Insomnia

Surprising Sources of Insomnia - by Dr Gayle Maguire, BSc, ND


For chronic insomniacs, gentle herbal remedies like Chamomile, or targeted therapeutics such as melatonin, may not be the right approach.  Here are some other common areas to investigate with your medical or naturopathic doctor:

Stress: Our stress hormone interferes with our production of melatonin.  Many stressed patients will report feeling "tired but wired" - they put themselves to bed out of exhaustion but get a second wind as soon as they hit the pillow.  Others will complain of restless sleep.  Anxiety and caffeine can all appear as stress inside the body, so these areas should be addressed and stress management techniques be a focus.

Diet: We see many patients with food sensitivities that also report sleep improve after removing the offending foods.  It appears that fighting to digest a food disrupts the quality of their sleep and I've noticed this effect particularly in children.  
Diet can also seemingly affect sleep quality via nutritional deficiencies, such as magnesium, healthy fats, adequate protein, or B vitamins.  Often simple changes in the diet can create great improvements in sleep after a few weeks.

Hormones: Low progesterone, estrogen, and testosterone can all play a part in poor sleep.  Thyroid disease can also create too little or too much sleep.  Simple bloodwork can be an excellent starting point.  Naturopathic doctors also perform private lab testing for hormones and stress, many of which can include melatonin or genetic information too.

Blood sugar: For those with sleep-maintenance insomnia, or trouble staying asleep, blood sugar levels dropping a little too low in the night can be a cause.  If you know you cannot miss a meal without getting light-headed, shaky or irritable, having a protein and healthy fat-rich snack before bed can improve sleep quality.  Due to concerns of gaining weight by eating too closely to bedtime, discussing options with your healthcare provider or nutritionist is advisable.

Caffeine & Alcohol: Both caffeine & alcohol are known to disrupt sleep.  Between them, they have a wide range of negative effects on sleep hormone production, blood sugar control, hormone balance, and digestive health.  Many patients feel a need to use them as the result of their poor sleep, but over time, these compound the issue.  When patients tell me they love their coffee, I might ask them "does it love you back?"  Often times, a reduction or short holiday is all that is needed.
There are many areas to investigate with sleep, but be prepared to experiment and devote some time & patience to the process.  

This blog is for educational purposes only and does not constitute a medical relationship.   Please consult your medical doctor, naturopathic doctor, or pharmacist for advice that is right for you and note that this blog not substitute medical advice.

--
Dr. Gayle Maguire, BSc, ND
Naturopathic Doctor

She/Her

I acknowledge and honour that I live,work, and play on the lands of the Treaty 7 Nations (Siksika, Kainai, Piikani, Nakoda and Tsuut'ina) of Southern Alberta, and the Metis Nation of Alberta, Region 3
Member of the CNDA (College of Naturopathic Doctors of Alberta), CAND (Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors), Pediatric Association of Naturopathic Physicians (PedANP)

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Insomnia

A Naturopathic Doctor's Favourite Apps for Health

By: Dr. Gayle Maguire, B.SC, ND

There are many apps out there today that are designed to assist you with your health and wellness in different ways from sleep, to anxiety, to homones. Dr. Gayle frequently encourages patients to embrace technology to help them achieve their health goals and has compiled a list of her favourites.

Kindara -  a great fertility and hormone tracking app. It tracks all the important markers a naturopathic doctor or informed patient would like to know, and is easy to use and share!

Migraine Buddy - this highly-rated app can help patients track and identify triggers, with the goal of eventually learning to prevent their migraines.

mySymptoms Food Diary & Symptom Tracker is also a great option for digestive symptoms.

MyFitnessPal - a great start for those first looking to understand their caloric intake, macronutrients, and exercise.

Insight Timer - thousands of free guided meditations from highly educated professionals to help manage stress, mood and sleep. Awarded Time Magazine's App of the Year.  It includes areas for children, relationships, leadership, interviews, and so much more!

Sleep Cycle - an inexpensive and insightful app to track sleep. Please note that those with sleep issues may not be advised to sleep with their device, or with any lights at or during sleep time, though a short sacrifice to track sleep may be beneficial for some.

