Travel Tips

Sara Yadlowsky, FMHC

Summer is in full swing, which means weekend getaways and road trips. While for some a trip to the beach can help deter the stress associated with day-to-day life, for others it might spark a pang of anxiety. One of the most common questions we get as the weather gets warmer is: “how do I stay on track with my wellness goals while I am on vacation?” For so many of us, the excitement of being on a much-needed vacation coupled with an environment of food options that we do not usually indulge in creates a perfect storm of bloat, fatigue and overall unhappiness.

Here are some tips on how to stay on track while on vacation while still be able to enjoy yourself.

 
Bring Along Some Food From Home
Stay on track with your diet by bringing some food from home. Whether that mean fresh veggies and fruit, gluten-free bread, your favorite protein powder or organic meat, make sure that you are sticking with your routine from home to not only encourage healthy eating while away, but also to avoid temptations of food items that may cause unpleasant side effects.

 
Drink Lots of Water
Drinking lots of water daily is critical to your wellbeing and it’s even more important while you’re on vacation. Making sure that you are staying hydrated can help aid in digestion and prevent constipation while you are traveling.   If you are indulging in alcoholic beverages while on vacation, this tip is even more crucial. It’s an excellent idea to alternate between alcohol and water in order to avoid dehydration.
 
Prioritize Whole Foods
Eating an adequate amount of vegetables and fruit while on vacation will keep your fiber intake up during vacation. An easy way to get lots of whole foods is to make a superfood green smoothie for breakfast with plenty of fruits and veggies added in. Continue to prioritize whole foods throughout the day by getting veggies and/or fruits at every meal.
 
Get Plenty of Sleep
Being on a vacation always couples with being out of your normal routine; which is typically a good thing unless it interferes with your sleep. As tempting as it is to stay out later, getting a couple hours of sleep in before midnight will provide you with enough restorative sleep to help maximize your sleep and, in turn, stay on track with your wellness goals.
 
Don’t Stress
You’re on vacation after all! After navigating through the stress of daily life, this is your chance to lower your cortisol levels and spend quality time with loved ones. Don’t let your fear of losing traction on your goals interfere with your ability to truly enjoy yourself. If you backtrack a bit take it easy on yourself.  Rather than beating yourself up for indulging in dessert the night before, celebrate yourself for going on a run the following morning.
 
Wherever your travels make take you this summer, I hope that these insights give you peace of mind to relish in the calm and come back feeling rejuvenated and ready to continue your wellness journey. Safe travels! 
 
In health,
Sara Yadlowsky, FMHC

Lithium

Blair Cuneo, PA-C

Lithium…a little goes a long way in cognitive and emotional health

 
Popular nutrients that make the major headlines for supporting cognitive wellness include magnesium and zinc, but how’s your lithium?

Lithium is an essential micro-nutrient with chemical properties similar to calcium and magnesium. It is present in all organs and tissues of the body.

The US Environmental Protection Agency estimates the daily lithium intake of an average adult ranges from 0.65 mg to 3 mg. Foods higher in lithium include grains, vegetables, eggs and milk. The most frequent source of lithium is tap water. Depending on where you live, there can be lithium deficiencies in your soil and with increased bottle water and home filtration use, we are filtering the lithium right out of our water.

Supplementing with low-dose lithium aims to support the body’s daily nutritional need for lithium. This is very different than the dosage of lithium as medication. Lithium carbonate is a well-established, effective medication therapy for mood disorders like bipolar disorder. Whereas lithium carbonate dosing can be in the hundreds of milligrams, low-dose lithium can range from micrograms to low milligram amounts.

How does lithium benefit brain health?

It is NEUROPROTECTIVE, shielding neurons from biological stress and toxins.

It promotes NEUROGENESIS, leading to increased numbers of neurons and brain volume.

It regulates NEUROTRANSMITTERS, helping to balance the mood.

