Sunday, July 9, 2017

5 Nutrition Tips to Naturally Reduce Hormonal Symptoms




Did you know that what you eat directly affects your hormones?
  Here are a couple of examples.

Jessica is a 43 year old lady with perimenopausal symptoms.  After starting on our nutrition program, she felt tremendously better (without any hormone replacement).  By one month her energy and mood were back to normal, she no longer had night sweats, her bloating was gone and she no longer had brain fog.  As she started drifting back towards her prior eating habits, her symptoms started coming back.   Because she was able to recognize the connection between food and hormones, she is now able to control her symptoms by making better nutrition choices. 

Jack is a 55 year old man on testosterone replacement therapy.  He had been doing well, but when he came in for an appointment in January he complained of insomnia.  His sugar intake had increased significantly over the holidays, and he was finding it hard to cut it back down again.  When we helped him to clean up his diet and reduce the sugar,  his insomnia resolved and he did not need sleeping pills. 


The standard american diet is a perfect recipe for hormonal chaos, resulting in weight gain, insomnia, depression, poor memory, fatigue, lack of libido and hot flashes.  But you don’t have to fall into that trap!  Eat right for your hormone health and you can start to feel better very quickly!  Here’s how. 

1.  Eat healthy fats

For years you were told to eat a low fat diet, but it turns out that was wrong information!    
Certain fats are healthy and help promote hormonal balance.   While high in calories, these fats do not promote weight gain - they actually help improve hormonal health and keep your metabolism functioning normally to help maintain a healthy weight.   

  • Omega 3 fatty acids, found in wild caught fish, flax and walnuts, are important for brain health, skin health, eye health, heart health and even help to regulate your immune system.  They also play an important role in hormone function.  Unfortunately, most americans don’t get enough omega 3s.
  • Raw nuts are rich in monounsaturated fat, as well as containing many nutrients such as magnesium and zinc, which are very important for hormones. 
  • Seeds, like raw sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, or ground flax seeds, contain healthy fats, and are an excellent source of fiber and protein that help to balance hormones.   Add raw seeds to your salad, stir fry, or smoothie. 
  • Avocado is another delicious source of healthy fat.  It contains many anti-oxidants, vitamins and minerals that help with hormone health.
  • Organic Coconut oil not only supplies essential fatty acids, but is also has natural anti-microbial properties to help maintain the healthy bacteria in your gut.  Use it for cooking, melt it over vegetables, stir into smoothies.  
  • Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil is a source of healthy fat, is anti-inflammatory and is helpful for healthy estrogen metabolization and proper blood sugar metabolism.


The most important fat to AVOID is trans fat.  This is a toxin that increases weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, dementia and other chronic diseases.  Trans fats are found in deep fried foods, margarine, commercially prepared baked goods, and other processed foods.  Read the label - if it says hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated then leave it at the grocery store.

Also avoid commercially available vegetable oils, like canola and safflower.  These oils are highly processed and pro-inflammatory.  

2.  Add more broccoli


Cruciferous veggies have a lot going for them including cancer prevention and hormone balance.  

Examples include:
  • broccoli
  • cauliflower
  • cabbage
  • kale
  • collards
  • Brussels sprouts


These foods are good sources of calcium, fiber, vitamins and minerals.  They also have very important phytonutrients that affect how men and women metabolize estrogen.  Eating more of these veggies can help reduce hormonal symptoms, and may also reduce breast and prostate cancer risk. 

3.  Be Cautious with soy

Soy contains natural phytoestrogens, which are plant nutrients that can have some mild estrogen-like activity.  While there have been studies that suggest that soy can help reduce menopausal symptoms, in the US the vast majority of soy is genetically modified and is not recommended.  Also, most soy products are processed foods, like soy milk, soy cheese, and soy hot dogs which are not health promoting.  Even soy protein shakes are not a great idea. 

Excess quantities of soy can actually interfere with thyroid function.  Many people have hidden sensitivities to soy, and consuming extra soy can make them feel worse and cause an increase in hormonal symptoms. 

