Have questions about how I practice medicine and/or who I am?
Check out my latest interview with Madeleine Wyke Silva of Holistic Healthcare in Austin A Resource for Patients - a one-stop shop resource for all your holistic health care needs in Austin.
And don't forget to follow me on Facebook to get all my latest updates and news articles!
Check out my tips for reducing it naturally in my article for Camille Styles. 🙌🏽💃🏻🙏🏽
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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.