Monthly Archives: December 2014

Gut Check on Parkinsons New Findings on BacteriaLevels

Via The Michael J. Fox Foundation

Posted by Rachel Dolhun, MD on Dec 8, 2014

“Listen to your gut” is common advice when faced with an important decision. Researchers are now heeding these words to gain further insights into Parkinson’s disease (PD).

The human digestive tract contains up to a thousand different types of bacteria, which help you digest  food, make vitamins and maintain your immune system. The amount of bacteria is influenced by diet, age and other variables, and is thus unique to each individual.

Filip Scheperjans, MD, PhD, and colleagues from the University of Helsinki, Finland examined the intestinal contents of 72 people with Parkinson’s and 72 without PD. Their research, funded by MJFF andpublished recently in Movement Disordersrevealed that people with Parkinson’s had lower levels of a certain bacterium and that concentrations of another bacterium varied among subgroups of those with PD with differing motor symptoms.

Intestines as a Window to the Brain
There is a clear effect of Parkinson’s disease on the gastrointestinal system. Nearly 80 percent of people with PD have constipation, and this condition often predates the motor symptoms of Parkinson’s by several years.

Additionally, alpha-synuclein — a protein that clumps in the brains of all people with Parkinson’s — has been found in several locations outside the brain, including the nerves controlling the intestines. Investigators question whether the abnormal protein could show up here first, causing non-motor symptoms, and later spread to the brain to cause motor symptoms.

Lastly, researchers believe the normal bacteria of the gut might affect the functioning of the gut nerves which could in turn affect the nerves of the brain.

Specific Bacterial Levels Are Affected in Parkinson’s Disease 
In Dr. Scheperjans’ study, the bacteria Prevotella was present at lower levels in the guts of people with Parkinson’s disease. This bacterium aids in the creation of the vitamins thiamine and folate and the maintenance of an intestinal barrier protecting against environmental toxins. This finding may therefore have implications not only for diagnosis but also for dietary adjustments or vitamin supplementation for management of PD in the future.

In people with Parkinson’s with more severe postural instability and gait difficulty, as opposed to tremor, the bacterium Enterobacteria was present at higher levels. The reasons for this association were not clear.

Studying Intestinal Bacteria Will Advance Understanding of Parkinson’s
Deciphering information from the gut could lead to earlier and more definitive diagnosis, a better understanding of how Parkinson’s progresses, and ways to separate the populations of people with differing symptoms of PD.

If researchers determine that there are specific and consistent differences in the gut, bacteria may serve as biomarkers — objective measurements to diagnose or track PD. As the gut is much more accessible than the brain and can be analyzed through stool samples, a bacterial biomarker is an attractive prospect.

Additionally, we don’t know why people with Parkinson’s disease show such varied motor symptoms (gait problems versus tremor, for example) or who will get which. Bacterial differences may allow us to separate the subtypes of Parkinson’s and, as a result, give individuals a better idea of the symptoms and disease progression they might expect.

More Research Is Needed
Further studies are called for to learn more about the relationship between these and other gut bacteria and Parkinson’s. In the meantime, researchers are intensely studying alpha-synuclein to determine how and why this protein contributes to Parkinson’s, and its connection between the gut and the brain.

Until a disease-modifying therapy is found, symptomatic treatments, including a drug for constipation, remain under development.

Watch a webinar on symptoms like constipation.


What Makes People Ask Rude or Inappropriate Questions?

Via Psychology Today

Published on November 30, 2013 by F. Diane Barth, L.C.S.W. in Off the Couch

At a family dinner recently, Kerri* was taking a second helping of mashed potatoes when her aunt reached across the table to touch her hand and said, “Dear, do you really want to do that?” In stunned silence, Kerri looked first at the spoon in her own hand, then at her aunt, and finally at her mother. “So many thoughts went through my head. I was humiliated, stunned and angry. I knew that this meant that my mother had been talking about my eating disorder. I was furious with her. I felt exposed and horrified. But the strongest thought and feeling that I had was that I had to get away from the table,” she said. “Oh, and that I hated my aunt.”

If we give Kerri’s aunt the benefit of the doubt, we could say that she was trying to be helpful, that her action was motivated by concern for her niece. But what about those supposedly caring or concerned relatives, friends and even strangers who ask other inappropriate, intrusive, or downright rude questions?

What makes someone ask you when you’re going to get married or start a family, or how much you paid for your house, or how much money you earn? What makes someone think that it’s okay to touch a pregnant woman’s belly or guess whether she’s going to have a boy or a girl?

And what can you do when someone invades your privacy with an inappropriate or rude question?

In my experience, there are at least six reasons why someone asks an inappropriate question.

