Staying home during COVID-19 pandemic: how to avoid overeating

Are you among the millions staying at home during this pandemic? You may have seen the “COVID-19” memes about gaining 19 pounds during self-isolation at home. It’s easy for some people to overeat on a normal day, not to mention now, as we face unprecedented and unpredictable times. Have you been craving high-calorie and high-sugar foods lately? When faced with crisis, we tend to reach for these foods as they provide short-term bursts of energy. Elevated cortisol levels triggered by stress can also increase appetite, while sugary foods generate dopamine, the neurotransmitter associated with motivation and reward. Boredom and anxiety may also lead people to emotional overeating. While “comfort eating” can feel good in the short term and provide initial comfort, this feeling doesn’t last and it is often followed by guilt (and weight gain), which in turn increases distress.

If you find that you’re reaching for (unhealthy) snacks more often than not, here are some coping strategies that can help in the long-run:

  1. Plan your meals and meal portions ahead of time. Meals should be balanced and healthful, with plenty of vegetables, adequate protein and good fats. Plan your portions, i.e. how much you will eat, before you start eating.
  2. Instead of buying an extra bag of potato chips or a box of chocolates, opt for healthier snacks like mixed nuts, kale chips or Greek yogurt with berries. Don’t buy or keep unhealthy snacks at home. When unhealthy snacks are “out of sight”, they will be “out of mind” as well.
  3. Eat around the same time every day and recognise when you are hungry. If you wait too long before the next meal, you may feel so hungry that you eat too quickly or too much.
  4. Eat slower. “Stretch receptors in the stomach are activated as it fills with food or water; these signal the brain directly through the vagus nerve that connects gut and brainstem. Hormonal signals are released as partially digested food enters the small intestine,” explains Ann MacDonald, a contributor to Harvard Health.  This process of sending signals from your gut to your brain can take anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes, so it’s important to take your time to eat. Chew your food thoroughly and enjoy your meal.
  5. Before you reach for another snack, ask yourself if you’re really hungry. If you’re not hungry, think about how you’ll feel after you eat too much. Or, another tactic is to think about how you’ll feel if you don’t eat that food i.e. you will feel happy and proud that you didn’t indulge unnecessarily.
  6. fat tummyWhen you’re not hungry but find yourself grabbing food, ask yourself why. Are you bored? Are you stressed? Are there other ways to manage how you’re feeling, like connecting with a friend? Journalling? Uploading a funny video to TikTok? Exercising?
  7. Stay active! Exercise stimulates the release of endorphins, dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. These brain chemicals play an important part in regulating your mood and keeping you happy. If you are stuck indoors, there are plenty of online videos you can watch and follow to get your body moving. 

Click here to read more about Dr. Yik’s “Be Your Best” weight loss program. Remember to practice physical distancing, wash your hands often and do your part in this outbreak crisis. Together, we can get through these turbulent times.


Coronavirus COVID-19: virus can survive on surfaces for up to 17 days and ‘digestive symptoms are common’

The coronavirus survived for up to 17 days aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship, living much longer on surfaces than previous research has shown, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States. Traces of the coronavirus were found on surfaces in cruise-ship cabins for as many as 17 days after passengers left, researchers noted, but they were not able to determine whether the virus caused any infections. The study looked at the Japanese and U.S. government efforts to contain the COVID-19 outbreaks on the Carnival-owned Diamond Princess ship in Japan and the Grand Princess ship in California.

It was previously reported that the virus can last up to three days on plastic and stainless steel. That study also found that the amount of the virus left on those surfaces decreased over time.

On a separate note, a new study which analysed 204 people who received medical care for COVID-19 in January and February of 2020 has found that 48.5% of the patients experienced digestive symptoms. 7 of the 204 patients with COVID-19 had no respiratory symptoms at all but presented with digestive ailments. The researchers of the study, published in The American Journal of Gastroenterology, found that the main digestive complaints were a lack of appetite, in 83 individuals, and diarrhea, in 29.

Other symptoms included vomiting, in 8 individuals, and abdominal pain, in 4 people. Those without any digestive symptoms appeared more likely to recover from COVID-19 and be discharged from the hospital sooner than those with digestive symptoms.

