Mind – Altering Microbes

A 6-minute video giving an overview of the importance of human microbiome to health and how bacteria may positively influence disease such as autism, depression, multiple sclerosis and other.

The GAPS Diet protocol focuses on healing the gut by limiting the foods that offend the intestinal wall (causing leaky gut syndrome or increased intestinal permeability) while introducing fermented foods which are high in friendly bacteria (probiotics).

Βίντεο 6 λεπτών που εξηγεί περιληπτικά την σημασία της εντερικής χλωρίδας για την θεραπεία ασθενειών όπως ο αυτισμός, η κατάθλιψη, η σκλήρυνση κατά πλάκας κ.ά

 

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Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea)

Rhodiola is an adaptogen used for centuries to improve physical endurance, memory, work productivity, energy, sexual stimulation and reduce altitude sickness. It is an antioxidant, immune stimulant, antidepressant, anti-anxiety and helps with insomnia.

rhodiola

It is believed that Rhodiola works via neurotransmitter activity such as serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine within the brain stem, cerebral cortex and hypothalamus.

I usually combine it with St John’s wort to treat depression, Withania for anxiety or Withania and Siberian ginseng for decreased energy and vitality. Rhodiola standardised to contain 3.0 mg/mL rosavins and 1.0 mg/mL salidroside is available in 200mL through Herbal Store.

Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)

by Savvas Ioannides N.D.

You are probably suffering from PMS if you are experiencing decreased energy levels, tension, irritability, depression, headache, altered sex drive, breast pain, backache, abdominal bloating, oedema of the fingers and ankles, insomnia, crying spells, low self-esteem or food cravings 7-14 days before menstruation with relief at the onset of menses.

Definition

In order to be diagnosed with PMS you will need to:

  1. Have at least one physical and one psychological complaint.
  2. Symptoms must begin 2 weeks or so before menses and relieved with the onset of menses and occur regularly with each cycle.
  3. The symptoms are severe enough to interfere with daily functioning.

Statistics

Up to 85% of all women experienced PMS symptoms during their reproductive years but around 20-40% of these women have symptoms severe enough to classify them as having premenstrual syndrome and only 5-10% of them are significantly inflicted by this.

Aetiology

What causes PMS is not absolutely defined. There are many mechanisms at play, however there are common hormonal patterns among PMS patients compared to women who have no symptoms of PMS. The initial finding is that the ratio of oestrogen to progesterone is increased 5-10 days before menses. Further review of endocrinological studies has led to the popularity of recent theories such as altered serotonergic function, altered endorphin secretion, and/or altered melatonin secretion. Nutritional and prostaglandin imbalances have also been studied and hypothyroidism and/or elevated prolactin levels are common.

Naturopathic Treatment

Chaste Tree

VitexVitex agnus-castus commonly known as Chaste tree is probably the most widely used herb for the treatment of PMS. Studies have indicated that it acts on the hypothalamic-pituitary axis and on dopamine D2 receptors to decrease prolactin levels and therefore help with the symptoms of breast tenderness.Scientific research has also shown that Chaste tree normalises progesterone levels after 3 months’ treatment and alleviates the symptoms of PMS, especially, breast tenderness, irritability, depressed mood, anger, mood changes, headache and constipation (Braun & Cohen, 2007). Moreover, Chaste tree is indicated for menstrual irregularities, particularly when low progesterone levels and luteal phase defects such as hyperprolactinaemia, are present. It normalises menstruation in women with shortened, lengthened or infrequent menstruation.

Dong Quai

Angelica sinensisAngelica sinensis commonly known as Dong quai, has been traditionally used for gynaecological ailments including menstrual irregularities and cramps, retarded flow, PMS and menopausal symptoms. It relaxes and stimulates the uterus at the same time producing a balancing effect and it also has a mild sedative effect on the central nervous system.

Studies have found that vitamin B6 may also be effective in reducing the symptoms of PMS. It is a natural diuretic by suppressing aldosterone levels and it decreases oestrogen levels while increasing progesterone levels. In combination with Magnesium supplementation it is found to work synergistically to reduce anxiety-related PMS such as nervous tension, mood swings, irritability and anxiety.

