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.

My Quest to Communicate Effectively

August 31, 2019

Over the past few years I have realized that effective communication is KEY to having success in both personal and business endeavors.  After a handful of failed personal relationship and just as many business snafus, it became clear that I needed to hone my communication skills.  The process has been a learning experience, and I am confident that I am not even close to mastering this skill.  However, each time I am able to practice what I have learned, I CAN say that I get one step closer to better communicating with the world around me. In my pursuit, I have found four areas of that most of us would do well to improve:  listening, non-verbal communication, emotional awareness and management & questioning.

 

1. Learn to Listen

Communication is a two-way process. I often fall into the trap of ‘broadcasting’, where I issue a message but fail to listen to the response.  I half-heartedly listen to others in the conversation, while primarily thinking about what I was planning to say next.

Listening is not the same as hearing. Listening means paying attention to not only the words being spoken but also how they are being spoken and the non-verbal messages associated with them. That means giving full attention to the person speaking and concentrating on what he or she is saying— and, conversely, what they are NOT saying.

2. Study and Understand Non-Verbal Communication

A large portion of any message is communicated non-verbally. Non-verbal communication includes tone & pitch of voice, body movement, eye contact, posture, facial expression, and even physiological changes such as sweating. Better understand people by paying close attention to their non-verbal communication.

3. Emotional Awareness and Management

Become more aware of your own and other people’s emotions — and better manage those emotions.

It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that everything should be logical and that emotion has no place. However, we are human and, therefore, messy and emotional. Emotion cannot be separated from communication — nor should we try to do so. An awareness and understanding of emotions, and how to master those emotions, both positive and negative, have improved my ability to effectively communicate with others.

Self-awareness and empathy are two additional areas in which I have learned to focus. Self-awareness consists of emotional awareness, accurate self-assessment and self-confidence. Empathy is the ability to ‘feel with’ others:  to share their emotions and understanding those emotions. It includes understanding and developing other human beings, service to others, valuing others and supporting their diversity,  and paying attention to and respecting their religious and political views.

4. Questioning Skills

Questioning is crucial to ensure you understand someone’s message correctly. It is also a good way to obtain more information or keep  a conversation going. Practicing good questioning skills has allowed me to draw additional information from others and stimulate more in-depth discussion.

 

Transmitting Messages

I have also learned the importance of ‘transmitting’ a message effectively. Try not to say the first thing that comes into your head. Instead take a moment and pay close attention to what you are about to say and how you are about to say it.  Focus on the meaning of what you want to communicate.

Consider how your message might be received by the other person, and tailor the way you communicate to fit your objective to help avoid misunderstandings and conflict . Avoid jargon & over-complicated language, and explain things as simply as possible. Avoid language that may cause offense. After transmitting a message, get in the habit of checking that what you said has been properly understood.  Ask the person (or group) to reflect or summarize what they have heard and understood.

 

Other elements that can affect how a message is both transmitted and received.

Use Humor

Laughing releases endorphins that can help relieve stress and anxiety.  Most people like to laugh and feel drawn to somebody who can make them laugh. Don’t be afraid to be funny or clever. Use your sense of humor to break the ice, to lower barriers and gain the affection of others.  

Treat People Equally

Avoid being patronizing when communicating. Do not talk about others behind their backs and try not to develop favorites:  treat people as your equal and also equal to each other so that greater trust and respect can  be built. If confidentiality is an issue, make sure its boundaries are known and ensure it is maintained.

Attempt to Resolve Conflict

Try to resolve problems and conflicts as they arise, rather than letting them fester. Try not to be biased or judgmental but instead ease the way for conflict resolution.

Maintain a Positive Attitude and Smile

Few people want to be around someone who is miserable.  Be friendly, upbeat and positive in communication with others. Maintain a positive, cheerful attitude.  Stay optimistic and learn from mistakes when things do not go as planned.

If something makes you angry or upset, wait for a few hours and calm down before taking action.  If you have something negative to say, do it calmly, try to find some positive aspects to the situation and avoid giving unnecessary criticism.

 

Other Things To Consider — The ‘Perception Gap’

Perhaps the most significant thing I have learned on this journey is that sometimes all of one’s focusing on more effective communication is simply not enough.

Why?  Because the intention set forth can often be misunderstood by the recipient(s).

This gap between what you mean to communicate and what is actually communicated is called ‘Perception Gap’.  Perception Gap occurs when the intention you set forth and communicate is misunderstood by your audience.  Unfortunately, this happens all the time.

Here’s why:

After doing some probing, I have become aware of at least seven different forms of communication: spatial, linguistic, intrapersonal, interpersonal, musical, bodily-kinesthetic, and logical-mathematic. Communicating a step-by-step list would work well with a logical-mathematic communicator, but a conversation of this type will likely be misunderstood by a spatial communicator, who leans heavily on interconnected ideas. Intrapersonal communicators need time & space to digest internally while interpersonal communicators prefer a group discussion.

Every person has a different primary and secondary communication form. No matter how hard you try to employ the above criteria, you will likely run into trouble when your communication style strays far from another’s.

Also, communication often fails because people often don’t see themselves as others see them — there is a disconnect between internal intention & external perception.  Becoming an effective communicator requires alignment of internal intention & external perception. You cannot effectively communicate with and influence others when you see yourself one way and others see you another. The greater the gap between internal intention & external perception, the higher your stress, frustration, and ineffectiveness.

 

Results of a Perception Gap

Lack of good communication is just the beginning. What comes next is the ‘domino effect’, which can be quite significant:  small misinterpretations grow into large misunderstandings, which grow into erroneous stories, which ultimately erode trust, credibility and transparency, all of which negatively impact performance and destroy relationships. It is amazing how a simple conversation can have such a negative effect. It is important for people to be aware of how they communicate, specifically in relation to whom they are communicating. Get to know different people’s communication style and aim to communicate in a manner that they are more likely to receive accurately & positively.