Fermented soy foods (which most people don’t choose to eat, and are not as readily available) like natto, miso or tempeh are good choices, so give these a try! 

4.  Avoid alcohol

While it is true that alcohol in moderation is good for heart health, no amount of alcohol is beneficial for hormonal health, and in fact alcohol consumption increases the risk for breast cancer in women.  In men, higher alcohol consumption can result in increased estrogen levels, which are associated with erectile dysfunction, obesity, gynecomastia (“man boobs”), and prostate cancer.  

When the liver has to process alcohol, it is not always able to properly metabolize estrogen.  Alcohol is a common trigger for hot flashes and night sweats.

I do not recommend starting to drink alcohol (including wine) to improve your health.  But if you would like to be able to continue to enjoy some wine, limit it to no more than four, 4oz glasses per week for women, and seven 4oz glasses for men (and not all on the same night!)

5.  Stabilize your blood sugar

One of the most common triggers for hormonal symptoms in men and women (after stress) is blood sugar fluctuations.  In our typical american diet we tend to eat foods that spike our blood sugar quickly, and then it crashes down again in a few hours resulting in sugar cravings and a repetition of the cycle.  Smoothing out blood sugar can make a big difference with hot flashes, energy, quality of sleep and mood.  
  • Avoid sugar - save it for special occasions and get your “sweet” from fruit.   
  • Avoid processed carbs  and the white stuff - white potatoes, white flour, white rice, white bread.  These spike your blood sugar quickly.  If you are going to eat potatoes, eating them with the peel helps, because the fiber in the peel helps to slow the blood sugar spike. 
  • Eat healthier carbs in moderation.  Even when you are choosing the better carbs (sweet potatoes and brown rice, for example), limit your serving size as they still affect blood sugar (although not as much as processed carbs)
  • Fill half your plate with non-starchy veggies - they are full of vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants, fiber and phytonutrients that help to stabilize blood sugar.  Avoid corn as this is very high in starch. 
  • Get adequate protein - lean meats, chicken, turkey, fish, eggs, legumes - these help stabilize blood sugar levels
  • Eat healthy fats - did you know that eating the bad fats (found in processed meats like bologna, deep fried foods, margarine, and vegetable shortening) actually make blood sugar problems worse!  And eating healthy fats (see above) helps to improve blood sugar metabolism.



It is possible to have significant improvements in how you feel by making some important changes in your nutrition.   Don't be satisfied with less than optimal quality of life!  Feel better today (and increase the chances of staying healthy for years into the future!).   You deserve nothing less. 

Sometimes making changes can be hard.  If you need some help with learning how to eat a healthy diet, (or making it actually happen in your busy, stressful life!),  we are here to help. Call us at 704-752-9346  or contact us at questions@signaturewellness.org, or click here for more information.  


Deborah Matthew, MD


P.S.   For more information about how hormones may be affecting you, click here to read my book This is NOT normal!  A Busy Woman's Guide to Hormone Imbalance






Tuesday, May 2, 2017

5 Ways to Take 5 Years Off Your Face Today!

5 Ways to Take 5 Years Off Your Face Today!

Hopefully you are doing a good job with following a healthy lifestyle - you are protecting your skin from sun damage, drinking lots of clean water, getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables and avoiding the aging effects of sugar and processed food.  But no matter how carefully you live your life, age happens. 


Here are 5 ways to dial back the clock and look more refreshed and youthful (but still natural!)   




1.  Epionce skin care products.  The choice of products you put on your skin is just as important as the supplements you choose to take.  Epionce products are non-comedogenic, paraben free, sulfate free, cruelty free, and proven effective so you can confidently improve the appearance and condition of your skin.  Healthy skin is beautiful skin!








   2.  Botox.  Ok, lets be honest.  No one wants to      have a face that looks frozen in place.  But when  judiciously used, botox can erase fine lines from  your forehead,  and eliminate frown lines and  crows feet.  Botox works by relaxing the muscles  in these areas.  You still look like you.  Only  younger.