Due to the many variations in symptoms of PMS, a careful history of the person is needed to individualize the treatment and maximize a successful outcome. Best results occur with a treatment triad of diet, exercise, and appropriate herbs.

Therapeutic Benefits of Saffron

Saffron is the stigma from the flower of Crocus sativus. It has a long history of use as a spice, medicine and yellow colouring agent. It was reportedly used by the ancient Greek and Roman civilizations and in medieval Egypt.

Crocus sativa

Traditional uses:

  • Depression
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Nerve calming

According to clinical trials:

  • Depression (30mg 1-2 times a day)
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Macular degeneration
  • Premenstrual syndrome

Other:

  • Asthma
  • Dysmenorrhoea
  • Exercise performance enhancement
  • Male infertility (sperm shape and motility)
  • Psoriasis

Reported effects:

  • Anticancer
  • Antidepressant
  • Nerve protective
  • Antioxidant
  • Immune system effects

Caution:

  • It may induce uterine contractions and abortion. Not to be used during pregnancy.

Fibromyalgia

by Savvas Ioannides N.D.

Introduction

Fibromyalgia (FM) was once diagnosed as a psychological disorder because of an absence of objective findings on physical examination and usual laboratory and imaging evaluations. Many physicians still today do not accept FM as a discrete illness. However, recent clinical investigation has clarified the neurophysiologic bases for FM and has led to its new classification as a central sensitivity syndrome. Indeed, FM can now be considered a neurosensory disorder characterized, in part, by abnormalities in central nervous system pain processing.

Fibromyalgia typically presents in young or middle-aged females as persistent widespread pain, stiffness, fatigue, disrupted unrefreshing/poor sleep, and cognitive difficulties, often accompanied by multiple other unexplained symptoms, anxiety and/or depression, and functional impairment of daily living activities. These symptoms have neurophysiologic and endocrinologic underlying factors. However, these biologic aspects are likely to originate significantly from psychological, developmental, and socio-cultural variables that lead to chronic unrelieved stress and distress. Female sex, adverse experiences during childhood and a stressful environment and culture are important forerunners of FM. One must view FM from a bio-psycho-social viewpoint rather than biomedical.

In some patients with FM, negative emotional (such as depression and anxiety), motivational, and cognitive stressors dominate the clinical picture. This results in a self-sustaining neuro-endocrine cascade that contributes to flu-like symptoms, depressed mood, fatigue, myalgias, cognitive difficulties, and poor sleep. The biologic elements include pro-inflammatory cytokines, the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal axis, other neuro-endocrine axes, and the autonomic nervous system.

The cause of FM remains unknown but appears to be multifactorial. Research has indicated a strong familial component to the development of FM. First-degree relatives of individuals with FM display an eightfold greater risk of developing FM than those in the general population. Family members of FM patients are also much more likely to have other regional pain syndromes such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome and headaches. It is common in 2-13% of population; approximately 80-90% women.

Investigations

  1. FM is diagnosed by exclusion of other diseases because patients with FM do not have characteristic or consistent abnormalities; it is determined by laboratory test results.
  2. Thyroid-stimulating hormone, Thyroid antibodies: Hypothyroidism shares many clinical features with FM, especially diffuse muscle pain and fatigue.
  3. Laboratory sleep assessment only if sleep does not improve with treatment (diet, nutrition, herbs and lifestyle), obtaining a formal assessment by a neurologist experienced in sleep disorders.

Herbal Medicine

Withania somnifera (Withania)

Withania is adaptogenic and tonic via a dopaminergic activity. It reduces stress, sedates and improves sleep. See article Combat Stress With Natural Remedies.

Hypericum perforatum (St John’s wort)

St John’s wort is an antidepressant, up-regulates 5-HT receptors, anxiolytic, antiviral and improves sleep patterns (SSRI action).

