Nutrition

Dr. Melissa Glover's 10 tips to improve mental wellness during the holidays

Most of us ditch our self-care routine in December; the excess social engagements, holiday temptations, and opportunities to indulge can cause not only our physical health to suffer, but also our mental health. While this month can be challenging with the extra stress and expectation of the holidays, there are a few adjustments we can make in our day-to-day to help manage our well-being. Dr. Melissa Glover gives her top 10 tips to improve mental wellness during the holidays:

Dr. Melissa Glover Naturopath
  1. Eat your greens

Optimal diet is key to optimal health.Green leafy vegetables like kale, spinach, chard and arugula contain vitamins and minerals such as B-vitamins, magnesium and iron. These nutrients reduce inflammation, boost energy and metabolic function, and improve mood by supporting the formation of neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine.


2. Limit sugar and processed foods

We all expect there to be a ton of sugar in pop, candy, and baked goods, but shockingly sugar also hides in places we don’t expect it! Check the labels of your cereal or granola, sauces and condiments, protein bars, and even dairy products like yogurt and you’ll be surprised by the sugar content. The World Health Organization recently lowered the recommendation of daily sugar intake to under 5% of daily energy intake, or ~25g of refined sugars per day.

When we eat sugar our bodies release an excessive amount of insulin to process all the sugar which causes a rapid reduction of blood sugar. This leads to the release of a hormone called cortisol to compensate for it  Cortisol is our “fight or flight” hormone, a necessary survival mechanism but it can also cause anxiety and irritability. Blood sugar spikes and crashes also affect our energy levels and lead to that afternoon sluggish feeling. The best way to avoid these blood sugar crashes is to limit refined sugars, and if you are going to have something with sugar or a lot of starch, pair it with fat, fibre, and protein!


3. Support the adrenals.

The adrenal glands produce our stress hormone cortisol, and as previously mentioned cortisol is our “fight or flight” hormone. Cortisol is released from our adrenals when something is considered in our minds to be dangerous, harmful or stressful, or during physiological stressors like illness or inflammation. As you can imagine, there are a lot of things in our day-to-day lives that cause cortisol to be released, and therefore our adrenal glands often need some TLC.

There are lots of natural ways to support the adrenal glands including mitigating our stress where we can, and practicing mindful meditation or breathing exercises. We can also use adaptogenic herbs to support the adrenals. These herbs counteract the adverse effects of cortisol and stress, and support our adrenal glands to do their job more efficiently. Adaptogens enable the body's cells to access more energy and eliminate toxic by-products. Some examples of adaptogenic herbs include ashwaghanda, licorice, rhodiola, ginseng, and reishi mushroom. Check with your naturopathic doctor if adaptogenic herbs are right for you.


4. Be realistic, set goals, and prioritize.

It seems so simple, but it makes a world of a difference. Make a list of tasks you must do, and tackle them in order of importance. Delegate responsibilities where you can and prioritize what you love the most. Sometimes even this can seem overwhelming, so I often coach my patients to break projects into small steps. Be willing to compromise with yourself and with others, but set boundaries and stick to them.


5. Breathe

Shallow breathing prevents the body from getting enough oxygen. Many people fail to breathe deeply when they feel tense, which is one reason you might feel exhausted at the end of a stressful day. Breathing deeper, slower, quieter and more regularly helps you force more oxygen into your cells. Increased oxygen in your cells slows your heart rate, lowers blood pressure, improves circulation, and ultimately provides more energy.


6. Get active

Just 30 minutes of exercise at least three times per week allow us to get the cardiovascular benefits that lead to increased vitality. A study by California State University has found that the more steps people take, the more energetic they report feeling. This can be hard to imagine, because a lot of times when people are fatigued the last thing they want to do is exercise, but realistically exercise will be the thing that often energizes them the most. Unfortunately during the busy (and cold) holiday season, this is typically what gets dropped! Try to maintain an exercise routine to keep your mental and physical health in check.


7. Sleep soundly

Sleep hygiene is vital to getting those valuable Zzz’s. The basic aspects of proper sleep hygiene are having a regular schedule and bedtime routine; eliminating all light sources; avoiding stimulants in the afternoon and avoiding snacks high in simple carbohydrates (sugars) before bed.

