The smallest unit of life is the cell. Our organs and tissues are communities of cells working together for a desired function. In order for the organ to function optimally, the individual cells must be able to communicate. Subtle, pre-clinical reduction in function are seen when then these systems start of get dysfunctional.
Cells have multiple ways of communicating:
Direct contact through the cellular-matrix
Releasing hormones or chemicals nearby and to the rest of the body through the blood
Through the nervous system to precise areas of the body
When cell communication is dysfunctional we can not have optimal functioning at the organ level. So what interferes with cell communication? Many things:
Dehydration - all chemical reactions require water.
Mineral deficiencies - magnesium is needed inside the cell for over 600 chemical reactions. Potassium and sodium are required to generate an electrical message in a nerve cell.
Vitamin and Nutrients - cellular matrix is stabilized by certain nutrients and some nutrients like calcium are used to coordinate complex muscle movements in the heart.
Sluggish lymphatic drainage - wastes from cells are secreted into the space between the cells and when these accumulate this may interfere with important messages.
To much noise - in some cases the body may be over producing a hormone because the cell has become insensitive it it. The body compensates by producing more which makes it difficult for the cell to hear the message. Kind of like when you turn up the volume to high, eventually you can not hear the message. The classic example of this is type 2 diabetes.
So how do we improve cellular communication?
Support detoxification processes in the body
Engage the lymphatics to move debris out of the cellular matrix. Low dose herbs, nutrients, exercise and body work can also help move the lymphatics
Reduce the root cause of the noise - like reducing sugar in type 2 diabetes
Fasting will remove old and dying in a process called autophagy. This encourages new more efficient cells then replace them.
Hydrate well and correct mineral and vitamin deficiencies - all are needed to make the communication signals and energy to fuel the body.
Stimulate genetic potential with phyto-nutrients like berberine that turn on the regenerative AMPK signaling pathways (more on this later).
Restoring cellular communication is an essential step that is often over looked when doctors and patients are quickly rushing to symptomatic relief but when done correctly it can really help to stimulate long lasting deep healing and sustained recovery.
When you are under stress, you enter into what we call a “fight or flight” response. So what does this actually mean? To understand this I have to explain normal physiology. The autonomic nervous system is a branch of our nervous system that regulates all automatic processes in the body. Automatic processes are things that we do not have to think about: our heart rate, our breathing rate, blood oxygen levels, blood flow to certain organs and our digestion.
There are two sides to the autonomic nervous system, the parasympathetic nervous system and the sympathetic nervous system. Certain bodily functions are turned on when you are in either of these states. The parasympathetic system tends to promote relaxation and restoration processes such as food digestion, detoxification and preparing for sleep. Think of “para” like a parachute it tends to slow things down.
The sympathetic nervous system turns on “fight or flight” processes in the body. This side of the nervous system is stimulated under stress and it turns on all the processes that are needed to respond to it, such as increasing blood flow to the muscles to fight off the stressor, increasing glucose levels for extra energy and increasing feelings of anxiety to make you retreat. Under immense stress the sympathetic nervous system tends to dominate and the parasympathetic system tends to down-regulate. This is all good short term, but we now live in a society where the sympathetic nervous system tends to be stimulated more often time due to chronic stresses inherent in our environment.
The parasympathetic processes like digestion, detoxification, relaxation, sleep and cellular restoration are down-regulated chronically. We need these parasympathetic processes for optimal health: to digest the nutrients in our food, to enter into restorative sleep to rebuild tissue and to remove waste products. We really need to cautiously take some time each day to calm the nervous system and promote the parasympathetic processes. It doesn't have to be much, a little can really go a long way with promoting optimal health.
So what are some things you can do to calm your nervous system?
Attempt to be mindful and present while doing everyday tasks such as cleaning, laundry, walking.
Get outside and be in nature.
Spend time with friends and develop positive relationships in the community.
Take breaks and just breathe
Treat yourself to a spa treatment, massage or a facial
If you find that you cannot relax, you may need to add some additional botanical herbs to help or supportive care from a health provider. An amino acid called L-theanine helps promote alpha waves in the brain similar to meditation and promotes Gaba in the brain. Gaba is a neurotransmitter that has a calming effect on the brain. For some people, 5-HTP helps to naturally improve serotonin levels, a natural feel good neurotransmitter.
I have also added some new treatments into my practice to help support the parasympathetic / relaxation response. The Elapromed transdermaporation treatments are more commonly used in the European aesthetic community. However, I've been using this treatment for two other uses, those being pain management and relaxation! I am getting fantastic results for muscle and body pain using this treatment. I also believe it naturally stimulates endorphins and feel good hormones. There are so many wonderful hydrotherapy treatments that can also be used to reduce stress as well.
