depression

Do you ever struggle with things like distraction, insomnia, easy weight gain or energy crashes? I sure have, at various times. From talking to lots of people about their health, I’ve realized probably all of us have these symptoms to some degree. I’ll explain how your mind can be a trigger of many of these symptoms and how you can help it work better.

I’ve proposed that most of our modern symptoms can be traced back to the stress response. This response was a good thing when we lived like cavemen and cavewomen, but in the modern world, it gets set off far too often in situations in which it is no longer helpful. If we can keep this stress response in check, we will feel happier, have better relationships and fewer health issues.

As hard as we try to manage the many events around us, our mind alone can be one of the biggest triggers of the stress response.

It’s Normal To Be Fearful

Imagine your great, great, great (1,000 more greats) grandmother roughly 20,000 years ago. She is fast asleep near a fire when she hears a branch break from the dark forest nearby. She could assume it was something harmless (like the wind) and go back to sleep, or she could feel fear and panic and alert the rest of her tribe to a possible predator.

Those who panicked easily felt more stress, but also survived better and produced easily-panicked offspring, like us.

Mark Twain said:

I . . . have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.

It is important to realize that all of our minds are fearful. This is normal. The moment we are free of distraction or habit, our minds start trying to figure out around which corner the next danger might be lurking. These imagined fears can turn on the stress response, even when they are fleeting or below the level of awareness.

Sometimes these fears are so strong that they break into the surface of our awareness in the form of annoying and intrusive thoughts:

  • “That will never work.”
  • “They are going to laugh at me.”
  • “Who are you trying to kid?”
  • “I can’t stand the way my hair looks.”
  • “Wow, the last thing I said really sounded stupid.”

When I was in college, I needed to have roommates in order to pay the rent. As annoying as some of them were, none were as annoying as the daily, self-chatter I heard from my own mind.

The Present Moment

The more focused your mind is in the present, the less it can upset you with unwelcome, possible, future scenarios. As we move through the day, our minds will become more and more detached from the present.

You may have heard that spending hours a day, for decades, on meditation can help calm this internal chatter. I’ve trained in many types of meditation over the years. Some seemed as complex as I imagine brain surgery would be and took over an hour each day to do properly. My best intentions and discipline would carry me along for some time in these practices, but inevitably, life and my other interests would get in the way, so I’d soon be off track. Maybe you have gone through this pattern with meditation also.

The good news is we now know it doesn’t take heroic efforts to get major benefits. By doing nothing more than lying down and resting for a few minutes, you can transform your mind and lower your stress response. You’ll feel more alert and energized, better focused on your goals, have fewer headaches, less digestive symptoms and sleep better.

A Simple Technique

Try this crazy, simple technique for just five minutes each morning for the next week, and see how you feel:

  1. Set a timer for five minutes.
  2. Lie on your back.
  3. Focus your eyes on a spot on the ceiling.
  4. Count each time you breathe in.
  5. If you lose count, start over.

When the timer goes off, you’re finished. That’s it.

It Really Does Work!

In my clinic, I’ve seen that this simple technique lowers anxiety scores and improves the measured levels of stress hormones, sleep and short-term memory. Some people see benefits in the first few days!

The reason this works is because it trains your mind to stay present through thinking about your breath and visually watching a fixed point. It is brief enough that you don’t get antsy and agitated, as many can during prolonged, formal meditation. By having your eyes open, it also keeps your mind from wandering as easily.

I challenge you to test it for just two weeks. Watch the nature of your mental chatter as you go along, and see if it improves. You might be surprised how much better you feel when you don’t have to deal with so many of what Mark Twain called, “the troubles that never happened.”

Menopause and Sex Life. Not two words you necessarily associate together but actually, the menopause can have a profound effect on your sex life, and not in a good way.

If you’ve had a healthy sex drive up to this phase of your life, it can make you feel under pressure to continue your sex life at the same level as before. Unfortunately, your body has other ideas! For a lot of women, they just feel too tired and then guilty at the fact you’re saying ‘not tonight’ again.

Be assured though, it’s totally normal to not feel in the mood!

Your ovaries stop producing oestrogen which can cause vaginal dryness and make sex painful and difficult, and over time lessen your desire as it just feels too much like hard work.

Hot flushes and night sweats also don’t exactly put you in the mood and make bedtime a sexy place to be! And the weight you’ve gained is seriously affecting your confidence and making you feel pretty rubbish.

