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 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.

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.

Why is MTHFR and why should you care when you have Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism or brain-related issues?

Why is MTHFR and why should you care when you have Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism or brain-related issues?

Have you been googling for ways to improve your hypothyroid or brain condition and come across suggestions to test MTHFR. What is MTHFR and what does it have to do with hypothyroidism or the brain? If you are one of the 60 percent of people with a genetic defect in the MTHFR gene, it could affect your ability to successfully manage Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism or brain-based symptoms.

MTHFR is the acronym for methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase, an enzyme involved in processing folate, or vitamin B9, into a usable form the body can assimilate. It’s also necessary to metabolize folic acid, a synthetic form of folate used in supplements.

Thanks to the popularity of gene testing, people can now learn whether they have a mutation in the MTHFR gene. If so, it means their methylation pathways are impacted and contributing to health challenges.

Methylation pathways govern detoxification and many important metabolic processes in the body, which makes a MTHFR defect something worth paying attention to. If you are struggling to manage your Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism or brain-based symptoms such as brain fog, fatigue, or depression, you may find the MTHFR test valuable.

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

Methylation is a process of adding a methyl group to a molecule. Methylation’s roles jobs include the following:

  • Turning genes on and off
  • Detoxifying chemicals and toxins from the body
  • Building brain neurotransmitters
  • Metabolizing hormones to maintain hormonal balance
  • Building immune cells
  • Synthesizing DNA and RNA
  • Creating cellular energy
  • Producing a protective coating that sheathes the nerves
  • Metabolizing histamine
  • Supporting eye health
  • Burning fat
  • Supporting liver health

Proper methylation means one can efficiently make proteins, use antioxidants, metabolize hormones, enjoy more balanced brain chemistry, detoxify toxins and heavy metals, and dampen inflammation. All of these factors are vital to managing Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism and brain-based symptoms.

However, if you’re one of the 60 percent of people with a MTHFR genetic defect, you may not be able to properly break down folate in foods or folic acid in supplements.

An inability to properly process folate can raise levels of homocysteine. Homocysteine is an amino acid in the bloodstream that can be dangerous when levels are too high. High homocysteine is linked to an elevated risk of heart disease and Alzheimer’s.

Poor methylation also impacts another vital process — the production of glutathione, the body’s main antioxidant. When we become deficient in glutathione, we lose our natural defenses and are at higher risk of developing autoimmune diseases, food sensitivities, and chemical sensitivities.

An MTHFR defect can also impair the body’s ability to synthesize important brain neurotransmitters, so that brain-based disorders may arise. An MTHFR defect has been linked to depression, anxiety, brain fog, ADHD, bipolar disorder, and even schizophrenia.

Because methylation is involved in so many important processes in the body, an MTHFR gene defect has been associated with many health conditions, including:

  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Venous thrombosis
  • Cancer
  • Birth defects
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Mental and mood disorders
  • Autoimmune disorders such as Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism

If you are trying to manage a condition like Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism or brain-based symptoms, it’s imperative that you be able to dampen inflammation and raise glutathione levels. An MTHFR defect can work against you.

Fortunately, it can be easy to address.

First of all, you can test for MTHFR gene mutations through genetic testing companies such as Spectracell or 23andme.com, and get an interpretation at geneticgenie.org.

More than 50 MTHFR genetic mutations exist, but the two considered the most problematic are C677T and A1298C (written as just 677 and 1298).

Also, keep in mind gene defects don’t always become activated. If you show those genes on a test it doesn’t necessarily mean they have been expressed and are causing symptoms.

To address a MTHFR enzyme defect, support your methylation pathways with methylfolate and methylcobalamin (methyl B12). Avoid supplements with folic acid, boost your glutathione levels with high quality oral liposomal glutathione, and minimize your exposure to toxins. These are also beneficial strategies to aid in the management of Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism and brain-based symptoms.

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

Are you getting enough of this dementia-prevention nutrient on a vegan or vegetarian diet?

Are you getting enough of this dementia-prevention nutrient on a vegan or vegetarian diet?

Eating a vegetable-based diets has loads of proven health benefits, including enriching your gut bacteria diversity, loading you up with plant vitamins and minerals, and ensuring you get plenty of fiber. However, if your plant-based diet is strictly vegan or strict vegetarian you may be missing out on this essential dementia-fighting nutrient: Choline.

Choline is only found predominantly in animal fats and is a vital brain nutrient that helps prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s.

In addition to supporting the brain — which is made of primarily fat, by the way — choline also supports healthy liver function. Good liver function is necessary to not only keep the body detoxified, but also to keep chronic inflammation in check. A choline deficiency raises the incidence of fatty liver.

Choline is also an essential part of cell membranes in the body and brain; cell membranes act as the cellular command center in directing cell function and communication.

Choline is found primarily in meats, fish, dairy, and eggs. Significantly smaller amounts are found in nuts, legumes, and cruciferous vegetables. The liver is able to manufacture a small amount, though not enough to meet the body’s needs.

Experts say that in order to meet the brain’s needs for sufficient choline, it needs to come from dietary sources rich in choline.

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

Most people are choline deficient

The bad news is most people aren’t getting enough choline, and some people are genetically predisposed to a deficiency. Research shows the rising popularity of vegan and vegetarian diets is raising rates of deficiency.

The recommended daily intake of choline is about 425 mg a day for women and 550 mg a day for men.

