Posts Tagged ‘cortisol’

Artificial Sweeteners – Not the Lesser Of Two Evils

artificial sweetenersThere is no way around it. We love our sugar fix. Americans on average consume 20 tsp of sugar a day. A 12 ounce can of regular soda holds 39 gm of sugar, that’s 10-12 tsp of pure toxins. So do artificial sweeteners offer another healthier option?

Artificial sweeteners are often times called “intense sweeteners” because they are often sweeter than natural sugar.

The FDA has approved five artificial sweeteners:

  • Acesulfame potassium (Sunett)
  • Aspartame (NutraSweet or Equal)
  • Sucralose (Splenda)
  • D-Tagatose (Sugaree)
  • Saccharin (Sweet ‘N Low)

These chemicals are found not only in carbonated beverages, but also in baked goods, canned products, candy, powdered mixes, sports drinks, jams and jellies.

Another sweetener, stevia, an herbal sweetening ingredient used in food and beverages by South American natives for many centuries and in Japan since the mid-1970s. According to Ray Sahelian, MD, author of The Stevia Cookbook, “There are no indications at this point from any source that stevia has shown toxicity in humans. Although further research is warranted.”

Because stevia is not FDA-approved, it can only be sold as a dietary supplement and not an artificial sweetener.

Although sweeteners have zero calories compared to their counterpart sugar, they are not the easy go to answer for reducing calories.

According to Dr. David Ludwig, an obesity and weight-loss specialist at Harvard-affiliated Boston Children’s Hospital, “non-nutritive sweeteners are far more potent than table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup. A miniscule amount produces a sweet taste comparable to that of sugar, without comparable calories. Overstimulation of sugar receptors from frequent use of these hyper-intense sweeteners may limit tolerance for more complex tastes.”

A San Antonio Heart Study showed those who drank more than 21 diet drinks per week were twice as likely to become overweight or obese as people who didn’t drink diet soda.

To further that point, animal studies suggest that artificial sweeteners may be addictive. In studies of rats who were exposed to cocaine, then given a choice between intravenous cocaine or oral saccharine, most chose saccharin.

According to an article from health.harvard.edu, the results from a Multiethnic Study of Atherosclerosis proved daily consumption of diet drinks was associated with a 36% greater risk for metabolic syndrome and a 67% increased risk for type 2 diabetes.

“Sugar-containing foods in their natural form, whole fruit, for example, tend to be highly nutritious—nutrient-dense, high in fiber, and low in glycemic load. On the other hand, refined, concentrated sugar consumed in large amounts rapidly increases blood glucose and insulin levels, increases triglycerides, inflammatory mediators and oxygen radicals, and with them, the risk for diabetes, cardiovascular disease and other chronic illnesses,” Dr. Ludwig explains.

There doesn’t need to be compelling evidence or research to convince us that by putting unnatural chemicals any good can come of it. With the urge to satisfy our palate, toxins are leeching into the foundation of our ecosystem destroying the very purpose of healthy existence.

Stop the sugar cravings by stopping what is causing them in the first place: sugar and sugar substitutes!

Dr. Raman’s Concierge Medical Practice is focused on caring for each person as a whole, not just a list of symptoms. Our office is committed to helping our patients stay well and maintain good health rather than treating patients only after they become ill.

For more information or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Raman, please contact us today.

 

Have You Seen My Metabolism Anywhere?

metabolismWe all know it is coming. We fight it tooth and nail. We don’t give into the relentless annoyance of it. But yet, somehow it always seems to have the upper hand. And by “it”,  I mean your metabolism or lack thereof.

How is it that three little numbers makes us lose so much sleep?

Before starting yet another dieting spree, let’s take a step back and understand what metabolism is and how it changes through the aging process. If we don’t understand it, we can’t change it.

Metabolism is a “series of chemical reactions that sustain the living state of organisms and cells.” Metabolism can slow one to two percent each year after the age of 30.

Nutrition is the KEY to metabolism! Carbohydrates, protein, fats, minerals and vitamins comprise the majority of fuel needed to keep metabolism operational.

