INSOMNIA: HOW TO STOP THE CYCLE OF SLEEP DEPRIVATION

You feel stressed during the day and it’s hard to quiet your mind at night.

Then you can’t sleep at night because there are too many things to worry about.

The next day you feel a bit depressed because you are tired and stressed out.

So starts the cycle of stress, sleep deprivation and depression. I can tell you why this might be happening and help you get yourself back into a healthy pattern of sleep.

Here are some common questions people ask about insomnia and sleep deprivation:

HOW MUCH SLEEP DO I NEED?

It is generally recommended that you get 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Depending on your age you may need more or less. It’s always important to evaluate what works best for you as an individual. I can help you figure out what is most healthy for your body.

WHY IS SLEEP SO IMPORTANT?

There are so many benefits to getting a good night’s sleep. Here are just a few things that a restful night can provide you during the day:

  • A calm mind
  • Less anxiety and stress
  • Increased immunity
  • Improved mood
  • More energy
  • Weight management
  • Healthy human connections
  • Better memory

WHAT CAUSES INSOMNIA?

Insomnia can generally be thought of as a perpetuating cycle. Lack of sleep can be caused by behavioral factors, physiological factors, or a combination of both.

For instance, it is common for people to lose sleep over stress which can bring about forms of anxiety and depression. Anxiety and depression are known causes of insomnia.

Another contributing factor to insomnia is the presence of poor sleep habits.

I like to get to the root of, and address, the underlying symptoms of insomnia to alleviate your issues from a whole human perspective.

HOW DO WE GET TO THE ROOT CAUSE OF MY SLEEPLESSNESS?

In looking for the root cause of your insomnia, we can look at BEHAVIORAL FACTORS such as:

  • Daytime routines that contribute to stress
  • Eating habits that may lead to heartburn, indigestion or other internal issues
  • Movement habits that may cause pain
  • Lack of movement

We can also look at PHYSIOLOGICAL FACTORS such as:

  • Hormone issues like peri-menopause or menopause
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Sleep Apnea

It is important to reiterate that sleep disorders, like insomnia, are part of a cycle that perpetuates itself. Sometimes the contributing behavioral factors create physiological factors and vice versa.

WHAT ARE SOME NATURAL WAYS TO GET TO SLEEP?

As a naturopathic doctor, I want to help you find natural solutions for your insomnia. Here are a few general tips that you can try on your own:

  1. Manage your daily stress. This may mean letting go of work or nighttime commitments, delegating responsibilities, practicing mindfulness about what you say yes or no to, and even taking a pause in your day to meditate.
  2. Practice sleep hygiene. Make a conscious effort to slow your mind down before you go to bed. Turn off screens and put away reading materials at least an hour before sleep. Wind down by taking a warm bath, turning off overhead lights, and putting a few drops of lavender oil in a bedside diffuser.
  3. Think outside the box. Acupuncture is one of the services I provide that is a supplemental therapy beneficial to insomnia and other sleep issues. Another suggestion would be to try Integrative Therapeutics Cortisol Manager, a stress hormone stabilizer, I sell in my office.

I can help you find natural solutions and relief if you are suffering from insomnia, and help you get out of the cycle of sleep deprivation naturally.

If you live in the Guilford/ Branford/ New Haven/ Madison/ Clinton area and would like to learn more about the innovative programs Dr. Fisel has to offer, call (203) 453-0122 or CLICK HERE to schedule a consultation.

THIS SEASON: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT PROTECTING YOUR BRAIN FROM INJURY

Brain Injuries, Concussions, Collisions, Athletes, Concussion Symptoms, Anti-Inflammatory, Natural Solutions

In the midst of the transition from fall to winter:

We plan to watch our kids participate in athletic activities at school,

We plan to get on our road bikes before the snow flies,

We plan for that first ski run of the season.

We often talk about our plans for this transitional time…

BUT WHAT ABOUT WHEN THINGS DON’T GO AS PLANNED?

Statistics show that either you or someone you know has been involved in a collision that may have caused your brain to be injured in a significant way. (SOURCE)

And, although we know that helmets are helpful in protecting humans from head injuries, they are not 100% effective in preventing concussions.

Here’s why…

The CDC defines a concussion as “a type of traumatic brain injury—or TBI—caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or by a hit to the body that causes the head and brain to move rapidly back and forth.

This sudden movement can cause the brain to bounce around or twist in the skull, creating chemical changes in the brain and sometimes stretching and damaging brain cells.” (SOURCE)

The tricky thing about brain injuries is that they do not present the same in any one person. Two people can have similar seeming injuries and have different symptoms and outcomes.

