Laura G Owens ~ Writer

Humanity. Health. Happiness.

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Hormone Testing – Saliva or Blood? Depends.

hormone testing, blood test, saliva testing, blood work

Saliva test more accurate to measure certain hormone levels

Photo credit: Ambro

Head to your doctor because you’ve been feeling off, forgetful, sweaty, waking up in the middle of the night, increasingly stressed, unfocused, irritable and she might tell you you’re in peri or in full menopause. Or perhaps you’ve had a complete hysterectomy and your doctor wants you on hormone replacement therapy.

Or, maybe your cortisol (the stress hormone) levels are way off the charts, a condition that is all too common today, that and adrenal fatigue.  Cortisol in small doses as the fight or flight reactive hormone alerts you to take action. And, like all hormones it’s just doing its proper job. But, at chronically high levels, as in the case of chronic stress, cortisol can harm your sleep and your health.

Whatever is going on your doctor (or you) may want to test your hormones along with a number of other factors.

Click here for saliva hormone testing kits
Click here for Dr. John Lee’s books on hormones, peri and full menopause and HRT after breast cancer

How? Likely via a blood test. Yet, while not invalid, conventional blood serum tests are not as accurate as saliva to measure certain hormones.

Saliva testing

According to ZRT labs:

When the various glands manufacture the steroids they are released into the bloodstream bound to carrier proteins. Only a small fraction (1-5%) of a given amount of steroid hormone breaks loose from the carrier protein in the bloodstream and is free to enter target tissues.

This free or unbound hormone is what we want to measure, since it is active or bioavailable to the target tissues such as the breast, uterus, brain, and skin. Many studies in the scientific literature have shown that there is a strong correlation between the levels of steroid hormones in saliva and the bioavailable (free) levels of steroids in the bloodstream.

Click here for saliva hormone testing kits
Click here for Dr. John Lee’s books on hormones, peri and full menopause and HRT after breast cancer

ZRT labs also offers at home blood spot testing which is convenient and at times less costly than the blood serum tests your doctor orders.

Blood spot testing

The development and application of blood spot testing allows monitoring of hormone levels, cardiometabolic markers and Vitamin D.  The convenient collection of blood from a tiny nick of the finger, allows for flexibility of testing at the right time of day, month or following hormone therapy.  Blood Spot testing provides results on par with those from serum tests but without the cost and inconvenience of conventional blood draws, making it beneficial for both patient and practitioner.

ZRT labs offers saliva, blood spot and combo tests. This ZRT labs chart compares which tests are done in saliva and/or blood spot.

Hormone or Analyte Saliva Blood Spot
Estradiol (E2) Checkmark Checkmark
Progesterone (Pg) Checkmark Checkmark
Testosterone, free Checkmark
Testosterone, total Checkmark
DHEA-S (DS) Checkmark Checkmark
Cortisol, AM (C1) Checkmark Checkmark
Cortisol, Diurnal (C1, C2, C3, C4) Checkmark
Estriol (E3) Checkmark
Estrone (E1) Checkmark
Follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) Checkmark
Luteinizing Hormone (LH) Checkmark
Insulin-like Growth Factor (IGF-1) Checkmark
Insulin, fasting Checkmark
Triglycerides (TG) Checkmark
Hemoglobin A1C (HbA1c) Checkmark
High Sensitivity C-Reactive Protein (hs-CRP) Checkmark
Total Cholesterol (CH) Checkmark
LDL Cholesterol Checkmark
HDL Cholesterol Checkmark
VLDL Cholesterol Checkmark
Prostate specific antigen (PSA) Checkmark
Sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) Checkmark
Thyroid peroxidase antibodies (TPO) Checkmark
Thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) Checkmark
Triiodothyronine (T3), free Checkmark
Thyroxine (T4), free Checkmark
25-hydroxy vitamin D2 Checkmark
25-hydroxy vitamin D3 Checkmark

So, you have choices depending on what you want to measure:

  1. Go to your doctor. Doc orders standard blood to test hormones, etc, (ideal for measuring cholesterol, vitamin D etc, but not all hormones as you can see from above).
  2. Depending on what you want to test, you can order your own saliva and/or blood spot test from ZRT labs either directly or through a provider (depends on what is cheaper, if your insurance covers the labs if ordered by a doctor or you buy the kit directly and bring the results to your doctor).

But, if you want saliva and/or blood spot testing and your doctor won’t order them for you, take all this into your own hands.

Order your own from ZRT, bring the results to her, or ideally to a physician who understands saliva testing and will discuss options to re-balance your hormones, cholesterol and/or vitamin D levels.

 

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The Truth About Progesterone For HRT – Bioidentical Progesterone Isn’t The Same As Synthetic Progestin.

Photo - Sally Howard

Photo - Sally Howard

 

The term progesterone has been used to describe the synthetic progestins found in birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy, progesterone is not the same as progestin.

Your body knows the answer.

Conventional hormones are synthetic forms of hormones, they’re molecularly altered and as a result they don’t react in the body like your own hormones or their near identical twin,  bioidentical hormones.

Click here for saliva hormone testing kits

Click here for saliva progesterone testing kit

What Is Natural Progesterone?

True progesterone is a steroid hormone made by your ovaries when you ovulate in the middle of your menstrual cycle. A small amount is also made by your adrenal glands and nerve cells. Progesterone is manufactured in the body from a steroid hormone called pregnenolone and it is a pre-cursor to most other steroid hormones.

While estrogen seems to get all the glory and most of the controversy, progesterone deserves some attention.

Progesterone’s most important role is to balance or oppose the effects of estrogen. Most doctors no longer prescribe an estrogen-only oral contraception or hormone replacement therapy (HRT) due to the dangers of estrogen dominance in the body. Progesterone also stimulates bone building and helps protect against osteoporosis (while estrogen helps maintain bone density).

Click here for saliva hormone testing kits

Click here for saliva progesterone testing kit

Differences Between Natural Progesterone and Synthetic

In order for a hormone to be considered true progesterone it must either:

  • Naturally occur in the body
  • Be bioidentical

Bioidentical simply means the hormone is created in a laboratory to be an exact duplicate of what your body makes. The progesterone used for natural hormone replacement therapy (natural HRT is not the same as bioidentical HRT although bioidentical is often lumped under the term natural HRT) is often derived from plant fats and oils, usually a substance called diosgenin extracted from a wild yam that grows in Mexico, or from soybeans.The other human steroid hormones including estrogen, testosterone, and the cortisones, nearly always come from synthesized diosgenin.

The combination birth control pill or conventional hormone replacement therapy (HRT) have progestin, which is not progesterone. Provera is one of the most commonly used progestins for HRT.

Click here for saliva hormone testing kits

Click here for saliva progesterone testing kit

Two Reasons to Consider Natural Progesterone for HRT

  1. Safety. Consider this: In the 3rd trimester of pregnancy the placenta produces huge amounts, 300-400 mg, of progesterone daily without any risk to the developing baby. Yet even a fraction of that amount of progestin could cause birth defects. The list of side effects and warnings from progestin or “medroxyprogesterone acetate” is eye-opening.
  2. Cost. Synthetic hormones like progestin, or Provera, are not naturally occurring in your body. Drug companies purposely make these medications different so they can patent them. This allows the drug company to sell the medications exclusively for years (until the patent runs out) and therefore charge more money because they have no competition. While natural substances like bioidentical progesterone, cannot be patented so they are less expensive to you.

