Coronavirus Protection: Thymosin Alpha-1 Peptide Therapy to Enhance Immunity

May 30, 2020

Thymosin alpha-1 (TA1) is a peptide originally isolated from thymus gland and identified as the compound responsible for restoring immune function. TA1 can help prevent healthy cells from being infected by viruses as well as make viral infections more visible to the body’s immune system so infected cells can be destroyed. The main mechanism of action of TA1 is to augment T-cell function.  T-cells come in two forms: natural killer cells and helper cells.

 

TA1 helps regulate the immune response by enhancing the Natural Killer (NK) cell system.  The NK cell system is the part of our immune system that destroys stressed cells in our body (such as tumor cells and virus-infected cells). NK cells are constantly on patrol, looking for harmful cells that diminish our health, like cancer cells and virus-infected cells. When NK-cells find these ‘invaders’, they activate other parts of the immune system. Unfortunately, NK-cell function, power, and activity fluctuate throughout our lifetime. As NK-cell function wears down, our response to foreign-invaders (like cancer, bacteria and viruses) response declines — our immune system does not attack and kill the ‘bad guys’ as vigorously as it should, leaving us more vulnerable to illness. 

 

TA1 also enhances the immune response by stimulating stem cells and augmenting the production of new immune cells. With these enhancements, the immune system becomes better able to kill bacterial, fungal, or viral infections and tumor cells. TA1 also improves the response to vaccines by stimulating antibody production. 

 

In 2009, the influenza H1N1 virus was first identified in the United States. It caused outbreaks of disease in several countries, triggering the first pandemic of the 21st century. TA1 was tested during that time as an immune enhancing peptide that potentiated the efficacy of viral vaccines especially in patients who had a weakened immune system. It has since been used in the treatment of several cancer and viral infections because of its direct influence of killing virally infected cells and cancerous cells. TA1 has proven to be useful in a wide range of clinical indications. Over 4400 subjects have been enrolled in clinical trials investigating the use of TA1, including primary treatment for subjects with acute infections, such as seen in severe sepsis, and for chronic infections including chronic hepatitis B (CHB), chronic hepatitis C (CHC), and HIV; as an adjunct treatment for cancers, including melanoma, hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), and NSCLC; and as an enhancement to both hepatitis B and influenza vaccines in immune-depressed individuals.

 

As we age, our bodies produce less TA1. This is one of the reasons why our immune systems become compromised with advancing age. Studies have also shown that individuals who are fighting infection have lower levels of thymosin alpha 1 than healthy individuals.

 

Pandemic or no pandemic, TA1 is a great addition to your self-care routine. But with COVID-19 in full force, TA1 can be a power protector against the virus. TA1 helps to improve cellular functions of innate and adaptive immunity.  It has been shown to exhibit:

  • antibacterial properties
  • antiviral properties
  • antifungal properties
  • Increase vaccine effectiveness
  • Enhance function of certain immune cells
  • Strengthen your immune system

Understanding Antibody Testing for COVID-19

April 18, 2020

Over the past week, patients, friends & staff have asked me to explain the serum (blood) antibody tests that have been advertised recently to detect evidence of COVID-19 infection. As a medical provider, the immune system has always been a challenging subject to understand, much less communicate to a non-medical person. I will do my best to explain in layman terms what I know about the immune system.

 

Mounting an antibody response is crucial for everyone to overcome an infectious pathogen. The immunity that can result is crucial not only for that individual but also for entire communities and populations. Determining who has immunity to COVID-19 is going to be crucial as we come out from under this pandemic. The main question people want to answer is that if someone is truly immune to re-infection (and if the infectious agent isn’t mutating excessively) then should that person be able to leave their home, go to work, and live life ‘normally’.

 

Here’s some immunology background. The first thing to understand is the main subsets of the immune system: the innate immune system and the adaptive immune system. The first one is evolutionarily older, and is the ‘general-purpose’, ‘always-on’ component of our immunity. Adaptive immunity is evolutionarily newer and is key in this current COVID-19 outbreak.

 

The innate immune system relies on general signals that tell the body something foreign is in its midst – such as a viral invader like COVID-19. Over the years, viruses have evolved to disrupt these recognition signals and their downstream events. A major player in the innate immune system is the major histocompatibility complex (MHC), which helps the body recognize ‘self’ versus ‘non-self”’ and is the basis for things like transplant rejection. The innate immune system also has NK (natural killer) cells, which are immune mediators that patrol for cells that differ in composition from our ‘self’ and destroy these invaders. These are both valuable immune components, but there are many situations where they aren’t enough. The main reason is that because the innate immune pathways have been around for a long time, pathogens have had more time to undergo selection for strains that have found ways to evade or interfere with these mechanisms.

 

The adaptive immune system (AIS) is a newer immune system. The AIS builds on the innate immune system and adds some extraordinary power and specificity. Understanding the AIS helps us answer the big questions when it comes to our immunity: (1) how does the body recognize such a wide variety of pathogens; (2) how is the body able to mount a response; and (3) how does our body maintain memory of such infections. The key to the success of our immune system is that everyone carries, at all times, a gigantic library of specialized proteins whose function is to hang around until something foreign shows up – so that one or more of them can bind to and attack that foreign invader. These proteins are called antibodies. They are carried around on the surface of cells, called B cells, and every human being has a different collection of them. A foreign substance that binds to one of those antibodies is called an antigen. An antigen can be viewed, for all practical purposes, as a foreign invader. Only a few B cells respond at first to a new antigen (foreign invader). But this initial response sets off another part of the immune process. When an antigen binds to the antibody on the surface of a B cell, the antibody-antigen complex gets taken up into the B cell. The antigen is chopped up within the B cell and sent back to the surface of the B cell — now called a ‘primed B cell’. This primed B cell with its ’chopped up’ antigen divides rapidly, which produces large numbers of copies of the antibody, which are then released into the bloodstream. Some of these cells hang are around and become memory cells.

