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3200 Middlefield Road Suite D

Palo Alto, CA 94306

(650) 485-2758

Tel: 650.485.2758

S.A.D?Natural Treatments for the Winter Blues

By Nicole McCarter, ND       October 20, 2016

As the days are getting shorter and shorter, it’s not uncommon to experience a change in energy and maybe even your mood. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is essentially depression that has a seasonal pattern. It’s estimated that 6% of the US population suffers from SAD in it’s most severe form and an additional 14% experience more mild mood changes (1). That’s 20% of our population! Symptoms can include fatigue, difficulty waking up in the morning, increased need for sleep, lack of motivation, cravings sweets, and a generally depressed mood.

 

It’s hypothesizes that SAD is caused by a decrease in light exposure during the winter months (2). Higher levels of daytime melatonin (remember, this is the sleep hormone) and lower levels of serotonin (the happy neurotransmitter) have been found in those who suffer from SAD (3). In addition to these findings, a decrease in sun exposure during the winter months results in less vitamin D production - and there's no denying the relationship between vitamin D and mood. Low vitamin D is continually found to be correlated with major depression symptoms (4). 

 

Conventional treatment of SAD is antidepressant medications which can have nasty side effects and are often extremely difficult to stop taking once you start. I’ve had patients come to me who started antidepressants for SAD and then ended up taking the medication the whole year. Even though their mood is fine 6-8 months out of the year, the withdrawal from the medication was too difficult. This is unnecessary as there are many well documented natural treatments for SAD. Let's explore a few.

 

  • Light therapy:

    • Light box: Light therapy is one of the most well studied therapies for SAD. Melatonin production is suppressed by light. Try sitting in front of a bright light box for 20-60 minutes daily. The light should be no less than 10,000 lux and filter out ultraviolet rays. This type of light provides around 20 times more light than typical indoor lighting.

    • A light alarm clock: If waking up in the morning when it’s dark is an issue for you, a light alarm can help. It starts emitting bright light with increasing intensity starting 30 minutes before the alarm goes off. This suppresses melatonin production and results in waking more refreshed. 

    • Spend time outside in the sun every day: Even if it’s just for 10 minutes, take a walk on your lunch break or sit outside while you’re eating. Get your workout in outdoors, etc. If it’s cold, bundle up! 

 

  • Vitamin D3: Vitamin D is thought to play a role in serotonin activity. Although this correlation isn’t completely understood, I’ve consistently seen improvement in my SAD patients with supplementation. Take 1,000-2,000 IU of Vitamin D3 per day with food to support a healthy mood. If you are deficient, you will need a higher dosage. I highly recommend you get your vitamin D levels checked with a simple blood test. It’s important to always take vitamin D with food specifically a meal that contains fat because it’s a fat soluble vitamin, meaning it requires fat to be absorbed.

 

  • St. John’s Wort: Also known as hypericum, St. John's Wort is an herbal antidepressant. Take 2-4 grams per day (or 2-4 capsules of this formula). It inhibits repute of serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine. As an added benefit, it’s also antiviral and can help prevent against colds and flus. In high doses, St. John’s wort can cause photosensitivity (sensitivity to light) so be careful if using it in conjunction with light therapy. St. John’s wort should not be taken with pharmaceutical antidepressants and may decrease effectiveness of some medications so talk to a qualified healthcare practitioner if you’re taking any medication. 

 

  • 5-HTP: For those who have tried St. John’s wort without success or should not take it due to the contraindications, I recommend trying 5-HTP which is the precursor to serotonin. Start with 100mg (1 capsules of this formula). If this isn’t helping after a few days, increase to 200mg per day. Take with food. 

If you’ve tried the above without results or prefer more guidance, schedule a complimentary consultation with myself, or contact a naturopathic doctor or other qualified alternative healthcare practitioner. There are several laboratory tests I’d recommend to uncover the root cause of your symptoms including: nutrient deficiencies, melatonin and other hormone levels, and neurotransmitter metabolites. 

 

I hope you’re enjoying the first day of December. Get out and enjoy the sunshine,  and do something that brings you joy today and everyday. 

If you have any friends of family who you are effected by SAD please forward them this email. 

 

How to Prevent Colds & Flus

By Nicole McCarter, ND       October 20, 2016

With cold and flu season upon us it’s a good time to start boosting your immune system to prevent infections and to know what natural remedies you can keep in your medicine cabinet to speed recovery time if you do get sick.

 

But first lets talk about the flu shot because I’m often asked about this. I don't get a flu shot nor do I typically recommend them unless someone is immune compromised. The flu virus mutates very rapidly so the vaccine changes every year based on which strain researchers believe will be most prevalent that year. Because it's a guess it's not always accurate (the statistic ranges from 25-70% efficacy). Another con is many people fill sick from the vaccine. Even if the flu vaccine is accurate this year it only protects from the flu virus not all colds. As an alternative I recommend following the guidelines below to not only prevent the flu but other viruses that cause colds.

 

Foods that support the immune system:

 

Probiotic foods:

Raw fermented vegetables, these must be found in the refrigerated section of the grocery stores, not on the shelf: sauerkraut, kimchi, beets, carrots, etc. 1-2 forkfulls every day

Cultured dairy: kefir, greek yogurt, etc. If you are dairy intolerant look for dairy free kefir and yogurt

Supplement: UltraFlora Immune Booster *If you’re a patient you can get this on FullScript for a discounted rate.

 

Bone broth: You can make it yourself (recipe here) or buy premade at whole foods (Epic Brand is great), online, a local butcher or your farmers market. Get creative with it’s use, I sauté vegetables in bone broth, add it to soups and even drink it on it’s own.

