Did you know we spend a third of our lives sleeping? And that if you don’t get enough of it, it will have detrimental effects to your health? Many people underestimate the importance of sleep. Some people sleep more than others. Some people claim they need lots of it and others don’t need much at all. Margaret Thatcher and Napoleon only had 4 hours sleep a night. That explains why they were a bit mad! Recent studies show that adults need approximately 8 hours sleep a night to stay healthy.
“Sleep is the great cycle of involutional restoration that heals the foundation of our mind, body and Soul” (2)
Many people come to me with fatigue and a large contributing factor is their lack of sleep or poor quality of sleep.
Sleep is a recuperative process. Sleep supports some of the following processes;
- Regulates metabolic processes which are chemical processes that maintain life
- Supports neurotransmitters (chemical messengers that carry signals to other cells in the body).
- Contributes to growth and development
- Temperature regulation
- Immune system responses
- learning and memory
Insomnia is loss of sleep from a difficulty in getting to sleep or staying asleep. Sleep loss is a very common complaint which many people do not take seriously.
The two types of insomnia are Sleep onset insomnia and Maintenance insomnia. Sleep onset insomnia is when there is a considerable delay in falling asleep. The average time for falling asleep is 25 minutes. Maintenance insomnia is when there are periods of waking up during the night or waking up too early.
Causes of insomnia.
Some causes of insomnia include;
- Noise and /or light pollution
- Allergies or food intolerances
- Alcohol excess
- Medications (ie; oral contraceptives, thyroxine, aspirin)
- High or low blood sugar levels
- Sleep apnoea (pauses in breathing or shallow breaths while you sleep)
- Nutrient deficiencies
- Over hydration at night
Over hydration at night
- Low iron levels
- Low brain levels of serotonin and melatonin.
- Stress and anxiety
- Hot flushes / night sweats
What happens with lack of sleep??
And acute or short term lack of sleep for 6 days can lead to increased production of the flight and fight hormones. This can lead to symptoms such as feeling anxious, tired, unhappy, nervous, difficultly in concentrating and not feeling confident.
Long term sleep loss contributes to development of diseases such as diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), obesity and memory loss.
Long term lack of sleep affects the brains ability to function. This is part of the brain that controls the memory, planning and sense of time.
“With continued lack of sufficient sleep, the part of the brain that controls language, memory, planning and sense of time is severely affected, practically shutting down. In fact, 17 hours of sustained wakefulness leads to a decrease in performance equivalent to a blood alcohol level of 0.05% (two glasses of wine). This is the legal drink driving limit in the UK.” (1)
Stages of Sleep
There are 5 stages of sleep;
Stage 1 is the interim between wakefulness and sleep
Stage 2 is 50 % of our total sleep time. This is the real sleep stage and is a lighter stage of sleep, where if the person is woken, they feel they were not asleep.
Stage 3 Is slow wave sleep. This is when the body makes repairs.
Stage 4 is slow wave sleep and is a deep slow wave sleep where our Body temperature and blood pressure decreases. Stages 3 and 4 cover about 20% of our total sleeping time.
Stage 5 is REM or rapid eye movement sleep. There is an increase in eye movement, heart rate, breathing, blood pressure and temperature. This is when most of your dreams occur.
Melatonin, the sleep hormone, is produced by the pineal gland in the brain. It is released in a rhythmic manner throughout the night. The peak level of melatonin is around 3 am. Apart from facilitating sleep is also acts as an antioxidant and regulates the core body temperature.
The average sleep duration amongst adults is 7.5 hours a night, give or take and hour either side. There are people who are outside this who are considered long sleepers if they sleep for more than 9 hours and short sleepers who sleep less than 6 hours.
Women and Sleep
The menstrual cycle has an effect on sleep. Oestrogens increase REM sleep, increase the time it can take you to go to sleep, causes more wakefulness and Increase total sleep time. Progesterone has a sedative effect and increases deep sleep. Low progesterone (and therefore oestrogen dominance can causes poor sleep in women.
