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Foods for Menopause and Perimenopause

The hormonal shifts that accompany perimenopause and menopause lack a clear instruction manual, often leaving many women in a continuous cycle of trial and error when it comes to managing their symptoms. Fortunately, one of the most potent tools available for regaining control of your hormones is the food you consume. Certain foods contribute to hormone balance and can help alleviate perimenopause and menopause symptoms, while others can disrupt your body’s hormonal equilibrium.

When essential nutritional elements are lacking, hormonal imbalances can arise, leading to mood swings, weight gain, hot flashes, and reduced libido. The primary hormones affected during perimenopause and menopause are estrogen, progesterone, insulin, and testosterone, and your dietary choices can significantly impact these hormones. For instance, excessive sugar consumption can elevate insulin levels, trigger inflammation, and exacerbate nearly every perimenopausal symptom. On the other hand, incorporating vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds into your diet can provide phytonutrients and healthy fats that aid in managing even the most challenging menopause symptoms.

While there’s no one-size-fits-all diet, several foods have proven beneficial for most people seeking to balance their hormones:

1. Brassica (aka cruciferous) Vegetables: These include broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and cabbage, which contain indole-3-carbinol—a compound that helps metabolize estrogen in the gut and liver. This can be particularly helpful in addressing estrogen dominance.

2. Healthy Fats: Avocados, nuts, seeds, and fish are rich inomega-3 fatty acids and other fats crucial for reducing inflammation and supporting hormone production, especially progesterone.

3. Fiber-Rich Foods: Fiber is essential for gut health, which plays a critical role in hormone balance. Low-starch fruits and veggies, nuts, seeds, and whole grains can boost your fiber intake, aiding in estrogen metabolism and blood sugar regulation.

However, there are also foods and drinks that should be limited or avoided:

1. Caffeine: Excess caffeine can lead to increased stress hormone production and elevated cortisol levels, potentially exacerbating fatigue and estrogen levels.

2. Processed Carbs and Sugar: As tolerance to sugar decreases with age, limiting simple carbohydrates and sugars (like table sugar, baked goods, and packaged foods) becomes crucial for managing blood sugar and insulin levels.

3. Alcohol: Even moderate alcohol consumption can disrupt hormones, affect brain aging, and lead to elevated insulin levels and estrogen dominance.

4. Gluten: Gluten sensitivity can contribute to gut issues, thyroid problems, and autoimmune conditions, making it advisable to assess its impact on your health

Balancing your diet can ease the transition into perimenopause and menopause, regardless of whether you’re just beginning to experience symptoms or are already in the midst of them. By making thoughtful dietary choices, you can navigate this phase of life with greater vitality and well-being.

Your Partner In Health,

Sara Yadlowsky, FMHC

How does Acupuncture work, and what can it treat?

Katie Depre LAc, LMBT, FABORM, NCCAOM

Though often described as traditional or ancient medicine, research has proven that Acupuncture has its place alongside modern medical practices. Hair-thin needles are placed in precise and therapeutic point locations along meridians. Meridians have been shown to mirror the fascial network of the body. Fascia surrounds all of the organs, muscles, bones, and nerve fibers. These points are located alongside nerve endings and blood vessels, thereby directly influencing blood flow and sensory nerves in the area (2,3). Functional brain imaging has shown changes in the brain when these points are needled (1). Since the brain controls the systems of the body (hormones, blood flow, stress responses, organ function, reproduction, etc.), influencing the brain and nervous system with Acupuncture will impact our health. Treatment encourages the body’s own systems of balance, commonly known as homeostasis.

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health outlines many of the researched treatable conditions (4); these include: pain management, osteoarthritis, sciatica, fibromyalgia, cancer pain, irritable bowel syndrome, asthma, depression, allergies, infertility, and menopause symptoms. Though more chronic conditions will require a series of treatment for complete resolution, I have personally witnessed immediate relief from insomnia, digestive complaints, anxiety, and pain in my clinic.  Especially because it is a non-pharmaceutical approach, many patients search out Acupuncture for treatment to acute and chronic conditions.