In fact, many high schools and colleges are gathering baseline brain data on their athletes so they can be more proactive in a situation where a concussion may occur.

After a head injury, you might notice certain signs of a concussion in others:

  • Can’t recall events prior to or after a hit or fall.
  • Appears dazed or stunned.
  • Forgets an instruction, is confused about an assignment or position, or is unsure of the game, score, or opponent.
  • Moves clumsily.
  • Answers questions slowly.
  • Loses consciousness (even briefly).
  • Shows mood, behavior, or personality changes.

Or the person receiving the head injury might report certain symptoms such as:

  • Headache or “pressure” in head.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Balance problems or dizziness, or double or blurry vision.
  • Bothered by light or noise.
  • Feeling sluggish, hazy, foggy, or groggy.
  • Confusion, or concentration or memory problems.
  • Just not “feeling right,” or “feeling down”.

If, after a head injury, you show or feel symptoms that are common in concussion scenarios, in almost all cases the key to recovery is reducing oxidative damage that causes inflammation in the brain.

One of the most important ways to reduce oxidation and inflammation in the brain is through diet and nutrition.

A common anti-inflammatory nutritional regimen would be the Mediterranean Diet or something similar. Stick with fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, lean meats, dairy products, eggs, whole grains and healthy fats.

Also, antioxidants/ anti-inflammatory supplements such as a higher DHA version of omega 3 fatty acids, Zinc, Curcumin, Creatine, Glutathione, NAC and green tea have been shown to reduce inflammation and promote brain healing. (SOURCE)

Dr. Fisel can help you find natural solutions and relief if you are recovering from the symptoms of concussions, brain inflammation or brain injury.

If you live in the Guilford/ Branford/ New Haven/ Madison/ Clinton area and would like to learn more about the innovative programs Dr. Fisel has to offer, call (203) 453-0122 or CLICK HERE to schedule a consultation.

RESOURCES:

Brain Injury Association of America

CDC: Heads Up Program

Traumatic Brain Injury: Impact, Assessment & Management of Concussion & MTBI

Traumatic Brain Injury: Definitions related to TBI

LIFE’S BIG (AND LITTLE) HEADACHES: YOUR SURVIVAL GUIDE


headache, eyestrain, stress, tension, migraine, mindfulness, massage, acupuncture


Is it the eyestrain of staring at a computer screen all day?

Or, maybe it is the stress of a deadline that seems impossible to meet?

Even when the cause is hard to pinpoint, you can feel that tension headache creeping up and…

YOU KNOW

what it is going to feel like when that dull sense of pain takes residence between your temples!

Then there are the much more pervasive and troublesome types of neurological disturbances…

MIGRAINES!

Picture the kind of ache in your head that keeps you in bed, lights off, whispering, for hours if not days.

They are more than just headaches; they can often feel unbearable.

Headaches and migraines come to us for a myriad of reasons. Already mentioned were EYESTRAIN and STRESS, but there are other common causes that you may not have considered (SOURCE):

  • Stress
  • Emotional distress
  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Certain foods or food allergies
  • Environmental exposures,
  • Infection
  • Constipation
  • Blood pressure issues
  • Drugs and Alcohol
  • Fatigue
  • Eyestrain
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Dehydration


What creates a headache for one person may result in a migraine for another. There are so many factors to consider that it cannot be reduced to a one size fits all diagnosis and solution.

“As a neurological ailment, [headaches and] migraines impact the whole person, not just the head, so it follows that treatments are based on whole-person assessment, understanding and treatment.” (SOURCE)

Western medicine addresses the alleviation of many symptoms. In our headache and migraine survival guide, we would like to offer some complementary therapies from a naturopathic perspective.

Common headaches are often called tension headaches. It follows that STRESS MANAGEMENT is an important tool in relieving tension from the body.


There are a few things you can try if you suspect tension or stress may be at the root of your headache or migraine:

  1. Practicing Mindfulness – as you feel the onset of a headache or migraine, simply notice the tension in your mind and body and give yourself permission to relax in those areas.
  1. Breathing Exercises – in the most stressful moments, when you know a headache is imminent, try the “Box Breathing” pattern by inhaling for 4 counts, holding for four counts, exhaling for four counts, and then holding for four counts. Repeat as needed.
  1. Movement – try simple exercises such as stretching at your desk, taking a break at lunch for an in person or online yoga session, or simply taking a walk around the block can be helpful.


During the pandemic, you might have found yourself typing away on your laptop from the couch.

Did you know that BODY POSITIONING and alignment of the spine can affect the level and frequency of headaches and migraines?


Naturopathic doctors are trained to assess and correct physiological issues in your bodily structure that may be a contributing factor when you experience headaches or migraines.

