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Archive for the ‘Candace McNaughton ND Naturopath’ Category

Young beautiful woman sleeping on bedThere is so much that can be done for problems with sleep without taking anything at all. Finding the perfect substance to put you to sleep is not going to do anything for insomnia- hangover or no hangover, dependence or no dependence.

Generally, there is some reason for trouble sleeping such as erratic schedules, chronic stress, stimulant use, chronic disease/pain, or mental imbalance such as anxiety or depression. One major reason for waking at 3-4 AM is blood sugar imbalance, whereby the blood sugar gets too low and cortisol is released to stimulate the production of more glucose (gluconeogenesis). A protein snack before bed can help with this problem.

Another common reason for insomnia is an imbalance in the timing of release of epinephrine (adrenaline). Normally, you produce more in the morning than in the evening. This makes sense if you just think of adrenaline as ‘energy’. When we look at samples of saliva from people who have chronic stress and trouble sleeping, we often find that they have adrenaline drops in the morning and spikes in the evening. This is a result of adrenal gland function not being optimal due to effects of chronic stress, stimulant use, etc. There are a number of herbs which optimize adrenal function and set you back up in the morning adrenaline pattern. My favorite ones are ashwagandha, eleuthero (Siberian ginseng), licorice, and schisandra. Licorice can raise blood pressure in people who have high blood pressure.

Pure Encapsulations’ Cortisol Calm is one of my favorite adrenal formulas.

Even having one cup of coffee every morning is enough to perpetuate insomnia and cause an imbalance in adrenaline production. Caffeine also decreases melatonin production and can disturb blood sugar balance, both of which interfere with sleep. Following are a couple of articles addressing caffeine and epinephrine (adrenaline):
http://tinyurl.com/2n8vhb
http://tinyurl.com/2j533s

Discovering the causes of insomnia and addressing them will help you to sleep well without sleep aids.  That being said, getting sleep is essential to functioning and a necessary place to start.  Reversing chronic conditions and life patterns can take time.  You need to sleep first! There are a number of supplements which are extremely effective.

Valerian is the most popular sedative herb because it is one of the strongest and is quite effective, but is by no means the best. Many people report a hangover effect and about 5% of people unfortunately report a stimulant effect! Plus it smells like dirty socks! The volatile oils, particularly valerenic acid, bind to GABA-A receptors leading to the release of g-aminobutyric acid (GABA) which inhibits the release of other neurotransmitters (like hormones in the brain).  GABA is basically a calming amino acid. Valerian’s volatile oils also inhibit the breakdown of GABA. The net effect is sedation of the central nervous system (CNS). Valerian is also a muscle relaxant.

Other great sedative herbs include passionflower, hops (not alcohol- it can cause you to wake up 2-3 hours later that makes it not desirable as a sleep aid), skullcap, oats, and California poppy. None of these have been shown to produce any physical dependence, but anything that helps you sleep can produce a psychological/behavioral dependence. “I took this and it helped me sleep. If I don’t take it, I might not be able to get to sleep.”

For problems falling asleep, the best herbs to use are passionflower and ashwagandha. For problems staying asleep, the best herbs to use are skullcap and St John’s Wort.  St. John’s Wort should not be used with mood medications like Prozac and Zoloft. Valerian is good for both types of insomnia.

Vitanica’s Sleep Blend is one of my favorite sleep formulas.

Magnesium is a muscle relaxant. Taking a calcium-magnesium combination is a perfect and simple solution for many people for whom the cause of insomnia is physical- muscle pain, spasm, tension, etc.

Melatonin is a hormone and regulates your sleep cycles- whether or not it has direct sedative properties is under debate- but it is not a classic sedative. Therefore, taking more will not make you more sleepy. It is interesting to note, however, that melatonin is one of the most potent antioxidants and has great results in cancer treatment with doses for cancer patients being ~20 mg per day. Melatonin does not work in people who do not have low levels of circulating melatonin already– thus the variation in effect. Long term melatonin supplementation has been associated with rebound insomnia as well as disruptions in the body’s melatonin production.

5HTP has been shown to reduce trouble falling asleep as well as staying asleep. It increases REM sleep and deep sleep while decreasing the time it takes to fall asleep.  It should not be used with mood medications such as Prozac and Zoloft.

Using some of the above suggestions can help you sleep right away- they will not cure insomnia. If you want to change insomnia and actually be able to sleep, you need to determine the cause and change that. I can help you to be free of insomnia.  