Some ways to optimize your bedroom for sleep are to:

  • Keep it cool. A drop of body temperature stimulates sleep.

  • Keep it comfortable. If you wake up with more back or neck pain than you went to bed with it is probably time to buy a new mattress or pillow.

  • Keep it quiet. If your room is noisy use ear plugs, white noise, a fan or soft music.

  • Keep it dark. Melatonin, the main hormone for stimulating sleep, requires darkness. Use thick curtains, blinds, or eye masks to ensure maximum darkness.

  • Keep it work-free. Your bedroom is for sleeping and sex only. Watching television, working on a computer and reading can over stimulate the mind and negatively affect sleep.

  • Keep it free from distractions. Turn your phone on do not disturb (better yet, keep it out of the room), and turn your clock away from view.

  • Create bedroom “Zen.” Try removing clutter, homework, calendars etc., if you can, think about painting the room to earthy tones or making it your relaxing place, use calming lavender or peppermint essential oils in a diffuser.

  • Avoid using a loud alarm clock. Waking up suddenly to the blaring wail of an alarm clock can be a shock to your body; you’ll also find you’ll feel groggier when you are roused in the middle of a sleep cycle, if you get enough sleep on a regular basis, an alarm clock will not be necessary, if you do use an alarm, you should wake just before it goes off

    • Try a sunrise alarm, which is an alarm clock with natural light built in that simulates a sunrise,

    • Try an alarm that gradually gets louder, or soothing classical music


8. Get enough vitamin D

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble compound that’s important as much for brain development as it is for bone development. Data suggests Vitamin D deficiency is linked to increased depressive symptoms. To naturally get enough vitamin D we require 15 minutes a day of sunlight on the skin between 10am and 3pm during summer when the UV index is at its highest. That being said, sunscreen is still advised to ward off harmful UV rays, and unfortunately reduces your ability to produce vitamin D by 90%. Aside from sunlight, vitamin D can also be found in oily fish, UVB-exposed mushrooms and fortified milk.

9. Incorporate healthy fats (omega-3s, essential fatty acids)

Polyunsaturated fats (omega-3 fatty acids) have a vital role in maintaining proper neuronal structure and function, as well as in modulating critical aspects of the inflammatory pathway in the body. Omega 3 fatty acids are one of nature’s best anti-inflammatories. Omega-3 fats can be found in nuts, seeds and oysters, although the highest amounts exist in oily fish such as sardines, salmon (especially King salmon), anchovies and mackerel.

MCT (medium chain triglyceride) oil is another source of essential fatty acids that is rich in antioxidants. MCTs are digested easily and sent to your liver where they can quickly positively affect your metabolism by being burned as fuel, as ketones. A 2004 study found that the MCTs in coconut oil helped improve memory problems in older adults (The Journal of Neurobiology of Aging), and also can make you feel more clear-headed, energetic and positive. MCT oil helps not only feed your brain cells, but also improves your digestive health via the gut-brain connection.


10. Take probiotics

Research shows a connection between the bacteria in our guts and brain health, which may affect mental health, mood and energy (Trends Neurosci, 2013). Likely because over 80% of our serotonin is produced in the gut by these bacteria and serotonin is our happy, calm, focussed and relaxed neurotransmitter. Peripheral serotonin is produced in the digestive tract by enterochromaffin (EC) cells and by types of immune cells and neurons.

When the composition of the gut flora is compromised it can result in inflammatory responses that can negatively affect the nervous system and brain function. A balanced microflora environment is supported by a diet rich in the foods that nourish beneficial bacteria and reduce harmful microbial species. Beneficial microflora can be supported by eating fermented foods such as tempeh, sauerkraut, kefir and yoghurt, and by pectin-rich foods such as fruit skin or supplementing with a multi-strain probiotic.

You don’t need to completely change your lifestyle to employ these tips. Do what you can, and start small. Even a few changes can lead you to be more mindful of your mental wellness.




What does magnesium do?

Co-Authored by Dr. Melissa Glover, ND & Dr. Brittany Schamerhorn, ND 

In a perfect world, magnesium is supposed to be the fourth most abundant mineral in our body, as it is necessary for the synthesis of ATP, the body’s main form of energy. However, it is estimated that over 43% of Canadians do not get sufficient magnesium through the diet. This is due to our food sources being depleted of magnesium themselves. With depleted soils, food processing, and absorption issues becoming more common getting enough magnesium in a day can become quite challenging! When you increase your demand for magnesium by chronic stress and various medications, it is no wonder it is one of the most commonly deficient minerals in developed countries.

