Seasonal Affective Disorder Treated Naturally by Grace Calihan, ND, LAc

S.A.D.

Fall is officially here, with shorter days and longer nights.  For some, this means some pretty significant mood changes.  Seasonal Affective Disorder affects an estimated 6-10% of the population.  Women are 4 times more likely to be affected, and it’s a condition that is most often seen in young adults.  Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is more than just the winter blues.  Symptoms of depression, such as low motivation, sleepiness, sadness, carbohydrate cravings, decreased sex drive, and avoidance of others, are triggered by the lack of sunlight that comes with the season change.

The mechanism explaining why SAD can happen is unclear.  The lack of sunlight seems to disrupt the body’s ability to self regulate sleep and mood.  The extra dark may affect levels of serotonin (our “feel good” neurotransmitter) and melatonin (the neurotransmitter that regulates sleep).  The regulation of cortisol by the adrenal glands may also play a role.

SAD can also mimic other conditions.  If you are concerned that you might have SAD, make sure your naturopathic doctor checks for an underactive thyroid, hypoglycemia, and chronic viral infections before you are diagnosed with SAD.

The good news about SAD is that there are many naturopathic approaches to turning it around.  First and foremost, we need to start tricking the body into thinking that there is more sunlight than the forecast indicates.  Plenty of research suggests that waking up to 30 minutes of exposure to 2,500-10,000 lux can decrease and even eliminate symptoms of SAD.  This is done at home with a light box, set at eye level first thing in the morning.  There is no need to look directly into the light, simply placing the lamp or light box nearby as you go through your morning routine is sufficient.  There are many light boxes on the market, I like the LightPhoria Energy Light, by Sphere because it’s so affordable.

There are also plenty of nutritional and herbal interventions.  Increasing antioxidants by eating the colorful vegetables of fall harvest can support the adrenal glands and increase energy.  High quality protein sources provide amino acids, which are the building blocks of neurotransmitters (like serotonin and melatonin).  Additionally, herbal adrenal support can be very helpful.  Using herbs like Rhodiola rosea or Astragalus membranaceus daily can regulate cortisol, the stress hormone that alerts the body to daytime.  If you notice that you are having trouble sleeping at night during the season changes, you can replenish your melatonin by taking 1-2mg at bedtime.  There are also dietary and herbal interventions to support serotonin.  L-tryptophan is a specific amino acid that serves as a building block for serotonin.  It can be used supplementally to help balance those levels.  Another approach is with St. John’s Wort, or Hypericum perforatum.  However, addressing neurotransmitters like serotonin should be done under the direct care of your naturopathic doctor.

In fact, I would encourage everyone to check in with his or her naturopath about mood and brain health.  There are resources that can help assess levels of these essential brain chemicals and many naturopathic approaches to treating any imbalances even if you are on an antidepressant or anti anxiety medication.  No one should be walking into winter feeling low.  Looking forward to working with you this fall!

Can I use natural medicine while I’m taking prescription medication? An Integrated Approach to Wellness by Brita Mutti, ND, FABNO

Yes! Being on prescription medications does not mean you cannot also use natural medicine. In fact, your naturopathic doctor can help guide you in ways that can increase the effectiveness of prescription therapies as well as reduce the risks of side effects related to those medications. Often by using an integrative approach to health and wellness, you get the best of both conventional and natural medicines. The potential for wellness is optimized by the judicious use of carefully selected prescription drugs combined with the use of evidence-based natural therapies.

Naturopathic medicine can also reduce withdrawal side effects associated with coming off certain medications, including those used to treat anxiety, depression, heartburn, and insomnia. It is important to discuss options for weaning off medication with your prescribing doctor first as there are certain medications that are particularly important to wean off slowly to reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms. Let your prescribing doctor know that you have stopped or are interested in stopping medications.

Depression is one condition in which an integrative approach is appropriate. Depression is one of the most commonly diagnosed conditions and conventional medicine has very little to offer aside from the use of prescription medications. These are often not very effective and can be very difficult to come off of.  Depression is a complex, multifaceted condition that is conventionally treated with an expensive, one-dimensional approach. Normal changes in mood, or sadness due to life events are often labeled as depression, leading to an over-diagnosis of the condition.

While prescription medication can be beneficial and sometimes lifesaving, it is important to address illness, especially mental illness, on all levels, treating the whole person, addressing the mind, body and spirit.  Unfortunately, the use of conventional treatment alone is the most common approach due to lack of knowledge, a profit-driven medical system, and the lack of time that is required to specialize treatment plans. Your naturopath treats each person as an individual, and specializing your treatment plan maximizes the potential for benefit and reducing risk and side effects.

