While the diagnosis of anxiety is a HUGE topic in and of itself, most of us experience distress, dis-ease, irritability, fatigue and the general feeling of “running around like a chicken with it’s head cut off” at least from time to time.
Ultimately, our feelings about the world don’t change unless we change deep-seated habits, behaviors and thoughts. Doing things like regular exercise, getting 7-8 hours of sleep per night, avoiding social media, cutting back on activities that don’t bring us joy and sharing in engaging community events can definitely prevent or even treat mild, generalized anxiety. Ideally, we’d all live our lives to the fullest, engaging in fulfilling work that pays us well and leaves us enough time to stay active, sleep well, laugh with friends and family and volunteer.
But, in reality, that simply is not the case for many Americans. They simply don’t have the time, mindset or resources to do all of these things. While I do think people need to check their perfectionism at the door, simplify their lives and work on themselves regularly to highlight what they truly want out of life, I am realistic that some aren’t ready to change their habits and that’s ok too.
(I've written about self-care as health care before - Self-Care 101 blog post here.)
In fact, I believe as time speeds up (which it is!) and our lives get busier and busier, we create this feeling of busyness in order to “get everything done”. So, sometimes we need a little help. Be that in the form of meditation, exercise, herbs or supplements, I’m all for it. I’m also FOR people who’ve tried these techniques and feel they need medication to help them out while they transform their habits and negative thinking.
That’s where herbs and supplements may be of benefit (and occasionally medication).
Here are my top 5 natural herbs/supplements for mild, generalized anxiety...you know, when your mind is spinning and going 100 mph; your heart is pumping a bit more than usual; and maybe you experience diarrhea or constipation when it worsens. I am NOT talking about panic disorder, PTSD, or severe anxiety (although the herbs/supplements discussed can help with those too):
This herb is one of the most calming scents known to man and it goes without saying that it’s beneficial to most. I have written about it’s unique properties as an essential oil and I often recommend it to be taken internally by those who are extremely sensitive to other herbs/supplements. In fact, on particularly tough days at my old job, we used to pass out cotton balls with lavender oil on them for all employees and staff. It really helped us stay calm and not react to external situations happening in the clinic. And our patients love when we are relaxed as we became more attentive to their needs.
It’s calming to the entire nervous system when used both internally or aromatically. I highly recommend inhaling this essential oil throughout the day to decrease sympathetic tone (fight or flight) and increase parasympathetic tone (rest and digest) in the body.
For internal use, I love a product called Lavela by Integrative Therapeutics, which is a brand that only healthcare practitioners and some local pharmacies can distribute (ie, People’s Pharmacy in Austin)
This herb from India is a potent adaptogen (meaning it helps you adapt to the world better) and can be found in many herbal formulas for anxiety, stress and the sleep. As it is a more “male” herb (the energetic blueprint of the herb), I often prescribe it with other herbs that compound it’s effects in a gentle way.
It is a member of the nightshade family and thus, some people may not tolerate it. Also, given it’s latin name is Withania somnifera (with somno- being the latin root word for sleep), it can compound sedative effects of anxiety medications and antidepressants, so it should only be taken as prescribed by a knowledgeable practitioner. I highly recommend starting it at night to see it’s effect.
3. Kava Kava
This root native to Polynesia and the South Pacific has been used ceremoniously and medicinally for centuries to improve sleep, decrease anxiety and promote relaxation. More recently, the herb received some bad press due to a few case reports (25 to be exact) of fulminant liver failure/damage after using the herb. It was subsequently banned from use in the U.S., but has since replenished its reputation after those case reports were found to have been isolated and potentiated by a mix of factors, such as alcohol and prescription drug use.
In fact, the herb has become so popular, that Kava root bars are popping up nationwide! You can drink custom kava tea creations while getting work done or socializing! Win-win!
What I love about kava (and it’s not for everyone), is that it relaxes the body while not affecting the mind. It can relax the mind as well, but it generally is not a mental sedative. My favorite form of this relaxing herb is in a tea made by Yogi Tea – it works well and tastes great!
