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Microbiome and “Gut Feeling” in High Conflict Behavior

Microbiome and “Gut Feeling” in High Conflict Behavior   © 2024 by Ekaterina Ricci, MDR The relationship between mental disorders and gut microbiome has become a popular topic in the past five years. Depression and anxiety, which often accompany mental health disorders, have become the major causes of disabilities worldwide (Wainberg, 2017). Depression is also associated with high-conflict behavior, which is usually self-defeating and, therefore, depressing. This article was written to provide insights into the gut microbiome and its effect on depression. High Conflict Individuals Increase Conflicts Most individuals, when encountering traumatic events such as family loss, unexpected financial responsibilities, conflicts, and other social factors, can bounce back over time and develop coping mechanisms; that is, most people find their way to enjoy life’s journey. When it comes to high-conflict individuals, however, instead of following the same pattern, they seem to get even better at driving conflicts. It gets increasingly difficult for legal professionals to deal with high-conflict personalities while handling their legal cases (Eddy, 2016). As professionals in the legal field report, highly conflict-litigious individuals get stuck in the court system pushing for some black-and-white set of opposing ideas, frequently displaying irritability, sadness, stress, anxiety, and difficulties staying focused on a particular topic. The Role of Human Microbiome in Depression Recent studies reveal that the human microbiome plays a significant role in depressive disorders (Kumar, 2023). An imbalance in the microbial gut “community” (all the microorganisms in our digestive tract) disrupts the activity of happy hormones, such as serotonin, resulting in bad mood, sleep deprivation, racing, repetitive thoughts, depression, paranoia, and, as a result, worsening relationships. Our Central Nervous System (CNS) communicates with the gut microbiome to manage stress levels (Sharon, 2017). Scientific studies report that patients who lack microbiome diversity are unable to manage their stress response, which in turn makes them stuck in stress and depression. It becomes a chronic accumulation of unmanaged problems. Happiness and Mental Health are Gut Influencers Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is proven to be an effective way of treating depression. In some acute cases, cognitive-behavioral therapy is combined with medications to achieve the best results. High conflict-driven personalities, in particular cluster B in DSM-5-TR (narcissistic, borderline, antisocial, and histrionic), frequently are prescribed drugs that help to cope with depression, anger, and impulsivity. Those drugs increase the amount of serotonin in the brain (for example, Prozac, Celexa, Lexapro, etc). In healthy individuals, over 95% of serotonin is produced in the gut (Appleton, 2018). Most patients who have depression are also diagnosed with microbiome gut imbalance, which affects the production and utilization of happy hormones. Moreover, studies have shown that the degree of depression varied as microbiome content and diversity of bacteria varied in healthy and depressed patients (Clapp, 2017). Human clinical studies consistently showed that elevated levels of a microbiome strain linked to depression and anxiety is Eggerthella. On the other hand, low levels of Subdoligranulum, Coprococcus, and Ruminococcaceae are linked to depression (Kumar, 2023). The microbial community diversity and communication between the gut and brain are crucial for mental activity; they influence our emotions and decisions. The Combination of Genetics and External Factors Affect Gut Microbiome A combination of genetics and our life choices can induce an imbalance in friendly microbe types. For instance, antibiotic use, poor nutrition, infections, cancer, cardiovascular problems, diabetes, and other medical conditions, ASD, ADHD, schizophrenia, and personality disorders described in DSM-5-TR can influence the microbiome, which in turn influences our mood. Those who have depressive disorders may find it beneficial to feed “good” bacteria with specific nutrients, such as the list below. This “feeding” may influence the marginalization of “bad” bacteria, leading them out of our microbiome. This will, in turn, improve the absorption of micronutrients, regulate serotonin production, and limit inflammation. Antidepressant Nutrient Plant Foods List (LaChance, 2018): Broccoli Brussels sprouts Butternut squash Cauliflower Dandelion greens Kale Strawberry Spinach Watercress New Ways to Antidepressant Microbiome diversity is a combination of genetics and environmental factors. While we do not have control over genetics, using probiotics to influence the immune system and boost cognitive functions is becoming increasingly popular (Cleveland Clinic, 2023). The gut microbiome is becoming a new tool for managing depression. Probiotics are considered safe-to-use supplements (National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health), and their effectiveness depends on their colonization (Han, 2021), which can be challenging to achieve. Probiotics require creating an environment that promotes their growth and division, which can only be possible by investing in high-quality organic food, nutrition, water, and prebiotics. However, the quality of organic food may be declining due to soil health, a decline in nutrient density, and poor water quality. If our food lacks nutrients, then it is challenging to provide the necessary “food” for probiotics; thus, they don’t stay. Prebiotics, the food source for probiotics, can be a good alternative to investing in high-quality food (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia). Before using probiotics, we should evaluate whether we can reasonably maintain the “food” for probiotics so it does not go to “waste” after we finish the bottle. It’s essential to prioritize the health of our microbiome by providing them with the environment and nutrients they need to thrive. Conclusion Research can help us change the composition of our microbiomes with expectations for health benefits. Increased anger, irritability, lack of focus on a particular topic, and sadness are signs of depression. High-conflict individuals are often prescribed drugs that target the increase of serotonin in the brain. However, research shows that 90% of serotonin is produced in the gut and can effectively manage stress and happiness in healthy individuals. This is why maintaining a diverse abundance of good bacteria can be life-changing for individuals with depression. Factors such as genetics, diseases, drugs, geographic location, lifestyle, and diet can all affect our microbiome. However, we do have some knowledge about the link between microbiomes and mental health. Focusing on specific nutrition can improve our gut feelings and promote more positive emotions. We can use particular nutrition to optimize our gut feelings from negative