An integrative approach to wellness can include the use of certain nutrients, amino acids, enzymes, and changes in lifestyle choices that are tailored to support the individual needs of the patient. These choices can then be based on their personal symptoms and the specific medications they are using. Conventional labs including thyroid panels, test for anemia, and nutrient status are important tools in guiding the treatment plan.

Testing for neurotransmitters including serotonin, dopamine, histamine, GABA, glutamine, and epinephrine can be an important tool for determining each person’s individual needs. Not uncommonly, similar sets of symptoms can have significantly different underlying causes. Neurotransmitters are an important part of immune and adrenal function and if out of balance can have widespread impact on health and wellness. Symptoms of neurotransmitter imbalance include: fatigue, anxiety, depression, insomnia, inattention, lack of focus, and weight changes.

Testing the adrenal gland for cortisol levels is another good way to tailor a treatment plan to meet individual needs and optimize outcomes. The adrenal gland secretes stress hormones that can become unbalanced as a result of stress, poor diet, and other environmental factors. By using adrenal testing your naturopathic doctor will know what is specifically needed to lower or increase cortisol levels and at what time of day that treatment is advisable.  Symptoms of adrenal fatigue include anxiety, weight gain, insomnia, and fatigue.

Discuss your prescription medications with your naturopathic doctor. Don’t be afraid to consider ways to reduce your use of prescription drugs, and to optimize your health and wellness by creating an integrated treatment plan.

Treat Anxiety, Depression, ADD/ADHD and Stress For Children and Teens Without Medication by Faith Christensen, ND

With only a month or less left of summer, it’s time to think about getting ready for school.  When thinking about getting back to school, ask yourself how you can optimize your child’s experience at school. Many issues from the last school year can be addressed in a preventive way. At Springs Natural Medicine we look at ways to naturally make learning easier, ways to treat ADD/ADHD, anxiety and depression without medications and a program to boost immune health to cut down on sick days during the cold and flu season.

Identifying Signs of Stress in Your Child or Teen

According to the American Psychological Association, the following can signal that your child is experiencing stress and may not be able to recognize or verbalize it. Common changes can include acting irritable or moody, withdrawing from activities that used to give them pleasure, routinely expressing worries, complaining more than usual about school, crying, displaying surprising fearful reactions, clinging to a parent or teacher, sleeping too much or too little, or eating too much or too little.

With teens, while spending more time with and confiding in peers is a normal part of growing up, significantly avoiding parents, abandoning long-time friendships for a new set of peers, or expressing excessive hostility toward family members, may indicate that the teen is experiencing significant stress. While negative behavior is not always linked to excessive stress, negative changes in behavior are almost always a clear indication that something is wrong.

Identifying Signs of ADD/ADHD in Your Child or Teen

ADHD is characterized by attention difficulties and hyperactivity while ADD is characterized by attention difficulties and inattentiveness. Both ADD/ADHD are common among children but can also be present in adults.

Children with ADD/ADHD may have behavioral issues and poor grades in school, while teens and adults may be forgetful and have difficulty keeping responsibilities organized. The root cause of such symptoms can vary greatly from inflammation(infections, food or environmental allergies, or hypersensitivities) to cranial bone misalignment and neurotransmitter imbalances. Evaluation of these underlying causes through blood and urine testing is very helpful in determining the cause of these behavioral issues, as well as help developing a treatment plan to address symptoms and the particular imbalances revealed by testing.

ADD/ADHD Symptoms

  • Switching tasks frequently
  • Difficulty focusing on one task
  • Focus issues
  • Impatience
  • Excess energy, inability to sit still
  • Trouble following instructions
  • Impulsive behavior

Identifying Signs of Anxiety in Your Child or Teen

While anxiety is a symptom that everyone experiences at some point in their life, in some individuals it can be more than just occasional nervousness or stress. In children, anxiety can show up as resistance to separation, excessive worrying, nightmares, restricted activity, and “meltdowns.”

The first step in developing an appropriate treatment plan is to determine the cause of the symptoms. Assessment of neurotransmitter levels though urine testing can provide valuable information about the status of the nervous system and its interaction with other systems in the body. The immune system can be evaluated in a number of ways to identify the presence and cause of inflammation or other root causes of anxiety. Once the biochemical imbalances contributing to anxiety are identified, a personalized treatment approach to depression can be undertaken.

