How to Know if You Have Hypothyroidism

Your Thyroid: Did your Test Results Come Back Normal?

(But you still feel like crap)stressed person

 

 

An underactive thyroid is not always the easiest thing to pinpoint when you have so many symptoms that seem random to you.  And only more recently are doctors starting to recognize that an unbalanced thyroid can have an impact not only on your physical health but your mental health as well.  The symptoms of hypothyroidism can also look like symptoms of other health issues, thus getting the proper diagnosis can take a long time.  If you see your doctor and share your symptoms of stress, fatigue, anxiety or depression, she may place you on antidepressants.

This may occur even after the blood work with the TSH test done. 

Stress, depression, anxiety, tiredness, and other emotional and mental states can mask a thyroid imbalance.  Depression is now the number one mental illness (it used to be anxiety) but are we not looking deep enough to find out what may be causing the high rate of these mental health issues?  Not to say that hypothyroidism is at the root of all mental health issues but it should be looked at thoroughly and from a functional range standpoint before  it can be ruled out.

 If you had your thyroid tested you ideally want your TSH levels to be in the range from 1.8-2.8 mIU/L.  (others state that most feel better when their TSH is in the range of .8-2.5) 

Normal TSH lab results are considered in the range of .50-5.00. Some labs have updated this and set the upper limit to 3.0 mIU/L.  What if your levels fall into this range yet you have many of the low thyroid symptoms?  Hopefully your doctor did a complete panel to look also at your T4 and T3 ranges.  It is possible to have signs of hypothyroidism when your TSH  levels are within what is considered the “normal range”. 

The issue most often arises when your doctor only tests TSH and this is in the “normal” range. The worst part is when you hear the doctor say “Your blood work is great.  You are fine”.  Yet, you don’t feel fine.  Instead they tell you it is in your head and prescribe an antidepressant or anti-anxiety medication.

Reference ranges on lab work may differ from one lab to the next and from one geographic location to the next. Experts recommend testing 120-200 patient samples for establishment of a statistically significant reference interval.  What I don’t like about these ranges provided on standard blood work is that it is there to diagnose disease for the most part, not to prevent disease. The other issue I have is that these ranges are based on the patient samples. Look at the average American nowadays. Does the image of health come to your mind or one of an unhealthy overweight person?

Functional ranges look at a smaller range so that health issues can be addressed before it turns into a full -blown disease.  

Make sure all parts of the thyroid get tested. You can have normal TSH and still have low thyroid.  Your T4 converts into T3 which is the active form of thyroid hormone and this conversion happens in the liver and needs an enzyme group  and selenium to make this conversion. Some doctors test TSH and T4 and still all looks good. You want to see the T3 test results too!  Essentially you want all the pieces to the puzzle not just a few. 

 

Functions of the Thyroid

  • Supports hair and skin health
  • Supports bone density
  • Controls respiration rate
  • Supports conversion of beta-carotene to vitamin A
  • Maintains body temperature and tolerance to extreme heat or cold
  • Helps maintain muscle tautness
  • Controls metabolism-it controls the speed of every chemical reaction in all cells
  • Controls the rate at which cells burn fuel for energy
  • Supports mental acuity and memory
  • Supports serotonin synthesis
  • Sets heart rate tempo
  • Regulates cholesterol

 

  What Causes Hypothyroidism?

millet stalks

  • Most common cause is auto-antibodies such as in Hashimoto’s disease (an autoimmune condition)

o   Hashimoto’s is 7x more common in women, age of onset is usually 40-60 but 1-2% of school age children can be affected.

  • Genetics can play a role in autoimmune hypothyroid
  • Those with Hashimoto’s also have a prevalence for celiac disease
  • Thyroid cancer
  • Medications such as lithium, excess estrogen (i.e.: birth control pills), estrogen dominance
  • Cofactor deficiencies such as iodine, zinc, c, selenium, iron, vitamins A and B complex (can be caused from excessive dieting, anorexia)
  • Stress/elevated cortisol
  • Excess halogens (i.e.: chlorine/chloride, bromide, fluoride)
  • Leaky gut syndrome
  • Food sensitivity
  • Candida

The Difference Between Hypothyroidism and Hashimotos

Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune disease that effects the thyroid gland. The antibodies react against the proteins in your thyroid gland causing gradual destruction of the gland itself.  This makes it unable to produce the thyroid hormones your body needs.  It is essentially attacking self and seeing self wrongly as an invader. If your thyroid issue turns out to be Hashimotos than you have an autoimmune disease (AI).  All AI diseases need immune and gut support from a holistic perspective. 

With Hashimotos disease, you can have periods where your thyroid is functioning properly or even over active and you may have temporary hyperthyroid symptoms and then you return to hypothyroidism symptoms.  This cycling back and forth is common with Hashimotos. For instance, you may feel for a period, anxious, can’t sleep, have diarrhea, and weight loss and then followed by a period of depression, fatigue, constipation and weight gain.  Eventually, as the attack continues, the gland will over time have less ability to function.

Hypothyroidism is not a disease but is a condition.  It is a state of a sluggish thyroid.  With hypothyroidism, you have a problem with your gland. With Hashimotos you have a problem with your immune function. 

How Do I Know if I Have Low Thyroid/Hypothyroidism?

person sleeping

Symptoms Include:

  • Loss out outer 1/3 of eyebrow
  • Yellow bumps on eyelid
  • Chronic constipation
  • Depression, moodiness
  • Fatigue/chronic
  • Excess hair loss/thinning hair
  • Weight gain/slow metabolism
  • Cold hands and feet
  • PMS
  • Cry easily
  • Dry flaky skin
  • Nervousness
  • Slow heart rate and/or heart palpitations
  • Muscle weakness
  • Feel better post exercise
  • Can’t breathe deeply enough
  • Poor memory/brain fog
  • Low body temperature
  • Excessive sleeping
  • Trouble getting up in the morning
  • Increased number of infections
  • Dizziness/vertigo
  • Lack of sweating when exercising
  • High cholesterol
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Digestive issues (GERD, acid reflux, upset stomach, bloat, gas )

If you suspect low thyroid, see you doctor and ask for a hormone panel that looks at not just your thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) but your T4 and Free T3 and an antibody test as well to look for autoimmune hypothyroid. If your doctor does not want to do a complete thyroid panel you can get the test done yourself from  www.directlabs.com. Here you can order the free T’s, TSH and antibody panel for $159.  Most holistic nutritionists and ND’s can interpret and explain the results to you.  (note: testing is available in most states but not all)

                                             

Thyroid Dysfunction Causes

glass of water

Insulin imbalance: This can happen when you are eating a diet filled with processed, refined carbs and sugar along with weight gain.  This poor blood sugar control can also contribute to dysbiosis which is when the gut microbiome is out of balance.  This impaired gut health can lead to poor immune function, can stress the adrenals, slows your body’s natural detox process and can lead to hormonal imbalances.  These health issues can also contribute to poor thyroid function.

Stress: Not just one stressful event, but the daily chronic stress can place a burden on the adrenal glands and can alter the brains communication with the thyroid.  Stress can slow the conversion of T4 to the active form, T3, can slow the detox process of the liver, and can contribute to leaky gut syndrome.  This can lead to immune dysfunction which contributes to an increased risk of Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune thyroid condition. 

If you have adrenal fatigue, your thyroid gland can eventually wear out and lead to sluggish thyroid function. 

Gut infection: It is possible that correcting a gut infection such as H pylori can have a positive impact on the thyroid, especially for those with Hashimotos.  There is not a lot of research in this area but a study of ten patients did show this to be effective.  In order to heal a gut infection one must support gut health first with diet and nutrition and then address the gut infection.  If you address the infection first without supporting your body it is possible that it will be difficult to rid the body of the infection. 

Toxins: Research is showing that toxins may be responsible for changes in thyroid function.  This research focused on flame retardant chemicals.  Living in a home with a high amount of flame retardant chemicals has been shown to be linked to an increased rate of thyroid cancer.

Fluoride: A British study found a strong correlation between the areas where fluoride content was highest with a higher risk of developing hypothyroidism.  It was found that areas that had fluoride levels above .3 milligrams per liter (mg/L), the risk rose by 30%.  In the US the minimum standards for drinking water fluoridation are set at .7 mg/L. This means that if you live in the US your risk of hypothyroidism may be even greater. 