If you’re considering starting HRT and are concerned about the effectiveness and safety of conventional vs natural or bioidentical hormones,Dr. John Lee, a pioneer in natural women’s health and author of Hormone Balance Made Simple suggests women consider this point first, “Synthetic hormones are not necessarily made, sold, and prescribed because they work better than natural hormones, but because natural hormones can’t be patented.”

Click here for Dr. John Lee’s books on hormones, peri and full menopause and HRT after breast cancer

Risks of Progesterone

The key to effective HRT is to use just the amount you need to alleviate or eliminate symptoms, no more, no less. This fine balancing can take time and require you track your symptoms, adjusting levels as necessary (with the help of a physician who understands natural and bioidentical HRT).

Natural progesterone has few risks or side effects. Initially as your body adjusts or if you use progesterone in excess, the following side effects may occur:

  • Sleepiness/lethargy
  • Edema (water retention)
  • Candida (yeast)
  • Bloating
  • Lowered libido
  • Mild depression
  • Exacerbates symptoms of estrogen deficiency

Most health care professionals prescribe between 10-40mg daily, once or twice a day for 15-25 days of the month. The number of days and dose depends on if you are ovulating, had your ovaries removed or are in peri or full menopause.

In some cases, patients have been prescribed as much as 100 mg per day which is in gross excess. In addition, some doctors prescribe a transdermal patch (on the skin) that includes other bioidentical hormones (estrogen or testosterone). Transdermal patches should include only individual hormones to allow you to regulate the dose and accurately monitor symptoms.

Click here for saliva hormone testing kits

Click here for saliva progesterone testing kit

Be Sure to Get the Real Deal

Ideally you’ll want to buy your progesterone from a compounding pharmacist who will ensure you receive the proper quality and concentration of the hormone through a measured pump container or transdermal patch.

If you do buy progesterone cream at a health or drug store, check to see the amount listed on the label. Be wary of brands that claim to have wild yam but don’t, or have very small amounts of progesterone. If the label doesn’t list the exact amount of progesterone you have no way of knowing what you’re getting unless you call the company. Verify the amount (and the company’s credibility) before you use any progesterone cream.

Be sure to get your hormone levels checked begin any HRT program. A saliva test is ideal for to measure some hormones. If you’re considering bioidentical HRT be sure to consult with a reputable doctor who has vast experience in both conventional and natural hormone replacement therapy.

Click here for saliva hormone testing kits

Click here for saliva progesterone testing kit

Copyright Laura Owens. Contact the author to obtain permission for republication.

 

 

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How Safe Is Hormone Replacement Therapy? Bioidentical or Conventional?

Photo - Sally Howard

Photo: Sally Howard

After a large hormone study scared women, many now unnecessarily avoid hormone replacement and suffer from menopause symptoms such as hot flashes and poor sleep.

Flip through any newspaper and you might read another alarming article about the dangers of hormone replacement therapy. Dig a little deeper however, to reveal fact vs. fiction.

The uproar began in July 2003 when the The Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) during the largest government study on synthetic hormones ever conducted, halted their research after early results indicated that women using conventional hormone replacement therapy (specifically PremPro), had a much higher risk of invasive breast cancer, heart disease and stroke.

Click here for hormone testing kits
Click here for progesterone testing kit
Click here for testosterone testing kit
Click here for Dr. John Lee’s books on hormones, peri and full menopause and HRT after breast cancer
Click here for DHEA products.

Largest Hormone Replacement Study Criticized

Critics of the study point out that the WHI study wasn’t representative of women in their 40’s and 50’s, women who were likely in the early years of peri or full menopause. In fact the average age of the women involved in the study was 63 with an average time into menopause of 12 years, and therefore more likely to have other risks related to breast cancer, heart disease and stroke.

Estrogen plays an important role in your body. It’s responsible for puberty changes in girls such as menstruation, and the development of breasts and hips. In adult women estrogen contributes to the softness of the skin and to vaginal lubrication, it helps maintain bone density, and plays a crucial role in brain function. In men, estrogen serves to assist the function of testosterone and can also influence bone density and cognitive functioning.

Estrogen however, is a double-edged sword hormone. Too much of it without the balancing effects of its bedfellow progesterone, or the wrong kind of estrogen, and it can indeed, be harmful.

When Estrogen Can Be Dangerous

Dr. John Lee, pioneer in natural women’s health and author of “Hormone Balance Made Simple,” coined the phrase “estrogen dominance” to describe what happens when the ratio of estrogen to progesterone is changed by excess estrogen or inadequate progesterone .

Ten to fifteen years before menopause, a woman may actually produce enough estrogen, but not make enough progesterone, which puts her into estrogen dominance. Over a long period of time too much estrogen may put her health in danger.

Estrogen dominance is known to cause and/or contribute to:

  • Cancer of the breast, ovary, endometrium and prostate (men).
  • PMS, mood changes, anxiety, irritability
  • Menopausal symptoms
  • Weight gain
  • Bloating
  • Mood swings
  • Tender breasts
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Uterine fibroids
  • Endometriosis
  • Fibrocystic breasts.

**Dr. Lee advises women to use bioidentical hormones. Synthetic estrogen and progesterone hormones hormones like PremPro (combines Premarin and Provera) do not act the same in your body as bioidentical and can cause unwanted side effects or risks.

Click here for hormone testing kits
Click here for progesterone testing kit
Click here for testosterone testing kit
Click here for Dr. John Lee’s books on hormones, peri and full menopause and HRT after breast cancer
Click here for DHEA products.

Substances that Mimic Estrogen

In addition to estrogen dominance, there is a growing concern regarding Xenoestrogens, substances that have estrogen-like and potentially detrimental affects in the body. These are found in most pesticides, plastics, acetones (e.g. nail polish remover) and in industrial pollutants such as PCBs. They can be very potent and toxic, and unlike natural hormones they don’t efficiently clear from the body.  As a result, xenoestrogens tend to accumulate in the tissue over time. Even coffee can increase estrogen in the body.

Deciding If Hormone Replacement Therapy Is Right For You

Your decision regarding hormone replacement therapy should be based on clear and accurate research information, your age, health history, lifestyle, menopausal symptoms, and your individual concerns.

  • Read Between the Research Lines. Don’t let the WHI study scare you away from considering HRT if you’re suffering from peri or menopausal symptoms. Discuss the implications of the WHI results with your doctor.
  • Get Hormone Levels Checked. If you do decide to try hormone replacement therapy,measure your hormone levels first (saliva tests are more accurate than blood).Click here for hormone testing kits.
  • Only Consult with Experts. Only consult with a physician who is extensively trained in natural and conventional hormone replacement therapy (preferably an Ob & Gyn or endocrinologist), and who is up to date on all the research.
  • Consider bioidentical instead of synthetic HRT.  While bioidentical hormones (BH) are not FDA regulated, a reputable, licensed compounding pharmacist can formulate bioidentical HRT creams to provide regulated, dose-accurate HRT. Dose-regulated transdermal (on the skin) bioidentical estrogen patches are also available.

What Do the Experts Say?

Bioidenticals are not safer or more effective, according Mary M. Gallenberg, M.D, Mayo Clinic gynecologist and obstetrician:

“According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and several medical specialty groups, bioidentical hormones may be riskier than standard hormone therapy, and there’s no evidence they’re any more effective.

