Category Archives: depression

Are These Garden of LIfe Probiotics Worth the Cost?

Garden of Life LogoI recently received the opportunity to review several Garden of Life products, including their line of Doctor Formulated Probiotics. In the spirit of full disclosure, please be aware I was given these products for free. I  tried two of them myself and gave the others to clients who volunteered to try them and report their results. As you read this review, it will be obvious the fact I received free product in no way influenced my review. I am brutally honest and am fully committed to always sharing the truth. Please note that some of the links shared in this post are affiliate links for which I receive a very small sum if you make a purchase after clicking the link. These small affiliate sums help pay the costs of maintaining this website.

I reviewed a meal replacement powder, several probiotics, and several organic multivitamins. The products I reviewed and my opinion of each follow. I’m covering the probiotic line first, as it’s one that has products marketed toward the entire family. I’ll review the other products in future articles.

Dr. Formulated Probiotics

This line of probiotics was formulated by Dr. Perlmutter, a renowned neurologist who is a recognized expert on nutrition, the gut-brain connection, gluten issues, and neurodegenerative disorders. The entire line includes broad spectrum probiotics with a high number of active cultures and a large number of bacterial strains. Each product is hypoallergenic, vegetarian, and free of gluten, dairy and soy.  The probiotics in each product are specially formulated to be resistant to stomach acid and bile so they reach the digestive tract. (Many probiotics on the market are not, so they are consumed by stomach acid and bile and never reach the digestive tract.) Those are all definite “pros” related to this line. 

It is also important to note that Garden of Life is the only manufacturer of OTC probiotics that ships them in refrigerated trucks. This ensures the probiotic strains stay viable. Most other manufacturers ship in regular trucks, which means the heat during the summer may very well diminish the potency of the products. Garden of Life shipped me the Prostate+ product in a cooler filled with ice packs. I was impressed. In spite of that, the cost required to do so doesn’t seem to have impacted the cost of these probiotics. They range in price from $21 for the children’s up to around $40 for the probiotic with the highest potency. Those prices are in line with similar probiotic products, and are less expensive than some which are only sold to doctor’s offices but which have fewer strains and lower potency.

The complete line includes general formulas and specific formulas for the following:

  • Mood+:  A combination of organic Ashwagandha, an adaptogenic herb known ot assist with stress, combined with probiotic strains known to help support neurotransmitter balance.
  • Prostate+:  A formula that combines organic herbal remedies known to support prostate health combined with specific probiotic strains known to do the same.
  • Urinary Tract Plus:  A combination of organic cranberry extract combined with Vitamin D and strains known to boost immunity to support the body’s natural ability to resist e coli.
  • Fitbiotic:  A combination of healthy organic fiber combined with probiotic strains known to support weight loss and blood sugar levels.
  • Once Daily Ultra:  This probiotic contains a whopping 90 billion active cultures and also contains lactobacillus gasseri, a strain known to support healthy blood sugar levels. Not many probiotics on the market contain that strain.
  • Once Daily Women’s:  A nice blend specifically designed for women’s physiology. Is shelf stable, meaning it maintains its potency without being refrigerated. (However, for best results I don’t recommend storing these in hot, steamy bathrooms.)
  • Once Daily Men’s:  The counterpart to the women’s version. My male clients liked only having to take one capsule per day.
  • Children’s Plus Chewable:  A nice blend that includes 5 billion active cultures along with Vitamin C and Vitamin D in an organic, all-natural tablet that actually tastes good. I have many clients who found their kids didn’t get sick as often when they happily ate one of these each morning during the winter.

It’s a simple fact that most of us need a probiotic and would benefit from taking one every day. I like this line and especially like that it contains strains of probiotics that most OTC probiotics do not. I’ve used the 

I like this line and I especially like the products designed to support specific systems. In the midst of that, be aware that the specific support products aren’t designed to be used alone. They should always be used as part of a support program and not used as the sole product. It would be impossible to include therapeutic doses of additional support ingredients in a single dose, so the products for specific systems don’t contain a large enough quantity of additional ingredients to provide a strong amount of therapeutic support. 

My clients who used these products reported the following:

  • Several saw improvements in digestion, ranging from being more regular to having less indigestion. One saw loose stools completely disappear. She had resisted using a probiotic prior to this, even though I had recommended it repeatedly.
  • More than one reported feeling more energy throughout the day.
  • A male client who was using the Prostate+ product said everyone in his office came down with a nasty virus, but he skated through without so much as a sniffle.
  • A client who used Urinary Tract+ said, “I liked knowing this provided extra support, but really think the D-Mannose I was taking helped prevent UTIs more than this did.” 
  • One client had mild detox symptoms associated with having harmful bacteria in her gut die off. Those symptoms disappeared once we reduced her dosage from once daily to once every-other day. She was able to return to a once-daily dose two weeks later, and I recommended other steps to help improve the balance of good and bad bacteria in her digestive tract.

The only “cons” I found with this line of probiotics were related to the fact the products marketed to benefit specific systems don’t contain therapeutic doses of additional nutrients, and that this line can only be purchased online or in specialty health food stores. Those are paltry issues when compared to the other benefits of these probiotics.

Are they worth the money? In my opinion, that answer to that question is a definite YES.

Facts About Iron-Deficiency Anemia

Red Blood CellsIron-Deficiency Anemia is a very common health issue. Many women have been told at some point in their life they have Iron-Deficiency Anemia and that it is “chronic.” Unfortunately, the term “chronic” typically means the diagnosing doctor has chosen to not identify the cause of the condition. The doctor assumes the woman’s anemia is “normal” for her and therefore can only be controlled, not treated. I beg to differ.

Iron-Deficiency Anemia always has a cause or causes. It is never a “normal” state of being. Never. Let me clarify that I am speaking about Iron-Deficiency Anemia, the type of anemia that occurs when the body’s iron stores are below normal. Please note I am solely referring to Iron-Deficiency Anemia, not Sickle Cell Anemia, Thalassemia, Pernicious Anemia, Aplastic Anemia or any other form of anemia. Although the symptoms of the various types of anemia may be similar, they each have very distinct causes and cannot be addressed using the same approach. Please note that all references in this article are for adults, not children.

Common Symptoms

Iron-Deficiency Anemia results in a deficiency of red blood cells and diminishes the body’s ability to carry oxygen to the cells and carbon dioxide away from cells. The most common symptoms of Iron-Deficiency Anemia include:

  • Fatigue
  • Easy bruising
  • Headaches
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Elevated heart rate/heart palpitations/chest pain (Seek immediate medical attention for any form of chest pain)
  • Breathlessness
  • Dizziness
  • Swollen tongue/sore tongue/cracks in corners of mouth
  • Muscle pain
  • Pale skin
  • Depression and/or a lack of motivation
  • Brittle nails
  • Frequent infection/illness
  • Irritability/inability to concentrate
  • Bluish coloration to whites of eyes
  • Cravings for unusual items (chalk, clay, paper, etc.) or a strong desire to chew ice

Each of those symptoms could also be a sign of other health conditions, some more serious than others. Please consult a trained practitioner if you experience any of the symptoms listed above.

