Yerba Mate (Ilex Paraguariensis) articles summary using NLP

The following summary was created using a google search for specific phrases and then performing natural language processing steps for sentence scoring. Yerba mate is an evergreen tree/shrub that grows in subtropical regions of South America. The leaves of the plant are used to make tea. Yerba mate tea contains caffeine and theobromine, which are known to affect the mood. I was interested in summarizing the existing articles in regards to research on this plant in psychiatry.

The first search phrase used was “yerba mate psychiatry depression research evidence“, and the number of collected articles for this phrase was 18. The text from all articles was combined, and relative word frequencies were calculated (after removing stop-words). These relative frequencies were then used to score each sentence. Sentence length distribution was checked, and the 90th percentile of 30 words was chosen to select sentences below the maximum length. Below are the 10 highest scoring sentences that summarize the text from the 18 articles.

We can infer from the summary that studies have been performed using the yerba mate extract on rats and tasks for chosen as proxies for the rats’ depression and anxiety levels. There are no mentions of human studies in the summary. Also the chosen sentences indicate that based on these studies, yerba mate has potential antidepressant activity, and it may improve memory as well. The results of the anxiety study were not mentioned and it’s not clear whether there were any side effects from yerba mate. These results are in line with descriptions of personal experiences of reddit users that I have reviewed, as many report better mood and improved focus after drinking yerba mate tea. Some users do report increased anxiety correlated with yerba mate consumption.

View abstract. J Agric.Food Chem. Vitamin C Levels Cerebral vitamin C (ascorbic acid (AA)) levels were determined as described by Jacques-Silva et al. Conclusion: In conclusion, the present study showed that Ilex paraguariensis presents an important effect on reducing immobility time on forced swimming test which could suggest an antidepressant-like effect of this extract. Despite previous some studies show the antidepressant-like activity of flavonoids [31, 32] which are present in the extract of I. paraguariensis, any study has evaluated the possible antidepressant-like activity of it. The presence of nine antioxidants compounds was investigated, namely, gallic acid, chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid, catechin, quercetin, rutin, kaempferol, caffeine, and theobromine. Abstract In this study, we investigated the possible antidepressant-like effect of I. paraguariensis in rats. Another study showed that an infusion of I. paraguariensis can improve the memory of rats treated with haloperidol and this effect was related to an indirect modulation of oxidative stress . In addition to flavonoids as quercetin and rutin and phenolic compounds as chlorogenic and caffeic acids, yerba mate is also rich in caffeine and saponins . After four weeks, behavioral analysis of locomotor activity and anxiety was evaluated in animals receiving water (n = 11) or I. paraguariensis (n = 9). In the same way, we evaluated if the presence of stimulants compounds like caffeine and theobromine in the extract of I. paraguariensis could cause anxiety. In the present study, we evaluated the possible antidepressant-like effect of I. paraguariensis by using forced swimming test (FST) in rats. Forced Swimming Test This experiment was performed using the FST according to the method previously published by Porsolt et al. In this context, Yerba mate (Ilex paraguariensis) is a beverage commonly consumed in South America especially in Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, and Paraguay. I. paraguariensis reduced the immobility time on forced swimming test without significant changes in locomotor activity in the open field test.

I also tried several other search phrases, such as “yerba mate mood anxiety evidence” and “yerba mate side effects evidence“. In total of 17 articles were collected for the first query and 19 articles for the second query. The summaries are presented below. There was nothing in the summary directly discussing mood or anxiety, but there are mentions of neuroprotective effects and antioxidant effects. We can also learn that a cup of yerba mate tea has similar caffeine content as a cup of coffee, and that drinking yerba mate is not recommended while pregnant or breastfeeding. As in the previous summary, no human trials were mentioned, so it seems that all the summarized studies were performed on rats. The side effects query summary mentions the risk of transferring the caffeine from the tea to the fetus when pregnant, as well as a link to cancer for those who drink both alcohol and yerba mate. It also mentions and anxiety is a side effect of the tea.

Query 1:
View abstract. J Agric.Food Chem. On the other hand, studies conducted on an animal model showed chemopreventive effects of both pure mate saponin fraction and Yerba Mate tea in chemically induced colitis in rats. Yerba Mate Nutrition Facts The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA for one cup (12g) of a branded yerba mate beverage (Mate Revolution) that lists just organic yerba mate as an ingredient. Researchers found that steeping yerba mate (such as in yerba mate tea) may increase the level of absorption. Yerba mate beverages are not recommended for children and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Chlorogenic acid and theobromine tested individually also had neuroprotective effects, but slightly weaker than Yerba Mate extract as a whole, but stronger than known neuroprotective compounds, such as caffeine [ 83 ]. The caffeine content in a cup (about 150 mL) of Yerba Mate tea is comparable to that in a cup of coffee and is about 80 mg [ 1 , 11 , 20 ]. In aqueous and alcoholic extracts from green and roasted Yerba Mate, the presence of chlorogenic acid (caffeoylquinic acid), caffeic acid, quinic acid, dicaffeoylquinic acid, and feruloylquinic acid was confirmed. After consumption of Yerba Mate tea, antioxidant compounds are absorbed and appear in the circulating plasma where they exert antioxidant effects [ 55 ]. According to the cited studies, Yerba Mate tea consumption attenuates oxidative stress in patients with type 2 diabetes, which may prevent its complications.

Query 2:
View abstract. J Agric.Food Chem. Because yerba mate has a high concentration of caffeine, drinking mate tea while pregnant can increase the risk of transferring caffeine to the fetus. J Ethnopharmacol. South Med J 1988;81:1092-4.. View abstract. J Am Coll Nutr 2000;19:591-600.. View abstract. Am J Med 2005;118:998-1003.. View abstract. J Psychosom Res 2003;54:191-8.. View abstract. Yerba mate consumed by those who drink alcohol is linked to a higher risk of developing cancer. Anxiety and nervousness are a side effect of excessive yerba mate tea consumption.

NLP: Summarizing l-theanine articles

In this post I will describe my use of NLP (Natural language processing, not neuro-linguistic programming. Natural language processing is cool, while neuro-linguistic programming is some pseudoscience stuff) in the application of summarizing articles from the internet. Specifically, I chose the topic of l-theanine and psychiatry, as previously I have already summarized the Nootropics subreddit discussions on l-theanine. The next step, therefore, is to summarize existing articles on this topic.

Summarizing experience with green tea from the Nootropics subreddit

The first step was to perform an automated Google search for a specific term. I chose the term “l-theanine psychiatry” and set the number of unique urls to be 15. Some of the resulting urls are listed below:

Can L-Theanine Help Treat Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder?

Effects of L-Theanine Administration on Stress-Related Symptoms and Cognitive Functions in Healthy Adults: A Randomized Controlled Trial

L-theanine

How does the tea L-theanine buffer stress and anxiety

It can be seen that the article titles are quite relevant to our topic. The next step is formatting the text and summarizing the information.

The idea behind the summarization technique is calculating word frequencies for each word in the combined text of all articles (after stop words removal), and then selecting words in the top 10% of frequencies. These words will be the ones used in scoring each sentence. More frequent words will be given more importance, as they are deemed more relevant to the chosen topic, therefore sentences containing those words will receive higher scores. This is not a machine learning approach, but a basic frequency count method. In total, 148 words were used for sentence scoring. Some of the most frequent words (from all articles combined) are listed below:

Theanine, administration, effects, placebo, weeks, study, four, sleep, scores, cognitive, may, stress, function, fluency, studies, related, symptoms, participants, bacs, anxiety

BACS was one of the top frequent words, it stands for the Brief Assessment of Cognition in Schizophrenia. Once each sentence was scores, 15 highest scoring sentences were selected in order to create a summary. The summary of the articles is presented below. From the summary we can infer that l-theanine was studied for its effects on cognition, anxiety, and stress. Some studies had positive results, indicating that l-theanine performed significantly better than placebo in regards to positive cognitive effects such as improved verbal fluency and executive function. Studies also noted significant improvements in stress reduction with the use of l-theanine. Other studies did not find any significant differences between l-theanine and placebo.


