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Making gains over hair loss

Posted by Roberta Jewell
Categories: Medications and research

hair loss

As anti-craving medications become more widely accepted in treating alcohol dependence, dealing with potential side effects plays an increasingly important role. It’s one of the reasons we urge everyone to work closely with a qualified health care provider. 

One of the most popular drugs many drinkers have sought over the past couple of years to help curb craving is Topamax and it appears to do a pretty good job. But like any powerful medication, it has a down side: a lengthy list of potential side effects. It includes a lowered bicarbonate level in the blood which can lead to hyperventilation, irregular heartbeat and kidney stones; a rare form of glaucoma; cognitive slowing; sleepiness; weight loss; tingling in the extremities; flu-like symptoms; and other possible problems. The list may sound terrifying, but anyone who understands the the horror of addiction realizes it may pale in comparison to the self loathing of a mother whose young daughter admits to pouring her vodka down the drain in a futile attempt to save her.

Patients and members on our message board often complain about the cognitive slowing associated with Topamax and I consider it to be the most common and problematic of all side effects. But another one reported more ‘on the board’ than in the literature is this: hair loss or thinning.

In fact, I experienced some hair thinning myself and found it a little disturbing (although to be honest, I was somewhat stressed at the time, so wasn’t sure if it was caused by the meds.) Brenda, whose journals were included in my book, also reported changes to her hair, but only to texture. Neither one of us found ourselves devastated by significant hair loss like some women. And ours eventually passed.

But last week, I was interested to read that the FDA had approved a product to promote hair growth and I’m wondering if it may help those in our program who suffer with this problem. The device is purported to work by combining a laser with a comb and emit low-level pulses to stimulate hair growth. In a 26-week clinical trial, some 93% of the participants using this Hairmax Lasercomb saw an increase in hair density, with an average increase of 19 hairs per centimeter.

Recommend usage is 10-15 minutes three times a week and it is currently only approved to “promote hair growth in males with androgenetic alopecia”, although a number of testimonials on the company’s website include those of women who say they have enjoyed success with the product.

One would certainly hope so. Customers pay $545 for this wondercomb!

But for those who are devastated by hair loss, it may be worth every penny. I was interested to read feedback, both good and bad, on the company’s message board and they seem to be fairly liberal about allowing customers to post their experiences about the device. (I note that it is a moderated forum, which means administrators must approve each post. I know this because one of our members told me she recently registered there and was awaiting approval for her question regarding hair loss due to Topamax.)

A recent MSNBC story about the HairMax Lasercomb with video is here and a reference to an earlier piece they produced is listed on About.com.

Time will tell as to whether or not the Hairmax is effective and if people are willing to pay such a hefty price to restore their hair.

If so, it may be helpful to some who are ready to be done battling yet another indignity of the addiction.

Be my virgin valentine

Posted by Roberta Jewell
Categories: This 'n that

valentinesIf you’re planning a cozy evening with that special someone but are committed to keeping the night alcohol free, you’ll want to be sure and check out these recipes for fun and romantic beverages.

A selection of over 50 “mocktails”, including healthy iced drinks, smoothies, coffees and cocoas

31 non-alco beverages, with something that’s sure to please every palate

40 yummy recipes ranging from the White Fuzzy Navel to a Red Ruby Frost Punch

60 alcohol free drinks in an easy to read table format and recipes which follow.

Happy Valentines Day…what fun it will be to remember it in the morning. 🙂

Defining our terms

Posted by Roberta Jewell
Categories: Medications and research

Tara Conner, Miss USAI’m not sure why I continue to find the interviews with the new Miss USA, Tara Conner, a little distasteful, but I think I’m closing in.

You may recall after some hard partying she nearly lost her crown; then agreed to a month-long rehab stint after a talk with the Donald, who co-owns the pageant. I completely believe her when she says she’s come clean. I am moved by her honest account of dealing with her demons. And I know she means it when she says she’s in a much better place.

