Living Well Blog: Saratoga's Holistic Health Forum

The Power of Music, Mom and Pre-Baby Blues, and Gut-Mood Connection

Compiled by Sarah A LoBisco, ND

Another Stress Busting Tip- Music

Last week, I discussed the negative impact of excess stress on health and provided some solutions to counter its effects. Besides meditation, chocolate, and social support, listening to music can remedy the stress response. Specifically, one study found that playing enjoyable music reduced the production of the stress hormone, cortisol. (This biochemical connection can help provide a more compassionate understanding and tolerance for teenagers who slam and pump up the volume of their iPods when frustrated!)


Everyday music listening reduces stress

News: Feb 23, 2012
Music can evoke positive emotions, which in turn can lower the listener's stress levels. Everyday music listening is therefore a simple and effective way to enhance well-being and health, according to a new doctoral thesis in psychology from the University of Gothenburg.

The results of the studies show that positive emotions were experienced both more often and more intensively in connection with music listening. The experiment group did also perceive less stress and had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. The more the participants in the survey study liked the music, the less stress they experienced.

Source: Everyday music listening reduces stress. February 23, 2012. University of Gothenburg.

Link to thesis:

Depression in Mom Affects Baby's Growth

Stress and depression can go hand-in-hand. Even though most view a new baby as a positive stressor, pregnancy can take a toll on one's biochemistry:

Although pregnancy is often portrayed as a time of great joy, that's not the reality for all women. At least one in ten pregnant women suffers from bouts of depression.

For years, experts mistakenly believed that pregnancy hormones protected against depression, leaving women more vulnerable to the illness only after the baby was born and their hormone levels plunged. They now believe that the rapid increase in hormone levels at the start of pregnancy can disrupt brain chemistry and lead to depression.

Hormonal changes can also make you feel more anxious than usual. Anxiety is another condition that can and should be treated during pregnancy.

One recent study demonstrated a positive association between depressed moms and delayed fetal development. This connection was higher in those who used antidepressants. Still, as mentioned above, researchers caution that association does not prove causation. In other words, other factors like the shift in women's hormones, environmental stressors that come with a new baby, and dietary shifts can be correlated to depression and factor in to fetal development.

According to an article in Medscape:


March 7, 2012 -- Use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) during pregnancy may increase the risk for adverse fetal development and birth outcomes, new research suggests. However, untreated depression was also associated with delayed fetal growth.

"SSRIs are generally safe drugs, but animal studies have suggested that this may be different during pregnancy, when serotonin is a neurodevelopmental hormone," explained Dr. Tiemeier.

The investigators note that this is one of the first SSRI-assessing studies in humans to focus on head development during pregnancy.

The Generation R Study is an ongoing prospective trial of 9778 mothers in the Netherlands; it was designed to examine fetal life onward.

For this analysis, the researchers assessed data on 7696 women who were first enrolled in the Generation R Study during pregnancy.

Questionnaires were given to all of these participants during each trimester of pregnancy to assess SSRI use. The participants' responses were verified by pharmacy records. Women who used SSRIs before pregnancy were excluded from this analysis.

The Brief Symptom Inventory (BSI) was used to assess depressive symptoms at an average of 20.6 weeks of gestation. Each trimester, fetal ultrasonography was performed to determine head and body growth.

A Simple Solution to Pre-Baby Blues

One solution to stress and depression that doesn't cost a thing is exercise. Here's an excerpt from Dr. Mercola that gives guidance on exercise for mom's to be:

Among normal-weight women, higher levels of vigorous exercise may make it harder to conceive and lead to delays in becoming pregnant
Among women who were overweight or obese, any type of exercise improved fertility, and moderate exercise led to faster times to pregnancy among all women
Only very vigorous exercise -- which was defined as running, fast cycling, gymnastics or swimming for more than five hours a week -- appeared to delay fertility in normal-weight (but not overweight or obese) women
By exercising in short bursts, followed by periods of recovery, you recreate exactly what your body needs for optimum health. That said, engaging in these high-intensity exercises two to three times a week is likely to lead to a decrease in body fat.
If you are seeking to get pregnant you will need slightly higher body fat stores to be in the optimal range; short periods of high-intensity exercise like Peak Fitness are likely to be beneficial, but overdoing it may be counterproductive

Deborah Brauser. Mom's SSRI Use Linked to Delayed Fetal Growth, Preterm Birth. 3/7/12.