Ways to More Effectively Communicate:

  1. Look for patterns in your miscommunication.
  2. At the beginning of an interaction, state: ‘My intention is X.’ That way, the receiver can frame how they receive the content within the stated intentions.
  3. Ask each person you communicate with to help you bridge the gap between intention & perception. Reach out to the recipient(s) in the moment, or soon after the fact and ask, ‘Here’s how I intended that message to be understood…how did you receive it?’ This requires that you are open and ready for the answer to your question. While feedback may trigger an emotional response in you, a self-aware individual will thank the person for the feedback, accept the feedback, ask some clarifying questions & aim to minimize the gap in future interactions. Doing this not only reiterates your intention but also creates a welcoming environment for clarifying questions. 
  4. What could happen if you don’t address the gap? Asking this question will help you look towards the future and importance of the current relationship.
  5. Clarify the Perception Gap in a compassionate, non-threatening way. It is easy to make the other person ‘wrong’, saying something like, ‘What’s wrong with you that you don’t understand what I’m saying?’ It is important to remember that the person is a human being with life issues that extend outside of their current interaction with you. Approach them with openness and find out where the communication gap occurred. Then listen carefully and address the situation. It is important to be compassionate, and actively non-threatening.

A Lifelong Learning Journey

For most of us, improving our communication skills is an ongoing process. There will likely NEVER come a point at which any of us could say that we have nothing more to learn about communication or that we are ‘experts’. Just because you will never be an expert, does not mean that you should not start the process of self-improvement.  Improving your communication skills will almost certainly ease and enhance all your interpersonal relationships, both at home and at work. It is an investment of time that will definitely pay off.

Iodine Use With Hashimoto’s

July 31, 2019

Iodine is a building block of thyroid hormone.  Without iodine, your thyroid can’t produce hormone. Sufficient iodine is necessary for optimal thyroid function. In fact, the reason we all eat ‘iodized’ salt is because of the importance of iodine in preventing thyroid dysfunction. There is controversy over whether Hashimoto’s patients should take supplemental iodine. Conventional physicians argue against Hashimoto’s patients taking iodine because they believe that in Hashimoto’s, the system has too much iodine & adding more will make your condition worse. However, in modern times with our current dietary habits, we aren’t getting as much iodine as we think we are. 

Your body is efficient at absorbing & storing iodine. Unfortunately, the thyroid isn’t good at telling the difference between iodine & other substances with similar chemical structures. Iodine is part of a family, which also includes fluorine, chlorine, and bromine. They all have very similar properties. Fluorine, chlorine & bromine are similar enough to iodine that your thyroid will suck them up and store them in place of iodine. If fluorine, chlorine & bromine displace iodine, your thyroid won’t have enough iodine to produce thyroid hormones. Unfortunately, these three chemicals are frequently added to our water, foods & household products. This is one of the main reasons thyroid disease is now at an epidemic level.

Fluorine, in the form of fluoride, is added to public water systems in the U.S.  Fluoride is an endocrine disruptor that affects thyroid function & other hormone-producing glands. In fact, fluoride was previously used as treatment for overactive thyroid because of its ability to reduce thyroid hormone production. 

Chlorine, like fluoride, is added to our water supply for as a disinfectant. Chlorine is a powerful disinfectant because it works as an oxidizing agent to kill organic molecules. It is the primary ingredient in bleach, and it is used in industrial processes to create plastics, dyes, insecticides, paper products & other goods.

Bromine is not as well known as chlorine and fluoride, but it is also highly prevalent as an additive in our foods and household products. Bromine is commonly used in pesticides, plastics, baked goods and flour (commonly labeled as ‘enriched flour’), citrus-flavored soft drinks, as a sanitizer in hot tubs (where high temperatures make chlorine ineffective), and as a flame retardant in furniture and upholstery.

Avoid Excess Iodine Levels:

While a deficiency of iodine creates hypothyroidism due to a lack of building materials for thyroid hormone, an excess of it also created hypothyroidism, but through a different mechanism. Today, iodine excess is recognized as a risk factor for developing autoimmune thyroid disease. This has to do with the way that iodine is processed in the body. Iodine from foods and supplements is processed by the thyroid gland so that the body can properly use it. During this process, hydrogen peroxide, a free radical, is released. In cases when the body has adequate levels of selenium and it is used properly, the selenium neutralizes the hydrogen peroxide. However, in cases of iodine excess, excess hydrogen peroxide can cause oxidative damage to the thyroid gland. Excess iodine causes thyroid injury by generating reactive oxygen species, which lead to premature damage and programmed cell death in thyroid tissues. These iodine-overloaded cells turn on the autoimmune process in a person with the right genetic predisposition and intestinal permeability. When we think about this from an evolutionary, adaptive, or even innate body wisdom stance, this makes sense that the body would want to stop the production of excess thyroid hormones that would result from too much iodine.

Anxiety Disorder

May 31, 2019

Anxiety can have a profound negative impact on those who experience it. It can also have a negative impact on friends, co-workers and loved-ones. 

 

Anxiety can affect people physically, psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually. Many find their lives dramatically impacted. Anxiety can be fraught with distressing and debilitating sensations and symptoms, as well as cause severe lifestyle restriction. These challenges often cause people to feel frightened, confused, and frustrated. Those struggling with anxiety can experience many distressing sensations, symptoms, thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Anxiety often impacts many systems in the body, including the nervous system, endocrine system, respiratory system, reproductive system, cardiovascular system, and digestive system. In addition to these biological symptoms, most sufferers also experience distressing thoughts and emotions.

