Let's Get Physical - Drew Ramsey MD

Image courtesy Flickr/CherryPoint

Recent headlines were ablaze. The twittersphere buzzed. Now a whopping 11% of adults in the US take antidepressant medications. To put those numbers in perspective check out my post about it. But let’s review the health benefits of an antidepressant I think everyone should start taking: Exercise.

Exercise. Along with maximizing the brain food, exercise is a low cost, mostly side-effect free way to boost mood, decrease anxiety, and improve brain health. Exercise is even part of the American Psychiatric Institute’s guideline for treating clinical depression. Along with endorphins, another amazing effect of exercise on the brain is the increase in BDNF — brain derived neurotrophic factor. This stuff is the molecular equivalent of Miracle-Gro (I think credit goes to John Ratey, MD at Harvard, for the catchy metaphor).

I was reminded of this fact by this very nice post by Estelle Underwood, a personal trainer who struggled with depression. She shares the stories of several clients for whom the mood boosting effect of exercise is apparent and cites the 2011 study on Zoloft and exercise (abstract below) that demonstrated the power of exercise in easing the blues and preventing relapse. I hope this study can be replicated in a larger population, but hey, what great research in its own right. When a researcher puts a fact like this in the medical literature, it helps change what we say to patients and the recommendations we make. I often tell patients about this one. Many people I see in my practice try to take the path that Estelle does, exercise instead of medication, but end up needing medications to treat their depression. For them, I think of exercise as the “ultimate augmentation,” something we add to a medication to improve outcome. My clinical experience is that nearly everyone does better, meds or no meds, with some exercise.

Make it fun, playful, and regular.

Since we are on the subject of depression, I had to add in another abstract – this entry is a science twofer. And a reminder that while we should learn from studies, we can’t make too much of just one particular study.
When another set of researchers (Cochrane Database = illustrious, awesome, meta-analysis-crazed) pooled all of the data from 25 trials that explored exercise as a treatment of depression, they could not find a significant effect when they included the most rigorously designed trials. This is all to say try exercise, but if you are clinically depressed, you might need something more. Keep up the work out, but make sure to explore your other lifestyle modifications like diet and proven treatment options like psychotherapy, herbs, and medications that have ample data supporting their use for the treatment of depression.

Related Science

Eat Complete

Winner of a 2017 IACP Cookbook Award  •  Finalist for a Books for a Better Life Award

Named one of the top health and wellness books for 2016 by Well + Good and MindBodyGreen


From leading psychiatrist and author of Fifty Shades of Kale comes a collection of 100 simple, delicious, and affordable recipes to help you get the core nutrients your brain and body need to stay happy and healthy.

What does food have to do with brain health? Everything.

Your brain burns more of the food you eat than any other organ. It determines if you gain or lose weight, if you’re feeling energetic or fatigued, if you’re upbeat or depressed. In this essential guide and cookbook, Drew Ramsey, MD, explores the role the human brain plays in every part of your life, including mood, health, focus, memory, and appetite, and reveals what foods you need to eat to keep your brain—and by extension your body—properly fueled.

Drawing upon cutting-edge scientific research, Dr. Ramsey identifies the twenty-one nutrients most important to brain health and overall well-being—the very nutrients that are often lacking in most people’s diets. Without these nutrients, he emphasizes, our brains and bodies don’t run the way they should.

Eat Complete includes 100 appetizing, easy, gluten-free recipes engineered for optimal nourishment. It also teaches readers how to use food to correct the nutrient deficiencies causing brain drain and poor health for millions. For example:

• Start the day with an Orange Pecan Waffle or a Turmeric Raspberry Almond Smoothie, and the Vitamin E found in the nuts will work to protect vulnerable brain fat (plus the fiber keeps you satisfied until lunch).

• Enjoy Garlic Butter Shrimp over Zucchini Noodles and Mussels with Garlicky Kale Ribbons and Artichokes, and the zinc and magnesium from the seafood will help stimulate the growth of new brain cells.

• Want to slow down your brain’s aging process? Indulge with a cup of Turmeric Cinnamon Hot Chocolate, and the flavanols found in chocolate both increase blood flow to the brain and help fight age-related memory decline.

Featuring fifty stunning, full-color photographs, Eat Complete helps you pinpoint the nutrients missing from your diet and gives you tasty recipes to transform your health—and ultimately your life.


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The Happiness Diet

For the first time in history, too much food is making us sick. It's all too apparent that the Modern American Diet (MAD) is expanding our waistlines; what's less obvious is that it's starving and shrinking our brains. Rates of obesity and depression have recently doubled, and while these epidemics are closely linked, few experts are connecting the dots for the average American.

Using the latest data from the rapidly changing fields of neuroscience and nutrition, The Happiness Dietshows that over the past several generations small, seemingly insignificant changes to our diet have stripped it of nutrients--like magnesium, vitamin B12, iron, and vitamin D, as well as some very special fats--that are essential for happy, well-balanced brains. These shifts also explain the overabundance of mood-destroying foods in the average American's diet and why they predispose most of us to excessive weight gain.

After a clear explanation of how we've all been led so far astray, The Happiness Diet empowers the reader with simple, straightforward solutions. Graham and Ramsey show you how to steer clear of this MAD way of life with foods to swear off, shopping tips, brain-building recipes, and other practical advice, and then remake your diet by doubling down on feel-good foods--even the all-American burger.


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Fifty Shades of Kale

Kale gets sexy in Fifty Shades of Kale by Drew Ramsey, M.D., and Jennifer Iserloh, with 50 recipes that are mouth-wateringly delicious and do a body good.
Release yourself from the bondage of guilt and start cooking meals with the ingredients you love: meat, cheese, and yes—even butter. Nutrient-rich kale provides essential vitamins and minerals to keep you healthy, happy, and lean—so you can indulge in your most delicious desires. Whether you’re a cooking novice or a real kale submissive, you will undoubtedly succumb to Kale’s charms.

From Mushroom and Kale Risotto to Kale Kiwi Gazpacho, Fifty Shade of Kale offers simple ways to have your kale and eat it, too, as well as nutritional information, cooking tips, and a tutorial on kale in all her glorious shades.
Indulge your culinary passions with Fifty Shades of Kale: 50 Fresh and Satisfying Recipes That Are Bound to Please.


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