Second, only about 20% of symptoms (the PSQI subscales) and cognitive functions (the BACS verbal fluency, especially letter fluency and executive function) scores showed significant changes after L- theanine administration compared to the placebo administration, suggesting that the effects are not large on daily function of the participants.

Although psychotropic effects were observed in the current study, four weeks L-theanine administration had no significant effect on cortisol or immunoglobulin A levels in the saliva or serum, which was inconsistent with previous studies reporting that salivary cortisol [34] and immunoglobulin A [33] levels were reduced after acute L-theanine administration.

Considering the comparison to the placebo administration, the current study suggests that the score for the BACS verbal fluency, especially letter fluency, but not the Trail Making Test, Stroop test, or other BACS parameters, significantly changes in response to the 4 weeks effects of L-theanine.

The BACS verbal fluency, especially letter fluency (p = 0.001), and executive function scores were significantly increased after L-theanine administration (p = 0.001 and 0.031, respectively; ), while the Trail Making Test A and B scores were significantly improved after placebo administration (p = 0.042 and 0.038, respectively).

When score reductions in the stress-related symptoms were compared between L-theanine and placebo administrations, changes in the PSQI sleep latency, sleep disturbance, and use of sleep medication subscales were significantly greater (p = 0.0499, 0.046, and 0.047, respectively), while those in the SDS and PSQI scores showed a non-statistically significant trend towards greater improvement (p = 0.084 and 0.073, respectively), during the L-theanine period compared to placebo.

Stratified analyses revealed that scores for verbal fluency (p = 0.002), especially letter fluency (p = 0.002), increased after L-theanine administration, compared to the placebo administration, in individuals who were sub-grouped into the lower half by the median split based on the mean pretreatment scores.

Discussion In this placebo-controlled study, stress-related symptoms assessed with SDS, STAI-T, and PSQI scores decreased, while BACS verbal fluency and executive function scores improved following four weeks L-theanine administration.

The present study aimed to examine the effects of four weeks L-theanine administration (200 mg/day, four weeks) in a healthy population, i.e., individuals without any major psychiatric disorder.

The PSQI subscale scores for sleep latency, sleep disturbance, and use of sleep medication reduced after L-theanine administration, compared to the placebo administration (all p < 0.05).

The effects on stress-related symptoms were broad among the symptom indices presented in the study, although a comparison to the placebo administration somewhat limits the efficacy of L-theanine administration for some sleep disturbance measurements.

For cognitive functions, BACS verbal fluency and executive function scores improved after four weeks L-theanine administration.

PMID: 31623400 This randomized, placebo-controlled, crossover, and double-blind trial aimed to examine the possible effects of four weeks L-theanine administration on stress-related symptoms and cognitive functions in healthy adults.

The anti-stress effects of L-theanine (200 mg/day) have been observed following once- [ 33 , 34 ] and twice daily [ 35 ] administration, while its attention-improving effects have been observed in response to treatment of 100 mg/day on four separate days [ 36 ] and 200 mg/day single administration [ 37 ], which was further supported by decreased responses in functional magnetic resonance imaging [ 38 ].

These results suggest that four weeks L-theanine administration has positive effects on stress-related symptoms and cognitive function in a healthy population.

Summarizing experience with green tea from the Nootropics subreddit

We can’t all get our own labs with grad assistants and grants in order to conduct research, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other ways to obtain data. Some might say that only studies with randomized trials with test and control groups matter, but I believe that subreddits can provide supplemental information. We should look at the data with a grain of salt, but a lot of people do describe sincerely their experiences with nootropics on reddit. Users also often link studies and scientific articles in the forums.

Not all nootropics are covered by randomized studies and rarely do psychiatrists collect data on experiences with nootropics. For these reasons people mostly discuss their experiences with nootopics and supplements online, in forums such as subreddits and Facebook groups. For example, there have not been many studies on lithium orotate, but probably thousands of people are taking it at the moment. There are very few published papers on this supplement, so how could one find out about possible benefits and side effects? Personally I had a good experience with very small doses of lithium orotate helping to reduce intrusive thoughts and reviving memories from the past. Where does information about my experience exist? Only in the Nootropics and depressionregimens subreddits. No psychiatrist or doctor was ever interested in my experience with microdosing lithium, but that doesn’t mean that this information could not be useful to someone else.

There are multiple Facebook groups specifically dedicated to topics such as treatment resistant depression, PMDD, borderline personality disorder, etc. There are a lot of discussions of supplements in those groups, but unfortunately I don’t know how to obtain data from Facebook. The good thing about reddit is that Reddit offers a free API that allows you to download data from subreddits, so you can get the titles of posts, text, and comments, up to about 1000 posts per subreddit per day. Thank you, Reddit! This is really great!

For this exercise, I decided to use natural language processing to summarize text from the Nootropics subreddit, filtering for posts about green tea. I used the subreddit to filter for posts which contained keywords from the following list: green tea, theanine, ltheanine, matcha, l-theanine, and l theanine. Matcha is a type of green tea powder, therefore still green tea, and l-theanine is a water soluble amino acid found in green tea. In total there were 730 posts in my dataset, with the post created dates ranging from September 2011 to January 2022.

Examples of post titles:

  • L Theanine cured my ( social) anxiety. I’m blown away. I’m usually socially awkward but I MASTERED a job interview.
  • Comprehensive List of GABAA Receptor Anxiolytics That Potentially Produce no Tolerance or Dependence.
  • Green tea supplement ruins man’s liver
  • Neurochemical and behavioral effects of green tea (Camellia sinensis): A model study Increased serotonin and dopamine metabolism
  • Why do 1-2 cups of green tea seem to anecdotally calm so many people down in this subreddit, even though there are only trace amounts of theanine in a cup?

Once the data was collected, the title and body were combined for each post and text processing was performed. Processing included removing accented characters, expanding common contractions, removing newlines, tabs, and special characters. Python’s spellchecker library was used in order to correct spelling errors.

The first summary method used was word frequencies and sentence scoring. All posts were combined together into one document, and the frequency of each word was calculated. In total there were 10,677 unique words/terms, but not each term was meaningful, and some appeared only several times. For this reason, only the top 5% most frequent words were selected in order to be used for sentence scoring. I also assigned higher scores to words green, tea, theanine, ltheanine, and matcha, in order to capture more posts that are more likely to focus on green tea.

The combined text was separated into individual sentences, and sentences were then scored by adding up the scores of each word in the sentences. As mentioned above, the top 5% most frequent words had scores assigned above 0, with the score being equal to the frequency. The remaining words were assigned a score of 0. Some of the most frequent words included anxiety, effects, ltheanine, day, good, sleep, caffeine, depression, tea, help, work, brain, and life.

Here are the resulting top ten sentences. Some resulting sentences were quite long, so I am pasting the sentence parts most relevant to green tea.