3.  Dermal fillers.  As you age, you lose volume in the tissues of your face, which results in saggy skin and can leave you looking tired.  Loss of volume around your mouth can cause the corners of your mouth to turn down, so you always look like you are frowning.  Not a good look. Fillers, such as Juvederm and Voluma,  can restore the natural shape of your face, and take years off your face within minutes, leaving you looking refreshed and rejuvenated, without the expense, risk or downtime of a facelift.  Your friends and family will notice that you look great, but won’t be able to tell what is different!  






  4.  SkinPen Unhappy about the texture or color of your skin?        Sun damage can leave dark spots and make your skin look old and   crepey.   This new technology involves micro-needles that make    tiny,  painless punctures into your skin to trigger a healing  response.  It can  erase sun damage and leave your skin with an  even texture and  glow.  It is not uncomfortable, and is much less  expensive than laser  therapy with similar results. 







5.  Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP).   Platelets contain growth factors that can stimulate the stem cells in your skin to grow more collagen fibers, nerve endings, blood vessels and turn back the clock.  In this procedure, we draw your blood, then process it to separate out the growth factors (PRP) and inject them into your skin.  Our PRP Skin Rejuvenation Procedure (also known as a Vampire Facelift) uses filler to restore the shape of your face,  a SkinPen treatment to address the tone and texture of your skin, and the PRP literally rejuvenates new and younger tissue that glows with vitality! 



Want to know more about how you can look younger today?  Schedule a complimentary aesthetic consultation!

 704-752-9346 
questions@signaturewellness.org


Top 5 Hormones Affecting the Health of Your Skin




There are many important factors to healthy skin:  a diet rich in fruits and vegetables of many colors, good hydration, regular exercise.  There are some important factors to avoid as well including sun damage, smoking, sugar and processed foods.  
But did you know that there are also many hormonal issues that can affect skin health?

Estrogen has many important actions on the skin:  It retains moisture, to prevent dry skin (and dry hair and dry eyes and vaginal dryness…).   It maintains collagen and elasticity to prevent wrinkling.  It also helps to maintain the thickness of the skin.  There are more estrogen receptors in the skin of the face than on other parts of the body, so declining estrogen levels cause more obvious changes on facial skin.  
Estrogen replacement has been shown to increase skin thickness and elasticity, improve collagen content in the skin, and reduce fine lines and wrinkles.  Some women actually choose to apply their topical estrogen cream on their face to maximize skin benefits.  Even if estrogen is not applied to the skin, women often notice improvements in their skin, including that healthy glow, when their estrogen levels are restored.  
Testosterone can cause skin problems when it is too low OR too high! 
When testosterone levels are low in older men and women,  skin tends to become thinner, and wound healing is impaired.  Testosterone adds some oil to the skin, and this can be helpful in aging skin which tends to be dry.
On the other hand, excess testosterone or DHEA can cause excessively oily skin and acne breakouts, as well as excess hair growth.  


Progesterone has been found to help maintain skin thickness and elasticity, and helps to maintain scalp hair growth.  It also helps to reduce the negative effects of testosterone on the skin, so a lack of progesterone can exacerbate the effects of excess testosterone.
Hypothyroidism (low thyroid function) is often associated with skin dryness as a result of decreased sweating and reduced sebum production.  Many other factors may be seen with low thyroid:  pale skin color, dry bumps on the upper arms, puffiness around the eyes, scalp hair loss, loss of the outer third of the eyebrow,  dry and brittle hair.   
Cortisol is your main stress hormone.  Stress has been associated with skin problems such as acne breakouts.  Since cortisol regulates your immune system, stress can exacerbate rashes such as psoriasis and eczema, which are due to immune system problems.  There is actually a new area of study called psychodermatology looking at the links between skin health and emotional stressors. 

As you can see, there are many ways in which hormones affect your complexion.  If you want healthy, glowing skin then proper hormonal balance is important!
If you are having skin issues and feel that hormones may be part of the problem, please give us a call!  704-752-9346 or email us at questions@signaturewellness.org.  You can find more information at www.signaturewellness.org










Friday, March 31, 2017

8 Causes of Hair Loss in Women (and what to do about it!)

Thinning hair worrying you?  Lets do something about it. 


