How Vitamins Make Your Sleep Better

Twenty-five percent of Americans will experience intermittent insomnia sometime in the year while ten percent suffer from chronic insomnia. Insomnia is the second leading mental health disorder in the United States with symptoms such as fatigue, moodiness, anger, appetite changes, lack of motivation, and poor decision making. Sleep deprivation can increase the likelihood of developing an anxiety disorder, a leading cause of insomnia. So, you see how sleep deprivation becomes a vicious cycle.


Quality sleep is affected by a variety of things that you do in the daytime, such as what you eat, your ability to handle stress and anxiety, your schedule, and exercise. It is also affected by the vitamins you take.

Vitamin D and Sleep

Vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin, may be one of the most important vitamins for sleep. Vitamin D supports the immune system, manages inflammation, and also regulates your mood and stress levels. Despite the health benefits of Vitamin D, millions of people are deficient. The majority of food sources are animal-based such as fatty fish, cheese, and eggs so vegetarians and vegans may need to supplement.  

You are able to make vitamin D by exposing your skin to sunlight. This process is impaired if you constantly wear sunscreen, if your skin is too dark, you are obese, or you have a kidney or digest tract issue preventing Vitamin D from being properly converted or absorbed into the body.  

Vitamins and sleep
Could your sleep be better with vitamins?

Vitamin E to Counteract Sleep Deprivation

Vitamin E helps protect and maintain healthy cell function in the body. Especially, to protect short and long-term memory and counter the effects of sleep deprivation.

While most people get enough vitamin E, deficiencies are possible — largely due to genetics or an underlying medical condition such as cystic fibrosis, cholestatic liver disease, or celiac disease. Food sources of vitamin E include vegetable oils, nuts, seeds and green leafy veggies.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is well-known for its antioxidant strength which bolsters our immune systems. But, research has also shown several unique links between Vitamin C and sleep. For example, people who sleep fewer hours at night consume less Vitamin C than those who sleep longer hours. Vitamin C deficiencies are also linked to greater sleep disruption. In addition, Vitamin C is linked to protection of the brain as well as assist in reducing the effects of sleep apnea.

Nearly 7% of American adults experience a Vitamin C deficiency. Common signs of a deficiency may include cork-screw shaped body hair, rough and patchy skin, bright red colored hair follicles, swollen and painful joints, oddly-shaped fingernails, and easy bruising to name a few. Foods high in Vitamin C include oranges, strawberries, bell peppers, broccoli and tomatoes.

Vitamin B6

Lack of Vitamin B6 increases symptoms related to insomnia and depression. B6 is involved in over 150 enzyme reactions which help to process fats, carbs, and proteins. It is also instrumentally-linked to the immune and nervous system.

Vitamin B6 deficiencies are more likely if you are deficient in other B vitamins such as B12 and Folate. Deficiency is also more common if you suffer from liver, kidney, digestive, or autoimmune diseases. People who smoke, alcoholics, suffer from obesity, and pregnant women are also at risk. Foods high in B6 include meats, fish, whole grains and eggs.

Vitamin B12 and Sleep-Wake Disruptions

B12 is important in maintaining consistent sleep by limiting sleep-wake disruptions which are common in people who suffer from depression and anxiety.

B12 deficiencies are common. You may be at risk if you are taking diabetes medication, heartburn medication, strictly vegan, or elderly. Much like Vitamin D, Vitamin B12 is mostly found in animal-based foods meaning that without supplements vegans and vegetarians are at risk of being deficient. Common symptoms of a B12 deficiency are pale or jaundiced skin, weakness and fatigue, and those pins and needles sensations. Foods high in B12 include beef, fish and organ meats.

Lisa Smalls is a freelance writer from NC who covers sleep health topics for Mattress Advisor. She is passionate about educating and writing on the subject of nutrition and its relation to sleep health.

Back Pain Keeping You Awake? Try These 8 Things Before Bed Tonight.

Julia Merrill of befriendyourdoc.org

Anyone who has ever tried to fall asleep with back pain will tell you just how impossible it can feel. Every tiny movement sends a spasm through your body, meaning you can’t get comfortable. Meanwhile, the anxiety of knowing you might be kept awake all night can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Before you know it, the morning has come and you have to face the day, without having truly rested.

While there’s no quick and easy fix, there are plenty of habits and items that could help you find relief. These work by either reducing the anxiety surrounding sleep or targeting the pain itself (or a mixture of both). Try some of these methods before bed for the next few days and see what happens.

Sleep is possible with back pain. Just try these techniques tonight.
Sleep is possible with back pain. Just try these techniques tonight. Photo by Acharaporn Kamornboonyarush from Pexels

Magnesium for Spasm-Type Back Pain

Magnesium is so simple that it is often overlooked, but if you have back spasms or pain related to back tightness, then it might just be your miracle. Magnesium is the signal your body’s muscles use to relax, making it your number one natural muscle relaxer. Here’s a whole post about the best types of Magnesium for you.

