The emotional toll of perinatal loss, a devastating experience of losing a baby during pregnancy or shortly after birth, is often overlooked and underestimated. This article sheds light on the profound effects it has on the mental health of parents and highlights available treatment options for healing and support.
The Impact of Perinatal Loss on Parental Mental Health
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghMay 17, 2023 grief, grief counseling, grief therapy, miscarriage, perinatal loss, perinatal mental health, stillbirth0 comments
The Emotional Consequences of Perinatal Loss:
Perinatal loss can trigger intense emotions such as sadness, guilt, and grief for parents and other family members. It can lead to conditions like depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Coping with these emotions becomes challenging as they interfere with sleep, appetite, and self-care.
Understanding the Causes and Challenges:
Perinatal loss can occur due to various medical conditions, genetic abnormalities, infections, or unknown factors. The unexplained nature of some losses can make it even more difficult for parents to cope, questioning themselves and feeling guilt or blame for the loss. Mothers, who have developed a strong attachment to their unborn baby, may experience heightened emotional intensity.
Impact on Relationships and Future Pregnancies:
Perinatal loss can strain a couple’s relationship as they navigate their individual grief and coping mechanisms. Fear and anxiety about future pregnancies may make it difficult for parents to bond and trust in the health of a new baby. Avoiding situations that remind them of their loss, such as baby showers or visits to the hospital where their child was born, can hinder the healing process and moving forward.
Available Treatment Options For Perinatal Loss:
Effective treatment options are available to support parents through the grieving process. Perinatal Mental Health Treatment, including individual or group therapy sessions, allows parents to process their emotions and develop coping mechanisms with the guidance of a trained mental health professional. Support groups provide a safe space for sharing experiences and finding solace in others who have faced similar losses.
Embracing Mindfulness and Medication:
Mindfulness practices offer valuable tools to regulate emotions, reduce anxiety, and cultivate a sense of calm. Through mindfulness meditation, parents can learn to be present and centered, enhancing their ability to cope with the intense feelings associated with perinatal loss. In cases of severe depression or anxiety, medication may be recommended, and it’s crucial to consult a mental health professional for guidance.
The Healing Journey:
Healing from perinatal loss is a personal and unique process. There is no right or wrong way to grieve, and it’s essential to be kind to oneself. Time, support, and understanding are vital in navigating the path towards healing and finding solace in the midst of this heartbreaking experience.
Remember, you are not alone, and there are resources and compassionate professionals ready to support you on your healing journey.
Written by: Teresa Gouch, LPC, and certified Perinatal Mental Health expert. Teresa offers online therapy. If you are interested in scheduling an appointment with Teresa call us at 412-322-2129 or contact us here.
Do I Need Antidepressants? 5 Ways To Tell
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghMay 4, 2023 Antidepressants, depression, medication management, medicine, psychiatric services, psychiatry0 comments
Depression is a common mental health disorder that can affect people of all ages and backgrounds. According to the World Health Organization, more than 264 million people worldwide experience depression. If you are experiencing symptoms of depression, you may be wondering, “Do I Need Antidepressants?”
Here are some signs that antidepressants might be right for you:
- You have been diagnosed with depression: If you have been diagnosed with depression by a healthcare professional, they may recommend antidepressants as part of your treatment plan. Antidepressants can be an effective treatment for moderate to severe depression.
- You have tried other treatments without success: If you have tried other treatments for depression, such as therapy or lifestyle changes, without success, antidepressants may be a good option. Antidepressants can be used alone or in combination with other treatments to manage symptoms of depression.
- Your symptoms are interfering with your daily life: If your symptoms of depression are interfering with your ability to function in your daily life, antidepressants may be a good option. Symptoms of depression can include feelings of sadness or hopelessness, lack of interest in activities, changes in appetite or sleep, and difficulty concentrating.
- You have a family history of depression: If you have a family history of depression, you may be at an increased risk of developing depression yourself. Antidepressants may be a good option for preventing or managing symptoms of depression.
- You have suicidal thoughts or behaviors: If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts or behaviors, it is important to seek help from a healthcare professional immediately. Antidepressants can be an effective treatment for managing suicidal thoughts and behaviors.
It’s important to note that the decision to take antidepressants should be made in consultation with a psychiatrist or psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner . They can help determine the most appropriate course of treatment for your individual needs and monitor your progress while taking antidepressants. If you are experiencing symptoms of depression or other mental health conditions, please seek help from a mental health professional.
Antidepressants and Therapy
Antidepressants and therapy are two common treatments for depression, and they can be used together to improve outcomes. While antidepressants can help alleviate the symptoms of depression by balancing certain chemicals in the brain, therapy can help individuals develop skills and strategies to manage their emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. In this way, the combination of antidepressants and therapy can be a powerful approach to treating depression.
