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Archive for June, 2014

good adrenal habits

Do you always feel tired in the afternoon, wake up groggy, or feel flattened by exercise? You might suffer from a common condition called adrenal fatigue, in which the body can’t respond properly to life’s stresses. Some other signs and symptoms of adrenal fatigue include:

  • Overwhelming fatigue
  • Insomnia, especially between 2 and 4 a.m.
  • The afternoon ‘blahs’
  • Cravings for salt, sugar or stimulants, especially in the afternoon
  • Lightheadedness upon standing
  • Chronic low blood pressure
  • Irritability and jitters when hungry

Thankfully, certain lifestyle habits are highly effective in helping restore your energy and healthy adrenal function.

8 lifestyle habits to manage adrenal fatigue

Below are eight lifestyle habits that can go a long way in supporting adrenal health.

1. Sleep. Regular, plentiful sleep is one of the best supporters of adrenal health. Even if you experience midnight insomnia or trouble falling asleep, it’s possible to create better sleep by sticking to these good habits:

  • Go to bed at the same time every night, no later than 10 p.m.
  • Try to get 9–11 hours of sleep every night; do it on weekends if it’s not possible on weekdays.
  • Avoid computer, TV, and phone screens for the hour before bed; this allows the brain waves to shift gears in preparation for sleep. (If that’s impossible wear orange glasses that block the blue lights these screens emits. Blue light suppresses sleep hormones and can cause insomnia and a disrupted sleep cycle.)
  • Eat a small snack just before bed that is strong in protein and healthy fat and low in carbs.
  • Avoid sugar, stimulants, and high-carb foods before bed.

2. Relaxation Exercises. Think relaxation exercises are ineffective? Think again! Create at least ten minutes of quiet, stress-relieving activity for yourself every day, such as lying with your feet up, meditating, or breathing slowly. In addition, when you feel tired, respect the message your body is trying to send, and lay down for a few minutes.

3. Avoid junk food and excess sugar. Whether donuts or fruit, junk foods and excess sugar put the adrenal glands in overdrive, effectively sending them into energetic bankruptcy.

4. Avoid caffeine and other stimulants. Yes, that means coffee. Stimulants are one of your adrenals’ worst enemies! Like sugars, they drive the adrenals to work too hard, driving you into deeper exhaustion.

5. Gentle exercise only. With adrenal fatigue, prolonged, rigorous exercise will only drive you deeper into exhaustion. Try gentle exercise such as walking, yoga, or swimming. No matter what, avoid prolonged aerobic exercise. Caution: If you are exhausted after your workout, you overdid it.

6. Eat a breakfast strong in protein and fat, with no sugar or stimulants. Adrenal function, blood sugar, and energy levels are closely related. Eating a breakfast strong in protein and fat while avoiding sugars and stimulants allows the adrenals to get a strong start and remain steadier throughout the day. This can help you avoid the afternoon blahs and sleep better, too!

7. Take the stress out. Take a close look at what causes you stress, whether complaining friends, nagging bosses, or a crazy schedule. What stressors can you eliminate or minimize? Reducing stress is a huge factor in adrenal healing.

8. Avoid sugars and stimulants when you’re tired. When you hit the afternoon blahs, the first thing you might think of is a frothy cappuccino. However, that only serves to further bankrupt your adrenals. Instead, nourish your body with protein, healthy fats, and minimal carbs to support healthy blood sugar and brain function, which is what you really need to kick the blahs. Be prepared by having a healthy snack ready to go for the afternoon.

The bigger picture

Adrenal fatigue typically happens secondary to another issue, such as anemia, poor diet, hormone imbalance, autoimmune disease, inflammation, or micronutrient deficiencies. It’s important to determine the cause of your adrenal fatigue and include these lifestyle habits as part of your adrenal treatment plan –- with them, you will move much faster toward optimum health and energy.

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hearing loss and pain meds

When the body hurts, people reach for over-the-counter (OTC) painkillers to ease their suffering; they are the most frequently used medications in the United States. Although they offer easy-access pain relief, they have been linked to hearing loss and you may want to be careful about using them on a regular basis.

