Friday, July 29, 2022

What is “family?”

My brain’s opinion is that whether blood is thicker than water depends upon your definition of what constitutes a family. You may be close to some biological family members, a bond that began with DNA and became a true friendship. You may be close to some adoptive family members, with a bond of genuine caring and appreciation. You may have a deep bond with a life partner. Rejoice and treasure those relationships. In adulthood, you also may be fortunate enough to have a family-of-choice, a few people with whom you develop a special, true, and lasting friendship. That bond is not of DNA but of choice, respect, love, and pleasure in their company. You improve each other reciprocally. I define family as those--no matter of what origin, gender, or age--whom you love and who love you in return, who stand by you no matter what; who showed up and stayed. They are family. As Soumen Das put it, “Family is not always by blood. It is by heart.” 

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Old Proverbs Misused

Although it is common to hear "Blood is thicker than water," relationships much stronger than those that exist within biological families do exist. This is especially true in family systems that are very dysfunctional, riddled with chronic or mental illnesses, and low in Emotional Intelligence. In such environments, sometimes family members abuse you, control you, insult you, abandon you, and put you down or you watch them do that to other family members—at least until you grow up and can get away. Some can kill you faster than most any stranger. Did you know that as compared with men, women account for 60 percent of homicides committed within the family or by partners. Women have more than twice the risk of being killed by their partner or ex-partners. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Blood & Water

“Is blood really thicker than water, and what is the significance of that?”

 Literally, yes. Blood really is thicker than water. As a proverb it has been around for a long time. Reportedly it can be traced back to  the 12th century in Germany.  The proverb opines that biological family bonds are stronger than with any other relationship. This sentiment has been used to gain control over family members, make choices for them even into adulthood, or make them feel guilty as in, “I know you booked a cruise 10 months ago, but if you love me, you will do such and such. Proverbs 18:24 in almost any translation alludes to a true friend being closer than a brother. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Auditory System & Rhythm

Study results have suggested that musical rhythmic abilities correlate with improved performance in non-music areas. This appears to be particularly true with language. Rhythm ability is inherently part of music and of language and it may be that hearing is a common basis for these associations. Perhaps musical training, with an emphasis on rhythmic skills, exercises the auditory system. In turn this may lead to strong sound-to-meaning associations that are so essential in learning to read—although hearing may not be the only basis, as was clearly pointed out with the Mirror Ball Trophy winner who was hearing impaired! Reportedly researchers are working on a multi-year study evaluating the effects of musical training on beat synchronization, response consistency, and reading skills in children who engage in musical training. You might want to make sure the children in your family system get musical training—and let role-modeling begin with you.

Monday, July 25, 2022

Singing & mental health

How can I improve my mental wellbeing?

Do you like to sing? Or are you willing to learn? You may want to join a choir! Researchers led by Daisy Fancourt, PhD, studied the mechanisms behind the effect of music on the immune system. Her research in this field won the 2014 Arnold Bentley New Initiatives Award, the 2015 Young Investigator Scholarship from the American Psychosomatic Society, and the 2015 Ruth Bowden Scholarship for academic excellence in a doctorate in the field of medicine from the British Federation of Women Graduates. Rather impressive! Studies in South Wales found that singing in a choir for only one hour can improve mood, reduce stress, and even boost immune proteins. The greatest improvements in mood were seen among those experiencing the highest level of depression and the lowest mental wellbeing overall. There are people who go to church only to sing in the choir or join a community choir as a way to boost their mental health. More tomorrow. 

Friday, July 22, 2022

Where is serotonin produced?

I was told that 10 percent of serotonin is produced in the brain stem. Is that correct, and if so, where is the other 90 percent produced?

 An estimated 10 percent of serotonin is produced in the central nervous system or CNS, specifically in the brain stem. The remaining 90 percent of serotonin is produced in the enteric nervous system or ENS located in the GI or gastrointestinal system. Serotonin is a special type of neurotransmitter that impacts many complex functions. For example: modulating mood, cognition or thinking, sleep, learning, and memory. It also manages many physiological processes including nausea and vomiting. Eating too few healthy carbs may be one of the reasons that habitual dieters may have low serotonin levels in both their brain and gastrointestinal tract—a situation that can lead to bingeing.

