Archive for the ‘Sleep’ Category

Overcome Lyme Brain – Causes & Solutions

https://rawlsmd.com/health-articles/how-to-overcome-lyme-brain-causes-and-solutions

How to Overcome Lyme Brain: Causes and Solutions | RawlsMD

How to Overcome Lyme Brain: Causes and Solutions

by Jenny Lelwica Buttaccio
Posted 2/17/20

Forgetful. Zoned out. Unable to concentrate. These are just a few ways people describe the disconcerting constellation of neurological symptoms associated with chronic Lyme disease known as Lyme brain, a muddled mental feeling that impairs some degree of a person’s cognition.

Although the exact prevalence of the condition isn’t known, the majority of chronic Lyme patients will cycle through episodes of Lyme brain from time to time. It can be frustrating and debilitating. Missteps like showing up to a doctor’s appointment on the wrong day, forgetting to refill a prescription before it runs out, or desperately searching for your glasses only to discover they’ve been on top of your head all along can make you feel as though you’re losing your mind. Some people will even notice problems with word finding, reading comprehension, and writing.

Is there a way to stop it? Here, we look at some of the underlying causes of this neurological phenomenon, plus ways to help improve the distressing symptoms.

Cause #1: Untreated Infections

Lyme disease and Lyme coinfections like babesia, bartonella, and mycoplasmacontribute to metabolic and immune changes in the body because the microbes can be low-grade and persist for long periods of time. While no system of the body is off-limits, the central nervous system and the endocrine system are particularly vulnerable.

Germs in the blood. Leukocytes attack the virus. Immunity of the body. 3D illustration on medical research

“When pathogens invade the nervous system, white blood cells — immune cells like lymphocytes and plasmocytes — flood into the white matter of the brain and the spinal cord,” says Dr. Bill Rawls, Medical Director of RawlsMD and Vital Plan. “This causes a cascade of inflammatory immune messengers, called cytokines, in cerebrospinal fluid.”

This influx of proinflammatory cytokines causes neuroinflammation in the brain, which can contribute to a range of neurological symptoms, including those associated with Lyme brain. Because most Lyme patients have a compromised immune system, the body struggles to keep the offending pathogens in check.

The outcome? You continue to experience a prolonged inflammatory response and resulting symptoms until you’re able to suppress the harmful, stealth infections.

Solution: Suppress Harmful Microbes and Support Brain Health

To improve brain function, you’ll have to address persistent, low-grade infections. There may be a time and a place for heroic therapies such as antibioticsgut microbiome, too.

wooden spoon with herbal supplement on top, leafs underneath

A more restorative approach to subdue harmful pathogens is using herbal therapy, which has a balancing effect on the microbiome and the various systems of the body. Plus, some herbs can safely pass into the brain.

Not sure where to begin? Dr. Rawls’ preferred herbs specifically for brain health include:

  1. Lion’s Mane: This mushroom contains compounds called erinacines and hericenones, which cross the blood-brain barrier. There, they support normal levels of nerve growth factor (NGF), a peptide produced by the body that’s essential to nerve cell growth, maintenance, and survival. When NGF levels are in a healthy range, you notice that you have improved mental clarity, focus, and memory.
  2. Cat’s Claw: Native to the Amazon, cat’s claw has a long history of traditional use for the treatment of a wide range of inflammatory conditions, and it’s well-known among Lyme disease patients. The herb supports immune function and helps balance the body’s microbiome.
  3. Bacopa: A traditional Indian herb, bacopa has been used to bring balance and calm to the nervous system for thousands of years.
  4. Ashwagandha: Native to India and Africa, ashwagandha is used for its ability to balance, energize, and rejuvenate. Ashwagandha is a calming adaptogen that is particularly useful in balancing the HPA axis in the brain (the control center for hormone regulation), which leads to improved stress resistance, better sleep, and reduced brain fog.
  5. Ginkgo biloba: Ginkgo is one of the oldest living trees on earth. Current and traditional uses of the herb include enhancing blood flow, protecting brain and nerve functions, and supporting cognition.

Cause #2: Toxic Build-Up

As you treat Lyme disease, you’re likely to experience a Herherimer reaction (or herx). With the use of any antimicrobial (prescription or otherwise), a large number of bacteria die off, causing an inpouring of dead bacteria called endotoxins throughout the body. This forces the immune system’s inflammatory response into overdrive.

Bacterial die-off can also produce byproducts that are toxic to the nervous system (neurotoxic) like quinolinic acid, ammonia, and acetaldehyde, which can exacerbate cognitive symptoms like brain fog. These toxic byproducts can also come from a microbiome imbalance such as a small intestinal bowel overgrowth (SIBO) and candida overgrowth.

Solution: Augment Your Body’s Detoxification Efforts

Start with the antioxidants glutathione, alpha-lipoic acid (ALA), and N-acetyl cysteine (NAC). These were shown to help to support the liver’s ability to detoxify, mitigate the neurocognitive symptoms of Lyme disease, and lessen the accumulation of toxins as a result of treatment in a 2018 article in the journal Healthcare.

Raw yucca starch on the wooden table - Manihot esculenta.

Additionally, supplementing with molybdenum and yucca root can be beneficial, too. Molybdenum is a trace mineral that is normally present in small amounts in the body, similar to magnesium, iron, or manganese. Though a molybdenum deficiency isn’t common, adding a small amount of molybdenum — prepared in microgram doses — may help to neutralize excess ammonia and acetaldehyde and curb Lyme brain.

Similarly, the herb yucca root can be used to decrease ammonia levels. Typically, yucca comes in a capsule or powder.

Cause #3: Poor Sleep

Stress, inflammation, and infections can all disrupt your sleep, which only serves to worsen the symptoms associated with Lyme brain. Indeed, some short and long-term consequences related to poor sleep that are reminiscent of Lyme brain include mood disorders, cognitive dysfunction, memory problems, and performance deficits, among others, according to a 2017 review in the journal Nature and Science of Sleep. Sleep dysfunction alone could be the cause of Lyme brain in certain individuals.

Although it’s easy to see how a lack of sleep could be a significant factor contributing to neurocognitive issues, knowing how to improve the situation is a whole different battle. Generally, it will take some trial and error to find the repertoire of tricks and sleep hacks that will be helpful to you, but practicing solid sleep hygiene is paramount to decreasing the symptoms of Lyme brain.

Solution: Implement Good Sleep Hygiene

woman asleep in her bed, night time, white sheets

Going back to the basics of sleep hygiene can help you get a better night’s rest. They include:

  • Maintain a consistent bedtime routine. Try to go to bed and get up at the same time each day, even on the weekends.
  • Get exposure to sunlight. The majority of us spend a substantial part of our day indoors. But getting sunlight throughout the day, especially in the morning, can help to reset your circadian rhythm so you’re tired when you’re supposed to be.
  • Wind down at night. Many people with Lyme disease experience a tired-but-wired feeling when they try to go to bed — they’re utterly exhausted, but their bodies won’t calm down enough to let them drift off. If this describes you, try spending 10-15 minutes before your bedtime doing some gentle stretching to relieve muscle tension, reduce pain, and bring on the calm.
  • Turn off electronics by 9 PM. When you’re lying in bed wide-awake and waiting for sleep to come, it can be very tempting to pass the time by watching your favorite TV show or scrolling on your phone. But the blue light that’s emitted from electronic devices can disrupt the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin. So, instead of helping you fall asleep, electronic devices may be contributing to wakefulness. If you must be on your computer or phone at bedtime, try blue-light-blocking devices such as filters or glasses to keep your exposure to a minimum.
  • Make sure you have a comfortable bed. If you notice that you feel stiff or have greater pain in the morning, that’s a clue that your mattress could be an obstacle to quality sleep, and it might be time to invest in a new one. Most mattress companies will offer financing options so that you don’t need to shell out the funds all at once if you don’t have them.