As a Fellow of the Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine Board of Reproductive Medicine, FABORM, I treat many patients with their fertility goals. By regulating the menses, we can prepare the body for pregnancy. Fertility work is best done weekly for three months prior to conception, as it takes three months for the egg to develop in the ovaries. During times of sympathetic stress (the flight or fight response), blood is shunted away from the ovaries and uterus. This can negatively impact egg quality and the thickness of the uterine lining.  By encouraging blood flow to these reproductive organs, switching the nervous system into a parasympathetic state (rest, digest, and repair), and regulating the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Ovarian Axis, we set the body up for success.

For patients undergoing IVF, the Paulus Protocol is utilized. This is a series of points done before and after an embryo transfer. “Clinical pregnancies were documented in 34 of 80 patients (42.5%) in the acupuncture group, whereas the pregnancy rate was only 26.3% (21 out of 80 patients) in the control group (5).”

Please reach out today if you have specific questions on how Acupuncture can help you realize your health goals!

Warmly,

Katie Depre LAc, LMBT, FABORM, NCCAOM

Sacred-sea.com

(919) 808-2638

  1. Huang W, Pach D, Napadow V, Park K, Long X, Neumann J, Maeda Y, Nierhaus T, Liang F, Witt CM. Characterizing acupuncture stimuli using brain imaging with FMRI–a systematic review and meta-analysis of the literature. PLoS One. 2012;7(4):e32960. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0032960. Epub 2012 Apr 9. PMID: 22496739; PMCID: PMC3322129.
  2. Langevin HM, Yandow JA. Relationship of acupuncture points and meridians to connective tissue planes. Anat Rec. 2002 Dec 15;269(6):257-65. doi: 10.1002/ar.10185. PMID: 12467083.
  3. Bai Y, Wang J, Wu JP, Dai JX, Sha O, Tai Wai Yew D, Yuan L, Liang QN. Review of evidence suggesting that the fascia network could be the anatomical basis for acupoints and meridians in the human body. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2011;2011:260510. doi: 10.1155/2011/260510. Epub 2011 Apr 26. PMID: 21584283; PMCID: PMC3092510.
  4. Acupuncture: What You Need to Know. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. (2022, October). https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/acupuncture-what-you-need-to-know

Non-Toxic Cleaning Recipes


Whether you’re a new parent, someone with sensitivities to chemicals, or just looking to create a healthier home environment, the Non-Toxic Home Guide will help you tremendously.

I hope this guide is informative and helpful in your journey toward a healthier home. If you have any questions , please don’t hesitate to contact your functional medicine health coach at CTW.  We are always here to help.

RECIPES:

All-Purpose Cleaner: Mix equal parts white vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Add a few drops of your favorite essential oil for a pleasant scent.

Glass Cleaner: Mix equal parts white vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Spray the solution onto your mirrors or windows, and use a microfiber cloth to wipe them clean.

Mirror and Glass Cleaner: Mix equal parts white vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Spray the solution onto the mirror or glass surface and wipe with a clean cloth or newspaper.

Tile and Grout Cleaner: Mix 1/2 cup of baking soda with1/4 cup of hydrogen peroxide and 1 tablespoon of dish soap. Apply the solution to the tile and grout using a spray bottle or a sponge. Let it sit for 5-8 minutes before scrubbing with a soft-bristled brush. Rinse thoroughly with water.

Carpet Stain Remover: Mix 1/4 cup of white vinegar, 1 tsp of dish soap, and 1 cup of warm water in a spray bottle. Spray the mixture on the stain, let it sit for 5-10 minutes, then blot with a clean cloth.

Toilet Bowl Cleaner: Pour 2 cups of white vinegar and then 1 cup of baking soda into the toilet bowl. Let it sit for15-20 minutes before scrubbing it with a toilet brush. Flush the toilet to rinse.

Oven Cleaner: Mix 1 cup of baking soda with a small amount of water to form a paste. Apply the paste to the inside of the oven, avoiding heating elements. Let it sit for a few hours or overnight, then wipe it clean with a damp cloth.

Grease Cutter: Mix 1 cup of warm water with 1/3 cup of white vinegar, 1/8 teaspoon of dish soap, and 1 teaspoon of baking soda. Apply the solution to greasy surfaces with a sponge or cloth and wipe clean with a damp cloth.

