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Archive for the ‘Digestive Health’ Category

The Stresses of Motherhood (Health Letter – May 2012)

 

stress_of_motherhood
Mothers are the world’s best jugglers: arranging family schedules from soccer to band practice to doctor’s appointments, planning meals, and dealing with money issues, childcare and work — they seem to do it all. There is a price to pay, however—the evidence is mounting that women today are experiencing more stress at every stage of their lives than ever before. With all that responsibility, many moms are left feeling tired and stressed out. That stress contributes to poor sleep habits which in turn can contribute to emotional issues, job issues and weight gain. According to a 2006 survey by the American Psychological Association, women are more affected by stress than men and report engaging in unhealthy behaviors such as comfort eating, poor diet choices, smoking, and inactivity to help deal with stress. The same survey showed women report feeling the effects of stress on their physical health more than men. So, in honor of Mother’s Day this month, it’s a good time for moms and their families to recognize the importance of addressing stress and learning to manage it in healthy ways.
stress response

 

The Stress Response

 

The stress response, often referred to as the “fight-or-flight” reaction, is an inborn part of your autonomic nervous system, and, as such is a rapid and automatic response to a physical (or emotional) threat. It provides you the energy, speed and concentration you need to protect yourself or to run as fast as possible. When you encounter such a threat, a tiny region of the brain (the hypothalamus) sets off an alarm system in your body. Through a combination of nerve and hormonal signals, this alarm stimulates your adrenal glands to release the stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol. Adrenaline increases your heart rate, elevates your blood pressure and mobilizes energy nutrients (glucose, amino acids and fatty acids) from body stores to meet energy needs. Cortisol, your body’s primary stress response hormone, increases blood sugar, enhances the uptake of sugar into the brain and increases the availability of amino acids for repairing body tissues. Cortisol also works to inhibit body functions that are nonessential during times of acute stress, like the body’s immune response, digestive processes, reproductive system and growth processes.
Ordinarily, the stress response is self regulating and once the crisis has passed, hormone levels drop, heart rate and blood pressure normalize and other systems resume their regular activity. However, acute physical threats aren’t the only events that trigger the stress response. Chronic psychological threats, such as stress at work or home, conflicts with family and friends and major life changes (divorce, death in the family) can all activate the same alarm system. Even the typical demands of daily life such as driving in traffic and normal parenting demands can contribute to your body’s stress response. It is this chronic activation of the stress response that’s problematic and can be exceedingly detrimental to your health.

 

Stress and Your Health

 

stress and your health

 

Digestive Function
When you’re feeling stressed, it’s not uncommon to develop a stomach ache, diarrhea or constipation. That’s because when you’re under stress, blood flow to the digestive system is reduced, stress hormones slow the release of gastric acid and slow gastric emptying. These same hormones can also speed up the action of the intestines. In fact, stress appears to play a role in the development of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), a cluster of symptoms, consisting of abdominal discomfort, bloating, constipation, and/or diarrhea. IBS is among the most common gastrointestinal disorders for which women seek medical attention. While the disease itself is not inherently different in women than in men, it is much more common among women by a ratio of 3 to 1.

 

Immune Response
The immune system is a complex balancing act between systems that respond to a physical or emotional threat as well as the more specialized components that deal with responding to infection or cellular damage. To deal with acute physical threats, like let’s say a puncture wound or cut, the immune system reacts quickly by creating inflammation around the wound. However, when you experience chronic stress the same acute immune responses may not be beneficial in the long run. In fact when you’re under chronic stress, some features of your immune system are actually suppressed, increasing your susceptibility to infections. Other features of the immune system are permitted to run unchecked, increasing the risk of autoimmune disorders, conditions where your own immune system attacks your body’s own cells. Autoimmune diseases (i.e. lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and thyroid diseases) occur more often in women, usually striking in the child-bearing years. For example, compared to men, two to three times as many women get multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis each year, and when it comes to lupus, women outnumber men 9 to 1.

 

Cardiovascular and Nervous System Effects
Chronic activation of stress hormones also raises your heart rate, increases your blood pressure and blood lipids (i.e. cholesterol, triglycerides), all of which can increase your risk of having a heart attack or stroke. Remember that heart disease is the number one killer of women. If your “fight and flight” response never turns off, the by-products of cortisol may contribute to feelings of depression or anxiety. Forget where you parked the car, or set your keys down? Chronic stress also affects the operation and structure of brains cells involved in memory functions.

 

Sleep Deprivation
Sleep is essential to good health but unfortunately, chronic stress and feelings of anxiety can often lead to sleep disturbances. This is especially true for moms with young infants and children, who already experience sleep challenges due to “middle of the night infant feedings” or disruptions in sleep due to young children waking in the middle of the night. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 60 percent of adults report having sleep problems a few nights a week or more. In addition, more than 40 percent of adults experience daytime sleepiness severe enough to interfere with their daily activities. Studies also suggest that women are also at greater risk for developing insomnia than men.

