Insulin – the Dark Side: The Importance of Hormone Balance

Hormones are messengers that dart about the body delivering important signals.  From the day we are born, hormones are active; without the 30 plus hormones we would not grow and thrive.  The problem is they are complex signalers with interactions with each other and many different cells through out the body. Thank goodness they are working! This is key in hormone balance.

One such complex hormone is insulin. Insulin is created in the pancreas, which sits right below the stomach and manages sugar going into each cell. Cells need sugar as its fuel, but when we take in too much sugar via the American diet, the behavior of insulin changes.

THE DARK SIDE

Here is how the problem starts.

Too much insulin being produced causes insulin to become “insensitive” BUT then the pancreas keeps making more! A vicious cycle ensues, with more and more insulin in the blood causing:

  • Chronic hunger leading to
  • Unwanted weight gain leading to
  • High blood pressure leading to
  • Obesity leading to
  • Diabetes leading to
  • Heart disease or
  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Cancer or
  • Chronic degenerative diseases and fatigue.

Functional medicine doctors (aka Naturopathic doctors) use the term hyperinsulinemia that means too much insulin.  Hyperinsulinemia is a detriment to good health. This is easily identified by simple fasting blood test not usually tested by conventional MD’s.

THE SOLUTION

Easy.  No pills, no surgery. Simply cut back on all simple sugars! That’s all you have to do. Insulin levels will return to normal, weight will drop and energy will rise again.

Restore your hormone balance and optimize your health!

Dr. Jeanne – the Hormone Goddess.

Thumbs Up

 

Where is the Emergency? How Stress Affects Hormone Balance

Living in the 21st century brings many joys and conveniences. This era of time we are living  however, brings  an underlying sense of urgency and sometimes frantic feelings.  It is fueled by the media, not just news reporting, but the rapid fire way information is delivered at us. In the workplace there is constant pressure for higher performance and to become more productive. This constant unrelenting pace affects each one of us in ways we may be unaware. It is stress that is ongoing that affects hormone balance. So if you feel at if you are living in an emergency read on…

As a former RN who worked in various clinical urgent/ emergency settings,  I know this feeling.   As part of the medical staff, we had to rush to save lives.  I then found myself scurrying in the other parts of my life too! Rushing to get things done – as quickly as possible.  It became a part of me and I didn’t think twice. It seemed to be just the way life worked.  Since entering my nursing career at age 18, I was programmed very early to living under stress.

Now in this decade of life  I am more introspective,  asking myself – where is the emergency?  Rushing to  appointments, driving quickly to arrive at our destination (only to wait), unrealistic work deadlines, we  rush out of one appointment, or dinner date, or shopping time to get onto the next thing.  Why do we do this?  Likely we do it in an  unconscious mode and we experience it  as the cultural norm.

When trying to beat a deadline,  anxiety levels rise internally.  The body must respond to these “deadlines” by producing hormones to meet the demand. There are specific stress hormones that give us the extra energy to meet the expectation. Once in a while, the body can handle these demands, but when it is relentless, ongoing without relief – it’s a problem.  Herein lies the potential of chronic stress leading to chronic disease.  But the real danger is that we haven’t a clue it is ongoing – the boiled frog syndrome; no awareness we are in hot water.

The truth is that there is no  emergency unless you work in a trauma center or live on the streets. We make it all up in our minds. If we made it up we can also create more peace in our lives.  Uncheck your stressful responses and begin to live  a more calm intentional life. Creating a positive intention for stress reduction is so important in this American culture.

Recently Dr. Chrstianne Northrup  on her weekly internet radio show  addressed this phenomena with her audience.   This is an important behavior to put the brakes on because it affects health and wellness.  The “emergency” model of living can and will shorten your lifespan. We are at choice to change this and live longer and more healthfully.  Begin now. Begin by understanding that hormone testing can identify stress and its effects on the body’s physiology.

My work as a naturopathic physician is helping people get back into hormone balance, become aware of stressors in life and actively reduce them.

If you are chronically stressed it is likely you are experiencing hormones out of balance and subsequent illness. Hormone testing is available to evaluate your balance.

Kuan-Yin-photo-Victoria

 

FOOD FOR YOUR SKIN

Sorting through the internet hype about what is best for skin care can be daunting. Advertisers sell their specialty formulas only  adding  to the confusion. So here are some basic tips to consider.