Studies continue to accrue demonstrating improvement in mood and cognitive performance for patients with ADD, depression and Autism Spectrum Disorder. More recently, studies highlight the role lithium can play in prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, by inhibiting plaque formation and aiding in growth and repair of damaged neurons.

Screening for nutritional lithium deficiencies can be performed by hair trace mineral analysis, as blood testing is not sensitive enough to detect nutritional levels.

Talk with your functional medical provider about your cognitive and emotional health and find out if low dose lithium can further support your wellness goals.
 

Your Partner In Health!

Blair Cuneo, PA-C

Health Coaching

Erica Nelson, MSPH, NBC-HWC 

The legendary basketball coach, John Wooden once said, “A good coach can change a game. A great coach can change a life.”  At Carolina Total Wellness, our coaches help our patients change their lives every day.Every patient at Carolina Total Wellness that sees a doctor or physician assistant is paired with a health coach. Some patients may also choose to work solely with a health coach to achieve their dietary and lifestyle goals. This article will help you know what to expect when you work with a health coach.

Here are 3 key aspects of the health coaching experience at Carolina Total Wellness:

The Space Between
Health coaches hold space for you to pause… and decide how you want to respond to your circumstances. The world today is a seemingly relentless onslaught of stimulation, and it can feel like there is an urgency to react to all of that stimulation.

George Mumford, meditation coach to Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and other world-class athletes offers another way, ‘Think about the eye of a hurricane.’ He says, ‘No matter how intense the storm or what’s swept up in its gale-force winds, that calm, blue center is always there. We all have this quiet center within us.’  Your CTW coach will help you respond from that quiet center within, rather than reacting from the chaos of the storm.

In our office, health coaches hold space for you to make sense of what is going on in your world and in your body and decide how you want to respond. Health coaches always honor the fact that you are the expert on your own life and display unconditional positive regard for you and whatever lifestyle decisions you choose. They pay attention to what matters to you and may offer suggestions for adjustments that fit into your life.

Translator
The science of the body and its systems are the physician’s expertise. Science of behavior change is the coach’s expertise. Our coaches help you translate medical science you discuss with your doctor or PA into evidence-based behavioral change strategies to optimize your health. When you combine the medical knowledge of our physicians and PA with your coach’s expertise in the science of motivation, habits, and change, many of the barriers to experiencing health fall away.

Each of the coaches at CTW has at least a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university and training in coaching from either the Functional Medicine Coaching Academy or Duke University. Some of them also have master’s degrees and other specialized training in nutrition, exercise, counseling, and other relevant fields. Unless otherwise specified, CTW coaches are not registered dietitians, licensed mental health professionals or certified fitness professionals.

Guide
In the words of Michael Jordan, ‘A coach is someone that sees beyond your limits and guides you to greatness!’ CTW coaches come to the table with empathy for whatever you are facing and feeling and confidence in your ability to overcome. Each coach has faced their own struggles in life and knows what it is like to work hard to overcome. However, coaches never replace you as the expert on you; they serve as your guide on your journey to health. Coaches can help you understand all the different ways you can try intermittent fasting or yoga or what, exactly, is ‘glycemic index.’ Maybe our most important job, though, is to help you get very clear on your vision of the healthiest version of you. Once you decide where it is you want to go, coaches provide education, support and accountability to knock down any stumbling blocks that may come up along the way.
 
Call us today to schedule your appointment with one of our health coaches.
 

Erica Nelson, MSPH, NBC-HWC 

Heart Rate Variability

Didem Miraloglu, MD, MS

DO YOU KNOW HOW TO MEASURE YOUR WELL-BEING?

Ever heard of Heart Rate Variability (HRV)? Exactly as its name states, heart rate variability is a measure of the variability between heartbeats. Your heart beats a specific rate, anywhere from 60-100. There is a variation in this rate, depending on whether you take a deep breath, exercise, are under stress or are at rest. HRV is dependent on our nervous system to pick up cues from our environment.  In order to understand how these cues are translated into physiological response, we first need to understand how the nervous system works.

