Antibiotics? Now What?!

Let’s face the facts. Despite the best intentions, the healthiest lifestyles, and the desire to stay as natural as possible, sometimes antibiotics creep into the equation because it was an emergency, it was life-threatening, someone didn’t know better, or it was presented as the only option. I get it. I also get the uncertainty moving forward for those who know just how detrimental that round of antibiotics may have been to their precious microbiome (aka all the healthy bacteria living in your body making you healthy!). So, let’s jump over the guilt trip because you can’t change it now! Let’s get down to what you can do today, and for how long to put yourself in the best position possible for the future of you microbiome moving forward.

I want to start by saying, while not ideal, many people have been on antibiotics and gone on to live a life full of health if they take their body ecology seriously. So, it’s not the end of the world, but it does put ownership in your court. To me that can be a blessing in disguise because I’m sort of a control freak. I do better with things I CAN control then things I can’t. So, consider this moment a blessing in disguise.

The post-antibiotic plan:

  • Take a probiotic with 20 billion CFU and S. boulardii during and after antibiotics daily for 4-6 months. Giving your bacteria a crutch will be helpful despite the fact that probiotics are transient. I also know there has been some research suggesting that probiotics are not beneficial after antibiotic treatment, but clinically, I see otherwise, and there were some questions that I have regarding that study data. Although I do agree that a fecal transplant would likely be ideal and better! But unless you have a C. diff infection, you’re not likely going to have that option at your finger tips. I digress.
  • Eat a variety of fermented foods daily. Sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, kevita, plain kefir, plain yogurt, and even some brands of pickles (Bubbies) are the bees knees when it comes to probiotics in foods. Not only do you get the benefit of the food nutrition, but those probiotics are abundant and essential to everyone, whether you’ve taken an antibiotic or not! Shoot for at least one of these options daily, and ideally you’d continue this habit forever!
  • Cut the sugar, alcohol, and processed foods. Opportunistic organisms can quickly become pathogens and overgrow quickly if the competition has just been wiped out! That means, in order to give the good guys a fighting chance to hold their own, you need to starve the potentially bad guys. They love sugar, alcohol acts like sugar, and processed foods are full of chemicals that kill good guys and sugars that feed bad guys. This, you guessed it, is probably a habit that should last a lifetime, too! I would say for 2 weeks following treatment, try to cut alcohol completely and keep your carbohydrates less 50g a day. Even some healthy carbs can act as a simple food source for pathogens. That can be short-term.
  • Go outside. Eat from the garden, put your hands in the dirt, and try not to be too clean. I know, I sound crazy, but sterile isn’t good. We want nutritious foods without chemicals, fresh air and sunlight, some sample of soil-based organisms to help our ecology. You’re a glorified plant.
  • Eat lots of organic plants and cook with coconut oil and grass-fed butter. Plants contain probiotics that feed your health bacteria, and getting them without chemicals that kill bacteria will tip the scales in your favor. Shoot for at least one big salad a day, and 2 non-starchy veggies as sides at dinner. Do this continuously throughout your life, but be diligent for at least 2 weeks. Use coconut oil and grass-fed butter to cook, as they are anti-microbial.
  • Manage stress. Stress creates chemical changes in your body that isn’t great for gut health and it actually causes leaky gut. That can predispose you to bad bugs or foods getting into your system because they aren’t staying in the gut. That’s why yoga, meditation, prayer, or walks can help your gut environment stay tip top!

Most of these things aren’t rocket science and should be a part of a healthy lifestyle for a lifetime! The difference is being slightly more strict for the first month following antibiotics by restricting carbs, sugar and alcohol, in addition to being sure to get as many probiotics in as many ways as possible. It will take you potentially 4-6 months to restore your microbiome and some studies suggest it will never be the same. So, staying on the probiotic and fermented food bandwagon could be essential. What we do know, is that now is not the time to throw caution to the wind if we want to set ourselves up for a future of health despite an antibiotic mishap. Do your best and let go of that which you can’t control.

*If you’re interested in my post-antibiotic probiotic suggestions, feel free to check out the “store” and sign up for an account, which will give you access to that template in my online dispensary, since some of my suggestions are not available through retail channels.


