In this week’s column I will highlight four of the most effective natural therapies for reducing stress and supporting the body’s stress coping mechanisms.
Yoga exercises are a fantastic way to handle stress both physically and emotionally. Yoga usually involves stretching, breathing, and visualization techniques. The combination of these activities provides unique support for stress management. I highly recommend incorporating yoga into your exercise and stress management routines.
Acupuncture is one of the best treatments for stress management. It is a great therapy for tapping into the subconscious component of stress. This is the component of stress that can’t be consciously controlled by thought or exercises like meditation, deep breathing, and yoga. Acupuncture is great for helping the body process and let go of old emotions it no longer needs anymore. In fact, it is very common for people to feel weight lifting off their shoulders during and after acupuncture sessions.
Neural therapy is known as “German Acupuncture” and involves the injection of vitamins, anaesthetics, and homeopathic remedies into acupuncture points and scar tissue. It provides many of the benefits of acupuncture like tapping into the subconscious but also adds some other unique therapeutic effects. Neural therapy can restore healthy nerve conduction, shut down unnecessary pain signals, and break down scar tissue. Old emotional traumas are often stored in scar tissue, tight muscles, and nerves. Neural therapy addresses these sites of physical stress extremely well and helps prevent emotional stress from taking a physical toll.
Intravenous Nutrient Infusions
Intravenous nutrient infusions are one of the most potent ways to supply the body with the vital nutrients it needs for optimal health. IV infusions provide nutrients directly into the bloodstream and thus all cells of the body. IVs bypass faulty digestion and metabolism in the liver. The body is designed to obtain nutrients primarily through the digestive tract but there are many situations where intravenous infusions provide great benefit. Sometimes oral supplementation can’t be digested well, doesn’t provide high enough dosage, or can’t be administered fast enough.
In next week’s column I will investigate the natural treatments for adrenal fatigue.
Many of the signs of stress are relatively straightforward and easy to see. In fact, most people inherently know when they are under too much stress. These more obvious signs include feeling stressed out, feeling overwhelmed with responsibility, high blood pressure, anxiety, agitation, heartburn, and difficulty falling asleep. There are many less obvious signs like difficulty staying asleep, headaches, weight gain, difficulty losing abdominal fat, heart palpitations, indigestion, bowel disorders, constipation, diarrhea, abnormal hair loss, acne, and shingles to name a few.
You know that stress is a problem when your mind is occupied with things that your body is not presently facing. When you are thinking about the past or future too much and neglecting the present moment. You also know stress is a problem when you get stressed out by relatively small or unimportant things. Remember the sayings, “don’t sweat the small things”, and “don’t make mountains out of molehills”. If you are doing these things and have difficulty changing it is time to seek help from a counselor, life coach, or physician.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine and many other traditional medical philosophies emotions are not seen as good or bad. Since all emotions exists they are seen to serve purpose. In Western cultures, we often think of emotions like anger, sadness, fear, and regret as being “bad”. However, the traditional belief is that these emotions are just as important and functional as “good” emotions like happiness, satisfaction, and joy. All emotions “good” or “bad” have the same potential problems. When they are in excess or deficient they lead to emotional and energetic imbalance.
Emotional imbalance leads to anxiety, depression, and other emotional disorders. In TCM philosophy it is important to honor emotions, process them, and then let them go. This prevents us from neglecting emotions and it prevents emotions from lingering. The Traditional Chinese approach to stress management and emotional health can be very helpful for many people.
A good physical exam should look for the signs of stress like high or low blood pressure, abnormal orthostatic blood pressure, the response of the pupils to light, rapid or thready pulse, abnormal hair loss, poor wound healing, and digestive disturbances.
Orthostatic blood pressure is extremely valuable to check. This is the change of blood pressure when a patient goes from seated to standing. When the adrenal glands are able to produce adrenaline appropriately blood pressure increases. However, when the adrenal glands are not working properly blood pressure will drop upon rising.
Blood tests are not very useful for identifying stress. However, certain blood tests can give some valuable information for the health of organs that are often injured with chronic stress. It is very important to investigate the health of the thyroid gland and the conversion rate of thyroid hormones. However, many people who suffer from thyroid conditions do so unknowingly because the proper testing was not conducted.
A thorough thyroid panel includes TSH, Free T3, Free T4, and TPO. TSH identifies how well the pituitary gland is communicating with the thyroid gland. Free T3 and Free T4 identifies the levels of each of these hormones and gives a very good indication for how well T4 is converting to T3. TPO is a marker for autoimmune thyroid disease. The most common form of hypothyroid is autoimmune and it is very important to routinely test for this so that it is not overlooked.
Saliva testing is the most accurate way to identify imbalances in adrenal gland hormones and sex hormones. An adrenal gland panel should include at least 4 samples identifying cortisol levels. This shows the amount of cortisol in the system at 4 specific times in the day and compares your levels to the ideal. An adrenal gland panel should also include DHEA. Low levels of DHEA are a major sign of adrenal gland fatigue or exhaustion and often indicate problems with sex hormone production.
A sex hormone panel can identify the toll stress has taken on sex hormone production. This can be very important for women, especially women looking to conceive or women experiencing menopause-related complications. A sex hormone panel should include estrone, estradiol, estriol, progesterone, and testosterone. Imbalances in any of these sex hormones can be treated with natural agents.
In next week’s column we will investigate the natural treatments for stress management.
