Category Archives: adrenal fatigue

Most Commonly Overlooked Causes of Insomnia

Chronic insomnia is a fairly common problem, but it is often addressed by prescribing a sleep medication instead of finding Lady with Insomniaand addressing the cause of the insomnia. In my opinion, it is imperative to identify and address the cause of sleep disturbances instead of merely patching the symptom. I support the use of sleep medications on a short-term basis during times of insomnia and if other remedies have not been effective, but most of those medications have serious side effects and should only be used when absolutely necessary.

We’re all familiar with transient insomnia caused by excess caffeine consumption, stress, grief, pain, etc. Chronic insomnia is characterized by insomnia that lasts for at least a month but which may stretch on for years. Per the National Institutes of Health, most cases of chronic insomnia are side effects of other health problems which may or may not have been diagnosed and addressed.

There are a wide variety of issues that can cause prolonged bouts of insomnia. The list that follows describes some of the most commonly missed causes of insomnia. When possible, I discuss how to identify these causes and how to address them.

The following causes of insomnia are rarely considered when someone has insomnia:

  • Blood Sugar Fluctuations:  The body has an amazing desire to maintain stable blood glucose levels. Its desire to maintain normal blood sugars is strong enough that it will not allow someone to fall asleep who has a low or high blood sugar. It is also very normal for people with a low or high blood sugar to wake up and not be able to fall back asleep until their sugar is at a normal level. Eating a snack before bed that contains low glycemic carbohydrates combined with protein can sometimes help avoid overnight blood sugar drops. Those who struggle with high glucose levels should work with your doctor to find the perfect insulin dose and eating style to avoid high or low overnight sugars.  
  • Hormonal Imbalances:  This issue is most commonly experienced by women. Progesterone is a reproductive hormone that is known to induce sleep. The highest levels of progesterone occur in the days immediately preceding menstruation. This is why sleeping more is a normal part of PMS for many women. Women who have a progesterone deficiency or estrogen excess often experience insomnia. Depending on the severity of the deficiency or excess, their insomnia may only occur during specific days of their cycle or may occur every night. The best way to identify this type of imbalance is with a saliva hormone test. My favorite can be purchased online: Hormone Level Saliva Test Kit. After identifying any existing imbalances, steps can be taken to bring hormone levels back into balance. Please work with a trained practitioner to address any imbalance identified.
  • Neurotransmitter Imbalances:  Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers the brain uses to send signals throughout the body. Imbalances in neurotransmitters can have a broad range of effects, but often include sleep disturbances. Neurotransmitter imbalances can be identified via Neurotransmitter Testing. It is important to work with a trained professional to bring neurotransmitter levels back into balance.
  • Adrenal Fatigue:  The adrenal glands are the body’s “fight or flight” organs. They spring into action anytime the body is exposed to stress. Stressors can result from external environmental sources or from internal, physical challenges. If the adrenals are exposed to stress over a long period of time, they sometimes become fatigued and stop producing normal levels of adrenal hormones. The adrenals secrete over 400 different hormones, so any deficiency will be felt in a wide variety of ways. The most common symptom of Adrenal Fatigue is extreme fatigue, but insomnia can also be an unfortunate symptom. Although saliva hormone testing can be used to test for deficiencies in some adrenal hormones, there is no definitive test to identify Adrenal Fatigue. The most common method of identifying Adrenal Fatigue is identification of symptoms and ruling out other potential physical issues. Adrenal Fatigue is best addressed via changes in eating style, rest, and herbal supplementation.
  • Thyroid Imbalance:  Many people know that excessive thyroid activity (hyperthyroidism) interferes with sleep, but many people do not realize that insufficient thyroid activity (hypothyroidism) may also cause insomnia. Unfortunately, hypothyroidism is rarely suspected in cases of insomnia and correct testing is rarely ordered. Please read How to be Your Own Thyroid Advocate for more information on how to identify a thyroid imbalance.
  • Prescription and OTC Medications:  Many medications cause insomnia. Medications for coronary issues, blood pressure, pain, high cholesterol, antidepressants, allergies, stimulants, steroids, decongestants and products for weight loss may interfere with sleep. if insomnia develops, discuss the medications you are taking with your physician.

Have you suffered from chronic insomnia? What was the cause?

In my next post, I’ll discuss natural ways to address insomnia. Thanks so much for reading!

Is Coffee Healthy or Not?