Our nervous system controls our heart rate in two opposing directions.

One is the sympathetic nervous system, “fight or flight.” It is responsible for increasing the heart rate when we are stressed, like running away from a saber tooth tiger. In our present world since we are not normally faced with tigers, sympathetic drive kicks in during other emergency situations. This is exactly when you want more blood pumped from the heart to your muscles so you can fight or run. The blood pressure and heart rate increase as a normal response to the feedback from our environment.  

Its counterpart is the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the “rest and digest” system. When our senses detect the emergency is all clear, our parasympathetic system takes the lead and tells our heart rate to slow down and lowers the blood pressure. Our body starts to relax.

This is the normal sequence of events that occurs by increasing and decreasing the heart rate appropriately according to the environmental cues. Studies have shown people with high heart rate variability are usually less stressed and are happier.

The problem occurs when there is low heart variability. This means the nervous system is not responding adequately to the environmental cues and hence your body is less resilient and struggles to handle changing situations. This may occur with diabetes, asthma, anxiety, depression and high blood pressure. This is also seen as we age.

You can improve your heart rate variability by taking care of your body and mind. Regular exercise along with a healthy diet, staying hydrated, avoiding alcohol, getting a good night sleep, being exposed to natural light, taking a cold shower and mindfulness, all help with reduction in HRV.  Controlled breathing has also been shown to boost HRV and help fight stress which can decrease HRV.

The gold standard for measuring HRV is an EKG. But you don’t have to buy an EKG, since there are smaller and more affordable gadgets on the market with which you can measure HRV in the comfort of your home.  Here are some of those:

  • Apple Watch – Uses an optical sensor (green light) to record heart rate automatically, however, you need to obtain the Health app on iPhone to look at the data.
  • Oura Ring – A sleep tracker, takes the mean of all 5-minute samples measured while you are sleeping. The changes in your HRV are accounted for every 5 minutes throughout the night which makes it one of the most accurate devices out there to measure HRV. This is in comparison to other wearables that only take HRV measurement at a single point during the night.
  • Fitbit – Heart rate tracker automatically measures the HRV and sends stats to the Fitbit app. The only problem is that the technology used in Fitbit does not accurately record or report heart rate.
  • AIO (All in One) Smart Sleeve – It is a sleeve you wear that can measure your EKG real time. It also does sleep analysis, workout optimization and stress level monitoring.
  • Frontier X – Worn directly over your heart, like a chest belt, provides continuous ECG monitoring.

There are also apps that help you increase your HRV. They do this thru teaching breathing techniques via biofeedback, which changes the heart rhythm to create a physiological balance in physical, mental and emotional systems. Some of these include HeartMate, HeartRate + Coherence Pro and HeartMath. HeartMath is the gold standard in the industry for coherence and the one with the most science behind it.

So, how do you measure your well-being? Mainly with tools that provide feedback on your heart rate variability. But remember, your well-being does not have so much to do with what is going on in your environment, as it does with how you perceive and react to your environment. And working on those factors will in long term help with your well-being.

“You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”

 Marcus AureliusRoman Emperor and Stoic philosopher (161-180 AD)

Didem Miraloglu, MD, MS

How to Ground Your Energy When Feeing Anxious

The last couple of years have been hard on everyone.  The pandemic has caused so many disruptions in our lives – lost jobs and income, friends and loved ones becoming ill, children home from school and missing socialization, feeling more isolated and less connected.  It’s no wonder that an even greater number of people have reported feeling anxious. 

Talk therapy, supplements, exercise and medication are beneficial solutions for curbing anxiety.  There are also practical strategies you can utilize when experiencing anxiety.

1)  Box Breathing – If you’ve ever practiced meditation then you know how helpful mindful breathing can be to calm your nervous system.  Close your eyes and then breathe slowly in for four counts.  Hold your breath for four counts and then exhale slowly for four counts. At the bottom of the exhale count to four while doing nothing.  Repeat this process for a total of four times.  Once completed you should feel much more relaxed and centered.