 

Mushrooms:

Maitake, shitake and reishi: mushrooms are excellent for the immune system. Reishi isn’t commonly found in grocery stores but you can find maitake, shitake and other mushrooms at your local grocery store or farmers market. Make an effort to eat mushrooms at least 3 x per week. They are best cooked in fat (grass fed butter, coconut, avocado or olive oil) to activate the medicinal polysaccharides. If you have kids and they don’t like mushrooms you can buy dried ones and grind them up and sprinkle them in their food.

SupplementM/R/S take 2 during cold and flu season

 

Spices:

Ginger: you can make a tea or cook with the root.

Turmeric: you can really add turmeric to anything. I add it to my spaghetti sauce, tacos, soups, meat/fish and sprinkle on veggies.

Garlic and onion: cooked and raw

 

Vegetables: veggies are where we get a lot of our antioxidants and vitamins/minerals. Make an effort to eat at least 5 cups per day. Eat a variety of different colors such as carrots, bell peppers, purple cabbage, dark leafy greens, tomatoes, etc.

 

Foods to avoid:

 

Sugar! Sugar suppresses the immune system for hours after consuming it. Read packaged food labels carefully and look for sugar as an added ingredient.

 

Food allergies or intolerances: If you’re regularly eating food your body reacts to as it would a pathogenic organism, it can weaken your immune system and make you more susceptible to infection. If you haven’t been tested for food allergies or intolerances make an appointment with myself or your functional medicine doctor. 

 

Habits:

 

Sleep: Make sure you’re getting at least 8 hours of sleep per night. Sleep deprivation is a quick way to lower your immune defenses.

 

Stress management: Like sleep, if you’re stress levels are high (holidays, family, year end deadlines- ah) your immune system is weakened. Remember to engage in your self care even during periods of high stress.  

Hand washing: This is common knowledge but a reminder is always helpful. 

 

Other:

 

Vitamin D: ask you doctor to check your vitamin D levels and read them carefully. Although “normal” reference range is 30-100, optimal vitamin D is 50-80. If you’re deficient I recommend taking 5,000 IU per day with food and recheck in 2-3 months. If you aren’t deficient you can safely take 1,000 IU per day with food to keep your immune system supported.

 

What to do if you get sick:

 

​Keep these natural medicines on hand to start at first onset of symptoms:

*if you’re a patient you can order these from fullscript or pick them up at the clinic

  1. Silvercillin: 1 tsp 3 x per day for no more than 1 week. For prevention take 1 tsp per day. 

  2. Elderberry syrup: Take 1 tsp twice per day. For prevention take 1 tsp per day. 

  3. Rapid response: take 2 capsules every 2 hours. Not to be taken for prevention, only at first sign of symptoms

  4. Oil of oregano: Take 1 capsule every 2 hours. 

  5. Magic sock treatment: Start this right before going to bed. Take a pair of thin cotton socks and soak them completely with water.  Be sure to wring the socks out thoroughly so they do not drip and place in freezer. Warm yourself first by taking a bath (or at least a foot bath) as hot as you can stand it to bring up your core body temperature, stay in bath for approximately 15 minutes. Dry off feet and body with a dry towel. Place frozen socks on feet.  Cover with thick wool socks.  Go directly to bed and under the covers.  Avoid getting chilled. The socks are only cold for a minute or two. Keep the socks on overnight.  You will find that the wet cotton socks will be warm and dry in the morning.  The magic sock treatment is best if repeated for three nights in a row. 

  6. Avoid dairy, it increases mucus production

  7. Come in for a nutritional IV to improve recovery time

 

Functional Medicine

By Nicole McCarter, ND       August 8, 2016

We take our cars in for tune-ups to maintain their longevity and we routinely remodel, redecorate, and revamp our living space to prevent depreciation in value. So why is it that when it comes to our bodies we let them go until they are broken and then look for a quick fix to cover up the problem? 

 

The solution is simple - using functional medicine for prevention. I’m often asked the question, what is functional medicine?

 

Functional medicine addresses the underlying causes of disease. Functional medicine addresses the whole person, not just an isolated set of symptoms. You can take care of your body now, to increase longevity and quality of life long term. Nourish your body, move regularly, manage stress well, rest and rejuvenate. Alongside following these lifestyle habits and with the help of functional medicine and modern diagnostic testing, I can assess your nutrient status, look at hormones, gut health, toxic overload and genetic abnormalities to prevent disease. All of these can become abnormal prior to disease or symptoms starting. Essentially by understanding how your body works at a cellular level and what makes it unique, diseases can ultimately be prevented.

 

If symptoms are already present an imbalance is already present. The goal is to find out exactly what that is and to heal it from the inside out rather than suppressing the symptoms with medication. 

 

We take our cars in for tune-ups to maintain their longevity and we routinely remodel, redecorate, and revamp our living space to prevent depreciation in value. So why is it that when it comes to our bodies we let them go until they are broken and then look for a quick fix to cover up the problem? 

 

The solution is simple - using functional medicine for prevention. I’m often asked the question, what is functional medicine?

 

Functional medicine addresses the underlying causes of disease. Functional medicine addresses the whole person, not just an isolated set of symptoms. You can take care of your body now, to increase longevity and quality of life long term. Nourish your body, move regularly, manage stress well, rest and rejuvenate. Alongside following these lifestyle habits and with the help of functional medicine and modern diagnostic testing, I can assess your nutrient status, look at hormones, gut health, toxic overload and genetic abnormalities to prevent disease. All of these can become abnormal prior to disease or symptoms starting. Essentially by understanding how your body works at a cellular level and what makes it unique, diseases can ultimately be prevented.

 

If symptoms are already present an imbalance is already present. The goal is to find out exactly what that is and to heal it from the inside out rather than suppressing the symptoms with medication.