Bioidentical hormones have become popular in recent years, partly because of celebrity endorsements and partly in reaction to reports of increased health risks with standard hormone therapy. The term “bioidentical” means the hormones in the product are chemically identical to those your body produces. In fact, they are — but so are the hormones used in many FDA-approved hormone replacement products.”

But, I put my money on Dr. John Lee, author of  numerous books on natural hormone replacement and the primary hormone expert I follow,  and on Dr. B., a former Ob/Gyn I consulted with for three years. Dr. B left her traditional practice so she could work with women and men to naturally balance their hormones and manage their mood issues, tired of trying to treat her patients with synthetic hormones only to see their symptoms remain or get worse, Dr. B moved into natural hormone balancing.

In conversations with her and after reading Dr. Lee’s book, reviewing the research and tracking my symptoms, I gave up synthetic HRT, a regime I’d been on for 20 years (due to a pituitary disorder I have called Empty Sella Syndrome). The first thing Dr. B said to me when she saw I was on Ortho Novum for hormone replacement is “Why in the world do they (decades of doctors) have you on THIS for HRT, a birth control pill and a much too high dosage of estrogen?”

My answer back then, “I don’t know, they just did.”

That was then, this is now. Today I don’t default to doctor’s orders (nor do I ignore them if they make sense to me).

Ultimately you have to decide what makes sense for you. You have to consult with a doctor who is schooled in conventional and natural hormone balancing.

Writes Dr. Lee on his website:

“The message of steroid hormones to target tissue cells requires bonding of the hormone with specific unique receptors in the cells. The bonding of a hormone to its receptor is determined by its molecular configuration, like a key is for a lock. Synthetic hormone molecules and molecules from different species (e.g. Premarin, which is from horses) differ in molecular configuration from endogenous (made in the body) hormones. From studies of petrochemical xenohormones, we learn that substitute synthetic hormones differ in their activity at the receptor level.

In some cases, they will activate the receptor in a manner similar to the natural hormone, but in other cases the synthetic hormone will have no effect or will block the receptor completely. Thus, hormones that are not bioidentical do not provide the same total physiologic activity as the hormones they are intended to replace, and all will provoke undesirable side effects not found with the human hormone. Human insulin, for example, is preferable to pig insulin. Sex hormones identical to human (bioidentical) hormones have been available for over 50 years.

Pharmaceutical companies, however, prefer synthetic hormones. Synthetic hormones (not found in nature) can be patented, whereas real (natural, bioidentical) hormones can not. Patented drugs are more profitable than non-patented drugs. Sex hormone prescription sales have made billions of dollars for pharmaceutical companies Thus is women’s health sacrificed for commercial profit.”

So what if you want to get your hormones tested? For several hormones, saliva is ideal, but for other tests, it depends. Read more: Blood or Saliva Testing for Hormones?

Click here for saliva hormone testing kits

Click here for progesterone testing kit
Click here for testosterone testing kit
Click here for Dr. John Lee’s books on hormones, peri and full menopause and HRT after breast cancer
Click here for DHEA products.

Copyright Laura Owens. Contact the author to obtain permission for republication.

 

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Testosterone HRT for Women to Improve Sex Drive, Energy Levels, Memory and Bone Strength.

testosterone, testosterone for women, testosterone to increase sex drive
(Flickr, Photo credit)

Testosterone, an androgen hormone, can provide numerous health benefits including improving libido in menopausal women and women with diminished testosterone.

Testosterone isn’t just for men. In fact, this androgen hormone is produced in small amounts in women’s ovaries and adrenal glands.

As women approach age 40 their levels of estrogen, progesterone and androgens (testosterone) begin to decline. Once in menopause or if they’ve had their ovaries removed, testosterone levels drop even further and androgen-deficiency symptoms such as low sex drive and diminished energy may appear.

This once maligned hormone was thought to be one of the culprits behind acts of violence and rage.

Yet in controlled doses testosterone can be highly beneficial to menopausal women considering hormone replacement therapy, particularly if they’re experiencing low sex drive unrelated to physical or emotional factors.

Estrogen and Progesterone Hormone Replacement Isn’t Always Enough

Although most doctors prescribe estrogen and progesterone replacement therapy to protect women against osteoporosis, bone loss, Alzheimer’s disease, and to alleviate mood changes, hot flashes and vaginal dryness, these hormones might not improve their libido or energy levels. Dr. William Regelson, MD, and author of The Superhormone Promise, suggests that testosterone is the missing piece of the puzzle for hormone replacement therapy.

“For many women who feel they are not quite themselves, the ingredient missing from the blueprint is testosterone.” Dr. Regelson found that including testosterone in the hormone replacement mix, even for brief periods of time, can mimic our “normal hormonal state” and help women better tolerate estrogen and progesterone.

Benefits of Testosterone Hormone Replacement for Women:

  • Increases sexual drive
  • Maintains and builds lean mass and reduces body fat
  • Strengthens bone
  • Promotes a sense of well-being, boosts mood
  • Supports cognitive function (ability to focus on a task)

Testosterone has also been shown to reduce vaginal dryness, urinary incontinence, and urinary tract issues, although this might be due to the fact that much of testosterone is converted to estrogen, the hormone responsible for alleviating several urogenital symptoms.

Although few studies exist regarding the risks and benefits of testosterone hormone replacement in women, one research study conducted showed that testosterone improved overall well-being, some measures of bone density, sexual drive, mood, energy and even sleep quality.¹

Types of Testosterone Hormone Replacement Therapy

Most doctors won’t prescribe testosterone pills due to the risk of liver toxicity and because this form can lower levels of HDL, the “good” cholesterol in your body. Bioidentical testosterone (bioidentical means it is similar to what your body naturally produces on its own) is available in transdermal forms such as gels, creams and patches or in sublingual drops and tablets.

Deciding if Testosterone Hormone Replacement Therapy Is Right For You

The key to bioidentical estrogen, progesterone and testosterone hormone replacement therapy is to supplement if your levels are measurably low, using the lowest dose necessary to alleviate the greatest number of symptoms. If you are considering testosterone hormone replacement therapy:

  • Test levels.  Ask your doctor to test your androgen, DHEA, estrogen and progesterone levels. Progesterone may also improve libido. Saliva testing is more accurate for some hormones because it measures “free” hormone levels (the active hormones) rather than only overall totals.  ZRT labs offers home kits, saliva and blood spotting. You can then take the results to your doctor to consult.
  • Consider DHEA. DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) a precursor to testosterone, is milder and in low doses can provide some of the same therapeutical effects for women. Dr. Christine Northrop, a pioneer in women’s health, recommends that if your testosterone and DHEA is depleted to take DHEA, although you need to wait about four months to feel the effect. If after four months you don’t notice any improvement, consider testosterone hormone replacement.Click here for DHEA products.
  • Avoid if you’re in childbearing years. Most younger women produce ample amounts of testosterone.

Although testosterone shouldn’t be prescribed across the board for all menopausal woman, it can benefit women who despite estrogen and progesterone hormone replacement therapy and DHEA supplementation, still experience low energy levels, diminished sex drive and reduced sensitivity to sexual arousal.

Footnotes:

Painter, Lisa. “Testosterone: A Major Breakthrough for Menopausal Women,” Discovery Health. July 15, 2008. http://health.discovery.com/centers/womens/testosterone/testosterone.html

K. K. Miller, B. M. K. Biller, C. Beauregard, J. G. Lipman, J. Jones, D. Schoenfeld, J. C. Sherman, B. Swearingen, J. Loeffler and A. Klibanski. Effects of Testosterone Replacement in Androgen-Deficient Women with Hypopituitarism: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism Vol. 91, No. 5 1683-1690.