Anxiety Symptoms in Teens

  • Worry and/or fear
  • Racing heart
  • Feelings of panic
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Obsessive thoughts
  • Avoiding social situations

Anxiety Symptoms in Children

  • resistance to separation
  • Excessive worry
  • Nightmares
  • More frequent “nightmares”
  • Obsessive thoughts
  • Self-restricted activity

Identifying Signs of Depression in Your Child or Teen

It is very common for people with depression to take antidepressant therapies recommended by their doctor.  Commonly prescribed medications for depression work by altering brain signaling via neurotransmitter modulation. Assessment of neurotransmitters involved in depression can be helpful in determining if medication is necessary, selecting the best class of medication, tracking the medication’s effects if currently taking an anti-depressant, and determining the success of the medication.

Assessment of neurotransmitter levels can provide valuable information about the status of the nervous system and its interaction with other systems in the body. The immune system can be evaluated in a number of ways to identify the presence and cause of inflammation or other root causes of depression. Once the biochemical abnormalities contributing to the depression are identified, a personalized treatment approach can be undertaken.

Depression Symptoms in Teens

  • Apathy
  • Complaints of pains, including headaches, stomachaches, low back pain, or fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Excessive or inappropriate guilt
  • Irresponsible behavior — for example, forgetting obligations, being late for classes, skipping school
  • Loss of interest in food or compulsive overeating that results in rapid weight loss or gain
  • Memory loss
  • Preoccupation with death and dying
  • Rebellious behavior
  • Sadness, anxiety, or a feeling of hopelessness
  • Staying awake at night and sleeping during the day
  • Sudden drop in grades
  • Use of alcohol or drugs and promiscuous sexual activity
  • Withdrawal from friends

Depression Symptoms in Children

  • Persistent sadness and/or irritability.
  • Low self-esteem or feelings or worthlessness. A child may make such statements as, “I’m bad. I’m stupid. No one likes me.”
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities.
  • Change in appetite (either increase or decrease).
  • Change in sleep patterns (either increase or decrease).
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Anger and rage
  • Headaches, stomachaches or other physical pains that seem to have no cause.
  • Changes in activity level. The child either becomes more lethargic or more hyperactive.
  • Recurring thoughts of death or suicide.

If you suspect your child or teen is dealing with any of these issues, please seek help. Contact us today to schedule an appointment to understand what is happening  with your child and to test for specific causes and to create a specific natural plan to support both physical and mental health. There are many natural options to work with these conditions before the use of medications. Naturopathic doctors are also trained to know when pharmaceutical support is necessary and will make the recommendation to a qualified psychiatrist if needed.

How to Get Your Family Ready for Back to School Brita Mutti, ND, FABNO

Before you know it, the summer will be over and the school year will be upon us. When thinking about getting back to school, there is more than new clothes and school supplies to consider. Ask yourself how you plan to support the general wellness of your children, and yourself, at a time of year that can be stressful and full of big changes.

Managing Stress

Stress can wear down even the healthiest people, and can make transitions more difficult for kids and adults. One thing we can do is change how we manage, or respond to, stress. Good stress management skills can have a tremendous impact on creating a better sense of well-being. The trick with good stress management is figuring out what works well for you and your children and sticking with it on a daily basis. It is important to have multiple ways to manage stress in order to cope when multiple stressors add up. Relaxing activities including hobbies, laughter, prayer, meditation, and deep breathing are all healthy stress relievers. Maintaining as consistent a routine as possible is also a key way to reduce stress.

Physical activity

Physical activity is an excellent tool for stress management and for fostering well-being. While kids may get exercise at school, it is important that they engage in some sort of physical activity when they are not in school as well.

Sleep

Sleep is when our bodies repair themselves. 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep for adults offer the maximum benefit. Children need even more. 3-6 year olds need 10-12 hours a night. 7-12 year olds need 10-11 hours a night, and 12-18 year olds need 8-9 hours. Be sure that your kids have a healthy going-to-bed routine and are getting to bed early enough to get a full night’s sleep on school nights. A dark room, without light from items like alarm clocks or nightlights, helps our brain to produce melatonin and induce sleep. Watching TV or playing video games before bed or drinking caffeine in the afternoon can make it hard for anyone to sleep well. Even with these habits in place, many people struggle with initiating and maintaining sleep. Consult with your naturopathic doctor about ways to improve sleep quality.

Plant-based diet

With desserts, sweet treats and rewards aplenty at school, it is important to support you child’s health at home with a healthy, balanced diet. A plant-based diet is a diet that is 2/3 or more from plant sources: fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans. The new American plate, which has replaced the food pyramid, is mostly plant based. Focus on consuming liberal amounts of fruits and vegetables in a rainbow of colors. The pigment in the food is what is responsible for its color and the different pigments have different nutritional benefits.