Beware of possible GI side effects such as upset stomach and diarrhea and make sure to consult with your doctor about any possible liver issues you have before starting this herb. Otherwise, you should feel relaxed and restored after drinking it.
4. Lemon balm
Otherwise known as Melissa officianalis, this herb is in the mint family and can be used aromatically or internally for its calming effects. The plant is generally used to attract bees for honey making, thus I think of this herb as a happy plant. Only happy, thriving bees can make honey for their Queen. And this herb can help keep people calm in times of chaos.
I generally recommend it in essential oil or tea form for nighttime use. It is often found in combination form with similar herbs that promote sleep and reduce restlessness. It, like most calming herbs, can cause sedation and can interact with prescription medications, so please consult your Integrative Medicine provider before starting the herbs listed.
This amino acid found in green and black tea has been researched for it’s direct effects on the nervous system. While it is not generally my personal go-to recommendation, many people find it helpful for improving sleep, agitation and restlessness. It has been found to work directly on the brain and does so without sedation.
Each cup of black tea contains about 25 mg/cup of L-theanine while green tea contains about 8 mg/cup. In order to get the recommend daily dose (200 mg), supplement form is promoted and is generally well tolerated.
While this is just a partial list of herbs and supplements to help with mild to moderate generalized anxiety, I urge you to try one or two remedies (after consulting with your health provider and/or local herbalist) to see how they affect you. You will likely find they are beneficial and have minimal negative side effects.
Other ways to achieve more calm in your day include using the breath (see my blog post on the 4-7-8 breath), exercise, acupuncture, journaling, yoga and just stepping out in to nature for some fresh air and vitamin D. If you’d like to learn more about any of these techniques or herbs/supplements, please contact me directly at email@example.com.
The possibilities are endless!
May your holidays be filled with calm and ease and may the joy of the season feel magical!
Ten and a half years ago, almost to the day, is when I first stepped foot in Tucson, Arizona. It was 2007 and I had traveled away from my medical school as a knowledgable and somewhat competent 4th year student, to explore more of the Integrative Medicine concepts I had learned over the last few years. I had already completed rotations in all the major medical specialties but knew there was more to medicine than medication and symptom management.
I still recall driving the manual transmission car I had learned to drive the weekend prior to the start of the rotation. It had been leant to me by the medical student who was housing me and I loved the thrill of shifting gears and idling safely. That little car, a Honda Fit, took me everywhere and changed my view on what driving should be like.
The most amazing place it took me was to the site of the Integrative Medicine Medical Student Rotation sponsored by the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine. I walked in to the Spanish style hacienda, noting the beautiful desert landscaping and wildlife, and immediately felt like I was home. And I was! Inside the hacienda, a group of 15 incredible student/resident healers had gathered. We were weary from our medial training and were searching for better options for both ourselves (“Physician, heal thyself”) and our patients. And man, did we hit the Motherlode!
Over the following 4 weeks, we delved in to a wide range of healing modalities, including Native American rituals (including a sweat lodge experience), botanical medicine, yoga, Buddhist meditation, sound healing, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Feldenkreis, massage therapy and the like. Our teachers were world-renowned experts in these areas, including Drs. Randy Horwitz, Victoria Maizes, Tieraona LowDog and the man who started it all, Andrew Weil.
For the first time in our student lives, the focus was shifted to self-care and sustainable, natural medicine. Years of stress, doubt and insecurity that runs rampant in medicine, were shed from our bodies. Soul-level friendships were made as we formed an instantly congealed family of love. It was such a gift and it was a truly INCREDIBLE experience!
Since that time, my friends and I have all gone on with our lives. Most have families and jobs they love. They continue to inspire me in their marks on the world, like Hansie’s recent endurance run of ?100 miles? and life adventures in New Zealand; Adam’s gift of communication and ability to be the calm in any storm; Stacy’s movement to ensure safe sidewalks in her community and her raising awareness of food allergies in the country; Gurindher’s political and social activism in San Francisco and Surya’s steadfast groundedness that I was able to re-witness firsthand while we worked together for a time in New Mexico. These people will always inspire me.
