Understanding Your Cholesterol, part 1

What is cholesterol and what does it do? Does the cholesterol you eat impact cholesterol levels in your blood? Is it possible to have too low levels of cholesterol? What do all those numbers mean on your bloodwork?  Is high cholesterol really a good indicator for heart disease?  In this two part article, we’ll clarify the mystery surrounding all matters cholesterol.  

What is cholesterol and what does it do? Contrary to popular opinion, cholesterol doesn’t exist to shorten your lifespan, but actually helps your body thrive. It is a waxy-like substance that serves a number of functions in the body, including but not limited to:

  • synthesis of sex hormones including cortisol, testosterone, estrogen
  • production of bile acids for digestion of fats
  • synthesis of vitamin D
  • insulation and connection of nerve cells
  • fluidity and integrity of all cell membranes

The majority of the cholesterol in the body is actually made by the liver.

Does the cholesterol you eat impact cholesterol levels in your blood? Blood cholesterol is not determined by dietary intake of cholesterol.1, 2 The science reflects that it is not dietary cholesterol that causes high blood cholesterol. For example, eggs are one of the foods highest in cholesterol. Historically, eggs have been villainized as a major culprit, when in fact, there are many studies that indicated that dietary intake of egg has a beneficial effect on cholesterol levels. It is actually the intake of saturated fatty acids and trans-fats that increases risk for cardiovascular disease risk. Cholesterol just happens to also be commonly high in foods with high saturated fat content, which may have caused the confusion.

Is it possible to have too low levels of cholesterol? People with both decreasing cholesterol levels and persistently low cholesterol levels were significantly associated with an increased risk of all-cause mortality compared to those remaining at a stable middle cholesterol levels3. Low levels of cholesterol are associated with, but not limited to, the following:

  • cancer mortality in subjects with age ≥ 65 years
  • increased levels of cardiovascular disease
  • difficulty digesting fats, including fat soluble vitamin E
  • failure to thrive in infants
  • intellectual disability
  • retinal degeneration
  • damage to sensory nerves
  • difficulty with balance and speech
  • death!

As you can see, the subject of cholesterol and its impact on overall health is not as simple as high cholesterol is bad and low cholesterol is good. Moderation of this important substance is vital. In my next newsletter article, we’ll review what the numbers on cholesterol bloodwork actually mean so you will better understand your lab results and strategies you can implement to improve your overall health.


  1. Fernandez ML, Murillo AG. Is There a Correlation between Dietary and Blood Cholesterol? Evidence from Epidemiological Data and Clinical Interventions. Nutrients. 2022 May 23;14(10):2168. doi: 10.3390/nu14102168. PMID: 35631308; PMCID: PMC9143438.
  2. Soliman GA. Dietary Cholesterol and the Lack of Evidence in Cardiovascular Disease. Nutrients. 2018 Jun 16;10(6):780. doi: 10.3390/nu10060780. PMID: 29914176; PMCID: PMC6024687.
  3. Jeong S-M, Choi S, Kim K, Kim S-M, Lee G, Son JS, et al. (2018) Association of change in total cholesterol level with mortality: A population-based study. PLoS ONE 13(4): e0196030. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0196030

Simple Chocolate Mousse

This elegant dessert is perfect for guests or for a simple treat at home.


80g chocolate, ideally 80% cocoa or higher (use sugar-free for low carb)

160g hot water

Add the chocolate in a blender and add hot water. Blend until smooth and pour into 2-3 ramekins to set in the fridge for an hour or two. Garnish as desired and enjoy!

Is it really ADHD? Or…

Since delving deeper into the field of genomic medicine, I have been revisiting the role of critical nutrients in the human diet. It’s astounding to realize that in North America, in the land of plenty, most of us are nutrient deficient.  Today, I’d like to specifically discuss the role of folic acid, or more accurately folate.

One of the many functions of folate is that it allows the body to produce neurotransmitters, the chemical messengers that carry signals from one nerve cell to the next. Of these neurotransmitters, dopamine plays a vital role in numerous cognitive processes, mood regulation, motivation, attention, and reward systems. Imbalances in dopamine levels have been linked to various neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia, ADHD, and addiction.

What ‘s fuelling you?