Copyright Laura Owens. Contact the author to obtain permission for republication.
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DHEA For Bone and Skin Health During Menopause – Controversial Steroid Hormone Offers Benefits for Some Women

(Flickr, photo credit)

Despite some bad press about anabolic steroids, DHEA, a hormone produced by the adrenal glands, may improve aging skin and improve spinal bone density in menopausal women.

Click here for DHEA and other hormone testing kits

Click here for DHEA products

After Orlando Magic All-Star forward Rashard Lewis tested positive for DHEA, this much touted anti-aging steroid hormone, was once again thrust into a negative spotlight.

Yet some studies suggest that DHEA hormone therapy when monitored carefully in users, provides anti-aging benefits such as improving skin collagen in post-menopausal women and increasing spinal bone density.

Click here for DHEA and other hormone testing kits

DHEA Hormone Therapy: Not Just For Men

DHEA or dehydroepiandrosterone, is the most abundant steroid in humans. It is a hormone secreted by the adrenal glands (located above the kidneys) and acts as a precursor to male hormones (androgens) and some female sex hormones (estrogens). A small amount of DHEA is also produced in the brain by neurons.

Click here for DHEA testing kit

After age 30, DHEA levels begin to decrease and are lower in some people with anorexia, end-stage kidney disease, type 2 diabetes (non-insulin dependent diabetes), AIDS, adrenal insufficiency or people who are critically ill. DHEA levels may also be depleted by a number of drugs, including insulin, corticosteroids, opiates, and danazol. There is sufficient evidence supporting the use of DHEA in the treatment of adrenal insufficiency, depression, induction of labor, and systemic lupus erythematosus. (National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health and PubMed).

Menopause and DHEA Cream for Skin Anti-Aging

In a 2008 study, sixty postmenopausal women participated in a study designed to test the affects of topical DHEA on the gene profile of human skin. Women subjects randomly received a topical application of DHEA cream with either 0% (placebo), 0.3%, 1% or 2% strength.

Click here for DHEA and other hormone testing kits

Results strongly indicated that DHEA may have an anti-aging effect on the skin by stimulating collagen biosynthesis through improved structural organization of the dermis while modulating keratinocyte metabolism.

DHEA For Bone Health in Older Women

Low levels of DHEA have been associated with low bone density. Researchers at Saint Louis University conducted a two year bone density study in 2009 among men and women ages 65 to 75 years old. Previous studies on DHEA and bone density showed little promise. Yet researchers believe because calcium and vitamin D deficiencies, (present in half of older adults), were not addressed during that earlier study it prevented DHEA from improving bone density. The current research included supplementation with both calcium and vitamin D.

Results differed for men and women. Women test subjects who took DHEA the first year experienced a 2 percent increase in spinal bone density compared to control subjects who took a placebo. After the second year, placebo subjects started DHEA and the test subjects continued DHEA use. Both test groups of women had a 2 percent increase in spinal bone density (a total of 4 percent in the original test group).

Click here for DHEA and other hormone testing kits

Click here for DHEA products

In the male test groups however, both DHEA and placebo groups experienced a 1 to 2 percent increase in spinal bone density, suggesting the calcium and vitamin D supplements included in the protocol, contributed, not the DHEA.

Researchers found positive results in spinal bone density but not in hip bone density. Edward Weiss, Ph.D., associate professor of nutrition and dietetics at Saint Louis University’s Doisy College of Health Sciences and lead author of the stud, suggests hips may respond more slowly to bone-enhancing therapies and require additional time to see positive effects with DHEA supplementation.

DHEA’s Additional Health Benefits

Although Weiss suggests consulting with a doctor before taking DHEA he notes, “In addition to its beneficial effects on bone, DHEA replacement may have other benefits including improvements in risk factors for diabetes and heart disease, improvements in immune function, and improvements in psychological health.”

In a 2005 review of DHEA replacement and supplementation studies, J. Bruckel found that with adrenal cortex insufficiency, where there is a definite DHEA deficiency, such as with women suffering from Addisons’s disease or pituitary insufficiency, “substitution makes good pathophysiological sense, and treatment can be useful.”

Risks of DHEA

Dr. Weiss cautions that because few studies have been conducted on the long term effects of DHEA, users should be monitored carefully. DHEA may cause higher than normal levels of androgens and estrogen and increase the risk of prostate, breast, ovarian, and other hormone-sensitive cancers.

Click here for DHEA and other hormone testing kits

Click here for DHEA products

“Therefore, DHEA supplementation should be avoided in men and women who have had cancer or who have a strong family history of cancer until further research can establish whether or not it is safe for these individuals,” said Weiss.

Results have been inconsistent on the anti-aging benefits of DHEA supplementation. In a 2009 review, “Dehydroepiandrosterone,(DHEA), review of its efficiency in improving libido and other symptoms of aging,” researchers found positive results with the metabolism of the carbohydrates increasing the efficiency of insulin, but not enough research indicating that DHEA reduces the symptoms associated with aging.

Despite the inconsistent research and negative attention DHEA has received and risks associated with any hormone replacement therapy, some individuals may highly benefit from taking monitored doses of DHEA, such as menopausal women and those suffering from adrenal insufficiency.

Click here for DHEA and other hormone testing kits

Click here for DHEA products

If you’re considering taking DHEA, women in particular, I recommend first testing your hormone levels. My hormone balancing doctor prescribed 10mg per day, normally she prescribes 3-5mg for women, but my DHEA was so low she increased the dose.
When it comes to hormones, don’t self-dose, test and consult with a specialist in natural hormone/mood balancing. Saliva testing is more accurate for some hormones, although ZRT labs also offers the convenience of blood spot testing.

Footnotes:

Calvo E et al, “Pangenomic changes induced by DHEA in the skin of postmenopausal women,”Journal of Steroid Biochemical Molecular Biology. 2008 Dec;112(4-5):186-93. Epub 2008 Nov 1.

Saint Louis University (2009, May 17). “A Stronger Backbone: DHEA Hormone Replacement Increases Bone Density In Older Women.” ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 11, 2009.

Bruckel, J., “Replacement and supplementation of DHEA. Is it a wellness hormone?” MMW Fortschr Med. 2005 Feb 17;147(7):30-2. Review. German.

Mendivil Dacal JM, Borges VM, “Dehydroepiandrosterone,(DHEA), review of its efficiency ini the managing of the libido decrease and other symptoms of aging,” Actas Urol Esp. 2009 Apr;33(4):390-401.

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GABA: Increasing the Brain’s Own Calming Chemical

gaba, stress, l-theanine, suntheanine, anti-anxiety, naturally decrease stress

Reducing stress by naturally elevating GABA levels

Photo credit: Renjith krishnan

Anxiety has become nearly a near epidemic as thousands of people today struggle with feeling chronically anxious, irritable and unfocused on a daily basis. And for some, persistent untreated anxiety seriously interferes with their ability to function in social and workplace settings.  Low levels of GABA, gamma-aminobutyric acid, may be a contributing factor because GABA deficiencies can negatively affect an individual’s ability to manage even the most low level stressful situations.

