Archive for July, 2011

A Fresh Perspective on Treating Insomnia

“A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor’s book” — Irish proverb

Do you spend more time thinking than sleeping some nights?  Several polls have found that over 50% of Americans have trouble sleeping at some point in their lives. Insomnia and sleep problems are so pervasive that we have both National Sleep Week (March 7-13th) and World Sleep Day (March 18th) to draw attention to this issue. Despite the pervasiveness, we generally fail to prioritize sleep as much as we do exercise and nutrition, even though it is just as critical to achieving optimal health. Chronic poor sleep can impair the immune system, cognitive function, and mental health. Long-term sleep deprivation can even result in death, as demonstrated in mouse studies that show that as little as two weeks without slumber will lead to their demise.

And it is not just the number of hours that we lay in bed with our eyes closed that contribute to our wellbeing. The quality of the shuteye is equally important. During the night, we cycle through REM and non-REM sleep. REM is dreamtime, and the deepest sleep occurs during stage four non-REM sleep, with the first stage being the lightest when a person can easily be awakened. If you have ever been wakened from a deep sleep where it took several minutes to regain consciousness and determine where you were, you were probably roused from stage-four non-REM sleep. Non-REM is when the body restores itself and devotes energy to the immune system to keep us healthy. Sleep medications are effective at inducing sleep, but it is not non-REM restorative sleep. So it is important to try to improve sleep quality without long-term use of pharmaceutical medications.

Sleep issues are universal, but the causes, effects and how we experience them vary widely. Difficulty falling asleep (defined as taking greater than 30 minutes), difficulty maintaining sleep, early morning wakening, and unrefreshing sleep are different ways insomnia manifests itself. The causes of sleep deprivation are numerous: stress (ranked number one),  anxiety, depression, shift-changes at work, jet lag, medical conditions (such as pain, restless legs syndrome, sleep apnea, etc.), alcohol, drugs, caffeine, side-effects of pharmaceuticals, nighttime exercise, and low blood sugar, to name a few.

Volumes could be written about how to address the wide variety of sleep issues and their causes, so we will focus on a common triad of problems that being the combination of sleep deprivation, pain, and depression. Fibromyalgia is a clear manifestation of this combination. All facets are interrelated; muscle pain contributes to poor sleep, and chronic pain and sleep deprivation leads to anxiety, loss of hope, and depression. It may not be clear which symptom came first when experiencing this triad, almost like the chicken vs. the egg question. The issues of neurotransmitter imbalances, Vitamin D deficiency, and low magnesium levels can all contribute to the pain-sleep deprivation-anxiety/depression triad. Here are some solutions to addressing these three key issues.

Key Neurotransmitter Imbalances: One of the common underlying threads with the pain/depression/ insomnia triad can be low serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is responsible for temperature regulation, mood, sensory perception, relaxation, and sleep modulation. Low serotonin can cause anxiety, depression, insomnia, and enhanced pain perception. This explains why SSRI medications, which elevate serotonin levels by preventing it from being metabolized, can be effective in alleviating depression and sleep disorders.

The body manufactures serotonin from amino acids 5-HTP, tryptophan, and vitamin B6. Tryptophan is converted to 5-HTP, which makes serotonin. Some people have greater success supplementing with 5-HTP, others do better with L-tryptophan, which is available topically or in oral form.

 GABA is an inhibitory or calming neurotransmitter. By reducing anxiety, it can calm worrying thoughts that interfere with good sleep. Sublingual GABA is good to keep by the bedside if you tend to waken for long periods in the middle of the night, because it can be taken without water and won’t cause morning grogginess.

Vitamin D Deficiency: Vitamin D deficiency has been shown in several studies to be related to a higher incidence of depression, and some small studies found that high doses (and not low does) of vitamin D3 could help alleviate symptoms. Vitamin  D deficiency has become more pronounced in modern times as we spend much more time indoors, and protect our skin with high SPF creams and clothing for fear of skin cancer. As D levels have declined over the years, depression rates have increased. There are some plausible connections between vitamin D and depression; there are vitamin D receptors in the brain, indicating vitamin D has an affect on the brain and the fact that vitamin D helps make tyrosine hydroxylase, which works on the pathway that converts tyrosine to serotonin ultimately. Although research on the topic is lacking, it would be sensible to check vitamin D levels in a person who is depressed. Serum D levels (25(OH)D) should ideally be at least 50 ng/ML (note: this is higher than the levels considered “normal” on lab tests, so be sure to find out your number, not just if you are within the healthy range).

Vitamin D receptors are also located in the sensory receptors of the nervous system, linking Vitamin D deficiency to cases of unidentified pain. Research has found higher incidence of vitamin D deficiency in patients with pain, and improvement of pain symptoms with vitamin D supplementation.