Hydration

Our bodies are made up of 60% water. Water is needed to prevent constipation, lubricate our joints, moisten our eyes and mouth, and carry nutrients throughout our body. Staying hydrated helps our kidneys remove waste from our blood. Drinks containing caffeine and alcohol are dehydrating. Children should drink half their weight in ounces to be adequately hydrated. So if your child weighs 80 pounds, they should be drinking at least 40 ounces of water or herbal teas each day. This is especially important in the late summer when it is hot and dry in Colorado.

Companionship

Feelings of loneliness and isolation take a toll on the mental and physical health of parents and children. Family and friends can help brighten our mood. With busy school and work schedules during the school year, be sure to set aside as much time as possible for your family to be together. Activities such as family meals and game nights are a good way to improve everyone’s chances of staying happy and healthy.

Staying Involved With Your Child

With the beginning of a new school year, giving your child the emotional and moral support they need is critical. Focus on the positive. What are their strengths? Encourage their ability to handle new and challenging situations by practicing some scenarios (what if you need to go to the bathroom during class?) and making them aware of the people who can help them out. It is surprising how many children need to be reminded that it’s ok to ask for what they need.

 

As your child begins school, don’t overwhelm them with questions, but do give them opportunities to share and talk about their new experiences. Be sure to stay in touch with their emotions, and be observant concerning behaviors that may indicate your child is struggling with academics, friendships or in comprehending instructions. Are they experiencing difficulty sleeping? Are they crying more? Do they have changes in appetite or other signs of frustration? Be aware of difficulties with listening and maintaining attention, organization, excessive talking, fidgeting, interrupting, impulsiveness and unreasonable fears. If this isn’t your child’s first year in school, you probably have some useful feedback about your child’s strengths and needs from previous teachers.

Untreated phobias, anxiety, ADHD or learning disabilities can have serious long-term affects on your child’s life and school experience. Because there are multiple contributing factors in developing these conditions, and they frequently overlap, treatments must be strategic and tailored to the unique needs of your child. Consulting your naturopathic doctor can help you put your child’s situation in perspective, evaluate any symptoms and understand a possible range of treatments.

Try Acupuncture This Summer by Grace Calihan ND, LAc

Acupuncture needles on the back of a beautiful womanAcupuncture is an ancient Chinese medical practice that promotes the natural self-healing of the body.  With acupuncture, we can treat anxiety, stress, fatigue, aches and pains, difficulty losing weight and gastrointestinal concerns.

Stress and anxiety are the most common symptoms I treat with acupuncture.  The effectiveness of acupuncture has been determined by multiple studies.  A study in 2010 found acupuncture to be similarly effective to drugs in the treatment of acute stress and anxiety.  Other studies have demonstrated that acupuncture can improve the balance of neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) that make us feel calm and relaxed.

At this point, it is generally accepted that acupuncture can play a large role in pain relief.  Studies released in 2009 show acupuncture as effective as migraine medication for the treatment of migraine headaches.  Multiple studies have established acupuncture as superior to conventional treatment for chronic low back pain.  Tennis elbow, knee pain, menstrual cramps, carpal tunnel, fibromyalgia pain and more have all been treated using acupuncture with documented success.

Regarding weight loss, acupuncture can play a great assistive role.  In a study published last year, by balancing neurotransmitters to reduce cravings and by increasing metabolic function, acupuncture was shown to decrease weight by 6% in just 4 weeks!

We are currently running a special on acupuncture sessions. Prepay for 5 or more visits and get 20% off the total.  

For more information about acupuncture, visit: www.springsnaturalmedicine.com/acupuncture

 

FAQs

Does it hurt?

No one has ever walked out of my office saying “That really hurt!” –some people can feel the needles being inserted and others can’t.  I’ve heard the sensation compared to a bug bite.  If any pain of discomfort occurs, the needle is immediately removed.

How big are the needles?

The needles are about the size of a thick strand of hair.

How deep do the needles go?

The needles penetrate the skin anywhere from 1/8 inch to 1 inch.

How long does it last?

Most acupuncture sessions at Springs Natural Medicine last 20-30 minutes.  Effects from acupuncture can last from days to weeks.

Are there side effects?

Some people feel a little dizzy immediately after their appointment, and other report a relaxed or even tired sensation for the remainder or their day.  With extra water intake, this rarely persists.

What should I wear?

You stay fully clothed during an acupuncture session, but wearing “work-out” clothing is best so the lower legs and arms are exposed.  You will remove your shoes and socks.

How often should I come?

This depends on the condition being treated, but generally weekly sessions are best to stimulate qi flow and resolve symptoms.

I have more questions….

Please be in touch with me directly if you have questions about acupuncture or how acupuncture can benefit you this summer: drcalihan@springsnaturalmedicine.com

Looking forward to working with you!