Sanvello for Anxiety, Depression & Stress - this app uses cognitive-behavioural therapy techniques and mindfulness to track and cue users to take care of their mental health. You can even set reminders to drink more water, which is great for our physical health too, but can help users increase their self-care.

Talk to your medical or naturopathic doctor for personalized medical advice. These apps are not endorsed by Dr. Gayle, nor does she receive compensation in any way for reviewing these apps. Some benefits may reimburse for subscriptions so check with your insurance provider.

*This blog is not intended to officially establish a physician-patient relationship, to replace the services of a trained physician, naturopathic doctor, physical therapist or chiropractor or otherwise to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.  

A Review of Natural Supplements for Anxiety

[vc_row][vc_column width="1/1"][vc_column_text]By: Dr. Gayle Maguire ND

There are several natural supports for mild to moderate mood disorders, though talk to your medical or naturopathic doctor first as they can interact with pharmaceuticals or other supplements, to sometimes life-threatening extent. The natural supplements with the most research are discussed below.

B Vitamins

B vitamins help in a variety of our physiological processes and I especially like using them for hormone, metabolic and neurotransmitter issues (which constitutes many things in the human body!).  A good B complex dose should "calmly energize" a person - not a caffeine-induced, jittery energy, but the feeling of having a really good sleep.  Speaking of sleep, while B's are often taken in the morning, they should help regulate the sleep cycles in the body too, so they become doubly helpful for anxiety in this regard.

Magnesium

Magnesium is a relaxant to smooth muscles which can improve the feelings of anxiety or for pre-menstrual tension. Note that magnesium can loosen the bowels, so dosing should be monitored accordingly. Ideally, magnesium is taken in a liquid or powder form for best absorption. There are a few types of magnesium, though recently magnesium glycinate has become a popular form that relates itself specifically to calming effects.

L-theanine & GABA

L-theanine is an extract from green tea that can lower cortisol levels and provide quick, though usually temporary, relief from anxiousness.

GABA is another quick fix for anxious moments, and also tends to be short-lasting.  Both L-theanine and GABA can help manage symptoms until the underlying issues are addressed.  Low levels of this inhibitory neurotransmitter have been linked to chronic pain, epilepsy and mood disorders, so some do feel the positive of effects of supplementing. Interactions are common with this product, not only with anxiety medications, but potentially others, such as blood pressure prescriptions and it’s important to note that side effects are not well studied.

Herbal Remedies

Plants with calming properties can be helpful in tea or supplement form, though allergies are common, especially to Chamomile. Other common herbs that may induce relaxation are valerian, mint, hops and passionflower. I tend to find herbal medicines in tea too low a dose to help with significant anxiety, or that the person with anxiety needs to be evaluated for hormones, thyroid function, blood sugar issues, or nutritional deficiencies. Herbal medicines for calming are perhaps a better fit for unwinding after a strenuous day or event, whereas anxiety disorders require an in-depth assessment with individualized treatment.

So often, feelings of anxiety are at least partially contributed to by imbalanced hormones, poor blood sugar control/low blood sugar, or nutritional deficiencies due to dietary gaps or digestive disorders.

Be sure to consult a professional if anxiety is an issue for you to ensure you get the help that you need.

*This blog is not intended to officially establish a physician-patient relationship, to replace the services of a trained physician, naturopathic doctor, physical therapist or chiropractor or otherwise to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.  

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Help Your Winter Skin...Naturally

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By: Dr. Gayle Maguire ND

With the cold weather a known trigger for dry skin, many people are looking for natural ways to support healthy skin.  From a naturopathic perspective, there are several common factors that should evaluated, and often dietary supports to aid.

Evaluating Dry Skin

Is dry skin simply just a way of life for Canadians?  Why do some seem to suffer more than others?  For some, assessing their thyroid function is critical.  Hypothyroidism, or a low functioning thyroid gland, is a common condition associated with a change to very dry skin, poor nail & hair quality, sometimes loss of lateral eyebrows, low mood, weight gain, depressed mood, and cold intolerance.  The condition is more common in females and easily assessed by bloodwork performed by your medical or naturopathic doctor.

