Posts Tagged ‘cortisol’

What No One Tells You About Menopause

menopauseMenopause, a women’s worst nightmare or is it? By simply understanding the basic science, we can clear the myths of this dreaded change and make it the most empowering years of a women’s life.

The two predominant hormones are Estrogen and Progesterone. Menopause is nothing more than a mirror image of menarche, or the start of menses.

In the pubertal years, the E2 (Estrogen) and P4 (Progesterone) begin to increase in quantity in preparation of future pregnancies. During this time, there is an imbalance of E2 and P4 which occurs that results in PMS, development of female habitus, acne, mood changes and so on.

During the 20’s and 30’s, E2 and P4 are in prime balance which allows the opportunity for the woman to conceive. When in equilibrium, a woman feels her best.

Around 35 years of age, the body begins to prepare to slow down. This is the time, the change STARTS.

E2 and P4 levels begin to biologically drop. Progesterone declines twice as fast as Estrogen. It is this imbalance between the lower Progesterone in relation to the higher Estrogen that causes menopausal symptoms.

Walking around with higher than needed Estrogen leads to higher risk of breast, uterine, or ovarian cancers, blood clots,  and heart disease. Progesterone is there to keep Estrogen from over stimulating the cells. Progesterone also helps with sleep, balances your mood, acts as a diuretic, and gives an overall sense of calm.

When Progesterone declines in respect to Estrogen, it creates a phenomena known as Progesterone Deficiency or Estrogen Dominance.

This is when women experience acne, mood changes, sleep issues, cravings, slowed metabolism, weight gain around mid-section and hips. In essence, menopause is a mirror reflection of menarche.

The solution? That is the million dollar question. Pre-menopause, Peri-Menopause, Menopause, Post-Menopause-whatever phrase you choose to describe this phase is irrelevant because the concept is the same.

Crossing the turbulent rivers of menopause is much easier and simpler than we think because we now understand why the body is changing the way it is.

So how do we get through these years? Here are few things to remember:

  • Breathe. This is not a permanent! The hormones are trying to find their balance and they eventually will. No one can predict how long this will take. And nothing can be done to speed up the process. The body is only trying to protect you. Allow it to do so. Don’t condemn the changes you are experiencing. The body is your armor, your voice and your friend. Understand what it is trying to tell you when it speaks to you in the form of symptoms.
  • Stop worrying about the weight. The weight is a symptom like anything else. Weight gain occurs due to Estrogen Dominance/Progesterone Deficiency. There are alpha and beta receptors throughout our muscle and adipose layers in the body. Depending on how those receptors are activated in each person, is where the weight change will occur.
  • Watch your diet and move your body. Our foods are coated with Estrogen and other chemicals which worsens Estrogen Dominance. It is imperative to cut out gluten, sugar, dairy. Eat clean and as unprocessed as possible. Additionally, without exercise don’t expect the body to change. Your body will not respond how it did was few years prior. And that’s ok. But it doesn’t mean that it won’t change. This will just become the new norm. One of the places Estrogen is converted is in adipose tissues. So the more fat you carry, the more estrogen it will convert, thereby again, worsening Estrogen Dominance. Striving towards optimal body fat will help keep Estrogen Dominance controlled. Focus on feeling balanced, not skinny.
  • Make sleep a priority. Without sleep the adrenal glands cannot function at their best. The disruption to the cortisol results in further Progesterone depletion. Turn off the devices and sink yourself into restful slumber.
  • Meditate. When the mind is silenced amongst the chaos of life, we are able to center and align to the root of our existence. Take 5-10 minutes a day, close your eyes and go to the places that feel off balance and listen for the guidance given.
  • Use hormones. I am all for using hormones, IF AND WHEN IT IS NEEDED. Treating with hormones during menopause is certainly not mandatory. The fundamental question to ask is, “are my symptoms debilitating enough that it is affecting my quality of life?” If the answer is yes, use the smallest amount needed for optimal results. Hormones are like the waves of the ocean. Anything can affect them – sleep, weight, seasonal changes, stress levels, nutritional habits, exercise commitment. You may need hormones for a while and decide later they are not needed. And depending on what’s going on in life, may need them again. There is no one answer. The correct answer always is what your body tells you it needs. Hormones are not the magic solution to these symptoms. They are only a crutch to lean on while working on lifestyle modifications.
  • Stop comparing. Don’t compare yourself to your past self. Menopause is a beautiful opportunity for growth and experience. Just keep remembering the symptoms we experience is the body protecting us. This cloud WILL pass! Learn to dance in the rain and embrace the glory of being a woman. This is a period of transformation, revitalization and rejuvenation.

Menopause is the process of shedding the layers of struggle. But just be patient my friends because the wings of healing are opening to reveal the vastness of all that is authentically you.

