Sunday, November 18, 2018

Ways Chronic Stress is Killing Your Quality of Life

Malnutrition is a serious issue that affects millions around the globe. The standard American diet can lead to malnutrition too. Believe it or not, you don’t have to have protruding bones or gaunt features to be considered malnourished. In fact, many people who suffer from malnutrition can appear perfectly healthy and may not even notice any symptoms at all.

So what is malnutrition, and what’s the best way to prevent it? Keep reading to find out what you need to know about this global epidemic and whether or not you may be affected.
What Is Malnutrition? Malnutrition Symptoms, Causes and Risk Factors

The term “malnutrition” may bring about mental images of starvation, extreme hunger or severe weight loss. However, there are many different ways to define malnutrition. It can even occur in people who may appear otherwise healthy.

So what is malnutrition? The official malnutrition definition translates to “poor nutrition,” which can be caused by a lack of any of the nutrients that your body needs, including calories, protein, essential fatty acids, vitamins or minerals. However, few people realize that malnutrition may also be caused by an excess of certain nutrients in the diet, an issue that can often be just as detrimental to health.

Generally speaking, there are two main types of malnutrition, including:

    Protein-energy malnutrition: caused by either a lack of protein or a lack of protein and calories.
    Micronutrient deficiency diseases: characterized by a deficiency in specific vitamins and minerals, such as iron, calcium, iodine, vitamin D, etc.

There are a number of potential causes of malnutrition. Some of the most common malnutrition causes include a poorly planned diet, poverty, loss of appetite or digestive disorders that interfere with nutrient absorption. Older adults or people with restrictive diets, eating disorders, reduced intake and increased nutritional needs due to other medical conditions like cancer or kidney disease are all at an increased risk of being malnourished.

So how do you know if you’re getting enough of the nutrients that your body needs? Although there are many hallmark signs of malnutrition and specific vitamin deficiency symptoms, oftentimes the effects of malnutrition go unnoticed for years. For a quick and convenient option, there are plenty of nutrient deficiency test services offered by labs and medical practices that can help pinpoint exactly which vitamins and minerals you lack. Alternatively, you can also work with a registered dietitian to analyze your diet and determine how you can safely meet your dietary needs to stay well-nourished.
Top 10 Most Common Nutrient Deficiencies

1. Vitamin D

Also known as the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D is an important vitamin that is synthesized in the skin in response to sun exposure. Found in very few dietary sources, it can be incredibly difficult to meet your daily needs without stepping in the sunlight. For this reason, vitamin D is sometimes considered the most common nutrient deficiency in the world. Some studies estimating that nearly 42 percent of the U.S. population may have a vitamin D deficiency. (1) Older adults, people with dark skin, those who are overweight or obese, and those with limited sun exposure are at an even higher risk of deficiency.

Symptoms of this vitamin deficiency are often very subtle and may surface only after several years. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to osteoporosis, bone loss and an increased risk of fractures. (2) It may also result in impaired immune function and increased susceptibility to infections. (3) Because vitamin D is found in few food sources, most people can benefit from supplementation with vitamin D3 to help meet their needs.
2. Iron

Iron is one of the main components of red blood cells. It is crucial in the transportation of oxygen from the bloodstream to the cells. It’s found in two main forms in the diet: heme iron and non-heme iron. Heme iron is more well-absorbed. It is found primarily in meat and animal products. Non-heme iron, on the other hand, is found in a variety of plant and animal sources but is not nearly as bioavailable. Because of this, vegans and vegetarians are at an especially high risk of iron deficiency.

According to a survey conducted by the World Health Organization, nearly 25 percent of the global population is deficient in this essential nutrient. That equates to over 1.6 billion people around the world. (4) Iron deficiency anemia is the most common side effect of low iron levels. This can cause anemia symptoms like fatigue, shortness of breath, brittle nails and pale skin. Iron deficiency can be corrected through either diet modifications, supplementation or a combination of both to ensure that needs are met.
3. Calcium

Calcium is absolutely vital to several aspects of health, from bone metabolism to nerve signaling. (5) Found primarily in dairy products, soft-boned fish and leafy greens, many people don’t get nearly enough calcium in their diets. In fact, one study published in the Journal of Nutrition even found that less than 10 percent of teenage girls and women over 50 met the daily recommended intake for calcium. (6)

A deficiency can be absolutely detrimental, resulting in a range of calcium deficiency symptoms. These include cramps, muscle weakness, low energy levels and muscle spasms. Even more serious side effects can also occur over time, such as osteoporosis and rickets, a condition characterized by the softening of the bones in children. (7, 8) Calcium deficiency is often treated using both diet and supplementation, although the potential effects of calcium supplements has been a subject of controversy in recent years.
4. Iodine

Iodine is an important mineral that plays a central role in thyroid function and the production of thyroid hormones. These hormones help regulate everything from metabolism to body temperature, brain development and beyond. (9) For this reason, getting enough iodine in your diet is key to keeping your thyroid working efficiently and preventing thyroid problems.

Iodine deficiency can cause goiter, which is an enlargement of the thyroid gland. It may also cause other symptoms, such as fatigue, increased sensitivity to cold, an impaired ability to focus, constipation and weight gain. (10) Fortunately, iodine deficiency can usually be avoided by including plenty of iodine-rich foods in the diet, including seaweed, wild-caught cod, yogurt, eggs, tuna fish and iodized salt.
5. Magnesium

Magnesium is a mineral that acts as a co-factor in nearly 300 enzymatic reactions in the body. It also forms the structure of the bones and teeth, supports healthy nerve and muscle function, and aids in the regulation of blood sugar levels. (11) Unfortunately, most of us are sorely lacking in this essential mineral. One study out of Hawaii estimates that nearly half of all U.S. adults consume less than the recommended daily value. (12)

Some of the most common signs of deficiency can include loss of appetite, nausea, weakness, vomiting and fatigue. (13) Taking a multivitamin or including plenty of magnesium-rich foods in your diet, such as nuts, seeds, legumes and leafy greens, can sidestep a magnesium deficiency and help round out your diet.

