Archive for the ‘Mood’ Category

Benefits of Exercise

Posted on: December 1st, 2014 by Richard Malik No Comments

It is common wisdom that exercise is healthy. A few of the benefits of exercise include: reduced cardiovascular risk, reduced diabetes risk, prevention of several types of cancer, improved mood, and reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

But, how much exercise at what intensity is most helpful? Simple, clear guidance on the benefits of exercise is difficult to find.

Fitness sport couple running jogging outside on trail

When assessing a patient’s cardiovascular risk, I like to use a global risk assessment calculator that factors in age, gender, cholesterol ratio, blood pressure, smoking status, and diabetes status. My favorite cardiovascular global risk assessment tool can determine the benefits of various treatments (including exercise, Mediterranean diet, or statin therapy) on cardiovascular risk. Unfortunately, in this calculator (which is better than any other I have seen) the effect of physical activity is absolute – “physical activity” reduces cardiovascular by about the same amount as statin therapy. But it can’t be this simplistic; physical activity once a week must be less effective than daily physical activity; running for an hour must have a different benefit than walking for an hour.

To help clarify the benefit of exercise on physical health, I asked my research assistant, Dakota, to summarize a recent systematic review on physical activity and mortality. He summarized the research like this:

  • People of all ages who are able to be physically active will have a reduced mortality rate of 14 to 26% by doing 150 to 300 min of moderate to vigorous physical activity a week, respectively.
  • Doing a certain amount of physical activity a week does not guarantee a longer life and does not reduce the negative affects of smoking or an unhealthy diet.
  • Studies show that the more vigorous the activity the more beneficial it is to the body.
  • Studies also show the more time spent doing physical activity per week the better as long as a healthy diet is maintained and nutrients are not depleted.
  • Physical activity is shown to reduce mortality substantially more in women than men.
  • As a strict relation of risk reduction per calories burned the results were greater than or equal to 10% risk reduction for 1500kcal/week in men and 650kcal/week in women.  Studies support the message that ‘some is good, more is better.’

So, to reduce mortality by about 26%, exercise for 300 minutes per week. Men should burn about 3,750 calories per week and women about 1,600 calories per week. My favorite way to assess calories burned is to use the Runmeter app on my iPhone – it can be used for walking, biking, hiking, or running. Just enter your weight into the app and it will calculate calories burned and help you keep track of your own benefits of exercise!




Be well,

Richard Malik, ND

Naturopathic Medicine in Connecticut, Naturopathic Medicine in Vermont, Naturopathic Oncology in Vermont, Naturopathic Oncology in Connecticut


Does Vitamin D Improve Depression?

Posted on: May 14th, 2011 by doctor No Comments

A recent study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry finds that vitamin D supplementation does not improve symptoms of in women older than 70.  The researches identified women who had vitamin D deficiency and gave them 500,000 IU of vitamin D one time each year for three to five years.  Hmmm.  This is an unusual vitamin D dosing regimen.

In my experience, providing 5,000 IU vitamin per day, every day, for adult patients is a safe way of maintaining optimal vitamin D status – using less than 4,000 IU does not usually work.  In my clinic, this approach has been a part of a successful program for improving depression in patients with vitamin D insufficiency or deficiency.  This means taking almost 1,800,000 IU of vitamin D per year – much more than what was provided in this study.

According to the Institute of Medicine, 4,000 IU of vitamin D is the upper intake limit for universal safety in people older than 9 years old.  At this level of intake, the annual dosage of vitamin D is 1,460,000 IU – again, much more than the 500,000 IU used in this study.

Honestly, I don’t know if randomized control trials will end up showing that vitamin D supplementation prevents or treats depression.  However, providing one third of the usual annual dose to maintain vitamin D sufficiency is not a very good way to assess the effectiveness of vitamin D for depression.  Providing that dosage all at once makes even less sense.

This is an example of how the results of research and the headlines may not provide an accurate assessment of the question that is trying to be answered.

Be Well,

Richard Malik, ND

Back to School, Back to Wellness

Posted on: August 24th, 2010 by doctor No Comments

It is a great time of year to improve the health of your family.  While preparing for the coming school year, it can take only a few moments to identify simple steps that will substantially improve your family’s wellness and make your life simpler.