Possible Tests for Iron-Deficiency Anemia

Iron-Deficiency Anemia is typically identified via blood tests. When checking for Iron-Deficiency Anemia, the following tests should be run at a minimum. Please note that each lab has its own definition of what “normal” ranges are. The ranges provided below are general guidelines:

  • Complete Blood Count (CBC):  An overview of blood composition.
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  • Hemoglobin:  A protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout the body. Normal range for men is between 13.5-17.5; for women 12.0-15.5. Please note that results which are within “normal” but are at the low end may still cause symptoms of Iron-Deficiency Anemia.
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  • Iron:  A measure of the iron in the blood stream. Normal ranges between 60-170 mcg/dL.
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  • Ferritin:  A protein that stores iron. Is a measure of the body’s iron stores. Although some labs state that levels as low as 10 are “normal,” most people do not begin to feel anything close to normal until their Ferritin levels are at least 40. Please note that levels as low as zero are not a definite indicator of cancer or other serious disease. Extremely low levels need to be researched in more detail to determine the cause, but are not necessarily an indicator of a terminal condition. I once had Ferritin levels of zero which my doctor erroneously assumed meant I had cancer. After having a bone marrow biopsy, the consulting hematologist looked at me and asked why on earth the doctor ordered a bone marrow biopsy instead of investigating the cause and type of anemia first. Good question!
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  • Vitamin B12:  Vitamin B12 is essential for iron to be absorbed. A deficiency can lead to Iron-Deficiency Anemia. Normal ranges vary between 200-900 pg/mL.
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  • Total iron-binding capacity (TIBC):  A measure of the number of proteins available for transporting iron. Normal ranges are typically between 240-450 mcg/dL.
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  • Transferrin Saturation:  A measure of how saturated with iron the proteins responsible for transporting iron are. Normal ranges are between 20-50%.

Potential Causes of Iron-Deficiency Anemia

Your doctor may order other tests if s/he wishes to identify the specific cause of the Iron-Deficiency Anemia. Potential causes of low iron levels and Iron-Deficiency Anemia may include:

Iron Deficiency Anemia Red Blood Cells

Red blood cells in a person with Iron-Deficiency Anemia

  • Lack of iron in the diet
  • Inability to absorb iron in the digestive tract
  • Unidentified bleeding (in oral cavity, lungs, stomach, digestive tract, etc.)
  • Other forms of anemia not yet tested for or identified
  • Pregnancy and lactation
  • Extremely heavy menstruation
  • Frequent blood donation
  • Excessive exercise (Iron-Deficiency Anemia is common in long-distance runners)
  • Celiac, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Crohn’s or other digestive disorders
  • H Pylori infection (stomach ulcer)
  • Use of a proton pump inhibitor such as Prilosec, Nexxium, etc.
  • Kidney disease
  • Gastric bypass surgery/colostomy
  • Thyroid imbalances or other hormonal imbalance
  • Enlarged spleen or splenic dysfunction
  • Lead poisoning

Further Testing to Identify the Cause of Chronic Iron-Deficiency Anemia

Consistent Iron-Deficiency Anemia can be caused by any of the factors discussed previously, but may also be an indicator of more severe health issues. I advise considering the following to identify the root cause of Iron-Deficiency Anemia:

  • Check antiparietal antibody levels to ensure Pernicious Anemia is not the cause of the anemia
  • Test for other forms of anemia if symptoms and blood work indicate a possibility
  • Test for digestive disorders
  • Test for vitamin and nutritional deficiencies and supplement as needed
  • Test for food allergies (the inflammation caused by food allergies can impair iron absorption)
  • Check for bleeding in the digestive tract and digestive disorders
  • Check for bleeding in the respiratory system
  • Test thyroid levels (with a complete thyroid panel including TSH, Free T3, Free T4, TPO and Reverse T3 at a minimum)
  • Test hormone levels and have a gynecological exam if extremely heavy menstruation is suspected as the cause
  • Test for pregnancy (if appropriate)

Reversing the Deficiency

Many factors may contribute to Iron-Deficiency Anemia, so work with your doctor to determine what approach should be taken to reverse the deficiency. The most common approaches used to reverse the deficiency include:

  • Identify and Address the Cause:  Although it is imperative to get iron levels up using supplements or other approaches, it is also essential to identify why the iron deficiency exists and address the cause. If the cause can be identified and eliminated or greatly alleviated, the body can more easily restore iron levels to normal levels. If testing reveals a more severe form of anemia exists, additional steps will be needed. I will share more about the other forms of anemia in future posts.
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  • Increase Iron Consumption:  Increasing the amount of iron eaten on a daily basis can be helpful, but may not be sufficient in cases of absorption and digestion challenges. Please be aware that the iron contained in plants is called “non-heme” iron. It is not as easily absorbed as the heme iron in animal products. The body must convert non-heme iron into heme iron before it can absorb it. The best way to assist the body in making converting non-heme iron into heme iron is to eat fruits or veggies high in Vitamin C with foods containing non-heme iron. (Eating foods high in Vitamin C will assist with the absorption of iron in animal products, too, but is especially important for vegetable sources of iron.) This is one reason why spinach salads often contain oranges. The food that is highest in iron content is liver. Other foods high in iron include red meat, chicken and turkey, quinoa, organ meats, raisins, dark leafy greens, egg yolks, prunes, molasses, beans and lentils, salmon, nuts and seeds, dark chocolate (at least 80%), broccoli and others. I am not a fan of “iron fortified” milk and cereals because the iron those foods contain is in a form that is very difficult to absorb.
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  • Use Iron Supplementation:  Iron pills or supplements should never be taken if testing has not proven you are deficient in iron. Excess iron in the bloodstream can have negative affects which are as bad or worse as an iron deficiency. Please also be aware the forms of iron most commonly sold in drug stores are difficult to absorb and often cause constipation. Ferrous sulfate is the most commonly sold form of iron, but is very poorly absorbed and often causes constipation. It is not a form I recommend. My preferred forms of supplemental iron include iron citrate, iron gluconate, iron bisglycinate and/or chelated iron. Iron is best absorbed when it is taken on an empty stomach. My favorite iron supplements are Hematinic Formula and Vitamin Code Raw Iron.
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  • Severe cases of Iron-Deficiency Anemia may require blood transfusions or intravenous iron. Those approaches are usually not needed unless other health issues are present.

In conclusion, I’d like to say that Iron-Deficiency Anemia can usually be quickly addressed and reversed. More difficult cases may require further testing and additional therapies, but quality of life can usually be restored fairly quickly.

Red Blood Cell Photograph courtesy of Wellcome Images
Anemia Blood Cell Photograph Courtesy of Alpha Images

 

 

Modern Epidemic: Metabolic Syndrome

“Metabolic Syndrome” refers to a group of symptoms that are increasing at an alarming rate in the U.S. and other developed countries. Metabolic Syndrome is often referred to as an “epidemic” because the number of people affected by it is increasing so rapidly. Why does this matter? Because Metabolic Syndrome is a set of conditions created by lifestyle and dietary habits. Metabolic Syndrome is Metabolic Syndrome: Apple with Stethoscope and Measuring Tapeknown to increase the risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hormonal imbalances, depression, stroke and more.

Although experts disagree on the specific causes of Metabolic Syndrome, they all agree that obesity, a high carbohydrate diet, and a diet low in fruits and vegetables are contributing factors. Other factors which may increase your risk include heredity, hormonal imbalances, lack of exercise, smoking and possibly toxic exposure from food, air and water.

The problem with Metabolic Syndrome is that no single definition of what it is and no specified set of diagnostic criteria have been defined. Many practitioners in the mainstream medical community do not believe Metabolic Syndrome exists and do not believe early identification can help improve health outcomes. There is also controversy about whether the symptoms of Metabolic Syndrome truly represent a “syndrome” or are merely a group of related symptoms which each has its own risk factors. The concern is that we have created a “disease” which truly doesn’t exist.