Are you dismayed by how much hair you see in the hairbrush and shower each day?  Hair loss can be extremely devastating for women, and it is not uncommon for women to be in tears in the office because of emotional distress from their hair loss.  While women do not typically lose all their hair, once the hair shedding is underway baldness feels like a very real possibility!  



Here are 8 reasons you may be losing your hair.


 1.  Thyroid problems 

Thyroid problems are a common cause of hair loss, and since thyroid problems are very common in women, we see this often.  Other symptoms associated with low thyroid function include:  fatigue, weight gain, constipation, feeling cold, depressed mood, anxiety, poor memory, low libido, dry skin, and dry/dull hair.  Standard thyroid blood tests often overlook subtle thyroid dysfunction, but even mild problems can be associated with distressing hair loss.  Many women who are being treated with standard thyroid hormone replacement continue to have symptoms despite treatment.  Fortunately, with a more comprehensive lab assessment and natural thyroid replacement, we can optimize thyroid function and achieve healthier, thicker hair.   An over-functioning thyroid gland can also cause hair loss, so good thyroid balance is important. 

2.  Stress

 Cortisol is your main stress hormone.  It is produced in your adrenal glands  to help you cope with emotional stressors, as well as physiologic stressors  (such as pain, allergies, insomnia, toxin exposures, etc). If cortisol levels  are abnormal, hair loss can result.  If you can reduce your stress, your hair  loss may diminish, but you made need some help.  It is possible to measure  your cortisol levels and while there are no prescription medicines to correct  this problem, there are lifestyle changes and nutritional supplements that  can help resolve the issue.

3.  Menopause

Hormone changes associated with menopause (or peri-menopause) can also cause thinning hair (and thinning skin, and thinning bones….).  Restoring hormone levels with bio-identical hormone replacement can help improve the health of your hair (and skin, and bones!) . In a study of women receiving testosterone pellet therapy, 63% noted hair regrowth, and none of the women in the study reported an increase in hair loss after treatment with testosterone.  (Glaser et al, British Journal of Dermatology, 2012).

4.  Prescription medications

Many drugs can contribute to hair loss in women, including the use of birth control pills.  The American Hair Loss Assocation (AHLA) recommends that women consider using a low-androgen index birth control pills to avoid possible hairlsos, especially if they are genetically predisposed to hair loss.  Changing pills or choosing a non-hormonal birth control option may help to correct the problem.  .

5.  Pre-diabetes

Diabetes, or even pre-diabetes may be associated with hair loss.   A holistic approach to balancing blood sugar metabolism including lifestyle changes, nutritional supplements, and weight loss may have a positive impact on hair loss, as well as reducing the risks for some very serious longterm health issues.

6.  Nutritional deficiencies

While americans do not typically suffer with malnutrition, we tend to be nutritionally deficient due to poor quality food choices.  Even if you are trying hard to eat right, the food available at the grocery store may not have optimal vitamin and mineral content due to our modern farming practices.  If you have symptoms such as gas, bloating, indigestion, heartburn, constipation or diarrhea your ability to digest and absorb the nutrients in your food may be impaired.  Certain medications, such as ant-acids, can also impair your ability to digest nutrients.  Nutritional testing is available to determine whether this may be a problem for you.


One of the common nutrient deficiencies we see associated with hair loss is an iron deficiency.  The lab test that is most helpful is a ferritin level -  this is a marker of your iron stores, and if your level is below 80 it is possible that insufficient iron levels may be contributing to the problem

7.  Chronic disease

If you have any chronic disease, hair growth may be slowed to help redirect your body’s resources to other areas to help promote healing.  So hair loss may be a symptom of another problem going on in your body, such as an auto-immune disorder or chronic inflammatory condition.



