Monthly Archives: November 2011

What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Your Adrenal Glands

We all know that stress is bad for our health but many are still confused about exactly why and how stress affects so many areas of our body.

Our body is equipped with mechanisms to combat all types of stresses. Many of us don’t realize that stress is not just emotional, but can also be physical stress from exercise, stress from illness and stress of everyday demands.

One of the most powerful defenses our body has is the adrenal glands. Proof that good things come in small packages, these glands weigh less than a grape but are responsible for regulating your reaction to stress. The two adrenal glands sit on top of each kidney and their main function is to store and excrete the essential hormone Cortisol. These hormones are crucial for regulating our body’s homeostasis and under or over production as you can imagine, would throw our body off balance. The adrenals are responsible for determining the way you will cope with the stress factor being presented to you.

Cortisol plays a part in a myriad of processes (and not just stress they way we may think) including:

  • Blood sugar levels
  • Fat, protein and carbohydrate metabolism
  • Immune responses
  • Anti-inflammatory actions
  • Blood pressure
  • Heart and blood vessel tone and contraction
  • Central nervous system activation

Our body will always produce a certain amount of Cortisol and like many things in life, it is something we can’t live without but also can’t get too much. Cortisol levels will normally flare during times of stress,but they should return to normal after that stressor is gone.

The problem is that in today’s world, the stress is constant. Constant stress can turn thousands of chemical pathways in your body upside down and cause normal bodily functions like converting food to energy and absorbing nutrients to become less effective or even completely shut off. When your body is repeatedly “switched on” and it never gets the relief it needs, chronic illnesses arise and only get worse with time. This makes stress one of the most severe and devastating strains on your health.

To explain this a bit better, let’s look at a pack of zebras.

It’s a beautiful day and the zebras are happily grazing in a field when all of a sudden 3 huge tigers come out of nowhere. The zebras see the tigers, realize that there is danger and start running away like crazy. (In this case Cortisol is released as they go into fight of flight mode and that Cortisol is used to actually help them run faster which shows its beneficial effect when there is a true emergency). The tigers may catch one of them if they are not fast enough but the others will outrun the tiger and eventually stop running once the chase stops.

The next day the zebras are grazing happily and back to their normal selves. They are not thinking “Oh no, what if the tigers will come back!?” or “What if when I am trying to run away my hoof will get caught on a rock and make me fall!”

Their stress comes and then it goes away allowing them to recover where as in many of our lives, we have big stresses that may go away but among them there are usually smaller constant stressors and worries that never allow our adrenal glands to actually rest.

Effects of malfunctioning adrenals on the rest of your body

1. Under stress, Cortisol delivers glucose to the body to help the fight or flight mechanism function properly. If Cortisol is consistently doing this, blood sugar levels are constantly high, which can lead to hypo/hyperglycemia, energy problems and even diabetes.

2. Cortisol levels will make the body favor fat storage, also known as visceral fat. Furthermore, since Cortisol elevates blood sugar levels, this can increase hunger and promote overeating. It can also influence cravings and stimulate appetite. Cortisol regulates energy and selects the “right” source to get energy from (carb, fat or protein) depending on your physiological state. This is why Cortisol can have such a tremendous effect on weight.

3. In normal production, Cortisol works as an anti-inflammatory hormone, however we need certain levels of inflammation in our body to fight off bacteria and illness. If Cortisol is continuously elevated, it constantly suppresses some of the beneficial inflammation which can make you sick more often and take longer to heal.

4. Elevated Cortisol levels can also affect your digestion. Your gastrointestinal system is run by the parasympathetic nervous system, an antagonist of the sympathetic nervous system. In other words they can’t run at the same time. So if Cortisol has triggered the sympathetic system, which controls skeletal muscle, your digestion and absorption is going to be compromised. This can lead to an array of complications, including ulcers.

In addition to the above, unbalanced Cortisol can also lead to:

Cardiovascular disease

Fertility problems

Insomnia

Depression and mood disorders

Chronic fatigue

Low Libido

Cravings for sweet or salty foods

In addition to obvious stressors, it is also possible to elevate stress levels by hidden triggers such as overindulgence or sensitivities to foods, air pollution or lack to sleep.

Conventional Approach

Western medicine is finally starting to recognize adrenal insufficiencies and the Cortisol connection but unfortunately the testing is still behind the times.