Increasing Testosterone Naturally

It’s super interesting to me that women speak so freely about their hormone issues and eagerly seek out solutions, but men tend to be more protective of the symptoms that they may be experiencing.  Trust me, I get it.  No one wants to talk about symptoms that impact their sexual performance or masculinity.  However, this topic is one that needs to be addressed because of 2 things:

  1. Women and men want men to feel good about themselves and function optimally.  It keeps everyone happy.
  2. Low testosterone impacts more than sexual function and traits of masculinity, it increases the risk of prostate cancer.

So, we are putting all embarrassment aside for the moment, and we are going to talk freely here. 

Healthy testosterone levels in men require a few things:

  • Proper enzyme function
  • Management of Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG)
  • Leydig cell health (the cells in the testicle that make testosterone)
  • Optimal Hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal (HPG) axis function

If any of those things are not present, and a man is not producing enough testosterone, he may experience the following symptoms:

  • Breast tissue development
  • Small testes or penis (yes, there are measurements for what is normal)
  • Spattered hair growth patterns
  • Low libido
  • Decreased energy
  • Lack of spontaneous erections
  • Decreased muscle mass and increased fat mass
  • Poor sleep
  • Poor concentration
  • Joint and muscle pain post-workout

Why would someone’s testosterone levels be low?

  • Certain drugs such as spironolactone, corticosteroids, alcohol, and opiates all decrease testosterone production
    • Even hair growth (Propecia) or prostate growth (Cialis) medications that are alpha reductase inhibitors can loss of sexual functionality.  So, you end up keeping some hair, but losing some testosterone.  Pick your poison.
  • Endocrine disruptors in hygiene care products like lotions, creams, and fragrance
  • Age: Men start to lose testosterone production starting at age 30; 10% of men in their 40s and 25% of men in their 70s have definitive diagnoses for low testosterone
  • Decreased levels of SHBG due to hypothyroidism, liver disease, or obese men due to higher insulin levels.  It’s not uncommon for men with thyroid problems to gain weight, call me, and in the consult confess to having symptoms of low testosterone.  If SHBG is too high, you can see bone density loss.  You want SHBG to be not too high or too low.
  • Use of licorice or stinging nettles supplements
  • Stress: Stress causes the release of cortisol and cortisol is the enemy of testosterone production.  According to one expert, “cortisol castrates.”  Come on.  That’s pretty catchy.

What can someone do to optimize testosterone production or increase libido?

  • Optimize their blood sugar with diet.  Low carbohydrate is a good place to start.
  • Exercise.  Specifically lifting weights for big muscle groups (think squats and deadlifts) and NOT doing prolonged cardio activity.
  • Supplement with Horny Goat Weed.  It’s a PDE-5 inhibitor just like Viagra. (message me for a link to a brand I like)
  • Use adaptagens like maca, rhodiola, ashwaghanda to help balance cortisol levels
  • Sleep!  Sleep increases testosterone production and is a major player in the world of hormone balance in general.
  • Optimize vitamin D levels with supplementation, liver intake, and/or sun exposure.  You want your Vitamin D levels to be between 40-70ng/dL, and normal testing ranges allow for less than that.  Look at the test and do something if it’s less than 40ng/dL.

In all seriousness, this is an issue that many men experience at some point in time, and it doesn’t need to be something that they try to manage.  It can be corrected, and should be corrected not only for quality of life purposes, but to minimize the risk of prostate cancer.  I’m always here to help, and feel very strongly about demystifying sensitive topics!


Urinary Tract Infections: Natural Solutions

Urinary tract infections are not something we sit around the dinner table discussing, but google searching on the internet, that’s another story. Believe it or not, this topic is one of the most highly searched health terms. That means, you are not alone, and let’s hope there’s valuable information out there. When I asked my audience on media the other day what conditions they wanted information for, this was what they decided! I had NO CLUE that so many people were interested in UTI solutions, but considering that if many people get them, especially women, elderly, and men with BPH, I shouldn’t be surprised. The other thing to take note of is that if you get them, they often reoccur, which means antibiotics over and over again if you go a traditional treatment route and are unable to prevent them.

Let’s get down to business.

What causes Urinary Tract Infections?

The short answer? E. coli getting into the urinary tract, penetrating the cell lining and taking up shop. This is just another case of infection due to bacterial overgrowth.

How do you treat or prevent Urinary Tract Infections?

