If you own a television or have walked down the baking aisle of your local grocery store, you are probably familiar with Splenda’s ad slogan, “Made from sugar, so it tastes sugar.” This catchy little jingle has led many consumers to assume that Splenda—or sucralose—is a more natural alternative to sweeteners such as aspartame and saccharine, making it a healthier option as well. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
According to Dr. Joseph Mercola, author of “Sweet Deception: Why Splenda, NutraSweet, and the FDA may be Hazardous to your Health,” the sucralose found in Splenda is NOT sugar, but rather a chlorinated artificial sweetener constructed in a lab by combining three chlorine molecules with one sucrose molecule to create a decidedly unnatural fructo-galactose molecule that can wreak havoc on your health.
While the FDA approved sucralose for general human consumption in 2006, only two of the 110 cited studies actually involved human consumption, for a grand total of 36 human test subjects. Meanwhile, Splenda consumers continue to complain of headaches, migraines, dizziness, blurred vision, seizures, blood sugar spikes, and even—God forbid—weight gain, and there is evidence to support Dr. Mercola’s claim that the ramifications of long-term consumption are more severe. According to a study published in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, sucralose reduces the amount of good intestinal bacteria by as much as 50 percent, while increasing intestinal PH and thus impeding digestion and nutrient absorption. In addition, sucralose impairs the body’s ability to produce glycoproteins essential for the absorption of various medications—to include cancer, heart, and Lyme disease meds.
The take-away message is clear; despite FDA approval, Splenda has NOT been proven safe for human consumption, and should be avoided whenever possible. The problem is that sucralose hides in many manufactured food products, and particularly in reduced-sugar products. As a result, you may not always know when you are consuming sucralose, or in what quantity. My advice is to read your labels, look for products sweetened with stevia—more on this later—as opposed to sucralose, and by all means refrain from dumping a spoonful of Splenda into your coffee or morning bowl of Cheerios. If you’re in a pinch, choose a product that lists another sweetener BEFORE sucralose on the product label, as ingredients are typically listed in order by quantity, and products contain more of those ingredients listed sooner rather than later.
As we discussed last week, there is evidence to support Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum’s theory that the pain of fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) is related to insufficient growth hormone (GH) production. Growth hormone plays an imperative role in the body’s recovery and repair processes, to include muscle repair, and is only produced during the final—and deepest—stages of sleep. The inability of 99 percent of FMS patients to reach and maintain deep sleep is thus an impediment to pain relief and recovery.
Fortunately, there are many natural sleep aides that can be taken independently or in conjunction with prescription sleep medications, such as Ambien and Trazadone. Dr. Teitelbaum recommends beginning with the lowest effective dose of natural sleep aides, starting with one and gradually incorporating additional remedies as necessary to reach and maintain 8-9 hours of sleep. If sleep remains elusive after combining 5-6 natural remedies, only then should you consider prescription medication.
The following sleep aides are combined in Dr. Teitelbaum’s End Fatigue Revitalizing Sleep Formula and in Dr. G’s SLEEP, both routinely recommended for our FMS and chronic fatigue patients:
1. Suntheanine is the active ingredient in green tea that promotes a calm alertness during waking hours, and enables the achievement of deep sleep at bedtime.
2. Wild lettuce has been shown to relieve anxiety, headache, restless leg syndrome (RLS) and muscle and joint pain.
3. There is a fable about a lazy fisherman who would litter the water with Jamaican dogwood and then net the sleeping fish. Jamaican dogwood works as a muscle relaxant that reduces the incidence of muscle spasms and cramps, which often disrupt sleep for FMS patients.
4. Hops is type of hemp plant that relieves anxiety and insomnia, working in a similar way to Valium with no grogginess the next day.
5. Passion flower has a calming effect that is known to relieve muscle spasms, menstrual pain, pain-related anxiety, colic, diarrhea, and dysentery.
6. Valerian root has been used for centuries to relieve anxiety and promote deep sleep. As a member of the “Valium family,” this root is most effective when taken long-term, produces no hangover from sleep the next day, and can be highly effective in reducing symptoms of withdrawal from prescription sleep medications.