 

Obesity and Weight Gain
Another major down side chronic stress and sleep deprivation is the effect both of these can have on your weight. Cortisol levels appear to play a role in the accumulation of abdominal fat (central obesity) which gives some people that “apple” body shape. Carrying excessive weight around your middle appears to increase the risk of both heart disease and diabetes. Sleep deprivation may also have a direct effect on metabolic hormones that control hunger and satiety. In a 2004 study, researchers at Stanford University and the University of Wisconsin found that subjects who consistently slept for 5 hours compared to those who slept for eight, had a 15% increase in ghrelin, a hormone produced in the stomach that triggers appetite, and a 15.5% decrease in leptin, another hormone produced by fat cells, which serves as a signal indicating insufficient energy stores and the need for consuming more calories. Lack of sleep also appears to increase the risk of weight gain. Data collected from the Nurses Health Study, revealed women who slept for five hours a night were 32% more likely to experience major weight gain (an increase of 33 lbs or more) and 15% more likely to become obese over the course of the 16-year study compared to women who slept seven hours. Scary!

 

Find Healthy Ways to Manage Stress

 

healthy ways to manage stress
While motherhood has its challenges, the rewards definitely make it well worth it—right, Moms? Think of those adorable Mother’s Day cards or the very special breakfast in bed served by your 8-year-old—who wouldn’t sign up for this? So, be the best mom you can be by finding healthy ways to deal with whatever stresses you have in your life.

 

What you can do:

 

1) Identify the stressors in your life. These may be marital problems, conflicts at work, family illnesses or just the day-to-day schedule you keep. Once you’ve identified what the primary causes of stress are for you, you can begin to figure out how to either change your stressors or learn to manage them better.

 

2) Schedule personal relaxation time. Although the demands of your “juggling act” place major obstacles to finding some “down time”, setting a side a few minutes a day just to breathe, collect and organize your thoughts, can work wonders. Start small. Schedule 10 minutes a day to simply do nothing but sit and breathe. Deep breathing can help bring your heart rate and breathing back to normal, so you can clear your mind. Once you’ve accomplished that on a regular basis, consider taking up yoga or meditation.
good_nutrition

 

3) Good nutrition through healthy food choices plays a crucial role in your ability to withstand times of extra stress. Carbohydrate, protein, fat, vitamins and minerals are all important for energy, mental concentration, and emotional stability. Along with the stress induced effects on digestion and your immune system, stress may increase your body’s need for certain nutrients so you may need an extra healthy diet to stay focused, alert, energetic and to ward off colds and flu. So choose a variety of foods and be sure to eat complex carbohydrates from whole grain breads and cereals, beans and legumes and fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein from fish, chicken, soy and nonfat or low-fat dairy and select heart-healthy omega-3 fats from fish, avocado, nuts, olives and seeds. Cut back on junk foods, sodas, alcohol and caffeine-containing beverages.

 

4) Get some extra sleep. Sleep deprivation not only contributes to weight gain and feelings of fatigue, it can also increase medical expenses, sick days and accidents. When you sleep well, you wake up feeling refreshed, alert and ready to face your daily challenges. To help you get a better night’s sleep try to maintain a regular bed and wake time schedule, even on the weekends; establish a regular, relaxing bedtime routine; create a sleep conducive environment (dark, quiet and comfortable); and try not to eat a meal, drink alcohol and caffeinated beverages or exercise within a few hours of bedtime.
active life style

 

5) Although exercise right before bed time can disrupt sleep, an active lifestyle can actually help control stress and improve sleep patterns. Exercise can not only help reduce anxiety and increase productivity which can help you handle stress better, but also helps control your appetite and burn calories which can help you maintain a healthy weight. And let’s not forget about the cardiovascular benefits of exercise – it not only strengthens your heart, it can help lower blood pressure, blood cholesterol and triglycerides which in turn reduces your risk of heart disease and stroke.

 

6) Supplement your diet.
Shaklee Vitalizer - 80-bio-optimized nutrients

Shaklee Vitalizer - 80-bio-optimized nutrients

Fill in nutritional gaps with a well-balanced, high-quality multivitamin/mineral supplement. Look for one that provides at least 100% of the daily value for 21 essential nutrients including the B vitamins folic acid, B12 and B6 to help promote heart health, the antioxidant nutrients, vitamin C and E which support immune function and protect against free radical damage and key bone health nutrients like calcium, vitamin D and magnesium. Supplement the omega-3s in your diet with a top quality, pharmaceutical grade fish oil supplement. For digestive health, take a probiotic supplement to help maintain healthy intestinal microflora and for additional stress relief, try botanical ingredients like Ltheanine from green tea and ashwaganda. L-theanine has been shown to facilitate the generation of alpha brain waves, which are associated with a relaxed yet alert mental state, and ashwaganda is an Ayurvedic herb traditionally used in India to enhance the body’s ability to adapt to stress. And lastly, if getting to sleep remains a challenge, occasionally try herbal ingredients like valerianwhich can help you maintain a calm state and promote restful sleep.