BASIC FACT: Whatever  substance  is applied  to skin surface is absorbed.  Any lotion, potion, oil, perfume, deodorant, make up, lipstick etc, will penetrate skin layers which  goes directly into blood circulation.  We know this because medications and hormones are delivered in this manner. As an example drug and hormone  levels can be tested and  measured.

Skin is a barrier and also the largest organ of the body.  Not only does skin absorb substances, skin also eliminates waste products and toxins. Therefore it is imperative that our skin ”organ “ be kept clear and functioning well.

Skin products containing petroleum by-products are NOT good for healthy skin. Petroleum (from crude oil) acts as a good protective barrier for skin but does not allow skin to “breathe”.

TIP 1:  Skin cells needs nourishment. Oils that repair the skin by delivering nutrients is the answer. Whatever you apply to the skin you should be willing to also EAT! Some of the best oils to nourish skin are from food like vegetables, nuts and seeds.

TIP 2: One of the best oils comes from avocado. Readily purchased in the local health food market, avocado oil feeds the skin. Other oils to be considered are jojoba, olive, almond, flax, primrose,  sesame oil and cocoa butter.

Avocado oil just like the fruit we can eat, supplies sterolin compounds that penetrate into the squamous layer of skin. This is quite helpful for dry itchy and aging skin. More tips on avocado.

TIP 3: The best tip I can give you is something I have been doing  this winter with great success. After a bath or shower, while my skin is still wet, I apply 1-2 teaspoons of avocado oil all over my body (face too) then pat dry. After one week you will notice the terrific difference – no more itchy dry skin.

Avocado

 

Good Health – Good Liver

The liver is the body’s filtration and reprocessing system. Its primary job is changing chemicals in the many forms found in food (pesticides, fertilizers), water (solvents), air (pollutants), environment etc, into water soluble substances that can then  be readily eliminated by the kidneys and/or through the digestive system.

There are numerous complex biochemical steps performed by the liver, one of which is called glucaronidation. This important biochemical step takes potentially toxic material and changes it so it can be eliminated. Glucaric acid the needed substance in this action  but the question is what is enough?  Healthy function of the mighty liver is essential for long term wellness. Researcher Dr Thomas Slaga reports that epidemiologic studies have shown a positive correlation between higher glucarate levels and reduced risk of cancer. The research was done at the AMC Cancer Research Center, Denver, CO  Read more...

liver-health-tips

Where do you find this chemical? You guessed it – fruits and vegetables. The highest amounts are found in apples, grapefruit, cherries and apricots. Brussel sprouts, broccoli and alfalfa sprouts are the best vegetable sources of calcium d’glucarate.
Some individuals may require high amounts and supplementation; they should seek the guidance of a trained provider like a naturopathic doctor.

Join Dr. Jeanne in her cooking class April 7th: “Cleansing Foods for Health and Vitality” and learn more about eating foods to protect the liver. Register here.

 

Mushrooms… How Good Are They?

Mushrooms – Those little one legged plants are getting some attention on the digital by-ways recently on YOU-TUBE , TED Talks and even on NPR radio. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WuF4s-0-0Gs

I am so excited after listening  reading about the extensive research being done on these phenomenal health saving plants that I want to share my excitement with you.

Recently, I listened to Paul Stamets,  a well known mycologist, speak at National College of Natural Medicine and since have become inspired by his intense love for this species of plant – fungi.  It turns out that they are extremely helpful in the environment as they act like the liver which acts as a biochemical filter. This means mushrooms can take a toxic substance and convert it to a non toxic chemical – just like the liver does.  He calls them “soil magicians” for the wondrous ways they work environmentally.

What is even more important is the way mushrooms can help the body heal. They provide immune support in the body and have shown their power in healing cancer. Stamets also states that they are known for their strong antibiotic and anti-viral effect.

Mushroom researcher and cultivator Jeff Chilton talks about polysaccharides found in mushrooms: “These compounds have been the primary focus of research due to their ability to inhibit tumors in laboratory test animals. Mushroom polysaccharides act by enhancing host defenses rather than directly killing tumor cells. For this reason they are called host defense potentiators (HDP).