Add to that a dip in your testosterone levels, which plays a key role in a woman’s sex drive and sexual sensation, and you can understand why so many women in their 40’s and 50’s have a reduced sex drive. Especially as our sexual desires naturally decline with age anyway.

The good news is you don’t just have to suffer through and accept this as your lot!

There are things you can do to help boost your sex drive and put you in the mood.

Here are few tips:

1. Diet. Certain foods have been found to increase libido:

– Magnesium rich foods including green leafy vegetables, beans and pulses boost levels of your sex hormones.

– Phytoestrogens such as flaxseeds and soybeans naturally mimic oestrogen in your body and increase your sex drive

– Spinach, garlic and coconut, can help boost your testosterone levels which affect your libido

2. Herbs can also be beneficial in helping to boost your libido, including ginseng which helps to boost testosterone, ashwaganda increases blood flow to the clitoris and other female sexual organs and maca root helps to balance hormones and improve sexual experiences and satisfaction.

3. If the feeling is more psychological, due to low mood and a lack of confidence in yourself, then talking about it can really help. Whether that is to your partner, a friend or a health practitioner, know that it is really common and you are not alone.

4. Building strong emotional bonds with your partner, doing things like holding hands, talking and cuddling can help build connection and intimacy with your partner, and put you in the mood.

5. Lubricants can make sex easier and more enjoyable. Go for a water-based one as the most natural way to increase moisture and maintain your vagina’s natural PH.

6. Exercise helps by boosting stamina and strength, which in turn increases your confidence and sex drive. Go for a walk, join a dance class, just do something that you enjoy!

So it is just another natural and normal phase of life and, if you follow the above tips, you can work with it!

Deciding that you are now ready to quit smoking is only half the battle. Knowing where to start on your path to becoming smoke-free can help you to take the leap. We have put together some effective ways for you to stop smoking today.

Tobacco use and exposure to second-hand smoke are responsible for more than 480,000 deathseach year in the United States, according to the American Lung Association.

Most people are aware of the numerous health risks that arise from cigarette smoking and yet, “tobacco use continues to be the leading cause of preventable death and disease” in the U.S.

Quitting smoking is not a single event that happens on one day; it is a journey. By quitting, you will improve your health and the quality and duration of your life, as well as the lives of those around you.

To quit smoking, you not only need to alter your behavior and cope with the withdrawal symptoms experienced from cutting out nicotine, but you also need to find other ways to manage your moods.

With the right game plan, you can break free from nicotine addiction and kick the habit for good. Here are five ways to tackle smoking cessation.

1. Prepare for quit day

Once you have decided to stop smoking, you are ready to set a quit date. Pick a day that is not too far in the future (so that you do not change your mind), but which gives you enough time to prepare.

broken cigarette on a calendar
Choose your quit date and prepare to stop smoking altogether on that day.

There are several ways to stop smoking, but ultimately, you need to decide whether you are going to:

  • quit abruptly, or continue smoking right up until your quit date and then stop
  • quit gradually, or reduce your cigarette intake slowly until your quit date and then stop

Research that compared abrupt quitting with reducing smoking found that neither produced superior quit rates over the other, so choose the method that best suits you.

Here are some tips recommended by the American Cancer Society to help you to prepare for your quit date:

  • Tell friends, family, and co-workers about your quit date.
  • Throw away all cigarettes and ashtrays.
  • Decide whether you are going to go “cold turkey” or use nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) or other medicines.
  • If you plan to attend a stop-smoking group, sign up now.
  • Stock up on oral substitutes, such as hard candy, sugarless gum, carrot sticks, coffee stirrers, straws, and toothpicks.
  • Set up a support system, such as a family member that has successfully quit and is happy to help you.
  • Ask friends and family who smoke to not smoke around you.
  • If you have tried to quit before, think about what worked and what did not.

Daily activities – such as getting up in the morning, finishing a meal, and taking a coffee break – can often trigger your urge to smoke a cigarette. But breaking the association between the trigger and smoking is a good way to help you to fight the urge to smoke.

On your quit day:

  • Do not smoke at all.
  • Stay busy.
  • Begin use of your NRT if you have chosen to use one.
  • Attend a stop-smoking group or follow a self-help plan.
  • Drink more water and juice.
  • Drink less or no alcohol.
  • Avoid individuals who are smoking.
  • Avoid situations wherein you have a strong urge to smoke.

