Hormones are chemical messengers that communicate between different parts of the body. They are produced by glands and organs, and are secreted into the bloodstream to circulate. Hormones travel in the blood to specific organs and tissues to communicate their message. Only tissues that have receptors for the hormone in question will respond to that hormone. Hormones are one of the main tools our body uses to create balance or ‘homeostasis’ in the body. So, as you can imagine, if we have imbalances in our hormones, this stable environment will be shaken up, and we will not feel well.
The most common hormone imbalances I see in my practice are stress hormone imbalances, thyroid imbalances, and sex hormone imbalances (estrogen, progesterone, testosterone). This blog will specifically be focused on stress hormone imbalance, or what is known as ‘adrenal fatigue.’ In subsequent blogs I will address the issues of thyroid and sex hormone imbalances, so stay tuned!
What is adrenal fatigue? Adrenal fatigue occurs when our adrenal glands cannot keep up with the demands placed on them by the total amount of stress in our lives. The primary role of our adrenal glands is to produce and regulate our stress hormone cortisol. They also produce sex hormones (estrogen, progesterone and testosterone), neurotransmitters (adrenaline and noradrenaline), and a blood pressure regulating hormone (aldosterone). With acute or chronic stress cortisol imbalances are first to be seen. Over time adrenal stress can lead to other hormone imbalances including imbalances in insulin, sex hormones, blood pressure hormones, and even thyroid hormone.
We live in a very busy, stressful, on-the-go society. We work long hours while juggling the demands of family life, we sacrifice sleep, we rely on coffee to keep us awake, and reach for sugary foods for an extra energy boost. Over time these habits affect us physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
When we engage in stressful activities our bodies enter into a ‘fight or flight’ response. Cortisol is released from our adrenal glands to provide us with a burst of energy in order to ‘survive.’ It does so by breaking down our carbohydrate and protein stores, increasing blood sugar, and suppressing the immune system to conserve energy. Over time high cortisol can lead to insulin resistance, weaken our immune system, and lead to muscle wasting, if not properly addressed. It can also impact our thyroid and sex hormone balance. Eventually our adrenal glands may not be able to keep up with the stress in our lives, and cortisol levels will drop, leading to chronic mental and physical fatigue.
What are the symptoms of adrenal fatigue? Symptoms of adrenal fatigue will depend on what type of cortisol imbalance you have, ie. whether you have high or low cortisol levels.
Weight gain around waist
Tired and wired feeling
Loss of muscle mass
High blood pressure
Shaky or lightheaded if a meal is missed
Loss of scalp hair
Aches and pains
Cold/low body temperature
Low blood pressure
Dizziness upon standing
Naturally we have the highest levels of cortisol in the morning, and throughout the day our levels will slowly decline, with cortisol being lowest at night. If we have low cortisol in the morning we’ll have problems waking and will generally feel sluggish. If we have high cortisol at night on the other hand, we may have problems falling or staying asleep.
How do you test for adrenal fatigue? In this stressed out world, I generally assume that most of my patients have some amount of adrenal fatigue. I listen to the symptoms and assess the lifestyle of my patients in order to determine whether or not they have an adrenal imbalance. In some cases I use salivary hormone testing to determine baseline levels of cortisol, and track treatment progress.
How do you treat adrenal fatigue? The best way to treat adrenal fatigue is to address the underlying cause: STRESS. I encourage you to examine your personal daily stressors, slow down, and take your health back into your own hands. If you suffer from adrenal fatigue, the most important thing you can do is to establish a routine. Below are some of my suggestions for establishing an adrenal friendly routine.
Go to bed at the same time every night, and get at least 8 hours of sleep.
Do something relaxing every day (deep breathing, warm bath, nature walk, yoga, meditation, massage, acupuncture, etc.)
Learn to say NO when you’ve reached your limit.
Eat protein with every meal.
Don’t over-exercise. If you feel fatigued, scale down the intensity, or take a day or two off to recover.
Avoid processed foods, simple carbohydrates (cookies, muffins, cakes, white bread, pasta) and sugar.
Decrease or eliminate caffeine.
Consider supplementation with adaptogenic herbs, a vitamin B complex, or intravenous nutrient therapy.
Adaptogenic herbs help the body adapt and cope with stress. My favourite adaptogenic herbs are Licorice Root, Ginseng, Rhodiola, and Withania.
Intravenous nutrient therapy (ie. the Myer’s Cocktail) is a solution of B vitamins, vitamin C and magnesium that is infused directly into a vein. These vitamins nourish the adrenal glands, boost energy and help the body cope and manage stress. For more information on the Myer’s Cocktailclick here.
