Nutrients for Anxiety, Depression and Insomnia

The human brain weighs only three pounds, yet uses 20% of the body’s glucose, or energy supply.  The central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) is the center for all physiological mechanisms: digestion, hormone production, immune modulation, learning, memory, mood, sleep and more.  Our brains need a constant supply of energy, oxygen, and stimulation to function well.

The nervous system (brain and nerves) is thrown off by trauma, stress, injury, surgery, drugs, and abuse, to name a few.  Electro-magnetic fields (EMFs) or radio frequency fields such as from cell phones/ towers, wifi, smart meters, or airport body scans can also negatively affect the brain and nervous system.

A nervous system deficiency can produce mental or emotional symptoms such as insomnia, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), mania, bipolar disorder, excessive worry, fear, grief, depression or anger.  However, physical symptoms of imbalance include numbness, tingling, twitches, jerks, spasms, cramps, neuropathy, chest tightness, shortness of breath, sweats, and an inability of the body to heal, especially from pain conditions.

Key brain neurotransmitters include dopamine, serotonin, GABA, norepinephrine and acetylcholine.  Some are excitatory (energizing), some are inhibitory (calming), but the proper balance is crucial for optimal mood function.

Plasticity, the ability of the brain to adapt or change, is also crucial for optimal brain and mood health.  You can increase plasticity by learning new ideas, e.g. language, thinking critically, or utilizing therapies such as acupuncture, chiropractic, massage, light or laser therapy.

I have found after 15 years of clinical practice in natural medicine that certain nutritional supplements are crucial for optimal brain health.  Vitamins such as folic acid, B6, B12, choline & inositol; minerals such as magnesium, potassium (electrolytes); specific amino acids (e.g. L-Glutamine, 5 HTP, L-Phenylalanine or GABA); ribonucleic acid (RNA), protomorphogens (PMGs) and omega 3 oils are especially helpful in improving brain health.  These nutrients can be crucial in reducing anxiety or depression, brain fog, negative thoughts as well as improving memory, clarity, happiness and balancing hormones.

Stress can increase the adrenal hormone cortisol, which can slow brain function.  Indeed the primary adrenal hormones epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine are also brain neurotransmitters of the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight).  Thus there is an intimate connection between adrenals, stress and mood.

Lifestyle modifications such as yoga & meditation are supportive.  One can adopt mindful strategies such as developing the inner observer and retraining the mind to reduce negative or fearful thoughts.  These can be replaced with positive, loving or grateful thoughts.

Our brain, like our bodies, is capable of healthy cell reproduction, so it is important to supply it with proper nutrients (protein and healthy fats), as well as regular exercise to enhance endorphins, and rest for replenishment.  The brain neurons (nerve cells) heal, though nerves take a long time to renew.  It can happen in 3-5 months, but may require 6-12 or even 18 months to fully recover, such as after surgery.  Proper amino acids and above nutrients can speed this healing process.

Hormone Imbalance — The Truth

Hormonal Imbalance Symptoms and Signs

Are you feeling unwell or out of sorts?  Have you been tired, depressed, irritable, experiencing PMS, menstrual or menopause disorders, mood swings, low libido, headaches, or trouble sleeping?  Have you had sugar or carbohydrate cravings or gained extra weight lately?  These are just a few of the common signs of hormonal imbalance, affecting millions of women (and even some men).   Chronic or prolonged hormone imbalance can lead to more serious problems in women such as endometriosis, PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome), chronic infections (e.g. candida), uterine fibroids, ovarian cysts, infertility and breast or uterine cancer.

Hormonal balance is critical to good physical, mental and emotional health.  Hormones are chemical communicators (e.g. estrogen or progesterone) secreted by endocrine glands (e.g. ovaries), carrying messages via the blood to and from body organs and glands, connecting functions to balance the body (e.g. healthy menstruation).  They operate under a delicate feedback loop in which one hormone compensates for another when out of balance.  As an example, if the ovaries are under active due to over consumption of caffeine, the liver and/or adrenals will produce estrogens as a means of compensation. These estrogens are inferior quality, and all three organs will be compromised, weakening the system.  Symptoms such as fatigue, menstrual cramps or headaches may ensue.