Candace McNaughton, ND

 Trained as a family practitioner to address acute and chronic conditions, Dr. McNaughton focuses on autoimmune disease, allergies, and digestive issues.  She facilitates healing as a knowledgeable guide and partner, helping her patients make lasting changes and achieve health goals.  She graduated from Bastyr University in 2003.  Call our office with questions or to make an appointment- 206.568.7545.

 

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Why is it that so many of us are so stressed?  It is the minority of patients who come to me and say, “My stress level is very low.”  Most feel overwhelmed juggling the responsibilities of work, family, finances, relationships and home.  Especially the most caring and giving folks tend to overextend themselves and put themselves last.

Our adrenal glands do lots of things, and one is to react to stress.  Our bodies are supposed to react to stress- that’s a good thing.  But when it is daily or almost daily for years, we just wear out.  This process, termed the General Adaptation Syndrome, happens in three phases over time.

  • In the first, we are “wired” or “high-strung”.  We have adrenaline (you know- fight or flight) pumping into our blood stream, which leaves less stored up.   During this phase, you might be underweight/undernourished, develop ulcers, experience insomnia, anxiety, or have frequent colds due to decreased immune function.  You might start to see problems with female hormones, thyroid and blood sugar because stress hormones directly interfere with these.
  • In the second, you seem to adapt to the stress.  You make more reserves of adrenaline and the other adrenal hormones and seem to coast through.  You may gain weight during this time.
  • In the third, you become exhausted.  Your adrenal glands don’t react like they used to, and fatigue is extreme.  You may find yourself to be more irritable and jumpy, depressed, anxious, less able to handle conflict, unpredictable things, or even daily responsibilities.  You may have insomnia even though you are exhausted.  You may find that you have gained weight over the years that the body was in survival mode.  “This is an emergency.  Better store all the fat possible,” says the lizard brain.

What do I do? (more…)

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By Candace McNaughton, ND

There is much discussion around soy and its benefits or risks. The answer is, as always, mixed, as is the research.

Soy contains phytoestrogens, which are compounds that are similar in shape to estrogens (female hormones) in our bodies. These phytoestrogens are partial agonists, meaning they occupy estrogen receptors and activate them weakly while blocking stronger estrogen effects from animal products (who are fed hormones), the body, and xenoestrogens from plastics. This can protect from estrogen-related cancers.

Early puberty in girls (and cancer for that matter) is more strongly linked to animal products than to soy.

As a historical note, “The use of soy in the diet dates back to the Chinese Emperor Shen Nung in 2838 BC. Tofu (a protein-rich curd made from a hot water extract of soybeans) was developed in China and was introduced by Buddhist missionaries to Japan and Korea between the 2nd and 7th centuries.
Tofu was even a revered food of the Chinese Emperors in the Ming to Chin dynasties. Soybeans have been a staple in the diet of Southeast Asians for several centuries.” [1]

Soy has beneficial effects on PMS, menopause, heart health, bone density, and even preventing breast cancer, though there are two studies which indicate soy may not be safe in women who have had breast cancer.

The link to the article below is from a doctor I highly respect and who is the leading naturopath for women’s health in the US. (more…)

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By Candace McNaughton, ND

Toxins in the body are eliminated in five main ways:

  • the urine,
  • the bowels,
  • the liver (which sends things to the urine or bowels),
  • the lungs, and
  • the skin.

Elimination through the skin is the reason that one of the most common drug reactions is skin rash.  Sometimes the effect is directly from the drug, and sometimes it is from the body’s reaction to it.

Skin issues can tell us something is wrong inside.  When our hormone balance is off, we can get acne or extra hair growth.  Bumps on the back of the arms can herald low thyroid function or a vitamin A deficiency.  Eczema or psoriasis can be caused by reactions to foods.  Overload of heavy metals can cause skin reactions.  Lung problems can cause the thinner skin areas to become blue.  Unexplained bruising can mean the body is attacking the blood vessels (autoimmune) or the blood is very thin (low platelets).

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By Candace McNaughton, ND

Sometimes when research is summarized to one sentence, the message is skewed.  The US Preventative Services Task Force has issued a draft statement saying that vitamin D and calcium should not be taken by healthy men or post-menopausal women to reduce fractures and that it may not prevent cancer.[1]  The evidence is mixed and many-layered, but because we are trained for take-home messages and sound bites, many will simply conclude “Don’t take vitamin D or calcium.”