A Harvard-affiliated study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology suggests that frequent use of the painkillers ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and acetaminophen (Tylenol) may contribute to hearing loss. The study tracked more than 60,000 women during 14 years and found a 13 percent increased risk of hearing loss in those who took pain relievers two to three days per week, while the risk increased to up to 24 percent in those using it six to seven days per week. The findings are similar to another study that found aspirin to be a risk factor for hearing loss in men.

Why do these medications affect hearing loss? Researchers say ibuprofen can reduce blood flow to the cochlea, the auditory portion of the inner ear, which could result in cellular damage and cell death. Also, acetaminophen may deplete the antioxidant glutathione, which protects the cochlea from damage.

Does this mean you should avoid OTC painkillers such as Advil and Tylenol? Although they can offer effective pain relief for many people, the study’s author says their use should be limited as much as possible and that people should instead explore alternatives.

Rooting out the Problem

If your chronic pain compels you to take painkillers on a regular basis, consider bypassing the conventional band aid approach of simply treating symptoms and look for the root cause of the problem.

Conventional pain management relies on pharmacological applications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), narcotics, and antidepressant pain modifiers, yet these approaches can build dependencies –- and potential hearing loss. While they relieve symptoms, they are a temporary fix for a chronic problem.

Alternatively, functional medicine addresses the root cause of pain, taking into account genetic, medical, environmental, and lifestyle factors that contribute to chronic pain and the inflammation associated with it. This offers a sustainable solution by getting to the root of the problem.

A Personal Plan That’s an Alternative to Chronic Pain

Depending on your unique needs, your pain management plan may involve the following changes, all of which can have a profound effect on chronic pain and inflammation:

  • Herbal and nutritional compounds
  • Therapeutic body work
  • Meditation
  • Breathing techniques
  • Dietary changes
  • Exercise adjustments
  • Strategies to improve sleep quality
  • Stress management

The Takeaway: Take the Pain Away!

While OTC pain meds offer instant relief, they ignore the root of the problem, pose unnecessary risks, and only offer temporary relief. However, a pain management program that addresses the underlying cause of pain can offer a long-lasting, healthy, and sustainable way to free yourself from pain.

Nobody likes to live with chronic pain, whether it’s a mild headache or debilitating back aches. I am trained to look at the contributing factors behind your pain and to create a personalized pain management. Don’t wait another day to get to the root of the problem!

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Gut bacteria linked to autism

gut bacteria autism

The digestive tract is home to more than 100 trillion microorganisms. That’s ten times the number of cells in the human body! Although humans can survive without these tiny guests, they perform a host of useful functions, such as fermenting unused food, preventing growth of harmful bacteria, producing vitamins, and training the immune system. But did you know the bacteria in your gut can affect your brain, too? In fact, recent research on the gut has found some interesting links between the gut microbiome — the complex and unique microbiological community within the gut –- and autistic behavior in children.

As parents well know, children with autism have a high rate of problems with gastrointestinal (GI) disorders. The resulting discomfort can worsen behaviors and interfere with their ability to participate in, and benefit from, activities of daily life, education, and therapeutic activities.

On a related note, it has been known for some time that children with autism tend to have abnormal and less diverse communities of gut bacteria than children without autism. Recent research on children with autism has revealed these interesting facts:

  • Their intestinal cells show abnormalities in how they break down and transport carbohydrates, which can affect the amount and type of nutrients these cells provide to intestinal bacteria. This in turn may alter the makeup of the intestine’s normal community of digestive bacteria — with ill result.
  • Their intestines are home to abnormal amounts of certain digestive bacteria that contribute to digestive problems, intestinal inflammation, and more severe autism symptoms.
  • There are lower levels of three important gut bacteria; Prevotella, Coprococcus, and Veillonellaceae.

Theory has it that the community of bacteria in the gut affects the immune system, which then sends messages to the brain. This may explain why parents of children with autism report that special diets and probiotics (nutritional supplements containing “good” bacteria) improve their children’s digestion as well as their behavior.

The Gut-to-Brain Connection

The most recent research on the connection between the gut and autism explores how the gut microbiome affects the autistic brain. Researchers at Arizona State University found that concentrations of metabolites (byproducts) from seven specific bacteria are more prevalent in autistic children’s fecal samples. According to study author Dae-Wook Kang, “Most of the seven metabolites could play a role in the brain … We suspect that gut microbes may … affect gut-to-brain communication and/or alter brain function.”