 

We all know that being a mom takes an extraordinary amount of patience, love and discipline. That’s what makes moms so special! But juggling family, finances and work commitments can really be stressful, so remember this Mother’s Day to keep things in perspective –prioritize wherever you can, delegate responsibilities, eat right, stay active and TAKE YOUR SUPPLEMENTS!

 

But, most of all, make time for what’s really important –

taking care of yourself, so you can be the best mom ever!

 

best mom ever

 

Spring Cleaning for Better Health, Energy and More!

healthier digestive system

by the Shaklee Health Sciences
e-Bulletin

April 2007

Spring, the season of freshness, renewal and cleaning out those closets, seems a fitting time to talk about how to help you optimize your own internal cleaning system—otherwise known as the digestive system. You may have heard the term “detoxification” and associate that with an improvement in your health as a result of better nutrition and the use of certain supplements. But, the reality is that we detoxify our bodies on a continuous basis via our breathing, our skin, our urinary system as well as our digestive system.

Every time you put food or drink into your system, you set in action a chain of events that leads to the breakdown of the food or drink into digestible components—amino acids, carbohydrates, essential fatty acids, vitamins, minerals etc. What our body cannot absorb is passed on through our intestines to our colon and processed into waste. Our kidneys, lungs and colon process and excrete metabolites on a continuous and daily basis. The skin “breathes” out metabolites as well. Because the great majority of detoxification of our bodies occurs via our digestive system, we will focus on dietary and supplement strategies that can optimize your digestive function—and help you feel better every day! So, for a healthier digestive system:

#1 Drink Water!drink water eat veggies for healthy body cleansing

The most important recommendation for optimum detoxification via all “channels” is an adequate intake of fluids, in particular good old water. While dietitians, nutritionists and trainers make a standard recommendation that adults consume 8 glasses (64 fl. oz.) of water per day, there are widely varying individual needs determined by time spent outdoors, climate, activity level and genetic factors. Also note that fruits, vegetables, coffee, tea, juices and other beverages all make significant contributions to your fluid intake. I recommend at least 3 to 4 glasses of plain or sparkling water per day separate from other fluid intake, more if you tend towards constipation.

#2 Eat your veggies

I will again remind you of the importance of eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables—both for its phytonutrients and antioxidant content as well as for its delivery of soluble and insoluble fiber. People who eat the recommended 5 to 9 servings of fruits and vegetables each day rarely have a problem with constipation, irritable bowel syndrome and other functional bowel disorders. Soluble fiber is critically important for bowel function, proper digestion as well as binding to the cholesterol your body produces in the liver, and then is secreted into the gut. Increasing intakes of soluble fiber helps prevent the reabsorption of the cholesterol into the bloodstream. People with elevated cholesterol levels may benefit greatly from increasing the amounts of soluble fiber in their diets. In fact, incorporating psyllium, inulin, and/or fructooligosaccharide -rich foods and supplements containing 4 to 5 grams per serving over a few months can lead to reduction in cholesterol levels and improvement in bowel function without pharmaceutical intervention.
While fruits and veggies are a rich source of soluble fiber, remember your whole grain foods for the insoluble fiber they deliver. Look for whole grain cereals and breads that provide at least 3-4 grams of fiber per serving—this will largely be insoluble fiber. Humans benefit most from both soluble and insoluble fiber. While we have accepted recommendations for total fiber intake, there is not general consensus as to the optimal breakdown between soluble and insoluble fiber. Aim for a total fiber intake of 25 grams per day for women and 35 grams per day for men *(Institute of Medicine guidelines 2004). The average American diet provides barely half the recommended intake per day, so the addition of fiber supplements is prudent for many—especially those who aren’t consistent with their intake of high fiber cereals, breads, and other grains.

supplement wisely#3 Supplement Wisely

When we eat, our bodies produce free radicals as a by-product of normal metabolic processes—again raising the importance of eating your fruits and vegetables. Antioxidants neutralize these free radicals so that they are not harmful to our cells. In addition to a healthy diet, the addition of a nice variety of antioxidants, from vitamin sources (such as Vitamins C and E) to mineral (selenium) and to herbal sources (lutein, zeaxanthin, resveratrol, green tea, quercetin and many others) just makes good sense!

So, let’s talk about other healthy supplements for optimum digestive function and detoxification. Our bodies are host to vast amounts of microorganisms, which reside in the digestive tract. The balance of these beneficial and potentially harmful sub-types of bacterium affects the health of your colon both from a short term perspective (flatulence, constipation and irritable bowel syndrome) as well as contributing to the long-term health of your immune system, colon and urinary system.