Steaming Cup of Coffee

I am often asked what my thoughts are about whether or not coffee is “healthy.” As with most health issues, your personal physiology determines whether or not coffee is beneficial for you. Many people are shocked that I am not opposed to coffee. To be quite honest, I recognize that coffee does have health benefits. I also recognize that some people have such poor diets that a morning cup of java provides the only antioxidants they receive during the entire day.

If you’d like to learn how to brew the healthiest coffee possible, please read my article, How to Brew a Healthy Cup of Coffee: Cold Brew.

In the points that follow, please note that a “cup” of coffee is 8 ounces. Most coffee mugs hold far more, so use caution.

Coffee’s Benefits

Coffee may provide the following benefits. Please note that some people are extremely sensitive to caffeine. Caffeine sensitivity may counteract some of the positive effects I’ve shared below.

  • Coffee is a rich source of antioxidants.
  • Coffee contains certain minerals that are lacking in the Standard American Diet (SAD), including magnesium, potassium, chromium (necessary for proper blood sugar control), zinc, and others.
  • A Harvard study found that women who drink two to three cups of coffee per day have a 15% lower risk of depression than women who do not drink coffee.
  • Coffee is rich in Trigonelline, a chemical that helps protect your teeth from bacteria that can cause decay.
  • Over 17 different studies found that people who drink one to four cups of coffee daily have lower rates of Type 2 Diabetes and some forms of cancer.
  • In addition to antioxidants, coffee contains high levels of 3,5 Dicaffeoylquinic acid, a chemical that protects cells from free-radical damage.
  • Coffee is rich in niacin, a B vitamin that is essential for cardiovascular health, normal brain function, normal digestion, cell health, energy production and more.
  • Multiple studies found that those who drink two to four cups of coffee daily have lowered rates of Alzheimer Disease, liver disease, gallstone formation, Parkinson’s Disease, coronary rhythm disorders, heart attacks and more.
  • Several studies found that coffee consumption does NOT elevate blood pressure and actually improves coronary health. Hallelujah! If you have high blood pressure, test your pressure before drinking a cup of coffee and 20 minutes after to determine if drinking decaf might be a better option due to your personal sensitivity to caffeine.
  • A 13-year study conducted by the New England Journal of Medicine in 2012 found that coffee drinkers who drank two to three cups of coffee per day had a 10-15% lower rate of mortality than those who did not. The researchers said this effect cannot be directly attributed to coffee and that further research is needed, but those numbers are certainly interesting!

Coffee’s Risks

Coffee beans contain over 1600 different chemicals. Unfortunately, not all of them are healthy. Drinking coffee may have the following harmful effects:

  • Coffee has been shown to increase levels of LDL cholesterol, although the exact reason is not known.
  • Consumption of two or more cups of coffee per day has been associated with a higher risk of osteoporosis and osteopenia. Percolated or drip coffee is very, very acidic, which creates an overly acidic pH in the body. To counteract the acidity, the body will pull calcium out of the bones and teeth to alkalize the body’s pH. My personal belief is that acidic brewing methods lead to osteoporosis and not the coffee. See the section below for healthy ways to brew coffee.
  • Coffee is known to interfere with sleep and may cause irritability and anxiety in some people. Drinking naturally decaffeinated coffee may lessen this effect.
  • Coffee hampers the absorption of iron and has been connected to iron deficiency anemia. Women who take iron supplements should never take them within two hours of drinking coffee. (Iron supplements are best absorbed on an empty stomach, so taking them right before bed – at least two hours after eating – works best for most people. Please note that iron interferes with the absorption of some prescription medications. Check with your pharmacist to find out which medications should not be taken with iron supplements.)
  • Brewed and percolated coffee can irritate the lining of the digestive tract and may worsen the symptoms of digestive disorders, heartburn (GERD), ulcers and more.
  • Combining coffee with Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is known to cause liver damage.

