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Dr. Matthew

multivitamin for good nutrition

5 Things to AVOID in your multivitamin

By | Blogroll

 Are you taking a multivitamin?  It is important to make sure that it is good quality, or you may be wasting your time and money.  There are many multivitamins on the market that contain synthetic vitamins, or minerals that are hard to absorb.  Sometimes it can be hard to tell whether yours is a good choice!

Your first clue is where you buy your multivitamin.  If it came from Walmart, the pharmacy, or the grocery store there is a high probability that it is not great.

Fortunately, you can tell the quality of your multivitamin in just a few minutes by reading the label if you know what to look for.  Here is a quick list of things you DON’T want (and what to look for instead).

Vitamin label

 

5 things your multivitamin should NOT contain:

  1. dl-alpha tocopherol

    .  This is a synthetic form of Vitamin E that does not occur in nature.  The natural version is d-alpha tocopherol.  Can you see the difference?  (You may need to put your reading glasses on for this one!)  The synthetic version is dl-   and the natural version is d-.  Such a small difference on the label, but an important distinction!

  2. Folic acid

      You are used to hearing about folic acid and seeing it as an ingredient in fortified foods (and in the vast majority of multivitamins).  But did you know that folic acid does not occur in nature?  This is another synthetic ingredient used to fortify processed foods.   The natural form is folinic acid, or folate.  Look for a multivitamin with methylfolate (sometimes abreviated “MTHF”) – the neurologically activated form. 

  3. Cyanocobalamin

      This is a kind of Vitamin B12, but this form of B12 is not the natural form that is found in your food. “Cobalamin” refers to B12, and “cyano” refers to cyanide – yes, there is a cyanide molecule attached to the B12!  This is not going to harm you (it is just not the best kind of B12) but it will certainly help you to remember which one you don’t want!  Look for methylcobalamin (or “methylB12”), which is the neurologically activated form. 

  4. Calcium carbonate

      This form of calcium is hard to absorb (so it doesn’t work very well) but it is cheap for the manufacturer so it is very common.  Instead, look for calcium citrate, which is easier to digest and absorb.  This is even more important if you are taking a  separate calcium supplement.  Most of the common calcium supplements you’ll find on the shelf contain calcium carbonate, but calcium citrate is readily available if you take the time to check the labels.

  5. Magnesium oxide

     This is another example of a poorly absorbed mineral which is found in most multivitamins.  Minerals should be “chelated” (which means they are attached to another molecule for better absorption). Look for one of these chelated forms:  magnesium malate, magnesium glycinate, or magnesium citrate.  You don’t have to remember all the options – just remember to avoid the one with the X (oxide)!

Also make sure to look at the “inactive ingredients”

Inactive ingredients include the fillers that hold the multivitamin pill together and other ingredients that may have been added, such as artificial colors or preservatives.  Here are some things to watch out for:   

  • Food colors

Do you really care what color your vitamin capsule is? Look for colors such as FD&C Red #40, FD&C Yellow #6, and FD&C Yellow # 5.  No good quality nutraceutical company would ever put food coloring in their supplements, so this is a major clue that your multivitamin is not high quality.

  • Sugar     sugar

    Avoid sugar in any form, including sucrose, fructose, and dextrose.  Do I need to even comment about this one? 

  • Artificial sweeteners

    Sartificial sweetenersweeteners like saccharin, aspartame, acesulfame and sucralose are harmful to your gut bacteria and increase your chances of having blood sugar problems (among other negative health effects).  You won’t find these in a high quality multivitamin.  Liquid vitamins may have sweeteners to make them taste better –  acceptable natural sweeteners include stevia, lo han fruit and monk fruit.

This is an ingredient list from one of the most popular multivitamins marketed to children.  See if you can find any ingredients that are not recommended:

INGREDIENTS: Sucrose, Sodium Ascorbate, Stearic Acid, Maltodextrin, Invert Sugar, Gelatin, Vitamin E Acetate, Artificial and Natural Flavors, Niacinamide, Corn Starch, FD&C Red # 40, FD&C Yellow #6, Magnesium stearate, FD&C Blue #2 Aluminum Lake, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin, Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin A Acetate, Folic Acid, Beta-Carotene, Vitamin D3, Vitamin B12.

The label should also list things that the supplement does NOT contain, like common allergens.  Look  for a statement like this:  “Does not contain wheat, corn, soy, milk, yeast, egg……”

healthy diet with fruits and vegetables

No multivitamin (or any nutritional supplement) can ever compensate for poor nutrition.   Eat a healthy diet rich in fruit and vegetables of all colors of the rainbow.  Supplementing with a multivitamin can help ensure you are not missing any nutrients, but only if you do your homework and make sure that you are taking a good one!

If you would like to talk to us about optimizing your nutritional status, including testing for nutrient levels or reviewing your current nutritional supplements to make sure you are on the right track – please let us know!

As always –

Living WELL is the best medicine!

Dr Deb

Is Estrogen Replacement Safe?

By | Blogroll

Are you concerned about the risks of estrogen replacement?  You may be confused by conflicting information.  Lets set the record straight.

Menopausal symptoms aren’t for the faint of heart

 There are the hot flashes, sleeplessness, and fatigue  The bloating and forgetfulness (what was that word you were looking for?).    And then there’s vaginal dryness that can make sex painful (if you even care about sex at all anymore!).  

Estrogen replacement can help you feel normal again.  But many women are fearful.  They have heard that they could get breast cancer or have a heart attack, so they suffer through the symptoms.  If this is you, then please read on!  You don’t have to suffer any longer….