You will almost certainly feel the urge to smoke many times during your quit day, but it will pass. The following actions may help you to battle the urge to smoke:

  • Delay until the craving passes. The urge to smoke often comes and goes within 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Deep breathe. Breathe in slowly through your nose for a count of three and exhale through your mouth for a count of three. Visualize your lungs filling with fresh air.
  • Drink water sip by sip to beat the craving.
  • Do something else to distract yourself. Perhaps go for a walk.

Remembering the four Ds can often help you to move beyond your urge to light up.

2. Use NRTs

Going cold turkey, or quitting smoking without the help of NRT, medication, or therapy, is a popular way to give up smoking. However, only around 6 percent of these quit attempts are successful. It is easy to underestimate how powerful nicotine dependence really is.

nicotine gum in a packet
NRTs can help you to fight the withdrawal symptoms associated with quitting smoking.

NRT can reduce the cravings and withdrawal symptoms you experience that may hinder your attempt to give up smoking. NRTs are designed to wean your body off cigarettes and supply you with a controlled dose of nicotine while sparing you from exposure to other chemicals found in tobacco.

The U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have approved five types of NRT:

  • skin patches
  • chewing gum
  • lozenges
  • nasal spray (prescription only)
  • inhaler (prescription only)

If you have decided to go down the NRT route, discuss your dose with a healthcare professional before you quit smoking. Remember that while you will be more likely to quit smoking using NRT, the goal is to end your addiction to nicotine altogether, and not just to quit tobacco.

Contact your healthcare professional if you experience dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, fast or irregular heartbeat, mouth problems, or skin swelling while using these products.

3. Consider non-nicotine medications

The FDA has approved two non-nicotine-containing drugs to help smokers quit. These are bupropion (Zyban) and varenicline (Chantix).

white tablets falling from a container
Bupropion and varenicline are non-nicotine medications that may help to reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

Talk to your healthcare provider if you feel that you would like to try one of these to help you to stop smoking, as you will need a prescription.

Bupropion acts on chemicals in the brain that plays a role in nicotine craving and reduces cravings and symptoms of nicotine withdrawal. Bupropion is taken in tablet form for 12 weeks, but if you have successfully quit smoking in that time, you can use it for a further 3 to 6 months to reduce the risk of smoking relapse.

Varenicline interferes with the nicotine receptors in the brain, which results in reducing the pleasure that you get from tobacco use, and decreases nicotine withdrawal symptoms. Varenicline is used for 12 weeks, but again, if you have successfully kicked the habit, then you can use the drug for another 12 weeks to reduce smoking relapse risk.

Risks involved with using these drugs include behavioural changes, depressed mood, aggression, hostility, and suicidal thoughts or actions.

4. Seek behavioural support

The emotional and physical dependence you have on smoking makes it challenging to stay away from nicotine after your quit day. To quit, you need to tackle this dependence. Trying counselling services, self-help materials, and support services can help you to get through this time. As your physical symptoms get better over time, so will your emotional ones.

group of people at support meeting
Individual counselling or support groups can improve your chances of long-term smoking cessation.

Combining medication – such as NRT, bupropion, and varenicline – with behavioural support has been demonstrated to increase the chances of long-term smoking cessation by up to 25 percent.

Behavioral support can range from written information and advice to group therapy or individual counselling in person, by phone, or online. Self-help materials likely increase quit rates compared with no support at all, but overall, individual counseling is the most effective behavioral support method.

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) provide help to anyone who wants to stop smoking through their support services:

  • LiveHelp online chat
  • Smoke-free website
  • SmokefreeTXT text messaging service
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Instagram

Support groups, such as Nicotine Anonymous (NicA), can prove useful too. Nica applies the 12-step process of Alcoholics Anonymous to tobacco addiction. You can find your nearest NicA group using their website.

5. Try alternative therapies

Some people find alternative therapies useful to help them to quit smoking, but there is currently no strong evidence that any of these will improve your chances of becoming smoke-free, and, in some cases, these methods may actually cause the person to smoke more.

Some alternative methods to help you to stop smoking might include:

man comparing e-cigarette and cigarettes
E-cigarettes have had some promising research results in helping with smoking cessation.
  • filters
  • smoking deterrents
  • electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes)
  • tobacco strips and sticks
  • nicotine drinks, lollipops, straws, and lip balms
  • hypnosis
  • acupuncture
  • magnet therapy
  • cold laser therapy
  • Herbs and supplements
  • yoga, mindfulness, and meditation

E-cigarettes

E-cigarettes are not supposed to be sold as a quit smoking aid, but many people who smoke view them as a method to give up the habit.

