Neurotransmitters- Health & Balance

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You may be one of the millions of Americans who has longstanding problems with mood, sleep, concentration or weight. Or you may have a medical condition that seems difficult to diagnose or treat, such as brain fog, fibromyalgia or panic attacks. If any of the preceding applies to you, consider testing your neurotransmitters to determine if a biochemical imbalance underlies your symptoms.

Neurotransmitters are chemicals that relay signals between nerves and convert electrical impulses into action. They are produced from amino acids and work widely throughout the body, affecting processes such as pain perception, appetite and heart rate. When out of balance, symptoms can occur, ranging from mild forgetfulness to serious illnesses like epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease.

Neurotransmitters can be divided into two types – excitatory and inhibitory. Excitatory neurotransmitters stimulate the brain and other organs. They include epinephrine, noradrenaline and glutamate. When these neurotransmitters dominate, they can cause anxiety, ADHD and high blood pressure. Inhibitory neurotransmitters are calming. Some examples are serotonin, GABA and glycine. When they are low, depression, carbohydrate craving and addiction may result.

The anti-depressant medications Prozac and Zoloft work to maintain the level of serotonin available to receptor nerve cells. These drugs are successful in treating the symptoms of depression in some people, but not in others. If an individual has dysfunction utilizing serotonin, the drug is more likely to be effective than if the symptoms arise from a different chemical pathway. Checking neurotransmitter levels allows your healthcare practitioner to personalize a plan that corrects your specific imbalances.

Medication is not always necessary for treatment. Since neurotransmitters can be depleted by stress, poor diet, high sodium intake, alcohol consumption and caffeine use, addressing these contributory factors is of utmost importance. Nutritional supplements also play a role by providing your body with the raw materials it needs to produce neurotransmitters, such as vitamin C to support the adrenal glands and vitamin B6 for making melatonin.

Neurotransmitters are tested using a urine sample. You will be given the supplies you need to collect the sample at home and mail it to the lab for analysis. The results will be sent to your doctor, who can then devise a plan to address the root cause of your discomfort rather than mask the symptoms.

Written By Dr. Jessica Needle

Natural Allergy Treatments

By Jessica Needle, ND

Are you suffering from the itchy eyes, scratchy throat and stuffy or runny nose from seasonal allergies?  Before you reach for the Claritin, try these natural remedies to relieve the symptoms.

Remove mucus-producing foods from your diet.  This includes dairy products, especially aged cheese such as cheddar, parmesan and Gouda.  Wheat and the protein gluten, which is also found in barley and rye, can produce excess mucus, as can bread and pastry products made from refined flour.  Avoid alcohol, sugar and processed lunch meats. And while fruit is generally a healthy snack, bananas can trigger your mucus-producing cells to go into overdrive.

Drink nettle tea.  Nettle is a plant with a mild taste and its leaves contain iron, calcium, magnesium and potassium.  The mechanism by which nettle works to reduce allergy symptoms is currently being researched. Nettle may affect the system of prostaglandins, chemicals which can cause inflammation and pain in the body.

Take quercetin.  Quercetin is one of the plant pigments called flavonoids and it acts as nature’s antihistamine.  It is also an antioxidant, a substance that stops cellular damage. Quercetin is found in large amounts in green tea and buckwheat.  When taken as an oral supplement, it is often combined with bromelain, a pineapple enzyme that increases absorption of quercetin.

Use essential oils.  A few drops of essential oil can be added to a pot of boiling water for steam inhalation to open the nasal passages and prevent infection.  The oils recommended for allergy relief are peppermint, lavender, eucalyptus and lemon. Add some to your humidifier and be sure to get enough sleep to allow your body to heal.

Plastics: Reuse, Reduce, Recycle… and Wash

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It’s a good idea to reduce your use of plastics. The potential health consequences notwithstanding, we’re running out of places to sort and store this stuff as part of the process to recycle it.

Long story short: China used to be our go-to-country for plastics disposal. It was in their interest – they got cheap plastic from all over the world they recycled into new products, and the world got a place to send their trash. However, because China received so much plastic debris – expected to be 111 million metric tons by 2030 -, they closed their doors to most of it in November of 2017. It’s spilling over now into countries like Vietnam, Thailand, and South Korea. The rest of it is piling up in the countries of origin – the US included.

That’s as if every human on Earth contributed a quarter of their body mass in mostly single-use plastic polymers to a massive, abandoned pile of garbage.

