To Sleep, Perchance to Dream….

Got sleep? Most of us don’t. And whoever coined the term “sleep like a baby” CLEARLY never met my kids! #funnynotfunny. On our journey to health one of my goals was to get solid, refreshing sleep every night again. Thankfully we have arrived! Let me share with you how…

Perhaps my story is a bit unique. I was always a rather light sleeper but Medical School and Residency put a nail in the proverbial coffin. I trained back when working 36 hour days was common place. YES, 36 hour days. We would go in at 6am and not go home until after 6pm the NEXT day. Depending what department you were working in that could mean you didn’t have much opportunity to sit down let alone lie down during that time frame. I do NOT miss that aspect of training to say the least. It took me almost a year after I finished training to even find out how much sleep my body actually needed. Then I got married and had kids. Oy vey!

My sweet Bunny was okay for the first few months and would only wake up at night to nurse and typically go right back to sleep but daytime naps?! Fuhgeddaboudit! Few and far between and WAY too short for my taste.

Sweet little BeBe was an AWESOME sleeper. He was the baby that made you think you could have a hundred babies. Then at about 2yo or so they both went left! I was always so on edge that I never fully relaxed into sleep thinking one of them would pop up and come scampering in our room at any moment.   It became clear that my sweet BeBe’s body clock and rhythm were just unpredictably and inexplicably off! The cost of raising a baby genius is sometimes their brains just won’t. turn. off.

There are several things that you can do to encourage restful, restorative sleep.  We were already doing all of the typical bedtime routine recommendations by the book to no avail so we looked for more.  A balanced, whole food based diet rich in fresh veggies and fruit and all of their beneficial nutrients and anti-oxidants is essential. If you don’t think your meeting the mark of the recommended 5-9 fruits and veggies a day, consider filling in the gaps with a whole food based supplement like Juice Plus.

We also started adding Epsom Salt to their bath every night. The magnesium causes a relaxation response and also helps the liver sulfate and remove toxins from the body (great addition during cold and flu season for that reason, too). If you find that you are consistently popping up at 3 – 4am, it could be due to your liver being overwhelmed with clearing all of the toxins that we are confronted with daily.

I started dabbling in essential oils, too. Lavender, chamomile, and geranium essential oils seemed to be the most helpful in facilitating restful sleep. Make sure that you get genuine essential oils and not just a fragrance.  For more info read this.  You can add a few drops of them to the Epsom Salt that you put in in the bathtub or use a diffuser near bed time to signal to the brain that it’s time to wind down. White noise machines with pleasant ocean waves and the like can help lull you to sleep.  Reducing exposure to bright, blue wave lights from TVs, cellphones and the like near bed time can be helpful but also adding red or magenta colored night lights helps to encourage a relaxed state. Red or magenta tones are the colors you “see” in utero as a fetus floating around in your mother’s womb. Red or magenta night lights help mimic that peaceful nurturing environment.

Believe it or not, probiotics can also be quite helpful. Serotonin (a neurotransmitter that impacts mood) is actually produced in your gut! So if your gut is inflamed or the good bacteria in your gut is not present in good numbers, that can impact your ability to adequately produce serotonin (low serotonin can also contribute to depression by the way). Serotonin THEN has to travel to the brain where it is converted by the pineal gland to melatonin which signals to the brain that it is time to sleep.  So if your gut isn’t producing enough serotonin, then your brain won’t get the melatonin signal to shut it down for the night. So you see – all things do seem to begin in the gut!

If you find that you are still having trouble, consider seeing an Integrative Doctor that can do a simple, non-invasive test like a urine OATS test to look for hormones,  neurotransmitters, and metabolites or by-products of physiological processes to see if there is evidence of nutritional deficiencies for which natural supplementation would be useful.

Good, restful, restorative sleep is essential to child development, learning and just having a foothold on a good day in the morning. Here’s to you on the road to rest!

Happy Healthy Living (and sleeping)!

Until next time….

Questions, Comments? Post them below.

The Doctor is in!

