Natural Antidepressant Combinations I Recommend

Despite the fact that I was trained in the traditional ways of medicine, I prefer to utilize natural supplements and foods to treat conditions, only turning to prescription medications as a last resort for my patients. I have a particular aversion to prescribing antidepressant medications, and honestly believe that such meds only serve as a bandage for the root cause, which almost invariably is a combination of hormonal imbalance and malnutrition.

When a patient comes to me complaining of symptoms of depression, I always recommend the following three supplements as part of the patient’s daily regimen:

Vitamin D
Folate 800 mcg
B-Complex

Once my patients are on this daily regimen for a few weeks, I have them visit for a follow-up to see if their symptoms have improved. If the improvement is marginal, I add SAMe and 5-HTP to the regimen, both of which are great for treating pain issues. As the patient treatment progresses, I order hormonal assays, checking the thyroid, adrenal glands, DHEA, IGF-1, testosterone, progesterone, and estradiol. If anything is off balance (and in most cases, something is), I will treat the imbalance directly with organ support compounds and bioidentical hormone replacement therapy.

In addition to natural supplements, I also recommend that patients consume whole foods, and avoid processed foods at all costs. I encourage them to find balance in their daily lives, and often demonstrate breathing exercises or discuss meditation with them. I also remind them to stop and enjoy what they have in their lives, to be grateful for what they have instead of dwelling on what they lack.

Rather than turn to SSRI’s, please consider the natural approach first if you are dealing with depression!

If you are in the Los Angeles area, and you would like to schedule an exam, please call Urban Med at (213) 406-8055 to make an appointment.

How To Keep Cool At Night

The one part about summer which I never miss is the endless string of hot nights which keep me tossing and turning. In an effort to keep the ambient temperature as comfortable as possible while I slumber, I have tried many different methods to cool down, and some still do the trick quite nicely. Thankfully, the mercury should start dropping soon, and the blazing hot nights will abate.

Here’s what has worked nicely for me in my quest for a cool sleeping environment:

1. Central A/C is always set for a certain temperature. We have it set at 77 degrees because at 78 degrees or higher, the entire household (there are four of us) bakes like incubating baby chicks.

2. The ceiling fan in my bedroom is always on. There’s nothing I can do about the fan placement, and often lament the fact that the fan is positioned over the foot of my bed instead of over my head, but the bedroom is huge. If I owned the place I live in, I would install three ceiling fans in line so that I could stay cool in bed, sitting in front of the television, or sitting at my desk on the other side of the room.

3. I have two sleek tabletop fans on my nightstands which are wonderful on hot nights. They have a slim profile, and are relatively quiet.

4. I always use 100% Egyptian cotton sheets, which have more of a tendency to stay cool than sheets which are a lower thread count or made of synthetic materials.

5. I have a cooling mattress pad on my mattress. The brand I have, PureCare Frio 11 Inch Cooling Mattress Protector, is acceptable but not great.

Frio Cooling Mattress Pad

Several other bloggers have recommended the Slumber Cloud Nacreous Mattress Pad which is available at slumbercloud.com, and I have a sneaking suspicion that it does a better job of cooling than the Frio.

6. When I was dealing with the worst of my perimenopausal nights sweats, I would place an ice cold gel pack between my shoulder blades and sleep on my back so that I could maximize the surface area which came into contact with the pack. After two summers of using gel packs on a nightly basis, I am thrilled that I haven’t had to resort to such craziness this summer.

7. On the hottest summer nights, I will take a tepid shower before retiring. The shower ritual cools core body temperature and primes the body for more restful sleep.

8. I will often kick a foot or an entire leg out from under the covers to cool down. This has been scientifically proven to decrease core body temperature. Some researchers even recommend that people sleep with their feet completely unencumbered by socks or bedding.