6. Vitamin A

This fat-soluble vitamin is perhaps most well-known for its effects on eye health. It’s also involved in many other physiological processes, including skin cell turnover, immune function and reproductive health. (14) Although vitamin A deficiency is uncommon in many parts of the world, it’s a serious problem in many developing countries. Some reports estimate that up to 127 million preschool-aged children and 7 million pregnant women around the world may lack this key vitamin. (15)

Vitamin A deficiency symptoms include frequent infections, dry eyes, night blindness and dry skin. Consuming plenty of vitamin A foods can combat deficiency, including organ meats, carrots, squash, leafy green vegetables and sweet potatoes.
7. Vitamin B12

Involved in blood cell formation, energy production, nerve cell function and DNA synthesis, there’s no doubt that your body needs a steady stream of vitamin B12 to function efficiently. However, because it’s found mostly in animal products, such as meat, fish and poultry, vegetarians and vegans are at an alarmingly high risk of deficiency. In fact, some reports estimate that the deficiency rates for these at-risk populations could reach up to 86 percent. (16)

Megaloblastic anemia is the most common side effect of vitamin B12 deficiency. This is a condition characterized by a low number of red blood cells. Aside from increasing your intake of vitamin B12 foods, supplementation is the best bet to reduce your risk of deficiency. Many multivitamins contain vitamin B12, or you can opt for a B-complex to get a concentrated dose of all of the B vitamins that your body needs in one shot.
8. Vitamin E

Vitamin E doubles as both a fat-soluble vitamin and powerful antioxidant. It helps fight free radicals and protects the cells against free radical damage. (17) Because the average Western diet is typically high in processed junk and low in nutrient-rich whole foods like fruits and veggies, many people struggle to meet the daily recommended intake for vitamin E.

Deficiency is rare but can occur in those with impaired fat absorption or certain digestive disorders. Symptoms often include weakened immunity, difficulty walking, loss of vision or loss of muscle control. Wheat germ, nuts, seeds and veggies are a few of the most concentrated sources for this vital vitamin. It can also be found in some multivitamins and is available in special water-soluble forms for those with absorption issues.
9. Choline

Choline is an essential nutrient that is necessary for metabolism, neurotransmitter synthesis, the formation of cell membranes and brain development. (18) It is found in many food sources but is especially prevalent in animal products, such as eggs, meat and dairy. Although it is also found in several plant-based sources as well, it’s a nutrient that should be monitored closely if you’re on a restrictive diet to make sure you get enough.

A lack of choline has been associated with liver and muscle damage, as well as birth defects and impairments in growth and development. (19) Deficiency is typically treated through the diet. Supplements are also available and sometimes used for more severe cases.
10. Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are heart-healthy fats that have been linked to decreased inflammation, enhanced cognitive function and improved heart health. (20) The most active forms, DHA and EPA, are found primarily in fatty fish like salmon, sardines and anchovies. Omega-3 fatty acids can also be obtained from some plant sources in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) as well, but studies estimate that only about 5 percent is actually converted to the active forms in the body, putting those who don’t eat fish regularly at an increased risk of deficiency. (21)

Omega-3 fatty acid deficiency can result in symptoms like difficulty concentrating, joint pain, mood swings, dry skin and brittle nails. For those who don’t eat at least two servings of fatty fish per week, omega-3 supplements are widely available in the form of fish oil, cod liver oil, krill oil and algal oil.
Complications and Disease Related to Malnutrition

Nutritional deficiencies contribute to a long list of diseases and disorders. They can cause many negative malnutrition symptoms and health complications as well. Here are a few of the most common malnutrition diseases that can be caused by a lack of one or more specific nutrients in the diet:

Stats and Facts on Malnutrition, Malnourishment and Nutrient Deficiencies

Malnutrition is often dismissed as a problem that only affects developing countries. However, while it’s true that certain areas are more prone to malnourishment and specific nutrient deficiencies, malnutrition is a global issue that can affect anyone.

Here are some quick facts and statistics on malnutrition around the globe:

    The official nutritional deficiency definition can include a lack of any specific nutrient, including calories, proteins, fats, vitamins or minerals.
    In developing countries, deficiencies in iron, iodine, vitamin A and zinc are most common. (22)
    Although it’s unclear what is the single most common nutrient deficiency in the U.S., many adults lack vitamin D, iron and vitamin B12. (23)
    Meanwhile, vegetarians and vegans are at a higher risk of deficiency in nutrients like iron, vitamin B12, zinc, calcium and omega-3 fatty acids.
    Iodine deficiency is considered the most preventable cause of mental impairment worldwide. (24)
    Some research shows that climate change may contribute to changes in the nutritional value of plants. This could potentially contribute to nutritional deficiencies in some areas. (25)
    Malnutrition in children is one of the most serious risk factors for illness and death. It is associated with 52.5 percent of all deaths in young children. (26)


While today we know just how much of a role nutrition plays in overall health, that hasn’t always been the case. In fact, researchers have only learned about the connection between vitamin and mineral consumption and conditions caused by nutritional deficiencies, such as scurvy and beriberi, within the last several hundred years.

From the 1940s onward, many food manufacturers began fortifying products with several essential vitamins and minerals as a public health measure to help prevent nutritional deficiencies. Flour was fortified with a myriad of B vitamins, breakfast cereals began being enriched with vitamin D and iodized salt started being stocked on the shelves of every supermarket. This was highly successful at eradicating many common nutritional deficiencies. It also helped decrease the risk of birth defects and serious conditions like rickets in children in many countries.

Unfortunately, malnutrition remains one of the biggest health problems around the world. This is especially true for pregnant women and young children, who are at a greater risk of deficiency. Initiatives have been set forth by organizations like the United Nations and the World Health Organization in an attempt to address world hunger, as well as related factors like poverty, improved nutrition education, sustainable agriculture and food security. (27)

Malnutrition can be a serious problem that goes beyond what you put on your plate. If you suspect you may have a nutritional deficiency, consult with a doctor or dietitian to determine what other factors may be at play, as well as the best course of treatment for you.

Additionally, keep in mind that not all nutritional deficiencies can be cured by simply switching up your diet. In some cases, severe deficiencies may require supplementation, sometimes using high doses or injections performed under medical supervision. In any case, talk to your doctor before starting supplementation, especially if you’re taking other medications or have any underlying health conditions.
Final Thoughts

    The official malnutrition definition translates to “poor nutrition” and is characterized by insufficient nutrient consumption, including an inadequate intake of calories, protein, essential fatty acids, vitamins or minerals.
    Some of the most common nutrient deficiencies include iron, calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12, choline, vitamin E, omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, iodine and vitamin A.
    In many cases, micronutrient deficiencies can be corrected by following a healthy, well-rounded diet or using a multivitamin to help fill in any gaps.
    In some cases, other factors may be involved and supplementation or medical treatment may also be necessary.
    For most people, however, following a balanced diet rich in fruits, veggies, protein foods and healthy fats can ensure that your dietary needs are being met to help prevent malnutrition and nutritional deficiencies.
Today, women living in the U.S. are more likely to be killed by a spouse/partner than anyone else. Men commit the vast majority of violent and non-violent crimes in the U.S, including nearly all mass shootings. And men are much more likely to face accusations of sexual harassment and abuse. That includes instances occurring at home, in schools and in the workplace. (1)

Why is this? To help explain this phenomenon, many use the concept called “toxic masculinity.” There are various ways to describe toxic masculinity, depending on who you ask. According to the Teaching Tolerance website, the phrase toxic masculinity is “derived from studies that focus on violent behavior perpetrated by men, and — this is key — is designed to describe not masculinity itself, but a form of gendered behavior that results when expectations of ‘what it means to be a man’ go wrong.” (2)

Not only is toxic masculinity harmful to women, but it also hurts men themselves, both physically and mentally. The World Health Organization believes that risk-taking behaviors and lack of willingness to seek help are among the most important reasons for higher rates of negative health outcomes among men. This includes ailments like heart disease, COPD and other respiratory diseases, depression and alcoholism. Men also experience shorter life expectancies compared to women.