L-Theanine: Glutamate inhibitor * Increases glycine by 17.2% for one week * Increases -1-waves within 30-45m orally * At certain dosages, can increase GABA by 19.8% * Antagonizes AMPA and Kainate * [ * Partial co-agonist for NMDA, though significantly less potent than endogenous ligands * Blocks glutamate transporters(and therefore reuptake of glutamate and glutamine) * Not sedative in regular doses but promotes relaxation * Only those who have high baseline anxiety benefit from relaxation * Nontoxic and noncarcinogenic in very high doses (4g/kg).

L-Theanine + Taurine * Anti-excitatory and sedative * Highly bioavailable and consistent * L-Theanine + Taurine + Agmatine * Anti-excitatory and sedative * Highly bioavailable and consistent * Potentiates GABAergic and can suppress NMDA better than theanine * Anti-tolerance building * L-Theanine + Rosmarinic Acid * Both are anti-glutaminergic * Potent GABAA agonist comparable to benzos * Low total formula dose * 400mg L-Theanine + 150mg RA (1875mg Rosemary extract) * Taurine + Ashwagandha * GABAA potentiation of Taurine * NMDA suppression * L-Theanine + Taurine + Ashwagandha * GABAA potentiation of Taurine * Total glutamate suppression * Taurine + Magnolia * GABAA potentiated at benzo site plus influx of GABA in body * Apigenin + Magnolia * GABAA 1 agonist plus PAM * Both very potent * Chinese Skullcap + Magnolia * GABAA 2 + 3 agonist plus PAM * Chinese Skullcap + Apigenin + Magnolia * GABAA 1 + 2 + 3 agonist plus PAM EDIT: Added GABA-T and GAD explanations EDIT 2: Found new and more accurate evidence claiming that L-Theanine is actually an NMDA partial co-agonist, not an antagonist. This backs up sources that claim to see Ca2+ activity increase and become suppressed with NMDA antagonists. It also backs up sources finding L-Theanine to be an NMDA antagonist.

HELPED SOMEWHAT, OR NOT TOO SURE Cyamemazine (anxiety), alimemazine (sleep), magnesium L-threonate and glycinate (sleep), white noise (anxiety), SuperBetter app, vitamin D3, reading about Young schemas, ginkgo biloba (energy, focus), melatonin (sleep), chamomile (sleep), verbena (sleep), lavender (sleep), ALCAR, taurine, NAC, cannabis (sleep), gratitude journal, music (anxiety), coleus forskohlii (weight loss), CLA (from safflower, weight loss), metformin (weight loss, triggered an hypoglycemia the first time I tried it), green tea, risperidone (anxiety, cravings, irritability), L-methylfolate. DID NOT SEEM TO HELP Inositol, chromium picolinate, zinc, CoQ10, apple cider vinegar, meratrim (sphaeranthus indicus + garcinia mangostana), hydroxyzine, tiapride, binaural beats.
L-theanine :** Pretty good anxiolytic, and helps a bit with focus, especially when combined with coffee. Not too sedative.
 **CBD :** When L-theanine or skullcap is not quiet enough, can add some extra anxiolysis, but nothing spectacular either, and not enough on its own.

Medication and supplement augmentation suggestions. My diagnosis is Major Depression/Generalized Anxiety. Possibly on the light end of the Borderline spectrum. I also have Restless Leg Syndrome hence some of the meds. High Cholesterol and stage 2 hypertension. Current regimen is: Bupropion 100mg Lithium Carbonate 300mg (1 in morning, 2 before bed) Gabapentin 300mg (3 times a day) Pramipexole 1mg (at bedtime) Turmeric/bioperine 2000mg x2 Omega 3 Fish Oil 3,600mg x2 Vitamin D3 5,000IU x2 Vitamin C 500mg Multivitamin L-Theanine 200mg Kratom caps (4-6 size 00 about 3 times a week with at least a day between) Tianeptine 25mg (Monday, Wednesday, Friday only) Phenibut (1 size 00 Tuesday/Thursday only).

l-Theanine, Cannabis, Glutamate/GABA and Anxiety: Could this be a potential cure for Cannabis Induced Paranoia and Anxiety? Just a thought – But could Glutamate be responsible for the anxiety and paranoia commonly felt from cannabis? This is just under informed speculation, but THC has been found to increase striatal glutamate in the brain. ( L-Theanine has been found to “block” glutamate signaling in the brain. See here; >L-theanine relieves anxiety in large part because it bears a close resemblance to the brain-signaling chemical glutamate. L-theanine produces the opposite effect in the brain. >While glutamate is the brains most important excitatory neurotransmitter, L-theanine binds to the same brain cell receptors and blocks them to glutamates effects. This action produces inhibitory effects.1,2 That inhibition to brain overactivity has a calming, relaxing effect in which anxiety fades.3 > I have always noticed that when I take L-Theanine, it helps me get higher from cannabis, all while blocking any paranoia and anxiety that I get from it. Cannabis is the only drug I have found that is potentiated by L-Theanine. With other substances, I have noticed that L-Theanine blocks a lot of the pleasurable effects, while reducing anxiety (Namely when taken with stimulants, but also with Phenibut) Since Cannabis increases glutamate in the brain, and Glutamate is associated with anxiety, and L-Theanine essentially blocks it, could L-Theanine be a good anxiety and paranoia cure for weed? Will somebody with more knowledge on this subject help me out here?

How much trouble am I in when I show this to my PsyD? Venturing outside my personal echo chamber to solicit general opinions on my supplement regime. Cognizant that I am doing it wrong, but I will really feel that I am doing it wrong when I start getting grumpy. Please don’t hate me. L-Theanine 200mg L-Carnosine 1000mg Reishi Extract 2000mg Cats Claw 1000mg Alpha-lipoic acid 500mg Ashwagandha 250mg Synapsa Bacopa Monnieri 640mg N-acetyl l-cysteine 1200mg Palmitoylethnolamide 800mg Maitake mushroom extract 3000mg Chaga 3600mg Polygala Tenuifolia 200mg Lions mane 4200mg Acetyl l-carnitine 500mg Sarcosine 2000mg Wulinshen 1000mg.

Caffeine + L-Theanine. Like the beginners guide says, Id recommend this stack for anyone looking to wet their feet with nootropics. The 1 (Caffeine):2 (L-Theanine) ratio works well for me, but in order for me to really feel the L-Theanine I need to take it on a empty stomach. My favorite dosage is 200mg Caffeine and 400mg of L-Theanine immediately before writing. It helps me to be very relaxed, not filter my thoughts, and achieve a flow state. This stack combined with music from MajesticCasual or TheSoundYouNeed YouTube channels is pretty amazing for writing. BTW, for some people 400mg of L-Theanine is too much and may make you drowsy (though not for me). L-Theanine helps reduce anxiety, but I try to make sure I meditate instead of relying on L-Theanine. I save it for when I am writing.

Please give Dosage Guidance: Kava Kava – 700 MG Capsules (This I just ordered to try, not take daily, I have never tried Kava before) – Maybe 1x a day Sulbutiamine Capsules/Tablets 200 MG – 2 Capsules once a day (400 MG 1x a Day) Uridine Monophosphate Capsules 250mg – (500-750 MG 1x a Day) Agmatine Sulfate 250mg Capsules – Maybe start with 2 Capsules 1x a day? Agmatine Sulfate 1000mg Capsules – Only for going up on higher doses. L-Theanine 200 MG – 1x a Day Mens Daily Multimineral Multivitamin Supplement – 1x a Day Vitamin D3 5,000 IU – 1x a day Vitamin B Complex – 1x a day Magnesium Glycinate 400 MG – 1x a Day Omega 3 Fish Oil 4,080mg – EPA 1200mg + DHA 900mg Capsules – 1x a Day Kratom – 4 grams – 3x a day Ashwaghanda – KSM-66, 300mg, 2x a day. Ashwagandha – Sensoril 125mg Do not know dosage? Youtheory Sleep Powder Advanced, 6 Ounce Bottle – It has full doses of a few calming amino acids and some melatonin. TLDR: I want to quit my antidepressants, and purchased a bunch of Supplements to start taking while weaning off my meds, please give me help/tips on this journey, as well as check out the list and let me know if you recommend other supplements to try, or any tips on how to take these.

