Insomnia is the Worst!

luxury-hotel-rooms-pamilla-cape-townI was on vacation with my sweetheart this past week, and spent two long nights in a hotel room when I could.not.fall.asleep! What to do? It was so exhausting, and of course set my mood and energy levels off for the remainder of the trip.

When I evaluate sleep from an Integrative Medicine perspective, I usually break it into –

  1. unable to fall asleep
  2. unable to stay asleep.

The former tends to have a different set of causes and therefore medications than the latter. Sleep is complex and involves multiple body systems working together including endocrine, neurological, immune, musculoskeletal, and mental/emotional at the very least! Each person with chronic insomnia will benefit most from individualized treatment, but here are some generalizations to improve sleep.

First, as boring and arcane as it sounds, sleep hygiene is important. Hygiene is a strange word to associate with sleep, IMHO. It sounds weird and uncomfortable, but “sleep hygeine” is a general concept that encompasses the environmental and behavioral aspects that are known to improve sleep quality and promote restful sleep. For example, my hotel room was too hot both nights. Maintaining a comfortable room temperature preferably cool with fresh air, is known to improve sleep quality. A darkened room without blinking or other lights within eyesight and a peaceful bedtime routine are also examples of sleep hygiene.

untitled     To fall asleep, sedatives are the key. Valerian is the strongest herb for sleep support. This herb was mentioned by Hippocrates in his writings, and is one of the oldest sedatives known. It has numerous studies supporting its use for sleep. The essential oils in valerian appear to provide its sedative activity, while the valepotriates exert a regulatory effect on the autonomic nervous system.  Although more than 150 constituents have been identified, none appear to be solely responsible for valerian’s effects, suggesting many compounds may act synergistically. Valerian’s mechanisms of action are not completely understood.  Valerian interacts with neurotransmitters such as GABA and produces a dose-dependent release of GABA. Valerian also inhibits the enzyme-induced breakdown of GABA in the brain.

GABA is my other secret weapon for falling asleep. There are two on switch neurotransmitters (dopamine and acetycholine) and two off switches (gaba and serotonin.) When the off switch is stuck on, sleep becomes difficult. Taking GABA as a supplement improves GABA levels in the brain, quieting the mind. Benzodiazepenes like Attivan and hypnotics like Ambian also work to increase GABA levels, as does Valerian. *Don’t use these all together as they can depress respiratory function as a cocktail.

images7OHBNK29Difficulty staying asleep can be more complicated to treat than falling asleep. Taking sedatives at 2 – 4 am can result in morning grogginess. From my experience, early waking (3am) is often related to a dysregulated cortisol clock, or, put simply, stress. Cortisol is the primary stress hormone produced by the adrenal glands. It runs on a 24 hour clock, and should be highest at 8am, and slowly drop during the day and rise at night. With emotional and/or physical stress, travel to different time zones, or shift work, the cortisol clock can become dysregulated, peaking earlier and earlier, creating an too-early wake up signal. Adrenal support is key. I often use herbs like ashwaganda, L-theanine, rhodiola, relora, and more to help regulate adrenal hormone production and heal imbalances. Cortisol is complicated, and balancing requires an in-depth look at ones lifestyle, mental health, stress coping techniques, exercise patterns, blood sugar and more. Therefore, treating stress and adrenal health in relation to sleep is best with an individualized approach, as “cookbook” medicine rarely gives optimized results.

For really tough sleep cases, NeuroScience labs makes a neurotransmitter panel to assess what is causing the night time wakefulness. Blood sugar disorders, sympathetic nervous system activation, cortisol dysregulation, hormone imbalance, anxiety, depression, grief, and more can all be part of the “perfect storm” of insomnia. Find a Naturopathic Doctor in your area to unravel the depths of your sleep mystery.

Umbrella_GraphicFinally, energetic medicines like acupuncture and homeopathy can be invaluable for unlocking sleeps depths. We are quantum physics humans, we do not operate in straightforward paradigm. Sometimes sleep issues go back to childhood dysregulation or other “never been well since” life events. These more energetic medicines can work to correct these deep imbalances by integrating unresolved issues that plague your subconscious when your guard is down. Psychotherapy and cognitive behavioral strategies can also be used to unravel sleep and stress mysteries.