A very specific variety called “shiitake” is one to highlight  I consume this particular species  regularly in my diet.  Here are a few facts for you:

  1. Shiitakes have four to ten times the flavor of common white button mushrooms.
  2.  In addition to their robust flavor  shiitakes provide high levels of protein (18%), potassium, niacin and B vitamins, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus.
  3. They have natural antiviral and immunity-boosting properties and are used nutritionally to fight viruses.
  4. They  lower cholesterol and regulate blood pressure.
  5. Lentinan,  an immunostimulant  contained in shiitakes, has been used to treat cancer, AIDS, diabetes, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibrocystic breast disease.
  6.  Researchers S. Suzuki and Oshima found that a raw shiitake eaten daily for one week lowered serum cholesterol by 12%. http://shiitakemushroomlog.com/facts&nutrition.html

This plant is the truest examples of Hippocrates statement:  “let food be your medicine and let medicine be your food” .   Be proactive and preventative by including mushrooms at least 3-4 times a week in your diet. Using shiitake mushrooms in salads, sautéed with veggies or scrambled eggs are some easy ways to improve your immune system – the guardian of health.

Listen to NPR interview on medicinal mushrooms:  http://www.npr.org/player/v2/mediaPlayer.html?action=1&t=1&islist=false&id=4783951&m=4784636

 

Progesterone: A Woman’s Best Friend!

Hormones can be confusing and different research studies have given us various information even conflicting data. In this writing I want to focus on one particular hormone – progesterone. I believe every woman would benefit by knowing that progesterone is a safe and supportive hormone.
The big study in 2002 (WHI – Women’s Health Initiative) cautioned the use of hormone replacement (HRT) in older women. The end result of that study showed HRT did NOT improve a woman’s heart health and it did report higher cancer (breast) rates. So where are we now ten years later?
A wonderful website I monitor is a neutral data center for research based information on women and hormones. Women in Balance (www.womeninbalance.org) has reliable information for the public to explore and it attempts to sort out some of the mystery and fear. I also follow what Dr. Christiane Northup writes about the subject.  As a gynecologist she has debunked some of the misinformation women have been given over the last 25 years. Check these two reliable resources for further information.

What is true about progesterone?

As you can see in the pictograph of progesterone above, it has an aura of calmness because that is what it does; it is the great hormone balancer. Progesterone is the hormone that is produced in huge amounts during pregnancy especially in the last trimester. Women often claim how well they feel in that phase – thanks to progesterone. After childbirth this hormone drops precipitously often causing terrible feelings of sadness and disconnection. Sometimes the levels of progesterone never recover to the former levels. A woman then may find herself in hormone turmoil because progesterone remains too low.
Menopausal women feel out of sorts with low energy and often report poor sleep. Progesterone can restore sanity by restoring sleep. I often prescribe this hormone for nighttime use and it can restore normal deep sleep patterns for many women. I recommend progesterone for midlife women with symptoms of moodiness and irritability.

In the medical arena, progesterone is often interchanged with a synthetic drug called progestin. It definitely is NOT the same as naturally produced or bio-identical progesterone. Progestin is found in many forms of birth control and is responsible for the side effects women experience using drug contraception (pills and IUD’s). Why is there still confusion around this? Drug companies confuse doctors and patients by calling progestin a ‘form’ of progesterone, however it is a very different molecule.

I love working with a progesterone supplementation when it is appropriate,  helping women feel more balanced in mood, sleep, and energy levels. And it may be right for you after all.

Strong Bones and Osteoporosis

What does it take to keep strong bones and healthy as we age?  Women more often are diagnosed with osteoporosis (bone loss) or osteopenia (bone thinning) after menopause. Women can lose bone the few years after menopause; men lose bone over a longer period of time. Women can lose 38%of their bone compared to 23% lifetime loss for men.  It can happen to younger women, but is less common.  First let me clarify some misinformation.

“Low bone density is not necessarily a sign of brittle bone”  reports Dr. Christiane Northrup.  Some  women have been led to believe once the bone density is lost, it will lead to bone fracture.  Not true.

The fact is: bone matrix can actually be strong even if the density is lowered.  Matrix is comprised of intracellular fibers and inorganic salts making up the inner structure like scaffolding.  If this bone substance is strong, the bone structure will be strong too.

Women have been shaken up by a diagnosis of bone loss and then often encouraged to take a pharmaceutical like Fosamax or others, that can have significant long term side effects.  In truth, low bone density may be normal for you. Japanese women have low bone density but bone fractures occur 2 and 1/2 times  less than here in the U.S.  Your heritage, body frame, lifestyle meaning  quality of foods, type and frequency of exercise all play a part to maintain healthy bones.  The use of other drugs like steroids or over the counter antacids can have a great impact on bone health or its loss. Women’s menstrual history and exposure to her own estrogen is important too. Long periods of stress or a stressful lifestyle also contributes to bone loss – a factor too often overlooked.