This is where visiting a doctor who can diagnose the infection and evaluate the severity is important. If there is a severe active infection, you may want to consider antibiotics as the treatment option that is needed because no one wants it to progress into a kidney infection! However, if it is somewhat early and benign, you may be able to get away with an antimicrobial combo like Uva Ursi and Berberine to get the job done.

In the case of prevention, my preference in practice is the use of cranberry extract that contains at least 36mg PAC (proanthocyanidins). These plant compounds found in cranberries have the ability to attach to E. coli and PREVENT them from attaching to the lining in the urinary tract. Having said that, that’s why we use this in folks who have the tendency to get them over and over. You know you want prevention for these patients, and cranberry extract supplements tend to be a great solution! Studies show that if you combine a cranberry extract with 36mg PACs with a broad spectrum probiotic, that it has even slightly better prevention rates (which were already great!) I’m pretty transparent about the supplement industry and what is pretty standard across the board and what you need to be intentional about in terms of quality, and this is one that is notorious for not having many PACs when tested. Be sure to ask your doc for a good cranberry extract!

In addition to antimicrobials for treatment or cranberry extracts for prevention, whether they be prescriptive or natural, you want to make sure to do implement the follow lifestyle habits:

  • drink plenty of water because hydration will help drive urination, flushing out the urinary tract
  • urinate after intercourse
  • wipe front to back, ladies. You don’t want anything bacterial from the back entering the front.
  • steer clear of too much sugar and simple carbs in your diet, because that tends to be a fuel source that bacteria thrive on!
  • take a probiotic or eat fermented foods to help keep your internal environment balanced

Implement these simple solutions, and you could avoid a trip to the doc, another round of antibiotics, and all of the time you waste not being able to pee, having burning during urination, or pain in the back and pelvis!

Patient Journey: Graves’ Disease

  1.  What health issues were you struggling with when you began to work with Dr. Angela?

I had just gotten diagnosed with Graves’ disease, and I also just had an open surgery to remove a benign tumor the size of a cantaloupe, as well as one of my ovaries.  My symptoms were fatigue, racing heart, high blood pressure, hand tremors, excessive sweating, and more!

2.  What treatment methods had you tried prior to Dr. Angela’s program?

I had just started on an anti-thyroid drug after seeing an endocrinologist.

3. What health benefits did you gain from working with Dr. Angela?

I feel like a completely different person than I did before starting this program.  I feel so much better when I ate real whole foods compared to processed foods I was eating before. (Also, got pregnant of first try even when the medical doctors told me it would be a problem for us. ;) )

4. What did you find most beneficial to you in the program?

Dr. Angela does a really good job of educating her patients.  It’s easier for me to follow through with something when I know the “why” and not just instructed to do it.

5. What was your biggest struggle during the transition to a healthier lifestyle?

Wanting to have cheat meals!!

6. Did you food options taste good?

Yes! There are so many good meals we could make and most were more satisfying than our previous meals.

7. Did you have an ah-ha moment that helped you commit to the change?  If so, what was it?

I know that if I didn’t try this, I would have to most likely have my thyroid removed or destroyed, and I did not want to have to do that.

8. If you were going to give a piece of advice to someone on the fence of following a program like Dr. Angela’s, what would you say to them in order to help them decide?

Anything is worth a try, especially before taking medications with harmful side effects, or having a definitive surgery.  Dr. Angela really cares about her patients and devotes everything to help them heal naturally.  I would recommend her to anyone!

Dr. Angela side comments:

Graves’ disease is a very serious condition, and this patient speaks about food and natural healing, but there were also components of medications and supplementation that played a role, too.  These patient journeys are for me to help anyone trying to make decisions about their health get answers to the questions from a patient perspective.  I have every patient do this voluntarily, and I do not alter any of their words.  I couldn’t be more honored to be a part of this person’s health journey, and wish her all the abundance moving into motherhood!


Cholesterol, Heart Disease, and What You Should Do

Coronary Heart Disease is our single most common cause of death and it is caused by something called atherosclerosis.  Atherosclerosis is a fancy term for “your vessels get more narrow due to plaques and that reduces the blood flow to whichever organ that vessel is going to.”  IF you have atherosclerosis of the coronary artery, then you have obstruction of blood flow to the heart…..hello, coronary heart disease: the number one killer.  Most people people are familiar with the most common form of coronary heart disease known as a HEART ATTACK!