 

People who experience anxiety can easily become inwardly-focused, frightened, short-tempered, confused, discouraged, distant, uncaring, child-like, and hypochondriac once an anxiety disorder occurs. People struggling with anxiety may look fine on the outside, but they often experience a raging battle on the inside – a battle that only someone who personally experiences anxiety could fully understand. 

 

The severity of a person’s condition generally determines the degree and frequency of symptoms. Because of the nature of anxiety, people often battle with confusion, fear, and despair – and they often feel that there is no way out. Most people who suffer from anxiety would like to feel normal again. But overcoming anxiety disorder is a process that takes time, and often much more time than most people expect.

 

Ways To Help Someone With Anxiety:

Anxiety doesn’t mean the person is mentally inferior or deficient.

Try not to view the person as inferior or deficient. Anxiety is caused by overly apprehensive behavior – which have been learned as ways of coping with life. Behaviors are learned during our formative years (birth to age 8). Most people with anxiety learned those behaviors from a parent(s) or those who raised them and/or greatly influenced them. Those that struggle with anxiety do not deliberately choose to adopt overly apprehensive behavior, but that they have come to feel that this behavior is normal. In order to overcome anxiety, a person needs to learn healthy ways of coping with life. To that end, overcoming anxiety disorder requires getting the right information, help, and support. While the road to recovery isn’t easy or quick, success can be attained through effort and perseverance. There is no reason to feel sorry for the person who struggles with anxiety disorder. Offer empathy and support rather than sympathy.

Anxiety isn’t something a person can ‘just snap out of it’.

There are NO shortcuts or ‘quick fixes’. While self-help information can be beneficial, often full and lasting recovery requires the assistance and support of an experienced counselor or therapist.  With this understanding, you can be more supportive and help the person get the help he needs. And then, support him as he works through to lasting success.

Reassure the person that they are going to be okay.

Anxiety can create one of the strongest responses the body can experience. It can create intense emotions, feelings, sensations, and symptoms. This is why in the midst of high anxiety, a person can feel like he/she is going to lose her mind, have a complete breakdown, or die. Fortunately, even though anxiety is a powerful force, it alone is not dangerous and doesn’t lead to a mental collapse, breakdown, or death. Once the person calms down, all of these strong emotions, feelings, sensations, and symptoms diminish and eventually disappear. So when a person is having an episode of high anxiety, reassuring that its going to be okay can help calm them down, which will lead to the cessation of the strong feelings of anxiety.

Stay calm, and help the person to calm down.

Anxiety is predicated on fear – fear that is rational or irrational. Fear activates the stress response, which can cause a number of physiological, psychological, and emotional changes. These changes can produce anxiety sensations and symptoms. Often it is these sensations and symptoms that cause people to react with more fear. Regardless of whether the fear is rational or irrational, we can always find ways of calming ourselves so that the body shuts off the stress response, which leads to feeling better. Encourage the person to calm down and settle themselves. As they calm, they will feel better. It can take up to 20 minutes or more for the body to recover from an activated stress response. Remaining calm yourself can provide an example for the person undergoing an episode of anxiety. 

Encourage the person to do something about their anxiety.

Being empathetic and supportive is helpful. However, if the person isn’t working at overcoming anxiety disorder, your empathy and support won’t be enough. Anxiety is only resolves when a person works at it. Anxiety seldom resolves on its own. So be an encourager, not an enabler. Encourage the person to seek the necessary help. Encourage and support her as he/she works at making healthy behavioral change.

Encourage him/her to seek professional help.

Anxiety is caused by unhealthy behavior. While self-help information can be beneficial, a professional anxiety disorder counselor/therapist is almost always required to overcome problematic anxiety because many of these behaviors are invisible, and therefore, unknown to the sufferer. Unless the person is professionally trained, it’s unrealistic to think he/she would be able to identify, successfully address, and help themselves back to lasting anxiety disorder-free health.

Support the person in their decision to seek counseling/therapy.

Traditionally, society has had a dim view of counseling/therapy. Fortunately, this view is changing. More people today are seeking professional help for psychological and emotional challenges than ever before. Professional counseling/therapy skill-sets are improving as independent research on their effectiveness improves. Because of recent strides in research and resulting techniques, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is now recognized as the ‘gold standard’ for anxiety disorder resolution.

If someone you know wants to pursue counseling/therapy for her anxiety disorder, encourage her to proceed and support her as she continues. Overcoming anxiety disorder takes time and effort, and as a result, can be discouraging. Encouraging the person to continue can help them work through times of discouragement.

Be available.

Let the person know they can talk with you anytime and without fear of judgment. Also let them know that you aren’t going to change the way you think of them because they are dealing with anxiety. You are there to support in any way needed. Letting the person know they can count on you can make a positive difference in recovery.

Be patient.

People with anxiety disorders can sound like a broken record – rehashing the same topics and fears over and over again. While you might understand the nature of their struggle and see it clearly, the sufferer doesn’t. Rehashing the same issues is usually due to an established a fear. Rehashing is a way of trying to come to terms with fears. During times like these, listen and reassure patiently. Over time, the ongoing reinforcement can be helpful in extinguishing long-held fears.

Learn everything you can about anxiety disorder, then help her by providing ongoing information, support, and reassurance.

Knowledge is power. This is particularly true with anxiety disorder. If you want to help someone with anxiety, become an expert on the condition. The more you know about anxiety, the better help you can be. A knowledgeable support person can help someone struggling with anxiety find their way and reassure them that everything is going to be okay. Ongoing guidance and reassurance can play a pivotal role in recovery.

Empathize, don’t patronize. Try to be as supportive, loving, and empathetic as you can.

People with anxiety typically feel bad enough about what is going on in their life. They don’t want your sympathy, but do appreciate your understanding, compassion, and the necessary time to get their condition under control.