Dr. Raman’s Concierge Medical Practice is focused on holistic care and good health maintenance. For more information on healthy eating habits and achieving and maintaining OPTIMAL health,  CONTACT our office today to schedule your appointment. You can also learn more by following Dr. Raman on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn and Pinterest.

The Many Benefits of Yoga & How It Changed My Life

Benefits of YogaTwo years ago if you would have told me yoga was one of the best kept secrets around, I would have laughed at that notion. Fast forward two years later, and I am here to tell you yoga is in fact ONE of the greatest hidden treasures of our time. Not only has it taken my fitness to an all-time high, it has taken my mental calm to an existence of peace.

During my research while writing this article, I came across an eye opening and awe inspiring story of Dr. Dilip Sarkar, a healthy 51 year old Vascular Surgeon from Virgina. In 2001, Dr. Sarkar found himself undergoing emergency cardiac bypass surgery. After recovering from this near-fatal event, Dr. Sarkar turned to Ayurvedic medicine and yoga therapy as a way to improve his health. Retired from his private medical practice, Dr. Sarkar is now a yoga teacher and clinical researcher focusing on yoga’s many life-saving benefits.

“What I’ve found through studying yoga therapy is that people who have a daily practice have effortlessly and automatically changed their lifestyle. They eat better, sleep better, their lifestyle is more regulated,” says Dr. Sarkar, who also serves as chairman of the School of Integrative Medicine at Taksha University in Hampton, Virginia.

I know it is very overwhelming to know where to even begin understanding all the various yoga forms. Figuring out which form of yoga you jive with comes from experiencing the various types. But the health benefits and mental reprieve of any of the asanas is unmistakable. This article will help answer some of those questions and explain the incredible health benefits of establishing a regular yoga practice.

Benefits of Yoga:

Improves cardiovascular health.  “Hypertension is due to a constriction of blood vessels, and heart disease is due to blockage in the coronary arteries. When relaxation sets in, yoga therapy relaxes blood vessels and reduces blood pressure while increasing the blood flow to the heart muscle.” A study published in the journal Diabetology & Metabolic Syndrome showed researchers followed 182 middle-aged Chinese adults who suffered from metabolic syndrome who practiced yoga for a year. The conclusion was lower blood pressure and increased weight loss.

Improves muscular pain. Postures are the backbone of yoga. “Herniated discs and spinal stenosis don’t cause pain. They cause an irritation of a nerve which cause a contraction of the muscle. The muscle tightness or spasm then causes the pain. In yoga therapy, when you hold a pose, your muscles contract and then slowly relax as you breath in and out. When relaxation sets in, back pain starts to go away,” says Dr. Sarkar.

Improves cognitive function.  “Focused breath equals maximizing oxygenation and movement increases blood flow to brain and body,” says registered nurse Graham McDougall Jr., Ph.D., the lead researcher of the report published in the Journal of Neuroscience Nursing. Participants of the study saw significant gains memory performance and fewer depressive symptoms.

Regulates blood sugar. “The practice of yoga increases your digestive fire called agni,” Sarkar says. “So the yogic way of looking at diabetes is that the body cannot digest sugar, which is why blood-sugar levels are high. If you can improve your digestion, you can improve your blood sugar, which is great for both diabetes prevention and control,” he says. A new study published in the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research showed 30 males with Type 2 diabetes who practiced yoga for six months saw a significant decrease in their blood glucose levels.

Controls stress and anxiety. There is nothing like visiting a yoga studio filled with low dim lighting, fragrant aroma of lavender and mood music to calm even the most stressed out nerves.  A report presented at the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) Conference 2015 linked yoga to lowering levels of cortisol, especially in women at risk for mental health problems. In the study of 52 women, ages 25 to 45, who had mildly elevated anxiety, moderate depression or high stress, those who performed Bikram twice a week felt better, looked better and had better control over their anxiety.

Decreases depression. In the Indian Journal of Palliative Care, breast cancer patients who practiced 60 minutes of yoga daily over a 24-week period, which included surgery and radiotherapy or chemotherapy reported a significant improvement in depressive symptoms compared to the non-yoga group.

Decreases risk of cancer.  “If cancer runs in your family, you may want to pick up a regular yoga practice, which has shown to prevent the genetic mutation from expressing,” states Dr. Sarkar. A study published last January in Journal of Clinical Oncology found that performing yoga twice a week for as little as three months could lower inflammation, boost energy, and lift the mood of female cancer patients.

Improves self-esteem. In a study from Brazil published in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, university students reported improvement in self-control, self-perception, well-being, body awareness, balance, mind-body and reflexivity. “The word yoga itself means union. It unites your mind, body and spirit. During yoga practice, we inhale positive emotions and exhale negative emotions,” explains Sarkar.

Promotes a healthy and long life. A study published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine analyzed the effects that 90 days of yoga had on an obese 31-year-old man. The results showed dramatic reduction in oxidative stress hormones and inflammation, which goes a long way in preventing life -long diseases.

