Laura G Owens ~ Writer

Humanity. Health. Happiness.

Category: Health and Wellness Page 1 of 6

Iodine is critical

Why iodine is CRITICAL to good health.

Iodine is needed for more than the thyroid. The thyroid only holds less than 1% of the body’s iodine store; the skin holds 20%, the breasts hold 5%. Our whole body needs iodine.¹ – Dr. David Brownstein author of “Iodine: Why You Need It. Why You Can’t Live Without It.” 

You probably think of iodine as that red-rust-colored liquid your mom dabbed on your skinned knee. But iodine is so much more than just an anti-bacterial.

Maybe you’ve noticed these salt box disclaimers,  “This salt provides iodine necessary nutrient” or “This salt does not contain iodide, a necessary nutrient.”

Because not only is iodine a necessary nutrient, but more than two billion people worldwide are deficient. (Read here to learn why). 

Iodine is an essential mineral commonly found in seafood. Your body needs it in order to produce thyroid hormones and reverse the effects of a slow metabolism.  Iodine deficiency can lead to hypothyroidism (low thyroid hormones).  It’s critical for fetal brain development, immune support, and endocrine gland functions including the breasts, ovaries, uterus and prostate.

Public health experts report that adding small amounts of iodine back to salt may be one of the simplest and most cost-effective steps to tackle Iodine Deficiency Disorders (IDD) in over 118 countries.

Iodine is also gaining attention for it’s use in cancer prevention, and in some cases, cancer treatment.

“The good thing about iodine is, it has apoptotic properties,” says Dr. David Brownstein, a Board-Certified family physician and Medical Director of the Center for Holistic Medicine in West Bloomfield, MI.  “Meaning it can stop a cancer cell from just continually dividing, dividing, dividing until it kills somebody. Iodine can stop this continuum wherever it catches it and hopefully reverse it, but at least put the brakes on what is happening.”

How to use iodine

How much to use and what form depends.  I strongly advise working with a holistic health practitioner familiar with iodine supplementation.  

You can apply iodine directly to your skin or you can drink iodine mixed with a small amount of filtered water. 

My doctor told me to rub Wellness Resources Iosol Iodine drops directly on my neck because I have a lot of thyroid nodules (I recently had the largest biopsied and thankfully it was benign).

So this is what I do:

I rub one to three (small) drops of iodine on my throat in the morning and one to three before dinner. I used to use more based on my doctor’s recommendation.  Five drops 2x a day plus one I-Throid capsule in the afternoon. But it turned out that amount was too much for me. 

With that high dose sometimes I experienced adrenal crash (felt weak) or had  mild heart racing.  Eight years ago I was diagnosed with severe adrenal fatigue. I’m much better now but I have to stay on the low side of iodine dosing. 

So, how much you use is highly individual which is why I strongly recommend working with an integrative/holistic health practitioner. 

Okay but here’s the irony. My doctor put me on the high iodine dose that caused problems. She told me she thought my stronger adrenal glands could take it (They couldn’t). So while I always recommend people work with their health practitioner, ultimately you need to listen to your own body. 

I quickly lost weight with iodine 

Anyway, when I first started using iodine I didn’t notice anything. But a couple weeks later I starting losing weight. I lost a total of about five to seven pounds until I leveled off.  I never weigh myself  but I easily dropped a pant size without changing a thing (I work I out six days a week and eat pretty healthy). 

Wellness Resources Iosol Iodine dosing guide:

“The most commonly used dose of Iosol Iodine is 1 drop of the preparation in a few ounces of water, taken once a day. Each drop has 1.8 mg of iodine or 1200% of the governments recommended daily value. If you would like to get only 100% of the daily value then take 1 tsp of a mixture of 1 drop of Iosol Iodine in 2 ounces of water; however, most people like taking more than this.”

There’s quite a few forms of iodine available. I don’t mean brands, I mean forms. Lugol’s vs iosol vs nascent. 

Wellness Resources claims that iosol iodine offers superior water solubility and therefore superier bioavailability (the body’s ability to absorb and efficiently use a substance).

“There are two sources of iodine in the Iosol formulation. One is from kelp. Iodine in kelp is naturally in the form of potassium iodide. However, potassium iodide is not very soluble in water and may be difficult for your body to easily use. For example, if you get liquid potassium iodide on your clothes it causes a permanent stain of red. If you get Iosol Iodine on your clothes the red will evaporate out in a few minutes or readily come out with washing. In fact, potassium iodide has been shown to congest the thyroid gland when taken in high doses and is how Hashimotos thyroiditis was first discovered (Japanese citizens consuming too many sea vegetables). This is why I don’t use potassium iodide.

During the production of Iosol, iodine is extracted from kelp and made into pure iodine crystals. This is not potassium iodide, rather it is an unbound form of iodine.

The second form of iodine used is ammonium iodide, a form that readily dissolves in water. These two forms of iodine are combined in a proprietary manner in a base of vegetable glycerin.

Ammonium iodide is a combination of the mineral iodine and ammonium (NH4). This is a synthesized compound, not derived from a food source. It has superior bioavailability as the iodine readily disassociates from the ammonium upon exposure to water, producing a free iodide ion exactly what your body would like to use in metabolism. ” Wellness Resource website. 

Whatever form you choose, start low and go slow.  

Want to read my full article on Whole Life Times? 

¹Interview with Dr. David Brownstein: MD. Board certified family physician, integrative practitioner and an expert in thyroid disease, hormones and iodine

Foods naturally high in iodine

 

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Chronic insomnia. What finally got me to sleep.

If you suffer with serious insomnia at some point you’ve probably tried damn near anything to sleep.

I spent God knows how much money on supplements, herbs, books, prescriptions and acupuncture. I even got tested for sleep apnea although I suspected that wasn’t the problem (It wasn’t. In fact the doctor said I moved through “all the stages of sleep perfectly.” Really? Tell that to my 3am wide awake brain).