  1. Massage – assists in relaxing tense muscles
  1. Manipulation/ Adjustments – assures that head, spine and skeletal structure are in alignment
  1. Acupuncture – increases blood flow and calms the nervous system


Systemic inflammation plays a detrimental role in overall wellness and how a body feels. Therefore, it is important to pay proper attention to your needs in terms of NUTRITION in order to prevent and/ or eliminate headaches and migraines.


The following are a few suggestions that may assist you in doing just that:

  1. Hydration – adequate hydration fluctuates from person to person, but staying hydrated makes a difference in preventing headaches and migraines.
  1. Anti-Inflammatory Diet – a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids from nuts and wild caught fish, lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, lean protein and healthy fats reduces the likelihood of headaches and migraines
  1. Herbs/ Supplements* that are known to reduce headaches and migraines:


Vitamin B-2 (riboflavin) – has been shown to reduce migraine symptoms and has long been used as a supplement option

Magnesium – often times those that suffer from headaches or migraines are found to have low doses of magnesium in their blood stream.

Feverfew – a member of the daisy family, feverfew is an herb that can be ingested and has shown to be useful in the treatment of headaches and migraines.


*Always consult your naturopathic doctor before introducing herbs or supplements to your diet.

Although there are very valid and useful treatments offered by western medicine, a naturopathic perspective can be beneficial in getting to the root cause of your symptoms for headaches and migraines.

Dr. Fisel can help you find natural solutions and relief if you are battling with problematic headaches or migraines. If you live in the Guilford/ Branford/ New Haven/ Madison/ Clinton area and would like to learn more about the innovative programs Dr. Fisel has to offer, call (203) 453-0122 or CLICK HERE to schedule your consultation.


RESOURCES:

https://aanmc.org/featured-articles/naturopathic-approaches-to-headaches/
https://naturemed.org/natural-relief-for-migraine-headache-symptoms/



Why Your Injuries Aren’t Healing Properly

injuryOveruse injuries are something I see in my practice on an almost daily basis.  Whether it’s low back pain from running, shoulder pain from lifting weights, or neck pain from being in the wrong position for too long, most of us have experienced an issue related to muscle pain.  Most of us have been told what to do when it comes to dealing with the immediate trauma-rest, ice, compression, elevation, etc.  But what about the majority of you who aren’t getting relief weeks, months, or sometimes years after the initial trauma? What I’m finding is that the typical approach to soft tissue injuries (muscles, tendons, ligaments) is actually leading to further damage, and a long-term weakening of tissue.   [Read more…]

Allergies-Understanding Causes and Risks

allergies, food allergies, environmental allergies, children, alternative medicine, natural medicine  The incidence of allergic rhinitis seems to be increasing every year, among both infants and adults. Most doctors will simply treat the symptoms, but it’s important to look more closely at some of the underlying causes, and how you can prevent allergies from affecting your quality of life.

Benefits of pets, siblings, and farms

To look at this question, researchers questioned 8,486 adults, aged 20 to 40, from 13 countries, about their childhoods and their current respiratory health. After nine years, the study participants completed these questionnaires again and also were asked whether and when they developed nasal allergies or hay fever.

After taking into account other things that may affect allergies, including family history of allergies and whether their parents smoked, the researchers identified several childhood factors linked with later developing allergies:

  • Contact with children, either siblings or in daycare, decreased the risk of developing allergies.
  • The more siblings a person had, the lower his or her likelihood of developing rhinitis.
  • Sharing a bedroom with an older sibling was protective against developing allergies.
  • Having pets in the home or living on a farm as a child significantly decreased the likelihood of developing allergies.
  • Having a mother who smoked while they were in utero and when they were a child increased allergy risk.
  • Women had fewer allergies than men as kids, but more allergies as adults.

The balance between clean and not-so-clean

Some of these results may be surprising because they suggest that childhood exposure to more “dirt and germs” can keep allergies at bay. On the other hand, other studies suggest that for children growing up in urban environments, being exposed to urban pests such as cockroaches may increase allergy and asthma risk. Read on for tips on finding the right “balance of clean” to keep your family healthy.

  • If your child has been begging for a pet, don’t let the “dirt and germ factor” dissuade you. Of course, only consider adding a pet to your family if you know you can care for it properly, and pick one that fits your lifestyle. For example, cats tend to be lower maintenance than dogs.
  • Periodically taking your child out to a farm to see where our food comes from is a terrific learning experience, and it may just offer the added benefit of reducing your child’s risk of developing allergies.
  • Some parents of kids who have to share bedrooms feel they aren’t giving their kids the best of everything. But having siblings share a bedroom may be one of the best ways to allergy-proof your little ones.
I also recommend blood testing to identify potential environmental and food allergies, as this can also help to narrow down treatment options, making it more likely that you’ll experience longer term relief from hay fever symptoms.