CBD Oil For Pain Related Sleep Trouble

CBD is one of the main substances in cannabis, along with THC. While THC is what gets you high, CBD has no intoxicating effects but many potential health benefits. Research indicates that it can be an effective anti-inflammatory, and it is being increasingly used to medicate chronic pain.
CBD oils can be a bit confusing, as they come in many brands, concentrations, and types. This  Remedy Review buyer’s guide on the best CBD oils available is a good place to start to determine the best option for you.

Meditation For Sleep

Research has found that meditation can be effective in combating insomnia and improving sleep. It can also help with pain management, making this one of the most potentially useful habits for those who can’t sleep due to back pain. You can find countless sleeping meditations for free online – try a few different ones to find one that works for you.

Aromatherapy For Insomnia

Another simple way you can try to improve your sleep is to make your bedroom as relaxing an environment as possible. Essential oils can contribute to this, especially if you invest in a diffuser. The best essential oils for sleep include lavender, valerian, and chamomile.

DIY Massage For Back Pain

Regular massages from a professional can be a huge help for people suffering from chronic pain, but it doesn’t always help when you’re trying to fall asleep. Instead of waiting for your next appointment, get a willing partner or family member to learn to give a back massage. Livestrong has simple, easy to follow instructions they can use.

Mattress Toppers for Pain and Sleep

Buying a brand-new mattress can feel like a huge investment, especially since it’s impossible to know whether it’s going to make much of a difference. A mattress topper is a good intermediary step – much cheaper than a full mattress, but with just as much potential to help you get a good night’s sleep. This comprehensive guide to the best mattress toppers for back pain has some good advice and recommendations.

Heat Therapy For Pain

Heat therapy is another simple, often effective way to alleviate back pain, and often the first remedy people turn to. Hot patches, hot wraps, and hot baths can all provide relief for the pain and help an injury heal faster, so it’s worth coming back to this if you haven’t been convinced in the past. Trying a new method could make a difference: maybe a heat patch didn’t do much, but maybe a hot bath half an hour before bed could help. Plus, a hot bath is a great way to wind down and transition into peaceful sleep.

Stretching for Back Pain

Many people are aware of the benefits of stretching immediately after waking up, but many others overlook how it could help them fall asleep. Stretching is inherently relaxing, allowing you to focus on your body rather than your worries, and it can also relieve muscle tension.

Many stretches common in yoga can be particularly beneficial for back pain. Try these out before bed, but remember to keep things soft and gentle. Doing anything too strenuous could just make you feel more awake.

Not all of these methods will work for everyone. However, a combination of some of them is likely to help you get a better night’s sleep. Whatever happens, don’t be discouraged. There might be a bit of trial and error involved, but you will eventually find a routine that allows you to sleep better and get the rest you need.

These are simple steps toward getting an excellent, tonight. If you have back pain that doesn’t resolve itself or gets worse over time, please talk with your doctor. Some causes of pain are serious and shouldn’t be overlooked.

Seed Cycling For Fibroids

Seed cycling is a gentle way to balance hormones, but with fibroids many women hesitate to start. Uterine fibroids, or leiomyomas, affect millions of women, causing heavy bleeding and often pain. They are space-occupying lesions that can interfere with fertility, with urination, with digestion and also cause severe pain and pressure in the pelvis. Seed cycling could be a gentle way to limit fibroid growth and manage symptoms. They are a serious condition and it is important to work closely with your physician when considering any new protocol, including this one.

What Is Seed Cycling or Seed Rotation?

Seed cycling, also called seed rotation, is a nutritional method of regulating women’s hormones. It works by using two different combinations of seeds for the two phases of a woman’s menstrual cycle. If you are unfamiliar with the basics of the menstrual cycle or of seed cycling, there is a helpful article here. Typically, 1 Tablespoon of flax seeds and 1 Tablespoon of pumpkin seeds are taken for the first half of the cycle (from day one of bleeding to ovulation, or the first 14 days) which is the follicular phase. 1 tablespoon of pumpkin seeds and 1 Tablespoon of sesame seeds are taken for the second half of the cycle (from ovulation, or day 15 to the end,) which is the luteal phase. The basic protocol, however, isn’t appropriate for women with estrogen dominance so severe that it has led to fibroids. Seed cycling for fibroids should be a different protocol.

Seed Cycling for hormone balance adds seeds into your diet following the rhythm of your body or the moon. Seed cycling and pregnancy are a natural fit. Seed cycling for fibroids is a slightly altered protocol.
Seed Cycling for hormone balance adds seeds into your diet following the rhythm of your body or the moon. Seed cycling and pregnancy are a natural fit, and the seeds should be altered in the case of uterine fibroids.

