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Dr. Shawn Morris, ND

Estrogen & Progesterone

During and after menopause, many women experience symptoms related to progesterone and estrogen decline. This is a timeherbs for menopause Seattle WA where there are also changes in types of estrogen, which may cause inflammation. Many women experience migraines, hot flashes, brain fog, and irritability during this period. In the short term, balancing hormones with supplements, herbs and minerals supports healthy transition into menopause. Long term, it is possible for most women to balance hormone levels through diet and lifestyle alone.

Hormone balance through diet, lifestyle, & herbs

Although progesterone is not found in foods, there are many ways to balance progesterone with nutrition. Primarily, if the body is in an estrogen dominant state, balancing excess estrogen metabolites is the first step. Post-menopause, too much of 4 and 6 hydroxy-estrogen is inflammatory, and also antagonizes remaining progesterone. To reverse estrogen metabolite dominance, weaving in nuts and seeds can support healthy estrogen and progesterone levels. If you are approaching menopause and still have an active cycle, then adding flaxseeds and pumpkin seeds days 1-13 will boost healthy estrogens, then shifting to sesame and sunflower days 14-28 will boost progesterone. After menopause, including all seed types in the diet is beneficial.

Foods high in selenium support the corpus luteum, which is the region of the ovaries where progesterone is formed. Adding four Brazil nuts to the diet will provide enough selenium, or supplementing with 200 mcg per day.

Vitamin B6 also supports the corpus luteum in the ovaries. To build levels, supplement with B6 in the short-term. Then, add in foods rich in vitamin B6, which include turkey, wild-caught tuna and salmon, beef, chicken, pistachios, chickpeas, potatoes, eggs, and dark leafy greens. Adding in 3-4 servings per day of high B6 foods will help sustain healthy levels. Beyond progesterone, B6 also supports serotonin balance and melatonin conversion, promoting sound sleep and balanced mood. Speaking of sleep, getting enough sleep supports neurotransmitter and hormone balance, along with healthy weight. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night.

Herbal medicines can help with menopausal transition and treating symptoms as well. In particular Vitex, or chasteberry, supports progesterone production and decreases symptoms of menopause in clinical trials. Black cohosh and blue cohosh balance estrogen dominance and decrease hot flashes. Raspberry leaf is a gentle tonic that supports the female the reproductive system. Talk with your doctor about an individualized herbal and nutritional approach that works for you.

Focus on healing the GI. If you have a history of GI symptoms and inflammation, soothing the digestive system is a key step in hormone support. Healing the GI is vital to allow for nutrient absorption. Food provides the building blocks for our hormones, neurotransmitters, and tissue health, laying the foundation for overall wellbeing. To heal the GI, avoid fried foods, refined ingredients, excess acidity, and heavily processed foods. Focus on fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, complex grains, and adequate protein (around 60 grams per day). Specific foods that heal digestive function include aloe juice, coconut, cinnamon, turmeric, peppermint and chamomile tea, and probiotic foods like yogurt & kefir.

Get regular exercise. Gentle exercise supports immune system health, metabolism, and healthy weight, which helps balance estrogen and progesterone. Try hiking, light jogging, eliptical machines, swimming, and resistance exercises. For simple home resistance exercises, pick up a theraband for upper and lower body workouts. However, avoid overexercise, as this places stress on the body that decreases pregnenolone and hormone synthesis. Long distance running, Cross-Fit, and intense cycling classes may cause more harm than benefit when dealing with low hormone function.

Natural progesterone cream. While implementing these lifestyle steps, adding in extra hormonal support may be necessary for a short period. Natural progesterone creams containing bio-identical progestins help replenish levels. Monitoring progesterone levels is important once per month to keep progesterone in a healthy level. Long-term, use of progesterone cream is tapered down. Yam and soy based creams are not effective. Taking pregnenolone and DHEA also supports progesterone by providing the building blocks for production.

Xenoestrogens and phytoestrogens

Along with managing hormones in the body, monitoring input of hormones from the environment is also key. Xenoestrogens are synthetic estrogen-like compounds produced in manufacturing. They are commonly found in makeup, packaging, pesticide residue, and plastic products. Certain xenoestrogens act as estrogen-disruptors by blocking or binding estrogen receptors. They have detrimental effects on the immune system, bone health, and the female reproductive system. To avoid xenoestrogens, choose additive-free makeup and bath/body products, organic produce, and glass bottles versus plastic.

Also, taking phytoestrogens has a protective effect. Phytoestrogens are plant-based estrogen-like compounds that occupy receptors and prevent xenoestrogens from binding. Moderate amounts of soy, alfalfa, brassicas, and clover taken in the diet as sprouts, food, and supplements protects the endocrine system.

By working with nutrition, herbal medicine, and lifestyle, it is possible to support the body while transitioning into menopause. This is a natural part of the lifecycle, and in most cases the body’s intelligence knows what to do. When extra support is needed, there are safe and effective treatments available.

Dr. Shawn Morris is a native of Whidbey island where he lives with his wife and son.