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Thursday, July 21, 2022

"Is too much or too little serotonin a problem? I want to know."

 Serotonin levels that are too low can show up as fatigue, irritability, and may be linked with depression. Levels that are too high are linked with osteoporosis and a downward slide in your libido. Excessive levels can lead to Serotonin Syndrome. This can occur when the central nervous system is overloaded with serotonin and cannot function properly. It can lead to seizures, difficulty breathing, kidney failure, coma, and even death. Some prescription and over-the-counter drugs can raise serotonin levels alone or in combination with others. Some recreational drugs (e.g., LSD, cocaine) and some dietary supplements (St. John’s Wort, ginseng), reportedly can also cause serotonin syndrome when taken with specific antidepressants. Bottom line: avoid messing with serotonin. Talk with your physician for questions and clarification.  

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

What does serotonin do?

“I keep hearing about serotonin but what does it do?”

Serotonin is a complex substance found in the brain and body that acts as a neurotransmitter that has its "fingers" in many body functions. It helps transport information across the synapse, or space between neurons. Then it is recollected and stored for when the next transport is required. Serotonin helps to modulate one’s mood, impacts cognition or thinking, the brain’s reward system, memory, and many physiological processes such as vomiting. When it migrates from tissue cells into the blood, the platelets pick up the serotonin and store it. When the platelets bind to a blood clot, they release serotonin, where it can serve either as a constrictor or a dilator of blood vessels, depending on what is required. Serotonin also serves as a growth factor for some types of cells that may assist in wound healing. In balance, its functions are quite amazing. Out of balance—too high or too low—is an entirely different story. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Course Correction for Carbs


Watch out for ‘carb myths’ and course correct as needed. Researchers studied groups of individuals and analyzed their intake of carbohydrates. Those who consumed forty-five to sixty-four percent of their total calories from healthier carbs showed the lowest risk of being overweight or obese. They found that adults with higher intakes of healthier carbs actually weighed less than those with lower intakes. Studies suggest that eating healthier carbs—ancient grains such steel-cut oats, amaranth, basmati brown rice, rye and millet, plus seeds like chia, teff, sunflower, flax, hemp, and quinoa, along with fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy proteins, and fiber—may help keep you younger for longer. Rich sources of fiber not only fill you up and support a healthy gastrointestinal system but also contribute antioxidants to protect your cells from the effects of damaging chemicals, toxins, and free radicals, all of which contribute to chronic illness and disease. The goal is to slow down your rate of biological aging and retard the onset of symptoms of aging! A gradual increase in the aging population around the world is showing that this can work!

Monday, July 18, 2022

Dump All or Nothing

An all-or-nothing approach to carbohydrates is like avoiding all dogs simply because some are downright ugly and some love to bite. Yes, some dogs are vicious and yes, some carbs are unhealthy. How did carbs get such a bad rap? It likely started when big industry began ‘refining’ them, removing many healthy ingredients, and turning them into processed food on a grand scale. Metaphorically, a similar thing happened when Yellowstone National Park ‘refined’ its environment and kicked out the coyotes. Fortunately, the pendulum is swinging back toward the middle in much the same way that Yellowstone is being revitalized—now that the wolves are back. Dieting does not work, especially fad, fast, or very low carb diets. Dropping unwanted pounds and then maintaining your weight within a more optimum range typically requires you to reduce your intake of poor quality refined and processed carbs and increase your intake of healthy proteins and fiber. 

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Friday, July 15, 2022

Carb Smart

Have you been trying to avoid all carbs? Think again! Healthier carbs are the preferred source of fuel for much of the work done by the brain and body. They provide energy for working muscles and fuel for the brain and central nervous system, without which weakness, dizziness, and low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) can occur. They also provide needed dietary fiber, both soluble and insoluble. Providing sufficient carbs in your daily cuisine can help prevent the body from trying to use proteins or fats for energy. Some weight-loss diets advocate severely restricting all carbohydrates, claiming this is more effective in preventing cardiovascular disease as compared with balanced weight-loss strategies. Naude and colleagues compared the effects of low-carb versus balanced weight-loss programs in overweight and obese adults. They reported that in the minimum follow-up period of three months, the low carb approach showed no weight-loss advantage. Be carb smart—for your brain’s sake!

