Most times, people are busy thinking about the macronutrients, like protein, carbohydrate, and fat, which provide energy in the form of calories. Yet the average individual doesn’t realize the importance of what is required for many of those metabolic reactions to take place, specifically the adequate supply of micronutrients, otherwise known as vitamins and minerals. When thinking about quantities, it’s relevant to consider whether someone is sufficient, insufficient, deficient, or toxic in the level of a particular micronutrient. Unfortunately, clinical laboratory testing can be ineffective in giving us an accurate read on the levels of these nutrients, and we must rely on symptoms through a nutrition-focused exam.
Further to exploring the absolute quantity of micronutrients and how they are driving reactions in the body, we also need to consider how each of them gets in the body through digestion and absorption and how they work together in synergistic or antagonistic relationships. Micronutrients have different methods of absorption and can potentially have synergistic properties or compete with one another.
You can view a vitamin-mineral chart that summarizes the interrelationships.
Here are some general principles to note:
We sat down with Joel Evans, MD to talk about Functional Medicine options for common women’s health issues.
What kind of options do you suggest for women entering perimenopause to help address discomfort/symptoms? Perimenopause is a challenging time of life for many women because just as their ovaries are beginning to put them into perimenopause, life stressors hit. They’re dealing with teenagers—and the stressors associated with raising teenagers—they’re applying to college or leaving home; they’re dealing with aging parents that require more attention. There are financial stressors, and all of those stressors can put stress on marriages.
So, there are a lot of challenging life events that coincide exactly with the perimenopausal period. To make matters worse, stress makes all the physical manifestations of perimenopause worse. We have this hormonal roller coaster taking place at the same time as the occurrence of stressful life events. The first change that we see is a decrease in progesterone in the second half of the cycle. Progesterone has anti-anxiety effects, and progesterone helps with sleep.
The second thing we see is an increase in estrogen levels, which changes the relationship between estrogen and progesterone. Elevated estrogen also causes symptoms like breast tenderness and breast pain, as well as building up the lining of the uterus, which can cause changes in the bleeding pattern in perimenopause. There can be longer intervals between periods, the blood flow can be heavier because the lining is thicker, and more material has to come out during the menstrual flow. There can be sleeplessness, anxiety, and depressed mood.
If a woman has entered perimenopause and is having hot flashes, many times I’ll recommend ERr 731®. It is a plant-derived ingredient that has been shown in clinical studies to reduce daily hot flashes from 12 to 2 in as little as 12 weeks—an 83% reduction.* Patients have found it can be an effective relief for a wide range of other menopausal symptoms including: sleep disturbances, mood, irritability, and anxiety. I’ve also had great success with chasteberry and black cohosh to help support menstrual regularity, ease menstrual cramps, and support reproductive health. If this is a concern, I’ll also suggest they try ashwagandha, an herb to help support healthy libido.†
What is the typical relationship between stress and fatigue? What testing do you do, and what are your typical recommendations?Stress causes hormone imbalance and dysfunction and metabolic abnormalities, and both the metabolic abnormalities and the hormone imbalances create fatigue. Stress causes imbalances in adrenal function. It will lead to elevated cortisol and ultimately lowered DHEA-S. Cortisol helps the body with metabolism. Elevated cortisol directly causes diminished thyroid function, and when the thyroid is underperforming, hypothyroidism leads to fatigue. Low DHEA-S levels also lead to fatigue. Ultimately, when the body has been producing cortisol for too long, it can’t continue that, so less cortisol is produced, and that leads to fatigue.