Days 1 – 14; The Follicular Phase

The first fourteen days of a woman’s cycle are dominated by the effects of estrogen. Estrogen is the strongest known contributor to the growth of uterine fibroids, and so it is important to modulate this time of the month. Flax seeds work in two ways to REDUCE the effects of estrogen on the body. In one aspect, the lignan from flax seeds is a phytoestrogen, meaning a plant-based estrogen which mimics 2-alpha-hydroxyestrone. This type of estrogen is biologically far less active than other estrogens (it is often compared to the biologically overactive 16-alpha-hydroxyestrone in research).  Here is a great research article that goes into far more detail about this process. Also, the fiber in flax seeds acts as a natural detoxifier, helping your body to trap and eliminate estrogens from the gut (humans tend to reabsorb estrogens from the gut so that they are never fully eliminated).  Here’s more on fiber. Here’s more about estrogen dominance and the reabsorption of estrogens from the gut. The overall effect of the flax seeds is one of lowering estrogen. For a fibroid, lowering your estrogen levels will help to keep growth to a minimum. It probably won’t be strong enough to shrink the fibroid, but it may help slow or prevent growth. Seed cycling for fibroids should use only flax seeds for the first 14 days.

Days 15-28 (ish); The Luteal Phase

This portion of a woman’s cycle is influenced most strongly by progesterone. Progesterone, although it reduces bleeding from fibroids, is known to increase their growth. Here’s an article about the progesterone link. Sesame seeds are used in seed cycling for fibroids in this phase. They are also lignan-rich like flax seeds and have been shown to have strong anti-tumor effects including anti-proliferative effects that might also slow tumor growth. I have never seen research specifically on sesame seeds and hormone levels but this article on lignans is the closest.

Seed Cycling Protocol For Uterine Fibroids

Seed cycling for fibroids should include the flax and sesame seeds in rotation, without the testosterone boosting effects of pumpkin seeds or the progesterone boosting effects of sunflower seeds.

Days 1-14: 1-2 Tbsp ground flax seeds.

Days 15 – 28 (or the end of your cycle): 1-2 Tbsp sesame seeds.

As always, check with your physician to make sure this is appropriate for you before you start anything new. Also, be sure you are monitoring the size of your fibroids to make sure that their growth is actually slowing and that you are not putting yourself in any danger. As always, listen to your body in everything that you do for your health.

Is BMI a Useful Measure of Weight Loss? BMI and Weight Loss Explained.

Losing weight is a modern obsession. As we become more in-tune with our bodies and what is good – and not good – for us, change becomes essential. Finding out if you are healthy weight or not can be tough. For years, the Body Mass Index (BMI) was the go-to solution to see if we were in proportion with our body weight.

What is a healthy weight for you? BMI and Weight Loss.
What is a healthy weight for you? BMI and Weight Loss.

Using a formula that calculates your body height with your weight, you can quickly learn how “healthy” you are under BMI grounds. However, please note that BMI is probably not the one-size-fits-all tool that we had once assumed. Let’s take a look at the BMI, why it was such a useful force for good and why, today, you might do well to look at BMI in a different light.

Why Should I Measure BMI?

Many people use BMI to determine their ideal weight. For example, according to conventional use for BMI, staying within 18.5-24.9 indicates a healthy weight. If you fall outside of either 18.5 (underweight) or 25 (overweight) then according to your BMI, change needs to happen.

Is 18.5-24.9 REALLY Ideal?

I recommend that you look to measure your BMI more intelligently. Many people will look to use this number to help determine every part of their lifestyle, but it’s vital to note that there are some serious limitations in the way that BMI operates. BMI use in weight loss is not always the most valuable metric. BMI alone is not enough.

Limitations of the Body Mass Index

Muscle Mass is Not Fat Mass.

One of the most common reasons why you need to take a look at BMI with a skeptical view is that BMI does not take into account the importance of fat and muscle. Naturally, this means that someone who has more muscle may be in the wrong category. It also means that you might be in an ideal BMI range, but have too much fat and not enough muscle.

It’s an often used example, but super athletes in the past like Michael Jordan would have been in the wrong BMI count. They would have been ‘overweight’ as the average person is not cut to shreds with muscle and physical power.

Fat Distribution Matters

Not all fat is created equal. Many poeple with a “normal” BMI still carry a dangerous amount of belly fat. We all know someone with skinny arms and legs but a round belly. Belly fat is among the most dangerous fats and is far more important to deal with than other type.

So, Is BMI Useful For Weight Loss?

BMI is useful in that it’s quick, easy, free and gives you a broad guideline. However, for the reasons we mentioned until now, it is by no means a catch-all solution. Context is key, and knowing your BMI alone is not enough.

