Does Exercise Help Depression and Anxiety?

Running or jogging doesn't have to kill you to get benefit

Running or jogging doesn’t have to kill you to get benefit

I had an interesting conversation with a patient at the pharmacy that got me thinking about doing a post about this. This patient came a week or two ago and got a prescription for buspirone, which is used for anxiety. The patient was concerned with it because this person desperately wanted to get rid of the feeling of anxiety that they were suffering with.

The patient returned and I asked how it was going (We’ll call the patient Casey). The response was that not much had changed. Casey petitioned for more help, but this time to me, rather than the doctor.

My response?

Are you eating well? Are you doing any exercise at all?

Casey told me that neither was really in place. Casey also told me that a problem child at home was a great source of the anxiety. Casey also discussed how the previous week that he’d gone on a walk and that seemed to help a bit.

I’ve met others like Casey in the pharmacy before, and still see some of them. I’ve had people so anxious for their anxiety meds they were crying. I’ve seen people on the verge of hyperventilation. I’ve seen people, who on the surface appear normal, but after talking for a minute or two, they start divulging secrets about their lives that would make you and me stressed out too.

I used to get anxiety attacks. They would come at the most random times too. I remember once in high school in spanish class sitting at my desk, when suddenly I became hot and felt like I couldn’t breathe at all. I was more panicked about not feeling like I could breathe more than anything else. It wasn’t pleasant.

I don’t think during high school a lack of movement was my problem. I could eat anything and not gain a pound (being a male teenager has some advantages), but my diet probably was helping.

As I got older and started focusing more on my intake rather than my output, the attacks subsided. After learning about EFT (emotional freedom technique) or tapping, I was able to rid myself of the attacks all together.

Since I’ve graduated and been able to keep a more balanced routine, I haven’t had to do any tapping and the exercise is regular, rather than disjointed. Anxiety is nowhere to be seen, but I still get stressed from time to time. Between 4 kids, a wonderful wife, full-time job, blog, church duties, getting a house ready to sell, and writing a book, it’s hard to make sure I don’t go insane.

This is one reason I continue to exercise. It keeps my stress down, my happiness up, and bad things, like my wife’s recent trip where the windshield got busted, not so bad.

So What Kind of Exercise Should I Do?

In one study of depressed women [1], researchers found that aerobic running was just as good as weightlifting to reduce symptoms of depression compared to controls.

Another study showed pretty much the same thing; there was no real difference between aerobic and non-aerobic exercise in reducing depression. [2]

Another showed that aerobic exercise from 50-70% of maximal capacity was enough to decrease depression as well. [3]

One study showed that running was better than tennis which was better than softball, the latter having no effect. [4] While the findings were significant, even the authors noted that because they did nothing to conceal the reason behind the exercise, and even allowed some to choose which they were going to participate in, the results could have been different.

A study of men and women found that running helped more so with women than men, and was more influenced by the amount of physical fitness. [5]

In a study of men; exercise, meditation, and a comfy recliner all produced reductions in anxiety [6]. It should be noted that it was a quiet time in the recliner, not TV or kids time.

Another study showed similar benefits with walking/jogging at 70% maximum capacity. [7]

Of note, a study looking at relaxation training seemed to help introverts more than extroverts. [8] This really doesn’t have so much to do with exercise, but if you’re an introvert like me, relaxation may help in the anxiety department.

Swimmers seem to also derive benefit from exercise, feeling better after a swim than before. [9]

I think you get the point. Exercise is beneficial to reducing stress, anxiety and improving mood. Don’t worry if you can’t run a mile. Go for a walk. Don’t worry about not being able to do a push up, do knee push ups or on the wall. Do some squats. Take a walk with a significant other. Maybe you just need to run after the ice cream truck and give him a high-five for dispensing some of the best medication on earth (in moderation of course). Whatever it is, get moving and feel the anxiety or depression melt away.

CIAO

 

1.Doyne, Elizabeth J., et al. “Running versus weight lifting in the treatment of depression.” Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 55.5 (1987): 748.

2.Martinsen, Egil W., Asle Hoffart, and Øyvind Solberg. “Comparing aerobic with nonaerobic forms of exercise in the treatment of clinical depression: a randomized trial.” Comprehensive psychiatry 30.4 (1989): 324-331.

3.Martinsen, Egil W., A. Medhus, and L. Sandvik. “Effects of aerobic exercise on depression: a controlled study.” BMJ 291.6488 (1985): 109-109.