What did NOT work for me was a bed fan. I had seen the BedJet Climate Comfort Cooling Fan and was intrigued by it, but the steep price ($300 and up) caused me to lose interest quickly. When I learned that there was a Brookstone version of the bed fan, and that it was $99, I quickly purchased it, only to be so disappointed by the performance that I returned it. Even with the lightweight sheets I have on the bed and a simple coverlet (no blanket, no heavy comforter), and with the fan cranked up to the maximum setting, the device spewed out just enough air power to keep the toes of one foot cool.

I am intrigued by the Breezy Buddy fan-cooled pillow and wish I had known about this product when I was in the throes of hormonal night sweats. However, I no longer need such a device.

If you are looking for ways to cool down your bedroom, you might want to try a few of the suggestions I have discussed here. Here’s to a restful and cool night’s sleep!

Sit Up Straight!

If you have a tendency to slouch in your seat, you need to pay attention! Poor posture has detrimental effects not only on the body, but also on one’s mood and general attitude.

Poor posture causes muscles in our neck and upper back to become overstretched, while causing other neck muscles and muscles in our torso and between our ribs to become cramped and overstimulated. The muscles in our chest become dominant, and pull our shoulders and upper arms inward and forward when we habitually adopt a stooped posture. This position puts a tremendous load on the diaphragm, and respiration suffers as a result. Even digestion becomes sluggish because the body cannot properly oxygenate and blood cannot circulate as well.

Poor posture can negatively impact your emotional state and confidence, not to mention how others perceive you. If you’re slouching right now, think of how you feel emotionally, mentally. Are you down, depressed? Now sit up straight and take a couple of nice, deep breaths. You should notice an immediate shift in attitude and mood.

Proper spinal alignment also has a positive effect on hormone levels. One Harvard study revealed that an erect posture, with shoulders back and spines nice and straight correlated with a 20 percent increase in testosterone levels and a 25 percent decrease in cortisol levels, while subjects who slouched experienced a 10 percent decrease in circulating testosterone levels and a 15 increase in cortisol.

Lastly, the way you carry yourself has immense bearing on how others perceive you. If you meet someone whose shoulders are pulled forward, your impression may be that the person isn’t the most motivated or energetic you’ve met. Yet if that person had a nice upright stance, with shoulders pulled down and back, your impression would probably be very different.

With some conscious effort, you can correct a hunched posture. Try this stretch at least a couple of times each day, and you will slowly begin to notice a correction in your posture. This is great for resetting the brain and creating more awareness of how you carry your body throughout the day.


AGAINST THE WALL

Stand with your back to a wall, feet together with heels touching wall, and arms hanging at your sides. Relax your shoulders, then pull them back so that they make contact with the wall. Stand in this position for 30 to 60 seconds, taking slow, deep breaths.
When you are ready to step away from the wall, keep your shoulders in the same position. Be aware of how you are breathing, and how your back feels when your shoulders are kept back
.

poor-posture

Progesterone and Stress

We all know that constant stress can play havoc with our health and well being. In this post I will focus on the effects of excessive stress on progesterone levels.

Progesterone is produced in the ovaries, the adrenal glands, and in the placentas of pregnant women. It has a calming effect, is a natural diuretic, regulates menstrual cycles, and prepares the body for conception and pregnancy. Some women can experience excessive levels of progesterone, which usually produces symptoms of PMS, but in general, progesterone is a vital and beneficial hormone.

Let’s examine what happens to progesterone if you are a woman under constant and chronic stress. When the body is pummeled with endless stress, the adrenal glands simply cannot keep up with the demand for more cortisol, so they convert more pregnenolone into cortisol to make up for the deficit. However, this has devastating effects on progesterone levels, since progesterone is also synthesized from pregnenolone. Basically, a woman who deals with excessive amounts of stress not only overtaxes her adrenal glands, but progesterone concentration also drops to a precipitously low level. So that calming, diuretic effect of progesterone falls away, and menstrual cycles become erratic or periods cease altogether. Sounds like fun, huh?

I cam tell you that running on an empty tank of progesterone is no fun at all. You retain water, you get irritable and cranky, and you lose your ability to navigate calmly through stressful situations. If you depend on a regular menstrual cycle as a reassurance that all is right with the world, then living with the mystery of whether or when you might have a period can be maddening. I found out during perimenopause that I actually WANTED a period, and I thought I would never feel that way.