The bottom line is that whether you group the symptoms together and label them or not, they each represent a very real risk to health and longevity. In my practice, I work with many people who have multiple symptoms associated with Metabolic Syndrome. Addressing the issues quickly restores health. It also often results in improved self esteem and a restored positive outlook. I find that people who address Metabolic Syndrome typically experience better overall health on a long term basis.

Symptoms of Metabolic Syndrome

The most common symptoms of Metabolic Syndrome include:

  • Weight gain in the stomach and abdomen, often in spite of exercise and decreased food intake
  • Fatigue
  • Increased triglycerides and cholesterol
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Headaches
  • Fasting blood glucose levels greater than 100 mg/dL
  • Acne
  • Higher than normal blood levels of insulin (Please see The Top 3 Blood Tests Everyone Should Request for more info)
  • Mild to moderate kidney damage resulting in excess protein in the urine
  • Increased systemic inflammation which may cause joint pain, water retention and other symptoms
  • Increased liver enzymes due to insufficient detoxification and/or a condition called “fatty liver”
  • Excess growth of Candida (yeast) in the body
  • Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) in women
  • Low Testosterone in men
  • Abnormal development in children
  • Mental and psychological issues, ranging from mild to extreme

If you have three or more of those symptoms, please schedule an appointment with your practitioner. Ask him or her to order blood work including a complete metabolic panel, complete blood count, insulin level, A1C and complete thyroid panel. (If your doctor is unsure how to interpret these tests related to Metabolic Syndrome risk factors, please feel free to contact me to schedule a half-hour blood work interpretation consultation.)

Reversing Metabolic Syndrome

The good news is that Metabolic Syndrome can often be reversed using simple lifestyle changes. Supplements may also be used in some cases. The purpose of the recommended changes is to improve insulin sensitivity and restore balance to the endocrine system. Potential changes may include:

  • Improving an exercise regimen and combining it with weight training
  • Decreasing the type and quantity of carbohydrates eaten on a daily basis
  • Increasing the amount of healthy fat consumed on a daily basis
  • Identifying and addressing mineral deficiencies
  • Improving digestion to ensure foods are adequately digested and absorbed
  • Other recommendations based on the person’s specific health needs

Reversing Metabolic Syndrome is very possible, but requires the direction of a qualified practitioner. If you suspect you have Metabolic Syndrome and would like to start the process of reversing it, please contact me to schedule a consultation. 

Photo courtesy of Keith Ramsey

Difference Between Lactose Intolerance and Dairy Allergy

Milk drop

Few topics inspire as much confusion as the difference between lactose intolerance and dairy allergy. The two issues can both cause digestive distress, but each has a very different cause.

Lactose Intolerance

Lactose intolerance occurs when the body lacks sufficient lactase, the enzyme required to digest the sugars in dairy. The enzyme is lactase, dairy sugar is lactose. The symptoms of lactose intolerance can be as mild as a bit of gas or bloating, or may be extreme enough to cause vomiting and diarrhea. Each person will lactose intolerance will respond very differently. The symptoms result because the enzyme lactase is needed to break milk sugar (lactose) down into simpler sugars which can be absorbed and metabolized. If the lactose is not broken down, the body cannot absorb it and will experience digestive distress. Some people with lactose intolerance may also experience fatigue due to the strain caused when dairy is ingested. The amount of dairy required to cause a reaction in someone who is lactose intolerant varies from person to person. Some people must consume large amounts of dairy, while others can safely consume small amounts before experiencing symptoms.

Lactose intolerance may occur in infancy, but more commonly develops later in life. Lactose intolerance can be inherited and may run in families. It can also develop as a secondary challenge resulting from digestive disorders that damage the colon, such as Crohn’s, Celiac Disease, etc. Lactose intolerance can be diagnosed through a Hydrogen Breath Test in adults or via a Stool Acidity Test in children.

Most people can counteract the effects of lactose intolerance by limiting dairy consumption or by taking a digestive enzyme containing high amounts of lactase when they eat dairy. My favorites include: 

Lacto by Enzymedica (My favorite enzyme company)

Dairy Digest Complete by NOW Foods

Dairy (Casein or Whey) Allergy

Dairy allergies are an autoimmune reaction to one or more proteins found in dairy. Casein is the most common dairy protein that causes a dairy allergy. (A dairy allergy may also be the result of an autoimmune reaction to other chemicals in dairy, but casein and whey are the most common.) Reactions to a dairy allergy may be very mild or may be life-threatening, and can affect every body system. There are over 200 symptoms that may be caused by a dairy allergy. The symptoms may include severe or mild digestive distress, skin reactions, respiratory distress, cognitive and emotional issues, and many more.

The reactions occur when the body comes to regard chemicals in milk as “foreign invaders” that must be attacked and neutralized. To neutralize the invader, the body releases antibodies. These antibodies get carried throughout the body via the bloodstream and can therefore cause reactions in any part of the body. Dairy allergies are typically the result of one or more autoimmune genes getting turned “on.”

Dairy allergies can occur at any stage of life. Babies are sometimes born with a dairy allergy. Other people develop  a dairy allergy much later in life. Dairy allergies often appear to develop very suddenly. Causes of dairy allergies have been linked to Candida overgrowth (click link to learn more), feeds containing genetically modified produce fed to dairy cows, genetics, environmental toxins, and many unknown causes. Sadly, the incidence of dairy allergies is rising at a rate that is much higher than population growth.  

Dairy allergies require the affected person to completely avoid all foods containing dairy. This can be difficult because many processed foods contain ingredients that can set off a reaction but whose ingredient list does not contain words associated with dairy. Some people can reverse their dairy allergy by strictly avoiding dairy for six to twelve months, but others cannot. Some children outgrow a dairy allergy, while others do not. Because most allergies result when a gene is turned “on,” it can be very difficult to reverse milk allergies. Reducing or reversing a dairy allergy must include steps to also heal the digestive tract. Extreme measures are typically required to reverse the allergy, but it is possible for some people to eventually eat small amounts of dairy very occasionally without a negative reaction.

I personally had a dairy allergy so severe that I vomited multiple times per day and was extremely ill for many months. Before recognizing my allergy, I lost over 30 pounds, was extremely weak, had hair loss, was extremely grumpy and irritable, had severe acne, and had explosive diarrhea that made leaving the house difficult. To put it mildly, I was miserable. My dairy allergy was identified by a test called the ELISA Allergy Test. This is the test I recommend to my clients who have symptoms indicating a food allergy. (I’m now able to very occasionally eat small amounts of dairy without visible symptoms, although I know my digestive system remains healthiest if I refrain.)

Food allergies can be identified through blood tests, elimination diets, or muscle response testing. I do not recommend using “skin prick” testing for food allergies, as that form of testing is very inaccurate and often incorrect. Blood testing is also often inaccurate unless dairy is consumed within 72 hours of the blood draw, but there are tests which can identify the presence of dairy antibodies without recent dairy consumption.

One of the most popular ways of reversing dairy allergies is by following a diet called the GAPS diet. “GAPS” stands for “Gut and Psychology Syndrome or “Gut and Physiology Syndrome.” Click the link the view copies of the book that describes the protocol to be followed.

If you have digestive issues, constant congestion or cough, chronic fatigue, eczema or other symptoms you have been unable to remedy, you may have a food allergy or sensitivity. I have helped many people with food allergies and would love to help. Please contact me via email or by calling 317.489.0909 to schedule a consultation.

