activity report less depression and better self-esteem, and are happier. These benefits alone support autoimmune management as a positive mindset is more anti-inflammatory compared to a negative one.

However, when it comes to autoimmunity, exercise delivers specific immune benefits. In fact, you’ll never reach your full potential at managing an autoimmune condition unless regular physical activity is part of your protocol.

In studies, regular exercise has been shown to help dampen autoimmunity in patients with lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease, and other conditions. Studies have also shown that sedentary patients have higher incidences of autoimmune diseases than more active patients.

Research also shows that as a trend, patients with autoimmune disease tend to be more sedentary. This is understandable — autoimmune disease can make you feel poorly much of the time and our cultural depictions of exercise make it seem unattainable. The pressure to be a hard-bodied athlete who flips tractor tires and runs up stadium stairs can lead to resignation instead of physical activity.

But the benefits of physical activity for autoimmunity don’t have to come from intense workouts at a CrossFit gym, long runs, or two-hour weightlifting sessions to deliver benefits. Your fitness level, symptoms, and energy levels will determine what is appropriate for you.

To be effective in managing autoimmunity, exercise can be as simple as a short walk around the block if you’re just getting started. If chronic pain is an issue, exercising in water or on a recumbent stationary cycle may be more appropriate. If you’re feeling good and have been building your fitness, daily high-intensity interval training (HIIT), which activates a wide number of anti-inflammatory and immune-modulating mechanisms, can super charge the autoimmune-dampening benefits of your workouts.

 

While it’s important to exercise regularly, equally important is to not overdo it. Overtraining increases inflammation and can and lead to exercise intolerance, a condition in which exercise makes you feel worse, takes an unusual amount of time to recover from, or triggers a relapse or flare.

Exercise intolerance stems from compromised mitochondria related to chronic inflammation associated with autoimmunity.

Also, for some people with autoimmunity, there are days where they are bedridden with flu-like symptoms and barely able to function, much less exercise. Approach your physical activity habit with common sense and self-compassion — some days it just won’t be appropriate and that’s ok. Ease back into it when you feel better.

If you would like help understanding the Benefits of Exercise for Autoimmunity, you can schedule a FREE 15-MINUTE CONSULTATION with Dr. Celaya.

Why exercise is good for autoimmunity

The primary benefit of exercise with autoimmunity is that it lowers inflammation and stabilizes immune function. Because inflammatory flare ups provoke autoimmune relapses and tissue destruction, keeping inflammation down and immune function stable is paramount.

Physical activity increases the activity of regulatory T cells. These cells are critical when it comes to managing autoimmunity. As their name implies, they help regulate the immune system when it comes to increasing or dampening inflammation. Exercise has a profound impact on regulatory T cells.

Exercise also shifts the balance between the pro-inflammatory Th1 system and the anti-inflammatory Th2 system to be less inflammatory and more balanced.

It also promotes the release of messenger immune cells called IL-6, which help dampen inflammation.

A study on the effects of exercise on women with lupus showed that three months of regular aerobic exercise modulated immunity and did not trigger inflammation.

Patients with rheumatoid arthritis show milder symptoms and improved joint mobility with regular exercise.

In patients with multiple sclerosis, physical activity enhanced mood and mobility. Exercise lowers the risk of neuropathy in type 1 diabetes patients.

Many people feel they can’t exercise due to pain, but research has shown it reduces pain in patients with fibromyalgia and other chronic conditions that cause pain.

If you feel too unwell to exercise, ask yourself what you feel you can reasonably do and start there. Ask my office for more advice on using physical activity to address autoimmunity.

Want to know more? Schedule a FREE 15-MINUTE CONSULTATION with Dr. Celaya.

Autism presents much differently in girls than boys

Autism presents much differently in girls than boys

The popular perception of autism is a very male version — girls and women with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) can have very different symptoms than males. This not only leads to many girls and women never being diagnosed, but it also creates a life filled with confusion, mystery, and frustration over an inability to function like most people. In fact, a recent study showed that people who were diagnosed with autism in their 50s spent their lives thinking they were bad people because of how their brains worked.

ASD appears to affect primarily males, however, many girls are not receiving diagnoses because their symptoms have not been studied to the same degree. As it turns out, girls have very different than boys. In fact, girls with autism often behave more like neurotypical boys than boys with autism.

Girls and women with ASD are frequently diagnosed with depression, anxiety, borderline personality disorder, bipolar disorder, or ADHD. Female ASD also more easily lends itself to eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

The intense focus associated with autism is believed to be behind anorexia, dieting, and body obsession. Researchers estimate about 20 percent of women with anorexia also have autism.

There are many reasons why so many girls go undiagnosed. One reason is girls are much better at “masking,” or hiding their symptoms and mimicking neurotypical behavior. This is believed to be due to girls’ greater desire and ability to connect socially. However, masking takes an enormous mental and physical toll in the way of chronic stress and exhaustion. This can lead to the sensory overloads and “meltdowns” typical of the disorder.

The diagnostic criteria for autism were derived from studies on boys. Primary symptoms in boys include difficulties with socialization and communication and repetitive, inflexible behavior patterns. Girls with ASD do not typically exhibit these behaviors to the same degree.

Studies also show that only girls with more extreme ASD symptoms received a diagnosis, leaving many girls on the milder side of the ASD spectrum undiagnosed but still struggling.

If you would like help understanding Autism, you can schedule a FREE 15-MINUTE CONSULTATION with Dr. Celaya.

Some studies show girls with autism are more like neurotypical boys

Brain scans show girls with ASD process social information much differently than neurotypical girls and more like neurotypical boys. In tests assessing friendship quality and empathy, ASD girls scored closer to neurotypical boys than to neurotypical girls or boys with ASD.

In the book Aspergirls, the author explains how most girls and women with ASD feel they are sometimes more like boys than girls, or half and half.

Girls and women with ASD often labeled as “too intense”

The book Aspergirls goes through a number of symptoms that girls and women diagnosed with ASD commonly share. One of the most common underlying ones, and one that has so many growing up with shame, is always being described as too sensitive, too intense, and so forth.

This stems in part from the hypersensitivity and sensory overload associated with the disorder.

Autism can make girls more vulnerable to bullies, depression, and isolation

Unfortunately, symptoms of autism, such as not understanding social cues and being very literal, can make girls more vulnerable to bullies and predators.

Social discomfort and awkwardness also make girls and women with ASD more prone to isolation.

ASD girls are also more likely to suffer from anxiety, low self-esteem, social isolation, and depression. In fact, mild autism is associated with a significantly higher risk of suicide. Two-thirds of women with milder forms of ASD report suicidal thoughts.

The role of brain inflammation in autism

Diagnosis is extremely important in girls and women with ASD. This is because it can relieve years or decades of shame and anxiety around feeling like such an outsider to the rest of the world. Knowing why they feel and act the way they do can bring enormous relief from feeling like they are constantly failing.

Autism is increasingly being linked with inflammation and autoimmunity in the brain that began in infancy and affected brain development. Studies show maternal autoimmunity, high blood sugar, or infections are linked with an increased risk of giving birth to a child who will develop ASD. When the developing child’s brain is fighting inflammation, it does not have the resources to appropriately “prune” synaptic pathways.

Strategies to dampen autoimmunity and brain inflammation have helped many people tame the symptoms of autism that can cause suffering, such as being too easily overwhelmed. Ask my office for ways to dampen brain autoimmunity and inflammation.

Want to know more? Schedule a FREE 15-MINUTE CONSULTATION with Dr. Celaya.

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