I began retaining water like crazy after attaining IFBB Pro Status last July, and I knew something just wasn’t right. I didn’t feel like I was in my own body, as strange as it sounds. I began flailing, and went through a rebound which was disturbing and unexpected. My emotional barometer was all over the place, and I couldn’t get out of the funk that I was in. Gaining eight pounds (which is considerable for me), most of which was water weight, made me even more depressed.

Another completely irritating set of symptoms which suddenly popped up at the end of January 2015, and which persisted every single night is that I would wake up at around 4 a.m., completely drenched in sweat and with a sensation which could best be described as being lit on fire from the inside. I would throw the covers off and quickly disrobe, then rather quickly fall asleep, only to awaken about 30 minutes later, shivering and pulling the covers over me.

The nightmare finally subsided to a great extent once I began replenishing my body with bioidentical progesterone in late February 2015. Though I still retained a bit of water for several months, my weight returned to a reasonable 120 pounds, versus the 125 I had been at in the Fall of 2014, my hot and cold episodes subsided, I felt much calmer, and more like myself. Now that I have been on bioidentical progesterone for two years, I have maintained balance and feel infinitely better.

Had I removed the stressors that I had some control over, I am firmly convinced I would not have bottomed out with my progesterone levels like I did. Even if I had engaged in meditation more regularly a couple of years ago, I think I could have saved my progesterone levels from bottoming out. Trust me when I say that progesterone depletion can be incredibly disruptive and upsetting. And don’t think for a second that this is only a problem which women past the age of 45 deal with. I have come across female patients as young as 32 who had almost no progesterone in their lab tests.

If you do one thing to improve your health, please reduce your stress! You can do this by removing the stressors that you have some control over, performing breathing exercises, tai chi, yoga, and meditation, enjoy time with friends, loved ones and pets more often, and letting go of anxiety and worry.

Waves In My Hair

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From the time I was an infant, I always had very straight hair, and like many girls with straight locks, I always longed for waves. My desire for beachy waves was so pronounced that I spent my twenties and thirties habitually swirling my hair into an up-do with a clip while it dried in hopes that waves would form and remain there. However, because my hair is so thick and heavy, the sheer heft would uncoil my attempt at making soft curls, leaving me with the straight hair my DNA locked me into.

My hair became even thicker after I began competing in 2009. While many other women my age were lamenting the loss of their locks, I experienced such a surge in fullness that for about a year, I shaved the nape of my neck to lessen the mass of hair I had. A lot of it had to do with the increased protein intake (up to 180 grams a day at one point) which I had to incorporate into my regimen while I prepped for competitions. My hair also grew much more rapidly, and in 2010, my hair grew ten inches in eleven months. How do I know this? Because the area I had shaven grew a full eleven inches in that span of time, and the overall length of my hair kept me visiting my hairstylist for trims every six weeks.

Then I entered peri-menopause. What a joyous time, when a commercial can send you into a fit of tears, layering clothing becomes essential because of the hot flashes and night sweats, and your skin decides that it no longer wants to fight against the pull of gravity. About a year after I began sailing on the rocky seas of menopause, I had a haircut by an amazing stylist who remains my regular stylist to this day.

By some very odd coincidence, I noticed a pronounced wave throughout my hair when I washed my hair several days later. I thought perhaps I hadn’t washed out the styling products completely, but my hair began to look wavier and wavier with every subsequent wash. This persisted for over a year, and continued to perplex and annoy me. I went from never styling my hair, to developing a blow-drying and flat-ironing regimen which I still haven’t perfected, even to this day.

The rogue waves in my hair don’t seem to have rhyme or reason either. The waves on the right side of my head which frame my face are much wavier than on the left side, and for whatever bizarre reason, the right side is resistant to my efforts to obliterate the kinks with a flat-iron, even if I treat small sections and repeatedly iron the sections.