Symptoms of the early stages:

  • During physical activity, people may experience chest pain that may go into the neck and left arm.  The pain goes away after rest in the early stages.
  • Fatigue during normal activities.  This is due to the lack of blood supply to the heart, so you feel fatigued doing normal activity.

Symptoms of heart attack:

  • Severe chest pain not connected to physical activity.
  • Fear, cold sweats, nausea

Given the fact that autopsies show that by the age of 60, 100% of people have some signs of atherosclerosis, it’s not surprising that people want to know what to do when the doc starts talking about this when they go in for their exam!

What causes atherosclerosis?

People have been led to believe that cholesterol and dietary fats are the root of all this nonsense. We’ve all had someone we know quit eating meat and eggs and opted for non-fat products in attempts to correct the cholesterol issues on their labwork. This is a myth you need to get comfortable rejecting, so keep an open mind here.  Atherosclerosis is an INFLAMMATORY condition! The plaques on the wall of arteries are not cholesterol stuck; it’s actually more like a damaged portion of the artery wall that is covered with a bunch of stuff, but the main component is actually tissue trying to repair that is mostly made from collagen.  The fat part of the plaque is mostly UNSATURATED FATS. This is complex, but the gist is:

  • Something in the bloodstream attacks the artery tissue
  • Immune cells come to the rescue to destroy whatever is attacking the artery tissue
  • Those immune cells call for more help by sending out the bat signal known as inflammation
  • As the body is trying to repair the damage, it grows more collagen and creates a cap on top of the plaque
  • When the inflammation stops, it becomes hard and calcium may take up shop there.  This is like a scar. THIS WOULD BE NORMAL AND WE ALL HAVE SOME SCARS IN OUR ARTERIES.
  • In atherosclerosis, the inflammation doesn’t stop and it forms something similar to puss in a wound.
  • Inflammation is driving the production of enzymes that break down collagen and if the cap over the area gets weak? Boom. Rupture.
  • Within second, the blood tries to thicken to stop bleeding, a clot forms, and the artery is blocked or a portion of it can break off and float downstream and stuck in another location.  This is what we all really fear.

Why avoiding cholesterol isn’t helpful:

The body uses fats and cholesterol as the building blocks for creating new cells and tissues in any healing process.  This is because a huge part of a cell is the membrane and it acts sort of like your skin.  Without it, what would hold in your insides?!  Those membranes are made out of fat and cholesterol and if you want to get geeky, many cells in the body have 50% of the membrane made from cholesterol. THE REASON WE SEE CHOLESTEROL IN AREAS OF PLAQUING IS BECAUSE THAT IS YOUR BODY’S ATTEMPT TO REPAIR THE DAMAGE TO THAT TISSUE!  It’s like saying umbrellas must cause it to rain, because every time it rains, I see all these people holding umbrellas.  Cholesterol is the umbrella.  It’s there BECAUSE OF THE TISSUE DAMAGE, not causing it.

Ok, so let’s cut to the chase.  You understand what I’m saying, so now you want to know what causes that arterial damage that starts this whole thing in the first place.  Without further adieu, let’s look at a list…

  • Chemicals: chemicals in your beauty products, medications, home cleaning products, cigarettes, pesticides, water, processed food.  I bet you had no idea that even what you slather on your skin goes straight to the bloodstream and could be contributing to heart problems!  Stay woke. (If you don’t know what that means, it’s ok, just keep reading)
  • Infections: if you have issues with the barriers between the outside world and inside of your body like gum disease, leaky gut, sinus infections, etc, then you basically have a highway for pathogens to get into your bloodstream and wreak havoc wherever they see fit, which means not just your arteries.  This is also a huge problem with autoimmune diseases and cognitive issues.  I bet you didn’t have any idea your oral hygiene could be a part of your heart disease.
  • Nutrient deficiencies: in order to repair, your body needs adequate building blocks and deficiencies in things such as b-vitamins, vitamin c, vitamin D and amino acids set you up for failure.  If you have b-vitamin deficiencies, you may see elevation in markers like homocysteine on your labs.  If your doc runs complex labs, you may also see vitamin C deficiency pop up as elevated Lipoprotein A. (you have a 70% greater chance of having a heart attack if you have elevated lipoprotein a!)

