stress

  • A Practical Guide to Treating Stress and Anxiety

    A Practical Guide to Treating Stress and Anxiety Jacob Teitelbaum MD

    Stress is a funny word. Loaded with the emotional bias of being a “bad” thing, the word stress can be quite deceiving, making it harder to handle than it needs to be. So we will offer a new way to look at it—and very effective ways to address it.

    As the healing arts grows, it is important to remember that there are four key domains in healing:

    1. Biochemistry. This includes herbals, nutrition and medications.
    2. Structural. Including areas such as manipulation, surgery, breathing, exercise, and ergonomics.
    3. Biophysics. For example, Acupuncture, Chakra work, Yoga, and NAET.
    4. Mind-Body-Spirit. Understanding how the body is a metaphor for what is occurring at a deeper level. For most illnesses, including anxiety and even cancer, complete healing is unlikely to occur unless this is also attended to.

    You will find that healing occurs best when all four of these areas are addressed. No individual healer is likely to have complete expertise in all of these areas. As our new healthcare system evolves, and the current one heads to extinction, it is good to see health practitioners from diverse backgrounds communicating and working together more.

    So let's look at how a Comprehensive Medicine approach works when addressing anxiety and stress. I will focus predominantly on mind-body and biochemical aspects, as these are where my expertise is.

    Treating Mind-Body Issues
    Stress is not inherently good or bad. In fact, stress can be used to force flowers to bloom, and this analogy applies to people as well. The problem is when stress becomes chronic, and is no longer enjoyable. This then contributes to chronic elevation of the stress hormone cortisol, directly triggering anxiety. As the excessive stress becomes chronic, cortisol levels then go too low—ironically also triggering anxiety by causing recurrent bouts of low blood sugar.

    A simple way to tell if stress is healthy? Simply check in to see how it feels. If it feels good, it is healthy. What is enjoyable can vary markedly from person to person. For example I enjoyed the stress of skydiving, while for my wife it would feel awful.

    A Novel Treatment
    The key stress antidote? Check in to see how things feel. This is so important, that I am being purposely redundant. Learn to say NO to things that feel bad. Leave your brain out of it. Our brain is the product of our societal and family training. It simply feeds back to us what we were taught that we should do to make others happy. Our feelings, on the other hand, tap into our own personal authenticity. So choose to focus on, and do, those things that feel good. Once you've determined what feels good, then your mind can figure out how to make it happen.

    And yes, it is OK to simply choose to focus on what feels good in life, without being in constant battle mode against things you don't like. Like food choices at a buffet, we don't have to protest for the removal of those foods we don't choose to eat. Simply ignore them and pick those things you like. You will find that the rest will soon stop appearing in your life. This is part of how I suspect “free will” works. Our focus is like the remote control on our TV. What we focus on keeps showing up on our screen. This is why our constant “Wars on…” just seem to create more of what we are attacking.

    Is it truly OK to do what feels good? Some will make the argument that “Heroin feels good, and perhaps also smacking that person who makes me angry over the head with a two-byfour.” This is why we add two caveats:

    1. Don't hurt others.
    2. Ask yourself “How is that working out for me?”

    Doing this, people will find their anxiety is often coming from their choosing what they think they should do over what feels good (i.e. doing what others want, instead of what is authentic to them). Notice if you are constantly feeling, “I should do this, or I should do that.” This is euphemistically called “Shoulding on yourself.” I invite you to change that toxic behavior.

    If hyperventilation is present, one will usually have buried feelings that are bubbling to the surface during periods of relative calm. Counseling to help them learn to feel their feelings helps over time. Also, as panic attacks often leave people feeling like they are going to die, understanding that the symptoms are not dangerous helps. Simply being told this may not be enough to reassure you though. You can confirm hyperventilation is the cause by breathing rapidly for up to 30–60 seconds and seeing how it amplifies your symptoms. Unfortunately, this can also precipitate a full-blown panic attack, so be forewarned, and pick a safe time and place to do this test!

    My e-book, “Three Steps to Happiness—Healing through Joy,” can help guide you through the mind-body healing process.

    Balance The Biochemistry
    Begin with ruling out and treating overt issues, including:

    1. Overactive thyroid. Consider this if your Free T4 thyroid test is even in the upper 20th percentile of the normal range.
    2. Low progesterone (women). Progesterone is like our body's natural Valium. Consider this if anxiety is worse around menses and ovulation.
    3. Low testosterone (men). Consider if testosterone levels are in the lower quarter of the normal range.
    4. Adrenal fatigue—caused by drops in blood sugar. A key tip-off? Irritability and anxiety that triggers sugar cravings and improves after eating.

    Also optimize nutrient status, especially magnesium and B vitamins. Instead of blood testing, which is of questionable value here, I simply recommend (for most people—whether or not they have anxiety) a high potency multi powder called the Energy Revitalization System (by Enzymatic Therapy). With this, one drink replaces well over 35 pills, optimizing levels of most nutrients. Also have the person decrease sugar and caffeine intake to see if this helps.

    Herbals can also be very helpful. For example, there is a unique extract, which can be as effective as Xanax, but is very safe. This special extract stimulates one of the most abundant neuroreceptors in the body, the cannabinoid receptors. Many of you may recognize this as the marijuana receptor, and in fact many people use cannabis to self-medicate for their anxiety. But what if you could get the benefits without the sedation and side effects?

    The good news is that now you can. Recent research showed that a special extract of the roots of the narrow leafed coneflower (Echinacea angustifoliae) was more effective than the tranquilizer Librium, with none of the side effects. It also worked quickly, with effects building with continued use. This is not the same component used for immune enhancement, and isn't found at needed levels in standard Echinacea. It is available though as AnxioCalm (by EuroPharma—20 mg per tablet).

    Let's look at a few studies of this unique extract.
    A study published in the March 2012 issue of Phytotherapy Research included 33 volunteers. All experienced anxiety, assessed using the validated State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI). The extract decreased STAI scores within three days, an effect that remained stable for the duration of the treatment (seven days) and for the two weeks that followed treatment. There were no dropouts and no side effects.

    Another study looked at higher dosages (40 mg 2 x day) in a multi-center, placebo-controlled, double-blind Phase II study involving 26 volunteers diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Over a three week period, the number of severely anxious patients (HADS-A scores larger than 11) decreased from 11 to zero!

    So I begin with two tablets of AnxioCalm 2x day for severe anxiety. After three weeks, the dose can often be dropped to one 20 mg tablet twice a day. It can also simply be used as needed, and serves as an excellent sleep aid.

    Other helpful herbals include valerian, passion flower, hops, theanine, and lemon balm. These can be found in a combination called the “Revitalizing Sleep Formula,” which helps anxiety during the day and sleep at night. I personally use both AnxioCalm and the Revitalizing Sleep Formula at night to ensure 8–9 hours of deep sleep.

    The smell of lavender oil is also calming, and a small drop on the upper lip, or even having a lavender bouquet in one's room, can be helpful.

    Structural And Biophysics
    Simply going for regular walks in the sunshine, and doing yoga, tai chi, and meditation can be very helpful. A technique called centering can help people feel that they are in the calm “eye of the cyclone” when panic attacks hit. In addition, it is helpful to explore a technique called Butyko breathing, which can be very helpful for anxiety and hyperventilation.

    For PTSD or old emotional traumas, a technique called EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) can give near miraculous benefits in as little as 20 minutes (see EFT.Mercola.com). It may seem odd, but try it and you'll be amazed. Releasing old traumas through a simple “trembling” technique is also helpful, and the person can do it on their own. It is easy and simple instructions can be found in the book Waking the Tiger.

    By having the entire healing arts toolkit available, and not just using the “medical hammer,” anxiety can now be effectively treated!
  • Ashwagandha

    Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is an herb that grows in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Spain, parts of the Middle East, Africa, and the Canary Islands. It is sometimes called "Indian ginseng," probably because it is employed as an adaptogen or tonic in Ayurvedic traditional medicine.1 It is not, however, related to "true" ginseng (P. ginseng, P. quinquifolium). The root is used medicinally, although the seeds, shoots, juice and leaves have all been used traditionally as well.2

    Phytochemical contents
    Ashwagandha has been found to contain steroidal lactones called withanolides. Much of the pharmacological activities Ashwagandha are attributed to the presence of these steroidal lactones.3,4 In addition, the roots provide alkaloids, 18 fatty acids, beta sitesterol, polyphenols and phytosterols.5

    Common uses
    Traditional use of Ashwagandha includes its use as an aphrodisiac. As a folk remedy, it has a long list of uses. It is listed in the Indian Materia Medica, and is part of Ayurvedic, Siddha, and Unani traditions. Published research on Ashwagandha reveals a variety of potentially valuable and diverse uses for improving and supporting health. Following is a discussion of each of these potential uses.