Sleep is important – I consider it an essential nutrient.  Some medical studies show that decreased sleep can increase your chances of getting a cold.  Healthy amounts of sleep also improve mood and support weight loss.  Keeping regular bed times and avoiding stimulating activities (i.e. movies, wild play, caffeine, and sugar) before bed can go a long way to getting your family to bed at a reasonable hour and waking refreshed.

Vitamin D is important for both neurological and immune function.  Vitamin D is produced in the skin when exposed to direct sunlight – something that does not occur in cooler months of the year.  2,000 IU of vitamin D per day is safe for adults and children older than 12 months.

Healthy food is the cornerstone of good health.  Most people know that vegetables, fruits and whole grains are health foods, but many don’t realize the many negative effects of refined carbohydrates.  Beyond encouraging obesity, refined sugars cause emotional agitation and reduce immune function; some studies show that sugar, honey, and maple syrup reduce the ability of white blood cells to destroy bacteria by as much as 50%!  Simply reducing – it is not necessary to eliminate – intake of refined carbohydrates can have many positive health effects for your family.

Imagine what your family’s school year could be like with less illness and irritability.  Imagine how this can improve your stress level and support the time and energy required for raising a family and having fulfilling relationships.  Sometimes, great changes can result from the simplest of interventions.

Be Well,


Video: Natural Treatments for Depression

Posted on: May 29th, 2009 by doctor No Comments

Click to Watch in a New Window (180 MB)

This video, on depression, is one of the presentations I delivered at the 2008 Kushi Institute Summer Conference.



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Anger is an Important Emotion

Posted on: May 17th, 2009 by doctor No Comments

While researching the work of Harvard’s George Vaillant on happiness, longevity and health (posted yesterday), I found a wonderful article in The Guardian that expresses the importance of expressing anger in a healthy way.  The article expresses this issue so eloquently that I will simply quote several paragraphs here:

According to the Harvard Study of Adult Development, a piece of research that has tracked the lives of 824 men and women since 1965, those who repress their frustration are at least three times more likely to admit they had hit a glass ceiling in their careers and have disappointing personal lives. On the other hand, the study found, those who learned to harness and channel their anger were far more likely to be professionally well-established, as well as enjoying emotional and physical intimacy with their friends and family.

Professor George Vaillant, a psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School, has spent the last 44 years as director of the Study of Adult Development, based at the Harvard University Health Service. “People think of anger as a terribly dangerous emotion and are encouraged to practise ‘positive thinking’, but we find that approach is self-defeating and ultimately a damaging denial of dreadful reality,” he said. “Negative emotions such as fear and anger are inborn and are of tremendous importance. Negative emotions are often crucial for survival: careful experiments such as ours have documented that negative emotions narrow and focus attention so we can concentrate on the trees instead of the forest.”

Vaillant criticises the boom in anti-anger, mood-stabilising drugs and the growing market for anger-management counselling and classes. He believes that, while uncontrolled exhibitions of anger are destructive, learning to positively channel our anger serves a vital role in our wellbeing. Internalising the emotion can cause depression, health problems and communication difficulties.

“Psychologists, having dealt for generations with damaged psyches, should now be engaged in the psychological equivalent of reverse engineering,” he said. “We all feel anger, but individuals who learn how to express their anger while avoiding the explosive and self-destructive consequences of unbridled fury have achieved something incredibly powerful in terms of overall emotional growth and mental health. If we can define and harness those skills, we can use them to achieve great things.”

An interesting perspective that I tend to agree with.  What do you think?  Submit your comments below.

Be Well,

Richard Malik, ND

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How to be Happy, Successful, Healthy, and Have a Long Life

Posted on: May 16th, 2009 by doctor No Comments

Well that about covers it all.  How much money, energy and time do we spend trying to attain these things, figuring out how we are going to attain them, or worrying about our failures in these areas? 

I just ran across some very interesting work by a Harvard researcher that actually may answer the question: What can we do to ensure happiness, success, health, and longevity?