So, let’s simplify this into some actionable things you could do to help yourself:

  • Eat a healthy diet including lots of plants and good sources of healthy fats
  • Stop eating processed foods and excessive amounts of sugar
  • Clean out your beauty drawer from all the chemical crap (check out this website for information)
  • Work with a physician to get off as many medications as possible.  This is ironic when it comes to statins because statins cut off your ability to produce cholesterol, ultimately lowering your cholesterol numbers.  Knowing what you know now, is cholesterol trying to help heal or trying to hurt your vessels!  Bye, Felicia.
  • Take B-Vitamins, omega 3 fatty acids (1g for prevention or 3g for someone with active conditions), CoQ10 (100mg for those taking statins and want to prevent issues or 500mg if you are experiencing issues of statin use like forgetfulness or muscle/joint pain).  (If you want specific recommendations for the products I prefer, feel free to email me at angela@angelalucterhand.com for links to those)
  • Stop smoking.
  • Start exercising.

Take away points:

  • Prevention is key, so don’t wait until you have heart disease to take your diet and lifestyle seriously.
  • You MUST be on CoQ10 if you are going to continue to take statins.
  • Cholesterol is not the enemy, so do not go low fat in attempts to correct the problem.

Believe it or not, these cases are some of the easiest patient cases I take on!  It doesn’t take much time to see drastic changes in someone’s labwork in these cases, and the solutions are pretty simple when you compare them to more complex issues like cancer and autoimmune diseases.


5 Practical Tips for Creating Health

I don’t think it’s a secret that health comes from lifestyle changes rooted in food, exercise, sleep, and stress management.  What I do think people get stuck on is HOW to implement these lifestyle changes successfully.  Let’s face it, we live in a world where health is inconvenient.  So, there are 5 tips I have for you to create a successful environment for implementing a healthy lifestyle.  The underlying theme in all of these tips is making it MORE CONVENIENT to do the right thing than the unhealthy thing.  That means creating obstacles for yourself if you’re going to choose an unhealthy option.  We are wired for convenience and ease over anything else, so the more you can create convenience and ease for healthy choices, the more successful you’ll be.

5 Practical Tips for Creating Health

  1. Don’t buy it.  It’s a fact that if it’s there, you’ll be tempted.  Am I right?  If all you have in the house are healthy options, it creates an obstacle to choose unhealthy options.  You may STILL choose the unhealthy option on occasion because the desire outweighs the cost.  However, most times, you’ll be too tired to go making special trips just to eat something bad.  Have lots of fresh fruit and veggies on hand, and you’ll never starve.
  2. Meal prep.  I am not a prepper.  I love cooking.  That means that I often will buy what sounds good and come up with imaginative combinations throughout the week.  If you are unfamiliar with cooking or just find it stressful, then you’re more likely to make a good decision when mentally fatigued if it’s made for you.  Making meals and having them available ensures that when you get home from a busy day, and you can’t muster one more decision to come out of your brain, you do what’s convenient.  As long as that convenient thing is prepped healthy meals, then you’re golden!
  3. Hang out with good influences.  Friends are friends no matter what, but you’d be lying if you said it’s easy to hang out with friends on a different agenda when you’re trying to make healthy choices.  There are likely friends that also want the same goals.  Make plans to hang out with them and choose food options that propel you both toward positive goals.  Don’t have any friends interested in turning around their health? Then ask them to join you!  Having company in the process can force you to make good decisions even when you don’t want to.
  4. Force yourself to create all junk food from scratch.  Yup.  Think about it.  French fries. Mmm.  Not so yummy if you have to make them from scratch.  They just became a lot more inconvenient.  Cake.  My mouth is watering.   Not so appealing if I have to bake the dang thing.  I’m not saying never indulge, but it’s the same principle as having to leave your house to make a bad decision.  If you have to bake or cook these indulgences from scratch, you will likely just say “no thanks” more often than not.  Who has time to do all that baking anyway?!
  5. Find easy ways to incorporate movement.  Make it a rule for yourself to park at the back of the parking lot.  Schedule hangout time with friends that involves movement…dancing, walking, paddle boarding, biking, yoga.  You will have the best of both worlds: time with friends plus getting in your activity.

 

These are simple and may seem like things you’ve heard 100 times, but how many times have you tried to implement them.  Maybe just choosing ONE would have a huge impact.  Heck, I know that if many people had to cook junk food from scratch, they would never go to the effort.  The key is to create an obstacle between you and the unhealthy decision.  That also means creating a convenience factor for the healthy decision.  The more you can do that, the more successful implementation you will see.  Try it and let me know how it goes!