A new AUDIO podcast is posted every Saturday morning

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Thursday, July 14, 2022

Exercise vs Dietary Restraint

Exercise has a huge upside for both brain and body health. By itself, however, exercise may not be the best way to lose weight. Evidence is beginning to accumulate that dietary restraint may be more important than energy expenditure level. When it comes to maintaining a healthy weight, what you avoid eating is likely more important than an excessive emphasis on exercise—although exercise can help you reshape your body as you lose weight (e.g., 30 minutes of running or swimming laps might burn off 350 calories or you could achieve the same calorie reduction by eliminating two 16-ounce sodas each day). Years ago, Candace B. Pert, PhD, reported that 20-25 minutes of aerobic exercise before breakfast could turn on fat-burning peptides that would burn for several hours. A study from Northumbria University, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, reported that participants lost 20 percent more fat when they exercised before eating breakfast.

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

To Carb or not to Carb

Many questions I receive have to do with confusion about carbohydrates, what they are, whether you really need any, and their contribution to brain-body health. Often these questioners have been lobbied by well-meaning individuals whose apparent goal was to convince the world that eating free of all carbs was the preferred way to go. Such recommendations seem to ‘throw the baby out with the bathwater.’ Carbs are one of the three general categories of macronutrients, the other two being fats and proteins. Are there good and bad carbs? Definitely, just as there are good and bad behaviors (or behaviors that results in either negative or positive outcomes, as I prefer to state it). Can avoiding undesirable carbs help you manage your weight and prevent some disease? That appears to be the case. Can avoiding all carbs potentially sabotage brain function and fitness goals? This, too, appears to be the case. 

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Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Carbs or Carbs

Some carbs are healthier than others. Some carbohydrates are more nutritious than others. Highly processed and refined foods are often referred to as empty because most of the nutrition has been removed. They include refined sugar, white rice, and white flour products, along with other highly processed foods and alcohol—all of which can contribute to weight gain. The quality of the carbohydrates along with the amount you are eating are key concepts. The problem arises with using too many carbs in proportion to other foods you are eating: primarily fruits or too many refined processed foods in your menu; and sugars such as those found in candy, sodas, many pastries and desserts. Along with highly refined foods like white-flour pastas and commercial white breads, these types of foods add calories but minimal nutrition, and they can spike blood sugar. Consequently, it is wise to choose complex carbs in as natural a form as possible, eaten in balance with vegetables, healthy proteins, fiber, and whole fruits.

Monday, July 11, 2022

Brain Carbs

You were quoted as saying that carbs were not good for your brain. Please explain.

Well, you have part of it right. Thanks for double checking. Unhealthy carbohydrates are not good for your brain--or your body for that matter. Processed foods, desserts, refined foods with high sugar-white flour-and fat. Your brain is a complex and world-class universe. Its primary preferred source of energy (after water) is carbohydrates that it breaks down into glucose. Glucose forms fuel that your brain, central nervous system, red-blood cells, and muscles require, to name just a few. Eating unhealthier carbs over time can stress both brain and body and pile on weight. However, eating fewer healthier carbs may not be the ticket. Eating moderate amounts of healthier carbs likely is. Lack of enough appropriate nutrition can be lethal for brain neurons. They can begin to cannibalize—eat themselves—in a desperate attempt to call for food.

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Friday, July 8, 2022

Brain and Change, 2

When change occurs, I just ignore it and go on about my business. That’s good, right?

When change occurs, each person’s brain tends to make a decision—consciously or subconsciously—about the change. To like it, dislike it, or take a neutral position and “wait and see.” to like or dislike what was changed. Remember, thinking you are completely neutral (if that is even possible) is also a decision. Beyond that, each person’s brain will choose the type of behaviors to exhibit based on their perception of the change. Some choose to follow and replicated exhibited dysfunctional behaviors. Others choose to work with the change or cooperate with functional behaviors designed to take a nondestructive approach. The choice you make will impact your brain-body health in differing ways that can also impact succeeding generations negatively or positively.