    Chemotherapy and radiation therapy Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are commonly used to treat individuals with cancer. One problem associated with both of these treatments are that they can reduce white blood cell (WBC) count; and chemotherapy can cause mylosuppression-a reduced capacity of bone marrow to produce WBC. In turn, this can lead to patient susceptibility to other infections. Animal research has shown that Ashwagandha is capable of increasing WBC count when used with either chemotherapy or radiation therapy.6,7 Similar research has shown that this herb can also reduce mylosuppression in association with chemotherapy.8

    In addition, several studies have shown Ashwagandha to be effective at inhibiting tumor growth in test animals while enhancing radiosensitivity, the ability of radiation therapy to kill tumor cells.9,10,11,12,13,14 In one study, Ashwagandha was able to inhibit tumor growth in animals even without radiation therapy.15

    Immune function
    Besides it potential for treating cancer, research has shown that Ashwagandha is capable of improving immune function. This was demonstrated in one study where mice experienced an increase phagocytosis and intracellular macrophage activity against a pathogen when given a daily dose of Ashwagandha.16 In another study on mice, Ashwagandha was shown to improve the tumor-fighting ability of macrophages in relation to a known carcinogen.17 Ashwagandha has also prevented myelosuppression in mice treated with immunosuppressive drugs, and led to a significant increase in hemoglobin concentration, red blood cell count, white blood cell count, platelet count, and body weight, in addition to providing immunostimulatory activity.18

    Finally, in a series of experiments, various techniques were used to suppress the immune response of mice, then subjected them to infectious organisms. In each experiment, mice pretreated with one of six herbs, including Ashwagandha, fared significantly better than control mice. Mice receiving the herbs demonstrated faster recovery, less disease, and lower mortality. These herbs blunted artificially-induced neutropenia (a deficit of neutrophils, a type of white blood cell) and stimulated leucocytosis (an increase of white blood cells). In treatments that employed both antibiotics and these herbs the combination produced a significantly greater healing effect than either treatment used alone. The herbs also reduced stress-induced damage.19

    Antioxidant activity
    Apparently, one of Ashwagandha's mechanisms of action is that it has significant antioxidant activity. In one study, Ashwagandha significantly reduced free radical oxidation in the livers of mice, while concurrently increasing the activity of antioxidant enzymes such as superoxide dismutase (SOD) and catalase.20 Other research has shown that Ashwagandha reduced free radical activity in stress induced animals.21 In another study, Ashwagandha administered once daily for 21 days, induced a dose related increase in SOD, catalase, and glutathione peroxidase in rats.22 One interesting study showed that as part of an Ayurvedic herbal formulation, Ashwagandha increased SOD activity in the pancreas of diabetic rats.23

    Brain chemistry
    Ashwagandha has also been used in the treatment of mental and emotional well-being, since it can influence brain chemistry in positive ways. For example it has been shown to be capable of improving memory and enhancing cognitive function in animal research by improving acetylcholine activity in the brain and binding to acetylcholine receptor sites.24 This herb also has GABA mimetic activity-that is it can mimic some of the activity of the relaxing neurotransmitter GABA.25 Clinical trials have shown that Ashwagandha can alleviate a reactive type of depression without sedating. Instead, it "optimizes mental and psychomotor performance by easing the mental stress bundle."26

    Aphrodisiac
    In a clinical trial of ashwagandha on the aging process in over 100 men, 71.4 percent of the men reported improvement in their capacity of sexual performance. These responses seem to support the herb's traditional use as an aphrodisiac.27

    Anti-inflammatory & anti-arthritic activity
    Ashwagandha has demonstrated some very effective anti-inflammatory activity. In fact, in one study its anti-inflammatory activity was comparable to that of a 5-mg/kg dose of hydrocortisone.28 In another study, five plants were assessed for their anti-inflammatory activity. Results showed that while each of the plants possessed varying degrees of anti inflammatory activity, Ashwagandha possessed the greatest.29

    Perhaps the anti-inflammatory activity of Ashwagandha explains its efficacy in arthritis. In a one-month study, a combination of Ashwagandha, Boswellia serrata, Tumeric, and zinc were given to 42 patients with osteoarthritis. At the end of the study, there was a significant drop in severity of pain and disability.30

    Anti-stress & anabolic activity
    Given their relative similarities in function, a comparative study was performed on Ginseng (Panax ginseng), and Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera). Using aqueous suspensions of the powdered root, each herb was tested in mice: (1) for anti-stress activity (by the swimming endurance test); and (2) anabolic activity (by the weight measurement of body weight and levator ani muscle). In the swimming endurance test, Ashwagandha and Ginseng each showed anti-stress activity as compared to the control group, although the activity was higher with Ginseng. In the anabolic study, the mice treated with Ashwagandha showed a greater gain in body weight than those treated with Ginseng, although significant anabolic activity was observed for both herbs.31

    Morphine dependence
    Although only tested thus far in mice, Ashwagandha may help reduce dependence on morphine. In a 10-day study, Ashwagandha, helped prevent tolerance to morphine from developing. This is important since developing a tolerance for a drug often leads to increased doses and abuses. Also, Ashwagandha suppressed morphine withdrawal jumps, a sign of the development of dependence to morphine.32

    Glandular support
    As if all of the aforementioned benefits weren't sufficient, Ashwagandha also supports the function of the thyroid, liver and pancreas. After being administered on a daily basis for 20 days, mice experienced an increase in both T3 and T4 thyroid hormones. In the same study, Ashwagandha also decreased free radical activity in the liver.33 In another study, a combination of Ashwagandha and other herbs (Tinospora cordifolia, Eclipta alba, Ocimum sanctum, Picrorrhiza kurroa and shilajit) administered once daily for 28 days decreased blood sugar levels in diabetic rats, and decreased free radical activity in their pancreas as well. This activity in the pancreas is important since the reduction in blood sugar may be due to pancreatic free radical scavenging activity, which protects the cells that produce insulin.34

    Safety
    To determine any potential toxicity of Ashwagandha (as well as Panax Ginseng), a study was conducted in rats with 90 days oral administration using three doses. Food consumption, body weight, haematological, biochemical and histopathological parameters were studied. The results were that brain, heart, lung, liver, spleen, kidneys, stomach, testis and ovaries were normal on gross examination and histopathologically. Sub-acute toxicity studies in rats did not reveal any toxicity.35 Apparently, Ashwagandha is a safe herb. Even so, one research has suggested that Ashwagandha is contraindicated during pregnancy.36

    References

    1. Choudhary M, et al, Phytochemistry (1995) 40(4):1243-6.
    2. Lindner S, Australian Journal of Medical Herbalism (1996) 8(3):78-82.
    3. Choudhary M, et al, Phytochemistry (1995) 40(4):1243-6.
    4. Elsakka M, et al, Rev Med Chir Soc Med Nat Iasi (1990) 94(2):385 7.
    5. Ibid.
    6. Davis L, Kuttan G, J Ethnopharmacol (1998) 62(3):209 14.
    7. Kuttan G, Indian J Exp Biol (1996) 34(9):854 6.
    8. Praveenkumar V, et al, Tumori (1994) 80(4):306 8.
    9. Ganasoundari A, Zare SM, Devi PU, Br J Radiol (1997) 70(834):599 602.
    10. Devi PU, Indian J Exp Biol (1996) 34(10):927 32
    11. Sharad AC, et al, Acta Oncol (1996) 35(1):95 100.
    12. Devi PU, Int J Radiat Biol (1996) 69(2):193 7.
    13. Devi PU, Sharada AC, Solomon FE, Cancer Lett (1995) 95(1 2):189 93.
    14. Devi PU, Sharada AC, Solomon FE, Indian J Exp Biol (1993) 31(7):607 11.
    15. Devi PU, et al, Indian J Exp Biol (1992) 30(3):169 72.
    16. Dhuley JN, Immunopharmacol Immunotoxicol (1998) 20(1):191 8.
    17. Dhuley JN, J Ethnopharmacol (1997) 58(1):15 20
    18. Ziauddin M, J Ethnopharmacol (1996) 50(2):69 76.
    19. Dahanukar S, Thatte U, Phytomedicine (1997) 4(4):359-368.
    20. Panda S, Kar A, J Pharm Pharmacol (1998) 50(9):1065 8.
    21. Dhuley JN, J Ethnopharmacol (1998) 60(2):173 8.
    22. Bhattacharya SK, Satyan KS, Ghosal S, Indian J Exp Biol (1997) 35(3):236 9.
    23. Bhattacharya SK, Satyan KS, Chakrabarti A, Indian J Exp Biol (1997) 35(3):297 9.
    24. Schliebs R, et al, Neurochem Int (1997) 30(2):181 90.
    25. Mehta AK, et al, Indian J Med Res (1991) 94:312 5.
    26. Katiyar CK, et al, Immunomodulator Products from Ayurveda: Current status and future perspectives. In: Immunomodulation, S.N. Upadhyay (Ed), (1997) Narosa Publishing House, New Delhi, India, pp. 163-187.
    27. Linder, op cit
    28. al Hindawi MK, al Khafaji SH, Abdul Nabi MH, J Ethnopharmacol (1992) 37(2):113 6.
    29. Al Hindawi MK, et al, J Ethnopharmacol (1989) 26(2):163 8.
    30. Kulkarni RR, et al, J Ethnopharmacol (1991) 33(1 2):91 5.
    31. Grandhi, et al, Journal of Ethnopharmacology (1994) 44:131-135.
    32. Kulkarni SK, Ninan I, J Ethnopharmacol (1997) 57(3):213 7.
    33. Panda S, Kar A, J Pharm Pharmacol (1998) 50(9):1065 8.
    34. Bhattacharya SK, Satyan KS, Chakrabarti A, Indian J Exp Biol (1997) 35(3):297 9.
    35. Aphale AA, et al, Indian J Physiol Pharmacol (1998) 42(2):299 302.
    36. Linder, op cit
  • Carlson Laboratories Introduces Nutra-Support Stress

    Kelly Wavra
    For Immediate Release
    J.R. Carlson Laboratories, Inc.
    600 W. University Drive,
    Arlington Heights, IL 60004
    Tel. 847-255-1600 Fax: 847-255-1605
    E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

    Arlington Heights, IL ---August 2014--- Carlson Laboratories Introduces New Product: Nutra-Support® Stress. Carlson Nutra-Support Stress joins the elite group of Carlson special formulas known as Nutra-Support.