Raynaud’s: Natural Solutions

Raynaud’s.  What the heck is that?!  Well, you either clicked to read this article because you have the diagnosis, or you related to the picture, which essentially tells you what Raynaud’s is, visually.  In a nutshell, it’s the lack of blood flowing to the finger tip(s), most commonly.  There can be other areas involved, too, like toes or the tip of your nose;  however, most people who experience the garden-variety version have it happen to a finger tip or two.  When something happens to cause the vessels to the finger tips to constrict, they spasm and don’t open back up as quickly as they should.  That is why you will see white tips when the rest of the finger is red.  The cold is the most common reason for this to happen, but it could also be due to stress.  When the finger tips lose blood flow, they become numb, and the person can’t feel things with those fingers that they would normally.  Typically, it returns to normal in a short time, but it can be rather annoying.

What’s a person to do about this?!

The key to dealing with Raynaud’s is addressing the cause: lack of blood flow.  Sometimes, this can be a side effect of a more serious condition, such as an autoimmune disease (especially scleroderma), medication use impacting blood flow, or certain thyroid conditions.  However, most of the time the key is addressing the spasm of the arterioles.

Here are some easy tips to address to problem: 

  1. Wear warm gloves when in cold temps.  Duh.
  2. Exercise regularly.  Exercise forces blood to pump and keeps your arteries responsive.
  3.  Stop smoking.  It’s well-known that nicotine damages vessels, which is why smokers don’t heal from injury or surgery as well as non-smokers.  It’s all about blood flow to tissue when we are talking about healing.
  4. Address medication use.  Finding and correcting the need for certain medications that impact blood flow, like beta-blockers and even OTC meds for sinusitis!  The reason they stick chemicals in meds for sinusitis is to reduce the blow flow in order to decrease pressure.  Makes sense, right?  But the pressure is not the cause of sinus issues.  Many times, the best option is to address the reason someone is experiencing allergies, stop the release of histamine, or correct the underlying issues impacting recurrent infections.  That could mean taking a different approach to the nutrients you take for these issues.  I digress.
  5. Consider supplements that increase blood flow and oxygen while you are addressing lifestyle factors.  Nutrients such as niacin have been used for a very long time to increase blood flow, and if you have ever used it, you know there’s something called “niacin flush.”  You could also consider nutrients that increase nitric oxide, like l-arginine.  Often times, people with Raynaud’s have low nitric oxide levels.
  6. . Get massages and adjustments regularly.  Adjustments will make sure your nervous system is functioning in tip-top shape, and massages will enhance blood flow to all the areas of your body. I personally think a monthly adjustment and massage is what works best for me!
  7.  Use saunas.  Heat increases blood flow!  It’s not rocket science.  Use saunas regularly throughout the winter to enhance blood flow to tissues. In the winter, I will use a sauna a couple times a week, but I would do it more frequently if my schedule permits!

While many people experience this issue, traditional medicine approaches aren’t that successful.  Try these simple lifestyle changes to address Raynaud’s or heck, just move to the sunny states!  You have to admit, it’s not a bad idea.

 


Bras: Bad for Our Health?

Let’s just get the point.  I’ll keep this short and sweet.  When you travel to other parts of the world, many countries don’t wear bras!  I remember being in Africa with the Peace Corps and culturally, knees are way more taboo.  So, women would need to cover their knees, but breasts were fair game, often out, and certainly without a lift.  When you compare the rates of breast cancer in the U.S. to those in other nations, you notice a trend in higher rates among Americans.  At one point, this correlation was made to the fact that we wear bras and the nations with lower statistics do not.  That led to the hunt for clues as to what bras could be contributing to the matter.  It was postulated that bras restrict lymph drainage, causing toxins to get trapped in the tissue, and this leads to cancer.  However,  I want to debunk this for a second.

Lymph for breast tissue actually drains in an upward direction.  This means that idea that toxins in breast tissue can’t drain out because of the underwire is somewhat perplexing if you understand physiology.  I may even argue that this correlation is similar to that you may have learned in college when learning that more murders occur in the summer.  More people also eat ice cream in the summer.  So, ice cream consumption must cause people to commit murders.  Hate to burst the bubble.  Correlation doesn’t mean causation.  I think the missing piece of this bra puzzle is really that our lifestyles are very different among countries and those that have less breast cancer rates NOT ONLY wear bras less, but they have less stress, less chemicals, better food quality, and just plain better epigenetics.  Epigenetics are the lifestyle factors that change the environment around your genes.  The better your epigenetics, the better your gene expression.  This can be the difference between getting cancer and not despite holding the gene in the cards you were dealt.

