December 17, 2014

Spice Up Your Memory

As we age, it's natural to experience forgetfulness.  Many will seek professional help, alarmed by the degree of what they eventually will be told is normal, expected memory loss.  Suggestions for improving and preserving your memory include challenging your brain with mentally stimulating activities, getting plenty of sleep, and exercise regularly.

Forget where you put your glasses?  Can't remember why you walked into a room?  Pretty typical experience as we age and not likely a reason to be concerned.  When should you seek a professional opinion?  When your "memory loss affects your ability to complete your usual daily activities," according to the Mayo Clinic.  Read their seven tips for improving your memory, here.  

We maybe can add a quick and rather simple step to enhance our memory.   The Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition has published a study, led by Meei-Shyuan Lee, which suggests that adding the spice tumeric to your food will help. A little less than a quarter teaspoon (one gram) worked for a group of people who experienced memory problems due to pre-diabetes.   

I can't remember if I own any tumeric, but if I do, I will add them to my personalized blend of chai tea spices. Not long ago I read that a variety of spices can provide health benefits. So I made up a little concoction of my own, using what I already had in my spice cabinet:  cardamom, cinnamon, cumin, and ginger.  Sprinkle on my tea and milk. Delicious.  And masks the bitterness of less expensive tea blends.  Not to mention, helps keep my spices fresh.   Because other than cumin in their TexMex and cinnamon on their sopapillas, my family wants no part of the more exotic spices I keep.

Disclaimer:  If you are considering adding any spices, herbs or supplements to your diet, please consult your physician or health care provider to be sure it is safe for you.  For more advice on seeking nutritional supplements as mental health aids, please check out my previous post for suggestions, here.

--Sandy Andrews, PhD
CBT Psychologist
Located in South Austin, Texas

December 10, 2014

Stress and Pain and "No Pain Pathways"

     If you experience pain on a daily basis and especially if you are in chronic pain (where chronic pain is defined as any pain lasting longer than 3 months) it is so important for you to learn as much as you can about how the brain responds to pain.  There is so much new information about pain, so much we are beginning to understand about how we experience pain, the role stress and earlier emotional wounds play in chronic pain and most importantlly, how we can learn to control pain.  I urge all of my pain patients to read and watch videos explaining what the experts now believe helps alleviate pain. But before we can control our pain we must first believe we can.

     Below is one such video that you can watch from your laptop or tablet or whatever device allows you to see videos.  Dr. Howard Schubiner is a board certified physician who works with chronic pain patients.  He is the founder and director of the Mind Body Medicine Program at Providence Hospital in Michigan.

     Dr. Schubiner describes two concepts related to pain:  pain that is a direct result of injury and pain caused by nerve pathways learned over time. These pain pathways are activated by fear, stress and various triggers. We also have what he calls no pain pathways.   Behavioral therapy is all about learning how to de-activate our pain pathways and activate our no pain pathways.
Imagine you are in pain somewhere in your body.  You are lying on your couch watching a really good movie.  There is a part of the movie that is so engrossing that your entire focus is on the story you are watching.  During this period of being highly focused you will probably notice that you are not aware of your pain.  What is happening then?  Dr. Schubiner would say that our no pain pathways are working and helping free us from our pain.

If you or a loved one suffers from chronic pain, watch the video so that you too can begin the process of learning to lessen your pain.

Want more?  More links to videos talking about chronic pain are listed below.  Please educate yourself and watch:

Understanding Pain and What to do about it in less than five minutes

A TED Talk by Elliot Krane The Mystery of Chronic Pain

Lorimer Mosely on The Brain and Chronic Pain   This is long but fascinating and funny.

Sandy Andrews, PhD is a Clinical Psychologist and Psychotherapist who practices CBT in Austin, Texas