    No one is immune to stress, and it can affect both your mental and your physical health. When under stress the body is triggered to release stress hormones. Those hormones, in turn, lead to an increase in micronutrient requirements which, if not met, lower the resistance to stress and compromise cognitive function and mood. Carlson Nutra-Support Stress can help replenish important nutrients during times of stress.

  • Carlson Nutra-Support Stress

    It looks like we're not the only ones who love this new supplement from Carlson Laboratories. Nutra-Support™ Stress has been recognized as the winner of the 2014 Better Nutrition Best of Supplements Award within the Stress, Anxiety and Mood category. Who doesn't have some level of stress these days. Forget keeping up with the Jones'...it's tough enough just keeping up with the demands on everyday life.

    Nutra-Support Stress is a combination of several vitamins that work synergistically to support your nervous system and brain health. Each of the eight B vitamins in Nutra-Support Stress perform an intricate role in maintaining proper metabolic functioning, harvesting energy to support the body's chemical reactions, and are essential for well being. The added vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that helps fend off harmful free radicals.

    As we get older we can experience more tiredness and hair loss which most of us will attribute to aging but it may be you’re not getting enough vitamin B. Loss of appetite, respiratory infections, and muscle cramps can also be attributed to low vitamin B. Even depression has been related to a lack of B vitamins. Vitamin B is important for maintaining skin health, and deficiencies of it can cause eczema. Many doctors are prescribing B vitamins for cancer patients to improve their overall health and strengthen the immune system, even though there is no evidence that it can help cure cancer. Do check with your doctor if you are on a drug regimen or chemotherapy to avoid possible adverse health effects.

    We highly recommend Nutra-Support Stress and firmly believe this supplement should be in your top 5 supplements to be taken daily especially if you are a woman over 50.

  • How Does Stress Affect You?

    Throughout my career as an acupuncturist, I have been privileged to work with dynamic, successful, and very stressed people. They often point out that their stress is as exciting as it is damaging; therefore their goal is to feel better without changing their schedules. The good news is curtailing the damage of stress does not necessarily mean we have to change the actual activities we are doing; rather, we have to change the way we perceive them.

    To understand how western medicine understands stress, we have to look at the nervous systems. There are two major components that oppose each other. They are known as the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). Effectively, they cannot both be fully active at the same time. One inhibits the other, so turning one on turns the other off.

    The sympathetic nervous system is also known as the fight or flight response. This triggers adrenaline to pour throughout our bodies in response to a perceived threat. The physiological response looks like dilated eyes, quickening heart rate, increase blood pressure, and our overall alertness heightens. This is us when we’re being chased by a bear—or when we think we are being chased by a bear.

    The SNS was meant to be a short-term response that will help us either fight for our survival or give us the energy to try and run to safety. In order for the SNS to have the effectiveness that it does, normal physiological functions are compromised.

    In contrast, the parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for resting and digesting. The PNS is most active during non-stressful situations. In this state, eyes constrict, blood pressure calms down, heart rate slows, and the digestive tract resumes healthy activity. This is us when we are on a relaxing vacation. There is a lot of research looking at how these nervous systems are related to health and illness. In fact, one of the postulations about how acupuncture works is it is said to calm the hyperstimulation of the SNS by activating the PNS.

    Originally, the SNS response evolved out of the need for survival in the wild. We would either find safety or the bear would kill us. The threats were very real and tangible and often very short lived. As such, the body evolved to handle short bursts of activity from the SNS. This is completely normal and sustainable for a finite amount of time. With our technology advancements to more sedentary and protected lifestyles, there must be another reason for our SNS to be raging out of control. In modern times the threats are just as powerful and much less obvious than a confrontation in the wild.

    Just because we can’t put a band-aid on an injury, or we cannot ‘see’ the damage that is being done, does not mean we are healthy. Constant stimulation of the SNS contributes to the creation and development of illness. Damaged cells continue to replicate unchecked, inflammation grows, and hormones are unbalanced. Without intervention, this illness will continually be created and worsened as the body becomes more and more unable to regulate itself. This looks like something that is often classified as ‘chronic illness’. And it is our perception of danger that is leading this physical disintegration.

    The most important aspect of the SNS is that it is activated in response to a perceived threat to someone’s survival or way of life. Anytime someone encounters a situation, real or fantasy, that might be threatening to their way of life or ‘sense of self’, the SNS will be activated. With perceived demands of social expectations and fears of being seen as a failure or being humiliated, the SNS is active for days, weeks, months, and in some cases, years. With these chronic stresses based in some perceived culturally expected behavior, it is no wonder people have a hard time clearing their mind. Remember, we can’t have full relaxation PNS response while having a full-blown SNS adrenaline outpouring. The two systems inhibit each other.

    Let’s take a closer look at something that happens to all of us at one point or another: deadlines. The science of the SNS says that a tough deadline at work or school can be just as stimulating to the body as being chased by a rabid dog. Often, the deadline tends to be more damaging because it is a sustained threat. Once you and the dog are separated, the threat is over. But, as long as the deadline looms, the SNS response can be active.

    There is nothing intrinsic to a deadline that means the fight or flight response has to be activated. The deadline is only as charged as we choose to make it. This example only works if the person trying to meet the deadline cares about meeting it. The more expectations we have of ourselves, the more volatile and imbalanced our energy can become.

    Why would we care about meeting the deadline in the first place? Some of the suggestions are that doing well could mean we will look good in front of our peers, or we might get a promotion. Not meeting the deadline would mean failure, or that we are not good enough for the job. For those of us who care about what other people think of us, meeting that deadline could be a matter of perceived life or death. This will definitely stimulate the SNS.

    Coping mechanisms to deal with this perceived stress are numerous. Rest, medication, exercise, denial, talk therapy, or substance abuse, are some examples—admittedly some more healthy than others. But why cope when you can defuse the loaded situation altogether? The stressor can remain, but our understanding and relationship with it can change.

    Our lives become healthier, the PNS is allowed to activate, when we realize our immediate survival is not threatened. The same reason the SNS is so damaging to people today is the same reason people can heal: there is no imminent danger to our survival. It is the mind’s perception that creates the physiological response. The body isn’t faulty, rather it is our thinking that has gone awry. We are not entirely to blame for this. The cultural programming has pervaded beyond basic needs. It is up to us to unlearn the programming that is not helping us live our best lives possible.

    Those of us who look outside of ourselves to determine our ‘sense of self’ are in the most precarious situation. In looking for positive praise from our parents, children, co-workers, or God, we become subject to a massive litany of obvious and subtle social suggestions about how we should or should not behave, about what is expected from our choices, thoughts, actions and reactions.

    If we are constantly trying to please others, we are abandoning our integrity to the subjective measure of people and forces outside our control. Despite the illusion these suggestions have, we cannot control how people perceive us. Trying to control something we ultimately cannot is horrifying; it is no wonder the body responds with the fight or flight mode in the face of unmitigated expectations.

    When we are unconscious to the suggestions that are playing in our head, we behave like a pinball being bounced around at the whim of others. We lose control of ourselves and the intensity of our fears can grow out of control. The expectations, the ‘should’ and ‘should nots’, are the lion that hunts us all day and night. I am not advocating getting rid of all expectations and suggestions, but we must become aware of what is motivating our actions. We can only control our interpretations of our perceptions.

    What would happen if we could limit or remove completely the expectations and suggestions that lead to that perceived stress in the first place? Then we would be embarking on a new lifestyle that promotes conscious introspection and self-respect while unlocking the door to greater human potential. When we shift from reactivity, the PNS is allowed to thrive.

    When we become aware, we can intervene and defuse the internal chatter that is the vise squeezing the life out of us. The key is in consciousness—which comes from unmerciful and unscrupulous examination of all our beliefs. When we are chronically sick, everything has to be up for reexamination: childhood beliefs, daily routines, theologies and superstitions. More than fast food, poor sleep, lack of exercise, the cultural expectations, shoulds and should nots, and their effect on our nervous system, are the biggest opponent to feeling happy and healthy.

  • Is Your Body on Overdrive? Beat Belly Fat, Curb Cravings And Reduce Stress with Relora ®

    Most of us are all too familiar with the feeling of being stressed—your heart races, your breathing becomes rapid and shallow, your blood pressure rises and your hands become cold or clammy as blood rushes to your limbs to prepare for escape. Most of the time; however, there is no life-threatening need for escape as we sit trapped in traffic or in front of our computers. This is our initial response to stress, otherwise known as an adrenaline rush or a sympathetic nervous system response. The parasympathetic nervous system response, or relaxation response, is just the opposite; your breathing slows and deepens, your muscles relax, your blood pressure lowers, your pulse rate slows and blood flow is directed back to your internal organs.