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How to Prepare Your Body and Mind to Achieve More Success in Mediation

How to Prepare Your Body and Mind to Achieve More Success in Mediation © 2024 by Ekaterina Ricci, MDR This article is written to help anyone involved in mediation, both participants and mediators, to achieve more success in conflict resolution by focusing on wellness before the mediation process. Mediation is a good alternative to litigation for many cases, but it can be very stressful. It involves making difficult decisions, and, at times, several important, highly emotional issues are raised, prompting disagreements. Going back and forth between proposals often makes participants tired, which may result in surrendering to unfavorable conflict resolution options just to end the stress from the mediation process. Stress affects our blood oxygen level, resulting in low cognitive functioning and irrational decision-making. Long-term stress leads to depression and apathy, making us stuck in a long decision-making process, and with time, decisions are even more challenging to make, leading to impulsivity with the time pressure during mediation or paralysis. Research shows that cognitive abilities that help us to make effective and rational decisions can be influenced by the food we eat, exercise, and water intake. Thus your abilities as a mediator performing at your highest level, or your abilities as a participant making proposals and decisions can be influenced positively or negatively with food, exercise, proper hydration, and choices we make that fill or drain our social battery. Success can be difficult to achieve without feeling at your very best. Mindful food intake and body movement can help build resilience and create the right mindset to withstand challenges and achieve success in mediation. The Impact of Diet on Interpersonal Stress What we eat has a direct impact on how your body feels and, ultimately, the decisions you make. The body extracts chemical energy stored in the bonds of molecules of the food we eat. This chemical energy is then transformed into energy we use to do our biological and physical work or stored in the form of potential energy for future use. Fried or deep-fried food contains toxins like aldehydes that may contribute to neurodegenerative disease and epoxy-fatty acids that may, as research shows, cause health hazards. An unhealthy diet leads to fast exhaustion, poor decision making, in some cases fatigue, and faster energy drain, unlike healthy food. Food from healthy meals contains micronutrients such as vitamin B, Iron, microelements, and polyphenols, which are contained in many fresh foods (apples, almonds, leafy greens) and are crucial for cognitive health. When you eat fresh foods raw, steamed, roasted, and grilled, the nutrients and minerals are preserved, providing you with a higher yield of energy levels and better absorption and metabolism compared to unhealthy meals. A healthy diet provides for fundamentally better life choices.   A Few Weeks Before Mediation, Try to Go Omega Omega-3 fatty acid increases energy, cognitive function, alertness, and blood flow in the brain. The top omega-3 foods are kale, algae and seaweed, flaxseed, walnuts, and fish. Omega-3 is known for helping with the understanding of complex concepts and logical thinking. Investing in omega-3 diets will prompt better analysis of the issues raised in mediation, performance, and proposal-making processes.   Begin Monitoring Your Water Intake Water helps the body manage cortisol levels, which is a stress hormone. Interestingly, when you are stressed, your body runs similarly to when you are working out. It is especially noticeable under high-conflict situations when you get out of breath, your heart rate goes up, nausea and vomiting in some extreme cases, and you may even have headaches. But water/hydration can help your body to reduce the impact of stress through hydration. For an adult, it is recommended to have between 9 and 13 cups of water daily. Get Moving Create your schedule so that you get moving daily, even for just 20 minutes. Exercise makes our body feel good, and prompts stress management, prolonging our span of focus. Movement makes us feel empowered, builds resilience, boosts mental energy states, and releases stress.   Best Time for Mediation Ensure you schedule mediation at your best time of the day. Ask yourself what is the best time of the day at which I am the most productive. The week of your appointment try to reduce the workload from your responsibilities (e.g., visiting guests, workload, school, house repairs, dental appointments, etc.), freeing your workload and pursuing at least 8 hours of sleep time religiously. Reducing social media scrolling will help you to be calm and prepare your body to be at your very best. Also, consider rituals that are right for you (e.g., include prayer or other spiritual activities that help you to clear your mind and feel protected). Schedule mediation at your best time of the day to influence accurate decision-making.   What to Avoid On the day of the mediation, avoid trying new restaurants, new prescriptions, and new clothes, so that they do not distract you from the goals you want to achieve in mediation. Avoid foods or drinks with a lot of caffeine or a lot of sugar so that you don’t have ups and downs or a sugar rush. Move away from toxic relationships. The way you know toxic relationships is when your social battery runs out around them at almost no time. Staying away from choices that can turn into negative consequences or divert your attention from mediation will allow you to stay in control of the mediation process.   Conclusion Although mediation can be a successful process, you can take simple wellness steps to achieve better experiences and success in the conflict resolution you desire. What should you do and eat before mediation to achieve more success in decision-making? Focus on the food you eat to impact your mood and cognitive abilities. Follow a diet that empowers cognitive performance. Hydrate to keep your stress levels down. Clear up your schedule. Rest. Move away from individuals who run down your social battery. Schedule your mediation at your best time of day to create a better mindset. Focus on