Floor Cleaner: Mix ¼ cup of castile soap with a gallon of warmwater. Use a mop to clean your floors as usual.

Stainless Steel Cleaner: Mix 1/2 cup of olive oil with 1/2 cup of white vinegar. Add 10-20 drops of citrus essential oil. Spray onto stainless steel surfaces and wipe clean with a micro fiber cloth.

Shower and Tub Cleaner: Mix 1/2 cup of white vinegar with 1/2cup of Sal Suds. Apply the solution to the shower or tub using a spray bottle or a sponge. Let it sit for 3-5 minutes before scrubbing with a soft-bristled brush. Rinse thoroughly with water.

Basic Laundry Detergent: Mix 1 cup of washing soda, 1 cup of baking soda, 1/4 cup of Epsom salt, and 25 drops of essential oil in a large bowl. Store in a glass jar and use 1-2 tablespoons per load.

Vinegar Fabric Softener: Mix 1 cup of white vinegar with 20-30drops of essential oil in a spray bottle. Spray onto clothes before putting them in the dryer


Your Partner In Health,
Clarissa A. Kussin, ND, FMCHC, ERYT-1000

How to Talk About Food

Erica Nelson, MSPH, NBC-HWC

Here, at Carolina Total Wellness, we often recommend dietary adjustments to treat a wide variety of symptoms. Many of our patients come to us for guidance, asking ‘What is the healthiest diet?’ And the truth is, the ‘healthiest diet’ is unique to the person eating it.

One patient may get itchy and congested when they eat and need to reduce or eliminate foods that may increase or contain histamines like leftovers and peanuts. Another patient may have intestinal permeability and need to eliminate identified sensitives to gluten, oats and eggs. Yet another may be concerned about their family history of Alzheimer’s disease or cancer and need to make a variety of other adjustments.

Regardless of health status and dietary needs, most of us prefer sharing meals with our friends, family and coworkers over dining alone. Sometimes even a simple lunch can be a source of concern when a well-meaning aunt or friend asks about your ‘crazy diet.’

Over and over again, patients tell me that eating with their families is a barrier to successfully making the adjustments necessary to improve their health. Here are some strategies to enjoy eating the food that nourishes your body with the people that nourish your soul (and even some people that don’t):

Know your why. Get clear on why you are making the changes. And practice your responses ahead of time. When you know exactly what you are trying to accomplish with your food, it is easier to make good choices and much harder for someone else to convince you otherwise.

Have a short ‘elevator pitch’ prepared. Something like, ‘I wasn’t feeling my best recently and, after talking to my doctor, I am focused on eating foods that nourish my body and soul like (name a few key foods you’re enjoying eating.)’ And then mention a positive outcome like. ‘You wouldn’t believe how much better I am sleeping!’

Have at least one person fully in your corner. As part of your preparation for making these changes, make sure you talk to a trusted friend or partner that will be your support-person when the going gets tough. No matter how committed you are to health changes, there will be days when you don’t get enough rest or you have a bad day at the office. On these days, even strong-willed, prepared ‘you’ can have a tough time remembering your ‘why’ and the ‘Can’t you have just one bite?’ question may be coming from inside your own head. On these days, call this person and tell them that you are considering deviating from your plan.

Project confidence. Add a big smile to your ‘No thank you’ and you’re less likely to get pushback or hear ‘Can’t you have just one?’ Know your restaurant order before you go and say it confidently. ‘I’ll have the burger, no bun, no cheese, extra lettuce and the spinach salad on the side, please.’

“Girl (or boy,) stop apologizing.”  Rachel Hollis made this phrase famous with her book by the same name. She was right, though. There is no need to apologize for doing what is right for your health and/or sanity. Try replacing ‘I’m sorry’ with ‘Thank you.’ For example, instead of ‘I’m sorry to inconvenience you,’ try ‘Thank you for accommodating for my gluten/dairy/egg/sugar sensitivity.’