Cause #4: Exposure to Mold

About 50% of homes have experienced some amount of water damage and contain mold. When exposure to toxic mold is coupled with Lyme disease and Lyme coinfections, all of your symptoms can intensify, including the cognitive issues that accompany Lyme brain, such as:

  • Trouble focusing
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Feeling lethargic
  • Mood swings
  • Delayed reaction times
  • Forgetfulness

Solution: Locate and Clean Up Moisture and Mold

cleaning of room wall from mold with metal brush

To avoid further exacerbating your symptoms, you may need to consult with a professional to safely find and remediate sources of mold in your home — a good idea in general, since doing it yourself will ramp up your exposure. In the meantime, here are some things you can do on your own:

  1. Place a HEPA air purifier in the areas of your home where you spend the most time, especially your bedroom. Reducing your exposure to mold while you sleep may help you wake up feeling more alert and refreshed.
  2. Reduce your humidity levels to as low as possible — ideally, between 30% to 50%. Dehumidifiers and air conditioners can be useful tools to keep in check the humidity mold loves.
  3. Routinely inspect your heating and air conditioning systems for mold, and if necessary, have them cleaned.
  4. Consider eliminating rugs or carpet in rooms that are known to contain high levels of moisture, such as the bathroom or basement.
  5. Keep your kitchen, bathroom, and laundry rooms well ventilated.
  6. If you have an attic, make sure the space is dry and doesn’t contain moisture.

There’s no doubt that Lyme brain can be a frightening and overwhelming symptom of Lyme disease, and many of the potential causes overlap with one another, which can make sorting things out a bit tricky. But begin to chip away at the causes as best you can. Over time, you’ll start to notice clearer thinking, improved memory, and better cognitive functioning. There is light at the end of the tunnel, and you can recover!

Dr. Rawls is a physician who overcame Lyme disease through natural herbal therapy. You can learn more about Lyme disease in Dr. Rawls’ new best selling book, Unlocking Lyme.  You can also learn about Dr. Rawls’ personal journey in overcoming Lyme disease and fibromyalgia in his popular blog post, My Chronic Lyme Journey.

REFERENCES
1. Bransfield RC. Neuropsychiatric Lyme Borreliosis: An Overview with a Focus on a Specialty Psychiatrist’s Clinical Practice. Healthcare. 2018 Sep; 6(3): 104. doi: 10.3390/healthcare6030104
2. Basic Facts about Mold and Dampness. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. https://www.cdc.gov/mold/faqs.htm
3. Horowitz RI, Freeman PR. Precision Medicine: The Role of the MSIDS Model in Defining, Diagnosing, and Treating Chronic Lyme Disease/Post Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome and Other Chronic Illness: Part 2. Healthcare. 2018 Dec; 6(4): 129. doi: 10.3390/healthcare6040129
4. Medic G, Wille M, Hemels MEH. Short- and long-term health consequences of sleep disruption. Nature and Science of Sleep. 2017; 9: 151–161. doi: 10.2147/NSS.S134864
5. Overview of Minerals. Merck Manual website. https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/disorders-of-nutrition/minerals/overview-of-minerals
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5 Tips to Calm a Restless Mind Before Going to Sleep

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-savvy-psychologist/201912/5-tips-calm-restless-mind-going-sleep?

5 Tips to Calm a Restless Mind Before Going to Sleep

If your mind won’t turn off at bedtime, use these tips to work with your brain.

Posted Dec 03, 2019

How did you sleep last night? We seem to ask ourselves this question daily, and when we do, it’s almost as if we’re taking note of our overall state of mind: How do I feel? Am I all there today?

And no wonder! It can be discouraging and frazzling when all we want is the soothing balm of sleep to heal the stress from our day, but infuriatingly, when we lie down to sleep, our brains just won’t shut off. Paradoxically, sometimes the more stressful our days are, the harder it is to quiet the brain for sleep at night…. (See link for full article)

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For more:  https://madisonarealymesupportgroup.com/2018/08/23/sleep-sweet-sleep/

https://madisonarealymesupportgroup.com/2018/04/02/cant-sleep-18-plants-herbs-can-help/

https://madisonarealymesupportgroup.com/2019/05/05/ambien-other-sleep-aids-get-fdas-blackbox-label-its-strongest-warning/

 

 

 

 

Detoxing With Infrared Saunas

https://dariningelsnd.com/detoxing-infrared-saunas/

Toxins are everywhere. They are in the water we drink, the air we breathe, the fabric and products we wear on our skin and the food we eat. Over time, even the smallest amounts can build up, hindering the body’s natural detoxification process.

When detoxification pathways are impaired, there can be negative impacts on the immune system, skin, and channels of elimination.

Saunas have been around for many years. The process of heating your body’s temperature enhances metabolism and also creates a calorie burn, similar to exercise. Not only that, but bacteria and viruses do not do well in the heat so, “sweating it out” if you are sick can be beneficial to your health.

The process of sweating allows our body to detoxify naturally. When your internal temperature rises, this stimulates your sweat glands so you perspire.

Exercise, steam saunas and infrared saunas promote a great deal of sweating. However, infrared saunas are far superior than traditional steam saunas.

Infrared saunas penetrate further into the skin’s layers and facilitate detoxification at a much deeper level. It can aid in eliminating a significant amount of environmental toxins and heavy metals, including mercury, arsenic and cadmium.

Woman massaging leg in sauna

Other benefits of infrared sauna include:

  • Weight & body fat reduction
  • Increased blood circulation
  • Easing chronic pain
  • Improved sleep quality
  • Alleviating joint stiffness
  • Aiding in recovery of endurance exercise
  • Minimizing fatigue

Couple using sauna

A few things to consider while adding sauna therapy into your regimen:

Drink plenty of fluids and be sure to add minerals to your water. You will need these as you will sweat them out. You may also need to add sea salt to your foods, depending on your individual health condition.

Start off with 5-10 minutes of sauna therapy per session and work your way up until you reach no more than 30 minutes. It may take some time for your body to adjust to the heat.

Focus on foods that are alkalizing. When your body is alkalized, it is able to detoxify much more efficiently.

Be sure to get plenty of rest. Allow your body to recuperate. Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep a night.

Saunas are part of an integrative protocol for better health. Meditation, exercise and positive emotional well-being will only maximize the benefits you get from using infrared saunas.

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More on Detoxification:  https://madisonarealymesupportgroup.com/2019/07/23/the-science-of-detoxification-how-to-boost-your-natural-detox-powers/

https://madisonarealymesupportgroup.com/2019/04/18/sauna-for-prevention-of-cardiovascular-alzheimers-disease-for-detoxification/

https://madisonarealymesupportgroup.com/2019/03/31/how-to-detox-naturally-for-healthy-aging/

https://madisonarealymesupportgroup.com/2015/12/06/tips-for-newbies/

https://madisonarealymesupportgroup.com/2019/01/26/lyme-herxheimer-reactions-dr-rawls/

https://madisonarealymesupportgroup.com/2019/01/07/your-liver-is-your-detox-organ-heres-why-how-to-support-it/

https://madisonarealymesupportgroup.com/2018/02/24/top-3-lyme-detox-myths-busted-dr-rawls/

https://madisonarealymesupportgroup.com/2018/03/02/dmso-msm-for-lyme-msids/

 

 

How to Prevent & Treat Seasonal Affective Disorder

https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2019/12/05/how-to-prevent-treat-seasonal-affective-disorder.aspx

How to Prevent and Treat Seasonal Affective Disorder

Analysis by Dr. Joseph MercolaFact Checked

STORY AT-A-GLANCE

  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that occurs seasonally, typically ramping up in the fall and winter months and disappearing come spring
  • Helpful treatments include optimizing your vitamin D and omega-3 levels, light therapy (including blue light exposure in the morning, but not later in the day), optimizing your sleep, the Emotional Freedom Techniques and exercise
  • Your health and mood are intricately tied to exposure to sunlight. For example, your serotonin levels (the hormone typically associated with elevating your mood) rise when you’re exposed to bright light. Your melatonin level also rises and falls (inversely) with light and darkness
  • Vitamin D deficiency is very common, and should be a top consideration when you’re looking for a solution to flagging mood and energy — especially if it occurs during fall and winter months
  • While light therapy can take up to four weeks before you notice improvement, it was shown to be more effective than antidepressants for moderate to severe depression in a 2015 study

The loss of daylight hours during winter is a common cause of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression that hits seasonally and lifts as spring and summer rolls back around.