I suppose what’s bothersome is this new, conspicuous characterization of the 21-year old Kentucky beauty. It sounds so steeped in traditional recovery dogma and it feels to me like the queen has been made a bit of a pawn.

“I didn’t think I had any kind of issue going into rehab,” she was quoted as saying recently, “but I’ve realized I do have an issue. I suffer from the disease of alcoholism and addiction.”  

So of course the headlines scream “I am an alcoholic!”

In fact, I had a tough time with this one when I wrote my book. Was I an alcoholic? A problem drinker? Alcohol dependent? Excessive drinker? Which was it?

As I said, in the end it really didn’t matter that much – I just wanted to fix it. But for a number of reasons, I simply couldn’t bring myself to stand in front of a room full of strangers and pin that tag on my shirt. For one thing, I wasn’t sure if it was medically and therapeutically valid. And emotionally, the thought of branding myself scared the hell out of me. Or perhaps I simply wasn’t as brave as others who have done so. I admire their courage.

But a new study, as reported in Science Daily, may support the position that many drinkers have been misclassified – and I assume, directed to improper treatment. The research reveals that binge drinking is the most prevalent form of excessive drinking and many alcohol related problems may be a result of drinking among people who are not, in fact, alcoholics. They point to a study in the February 2007 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research in which 16.5% of 4,751 New Mexico adults were considered excessive drinkers, but only 1.8 percent of them met the criteria for alcohol dependence.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse an Alcoholism, alcoholism is defined by an individual’s continued drinking despite repeated alcohol-related problems. Specifically, it is measured by symptoms which include craving, impaired control, physical dependence and tolerance. More formal diagnostic criteria have been developed, as well.

In response to the recent study, Tim Naimai, a physician with the alcohol team at the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, says we must recognize and address excessive drinking, in addition to alcoholism, if we are to prevent most alcohol related problems, including alcoholism.

“Focusing exclusively on alcoholism will identify only a small percentage of those at risk of causing or incurring alcohol-related harms, precludes the possibility of prevention, and is very costly, at least on a per-person basis,” says Naimai.

And then there’s treatment. How helpful, say, is a 12-step program to an individual whose binge drinking is tied to episodes of spousal abuse? Anger management classes, perhaps. But AA? Maybe, maybe not. Or a person who binge drinks to blunt depressive symptoms – perhaps they would be better served with a program of pharmacology, counseling and improved diet than forced to an in-patient facility away from their home and support network.

In the end, if Miss America is satisfied with her treatment and is empowered to lead a healthier, more productive life while setting a good example for others, it’s all worked out for the best. I mean that. I am in no position to judge whether or not she was a binge drinker or a true alcoholic.

And me, three years later, I freely admit that I am, in fact an alcoholic, not a binge drinker. I do (did) meet the criteria. Among other things, I drank to excess every night, had developed a tolerance for alcohol, and was powerless to control the craving.

I had a lot to lose before I got help – not a crown, certainly – but equally important to me: my family, my health, my career, my self respect. Thankfully, I wasn’t forced into rehab as many people are. I found something that worked well for me and my drinking is now in check.

I absolutely encourage others to attend fellowship based meetings or consider rehab if they’re willing and comitted to doing so. Both have been immensely helpful to millions of people.

Whatever the path, it’s important we expand our thinking about alcoholism and how we define it. How we define ourselves.

And I think it’s great to see new research is helping us do just that.

committed

The power of the pen

Posted by Roberta Jewell
Categories: This 'n that

Write it downA friend of mine runs a wildly successful business that she and her husband worked tirelessly to develop for over 20 years. In fact, although it’s their flagship enterprise, it’s only one of several ventures she’s conceived, created, marketed and made money at. People say she’s got the golden touch – although I’m well aware of how hard this woman works and how brilliant her natural marketing ability.

But she shared with me several years ago a strategy she is absolutely convinced has helped her succeed in every aspect of her life. (She’s also a fabulous mother, enjoys a rewarding marriage, and is active in her community.)  It’s advice she dispenses to anyone who’ll listen, although she admits she is sometimes greeted with a condescending nod.

