What Is The Best Medication for PMS?

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is the most common period related complaints of women in their reproductive years.  They can have PMS irritability and anger, nausea, cramping, pain and bloating.  PMS can also cause anxiety, depression, swelling, headaches and breast tenderness.  The best medication for treating PMS is considered oral contraceptives, however some patients have adverse effects usually because of a methylation defect, MTHFR.  Another treatment considered successful is the Serotonin selection re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs), however these can have side effects too and women don’t feel like themselves.  The lack of resolutions of the symptoms without drugs or side effects often leaves women asking ‘what vitamins are good for PMS?’ or ‘how to stop PMS naturally?’

Integrative medicine has included Chaste Tree Berry as an effective herbal medicine to balance the cycle out and minimize symptoms associated with premenstrual syndrome and even PMDD.  Naturopathic Doctors have found the research for Chaste Tree Berry, otherwise known as Vitex, as effective as oral contraceptives for PMS mood swings and PMS pain but without the side effects many women experience from oral contraceptives.  While this herbal supplement shows great promise, holistic medicine allows your Naturopathic Doctor to consider what other alternative medicine options may fit you as well.  Magnesium may benefit you for PMS cramps and may be an appropriate natural remedy if you have other signs of magnesium deficiency.  Evening primrose oil or progesterone may also be a goos fit. Assessing your overall health and body symptoms can help a integrative doctor fit the right tools to eventually be close to symptom free around your period.

There is a natural rise and fall to estrogen and progesterone during a women’s cycle that is important to understand and balance out.  When the estrogen is higher, a woman is more likely to be decisive and motivated.  This is the best time of the month to make decisions or work on a large project.  This is the time of doing.  Right around the time PMS shows up, there is a time of reflection and being and part of the natural cycle and big decisions are not best made here.  Just understanding this about your body can empower you.  The more you are able to create balance, the less symptoms or vitamins and medications you will need for PMS symptoms.  This is the natural rhythm of the menses cycle.  This is surely an alternative view but a holistic treatment protocol for PMS.  Our Naturopathic Doctors understand that your body has been through a lot and may have cellular memory contributing to your symptoms of PMS.  We are all about problem solving.

We specialize in this kind of thing so PMS or cramps is not a new idea for us. Getting the right care tailored for you, your specific body and situation is key to success in your health.  At Journey of Health Naturopathic Clinic we are dedicated to finding the right integrative solutions for each patient. We proudly serve the San Diego area, providing some of the best service in Naturopathic medicine. If you wish to further your own journey of health with Naturopathic solutions and Alternative medicine, give us a call at (619) 772-1164.  We offer free 10 minute consults so you can see if we are the right fit for you and you family.  Reach out and learn more about your holistic medicine options today!

Insomnia: Integrative Tools to Understand How to Get Sleep

Imagine being able to wake up feeling rested and with energy every day without the worry of wondering whether you will sleep tonight.  Sleep deprivation is an epidemic today in America.  Many of us go through our day worrying about sleeping.  Lack of sleep is a major health issue causing an increasing the risk for conditions such as metabolic syndrome, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, accidents, arthritis, obesity and substance abuse.  The concerns that most often come to mind are the immediate results we experience from lack of sleep including fatigue, depression, anxiety, and immune system problems such as autoimmune and frequent colds or illness. There is so much going on in our daily worlds that we may be overly driven and sometimes need to take a step back to remind ourselves that ensuring restorative sleep is definitely part of a life well lived.

Purpose of Sleep from a Naturopathic Doctor

From a holistic perspective, sleep is an opportunity for your body to heal and detoxify. Sleep is the anti-inflammatory action of your body that helps to wash out our brain and solidify the most prominent memories- either good or bad. Naturopathic doctors firmly believe sleep is when you are cleansing your body.  Therefore some treatment options are specifically more helpful before bed since your body is headed for a detox or purifying mode. Special cells that perform like pacman will drift along sweeping thru your brain collecting and transporting debris, unsafe molecules or simply unneeded substances out of the body.  The night housekeeping also sweeps out the excess cobwebs or thought connections but leaving the stronger connections otherwise known as the stronger memories. This means the reinforced memories like having fun at the go-carts today will overwhelm the end of the year school testing from today.