Let’s take a brief look at how each one plays a role.

  1. Carbohydrates: This includes starch, sugar and fiber. When eaten in moderation, carbohydrates are broken down to fuel metabolism.
  2. Protein: Proteins are the main tissue builders in the body. They are part of every cell in the body. Proteins help in cell structure and function. They are also vital in supplying nitrogen for DNA and RNA genetic material and energy production.
  3. Fats: Fats produce twice as much energy as either carbohydrates or protein. They help form the cellular structure, help absorb fat soluble vitamins and provide a reserve storage for energy.
  4. Minerals and vitamins: Minerals do not play a direct role in energy needs but play an important role in metabolism. Vitamins are essential compounds that the body doesn’t produce and therefore relies up nutritional intake.

What are some other potential causes of a slowed metabolism?

  • Hypothyroidism and other endocrine issues
  • Inadequate sleep
  • Chronic stress
  • Exogenous hormone intake
  • Hormonal imbalance (low estrogen and testosterone)
  • Medication side effects
  • Excess supplement intake
  • Excess fat intake
  • Calorie deprivation
  • Low muscle mass

The good news is that there are ways to naturally increase our metabolism. But first understand something. Chasing after a “goal” weight or “ideal” size is unrealistic and can lead to frustration and disappointment. The scale doesn’t take in to account skeletal density, muscle mass or fat reserves. It only tells you an absolute number, a number which is false and misleading.

Don’t panic yet. We are not doomed forever. Here are some simple ways (many of which we have seen before) to raise your metabolism.

  1. Assessing the Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR). The Resting Metabolic Rate test (RMR) determines the amount of calories your body is using at rest. The results of a Resting Metabolic Rate test can tell if you have an increased or decreased metabolism, and if your body primarily uses fats or carbohydrates for energy. This information can be used to determine the amount of calories you need to eat each day to maintain or lose weight. The testing is done by breathing into a mask that measures your Oxygen –Carbon Dioxide exchange.
  2. Increase muscle mass. Strength training three to four times a week is mandatory when trying to increase metabolism. Developing and maintaining muscle mass allows the RPR to increase. Every pound of muscle uses approximately six calories a day to sustain itself, while each pound of fat burns only two calories daily.
  3. Eat. Calorie deprivation causes the body to go into crisis mode. As a preservation mechanism, the body slows down its metabolic response by storing fat and calories. Adding protein to every meal allows a constant release of glucose and maintains insulin regulation.
  4. Drink up. Dehydration is the killer when it comes to a slow metabolism. Calories need water to process. Even small levels of dehydration can cause  a slowing of the RPR.  Try for a goal of 90oz/day. If you struggle to get down your daily water quota, consuming fresh fruits that contain natural water is a great alternative.
  5. Sleep. Think of sleep like pulling into the gas station. We have to bring the car to a complete stop before we can fuel up. Just the same, sleep forces us to stop so that the body may refuel. If we compromise on sleep, we wake up on an empty tank of gas and expected to go the same distance as if the tank was full. Not possible. To sustain life, the body saves energy by decreasing metabolism.
  6. Question your medications and supplements. Just because it doesn’t say it on the package insert doesn’t mean it can’t happen. Assume everything going into your mouth is the cause until you proven otherwise. See what lifestyle changes you can make that could help you get off of prescription drugs.
  7. Maintain zero expectations. Our body will never be how it was in our 20’s and 30’s. So how can we expect it to respond in the same manner? Don’t be disappointed because you lost “only three pounds”. Be happy you didn’t gain three pounds. Body fat percentage, changes in clothing fit, how you feel is the REAL goal.

Don’t set yourself up for disappointment by looking for a solution under every advertisement. In the US, the weight loss market is a billion dollar industry! If these companies claim to have the answer, then how come we are still the most overweight nation? These are empty promises. The diet pills, the latest calorie restricted programs that leave you emaciated and crabby, the guaranteed “to lose 20# in 20 days” nonsense.  THEY DON’T WORK.  Don’t waste your money. Our parents and grandparents didn’t seem to struggle as we are now. So how come it is the topic of almost every conversation? What was once a simple seamless process of aging has now become a race against who can promise the fastest results.

