By Dr. Alisha Rawji ND
Happy Spring everyone! As the snow starts to melt and the days are getting longer, it’s easy to feel a new sense of renewed energy and optimism, especially this time of year. Of course, as things are continuing to look up it’s still very important to make sure that we are managing our stress and anxieties so that we are keeping ourselves at our optimum health.
Likewise, even though the sun is shining, and we’re getting ourselves outside and seeing our friends and family more than we did during our winter in hibernation, times of stress can manifest for everyone at any time, in any season, and throughout life’s many stressful times and situations. Here are some health considerations to take in mind when you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed:
Sleep. This is the main reset for both our bodies and our minds, and if it isn’t functioning optimally, it’s very easy to negatively feed other issues we’re dealing with – chief among them our stress levels. Sleep can be measured in both sleep quantity (how long or how many hours we get each night) and also sleep quality i.e. if we stay asleep consistently throughout the night without tossing and turning, or if we feel refreshed upon waking.
Proper sleep can help lower our stress levels throughout the day, as we will feel more refreshed and clear-headed to help us deal with life’s stressors, make better decisions, and feel less stressed and more at peace throughout the day overall. This is one of the main facets of health that I like to help individuals improve if they’re feeling stressed out.
There may be underlying reasons as to why one’s sleep is off including (but not limited to) anxiety, depression, overthinking due to important decisions or excess stress, sleep apnea, hormonal disturbances or adrenal imbalances, and cortisol dysregulation. Some other factors may be a lack of sleep hygiene which could be not sleeping on time, having too much screen time before bed, or not having a successful method to turn your mind off such as meditation techniques, or lack of exercise or activities throughout the day.
Hormone regulation. It isn’t uncommon for stress to be compounded during times where hormones aren’t adequately balanced, and this may even be more pronounced for women. Progesterone, estrogen, and even testosterone are factors that rise and fall naturally in a cycle, and more so in times of stress. Also, if any hormonal dysregulation is present due to conditions one may or may not be aware of – especially if you’ve never had values tested before. Of course, during a women’s natural cycle these values can also rise and fall, and even more if they’re peri-menopausal, post-menopausal, or post-natal i.e. after given birth, as well. These changes can be difficult to navigate through, however, support using hormonal testing, as well as vitamins, foods, herbs, and Chinese medicine can be very effective in balancing hormones, and decrease stress as a result.
Vitamin deficiencies: Sometimes we might not be getting the proper vitamins and minerals, from our current diet and lifestyle and this can certainly be adding to our stress levels. Vitamins, minerals, protein, iron, and healthy fats, are all important co-factors to building up proper levels of serotonin, dopamine and other necessary neurotransmitters needed for proper and healthy regulation of brain chemistry. After a consultation with an individual, we can determine if there may be any deficiencies present based on what they eat, how much sunshine they’re getting, how their signs and symptoms present, as well as any lab work they’ve brought in. Often times, I may suggest hormonal or other necessary testing, which can give a great indication about where imbalances are present and base an individualized treatment plan based on this.
What can we do about this?? Lots, in fact! I find that isolating the source of stress as much as possible, is the best place to start. This is the most accurately done by booking in a naturopathic visit so that I can gather as much information about an individual as possible. I’ll ask very detailed questions about how one is sleeping, what they’re eating, what kind of routine blood work they’ve gotten from their previous medical appointments as well as all previous and current medical history, signs and symptoms and how they’re experiencing them. As well as any medications or supplements they’re currently (or previously taken), as well as taking any vitals or necessary physical exam to determine what other information may be needed. All of these together give me an indication about what the best natural treatments are available for them:
Sleep hygiene and relaxation mechanisms: going to sleep at the same or at least similar times each night can help balance our sleep-wake cycles, also known as our circadian rhythms. Doing so, will help balance out our main stress and sleep hormones (known as cortisol and melatonin) naturally. Furthermore, if we’re participating in activities such as yoga, meditation, tai chi, even journaling and working through stressful thoughts and feelings can do wonders for lowering our overall stress responses. Adding to this notion, it is also imperative to seek help and support from a licenced psychologist who can help you work through a lot of these emotions, and can help provide you with helpful tools. It can also be helpful to seek care from a Life Coach, if you’re struggling with feeling stuck in your head or with decisions involving your professional, or personal life decisions.
