How A Gut Check Can Improve Your Mood

Gut Bacertia

Gut Bacteria Affects Mood

By Cathy Neville, LPC, on June 29, 2015

We feel what we eat.
Deeply, in our guts.
It’s true.More and more recent research confirms it. Your gut is literally filled with the stuff of emotion; and if we don’t address the needs of our bellies, many of us will find ourselves very sad, very anxious and in need of a gut overhaul.  A gut check may be just what we need!
Let’s look at the science:

Your gut contains healthy bacteria in the lining of the digestive tract.

That wealth of “good bacteria” is called the microbiome.

The digestive tract and its bacteria are actually the nexus of our nervous system, hormonal system and immune system.

Gut bacteria pull out the vitamins we need for use elsewhere in our bodies and help our cells respond to damaging germs and foreign invaders. Also, a delicate and important balance of the molecules that regulate emotion, and manufacture important neurotransmitters like the brain messenger, serotonin, occur there.

What happens in the gut keeps us healthy, physically and mentally.

If the digestive tract is so closely linked to our mood, it makes sense that improving digestion and bacterial quality/quantity in the tract lining could improve a mood disorder.

How do we improve digestion and the microbiome?
  • Probiotics.

Why? Probiotics are teaming with the good bacteria that also aid in obesity prevention, provide hormonal balancing, and support optimal kidney function, among many other benefits.

In 2012, Dr. Kristin Tillich led a team of researchers who conducted a study that proved a “gut-brain” connection. The UCLA study tested human brain functioning of 36 women, following four weeks of eating probiotic-laden yogurt. They reported, “The intake of an FMPP [probiotic] by healthy women affected activity of brain regions that control central processing of emotion and sensation.”

In a 2013 press release, Dr. Tillich noted, “Our findings indicate that some of the contents of yogurt may actually change the way our brain responds to the environment. When we consider the implications of this work, the old sayings ‘you are what you eat’ and ‘gut feelings’ take on new meaning.”

  • Prebiotics

Now, there’s also solid evidence to support the use of prebiotics to ease depression and anxiety specifically.

How do we know? In the first-ever human study on the subject, researchers at Oxford University discovered that ingesting prebiotic bacteria seemed to inspire an “anti-anxiety effect.”

What’s a prebiotic? It’s a non-digestible food that feeds the body over and above what could be provided through diet. It helps maintain the healthy probiotic bacteria in your gut.

In a study published this year, a dose of prebiotic reduced participants’ desire to focus on the negative. Cortisol, the “stress hormone,” was reduced in female participants as well.

Stress and negative attention are huge factors in depression and anxiety disorders. The positive aspects of prebiotics in the 2015 research were so significant, researchers say it is as helpful as ingesting an antidepressant or anti-anxiety drug.

So, the real question is how can we claim some of those benefits for ourselves?

Facilitate better bacterial balance in your body by:

  • Eating a high-fiber, plant-based diet
  • Avoiding a high-fat diet
  • Avoiding high sugar foods
  • Ingesting more complex carbohydrates

Increase your consumption of probiotic foods that contain good bacteria. Try:

  • Yogurt with live active cultures
  • Kefir
  • Sauerkraut
  • Miso
  • Kimchi
  • Fermented pickles

Increase prebiotic foods that feed beneficial bacteria. Eat:

  • Banana
  • Whole grains
  • Honey
  • Onions
  • Leeks
  • Garlic
  • Artichokes

These findings, supported by scientific evidence, suggest that it is possible to improve our sadness, fear responses, and other stubborn mood problems through diet.

How exciting and empowering when it comes to taking charge of our mental health!

How Depression Keeps You Down with Negative Thinking

By Cathy Neville, LPC, on May 3, 2015

San Antonio Therapist


Negative thoughts wear you down. 

Depression likes it that way.

Negative thinking is like the persistent whisper of the neighborhood gossip. Distracting, generalizing, and full of half-truths.It drains you like the critical opinion of a nit-picking parent. Judging, harsh, finding fault after fault.

It’s like the belittling commentary of a controlling boss. Pressuring, questioning, and undermining your confidence. Negative thoughts, once they’re off and running, like to keep running. Soon, your head is full of so much self-doubt and internal pessimism that before long, you’re defeated and deflated. Soon, your depression is empowered.And you feel helpless to do anything but spiral further and further down. But remember…Depression wants you down there. Hurting, hiding, thinking one sad thought after another. Trapped by your own mind.Depression, egged on by negative thinking, will actually have you believing that one bad day means they’re all bad.Assuming all the mistakes of your past and present add up to an inevitable future mess.It will keep you too wrapped up in worries and ruminations to live above the sadness.To feel better at all, you have to accept that your thoughts control how you feel.You have to learn to fight the negativity in your own mind.It’s not easy. It probably won’t feel good at first.But depression must not be allowed to win.To gain the advantage, you’ll need to change the course of your thoughts with renewed commitment and new skills.To keep depression weak and the spiral downward brief, incorporate these strategies to help you reset your mind:Fight Depression: Deal with your negative thinking patterns, also known as cognitive distortions.