Thyroid Imbalance: Commonly Overlooked in Tests

The thyroid regulates metabolism, converting oxygen and sugars for availability to cells, thus determining how fast cells can produce energy to perform bodily functions.  A healthy thyroid enables a normal appetite, good energy levels and mental function, complete digestion, healthy hormone cycles and tolerance to temperature fluctuations.  I have seen in my practice that a mild to moderate thyroid imbalance may not register on a lab (blood) test when women experience most or all of the common hypothyroid symptoms: fatigue, depression, unexplained weight gain, cold hands or feet, constipation, dry skin, thinning hair.  Common nutritional support such as amino acids, minerals, glandular extracts or protomorphogens (nucleic acids from cells of healthy animals), can often rapidly re-balance the delicate interaction between endocrine glands.  However, since each person responds differently when hormones are deficient or excessive, individualized treatment is preferred, as nutrition and supplements which work for one person will often not help someone else.

Ovaries: Synthetic vs. Natural Hormones

Finally the truth has come out: horse estrogens (Premarin) are not meant for humans!  Many oral estrogen (cenestin, Estratab) and progesterone (provera, Prempro) pills prescribed by doctors are synthetic.  These can disrupt steroid hormone pathways, leading to suppression of the body’s own natural hormones, and create a host of side effects including depression, anxiety, fatigue, fluid retention, migraines, or menstrual irregularities.  The birth control pill is composed of synthetic estrogens or synthetic progesterone (progestins).  These suppress the pituitary production of leutinizing hormone (LH) and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH).  The liver becomes compromised and overloaded, making it harder for it to convert estrogens to be excreted from the body.  Prolonged use of the birth control pill can cause excess cell proliferation, possibly leading to uterine fibroids or malignancies.   There is good news: with correct supplementation, these organs can be cleansed and rebalanced even after many years of suppression.  For an informative book on women’s hormonal dysfunction, read It’s My Ovaries, Stupid by Elizabeth Lee Vliet, M.D.

Adrenals: The Stress Connection

A poor diet and busy lifestyle has lead to an epidemic of adrenal related disorders.  Many of us are in various stages of adrenal stress syndrome as a response to chemical, emotional or physical stress. In adrenal stress syndrome, cortisol and DHEA, two important adrenal cortex hormones, go through spikes and falls in a complex series of mechanisms to regulate blood sugar metabolism.   Common signs of adrenal stress are hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), fatigue or exhaustion, difficulty waking in the morning, sugar or caffeine cravings, mood swings, and sleep difficulties.   Adrenal stress can lead to insulin resistance, which may cause problems such as diabetes and weight gain.  In menopausal women, the adrenals have a more important function in producing sex hormones.   If the adrenals are exhausted, women will experience more intense menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, insomnia, poor memory, mood swings, etc.

Nutrition: the Foundation for Hormonal Balance

A healthy diet will set the stage for good hormone interactions.  Eat whole, unrefined, unprocessed foods: vegetables, fruits, lean meats, eggs, and some whole grains such as rice, millet or quinoa.  Minimize glutenous grains such as wheat, oats, rye; also allergenic foods like soy, nuts, and cow dairy which are difficult to digest and can cause protein toxin deposits.  Avoid refined sugars completely, as they spike blood sugar and compromise the adrenals.  Low glycemic substitutes such as agave nectar, stevia or xylitol are preferable.  Cut back on caffeine, tobacco, alcohol, and eat healthy fats such as flax and fish oils.  Eat organic foods whenever possible, as pesticides can be hormone disruptors leading to an imbalance known as estrogen dominance.

Conclusion

It is crucial to balance the endocrine system with correct nutritional support.  While diet is very important, often people need individualized supplements to nourish the original compensating hormone, thereby balancing the entire system.  You may want to consult a knowledgeable holistic practitioner for guidance specific to your symptoms.