It’s simply this: when my friend wants something – really wants it – she writes it down on a piece of paper. Then she tucks it away somewhere. She writes it in very specific terms. Not the wanting of it, but the success of having achieved it.

As I struggled to self-publish my book, launch my online business, work three jobs, and overcome personal challenges, she told me more times than I can remember: write it down, make it happen. Frankly, it sounded a little Pollyanna to me at first. But she had begun doing this long before a book of the same name was published (which I have bought, read and recommend). She says to this day she often finds bits of paper in her bedrooms drawers and jean pockets with long forgotten goals since met. And she’s convinced it’s because she committed those goals to paper, confidently projecting them into the future, and then went about making them happen.

I was so moved by my friend’s passion and history of success that I ultimately incorporated the concept into the visualization exercises of my program – and the book itself – leaving spaces on the page for readers to jot down their goals and projected success. I even considered including a chapter with more detail about the “Write it down” concept but was rushed to publish and also hoped to present as streamlined an explanation of the overall program as possible.

These days, we are driven to be ever more productive, to get things done, to check things off our endlessly long to-do lists. And that’s not what this is about.  “Write it down, make it happen” is about clearing your head, figuring out what it is you really want out of life, and believing in that possibility. Results follow. Because believing it can happen becomes the most powerful force in creating your own destiny.

Now I’m the one who finds crumpled scraps of paper in unexpected places. They always bring a smile. And a reminder that my friend was absolutely right.

Terminally Addicted?

Posted by Roberta Jewell
Categories: This 'n that

terminally addictedWell, it’s no surprise, I suppose, that those of us who got hooked on alcohol might later find ourselves spending excessive amounts of time getting wired in other ways. The research headlines this past month seem to confirm it: Internet addiction is widespread and those who suffer with it may be as clinically ill as alcoholics. The comparison is made repeatedly and I have to admit, it stings every time I read it. Some of the new data, including that from a recent Standford study, says that people are using the Net, just like booze, to self medicate.

So what happens when people in recovery become addicted to the Internet?

This is weighing heavily on me, largely because I’ve been at the forefront of creating an active online community – a message board – launched about two years ago. I’ve promoted the heck out of it hoping people who need help, not having found it in traditional recovery methods, will somehow stumble upon it. The site offers a number of web-based features and multiple forums. It’s now visited by thousands of people every day, some of whom are guests simply lurking; others registered members who frequently post. Overall, individuals in the community are exceptionally supportive of one another and particularly helpful to new visitors. I’m very proud of what we’ve built and the program upon which it is founded. I think one of the reasons people find themselves able to finally crawl out of their private drinking hell once they become a part of this virtual stomping ground is the relationships they form in this unique environment we’ve all come to call “the board.”

It makes me wonder, though: can we get too much of a good thing? Members often joke that the board has become an addiction in and of itself. But sometimes I don’t think they’re laughing. I suspect they may have just figured it out before the researchers did. In fact, we occasionally see messages from members who say they simply need to take a break, to get away from it for a while, they’re spending too much time there.

We may need to consider that given our vulnerability to addiction, we’re more likely to be drawn to the Internet and its assurance of instant gratification. Email, chat, discussion boards, surfing, and shopping abound. Maybe now is a good time to consider whether or not it’s become a problem or may become one in the future.

So here, from the Center for Internet Addiction and Recovery is the Internet Addiction Test. It’s really quite good. And best: if you recognize you have a problem, you can go to the Internet, download an e-book and get some help. Perfect.

But seriously, like anything else, we need to find balance. I’ve been working hard to increase membership on our message board because I’ve seen how it can help people. I’ve witnessed the strength our members find in one another – and themselves – as they team up to wage war over their addiction.

I just don’t want them stuck with another one is all.