E-cigarettes are a hot research topic at the moment. Studies have found that e-cigarettes are less addictive than cigarettes, that the rise in e-cigarette use has been linked with a significant increase in smoking cessation, and that established smokers who use e-cigarettes daily are more likely to quit smoking than people who have not tried e-cigarettes.

The gains from using e-cigarettes may not be risk-free. Studies have suggested that e-cigarettes are potentially as harmful as tobacco cigarettes in causing DNA damage and are linked to an increase in arterial stiffness, blood pressure, and heart rate.

Quitting smoking requires planning and commitment – not luck. Decide on a personal plan to stop tobacco use and make a commitment to stick to it.

Weigh up all your options and decide whether you are going to join a quit-smoking class, call a quitline, go to a support meeting, seek online support or self-help guidance, or use NRTs or medications. A combination of two or more of these methods will improve your chances of becoming smoke-free.

In order to create change, you have to make the decision that you want to change. Here are some of the tips that work for me and my clients; they can help you start living a healthier life right away.

1. Replace one “bad” with one “good.”

Every day, pick out one “bad” food and replace it with a “good” food. Instead of french fries at lunch, have a side salad or veggie. Instead of a cupcake and sugary coffee at 3PM, have a small fruit salad and a cup of tea. After you do this for a few days, start replacing two “bad” with two “good.” You’ll be eating healthier in no time!

2. Get strong.

When you strength train, your body continues to burn calories for the next 24-36 hours (as opposed to just cardio, where you only burn for that duration). Strength training is vital to keep muscles strong, stoke your metabolism and create a leaner body. Add at least two days a week of weight training or body resistance exercises to your routine. If you’re unsure how to begin, consider investing in a personal trainer for a few sessions to show you the ropes.

If that bag of Doritos isn’t there, you can’t eat that bag of Doritos. Clean out your fridge, clean out your cupboards and set yourself up for success. Stock up on healthier options when you shop for food.

4. Downsize.

Avoid getting to that ravenous “feed me” state where you can’t stop eating. Try eating six smaller, well-balanced mini-meals instead of three larger ones. Use a smaller plate, chew slowly and put your fork down between bites.

5. Go for exercise bursts.

You can achieve amazing results (without spending hours at the gym) with shorter, higher intensity “bursts”. Even 4-6 minutes burns calories, tones muscle and helps condition you like an athlete. Try for 2-4 bursts throughout the day at least 5 days a week.

6. Put the brakes on after dinner.

Try to identify why you’re reaching for those mindless munchies in the evening. Learning what the triggers are can help you stop. Are you bored? Is it just a habit? Did you not eat a healthy, balanced dinner? Try a cup of peppermint tea first and make sure you’re set up with healthier snack options.

7. Take your breathing seriously.

Our breath is our life. Health benefits when we do proper breathing include better digestion, better nervous system function and deeper relaxation. Be aware and tune into your breath throughout the day.

Sex has some awesome health benefits. It relieves stress, boosts immunity, strengthens your heart and can burn up to 140 calories per half hour. (That’s if you get really busy!) Keep the sex spark alive for your relationship as well as your health.

9. Manage stress in real time.

The effect of repetitive stress wreaks havoc as toxic hormones flood our body. Long ago, we needed this “flight or fight” mode to survive. Today this response is more likely due to everyday stresses like conflicts with a partner or rushing to complete a deadline.

When a stressful situation presents itself, remove yourself as quickly as possible. Use breathing to calm yourself, count to ten, go for a walk, do what you need to do to stay calm. Taking a few moments during the day to meditate helps “train” you to implement calming techniques you can draw upon when needed.

10. Create a bedtime ritual.

Just like our parents did for us and we do for our children, creating a simple bedtime routine ensures an easier time falling asleep, staying asleep and better quality sleep. Aim to retire at the same time every night. Turn off all screens and dim lights 1-2 hours before bedtime. Have a relaxing bath, listen to gentle music, massage lotion or oil onto your body and make yourself a cup of chamomile tea. You’ll help reduce stress (fighting that nasty belly fat), depression, decrease inflammation and you’ll look and feel better.

Set yourself up for success and view positive change as a gift to yourself, a way to acknowledge and honor your body, mind and spirit. Try some of these suggestions and kickstart your healthier life today.

When depressed, you may hear thoughts telling you to be alone, keep quiet and not to bother people with your problems. Again, these thoughts should be treated like parasites that try to keep your body from getting healthy. Do not listen to them. When you feel bad, even if you feel embarrassed, confiding in a friend or voicing your struggles can lighten your burden and begin a process of ending your unhappiness. Talking about your problems or worries is not a self-centered or self-pitying endeavor. Friends and family, especially those who care about you, will appreciate knowing what’s going on.

