When Pills Don’t Work: Using Alternative Therapy for Drug Resistant Ailments

Change of Plans

I had something entirely different planned for this week.

But then I received notice of something I feel compelled to share with you.

In the past when I’ve published articles, I haven’t promoted them on A Better Way Wellness. At times it was because they didn’t always directly apply to the topics we discuss here. Other times it was out of fear of melding my academic life with my passion for holistic wellness. And because of my discomfort with self-promotion.

After the incredible, kind, and supportive response from last week’s confession post (thank you!), I’ve decided to leave fear behind and share everything I can to help you make the most informed choices about wellness.

So here we go!

Evidence-Based Article on Alternative Therapies

Yesterday, I had an article published in Frontiers in Medicine that was in the same vein as my (vulnerable) confession post last week.

And I want to share this article with each and every one of you.

Why?

Because the article highlights solid scientific evidence to support the use of alternative therapies in treating conditions when drugs have failed.  Yoga, diet, probiotics, folic acid, and even music therapy have helped patients with drug-resistant ailments such as depression, pain, and epilepsy.

So if you want to learn more about what to do when pills don’t work, please read the short commentary I co-authored in Frontiers in Medicine. It’s available free at: http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fmed.2017.00037/full.

Please Share

If you find the article interesting or useful, please share with friends, family, or on social media. My wonderful co-authors (Sarah Elizabeth Levitt and Grzegorz Bulaj, two bright and accomplished professionals and researchers) and I want our message to spread as far as possible.

Thank you for your support and sending you good vibes for the week,
Skye

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How to (Healthfully) Eat Your Way to Calm: STRESS LESS PART II

Welcome back to the Stress Less Series. Last post we talked all about stress — what it is, what happens to your body when you experience stress, and the two main ways to treat stress. Need a refresher? Check out the post here.

Now we’re moving into the real nitty-gritty of the stress series. This is the part that gets me most excited. And giddy! Because I love putting theory and thought into action — I want you to experience the life-changing way to feed yourself calmness in a healthy and sustainable way.

CAN YOU REALLY EAT YOUR WAY TO CALM?

Let’s play a game. I’ll give you two words and you tell me what it makes you think of.

Ready?

The words are: stress and food.

Let me guess. Cookies, cake, chips, fries, macaroni and cheese, and other “comfort” food comes to mind.

While these often carbohydrate laden snacks seem comforting, they actually don’t help your stress levels. In fact, they actually make you feel worse. They can leave you feeling bloated, with an angry stomach, and extra inflammation. In other words, they may temporarily give you a boost, but actually do more harm than good.

Yikes! That is not what I want for myself OR for you. Because, darling readers, there is a better way.

A way you can eat that prevents stress. A way that negates the effects of stress. A way that makes you authentically, really, and truly better.

And I’ve got all the details for you below. I’m giving you the what, the why, and the how.

GREEN LEAFY VEGETABLES

Do you remember the charming movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding? The father character has a “fix all” for every ailment — from swollen toes to acne to rashes. The “fix all” is Windex, which he (endearingly?) sprays on anything and everything (and anyone).

Green leafy vegetables are to wellness as Windex is to the father in My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Basically, they are everything.

I could wax lyrical on the amazing and health boosting effects of these wonderful green vegetables.

But I’ll keep it focused for your sake.

THE RATIONALE & EVIDENCE

Dark green leafy vegetables contain folate. Folate is integral in synthesis of the hormones serotonin and dopamine that help prevent stress and promote feeling of wellbeing.     

Multiple studies correlate consumption of vegetables with decreased stress and better mental health. Articles such as this and this are examples.

EASY WAYS TO ADD MORE DARK GREEN VEGETABLES TO YOUR LIFE

Green smoothies! This is an easy and tasty way to get your green leafy vegetable fix. Need some inspiration? Check out this post and this post.

Another way is to add a handful of spinach to your meals. I do this with stir-fry, soup, and casseroles. Fresh spinach is a relatively mild tasting green that can be easily added to many dishes.

FRUIT

Sometime in the last decade, fruit has gotten a bad rap. Perhaps it’s residual from the popular calorie counting and carbohydrate-hating diets. I’m not really sure. But for some reason we are turning away from fruit.