The US is one of the biggest exporters of plastic waste. We owe it to ourselves and to the rest of the world to be responsible. There are things each of us can do to reduce our exposure to plastic for the health benefits, while simultaneously reducing our contributions to the growing garbage problem:

  • Eliminate single-use items. This really may be the easiest and most impactful you can do.
    • Replace your bottled water with a reusable beverage container. This keeps you hydrated, saves you money in the long run, and prevents the bottles from ending up in the ocean
    • Ditch the plastic straws. They are some of the worst offenders. Trade them for silicone or stainless steel alternatives.
    • Trade in for reusable shopping bags. Those flimsy plastic bags at the supermarket almost always get tossed. Buy a few large, sturdy canvas totes, consider an insulated one as well, and just keep these in the car. At the very least, ask for paper over plastic if you don’t live in a place like California that mandates reusable bags.
  • Wash your recyclables. Please, please, please wash your recyclables. As the article notes, contaminated waste (i.e. covered in food, debris, etc) will gum up sorting facilities and cause them to reject the item altogether. This means it goes into a landfill rather than be recycled at all. You don’t have to send your empty food containers thru the dishwasher, but just rinse them really well. t doesn’t take that much time to rinse them before placing them in a recycle bin.
  • Skip the plastic option altogether.
    • Buying produce at the grocery store? Skip the little produce bag-on-a-roll in the produce aisle. You’re washing your produce at home before using it anyway, right? Of course you are, so just put your fruits and veggies right in the cart (or in a multi-use bag), right on the check out conveyor, and then be sure to wash them before eating them at home.
    • Get the pasta sauce, the applesauce, the hummus, salsa, mayo, etc. that comes in a glass jar or a metal can – leave the plastic one on the store shelf.
    • Visit the deli. Instead of buying cheese and meats from the cooler section, where they come stored in plastic bags, go to the deli and buy it in bulk. Additional benefits including having the deli slice it just how you like, potential for a free taste sample prior to buying, reduced prices, and product recommendations. Ask the deli to wrap it in paper rather than plastic.
    • Visit bulk foods with your own container. Get a container with it’s tare weight (the weight of the container without any contents) printed on it so the checkout clerk can weigh it correctly – or use brown paper lunch bags – and get your rice, cereal, pretzels, candy, nuts, trail mix, and other dry goods from the bulk section. You’ll save money and get exactly what you want.
  • Other ideas – some easy, some complex.

Farm-To-Table Dining at Heirloom Craft Kitchen

Optimal Health Center’s providers make a lot of recommendations to patients regarding healthy eating and treating food as medicine. They stress the importance of whole, unprocessed, organically grown foods. Helping our patients find local resources for healthy lifestyles is a big part of what we do and we’re always delighted when we find one we can share.

Heirloom Craft Kitchen in Indio is a welcome addition to the Desert and especially to the Eastern half of the Valley. We had an opportunity to enjoy a meal there the other night and think our local readers may enjoy it as much as we did.

As a diner, you’ll feel like you’re in your favorite neighborhood joint – comfortable, casual, relaxed, and friendly. You have the choice to sit at booths and tables, inside or on the patio, and enjoy friendly table service; or you can select from the grab n’ go case if you’re on the move. Every surface is impeccably clean and inviting, without feeling sterile.

Just like your favorite neighborhood joint, just about anyone, regardless of dietary preference, will find something delicious on the menu. Small and large plates, as well as sandwiches and salads are planned with special attention to local, organic produce and grass fed/free range meats. You can choose gluten-free and vegetarian options from every section of the menu and you vegans out there will enjoy an entire Vegan Friendly menu. As parents, you’ll be impressed there is a healthier kid menu with dishes kids will actually eat.

When you’re eating healthy and responsibly it’s so much easier to actually enjoy a dessert without feeling guilty about it – so be sure to check out the bakery items – we split a strawberry margarita cupcake and loved it.

 

Reducing Impact for Earth Day 2018

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Earth Day 2018 is this Sunday the 22nd. Earth Day is the world’s largest environmental movement – and this year specifically targets plastic pollution.

Optimal Health Center is participating by, among other things, replacing all of our disposable beverage containers with reusable vessels that are repurposed, recycled, and, most importantly, non-toxic.

We’re loving our 100% silicone to go cups and have been getting raised eyebrows and questions from our favorite juice joints and coffee shops around town.

If you’d like more information, see our series of posts on plastic waste here and here.

Hydrate Responsibly. Really Responsibly.

Next in our series on medically and environmentally responsible hydration: The 16oz and 8z GoSili Cups from SiliKids.

What is it?

A cup/mug made from 100% silicone, with reinforced stainless steel ring embedded in the rim to hold it’s shape. At Optimal Health Center, the 16oz mug comes with the coffee lid and the 8oz cup comes with the SiliSkin sippy cover.

Why this vessel?

Silicone

It’s a great alternative to the other reusable vessels we often see. No plastic means no BPA/BPB. It’s dishwasher, microwave, and freezer safe. Silicone can even be boiled to sterilize (for the super sensitive among us). Leave it in the cupholder of your car on a Palm Springs summer day without worrying the heat will leech plasticizers or other toxins into your drink.

Silicone is a natural insulator. So hot beverages stay warmer longer and cold beverages stay cooler longer. The wide mouth allows any style of beverage – water, smoothies straight from your blender, coffee, tea, or your favorite juice.

The SiliSkin sippy cover that comes with the kids’ cup can be used on the original cup, the mug, or any other reasonable jar or bottle – allowing you to repurpose those mason jars and apple sauce bottles instead of sending them to the landfill.

These cups can be used over and over again – replacing paper and plastic options and reducing pollution. Step up your non-toxic hydration game.

Side benefit for those of us who love our hot beverages hot, but still want to sip and savor… you can relax and pop your GoSili mug in the microwave for a few seconds to reheat your coffee or tea without worrying you’ll decompose the mug into your beverage.