Even the simple act of putting yourself in a social atmosphere can lift your spirits. Go to a place where there are people who may have similar interests as you, or even to a public spot like a museum, park, or mall, where you could enjoy being amongst people. Never allow yourself to indulge in the thought that you are different from or less than anyone else. Everyone struggles at times, and your depression does not define who you are or single you out from others.

Get your heart rate up 20 minutes a day, five days a week, and it has been scientifically proven that you will feel better emotionally. Exercising releases neurochemicals called endorphins, which help to elevate your mood. Even just getting out of the house for a walk, a game of catch with your kids, or a trip to the gym is a medically proven method of improving the way you feel.

Feeling embarrassed or self-hating over your depression will only increase your symptoms and discourage you from seeking help. Your critical thoughts toward yourself will try to keep you down any way they can, including by attacking you for feeling down. It’s important to take your side and have compassion for yourself at those difficult times. You Talking is a powerful way of combating your depression. If you feel bad, don’t let anyone tell you it’s no big deal or that you’ll just get over it. There is nothing shameful about recognizing you have a problem you alone cannot seem to resolve and to seek the help of a therapist. Learning about the source of your pain can truly help alleviate its impact on your life by helping you to recognize and combat your critical inner voice.

Don’t listen to these attacks when they tell you not to pursue your goals, to isolate yourself. This gives the voice even more power over you. Instead, when you notice these thoughts and attitudes starting to intensify and take precedence over your more realistic, positive ways of thinking, it is essential to identify them.

Before taking the serious decision of taking medicines, faithfully try all the steps above, many people won this fight,you can do it too.

More and more people are fighting depression naturally today.

Mental health problems, like depression and anxiety, are experienced by more people worldwide than any other physical disorder. According to predictions from the World Health Organization, by 2020 depression will cause greater disability than any other mental or physical disorder.

This is a severe problem and it is common sense that we find effective solutions for these problems. To-day most mental health problems are treated with psychological and pharmacological interventions. The most common psychological treatments are known as cognitive-behavioural therapies (CBT), while antidepressants are the most common class of medication used to treat both depression and anxiety.

Other interventions are also effective, although not promoted as much as the previous mentioned treatments, including exercise, relaxation/ meditation, and sleep-based interventions. Herbs and nutrients are also often used to treat mental health problems, but there is doubt whether they actually work.

The following more commonly used natural supplements will be reviewed to see if there is actually any evidence to support their efficacy.

1. Omega-3 fish oils. There has been a substantial amount of research on the effects of fish oil, mostly in the area of depression, anxiety and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD ). The overall evidence suggests that fish oil is moderately effective for these conditions. In several meta-analyses, it had been confirmed that fish oil can improve depressive symptoms that occur in major depressive disorders and bipolar disorder. The most effective fish oils for mental health are those ones that contain greater concentration of EPA ( a type of omega-3 fat)

2. St John’s wort. This herb has always been very popular for the treatment of depression and there have been many good quality studies in several meta-analyses. St John’s wort has been shown to be effective for the treatment of depression. However, research on stress, ADHD and other mental health problems have not been so convincing. The major problem with St John’s wort is that it interacts with many medications.

3. Saffron. Positive studies on its effect on depression have increased over the last decade. Follow up studies have all confirmed that saffron is effective for the treatment of depression. In comparison with antidepressants such as Prozac and Trofanil, Saffron has proven to be as effective, but with less side effects. Although it is the most expensive spice in the world, only a small amount is needed, which makes the cost quite affordable (approx $30 – $40 a month). Another advantage is that in combination with pharmaceutical antidepressants, it was more effective than the antidepressant alone.

4. Rhodiola Rosea. This herb was originally used in Russia to enhance athletic performance. It was later discovered to be effective for stress, feelings of burnout, and depression. A few good quality European studies have indicated that Rhodiola is helpful for improving mood and seems to be particularly helpful for people with stress related fatigue. People who feel run-down, find it hard getting out of bed in the morning, lack motivation/drive, experience energy slumps in the afternoon, and feel quite flat, may also benefit from Rhodiola Natural practitioners often refer to this condition as ‘adrenal fatigue’.

