Monthly Archives: December 2009

ABCDEs of Trauma Care for the Soul

Learn the ABCDEs of Trauma Care for the Soul

Competency # 22  Social Wellness and Friendship

Reference:  Sonya Lyubomirsky, The How of Happiness; James Pennebaker, Psychological Science: 8: 162-66

Have you had a stressful year?  Are you looking forward to the year ahead with a bit of dread?  Do you wish you could just get that trauma behind you so that you could move on?  Do you find your brain going back and forth to old hurts and playing that tune all over again?  Do you find a memory that surges up every time you pass the same place, see the same person, do the same task?   Well, then you are just like the rest of us.  Each of us has these events, and we share them with no one.   They hurt too badly to open up.  And so they never go away.  Our brain cycles through the same pattern of negative thinking again and again.  The neural pathways get reinforced.  We begin to believe it more and more.

Did you know there are specific methods you can use that can allow you to face that trauma and intentionally back it down?  You can stand up to it.  What better start for a New Year!  Emotional Trauma Care: the ABCs, or actually, the ABCDEs.   ABCs in medicine refers to Airway, Breathing, Circulation.  Those are the first three steps of CPR for the body.  Let’s do CPR for your soul.

James Pennebaker has done some groundbreaking research about how to cure your self of old hurts and traumas.  Each of us has them, hidden away.  As we face the beginning of New Year and think about what we want to do, the first step might be getting past what held us up last year.  What Pennebaker found over many years of research is that sitting down, organizing your thoughts enough to write about your personal block, or trauma, or hurt is very helpful in fixing you.  Something strange and wonderful works in the writing down process.  Here are the ABCDEs.

A.Adversity.  What got to you this last year?  What hurt?  What really bothered you?  Your friends don’t respond to your invitations?  Your boss forget to include you in…

B.Belief.  Some personal negative belief got triggered.  What was uncovered by that hurt?  Who dislikes you?  What part of you makes you feel unloved?  What insecurity got unwrapped?  You weigh too much?  You crack jokes that are in poor taste?  You are boring?

C.Consequence:  What happened as a result of the event and your feelings?

D.Dispute It!  Think of other reasons for the problem.  Make a list.  Look at it through your friend’s eyes.  Come up with some  good reasons, but not including yourself as part of the reason.

E.Energize yourself. Think of the most optimistic reasons that leave you in a good light.

The miracle happens in the “dispute.”  You break your own cycle of negative thoughts.  Your brain starts making new channels of thinking.  You give yourself new talking points you had never thought of before.

No kidding.  This really works.  Try it.  Research shows that folks who spend 15 minutes for 5 days in a row in the exercise have some amazing things happen to them.  Over the next months, people who do the exercise visit doctors less, report less depression, obtain higher grades, are more likely to find new and better jobs.   They even show improved immune function.  This is almost as good as the unconditional love of a mother who loves you regardless of what you did in kindergarten when you spilled the paints and the teacher yelled at you.

WWW:  What will work for me?  This works.  I’ve done it several times now.  It’s kind of spooky to feel yourself looking at yourself from the outside and arguing on your behalf.  My own experience is that I’ve accepted me for being fallible and found myself admitting that I need to work on something.  But that was progress for me in and of myself.  I had a plan.  Not an easy one, but a plan.  And for that, I felt huge relief and optimism.  This is part of the path to happiness.  Thank you authors, Sonya and Jim.

Vitamin B12 and Your Brain

Topic: Vitamin B12 and Your Brain

Competency:  #15 Vital Vitamins

Reference: Neurology Sept 2008, Sept 9, (11) p 826.

If you take 107 healthy adults with no dementia, ages 61 to 87 and measure their ability to think, reason, remember (AKA: cognitive ability) and compare that to their B12, folate and homocysteine levels over the next five years, you will find a very interesting relationship.  Those folks whose B12 is in the bottom third of serum B12 will have a six times higher risk of “cognitive decline” over just five years compared to the folks whose B12 is in the top two thirds.   Ouch.  Six times.  We need to focus on B12 here.  Why do we get in trouble so easily?  What’s going on and is there any hope for us.

