Books and Articles by Dr. Gladding
Dr. Gladding co-authored the book You Are Not Your Brain with UCLA neuroplasticity expert Dr. Jeffrey M Schwartz. The book explains how to use mindfulness to set priorities in life so that you can follow the path of your true self, not the path society or anyone thinks you should follow. Through the process of genuinely discovering what is meaningful to you, you learn how to dismiss anxious or depressive thoughts and change habits that no longer serve you. Dr. Gladding uses these principles in her work with clients daily and writes about these principles on her Psychology Today blog.
Gut Microbiome, Inflammation and Mood
The gut microbiome is an emerging area of research that focuses on the health impact of early life exposure to certain bacteria and how (over) exposure to antibiotics, toxins and certain chemicals can deplete beneficial bacteria in our bodies. When our microbiome is out of balance, we can experience changes in mood or alterations in our metabolism that affect our weight. Although the research on what the ‘optimal’ balance (types and number) of microbes is still in its infancy, there is good evidence to show that gut inflammation can lead to changes in mood that are not beneficial to us. One pioneering research scientist in this field is Dr. Rob Knight, currently working at UC San Diego.
When the gut is inflamed, the usual barrier (gut lining and tight junctions) that protect us from unwanted chemicals leaking into the blood stream is impaired. This condition is known as “leaky gut” because the openings in the gut lining allow substances, including toxins, to infiltrate other parts of our bodies. This can lead to a variety of body responses that can result in depression, anxiety, fatigue, insomnia, pain and more. When this happens, one beneficial “treatment” is probiotics, which are used to increase the numbers of “good” or healthy bacteria into the gut lining is repaired — thereby stopping the cycle of inflammation and systemic responses.
We recommend a plant-based diet whenever possible while also recognizing that some people need or prefer animal sources for protein. There are many diets available and it can sometimes be confusing as to what to follow. Here is a link to a TED Ed video that nicely explains part of the connection between what we eat, inflammation and the microbiome and provides information regarding what to eat and how to prepare foods:
Provided you have no medical needs for a specific type of diet (if you do, please see a nutritionist and/or your primary care physician), one helpful diet to follow is the Mediterranean Diet. We discuss diet in more detail in appointments and handouts can be provided to help you understand the benefits of this diet for your health.
In terms of probiotics, we do not recommend any specific brands. That said, you generally want to look for a product that contains at least 20 billion colony forming units (cfu) and 6+ different strains of bacteria that include lactobacillus and bifidobacterium species at a minimum.
Mindfulness is described as present moment awareness. It means that you are fully aware of the fact that you have voluntarily focused your attention on some aspect of your experience (sounds, sights, thoughts, breath, sensation, expectations and so on). Also referred to as meta-awareness, it means that you are aware that you are focusing your attention somewhere. You are not lost in thought or worries, to do lists, why someone said or acted a certain way. Rather than being ensnared by everyday brain activities, you become aware that your brain is thinking, worrying, ruminating, etc and you voluntarily change your focus of attention to something that you want to focus on.
In essence, mindfulness encompasses the times in our lives where we are not impacted by worries related to the future or plagued by memories from the past. We are not ‘thinking’ in these moments, but instead are aware of and experiencing what is happening in a pure way without judgment. Simply seeing what is.
Given that we focus on insight-oriented meditation (Vipassana) at Mindful Wellness Maui, the resources listed below are related to teaching you the basics of this type of meditation. There are many other forms of meditation that are equally powerful and beneficial and we encourage you to seek out what works best for you. Below are two great resources as you begin your meditation practice.