Pharmaceutical Options

There are a number of pharmaceutical choices that are hypnotic or just help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.  The disadvantage of these is that they do not affect the last stage of sleep which is the most restful and therefore they can have some of the same side effects such as drowsiness, fatigue.  They can induce hypothermia which in turn can affect your thyroid function.  They also reduce cortisol which can help with stress but also motivation. Pharmaceuticals can be a helpful tool to adjust the GABA receptors for sleep but it is usually not as easy as taking a pill and calling it a night.  These drugs don’t get to the cause of why you are not getting enough sleep so we still have to work on getting the deep sleep, managing your stress and why you are not sleeping to begin with. In the end, they don’t change the sleep architecture which is why they sometimes stop working for patients.

Integrative Medicine for Sleep

So we can agree we need MORE SLEEP, BETTER SLEEP and HOW IMPORTANT IT IS. We can also agree that if we are going to use a holistic view on how to improve sleep, we must include your favorite STRESS MANAGEMENT tools whether those are a blend of botanicals, meditation, yoga, exercise or tea ceremonies.  Find your groove.  Sleep training plus a sleep aid has been shown to be more helpful than just a sleep aid or doing nothing especially if it is the ‘getting back to sleep’ part that is a challenge.  There are many lifestyle shifts that are free and can help lay the groundwork for making good sleep tools work better.  Exercising 3 or more times per week earlier in the day will help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer in general.  Keeping a gratitude journal, doing things you love, praying and soothing sounds can all help decrease the adrenaline in day to day life.  Review any situations that wished you had handled differently, replay them, or have a friend help you sort it out so you feel better about it, luxuriating in that feeling.  These are just a couple reminders or ideas of how day to day tools are included in integrative medicine for sleep.

Sleep Hygiene

Among those natural treatments for sleep essentials are the sleep routine. The 30 minutes before bed are a crucial time to train your brain and your body to gear toward healing and cleansing.  That on and off button is a slider for most of us not just off.  Diming lights, avoiding technology lighting and just slowing down in general is important.  Dump the thoughts that are clouding the mind on paper to deal with tomorrow if needed.  If your mind tends to race at night, keeping a pen and paper next to your bed allow you to dump it.  Avoid doing any work in bed at any time of day and keep the bed for sleeping only.  It should be a cool and comfortable spot, too warm can prevent you from sleeping.  Avoid things you are sensitive to as well as pollen from plants.

Preparing for sleep can also include an Epsom and soda soak, 5 minutes of deep breathing.  Light blocking blinds and a sleep mask as well will prevent light from interfering with your natural circadian rhythm. Likewise, not enough light during the day can interfere with your natural wake cycle.  Naturopathic Doctors agree on how important this sleep routine is although they may have different addition tools to add such as sleep glasses, a green light as a harmonizing color to trigger the pineal gland or botanicals.

Naturopathic Medicine and Sleep

Rhythm is key for getting sleep which involves your hormones and neurotransmitters.  Cortisol should be ramping down at bedtime while melatonin should be ramping up.  Cortisol is the hormone that gives us drive and energy and helps us deal with stress.  It is a good hormone to have. We even need a small amount for sleep to occur.  However, there are many things that can go wrong here causing it to be too low all the time or too high/ too low at the wrong times. DHEA is the precursor hormone to cortisol. Too much stress can stimulate excess DHEA or too much cortisol.  Sometimes the DHEA is exhausted and can not go up to match the need for cortisol.  Then there is the melatonin which is made from serotonin. If there is a malfunction of the serotonin whether timing or amount, the melatonin will be effective. The balance of DHEA and cortisol as well as the balance of melatonin with serotonin is crucial to mood and sleep.

Let’s now take a quick look on how we can use some integrative medicine tools. A popular natural treatment used is taking melatonin or sometimes even GABA. These items can be addictive you may need more and more over time, although melatonin does naturally decrease with age so it can be appropriate in older individuals. It also doesn’t change the sleep architecture, so may stop working. Not a route I would recommend long term.

Naturopathic Nutrition and Diet for Sleep

Focusing on getting neurotransmitters where they need to be in the body is a great integrative medicine tool for patients who have insomnia.  Neurotransmitters rely on amino acids and fatty acids and is a holistic way to think about sleep.  Therefore, healthy balance of these in your diet relies on good diet, being able to digest them and assimilate distribute them in the body, as well as properly eliminating.