If you’ve enjoyed this blog remember to SHARE it, LIKE it, and post any comments below! Dr. Meghan Stobbs ND Healing Cedar Wellness
Good food translates to good health. This is common wisdom. However, sometimes even good whole foods can make a person sick. When fresh strawberries cause hives, a glass of milk causes stomach cramps and diarrhea, or daily bread products cause fatigue and bloating; then it is time to talk to your health care provider to determine whether an ordinary food may be causing your health problems.
In my clinical practice I spend a lot of time with each and every one of my patients reviewing their diet, encouraging balanced diets rich in whole foods, and when needed testing for food sensitivities and allergies. This article will outline the difference between food sensitivities, intolerances and allergies, common symptoms related with these food reactions, and what to expect with food sensitivity and allergy testing.
What’s the difference between food allergies, intolerances, and sensitivities?
Food allergies are IgE mediated immune reactions that cause immediate and sometimes life threatening reactions in the body. Breathing difficulties, anaphylaxis, skin eruptions such as hives, and digestive problems are common IgE reactions.
Food sensitivities and intolerances are not life threatening and are delayed reactions that contribute to chronic health concerns. These reactions are typically divided further into digestive and immune concerns.
Food intolerances are digestive in origin and typically refer to the inability of the body to break down the offending foods. Digestive intolerance symptoms often include cramping, bloating, and diarrhea. The most common digestive intolerance is lactose intolerance, where digesting diary becomes a problem. Most people with digestive intolerances can correlate symptoms to the ingestion of the offending foods, and testing is not necessary. Some people will benefit from taking digestive enzymes with every meal. However, if this doesn’t help, I would recommend seeing a naturopathic doctor for additional support.
Food sensitivities are delayed IgG mediated immune reactions. Symptoms take hours or days to develop, making it difficult to determine the food cause without testing. With food sensitivities, symptoms are incredibly individual, and each person will manifest them differently. However, common food sensitivity symptoms include fatigue, digestive disturbances, chronic skin rashes, weight gain, headaches, joint pain, mood and memory disturbances, and behavioral problems.
Can you develop food intolerances and sensitivities later on in life? Food intolerances and sensitivities can develop at any point in life. A person who has never had any problems with food, may develop food reaction symptoms later on in life. Food intolerances and sensitivities can be triggered by many different factors. These factors include overconsumption of a particular food, genetic predisposition, poor digestion, environmental factors, and stress.
How can I get tested for food allergies and sensitivities? An allergist typically tests for food allergies, however here in BC naturopathic doctors are also licensed to test for these immediate immune reactions. To get an appointment with an allergist you will need a referral from your family doctor. An allergist will test for food allergies through a scratch test or blood test, which is covered through MSP. A naturopathic doctor on the other hand, uses blood testing only for food allergies, which may be covered through your extended health insurance.
Naturopathic physicians are the go-to health care providers for food sensitivity testing. The test involves a finger prick or blood draw. Once the blood sample is taken, the sample is sent to the lab for testing, and your naturopathic doctor (ND) will receive your results within 10-14 days. At this time you will be called to book a follow-up visit with your ND to discuss your results. The accredited medical laboratory company that I use for food sensitivity testing is Rocky Mountain Analytical www.rmalab.com.
What happens after I get my food sensitivity results? If you test positive for any food, taking those reactive foods out of your diet for 3-6 months is recommended. In my practice I give detailed handouts on alternatives to your food sensitivities to ensure that proper nutrition is maintained. I also recommend starting a probiotic to help heel the gut from damage created from years of eating those food culprits.
Overtime it is common that the foods that a person was once sensitive to become less reactive. At the 3-6 month mark, re-introduction of these foods will determine whether or not you will need to continue avoiding them, or are able to eat these foods in small amounts. This is different from a food allergy, where the offending food will have to be avoided long term (sometimes indefinitely).
What about celiac disease? Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder of the small intestine caused by eating gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, spelt, and kamut. Overtime, this immune reaction produces inflammation and damages the small intestinal cells which causes malabsorption of nutrients. The intestinal damage can cause weight loss, bloating and sometimes diarrhea. Anemia, loss of bone density, headaches and fatigue, joint pain, numbness and tingling, acid reflux and an itchy blistery skin rash (dermatitis herpetiformis) are other common symptoms. In children, malabsorption can affect growth and development. The intestinal irritation can cause stomach pain, especially after eating.
Your naturopathic physician or family doctor can test you for celiac disease. The blood test ordered is called tissue transglutaminase (ttg). If you have a positive ttg test, your doctor may refer you for a small intestinal biopsy to confirm the disease. The management of celiac disease involves strict life-long avoidance of gluten, and nutritional supplementation to heal the damaged intestinal lining.