Given these findings, the authors advise that suspicion levels should be raised for “at-risk patients presenting with digestive symptoms, rather than waiting for respiratory symptoms to emerge.”

The study authors also note that 7 of the 204 patients with COVID-19 had no respiratory symptoms but did experience digestive symptoms.

Click here to read more on what you can do to protect your health.



Coronavirus COVID-19: how to support your immune system

COVID-19 has taken center stage as countries across the world scramble to implement social restrictions in an attempt to curb the spread of the potentially deadly coronavirus. According to Harvard scientist Marc Lipsitch, 40 to 70% of the global population could become infected with the coronavirus. Though the majority of infected people experience symptoms similar to the flu, studies show infections can be much more severe in the elderly and immunocompromised, as well as those with diabetes. Below are some practical ways to support your immune system and protect your health.

  1. Safeguard your lungs. The new coronavirus can cause pneumonia even in the young and healthy- and recent studies show that a number of recovered patients have persistent lung damage- so it’s crucial to protect your lungs. Stop smoking. If you have asthma, COPD or other lung ailments, find a licensed naturopathic doctor if you are interested in supplements, nutraceuticals and botanical medicine that support and tonify the respiratory system.
  2. Reduce your alcohol consumption. Findings from 14 different studies suggest that alcohol consumption increases the risk of contracting pneumonia. Dose–response analysis found that for every 10 to 20 grams of alcohol intake per day, there was an 8% increase in the risk of getting pneumonia (community-acquired pneumonia, not hospital-acquired). One standard drink contains 10 grams of alcohol, which is equivalent to one ordinary beer, a small glass of wine (100 mL) or a nip of spirits (30mL). Drinking alcohol can also weaken your immune system. “Consuming excessive amounts of alcohol could cause damage to immune cells in the lungs and upper respiratory system,” explains Dr Aragona Giuseppe, GP and medical advisor at Prescription Doctor, “which in turn can increase the risk of developing diseases such as tuberculosis, pneumonia and respiratory distress syndrome, not to mention making you more susceptible to viruses. Furthermore, alcohol can also affect the gut barrier allowing more bacteria to pass into the blood, and this, in turn, causes a depletion of the three most important kinds of cells in your immune system, Macrophages, T- and C- cells.” Stay hydrated by drinking water and healthier, non-alcoholic beverages instead.
  3. It’s normal to feel stressed, anxious and uncertain. Take time to relax. Try journaling, prayer, a meditation practice, deep- breathing exercises or stepping out into nature for a jog or a hike. Connect with a friend or loved one (preferably someone who won’t make you more anxious!) over Zoom or FaceTime. Click here for more ways to reduce anxiety naturally.
  4. Keep moving! Light exercise is a powerful stress reliever and immunity booster, helping the body sweat out any toxins. As many gyms and fitness centers have closed during the pandemic, try going outdoors (in open space) for your exercise. Or, follow a YouTube video to stay active.
  5. Consume a healthful diet. Eat more colourful vegetables and fruits such as dark greens, carrots, and berries, which contain a lot of nutrients and antioxidants. Onions, garlic and turmeric (a spice) are also rich in antioxidants. Click here to find the top healthful foods. Ensure adequate protein intake. Consume more good fats. Avoid sugary foods/ drinks and processed foods.
  6. Ensure adequate sleep. Keep your room dark, ditch your digital devices and try to sleep at the same time every night. Click here for more tips on getting a good night’s rest.

Click here to read more on how you can boost your immune system. Remember, we are all human, we are all vulnerable to illness and we are all in this together. Please do your part in social distancing and practising good hygiene. Stay safe and healthy during these turbulent times.



Coronavirus COVID-19: dealing with the epidemic and practical tips to protect your health

doctor1As the number of coronavirus COVID-19 cases keeps climbing up, education and information are crucial factors in the management of this novel virus that causes pneumonia. As of February 15th, there are 67,100 confirmed cases and 1,526 deaths globally, the majority of which are reported in Mainland China (66,492 confirmed cases). In Hong Kong, panic amid the crisis seems to be spreading faster than the virus itself. Despite currently having less than 0.001% of the population confirmed to be infected with COVID-19, many citizens have been “panic buying” and hoarding a variety of household essentials such as toilet paper and rice. Toilet paper is sold out within a matter of hours after stock arrives. Long queues for toilet paper can be seen outside supermarkets around the city at the break of dawn.

