Holiday Stress & Mental Wellness

(KUTV) Salt Lake City – There’s a fair share of stress during The Most Wonderful Time of the Year. Dr. Shawn Talbott joined Kari & Caitlin on Fresh Living to share tips on how to cut back the detrimental side effects of holiday stress.

Watch the video HERE

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Well, here we are again – Halloween and Thanksgiving are behind us and the rest of the Holiday season is upon us – the MOST stressful time of the year!

Stress, as we all know, can come from a variety of sources – and at this time of year, turkey with the in-laws, hanging Christmas lights, and opening your post-holiday Visa bill are just some of the many sources of our escalating stress levels.

During the holiday season, research surveys routinely show that more than HALF of us feel overwhelmed by the stress of Thanksgiving or Christmas or Hanukkah – meaning that all this holiday-cheer causes us as much stress as do dentist visits and speeding tickets!

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), more than half of all women (51%) and men (43%) in the United States experience heightened stress during the holidays – enough stress to put them at increased risk for physical and mental health effects.

Juggling work and added family responsibilities, such as planning for holiday gatherings, shopping for gifts, and cooking for extra guests, leave many of us feeling like we can’t take time to relax while we’re struggling to get everything done for the holidays.

Survey findings show that added holiday stress, on top of already high stress levels associated with work and the economy, makes it hard to relax. Cited as “multiple stressors” in the APA research are lack of time (69%), lack of money (69%), and pressure to give or get gifts (51%).

In addition, men and women who experience elevated levels of stress, rate their psychological and physical health lower than those who are not experiencing stress – and are more likely to experience a range of health ailments and symptoms such as sadness (59%), sleep problems (56%), and lack of energy (55%).

I hate to sound like a Scrooge (because I truly love the Holiday Season), but it’s interesting to note that when New Year Day rolls around, “reduce my stress levels” is second only to “lose some weight” among the most popular New Year resolutions. This is encouraging, not only because stress is associated with a higher risk for many diseases, but also because of the many very effective, very easy-to-follow strategies that can help control stress and improve Mental Wellness.

The link between stress and disease is partly due to the fact that stress generally encourages us to eat more and exercise less – which is exactly the opposite of what we should be doing when we’re under stress. It also appears that these higher stress levels also cause a direct change in the body’s metabolic machinery – so brain cells shrink, immune cells shutoff, and both mood and energy levels plummet. Think about it – this means that holiday stress is making us feel moody, fatigued, bloated, confused, irritable, and sick – not exactly the type of “holiday cheer” you’re probably looking for in your stocking…

A key culprit in these metabolic changes appears to be an imbalance between body’s microbiome, immune system, adrenal (stress) system, and gut-brain-axis. The latest science is showing us that imbalances between these vital systems appears to be at the heart of the epidemic of depression and fatigue that we see (in men and women) across all parts of our modern society.

Luckily, we have a lot of options for controlling stress. Stress management, regular exercise, and a balanced diet can all help to control the stress response and keep metabolic balance right where it should be – but, what else can you do to help maintain metabolic balance during the Holiday Season?

Here are my “Top 5” ways to resist the detrimental health effects of Holiday Stress:

  1. Love Yourself First – Have an “outlet” (a hobby or some diversion outside of work) that brings YOU joy…
  2. Practice Gratitude – be thankful – can lower your stress hormones by 25%. Learn to tell the difference between “big” issues and “little” issues… and learn to “look on the bright side” (really) – as simplistic as it sounds, the fact that you can look to “what is improving” in a given situation can help to psychologically buffer the stress in others areas of your life…
  3. Connect with Others – Hang out with friends (avoid social isolation) – tough times are always easier when you’re around other people – and the Holidays are the perfect time to get together with family and friends…
  4. Give Back – altruistic behaviors release endorphins – giving a gift feels better than getting a gift!
  5. Supplement Strategically
    1. Kanna (from South Africa) has been shown to provide a 70% reduction of stress related symptoms, a 20% decrease in feelings of sadness, and a 42% decrease in feelings of anger.
    2. Guayusa leaf (from the Amazon) provides energy and endurance without the jitters or crash from other high-stimulant or high-sugar energy drinks.
    3. Ginger & Artichoke (from India) reduce feelings of discomfort and bloating after eating a meal and improves overall GI function by 24%.
    4. Corn Grass (from North America) helps you fall asleep 33% faster while increasing REM rejuvenating sleep by 24% and overall sleep quality by 40%.

