Human Connection & Healing

loneliness

In clinic, I sat down with a man from Serbia with Rheumatoid Arthritis. He said his belief in a holistic approach to health was his main reason for establishing care today. He brought in with him a bag full of supplements, his prescription medications and cut outs from magazines and articles regarding foods, herbs, vitamins etc. looking for my input. He was seemingly doing ‘everything’ right so why was he not better? As we continued our conversation, he mentioned that his disease started a few years after moving to the U.S. His eyes lit up when he talked about his life in Serbia. He shared stories about his strong connection with his people and a sense of belonging. He expressed the loss of leaving his friends, community, culture and food. He had not made any meaningful relationships since his move and missed his life in Serbia. He spent most of his day, watching YouTube videos of Serbian dances, music and people. We talked about the importance of connection and community and how loneliness can lead to chronic illness. I would like to share our conversation as loneliness affects us at some time in our lives and this information may just help someone you know.

WHAT IS LONELINESS?

Our need for human connection is ingrained in our DNA. Loneliness is a lost sense of belonging and not having meaningful contacts. 40% of Americans report they are lonely. It is an emotional state when we feel disconnected. We all desire to be seen, heard and valued. We crave authentic relationships and look for a tribe to create a sense of belonging. Lack of human connection signals the autonomic nervous system that something is wrong and it activates the fight or flight or stress response. A loss of human interaction and social support can lead to chronic stress which leads to chronic illness. Studies show loneliness is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, anxiety, depression, insomnia, elevated inflammatory markers, infections and shorter life spans. A meta-analysis of 70 clinical studies showed the negative health effects of loneliness was equivalent to smoking fifteen cigarettes a day. It is found to be more harmful than obesity and being sedentary.

HOW DOES LONELINESS AFFECT HEALTH?

For many people, there is a stigma to admitting that you are lonely.  Sharing that you are lonely is admitting you are not worthy of being loved. Loneliness is the consequence of having a gap between the interactions and social support you would like to have and those you have. So, human touch is often replaced by maladaptive coping mechanisms. We substitute real connections with working longer hours or virtual activities like watching television, news channels, social media, online sites and gaming. Increased stress leads to more impulsive behaviors and addiction to alcohol, drugs, and high risk activities. We may find ourselves working more, sleeping less, become less social, less physically active, eating poorly and isolating ourselves further from friends, family, co-workers and people. The age of technology, television, transportation and communication has changed the fundamental nature of our relationships and we have to figure out ways to reconnect with others.

HOW DO WE RECONNECT?

  1. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Pay attention to the connections you already have. Start with one person. Find a family or friend and make a ritual to meet and connect regularly. This can be a lunch or dinner date, movie or game night, a walk with a neighbor, a regular phone call or travel plans with good friends.
  2. Join group activities with an education or discussion focus like book clubs, taking a language class, learning a new skill, belonging to a social or religious organization.
  3. Participate in volunteering, doing good deeds or charity work.
  4. Find people with similar interests like pet rescue causes, health and fitness, hiking clubs, cultural organizations , gardening, wood working or cooking activities.
  5. Connect to social media platforms with people of similar interest and create authentic, positive connections.

We are interdependent on each other. When an emotional storm hits like losing a job, getting diagnosed with a serious illness, divorce or death, making real human connections allows us to lean inwards to our communities where we can connect and belong. We each bear the responsibility to reach out to each other and seek meaningful connections.  Make eye contact, smile and take notice of anyone who may be lonely in their lives and you may just save a life by reaching and connecting.