 

So, here we have the answers to the questions above. The body is able to recognize so many antigens because we constantly carry around a ridiculously huge variety of antibodies on our B-cells. And we ‘ramp up’ this response when those primed B cells multiply and produce huge numbers of antibodies. And finally, some of those cells are specifically designated to stay behind, surviving for decades, as a repository just in case that particular pathogen should show up again.

 

I am leaving out ridiculous amounts of immunology. But these are the basics you need to know with regard to understanding the antibody-based blood tests that many companies are working on and presenting to the FDA for approval.

 

Serum antibody tests can be pictures as being similar in concept to an over-the-counter urine pregnancy test — an antibody recognizes a component of the pregnancy hormone and lights up as a colored line (or plus sign or whatever lights up on the particular test you purchased) on the test strip. For determining whether or not a person has developed antibodies against COVID-19, a typical test does the following. First, drops of blood from a patient’s blood sample are absorbed onto a sample pad. Once the blood absorbs, it encounters a zone that contains known COVID-19 antigens (these are proteins found specifically on COVID-19 virus). If the blood sample has antibodies to the COVID-19 proteins, the antibodies will bind to the COVID test antigens and the bound-complex gets carried along the strip. The sample then runs into three zones on the sample pad. Each zone is impregnated with different antibodies to those original antibodies. These are essentially two antibody subclasses, IgG and IgM. The IgM antibodies are the first to get produced in an immune response. They are relatively short-lived, with a half-life of five or six days. These are the body’s immediate response antibodies. So detection of IgM against COVID-19 antigens indicates a recent (or still active) infection. The IgG antibodies are more numerous in number but take time to build up in our body. For many infections (measles, chickenpox, mumps, hepatitis B and more) these IgG antibodies indicate that a person is now immune to re-infection. So on that test strip, the antigen-antibody complex will encounter a band of anti-IgM antibodies, bound to the paper, and then a band of anti-IgG antibodies, and finally a band of control antibodies that react with human antibodies in general. When the patient’s blood hits one of those antibody-to-antibodies zones, the blood will come to a halt and light up the test strip (just like that over-the counter urine pregnancy test). Ultimately, the test strip should always show a colored line for the control. It can also show colored lines for either IgG or IgM, both, or neither. Of note, if there is no colored line on the control strip then something has gone wrong and the test needs to be discarded and run again with a fresh kit.

 

This method of testing is able to tell us that if a person is positive for IgM only then they are likely actively infected. If they show only IgG, they may well have gone through an infection and could be immune. Showing both suggests you are likely on the back end of an infection. And showing neither (with a valid control line) means that you haven’t been exposed to the virus at all.

 

But unfortunately its not that simple — there can be complications and exceptions. It should be mentioned that if a person was infected with SARS a few years ago (or some other virus that has similar protein structure to COVID-19) they COULD show positive IgG in this type of test. Also, another complicating factor is that a negative result really doesn’t mean much, because there’s always the chance that a person generated antibodies that don’t recognize the antigens that the test kit has built into it for detection. You can’t rule it out. It is also quite possible that a person has been infected but hasn’t had time to generate enough antibodies for the test to detect yet. All such kits will include a warning that negative result can’t be used to say that a person isn’t/hasn’t been infected. And they’ll also include a warning that such a kit can’t be used as the last word even if they come out positive, although to be sure it is a pretty strong indicator.

 

A big question is whether this COVID-19 infection will provide lasting immunity: is a person who shows IgG against COVID-19 antigens safe to go out without fear of re-infection? We don’t quite know the answer to that question yet. The record with past coronavirus pathogens is mixed. We are going to know eventually but we need more data at this time. We also don’t know how long such immunity will last, obviously. Months? Years? An example is that many vaccinated people my age are still immune to rubella but not to measles.

 

So that’s antibody testing in a nutshell. There are several companies that have developed point-of-care tests as described above and have FDA allowances (not full approval yet). They can definitely be useful — but much is still not known about the serology and the long-term immune response with regard to COVID-19.

EXPLORING A NEW TREATMENT FOR SLEEP DISORDERS – DELTA SLEEP INDUCING PEPTIDE

March 11, 2020

Delta-sleep-inducing peptide, abbreviated DSIP, is a neuropeptide that is believed to be involved in sleep regulation due to its ability to induce slow-wave sleep.  DSIP enhances REM sleep. REM sleep is characterized by a rapid eye movement.  A number of essential physiologic functions are attributed to REM sleep. Functions include but are not limited to synchronization of biological functions, information processing, memory storage, and a variety of functions that are thought to have a role in equilibrium.Studies show that whenDSIP was given to patients with insomnia, it offered these patients better sleep and also a decrease in tension during the day and a greater tolerance to psychic stress. Patients using DSIP at night for sleep were shown to have improvements in their overall ability to cope with problems and emotions. One advantage of DSIP is that it induces sleep ‘naturally’.  Additionally, DSIP does not extend sleep beyond the normal duration nor does it impair the normal sleep architecture. These unique traits are unlike all of the synthetic hypnotic medications that tend to alter normal sleeping patterns dramatically. Studies show higher alertness and better performance while the people using DSIP are awake. DSIP has been discussed as a pharmacological intervention to fight fatigue and sleep loss in military interventions. And if DSIP could enhance military performance, could it not also enhance athletic achievement?