    If you always feel tense or anxious, your body will remain in a constant state of heightened arousal. This chronic stress, particularly psychological stress, is the most detrimental to your health—not to mention your body composition.

    The Effects of Stress
    Stress, whether caused by physical, emotional, mental or environmental factors, real or imagined, causes our bodies to release a biochemical called cortisol. The Cortico-releasing chemical (CRH) produced by our master gland, the hypothalamus, stimulates the pituitary gland to produce ACTH, which then travels to the adrenal glands (stress glands). These two small glands rest atop the kidneys and produce cortisol. This network is called the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis because all three glands are in constant communication with each other, depending upon our level of perceived stress. Cortisol is produced by the adrenals when under prolonged stress, whereas adrenaline is released as an immediate response to stress. Both processes are necessary in small amounts, but in excess they can be harmful. Over an extended period of time, stress can lead to many health conditions such as:

    • Increased weight gain around the abdomen (belly fat)
    • Insomnia or sleep disruption, i.e. waking too early or between 2 AM and 4 AM
    • Damage to the area of the brain responsible for memory
    • Increased back pain and tension headaches
    • Decreased sex drive and reduced libido

    But there is one supplement, Relora, which is being proven through research and clinical studies to put the brakes on a body that is in stress overdrive. By blending two proprietary herbal extracts from Magnolia officinalis and Phellodendron amurense, Relora can manage the effects of stress, sometimes in as little as two weeks.

    Protect Your Brain from Stress with Relora
    Mental or emotional stress is the most harmful type of stress, because it is not followed by a relaxation response, unlike most physical stress which is followed by a period of rest. Not to add to your stress level, but accumulating research indicates that continuous or intense stress may negatively influence the brain and its functions. Studies find evidence that stress may alter brain cells, brain structure and brain function. As a consequence, memory problems may occur. One study published by the journal Neuron (January 2010) reveals complex molecular mechanisms associated with stress. The researchers observed that in contrast to stress-resilient mice, stress-vulnerable mice exhibited changes in behaviors when exposed to mild stress.

    Serotonin is often thought of as our “happy chemical” and high levels of stress rob of us this valuable neurotransmitter. Research looking at Relora’s impact on central nervous system receptors found, amazingly, that Relora has an effect on some of the brain’s receptor binding sites. Most noteworthy among these interactions was the strong binding at the serotonin transporter.

    Relora and The War on Belly Fat
    Studies show that stress causes abdominal (belly) fat— even in people who are otherwise thin. Results published in the journal of Psychosomatic Medicine (2000) established a link between cortisol and increased storage of abdominal fat. It was found that abdominal fat, versus overall weight gain, is directly related to a person’s greater psychological vulnerability to stress and cortisol reactivity. If you gain weight in your abdomen and waist instead of on your hips and thighs, you may be genetically programmed to secrete more cortisol (which in turn creates more belly fat) at lower levels of stress than women who gain weight in other places than their abdomen. One open label trial (2006) of more than 1,200 participants with mild to moderate stress, demonstrated that Relora was effective in managing stress, promoting restful sleep and helping to manage stress-related eating in as much as 90 percent of participants.

    Stop Your Cravings with Relora
    Under stressful conditions, cortisol provides the body with glucose (sugar) by tapping into protein stores in the liver. Elevated cortisol consistently churns out glucose, which leads to long-term increased blood sugar levels—and metabolic syndrome. Furthering the tie between cortisol and appetite, a 2001 study published in Psychoneuroendocrinology demonstrated that cortisol injections are associated with increased appetite, cravings for sugar and weight gain. Most of us have experienced these stress-induced food cravings, which tend to take hold at the least opportune times, such as late at night.

    A pilot study published in Alternative Therapieswas conducted in healthy, overweight women between the ages of 20 – 50 years, who typically eat more in response to stressful situations and score above average for self-reported anxiety. Researchers found that the treatment group tended to have lower levels of cortisol in the evening (when cravings go hand-in-hand with high cortisol levels), whereas the placebo group experienced higher levels of cortisol during those same hours. The group receiving Relora experienced no weight gain as compared to their counterparts that added 1.5 kg (3.3 lbs) to the scale over six weeks.

    Improve Your Slumber with Relora
    In addition to our weight, high cortisol can also negatively affect our sleep patterns, making it difficult to fall asleep or to stay asleep once we finally do go to bed. In a dangerous catch-22, inadequate sleep further increases cortisol levels. This signals the secretion of ghrelin which increases appetite, and at the same time decreases leptin levels, which tells the body it is satiated. Extensive research, including a paper published in The American Journal of Human Biology (2009), links lack of sleep to some wellness parameters. In similar findings presented at the American Heart Association’s 2012 Scientific Sessions, researchers studied 17 healthy young men and women for eight nights, with half of the participants sleeping normally and half sleeping only two-thirds their normal time. The sleep deprived group, who slept one hour and 20 minutes less than the control group each day, consumed an average 549 additional calories each day.

    Taking Relora before bed may reverse this poorly-timed cortisol pattern. In the aforementioned study, bedtime cortisol levels in the Relora group decreased, while some in the placebo group had cortisol levels increase or remain unchanged. For this reason Relora may be an ideal solution for patients who tend to wake up throughout the night, for highly stressed individuals who have problems falling asleep and for menopausal women with hot flashes that cause sleep disruption.

    Balance your Body with Relora
    As if our metabolism were not already in sufficient jeopardy, cortisol inhibits the function of the thyroid, the master of our metabolic rate. Over time, this exposure to cortisol decreases cellular response to insulin and leads to increased insulin levels. Many people already have an imbalanced ratio of cortisol to DHEA (a precursor hormone to estrogen and testosterone). This adrenal chemical tends to naturally decrease as we age. At the same time, it protects against the harmful effects of cortisol. In a healthy individual, cortisol peaks in the morning and slowly decreases throughout the day; for someone with stress, the reverse is often true.

    A 2001 pilot study looked at Relora’s impact on this ratio. A two-week regimen of Relora in subjects with mild to moderate stress experienced a significant increase in salivary DHEA (up to 227 percent) and a substantial decrease in morning salivary cortisol levels. In addition, Relora increased the DHEA levels from subnormal limits to within normal limits in seven (7) out of ten (10) subjects whose initial levels were below normal, showing its ability to restore balance.

    Be Yourself with Relora
    Stress is an inevitable part of our everyday lives, but don’t let it take control. Stress and its related biochemistry can be overwhelming and rob us of our physical health and mental well-being. Scientific studies, healthcare professionals and consumers agree that Relora can be the game changer in our ongoing fight to knock out distractions and regain control in our hectic lives. All-natural Relora is just what you’ve been waiting for.

  • Is Your Hectic Lifestyle Making You Sick ?

    Face it. Life is a balancing act. Between work, relationships, parental duties, staying fit, academic efforts, maintaining friendships, community involvement and personal fulfillment, it’s a wonder most of us can even find time to catch our breath. Yet we soldier forward with all our obligations and commitments because we have to, and in most cases, we want to. But when life gets so hectic the stress of it all impacts our mental and physical well-being, it’s time to take action.

    Becoming familiar with the ways different types of stress can affect our minds and bodies, specifically our immune system, as well as learning about the available tools that have been clinically proven to manage the impact of stress on the immune system, are proactive steps toward keeping healthy. Lessening the impact of harmful invaders on our immune system entails not just strengthening it to combat the bacteria and viruses that cause common illnesses, but also ensuring that our immune system’s response to such external stimuli as allergens is not too strong—as asthma and other long-term health implications can result. In short, keeping our immune systems in check, but more importantly, in balance, is imperative to our overall health.

    How Stress Affects the Immune System
    While many aspects of our daily lives can negatively impact our immune systems—a less-than-optimal diet, travel, pollution, changing seasons, overexertion during exercise, lack of sleep and even the normal aging process—stress can also interfere with a healthy immune system.

    Certain physiological changes occur to help an individual cope with stress. Chronic activation of the neurological pathways associated with stress result in the production of hormones and neurotransmitters/ chemicals, which then alter the function of certain cells of the immune system. These altered cells cause the immune system to respond improperly, either by over-responding or under-responding, to bacteria, viruses, allergens, fungi and parasites.

    In addition to impacting the human immune system, stress that is mismanaged and remains too high for prolonged periods of time can lead to a variety of symptoms associated with very serious illnesses, including heart disease, anxiety disorders, high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, respiratory disorders, accidental injuries and cirrhosis of the liver. Stress has been linked to all of these illnesses, all of which are leading causes of death in the United States.

    Types of Stress
    There are certain types of stressful events and situations called “stressors” that our bodies react to in different ways. Surprisingly, not all types of stressors negatively affect us. “Acute stressors” are time-limited and temporary. Public speaking and academic testing are examples of short-term stressors that temporarily boost, or over-stimulate, the immune system. The body quickly adapts itself to respond to short-term stressors through the “fight or flight” response by releasing such chemicals as adrenaline that enable our pupils to dilate, our awareness to intensify, our sight to sharpen, our impulses to quicken and our immune system to mobilize and increase activation. Much of the time increased immune system activity is a benefit to us, as it helps to ready the body for challenges, but in some cases an over-reactive immune system can result in allergies, asthma, chronic inflammation and autoimmune diseases.