Take Home Tidbits

  • A balanced whole food based diet rich in antioxidants helps encourage restful sleep
  • Epsom Salt baths and the magnesium therein can help relax you and help your liver clear toxins from the day
  • Red or Magenta night lights help induce a relaxed state
  • Probiotics can support your gut’s production of serotonin so your  brain can convert it to melatonin to signal that it’s time to shut it down for the night

Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease Anyone?!

You MAY have heard of it and it’s making its rounds right about now. Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease is caused most commonly by the Coxsackie A Virus type 16.  It tends to rear its ugly head in the fall. It causes painful ulcers in the mouth (especially in the back near your tonsils) and similar lesions on the palms of your hands, soles of your feet, and on occasion the buttocks or groin area.  This infection typically impacts small children and kids less than 10 years old but infrequently, depending on which strain of the virus it is, adults can suffer, too. Most cases are short lived but because its comes from the same family of viruses as polio, then on rare occasion weakness and muscle soreness can occur with some of the less common Coxsackie Virus strains.

The illness has an incubation period of about a week (which means you’ve been hosting this unwelcomed guest for about a week before you feel any symptoms).  It typically involves a low grade fever for 1 – 2 days, painful ulcers in the mouth for 3 – 5 days,  and a distinctive rash for up to 7-10 days. The rash does NOT itch. This can help you distinguish it from chicken pox. You can shed the virus in your stool for WEEKS after the illness resolves so once again say it with me… WASH. YOUR. HANDS! You share the joy through the fecal-oral route so good hand washing after going to the bathroom or changing a diaper is paramount. You can also pass the infection on by contact with the skin lesions or oral secretions.

Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease Coxsackie A Virus type 16.

In general it tends to look a lot worse than it is.  However, in small children with the painful ulcers in their mouths, refusal to eat and drink can cause a risk of dehydration which is particularly dangerous in the very young and old.  For this reason staying hydrated is important.  Stay clear of spicy or salty foods as that may exacerbate the pain.  Also, stick with soft and/or cool foods (mashed potatoes, popsicles, etc) for the same reason.  If need be, use fever and pain reducers to keep younger kiddos more comfortable until this passes.  Epsom Salt baths can help reduce the discomfort of general aches and pains and can help the little ones relax and get some sleep at night and bring down their temperature a bit. The good news is this too, shall pass.  Time and TLC will take care of it.

When in doubt, contact your Pediatrician’s advice line for guidance on what to do and when and if you should bring your child in for an evaluation.  In the meantime give comfort care, probiotics to gird up the immune system, and rest, wash those hands, and wipe down those toys and surfaces to try to keep the infection form spreading!

Happy Healthy Living!

Until next time…

Take Home Tidbits

  • Hand Foot and Mouth Disease is common in the spring and fall seasons.
  • Stay away from spicy, salt or hard foods as the mouth sores are quite painful
  • It is contagious via stool, oral secretions, and skin lesions
  • The rash doesn’t itch which can help you distinguish it from chicken pox

Questions or Comments? Post them below!

The Doctor is in!

Beauty IS More than Skin Deep

I’ve been asked a lot lately about several skin conditions like acne and eczema and if I have any products that will help. Although we have a few products coming down the pipeline, I think it is prudent to explain what you can do from a holistic stand point TODAY.  It doesn’t much matter what you slap on top of your skin to fix a problem (which is really just a symptom of something deeper oftentimes) without fixing the real underlying problem – the inside! The old adage “you are what you eat” is SO true! Many skin ailments begin on the inside. Remember last week we talked about how the skin is actually the largest organ in the body? and how it absorbs and excretes things? Well let’s dig deeper.

Recent research has shown that ailments like asthma, allergies and eczema (all three ride on the same gene) and even psoriasis can be improved with taking probiotics. Why is that you ask? Many chronic illnesses with immune system or inflammatory issues actually begin in the gut just like Hippocrates said!

All disease begins in the gut.