How does DSIP work? No one really knows. The notion of a sleep factor has never really been accepted. Sleep is made up of so many different stages and is influenced by so many factors – many of which are still unknown – that almost any biologically active compound may be related to some stage or other in sleep.

“The theory of the origin of sleep which has gained the widest credence is the one that attributes it to anemia of the brain… The idea behind this supposition has been that, as the day draws to an end, the circulatory mechanism becomes fatigued, the vasomotor center exhausted, the tone of the blood vessels deficient, and the energy of the heart diminished, and thus is the circulation to the cerebral arteries lessened.” NATURE, May 5th, 1898.

Exploring the Benefits of Low Dose Naltrexone in My Office

February 28, 2020

Low Dose Naltrexone’s capacity to modulate the immune system has wide potential applicability.

 

I have been aware of Low Dose Naltrexone (LDN) for some time, and I have prescribed it to a handful of patients in past years.  I knew that it has been said to improve mood, help with weight loss and decrease chronic pain.  But I had never considered prescribing it to my patients with autoimmune disorders until about a year ago.  For the past year, I have been using this medication routinely in my patients that have autoimmune and other inflammatory disorders including but not limited to: multiple sclerosis (MS), myasthenia graves, Hashimoto’s disease, Grave’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis (RA), psoriasis, fibromyalgia, ulcerative colitis (UC) and migraine headaches. LDN is a conventional pharmaceutical, is readily available, safe, inexpensive and has wide applicability and efficacy.

 

Naltrexone is an opiate antagonist. Originally Naltrexone 50 mg was prescribed to treat opioid addiction and alcoholism by blocking opioid receptors.  This opioid receptor blockade made opioid addicts and alcohol users unable to get high.  Unfortunately, patients did not like how Naltrexone made them feel and refused to take it.  LDN is completely different in concept and mechanism than its counterpart Naltrexone.  LDN is prescribed at doses between 0.5-4.5 mg which, at that low dose, briefly blocks the opioid receptors for a few hours. Subsequently a rebound effect occurs, with increased production of endorphins, resulting in an enhanced feeling of well being, as well as a reduction in pain and inflammation. Endorphins are naturally occurring substances that create a feeling of well being. They also play an important role in modulating the immune response, and in reducing pain and inflammation.

 

There are very few side effects of LDN. The most common side effect I have seen is vivid dreams.  When I say common — three out of my fifty plus patients using it have reported such dreams.  These dreams typically resolve after a few days, but recurs when the dose is increased. Other side effects that have been reported include headaches, GI symptoms and insomnia.  But side effects are typically mild and transient, if in fact, any are experienced at all.

 

Low Dose Naltrexone is contraindicated in patients who are taking pain medications and immune suppressive therapies. It must be obtained from a compounding pharmacy and generally costs less than one dollar a day. 

 

A lot of patients who come to see me have symptoms caused by a leaky gut, a leaky brain and inflammation. The risk of a trial of LDN is low and the potential benefit high. Over the past 9-12 months, I have prescribed it to a number of patients. My patient’s results have been promising. One woman with a severe case of prurigo nodularis (a skin disease of unknown etiology that causes hard, itchy nodules to form on the skin) began to have fewer lesions and less intense symptoms a short time after starting LDN.  Also, another patient with myasthenia gravis (a chronic autoimmune neuromuscular disease that causes weakness in the skeletal muscles, which are responsible for breathing and moving parts of the body, including the arms and legs) began to have noticeably improved symptoms a short time after starting the LDN.  Other patients I treat have seen improvements in fibromyalgia, psoriasis, and chronic pain.  Several of my autoimmune thyroid patients have been able to decrease doses of medication or obtained better control when previously we had struggled to control their condition. Another patient with terrible premenstrual syndrome with severe cycle-related depression and irritability has not experienced these mood symptoms during her last two cycles since she started using LDN.  Accounts of the astounding results go on and on among my patients who have started using it.

 

Not surprisingly, the efficacy of LDN seems to be increased by eating an autoimmune-type diet. It is particularly important to avoid gluten and casein, as they interact with the opioid receptors.  Consequently, these food-types tend to cause mosts inflammatory or autoimmune conditions to flare.  

 

Some of the medical conditions that LDN has been prescribed for:

  • ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease)
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Ankylosing spondylitis
  • Anti-aging
  • Autism
  • Celiac disease
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Endometriosis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Thyroid Disorders (Hashimoto’s and Graves’ Disease)
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Lupus
  • Multiple sclerosis (MS)
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Psoriasis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Scleroderma
  • Ulcerative colitis

Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder (PGAD)

January 30, 2020

Persistent genital arousal disorder, or PGAD, is a condition in which a person feels repeatedly sexually aroused without provocation. The person’s arousal is NOT linked to sexual desire. Additionally, most people with PGAD experience spontaneous orgasms that do not resolve arousal. PGAD can lead to ongoing physical pain, stress, and psychological difficulties due to an inability to carry out everyday tasks. The condition can affect people of all ages. Women are more commonly affected than men. PGAD is an extremely rare and embarrassing condition. The medical community has not clinically confirmed the incidence of PGAD because as many people with the condition feel too embarrassed or ashamed to seek medical help.