Catching up on Campral

Posted by Roberta Jewell
Categories: Medications and research

campralI haven’t written much about Campral, an anti-craving medication approved by the FDA in July, 2004 for treatment of alcohol dependence. It’s been prescribed in Europe, Canada, Australia and other countries and is growing in popularity in the US. We get a lot of questions about Campral at our discussion board as members prepare to approach their docs. They want to know: does it work? What are the side effects? How does it compare to other meds? Does it take long to kick in?

Here are a few observations I’ve made from MWO patients and members who have shared their experience:

  • At this time, it’s generally easier to get a prescription for Campral than other anti-craving meds. Topamax requires off-label prescribing and some physicians are simply uncomfortable doing that. Vivitrol (injectable naltrexone) hit the market only recently and many doctors don’t know about it. Oral naltrexone (ReVia) doesn’t seem to be prescribed very much for some reason.
  • Campral is well suited for those who plan to pursue complete abstinence from alcohol and haven’t had anything to drink for at least a few days.
  • If you begin drinking while on it, Campral loses its efficacy pretty quickly.
  • Patients sometimes complain of diarrhea, gas, and stomach discomfort when taking Campral. This side effect is said to be dose specific.
  • Campral kicks in fairly soon for most people.
  • Many patients find Campral quite effective. One clinical trial suggested people who took Campral were two or three times more likely to achieve abstinence a full year later than those who took a placebo.
  • Others say they were not able to be compliant while on Campral and found other medications (usually Topamax) more effective. Some research supports these findings, however, there are differing views within research circles about the study design in some of the clinical trials.
  • Side effects are often considered less harsh for Campral than Topamax.
  • People who do drink while on Campral report getting drunk faster and feeling more hung over the next day.
  • Campral can be used in combination with naltrexone.
  • Like other anti-craving medications, Campral is most effective if used in conjunction with counseling and/or support. Patients who adopt multiple strategies tend to have greater long-term success.

So just how does Campral work?

According to manufacturer Forest Labs’ website, “Campral is thought to restore the normal brain balance, which has been disturbed in someone who is alcohol dependent.”

Hmmm. I don’t know if that’s terribly helpful, but I would certainly agree that our brains are disturbed once we’ve become alcohol dependent.

To be more specific, Campral targets and helps restore balance in two important neurotransmitters: glutamate and GABA. Glutamate is an excitatory transmitter and GABA is inhibitory. They have a see-saw type of relationship. GABA and glutamate receptors are also involved in the reward centers of the forebrain and are responsible for creating a system of positive reinforcement. But when a person chronically overdrinks, as we do, it depletes GABA functioning and results in a hyperexcitable glutamate system.

Drinkers feel great while they’re drinking. But the short-term buzz eventually ends up throwing the entire system off. And when alcohol is removed from the equation, the brain is left with way too much glutamate activity. This causes discomfort, anxiety and eventually an endless craving for alcohol.

Enter Campral, which helps restore the GABA-glutamate equilibrium by acting specifically on receptor sites tied to the alcohol reward signaling center. Or, as Forest Lab explains, again at third grade level, it “makes it easier for people not to drink.” Got it.

Campral is prescribed in two 333 mg. time-release tablets, taken three times a day with food or on an empty stomach. It should be used with caution if you have kidney problems and will not be prescribed if you have severe kidney disease. The medication cost about $150 a month. The package insert is here if you like reading the teeny weeny print.

By the way, if you have questions for those currently taking Campral, be sure to visit our online community. I’m not plugging our message board, but I think you’ll find some really good info because many of our members have tried a couple of different meds, including Campral, and they’re very generous about sharing their experience. You can simply enter the term “Campral” in the search field and you’ll find dozens of posts with lots of rich info, as well.

Do keep in mind that anti-craving medications target different brain receptors and how they work depends on a number of variables. So you won’t really know until you get started how effective they will be for you.

But there’s no time like the present to begin. Who knows, Campral may be just be what your doctor should order.