I like doing an adrenal stress profile, a 24-hour test of adrenal function with four salivary samples. I see what cortisol is on wakening, during the day, and right before bed. People who are stressed and wired may have too much cortisol at night, and they can’t sleep. I will recommend taking herbal supplements that contain ingredients like Schisandra, jujube, and Rehmannia root at night to address organs and systems involved in the stress response. Adrenal adaptogens such as Asian (Panax) ginseng, Cordyceps, and Rhodiola work great in the morning to support adrenal function. Many times I’ll also recommend DHEA, which is associated with healthy adrenal function. Pantothenic acid and pyridoxine (vitamins B5 and B6) as well as licorice root extract can also help increase cortisol production and decrease cortisol breakdown.†
*Compared with perimenopausal women receiving placebo, those receiving ERr 731® experienced a median 83% decrease in daily hot flashes over the course of 12 weeks (Kaszkin-Bettag M, et al. Altern Ther Health Med. 2009;15(1): 24-34)
These days, it’s smart to be prepared for anything and ensure you and your family are well-stocked. It’s a good idea to take a regular inventory of every cabinet, from the kitchen cabinet to the medicine cabinet, making sure they are well-equipped and contain the items you prefer.
In addition to the standard bandages, hydrogen peroxide, and antibiotic ointment for minor cuts and scrapes, here are some ideas of what to stock and keep on hand in your medicine cabinet:
Stress can often be associated with anxiety that you may experience on a daily basis. Today, more and more adults and teenagers feel the effects of stress on a regular basis and need help developing healthy coping skills.
Juggling too many tasks and large workloads and constantly being plugged in only adds to the stress load. Some people are even stressed about being so stressed! Despite popular theory, not all stress is bad.
A healthy state of stress is described as the “fight-or-flight” response. The “fight-or-flight” response is an important function that helps you in moments of imminent danger. During this response, hormones are released to help prepare appropriate muscles for flight, while energy is diverted from unnecessary places. If you are trying to run away from, say, a bear, your body will divert more energy to using your legs and less on digesting what you ate for lunch. As the name implies, you either fight off the dangerous situation or your run away from it. This type of stress is a healthy bodily response. Fortunately in the 21st century, most of us are not running away from bears.
Chronic stress, the type of stress many people experience today, is not at all beneficial. A variety of things contributes to daily stress; everyone has different stressors. Often unhealthy methods are used to alleviate stress, actually making it worse. Chronic stress is detrimental to the body, and toxic methods to alleviate it are harmful as well. However, there are many techniques, mindset changes, and adaptations that can help reduce stress in your life or at least help you to develop better coping skills.
Like exercise, what you eat also affects your stress levels. Eating healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables will help reduce stress. Processed foods, such as potato chips, desserts, refined grains, and fast food, cause fatigue and bloating and often result in an increase in stress. Since chronic stress can produce chemicals harmful to the body, including colorful foods high in antioxidants will help reduce the effects of those chemicals. Look for high-antioxidant foods like goji berries, blueberries, and pecans. Keep in mind the phrase “you are what you eat.” If you want to feel less stressed, opt for a healthy diet.
A common habit today is multitasking, challenging your brain to do more than one activity at the same time. It also challenges your body to keep up with all of these tasks at the same time without spiraling out of control. If you want to reduce stress, break this mindset and learn to focus on one task at a time. Sometimes we may need to juggle a variety of tasks, but trying to focus on just one task at a time will help to reduce your stress levels.
Living in the moment
Many people today are incredibly anxious either because they are continuously focused on the future or depressed from dwelling on the past. Trying to live in the moment helps to reduce stress because all that matters is what is happening then and there.
Stress reduction is paramount for maintaining a healthy body. Daily activities like eating nutritious foods, exercising, and meditation are easy to integrate and can help immensely with stress reduction. Try making changes one at a time to reduce stress so you too can live a fruitful and happy life.
Submitted by the Metagenics Marketing Team
Because many adults have fond memories of carefree childhood days spent roaming the woods with their friends, swimming at the creek, or just hanging out eating ice cream after school, it’s hard for them to picture that a majority of today’s children are as prone to stress as a busy executive.
Pressure from parents, teachers, coaches, and peers can cause children to develop anxiety, to have trouble sleeping, and to turn to unhealthy foods and even alcohol or drugs in an attempt to alleviate their pain. Teaching children healthy, constructive ways to handle stress is essential in today’s busy world.
Here are eight powerful and practical ways to help your child destress and relax in a world that is often overwhelming:
Submitted by the Metagenics Marketing Team
Stress is a six-letter word, and we all have some of it in our lives. However, the way you respond to stress is uniquely yours. Whether the stress you are facing is the good kind, such as planning for a wedding, or the not-so-good kind such as confronting a difficult coworker situation, knowing how you respond to stress (your “stress type”) can help you better support yourself through challenging situations.