GABA Deficiency Symptoms

A calming or “peacemaker” chemical in the brain, GABA induces relaxation, reduces stress and anxiety, and increases focus. One of the four key neurotransmitters, GABA also serves to keep all the other neurotransmitters in check. A deficiency can lead to:

  • Anxiety symptoms
  • Irritability
  • Headaches
  • Hypertension
  • Palpitations
  • Seizures
  • Lower sex drive
  • Disorders of the heart
  • Depression

Naturally Increase GABA:

While many people diagnosed with anxiety disorders take prescription medications such as Valium, Xanax or Ativan, benzodiazepine drugs that stimulate GABA receptors, these drugs often produce unwanted side effects and over time, can become less effective until the dose is increased.

Alternatively, individuals can gradually manage their mood disorder with a program that includes daily exercise, regularly eating foods that naturally elevate the production of key neurotransmitters and targeted supplementation.

Foods rich in complex carbohydrates increases GABA in the brain because they increases glutamine, an amino acid that is a precursor (needed in the formation of) to GABA. Introducing GABA-friendly foods into meals and avoiding excess simple sugars, white flours and wheat products (besides whole grains) can help elevate and maintain GABA levels.

Foods That Increase GABA:

According to Dr. Braverman, author of “The Edge Effect: Achieve Total Health and Longevity with the Balanced Brain Advantage,” the following foods are high in glutamic acid/glutamate (forms glutamine, precursor to GABA):

  • Almonds, tree nuts
  • Bananas
  • Beef Liver
  • Broccoli
  • Brown Rice
  • Halibut
  • Lentils
  • Oats, whole grain
  • Oranges, citrus fruits
  • Rice bran
  • Spinach
  • Walnuts
  • Whole wheat, whole grains.

Supplement with L-theanine to Reduce Anxiety:

L-theanine, a naturally occurring amino acid found in green tea, raises GABA levels and has few if any side effects. L-theanine creates a calm feeling in people without the drowsiness many anti-anxiety medications have, and in almost a paradoxical affect, L-theanine also improves mental clarity and focus.

Suntheanine®, the tested and patented form of L-theanine, is produced by several vitamin companies and is available in most health food stores. Individuals should vary the dose and frequency according to their symptoms although most people find between 100 to 200mg one to four times a day is effective.

How GABA Works to Lower Anxiety

GABA controls the brain’s rhythmic theta waves, the normal brainwave in the encephalogram of a person who is awake but relaxed and drowsy. Theta waves help the brain maintain physical and mental balance. Dr. Ray Sahelian, author of Mind Boosters explains, “GABA is the most important and widespread inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain. Excitation in the brain must be balanced with inhibition. Too much excitation can lead to restlessness, irritability, insomnia, and even seizures. GABA is able to induce relaxation, analgesia, and sleep.”

This key brain chemical is critically important to maintaining an overall sense of mental well-being. “GABA is also involved in the production of endorphins, brain chemicals that create a feeling of well-being known as ‘runners high.’,” writes Dr. Braverman. “Endorphins are produced in the brain during physical movement, such as stretching or even sexual intercourse.” As endorphins are released people begin to feel a sense of calm, often referred to as the Endorphin Effect.

Although experiencing occasional anxiety is common, chronic anxiety can be debilitating and can dramatically decrease an individual’s quality of life, as well as negatively impact their immune system.

Individuals suffering from chronic anxiety should ask their doctor to test their neurotransmitter and hormone levels because each has a complex relationship with the other that can affect numerous functions in the body, including mood regulation.

Copyright Laura Owens. Contact the author to obtain permission for republication.


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Fibromyalgia and vitamin D (actually a hormone) deficiency. Are they linked?

fibromyalgia, vitamin d, vitamin d for chronic pain
In 2008 the online site Pain Treatment Topics released a review of research on the potential benefits of vitamin D for patients with pain conditions, notably musculoskeletal and back issues. Although results varied, researchers agree insufficient vitamin D is an underlying factor in fibromyalgia and other chronic pain conditions.

Chronic pain and vitamin D deficiency linked long ago

Multiple studies link vitamin Ddeficiency to chronic aches and pains, muscle fatigue or weakness, and other disorders including immunity and some cancers (Holick 2003b; ODS 2008; Plotnikoff and Quigley 2003; Reginster 2005; Tavera-Mendoza and White 2007; Vieth 1999).A study presented at the American Society of Anesthesiologists 2007 Annual Meeting reported that about one in four patients with chronic pain also have inadequate blood levels of vitamin D. Patients with insufficient vitamin D also needed higher doses of morphine for longer periods of time.

Click here for low prices on vitamin D products

According to study author W. Michael Hooten, MD, medical director and anesthesiologist at the Mayo Comprehensive Pain Rehabilitation Center in Rochester, Minn., researchers have long known that inadequate levels of vitamin D can cause pain and muscle weakness.“The implications are that in chronic pain patients, vitamin D inadequacy is not the principal cause of pain and muscle weakness,” said Hooten for a press release, “However, it could be a contributing but unrecognized factor.”

Click here for low prices on vitamin D products

The jury is still out on the exact connection between vitamin D and chronic pain but scientists believe it may begin with lower levels of circulating calcium (hypocalcemia) due to inadequate vitamin D. A cascade of biochemical reactions then occurs that hinders bone metabolism and health. Low levels of calcium elevates parathyroid hormones which impairs proper bone mineralization causing a spongy matrix to form under periosteal membranes covering the skeleton.

This gelatin-like matrix can absorb fluid, expand, and cause outward pressure on periosteal tissues, which generates pain since these tissues are highly innervated with sensory pain fibers (Holick 2003b; Shinchuk and Holick 2007; Yew and DeMieri 2002).

Fibromyalgia and Vitamin D Deficiency

The association between low levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D and non-specific musculoskeletal pain, including fibromyalgia syndrome remains controversial.

In one study, Israeli researchers found no association between women with fibromyalgia and low levels of vitamin D(Tandeter et al. 2009). Yet researches in an earlier study in the Middle East found a significantly greater prevalence of low D concentration in women with fibromyalgia compared to women without fibromyalgia (43% vs 19%).

Click here for low prices on vitamin D products

Yet researchers in the Middle East found that 90% of patients diagnosed with fibromyalgia and/or non-specific musculoskeletal pain treated with vitamin D improved.(Badsha et al. 2009).

One reason for the conflicting evidence is researchers have yet to adequately measure patients’ response to different formulations, doses, and durations of vitamin D. In addition, scientists believe vitamin D receptors have different genetic make up and activity so individuals may respond differently to vitamin D therapy. (Kawaguchi et al. 2002; Videman et al. 2001).

Vitamin D Dosing

Dr. Cannell, Executive Director of The Vitamin D Council recommends supplementing with Cholecalciferol vitamin D3). D3 is the naturally occurring form of vitamin D and is made in large quantities in skin when sunlight strikes it. Dr. Cannell explains that Calcidiol is the only blood test that should be drawn. Doctors can order calcidiol levels although labs will know calcidiol as 25-hydroxyvitamin D.

Take enough vitamin D3 to get 25(OH)D levels above substrate starvation levels, 50 ng/mL or 125 nmol/L. Current recommendations for adults and children are inadequate to maintain optimal health and certainly to treat chronic pain conditions and illness.

Dr. Cannell suggests people supplement with vitamin D before getting their blood tested, then adjust their dose so their 25(OH)D level is between 50–80 ng/ml during both the summer and the winter. These are conservative dosages explains Dr. Cannell. People who avoid the sun, and nearly all dark-skinned people need to increase their dose if their blood levels are still low, even after two months of the above dosage, particularly during the winter months.