With so much information circulating around, here are a few points to keep in mind and a few ways to help you protect your health:

  1. While it is normal to feel anxious about COVID-19 (especially if you are in a city experiencing an outbreak), having an appropriate level of anxiety driven by the facts will help you take the right kind of action. In the digital era, it’s often a challenge to discern fact from fiction. According to a Stanford study, millennials have difficulty determining what’s true and what’s false online and on social media, despite their fluency with the internet. How do we separate fact from fiction? Try to get facts from news and articles that quote medical experts, epidemiologists, the World Health Organization and other trusted sources.
  2. While we should not downplay the seriousness of COVID-19, we should focus on improving our immunity to protect against ALL types of pathogens. The strength of our immune systems determines who gets sick and how well we can fight infections. Read on for more tips to boost your health and prevent infections.
  3. Keep your body healthy:
    1. Eat more healthful foods and avoid processed foods. Click here to find the top healthful foods.
    2. Ensuring adequate sleep every night. Did you know that nearly 40% of Hong Kong adults have difficulty sleeping? Click here for tips on sleeping better.
    3. Safeguard your lungs. Stop smoking. COVID-19 can cause pneumonia, so it’s crucial to protect your lungs. Dr. Yik’s patients see good results in terms of lung function, shortness of breath, lung capacity, etc. after taking nutraceuticals and botanicals that tonify the respiratory system.
    4. Reduce your alcohol consumption. Findings from 14 different studies suggest that alcohol consumption increases the risk of contracting pneumonia. Keep hydrated by drinking water and healthier beverages instead.
  4. Avoid crowds and large gatherings. Wear a mask if you are sick or if you are in close contact with others out in public, as well as in crowded places.
  5. Do not share eating utensils, cups or bowls.
  6. Wash your hands frequently and avoid touching your face. Did you know that 30% of people don’t wash their hands after using the restroom? And of the 70% who do, only 50% do it right- not only rinsing the hands with water, but also applying soap and scrubbing the palms, the back of the hands, between the fingers, and under the fingernails. The correct washing of hands remains public health officials’ top advice when it comes to controlling infection rates. Click here to read more on how to improve your immunity and protect your health. 



Loneliness: how it impacts your health and how to overcome it

Have you ever felt lonely? Nearly everyone feels lonely at some point in their life, perhaps due to a life change such as starting a new school or job, or moving to a new city. But for some people, loneliness is a way of life. For the younger generation, it may stem from a lack of connection with others. While technology may “connect” people remotely  through instant messaging, video conferencing or social media, studies show that the more time people spend on technology or social media, the more lonely they feel. A study done by George Mason University in the United States found 1 in 3 youth below the age of 25 felt lonely. Another study found 40% of youth aged 16 to 24 in the UK felt lonely “often or very often.”

For older folks, they may not feel too lonely until their 70s, when the resilience to loneliness begins to decline. Loneliness peaks as people age into their 80s and 90s. “It isn’t until the losses begin to mount in much older age — the loss of health and mobility, the deaths of spouses, family and friends — that people begin to be unable to bounce back and loneliness spikes,” says Louise Hawkley, a scientist at the University of Chicago.

Regardless of how old you are, chronic loneliness can have adverse consequences for your health.


  1. Loneliness often leads to sleeplessness. Researchers have found a link between sleep disruptions and loneliness. Researchers from King’s College London found a link between loneliness and poor sleep quality in a study of more than 2,000 British young adults. “Lonelier people were 24% more likely to feel tired and have difficulty concentrating during the day,” according to the study. 
  2. Loneliness can compromise your immune system. Studies show that loneliness can weaken the immune system, increase sensitivity to physical pain and contribute to inflammation in the body.
  3. Feeling lonely can increase your risk for dementia. In a study of nearly 2,200 older adults, researchers found that those who reported feeling lonely (regardless of the number of friends or family surrounding them) were more likely to experience dementia than those who lived alone.
  4. Loneliness can increase your risk for heart disease. An analysis of 181,000 adults discovered that loneliness, social isolation or both were linked to a 29% higher risk of heart attack and a 32% greater risk of stroke.