Although there haven’t been full-blown clinical trials conducted to prove that vitamin D deficiency is related to insomnia, there have been case reports. And with its strong association with two of the three parts of the triad, it is quite possible that resolution of vitamin D deficiency could improve sleep patterns.

Low Magnesium Levels: Magnesium has a role in hundreds of biochemical reactions that occur in the body. It controls muscle relaxation; therefore, deficiency can result in stiff muscles and pain, as commonly seen in fibromyalgia. It makes ATP (energy), which is used by all tissues in the body, but especially the brain. Magnesium deficiency is also related to elevated anxiety. By relaxing the muscles and the mind, magnesium can improve sleep.

Conversely, sleep deprivation can lower magnesium levels. Magnesium deficiency can have a spiraling effect that hinders many bodily functions. Keep in mind that B vitamins help with proper utilization of magnesium, so a B complex formula can optimize magnesium performance. Magnesium citrate, glycinate and chloride are all excellent forms of bioavailable magnesium.

We all recognize the refreshment that comes from a good night’s sleep, but imagine the possibility of an overall improved quality of life that may take place by following these three key tips. Here’s to helping you improve sleep, relieve pain, and overcome anxiety or depression!

July 27, 2011 at 8:09 pm Leave a comment

Avoiding the Afternoon Slump

How many times has this happened…you are sitting at your desk in  front of your computer and the clock says 2 or 3 PM, and you find yourself struggling to concentrate and stay alert? At this moment, a nap sounds like the best thing in the world!

Here are 3 things you can do to get through the day without a lag in energy:

  1. Choose lunch wisely. The decline in energy we feel at 3 PM may be due to a blood sugar drop that happens after a surge of glucose (from carbohydrates) from a large lunch. You might even have a condition called reactive hypoglycemia, where there is excessive insulin from eating, then a resulting low blood sugar state. This can easily be remedied by an adjustment in food choices. First eat a smaller lunch, and be sure it contains some protein, which will moderate blood sugar levels. Then plan to have a small snack before you typically feel the slump, in order to steady glucose levels. The perfect snack would have some protein in it, such as a handful of nuts, a protein bar, or a boiled egg. Just be sure you are cutting back on your lunch portion so you don’t end up consuming more calories than your body needs and gain weight.
  2. Moderate your coffee/ caffeine intake. It’s tempting to reach for a cup of coffee when that afternoon slump hits, but you really are doing a disservice. Not only will you and up losing sleep that night, but excess caffeine causes a big spike in energy and then a big drop afterwards making you more tired (unless you continue drinking it).  A better choice would be organic green tea. It gives a more sustained boost in energy, and it offers beneficial side effects such as thermogenic properties, which enhances fat burning, and polyphenols, which have potent antioxidant effects and other health benefits.
  3.  Try boosting energy with supplements. To help support  blood sugar levels throughout the day, take a cinnamon extract twice a day. Rhodiola is an adaptogenic herb that supports the adrenal glands and counters exhausting effects of stress. Lastly, vitamin B12 can help boost energy, as it is a co-factor for ATP production which is the fuel for our cells.

If you struggle with your energy level in the afternoon, be sure to try these 3 simple tips!

Click the video below to watch Dr. Jen’s appearance on Bridge Street for ABC Channel 9!

July 20, 2011 at 6:50 pm Leave a comment

Do Vitamins Kill ?

No Deaths from Vitamins – None at All in 27 Years

Commentary by Andrew W. Saul and Jagan N. Vaman, M.D.
Taken from the Orthomolecular Medicine News Service, June 14, 2011 http://orthomolecular.org/resources/omns/index.shtm
(OMNS, June 14, 2011) Over a twenty-seven year period, vitamin supplements have been alleged to have caused the deaths of a total of eleven people in the United States. A new analysis of US poison control center annual report data indicates that there have, in fact, been no deaths whatsoever from vitamins . . . none at all, in the 27 years that such reports have been available.

The American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) attributes annual deaths to vitamins as:
2009: zero
2008: zero
2007: zero
2006: one
2005: zero
2004: two
2003: two
2002: one
2001: zero
2000: zero
1999: zero
1998: zero
1997: zero
1996: zero
1995: zero
1994: zero
1993: one
1992: zero
1991: two
1990: one
1989: zero
1988: zero
1987: one
1986: zero
1985: zero
1984: zero
1983: zero

Even if these figures are taken as correct, and even if they include intentional and accidental misuse, the number of alleged vitamin fatalities is strikingly low, averaging less than one death per year for over two and a half decades. In 19 of those 27 years, AAPCC reports that there was not one single death due to vitamins. [1]
Still, the Orthomolecular Medicine News Service Editorial Board was curious: Did eleven people really die from vitamins? And if so, how?