The fact that SAD occurs when the days begin to darken and sunlight is at a minimum is not a coincidence. Your health and mood are intricately tied to exposure to sunlight. For example, your serotonin levels (the hormone typically associated with elevating your mood) rise when you’re exposed to bright light.

Your melatonin level also rises and falls — inversely — with light and darkness. When it’s dark, your melatonin levels increase, which is why you may feel tired when the sun starts to set, and in the heart of winter, this may be at as early as 3 p.m. if you live far from the equator. Light and darkness also control your biological clock, or circadian rhythm, which impacts hormones that regulate your appetite and metabolism.

As explained in the paper, “Seasonal Affective Disorder: An Overview of Assessment and Treatment Approaches,” published in the journal Depression Research and Treatment in 2015:1

“… SAD is a recurrent major depressive disorder with a seasonal pattern usually beginning in fall and continuing into winter months. A subsyndromal type of SAD, or S-SAD, is commonly known as ‘winter blues.’ Less often, SAD causes depression in the spring or early summer.

Symptoms center on sad mood and low energy. Those most at risk are female, are younger, live far from the equator, and have family histories of depression, bipolar disorder, or SAD … Typical treatment includes antidepressant medications, light therapy, vitamin D, and counselling.”

Considering the many health risks associated with antidepressants, and the fact that their efficacy is right on par with placebos, my recommendation is to avoid them if at all possible.

Aside from light therapy and vitamin D, other drug-free treatment options include optimizing your omega-3 level, exercise, the Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) and normalizing your circadian rhythm, all of which will be reviewed here.

The Role of Vitamin D

As explained in the featured paper,2 vitamin D appears to play a role in the activity of serotonin, a mood-balancing hormone, and melatonin, a hormone that responds to light and dark.

People with SAD tend to have lower serotonin and higher melatonin levels, which can account for the fatigue, tiredness and depressed mood typically associated with this condition. According to the Depression Research and Treatment paper:3

“A systematic review and meta-analysis concluded that low levels of vitamin D are associated with depression … During the winter months of November through February, those living about 33 degrees north or 30 degrees south of the equator are not able to synthesize vitamin D.

Many people with SAD and S-SAD have insufficient or deficient levels of vitamin D, and although no further studies have confirmed the findings, research investigating this association suggests that taking 100,000 IU daily may improve their symptoms.

Taking vitamin D before winter darkness sets in may help prevent symptoms of depression. Adverse reactions or intoxication is rare but could occur from doses of more than 50,000 IU per day.”

Vitamin D deficiency is very common, and should be a top consideration when you’re looking for a solution to flagging mood and energy — especially if it occurs during fall and winter months.

Ideally, you’ll want to get your vitamin D level tested twice a year, in summer and winter, when your levels are highest and lowest. This will help you fine-tune your dosage over time. While regular sun exposure is the best way to optimize your vitamin D level, this isn’t possible in many areas during the winter, thus necessitating the use of oral supplements instead.

GrassrootsHealth has a helpful calculator that can help estimate the dose required to reach healthy vitamin D levels based upon your measured starting point. The optimal level you’re looking for is between 60 and 80 ng/ml, and for all-around health, you’ll want to maintain this level year-round.

Omega-3 Fats Are Important Too

Another nutrient that can be helpful is marine-based omega-3. As noted in a 2009 review4 of three studies looking at the impact of omega-3 supplementation on patients with unipolar depression, childhood major depression and bipolar depression:

“Twelve bipolar outpatients with depressive symptoms were treated with 1.5-2.0 g/day of EPA for up to 6 months. In the adult unipolar depression study, highly significant benefits were found by week 3 of EPA treatment compared with placebo.

In the child study, an analysis … showed highly significant effects of omega-3 on each of the three rating scales. In the bipolar depression study, 8 of the 10 patients who completed at least one month of follow-up achieved a 50% or greater reduction in Hamilton depression scores within one month.”

In another study5 published that same year, people with lower blood levels of omega-3s were found to be more likely to have symptoms of depression and a more negative outlook while those with higher blood levels demonstrated the opposite emotional states.

A more recent review,6 published in 2015, pointed out that “Cell signaling and structure of the cell membrane are changed by omega-3-fatty acids, which demonstrates that an omega-3-fatty acid can act as an antidepressant.”

Importantly, this paper also points to research showing that the ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 is an important factor that can influence your depression risk. People with severe symptoms of depression have been found to have low concentrations of omega-3 in conjunction with considerably higher concentrations of omega-6.

You can learn more about the importance of this ratio in “Getting Your Omega-3 to Omega-6 ratio Right Is Essential For Optimal Health.” The key, really, to normalizing this ratio is to increase your omega-3 intake while simultaneously lowering your omega-6 consumption. This means you’ll need to ditch processed and fried foods, as they’re typically loaded with omega-6-rich vegetable oils.

Get Tested Today

GrassrootsHealth, which is conducting consumer-sponsored research into both vitamin D and omega-3, is one of your most cost-effective alternatives when it comes to testing.

Their vitamin D testing kit enrolls you into the GrassrootsHealth D*Action project, where your anonymized data will help researchers to provide accurate data about the vitamin D status in the population, the level at which disease prevention is obtained, and guidance on dosing to achieve optimal levels.

Their vitamin D, magnesium and omega-3 test kit is another option that will allow you to check the status of several vital nutrients at once. Each kit contains instructions for how to collect your blood sample. You then mail in your sample and fill out a quick online health questionnaire through GrassrootsHealth. A link to your test results will be emailed to you about a week after your blood samples have been received.

Light Therapy Is More Effective Than Antidepressants

Light therapy,7 using full-spectrum nonfluorescent lighting that has blue light to artificially mimic sunlight, is among the most effective treatment options for SAD. You want to avoid fluorescents as they emit large amounts of dirty electricity. Ideally, have the light exposure in the morning, well after sunrise. As noted in the Depression Research and Treatment paper:8

“Knowing the difference decreased daylight can make in triggering SAD and S-SAD, approaches seeking to replace the diminished sunshine using bright artificial light, particularly in the morning, have consistently showed promise …

Light boxes can be purchased that emit full spectrum light similar in composition to sunlight. Symptoms of SAD and S-SAD may be relieved by sitting in front of a light box first thing in the morning, from the early fall until spring …

Typically, light boxes filter out ultraviolet rays and require 20–60 minutes of exposure to 10,000 lux of cool-white… light daily during fall and winter.

This is about 20 times as great as ordinary indoor lighting … Light therapy should not be used in conjunction with photosensitizing medications such as lithium, melatonin, phenothiazine antipsychotics, and certain antibiotics.”

