Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Sleep Well

This week our Optimal Wellness focus is sleep. "Besides eating whole foods and moving your body, getting enough sleep is the most important thing you can do for your health." says Dr. Mark Hyman, renowned integrative medicine expert and author of Ultrametabolism.

Your biological rhythms keep you healthy and produce healing and repair hormones. When those rhythms are disturbed by inadequate sleep, disease can take hold. Paleolithically we rose with the sun and slept when it set. As we have evolved our lifestyle has changed dramatically, throwing off these healing rhythms.

Dr. Hyman explains “When you are sleep deprived, your cortisol rises -- and so can all its harmful effects, including brain damage and dementia, weight gain, diabetes, heart attacks, high blood pressure, depression, osteoporosis, depressed immunity, and more.”

Quality sleep is imperative to our overall health. A commitment to improved sleep hygiene can help our bodies repair and rebuild. The following are some ideas for improving sleep quality:

Our lives bombard us with stimuli throughout the day and night. We eat late, answer emails, surf the Internet, get caught up on work, and stimulate our minds with television right up until the time we go to sleep -- or at least try to sleep. It is no wonder we can not drift off to sleep with all that are minds are still trying to process. Try giving yourself a stimulation hiatus for an hour, or even two hours before bedtime. Listen to music, read something relaxing, listen to a guided imagery CD to relax the mind and body.

Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, even on weekends and holidays. 8 to 9 hours of sleep each night is ideal. In creating this natural rhythm you may even find that you no longer need an alarm clock to wake up in the morning.

Ban reading, television, and stressful conversation from your bedroom. Make your bedroom your sanctuary, your healing environment. Restful colors and uncluttered space can be very beneficial.
To the extent that you are able, try to sleep in total darkness and quiet.

Avoid caffeine and alcohol-- they can cause disruptions to your sleep which results in poor sleep quality.
Heavy meals before bedtime can also cause disruption. If you need a small snack in the evening be sure to choose something with protein and/or fiber. This can help sustain you through the night without causing disturbance.

Vigorous exercise after dinner can make it more difficult to get to sleep. A nice walk after dinner can aid digestion and help to calm you as you begin your sleep preparation routine.

If you find your mind racing when you are trying to fall asleep, try journaling. Writing down whatever is bouncing around in your head can allow you to keep these thoughts in a safe place for consideration later.

Relieving yourself of these thoughts to paper can allow you to let them go and can make it easier to drift off to sleep. This is not a formal journal. Just grab a notebook and write whatever comes, no one will be reading it, it is just for your own purpose.

Take a warn bath and/or do some gentle stretching. This is a great way to relieve tension and prepare the body for relaxation.

We also have many nutritional products that aid with sleep. Depending on your particular issue, your practitioner at The Center for Optimal Health can help you decide on a regimen that is just right for you.

If you are still having trouble sleeping, you should be evaluated by your practitioner for other problems that can interfere with sleep, including dietary sensitivities, hormonal changes, chronic fatigue, heavy metal toxicity, or stress and depression. Sleep testing can also help to provide answers.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Alternative Grains

This week our Optimal Wellness Program focus is Alternative Grains. We coach the patients of our practice, as well as each other, to seek low inflammatory food options. Gluten free alternatives can be a particular challenge. For many this is an exploration into a whole new world.

The alternative grains list includes millet, quinoa, amaranth, teff, tapioca, buckwheat, arrowroot and rice. Many people ask “What exactly is quinoa anyway?” Quinoa is usually considered to be a whole grain, but it is actually a seed, but can be prepared like whole grains such as rice and added to soup or chili. Of all the whole grains, quinoa has the highest protein content.

There are many alternative grains all with their unique benefits. The best way to get started is to try a simple recipe that includes one of these grains. Once you try it perhaps you will find other ways to incorporate these grains into your favorite recipes. Below you will find a simple recipe for amaranth.

Apple-Walnut Amaranth
1 cup amaranth
3 cups plain almond milk (or other milk substitute)
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch kosher salt (optional)
1 large apple, skin on, cored and diced
½ cup chopped walnuts

Place the amaranth, almond milk, cinnamon, salt (if using), and apple in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Cover pan and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 20 to 30 minutes until amaranth is soft. Top with chopped walnuts and serve.

Adapted from “The Ultrametabolism Cookbook”

Give this recipe a try and let us know what you think. We are posting recipes on our Facebook page all week. “Like” us on Facebook and follow along for more alternative grain ideas.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Why do I have cravings for sweets at night?

Underlying behavioral and psychological motives as causes for cravings is a prevailing belief in medicine and weight management alike. Although over eating does have a psychological component, it is only part of the puzzle. In a review by Bariatic Times, a medical journal for bariatric physicians, 15 different hormones were listed as having influence on appetite. Each individual's daily and even hourly hormonal make up changes significantly throughout the day. This effects our perception of what and how much we need.

Brain chemical imbalances, such as serotonin, are also associated with sweet cravings. Best put by the American Heart Association, “serotonin helps you feel less pain, less anxiety and less stress, so it improves mood by increasing relaxation. Some experts think that people who crave carbohydrates have low serotonin levels”.

So next time nighttime sweets overtake you, realize you may be instinctually treating an imbalance in hormones and brain chemicals, rather than sporting a weak constitution.

At The Center for Optimal Health our physicians treat hormonal imbalances using bioidentical hormone therapies. Learn more at www.cfohealth.com.