Other Ways To Track Weight Loss

Numbers on a scale have just as many limitations as the BMI – different people are built differently and the numbers can’t tell you that. For example, I’m built like a bird and am actually overweight at 115 lbs. My husband, who has a big frame, is underweight at 175 lbs. So here are some other things to consider:

  • Energy level. Being over or underweight is a stressor, so energy level can be a great indicator of your body’s overall health.
  • Strength. If you feel strong in your body then you’re doing something right. This doesn’t have anything to do with how much you bench press, it has to do with how well your body holds up to your everyday stressors.
  • Tone. If you can see changes in your muscles when you use them, then you’re doing something right.
  • Weight Distribution. Very few of us are lucky enough to have our weight distributed evenly over our whole bodies. Most of us have a place that fat collects (think belly, hips, thighs, butt). Use your problem area as a benchmark for weight loss. If that area is becoming more proportional to the rest of you, you’re doing great.
  • Fit of Clothing. I know that if I go through a sedentary period and then start working out again or re-connect with my focus on health, the first thing I notice is that my clothes fit better. This happens before the numbers on the scale change (and sometimes I gain weight at first but my clothes fit better). This matters.

BMI is great as a tracking tool or a rough guideline, but there are so many more important factors in weight loss that this shouldn’t be your only guide.

Taurine for Gallbladder Sludge and Stones

Taurine is used for many things, but taurine for gallbladder sludge doesn’t get the attention it deserves.  It’s well known for energy, of course, hence every energy drink out there. While increased energy is a *really* great side-effect, anyone with gallbladder sludge can tell you that getting rid of that is pretty good too.

Taurine is great for gallbladder sludge, and also common in energy drinks (not that I'm suggesting energy drinks for your gallbladder - that wouldn't work out). Great photo by Brekingpic on Pixels.
Taurine is great for gallbladder sludge, and also common in energy drinks (not that I’m suggesting energy drinks for your gallbladder – that wouldn’t work out). Great photo by Brekingpic on Pixels.

Why Does Taurine Help With Gallbladder Sludge and Stones?

So, why does Taurine help with gallbladder sludge and also help to decrease gallstone formation? Great question. The substance we generally call “bile” in the gallbladder is actually a conjugated bile salt. Primary bile acids are made in your liver, then conjugated (which means bonded to) either taurine or glycine to become active bile salts. Meaning, without the taurine or glycine, they don’t do anything at all. If you want more detail about this process, there is a great article here. Taurine and glycine are both common in the Standard American Diet, especially from meat and fish sources and also can be made by our bodies if we’re low. So, what is the problem?

Common Factors that Decrease Available Taurine

This is the part that gets us in trouble, because many of the factors that decrease Taurine are ALSO risk factors for developing gallbladder sludge and stones. Are you noticing a pattern here? Here are some common taurine drains:

  • MSG. Dietary MSG requires taurine for metabolism and excretion.
  • High Estrogen. People with high estrogen use so many of their methyl donors trying to deal with estrogen, that there are none left to help their bodies make taurine (especially methionine). High estrogen, you will recall, is also one of the primary risk factors for gallstones and gallbladder sludge.
  • MTHFR Mutation. Sorry MTHFR folks – I feel your pain. MTHFR mutations also mean there are fewer methyl donors, hence lower taurine production and also lower estrogen clearance. Healthy bile is methylation-dependent.
  • Diabetes. There is a link between diabetes and low taurine (and also taurine has been shown to reduce blood sugars).

The Best Way to Supplement Taurine

While energy drinks are fun, these are NOT the best source if you’re trying to prevent gallbladders sludge or stones. See the diabetes thing above? Yeah. Energy drinks typically have a hefty dose of sugar and aren’t going to help your health at all. Food sources of taurine are great in moderation and as part of a healthy diet – meats, dairy products and fish are all high in taurine, but they are also often high in cholesterol, which is best taken in moderation with gallstones or gallbladder sludge. That leaves supplements, which are probably the best option for therapeutic doses of Taurine for gallbladder sludge and stones. Typically suppelements are dosed in 500 or 1000 mg pills and you can take up to 3000 mg daily without harm, even long term. For more information on Taurine or safe dosing, read this.

What Else Should I Be Doing?

While you’re taking your taurine, it’s important to remember to moderate cholesterol in your diet (but not eliminate it – healthy gallbladders need dietary fats to contract and clean themselves out). It’s also incredibly important to remember to get great water intake because, without water, you’re not flushing anything out of anywhere. Also, increase your fiber intake. Fiber not only helps to eliminate fats and bile salts in the intestines but also, helps to pull out estrogens, which decrease taurine. Taurine will help you to be sludge (and pain) free.