4.Brown, Robert S., Donald E. Ramirez, and John M. Taub. “The prescription of exercise for depression.” The Physician and Sportsmedicine 6.12 (1978): 34-37.

5.Jasnoski, Mary L., David S. Holmes, and David L. Banks. “Changes in personality associated with changes in aerobic and anaerobic fitness in women and men.” Journal of psychosomatic research 32.3 (1988): 273-276.

6.Bahrke, Michael S., and William P. Morgan. “Anxiety reduction following exercise and meditation.” Cognitive therapy and research 2.4 (1978): 323-333.

7.Young, R. J. “The effect of regular exercise on cognitive functioning and personality.” British journal of sports medicine 13.3 (1979): 110-117.

8.Stoudenmire, John. “Effects of muscle relaxation training on state and trait anxiety in introverts and extraverts.” Journal of personality and social psychology 24.2 (1972): 273.

9.Berger, Bonnie G., and David R. Owen. “Mood Alteration with Swimming-Swimmers Really Do” Feel Better”.” Psychosomatic medicine 45.5 (1983): 425-433.

 

Anxiety and Sleep Medications

Anxiety and sleep medications can be dangerous, especially when used inappropriately. Zolpidem (Ambien) is a very common one that many people take to get to sleep at night. Alprazolam (Xanax) and clonazepam (Valium) are also fairly common drugs that are seen in the pharmacies and in the cupboards of many people. They are taken whenever a person feels anxious, which these days seems like all the time.

Zolpidem is classified as a sedative-hypnotic. It puts you to sleep and that is why so many people like it. Take one sometime before bed and it’s lights out for the next few hours. So what’s the problem?

Zolpidem affects a specific omega-subtype of the GABA receptor in the central nervous system. This subtype is what puts you to sleep but doesn’t seem to affect muscle tone and doesn’t show anxiolytic properties (anti-anxiety). This also may be why so many people have reported all kinds of crazy incidences of sleep walking or other activities without remembering a thing. You can read about some of those here:

http://www.peoplespharmacy.com/2013/01/10/fda-lowers-dose-of-popular-sleeping-pill-ambien-zolpidem/

As with many receptors it’s also likely that since they are being activated so often by meds like zolpidem they get down regulated with time and people don’t get the benefit of the drug. I’ve talked with several people in the pharmacy about this. They are so frustrated that they can’t get sleep. Some take double the dose that is normally prescribed and still only sleep a couple of hours.

This quite honestly scares me. I’m worried that some people are going to take it too far one day for that one night of sleep and then not wake up. We Americans especially forget that more isn’t better to a problem that actually requires less.

Another problems that scares me is the sharing of these types of meds between family and friends. This is especially true among teenagers. A recent article talks about this:

http://www.foxnews.com/health/2014/11/24/abuse-sleep-anti-anxiety-drugs-growing-issue-among-teenagers-study-shows/

SAMSHA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration) reported that “the estimated number of emergency department visits involving zolpidem overmedication (taking more than the prescribed amount) nearly doubled from 21,824 visits in 2005-2006 to 42,274 visits in 2009-2010” [1]. By comparison they report that in 2010 there were a total of 4,916,328 drug-related visits to emergency departments throughout the nation.

It’s not the most abused drug in the country but it is on the rise.

Drugs like clonazepam mentioned earlier aren’t so selective as zolpidem and can cause other problems. Originally they were developed for people with seizure disorders and they work well for that. People now take them primarily for finding relief from anxiety and stress.

Like zolpidem, people can become tolerant to them over time and require higher and higher doses to get the desired effect. It’s no different from a person on pain medications. These are more likely to cause a euphoric effect on a person than the zolpidem and many become psychologically dependant. It’s very important to note that people wishing to discontinue these after having been on them for some time must do so slowly. The withdrawal symptoms in people on high enough doses can actually land them in the hospital and cause death. While going cold turkey off narcotics isn’t recommended it typically doesn’t cause death like the benzodiazepines (clonazepam, alprazolam) can.

What can a person do to help with sleep?

insomnia

Exercise seems to be beneficial to those who have insomnia. In a study with insomniacs, researchers looked at walking on the treadmill for 50 minutes at a time, 3 days a week for 6 months. What they found was that participants were able to fall asleep faster and had decreased amounts of wakefulness during the night. [2] The effect was seen in both the morning and evening groups.