Here are some ways in which antidepressants can help depression in conjunction with therapy:
- Antidepressants can alleviate symptoms of depression: Antidepressants can help alleviate symptoms of depression, such as feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or lack of interest in activities. This can make it easier for individuals to engage in therapy and learn coping skills.
- Antidepressants can enhance the effectiveness of therapy: Antidepressants can help reduce symptoms of depression, which can enhance the effectiveness of therapy. When individuals are not overwhelmed by their symptoms, they may be more able to engage in therapy and make progress.
- Antidepressants can prevent relapse: Antidepressants can help prevent relapse of depression by maintaining the balance of certain chemicals in the brain that affect mood. This can be especially important for individuals who have experienced multiple episodes of depression or who are at risk of relapse.
- Therapy can help address underlying issues: Therapy can help individuals identify and address underlying issues that may be contributing to their depression, such as past trauma or relationship problems. This can help them develop skills to manage these issues and prevent future episodes of depression.
- Therapy can help individuals learn coping skills: Therapy can teach individuals coping skills to manage their symptoms of depression, such as relaxation techniques, problem-solving skills, and stress management strategies. These skills can be especially helpful when combined with antidepressant medication.
It’s also important to note that antidepressants are not a cure for depression. While they can be effective in managing symptoms, they are not a substitute for therapy or other forms of treatment. Therapy can help you learn coping skills, develop healthy habits, and address any underlying issues that may be contributing to your depression.
It’s important to remember that the decision to start taking antidepressants is a personal one and should be made in consultation with a psychiatrist or psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner. They can help you weigh the potential benefits and risks of antidepressants and determine the best course of treatment for your individual needs. Additionally, it’s important to continue therapy or other treatments while taking antidepressants to maximize their effectiveness.
Find Out “Are Antidepressants Right for Me?” With An Evaluation
If you are interested in an evaluation to see if antidepressants are the right fit for you, call us at 412-322-2129 or fill out the form below.
Gut Health and Mental Health, What’s the Link?
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghNovember 10, 2022 anti-inflammatory diet, anxiety, depression, dietician, dietitian, dietitian nutritionist, dietitian nutritionist near me, gut health, gut health and mental health, healthy eating, healthy food, intuitive eating, keto diet, mental health, nutrition, Nutrition Counseling, Nutritionist, registered dietitian, registered licensed dietitian0 comments
In more recent years, studies have been emerging that focus on the possible connection between gut health and mental health disorders, including anxiety and depression. The microbiome makes up all microorganisms in the human body. The microbiota encompasses all the microorganisms in a particular location, such as the GI tract. These together are developed while in the womb. During this time, early nutrition can play a role in shaping the developing gut microbiota. This helps with the development of various healthy bacteria.
The Science Behind Gut Health and Mental Health
As solid foods are introduced to infants, the microbiome is exposed to many different energy substrates, creating and developing our metabolism along with new variations of bacteria that make up the gut. It is difficult to determine what a normal microbiome consists of given the environmental, seasonal, and health status of an individual. Although, what we eat can determine what type of bacteria are predominantly present. This can also be directly linked to inflammation of the GI tract, placing stress on the microbiome. This can result in the release of cytokines and neurotransmitters. Elevated blood levels of these pro-inflammatory markers increase the permeability of the blood-brain barrier. Their release influences brain function, leading to anxiety and depression.
Pro-inflammatory cytokines are also important stimulators of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA). The hypothalamus releases various hormones, one in which stimulates the adrenal release of cortisol, a known stress hormone. Cortisol stimulates a pro-inflammatory response, leading to a dysregulation of the HPA axis, resulting in symptoms of depression and anxiety.
When the human microbiome is challenged with dietary changes, coupled by stress, or maybe a course of antibiotics, the physiology of the normal microbiome changes. When there is a loss of beneficial bacteria, this can trigger a pro-inflammatory response and weaken the intestine. This can lead to increased intestinal permeability and allow bacteria to leak through, leading to detrimental effects on our bodies, which can be demonstrated in diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression.
Probiotics, living microorganisms of yeast and bacteria, have been utilized as supplements for aiding in reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression. Primarily, they have been studied in the suppression of cytokines, noting improved intestinal barrier integrity. This promotes a decrease in inflammatory response. As a result, adding a probiotic to your daily regimen could help reduce pro-inflammatory hormones, especially in individuals suffering from chronic inflammation.
Although, there is no FDA regulation pertaining specifically to probiotics, and ultimately, no dosage recommendations. Until more research behind the use of probiotics as therapy for anxiety and depressive disorders is available, probiotics cannot be considered a reliable treatment method as compared to psychiatric medications.
When it comes to diet, various components in food can help reduce inflammation. Consider foods that are high in fiber, omega-3s found in fish, oils, and leafy greens, polyphenols (plant chemicals) found in fruits such as berries, and unsaturated fats found in almonds and flaxseeds. All of these foods can be incorporated into your daily diet to help reduce inflammation and promote a healthy gut and microbiota!