Vitamins Not THE Cause of DeathIn determining cause of death, AAPCC uses a four-point scale called Relative Contribution to Fatality (RCF). A rating of 1 means “Undoubtedly Responsible”; 2 means “Probably Responsible”; 3 means “Contributory”; and 4 means “Probably Not Responsible.” In examining poison control data for the year 2006, listing one vitamin death, it was seen that the vitamin’s Relative Contribution to Fatality (RCF) was a 4. Since a score of “4” means “Probably Not Responsible,” it quite negates the claim that a person died from a vitamin in 2006.

Vitamins Not A Cause of DeathIn the other seven years reporting one or more of the remaining ten alleged vitamin fatalities, studying the AAPCC reports reveals an absence of any RCF rating for vitamins in any of those years. If there is no Relative Contribution to Fatality at all, then the substance did not contribute to death at all.

Furthermore, in each of those remaining seven years, there is no substantiation provided to demonstrate that any vitamin was a cause of death.
If there is insufficient information about the cause of death to make a clear-cut declaration of cause, then subsequent assertions that vitamins cause deaths are not evidence-based. Although vitamin supplements have often been blamed for causing fatalities, there is no evidence to back up this allegation.

References:
1. Download any Annual Report of the American Association of Poison Control Centers from 1983-2009 free of charge at http://www.aapcc.org/dnn/NPDSPoisonData/NPDSAnnualReports.aspx The “Vitamin” category is usually near the very end of the report.
Most recent year: Bronstein AC, Spyker DA, Cantilena LR Jr, Green JL, Rumack BH, Giffin SL. 2009 Annual Report of the American Association of Poison Control Centers’ National Poison Data System (NPDS): 27th Annual Report. Clinical Toxicology (2010). 48, 979-1178. The full text article is available for free download at http://www.aapcc.org/dnn/Portals/0/2009%20AR.pdf
The vitamin data mentioned above will be found in Table 22B.

Nutritional Medicine is Orthomolecular Medicine
Orthomolecular medicine uses safe, effective nutritional therapy to fight illness. For more information: http://www.orthomolecular.org or http://orthomolecular.org/subscribe.html to subscribe.

July 19, 2011 at 1:10 pm Leave a comment

Balance Blood Sugar with Cinnamon

In 2003, a small clinical trial found that an extract equivalent to 1 g of cinnamon powder significantly reduced glucose level, triglycerides, and cholesterol levels in people with type 2 diabetes. In June 2006, the European Journal of Clinical Investigation published a study involving 79 patients with diagnosed diabetes type 2, who took either a placebo or an extract equivalent to 1 g cinnamon powder three times daily for four months. The group taking cinnamon experienced a 10% reduction in fasting glucose levels, whereas the glucose levels of those in the placebo group changed only by 3%. The researchers found that diabetics with higher fasting glucose levels had greater benefit from using the herb.

It is thought that the naturally occurring polyphenols in cinnamon are responsible for moderating glucose levels. Not surprisingly, the cinnamon extract did not cause any side effects.

These studies indicate that adding cinnamon may be beneficial in reducing the risk factors associated with diabetes. It may also suggest that cinnamon may benefit the non-diabetic population by preventing and controlling elevated glucose and blood lipid concentrations.

You can add more cinnamon spice to your diet (as long as it isn’t associated with pastries!) but it may be difficult to reach the one gram dosage on a daily basis. I recommend taking a cinnamon extract supplement, such as New Chapters Cinnamonforce to ensure healthy blood sugar levels. Take the supplement twice a day to keep blood sugar steady.

July 19, 2011 at 1:09 pm Leave a comment

High-Dose Vitamin D Supplements May Reduce Inflammation

The current study evaluated inflammatory markers in patients with congestive heart failure. Patients took 500 mg of calcium, plus either a placebo or 2000 IU of vitamin D, daily for nine months. Researchers measured cytokines (chemical messengers of the immune system), such as pro-inflammatory TNF (tumour necrosis factor) and anti-inflammatory IL-10 (interleukin 10).

It was found that people who took the vitamin D supplement showed a 43% increase in the anti-inflammatory IL-10 cytokine, whereas the placebo group showed no change. The vitamin D group also maintained levels of the inflammatory TNF cytokine, where the placebo group had a 12% increase in the inflammatory marker.

Previous research suggests that vitamin D may also improve muscular function, control blood pressure, and improve glucose tolerance. Inflammation is an underlying cause in those conditions, and in cardiovascular diseases, such as congestive heart failure.

In recent past, physicians recommended 400 IUs of vitamin D daily. Evidence is mounting that supplementing 2000 IUs of vitamin D is necessary for optimal health. Sunshine stimulates vitamin D production via the intestinal tract, however fears of skin cancer causes many Americans to avoid sun exposure, leading to increased incidences of vitamin D deficiency.