....it is estimated that over 43% of Canadians do not get sufficient magnesium through the diet.

Magnesium works on a fundamental level and is involved in many biochemical and physiological roles, so the signs of deficiency can be quite variable. Here is a very simplified list of some of the key functions of magnesium:

  • Magnesium activates enzymes - making our biochemical processes more efficient
  • Magnesium activates enzymes that help produce cellular energy (ATP)
  • Magnesium helps with the regulation of minerals - for example: 
    • Sodium and potassium in our nerve cells
    • Pumping calcium out of our muscles (preventing muscle spasms or twitching)

The Optimal Daily Intake is 600-800 mg/day (including all sources, both supplemental and food).

Food Sources: Nuts, whole grains, legumes, leafy green vegetables, fish and meat. (Note: 50-75% of Magnesium is lost in water when vegetables are boiled)

Fun fact: 

 The absorption of magnesium is actually regulated by the level of magnesium you already have. If you are deficient in magnesium, your body will automatically increase absorption, while if you have sufficient magnesium levels your body will decrease absorption.

photo credit: https://eatlove.live/daily-need-of-magnesium/

photo credit: https://eatlove.live/daily-need-of-magnesium/

Since Magnesium is so crucial to so many processes the signs of deficiency are vast and various! Just a few potential signs of a magnesium deficiency are:

• PMS
• Brain Fog
• Headaches
• Elevated blood pressure
• Decreased glucose tolerance
• Neural excitation
• Inflammation
• Fatigue
• Muscle cramps or tightness
• Irritability
• Weakness
• Insomnia
• Anxiety
• Depression

CONDITIONS THAT MAGNESIUM MAY HELP TREAT:

  • Acid reflux & heartburn - magnesium will reduce spasm of the lower esophageal sphincter and prevent the release of acid into the esophagus. Magnesium is also needed for stomach acid production, so deficiency can be an indicator of low stomach acid (hypochlorhydria).
  • Alzheimer & dementia - magnesium acts as a cofactor for enzymes that break down and prevent amyloid-beta plaques, which are closely associated with Alzheimer's disease & dementia.
  • Anxiety, stress & panic attacks - magnesium promotes relaxation through the sympathetic nervous system, thyroid and adrenal glands.
  • Blood sugar regulation - magnesium helps to improve insulin sensitivity
  • Bone health - magnesium and calcium go hand in hand.
  • Constipation - magnesium induces muscle relaxation and some forms act as a gentle laxatives.
  • Hypertension - magnesium leads to general relaxation and dilation of blood vessels which promote improved circulation at a lower pressure.
  • Vitamin D & calcium deficiencies - magnesium regulates key enzymes that activate Vitamin D and promote calcium absorption
  • Depression - magnesium helps convert tryptophan into serotonin (our happy and calm neurotransmitter)
  • Migraines & headaches - magnesium promotes relaxation of muscles and the production of serotonin (both with have shown effective in treating migraines and headaches)
  • Fatigue - magnesium increases ATP levels which is our main source of cellular energy in the mitochondria.
  • Sports endurance & athletic recovery - magnesium creates cellular energy and promoting optimal muscle relaxation & contraction.

HOW CAN IT BE BOTH RELAXING AND ENERGIZING?!
Now that you know a bit more about magnesium this contraindicating statement should make a bit more sense. Magnesium can be energizing in the fact that it can support our various energy-producing pathways, while also decreasing our stress response and increasing our sleep quality. Magnesium truly can be both relaxing and energizing, acting to balance and optimize the body's energy levels.

Magnesium truly can be both relaxing and energizing, acting to balance and optimize the body’s energy levels



TYPES OF MAGNESIUM
Unfortunately, there is not one type of Magnesium that is better than all of the others. Given the various uses of magnesium in the body, the type best chosen for treatment is specific to both the desired outcome and the demands on an individual.