Since the 1990s, all processed grains and flours have been fortified or enriched with folic acid. In fact, folic acid is the most prevalent nutrient in the human diet. Yet, it’s completely synthetic unlike its natural counterpart folate. It’s estimated that somewhere between 44-66% of people are genetically unable to convert folic acid into its more usable form folate.

It doesn’t seem like such a critical issue, until you realize that low folate is correlated to the incidence of not only ADHD, but also manic depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, bipolar depression, anxiety, poor gut health, and other health disorders. It’s like filling up your gas tank with diesel fuel, when you are designed to run on unleaded gasoline. So naturally, it’s not surprising when symptoms arise.

How can I turn this around?

If you suspect that this may be affecting you or a loved one, here are some steps to you can implement to improve neurological health.

For free:

  • Eliminate processed grains. If it contains fortified or enriched grains or flours (foods like bread, crackers, cereals, pancakes, waffles, muffins), don’t eat it. If you tolerate carbohydrates well, eat only non-enriched organic grains and legumes as part of a whole foods diet containing protein and fats at every meal. Try to start the day with a protein rich meal like good quality Greek yogurt bowl with berries and a sprinkle of homemade granola, eggs, sausages/bacon or even a protein shake, since that not only will balance your blood sugars while simultaneously avoid traditional grain-dominant breakfast foods.

For $2/day:

  • Supplement for deficiency. You are doing yourself a disservice when you buy and consume inexpensive vitamins containing folic acid. Instead, invest in a good quality multivitamin or B complex that contains methyfolate (not folic acid) and dose a minimum of 800 micrograms/day. Please contact me if you need help finding one, as not all supplements are created equal. I was so surprised to see the range of quality in not only the form, but also the dosage per capsule once I took a closer look as to what’s available on the Canadian market.

For a few hundred dollars:

  • Get your genes analyzed and get your individualized plan that not only covers your needs for folate, but other nutrients as well. Unlike other testing, your genes won’t change over time but it will impact your health for the rest of your life. That is why I recognize and recommend the tremendous value in investing in this key information so that we can tailor a plan for you based on the best and most specific information available to you.

Information leads to empowerment. With over twenty years of practice (and counting), I can’t help but notice the significant decline in mental health and resilience, especially during the last few years. It’s easy to get discouraged, especially if you or a family member is already struggling with mental health issues. I share this information with you with the hope that it inspires and empowers you to make better choices for a healthier and better quality of life for you and your loved ones. If you would like more individualized support, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Eight Easy Hacks to Balance your Blood Sugar

Today’s article is based on the work of Jessie Inchauspé, a French biochemist and bestselling author who is passionate about educating people on how to better manage their blood sugars. She takes the science behind what and how to eat accessible for people to understand in everyday terms.

Why are balanced blood sugars so important?

  1. These strategies will help prevent you from developing prediabetes or type 2 diabetes. Insulin resistance increases as we age, which is why people tend to get diagnosed as they get older.
  2. If you are the 1 in 8 people in the world who has been diagnosed with prediabetes or Type 2 diabetes, balancing your blood sugars will help to prevent your condition from getting worse and will help you go into remission.
  3. Science shows that balanced glucose levels help:
    • cravings/hunger
    • fatigue
    • brain fog/focus
    • fertility
    • hormonal disorders such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), menopause
    • skin disorders/wrinkles
    • sleep
    • mental health
    • immune function
    • and ultimately, aging

4. Steady glucose levels also reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, fatty liver disease, and cancer

Food is such an important element to how we relate to one another, how we celebrate and how we choose to nourish ourselves. This approach isn’t about introducing even more food rules – on the contrary, they are guidelines that can be easily incorporated into your daily life and habits so that you can enjoy food! So without further ado, here they are:

  1. Eat a savoury breakfast, not a sweet one – this is probably the most important hack as it will determine how much you will crave sugar for the rest of the day. The first step to a day of steady glucose is to choose a savoury breakfast over a sweet one. Build it around protein, add fat, optional starch, and nothing sweet except whole fruit for taste. If it doesn’t keep you full for at least 4 hours, increase the protein or eat more. It’s always better to eat 2-3 square meals/day and eliminate snacks. If you find yourself getting hungry between meals, you aren’t eating enough.