Another study found similar results but the best were achieved in those performing moderate amounts of activity and not all out, balls to the wall type of stuff. It was also done on the treadmill for 50 minute intervals.[3]

In another analysis done in diabetics, the loss of belly fat with diet or exercise or a combination of both resulted in better sleep. [4]

There are other things that can help. Getting into a sleep schedule and actually going to sleep at the same time every day. I know that seems impossible or at best unlikely but it does help.

Managing a proper diet and exercise/activity level also decreases anxiety and symptoms of depression. I realize the catch-22 of people with depression. They don’t want to do anything, especially exercise. They don’t have the energy to do it and even if it makes sense logically that it will help, emotionally they are too drained to even think about it. If that’s you I encourage you to do whatever you can, even if it is walk to the mailbox. Any start is better than nothing.

CIAO

 

1.http://www.samhsa.gov/newsroom/press-announcements/201408111015

2.Passos, Giselle Soares, et al. “Effects of moderate aerobic exercise training on chronic primary insomnia.” Sleep medicine 12.10 (2011): 1018-1027.

3.Passos, Giselle S., et al. “Effect of acute physical exercise on patients with chronic primary insomnia.” Journal of clinical sleep medicine: JCSM: official publication of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine 6.3 (2010): 270.

4.http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/media/releases/losing_weight_especially_in_the_belly_improves_sleep_quality_according_to_a_johns_hopkins_study

B12: Are You Getting Enough?

B12Many people in the United States suffer from what very well could be a vitamin deficiency. In fact it wouldn’t surprise me at all. With the food supply seriously lacking in essential nutrients and minerals it isn’t a surprise at all that people are having issues with things like lethargy, anxiety and depression, and even disorders such as Alzheimer’s. These are just a few problems associated with B12 (cobalamin) deficiency. So lets talk about it shall we?

B12 is a vitamin responsible for healthy nerves, blood cells, DNA production….essentially stuff to keep you alive. B12 is available in many foods including but not limited to; shellfish, liver, fish, meat, eggs, and dairy. It is very noteworthy that plant products don’t have significant amounts of B12. Don’t be fooled by claims that state otherwise. Many of these foods are fortified with B12, but don’t have it naturally occurring or at very small amounts. And the foods that do, like seaweed, have pseudovitamin B12, which competes for absorption with regular B12. [1] One exception may be green and purple lavers, a type of algae. [2]

This is corroborated by studies that show that vegetarians and vegans are 50% and 80% deficient respectively. [3,4]

If you choose to not eat any animal products whatsoever, you need to supplement. More about that in a minute.

As mentioned above, B12 is really important for certain functions in the body. One problem associated with low B12 is many people don’t even know they are deficient. Working in a clinic I do see lab tests a lot, mostly for CBC’s and Cholesterol or A1c’s for diabetics. I don’t see B12 tests unless the doctor suspects something like anemia. But if there is neurological dysfunction, I don’t see it. The point is that since it isn’t something routinely checked for, it gets missed.

As Chris Kresser pointed out in an article:

In Japan and Europe, the lower limit for B12 is between 500-550 pg/mL, the level associated with psychological and behavioral manifestations such as cognitive decline, dementia and memory loss. Some experts have speculated that the acceptance of higher levels as normal in Japan and the willingness to treat levels considered “normal” in the U.S. explain the low rates of Alzheimer’s and dementia in that country.” [5]

The normal reference range in the USA by comparison is 247-911 pg/mL. That’s like the Rockies, one big mother range.

On top of that, a good deal of the population may have deficiency. [6] According to this study as many as 2/5 of America may have a problem. That’s around 125,000,000 people. While not everyone with deficiency show signs, it is still disconcerting. The article which I linked said that there was nothing to worry about though because we can get adequate B12 from more dairy and fortified cereals…..

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Modern dietary advice giving us the only reasonable response.

Modern dietary advice giving us the only reasonable response.

Yeah because hey, fortified cereals are where it’s at nutritionally.   ……NOT!

Make no mistake, the addition of niacin to the US flour supply was probably one of the very few smart things the federal government was able to do to actually influence in a POSITIVE manner the population’s health. By helping people get enough niacin they were able to eliminate pellagra, a very serious condition that resembles schizophrenia. The problem with fortified cereals are the only nutrition you get from them are the spray on vitamins. That might be helpful for some, but meat or liver or fish is probably the much better option.

Another issue is that people experience symptoms even when their levels on are on the lower end of “normal”. It’s entirely possible that our range, like many other medical ranges may be off and probably needs to be increased.

Lets Talk About Absorption Baby, Lets Talk about You and Me!