Estrogen has important benefits

 

First, lets talk about the benefits of estrogen.  It has literally hundreds of roles in your body!

 

Estrogen helps to protect your heart.  When you are premenopausal, your risk of a heart attack is much less than a man’s risk.  But after menopause, when estrogen levels drop, the risks become equal.

 

It also helps to keep your tissues hydrated.  Without estrogen you become dry:  dry eyes, dry mouth, dry skin, dry hair, dry vagina……

 

Your bone health also depends on hormones, and estrogen in particular helps to prevent bone loss.  While this may not be something you are particularly worried about right now, it should be!  If you have a broken hip because of osteoporosis, there is a good chance that you will end up in assisted living. Preventing bone loss now is very important for your future mobility and independence.  

 

 Estrogen makes you look younger!

 

Something you may be very concerned about right now is how old you look!  Estrogen affects skin health – it helps to provide hydration and blood flow to keep that youthful glow to your skin.    It maintains collagen which helps keep your skin elastic to minimize fine lines and wrinkles.  You may notice your skin aging rapidly as you go through menopause.  One research study found that women with higher estrogen levels looked on average 8 years YOUNGER than women with low estrogen levels!

Arguably the most important role of estrogen is on the health of your brain.  Estrogen is energizing to your brain, so if your estrogen levels are low you may feel more tired.  It is also important for the quality of your sleep, and obviously you have to be able to sleep to have good energy!

 

 Estrogen is an anti-depressant

 

Estrogen is a natural anti-depressant.  Serotonin is the natural brain chemical responsible for peace and joy.  Estrogen activates serotonin receptors, so obviously you want that!  If your estrogen levels are low, you may feel more flat, anxious or unmotivated.   You may have been prescribed an anti-depressant medication to try to boost serotonin levels (like Prozac, Celexa, or Zoloft for example).  If you can normalize your estrogen levels,  your mood may improve without the need for medication.

 

There is a very important relationship between estrogen and memory.   If your estrogen level drops you may find yourself forgetting things.  What is his name?  Why did you walk into the room? Where did you leave the car keys?  It can be alarming and you may even worry that you are experiencing the early stages of Alzheimers!  Fortunately  your memory can improve significantly with restoration of normal estrogen levels.  

 

 Menopause makes you gain weight

 

Did you know that the average woman gains 20 pounds as she goes through menopause?  Estrogen deficiency can cause you to pack on the pounds, even if you haven’t changed your diet or exercise. Of course, if you are tired, unmotivated and not sleeping well you may be finding it more difficulty to maintain healthy lifestyle habits!

As you can see, estrogen is very important for how you feel, how you look and how you will age.  But many women are scared of hormone replacement, so lets talk about where the fear came from and whether it is warranted.

 

Medical study suggested estrogen replacement is risky

 

In July 2002, the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) study found higher risks of heart disease, strokes and breast cancer in women on hormone replacement therapy.  Naturally women and their doctors were scared, and in the next 10 years hormone replacement use dropped by 79 percent.

 

Newer studies are showing that warning women off hormones was a mistake.

 

Is estrogen replacement safe?

 

A study done by doctors at Yale found that  estrogen AVOIDANCE may have led to as many as 90,000 preventable deaths.  The study found that estrogen therapy actually led to LESS deaths from heart attacks and breast cancer.   According to the authors:  “Estrogen therapy in younger postmenopausal women is associated with a decisive reduction in all-cause mortality” (meaning you are LESS likely to die if you are on estrogen replacement).  

 

Women on hormones live longer!

 

Another study supports this.  Almost half a million women in Finland were followed over 15 years.  The results show that the longer the women were on estrogen replacement, the lower their risks for heart disease and strokes.  In fact, all cause mortality (meaning death from ANY cause, including breast cancer) was reduced by up to 30%.

 

Part of the reason that you are getting conflicting messages, is because it wasn’t really estrogen that was causing the problems.  In the WHI study, some women were given a synthetic drug that mimics progesterone (called medroxyprogesterone acetate).  This drug is used to prevent uterine cancer, and it IS associated with an increase in the risk of breast cancer and heart disease, so please avoid it.  The natural (“bio-identical”) form of progesterone has NOT been shown to have these risks, so it is a better choice.

 

I want you to notice that these studies were looking at medical problems, like heart attacks. They didn’t consider the effects of menopause on your marriage and other relationships.   Or how the hormone changes affect your ability to function at work.  Or how changes in your energy and mood are affecting the quality of your life.  I think that you’ll agree these issues are also important!

 

 You don’t have to suffer!

 

 

While estrogen is not appropriate for everyone, for most women, there is no need to suffer with symptoms of menopause due to fear of hormone replacement. Your individual risks are related to many factors including your age, whether you are using bio-identical or synthetic hormones and the delivery method of the hormones (for examples pills vs topical estrogen).  Please ask us about your personal risks and the potential benefits you can expect, including improved memory, energy, mood, sleep and even younger looking skin.   It is important to be well informed!

 

 If you are interested in learning more about estrogen and whether estrogen replacement may be a good idea for you, click here.  Because I know that this is complicated and confusing issue for many women, I wrote a book to explain what you need to know if you are considering hormone replacement therapy.  You can find it here:  This Is NOT Normal! A Busy Woman’s Guide to Symptoms of Hormone Imbalance.
If you are interested in scheduling an appointment to talk with us about your personal situation, please call 704-752-9346, or email questions@signaturewellness.org.
Please don’t suffer out of fear.  You deserve to LOVE the way you feel!
Dr Deb

How to Get the Beauty of Healthy Skin

By | Blogroll

 

One of the first things people see when they meet you is your skin.  Having a clear, glowing complexion makes you look healthier, younger, and more attractive.   Healthy skin starts from the inside and nourishing your skin with a healthy diet and good lifestyle habits can help slow the aging process.