Conventional labs such as Quest and Labcorp use a 24 hour urine collection to look at total Cortisol or a onetime snap shot level through blood. The problem with these methods is that we need to see Cortisol throughout the day, not just at one time or just total Cortisol.

Our natural Cortisol levels should ideally be at their highest early in the morning and then should gradually go down throughout the day with the lowest level in the evening which promotes good sleep.

Testing total or random Cortisol level does not give us an understanding of what is happening and how the levels are connected thus not allowing us to determine if the adrenal glands are really working properly.

Let me give you an example. In a healthy person, a good Cortisol output would look something like this:

Morning – 18                Range 13-24

Early Afternoon – 7       Range 5-8

Late Afternoon – 5        Range 4-7

Evening – 2                   Range 1-3

Total  = 32

This shows a nice “ski slope” curve with a good level in the morning and then slowly diminishing throughout the day. When someone is under stress and the adrenals are not functioning properly, it is common to see levels in the morning diminish but night time levels go up and then we may see something like this:

Morning – 13                Range 13-24

Early Afternoon – 7       Range 5-8

Late Afternoon – 5        Range 4-7

Evening – 7                   Range 1-3

Total = 32

As you can see both have a total of 32 which is in the normal range but the second shows a very clear stress pattern of lower morning and high evening levels.

This would never show up on a total urine Cortisol and hence the main reason why adrenal issues are missed by that conventional test. The story is similar with the onetime snap shot because if someone took a blood test at 8am and came out with a level or 15, it will appear all is great but we need to know how that 15 compares to the levels the rest of the day.

Our Approach

For this reason we use The Adrenal Function Profile. The test is done through saliva which allows for an easy and quick way to check Cortisol throughout the day by collecting a small amount of saliva in a plastic vial 4 times throughout the day.  In short you would be spitting into a plastic tube and that will then be sent to the lab for analysis.

The profile also measures another stress hormone called DHEA. An increased Cortisol level and a decreased DHEA level is an indication of a chronically stressful physical or mental condition. With these results, we can pinpoint not only the imbalance itself, but also the specific time of day it is happening. Once we find the problem, a combination of stress reducing lifestyle changes, food, supplements and herbs can be used to rebalance the gland to its normal function.

The nice thing about this work is that if the body has what it needs, it can start to heal. While the foods and lifestyle changes should be kept up, the herbs and supplements are usually used on a temporary basis because once the adrenal glad is back on track, keeping it there with good nutrition allows us to maintain all the good results.

Probiotics – The Good Guys

Probiotics are friendly bacteria that play an instrumental role in our digestive and immune health.

As with most natural products, there are many types and thousands of brands. How do you choose the right probiotic for you?

In our practice, we find that stool testing for bacteria can identify the exactly strains of bacteria that is right for every person, however if your digestive issue is not severe or testing is not something that is in your budget, going for something general is also ok.

The thing to remember is that the word probiotic is sort of like saying the word dog. As with dogs where there are various breeds, probiotics are made of various strains. If you need to protect your house, you will go with a Rottweiler where as if you need a cute dog to play with, you may go with a Chihuahua. The same goes for probiotics. Different stains have their own individual benefits and can help you with anything from diarrhea to constipation, gas to indigestion and much more. With this in mind, if you have a problem with constipation, you would benefit most from strains geared towards that issue, where is if you have colits, crohn’s disease or other inflammatory bowel diseases that tend to cause looser bowels, you will need strains formulated for diarrhea. If you don’t have any specific digestive issues but want to maintain good health and immunity, more general combination of strains would be recommended.

For this reason, we carry various probiotics so that we can support these different complains. Our Recolonize 1 probiotic contains 25 billion organisms with 5 billion of them coming from a strain called Saccharomyces Boulardii in just one small capsule. This combination works exceptionally well for anyone experiencing diarrhea from a digestive disorder or loose bowels from antibiotic use. 1-2 pills per day can correct symptoms in as little as 2 days. Recolonize 1 uses room temperature stable stains that do not have to be refrigerated and are guaranteed stable through their expiration which makes it a great product for travel.

Our Probiotic Synergy powdered probiotic from Designs for Health contains a combination of strains specifically used to move bowels and is excellent for constipation, hard stools and “pellet” stools. It also contains inulin which is a prebiotic that is used as food to feed the probiotics and help them colonize in the intestines.  Probiotic Synergy contains 20 billion organisms in ½ of a teaspoon and can be titrated up to achieve as high of a dose as needed. It is best when refrigerated.