2) Name Objects in Your Line of Vision – If your thoughts are spiraling out of control you can change your state of mind by simply naming objects that you see.  Keep doing this as long as you need to until you feel your energy begin to mellow.  This works because you are changing which hemisphere of your brain is being used, moving from the emotional side to the logical side. 

3) Mantras – Taking the time to recite a mantra is valuable for grounding feelings of anxiety.  Some examples are “I am safe”, “I am peaceful”, “I am loved” or “With every breath I feel myself relaxing”.  Write down your own affirmations that resonate with you the most and then say them repeatedly when you’re feeling anxious.

4) Gratitude – We cannot be in a state of fear or anxiety and be in a state of calm or peace a the same time.  Pausing to “count your blessings” will transition your energy into a more relaxed vibration. Write down five things you are grateful for or if you can’t write them down, list them in your mind.

The next time you find your heart beating fast or your mind racing, try practicing these strategies to ground your energy.

The next time you find your heart beating fast or your mind racing, try practicing these strategies to ground your energy.

If you or someone you know can benefit from working with our health coaches please contact our office to make an appointment. 

In health,
Sara Yadlowsky, FMHC

Long COVID

Susan D. Denny, MD, MPH

Over the past year I have seen an increasing number of patients with symptoms of post-acute sequelae of Covid 19 (PASC), also known as long Covid. 

What is long Covid?  As defined by the CDC, long Covid is a range of new, returning or ongoing health problems people can experience four or more weeks following SARS-COV-2 (Covid 19) infection.  Symptoms can vary significantly by person and can include fatigue, brain fog, memory loss, anxiety, disturbed sleep, joint pain, gastrointestinal symptoms, loss of taste or smell or shortness of breath.  Most of the patients I have seen with long Covid suffer from fatigue and brain fog and many have other accompanying symptoms.

In a recent systematic review of 57 studies comprising more than 250,000 survivors of Covid 19, most symptoms included mental health, pulmonary and neurologic disorders which were present 6 months after SARS-Cov-2 exposure. 1

How many people are suffering from long Covid?  Clinical trials have shown anywhere from 31% to 69% of people who have had Covid infection will suffer from long Covid. This is a present and emerging health care crisis with tens of millions of Americans currently suffering and millions more at risk of developing this syndrome. Chances are that you or someone you know has long Covid.

How long does long Covid last?  This appears to vary significantly by person.  Some clinical trials have shown average length to be about 3 months while others have shown that symptoms may last more than a year. An emerging consensus is that most people have symptoms for 6 months or more.

Who gets long Covid?  While some clinical trials show a relationship to acute disease severity, others have shown a significant risk for long Covid even in mild or asymptomatic cases.  In other words, it is possible to develop long Covid even if you had no symptoms of acute Covid infection.

A study just published in Cell on January 24, 2001 followed 200 patients over two to three months following their COVID-19 diagnoses. The researchers determined four biological factors that they say are associated with whether a person will develop long COVID.

The first factor is the level of viral RNA in the blood at diagnosis. The second is the presence of autoantibodies—those that attack the patient’s own body. Third is the reactivation of the Epstein-Barr virus, a common virus that most people are infected with and recover from early in life. The last is Type 2 diabetes. Interestingly, the most predictive factor for long Covid was the presence of autoantibodies in the blood. 2

Several other studies have found significant autoantibody levels in patients with long Covid.  In one study just published this month, researchers found signals of autoantibody activity that are usually linked to chronic inflammation and injury involving specific organ systems and tissues such as the joints, skin and nervous system in patients with long Covid. 3 We know that certain viruses can trigger the body’s immune system to begin attacking itself through a process called molecular mimicry.  That appears to be a significant source of cellular damage and inflammation in patients who develop long Covid.

