Courtney Snyder, MD
The proper functioning of the vagus is one of the most important determinants of physical and mental health, social communication, compassion and even creativity. If you have a psychiatric condition or a complex chronic illness (or your child does), understanding the vagus may help demystify what has likely been a confusing and demoralizing experience. In this post, I'll discuss the many roles of the vagus nerve, the many body systems it influences, and the many seemingly unrelated symptoms it can impact when it’s not working well. My hope is that the vagus will become as awe inspiring for you, as it has for me, and that you’ll want to help it help you.
There are many ways to improve vagal "tone" to access healing and well-being. Perhaps because they're fun and life affirming, they’re often not taken seriously. In my own journey, I spent years trying to dominate my biochemistry, improve my microbiome and avoid and remove toxins. This narrow attention held me (and my daughter) back. If this is where you’re at, then I write this for you.
By Courtney Snyder, MD
Half of my work day is spent honing in on details. For each person I evaluate and treat, I’m considering multiple symptoms, lab data, contributing factors, and treatment interventions. Left unchecked, this amount of detail hurts my brain - figuratively and literally. This type of work might be considered “left brain“ and appealing to someone who is “undermethylated,” which I am.
The other half of my work day is involved with addressing how, from a spiritual perspective, we:
By spiritual, I mean our inner life. My writing and teaching about the intersection between neuroplasticity and spirituality is essentially about how we exercise those parts of the brain that relate to that inner work. Instead of honing in on details, this is about pulling back and looking at the bigger picture of our lives and our humanity. This right brain work feels good.
By Courtney Snyder
One of the challenges of writing blog posts that explore root causes of brain related symptoms is that what we are learning is constantly evolving. There's so much we still and will never know. Another challenge - everything is interconnected. The best I can do is to write about these root causes separately. While some contributing factors can occur in parallel, one condition is often leading to other downstream conditions that themselves contribute to things like depressed mood, anxiety, mood swings, brain fog/inattention and so forth.
Mold toxicity is a perfect example. It can contribute to Pyrrole Disorder due the stress it puts on the body. It can lead to elevated copper by overwhelming one of the antioxidants in the body that regulates copper. Because it interferes with the immune system, it can lead to a susceptibility to candida/yeast, Lyme and its co-infections. It also frequently worsens mast cell activation (see last post). I consider it a root of the roots. In my daily work, I find mold toxicity to be very common. Here’s why -
by Courtney Snyder, MD
The human body is a mystery. As much and as fast as we’re learning, we still know very little. This post is about a recent discovery. I call it a “discovery,” because I’ve lived out what this theory holds to be true, as have a number of patients I work with, and perhaps some of you reading this. RCCX theory is quite complex. The best I can do is share my personal experience with the hope that doing so will help make this information more accessible.
We all have traits that make us different - whether it’s our appearance, how we react to our world or the natural abilities we possess. Some traits, we may take pride in, others not so much. Ask me why I’m flexible and I’ll tell you I did gymnastics when I was young. Why do I have low blood pressure? I exercise regularly. My flat feet? Just one of those genetic things.
As a child I worried...a lot. In my second year of college, I could have been diagnosed with depression. I’m the kind of person who can’t watch Cirque du Soleil without turning away for fear I’ll witness someone plunge to their death.
Never had I imagined each of these traits could be related, or that they would foreshadow a ten year health struggle that I’m only recently coming out of.
By Courtney Snyder, MD
I never like to hear, “You should….," Whether it’s a well intended friend, or a facebook link on how to “IMPROVE YOUR HEALTH IN JUST 5 MINUTES A DAY.” The suggestion that anyone knows the right answer for all of us is annoying. When it comes to health and happiness, there's no one size fits all. Some of us need more protein, some of us need more vegetables; some of us need to minimize toxic exposures, some are less vulnerable; some of us need more routine, some of us need more spontaneity; some of us need more self care, some of us need to give more of ourselves; some of us need better boundaries, some of us need more connection. Within each of us is a knowing of where that balance is. The trick is being open to new information, while trusting and listening to that knowing part of ourselves.
All that being said, I do believe that whoever you are, IF YOU DO THIS ONE THING FIVE MINUTES A DAY, IT WILL IMPROVE YOUR HEALTH AND HAPPINESS! If you think you just heard the enthusiastic voice of the television spokeswoman selling the latest exercise gadget, then you've heard correctly.
Courtney Snyder, MD
In these next couple weeks, as we help our children collect needed supplies for school and other activities, let us remember to have inner authority high on the list. (I wrote this post for my other blog a few years ago. I hope it is still useful now).
Reclaiming Inner Authority in a Hierarchical World Gone Mad
(November 10, 2011) by Courtney Snyder, MD
Last week I saw a clip from the Jimmy Kimmel Show in which he asked parents to post videos to Youtube of children’s reaction after they (the parents) tell them they've eaten all their Halloween candy. From an overwhelming number of videos posted, Kimmel shared a few. Why were those parents so up for a task in which they inflict emotional pain on their children, video tape it and share it with the world? Who was so insensitive to them when they were children?
“It was just a joke,” “Where’s your sense of humor,” “You’re no fun,” is how some might respond.
Courtney Snyder, MD
What is the microbiome and why are so many researchers studying it's impact on human health including mental health? How can we take care of it? And, what can it teach us about fear, the importance of diversity and our relationship with the natural world?
The microbiome is the collection of microbes that live in and on our bodies. There are estimated to be 100 trillion in our gastrointestinal tract - about ten times the number of cells in our body. Spread out, it is believed the microbiome could cover a football field. Though there are an estimated 500 -1000 different species, only one third seem to be common to most people. The other two thirds are specific to each one of us. So, along with our unique experiences and genomes, we have unique microbiomes.
I'm a conventionally trained child, adolescent and adult psychiatrist. My current approach to health is both holistic (pertaining to the whole person) and functional (addressing the root causes of illness). I write this blog to share what I've learned.