So we talked briefly before about gluten and leaky gut.  So here we are again.  Allergic or inflammatory responses like eczema and psoriasis can find their root in your gut.  If you have the typical Western or American diet, then likely all of the (genetically modified) additives have poked microscopic holes in the lining of your gut and caused an imbalance in the bacteria that line your intestines.  Recolonizing your gut with the good bacteria it needs from fermented foods and high quality probiotics can help. Taking colostrum can also help plug those holes in your leaky gut as well.  When you have a leaky, improperly functioning gut, partially or improperly digested food particles can slip straight into your bloodstream through the gaps that are created in between your intestinal cells by this unhealthy environment.

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These molecules are recognized by your immune system as foreign invaders and attacks them.  The problem is that your now overactive immune system also attacks your own healthy tissue by mistake – including your skin.  In addition, as we mentioned earlier your skin excretes and absorbs things.  When your liver (which typically helps filter and clean your blood of undesirables along with your kidneys) becomes overloaded, the skin takes the hit as things spill over into the blood stream in uncontrollable amounts. The consequences can be eczema, psoriasis, acne, and hives among other things. One thing that you can do to help is adding Epsom Salt to your bath water. The magnesium sulphate is absorbed directly through your skin and gives your liver the cofactor it needs to help with the excretion of toxins via a sulfation process.  It will also help calm the itching.  If you can’t stop to take a bath try soaking a clean cloth in warm (not hot) water with Epsom salt dissolved in it and apply it to the rash. Don’t apply to broken skin that has been scratched raw as the salt may cause a stinging sensation. Be sure not to bathe in hot, hot water as heat causes histamine to be released from your immune cells and will aggravate itching. Hence, the use of anti-histamines to treat allergies (anti means “against” or “opposite of” so an anti-histamine medication works “against” the release of histamine to reduce or prevent itching).

One other thing to consider is not using harsh soaps. In fact, try to refrain from lathering your whole body and taking prolonged showers or baths as that disrupts the protective lining and probiotics that naturally coat your skin.  I’ll tell you like I tell my kids “Get in, get the good parts, and get out!”  Of course, they don’t always listen as they LOVE to play in the tub but I try.  That’s part of the reason that I created my own Body Wash without the harsh Sodium Laurel Sulfates and the like so as to minimize the damage to our skin. I also load their bathwater up with Epsom salt to boot.  Infants (especially newborns) and very young children don’t need baths everyday by the way. They don’t have developed sweat glands like adults that cause odor yet. (Put a pin in that topic for another day). So unless they’ve had an extensive day of outdoor play in the hot sun, it’s okay to skip a day especially in the cooler months when eczema symptoms can be more intense. Now if they smell like the “great outdoors” after a day of play, of course, give them a bath.  But if not, don’t stress about it.

Be Mindful – Herxheimer Reaction

Be aware but don’t panic! Sometimes as you begin a new regimen, your skin symptoms may sometimes appear to worsen briefly before they get better. This is a phenomenon known as the Herxheimer or die-off reaction.  As the new, good bacteria starts to squeeze out the old, the old bugs will die and release some toxins which have to go somewhere. If your liver is overloaded, the toxins will exit through your skin. This may appear as an increase in your original symptoms or new rashes.  You may also feel a general sense of ‘blah’ and maybe even joint or generalized aches and pains.  Have no fear – this, too, shall pass.  If you can push through the discomfort (consider slowing down on your new regimen for a few days if it becomes too much) and drink plenty of clean water, then life will be better on the other side! Applying coconut oil to those areas of your skin rash flare -ups can help.  If you mix in a little lavendar or Teatree oil with the coconut oil that may help even more. Coconut oil is antiseptic and anti-bacterial and also helps kill yeast which is one of the main culprits in eczema.

canstockphoto23765846Cleaning up your diet  (and personal care products) and removing processed foods by sticking to organic vegetables, fruits, fats, and meats (in that order) is a great first step.  Daily probiotic use, drinking clean water, and even juicing can take you to the next level of health. We will go into more detail about juicing in the future – it’s more than just a fad. Awesome things can happen when you add it to your healthy lifestyle. Can’t wait to chat about it later!

Happy Healthy Living!

Until next time…..

Questions? Comments? Post them below.

The Doctor is in….