  • Magnesium Aspartate: thought to help more specifically with fatigue since aspartic acid plays a role in energy production. Higher absorption of ~42%.
  • Magnesium oxide/oxalate: gastrointestinal side effects like diarrhea and bloating are common due to a lower absorption rate. Can be useful for severe constipation. Absorption is low, ~4-5%.
  • Magnesium glycinate: the quickest and easiest to be absorbed through the intestine (this means there is minimal if any, laxative effect). Successfully used for chronic pain and hypertonicity. Higher availability than magnesium oxide.
  • Magnesium citrate: has a more gentle laxative effect than the oxide form and it is rapidly absorbed in the GI tract. Absorption is ~25-30%
  • Magnesium malate: the combination of malate and magnesium can improve ATP production has may relieve pain and tenderness in fibromyalgia. Similar absorbability as magnesium citrate (~25-30%).
  • Magnesium sulfate: not used in oral form, but can be absorbed through the skin, so it is found in topical applications & Epsom bath salts.
  • Magnesium orotate: this form is studied mostly in relation to heart health.
  • Magnesium-L-Threonate: has been shown to improve cognitive function. Not as useful when suspecting magnesium deficiency.


If you think you may be deficient in magnesium or that supplementation may benefit you make sure you talk to your doctor first to make sure it is right for you! This article was written for information purposes only and was not intended to diagnose or prescribe.  


REFERENCES:
E. (2017, April 29). Magnesium - Scientific Review on Usage, Dosage, Side Effects. Retrieved November 14, 2017, from https://examine.com/supplements/magnesium/
Gaby, A. (n.d.). Nutritional medicine. Concord, NH: Fritz Perlberg Publishing.
Zhang, Y., Xun, P., Wang, R., Mao, L., & He, K. (2017). Can Magnesium Enhance Exercise Performance? Nutrients, 9(9), 946. doi:10.3390/nu9090946
On the significance of magnesium in extreme physical stress.Cardiovasc Drugs Ther. 1998 Sep;12 Suppl 2:197-202.
Can Prev - Magnesium A complete primer  


What causes mood disorders in young people?

As we grow older, many of us have the tendency to idealize our child- and young-adulthood as a carefree, exploratory time, with few responsibilities or consequences.

Naturopathic Medicine, Naturopathic Doctor, Marita Schauch

Whether that view of our youth is true or not, North American statistics are showing a new trend towards the opposite: a study released by Statistics Canada on January 17 showed that over 11% of Canadians age 15-24 have experienced an MDE (major depressive episode) at some point in their lives. They are the demographic with the highest incidence of mental health disorders in North America.

The number appears to rising, as well: a study done in the US showed a 37% increase in mental health issues in young people between 2005 and 2014. Scarier still? Suicide is the second cause of death for kids in this age bracket.

...a study done in the US showed a 37% increase in mental health issues in young people between 2005 and 2014.

So what’s causing poor mental health in our young adults? And, more importantly, what can we do to help?

The diet

Naturopathy, Dr. Marita Schauch

The inflammatory response in the body and brain is largely due to the dysregulation of stress hormones, infections, environmental toxins and a diet rich in trans fats and sugar.

Canadian researchers found that a protein known to be a marker of inflammation was up to 1/3 higher in the brains of depressed patients compared to healthy ones.  Those with the most severe forms of depression also had the most inflammation.

Naturopathy, Naturopathic Doctor, Dr. Marita Schauch

The current SAD (standard American diet) is FULL of hidden sugars, allergens, and food stripped of its nutrients due to over-farming… all things that cause massive amounts of inflammation in the body!

Parents have less control over what their kids eat between the ages of 15-24, so there’s a good chance inflammatory foods are being consumed on a regular basis by this at-risk age group - much to their mental health’s detriment.

Healthy gut, healthy brain

Naturopathy, Dr. Marita Schauch

On the subject of what we’re eating, our gut, or gastrointestinal (GI) system, is intimately connected to our brain. Just as emotional situations can cause feelings in our stomach (think about feeling butterflies, or feeling nauseous when we’re nervous), what’s going on in the gut can cause an emotional response.

In fact, did you know that 85% of our “happy hormones”, like serotonin and dopamine, are produced in our gut? Also, 80% of the immune system’s tissues are located in our gut.

Naturopathy, Naturopathic Medicine, Dr. Marita Schauch

The gut is as much of an epicentre in the body as the brain!

This is why it’s vitally important that we sustain a healthy gut flora. When we eat too many sugars, or allergens like wheat, dairy, corn and/or soy, our gut loses its ability to perform optimally.