The skinny on smart pills

Posted by Roberta Jewell
Categories: Medications and research

smartstapOkay, first of all: insert your favorite industrial strength medical disclaimer here. You know the drill. Nothing you read on my website, discussion board or blog constitutes, replaces or in any way represents medical advice. Please consult a qualified health care professional yadda yadda yadda yadda.

I’m fessing up. Here’s my experience with smart pills. I am asked about this continually. Calls, emails, and questions to the message board. I certainly understand why, I would ask the same. In fact someone recently posted a question on our board about my vague reference to it in the book. Her characterization was correct. I dodged it. But like many of you, I incorporated Topamax into my program and I faced the same cognitive side effects some of you are now dealing with.

To be honest, I thought I’d found the holy grail when I came upon the smart pills. I was doing tons of research at the time and, and as always, quite a bit of self experimentation. I had been desperate to fix the drinking problem and by that point the program was working great. But the cognitive fog was a killer. I had learned about these new “eugeroics” and they had been helping immensely, but they seemed to offer more to me than enhanced brain power. I wasn’t sure if I should keep this to myself or include it in the book so I consulted one of the MDs with whom I was working. I said I was apprehensive about sharing the info. My experience seemed almost too good to be true and I had relatively little feedback about these smart pills’ use within the context of the program. But I was urged to include the info if it could be helpful to others, who were advised repeatedly in the book to work with their docs.

Brenda, my MWO partner in crime, didn’t like the smart pills at all, btw – they made her jittery and anxious and she quit taking them shortly after starting. I’ve since learned that’s not unusual.

But for me, holy cow. They made me alert and happy and thin. They knocked my brain back into gear after being turned into toast by Topamax. I no longer drove past my house at the end of the day or used my fingers to add simple math. And the weight, my God. I thought it had dropped quickly with Topa – it seemed to melt in my sleep with these two pills from France that I took every morning. So much so that one of the leading women’s weeklies I’d pitched MWO to agreed to run the story if I focused on my weight loss rather than the alcohol program. I refused and so did they.

Smart drugs, also known as nootropics, are a relatively new class of meds. The two I refer to in the book are adrafinil (Olmifon) and modafinil (Provigil). Adrafinil usually makes its way to the US via online stores and costs about $30 for a 20 day supply. A doctor friend who reads French was pretty impressed after translating the info in the package once it arrived and assured me it was legit. Adrafinil is a central nervous stimulant, but like other eugregorics, it doesn’t behave the same way as conventional stimulants. It has a unique ability to affect specific brain receptors and works only when needed. And boy, did I need it. It’s gentle in its action and helps sharpen mental acuity without affecting heart rate or pressure. It’s not like caffeine or speed, either. In fact, as much as I love coffee, I can’t drink it mid-day or it keeps me up at night. But not this stuff.

While I was taking my two 300 mg. tablets each day, I noted a significant improvement in my short term memory, concentration and energy level. But I was also exercising regularly, which may very well have contributed to my improved state of mind. However, much of this change did seem to coincide with the several weeks I took the adrafinil.

People who use adrafinil and Topamax together and who don’t wish to lose weight have to be careful. Because adrafinil can also act as an anorectic (appetite suppressant). It’s really important when you start this program you nourish your body with a healthy, well rounded diet. Otherwise you can crash and burn.

By the way, adrafinil was first used experimentally by French researchers in the 70’s to treat narcolepsy. They later turned to modafinil because of adrafinil’s potential side effects: feelings of tension, heightened liver enzymes, and stomach pain. Modafinil has recently been approved by the FDA for a number of sleep disorders. Interestingly, it’s also been found helpful for recovering cocaine and speed addicts. Some docs say it improves cognitive function, and I gave it a test drive a while back. I don’t like it as much as the other. In fact, I had sorta the same response to modafinil as Brenda did to adrafinil – it made me feel wired and speedy. But I can sure see why the military uses it to keep their pilots up all night.