During menopause hot flushes/night sweats can interrupt sleeping.
Long term lack of sleep in women can cause infertility, miscarriage, menstrual problems, low birth weight babies and premature labor.
Solutions for insomnia
Some rules for getting a good night’s sleep include;
- Maintain regular hours for sleep
- Exercise at least 6 hours prior to sleep
- In the mornings, expose yourself to bright light
- Treat stress and anxiety
- Avoid bright lights, computers and TV’s an hour prior to sleep
- Avoid mental or emotional stimulation before going to bed
- Engage in calming or relaxing activities prior to bed such as mediation
- Avoid caffeine
- Eating at the same time each day helps set the circadian clock
- Avoid stimulants such as alcohol, coffee and chocolate
- Avoid drinking excess fluids at night.
- Avoid napping during the day
- Avoid spicy, sugary, heavy foods 4-6 hours before bed.
Supplementation for insomnia and a better sleep
There are many herbal formulations which help with sleep onset and duration. These include passion flower, Zizyphus, magnolia, and valerian. Valerian is particularly effective when your brain won’t shut up! Just be aware that a small percentage of individuals become more aroused with this herb and it has the opposite effect.
Adenosine , which is a brain sleep molecule, increases deep sleep and may increase REM sleep. It is effective for stress related insomnia.
5-HTP or 5-hyrdoxytryptophan, is the precursor to serotonin and from serotonin we can produce melatonin.
Melatonin, is available in homeopathic and crude form . It can also be used for jet lag.
Magnesium, relaxes muscles and the nervous system and is affective if insomnia is due to stress, anxiety or restless legs.
GABA, (gamma aminobutyric acid) due to its relaxing effects it has been shown to reduce the time to get to sleep and increase length of quality deep sleep.
Treating the underlying cause of insomnia is an important factor. It is too important to ignore.
** Some of these are practitioner only supplements and need to be prescribed.
If you are having problems with sleep please contact me for a consultation!
Here is to your perfect slumber!
Science: Human Body and mind “what would happen if we didn’t sleep’ http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/humanbody/sleep/articles/whatissleep.shtml
1.P 53 ‘So what is sleep’ Sleep, health and consciousness a physician’s guide. Reza Samvat and Henry Osieki.
Encyclopedia of natural medicine – Michael Murray pp 602-608
The Nervous system, Henry Osieki, Fiona Meeke, Jennifer Smith, pp 83-90
The liver is an amazing gland. It is constantly detoxifying and metabolising hormones, chemicals and toxins we get exposed to on a daily basis. The liver helps manage your blood sugar levels and cholesterol. It produces bile which helps us break down and digest fats. The majority for the thyroid hormones are converted to the active form in the liver.
Insulin resistance, fatty liver, estrogen dominance or progesterone deficiency and thyroid issues are all associated with the function of the liver
Sign and symptoms associated with poor liver function
- Fatigue and muscle weakness
- Hormonal imbalances such as estrogen dominance and /or progesterone deficiency
- High cholesterol
- Intolerance to fatty foods
- Weight problems
- Multiple chemical sensitivities
- Headaches and migraines
- Loss of appetite or no appetite in the mornings
- Waking up between 2 and 3 am
- Digestive issues or bloating
- Insulin resistance and diabetes
- Skin issues such as itchiness, eczema or acne
What you must do to look after your liver
- Drink water! Your liver cannot function properly if you don’t drink adequate water.
- If you drink alcohol is a good idea to protect your liver. St. Mary’s thistle is a great herb which protects the liver and helps the cells of your liver regenerate.
- And have at least 2 days a week that are alcohol free
- Drink green tea which protects the liver and the gut bacteria
- Avoid toxins and chemicals in your environment and foods
- Avoid non- prescription medications as much as you can (there is always a natural alternative!)