Never mind just feeling sluggish or low-energy because we’re not digesting our food properly - if our GI system isn’t healthy, it won’t produce enough of the hormones we need to moderate our mood, either.


Screens & Social Media

If you’ve read my blog or visited me at my clinic, you’ll know that I advocate screen-free time strongly, particularly when mental health issues are involved.

Even for adults, who have (mostly) fully-formed opinions of themselves and the world, being exposed to a constant influx of information can have negative impacts on health, and self-worth.

Naturopathy, Counselling, Dr. Marita Schauch

For teens and young adults, too much screen time and exposure to social media can be like poison. As the brain develops it requires real-life social interaction and engagement, not 2D moderated interaction. Additionally, happiness studies have shown that a sense of community is crucial to living a happy, fulfilling life.

The isolation of staring at a screen all day, combined with the social pressure and downright bullying that happens on various social media platforms, make technology a bit of a lethal combo for a young person with a mood disorder - or on the verge of developing one.

How to help

If you suspect your child is struggling with their mental health, I highly recommend visiting a professional - be it an MD, and ND, or a counsellor - who can make suggestions for your unique situation.

That being said, there are some supplements & lifestyle changes you can implement right now.

Certain vitamin and mineral deficiencies and underlying hormone imbalances can lead to changes in our brain chemicals and lead to mood disorders.  The following are important to have checked by your MD or ND:  Vitamin D, Vitamin B12, iron, thyroid, adrenals, and blood sugars.

Supplements

Naturopathy, Dr. Marita Schauch

5-HTP may help to increase serotonin synthesis as depression and anxiety have been linked to serotonin imbalances in the brain.

Passionflower is known as a “calming” herb for anxiety or nervousness, insomnia, generalized anxiety disorder, and ADHD.

PharmaGABA is the most inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain.  Low levels of GABA have been linked to anxiety, depression, and insomnia.

Probiotics will restore imbalances in the microbiota in the gut that can negatively affect brain function.

B vitamins, especially B12, B6, B5 and folic acid are often low in people with anxiety and depression.

Omega-3 fatty acids decrease the inflammatory response in the body, which seems to be an underlying cause in depression and anxiety.

Lifestyle

Naturopathy, Dr. Marita Schauch

Encourage your kids to get outside, see their friends in person, engage with their family, read, write (on paper!), play sports - anything that breaks up the lonely monotony that comes with “smart” technology. “Phone free” zones and times of day can be really effective, as can strict boundaries - your kids may not like the feeling of being without their technology at first, but the benefits far outweigh the bad moods!

More than anything, if you suspect your teen/young adult is suffering, a little love & compassion can go a long way. It’s hard enough to be a teenager, but nowadays kids and young adults are contending with a world  - and a level of mental health - we’ve never seen before. Try to be patient with them, and give them the support they need.

Bulletproof coffee: Upgrade your morning and boost your energy throughout the day

You may or may not have heard of bulletproof coffee, but this yummy morning brew is going to amp up your mornings and the rest of the day! So many people these days are in a huge rush in the morning and simply grab a coffee, a muffin (or other carbohydrate dense breakfast food) and head out the door. In my experience, this usually causes fogginess, fatigue and hunger mere hours later. Sound familiar?

Bullet or Bulletproof coffee is a delicious, creamy and easy recipe to add some healthy fats to your morning brew. Adding healthy fats, such as MCT oil and grass-fed butter dense with omega 3 and 6, to your coffee slows down the absorption of caffeine. Medium chain triglycerides (MCT) are isolated from coconut oil, for their ability to bypass metabolism in the liver and provide the body and the brain with sustained energy. Blending in these fats and some other powerful, natural add-ins essentially turns your drab morning joe into a breakfast of champions. No need for any more muffins, and it will keep you full until lunch! It is important to note that Bulletproof coffee is not the appropriate choice for everyone, but can be a healthful breakfast substitute for many.