Support Your Thyroid with Nutrition

balanced meal

  • Go gluten free: based on surveys many have found that a gluten free diet is one of most helpful interventions when dealing with hypothyroidism. Check your thyroid medications to make sure they are gluten free as most are but some are not! Visit glutenfreedrugs.com to check your medications.
  • Go Casein Free: Some people also find they do better without dairy in the diet as well. Dairy sensitivity testing is an option or remove dairy for several weeks and note how you feel.  Check packaging for hidden dairy.  Go to enterolab.com for stool testing 
  • Check your gut health: gut disorders such as celiac and h-pylori can interfere with the absorption of thyroid medications. If you want to know more about the gut and thyroid connection read “Hashimoto’s- the root cause” by Dr. Wentz.
  • Balance your blood sugar: Include protein and fat with every meal, eat every two to three hours at first and then as blood sugar balances you can go longer without eating; avoid fruit juice and processed foods; eat within one hour of wakening; don’t fast and if you eat carbs add some protein and fat to them.
  • Get your adrenals checked for adrenal fatigue: Questionnaires are available online, read Adrenal Fatigue by Dr. Wilson or take an adrenal salivary index test from direct labs. (Most doctors will mention this saliva at home test) Support your adrenals by reducing caffeine, add in relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation, include Adaptogenic herbs, get plenty of rest and balance blood sugar!
  • Include iodine rich foods for thyroid support such as sea vegetables and sea food, shellfish, iodized salt (switch out table salt for Himalayan or Celtic sea salt). Iodine’s main function is the synthesis of thyroid hormones. (note: test first, if you have Hashimoto’s you do not need iodine and want to avoid iodine supplementation)
  • Water Filtration System: Fluoride in the water can block the uptake of iodine. Purchase one that also removes chlorine. The one that I use is the Berkey.
  • Tyrosine which can be found in cottage cheese, beef top sirloin, turkey and eggs
  • B complex: to get more of your B’s in the diet include nutritional yeast, organ meats, fish, poultry, eggs, nuts seeds, mushrooms and avocado and leafy greens (animal products are the only natural source of B12)
  • Selenium: low selenium correlates with low thyroid. Add in brazil nuts, crimini mushrooms, garlic, beef, fish, seafood, turkey and chicken (celiac malabsorption can cause selenium deficiency)
  • Zinc: pumpkin seeds, seafood, meat, eggs, lamb, peas,
  • Essential Fatty Acids: salmon, sardines, mackerel, canned white tuna, chia seeds, walnuts, pastured eggs, flax oil,
  • Ashwagandha: This Adaptogenic herb is known to help you adapt to stress and can help to balance hormones, including the thyroid. It can be useful to balance cortisol, promote insulin sensitivity, and stabilize your mood.
  • Guggul: This herb may enhance the conversion of T4 to T3.  
  • Vitamin A: butter, egg yolk, whole milk, shrimp
  • Vitamin D3: cod liver oil, seafood, eggs, liver, shiitake mushrooms, oysters, salmon, sardines, herring,
  • Vitamin C: yellow bell peppers, strawberries, oranges, limes, broccoli, kale, snow peas, watermelon, cabbage and white potato
  • Iron: iron supplementation is not recommended for postmenopausal women or adult males as too much iron can be toxic. Iron is a competitive nutrient competing with 10 other vitamins and minerals and thus iron should be taken away from your multivitamin/mineral.  Iron rich foods include liver, oysters, mussels, beef, fish, poultry, kidney beans, lentils, potato with the skin on, cashew nuts and tofu.
  • Thyroid Supplementation: use natural whole thyroid products as you need all parts of the thyroid, not just T4 and/or T3. If you have Hashimoto’s then start with a T3/T4 medication and then while supporting the body,  switch to a natural whole thyroid supplement-the reason being that for some the whole thyroid product may initially cause more antibody production.  I like the thyroid glandular by www.nutri-meds.com  
  • Eat balanced meals throughout the day, add color, variety to your plate, eat whole living foods!
  • AVOID: Bromine. This is found in pesticides, plastics, commercial baked goods, soft drinks and fire retardants. Bromine may play a role in poor iodine uptake and may lead to iodine insufficiency.
  • AVOID: processed soy products. Avoid sulfa drugs or antihistamines unless necessary. 

A Word of Caution: Please note that a holistic nutritionist will address hypothyroidism and Hashimotos differently. For instance, you may need to reduce goitrogenic foods in the raw state for hypothyroidism but not for Hashimoto’s. For AI, you will need to support the immune system.  Work with a professional who can help you feel better.  If your test results do determine low thyroid, it is still very important to rule out an AI thyroid condition! 

 

If you are sick and tired of feeling sick, tired, fatigued, depressed, anxious and more and have given up hope then Karen’s simple, effective, individualized and sustainable approach may be what you need. 

Karen Brennan, MSW, CNC, Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition and Herbalist is the author of Tru Foods Depression Free Nutrition Guide; How Food Supplements and herbs can be used to lift your mood and owner of Tru Foods Nutrition Services, LLC. 

For more information visit  www.trufoodsnutrition.com

Get her Food Swap Guide here to get started on your health journey today! Want more information, like her fb page here

As a nutrition professional, Karen does not treat, cure nor diagnose. This information is for educational purposes only.

Sources:

Arem, R. (1999) The Thyroid Solution. NY: Ballantine Books

Balch, P.  (2012) Prescription for Herbal Healing. NY: Penguin Group

Bauman, E., & Friedlander, J. Therapeutic Nutrition. Part 1.  Pengrove, CA: Bauman    

   College. 

Gaby, A. (2006) The Natural Pharmacy. NY: Three Rivers Press

Hoffman, D. (2003) Medical Herbalism. The Science and Practie of Herbal Medicine. VT: Healing Arts Press

Mars, B. (2007) The Desktop Guide to Herbal Medicine. CA: Basic Health Publications

Marz, F. (1999) Medical Nutrition. OR: Omni Press

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2017/05/31/screening-thryoid-drugs-often-fail-to-relieve-symptoms.aspx?

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23378454

http://fluoridealalert.org/issues/health/thyroid/

https://news.kent.ac.uk/app/uploads/2015/02/Flouride-research.pdf

https://www.cdc.gov/mentalhealth/basics.htm

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H2 Histamine Blockers Concerns and Deficiencies

Ranitidine: An H2 Histamine Blocker

(common name Zantac, Pepcid)

What You Need to Know First

pills

 

Ranitidine is a member of the H-2 histamine blocker family of drugs. This medicine prevents the release of acid into the stomach.  It is used to treat stomach ulcers, GERD, erosive esophagitis, and Zollinger-Ellsion syndrome. 

This is available OTC and as a prescription medication. 

While proton pump inhibitor drugs (PPI’s) have been in the news more lately due to new side effect findings, it does not mean that Histamine blockers are free of concerns. They are both used to suppress gastric secretions but they differ in how they do this. 

While these drugs are used to suppress stomach acid, be aware that we need stomach acid.  An easy to read and informative book that I suggest you get to understand why stomach acid is vital to our overall health is “Why we need stomach acid” by Wright and Lenard. 

What H-2 Histamine Blockers May Deplete

  • Folate: Folate is needed by the body to utilize vitamin B12. Zantac and similar medications inhibit folate absorption.  Thus, taking this medication may cause a deficiency in folate and B12
  • Iron: Stomach acid may facilitate iron absorption. Beta blockers reduce stomach acid and are associated with decreased dietary absorption of iron.  People with ulcers may be deficient due to blood loss.  It is best to check iron levels on your blood work. 
  • B12: Stomach acid is needed to release B12 from food so that it can be absorbed by the body. Since beta blockers reduce stomach acid, your B12 levels will also be low.  B12 supplementation does not need stomach acid.
  • Magnesium: These drugs can block the active transport of magnesium in the intestines causing low magnesium and resulting in depression.
  • Other possible nutrient deficiencies include: vitamin A, vitamin D, calcium and zinc

What you Should ask Yourself Before Taking an H-2 Histamine Blocker (or a PPI)

  • These drugs reduce stomach acid. Do you know that elevated stomach acid is your issue?  For some it could be something else and low stomach acid can cause the same symptoms as high stomach acid. 
  • These drugs are meant to be taken only short term, 4-8 weeks, but most people take these meds long term, sometimes for years. Would you rather get to the root of your problem and address it?
  • Would life style and dietary changes be better (and safer with no side effects) be better than taking a drug?