2. Start your meals with a veggie starter – the fibre in non-starchy vegetables slows down the absorption of the sugars in the rest of the meal. So whenever possible, eat your salad first (and try to eat your starches at the end of your meal).

3. Try to eat your carbs last – just by changing the order of the food on your plate, you can reduce your blood sugar spikes by 75%. Start with eating your veggies first, followed by protein and fats, saving starches and sugars for last. The fibre in the vegetables, the protein and the fat all work synergistically help to slow down the release of the sugars in the carbohydrates in the tail end of the meal.

4. Add vinegar to your routine – Consume either vinegar or lemon juice before a meal to help reduce your blood sugar spike by 45%! Any type of vinegar will do (except for reduced balsamic vinegar syrups) and you need 3x as much lemon juice to get the same effect. You can have it in water before meals, or simply use a vinaigrette on your veggie starter for added benefit.

5. Eat sugar as your dessert, not on an empty stomach – if you know you are going to consume sugar, time it to eat it at the end of a meal or snack. If you must snack, have a savoury snack over a sweet one. Here are some examples of snacks that don’t cause sugar spikes:

  • A handful of baby carrots and a spoonful of hummus
  • A handful of macadamia nuts and a square of 90% dark chocolate
  • A hunk of cheese apple slices smeared with nut butter
  • Bell pepper slices dipped in a spoonful of guacamole
  • A hard-boiled egg with a dash of hot sauce
  • Lightly salted coconut slivers
  • Seeded crackers with a slice of cheese
  • A slice of ham
  • A soft-boiled egg with a dash of salt and pepper

6. Eat fruit whole. The fibre content of the fruit helps to blunt the impact of the fruit sugars on blood glucose. When we blend fruit into a smoothie, the fibre gets pulverized and is less effective in reducing blood sugars. When fruit is juiced, the fibre is removed entirely, and all you are left with is a glass of fruit sugars.

7. Move for 10 minutes after eating – Walking (or any type of movement) after a meal helps reduce the glucose spike of the meal – within 90 minutes after the end of the meal is ideal. If you’re out for dinner, even doing calf lifts in your chair can reduce your glucose levels by 30%.

8. Don’t eat your carbs naked – when you do choose to eat sugars or starches, combine them with fiber, fat and/or protein: any vegetables, avocado, pulses, butter, cheese, eggs, fish, Greek yogurt, meat, nuts, seeds to lower the glucose spike.

Of course, it isn’t possible to do all of these hacks, all of the time. By implementing some of them consistently, you will definitely notice the difference, without cutting calories or the foods you love. I do hope they empower you to fully enjoy the upcoming holiday season. For more information, visit www.glucosegoddess.com

Take a stand for Canadian healthcare.

On June 23, 2023, the Canadian government passed a piece of legislation called Bill C-47, that will significantly change the regulation of natural health products, and dramatically impact your ability to access vitamins, nutritional supplements, minerals, herbs, and homeopathic remedies.  It amends the Food and Drugs Act (FDA) to include Natural Health Products (NHPs). This means that existing provisions of the FDA, as described above, now apply equally to natural health products.

Here are some of the key issues that are addressed in the new regulatory guidelines:

  • Health Canada is implementing stricter regulations that will significantly impact consumer choice and restrict access to health products and supplements.
  • Health Canada is introducing new fees on natural health products, which will place a considerable financial strain on NHP businesses. This will lead to significant price hikes for consumers or even force many small to medium-sized companies out of business.
  • Increased Health Canada censorship will prevent truthful advertising by both manufacturers and natural health stores.

Is more regulation better for Canadians?

Regulation comes at the cost of freedom of choice, so it is important to always strike the right balance that makes the most sense for Canadians.  The government’s position is these changes are needed to increase the safety and effectiveness of NHPs, to protect Canadians. 

This poses questions that need to be answered, such as:

  • Should they be regulated in the same way as pharmaceuticals?  
  • Are natural health products safe for us? 
  • Are they risky to begin with? If yes, what is the risk? 
  • And what is the comparative risk relative to other behaviours and activities – does the added protection warrant the loss of freedom of choice and access to supplements for Canadians?