Neuropathy and Natural Medicine

Neuropathy, whether it’s diabetic or idiopathic, is often challenging to treat, with any modality. However, I do find that the combination of acupuncture and naturopathic interventions tend to be much more successful than the “standard” protocol (which usually includes gabapentin and various cocktails of prescription painkillers). A recent study from the journal Diabetes Care (2011 July 25) discovered that 600 mg/day of the nutrient alpha-lipoic acid lead to a clinically significant improvement in patients with diabetic neuropathy. Clinically, I’ve also found that other forms of neuropathy often respond well to alpha-lipoic acid therapy as well. Other treatments that help to enhance peripheral circulation and restore nutrition to damaged nerves, such as acetyl-l-carnitine, mixed bioflavonoids, and B-vitamins, can also be beneficial in the treatment of peripheral neuropathy.

It’s not uncommon for people to be kept on medications for life when trying to deal with peripheral neuropathy pain, with the resulting relief being minimal at best. If this is something you have suffered from, don’t be afraid to seek alternatives, as there is enough clinical and research evidence to support the benefits.

Pregnant Moms and Genes

This is a great article discussing how chronic stress during pregnancy can cause behavioral problems in children, especially because of epigenetics, or how the child’s genes influence their stress response:

http://www.economist.com/node/18985981

Work Causes Heart Disease

People who regularly work long hours may be significantly increasing their risk of developing heart disease, the world’s biggest killer, British scientists said Monday.

Researchers said a long-term study showed that working more than 11 hours a day increased the risk of heart disease by 67 percent, compared with working a standard 7 to 8 hours a day.

They said the findings suggest that information on working hours — used alongside other factors like blood pressure, diabetes and smoking habits — could help doctors work out a patient’s risk of heart disease.

However, they also said it was not yet clear whether long working hours themselves contribute to heart disease risk, or whether they act as a “marker” of other factors that can harm heart health — like unhealthy eating habits, a lack of exercise or depression.

The study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine journal, followed nearly 7,100 British workers for 11 years.

“Working long days is associated with a remarkable increase in risk of heart disease,” said Mika Kivimaki of Britain’s University College London, who led the research. He said it may be a “wake-up call for people who overwork themselves.”

Cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks and strokes are the world’s largest killers, claiming around 17.1 million lives a year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Billions of dollars are spent every year on medical devices and drugs to treat them.

The findings of this study support previous research showing a link between working hours and heart disease.

For this study, men and women who worked full time and had no heart disease were selected, giving 7,095 participants.

The researchers collected data on heart risk factors like age, blood pressure, cholesterol, smoking and diabetes and also asked participants how many hours they worked — including work during the day and work brought home — on an average weekday.

During the 11-year study, 192 participants had heart attacks. Those who worked 11 hours or more a day were 67 percent more likely to have a heart attack than those with fewer hours.

Of course, heart disease is a multi-factorial issue, but those working more than 11 hours per day need to take even further precautions to lower their heart disease risk. Talk to your naturopathic doctor about laboratory studies that can help to identify numerous cardiovascular risk factors, so the proper steps can be taken to help prevent heart disease and stroke in the future. 

PMS and Essential Fatty Acids

Yet another case of naturopathic medicine being way ahead of the curve when it comes to using treatments for years before they’re eventually “proven” effective. 
Up to 95% of women suffer from at least one PMS symptom, and more than a third of these women have PMS severe enough to interrupt their routine activities. Fortunately, a new study may offer a way for women to get some much-needed relief from monthly bouts of PMS.
PUFA vs. PMS
The exact causes of PMS aren’t known, but health experts suspect that certain essential dietary fats, called polyunsaturated fatty acids, or PUFAs, may play a role. Not getting enough of and the right types of PUFAs may worsen PMS symptoms.
Researchers set out to test this theory by enrolling 120 women into a six-month study. The study authors randomly selected the women to receive a daily 1- or 2-gram PUFA supplement, or a placebo (no fatty acids).
Blood levels of cholesterol and prolactin, a hormone produced in the body that may affect PMS, were tested before and after the study. The women kept symptom diaries to track the details and severity of their PMS from month to month.
After 6 months, the researchers found that compared with the initial PMS ratings:

• Women taking the PUFA supplements had significant decreases in PMS symptoms at three and six months.

• Women taking 2 grams of PUFAs, the highest amount given, experienced the largest decrease in PMS symptoms over time.