L-theanine has done wonders for me sleep, anxiety and productivity. With L-t I have had much better sleep due to increased relaxation and reduces anxiety. This has lead to much better and longer sleep, making me really productive at work. It is also helping a lot with anxiety from coffee, it is all but gone now. I just get the nice energy boost and focus boost with no anxiety effect. I usually take 1 or 2 pills of 225mg depending on how i feel. If I feel chill enough, I will only have 1 at night. If I feel the anxiety and neck tightness coming on from coffee I will take another one then.

Supplementation guide to stimulants. As I have some extensive experience with ADHD medication and stims (ADHD-PI diagnosed myself), over the years through research and trial and error I have built a list of supplements that works for mitigating side effects and minimizing comedown while enhancing their intended effects. I read a post about this a couple years ago and wanted to add my own twist to it in hopes of promoting harm reduction. The supplement + stim dosages here given are intended to be used for studying/productivity purposes, although this will still work if you are taking more than the therapeutic amount. If you have any inputs, advice or additions to the list I am happy to add them. Stimulants used for the purposes of studying SHOULD NOT be taken everyday to avoid dopaminergic downregulation. Three times a week at most is recommended to allow the body to regain homeostasis. Stimulants that these supplements can work for include: * Amphetamines (Adderall, Dexamphetamine, Methamphetamine) * Methylphenidates and Analogues (Focalin, Concerta/Ritalin, ethylphenidate, Isopropylphenidate) * Caffeine (Coffee, Tea, Caffeine Pills) (To a certain degree) * Eugeroics (Modafinil, Adrafinil, Armodafinil) (To a certain degree).
*L-Theanine (200mg/1-3x)\\***  (Reduces euphoria/ Reduces Jitters / Lowers Anxiety / Relaxation) (Anecdotal : Amazing supplement if you are an anxiety sensitive person, smooths out the experience) >[Effects of L-theanine on stress related symptoms and cognitive functions in healthy adults].

I think that given then simple method that was used to select these top sentences, the results can be viewed as pretty successful. No neural networks were applied here, only word frequencies were used to generate sentence scores, but by reading the results we can actually learn a lot about green tea as a nootropic. My first observation would be that people mostly talk about l-theanine and not green tea. This makes sense, since the nootropics subreddit is mostly about discussions on supplements in pill form. Another observation is that people try l-theanine hoping to reduce anxiety and improve sleep. Information was provided stating that l-theanine could be reducing anxiety by inhibiting glutamate, an excitatory neurotransmitter. One user mentioned that l-theanine helps them with THC induced paranoia and proposed that THC increases glutamate in the brain and l-theanine in turn decreases anxiety by reducing available glutamate. Other users also mention l-theanine helping them with the anxiety and jitteriness after drinking coffee. In terms of side-effects that were mentioned, sedation and drowsiness were some of them.

In conclusion, I was able to extract a pretty good summary of green tea/l-theanine by using a pretty simple word frequency method. Given that now I have this code, I can just change the supplement keywords and create a similar summary for any other supplement. It’s definitely much faster than scrolling through the subreddit, looking for relevant posts.

Health habits – some interesting myths

There are some advice that we hear many times from multiple people, but some common beliefs about health habits are not actually true. Fat was thought to be a cause of obesity, but that is contradictory to the more recent findings that low carb high fat diets can promote weight loss. Low fat products turned out to be high in carbs, and actually less healthy. Unsaturated fats such as olive oil and avocado are now promoted as health foods, and salmon, which contains high levels of fat, is considered to be very nutritious and beneficial for brain health. What are then some of the other myths about health habits?

Hot cocoa before bed can help you sleep – actually the National Sleep Foundation recommends avoiding dark chocolate/cocoa/cacao in the evening. Dark chocolate contains caffeine, therefore a cup of hot cocoa would not be caffeine free. The USDA National Nutrient Database indicates that a cup would contain 7.44 mg caffeine. That’s not a lot, but chocolate also contains theobromine, which increases hearth rate and can cause sleeplessness. Theobromine is an alkaloid, it is found in the cacao plant, the tea plant, and the kola nut. All of these plants are known stimulants. Therefore the combination of caffeine and theobromine for a lot of people would create a state of alertness, and therefore it will not help you sleep. Interesting fact – caffeine is partly metabolized into theobromine in humans. Theobromine is also an antagonist of adenosine receptors, just as caffeine, but weaker. Wakefulness is promoted when adenosine receptors are blocked in the brain.

Coffee increases anxiety – I don’t think there is a yes or no answer to this question, that’s why this statement is not correct. It seems that it varies for people. For some it seems that it does increase cortisol and therefore can contribute to feelings of anxiety and fear. For others it may actually be helpful. Some studies indicate that coffee is beneficial for people with OCD and helped to reduce intrusive thoughts and compulsive behaviours.
The roles of arousal and inhibition in the resistance of compulsive cleansing in individuals with high contamination fears

We are better off taking a multivitamin every day – no, we don’t actually know that. Maybe, maybe it makes no difference, maybe worse off. Obtaining vitamins and minerals from food, plus from a multivitamin, may lead to overconsumption. And more, as we know, is definitely not always better. Over consumption of folate may increase the risk of some cancers, overconsumption of iodine may lead to thyroid disorders, too much vitamin A can be harmful, and iron build up in the brain may be associated with declines in thinking and memory.
Folate consumption
Iron and the brain

Mood supplements that are sold over the counter are safer than antidepressants – they are really not. For example, 5-HTP supplement is sold in most pharmacies in Canada and in health stores, that doesn’t make it safer than Prozac. From Wiki: 5-Hydroxytryptophan is a naturally occurring amino acid and chemical precursor as well as a metabolic intermediate in the biosynthesis of the neurotransmitter serotonin. So if you consume it, will it just raise your serotonin and make you happier? Not necessarily. If someone is unaware that they are bipolar, taking supplements such as SAMe, 5-HTP, or St. John’s Word could make them manic. These supplements are not mood stabilizers. And since it can affect serotonin levels, it is not without side effects, just as antidepressants are not. Some people experience increased suicidal thoughts when taking medications or supplements that increase serotonin. You can also read user reviews of 5-HTP to see for yourself that it is not completely safe. Some users state experiencing elevated heart rate, vivid nightmares, suicidal thoughts, and insomnia. Be careful with any supplement that you try, observe any changes that happen, read about possible side-effects and contraindications.
https://www.drugs.com/comments/5-hydroxytryptophan/

Red meat and dairy are bad for you – I heard this often, but it’s not what actually recent studies show. I’m sure in some high amounts, daily consumption of red meat and dairy would lead to too much saturated fat, but that does not mean that the optimal amount is zero. A recent article in Nature states that the longest life expectancy in Japan may be related to the balanced diet consisting of a typical Japanese diet food products, as well as Western diet items such as meat and dairy. “The decreasing mortality rates from cerebrovascular disease are thought to reflect the increases in animal foods, milk, and dairy products and consequently in saturated fatty acids and calcium, together with a decrease in salt intake which may have led to a decrease in blood pressure… The typical Japanese diet as characterized by plant food and fish as well as modest Westernized diet such as meat, milk and dairy products might be associated with longevity in Japan.
https://www.nature.com/articles/s41430-020-0677-5

There are also inconclusive results in regards to red meat consumption and mental health. A systematic review of meat abstention and depression, 2020, indicated that “the most rigorous studies demonstrated that the prevalence or risk of depression and/or anxiety were significantly greater in participants who avoided meat consumption.” On the other hand, a cross-sectional study published in 2021 concluded that “after controlling for potential confounders, women in the highest quartile of red meat had a highest prevalence of depressive symptoms.”
https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10408398.2020.1741505
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0965229920318550

1985 Article – Food and Psychiatry

Interesting article all the way back from 1985 on correlation between specific foods and psychiatric symptoms. For some reason though diet is still not really discussed with patients by psychiatrists. I assume general diet concerns do get mentioned – such as is the patient eating too much sugar, not enough protein, is malnourished, etc., but in my experience no psychiatrist had discussed with me specific ingredients that could potentially increase anxiety.