 

Unfortunately, symptoms of PGAD can vary widely, making it more difficult to diagnose and treat.  The primary symptom is a series of ongoing and uncomfortable sensations in and around the genital tissues, including the clitoris, labia, vagina, perineum, and anus. Some people have the ‘feeling’ of an intense bladder infection — although no infection is present. Many people have other, milder bladder symptoms, like urinating frequently or urgency to urinate. Some people also have trouble defecating. Some report having orgasms every 10 seconds. Because there is no normal pattern of symptoms, it is difficult to put definite parameters around the symptoms other than saying the arousal is unwanted and distressing.  The sensations are known as dysesthesias. They can include:

 

  • Wetness
  • Itching
  • Pressure
  • Burning
  • Pounding
  • Pins and needles

 

These symptoms can lead the person with PGAD to feel consistently like they are about to experience orgasm, or the person may experience waves of spontaneous orgasms. However, as previously mentioned, these symptoms happen in the absence of sexual desire. Climaxing may temporarily alleviate symptoms, but they may return suddenly within a few hours. Episodes of intense arousal may occur several times a day for weeks, months, or even years.  Because of this, the condition can lead to psychological symptoms due to the persistent discomfort and impact on day-to-day living. These may include:

 

  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Depression
  • Distress
  • Frustration
  • Guilt
  • Insomnia

 

People with chronic, or incurable, persistent genital arousal disorder may eventually lose their notion of sexual pleasure, because the orgasm becomes associated with relief from pain rather than an enjoyable experience. In fact, people with this disorder often avoided sex, because it can make the condition worse. A growing body of research suggests that PGAD is often missed or misdiagnosed. Though vastly more common in women, the condition is considered a version of priapism, where men have persistent and sometimes painful, sustained erections. The psychological consequences can be significant: depression and anxiety being the most common.  In addition, many people experience shame and misunderstanding of what is happening to them.

 

PGAD affects the nerves and can lead to chronic pain and discomfort.  Sexual stimulation, masturbation, anxiety, and stress can trigger PGAD. Some people find that urinating can result in such severe arousal as to be painful. The person with PGAD cannot usually identify the triggers to avoid them, and the causes of the ongoing condition are largely unknown. In some women, stress causes the onset of the disorder. Once the stress is alleviated, the condition tends to calm. Because of this, some think that PGAD may be a psychologic disorder. However, this is not the case in every presentation of PGAD. Research has implied a link between PGAD and the veins, hormone fluctuations or depletion, nervous system issues, and chemical changes after using some types of medication. Some studies suggest that PGAD can be caused by various conditions affecting the nerves that carry sensation from the genitals. One common cause is due to growths on the nerve roots near the bottom of the spine — Tarlov cysts.  Tarlov cysts are sacs filled with spinal fluid that appear on the sacral nerve root. Sacral nerves at the bottom of the spine receive electrical signals from the brain, and they relay these instructions to the bladder, colon, and genitals.  It is thought that pressure on the nerve roots cause disorder. Surgical removal of these growths, however, does not always relieve symptoms, suggesting that this is not the only etiology. Other conditions that damage lower spinal nerves, herniated disks for example, can also cause PGAD.  Other studies have also investigated whether PGAD is caused by changes in hormones or medications.  A few studies have suggested that certain antidepressants either starting a new prescription or abruptly stopping one, has led to this condition. Other research suggests that PGAD can be caused by skin infections, irritation in the genital area, or thinning of the skin due to reduced estrogen levels after menopause. Epileptic seizures and scar tissue from a trauma that puts pressure on the spinal nerves or stretches them can also be a cause. However, in many cases, the cause is unknown, which adds to the difficulty in diagnosing and treating the disorder.

 

It was not possible until recent years to formally diagnose PGAD.  Medical literature has only recently classed PGAD as a distinct syndrome. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV (DSM-IV) did not recognize PGAD as a diagnosable medical condition until recently. It was added to DSM-V.   There are currently 5 criteria for an accurate diagnosis of PGAD.

 

The 5 criteria are:

  • Involuntary genital and clitoral arousal that continues for an extended period of hours, days, or months
  • No cause for the persistent genital arousal can be identified
  • The genital arousal is not associated with feelings of sexual desire
  • The persistent sensations of genital arousal feel intrusive and unwanted
  • After one or more orgasms, the physical genital arousal does not go away

 

The above criteria are considered to be the only valid criteria established to date for a PGAD diagnosis.

 

The treatment of PGAD usually centers on managing symptoms, due to the often-unclear causes of the condition. Many people don’t mention it to their medical provider due to embarrassment.  Often many opt to suffer in silence. If more people were aware of this condition, the emotional consequences would certainly be diminished.  Self-harm is a major problem among people with PGAD. Surgery may treat the problem, if the cause is a Tarlov cyst, but because the cysts are seen as having no symptoms, insurance usually declines payment. To ease symptoms, many people just try to avoid triggers.  Other treatments to consider include: nerve blocks, sex therapy, steroids, and anesthetics.

Is Your Body Giving You Clues About Vitamin & Nutrient Deficiency?

December 30, 2019

Any good medical provider will tell you to stay in tune with your body.  If you notice something unusual, don’t ignore it.  Some medical conditions that can be quite serious can manifest initially in subtle ways. The sooner you address whatever is going on, the more easily the problem can be remedied.  Sometimes problems can be corrected through simple changes to diet or a dietary supplement. Here are few common things to look out for.

 

Do Your Joints Feel Stiff? 