Nothing worked. Well prescription sleeping pills worked but not without horrible side effects (Ambien made me really nasty the next day). And sleeping pills are for short term sleep issues.

The more stressed I got the worse my insomnia. I went from having trouble falling back to sleep, to for the first time in my life, having trouble falling asleep. It was a nightmare. I was anxious, depressed, in a fog.

I did hours of research and finally figured out I probably had something called adrenal fatigue. I sent a sample of my saliva to a company called ZRT Laboratory. ZRT offers home testing for a variety of conditions. The results showed I had mild to moderate adrenal fatigue.

But here’s the problem with that diagnosis.

Conventional doctors (vs. integrative/functional/holistic) don’t believe adrenal fatigue is a real condition. They only recognize adrenal insufficiency/Addison’s disease and Cushing syndrome. So if you ask your health care provider about adrenal fatigue prepare for an eye roll and to hear “there’s no such thing.”

Don’t listen to them.

Adrenal fatigue isn’t quackery. It’s real. If you want to know more about adrenal fatigue and insomnia please read this post.

So I found a holistic MD who confirmed my diagnosis. But she told me my condition wasn’t mild, it was severe. This doctor worked with me for months to strengthen my adrenal glands. And when I finally felt better — I slept better. Not every night, but most nights.

Read: my insomnia – adrenal fatigue story

In my link above I list a bunch of supplements I recently tested after I found out the FDA discontinued my favorite sleep supplement, Kavinace Ultra PM (Oh how I miss you…). I had so-so results with most of the supplements I tested. But with trial and error for the most part, I have it down.

Phenibut pulled from dietary supplements

Kavinace Ultra PM contained phenibut. Phenibut is a central nervous system depressant. It’s used in the treatment of anxiety, insomnia, and for a variety of other conditions. It worked really well to get and keep me to sleep (in combination with other supplements (see below).

Unfortunately in April the FDA issued warning letters to companies that sell dietary supplements with phenibut. They told the companies to immediately pull their product off the market or to relabel it a “nootropic.” Nootropics are substances that have memory or cognitive-enhancing effects.

Okay great so now I’m stuck without my Godsend of a sleep supplement.

Desperate, I called the company that made Ultra Kavinace PM (NeuroScience). The representative suggested Ultra Kavinace PM users try their Alpha Gaba PM formulation. I tried it. Meh. It works okay. I usually still wake up in the middle of the night.

NeuroScience’s latest replacement for Ultra Kavinace PM is a new formula called Kavinace OS (available in capsules or liquid). I haven’t tried it and I probably won’t. It has ingredients I’ve already tried alone or in various sleep formulas with so-so results.

Like Alpha Gaba PM, Kavinace OS contains L-theanine and melatonin. But Kavinace OS contains 5 mg of melatonin vs. Alpha’s 3 mg. That bump in melatonin might make a real difference for some people.

In my experience melatonin by itself vs. in combination with herbs etc. doesn’t work well for me. Melatonin isn’t a sedative. It’s a hormone naturally produced our brain’s pineal gland as the sun goes down. Its job is to regulate our body’s natural circadian rhythm. As we age our melatonin levels drop.

When I add a higher dose of melatonin to my sleep supplements I sleep pretty well but I have some pretty wicked (unsettling) dreams. Not a great trade-off.

This is the sleep regime that (usually) works for me.

Three to four nights a week I take:

Three to four nights a week:

I replace Alpha Gaba PM with one of my sleep formulas that contains phenibut. How did I get my hands on phenibut when it was removed from the market?

When I heard sleep supplements that contain phenibut were being pulled I stockpiled a few brands that got positive reviews on Amazon. Gaba Complex and Sleep Time (both are no longer available). You can however, also still purchase phenibut by itself at **LiftMode.

I don’t sleep quite as well with Alpha Gaba PM as I do with phenibut sleep formulas. But my holistic doctor increased my bioidentical progesterone by an extra 25mg per night to support my adrenal glands and that helps (as a note to women in menopause, bioidentical progesterone helps among many symptoms, sleep).

I may try adding GABA supplements to my Alpha Gaba PM. I read a study that found that GABA and L-theanine in combination are more effective than taken alone. I suggest taking the PharmaGaba form of GABA. PharmaGABA is the form, not a brand.

So that’s what I’m doing to stay asleep.

Trial and error. Please note that long term insomnia may be caused by a number of underlying or interrelated issues (stress, chronic pain, sleep apnea, etc.). Please consult with your health practitioner.

And please let me know what you’ve tried that’s working for you.

To better sleep and sweet dreams ~ Laura

**Please note: phenibut has the potential for tolerance and abuse. Use the lowest possible dose and regularly rotate with non-phenibut products.Phenibut requires careful, disciplined and responsible cycling and limited consumption to maximize its benefits and minimize the potential drawbacks. 

Disclaimer: Please note I don’t recommend any products or service I haven’t  personally tried or that haven’t receive positive reviews from Amazon. Laura-Owens.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com

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happiness

119 scientifically proven ways to be happier

One of my all-time favorite topics. Okay so maybe 119 ways to feel happier feels a little overwhelming. So cherry pick. Try two, or six or twenty….

This guest post is from Health Grinder.

Everyone wants to be happy.

We’ve all experienced it at different points in our lives. And the feeling is so good that it’s probably the one thing everyone can agree they want to have in life.

Plus, happiness makes us healthier, lets us live longer, and be more productive.

So how can you be happier? In life, love, relationships and even work.

We’ve dug into tons of research studies to help you find the answer. Here are 119 ways to be happier. See which ones you can incorporate into your life.

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insomnia

Tried everything but you still can’t sleep? It might be adrenal fatigue.

A few years ago I had a serious emotional breakdown from severe insomnia.  

At one point it got so bad I started feeling microscopic “bugs” crawling all over my skin at night.  I’d spend an hour scanning my arms with a magnifying glass trying to find invisible insects (this is a condition called formication). Formication is the perception of bugs crawling on the skin and is caused by a number of conditions including anxiety which if you’re chronically sleep deprived — is a given). 