If you decide to use adrafinil, be sure to get a baseline liver test before and several weeks after you start taking it. It is known to potentially increase liver enzyme levels, and that’s not good. I didn’t have any problem with it, but remember that your liver’s been on double duty with all the drinking. 

I wouldn’t recommend tinkering with any of this stuff unless you find yourself crippled with a cognitive crisis. And I absolutely wouldn’t do it without the support of a trusted doc – you must make sure your liver is up for the gig. Consider it a short term solution. Eat well, even if you eat less. One of the things they don’t tell you about Topamax is that anorexia is a potential side effect. You don’t need another medication mucking with your head.

So there’s the skinny on the smart pill, once and for all. Please use the info wisely.

Which headphones for hypno?

Posted by Roberta Jewell
Categories: Holistic Healing

muffsMany people tell us they enjoy the hypnotherapy aspect of My Way Out and they ask us for recommend-ations about headphones for their sessions. They’re typically listening to the recordings on an MP3 player or iPod and doing so while reclining in a chair or bed.

There are a number of excellent choices. You’re probably familiar with conventional headphones, so I’m going to cover three you may not have tried but are particularly useful when listening to audio in this setting: 

1) In-the-ear buds
2) Pillow speakers
3) Cordless headphones

In-the-ear buds can provide remarkably high quality sound considering their size. When properly seated, they seal and block out external sounds. Apple ships a bud headphone with their iPod Nano but I have to admit I’ve blown through two sets and have not been impressed with the quality.

However, they also sell a number of other buds, including In-Ears, a $39 version that some customers say are quite good. However, they’ve gotten mixed reviews; people seem to love ’em or hate ’em. They come with three bud sizes and a relatively short cord (handy under the sheets), as well as a nice little storage case.

For $30 to $40 you can buy Sony’s MDR-EX71SL Ear Buds. They’re reported to have good sound and adequate fit. But if you’re willing to spend a little more, you may want to consider Shure’s in-ear ‘phones for about $100. They’ll also shield you a bit better from external noise. Excellent if using at night with someone who snores.

By the way, if the buds don’t fit quite right, some people say to put them in upside down and loop the wires over your ears. Heck, no one will notice if you’re using them for hypno – it’s not as if you’re on the subway. One fella claims to have gone to a hearing aid shop to have a custom ear mold made to replace the ear bud’s rubber. Says it works great. Clever, huh? The advantage of in-ears is that they’re comfortable to use in bed. But they’re not a very good choice if you don’t have a quality pair.

Moving on to talking pillows. They didn’t have these when I started out and believe it or not, I fantasized about inventing one a couple years ago. They’re now available from a number of vendors and you can find a variety of them on Amazon. For $24.95 PillowSonic sells the Pillow Speaker which lays over a flat device. No wires, no tangles and it even comes with its own relaxation CD.

There’s also Pillow Talk’s Memory Foam Stereo Pillow for $39.99. It works with both CD players and iPods. Dreamy. Pillow speakers are a natural solution to a relaxing hypnotic experience. You can easily move your head about without any worries about headphone shift.

And finally: wireless headphones. I love mine. They’re made by Macally and have an innocuous name like mTUNE-N but mine have always been “The Muffs”. They cost $35 and are designed specifically for the iPod, which slides into a slot on the outside of one of earphones (see above). I waited quite a while before investing in wireless headphones because I’d read that most of them sounded awful, were uncomfortable, or cost too much.

But I adore my Muffs. I know I look like a dork wearing them, but I really don’t care. As I wrote earlier, my teenagers wouldn’t be caught dead in them. In fact, they clear out when I put them on, that’s how ugly they are. But what they lack in kewl they make up for in functionality. They don’t need batteries so they never run out. They have no wires, so they never get tangled. They fit so securely, they never fall off. Technology at its finest, that’s what I think.

Whatever you decide, do consider investing in a decent pair of headphones if you can. You’ll probably use them when you exercise, too, and it can make listening to music much more enjoyable. You shouldn’t have to pay too much, either, as there’s a lot of competition out there for your business!