Helps control hormones. Who wouldn’t feel relaxed in Savasana? Conscious breathing helps regulate cortisol balance which helps maintain estrogen-progesterone-thyroid homeostasis.

The benefits continue to span miles long. I will be the first to admit that it took me a couple of months complaining and whining through class to realize what I had been missing all of these years.

Go outside of your comfort zone! Experience the wonder of conscious breathing. Experience the steadiness of mind-body alignment. Above all, experience the truly miraculous gifts yoga can bring into your life!

Namaste

Dr. Raman’s Concierge Medical Practice is focused on holistic care and good health maintenance. For more information on healthy eating habits and achieving and maintaining OPTIMAL health,  CONTACT our office today to schedule your appointment. You can also learn more by following Dr. Raman on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn and Pinterest.

Why Great Hair, Skin & Nails Comes From A Balanced Endocrine System First

Hair, Skin & NailsThe quest for great hair, skin and nails seems a lot more difficult to achieve in the winter months. Dry itchy skin, brittle fly-away whispys, chipped nails – sound familiar? The tell tale signs of winter are in the air! Understanding why colder temps affect our skin can go a long way to help remedy the problem areas, but it is important to understand the role a balanced endocrine system plays as well.

Inflammation is the single most important contributor that affects our skin, hair and nails due to the stimulation of free radicals, which accelerates aging by attaching to and damaging cells. In addition, studies have shown that there is a connection between sugar and inflammation in the body.

The main hormones that play a direct role in contributing to the decline from inflammation include:

  1. Estrogen
  2. Progesterone
  3. Testosterone
  4. Thyroid
  5. Cortisol

I have written in the past about how these hormones become imbalanced, which leads to external changes we see. But for this month, I would like to focus specifically on how colder temperatures become a factor.

As we have understood, the fundamental rudimentary cause for the external changes we see is due to hormonal imbalances. The same carries true during winter months.

The longer, darker days lowers our Vitamin D levels. The waxing and waning of the temperatures directly impacts our thyroid levels. Estrogen, Progesterone and Testosterone levels ebb and flow to try and keep the body in balance. This endless cycle causes a rise in cortisol, therefore triggering an inflammatory response which leads to cellular inflammation, disruption and malfunction.

Other contributing factors include:

  1. Drier air from vents
  2. Poor hydration
  3. Increase in consumption of comfort foods (mainly sugar)
  4. Lack of exercise
  5. Prolonged hot showers/baths
  6. Irregular sleep patterns

Until Spring can shine upon us, here are some simple tips to help :

  1. Increase hydration. It is vital to keep the body hydrated with at least 90 oz/water/day. Without the essence of water, cellular healing cannot begin.
  2. Humidifier. Worth the investment. Having one by the bedside and in rooms that are frequently occupied helps prevent skin dry out.
  3. Limit hot showers/baths. Skin that is immersed for prolonged periods of time in hot water strips the natural oils causing hair and skin to become dry. It does feel great to stay for extended time in that warmth, but that causes more harm that good. Limit showers to 7 minutes at most.
  4. Coconut oil/butter. Nothing like solid saturated fats to hydrate the skin. Apply to hair and skin and allow it to soak for 45 minutes to an hour and shower afterwards. Or leave it on overnight for better absorption.
  5. Limit sugar intake. This is not specific to winter only! Refined sugar causes insulin levels to spike thereby leading to inflammation. Be mindful of this hidden culprit.

These are very simple, yet effective means to help control and possibly prevent winter skin ailments.

As the saying goes, we can’t stop the clock. Spring will be here before we know it as soon as we get through the craziness of St. Louis winter swings!

Dr. Raman’s Concierge Medical Practice is focused on holistic care and good health maintenance. For more information on healthy eating habits and achieving and maintaining OPTIMAL health,  CONTACT our office today to schedule your appointment. You can also learn more by following Dr. Raman on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn and Pinterest.

How Much Sleep Should I Be Getting?

how much sleep should I be gettingA common question I get in my practice is “How much sleep should I be getting?” This is a very important question. Last year, the Centers for Disease Control called insufficient sleep a public epidemic. It is estimated that nearly half of all American adults get less than the minimum recommendation of seven hours of sleep per night. With that many people operating on inadequate sleep, fatigue is so common that it’s easy to overlook the serious nature of the issue. However, with insufficient sleep being cited for auto and industrial accidents and increasing a person’s risk of chronic disease, the case for getting enough sleep should be heard.

Sleep and Reaction Time

Sleep studies have consistently shown that “function” (identified by reaction time measured in a variety of tests) is almost 100 percent impacted by sleep. In fact, a NASA-funded study at the University of Pennsylvania showed that people who self-identify as being able to fully function on less sleep actually experienced more substantial delays in reaction time than people who self-identified as needing (and finding a way to get) eight to 10 hours of sleep per night.