Another study published in Gut examined changes in the gut microbiome in patients with long Covid.  They found that an altered gut microbiome composition is strongly associated with persistent symptoms in patients with COVID-19 up to 6 months after clearance of SARS-CoV-2 virus. 4

Can long Covid be treated?  Yes.  While conventional medicine has yet to find a medication to treat long Covid, a functional medicine approach to this illness works well.  Addressing the root cause(s) of ongoing inflammation in the body from the viral over stimulation of the immune system is a top priority.  Evaluation and treatment of increased intestinal permeability (leaky gut), gut dysbiosis and a disrupted adrenal axis works well to help rebalance the immune system, calm inflammation and improve symptoms. 

If you or someone you know is suffering from long Covid, please contact our office to make an appointment with one of our functional medicine providers.

In health,

Susan D. Denny, MD, MPH

References:

  1. JAMA Netw Open. 2021;4(10):e2128568. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2021.28568
  2. Su  Y, et al. Cell. 2022;doi:10.1016/j.cell.2022.01.014.
  3. Liu Y, et al. J Transl Med. 2022;doi:10.1186/s12967-021-03184-8.
  4. Gut (2022). DOI: DOI: 10.1136/gutjnl-2021-325989

Neurofeedback Therapy

Robert Baric, DC

We have invited several expert practitioners to educate our practice community on approaches to healing that are complementary to Functional Medicine. Our expert this week is Robert Baric, DC who will educate us on Neurofeedback. Neurofeedback is quite different from “biofeedback” with which you may be familiar. Dr. Baric is board certified in neurofeedback and has over 26 years of clinical experience. His passion for health and wellness has emerged throughout the years as he continues to deliver the most up to date knowledge to his patients, while providing them with impactful treatment in addition to neurofeedback, including nutrition, acupuncture, chiropractic techniques, and other applied therapies. I will hand off the microphone to Dr. Baric.
 


 
 Neurofeedback Therapy: A Compliment to Traditional Medicine
Amidst 56 years of positive research and clinical trials in neuropsychology, neurofeedback has emerged as a modality of complementary therapy that is “evidence based”. Neurofeedback therapy has gained increasing popularity due to its non-invasive properties and the sizable body of research supporting its efficacy, along with it being an alternative to traditional pharmacological treatment. Essentially, neurofeedback is EEG-biofeedback, where a method of retraining brain waves through operant conditioning is utilized. Various conditions like ADHD, depression and anxiety, addiction, and insomnia are all cognitive disorders that can negatively impact an individual’s brain waves.

 The first step to neurofeedback therapy is an initial brain scan that determines if a patient is a suitable candidate for neurofeedback therapy. A quantitative electroencephalogram (qEEG) shows brain activity and function allowing professionals to understand what ailments may be present and what can be done to mitigate symptoms at the root of the problem. The qEEG process takes just 45 minutes, recording brain waves with the eyes closed and opened. The results are then analyzed and a customized training protocol is created specifically tailored to the patient. Treatment includes monitoring the dysfunctional area while rewarding the preferred wave formation, with the reward being a TV show of the patient’s choice.  Brain waves are monitored, and using operant conditioning, stimuli are adjusted to guide the brain waves back into a healthy pattern.  If accepted as a patient, most individuals experience a marked improvement by sessions 10-15, most conditions requiring 40 sessions to finalize neuroplastic changes.
  
There are multiple conditions for which neurofeedback is impactful, with few being the most prominent throughout my years of experience. 
 
 Depression and Anxiety
The zeitgeist proves the need for complementary treatment options for individuals suffering with depression and anxiety. Approximately 33.7% of the population suffers with anxiety related disorders in their life, often comorbid with depression (1).  The Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology yielded results showing significant improvement in patients symptoms of depression with neurofeedback (2). Similar results were shown in patients with anxiety disorders, with the Journal of Industrial Psychology exhibiting results where neurofeedback therapy was deemed essentially as effective in reducing symptoms of anxiety as medication (3). 
 