The Healthiest Way to Make Coffee

Here are my tips for enjoying coffee in a healthy way:

  • ONLY DRINK ORGANIC COFFEE. I cannot stress this enough. Coffee plants are often sprayed with gallons of chemicals. Since most coffee is grown outside of the US, those chemicals may not be regulated. Although it would be nice to think that roasting the beans removes those toxins, the opposite is actually true.
  • Enjoy it in moderation. Try to drink no more than 16 – 24 ounces per day.
  • Don’t substitute coffee for water. Coffee is a strong diuretic which can cause dehydration. Always drink extra water for every cup of coffee you drink.
  • If you drink decaffeinated coffee because you are sensitive to caffeine, only drink coffee that was decaffeinated using the Swiss Water Process method of decaffeination. The standard method of decaffeination uses chemical solvents, some of which remain in the coffee after processing. These chemical solvents may be toxic and should be avoided.
  • Coffee is known to challenge the adrenal glands. The caffeine in coffee stimulates the adrenal glands to secrete hormones. Anyone who has adrenal fatigue should avoid coffee. Decaffeinated coffee has less of an effect.
  • Coffee raises blood sugar. When the adrenal glands are stimulated, the hormones they secrete stimulate the liver to release glycogen, a form of sugar the body stores for energy. Decaffeinated coffee has less of an effect.
  • Don’t drink it for dessert. Many people immediately ruin coffee’s health benefits by loading it up with sugar, artificial sweeteners, chemical creamers, flavored syrups, whipped cream and more. Black coffee is the healthiest. Adding a bit of stevia or a tiny amount of natural milk or milk alternative is fine, but don’t go crazy.

Healthy Brewing Techniques

My personal belief, based on much of the information shared above, is that cold brewed coffee is the healthiest. Cold brewing is very simple and provides all the taste (and caffeine, if you choose) of drip coffee without the acidity. I will share the cold brew method I use in my next blog post. Trust me when I say my method is far simpler than the methods shared online. I can brew a pot of cold brew in less than 15 minutes. 

If you prefer drip coffee, please only use a non-bleached filter. There is some evidence that a non-bleached, paper filter removes some of the chemicals in coffee that could potentially have a harmful effect.

If you’d like to learn how to brew the healthiest coffee possible, please read my article, How to Brew a Healthy Cup of Coffee: Cold Brew.

Did this article surprise you? I help many people evaluate their lifestyle habits to identify changes that may help improve their wellness or help them avoid future challenges. To schedule, please email me or call 317.489.0909.

What are your thoughts about coffee? Do you drink it? How do you ensure you get the benefits without the risks? Please share!

Green Coffee Bean Extract and Raspberry Ketones: Truth or Hype?

Green Coffee Beans

I’ve recently received many questions about whether or not Green Coffee Extract and Raspberry Ketones actually work. These questions multiplied after a well-known MD with a nationally-syndicated television show promoted these supplements. I’ve also been receiving multiple spam email messages about both supplements. I confess the spam made me question the validity of these supplements, so I decided I needed to do more research. I also have to admit my research was difficult, as most of the sites containing “research” were also trying to sell one or both of the products. 

Update, May 8, 2013: I do not recommend using these supplements. Please do not contact me to ask if I think it’s a good idea for you to take them. I do not, regardless of your health issues. Thank you.

Please be aware there are no “magic bullets.” Weight gain or an inability to lose weight always has a cause. Eliminating the cause is key to finally losing weight. Please read my article, The Top 7 Reasons You Can’t Lose Weight, for more information on weight loss and on physiological issues that may prevent it.

If you are struggling with weight loss and need help or coaching, please contact me to schedule a consultation. I have literally helped hundreds of people lose many thousands of pounds. I use an approach that provides coaching and education in nutrition, fitness, metabolic balancing, and eliminating sabotaging thought patterns. I would love to help you reach your health goals. I will not let you fail. Please feel free to contact me at 317.489.0909 or via email. PLEASE NOTE I CANNOT ANSWER MEDICAL QUESTIONS VIA EMAIL. You must schedule a consultation to receive advice. 

Very few double-blind, placebo-controlled studies have been done on these supplements. The ones that were done were either very, very small (less than 20 participants) or were done on mice and not humans. The information that follows shares what I found when I researched both supplements. As always, this information is shared for informational purposes only and was not evaluated by the FDA. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any illness. Please do not take any supplement without first discussing it with your physician and checking for prescription interactions.

Green Coffee Bean Extract

The only study I could find that researched the effectiveness of Green Coffee Bean Extract on weight loss was done by JA Vinson,BR Burnham, and MV Nagendran. This study did find the extract helped with weight loss, but was only conducted on 16 people and was conducted over a very short period of time. In my opinion, a study of 16 people does not qualify as a valid study, as the control group is simply too small to prove the effects would be the same in a larger group. Additionally, I could find zero information on how the “control” group was chosen, which again causes me to question the validity of the study. It is also important to note that the company who paid for the study is a company which manufactures and sells green coffee bean extract. (Please read my article, Simple Ways to Evaluate the Validity of a Research Study for more information on ways to know whether published conclusions are valid or not.)