Celebrate the small victories along the way to lasting success.

Overcoming anxiety takes a lot of work. To help with success, celebrate the little steps and victories along the way Make a big deal about them. Doing so can be very encouraging. Overcoming anxiety is a process that unfolds in many little steps. Progress is often slow and can be discouraging along the way. Celebrating and making a big deal about each victory can help the person remain encouraged, which can also keep the person working the process.

Provide affirmation.

Encourage and help the person to feel better about themselves. Low self-esteem is often associated with a struggle with anxiety.

If depression is involved, take suicidal comments seriously.

Call for emergency help if you believe the person is serious about taking his or her own life. It’s best to err on the side of safety.

Continually offer hope

Anyone can overcome anxiety with the right information, help, and support. Freedom from anxiety is attainable, even though it can be a lot of work. Your continued reassurance can help a person get through the drudge of recovery.  As above, there aren’t any ‘miracle’ or ‘quick-fix’ cures for anxiety. Overcoming it requires getting the right information, help, and support, and then doing the work required. But, success is attainable for anyone willing to do the work. Helping a person through this process can make a significant difference, especially when you know how to help.

Is Taking DIM Right For You?

April 28, 2019

Do you struggle with unexplained weight gain, PMS symptoms, fatigue, or acne? Have you ever thought it may be related to estrogen dominance? Estrogen dominance happens when the levels of estrogen in your body exceed the level of progesterone. Taking a DIM supplement can help regulate estrogen dominance.

What Is DIM?

DIM is a natural plant-based chemical found in many cruciferous vegetables. The effects of cruciferous vegetables, such as cabbage, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts, are being studied as a treatment for cancer.

DIM works to create a healthy balance of estrogen and testosterone in your body and is available in capsules or tablets.

DIM Supplement Benefits:

  • Anti-cancer properties. DIM may help control or stop cancer cells from forming and spreading, according to research. DIM may be effective specifically in preventing breast or prostate cancer.
  • Viral infection. Human papillomavirus, or HPV, causes multiple disorders, such as cervical cancer or lung cancer. DIM can help reduce the symptoms of HPV and possibly stop the growth of the virus.
  • Estrogen. DIM helps to restore a better ratio of “good” estrogens and “bad” estrogens. It also helps to encourage production of gentler estrogen and leads to a better balance of natural estrogen in your body.

Is Eating Cruciferoius Veggies Better Than Taking DIM Supplements?

It’s important to consume a balanced diet of fruit and vegetables, but keep in mind that cooking your veggies can negatively alter DIM compounds. DIM supplements are also a better source of diindolylmethane because they come in a higher dosage than what you’ll typically get in a meal containing cruciferous vegetables.

  • Weight loss. DIM increases the amount of lipolysis, which is responsible for fat burning and weight maintenance. When your hormones are balanced, your metabolism will be higher, which results in less fat stored in your body.
  • Anti-inflammatory effects. It helps to activate an enzyme called activated protein kinase, or AMPK. AMPK promotes the breakdown of glucose for energy, it assists in the delivery of oxygen and acts as an antioxidant.
  • Acne. Many adult women suffer from hormonal acne. An excess of estrogen in the body can lead to other hormones, like androgen, rising to balance it out, thus, leading to to acne. If you reduce the level of estrogen, you can reduce androgen and help lower the risk of acne outbreaks.
  • Menopause symptoms. Estrogen deficiency is a common symptom of menopause. DIM supplements will not increase the level of estrogen, but they can help metabolize estrogen. Healthy level of estrogen can help with hot flashes or night sweats.

DIM Supplement Warnings:

DIM is not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women, for children, or for cancer patients. DIM can possibly worsen hormone-sensitive conditions (such as breast, uterine, or ovarian cancer). It also isn’t recommended for those with kidney disease. If you have a hormone-related condition, make sure to discuss DIM with your doctor, because it can sometimes block estrogen activity. Taking larger doses can be unsafe; possible side effects of using DIM supplements include headaches and nausea.

 

The following symptoms may be clues that you have estrogen dominance symptoms and could benefit from DIM supplements:

  • Hair loss
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Breast tenderness
  • Insomnia
  • Irregular periods
  • PMS (Premenstrual syndrome)
  • Thyroid issues
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome
  • Low libido
  • Cramps

10+ Reasons to Consider Food Sensitivity Testing

March 24, 2019

Sometimes certain foods can make you feel unwell, regardless if they are healthy or not. They may trigger any number of food sensitivity symptoms, such as headaches, digestive issues, joint pain or skin problems. It can be tricky to figure out which foods are the culprits, as food sensitivity reactions are often delayed by a few hours or longer after eating the foods.

 

1. Depression and Anxiety

Research confirms that intolerance to various foods is linked to depression, anxiety and mood disorders. Once gluten is removed from the diet in the gluten sensitive, depression and anxiety can actually be resolved.

2. ADHD

Alternative approaches to ADHD address food sensitivities and intolerance as a root cause of behavioral disorders. Neurotransmitters are produced directly by what’s broken down in the digestive system. Leaky gut can facilitate a number of mental health issues because gluten and other food proteins are essentially sneaking into the body where they don’t belong.

3. Brain Fog

When you feel disconnected or ‘out of it’, it might not be all in your head. Food intolerance or sensitivity can lead to ‘foggy brain’ in sensitive individuals. Research suggests there may be significant cross-reactivity of IgG antibodies that could result in mental fogginess. These antibodies can also cause inflammation which can further exacerbate the condition.

4. Autoimmune Disease

Gluten consumption and other food sensitivities have been linked to numerous autoimmune diseases.

5. Low Immunity

If you are prone to frequently getting sick, you should consider gluten to potentially be an issue. IgA’s are your first line of defense when a cold comes knocking at your door. When you’re sensitive to certain foods, IgA levels become depressed, meaning that you don’t have the proper defenses in place to keep you well. It is seen in many autoimmune diseases.