Cortisol is a hormone that is absolutely crucial for life. Without it we would not be able to survive. However, when we live in chronic strain, worry, and stress the adrenal glands produce relatively high amounts of cortisol. The problem with cortisol is that our bodies are not meant to be exposed to these relatively high amounts for long periods of time. However, many people who have stress as an obstacle to cure are experiencing the negative effects of cortisol.
1. High cortisol decreases immunity. Cortisol is a corticosteroid and like prednisone, cortisone, and beclomethasone, it inhibits the actions of white blood cells. Initially, this usually leads to increased susceptibility to infections. Eventually, this may actually lead to long stretches of time without colds because the immune system is so weakened.
2. High cortisol increases abdominal fat deposition. For reasons still unknown, high levels of cortisol induce the body to lay down adipose tissue in the abdomen and upper back/neck. In fact, for those people affected it is next to impossible to lose abdominal fat without addressing stress.
3. High cortisol breaks down muscle, bone, and connective tissue. Cortisol is a gluconeogenic hormone. Gluconeogenesis is a process that creates sugar from existing tissue. Cortisol promotes the breakdown of muscle, bone, and connective tissue in order to increase blood sugar for the brain.
4. High cortisol inhibits thyroid hormone activation. The thyroid gland makes 2 major hormones; thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyroine (T3). It predominantly makes T4, which is actually an in-active hormone. T4 is carried in the bloodstream and eventually hits a receptor on or in a cell and becomes activate to T3. High cortisol inhibits this conversion and thus creates a form of hypothyroid.
Cortisol is a hormone that fluctuates during the course of the day with the circadian rhythm of the body. However, stress can greatly affect the way cortisol is produced and secreted and result in significant changes from the optimal circadian rhythm. Upon rising each morning cortisol levels are about at their highest. In fact, relatively high cortisol levels are one of the things that wakes us up in the morning. As the day goes on cortisol levels should gradually decline until they hit a trough around 8-10pm. They will stay low during deep sleep and gradually begin to increase around 4-6am until you awake.
Stress significantly impacts the production and secretion of cortisol during the day and night. Chronic stress not only elevates cortisol levels during the stressor but may also lead to cortisol spikes during the evening and overnight. High cortisol in the evening is one of the major reasons for insomnia, frequent waking, and night sweats.
Natural treatments to restore healthy cortisol levels are crucial for anyone suffering from the effects of elevated cortisol. Stress management techniques are extremely important and may include deep breathing, meditation, or yoga. Adaptogenic herbs, B complex vitamins, vitamin C, magnesium, glandular extracts, and homeopathic remedies support the adrenal glands and help restore the circadian rhythm. Consult your naturopathic physician for a specific plan to evaluate and address your cortisol levels.
In next week’s column we will investigate the signs that stress is contributing to your health concerns. We will also examine the lab tests that can help determine the physiological impact of stress on the body.
In last week’s column we investigated the most important nutritional supplements for optimal weight loss and body composition. We learned that a multivitamin-mineral supplement is crucial for providing a broad spectrum of essential nutrients required by the body for optimal weight. A good multi should also include adequate amounts of chromium for blood sugar control and vitamin B5 for the burning of fat for energy. We learned that essential fatty acids make the foundation for our hormones and cell membranes and this plays a crucial role for body composition. We saw that the green tea extract EGCG increases metabolism and promotes weight loss. Finally, we learned the importance of supporting the adrenal glands in order to prevent spikes in cortisol, a hormone that promotes weight gain and the breakdown of lean muscle mass. In this week’s article we will investigate the use of Acupuncture, Neural Therapy, Intravenous Nutrient Infusions, and Prolotherapy to support healthy weight loss and body composition.
Acupuncture and Neural Therapy
Acupuncture and Neural Therapy are very successful at helping people lose weight. They both work in very similar fashions. Both treatments are wonderful for handling stress and restoring a healthy nervous system. When stress is processed effectively and the nervous system is in balance, the body begins to function much better. Stress hormones like cortisol are no longer produced in excess and this allows weight, especially mid abdominal fat to be burned. A balanced nervous system also promotes healthier organs and detoxification.
Intravenous Nutrient Infusions
Intravenous Nutrient Infusions are a fantastic way to rapidly improve the nutritional state of the body. These treatments involve the infusion of vitamins, minerals, homeopathics, and amino acids into the venous system. This direct route into the body ensures optimal utilization by the cells of the body and allows the use of much more potent doses than can be tolerated orally. Intravenous infusions play a significant role in our weight loss program because they are extremely effective at supporting the adrenal glands, optimal hormone production, and detoxification.
Prolotherapy is a treatment that treats chronic pain. You may ask how it plays a role in weight loss. The answer is that chronic pain often prevents people from being able to take part in exercise and daily activities that promote weight loss. Imagine you have chronic knee or back pain to the point where you can no longer be active without aggravating the pain. This pain becomes a bondage that prevents you from not only losing weight, but also enjoying many of the things that you would like to enjoy.
Prolotherapy is a natural treatment that stimulates the repair of injured ligaments, tendons, and connective tissue. When these tissues become torn or over-stretched they create areas of instability in the joints of the body. When the joints become unstable muscles become chronically tight and bones begin to grind into one another. Prolotherapy involves the injection of a sugar solution into the damaged areas to stimulate your own body’s healing. Prolotherapy promotes the restoration of healthy joints and thus helps reduce or eliminate chronic pain. Prolotherapy has helped many of my patients to become active again and improve their weight and body composition.
This article concludes the series on Naturopathic Treatments for Weight Loss and Body Composition. If you would like to read previous articles please contact Dr. Barlow at 250-448-5610.
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