While these reduced reaction time results on controlled tests are alarming, the reality is even worse. Lack of sleep by key personnel has been cited in nuclear power plant disasters, the Exxon Valdez oil spill, and the Challenger space shuttle explosion. Maybe your job doesn’t require intense focus, but a lack of sleep can impact the results of everyday activities just as drastically. Law enforcement agencies across the U.S. consider driving a car under the effect of extreme fatigue identical to driving while drunk.

Sleep Habits and Risks for Disease

Lack of sleep’s effect on overall health is also of great concern. Inadequate sleep is known to increase the risk for the following:

  • Obesity
  • Heart disease
  • Heart attacks
  • High blood pressure
  • Colon cancer

There also seems to be a link between lack of sleep and a higher risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Reduced testosterone levels have been measured in men who reported getting six hours of sleep per night or less.

Not getting enough sleep also negatively affects the immune system. That’s why a person might find oneself coming down with a cold or flu after an extended period of reduced sleep. Studies have shown that T-cell count (which is often used to measure immune system function) is relative to a person’s average amount of sleep. Likewise, there’s a reason your doctor recommends rest when you’re ill: fever response is better while we sleep.

Sleep deprivation can also lead to muscle loss and fat gain. With too little sleep, the body is also more likely to produce the stress-response hormone, cortisol. After sleep deprivation, subjects in several studies had higher levels of cortisol later in the day, a time when it should be tapering off to prepare the body for rest. Heightened cortisol prompts the body to store more fat and be more inclined to use other soft tissue, such as muscle, as energy which means that sleep-deprived dieters lose more muscle and gain more fat than do those who are well rested. One study found that after two weeks of minor calorie restriction (10 percent less than their daily energy expenditure), subjects who were getting 5.5 hours in bed a night lost just 0.6 kilogram of fat but 2.4 kilograms of other tissue, such as muscle. Subjects who got 8.5 hours slumber each night lost 1.4 kilograms of fat and 1.5 kilograms of other tissue. “Some of these metabolic effects occur pretty quickly,” Dr. Mehra – Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Oversleeping: Too Much of a Good Thing?

Just as not getting enough sleep is unhealthy, getting too much sleep isn’t a good thing either. There may be times (such as with illness or during periods of excess stress) when your body may feel an increased need for sleep, and this is normal. However, oversleeping on a regular basis should be watched carefully. Researchers acknowledge a strong association between frequent oversleeping and depression and/or other underlying health concerns like heart disease.

Sleep Recommendations

Children up to age 12 should aim for about 10 hours of sleep per night, teens should get 9-10 hours per night and adults should get 7-8 hours per night. Naps can occasionally supplement shortened overnight sleep, but sleep cycles depend on a specific chunk of time, so it’s still important to focus on getting a good night’s sleep.

Discuss Your Concerns with a Trusted Physician

Dr. Raman’s Concierge Medical Practice is focused on caring for each patient with comprehensive, individualized treatment options and health programs.  Our office is committed to helping find the best solutions for you and your particular needs.

Like many other conditions, sleep disorders affect each person differently and require a very personalized approach to care. For more information on healthy sleep habits, please contact us today or schedule an appointment with Dr. Raman.

Don’t Fight Depression Alone

depressionDepression has been labeled “a hush hush” diagnosis. The stigma of being called “depressed” has somehow placed a Scarlet Letter on those affected. Everyone reading this understands at some point what it feels like to be down. Let me tell you, we have ALL been there, continue to be there, or will be there. There is nothing wrong in admitting that we can’t do it all. It doesn’t make us weak. It makes us that much stronger for having the courage to say what everyone else may be thinking. I have talked about the effects of hormonal imbalances in my previous blogs. This month, I would like to focus on breaking through the silent conversations of depression.

While depression is known to have genetic links, it does not mean we are destined to that fate. With the convoluted ways of our world and the minute to minute emotional roller coaster we face from our home life, work place or just by turning on the news, there is no doubt we have all been plagued on some spectrum of depressive symptoms.

So why am I writing on this topic? I am writing because it is time to start having REAL conversations on what is happening within our psyche.

While depression has earned its own DSM code, all depression is not treated equally. Each degree of symptoms is just as important as the other. It must be acknowledged and accepted so that healing may begin.

How does depression affect the physical body beyond the obvious?

“The most frequently occurring endocrine abnormality in depressed subjects is hyperactivity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. Depression also affects the hypothalamic-pituitary-GH (HPGH) and -thyroid (HPT) axes. Alterations in the reproductive system may also play a role in the pathology of depression. In addition, there is increasing evidence that leptin and neurosteroids, such as DHEA, are implicated in mood disorders.” J Endocrinol Invest. 2005 Jan;28(1):89-99.