I dedicate this post to them.
With love from Tucson,
Have you ever heard the term Medical Acupuncture? If so, are you aware that it is different than what Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners do? If not, are you interested to learn what it's all about?
To find out more about this growing field, listen to this podcast I recorded with Lahana Vigliano of Thrival Nutrition.
And let me know if you have any questions. I'm here for you!
A million thanks to O Waves for this wonderful blog post on how I structure my day and from where I find inspiration.
I met the founder of O Waves, Dr. Royan Kamyar at the American College of Lifestyle Medicine conference in 2014. He and his team created an app to help people plan their days around health and not surprisingly, it's a hit! Every week, they feature a new lifestyle medicine professional in their blog and disclose top secret information about them.
Do you have a secret self-care ritual you engage in?
Check mine out here
Here's another podcast I'm proud to be a part of.
This one was created by my incredibly soulful friend Sofia Alvim, Creator of the Goddess Out Loud website and podcast. The podcast features amazing interviews with a variety of practitioners working with feminine energy to improve the world.
Don't know what that means?
Read all about it on Sofia's website - www.goddessoutloud.com and then listen to her podcast episode interviewing me about my journey to Integrative Medicine and the shifting paradigm in medicine.
Specifically, we discuss:
- how the paradigm of medicine is changing at large
- how I practice medicine from a more feminine, integrated perspective
- how the mind, body, connection can help us heal
- how can we be more aware in caring for our bodies
- dismantling orthorexia, the obsession with clean eating
- the simple things you can do to prioritize wellness & self-care
Recently, I took part in a 10-day food reset called "Shred10" with a physician friend of mine. Part of the Shred was to drink 2 smoothies a day using JuicePlus Complete Protein Powder. I had already been drinking one smoothie in the morning and loving it, so I had to get creative with my smoothie recipes.
If you know me, you'll know I LOVE chocolate, but not just any chocolate - smooth, creamy, delicious chocolate.
Here's what I came up with as my most favorite smoothie recipe:
- 1 scoop Juice Plus Complete Powder
- Get yours here
- 2 cups hemp or almond milk
- 1/4 tbsp almond butter
- 1/2 small avocado
- 1/2 of a medium banana
- 1 teaspoon Brain Octane oil by Bulletproof
- Can get this on Amazon or from Central Market
- 1 drop therapeutic-grade Copaiba essential oil from Young Living for digestive and
- Get yours here as part of the Premium Starter Kit
- 1 cup ice
Add all the ingredients in to a blender (powder on the bottom is best so it doesn't fly everywhere).
And enjoy this rich, creamy, anti-inflammatory smoothie. The omega-3s from the avocado, hemp/almond milk and almond butter help your brain and heart function properly and help stave off hunger. The fats in the MCT oil in Brain Octane oil do the same, so you shouldn't feel hungry for a few hours after drinking this smoothie.
Using Juice Plus Complete Powder gives you multiple servings of fruits and vegetables that you may not be getting through your diet.
Truth is, only 1 in 10 Americans gets the recommended 3-5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily!
And Juice Plus has been studied clinically for improving bridging this gap in nutrients - www.juiceplus.com/us/en/clinical-research/clinical-research.
Don't forget to let me know what you think of my recipe and/or your favorite smoothie recipe. I'm all ears! :-)
What is adrenal fatigue and how do I know if I have it?
Adrenal fatigue is a controversial diagnosis that many Holistic and Functional Medicine practitioners have come to know and address. It is basically dysfunction of the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) axis. This VERY important hormonal regulation system is the MASTER of our hormones and thus, of our health.
Here’s a simplified image of this system:
Source: http://open.lib.umn.edu/intropsyc/chapter/10-2-stress-the-unseen-killer/ Accessed July 17, 2017.
In my mind, the system works like a large ship.