Would you be surprised to learn then, that you’re 14 times more likely to be struck by lightning, 428 times more likely to die from bicycling,  and 714 times more likely to die in a school bus accident than to die from a natural health product? This is how safe natural health products have been over many years.  It’s difficult to rationalize why we need so many new burdensome regulations for an industry that already poses very little risk to Canadians.  Here’s a chart that shows relative risks to one’s health.

At  the very top of the chart, you see things like preventable medical injury, preventable adverse drug reactions and acute hospital situations. You see broad spectrum, adverse drug reactions for all adverse effects of pharmaceutical drugs all in the USA. So it makes sense that the chemical pharmaceutical drug industry would have significant regulations on it due to the risk involved. By contrast, natural health products can be found at the very bottom of this chart, second from the bottom, with a rating of 0.014, just above dying from a meteorite at 0.000006. 

Why haven’t I heard about this?   

 They’ve tried to restrict access to natural health products before.  In 2008, it was called Bill C 51 and was very similar.  It was a standalone bill, so it had to be presented before it was passed.  And the Canadian public had a chance to express their wishes and succeeded in preventing the bill from being passed. This time, rather than doing it as a standalone bill, they added it as sections 500 to 504 of  Bill C 47, the Budget Bill, which hisorically gets passed very quickly and doesn’t go through the same vetting process.  Now it’s been passed as a law. So now, we’re need to get sections 500 to 504 repealed.  

What can I do now?

A man named Shawn Buckley, an Albertan lawyer and founder the Natural Health Products Protection Association (NHPPa.org), is filing a suit against the Canadian government regarding these new regulations. The good news is that Canadians have already, through letters and postcards to their MPs, brought this issue for discussion on the floor of the House of Commons. There’s still plenty of work to be done, so we can’t stop applying the pressure yet.

Here are the key actions you can take to turn the tide for Canadian healthcare:

As Canadians, we deserve better and together we can make a difference by taking action into making our healthcare system more inclusive and more expansive for all Canadians. Every Canadian deserves to have the very best options available so that each and everyone of us is empowered and enabled to make the best individual choices for our optimum health and well-being.

The Importance of Hydration

With summer is just around the corner, ensuring your hydration needs are met is more important than ever. Most people understand the importance of drinking enough water. But did you know that proper hydration also involves maintaining a delicate balance of electrolytes?

Electrolytes are minerals that carry an electric charge and are essential for many important bodily functions, including regulating fluid balance, promoting muscle function, and supporting nerve function. The most common electrolytes in our body are sodium, potassium, magnesium, and chloride.

When we lose body fluids, through sweat, urine or feces, we lose electrolytes. If not replenished, we can become dehydrated, leading to symptoms such as muscle cramping, fatigue, dizziness, and even confusion.

So, how can we ensure we’re getting enough electrolytes?

First and foremost, getting enough water is essential. A good rule of thumb is to consume half your body weight in oz.  For example, a person who weighs 120 lbs would need 60 oz of water daily– which if you divide by 8 oz/glass, is between 7-8 glasses of good quality water.  By good quality water, I mean that preferably doesn’t come out of a plastic bottle (since the plastics get leached into the water and can cause hormonal issues) and that is, at minimum, run through a filter (like a Brita, or other).  Bear in mind, most water filters don’t filter out hormones or pharmaceuticals, so if you can afford to get a really good quality water filter (I recommend a Berkey), you should.  Always carry a water bottle with you, made of either glass or stainless steel (and avoid bottled water or plastic water bottles whenever possible).

Contrary to popular opinion, it’s not just athletes who need to pay attention to their electrolyte intake. If you drink only water and are deficient in adequate minerals, the water will simply flush through your system and you will end up urinating frequently.  Added electrolytes not only help your body function better physiologically, but will also help the water enter the cells, where it’s needed.  An easy way to determine your hydration status is by checking out the color of your urine – if it’s slightly yellow or straw colored, you are getting enough water.  If you have adequate water intake and your urine is clear, then you are simply flushing out your kidneys. Chances are you need more electrolytes.   If your urine is yellow or amber, you are dehydrated. In this case, you need to increase both your electrolyte and your water intake.


What should your electrolytes include?  You are losing magnesium, potassium, chloride, sodium and trace minerals when you sweat or lose body fluids.  So ideally, your electrolytes should focus on replacing those minerals.  The salt in your electrolytes should be either sea salt (which contains 94 minerals, compared to refined table salt which contains 2) or Himalayan crystal salt, as both of these types also contain trace minerals necessary for good health.