Glycyrrhiza glabra (Licorice)

Licorice is an adrenal tonic and adaptogen, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiviral (EBV included), antidepressant (SSRI) and is indicated for chronic stress.

Gingko biloba (Gingko)

Gingko is a powerful antioxidant, vasodilator, improves blood flow, has serotonin and cholinergic effects and is neuroprotective. It is indicated in cerebral ischaemia possibly producing an antidepressant and anxiolytic activity. It increases peripheral and cerebral circulation. Decreased regional blood flow in thalamus and caudate nucleus, which are involved in abnormal central nociceptive processing and functional brain abnormalities may also be part of the pathophysiology of FM.

Bupleurum falcatum (Bupleurum)

Bupleurum is an immune modulator, hepatoprotective, nephroprotective and anti-inflammatory.

Other

Analgesic and anodyne herbs such as Corydalis ambiguaEschscholtzia californica andPiscidia erythrina are highly indicated.

Hypnotics such as Valeriana officinalisHumulus lupulus and Passiflora incarnata are also indicated where sleep abnormalities are present.

Capsicum species (chillies) ointment as a topical analgesic and rubefacient for pain relief.

Nutritional, Lifestyle, Referral, Other

Nutritional

  • A vegetarian or vegan diet has not significantly improved FM in clinical studies but a good wholesome naturopathic diet is imperative to control blood sugar and insulin levels and ultimately reduce pain perception. Fresh fruit, vegetables, wholegrain and lean meats are beneficial.
  • Eat organic food and drink filtered water due to chemical sensitivities.
  • Eliminate stimulants such as coffee and alcohol.
  • Increase water intake to 2 L/day

Supplements

  • Vitamin B Complex
  • Vitamin B12
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin E
  • Calcium and Magnesium
  • SAMe – Clinical trials have shown that SAMe improved the symptoms of pain, fatigue, morning stiffness and mood.

Lifestyle

Graded aerobic exercise (e.g. low-impact aerobics, walking, water aerobics, stationary bicycle) should start gently and progress gradually to endurance and strength training.

Acupuncture, relaxation training, visual imagery, distraction for pain management.

Begin a daily practice such as meditation or tai chi to reduce stress and enhance relaxation.

Heat, massage, and other treatments are useful. Diffuse and regional pain is improved by strategies such as sauna, hot baths and showers, hot mud, and massage.

The Blues – Depression

by Savvas Ioannides N.D.

Symptoms of depression may be easily confused with normal sadness associated with disappointing or traumatic events. However, clinical depression is an ongoing condition and is defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV) based on eight primary criteria:

  1. Depressed feelings that last most of the day and are especially strong in the morning
  2. Fatigue
  3. Feeling restless or slow
  4. Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  5. Lack of interest in normally pleasurable activities
  6. Sleeping problems, either sleeping too much or too little
  7. Thoughts of suicide or death
  8. Trouble concentrating and making decisions
  9. Weight loss or gain (more than 5 percent of total body weight over the course of a month).

If you experience at least five of these symptoms for at least two weeks, you may be suffering from depression.

Types of Depression

  • Chronic depression: A major depressive condition that consistently lasts for at least two years.
  • Dysthymic disorder: A patient must be depressed most of the time for at least 2 years (1 year for children or adolescents) and have at least three of the following symptoms:
    • Low self-esteem or lack of self-confidence
    • Pessimism, hopelessness, or despair
    • Lack of interest in ordinary pleasures and activities
    • Withdrawal from social activities
    • Fatigue or lethargy
    • Guilt or ruminating about the past
    • Irritability or excessive anger
    • Lessened productivity
    • Difficulty-in-concentrating or making decisions
  • Major depressive disorder: Characterized by a depressed mood or a severe decrease of interest in activities. These depression symptoms last most of the day for at least two weeks.
  • Manic depression or bipolar disorder: A condition characterized by cycling between manic periods — extremely elevated or irritable moods — and depressive periods. Symptoms include inflated self-esteem, grandiose delusions, boasting, racing thoughts, decreased need for sleep, psychomotor acceleration, weight loss due to increased activity and lack of attention to dietary habits.
  • Postpartum depression: A major depressive disorder condition that may occur after giving birth.
  • Seasonal affective disorder: Characterized by major depression that occurs during the fall and winter frequently associated with summer hypomania.