Better Sleep on a Budget

Missing out on sleep can do a lot more than leave you feeling drowsy the next day. Sleep deprivation can be detrimental to both your mental and physical health. Lack of sleep affects your judgment, coordination, and reaction times the next morning, but over time people who are sleep deprived become more and more at risk for certain health conditions and illnesses.
● Memory loss and brain fog, even Alzheimer’s disease, and dementia
● High blood pressure
● Weakened immune system
● Delayed reflexes, impaired coordination
● Mood swings, depression, anxiety, and paranoia
● High blood sugar
● Weight gain
● Low testosterone, decreased libido
● Inflammation
● Heart disease

Get better sleep on a budget.
Get better sleep on a budget. Photo by Acharaporn Kamornboonyarush from Pexels

How Much Sleep Do You Need?

The amount of sleep a person needs depends on their age. Children need the most sleep. Newborns need as many as 14 to 17 hours of rest a day. Up until five years, young children need no less than 10 hours of sleep each and every night. Young kids from six up to 13 years old should get about nine to 11 hours of sleep, while adolescents 14 to 17 need eight to 10 hours of quality shut-eye. Generally, adults should get about seven to nine hours of sleep, especially busy parents who want to keep up with their kids.
When it comes to sleep, it’s not all about quantity — quality plays a big role, as well. Even if a person stays in bed a good nine hours each night, if they are tossing, turning, and waking up throughout the night they will still wake up feeling sick and disoriented. These helpful tips promote better sleep for optimal performance the next day and beyond. What’s more: all of the tips are both budget-friendly and easy to execute.

Curate Coziness in Your Bedroom

While some rooms in the house can have several different functions, your bedroom should only be for rest and relaxation. Find new areas of your home for working, eating or watching television. When you designate the bedroom as a space for rest, you create a soothing atmosphere. Walking across the threshold, the brain and body recognize that they are in an environment for rest and they begin their nightly reboot. Decluttering or rearranging what you already have can make it more inviting.

Invest in high-quality linens, pillows, and blankets for the most comfortable bed imaginable. People with anxiety and sleep disorders like periodic limb movements should also look into adding a weighted blanket into the repertoire. Weighted blankets provide a sense of comfort and reduce levels of cortisol in the body, making it easier to feel relaxed and eventually drift to sleep.

Better Sleep With Magnesium

The average adult doesn’t need supplements as long as they eat a varied and healthy diet. However, one nutrient a lot of us could use more of is magnesium. Studies suggest about half of adult men and women in the United States are not getting enough magnesium in their diet. Magnesium is vital when it comes to regulating the body’s many functions. Healthy levels of magnesium contribute to heart and bone health, protect metabolism, stabilize mood, reduce stress, and promote better sleep.

While the best way to balance magnesium levels is through a healthy diet, there is also research indicating that supplemental magnesium can improve overall sleep quality. You should always double-check with a doctor before incorporating supplements into your diet, but magnesium is generally considered safe for consumption. Some people even drink magnesium
before bed as a way to wind the brain and body down for a restful night’s sleep.

Sleep deprivation can lead to physical and mental health conditions including a heightened risk of depression, heart disease, and dementia. To get better sleep, make your room a sanctuary where the brain and body can unwind and relax. For those who have trouble relaxing, a soothing magnesium drink can correct an imbalance that contributes to insomnia. With a few extra budget-friendly steps, you can tackle sleep deprivation and get the rest your body needs.

Get sober. MTHFR and alcohol are linked - find out how.

Getting Sober – MTHFR and Alcohol

Healthy Habits to Maintain Sobriety and Truly Live in Recovery from MTHFR and Alcohol.

Article by Michelle Peterson at recoverypride.org, in honor of April – Alcohol Awareness Month

Making the decision to get clean and sober is only the first step to a healthier life. Once you are in recovery for addiction, you may find that you still lack energy or emotional balance, or the original issue that you were self-medicating is still present. The reality is that it takes more than quitting substances to feel your best. Replacing the unhealthy habits of substance abuse with new healthy habits will not only help you get back to your true self, but it also helps maintain sobriety. If you, like many others seeking recovery, have an MTHFR mutation, then addressing this issue will help in your overall progress. After all, MTHFR and alcohol are linked.

Set a Fitness Goal

It’s no secret that regular exercise is essential for good health, and for someone in recovery, it is one of the absolute best ways to get stronger, both physically and mentally. Addiction takes a toll on your body, which can lead to poor health and a general lack of energy. Simply being active on a regular basis counteracts these feelings, builds strength, and can even reverse poor health. Start out slow, and for the best success in making exercise a habit that sticks, try different activities to find something you really enjoy.