Here are 10 factors that damage your skin that you should avoid, and 10 factors to help nourish your skin and give you a healthy glow!

10 Factors that age your skin  

 

1.  Sun exposure

UV rays from the sun damage and age your skin.  UVA rays give you a suntan, but also cause wrinkles and premature aging.  UVB rays are the ones that cause sun burns, and can also trigger skin cancer.  Sun exposure can lead to areas of hyperpigmentation.  Dark spots are formed as part of skin’s the defense system as it is trying to protect itself.

Protect your skin with a good sunscreen that has an SPF of at least 30, but make sure that your sunscreen is not full of harmful chemicals.  Look for a mineral sunscreen that contains zinc oxide or titanium oxide, as opposed to a chemical sunscreen.  Chemical sunscreens are absorbed into your skin and then absorb UV rays, but some chemicals can have harmful effects.  Mineral sunscreens sit on top of your skin and reflect the UV rays – these are a healthier choice.  Most sunscreens sold at the pharmacy will be chemical based.

After experimenting with various sunscreens, I really love Daily Shield Lotion Tinted SPF 50 Sunscreen by Epionce.  It is great for all skin types, and contains both zinc oxide and titanium oxide as well as botanical ingredients including sunflower, argan oil, rosemary extract and apple fruit extract.  Apart from being an effective way to protect your skin, it also applies with a nice “skin feel” (it isn’t thick and greasy like most sunscreens) and it acts as a great base under makeup – in fact it was awarded “Best Under Makeup” by the Shape Magazine 2017 Sun Awards.

2.  Air pollution

Chemicals in air pollution are harmful and lead to dryness, acne, and aging skin.  For example, carbon monoxide (from car exhaust) depletes the supply of oxygen to the skin, which can cause a dull complexion, dryness and premature aging.  Sulfur dioxide (from power plant smoke stacks) can cause damage to the lipid layer protecting your skin, leading to irritation and skin sensitivity.

A good quality mineral sun screen (like Epionce’s Daily Shield Lotion) can also help to protect your skin from environmental toxins.

3.   Heat

Heat can also damage your skin.  A study done in 2016 study showed damage of collagen and elastin fibers, broken capillaries and development of dark spots when skin was exposed to  heat >90 degrees F.   Try to stay cool!

4. Smoking

Cigarette smoke contains many chemicals that are very harmful to the health of your skin and will lead to increased wrinkles and skin aging.  Now is a great time to quit!

5.  Sugar

You already know that sugar isn’t good for your health, but did you know it ages your skin?  When you eat sugar (or things that quickly convert to sugar in your bloodstream, like bread and pasta), your insulin level spikes and causes inflammation, which breaks down collagen and elastin.  Sugar sticks to proteins in your body (including collagen in your skin) which promotes wrinkles and also worsens rosacea and acne.  Ditch the sugar if you want healthy skin!

6. Processed food

Processed food won’t provide the healthy nutrients your skin needs, and will increase inflammation, which promotes wrinkles.  One of the most inflammatory foods is vegetable oil (like corn and soybean oil).  Look for extra virgin olive oil instead.

7.  Too much alcohol

Alcohol is a diuretic, and promotes dehydration and dry skin.  When your liver is busy processing the alcohol it won’t be able to be as effective flushing other toxins from your system.  Alcohol can exacerbate rosacea, acne and wrinkles.  It can also promote a ruddy skin complexion.

 

8.  Stress

When you are stressed, your body will make more cortisol – which is a “wear and tear” hormone that ages you prematurely.  It promotes thinner skin, age spots, and wrinkles.  Stress reduction, like yoga, breathing exercises and meditation, can help you feel healthy and help you have healthy skin!

9.  Menopause 

Women often notice rapid skin aging after menopause, mainly due to loss of estrogen.  In fact, in one study, menopausal women with the lowest estrogen looked 8 years older than menopausal women with the highest estrogen!

10.  Excessive cleansing

Unlike your pots, your skin doesn’t need to be scrubbed.  Irritating your skin by scrubbing or using harsh chemical cleansers and skin care products can accelerate aging.

10 Factors to keep your skin young

1.  Antioxidant Vitamins  

When your skin is damaged by any of the factors listed above, anti-oxidant vitamins, including Vit A, Vit C, and Vit E, are an important defense mechanism to help protect your skin.  The vitamins work together, so taking a pill with one vitamin won’t work as well as if you are getting all of them together in a good diet.

For healthy skin, eat a variety of brightly colored fruits and vegetables to increase your intake of these important nutrients (this is the most important step!).    You can also apply them to your skin.   Consider something like Intense Defense Serum from Epionce.  It contains natural sources of Vitamins A, B, C, D and E, and acts like a multivitamin for your skin!

2.  Omega 3s

Omega 3 fatty acids are natural anti-inflammatory.   Lack of omega 3’s can result in dry, scaly or irritated skin.  A common condition called “keratosis pilaris”, results in dry bumps on the back of the arms, and sometimes also on the outside of the thighs.  Increasing omega 3 intake can help resolve the problem.