6. Dental Issues

Cavities, canker sores (mouth ulcers), broken teeth and tooth decay can plague those with undiagnosed food sensitivity. Calcium levels in individuals with food sensitivities san be staggeringly low due to malabsorption, which can lead to weak bones and teeth.

7. Unexplained Weight Loss or Weight Gain

Can’t keep your weight in check? A sudden or even gradual change in weight while eating habits remain more or less unchanged can be an indicator of a bigger health problem. For some with malabsorption and gut permeability due to intolerance or sensitivity to various foods, unwanted, unwanted weight loss despite regular calorie intake can have dangerous effects. On the other hand, gluten can trigger systemic inflammation in the body that mimics stubborn weight gain. Removing certain foods for good and healing the gut with a healthy diet can restore weight to healthy normal levels.

8. Migraine Headaches

Anyone who has ever experienced a migraine knows how seriously painful they can be. While not all cases of migraines are related to food sensitivities, they have been linked as a significant cause for some.

9. Skin problems

From eczema and acne to psoriasis and other dermatitis, food sensitivities can cause some extremely uncomfortable (and unsightly) skin issues. Inflammation under the top layers of skin can occur and cause eruptions of rashes, itchiness, burning, redness, and even painful blisters. Ingestion of various foods in people with sensitivities triggers an immune system response that deposits a substance called lgA (Immunoglobulin A) under the top layer of skin leading to a variety of skin disorders

10. Hormonal Imbalance and Adrenal Fatigue

Hormone imbalance can manifest itself as irregular menstrual cycles, weight gain or loss, hot flashes, low energy levels, erratic sleep patterns and more.  A strong relationship has been established in medical literature between certain food sensitivities and various hormones imbalances. Significant problems often begin to reveal themselves when women with food sensitivities reach their menopausal transition. As ovarian output of sex hormones drops, the resulting hormone imbalance is worsened by over consumption of certain foods. The adrenal glands respond to the stress of unstable blood sugar and gastrointestinal tract inflammation caused by food sensitivities by increasing cortisol. This causes increased body fat, fatigue and unstable moods.

11. Joint and Muscle Aches

Got joint and muscle aches? Damaging inflammation caused by food sensitivities in susceptible individuals can cause flares and pain. Joint pain and inflammation are (also) common symptoms of food sensitivity. There is a significant link between sensitivity to certain foods, joint pain, and arthritis conditions.

 

Three different terms are commonly used for adverse reactions to foods: food allergy, food sensitivity and food intolerance.

The term food allergy is best reserved for potentially life-threatening food reactions that involve immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies of your immune system. These are ‘true’ food allergies.

In contrast, food sensitivities and food intolerances generally are not life-threatening but may make you feel bad.

Here’s a quick comparison of food allergies, sensitivities and intolerances:

 

 Food allergy  Food sensitivity  Food intolerance
 Immune system involved?  Yes (IgE antibodies)  Yes (IgG and other antibodies, white blood cells and other immune system molecules) No (Digestive enzyme deficiency, poor absorption of certain carbs)
Examples of foods involved  Top 8 most common: milk, egg, peanut, tree nuts, wheat, soy, fish and crustacean shellfish. Varies from person to person and may include foods you eat often. Fermentable carbs (FODMAPS): milk (lactose), legumes and certain vegetables, fruits, grains and sweeteners.
 Onset of symptoms after eating the food Rapid, often within minutes. Within a few hours but may be delayed up to a few days. Within 30 minutes to 48 hours after eating.
 Examples of symptoms  Trouble swallowing or breathing, nausea, vomiting, hives. Can result in anaphylaxis.  Headaches, joint pain, digestive issues, skin issues, an overall feeling of being unwell. Most common are digestive issues: bloating, excess gas, gut pain, diarrhea, constipation.
 Amount of food needed to cause symptoms Tiny  Varies depending on your degree of sensitivity. Generally worse with larger amounts of problem foods.
 How it’s tested  Skin prick tests or blood tests of IgE levels to specific foods.  Many tests are available, but their validity is uncertain. Breath tests may identify fermentable carb intolerances (lactose, fructose).
 Age of diagnosis  Commonly in infants and young children, but adults can also develop them. Can appear at any age. Varies, but lactose intolerance is most likely in adults.
 Prevalence  1–3% of adults; 5–10% of children.  Uncertain but suspected to be common.  15–20% of the population.
 Can you get rid of it?  Kids may outgrow milk, egg, soy and wheat allergies. Peanut and tree nut allergies tend to continue into adulthood. May be able to consume a food again without symptoms after you avoid it for several months and address any underlying issues. Can minimize symptoms by limiting or avoiding problem foods in the long term. Antibiotic treatment for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth may also help.

Struggling with Thinning Scalp Hair?

December 23, 2018

Hair loss can affect just your scalp or your entire body. It can be the result of heredity, hormonal changes, medical conditions or medications. Anyone can experience hair loss.

Baldness is excessive hair loss from your scalp. Hereditary hair loss with age is the most common cause of baldness. Some people prefer to let their hair loss run its course untreated and unhidden. Others may cover it up with hairstyles, makeup, hats or scarves. Others choose one of the treatments available to prevent further hair loss and to restore growth.

Before pursuing any hair loss treatment, talk with your doctor about the cause of your hair loss and treatment options.

 

Types of Hair Loss

 

  • Male-pattern baldness

  • Female-pattern baldness

 

  • Patchy hair loss (alopecia areata)

 

  • Traction alopecia

 

Hair loss can appear in many different ways, depending on what’s causing it.  It can come on suddenly or gradually.  It can affect just your scalp or your whole body.  Some types of hair loss are temporary, and others are permanent.

