All posts by Satu Woodland

Owner and clinician of Mental Health Solutions and Talk and Walk in Boise, Idaho with an additional office in Meridian, ID.

Stress relief could someday be an immunization away

A researcher examines a sample of Mycobacterium vaccae. Source: www.colorado.edu

There’s a bacterium found on the shores of a Ugandan lake that could help reduce our stress. Scientists recently injected it into stressed-out mice with promising results.

The bacterium, called Mycobacterium vaccae, reduces inflammation in the brain, which in turn prepares the brain to respond better to stress. These findings could lead to better treatments for PTSD, anxiety, and depression.

In the study, researchers injected mice with the bacterium three times, a week apart. Eight days after the last injection, the mice’s brains showed higher levels of an anti-inflammatory protein in the hippocampus, a region of the brain involved in regulating anxiety.

They then placed the mice in a cage with a larger, aggressive mouse. The injected mice showed fewer symptoms of anxiety in the stressful situation, and they had lower levels of a stress-induced, inflammation promoting protein called HMGB1 and higher levels of an anti-inflammatory receptor called CD200R1.

Researchers say other probiotics (helpful bacteria) could have similar effects, and studies are under way to explore how they can be used. One potential use would be as a preventative treatment for people going into stressful situations, like combat or emergency room employment.

There’s so much more to understand about how mental illness works, and this is an interesting step in the right direction.

Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Mental Health Solutions, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. If you would like to discuss the information in this blog further with her, please call 208-918-0958. She sees adolescents and adults. Information in this blog is not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider about decisions regarding your health.

 

Motivating yourself to exercise while depressed

You’ve heard it before: Exercise is crucial for mental health.

That concept is in the news again now because a recent study found exercise can help prevent heart disease in depressed people. The results aren’t surprising, but they come along with some great tips from the researcher who led the study.

He points out that exercise reduces inflammation, which plays a critical role in depression. Especially for people whose depression is linked to diabetes, obesity, kidney disease, or other health conditions, exercise may be just what the doctor should order.

“There is value to not starting a medication if it’s not needed,” the researcher says. “Being active and getting psychotherapy are sometimes the best prescription, especially in younger patients who don’t have severe depression.”

Here are his tips for helping overcome the lack of motivation that often comes with depression:

  • Set aside a consistent time to exercise every day, but do not get discouraged by stretches of inactivity. Resume activities as soon as possible.
  • Keep a log to track progress.
  • Vary the exercises to avoid monotony. Keep the workout interesting and fun.
  • Exercise with a friend.
  • Task someone with holding you accountable for maintaining the exercise regimen.

I love these tips and may try implementing some myself!

Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Mental Health Solutions, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. If you would like to discuss the information in this blog further with her, please call 208-918-0958. She sees adolescents and adults. Information in this blog is not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider about decisions regarding your health.

Rewriting traumatic memories

ILLUSTRATION: Christine Daniloff/MIT

Did you know memories can be rewritten?

There’s a method of treating post-traumatic stress disorder that attempts to erase or dampen the stressful feelings associated with a traumatic memory. Mental health professionals use a few techniques to do this.

With one, they distract their patient’s mind with another task while the patient attempts to bring to mind the traumatic memory. With another, they give the patient an anxiety medication before asking him or her to recall the memory. In both techniques, the brain’s experience with the traumatic memory is rewritten toward more neutral feelings.

A new study shows this process really is about rewriting a memory instead of suppressing it. Working with mice — first giving them traumatic memories and then therapy to overcome those memories — scientists were able to see that the neurons involved in recalling the initial traumatic memory were the exact same ones involved in recalling a new, not-so-traumatic version.

This discovery is a big deal for people trying to understand how memory and therapy work. It could lead to better treatment for people suffering from PTSD.

It’s a really interesting study. Read more about it here!

Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Mental Health Solutions, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. If you would like to discuss the information in this blog further with her, please call 208-918-0958. She sees adolescents and adults. Information in this blog is not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider about decisions regarding your health.