It is hard to get enough omega 3s in our modern diet, so deficiencies are very common.  Eat more fatty fish (such as salmon), ground flax seeds, and walnuts to boost your levels, but a fish oil supplement can also be helpful.

3.  Exercise 

Exercise is good for your muscles and heart, but it is also great for healthy skin!  Regular exercise nourishes the skin by pumping blood throughout your tissues. The improved circulation carries oxygen and nutrients to your cells, and carries away waste products.

4  Probiotics

Just as we all have bacteria growing in our gut, we also have bacteria growing on our skin.  We need the healthy bacteria (probiotics) to keep our gut health, and we also need the right balance of good bacteria for healthy skin.

Eating fermented foods, such as kombucha, kimchi, kefir, or sauerkraut can help to maintain healthy bacteria in your gut (and on your skin!).  You can also take a probiotic supplement.

5.  Water

Staying hydrated is very important for heathy skin.  Skin is 64 percent water – when you are chronically dehydrated, your skin will look more dull and dry.  The average woman will need eight 8oz glasses of water in a day – but you will need more in hot weather and when you are exercising.

6.  Sleep

A recent medical study looking at 60 women between the ages of 30-49 showed that women who were getting poor quality sleep had more skin aging compared with women of the same age who had good quality sleep.  They also showed that the skin of women with poor sleep had less ability to recover after sun exposure.  For a healthy body and healthy skin, aim for 8 hours of sleep each night.

7.  Vitamin D

Vit D really acts more like a hormone than a vitamin, and is important for healthy skin.  Instead of getting Vit D in your food, you make it in your skin when your skin is exposed to sunlight.  Your skin is constantly replacing dead skin cells, and you need adequate Vit D levels in order to efficiently carry out this task.  Vit D is important for the barrier function of your skin, which locks in moisture and keeps your skin soft.  If Vit D is insufficient, your skin will become thinner and more fragile, as well as getting dry and wrinkled, and can sag due to loss of the structural support under the skin.

10-20 minutes of sun exposure per day is important – without sunscreen, because sunscreen blocks 100% of Vit D production.  During the winter, the suns rays may not be strong enough to make an adequate amount of Vit D no matter how long you stay outside, especially if you live farther north.  Most people are Vit D deficient and require a Vit D supplement.  You can have your Vit D level measured to know whether you need to take a supplement, and how much to take.

8.  Polyphenols

Green tea, berries and pomegranates are rich in a family of nutrients called “polyphenols” which are powerful anti-oxidants.  Polyphenols help minimize sun damage from UV rays, reduce inflammation, and even protect your skin cells from DNA damage, minimizing the risk of skin cancer.  For healthy skin, make sure to include these foods in your diet.  Polyphenols are also available in nutritional supplements, including green tea extract, resveratrol and grape seed extract.

9.   SkinPen Microneedling treatments

If you want smoother, brighter skin with less dark spots, rough spots and fine wrinkles, consider microneedling, a new skin treatment that harnesses your body’s own natural ability to heal.  Microneedles stimulate your skin to make more restorative collagen and elastin and reduce inflammation.  It is also a great treatment for acne scars.  This is a very popular treatment because of the great results we see!

10.  Healthy skin care products 

Be careful what you put on your skin!  You absorb the chemicals in skin care products, so the general rule is: if you wouldn’t eat it, then you shouldn’t put it on your skin. Skin care products should be free of parabens, a hormone-disrupting chemical that is found in most personal care products including cosmetics, lotions, and shampoos.  If the product contains “fragrance”, this typically contains phthalates, another hormone disruptor.  Look for more natural choices.

We recommend Epionce skin care products.  They are formulated to be free of parabens, sulfates, gluten and fragrance, and we love the results!

If you take care of the health of your body, you will be rewarded with healthy skin!  If you want more information about how to get the beauty of healthy skin, we are pleased to offer a FREE skin consultation!  Call 704-752-9346 to book yours today.

As always, living well is the best medicine!

 

Dr Deb Matthew

 

Balance your Hormones so you can LOVE the way you Feel!

By | Blogroll

Are you noticing that you don’t quite feel like yourself anymore?  Maybe you are feeling more anxious or depressed.  Or maybe you just feel kind of flat and unmotivated – you have to push yourself to do the stuff that you really have to do, but the other things (the things you used to really enjoy!) just don’t get done.  Exercise often falls into this category.  But even if you are forcing yourself to walk or go to the gym, it can seem next to impossible to lose weight (especially that darn belly fat!).

You may be waking at 2am and 4am, and then having a hard time dragging yourself out of bed in the morning, or having a crash in energy in the afternoon.  You may have brain fog, or forget things, like why you walked in the room or where you left your keys.  Maybe you struggle to find that word you want.  You may even secretly wonder whether these are the first signs of impending Alzheimers!

You may have already  complained to your doctor and been handed a prescription for a sleeping pill or anti-depressant, when the real problem may be your hormones!

Hormones affect MANY things!

We all go through hormonal changes with age, and hormones affect MANY functions in your body!

Hormones affect your:

  • Energy
  • Mood
  • Sleep
  • Memory
  • Motivation
  • Self-esteem

They are important for the health of your:

  • Skin
  • Hair
  • Heart
  • Brain
  • Bones
  • Muscles
  • Urinary tract
  • Vaginal lining

The interplay between your various hormones is complex and is affected by many factors that are in your control. Your nutrition, stress, sleep, exercise, and general outlook on life all have an impact.  The good news is with some lifestyle changes you may find that you feel much better very quickly.