- Take a probiotic and resolve any gut issues. You need to have a healthy gut for a healthy liver
- Make sure you are having at least one complete bowel motion a day
- Eat cleanly – avoid processed foods where possible and eat at least 3 cups of veggies per day and some fruit. Fibre helps bind to toxins to eliminate them more efficiently
- Eat regularly to balance your blood sugar levels.
- Drink dandelion root tea to increase your bile production. Bile breaks down fats but also helps with elimination of toxins from the body.
- Add beetroot to your diet regularly, apart from being high in the phytonutrient ‘anthocynanins’, they help the liver detoxify.
- Sulphur containing veggies such as onions, broccoli and garlic also support liver function.
- Get your thyroid checked, if its underactive then it will affect the liver function
- Resolve anger. Anger issues affect the liver!
Many of my clients who can’t budge their weight or are ‘stuck’ with their symptoms, often need to work on their liver or need a detox. If you decide to do a detox don’t jump into it alone- consult your naturopath and do it properly! You need to have a healthy gut and adrenals to be able to detox without unwanted symptoms. And there are ways to do it properly with plenty of nutrient and herbal support so the toxins don’t get stuck you don’t and up feeling worse!
AGEING, ANXIETY AND THE DREADED MIDDLE-AGED SPREAD
What happens to our hormones as we age? Your hormones can be chaotic and confusing to say the least. Too many changes can seem to happen overnight, which can leave you feeling fatigued, frustrated, fed up and anxious.
Cortisol, typically increases after age 40. It can also become ‘dysfunctional’ where it is lower during the day and higher at night time. This commonly is when poor sleep patterns develop or even hot flushes at night.
Cortisol is a hormone we produce in our adrenal glands. Its main function is to raise blood sugar levels, increase blood pressure and reduce inflammation.
Cortisol should be high during the day and lower at night, when we need to produce the hormone melatonin to sleep. Long term stress can cause an increase in cortisol and so can ageing!
If your adrenals are pumping out cortisol for long period of time it will inevitably affect your other hormones. Your skin can sag, muscles droop, become ‘stress intolerant’ and you end up with a lack of confidence.
Progesterone steal pathway and estrogen dominance
High cortisol over time reduces progesterone levels. This is because we produce cortisol and progesterone from the same hormonal precursor- pregnenolone. Progesterone is our anti-anxiety hormone and gives a feeling of contentment. And if you feel like you have constant PMT/PMS then you probably are low in progesterone! If this keeps dropping over time because of stress, lowered thyroid function or a sluggish liver, then you end up with estrogen dominance
Excess estrogens can slow down the thyroid function and contribute to an underactive thyroid. And when the thyroid function slows down, this slows the liver function down and it becomes a cycle.
Prolonged cortisol levels also can decrease the livers ability to clear excess estrogen from the blood.
A sluggish liver can mean you end up with insulin resistance and weight gain. Insulin is the hormone which ‘unlocks’ glucose from your food. If you are not unlocking the glucose for energy, it is stored as fat in your body, usually abdominal fat after age 40, which I known as the middle-aged spread…. Eeek! I know no-one really want this to happen!
Also, as we age we become more resistant to insulin, this can cause weight gain. Our body doesn’t utilise glucose from food as efficiently as it did when we were younger. The way around this is to exercise more and eat less sugar and carb’s.
The top health risks of having high cortisol
- Insulin resistance and diabetes
- Increased body fat/ weight gain
- Mood and brain problems including Alzheimer’s disease and depression
- Insomnia and sleep problems
- Delayed wound healing
- Bone loss in menopausal women
- Infertility and polycystic ovarian syndrome
We can normalise or control cortisol by
- Controlling stress
- Getting adequate sleep
- Doing yoga
- Practising ‘mindfulness’
- Having a positive attitude
- Taking magnesium and herbs to lower cortisol
- Supporting your adrenal health
- Take or balance melatonin at night (By the way, melatonin is very anti -ageing!)