8.   Androgenic Alopecia

This is the medical name for genetic hair loss (female pattern baldness)  This is hereditary and happens slowly over time (over a period of many years). Typically there is family history of baldness in male relatives and thinning hair in female relatives.  Women do not typically become completely bald.  Hair loss is first noticeable at areas of parts, and hair thinning progresses until the scalp becomes visible.  The hair loss occurs even with normal levels of hormones so treatment for hair loss, such as a PRP (platelet rich plasma) treatment,  is frequently required to restore hair growth.

9.  Alopecia Areata

This is a medical condition where the immune system attacks the hair follicles, causing patches of hair loss.   This is much less common, but more difficult to manage.  The hair may not grow back on its own and may require treatment to restore hair growth.  PRP has been effective in helping with this type of hair loss. 




Healthy Hair Recommendations



Reduce stress.  Simplify your life if possible, and know that it is not always the AMOUNT of stress you are under that is the biggest factor, but how you ALLOW the stress to affect you that matters. 

Ensure hormonal balance – Take steps to restore hormone levels to optimal ranges.  Measuring your hormone levels and restoring normal hormone balance with natural, bio-identical hormone therapy can be life changing for women and affects far more benefits than simply improving the health of your hair. 

Improve nutrition and optimize digestive health to allow better absorption of nutrients.  Eat whole foods including fruits and vegetables, avoid processed food and especially sugar.  Ensure that you are not iron deficient, and consider being tested for a full panel of nutrients. 

Get regular moderate exercise – exercise increases blood flow to the scalp and improves your overall health.  Since your hair is a reflection of your overall health, your nutrition and fitness level are important to hair health.

Take biotin, a nutrient that can be helpful for hair and nails.  Our patients have found excellent results with RegeneMax Plus, which is a form of biotin with added silica (another nutrient important for hair).  This has worked better than standard biotin, and has quickly become one of our top selling supplements (people come back for more because they can see a difference!)

Consider PRP (platelet rich plasma) treatments.  PRP is appropriate for most woman concerned about hair thinning.  By the time the hair thinning is visible, approximately 50% of the hairs have been lost.  Most women are well aware far sooner – their pony tail is thinner, their part becomes wider and they can see the hair shedding.  PRP treatments will have the best effects on hair follicles that still have some function.  This innovative procedure has been featured on  ABC news (Oct 2015).  http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/video/treatment-millions-people-suffering-hair-loss-34336528

For best results, it is important to address your hair loss BEFORE it is in the advanced stages  So starting sooner rather than later (as a preventive measure) is perfectly reasonable.

If you would like more information or need help to correct your hair loss issues, please contact the office at 704-752-9346 or email us at questions@signaturewellness.org.  More information is available at www.signaturewellness.org.  

Deborah Matthew MD

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Imagine life without belly fat!



Top 5 hidden causes of weight gain 



Did you enjoy the holidays a little too much?  Is your New Year's resolution to lose some weight?  Here is what you need to know....

For many years you have been told that weight loss is straight forward - eat less and exercise more.  Unfortunately for many people it is just not that easy!

Whether you are a woman with perimenopausal or menopausal hormone problems, or a man with low testosterone, weight gain is typical (in fact the average woman gains about 20 pounds as she goes through menopause!).

Thyroid hormones and stress hormones including cortisol and DHEA closely regulate whether you burn or store calories.  Insulin is a fat storing hormone, so if you are creeping towards pre-diabetes (or if you are already there) your body will tend to store fat even if you are not over-indulging.

Obviously hormonal balance is important for successful weight loss.  But sometimes it is just not enough.

Apart from balanced hormones and good lifestyle habits, did you know that there are often many other underlying factors that are affecting your weight?

Here is a list of the top 5 hidden (fixable!) causes of weight gain.  


1.  Food sensitivities.   It is very common to develop sensitivities to common foods.  A sensitivity causes low grade inflammation which promotes weight gain.  Changing nutrition to avoid the foods you are sensitive to can help with mood, energy, memory, joint pains, digestive symptoms, menstrual problems as well as weight gain.





