Probiotics, often referred to as ‘good bacteria’, are known to promote a healthy gut, but can they promote a healthy mind? Exploring the new world of neurological probiotics, researchers in BioEssays present new ideas on how neurochemicals delivered directly to the gut, via probiotic intestinal microbiota, exert their beneficial effects in maintaining gastrointestinal health and even psychological well-being.
The research, led by Professor Mark Lyte from Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, proposes that through a unifying process of microbial endocrinology, neurochemical-producing probiotics could act as a delivery mechanism for neuroactive compounds that could improve a host’s gastrointestinal and psychological health.
“This paper proposes a new field of microbial endocrinology, where microbiology meets neuroscience,” said Lyte. “There is already evidence to suggest that the connection between gut microbes and the nervous system represents a viable route for influencing neurological function. A recent study in mice, for example, showed that the presence of neurochemicals such a serotonin in the bloodstream was due to direct uptake from the gut.”
In his hypothesis Professor Lyte considers the selection of probiotics, such as lactobacilli and bifidobacteria, and how the active uptake of neurochemicals, generated by bacteria in the gut and circulated through a patient’s bloodstream, represents a pathway for probiotics to exert extra-intestinal effects including behavioral changes.
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- Probiotics for Kids (everydayhealth.com)
- Should I Take Probiotics? (everydayhealth.com)
- Safety of Probiotics Used to Reduce Risk and Prevent or Treat Disease (jflahiff.wordpress.com)
Children with disabilities and their parents are likely to benefit from music therapy sessions, which can improve social, motor and communication skills, Queensland University of Technology (QUT) research has found.
Kate Williams studied the effect of the Sing & Grow music therapy intervention on children with disabilities and found that music therapy also provided benefits for parent-child bonding and for parental mental health….
- Music Therapy for Pain Management (everydayhealth.com)
- The Amazing Benefits of Music Therapy (everydayhealth.com)
- Non-Medical Therapies for Alzheimer’s (everydayhealth.com)
- Music Therapy – Ya Tafari – Holistic Relaxation and Healing Music (thankgodfortheshelter.com)
- The History of Music Therapy (bigsexymedia.com)
- Another Miracle – Music Therapy & End Stage Alzheimer’s (alzheimersspeaks.wordpress.com)
- Who’s in charge here? (mindfulmusictherapist.blogspot.com)
- Reflections on Music Therapy Conference (musicalgems.wordpress.com)
- Music Therapy (renegadesufi.wordpress.com)
- A comforting swan song (eurekalert.org)
- Music Therapy Helps Grieving Teens (fyiliving.com)
ScienceDaily (Mar. 14, 2011) — The impact on mental health of a badly paid, poorly supported, or short term job can be as harmful as no job at all, indicates research published online in Occupational and Environmental Medicine
Because being in work is associated with better mental health than unemployment, government policies have tended to focus on the risks posed by joblessness, without necessarily considering the impact the quality of a job may have, say the authors.
- Amid high demand, states cut mental health care (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
Gulf War Illness (Gulf War Syndrome) Resources of Note
A few good relatively comprehensive Web sites
- Gulf War Veteran’s Illnesses (US Department of Veteran’s Affairs)
This Web site includes
- a Gulf War Registry Program (http://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/gulfwar/registry_exam.asp) for Gulf War Veterans who have health concerns that they believe are related to their Gulf War service. This program provides eligible Gulf War Veterans a free specialized and comprehensive health examination with blood work, urinalysis, other testing as indicated, and answers to questions relating to any Gulf Warenvironmental exposures. If you are interested in this program, please contact the Environmental Health Coordinator (http://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/coordinators.asp) at your local VA.
- War Related Illness and Injury Study Center (WRIISC)
This Web page has links to information about deployment related exposures , deployment related health conditions, and health information fact sheets.
Medical Librarian Karen Estrada is the publisher. “Mrs. Estrada serves clinical medical professionals state-side and abroad (military & civilian), members of the military, veterans, military families, military medicine/health researchers, and organizations (mil/vet) located all over the globe including ‘in theater’ (Afghanistan, Iraq and Kuwait).”