I honestly thought I was going crazy.  Sleep deprivation has been used as a form of torture, and over time will cause a horrifying breakdown of your body and mind. 

Quality and quantity sleep matters

Most people think getting “good” sleep is simply about getting enough (6 to 8 hours). But quality matters too, that is, cycling through all five stages throughout the night. Sleep is not only restorative it’s an essential part of disease prevention. Research has found that sleep helps cleans out our daily brain garbage (beta amyloids associated with Alzheimer’s).

Without adequate zzz’s it’s nearly impossible to function at full potential the next day. We feel “weirded out,” foggy, drowsy, anxious, unfocused, cranky, quick to anger, clumsy, slow and often times depressed. And at it’s worst, sleep deprivation can be dangerous, e.g. falling asleep at the wheel.

When I started having sleep problems I obsessively poured through online articles and read numerous research studies. I spent countless hours and dollars on sleep supplements and even got tested for sleep apnea. I posted desperate questions on dozens of online forums. Nothing worked.

What I tried for my insomnia (everything) 

Google “insomnia” and you’ll see pages of articles that recommend your first line of defense should be to “practice good sleep hygiene.” 

  • Keep regular bedtime hours (irregular sleep patterns disrupt your body’s natural circadian rhythm).
  • Keep your bedroom cool, dark and quiet at night.
  • Avoid screens an hour or more before bedtime (disrupts melatonin production).
  • Quiet the mind and body with a warm bath and soothing sounds.

Please. It should be so easy. 

Okay for some it is. But for the hardcore insomniac these just don’t cut it. Of course good sleep hygiene is important and without it, will only make matters worse. 

Here’s what many experts suggest to combat insomnia. I tried every single one. 

  • Cut out caffeine 
  • If you can’t fall asleep go read in another room. The idea is to avoid associating your bedroom with sleep problems, thus adding to “sleep anxiety.”
  • Meditate 
  • Listen to calming music. Certain music is actually designed to move your brain into an alpha (calm) state.
  • Avoid reading or watching scary or overstimulating books and movies right before bed. 
  • Wear eye plugs and an eye mask (I still do this every night).
  • Try hypnosis with a professional or self-hypnotize yourself to sleep.  Imagine slowly walking down steps while you silently count backwards. 
  • Try EFT, emotional freedom technique (tapping)
  • Try reflexology 
  • Address peri or full menopause. Bioidentical progesterone is a  calming hormone and it may help. In some instances bioidentical estrogen may be beneficial. (Bioidentical HRT is safe when monitored by a health care practitioner). 
  • Quiet your mind by replacing racing/ruminating thoughts with soothing images (the beach, waterfalls, basically your happy place).
  • Take a warm shower.
  • Try melatonin. 1-3 mg. Melatonin by itself makes my sleep worse.  It’s a hormone produced in the brain’s pineal gland and is only secreted at night. It’s not a sedative. Melatonin works with your body’s natural circadian rhythm (internal body clock). As we age we produce less. I’m testing it right now by adding it to my current supplements. 
  • For a short period, try an anti-histamine (these made me more awake, also known as a paradoxical effect).
  • Try calming herbs (Valerian, Hops, Lemon Balm, Kava Kava, etc). 
  • Try sleeping pills (*for a brief period).
  • Get tested for sleep apnea. According to my sleep clinic doctor I move in and out of each sleep stage “perfectly,” with no breathing disruption. 

*You probably already know but sleep meds are bad news long term.  First, they don’t address the underlying problem. Moreover they disrupt natural sleep patterns, are addictive and often have nasty side effects. My Ambien hangover was mean moody and nasty. And for some people Ambien can be dangerous (sleep-walking activities like driving, etc).

Chronic insomnia made me take a few swigs at 4am

There were times when after I tried for hours to fall back asleep I just gave up and chugged a couple vodka shots. But here’s the thing, alcohol disrupts REM (dream) sleep, which in turn makes you anxious the next day. Drinking is obviously not the answer but at 3am, 4am, 5am I’d have done virtually anything to go back to sleep, legal or otherwise. 

I remember once saying to my husband something like “I wish I had a small dose of that ‘milk’ that Michael Jackson took to sleep at night.” In the most desperate and sad way I understood why he begged his doctor to shoot him up with it. MJ’s “milk” was a powerful anesthetic drug and tragically it killed him.

After months of trying everything and spending hundreds of dollars, all I had left was to pray and sob. Night after night I sat alone on my back porch staring at the sky, begging for answers.

Every morning when my daughter got ready for school I stumbled around the kitchen, forced a smile and pretended I was okay. My husband was incredibly supportive but there was nothing he could do except listen every time I broke down. During the day I tried to nap but I was either too busy with my writing work or too wired to fall asleep (the latter is a classic sign of adrenal fatigue, “tired but wired”). 

Most of my life I never had any trouble falling asleep. Within 10 minutes of reading a book I’d zonk out. Every so often I’d wake up in the middle of the night and not fall back to sleep for a couple hours.

Of course this happens to everyone.

Racing thoughts, stress, an exciting day, hot flashes, depression, chronic pain or sometimes for no apparent reason, you’re just wide awake.

I didn’t think much about it until it started to happen more frequently and then eventually I started having trouble falling asleep.

Pretty soon bedtime became my enemy.

By 8 or 9pm I could feel my anxiety and panic creep in. This stressed me out which in turn, made it even harder to fall asleep.

Here’s the thing, insomnia creates a vicious cycle.

Poor sleep = higher cortisol (the “stress” hormone). Higher cortisol = poor sleep. And round and round the nightmare goes. 

Adrenal fatigue and insomnia

After months of research I finally figured out my sleep issues were likely caused by adrenal fatigue (AF).