What are the costs associated with food sensitivity testing through Dr. Stobbs? - Initial 1 hour naturopathic consultation - $165.00 ($140.00 for children) - 95 IgG Food Sensitivity Panel - $250.00 - 30 minute naturopathic follow-up to discuss results - $95.00 ($85.00 for children) - Additional follow-up visits may be recommended depending on patient case.
**Naturopathic consultations and testing fees may be covered under extended health care plans through your employer, please check with the details of your plan to see your level of coverage.**
You may have heard about intravenous (IV) vitamin therapies, or the “Myer’s Cocktail,” but are unsure of what this therapy entails, and if it will benefit you. Well, you are in luck! This article is designed to answer all your questions around this very beneficial therapy.
What is a Myer’s Cocktail? The Myer’s Cocktail is a very effective therapy that has been used by Naturopathic Physicians and other Complementary and Alternative health care practitioners for over half a century. This therapy was initially developed by Dr. John Myers MD, and further refined and popularized by Dr. Alan Gaby MD.
A Myer’s treatment is typically a combination of Vitamins C, B complex, B5, B6, B12, Folic Acid, Magnesium, and Selenium (blended with saline of sterile water). The amounts of these vitamins and minerals will depend on the patient and the particular health concern being treated. The nutrient combination is infused directly into the circulation, through a vein, generally over 10-20 minutes by a gentle “push,” or 30-45 minutes by “drip.”
Why give IV nutrients as opposed to oral? Infusing a nutrient solution directly into the blood allows for more thorough and rapid absorption and utilization of the vitamins and minerals. This is because adding a mixture directly into the circulation will bypass the digestive system, where most nutrients are poorly absorbed and mostly eliminated. Additionally, some side effects from high dose oral administration (for example loose stools from high doses of oral Vitamin C and Magnesium) are avoided.
Who can benefit from Myer’s Cocktails? Almost anyone can benefit from this therapy. This includes individuals who feel healthy overall but would like an additional boost in mood or energy. It may be useful in those that have higher needs for specific nutrients such as athletes, students, of professionals under high levels of acute and chronic stress. Those with lowered immune function, or would like to prevent the onset of colds and flus will also benefit from this therapy. Additionally, clinical improvement has been documented after administration of IV nutrients in people who suffer from the following health conditions:
Migraine and tension headache
Fatigue (including chronic fatigue syndrome and adrenal fatigue)
Acute muscle spasm
Muscle recovery from endurance
Upper respiratory tract infections
Seasonal allergic rhinitis
Depression, anxiety and the effects of acute and chronic stress
Poor memory and concentration
How often is a Myer’s Cocktail given? The frequency of treatments depends on the individual patient and what health concern is being treated. For acute health concerns, such as muscle spasms, sinusitis, or upper respiratory infections, only one to two treatments may be required. In anticipation of a high stress event (wedding, final exams, long hours at work), or in preparation for an athletic event such as a marathon or fitness competition, a Myer’s Cocktail may be given weekly for a period of three to five weeks or more. Frequency is tapered down when symptom improvement is noted. For ongoing chronic conditions such as fibromyalgia, chronic urticaria, or mood disorders frequency is assessed on an individual basis.
Are there any side effects? The most common side effect of a Myer’s Cocktail is the sensation of heat. This effect is caused by Magnesium, which is a potent vasodilator. Vasodilation can cause your blood pressure to lower, which can lead to light-headedness and syncope (fainting). During the therapy, Dr. Stobbs will watch for signs of heat, and low blood pressure, and adjust the infusion accordingly. These side effects are easily avoided with slower administration of the therapy. Other side effects may include redness or irritation at the site of injection, which resolves shortly after the treatment.
Sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT) is an injection free natural treatment that addresses the underlying cause of environmental allergies. The therapy involves exposing a patient to small doses of the allergen(s) under the tongue, which helps to re-train the immune system to become less reactive. This process is called desensitization, and can be used to treat hay fever allergic rhinitis, allergic conjunctivitis, and allergic asthma in adults, and children over 3 years of age.
Sublingual immunotherapy has endorsement from the World Health Organization, the World Allergy Organization, and the Cochrane Collaborations, and has been used for over 60 years in various countries. Over 60 articles in peer-reviewed journals have shown that sublingual immunotherapy is both safe and effective, and when compared to conventional allergy shots, it costs less, is more convenient, and requires fewer clinical visits.
How does SLIT work?