According to George Vaillant’s research, the answers are: 

  1. have a good marriage before the age of 50
  2. be ingenious when coping with difficult situations
  3. be altruistic
  4. don’t smoke
  5. consume moderate (or less) amounts of alcohol
  6. maintain physical activity
  7. maintain a healthy weight
  8. get the most education your intelligence allows
  9. stay creative after retirement
All of this sounds like reasonable advice.  It’s good to have some scientific confirmation of good and practical common sense.
Be Well,
Richard Malik, ND
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More Vitamin D News

Posted on: March 3rd, 2009 by doctor No Comments

Published on February 23rd, 2009 in the Archives of Internal Medicine, a very large study with 18,000 participants found that the people with lowest serum vitamin D levels (based on 25-OH Vitamin D testing as mentioned in the last post) were 36% more likely to get an upper respiratory tract infection than people with the highest (but safe) levels of serum vitamin D.

Another similar study from August of 2008 published in the same journal showed a 26% reduced risk of death (all-cause mortality) in people with the highest (but safe) vitamin D levels when compared to people with the lowest vitamin D levels.

Vitamin D deficiency is epidemic in northern latitudes, with 50% of some populations being clinically deficient.

Vitamin D acts like a hormone in the body – it regulates calcium metabolism (addressing osteoporosis), affects blood pressure (lowering effect), improves mood (likely by increasing levels of important neurotransmitters), and affects immune function (useful for colds, prevention of allergies in newborns, and possibly auto-immune disease).

Click HERE to get the best available vitamin D or go to my Holistic Pharmacy to find the best nutrients, herbs and supplements available.

Be Well,


Vitamin D & Cancer Prevention

Posted on: March 3rd, 2009 by doctor No Comments

I just ran across an interesting study that, through statistical analysis, comes to the conclusion that the incidence of several types of cancers are lower when people have higher vitamin D blood levels.  Their recommendation is for people to maintain vitamin D levels between 55ng/ml and 90ng/ml.  These levels are between the standard mainstream medicine reference ranges of above 32ng/ml being optimal and above 100ng/ml being toxic.

These researchers are recommending vitamin D intakes between 2,000 and 10,000 IU per day.  Current recommendations are 400-600 IU per day.

Vitamin D levels are accurately assessed with a test called 25-OH Vitamin D.  If taking high doses of vitamin D, please have your vitamin D levels checked by your physician after 3 months of supplementation to ensure your safety.

Vitamin D3 5,000 IU

Vitamin D3 5,000 IU

If you are deficient in vitamin D, supplementation will likely improve bone health, blood pressure, and possibly mood and immune function.

Here is the highest qualtiy and most affordable Vitamin D supplement I have found; tested for identity, potency, purity, and label claim to expiration date.  Taking one capsule every third day ensures a daily dose below the Institute of Medicine’s conservative upper intake limit of 2,000 IU per day.  At this dose, one bottle lasts about 9 months!

Be Well,


Prescription Drug Manufacturers Skew Data? Never!

Posted on: March 2nd, 2009 by doctor No Comments

Obviously, I’m kidding with the title of this post.

According to the New York Times: “AstraZeneca “buried” unfavorable studies of its $4.4 billion blockbuster psychiatric drug Seroquel, according to internal documents released Friday in a legal dispute between the company and lawyers for thousands of people who sued the company because they said the drug caused diabetes and weight gain.”

It seems as though the drug company knew about the adverse effects, but decided to hide these study results; complimenting a lead researcher for using “smoke and mirrors” to obscure the side effects.

Is this a unique occurrence?  Apparently not.

In early 2008 researchers from the Oregon Health & Science University, the University of California, and Harvard published research in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) that indicates that studies on antidepressants that are funded by the pharmaceutical companies making these drugs much more likely to be published and see the light of day if they show that the antidepressant is effective.  Most studies that show that these antidepressants are not effective are not published or are published with a commentary that undermines the true statistical findings.  If you don’t want to read the research article from the NEJM linked above, take a look at this blog post at the Wall Street Journal.

It may go even farther.  A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that St. John’s Wort does not work in some cases of depression.  This study was funded by Pfizer, the manufacturer of Zoloft.  Are they skewing this data too?  Well, the results are suspicious is several ways.

The Bottom Line:

Medical research and statistical analysis can (and is) manipulated to provide results that are in the best interests of the organization paying for the study (and maybe not in your best interests).  At, we try to help you understand and prioritize the information that is available using expertise in medicine, physiology, and biochemistry with a dash of common sense.  We hope we help.

For helpful links on depression and mood concerns, visit the World of Wellness sections on Mood and Mind/Spirit.