Potential Positive Benefits of Green Coffee Bean Extract:

  • Green coffee bean extract is known to contain many anti-oxidants, which are known to boost health and protect cells from damage from toxins, aging, and free radicals. (That does not mean it helps with weight loss.)
  • Green coffee bean extract contains chlorogenic acid, a chemical which is thought to help balance blood sugar levels. (Insulin encourages the body to store fat instead of burning it, so reducing blood sugars and reducing the amount of insulin produced is a proven method of assisting weight loss. However, there is no evidence to prove this supplement works or that it effectively reduces insulin levels.)
  • Some studies have shown that green coffee bean extract may help suppress appetite and may have a positive effect on lowering blood pressure.

Potential Negative Effects of Green Coffee Bean Extract:

  • The frenzy surrounding green coffee bean extract has caused a multitude of supplements to be released which don’t actually contain green coffee bean extract, which contain harmful fillers or which contain a very low-quality extract. Use caution when purchasing green coffee bean extract and only purchase from highly reliable suppliers.
  • Some people respond negatively to the supplement. (Any supplement has the potential to create an allergic reaction in sensitive individuals.)
  • The supplement does not work for everyone. Physical and hormonal issues preventing weight loss may not be helped by this supplement.
  • The caffeine in green coffee bean extract may have a negative affect on some people.

My Conclusions About Green Coffee Bean Extract:

As with most products claiming to boost weight loss, green coffee bean extract is no magic bullet. There are many other methods of reducing insulin in the body, so taking this supplement may boost weight loss efforts a little bit, but won’t produce dramatic results for most people. My recommendation is to follow a low-glycemic eating plan and to use your head. On an interesting side note, roasted coffee also contains chlorogenic acid, so drinking a single, eight ounce cup of ORGANIC coffee may have the same effect as taking these supplements.

Raspberry Ketones

The only studies I could find that have been done on raspberry ketones were done on mice, and one was only done on mice who were being fed a high-fat diet. Raspberry ketones have been around for a very long time. The only “new” thing about them is that the marketing. Let’s be honest, the fact a supplement was recommended by a doctor on TV doesn’t mean it works, it just means it gets an insane amount of marketing attention. There is plenty of anecdotal “evidence” stating raspberry ketones assist with weight loss, but I could not find any scientific evidence that proved it.

Potential Positive Benefits of Raspberry Ketones:

  • There is some evidence that indicates raspberry ketones might alter the levels of a adinopectin, a hormone that is typically lower in obese people and which has been shown to be a factor in insulin resistance. (Insulin resistance is often a precursor to and major factor in Type 2 Diabetes. That does not mean this supplement helps with weight loss.)
  • Raspberry ketones may also stimulate the release of the hormone norepinephrine, an adrenal hormone which affects metabolism. (The problem is that it may negatively affect the adrenal glands and ultimately reduce one’s ability to lose weight.)
  • As with green coffee been extract, raspberry ketones do contain anti-oxidants which may have some health benefits, but no weight loss benefits.

Potential Negative Effects of Raspberry Ketones:

  • The supplements sold are artificial raspberry ketones created in a lab and are not the real thing
  • Norepinephrine can have a very negative effect on health. It can cause anxiety, raise body temperature, and raise blood pressure.
  • Stimulating the adrenal glands to release norepinephrine could cause adrenal fatigue, which would ultimately have a very negative effect on weight loss efforts.
  • All of the potential negative effects I cited for green coffee bean extract also apply to raspberry ketones.

My Conclusions About Raspberry Ketones:

Similar to the conclusions I drew about green coffee bean extract, I think the claims made about raspberry ketones are all hype. They may assist with weight loss in a very small way, but they are not extremely effective. The fact raspberry ketones affect adrenal hormones concerns me. Adrenal function directly affects weight gain and loss. Taking raspberry ketones has the potential to harm adrenal function, which would ultimately result in weight gain. I can’t honestly recommend taking this supplement. As with any supplement, if you choose to take it, please discuss it with your physician first. Please monitor blood pressure carefully. If elevated blood pressure occurs, or if you begin to notice anxiety or hot flashes after taking it, please discontinue use immediately.