“Adrenal fatigue is a collection of signs and symptoms, known as a syndrome, that results when the adrenal glands function below the necessary level,” writes Dr. James Wilson. “Most commonly associated with intense or prolonged stress, it can also arise during or after acute or chronic infections, especially respiratory infections such as influenza, bronchitis or pneumonia. As the name suggests, its paramount symptom is fatigue that is not relieved by sleep but it is not a readily identifiable entity like measles or a growth on the end of your finger.”

See: Common symptoms of adrenal fatigue

I had nearly all the symptoms.  

I should stop right here and mention that the conventional medical community doesn’t recognize AF.  

It only recognizes adrenal insufficiency in the form of Addison’s and Cushing’s disease both which are not related to AF.

I should also point out that I have a pituitary disorder called Empty Sella Syndrome that affects my Hypothalmic-Pituitary-Axis (HPA). I was diagnosed at 19 and until a few years ago was under endocrinologists’ care. HPA issues can correlate to adrenal problems. 

But here’s the thing, when I spoke to my endocrinologist about my sleep issues, she was zero help.  Why? Because my standard endocrine bloodwork was within normal limits for my pituitary condition.  Because the doc didn’t test my DHEA level which later turned out to be rock bottom (DHEA is an adrenal hormone). Because the endocrinology community thinks AF is total bunk. 

So I left my endocrinologist and went to a highly respected holistic MD., Dr. Sangeeta Pati who specializes in restorative medicine. Dr. Pati confirmed that I did indeed have AF, but that it wasn’t mild as I suspected; it was severe. 

She treated my AF by suggesting immediate lifestyle changes (naps when possible etc.). She started me on bioidentical DHEA (and other bioidentical hormones), magnesium and a daily dash of Premier pink Himalayan salt in a glass of water. I also continued to take adrenal-supportive supplements I found through Dr. James Wilson’s website and Kavinace Ultra PM for sleep (more about both below). 

If you suspect you have AF (take this online questionnare) you have two options: 

    1. Listen to your doctor who will inevitably tell you, “There’s no such diagnosis. The Endocrinology Society doesn’t recognize it. It’s a made-up condition that preys on the unsuspecting in order to make money.”

      OR…..

       

    2. Find a health care practitioner who understands AF and takes it seriously.

       

But here’s the thing, adrenal fatigue treatment finally got me to sleep — my primary doctor and endocrinologist did not.

Sadly many people who suffer with AF are told there’s nothing clinically wrong with them, that like most Americans they’re simply overworked, tired, burnt out and stressed.

“Get some rest, stop burning the candle at both ends,” is the often the extent of insomnia medical advice. Or the doctor writes a prescription for sleeping pills, anti-depressants and/or anti-anxiety meds. All fine short term, but these won’t get to the root of your insomnia. 

Your insomnia may in fact be due to a condition that has nothing to do with AF. Menopause. Chronic pain. REM disorder. Your primary care doctor may order tests and refer you to a specialist to rule out certain conditions. But alternatively, your symptoms may point directly to AF. 

Just don’t rule it out even if your doctors automatically do. 

It’s real. Ask Dr Wilson. Dr. Lam. Dr. Northrup.

And, please please please don’t fall for the myth that “as we age we need less sleep.” Or what your friends tell you, that “as we age we don’t sleep as well and that’s just the way it is” No. As we age we still need 6-8 hours of quality sleep.  

What I did once when I realized I had adrenal fatigue

I found a website called Integrative Psychiatry that specializes in neuro-cognitive tests and sells supplements that addresses such issues. I immediately ordered the Adrenal Stress Index test.

Almost all my results were abnormal.

For a small fee I consulted with the company’s physician’s assistant over the phone. From my results she suspected I had adrenal fatigue so she told me I needed to address a number of issues that were most likely causing my insomnia.

First, gluten sensitivity.

Food sensitivities can contribute to insomnia as a result of gut inflammation and histamine. Inflammation in the body alerts the adrenals, “warning, warning something is wrong!” and bam, cortisol increases. 

And of course — stress.

Stress of any kind (good or bad) raises cortisol. But cortisol is not the enemy. We need it. It reduces inflammation.  Cortisol levels naturally go up and down with our circadian rhythm. Cortisol is also the famous fight or flight hormone we’ve relied on in our evolution to stay alert to danger, and so, to survive. “Run a tiger is coming!”

Of course we’re no longer running from tigers.

Today our “tiger” is the challenge of day to day living. “It’s time for bed but I have a business report to finish, kids to pick up, dishes to clean, emails to answer, texts to respond to, bills to juggle, persistent pain, aging parents who need me, social media to attend to (e.g. fear of missing out)…”

When something stressful happens (say a car cuts you off) your body immediately produces adrenaline. Afterward cortisol rises. As I mentioned cortisol naturally ebbs and flows.  But if you’re chronically stressed your cortisol level may never come down. So while you should be getting drowsy around 9 or 10pm you’re wide awake staring at the ceiling. Or you fall asleep but wake up because your cortisol spikes.

Eventually your adrenal glands simply can’t keep up with the demand for cortisol and your levels begin to drop. You move from “wired but tired” (high cortisol) to so exhausted (low cortisol) you can barely get out of bed in the morning.

How you feel depends on where you are within the four phases of adrenal fatigue.  Low or high cortisol disrupts sleep. 

Important: You can’t recover from adrenal fatigue without regular quality sleep. And you can’t sleep when you have adrenal fatigue. Insomnia and adrenal fatigue are intertwined. 

The physician’s assistant with NeuroScience suggested I take three products.  Kavinace and Ultra Kavinace PM for sleep  (no longer available, see below) and Dr. Wilson’s Adrenal Rebuilder

Both Kavinace supplements contain phenibut (listed on the label as  4-amino-3-phenylbutyric acid).

Phenibut works with the brain’s GABA receptors. GABA and other neurotransmitters play a key role to reduce anxiety and promote sleep. Phenibut unlike straight GABA,  effectively crosses the challenge of the blood-brain-barrier.

