Tag Archives: prod-471295

  • Natural Solutions for Seasonal Affective Disorder

    YogaStretchIf you feel a little extra blue when the seasons change—from fall to winter or even from spring to summer—you may be one of the 5 percent of the US population who suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

    “SAD is traditionally associated with the winter months, but some people experience it in the fall or the spring. Simply the change of light can trigger it,” says Dr. Brad Jacobs, MD, and chair of Pharmaca’s Integrative Health Advisory Board. “SAD basically equates to changes of behavior or mood that are associated with the seasons.”

    While we don’t know exactly how or why SAD occurs, we know that reduced sunlight can disrupt our internal clocks, setting off changes in our mood. People suffering from SAD usually feel blue, have trouble sleeping, have low energy levels, and are irritable or impatient, says Dr. Jacobs. While the symptoms are usually not felt as severely as major depression, the signs are fairly similar.

    We also know that Seasonal Affective Disorder tends to be four times more prevalent in women, especially during childbearing years. And if you have a family history of SAD or any type of depression, you’re also more prone to it.

    So how do you know what you’ve got is actually SAD? Dr. Jacobs recommends first speaking to your health care provider about your thyroid levels and blood counts--if they're abnormal, they can be mistaken for depression, instead of hypothyroidism or anemia. In addition, be sure to manage any and all chronic conditions, as these can exacerbate symptoms of depression; optimal management of chronic conditions may resolve or dramatically improve symptoms of depression.

    Dr. Jacobs recommends speaking to your health care provider about your thyroid levels, blood counts or any other chronic conditions that could increase your chances of experiencing SAD. Ultimately, if you have noticed yourself feeling sad or depressed during one specific season—and not during the others—doctors will look more closely at the chances you have SAD.

    The most important thing is to diagnose it, says Dr. Jacobs, so you can start treating it. “One I’m a big proponent of, which is good for regular depression too, is photo or light therapy,” he says. Look for a lightbox with at least 10,000 lux, to be used for 30 minutes once or twice daily. (Lux is a photometric unit. For reference, Dr. Jacobs says, direct sunlight equates to about 50,000 lux, and office lighting about 300-500 lux.)

    “A light box will give you the light stimulation that you’re missing,” says Dr. Jacobs, adding that studies have shown light therapy to be as effective as SSRIs (i.e. anti-depressants) in treating SAD, but with fewer side effects.

    Another effective treatment? Exercise. “We typically recommend that you do it 5-6 days week/30 minutes per day in order to see those same results as an anti-depressant,” he says.

    “There are also a number of herbs that may be effective—the same herbs you think about for depression,” says Dr. Jacobs. He recommends St. John’s wort or SAM-e, and working with a practitioner when you do.

  • 5 Reasons to Get Better Sleep

    SleepMaskIf you have trouble getting quality sleep, it can affect more than just your level of fatigue throughout the day. “We think sleeplessness actually accelerates a lot of health issues related to age,” says Dr. Brad Jacobs, chair of Pharmaca’s Integrative Health Advisory Board. It can also affect your endocrine system, carbohydrate metabolism, glucose tolerance, cortisol levels, and the activity of your sympathetic nervous system, he says.

    Here are a few reasons why getting 7-9 hours of sleep per night is essential to good health.

    Sleep improves your mood.
    We all know how we feel after a lousy night’s sleep—irritable, impatient and unable to concentrate. The reason could be that the chemicals involved in the sleep-wake cycle are also in involved in mood and energy concentration. Too little sleep can also leave you too tired to do the things you enjoy, exacerbating the cycle.

    Sleep can aid in weight loss.
    Too little sleep can increase your levels of a hormone called ghrelin, which increases your appetite and can affect the way we process and store carbohydrates. It can also impair your ability to process glucose and increase your body’s tendency to hold on to fat cells. Experts have even linked these issues to increased rates of diabetes.

    Sleep is good for your skin.
    Our bodies produce proteins while we sleep to restore and repair skin damage that comes from UV light exposure, stress, pollutants and other age-accelerating factors we deal with daily. That means not enough sleep can make it harder to fight off free radicals and speed up our skin’s aging process.

    Sleep keeps your brain and memory strong.
    Not enough sleep limits our time in REM sleep, the cycle that is most closely linked to improved learning and memory. Adequate sleep has been shown to improve our ability to learn tasks, consolidate memories and make good decisions—a good reason to take a night to “sleep on it” when faced with big choices!

    Sleep can reduce your chances of serious disease.
    A number of studies have shown that people who sleep poorly are at greater risk for health problems such as cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure and more. Sleep deprivation can also alter immune function, impair the activity of the body’s killer cells and increase the presence of stress hormones in the body.

    Want better sleep? Learn more about natural strategies and supplements from Dr. Brad Jacobs, MD.

    Ask a practitioner about other helpful sleep supplements and strategies.

  • How to Catch More Zzzzs

    Everyone’s got advice on how to fall asleep quicker. But what if you’ve tried the warm milk, the boring book and the comfy mattress? When sleep problems are keeping you from waking up fresh faced, take comfort in sleep solutions from Pharmaca. Here are a few common sleep problems, addressed by Kate Brainard, ND.