A few more Web sites
- Examining Possible Causes of Gulf War Illness :RAND Policy investigation and review of the scientific literature
- The National Academies Press is up to at least volume 8 in its series Gulf War and Health Go here and scroll down to Gulf; this is the result of searching the site for Gulf War and Health
These online books are rather lengthy (400 pages and up) but are comprehensive and the contents can be searched.These books are written by the top experts in the fields.
If you come across something in one of the books, you might consider emailing one of the authors. Many experts are quite willing to share information.
Here are a few of the titles
- Gulf War and Health: Volume 1. Depleted Uranium, Pyridostigmine Bromide, Sarin, and Vaccines (2000)
- Gulf War and Health: Volume 2: Insecticides and Solvents
- Gulf War and Health: Volume 3: Health Effects of Serving in the Gulf War
- Gulf War and Health: Volume 6: Physiologic, Psychologic, and Psychosocial Effects of Deployment-Related Stress …and, lastly, a few related articles
- Questions remain over Gulf War Syndrome (first4lawyers)
- Gulf War: 9,000 (UK) Ex-Troops Still Suffering (Sky News)
- VA Benefits More Readily Accessible to Gulf War Vets ((VA Benefits Blog))
- Health Benefits for Nine New Diseases (VA Benefits Blog)
- Post-deployment PTSD symptoms more common in military personnel with prior mental health disorders (Science Daily 2 May 2011)
- Behavioral health research stimulates policy changes for care of Iraq, Afghanistan veterans
AcademyHealth recognizes military health research study with 2011 HSR Impact Award
Genes linked to the immune system can affect healthy people’s personality traits as well as the risk of developing mental illness and suicidal behaviour, reveals a thesis from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.
Inflammation is part of the immune system and is responsible for defending humans against infection as well as fascilitating the healing of injuries, and is therefore vital for our survival. Research has demonstrated that inflammatory processes also have other roles to play as inflammatory substances produced by the body influence mechanisms in the brain involving learning and memory.
Inflammatory substances produced in moderate quantities in the brain can be beneficial during the formation of new brain cells, for example. However, an increase in the levels of these substances as is the case during illness, can result in damage to the brain.
“Previous studies have shown that individuals suffering from various mental illnesses have an increased peripheral inflammation, but the reason behind this increase is not known,” says Petra Suchankova Karlsson, who wrote the thesis. “It has been suggested that the stress that goes with mental illness activates the body’s immune system, but it is also possible that inflammation in the body affects the brain, which in turn results in mental illness.”
Previous studies have focused on how environmental and psychological factors affect the immune system’s impact on the brain. Suchankova’s thesis presents, for the first time, results that suggest that several different genes linked to the immune system are associated with healthy people’s personality traits. It also demonstrates that some of these genes are associated with an increased risk of developing schizophrenia or suicidal behaviour….
[Click on image to enlarge, graph caption - Unemployment rate: Europe and the United States : 1993-2009]
Compared to people in employment, men and women who are unemployed suffer more often and longer from both physical and emotional complaints. Why the un-employed should have health problems more often is discussed by Lars E. Kroll and his coauthor in the current issue of Deutsches Ärzteblatt International (Dtsch Arztebl Int 2011; 4: 47-52), along with a report on the findings of the GEDA study. [It is in English]
The GEDA study (Gesundheit in Deutschland Aktuell, or Current Health in Germany) was carried out in 2008-2009 by the Robert Koch Institute. The results showed that unemployed people between the ages of 30 and 59 years are especially often affected by physical, emotional, and functional impairments such as sleep disorders, anxiety disorders, and substance addictions. As a result, the unemployed make more use of the health care system.