 ADHD 
Children and adults suffering with ADHD recognize notable improvements in their focus and attention after a series of neurofeedback treatment. When a group of students received either neurofeedback or pharmacological support, evidence showed those in the neurofeedback group improved in executive control to a greater extent than the pharmacological support group (4). A plethora of research supports the decrease of ADHD symptoms in both children and adults. 
 
 Insomnia
Brain waves play a significant role in the ability to sleep. If a patient is unable to enter into a restful and deeply restorative state, there could be a misalignment in brain waves causing a patient to feel unwell and never feel rested. Medications can be utilized to aid in sleep, but frequently result in a feeling of grogginess upon waking. Neurofeedback actually tackles the problem at hand at the root by retraining the brain waves in order to get quality sleep without the use of medications. 
 
For issues involving the brain and cognition, it is essential to tackle the issue from multiple directions, utilizing multiple forms of treatment.  As a pain-free and relaxing process, neurofeedback will maximize its growth throughout the coming years. Neurofeedback will continue to provide millions of individuals with a fully customized treatment plan to ensure optimal brain health, and alleviate years of morbid symptoms.

If there are any questions about neurofeedback please reach out through email or phone and MyBrainDr would be happy to discuss any inquiries. 
 
Email: admin@mybraindr.com
Phone: 919-721-4800
Website: www.MyBrainDr.com

Food and Mood

Blair Cuneo, PA-C

I think about many things this time of the year with seasons changing and holidays approaching. As a functional medicine provider, I consider how changing landscapes not only affect my patient’s physical health, but also their emotional health. This landscape or “environment” of less direct sunlight, more time indoors, increased celebratory food and drink and increased holiday stress has a major impact on mental health for many of us.

Our relationship with food is complex, as is our body’s response to our culinary selections. We hope that our bodies can effectively digest food and absorb its nutritious content, but how do we know if it doesn’t? We hope the foods we are eating are contributing to healthy neurotransmitter production, healthy immune system messaging, but what does it feel like if that’s not the case?

You’d think that your stomach would definitely let you know if any of the above was amiss, but consider this: approximately 30% of us will have a gastrointestinal/gut symptom if there are imbalances in digestion or immune activation, while the majority of us will have a “beyond the gut” symptom first, such as headaches, mood changes, sleep disruptions, fatigue and pain. Thus, the majority of people may not be thinking of a direct relationship between green bean casserole and their anxious or sad days.

Several things need to happen when we eat a meal. First, we need to be in a “rest and digest” state. This signals to the body it’s time to produce digestive acids, enzymes and bile to sterilize the food, break it down and absorb it well. Next, we need healthy proteins that can be broken down by these digestive supports to become the basic amino acids that our body will use as the building blocks to create neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin. Neurotransmitters are signaling molecules, providing communication between nerves. The balance of neurotransmitter production, absorption and clearance, affects mental and physical health. Further, this building of neurotransmitters requires cofactors of several micronutrients like zinc, vitamin B6, magnesium and vitamin D.

To cap things off, there can be immune system reactions to foods, allergies and/or sensitivities that are contributing to inflammatory messaging that starts in the gut, but travels “beyond the gut”, affecting our emotional state.

In my practice, I regularly see low levels these cofactors, low levels of digestive enzymes and gastric acid, high stress and of course, the daily challenge in regularly making healthy eating and drinking choices.

In order for a body and mind to be healthy, each of these areas needs to be considered, evaluated and addressed.

While there are objective tests available for providers to check your nutrient and digestive status, there are also excellent lifestyle supports to begin making a shift in your wellness today.

-Eat at regular intervals. It is less stressful for the body when it knows it can count on you to feed it. This also helps the timing of the digestive acids/enzymes release where there are patterns in meal timing.

-Whole foods. Limit processed foods. Head to the refrigerator, before you head to the pantry. Each meal should contain a protein, small amount of fat, and colorful fruits and vegetables.

-Mindful eating, not distracted eating. Try to avoid multitasking while eating. As often as you can, eat at a table, focused on your food and the company that you share. Look, smell, taste and chew well! Even the process of chewing is signaling release of enzymes.