  1. They really do not realize that what they are asking is not OK. This may be the result of social anxiety disorder, narcissistic or other personality disorder, bipolar disorder, being on the autism spectrum, or any number of other conditions. Whatever the case, the rude question may be the result of a person’s inability toempathize with someone else’s feelings. He or she simply may not think that the questions might make you uncomfortable.
  2. Rebelliousness. “I know that it’s not considered socially acceptable,” the person may think, “but it should be! And I’m going to ask!”
  3. Anger and hostility, and/or the desire, either conscious or unconscious, to make another person squirm. This desire may, paradoxically, stem from jealousy or envy of the person they wound. Kerri’s aunt, for example, was envious of how close Kerri was with her mother because her own children did not confide in her.
  4. It may also be the result of having been on the other side of this equation, and wanting to put someone else in the same position. Psychoanalysts call this “identification with the aggressor.” Instead of remembering what it feels like to be the target of hostility, and feeling sympathy for the victim, a person takes on the qualities of their attacker, unconsciously making them feel stronger themselves. By doing to someone else what was done to them, they unconsciously make themselves feel like the strong one, and no longer the weak one. Kerri’s aunt, who was married to an angry, hostile, and extremely critical man, did to others what he did to her.
  5. (The two most difficult reasons to combat are, strangely enough, often motivated by a desire to be kind and to connect:) A desire to help. While this wish may actually be linked to any of the other, more negative emotions listed above, it can also be at least partly genuine. Kerri’s aunt had been an overweight girl and struggled with her weight as an adult. She knew how painful it could be. So although her behavior was rude and inappropriate, and very likely motivated by anger and envy, it was also partly motivated by a desire to help her niece. She did not want her to suffer the humiliation she had experienced in her own life.
  6. The desire to connect with you. Misguided and awkward as their attempts may be, people like Kerri’s aunt—and the people in your own life who ask when you’re going to find someone to marry or have a baby—are also trying to make a connection to you.

What’s the best response to an intrusive, irritating or embarrassing question? Our first reaction may be resentment, if not anger, but I have found that it can be most useful to start with the assumption that there is some sort of good will beneath the behavior. This does not mean that we should ignore our own hurt and humiliation—those feelings are real and need to be accepted, if only internally; but in most instances, responding from a position of kindness is the best way to restore our own sense of equilibrium.

When a person is trying to connect, or to be kind, our own gentle but firm boundaries can be helpful to them. When someone asks about your marriage plans, a simple, “Oh, I don’t know. It’s not something I talk about in public,” can be your answer. And then you can ask, “And how are you doing?” or otherwise turn the conversation back to them. Even when the other person’s genuine goal is to embarrass you, the same answer, or some other way of being kind is actually a perfect way to turn the tables.

For Kerri, the response was simple: Although her completely understandable impulse was to toss the spoonful of potatoes at her aunt and rush from the table, she managed instead to take a deep breath and say, “Oh, thanks for your concern. But yes, it is what I want to do.” And then, putting the potatoes on her plate, she turned to a cousin beside her and asked about her courses at college. Her aunt loudly tried to continue the discussion, but Kerri quietly said to her cousin, “I don’t want to engage in this. Can you keep talking to me?” With a big grin on her face—everyone had had their own experiences with this relative—the cousin complied.

And the dinner went on.

(Names and identifying information changed to protect privacy.)

Teaser image source:

Playing Nicely With Others: Why Schools Teach Social Emotional Learning


By Jessica Lahey

If your children’s school seems to suddenly be devoting its time and resources to something called SEL, it may be leaving you wondering what happened to good old reading, writing and arithmetic (or even that new darling, coding). You’re not alone. SEL stands for social emotional learning, and it’s a hot topic at the moment among educators with good reason.

While you may not have heard the acronym SEL before, you have probably seen social emotional learning sprinkled throughout schools’ mission statements, behavioral expectations and curricula, under the varying monikers of character, resilience, personal responsibility, self-control, “grit,” emotional or social intelligence, among others.

The Collaborative for Social Emotional and Academic Learningdefines social emotional learning as: “the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.”

Continue reading here.

About the author:

Jessica Lahey is an educator, writer and speaker. She writes about parenting and education for The New York Times, The Atlantic and Vermont Public Radio. Her book, “The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed,” will be published by HarperCollins in 2015. Find her at

The Secret To Aging Gracefully

Via @MindBodyGreen

By Kaia Roman for

The Secret To Aging Gracefully

Recently over dinner, a friend I’ve known for 15 years told me that I am aging well.” I was both flattered and intrigued by the compliment. Of course I quickly realized this didn’t mean I wasn’t aging at all, but that there was something about the way that I was aging that stood out to him.

I thought about the comment over the next few days and considered what “aging well” meant to me. As I slide into my 40s, aging well isn’t just about counting the lines on my face, it’s about feeling good in my own skin. Aging well is about taking care of my body so that I can enjoy the next 40 or so years of my life with energy,low stressvitalitylimber jointsstrong muscles and organs that do their job and don’t get sick.

But aging well is also about taking care of my spirit — nourishing my emotional body as much my physical body — with thoughts, experiences, people and activities that bring me joy, and avoiding those that don’t.

My perspective on aging has changed in the past few years. I actually feel grateful to be aging, because I feel so much happier with who I am today than I did 10 years ago. By incorporating healthy lifestyle choices like whole foods, daily exercise, enough sleep, plenty of water, chemical-free sunscreen and appropriate supplements — I believe the biggest difference to how I am aging comes from one thing: how I handle stress.