What should your electrolytes not include?  Ideally, you would choose a product that doesn’t contain refined (table) salt, extra sugars, caffeine, artificial sweeteners, artificial dyes and synthetic vitamins (such as folic acid).

Can you get electrolytes from foods? Certain foods and beverages contain electrolytes, such as coconut water.  Coconut water is a great source of potassium, but is not a source of complete electrolyte replenishment.  Sports drinks are designed to provide a balance of electrolytes, however, there’s great variation amongst brands and a lot of extra ingredients that are less than ideally healthy. Other food sources of electrolytes include leafy greens, avocado, bananas, nuts, and seeds.

Isn’t salt going to affect my blood pressure?  Wherever salt (sodium chloride) goes, water follows.  We need sodium for pumps that exist on every cell membrane to function properly, and chloride to make adequate stomach acid.  Cravings for salt are often an indicator that we need more in our systems.  Salty junk food like potato chips contains only refined salt and doesn’t contain the trace minerals you would get from a sea salt.

There’s a hormone called vasopressin (or anti-diuretic hormone) in our bodies that regulate our water status.  When our bodies our dehydrated, higher concentrations of vasopressin is released to cause blood vessels to constrict (become narrower) and this increase blood pressure. A deficiency of body fluid (dehydration) can only be finally restored by increasing water intake.  So high blood pressure is partly due to dehydration, which will be rectified once electrolyte and water intake is optimized.

So, the next time you’re feeling sluggish or experiencing muscle cramping, don’t just reach for a glass of water. Add some electrolyte-rich foods or beverages to your routine to ensure your body is getting the hydration it needs to function properly.

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Personalized Medicine is Here

Discover your specific:

  • ideal diet,
  • metabolism/tendency to weight gain/loss
  • body’s stress response
  • neurotransmitter levels
  • tendency to inflammation
  • and ability to detox

Here’s a sample report for your reference.

Getting started is as easy as 1-2-3.

  1. Use this link to obtain DNA kit from 23andme (choose the DNA & Traits option, currently on sale for $99, regular price is $129). The link will save you an additional 10%.
  2. Email your data to me for analysis. Cost is $399*
  3. Schedule a followup consultation with me to discuss results and personalized recommendations.

Follow the recommendations and enjoy better physical and mental health and well-being!

*Limited time offer – save an additional $50  for any report that is ordered before Dec 31, 2022

Pumpkin Spice Muffins

Gluten-free, Grain-free, Dairy-Free, with a Sugar-free option and downright delicious!

It’s the season for all things pumpkin spice and historically, one of my guilty pleasures are the limited time Pumpkin Spice Muffins from the popular Canadian coffee chain – you know the one 😉

I would occasionally indulge, all the while, berate myself for knowingly consuming the empty calories and ingredients like white flour, white sugar and hydrogenated seed oils and/or margarine.

Here’s a nutrient dense copycat recipe that captures the flavor, without any of the guilt. They make for an easy great grab-n-go breakfast option or addition to any lunchbox!

Ingredients – for 12 muffins:

  • 1 cup pumpkin puree (either homemade or store bought, NOT pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1 cup almond butter (I have not yet tried sunflower seed butter, but may be a suitable substitute for nut-free)
  • 2/3 cup honey or maple syrup or sugar (option: xylitol for sugar-free and low carb)
  • 4 eggs (or 2 whole eggs and 1/4 cup egg whites)
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom (this is optional, I love cardamom, so I use a full 1/2 tsp from freshly ground pods)
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp vinegar (I use apple cider, can use white)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Mix all ingredients together with a whisk
  3. Fill muffin tins 2/3 full
  4. Bake 18-20 minutes. Place a toothpick in the center to check for doneness.
  5. Enjoy!

Why and How to Build Mental Resilience

The past almost two years has certainly tested us with regards to our ability to endure stress.  While we might feel, at times, that things are out of (our) control, what we can control is our response to these situations.  Mental resilience, as defined by psychologists, is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress. While difficult times are certainly painful, they don’t have to determine the outcome of the rest of your life.