2.  Toxins.  There are tens of thousands of chemicals that we are exposed to on a regular basis.  Many of these are “hormone disrupters” - meaning that they interfere with metabolic processes and hormonal  balance.  We know that people with higher levels of toxins tend to be more overweight and more likely to have diabetes, as well as many other hormonally related problems.  Avoidance of toxins and learning how to help optimize your natural detoxification pathways can be a very important step in weight loss.



3.  Dysbiosis.  This is a word that means there is an imbalance in your “microbiome” - the trillions of micro-organisms that live in your digestive tract.  If you have too many of the wrong bacteria and not enough of the good health-promoting "probiotic" bacteria, this is associated with weight gain.  In some cases the bacteria literally cause us to extract more calories from the same amount of food.






4. Candida.  Overgrowth of digestive yeast (candida) is another common problem.  Candida causes sugar cravings that can be quite severe, making it much more difficult to avoid the sugary junk.  Candida also causes bloating, brain fog, fatigue, and hormonal imbalances








5.  Inflammation.  If there are too many inflammatory chemicals circulating in your blood stream, these directly cause problems with insulin and cortisol, resulting in weight gain.  Insulin and cortisol can contribute to more inflammation - so a cycle is created where your body wants to store more fat... 












Solutions are available!



As you can see, the "calories in vs calories out" equation is not the whole story.

If you have hormonal issues, these must be addressed.

In addition to balanced hormones, a medical weight loss program that addresses ALL of these underlying issues simultaneously is much more likely to result in successful longterm weight loss.



As the above issues are corrected, you won't just lose weight, but you can expect to FEEL better!  Symptoms that commonly resolve include fatigue, brain fog, bloating, joint aches, mood problems, and quality of sleep.

If you are ready to lose weight now,  please know that there are options and that we can help!  Call today to get started!  704-752-9346


Friday, August 26, 2016

Could you be in perimenopause?

Before you go through menopause, there is a period of time (up to 10 years!) where things start to change. The changes can be subtle or not so subtle. We call this phase of life "perimenopause", and it can be one of the most difficult transitions in a women’s life. Sadly, some women are told to tough it out and that it will pass. And often women are told that they are too young to be in perimenopause.

Addressing the hormonal symptoms of perimenopause can dramatically improve quality of life for many women. Lets talk about what is going on.

While estrogen levels start to decline around the time of menopause (average age of menopause is 52), progesterone levels start to decline much earlier.  In fact a your progesterone production may decline by as much as 80% between age 30 and 40.  This is one of the reasons that women in their forties have a harder time getting pregnant.

Progesterone is produced in two main places in your body. It is produced in the ovaries and in the adrenal glands. The majority of progesterone is produced in the ovaries after ovulation.  It helps to prepare the uterine lining in case of a pregnancy and is very important throughout pregnancy (it is “pro-gestational”).  

When a woman is in the second half of her monthly cycle, she is producing between 20 and 25 mg of progesterone a day. During pregnancy, production of progesterone spikes to between 300 and 400 mg per day.

When progesterone levels start to decline because of age, and symptoms of hormone imbalance become noticeable, we call this “perimenopause”.  

Progesterone deficiency is the most common hormonal problem we see in peri-menopausal women, but younger women can have this problem as well.  Because progesterone levels naturally vary over the menstrual cycle, the symptoms vary as well.  

Typically the week after a period is a “good” week; you are eating your broccoli, exercising regularly, and cleaning out your closets.  Then as you get closer to your period,  symptoms get worse and worse including irritability, anxiousness, and interrupted sleep.   You may feel more negative, critical, impatient, and easily frustrated - and this can affect how you behave towards your family and co-workers!

In fact, this variation in symptoms is a big clue that hormones are the problem.  If your mood symptoms or insomnia are exactly the same on every day in your cycle, it is less likely that hormones are the cause.

Progesterone has mainly been studied for its effects on the uterus but it turns out that progesterone has far more roles to play.  Women have progesterone receptors on cells in all parts of our bodies, and surprisingly the cells with the most progesterone receptors are our brain cells.  Anyone who has experienced PMS symptoms with mood swings and irritability may not be surprised after all!  