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©2020 Andrea La Rochelle My ego can get the best of me.  Like, full on, I’m right – you’re wrong, ego.  Full on ‘Andrea, you are small, incapable and useless.’ It doesn’t happen often anymore and when it does happen, it passes quickly.  THANK HEAVENS. But you know where my ego still trips me up??? When a seed of doubt is planted.  As soon as doubt creeps into my head, my ego takes over and has a tug of war with my sanity. And once I fall into my doubt pattern?  Watch. Out. Doubt = easily manipulated. And I hate, hate, hate being manipulated. I didn’t end up with an HCP in my life because I’m dumb, or a victim or weak – I’m none of those things. I ended up with an HCP in my life because I consider all angles before making a decision, because I’m sensitive to how my decisions affect those around me and because my ego likes to take over when doubt has been planted and say ‘See, I told you you didn’t know what was best.’ And once ego creeps in, the second guessing starts… and the hamster wheel of thinking, fixing, rationalizing speeds up… and we’re so exhausted by our thoughts and inability to better manage our personal life that not only do we fall into doubt but our confidence starts to take a kicking. With one planted seed of doubt grows a garden of low self confidence leaving you ripe for manipulation. And because ending up with an HCP is not something a smart, educated, (formerly) confident person (but presents as confident to the outside world)  does – that person doesn’t seek help, instead they isolate themselves because they are embarrassed. Embarrassed that they were manipulated.  Embarrassed that ‘it happened to them.  And terrified of what that all means. Our ego’s thrive when we’re at our lowest.  And we’re at our lowest when doubt has been planted. HOMEWORK When was the last time you doubted something?  Why did you doubt it?  And who planted the seed of doubt? Andrea LaRochelle is an author, high-conflict co-parenting expert and registered mediator with over fifteen years’ experience helping families through the challenges of separation, divorce, and coparenting. She serves on the board of the Alberta Family Mediation Society. She teaches co-parenting communication and guides parents to manage conflict more effectively, so their kids can focus on being kids. Andrea’s published books include: The High-Conflict Co-Parenting Survival Guide; I’m Done!: Take Control of Your High Conflict Divorce; and the Goodbye Bugs children’s series (Goodbye Angry Bugs, Goodbye Teary Bugs, and Goodbye Worry Bugs).

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