Exercise, especially exercise involving the great outdoors, can help boost health in MTHFR and alcohol abuse or recovery. Thanks for the lovely picture  by Hoang Nguyen Xuan from Pexels

Exercise, especially exercise involving the great outdoors, can help boost health in MTHFR and alcohol abuse or recovery. Thanks for the lovely picture by Hoang Nguyen Xuan from Pexels

Getting in the habit of regular exercise packs a one-two punch in helping contribute to recovery. Along with the physical effects you see and feel, being active also improves your mental health, and mental health is key in both MTHFR and alcohol issues. Managing emotions is crucial for maintaining sobriety, and exercise has been shown to increase the feel-good chemicals in your brain and give you an amazing boost in self-confidence. Look to other inspiring people who have found exercise to help in recovery, such as this Ironman athlete, who was featured by CNN. You don’t have to do an Ironman race, but set a goal to work toward, which will help keep you on track and give you a sense of accomplishment.

Fuel Your Body and Mind

Having a balanced, healthy diet helps you feel better both physically and mentally throughout recovery. It’s common for those in recovery to have nutritional deficiencies, so focus your diet on eating plenty of foods packed with nutrients you need. A good general rule is to eat the rainbow, which means eating plenty of fruits and vegetables of all colors in order to get a full variety of nutrients. While good nutrition makes you stronger and boosts energy, Harvard Health Publishing explains how a diet high in unhealthy fats and sugar can impair brain function and make symptoms of anxiety and depression worse. One of your primary goals in recovery should be to manage stressors and overall mental health to avoid relapse, so the emotional effects of a poor diet are the opposite of what you need.

Manage Your MTHFR

Not only does MTHFR mutation increase the likelihood of alcohol overconsumption, it also makes the nutritional impact of alcohol worse.  Alcohol is known to deplete several B vitamins in the body including folate (this is us, MTHFR folks), thiamine, Riboflavin, B6, B12 and vitamins A, E, D and K. In addition to a healthy diet with a rainbow of colors, it is a good idea to supplement B vitamins and methylfolate to bring those levels up to par. This is doubly important if you have a known or suspected MTHFR mutation. Because MTHFR mutations often affect neurotransmitter levels, it is important to start supplementing methylfolate the right way, because taking too much can cause negative symptoms.

Discover a Passion

Exercise and nutrition are the foundations for a healthy body and mind, but you need more in your life to truly thrive. Now is the perfect time to start a new hobby or rediscover a passion from your past. When you’re no longer being controlled by substances, your mind is freed up to discover creativity. Learning a new skill and throwing yourself into a creative endeavor can be incredibly rewarding in recovery. You may enjoy making something with your hands, such as knitting, pottery, or woodworking. This type of hobby adds value to life and can also be a strategy for coping with stressors and triggers.

You may want to find a hobby that involves getting outdoors. This can be anything from taking regular walks in your neighborhood, perhaps with a friend, to outdoor adventures like hiking, mountain biking, or kayaking. Being outdoors, especially if you’re doing something active, is a habit that benefits your health in multiple ways. The vitamin D from the sun is great for your mood, and connecting with nature is grounding.

Finding a new hobby and making that part of your daily life is like icing on the cake when it comes to new healthy habits. When you’re in the throes of substance abuse, caring for yourself is the last thing on your mind, and it’s easy to get away from doing things you really love. Staying committed to recovery requires caring for your physical and mental well-being, and starting these healthy habits helps you accomplish that goal while giving life meaning.

 

Pharmaceutical drugs and gallbladder issues

If you’re struggling with gallbladder sludge and stones you may also be struggling to find your triggers, and one of those triggers might just be drugs – drugs and gallbladder can be linked.  Certain foods, stress, times of day – lots of things can trigger an attack or give you twinges. Sadly, the effects of pharmaceutical drugs are often overlooked, even by your doctor so be sure to check your medicine cabinet, and use the tips below to write your own health timeline. This can give you the valuable information you need to find your own personal gallbladder triggers.

Pills! Have you checked to see if your drugs and gallbladder are linked? Photo by Slashme at English Language Wikipedia.

Pills! Have you checked to see if your drugs and gallbladder are linked? Photo by Slashme at English Language Wikipedia.

Pharmaceutical Drugs and Gallbladder – What Drugs Can Cause Problems

See this research, from the Journal Drug Safety, for more details.