So, on a closing note, I may even argue that bras are good for our health.  The more you work with women who are ill, you know it’s not about the breasts.  It’s about the whole body, their life, their quality of life.  Bras make the girls look perky, they help women look great in clothes, they can boost a woman’s confidence.  These things have a positive physiological effect on our epigenetics.  It’s true.  So, shamelessly wear those bras, ladies.  Take them off at night, and rest in peace knowing it’s ok to wear it again tomorrow. The one pictured is from Third Love. I received some Third Love bras for Christmas, and who knew that I’m actually a half cup person!  Since we only sell bras in full cup sizes, I had missing out on the perfect fit all these years!


Natural Tricks to Jet Lag or Resetting Your Circadian Rhythms

I have been traveling more than ever the past couple months and it seems that everywhere I go changes time zones.  I happen to be fairly lucky in the department of falling asleep and adjusting quickly; however, there are natural tricks that you can use to your advantage if you suffer from time changes.  Try to stay away from habit-forming pharmaceuticals that artificially alter your sleep-wake patterns because they end up doing you more harm than good long term.

  1. Eat on schedule.  Have breakfast when you want your body to start waking up and quit eating a couple hours before you want to fall asleep.  Even if this means eating at weird times as you a traveling back.  Much of your sleep/wake cycle is regulated by hormones and chemicals that your gut bacteria play a part in creating.  The bacteria living in your gut can’t see light though, so they use signals from you to tell what time it is.  When you eat, it signals to them that it is waking hours and they follow suit.
  2. Wear glasses that block blue light.  Many people are familiar with the glasses like Felix Gray that block blue light from computer screens, but most probably don’t use this to their advantage for jet lag.  Just like eating signals to your gut bacteria that it’s time to be awake, blue light exposure tells them and your body that it is daylight.  This is why people wear glasses to block computer light at night.  If they don’t, they can have trouble sleeping because that light is a signal to your internal clock to produce cortisol.  Cortisol is a hormone in the body that spikes when you wake up and gradually decreases throughout the day until it hits rock bottom at night.  When it is low, you get sleepy.  (If you’re a person that suffers from mid-day fatigue, then you may see this dip in cortisol happen in the middle of the day on labs, which explains why you’re ready for a nap!)  If you wear blue blocking lenses when you want to start falling asleep and keep them off when you want to be wide awake, it will help adjust those cortisol patterns.
  3. Take melatonin.  Just like blue light stimulates cortisol to make you feel awake, lack of blue light dampens cortisol and allows melatonin to rise.  When the sun goes down and your cortisol plummets, that’s melatonin’s signal to increase.  You should have high melatonin around the time you want to go to bed.  You can artificially mimic this by taking melatonin supplements before you want to go to bed.  This will make people drowsy.  Melatonin is a hormone, so you would not want to rely on this for long-term sleep aid, but it is helpful in resetting jet lag.  If you take too much, you could end up having vivid dreams or waking up with a “hang over.”  So, start with small doses and work your way up as needed.
  4. Go outside.  Following the suns schedule is a powerful tool to get in synch with the normal rhythms of the Earth.  If you get up to watch the sunrise and go out to watch the sunset, you’d be amazed how quickly you fall into place.  This happens mostly because of the light exposure having an impact on your cortisol and melatonin ratios.
  5. Exercise intensely when you want me to waking up. When you exercise, it raises cortisol levels just like light does, so if you time your exercise for when you want to be awake first thing, then your body will tend towards a cortisol spike during that time.  This will wake your body up, and help you fall asleep at night when the time is right.
  6. Have caffeine in the morning.  Once again, we want cortisol to be spiking when you would be waking up.  Caffeine stimulates cortisol production, so having a cup of coffee when you WANT your body to be waking up will help put that circadian rhythm back on track.  That also means avoiding it when you would want your body to be getting sleepy.