I would say that diet was not discussed much with me except some questions such as whether I ate full meals. I did eat full meals, I never had trouble eating, but no one asked whether I experienced any abdominal pain after meals and what my meals contained. I was asked whether I drank alcohol, I did not, but no one asked how many Starbucks drinks I had, and how much sugar each drink contained. I never thought that I was overconsuming sugar, I was not checking how many grams of sugar per day I was eating, which was probably over 100 grams. I have also never heard at that point, during my initial psychiatric visits, that there could be any possible link between a food component and mood. No psychiatrist so far has ever mentioned this to me, nor agreed with me that it was possible. I, on the other hand, am quite certain that cow dairy protein causes intrusive thoughts and anxiety for me and that a high lactose consumption decreases my energy and increases depressive symptoms.

Even though for some reason psychiatrists right away focus on prescribing medication, without any discussion of changes in diet potentially improving symptoms, there has been numerous papers pointing to a link between specific foods and psychiatric issues, also links between diet causing changes in gut bacteria, and in turn affecting mood and anxiety. It was interesting to find this short article from 1985 describing research on certain foods and possible link to mood disorders. The study was performed by the University of Chicago.

https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-1985-09-08-8502280775-story.html

“Some of the first solid evidence indicating that certain foods can cause mood disorders in some people has been found in a University of Chicago study that implicates a faulty immune system as the culprit.

”A lot of people said it was impossible to know if food related mood changes were real or if they were all in a person`s mind,” said Dr. John Crayton, associate professor of psychiatry. ”We have found that it may not be all in their minds.”

The findings tend to support the contention of other doctors, such as Dr. Theron Randolph, that depression, anxiety, irritability, inability to concentrate and other mood disorders may be caused by such foods as sugar, milk, wheat, corn, and chocolate, he said.

While other studies have suggested mood changes from food, the U. of C. study is the first to show major changes in the function of the immune system that occur with behavioral changes after certain foods are consumed, said Crayton.

Wheat and milk produced the most marked reactions, while chocolate was less reactive, he added. The immune reactions should not be confused with traditional food allergies that produce rashes or hives, he explained.

Caffeine experimentation

The take on caffeine is that it’s bad for anxiety and intrusive thoughts. Yet there is research indicating that coffee drinkers have a lower risk of depression. On the other hand caffeine could contribute to a panic attack? Evidence is therefore inconclusive – should you consume caffeine if you have mental problems, and how much?

I know there are diets such as the autoimmune protocol diet (AIP) that eliminate coffee, but I have not found much evidence contraindicating coffee consumption. AIP diet includes eliminating a lot of food groups, including nuts and coffee, but Harvard Health Publishing actually states and nuts and coffee are anti-inflammatory foods. I will trust Harvard on that (as the AIP diet blogs don’t provide any actual evidence that coffee and nuts are inflammatory). From Harvard Health – “studies have also associated nuts with reduced markers of inflammation and a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Coffee, which contains polyphenols and other anti-inflammatory compounds, may protect against inflammation, as well.” So here we go – one point for coffee.

The question is though – perhaps coffee drinking in the long-term reduces some inflammation, but what if in the short-run, it increases anxiety in a few hours. Is it really worth it? And does it actually increase anxiety? What do we know so far about what coffee does to the brain? “By blocking adenosine, caffeine actually increases activity in the brain and the release of other neurotransmitters like norepinephrine and dopamine. This reduces tiredness and makes us feel more alert. There are numerous studies showing that caffeine can lead to a short-term boost in brain function, including improved mood, reaction time and general cognitive function.” “Caffeine helps the brain release dopamine into the prefrontal cortex, a brain area important for mood regulation. Caffeine may also help storage of dopamine in the amygdala, another part of the brain important for anxiety regulation.

One recent study with some mice (don’t really know if that is applicable to humans), found that acute caffeine administration also reduced anxiety-related behaviors in mice without significantly altering locomotor activity. I think the researchers had only 12 mice, I guess they weren’t able to get a grant to afford more, so I wouldn’t take the study very seriously.

I have consumed caffeine since childhood, since in Russia black tea is a very common drink.  Coffee I started consuming regularly later on, when I was a teenager. I did quit coffee in 2016 as I was hoping that would help with panic attacks and also I started the AIP diet which eliminates coffee. Later on, in summer of 2017, I did go caffeine free for more than a week, but I noticed that my obsessive thoughts and aggressiveness were only exacerbated. I continued to consume black tea and this week I decided to try and  reintroduce coffee.

Caffeine is the quintessential mimic of a neurochemical called adenosine. While you’re awake, the neurons in your brain fire away and produce a compound called adenosine as a byproduct. Adenosine is constantly monitored by your nervous system through receptors. In the brain adenosine is an inhibitory neurotransmitter. This means, adenosine can act as a central nervous system depressant. In normal conditions, it promotes sleep and suppresses arousal. When awake the levels of adenosine in the brain rise each hour. Typically, when adenosine levels drop and hit a certain low level in your spinal cord and brain, your body will signal to you to start relaxing to prepare for sleep. Caffeine mimics adenosine’s shape and size, and enter the receptors without activating them. The receptors are then effectively blocked by caffeine (in clinical terms, caffeine is an antagonist of the A1 adenosine receptor). By blocking the receptors caffeine disrupts the nervous system’s monitoring of the adenosine tab. The neurotransmitters dopamine and glutamate, the brain’s own home-grown stimulants, are freer to do their stimulating work with the adenosine tab on hold. When a substantial amount of caffeine is ingested—such as the typical 100 to 200 milligrams from a strong, eight-ounce cup of coffee, caffeine tricks your body into thinking that it’s not yet time for sleep by acting like adenosine. Generally, caffeine lasts about five to six hours in the body before wearing off.

Research on depression, anxiety, and caffeine is still in its early stages. One study from the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease links moderate caffeine intake (fewer than 6 cups of coffee each day) to a lower risk of suicide. Conversely, in rare cases high doses of caffeine can induce psychotic and manic symptoms, and more commonly, anxiety. Patients with panic disorder and performance social anxiety disorder seem to be particularly sensitive to the anxiogenic effects of caffeine, whereas preliminary evidence suggest that it may be effective for some patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder. In a small study, seven of twelve patients with OCD saw “immediate improvement” on 300 milligrams of coffee daily. The author suggests that caffeine may work better in one concentrated dose each morning than spaced out throughout the day, and reminds us that caffeine remains a “well-known anxiety producer in many people.”

If all of this research seems a bit contradictory, it is. Like almost anything in science, there’s no conclusive verdict about coffee.