BabyCenter, LLC. Depression in Pregnancy. Accessed 4/20/2012.

Mercola, J. New Study Finds Too Much Exercise Can Delay Pregnancy in Normal-Weight Women. April 6, 2012.

More on the Gut-Brain Link

Your gut consists of its own nervous system which develops alongside the brain in utero. The gut's enteric nervous system is the home to over 70% of your neurotransmitters and also is responsible for over 80% of your immune system! Within the gastrointestinal tract is millions of bacteria and microorganisms that produce various neurotransmitters, chemical messengers involved in immune modulation, digestion and assimilation, vitamin production, and biotransformation. Therefore, an imbalance in our gut can affect how we think, process food and assimilate nutrients for overall health, and our inflammatory response.

I have written several articles and blogs on the importance of gut health with mood. In fact, a few weeks ago, I highlighted the link of a healthy gut to autism. Recent research has linked behavioral disorders, such as depression and mood imbalances to gut health. A new study is now linking a common bacterium that cause strep throat to OCD.

According to Dr. Mercola:

People with OCD are beset with anxious persistent thoughts (obsessions), or feel compelled to perform certain rituals like hand washing or repeatedly checking things (compulsions). For many people, the condition begins during childhood or the teen years.

The Streptococcus bacteria create proteins that mimic human proteins, thereby evading your immune system. Once your immune system identifies them as "foreign invaders," it begins creating antibodies.

However, these antibodies can also attack human tissues such as your heart, joints, and brain. Several years ago, evidence emerged suggesting that this attack on the brain can inflame brain structures, which possibly could trigger OCD (or OCD-like symptoms) in children.

The NIMH now exploring what causes OCD, and will work on finding a treatment that might help reverse the syndrome. According to the featured report in New Scientistiii , the Institute intends to find out whether an antibody treatment used to reduce autoimmune reactions might be beneficial.

Your vagus nerve--the tenth cranial nerve that runs from your brain stem down to your abdomen--connects these two organs together. Your gut actually produces more of the neurotransmitter serotonin--thought to play an important role in OCD, in addition to having a beneficial influence on your mood in general--than your brain does, so optimizing your gut flora may indeed have tremendous benefit for your psychological health. And there's plenty of evidence to suggest that this needs to begin from birth, or even, ideally, before birth.

For holistic solutions to repopulating and nourishing your gut, be sure to read my blog on how to treat your mood with taking bugs on my website (

Sources: Mercola, J. The Hidden Cause of Psychiatric Disorders Almost No One Considers. April 16 2012.

Debora MacKenzie New Scientist Health. Bacteria could be significant cause of OCD. March 28, 2012.


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About Dr. Sarah Lobisco

Dr. LoBisco has been in holistic healthcare for over 10 years. She became interested in holistic medicine when she was able to heal two herniated discs through nutrition, yoga, supplementation, and chiropractic. She has mentored with holistic practices throughout New York, Vermont, and Connecticut. In addition to her Naturopathic and Functional Medical training, Dr. LoBisco has extensive training in a variety of healing modalities, including therapeutic essential oils, nutraceuticals, herbs, whole food supplements, nutritional medicine, and mind-body therapies. She is a graduate of the accredited, four year post-graduate program in Naturopathic Medicine at the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut. This program includes clinical rotations and a demanding scientific curriculum in integrating conventional and natural medicine. Dr. LoBisco holds her license from the state of Vermont.

Dr. LoBisco has completed her postdoctoral training as a certified functional medicine practitioner. She is also certified in Applied Kinesiology and holds a BA in psychology from SUNY Geneseo. She has contributed as an item writer for the North American Board of Naturopathic Examiners (NABNE)and has several articles that have been published in the Naturopathic Doctor News and Review Digest (NDNR) and the Townsend Letter, both physician- based journals. Dr. LoBisco is also a hired speaker on integrative medical topics for medical professionals.

Dr. LoBisco currently incorporates her training in holistic medical practices and conventional medicine through writing, researching, private practice, and through her independent contracting work for companies regarding supplements, nutraceuticals, essential oils, and medical foods. She has a small, private wellness consultation practice through telephone and Skype. Dr. LoBisco also enjoys continuing to educate and empower her readers through her blogs and social media. Her new book, BreakFree Medicine, is now available on Amazon and through Barnes & Noble. Please inquire here for more specific information.

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