And we shouldn’t!

Fruit is nature’s dessert.

Not only does it taste amazing, but fruit is full of essential nutrients that are typically under consumed — nutrients like potassium, dietary fiber, vitamin C, and folate.

THE RATIONALE & EVIDENCE

Different fruits have different benefits. Berries, for example, are full of antioxidants and phytonutrients — both of which improve your body’s response to stress.

There is a wealth of evidence to support fruit’s role in stress and mental health. See this article for details.

EASY WAYS TO ADD MORE FRUIT TO YOUR LIFE

Make fruit your dessert. After your lunch or dinner, have a piece of fresh fruit. Apples, pears, and blueberries are sweet ways to end your meal.

Or get a twofer with the dark green vegetables and make one of my smoothies.

OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats found throughout our diet. There are multiple benefits to omega-3 fatty acids. In fact, every year I teach University of Washington students all about this.

But today I’ll stick just to the stress reduction benefits. You may be hearing more about omega-3s from me in the future. :) I just can’t help myself.

Omega-3 fatty acids are known to be anti-inflammatory.

THE RATIONALE & EVIDENCE

Omega-3 fatty acids are known to be anti-inflammatory. They reduce surges of stress hormones and protect against depression and premenstrual syndrome.

See this article, this one, and this for the evidence.


EASY WAYS TO ADD MORE OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS TO YOUR LIFE

The good news is there are many sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Fish is an obvious choice — salmon, mackerel, tuna, and herring are all rich sources. Walnuts, chia seeds, flaxseeds, hemp seeds, and egg yolks are options if you’re not a fish lover.

You can also supplement omega-3 fatty acids. The most common way is by taking fish oil. If you just gagged a little, consider this. Fish oil products have come a LONG way. Many are blended with essential oils (like lemon or orange) while others are whipped into a smoothie-like consistency with a fruity flavor. Just beware that (like most things) not all fish oil is created equally. Potency, purity, and price can vary dramatically.

If you’re vegan, you can still get your omega-3 fatty acid fix. Marine algae is full of omega-3 fatty acids. While less potent, flaxseed is another option. Flaxseed adds a hearty and nutty flavor to foods. Try flaxseed sprinkled on smoothie bowls or use it as an egg substitute when baking or cooking.

DARK CHOCOLATE

If you know me, you know I adore dark chocolate. It’s a win-win-win in my book. Dark chocolate tastes delicious and satisfying, it is full of amazing antioxidants, and has proven health benefits.

THE RATIONALE & EVIDENCE

Dark chocolate keeps your taste buds and stress molecules happy. Additionally, it can improve cognitive function and mood.

This article and this one give you more of the nitty gritty on dark chocolate.

EASY WAYS TO ADD MORE DARK CHOCOLATE TO YOUR LIFE

Hmmm. I probably don’t need to give you much guidance here. It doesn’t take much imagination to conjure ways to add more dark chocolate to your life.

A word to the wise (so you!), not all dark chocolate is created equally. The majority of dark chocolate on the market has additives that TAKE AWAY from it’s health benefits. So if you want to get the absolute most from your dark chocolate (and you know you do), please make sure you follow my tips from this post. Bottom line: the fewer ingredients the better and avoid dairy/milk solids in your dark chocolate.

TAKE THE STRESS LESS CHALLENGE

Do you want to see if you really can eat your way to less stress?

I dare you!

Over the next week incorporate green leafy vegetables, fruit, omega-3 fatty acids, and dark chocolate into your diet every single day. Be mindful of how eating these foods makes you feel. Inside and out — what has changed?  What feels the same? How is your stress level?

What do you have to lose? At the very least, you’ll be filling yourself with nutrient dense and yummy treats.

I’d love to hear all about your Stress Less Challenge. Please comment below or send me a message. It makes my day when I hear from you!

Thank you so very much for reading and stay tuned for next week — Part III of the Stress Less series.

Sending you love & peaceful energy,
Skye
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Are You Stressed? Part I of the Stress Less Series

Low energy. Headaches. Upset stomach. Tense muscles. Difficulty sleeping. Loss of libido. Moodiness. Becoming easily agitated. Nervousness. Cold or sweaty hands or feet. Clenched jaw.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever experienced any of these symptoms.