Enzymes for Healing Joint & Muscle Pain, Gastro-Intestinal Disorders, Sinusitis, Allergies, Fibromyalgia and More

Introduction: What Enzymes Can Do

Enzymes have many important functions in the body, besides helping to digest foods.  Systemic enzymes are catalysts, facilitating thousands of metabolic reactions, from fighting inflammation to cleansing the blood to deactivating infections.    Enzymes can help many people who suffer from debilitating health issues, including acute or chronic inflammations, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid or osteoarthritis, digestive disorders, skin problems, and immune sensitivities.   This article will focus on protein-digesting enzymes to reduce symptoms causing these and other painful conditions, thus restoring health.

Some Foods Can be Difficult to Digest

Some of the above mentioned conditions are often directly caused by an inability to fully digest dietary proteins, leading to toxic deposits in the body.    The offending proteins are vegetarian source: nuts, seeds, wheat gluten, soy and cow dairy.   Wheat gluten for example, consisting of long chain amino acid protein molecules, often 20 polypeptides or more, must be digested or broken down to a single molecule to be excreted from the body.   Yet when the body cannot fully digest the gluten, undigested protein molecules circulate and deposit as toxins in different locations: joints, muscles, bursa, cartilage, lymphatic tissue, intestines, skin, and a host of other areas.  Protein toxins can be deposited in organs such as liver and kidney, and even affect endocrine glands such as the thyroid.   Systemic enzymes taken without food can promote detoxification by dissolving these protein deposits so the body can eliminate them.

Food Rotation: A Useful Concept

Problems can arise when one or more of these proteins is consumed too much or too often (i.e. daily).   To assist in prevention of disease, one can rotate these foods, being aware to minimize the intake of nuts, wheat, soy, and dairy, to no more than three days a week each (every other day maximum).  This would lessen the chance of protein toxin deposits causing health issues.

Which Enzymes?

There are many different types of enzymes for specific effects.  Proteolytic (protein-digesting such as protease) enzymes are the most important enzymes for dissolving protein toxins.  It may be helpful to use a broad-spectrum enzyme formula with pancreatin, an enzyme with protease, amylase and lipase to digest protein, carbohydrates and fats.  For recent injury or trauma causing inflammation, high potency bromelain along with papain, pepsin or serrapeptase are effective in reducing swelling.  Chymotrypsin, a powerful synergist, is useful for increasing the potency and effect of other enzymes.

To resolve health issues, one must take enough of the appropriate enzyme to effect a change.  For example, to treat consistent body pain, once should take high-potency pancreatin (50,000+ IU per 500 mg. tablet), at least 2-4 tablets two times per day without food.   Tablets should be enteric-coated so they are not neutralized by stomach acids, and taken for several weeks.

Conclusion

Enzymes promote the body’s own regeneration processes.  With the use of appropriate systemic enzymes over time, patients have resolved such serious symptoms such as inflammation, back, neck and joint pain, gastritis, sinus pain, skin problems such as acne, cysts and allergic or immune symptoms including congestion, sinus pain and more.

For more information on systemic enzymes, see www.pchoiceline.comwww.garynull.com, or www.life-enthusiast.com.

Annie Osborn has been practicing acupuncture and natural/holistic medicine in Santa Rosa for over 15 years.  She can be reached at 707-494-8606, or visit www.anniesnaturalmedicine.com

Feeling Young Again: How to Reduce the Effects of Aging with Natural Supplements

Are you feeling the effects of aging?  Whether you are in your early 40’s or late 80’s, you may experience some of the following signs or symptoms:

  • Increased skin wrinkling or sagging
  • Weight gain especially around the belly/hips
  • Increased body pains or inflammation
  • Decrease in memory or brain function
  • Low energy, fatigue, or lack of stamina
  • Decrease in muscle strength or mass
  • Increased heart problems (high cholesterol, blood pressure, arteriosclerosis, etc.)
  • Vision problems, i.e. needing stronger glasses, ocular degeneration, or cataracts

While the degeneration process inherent in aging is inevitable, the visible and internal effects of aging can be significantly reduced with the use of natural supplements available in health food stores and from holistic practitioners.  By supplementing with certain nutrients, one can experience a sense of greater well-being and youthfulness, increased quality of life, as well as extended lifespan.