- Increasing progesterone levels
And most importantly reducing the foods which increase cortisol- coffee, sugar, alcohol and too many processed foods and carbs. This will help to reduce the chance of insulin resistance and weight gain. The lower glycaemic diet is the way to go. Watch carbs and sugars in your food and opt for veggies, salad and proteins at meal times, reducing the carbs to 2 small serves a day.
Protein also reduces cortisol and can help keep up feeling calm. If you have sugar or carbs it can leave us feeling more anxious and even trigger hot flushes. So…. don’t go for the sugar or carbs when you feel anxious or tired, have some good quality protein!
Health Masters live- functional diagnostics lectures
The hormone cure _ Dr. Sarah Gottfried
AGES! What are they? Why do they age us? Read this important information to find out…..
AGE’s are ‘ Advanced glycation end products’ . What does this mean? When you eat, everything gets turned into glucose for energy. When you eat too many sugars or carbohydrates, or your body does not control your blood sugar levels, then these sugars react with proteins and fats and form these harmful molecules called AGE’s . Diabetics who don’t control their blood sugar levels properly have high levels of AGE’s and age more quickly.
AGEs naturally form inside the body when proteins or fats combine with sugars (which is termed ‘glycation’). AGEs are particularly high in animal-derived foods that are high in fat and protein, such as meats (especially red meats), which are prone to AGE formation through cooking. Ages are formed when you eat too many processed foods and sugar.
By avoiding oxidised fats and keeping your fructose intake to a level that your body can reasonably metabolise, you can avoid the systemic symptoms of oxidative stress without making any extreme changes in diet or lifestyle.
WHAT ELSE INCREASES AGE’S?
• UV exposure from our wonderful sun, increases the formation of AGE’s
• Increased abdominal weight increases the formation of AGE’s as it increases circulating glucose .
HOW DO AGE’S EFFECT OUR SKIN?
AGE’s increase the likelihood of :
• Age Spots
• Fine lines and wrinkles
• Hardness of skin
• Dull skin
• Uneven skin tone
• Sagging and bagging
• Degradation of collagen
• Tumours/ cancers
• Fine lines and wrinkles
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO REDUCE AGE’S ?
• Eat every 4 to 5 hours to control your blood sugar levels
• Avoid or reduce sugar and processed carbs
• Follow a low glycaemic load diet
• Limit alcohol
• Avoid BBQ meats or over cooking meat
• Wear a natural sunscreen daily
• Build up those muscles! Ageing means muscle mass declines, which can increase blood sugar levels. So…. exercise and build muscle in your face and your body!
• Boost your antioxidant intake! And ‘Win the war on AGE’s and ageing’ !
PS . Here is a link to my Youtube video so you can learn more about AGE’s and your digestive health when it comes to ageing….
Are you seeing the light? I am concerned that we all are getting exposed to too much ‘bad’ light, such LED, fluorescent and blue light.
We all need light. Light comes in many forms and is important for our health and wellbeing. Every function of the body is light dependent. But….many people now spend much time indoors with artificial light. This light is so different from our natural sunlight and when we are overexposed our health begins to suffer.
LED light is the light most devices use, such as TV’s, computers and smartphones, and this LED emits a ‘blue violet ‘ light. Blue light is similar to UV light and can be harmful to our eyes. It penetrates deep into the retina of our eyes. We are also exposed to this blue light from low wattage LED lights and compact fluorescent lamps many people use indoors.
Studies have shown too much of this blue light can lead to insulin problems, obesity and mood disturbances. (1)
Blue light also suppresses melatonin production and can affect our quality of sleep or even cause insomnia.
The ‘Review of Optometry’ (2), states that;
“ Over time, our eyes are exposed to various sources that emit this blue-violet light (e.g., the sun, LED lighting, CFLs). Combine that with the use of tablets, TVs, computer screens and smart phones, and there’s no doubt our exposure to blue-violet light is on the increase. This cumulative and constant exposure to the blue-violet light is going to accumulate over time and has the potential to cause damage to the retinal cells, which is going to slowly lead to retinal cell death and can in turn lead to AMD ‘’ (age related macular degeneration)
The healthiest lights to use indoors are incandescent and halogen lights, says Dr. Jacob Liberman, a light pioneer.