- Yogurt: containing live bacteria cultures, yogurt can help support a healthy gut by keeping the microbiome healthy. The probiotics in yogurt can help reduce inflammation and symptoms of bloating, gas, constipation or diarrhea. Many yogurt varieties contain added sugar, so look for plain options and add your own flavoring with fruit, nuts, and seeds to avoid excess sugar intake.
- Fermented foods like Kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir and miso are rich in probiotics. The good bacteria grow during the fermentation process. Add fermented foods to your diet for a healthy dose of probiotics.
- Dark Green Leafy Vegetables: Packed full of vitamins like A, K and magnesium, dark green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, kale, bok choy, mustard greens, and collards, are crucial for brain function and gut health. Swiss chard is a great example of a food that is loaded with fiber, feeding the healthy bacteria in your gut, preventing inflammation.
- Omega-3s: Omega-3 fatty acids also support brain health. Fatty fish such as salmon and tuna, are great sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Foods containing fatty acids can help reduce inflammation, and support healthy digestion. This can help you feel less bloated and sluggish.
- Healthy Grains: Whole grain foods, such as oatmeal and bulgar wheat, are high in fiber, which plays an important role in stabilizing blood sugar levels. This helps restore a potential imbalance to the gut that can happen when blood sugar levels are challenged. Most whole grain products contain beneficial prebiotics that help increase healthy bacteria in the gut microbiome.
- Berries: Berries are rich in antioxidants, which can help keep your gut healthy by reducing inflammation. They are also a great source of prebiotics, which promotes healthy gut motility. One of the highest vitamin C foods, which can improve the gut barrier and enhance nutrient absorption.
This article was written by our Registered Dietitian, Kali Alrutz
Get Started with Gut Health Nutrition Counseling
Call us at 412-322-2129 or fill out the form below to get started with Nutrition Counseling. Nutrition Counseling is covered by Insurance.
What to Say to Someone With Depression
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghJune 15, 2022 communication, counseling for depression, depression, depression counseling, depression therapy, friendship, major depressive disorder0 comments
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, an estimated 21 million adults in the United States had at least one major depressive episode in 2020 so it’s likely someone you know or love has been affected. Knowing what to say to someone with depression isn’t always easy. However, social support can remind your loved one that they are not alone.
Research has shown that strong social support is an important factor in decreasing functional impairment in patients with depression and in increasing the likelihood of recovery. If your friend isn’t ready to talk, continue to offer your support by checking in regularly, either in person, on the phone, or by text.
So, what should you say to someone who has depression? Here are 8 suggestions.
What to Say to a Depressed Friend
- “I know you don’t see a light right now, but it’s there.”
- “I am here for you, tell me how you are feeling.”
- “I see that you have taken steps every single day to conquer your depression.”
- “You are resilient and you have people who love and care for you, including me.”
- “What can I pick you up from the grocery store?”
- “Would you like to join me on a short walk? If you’re not feeling up for it today, that’s okay.”
- “You don’t have to figure it all out today. We’re in this together.”
- “I can look for a counselor for you. Would that help?”
If you or someone you know would like Depression Therapy, please contact us at 412-322-2129 or fill out the form below.
Sleep hygiene: 8 Steps to Better Rest by Pittsburgh Pennsylvania Mental Health Experts
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghJune 15, 2020 hypersomnia, insomnia, sleep disorder, sleep hygiene0 comments
Sleep hygiene is a science formulated to help people overcome disrupted rest by removing any barriers that a person might be unknowingly creating that prevent against deep and complete rest. According to the American Sleep foundation, 47% of Americans report poor quality sleep has affected their daily performance in the last month. As mental health counselors know, there is a significant relationship between sleep and well being. Finding solutions for better rest are vital when your health is on the line, research suggests that sleeplessness can accelerate cancer, erode cognitive performance, and it also impacts mental well being in a variety of ways. Did you know that not getting enough rest can activate many mood disorders including bipolar disorder, anxiety, or depression? In fact, sleep disruptions are a very common complaint among those who are seeking treatment for mental health disorders. Of course, most people have experienced a sleepless night as a result of a situational challenge or period of stress. There is a lot to lose when it comes to sleep but more than ever so many are so sleep deprived. By now you are likely wondering what you can do to enhance your sleep. This is where sleep hygiene comes into practice. There are some evidence-based ways to help you achieve a more restful state. Simultaneously, there are certain sleep disorders such as parasomnia, insomnia, and hypersomnia which should be ruled out with a medical or mental health counselor.
Know your sleep type! There are two primary types of sleepers, night owls and roosters, night owls are biologically programmed to sleep and wake a little later. Roosters crow at the sun, roosters, will do best to find a job routine that can be done early in the morning. Same goes for night owls, their peak performance will be later in the day. For both of these types of people, constructing a life that honors biology will do a lot for wellness and emotional wellbeing. For example, a rooster shouldn’t take the night shift if they want to feel their best.