In bringing this physical and mental balance into our Holiday Seasons, we’re better able to resist the detrimental health effects of stress and less likely to suffer the “Bah-Humbugs” that so many of us succumb to each year. By maintaining metabolic balance during the most stressful time of year, we’ll all be happier and healthier in the New Year. Happy Holidays!

About the Author: Dr. Shawn Talbott received dual Bachelor’s degrees in Sports Medicine (B.S.) and Fitness Management (B.A.) from Marietta College, his Master’s degree (M.S.) in Exercise Science from UMASS, and his Ph.D. in Nutritional Biochemistry from Rutgers. His research is focused on natural products to support human performance and psychological vigor (physical energy, mental acuity, and emotional well-being).

Dr. Talbott’s recent projects include two academic textbooks, an award-winning documentary film, and several best-selling books translated into multiple languages. His work has been featured on The Dr. Oz Show, the TED stage, and the White House.

Busy December for Amare

The month of December is shaping up to be a very busy one for Amare Global – with events scheduled in Boston (2nd), Honolulu (6th), Oconomowoc WI (7th) and Palm Beach FL (12th) – all leading up to our Official Launch Event in Irvine CA on January 18-19-20.

If you’re in/near any of these cities, you need to come out to hear how Amare is changing the way the world thinks about (and improves) Mental Wellness – through modulation of the Microbiome and optimization of the Gut-Brain-Axis.

Come Alive

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs, ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

-Howard Washington Thurman

(African-American author, philosopher, theologian, educator, and civil rights leader)

How to be Happier?

The New York Times – and the stellar science/health writer Tara Parker-Pope (@nytimeswell on Twitter) has pulled together and excellent guide on “How to Be Happy” – and just in time for the most stressful time of the year – the Holidays!

Read the full guide HERE

Some of the research-supported tips include:

  • Conquer Negative Thinking
  • Controlled Breathing
  • Rewriting Your Story
  • Get Moving
  • Practice Optimism
  • Spending Time in Nature
  • Declutter
  • The 1-Minute Rule
  • Improve Your Bedroom Life (Sleep, Sex, Relaxation)
  • Spend Time With Happy People
  • Pets Make You Happy
  • Be OK Being Alone
  • Money Doesn’t Buy Happiness (at least after $75k/yr)
  • Find Purpose at Work
  • Buying Time Promotes Happiness
  • Be Generous (giving a gift makes us happier than getting a gift)
  • Volunteer
  • Practice Self-Compassion

These are all great tips that can work to boost happiness in different situations – but another very effective and cutting-edge science-based approach to improving “happiness” (mood, depression, anxiety, stress, energy, focus, etc) is microbiome modulation and optimization of the gut-brain-axis.

A range of recent human clinical studies have shown specific strains of probiotic bacteria and prebiotic fibers to significantly reduce indices of depression, anxiety, and stress – not to mention the overall mood benefits of research-proven herbs such as Kanna (Sceletium tortuosum) and Rafuma (Apocynum venetum).

During this high-stress Holiday season, it’s especially important to take care of OURSELVES so we can take care of those around us.

Amare in Palm Beach Florida

On Tuesday December 12, we’ll be holding an Amare Global event in Palm Beach Gardens, FL – see details below.

My good friend and co-founder, Rich Higbee (President of Sales) and I will be sharing our mission at Amare to change how the world thinks about Mental Wellness – and how we can improve many aspects of how we feel and perform (mood, energy, focus, etc) by balancing the microbiome and optimizing the gut-brain-axis.

We would love for you to join us from 6-9pm on Dec 12.

PDF Flyer for Palm Beach Event = Prelaunch_PalmBeachGardens_Dec12


Boston Event This Saturday (Dec 2)

Earlier this month, at the American College of Nutrition Annual Scientific Conference, I presented some new research data showing how Probiotic/Prebiotic supplements can positively impact Microbiome Balance and how Astaxanthin can reduce both Depression and Fatigue.

