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Acupuncture Helps Depression And Anxiety, Study Finds

Acupuncture Helps Depression And Anxiety, Study Finds

You may have gone through a period of anxiety and depression in your life or witnessed someone close to you suffer from one or both of these illnesses. As such it may not come as a surprise to you that anxiety and depression are two of the most common mental disorders.

Many people use the conventional medication options to treat these illnesses, but there are those who find that medication does not work well for them or that they do not tolerate it well. Hence, they look for alternative treatments. Gradually acupuncture and other complementary therapies are proving to be legitimate treatments for anxiety and depression. It is important, however to consult a doctor when you seek treatment for your depressed mood or anxious thoughts.

What is Acupuncture?

The Chinese introduced acupuncture to the world as a traditional form of medicine. According to Chinese medicine, acupuncture works by correcting imbalances in the flow of energy (Qi) via channels called meridians.

It is held that five elements (water, wood, fire, earth and metal) affect the internal organs. In acupuncture the practitioner inserts needles into specific points in the body (skin) that are believed to correspond to specific organs, in order to correct energy blocks and return the organs and the body to a balanced state.

As it is believed that the mind and body interact as one, the emotions are thought to elicit a physiological response. The five elements (that influence the internal organs) are linked with five emotions: Water (fear); Wood (anger); Fire (happiness); Earth (worry); Metal (grief).

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Thus, by correcting and balancing the physical, through acupuncture, it is thought that you can also balance the emotions. Western research suggests that the needles used in acupuncture may activate natural painkillers in the brain.

Depression and Anxiety defined

‘Depressive episodes’ may be classified according to the number of symptoms that are present. When fewer symptoms are present the depression is labeled mild; when many symptoms present themselves the depression is severe; in between there is moderate depression.

Diagnoses defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) include single episode or recurrent major depressive disorder (APA, 2000). A major depressive disorder is defined as depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure in daily activities for at  least 2 weeks.”

Anxiety may be defined as a “‘persistent feeling of dread, apprehension and impending disaster or tension and uneasiness’”. The term ‘Anxiety disorders’ is a general term used to refer to different conditions such as: panic disorder, phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), generalized anxiety, traumatic stress disorder and anxiety disorder due to a general medical condition.

Acupuncture Improves Working Memory and Reduces Anxiety

In a study published in the Journal of Acupuncture and Meridian Studies, in October 2013, it was found that students who were privy to a 20-minute acupuncture session presented less anxiety and better memories (directly after the acupuncture) than students who did not have the acupuncture.

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The study which aimed to investigate whether acupuncture can improve memory and reduce anxiety involved 90 undergraduate university students. The students were randomly divided into two groups.

All of the students completed the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) form Y-1 (State Anxiety, SA) and Y-2 (Trait Anxiety, TA). Each student then lay on a treatment table for 20 minutes. The acupuncture group had needles inserted into select acupoints. The control group of students did not receive any acupuncture treatment. All of the students then completed the STAI form Y-1 again. (After which they completed a computerized test of working memory).

It was found that the students who received the acupuncture had lower anxiety and improved working memory.

Acupuncture Can Be As Effective As Counselling In Treating Depression

A new study headed by Hugh MacPherson from the University of York in the UK, has found that people with depression may gain benefit from acupuncture to the same extent that they gain benefit from counseling.

Researchers found that one in three patients were no longer depressed after three months of acupuncture or counseling. One in five people, who received neither treatment, showed no signs of depression after three months.

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775 people suffering from moderate or severe depression were recruited for the study. 302 were randomly assigned to receive 12 weekly acupuncture sessions; 302 received weekly counseling sessions and 151 received usual care.

People did not have to stop taking their medicine in order to participate in the study. Approximately 70 percent of people had taken antidepressants in the three months before the study.

The average depression score, on a scale from 0 to 27 was 16 at the start of the study. 16 is considered moderately severe depression.

At the end of the study (after three months) people in the acupuncture group had an average score of approximately 9; the counseling group had an average score of about 11 and the usual care group had an average score of around 13. Nine is on the higher end of the mild depression category. Eleven and 13 are considered indicators of moderate depression.

Thus, the people who received acupuncture or counseling improved to greater extents over the course of the study than those who received no treatment.

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Previous studies that looked at depression and acupuncture have been inconclusive. “Clearly acupuncture is a new option,” MacPherson said.  “This is the first evidence that acupuncture really helps.” 

Summary

Acupuncture appears to hold a lot of promise for those suffering from anxiety and depression. If you or someone you love is suffering from anxiety or depression, then acupuncture may prove to be very beneficial. Given that these illnesses touch so many people it is comforting to know that acupuncture could bring hope and a new lease on life to many sufferers.

Always remember to consult your healthcare professional if you experience depression or anxiety symptoms.

Featured photo credit: hikrcn via shutterstock.com

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Rebecca Beris

Rebecca is a wellness and lifestyle writer at Lifehack.

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Last Updated on August 12, 2019

12 Best Foods That Improve Memory and Brain Health

12 Best Foods That Improve Memory and Brain Health

Nutrition plays a vital role in brain function and staying sharp into the golden years. Personally, my husband is going through medical school, which is like a daily mental marathon. Like any good wife, I am always looking for things that will boost his memory fortitude so he does his best in school.