Hormone replacement is an option


Some women may feel better with hormone replacement.  Since we are all very unique, measuring your hormone levels to learn about your unique hormone pattern is an important first step.  You may be deficient in estrogen and progesterone.  Your next-door neighbor may have too much cortisol and not enough testosterone.

What are bio-identical hormones?

Remember that synthetic hormones are not a match to the hormones your body naturally produces. They are not likely to have exactly the same effects as hormones that ARE an exact match.  Hormones that are an exact match are called bio-identical hormones.

If you do elect to start on bio-identical hormones, watch for symptoms that may indicate that the dosage is not quite right. Some symptoms of estrogen excess, for example, can include breast tenderness and fluid retention. It could mean that the dose of estrogen was too high for you (we are all very unique and respond differently to the hormones) or it could mean that the balance between estrogen and progesterone is not quite right. A simple dosage adjustment should do the trick and resolve your symptoms quickly. Hormone replacement should help you feel normal again—there should not be any negative symptoms if dosed appropriately.

If you want to learn more, you can check out my book which is available here.

.

Don’t guess – test!

Once you have been on your treatment for a few months, your hormone levels should be retested. The type of test chosen (saliva, blood, or urine testing) will depend on the form of hormone replacement you are using (topical cream,  patches, pills, or pellets, for example).

Tips for best results….

But what if your hormones are balanced and you still don’t feel your best? Remember that hormone replacement is not a magic pill. You will need to do your part to make sure you are taking care of yourself – eating healthy foods, managing your stress, getting 8 hours of sleep, drinking enough water, and exercising regularly will all help you get the best results from your hormone replacement.

There are also underlying health factors that can diminish the results you get from your hormone replacement.  In fact, these factors may be the reason that you are having hormone problems in the first place!  Some examples of hormone-disrupting health issues included;

  • Hidden food sensitivities
  • exposure to toxins
  • chronic inflammation
  • digestive problems (like constipation and IBS)
  • nutritional deficiencies
  • chronic stress – this is the most common factor that we see.

Addressing all these issues (treating you in a holistic way, and not only focusing on your hormones) is the best way to get you back to feeling great!

You deserve to feel great!

You don’t have to put up with feeling exhausted, bloated, foggy brained, or irritable. If you are told by your doctor that you are “normal”, but you KNOW that you don’t feel well, don’t give up!  Find a doctor who can help you, because you deserve to LOVE the way you feel.

Best wishes on your journey to wellness.

Dr Deb

 

Deborah Matthew MD

 

 

 

 

 

Is a Cortisol Problem Making You Tired?

By | Blogroll

Are you tired?

Do you have a hard time dragging yourself out of bed in the morning?  Do you need caffeine to get through the afternoon?  And then, after feeling sluggish all day, do you get a second wind late in the evening and have a hard time falling asleep?

Or maybe you find that you don’t handle stress well,  and little things (that shouldn’t really be a big deal), feel overwhelming and exhausting.

If so, you certainly aren’t alone!  You may have a problem with cortisol, your main stress hormone.

Cortisol is your stress hormone

Your adrenal glands produce cortisol to help you cope with stress.  Then, when the stress is over, your cortisol level goes back down to normal.  This is a normal stress response.

Here’s the problem.  In the past, our ancestor’s stresses were dangerous things, like being chased by a saber-toothed tiger and having to flee for their life. The physical activity (running) helped them to clear the extra stress hormones from their system.

In the modern world, you tend to have lots of little stresses all day long that probably don’t involve running for your life.  Today’s stress is much more likely to involve fuming at the slow traffic while worry about being late for your appointment.  The end result can be chronically elevated cortisol levels.

When we talk about stress, we don’t just include emotional stress (like family issues, work stress).  Physical stress counts as well!  Things like allergies, chronic back pain, and insomnia are also stressors on your body.   You can be stressed from things you are not even aware of,  like hidden nutritional deficiencies or toxins in the environment.  These days, it is very common to have high stress levels, with the high cortisol that follows.

High cortisol causes health problems

If your cortisol level remains chronically elevated, your health can start to suffer.  In fact, stress is one of the most important contributing factors to chronic disease! High cortisol can contribute to fatigue, depression, anxiety, food cravings, weight gain, insomnia, high blood pressure, bone loss, poor memory, reduced immune system function, menstrual problems and increased menopausal symptoms. It is common for women with cortisol problems to have a bumpier ride as they go through menopause.

Cortisol is a “wear and tear” hormone – it ages you at an accelerated rate.   You may have witnessed this – people who live very stressful lives often look older than their age.

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

5 tips to help normalize cortisol naturally

  1.  Reduce stress. Look for ways to simplify your life.  Do you really need to volunteer to bake cookies for the church bake sale AND volunteer to shop for decorations for your kid’s school party on the same week that your mother in law will be in town staying with you?

 

 

2.  Find healthy ways of coping with stress.  Breathing exercises, meditation, yoga, walking, laughter and heartfelt prayer are good examples of stress management techniques.

 

3.  Avoid excessive caffeine and sugar.   These may help to keep you moving in the short term, but in the long term they make things worse.  Addressing your stress and normalizing cortisol levels can improve your energy so you don’t need to rely on caffeine.

 

 

4.  Get enough sleep.  It can be hard to fall asleep (and stay asleep!) when cortisol is a problem, because it plays an important role in your natural circadian rhythms.  But if you are staying up late (taking advantage of that second wind at night to get stuff done!) and then you have to get up early to get to work or get the kids to school, you can’t realistically expect to get out of this cycle of stress and fatigue.