While light therapy can take up to four weeks before you notice an improvement, it was shown to be more effective than antidepressants for moderate to severe depression in a 2015 study.9,10 In it, the researchers evaluated the effectiveness of light therapy, alone and in conjunction with the antidepressant fluoxetine (sold under the brand name Prozac).

The eight-week trial included 122 adults between the ages of 19 and 60, who were diagnosed with moderate to severe depression. The participants were divided into four groups, receiving:

  • 30 minutes of light therapy per day upon waking, using a 10,000 lux Carex brand day-light device, classic model, plus a placebo pill
  • Prozac (20 mg/day) plus a deactivated ion generator serving as a placebo light device
  • Light therapy plus Prozac
  • Placebo light device plus placebo pill (control group)

In conclusion, the study found that the combination of light therapy and Prozac was the most effective — but light therapy-only came in at a close second, followed by placebo. In other words, the drug treatment was the least effective of all, including placebo.

The mean changes in the Montgomery-Åsberg Depression Rating Scale from baseline to the eight-week end point was 16.9 for the combination therapy (active light- and drug therapy), and 13.4 for light therapy alone.

Blue Light During Daytime Hours May Improve Your Mood

In addition to the bright white light used in light therapy, blue light has also been shown to be useful. According to a 2010 study,11 blue light appears to play a key role in your brain’s ability to process emotions, and its results suggest that spending more time in blue-enriched light could help prevent SAD.

Blue light is prevalent in outdoor light, so your body absorbs the most during the summer and much less in the winter. Because of this, the researchers suggested that adding blue light to indoor lighting, as opposed to the standard yellow lights typically used, may help boost mood and productivity year-round, and especially during the winter.

Keep in mind, however, that blue light after sunset or before sunrise should be avoided, as it can disrupt your circadian rhythm. In fact, one of the reasons for insomnia and poor sleep is related to excessive exposure to blue light-emitting technologies such as TV and computer screens, especially in the evening.

The blue light depresses melatonin production, thereby preventing you from feeling sleepy. So, to be clear, you only want to expose yourself to blue light in the morning, and possibly afternoon, but not in the evening.

In “How the Cycles of Light and Darkness Affect Your Health and Well-Being,” researcher Dan Pardi explains the peculiar effect blue light has on your brain, which sheds further light on why it’s so important to expose yourself to blue light during daytime hours only, and why you need to avoid it at night:

“[R]ods and cones in the eye… are specialized cells that can transduce a photo signal into a nerve signal… In the mid-90s, a different type of cell was discovered… [called] intrinsically photosensitive Retinal Ganglion Cells (ipRGC).

It does the same thing as rods and cones: it transduced light to a nerve signal. But instead of the signal going to your visual cortex, it goes to your master clock. Those cells are most responsive to blue light. If you can block blue light, you can actually create something called circadian darkness or virtual darkness.

What that means is that you can see, but your brain doesn’t think that it’s daytime; your brain thinks that it’s in darkness. That is actually a practical solution for living with artificial light in our modern world…

With more awareness, future digital devices will adjust lighting in the evening to automatically dim and emit amber/red light [instead of blue]. This is much better for healthy circadian rhythms and sleep quality.”

Address Insomnia

As you can tell by Pardi’s explanation above, the blue light issue is closely related to your sleep quality and circadian rhythm maintenance, and this too is an important component of mental health.

Historically, humans went to sleep shortly after sunset and woke up when the sun rose. Straying too far from this biological pattern will disrupt delicate hormonal cycles in your body, which can affect both your mood and your health. Indeed, the link between depression and lack of sleep is well established, and sleep disturbance is one of the telltale signs of depression.12

Sleep therapy has also been shown to significantly improve depression. While there are individual differences, as a general rule, you’ll want to aim for about eight hours of sleep per night.

For many, this will require going to bed earlier, which can be difficult if you’ve been watching TV or using electronics beforehand, as the blue light from the screen suppresses your melatonin production.

So, an important part of the solution is to avoid screen-time for a couple of hours before bed. Alternatives to not watching TV or using electronics is to install a blue light modulating software such as Iris,13 or using blue-blocking glasses.

Just make sure you don’t wear blue blocking glasses during the daytime, which is when you need the blue light exposure. Also, make sure the glasses filter out light between 460 to 490 nanometers (nm), which is the range of blue light that most effectively reduces melatonin. You can easily tell this by looking at a blue light and if it doesn’t disappear with the glasses, it is not blocking that frequency.

Exercise Helps Prevent Depression

Like sleep, exercise can impact your risk of depression. Even a minimal amount of exercise may be enough to combat depression in some people — as little as one hour a week could prevent 12% of future cases of depression, according to one study.14

Participants were followed for 11 years in this study, during which time it was revealed that people who engaged in regular leisure-time exercise for one hour a week, regardless of intensity, were less likely to become depressed. On the flipside, those who didn’t exercise were 44% more likely to become depressed compared to those who did so for at least one to two hours a week.

Exercise benefits your brain and mood via multiple mechanisms, including creating new, excitable neurons along with new neurons designed to release the GABA neurotransmitter, which inhibits excessive neuronal firing, helping to induce a natural state of calm15 — similar to the way anti-anxiety drugs work, except that the mood-boosting benefits of exercise occur both immediately after a workout and on in the long term.

Exercise also boosts levels of potent brain chemicals like serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine, which may help buffer some of the effects of stress. What’s more, anandamide levels are known to increase during and following exercise.16 Anandamide is a neurotransmitter and endocannabinoid produced in your brain that temporarily blocks feelings of pain and depression. It can also be activated with CBD products.

Tap for Symptoms of Depression

Last but not least, EFT, a form of psychological acupressure, is a noninvasive way that can help treat symptoms of depression, whether related to seasonal light differences or not.

Some people avoid energy psychology, believing it’s an alternative form of New Age spirituality. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is merely an advanced tool that can effectively address some of the psychological short circuiting that occurs in emotional illnesses.

It is not associated with any religion or spiritual outlook at all, but merely an effective resource you can use with whatever spiritual belief you have. In the video above, EFT practitioner Julie Schiffman demonstrates how you can use EFT to relieve your symptoms.

It’s the Season To Be Glad, Not SAD

Since SAD is triggered by the loss of light, it makes sense that light therapy is among the most effective treatments. Vitamin D and/or omega-3 deficiency, as well as lack of sleep and exercise, can also play a significant role, so addressing these basic lifestyle factors could also be what you need to avoid the winter blues.

In closing, it may be worth noting that it’s natural for your body to want to slow down somewhat in the wintertime. While this can be difficult when your work and personal life dictate otherwise, allowing yourself to slow down a bit and surrender to the overwinter process may ultimately help you to respect your body’s circadian rhythm, and recharge.

That said, this doesn’t mean you should plant yourself on the couch for the winter and not venture outdoors. On the contrary, staying active and spending time outdoors during the day are among the best “cures” for SAD.

– Sources and References

How Sleep Cleans Toxins From the Brain

https://www.mysterious-times.com/2019/11/17/scientists-now-know-how-sleep-cleans-toxins-from-the-brain/

The synchronized brain waves of non-REM sleep may play a key role in preventing toxins from accumulating in a person’s brain.

Laura Lewis and her team of researchers have been putting in late nights in their Boston University lab. Lewis ran tests until around 3:00 in the morning, then ended up sleeping in the next day. It was like she had jet lag, she says, without changing time zones. It’s not that Lewis doesn’t appreciate the merits of a good night’s sleep. She does. But when you’re trying to map what’s happening in a slumbering human’s brain, you end up making some sacrifices. “It’s this great irony of sleep research,” she says. “You’re constrained by when people sleep.”

