How Naturopathic Medicine Can Help Manage Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea can be caused by a blocked upper airway (called obstructive apnea), by your brain not signaling your lungs to breathe (central apnea), or by a combination of these two problems.

 

What Causes Sleep Apnea?

Many physical conditions, such as being overweight, or having large tonsils and adenoids, can cause sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is also linked to medical conditions, such as high blood pressure and diabetes.  Additionally, some individuals may have low thyroid function, causing them to gain weight and feel tired. The typical person with sleep apnea is an overweight, middle-aged man with allergies. However not everyone with apnea is overweight!  Apnea can happen at any age, regardless of weight and is found in women as well. Sometimes drugs, such as alcohol, sleeping pills, or heart medications, can trigger apnea. It can also be inherited.

Not getting enough sleep can lead to more problems such as anxiety, depression, brain fog and more weight gain.

The treatment of sleep apnea often requires breathing devices, dental devices or surgery. However, Naturopathic medicine can be a great adjunct therapy to increase your overall well being.

Dr. Emily Lipinski, ND uses a combination of evidence based therapies, including dietary and lifestyle changes, supplements, botanicals and acupuncture to treat the underlying cause of the disease.

Conditions treated include:

Weight loss

Allergies

Hypertension (high blood pressure)

Hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol)

Insomnia                                                                                            

Diabetes

Hypothyroid

Depression/Anxiety

Stress

Working on proper sleep hygiene (i.e. no watching TV or looking at computers right before bedtime!) can also greatly benefit the ability to fall asleep and the quality of sleep.

Take care of yourself! Find a Naturopathic Doctor that can help you have a more restful sleep so you can lead a happier life!

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Linoleic acids and Gamma Linolenic Acids (GLAs)

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Studies have found that consumption of linoleic acids (an essential fatty acid) and vitamin C decrease drying and wrinkling of the skin.  Linoleic acid plays a key role here because once ingested, linoleic acid turns into gamma linolenic acid also known as GLA. Through a series of steps, GLA is eventually converted to prostaglandin 1, which has an anti-inflammatory effect on the skin and is also effective in regulating water loss and protecting the skin from damage. You can also supplement with evening primrose oil or borage oil, both contain high amounts of GLA.  Watch my video with the wonderful Kristen Ma to learn more about evening primrose oil here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O-ClA89C-K0.

Walnuts contain both linoleic acid and omega 3 fatty acids.  This is excellent because in our western diets we tend to have a higher amount of omega 6 fatty acids compared to omega 3 and this can cause an imbalance.  Additionally, some of the major sources of omega 6 fatty acids in the western diet come from corn, wheat and soy bean oil.  These have been heavily modified and now cause digestive and health problems for many individuals.

A handful of walnuts make a great snack, or can be added on top of a salad or are great additions when baking healthy treats.

Hormone Balance and PMS

Hormones naturally change and decrease in a womans life around menopause.  However many younger woman can also have imbalanced hormones.  Stress, oral contraceptives and exposure to xenoestrogens can all effect our hormones.

Some woman that experience PMS may have a hormonal imbalance.  Your Naturopathic Doctor can order a hormone panel in order to measure your hormone levels in your blood or saliva.   Once levels are known natural remedies can be used to help re-establish hormonal homeostasis.

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Some common hormone imbalances that can influence PMS:

Progesterone Deficiency

Progesterone is typically seen in high amounts during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle.  In some woman prolonged periods of stress may decrease progesterone levels (Truestar Health, 2013). Deficient progesterone can cause water retention, breast tenderness, anxiety, sleep disruption, heavy menstrual bleeding, prolonged cycles and headaches (Dharam Kaur, S 2005).

Estrogen Dominance

Too much estrogen can arise from taking the birth control pill or other forms of medications containing estrogen.  Additionally, we are now exposed to many xenoestrogens such as BPAs found in plastics, pesticides and hormones in foods that can act like estrogens in our bodies.  Excess estrogen can cause irritability, aggression, weight gain and is also linked to uterine fibroid and ovarian cysts.  Other symptoms of excess estrogens can include blood clots and impaired blood sugar regulation.