As a naturopathic doctor, I also tend to look into a patient's diet for deficiencies in nutrients relating to dry skin.  Most commonly seen is a low intake of essential fats, or difficulty in absorbing them which may require support to their digestive organs.  The area of where the dryness is occurring can be a helpful tool too.  Very dry and cracked heels can signify a different deficiency than dry, bumpy upper arms.

When skin is very dry and itchy, or is confirmed to be a case of eczema, dietary analysis of food sensitivities tends to be very helpful in alleviating symptoms.  Eczema must be distinguished from psoriasis, which is often triggered by foods, but both require individual assessments in regards to immune regulation, detoxification pathways, and hormones.

Analyzing a patient's personal hygiene products can be helpful, as many contain ingredients that are very drying.  It may be necessary to use great moisturizers (you can check the product on Environmental Working Group's database for its green rating!) to get through winter.  Many patients will find the cleanest moisturizers are simply vegetable oils, such as sweet almond oil.  Coconut oil as a moisturizer can be helpful for some, aggravating for others.

Dietary Supports for Skin

Often I find myself educating patients on the importance of lubricating the body from the inside, as well as externally.  Look at increasing healthy fats like fish oil, or plant-based oils.  Supplementing may be necessary to get results, or finding creative ways to add olive oil to cooked foods, lemon-flavoured oils to smoothies, or fat-bomb recipes for snacks.

Vitamin D can be a helpful support for regulating a skin condition with an immune element to it, like eczema.  Zinc can be helpful for improving healing, especially when prone to cracked skin, though it can only be used short-term.   Vitamin E may be beneficial for some, with added benefit potentially for eye and cardiovascular health.  Oils and fat-soluble vitamins, such as Vitamin E & D, are best absorbed when taken with a meal containing a little fat.  Watch the caffeine and alcohol intake for their abilities to dehydrate, and ensure adequate water intake.

For those that have tried everything, having your thyroid and diet analyzed may be a valuable next step.  Here's to a comfortable winter!

*This blog is not intended to officially establish a physician-patient relationship, to replace the services of a trained physician, naturopathic doctor, physical therapist or chiropractor or otherwise to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.  

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Important Natural Remedies to Help with Colds and Flus

[vc_row][vc_column width="1/1"][vc_column_text]By: Dr. Gayle Maguire ND

It’s that time of year again and you might have already faced your first bout of the sniffles or a cough. Here are some great recommendations to try and keep colds and flus at bay or to reduce the severity of symptoms when you do catch a virus.

Dietary Recommendations

Ensuring adequate daily protein intake is critical to boosting your immunity, as your immune cells are built from protein. Dairy, while a good protein source, often contributes to phlegm, so it should be minimized during cold & flu season. Citrus and bananas can be surprising other triggers for phlegm, so a trial reduction at the onset of a cold could be beneficial. Be sure to reduce caffeine and sugar, both heavily suppressing to the immune system.

Vitamin C and Zinc

While many people have learned the value of Vitamin C, it's lesser known how helpful zinc can be for your immune system too. The only caveat is that Zinc should not be taken long term, as it can cause copper deficiency.

Echinacea Root & Astragalus

Echinacea has been well-studied for its ability to boost immune cells, but it is paramount to ensure that your supplement is using the correct, medicinal part of the Echinacea plant: the root! Echinacea is best for reducing the severity and duration of colds, while another plant, Astragalus membranaceus, is better suited between colds to strengthen immunity.

Vitamin D

One of the most exciting vitamin developments in the last 10 years is Vitamin D in its ability to regulate the immune system - boosting those who ne it, or calming an over-active response. This vitamin is best absorbed when taken with food.

Probiotics

The bacteria in our intestines are estimated to account for over half of our immune system, so adding more through probiotic-rich foods or supplementation can reduce the frequency of colds.

Research these options or talk to your healthcare provider about these possibilities and we wish you a healthy winter!

*This blog is not intended to officially establish a physician-patient relationship, to replace the services of a trained physician, naturopathic doctor, physical therapist or chiropractor or otherwise to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.  [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]