Causes of Depression

Following are some common causes of depression:

  • Abuse
  • Death of a loved one or other personal loss
  • Genetics
  • Major events, such as a new job, a move, or a marriage or divorce
  • Medications such as antihypertensive especially the beta-blockers and reserpine, anti-inflammatory agents, birth control pills, antihistamines, corticosteroids, tranquilizers and sedatives.
  • Personal conflicts
  • Serious illness such as diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic inflammation, cancer, liver disease and multiple sclerosis.
  • Substance abuse e.g. prescription medication, illicit drugs, alcohol, caffeine and nicotine.

Other causes may contribute to depression such as allergies or intolerances, environmental factors such as heavy metal toxicity, solvents e.g. cleaning products and benzene, pesticides and herbicides, hormonal imbalances, sleep disturbances and stress.

Naturopathic Treatment

Treatment depends on the factors contributing to the person’s depression, balancing the levels of neurotransmitters, improving patient’s nutrition and lifestyle factors as well as psychological health.

Nutritional and supplemental considerations

  • Avoid all refined carbohydrates and treating hypoglycaemia is very important, as studies have shown that it is a common finding in depressed individuals.
  • A balanced naturopathic diet low in sugar, saturated fats, cholesterol, salt, food additives and processed foods and high in unprocessed foods especially plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, seeds and nuts, and cold water fish to at least twice per week.
  • Avoid caffeine, nicotine, stimulants and alcohol.

Nutritional supplements may also be necessary to be administered as a deficiency of any single nutrient can alter brain function. Melvin Werbach, MD, stated:

“It is clear that nutrition can powerfully influence cognition, emotion, and behavior. It is also clear that the effects of classical nutritional deficiency diseases upon mental function constitute only a small part of a rapidly expanding list of interfaces between nutrition and the mind. Even in the absence of laboratory validation of nutritional deficiencies, numerous studies utilizing rigorous scientific designs have demonstrated impressive benefits from nutritional supplementation.”

Important supplementation includes a high-potency multivitamin and minerals, vitamin C, E, B9 and B12, Selenium, chromium, flaxseed oil and 5-HTP.

Herbal therapy

Hypericum perforatum commonly known as St John’s wort has a strong clinical reputation for the treatment of depression and has been extensively clinically studied for the treatment of mild and moderate depression. Caution however should be paid on self- prescribed St John’s wort and full disclosure to your physician is mandatory.

St. John’s wort

Hypericum exerts significant pharmacological activity within several neurochemical systems believed to be implicated in the pathophysiology of depression. It inhibits synaptic reuptake of serotonin (SSRI), noradrenalin and dopamine. It is also anxiolytic, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, reduces alcohol intake, helps with the psychological and psychosomatic symptoms of menopause, helps to reduce nicotine withdrawal symptoms, and improves cognitive function and other.

Rhodiola

Rhodiola rosea is an adaptogenic herb  used for centuries to improve physical endurance, memory, work productivity, energy, sexual stimulation and reduce altitude sickness. It is an antioxidant, immune stimulant, antidepressant and helps with insomnia.

It is believed that Rhodiola works via neurotransmitter activity such as serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine within the brain stem, cerebral cortex and hypothalamus.

Damiana

Turnera diffusa (Damiana) is popular because of its aphrodisiac activity in both sexes. It is also a tonic to the nervous system and an antidepressant. It is specifically indicated where depression or anxiety are associated with sexual inadequacy. The British Herbal Pharmacopoiea states that it is specifically indicated in anxiety neurosis with a predominant sexual factor.
The “Depression Formula” is specifically designed for those with mild depression and are not on any conventional drugs. For best results visit your naturopath or herbalist.
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