    “Sequential stressors” include major events that give rise to a series of related challenges, such as the loss of a spouse or a natural disaster. “Chronic stressors” are ongoing, persuasive demands that force people to restructure their identity or social roles and have no end in sight. Examples of such stressors include caring for an aging spouse or elderly parent, being victim of an event that leads to a permanent disability or fleeing a third-world country because of violence or war.

    Both sequential and chronic stressors suppress, or under-stimulate, the immune system, leaving the body open for attack and more vulnerable to illness. Other manifestations of these types of stress include: fatigue and exhaustion; headaches or migraines; neck and back pain or stiffness; gastrointestinal problems (nausea, diarrhea, constipation or colitis); chest pains or palpitations; sleep disturbances; family conflicts; job tensions; and a change in sexual energy.

    A Tool for a Balanced Immune System: EpiCor
    While we may be able to employ various proven tactics to reduce our stress level, such as exercise, meditation, acupuncture and/ or massage therapy, the fact remains that certain amounts of stress will be present in our lives; especially in today’s increasingly over-scheduled society. So, if escaping our stressors is not an option—and for most of us it’s not—we may need some extra help in keeping our immune system in balance while we deal with daily stress.

    One such all-natural tool that can be used in this capacity is a product called EpiCor™, which is comprised of metabolites that nourish and balance the body’s immune system. EpiCor strengthens resistance and maintains wellness before immune health issues develop by helping the body modulate its immune response.

    Just like the medical breakthroughs penicillin and X-rays, EpiCor was discovered by accident! When the parent company experienced minimal health insurance premium rate increases several years in a row and the incidences of employees using sick days were rare, a series of scientific studies were conducted. Findings confirmed that production workers who had been exposed to the ingredient experienced significantly higher immune activity than those workers who had not been exposed. EpiCor is unique in that just one 500 milligram capsule per day helps the immune system stay strong and healthy through balance. A strong immune system is not one that has only been stimulated or boosted. Those actions can certainly be helpful at specific times, but as we have just learned, there are times that the immune system can over-respond, leading to health issues. A strong immune system is one that is balanced and can respond appropriately, depending on the situation at hand. These two actions—boosting and suppressing—constitute EpiCor’s proven methodology known as “immune balance.”

    Research on EpiCor and What it Means to Us
    Unlike so many other immune health supplements, a bevy of scientific research supports EpiCor’s effects on the immune system. Favorable efficacy profiles have been observed for Epi- Cor in clinical trials, and studies at the cellular (in vitro) level have suggested its mechanisms of action. Multiple toxicological studies have been performed that prove the safety of EpiCor. In addition to finding that EpiCor has no contraindications, ongoing research has also confirmed EpiCor fights free radicals through its high antioxidant activity and helps to manage inflammation.

    Most recently, a published study found that EpiCor has a significant impact on the incidence and duration of the common cold and flu. Specifically, this randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial found that taken once a day, a 500 milligram EpiCor capsule significantly decreased the incidences of cold and flu symptoms as well as observable symptom duration. These results translate into fewer sick days for people taking EpiCor, which is of great importance to American businesses dealing with health care costs, employee sick days and lost revenue.

    Now think of what this research on EpiCor means for our personal overall health which, as we have learned, is directly affected by our stress levels. If we are healthy, we are not staying home sick from work and falling behind. If we are healthy, we are more likely to be fully engaged when interacting with our partners, children and friends, thus strengthening those relationships instead of aggravating them by being over-stressed and irritable. If we are healthy, we have more physical energy to participate in personal fulfillment activities that interest us and allow us to decompress, such as gardening, cooking, exercising and reading. And finally, if we are healthy, we are not spending money on medial deductibles, treatments or unnecessary prescriptions, which is a major concern according to the American Psychological Association’s (APA) recent national survey reporting that money is the leading cause of stress for 75 percent of all Americans. The APA also found that 77 percent of people suffering from stress reported physical symptoms including fatigue, headache, upset stomach, muscle tension, change in appetite, teeth grinding, change in sex drive and feeling dizzy.

    Sound familiar?

    Isn’t it time we broke this vicious stress-illness cycle? Keeping our immune system balanced is the first step. In addition to giving our immune system the very basic things that help to keep it healthy—good nutrition and plenty of sleep—there are other things we can do to support it as well. One such thing is EpiCor. As an all-natural, safe and economical way of supporting the immune system, EpiCor just may be the key to a balanced and healthy life.

    References:
    • Jensen, G, et al. An anti-inflammatory immunogen from yeast culture induces activation and alters chemokine receptor expression on human natural killer cells and B lymphocytes in vitro. Nutrition Research (2007), 27:6, 327–335.
    • Moyad, M, et al. Effects of a modified yeast supplement on cold/flu symptoms. Urologic Nursing (2008), 28:1, 50–5.
    • Padgett, DA, et al. How stress influences the immune response.
    • TRENDS in Immunology (2003), 24:8, 444–8. Segerstrom SC, et al. Psychological stress and the human immune system: a meta-analytic study of 30 years of inquiry. Psychological Bulletin (2004), 130, 601–30.
  • L-Theanine: Nature’s Chill Pill

    Virtually everyone has stress. In fact, According to the Stress in America™ survey by the American Psychological Association,1 39 percent of respondents said their stress increased over the past year, and 44 percent said that their stress had increased over the past five years. The question is, how well do you handle your stress, how does it affect your life, and what can you do about it? The same Stress in America survey indicates the following percentage of Americans is only fair or poor at:

    • Preventing themselves from becoming stressed (44 percent)
    • Managing or reducing stress once experienced (39 percent)
    • Recovering fully or recharging after they’ve been stressed (31 percent)

    The ramifications of chronic stress include increases in illness, including headaches, heart disease, immune deficiencies and digestive problems. To a large extent, this appears to be due to an increased production of stress hormones and decreased immune function.2

    So what can be done to help control stress and reduce its ill effects? The answer is really multifaceted and may include a program of diet, exercise, stress-management techniques such as yoga, and even psychological counseling. In addition, when stress rears its ugly head, nature’s chill pill, L-theanine may be able to help.

    L-THEANINE’S MECHANISM OF ACTION
    Asian cultures have often used teas for relaxation effects. The relaxing effect is, at least in part, caused by the presence of a neurologically active amino acid, L-theanine (gamma-ethyl-amino- L-glutamic acid). Tea has the reputation of having less caffeine than coffee but it is the L-theanine in the tea that lessens the stimulant effect of caffeine on the human nervous system. In the brain, L-theanine increases both serotonin and dopamine production3, and possibly GABA as well.4

    Evidence from human electroencephalograph (EEG) studies show that it also significantly increases brain activity in the alpha frequency band which indicates that it relaxes the mind without inducing drowsiness. Alpha activity is also known to play an important role in critical aspects of attention. Research indicates that L-theanine has a significant effect on improving mental alertness while promoting relaxation.5

    L-THEANINE AND RELAXATION
    According to Mason, two small human studies6 showed that within 30–40 minutes of consuming 50 or 200 mg of L-theanine there is an increase of alpha wave activity/electrical signals produced by the brain. The perceived relaxation effect in the subjects coincided with the detection of alpha waves. This shows that L-theanine fosters a state of alert relaxation, which is consistent with the fact that anxious people have fewer or smaller alpha waves.

    The journal Human Psychopharmacology Clinical and Experimental published a double-blind placebo-controlled study7 in which sixteen healthy volunteers received 200 mg L-theanine, a pharmaceutical anxiolytic or placebo. The results showed that L-theanine induced feelings of tranquility in the volunteers.

    L-THEANINE, STRESS AND ANXIETY
    The journal Biological Psychology published a double-blind, placebo-controlled study8 in which twelve participants underwent four separate trials: one in which they took L-theanine at the start of an experimental, stress-inducing procedure, one in which they took L-theanine midway, and two control trials in which they either took a placebo or nothing. The results showed that L-theanine intake resulted in a reduction in some physiological indicators of stress within 15 minutes, compared to the placebo or control condition. Moreover, analyses of heart rate variability indicated that reductions in heart rate were likely attributable to a reduction of sympathetic nervous activation, suggesting that L-theanine had anti-stress effects via the inhibition of cortical neuron excitation.

    Similarly, a placebo-controlled study9 conducted with pharmacy students found that L-theanine (200 mg, twice a day, after breakfast and lunch) was effective at suppressing the initial stress response of students.

    The Journal of Physiological Anthropology published a placebo- controlled study10 in which 14 participants took either L-theanine + placebo, caffeine + placebo, or placebo only (L-theanine 200 mg, caffeine 100 mg) while performing mental tasks and physiological activities under conditions of physical or psychological stress. The results showed that L-theanine significantly reduced anxiety and reduced the blood-pressure increase in high-stress-response adults. Caffeine tended to have a similar but smaller inhibition of the blood-pressure increases caused by the mental tasks.

    The Journal of Functional Foods published a double-blind, placebo-controlled study11 in which 18 normal healthy subjects were divided into two groups referred to as high anxiety propensity group and the minimal anxiety propensity group. Both groups received 200 mg L-theanine and placebo (at different times)(200 mg/100 ml water) and placebo (100 ml water) in a double-blind repeated measurement design protocol. When tested at 15–60 minutes after consumption, results showed significantly enhanced activity of alpha bands, descending heart rate, elevated visual attentional performance, and improved reaction time response among high anxiety propensity subjects compared to a placebo. However, no significant differences were noticed among subjects with a minimal anxiety propensity.