Beyond that, suicide rates are about four times higher among men, according to The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. (3) And even men who don’t suffer physical health consequences due to toxic masculinity likely deal with issues like feeling emotionally cut off and misunderstood.

Let’s take a deeper dive into toxic masculinity, including the three specific phrases you should ban from your vocabulary.
What Is Toxic Masculinity?

What is the definition of toxic masculinity? Toxic masculinity can be thought of as “hyper masculinity,” a narrow and repressive description of manhood, designating manhood as defined by violence, sex, status and aggression.

Another term tied to toxic masculinity is “hegemonic masculinity.” This is defined as a practice that legitimizes men’s dominant position in society and justifies the subordination of women, and other marginalized ways of being a man. (4)

Urban Dictionary considers toxic masculinity to be “a social science term that describes narrow repressive types of ideas about the male gender role and that defines masculinity as exaggerated masculine traits.” Toxic masculinity can also suggest that men who act too emotional or aren’t violent enough are not “real men.” (5)

Below are some examples of ideas/beliefs associated with toxic masculinity:

    Manhood is defined by violence, sex, status and aggression.
    Men should not be interested in “feminine things” because this makes them appear weak
    Men shouldn’t display “feminine” traits such as emotional vulnerability.
    Men and women can never truly understand each other or just be friends, for reasons like men are always interested in sex.
    Real men are strong and don’t show emotional signs of shame or weakness.
    Anger and violence are useful ways of solving conflicts.
    Men are not suited to be single parents/the dominant parent in a family.

The Origins of Toxic Masculinity

To understand more about toxic masculinity, it helps to understand the background of masculinity theories in general.

What is “the masculinity theory?” Masculinity is defined as “possession of the qualities traditionally associated with men.”  The theory of masculinity enormously impacts the field of gender studies. Australian sociologist Raewyn Connell is one of the first researchers to form a theory of masculinity. Her theory is still considered to be one of the most influential in the field of men/masculinities today.

According to a 2009 article published in the Journal of Gender Studies, Connell published her book Masculinities originally in 1995. There, she provided  “a critical feminist analysis of historically specific masculinities whilst at the same time acknowledging the varying degrees to which individual men play in its reproduction.” (6)

A 2015 article published in the journal Culture, Health and Sexuality states that “the concept of hegemonic masculinity has been used in gender studies since the early-1980s to explain men’s power over women … Although men are structurally related to women in a superior position and inherently benefit from this (what Raewyn Connell called the patriarchal dividend), they do have a ‘choice’ about whether or not to actively occupy oppressive positions.” (7)

Connell argued that there are many ways to act masculine, and that it’s up to men to choose which types of characteristics they adhere to.

To be clear, toxic masculinity is not only a critique of men by women. In fact, males are very involved in discussions of toxic masculinity. And they have been from the start. For example, in the 1990s, researcher Dr. Ronald Levant played a significant role in the development of masculinity ideology. He explained how cultural belief systems and attitudes toward masculinity defined men’s roles.

Since the origins of masculinity theory, both men and women use hegemonic masculinity as a way to describe: a set of values, established by men in power, that functions to include and exclude, and to organize society in gender unequal ways. It combines several features: a hierarchy of masculinities, differential access among men to power (over women and other men) and the interplay between men’s identity, men’s ideals, interactions, power and patriarchy.

Currently, discussions of masculinity, femininity and gender distinctions remain complicated. They’re tied to gender roles and gender norms. And those are complex topics. On one hand, some feel that gender norms first developed thousands of years ago. Why? Because men spent more time dedicated to hunting, while women generally raised the family. Females are more involved in the process of birthing children, which some say triggered males to compete with each other for women’s attention.

However, according to other theories, early human behavior wasn’t largely differentiated by gender. Some argue that we didn’t see huge gender differences in society until recent agriculture-based developments. And for this reason, we shouldn’t assume that modern-day masculinity has biological roots, but rather that it is really influenced by our culture.
Masculinity vs. Toxic Masculinity

Masculinity is not the same thing as toxic masculinity. It’s possible to be “masculine” without exhibiting toxic masculinity characteristics.
What are the characteristics of masculinity, and what does “non-toxic masculinity” look like?
Many feel that “traditional masculinity” include characteristics like leadership, strength of purpose, protectiveness and a willingness to do what’s right despite its emotional cost. The goal among those fighting toxic masculinity is not to discourage men from pursuing these traits.
Organizations like The Good Men Project offer up the following ideas about what “positive-masculinity” can look like: (8)

    Men can have physical power without being violent or aggressive.
    While violence is best avoided, defending others in certain circumstances can still be a valiant goal. At the same time, men should not assume that their role is to protect the vulnerable or that women are always more vulnerable and helpless than men. We can benefit from thinking of both genders as both “protectors” and “nurturers.”
    Masculinity does not need to be at odds with sensitivity and empathy. These should be considered gender-neutral traits. Other gender-neutral traits include kindness, honesty, discipline, consideration, and being protective, strong, rational and even clever.
    Men can have relationships with women without engaging in objectification of women or being interested in sex.
1. Share Facts About Gender Research

Masculinity describes a pattern of behaviors, but it doesn’t describe biological or inherited traits. While many people may assume that men and women act differently due to biological differences, research tells us otherwise. In other words, not every masculine man is engaging in toxic masculinity.

Studies show there’s very little difference between the actual brains of men and women. The rigid societal norms created around femininity and masculinity are what actually cause the two sexes to act differently. For this reason, experts tell us that it’s important to shift the discussion away from sex and biology determining our behavior, and toward gender and culture. This helps to end men being excused for aggressive behavior because “it’s their nature.” Instead, it makes each man more personally responsible for his actions. If leaders, parents and teachers stop assuming that :boys will be boys,” then males will have to take more personal responsibility for their actions.

2. Limit Use of Harmful Phrases & Comments in the Home

Experts tell us that parents play a huge role when it comes to shaping their sons’ behaviors and ideas about what it means to be a man. Parents are discouraged from expecting violent and rough behavior from their sons and acting like this normal. Young men should not be excused from any consequences for behavior that harms others (mentally or physically).