Have you dealt with lactose intolerance or dairy allergy? How did you figure it out? What tips can you share about coping on a daily basis?

http://www.flickr.com/photos/toru_okada/

Ten Ways to Eliminate Holiday Stress

The holidays should be a time of joy. Unfortunately, many people get so caught up in holiday “shoulds and musts” that their season becomes a time of stress instead of a time of joy. Following are my recommended top ten ways to reduce holiday stress so you can enjoy your celebration.

  1. Let go of unrealistic expectations: Unrealistic expectations are the primary cause of disappointment and sadness during the holidays. Although it may be difficult, take time to consider which of your expectations are unrealistic and to accept the truth. Making the best of reality is a quick way to de-stress. Acceptance leads to joy!
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  2. Recognize that you are the source of your stress: It is tough to admit, but the stress you feel is genuinely all in your head. When you feel holiday stress, stop and ask yourself WHY you are stressed. If you can change the situation, do. If not, accept it, make the best of it, and stop stressing! (Refer back to point one if needed.)
    Two women experiencing holiday stress. 
  3. Get creative: Sometimes a little creativity is all it takes to eliminate holiday stress. Think outside of the box and come up with simpler ways of doing things. (Hint: It’s fine to have dinner catered or to buy the sides. I swear no one cares you bought the cheese ball instead of making it yourself. It’s fine to change the family meal to a pitch-in or go to a restaurant. Giving an occasional gift card is also acceptable. I promise.)
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  4. Keep a sense of humor and realize none of the fluff matters: When all’s said and done, none of the holiday fluff really matters. If things don’t go the way you planned, be flexible, laugh it off, and move on.
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  5. Just say NO: Most holiday stress is caused by overcommitment. Existing in a constant state of exhaustion is no fun and leads to illness. Instead of saying “yes” to every invitation, prioritize your commitments and say no to those which do not bring joy or which are too difficult to fit into your busy schedule.
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  6. Schedule time to do nothing: Take a day during the holiday season and dedicate it to doing absolutely nothing. Commit to spending the day with your family doing peaceful, stress-free activities. You owe it to yourself to take a day to recharge and refresh! If it’s impossible to commit an entire day to doing nothing, schedule a few hours each week and firmly devote them to being good to yourself.
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  7. Discuss changing traditions with your family: As families grow and mature, their needs and dynamics change. Take time each year to evaluate traditions and to openly discuss how traditions can be modified to better meet everyone’s needs. Things to discuss include drawing names instead of buying for each individual, meeting on a date other than Christmas day, making a communal donation to a charity instead of exchanging gifts, volunteering at a shelter instead of having a family meal, etc.. Consider meeting in January to completely eliminate holiday stress. If some family members are not willing to change, try to find a compromise that is not offensive to those who take comfort in tradition.
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  8. Use technology: Take advantage of time savers offered by technology. A few options include shopping online, sending an email card or newsletter, or getting together via a Google+ Hangout. The Hangout feature lets you connect “in person” with people all over the world.
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  9. Look outside of yourself: Proverbs 11:25 says it best: “The one who blesses others is abundantly blessed; those who help others are helped.” Take the focus off of receiving and concentrate on giving. Giving your time and compassion has far more value than any material gift. Teaching your children to bless others and to appreciate the joy of giving is a gift that will multiply through the years.
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  10. Ditch the materialism: Gifts and food have no lasting value. Concentrate on the spiritual side of the holidays. In my family, we take special effort to focus on the fact we are celebrating the birth of Jesus. We blend all the other activities into this focus to give them higher meaning. Your celebration does not have to contain a religious focus in order to more enriching. Focus on gratitude, family and blessing others instead of gifts and food.

How do you avoid holiday stress? Please share a comment and let us know! Your ideas will help others de-stress and have more fun.

Twenty Surprising Facts About Vitamin D

Vitamin DThe following facts about Vitamin D may surprise you:

  • Vitamin D is a hormone, not a vitamin. (This post refers to it as a “vitamin” because that is the common terminology used.)
  • Vitamin D is a powerful anti-inflammatory
  • 90-95% of Vitamin D is produced by the skin through sun exposure
  • The natural form of Vitamin D the skin produces is Vitamin D3 
  • The Vitamin D that is added to milk and other products is Vitamin D2, which is not well absorbed
  • Vitamin D is fat-soluble, meaning the body stores it 
  • Experts estimate that 1 billion people worldwide are deficient in Vitamin D
  • Vitamin D regulates more than 200 genes in the body
  • Grass fed beef contains Vitamin D3; mainstream beef does not
  • Vitamin D is a powerful immune booster
  • Studies proved 2000 IU/day is more effective than flu shots at preventing the flu
  • Vitamin D is known to protect against Rheumatoid Arthritis, Psoriasis, Multiple Sclerosis, and over 800 different cancers
  • It is very difficult to get adequate D3 through the diet
  • Ten to thirty minutes of unprotected sun exposure is the best way to boost levels
  • Pregnant women need twice as much Vitamin D as other people
  • Dark-skinned people typically do not produce Vitamin D well and are often deficient
  • The best test to check Vitamin D levels is the 25-hydroxy-vitamin D test
  • The 1,25-dihydroxy-vitamin D blood test is very inaccurate and may return false levels if D levels are low
  • The ideal range of D in the blood is 50-75 nmol/L. Higher and lower amounts may cause or worsen health challenges.
  • Deficiencies in Vitamin D have been connected to depression, inflammatory conditions, cancer, fatigue, digestive disorders, metabolic disorders, weight gain, headaches, bladder disorders, and much more

Do you take Vitamin D? I generally recommend starting with 2000-5000 IU of Vitamin D3 per day. Check your blood levels every three months, adjusting the dose as needed. The goal level of Vitamin D should be 50-75 nmol/L.

If you do not have a doctor, you can order a home test kit at: Vitamin D Home Test Kit

My passion is helping people improve their health by identifying and correcting nutritional deficiencies and other causes of illness. I have helped thousands of people improve their health, reverse symptoms and reduce their need for medication. If you are ready to improve your health, please contact me to schedule a consultation.

What People with Chronic Illness Wish You Knew

Heart

Most of us know someone with a chronic illness, but many people do not know how to support someone who has one. Assumptions and misconceptions about chronic conditions can create communication patterns that weaken relationships. Supporting your friend or family member will require strong communication along every step of the journey.

It is important to note that not all chronic conditions make someone look “sick.” Your friend or family member may look perfectly healthy. He or she may not feel bad every day, or may have physical and emotional issues that are not consistent. The fact the person does not look “sick” does not mean the condition does not exist. The fact you can’t see the condition or its effects does not mean it is imaginary. 

Here are my tips for supporting a friend or family member who has a chronic illness: 

Ask how you can best support your friend of family member

The simplest way to find out what sort of support your friend or family member needs is to ask, “How can I best support you today?” Note that the support he or she needs can vary from day to day, so stay on track by asking more than once a month. There may be days when your friend does not want to discuss the issue or acknowledge it exists. Respect that. Depending on the chronic condition being dealt with, your friend or family member may simply need encouragement and emotional support, or may need assistance with physical tasks. Find out specific ways you can provide support.

Note that some people with chronic illness want you to treat them as if they do not have a chronic illness. The best way to support and encourage your friend or family member may be to treat him or her the same way you treat everyone else. 

Learn about the chronic condition

Take time to learn about the condition your friend or family member is battling. Do some preliminary research, but discuss what you learned with the person you are trying to support. The information you found online may not paint a clear picture of the specific condition your friend is working to control and alleviate. Ask him or her to explain the condition to you. You may want to ask about how the condition affects him or her, how it impacts daily life, what the treatment options are, what testing was used to make the diagnosis, etc. 