Everyone know that with age we see an increase in aches & pains.  But did you know that a possible cause of joint stiffness could be low Vitamin D.  Vitamin D, known as the sunshine vitamin, helps our body absorb calcium, the main building block of bone.  If you don’t get enough Vitamin D, you can have bone density loss & soreness. How do we get more Vitamin D? There are very few foods that are rich in Vitamin D.  Salmon and egg yolks are two examples – and milk is fortified with Vitamin D.  It is difficulty to get adequate amounts of Vitamin D through diet alone. The easiest way to boost Vitamin D level is by spending time in the sun. Vitamin D produced in the skin through sunlight may last at least twice as long in the body compared to ingesting it in food or supplements.  Unfortunately, sun exposure can increase your risk for skin cancer. Using sunscreen can limit the amount of Vitamin D you produce. It is not recommended that you forgo sunscreen to increase production of Vitamin D.  Be cautious about your Vitamin D intake through supplements — too much vitamin D can lead to toxicity.  Check with your doctor before staring any Vitamin D.  If using supplementation, check levels a minimum of every 4-6 months.

 

Are Your Nails Peeling?

Brittle nails are typically due to external factors — like picking at polish, frequent use of hand sanitizer or wearing acrylic nails. But if you don’t do any of those things or if both your toenails & fingernails are prone to breakage, you might have a low iron level. Iron deficiency results in limited oxygen to organs, muscles & tissue. One potential side effect of reduced oxygen flow is peeling and brittle nails. This dilemma can easily be fixed by incorporating plenty of high-iron foods into your diet.  The most obvious source is red meat, but if you follow a plant-based diet, leafy greens, baked potatoes with the skin on and broccoli are also great sources. For pescatarians try: shrimp, scallops, clams & sardines. Adding Vitamin C to your meal can boost the absorption of iron. Also, cooking with cast iron can increase iron content in food being cooked in it.  Once you start these dietary changes, you should starting your nails change in a few weeks.  If you don’t, then check with a doctor to test iron levels. In cases of severe deficiency, you may need an iron supplement.   If you get prescribed an iron supplement, drink it with orange juice for optimal absorption.

 

Are Your Eyes Twitching? 

The term for this is myopenia.  There are a variety of causes including fatigue, stress, consuming too much caffeine and alcohol. But your lids might also spasm if you are low on magnesium. If low magnesium is the cause, it is relatively easy to increase your intake. Nuts and seeds — particularly pumpkin seeds — are high in magnesium. Also, look for breakfast cereal fortified with magnesium, and stick to either whole grains or white rice and bread that says “enriched” on the package.

 

Have You Been Feeling Out of it Lately? 

Even though you are getting plenty of rest and aren’t fighting a cold, you feel like you are dragging. Your muscles are weak and you have to force yourself out of bed in the morning. You have trouble staying on task and have been in a blah mood.Feeling depleted like this might be evidence of a Vitamin B12 deficiency. B12 is key in production of red blood cells, which transport oxygen throughout your system. Also, B vitamins are integral in neuronal function and deficiency of B vitamins can lead to depression.  If this sounds like you, infuse your diet with B12 power foods like whole grains, liver and seafood such as salmon, tuna, clams and trout. B12 deficiency is common in vegans and vegetarians, since it comes mostly from animal protein. If you don’t eat meat, ask your doctor to test your levels.

 

Do You Bruise Easily?

Have you bumped into your desk only to find a black-and-blue on your thigh the next morning. Or maybe you get nosebleeds for no apparent reason. Or maybe your periods have been heavier than usual. Or your gums have been bleeding when you floss.  If these things are happening, insufficient vitamin K could be the cause. Vitamin K is a coagulator that helps blood clot properly. If levels are low, it can lead to excessive bleeding and bruising. Vitamin K is found in fermented foods like sauerkraut and aged cheese, as well as greens. If eating more of those foods doesn’t do the trick, try a high-quality vitamin K2 supplement that’s natural.

 

Is Your Skin Super Dry?

Scales and flakes are common side effects of arid fall and winter air, but they can also be a clue that you are low on fatty acids. Omega-3s play a key role in moisture retention. Fatty acid consumption results in greater UV protection, fewer wrinkles, plumper skin and a more even complexion.  If you are low in omegas, whip up a breakfast rich in omega-3s by adding walnuts, chia seeds & flax into your cereal or oatmeal. Eat avocado toast or a can of sardines for lunch. Choose salmon instead of chicken. 

Arousal and Sexual Desire

November 30, 2019

Positive sexual anticipation a powerful aphrodisiac. Negative sexual anticipation is also powerful and can be debilitating.  Sexual desire can make or break good sex – and a good relationship. The number one reason couples in the United States stop having sex is a lack of sexual desire.

 

Sexual desire is, simply, the thoughts you have toward your sexual experience — good, bad or otherwise. 

 

The biggest speed bump many women face, especially in midlife, is the myth that if you are not walking around turned on and wanting sex, then you have “low sexual libido” and you are sexually broken.  For these women, their ‘erotic potential’ can be significant once they figure out their own key to turning themselves on.  In order to understand how to do this, it is important to be able to make the distinction between ‘spontaneous’ and ‘responsive’ arousal. It was previously assumed that sexual response is linear.  However, that is far from the truth.  Earlier theories describe low sexual desire as a lack of ‘sexual fantasies and desire for sexual activity.’ These theories place sexual desire first, as if it was the motivating factor for an individual to achieve satisfaction. In this model, desire emerges ‘spontaneously.’ Although this is not the most common pattern of sexual desire, there are definitely some people who experience desire that way — desire first, then arousal. On the contrary, many people (especially women) experience desire as responsive.  This means that desire emerges in response to, rather than in anticipation of, erotic stimulation — arousal first, then desire. Both desire styles are normal and healthy.