Dr. Vosloo has also found that pregnenolone supplementation can help induce sleep. Pregnenolone is a hormone that regulates various nervous system functions, to include those involved in the establishment and maintenance of circadian sleep rhythms. We will talk more about pregnenolone as a part of next week’s discussion of the big “H” in S.H.I.N.E protocol—hormone support.
Many patients also find that microcurrent therapy effectively reduces anxiety and calms the racing mind—in addition to reducing the incidence of muscle cramps and spasms—which in turn makes it easier to achieve and maintain sleep. We will talk more about microcurrent therapy in the nutrition and exercise sections of the S.H.I.N.E series.
In a lecture given in 2013, Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum, author of From Fatigued to Fantastic (2007), expounded on his S.H.I.N.E. protocol approach to chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia syndromes. This holistic approach accounts for all aspects of the patient’s lifestyle, to include Sleep, Hormone regulation, Immunity rebuilding, Nutrition and Exercise. Over the coming weeks, we will examine each of these in turn, to begin with the foundation of health and well-being—a good night’s sleep!
Though we have been told from the time we were children that a solid eight hours is imperative to establish and maintain a baseline of health, when the going gets tough and our time becomes tight, our sleep is often the first thing we sacrifice. An estimated 70 million Americans are “problem sleepers,” with 30 percent of adults reporting “severe fatigue” lasting one month or more, and 6-24 million suffering from chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia syndrome (CFS/FMS). Dr. Teitelbaum describes the nature of such conditions as an “energy crisis” caused by the dysfunction of the hypothalamus—the body’s control center for sleep, hormone function, thermoregulation, and autonomic functions such as blood pressure and pulse. Dr. Teitelbaum states that 99 percent of FMS patients have trouble sleeping, and that the degree to which sleep is disturbed is predictive of the degree of pain, fatigue, and corresponding social dysfunction the patient experiences.
Our sleep is essentially divided into four stages, the first two consisting of light, REM or “dreaming sleep,” while stages three and four account for deep sleep. It is during the latter, deep sleep stages that the body performs its repair processes, to include muscle repair. These repair processes are initiated by the release of growth hormone (GH), which is consistently found to be depleted in patients with FMS. Dr. Teitelbaum theorizes that the disruption of sleep stages three and four robs the body of its ability to perform muscle repair functions, resulting in the widespread muscle pain characteristic of fibromyalgia. Hence, while sleep is important for anyone recovering from an illness, it is essential to solving the pain problem of FMS.
SLEEP HYGIENE BASICS
While there are many natural and prescription sleep aids, later discussed, the following sleep hygiene practices are important to establishing and maintaining quality sleep long-term:
1. Avoid alcohol before bed. It is wise to avoid alcohol altogether when battling an illness, and particularly within two hours of bedtime. While alcohol may help you to fall asleep initially, it disrupts the body’s fluid and hormone balance to the degree that cause you to wake again shortly afterwards, making it difficult to achieve deep sleep.
2. Limit caffeine consumption in the late afternoon, and consume no caffeine within 4-6 hours of bedtime.
3. Do not consume a heavy meal before bedtime; a light snack, however—high in protein a few simple carbs, such as from milk—will increase blood insulin levels, making it easier to fall asleep.
4. Do not work in bed. Make bed a place for sleeping, not doing homework or completing special projects.
5. Take a hot bath or a warm shower before bed, as this increase the temperature of tightened muscles and joints, helping them to relax.
6. Sleep in a cool room. While temperature extremes in either direction can disrupt sleep, studies show that most people slept best in a cooler—vs. warmer—environment.
7. If your mind races, set it to focus on one positive thought and stay with that thought until you sleep. If you are still awake 30 minutes later, get up and write down whatever thought(s) is keeping you awake. If it is a problem, write possible solutions down as well, read them through once and then return to bed with new resolve to sleep.