So what does this mean? Exactly what we think it means. When neurotransmitters are imbalanced or depleted, it drives cortisol into over production to compensate for the deficit. This puts an extra burden on the organ systems leading to the development of diseases we are too often familiar with.

What are causes of depressive symptoms?

  1. Hormonal imbalances
  2. Decreased levels of neurotransmitters
  3. Endocrine disorders (Hypothyroidism,Hyperthyroidism, Diabetes etc)
  4. Autoimmune disease (Thyroid, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus etc)
  5. Food or environmental allergies
  6. Environmental stressors or trauma
  7. Medication side effects

By no means is this a complete list, but it is evident most anything can cause symptoms.

How many of these sound familiar?

  • Physical pain
  • Irritability
  • Sadness
  • Guilt
  • Fatigue
  • Hair loss
  • Decreased concentration
  • Fleeting thoughts
  • Indecisiveness
  • Weight changes
  • GI disturbances
  • Sleep disturbances (too little or too much)
  • Increase in alcohol consumption
  • Spending increased time on social media or online (who would have thought?)
  • Not keeping up with grooming or hygiene

Don’t give up!! There are many ways to treat these symptoms and come out on top!

How can I get well?

  1. Therapists/Healers. They are your BEST and #1 resource. There is nothing like being able to sit in a room for an hour talking about yourself with someone listening to your every word. They are trained to listen and they are trained to help. No, they can’t change the situation, but they do know how to give objective insight and perspective. We all at some point should experience the awesomeness of seeing a therapist.
  1. Breathe. If we block oxygen from entering our cells, then nothing can heal, including our emotions. Pick your favorite breathing technique and start inhaling power and exhaling doubt.
  1. Stay present. Easier said than done, I know! Learn to control your mind from re- visiting the past or jumping to the future. Both are out of your control, so begin accepting the gift of the present.
  1. Mindful eating. YES, everything comes back to the GI tract! When we eat clean, the body stays clean. Don’t hoard toxins that only spin you further out of control. Hydrate – 90 oz water/day. Even if you have to force yourself to get the water down, it is worth it.
  1. Exercise. Moving the body has been proven to release endorphins that stimulate release of neurotransmitters. Higher levels of hormones means happy you. Move, move, move.
  1. Buddy up. Nothing like being in the company of friends whose energy can give you a boost. Relish and cherish the bonds of friendships. BFF’s are the best antidepressant in the world.
  1. Explore your creativity. Color, paint, write, choreograph a dance, compose music, cook, sew….whatever brings out the Martha Stewart in you, do it. Stimulating our creative forces causes increase blood flow to different parts of the brain thereby increasing levels of the neurotransmitters.
  1. Get a pet. Now, I know this maybe a little bit of work so don’t panic on me. Just think of the love, energy, unconditional compassion they bring into the home. That is enough to take away anybody’s down days. Just consider it.
  1. Herbal supplements. I have included this on the list, but I am not a strong advocate of herbs. There is some evidence that certain natural supplements help lift minor depressive symptoms, but it has not been evaluated in long term studies. Be cautious! It is only a temporary solution.
  1. Antidepressants. Let me clear up one thing. Antidepressants are very effective in treatment of depressive symptoms and I am in favor of using them, BUT only in conjunction with other treatment modalities. Think of antidepressants as a crutch to help you walk on this rocky road. It doesn’t mean you are unable to handle the situation without the use of meds. It only means they help protect your physical body from the effects of depression. It doesn’t have to be a permanent treatment, but only to be used only until the storm passes. Whatever your reason may be for resisting them, don’t. They truly can help ease the passage into brighter days.

There are many more advanced treatments, remedies and therapy techniques on the treatment of depression and its associated symptoms.

The courage must lie within you to find the voice of your feelings. Sweeping things under the rug doesn’t make them go away. It only makes the magnitude of the situation seem worse.

We are all human beings. And part of being human is the glory of having feelings. Some feelings make us feel good and others don’t. It is about identifying those that don’t and making things alright. Because at the end of the day, it will be alright!

“People cry not because they are weak. It’s because they have been strong for so long.” — Johnny Depp

You are not alone!!

Dr. Raman’s Concierge Medical Practice is focused on holistic care and good health maintenance. For more information on healthy eating habits and achieveing and maintaining OPTIMAL health,  CONTACT our office today to schedule your appointment. You can also learn more by following Dr. Raman on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn and Pinterest.

How To Come Off A Sugar Addiction

sugar addictionSugar addiction is really prevalent in the news right now. Sugar – we can’t live with it, we can’t imagine life without it. Could removing sugar from your diet be that one magic answer to our weight loss battle?

Let’s start at the beginning. Why do we thrive on it? The more we have, the more we want. The answer may be simpler than we once thought.

Ingesting sugar causes a dopamine release in the Nucleus Accumbens. When we consume sugar often and in large quantities, dopamine is released in excess causing a down regulation and blunting of the receptor sites. Therefore, in order to get that “feel-good” response, the body requires even MORE sugar to produce the same response.