 

Unfortunately, most women skip the arousal phase (and, as a result, skip desire) in their rush to get to sexual intercourse and orgasm. Because of this, many women who have ‘responsive desire, rather than ‘spontaneous’ desire, mistakenly assume that they have ‘low desire’.  Furthermore, they become trained to think that their ability to enjoy sex with their partner is meaningless if they don’t also feel a persistent urge for it.  In short, they have been taught that they are broken, because their desire isn’t what it is ‘supposed’ to be. These women don’t need medical treatment, instead they require a thoughtful exploration of what creates desire between them and their partners. This is likely to include confidence in their bodies, feeling accepted, and explicitly erotic stimulation. Feeling judged or broken for their sexuality is exactly what they don’t need — and what will make their desire for sex shut down.

 

Whether you are a woman or in sexual partnership with a woman, having an understanding of responsive sexual desire and spontaneous sexual desire is fundamental to whether or not you’re going to have sex tonight. For women who have responsive sexual desire (which is the majority), it can be really important that they feel sexually desired. If the woman doesn’t feel desire, she will probably not be inspired to have sex. Women with responsive sexual desire want you to want them.  They require erotic stimulation in order to first feel arousal then desire for sex. 

 

This is why so many people are addicted to what is known as “New Relationship Energy.” They need to feel hot desire and the game of pursuit to access their full erotic turn on. It’s amazing how quickly a steamy love affair can fade with a woman who has responsive sexual desire, when she feels the hot desire from her lover turn to warm desire. Think back to the lust encounters of a ‘new’ relationship. Likely you couldn’t wait to see, touch, smell, and have wild sex with your new partner. Because you spent hours positively anticipating sex, you were instantly aroused by the time you actually had sex — and it was likely wonderful! Now compare that with your thoughts of sex with your partner today. For too many women, foreplay becomes days of anxiety, of her walking on egg shells wondering when sex will be initiated. When the sex is initiated, getting sexually aroused takes twice as long (if it happens at all). Women need at least 10-15 minutes of ‘warm up’ – and ironically, that’s how long the average sexual encounter lasts. Sex is suddenly over and she hasn’t had a chance to enjoy it, even if she had an orgasm, which creates an even deeper resentment towards her partner and any future sex act.

 

When you hit a ‘sex rut’, you dig yourself deeper every time you have sex. To bring the zest back into your sex life, you must build positive expectations towards sex. Unfortunately, if a couple has gone years without discussing the negative circumstance, creating positive thoughts toward sex will not happen instantaneously. Especially for women who tend to hang onto anger and allow it to linger. Luckily, fixing your situation is still doable. As sex is a team sport, it’s up to both of you to make a concerted effort to persevere and bring the fun back into your relationship. 

 

There are a few basic guidelines to consider to help with improve your sexual desire.  Remember, good sex starts outside the bedroom. A little intimacy, affection and touch will go a long way to help a couple easily transition into the bedroom. Look for ways to have a 10-second positive and affectionate moment every day. Talk positively about sex.  Be aware of how sex is communicated between you and your partner. Being able to inject fun, flirty chat into your daily conversation – perhaps about a future sexual encounter – is a simple way to create new, positive sex feelings. Take turns planning out fun sex.  Too many couples walk into the bedroom without a plan and have the same old sex time after time. Remember, variety is the spice of life and will do a lot to enhance your sexual desire.  Next, it is important to understand what you want out of the experience and communicate that to your partner. To help your partner plan out a fun sex evening, let them know what you would like to do. Plan an “all about your partner” evening when you spoil them. Once in a while think of something nice you can do for your partner. Spoiling your partner is definitely a win-win proposition on so many relationship levels. In a nutshell, creating positive sexual desire doesn’t have to be complicated, although it might take a little time. See for yourself how positively anticipating sex can completely turn your sex life around.

 

Sex Tips For Lovers With Women Who Have Responsive Sexual Desire:

  1. Women with responsive sexual desire will probably not think of sex or get “turned on” without their lover or some stimulation.
  2. Use all your ‘tools’ to show a woman that you desire her:  your words, your presence, your attention, your actions, and your body.
  3. Read chapters of erotic books to each other, or look at sexy photographs or watch erotic movies with each other before initiating sex. 
  4. Use technology to flirt and express desire to stimulate her sexual response: texting, private messages, etc. 
  5. Let her know that you love her body. Tell her this more than you think you need to. Women carry way too much body shame, and you can turn her on by supporting her in feeling beautiful in her body. Don’t just tell her that you care — show her.

Emotional Abuse – What It Looks Like

October 14, 2019

“Did it ever get physical?”

 

This is often the first question we ask someone we know or suspect is in an unhealthy relationship. While starting a conversation about physical abuse is essential, an issue arises when it is the ONLY question we ask. Stopping short of inquiring about other forms of abuse implies that physical violence is the defining factor of an unhealthy relationship. Even worse, it conveys the message that whatever else might be going on is not that bad. This is a huge issue, because emotional abuse is as bad – and can often be worse. 

Why don’t we hear more about emotional abuse? Many people simply aren’t sure what emotional abuse actually entails. Understanding emotional abuse is complicated for many reasons. 