Her results, published today in the journal Science, show how our bodies clear toxins out of our brains while we sleep and could open new avenues for treating and preventing neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s…..(See link for full article)

For Lewis et al. study:

https://science.sciencemag.org/content/366/6465/628

Coupled electrophysiological, hemodynamic, and cerebrospinal fluid oscillations in human sleep

Link Between Inflammation & Mental Sluggishness Shown & How MSM, Systemic Enzymes, and Melatonin Can Help

https://neurosciencenews.com/inflammation-mental-sluggishness

Link between inflammation and mental sluggishness shown

Summary: Inflammation appears to have a negative impact on attention and cognition.

Source: University of Birmingham

Scientists at the University of Birmingham in collaboration with the University of Amsterdam have uncovered a possible explanation for the mental sluggishness that often accompanies illness.

An estimated 12M UK citizens have a chronic medical condition, and many of them report severe mental fatigue that they characterize as ‘sluggishness’ or ‘brain fog’. This condition is often as debilitating as the disease itself.

A team in the University’s Centre for Human Brain Health investigated the link between this mental fog and inflammation – the body’s response to illness. In a study published in Neuroimage, they show that inflammation appears to have a particular negative impact on the brain’s readiness to reach and maintain an alert state.

Dr Ali Mazaheri and Professor Jane Raymond of the University’s Centre for Human Brain Health, are the senior authors of the study. Dr Mazaheri says:

“Scientists have long suspected a link between inflammation and cognition, but it is very difficult to be clear about the cause and effect. For example, people living with a medical condition or being very overweight might complain of cognitive impairment, but it’s hard to tell if that’s due to the inflammation associated with these conditions or if there are other reasons.”

“Our research has identified a specific critical process within the brain that is clearly affected when inflammation is present.”

The study focussed specifically on an area of the brain which is responsible for visual attention. A group of 20 young male volunteers took part and received a salmonella typhoid vaccine that causes temporary inflammation but has few other side effects. They were tested for cognitive responses to simple images on a computer screen a few hours after the injection so that their ability to control attention could be measured. Brain activity was measured while they performed the attention tests.

On a different day, either before or after, they received an injection with water (a placebo) and did the same attention tests. On each test day, they were unaware of which injection they had received. Their inflammation state was measured by analyzing blood taken on each day.

The tests used in the study assessed three separate attention processes, each involving distinct parts of the brain. These processes are: “alerting” which involves reaching and maintaining an alert state; “orienting” which involves selecting and prioritizing useful sensory information; and “executive control” used to resolving what to pay attention to when available information is conflicting.

The results showed that inflammation specifically affected brain activity related to staying alert, while the other attention processes appeared unaffected by inflammation.

This shows a red brain

“These results show quite clearly that there’s a very specific part of the brain network that’s affected by inflammation,” says Dr Mazaheri. “This could explain ‘brain fog’.”

Professor Raymond says,

“This research finding is a major step forward in understanding the links between physical, cognitive, and mental health and tells us that even the mildest of illnesses may reduce alertness.”

Dr Leonie Balter the first author of the study which was completed as part of her PhD, concluded:

“Getting a better understanding of the relationships between inflammation and brain function will help us investigate other ways to treat some of these conditions. For example, further research might show that patients with conditions associated with chronic inflammation, such as obesity, kidney disease or Alzheimer’s, could benefit from taking anti-inflammatory drugs to help preserve or improve cognitive function.”

“Furthermore, subtle changes in brain function may be used as an early marker cognitive deterioration in patients with inflammatory diseases.”

The next step for the team will be to test the effects of inflammation on other areas of brain function such as memory.

ABOUT THIS NEUROSCIENCE RESEARCH ARTICLE

Source:
University of Birmingham
Media Contacts:
Beck Lockwood – University of Birmingham
Image Source:
The image is in the public domain.

Original Research: Open access
“Selective effects of acute low-grade inflammation on human visual attention”. Ali Mazaheri et al.
NeuroImage doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2019.116098.

Abstract

Selective effects of acute low-grade inflammation on human visual attention

Illness is often accompanied by perceived cognitive sluggishness, a symptom that may stem from immune system activation. The current study used electroencephalography (EEG) to assess how inflammation affected three different distinct attentional processes: alerting, orienting and executive control. In a double-blinded placebo-controlled within-subjects design (20 healthy males, mean age = 24.5, SD = 3.4), Salmonella typhoid vaccination (0.025 mg; Typhim Vi, Sanofi Pasteur) was used to induce transient mild inflammation, while a saline injection served as a placebo-control. Participants completed the Attention Network Test with concurrent EEG recorded 6 h post-injection. Analyses focused on behavioral task performance and on modulation of oscillatory EEG activity in the alpha band (9–12 Hz) for alerting as well as orienting attention and frontal theta band (4–8 Hz) for executive control. Vaccination induced mild systemic inflammation, as assessed by interleukin-6 (IL-6) levels. While no behavioral task performance differences between the inflammation and placebo condition were evident, inflammation caused significant alterations to task-related brain activity. Specifically, inflammation produced greater cue-induced suppression of alpha power in the alerting aspect of attention and individual variation in the inflammatory response was significantly correlated with the degree of alpha power suppression. Notably, inflammation did not affect orienting (i.e., alpha lateralization) or executive control (i.e., frontal theta activity). These results reveal a unique neurophysiological sensitivity to acute mild inflammation of the neural network that underpins attentional alerting functions. Observed in the absence of performance decrements, these novel findings suggest that acute inflammation requires individuals to exert greater cognitive effort when preparing for a task in order to maintain adequate behavioral performance.

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**Comment**

As most of you are aware, Lyme/MSIDS patients suffer with infection, inflammation, insomnia, and quite often – brain fog. Finding successful ways of treating each of these issues is part of treatment success.  Personally, I’ve found a number of things to help with these issues.  One is an inexpensive supplement called MSM:  https://madisonarealymesupportgroup.com/2018/03/02/dmso-msm-for-lyme-msids/  Another is called systemic or proteolytic enzymes:  https://madisonarealymesupportgroup.com/2016/04/22/systemic-enzymes/ and https://madisonarealymesupportgroup.com/2018/03/05/how-proteolytic-enzymes-may-help-lyme-msids/.  Even though I am done with Lyme/MSIDS treatment, I still take both substances as they do so many good things for the body including:

  • Control inflammation throughout the body, not just in your joints.
  • Repair and rebuild the cardiovascular system.
  • Optimize blood flow & cleanses blood of debris
  • Prevent and dissolve blood clots by dissolving fibrin
  • Dissolve plaque in your arteries and dental plaque in your mouth.
  • Clean up your immune system.
  • Minimize the impact of allergies but breaking down and removing circulating immune complexes.
  • Improve the ability to exercise and speed up recovery times.
  • Kill bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens.
  • Accelerate recovery from sprains, strains, fractures, bruises & surgery
  • Help with arthritis
  • Help with detoxification
  • Improve body alkalinity
  • Help with sinusitis and asthma
  • Help reduce MS symptoms

Another supplement I’ve taken for years is melatonin, which according to Dr. Mercola, also reduces inflammation and is neuroprotective by strengthening the blood-brain barrier.

https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2019/11/18/melatonin-reduces-inflammation

Melatonin Has Anti-Inflammatory and Metabolic Effects

Analysis by Dr. Joseph Mercola
melatonin benefits

STORY AT-A-GLANCE

  • Melatonin is responsible for your sleep/wake cycle and it plays an important role in fighting inflammation and weight gain
  • It affects your immune system, gut health, pain level, blood pressure and recovery from stroke and traumatic brain injury
  • You can naturally boost your melatonin levels by getting at least 15 minutes of sun exposure in the morning, among other ways
  • Melatonin has a safe track record with few adverse reactions, but its long-term effects are unknown; supplementation may not be safe for those taking certain medications or dealing with specific health conditions

Your body is a complex organism requiring quality sleep to function optimally. Your body’s circadian rhythms are a combination of biological clocks regulating everything from your metabolism to psychological functioning. One sure way to cause dysregulation of your biological clock is to skimp on sleep.