Shawn Morris Naturopath Seattle WA

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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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Recently, attention has been drawn to some studies questioning the value of vitamins and minerals.  This comes mostly from a few recent studies: one showing modest prevention of future heart events after someone has had a heart attack, one showing no improvement in brain function in elderly men after taking Centrum, and a third looking at prevention of cancer and heart disease showing mixed results.  One problem is that there are recent studies showing a protective effect that were not included in these reviews.

Multivatamins at Glow Natural Health Seattle

The vast majority of studies on multivitamins use Centrum which is low dose, has poorly-used forms of the nutrients, contains chemical binders, and whose ability to dissolve has been questioned (though improvements have been made).  I have been shocked at the poor design (form, dose used, not distinguishing between food and supp sources) of some supplement trials.  This poor design would never be tolerated in a trial of a pharmaceutical.  Also, no one is saying, “Here, take this multi to prevent your heart attack!”  I would be a terrible doctor if that was all that I discussed with a patient after heart attack.

While the studies on Centrum have shown little to mixed benefit, solid scientific research on nutrients *abounds*, so statements that supplement use is not scientifically based are unfounded.  Further, when used in conjunction with someone trained and who understands the science, therapy beyond correction of deficiency comes into the process.  For example, B12 is used for energy production, vitamin C stabilizes cells to minimize releasing histamine (involved in allergic response), magnesium is a muscle relaxant, etc. The nutrients are cofactors for every reaction in the body.   So, keep researching, tell it like it is, and be careful about blanket statements.

McNaughton color small  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.

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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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Did you know that you can get your annual exam right here at Glow?
Primary care services include annual gynecological exams, STD and other lab testing, cholesterol and blood pressure management, smoking cessation, stress management, referral for preventative screening such as mammograms and bone scans and referral to other providers as appropriate.

I practice family medicine with a focus on autoimmune disease, allergies, and digestive issues.   Therapeutics are natural medicine and some prescriptions as necessary.

Schedule your appointment with me today.

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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

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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By Dr. Eric Nissen ND

Proper diet and exercise are mainstays of weight loss. It stands to reason: if take in fewer calories than you expend, you will lose weight. Unfortunately, this does not work for many people, at least sustainably.

Enter the Set Weight Point Theory. This theory states that the body gets used to a particular body weight, or more specifically, a body fat percentage. If that body fat percentage drops below what it is normally, the brain perceives that the body is experiencing a famine, and a cascade of hormones and chemical messengers are released to reduce metabolism. Evolutionarily, this makes sense: shutting down metabolism in a time of famine will help prevent a person from burning through their vital reserves, thus helping that person live longer.

However, in modern society, not having access to enough calories is not an issue (at least for most of us). Our biggest challenge is not eating too many calories. This is made more challenging by eating foods that are nutrient-poor, so our bodies tell us to eat more and more food to get the nutrients they need. Additionally, modern-day foods have more intense flavors than what our ancestors were used to. Sugar and salt are in much more abundance, as well as artificial flavorings and flavor enhancers. So, we may very well eat more calories than we need because we’ve become addicted to those flavors and have lost the innate sense of eating just what the body needs.

So, it is possible to gradually ratchet up the set weight point. Most of us have experienced this. It is much more challenging to reduce it.

hCG, or human Chorionic Gonadotropin, combined with a low-calorie diet, is the best thing that I have come across that actually helps to establish a new lower set weight point. hCG is what a woman produces when she is pregnant. In times of famine, or a low-calorie diet, hCG will tell the hypothalamus in the brain to tell the body to mobilize fat stores. This ensures that the developing fetus receives the needed calories and nutrients to remain viable.

We can mimic these conditions by supplying a very low dose of hCG to a person who is eating a specific, low-calorie diet. This completely bypasses the body’s set weight point and, in fact, helps to establish a new one at the end of the program.

Weight loss is rapid, typically ½ pound to 1 pound per day. In any other circumstance, I would consider that to be too much. But with hCG, people don’t experience hunger or fatigue, and the results are sustainable after stopping the hCG. This is true for both men and women, young or older.

If you are curious about hCG and weight loss or have further questions, I am offering a round-table discussion at Glow on July 14th, from 6-7 p.m. I also offer free 15-minute consults during office hours to discuss your health further and decide if naturopathic medicine and/or hCG is right of for you.

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Dr. Eric Nissen provides primary care services, as well as specializing in weight loss, men’s health, and urology. He gets to the underlying cause of a health concern by in-depth patient history and lab testing and by utilizing diet and lifestyle counseling, herbal medicine, nutritional supplements, and homeopathy.

Dr. Nissen is a Washington State licensed Naturopathic Physician. He received his Bachelor’s of Science degree from the Universityof Nebraskaand his doctorate of naturopathy degree from Bastyr University, in Seattle, WA. He has lived and practiced naturopathic medicine for the last few years in New York  and New Jersey, before recently returning to the beautiful Northwest. He has been interviewed on numerous radio shows and T.V., and has lectured across the U.S.on a variety of topics related to natural health.

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