Have a good routine- Routine is paramount to having improved quality and quantity of sleep. Find a regular hour in which you can rest. When you achieve a regular schedule, your body will be responding to multiple environmental cues that will help falling asleep and staying asleep easier. You should really be aiming for 7/8 hours per night so plan to go to bed that amount of time before your alarm clock will start buzzing.
Limit screen time at least an hour before bed. Our eyes are brimming with light receptors which are impacted by the screens we look at. When you are reading your email or social media account your brain is getting a large dose of light that signals to wake up! Limit exposure to at least an hour before bed to give your brain a chance to relax.
Spending time outdoors in the morning– The light from the sun helps us to become more alert in the morning giving our bodies higher energy. By maximizing exposure in the early hours we can find our way to relaxation in the evening. If a morning walk is not your thing, some people enjoy ‘sungazing.’
Work out in the am– Multiple studies have shown that working out in the am morning hours does help fitness friends to sleep better in the evening. Interestingly however, having an evening work out has not shown any effect on sleep.
Lengthen your exhale- When using your breath as a relaxation tool, you can activate your parasympathetic nervous system. It works like this, by lengthening your exhalation to be longer than your inhalation, for example inhale for a count of 6 and exhale for a count of 8, do this 10 times. This small but powerful technique is a potent relaxant as you are attempting to drift off to a deep slumber.
Limit Caffeine- Be mindful of what you are consuming, the half life of caffeine is quite long, if you are drinking caffeinated beverages after 1 or 2 pm, it will still be in your system at 8 or 9pm. Try to limit caffeine to one cup upon waking and the same goes with sugar.
Try Essential Oils- Many people find that a calming essential oil will help them achieve a more relaxed and restful state. Scents such as lavender and chamomile are widely used as a part of night time routines.Learn More
These are The Signs of Suicide You Should Know to Save a Life
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghJune 19, 2019 preventing suicide, signs of suicide0 comments
These are The Signs of Suicide You Should Know to Save a Life; By Melissa Howard
Suicide is not just a minor issue; it is a public health crisis. While medications and lifestyle changes can help prevent other health hazards, suicide can be much harder to recognize and treat. The actual act of suicide can be a split-second decision but the thoughts that lead to this tragedy tend to build off of experiences, mental health issues and all too often, addiction. Since suicide involved internal thoughts and emotions, rather than acute physical symptoms it’s vital to be aware of the following information when trying to prevent suicides.
Suicide signs can be hard to spot…
There are many warning signs of suicidal ideation and indicators that someone may be thinking about causing themselves harm. Some of these signs manifest in speech or outward actions, while others are subtle. This can make the latter signs difficult to discern, especially when they present on their own. Individually these signs might be meaningless, but when more than one sign is combined they can quickly escalate into someone actually attempting a suicidal act.
Dialogue can be a warning of suicide too…
Sometimes, words are the most powerful indicator that something is going terribly wrong with someone you love and know. The most glaring example of these spoken suicide signs is talking about committing suicide or some form of self-harm. Even statements that might be laced with sarcasm should be looked into as potential threats. In addition to these red flags, someone who
Describes themselves as hopeless or who constantly seems to be speaking with despair may be thinking of committing a suicidal act. You may also hear a loved one state that they are a burden to others. Such a statement, or saying that the world would be better off without you are announcements of suicidal thought, and should be addressed.
Actions can foreshadow suicide as well…
If you are concerned that a family member or household member is thinking about suicide, reviewing their web search history may help. If you see that person has been trying to learn about suicide methods, that’s a clear sign that they are seriously thinking about taking their own life. Aside from searching for this information, individuals who are distressed may also begin to withdraw from relationships and activities. If the same person begins to give away prized possessions, know that it is time to reach out for professional help.
Addiction is often linked to suicidal thoughts and actions…
An additional and crucial suicide warning sign that warrants further discussion is substance abuse. Substance abuse can be a source as well as a means for suicidal acts. Overdoses are often considered as the culmination of substance abuse disorders, but they may be deliberate in certain cases.
Addiction is connected to suicide through anxiety and depression. Someone who is afflicted with anxiety or depression will try to alleviate these feelings through a variety of self-administered therapies. But when these mental health disorders are self-treated with drugs and alcohol instead of with professional help, people tend to get caught in a downward spiral that drives them to want to take their own life.
Professional help can prevent suicides and provide real relief…
When you or a loved one is thinking about suicide, getting immediate help can be a matter of life and death. If you have untreated mental health issues, you should know that help is available. Treatment options are readily available to safely manage depression and anxiety in a way that allows you to function. If you are having problems with substance abuse too, there are rehabilitation programs and treatments that can help you take back control of your life. When seeking treatment options, look for licensed clinical social workers. These professionals are trained to diagnose and treat problems related to mental health, including substance abuse and psychosocial problems. They most likely earned their license by completing Master of Social Work programs at a U.S. university. These programs typically require as much as 1,200 hours of work in the field.