Fats are the sources for neurotransmitters. Omega 3’s are anti-inflammatory and are the ones you should focus on.  Omega 6’s are pro inflammatory and we get a fair amount in our food already. Many amino acids are found in our food such as tryptophan such as nuts, eggs, fish, figs, tuna, brown rice, soy, dairy and meat especially turkey which is why we all need a nap after Thanksgiving turkey! Tryptophan is made into serotonin.  Serotonin is that neurotransmitter that induces sleep and is also found in food such as whole wheat, bananas, walnuts and pineapple.  One of my favorite scripts for patients is a baked potato before bed since it is full of serotonin, organic please.  Amino acids can provide food for your neurological system, thus molecules for endurance and to prevent over reactions such as anxiety or depression.  Using a targeted amino acid for more specific complaints related to insomnia can be successful too and a pure functional medicine way to think about insomnia.

Avoid the tyramine foods around bedtime such as spinach, tomatoes, aged and soft cheeses.  Oranges don’t have tyramine but can trigger an awake cycle.  Caffeine 4 hours before bed is not a good idea either.  Skip that nightcap!  Although alcohol may initially have a sleepy or sedative impact, it will likely make you wake in a few hours and disrupt the quality of sleep.  Sleep apnea and snoring are worsened by alcohol.  Try to finish your meal at least 3 hours before bedtime.  This is another naturopathic tool that has rung true over the centuries.

Other naturopathic tools available in San Diego include looking at your hormones. Progesterone can be sedating and quite appropriate if your hormones are out of balance.  Estrogen has a motivating effect so if you are low already, progesterone is a great option.  Hydrotherapy options can include a warm bath before bed, castor oil packs, saunas or the more involved hot fomentations or constitutional hydrotherapy.  Getting a work up for a homeopathic remedy may also help may an impact on a chronic sleep problem.  Homeopathy can work wonders in many parts of your life.

Naturopathic Pediatrics

Since we do a lot of naturopathic pediatrics in our office, I want to touch on normal sleep patterns here.

Infants are on 3 – 4 hour sleep cycles – 18 hours sleep

6-12 mos old – most of the sleep is at night

Teens – 9 – 10 hours are needed and they tend to be night owls

Adults – 7-9 hours on average

Women tend to have more difficulties falling or staying asleep

Women in their 40-50’s complaints about sleep increase 40%.

Men are 8xs more likely to suffer from sleep apnea and night awakenings

Kids who snore are 2xs more likely to suffer ADHD.  Often the snoring can be resolved by addressing the inflammation in the throat and food intolerances are almost always part of the picture.  Fortunately, we can do a simple finger stick to test for 184 foods so we are not left wondering what they may be reacting to.  Restless legs can be missed in kids which can contribute to insomnia.  Growth Hormone can affect our need for REM sleep, this is why growth spurts mean more sleep. Once GH is released, we get groggy.  This decreases with age.

Find Your Answers!

Whichever natural tools you use for your integrative approach to insomnia, we are happy to help you find answers. We specialize in this holistic kind of thing and see it frequently in our office so it’s not a new idea for us. Getting the right care for your body is important and tailored for your specific body in mind. At Journey of Health we are dedicated to finding the right naturopathic solutions for each patient. We proudly serve the San Diego area, providing some of the best service in naturopathic medicine. If you wish to further your own journey of health with naturopathic solutions and alternative medicines, give us a call at (619) 772-1164.

A Potent Berry for Liver Health: Schisandra chinensis

With its sweet, sour, salty, pungent, and bitter flavor profile, it’s no surprise the Chinese call Schisandra chinensis “the five flavored fruit,” or wu wei zi. Regarded as the most important herb in Traditional Chinese Medicine, the schisandra berry might more aptly be called the “fruit of life.”

Schisandra belongs to a unique class of herbs known as adaptogens, which enhance the body’s ability to adapt to, and recover from, stress. The source of the stress could be emotional, mental, environmental, or physical, such as when you become sick. In addition to supporting the body across physiological systems, it provides protective benefits for the liver, the body’s engine for detoxification. Studies show schisandra reduces inflammation, keeps hormones in balance, helps regenerate liver tissue, and lowers levels of an enzyme associated with liver damage.