  1. Connect in real life. We can build stronger in-person connections by being present, looking people in the eye and through active listening. Remember not to be distracted by your phone or other technology!
  2. Do more things with people. Engaging in face-to-face social interactions can improve our mood and reduce feelings of loneliness. Activities such as sports or religious services, which involve other people, are more likely to have positive effects on our mental health.
  3. Shift the focus. Instead of focusing on yourself, shift your focus on what you can give and offer to others. You can offer your time by volunteering at a food bank, homeless shelter or refugee centre. You can sell things online to raise money for a good cause. You can donate old (or new) books or things to a charity. By giving to others, you take the focus off yourself and do good at the same time, helping you to feel more connected and less lonely.
  4. Be nice to yourself. Practising self-kindness and engaging in self-care can boost your mood and change the way you view certain situations. Try talking to yourself in a way that is supportive and caring. Take a nature walk, give yourself a manicure or try a new restaurant in town- better yet, ask someone to join you.
  5. Pay attention to things that matter. What experiences make you feel lonely? Which ones make you feel connected or feel like you belong? Try to identify these moments to help you reduce loneliness. Limit your engagement in activities that make you feel lonely and do more of the activities that make you feel more connected.



How loneliness can impact the immune system

Novel coronavirus outbreak: practical tips to protect your health during Lunar New Year

Chinese New Year is fast approaching, and according to Hong Kong experts, the novel coronavirus has already spread to 20 other cities in China, just ahead of the country’s biggest festival. China has confirmed that this respiratory virus can be spread from human to human. Although the majority of the cases have been in Wuhan, the disease has spread to other Chinese cities, including Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen. Japan and Thailand have also reported confirmed cases. 

Currently, there is no vaccine for the new virus. Symptoms include fever, difficulty in breathing, coughing as well as pneumonic infiltrates in the lungs.


Your immune system protects you from infectious bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites that cause disease and even death. “The strength of your immune system is what determines who gets sick and who doesn’t,” explains Woodson Merrell, MD, director of integrative medicine at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City. We know that adequate sleep, regular exercise, limiting alcohol consumption and not smoking are essential to good health, but what more can we do to improve our immune system?

  1. Choose the right type of probiotic. Probiotics are the helpful, good bacteria in our gut that keep us healthy and provide a number of health benefits. Many people know that probiotic supplementation can help maintain a strong immune system, but what you may not know is that different strains of probiotics treat different conditions. Not all probiotics are the same, so it’s important to find the right type. A supplement with various probiotic strains including a high(er) amount of Lactobacillus rhamnosus is beneficial for boosting immunity.
  2. How important is vitamin D? Researchers have found that people with adequate levels of vitamin D have reduced rates of infections, and when they do get sick, they tend to recover faster compared to those who are deficient. There have been various cross-sectional studies looking at vitamin D levels and rates of influenza as well as other infections including bacterial vaginosis and HIV. All have reported an association of lower vitamin D levels and increased rates of infection. One study found that among 800 military men in Finland, those with lower vitamin D levels took significantly more days from active duty to recover from upper respiratory infections than recruits with higher vitamin D levels (above 40nmol). kid2In Japan, a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial compared vitamin D3 supplements (1200 IU/day) with placebo in school-aged children. Researchers found that the children receiving the sunshine vitamin had a 42% reduction in getting influenza A compared to those not receiving it. The study also found that the group not getting the vitamin D had six times more asthma attacks. “Vitamin D helps your body produce a protein called cathelicidin that fights bacteria and viruses,” says Carlos Camargo, M.D., an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. In Dr. Yik’s practice, she finds that many adults and children in Hong Kong are deficient in vitamin D, regardless of how much sunshine they get. Before you start taking vitamin D supplements though, get your level checked so you can supplement at the correct dosage. Too much vitamin D puts you at a higher risk for kidney stones.
  3. woman5Are you deficient in micronutrients? Micronutrient deficiencies are associated with an impaired immune response and higher incidence of infection. Deficiencies can stem from reduced food intake (due to eating disorders, dieting, etc.), excessive consumption of junk/ processed food, an imbalanced diet or impaired/ weak digestion. Zinc, selenium, iron, vitamins A, C, D, E, B6 and folic acid in particular help the immune system work properly.  To ensure you are getting adequate micronutrients, eat whole foods with adequate protein, good fats and a variety of vegetables and fruits. Include immune-boosting foods such as garlic, onions, ginger, dark green vegetables, shiitake/ maitake/ reishi mushrooms and berries in your diet. If you suspect you are deficient in certain nutrients, talk to your doctor and get tested.
  4. Certain essential oils such as clove and eucalyptus have immune-enhancing and antimicrobial properties. Some choose to diffuse it while others use direct or indirect inhalation. For topical use, always read the labels carefully and seek a certified practitioner if unsure.
  5. doctor1Practice good hygiene. Wash your hands with soap after you use the toilet and before eating. Avoid touching your nose, mouth or face. Sneeze or cough into a tissue or sleeve (not your hands), or wear a mask when you are sick. Change into clean clothes when you return home.

