The Winter Blues

  • By Healthy Living Liberty Lake
  • 11 Oct, 2016

Do you struggle with depression during the colder months?

There's a chill in the air. The skies are gray. You eye the snow shovel with contempt, and make sure the ice scraper is back in the car. Fall is always my favorite time of year, but for some of us, it's just a reminder that winter is right around the corner.    As cold weather sets in, so does depression for a lot of people. But before turning to the prescription drugs that usually do not work and come with a long list of side effects, try natural remedies first .

The most important is vitamin D. You've heard me harp on this one before, but vt D will help alleviate the blues, helps with fatigue, keeps your immune system stronger, and protects against breast and prostate cancer. I routinely recommend between 5000 and 10,000 IU per day of D3. Have your levels checked, with your goal being between 70-90.

Next is probiotics - these give your intestines a dose of healthy bacteria your body needs to fight infections and improve digestion. Now according to a study done by the Society of Neuroscience, probiotics help you fight stress and improve mental health. These friendly bacteria release substances that activate the vagus nerve, which sends positive signals from the gut to the brain. Look for probiotics that have multiple strains of bacteria, and the better ones don't have to be refrigerated.

The B vitamins are important in helping you deal with stress and anxiety, and magnesium is very calming. Both are needed to make your neurotransmitters, such as serotonin - your "happy" brain chemical.    SamE has been used for years for depression, and works wonderfully well for many people.  

In my practice I've also use supplements by Standard Process called Min Chex or Min Tran, which help relieve anxiety and depression.
Most people forget about other remedies that are extremely important -- exercise, yoga and meditation. If you do only one of these, exercise is the most important. Besides helping your cardiovascular system, regular exercise will release natural endorphins and elevates mood.  

UV lights for seasonal affective disorder are helpful for some. But a simple trick that will do the same thing as a UV light, is to take a flashlight and shine it on directly on the middle of your forehead just between your eyebrows for 10-20 minutes a day. This will stimulate the pineal gland in the brain. The pineal gland, or known as the "third eye" in Chinese medicine, produces melatonin and helps to control the various bio-rhythms of the body. It's a simple trick, worth a try, just don't do it in front of the neighbors!

If none of these are helping, it may be time to see your local doctor. Life is meant to have joy, not battling with low energy and depression 6 months of the year.
By Healthy Living Liberty Lake 18 Jul, 2017
We've all heard the advice to drink more water. 8 glasses a day, to be precise. Whether you're thirsty or not, it's good for you. I've always doubted this advice since it had no sound reasoning behind it, other than "detoxification". But now, a new study done by the University of Melbourne casts doubt on this advise.

Many who advocate drinking eight glasses or more of water daily are not aware of the potentially fatal side effect of water intoxication.  We are fortunate in that we have a mechanism to regulate fluid intake to keep us from over-drinking. The study showed for the first time that the brain activates a "swallowing inhibition" when excess liquid is consumed.
Participants in the study had to rate the amount of effort that was required to swallow water following exercise when they were thirsty, and then later when they were persuaded to drink an excessive amount of water. There was a 3-fold increase in the swallowing effort after over-drinking, which validated that the swallowing reflex is inhibited when enough water has been consumed.

MRI was used to record the activity in different areas of the brain involved with swallowing. The prefrontal areas made more active when the participants attempted to swallow with a great effort, meaning that the frontal cortex steps in to override the swallowing inhibition, in order to avoid water intoxication.  

Intoxication occurs when levels of sodium in the blood become abnormally low, which can cause symptoms of lethargy, confusion, nausea, convulsions and coma. In my 25 years of practice, I've had 2 patients die from excessively drinking water, causing sodium to be very low, which caused brain swelling. There have even been incidences where athletes in marathons were advised to fill up with water and then died, because they followed those incorrect recommendations and drank far in access of their actual need.

The researchers advocated doing what our bodies demand, stating that we should just drink according to our thirst, not a deliberate schedule.  We should trust in our "swallowing inhibition" that the brain activates if excess liquid is consumed.  The  brain helps maintain tightly calibrated volumes of water in our bodies. Do drink when you're thirsty. And remember on hot summer days, like we have now, you'll need to drink more to stay hydrated. Even more so with exercise.  