 

Setting Goals When Making Lifestyle Changes By Brita Mutti, ND, FABNO

Goal setting is a process for thinking about your ideal future. It provides motivation to turn your vision into reality. The benefits of goal setting are many. It will help you organize your time and resources. It fosters a sense of achievement when goals are accomplished. It also helps identify distractions that get in the way of achieving your goals.

The simple act of just setting a goal sets the groundwork for things to happen. It sets positive energy in motion, and allows what comes into your life to help you along the way. When you are getting started, begin with creating your big picture. What are the large-scale, lifetime goals you want to achieve? Setting lifetime goals gives you the overall perspective that shapes all other aspects of your decision-making. Start by looking at your life and brainstorm what you want to achieve. Once this is clear in your mind, break these goals down into smaller goals that you must reach in order to achieve your lifetime goals. Think about what you can do in the next five years, then the next year, next month, next week, and today. Then, start moving towards them.

When thinking about your lifetime goals, consider what you want to achieve, being sure to cover all important areas in your life. List them in order of importance and include details (place, time, amounts), which will help you better measure your achievements along the way.  Write these goals down! We all have moments of clarity when we are feeling particularly brilliant. If we write down our goals we remember them better then, they can help motivate us when we are not feeling strong. Some areas of your life you may want to set goals for may include:

  • Family – Do you want to be a parent? If so, how are you going to be a good parent? How do you want to be seen by a partner or by members of your extended family?
  • Physical – Are there any athletic goals that you want to achieve, or do you want good health deep into old age? What steps are you going to take to achieve this?
  • Education – Is there any knowledge you want to acquire in particular? What information and skills will you need to have in order to achieve other goals?
  • Attitude – Is any part of your mindset holding you back? Is there any part of the way that you behave that upsets you? (If so, set a goal to improve your behavior or find a solution to the problem.)
  • Artistic – Do you want to achieve any artistic goals?
  • Career – What level do you want to reach in your career, or what do you want to achieve?
  • Public Service – Do you want to make the world a better place? If so, how?
  • Pleasure – How do you want to enjoy yourself? (You should ensure that some of your life is for you!)
  • Financial – How much do you want to earn, by what stage? How is this related to your career goals?

Once you have decided the categories you want to cover, spend time brainstorming ways to get there. If this feels overwhelming, consider narrowing your goals so that you can focus on the ones most important to you. Setting smaller, more attainable goals is also a good strategy for success. Make a list of progressively smaller goals that will help you to achieve your lifetime goals. You can:

  • Create daily to-do lists.
  • Regularly reevaluate how realistic your big picture goals are.
  • Once you have broken your goals into smaller steps you may find the need to revaluate these goals as well. How realistic are they? If you find they are too difficult to achieve, how can you set smaller, more realistic goals that are along the same path and will still meet your desires?
  • Set your goals so they are in harmony with each other and the way you want to live you life.
  • And of course, celebrate your achievements along the way! When you feel stuck, look back at the things you have already accomplished. Sometimes the path can be more satisfying than the destination.

Tips for Success

Once you have decided your goals, continue evaluating and revaluating them. Make sure your goals are in congruence with the way you want to live your like. If one of you goals is to become CEO of your company and another one is to spend more time with your family, perhaps those goals need to be revaluated and prioritized. Make sure one goal doesn’t compromise another one.

A useful way of making goals more powerful is to use the SMART mnemonic. SMART usually stands for:

S – Specific (or Significant).

M – Measurable (or Meaningful).

A – Attainable (or Action-Oriented).

R – Relevant (or Rewarding).

T – Time-bound (or Trackable)

For example, instead of having “To sail around the world” as a goal, it’s more powerful to say “To have completed my trip around the world by December 31, 2015.” Obviously, this will only be attainable if a lot of preparation has been completed beforehand!

Avoiding pit falls

Its often easy to get motivated about setting goals and thinking about where and what you want in life. It is easy to get discouraged when we don’t accomplish our goals. If it is a large goal, you might wake up next week being no closer to your goal and feeling discouraged. Then you may start to feel negative about your goal and yourself. The more negative energy you stir around your goal and yourself, the more roadblocks you are setting up, preventing you from getting where you want to go. Here are a few ways to avoid this.

  • State goals as positive statements (ex. – exercise for 3-5 days a week, NOT don’t be sedentary)
  • Give goals time to take form. Let the universe help guide how you achieve your goal. Once the goal is in the forefront of your mind, you will find that things will come up in your life to help you along the way. Let your environment and circumstances guide you and help define your goals.
  • Make sure you are authentically inspired by your goals. If you aren’t authentically inspired by your goals you will not be inspired to make them happen – make sure they are goals you have made for yourself and not ones other people are pushing you to achieve
  • Allow yourself to fail. You are allowed to make mistakes. Every one does. It is a part of life. Be kind to yourself. Know that failure is part of trying AND LEARNING. The only people who don’t fail are those that don’t try.