If we stop for a second and reflect, in every moment of life our bodies are in constant conversation with us. The symptoms we experience are the body’s attempt to get our attention. A slowed metabolism isn’t something to become consumed by.  It is an opportunity to live a healthier lifestyle. Rather than trying to “fix” it, listen to what it has to say.

There is no fast way to lose weight. Let me repeat….there is no fast way to lose weight. Dropping weight faster than the body can handle is a sure fire way to crash the metabolism to an all-time low.

Be gentle and patient with yourself. No matter what the scale says, you will always be worth more than those three little numbers.

Dr. Raman’s Concierge Medical Practice is focused on caring for each person as a whole, not just a list of symptoms. Our office is committed to helping our patients stay well and maintain good health rather than treating patients only after they become ill.

For more information or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Raman, please contact us today.

 

Is Adrenal Fatigue Real?

adrenal fatigueIt has been some time since I have talked about Adrenal Fatigue. As with anything in medicine, there is debate as to whether this is a real condition or a made up label for where there is no answer.

Before we can answer that question, it is important to understand the purpose of the adrenal glands.

The adrenal glands, also known as suprarenal glands, are small, triangular-shaped glands that rest on top of the kidneys. Their primary role is produce hormones that help regulate your metabolism, immune system, blood pressure, and regulate an appropriate response to stress.

The specific hormones released by the adrenal glands include:

  • Cortisol – Cortisol helps control the body’s use of fats, proteins and carbohydrates. It suppresses inflammation, regulates blood pressure, increases blood sugar and helps control our sleep patterns. Cortisol is released during times of stress to help in the flight or fight mode.

  • Aldosterone – Aldosterone regulates blood pressure by directly by affecting the sodium and potassium pump. Aldosterone sends signals to the kidneys that direct sodium into the bloodstream and release potassium out into the urine.

  • DHEA and Androgenic Steroids – These are precursor hormones that are converted in the ovaries into female hormones (estrogens) and in the testes into male hormones (androgens).
  • Epinephrine (Adrenaline) and Norepinephrine (Noradrenaline) – These hormones increase the heart rate and force of contractility of the heart muscles. This leads to an increase in blood flow to the muscles and brain. Epinephrine and norepinephrine are often activated in stressful situations when our body needs additional resources and energy to endure ongoing stressors.

So what does all of this mean?

Let’s simplify our understanding. Adrenal glands are needed to live. Period. It is our fuel tank. When we are born, the tank is full. Then, life happens that requires us to tap into those reserves. And when the demands out weigh the supply, a deficit occurs.

As we have understood from above, the hormones released from the adrenal glands are needed for overall survival. What happens when we run on empty? Fatigue sets in. Hormones are in chaos. The entire ecosystem of the human structure and function is in peril.

How do you know if you have this? Well, this is where we need to take a step back and really understand what our body is going through.

With the current lifestyle the world lives, I am sure we all have some degree of adrenal fatigue. Google the symptoms and I am sure most of us check off 90% of the list.

However, the difference between adrenal fatigue and adrenal insufficiency (Addison’s Disease) is that the latter is a TRUE diagnosable medical condition.

Those that suffer from Addison’s disease are unable to produce the hormones in adequate supply to maintain bodily function. The diagnosis is confirmed with laboratory testing. Every symptom must be watched and treated quickly and aggressively. Time is of the essence with Addison’s.

Conversely, adrenal fatigue doesn’t always have abnormal test results. This doesn’t mean that patients don’t have some diminish of hormone production. It just means that it is not as profound as in Addison’s.

I am sure you’re thinking that is great but how do I treat this so I can move on with my life?

When I first started learning and understanding about adrenal fatigue in 2007, I was sure the answer was replenishing with unproven garland of supplements. What I soon discovered was the supplements caused more issues than the fatigue itself. It didn’t make sense to treat one thing only for it to lead into another issue. Over the years, I have continuously asked myself how can we treat something we are not sure is a real entity? Whether the label is real or not, the symptoms are!

Ok. So we know it is real, but now what?