    L-THEANINE AND MENTAL FOCUS
    The journal Neuropharmacology published a double-blind, randomized, cross-over study12 in which 27 participants received 100 mg L-theanine, 50 mg caffeine, a combination of the two, or a placebo. The results were that L-theanine and caffeine each significantly reduced error rates during a sustained attention task. It was noted that the combination of L-theanine and caffeine did not confer any additional benefits over either compound alone.

    Another study13 examined “sensory gating.” Sensory gating describes the processes of filtering out redundant or unnecessary stimuli in the brain from all possible environmental stimuli. Being able to do this is obviously beneficial when you’re trying to focus on a mental task. In the study, L-theanine was given to 14 healthy subjects, and tests were conducted 90 minutes later. The results were that 200 mg and 400 mg significantly improved sensory gating.

    CONCLUSION
    Research shows that L-theanine is effective at helping to promote relaxation while reducing feelings of stress and anxiety. Furthermore, this amino acid is even helpful in promoting mental focus. Truly, L-theanine is nature’s chill pill.

    References
    1. American Psychological Association. Stress in America™: Our Health at Risk. Released January 11, 2012. 78 pgs.
    2. Head KA, Kelly GS. Nutrients and botanicals for treatment of stress: adrenal fatigue, neurotransmitter imbalance, anxiety, and restless sleep. Altern Med Rev. 2009 Jun;14(2):114–40.
    3. L-Theanine monograph. Alternative Medicine Review 2005;10(2):136-8.
    4. Lu K, Gray MA, Oliver C, et al. The acute effects of L-theanine in comparison with alprazolam on anticipatory anxiety in humans. Hum Psychopharmacol Clin Exp 2004;19:457–65.
    5. Nobre AC, Rao A, Owen GN. L-theanine, a natural constituent in tea, and its effect on mental state. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr 2008;17 Suppl 1:167–8.
    6. Mason,R. 200 mg of Zen. Alternative & Complementary Therapies 2001; 7(2):91–95.
    7. Ibid. Lu K, Gray MA, Oliver C, et al.
    8. Kimura K, Ozeki M, Juneja LR, Ohira H. L-Theanine reduces psychological and physiological stress responses. Biol Psychol 2007;74(1):39–45
    9. Unno K, Tanida N, Ishii N, et al. Anti-stress effect of theanine on students during pharmacy practice: positive correlation among salivary á-amylase activity, trait anxiety and subjective stress. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2013 Oct;111:128–35.
    10. Yoto A, Motoki M, Murao S, Yokogoshi H. Effects of L-theanine or caffeine intake on changes in blood pressure under physical and psychological stresses. J Physiol Anthropol. 2012 Oct 29;31:28.
    11. Higashyama A, Htay HH, Ozeki M, Juneja LR, Kapoor MP. Effects of l-theanine on attention and reaction time response. Journal of Functional Foods. 2011;3(3):171–8.
    12. Foxe JJ, Morie KP, Laud PJ, Rowson MJ, de Bruin EA, Kelly SP. Assessing the effects of caffeine and theanine on the maintenance of vigilance during a sustained attention task. Neuropharmacology. 2012 Jun;62(7):2320–7.
    13. Ota M, Wakabayashi C, Matsuo J, et al. Effect of L-theanine on sensorimotor gating in healthy human subjects. Psychiatry Clin Neurosci. 2014 May;68(5):337–43.
  • Nutraceuticals to Help You Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions

    The New Year is right around the corner, and you know what that means: time for New Year’s resolutions. According to the United States government,1 five of the top ten New Year’s resolutions are:

    1. Lose Weight
    2. Get a Better Education
    3. Get Fit
    4. Eat Healthy Food
    5. Manage Stress

    Of course it’s easy to make resolutions, but hard to keep them. So what can you do to make it easier? While there is no substitute for willpower and commitment, this article will review some nutraceuticals which may actually help you be more effective at adhering to these five resolutions.

  • Sleep: Challenges and Success

    What is Sleep?
    For humans and most animals, sleep is a period of rest and recharging from the activities and stresses of our daily lives. Sleep is a time for the brain and nervous system to replenish its reserves and to rest our digestive tract, our spine and our muscles. We each have our own sleep patterns and needs. Sleep is a time when we restore our vital functioning and allow our conscious mind to rest and release our subconscious mind to be active. Sleep also changes as we grow and age.

    Chronic sleep deprivation has many health consequences including increased risk for infections, heart disease, depression, impaired cognitive functions and more accidents.1 Fatigue and low motivation also occur frequently when we don’t properly recharge our ‘batteries.’

    How Much Sleep Do We Need?
    Our individual requirement for sleep depends on both the quantity (hours) as well as the quality of our sleep. This involves how deeply we sleep and whether we feel replenished or exhausted when we wake up. We need to go into the slower theta waves where we dream in order to become completely recharged. Many of us are partly or fully “sleep deprived.” Insomnia is one of the most common complaints seen by physicians, as is fatigue, which is partly due to poor sleep. Some reports have suggested that 50 –70 million adults, more than 35 percent of Americans are sleep deprived.2 Are you?

    Why Don’t We Sleep Well?
    Many of us don’t sleep well because we stay up late with TV and computers on, receiving too much light and electricity to support nighttime quiet. Then, often we must awaken earlier than our own rhythm might want us to, using alarms from a clock or cell phone. This is common with jobs and school, and especially challenging for teenagers, who seem to gravitate too late to bed and ever later to arise. If we ingest too many stimulants in our diets (coffee, sugars, chocolate) throughout the day, our sleep often suffers. Having too many stresses and worries diminishes quality sleep. Too much electromagnetic activity (TVs, digital clocks, microwaves, and Wi-Fi) in our homes and bedrooms could alter sleep quality. Do you get quality sleep with a partner, or do you sleep better alone? Often, long time couples end up sleeping in different rooms because one snores or they like different covers and room temperatures, or generally have different sleep patterns.

    Quality sleep is essential for maintaining good health and includes being able to fall asleep easily and stay asleep; awaken naturally at the right time; and feeling rested and ready for the day. This is important for a healthy, energetic body that can live to its potential.

    Assess The Quality Of Your Own Sleep
    • How often are you satisfied with your current sleep? Daily, weekly, never?
    • Do you know your natural sleep needs and sleep cycles?
    • How much sleep do you need before you feel rested?
    • Do you fall asleep easily and stay asleep through the night?
    • Do you wake up during the night?
    • How often?
    • Why?
    • Is it to urinate?
    • Is it anxiety?
    • Can you go back to sleep easily if you awaken during the night?
    • Do you have nightmares or anxiety-generating dreams? How often?
    • Is there a specific cause of poor sleep, like allergies, medications or anxiety?
    • Is there a change in your sleep patterns?
    • Is this change related to life cycles, like menopause or aging?
    • What is your state of mind when you wake up?
    • Do you feel rested when you wake up?
    • Do you need an alarm clock and reset it two or three times before getting up?
    • Do you have energy throughout the day, or do you need many jolts of caffeine and sugar, and then alcohol later to relax?
    • If you have a sleep partner, how does he, or she, affect your sleep?

    There are many consequences of poor sleep—including immune deficiency and subsequent illness, mood and cognitive issues and a general lack of energy and motivation? Sleep experts talk about ‘sleep hygiene’ as a primary approach to help improve the quality of sleep. In fact, the New England Journal of Medicine3 and National Sleep Foundation4 recommend behavior change and ‘sleep hygiene’ as the primary way to deal with sleep problems, not resorting to pharmaceuticals at first.

    Ways To Improve Your Sleep

    Before Bed—Sleep Prep
    • Be quiet about an hour before bedtime, dim the lights, and turn off computers and TV. Listen to calming music or meditate. Many read something to relax and get sleepy.
    • Avoid alcohol, coffee or chocolate, vigorous exercise, or eating too much in the hours before bed.
    • Get some fresh air and light exercise if you find that helps you relax. A walk outdoors to see some stars and experience the quiet of night can be helpful.
    In The Bedroom
    • Make your bedroom a comforting environment that gives you a sense of peace and relaxation.
    • Keep your room dark and find the right temperature (and right amount of covers) that helps you sleep—cooler is usually better.
    • Make sure your bed and bedroom are used primarily for sleep (or physical intimacy) and not for working on computers or watching television. In general, keep your electromagnetic exposure as low as possible in the bedroom.
    If these suggestions don’t work, try natural remedies before going on to stronger pharmaceutical medicines, but if you do use medications, do so only as a temporary measure. Explore These Natural Approaches First:
    • Melatonin (1–3 mg) taken 30 minutes before sleep (helps align diurnal sleep rhythm but not for people with autoimmune conditions).
    • Serotonin supporters like L-tryptophan (500–1500 mg) and 5-HTP (50–200 mg) help with deeper sleep.
    • GABA (250 –1,000 mg) is a brain and nervous system calmer, and L-theanine (200 –400 mg) may support better relaxation of mind and body and help with sleep; these two items are often contained together in products like Liposomal Zen Liquid (by Allergy Research Group).
    • Calcium Magnesium combinations in equal amounts of 250–500 mg each often helps with relaxation and sleep.
    • Herbs like valerian, chamomile (caution for people with allergies to ragweed) and catnip, or formulas like Sleepytime or Nighty Night teas.