5. Theanine. This is an amino acid derived from green tea and is claimed to help people experience a relaxed and calm state. Some good studies indicate that it can reduce levels of stress hormones in the body (e.g. cortisol) and can move people’s brain waves into ‘alpha’ states. Alpha brain waves are associated with relaxation and meditation. People with a mind that is constantly racing report positive effects from theanine. It has also shown to improve sleep in children with ADHD, and was even helpful for people with schizophrenia.

This is just a selection of herbs and nutrients with good research-based support for their mental health benefits. There are other options available, including s-adenosyl-methionine (SAME) for depression. Kava for anxiety, B-vitamins for stress, and glycine/magnesium for sleep.

In functional medicine, we believe that every system in the body is connected. Your digestive and hormonal systems, for example, aren’t independent of one another. At the center of it all is a properly functioning digestive system.

When your gut is unhealthy, it can cause more than just stomach pain, gas, bloating, or diarrhea. Because 60-80% of our immune system is located in our gut, gut imbalances have been linked to hormonal imbalances, autoimmune diseases, diabetes, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, anxiety, depression, eczema, rosacea, and other chronic health problems.

I believe the gut is the gateway to health, and the first step I take with all of my patients regardless of their diagnosis is to heal the gut. I use a system called The 4R Program, which is a simple approach to repairing your gut and restoring your body’s balance.

10 Signs You Have an Unhealthy Gut:

1. Digestive issues like bloating, gas, diarrhea

2. Food allergies or sensitivities

3. Anxiety

4. Depression

5. Mood swings, irritability

6. Skin problems like eczema, rosacea

8. Autoimmune disease

9. Frequent Infections

10. Poor memory and concentration, ADD or ADHD

The 4 R Program

1. Remove

Remove the bad. The goal is to get rid of things that negatively affect the environment of the gut, such as inflammatory foods, infections, and irritants like alcohol, caffeine, or drugs.

Inflammatory foods, such as gluten, dairy, corn, soy, eggs, and sugar, can lead to food sensitivities. I recommend an elimination diet as the starting point to identify which foods are problematic for you, in which you remove the foods for two weeks or more and then add them back in, one at a time, taking note of your body’s response.

Infections can be from parasites, yeast, or bacteria. A comprehensive stool analysis is key to determining the levels of good bacteria as well as any infections that may be present. Removing the infections may require treatment with herbs, anti-parasite medication, antifungal medication, antifungal supplements, or even antibiotics.

2. Replace

Replace the good. Add back in the essential ingredients for proper digestion and absorption that may have been depleted by diet, drugs (such as antacid medications) diseases or aging. This includes digestive enzymes, hydrochloric acid, and bile acids that are required for proper digestion.

3. Reinoculate

Restoring beneficial bacteria to reestablish a healthy balance of good bacteria is critical. This may be accomplished by taking a probiotic supplement that contains beneficial bacteria such as bifidobacteria and lactobacillus species. I recommend anywhere from 25 -100 billion units a day. Also, taking a prebiotic (food for the good bacteria) supplement or consuming foods high in soluble fiber is important.

4. Repair

Providing the nutrients necessary to help the gut repair itself is essential. One of my favourites supplements is L-glutamine, an amino acid that helps to rejuvenate the gut wall lining. Other key nutrients include zinc, omega-3 fish oils, vitamin A, C, and E, as well as herbs such as slippery elm and aloe vera.

No matter what your health issue is, the 4R program is sure to help you and your gut heal! I have witnessed dramatic reversal of chronic and inflammatory illnesses in a very short period of time by utilizing this simple approach.

Your choice of partner can affect your health in many ways, both positively and negatively. Anything from their exercise habits and working hours to their personality can have an impact on your well-being. We investigate the surprising ways that your significant other can affect your health.

Whether you are in a new relationship or a long-term one, newlyweds or celebrating your golden wedding anniversary, a same-sex couple or of the opposite sex, the time spent with your partner can influence your health outcomes.

Having a healthy relationship is not only rewarding, but it also significantly shapes our long-term health in a similar way to getting a good night’s sleep, eating healthfully, and not smoking. Studies have shown, time and time again, that people who are in satisfying relationships feel happier, have fewer problems with health, and live longer.

On the flip side, having unhealthy connections or a lack of social ties is linked to depression, cognitive decline, and an increased risk of premature death.

Here are some of the beneficial and detrimental effects that your relationship could have on your well-being.

Positive effects of a partner on health

Pain relief

woman in labor holding partner's hand
A partner’s touch has been found to relieve pain in women.