The most effective utilization of supplements requires a foundation of proper diet, lifestyle, and exercise.  No supplement can compensate for deficiencies in these areas.  A healthy diet consisting of good quality whole foods-proteins, vegetables, grains, and fruits, excluding sugar and allergenic foods, is fundamental.   (Please note that allergenic foods are individualized: some people should stay away from wheat, dairy, nuts, and soy; some can tolerate them in moderation.)   Research has shown that individuals with a lean body mass (calorie restricted diet) have a significantly longer lifespan.

Supplements to Support Aging Well

Free radicals are among the top contributing factors in aging.  They are known to accelerate the aging process by damaging cells through oxidation.   Powerful anti-oxidants such as glutathione scavenge the free radicals and promote detoxification via the liver.   Foods high in anti-oxidants include blueberries, green & yellow vegetables and green tea.  Other anti-oxidant nutrients include alpha lipoic acidgrape seed extract, vitamin C, and coenzyme Q10.  CoQ10 powers the cell’s vital energy, and protects and supports the heart.

Cells are the fundamental unit of every living thing.  Healthy cell structure and replication are crucial for vibrant aging.  Ribonucleic acid (RNA) is important for healthy aging as it supports transcription of DNA and thus proper cell replication.  RNA, extracted from brewer’s yeast, has been shown to stabilize cell processes, and increase synapse function as well as short-term memory.

For increased brain function or memory, also consider acetyl-L-carnitinevinpocetine,phosphatidylserine (PS) or gingko biloba.

Essential fatty acids (EFAs) are important because they support the integrity of the cell structure.  They feed the brain, which is 60% fat.  EFAs play a major role in reducing joint or other inflammation, and can prevent plaque buildup in arteries.  Omega 3 fatty acids (EPA, DHA) found in fish oils and flax seed are the most deficient EFAs in the typical American diet.

EFAs also nurture and tonify the skin, the most visible organ.  Another vital skin supplement ishyalauronic acid, which helps retain moisture and regenerate skin elasticity.   It also lubricates arthritic joints.  Hyalauronic acid can be taken internally or applied topically as a cream.

Some herbs effective for anti-aging include ginseng, maca or tribulus.  These adaptagenic herbs work by supporting the immune system to reduce stress, tension and enhance endurance, stamina and vitality.

Vision health is supported by bilberry, an herb containing phytochemicals that nourish the eyes and enhance visual function.

Protein is essential to life; amino acids are the building blocks of protein and are fundamental for longevity. The amino acid L-Carnosine has been shown in clinical studies to protect against age-related degradation of protein, extending cellular lifespan.  LCarnitine can protect the heart and liver, and aid in weight loss by increasing fat metabolism.  Because muscle strength and mass deteriorate as we age, L-Creatine can be helpful.  L-Phenylalanine promotes vitality and alertness, and can decrease pain.

Many people lose the ability to properly assimilate nutrients as they age.  Enzymes are crucial to increase absorption of vitamins, minerals, protein, fats and carbohydrates.   A supplement containing pancreatin (or vegetable enzymes if vegetarian) can spark those digestive juices.  Because most people have difficulty fully digesting or breaking down proteins, protease is especially important as we age.

Aging need not be a discouraging process.  The wisdom we acquire as we grow older can help sustain a fulfilling life.  With nutritional and supplemental support, we can reduce pain, fatigue, inflammation, while increasing mental & visual acuity, physical vitality, stamina and an overall sense of joy.

Annie Osborn has been practicing acupuncture and natural/holistic medicine in Santa Rosa for over 15 years.  She can be reached at 707-494-8606, or annieoby@gmail.com.