Since my coffee reintroduction experiment starting this Monday, so far mu experiences are more positive than negative. During these past four days, it seems that I had a reduction in obsessive and anxious thoughts. A negative effect was yesterday night, I drank a decaf Americano around 11pm, and then woke up in the middle of the night from a nightmare in which I was kidnapped by a serial killer. Today I decided to have just two cups of coffee – in the morning and in the afternoon, and stop caffeine after 5pm. I don’t particularly enjoy participating in serial killer action dreams. I don’t know whether it was the decaf that lead to the nightmare, but there is one study in which Swiss scientists studying caffeine’s effects in a small group of people report markedly elevated blood pressure and increased nervous system activity when occasional coffee drinkers drank a triple espresso, regardless of whether or not it contained caffeine. The results suggest that some unknown ingredient or ingredients in coffee – not caffeine – is responsible for cardiovascular activation, he explains. Coffee contains several hundred different substances.

New Buzz On Coffee: It’s Not The Caffeine That Raises Blood Pressure

I have also come across an article discussing the best times to drink coffee. It states that The peak production of cortisol occurs between 8–9 am (under normal circumstances.) This means that at the time that many people are having their first cup of coffee on the way to work, their bodies are actually “naturally caffeinating” the most effectively.  Cortisol is considered a stress-related hormone and consumption of caffeine has been shown to increase the production of cortisol when timed at periods of peak cortisol levels. An increased tolerance for caffeine can therefore lead to heightened cortisol levels which can disturb circadian rhythms and have other deleterious effects on your health. The article suggests that the times of peak cortisol levels in most people are between 8-9 am, 12-1 pm and 5:30-6:30 pm. Therefore, timing your “coffee breaks” between 9:30am-11:30am and 1:30pm and 5:00pm takes advantage of the dips in your cortisol levels when you need a boost the most.

 

Restarting probiotic foods

So I am restarting probiotic foods. I suppose I had a bad start when I went all in and started consuming everything at once – yougurt, kefir, sourdough, yeast supplements, probiotic capsules. I was also fermenting apples, vegetables, plantains, trying to make my own chickpea tempeh. Home fermentation could go wrong at some point, also I think the supplements were a bad choice. Maybe taking saccharomyces boulardii for a week could improve gut microbiome, but taking the capsules everyday for several months I think for me led to SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, in this case there was also yeast).

I think at first when I started eating goat yougurt and drinking homemade kefir, I felt better. I remember there were several days when I was helping put up posters for a missing person – the man was my close friend’s co-worker. He was last seen at a bar on a Friday night but never made it home. I didn’t personally know the guy, but since I was putting up the posters and was part of a Facebook search group, I’ve learned a lot of details about his girl friend, his parents. A week later his body was found in lake Ontario and it really got to me. I know that this tragic ending of a search for a missing person would be painful for anyone in the search group, but with depression I think such event further triggers a cascade of negative thoughts about your own life. I didn’t know the guy, I didn’t know his parents, nor his girl-friend. It was their loss, this was not about me, but anxiety and depression always find a way to relate events to your own personal issues. I remember feeling overwhelmed with anxiety and physical pain, as if it was me who let something bad happened and now I would be punished for it. I couldn’t let go of the fear of punishment for things that were happening in the world. There was a sense that I had to fix them. Maybe when I was younger I would imagine that I have these feelings because I am a morally better person, but now I know that no, feelings of guilt and fear of punishment is depression showing through.

That weekend coincidentally was also when my first batch of goat kefir was ready. The day when I tried the first cup of kefir, I had continued sense of guilt and fear. I felt guilty for trying to feel well when such tragic things were going on in the world. I have already been through a lot of cognitive behavioural therapy by that point, so logically I understood that I was not obliged to feel unwell or be responsible for the world,  but the feeling was still there. This was more than a year ago, but I do remember feeling more calm the next day after starting goat kefir and letting go of some of the guilt. It wasn’t a complete relief, but I remember  no longer feeling overwhelmed and on the verge of tears.

Studies on probiotics and mental health are inconclusive. “A recent article in Annals of General Psychiatry reviewed the currently available medical literature on using probiotics to treat anxiety and depression. The doctors identified 10 studies that were well done (in other words blinded and placebo-controlled), and looked at each study in depth. All of these studies had relatively small numbers of patients, ranging as from as few as 42 to as many as 124. The results of these studies were mixed; some suggested that there may be mild benefits of taking probiotics if you have anxiety or depression while other studies showed no benefit. Overall, the authors concluded “the clinical effects of probiotics on mental health have yet to be studied comprehensively.” 

Can probiotics help treat depression and anxiety?

Probably just adding kefir to your diet will not cure mental issues, but I do enjoy drinking it, the sour yet creamy taste. It is also a source of calcium and protein. A glass of kefir has less sugar than a glass of milk since the bacteria and yeast from kefir grains break down the milk sugar lactose and convert it into lactic acid. “The only sugar naturally present is milk is lactose (is a sugar composed of galactose and glucose subunits). Most microorganisms lack the enzyme lactase which is required to break lactose into its two component sugars, namely, glucose and galactose. Lactic acid bacteria which do have lactase readily break down lactose and use glucose as an energy source. Lactic acid bacteria, therefore, have a competitive advantage in milk; that is, they are able to out grow other bacteria which are unable to obtain glucose from lactose. Further, some lactic acid bacteria are able to convert galactose to glucose.” Therefore when we drink kefir, the bacteria had already used up glucose and galactose for energy and therefore we don’t get glucose from the drink. When humans drink milk, it contains the sugar lactose. We have a protein named lactase that is produced in our small intestine. Lactose is then broken down by lactase into galactose and glucose, which is then absorbed into bloodstream. Therefore drinking non-fermented milk raises blood sugar more than kefir.

Is it safe to make kefir at home?

The good news is that fermentation of warm milk by lactic acid bacteria reduces milk pH to less than 4.0 and in turn makes the environment unlivable for pathogenic bacteria. Most organisms grow best at pH near physiological pH of 6.8, and not in acidic environments. I assume it would be great though for microbes from Yellowstone National Park acidic pools. these pools are usually of temperature ranging from 65 to 90 degrees Celsius and contain high sulfur contents, either as hydrogen sulfide (H2S(g)) emitted as a volcanic gas, or as elemental sulfur crystals. Who lives there – thermoacidophiles, a unique group of bacteria that are a combination of acidophiles and thermophiles. Thermoacidophiles are characterized by their exclusive ability to live in both highly acidic environments and also high temperatures. The typical conditions these thermoacidophiles live under include pH at around 2 with temperatures ranging from 80 to 90 degrees Celsius.

I am not sure if thermoacidophiles  are likely to contaminate homemade kefir, but I do sterilize my jars by pouring boiling water over them. Then I let the jar cool, place the kefir grains in, pour in milk, and cover with a coffee filter. I ferment my kefir at room temperature for 24 hours. Kefir is a versatile food as it can be drank on its own, used for smoothies, used to make tvorog (quark), syrniki (fried quark pancakes), and oladyi (fritters). Easy breakfast recipe – in the evening combine kefir, sorghum flour, ground oatmeal, egg, salt, and avocado oil in a bowl and let it stand overnight in the fridge. In the morning preheat a frying pan and then use the dough for fritters. Consume with honey and yougurt on top.

Who inhabits kefir?