The two richest sources of choline are beef liver and egg yolk. Research has shown that people who eat eggs regularly have higher levels of choline (we can assume most people aren’t eating liver these days).

In fact, pregnant women who consume at least one egg a day are eight times more likely to meet choline intake recommendations compared to those who don’t.

Beef liver capsules can be a good source of choline if you don’t prefer to eat straight liver. Most products recommend 6 capsules a day. Look for a grass-fed source that has been tested for purity.

Choline is vital for the fetal and infant brain

The choline recommendation for pregnant and breastfeeding women is about 930 mg — choline is vital for the developing child’s brain.

Choline is vital for the adult brain

Choline is also recognized as a vital brain nutrient for the adult brain. In a study of mice bred to have Alzheimer’s like symptoms, a choline-rich diet resulted in improvements in memory and brain function in the mice and their offspring.

Choline protects the brain in several ways. First, it reduces homocysteine, an inflammatory and neurotoxic amino acid if levels are too high. High homocysteine levels are found to double the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Choline prevents this by converting homocysteine to the helpful compound methionine.

Choline also reduces the activation of microglia, the brain’s immune cells that cause inflammation and damage to brain tissue when triggered.

Choline is an essential component of acetylcholine, a brain chemical known as the memory neurotransmitter. Sufficient acetylcholine is vital for memory and healthy brain function.

Choline also helps regulate gene expression.

Choline is just one of the many essential nutrients necessary for healthy brain function. Ask my office how we can help you support your brain health.

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

The American Diabetes Association finally recommends low carb; still recommends foods that promote diabetes

The American Diabetes Association finally recommends low carb; still recommends foods that promote diabetes

Although they are more than a couple of decades behind functional medicine, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) is finally recommending lower carbohydrate diets for people with diabetes.

In functional medicine, we have long seen the deleterious effects of carbohydrate-laden diets on not only blood sugar, but also on chronic inflammatory disorders, weight, hormonal balance, and brain function.

High blood sugar disorders such as type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance, or pre-diabetes, not only make you feel worse, they also significantly raise your risk of numerous chronic health disorders, including heart disease, stroke, autoimmune disease, and Alzheimer’s. In fact, some researchers call Alzheimer’s type 3 diabetes because high blood sugar is so damaging to the brain.

While it’s heartening that such a large and official organization is finally making dietary recommendations to stabilize blood sugar, their list of recommended foods remains problematic. Some foods on the ADA list have been shown to trigger autoimmune attacks on the pancreas, worsening type 1 diabetes and increasing the risk of developing autoimmune diabetes in people with type 2 diabetes, a lifestyle-induced disease.

If you would like help understanding about food recommendations for low carb diet, you can schedule a FREE 15-MINUTE CONSULTATION with Dr. Celaya.

The ADA’s new recommendations for carbohydrate consumption

Previously, the ADA warned against diets under 130 grams a day of carbohydrates because people would be deprived of essential nutrients. They also stated the brain needs more than 130 grams a day to meet its energy needs.

However, given the success of lower carb diets in not only reducing the need for insulin but also in lowering heart-disease risk, the ADA has adjusted its recommendations to support a lower carb diet.

In what may eventually prove to be a sea change in government recommendations, the ADA bases the new recommendation on findings that a low-carb diet better manages health than a low-fat diet.

It also states that dietary recommendations should depend on the patient and that a “one-size-fits-all” diet should not be given to every patient.

They do not recommend a low-carb diet for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, people who have eating disorders or at risk of developing eating disorders, people with kidney disease, and for those taking SGLT2 inhibitor medication.

ADA guidelines on low-glycemic foods fail to consider foods that trigger autoimmune attacks

It’s a step in the right direction that the ADA is finally recognizing the vast amounts of research and the countless case studies linking lower carb diets with better health.

However, they have yet to recognize the science showing that some ADA recommended low-glycemic foods trigger autoimmune attacks on cells that cause type 1 diabetes.

The most prevalent triggers are gluten and dairy, although other foods also cross-react with cells involved in type 1 diabetes. This does not mean that these foods trigger an autoimmune attack in all people, but research shows certain foods raise the risk of exacerbating autoimmune diabetes.

For the person with type 1 diabetes it’s especially important to be aware of which foods may trigger autoimmune attacks that worsen their condition. You can screen for these foods with testing from Cyrex Labs.

However, research also shows that about 10–20 percent of people with type 2 diabetes, which is lifestyle induced, also have undiagnosed type 1 diabetes. This is referred to as type 1.5 diabetes.

Should you go on a low-carb diet?

The average American eats more processed carbohydrates than the human body was designed to handle. The incidences of inflammatory disorders related to high blood sugar are crushing the healthcare system — diabetes, obesity, heart disease, chronic pain, depression, dementia, and neurodegenerative diseases are just a few.

However, this doesn’t mean every person should be on the same diet. For some, a very low-carb ketogenic diet is highly therapeutic. For others, such as those with compromised brain function that has caused dysregulated metabolic and neurological function, a ketogenic diet can be disastrous.

Although finding your optimal carbohydrate consumption may take some trial and error, it’s safe to assume you do not need sugar, high fructose corn syrup, processed carbohydrates, and industrial oils. Instead, the bulk of your diet should come from a diverse array of ever changing vegetables and fruits (be careful not to go overboard on fruits), and healthy fats and proteins.

It’s also safe to assume the human body was designed for daily physical activity, time outdoors, and healthy social interaction.

Ask my office for help on customizing and diet and lifestyle plan designed just for you.

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

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