Like injection therapy, SLIT works by changing the body’s ability to react with allergens. A small dose is given every day sublingually (under the tongue), which desensitizes your immune system to the allergen(s).
An initial allergy scratch test is first performed to determine which allergens you are reacting to (skin prick testing cannot be undertaken in pregnant women, and individuals taking B-blockers). The first dose of the indicated allergen(s) is given in office, and subsequent daily doses of the allergy drops are taken at home. Retesting after 6 months of treatment will determine if the allergy drops are still needed.
SLIT can be used during the allergy season, or preventatively 30-60 days prior to the offending allergy season. Treatment continues to the end of the allergy season, or beyond if indicated.
Types of allergens tested and treated include cat and dog dander, dust mites, tree pollen, weeds, grasses and mold.
When should I start SLIT treatment?
Preventatively: Treatment should start 4-8 weeks prior to the offending allergy season. Co-seasonally: Treatment during the allergy season can be started at any time.
BC Allergy Seasons:
Tree pollen: February to June
Grass: May to August
Weed: August to November
Mold, dust and dander: There is no season for these allergens – treatment can start at any time.
Appointments and Fees for Sublingual Immunotherapy
If you are a new patient to Dr. Stobbs, expect to be at the clinic for a 1-hour initial visit where your medical history is reviewed, questions are addressed, and the allergy scratch test is performed. If you are a returning patient, a 30 minute appointment to perform the allergy test is needed, and you will be asked to wait for an additional 15 minutes in the reception area prior to going home.
Our comprehensive testing fee is $75.00 plus GST, or $15.00 plus GST per individual allergen. The cost of the allergen drops will depend on the number of allergens being treated. For individuals with extended medical plans, the cost of the allergy drops may be covered with submission of your receipt. Please check with your insurance agency or employer for details.
Dr. Stobbs will fax the prescription in, and your allergy drops will be shipped to Healing Cedar Wellness for pick up. The first dose of the medicine must be administered at the clinic, which requires a 15-minute follow-up appointment for observation, and overview of medicine administration and dosage.
Preventive effects of sublingual immunotherapy in childhood: an open randomized controlled study Marogna, Maurizio; Tomassetti, Dante; Bernasconi, Antonella; Colombo, Fausto; Massolo, Alessandro; Rienzo Businco, Andrea D.; Canonica, Giorgio W.; Passalacqua, Giovanni; Tripodi, Salvatore Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, Volume 101, Number 2, August 2008 , pp. 206-211(6).
Effects of sublingual immunotherapy for multiple or single allergens in polysensitized patients Marogna, Maurizio; Spadolini, Igino; Massolo, Alessandro; Zanon, Pietro; Berra, Daniele; Chiodini, Elena; Canonica, Walter G.; Passalacqua, Giovanni Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, Volume 98, Number 3, March 2007 , pp. 274-280(7)
Efficacy of sublingual immunotherapy in grass pollen allergy Wessner D, Rakoski J, Ring J. Chemical Immunology and Allergy. 2003;82:53-61.
The best way to treat a cold is not to get one in the first place! The common cold is caused by a virus, and is spread through coughing, sneezing, and person-to-person contact. If a sick person sneezes and touches a doorknob, and then you touch the same doorknob, there is a chance that you will ‘catch’ that person’s cold. Not everyone that is exposed to the cold virus will get it. Reasons why you would not develop a cold upon exposure are if you already have immunity to that virus, or if you have a strong enough immune system to fight off the virus before it manifests in your body symptomatically.
You are most likely to develop a cold when you are not getting adequate sleep, when you are consuming highly refined, nutrient-deficient and sugary foods, and when you are overworked or stressed. People who have small children in daycare, or who work in daycares, schools or health care settings, are also more likely to catch a cold.
The best ways of preventing a cold are to ensure proper hygiene by washing your hands regularly with soap, and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Also, it is important to get lots of sleep, and take time for yourself to minimize stress. Nutritionally, stay hydrated, avoid eating sugar and packaged products that contain highly refined carbohydrates, and incorporate more green leafy vegetables and fruits in your diet.
A healthy adult should get approximately one to two colds per year. If you are getting colds more frequently you will likely need some additional strategies to help build your immune system. Consulting with a naturopathic physician can help to get to the root cause of why you are getting sick, which can then be used to customize a treatment plan to tackle your individual immune challenges.
Dr. Meghan Stobbs BSc., ND Naturopathic Doctor at Healing Cedar Wellness
Our fantastic team of practitioners contribute to our blog articles. Together we aim to restore balance within the body, educate each patient and guide them on their journey to optimum health. Our clinic offers natural health for the entire family, from babies to older adults and everyone in between.
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