Exercise! Our secret weapon to improved mood, increased libido and overall health by Grace Calihan, ND, LAc

Summer is just around the corner, and it’s time to start moving.  It can be easy to excuse a sedentary winter, but when the sun is out and the weather is starting to warm up, we need to become active again.  It seems that losing weight is always the big motivator –we’re told to start exercising to support weight loss goals.  And this is great advice.  But there are so many more benefits to being an active person, and if activity (ie: exercise) is too wrapped up with weight outcomes, it doesn’t always “stick.”  So let me give you some even better reasons to move around.

Mood cure – We’ve all heard of a runner’s high, those feel-good brain chemicals (endorphins) that are released with a high-impact physical activity.  But the way exercise affects mood goes far beyond this.  And the benefits come even with low-impact movements, like walking, swimming and yoga.  These exercises help lower cortisol, the adrenal hormone that makes us feel stressed out and crazed.  They also improve are ability to think clearly and manage stressful situations, which makes us less angry, tense and tired.

Hormone regulation – Stress hormones aren’t the only ones improved with exercise.  Sex hormone regulation is great side effect of a regular movement routine.  Women who exercise regularly have less cramping with their menstrual cycles and fewer pre-menstrual symptoms (like moodiness and bloating).  Additionally, they have greater sexual interest and better sexual functioning.  

Risk Reduction – A recent study found that physical inactivity ranks higher than obesity, smoking or high blood pressure as a cause of heart disease in women over 30.  This means that whether or not you are actively meeting your other health goals, regardless of your weight, exercise is lowering your risk of the number one killer of women in the US.

In other words, by finding 30 minutes a day to fit in a walk, ride your bike or take a yoga class, you can be less stressed out, have a higher libido and more normal cycles, and add years to your life.  This seems like a no brainer.

So why are we still not exercising?  The biggest hurtle I hear from patients is time; no one has the extra 30 minutes.  So we have to be creative, we have to find space and prioritize movement for all the reasons discussed above.  It doesn’t need to be 30 minutes in a row, and it certainly doesn’t need to be at the gym.  One less TV show can become a bike ride around your neighborhood, handing off a responsibility can make the time it would take to do the dishes into a walk around the block, turning a chore like house cleaning into exercise can absolutely be a full body workout.  Take advantage of internet resources, as well.  You don’t need a yoga studio membership to youtube a short yoga routine during your lunch break.  “8-minute abs” is a fantastic way to spend a commercial break.  It doesn’t really matter –just be the type of person who moves, every day.  I think you will be very happy with the results.

Contact your naturopathic doctor about what type of exercise could fit into your lifestyle.

Understanding Depression by Grace Calihan ND, LAc

We have all experienced “the blues.”  Feeling sad will often follow a particularly stressful event or loss, but eventually we recuperate and feel like ourselves once more.  Well, what about when you can’t seem to feel better again?

Depression symptoms that interfere with the ability to work, sleep, eat, or enjoy once-pleasurable activities affects 1 in 10 adults, women being twice as likely to be affected as men.  We call this a depressive disorder.

Depression can be linked to genetic factors, but low mood can also relate to nutritional needs, underlying metabolic disorders, or lifestyle habits.  If you are depressed, it is essential to review all of your symptoms with a doctor you trust.  There may be contributing factors that are relatively straightforward to treat: iron or vitamin D deficiency, for example.

You can also request a neurotransmitter test.  This non-invasive approach measures the amount of each neurotransmitter in your nervous system.  Neurotransmitters are chemicals that communicate information throughout the body, telling the body how to move, breath, and feel.  Because neurotransmitters are directly related to mood, it can be helpful to determine which run high and which run low in your system.  Serotonin, for example, is one neurotransmitter that contributes to feelings of happiness and well-being.  There are pharmaceuticals called selective-serotonin reuptake inhibitors (Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, etc) that help increase the amount of serotonin in the system.

While that is one approach to low serotonin, there are diet, lifestyle and supplemental changes that can affect serotonin levels as well.  But what if serotonin is not the problem?  The test can measure up to twelve neurotransmitters that affect mood, and it can be a very helpful place to begin when certain supplements or medications haven’t been effective in the past.

Without testing, there is still plenty of naturopathic mood support available!  Here are some of my favorite baseline recommendations.