-Connect with your healthcare provider to review your micronutrient and vitamin status. You might discuss multivitamin, magnesium and/or zinc supports and also test your vitamin D to help assign dosing recommendations.

Remember, Food can be medicine! Make sure you use it wisely!

Your Partner in Health!

Blair Cuneo, PA-C

How Many “New Year Resolutions Have You Made?

Erica Nelson, MSPH, NBC-HWC

How many ‘New Year resolutions’ have you made over the years? Do you ever wonder why so many promises made with the best of intentions fade away into chocolates and flowers by the time Valentine’s Day rolls around? With the popularity of books like The Power of Habit by James Duhig and Atomic Habits by James Clear, the inevitable social pressures to make resolutions, and the loss of so much routine and normalcy over the last 2 years, the time seems ripe for some intentionality around building or replacing habits with behaviors that will serve us well.

The dramatic and unexpected shifts to working from home, changing jobs, and reduced social interaction have forced many of the routines that once worked for us to be eliminated or drastically changed. Maybe you miss the drive to and from work that you once thought was stressful. Maybe you are exposed to significantly more trauma and environmental stress than you were accustomed to. Maybe you are grieving the loss of a family member you depended on. No matter what has changed for you, you have the power to decide how you want to spend your time and energy going forward. January 1 is not the only opportunity to make a change – if you look around, you just might find there are chances around you every single day to make a new choice.

 As we delve into another year of uncertainty, I invite you to consider a few thoughts and strategies to support you on your path. Cheers to drawing nearer to YOUR vision of the healthiest version of you.

  1. You are the expert on you.

Take some time to yourself to get clear on what matters most to you – not  to your family or friends or employer. What does ‘healthy’ mean to you? Health may be physical, emotional, financial, relational, spiritual… any aspect of your life that affects your ability to have your desired experience most days.

  • Self compassion is not selfish.

If 2020 & 2021 taught us anything it’s that some days just won’t happen the way we desire or expect them to. Many of your circumstances and situations are beyond your control. The way you respond, however, is under your sole control. This is why it is called responsibility or ‘response-ability.’ When you choose to let go of thoughts about mistakes made by yourself or others, you are free to return that energy to doing the next right thing for you. Name that negative voice in your head and tell it to go away. I like to say ‘Shut up, Sharon!’ (No offense to anyone named Sharon out there.) If you fall short some days, simply begin again.

  • Replace – don’t restrict.

Once you identify a behavior that is no longer serving you, consider changing or replacing it instead of trying to quit ‘cold turkey.’ Your brain likes the predictability of your responses to certain things (triggers) in the environment. It is a much smaller effort to alter your response than to just stop responding. If, for example, you want to stop drinking alcohol or sodas the first step would be to notice what comes before you drink the undesirable beverage. Next, choose a more desirable beverage to have when you are presented with those triggers.

  • Willpower doesn’t work and motivation is a myth. Mindset matters.

To increase your odds of success in replacing one behavior with another, make the desirable replacement beverage (or other behavior) very convenient and the undesirable ones very inconvenient (not in your house.) Finally, notice and appreciate yourself each time you choose the behavior you were aiming for. For some, a habit tracker – paper or electronic – serves as a useful reward. Making the choice on your own terms makes the ‘stress’ of change into a positive stress. Try to think of it in positive terms like ‘I GET to do this’ instead of ‘I HAVE TO do this.’ Eventually we all have a day when our resolve is not as strong and putting these supports in place will make it easier to endure, or begin again.

  • Set yourself up for success.

Do not try to quit drinking alcohol, caffeine and sugar all at once! At most, take on one or two changes at a time. Start with the things that matter most to you and celebrate as you notice the promises you are keeping to yourself. See if you don’t feel so great when you make one change that you want to make another!  

Your Partner in Health!

Erica Nelson, MSPH, NBC-HWC

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