How about looking back through previous years and recognizing the habits that could have led to this?

  • How much processed foods did you consume?
  • How strict were you about your sleeping habits?
  • How active were you, really?
  • How much did you handle and resolve stress rather than sweeping them under the rug?
  • How many times did you make a choice you knew wasn’t right?
  • How many days did you neglect your “me time” thinking it was selfish?
  • How many times did you put yourself at the end of the priority list?

There is no judgement here. We have all been there. Hind sight is 20/20. But it is never too late to refuel, replenish and revive!

Try and begin with these five basic steps.

1.     Move at least 20 minutes a day.

2.     Stop all screens 1 hour before bedtime.

3.     Take a 5 second pause before acting on any choices you make.

4.     Move yourself up on the priority list.

5.     If it isn’t going to matter in one year, let it go.

This will take time. Keep expectations out of the equation. Work for a lifestyle change. Not for an immediate gain. It all starts with simplicity. Simply staying present. Simply starting. Simply observing. Simply being!

Dr. Raman’s Concierge Medical Practice is focused on holistic care and good health maintenance.  For more information on natural ways to relieve stress, CONTACT  our office today to schedule your appointment.  You can learn more by following Dr. Raman on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest.

The Root Causes of Cravings – And What To Do About Them

Root Causes of CravingsMerriam-Webster’s dictionary defines cravings as, “an intense, urgent, or abnormal desire or longing.” We know that feeling all too well. Salivating at the commercials that lure us inside those restaurant doors, whiffs of free samples handed by sweet little ladies in the grocery aisle, or my personal favorite –  the buy one get one free trick.

It seems whichever direction we turn, we cannot get away from the altered nutrition we call food. No wonder it is so hard to stay healthy. But it doesn’t have to be! Before going head to head with these temptations, it is first important to understand the root causes of cravings, and then we will discuss solutions.

While the reasons are many, here are few explanations that may shed light on the mysteries of our palate and what you can do to help curb those temptations.

  1. Conditioning: Much like the analogy of Pavlov’s response to a bell, we too have been conditioned to associate certain foods to environmental triggers. How many times have you sat down at home to watch a movie and had a sudden craving for popcorn? How about at the ballgame where you hear the pretzel and hot dog calling your name? Or when the summer carnival days has you longing for the cotton candy and funnel cakes? We, as consumers, absorb the silent suggestions of marketers. We subconsciously create a link between their product and our environmental familiarity.

    Solution: When we become aware of our thoughts, we begin to question whether we truly want to indulge or if it is just a Pavlov’s response to a past experience.

  1. Stress: Under the umbrella of stress includes emotional, physical, psychological, and spiritual triggers. Stressors cause a disruption in the adrenal glands which elevates cortisol. Surges of cortisol signal that an attack is occurring on your body. As a defense mechanism, the body searches for sources of fuel that can be broken down easily and quickly. Hence, under stress we crave sugar and salt.

    Solution: Get help. Deal with the stress head on. Don’t try to resist and fight the cravings. It is there for a reason. The cravings aren’t the issue. Whatever is causing the stress is the issue. See your doctor, therapist, spiritual confidant or a friend.

  1. Leaky Gut: It always appears to come back to the gut, doesn’t it? This has been a recurring theme in multiple, if not in all, health conditions. The gut is a source of serotonin production – our feel good hormones. In a weakened GI tract, there is decreased serotonin release leading to an increased cravings for processed foods

    Solution: Heal the gut. Begin by going on a 21 day gluten, soy, dairy, grain and sugar elimination. Our taste buds have memory. It takes 21 days to reset the palate. This is not a diet or calorie deprivation technique. This is simply to take out what shouldn’t be there in the first place.

  1. Leptin resistance: Leptin is a hormone produced in fat cells. Its primary role is to stimulate appetite and signal fullness. An increase in body fat and a diet high in sugar triggers an overflow of leptin release. This causes the brain to feel hungry even when it is not. The continuous cycle of leptin production eventually leads to leptin resistance. It is this resistance and the breakdown of communication within our system that causes insatiable cravings.