Being aware of the signs of suicide, whether subtle or pronounced, is a crucial first step in preventing more people from committing this tragic act. If you recognize these signs in someone you love, or even in yourself, please reach out for help. Call a hotline, call a friend, seek counseling, or just go to the nearest emergency room. However you get help, know that your life matters and you are not alone, and let those in your life who may be in danger know this as well.
Photo Credit: UnsplashLearn More
Trauma; Honor For Your Healing Journey
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghOctober 30, 2018 compassion, pittsburgh, positive psychology, resilience to trauma0 comments
The four things your therapist wants you to know about your healing journey. When you’re healing from a grief, trauma, or resultant PTSD, you must be thinking about ‘how will I ever move on from this horrible, unexpected, agonizing reaction to the traumatic situation that I have experienced?’ Remember, PTSD is a reaction to witnessing or experiencing a sudden and unexpected event which caused one to feel powerless by delivering, threatening, or witnessing harm. How can I rise above these feelings and thoughts and create meaningful and complete healing? Maybe you want to go backwards in time and undo all of the harm that you have experienced. A common and reasonable response to all of these above disorders, particularly PTSD, is to try to avoid all triggers associated with the situation which evoked the trauma, hypervigilance, intrusive memories, nightmares, flashbacks and an increased risk for anxiety and depression. This disorder presents a mountain to ascend, and whether you have spend years in therapy or are only beginning to acknowledge the depth of the effects this has had on you, these are some points to keep in mind. These are the 4 things that your therapist wants you to know about healing that are not immediately evident.
Healed but not Forgotten
Some people have the unrealistic expectation that when they reach the end of their healing journey they shouldn’t have any emotional reaction to their memories of the traumatic event which led to grief and loss. That is not how healing works. It is quite likely that you will always have some sort of reaction to the memories and thoughts associated with your grief or trauma. In fact, according to a 2011 study published in NIH by Sherin and Nemeroff, and according to all of science and psychology support the fact that there is potential for long term neuroanatomical and neurochemical changes to the central nervous system resulting from trauma. These changes are especially evident in the way we respond to triggers or trauma associated stimuli. What we should be striving for in the healing from trauma is a ‘new normal.’ Healing means that you are able to function in professional or personal settings and that you are practicing resilience and positive coping when waves of thought and emotion do come.
Healing means Acknowledging Feelings
One of the ways that therapy works is by creating an intentional space for healing warriors to be honest with themselves, to create an understanding of their emotions. After an awareness has been formed adaptive responses to feelings and thoughts can be generated. We create psychopathology by being critical and attempting to repress our internal honest responses. For some people like first responders, police, and paramedics, there may be an extra layer of difficulty and stigma attached to acknowledging ones feelings and seeking mental health support to manage trauma. This can cause further damaging denial of the effects of traumatic experiences, One of the core tenets of psychological theory present in every form of therapy is that the more we repress, judge or avoid our feelings, the more we cause problems. Repression elicits tangled feeling constellations, blocked energies, incomplete and unintegrated shadows. Mindfulness based stress reduction, EMDR, Cognitive Processing Therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and Exposure Therapy, have shown efficacy in treating PTSD. Our feelings can turn into psychopathology that are bigger and sometimes socially unacceptable forms of the original emotional response.
Healing Happens in Relationships. Find your Healing Tribe.
It is especially true for trauma that happens in relationships, that this same trauma is healed in relationships. When trauma survivors open up to those people who they consider to be safe, there is an incredible potential for healing to happen. Healing relationships are those that resonate compassion, gentle acceptance, warmth, and non-judgement. Think about it, we become close to those who we can be really honest with, those who ask about our feelings and can share in a compassionate interchange, (Mgrath, 2001). Sharing trauma should be exercised with caution. However well-intentioned our healing tribe may be, its members may inadvertently respond in less constructive ways that judge, shame, or put down the survivor for having the pain or scars of trauma. Another risk is not being able to hear or understand what is being shared. What is really needed is non-judgmental acceptance, understanding, and compassionate warmth.
Positive Psychology, Pop Culture and Non-Reality
You may have survived a trauma but that doesn’t mean you have to fall victim to meme reality. Scroll through a social media forum and you will see many posts and memes which declare that everyone should be happy all the time. That isn’t honest or possible. The healthiest among us are those who are honest with themselves about what they experience and then respond to their vulnerable reality in a constructive way. According to a 2016 study by Elizabeth Kneeland, pop cultures layman positive psychology is damaging. When pop culture got its hands on positive psychology its representatives distorted the message, and now laymen perpetuate unrealistic and uninformed messages which imply that we can think our way into a good mood. It suggests that if we blink our eyes we can make trauma and psychological distress evaporate. Your therapist knows differently. Its ok to be outraged, disgusted, sad, hurt, angry, confused, and it is important to acknowledge where you are in your healing journey today.