If you are sick, seek medical attention. Dr. Ardyce Yik ND helps adults and children rebuild immunity, naturally. Click here to learn how she can help you achieve and maintain optimal health.


Is your child depressed? Recognise the signs.

kid red hat
An increasing number of children are suffering from depression, but they are often too young to articulate how they feel. Research shows that the number of kids who have gone to the ER for suicidal behaviour has doubled in less than a decade in the United States. Suicide is the second leading cause of death in children ages 10 to 14 in Canada. In Hong Kong, children and teens under 18 who were diagnosed with depression jumped by 118% in five years (2014/ 2015 compared with 2018/2019).

Why is depression on the rise for kids? Genetics, stress, family conflict and bullying may all play a role, but experts are also making connections between this rise with the increase in children’s use of screens and social media.


  1. Physical symptoms. Though depression is a mental illness, it’s not unusual for children to experience physical symptoms, like tiredness and tummy aches. You may notice changes in their eating or sleeping habits as well. They may suddenly have no appetite to eat, or they may have trouble falling asleep, or staying asleep.
  2. Changes in behaviour. Kids who are depressed might suddenly withdraw from their friends, start to perform poorly at school or experience a change in activity level. Some may become irritable, aggressive or poorly behaved. Many kids won’t have the words to explain the despair they feel, and since they cannot express themselves, they may act a certain way to avoid social interaction or push people away.
  3. Disengagement. Withdrawing from friends and activities may be a sign that something is wrong. Complaints of boredom could also be a warning sign. “Boredom isn’t a natural state for a child,” says Tyler Black, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at BC Children’s Hospital in Vancouver. “In child psychiatry, it’s considered a symptom of sadness.”
  4. Talk of death. If a child talks about death all the time, it can be a sign that they have suicidal thoughts. Saying things like, “You’d be better off without me”, “I want to die” or “I hate my life” or drawing pictures with dark or violent imagery should be addressed.
  5. High-risk behaviour. Self-harm like punching oneself or banging one’s head against the floor or wall, or hurting others, may be indicative of suicidal ideation.



  1. If your child is showing signs of depression or suicidal behaviour, it’s important to talk to them about it and seek professional help for them. If your child is in immediate danger of hurting themselves, call 999 (in Hong Kong) for emergency help.
  2. Early intervention is key. Don’t brush off any persistent warning signs.
  3. Develop and maintain a good, positive relationship with your child. Be present for your child. Ask them about their day, about their friends, about their passions or hobbies. Try to have dinner as a family together. Do an activity or sport together. Don’t underestimate the love, support and time you give to your child.

Is your child stressed or anxious? Click here to read more about stress and anxiety in today’s children. Dr. Ardyce Yik ND helps countless children and teenagers reach optimal health using natural medicine and nutrition. She works closely with psychologists when necessary for the betterment of her patients and is in charge of the “Boost Your Child’s Health”program at OT&P clinic in Repulse Bay.


Why is suicidal behaviour increasing among elementary school children?


Got a stuffy nose? Tips for a better sleep.

allergies2Whether you’ve got a stuffy nose from a cold, flu or allergies, sleeping through the night can be a challenge with all that congestion. Read on for tips on how to sleep better when you are congested.