The kefir grains initiating the fermentation consist of a symbiotic culture of lactic acid bacteria and yeasts embedded in a matrix of proteins, lipids, and polysaccharides. The matrix is formed by microbial activity, with color ranging from white to creamy yellow. Grains can include lactic acid bacteria, acetic acid bacteria, and yeasts. During fermentation, changes in the composition of ingredients occur. Lactose, the sugar present in milk, is broken down mostly to lactic acid (25%) by the lactic acid bacteria, which results in acidification of the product. Propionibacteria further break down some of the lactic acid into propionic acid. Other substances that contribute to the flavor of kefir are pyruvic acid, acetic acid, diacetyl and acetoin (both of which contribute a “buttery” flavor), citric acid, acetaldehyde, and amino acids resulting from protein breakdown. The slow-acting yeasts, late in the fermentation process, break lactose down into ethanol and carbon dioxide. Usually ethanol concentrations are 0.2–0.3%, so kefir is not much of an alcoholic beverage.

Probiotic bacteria found in kefir products include: Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium bifidum, Streptococcus thermophilus, Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus, Lactobacillus helveticus, Lactobacillus kefiranofaciens, Lactococcus lactis, and Leuconostoc species. Lactobacilli in kefir may exist in concentrations varying from approximately 1 million to 1 billion colony-forming units per milliliter, and are the bacteria responsible for the synthesis of the polysaccharide kefiran. In addition to bacteria, kefir often contains strains of yeast that can metabolize lactose, such as Kluyveromyces marxianus, Kluyveromyces lactis, and Saccharomyces fragilis, as well as strains of yeast that do not metabolize lactose, including Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Torulaspora delbrueckii, and Kazachstania unispora.

Kefir is made by adding kefir grains to milk typically at a proportion of 2-5% grains-to-milk. The mixture is then placed in a corrosion-resistant container, such as a glass jar, and stored preferably in the dark to prevent degradation of light-sensitive vitamins.

Planks, gut health, and mental health

I’ve had many conflicts with my father, but one thing I’ve always agreed with him on is that there is no mental health without physical exercise. Especially for those with emotional instability like me, I find that exercise is a necessity. It’s definitely not easy to do it with an autoimmune disease since sometimes after I get home from work – I feel lethargic, or I feel arm pain, or I feel isolated and a need to go on Facebook and see that people are alive. Well this is where logical thinking comes in – in the end choosing to exercise has the best payoff even though it’s not immediate. Lying down on the sofa and turning on Netflix has an immediate pay off, but if this is what I will do daily after work, after a while I will be worse off.

Currently I am trying to exercise two to three times a day. I do about 10-12 minutes before leaving for work in the morning, I include stretching, planks, downward dog, inversion poses, etc. Recently there have been some articles about positive impact of even very short intervals of exercise. I would like to believe that these statements are true as I am not able to force myself to wake up another twenty minutes earlier and engage in a 30 minute work out before work or breakfast. I do believe that some exercise is better than no exercise. I work in a boring office, so my hours are pretty standard. During lunch I walk around listening to a podcast and currently I signed up at a yoga studio located in the office building downstairs, which offers lunch classes. In the evening I try to do another 20-30 minutes of exercise. Is this exercise plan difficult? Yes, but once you do it several days in a row, I feel that there is some kind of adjustment and you get used to the schedule. Also I find it easier when I know that my exercise interval is only 12 or 20 minutes, I am not trying to push myself into an hour jog. In fact I don’t jog at all. I mentioned this before – one psychiatrist with whom I had a consultation stated that the best way to combat inflammation is exercise and that I should only do the type of exercise that I like, otherwise I will not stick with the routine for long. Therefore no jogging for me, I am doing planks and yoga poses.

The latest research shows that a single 10-minute bout of very light (30% of VO2 Max) physical activity can increase the connectivity between brain regions linked to memory formation and storage.

This potentially groundbreaking study on the cognitive benefits of short periods of mild exertion activity (such as gentle yoga, tai chi, slow dancing, or playing bocce) was conducted by researchers at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) and the University of Tsukuba in Japan.

Ten minutes of mild exercise may improve brain connectivity and enhance memory

From the abstract of the actual paper: ” A single 10-min bout of very light-intensity exercise (30%V˙O2peak) results in rapid enhancement in pattern separation and an increase in functional connectivity between hippocampal DG/CA3 and cortical regions (i.e., parahippocampal, angular, and fusiform gyri). Importantly, the magnitude of the enhanced functional connectivity predicted the extent of memory improvement at an individual subject level. These results suggest that brief, very light exercise rapidly enhances hippocampal memory function, possibly by increasing DG/CA3−neocortical functional connectivity.

Rapid stimulation of human dentate gyrus function with acute mild exercise

I now have some evidence to support my belief that my 10 minute work-outs are useful. Sometimes at work I do yoga poses in the staircase, or run up ten flights of stairs. There are many ways to exercise for free, it’s not necessary to purchase a monthly gym membership or pay $20 for a yoga class.

Some studies also indicate that exercise positively modifies gut bacteria. This change in turn can reduce inflammation and depression.

Recent studies suggest that exercise can enhance the number of beneficial microbial species, enrich the microflora diversity, and improve the development of commensal bacteria.

Collectively, the available data strongly support that, in addition to other well-known internal and external factors, exercise appears to be an environmental factor that can determine changes in the qualitative and quantitative gut microbial composition with possible benefits for the host. In fact, stable and enriched microflora diversity is indispensable to the homeostasis and normal gut physiology contributing also to suitable signaling along the brain-gut axis and to the healthy status of the individual. Exercise is able to enrich the microflora diversity; to improve the Bacteroidetes-Firmicutes ratio which could potentially contribute to reducing weight, obesity-associated pathologies, and gastrointestinal disorders; to stimulate the proliferation of bacteria which can modulate mucosal immunity and improve barrier functions, resulting in reduction in the incidence of obesity and metabolic diseases; and to stimulate bacteria capable of producing substances that protect against gastrointestinal disorders and colon cancer (such as, SCFAs).

Exercise Modifies the Gut Microbiota with Positive Health Effects

From ScienceDaily – “Two studies — one in mice and the other in human subjects — offer the first definitive evidence that exercise alone can change the composition of microbes in the gut. The studies were designed to isolate exercise-induced changes from other factors — such as diet or antibiotic use — that might alter the intestinal microbiota.”

Exercise changes gut microbial composition independent of diet, team reports

I think it’s very crucial to our mental health to exercise daily in any way – on a yoga mat at house, running up the stairs at work, going out for a jog, dancing, playing ping-pong, jogging with your dog, anything really that replaces sitting.

Following the MIND diet for autoimmune encephalitis and depression

So there has been the MIND diet going around. Some research indicates that it can reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s/dementia. The MIND diet is very similar to the Mediterranean diet. As most people know, that means eating a lot of oily fish, whole grains, vegetables, nuts, and beans/legumes. The MIND diet is a bit more specific – it recommends green leafy vegetables every day, berries (especially blueberries), whole grains three! times a day, nuts every day. You can see the list below:

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Dietitians provide some information on how this diet might work: “A diet that supports vascular health is certainly protective against vascular dementia, but certain foods and food components have been directly linked to improved neurological function or reduced AD biomarkers in the brain.1,8 “MIND diet foods reflect nutrients shown to slow cognitive decline, lower risk of AD, decrease amyloid in the brain or neuron loss in animal studies, or decrease oxidative stress and inflammation”.

Food for Thought: The MIND Diet — Fighting Dementia With Food

Well since my brain seems to be screwed up, anything that might fight inflammation while improving neurological function sounds good to me! It’s also a lot less restrictive than the AIP diet or ketogenic diet. Definitely much easier than intermittent fasting. I see myself being able to follow this diet long-term. I want to eat my grains, I also haven’t found much evidence that excluding grains helps with depression or inflammation. I like to eat my quail eggs and goat yougurt, so I don’t want to be excluding eggs or dairy (AIP excludes these foods). I don’t think the strict AIP diet should be followed for a long time, neither the ketogenic diet. I am not even sure whether keto diet can help with inflammation and depression, it includes tons of saturated fat. The MIND diet researchers actually recommend limiting saturated fat.