No matter where you are today, the best we can do is to risk opening to ourselves, to create an honest internal dialogue that we are eventually able to share with others. We should unabashedly honor our own processes, giving relentless permission to feel, think and be; in reverence of joy, in honor of glorious fury, to the fullest expression of gaiety, to the utterance of insuperable hurt, to fully hone in on repugnant disgust. Keep developing your divine awareness, and eventually you will have created the unique meaning which understands with a lens of compassion, acceptance, and self love all that has happened to you.
With love and hope for resilience,
Stephanie Wijkstrom, MS, LPC, NCC
For More Reading
Kneeland, Elizabeth et al, Positive thinking Newsweek, 2016
McGrath, Ellen. Psychology Today, published November 1, 2001
Post-traumatic stress disorder: the neurobiological impact of psychological trauma
Sherin, Jonathan E, Charles B. Nemeroff
Dialogues Clin Neurosci. 2011 Sep; 13(3): 263–278.
What are the benefits of a high fat diet?
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghSeptember 16, 2018 benefits of high fat diet, blue cross blue shield, counseling wellness, dietician0 comments
What are the benefits of a high fat diet?
Liz Mckinney, CNS, LDN continues to examine the big fat myth and share some more information and sample mean plan to incorporate the dietary changes of a high fat diet into your busy lifestyle. Our last blog post caused quite a stir and we want to be sure that our readers understand the differences between ‘good fats’ and ‘bad fats.’ One big take home point is that not all dietary fats are created equally. So, what does the science tell us about a high fat diet? To recap our last blog article, research is showing that a high fat made up of healthy fats coupled with a low carbohydrate diet can be beneficial for:
- Heart health
- Boosting the immune system
- Brain function (and reduced risk of Alzheimer’s, cognitive impairment and dementia)
- Blood sugar control
- Weight management
High fat diets, and even ketogenic diets are being studied for their efficacy in treating Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, ALS, Epilepsy and even ADHD. More and more, we understand there is a significant effect on our physical and emotional health exerted by our food consumption, even anxiety and depression can be effected by our diet. In particular, of the vital and nourishing micro nutrients, cholesterol is especially protective of brain function. One famous study called the Framingham Heart Study found that those with low serum cholesterol performed less well on cognitive function tests than their counterparts with borderline or high cholesterol levels. We can infer from this correlation that cholesterol does seem to have a protective effect on the brain. Additionally, when we note that their are ramifications for those who take statin drugs to lower their cholesterol. One known side effect of statin drugs are problems with memory and cognition.
What should I eat?
The good news is that it’s easy to start enjoying the benefits of a high fat, low carbohydrate diet. It’s important to limit grains and legumes to maintain the benefits. It is best to try to aim for only about 60 grams of carbohydrates a day. Along with unlimited non-starchy vegetables (think asparagus, cauliflower, broccoli, kale, swiss chard and spinach) and low sugar fruits (grapefruits, oranges, apples, berries, melon, pears, cherries, grapes, kiwis, plums, peaches and nectarines), enjoy ample amounts of these ‘good or healthy fats’ which are foods which will accelerate health and allow you to experience the benefits of a high fat diet:
- Grass fed beef and lamb
- Free range chicken
- Cage free eggs
- Cold pressed oils (walnut, olive, avocado, coconut, and palm)
- Grass fed butter
- Cold water fish (salmon, shrimp, sardines and tuna)
- Nuts (walnut, cashews, macadamia and almonds)
- Cheese (Gruyere, goat cheese, feta cheese, and mozzarella)
Sample One Day Meal Plan*
2 scrambled eggs with 1 oz. goat cheese cheese and stir fried veggies (onions, mushrooms, spinach and red bell pepper)
4 oz. baked chicken or canned tuna with a side of leafy greens dressed in balsamic and olive oil
3 oz. grass fed steak with a side of roasted broccoli and mashed cauliflower
3 squares of 70% dark chocolate
*Adapted from Dr. David Perlmutter’s book Grain Brain
So go ahead and give it a try, of course one should always consult either your PCP or a dietitian or nutritionist before making any changes to your diet, this is especially true if you have preexisting health conditions.
In good health and wellness,
Liz Mckinney, CNS, LDN
Certified Nutritionist, Licensed Dietary Nutritionist for The Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh
Providing good health and wellness to Western Pennsylvania.
Liz provides nutrition counseling in both our Pittsburgh and Monroeville Locations
Accepting Self paying clients, Out of Network, and Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield.
Anti-Inflammatory Diet – Including Meal Plan by Licensed Nutrition Counselor, Liz Mckinney, CNS, LDN.