Drop the pity

Your friend or family member needs your support, NOT your pity. Trust me that your friend or family member has grown to hate the pitying looks that come when someone learns of the health condition. Pity is offered in kindness, but it is not an empowering emotion. Pity dismisses the abilities and strengths of the person receiving it. Your friend or family member is still capable of providing value. Do not diminish that potential by offering pity instead of support.

Don’t make assumptions

Never assume anything. Most importantly, do not make assumptions about how the person feels emotionally. Do not assume you “know how the person feels.” You do not. Even if you have the same condition, you do not know how your friend or family member feels. Please never assume you do. It is also important to not assume your friend is not physically capable of performing tasks or attending social events. Always invite your friend to events and get-togethers. Never assume he or she won’t feel well enough to attend.

Gently intervene when necessary

Depression is a potential side effect of any chronic condition. If you believe your friend or family member is sinking into a depression, please encourage him or her to contact a health professional and to seek assistance.

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Do you have a chronic condition? Please share how you want your friends and family members to support you. Let’s help them help you! Please also feel free to share funny stories of support gone wrong. (I know you have them.)

I was able to write this post based on what I learned while dealing with chronic illnesses. I am blessed to say i was able to reverse most them, including Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, multiple auto-immune conditions and more. Please contact me at 317.489.0909 if you would like to start the process of conquering your own health challenges. Please visit my Classes page and my Free Downloads page to start equipping yourself.

 

Image courtesy of Q. Thomas Bower

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!

Confessions from Thyroid Hell

I guarantee you have been touched by Thyroid Hell at least once during your lifetime. If you do not personally have thyroid disease, you have definitely come in contact with someone who does. That encounter may have been quite pleasant, or may have been a nightmare. Either way, the quality of the encounter can be directly attributed to how well that person’s thyroid levels were balanced on that particular day. (Thyroid levels can fluctuate on a daily basis, which makes managing thyroid conditions that much more difficult.)

I thought I’d share an insider’s look at Thyroid Hell, mainly because I’ve spent a lot of time there. I invite those of you with thyroid imbalances to share your stories in the comments. Feel free to have fun with it and please don’t worry about offending us. Thyroid disease is no laughing matter, but the situations it creates are sometimes hilarious.

In the upcoming weeks, I will share more detailed information about thyroid disorders. I will also launch a wellness coaching program for thyroid patients that will provide detailed information about lifestyle changes, dietary changes and supplements that can be used to support the thyroid gland. This program will also contain very specific information on how to discuss thyroid issues with your doctor and on the tests you need to request. I do not want one more thyroid patient to needlessly suffer, and I recognize that education is the only way to prevent that.

The Thyroid Gland is a tiny gland that wraps around the esophagus. It sits just below the “Adam’s Apple.” In spite of its size, the thyroid gland is incredibly powerful. It secretes hormones that directly affect every body system. Every single one. An imbalance in thyroid hormone levels can affect brain chemistry, emotions, digestion, reproductive health, fluid balance in the tissues, kidney function, heart function, liver function, hair and nail growth, sexual function, emotional balance, energy levels, sleep patterns, weight, dexterity, muscle strength and stamina, cholesterol levels, anxiety, vision, internal temperature regulation, and more. As you can see, thyroid dysfunction affects body, mind and spirit in profound ways. Unfortunately, many MDs prescribe antidepressant meds to treat the symptoms instead of doing detailed blood work to find the cause of the problems.

The one item that is also affected but which was not included in the list is: RELATIONSHIPS. It is very difficult for thyroid patients to explain to family members and friends that they truly aren’t themselves. I frequently hear people with thyroid disorders express: “I hate myself and don’t know who this monster is living in my body, so I don’t know how any of my coworkers, family members or friends could stand me.” I’ve been that monster. Even though I was able to usually control my outbursts, the constant turmoil spinning through my brain and thought patterns was pure hell. Many people who are very positive, calm and chipper become Mr. Hyde when their thyroid levels become imbalanced. Those of us who have dealt with thyroid issues for many years instantly know it’s time to get blood work and check levels when the monster starts to rear her ugly head.

Unfortunately, people who have never before received a thyroid diagnosis often genuinely think they’re going crazy. It is extremely common for patients who are hospitalized due to suicide attempts to be diagnosed with a thyroid disorder. It is not uncommon for lab tests to reveal that people who successfully committed suicide had thyroid imbalances. I am very thankful that a growing number of MDs are choosing to specialize in both endocrinology and psychiatry. I personally believe the two cannot be completely separated.

In my own experience, I can say that I could easily deal with the physical afflictions of thyroid imbalance if the emotional effects were not so profound. I’ve heard other thyroid patients echo similar sentiments. Once you realize your thyroid levels are out of balance, you begin the process of changing medication dosages until the correct dosage is found. This can sometimes create a rollercoaster effect where the patient goes from being hypothyroid (having thyroid levels that are too low) to being hyperthyroid (having thyroid levels that are too high.) Unfortunately, there is a lot of overlap between the symptoms for hypo- and hyperthyroidism, which makes the entire process that much more fun.

For those of you who have friends, coworkers or family members with thyroid challenges, here’s a list of the emotional and behavioral changes you might observe when their thyroid levels become imbalanced:

  • Having extreme anxiety where none existed before
  • Reacting irrationally to minor issues
  • Responding to almost everything with anger
  • Displaying extreme levels of irritability (as in being annoyed by your breathing)
  • Overtweeting or excessive use of social media (I’m not making that up)
  • Suddenly having a total lack of self confidence and a complete disbelief their efforts will succeed
  • Becoming completely apathetic about projects or topics for which they have a passion
  • Dressing very differently because their clothes do not fit, their body image plummets, or they just don’t care
  • Suddenly becoming out-and-out mean, caustically sarcastic, hypercritical, etc.
  • Becoming very negative
  • Suddenly becoming a hermit who has no desire to leave the house or interact with others
  • A total slob may suddenly become obsessively tidy, or a neat freak may suddenly become a slob

That list could continue with many more points, but the bottom line is that thyroid imbalance changes people’s personalities, not just their physiology. The good news is that there are a wide variety of natural approaches that can support thyroid health. These approaches, used in combination with natural thyroid replacement hormones, can eliminate the hell and restore normalcy.

So what can you do to help a thyroid patient who’s in flux? Love them, obviously. In the midst of that, ask questions to ensure they are working with a professional to stabilize their hormone levels. I cannot stress this enough: Most thyroid patients are already experiencing a bit of self hate. Try not to be negative and judgmental about the changes in their life habits. They may need your assistance in maintaining the status quo, and they may need you to very gently hold them accountable, but they do not need your judgment. Threatening them with ending the relationship will not motivate them at all. Their hormonal imbalance is already affecting their self image, so losing a relationship may not matter to them (or they may expect it) when their levels are out of balance. I know that sounds extreme, but I hear it and see it on a daily basis.

The best advice I can offer is to ask the thyroid patient in your life how you can help them. Be specific. Ask if you can help with chores, if they need you to take them out to have fun, and let them know you love them and are there for them if they need to talk or need a soft shoulder to pound on. Your support will do more for them than anything else.

Ok … your turn. Have you experienced this? What else can we add to the list? I welcome in put from thyroid patients and from people who love them and who are on the receiving end of the angst.

Why You Need More Magnesium

Experts estimate that 80% of the US population is deficient in Magnesium, a very basic mineral that is essential for good magnesiumhealth and which is used by every system in the body.