GABA is the brain’s primary inhibitory neurotransmitter. Its main role is to calm the central nervous system by neutralizing the effects of glutamate, an excitatory neurotransmitter. 

Every night before bed I took:

Not only did this work, but I had zero “hangover” (drowsy) effect the next day. When I woke up in the middle of the night I took one or two Kavinace and one Adrenal Rebuilder. Fifteen to 30 minutes later I was fast asleep until the next morning. 

*It’s recommended people limit phenibut use to two to three times a week and take a “vacation” (come off it for a period of time). 

FDA issues warning letter. Kavinace and Ultra Kavinace are no longer available. 

The FDA recently issued a warning letter to companies who sell supplements that contain phenibut. The warning is regarding labeling phenibut or phenibut formulation as a “dietary supplement” vs. what it actually is, a nootropic.

Last week I called NeuroScience, the company that makes Kavinace supplements. The representative told me they’re reformulating all Kavinace products for release in July 2019.

Update: 7/23/19. I spoke to a rep from the company. The Kavinace reformulation will be released within a week or so after undergoing internal quality control. It will be an emulsion (thick liquid) and will not contain phenibut. It will however, work with the GABA (calming) pathways in the brain.

The replacements will not however, contain phenibut (labeled as 4-amino-3-phenylbutyric acid). This is a major disappointment because unlike many GABA agonists, phenibut effectively crosses the challenging blood-brain-barrier. 

Alternatives to Kavinace and Kavinace Ultra PM. This is what I tested.

I seriously panicked when I found out Kavinace products were pulled from the market. So I did some research and found this article by Dr. Davidson. She recommends two supplements called Cerevive and PharmaGaba. 

I contacted Dr. Davidson and she suggested people who have severe sleep issues  “layer” (take both) supplements at the same time.  

Please bear in mind that every-body and brain and sleep challenge is unique. If something doesn’t work for me, it might work for you.

Be sure to read both positive and negative Amazon product reviews.  

So, as I mentioned except for a few years ago, I generally don’t have problems falling asleep. My issue is waking up too early or falling back to sleep (sleep maintenance due to adrenal fatigue). 

Regardless of which sleep supplement I decide to test, I always take the following before bed:

~ One capsule of prescribed bioidentical progesterone (compounded by a verified compounding pharmacist).

~ One tablet of Dr. Wilson’s Adrenal Rebuilder 

~ Two 500mg capsules of Pure Encapsulations tryptophan (Pure Encapsulations is a stellar brand).

~ Three sprays Ancient Minerals magnesium applied topically to my arms or legs (and/or 2 capsules of Pure Encapsulations magnesium glycinate).

This is what I’ve tried so far (as of 6/18/19):

X CereVive – 2 capsules. Didn’t work. I was already a bit skeptical because this product while impressive with a number of sleep-promoting ingredients, has tyrosine. Tyrosine is an amino acid involved in the production of dopamine, a neurotransmitter involved with drive and motivation (daytime behaviors). When I contacted Dr. Davidson she told me CereVive works well as a sleep-aid for many of her patients.  She suggested if I can tolerate it to gradually increase to 4 capsules before bedtime. No thank you! Maybe it’s a phenomenal daytime mood-booster but it’s not right for me as a sleep aid.

X Thorne Pharma Gaba – 1 capsule 250 mg. Didn’t work. I woke up after a few hours and even after I added two 100mg of Natural Factors chewable Pharma Gaba I couldn’t fall back to sleep.  I like that Natural Factors is chewable (works faster) and comes in 100mg which allows you to start low and add more in the middle of the night. 

Both CereVive and Pharma Gaba. Didn’t work. This combo has a boatload of sleep-promoting ingredients.  GABA, L-theanine, 5-HTP, as well as a number of vitamins and minerals to improve the synthesis of the neurotransmitters. This goes to show you, more is necessarily better. Getting to the root cause of your insomnia is.  In case you’re interested: “What is Gaba vs l-theanine?”

NeuroScience Alpha Gaba PM (AGPM) –  2 capsules. Pretty good. This is NeuroScience’s current replacement for Kavinace products. The first time I took it I woke up a few hours later. But, I tried this before I got back on my adrenal fatigue protocol. After I started taking Dr. Wilson’s adrenal fatigue vitamins three times a day for several days, I found that AGPM worked better.  Not as well as Kavinace Ultra PM (oh how I miss you) but pretty good.

(I recently called NeuroScience and told the (very helpful) rep that their new sleep formula Alpha Gaba PM didn’t (initially) work very well. She told me, “Most people have found it takes about 2 weeks to work.”)

AGPM is an impressive formula. It contains 400 mg of l-theanine (a pretty hefty dosage), 3 mg of melatonin, and a proprietary blend of the herbs valerian, lemon balm and 5-HTP.  5-HTP is a precursor to serotonin, a sleep/mood neurotransmitter. 

So why didn’t these sleep supplements work as well as I hoped?

  1. Not enough of the active ingredient (GABA, l-theanine) is penetrating the blood-brain-barrier and/or they’re missing critical co-factors that increase bioavailability. 
  2. These sleep supplements don’t directly address my underlying issue, adrenal fatigue. 

*If you have adrenal fatigue it’s essential you support your adrenal glands all day long, every day. You can’t simply take herbs or supplements that boost the neurotransmitters GABA and serotonin at night and hope to avoid a 3am cortisol spike (or nighttime hypogylcemia which will wake you up. Hypoglycemia and AF are related). 

When I started testing these new supplements first night I woke up in the middle of the night. I took more supplements and read a book for about two hours. Nothing.

The more anxious I got, the more awake I felt (cortisol!). Frustrated I just sat on my porch with my head in my hands with flashbacks of my horrible insomnia days.  I finally fell asleep after taking 1mg of Klonipin prescribed by my holistic MD to use strictly for sleep emergencies (benzodiazepine drugs such as Klonipin are highly addictive and build tolerance quickly). 

So what did work? 

