{This is a re-post Dr. Erika originally wrote for Mothers Organic Health.  Check ’em out!}

We’ve all got ‘em: things that we know aren’t good for us, but we do anyways. The Frappuccino addiction, potato chip binges, sushi in excess (that’s a lot of mercury!), the chocolate bar dependency, energy drinks, or the extra cocktail we know we shouldn’t have. Smoking, obviously, is a huge one, and is especially challenging to quit because of the physiologic addiction. But did you know that carbohydrates can be just as problematic? I’ve seen many patients go through “withdrawal” like symptoms after taking away their precious sugar. And no wonder – carbohydrates activate opiate receptors in the brain!

Here’s one that we’re all “guilty” of: mom guilt.

Oh how I hate mom guilt.  It seems like everywhere you go you get a huge dose of it. There is guilt lurking in advertisements, parenting magazines, mom blogs, schools, in your play groups, and with friends. We dish and receive mom guilt without even realizing we’re doing it because it is so engrained in our culture and our attitudes around parenting.

Here’s what’s concerning: mom guilt affects our bodies! There is a whole field of research into the way emotions change our physiology – it is called “psychoneuroimmunology” (great word to impress your friends with). Researchers studied the effects of shame and guilt and found that otherwise healthy adults who blamed themselves had an increase in pro-inflammatory cytokines. Cytokines are substances released by the immune system that signal there is something wrong. Pro-inflammatory cytokines lead to – you guessed it – inflammation. Inflammation is linked to cardiovascular disease, rheumatological conditions (like arthritis), autoimmune disorders and even increased pain perception.

Okay great, so I’ve just made you feel guilty about having mom guilt.

 

So here’s what we’re going to do: make a pledge to stop the propagation of mom guilt. Instead we’re going to focus on making healthy lifestyle choices, and turn the negative into a positive. Rather than feeling guilty for our unhealthy habits, lets determine the purpose(s) that the habit is serving. For example: “smoking a cigarette helps me relax.” Once the function is identified, determine ways in which to incorporate other activities that will provide that function.

We can use a similar technique to stop our mom guilt. When those guilty feelings bubble up we can name them and un-claim them. Simply saying, “I feel guilty because ________”, can help us realize how our bad feelings are founded on a lot of exaggeration or unrealistic expectation.

When it comes to making any change remember you have support. Take advantage of resources around you for guidance and encouragement. Let those around you know you are making a change. Resources include: friends, family, physicians, support groups, etc. Consider also therapeutic support such as acupuncture or hypnosis for smoking cessation and cognitive behavioral therapy for many different habits.

Tell me: what makes you feel guilty?  How do you deal with your guilt? Please share!

Reference:
Dickerson S, et al. Psychosom Med.  Immunological effects of induced shame and guilt.  2004 Jan-Feb;66(1):124-31.

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Erika Krumbeck
Erika Krumbeck
Dr. Erika Krumbeck, ND is founder of NaturopathicPediatrics.com and the owner of Montana Whole Health, a naturopathic clinic in Missoula, Montana. She received her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University and is a licensed physician in the state of Montana. Dr. Krumbeck is one of few physicians specializing in the treatment of chronic health conditions in children. 

Dr. Krumbeck likes to practice her own healthy lifestyle with her wonderful husband Jason, a physical therapist, and their children Annika and Leopold. 

She is a professional member of the Pediatric Association of Naturopathic Physicians.

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