I was lucky: once I was able to come down from the stress before my trip, and relax into my holiday my sleep improved, and I even got to sleep in for a change! What do you need to get that beauty sleep you so desire?

Share

Frequently Asked Questions: Hormone Tx

Many people have questions about the safety and efficacy of hormone treatments. I provide individualized hormone treatment programs. Every patient undergoes our complete metabolic bloodwork panel; a physical exam including breast exam, and a full 90-minute initial intake to make sure that hormone treatment is safe and recommended for you.

Here are some common questions, asked in our free 30 minute screening consults.

Will I need to stay on hormone treatment forever?

Current evidence shows that estrogen and progesterone bioidentical replacement therapy is safe for up to 15 years. After 15 years the risk of hormonal cancers increases very slightly. I encourage our patients to follow their own instincts around the duration of bHRT. Many women reach a point where they want to try coming off the hormones, to see how they feel. (Many then come back on the hormones for the feelings of well being they provide!) There is no “right answer” for the duration of hormones treatment; instead, your ongoing health and feelings of wellness may be the most important indicator to measure this.

What is a Bioidentical hormone?

Bio –meaning, of the body and Identical meaning, exactly like = hormones that are exactly like those your body naturally produces.

Why use Bioidentical hormones?

Generic and brand name hormones made by pharmaceutical companies all have biochemical additions to the basic hormone structures like pharma-signatures that make the drug patented (and profitable.) Bioidentical hormones are made as liquids, creams, troches, rapid dissolve tablets, injections or suppositories by a compounding pharmacy laboratory like Apothecary by Design to make them exactly like the hormones your body would naturally be producing. Drug companies cannot make money off of this form of hormone because they are universal; therefore their use is discouraged by big pharma. We know that bioidentical hormones are the safest, most effective way to replace hormones in your body. We only use compounded, bioidentical estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone at Age Management Center.

Do hormones cause cancer?

The Women’s Health Initiative study in 2001 did show an increased risk of not only breast cancer, but also heart disease in women taking the medications in the study. What is KEY here is that the hormone medications used in the study were the horse-based estrogen Premarin and a synthetic version of progesterone called progestin, brand name Provera. The study was separated into just Premarin users and Premarin + Provera “Prem-Pro” users. The Provera Rx was clearly indicated as the causative factor for the increased risk of breast cancer in clinical data. In further studies on bioidentical progesterone it has been evidenced that 200 mg of bioidentical progesterone is actually protective against the development of breast cancer.

It was the synthetic pharmaceutical analogue Progestin that is linked to cancer development, not either bioidentical estrogen or progesterone. Having said that, if you already have an estrogen positive cancer growing in your body, additional hormone replacement therapy can feed the tumor growth. We encourage all of our patients to get screening mammograms yearly during menopausal hormone replacement therapy, and actively support anti-cancer nutrition and antioxidant supplementation as part of our treatment protocols.

What about heart disease in women and estrogen use?

One of the most surprising results of the Women’s Heath Initiative was the increased risk of cardiovascular health issues like blood clots resulting from plaque rupture in women using Premarin. Estrogen is in fact protective for the cardiovascular system as it increases elasticity in all systems including the blood vessels. More elastic, flexible arteries means healthier blood flow. However, when combined with risk factors for atherosclerosis (plaques in the arteries) like elevated cholesterol, high blood sugar, smoking and being overweight the benefits and the risks need to be weighed to assess what is best for each woman.

At Age Management Center our complete metabolic blood work panel and 90 minute initial consult is in part to ensure that your body is metabolically able to handle additional bioidentical estrogen, and that you are a good candidate for hormone treatment. Some women need to do additional metabolic and cardiovascular work to reduce risk factors before estrogen-based therapy is indicated. Oral estrogen (taken by mouth) was associated with more risk for plaque rupture than topical estrogen. We start all women on a topical mix of bioidentical estradiol and estriol plus additional progesterone to manage symptoms while navigating risk, ultimately improving metabolic and cardiovascular health for effective anti-aging.