Be Well,


Hypothyroidism: Many Symptoms, One Disease

Posted on: January 1st, 2009 by doctor No Comments

If you have been experiencing persistent fatigue or sadness, it may be more complicated than simply shifting your attitude or pulling yourself up by your bootstraps.  Fatigue and depression (and many other problems) may be signs of a physical medical condition: hypothyroidism – a decrease in the function of the thyroid gland that results in lower levels of thyroid hormone throughout the body.  It may even be possible to have low thyroid function while blood test interpretations say that all is normal.

Thyroid hormone is produced by the thyroid gland; a subtle butterfly shaped gland found in the neck below the Adam’s apple and on either side of the trachea.  Thyroid hormone is important to many parts of the body.  It sends a message to cells in the body to increase activity, function, and energy consumption.  The more thyroid hormone that is present, the faster body systems and organs will run.  It is possible to have too much (hyperthyroidism) or too little thyroid hormone (hypothyroidism).

Effects of Low Thyroid Function:

The symptoms of low thyroid function are diverse and vary considerably from person to person.  The manifestations of hypothyroidism can be vague or subtle, slowly getting worse over months or years.  Patients with hypothyroidism often experience some of the following symptoms: fatigue, depression, poor memory, unclear thinking, low body temperature, cold hands and feet, sensitivity to cold, dry skin, constipation, frequent infections, weight gain, premenstrual syndrome, or hoarseness.

Having hypothyroidism is also associated with several medical conditions; low thyroid function can cause or contribute to infertility, menstrual irregularities, elevated cholesterol levels, atherosclerosis, heart disease, anemia, and carpel tunnel syndrome.

Diagnosis and Treatment:

Thyroid function is first assessed by checking a hormone that tells the thyroid gland to make more hormone, thyroid stimulating hormone or TSH.  Elevated TSH levels are a sign of low thyroid function while low TSH levels are indicative of hyperthyroidism.

The predominant medical view is that in the absence of elevated TSH, hypothyroidism cannot be diagnosed.  However, the possibility of hypothyroidism that is not detected by current lab tests and current standards does exist.  The standards for normal thyroid function have changed over the years and some endocrinologists believe that current standards miss many patients suffering from low thyroid function.  

The easiest treatment for hypothyroidism is supplementation with synthetic or animal derived thyroid hormone.  Improvement in symptoms usually takes as little as a few days or as long as six months.  However, excessive thyroid hormone replacement can cause high levels of thyroid in the body – hyperthyroidism – and result in anxiety, insomnia, palpitations, chest tightness, diarrhea, and osteoporosis.  So, thyroid hormone should be used carefully and with medical supervision – appropriate diagnosis and monitoring are important.

Addressing the Cause:

Iodine used to be a common cause of hypothyroidism.  Today, in our society iodine deficiency is rare.  Conversely, very high doses of iodine can cause hypothyroidism in as short as a few weeks and long term high daily intake seems to increase the risk of hypothyroidism over the years.

In today’s medical practice, hypothyroidism is most commonly caused by one of two issues: 1) an auto-immune attack on the thyroid gland; or 2) the thyroid gland puttering out – not functioning as well as is should or used to.  In either case, supplementation with thyroid hormone is helpful.

While the medical literature states that the causes of both types of hypothyroidism are unknown, there are numerous drugs and chemicals that are definitively known to cause auto-immunity or to hamper thyroid function.  Some of these substances include: food coloring; mercury; numerous solvents; and even some prescription drugs.  Some chemicals contribute to low thyroid hormone levels by increasing the liver’s breakdown of thyroid hormone.

Avoidance of these harmful substances and enhancing the body’s ability to get rid of them can be helpful.  Selenium (200 mcg daily); zinc (15 mg daily); iron (18 mg daily in absence of high iron levels); and the amino acid cysteine help the body make thyroid hormone and convert it to its most active form.  Cysteine is also important anti-oxidant that helps the body handle toxic chemicals and heavy metals.

Other supportive natural therapies include the far eastern Indian herbs ashwaganda and bacopa which support thyroid function and the action of thyroid hormone throughout the body.  Some patients benefit from supplementation with food grade thyroid gland products that supplement thyroid hormone levels.

While hypothyroidism can sneak up on people, accurate diagnosis and treatment often helps to relieve the symptoms and provides dramatic improvement quality of life.

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