The health consequences of unemployment result from loss of income, loss of so-cial contacts in the workplace, or loss of social reputation. Unemployed men and women who are supported by their partners, family members, or friends are less frequently affected by these complaints.###
Finding Low Cost Mental Health Care (written for teens)
In addition to school counselors, these options were presented, as well as how to get help in a crisis, how to get financial assistance, what to do if you don’t want your parents to know you are seeking mental health help, and prescription assistance
- Local mental health centers and clinics. These groups are funded by federal and state governments so they charge less than you might pay a private therapist. Search online for “mental health services” and the name of the county or city where you live. Or, go to the website for the National Association of Free Clinics. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’Health Resources and Services Administration also provides a list of federally funded clinics by state.
(Note: By clicking either of these links, you will be leaving the TeensHealth site.)
One thing to keep in mind: Not every mental health clinic will fit your needs. Some might not work with people your age. For example, a clinic might specialize in veterans or kids with developmental disabilities. It’s still worth a call, though. Even if a clinic can’t help you, the people who work there might recommend someone who can.
- Hospitals. Call your local hospitals and ask what kinds of mental health services they offer — and at what price. Teaching hospitals, where doctors are trained, often provide low- or no-cost services.
- Colleges and universities. If a college in your area offers graduate degrees in psychology or social work, the students might run free or low-cost clinics as part of their training.
- On-campus health services. If you’re in college or about to start, find out what kind of counseling and therapy your school offers and at what cost. Ask if they offer financial assistance for students.
- Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs). These free programs provide professional therapists to evaluate people for mental health conditions and offer short-term counseling. Not everyone has access to this benefit: EAPs are run through workplaces, so you (or your parents) need to work for an employer that offers this type of program.
- Private therapists. Ask trusted friends and adults who they’d recommend, then call to see if they offer a “sliding fee scale” (this means they charge based on how much you can afford to pay). Some psychologists even offer certain services for free, if necessary. You can find a therapist in your area by going to the website for your state’s psychological association or to the site for the American Psychological Association (APA). To qualify for low-cost services, you may need to prove financial need. If you still live at home, that could mean getting parents or guardians involved in filling out paperwork. But your therapist will keep everything confidential.
Additional Mental Health resources, especially for teens
- Teen Health – Your Mind has links to many articles written for teens in areas as Parents, Feeling Sad, Mental Health, Feelings and Emotions, Body Image, Families, Friends, and Dealing with Problems
- Teen Mental Health (MedlinePlus) has links to Web pages about treatment, specific conditions (as cutting), patient handouts, and more
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Changes in diet have been linked to a reduction of abnormal behaviors in mentally ill people or animals, but a Purdue University study shows that diet might also trigger the onset of mental illness in the first place.
Joseph Garner, an associate professor of animal sciences, fed mice a diet high in sugar and tryptophan that was expected to reduce abnormal hair-pulling. Instead, mice that were already ill worsened their hair-pulling behaviors or started a new self-injurious scratching behavior, and the seemingly healthy mice developed the same abnormal behaviors.
“This strain of mouse is predisposed to being either a scratcher or a hair-puller. Giving them this diet brought out those predispositions,” said Garner, whose results were published in the December issue of the journal Nutritional Neuroscience. “They’re like genetically at-risk people.”…
…Garner’s study raises questions of how diet might be affecting other behavioral or mental illnesses such as autism, Tourette syndrome, trichotillomania and skin-picking. He said that before now, a link between diet and the onset of mental disorders hadn’t been shown.
“What if the increase of simple sugars in the American diet is contributing to the increase of these diseases?” Garner said. “Because we fed the mice more tryptophan than in the typical human diet, this experiment doesn’t show that, but it certainly makes it a possibility.”
Garner next wants to refine the experiments to better imitate human dietary habits, including the amount of tryptophan people consume. Internal Purdue funding paid for his work..
…Abstract on the research in this release is available at: http://www.purdue.edu/newsroom/research/2010/101213GarnerTryptophan.html
Pain and depression are closely related. Depression can cause pain — and pain can cause depression. Sometimes pain and depression create a vicious cycle in which pain worsens symptoms of depression, and then the resulting depression worsens feelings of pain.
In many people, depression causes unexplained physical symptoms such as back pain or headaches. Sometimes this kind of pain is the first or the only sign of depression.