Move your body.  This doesn’t necessarily mean clocking lots of hours at the gym.  A simple 5-minute stretching routine can help increase circulation, stimulate lymphatic flow, and increase toxin removal.  Sixty-second burst exercises (running up the stairs, rebounding) flood your system with neurotransmitters called endorphins, which help improve mood.  Studies have shown that walking just 30 minutes per day has significant influence on mild to moderate depressive symptoms.

Find your food triggers (HINT: they are usually the foods you crave the most!).  If you are eating a food that your body doesn’t tolerate, there is a pretty big chance it is affecting your mood.  Common foods that make us feel anxious or depressed are: sugar, gluten, starches, caffeine, and dairy.  Have your naturopathic doctor design an elimination/re-challenge diet that will help you identify which foods are making you feel worse.

Talk to someone.  Working with a counselor, psychiatrist, or any mental health professional will do wonders for your mental-emotional health.  Studies show that cognitive therapy can be as effective as medications in the cases of mild to severe depression.

Please talk to your naturopathic doctor if you are experiencing symptoms of depression or are interested in neurotransmitter testing.  We look forward to working with you!

Top 5 Cancer Preventative Foods by Brita Mutti, ND, FABNO

Turmeric
Turmeric is a bright yellow spice and is a common ingredient in curries and sauces. It is a key ingredient in mustard. A compound in turmeric called curcumin has many anticancer properties. Curcumin plays an important role in prevention as well as in inhibiting all of the required steps involved in cancer development, progression, and metastatic spread.
The studies on curcumin are numerous. Several studies indicate that curcumin inhibits the growth and progression of prostate and colon cancer cells. In addition to reducing the risk of cancer development, curcumin can even promote cancer regression by increasing the body’s ability to kill cancer cells. It is known to decrease the ability of environmental toxins to promote cancer development and growth, and it has direct anti-oxidant effects.
Turmeric has a mild taste and is easy to incorporate into many meals. It can be added to any vegetable dish or sprinkled on meat before or after cooking. Turmeric is fat-soluble and needs to be taken with fat in the diet.

Mushrooms
Mushrooms! There is more and more evidence emerging about the anticancer benefits of mushrooms. All mushrooms have a compound called beta-glucans, one reason why they are a powerful medicine. Maitake, reishi, and shitake mushrooms have high levels of beta-glucans, that immunologically activate the immune system.  Beta-glucans have been shown to possess antitumor activity by stimulating the immune system and activating natural killer cells. Natural killer cells detect and eliminate abnormally dividing cells, eliminating tumor cells and virally infected cells.  Research suggests that mushrooms can slow cancer growth, as well as prevent tumor occurrence in healthy tissues.

Another compound from mushrooms called polysaccharides have the effect of lowering blood sugar by increasing insulin sensitivity.  This can help to normalize blood sugar, and in turn support the liver and cardiovascular system.  When blood sugar is stable, inflammation levels are lower and the body s less susceptible to cancer growth. Mushrooms also promote the healthy breakdown of cholesterol by the liver.

Cruciferous Vegetables
Cruciferous vegetables including broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and brussels sprouts have a compound called indole-3-carbinol that alters hormone metabolism, decreasing hormones that stimulate cancer cell proliferation and growth. A metabolite of indole-3-carbinol called DIM has been studied due to activity against breast cancer cells. It demonstrates estrogen receptor antagonistic activity and inhibits the growth of breast tumors in animals. DIM has been shown to induce cell death in human breast cancer cells. DIM has been shown to have anti prostate cancer activity as well.

Another compound in cruciferous vegetables called isothiocyanates inhibits carcinogenesis and tumorigenesis through liver pathways leading to cancer cell death

Flaxseed
Studies show that ground flax seed can be beneficial in treating everything from diabetes to heart disease and various forms of cancer. It has been touted as being the most powerful plant food on the planet. Flaxseed was cultivated in Babylon as early as 3000 BC. By the 8th century, King Charlemagne believed so strongly in the health benefits of flaxseed that he passed laws requiring his subjects to consume it.

Ground flax seed plays a role in promoting healthy hormone metabolism and decreasing levels of hormones that promote cancer cell growth. Ground flax contains phytoestrogens – a plant-based substance with weak estrogenic activity that attach to estrogen receptors and reduce harmful effects of estrogen in breast, uterine, ovarian, and prostate tissue. Flax also provides extra estrogen activity in bones to encourage density and strength. Ground flax is safe to take with estrogen-sensitive cancer and will not further stimulate cancer cell growth.