Addressing my adrenal fatigue. I was so disappointed the new supplements didn’t work. I sat down and thought about what was probably going on, what I’ve learned after five years of researching sleep. Adrenal fatigue.

I was already extremely anxious because my perfect Kavinace Ultra PM was pulled off the market. Then when I tried new sleep supplements and none of them worked, I got more anxious.  You know the deal by now, more anxious = higher cortisol = crappy sleep.

What I did to get back to sleep:   

  1. On day one I followed Dr. Wilson’s mild adrenal fatigue recovery protocol, although I adapted it a bit: 
    ~ 1 tablet Adrenal Rebuilder. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, bedtime.
    ~ 1 tablet Dr. Wilson’s Adrenal Vitamin C. Breakfast, lunch, dinner.  
    ~ 1 tablet Dr. Wilson’s Super Adrenal Stress Formula. Breakfast, lunch.      dinner. 
    ~ 10 drops in water of Dr. Wilson’s Herbal HPA breakfast and dinner. 
  2. At bedtime I took one 200mg soft gel of Sports Research L-Theanine  (I only use Suntheanine™ l-theanine). 
  3. As always I took my usual biodentical progesterone, tryptophan and topical magnesium.

The results?

I went to bed at 10:30pm. I woke up at briefly at 5:30am, took one Adrenal Rebuilder, rolled over and went back to sleep until 7:30am. I couldn’t believe it, I almost cried! 

So supporting my adrenal glands throughout the day stopped the middle-of-night cortisol spike. 

Gaba Complex  Worked. Recently someone responded to this post that  Gaba Complex works very well for her sleep issues. But Gaba Complex has phenibut (pulled by the FDA but still available on Amazon as of this writing). I ordered a bottle and tried it. I slept well but was drowsy the next day.  So the next time I took one capsule instead of the recommended two. I woke up in the middle of the night and took one more capsule along with one Adrenal Rebuilder. I slept okay, not fully awake, but not fast asleep either. 

When I called the company that makes Gaba Complex, Natural Creations, I asked a very informative gentleman named Bill how much phenibut Gaba Complex contains (I want to be careful). 

He told me 400mg which surprised me. I expected higher. Kavinace Ultra PM contains 625mg with zero hangover effect the next day. Bill explained that it’s not just how much GABA agonist a supplement contains, it’s also the combination of co-factors that help GABA work (penetrate the blood-brain-barrier). 

(Natural Creations, like NeuroScience, is in the process of reformulating their GABA Complex.) 

So that’s my journey. Treating adrenal fatigue to cure my insomnia. It’s a process. 

And truth be told, as someone who works out rigorously, stays up too late on the weekends and loves her wine (all of the above are taboo during adrenal fatigue treatment), some of my sleep issues are a direct result of my own behaviors, over and beyond my pituitary disorder. 

I’m still in the process of testing various sleep supplements that will keep me asleep for at least 7 hours.  But most importantly I’m back to treating my adrenal fatigue. 

Please let me know what’s working for you. 

Wishing you betters zzz’s, more restful days and great joy. 

Laura

Resources: 

Integrative Psychiatry  Provides at home testing, consultation by a nurse practitioner and products. 

ZRT Labs Offers home test kits (I strongly recommend working with a health practitioner to interpret results and design a treatment plan). 

NeuroScience NeuroScience offers proprietary blends of amino acids designed specifically to provide precursors for nervous system molecules called neurotransmitters.  7/23/19. I spoke to a rep from the company. Their Kavinace reformulation will be released within a week or so after undergoing internal quality control. It will not contain phenibut, but it will work with the GABA (calming) pathways in the brain.

Find a health practitioner who understands and treats adrenal fatigue

Supplements I mentioned:

Adrenal:

Dr. Wilson’s Adrenal Rebuilder 

Dr. Wilson’s Adrenal Vitamin C 

Dr. Wilson’s Super Adrenal Stress Formula  Dr. Wilson’s Herbal HPA

Pure Encapsulations tryptophan

Pure Encapsulations magnesium glycinate

Ancient Minerals magnesium

Premier pink Himalayan salt

Sleep:

Alpha Gaba PM 

Gaba Complex 

CereVive

Thorne Pharma Gaba

Natural Factors chewable Pharma Gaba

L-Theanine(Suntheanine™) 

Sleep Time 

Phenibut by LiftMode

More: New York Times: Insomnia Can Kill You 

                                           Getting a Good Night’s Sleep Without Drugs

 

Disclaimer: Please note I don’t recommend any products or service I haven’t  personally tried or that receive positive reviews from Amazon. Laura-Owens.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to [insert the applicable site name (amazon.com or whatever).

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

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postpartum depression

The split mind of postpartum depression

Originally published on Motherwell 

In a quiet, distant voice I tell my husband Mark that I want to die. Not exactly dead, I clarify, but not this. I tell him not to worry. I tell him love, guilt, duty will always matter more. I promise. But he has to understand, he has to reconcile what I’m saying with the fact that I love him, that I love our life together and our beautiful daughter. “Mark, do you know what I’m saying?”

Before breakfast I sing our daughter to sleep, rhyming her name with nonsensical Seuss-y words. I smile. The real kind, reflexive, above the sadness… Read full essay

 

Resources for help and healing: 

 

The Postpartum Stress Center

Postpartum Support International 

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The anti-anxiety chemical phenibut. Benefits and dangers.

smiling good-bad

Excerpted from Corpina’s article, “Phenibut’s INSANE Benefits and Brutally Awful Side Effects” 

Phenibut is commonly used as a nootropic, an anti-anxiety medication, and sleep aid. Everyone’s always asking me how much they should take.

Here’s my answer…

 

Everyone’s phenibut experience is unique, but in general, men should take about 2 – 2.5 grams and women 1 – 1.2 grams of Phenibut in a day.

Yet even if you take the proper dose, the phenibut hangover can rear its ugly head the following day.