8. Limit beverage consumption before bed, and particularly diuretic beverages such as green tea and coffee.
9. Invest in a good pair of ear plugs and a sleeping mask.
10. Turn the clock around and place it out of arm’s reach, after setting your alarm. Continuously checking the clock only increases anxiety, making it more difficult to sleep and stay asleep.
11. Decrease the time you spend in bed to sleeping hours only. Go to bed when you plan to sleep, and set your alarm for the time you plan to get up. RESIST THE TEMPTATION OF THE SNOOZE BUTTON, as it sets you up to disrupt deep sleep prematurely.
12. Go bed at the same time every night, and get up at the same time every morning. This is the best way to establish and maintain the healthy circadian rhythm of sleep your body craves naturally, and most particularly when your immune system is compromised.
Aim for 8-9 hours of sleep every night, in addition to an afternoon nap of 90 minutes—the approximate duration of one light sleep cycle. Next time, we will examine the various sleep aid supplements and conducive therapies our clinic provides.
As we covered last week, Fibromyalgia differs from other pain conditions, such as rheumatoid and osteo arthritis, in that the pain originates in the brain versus the perceived site of pain. It is for this reason that NSAIDS and the majority of prescription pain medications—targeting the perceived site of pain in the muscle, versus the actual origin of pain in the brain—are ineffective for treating Fibro pain. In addition, commonly used medications such as Ibuprofen damage the stomach lining and can lead to the formation of stomach ulcers, whereas the active ingredient in Tylenol—acetaminophen—depletes the body of glutathione, an essential amino acid and antioxidant.
Compounding the problem is the fact that many prescription pain medications carry side effects that mimic the symptoms of Fibromyalgia, to include fatigue, muscle spasms, impaired memory and cognitive functions. Fortunately, there are many natural remedies that have proved safe and effective for treating Fibromyalgia pain, as Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum outlines in his book, From Fatigued to Fantastic (2007).
Rhus toxicodendron is a homeopathic remedy that is inexpensive and side-effect-free. Though it is likely not sufficient alone for long-term pain management, it is an excellent place to start, and can be used in conjunction with more aggressive pain management therapies.
Herbs such as wild lettuce, Jamaican dogwood, passionflower, and valerian root have a calming effect that is non-sedating and effectively relieves muscle pain and pain-related anxiety. Similarly, boswellia, cherry fruit, and willow bark—from which Aspirin is made—can decrease inflammation by inhibiting the enzyme cyclooxygenase (COX), while ginger inhibits the production of Substance P, the spinal fluid that allows for transmission of pain signals to and from the brain.
The combination of ribose and magnesium, found in supplements such as Ribose Cardio, can effectively relieve pain and support mitochondrial function production of ATP, the body’s primary energy source. Meanwhile, tryptophan—a powerful amino acid—works by raising the body’s serotonin levels, which in turn relieves pain, and essential fatty acids such as omega-6 and omega-3 have anti-inflamatory effects. EFAs are involved in hormone production, fluid balance, cell-membrane formation and support of the body’s immune system. Interestingly, symptoms of deficiency mirror many Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue symptoms, such as sluggishness, memory loss, muscles aches, brittle nails and hair, GI upset, depression and moodiness.
While the side effects of many prescription drugs are not worth the benefits, a select few have proven to be effective and relatively light in experienced side-effects. Prescription pain medications such as Neurontin, Gabitril, and Lyrica work by increasing the body’s response to gamma-aminobutyric-acid (GABA)—often referred to as the “calming neurotransmitter.” Similarly, anti-depressants such as Cymbalta, Effexor, Paxil and Zoloft increase the production of serotonin while inhibiting Substance P spinal fluid. Essentially, these medications are effective because they target the brain’s pain-response center versus the perceived site of pain, and are most effective when taken in conjunction with natural and homeopathic remedies.
The natural and prescriptive remedies described above are designed to support the S.H.I.N.E protocol, to include Sleep, Hormone balance, Immunity support, Nutrition and Exercise. Next week, we will take a closer look at S.H.I.N.E, and the additional corresponding therapies our clinic provides.