A new AUDIO podcast is posted every Saturday morning

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Thursday, July 7, 2022

Brain & Change

In the words of Epictetus, 2nd Century Greek philosopher: "It’s not so much what happens that matters as what you think about what happens."  Lately it seems that the only constant is change. How you choose to respond to the change is critical for your future—ultimately a piece of the future of Planet Earth. It begins in your brain. Mine I regret hearing news about humans who act out their anger and frustration by hurting or killing others and destroying property, because in the end they damage themselves and their future. Anyone can complain and act out negatively. It takes wisdom and strength to worth together to solve existing problems. Society doesn’t appreciate or condone temper tantrums in children, how much less in adults—an unfortunate role-model for the young in how to approach change.  More tomorrow. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Cisgender vs Transgender

I don’t understand what transsexual even means, much less transgender or cisgender! Can you help me figure this out? I am completely at sea, and I want to avoid making a mistake. 

Transgender is an all-encompassing term. Metaphorically, compare it with the term automobile of which there are differing types: Ford, Honda, BMW, Tesla, to name a few. All BMWs are automobiles; not all automobiles are BMWs. Using that metaphor, all transsexuals are transgenders, but not all transgenders are transsexuals. Transgender is a term to describe individuals who have a strong need and desire to identify with a gender opposite from their birth gender. Avoid guessing about transgender subgroups. If someone wants you to know their specific type, that is their choice. Otherwise, I do not consider it any of my business. First and foremost, human beings are human beings. Opposite from the term transgender, Cisgender identifies people who are comfortable with their birth gender. The majority of humans on Planet Earth identify as Cisgender.

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Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Microaggression Example - 4

Not long ago an early teen girl was sitting on a bench in the mall, head in her hands, sobbing as if her heart would break. A woman ahead of me noticed it and walked over to sit near her. I dawdled in a store doorway, curious to see what would happen. “Can I do anything to help?” the woman asked finally. The girl raised her head, her reddish-blonde hair beautifully braided in a unique style. “I just had my hair braided because I admire this style so much. I saved my allowance for three months so I could afford it. Some women just told me that I have no right to wear my hair braided like this because this style belongs to their culture.” Ouch. I kept listening. “I am an archeologist," the woman said. "Actually, I have seen drawings and paintings of Viking women wearing a similar style. It looks good on you. Enjoy it.” The girl smiled weakly and swiped at her eyes. “You know,” the woman continued, “this world is built on sharing, duplicating, and copying. It has been said that there’s nothing completely new under the sun. Imitation is a form of flattery, you know. Wear your braids with pride as a compliment to whomever else wears them."

Monday, July 4, 2022

Microaggression Example, 3

Microaggression often goes unrecognized. For example, many a highly intelligent, well educated, and assertive female (whatever her race) is marginalized as a complainer, trouble maker, or worse, while a male counterpart who exhibits similar behavior is described as a gifted and dynamic leader. In a committee meeting, a female, or a black, or another person of color may make a suggestion that just “sits on the table” and is not picked up. If much later a male (especially a white male) makes the same suggestion as if he just thought of it, the group commends him for his astute observations. A male who kindly holds a door open for a female is told, “I don’t need you to open the door for me. I am capable of doing it myself.” That completely negates his attempt to be chivalrous and helpful. Or rolling one’s eyes behind the back of a person who is different from you. Or a black individual or a person of color telling someone who is not, “Because you have not walked in my shoes you have nothing of value to share with me.” Microaggression  in verbal and nonverbal communication represents low levels of Emotional Intelligence. We all can and need to do better.

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Friday, July 1, 2022

Microaggression Example, 2

Bragging that you “do not see color,” effectively neutralizes personal uniqueness, as skin tones are part of who we are as individuals. (Unless, that is, you are completely color blind to every hue, and there is really no need to point that out!) Cleveland Clinic has pointed out, “…while the people who dropped these verbal grenades may not see the harm in them, the impact of these statements can be felt for weeks, years, or even decades.” Personally, I definitely see color. Because of the way I grew up and personal choice, I find diversity interesting, unique, enriching, and often very beautiful. Fortunately, High Emotional Intelligence helps a person avoid exhibiting Microaggression in the form of Microassaults, Microinsults, and Microinvalidations. Fortunately, high Emotional Intelligence can help you manage your emotions appropriately, avoid jumping to conclusions, and refrain from all verbal or nonverbal microaggressions.

A new AUDIO podcast is posted every Saturday morning

 A new VIDEO podcast is posted every Saturday morning