• Women taking the placebo h
ad a small decrease in PMS symptoms at three months, but no improvement of symptoms at six months.

None of the women in the study experienced significant changes in blood levels of cholesterol or prolactin. This suggests PUFA supplements do not raise cholesterol in otherwise healthy women experiencing PMS, nor exert their anti-PMS effects through changes in prolactin levels.

Getting your essential PUFAs

If you are interested in trying a PUFA supplement, keep the following tips in mind:

• Talk to your doctor about whether PUFA supplements are right for you. Dietary supplements can interfere with medications, so err on the side of caution when adding new supplements to your self-care routine.

• The 2-gram PUFA supplements used in the study provided 420 mg of gamma linolenic acid, 350 mg of oleic acid, 690 mg of linoleic acid, 500 mg of other PUFAs, and 40 mg of vitamin E. Ask your doctor or dietitian to help you find a supplement with a similar mix of PUFAs.

• You can get more PUFAs from the food you eat as well. Try walnuts and other nuts and seeds, ground flaxseed, green leafy vegetables, tofu and other soy foods, and fatty fish, such as wild-caught salmon.

• Other lifestyle changes that may help ease PMS symptoms include getting enough sleep (seven to eight hours), exercising regularly, limiting intake of caffeine, alcohol, and sweets, and eating a healthy diet based around vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and legumes.

(Essential fatty acids for premenstrual syndrome and their effect on prolactin and total cholesterol levels: a randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled study. Accessed January 20, 2011; Available at: NewsRelease_Essential_oil pill_prevents_PMS.pdf)

More Evidence That Olive Oil and Veggies Lower Heart Disease Risk

It’s no secret that eating well is good for both body and mind, so it may not come as a surprise that a new study finds women who eat more olive oil and leafy vegetables such as salads and cooked spinach are significantly less likely to develop heart disease.

A group of Italian researchers found that women who ate at least 1 serving of leafy vegetables per day were more than 40 percent less likely to develop heart disease over an average of eight years, relative to women who ate two or fewer portions of those vegetables each week.

Women who downed at least 3 tablespoons of olive oil daily – such as in salad dressing – were also 40 percent less likely to be diagnosed with heart disease, compared to women who ate the least olive oil.

It’s not exactly clear why specifically leafy vegetables and olive oil may protect the heart, study author Dr. Domenico Palli of the Cancer Research and Prevention Institute in Florence told Reuters Health. “Probably the mechanisms responsible for the protective effect of plant-origin foods on cardiovascular diseases involve micronutrients such as folate, antioxidant vitamins and potassium, all present in green leafy vegetables.”

Folate reduces blood levels of homocysteine, Palli explained, which is thought to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease by damaging the inner lining of arteries. Other studies have shown people who eat more potassium have lower blood pressure, which can protect the cardiovascular system. Virgin olive oil may be particularly effective at lowering heart disease risk because of its high level of antioxidant plant compounds, he added.

This is not the first study to link olive oil or vegetables to good heart health. Most famously, the traditional Mediterranean diet — rich in vegetables and monounsaturated fats from olive oil and nuts, but low in saturated fat from meat and dairy — has been tied to a decreased risk of heart disease.

Mediterranean-style eating has also been credited with lowering risk for some cancers, diabetes, and, more recently, with slowing brain aging.

Cardiovascular disease is a major killer, responsible for 30 percent of all deaths worldwide and the leading cause of death for both men and women in the U.S.

To look more closely at the role of foods in protecting against heart disease, Palli and colleagues reviewed dietary information collected from nearly 30,000 Italian women participating in a large national health study. Researchers followed the women, whose mean age was 50 at the beginning of the study, for an average of 8 years, noting who developed heart disease.

In that time, the women experienced 144 major heart disease-related events, such as heart attack or bypass surgery, the authors report in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Women who ate at least one daily serving (about two ounces) of leafy vegetables – such as raw lettuce or endives, or cooked vegetables like spinach or chard — had a 46 percent lower risk of developing heart disease than women who ate at most two portions per week.

Consuming at least an ounce of olive oil per day lowered their risk by 44 percent relative to women who consumed a half-ounce or less daily, the authors found.

The women’s intake of other types of vegetables, such as roots and cabbages, and their consumption of tomatoes or fruit did not seem to be linked to their risk for major heart events.

When visiting your Naturopathic physician, make sure you request homocysteine, cardio-CRP, and fractionated lipid levels, to make sure a thorough evaluation of your cardiovascular health is being performed. You can then use these levels to track your progress, especially if you’re just transitioning to a Mediterranean-style diet.