What May Be Causing Your Stomach Issues

  • Hiatal Hernia
  • Hormones (yours and those from your food)
  • Eating too much, too quickly and too late
  • Relaxation of the esophageal sphincter
  • High or low stomach acid
  • Coffee, caffeine, carbonated drink, spicy foods
  • Gall bladder issues (which can also mean liver issues since bile is made in the liver and is stored in the gallbladder)

Natural Options

ginger-1714106_640

It is always best to work with a professional to address your root causes and find out what would be the best method of body balance and digestive relief but here are a few things you can try on your own in the meantime. 

  • Try drinking 1 tablespoon of Braggs Apple Cider Vinegar in 8 ounces of water before a meal. If this helps, you may have low stomach acid. If it makes it worse, try ½ teaspoon of baking soda in a glass of water. If this resolves your issue, you may have high stomach acid.

o   If you have high stomach acid limit the amount of spicy foods you eat during gut healing (which includes coffee). 

o   As we age our stomach acid levels go down, thus older people tend to have low not high stomach acid. 

  • Add in digestive bitters before a meal. Bitter foods and herbs stimulate our bile and digestive juices to aid with meal digestion. 
  • Add in a digestive enzyme, a full spectrum one is best, so that is has the needed enzymes to break down your fats, sugar (carbs/starches), and proteins in the meal.
  • Chew DGL (licorice) before a meal
  • CHEW! Don’t inhale your food. Chew each bite 15-20 times.  This aids the digestive process.  It may seem simple but just this step alone can be very effective for some. 
  • Work with someone to determine if you have food intolerances. Or start by removing a food group for 2 to 4 weeks and see if the issue resolves. The main culprits include gluten, dairy, soy and corn.  

Bottom Line

Ask yourself if you want to address the cause or use symptom management. The choice is yours. 

Sources

  1. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/suzy-cohen-rph/acid-reflux-medication-_b_2522466.html
  2. Bauman, E. & Friedlander, J. (2014) Foundations in Nutrition. CA: Bauman College
  3. Bauman, E. & Friedlander, J. (2014) Therapeutics in Nutrition. CA: Bauman College
  4. Gaby, A. (2006) A-Z Guide to Drug-Herb-Vitamin Interactions. NY: Three Rivers Press
  5. Wright, J. & Lenard, L. (2001) Why Stomach Acid is Good For You. NY: M. Evanns

 

If you are sick and tired of feeling sick, tired, fatigued, depressed, anxious and more and have given up hope then Karen’s simple, effective, individualized and sustainable approach may be what you need. 

Karen Brennan, MSW, CNC, Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition and Herbalist is the author of Tru Foods Depression Free Nutrition Guide; How Food Supplements and herbs can be used to lift your mood and owner of Tru Foods Nutrition Services, LLC. 

For more information visit  www.trufoodsnutrition.com

Get her Food Swap Guide here to get started on your health journey today! Want more information, like her fb page here

As a nutrition professional, Karen does not treat, cure nor diagnose. This information is for educational purposes only.

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Green Pistachio Herbed Sauce

Green Pistachio Herbed Sauce for Salads and Veggie Dishes

Just throw everything in your food processor and there you have it!  A great tasting green sauce for salads, veggies, on sandwiches and to use a dip.

green sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 avocado (peel removed)
  • 1 c. total of parsley and cilantro (I put one bunch of each into the food processor)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • Dash salt
  • ½ cup filtered water
  • Juice of ½ a lemon or 1 T. real lemon juice
  • ½ cup EVOO
  • ½ cup raw pistachios
  • Dash coriander

Directions

Combine all in food processor.  Store in fridge until use. 

Did you know that coriander comes from the same plant as cilantro leaves?

 

If you are sick and tired of feeling sick, tired, fatigued, depressed, anxious and more and have given up hope then Karen’s simple, effective, individualized and sustainable approach may be what you need. 

Karen Brennan, MSW, CNC, Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition and Herbalist is the author of Tru Foods Depression Free Nutrition Guide; How Food Supplements and herbs can be used to lift your mood and owner of Tru Foods Nutrition Services, LLC. 

For more information visit  www.trufoodsnutrition.com

Get her Food Swap Guide here to get started on your health journey today! Want more information, like her fb page here

As a nutrition professional, Karen does not treat, cure nor diagnose. This information is for educational purposes only.

 

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Spring Cabbage Slaw Salad

Spring Slaw

I love cabbage so I am always tweaking some dressings for a coleslaw blend. 

spring slaw 2

Ingredients

  • 4 cups of cabbage (I buy a bag of shredded cabbage or coleslaw mix)
  • 2 cups of shredded carrots (I buy organic shredded carrots)
  • 1 bunch org. cilantro chopped
  • 1 bunch org. parsley chopped
  • ½ cup slivered almonds
  • ¼ a red onion diced

Dressing

  • 6 T. EVOO
  • 4 T. Apple cider vinegar
  • 1 T. raw local honey
  • 1 t. Dijon mustard
  • Dash s/p

Directions

  1. Place all salad ingredients into a large bowl.
  2. Whisk together all the dressing ingredients and pour over the cabbage blend. Mix well. Refrigerate until ready to serve. 
  3. Adjust dressing to suit your taste-double amount if desired.

Note: can also add avocado slices at end. Add in protein to make it a meal

If you are sick and tired of feeling sick, tired, fatigued, depressed, anxious and more and have given up hope then Karen’s simple, effective, individualized and sustainable approach may be what you need. 

Karen Brennan, MSW, CNC, Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition and Herbalist is the author of Tru Foods Depression Free Nutrition Guide; How Food Supplements and herbs can be used to lift your mood and owner of Tru Foods Nutrition Services, LLC. 

For more information visit  www.trufoodsnutrition.com

Get her Food Swap Guide here to get started on your health journey today! Want more information, like her fb page here

As a nutrition professional, Karen does not treat, cure nor diagnose. This information is for educational purposes only.

 

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Use These Herbs for Perimenopause and Menopausal Symptoms

11 Herbs for Menopause and Perimenopause

lemon-balm

Around the age of 40 women begin perimenopause and the transition to menopause.  During this time levels of estrogen, progesterone and the androgens fluctuate.  Your body will spend years gradually and naturally going through this process. This transition can last 5 to 10 years and for some up to 13 years.   Menopause typically occurs between the ages of 45-55.  During this time your periods may stop and then start again or may occur more frequently and may increase or decrease in intensity and flow. You are officially in menopause when your period has stopped for one full year.

Herbs to Ease Perimenopause/Menopause Symptoms

black-cohosh

Note: Always check first with your health professional when adding in herbs to your regimen. Some herbs interact with meds and some are not safe to take with certain health conditions. 

Motherwort: This herb can be your ally in reducing irritability and anxiety that may occur during the transition time.  It can calm the heart during perimenopause heart palpitations.  If you have heavy bleeding during perimenopause, then don’t overdo the use of this herb.  It can aid in menopausal insomnia. Avoid this herb if you have low blood pressure.  Take in tea or in tincture.  50-80 drops 2-4 times per day in tincture form.  As a tea use 1 tsp. of dried herb.  Drink 4 oz. three times per day. 

Shatavari: This herb is a wonderful one to use during these times of transition. It is useful for hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, anxiety and memory loss.  It also is known to increase libido.  Use 30-60 drops 1-2 times per day depending on the severity of your symptoms.  As a tincture, use 40-80 drops 3x per day.  As a tea use of dried root and consume up to 2 cups per day.  Avoid if you have diarrhea and bloating or add ginger and consume as a tea only. 

Passion Flower: This herb has many uses and it is useful for menopausal mood swings.  It can aid in reducing panic attacks, calms irritability and helps with stress relief.  If you can’t turn your mind off at night, use passion flower.  Use in tea blend or take 60-80 drops of tincture 3 times per day.  Avoid with bipolar, schizophrenia and manic phases.  Do not use with MAOI’s.