“The reviewed evidence supports the theory that, in some circumstances, intermittent access to sugar can lead to behavior and neurochemical changes that resemble the effects of a substance of abuse. According to the evidence in rats, intermittent access to sugar and chow is capable of producing a “dependency”. This was operationally defined by tests for bingeing, withdrawal, craving and cross-sensitization to amphetamine and alcohol. The correspondence to some people with binge eating disorder or bulimia is striking, but whether or not it is a good idea to call this a “food addiction” in people is both a scientific and societal question that has yet to be answered. What this review demonstrates is that rats with intermittent access to food and a sugar solution can show both a constellation of behaviors and parallel brain changes that are characteristic of rats that voluntarily self-administer addictive drugs. In the aggregrate, this is evidence that sugar can be addictive.” Neuroscience & Biobehavioral ReviewsVolume 32, Issue 1, 2008, Pages 20–39

The compelling evidence and research on sugar addiction proves the effects on the brain mimics those of cocaine and heroin abuse. But how do we get away from it when it lurks in the shadows of every ingredient we consume?

How Do I Take The First Step?

We must first accept that this change will be gradual. Don’t expect to have immediate results. Sugar is a “drug.” It will be hard before it gets easy. Taking the first step will be the hardest. We didn’t get here overnight, so don’t expect the body to revert just the same. This is a marathon, not a sprint!!

Unfortunately, there is no quick fix to this. Here are few things that help the process.

  1. LEARN INGREDIENTS. I am not talking about memorizing the chemical makeup of every ingredient you eat. Understand the common names and abbreviations. Ingredients are hidden under different names including high fructose corn syrup, dried cane syrup, invert sugar, molasses, sucrose (or any word ending in “-ose”), brown rice syrup, honey, and maple syrup. There are many lists available. The goal is to become educated. Click here for one such list.

  2. KEEP A FOOD JOURNAL. It’s not so important at this stage to worry about calorie counting. While consuming the correct amount of calories plays a key role, it is more important to really know WHAT types of food you are eating. Chances are, like most of us, you are eating things thinking they are healthy. The food industry has made its way into every aspect of our health. FIGHTING THE GIANTS, MEANS BEING ARMED WITH THE POWER OF KNOWLEDGE.
  1. HYDRATE. I can’t emphasize this enough. DON’T UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF WATER. It has always been our ally long before flavored drinks entered the picture. I understand water may not taste good. This is because our palate and taste buds have been conditioned to the sweetness of drinks that claim to give us instant energy. What it has also conditioned us to is the crash that comes with the sugar laden beverages. Flavored waters (8 tsp/bottle), bottled iced teas (>9 tsp/bottle), energy drinks (7 tsp/can), bottled coffee drinks (8 tsp/bottle), and store-bought smoothies (>12 tsp/small) all contain way too much sugar. Strive to consume 90 oz of pure water/day. If you are not a water drinker, you may need to start with only 8 oz and work up slowly. However you do it, WALK AROUND WITH A WATER BOTTLE.
  1. TIME YOUR MEALS. Sugar thrives on messing with not only dopamine, but also insulin. Its very essence is to disrupt our insulin regulation and response. Timing of meals is crucial to stabilizing the insulin surges and decrease sugar cravings, especially in the initial phases of removing sugar from your diet and your life. Increase protein and healthy fats in your diet to help maintain steady release and uptake of glucose. Most important take home message: YOUR EVENING MEAL SHOULD BE FINISHED BY 7:30PM.
  1. KEEP MOVING. Two parts to this: First, move your body-in whatever capacity that can circulate blood. Walk, workout, lift weight, dance, swim, clean…it doesn’t matter. Just move. Don’t worry about how much you move….just move. Second, keep moving forward. Don’t become discouraged because your body is not responding the way you THINK it should. Your body is here to protect you. It won’t always give you what you want. But it will always give you what you need. Changing life long habits is a process. Be kind to it. It was kind to you when you weren’t so nice to it. THE BODY IS ON OUR SIDE.
  1. MAINTAIN HEALTHY GUT. Sugar undoubtedly alters pH throughout the body. The shift in acid base balance triggers more chemical disruptions that worsen the down regulated neurotransmitter receptors. One of the largest target organs is our GI tract. I have talked in extensive detail in previous blogs about the crucial importance of maintaining a healthy GI tract. Studies have shown the desensitization process that happens with sugar consumption also occurs with other foods. In other words, our weakened immune system sets us up for chemical attacks from other food groups (even the healthiest of foods). HEAL THY GUT.
  1. AVOID THE FAKE STUFF. This is worse than consuming the real stuff. Anything that reads “sugar-free” is a blaring warning label. Stay away!! Dangerous chemicals are added to sugar free substitutes that lead to whole other set of problems. According to a review in the 2010 Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, when you eat something sweet, your body expects calories and nutrition, but artificial sugars don’t give your body those things. That may be why fake sugars are associated with weight gain. According to a meta-analysis in the Journal of Medicinal Food, sprinkling on cinnamon has been shown to naturally regulate blood sugar, which helps control your appetite. DON’T GO FOR THE FAKE STUFF.
  1. RELAX. Just take a deep breath. There is no finish line in this race. This is about a life style change. This is about taking back control of what you lost. This is about being the best version of yourself. Don’t make it about the weight. The weight is only your body’s way of telling you that it is not feeling good. Don’t let the 3 little numbers on the scale define your worth. The body is a glorious vehicle that will take you where you want to go if you nurture and love it the way it is. Make these changes gradually. Cut back slowly and enjoy the process of getting healthy. You will learn so much about what your body has been trying to tell you for years. If you want to enjoy that chocolate cake, by all means, do so. This is about finding the body, mind and soul connection. If you totally give up all of your favorites, your body will fight you with the cravings and then then mind will be consumed with the thought of wanting that cake and the soul will become restless watching these two go at it. Take the bite of the cake when you want to and listen when the body tells you to stop.