How do you think yourself into a depressing corner?

  • Are you guilty of seeing the world as black and white, right or wrong, with no room for the unexpected or compromise?
  • Do you tend to generalize your experiences? Does one failure mean your life is a failure?
  • Are you obsessed with “what if’s” and looming disasters? Do you wonder why you should even try?

There are hosts of ways to end up in a negative thinking rut. Challenge your usual thought patterns. Take a breath and ask yourself if they are really valid.

Fight Depression: Change the backdrop

Buried under the covers, ruminating in a darkened room, or parked in front of the TV are great places to let negative thoughts take root and grow.

It’s better to get outside and soak in the vitamin D.

Inhale like your life and mind depend on it.

Depression doesn’t care much for sunshine and fresh air.

Fight Depression: Embrace Exercise and Relaxation

Negative thoughts have a much easier time sneaking in and taking hold when you are not at your physical best.

Your brain and body need the endorphins that accompany exercise. Those natural chemicals are the key to feeling good.

Your body also needs to rest and let down. Stress and a hectic lifestyle are easily transformed into negativity. Meditate, take long baths, get a massage.

Fight Depression: Reframe your point of reference

Depression wants you all to itself. It attacks your self-worth and ability to connect with others. Negative thinking is often self-oriented, self-doubting, and self-pitying.

It just makes sense to turn your focus outward.

Fight the desire to isolate yourself with unnerving thoughts.

Reach out to friends, family, or a counselor.

Run some of your more persistent negative thoughts by other people and you may obtain a clearer, more accurate perspective.

Depression wants you down there.

Hurting, hiding, sad.

Change your mind. Don’t let it take you down.

If you are struggling from depression that persists and live in the San Antonio area, please contact me or make an appointment online.  Let me help you.

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How Not To Be Depressed on Valentine’s Day

How Not To Be Depressed On Valentine's Day

How Not To Be Depressed on Valentine’s Day

By Cathy Neville, LPC on February 12, 2015.

It started after Christmas.

Jewelry commercials replaced toys on TV. ads started popping up on your iPad. Bags of messaged candy hearts and foiled kisses edged out the chocolate Santas and candy canes at the grocery store.

Here comes Valentine’s Day.

A celebration of romantic love and intimacy.

A day devoted to that romantic lover that you don’t have can bog you down in sadness.

For those already struggling with depression, this particular celebration can really get in the way of attempts to feel better.

All Valentine’s Day ends up doing is exacerbating the pain, emptiness, and disconnection that was already in your way.

Probably not what cupid intended.

So what do you do?

First, try to recognize that your need to love and be loved is perfectly normal.

Valentine’s Day really isn’t the problem.

Depression is.

You don’t have to spend the day stuck, sad, or ruminating on your singleness.

Consider these measures for surviving Valentine’s Day:

Step One: Treats are a must.

What’s Valentine’s Day without the sweets?

Go ahead and buy a box of chocolates. Have a few. It’s just one day.

Depression wants to keep your life pleasure-less.

Those candy hearts with the silly messages contain words you need to hear right now. Enjoy!

Step Two: Massages, manicures, and more.

While it’s not exactly a romantic experience, it does feel good to refresh your mind and body. Get a relaxing massage, allow for some hand-holding with a manicurist, or let a stylist run his or her fingers through your hair.

Step Three: Give yourself the perfect gift, love letter, or ensemble.

You know how you want to be appreciated. Value yourself enough to buy, write, or wear what makes you feel special. Be your own admirer.

Step Four: Go find love.

  • Put yourself out there. Allow yourself to consider a relationship you wouldn’t before.
  • Open your mind to online dating.
  • Reconsider the advances of the person who flirts with you at the gym.
  • Risk calling an old crush for a chat.

Step Five:  Celebrate all of your relationships.

Valentine’s Day does not have to be only about romantic love.  Whether you are part of a couple or not, you have a right to a full life and close, loving relationships.

Don’t isolate. Open the day up to all your relationships:

  • Celebrate your single status with friends. Go dancing or to dinner together. Watch romantic comedies and make fun of the fact that it took the characters two days to meet, fall in love, and promise to be together forever.
  • Offer to babysit your nieces and nephews while the grown-ups go out. Play board games; make heart-shaped cookies and strawberry smoothies. Be the “cool” adult.

Make Valentine’s Day a day you show family and friends how much you care about them.  Whether you buy them cards, chocolates or teddy bears, chances are they will be thrilled that you were thinking of them.

It really is true that when we give or do something special for others, we feel better, too!

Don’t make depression your valentine.  Make February 14th a day of remembrance, appreciation and gratitude for ALL the special people in your life!