 

Signs and symptoms of hair loss may include:

 

  • Gradual thinning on top of head.

    The most common type of hair loss, affecting both men and women as they age.  In men, hair begins to recede from the forehead in a line that resembles the letter M. Women typically retain the hairline on the forehead but have a broadening of the part in their hair.

 

  • Circular or patchy bald spots.

    Generally smooth, coin-sized bald spots. This type of hair loss usually affects just the scalp, but it also can occur in beards or eyebrows. In some cases, your skin may become itchy or painful before the hair falls out.

 

  • Sudden loosening of hair.

    Physical or emotional shock can cause hair to loosen. Handfuls of hair may come out when combing or washing – or even after gentle tugging. This type of hair loss usually causes overall hair thinning and not bald patches.

 

  • Full-body hair loss.

    Some conditions and medical treatments, such as chemotherapy for cancer, can result in the loss of hair all over your body. The hair usually grows back.

 

  • Patches of scaling that spread over the scalp.

    Often a sign of ringworm. It may be accompanied by broken hair, redness, swelling and, at times, oozing.

 

When to see a doctor

See your doctor if  you are distressed by hair loss and want to pursue treatment. Also talk to your doctor if you notice sudden or patchy hair loss or more than usual hair loss when combing or washing your hair. Sudden hair loss can signal an underlying medical condition that requires treatment.

 

Causes

People typically lose about 100 hairs a day. This usually doesn’t cause noticeable thinning of scalp hair because new hair grows in at the same time. Hair loss occurs when this cycle of hair growth and shedding is disrupted or when the hair follicle is destroyed and replaced with scar tissue.

 

Hair loss is typically related to one or more of the following factors:

 

  • Family history (heredity).

    The most common cause of hair loss is hereditary – referred to as male-pattern baldness or female-pattern baldness. It usually occurs gradually with aging and in predictable patterns — a receding hairline and bald spots in men and thinning hair in women.

 

  • Hormonal changes and medical conditions.

    A variety of conditions can cause permanent or temporary hair loss, including hormonal changes due to pregnancy, childbirth, menopause and thyroid problems. Medical conditions include alopecia areata, which causes patchy hair loss, scalp infections such as ringworm and a hair-pulling disorder called trichotillomania.

 

  • Medications and supplements.

    Hair loss can be a side effect of certain drugs, such as those used for cancer, arthritis, depression, heart problems, gout and high blood pressure.

 

  • Radiation therapy to the head.

    The hair may not grow back the same as it was before.

 

  • A very stressful event.

    Many people experience a general thinning of hair several months after physical or emotional stress. This type of hair loss is temporary.

 

  • Certain hairstyles and treatments.

    Excessive hairstyling or hairstyles that pull your hair tight, such as pigtails or cornrows, can cause a type of hair loss called traction alopecia. Hot oil hair treatments and permanents can cause inflammation of hair follicles that leads to hair loss. If scarring occurs, hair loss could be permanent.

 

Risk factors

A number of factors can increase your risk of hair loss, including:

  • Family history of balding, in either of your parent’s families
  • Age
  • Significant weight loss
  • Medical conditions, such as diabetes and lupus
  • Stress

Prevention

Most baldness is caused by genetics (male-pattern baldness and female-pattern baldness). This type of hair loss is not preventable.

 

A variety of tips may help you avoid preventable types of hair loss:

 

  • Avoid tight hairstyles, such as braids, buns or ponytails.
  • Avoid compulsively twisting, rubbing or pulling your hair.
  • Treat your hair gently when washing and brushing. A wide-toothed comb may help prevent pulling out hair.
  • Avoid harsh treatments such as hot rollers, curling irons, hot oil treatments and permanents.
  • Avoid medications and supplements that could cause hair loss.
  • Protect your hair from sunlight and other sources of ultraviolet light.
  • Stop smoking. Some studies show an association between smoking and baldness in men.
  • If you are being treated with chemotherapy, ask your doctor about a cooling cap. This cap can reduce your risk of losing hair during chemotherapy.

 

Diagnosis

Before a diagnosis can be made, you will often need a physical exam.  You may also be asked about your medical history and family history. Additional tests may also be needed:

 

  • Blood test. This may help uncover medical conditions related to hair loss.
  • Pull test. Your provider will gently puls several dozen hairs to see how many come out. This helps determine the stage of the shedding process.
  • Scalp biopsy. Taking samples from the skin or from a few hairs plucked from the scalp to examine the hair roots. This can help determine whether an infection is causing hair loss.
  • Light microscopy. A special instrument  may be used to examine hairs trimmed at their bases. Microscopy helps uncover possible disorders of the hair shaft.

Treatment

Effective treatments for some types of hair loss are available. You might be able to reverse hair loss, or at least slow further thinning. With some conditions, such as patchy hair loss (alopecia areata), hair may regrow without treatment.

Treatments for hair loss include medications, surgery to promote hair growth and slow hair loss.

 

Medications

If your hair loss is caused by an underlying disease, treatment for that disease will be necessary. This may include drugs to reduce inflammation and suppress your immune system, such as prednisone.

If a certain medication is causing the hair loss, your doctor may advise you to stop using it for at least three months.

Medications are available to treat pattern (hereditary) baldness. Options include:

 

  • Minoxidil (Rogaine).

    This is an over-the-counter medication approved for men and women. It comes as a liquid or foam that you rub into your scalp daily.  At first it may cause you to shed hair as hair follicles. New hair may be shorter and thinner than previous hair. At least six months of treatment is required to prevent further hair loss and to start hair regrowth. Possible side effects include scalp irritation, unwanted hair growth on the adjacent skin of the face and hands, and rapid heart rate (tachycardia).