Exact levels are difficult to determine because requirements vary by age, body weight, percent of body fat, latitude, skin coloration, season of the year, use of sun block, individual variation in sun exposure, and how sick someone is.

Click here for low prices on vitamin D products

“If you use suntan parlors once a week,” says Dr. Cannell, “or if you live in Florida and sunbathe once a week, year-round, do nothing.” However, if you receive very little UVB exposure the Council recommends the following dosing levels of D3 (maintenance level):

  • healthy children under the age of two – 1,000 IU per day*
  • healthy children over the age of two – 2,000 IU per day*
  • adults and adolescents – 5,000 IU per day.

*The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 400 mg per day for children.

While the exact relationship between vitamin D and chronic pain syndromes like fibromyalgia isn’t fully understood, most researchers agree that vitamin D deficiency contributes to muscuskeletal pain. Patients and practitioners should consider including vitamin D supplementation in their therapy for patients suffering with chronic pain syndromes.

Click here for low prices on vitamin D products

Another note: Magnesium, malic acid also assist in pain relief for FMS……I use several products but Magnesium Calm is one of my favorites because it works very well, tastes good  Click here for magnesium

Dr. Dean who wrote the Magnesium Miracle (Very easy to understand read on why magnesum is critical to our health yet deficient in our soil and therefore our food and often, body)  turned me on to the importance of this essential mineral. I take it every night or more often if I need to. It’s a co-factor for an impressive list of functions in our body. 

Sources:

“Vitamin D Inadequacy May Exacerbate Pain,” American Academy of Anesthesiologists, Press Release, October 15, 2007.

Tandeter H, Grynbaum M, Zuili I, Shany S, Shvartzman P., “Serum 25-OH vitamin D levels in patients with fibromyalgia.” Israeli Medical Association Journal, 2009.

Badsha H, Daher M, Ooi Kong K. Myalgias or non-specific muscle pain in Arab or Indo-Pakistani patients may indicate vitamin D deficiency. Clinical Rheumatology. 2009.

Leavitt, Steward, B. MA, PhD., “Vitamin D: A Neglected ‘Analgesic’ for Chronic Musculoskeletal Pain: An Evidence Based Review and Clinical Practice Guideline,” June 2008, http://Pain-Topics.org/VitaminD.

“Vitamin D for Pain: Update of Research Evidence,” Pain Treatment Topics, Accessed: January 10, 2010.

Arvold DS, et al., Correlation of symptoms with vitamin D deficiency and symptom response to cholecalciferol treatment: a randomized controlled trial,” Endocrine Practice, 2009 May-Jun.

Armstrong DJ, Meenagh GK, Bickle I, Lee AS, Curran ES, Finch MB., “Vitamin D deficiency is associated with anxiety and depression in fibromyalgia,” Clinical Rheumatology. 2006 Jul 19.

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Sleep cycle in teenagers disrupted by timing of exposure to light. Circadian rhythms affected.

Is your teenager staring at some form of a screen late into the evening? If so, she might be disrupting her sleep patterns. While most teens stay up late, a study found that the amount and timing of morning light can alter a child’s natural nighttime sleep cycle.

Lack of exposure to morning light combined with getting A.M. rays at the wrong time of day can lead to nighttime sleep issues in teens, a group already running low on zzz’s. Adequate exposure to blue light waves (morning light) may however, reset natural sleep cycles.

Teen Circadian Rhythm Disrupted By Light Issues

Teenagers today have become near cave dwellers, spending less time in the sunlight than ever before. And for many, this means having a hard time falling asleep at night.

Insufficient morning light and exposure too soon, researchers found, confuses the body’s internal alarm clock. In response, the brain can’t stimulate its 24-hour biological system, a natural rhythm designed to modulate the sleep/wake cycle. And in teens, a group already inclined to stay up too late, when their internal body clock gets out of sync, even when they are ready to call it a night, sleep may not come so easily.

“These morning-light-deprived teenagers are going to bed later, getting less sleep and possibly under-performing on standardized tests. We are starting to call this the teenage night owl syndrome,” says Mariana Figueiro, Ph.D., Assistant Professor and Program Director at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Lighting Research Center (LRC) and lead researcher on the new study.

In the study researchers found that 8th grade students who wore special glasses to prevent short-wavelength (blue) morning light from reaching their eyes experienced a 30-minute delay in sleep onset by the end of the five-day study.

“If you remove blue light in the morning, it delays the onset of melatonin, the hormone that indicates to the body when it’s nighttime,” explains Dr. Figueiro. “Our study shows melatonin onset was delayed by about six minutes each day the teens were restricted from blue light. Sleep onset typically occurs about two hours after melatonin onset,” says Figueiro.

The colors of the light spectrum affect the body’s rhythm in various ways, particularly regarding sleep patterns. Daylight is mainly comprised of short, visible wavelengths of light that provides a blue visual sensation, such as the blue sky. How bright the light is, how far away, the duration of exposure, and when someone is exposed to specific light waves, impacts sleep patterns.

People are more likely to sleep deeply in the late hours of night when their body temperature drops, and to awaken when their body temperature begins to rise, usually between 6 AM and 8 AM. As people age, their brain’s “pacemaker” loses cells, changing circadian rhythms, especially sleep patterns. As a result, the elderly nap more frequently, have disrupted sleep and awaken earlier.

Sleep, Melatonin and Biological Cycles

Melatonin, a hormone produced in the brain by the pineal gland, is created from the amino acid tryptophan. The creation and release of melatonin is stimulated by darkness and suppressed by light. Melatonin, researchers believe, is involved in circadian rhythm and the regulation of a wide variety of body functions including sleep.

Circadian rhythms are biological cycles in the body that repeat approximately every 24 hours, and include the sleep/wake cycle, body temperature, hormone levels, heart rate, blood pressure and pain threshold.

The brain’s internal pacemaker determines when nerve cells should fire to set the body’s rhythms. While adults generally produce melatonin around 10pm, teenagers, according to a study cited in an online British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) article, were found to begin producing melatonin around 1am. Whether this is in response to puberty or caused by teens’ nighttime behavior is hard to say.

The delay in melatonin production could be the result of teenagers playing computer games and watching television till the wee hours. Both screen activities stimulate the brain, exposing it to bright light that holds off the release of melatonin. The hormonal flux of puberty, however, may be the culprit, postponing the body’s nightly release of melatonin. Either way, sleep releases a critical hormone involved in growth spurts. Teens need more sleep than both children and adults, yet often they get less.

Regulating Sleep Patterns in Teens

Researchers involved in the light study developed a way to reset the internal “master clock” in teens and the elderly. The process involves blocking blue light at certain times by wearing orange glasses, followed by exposure to blue light and darkness at nighttime.

The key to resetting the body clock is mimicking a distinct repetitive pattern of light and dark. Figueiro explains that when a teenager gets up and waits outside for their bus in the morning light before their body is ready for the blue light cycle, their internal body clock becomes confused. Their alarm clock might say 7am, but their body clock senses it’s earlier. In the study, the teens wore the special blue light blocking glasses when they woke up.

Later in the morning after their minimum core body temperature was reached, the subjects were able to naturally reset their internal clocks by being out in the morning light (e.g. at the bus stop).

Teen Light Study and Implications for School Design

Over the years, Dr. Figueiro has repeatedly heard from parents concerned their teens were sleep deprived. As a result of the findings from the study, she suggests addressing two key questions: How to promote exposure to morning light with teens and how to design schools differently.

