Monthly Archives: June 2016

Crash in the afternoon but wide awake at 3 or 4 a.m.?

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Are you often wide awake around 3 or 4 a.m., your mind racing with anxiety, but then collapsing into a near coma in the late afternoon? This maddening cycle of waking up and falling asleep at inconvenient hours is often relieved by managing low blood sugar.

Why you’re wide awake at 3 or 4 a.m.

Although sleep is a time for the body to rest, your brain is still busy working on repair and regeneration, transforming the day’s impressions into lasting memories, and keeping you entertained with dreams.

The brain demands more fuel than any other organ, about 20 percent of the body’s total supply. These needs don’t abate during sleep, when your body is fasting.

In the absence of food, the body keeps the brain going by gradually raising the adrenal hormone cortisol, which triggers the production of glucose to feed the brain through the night.

At least in theory.

Chronic low blood sugar breaks this system down because it skews cortisol rhythms and release. When your brain starts to run low on fuel during the night, cortisol may lag in triggering glucose release.

The brain cannot wait until breakfast and perceives this lack of fuel supply as an emergency. As a result, the body releases more urgent “fight-or-flight” adrenal hormones, which raise blood sugar back to safe levels.

Unfortunately, these adrenals hormones are also designed to help you either flee from danger or fight it. This does not bode well for a sound night’s sleep and explains why if you wake up at 3 or 4 a.m., it’s usually with a mind racing with worry.

Meanwhile, 12 hours later when you could really use the energy to finish a work project or deal with after-school duties, you crash and can barely function thanks to blood sugar and cortisol levels bottoming out. Reaching for that shot of caffeine may pull you through, but in the long run it’s only compounding the problem.

How to fall asleep if you wake up at 3 a.m.

If you wake up at 3 or 4 a.m. with a racing mind, eating a little something may feed your brain and calm your mind so you can fall back asleep. But do not eat something sugary, which will spike blood sugar and perpetuate the cycle. Instead, eat some protein and fat.

Examples include nut butter, a little bit of meat, boiled egg, or a coconut snack. Have these prepared ahead of time and even next to your bed so you don’t have to go into the kitchen and turn on bright lights. You will not feel hungry because adrenal hormones are appetite suppressants, but you don’t need to eat much.

How to avoid the afternoon crash

To avoid the afternoon crash without caffeine you need to stabilize blood sugar as a way of life. Eat frequently enough to avoid sending blood sugar into a nose dive, and avoid foods that cause blood sugar to spike and crash: Sugar, caffeine, energy drinks, too many carbohydrates, and starchy carbs.

How do you know if you have low blood sugar?

Low blood sugar symptoms include:

  • Sugar cravings
  • Irritability, lightheadedness, dizziness, or brain fog if meals are missed
  • Lack of appetite or nausea in the morning (this is caused by stress hormones)
  • The need for caffeine for energy
  • Eating to relieve fatigue

A variety of nutritional compounds can further support your blood sugar handling and stress hormone functions so you sleep better. Ask us for advice.

The key to staying youthful is to embrace aging

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Aging can cause us to feel invisible and unwanted in a society that worships youth. However, the key to staying youthful into your latter years doesn’t lay in the hands of your hair stylist or medical spa, but instead in your attitude.

Research shows internalizing negative stereotypes about aging harms your health, which speeds up aging. However, having a positive attitude toward aging can boost immune function, promote healthy behaviors, and help you feel in control of your life.

Embrace aging for the following benefits

Here are some benefits researchers have found to a positive perception of aging, such as feeling useful and happy with yourself:

  • Positive perception of aging has been shown to be more important than cholesterol, blood pressure, weight, and even exercise when it comes to improving longevity.
  • One study found positive self-perception around aging lowered the risk of aging-associated disability and preserved daily function and ability.
  • Positive aging improves preventive behaviors such as sticking to a good diet, exercising, and following through with check-ups.
  • Expecting to lose your memory has been shown to increase cognitive decline by up to 30 percent compared to thinking positively about your brain function.
  • And of course, a negative perception of aging has been shown to increase the risk of heart disease. A startling find, however, was that developing a positive aging attitude can reduce the risk of heart disease by up to 80 percent.

How to positively embrace aging

Although you might not be able to embrace aging overnight, it can be done, even in this culture. The first step is to survey your attitude about aging and what you believe old age holds in store for you: Senility and disability? Or wisdom and vitality?

Beyond that, turn your attention away from a cultural philosophy that values people based on their work productivity and instead toward one that values aging as socially valuable and even a time of renaissance.

Some nuts and bolts of healthy aging

A positive attitude has been shown to be vital to good health. However, it’s important to pay attention the nuts and bolts of good health, too.

Regular exercise is regarded as somewhat of a magic bullet by researchers. People who exercise regularly throughout their lives age better and enjoy better brain function throughout their lives.

Along with that that comes a diet low in sugars and processed carbs — chronically high blood sugar is behind many chronic diseases and brain degeneration. In fact, some researchers call Alzheimer’s disease type 3 diabetes because of the links between high blood sugar and brain degeneration.

Avoiding other inflammatory foods (besides sugar, gluten and dairy are the most common inflammatory foods) while loading up on fresh veggies is another preventive dietary approach.

Lastly, healthy aging depends on a healthy, nutrient-dense diet that is rich in fresh vegetable as well as healthy fats.

Ask my office for more advice on how to age in a healthy, positive way you can embrace.

How to use functional medicine to boost your libido

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We often think of good health in terms of blood pressure or cholesterol levels, but your libido is also an important indicator. If yours has gone missing, it could be a red flag that important underlying health issues need to be addressed.