Parents can also teach their sons that there is more than one way to be a boy or “act like a man.” It’s important for parents to stop telling boys and men to “man up” and act tough, and to make it acceptable to show emotion, tenderness or pain. Parents can also create an environment where it’s possible for everyone in the family to to openly talk about their roles, relations and expectations.
3. Discuss Masculinity & Gender Roles In Classrooms

Toxic masculinity can be a difficult topic for teachers to discuss with their classes, but many experts feel that as educators, it is teachers’ responsibility to openly communicate what types of remarks, bullying and behaviors will not be tolerated. Teachers can also help shape the beliefs of students as they’re forming ideas about gender roles. In some classrooms, teachers are now turning to films and other resources, including documentaries Tough Guise 2 and The Mask You Live In. These help explain problems with gender expectations.

Among some college campuses, leaders are creating “safe spaces” where men can openly discuss gender concerns. For example, at Brown University,  current programming includes: Masculinity101, a weekly discussion group for students to unpack and unlearn toxic masculine norms. The Men’s Story Project: Looking Within and Speaking Out, is a large-scale storytelling event featuring the stories of males.
4. Community Outreach Programs (Especially for Boys/Men Who Are Most Susceptible)

Research shows that masculinity is constructed in ways that reflect poverty or power, regional cultures and neighborhood dynamics. Destructive and exaggerated ideas of masculinity often develop among socially marginalized men living in urban areas of poverty, where the desire for power and force is emphasized. These same men may be more prone to experience violence in childhood, something that can create enduring psychological impacts that may fuel toxic masculinity later in life. This includes a lack of empathy and remorse and increased acts of aggression.

While this isn’t an easy problem to fix, a key intervention seems to be promoting more models of positive masculinity.

Outside of the classroom, a number of male-oriented clubs and organizations now involve men in sexual assault prevention courses, helping to change how they think about maleness and treating women. According to an article on this topic published in The Atlantic, “club members are walking examples of respectful male students, ones who choose conversation over clenched fists.” (9) There have also been a growing number of well-known public speakers addressing the topic of toxic masculinity, and books written on the subject — including several authored by athletes, musicians, and so on.
5. Highlight Examples of “Positive Masculinity”

The media can also help by displaying examples of men who are comfortable in their masculinity, but also respectful, polite, ambitious and kind. Community leaders can also help by showing what real-life examples of positive masculinity look like. This includes pastors, priests, teachers, business owners, politicians, and so on. Public figures can serve as powerful examples, showing that it’s okay for men to ask for help, fail and feel pain. And the less that “successful” adult men publicly degrade minority men, gay men or women, the less likely it is for younger males to learn that this is acceptable.

Women can also help fight toxic masculinity by “talking up” positive masculinity and celebrating the differences between femininity and masculinity. One way for women to do this is to form relationships with men based on mutual respect, a sense of safety and trust. As mothers, wives and friends, women can show men that it’s safe to express their feelings and that they shouldn’t fear being viewed as “soft” when they do.

Erythritol is one of the most prominent natural zero calorie sweeteners that have become so popular, and seemingly less problematic than the controversial aspartame. Instead, erythritol is a natural sugar alcohol like xylitol that I’ve spoken about before in my article regarding artificial sweeteners.

Many people choose erythritol because it can decrease the amount of sugar and calories in what they’re consuming. You’ll commonly find it as an ingredient in low-sugar, sugar-free and even carb-free foods, but there are some common erythritol side effects to consider as well; in fact, when used in large amounts, erythritol consumption could potentially cause nausea and stomach upset. (1)

The reason why it doesn’t provide calories or sugar to its consumer is because the body actually can’t break it down! That’s right — even though erythritol travels through your body, it doesn’t get metabolized. (2)

So is erythritol a safe and smart natural sweetener substitute for sugar? If it’s made from GMO cornstarch, then absolutely not. I definitely don’t recommend it, especially when there are healthier, safer options readily available. If you’re talking about non-GMO erythritol, then it can be a better choice than some other artificial sweeteners, but I still think there are better options out there.

Erythritol is rapidly absorbed in the small intestine, but it’s poorly metabolized and may not carry the same health benefits as other natural sweeteners such as monk fruit or raw honey. As we’ve seen before, just because a sweetener doesn’t have calories and doesn’t appear to affect blood sugar, it does not mean that it’s good for your health.
What Is Erythritol?

If you’re a label reader (and I hope you are!), you may have noticed alternative sweeteners like sucralose (Splenda®) and natural zero calorie sweetener erythritol becoming more and more prominent in ingredient lists lately, especially in energy and sports drinks and chocolate bars. You’re probably thinking to yourself, what is erythritol?

It naturally occurs in some fruits and fermented foods, but the variety being added to food and beverages today is typically man-made from GMO cornstarch, resulting in an ultra-processed food — very far from a natural sweetening agent. It’s one of those “invisible GMO ingredients.”

Erythritol is a four-carbon sugar alcohol or polyol that contains about 60 percent to 80 percent of the sweetness of table sugar. Sugar alcohol has nothing to do with cocktails, though since it does not contain ethanol (aka alcohol) like alcoholic beverages. Other sugar alcohols include sorbitol/glucitol, lactitol, isomalt, maltitol, mannitol, glycerol/glycerin and xylitol. Fruits like watermelon, pear and grapes naturally have minor amounts of erythritol, as do mushrooms and fermented foods like cheese, wine, beer and sake. (3)

Erythritol was first discovered in 1848 by a Scottish chemist named John Stenhouse. Japan has been using erythritol since the early 1990s in candies, jellies, jams, chocolate (including the common chocolate bar), yogurt, beverages and as a natural sugar substitute. It’s gained popularity in the United States more recently. As of 1997, it has the status of generally recognized as safe from the FDA and the food industry and consumers love it because it can have up to 80 percent of the sweetness of sugar, but it’s noncaloric and does not raise blood sugar levels.

Meanwhile, some scientists claim that it might even provide antioxidants to whoever ingests it. In a diabetic rat, erythritol seems to act as an antioxidant (to fight free radicals) and potentially offered protection again hyperglycemia-induced vascular damage. (4)

Erythritol is now commonly added to many packaged food, snack and drink items (zero calorie sodas, for example) as well as sugar-free gums, mints and even some medications. It’s also available by itself as a granulated or powdered natural zero calorie sweetener, like Zsweet and Swerve (which is non-GMO certified and sourced from France). And because erythritol is not hygroscopic (does not absorb moisture from the air), it’s popular in certain baked products because it doesn’t dry them out.