Balance those hormones! Sleep, can help reset this for sure, however we are all individuals and are often dealing with many different types of signs and symptoms and imbalances. Whether it be during a certain part of our cycles: menstruation, post-natal issues, and menopause being some of the more common reasons. Although we also need to screen for any major hormonal abnormalities such as endometriosis, fibrosis, PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), or any others you might not have been screened for. Hormones testing via blood, but mainly via urine testing can give a great idea about what may be going on. This can also be done for men, who may not know they have hormonal imbalances though struggle with sleep, excess stress, low sex drive, erectile dysfunction or others signs and symptoms that may be present. Any or all of these, can be due to an imbalance of hormones, and in both men and women can present with things like hair loss, excess anger or emotionality, weight gain, or even brain fog, as well as an overall fatigued, irritable or sluggish demeanour. I find that pinpointing these issues, is the first step in treating it effectively. The use of specific vitamins, minerals, and herbs as well as many types or oral supplements can drastically help this, especially if taken on a consistent basis. Liver detoxing and gut health can further help make sure that extra (known as exogenous) hormones and toxins are effectively broken down and excreted in the liver and kidneys to promote adequate health and balance overall.
Vitamins and mineral IV/injection support – I love this one! I find that these treatments help individuals very quickly since vitamins and minerals administered this way are absorbed at a 100% absorption rate. Since vitamins are delivered straight into the system via intermuscular (IM) injections or intravenous (IV/directly into the blood stream), it doesn’t need to be processed by the gut or intestines; which is what needs to occur if you’re taking them orally (or by mouth). This is especially important and vital as a tool if an individual has any kind of gut absorption issues such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), celiac disease (gluten processing disorder), or irritable bowel disease (IBD) such as crones or colitis. As well, if one has leaky gut (intestinal imperialities), multiple food sensitivities, or have issues such as candida overgrowth, or SIBO (small intestinal bacteria overgrowth). The reason is, that if you have issues that are impeding your gut or intestines, you may not be able to absorb vitamins and minerals using oral supplements. Vitamin and mineral support by IV/injections are exceptionally useful for maximizing the dosage, as well as are safe to administer since they are water soluble therefore will be excreted through the system and urine in a similar way, as usual. As well, those who don’t eat meat, or have strict vegetarian/vegan diets may also benefit from this, since they’re likely not getting adequate B-vitamins from food, especially B12. It is best to get B12 values checked, via lab-work to see if this is something that may be beneficial. Adrenal supportive injections are incredible ways to balance out cortisol, and stress hormones – giving the body the ability to feel less stress, and more energy overall.
Traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture: Also, a fan-favourite! I find acupuncture can be helpful, not only to help for muscle pain, but for balancing out one’s energies, or Qi, in Chinese medicine. I find those who do one or more acupuncture treatments, report a significant decrease in their stress, anxiety and mood issues, overall. They’re also able to sleep better and feel more flow in their minds, bodies, and overall wellbeing.
Vitamin D3, omega 3s, magnesium, and other herbs and minerals (in various doses), depending on each individual, can be very helpful to reduce stress, and increase happiness and sleep, and helps individuals feel lighter, and even think more clearly.
Based on the recommendations after an initial intake (or even a pre-treatment-screen), I will assess both sign, symptoms, and physical markers I have access to, come up with the best laid treatment plan for you, to help you feel not only less stressed, but feeling like your best self!
Give us a shout – I’d love to help you out to be the very best that you can be!