It is well known that people subconsciously synchronize their footsteps when they walk together or mirror a friend’s posture during a conversation.

Investigators from the University of Colorado, Boulder and the University of Haifa in Israel have now discovered that when heterosexual lovers touch when the woman is in pain, couples’ heart rates and respiratory patterns synchronize and the woman’s pain dissipates.

These findings add to a growing body of evidence on “interpersonal synchronization,” a phenomenon in which people begin to physiologically mirror those that they spend time with. “The more empathic the partner and the stronger the analgesic effect, the higher the synchronization between the two when they are touching,” explains lead author Pavel Goldstein, a postdoctoral pain researcher at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Help achieve healthy goals

Two heads are better than one when it comes to taking up healthy habits. Funded by Cancer Research UK, the British Heart Foundation, and the National Institute on Aging, scientists at University College London (UCL) in the United Kingdom revealed that if you want to swap bad habits for good, then you would be more successful if your partner also makes those changes.

Among women who smoked, the researchers found that 50 percent succeeded in quitting smokingif their partner gave up at the same time, compared with 17 percent whose partners were non-smokers already, and just 8 percent whose partners smoked regularly.

“Unhealthy lifestyles are a leading cause of death from chronic disease worldwide,” says study author Prof. Jane Wardle, director of Cancer Research UK’s Health Behaviour Research Centre at UCL. “The key lifestyle risks are smoking, excess weight, physical inactivity, poor diet, and alcohol consumption. Swapping bad habits for good ones can reduce the risk of disease, including cancer.”

Improve fitness

Echoing these findings, the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, MD, conducted research finding that improving your fitness could also improve the fitness of your spouse.

Couples were asked about their physical activity levels at two medical visits conducted around 6 years apart. On the first visit, if a wife met the recommended guidelines for physical activity, her husband was 70 percent more likely to also reach those targets at subsequent visits than those whose wives were less active.

Conversely, when a husband met recommended activity levels, his wife was 40 percent more likely to also achieve these levels at follow-up visits.

When it comes to physical fitness, the best peer pressure to get moving could be coming from the person who sits across from you at the breakfast table,” says co-author Laura Cobb, a doctoral student at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “There’s an epidemic of people in this country who don’t get enough exercise, and we should harness the power of the couple to ensure people are getting a healthy amount of physical activity.”

Alter microbiome

man standing in the shower
Microbial exchange with your partner can occur simply from walking on the same bathroom floor.

Researchers from the University of Waterloo in Canada found that couples who live together influence the microbiome – that is, the community of bacteria and other microbes – on each other’s skin.

Commonalities between couples’ skin microbiome were strong enough that computer algorithms could detect couples that cohabit with an accuracy of 86 percent.

Skin regions that were the most similar between partners were on the couples’ feet. “In hindsight, it makes sense,” says Prof. Josh Neufeld, of the Faculty of Science in the Department of Biology at the University of Waterloo. “You shower and walk on the same floor barefoot. This process likely serves as a form of microbial exchange with your partner, and also with your home itself.”

Improve physical and mental health

While analyzing whether or not relationships are good for your health, David and John Gallacher, from Cardiff University in the U.K., confirmed that long-term, committed relationships are good for physical and psychological health, and that these benefits increase over time.

On average, individuals who are married live longer; women have better mental health when they are in committed relationships, while men have better physical health when in a committed relationship. The study authors say, “On balance it probably is worth making the effort.”

Decrease risk of health conditions

Studies have shown that partners can also affect each other’s risk and development of disease.

woman and man arguing
Persistent nagging from your partner could slow down diabetes progression.

For example, a study by Michigan State University (MSU) in East Lansing deduced that for men who are in an unhappy marriage, the development of diabetes is slower and treatment is more successful once they are diagnosed.

The researchers said that wives who continuously regulate their husband’s health behaviors and who are seen as annoying and provoking hostility and emotional distress in the husbands could explain this finding.

The study challenges the traditional assumption that negative marital quality is always detrimental to health,” says lead investigator Hui Liu, an associate professor of sociology at MSU. “It also encourages family scholars to distinguish different sources and types of marital quality. Sometimes, nagging is caring.”

Researchers from the University of Michigan have also determined that having an optimistic spouse predicted fewer chronic illnesses and better mobility over time.

A growing body of research shows that the people in our social networks can have a profound influence on our health and well-being,” says lead study author Eric Kim, a doctoral student in the University of Michigan’s Department of Psychology. “This is the first study to show that someone else’s optimism could be impacting your own health.”