Boundaries. Some people have no trouble with the sentence ‘no.’ But for many, it is easier to please the people around you and silently suffer your own consequences later. This can be exhausting and lead to difficulty knowing what you wanted in the first place. Know where your line is and don’t let anyone tempt you to cross it. Remember that everything you say ‘yes’ to is a ‘no’ to something else.

It is okay to make inappropriate people uncomfortable. If, for example, someone makes a comment about your body composition or fertility, it is not only okay to make them uncomfortable, but also brave and good. Saying ‘That’s inappropriate’ could keep them from bestowing their judgement on another undeserving person.

The health coaches at Carolina Total Wellness are here to support you in your personalized health care journey.

Your Partner In Health,

Erica Nelson, MSPH, NBC-HWC

Hormesis: The Beneficial Type of Stress

Sara Yadlowsky, FMHC

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.  We’ve all heard the saying before.  Science has revealed it is surprisingly accurate when it comes to our health and longevity.

Hormesis is the idea that short, intermittent bursts of certain stressors can start a cascade of cellular processes that slow aging, improve overall health and make you more resilient, both physically and mentally.  It is a hot topic in longevity research right now.

We all know that chronic stress caused by relationship issues, financial problems and working too many hours is detrimental to our health.  However, hormetic stressors are controlled and acute, triggering healthy adaptive responses.

What does all this mean in real life?  Hormesis is the common thread found in some popular health and fitness trends such as HIIT (high intensity interval training), cold exposure, heat therapy and intermittent fasting.  Prolonged doses of these behaviors are not healthy or sustainable.   For example, if you spend too much time in a sauna you will become dehydrated.  But, in short bursts, the bodily stress caused by these practices are enough to bring about health benefits such as reducing inflammation, supporting elimination of toxins, repairing DNA, combatting oxidative stress, repairing cellular damage and reducing risk of cancer.

Here are three ways to strategically stress your body and reap the rewards:

  1. HIIT – Do a HIIT workout 1-3 times a week.  HIIT workouts are intermittent bursts of intense effort for 30 seconds, followed by 15 seconds of rest.  These workouts are usually short, around 15-20 minutes.  You can easily find these HIIT videos on YouTube.
  2. Hot or Cold Therapy – Infrared sauna is a great way to heat up and sweat out some toxins.  It also reduces inflammation and pain.  In contrast, ice baths, cold showers and the new cryotherapy chambers that are popping up everywhere will cool you down quicky.  Cold therapy is also known for reducing inflammation and pain.  Both types of therapies may help strengthen the immune system.
  3. Intermittent Fasting – Fasting triggers a cellular “clean up” response called autophagy.  Autophagy results in several health benefits such as lowered cholesterol, reduced blood pressure and reduced inflammation.  For many, a 16:8 intermittent fasting schedule (16 hours of fasting followed by an 8 hour feeding window) works well.  However, we recommend that you experiment with the timing to see what works best for you.

Be aware that adding stress (even the good type!) to our lives can backfire if done at the wrong time.  When life is already very stressful, it is best to wait until a better time when you are more relaxed to try out these new practices.

Your Partner In Health,

Sara Yadlowsky, FMHC

Leaky Gut

Susan Denny, MD, MPH

Do You Have Leaky Gut?

If you suffer from a chronic health condition and have been researching how to improve your health, you may have heard of leaky gut.  If that conjures up an unpleasant image of gut materials leaking in to your bloodstream, you are not far off.  Leaky gut happens when contents from the small intestine spill into the sterile bloodstream from a damaged or “leaky” gut wall.   This contamination of the bloodstream by digested foods as well as bacteria, yeast, and other pathogens is often the foundation for chronic inflammatory and autoimmune health disorders. 

Leaky gut is referred to as increased intestinal permeability in scientific research and is increasingly being recognized as a common underlying factor in most inflammatory symptoms and disorders.  As our body’s largest immune organ, the gut powerfully influences the rest of the body. Importantly, this includes the brain. Current scientific studies link intestinal permeability with inflammatory bowel disorders, gluten sensitivity, celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, type 1 diabetes, depression, anxiety, psoriasis, and many other chronic conditions.