Sage: This is beneficial for stimulating memory and is useful for the brain fog that is sometimes associated with perimenopause.   It is also good for excessive sweating which means it can be supportive for those with night sweats during perimenopause. It is also used for anxiety, hot flashes and fatigue associated with menopausal symptoms. Take in tincture 30-60 drops 2-3 times per day or use 1 tsp. in a tea blend 3 times per day. 

Fennel: While many of you may be familiar with fennel for digestive issues, fennel is used to offer hormonal support as well.  One of its main components appears to have natural hormone like actions.  It can be useful for bloating, menstrual pain and hot flashes.  As a tea use 1-2 tsp in one cup hot water. 

Skullcap: This herb is considered a brain tonic and is useful for ADD, poor memory and mental fatigue. It is also useful for PMS, menstrual pain/cramps, menopausal depression and mood swings, hot flashes and irritation.  Use in a tea blend or take ½ t. of tincture as needed.  Avoid with bipolar, schizophrenia and manic phases. 

Kudzu root: This herb is beneficial for PMS and peri menopausal symptoms such as acne, hot flashes, night sweats, and mood swings.  Take in tincture form of 60 drops 2-3 times per day. 

Lemon Balm: Use this herb for menstrual cramping and depression associated with perimenopause.  This is considered a very safe herb and safe for children as well. However, if you have low thyroid uses it is best to minimize the amount of lemon balm you consume as it can lower thyroid function. 

Hops: This herb is used for menstrual cramping. This is best used in tea or tincture. It also has a sedative effect.  As a tincture, take 30-60 drops 2-3 times per day.  Avoid with usage of sedative medication.  Do not use if you have depression. 

Black Cohosh: This herb has been popularized for use for hot flashes yet it also has many other beneficial uses. This herb can also be useful for those with depression.  Avoid use of this herb if you have liver disease.  Take 20-40 drops of tincture per day. 

Chaste Tree Berry: Some of you may be familiar with Chaste Tree (Vitex) for hormonal support, however a word of caution-it is very easy to overdo it with this herb. Taking too much may increase progesterone levels and thus increase your symptoms.  If using this herb, take only one capsule per day in the morning or 15 drops of tincture in the morning.  Avoid usage if you are taking antipsychotic medications. 

Pycnogenol:  (actually it is 12 with the addition of this one but Pycnogenol supplement is not an herb per se rather an extract) This is a branded, registered trade form of  French maritime pine bark extract and has a number of uses.  It can be useful for endometriosis, painful periods, menopausal symptoms and can reduce fine lines and wrinkles (at 100 mg. per day).  A recent study builds upon evidence from previous studies showing that it can reduce elevated cardiovascular risk factors that are often related to perimenopause such as increased triglycerides, elevated blood pressure and blood sugar.  Those participating in the study also had reduced hot flashes, reduction of night sweats and mood improvement. 

Going Beyond Herbs to Reduce Symptoms

basket of veggies

For some of you with mild symptoms, an herb or two may do the trick.  For those of you that continue to struggle with symptoms your body may need more support than just a few herbs.  Addressing and identifying imbalances in the body will be key for you, such as addressing blood sugar, adrenals, thyroid, digestion and/or other areas to restore balance.  Dietary changes along with targeted supplementation may be needed depending on your current diet and symptoms.

For instance, some of you may enter perimenopause sooner than others due to poor health or due to your diet. 

Estrogen dominance becomes an issue along with its side effects during perimenopause for some due to low progesterone levels.  The key is to find out what is the issue for you and then address it. 

The bottom line is yes, there is something you can do instead of having to put up with these symptoms for years!

If you live in Colorado you may want some of my organic herbal tea, Seasons of Change, for perimenopause/menopause relief.  http://trufoodsnutrition.com/trufoods-herbal-tea-blends/

 

Sources

Blankenship, V. (2016) Sage Herbal Foundations Program. Colorado Springs, CO. (notes from)

Bauman, E. & Friedlander, J. (2014) Therapeutic Nutrition.  CA: Bauman College

Cech, R. (2016) Making Plant Medicine.  Oregon: Herbal Reads

Crow, D. (2016) Medicinal Plants & Spiritual Evolution Intensive.  Online Program (notes from)

Mars, B. (2007) The Desktop Guide to Herbal Medicine.  CA: Basic Health Publications, Inc.

Skenderi, G. (2003) Herbal Vade Mecum.  NJ: Herbacy Press

Winston, D. & Maimes, S. (2007) Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina and Stress Relief.  VT: Healing

   Arts Press.

http://www.nutraingredients-usa.com/product-innovations/pycnogenol-R-Normalizes-Cardio-Risks-During-Perimenopause?

 

 

If you are sick and tired of feeling sick, tired, fatigued, depressed, anxious and more and have given up hope then Karen’s simple, effective, individualized and sustainable approach may be what you need. 

Karen Brennan, MSW, CNC, Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition and Herbalist is the author of Tru Foods Depression Free Nutrition Guide; How Food Supplements and herbs can be used to lift your mood and owner of Tru Foods Nutrition Services, LLC. 

For more information visit  www.trufoodsnutrition.com

Get her Food Swap Guide here to get started on your health journey today! Want more information, like her fb page here

As a nutrition professional, Karen does not treat, cure nor diagnose. This information is for educational purposes only.

 

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Ginger: 12 Reasons Why You Should Be Consuming This Herb

Ginger (Zingiber officinale)

12 Reasons Why You Should Be Consuming It

ginger root

The underground portion of ginger is used.  The flesh of ginger may be white, yellow or red depending on the variety.  It has a light brownish skin. It has a aromatic, pungent and spicy smell and taste. 

Ginger has been used for thousands of years as an herbal remedy.  Modern medicine and research has proven that ginger possesses several therapeutic properties. 

Benefits to Using Ginger

  • Antioxidant Rich. And you only need a small amount to reap its benefits.  You want to consume a antioxidant rich diet to support overall health and prevent disease. 
  • Reduces Pain from Osteoarthritis: Ginger Inhibits the formation of inflammatory compounds and has direct anti-inflammatory effects. This is due to compounds called gingerols.  It has been shown to reduce pain in those with arthritis and muscular discomfort.  In one study, those who took ginger extract 2 times per day had less pain and needed less pain killing meds than those who took the placebo.  The dose in one study was 250 mg. 4 times daily. 
  • Provides Gastrointestinal Relief: Ginger is commonly used for an upset stomach, gas, diarrhea, and IBS.
  • Can Prevent Sea Sickness: It has been shown to be far superior to Dramamine, an OTC drug, used for motion sickness. It can reduce symptoms associated with motion sickness such as nausea, vomiting and cold sweat.  There is a reason that you see ginger candy in gift shops at boat docks to purchase!
  • Relief from Vomiting and Nausea Associated with Pregnancy: It can be useful even in the most severe form. And unlike anti-vomiting, drugs ginger is safe during pregnancy and only a small amount is required.  Pregnant women can safely take up to one gram. 
  • Protective against Colorectal Cancer. Gingerols which is the main active component in ginger is also the one responsible for its distinctive flavor.  This component may also inhibit the growth of human colorectal cancer cells.   
  • It can Induce Cell Death in Ovarian Cancer Cells. Again, this is thanks to the gingerols in ginger.  A pro-inflammatory state is thought to be important in the development of ovarian cancer. In the presence of ginger a few key indicators of inflammation were decreased in the ovarian cancer cells. 
  • Immune Boosting Properties. Since it has anti-viral properties, ginger can be useful to consume when you have a cold or flu or other viral infection.
  • Lowers Cholesterol and improves lipid metabolism. Studies show that ginger can have a dramatic effect on cardiovascular health. Studies used 250 micrograms of ginger
  • Anti-diabetic effects. In several studies ginger has been shown to help reduce blood sugar levels, regulate insulin response and also reduced body weight.
  • Use it for Colds and Sore Throat. It is a natural remedy to soothe an irritated throat.  Regular intake of ginger stimulates the secretion of mucus which soothes and provides throat relief.  Natural oi in ginger acts as an expectorant and thus not only useful for colds but also for upper respiratory infections, coughs, asthma and bronchitis 
  • Use for PMS cramp pain. A 2009 study found that 250 mg. 4 times a day was just as effective as ibuprofen for pain relief associated with a woman’s menstrual cycle. 