In other research, people who are happily wed are more than three times as likely to be alive 15 years after coronary bypass surgery as their unmarried counterparts. Married people also are less likely to have cardiovascular problems than individuals who are single, divorced, or widowed.

Adverse effects of a partner on health

Intensify pain

In contrast to the research that showed a partner’s touch decreases pain, a study by King’s College London in the U.K. found that being in the company of your partner could make pain worse.

The researchers found that the more avoidant of closeness women were in their relationships, the more pain they experienced when given a laser pulse on their finger.

Research led by the University of Edinburgh in the U.K. also found a connection between partners and pain. The team found that partners of individuals with depression have an increased risk of experiencing chronic pain.

The researchers’ analysis showed that depression and chronic pain share common causes. Some of these causes are genetic while others stem from the environment shared by the partners.

Derail your diet

healthy eating plan
Dieting with your partner could end up derailing your weight loss plans.

Dieting with your partner may seem to be a good idea, but research has indicated that among romantic couples, the more successful one partner is at restricting their diet and eating more healthfully, the less confident the other partner becomes at controlling their food portions.

When people strive to reach a goal, being close (in this case, romantically) with someone who is successfully reaching the same goal can make the other partner less confident in their own efforts to reach the goal,” explains Jennifer Jill Harman, an associate professor at Colorado State University in Fort Collins.

Facilitate weight gain

Marriage has been positively correlated with weight gain among couples. For example, lead researcher Andrea L. Meltzer – an assistant professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX – and collaborators unveiled that newlyweds who are satisfied with their marriage are more likely to gain weight in the early years of marriage than those who are unsatisfied.

“On average, spouses who were more satisfied with their marriage were less likely to consider leaving their marriage, and they gained more weight over time,” states Prof. Meltzer. “In contrast, couples who were less satisfied in their relationship tended to gain less weight over time.

Other research by the University of Bath’s School of Management in the U.K. showed that marriage makes men gain weight and that fatherhood exacerbates the problem further.

Increase risk of health conditions

In contrast with research signalling that your significant other can decrease your risk of certain health conditions, other studies show the reverse.

For example, the McGill University Health Centre in Canada has suggested that if someone has type 2 diabetes, their partner has a 26 percent increased risk of also developing the condition.

While spouses are not related biologically, they share the same environment, social habits, and eating and exercising patterns – all of which are factors that alter the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

“When we talk about family history of type 2 diabetes, we generally assume that the risk increase that clusters in families results from genetic factors. What our analyses demonstrate is that risk is shared by spouses,” says senior study author Kaberi Dasgupta, of the Research Institute at McGill University.

a couple sitting on the bed ignoring each other
Giving your spouse the silent treatment increases your risk of back pain and stiff muscles.

Furthermore, the way that you react to disagreements and argue with your partner could predict health problems later in life. The University of California, Berkeley, and Northwestern University in Evanston, IL, revealed that fits of rage during marital spats can predict cardiovascular problems, and shutting down and giving the silent treatment raises the risk of a bad back or stiff muscles.

“Conflict happens in every marriage, but people deal with it in different ways. Some of us explode with anger; some of us shut down,” says lead study author Claudia Haase, an assistant professor of human development and social policy at Northwestern University. “Our study shows that these different emotional behaviours can predict the development of different health problems in the long run.”

Research has also indicated that individuals may unintentionally worsen their partner’s insomnia. Moreover, other research found that inflammation markers rise in tired partners who argue.

Additionally, in older adults, researchers learned that the frailer an individual – a condition that affects around 10 percent of those aged 65 and over – the more likely it is that they will become depressed. Equally, the more depressed an older person is, the frailer they will become.

What is more, people married to frail spouses had an increased risk of becoming frail themselves, and those married to a depressed partner were also more likely to become depressed.

And interestingly, health changes influenced by a romantic partner do not necessarily end when they pass away.

Kyle Bourassa, a psychology doctoral student at the University of Arizona in Tucson, and colleagues found that couples’ qualities of life are linked even when one partner dies.

The people we care about continue to influence our quality of life even when they are gone. We found that a person’s quality of life is as interwoven with and dependent on their deceased spouse’s earlier quality of life as it is with a person they may see every day.

Kyle Bourassa

Bourassa says that even though we have lost the people we love, they remain with us. The research highlights how important relationships are for our health and well-being. However, he does say that the findings are cut both ways. “If a participant’s quality of life was low prior to his or her death, then this could take a negative toll on the partner’s later quality of life as well.”