Pain and the problems it causes can wear you down over time, and may begin to affect your mood. Chronic pain causes a number of problems that can lead to depression, such as trouble sleeping and stress. Disabling pain can cause low self-esteem due to work, legal or financial issues. Depression doesn’t just occur with pain resulting from an injury. It’s also common in people who have pain linked to a health condition such as diabetes or migraines.
To get symptoms of pain and depression under control, you may need separate treatment for each condition. However, some treatments may help with both.
Because of shared chemical messengers in the brain, antidepressant medications can relieve both pain and depression.
Psychological counseling (psychotherapy) can be effective in treating both conditions.
Stress-reduction techniques, meditation, staying active, journaling and other strategies also may help.
Treatment for co-occurring pain and depression may be most effective when it involves a combination of treatments.
If you have pain and depression, get help before your symptoms worsen. You don’t have to be miserable. Getting the right treatment can help you start enjoying life again.
Some related links
Pain (MedlinePlus topic) has links to overviews, latest news, alternative therapies, health check tools, videos, research, and more
Depression (MedlinePlus topic) has links to overviews, latest news, treatments, related issues, and more
Depression (eMedicine Health) includes information on types of depression, causes, treatments, getting help, and much more
American Chronic Pain Association includes a consumer guide to pain medications and treatments, pain management tools
From the December 7 Health Day news item
Spiritual aspects less significant for life satisfaction, survey finds
TUESDAY, Dec. 7 (HealthDay News) — Regular churchgoers may lead more satisfying lives than stay-at-home folks because they create a network of close friends who provide important support, a new study suggests.
Conducted at the University of Wisconsin, the researchers found that 28 percent of people who attend church weekly say they are “extremely satisfied” with life as opposed to only 20 percent who never attend services. But the satisfaction comes from participating in a religious congregation along with close friends, rather than a spiritual experience, the study found.
Regular churchgoers who have no close friends in their congregations are no more likely to be very satisfied with their lives than those who never attend church, according to the research.
Study co-author Chaeyoon Lim said it’s long been recognized that churchgoers report more satisfaction with their lives. But, “scholars have been debating the reason,” he said.
“Do happier people go to church? Or does going to church make people happier?” asked Lim, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
This study, published in the December issue of the American Sociological Review, appears to show that going to church makes people more satisfied with life because of the close friendships established there.
Feeling close to God, prayer, reading scripture and other religious rituals were not associated with a prediction of greater satisfaction with life. Instead, in combination with a strong religious identity, the more friends at church that participants reported, the greater the likelihood they felt strong satisfaction with life……
In addition to church attendance, respondents were asked how many close friends they had in and outside of their congregations, and questions about their health, education, income, work and whether their religious identity was very important to their “sense of self.”
Respondents who said they experienced “God’s presence” were no more likely to report feeling greater satisfaction with their lives than those who did not. Only the number of close friends in their congregations and having a strong religious identity predicted feeling extremely satisfied with life.
One reason may be that “friends who attend religious services together give religious identity a sense of reality,” the authors said.
The study drew a skeptical response from one expert.
The study showed that religious identity is just as important as how many friends a person has in their congregation, said Koenig, also a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the university.
The way the data was analyzed ensured that the spiritual factors (prayer, feeling God’s love, etc.) would not be significant because people with a strong religious identity were controlled for, or not included in the analysis, according to Koenig.
“Religious identity is what is driving all these other factors,” said Koenig. Social involvement is important, “but so is faith.”
Lim said the data show that only the number of close friends at church correlates with higher satisfaction with life. The study acknowledged the importance of religious identity, as well as number of friends, suggesting that the two factors reinforce each other.
“Social networks forged in congregations and strong religious identities are the key variables that mediate the positive connection between religion and life satisfaction,” the study concluded.
Lim said he wanted to examine whether social networks in organizations such as Rotary Clubs, the Masons or other civic volunteer groups could have a similar impact, but it might be difficult.
“It’s hard to imagine any other organization that engages as many people as religion, and that has similar shared identity and social activities,” said Lim. “It’s not easy to think of anything that’s equivalent to that.”