Traditional Chinese physicians have long used schisandra to:

  1. stimulate the immune system and support adrenal gland function
  2. enhance recovery from illness or surgery
  3. reduce inflammation and fatigue
  4. improve blood circulation and enhance detoxification

Dried schizandra berries can be made into powder, capsule, tincture, tonic, tea and even wine. Schisandra is safe for most people, but precautions must be used if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, have epilepsy, or reflux disease. Your La Mesa naturopathic doctor can identify the type of schisandra supplement that is best for you.

References
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The INs and OUTs of Weight Loss and Naturopathic Medicine

            A number of patients come to our La Mesa Naturopathic Medical Clinic after experiencing the roller coaster of ups and downs of weight loss. Some of us are lucky enough to manage with willpower and portion control, but many realize that there is much more to it. It is common knowledge that a healthy weight is better for your heart and joints, prevents diabetes, and has multiple other positive effects. However, as anyone who’s tried knows, it isn’t always easy to lose weight. The emotional turmoil is ongoing for women and men alike. Patients tend to lose weight most successfully when they are focused on the health aspects of weight loss. Knowledge can be power in understanding your body’s reasons for holding onto those extra pounds, and can give you the secrets to allowing your body to “let it go” and feel well!
            Let’s talk about the INS and OUTS of what our bodies need, and the common things that can disrupt the smooth balance and regulation needed to maintain a healthy weight. It is a balancing act of liquids, nutrition, emotions, stress, exercise, and even expectations.
             Adequate water IN allows you to stay hydrated, moves nutrients through your system, and helps you eliminate the things you don’t need. Most people don’t realize that many molecules need water to sail across the spaces (or “intracellular matrix,” as pathologists call it) throughout the body. Fluid allows the sea of many complex interactions to be efficient. Water can also carry toxins out of the body via sweat, urine, or even tears. We can increase the amount of sweat OUT through exercise, saunas, and some foods.
             While calories IN and energy spent to work OUT the calories are important, blood sugar imbalance can keep you from achieving your goals. Adipose tissues, better known as fat cells, have several functions. First of all, they make great storage, don’t they? We will talk more about letting go of the storage shortly. Adipose cells also excrete minor hormones, or chemicals that communicate with the rest of the body. When the diet has blood sugar spikes, the adipose tissue is triggered to STORE the extra blood sugar as fat. In addition, chemicals such as lectin will make you hungry. Tight regulation of blood sugar can cause the adipose tissue to dump extra fat and shrink the cell. High sugar in the diet can cause blood sugar deregulation, but so can skipping meals, supplements, and many diet plans. Get your sugar checked out and work on getting it reined IN so you can get extra fat OUT.
              Speaking of calories, malnutrition can trigger those adipose cells to hold onto fat too. Diets that cause vitamin depletion encourage the body to hold onto more since it doesn’t know when it will get what it needs. Starving on poor, nutrient-imbalanced diets will further affect your hormones and will be a danger to your gallbladder and pancreatic function. It sounds like eating less would be a good idea, but in fact, severely limited diets tell your body that it is in survival mode. The body responds by trying to hold onto all nutrients in attempt to save itself! Good nutrition IN will allow for good energy and bodily function OUT.
               Another component of weight issues that I see quite often in my La Mesa Naturopathic Medical Clinic is food intolerances. When the body is taking something IN that is irritating it, the body is less likely to lose weight. I have had a number of patients who were focusing on health and avoiding food intolerances rather than focusing on how to lose weight or counting calories, and they found that losing weight was an added bonus.
               You were wondering when I would get to stress, right? Short bursts of stress are normal, and can elicit healthy responses. Chronic stress is when we get into trouble. Chronically being under stress will cause chronic cortisol elevation and a breakdown of muscle tissue. This is when your adipose tissue is triggered to bring things IN to store, anything really. Adipose tissue storage acts like a savings account – it brings in cellular items that may be useful to the body at a later time since the body isn’t sure what’s coming next. However, adipose may also store toxins that the body cannot immediately deal with, such as plastic compounds, metals, bacteria, viruses, or emotions. After all, you are too busy dealing with stress to recognize toxins from useful molecules! Under chronic stress, the body cannot handle sorting through multiple compounds at one time, so everything is stored in the fat cell, like a closet full of junk. This can be a pretty handy mechanism of the body… except when you want to lose weight. Stress coming IN must be managed to get the storage OUT.
                Emotions dramatically affect our health, too. Negative feelings and/or judgments are not uncommon. Many of us think that we should just be able to make weight loss happen. Feelings of failure or depression can be overwhelming, and can cause unhealthy habits such as reaching for quick calories. Negative feelings may also motivate us into excessive exercise programs that can cause our bodies harm. Everyone has their own story and issues, but holding onto things that we no longer need in life can be a big obstacle, too. Letting go of things, images, or even people we no longer need can be a healthy step; your adipose cells will follow and release what they no longer need. It seems like science fiction but it is something many can associate with.
                 Blood sugar, malnutrition, chronic stress, and our emotional outlook are among the more common obstacles to losing weight, but there are also adrenal fatigue, thyroid dysfunction, gastrointestinal problems, food intolerances, and infections that can be related. Each person has his or her own mix of barriers to wellness and weight loss. At my La Mesa Naturopathic Medical Clinic I can help you seek out your answers not just to weight loss but to wellness. The investment in health that you put IN your body will allow you to get more quality of life OUT.