The sudden nature of the change in my hair texture was alarming. I remember hearing women tell tales, which I figured were tall tales, about how the texture of their hair changed overnight. And here I experienced the exact thing.

While hormones play a large role in hair texture (thyroid, progesterone, estrogen, testosterone), it can be rather strange to wake up with waves you never had, or to go from uber-curly hair to arrow straight hair overnight. It’s like the hormone fairy has a special hair wand which she uses to transform a woman’s strands like magic. The other funny thing is that hair follicles may return to their original state after a few years. My hair is starting to calm down somewhat, and there are times when my hair will be almost arrow straight after drying naturally.

I love the theory which Jonathan Torch, the founder of Toronto’s Curly Hair Institute, has devised. He maintains that changes in the tone of the muscles at the base of the hair follicles are the culprits in hair texture changes over time.

All I know is that my hair seems to have a mind of its own now!

“I’m Bloated!” – Cures For Premenstrual Bloating (REPOST)

belly bloatMany women suffer from premenstrual bloating, but most don’t know that there are specific foods and supplements which can treat it. Since many women experience bloating right before that special time of the month, I am listing the supplements and foods which I recommend to ease the water retention which can occur right before your period.

SUPPLEMENENTS:

1. Dandelion root – Try 3 capsules, three times daily for 3 to 4 days before your period to create a diuretic effect in your body.
2. Magnesium 400 mg – Take this one to two times daily. If you get diarrhea, back down to one 400 mg dose towards bedtime.
3. Gamma linoleic acid 400 mg – one tablet daily.
4. Vitamin C 1,000 mg – Take one capsule two times per day.
5. Vitamin B6 150 mg – Take one capsule daily.

FOODS:

1. bananas
2. cranberry juice or extract
3. raisins
4. asparagus

If your schedule is regular and you frequently suffer from water retention before your period, you can incorporate the supplements and foods listed above a few days before you expect your period.

Hormone Roller Coaster (repost)

anxious_woman

Oh, to be a woman. We are blessed with goddess energy and are also capable of being strong and muscular while holding onto our femininity. But with our female distinction we also have hormonal fluctuations which can wreak havoc on our health and our moods. It can be a tricky thing to keep estrogen and progesterone levels balanced consistently, especially for those of us who compete. Estrogen imbalance can also bring about early menopause, premenstrual symptoms, menstrual irregularities, and skin issues.

Women who practice a healthy diet, regular exercise, adequate sleep and stress management have the best chance of keeping their hormones in balance throughout their cycles. Overly processed foods, especially refined sugars, should be avoided. Strength training is also an excellent way of regulating estrogen levels in the body. However, I realize that the majority of you who are reading this are already on board with clean eating and weight training, but may still struggle with mood swings, food cravings, menstrual irregularities, and menstrual cramps.

Here are some tips on how to combat mood swings and food cravings which may emerge each month. These supplements will not affect contest prep, and may actually equip you with the best chance of staying on track even during THAT time of the month.

MOOD SWINGS: I am a big fan of the B vitamins because they are proven to reduce stress and anxiety. In fact, I make sure that all of my patients who suffer from depression and anxiety take a B-complex supplement to regulate their mood. It is also a good idea to take magnesium glycinate to restore the magnesium that is depleted during times of stress. Start with 250 milligrams daily, then increase to three times daily with meals. If you get drowsy or have frequent bowel movements, decrease your dose down to once or twice per day.

FOOD CRAVINGS: One of the reasons why women tend to crave chocolate around that special time of the month is because they are often deficient in magnesium, which is found in high amounts in chocolate. For this reason, I suggest taking magnesium glycinate(as stated before) to normalize magnesium levels in the body. Dosage parameters are the same, but if you prefer, you can take magnesium for two weeks at a time, starting a week before your period and ending a week after you get your period.

Another great supplement to take for food cravings is alpha lipoic acid. Take 100 milligrams three times daily. If you really get slugged with strong food cravings before flow visits, add chromium picolinate (200 micrograms three times daily) and vanadyl sulfate (10 milligrams three times daily) to your regimen.