Actually, they say that they can’t recommend for or against it.  More specifically, they say that 400 IU of vitamin D3 and 1000 mg of calcium carbonate don’t reduce osteoporotic fractures in men or postmenopausal women living at home as much as those living in facilities.  However, the risk is reduced in those living at home.  I think the difference could be because of missed doses. Although D3 is considered to be the active form, some studies use D2. Also, 400 IU of D3 is not a very high dose.  Calcium carbonate is the poorest absorbed form of calcium.  Bone density is best supported with a combination of well-absorbed calcium, vitamin D3, vitamin K, other minerals such as strontium and boron, and weight-bearing exercise. The task force reviewed 19 randomized trials and 28 observational studies (for cancer outcomes).  There are close to 18,000 studies that focus on vitamin D.

The task force reports that there is evidence of decreased risk of cancer, but found some evidence that high blood levels may be associated with an increased risk of cancer. A simple, inexpensive blood test that we commonly run here at Glow can make sure your blood levels don’t get too high. However, there is some evidence that higher blood levels may reduce the risk of colorectal cancer.

There is clear evidence that people with low blood levels of vitamin D have increased risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and diabetes.  Further, some studies show that supplementing with vitamin D reduces risk for heart disease and diabetes, while some don’t.  The blanket conclusion from that research is “vitamin D does not prevent heart disease or diabetes”. I am not sure the answer is that simple.

Auto-immune disorders such as hypothyroidism or multiple sclerosis are skyrocketing in this country. Auto-immune disease-related deaths come only third to heart disease and cancer.[2]  Many diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes, are mediated by inflammation.  Vitamin D reduces auto-immunity and inflammation.[3]  A deficiency turns up auto-immunity and inflammation. (more…)

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By Candace McNaughton, ND

I am not an alarmist. But this is alarming. Through a subtle messaging campaign, the prescription of opiate medications has increased fourfold in the last ten years. Drug companies like the makers of OxyContin pay groups like the American Pain Foundation much of their annual income. The messaging came from the drug manufacturers through position statements, clinical guidelines, books, and seminars at conferences. Opiates are no longer just being used for severe post-surgical pain or pain associated with cancer or its treatment. They’re being prescribed for chronic pain issues like headaches, low back pain, and fibromyalgia. The gist of the message? Opiates aren’t addictive if used as prescribed, and there’s essentially no limit on dose. So prescribe away.

Except they are addictive. They cause tolerance (needing more to have the same effect) and addiction (going through withdrawal symptoms if you stop them suddenly). I see patients like this in my practice every day. Mothers who tearfully say they can’t take care of their kids while on Oxycodone. Construction workers who can’t work because they can’t drive, let alone operate machinery on the job while on these meds. I see kids who are still in school saying they were given no treatment options other than an opiate script and now they’re still in pain and falling asleep in school and scared of addiction. (more…)

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By Candace McNaughton, ND

Acid blockers are one of the most prescribed medicines in the world. An article in the British Medical Journal reports on the risk of hip fracture in women who take acid blockers and who smoke. The risk of hip fracture increased by a whopping 50%! This was a survey of almost 80,000 patients over 10 years (from the Nurses Health Study), so the numbers are very likely to reflect the general population. The authors say that the reason is likely because acid blockers and smoking both interfere with calcium absorption. They also showed that taking calcium didn’t seem to help.

If you add on the risk factor of being small-framed, I bet the risk of fracture would be even higher. Acid blockers interfere with the absorption of a number of nutrients such as iron, B12, magnesium, and calcium. This is because the food doesn’t break down completely and because some nutrients (like calcium) are better absorbed in an acidic environment. Yes, that means that milk is a very poor way to get calcium (not to mention it’s not a food group and, and, arrgh!). To protect bone density, you need to start with weight-bearing exercise and take a comprehensive mineral supplement plus vitamin D.

Now the FDA has warned that acid blockers might increase the risk of C difficile-associated diarrhea. C diff is a bug that is usually picked up when people take a lot of antibiotics or from staying in a hospital. Sometimes after treatment, the diarrhea just won’t go away. If you take acid blockers and get C diff (which is on the rise), you are more likely to have chronic recurrent diarrhea that is very difficult to treat.

We need our stomach acid! Acid blockers are most often prescribed for ulcers and acid reflux. Why not make your ulcer go away instead of blocking acid so you don’t notice it’s there? One very important thing that I use for these conditions is chewable licorice extract, or DGL. It not only soothes on contact and is anti-inflammatory, but it also helps the tissue to actually heal. No worries if you’ve heard that licorice can aggravate high blood pressure. The chewable has that component taken out. At Glow we have a really yummy chocolate licorice extract chew. Please let me know if you have any questions.

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