The captain of the ship is the Hypothalamus. He/She gives orders (in the form of releasing factors) to the Pituitary gland (the Skipper) located centrally in our brain. The Skipper (aka pituitary gland) is generally in charge of constantly checking in with the crew members to see if they are doing their tasks correctly.
He/She is constantly giving orders to the hands-on crew whether to slow down, speed up or change the direction of the ship, according to the Captain’s orders. The pituitary does this by releasing or inhibiting a hormone called adrenocorticothalamic hormone (ACTH).
ACTH acts on the adrenal glands to secrete various hormones (cortisol, sex steroids (testosterone and estrogen) and epinephrine/norepinephrine) that tell the muscles and nerves what to do (I’d consider these the crew as they are at the bottom of the totem pole of command. However, the crew also plays a crucial role in spotting things that are out of control (a storm or iceberg) and alerting the Skipper, who alerts the Captain.
Obviously, this is just a simplified version of what actually occurs in our bodies. But I think it’s extremely important for all of us to understand that we are constantly in a state of checks and balances in our bodies.
So how does this affect my body?
When our stress levels or our bodies are under attack (think acute or chronic illness) are high, the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline (epinephrine and norepinephrine) are pumped out to provide instructions to every muscle and nerve in our body and a whole host of reactions occur. (For the sake of simplicity, I’ll leave that for another blog post.)
But when we are chronically stressed emotionally or physically (chronic or acute illness), our adrenals are on HIGH demand most of the day and sometimes at night. This abnormal response eventually “burns” our adrenals out and they become tired or over-reactive, secreting too much cortisol and adrenaline than is healthy.
Once this occurs, daily activities become difficult. People suffering from this level of chronic adrenal under or over production are either excessively tired (under production) or excessively wired (overproduction).
Adrenal dysfunction is being seen more and more in our society as we become more disconnected from nature and communities and more focused on technology and the latest newsfeed.
People suffering from this dysfunction often have:
Many of them live on coffee and sugar to decrease their fatigue, not knowing that consumption of these products is actually contributing to their dysfunction.
It’s a vicious cycle that people have a hard time side-stepping.
So what can I do about it?
I’m here to tell you, while chronic stressors affect ALL of us, the dysfunction or dysregulation of the adrenals CAN IMPROVE!
And we are ALL at risk of developing Adrenal Fatigue (Dysfunction). In fact, I, myself, and many of my colleagues, have struggled with this condition over the years. We now work to educate and help people navigate treatment through lifestyle changes, herbs and nutritional support.
My dysfunction was so severe that I quit my stressful job as an Academic Physician and spent 4 months not working to recover. The full recovery process actually took over a year as I’ve only recently been feeling more energized (1.5 years later) and have started pushing myself more athletically.
In short, I had to learn how to treat myself and I now LOVE helping my patients detect and treat their Adrenal Dysfunction.
I’d be honored to help you if you feel like your adrenals are dysfunctional.
Modern life is complicated.
We have the joy of information at the click of a mouse, luxuries of convenience delivered to our doorstep within 2 hours and the ability to communicate with people from around the world instantly. But, with all this technology, we are unfortunately exposed more and more to various toxins that can contribute to chronic illness.
Here is my Top 10 list of toxins to avoid (as much as able. No one is perfect!):
1) Negative Beliefs & Emotions and News Media
- I cannot stress to you how important your mindset and beliefs are for
your health and wellness. Basically, what you believe about yourself and
your health is what manifests. If you believe you are healthy, you will be.
Conversely, if you believe you are going to get sick, you will.
It's that simple!
- So...be kind to yourself and don't watch TV news!
2) Toxic Relationships - associated with #1.
- These relationships drain your energy and have you feeling negatively
about yourself. See a therapist or qualified professional right away to
learn how to manage/detach yourself from these relationships.