Erythritol does occur naturally in some fruits and fermented foods. However, the problem is that the grand majority of erythritol used in products today is man-made by taking glucose (most commonly from GMO cornstarch) and fermenting it with a yeast called Moniliella pollinis.
4 Reasons to Not Consume GMO Erythritol
1. GMO

The World Health Organization defines genetically modified organisms (GMOs) as “foods derived from organisms whose genetic material (DNA) has been modified in a way that does not occur naturally, e.g. through the introduction of a gene from a different organism.” (5) Although there are non-GMO varieties available, much of the erythritol used in foods and beverages today is derived from cornstarch from genetically modified corn.

Animal studies have linked consumption of GMOs with infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, faulty insulin regulation, and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system. (6)
2. Commonly Combined with Artificial Sweeteners

Erythritol is not as sweet as sugar on its own so it’s often combined in foods and beverages with other questionable sweeteners, usually ones that are artificial. When combined with artificial sweeteners like aspartame, the erythritol-laden product can become even more troublesome for your health. Side effects of aspartame include anxiety, depression, short-term memory loss, fibromyalgia, weight gain, fatigue, brain tumors and more.

Since products containing erythritol typically also contain artificial sweeteners like aspartame, the side effects of that particular food or beverage become even more likely as well as dangerous.
3. Gastrointestinal Problems

Sugar alcohols like erythritol are well-known to cause digestive issues. Some of the most common erythritol side effects are undesirable gastrointestinal side effects, which are especially common in children. (7)

Unfortunately, the gastrointestinal issues don’t necessarily stop at some rumbling in your stomach. Diarrhea is a well-known common erythritol side effect. Especially when consumed in excess, unabsorbed erythritol can attract water from the intestinal wall and cause diarrhea. The likelihood of diarrhea appears to be even more likely when erythritol is consumed along with fructose. (8) Diarrhea might sound harmless, but it can lead to dehydration, electrolyte imbalances and malnutrition.

Many people report upset stomach and diarrhea after consuming erythritol in food or beverages. If consumption is high (50 grams or more per day) then digestive upset, including gas, cramping, bloating, stomachache and diarrhea, becomes even more likely. One study specifically showed that the intake of 50 grams of erythritol caused stomach rumbling and nausea. (1)

In 2012, a pediatric study looked at the GI tolerability of erythritol. The aim was to determine the maximum dose level of erythritol that’s well-tolerated by young children (4–6 years old) in a single drinking occasion. The researchers concluded that there is “a safety concern with respect to GI tolerability for the use of erythritol in beverages at a maximum use level of 2.5% for non-sweetening purposes.” (9)

For this reason, it’s important to keep intake in moderation to help prevent negative side effects and consider scaling back if digestive issues occur. Research typically shows that up to 0.45 grams of erythritol per pound of body weight is well-tolerated and safe for most people, but intake should not exceed that amount. (10)
4. Allergic Reactions

Although very rare, erythritol can cause an allergic skin reaction for some people. A study published in 2000 in the Journal of Dermatology demonstrates how drinks containing erythritol can potentially cause a severe allergic skin reaction. A young 24-year-old woman had severe wheals all over her entire body after having one glass of a beverage sweetened with erythritol. (11)

A wheal, often called a welt or hives, is a raised, itchy area of skin that’s sometimes an obvious sign of an allergy to something you’ve consumed or come in contact with. When you suddenly have a negative skin reaction, it’s always important to consider what you most recently consumed, especially if it contained a questionable ingredient you may not commonly consume, such as erythritol.
The Positive Side of Erythritol

If you purchase a product that has erythritol, how do you know if it’s a GMO erythritol? The product needs to have a USDA Organic or a Non-GMO Project-certified insignia on the packaging. Under these guidelines, it cannot be from a GMO source.

If you choose a non-GMO erythritol, can it be beneficial? I would say the answer depends on your specific health goals. Fans of this common sweetener mainly love it because of its lack of calories, which can be helpful to weight management. In fact, studies show that erythritol could influence the release of certain hormones in the gut and even slow the emptying of the stomach. (12) Many people also choose it as their sweetener of choice because it won’t cause a blood sugar spike, which can be especially helpful for diabetics.

Studies have been mixed, but some say that erythritol can decrease plaque or even help prevent tooth decay. One double-blind, randomized trial study looked at the effects of erythritol on 485 primary school children. Each child consumed four erythritol, xylitol or sorbitol candies three times per school day. In the follow-up examinations, researchers observed a lower number of cavities in the erythritol group than in the xylitol or sorbitol groups. The time until the development of cavities was also longest in the erythritol group. (13)
Better Sweetener Alternatives

Erythritol may have some positives, but I’m not convinced that those positives outweigh the negatives, especially for GMO erythritol. I personally would rather use stevia leaf extract because it also doesn’t spike blood sugar and has more proven health benefits, including improvements in cholesterol, blood pressure and even some types of cancer. (14)

Raw honey is another favorite of mine that’s truly a superfood. I also recommend monk fruit, which is a fruit-derived sweetener that has been used for hundreds of years.
1. Stevia

I’m talking about a real stevia leaf extract product, not a “stevia product” that actually contains other sweeteners like erythritol. Stevia is an herbal plant that belongs to the Asteraceae family. The stevia plant has been used for over 1,500 years by the Guaraní people of Brazil and Paraguay. It’s really a great, health-promoting choice when you buy a high-quality, pure stevia leaf extract product. Make sure to buy stevia without additives and one that has been less processed. I recommend green stevia as the best option.
2. Raw Honey

Raw honey is a pure, unfiltered and unpasteurized sweetener made by bees from the nectar of flowers. Unlike processed honey, raw honey does not get robbed of its incredible nutritional value and health powers. It has been scientifically proven to help with allergies, diabetes, sleep problems, coughs and wound healing. Look for a local beekeeper to source your raw honey. This makes it even more likely to help with seasonal allergies.
3. Monk Fruit

Monk fruit, also called luo han guo, has been used as a sweetener for centuries, and after many years being only available overseas, it’s recently become easier to find in grocery stores in the United States. Monk fruit contains compounds that, when extracted, are natural sweeteners 300–400 times sweeter than cane sugar — but with no calories and no effect on blood sugar.  Just make sure that the monk fruit product you’re purchasing doesn’t contain any GMO-derived erythritol or other unhealthy additives.
Final Thoughts on Erythritol

Once erythritol enters your body, it’s rapidly absorbed in the small intestine with only about 10 percent entering the colon while the other 90 percent is excreted in the urine. It essentially goes through your system untouched with zero metabolization. Many manufacturers and consumers think this is great because that means no added calories or sugar to your diet, but what about it is really healthy or natural? Certainly nothing if it’s man-made from genetically modified corn products.

