Tag: mental health

Dear Mark: When Walking Is No Longer Enough; Fermented Foods and Depression

For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering two questions. First up, what happens when a brisk walk isn’t enough to attain the optimal fat-burning heart rate zone? It’s a good problem to have—better fitness—but it still needs a response. What activities can a person do to slightly increase the intensity without going over the target heart rate? And second, are fermented foods a potential cause of depression? If they have any effect on serotonin, could this cause problems rather than improvements?
Let’s go:

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The Fat Burning Brain: What Are the Cognitive Effects of Ketosis?

Although mainstream sources still mistake “the brain needs glucose” for “the brain can only run on glucose,” regular MDA readers know the truth: given sufficient adaptation, the brain can derive up to 75% of its fuel from ketone bodies, which the liver constructs using fatty acids. If we could only use glucose, we wouldn’t make it longer than a few days without food. If our brains couldn’t utilize fat-derived ketones, we’d drop dead as soon as our liver had exhausted its capacity to churn out glucose. We’d waste away, our lean tissue dissolving into amino acids for hepatic conversion into glucose to feed our rapacious brains. You’d end up a skeletal wraith with little else but your brain and a hypertrophied liver remaining until, eventually, the latter cannibalized itself in a last ditch search for glucose precursors for the tyrant upstairs. It would get ugly.

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From Float Tanks to Silent Retreats: Why Are People Looking for More Extreme Forms of Sensory Deprivation?

I’m thinking about a Philip K. Dick story, never published, perhaps never put down on paper or even imagined. In this story, which might only exist in my mind, the world is awash in sensory stimuli. Bright lights, flashing signs, an endless cacophony. A world of quick jump cuts. It’s like the Khaosan Road at 11 PM, standing on a Los Angeles overpass at rush hour, or living inside a Youtube video. Imagine your first night in the Amazon, only instead of insects and birds and other creatures, it’s horns and conversations and alarms and drunks and car doors and rattling manhole covers and ringtones. In the world of this story, silence is a premium. To escape from your senses, you need to pay up.

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Nootropics: Brain Enhancers, Smart Drugs, or Empty Hype?

Hang around on nootropic forums where fans and users congregate and you’ll come away with the notion that you’re missing out on a leg up if you’re not taking the latest and greatest nootropic supplement. Nootropics promise vague benefits to “cognition” and “performance,” but what’s really happening? Do nootropics actually work as advertised? Some of them do, absolutely. But others, maybe not so much.

Today’s post will deal solely with compounds, foods, and supplements available over the counter in most countries. Other supplements may have promise, like modafinil and micro-dosed psychedelics, but are unavailable through standard legal means. Plus, their potential benefits may come with some dramatic side effects. So I won’t discuss those. Not today, at least. Instead, I’ll talk about some of the more commonly referred to ways you may (or may not) be able to boost your brain power—some of which are clearly primal approved.

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This Is Your Brain on Bugs: How Gut Bacteria Affect Mental Health

As many of you adopt new behaviors and habits during this year’s 21-Day Challenge, there’s a fascinating unseen story going on between your brains and bellies I thought it’d be worth talking about. New behaviors and habits create new neural pathways, which are essentially new road maps for how you’ll think, feel, and act in the future. Now the integrity of those neural pathways—whether they’re firing at full force and with the right materials to do their job—is intimately connected to something I’ve talked about on the blog before in different ways: our gut microbiome. But as you’ll see, this microscopic landscape is worth talking about again—specifically because it influences your brain (that grand master of all organs) and how well you’re likely to stick to all those newly adopted changes in the future.

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7 Ways to Slow Down Your Perception of Time

I’m 62. I’m supposed to have a big belly. I’m supposed to be taking at least four prescription drugs a day (PDF). I’m supposed to be lining up for the early bird special at the Denny’s on Lincoln. I’m not supposed to be lifting weights, sprinting, and beating younger guys at Ultimate Frisbee. I shouldn’t be snowboarding, starting exciting new business ventures, or going shirtless in the Southern California sun without sunblock. I’m supposed to be set in my ways, not open to new evidence. I’m supposed to be remembering my younger, better days as time slips away and I descend ever more rapidly into frailty, financial insolvency, and death. Time is supposed to speed up as I age, not slow down.

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Psychedelics: A New Medical Frontier?

Long before humans interacted with the numinous through intermediaries and holy books, we experienced it in other ways. All night drumming and dancing sessions, extended fasts, exposure to extreme temperatures, steam lodges, and week-long wilderness forays, and other rituals have all been used to produce visions and transcend normal waking consciousness. There’s even a theory that early Christian baptisms were actually simulated drownings that produced near-death experiences and the direct sensation of being in the presence of a higher power.

But perhaps the oldest, most reliable way to directly experience the divine is through the use of psychedelics.

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Winter Blues: How Cold, Dark Days Can Take a Mental Toll

After last week’s look at what winter does in terms of physical symptoms, I’d be lax to not address the obvious elephant in the living room: mental health in the colder, darker season. I’ll admit I don’t know too many people who look forward to this time of year past the holidays. The adventure of winter sports aside (for those who love them) and the chance for a little social hibernation (for those who prefer that), winter can take an exponential toll on people past the New Year. That said, just how much is relative inconvenience versus clinical reality? Do our moods collectively change? Why do some people experience more significant effects? What are the real hormonal influences this time of year, and what (if anything) can or should we do about them?

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Dear Mark: Foods for a One-Year-Old, Vegan to Primal, and Low-Carb Failing Fibromyalgia

For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering three reader questions. The first comes from Chris, who’s a little worried his one-year-old isn’t eating a wide enough variety of foods. As it turns out, he doesn’t need to worry, though I do offer a few suggestions for foods to include or offer. Next, how should Verria, a long-time vegan, transition to Primal? Is there anything to watch out for? What physiological and psychological issues will Anita have to face and overcome? And finally, what tips do I have for a fibromyalgia patient whose condition hasn’t improved on a strict very low-carb, high-fat diet?

Let’s go:

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4 Ways Winter Affects Your Physical Health

With winter all but officially upon us, we might already be feeling the season, maybe even planning warm weather vacations. I venture most of us have wondered if we’re not somehow healthier during the summer months. Is it just a mental vitality from the additional daylight hours and relative ease of outdoor time, or is there something more at work? Does our health really take a hit in winter? For those who enjoy this brand of trivia, there’s an actual field of study devoted to this called biometeorology. And with the minutely detailed research into epigenetic activity, we’re getting a fuller picture all the time of astonishing nuances as well as big picture shifts. To a Primal mind, it all makes sense. Humans evolved within a seasonal context—without any of the modern accommodations that would buffer climate or weather influences. Why would our bodies not have adapted with responsive wiring?

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