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghAugust 7, 2018 anti-inflammatory diet, chronic inflammation, diabetes, medicine, nutrition, Uncategorized, Wijkstrom0 comments
Anti-Inflammatory Diet, What it is, What it Does and Including a Meal Plan by Licensed Nutrition Counselor, Liz Mckinney, CNS, LDN.
Every standard anatomy course covers a section on inflammation, health circles and modern medicine studies how this physiological process effects our bodies. Modern science has uncovered much evidence related to how our dietary consumption fuels our internal inflammation. To understand inflammation, let’s talk what about what inflammation really is. Inflammation is a normal part of our body’s healing process. Think of the redness, pain and swelling that comes along with an acute injury. These are bio-markers that our white blood cells are migrating to the origin of a wound, when the white blood cells arrive they will unfold to facilitate the healing process. This mechanism is a normal and necessary indication that our immune response is hard at work. But what happens when our immune systems are working over time in a way we can’t see? This is a part of what is termed ‘chronic inflammation’, and our diet definitely plays a large role in both calming it down or conversely, throwing fuel on the flames.
Chronic inflammation is a contributing factor to many common diseases in the U.S today. Obesity, heart disease, and Type 2 Diabetes are some common diseases to which inflammation contributes to the onset and progression (Lopez-Condelez 2017). Additionally, according to a 2018 study Dr. Billmore et, al, which was published in Nature, there is also evidence that inflammation may contribute to certain forms of depression as well as aiding in the development and progression of this mental health disease, inflammation is also being study as a contributing factor in the development of other mood disorders. Of course diet alone can not provide total therapy for depression or disease but it is an important pathway to providing our best course to become well.
The fact is when our immune system becomes chronically activated, low-grade, systemic inflammation occurs. Even if you aren’t suffering from an overt disease, things like stress, leaky gut, food sensitivities and even an imbalance in our gut micro-biome all are capable of pushing our bodies into an inflammatory state. The consequences of chronic inflammation are serious. Increased risk of neuro-degenerative and cardiovascular disease, trouble losing weight, digestive problems, hormonal imbalances, and cellular damage may all occur as a result.
Our food choices can either promote or calm inflammation. Many of the diseases and problems listed above may be prevented or mitigated with an anti-inflammatory diet. The top foods that commonly contribute to chronic inflammation in the standard American diet are:
- Refined grains (bread, crackers, cookies, cakes, snack foods)
- Dairy (all cow dairy products including milk, ice cream, and yogurt
- Sugar (table sugar, high fructose corn syrup, sugar alcohols or artificial sweeteners)
- Vegetable oils (Canola, Corn, Safflower, Sunflower and Rapeseed oils)
- Trans fat (Margarine, peanut butter, mayonnaise, packaged snacks)
- Conventional/commercially raised meat
- Alcohol (More than 1 drink per day for women and 2 for men)
- Food additives (MSG, artificial flavors and food dyes)
On the flip side, nourishing foods can also accelerate healing in the body and prevent the inflammatory cascade from becoming chronic. For whole body health and wellness, add these anti-inflammatory foods into your daily diet:
- Fatty fish (Halibut, salmon, sardines, trout)
- Coconut oil
- Olive oil
- Vegetables (Any and all kinds!)
- Chia seeds
- Flax seeds
- Grass-fed animal meats
We know that one of the barriers to incorporating dietary changes is that we simply don’t know where to begin. As an added bonus, we will share an example one-day meal plan, made by a certified and licensed Nutrition Counselor, Liz Mckinney, by using this plan, you can jump start your anti-inflammatory diet today!
- 2 scrambled eggs with sautéed spinach, mushrooms and garlic
- ½ avocado
- 2 cups mixed greens with 4 oz. salmon or chicken and walnuts with a turmeric ginger dressing (Juice from 2 large organic lemons, approximately 1/4 cup of fresh juice, 1″ fresh ginger, skin removed, 1 garlic clove, 2 teaspoon ground turmeric, 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, Salt to taste – Blend in food processor)
- Sautéed lemon pepper shrimp over zucchini “noodles” sautéed in olive oil with salt and pepper
- 70% or greater dark chocolate, almonds/walnuts, rice cake with mashed avocado, hard boiled egg with spicy mustard, cut up veggies with hummus or another home made veggie dip
Additionally, by working with a licensed nutritionist or dietitian to identify food sensitivities, heal leaky gut, balance your gut micro-biome, eradicating bacterial overgrowth, and implementing a stress reduction plan into your daily life, your wellness, emotional, and physical health can be optimized. As always, wellness routines that include yoga, meditation, mindfulness, progressive muscle relaxation, spending time in nature, or deep breathing are all proven techniques to increase resilience to stress.