Fight or flight? Which one is right?
When it comes to stress, perception is everything. That is why your body usually reacts to stress with an instinctive “fight or flight” response—even if there is no actual threat. Levels of the common stress hormones, cortisol and adrenaline, can surge dramatically with tension and affect sleep, mood, performance, and the ability to think clearly—particularly if stress is ongoing.1 By knowing your stress type, you can better determine which methods, such as nutrition and exercise or meditation and mindfulness, can help you tackle the emotional pressure you feel.
Types of stress response
Which type of stress response rings true with you?
Submitted by the Metagenics Marketing Team
Deanna Minich, PhD
Have you ever felt like reaching for the pint of strawberry ice cream after a long day at work?
Or eating potato chips after an argument with a loved one?
Or even craving chocolate when feeling bored or isolated?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you might be “stress eating,” or what is commonly referred to as “emotional eating.” Stress eating is turning to food in times of psychological distress as a form of comfort rather than in response to hunger. Whether it’s stress or a specific emotion, like sadness, we may develop a coping response by eating, either overeating or under-eating. In general, emotional eating involves eating nutrient-poor foods, is often repetitive and automatic, and is not connected to body senses of physical hunger, but to an emotional stimulus.1 Some of us are more prone to being high reactors to stress and may be more vulnerable than others.2
Here’s a quick checklist to see whether you might be engaging in stress eating:
Here are some things you can do to break the cycle of stress eating:
Stress eating can be a challenging cycle to break. There are several ways to address the cycle, whether through body awareness, emotional expression, alternative options, better choices, or simply, brain chemistry balance through nutrient sufficiency. Try out a variety of these approaches to see if you feel more empowered in your eating in times of distress.
It’s never fun to be at home with a cold or flu. While we may not be able to prevent them, we may be able to take steps that can reduce our exposure and have an impact on duration and severity. Here are some things you can do before, during, and even after the onset of a cold or flu:
For people with compromised gut function including malabsorption, UltraGI Replenish® is a medical food that offers a targeted nutritional approach to support the intestinal lining and the beneficial gastrointestinal (GI) microbiota usually established through appropriate nourishment early in life.* UltraGI Replenish features a key prebiotic, known as 2’-fucosyllactose (2’-FL),* identical to one found in breast milk, that research suggests may be significant in promoting a healthy balance of beneficial GI microbiota beginning in infancy and continuing throughout life.1
UltraGI Replenish comes in both chocolate and vanilla flavors and can simply be mixed with water, unsweetened alternative milks, or fruit or vegetable juice. But for those looking for a little more variety, these six additional and tasty options are here to tantalize the palate.
For all of these recipes, add ingredients in a blender and blend to desired consistency. Adjust water or ice for desired thickness.
Spinach Avocado SurpriseINGREDIENTS:
Orange Carrot BlastINGREDIENTS:
Green Power Punch
This content is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Individuals should always consult with their healthcare professional for advice on medical issues.
Submitted by the Metagenics Marketing Team
1. Vandenplas Y et al. Nutrients. 2018;10(9):1161.
No doubt you’re experimenting with gluten-free alternatives of your favorite foods. However, as discussed in my prior post, “Going Gluten-Free? Don’t Make This Mistake!” relying on gluten-free packaged foods can take a toll on your budget, blood pressure, waistline, and digestion.
The alternative? Rather than swapping out one package for another, shift your diet away from processed foods and toward more whole foods.
If your goal is to improve your health, an upgrade to a whole foods diet is a smart start. Many people find the approach so satisfying that they don’t want to go back to their prior diet. So don’t just go gluten-free. Go beyond gluten-free!
Of all the meals, most people find breakfast is the one they need to plan ahead the most. Why is breakfast important?
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Certain persons, considered experts, may disagree with one or more of the foregoing statements, but the same are deemed, nevertheless, to be based on sound and reliable authority. No such statements shall be construed as a claim or representation as to Metagenics products, that they are offered for the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment or prevention of any disease.