Although you have a master clock in your brain to synchronize bodily functions, every organ and cell has its own biological clock as well. In a stunning discovery published in 2017, researchers found half your genes are controlled by circadian rhythms that turn them on and off in a cyclical wave.

The whole-body circadian rhythm is largely dictated by your pineal gland, which is responsible for secreting melatonin or N-acetyl-5-methoxytryptamine. This hormone normalizes your circadian rhythm as it signals your body it’s time for sleep. The production of melatonin will depend on how much and when your body absorbs light.

The gland is located near the center of your brain and usually starts secreting melatonin near 9 p.m. Without an adequate amount of sleep and exposure to sunlight, your levels will naturally drop. Researchers have found an association between melatonin and rising levels of inflammation.

Melatonin Reduced Inflammation and Obesity Markers in Mice

In a combined effort, scientists from universities in Brazil and Italy1 sought to identify the role melatonin may have in improving disorders commonly found in those who are obese. The researchers used mice who were induced to become obese and treated them for 10 weeks with melatonin.

The objective was to determine if the hormone could effectively delay or block the damage from eating too much. The researchers found multiple results supporting their theory that melatonin supplementation could have a significant effect on the animals, including reducing triglyceride levels and total and LDL cholesterol levels.

They also found that supplementation prevented larger weight gain by reducing the formation of fat tissue and increasing the capacity to break down white fat. This combination of effects helped to prevent the hypertrophy of fat cells caused by excessive eating.

Additionally, the researchers noted the supplementation reduced a characteristic inflammatory process found in obese subjects where macrophages infiltrate adipose tissue. The mice also experienced a reduction in inflammatory related factors through a decrease in gene expression.

Overall, at the end of the 10-week trial, the group of mice eating an excessive amount without melatonin gained 49% body mass over the control group that ate a normal diet. The group of mice supplemented with melatonin increased their body mass 28% over the control group, but 13% lower than the group eating excess food without melatonin.

The researchers believe the data suggest that melatonin could be considered as a therapeutic agent to help mitigate the metabolic and inflammatory conditions triggered in those who are obese.

The Importance of Melatonin to Sleep/Wake Cycles

As with many hormones and chemicals in the body, melatonin has more than one function. The best known role it plays is in controlling your sleep/wake cycle. This well-publicized function may be due to the fact that sleep plays a significant role in your overall physical and mental health.

An estimated 40% of Americans are sleep deprived every day, with many people getting less than 5 hours of sleep per night. Millions struggle to fall asleep and others find it challenging to stay asleep. Some wake up too early in the morning.

There are a number of hazards associated with sleep deprivation; you can read about these in my past article, “Nobel Prize-Winning Science Highlights Importance of Good Sleep for Health.”

Melatonin is a marker your body uses to influence what time of day or night it thinks it is. This happens regardless of the actual time. During a normal night of sleep, levels stay elevated for about 12 hours. As the sun rises, the pineal gland reduces production until the level in your blood is hardly measurable.

If you experience disruption to your circadian rhythms, your body will produce less melatonin and you will experience poor quality sleep. This can happen to those who work the night shift, have jet lag or are exposed to light during the night.

Melatonin Benefits More Than Sleep

A deficiency in this hormone may come with profound biological risks, such as potentially having higher levels of inflammation, a weaker immune system and an increased chance of developing cancer. The hormone interacts with receptor proteins that help control the different stages of sleep and are present in other organs and immune cells.2,3

Additionally, melatonin is a potent antioxidant that can raise the levels of other antioxidants, such as glutathione. Melatonin plays a role in the health and survival of mitochondria,4 your body’s powerhouse, where energy production takes place at a cellular level.

Melatonin has shown some promise for pain control in those suffering from endometriosis. In one study,5 10 mg per day decreased pain by 39.8% and dysmenorrhea by 38.01%. Topical application may help prevent sunburn,6 while oral supplementation was 150 times more effective at treating tinnitus as compared to other drugs. Melatonin may also play a protective role in:7

Delayed sleep phase syndrome Strengthening the blood-brain barrier Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
Reducing transplant complications Recovery from stroke and traumatic brain injury Diabetes
Vision and eye health Parkinson’s disease Thrombocytopenia
Gut health Jet lag Blood pressure and heart health
Acid reflux Aging Fertility

Boost Your Melatonin Naturally

Melatonin does come in supplemental form, but it’s also possible to raise your levels naturally. Researchers recognize nonpharmacological approaches to insomnia include better sleep hygiene, physical exercise and mindfulness meditation.

It makes sense to engage in simple habits to increase your natural production and improve your overall health and sleep without adding supplements. Four simple strategies include:

Sunshine during the morning — Melatonin is affected by your exposure to light and dark. When it’s light, production of melatonin naturally drops. Getting at least 15 minutes of sunlight in the morning hours helps to regulate the production of melatonin, dropping it to normal daytime levels, so you feel awake during the day and sleep better at night.

Sleep in the dark — Your body produces and secretes melatonin in the dark, helping you to go to sleep and stay asleep. Sleeping in a completely darkened room, without lights from alarm clocks, televisions or other sources will improve your sleep quality.

If you get up during the night to use the bathroom, it’s important to keep the lights off so you don’t shut off your production of melatonin. Also, wear blue-light blocking glasses after sunset to avoid blue-light exposure.

Lower your stress level and your cortisol level — The release of melatonin is dependent on the release of another hormone, norepinephrine. Excess stress and the resulting release of cortisol inhibits the release of norepinephrine, and therefore the release of melatonin. Stress-reducing strategies you may find helpful before bed include yoga, stretching, meditation and prayer.

Increase foods high in magnesium — Magnesium plays a role in reducing brain activity at night, helping you to relax and fall asleep more easily. It works in tandem with melatonin. Foods containing higher levels of magnesium include almonds, avocados, pumpkin seeds and green, leafy vegetables.

Supplementation and Potential Negative Effects

The beneficial effects associated with melatonin suggest it may primarily have a function as an antioxidant. In speaking with Time magazine, Helen Burgess, co-director of the Sleep and Circadian Research Laboratory at the University of Michigan, said:8

“Some of the emerging science is showing that in people with higher levels of inflammation — which could be because they’re obese, or because they’re in the [intensive care unit] for a transplant — melatonin in the range of 6 mg to 10 mg may decrease markers of inflammation.”

The authors of past studies have associated a deficiency in melatonin with obesity. It also may address inflammation, as supplementation has been associated with lowering oxidative stress and regulating adipokines involved in the inflammatory process. While believed to be relatively safe for up to 18 months, the long-term effects are largely unknown.

Possible negative interactions have been suggested for those with epilepsy or those taking Warfarin, a blood thinner. Melatonin is sometimes used in children to benefit those with sleep disorders, but long-term effects in children are also unknown. There has been some research suggesting that using melatonin during puberty may interfere with natural production of the hormone.

Researchers leading one study cautioned that supplementation should be limited in those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. They suggest considering the supplement only for those who also have chronic insomnia. It’s crucial to remember that melatonin is a hormone, and long-term supplementation with hormones can have unknown effects on the body.

In addition to the strategies listed above to boost your natural production, you may benefit from sleep habits information in my past article, “Top 33 Tips to Optimize Your Sleep Routine.”

 

 

 

 

 

5 Effects of Stress on the Mind and Body & 10 Tips to Reduce Stress

https://www.holtorfmed.com/5-effects-of-stress-on-mind-body/?