3) Phthalates – Found in plastics, vinyl flooring, building materials, personal
care products, fragrances, children’s backpacks & lunch boxes
- Associated with infertility, breast cancer, obesity and birth defects
- This is one of the toxins I avoid using when I make my own personal care
products or use those made with only the highest quality, therapeutic-
grade essential oils instead of synthetic fragrances - Get yours --> here
4) BPA – Found in canned foods (liner), plastics, baby bottles
- Associated with obesity, thyroid disease, asthma, increased cancer risk
and increased rates of anxiety, depression hyperactivity and aggression
5) Lead – Found in lead paint, leaded gasoline and in some lipsticks
6) Mercury – From dental amalgams.
- Neurotoxic. Have these removed ASAP by a certified biological dentist
7) Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) – Found in paint, air freshener, new furniture/ car and carpentry (formaldehyde)
- Causes sick building syndrome, allergic reactions, asthma, respiratory
- This is one of the toxins I avoid using when I make my own personal care
products or use those made with only the highest quality, therapeutic-
grade essential oils instead of synthetic fragrances - Get yours --> here
8) Mold – Toxic to entire system if left untreated
9) Glyphosate – pesticide used to promote bigger yields in food
- Found in GMO foods and soil in which it's grown
- Associated with metabolic disease and cancer
10) Light/noise pollution
- Use ear plugs in noisy places, decrease volume of
earbuds and headphones and use your Night Shift phone setting while
watching TV or using the internet at night
- They decrease the exposure to stimulating blue light at night
The point of this post is not to overwhelm you. It is to EMPOWER you to make better decisions about food, products and services you consume everyday.
Please reach out with questions.
Photo credit: By Chhe (talk) - I (Chhe (talk)) created this work entirely by myself.Transferred from en.wikipedia, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18212592
Summer is officially here! And with that, come the bugs we all know and love so much! Hence, this month's oil is a practical one for summer - Citronella.
Most people have used Citronella, aka Pelargonium Citrosum, as an insect repellant. It comes in candle, spray and essential oil form. However, did you know the plant also has anti-microbial properties and has historically been used as a sanitizer and for deodorizing surfaces? It has also been used historically as a stimulant, which explains why I personally feel more awake after sniffing it throughout the work day. It has also been used to help rid the gut of unwanted visitors (think creepy crawlies we don't want or need)
And it has also been found to have "harmonizing" and relaxing effects on people as evidenced by this small pilot study.
What a win-win!
Practical and uplifting! Does it get better than that?
HOW TO USE CITRONELLA OIL:
1. Topically - Dilute 1 drop of essential oil with 1 drop of a carrier oil (get that here) and apply to skin.
Or you can make your own insect-avoidance spray using the following recipe with:
* 5 drops of Lavender
* 5 drops of Purification (a blend of Lemongrass, Citronella, Rosemary, Lavandin, Myrtle, and Melaleuca essential oil)
* 3 drops of Peppermint
Top off a 5 mL roller bottle with sweet almond oil or fractionated coconut oil. Shake and roll on!
2. Aromatically - Diffuse for up to 30 minutes 3 times a day or directly inhale.
To learn more about the benefits of Citronella and other potent essential oils, see my essential oils website - https://yldist.com/amaltz/ - or join my Let’s Get Oily Facebook group here.
Let's face it...when we're born, we aren't given a manual for owning our bodies nor souls. If you're anything like most Westerners in the world, you live a very fast-paced life filled with lots of chatter, loud music, long to-do lists and constantly putting the needs of others before your own.
But what if there's another way to be?
What if there's a way to help both your body and soul thrive in world? And for you to feel less exhausted and depleted? And for you to feel less exhausted and depleted?
I'm talking about Self-Care - the kindest and most revolutionary act(s) of love you can commit.
Here are my top 3 tips on Self-Care (and what I teach my patients every day):
1) Take a deep breath. In fact, take lots of them!
With every breath, we are literally bringing new life (oxygen) in to our body and exhaling toxins (carbon dioxide). During this extremely complex chemical exchange, we get a new opportunity at life. A new way of being, a new way of seeing things, a new chance at life!