But don't drink water just b/c someone told you should drink at least 8 glasses a day .   Drink when you're thirsty, and you'll be fine.
By Healthy Living Liberty Lake 07 Jul, 2017
Everyone's ideas of happiness is different, but there is one thing we all have in common.  Serotonin- the critical neurotransmitter needed to boost mood.  People with low serotonin levels are often depressed, pessimistic, and generally not pleasant to be around.  Serotonin is called the "happy hormone", but also has other health benefits which make us healthy at the same time.

10 Ways to Naturally Boost Your Serotonin Levels:

1. Eat animal protein.  An amino acid called tryptophan helps produce serotonin, and animal protein is the best source. Tryptophan is especially high in chicken, turkey, fish, eggs, beef and dairy. Whey and egg protein are scientifically proven to increase this amino acid in the brain.
2. Sunshine - natural light has a positive effect on mood, and triggers serotonin synthesis.  The brighter the sunlight, the more serotonin the body produces.  This could explain feeling down in the winter or on rainy dark days.
3. Vitamin D - helps convert tryptophan into serotonin.   Here, we need to supplement as we rarely get enough UV rays  to make enough.  You'll typically need between 2000 IU - 10,000 IU daily.
4. Omega 3's - help boost serotonin production in the brain.   Need 2000-4000mg daily.
5. Eat Curry - curry has turmeric, which is considered a potent anti-depressant.   Helps to increase serotonin in the brain, while reducing inflammation.
6.Caffeine - this has a positive effect on levels of serotonin in the brain, which is good news for most of us.   Don't overdo, however.
7. Exercise - has been shown to increase serotonin levels because motor neurons activated during physical activity boost the release of serotonin.  Regular exercise will spike tryptophan levels in the brain.
8. Massage - proven to reduce cortisol and increase happy hormones by as much as 28%.  Plus it feels great.
9. Nuts - contain tryptophan, so the more you eat, the happier you'll be.  They also have numerous other health benefits, such as decreasing inflammation, helping to prevent heart disease, cancer and respiratory ailments.
10. Green tea - contains L-theanine, an amino acid that boosts serotonin levels.   It also has a powerful antioxidant that prevents brain damage.

There you go, this is a good place to start, especially if you've been feeling down lately.   B vitamins may also help, but if none of this is enough, then see your doctor.
By Healthy Living Liberty Lake 14 Jun, 2017
Have you ever heard of Hashimoto's?  It's a common cause of low thyroid, or hypothyroidism. It's an auto-immune disease, which means the body is making antibodies against the thyroid and destroying it.

To diagnose, a blood test for thyroid antibodies must be done. Like all auto-immune diseases, it is much more common in women than men.
With Hashimoto's, blood levels often show an elevated TSH, and a low T3.  T3 is the active form of thyroid, and when the Free T3 is less than 3, expect fatigue as a common complaint.  

The conventional treatment of Hashimoto's is to prescribe a synthetic T4 , such as synthroid or levothyroxine.  This is not optimal, however, as often the T3 remains low.  And, in a review of patients on levothyroxine, long-term use was related to cardiac dysfunction, left ventricular hypertrophy (or heart failure) and rapid bone loss. Therefore, I typically will prescribe a T3/T4 combination, such as Armour or Nature Thyroid.
However, the goal is to reduce the antibody levels. To do this I recommend a supplement such as Thyrotrophin PMG made by Standard Process.   It must be taken three times a day and can act as a decoy, allowing the antibodies to attack it rather than the thyroid itself.
Now there is another option which has great promise.

Researchers looked at 40 men and women with Hashimoto's.  Half got placebo, and half got black cumin seed for 8 weeks.  Levels of T3, TSH and thyroid antibodies were measured before and after, and also the person's body composition.
What did they find?  "treatment with black cumin seed significantly reduced body weight and BMI. TSH and thyroid antibodies decreased, while T3 levels increased in those taking black cumin.  Those on placebo had no difference in their levels."

Every single measurement of Hashimotot's disease improved with this herb!  TSH improved 50%.  T3 levels improved 15%.  And antibodies decreased 50%.  All without side effects.

You can buy black cumin at any health food store or online - if you have Hashimoto's, give this a try.  
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