A lack of Magnesium in the body may cause any of the following: 

  • muscle cramps
  • heart palpitations
  • headaches and migraines
  • fatigue
  • constipation
  • muscle weakness
  • digestive disorders
  • impaired pituitary and thyroid function
  • PMS
  • kidney problems
  • insulin resistance and/or hypoglycemia
  • insomnia
  • depression
  • vertigo
  • problems swallowing
  • muscle aches
  • tremors and shaking
  • anxiety or over-excitability
  • muscle twitching and tics
  • Restless Leg Syndrome
  • osteopenia and osteoporosis
  • kidney stones and heel spurs
  • coronary spasms
  • atrial fibrillation
  • dizziness
  • memory problems
  • numbness in extremities
  • worsening of asthma symptoms
  • water retention
  • high blood pressure
  • loss of appetite or nausea
  • and many more 

The problem with these symptoms is that many are very vague and most could be caused by a wide variety of other issues. Unfortunately, it is extremely rare for a medical professional to consider a magnesium deficiency and act accordingly when faced with symptoms that indicate one. Additionally, plasma levels of magnesium measured during blood tests are very inaccurate because only 1% of magnesium in the body is stored in the blood. The majority of magnesium in the body is stored in the tissues, making blood tests almost worthless. We live in a society where mainstream physicians are taught to place more weight on blood test results than on symptoms, which makes it even less likely that a person exhibiting multiple symptoms of magnesium deficiency will be given magnesium. (There is a blood test that is more accurate, the ionized magnesium test, but it is not widely available.)

As the huge list of symptoms indicates, magnesium is necessary for the proper functioning of every body system. A deficiency can have devastating consequences. Magnesium is the most prolific mineral in the body and is responsible for almost 400 different biochemical reactions in the body. A short list of the body functions magnesium directly influences include:

  • Allows the body to absorb calcium and to place it where it belongs 
  • Essential for the production of energy
  • Essential for the metabolism of carbohydrates and fats
  • Relaxes muscles so they remain flexible
  • Essential for the activation of B vitamins
  • Helps build bone and keep it flexible enough to not shatter
  • Helps maintain a normal electrical flow of nerve impulses in the heart
  • Essential for hormone balance (especially during PMS and menopause)
  • Essential for initiation over 300 different enzyme reactions essential for health
  • Essential for proper digestion
  • Essential for the production of key brain chemicals
  • Essential for normal kidney and liver function

Obviously, you need magnesium. If you eat a standard diet, drink alcohol, or drink coffee, you are probably magnesium deficient. Many people are magnesium deficient because of digestive disorders and malabsorption. (Please read Top Six Ways to Maximize Digestion for tips on improving digestion.) 

It is possible to maintain adequate magnesium levels by eating high levels of dark leafy greens, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds on a daily basis. If you’re eating well and don’t have absorption problems, you’re probably not deficient. If you don’t eat well, drink alcohol or can’t get by without your daily cup of java, you need to be getting supplemental magnesium other ways. (Coffee and alcohol sap the body of magnesium very quickly. It is not unusual for alcoholics to have anxiety and sleep disorders as a result of their magnesium deficiency.)

Drinking a daily Green Drink is a wonderful way to get sufficient magnesium and other essential nutrients. If you don’t care for the taste of green drinks (which taste like grass, to be blunt), try Green Vibrance Capsules by Vibrant Health. It is one of my favorites and is one I use frequently.

If you prefer to increase your magnesium using supplements, do NOT take Magnesium Oxide. It is a form of oxide that your body cannot absorb. It is worthless. Read labels and make sure whichever supplement you purchase does not contain magnesium oxide. Most people do best taking 200-800 mg of magnesium on a daily basis. I recommend starting with 200/day and very gradually working up (not exceeding 1200 mg) until your symptoms disappear. Having loose stools is a good indicator that you’re taking too much. If you develop diarrhea, take less magnesium.

I recommend doing or using the following to increase magnesium levels, in conjunction with a healthy diet:

  • Take a very warm bath three times weekly with 2-3 cups of Epsom salts in the bath. Your skin will absorb the magnesium, eliminating the need for it to be absorbed through the digestive system.
  • Use Magnesium Oil:  Magnesium oil is not an oil, but has an oily feeling due to the high concentration of magnesium in the liquid. Note that it is necessary to use high doses of magnesium oil in order to receive a high amount of magnesium. Most oils need to be used in doses of eight sprays, three times daily.
  • Take Magnesium Glycinate:  Magnesium Glycinate is one of the more easily absorbed forms of magnesium. The magnesium molecule is bonded with glycine, which is an amino acid. The human digestive tract is maximized to absorb amino acids, and glycine is known to improve digestion, so the combination of the magnesium and the glycine greatly increases the absorption levels. The amount of glycine absorbed is minimal, so please do not use magnesium glycinate instead of a glycine supplement if you need supplemental glycine.

My passion is helping people improve their health by identifying and correcting nutritional deficiencies and other causes of illness. I have helped thousands of people improve their health, reverse symptoms and reduce their need for medication. If you are ready to improve your health using a holistic approach, please contact me to schedule a consultation.

As always, none of these statements were evaluated by the FDA and none were intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any health condition. Check with your medical practitioner before starting or stopping any supplement or medication.

References:

Yu ASL. Disorders of magnesium and phosphorus. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 120.

Rakel D, ed. Integrative Medicine. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007.

How to be Your Own Thyroid Advocate

I recently realized my dosage of thyroid medication was too high. This was great news, as it means my thyroid gland is coming back to life and doing what it’s supposed to. Although I considered this good news, it took a while to convince my practitioner it was possible for me to recognize a wrong dosage and that blood tests are not the only way to truly tell if a dosage is wrong. 

I will spare you the details and will simply share it took two weeks before my practitioner agreed to change my dose, even though I knew within two days that the dose was wrong. My symptoms were severe enough to negatively impact my ability to function normally. I could not wait two weeks to return to normal, so I changed my dosage on my own without her approval. (Please don’t do that. Always discuss dosage changes with your physician and never make changes without his or her direction and approval.)

Sign indicating thyroid frustration

Every thyroid patient I’ve ever met or interviewed says they know within two days whether a new dosage will work or not. Unfortunately, many doctors and mainstream practitioners don’t believe this and insist on waiting SIX WEEKS before performing blood work and agreeing to change a dose. If your thyroid gland stopped producing adequate levels of hormones, you would know something was terribly wrong within a few days. The same is true for medication dosage changes. Making a thyroid patient suffer for six weeks … or even ten days … is simply not acceptable and indicates a lack of understanding of the severity of thyroid conditions. It also indicates a lack of understanding of how sensitive patients are to what is occurring in their own body. There are multiple Facebook groups and international thyroid support groups that repeat this over and over again. Thyroid patients are tired of having practitioners ignore their symptoms. The fact these groups have hundreds of thousands of members from all over the world is valid proof there is a problem and lack of understanding related to adequately and effectively treating thyroid disease.

Being hypothyroid – or having insufficient levels of thyroid hormones – is a form of hell on earth that no one can understand unless they’ve experienced it. This is why many mainstream practitioners just don’t get it. They think thyroid patients should happily endure incredibly rapid and consistent weight gain unrelated to food consumption, edema that causes “cankles” and makes it impossible to see the bones in one’s feet, bald spots, depression, fatigue, itchy skin, severe aches that resemble arthritis, loss of balance with vertigo, weak muscles, muscle cramps, constipation, irritability, memory loss, slurred speech, feeling cold all the time (even in 100+ degree heat), and more. I’m here to say: NO MORE. (What I would actually say can’t be posted in a family-friendly article such as this one.)