Of the seven metabolites that were noticed, three warrant special note for their apparent relation to brain function, thereby behavior:

  • Homovanillate was present at lower levels in children with autism; it is normally produced when dopamine (an important brain neurotransmitter involved in many aspects of mood and behavior) is broken down.
  • N,N-dimethylglycine was found at lower levels; it has been used before to decrease autism symptoms.
  • The ratio of glutamine to glutamate was higher: these are metabolized into GABA, a vital inhibitory neurotransmitter associated with relaxation. An imbalance between glutamate and GABA transmission has been associated with autistic-spectrum type behaviors such as hyper-excitation.

These connections offer insight into possible link between the gut biome and the behaviors seen in autistic children. Researchers say they would like to conduct a clinical study using fecal transplants from healthy donors to see if normalizing an individual’s community of gut bacteria would reduce autism symptoms.

Although the study was small, it adds to the growing body of research that tells us the gut is closely tied to the brain.

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403 gluten sensitivity debunked response

Recent health headlines proclaimed gluten sensitivity doesn’t exist, fueling a backlash against the gluten-free diet as a baseless fad. These stories point to a recent study questioning the relationship between non-celiac gluten sensitivity and digestive symptoms. Sadly, they mislead the public by glossing over major points of research and cherry-picking information to debunk gluten sensitivity.

The study looked at how people with gluten sensitivity reacted to varying levels of gluten. Significant to the study was the elimination of FODMAPS (Fermentable Oligo-, Di-, and Monosaccharides, and Polyols), carbohydrates in many common foods known to exacerbate irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms. Foods high in FODMAPS include garlic, onion, beans, many fruits, yogurt, and more. Researchers removed FODMAPS to rule them out as a source of digestive symptoms, clearing the slate to determine whether gluten was to blame.

Study’s view is too narrow

The study concluded gluten had no effect on patients with gluten sensitivity who were placed on a low FODMAP diet, causing journalists to declare gluten sensitivity doesn’t exist. However, the paper doesn’t actually suggest that. Instead, the authors give nod to other factors that may have affected their results, such as the possibility that FODMAPS and gluten might work together to cause gastrointestinal symptoms. They acknowledged the results were markedly different from a previous study, and point out the need for further exploration on the topic.

Gluten sensitivity does not cause digestive symptoms in most people — affects other parts of the body

More importantly, the study did not look at symptoms outside of the digestive tract. Other research shows gluten causes digestive symptoms in only about one third of those with gluten sensitivity. In fact, gluten sensitivity destroys the brain and nervous tissue more than any other tissues in the body, and symptoms can be ambiguous for years and difficult to connect with gluten. Symptoms of a gluten sensitivity can also manifest in the skin, joints, bones and teeth; gluten has been associated with more than 55 diseases so far, most of them autoimmune.

While this recent study looks at digestive symptoms in response to gluten, it does not consider other symptoms commonly associated with gluten sensitivity, such as depression (research here), muscle pains, inflammation, neurological issues  and changes in mental function.

The study also does not consider other important facets of gluten sensitivity, such as gluten cross-reactivity seen with autoimmunity (when the immune system mistakenly attacks body tissue, such as the thyroid gland or the brain, because it so closely resembles the gluten protein), leaky gut, other foods that cross-react with gluten and cause gluten sensitivity symptoms (such as dairy), and more. These other factors need to be incorporated into a more comprehensive understanding of gluten.

So does gluten sensitivity exist?

Although there is no verified biomarker for non-celiac gluten sensitivity, researchers at the Center for Celiac Research and Treatment say they are close to determining one. Also, this recent study is but one of many in the field of gluten research and other research shows very clear evidence of gluten sensitivity.

Should you abandon your gluten-free diet?

While this new study asks valuable questions, does it mean non-celiacs who experience symptoms from gluten should continue eating it? Of course not! While this study raises new questions in relation to FODMAPS, millions of people with gluten sensitivity worldwide experience relief from their symptoms and progression of chronic disease on a gluten-free diet. Functional medicine practitioners have especially seen the beneficial effect of a gluten-free diet on myriad conditions.

The body always knows best. When we learn to listen to the body, the wisdom it shares leads us to make solid choices for greater health and wellness.

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