blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Depression – Ray Griffiths*

The part of the brain most heavily associated with mental health, memory, emotion and mood is called the hippocampus; the biological name for the seahorse. It is the unusual seahorse-like shape of the hippocampus that has led to its evocative name. Just as the seahorse charms the depths of oceans, our own hippocampus, when supported and nurtured, can help to enchant our own lives. Worryingly, there are an increasing number of scientific papers linking problems with the hippocampus to depression, in particular, the shrinking or failure to regrow this part of the brain after prolonged stress. Depression, anxiety and mood disorders are often seen as entirely psychological in cause. However, more and more research is highlighting that chronic health issues, poor diet and lifestyle choices can, and will, negatively impact our vulnerable hippocampus, and consequently, our mental health.

Personalised nutritionist Ray Griffiths examines how we can modify our dietary and lifestyle choices to nourish our brain and hippocampus. These choices can help to cushion us from the harm we may encounter as we navigate the challenges of modern everyday life. This nourishment is absolutely vital, as every day our hippocampus can potentially regrow 700 brand new neurons, but it needs a huge amount of assistance to do so. Nourishment for the hippocampus can come from not just diet but also from balanced gut bacteria, social connection, exercise, an outdoors environment, music and dance. Learning how to support your brain health begins with what you eat.

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Ray Griffiths MSc is a Registered Nutritionist and Lecturer and hails from the South of England, living on the borders of Essex and Suffolk. He has been researching and practicing nutrition for 20 years and lecturing for over 10 years. His lectures and webinars have covered diverse subjects such as: cancer and nutrition, chronic fatigue, depression, cardiovascular health, neurodegeneration, MS and ageing. Ray has a background in Engineering and likes to apply a similar style systems philosophy to nutrition and biochemistry – using this approach to challenge and greatly expand existing ideas and concepts. He is a keen water skier, was once a professional Speedway rider. He enjoys Pre-Rapaelite art and his favourite author is the American poet Robert Bly.

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My thoughts: I’ve had depression since my teens and am interested in different theories around treating and managing it in the long term. I currently take medication to manage it but if there was another way I’d be open to potentially trying it.

I liked that Griffiths was looking at depression as a condition that is affected by and effects the body as a whole, I know for me if my chronic pain condition is worse then so will my mental health be.

As a nutritionist Griffiths focuses on how what we eat impacts our physical and mental wellbeing. The importance of healthy gut bacteria is something the general public is increasingly aware of, and he writes about how each thing links together very well.

This was certainly a very interesting read, something I will definitely be discussing with my doctors in terms of how I can tweak my diet to support a happier, healthier brain.

*I was kindly gifted this book in exchange for taking part in this blog tour.

healthy, life

My breast cancer scare

I’ve gone back and forth on writing this, it’s a thing I want to share because it’s important but also it’s a period of time that I found very stressful and a bit scary, which is hard to write about.

Last year in the midst of wedding planning and a period of increased medical stress (thanks chronic illness) I found a lump in my left armpit, right next to my boob.

After worrying about it all weekend I rang the GP and after explaining to the arsey receptionist why I was calling for an on-the-day appointment, I got one immediately. Funny that.

My now husband was on annual leave so he drove me to the surgery, which was a big support as I was extremely anxious about the lump. My anxiety disorder can be triggered and added to when it comes to health issues so I was a bit of a walking disaster. Luckily I didn’t have to sit in the waiting room too long worrying and I saw a female GP (most surgeries will let you request a woman doctor, I didn’t specifically but it does made it a little more comfortable).

The exam required me to take off my top and bra, which I expected, and the doctor carried out a visual check and then a manual one. It wasn’t remotely embarrassing as she was very straightforward and put me at my ease. Once I was re-dressed we had a chat about her opinion and the next steps.

She said that she didn’t think it was a tumour but wanted it scanned at the breast clinic just in case. She explained that doctors are told to think the texture of a tumourous lump is the difference between the collagen of your nose (somewhat soft) and your skull (very hard) when pressed. Which is a useful tip for when checking your breasts. Although I highly recommend getting any and all strange lumps and other changes checked, just in case.

I was referred to the breast clinic at my local hospital to be seen by a specialist and have an ultrasound scan to see what was going on.

The clinic was on a Sunday, in a mostly deserted section of the hospital mainly used for various daily clinics, which was slightly creepy; walking through the empty corridors looking for the area reserved for this particular clinic.

There were a few women sat in the waiting area, all ages and races, because cancer doesn’t discriminate. The doctor carried out a similar exam as the GP and sent me off to the ultrasound department (I wish I’d downloaded a step counter just for this appointment as I walked the length of the hospital and back).

The nurse in the ultrasound room was really nice, explaining how to lie comfortably on the scanning bench with my arm tucked under my head. She draped a piece of blue tissue over my chest to preserve some modesty (although by this point several doctors had seen my breasts and I really wasn’t bothered). The doctor came in and carried out the scan then told me to wipe off the gel and get dressed. I walked back through the hospital to the breast clinic and get the results.

Thankfully it was all clear, the doctor thought the lump was more likely to be a swollen lymph node, which happens every now and then and goes away by itself. She told me I’d done the right thing in getting it checked out as it’s better to do and so and it be nothing, than leave it and find out too late that it’s something to worry about.

So ladies (and gents, and people who don’t identify as either) please check your breast tissue (and testicles if that’s relevant), go to your cervical screening or prostate exam. Look after your body, get to know it and recognise when things are wrong.

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