Research is showing that progesterone has important neurological effects.   It acts as a natural anti-anxiety compound, helps with sleep and is calming - sort of like nature’s version of valium or a glass of red wine.

Here is a checklist of symptoms that you may experience if you progesterone levels are declining:

Insomnia (especially wakening in the night)
Night sweats

Anxiety
Irritability
Mood swings
Weight gain
Increased PMS
Pre-menstrual headaches
Heavier periods
Shorter cycles (periods coming less than 28 days apart)

If this sounds like you, please know that there is help! You can feel like YOU again.

You can find more information at our website www.signaturewellness.org or contact the office at 704-752-9346

Yours in health
DrM

Friday, July 29, 2016

Is this why you are tired?

Do you have a hard time getting going in the morning?  Do you have an energy crash in the afternoon?  And then, after feeling tired all day, do you get a second wind late in the evening and have a hard time falling asleep?  If so, you certainly aren't alone!

Cortisol is your stress hormone.  If you have a sudden stressful experience, like being late for an important appointment and getting stuck in traffic, your cortisol level goes up to help you cope with the stress.  Then when you get there and everything turns out ok, your cortisol level goes back down to normal.  This is a normal stress response.

The problem is that in our modern world we tend to have lots of little stresses all day long.  In the past, our stresses were things like being chased by a saber-toothed tiger and having to run for our life. The physical activity (running) helped us to clear the extra stress hormones from our system.  Today our stresses typically don't involve running for our life - they are much more likely to involve fuming at the slow traffic while we sit in our car worrying about being late for our appointment.  The end result can be chronically elevated cortisol levels.

When we are thinking about stresses it is important to realize that we don't just include the emotional stressors.  You are typically well aware of those - family issues, work stress, etc.  But physical stressors count as well - things like allergies, chronic back pain, insomnia, nutritional deficiencies and hormonal imbalances.  And you can have stresses on your system without being aware - for example toxins in the environment.  It is very common in our modern world to have high stress burdens.

If cortisol levels remain chronically elevated health problems can follow.  High cortisol may promote fatigue, mood symptoms including depression and anxiety, food cravings, weight gain, insomnia, high blood pressure, bone loss, poor memory, impaired immune system function and increased menopausal symptoms.  In a nutshell, high cortisol is a wear and tear hormone; it ages you at an accelerated rate.    You have probably witnessed this - people who have lived under extremely stressful conditions often look older than their biological age.

Over time, cortisol levels may drop inappropriately.  If you now have insufficient amounts of cortisol to meet your body's daily demands problems can get even worse.  This is when you start to feel really exhausted, have difficulty coping with stress and feel like little things (that shouldn't really be stressful) feel somewhat overwhelming.

Do you think you may have a cortisol problem?  Here is what can be done.

Your cortisol level can be measured in a saliva or urine test.  We prefer to measure your level at multiple times during the day, since the levels change - they should be higher in the morning to help you wake up and lower at night to help you fall asleep.   We commonly find low levels in the morning and high levels at bedtime - when your daily pattern is backwards, no wonder it is hard to wake up and hard to fall asleep!

Reducing your stress is important.  Breathing exercises, meditation, yoga, walking, laughter and heartfelt prayer are good examples of stress management techniques.  Sometimes reducing stress is not easy.  Please talk to us if you need help.

Caffeine, alcohol and sugar may make you feel a little better in the short term, but in the long term they are not helpful and should be minimized.  Supporting cortisol levels can improve your energy so you don't need to rely on caffeine to keep you moving.

There are a number of supplements that are very helpful, and which ones we recommend for you depend on your symptoms and the pattern of your cortisol levels.  Ashwagadha, rhodiola and holy basil are examples of herbs that are typically safe and beneficial regardless of whether your cortisol is too high or too low.

If you have having symptoms that are affecting your quality of life, and would like to be evaluated to see if cortisol may be a problem for you, please contact the office for further information at 704-752-9346 or questions@signaturewellness.org.  You can also find more information at www.signaturewellness.org

Yours in Health,

DrM