    I fall asleep fine, but wake up at 2am sharp. Is there a supplement to help me stay asleep all night?

    My first recommendation would be to take melatonin before bed-it’s a natural sleep hormone that we make in our bodies, so supplementing what we do make can help us stay asleep longer. You can take it either in its individual form like in Source Naturals Melatonin, which is timed-release to keep it working throughout the night, or in combination with other herbal formulas. One product I like is Pharmaca Sleep, which includes 3 mg of melatonin and a blend of relaxing and calming herbs. One thing with melatonin, if you take too much, it can be hard to snap out of it the next day. Start with a lower dose and work your way up.

    For a completely herbal approach, I would try Deep Sleep by Herbs, Etc. It’s a blend of California poppy, valerian, passionflower, chamomile, lemon balm, oat seed and orange peel, all of which promote restful sleep. But you do have to take it for a few days before you’ll see the right effects.

    Sometimes my mind just won’t stop racing. What can I take to calm my thoughts so I can fall asleep more quickly?

    Skullcap is a great herb for calming ruminating thoughts. Herb Pharm and Gaia Herbs both offer Skullcap Extract, but you can find blends that include skullcap and other stress-reducing herbs that can be really beneficial.

    GABA is another supplement commonly used for people who can’t get their brain to slow down. It’s a neurotransmitter inhibitor—it slows down the synapses that keep firing, usually because you have too much stress. Again, GABA can be taken on its own or in combination, like in the formula NightRest by Source Naturals that includes GABA, melatonin, skullcap and other relaxing herbs.

    I seem to sleep fine most of the night, but I usually wake up around 4 or 5am and just lay there until I have to get up. Anything I can take to fall back asleep for just a little while without causing a “sleep hangover”?

    My suggestions would be more gentle, I would never recommend melatonin at this time. Instead, I like Calms Forte Sleep Aid, a non-drowsy homeopathic remedy that’s also non-habit forming, which is important to a lot of people. It has a blend of different homeopathics, ingredients that you’ll see in a lot of sleep remedies. For example, passionflower helps with restlessness from exhaustion, and oat seed is good for stress and nervousness.

    Another good one is Bach’s Rescue Sleep. You can just spritz a few sprays in your mouth and it should be enough to get you back to sleep for just a little while.

  • Which Sleep Supplement is Right For Me?

    Losing sleep isn’t something to casually ignore--too little sleep can cause all kinds of health issues, from poor work performance to inability to lose weight to some chronic diseases. If you’re confused about which ingredients do what, here’s some information about common elements in our most popular sleep formulas.

    5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP):
    In the body L-tryptophan is converted to 5-HTP, which can then be converted to serotonin, which affects sleep, appetite, as well as depression and anxiety. Commercially available 5-HTP is isolated from a seed from the African plant Griffonia simplicifolia.
    One to try: Pharmaca’s 5-HTP

    Gamma-Aminobutryic Acid (GABA):
    In the central nervous system, GABA is the primary inhibitory neurotransmitter, meaning it slows down the synapses that overfire (usually due to too much stress). Supplemental GABA is created as a byproduct of the fermentation process of Lactobacillus hilgardii
    Try it in: NightRest by Source Naturals, which includes GABA, melatonin, skullcap and other relaxing herbs.

    Primarily a temperate European plant, hops contain several different flavonoids and other ingredients that help calm the nervous system. It packs a powerful punch, so it’s best when used in combination with other less powerful sedative herbs.
    Find it in: Herb Pharm’s Relaxing Sleep Tonic

    An amino acid found in green tea, as well as in some mushrooms, L-Theanine has historically been used for its relaxing and anti-anxiety effects; it's thought that it might work for anxiety by increasing levels of GABA and serotonin. While it won’t necessarily put you to sleep, it can help slow racing thoughts.
    One to try: Natural Factors’ Suntheanine

    Lemon Balm: A member of the mint family, lemon balm contains volatile oils, in particular citral and citronellal, that can calm the central nervous system and have a relaxing effect on the muscles.
    Find it in: Lemon Balm Force by New Chapter

    : This hormone plays a vital role in regulating the body’s circadian rhythms, endocrine secretions and sleep patterns. Melatonin works best to enhance sleep if the body is lacking in the hormone (and can actually cause wakefulness if the body has too much). Dr. Jacobs recommends 1-3 mg, about 30 minutes before sleep.
    One to try: Source Naturals’ Sublingual Melatonin

    This herb grows uncultivated in North America, and is traditionally used to calm anxiety. “Skullcap is a good mental relaxer, says Julie Plunkett, medical herbalist at Pharmaca La Jolla. “It’s what we call the herb for over-thinking.”
    Find it in: WishGarden Herbs’ Sleepy Nights

    Valerian: Native to Europe and Asia, valerian has been used as a sedative medicinal herb since at least the time of ancient Greece and Rome. Dr. Brad Jacobs recommends finding a formula that includes at least .3% of valerenic acid, and taking it 30-60 minutes before sleep.
    One to try: Gaia Herbs’ Valerian Root

    Speak with a Pharmaca practitioner for more information about sleep-specific supplements.

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