There is a growing body of scientific evidence supporting the importance of maintaining a healthy balance of microorganisms, as well as the benefit of probiotic supplementation—to support immune function as well as digestive health.

Probiotics refers to a class of “friendly bacteria” that are necessary to provide a balance with less friendly bacteria that are a part of normal metabolism. The use of antibiotics, poor dietary habits, and age are among many factors contributing to an unhealthy imbalance.

Constipation and Irritable bowel disorder are among the most common reasons people visit doctors and alternative health care practitioners. My patient experiences definitely confirm the importance of adequate fiber and water intake, but for many individuals, this may not be enough. There are some herbal and botanical ingredients with laxative effects, including senna leaf (Cassia angustifolia), cascara bark (Cascara Sagrada) Psyllium (Plantago ovato ), anise seed and others that may be helpful, but should generally be used on an intermittent basis.
One of my favorite supplements for digestive health is a juice made from the aloe vera plant.
Aloe vera (or true aloe) is a thorny succulent plant that has been around for thousands of years and has been used medicinally in cultures from ancient Egypt to the Incas to the Greek and Roman doctors Aristotle and Hippocrates. The most inner aspects of the thorny leaves yield a clear pulp that is rich in enzymes and polysaccharides that are used in soothing topical salves as well as digestive tonics. Aloe vera juice can be very helpful for people who have hyperacidity, esophageal reflux as well as irritable bowel tendencies. People who are taking prescription medications for digestive issues should not discontinue them without a discussion with your physician.

The liver is a key component of the body’s digestive (and detoxification) system, providing an elegant filtering system, performing thousands of biochemical functions. Liver function tests may provide early warning of a variety of toxins in your system, from microbial infections to excessive use of alcohol, to reactions to pharmaceuticals to obesity. Yes, being overweight can lead to fatty infiltration of your liver and ultimately chronic liver disease—called non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, or fatty liver disease. So, keeping your liver functioning well includes judicious (if appropriate) use of alcohol and prescription and over-the-counter pharmaceuticals (and checking intermittently with your physician to be sure you still need to use any and all medicines that you may take), and losing weight if necessary.

Schizandra for live

Schizandra

If you have any chronic liver conditions, you may want to consider the addition of milk thistle extract (silybum marianum) to your dietary supplement regimen. It has been used for over 2000 years in Europe to protect liver health and as a treatment for liver disorders. We now know that silymarin has a variety of therapeutic applications including toxic metabolic liver damage and may have restorative effects in chronic hepatitis. Schizandra (schizandra chinensis) is an adaptogenic herb from magnolia vine that also can have regenerative effects upon the liver in people who have chronic hepatitis and even cirrhosis. When using any herbal remedy that may improve liver function, be sure your physician is aware so he or she can be monitoring any need to adjust medications, which are largely metabolized in the liver.

So, the old adage comes to mind: “You are what you eat”. Remember to drink plenty of water, eat as many servings of fresh fruits and veggies as you can every day, with extra antioxidants in supplement form to provide you nutritional assurance. Add a broad spectrum probiotic supplement, as it is difficult to get these in the diet other than from organic yogurts that provide live cultures.

For best health, you want to be carrots and blueberries—not French fries and a cherry cola!

Be well.

Be well Nadya Tatsch

Me, Nadya Tatsch

Dr. Jamie McManus MD,

FAAFP Chairman, Medical Affairs,

Health Sciences and Education

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References:

1) Bennett WAG, Cerda JJ. “Benefits of Dietary Fiber” Postgraduate Medicine 1996;99 (2), 153-72

2) Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids
(Macronutrients) 2005.

3) Rose DJ et al. Influence of dietary fiber on inflammatory bowel disease and colon cancer: importance of fermentation pattern. Nutr Rev 2007;65(2):51-62.

4) Coats, B. Aloe Vera, The New Millennium, CCN iUniverse, Inc., 2003 pp 9-34.

5) Gorbach SL. Probiotics and gastrointestinal health. Am J Gastroenterol. 2000; 97(1 Suppl):S2-4.

6) Goldin, BR. Health benefits of probiotics. Br J Nutr 1988;80(4):S203-7.

7) Coates P, Blackman M, Cragg G, et al., eds. Milk thistle (Silybum marianum). In: Encyclopedia of Dietary Supplements. New York, NY: Marcel Dekker; 2005:467-482.

8) Blumenthal M, Goldberg A, Brinckman J, eds. Milk thistle fruit. In: Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs. Newton, MA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2000:257-263. 9) Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Milk Thistle: Effects on Liver Disease and Cirrhosis and Clinical Adverse Effects. Evidence Report/Technology Assessment no. 21. Rockville, MD: 2000. 01-E024.