Giving students a quick mid-morning break to go outside and putting blue LEDs around computer screens in classrooms are two ways, Dr. Figueiro offers, to address the issue in schools. Exposing teens with delayed nighttime sleep issues to adequate amounts of morning light at the appropriate time during the day may reset their internal body clock and naturally modulate their sleep cycle.

References:

Chang AM, Reid KJ, Gourineni R, Zee PC, ”Sleep timing and circadian phase in delayed sleep phase syndrome,” J Biol Rhythms. 2009 Aug;24(4):313-21.

MedlinePlus [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): National Library of Medicine (US); Melatonin; [updated 2009 Aug 25], Accessed May 6, 2010. “Late Nights and Laziness,” British Broadcasting Corporation Online, Accessed May 6, 2010.

Copyright Laura Owens. Contact the author to obtain permission for republication.

 

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A Natural Journey Out of Cancer and Into Healing

Guest blogger: Heather Von St. James
Patient & Family Advocate
Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance
Mesothelioma.com
On Facebook: www.facebook.com/mesotheliomacancer

Your body, your health, your decision.

You feel powerless. The doctor has just finished explaining different treatments for your cancer and you do not know what to do. You know nothing about cancer and you know nothing about cancer treatments. You consider just taking whatever suggestion the doctor gives you but something is holding you back.

This is your decision.

This is your life, your health, and your body. Before you commit to undergoing a chemical treatment process, consider natural healing. Take the opportunity to research your cancer, whether you have been diagnosed with something common, like skin cancer, or something rare, like mesothelioma. If you have been diagnosed with skin cancer, your research may show that you that your life won’t change much. However, being diagnosed with something more serious, you may discover that the mesothelioma prognosis is very poor, particularly given the 5-year survival rate for mesothelioma is less than 10%.

Statistics can be frightening. Do not get discouraged. Remember, this is your decision. You do have a choice. You are in control of your own well-being. You may have not controlled the diagnosis of cancer, but you can control your response. Very simply, cancer means that there is something affecting your body that is not supposed to be there. Occasionally, our body can fight off these bad cancer agents. However, in order for this to happen, or more likely to happen, you must be in good health.

Before you put yourself through the physical and psychological pain of chemical treatments, you may want to consider what natural healing can offer you. Natural healing does not have to be complicated; it is simply a return to the basics how we are meant to live. Healing News shares a story of a woman who healed the worst form of skin cancer by switching to a pure raw vegan diet. This may sound extreme, but remember, so are chemical treatments. If you want a change, you must declare this change.

Perhaps take this time to evaluate your physical and mental health. Do whatever you can to live in a positive manner. Explore the possibility of natural healing before you give up your own control.

This is your decision. Give yourself the chance you deserve.

For more information:  Please go to Mesothelioma.net

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11 Ways to Naturally Improve Depression or Anxiety

Photo credit: Digitalart

While the pharmaceutical companies continue to promote expensive mood medications that come with a long list of side effects to manage anxiety and depression, in many cases, natural therapies alone or in combination with low dose medication can alleviate symptoms, and without side effects.

Re-think Serotonin theory on depression

Many prescription anti-depressants are designed to address low levels of serotonin and nor epinephrine. Yet in a 2005 review, researchers Jeffery Lacasse and Jonathon Leo wrote that they couldn’t find any article to directly support the long-held claim that a serotonin deficiency causes mental disorders.(Click here for serotonin-related products)

Moreover, not all mood disorders are due to a biochemical imbalance, and medications often miss the mark or don’t address the underlying causes. Drugs can have unpleasant side effects such as weight gain, loss of libido, or diminished affect (emotion); and can even exacerbate symptoms. Alternatively there are a number of natural alternatives to boost mood.

Increase dopamine

Dopamine, a neurotransmitter involved in arousal and motor function is a precursor to adrenaline and a related molecule, not adrenaline. Dopamine is made from the amino acid tyrosine and is central to the creation of reward systems such as food, sex, positive social interactions, even humor. While doctors can prescribe medications to treat dopamine-dependent depression, there are natural ways to elevate dopamine. (Click here for dopamine-related products)

Michael Lardon, a doctor and researcher on the neuroelectric assessment of athletic peak performance explains in an online article for the Modesto Bee that everyone who exercises can reap the benefits from the “dopamine buzz.”

“Dopamine is released within just 20 minutes of moderate exercise, says Lardon, “and triggers within your brain positive feelings about yourself even after your first session of exercise, before your body has had a chance to firmly establish an association between the exercise and the great feelings.”

Increase GABA

Another neurotransmitter involved with mood regulation is GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid). GABA controls the brain’s rhythmic theta waves that allow individuals to feel physically and mentally balanced. (Click here for GABA-related products)

Dr. Ray Sahelian, author of Mind Boosters [St. Martin’s Press, 2000] explains GABA’s key brain balancing role, “GABA is the most important and widespread inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain. Excitation in the brain must be balanced with inhibition. Too much excitation can lead to restlessness, irritability, insomnia, and even seizures. GABA is able to induce relaxation, analgesia, and sleep.”

GABA is involved in the production of endorphins, brain chemicals that create feelings of well-being known as the “runner’s high.” An imbalance can be involved in bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and anxiety disorder but it’s also inherent to several critical day to day brain functions.

A GABA-rich diet and certain supplements can elevate GABA, and so can yoga, research finds. “The practice of yoga should be explored as a treatment for disorders with low GABA levels such as depression and anxiety disorders. Future studies should compare yoga to other forms of exercise to help determine whether yoga or exercise alone can alter GABA levels,” write scientists in a 2007 study. (Click here for GABA-related products)

Fish Oil to Improve Mood

Fish oil is most often associated with cardiovascular health, but the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil can also improve mood in some people. (Click here for Nature’s Way fish oil product, their Mega Gold is one of my and my husband’s favorites)

According to Dr. Mercola, a leading natural health expert, “Numerous studies worldwide have linked lack of omega-3 consumption – specifically DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) – with depression. One study found that depression symptoms were higher among infrequent fish consumers than among those who ate fish on a regular basis.”

Researchers found that low plasma concentrations of DHA were good predictors of low concentrations of brain serotonin. Low serotonin can be associated with depression and suicide in some individuals.

Socialize With Cheerful People

Depressed people often avoid social interaction, but forcing face-to-face connections with upbeat people can boost mood, research indicates. (Click here for books about boosting mood)

Forbes.com reported on a 20-year study that found social networks can have a deep impact on an individual’s happiness. Scientists tracked over 4,700 people and found that social interactions with both cheerful friends and strangers considerably influenced the subject’s chances of happiness.

Pet a Pet to Boost Mood

Petting Rover can be plus for mental and physical health. “The benefit is especially pronounced when people are strongly attached to their pets,” says researcher Judith Siegel, PhD for a WebMD article.

Blair Justice, PhD, a psychology professor and author of Who Gets Sick: How Beliefs, Moods, and Thoughts Affect Your Health [Peak Press, 2000] tells WebMD that like any enjoyable activity, playing with a pet increases serotonin and dopamine. “People take drugs like heroin and cocaine to raise serotonin (click for 5 Htp products) and dopamine, but the healthy way to do it is to pet your dog, or hug your spouse, watch sunsets, or get around something beautiful in nature, “says Justice.(Click here for serotonin-related products)

While the pharmaceutical industry continues to promote a long list of medications for anxiety and depression, several natural alternatives are available that are safe, often very effective, and without risky side effects.