I have studied many forms of breath work over the course of my life. The one I love the most was taught by Dr. Andrew Weil during my 2-year Integrative Medicine Fellowship with the Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona in Tucson, AZ.
It is called the 4-7-8 breath and it’s quite simple! It’s done by breathing deeply so that the belly expands on the in breath and deflates on the out breath. You breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 7 seconds and then slowly breathe out to the count of 8 seconds.
This process is repeated 4-6 times depending on the level of experience with breath work. I advise only doing 4 rounds if new to deep belly breathing, as this technique will create a noticeable drop in blood pressure and heart rate, possibly leaving you a little light-headed. More advanced students can do more rounds. But like with most things, start low and go slow.
I truly love this technique because it works quickly, it’s free and it’s portable. I often do it while sitting in traffic or when I’m running late for an appointment (obviously, I keep my eyes open when driving and recommend you do too!). It truly drops me back in to my body and back in to the calmness of life. Ahhh....
2) GET MORE SLEEP!!!!
I can’t stress this enough!
In our modern times, most people I meet are sleep deprived...and suffering! We seem to think that because electricity and light bulbs were invented that we should stay up beyond our natural sleep times...just because we can!
Unfortunately, humans have not yet evolved to not need sleep. In fact, perhaps nighttime sleep has helped us evolve over millennia?
I will never claim to be an anthropologist, but I definitely know that so many important processes occur during sleep, we are amiss to dismiss it!
What I remind my patients is that humans have not evolved much over the past 1000 years, but our environment has dramatically changed. So, fortunately/unfortunately, we must shift with it.
This means, TURNING OFF YOUR SCREENS AND BRIGHT LIGHTS AT NIGHT TO SIMULATE DARKNESS. This means, preparing to get to bed around the same time every night and waking up around the same time every morning. This also means saying no sometimes to habits that disrupt these boundaries. It may even mean relaxing with a soothing bath every night and creating a ritual to help you fall asleep more easily.
Truth is, when we stare at brightly lit screens at night, it interrupts production of melatonin, an extremely important hormone secreted from the pituitary gland at sundown. This hormone is an immune booster and deficiencies in it have been linked with breast cancer and metabolic syndrome.
So please, I beg you, sleep more! If you have trouble sleeping, please reach out to Integrative Medicine doctors like myself to help. I have MANY tricks up my sleeve that can help.
3) Be kind to yourself.
You are human. Therefore, you are fallible.
No one is perfect in any way, even though we all love to paint a picture for others that we are.
Why do we tell ourselves we don’t deserve happiness or joy or love?
Would we ever say these things to a friend? How about to a stranger?
Quite frankly, No, we wouldn’t! Because we know how harmful words can make people feel. So why do we constantly berate ourselves for things that either happened in the past or cannot be changed? It is just part of the human experience to be flawed and to make mistakes.
What we must cultivate is a practice of self-compassion, a term that means showing empathy and caring towards ourselves as we would show another human being. Why is this important for our health?
Well, because the mind and body cannot tell the difference between ourselves or someone else saying mean things about us. The same stress hormones get secreted when we berate ourselves versus if someone else were to do it. But unfortunately, many of us live with a looped recorder in our heads constantly saying mean things about ourselves. This leads to chronically elevated stress hormones and decreased levels of “feel good” neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and serotonin.
I personally see a pandemic of self-hate and self-flagellation in our culture and I absolutely know, without a doubt, that it contributes to medical illness on a regular basis. If we told ourselves loving, nurturing things about ourselves, wouldn’t we also want to take care of our bodies? Wouldn’t we want to help those in our communities take care of their bodies? And on and on.
I believe lack of self-love is a public health threat beyond anything we have ever measured. And, of course, it is immeasurable.
Bottom line: Love yo’self every day. No matter what!
DISCLAIMER: The content of this website does not serve as medical advice nor does it substitute for a thorough medical
evaluation by a qualified health care practitioner. It also does not represent the opinions of any of the medical institiutions or practitioners mentioned.
Consult a physician or local health care provider before changing any medications, diet or exercise regimen.