5 Effects of Stress on the Mind and Body + 10 Tips to Reduce Stress

5 Effects of Stress on the Mind and Body + 10 Tips to Reduce Stress
We all hear about stress these days and how bad it is for our health. Many people consider stress a part of modern life and learn to live with it, but stress is not normal and it can be overcome! You just need to learn how.

Originally Posted November 2016
Updated October 2019

Knowing the far-reaching effects of stress, not only on our psychological well-being, but also on our entire bodies, can help us remember to prioritize stress management and other self-care practices.

Stress, Cortisol, and Adrenals

You may have heard these terms used together, but are not sure how they are connected. Stress is any kind of outside factor that our body perceives as a threat to our safety or well-being. Many people think this only refers to emotional stress or trauma, but it also includes physiological stress on the body, such as infection, traumatic injury, or a poor diet. Stress can also include environmental factors like exposure to chemicals and other toxins.

Cortisol is one of the hormones that our body releases in response to stress. It is probably the one most commonly associated with stress, even though there are others involved.

The adrenals are two small glands located just above the kidneys that produce and release cortisol and other hormones into the bloodstream – learn everything you need to know about adrenals here. One of the bodily processes that occurs during acute stress is often referred to as “fight or flight.” It is the defense mechanism that kicks in when we are in danger – or think we are. In addition to the adrenals pumping out more hormones, bodily functions that are unnecessary in the moment (such as digestion), are put on hold to preserve energy for the “fight or flight.”

While this can be a very useful and sometimes life-saving response to a threat, problems can begin to occur if stress becomes frequent or chronic. As the adrenal glands become over-worked, they eventually can’t keep up with the body’s demands for the various hormones they’re responsible for.

How Stress Affects the Body

Here are a few of the major ways the mind and body are affected by chronic stress.

Mood

The adrenal glands produce more than just cortisol. They also produce neurotransmitters such as adrenaline (epinephrine), norepinephrine, and dopamine. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that help regulate things like mood, performance, weight, pain perception, and sleep. Depending on the degree to which the adrenals have been affected, the neurotransmitters become unbalanced in various ways.

Let’s take dopamine, for example. If dopamine is too high, someone may experience anxiety, hyperactivity, or paranoia. If someone has low dopamine, it can lead to addiction, cravings, or depression.

Hormones

In addition to neurotransmitters and cortisol, the adrenals also produce small amounts of the sex hormones, estrogen and testosterone (and their precursors). Along with balancing out hormones based on a person’s gender, sex hormones also help keep the negative effects of too much cortisol in check, acting as an antioxidant. But once the adrenals become chronically over-worked, more and more of the precursor materials (used to make sex hormones) get diverted to make cortisol, resulting in a decrease in sex hormones.

This results in lowered libido and other symptoms related to hormonal imbalances, such as premenstrual syndrome in women or erectile dysfunction in men.

Blood Sugar Regulation

When cortisol is released, the hormone glucagon is signaled and insulin is suppressed. Glucagon controls glucose storage in the liver so that glucose can be released into the blood. Insulin is the hormone that regulates the amount of glucose being taken from the bloodstream into the cells.

During chronic stress, the cells start to become resistant to insulin, leaving blood glucose levels elevated. This is why insulin resistance is the precursor to type II diabetes.

A few symptoms of insulin resistance include inability to lose weight, high cholesterol and triglycerides, cognitive dysfunction, and elevated blood glucose or insulin levels.

Learn more about insulin resistance here.

Thyroid

The adrenal glands are part of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal-thyroid-axis (HPAT), sometimes just referred to as the HPA-axis. Here’s where the thyroid comes into play.

The adrenals are regulated by the hypothalamus and pituitary glands. When cortisol is released under stress, the hypothalamus and pituitary, which work in a feedback loop with cortisol, slow down their production of hormones. Unfortunately, this also slows down thyroid function since the hypothalamus and pituitary regulate thyroid hormones as well.

Stress can also negatively affect the enzyme that converts inactive thyroid hormone (T4) to active thyroid hormone (T3). There are a few other mechanisms involved in the stress/thyroid dysfunction connection as well. Hypothyroid symptoms such as cold extremities, dry skin, depression, and constipation often indicate sub-optimal adrenal function. Most likely, thyroid treatment will be less effective if the adrenals are not addressed as well.

Learn more about the adrenal-thyroid connection here.

Immunity

Stress triggers inflammation. Our body knows that chronic inflammation is damaging, so it compensates by slowing down the immune system in order to keep the inflammation in check. The immune system is also directly suppressed during stress since it is one of those “unnecessary” functions when we’re in “fight or flight” mode. This also affects thyroid health since a suppressed immune system can activate viruses capable of attacking and damaging the thyroid.

As you can see, so many functions in the body are interconnected and related back to adrenal function and the stress response.

10 Tips to Reduce Stress and Improve Your Health

This is only a brief overview of the effects of stress on the body. Chronic stress has also been linked to cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and cancer. It is estimated that as much of 80% of the population has weakened adrenal function.

Since there are different stages of adrenal dysfunction that require different treatments, it is a good idea to seek out a knowledgeable health care provider who can test your adrenal function and related hormones. Since many doctors only recognize adrenal disorders such as Cushing’s and Addison’s disease, you may need to search someone out who takes a more in-depth look at adrenal function using functional tests such as a salivary cortisol test.

There are some things you can do to help reduce stress which include:

Take Control of Your Thoughts

Many people have tons of negative thoughts in their head on a daily basis, without even being aware of it. This creates a stressful state and anxiety that keeps fueling your hormonal imbalances. A technique known as “thought‐stopping” can help you halt negative, obsessive thoughts.

The first step is to literally call a halt to this train of thought (like saying the word “Stop!” out loud or to yourself). Next, choose a positive thought on which you’ll focus instead. This way you’re swapping a negative, stress‐inducing thought for a positive one. To increase emotional comfort, it’s imperative to practice reassuring and realistic self‐talk (saying something along the lines of, “I am feeling anxious / irritable now, but I have the power to calm myself down.”).

Apply Self-Soothing Techniques

There are many physiological changes that are triggered, when we are faced with a stressful situation. Our breathing quickens, adrenaline is secreted, and our heart begins to race. This is called the fight or flight response – a natural survival mechanism intended to help us escape danger. However, when the threat is imagined, the fight/flight response is unnecessary and damaging to your health. Many people with chronic stress remain blocked in this state of alert, without being able to snap out of it.

Luckily, there are techniques you can learn to reduce your response to stress, like deep breathing techniques, muscle relaxation exercises and meditation. Deep breathing can help with a rapid heart beat. The most commonly utilized strategy is breathing by contracting the diaphragm, a horizontal muscle in the chest located just above the stomach cavity.

Using muscle relaxation exercises you can induce a relaxed state and physical comfort, by tightening and releasing muscles, beginning with the largest muscle group. Meditation is also a powerful way to bring back a peaceful state to your body and clearing up your mind from erratic and negative thoughts.

Check Your Diet

What does stress have to do with eating? A whole lot! What we eat and drink largely impacts our emotional state. Stimulating foods and drinks like coffee, sodas, chocolate, and alcohol can cause anxiety, trigger panic attacks, and increase feelings of nervousness and irritability, as well as trembling and shaking. Deciding to go “cold turkey” by abruptly eliminating caffeine is not always recommended since it can lead to withdrawal symptoms. You might experience headaches, restlessness, and irritability. So it’s better to decrease caffeine consumption gradually by replacing it with tea for example.

Regular alcohol consumption can also generate a lot of biochemical imbalances in your body, like blood sugar dysregulation, liver problems and dehydration, which add to the stress burden your body needs to handle.