Orthobiotic plus from Ortho Molecular is our more general probiotic with 6 different potent strains. It comes in pill form, does not need to be refrigerated and is guaranteed to contain 20 billion organisms at its expiration.

If you are looking to correct a digestive issue or just want to improve immunity and overall health, give probiotics a try, your body will thank you.

Browse our selection of recommended Probiotics.

Confused about Multivitamins?

We often hear from our patients and clients with questions about multivitamins. Which ones should I take? Which are best? What is the difference between all the ones on the market?

While this is not always the easiest question to answer in short, we would like to give you a little more information about what to look for. First off, you need to know that not all multi vitamins are created equal. Drug store brands may seem complete, but when looking further at their ingredients, they are far from that. In addition, those brands contain fillers, thickeners and additives that are not good for your health.  We recommend reading all the ingredients carefully and paying attention to not just the active, but also the inactive ingredients. You will be shocked to find that many of the popular drugstore brands can actually contain as many as 5 artificial colorings, trans fats and even aluminum yikes! You may have heard the recent media frenzy about potential negative effects of vitamins and one of the reason for some of these wacky results are just this, bad ingredients that are harmful to your health in poor quality vitamins. You can also read more about this issue by clicking here.

One of the most critical things that you can do to improve your health is to ensure that you are obtaining a needed amount of vitamins, minerals and nutrients on a daily basis.  Because our soils are depleted and our food is more processed, it is extremely hard to get everything you need from our everyday diet and that is where a multivitamin can come to the rescue. Health food store and professional brand multi-vitamins are the best choices because they contain potent and natural ingredients with no fillers or artificial chemicals so you can be assured that you are taking something every day that will actually help your overall health.

We carry several of the best multivitamins to appeal to the needs of our various clientele. Twice Daily Multi is one of our most popular multivitamins and contains a high amount of energizing B vitamins as well important minerals and extracts with just 2 pills per day. Our DFH Complete MultiPrenatal Pro and Metabolic Synergy are the most complete with extra calcium and magnesium, iron and blood supporting nutrients. Calcium and magnesium are fairly bulky in nature and it is impossible to fit enough of them into one pill along with all the other nutrients. For this reason, the above 3 multivitamins are dosed at 6 pills per day. You can take 3 with breakfast and 3 with dinner or 2 pills with each of your three meals. If you are not used to taking vitamins, 6 pills per day may sound like a lot, however please be assured that if you find a multi-vitamin that is a one-per-day, there is no possible way it will contain all of these necessary ingredients. Furthermore, your body can only absorb a certain amount of nutrients at one time which is why taking something twice or even three times per day if possible will allow you to get more from your multivitamin. If you take something that has a large dose in one, you may not be getting all the benefits from your multi.

Bad Hair Day?

Its that time of year again.. winter is on the way, and with the temperatures declining and indoor heat use increasing, our hair and skin is much more prone to dryness. To give your hair some needed TLC with belegenza natural shampoos and conditioners.

Belegenza specializes in clean and environmentally friendly products that are free of chemicals, harsh detergents and silicone which can clog the scalp. Instead, they are fortified with natural oils and vitamins to nourish your hair for a shine you have to see for yourself.

Not all shampoos are created equal and we have tried hundreds before finding ones that were worthy of  being it in our shop. We love Beleganza’s Illustriuos shampoo which can be used by all hair types and works especially well for hair that is colored, dry or damaged. If you have hair loss or thinning hair, Belegenza’s GrowOut shampoo and strengthener is a must. It is a vitamin enriched peptide complex that targets alopecia and positively affects the hair growth cycle to stimulates cell communication which promotes better hair growth and helps slow premature hair loss.  To seal in the moisture, Belegenza has 2 fabulous conditioners, Dramatic Daily for everyday use and Romance Deep Conditioner for a weekly moisture filled treatment. Belegenza products DO NOT contain Silicones, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Salt, Petrolatum, Phthalates or Parabens. 

If you are starting to see the effects of the winter cold on your hair, let Belegenza natural shampoos and conditioners give you a hand, you will not be sorry. And don’t forget about the holidays, they can make a great gift.