People who turn to functional medicine for other health issues, such as low thyroid function, an autoimmune disorder, or depression, often report a boost in their libido thanks to their protocol.

Of course, it’s natural to expect low libido following a major stressor or during an unhealthy relationship, but if it’s chronically absent, investigate why.

Common causes of low libido

Below are some common causes of low libido that can be addressed through functional medicine:

Blood sugar imbalances. Many people eat more carbohydrates than their body can handle, they skip meals, or they consume too much caffeine. Eating habits that send blood sugar constantly soaring and crashing will eventually lead to fatigue, irritability, sleep problems, and depression. All of these make zoning out in front of Netflix more tantalizing than a roll in the hay.

Adrenal fatigue. Your adrenal glands secrete stress hormones to help you manage life’s daily ups and downs. Most people are so stressed out from not only their lifestyles, but also their diets, chronic inflammation, gut health problems, and other health issues that adrenal function is fried. This is one of the primary causes of hormonal imbalances in men and women, delivering a double whammy to libido.

Leaky gut. Leaky gut means inflammation has made the lining of the small intestine too porous, allowing undigested foods and other pathogens to escape into the sterile bloodstream. This causes inflammation throughout the body, which typically leads to pain, fatigue, depression and other unsexy symptoms.

Food intolerances. Can a gluten or dairy intolerance really cause low libido? Yep. When you constantly eat a food that triggers an immune reaction, you send your body into an inflammatory tailspin. How you react depends on your genetic makeup. Symptoms include flare ups of your autoimmune disease, skin rashes, gut problems, joint pain, depression, migraines, anxiety, fatigue, brain fog, and, you guessed it, no desire for sex. You can run a food panel from Cyrex Labs to figure out which foods rob you of vigor, or follow an autoimmune diet for at least a month before reintroducing foods.

Diminished brain function. They say the biggest sex organ is the brain and it’s true. Many people today suffer from a brain that is aging too fast, besieged by inflammation, not getting properly oxygenated, struggling from poor fuel supply, or suffering from poor activity of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. Although all of these issues can often be addressed with the functional medicine basics I just mentioned, various nutritional compounds can also help boost brain function and, as a result, libido.

These are just a few underlying causes of low libido. Sometimes, of course, it’s more complicated, especially if you are unhappy in your relationship, suffer from low self-esteem, or run yourself ragged putting others’ needs before your own.

However, don’t shrug off low libido as no big deal. You could be missing out not only on the health benefits of regular sex, but also on the opportunity to address an underlying health concern.

Glutathione: A power tool in autoimmune management

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Our bodies have to work hard to deal with hundreds of toxic chemicals in our daily environment, in our food, and our water. Even if you eat a clean, organic diet and use non-toxic products, it’s impossible to completely avoid them. Thankfully, certain natural compounds can boost levels of our most powerful antioxidant, glutathione, in our bodies.

Glutathione is a powerful defense against toxins and inflammation. It protects the body’s cells from damage, it helps detoxify the body, and supports optimal immune function.

When glutathione levels drop too low, this makes you more susceptible to autoimmune disease, multiple food sensitivities, chemical and heavy metal sensitivities, chronic inflammatory disorders, leaky gut, and other immune-related issues.

By ensuring your glutathione levels stay at robust levels, you provide your body with an army of soldiers ready to “take a bullet” and shield your cells from the destructive forces of toxins and inflammation.

Things that deplete glutathione

In an ideal world, we have plenty of glutathione. Our bodies make sufficient amounts and the glutathione system is not overly taxed. Sadly, the modern world is far from ideal. Chronic stress, environmental toxins, diets low in nutrients but high in inflammatory triggers, sleep deprivation, smoking, sugar, excess alcohol, and other stressors slowly deplete glutathione levels. Glutathione levels also decrease naturally as a result of aging.

A straight glutathione supplement is not effective taken orally. Instead, people can take glutathione through a liposomal cream, nebulizer, suppository, IV drip, or injections. S-acetyl-glutathione, reduced glutathione, and oral liposomal glutathione are forms that are absorbable orally. These methods will help raise glutathione levels and your general antioxidant status, which can reduce inflammation and improve health.

Another method that raises glutathione uses precursors to boost levels and recycle glutathione within cells.

Glutathione recycling helps guard against autoimmunity

Recycling glutathione entails taking existing glutathione the body has already used in self-defense and rebuilding it so it can work for us again.

Research shows a link between poor glutathione recycling and autoimmune disease. In other words, if you’re not recycling glutathione well you’re at more risk of developing autoimmune disease. Healthy glutathione recycling is a vital tool in managing autoimmune disease.

Glutathione recycling helps repair leaky gut

Glutathione recycling also helps repair leaky gut and protect it from permeability. Leaky gut can lead to or exacerbate autoimmunity, multiple food sensitivities, and chronic inflammation. When glutathione recycling is insufficient, a person is more prone to developing leaky gut and all that maladies that accompany it. Glutathione recycling is vital to good gut health.

How to boost glutathione recycling

The most important first step to boost glutathione recycling is to remove the stressors depleting glutathione levels to the best of your ability. Look at your life around sleep deprivation, smoking, foods that cause inflammation, sugars and processed foods, excess alcohol, and other factors.

In addition to addressing lifestyle factors, you can take a variety of nutritional and botanical compounds that have been shown to support glutathione recycling. They include:

  • N-acetyl-cysteine
  • Alpha-lipoic acid
  • L-glutamine
  • Selenium
  • Cordyceps
  • Gotu kola
  • Milk thistle

Booting your glutathione levels with an absorbable form and then supporting glutathione recycling can significantly help you manage autoimmune disease, inflammatory disorders, chemical sensitivities, food sensitivities, and more.