I personally feel that it is best to take a vitamin D supplement that is in an oil base, since vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin. This can be in a softgel form or in a dropper bottle. Vitamin D Drops from Carlson in a coconut oil base are an easy way to get 2000 IUs per drop!

References:
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 83 (4), 2006; pp 754 -759.

July 19, 2011 at 1:08 pm Leave a comment

Book Review: Strategies for Surviving Chemical Sensitivity: The Basics

By Shannon Morehouse, MA, CHHC

Don’t let the title of this book fool you. While this book does detail basic steps that chemically-sensitive individuals need to take in order to manage their exposure in and out of their homes, this book is a comprehensive guidebook that offers solutions even for those who have been battling chemical sensitivity for decades.

The author, Dr. Mayer, Ph.D., practiced pharmacy throughout his 20s. During that time, he owned two drug stores and numerous dry cleaning stores. He believes that the highly toxic chemicals used in the dry cleaning industry caused him to develop Chemical Sensitivity. After selling his businesses, he went on to earn a doctoral degree in history and a post-doctoral degree in Psychoanalysis. Dr. Mayer truly knows the struggles of the chemically-sensitive individual as he has had the struggles himself. He even had to leave New York City after trying to make four homes safe to dwell in. The strategies that Dr. Mayer, Ph.D lays out in this book are based on the trial and error experiences in successfully managing his own chemical sensitivity as well as experiences he gathered from over 1,000 individuals who responded to the question, “What works?”

Dr. Mayer explains how to find doctors and dentists who understand the needs of those who are chemically sensitive. He also describes various treatment options, including the following:

• Avoidance of Chemicals and Substances that Cause Reactions. According to Mayer, over 94 % of those surveyed felt better by avoiding chemical exposure. He defined avoidance as living in a chemical-free space, working in a chemically-free environment, and eating chemically-free, organic food.

• Clean Air. Many folks found that air filtration helped them.

Sauna Therapy. Dr. Mayer discusses the option of sauna therapy at many treatment centers in the United States or using a home sauna. He specifies that for those who are sensitive to EMFs, infrared saunas are said to be better.

• Liver Support. According to environmental physicians, self-administered glutathione in conjunction with an assortment of vitamins and minerals, including the Hydroxocobalamin form of B12 can be helpful.

After outlining general treatment options, Dr. Mayer offers helpful suggestions to aid you in every area of your life. He offers hundreds of suggestions on how to avoid exposure in all rooms in your home; these suggestions are nicely bulleted out.

Dr. Mayer’s chapter on personal care products is particularly useful. For soaps, he recommends Magick Botanicals products, among others. He also discusses cosmetics, mentioning facts like black mascara has fewer ingredients than color mascara. He also recommends using apricot kernel oil or almond oil for a moisturizer.

Dr. Mayer’s suggestions extend far beyond your home. He gives you tips on purchasing an automobile, buying a new home, and even reveals exact locales that will be better for those with chemical sensitivities to reside. His chapter on managing chemical sensitivity when traveling is helpful. One recommendation is that if you smell something bothersome, rinse your nose with saline solution. He also recommends taking 1,000 mg of vitamin C to bowel tolerance, wearing a face mask, and keeping yourself hydrated.

In conclusion, you will find this book as useful of a resource as those by Dr. Sherry Rogers. This is a must-read for the chemically-sensitive person and those who love them!

July 19, 2011 at 1:07 pm Leave a comment

Go Green and Clean…with Steam!

Over the years, our sensitive NEEDS customers have been asking us to help them find a completely non-toxic, no-odor method to do some serious cleaning. After searching far and wide, we are happy to announce the arrival of the Steamboy T1 steam floor mop. NEEDS tested and approved, this mop uses only water, and no other cleaning products. In the long run, you will save money on expensive cleaning products. The steam created by this mop is a great, effective, and eco-friendly way to remove dirt and kill bacteria and germs naturally. The Steamboy uses a powerful 1500W heating element to deliver 248º F steam to floor and carpet surfaces, sanitizing as it cleans. It can be used safely on ceramic tile, vinyl, linoleum, carpet and remarkably, even hardwood floors.

The Steamboy is easy to use- simply fill the reservoir with water, plug it in, turn it on, and it will quickly heat up and be ready to use. You can regulate the amount of steam released so there are no worries about making a dripping mess. The reservoir holds 3.3 cups of water and provides 30 minutes of continuous steam. The Steamboy can easily handle tight corners with its ergonomically designed handle and angled head with swiveling ability. The swivel head covers an eleven inch cleaning path. The cleaner comes with two washable microfiber pads; when dirty, simply throw it in the wash and hang to dry. To use on carpets, attach the carpet glide under the swivel head to easily convert it to a carpet sanitizer.

We love how simple and eco-friendly this new cleaning tool is. When it’s this easy and safe, cleaning isn’t so bad after all!

July 19, 2011 at 1:04 pm Leave a comment

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