Here’s how to spend ex-drinking time

Posted by Roberta Jewell
Categories: This 'n that

time spent drinkingOne of the most common topics we hear about on our message board has to do with making the adjustment to all those hours – typically evening  – no longer drinking. People are downright bored. And perplexed. They often don’t understand why they continue to have a powerful desire to engage in a behavior for which they’ve lost the physical craving. Because unfortunately, if not addressed, the psychological yearning remains. This is conditioning that resulted after many years of practice, after all. It takes some time to get past it. That’s why hypnotherapy, counseling, and support can be very useful.

It may sound counter-intuitive, but it’s also why, given our predictably addictive personalities, it’s sometimes helpful to become a bit nuts about something completely new, at least early on in the recovery process. For example, when I first started out, I was a maniac for exercise – something that never really appealed to me earlier. But it kept me busy and out of trouble. I had other interests for which I became passionate – building the MWO community was one of them, of course, and it remains one of my most rewarding (and challenging) activities. But on a day to day level…when the witching hour hits and we’re left with a choice we know we shouldn’t make, what are we to do?  In the past I’ve recommended a number of strategies. Take a walk. Take a bath. Get a massage. Enroll in an evening class. Volunteer. Start a new hobby. Become a Big Brother or Sister. Visit an elderly person. Adopt a pet. Redecorate. Learn to mediate. Join a health club. And be sure to have a number of healthy non-alcoholic beverages on hand.    

To be honest, I’ve found another solution that has been very helpful to me although it probably sounds terribly simplistic. It’s this: watch a movie. Believe it or not, you may find it very helpful in a pinch. 

I’m not talking about the $12 theater ticket movies, either. I mean the NetFlix or Blockbuster CDs that you rent online and keep as long as you like. They include several episodes per disk. You can rent the shows you missed last season or you’ve heard your friends raving about. You’re sure to get hooked as you spend your evenings indulging in your new obsession. And it’ll give you something else to look forward to as you drive home from work. 

Over the last couple of years I have found myself hopelessly absorbed in a number of network and cable shows like Six Feet Under, Nip/Tuck, Lost (family favorite), Weeds (my favorite) The Office, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and other fabulous shows. We’ve put our movie subscriptions to excellent use.

I don’t usually make a habit of encouraging couch potato activity. But this is different. If the choice is staying home and slugging down drinks or doing something else, I’d recommend popping open an L-Glutamine, throwing in a movie, and getting hooked on a whole lotta fun.

Modest exercise effective as meds for depression

Posted by Roberta Jewell
Categories: Diet, nutrition and exercise

exerciseThe findings aren’t new but they are important and were published by Duke University a few years ago. In a clinical setting Duke demonstrated that 30 minutes of moderate exercise (e.g. brisk walking) three times a week was just as effective as drug therapy in relieving symptoms of depression.

Researchers studied 156 elderly patients diagnosed with major depressive disorder. They were assigned to three groups: exercise, medication, or a combination of medication and exercise. To the researchers’ surprise, after 16 weeks all three groups showed significant and similar improvement in measurements of depression. They noted some patients who took the anti-depressants saw their symptoms alleviated sooner but by the 16th week, the group differences had disappeared

A follow up study six months later indicated that patients who continued to exercise had statistically significant improvement relative to those who took anti-depression medication or who took medication and exercised.

“One of the conclusions we can draw from this is that exercise may be just as effective as medication and may be a better alternative for certain patients,” said the lead researcher, Duke psychologist James Blumenthal.

And in response to the follow-up study Blumenthal said “the effectiveness of exercise seems to persist over time, and patients who respond well to exercise and maintain their exercise have a much smaller risk of relapsing.”

“Relapse,” of course, means a couple of things to us. I figure we should do anything we can to prevent it. Those of you who’ve read My Way Out know that moderate exercise is recommended three times a week. And those of you who do it already know it helps.

Give it a try if you haven’t. A brisk walk (approved by your doc) is all it takes.