Blog article is written by Liz Mckinney, CNS, Liz is the licensed and certified nutritionist for the Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh, Liz can provide nutrition counseling near you, now accepting new patients in Western Pennsylvania.
edited, by Stephanie Wijkstrom, MS, LPC, NCCLearn More
28 Foods to Decrease Anxiety and Depression & Enhance Positive Moods
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghJuly 31, 2018 food for anxiety, food for depression, food for mood0 comments
Food & Mood Series by Liz Mckinney, CNS, Board Certified Nutritionist
“It is both compelling and daunting to consider that dietary intervention at an individual or population level could reduce rates of psychiatric disorders. There are exciting implications for clinical care, public health, and research” – editorial in the American Journal of Psychiatry https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.ajp.2009.09060881
Mood imbalances like depression and anxiety are on the rise in the U.S. In 2016, the National Institute for Mental Health estimated that 16.2 million Americans have experienced at least one major depressive episode and 42 million have an anxiety disorder of some kind. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression/index.shtml Additionally, depression is the leading cause of disability globally. Traditionally, depression and anxiety are viewed as being caused by chemical imbalances, due to under production of our feel good neurotransmitters like dopamine, GABA, and serotonin. Lets explore how food is related to emotional health and how we can put ourselves at risk for developing anxiety or depression with our diet, as well as the good news of how diet can increase of mood, energy, and all around wellness.
So what factors contribute to a drop in the production of neurotransmitters? Biologically, this question has a multi-tiered answer. First, genetics and epigenetics (namely, how our environmental exposures affect which of our genes become activated) certainly play a role in a person’s proclivity towards depression and anxiety. For example, a common genetic mutation called MTHFR has a big impact in how we activate the B vitamin folate in our cells. Those with this genetic mutation are more prone to depression because of folate’s role in making serotonin. But, we know that our genetics don’t tell the whole story. The second factor influencing the expression of our genes, are our mental and emotional stressors or triggers, this is the part that can be effected by our social supports and reduced with therapy. Social factors and cognitive perceptions contribute significantly to the onset of these common mood disorders.
The Standard American Diet, which is low in fiber, healthy fats and protein and packed full of cheap, convenient sugar laden foods means we have less of the amino acid building blocks we need to make GABA, serotonin, and dopamine. A second issue to consider is that poor gut health is directly linked to worsened mood disorders thanks to the two-way gut-brain connection. Intake of processed snack foods packed with sugar, flour, and trans fat are like pouring gasoline on the fire and promote overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria and yeast in our gut where up to 80% of our body’s serotonin is produced. Eating poor quality proteins or simply not enough further compound the issue because proteins are the building blocks for these important compounds that keep our moods stable. Grain fed, factory farmed eggs and meats and genetically modified crops are not only loaded with toxins and pesticides that alter our microbiomes, they serve to ramp up that low grade chronic inflammation. Finally, fiber intake has never been lower thanks to the standard American diet. Fiber rich foods serve as probiotics that feed the beneficial bacteria in our large intestine. Without fuel, the good “bugs” are more likely to die off, leaving room for the pathogenic species to flourish. Our bacteria send signals to our brains, so we want our good bacteria to dominate and send signals that promote brain health, not cause further chemical imbalances and inflammation.
Now time for the empowering news! The food we eat can also improve mood, and decrease symptoms of depression and anxiety. Food can be a kind of internal therapy, by nourishing organs, healing of stomach linings and then increasing energy and brain health, they have a huge impact on decreasing ones susceptibility to relapsing from mental health disorders.
- High quality proteins
- Cage-free Eggs
- Grass-fed Beef and
- Chicken raised without growth hormones or antibiotics.
Vegan or vegetarian
- Non-GMO soy
- Vegetable proteins like legumes, pea chia, or hemp.
- Fermented foods like kefir, kombucha, or sauerkraut which contain live organisms that populate the microbiome with beneficial bacteria.
The above mentioned foods promote emotional and physical health by keeping the gut happy and healthy. As a word of caution, avoid processed, packaged snack foods at all costs and focus on whole, unprocessed foods like promote a good mood. Here are some more delicious options to add to your daily diet that calm inflammation and support mood:
- Dark Chocolate (70% or darker)
- Vitamin B rich foods – eggs, raw dairy, grass fed beef, and organic chicken and turkey, leafy greens like kale or Swiss chard, and bananas
- Red, Purple, and Blue Berries – Contain Vitamin C and other antioxidants
- Omega 3s – wild caught fatty fish (2 servings weekly), walnuts and flax seed
- Coconut oil
As a final note, understanding mood disorders is complex and the underlying factors multi-tiered. Everyone is unique and requires and individualized approach that takes into account genetics and epigenetics, mental and emotional health and diet and lifestyle. When all three are addressed, we are better able to address mood disorders and provide the best outcomes. If you want to learn more about health enhancing diets and what foods can support emotional and physical health, meet with a board certified and licensed nutritionist, our nutritionist, Liz Mckinney, CNS accepts Aetna and Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance as well as self paying clients.