A new story behind depression

One of the most prominent theories about the cause of depression is that it’s the result of serotonin or norepinephrine shortages in the brain. But the thing is, taking drugs that add more of one or both of these chemicals back into the brain doesn’t fix depression for everyone — at least 30 percent of people are unaffected by antid

Researchers in Japan have come up with another chemical explanation that might account for some cases of depression.

There’s a hormone receptor in the brain called MCHR1 that helps regulate mood. A protein called RGS8 can deactivate that receptor, which the scientists found is a good thing for mood. In a recent study, mice with more RGS8 in their systems showed less depressed behavior.

The scientists are hoping this information, along with more tests, will lead to more medication options for the depressed.

Read more about the study and the way RGS8 and MCHR1 work here.

Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Mental Health Solutions, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. If you would like to discuss the information in this blog further with her, please call 208-918-0958. She sees adolescents and adults. Information in this blog is not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider about decisions regarding your health.

Depression in diabetics: It’s all about inflammation

We’ve known for a long time that people with Type I diabetes are at increased risk for depression. Scientists are now closer to figuring out why.

Diabetes (types I and II) and depression have all been linked to  inflammation. A new study shows a more specific association: Diabetics suffering from depression have significantly higher levels of inflammatory protein Galectin-3 than do their non-depressed counterparts.

Inflammation is a sign of a body’s immune system gearing up to repair tissue damage in response to injury or disease. Too much inflammation, though, is associated with a lot of problems, including depression, Alzheimer’s disease, and cardiovascular disease.

Researchers hope this new info about Galectin-3 will lead to better ways to target depression and diabetes. In the meantime, fight inflammation with better diet, regular exercisemeditation, and healthy sleep habits.

And if you or a loved one have diabetes, be on the lookout for symptoms of depression and get the help you need!

Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Mental Health Solutions, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. If you would like to discuss the information in this blog further with her, please call 208-918-0958. She sees adolescents and adults. Information in this blog is not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider about decisions regarding your health.

Study: Depression ages your brain

We’ve known for years that people with depression are at higher risk for dementia, but a new study shows it’s more than that. Depression causes all kinds of signs of brain aging.

A new study looked at depression’s effect on memory loss, executive function (like decision making) and processing speed in older adults. People  with symptoms of depression experienced a greater decline in these categories than did their peers with better mental health.

One takeaway from this study is that taking care of your mental health now can make a huge difference in your quality of life later! Don’t put off seeking help.

Also, if you’re suffering from depression, pay attention to your cognitive abilities. Early intervention is crucial for preserving functioning as you age.

Experts say taking care of your overall health in the following ways can help keep your brain healthy:

  • eating a healthy, balanced diet
  • maintaining a healthy weight
  • exercising regularly
  • keeping alcohol to a minimum
  • stopping smoking
  • keeping blood pressure at a healthy level

Take care of yourself! Your aging brain will thank you.

Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Mental Health Solutions, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. If you would like to discuss the information in this blog further with her, please call 208-918-0958. She sees adolescents and adults. Information in this blog is not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider about decisions regarding your health.

Depressed or anxious? Check your thyroid

A new study shows more than 40 percent of people diagnosed with depression also suffer from autoimmune thyroiditis, or AIT. The same is true for 30 percent of people diagnosed with anxiety.

AIT means the immune system is creating antibodies that

from womenshealth.gov

mistakenly attack the thyroid, leading to chronic inflammation. Then your thyroid, which makes hormones that affect the function of just about every organ in your body, doesn’t work quite right. You feel exhaustion, unrest, and tension.

AIT affects about 10 percent of the population. If you have it, you’re 3.5 times as likely to suffer from depression and  2.3 times as likely to suffer from anxiety.

The disorder often goes undiagnosed because symptoms are attributed to menopause (women aged 30 to 50 are the most common sufferers) or to depression and anxiety.

But if your provider knows you suffer from AIT, you can receive more effective treatment. Thyroid medication can be extremely helpful, and you can choose antidepressants that are less likely to cause weight gain. You should also know how your antidepressant effects selenium levels, which can help with inflammation.