People suffering with acute or chronic mood changes who are interested in natural treatments should seek a holistic practitioner. Holistic physicians often measure neurotransmitter and hormone levels and then develop a comprehensive treatment plan that may include a combination of diet changes, exercise, hormone replacement and supplements. Treatment may be combined with conventional approaches to mood management or as an alternative.

Take SAM-e

Sam-e, a naturally occurring compound found in all living things is distributed throughout the human body and can help to maintain mood. Levels fall as people age and certain groups of people, including those with low mood, tend to have lower levels of SAM-e (Click here for Sam-e products) in their bodies.

Lower Homocysteine

Homocysteine is a harmful amino acid that naturally occurs in all humans and is involved in cellular metabolism and the manufacture of proteins. The body uses vitamin B12 and folic acid to convert homocysteine into SAM-e and without sufficient B-vitamins, blood homocysteine levels rise.

Researchers believe that high homocysteine levels contribute to cerebral vascular disease and neurotransmitter deficiency, both which can lead to depression. A study conducted in 2005 found that total homocysteine levels were higher in elderly patients with late-onset major depression (Chen CS et al 2005).

Plasma homocysteine levels are strongly influenced by diet, genetic factors, and a deficiency in folic acid, B6 and B12 vitamins. Aging, smoking, large amounts of coffee and some medications can also elevate homocysteine. The following supplements may lower homocysteine levels and improve depression:

  • folic acid
  • vitamin B12 (cobalamin) (sublingual (under the tongue), transdermal (skin) or injection form only)Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)
  • trimethylglycine and zinc
  • selenium
  • N-acetylcysteine
  • cysteine
  • creatine and choline-producing nutrients (inhibits the release of homocysteine)

Boost Vitamin D

Dr. John Cannell, Executive Director of the Vitamin D Council, explains that while further research needs to be conducted, vitamin D may play a role in depression. Vitamin D is a secosteroid hormone involved with over 2000 genes in the body and is created when the sun’s rays strike bare skin. With an increase in sunscreen use and indoor activity, researchers believe there is a D deficiency epidemic across the globe. (Click here for vitamin D products)

Heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, and low bone mineral density are all associated with depression, writes Cannell on the Council’s website. Viitamin D deficiency, it turns out, causes some aspect in all these illnesses. Summer sunlight increases brain serotonin levels twice as much as winter sunlight, a finding compatible with both bright light in the visible spectrum and vitamin D affecting mood.

While Cannell promotes the critical importance of optimizing vitamin D levels for disease prevention, he isn’t suggesting vitamin D is the one-stop shopping cure for depression. “We were unable to find any studies in the literature in which patients with depression were treated with enough natural sunlight, artificial sunlight or plain old cholecalciferol to raise their levels to 35 ng/mL or higher. We all know how we feel after a week at the beach, but is that bright light, vitamin D, or something else? (Click here for vitamin D products)

Increase Magnesium

Magnesium is an essential mineral that regulates more than 325 enzymes, including many critical functions that produce, transport, store and utilize energy. It also orchestrates the electrical current that sparks through the miles of nerves in the body.

A magnesium deficiency can produce symptoms of anxiety, depression, muscle weakness, fatigue, eye twitches, insomnia, anorexia, apathy, apprehension, poor memory, confusion, anger, nervousness, and rapid pulse. Serotonin, the “feel-good” brain chemical, relies on magnesium for its production and function.

“People do not get anxiety, panic attacks, or depression because they have a deficiency of Valium or Prozac,” says Dr. Carolyn Dean, author of The Magnesium Miracle, [Ballantine Books, 2007]. “Our bodies do not require these substances for essential metabolic processes. However, we can develop a myriad of psychological symptoms because of a deficiency of magnesium, a nutrient our bodies do require,” says Dean. (Click here for Natural Calm Magnesium Products, one of the best magnesium products, IMO).

Laugh

Since the 1980s, Dr. Lee S. Berk, a preventive care specialist and psychoneuroimmunology researcher, and Dr. Stanley Tan have followed in Norman Cousins’ ground breaking work. In the 1970s, Cousins suggested humor and the resulting laughter benefits a person’s health.

Berk and Tan’s research has shown that laughter helps optimize many of the functions of various body systems such as optimizing the hormones in the endocrine system and decreasing the levels of cortisol and epinephrine which lead to stress reduction. Repetitious mirthful laughter causes the body to respond in a way similar to moderate physical exercise.

While the pharmaceutical industry continues to promote a long list of medications as the solution to treat anxiety and depression, several natural alternatives are available that are safe and without risky side effects. (Click here for L-theanine, the patented Suntheanine form works best)

People suffering with acute or chronic mood changes interested in natural treatments should seek a holistic practitioner. Holistic physicians often measure neurotransmitter and hormone levels and develop a comprehensive treatment plan that may include a combination of diet changes, exercise, hormone replacement and supplements. Natural treatments may be used in conjunction with conventional approaches to mood management or as an alternative.

Footnotes:
“Body’s response to repetitive laughter is similar to the effect of repetitive exercise, study finds.” ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 11, 2010.

Folstein M, Liu T, Peter I, Buell J, Arsenault L, Scott T, Qiu WW, “The homocysteine hypothesis of depression,” The American Journal of Psychiatry, June 2007. Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (2010, April 26).

Lacasse JR, Leo J, “Serotonin and depression: a disconnect between the advertisements and the scientific literature,” Florida State University College of Social Work, Tallahassee, Fl., 2005 Dec;2(12):e392.

Lerche Davis, Jeanie, “5 Ways Pets Can Improve Your Health,” WebMD. November 16, 2009.

Mercola, Joseph, Ph.D., “More Omega-3 Studies Find Links to Depression,”November 24 2004.

Mercola, Joseph, Ph.D., “Elevated Homocysteine Levels May Affect Your Ability to Think,” Mercola.com, September 10, 2003.

Rebecca, Ruiz, How To Beat The Winter Blues. Forbes.com. December 15, 2008.

Streeter, CC, Jensen JE, Perlmutter RM, Cabral HJ, Tian H, Terhune DB, Ciraulo DA, Renshaw, PF, “Yoga Asana sessions increase brain GABA levels: a pilot study.” Journal of Complementary Medicine, 2007 May 13.\

Copyright Laura Owens. Contact the author to obtain permission for republication.

Author’s Note:

Depression and anxiety treatment has exploded into a highly profitable industry for drug companies. A growing number of people are popping prescriptions, desperately seeking solutions that will work long term and won’t carry risky side effects.

But pharmaceutical companies continue to spend millions on advertising to convince consumers that the solution to conquering mood disorders comes from a doctor’s prescription pad. Yet there are numerous natural alternatives available that cost little money, are safe and effective and will treat a spectrum of acute and chronic mood issues.

Ideally people battling mood disorders should find a physician who will first test their neurotransmitters and hormone levels (interrelated) and then work from the patient’s baseline numbers to create a brain balancing program with natural and/or traditional solutions. In addition, people should track their symptoms over several months, noting any changes and what factors preceeded their symptoms (food, stress, hormonal change, poor sleep, etc).

Not all depression and anxiety stems from the same imbalance, knowing what the deficiencies are is a better treatment plan then throwing medication at a patient and hoping it sticks, with endless trials and error. Although even with natural healing, trial and error is part of the package to wellness. – Laura



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