  • Birth Control Pills – Just like high levels of your natural estrogens are implicated in gallbladder trouble, so too are external estrogens.  Even more so because these synthetic estrogens can be difficult for your body to process and eliminate.
  • Hormone Replacement Therapy – Much the same as birth control pills.
  • Lipid Lowering Drugs – Especially Clofibrate, but other drugs haven’t been studied as widely so it’s best to have some caution with the whole group.
  • Thiazide diuretics – There is conflicting research about this group of drugs, but many studies suggest they do cause problems. This includes Chlorothiazide (Diuril), Chlorothalidone, Hydrochlorothiazide (Microzide), Indapamide, Metolazone.
  • Ceftriaxone – This antibiotic can cause gallbladder sludge and stones fairly quickly, but the problems should also resolve after the drug is discontinued.
  • Octreotide – Long term use of this injectable synthetic hormone (synthetic somatostatin) is linked to gallbladder stasis and gallstone formation.
  • Hepatic Artery Infusion Chemotherapy – This is linked to such severe problems your doctor will typically suggest that you remove your gallbladder before starting treatment.
  • Erythromycin and Ampicillin – Both of these antibiotics are linked with hypersensitivity-induced cholecystitis. That means that your body’s reaction to becoming sensitive to the drug includes inflammation of the gallbladder.
  • Cyclosporine – This immunosupressive drug, which is often used for psoriasis has had mixed reports of causing trouble for your gallbladder.
  • Dapsone – This antibiotic has also seen patchy reports of gallbladder issues.
  • Anticoagulant treatment – This link is unclear, but it seems that people with gallbladder inflammation are at increased risk of emergency gallbladder removal after starting anticoagulants.
  • Narcotics – These drugs are well known in slowing down the motion of your bowels, and that slowing can have a profound impact on your gallbladder function.
  • Anticholinergic medications – Specifically oxybutynin might be linked to an increased risk of gallbladder cancer, but actual research is needed.

Drugs and Gallbladder – What Drugs Actually Help?

  • CisaprideResearch has shown that in squirrels fed a high-cholesterol diet, Cisapride helped prevent the formation of crystals in the gallbladder, which are the precursors of gallstones. Sadly, this drug has been removed from the market due to side-effects.
  • Erythromycin – This drug can also be given to increase gastric motility (this is called a prokinetic, like Cisapride), and in spite of the fact that people with hypersensitivity reactions can have gallbladder issues from the drug, it can also solve gallbladder issues.

What About Drugs Not On This List? Write Your Health Timeline.

Every person can have a unique reaction to any drug or substance, which is part of what makes medicine so challenging.  It’s a good idea to do a timeline of your gallbladder symptoms.  What were the stressors in your life at the time symptoms started? Were there major emotional stressors? New drugs? Diet changes? Other conditions?  This will help you to pin point the factors that might be contributing to your own issues and may indeed reveal a link to a pharmaceutical drug.  Even if that drug is not known for causing gallbladder issues, it can be worth investigating.  Talk with your doctor to see if there is a different type of drug that might address the same issue or if there is a way you can discontinue for a while to see if your gallbladder issues change at all.  After all, your body is always unique.

MTHFR and Birth Control Pills. Ugh.

Naturally, MTHFR and birth control pills interact – it’s not like this is an easy mutation to live with in other senses, why would it leave our contraceptive options untouched? Complaining aside, I could have saved myself years of miserable experiences with the pill if I had known this.

MTHFR and birth control pills is a bad combination. Photo by Bryancalabro.

MTHFR and birth control pills is a bad combination. Photo by Bryancalabro.

Birth Control Pills Deplete Folate in Your Body

If you’re familiar with MTHFR mutations, then you’ve probably already figured out why this is a no-win situation for us MTHFR gals, but if you’re not then read on. Birth Control Pills are known to deplete folate levels in women and have been known to do so since the ’80s.  This is a problem for all women, but especially those who have compromised folate metabolism in the first place (ahem, that’s us MTHFR folks). This folate depletion is part of the reason for some of the most common side effects of birth control pills – fatigue, mild depression, even acne.  It’s also linked to an increased risk of neural tube defects in babies born to women who have recently stopped using birth control pills.

Due to the risk of neural-tube defects in women who become pregnant after recently stopping birth control pills, a new folate-fortified pill called Beyaz ® has been developed.  In good news, it is supplemented with an active form of folate so if you’re an MTHFR gal and you absolutely must take oral contraceptive pills, this one might be a good option for you.

If you don’t tolerate birth control pills and can’t figure out why, it could be because you have an MTHFR mutation – especially if you have signs of a folate deficiency even though you’re taking your birth control pills WITH a multivitamin or folate supplement.

Birth Control Pills also deplete B12, Magnesium and other nutrients

Not only is folate depleted, but its partner-in-crime B12 is depleted too.  B12 is also highly involved in the methylation cycle, and again this can be an issue for MTHFR folks (especially those with the related MTRR mutation) as well.  Nutrients to watch when taking birth control include:

  • Folate
  • B12
  • Magnesium
  • Vitamin C
  • B2 – Riboflavin
  • B6 – Pyridoxine
  • Zinc
  • Vitamin E
  • Selenium

Of course for MTHFR folks the folate is the biggest factor, but folate always works in tandem with other B vitamins so make sure you’re getting a good B complex supplement if you do choose to take birth control pills.