I thought testosterone was only for men?

Want to know a secret? Testosterone is like magic for womens health. It is actually the most abundant hormone across our entire lifetime because our body continues to produce it after menopause (if all goes well.) Testosterone is extremely valuable for women’s health because it is the “vitality” hormone that leads to physical and mental strength, bone health, leadership qualities, sexual appetite, sexual satisfaction, mood stability and more. Testosterone levels naturally start to get lower around 40, but the adrenal glands take over testosterone production when periods stop completely. We see low testosterone in women of all ages; we use testosterone supplementation in most of our menopausal treatments, because it helps you feel great! This hormone has been part of menopausal treatments since 1937. There is not much excitement generated about it in traditional medicine because who wants strong, sexual, healthy, happy, active, passionate postmenopausal women? I do!

Will taking testosterone make me look manly? (Facial hair, lower voice etc)

My job is to replace and optimize hormones to their natural levels. When testosterone levels are optimized for your body, it is unlikely you will have complications like black facial hairs, voice lowering, acne, or other classic side effects. However, this of course depends on your genetics and sensitivity to hormones. We start with the lowest possible dose after our thorough initial exam, an adjust dosages based on your personal experience plus laboratory testing. If you happen to be someone who does have side effects like facial hair or pimples, these are immediately reversible by lowering your dose.

At Age Management Center I also provide transition support for transgender and transsexual individuals. These dosages of hormones are significantly higher than doses used for hormone replacement, and do have permanent and reversible side effects that are usually considered desirable by the people using them.

Do you accept insurance?

Age Management Center is a concierge medical practice. We offer the best of modern regenerative medicine, guided by cutting edge evidence based research, in a relaxed, comprehensive manner. Our hormone programs are simple. Once a month fees include all doctor visits, emails, and phone calls, as well as your administrative support and foundational hormones. We operate outside the insurance system so that we can offer the high touch personalized medicine that our patients have come to rely on. We do not bill insurance companies for our services; however we can give you an itemized “superbill” for your services that you can submit on your own for reimbursement. We invite you to come in for our free 30-minute consultation to learn more about our concierge medical programs and how these might work for you.

Can I use my insurance for the comprehensive metabolic bloodwork?

We prefer that our patients use our cash-based in house laboratory services as it allows for consistent lab results and lab values, speedy results, streamlined workflow and improved coordinated care. We thoroughly research the best prices for lab work, and pass those savings on to our patients. For example, our complete metabolic blood work is priced at $1800 through insurance billing. We offer it at $395, passing on our physician pricing to you. Many of our patients have tried to use their insurance to run the blood work, and with deductibles and co-pays have ended up paying at least $600-800 for the same work.

Furthermore, many insurance companies and PCP’s will not cover some of the hormonal blood work evaluations we consider crucial to accurately understanding your metabolic and hormonal health. By having all of your blood work arrive in time for your initial visit, we are better able to serve you in a timely and effective manner. Laboratory, physician and clinical services can all be claimed as health expenses on your taxes, and can be part of your deductible.th

Can I use my Health Savings Account or Flex Spending Account?

Yes. Age Management Center services are billable through HSA and FSA’s.

Share

Vanquishing Fat Improves Weight Loss

12428062215_8a3fa42d45_zI dreampt I was lying on a comfortable table in a private office, with a machine sending warm Infra-Red rays into my abdomen, melting away my belly fat. I was dozing, and imagining the fat cells bursting and my body’s lymphatic system scooping them up and leaving me with a trimmer waistline as I  thought about my life for 45 minutes…. Oh Wait! That wasn’t a Dream! That is the Vanquish machine!

It must be the 21st century because medicine has finally found a way to literally melt off fat in targeted areas like the belly, hips and thighs. This revolutionary selective radiofrequency technology is non-invasive, safe and effective. Heat penetrates deeply into the body targeting adipose tissue (fat cells) while protecting other neighboring organs and skin layers with cooling air flow.