  1. Elevate your head. Congestion tends to be worse when you lie down because it is harder for the nose and sinuses to drain in that position. Excessive mucus makes it harder to breathe and may even trigger a sinus headache in the morning. To combat this, try elevating your head with a few pillows to help drain the sinuses more easily.
  2. Use a humidifier to moisturize the air, prevent excessive dryness and reduce the pain of breathing when you’re congested. You may try adding essential oils, such as peppermint or eucalyptus, to the humidifier. NOTE: Clean humidifiers regularly, as moisture can promote the growth of bacteria and fungi. It is best to read the machine’s instructions on cleaning and disinfecting it.
  3. Use a saline spray or rinse, which contains a small amount of salt mixed into sterile water. Saline rinses can help flush out congested sinuses as well as help relieve irritation and swelling so you feel less congested at night. Find saline rinses that do not contain drugs. These are safe to use several times per night.
  4. Try a spoon of Manuka honey. A 2014 study compared (plain) honey with a placebo and the bronchodilator drug salbutamol in children with a common cold. Honey was found to be the most effective option for easing symptoms. Honey also coats the throat, easing discomfort and dryness from breathing through the mouth when you have a stuffy nose. Furthermore, Manuka honey has anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-inflammatory benefits.
  5. Keep a box of tissues, saline spray, wastebasket, bottle of water, etc. by the bed to make nightly interruptions shorter and more comfortable.
  6. Take a warm shower before bed. Steam loosens the dried mucus and can help the nose drain before bed, reducing pain and congestion. Try gently pressing or massaging the skin covering the sinuses to promote further drainage.

Dr. Ardyce Yik ND helps countless adults and children in Hong Kong combat infections and boost immunity, naturally. Click here to learn how to protect your health and strengthen immunity.

Remember to seek medical help if:

  • A person with a weak immune system, such as an older adult or a baby, develops flu symptoms.
  • A baby has signs of congestion. Babies under 2 months only breathe through their noses, so congestion can quickly cause serious breathing issues.
  • A person finds it impossible to breathe or shows signs of breathing problems, such as a fast heart rate, blue lips, rapid breathing, dizziness or severe changes in mood or personality.
  • A person has congestion for longer than 2 weeks or finds that it gets progressively worse over several days.
  • A person has a high fever of 103.1°F (39.5°C) or a fever that lasts for longer than a few days.
  • A person has a stuffy nose along with signs of an asthma attack, such as sudden difficulty breathing, wheezing or gasping for air.



Stressed? Anxious? Spend time in nature.

IMG_7828 (1)More and more research is showing a strong connection between time spent in nature and reduced stress, anxiety and depression. Not only that, but individuals who are more connected to nature tend to be happier in general.

  1. Interacting with nature offers a variety of therapeutic benefits. For instance, calming nature sounds and even outdoor silence can lower blood pressure and levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which calms the body’s fight-or-flight response. The visual aspects of nature can also have a soothing effect, according to Dr. Jason Strauss, director of geriatric psychiatry at Harvard-affiliated Cambridge Health Alliance. “Having something pleasant to focus on like trees and greenery helps distract your mind from negative thinking, so your thoughts become less filled with worry.” Can’t go outside? It turns out that listening to nature sounds or pictures of nature settings can have a similar effect. 
  2. How much time with nature is enough? “Anything from 20 to 30 minutes, three days a week, to regular three-day weekends in the woods is helpful,” says Dr. Strauss. “The point is to make your interactions a part of your normal lifestyle.” It can be as simple as a daily walk in the park, a weekend trail hike or combining the nature outings with your regular exercise like cycling, yoga or power walking outdoors.
  3. “Many men are at higher risk for mood disorders as they age, from dealing with sudden life changes like health issues, the loss of loved ones, and even the new world of retirement,” says Dr. Strauss. “They may not want to turn to medication or therapy for help, and for many, interacting with nature is one of the best self-improvement tools they can use.”

People who have recently experienced stressful life events such as a death of a loved one, serious illness or unemployment can benefit greatly from nature outings. “Nature can have a powerful effect on our mental state,” says Dr. Strauss, “and there are many ways to tap into it.”

If you are experiencing stress or anxiety, find a health care practitioner who looks at the whole picture. Pharmaceutical drugs can help reduce anxiety but it may not work for every person. Aside from drugs, there are numerous treatment protocols and techniques that can benefit you and help address the symptoms and root causes of stress and anxiety (e.g. cognitive behavioural therapy, herbal medicine, nutraceuticals, etc.). Find a doctor who listens and cares for your wellbeing.