The individual ingredients in bulletproof coffee are nothing too special on their own, but all together... Look out! You’re in for a treat! Aside from the joy of your morning coffee ritual, you’ll also have these amazing benefits:

1. Less desire for multiple coffees throughout the day

Possibly one of my favourite benefits of bulletproof coffee, is that having one cup in the morning is going to stop you from reaching for that second, third or even fourth cup in the afternoon. This is a nice change for both your liver and your wallet. Black coffee has some proven health benefits, but these only holds up if consumed in moderation, meaning less than three cups (250mL) of coffee per day. The reason for this reduced craving for that afternoon joe is multi-factorial, but largely due to the ability of fats and coffee to balance blood sugar levels. The addition of fats to caffeine slows its absorption and prolongs coffee’s energy enhancing and blood sugar balancing properties throughout the day. More specifically, one component in coffee (chlorogenic acid) causes glucose to be absorbed further along in the intestine, therefore prolonging satiation and reducing blood sugar spikes. Moderate black coffee consumption has been linked to enhanced metabolic profiles by improving insulin sensitivity, which in turn can even lower the risk of Type II Diabetes. We know that carbohydrates and proteins (like the ones in your breakfast muffin) can be converted to sugar, and therefore cause blood sugar levels to rise, but the fats in bulletproof coffee aren’t going to promote blood sugar spikes at all. Without a blood glucose spike in the morning, you won’t get a blood glucose drop in the afternoon.

Having fewer blood glucose highs and lows creates a sustainable balance that will have you saying goodbye to that 2-3pm slump!

2. More efficient fat metabolism throughout the day (which can lead to weight loss for some)

Ok wait… so adding fat to coffee, can improve my fat metabolism? You bet!

Adding fats to coffee is going to massively increase the caloric profile of your morning brew. Giving your body ample calories in the morning is important so that it doesn't get tricked into entering starvation mode, which is prompted by caloric restriction. Calorie restriction promotes fat storage and decreased metabolism, which in turn causes you to gain back all the weight that you would have lost restricting your calories. Instead, having a calorie dense, fat-filled breakfast is going to kick start your metabolism for the day ahead of you!

Coffee itself is known to improve the satiety hormone profile, via ghrelin and serotonin, while specific phenols in coffee also increase fat utilization and promote fat excretion. Butter that comes from grass-fed cows contains a much higher content of healthy essential fatty acids (omega 3 and omega 6) when compared to regular run-of-the-mill butter, and these EFAs are going to promote production of an optimal hormone profile. Having healthy hormones is key for efficient fat metabolism (see benefit #4).

Medium chain triglyceride (MCT) oil is specific type of fat that is more easily digested than other fats and sugars. While being easy to digest, MCT oil helps you feel full longer by producing ketones that will suppress the hunger hormone grehlin, and increase the satiety signal via CCK. Ketones also fuel your brain and promote thermogenesis, which helps speed up your metabolic rate.

3. Improved cognitive function and energy (no more 3pm fatigue and brain fog)

We all know that the caffeine in coffee gives most people an energy boost, can stimulate digestion, and promotes regular bowel function. MCT oil helps stimulate digestion in a similar way, therefore it is important to start with only about 1tsp per day, and increase slowly from there. Regular bowel function is key to removing toxins, and an overburden of toxins and inefficient digestion can make us foggy and fatigued throughout the day, which will reduce our energy and cognitive function.

There has been a lot of mixed research on the benefits and harms of coffee. However, recently black coffee in moderation has been shown to reduce rates of neurological disorders such as Parkinson disease, age-related cognitive decline, and even Alzheimer’s disease. Potentially due to the large antioxidant profile of coffee which can be protective against oxidative damage in the brain. Similarly, MCT oil is known to help optimize brain function and cognition by being metabolized into ketones quickly, and providing the neurons in your brain with fast, available energy.

4. Increased production of healthy hormones

I’ve already mentioned a lot about hormones, particularly the ones that send signals of whether you’re hungry or full: ghrelin, CCK, and serotonin. However, it is important to note that the building blocks of ALL hormones in the human body is through saturated fat and cholesterol – no fat equals no hormones. The fats from both MCT oil and grass-fed butter are going to promote production of our hormones including steroid and sex hormones, including testosterone. Testosterone is known to promote fat loss, lean muscle mass development and improved energy!

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup of organic coffee (Not a fan of coffee? Try experimenting with bulletproof matcha, or chai tea!)
  • 1 tsp MCT Oil High in C8
  • 1 Tbsp organic grass-fed unsalted butter (or ghee if you’re dairy sensitive or lactose intolerant)
  • ¼ tsp organic vanilla

INSTRUCTIONS

Put all ingredients in a blender or food processor. Mix on high speed for about 20 seconds until frothy. Enjoy immediately!