Dr. Teitelbaum, Jacob. From Fatigued to Fantastic! 3rd ed. Garden City Park, NY: Avery Pub. Group, 2007. Print.
Once thought to be muscular in nature, Fibromyalgia Syndrome (FMS) is a neurological disorder that involves the brain’s communication with the body’s pain receptors, via the spinal cord. Essentially, it is like the volume in the part of the brain that perceives pain is “turned up,” causing even mild stimulus, such as light touch, to register as painful. Fibromyalgia affects primarily women, ages 40-60, though some men, young adults, and teenage children may be affected as well. Characteristic symptoms include widespread pain and extreme sensitivity to touch, in addition to fatigue, disturbed sleep patterns, impaired memory and the ability to focus.
While the pain of osteoarthritis is due to the breakdown of cartilage around the joints and supporting muscle tissues, rheumatoid arthritis is an auto-immune disease characterized by stiffness and inflammation of muscles and joints. By contrast, the pain of Fibromyalgia comes and goes, often moves throughout the body, and is unrelated to inflammation or the wear and tear of age. It is for this reason that FMS patients gain little relief from traditional drug therapies.
In a study conducted by the Mayo Foundation for Education and Research, 39 FMS patients were interviewed with regard to their symptoms and corresponding 6-12 prescription medications. Ten years later, 29 of these patients were interviewed again. While 55% reported severe pain and stiffness, 48% reported disturbed sleep, and 59% reported persistent, extreme fatigue, an overwhelming 79% were still taking the same or similar medications as they were 10 years ago.
In addition to being ineffective, prescription medications may also deplete the body of essential nutrients—the ramifications of which may take years to manifest—as well as the sleep hormone melatonin, which further contributes to disrupted sleep patterns. In fact, the majority of prescribed medications come with side-effects that mimic the symptoms they are meant to relieve—fatigue, pain, brain fog—yet patients continue to take them because the alternative if giving up.
Or so they think. Here at Restorative Health Clinic, we are happy to offer another alternative: recovery! By approaching the condition from a holistic perspective that accounts for all aspects of the patient’s lifestyle—to include nutrition, supplementation, exercise, sleep, and work patterns—our naturopathic physicians lend the necessary support for patients to manage their symptoms and embark on the long journey back to health. Read next week for further information on specific therapies available to our patients, to include supplemental, injection, and intravenous therapies.
While the Center for Disease Control & Prevention recommends 150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week for optimal cardiovascular health, in addition to twice weekly strength training sessions for bone and joint health, preliminary research suggests that as little as six minutes a day may improve the health of your brain.
In a study conducted at UC Irvine’s Center for the Neurology of Learning & Memory, researchers asked adults between the ages of 50 and 85 to ride a stationary bike for six minutes at 70-percent their maximum capacity. While biking, test subjects were shown a series of pleasant images, such as a family sitting down to supper, or a bee pollinating a flower. One hour later, they were asked to complete a surprise memory test. As predicted, recall was better in the biking group than in the sedentary control group, suggesting that even small bouts of cardiovascular exercise can enhance brain function.
Exercise works on the brain by triggering the release of norepinephrine, commonly referred to as the “mood hormone.” Norepinephrine is actually a powerful neurotransmitter that enhances mental alertness, improves memory, and increases energy, which in turn can relieve depression and various symptoms of fatigue. Given that many fatigue and fibromyalgia patients have weakened muscles from disuse, and often experience pain in the effort to move, it is best to begin slowly and progress gradually in your approach to exercise. For example, you might begin by performing 10-20 minutes’ of yoga, swimming, water aerobics, or light walking, and gradually increase to 30-45minutes, three to four times per week. Slow progression allows you to strengthen your muscles and supporting joints over time, thereby reducing the risk of injury.
Next time, we will take a closer look at fibromyalgia as a pain disorder, with a particular focus on how it differs from other disorders, such as rheumatism and osteoarthritis.