Given what we know about the connection between gut health and immunity, it is vital to include a gut repair protocol in the treatment of inflammatory and autoimmune disorders. Repair of leaky gut begins with understanding why it developed in the first place.   Reasons for leaky gut can include over the counter or prescription medications, antibiotic use, toxin exposure, hormonal changes, food intolerances, poor diet and others.  After root causes are identified, a leaky gut protocol can help you improve your health, relieve symptoms, boost energy, make you happier, and clear your brain fog. Ask our office for advice on improving your overall health through a personalized leaky gut evaluation and treatment plan.

Your Partner in Health!

Susan Denny, MD, MPH

TOXINS… Mercury, phthalates, and lead, oh my!

Frances T Meredith, MD

We are swimming in toxins every day from the water we drink, the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the products we use on our bodies, and in our homes and yards. We have all heard the story of Flint Michigan. But lead exposure is just the very tip of the iceberg of our daily toxin exposure.

Toxins now are well established to impair the ability of our mitochondria, the batteries in every cell, to create energy. That has downstream effects in every organ system. Many studies clearly establish that toxins underlie many chronic diseases including neurogenerative disease (think Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, ALS), autoimmunity, hormone disruption (think thyroid and endometriosis) and > 50% cases of gout. Did you know toxins often lurk beneath depression, anxiety, and ADHD?

There are simple things we can all do to both decrease our exposure and assist our body in moving out toxins. The first step is a good look at where the toxins are coming from. Stop the inflow! Environmental toxins include chemicals, metals, mold, particulate matter in the air, ozone, radiation, and EMF. And don’t forget those ever-present psychic toxins that have escalated in the past few years: toxic relationships, social media, and news. Toxins also can come from within, in the byproducts created by intestinal bacteria, our own hormone processing, and our own natural detox pathways. Then we often “choose our poisons”, drinking that evening wine to wind down, vape, diets that are too acidic, or choosing non pure forms of hemp, and often using them for the wrong reasons.   

I’d like to take a bit of time to dig into environmental toxins. First, metals. We all know about lead exposure, but did you know that our city water has arsenic? Kale is often filled with thallium? Do you have mercury fillings? If so, are they stable or are they leaking low level mercury into your body every day?

Next, a bit more focus on chemicals. Many chemicals are known to be “gender benders”, disrupting our hormone pathways, plugging into the estrogen receptors and not letting go, decreasing fertility in women, sperm counts in men. The big offenders on the “gender bender” list are phthalates, bisphenols, parabens, triclosan in antibacterial soap, and PCBs. Below is a list of chemicals to which we are frequently exposed, creating buildup over time.

  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs): burning of tobacco, oil, coal, gas, garbage
  • Plastics (phthalates): from plastics and from anything with “fragrance” or “parfum” not labelled as organic (think Bath and Body Works); microplastics are also in our water
  • Phenols, particularly bisphenol, (BPA); found in hard plastics, sippy cups, linings of beverage/food containers, transferring through the skin of your hands on your Publix receipt.
  • Parabens: in many cosmetics, creams, medications etc
  • Organochloride pesticides: DDT is still  in soil from use 1940s-1960s
  • Organophosphate pesticides: RoundUp etc
  • Polychlorinated dibenzo-dioxin and furan (dioxins): exposed in high fat dairy/meat/FISH
  • Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs): illegal 1979, but we are still exposed in high fat dairy/meat/FISH
  • Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs): flame retardants, FATTY FISH     
  • Polyflourinated compounded (PFCs): stain, grease, water resistant products

So how can we help our body deal with this onslaught of chemicals? First, stop the inflow:

  • Clean Air: Create a “scent free zone” in your home. Avoid living near highways if possible. Add plants that absorb toxins (ficus, mums, gerber daisies). Leave shoes at the door. Just 2 days with clean air improves health
  • Clean Water: Quality water filtration is essential, such as Aquasana, or Zero Water
  • Clean Food: Organic where possible using Clean 15 Dirty Dozen list; grow your own food where possible; wash chemically grown food in acidic solution such as vinegar, no plastic for food storage, no perflouride based nonstick pans
  • Clean up household, lawn, personal hygiene products using www.ewg.org and the Think Dirty Shop Clean app to guide product choice. No RoundUp.
  • Clean frequently, especially with crawling children in the home.