Even if it’s not GMO, it may also cause possible gastrointestinal distress and allergic reactions in certain individuals who may be sensitive to its effects.

When we eat or drink anything, we ideally want it to go to work for us and encourage our overall health and well-being. Erythritol might have some benefits and non-GMO varieties may be fine in moderation, but there are plenty of other natural, health-promoting sweeteners available that can also be used in moderation instead.

Stress. It’s an awful word and a worse feeling, isn’t it? The thing is stress isn’t all bad. Without it, we wouldn’t be motivated to protect ourselves or perform. A certain level of stress helps us to adapt to our environment and pushes us to excel. The stress that is worrisome is chronic stress, and it can affect you negatively in multiple ways.

And new research confirms that chronic stress and elevated cortisol levels in midlife can actually cause brain shrinkage and memory problems.

How can you determine if your stress is good or chronic? Let’s take a look, along with how chronic stress can kill your quality of life and why you want to incorporate natural stress relievers into your life.
The Stress Response

So what is “good stress”? While stress itself may not be a good thing, each of us is only here because of the stress response. Our ancestors reacted to a threat by fighting or fleeing, literally or figuratively, and so survived thanks to this fight or flight instinct. Whether it was a food shortage or a physical threat, they went into what the prominent science center, the Franklin Institute, refers to as “metabolic overdrive.” (1)

Adrenaline and cortisol flood the body. Blood pressure, breathing and heart rate increase. Glucose is released into the bloodstream for ready energy. Digestion, growth, reproduction and immune system functions are suppressed or put on hold. Blood flow to the skin is decreased, and pain tolerance is increased.

During a real crisis, your actions would end up reversing many of these processes. You would fight or flee and resolve the problem — then take comfort in contact with loved ones or satisfaction in your abilities. You might dispel adrenaline through pacing or some other soothing effort and restore your metabolic and hormonal balances.

Life today, however, doesn’t often offer us the opportunity to enact a full stress response and resolution. Instead, we operate as if we’re in a constant, low-grade state of emergency, with no real end in sight. Many of us don’t physically dispel stress hormones or take the time to resolve the real problems. We don’t soothe ourselves or take the time to question our priorities.

So what are some of the things chronic stress is doing to you?
Chronic Stress Is Killing Your Quality of Life

1. It’s Messing with Your Brain

You may think that it’s necessary to work under the gun all of the time, but according to the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC), chronic stress affects your ability to concentrate, act efficiently and makes you more accident-prone.

Chronic stress has devastating effects on memory and learning. It actually kills brain cells. UMMC reports that people with post-traumatic stress disorder experience an 8 percent shrinkage of the hippocampus, the brain’s memory center, and stress affects, most decidedly, children’s ability to learn. (2)

The Franklin Institute explains that the stress hormone cortisol channels glucose to the muscles during the stress response and leaves less fuel for the brain. Cortisol also interrupts brain cell communication by compromising neurotransmitter function.

All learning depends on the use of memory. Stress affects your ability to access memories and prevents you from creating new ones.

Worse yet, your hippocampus is involved in turning cortisol off. As it becomes damaged by chronic stress, it becomes less able to do so and becomes more damaged. This is what the Franklin Institute refers to as a “degenerative cascade.”

A 2018 study published in the Neurology confirms brain shrinkage in middle-aged people with chronically elevated cortisol levels. The scary party? The brain starts to shrink before symptoms even appear.

“Our research detected memory loss and brain shrinkage in middle-aged people before symptoms started to show, so it’s important for people to find ways to reduce stress, such as getting enough sleep, engaging in moderate exercise, incorporating relaxation techniques into their daily lives, or asking their doctor about their cortisol levels and taking a cortisol-reducing medication if needed,” says study author Justin B. Echouffo-Tcheugui, MD, PhD, of Harvard Medical School. “It’s important for physicians to counsel all people with higher cortisol levels.”

2. Stress Increases Risk of Heart Attack, Heart Disease and Stroke

A direct link between chronic stress and increased risk for heart attack, heart disease and stroke has not yet been established by researchers. What chronic stress does do, reports UMMC, is worsen risk factors for these conditions.

Stress increases your heart rate and force, constricts your arteries, and affects heart rhythms. It thickens the blood, which may protect against blood loss in case of injury, according to UMMC. Stress increases blood pressure, and chronic stress damages blood vessel linings, especially because chronic stress contributes to inflammation.

Increased blood pressure is also a risk factor for stroke, and the Franklin Institute reports that stress levels can increase atherosclerosis, another risk factor for stroke.

3. Stress Dials Down Your Immune System

Fighting off infection isn’t a primary concern if your body thinks it’s facing an immediate danger, but the problem is chronic stress definitely dampens your immune system, making fighting infection much more difficult. People seem to be much more susceptible to infections and experience more severe symptoms when they come down with a cold or flu if they’re stressed, reports UMMC.

Stress can also trigger a detrimental overdrive in your immune system. Stress contributes to inflammation in the body. Your immune system may react to other damage going on in your body due to stress and send out immune compounds known as cytokines that contribute to the inflammatory response. These compounds can damage healthy cells in their effort to combat unhealthy factors occurring in your body.

Inflammation has been linked to a multitude of health conditions and diseases, from asthma and diabetes to cancer and heart disease.

The American Psychological Association (APA) reports that stress can negatively affect your ability to recover from a heart attack and that stress management training can help speed healing from a heart attack. (3)

According to the Franklin Institute, stress affects the blood-brain barrier. This barrier protects many substances that enter your body from ever reaching and affecting your brain, things like drugs and toxins, viruses and poisons. Researchers found that stress increased the permeability of the blood-brain barrier in Gulf War soldiers. Drugs meant to protect their bodies from chemical attacks and that should have never affected the brain did.

4. Chronic Stress Contributes to Aging

As I’ve explained, the stress response turns off many physiological processes that aren’t deemed urgent. Consider the lack of blood flow to the skin. That’s certainly going to affect how old you look. Worse, though, is how much chronic stress can affect the aging brain. We all lose brain cells as we age. Toxins, automatic routines, improper diet, lack of exercise and loss of social connections contribute to this. So, as stress allows more toxins to cross the blood-brain barrier and cortisol damages the hippocampus, brain function, new learning and memory are greatly affected.

The reduced effectiveness of the blood-brain barrier is a common finding in people with Alzheimer’s disease. The “degenerative cascade” is accelerated in the aging brain. A study of elderly people found that hippocampus size was reduced by 14 percent in those with high cortisol levels and that these participants showed much less ability to create new memories for new learning. Another study found that hippocampus size was linked to the rate of progression in Alzheimer’s disease.