So how do you follow the MIND diet list in practice? Green leafy vegetables every day, berries, olive oil, nuts… how do you fit all of that into one day? And what if you don’t like looking or don’t have time? What if you are not one of those people who post on their vlog about avocado toast? I came up with some quick recipes, here I will post my breakfast idea. The breakfast consists of onions (vegetable √ ), kale (green leafy vegetable √ ), cooked with olive oil √, yougurt with blueberries (berries √), also you can add some toast (I don’t eat gluten, but I make gluten-free sourdough buns  – whole grain flour √), or you can easily make a lot of brown rice pudding – also whole grain √.

I want to make this simple. This is for actual practical eating, now a decorative meal. I prepare several items in the evening so that in the morning I can cook my breakfast in several minutes. I start work at 9 am and I try to wake up as late as possible, I don’t want to be cooking for even fifteen minutes in the morning.

Ingredients to buy:

  • Buy some frozen chopped onions, chopped kale, olive oil, eggs. Yougurt, frozen blueberries, nuts/seeds. Bread/sourdough bread. I don’t consume cow milk, so I buy goat/sheep yougurt, I also make soy yougurt. I also eat gluten-free, so I make sourdough buns at home. I make a lot of buns and a liter yougurt at once, so I don’t have to do this every day.
  • Why frozen vegetables? Because they are chopped and I don’t like chopping. Also they don’t go rotting in my fridge if I forget about them. Also you don’t need to wash frozen vegetables. So many benefits!

Evening preparation:

  • Get a frying pan. I hope you have one in your house. You do need at least one frying pan for this MIND diet project. If you don’t have one – go to the Dollar Store and get one please. Place the pan on your your counter. 20 seconds
  • Take out frozen kale and frozen onions out of the freezer. 10 seconds20181101_213108           20181101_213148 
  • Place some kale and onions into the frying pan. Add salt, pepper, and olive oil. 30 seconds

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  • Place the pan in the fridge. The vegetables will defrost overnight. 10 seconds

Morning cooking:

  • Take out some eggs from the fridge, take out the pan

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  • Turn on the burner, place frying pan on the burner, leave it on medium-high for about five minutes. And don’t just stand there those five minutes, go brush your teeth, or something!
  • After five minutes crack the eggs onto the pan, mix everything together with a spatula
  • Fry for another three- four minutes
  • Place in a container and take to work, if you work in an office using a computer – you can easily enjoy eating while pretending to work
  • Take a jar of yougurt with you, add frozen blueberries – another item checked off from the MIND list

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  • Don’t forget toast/sourdough bread – because they say whole grains three times a day. Can be gluten-free. Eating toast should be easy, not like eating a bunch of kale. Toast is good!

So there, in one breakfast – kale – green leafy vegetable √ , onion – a vegetable , good enough! √, olive oil √, toast/sourdough – whole grains √

What else did they say… nuts? just add them to yougurt √ add blueberries √ don’t add oily fish to your yougurt… Χ

Wine? Well I think you can have that any time 😉

Sourdough for mood and hyperglycemia

Not all carbs are equal. Several months ago I made a discovery of gluten-free sourdough recipes and now I eat it almost daily. I obtained a sourdough starter, and now that I have one, it can live on forever, as long as it gets fed. It can definitely outlive me! Feeding the starter is very simple and requires only two ingredients – brown rice flour and warm water. After being on a strict AIP diet for almost a year (a lot of food group exclusions, including grains), it was very exciting to once again eat bread, burritos, and blueberry muffins. I no longer follow the strict AIP diet since it did not turn out to be a magical cure for me. I did improve a bit, but that does not mean that every food group exclusion contributed to my improvement. One person (me) trying the AIP diet is not a clinical trial with test and control groups.

I do see strong correlation between my psychotic episodes and consumption of gluten/cow’s dairy/corn/chocolate/nightshades (bell peppers are fine, small amounts of tomatoes are also OK)/ high-glycemic foods. I haven’t found issues with eating gluten-free whole grains and also found no evidence that grains are inflammatory. I don’t consider any blog post evidence. If a blog post refers to a research paper, then I will consider their claim. I do agree that anecdotal evidence is also useful, it was other people’s stories that helped me to obtain the right diagnosis after being misdiagnosed with schizophrenia by my psychiatrist. Only we can’t know from anecdotes what actually helped, if someone did the AIP diet and they got better – was it because they eliminated all the foods the diet suggests to exclude, or they could have improved just as well if they only avoided refined carbohydrates?

The evidence that I found so far indicated that whole grains are actually anti-inflammatory. For example, whole grain intake was found to be inversely related with inflammatory protein concentrations, while refined grain intake was positively related with the inflammatory markers. “In summary, whole grain intake was inversely related to PAI-1 and CRP plasma concentrations, but these relationships were attenuated by the addition of metabolic variables to the model. Refined grain intake was positively independently related to plasma PAI-1 concentrations.

Whole and Refined Grain Intakes Are Related to Inflammatory Protein Concentrations in Human Plasma

I introduced whole grains after a year of strict AIP diet with no problem. I find that consumption of whole grains puts me in a more relaxed state of mind, I actually consume half a cup of rolled oats with green banana flour in the evening for better sleep. Sourdough is great because the baked goods end up with a low glycemic index after the fermentation process. I have a glucometer that I use to determine my blood glucose response to different food products. The standard test is a two-hour glucose test. Two slices of gluten-free bread increased my blood sugar to over 11 mmol/L two hours after consumption, which is a sign of high blood sugar. I did the same test with sourdough bread and sourdough muffins and my blood sugar was back to under 6 mmol/L two hours after consumption, which is a big difference. Short grain brown rice is also a high glycemic index food, while long grain brown rice was found to have lower glycemic index.

Sourdough allows me to eat the foods that I missed out on for so long, at the same time it does not cause a blood glucose spike for me. I have used sourdough to make pizza crust, tortillas, bread, and muffins. Currently I am learning to use fermented batter to cook dosas, an Indian dish. Controlling blood sugar for me means also stabilizing my mood. A glucose spike and then crash turns me lethargic and weepy, it takes away my energy, I definitely want to avoid that. Sourdough allows me to have blueberry muffins for breakfast, goat cheese toast, burritos – all without the consequences of an emotional roller coaster. High glycemic foods may also promote inflammation and given my diagnosis of autoimmune encephalitis, that is something that I definitely want to avoid as well.

Hyperglycemia can cause inflammation through varying mechanisms that result in the production of free radicals and pro-inflammatory cytokines (19, 24). Thus, high glycemic index and glycemic load diets may stimulate inflammation. Glycemic index is the blood glucose-raising potential of the carbohydrates in different foods. A more accurate indicator of the relative glycemic response to dietary carbohydrates, however, is glycemic load. Glycemic load incorporates the relative quality of carbohydrates characterized by the glycemic index. Consumption of high-glycemic index foods results in higher and more rapid increases in blood glucose levels than the consumption of low-glycemic index foods. Rapid increases in blood glucose are potent signals to the β-cells of the pancreas to increase insulin secretion, which can cause a sharp decrease in glucose levels and lead to hypoglycemia (25). In contrast, the consumption of low-glycemic index foods results in lower but more sustained increases in blood glucose and lower insulin demands on pancreatic β-cells (26).

Dietary carbohydrates and inflammation

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