Resilience isn’t about putting on a brave face, or simply toughing things out. It doesn’t mean you won’t experience the situation as difficult or distressing. What is does mean is that you have the ability to adapt and evolve from life’s stressors. It can even be an opportunity for profound personal growth. Becoming more resilient not only helps you get through difficult circumstances, it also empowers you to grow and even improve your life along the way. Keep reading to find out the benefits of mental resilience and ways to strengthen your own emotional agility.

Mental resilience training has been shown to:

  • reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression (1)
  • enhance coping skills (2)
  • prevent workplace burnout (3)(4) (5)
  • and promote longevity (6)

Seven strategies for better mental resilience

The most effective strategy for improving your emotional agility is to engage the technique of “active coping,” which involves behavioral and/or psychological strategies used to modify the stressor or one’s perception of the stressor. Conversely, avoidant coping techniques such as participation in activities or mental processes to avoid the stressor, can lead to psychological distress and ongoing adverse reactions to stress. (7) Follow the strategies below to cultivate healthier coping mechanisms.

1. Find support

Seeking positive social support has been shown to improve resilience to stress and may even decrease genetic and environmental vulnerabilities. (8) Avoid isolating yourself and instead share your thoughts and feelings with a trusted friend, family member, or peer.

2. Say positive affirmations

Positive affirmations can help you unlearn negative thought patterns and shift your perspective to a more positive outlook. Repeating self-affirmations, such as “I am confident and capable,” has been shown to decrease stress, enhance well-being, and reduce the effect of negative emotions. (9)

3. Stay active

Research demonstrates that physical activity can be especially beneficial for individuals facing significant stressors. (10) As a general recommendation, aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical exercise per week. (11)

4. Spend time in nature

The simple act of sitting on a park bench or taking a stroll outdoors can have profound effects on your mental well-being and resilience. Research demonstrates that visiting outdoor recreation sites can promote psychological and physical health. (12)

5. Maintain a sense of humor

Laughter is a highly effective strategy for relieving stress. Research investigating the benefits of laughter in veterans, terminally ill individuals, and adolescents has shown laughter to be protective against stress. (13) Watch your favorite sitcom, visit a comedy show, or call a friend who makes you laugh.

6. Practice mindfulness and meditation

Practice mindfulness by enjoying a meal without distractions, taking a yoga class, or practicing deep breathing exercises. Reflecting in a journal is also an excellent strategy for practicing mindfulness. Try jotting down a few things for which you’re grateful or reflect on some of the positive aspects of your life. (14) Furthemore, meditation may help improve resilience by bringing your mind to the present moment and calming racing thoughts. (15)

7. Find your purpose

Having a purpose in life not only promotes longevity and general well-being, but it may help you face stressors more productively, enhance emotional recovery skills, and facilitate recovery from challenging events. (16) Find your purpose, such as through volunteering, helping others, caring for a pet, or reaching for a personal life goal. (17)

The bottom line

Mental resilience training can help cultivate mental well-being, enhance coping skills, improve job satisfaction, and even promote longevity. By practicing active coping skills like those outlined in this article, you can be on your way to establishing mental resilience. If you or someone you know is struggling with their mental health, speak to a qualified health professional for guidance and support.

What is Chronic Stress Doing to Your Brain?

One could argue that stress is an everyday and even healthy aspect of life.  However, the stress induced by last twenty-one months of the CoVid 19 pandemic (and counting),  is in a league of its own.  Natural disasters, while stressful, are also generally short lived and geographically limited.  CoVid-19, unfortunately, is neither.  CoVid has upended our lives in unimaginable ways that have not been limited to our sense of health and well-being.  The policies that have been implemented to deal with this crisis have led to massive upheavals in our way of life and resulted in a loss of economic security and social connection.  As it continues to unfold, it has become a chronic stressor that has taken a psychological toll on everyone, young and old alike. 

Long-term stress impacts health in a myriad of ways.  Here’s a closer look specifically of how it impacts your brain.