But you don’t have to be a med student to appreciate better brainiac brilliance. If you combine certain foods with good hydration, proper sleep and exercise, you may just rival Einstein and have a great memory in no time.

I’m going to reveal the list of foods coming out of the kitchen that can improve your memory and make you smarter.

Here are 12 best brain foods that improve memory and brain power:

1. Nuts

The American Journal of Epidemiology published a study linking higher intakes of vitamin E with the prevention on cognitive decline.[1]

Nuts like walnuts and almonds (along with other great foods like avocados) are a great source of vitamin E.

Cashews and sunflower seeds also contain an amino acid that reduces stress by boosting serotonin levels.

Walnuts even resemble the brain, just in case you forget the correlation, and are a great source of omega 3 fatty acids, which also improve your mental magnitude.

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2. Blueberries

Shown in studies at Tuffs University to benefit both short-term memory and coordination, blueberries pack quite a punch in a tiny blue package.[2]

When compared to other fruits and veggies, blueberries were found to have the highest amount of antioxidants (especially flavonoids), but strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries are also full of brain benefits.

3. Tomatoes

Tomatoes are packed full of the antioxidant lycopene, which has shown to help protect against free-radical damage most notably seen in dementia patients.

4. Broccoli

While all green veggies are important and rich in antioxidants and vitamin C, broccoli is a superfood even among these healthy choices.

Since your brain uses so much fuel (it’s only 3% of your body weight but uses up to 17% of your energy), it is more vulnerable to free-radical damage and antioxidants help eliminate this threat.

Broccoli is packed full of antioxidants, is well-known as a powerful cancer fighter and is also full of vitamin K, which is known to enhance cognitive function.

5. Foods Rich in Essential Fatty Acids

Your brain is the fattest organ (not counting the skin) in the human body, and is composed of 60% fat. That means that your brain needs essential fatty acids like DHA and EPA to repair and build up synapses associated with memory.

The body does not naturally produce essential fatty acids so we must get them in our diet.

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Eggs, flax, and oily fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel and herring are great natural sources of these powerful fatty acids. Eggs also contain choline, which is a necessary building block for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, to help you recall information and concentrate.

6. Soy

Soy, along with many other whole foods mentioned here, are full of proteins that trigger neurotransmitters associated with memory.

Soy protein isolate is a concentrated form of the protein that can be found in powder, liquid, or supplement form.

Soy is valuable for improving memory and mental flexibility, so pour soy milk over your cereal and enjoy the benefits.

7. Dark Chocolate

When it comes to chocolate, the darker the better. Try to aim for at least 70% cocoa. This yummy desert is rich in flavanol antioxidants which increase blood flow to the brain and shield brain cells from aging.

Take a look at this article if you want to know more benefits of dark chocolate: 15 Surprising and Science-Backed Health Effects of Dark Chocolate

8. Foods Rich in Vitamins: B vitamins, Folic Acid, Iron

Some great foods to obtain brain-boosting B vitamins, folic acid and iron are kale, chard, spinach and other dark leafy greens.

B6, B12 and folic acid can reduce levels of homocysteine in the blood. Homocysteine increases are found in patients with cognitive impairment like Alzheimer’s, and high risk of stroke.

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Studies showed when a group of elderly patients with mild cognitive impairment were given high doses of B6, B12, and folic acid, there was significant reduction in brain shrinkage compared to a similar placebo group.[3]

Other sources of B vitamins are liver, eggs, soybeans, lentils and green beans. Iron also helps accelerate brain function by carrying oxygen. If your brain doesn’t get enough oxygen, it can slow down and people can experience difficulty concentrating, diminished intellect, and a shorter attention span.

To get more iron in your diet, eat lean meats, beans, and iron-fortified cereals. Vitamin C helps in iron absorption, so don’t forget the fruits!

9. Foods Rich in Zinc

Zinc has constantly demonstrated its importance as a powerful nutrient in memory building and thinking. This mineral regulates communications between neurons and the hippocampus.

Zinc is deposited within nerve cells, with the highest concentrations found in the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for higher learning function and memory.

Some great sources of zinc are pumpkin seeds, liver, nuts, and peas.

10. Gingko Biloba

This herb has been utilized for centuries in eastern culture and is best known for its memory boosting brawn.

It can increase blood flow in the brain by dilating vessels, increasing oxygen supply and removing free radicals.

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However, don’t expect results overnight: this may take a few weeks to build up in your system before you see improvements.

11. Green and Black Tea

Studies have shown that both green and black tea prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine—a key chemical involved in memory and lacking in Alzheimer’s patients.

Both teas appear to have the same affect on Alzheimer’s disease as many drugs utilized to combat the illness, but green tea wins out as its affects last a full week versus black tea which only lasts the day.

Find out more about green tea here: 11 Health Benefits of Green Tea (+ How to Drink It for Maximum Benefits)

12. Sage and Rosemary

Both of these powerful herbs have been shown to increase memory and mental clarity, and alleviate mental fatigue in studies.

Try to enjoy these savory herbs in your favorite dishes.

When it comes to mental magnitude, eating smart can really make you smarter. Try to implement more of these readily available nutrients and see just how brainy you can be!

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Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Reference

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