    Your doctor may prescribe sleeping pills like Ambien or Sonata or more tranquilizer medicines like Ativan or Xanax. These can help break poor sleep cycles with a good sleep, yet all of these are addictive and some can contribute to amnesia or sleepwalking. Overall, it’s best to align with natural sleep as much as possible by lowering your stimulants, improving your exercise, eating well, and lowering electronic exposures later in the day.

    Clearly, many health and life situations can affect sleep, such as menopause, getting up frequently to urinate, and/or stress/anxiety conditions, especially as we age. Usually, children sleep quite well and longer than adults, so if they have trouble sleeping, it can be more of a concern. Though teens have a slightly altered sleep cycle compared to adults, their reluctance to wake too early for school is usually biologically based.5 They also need more sleep than adults. Ideally, school should start later for all our young people. For poor sleep, you want to identify the underlying causes. Allergies can be one, as can emotional upset and mental worries.

    Overall, sleep is an important part of Staying Healthy and one of my 5 Keys, which also include Nutrition, Exercise, Stress Management, and Healthy Attitudes. It all works when we apply our healthy lifestyle. Sleep well!

    (Author’s note: This is excerpted from my soon-to-be-released book, Staying Healthy with NEW Medicine: Integrating Natural, Eastern, and Western Approaches for Optimal Health. This is from the chapter “5 Keys to Staying Healthy.” See website: www.ElsonHaasMD.com and sign on to get the free 5 Keys message.)

    References:
    1. BREUS, Michael Sleep Habits: More Important Than You Think Chronic Sleep Deprivation May Harm Health http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/features/importantsleep-habits.
    2. Insufficient sleep is a public health epidemic. http://www.cdc.gove/features/dssleep.
    3. The Diagnosis and Management of InsomniaJ. Christian Gillin, M.D., and William F. Byerley, M.D. N Engl J Med 1990; 322:239–248January 25, 1990DOI: 10.1056/NEJM199001253220406.
    4. http://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-tools-tips/healthy-sleeptips.
    5. http://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/teens-and-sleep.
  • The B Vitamins For Stress, Energy, Heart Health & More

    What are they?
    The water-soluble B vitamins are collectively referred to as "B-Complex." They include thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin or niacinamide (B3), pyridoxine (B6), folic acid, vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamin or methylcobalamin), biotin and pantothenic acid (B5). In addition, choline, inositol and PABA (paraaminobenzoic acid) are compounds that are not technically B vitamins but which have related functions and so are often included with B-Complex products.

    B vitamins are found in whole unprocessed foods. Processed carbohydrates such as sugar and white flour tend to have lower B vitamins than their unprocessed counterparts. B vitamins are particularly concentrated in meat such as turkey and tuna, in liver and meat products. Other good sources for B vitamins include kombucha, whole grains, potatoes, bananas, lentils, chili peppers, tempeh, beans, nutritional yeast, brewer's yeast, and molasses.1

    What Does It Do?
    Each of the B vitamins has their own functions to serve in the body, but in general they may be considered to play a role in energy metabolism and helping to promote homeostasis when the body is under stress. The use of the entire B-Complex is recommended since the individual B vitamins affect one another's absorption, metabolism, and excretion.2

    B-Complex And Energy
    Each of the B vitamins is converted into coenzymes in the body. These B vitamin coenzymes are involved, directly or indirectly in energy metabolism. Some are facilitators of the energy-releasing reactions themselves within the mitochondria; others help build new cells to deliver the oxygen and nutrients that permit the energy pathways to run. Thiamin is essential for the oxidative decarboxylation of the multienzyme branched-chain ketoacid dehydrogenase complexes of the citric acid cycle. Riboflavin is required for the flavoenzymes of the respiratory chain, while NADH is synthesized from niacin and is required to supply protons for oxidative phosphorylation. Pantothenic acid is required for coenzyme A formation and is also essential for alphaketoglutarate and pyruvate dehydrogenase complexes as well as fatty acid oxidation. Biotin is the coenzyme of decarboxylases required for gluconeogenesis and fatty acid oxidation.3 Folic acid and choline are believed to be central methyl donors required for mitochondrial protein and nucleic acid synthesis through their active forms. Vitamin B12 is necessary for the biochemical reaction that plays an important role in the production of energy from fats and proteins.4 One of vitamin B6's coenzyme forms, pyridoxal 5'-phosphate, works with glycogen phosphorylase, an enzyme that catalyzes the release of glucose from stored glycogen.5

    Active individuals with poor or marginal nutritional status for a B vitamin may have decreased ability to perform exercise at high intensities. Exercise stresses metabolic pathways that depend on thiamine, riboflavin, and vitamin B6. Consequently, the requirements for these vitamins may be increased in athletes and active individuals.6 In fact, exercise could increase the need for these micronutrients in several ways: through decreased absorption of the nutrients; by increased turnover, metabolism, or loss of the nutrients; through biochemical adaptation as a result of training that increases nutrient needs; by an increase in mitochondrial enzymes that require the nutrients; or through an increased need for the nutrients for tissue maintenance and repair. Other research7 also suggests that exercise may increase the requirements for riboflavin and vitamin B6, and possibly for folic acid and vitamin B12. Biochemical evidence of deficiencies in some of these vitamins in active individuals has been reported, including riboflavin and vitamin B6.8 Exercise appears to decrease nutrient status even further in active individuals with preexisting marginal vitamin intakes or marginal body stores. Thus, active individuals who restrict their energy intake or make poor dietary choices are at greatest risk for poor B vitamin status, and should consider supplementing with B-complex vitamins.

    B-Complex And Stress
    The B-complex vitamins are intimately involved in the function of the nervous system,9 and so can play a role in helping to counter some of the negative effects of stress. In fact, the ability of humans to respond to stresses can be influenced by nutritional status—including the status of key B vitamins.10 In one study, vitamin B1 (thiamine) and vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) together were found to be especially necessary for workers whose activity is associated with nervous-emotional stress.11 Similar results were seen in a previous study.12

    Research on individual B vitamins has also revealed important roles where stress and the nervous system are concerned. For example, vitamin B1 was found to reduce the effects of catabolic (i.e., breaking down tissues) stress hormones, which resulted from surgery. It also protected the adrenal glands (the "stress glands") from functional exhaustion.13 Pantothenic acid is intimately involved in adrenal function, and the production of adrenal hormones associated with stress.14Niacinamide has been found to reduce certain neurological damage caused by oxidative stress,15 as well as to prevent heart disturbances that resulted from emotional-painful stress.16,17 Vitamin B6 deficiency has been found to be related to increased psychological distress in recently bereaved men;18 and supplementation with vitamin B6 is suggested as part of an overall program for stress.19 Vitamin B12 is also necessary for nervous system functioning, and a deficiency can lead to fatigue and degeneration of peripheral nerves.20 Finally, the concurrent use of B vitamins (i.e., B-complex) together is recommended since they affect one another's absorption, metabolism, and excretion.21

    B-Complex And Homocysteine
    A substantial body of scientific evidence suggests that generous intakes of three B vitamins may help improve cardiovascular health in the United States. The particular B vitamins involved are folic acid, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12. Research indicates these vitamins help promote healthy levels of homocysteine, the amino acid byproduct of metabolism. This is important since high homocysteine levels are a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, on par with high cholesterol levels. Numerous studies indicate that homocysteine levels can be normalized, using vitamin B6, vitamin B12 and folic acid; either individually or in combination.22,23,24,25,26,27,28,29,30

    Folic Acid And Preventing Birth Defects
    One of the most exciting scientific developments in the past several decades is the finding that folic acid plays a critical role in protecting against some serious birth defects, including neural tube defects, when taken by women of childbearing age before and during pregnancy. The Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine recognized these findings when it issued new dietary recommendations for the B vitamins in 1998 recommending, "that women capable of becoming pregnant use supplements, fortified foods, or both in addition to consuming food folate from a varied diet." The Food and Nutrition Board added, "At this time the evidence for a protective effect from folate supplements is much stronger than that for food folate."31 The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) started even earlier by issuing a public health recommendation in 1992 urging all women of childbearing age to get 400 mcg of folic acid daily to help neural tube defects.32

    Who should use it?
    Anyone and everyone should be using the B-complex vitamins. This is especially true of people who need energy to work out in a gym, or participate in a sport. B vitamins are a fundamental part of basic nutritional needs, and research has shown Americans don't always consume sufficient amount of some B vitamins.33 For example, in a large national survey, 71 percent of males and 90 percent of females consumed less than the recommended daily allowance for vitamin B6.34

    Dosage/Timing
    The two products that typically contain the B-complex vitamins are B-complex supplements and multivitamins. In the case of many low-potency, drug store brand type multivitamins, Daily Value levels of the individual B vitamins are used; for example, 1.5 mg of vitamin B1 and 1.7 mg of vitamin B2. Sometimes these levels are doubled, so now there is 3 mg of vitamin B1, etc. While these levels have value and are likely sufficient for preventing a nutrient deficiency disease, experience and empirical evidence suggests they wouldn't be likely to have much of an effect on noticeably increasing energy levels or helping to reduce symptoms of stress. Rather, increasing the dose so that there is at least 10–15 mg (or more) of each B vitamin is more realistic for purposes of energy and stress. For individuals who are under significant amounts of stress and/or who have higher energy needs, higher doses of each vitamin might even be used.