 

  • Finasteride (Propecia).

    This is a prescription drug. Many patients using finasteride experience a slowing of hair loss, and some may show some new hair growth. Rare side effects of finasteride include diminished sex drive and sexual function and an increased risk of prostate cancer.

 

  • Other medications.

    For men, the oral medication dutasteride is an option. For women, treatment may include oral contraceptives and spironolactone.  There are also a variety of over-the-counter supplements that both men and women can try.

 

Hair Transplant Surgery

In the most common type of permanent hair loss, only the top of the head is affected. Hair transplant, or restoration surgery, can make the most of the hair you have left.

During a hair transplant procedure, a dermatologist or cosmetic surgeon removes tiny patches of skin, each containing one to several hairs, from the back or side of your scalp. Sometimes a larger strip of skin containing multiple hair groupings is taken. He or she then implants the hair follicle by follicle into the bald sections. You may need more than one surgery to get the effect you want. Hereditary hair loss will eventually progress despite surgery.

Surgical procedures to treat baldness are expensive and can be painful. Possible risks include bleeding and scarring.

 

Laser Therapy

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a low-level laser device as a treatment for hereditary hair loss in men and women. A few small studies have shown that it improves hair density. The long-term benefits are not yet known.

 

Lifestyle and home remedies

You may want to try shaving, other styling techniques and products, scarves, a wig, or a hairpiece. Talk with a hair stylist for ideas. These nonmedical solutions can be used to cover permanent or temporary hair loss.

If your hair loss is due to a medical condition, the cost of a wig may be covered by insurance.

 

Schedule an Appointment Today to Learn More About Your Options

Boost Your Mood With Vitamin D

October 2, 2018

Do you get enough vitamin D?

 

There could be many warning signs or symptoms of vitamin D deficiency in your life or of someone you know.

 

It is essential to understand the importance of getting enough of this crucial vitamin.

 

 

Vitamin D Basics

Vitamin D is best known for building bones. However, this highly-potent vitamin is essential for overall brain and body health. Optimal vitamin D levels can help improve your mood, boost your overall brain function, and generally improve your wellbeing. Vitamin D may be involved in the healthy regulation of as many as 900 human genes.

 

Vitamin D is converted by the liver and kidney into a hormone that is so important to brain function its receptors can be found throughout the brain. Vitamin D plays a critical role in the brain’s early development, its ongoing maintenance, and in its functions to maintain healthy mood and many of the most basic cognitive functions including learning and making memories. 

 

Avoid Vitamin D Deficiency

Unfortunately, vitamin D deficiency is becoming more and more common, in part because we are spending more time indoors and using more sunscreen when having fun outdoors. Research suggests that 70% of all adults and 67% of children, aged 1-11, do not have adequate levels of vitamin D. Low levels of vitamin D have been associated with low mood, behavioral difficulties in children, and psychological difficulties in adults. Vitamin D supplementation is consistently linked to higher quality of life and better wellbeing with the passing of the years.

 

Recommended Daily Vitamin D

In the United States, the current recommended daily dose of vitamin D is 400 IU. However, most experts agree that this is well below the physiological needs of most individuals. Instead, it is suggested that all adults take at least 2000 IU of vitamin D daily – unless directed to take a higher dose by their healthcare provider. We all should get our blood vitamin D levels tested every 4-6 months and if necessary increase our daily intake to as much as 5000-10000 IU per day to ensure we achieve blood levels of at least 60 ng/mL.

Avoid taking vitamin D2 supplements since D2 can interfere with the actions of vitamin D3 which is the body’s natural vitamin D.

 

The Vitamin D Challenge

Getting necessary amounts of vitamin D can be challenging during the winter season in some parts of the country —typically from November to March—when there are fewer hours of sunlight and when the sun itself is less intense. This is particularly true if you live in the northern half of the United States. Due to colder temperatures and inclement weather, the tendency for many people is to stay inside where it is warm and hunker down for the winter. However, failure to get enough vitamin D, as well as exercise, can lead to health problems and other mental and physical difficulties. For individuals who struggle with low mood during the winter, the colder months can produce feelings of melancholy and desperation.

 

5 Tips for How to Get More Vitamin D In Your Life

1.  Alternate Light Source

Daily exposure to appropriate levels (even just 10-30 minutes per day) of direct sunlight can boost vitamin D3 levels which can help improve your mood. If you have a hard time getting enough natural light during the winter, consider buying a vitamin D lamp for your home or work desk. Though many artificial light boxes claim to do the job, make sure to purchase one that is as close as possible to the natural sunlight spectrum and proven to increase vitamin D levels.

2.  Go Somewhere Sunny

If getting sufficient levels of UVA (ultraviolet A) rays from the sun proves difficult during the winter months, especially if you live anywhere near the Great White North, consider saving up some money during the summer for a vacation to a sunny destination (the Caribbean, for instance) during the winter. This will make enduring the cold, dark months more bearable.

3.  Get Quality Sleep

Insufficient and inconsistent sleep can increase irritability, moodiness and poor judgment. To remain at the top of your game, it is recommended that you get between 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Getting appropriate levels of sunlight during the day, or adequate amounts of vitamin D from foods or supplements can also help maintain your body’s natural production of serotonin. In the evening, the brain naturally converts serotonin into melatonin, our main sleep hormone that improves our chance of getting a good night’s sleep.

4. Vitamin D-Rich Diet

Foods can be an important source of vitamin D. Examples of vitamin D-rich foods are fortified milk, eggs, mushrooms and fish (especially wild salmon, tuna, and mackerel). A 4-ounce portion of salmon can provide over 250% of your daily recommended allowance of vitamin D. Wild salmon contains about 988 IU of vitamin D per serving, while farmed salmon contains 250 IU, on average.