 

Emotional abuse is any abusive behavior that is not physical, which may include (but is not limited to) verbal aggression, intimidation, manipulation and humiliation, which most often unfolds as a pattern of behavior over time that aims to diminish another person’s sense of identity, dignity and self-worth, and which often results in anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts/behaviors, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

 

Breaking It Down:

1.“…any abusive behavior that isn’t physical…”

Emotional abuse is difficult to comprehend because it encompasses so much. This list delineates some, but certainly not all, behaviors that are potentially emotionally abusive:

  • Intimidation
  • Manipulation
  • Refusal to ever be pleased
  • Blaming
  • Shaming
  • Name-calling
  • Insults
  • Put-downs
  • Sarcasm
  • Infantilization
  • Silent treatment
  • Trivializing
  • Triangulation
  • Sabotage
  • Gaslighting
  • Scapegoating
  • Blame-shifting
  • Projection
  • Ranking and comparing
  • Arbitrary and unpredictable inconsistency
  • Threatening harm
  • Forced isolation

 

Some of the above can be part of a healthy relationship.  However, in the context of emotional abuse, the intent is malicious and these behaviors can be extremely cutting, especially when disguised as affection or an innocent remark.

 

2. “ …which may include verbal aggression, intimidation, manipulation, and humiliation”

The key word here is “may.” Not only is the list of emotional abuse tactics incredibly long and dependent on context, but also the particular combination of behaviors can vary greatly from relationship to relationship. As a result, we have another layer of complexity: emotional abuse doesn’t have one specific look. For example, an emotionally abusive relationship where overt aggressing behaviors like yelling, threatening and blaming are predominantly used will look very different from a relationship where only very subtle forms of abuse like gaslighting, passive-aggressive put-downs, and minimizing are used.

 

3. “a pattern of behavior over time”

Emotional abuse is rarely a single event. Instead, it occurs over time as a pattern of behavior that’s sustained & repetitive.This is one of the reasons it is so complicated and so dangerous. Even if you’re the most observant person in the world, emotional abuse can be so gradual that you don’t realize what’s happening until you’re deeply entangled in its web. As a result, the abuse can go unchecked as the relationship progresses, building for months, years, even decades, especially if the abuse is more covert. In such instances, the target’s self-esteem is steadily eroded and their self-doubt becomes so paralyzing that they often have only a vague sense that something (though unsure what) is wrong.

 

4. “aims to diminish another person’s sense of identity, dignity, and self-worth”

Regardless of how emotional abuse unfolds, the effects can be devastating. Unfortunately, these effects as well as each harmful act of abuse are largely invisible. This makes it difficult for most people to comprehend the very real risks and damage of emotional abuse. Try to picture a scene of emotional abuse, specifically someone whose self-identity has been annihilated. Can you see it? Generally, one’s mind does not know where to begin. While describing physical wounds is pretty straightforward, it is much harder to articulate emotional trauma. The parts of a person that sustained emotional abuse destroys—identity, dignity, and self-worth—are abstract and virtually impossible to picture or measure.

 

5. “results in anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts or behaviors, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)”

Emotional abuse is essentially invisible, singling out the abuse as the culprit of its destructive effects is another kind of challenge and frustration. Even in cases of extreme emotional abuse, there are no bruises or gashes where the victim can point to as proof or validation.  Instead, what emotional abuse ends up looking like is a person suffering from painful yet not uncommon afflictions like anxiety or depression. It can therefore be heartbreakingly easy for anyone—whether the person inflicting the emotional abuse, a third-party observer, or even the target of the abuse—to misattribute its damage to some other cause or even blame the target who has escaped from a relationship.  In fact the abuser, tends to reach out to friends/acquaintances and even family of the victim, and devalue that person or make them appear ridiculous, insane or off-base.

 

The Emotional Abuser’s Typical Behavior:

Many women and men who are emotionally abused have no choice but to rescue themselves or continue to live with the abuse. Because others cannot see signs of abuse, these victims often have little or no social support.  In fact, their abuser is often quite charismatic and charming, especially to mutual friends, which is a technique often used by the abuser to further disparage their target.

 

Why would someone emotionally abusing you and think it’s okay? It may be a part of their behavior to control others by any means necessary to get what they want.  Certain personality disorders are common among those who emotionally abuse others. They may have an authoritarian personality – these people admit to no faults because they see themselves as right and others as wrong. If you are being emotionally abused by someone with an anti-social personality (a sociopath), you should seek immediate safety and remove yourself from the relationship, since those with an anti-social personality can become violent when they don’t get what they want. Another personality disorder in which emotional abuse may be evident is narcissism. The abuser makes everything about their own needs and desires. Narcissists may frame their actions as being helpful to their victim, but they all revolve around building their ego.

 

Often, abusive behavior is a direct means for the abuser to get what they want without taking responsibility for their actions. They may feel intense anxiety about losing you, so they close off your avenue of escape. Whether your abuser understands what they are doing or not, they know that they do not want you to think your own thoughts, make your own decisions, or live your own life without putting them ahead of yourself. In some way, your thoughts and behaviors are a problem for them. They do not think of you as an independent adult who can think for yourself and is entitled to your perspective. And they do not want you to think of yourself that way either. 