Birth Control Pills May Also Affect Serotonin Metabolism

In related bad news, Birth control pills may also affect your Serotonin metabolism (which might also be compromised in MTHFR folks because of this.)  This study, published in the Journal of Ayub Medical College, showed that there was a difference in serotonin levels between non-contraceptive users and oral contraceptive users that was statistically significant in pre-analysis but not statistically significant in post-analysis. That means that although there was a difference in the two groups, it wasn’t large enough that we can say with confidence that it wasn’t chance.  There was, however, a significant difference in serotonin levels for those using injectable contraceptives. Injectable contraceptives are a bad idea on so many levels, but let’s add this as another reason not to use them.

What Type of Contraceptive is Best for MTHFR Mutants?

Completely safe relative to MTHFR mutation types (other risks though – do your research!):

  • Condoms, Female Condoms
  • Copper IUD (non-progesterone secreting)
  • Vasectomy or tubal ligation

If you feel you must take hormonal contraception:

  • Use the lowest dose of hormone possible and make sure you’re adding extra supplements to counteract nutritional deficiencies. Consider Beyaz® but remember if you’re an MTHFR mutant you might still need additional active folate, and it doesn’t supplement any of the other nutrients it depletes so you’ll also need those.
  • Avoid using injections, pellets or implants simply because once they’re in you can’t get them out.  That means if your body doesn’t tolerate it you’re stuck with the side effects until the dose wears off.
  • If you’re considering getting pregnant, please stop all oral contraceptives at least a year before you start to try and make sure you work diligently during that year to boost your levels of all of the nutrients that may have been depleted.

 

Boost Your Mental and Physical Health: Tips for Success

This article is by Travis White of Learnfit.org. Thanks Travis!

Everybody wants to look and feel their best when the spring and summer seasons hit – after all, we all want to wear that bathing suit in public. Making the effort to improve both your mental physical health can go a long way toward reducing stress and increasing energy. Of course, the hardest part is getting started. There are plenty of easy tips that you can incorporate to improve your nutrition and up your physical activity that will have you ready for the warmer months in no time.

Boost your mental and physical health by getting outside and doing something you love.

Boost your mental and physical health by getting outside and doing something you love.

Planning is the key to boosting Mental and Physical Health.

The best way to ensure success when it comes to improving your mental and physical health is to put together a detailed plan. When you start making changes to your diet or activity levels without a clear strategy, you are setting yourself up to fail. Writing down your goals, plans, and progress can be a very effective strategy for improving your health. Keep a journal of what you eat and what activity you do, and be honest so that you can look back at your successes and pinpoint areas of trouble as you move forward.

The spring and summer seasons are ideal for trying to make modifications to your diet to improve your health. Be sure to check out farmers markets that start in the spring, as these are a great resource for fresh, whole foods that are packed with nutrition. Focus on fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and healthy fats to keep you energized and satisfied throughout the day. Be sure to work on cutting out or cutting back on unhealthy choices such as sugary treats and fast food.

Exercise or Activity is a MUST for boosting Mental and Physical Health

Any plan for improving your physical and mental health needs to include regular, moderate exercise. If you don’t like the “E” word, then let’s call it “activity” instead. AZ Central recommends planning for at least 30 active minutes a day, at least five days a week.  Add it to your calendar to help you commit to it. The time of day that you exercise is far less important than getting it done consistently, so consider whether your lifestyle best accommodates a morning, noon, late afternoon, or evening time slot.

Embrace activities that motivate you for the spring and summer seasons, things that you love to do. Focus on walking, running, swimming,  biking, or playing in the surf. Experts also recommend incorporating some strength training at least a couple of times a week into your routine. You don’t necessarily need a gym membership or fancy equipment to do this. You can focus on exercises that use your own body-weight  such as lunges, pushups, crunches and other similar activities to help you build your strength, adding in dumbbells for additional exercises if you’d like.

Small Lifestyle Changes will Greatly Improve Mental and Physical Health

To a large degree, improving your physical health will significantly improve your mental health as well. Focusing on quality nutrition in your diet will help to reduce stress and increase your energy, and the University of Michigan University Health Service notes that helps to improve your mood and decrease anxiety and depression.

The spring and summer months are the ideal time to focus on improving your physical and mental health. Working on improving your health doesn’t have to be overwhelming, as there are plenty of easy ways to incorporate moderate changes that ultimately will have a significant, positive impact. Create a plan of attack with measurable goals and focus on quality nutrition and regular exercise to boost your fitness and reduce your stress levels. Once you commit to lifestyle changes and see some success, you’ll be motivated to keep going and reap the rewards of your hard work as you embrace the warm months.

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