Saw Palmetto

Is your Saw Palmetto irritating you or nourishing you?
       Saw Palmetto fruit is the 3rd most popular herb sold in the U.S., bringing in $32 million annually. Mostly this herb is snatched off the shelf by women shopping for their husband. Most commonly known used for the prostate.
       Also known as Serenoa repens, this botanical can act like a diuretic, decongestant and as an anti-inflammatory. It nourishes the male reproductive system, decreases prostate growth and amazingly enough, it can also help women who have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). It limits the conversation of testosterone to the next step, dihydrotestosterone which causes all the abnormal prostate growth and PCOS irritation.
       Saw Palmetto can be very effective herb but only if you take the right kind. Saw Palmetto has been in the news for marketing as Saw Palmetto and great attributes but containing fake ingredients. Many companies have filled their pills with useless fillers and unripe fruit. Most consumers don’t really know if the mix of lutein, beta carotene, zeaxanthin and other herbal properties in their product is active and good quality.
       If you want to benefit from Saw Palmetto and want to avoid the other chemicals and pesticides, our La Mesa Naturopathic Medical Clinic is happy to recommend to our patients highest quality products with proven track records.

No Plastics Please

What’s the stretch on plastics and how they affect our health? Phthalates are the industrial chemicals used to make plastics flexible. We can find them in fast food packaging, medical, household cleaners, cosmetics, beauty products, flame retardants and more. Consumers are usually unaware since it is not required to list them as ingredients. Even gloves used for food prep contains BPA.
       These toxins are known for disrupting estrogen, thyroid and testosterone as well as links to cancer and fertility problems. Awareness is a great first step but also know that the substitutes for BPA are likely to be just as toxic. We won’t be able to avoid all plastics but we can limit our exposure as much as possible. Try the alternatives of stainless steal containers for lunch, silicon and of course the old fashion glass at home.

Panic Attacks

When patients sit in my La Mesa Naturopathic Medical Clinic and describe panic attacks, I hear all sorts of things. Sometimes they tell me they get hot or can’t take a deep breath. Patients also say their heart beats fast, or they may faint or they get tunnel vision.

       Sometimes they say they are not anxious at all but they can feel it closing in on them. They try all sorts of tricks to calm down- some find things that work in overcoming panic attacks and nothing seems to work for others.
       If others have not had a panic attack or felt anxiety symptoms, it’s hard for them to understand what the experience is like. No matter how your panic attacks are specifically played out- they aren’t pleasant and patients want to know how to stop panic attacks. It is often a pleasant surprise to patients and to me as a Naturopathic doctor to see panic attacks fade off and not return when we focus on general health, improving overall health. But there are times when patients are desperate for options.
       Panic attacks can indeed be caused by stress and emotions but there are several other causes that can increase the body’s tendency to panic attacks. Stress hormones are a crucial part of these. Panic attacks are a sign that you need help regulating those stress hormones. It may also be a sign that your adrenals are crying out for support. Helping your body break down stress hormones can help too. Bacteria in our gut, as we have heard on NPR, are crucial to our mood.
       Don’t panic. There are options for those pesky, not well timed panic attacks. Find the time to get into our Journey of Health Medical Clinic and get solutions. I, personally, love to see my patients find answers so they can do the things they love.