Ground flax is a good source of fiber. As a whole grain, flax contains high levels of both soluble and insoluble fiber, so it can be helpful with both constipation and diarrhea. It helps bind cholesterol in the gut and inhibit its reabsorption into the blood stream. It is a high source of ALA, an omega-three fatty acid shown to inhibit tumor growth and incidence, particularly in colon cancer.

Other studies indicate that diets high in lignans, found in ground flax, reduce the risk of developing colon, breast and prostate cancers. Research that has been done in relation to breast and colon cancer has focused on the lignans in flax seed increasing SBHG, a sex hormone binding globulin that interferes with the hormones that promote those cancers.

When taking ground flax, it is important that it is ground. I recommend buying a small electric coffee bean grinder and grinding it yourself. You can grind a week’s worth at a time and keep it in the refrigerator. This will optimize freshness and decrease the risk of the seed becoming rancid. There are many ways to use ground flax. Mix in cold or hot cereal, sprinkle on salad, mix in pancakes or any baked good, or mix into mayonnaise or mustard.

Green Tea
Green tea – don’t leave home without it! Polyphenols and catechins in green tea are powerful antioxidants, inhibiting tumor cell replication, and preventing new blood supply to tumors. Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), a potent polyphenol and medicinal constituent in green tea, has been shown to support and enhance the immune system.  Polyphenols are known to possess strong antioxidant, anticarcinogenic, and antibiotic properties.

Green tea has been shown to inhibit the mutagenicity and/or chromosomal damage caused by cancer promoting carcinogens. Green tea has been shown to induce cell suicide (apoptosis) selectively among cancer cells, not in normal cells.

There is evidence that catechins in green tea may boost the basal metabolic rate, making it a safe addition to a weight loss program. Green tea also guards against cardiovascular disease in several ways, including balancing total cholesterol levels.

Green tea can be consumed hot or cold.

Oppose Trans Fats by Faith Christensen, ND

Oppose Trans Fats by Faith Christensen, ND

Excerpt  from Dr Mercola’s FDA Sued, Forced to Remove Safety Status on Trans Fats

Trans fats are formed when hydrogen is added to vegetable oil during food processing in order to make it solidify. This process, known as hydrogenation, makes fats less likely to spoil, so foods stay fresh longer, have a longer shelf life and also have a less greasy feel. They have been estimated to be in 12% of our processed foods. Food manufacturers can label things trans-fat free if the serving size contains less than .5 grams per serving.  Many serving sizes for fried foods are purposefully low to market as trans-fat free.  Increasing your daily consumption of trans fats from 2 grams to 4.67 grams increases your risk of heart disease by 30 percent!

Research has also found that trans fats contribute to cancer, bone problems, hormonal imbalance and skin disease; infertility, difficulties in pregnancy and problems with lactation; low birth weight, growth problems, and learning disabilities in children.

For the past 60 years, saturated animal fats have been wrongfully accused of causing heart disease, despite mounting evidence showing that saturated fat is actually critical for optimal health while trans fat is the dietary fat causing heart disease.

Trans fat, found in margarine, vegetable shortening, and partially hydrogenated vegetable oils became widely popularized as a “healthier alternative” to saturated animal fats like butter and lard around the mid-1950’s. Its beginnings go back 100 years though, to Proctor & Gamble’s creation of Crisco in 1911.1

In 1961, the American Heart Association began encouraging Americans to limit dietary fat, particularly animal fats, in order to reduce their risk of heart disease. In the decades since, despite low-fat diets becoming increasingly part of the norm, heart disease rates have soared.

It’s been a long time coming, but on November 7, 2013, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced it is now considering removing partially hydrogenated oils—the primary source of trans fats—from the list of “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) ingredients.2

The FDA will accept comments for 60 days, after which a permanent decision will be made. If finalized, the FDA’s decision means that food manufacturers can no longer use partially hydrogenated oils, i.e. trans fats, in their products without jumping through hoops to get special approval.

The comment period began November 8, 2013. I urge you to submit your comment to the FDA, telling them you want them to finalize its determination that partially hydrogenated oil is no longer general recognized as safe for use in food.

You can submit comments electronically to the FDA docket on regulations.gov. Make sure to use docket number FDA-2013-N-1317To submit comments by mail, send to FDA at the following address. Again remember to include the agency name and docket number:

Division of Dockets Management (HFA-305)
Food and Drug Administration
5630 Fishers Lane, Rm. 1061
Rockville, MD 20852

Click here to read an extensive article by Dr Mercola regarding the science and history of trans-fats

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/11/20/trans-fats-hydrogenated-oil.aspx?e_cid=20131120Z1_DNL_art_1&utm_source=dnl&utm_medium=email&utm_content=art1&utm_campaign=20131120Z1&et_cid=DM33810&et_rid=343298161