The APA reports on a study of chronological age versus physiological age related to stress. Women that cared for disabled or sickly children over a matter of years were 10 years older physiologically. That’s because chronic stress affected their ability to regenerate blood cells. Chronic stress can also contribute to aging in terms of arthritis, cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis.

5. Stress Contributes to Weight Gain and Digestive Disorders

Since digestion is also dialed down during the stress response, chronic stress can contribute to a variety of digestive disorders. Bloated stomach, cramping, constipation and diarrhea are common symptoms of chronic stress. So, too, is acid reflux and irritable bowel syndrome. Stress can worsen ulcers and inflammatory bowel disease as well.

Cortisol contributes to the accumulation of dangerous belly fat and worsens cravings for fat, salt and sugar. Eating unhealthy carbs can be soothing as this lessens the behavioral and hormonal imbalances associated with the stress response. Unfortunately, this behavior can become habitual and lead to health problems like diabetes and heart disease.

6. Chronic Stress Affects Your Mood and Relationships

Constant stress can affect your sleep patterns and make you irritable and fatigued, unable to concentrate and highly reactive. You may become unable to relax and operate in a state of anxiety. Depression is a common reaction to chronic stress. All of these things can downgrade your quality of life and affect your relationships with others.

Chronic stress is associated with feelings of helplessness and lack of control. Perfectionists are  more likely to suffer from disrupted serotonin levels due to stress, the “feel-good” neurotransmitter in the brain, reports UMMC.

7. Stress Increases Pain

Links between pain severity and chronic stress have been established with headaches, joint pain and muscle pain. Stress seems to intensify arthritis pain and back pain. Work stress is associated with backaches, and stress increases the occurrence and severity of tension headaches.

8. Stress Affects Sexuality and Reproductive Functions

Chronic stress reduces sexual desire in women and can contribute to erectile dysfunction in men. Chronic stress is linked to premenstrual syndrome severity and can affect fertility in women. Stress during pregnancy is linked to higher rates of premature birth and miscarriage. Stress during pregnancy may also affect how infants themselves react to stress after birth, reports UMMC. Chronic stress can also worsen hormonally based mood changes that accompany menopause.

9. Chronic Stress Affects Your Skin, Hair and Teeth

Hormonal imbalances due to stress and the fact that blood flow to the skin is reduced during the stress response can negatively affect your skin, hair and teeth. Eczema is a common reaction to stress. Acne, hives, psoriasis and rosacea have also been linked to stress. Hair loss and gum disease have also been linked to stress.

10. Stress Contributes to Addiction

In an attempt to escape the negative feelings associated with chronic stress, many people turn to self-soothing behaviors or activities that temporarily raise their dopamine and serotonin levels. Alcohol, tobacco and substance abuse are common ways people attempt to treat stress. Food addictions, gambling, checking out with television and video games are also habits that may develop due to chronic stress. All of these behaviors end up worsening the problem in the long run and greatly affect both mental and physical health.
Don’t Take Stress for Granted

Just because you aren’t able to spear your saber-toothed tiger doesn’t mean that you’re unable learn to deal with stress more effectively. And plenty of research has found that stress management and relaxation techniques can help you become more able to adapt to stressful events, more efficient in functioning during stress and better able to recover from stress. Much of chronic stress has to do with feeling out of control or helpless.

Stress has been linked to heart disease in men that don’t feel that they have control in their jobs. It also plays a role in acute coronary syndrome (ACS), symptoms that warn of a heart attack. UMMC reports that ACS occurs in men after work, after stressful incidents. This means that thinking and emotions play a large part in ACS, and your thoughts and emotions are the very things that you can learn to control, no matter what happens in your environment.

Take a look at your life, and identify what’s causing you stress. Pay attention to your moods, and try to identify the thoughts and beliefs that may be contributing to them. Make time to engage in pleasantly challenging activities, exercise and connect with others. Prioritize and delegate. Check out my 16 Ways to Bust Stress for more ideas. If you’re having trouble managing your weight because of chronic stress try ways to lower cortisol, like adaptogen herbs, and reduce cravings.

Don’t try to eliminate stress from your life altogether. First of all, that’s impossible as so much of life is unpredictable. Secondly, some kinds of stress are beneficial. A challenging memory task can boost your immune system while watching a violent video can weaken it, reports the Franklin Institute. Memory tasks can also contribute to brain cell growth. Learn to deal with stress effectively rather than avoid it altogether.
Brain zaps — also sometimes referred to as brain shivers, brain shocks or head shocks — are described as being one of the most unbearable withdrawal symptoms when stopping certain depression and anxiety medications. Brain zaps get their name from the uncomfortable sensations they cause that are described as feeling like sudden zaps, electrical buzzes, tremors, shakes or jolts in the brain.

According to a New York Times analysis, the fear of dealing with withdrawal effects like brain zaps is believed to keep millions of people on antidepressant medications every year, even when they think they can cope well without them. (1) For example, a 2017 survey of 250 people who were considered long-term users of psychiatric drugs (mostly antidepressants) found that nearly half of users experienced severe antidepressant withdrawal symptoms when attempting to discontinue use of their drug. Half also reported they could not/would not stop taking the drug because of potential withdrawal symptoms. (2)

Can brain zaps be prevented and/or treated? Currently there is no medical intervention or medication that can be used to reliably control brain zaps. However, natural remedies have helped many people avoid serious antidepressant withdrawal symptoms, including: tapering off from drugs slowly, managing stress/anxiety, increasing GABA naturally and taking supplements that support cognitive health.
What Are Brain Zaps?

Brain zaps are head shocks that usually follow the discontinuation of antidepressant medications — which is why they are typically considered a withdrawal effect and associated with “antidepressant discontinuation syndrome.”

What Do Brain Zaps Feel Like?

Most people who have suffered from brain zaps say they come out of nowhere, usually last only a few brief moments and then disappear. There doesn’t seem to be clear triggers or any warnings that one is coming. Some people find that they deal with brain zaps when falling asleep or shortly after waking up from sleep. Brain zaps might also be triggered by alcohol use, anxiety or stress.

What Causes Brain Zaps?

What are the electric shock sensations known as brain zaps caused by? It’s not entirely known what causes brain zaps, but brain zaps are often associated with withdrawal from certain drugs, especially SSRIs, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, the most commonly prescribed antidepressants for depression and anxiety.

What is discontinuation syndrome? It’s a temporary condition that can occur following the interruption, reduction or discontinuation of antidepressant medications. Examples of SSRIs that can cause discontinuation syndrome include: Sertraline (Zoloft), Citalopram (Celexa), Escitalopram (Lexapro), Fluoxetine (Prozac) and Paroxetine (Paxil, Pexeva).