5.  Nutritional supplements can help!  There are a number of supplements that we recommend depending 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 for most people.

You can be tested

Your cortisol level can be measured in a saliva or urine test.  We prefer to measure cortisol 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 then hard to fall asleep!

Take the quiz!

Take our quiz to see if your symptoms could be the result of a cortisol problem!

Help is available

If you have having symptoms that are affecting your quality of life, and would like help to get back to feeling great, contact the office for further information at 704-752-9346 or questions@signaturewellness.org.

Please don’t suffer unnecessarily!  You deserve to LOVE the way you feel!

Belly fat? Top 5 hidden causes!

By | Blogroll

 Are you struggling with belly fat?  Eating less and exercising more just not doing the trick?    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.

Your hormones affect your weight (especially belly fat)!

If you are a woman going through the hormone changes of menopause,  weight gain is typical – in fact, the average woman gains about 20 pounds as she goes through menopause!  Weight gain is also typical for men with low testosterone.

Thyroid and stress hormones (including cortisol) control 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-eating.

Your hormones also determine WHERE you store fat (hips vs belly, for example).  Obviously hormonal balance and healthy lifestyle habits are important for successful weight loss.  But did you know that there are often underlying factors that are also affecting your weight?

Top 5 hidden (fixable!) causes of belly fat

1.  Hidden food sensitivities   

It is very common to develop “sensitivities” to foods.  A sensitivity causes low grade inflammation which promotes weight gain.   Avoiding 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

We are all exposed to thousands of chemicals on a regular basis.  Many of these are “hormone disrupters” – meaning that they interfere with your metabolism and hormonal  balance.  People with higher levels of toxins tend to gain more weight and are more likely to have diabetes, as well as other hormone problems.  Avoiding toxins and “detoxifying” (flushing toxins from your body) can be important for successful weight loss.

3.  Gut bugs!

You have trillions of bacteria living in your digestive tract.  If you have too many of the wrong bugs and not enough of the good, health-promoting “probiotic” bacteria, you can gain weight.  In some cases, the bacteria even cause us to extract more calories from the same amount of food!  So if you feel like you can gain weight from just one bite – you may be partially correct!

4. Candida

Overgrowth of yeast (candida) in your gut is another common problem.  Candida causes sugar cravings (that can be severe!), making it difficult to avoid sugary junk.  Candida also causes bloating, brain fog, fatigue, and hormonal imbalances

5.  Inflammation

Inflammatory chemicals circulating in your blood stream cause problems with insulin and cortisol, resulting in belly fat.  Insulin and cortisol cause more inflammation – so a cycle is created where your body wants to keep storing 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 program that addresses ALL of these underlying issues simultaneously is much more likely to result in successful longterm weight loss.  And besides a slimmer tummy, you can also 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 we can help!  Call today to get started!  704-752-9346 or questions@signaturewellness.org

Why are hormone pellets so popular?

By | Blogroll, Uncategorized

Have you heard about hormone pellets?  Here is why you may be interested  in learning more.

Hormones change as you age

As we age, things change.  One of those changes is a drop in our hormone levels!  Hormones, like estrogen and testosterone,  affect your energy, mood, memory, sex drive, and metabolism. (Did you know that the average woman gains 20 pounds as she goes through menopause and has three times the risk of depression?) Problems with your hormones affect the health of your skin, hair, and nails, and increase your risk of diseases like osteoporosis, dementia, and heart disease.

Bio-identical hormone therapy can help!

Bio-identical hormone replacement therapy can help you get back to feeling like yourself again!

When I started my practice in 2007, I mostly prescribed topical bio-identical hormone creams. This allowed me to prescribe the right mixture of hormones based on your unique needs (a pinch of estrogen, a dollop of progesterone and just a drop of testosterone, for example!).  It worked well – but not everyone had great results. In 2009, I started offering hormone pellet therapy, and now 70% of my patients prefer pellets to topical cream.

Hormone pellets are smaller than a grain of rice, contain a natural plant source of estrogen and/or testosterone, and are available in a variety of doses. They are inserted under the skin of your buttock in a simple, painless office procedure. The pellets gradually dissolve, and a small, steady stream of hormone is released into the bloodstream.

Pellets can fix hormone symptoms fast – sometimes within 48 hours!  The convenience is very popular – you simply come in every 3-4 months to have the pellet replaced.

Hormone pellets can help resolve your symptoms

Hormone pellets can  help with a wide variety of symptoms including:

– insomnia

– fatigue

– low sex drive

– lack of motivation

– hot flashes and night sweats

– heart palpitations

– headaches (especially premenstrual or hormonal migraines)

– irritability/mood swings

– depression

– anxiety

– memory loss

– leakage of urine

– aches and pains

– vaginal dryness

– lack of muscle tone

– dry skin and hair

– loss of strength

Pellets help with Low T

Bio-identical testosterone pellets are popular with men too.  They help men with the same symptoms! (just swap out vaginal dryness for erectile function!)

Are pellets safe?

This treatment seems “new” but in fact hormone pellets have been used with great success in the United States, Europe and Australia since 1938! Pellets deliver consistent, steady levels of hormones and avoid the fluctuations of hormone levels seen with other kinds of hormone replacement, like topical creams.

Hormones delivered by pellets bypass the liver, and don’t increase the risk of blood clots (which is a problem with estrogen pills).