Ways to Incorporate Ginger into Your Diet

ginger-1714106_640

You don’t need to use much ginger to reap its benefits.  Whenever possible opt for fresh over the dried spice.  The fresh ginger will contain higher levels of gingerol.  Most supermarkets carry the mature ginger which will have the skin that you need to peel. Young ginger is more often found in Asian markets and this ginger skin does not need to be peeled.  Fresh ginger can be stored in your fridge for up to 3 weeks if left unpeeled.  You can also store it in your freezer unpeeled for up to 6 months. 

For cooking, if added in the beginning of the cooking process, it will add a subtle flavor while adding it at the end of cooking will lend the dish a more pungent taste. 

  • For nausea: make ginger tea by steeping 1 or 2 ½ inch slices of ginger in a cup of hot water.
  • For arthritis: ¼ an inch (or more) cooked in food. (The more you use the quicker your relief may be)
  • Add it to rice dishes
  • Mix ginger with coconut aminos and garlic to make a sauce for stir fry
  • Add ginger to your oil and vinegar salad dressing
  • Add it to sautéed vegetable dishes.
  • Mince a teaspoon and add to your regular tea
  • Add to marinades, stews and soups
  • Add some to your morning smoothie
  • You can add in ginger supplementation in capsule form or in tincture form.

When to Use Caution

  • Don’t give to children under 2 years of age.
  • If you have a sensitive stomach, take ginger with some food in your belly.
  • In adults, do not take more than 4 grams per day
  • Pregnant women should only consume up to 1 gram per day.
  • Avoid ginger supplementation if you are on blood thinner
  • If you are on diabetic meds, ginger can reduce blood sugar levels.
  • If you are on blood pressure meds, it can reduce your blood pressure.
  • Always talk to your doctor if adding ginger in as a supplement to your diet since some meds can interact with herbs.

Food for Thought: 

From reading some of the cautions above, it makes me wonder, wouldn’t it be better to use herbs to say lower blood pressure or blood sugar instead of a med that comes with side effects? What do you think?

 

Sources

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage/php?tname=foodspice&dbid=72

http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/ginger

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK927775

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3665023/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15630214

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3016669/#!po=67.6471

http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/ibuprofen-kills-more-so-what-alternatives

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18813412

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4277626/

Balch, P. ( 2012)   Prescription for Herbal Healing.  2nd Edition.  NY: Avery Publishing

Gaby, A.(2006) The Natural Pharmacy. Revised and updated 3rd edition.  NY: Three Rivers Press

Hoffman, D. Medical Herbalism. (2003) The science and practice of herbal medicine.  VT: Healing Arts   

   Press.

Mars, B. (2007) The Desktop Guide to Herbal Medicine.  CA: Basic Health Publications

Skenderi, G. (2003) Herbal Vade Mecum. NJ: Herbacy Press

If you are sick and tired of feeling sick, tired, fatigued, depressed, anxious and more and have given up hope then Karen’s simple, effective, individualized and sustainable approach may be what you need. 

Karen Brennan, MSW, CNC, Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition and Herbalist is the author of Tru Foods Depression Free Nutrition Guide; How Food Supplements and herbs can be used to lift your mood and owner of Tru Foods Nutrition Services, LLC. 

For more information visit  www.trufoodsnutrition.com

Get her Food Swap Guide here to get started on your health journey today! Want more information, like her fb page here

As a nutrition professional, Karen does not treat, cure nor diagnose. This information is for educational purposes only.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Top 3 Foods to Eat Every Day

3 Foods You Should Eat Every Day and Reasons Why

 

Cruciferous Vegetables

broccoli-sprouts

 

  • This includes broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli sprouts, kale, bok choy,
  • These vegetables contain sulforaphane which is known for its anti-cancer properties.
  • Sulforaphane may have anti-depressant and anti-anxiety properties
  • This compound in cruciferous vegetables may also reduce inflammation and pain associated with chronic health conditions such as fibromyalgia.
  • Sulforaphane is shown to be cardio protective
  • These vegetables are rich in antioxidants
  • We are exposed to toxins daily and these vegetables can aid in the body’s natural detox process.
  • Try to add in a mix of raw and cooked cruciferous vegetable into your daily diet

Green Leafy Vegetables

salad picture

  • This group includes foods such as spinach, Swiss chard, collard greens, mustard greens, red and green leaf lettuce, romaine lettuce and kale, (some leafy greens also fall into the cruciferous list)
  • They are a rich source of beta carotene which can be converted into vitamin A and can also improve immune function.
  • They have been shown to influence intestinal health- these studies were done in lab animals and more research is needed, however preliminary findings are exciting. (if you read my other posts, you know by now that gut health plays a large role in our immune health and our mental health as well)
  • Low in calories, but rich in fiber, folate, and magnesium
  • They can aid in reducing your risk of cancer and heart disease and should be added in for those with type 2 diabetes. 
  • They are rich in antioxidants which are brain protective
  • Consuming your greens raw will give your body the enzyme boost it needs.  Raw foods have the most active and alive enzymes and we need enzymes to breakdown and digest our food and get the nutrients from those foods. 
  • Add to a salad or a green smoothie to make it simple, or sauté some greens to serve with eggs or mix them into a frittata

Herbs and Spices

herbs to plant pic

  • Unfortunately, in the US many people still are unaware of the value of plants as medicine. In Europe and Asia herbs tend to be more appreciated for their therapeutic properties. 
  • Herbs are the leaves of herbaceous plants.
  • Spices may be the bark, root, bud, fruit or berry of a plant
  • Get past the salt and pepper and add a variety of spices into your daily diet
  • While each spice and herb may have its own unique benefits, the point is that by adding in even small amounts daily can impact your health.
  • If you are unsure how to use spices, start with pre-made spice blends.
  • To save money, buy spices in bulk or start your own herb garden
  • Fresh herbs will tend to add a more delicate flavor to foods than dried herbs. When substituting dried herbs for fresh use 1 teaspoon dried for 1 tablespoon fresh. 
  • Unless it says it is organic, assume it has been irradiated or sterilized per FDA ruling. An organic herb or spice will use a flash-freeze or steam process to sterilize as opposed to using fumigants. 
  • Drink a variety of herbal tea blends.

Bottom Line

By adding in a salad, a vegetable to your meal and/or snack and adding spices to your meals you should be able to reap the health benefits of these foods.  Don’t eat the same green, veggie and herb every day-mix it up and add variety into your diet to reap all the benefits these foods have to offer. 

Sources

Murray, et. al. (2005) The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. NY: Atria Books

Wood, R. ( 2010) The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia.  NY: Penguin Books

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=btnews&dbid=126

http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blogs/top-10-reasons-eat-your-cruciferous-veggies

http://www.babraham.ac.uk/news/2011/10/green-vegetables-directly-influence-immune-defences-and-help-maintain-intestinal-health

 

If you are sick and tired of feeling sick, tired, fatigued, depressed, anxious and more and have given up hope then Karen’s simple, effective, individualized and sustainable approach may be what you need. 

Karen Brennan, MSW, CNC, Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition and Herbalist is the author of Tru Foods Depression Free Nutrition Guide; How Food Supplements and herbs can be used to lift your mood and owner of Tru Foods Nutrition Services, LLC. 

For more information visit  www.trufoodsnutrition.com

Get her Food Swap Guide here to get started on your health journey today! Want more information, like her fb page here

As a nutrition professional, Karen does not treat, cure nor diagnose. This information is for educational purposes only.

 

Karen Brennan, MSW, CNC, Herbalist

Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition®

Tru Foods Nutrition Services, LLC

www.trufoodsnutrition.com

303-522-0381

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Adaptogenic Herbs for Stress, Anxiety, Depression, Fatigue and Immune Support

 

Adaptogens for a Stress, Anxiety, Depression, Fatigue and Immune Support

ginkgo-flower-picture

What are Adaptogens

Adaptogenic herbs are herbs that allow the body to adjust to stress.  It essentially helps you resist the stress, whether it be physical or a biological response. For example, adaptogens can be useful for those coping with daily work stress, anxiety or depression, stress from training/long bouts of exercise or the stress placed on the body during injury, healing and surgery. 