Mindful eating is truly becoming an entity of its own in the medical field. The next few years will uncover some of the greatest mysteries of the human body. My thought is that the answer has been with us all along: YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT!

Let’s all become empowered and walk this journey of discovery together.

Dr. Raman’s Concierge Medical Practice is focused on holistic care and good health maintenance. For more information on healthy eating habits and achieveing and maintaining OPTIMAL health,  CONTACT our office today to schedule your appointment. You can also learn more by following Dr. Raman on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn and Pinterest.

Sleep and Your Health: The Importance of Getting the Right Amount

”Frenzied corporate cultures still confuse sleeplessness with vitality and high performance. An ambitious manager logs 80-hour work weeks, surviving on five or six hours of sleep a night and eight cups of coffee (the world’s second-most widely sold commodity, after oil) a day. A Wall Street trader goes to bed at 11 or midnight and wakes to his BlackBerry buzz at 2:30 am to track opening activity on the DAX. A road warrior lives out of a suitcase while traveling to Tokyo, St. Louis, Miami, and Zurich, conducting business in a cloud of caffeinated jet lag. A negotiator takes a red-eye flight, hops into a rental car, and zooms through an unfamiliar city to make a delicate M&A meeting at 8 in the morning.” — Harvard Business Review

Last year, the Centers for Disease Control called insufficient sleep a public epidemic. It is estimated that nearly half of all American adults get less than the minimum recommendation of seven hours of sleep per night. With that many people operating on inadequate sleep, fatigue is so common that it’s easy to overlook the serious nature of the issue. However, with insufficient sleep being cited for auto and industrial accidents and increasing a person’s risk of chronic disease, the case for getting enough sleep should be heard.

Sleep and Reaction Timesleeping-couple-1-700x400

Sleep studies have consistently shown that “function” (identified by reaction time measured in a variety of tests) is almost 100 percent impacted by sleep. In fact, a NASA-funded study at the University of Pennsylvania showed that people who self-identify as being able to fully function on less sleep actually experienced more substantial delays in reaction time than people who self-identified as needing (and finding a way to get) eight to 10 hours of sleep per night.

While these reduced reaction time results on controlled tests are alarming, the reality is even worse. Lack of sleep by key personnel has been cited in nuclear power plant disasters, the Exxon Valdez oil spill, and the Challenger space shuttle explosion. Maybe your job doesn’t require intense focus, but a lack of sleep can impact the results of everyday activities just as drastically. Law enforcement agencies across the U.S. consider driving a car under the effect of extreme fatigue identical to driving while drunk.

Sleep Habits and Risks for Disease

Lack of sleep’s effect on overall health is also of great concern. Inadequate sleep is known to increase the risk for the following:

  • Obesity
  • Heart disease
  • Heart attacks
  • High blood pressure
  • Colon cancer

There also seems to be a link between lack of sleep and a higher risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Reduced testosterone levels have been measured in men who reported getting six hours of sleep per night or less.

Not getting enough sleep also negatively affects the immune system. That’s why a person might find oneself coming down with a cold or flu after an extended period of reduced sleep. Studies have shown that T-cell count (which is often used to measure immune system function) is relative to a person’s average amount of sleep. Likewise, there’s a reason your doctor recommends rest when you’re ill: fever response is better while we sleep.