Then we can get the body ready to move toxins out. This will take guidance from your Functional Medicine provider and will include essential nutrients, balancing the intestinal bacterial microbiome, an “oil change” to remove and replace damaged oils in cellular membranes where toxins reside, adding binders to catch and remove toxins as they are excreted by liver/gallbladder into the intestinal tract. The “prep” also includes many pieces to get liver and kidneys ready. Then, and only then, can we proceed to escort the toxins out without creating further damage. “Detox” without this prep is very dangerous.

Once we move into the process of escorting out the toxins, we choose supplements, foods, and sometimes medications to grab and move toxins out of tissues. At the same time, we use many modalities including lymphatic massage, infrared sauna, castor oil packs, and CranioSacral therapy to support the lymphatic system whose job it is to move those toxins through and out.

Unfortunately, we no longer live in an organic world as did our predecessors. We are swimming in toxins every day and all have a role to play in the cleanup and healing of our planet. As we set this intention, we must support the beautiful creation that is our body in order to survive and thrive in this toxin filled world.

“Detox your mind, body, AND your contact list”

-Supa Nova Slom

Your provider at Carolina Total Wellness would be happy to discuss strategies to better optimize your body’s ability to thrive in this world of toxins.

Your partner in health,

Frances T Meredith, MD

How To Choose A Safer Sunscreen

Caroline Wilson, M.Ed., FMHC



Summer is coming and while sunlight is vital for health AND is an important way for us to obtain Vitamin D, it is important to practice safe sun exposure and prevent sunburn, which is a risk factor for skin cancer. A recent study in JAMA found that chemical ingredients from sunscreen were detected in the bloodstream after one use, sometimes for days after. These ingredients are also detected in breast milk, and have been associated with lower testosterone levels in teenage boys.
Recently Johnson and Johnson voluntarily recalled 5 of their sunscreens due to the presence of benzene, a carcinogen in these products. 
Using a safer sunscreen without known harmful chemicals is important.  EWG, the Environmental Working Group, is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to protecting human health and the environment. They score products based on safety data. EWG scores 0-10, 0 is the cleanest and 10 is the worst. Here is a list of ingredients to avoid with the EWG ratings:

  • Oxybenzone(EWG 8), sometimes called benzophenone-3, is banned in Hawaii due to its harm on aquatic life, and yet still found in around 40% of non-mineral based sunscreen. In animal studies, it is an endocrine disruptor and there is some evidence it has a similar impact in humans too – In an evaluation of CDC-collected exposure data for American children, researchers found that adolescent boys with higher oxybenzone measurements had significantly lower total testosterone levels. It is also a contact allergen, may cause systemic toxicity, and be harmful to aquatic life.
  • Octinoxate(EWG 6) – (aka OMC or methoxy-cinnamate) linked to endocrine disruption as well as reproductive toxicity in animal studies. Harms coral reef.
  • Homosalate(EWG 4) – linked to reproductive and developmental toxicity. 
  • ParabensPhthalates – endocrine disruptors, can hide under the guise of ‘fragrance’, so avoid the word Fragrance on that ingredient list. 

Lowest Risk Ingredients: Zinc Oxide (EWG 2), Titanium Dioxide (EWG 2), Avobenzone(EWG 2).

Some recommended brands that use the better ingredients are Babo Botanicals, Earth Mama, 365 Clear spray, Think Sport, Blue Lizard and Badger. For a complete list of safer sunscreens you can go to www.ewg.org.

For more information on using safer products for your skin, contact our office and schedule an appointment with one of our Health Coaches.   

Your Partner in Health!
Caroline Wilson, M.Ed., FMHC

Magnificent Magnesium

Frances Meredith, MD

In the times of COVID, so many nutrients seem to be in the news these days from quercetin to Zinc, to Vitamin D.  Overlooked I believe is the nutrient essential for every cell and every process in our body including immune readiness: Magnesium!