It is estimated that 10-20% of US citizens have a thyroid disorder that requires intervention. Unfortunately, many of these thyroid conditions get ignored due to improper testing and doctors who don’t recognize the common symptoms. There is also a tendency for practitioners to dismiss symptoms, saying things such as, “You work full time and have four kids. Of course you’re tired!” Many doctors assume that complaints of fatigue, weight gain and more are simply “whining” and are not genuine symptoms or are indicators of psychological issues. There is also an assumption that weight gain is related to laziness and that patients who insist they are doing everything right are lying. That attitude, my friend, brings me closer to cussing than anything shared previously.

So what can you do? Be the squeaky wheel. If you know you have something physically wrong or that your thyroid medication dosage is wrong, INSIST your doctor change the dosage. Do your research and share your symptoms, stating the symptoms you are experiencing are obvious indicators the dose is wrong and that waiting several weeks to perform blood work will cause further damage. Be blunt and be insistent. If this doesn’t work, go ahead and get the blood work run early. Although docs insist blood work requires six weeks to show true results, your blood levels of thyroid hormones will show enough change after two weeks to show an imbalance and a need for a medication change.

Let’s review … to truly check how your thyroid is functioning, you must have the following tests run every time:

  • Free T3: A measure of the active T3 thyroid hormone.
    .
  • Free T4: A measure of the less active T4 thyroid hormone. The body should convert T4 to T3 but often does not.
    .
  • Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH): A measure of a pituitary hormone the body uses to stimulate the thyroid gland. Many doctors ONLY order this hormone, which is a grave error. Only measuring TSH – a hormone produced by a different gland entirely – is similar to checking the the temperature of your radiator fluid in order to gauge whether you need more oil or not. It is indirect and very inaccurate. Measuring the true thyroid hormones (Free T3 and Free T4 at a minimum) is the only way to tell where your levels are for sure. TSH levels may also fluctuate greatly in thyroid conditions caused by an autoimmune condition, so their use is highly unreliable.
    .
  • Reverse T3: Reverse T3 is a hormone that counteracts the T3 your body is producing. It is important to test this because your TSH, T3 and T4 could potentially be “normal,” but overproduction of Reverse T3 could cause you to be extremely symptomatic because your body is “killing” the T3 that’s produced. Excess insulin and insulin resistance often cause excess RT3, so it is important to test this hormone each time thyroid hormone levels are checked.
    .
  • Thyroid Peroxidase (TPO): TPO measures the amount of anti-thyroid antibodies in your blood stream and is used to identify an auto-immune thyroid issue. TPO typically should be measured multiple times, because levels vary and it may take several tests before levels are high enough to be identified in a blood test. (Remember that a blood test is a very tiny “snapshot in time” and that the results shown in that instance may not always be 100% accurate for some measures.)
    .
  • Thyroglobulin Antibodies (TgAb): This is another measure of autoimmune antibodies that is typically only used when hyperthyroidism exists.

When a dosage is changed, it is imperative to have new blood work run (TSH, Free T3 and Free T4 at a minimum) within 3-6 weeks to ensure the new dosage is correct. It breaks my heart when people tell me their provider changed their dosage of thyroid medication and told them to come back in six MONTHS for blood tests. Severe physical harm can occur in six months of hypo- or hyperthyroidism. Waiting that long is not acceptable.

Did you notice your thyroid gland makes two hormones? (It makes more, but T3 and T4 are two of the most important ones and affect health the most.) Be aware that commonly prescribed medications such as Synthroid and its many derivatives only contain T4. Your liver should convert the less active T4 into the active T3, but many people’s bodies just don’t do that. This means many people suffer needlessly while taking Synthroid because their bodies desperately need more T3. There is a mainstream prescription, Cytomel, that contains T3. Many people find their hypothyroid symptoms disappear once they add T3 to their regimen. Natural thyroid medications such as Armour and Naturthroid contain both T3 and T4 and work far better for most people. For me personally, switching to a combination of T3 and T4 was a true life-changer. My symptoms began to disappear within a few days and I could actually begin living again.

To receive the best care possible, you must be your own advocate and seek the best care you can. Have you done that? If not, please do!

If you are a thyroid patient who can’t make sense of your blood test results, please contact me. I would love to help you interpret the results and will help guide you to discuss the results with your practitioner. Please feel free to call me at 317.489.0909 to schedule a 15-30 minute test results review consultation.

Please join my newsletter for more in-depth information on natural approaches to wellness: http://ow.ly/bQ62Q

Natural Lifestyle Approaches for Relieving Pain

One of the most common problems I hear is “I ache from head to toe,” or “I have constant pain.” This is heartbreaking because chronic pain affects quality of life, may cause impaired sleep and is one of the leading causes of depression. If you have chronic pain, please work with a medical professional to determine and address the cause of your pain instead of merely treating the symptoms. In this post, I will discuss lifestyle changes and therapies that are proven to reduce and eliminate pain. I’ll discuss my favorite supplements for pain in my next post. 

I’ve mentioned much of what I discuss in this post in other posts. Instead of mentioning the title of every post that is pertinent to this post, I’ve merely provided a link including certain words. Click the link to view the post.

Most pain is caused by inflammation, so the most common natural and pharmaceutical pain relievers focus on reducing or preventing inflammation while others work to prevent the production of chemicals in the body that cause inflammation. The most important phase of eliminating pain is to IDENTIFY THE CAUSE. This is a step that many mainstream practitioners kind of skip, opting instead to prescribe pain relievers that mask the symptom but don’t address the cause of the pain.

Lifestyle Techniques for Reducing Pain 

The following lifestyle habits and techniques can be used to reduce pain:

  • The Old Stand-Bys: We all know we should get enough sleep, drink plenty of water and eat healthy food, but each of these lifestyle habits can have a profound effect on pain. I recommend getting at least seven hours of sleep each night, although many people with chronic pain feel better if they get eight to ten hours. I also advise drinking at least half your body weight in ounces of purified water on a daily basis. Dehydration will increase pain, so staying hydrated can have a direct impact on pain levels. Eating whole foods and avoiding processed foods will decrease the toxic load on your body. Many people find their pain levels dramatically decrease when they switch to a predominantly organic, whole food eating style. It is also very effective to follow an eating style that includes anti-inflammatory foods and avoids inflammatory foods.
  • Stay Engaged: Many people who suffer from chronic pain often do not have the energy or the emotional desire to engage in social activities. Staying involved can not only help decrease  depression associated with your pain, but can also help diminish the pain. The simple act of having fun can increase the brain’s production of serotonin, a chemical that is directly related to pain relief. If necessary, force yourself to get out of the house and engage in a fun activity at least once a month. Once you begin having fun occasionally, it will become very obvious how much better you feel when you do. If it’s easier, invite people over to your house instead of going out … and don’t even think about how your house looks or how clean it is … I promise your friends don’t care and won’t notice.
  • Massage: Getting a massage is a wonderful way to relax muscles, eliminate toxins and relax. Although it is a treatment that many consider “pampering,” it does have a proven physiological effect that helps diminish pain levels. Find a licensed massage therapist who is proficient in therapeutic massage. Most people benefit most from two to three sessions per week, but even a single session can provide relief.
  • Identify Food Sensitivities: One of the most common but least discussed symptoms of food allergies and sensitivities is joint and muscle pain. If you have a food sensitivity and eat the offending food, your body creates antibodies that wind up circulating in the blood stream. These antibodies are highly inflammatory and may cause muscular pain and joint pain. I personally know that if I eat dairy, my knees hurt like crazy. I’ve helped many patients and clients identify food allergies who found their chronic pain disappeared once they stopped eating foods they were allergic to. Unfortunately, most mainstream doctors don’t associate muscular pain (or fibromyalgia) with food sensitivities.
  • Visualization/Meditation/Prayer: The simple act of taking time each day to “decompress” and relax can be very helpful in controlling pain. Many people also find that visualizing themselves leading a pain-free life and engaging in activities that pain prevents them from enjoying is very helpful. For those who have a spiritual foundation, prayer that focuses on healing and grace is known to help.
  • Very Gentle Yoga, Tai Chi, or Water Exercise: The key words for these helpful forms of exercise are “very gentle.” Yoga and Tai Chi are forms of exercise that help maintain flexibility, provide relaxation, and help increase the release of mood-lifting serotonin in the brain. (Recent studies have found that people with fibromyalgia and other forms of chronic pain also have low serotonin levels.) Many yoga centers offer classes that are specifically designed for people with chronic pain. Finding Tai Chi classes may be more difficult, but there are many videos on YouTube that provide instruction. I am always happy to see more fitness centers offering water-based exercise classes for folks with chronic pain. Exercising in a swimming pool can be very helpful. It is very low impact and the buoyancy of the water often makes movement easier for those with chronic pain. The most important factor in any exercise technique is to modify the movements to fit your personal abilities. Exercise should not hurt. Choose movements that come easily and don’t try to force yourself to accomplish movements you cannot. The following resources may be helpful: – Body Wisdom Media: Tai Chi for Beginners
     – Yoga for Pain Relief: Simple Practices to Heal Chronic Pain
     – Yoga for Fibromyalgia (A book on gentle, chair-based yoga)
          
  • Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT): EFT was discovered by a psychologist who had an interest in acupuncture and acupressure. He discovered that the body and the mind could be positively affected by this technique which combines gentle tapping on acupressure points with the use of affirmations. I use it in my practice and have had people describe it as “magical.” It is wonderfully effective for negative emotional states, food cravings, addictions, etc., but is also very effective for relieving pain. The technique is so simple that it is easily learned by children. I know several parents who taught EFT to their children who suffer from frequent headaches, nightmares, etc. The beauty of EFT is that it can be effective for emotional and physical issues. It is very useful for pain. To learn more about EFT and download free manuals to learn the technique, I recommend visiting any of the following sites: – Free EFT Manual
     – Free Manual from EFTfree

     – Basic Steps to Emotional Freedom

Alternative Therapies to Reduce Pain

 The following alternative therapies are known to be very effective for reducing and eliminating pain:

  • Acupuncture: Acupuncture is an ancient art, but it  is gaining new popularity among mainstream medical practitioners because it is so effective. It is also gaining new popularity because multiple studies have proven that it works. Many people with chronic pain report immediate results from a single acupuncture treatment and experience a prolonged decrease in or elimination of pain after receiving multiple treatments. The needles used are similar in size to a human hair, so most people experience zero on the insertion of the needles. Acupuncture can be used to decrease inflammation and improve nerve flow, each of which may be helpful in decreasing and preventing pain.
  • Hypnosis: Hypnosis has gotten a bad rap due to its popularity as a stage show. What you’ve seen on Vegas stages has nothing in common with a hypnosis session delivered by a certified practitioner. During a hypnosis treatment, you are fully aware of everything that happens and cannot be “programmed” to do something you don’t want to. (Such as walking around quacking like a duck.) Certified hypnotists work to help the right side of your brain communicate more clearly with the left side. They also help you access and control subconscious thought patterns. Hypnosis can be used to help diminish someone’s perception of pain. It is a good option for someone experiencing pain due to a physical cause that cannot be controlled, but please be aware it will not address the physical cause of the pain. Hypnosis can also help eliminate stress and depression related to pain.

There are many other lifestyle habits and alternative treatments that are known to help relieve pain, but I’ve covered the ones I consider the most effective. What techniques do you use?

Stop the Winter Blues and Seasonal Affective Disorder NOW

You know it’s coming … that time of year when you just feel down, have no energy, and would be perfectly happy Seasonal Affective Disorderhibernating until spring. The winter blues aren’t just in your head, they are a true physical condition referred to as “Seasonal Affective Disorder” (SAD). SAD can affect anyone in cold climates, although senior citizens and children tend to have it less frequently.

Note: Depression is a serious condition. If you experience depression that interferes with your daily life, please seek professional help and do not try to treat yourself. Please discuss any new therapy or supplement with your practitioner before starting. Please also be aware that none of these statements were evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any illness.

Although the exact cause of SAD is unknown, research indicates that the lack of sunshine during the dark days of winter can cause:

  • Decreases in Vitamin D levels in the body: Low Vitamin D levels are known to contribute to depression and lack of energy
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  • Interference with circadian rhythms: Our body is designed to awaken when the sun goes up and to go to sleep when the sun goes down. The short days of winter interfere with these patterns, which appears to decrease the production of Serotonin, a “feel good” hormone.
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  • Reduced Melatonin levels: Decreased sunlight exposure seems to reduce the production of Melatonin in the brain. This can, in turn, lead to depression and sleep problems.
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  • Decreased physical activity: Most people aren’t as active in the winter as they are in the summer. Because exercise increases serotonin levels, a decrease in physical activity can negatively impact mood.

So how do you combat the effects caused by winter’s dark and gloomy days? Any of the following may help:

  • Use of a full-spectrum light bulb: Spending 10-20 minutes per day sitting in front a full-spectrum light bulb can help stimulate the body to produce Vitamin D and other chemicals essential to a good mood. Most health food stores sell full-spectrum light bulbs, or complete lamp sets and floor lamps can be purchased. I like the lamp set sold by Lights of America: http://amzn.to/ou0Q1a.
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  • Take a Vitamin D supplement: The typical recommended dosage of daily Vitamin D during the winter is 2000 IU/day, although levels of 5000-10,000 IU can usually be taken safely. I recommend asking your doctor to check your Vitamin D levels the next time you have blood work done. Although the test results will indicate that anything above 25 is “normal,” most people do not feel well unless their levels are between 50-75. (I give you permission to argue with your doctor on what the optimal levels are if s/he thinks a lower level is acceptable. The 50-75 level is associated with lower inflammation in the body and with lower cancer rates.) Also be aware that taking 2000 IU/day of Vitamin D is known to be MORE effective than a flu shot at preventing winter illnesses, so it’s a win-win! This is my favorite Vitamin D supplement: http://amzn.to/1auAwhF. For more information on Vitamin D, please read: 20 Surprising Facts About Vitamin D.
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  • Don’t be a hermit: It’s important to get out and have FUN during winter months. Although it may be tempting to become a homebody, getting out of the house to have fun is very important.
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  • Exercise: If you don’t like the word “exercise,” then engage in “fun sweaty activity” instead. As referenced above, exercising increases serotonin levels in the brain, which naturally makes you feel better and have a more positive outlook.

Again, please seek professional help if you experience a depression that interferes with your ability to cope or if you begin considering harming yourself.

My passion is helping people improve their health and lifestyle by identifying and correcting systemic imbalances. I have helped thousands of people eliminate their health challenges using a holistic approach. If you are ready to find a new level of wellness, please contact me to schedule a consultation. I will help you identify the cause of health challenges and will then work with you to create a plan to reverse them.

Does SAD affect you? Please share your story and what techniques work for you. We can beat this!