Get Moving

By choosing your appropriate exercise routine you can reduce stress, improve mood, enhance self-esteem, and increase energy levels. Be careful not to over exercise, which can actually contribute to your stress level.

It’s a known fact that during exercise, the body releases chemicals called endorphins and norepinephrine, which interact with receptors in the brain. These chemicals determine euphoric feelings, reduction in physical pain and the ability to deal with stress more efficiently.

Get More Sleep

Losing just a few hours of sleep increases feelings of stress, anger, sadness, and exhaustion. It’s a vicious cycle since because of stress you might not be able to fall and stay asleep, but lack of sleep is also generating stress.

So try to get a solid seven to eight hours of sleep a night, and don’t feel bad about also adding a nap in the afternoon on days when you’re feeling especially drained. Go to sleep before 10 – 11 PM and don’t use the computer or watch TV before it, since these can interfere with your melatonin production and make it harder to fall and stay asleep.

Listen to Music

By choosing a type of relaxing music which you prefer, you can help the body and mind dissipate stress. Research has shown that classical music may help you unwind and improve your mood. You can also experience therapeutic CDs of “binaural beats,” which are meant to calm the mind and body and where different frequencies call forth different moods.

Begin and End the Day Right

In the morning, in order to make intelligent use of your energy for the day, take some time to reflect, meditate, read or better yet take a nature walk, away from computer and TV. You could do the same in the evening, or just simply delight in the rare pleasure of doing nothing. These can ease the stress of too much computer or office time, counteract overstimulation and boost your mood.

Doing Something Fun

Doing something fun always gets postponed due to the avalanche of responsibilities we have during the day. But without a balance in your life, frustration and so stress might arise. It’s been found that creating artwork, crafts or making time for a hobby helps to relax, can be very stress-reducing and takes your focus away from your own thoughts and worries.

Get a Massage

Massage is a great way to loosen the muscles that are habitually affected by stress. Think about all the frowning and scrunching of your face muscles and how relaxing it is to work on these! Essential oils can calm, center, and energize you by reducing the effects of stress and mental fatigue. You can give yourself a massage, while taking small breaks from your work, or you could have a professional massage to benefit your whole body.

Include Adaptogens

A class of herbs called adaptogens help your body to cope more effectively with the demands and stress of everyday life. They provide a sustained sense of calm, and while they increase energy, with the exception of Chinese ginseng, they are non-stimulating. Some of the most used adaptogens are: ashwagandha, rhodiola, holy basil, schisandra, shatavari, eleuthero.

Learn more about adaptogens here.

Lowering Stress and Improving Adrenal Function

Because of the great impact stress can have on overall health and well-being, it’s important to implement stress-reducing habits. Additionally, partnering with a knowledgeable physician to help address any underlying adrenal fatigue can prove very beneficial. Your mood, hormones, thyroid, blood sugar, and immune system (among other things) will be much healthier for it!

At Holtorf Medical Group, our physicians are trained to utilize cutting-edge testing innovative treatments to design a treatment protocol that is personalized to you. If you are experiencing symptoms of adrenal fatigue, give us a call at 877-508-1177 to see how we can help you!

References

1. NIH. “5 Things You Should Know About Stress.” National Institute of Mental Health.
2. Mayo Clinic Staff “Chronic stress puts your health at risk.” Mayo Clinic.
3. APA Staff. “Stress effects on the body.” American Psychological Association.
4. Dartmouth Undergraduate Journal of Science. “The Physiology of stress: Cortisol and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis.”https://sites.dartmouth.edu/dujs/2011/02/03/the-physiology-of-stress-cortisol-and-the-hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal-axis/
5. Harvard Health. “Understanding the stress response.” Harvard Health Publishing – Harvard Medical School.
6. Mayo Clinic Staff. “Stress symptoms: Effects on your body and behavior.” Mayo Clinic.
7. Josh Axe, DC, DMN, CNS. “7 Adaptogenic Herbs or Adaptogens that Help Reduce Stress.” Dr. Axe.

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**Comment**

This article is one of the best articles I’ve read on how stress affects the body and what you can do about it.

Lyme/MSIDS patients are in a war of epic proportions where nearly every single thing in their bodies is haywire. We need to do all within out power to reduce that stress.

  • The most important step is effective treatment for the infection(s), which is simply in a word antimicrobials. An example:  https://madisonarealymesupportgroup.com/2016/02/13/lyme-disease-treatment/
  • The next step is precisely what this article recommends – partnering with an experienced practitioner who will help you uncover your specific imbalances.  This looks differently on everyone but typically involves the thyroid and other hormone and mineral imbalances. I know of one patient who felt nearly well just by addressing the thyroid. People often don’t understand that the thyroid is the body’s thermostat and that if you have hypothyroidism (low amounts of thyroid hormone) your body’s temperature will be low allowing infections to proliferate. Address the thyroid and you’ve effectively made it tougher for pathogens to survive.
  • Taking appropriate supplements. Patients often complain about their Lyme literate doctor requiring them to take copious amounts of supplements. Unfortunately, they are usually right because of damage & imbalances caused by the infection(s).  The goal; however, is to only take what is required. 
  • Diet is key.  This too is very individual, with some only improving by eliminating gluten, dairy, and all sugars.  https://draxe.com/nutrition/elimination-diet/ This step often turns patients around entirely. Remember – food is medicine.
  • All the ideas in the article are very helpful and include listening to calming music.The first thing I do in the morning is turn on a relaxing music channel on Pandora. An example would be the George Winston channel.  For more on binaural beats: https://www.binauralbeatsmeditation.com/the-science/
  •  Binaural Beat demonstration. You need ear phones to listen.
  • If you prefer music: 
  • Regarding essential oil diffusinghttps://thetruthaboutcancer.com/diffusing-essential-oils/  After I turn Pandora on, I set up my essential oil diffuser with whatever blend I’m in the mood for. For a relaxing bedtime blend called “Counting Sheep”:  9 drops lavender, 4 chamomile, 2 frankincense, 2 bergamot. This would be for a large room. Divide in half for a small bedroom.  For a grounding smell try “Peace & Harmony”: 4 drops patchouli, 4 vanilla, 3 orange. 
  • Doing something fun seems frivolous to many patients but is so important. Unfortunately with Lyme/MSIDS, we tend to revolve around our illness.  Doing something to break away from this is so important for our mental health. Whether you enroll in an art class or just buy Play dough to mess around with at home – do it. I’ve found plants relax me. My house has turned into a literal green house through the years.  I love dirt!  Another thing you could simply incorporate into your habits is coloringhttps://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/modern-mentality/201803/are-adult-coloring-books-actually-helpful
  • Word of warning: It is often the case that when initially starting Lyme/MSIDS treatment patients are extremely sensitive to everything including light, sound, and smells. It’s always important you listen to YOUR body and although the suggestions in this article are good, they may not be good for you at the moment. If you are sensitive it’s a sure sign your body is seriously fighting a war and you need to assist it in anyway you can and often that means sunglasses even in the daytime, and eliminating ALL smells and sounds. The goal is to move past and heal from sensitivities so you can enjoy the suggestions listed here.
  • Final note and the best advice I was given: “Don’t be depressed about feeling depressed.”  I heard this from someone I contacted online who reached the other side of health who was willing to advise me in my desperation upon starting treatment and feeling so incredibly lousy. This advice helped me more than many things as there are some seriously dark days in treatment where you think dying would just be easier. Treating for this monster is unlike anything you’ve ever done before and will require serious dedication on your part. I encourage you to find a local support group for support and ideas on your journey.
Some of the best help through the years for me has come directly from patients.