Magnesium is a cofactor for over 300 enzymatic reactions, supporting DNA and RNA synthesis, cell growth and reproduction. Magnesium enters the energy cycle as a cofactor in at least 12 different steps in the process, and is essential for the little batteries in every cell, our mitochondria, to transport electrons and create energy. It is necessary for bone growth and strength, stabilizing the cell membrane, and maintaining normal nerve and muscle function.

Magnesium sits within the cell, balancing all of our cells, keeping calcium outside the cell from overstimulating cellular activity in all parts of the body. For example, Mag balances Calcium in the NMDA glutamate receptor, controlling its opening, avoiding “neuroexcitation”.  Thus, lack of Magnesium sets the stage for nerve overactivation, hyperexcitability (think chronic anxiety, chronic pain, chronic states of inflammation created by lack of Magnesium). When we are Mag deficient this NMDA glutamate receptor activates. This is good for survival when we are under intense stress, but not something we want to live with on a day in and day out basis.

Low Magnesium can express itself in so many ways including fatigue, muscle cramping/tension, PMS, headaches, especially migraines, constipation, insomnia, tinnitus, brain fog, heart arrhythmias, anxiety and depression, TMJ, ADHD, and blood sugar issues. Sound familiar?  If that’s not enough, Magnesium deficiency is implicated in diabetes, osteoporosis, and hypertension. It is a natural “calcium channel blocker” (think drugs that do this such as amlodipine used for hypertension). The lower the Magnesium levels the greater the progression of Alzheimer’s. Fibromyalgia improves with Magnesium treatment. Increasing Magnesium intake is correlated with a decrease in stroke, diabetes, heart failure, fracture risk and all-cause mortality. Sounds like we all need more, yes?

Why are we so deficient? The answer lies both in the disruption of our food chain and the breakdown of our food choices. The soil is now deficient in Magnesium due to lack of crop rotation, pesticide use and overproduction; in addition, the use of fertilizer heavy in nitrogen and phosphate blocks the plants’ ability to absorb Magnesium.  Further, as foods are processed, Magnesium is leached out. The end product: less for us.

Testing for Magnesium is easy, with red blood cell levels being the most accurate form of testing. Body signals, however, are much more important than a test result. Symptoms such as myofascial and muscular tightness/tension/cramping, sluggish bowels, and low energy point to low Magnesium and a trial of Magnesium is warranted even without checking a blood level.

So how can we optimize Magnesium for all of the cells in our body to “sing”? It is clear that plant-based Magnesium is much more effective than the mineral in supplement form. This is due to the fact that Magnesium is at the heart of chlorophyll, responsible for the green pigment in our green foods. Plant based Magnesium is very absorbable and is already charged, essential for its function. The big winners for high magnesium are pumpkin seeds, spinach, almonds and cashews. This great link from Cleveland Clinic lists the magnesium content of many foods.

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/15650-magnesium-rich-food

 Magnesium in supplement form can be very helpful, and must be attached to a “chelator” to get across the intestinal border. They are best taken with food to improve stability. Magnesium comes in forms including glycinate, citrate, theonate, asparate, orotate, and oxide, with different benefits associated with the specific chelators.

For example, the Mag oxide form is only minimally absorbed and very unstable, drawing water into the intestinal tract, helpful for severe constipation or impaction but not helpful to get Magnesium into cells elsewhere in the body. In contrast the Magnesium glycinate is more stable, better absorbed and better for anxiety or insomnia. Mag citrate is helpful for intestinal motility/constipation as well as energy as it plugs directly into our “Krebs cycle” to create energy.

In addition, optimal intestinal absorption is necessary, with Magnesium absorbed mostly in the ileum of our small intestines. Therefore, if things go awry in the ileum, our ability to absorb Magnesium (as well as other nutrients) will be impacted (think leaky gut, small intestinal bacterial or fungal overgrowth).

Sounds like most everyone would be better off with a little more Magnesium! If any of the above-mentioned symptoms or conditions apply to you, your functional medicine provider at Carolina Total Wellness would be most happy to discuss this with you.

Your Partner In Health

Frances T. Meredith, MD

Functional Medicine

Functional medicine is a science-based health care approach to assess, prevent and treat complex chronic disease.

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After a brief allergy test, you can begin sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT), or allergy drops under the tongue. No more allergy shots!

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