    Solution: Limit processed foods. Even decreasing by 10% has significant healing on the body.

  2. Dehydration: Even a 1.5% drop in water can be felt in the body. According to Dr. John Higgins, M.D., Associate Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine University of Texas in Houston and Chief of Cardiology at Lyndon B. Johnson General hospital, “Dehydration can make it difficult for the liver, which uses water, to release glycogen. That can lead to food cravings.” Dehydration also interferes with brain levels of serotonin.

    Solution: Divide your weight by 2 and that is the number of ounces of water needed per day.

I am a firm believer that we must enjoy the indulgences life offers, but moderation is key! Containing cravings has less to do with weight and more to do with living. When you heal, you live. When you live, you awaken. And when you awaken, health and happiness is all you will ever know.

Dr. Raman’s Concierge Medical Practice is focused on holistic care and good health maintenance.  For more information on natural ways to relieve stress, CONTACT  our office today to schedule your appointment.  You can learn more by following Dr. Raman on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest.

Is Hormone Therapy Right For You?

hormone therapyThere comes a point in our lifespan where the hormones biologically begin to slow down production and we begin to consider hormone therapy. When our body senses the slowing of stressors in our crazy lives, it has no need to keep up with the high demands of life. While this is a good thing, the decrease in quantity of the hormones results in a potpourri of symptoms. While more intricate endocrine pathways are being discovered, the global hormonal function remains constant. We feel fantastic when all hormones (estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, thyroid, adrenals, insulin) are in a synchronized balance.

We all know the body WILL change. We may long to feel like we did in our 20’s. I am here to tell you, we can feel even better. There truly is no great mystery to understanding aging. Mid–life and menopause doesn’t have to be the “dreaded” era. In fact, if approached correctly with love and patience, it can be some of the best times of life.

Another thing to keep in mind is that hormonal changes don’t occur just in women. Men can experience the same degree of symptoms. We’ve all heard and some have experienced these symptoms. The symptoms of hormonal changes are extensive and exhaustive. Most of which we are all well aware.

The only thing that needs to be understood is SYMPTOMS OCCUR BECAUSE OF HORMONAL IMBALANCES. Each hormone plays a role in contributing to various symptoms. So how do you know if hormones are right for you? Before answering, ask yourself, “Are your symptoms debilitating enough that it is affecting quality of life?”

If the answer is yes, then hormones maybe what you need.

Hormone supplements are not a forever thing. You may only need them for a certain duration when life feels off balance. The goal should be to use the lowest dose possible for the shortest time possible. Do not depend on only hormones to help you. Stay committed to healthy nutrition, regular exercise and optimal sleep.

If you do choose to begin hormone therapy, continue to work towards creating a healthy lifestyle so that you may begin the process of weaning off of the hormones as soon as the body is able to hold its own.

What are the pros and cons to beginning Hormone Replacement Therapy?

Pros:

  1. Alleviates hot flashes and night sweats
  2. Helps with vaginal dryness
  3. Helps maintain or restore bone strength
  4. Improves sleep
  5. May aid in weight loss
  6. Possible cardiovascular benefit but evidence is still unclear
  7. Possible decrease risk of colon cancer
  8. Helps in restoration of skin, hair, and nails
  9. Improves mental clarity and mood

Cons:

  1. Small increase risk in breast and uterine cancer
  2. Increased risk of DVTs
  3. Slight increase in cardiovascular disease and strokes (The WHI study found a 29 per cent increased risk of coronary heart disease in those taking combined HRT)
  4. Small increase in gall bladder disease

The decision to start HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) should be well thought out. Having an extensive discussion with your physician can alleviate any anxiety about the uncertainty of hormone therapy. Each case is unique with varying factors. Listening and honoring your body will lead you to the right decision.

Remember, the minute you decide to start HRT, do everything you can to get off of them as quickly as possible. Use hormones as a crutch, not a permanent companion.

These truly can be the best years of your life! Aging is inevitable. Aging gracefully is optional. That is why I never tire of this topic. Embrace this passing cloud of inconvenience because the rainbow is waiting on the other side.

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.

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.