They can enhance the body’s natural response, and help balance the body.  Some of these herbs can have a strengthening effect on the adrenal glands.  This is important because the herb can have the action of relieving stress. 

These herbs can affect the brain, nerves, endocrine glands, and the immune system by helping re-regulate, normalize and enhance function.  There are multiple theories as to what is occurring and even scientists are unsure of how these substances work.

Adaptogenic Herbs  for Stress and Mood Support

As you will see from the list below, you can kill two birds or more with one herb meaning you may be able to choose one herb to address your depression, fatigue and immune system.  While medications often have one purpose, herbs can be used for many different conditions and ailments. 

There are many supportive Adaptogenic herbs; this is a short list of some of the more well-known herbs.  For anxiety and depression, a class of herbs called nervines can also be very useful. 

Check with your doctor prior to adding in any herbs to your regimen as herbs can interact with medications. 

What You Should Know About Herbs Before You Make a Purchase

tincutre bottles

Always start with one herb at a time.  It is best to do this rather than buy a blend.  Often the blends have lower doses of each herb or have extra ingredients you may not need.  Also, if you have a reaction to the product you won’t know which herb it was.  Start low and slow.  Work up to the amounts mentioned. 

Adaptogens are best used for 12 weeks and then take a 2-week break or switch to a different adaptogen, as your body can adapt to the herb over time, thus reducing its effectiveness for you.  We all react differently to herbs so it may take a few tries to find the right herb for you and your health concern. 

Purchase a reliable product.  Many cheaper or store brand herbal products have been found to not contain the amount stated on the label and in other instances they do not contain the correct parts of the herb. For instance, if you are going to use Rhodiola, you want a product that uses the root, not other plant parts. Brands that I like include Gaia herbs, Herb Pharm, and Bayan Botanicals.  I’m sure there are other high quality brands but it pays to do some research first.  The dropper on a one ounce tincture bottle is equal to 30 drops.  This way you don’t have to constantly count drops!

Don’t rely on just herbs. If your body is under a great deal of stress, support the body with whole nutrient dense foods as well.  While an herb can do wonders, it needs the support of a nutrient rich diet too. 

All the herbs or supplements in the world won’t help you if you continue to “eat like crap”. 

Adaptogens for Depression

Since herbs can have a direct effect on the nervous system they can enhance mood

  • Asian ginseng root (less frequently leaf): This is one of the most studied herbs in the world. It is considered one of the most stimulating herbs.  For this reason, it makes a great herb for those who are exhausted.  Use it for insomnia, fatigue and depression.  Tincture: take 20-40 drops up to 3x per day.  Capsule: powdered herb take 2 400-500 mg. caps 2-3x per day. For powdered extract take one capsule of 400-500 mg. 2 times per day.  Start out with a lower dose and work up to the 400-500 milligram dose as for some people who have anxiety or insomnia this herb may be too stimulating.  Speak with your doctor first if you are taking warfarin, MAOI antidepressants, or blood sugar medications. 
  • Holy basil plant (Tulsi): Use of holy basil can prevent increased corticosteroid levels that indicate elevated stress levels. It can be used as a “natural antidepressant” for situational depression such as coping with a traumatic event such as death of a loved one.  Tincture: 40-60 drops 3 times per day.  Tea: add 1 tsp. of dried leaf to 8 oz. of hot water. Let it steep for 5-10 minutes. For therapeutic benefits, drink the tea up to 3 times per day. 
  • Rhodiola root: This herb is known to enhance energy, improve alertness, reduce fatigue and improve depression. It can be a good herb to use also for ADHD and for someone who is recovering from a head injury.  It can support someone who has a depleted immune system due to chemotherapy, radiation or from excessive physical training.  It can be useful for someone suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome.  Tincture: 40-60 drops 3x per day.  Avoid Rhodiola if you have bipolar, or are paranoid.  From some it can cause insomnia. 

Adaptogens For Anxiety

Adaptogenic herbs, because of their effect on the nervous system, can relive stress and anxiety

  • Ashwagandha root: This is one of my personal favorite herbs. This is a calming adaptogen and is also useful for stimulating the thyroid gland. It is useful for anxiety, fatigue and stress induced insomnia.  Avoid this herb if you are sensitive to nightshade plants as this herb is in the nightshade family.  Do not use it if you have hyperthyroidism.  It can increase the effects of barbiturates. Tincture take 30 drops 3-4 times per day, as capsule take 400-500 mg. twice a day. 
  • Schisandra (fruit and seed): This herb is calming and can aid in stress induced asthma or stressed induced palpitations. . It can provide a feeling of alertness without the stimulating effects that you would get from caffeine.    It also supports the immune system. (People who suffer from acute and chronic stress can have a weakened immune system).  Tincture: 40-80 drops 3-4 times per day.  Capsules: 1-2 400-500 mg caps, 2-3 times per day. Do not take if using barbiturates. 

For Fatigue

 

  • American ginseng (root and less often leaf): This can be useful for those with mild to moderate adrenal fatigue. It can also be useful to reduce symptoms of jet lag. Tincture: 60-100 drops 3 times per day. Capsule: 2, 500 mg. caps 2 times per day.  Do not use if taking warfarin.
  • Ashwagandha: see information under anxiety
  • Asian ginseng: see information under depression
  • Eleuthero root and stem bark: This is a mild herb and thus good for the young and the old. It is unlikely that it will cause overstimulation and this is an herb that can be taken long term.  It strengthens the immune system and provides stamina.  You can use it when under a great deal of stress at work. It can help improve alertness and cognitive function when dealing with work related stress.  Tincture: 60-100 drops 3-4 times per day.  Do not use with cardiac medications
  • Shatavari root: this is a good herb to try for fatigue, chronic fatigue syndrome, and to support the immune system. It is also considered a nutritive tonic.  It is also a diuretic.  Tincture: 40-80 drops 3 times per day.  Avoid if you have diarrhea and bloating. 

For Immune support

Stress weakens our immune system.  Adaptogenic herbs can help strengthen the immune system and improve the immune response.

  • Eleuthero: see information under fatigue
  • Holy basil: see information under depression
  • Rhodiola: see information under depression
  • Shatavari: see information under fatigue
  • Schisandra: see information under anxiety

 

Bottom Line

Choose an herb that can address more than one issue you are having.  Start out with one herb only and start out low and slow. Seek guidance from your holistic health professional or doctor before adding in herbs to your regimen.  When adding in herbs, give it time.  Support the body with a whole foods diet too. 

Sources

Balch, P. ( 2012)   Prescription for Herbal Healing.  2nd Edition.  NY: Avery Publishing

Cech, R. (2016) Making Plant Medicine.  Oregon: Herbal Reads

Gaby, A.(2006) The Natural Pharmacy. Revised and updated 3rd edition.  NY: Three Rivers Press

Hoffman, D. Medical Herbalism. (2003) The science and practice of herbal medicine.  VT: Healing Arts   

   Press.

Mars, B. (2007) The Desktop Guide to Herbal Medicine.  CA: Basic Health Publications

Moore, M. (1996) Herbal Tinctures in Clinical Practice.  3rd Edition.   AZ: SW School of botanical Medicine

Skenderi, G. (2003) Herbal Vade Mecum. NJ: Herbacy Press

Winston, D. & Maimes, S.(2007) Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief.  VT: Healing

   Arts Press.

 

 

If you are sick and tired of feeling sick, tired, fatigued, depressed, anxious and more and have given up hope then Karen’s simple, effective, individualized and sustainable approach may be what you need. 

Karen Brennan, MSW, CNC, Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition and Herbalist is the author of Tru Foods Depression Free Nutrition Guide; How Food Supplements and herbs can be used to lift your mood and owner of Tru Foods Nutrition Services, LLC. 

For more information visit  www.trufoodsnutrition.com

Get her Food Swap Guide here to get started on your health journey today! Want more information, like her fb page here

As a nutrition professional, Karen does not treat, cure nor diagnose. This information is for educational purposes only.

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Saffron for Depression and Anxiety

Saffron for Moderate to Severe Depression (and anxiety too)

saffron-pic-2

When thinking of herbs, I think most people think of St. John’s wort for depression. However, there is another herb that is starting to get attention and shows great promise. 