Sleep deprivation can also lead to muscle loss and fat gain. With too little sleep, the body is also more likely to produce the stress-response hormone, cortisol. After sleep deprivation, subjects in several studies had higher levels of cortisol later in the day, a time when it should be tapering off to prepare the body for rest. Heightened cortisol prompts the body to store more fat and be more inclined to use other soft tissue, such as muscle, as energy which means that sleep-deprived dieters lose more muscle and gain more fat than do those who are well rested. One study found that after two weeks of minor calorie restriction (10 percent less than their daily energy expenditure), subjects who were getting 5.5 hours in bed a night lost just 0.6 kilogram of fat but 2.4 kilograms of other tissue, such as muscle. Subjects who got 8.5 hours slumber each night lost 1.4 kilograms of fat and 1.5 kilograms of other tissue. “Some of these metabolic effects occur pretty quickly,” Dr. Mehra – Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Oversleeping: Too Much of a Good Thing?

Just as not getting enough sleep is unhealthy, getting too much sleep isn’t a good thing either. There may be times (such as with illness or during periods of excess stress) when your body may feel an increased need for sleep, and this is normal. However, oversleeping on a regular basis should be watched carefully. Researchers acknowledge a strong association between frequent oversleeping and depression and/or other underlying health concerns like heart disease.

Sleep Recommendations

Children up to age 12 should aim for about 10 hours of sleep per night, teens should get 9-10 hours per night and adults should get 7-8 hours per night. Naps can occasionally supplement shortened overnight sleep, but sleep cycles depend on a specific chunk of time, so it’s still important to focus on getting a good night’s sleep.

Discuss Your Concerns with a Trusted Physician

Dr. Raman’s Concierge Medical Practice is focused on caring for each patient with comprehensive, individualized treatment options and health programs.   Our office is committed to helping find the best solutions for you and your particular needs.

Like many other conditions, sleep disorders affect each person differently and require a very personalized approach to care. For more information on healthy sleep habits, please contact us today or schedule an appointment with Dr. Raman.

Why Am I So Tired? The Truth Behind an Improperly Functioning Thyroid

How many of these symptoms describe you?hypothyroidism-symptoms

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Weight gain
  • Irritability
  • Muscle aches
  • Depression
  • Rapid hair graying
  • Decreased libido
  • And too many other “little issues attributed to aging”

These little issues could be caused by a small gland with some big responsibilities. That gland is your thyroid.

The thyroid gland produces and stores hormones through an integral and complex pathway that is directly linked to your hormones and adrenals. The thyroid plays a part in EVERYTHING AND EVERY CELL IN YOUR BODY. It is butterfly-shaped and is found in the lower part of the neck, wrapped around the trachea.

Hypothyroidism: A Common Condition, But Frequently Misdiagnosed

Hypothyroidism is a condition where the body, for various reasons, doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormone or is unable to utilize the thyroid at a cellular level. No matter what the cause, this diagnosis has debilitating and frustrating consequences.

Being diagnosed with hypothyroid myself in 2002, I have spent the last 13 years researching, studying,
and understanding the complexity of this “little gland.”

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, about 4.6 percent of the U.S. population (approximately 18 million people) age 12 and older has hypothyroidism. As prevalent as hypothyroidism is, most people are not correctly diagnosed when they first present symptoms to their doctors because there is not a standard interpretation criteria for screening tests—meaning that one doctor may think a slight dip below the normal range is acceptable while others would argue otherwise.

Your thyroid can be affected if your adrenals are not balanced or if your hormones are constantly fluctuating. Due to the minute-to-minute variability of ALL the hormones in your body, patients are often under-diagnosed.

A single thyroid level test is insufficient to make the determination of hypothyroidism.

Many other thyroid levels also need to be checked. These could include TSH, Free T4, Free T3, Thyroid Peroxidase Antibody, Thyroglobulin Antibody, Magnesium, Iron, Zinc, Vitamin D, Hormones and Cortisol.

A patient who self-educates and self-advocates is in the best position to work collaboratively with his or her doctor to determine the best course of treatment for the symptoms and diagnosis of hypothyroidism. Self-advocacy is much easier when you choose a doctor who has experience in recognizing the symptoms of hypothyroidism as well as other hormonal conditions such as diabetes and adrenal gland issues.

Treatment of Hypothyroidism

Once hypothyroidism is diagnosed, there are many treatment options that need to be considered. Synthetic thyroid (Synthroid or Levoxyl) medication is not the only option. There are T3-only medications such as Cytomel or combination of T4 and T3 medications such as Armour Thyroid or Nature Thyroid. Patients even have the option of having their thyroid medication compounded with an accredited compounding pharmacy.

Hypothyroidism is not a cookie-cutter diagnosis and neither should be the treatment.

It is extremely important to work closely with your physician to monitor symptoms and continue to regularly check your thyroid levels.

The discussion of thyroid disease is more extensive than I can capture in a single blog post. In my 15 years of practicing primary care, I have diagnosed and corrected misdiagnoses of many patients with hypothyroidism. I understand and have experienced every symptom you may be having. I know the frustrations, I understand the suffering and I continue to live with this diagnosis everyday.

If you are suffering from any symptoms that are interfering with your life, Please contact our office today to schedule an appointment.