Dr. Ardyce Yik ND helps countless people in Hong Kong combat stress, reduce anxiety and reach optimal health using natural medicine and nutrition.


Does gut bacteria affect your happiness?

The gut microbiome (i.e. the bacteria in our gut) has been getting lots of attention recently. Scientists are becoming increasingly aware of the key role these trillions of microbes play in health and disease. Not only do these gut microbes within us help us digest food and metabolize drugs but over the past decade, research has shown that they also influence our immune system, inflammation, allergies, metabolism, appetite/ weight and athleticism as well as our behaviour, brain function and mental wellbeing.

Is your gut health responsible for your happiness? Although many factors may influence how happy you feel, there is a definite link between your gut health and mental health. Consider the following:

  1. A study of two large groups of Europeans found that several species of gut bacteria are missing in people with depression. Jeroen Raes, a microbiologist at the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium, and his colleagues took a closer look the gut microbiome of 1054 Belgians. 173 out of the 1054 Belgians had been diagnosed with depression or had done poorly on a quality of life survey. Upon comparing their microbiomes with other participants, the team found that two kinds of microbes, Coprococcus and Dialister, were missing from the microbiomes of the depressed subjects, but not from those with a high quality of life. The finding held up when the researchers allowed for factors such as age, sex or antidepressant use, all of which influence the microbiome. They also found the depressed people had an increase in bacteria implicated in Crohn disease, suggesting inflammation may be at fault. 
  2. From the same study, Raes and his colleagues began looking for something that could link microbes to mood. They compiled a list of 50+ substances important for proper nervous system function that gut microbes either produce or break down. They found, for example, that Coprococcus seems to have a pathway related to dopamine, a key brain signal involved in depression, although they have no evidence how this might protect against depression. The same microbe also makes an anti-inflammatory substance called butyrate; we know that increased inflammation is implicated in depression.
  3. Serotonin is a major chemical involved in the regulation of mood and emotion.  Although this “happy hormone” is well known as a brain neurotransmitter, it is estimated that 90% of the body’s serotonin is made in the digestive tract. And it turns out that certain bacteria in the gut are important for the production of peripheral serotonin. In one Caltech study, researchers found that germ-free mice produced approximately 60% less serotonin than their peers with conventional bacterial colonies. When these germ-free mice were recolonized with normal gut microbes, the serotonin levels went back up, showing that the deficit in serotonin can be reversed using proper bacterial colonies.
  4. Professor of Genetic Epidemiology at King’s College London Tim Spector remembers the moment when he realised the centrality of the gut. As director of the country’s biggest twin registry, he had always wondered how identical twins can be so different, even with exactly the same genes. How can one be fat while the other, thin? One happy, the other sad? He came to the answer when he compared the gut microbiota of different sets of twins: “One of the biggest factors was that their microbes were different,” he recalls. It turns out that genes are not the only factor dictating one’s health.

What does that mean for us? What can we do to ensure a healthy gut microbiome?

  1. Eat a variety of different healthful foods. Focus on consuming as many different plants, and parts of plants, as possible. Vegetables, nuts, seeds, fruits, fermented foods like kefir, kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut and yogurt promote good gut health.
  2. Increase your fibre. Prebiotics are types of dietary fiber that feed the good, friendly bacteria in your gut. This helps the gut bacteria produce nutrients for your colon cells and leads to a healthier digestive system. Avoid processed foods, artificial sweeteners and meat reared using antibiotics.
  3. Avoid the use of antibiotics in infants and children unless it’s absolutely necessary. Dr. Ardyce Yik ND treats many infections in children naturally using antimicrobial medicinal herbs and nutraceuticals. She is also trained to know when to refer to a medical doctor if pharmaceutical antibiotics or drugs are needed. Click here to read more about how antibiotic use in infants is linked to disease later in life.
  4.  Contact with a variety of bacteria is recommended, too. Perhaps there’s more than one reason why children with pets are happy and healthy (Pets can boost your child’s immunity!).
  5. Find a licensed naturopathic doctor or functional medicine practitioner who can help you find out more about your gut health. Gut health tests such as the GI-MAP can detect and identify microbes in your gut which may be contributing not only to your mental health concerns but also to your GI symptoms, chronic health issues or weight loss challenges.



Bacteria may live naturally inside the human brain