The Vanquish experience is relaxing, pain free and requires no medication or recovery time. It requires lying still for about 45 minutes. Best results are obtained when repeated twice per week for at least 3 weeks (six sessions). Clinical results are visible within 3-4 weeks after your last session – do not expect immediate results! Physiologically, your fat cells are melted and slowly die, spilling their contents into local tissue to be cleaned up by the lymphatic, immune and circulatory systems. This process takes a few weeks, which is why results are not immediate.

A little science on fat cell physiology. It is now recognized that a fat cell is not just a glob of fat. Adipose tissue is a metabolically active, highly functioning part of the endocrine (hormone) system.

When your energy in (food & alcohol) is greater than your energy out (activity, intellectual work and exercise) insulin directs the body to store fat. The capacity to store fat is seemingly endless,  as individual cells can grow quite large while chemically signalling neighboring undifferentiated cells to turn into new fat cells. Energy deficit (energy out greater than energy in) stimulates the adipose tissue to release free fatty acids and become smaller fat cells, or the cells can die through apoptosis.

Centrally located adipose tissue is used as a storage area for many fat soluble hormones and chemicals like estrogen, pesticides and THC. When fat cells spill their contents, these are also spilled. Adipose tissue also independently synthesizes chemicals like adipsin that activate the inflammatory cascade. (This is why heavier people can have more inflammatory disorders than thin people.) As the Vanquish machine melts away the fat cells, stimulating apoptosis (cell death) your body will have to clean up these excess chemicals and inflammatory mediators as well as the free fatty acids released. Fortunately, a healthy body is designed to effectively remove cellular debris like this through the lymphatic and circulatory systems.

Drinking extra water is essential during this process. We also recommend using herbal teas like the Traditional Medicinal Daily Detox Tea, nettle tea and organic green tea for free radical/antioxidant protection. Taking a good quality multivitamin provides minerals and B vitamins to support liver detoxification while daily exercise will also stimulate fat burning metabolism and support free fat elimination. Nutritionally, a meal plan focused on weight reduction principles will enhance the slimming effects of Vanquish. I suggest small amounts of whole fiber rich grains a few times a week, daily leafy greens and raw vegetables, low sugar fruits like apples and blueberries, lowered carbohydrate intake, no processed foods, and grass-fed meats, vegetarian proteins and fish.

Some individuals with compromised health or congested lympathic or liver systems may benefit from additional Integrative Medicine alongside Vanquish treatment plans to optimize results. Integrative Medicine combines the best of botanical medicine, clinical nutrition and evidence-based nutraceuticals with modern diagnostic, laboratory and pharmaceutical expertise. This style of medicine is patient-centered; no two patients will get exactly the same protocol with our highly individualized care. Targeted therapies could include reducing systemic inflammation, improving detoxification pathways, clearing lymphatic channels, or tailoring nutrition to promote fat elimination.

Dr. Wright will be offered a group metabolic detoxification program at Cosmetic Enhancement Center in January 2015 and again in March 2015. This 7 day detoxification program is the perfect complement to a Vanquish Fat treatment plan. Ask Dr. Wright or Dr. Atkins for more information about the Vanquish Fat treatment plan, Integrative Medicine, or our upcoming Metabolic Detoxification program.

References:

Integrative physiology of human adipose tissue. K N Frayn, F Karpe, B A Fielding I A Macdonald and S W CoppackInternational Journal of Obesity (2003) 27, 875–888.

Adipsin and an endogenous pathway of complement from adipose cells. Choy LN1, Rosen BS, Spiegelman BM.J Biol Chem. 1992 Jun 25;267(18):12736-41. http://www.jbc.org/content/267/18/12736.long  Accessed 24/10/2014

Adipose cell apoptosis: death in the energy depot. A Sorisky,  R Magun and AM Gagnon. Department of Medicine and Biochemistry, Microbiology and International Journal of Obesity (2000) 24, Suppl 4, S3±S7 http://www.nature.com/ijo/journal/v24/n4s/pdf/0801491a.pdf  Accessed 10/22/2014

 

Share