5.  Take Sunshine Supplements

When it comes to mood, the scientific evidence is clear – the higher your vitamin D levels, the more likely you are to feel happy rather than blue. A 2014 study showed that the positive effect of vitamin D3 on mood was clinically very substantial as compared to other options. Since it promotes healthy mood, vitamin D3, which is often referred to as the sunshine vitamin, can help you get through the doldrums of the winter season.

Low Dose Naltrexone & Its Role In Autoimmune Disorders

September 21, 2018

Low dose naltrexone (LDN) is being prescribed for autoimmune conditions by a greater number of providers.  

 

What exactly is LDN?   Naltrexone is an FDA-approved medication, although it has only been approved to help with heroin and opioid addicts by blocking opioid receptors.  In the 1980’s, studies were done with lower doses of naltrexone, and realized that it can modulate the immune system.  Soon thereafter it was found that LDN can benefit many people with autoimmune conditions, although it can also help with certain types of cancers, as well as some other chronic health conditions.

 

The question of what controls the immune system has plagued the medical community for decades.  Clearly there are multiple factors that play a role.  However, a growing body of research over the past two decades has pointed repeatedly to one’s own endorphin secretions (our internal opioids) as playing the central role in the beneficial orchestration of the immune system. Bone marrow progenitor cells, macrophages, natural killer cells, immature thymocytes and T cells, and B cells are all involved. The relatively recent identification of opioid-related receptors on immune cells makes it even more likely that opioids have direct effects on the immune system.

 

How Does LDN Work?

By taking LDN just before bed – ideally between the hours of 9 PM and 2 AM, there is a brief blockade of opioid receptors.  When LDN is taken before bedtime, the actual blockade would occur between the hours of 2 AM and 4 AM.  It is believed that this brief period of blockade, produces a prolonged up-regulation of vital elements of the immune system by causing an increase in endorphin and enkephalin production. In general, in people with diseases that are partially or largely triggered by a deficiency of endorphins (including cancer and autoimmune diseases), or are accelerated by a deficiency of endorphins (such as HIV/AIDS), restoration of the body’s normal production of endorphins is the major therapeutic action of LDN.

 

LDN and the Research

Unfortunately there is not a lot of research regarding the benefits of LDN.  Some studies showed that LDN might act as an anti-inflammatory agent in the central nervous system, and can help with chronic pain disorders. Other studies show that LDN can benefit those dealing with the pain associated with fibromyalgia.  Other studies concluded that it can be helpful for some people with gastrointestinal disorders.  A small study suggests that LDN might help some people with active Crohn’s disease.

 

LDN And Thyroid Dysfunction

When someone is dealing with suboptimal thyroid function or Hashimoto’s, most medical providers (including myself) will recommend thyroid hormone medication and/or supplements to enhance thyroid function.  Similarly, it is common for medical providers to recommend antithyroid medication for those with overactive thyroid and Graves’ Disease.  In certain cases when we struggle to obtain thyroid normalization, it makes sense to try LDN.  

 

But why is this important?  Consider a condition such as Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, which involves the immune system damaging the thyroid gland.  Thyroid medication will help replace or modulate hormone levels that are out of balance.  However, taking thyroid hormone medication is not going to do anything to stop or slow down the destruction of the thyroid gland.  LDN has the potential to prevent further damage of the thyroid gland from occurring.  This could potentially allow patients to decrease doses of thyroid medication, achiever better control of thyroid-related symptoms, and keep other immune factors (that are usually associated with Hashimoto’s) in check.  Now consider Grave’s Disease, a condition where the thyroid gland is activated and over-produces thyroid hormone.  Patients with Grave’s generally use medication like Methimazole to decrease production of thyroid hormone.  A lot of patients do not tolerate this medication due to side effects and changes in liver function enzymes.  By modulating the immune system, using LDN, we may be able to help patients who don’t tolerate medication avoid radioactive iodine and/or thyroid surgery.

 

Are There Risks Associated With Taking LDN?

Although side effects are rare with LDN, research indicates that some patients who use LDN report vivid dreams, and occasionally, during the first week of use, patients may complain of difficulty sleeping (less than 2% of users.)  Usually reducing the dose of medication will eliminate sleep disturbance.  

 

LDN Dosing Recommendations

The normal range for LDN is between 1.5 and 4.5 mg per day, taken about an hour before bedtime- NOT in the morning. There are a couple of reasons for this timing. First, since LDN blocks endorphins, doing it in the middle of the night prevents you from noticing that you feel lousy. Second, the endorphin response is greater at nighttime. I generally start with a 3 mg dose.  If there is a positive effect at 3 mg, stay on that dose. If there is still no effect, I raise the dose to 4.5 mg.  If there are negative effects on the 3 mg dose, I decrease the dose to 1.5 mg. That being said, the key to LDN is the low dose. So many times you may actually need to lower the dose if you don’t notice a beneficial effect.

 

  

Conditions That LDN Can Be Used To Treat

  • ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease)
  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Autism Spectrum Disorders
  • Hereditary Spastic Paraparesis
  • Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Post-Polio Syndrome
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Primary Lateral Sclerosis (PLS)
  • Progressive Supranuclear Palsy
  • Transverse Myelitis
  • Ankylosing Spondylitis
  • Behcet’s Disease
  • Celiac Disease
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • CREST syndrome
  • Crohn’s Disease
  • Dermatomyositis
  • Dystonia
  • Endometriosis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • Myasthenia Gravis (MG)
  • Nephrotic Syndrome
  • Pemphigoid
  • Primary Biliary Cirrhosis
  • Psoriasis
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Scleroderma
  • Sjogren’s Syndrome
  • Stiff Person Syndrome (SPS)
  • Systemic Lupus (SLE)
  • Ulcerative Colitis
  • Wegener’s Granulomatosis