Test out these optional add-ins:

  • 2-3 drops of stevia extract to help sweeten the mix
  • 1-2 tsp Chaga mushroom powder as a coffee substitute or for its adaptogenic and immune boosting function.
  • 1-2 tbsp Collagen Hydrolysate to hydrate connective tissue and joints.
  • 1/2 tsp Cinnamon to additionally balance blood sugars and add a warming flavor.

Note: Information can be empowering, but we all have unique health profiles and needs. Health-related information contained in this post is intended to be general in nature and should not be used as a substitute for a visit with a Naturopathic Doctor.


REFERENCES

Pourshahidi, L. K., Navarini, L., Petracco, M. & Strain, J.J. (2016), A Comprehensive Overview of the Risks and Benefits of Coffee Consumption. Comprehensive reviews in food science and food safety, 15: 671–684. doi:10.1111/1541-4337.12206

Cunnane, S. C., Courchesne-Loyer, A., St-Pierre, V., Vandenberghe, C., Pierotti, T., Fortier, M., . . . Castellano, C. (2016). Can ketones compensate for deteriorating brain glucose uptake during aging? Implications for the risk and treatment of Alzheimers disease. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences,1367(1), 12-20. doi:10.1111/nyas.12999

How vitamin D can reduce menstrual cramps

Dysmenorrhea, the medical term for menstrual cramps, is a common problem affecting over 50% of menstruating women of all ages. 

The term “dysmenorrhea” is derived from Greek, meaning “difficult monthly flow,” thus referring to the pain experienced by women during their monthly cycle. Pain is often experienced just before or during the first two days of the menstrual period and will usually ease as the period continues. The pain can be in the pelvic region, lower back or may even radiate down the thighs.  For some women, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, headache, increased urination and diarrhea may accompany the pain.  It can be so debilitating for some that they are forced to take time off work or school, disrupting social and family life. 

It is estimated that 10% of women who experience menstrual cramps are rendered incapacitated for one to three days each month.

Menstrual cramps can be classified as primary (physiological problem) or secondary (caused by underlying pelvic abnormality such as uterine fibroids or endometriosis).

It is estimated that 10% of women who experience menstrual cramps are rendered incapacitated for one to three days each month.

Primary dysmenorrhea starts after the release of inflammatory compounds called prostaglandins from the endometrial cells inside the uterus. And therefore, target treatment is often focused on the suppression of these prostaglandins.   Treatments may include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), herbs, nutritional supplements and/or hormonal contraceptives.

Vitamin D has received much attention in the past few years regarding its role in calcium balance, bone health, and immune function. Vitamin D can also reduce the expression of the inflammatory compound cyclooxygenase-2 and can therefore regulate prostaglandin production, exerting anti-inflammatory effects in the body and endometrium.

Vitamin D has received much attention in the past few years regarding its role in calcium balance, bone health, and immune function.

Vitamin D has received much attention in the past few years regarding its role in calcium balance, bone health, and immune function.

A randomized double-blind placebo controlled clinical trial was conducted on 60 women with primary dysmenorrhea and vitamin D deficiency.  Women had to have at least four recent consecutive menstrual cycles with painful cramps during the previous 6 months.  Women also had to have a serum vitamin D level of <50ng/ml.

Women in the treatment group received 50,000 oral vitamin D once per week for 8 weeks, while 30 women received placebo once a week for 8 weeks.

In the vitamin D treatment group prior to treatment, pain was mild in 3 (13%), moderate in 16 (69.6%) and severe in 4 (17.4%) of the women.  After treatment (2 months), 22 (95.7%) had mild pain, 1 (4.3%) had moderate pain and none had severe pain.

Pain intensity significantly decreased in the treatment group after 8 weeks of treatment, with a significant difference in pain intensity between the two groups.

Vitamin D may be a useful and inexpensive strategy to reduce primary dysmenorrhea along with lifestyle and dietary recommendations.

 

Reference

Moini A, Ebrahimi T, et al.  The effect of vitamin D on primary dysmenorrhea with vitamin D deficiency: a randomized double blind controlled clinical trial.  Gynecological Endocrinology 2016, Early Online: 1-4.