Excess Prolactin

This hormone, typically produced when a woman breast feeds is also produced when she is under a great deal of stress.  Too much prolactin can cause infertility, breast tenderness and swelling and irritability.  Excess levels of this hormone can also cause increased cell division in breast cells causing increased breast density.

Cortisol Imbalance

Too much or too little cortisol can cause PMS.  Symptoms of too much cortisol can include: muscle weakness, thinning skin, elevated glucose, insulin resistance, tendency towards easy weight gain and lowered immune function.  Too little cortisol can decrease the ability to handle stress, increase cravings for stimulants such as coffee, caffeine and chocolate, joint pain, increased inflammation, hypoglycemia, rapid heartbeat and an increase in White blood cells.

Decreased Thyroid Hormones

Hypothyroidism, the under activity of the thyroid gland can cause symptoms of PMS, heavy periods or amenorrhea. Other Symptoms can include low energy, poor memory, dry skin, decreased perspiration, easy weight gain, intolerance to cold and constipation.

Works Cited

Turestar Health “Four Keys to Kick PMS” by Natasha Turner accessed May 27 2013 via http://www.truestarhealth.com/members/archives.asp?content=14ml3p1a97y

Dharam Kayr, Sat. The Complete Natural Medicine Guide to Woman’s Health 2005 Robert Rose Publishing Toronto.

Suggestions for Chronic Pain and Inflammation

Pain is a very complex phenomenon that combines information from the nervous system with emotions, thoughts and social context.  Pain is also highly individual and subjective and can be related to depression, anxiety, diet and stress.  There are also many conditions that cause for chronic pain.  These include but are not limited to: rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, irritable bowel disease, fibromyalgia and chronic headaches.  The pathophysiology of chronic pain is complicated,  not wholly understood and also differs dependent on the individual and thier underlying condition. Therefore, I am not going to get into these details  in this post.  However, I am going to offer some alternative suggestions for pain management.

1. Food Sensitivities

A food sensitivity is different than a food allergy. Individuals with food sensitivities have DELAYED reactions to specific foods that are triggered by IgG antibodies.  In an IgG reaction the IgG antibodies attach themselves to a food antigen creating a antigen antibody complex. If present in high amounts these complexes can accumulate in cells and can lead to inflammation, in turn promoting pain or disease.  Many naturopathic doctors and some medical doctors can run tests to measure your levels of IgG in regards to various different foods. Additionally, special diets can also help to identify specific foods that may be causing an IgG reaction.  If you have IBS, IBD or any other condition associated with inflammation discuss the possibility of food sensitivities with your naturopathic doctor.

2. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT helps individuals to identify and develop skills to change negative thoughts.  It also encourages a problem solving attitude and involves homework to keep track of thoughts and feelings associated with pain. CBT has been shown to be effective in alleviating jaw pain, migraine headaches, and in rheumatoid conditions.

3. Trans cutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS machine)

The TENS machine produces an electric current that stimulates the nerves over or around the area of pain.  It has been shown to be effective for some individuals in helping to control acute and chronic pain by either interfering with the pain response or by desensitizing the nerves involved in pain signalling. It is best to try the TENS machine with your ND, MD or physiotherapist to explore if this method of pain management is of benefit to you.  If so, you can purchase one from some drugstores or online and use frequently at home.

4. Acupuncture

Acupuncture is a procedure that involves the stimulation of specific point on the body be inserting fine needles into the skin.  According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, acupuncture corrects the imbalance of qi, or vital life force, that flows through us and thereby promoting wellness.  In a review article of 24 studies, acupuncture has been shown to have a 70% efficacy in treating pain compared to placebo.  Both naturopathic and traditional chinese medicine doctors can administer  acupuncture in Ontario.

5. Supplements

There are various supplements that have been shown to be effective in managing pain and decreasing inflammation.  However, appropriate and effective supplementation is based on the individual and their underlying conditions.  Talk to your naturopathic doctor about what supplements would be best for you.

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  6. Photo Creds: thediarymom.blogspot.com, http://www.istoppain.com, http://www.building-muscle101.com, http://www.supplementfarmer.com