An additional fact is that the Japanese diet contains much less calcium (they consume very little dairy products) then the American diet, yet this chronic disease has a low incidence in Japan.  So it is more important to look at ways to keep up bone building and slow down bone cell loss.

Osteoporosis is a devastating loss of body structure and frame often occurring over many years. There are ways to detect if you are losing bone through an at home urine test. Simple heel density tests can be a great screening tool, but full  bone DEXA scan is the most helpful.  All health parameters should be weighed to determine your individual situation.

There are things to do for your wellness program to avoid devastating bone fractures from loss of bone mass.  Work with your provider to create a wellness program. Start now before any more loss occurs. Will you wake up one day and wish you had started earlier? The body can renew itself, in fact in one year’s time, 20 % of bone is replaced with new bone cells.  Osteoporosis is a preventable disease.

Dr Christiane Northrup has written extensively on this subject and I recommend reading further.

 

Time Out

YOU MAY JUST NEED A TIME OUT!

Often parents will give a child a “time out” for a behavior issue or some repetitive habit that needs to be changed. This time out can be a short 5 minutes or a  longer period like a nap as deemed by the frustrated adult.  The real  goal is to help the young one realize that his/her behavior could be harmful to their well being, or that particular activity is just not acceptable.

So let’s now switch this scenario to perhaps an adult who needs a “ time out” for a behavior that  is also harmful to their health and well being or a harmful habit ( like Coke and Twinkies).  Just as children test the boundaries with parents, adults test the boundaries of how far they can push their bodies.  In other words, this “bad” behavior includes  drinking too much alcohol (and you know those limits), eating  sweet treats in excess, insisting that mac and cheese is a health food,  staying up late night after night on the computer, watching movies or playing games.  Cynthia James in a recent article in Science of Mind magazine, reminds us that during the times when we test our own limits the universe gives a little warning in the form of quiet thoughts.

“You should take some time to rest” or “Stop! You are pushing the envelope”.  If we fail to listen to the signals, we get to have a time out anyway in the form of complete fatigue, foggy thinking, or sickness.

Working with different individuals over many years,  I  have heard client stories of hard work, stress and worry that finally culminate in a disease,  burn  out, depression and even cancer.  Our bodies need our attention and care – lovingly.  Are you listening to your body? Do you need a time out?  Honoring ourselves by taking time to rest and recuperate is the smartest thing we can do!  It is NOT laziness or irresponsible  to stop the hectic lifestyle we find ourselves wrapped around. Take a few steps back, re-evaluate your work, home and social situation. How do you behave?  Is your  lifestyle balanced in all three? Some changes may be in order.

Listen to the quiet voice; she knows.

*Science of Mind: A Guide for Spiritual Living, February 2012 p. 44

 

Do You Cheat on Sleep?

Sleep is a major element in maintaining great health. Don’t just take my word – research bears this out again and again.

If you are focusing on staying healthy – stay asleep longer! During our slumber hours several major body systems are affected.

Here are three major areas affected by sleep:

  • The immune system is restored during deep restful sleep. The T-cells actually decline when sleep is deprived.
  • Our cell repair system is ramped up during sleep. The body suffers a lot of wear and tear during our waking hours and we need sleep for repair time.
  • Our brains are replenished during sleep; brain chemicals are needed for clarity and both memory and thinking processes are renewed.

Stanford Study : “Sleep restores the brain”.

Other studies have shown that athletes perform better, brain cognition improves, muscle tone increases and skin looks better when sleep is good. On average a person needs eight hours and some may need more or a little less. But when we cheat on sleep because of deadlines, family or work demands or too much partying, you lose in the long run. When we are younger we want to do more fun activities or challenge the body physically, and sleep is our ally for recovery from these events.

People who cheat on sleep and accumulate” sleep debt” will experience more chronic illness and/ or more colds and flu or mental fogginess. Newer studies are now showing that we really can’t make up for lost sleep so easily as reported in the BBC news recently.

So the take away is DON’T CHEAT ON SLEEP! Keep sleep as a top priority in your life every day. Good sleep hygiene every night requires we go to bed at the same time (routine) and preferably before 11pm. Sleep is a priority when I create a treatment program with my clients. Do you know someone who is sleep challenged? Do they wake up still tired? They need help NOW! Sleep routine and hormone rebalancing may be part of the solution. Contact me for a free 15 minute discussion on how to restore sleep.

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