If your hand is up, it sounds like you’ve experienced stress.

Don’t feel bad or weak or afraid if you’re currently experiencing stress. Many of us (including me!) have. You are definitely not alone.

I recall times in my life when my stress levels were completely out of control. Times when my own body felt foreign to me — my skin was breaking out horribly, my pants felt a little too tight, my anxiety levels were high, and my glow and energy were nearly gone. In more intense times, I almost felt paralyzed with stress. Where my mind and body were NOT at peace — where I knew I needed to make changes immediately.

So what did I do? I put on my research thinking cap and dove into the evidence and literature behind stress. As a pharmacist, I knew there were medications that could help. But I wasn’t ready for that. I wanted to try integrative and natural therapies first.

And what I found was incredible. The options to naturally treat stress were plenty. And many options had the science and studies to support them.

THE SERIES

I want to share all I’ve discovered about stress with you. Today starts a multi-part series all on stress. What it is, the good and the bad, and natural ways to treat stress.

This week will provide the foundation of stress and include a link to a stress quiz.

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU EXPERIENCE STRESS

The glands most involved with stress response are the adrenal glands, pituitary, and thyroid.

What follows is a simplified version of what happens to the body when it is exposed to a stressor. Because I will be talking about specific hormones and glands throughout the series, I think it’s helpful to present this for your better understanding.

  1. The body experiences a stressor.
  2. The stressor stimulates sensory nerves.
  3. Corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) is released from the part of the brain called the anterior hypothalamus.
  4. CRF activates the pituitary gland (also in the brain), to release adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH).
  5. ACTH travels through the bloodstream and activates the adrenal cortex (part of the adrenal glands).
  6. The adrenal cortex releases cortisol and aldosterone, two hormones that increase metabolism and later body fluids which ultimately increase blood pressure. Remember the name cortisol - we'll come back to it next week.
  7. The stress response ultimately leads to: increased heart activity (heart rate, blood pressure), increased metabolic activity (increasing sugar availability in the body), decreased immunity, increased sodium retention, increased sweating, and changes in the gastrointestinal system.
  8. Longterm elevations of cortisol in the body comprises the integrity of several physiologic systems.

STRESS: THE GOOD & THE BAD

Stress is the body’s reaction to a change. It’s a normal part of life. Some stresses are good, while others are not.

The human body was designed to experience stress and to react — in many ways stress can be a protective mechanism.

The problem is when stress is negative or continuous without relief or relaxation. This becomes distress.

Distress can lead to physical problems (like the ones listed above) and can bring on or worsen certain medical conditions.

And distress can lead to self-medication where people use tobacco, alcohol, and even food to attempt to relieve stress. Tobacco, alcohol, and most foods people turn to actually keep the body in a higher stress state and exacerbate the problem.

ARE YOU STRESSED?

You may immediately know the answer to this question.

If not, there are validated quizzes to assess stress levels.

Here are two quizzes you may find helpful to determine if you are experiencing too much stress:


HOW TO TREAT STRESS

By this point, you should have determined if you are stressed or not.

If you are, there are two main ways to treat stress.

1.) Minimize the source of your stress.

This requires you to identify the cause and find ways to reduce your exposure to the stress.

If you can do this, great!

If you cannot (or choose not to — there is a big difference here), read on.

2.) Minimize your reaction to stress.

This requires you to take proactive steps to help your mind and body more healthily respond to stress.

The good news is there are MANY ways you can minimize your reaction to stress.

The not-so-good news is they take dedication and time. The strategies aren’t quick fixes like popping a pill. However, if you commit yourself to the strategies, you will see results.

WHAT’S COMING NEXT WEEK

Next week we will dive straight into evidence-based and natural strategies to treat stress.

In the meantime, I encourage you to identify stress sources. What are your top three stressors? Then objectively and critically assess what you can do to minimize the sources of your stress. Then give stress source reduction a try. Have fun with this — do some experimentation! And if this doesn’t work, next week I’ll be back with ways to minimize your reaction to stress.

Wishing you a wonderful (and low stress) week,

Skye
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