These practical tips are easy to do if you think about them ahead of time and plan.  I can’t emphasize enough how important light exposure is in trying to reset your internal clock, so if you can do things that make your body think it’s light when you want to be awake and dark when you want to sleep, the better off you’ll be.  Shift work and time zone changes is one of the hardest thing you can do your body and actually contributes to earlier death and heart attacks.  So, while this is somewhat necessary at times for work or travel, you should try to avoid it as much as possible.  Your immune system actually functions on this same rhythm, so having your body produce cortisol at the wrong times will actually dampen your immune system during those times, too.  This is one reason many people get sick when traveling.  Not only are you often stuck on a plane with recycled air from tons of individuals, but you are throwing off your body’s normal rhythm to fight infections and create immune cells.  This is something to really consider especially if you have disorders of the immune system, like autoimmunity.  Your immune system reacts to your cues, so try to make them as easily translatable as you can to what normal cycles are.

I hope this helps!


What’s Your Currency?

Just like we all have love languages that dictate what we look for that makes us feel loved, we also have a currency in life. What do I mean by that? I mean that you make decisions in your life based on what you will gain from it. You unconsciously make decisions to gain more of the currency you prefer. For many people, currency is money or power. I think this is probably the case because our culture sets it up that way! You do so many things in life to get you to a marketable position in hopes of employment to make you the most money or power. We then measure how successful you are by how much money you are able to obtain or how many people you are “over”! However, what if your currency isn’t money?

I have been thinking about this a lot lately after having some conversations with colleagues about why they make certain career decisions and their assumptions about why other people would make the decisions they make. For example, what if you had a job opportunity presented to you and the salary was actually less than you make now? Is your instinct to say “Why would I take a job for less money? No thanks.”? Or do you want to know more. Does that job allow me more freedom? Does that job fulfill my life’s purpose? Will that job force me to grow? If you are asking more questions, the things you want to know about are probably your currency! For me, my currency is experience and growth. No matter how scared I am, how off the wall it seems, how “beneath” my education level it is, I say “yes” to the things that will gain me experiences and growth as a person and doctor.

I remember one day in high school when I was doing a project researching careers. This exercise was meant to let students explore the possibilities and decide what they may want to pursue. I remember looking at one thing: salary. If the salary was low, I quickly moved to the next option until I saw a number that I thought was a lot of money (which is usually relative to what you grew up around btw). So, I started college without a clue what I was going to do, but I was confident, it would pay a lot. As I progressed, my currency changed. It wasn’t about a career that made the most money, because at that point, I had been to several countries and realized much of the world is happier with LESS money! My currency then became prestige. I chose my major (when they forced me) based on what the most difficult career attainment could be. I needed to prove I could do it. Watch me. Then started the pursuit of becoming a medical doctor…until the moment came when I needed to start medical school. I had the wherewithal to ask myself how this career was going to fulfill me, and I had some real doubts because my work would fundamentally work against my belief system of health. It was going to make lots of money and have lots of prestige, but when those things were no longer my currency, it sounded miserable.

Today, my currency is experience and growth, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. What does this mean? This means that I have pursued tasks “beneath” my career status for the experience. This means that I have taken jobs for less money for the ability to grow from them. This means that when opportunities are presented to me, I evaluate whether I am going to do them based on the growth and experiences they will afford. This means making career decisions that many people don’t understand! If someone’s currency is true currency, then it sounds ludicrous to choose a career with a pay cut. Right?!

Think about this. What is your currency? Truly what you want out of life at the end of the day. If you can identify that currency and make decisions through life based on acquiring it, you will likely be much happier with what you do day-to-day! If your currency is improving the world, then you may not want to take the job that gives you more money to create tv remote parts! Nothing wrong with designing tv remote parts, and if your currency is money, and it pays more money, then it’s perfect! But if your currency is making a difference in the world, then asking if it fulfills your currency will give you a heavy thumbs down pretty quickly. I am throwing this out there because often times people will say things like “You are so lucky to have such an amazing fulfilling career.” I want other people to be as happy doing their work as myself, but the answer isn’t to all become doctors. Some people would hate that because it doesn’t fit their currency! I encourage all of my patients to think about their currency through certain exercises I assign them. In these exercises, it often clears up what they want in life, how to know what opportunities to pursue, and when to say “no thanks.” Then the things that start filling their life, fulfill them because they are acquiring their currency.

If reading this does nothing else other than make you think about what persuades the decisions that ultimately determine what you do for 70% of your life (aka time spent in your career), then it was worth asking the question: What is your currency?