    Since B vitamins are commonly used for energy and stress, it makes sense to use them in the earlier part of the day rather than in the evening. In fact, taking them in the evening may cause an increase in energy before bedtime, making it more difficult to fall asleep. Ideally, B vitamins should be taken with breakfast or lunch. It is important to take them with food for two reasons. First, B vitamins work with food and cellular enzymes to help produce ATP, the primary cellular energy molecule. Second, taking B vitamins on an empty stomach may cause some stomach upset (e.g., mild nausea).

    Also, keep in mind that when first taking B vitamins it may take a few weeks until you notice a substantial increase in energy. The reason for this is that your body needs time to produce more cellular enzymes to work with the B-vitamin coenzymes.

    Adverse Reactions/Interactions
    Folic acid may reduce serum levels of phenytoin in some patients, and may increase seizure frequency,35 so patients concurrently taking medications such as Cerebyx, Luminal, Dilantin, and Mysoline should be carefully monitored. A characteristic flushing reaction can occur with doses of niacin as low as 30 mg/day (but not with niacinamide), but occurs more commonly with the larger doses commonly used for treatment of hyperlipidemia. PABA inhibits the antimicrobial activity of sulfonamide antibiotics, and might inhibit the antibacterial effects of dapsone; avoid concurrent use.36

    1. Whitney E, Rolfes S. Understanding Nutrition, Ninth Edition, Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning; 2002.
    2. Whitney E, Rolfes S. Understanding Nutrition, Ninth Edition, Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning; 2002.
    3. Depeint F, Bruce WR, Shangari N, Mehta R, O'Brien PJ. Mitochondrial function and toxicity: role of the B vitamin family on mitochondrial energy metabolism. Chem Biol Interact 2006;163(1-2):94-112.
    4. Shane B. Folic acid, vitamin B-12, and vitamin B-6. In: Stipanuk M, ed. Biochemical and Physiological Aspects of Human Nutrition. Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders Co.; 2000:483-518.
    5. McCormick DB. Vitamin B6. In: Bowman BA, Russell RM, eds. Present Knowledge in Nutrition. Vol. I. Washington, D.C.: International Life Sciences Institute; 2006:269–277.
    6. Manore MM. Effect of physical activity on thiamine, riboflavin, and vitamin B-6 requirements. Am J Clin Nutr 2000 Aug;72(2 Suppl):598S–606S.
    7. Woolf K, Manore MM. B-vitamins and exercise: does exercise alter requirements? Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab 2006 Oct;16(5):453-84.
    8. Manore MM. Effect of physical activity on thiamine, riboflavin, and vitamin B-6 requirements. Am J Clin Nutr 2000 Aug;72(2 Suppl):598S-606S.
    9. Whitney E, Rolfes S. Understanding Nutrition, Ninth Edition, Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning; 2002.
    10. Sauberlich HE. Implications of nutritional status on human biochemistry, physiology, and health. Clin Biochem 1984; 17(2):132–42.
    11. Bondarev GI, Martinchik AN, Khotimchenko SA, et al. [Correlation of the actual vitamin B1, B2 and B6 consumption with the biochemical indices of their body allowance] Korreliativnaia vzaimosviaz' fakticheskogo potrebleniia vitaminov B1, B2 i B6 s biokhimicheskimi pokazateliami obespechennosti imi organizma. Vopr Pitan 1986; (2):34–7.
    12. Bogdanov NG, Bondarev GI, Piatnitskaia IN, et al. [Vitamin status of diamond cutters] Vitaminnyi status rabochikn, zaniatykh promyshlennoi obrabotkoi almazov. Vopr Pitan 1984; (2):28–31.
    13. Vinogradov VV, Tarasov IuA, Tishin VS, et al. [Thiamine prevention of the corticosteroid reaction after surgery] Optimizatsiia tiaminom korticosteroidnoi reaktsii pri khirurgicheskikh vmeshatel'stvakh. Probl Endokrinol 1981;27(3):11–6.
    14. Kutsky R, Handbook of Vitamins and Hormones. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company; 1973:208.
    15. Mukherjee SK; Adams JD Jr. The effects of aging and neurodegeneration on apoptosis-associated DNA fragmentation and the benefits of nicotinamide. Mol Chem Neuropathol 1997; 32(1-3):59–74.
    16. Meerson FZ, Manukhina EB, Dosmagambetova RS. [Disorders of contractile function and adrenoreactivity of the portal vein in emotionally-painful stress and experimental myocardial infarct and their prevention by means of membrane protectors] Narusheniia sokratitel'noi funktsii i adrenoreaktivnosti vorotnoi veny pri emotsional'no-bolevom stresse i eksperimental'no-bolevom stresse i eksperimental'nom infarkte miokarda i ikh preduprezhdenie s pomoshch'iu membranoprotektorov. Kardiologiia 1984; 24(4):104–8.
    17. Meerson FZ, Pshennikova MG, Rysmendiev AZh, Vorontsova EIa. [Prevention of stress disorders of myocardial contractile function using membrane protectors] Preduprezhdenie stressornykh narushenii sokratitel'noi funktsii miokarda s pomoshch'iu membranoprotektorov. Kardiologiia1983;23(7):86-90.
    18. Baldewicz T, Goodkin K, Feaster DJ, et al. Plasma pyridoxine deficiency is related to increased psychological distress in recently bereaved homosexual men. Psychosom Med 1998; 60(3):297–308.
    19. Teggin AF, van Niekerk JP. Manifestations and management of stress. S Afr Med J 1981;59(21):751–2.
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    21. Whitney E, Rolfes S. Understanding Nutrition, Ninth Edition, Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning; 2002.
    22. Bjorkegren K, Svardsudd. Elevated serum levels of methylmalonic acid and homocysteine in elderly people. A population-based intervention study. J Intern Med 1999; 246(3):317–24.
    23. Rasmussen K, Moller J, Lyngbak M. Within-person variation of plasma homocysteine and effects of posture and tourniquet application. Clin Chem 1999; 45(10):1850–5.
    24. Kunz K, Petitjean P, Lisri M, et al. Cardiovascular morbidity and endothelial dysfunction in chronic haemodialysis patients: Is homocyst(e)ine the missing link? Nephrol Dial Transplant1999; 14(8):1934–42.
    25. Alpert MA, Homocysteine, atherosclerosis, and thrombosis. South Med J 1999; 92(9):858–65.
    26. Bellamy MF, McDowell IF, Ramsey MW, et al. Oral folate enhances endothelial function in hyperhomocysteinaemic subjects. Eur J Clin Invest 1999; 29(8):659–62.
    27. Woodside JV, Young IS, Yarnell JWG, et al. Antioxidants, but not B-group vitamins increase the resistance to low-density lipoprotein to oxidation: a randomized, factorial design, placebo-controlled trial. Atherosclerosis 1999; 144(2):419–27.
    28. Bronstrup A, Hages M, Pietrzik K. Lowering of homocysteine concentrations in elderly men and women. Int J Vitam Nutr Res 1999; 69(3):187–93.
    29. Suliman ME, Divino Filho JC, Barany P, et al. Effects of high-dose folic acid and pyridoxine on plasma and erythrocyte sulfur amino acids in hemodialysis patients. J Am Soc Nephrol 1999; 10(6):1287–96.
    30. Mansoor MA, Kristensen O, Hervig T, et al. Plasma total homocysteine response to oral doses of folic acid and pyridoxine hydrochlpride (vitamin B6) in healthy individuals. Oral doses of vitamin B6 reduce concentration of serum folate. Scand J Clin Lab Invest 1999; 59(2):139–46.
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    32. CDC (Centers for Disease Control). Recommendations for the use of folic acid to reduce the number of cases of spina bifida and other neural tube defects. MMWR 1992; 41 (No. RR-14).
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    34. Werback M. The Great American Nutrient Gap. Nutrition Science News 1998.
    35. Lewis DP, Van Dyke DC, Willhite LA, et al. Phenytoin-folic acid interaction. Ann Pharmacother 1995;29:726–35.
    36. Para-aminobenzoic acid monograph. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. 1995-2009 Therapeutic Research Faculty. Retrieved April 23, 2009 from http://www.naturaldatabase.com/(S(sujm1emnfd4v5uzxvt05q555))/nd/Search.aspx?rn=4&cs=&s=ND&pt=100&id=1004&fs=ND&searchid=14605586.
  • Three Steps to Happiness

    Happiness is next to healthiness. Studies show that folks who are consistently joyous, enthusiastic, calm and content are healthier, with fewer colds, less pain, fewer symptoms of disease, fewer hospitalizations and fewer injuries. They even live 10 –40 percent longer. What's going on? Your mind, nervous system and immune system are all linked together in a very complex way. It turns out that being happy energizes your immune system, prevents overproduction of cell-damaging stress hormones, takes a burden off your heart, and even protects your brain.

    That's great. But what if you're just not naturally that happy? It's not like you can just decide to be happy, can you?