 

Techniques Used By An Emotional Abuser:

•Countering: telling you that you remember something incorrectly

•Trivializing: making you feel like your thoughts and feelings don’t matter

•Withholding: pretending they don’t understand what you’re saying

•Stonewalling: refusing to listen or engage with you in conversation

•Blocking: changing the subject

•Diverting: questioning the validity of your thoughts

•Forgetting: pretending to forget things that happened

•Denying: telling you something never happened

•Faking compassion: telling you they’re doing something harmful for your good

•Discrediting: convincing others, you’re insane or unstable

•Reframing: twisting your thoughts, behaviors, and experiences to favor their perspective

 

Typical Phrases Used By A Emotional Abuser:

Certain phrases come up often in relationships where someone is being emotionally abused. These phrases and others like them can convince you that your mind isn’t trustworthy. If you hear these often when you know deep inside that they’re unfair statements, it may be time to seek help:

•”I don’t want to hear that.”

•”You need to stop trying to confuse me.”

•”You’re wrong.”

•”You remember it wrong.”

•”Where did you get that crazy idea?”

•”Your imagination is getting the best of you.”

•”It didn’t happen that way.”

•”You know I’m right.”

•”You’re too sensitive.”

•”I only do it because I love you.”

•”You get angry so easily.”

•”You’re too sensitive.”

•”I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

•”You’re making that up.”

•”Calm down!”

 

Thoughts, Feelings, and Behaviors Associated with Being Emotionally Abused:

When someone emotionally abuses you, your thoughts, feelings, and actions may change dramatically. Where once you felt self-assured, you may now feel like you cannot trust your mind. Take some time to examine how these parts of you have changed since being with the person or in the situation. The National Domestic Violence Hotline describes what to watch for. Here is a quick checklist to guide you:

•Do you second-guess yourself often?

•Do you find yourself wondering whether you’re too sensitive?

•Do you feel confused a lot of the time?

•Do you feel like you’re ‘going crazy?’

•Do you notice that you apologize to someone often?

•Do you wonder why you can’t seem to be happy when you have so much?

•Do you make excuses for the abuser?

•Do you have an overwhelming sense that something’s wrong, even if you don’t know what it is?

•Do you often lie to avoid your partner’s, boss’s, or co-worker’s criticisms?

•Is it hard for you to make simple decisions?

•Do you feel hopeless?

•Do you feel like a loser who can’t do anything right?

•Do you question whether you’re good enough for your partner or job?

 

How to Deal with Emotional Abuse:

People who have endured emotional abuse (no matter how long a person was exposed to it) always find it challenging to leave the relationship, have any self-confidence at all after leaving the relationship and can often struggle to have a healthy relationship with another person in the future. The real question is how to deal with emotional abuse before it reaches that point. Here are a few suggestions for dealing with emotional abuse in relationships:

  1. Study intuition and develop a strong belief in your intuition.
  2. Realize that the abuser’s manipulations have nothing to do with who you are.
  3. Understand that you can’t change someone who is abusive; you can only change yourself.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

September 29, 2019

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE FACTS

 

Did you know . . . .

 

Domestic violence is the #1 cause of injury ages 14 – 55 — more than car accidents, muggings & rapes combined  

 

Domestic violence is a pattern of controlling behaviors that one partner uses to get power over the other.  It includes: physical violence or threat of physical violence to get control, emotional or mental abuse and sexual abuse

 

Domestic violence occurs in all races, socio-economic classes, religious affiliations, occupations & educational backgrounds

 

 

Domestic violence is rarely an isolated event — tends to increase & become more violent over time

 

Someone is beaten by their spouse/partner every 9 seconds

 

On average, 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner in the United States

 

More than 12 million women and men are victims of domestic violence over the course of a year

 

3-4 million people are beaten in their homes each year by partners or ex-partners

 

85% of domestic violence victims are women

 

1 : 4 women and 1 : 7 men over the age of 18 will experience domestic violence in their lifetime

 

Women between the ages of 20 – 24 are at greatest risk of becoming victims of domestic violence

 

25 – 45% of all women battered are battered during pregnancy

 

Half of all homeless women and children in the U.S. are fleeing from domestic violence

 

1 : 12 women and 1 : 45 men have been stalked in their lifetime

 

Witnessing violence is the strongest risk factor of transmitting violence from one generation to the next

 

Boys who witness domestic violence are 2 times as likely to abuse their own partners and children when they become adults

 

In 60% to 80% of intimate partner homicides, no matter which partner was killed, the man physically abused the woman before the murder

 

The costs of domestic violence amount to more than $37 billion a year in law enforcement involvement, legal work, medical and mental health treatment, and lost productivity at companies

 

Children who witness violence are twice as likely to abuse their own partners & children as adults

 

30 – 60% of perpetrators of intimate partner violence also abuse children

 

Children of violent homes display emotional and behavioral disturbances like withdrawal, low self-esteem, nightmares, self-blame and aggression against peers, family, animals & property

 

 

Are you concerned that someone you care about is experiencing abuse?

 

If someone you love is being abused, it can be so difficult to know what to do. There are many reasons why people stay in abusive relationships, and leaving can be a very dangerous time for a victim.

Abuse is about power and control, so one of the most important ways you can help a person in an abusive relationship is to consider how you might empower them to make their own decisions. Offer support :

 

  • Acknowledge That They Are In A Very Difficulty and Scary Situation – Be Supportive and Listen
  • Be Non-Judgemental
  • If They End The Relationship, Continue To Be Supportive of Them
  • Encourage Them To Participate In Activities Outside of The Relationship with Friends & Family
  • Help Them Develop A Safety Plan
  • Encourage Them To Talk To People Who Can Provide Help & Guidance 
  • Offer To Go with Them If They Have to Go To Police, Court, Attorney, Etc.

 

If you need help, find a local domestic violence agency or contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) to get help.