Positive Effects: The Benefits of Using Phenibut

First time users often pose the question, “what does phenibut feel like?”

Before I dive in, it should be noted that I only take pure phenibut crystals, which I buy here.

Sensations on Phenibut – How Does it Feel?

The effects of phenibut simultaneously combine mild-to-moderate sedation with mild-to-moderate stimulation, allowing one to feel physically relaxed and mentally focused at the same time.

This increases sociability, lowering stress and inhibition levels, without impairing judgment.

While some people have compared the primary effects of phenibut to that of a light dose of GHB or MDMA, it’s really just an effective anti-anxiety, antidepressant medication, with few side-effects and remarkable health benefits.

Phenibut gives some users the sensation of mild euphoria, tantamount to a mild “high”. As such, it can be abused if not used correct. Yet, the euphoric phenibut high is not intense, and taking more of it doesn’t intensify the high.

After consuming a dose of phenibut–usually between 250 milligrams and 1000 milligrams—how long it takes to feel the effects varies considerably from person to person.

Personally, I’ve found that phenibut works most consistently when taken on an empty stomach, and I feel it’s effects in around 15 or 20 minutes.

However, it takes longer for most people to feel the effects.

People generally report that the effects start to kick in around 1 or 2 hours after oral ingestion, and then the primary effects usually last for around 4 or 5 hours, although pleasant lingering effects can last for another 24 hours.

Read full article

 

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What I wish I’d had: maternal mental health screening

2016-03-17-1458234563-4147552-sadmom.jpg

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When I was pregnant nineteen years ago I wish my doctor had warned me I might be at risk for postpartum depression.

Her words wouldn’t have freaked me out, they would have helped me cope when the darkness did indeed hit.

I wish during my 6 week check-up (when I was at my private worst) my Ob-Gyn had handed me a mental health screening and even if I lied on every question, she still explained how the “baby blues” are different than depression.

In January for the first time the United States Preventive Services Task Force recommended screening pregnant and postpartum women for maternal mental illness.

Hopefully now more health care practitioners will talk to women so those who suffer know they’re not bad people or rotten mothers or God knows, alone.

The fact is worldwide 10% of pregnant women and 13% of postpartum women have a mental disorder and the numbers are even higher in developing countries.

While maternal mental illness is often lumped into the catchall “postpartum depression” it’s more complicated than a single kitchen sink diagnosis.

Read full article on Psych Central

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How I cured my shingles

Shingles burns like a .....

Shingles burns like a …..

A few summers ago my husband, daughter and I were swimming in the Gulf of Mexico at Indian Rocks Beach when my daughter said, “Mom, what is that red rash on your back?”

I reached my fingers around and felt a two by two sore bumpy patch in the left middle of my back.

“Oh my God. I hope it’s not shingles,” I said. My husband looked worried; then he pretended to back up a few waves (I can’t blame him for the mock horror. Most people think shingles is contagious. It depends).

“It probably isn’t shingles,” I said. “Celeste told me it’s awful, really, really painful. This doesn’t feel too bad. It’s probably just some contact rash from sunscreen or lotion” I said.

We laughed it off and my husband and daughter went about making fun of me in our family’s way of no-mercy bashing for the (not really) suffering.

I’m not sure why I sensed I had shingles except body instinct, that little nudge that tells you something before you know you know it. Lately my exercise endurance was off, like I needed an extra kick to keep going.

I also had a nagging “muscle” ache in my upper left shoulder region and left rib area (the pathway the virus traveled on me). Also, a close family member told me last year all about her horrible case of shingles.

“It felt like the worst sunburn ever” Celeste said, “crossed with a thousand bee stings and then someone taking a rake across my skin. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t turn over. If I had to live with that pain I’d have killed myself.”

Full article….

 

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Why this nation is so happy

By Sgt. Samuel R. Beyers [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Sgt. Samuel R. Beyers [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Live Happy magazine reports that Costa Rica ranks as one of the happiest places on earth across a number of happiness index scales (Ranked number 1 out of 151 countries by the Happy Planet Index, HPI).

When I went a few years ago, among the many places I’ve traveled, Costa Rica in particular, left a vivid sensory imprint I revisit in my mind, often.

There’s something quickly transformative about Costa Rica, perhaps it’s immersion in the lush biodiversity combined with meeting Costa Ricans (“Ticos”) who do more than merely recite their nation’s slogan, “Pura Vida,” the good life, they feel it.

And so, I’m not surprised the Happy Planet Index (HPI) ranked Costa Rica number one.  The HPI combines 3 factors:

  1. Sense of well-being. (The HPI survey asked respondents to imagine the worst possible life and the best possible life and then rate where they fall on the Ladder of Life). (Costa Rica = 7.3/10, excellent).
  2. Life expectancy. (Costa Rica = 79.3, excellent).
  3. Ecological Footprint.  (This measures sustainability. Can a country sustain its citizens without outside help. If for example, a country cut itself off from the rest of the world, could it be self-sufficient based on use of land for sustainability? Costa Rica = 2.5, average).

Lost Iguana Resort, Arenal region, Costa Rica

Lost Iguana Resort, sloped walk towards our room.

Simply put, Costa Ricans rate their quality of life high, live relatively long and while their sustainability/self-sufficiency isn’t superior, it’s right up there. Much of the land is protected under an aggressive conservation plan and so citizens live among unspoiled natural beauty, which as we know, closer to nature, closer to calm.

Let me add, Costa Rica has no military. 

“We are a happy country because we don’t know what it is to lose millions of people in a war,” says resident Carlos Arias . “We have no army. Our happiness is easier to achieve because we are easily amazed, and maybe that has to do with the fact that we haven’t suffered any big wars, like the rest of the countries in our continent.” Source: Live Happy magazine, April 2015.

Costa Ricans, Carlos explained, also have an easier time moving up a social class and making friends across classes. I wonder then, if some of their sense of well-being is feeling inter-connected which fosters mutual respect and that caring community we all crave.