Medical studies have found that hormone pellets are very effective at preventing and treating bone loss and for relieving menopausal symptoms, with even better success than pills or creams in some cases.  This is why they have become the most popular method of bio-identical hormone replacement in my practice – patients  are getting better results!

Pellets do not have the same risk of breast cancer as synthetic hormone replacement pills.  In fact, some studies show there may be a reduction in the incidence of breast cancer with pellet therapy. In a study on breast cancer survivors, testosterone pellets did not increase the risk of cancer recurrence.

I have listed some medical studies on hormone pellets below.

You have choices!

There are many options for bio-identical hormone replacement therapy including topical or vaginal creams, patches, pills, sublingual lozenges and pellets.  It is nice to have choices, and important to have thorough discussion of all your options, including all the risks, benefits and possible side effects, so you can make the best choice!

Wondering whether your symptoms could be due to hormone deficiency?  Take our hormone quiz! Please don’t suffer with symptoms due to hormone deficiencies.  You deserve to LOVE the way you feel!

Yours in health!

Dr Deb Matthew MD

References:

Beneficial effects of testosterone therapy in women measured by the validated Menopause Rating Scale (MRS)Glaser R, York AE, Dimitrakakis C. Maturitas. 20011;68:355-361

“Testosterone, delivered by subcutaneous pellet implant has been shown to improve hot flashes, heart discomfort, sleep problems, depressive mood, irritability, anxiety, physical fatigue, memory loss, migraine headaches, sexual problems, bladder problems (incontinence), vaginal dryness, joint and muscular discomfort in both pre-menopausal and post-menopausal patients without adverse drug events”

Moderate dosage estrogen–androgen therapy improves continuation rates in postmenopausal women: impact of the WHI reports Gambrell and Natrajan CLIMACTERIC 2006;9:224–233

“Long-term studies with up to 30 years follow up, confirm the safety of testosterone therapy and absence of adverse drug events with the pellet implant.   No increase of breast cancer even after 20 years of hormone pellet therapy”

Skeletal effects of oral oestrogen compared with subcutaneous oestrogen and testosterone in postmenopausal women.  Savvas et al.  British Medical Journal 1988  Jul 30;297(6644): 331-333

“Subcutaneous oestrogen is more effective than oral oestrogen in preventing osteoporosis, probably owing to the more physiological (premenopausal) serum oestradiol concentrations achieved.”

Reduced breast cancer incidence in women treated with subcutaneous testosterone, or testosterone with anastrozole:  a prospective, observational study.  Glaser et al.  Maturitas 2013 Dec;76(4):342-9

“Testosterone and/or testosterone+anastrozole, delivered subcutaneously as a pellet implant, reduced the incidence of breast cancer in pre and postmenopausal women.”

Four harmful chemicals in your own home cause hormone symptoms!

By | Blogroll

Are you concerned about chemicals in the environment?  Did you know that chemicals in the environment (including your own fridge and bathroom cabinet) may be contributing to your hormone symptoms?

Tens of thousands of chemicals have been invented in the past 70 years.  Most of these have never been tested to see whether they are safe for humans!   We are exposed to small amounts of these chemicals on a daily basis through food, water, cosmetics, and air.

Many of these chemicals are “hormone disruptors”, which means that they interfere with our normal hormone function.

Hormone symptoms may be caused by chemicals

Health problems in women that may be associated with hormone disrupting chemicals include uterine fibroids, fibrocystic breast disease, endometriosis, infertility, PMS, and menstrual problems.  


In men these chemicals have been associated with low testosterone levels,  reduced sperm count, infertility, and impaired sexual function. 

Lets look at four of the most common culprits in more detail.

Bisphenol A (BPA)

BPA is a component of plastic and has estrogen-like effects.  (In fact, it was first discovered in the 1880’s and was evaluated for use as an estrogen drug, before it was abandoned in favor of a compound with even stronger estrogen effects – DES.  DES was one of the first hormone disruptors identified and was eventually banned by the FDA for causing birth defects!)

BPA is found in hard plastic bottles (including baby bottles!), dental sealants that we put on our kids teeth, credit card receipts, dollar bills, and the inside lining of cans of food.

To minimize your exposure,  avoid plastic bottles (especially if scratched or old),  buy fresh or frozen food instead of canned whenever possible, and avoid products packaged in recyclable plastic containers marked #7.


Phthalates are found in soft plastic, such as water bottles, teething toys, baby bottle nipples, and plastic wrap for food.

To minimize your risk,  don’t reuse your water bottles, and don’t microwave your food in plastic (the heat increases the amount of chemicals leaching into your food) – use glass instead.

 


Parabens are a group of preservatives found in personal care products, like cosmetics, lotions and shampoo.

Read the labels of all the products that you put on your skin to see if they contain parabens. Anything you put on your skin will be absorbed into your body.

 

 

 

Pesticides

DDT was banned decades ago when it was found to be a hormone disruptor, but overall our use of pesticides has increased over the years.  In recent research,  30 out of 37 commonly used pesticides tested by the University of London were found to be hormone disruptors.  The one found to have the most potent effects at blocking male hormones was an insecticide called fenitrothion, which is an organophosphate used on orchard fruits, grains, rice vegetables and other crops.  There is significant concern for fetuses and nursing infants, as these hormone disruptors may have effects on the developing reproductive tract.

In this case, buying organic foods DOES help to reduce risk of exposure.    A study found lower levels of pesticide residues in the urine of preschoolers fed an organic diet compared with preschoolers fed a standard diet.  It is so shocking to me that pesticides are found in ANY preschoolers!

How we can help you!