While most of my research was on saffron for depression, saffron has been shown to be helpful for anxiety as well.

What is Saffron

saffron-pic-1

This is considered the most labor intensive herb to harvest and thus the reason for the high price for purchase.  Because it is so expensive, beware of cheaper substitutes that may be passed off as the real thing.  In an analysis of 151 samples of saffron, results showed that up to 90% contain one or more foreign substances. 

The reason that it is so expensive is because it takes 150,000 flowers to produce 2.2 pounds of the yellow staining saffron spice which comes from the pistil, the orange-red stigma and styles in the center of the bloom.  The pistils need to be removed and dried by hand and then are sold whole or in a powder that dissolves and turns bright yellow in water. 

It is known in traditional Chinese medicine as fan hong hua, and prescribed for depression.  The saffron tea is said to lift the spirits and calm the nerves. 

 The safranal, which is an essential oil in the plant, is said to me the main constituent that is effective for depression. 

What the Research Shows

The recent interest in saffron for depression is due to some clinical research done in 2005 and 2006.  The Hamilton Depression score was used to determine the subject’s level of depression.  Double blind randomized trials were carried out.  2% safranal saffron extract was orally given in tablet form.  This was in doses of 30 mg./divided, given 2 times daily.  The first trial was small and compared the dose of saffron versus the placebo in 40 subjects.  The effects were noticed within the first week and increased during the 6-week trial.  The average Hamilton Depression score at the start was 23 and at the end it was 10.  The placebo group averaged an improvement down to 18 on the Hamilton Depression score. 

Saffron was then compared to imipramine (common name Tofranil) and fluoxetine.  (Fluoxetine is the active ingredient in Prozac).  Two randomized double blind trials were carried out over a period of 6 weeks with 30 subjects in the imipramine trial and 40 in the fluoxetine trial.  In the imipramine study the subjects were given 100 mg. doses and in the other trial they were given 20 mg. daily.  A significant improvement was noted again almost immediately after treatment with the saffron.  There were no adverse side effects from those taking the saffron but in the subjects taking the drugs they noted sweating and dry mouth as common side effects. 

Two more recent studies looking at the hydro-alcoholic extract of the saffron petals on those with mild depression.  The first study was published in 2006.  It was a double- blind placebo controlled trial conducted on 40 people over a 6 -week period.  The petal extract was given in 30 mg. doses per day.  Improvement in the saffron group was noted in the first week while no significant improvement was noted in the placebo group.  During the 6 -week trial period the saffron petal extract proved to be significantly more effective than a placebo. 

Another study using the petal extract was done in 2007.  This study compared the petal extract once again to fluoxetine. The trial was conducted over an 8- week period with 40 people in the study who had Hamilton Depression scores that averaged at 22.  30 mg. of the petal extract and 20 mg. of the fluoxetine were administered in tablet form twice daily. 

Again, the effects of the saffron were noted right away, within the first week.  Scores dropped down to 10 in both groups.  (anti-depressants usually take 6 weeks to take effect)

My Thoughts on Saffron Use for Depression/Anxiety

couple of people

 

Saffron appears to be better than a placebo and just as effective as fluoxetine but may act quicker and without any side effects.  Saffron petal may be just as effective as the stigmas

These studies are not large but are promising.   Saffron has been used and shown to be effective in those with moderate to severe depression and is fast acting.    Saffron is also good for those with anxiety, stress and OCD.  Often one or more of these other conditions coincide with depression.

 

Further research is needed with more test subjects than just 40 in a trial. However, effects were noted within the first week and improvements continued through the trials and without side effects. 

I would like to know where the saffron was sourced from, which product brand they used since it can be challenging to find a reputable brand.  I would also like to see more studies using the saffron petal as perhaps this can be just as effective as the stigma thus less costly. 

 

Where to get Saffron

For me personally, I am still trying to locate a reputable source for the pistils and petals to make a tincture but until then I have been using the Life Extension capsule saffron. 

  • Saffr’ Activ ® is an extract derived from the red stigma of the saffron. (www.saffractiv.com)  (cultivated in Iran, N. Africa and Greece) It comes in liquid and tablets.  It is NOT available in the US.  If you are outside the US and have used this brand or will try this brand, I would love to hear your results with the product. 
  • Other products are based on roughly 88.5 mg. tablets of saffron extract standardized to a minimum of .3% safranal (Vitacost, Biotrust, Swanson, Pure Formulas, Life Extension).  These products are touted on weight loss and decreased snacking. 
  • Consumerlabs.com is a good site to use to check if a product has the ingredients is says it has on the label. For herbs, many generic products seem to not have what it says on the label. When in doubt, purchase a quality brand and not a big box store brand when it comes to herbs. (to look up supplement ingredients on consumer labs there is a yearly small fee)
  • Know what parts of the herb are used: Saffron pistils and petals have shown to help depression in studies.  When I researched products, some say they contain leaf and stem.  This would be a waste of your money 

Should you Try it?

First make sure you are using a product from a reputable source.  When in doubt, call and ask questions.  If they can’t or don’t respond to your questions, then it may be best to avoid that product.  Always speak with your health care person prior to herb use as herbs can interact with some medications. (Although in my research it appears that saffron is safe to use with medications) Since saffron may increase serotonin, discuss its usage first with your doctor if you are currently taking an SSRI.  (I could not find any warnings in regards to this, but best to play it safe).  Based on what some research states, you may want to limit your intake to a short time of 26 weeks or less. Because these products are at a higher dose than what depression studies have used, you may want to try this instead-the Life Extension product is in a capsule.  Open it up and take only one half in the morning and the other half at night, or start with even a lower milligram amount and take only 1/2 a capsule per day. 

Beware of Imitation Saffron Products

saffron-pic-3

While you may be purchasing your saffron in capsule form, here are some things you can look for if using whole pistils.

o   There are several ways to tell if you have the real thing versus a fake product

  • the pistil should have a trumpet shape at the end
  • if the pistil is perfectly straight then it is a fake
  • Smell it-it should have a woody aroma. A fake often has sandal wood added to it.
  • Add it to water-the saffron will turn the water a golden sunny yellow color. The fake will turn it a more reddish color. The coloring is a gradual process for the real saffron and the coloring effect is immediate in the fake product. 
  • The fake threads will dissolve as you rub it between your fingers, the real saffron will not.
  • The Kashmir saffron is the best quality. The Iranian saffron is shorter, a bit more brittle but still good to use. 
  • Fake saffron is often made with corn silk links and then dyed.
  • Some powdered products are saffron mixed with more affordable herbs such as marigold and safflower.

When to Use Caution

  • long term use may cause kidney damage and central nervous system damage (B. Mars, A.H.G in The Desktop Guide to Herbal Medicine and Hosseinzadeh, et. al.,)
  • large doses may cause coughs or headache (B. Mars, A.H.G in The Desktop Guide to Herbal Medicine)
  • Avoid during pregnancy and breastfeeding (B. Mars, A.H.G in The Desktop Guide to Herbal Medicine)
  • Some do say that more than the 30 mg. per day and for long periods could be toxic and that 1200 mg. or more per day may cause nausea and vomiting. (long periods were defined as anywhere from 26 weeks to 6 months weeks)  (examine.com; naturaldatabase.therapeuticresearch.com-this is a paid site)
  • Others say that 1.5 grams per day and up to 5 grams per day is safe (livestrong.com)
  • The only side effect that was noted in the Saffron studies was less snacking! This could be due to the elevated serotonin action in the body.

Overall it appears that saffron is safe to take for 8 to 26 weeks but after that it may do more harm than good.  Just because it is an herb, not a medication, does not mean it is safe.   Always use caution and seek the help of a professional when using herbs. 

My Experience with Saffron

Before having my clients try a product I am not familiar with, I often like to use myself (or family) as guinea pigs.  I purchased one bottle of the Life Extension product.  I took one capsule two times per day until the bottle was finished.  I missed several days of the second dose and two days did not take any over the course of supplementation. 