So if you suffer from depression and/or anxiety, make sure you’re having your thyroid tested — both the TSH levels and the antibodies. Knowing if you have an issue there can lead to better treatment.

Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Mental Health Solutions, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. If you would like to discuss the information in this blog further with her, please call 208-918-0958. She sees adolescents and adults. Information in this blog is not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider about decisions regarding your health.

Finding relief for highly stressed teachers

It’s Teacher Appreciation Week this week, and man, do these teachers deserve our appreciation.

A recent study found 93 percent of elementary school teachers are highly stressed. That so many endure this stress and continue their work teaching children is incredible, and as a mother and grandmother, I’m grateful.

Researchers suggest big-picture changes to create a more positive environment for teachers, including finding ways for administrators and parents to have positive interactions with teachers; giving teachers the time and training they need to do their jobs; and creating support networks so teachers don’t feel isolated. They also recommend instituting programs that promote good mental health practices and overall health.

But there are things teachers can do individually to cope with the stress better. I read a blog post on scholastic.com with one teacher’s recommendations, and a lot of these ideas can be applied to anyone experiencing professional stress. Here are a few:

  • Make to-do lists, highlighting the most important tasks. (This can also help you sleep better!)
  • Delegate tasks (to parent volunteers or student teachers) if you can.
  • Exercise.
  • Avoid negative colleagues. Seek out those who inspire you.
  • Try not to take work home.
  • Regularly do things not related to your job that bring you joy and fulfillment.
  • Grow personally! Learn and develop new skills.
  • Learn to say no to extra work.
  • Meditate.

Excessive stress is terrible for your mind and body. Teachers and everyone: Take care of yourselves!

Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Mental Health Solutions, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. If you would like to discuss the information in this blog further with her, please call 208-918-0958. She sees adolescents and adults. Information in this blog is not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider about decisions regarding your health.

 

Women’s stress levels go down as they head into their 50s and 60s

A new study offers great news for women entering middle age: There’s a good chance you’ll feel less stressed as you get older.

Researchers tracked women — aged 42 to 53 at the beginning of the study — for 15 years. They found that most women’s perceived levels of stress dropped significantly over that time period.

Even women with less education and more financial hardship experienced this decrease, and even menopause didn’t derail the progress.

The study didn’t measure the analyze the reasons for dropping stress levels,  but researchers say the change could come from circumstantial factors — children have moved out, careers are progressing, and health is still pretty good — and/or psychological factors — women have figured out how to better regulate emotions.

“Perhaps things just don’t bother us as much as we age, whether due to emotional experience or neurochemical changes. It’s all worth exploring,” the study’s lead author said.

It’s good to hear some scientific findings backing up the good things I’ve noticed about getting older. And for all you younger people out there: Look forward to your 50s and 60s. They’re a good place to be.

Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Mental Health Solutions, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. If you would like to discuss the information in this blog further with her, please call 208-918-0958. She sees adolescents and adults. Information in this blog is not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider about decisions regarding your health.

Depression in mothers can lead to lower IQs in children

If you’re a depressed mom, you might not be giving your children everything they need to develop to their full potential. That doesn’t mean you can’t; it just means you’ve got to be aware of the potential pitfalls.

A new study followed Chilean mothers and children from ages one to 16. They found that mothers who showed signs of depression tended to raise children with significantly lower IQ scores (7.3 versus 7.8).

Researchers cite less affection along with less attention to providing appropriate learning materials (like books and toys) as reasons for the disparity.

The good news is there’s help for depressed moms. Health care providers need to be paying attention and looking out for symptoms, but if you’re a friend or a spouse, you can help too. If you think a mom in your life might be depressed, encourage her to seek help. Therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes can make a huge difference — not only for the mom, but for the whole family.

Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Mental Health Solutions, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. If you would like to discuss the information in this blog further with her, please call 208-918-0958. She sees adolescents and adults. Information in this blog is not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider about decisions regarding your health.