  1. Increased risk of mental illness.  In response to chronic stress, the brain changes its structure where there are more myelin producing cells and fewer neurons formed. ¹  These changes may explain why those experiencing chronic stress have a greater tendency to mood and anxiety disorders later in life. ²
  2. Change in brain structure.  Ongoing stress affects hormones in the brain, such as cortisol. Prolonged elevated levels of cortisol have been associated with mood disorders as well as shrinkage of the hippocampus – the part of the brain involved in developing new memories, learning and emotion. ³ These changes are more often seen in the brains of depressed people as compared to healthy people. ⁴
  3. Heightened compulsive and fear-driven behaviours.  Under stress, the putamen which is located at the base of the forebrain shows greater activity, which has been correlated with hoarding and other compulsive behaviours. ⁵  Irrational fear based behaviour can arise from another part of the brain, called the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, and override the brain’s ability for rational decision-making. ⁶
  4. Shrinkage of the prefrontal cortex. Research shows that the brain can lose volume, due to major depression or chronic stress, which can lead to both emotional and cognitive impairment.  Certain genes get triggered which results in a loss of connections between brain cells and leads to loss of brain volume in the prefrontal cortex.  ⁷,⁸
  5. Enlargement of the amygdala.  Stress has been shown to increase the size of the amygdala, the part of the brain that assesses and responds to environmental threats and challenges.  Cortisol, a hormone that is produced is part of the stress response, is thought to hard wire the pathways that cause the brain to be predisposed to a constant state of fight or flight.  ⁹, ¹⁰

Ways to Overcome Stress

Thankfully, he structure of your brain is constantly undergoing changes through neuroplasticity, the process by which the brain continues to remodel itself. Mindset, behavior, and chronic stress are never fixed.

Try some of these techniques to improve your brain’s structure, connectivity and resilience.

  1. Mindfulness meditation.  Hands down, mindfulness meditation is the brain training for improving your brain’s resilience. This exercise is an excellent place to start. ¹¹
  2. Go for a walk (ideally outside).  Exercise not only combats inflammation, but also increases the production of new brain cells (specifically in the hippocampus).
  3. Reach out.  Connect with people you care about and care about you.
  4. Take control of the things you can.
  5. Get help when you need it. Know that you are not alone. Remember there is no shame or blame in however you feel right now. Don’t be shy in getting the support you need to be well. Show yourself the same kindness and compassion that you would to your best friend.


1/ Chetty S, Friedman AR, Taravosh-Lahn K, Kirby ED, Mirescu C, Guo F, Krupik D, Nicholas A, Geraghty A, Krishnamurthy A, Tsai MK, Covarrubias D, Wong A, Francis D, Sapolsky RM, Palmer TD, Pleasure D, Kaufer D. Stress and glucocorticoids promote oligodendrogenesis in the adult hippocampus. Mol Psychiatry. 2014;19(12):1275-1283. doi:10.1038/mp.2013.190

2/ Sanders R. New evidence that chronic stress predisposes brain to mental illness. UC Berkely News Center. Published February 11, 2014.

3/ Peter J. Gianaros, J. Richard Jennings, Lei K. Sheu, Phil J. Greer, Lewis H. Kuller, Karen A. Matthews, Prospective reports of chronic life stress predict decreased grey matter volume in the hippocampus, NeuroImage. 2007, 35(2) :795-803. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2006.10.045.

4/ Roiser JP, Sahakian BJ. Hot and cold cognition in depression. CNS Spectrums. 2013;18(3):139-149. doi:10.1017/S1092852913000072

5/ Gillan CM, Robbins TW, Sahakian BJ, van den Heuvel OA, van Wingen G. The role of habit in compulsivity. Eur Neuropsychopharmacol. 2016;26(5):828-840. doi:10.1016/j.euroneuro.2015.12.033

6/Hiser J, Koenigs M. The Multifaceted Role of the Ventromedial Prefrontal Cortex in Emotion, Decision Making, Social Cognition, and Psychopathology. Biol Psychiatry. 2018;83(8):638-647. doi:10.1016/j.biopsych.2017.10.030

7/Mariotti A. The effects of chronic stress on health: new insights into the molecular mechanisms of brain-body communication. Future Sci OA. 2015;1(3):FSO23. Published 2015 Nov 1. doi:10.4155/fso.15.21

8/ Yale University. (2012, August 12). How stress and depression can shrink the brain. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 10, 2021 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120812151659.htm



11/ https://www.mindful.org/the-mindfulness-of-breathing-exercise-with-neuroscientist-amishi-jha/