What is superficially surprising, however, is that Costa Rica, a relatively poor country, whose per capita income is no higher than the international average, is consistently right up there (on happiness) with its wealthier counterparts. ~ “A Country Without a Military? You Bet!,”  by David P. Barash Ph.D, Dec. 13th, 2013

 

Arenal volcano, Costa Rica, Lost Iguana Resort

Arenal volcano. La Fortuna region, Costa Rica.

A couple of years ago my husband and I visited the Arenal volcano region (outside La Fortuna) to celebrate our 20th anniversary. I was at once relaxed like every vacationer who finally exhales, but Costa Rica brought me there faster.

Iguana Resort was surrounded by exotic flowers, plants and birds. The private lodging was nestled into the side of a mountain with access through small paved roads that sloped upward to our secluded room.

Lost Iguana Resort, Golden Gecko spa

Sitting outside Lost Iguana Golden Gecko spa. Costa Rica.

Our open air porch housed two (notably creaky but oddly soothing) wooden rocking chairs that faced the jungle and the misted Arenal (active) volcano on the horizon. You have no choice but to feel blissed when you’re connected to a country who cocoons visitors in natural beauty at every step.

Residents are extraordinarily polite (almost formal I’d read despite the informality of the country) and so on the advice of traveler reviews I reigned in my forward American gusto to keep my personality footprint respectful.

Still, everyone easily smiled hello and good-bye while they said the nation’s mantra, “Pura Vida,” the good life.  I quickly looked forward to responding with the same as a reminder that like the citizens, I was experiencing the well-felt Costa Rican life. 

stray but well fed dogs in La Fortuna, Costa Rica

Well-fed stray dogs outside a restaurant in La Fortuna, Costa Rica.

Stray dogs also thrive in this relatively poor but largely economically sound nation.  Most residents in La Fortuna can’t afford to keep pets but they clearly care for the animals. I saw water bowls on almost every business stoop and people threw scraps for the dogs while they ate in outdoor air restaurants.   The loving communal care is obvious because despite the throngs of stray dogs, none of them looked starved for food or attention. 

Costa Rica’s verdant land and symphonic rain forest ripe with hundreds of varieties of birds was subconsciously meditative. Years back I gave up the pressure of trying to meditate except to intuitively fixate on nature’s theatre and gentle tree sways.

LI pool

The pool at Lost Iguana Resort, Costa Rica.

One afternoon at the resort I quieted my busy brain by walking circles in the shallow end of the resort pool as I scanned the property with binoculars looking for hidden birds I could hear but not see.

One-third of the year Costa Rica is covered with blue skies and cool breezes. Every day after 1pm it rains which for someone who craves long hours of bright sunlight is unappealing and moody. Usually however, the rains only lasted long enough to re-lubricate the land and to hydrated my skin in a wonderful permanent mist.

When I asked our canal eco tour guide if he ever considered living anywhere else he told me no, never.

If you grow up in Costa Rica, chances are you’ll stay even if you’re not rich.  If you live outside Costa Rica, chances are someone will insist you visit a country that seems to live abundantly happy, despite it’s modest abundance.

Postscript: Nadine Hays Pisani author of Happier Than a Billionaire: Quitting My Job, Moving to Costa Rica & Living the Zero Hour Work Week. “I’ve had a very, very good experience. I don’t know if I could go back to how I lived before. I made a mistake by thinking I always had to have something new to make myself happy. I never considered that nature can make you happy, being outside can make you happy. I worked a 10-12 hour day. I was never outside.”

Why care about happiness ratings for another country?

“Most measures of national progress are actually just measures of economic activity; how much we are producing or consuming. By only using indicators like GDP to measure success we are not accounting for what really matters, producing happy lives people now and in the future.

The HPI puts current and future well-being at the heart of measurement. It frames the development of each country in the context of real environmental limits. In doing so it tells us what we instinctively know to be true – that progress is not just about wealth.

It shows that while the challenges faced by rich resource-intensive nations and those with high levels of poverty and deprivation may be very different, the end goal is the same: to produce happy, healthy lives now and in the future. The HPI demonstrates that the dominant Western model of development is not
sustainable and we need to find other development paths towards sustainable well-being.” Source: Happy Planet Index

Get your bare feet on the ground: The many benefits of connecting your feet to the earth (called grounding or earthing) 

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3 ways to amp up happiness

happiness

Credit: pixabay.com

The happiness movement is in full gear with piles of positive psychology research and even a happy magazine (“Like” Live Happy magazine on Facebook for daily tips to amp up your smile).

Most of us already sense how we can get happy but now research backs what our gut’s been telling us.

Live Happy tips:

  • Vitamin D. Before the skin cancer worry we used to let the sunshine in to reap the benefits, including a natural mood boost. Everyone is happier with sunshine streaming into a nearby window but to get a full dose of D, you need a direct hit. So, if your skin type and schedule can take it, grab some sun for 15-20 minutes a day. Otherwise, supplement (I take 5.000mg a day of D3 (cholecalciferol), not D2 (ergocalciferol).
  • Exercise. Exercise boosts the protein BDNF (brain-developed neurotropic factor) which helps neurotransmitters function more effectively. Exercise is so helpful to battle depression it’s often included in treatment programs. The last thing you want to do however, is beat yourself up because you’re not exercising enough. Find an activity you enjoy that moves your body as often as possible. Walk, hike, take the stairs, park farther away, dance, bike, do yoga. Work up to 3-5x a week, 30 minutes or more.
  • Gratitude. Happiness researchers mention the benefits of feeling grateful all the time. So, how can we make gratitude convert into higher happiness? Notice the good in our everyday, even our yesterday, moments.Create a positivity (rather than negativity) bias. Say you had a really bad day yesterday, think back to what went right (more than you imagine) and what’s going right, right NOW. Practice active gratitude and in time you’ll re-wire your brain to notice more of the positive than the negative. Neurons that fire together, wire together.
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