I feel like I’m finally learning how to use my inner guidance system — the intuition and feelings that steer me in the right direction and help me avoid the stressful choices I could be making that would accelerate aging.

Stress can come in many forms — physical, emotional, mental — and not all stress is bad. Eustress (“eu” means well or good in Greek) was a term coined by endocrinologist Hans Selye to describe the kind of stress that activates your body to work towards a tangible goal. Instead of causing your body and mind to shut down or go into fight-or-flight mode, eustress actually motivates you to get what you want!

So as I age, I’m getting better at noticing what triggers my stress response and getting into the habit of mentally reframing the difficult moments into an opportunity to motivate myself to learn and grow in the process.

Here are three steps you can take to reframe stress and use it to your advantage to age well and gracefully:

1. Realize that not all stress is bad.

There is a type of stress that feels more like excitement or anticipation that you can actually thrive on. Eustress can be motivating and helps you reach the goals you care about most. But when the stress scale tips to worry or anxiety, think about your overall health and well-being and ditch it right then and there.

2. Realize that problematic situations can be seen as opportunities for growth.

When faced with a challenging event like a disagreement with a colleague at work, there are always two roads to go down: You can either approach the situation as a problem, or as an opportunity for spiritual growth. This not-so-subtle distinction can mean the difference between distress and eustress — always try to choose the latter.

3. Know your triggers and respond mindfully.

One fast way to turn off the negative stress response is to take a few deep breaths when you feel yourself being triggered. Keep in mind that you have the power to change your perspective on any situation. You can either choose to “fly off the handle,” or you can stay calm and collected. Just those few breaths can make all the difference, cueing your brain to shift out of aggression and into a more stable state of mind.

I realize now that there are a million tiny stressors around me all the time, and it’s up to me to navigate not only how I react to them, but also how I choose to make them a part of my life (or not). By making how I feel my top priority (rather than what I accomplish, who I impress, what I look like, etc.), I am making conscious choices every day to shift my attention and thoughts to what will bring me joy, gratitude and love.

Beyond gray hair and wrinkles, I think aging is an attitude — and aging well means facing life with a youthful spirit. Each day I strive to find new vitality for life, and new things to be grateful for and excited about. I’ve noticed that the more I focus on gratitude, the healthier and happier I am.

I’m excited to continue aging well over the next years of my life. More than ever before, I feel like I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. I’m not out to impress anyone, to prove myself, or to conquer the world — I feel very much at peace with who I am and where I am in my life. And if that’s aging well, I’ll take it!

About the Author

Kaia Roman is an entrepreneur and public relations consultant who focuses on the planning and implementation of communications strategies for people, projects, and products working towards a better world. From moving to an eco-commune at age 7, to being trained as a mind-body therapist at age 11, to creating the first college major in Sustainable Living in the U.S. and co-authoring the first book ever published on biodiesel fuel at age 22, Kaia’s life has been anything but ordinary. She has been the publicist for rock stars, shamans, and scientists, launched multiple companies, produced music festivals, served on many non-profit Boards, and been a guest on the Today Show. Kaia has lived in several countries, practiced yoga in India, studied nutrition and constitutional medicine, and hitchhiked and surfed her way around the world. However, her greatest accomplishment and life adventure is that of motherhood; Kaia has two magical daughters and has been married to her wonderful husband Dan since 2003.


10 Wellness Trends To Watch In 2015

Via @MindBodyGreen


Wellness really took off in 2014, as meditation and the microbiome went mainstream, technology continued to drive fitness, and quinoa and juice landed in 7-Eleven.

We expect 2015 to even better as this lifestyle becomes the new normal. Here are 10 trends to watch over the next year:

A Stress-Busting Yoga Sequence You Can Do In The Office

Via @MindBodyGreen

By #KimSin for

Long days, a mountain of deadlines and hours of sitting or standing, can take your stress up to astronomical levels and send your body out of whack.

Fortunately, a quick yoga break at your desk can bust that stress and bring your inner calm back in a snap. We tend to store tension in the neck and shoulders, round in our posture and get tight in the hips, especially when we sit too much. This sequence will address your entire body’s tension and leave you feeling less stressed and better able to take on your workday and life.

As you move through these poses, remember to breathe deeply. When you inhale, breathe in calm and when you exhale, breathe out that stress. Enjoy!

Photos courtesy of the author

About the Author

Kim teaches an approachable, deep style of Vinyasa that safely challenges the body and soothes the mind. She presents a strong attention to alignment in a modern, easeful way. A steady focus on breath, layered with alignment promotes an inner relaxation through body and mind connection. She studies extensively with her main teacher and mentor, Jason Crandell, and is influenced by her studies in the Iyengar and Ashtanga tradition. Kim has appeared on the cover of Yoga Journal Magazine in 2011 and 2012, and also serves as a Lululemon Ambassador. In Kim’s class, you will breathe deeply, laugh hysterically, and move rhythmically into stillness.