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If you are struggling with weight loss and need help or coaching, please contact me to schedule a consultation. (Liability issues prevent me from answering questions or providing advice if you are not an established client.) I have literally helped hundreds of people lose many thousands of pounds. I use an approach that provides coaching and education in nutrition, fitness, metabolic balancing, and eliminating sabotaging thought patterns. I would love to help you reach your health goals. I will not let you fail. Please feel free to contact me at 317.489.0909 or via email

Update added October 24th: Yes, these products can be taken together, but I do not recommend their use. They both do basically the same thing, so taking them simultaneously will not necessarily boost your weight loss efforts. There are much easier ways to lose weight which are free.

References:

CalorieLab.com: Green Coffee Bean Extract – Weight Loss Miracle, or Waste of Time?

Los Angeles Times: Green Bean Study Shows Promise

Kimberly Snyder, The Truth About Raspberry Ketones

PubMed: Adiponectin

Dark Circles Under the Eyes: Causes and Solutions

Many people consider dark circles under the eyes to merely be a cosmetic problem that is easily concealed using makeup. The truth is that most cosmetic issues have a physiological cause. Dark circles are no different. There are many different potential causes for dark circles. Some are easy to address and correct; others take a longer effort. Dark circles can also be hereditary to some extent.If you have extremely dark circles under your eyes consistently, please see your practitioner. The information that follows will help you know which blood tests to request Dark Circles Under the Eyeand which body systems to discuss with your practitioner. Please note that the following information does not apply to anyone receiving chemotherapy or other extreme drug therapies, as these therapies themselves may cause dark circles under the eyes. As always, this information is shared for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any illness or health condition.
Potential Causes of Dark Circles Under the Eyes
  • Lack of Sleep: Women who complain about dark circles often say they only sleep 4-5 hours per night. Deep sleep allows your skin to heal. Lack of sleep may interrupt this healing and cause skin to sag. Lack of sleep also makes us more pale, which makes the blood vessels under the skin more visible and makes the skin under the eyes look purple.
  • Anemia: An iron deficiency (aka: anemia) can definitely contribute to dark circles under the eyes. The truth is that many nutritional deficiencies can cause dark circles under the eyes. Eating a healthy diet is key to preventing and eliminating dark circles. for tips on how to improve absorption, please read my blog post, The Top Six Ways to Maximize Digestion.
  • Kidney Issues: Chinese medicine attributes dark circles under the eyes to any deficiency or challenge in kidney function. Although dark circles under the eyes can’t be used to diagnose kidney issues, I can say that dark circles under the eyes often accompany kidney issues.
     
    I can share a personal story related to this … when I started using electrodermal screening (EDS) in my practice, my husband volunteered to be a test subject. His kidneys tested poorly, so I recommended a kidney support supplement. Within a few months, the dark circles under his eyes began to disappear to the point that people commented on it. The transformation was amazing. The supplement I recommended and which tested very positively for him on the EDS unit was Premier Research Lab’s Kidney Complex. (Click the link to view it.) It’s one of my favorite combinations for kidney support.
  • Food Allergies & Other Allergies: More than one mom has seen that food allergies cause dark circles under the eyes. This effect is known as “allergy shiners” in food allergy circles. Seasonal and environmental allergies can also cause dark circles under the eyes. The basic effect is that the allergy causes congestion which creates increased blood flow to the nose. Because the skin under the eyes is somewhat thin, the increased blood flow creates the purple tint. The congestion caused by allergies can also cause enlarged blood vessels around the eyes and cause the dark tint. Many people with allergies sleep poorly and have adrenal fatigue, both of which can also contribute to dark circles under the eyes.
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  • Adrenal Fatigue: Dark circles under the eyes are a primary indicator of adrenal fatigue. The adrenal glands are tiny glands located on top of the kidneys  that produce a multitude of hormones. The adrenals are our “flight or fight” glands. Because we live under a world that creates constant excess stress, many of us have adrenal glands that have become fatigued. Dark circles under the eyes, fatigue, poor sleep, weight gain and many other symptoms may be indicators of adrenal fatigue. I intend to write much more about this syndrome in future posts. I apologize I can’t adequately address it in a single paragraph.
If you have dark circle under the eyes, try to get more rest, drink more water, eat a healthier diet, and know you’re not alone. Work with someone to identify the cause of your dark circles, and then take measures to reduce them.