And the good news is you can get blue light filters for your devices such as computers and smarphones. I have recently downloaded f.lux on my laptop and I don’t even notice it. It’s also free! Iris is another company that offersblue light filters (free and paid) with a good reputation. I chose f.lux as it was easier to understand and download!
Protective eye glasses are also available. Please read this article for more information about blue light and eye protectionhttp://www.allaboutvision.com/cvs/blue-light.htm
I hope you get a good nights sleep and look after your eyes!
” Parasites, the hidden epidemic”
Parasites. The mere word can make you cringe or shudder! But many people are infected with them. Could parasites be the underlying cause of your fatigue and other health issues such as leaky gut, food intolerances, Irritable bowel syndrome, skin condition or allergies?
Parasites can contribute to many health ailments such as chronic allergies including hives, food allergies, chronic candidiasis (candida), asthma, chronic fatigue syndrome, migraines, irritable bowel syndrome and Inflammatory bowel diseases .
Over my 17 years seeing patients in clinic I have found parasites becoming a lot more common. A lot more people are affected now days and there are a wide range of symptoms they can cause, and also many diseases they can contribute to. Fatigue, teeth grinding, nausea and flatulence are some of the ‘vague’ symptoms that parasites can cause.
Most people think of pin worms when worms are mentioned, the type you can see (usually in children) and can cause an itchy anus! But there are many other microscopic worms which also live on our blood and other parts of the human body.
Two of the most common parasites Blastocystis hominis (BH) and Dientamoeba fragilis (D fragilis) can be the cause of irritable bowel syndrome. Dysbiosis, or an imbalance of the intestinal microbiome, and low grade inflammation are common in parasitic infections. D. fragilis can be a common cause of travellers diarrhoea.
Giardia intestinalis is another common parasite that is found in contaminated food or water and can be asymptomatic, or cause watery diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting and abdominal cramping. Giardia can cause gluten intolerance.
” Over 130 different “hidden invaders” can account for over 385 diseases. Chronic fatigue and candida can be a case of chronic giardia. Food and environmental allergies disappear when worms are eliminated. ” (1)
Dr. Jay Davison says that parasites can house other bacteria, viruses and also Lymes disease! Parasites also absorb heavy metals, they absorb toxins like a sponge! (2)
We can be infected by parasites from food, water and can they also be airborne, which is a bit scary. Animals, especially dogs, cats and rabbits have parasites and can transmit them to humans. Tapeworms are a common one that dogs carry and can be transmitted to us. It’s a good idea to not let your dog lick your face!
As mentioned earlier on of the most common invaders are Blastocystis hominis and they usually coincide in the human body with candida and bacteria. It can cause intermittent symptoms such as allergies, bowel problems and skin problems and will show up when your body is under stress and the immune system is weakened. People with grain intolerances or allergies commonly are infected with BH.
There are many herbs and formulation that are effective for eliminating parasites. It is important to take them for long enough though, as they can be hard to eliminate. Probiotics, digestive enzymes with betaine HCL, and boosting your immune system will help.
And very importantly, you need to change the terrain by improving your health and body through a healthy diet. This must be more alkaline and include as much fresh foods as possible. You can include pumpkins seeds, carrots, onion and garlic to help eliminate them. Its suggested to avoid all sugars, this includes in dairy (lactose), alcohol, fruit (fructose), breads and other processed foods as they will make you more acidic, which will help assure the parasites continue to exist. Parasites love sugar!
If you suspect you have parasites or have a health condition that is unresolved and you think it possibly could be linked to worms, please come and see me! I can detect parasites in the live blood analysis in my clinic.