I did notice an overall improved mood and a sense of calmness.  Please note that I do not have moderate or severe depression but have had some stressful events recently that I can say have been impacting my mood.  The saffron was supportive.  I used to suffer from anxiety as a child and teen and what helped was changing my diet and balancing my blood sugar and hormones. However, I must admit I am still not the most mellow person in the world!  What was interesting recently is that when my husband and I were talking about an upsetting event he said “I am sick to my stomach over this.  Doesn’t it bother you?  How can you be so calm?”  My husband is usually not one for feeling overly anxious.  Maybe I need to give him some saffron!

In addition to that, saffron is touted as a product to curb cravings.  I did notice less of an appetite and did snack less mid-day and in the evening. 

I contacted Life Extension to ask about their product.  While their product bottle does say for positive mood enhancement, it also says it supports healthy eating habits.  The company responded to my questions right away.  The reason for the higher milligram dose is because they are basing it off a study using saffron to curb snacking, not studies looking at its use for depression which used a different dose.  You can find the abstract to that study here. Their product uses Satiereal® which is derived from the stigmas of the saffron flower.  Satiereal is a registered trademark product of INOREAL. Life Extension also provided to me a great deal of information of their standards in regards to quality and testing of their products.  So, I trust their product and their other products as well.  My next step is to contact INOREAL! 

I still have questions about the high dose of the Life Extension product and the possible contraindications if used for long periods of time.  I believe this product can be helpful to use for short periods of time while you are focusing on other aspects to address your anxiety and depression. 

Lastly, if you are anxious or depressed and have a reduced appetite, a product with a milligram dose higher than 15-30 mg. may not be for you.  You don’t need to take a saffron product that will reduce your appetite even more.  However, could the product reduce your anxiety and depression to the point that you would regain your appetite?  If you try products with the higher milligram dose I would love to hear your results!

In the end, I feel that if you are struggling with a mental health issue, it is best to seek the support of a professional who can assist you to see if saffron (and if so, which saffron product) is right for you. 

Bottom line

Keep in mind, an herb is not a magic pill.  Herbs rather support the body and allow your body to do what it needs to do.  My philosophy is to combine herbs with a diet that is right for your body. If you continue to consume a diet filled with refined, sugary, starchy, nutrient deficient foods, then you need to work on that. All the herbs (or supplements for that matter) in the world will not help you if you continue to put the wrong foods for you into your body. 

 

 

Sources:

Akhondzadeh, S. et. al., Comparison of Crocus sativas L. in the treatment of mild to moderate depression: a

   double-blind, randomized and placebo controlled trial.  Phytotherapy research, 19(2005)148-151

Akhondzadeh, S. et. al. Comparison of Crocus sativas L. and imipramine in the treatment of mild to moderate

   depression: a pilot double-blind randomized pilot trial, BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 4 (2004)

   12-16.

Balch, P. Prescription for Herbal Healing.  2nd Edition NY: Avery

Basti, A.A. et. al. Comparison of petal of Crocus Sativus L. and fluoxetine in the treatment of depressed out-

   patients: a pilot double-blind randomized trial. Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology & Biological Psychiatry,

   31 (2007) 439-42.

Bauman, E. & Friedlander, J. (2013) Therapeutic Nutrition. Pengrove CA: Bauman College

Boon, H. & Smith, M. (2009) 55 Most Common Medicinal Herbs. Second edition. Canada: Robert Rose Inc.

Gladstar, R. (2012) Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs.  A beginners Guide.  MA: Storey

   Publishing. 

Gleen, L. (2/28/06) Saffron: Crocus sativas. cms.herbalgram.org

Gregor, M. (10/19/12) Saffron vs. Prozac. http://nutritionfacts.org/video/saffron-vs-prozac/

Gregor, M. (10/18/12) Wake up and smell the Saffron. 

   http://nutritionfacts.org/video/wake-up-and-smell-the-saffron/

Hoffman, D. (2003) Medical Herbalism.  The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine.  VT:

   Healing Arts Press. 

Hosseinzadeh, et. al. Acute and Sub acute Toxicity of Safranal, a Constituent of Saffron in mice and rats.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3813202/

Mars, B.(2007) The Desktop Guide to Herbal Medicine.  CA: Basic Health Publications, Inc.

Moshiri, E. et. al. Crocus sativas L. (petal) in the treatment of mild to moderate depression: a double-blind,

   randomized and placebo controlled trial.  Phytomedicine, 13 (2006) 607-11. 

Noorbala, A.A. et. al. Hydro-alcoholic extract of Crocus sativas L versus fluoexetine in the treatment of mild to

   moderate depression: a double-blind, randomized pilot trial. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 97 (2005) 281-84.

Phillips, B. (2006) The Book of Herbs. Utah: Hobble Creek Press

Schar, J. (2/12)A taste of good cheer: Saffron for treatment of Cancer related depression. www.naturopath.com/

   saffron.html

Uddin, R. (9/23/15) Saffron Poisoning. http://www.livestrong.com/article/255826-the-benefits-of-saffron-root

___(nd) Saffron.  https://examine.com/supplements/saffron/ 

 

If you are sick and tired of feeling sick, tired, fatigued, depressed, anxious and more and have given up hope then Karen’s simple, effective, individualized and sustainable approach may be what you need. 

Karen Brennan, MSW, CNC, Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition and Herbalist is the author of Tru Foods Depression Free Nutrition Guide; How Food Supplements and herbs can be used to lift your mood and owner of Tru Foods Nutrition Services, LLC. 

For more information visit  www.trufoodsnutrition.com

Get her Food Swap Guide here to get started on your health journey today! Want more information, like her fb page here

As a nutrition professional, Karen does not treat, cure nor diagnose. This information is for educational purposes only.

 

Karen Brennan, MSW, CNC, Herbalist

Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition®

Tru Foods Nutrition Services, LLC

www.trufoodsnutrition.com

303-522-0381

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Detox Salad

Detox Salad

detox-salad-pic

 

While I am not a huge fan of detox diets, this is a salad that can be added into your meals and contains vegetables and herbs that aid in detoxing the body.  This salad can be used as a side dish and or you can add some protein to it, maybe some avocado slices, etc. and take it to work for lunch the next day. 

Ingredients

  • 1 small head broccoli
  • ½ head cauliflower
  • 3 carrots chopped
  • ½ a bunch parsley
  • ½ a bunch cilantro
  • 1/8 cup raw sunflower seeds
  • 1/8 cup raw pumpkin seeds
  • 2 T. nutritional yeast
  • Ratio: 3 T. EVOO and 1 T. lemon juice
  • s/p to taste

Directions

  1. Place the broccoli florets into food processor and process into small pieces. Remove and place in large bowl
  2. Next add in the cauliflower and process until very small pieces and then add to bowl with broccoli.
  3. Next add in the carrots the food processor and then add to the bowl with broccoli and cauliflower
  4. Chop up the parsley and cilantro and add to the bowl. Add in the yeast
  5. In a separate bowl, blend the EVOO and lemon juice. Add s/p to taste. Pour over broccoli blend and mix in.  Depending on how much broccoli blend you have and your taste preference, you may need to increase the amount of the dressing. 
  6. Note: you can adjust this recipe to your taste. Next time try basil and garlic or sliced almonds. 

Cilantro: this herb is great for cleansing.  It contains compounds called flavonoids. These antioxidants bind to heavy metals and aid their removal from the body via urine. These compounds can also help fight inflammation caused by toxic overload.

Cauliflower and broccoli: these foods contain organosulfur compounds, essentially a fancy way of saying they contain sulfur.  Sulfur rich foods can reduce inflammation, and bind to and aid in the excretion of heavy metals. They also can protect the liver from toxins.  I bet you can’t say that about your fast food burger!

 

If you are sick and tired of feeling sick, tired, fatigued, depressed, anxious and more and have given up hope then Karen’s simple, effective, individualized and sustainable approach may be what you need. 

Karen Brennan, MSW, CNC, Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition, is the author of Tru Foods Depression Free Nutrition Guide; How Food Supplements and herbs can be used to lift your mood and owner of Tru Foods Nutrition Services, LLC. 

For more information visit   www.trufoodsnutrition.com

Get her Food Swap Guide here to get started on your health journey today! Want more information, then like her fb page here

As a nutrition professional, Karen does not treat, cure nor diagnose. This information is for educational purposes only.

Share this:Share on YummlyShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on LinkedInShare on TumblrShare on VKShare on RedditEmail this to someonePrint this page