Our own Amare FundaMentals products were shown in a pilot study to increase “good” bacteria (Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus) by a factor of 3-10x!

These are the kind of research-validated solutions that Amare Global is bringing to the world to positively impact Mental Wellness.

If you’re in the Boston area on Dec 2, please come out to hear more about what we’re up to.

PDF flyer = PreLaunch_Boston_Dec2PreLaunch_Boston_Dec2.jpg

Bugs as Drugs?

The “next big thing” in science (and medicine) is the concept of microbiome modulation to improve health and reduce (cure?) disease.

Below is just a short list of some areas in which the pharma and biotech industries are focusing – but some leaders in the nutrition industry are already harnessing the microbiome to support the gut-brain-axis and optimize mental wellness.

Oncology Colon Cancer, Lung Cancer, Melanoma, Renal Cancer, Bladder Cancer

Immuno-Inflammatory DiseasePsoriasis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Atopic Dermatitis, Food Allergy, Type I Diabetes

Neuro-Inflammation/DegenerationMultiple Sclerosis, Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease

Neuro-CNS Autism, Anxiety, Depression

Metabolism Malnutrition, Type II Diabetes, Obesity, Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease, Heart Disease

Vaccines Oral vaccines for autoimmune disease, infectious disease, and cancer; conditioning responses to current vaccines

Eat Like a Hadza?

Here’s a very nice article discussing the pros/cons of trying to eat diet more similar to our “hunter-gatherer” ancestors.

The example here is the Hadza tribe of Tanzania – which has been shown in previous research to have a much more diverse microbiome due to their massive intake of dietary fiber (approximately 100-150 grams of fiber per day – compared to the paltry 10-15 grams that most Americans actually ingest daily and the 20-40 grams recommended by the Institute of Medicine).

Eating “more” fiber is one of the most important general dietary approaches that you can take to nourish your gut microbiome – but there are also “targeted” approaches that employ specific probiotic bacteria, prebiotic fibers, and phytobiotic nutrients to restore microbiome balance and optimize gut-brain-axis function.

Read the full article HERE and see some of my highlights below:

This fascination with the gut microbiome is increasingly drawing the support of mainstream science. Researchers suspect that changes in the microbiome can affect virtually everything about health, including mental health. A handful of studies have even linked changes in gut bacteria to depression and anxiety.

Dr. Shawn Talbott, Ph.D., a nutritional biochemist who studies the microbiome, gut-brain-axis, and mental wellness, told CareDash that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables along with a probiotic and prebiotic supplementation regimen could improve gut microbiome diversity.

“In general, ‘more diversity’ is better than ‘less diversity,’” said Dr. Talbott. “The best way to promote microbiome diversity is to eat a lot of high-fiber foods, like the Hadza do, on the order of 10x what a typical American might consume.”

Dr. Talbott says he wouldn’t necessarily recommend the Hadza diet, but he does suggest that people should consume a wide range of high-fiber fruits and vegetables as well as whole grains.

“Eating fewer processed foods and more “whole” foods has been associated with a wide range of health benefits and reduced risks for every modern disease including cancer, heart disease, obesity/diabetes, irritable bowel diseases, depression, and many more,” said Dr. Talbott. “We’re learning that many of these health benefits are mediated through interactions of the diet with microbiome, immune and inflammation pathways.”

Amare in Boston – Dec 2

I’m just wrapping up a great couple of days at the American College of Nutrition Annual Scientific Conference in Washington DC.

I presented some new research data showing how Probiotic/Prebiotic supplements can positively impact Microbiome Balance and how Astaxanthin can reduce both Depression and Fatigue.

Our own Amare FundaMentals products were shown in a pilot study to increase “good” bacteria (Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus) by a factor of 3-10x!

These are the kind of research-validated solutions that Amare Global is bringing to the world to positively impact Mental Wellness.

If you’re in the Boston area on Dec 2, please come out to hear more about what we’re up to.