Across the internet, many people have reported a connection between brain zaps and Zoloft withdrawal. Brain zaps are not the only withdrawal symptom that people weaning from drugs like Zoloft or Prozac can experience — other common withdrawal effects include dizziness, headaches, nausea and paresthesia (burning or prickling sensation that is usually felt in the hands, arms, legs or feet). And this does not even include antidepressant side effects that can occur while taking these medications, which often include: weight gain, fatigue, sleep disturbances, cognitive impairment, headaches, sexual dysfunction, constipation and sometimes suicidal thoughts.

Aside from SSRIs, brain zaps have been reported when discontinuing other drugs too, such as:

    Similar drugs to SSRIs called selective serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, or SSNRIs
    Benzodiazepines, prescribed for anxiety and to promote relaxation
    ADHD medications including Adderall (amphetamine salts)
    MDMA (or ecstasy), an illegal street/party drug

There have not been many studies conducted that have investigated why brain zaps occur, although one theory is that they are due to changes in levels of serotonin in the brain. SSRI and SSNRI medications work by blocking a serotonin transporter and increasing serotonin levels. They also increase GABA activity, one of the brain’s main “calming” chemicals. However, falling levels of serotonin are not believed to be the primary cause of brain zaps because it’s been found that people with low serotonin prior to taking these medications do not experience brain zaps. (4)

A current hypothesis for the cause of brain zaps is that they may be due to declining levels of GABA. Drugs associated with brain zaps (SSRIs, benzodiazepines, ecstacy and Adderall) are all associated with an increase in GABA levels in the brain, and we know from a number of studies that when GABA levels fall, a number of withdrawal symptoms are possible. For example, low levels of GABA can trigger seizures, so it’s been speculated that brain zaps may actually be a form of a mild, localized seizure.
4 Natural Treatments for Brain Zaps & Prevention
1. Taper From Drugs Slowly

At this time, more research is needed regarding the most effective antidepressant withdrawal treatments. One thing that may be able to limit symptoms like brain zaps is slowly tapering off drugs, rather than stopping cold turkey — especially if you have been taking a high dose or using the drug for a long duration of time. (5)

You might be able to decrease your chances of experiencing brain zaps when you stop your medication slowly; however, this strategy is not guaranteed to work. Unfortunately, studies have found that even when someone slowly tapers from a drug, many of the drugs have relatively long half-lives and can still cause significant withdrawal symptoms. This leads many people to restart the drug and to stay stuck in a vicious cycle.
2. Manage Anxiety & Stress

Although you might experience brain zaps for no obvious reason, they seem to be more common among people who are under a lot of stress or dealing with anxiety. Some people report that the intensity, duration and frequency of their brain zaps gets worse when they are dealing with elevated stress.

If stress remains elevated and becomes chronic, it’s not uncommon to experience brain zaps and other symptoms for years. An important part of your brain zap treatment plan should be managing stress and giving your body time to recover from any traumatic or exhausting events you’ve dealt with lately.  If you suffer from depression or an anxiety disorder, it’s best to work with a trained counselor, coach or therapist who can help you learn how to manage your symptoms long-term.

Other stress-relieving activities that can be helpful include: yoga, exercise, meditation, time spent in nature, prayer, joining a faith-based organization/community, reading and journaling.
3. Increase GABA Naturally

Because GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) is a neurotransmitter that can help curb nervousness, anxiety and insomnia, it makes sense that by boosting levels naturally, you may lower your odds of experiencing brain zaps due to stress. GABA appears to have additional benefits too, such as helping to fight inflammation, PMS, weight gain, muscle loss, heart disease and ADHD. Many of GABA’s positive mood-enhancing effects are due to how it reduces/inhibits activity of certain nerve cells in the central nervous system.

Although we still need more research to confirm that declining GABA levels contribute to antidepressant withdrawal symptoms, there’s no downside in making the following types of lifestyle changes that support higher GABA production:

    Get quality sleep. Stick to a regular sleep-wake cycle, limit caffeine and alcohol intake and establish a calming “bedtime routine” to help you unwind at night.
    Eat a nutrient-dense, anti-depression diet that includes plenty of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, amino acids and essential fatty acids from foods like fresh veggies such as leafy greens, fruits including berries, grass-fed meat, pastured eggs, wild-caught fish like salmon, probiotic foods and healthy fats like olive oil, coconut oil, walnuts, almonds, flaxseeds and other nuts/seeds.
    Get regular exercise, including high intensity (HIIT) workouts if possible.
    Quit smoking, drinking alcohol in excess (more than one drink per day on average) and using street/illegal drugs.
    Get sun exposure/spend time in nature to boost vitamin D levels.

GABA can also be taken in supplement form, typically in doses of about 250–650 milligrams, two to three times daily; however, supplementing with GABA is not safe for everyone, including pregnant or breast-feeding women or those taking a number of mood-altering medications.
4. Try Supplements to Support Your Overall Health

Supplements are not a quick-fix solution to getting rid of brain zaps or tackling anxiety and depression; however, some people do find that taking certain supplements helps to minimize withdrawal side effects and makes them feel better in general. Supplements that can be supportive of mental/cognitive health include:

    Omega-3 fatty acids (or fish oil supplements), which have anti-inflammatory effects
    Vitamin B12 and vitamin B6, which can support GABA production and fight symptoms like fatigue, weakness and brain-fog
    Vitamin D3, which is best obtained from exposure to sunlight but can also be taken in supplement form to prevent vitamin D deficiency
    Magnesium, which is helpful for sleep and fighting restlessness, muscle tension and symptoms associated with stress
    St. John’s Wort
    L-glutamine and L-arginine, which work with GABA to support growth hormone levels
    Valerian root, ashwagandha and rhodiola, all herbs which are naturally calming and beneficial for the nervous system
    Calming essential oils, such as lavender, ylang ylang and chamomile oil

One thing to point out is that it’s important to discuss supplements with your doctor if you’re currently taking medications, since interactions may occur.
Brain Zaps Precautions

Given that withdrawal treatment research still has a long way to go, when it comes to managing brain zaps, prevention is key. Talk to your doctor about alternatives to taking antidepressant medications. If you do choose to use drugs such as SSRIs, consider the duration of treatment you actually need. Keep in mind that antidepressant drugs like SSRIs were originally intended to be taken for about three to nine months — not years on end.

If you are on a particular drug for a long period of time, you will be more likely to experience brain zaps and other effects when stopping. You can also discuss the option of taking a drug that has a longer half-life with your doctor, since some stay in your system longer than others, which may help prevent withdrawal as levels gradually decline. No matter what, don’t stop taking any prescribed medication without getting consent from your doctor. If you’re going through a stressful period, make sure to work with a professional and don’t self-treat your condition by altering the amount/type of medication you take.

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