If you don’t remember back or are new to the blog, a few weeks ago I discussed the adverse effects of taking acid reducers chronically. Here’s the link:

https://pharmacybrute.wordpress.com/2013/12/10/acid-supressing-drugs-lower-nutrients/

Acid in the stomach is an important part of the process to get B12 absorbed in the body. Acid cleaves B12 from the carrier it resides on so that it can be attached to intrinsic factor, allowing for absorption. No acid, no cleavage, no absorption. Other drugs can cause problems too. If you’re diabetic, metformin is known to reduce not only B12 but the other B vitamins as well.

People that have leaky gut or other inflammatory processes going on in the gut may have impaired absorption as well. Don’t assume just because you are a meat eater you’re getting all the B12 you need. Fixing your gut is important for many reasons and B12 is definitely one of those reasons.

Pernicious Problems

If you have problems with energy and have been able to rule out blood sugar dysregulation and sleep as potential problems, B12 might be a great place to look. People with anemia can have B12 or iron deficiencies. Since B12 is also required for myelin sheaths (the insulation on the nerves) it is thought that it is important for prevention of neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Multiple Sclerosis. It may also play a part in anxiety and depression as well as autism and learning disabilities in children.

Maternal breast milk has a content of B12 that is linked with intake from mom. So if a mom is a vegetarian or a vegan, it is extremely important that she supplement to get adequate supplies for the baby.

Supplementation

You can find B12 in just about any B-Complex. It typically comes in the form of cyanocobalamin. I want to point out that this form of cobalamin is linked with cyanide, hence cyanocobalamin. This form is usually injected at a doctor’s visit. Methylcobalamin on the other hand seems to be the form that is most useful, especially in neurological problems. [7] This is the form most used by the Japanese. In fact they don’t use cyanocobalamin anymore because it doesn’t work very well if at all.

The British also don’t use cyanocobalamin. They use hydroxocobalamin. In a paper addressing some concerns about cyanocobalamin, researchers point out that hydroxocobalamin is preferrable to cyanocobalamin and that it’s use should be discontinued. [8]

Cyanocobalamin, methylcobalamin and hydroxocobalamin are the most common forms.

So if you need it, what do you use? I would recommend methylcobalamin in the oral form. There are sub-lingual tabs which absorb and bypass the gut altogether:

http://www.amazon.com/Source-Naturals-MethylCobalamin-Flavored-Sublingual/dp/B001G7R8J2/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1334825392&sr=8-2

This would be a good option to start with if you use acid reducers or have gut problems. The one I listed is 1mg which is likely enough. For those fighting off peripheral neuropathies or trying for nerve regeneration much higher doses are likely required, as in doses used in injections.

I would stay away from cyanocobalamin if possible. I know it’s cheap and for a simple anemia where a low dose is effective then it might be ok. But to really maintain good health it’s better to use the other forms. Much like folic acid is synthetic and not naturally occurring folate, cyanocobalamin is cheap (yes I said cheap) and not as effective.

Get the best forms from your food. Fish, shellfish, meat, liver and dairy are good sources. If your gut is in need of help, get it the help it needs so you can get the B12 you need from food. If you are a vegetarian or vegan please make sure to get enough through supplements. I recommend food first of course.

CIAO

1.Watanabe, Fumio, et al. “Pseudovitamin B12 is the predominant cobamide of an algal health food, spirulina tablets.” Journal of agricultural and food chemistry 47.11 (1999): 4736-4741.

2.Watanabe, Fumio, et al. “Characterization and bioavailability of vitamin B12-compounds from edible algae.” Journal of nutritional science and vitaminology 48.5 (2002): 325-331.

3.Antony, Aśok C. “Vegetarianism and vitamin B-12 (cobalamin) deficiency.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 78.1 (2003): 3-6.

4.Bissoli, L., et al. “Effect of vegetarian diet on homocysteine levels.” Annals of nutrition and metabolism 46.2 (2002): 73-79.

5.http://chriskresser.com/b12-deficiency-a-silent-epidemic-with-serious-consequences

6.http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/pr/2000/000802.htm

7.http://www.nutritionaltest.com/methyl.html

8.http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2697096/

Disclaimer: All info on this website is for education purposes only. Any dietary or lifestyle changes that readers want to make should be done with the guidance of a competent medical practitioner. The author assumes no responsibility nor liability  for the use or dissemination of this information. Anyone who chooses to apply this information for their own personal use does so at their own risk.