B12 is the biggest of the vitamins, making it the hardest to absorb.  We absorb it through our stomachs, but it takes a special substance called “Intrinsic Factor” to absorb it.  As we age, we naturally make less.  In addition, unknown to most of you, the use of all those wonderful proton pump inhibitors (the most commonly prescribed drugs in America) severely inhibit the absorption of B12.   Hence, if you are a bit older and happen to be on Prilosec (Aciphex, Protonix, Nexium) you may be at risk for B12 deficiency.  Just what is deficient?

Here is the interesting conundrum.  The sickness model says you have enough B12 if your blood level is over 100 picograms.  But OPTIMAL is really 400 picograms.  There is a lot of real estate between disease state and optimal.  Considering that about 40% of Americans are “insufficient” and as many as 20% of folks over 65 are severely deficient, B12 deficiency becomes one of the most serious public health problems of the elderly, and one of the leading causes of “cognitive decline.”

Is there any good news?  Well, yes.  You can see your physician and get a blood test and get B12 shots if you are low.  Shots make sure you get it in you, even if you are older, have a lousy tummy and are on a proton pump inhibitor.  So, add that to your list of questions to ask your doctor.  You can also now absorb it through “passive diffusion”, even without intrinsic factor.  New supplements are coming onto the market place with unique and innovative cofactors that bind B12 and help transport it into your blood.  This transport agent called SNAC (sodium N-[8-2-hydroxybenzoyl amino]caprylate) increases passive absorption by as much as 10 fold.  AND, if we keep up with your B12, we can even reverse some of the neurological symptoms of deficiency.  Isn’t that smart!

WWW.  What will work for me?  B12 deficiency is one of those secret hidden causes of cognitive decline we are all at risk for.  Rather than waiting till you get sick, think about a B12 strategy and to talk to your doctor about it.  A supplement of B12 with SNAC sounds like a cheap insurance policy to me.  Let’s go for the optimal model instead of the sickness model.  Learn your B12 serum level number.

“Drop Kick My Genes Through the Goal Posts of Life” – Telomeres

Running with Telomeres: or “Drop Kick My Genes Through the Goal Posts of Life”

Reference: Circulation De 2009 Werner P 2438

Competency:  Exercise

Telomeres are the ends of your DNA.  They are made up by a bunch of nonsense DNA, as far as we know, on the end of each chromosome.  You actually have a complex of proteins and enzymes bound up with that DNA that help protect them from degradation.  Here is what happens.  Every time a cell divides and the chromosome has to duplicate itself, the telomere gets a wee bit shorter.  And shorter, and shorter.   When they get too short, you die.  Short telomeres are not formulas for healthy living.   The whole field of anti-aging medicine can be summarized down to all the strategies that keep your telomeres healthy and long.

Telomeres and all their associated regulatory proteins compose what’s called a “t-loop structure” at both ends of our chromosomes that protect it from degradation

during cell divisions.   There is an enzyme called telomerase with a catalytic protein subunit telomerase reverse transcriptase (TERT) that make up the majority of the telomere complex.  Other important proteins in the “t loop” are the telomere repeat-binding factors (TRFs), which interact with telomere associated proteins and serve as binding platforms.

What Dr. Werner was able to demonstrate is that exercising mice on running wheels up-regulates the activity of their telomere stabilizing proteins in their blood vessel wall and in white blood cells.  The mechanism that did that was the increase in nitric oxide that subsequently protects against the normal signals for cells to go through natural cell death, called apoptosis.  So, the cells live longer.  In mice they could show this effect in just three weeks.  Then, the research team looked at human athletes and their white blood cells.  Since they had demonstrated that white cells have the same activity as the blood vessel lining cells, the changes could be observed with just a blood test of white cells.  Presto, chango!  Exercise does it in humans too!

This is neat.  We are now getting down to the real nitty gritty of mechanisms about how exercise really works.  It is magic bullet #2, in my book.  (Love remains #1).   And now we know why.  It’s not just those crazy exercisers who are out there telling you how wonderful it is to get out and suffer pain when you would rather be watching the tube and eating popcorn.  It’s your own genes that are happily keeping their telomeres protected when you exercise, and that gives you the bonus of having more days added to your total life span.

WWW.   What Will Work for Me?  Exercise is a particularly hard one to fit in.  With help and companionship, I’m gradually making it a real habit.  Maybe if I do a visual  here as my telomeres being the goalposts on the playing field of life.  And every time I exercise, it’s like a drop kick through the goal posts and a SCORE!  Remember the horrible old song, “Drop Kick me Jesus, through the goal posts of life”?  We found the goal posts!