Hormone testing is available to help identify imbalances of sex hormones (estrogen, progesterone, testosterone), thyroid hormones, and stress hormones including cortisol.   It is also possible to do gene testing and nutritional testing to learn how well your liver is able to detoxify.   Detox programs, including nutritional recommendations and targeted nutritional supplements, can optimize your ability to clear toxins from your system.

If you are having symptoms that you think could be from hormonal problems or toxins and you would like to be evaluated, please call us!  704-752-9346 or email questions@signaturewellness.org.

Yours in health,

Dr Deb Matthew

 

 

 

Want to preserve your memory? Make sure to eat this!

By | Blogroll

Both of my grandmother’s had Alzheimers, so I have a personal interest in doing what I can to help preserve my memory for the future.  This is especially important because although there are 47 million people suffering with dementia,  we don’t have any medicines that actually help!  

 

Alzheimers medications are disappointing

 

Pfizer recently pulled the plug on its entire Alzheimers drug research division – they recognized that their drugs were not looking promising and decided to give up on them.  This is especially noteworthy since we expect the number of people with dementia to go way up in the future.  If had developed a drug that really worked, it could have been worth Billions!

 

New research shows how you can preserve your memory!

 

But there IS something that has recently been shown to successfully preserve your memory.  A medical study in the journal Neurology looked at 960 people over the age of 50 and followed them for almost 5 years, studying their memory.  The people who got the most of this stuff scored significantly better on memory tests than the people who got the least.  

 

Would you want this?  How much would you be willing to pay?

 

 Well, the good news is you CAN get it!  And while it is not covered by health insurance, it is very affordable.   

 

Drumroll please……The marvelous brain preserving, memory maintaining substance is GREEN LEAFY VEGGIES! 

 

In the study, the people who ate the most green leafy vegetables (at least one serving of daily) had memory scores that were so much better than the people who hardly ever ate them, it was as though their brains were 11 years younger!  

 

Eat your greens!

 

Do you have any doubt that veggies are a good idea?  Well apparently, your doctor may.   Dr Yian Gu, from Columbia University, was interviewed by Medscape Medical News about this study.  Here was his take:   “It might still be too early, though, to recommend increasing intake of green leafy vegetables, without further confirmation”.  Huh?

 

You don’t have to wait for Dr Gu or the rest of the medical world to be “convinced”.  Eat at least one serving of green leafy veggies every day (such as spinach, lettuce, kale, and collards) to keep your brain younger!  

 

In addition to a healthy diet, regular exercise, adequate sleep, and managing stress also help to keep you sharp so you can enjoy your future!  This is another example of how living well is the best medicine!

For more information about improving or maintaining your memory give us a call!  We are here to help.

704-752-9346

Questions@signaturewellness.org

Hair loss worrying you?  Lets do something about it. 

By | Blogroll, Hormones, Women's Health

10 Common Causes of Hair Loss in Women (And What You Can Do 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.  It is not uncommon for women to be in tears in the office because of emotional distress from their hair loss.  While women don’t typically lose all their hair, once shedding is underway baldness feels like a real possibility!  

Here are 10 common causes of hair loss.

 1.  Thyroid problems

Thyroid problems are a common cause of hair loss, especially in women.  Other symptoms associated with low thyroid function include:  fatigue, weight gain, constipation, feeling cold, depressed mood, anxiety, poor memory, loss of sex drive, dry skin, and dry/dull hair.  Standard thyroid blood tests may miss subtle thyroid problems, but even mild problems can cause distressing hair loss.  Many women who are being treated with standard thyroid hormone replacement continue to have symptoms despite treatment.  Fortunately, 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 stress. If cortisol levels  are abnormal, hair loss can result.  If you can reduce stress, your hair  loss may diminish, but you made need some help.  It is possible to measure  your cortisol level and while there are no prescription medicines to correct  this problem,  lifestyle changes and nutritional supplements can help.

3.  Menopause

Menopausal hormone changes can 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!). 

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 use a low-androgen index birth control pills to if they are genetically predisposed to hair loss.  Talking to your doctor about 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 managing blood sugar includes lifestyle changes, nutritional supplements, and weight loss.  This may help hair loss, as well as reduce the risks for some very serious longterm health issues.

6.  Nutritional deficiencies

While Americans are not typically malnourished, we tend to be nutritionally deficient due to poor quality food choices.  The food available at your grocery store may not have optimal vitamin and mineral content because of 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 antacids, 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.

 

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.  In this case, hair loss is a symptom of another problem going on in your body, such as an auto-immune disorder or chronic inflammation.  Addressing the underlying problem should help your hair. 

 


8.   Androgenic Alopecia

This is the medical name for genetic hair loss (female pattern baldness)  This is hereditary and happens slowly over 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.  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.

 10.  Physical stress  
 

If you have any kind of physical trauma, such as a severe illness, a serious injury or surgery, this can trigger increased hair shedding.   The stressful event “shocks” the hair cycle temporarily, so less hair is shed around the time of the incident (you don’t notice this!).  When the hair cycle starts up again, more hair is lost all at once (so you notice the shedding!).  This typically happens 3-6 months later (which can be quite confusing!).  The good news is that this problem (called “telogen effluvium”) will resolve without treatment.

 

Tips to restore healthy hair growth!

 

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 has 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, which is a B vitamin 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 .  

 

For best results, it is important to address your hair loss BEFORE it is in the advanced stages  So starting sooner rather than later is recommended.

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 here.   

Yours in Health!

Dr.  Deb Matthew, MD