So next time you are at the spa or taking a hike, remind yourself that relaxing activities and therapies are needed to balance our nervous system in our modern, over paced society!
By Dr. Nathan Jeffery ND., BSc.
For the past 3 years, I have been providing a pain management treatment called myofascial trigger point injections (also known as biopuncture) and getting excellent results. I have been amazed at how effective natural injections can be!
In one case I had a client ask for the injections around the muscles of the knee joint. She had previously twisted her keg while moving boxes up a set of stairs. She was in extreme pain decided to come in for some injections after going to a walk in clinic. I immediately could tell that the pain was coming from the muscles because there were regions in her calf and thigh that were hard as a rock and painful to touch. After a single session of injections the muscles relaxed and she stood up, completely free of pain and no longer needed the crutches!
Chronic pain is becoming a big issue. Many people become dependent on drugs and natural alternatives are rarely utilized first. Many people have no idea that there are natural options for pain that should be used as a first-line therapy. One of my goals is to provide new and more natural pain management applications for Campbell River and the surrounding communities.
So what you can do to reduce pain now?
Hydrate! If you have osteoarthritis in your joints you need all the cushion can get from proper hydration.
Take magnesium for a few reasons: It will help relax your muscles and improve sleep! This brings be to my next tip.
Get a good night's sleep. This is the most potent anti inflammatory and its free!
Use a tennis ball to work out the tight muscles. You can also use self massage.
Try a natural anti-inflammatory like turmeric, boswellia, quercetin and bromelain in place of NSAIDs. These do not damage the gut like NSAIDs and for many people I have found them to be very effective. A damaged gut will lead to more inflammation and pain.
Book in with a naturopathic doctor! Most have many tools for natural pain managment such as trigger point injections or non-invasive treatment devices.
Laminaria or brown algae is another seaweed that is distinct from the more commonly talked about kelp. Both are nutritional sources of iodine but their medicinal properties are different. What makes the brown algae different is substance called fucoidin.
Iodine occurs naturally in sea vegetables which is extremely important for thyroid health. Iodine deficiency is very common since our diets are often very low in sea vegetables. The most common dietary source is salt but the refining process often removes other trace minerals. Other body systems that rely on iodine are the immune system and breast tissue. Because it may enhance thyroid function lab tests should be used to monitor thyroid activity initially.
Fucoidin has been shown to have many medicinal properties. Its anticancer properties are currently being investigated. It also seems to have immune modulating effects and may be helpful to during the cold and flu season. In the gut it may help prevent the growth of a H pylori. It also seems to show anti inflammatory properties and may be a supportive nutritional agent for kidney and liver disease in diabetics.
The brown algae also have soothing properties on the digestive system. Coating the stomach it may help reduce heart burn.
Reference: Therapies from Fucoidan: An Update
So what is anxiety? It's actually a protective mechanism. Like pain, it keeps you safe when danger is near. Anxiety motivates you to accomplish goals. Some people have a hard time turning off the feeling of anxiety. Others the severity shoots up so high and fast that they experience panic attacks.
So what can you do? Well, I wish I could tell you that there was a single pill that could solve all your troubles. Anxiety is a complicated, chronic problem. This means it ultimately has many causes both involving the mind and body.
At my last community talk, I reviewed the anxiety - hormone connection.
The thyroid hormones are where I like to look first. If your thyroid is out of balance, you could experience a range of symptoms like anxiety, heart palpitations, foggy memory, low mood, sensitivities to temperature changes, and even constipation.
Blood tests are routinely run to evaluate your thyroid health. So often many people are told their thyroid function is fine, even though they are experiencing symptoms of low thyroid. This is because TSH is most often the only marker of thyroid health run. This is actually not your active thyroid hormone! I commonly see this marker normal with other markers out of balance. I prefer to get the whole picture so at a minimum I always run at least 2 markers to assess thyroid health. A complete thyroid panel runs at least 6 + markers.
Comprehensive Thyroid Panel
Thyroid stimulating hormone - TSH
Storage thyroid hormone - free T4
Active thyroid hormone - free T3
Thyroid peroxidase antibody
At the very least, the active thyroid markers should be checked.
Another thing I want you to know is that "normal" is not "optimal". So many people with thyroid symptoms have blood markers that are "normal". We call this a functional thyroid problem and we have many tools to "optimize" the thyroid.
I like to always use food first. Brazil nuts is one functional food packed with selenium. This nutrient is important for thyroid hormone production.
It can be overwhelming thinking of all the steps needed for recovery. This often prevents us from taking the first step.
If you are feeling trapped from anxiety, I want you to know recovering from anxiety naturally is possible!
Dr. Nathan Jeffery, ND, BSc.