PDF flyer = PreLaunch_Boston_Dec2PreLaunch_Boston_Dec2.jpg


Top Energy Boosting Nutrients for Long Winter Days

Last Friday, I visited the set of Fresh Living on Salt Lake City’s KUTV (CBS Channel 2) to talk about foods for boosting energy during the long and dark winter days.

You can see the video interview HERE and read some tips below.

The “healthy energy drink” that I referred to on the show (that contains all of the nutrients that I recommended) is Amare Global’s “Energy+” (which I also formulated) is unique because it not only improves physical energy and mental acuity, but also mental awareness (an extremely beneficial effect if you’re looking to feel good and get things done).


Daylight Savings time ended this past Sunday (November 5) – which means we “fall back” and gain an hour of sleep (hooray!) – but it also means that the days are getting shorter and we’ll be in the dark more often (boo!), which can sap energy levels and leave us feeling sluggish and fatigued.

As busy and productive people with over-scheduled, stressful lifestyles (sometimes combined with little quality sleep and poor eating habits), it is no wonder so many of us feel drained. For a lot of people, saying that you “feel tired” can be a signal that we’re actually over-stressed and emotionally burned-out.

Too many people try to “treat” this fatigue with high-sugar and high-caffeine energy drinks – which inevitably leads to the familiar “rush” followed later by a “crash” in both energy and mood levels. These same energy drinks can also interfere with restful sleep cycles – so you wake up even more tired and exhausted the next day.

Instead of masking your fatigue with sugar/caffeine, a more effective and healthier approach is to address the underlying causes of fatigue – so your energy levels are high all day long and your sleep is restorative and rejuvenating at night.

To help keep energy levels high all day long, we want to manage 3 important aspects of our underlying physiology: Hydration, Circulation, and Transmission.

Hydration – in many cases the fatigue you feel during the common “mid-afternoon slump” is actually dehydration – so chugging a glass of cold water can be just as effective in restoring energy levels as drinking an energy drink, eating candy bar, or hitting the coffee shop. Staying hydrated all day long by sipping on water or low-sugar fluids can keep you from getting dehydrated in the first place. Having just a little sugar (~5-grams) can actually speed absorption of water from the gut into the bloodstream (enhancing hydration compared to plain water) – but having a lot of sugar (~40-grams) such as in a soda or energy drink can slow down absorption, thus delaying hydration.

Circulation – our blood delivers oxygen and nutrients to our muscles, organs, and brains – so if we want the highest levels of physical and mental energy, we need to ensure optimal blood flow. We want our circulatory system to function less like the Pony Express (slow) and more like FedEx (fast!) – and a great way to enhance blood flow is with Pomegranate Juice and Matcha Green Tea – both of which have been shown in research studies to open up blood vessels and enhance blood flow to muscles (supporting physical performance) and the brain (supporting mental performance).

Transmission – feeling mentally sluggish with brain fog and concentration deficits can lead us to feel completely exhausted and even a bit depressed, especially at this time of year as we head into the high stress Holidays. By managing the balance between crucial brain neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine – we can not only feel more energetic, but also generally happier and more stress resilient. Brightly-colored fruits are high in Flavonoids – specialized phytonutrients that can both improve blood flow and optimize neurotransmitter balance. Citrus fruits, apples, grapes, and berries are rich sources of flavonoids – and higher intakes of these foods have been associated with improved brain health and reduced risk of age-related dementia. A popular “energy tea” from the Amazon uses Guayusa Leaf to increase neurotransmitter levels and “mental awareness” without causing the tension and stress response (epinephrine) found with high caffeine beverages such as coffee.

As the days get shorter through the winter months, we can keep our energy, mood, and productivity levels high by focusing on staying hydrated, enhancing blood flow, and optimizing neurotransmitter balance. Not only are these approaches effective for helping us feel our best, they’re scientifically proven to help us live longer and healthier.

About the Author: Shawn M. Talbott, PhD, CNS, LDN, FACSM, FAIS, FACN ( is a nutritional biochemist and exercise physiologist who studies nutritional psychology (how food components can improve physical performance and mental wellness). He is the award-winning author of 13 books and a former “World’s Fittest CEO” whose work has been featured on The Dr. Oz Show, The TED stage, and The White House.