References:
Holt-Lunstad J, Smith TB, Layton JB (2010) Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-analytic Review. PLoS Med 7(7): e1000316. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000316
Rico-Uribe LA, Caballero FF, Martín-María N, Cabello M, Ayuso-Mateos JL, Miret M. Association of loneliness with all-cause mortality: A meta-analysis. PLoS One. 2018;13(1):e0190033. Published 2018 Jan 4. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0190033
Anderson, G. Oscar. Loneliness Among Older Adults: A National Survey of Adults 45+. Washington, DC: AARP Research, September 2010. https://doi.org/10.26419/res.00064.001
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The light in me, bows to the light in you~ Namaste
Dr. Patel was named one of the TOP DOCS in Phoenix Magazine 2009, 2016, Healthcare Provider of the Year 2017 by the Fountain Hills Chamber of Commerce and Internist of the Year 2011 by the American College of Physicians Arizona Chapter. She is uniquely trained, board-certified and practices both Pediatrics and Internal Medicine in Fountain Hills, Arizona. She is additionally fellowship trained and board certified in Integrative Medicine.
She has a passion for teaching medicine and acts as a preceptor for both medical residents and providers in training. Dr. Patel has a special interest in Integrative Medicine, Women’s health, Pediatric & Adolescent care, Nutrition and Medical Cosmetics.

Emotional Eating – The Gut Brain Connection

brain gut

Last month in clinic, I met with a lovely lady who struggles with her weight. She lives a stressful life with numerous responsibilities. Food is comfort, convenience and her choices are usually unhealthy due to limitations of time and money. Growing up with a parent with addiction, her eating patterns were created long ago. She had tried many diets and failed. During my conversation, we discussed why we eat the way we do and how early programming, genetics and neurotransmitters dictate eating habits. Join our conversation on how the gut and brain are connected and how to fix it with an Integrative Approach.

Do you know why you overeat? Different brains drive different eating behaviors based on brain activity. The Amen Clinic uses SPECT Imaging to determine what type of overeater you may be. Also, a genetic blood test by Pathway Genomics ( Healthy Weight), can identify neurotransmitter gene snps that may create different patterns of eating. Here is an explanation of the what and why of emotional eating!

The Amen Clinic defines 5 Types of Overeaters:

Type 1: Compulsive– They get stuck  on thoughts of food. They have no control over food. Usually, they are night time eaters, worriers and have trouble sleeping. Food calls out to them. They must get their way, often argumentative, rigid and inflexible. They have trouble seeing options and holds grudges.

Brain Scans show increase activity in the anterior cingulate gyrus correlating with LOW SEROTONIN and people become stuck on negative thoughts or actions.

Integrative Fix: Low serotonin states can be reversed with exercise, walking, yoga, sunlight, regular meals, water, prayer and meditation. Work on introducing foods rich in tryptophan (eggs, tofu, turkey, salmon, nuts and seeds) and high fiber, fermented food for a healthy gut microbiome and a diet rich in omega 3 fats. Serotonin is primarily produced in the GI tract with the help of our good gut bacteria. Keep them happy and they will keep you happy!

Type 2: Impulsive- whenever they see something they like they can’t resist. Can’t say no even if they aren’t really hungry. Eat the second, third, fourth serving. One can’t have just one chip, one slice or a few of something, they tend to finish the whole container, bag or dish. This type is often associated with ADD, lack of focus and attention. Trying to elevate serotonin with medication makes the impulse control worse and they notice more impulsive eating behaviors.

Brain Scans show decreased activity in the prefrontal cortex. This is related to low DOPAMINE states.

Integrative Fix: Natural dopamine elevators include protein rich diet (tyrosine, phenyalanine), less saturated fats, more fermented food and pre-biotics, sufficient mg+, Vit D,B3, B6, B9 and iron, music, meditation, sunlight, exercise regularly and sleep 7-8 hours. Dopamine is also made in the gastrointestinal tract, so a high fiber diet to improve your microbiome will have a direct impact on dopamine elevation.

Type 3: Both Compulsive and Impulsive– They think about food all day long, cannot stop focusing on food seeking and they also have no restraint to prevent them from eating large amounts of food. This can be associated with bulimia, gambling and alcoholism.

Brain scans show too much activity in the anterior cingulate gyrus and they get stuck with low SEROTONIN and low activity in the prefrontal cortex with low DOPAMINE levels.

Integrative Fix: Need to elevate both serotonin and dopamine with optimization of amino acids like tyrosine, tryptophan with a protein rich diet, fermented food, pre-biotic foods, adequate vitamins and minerals, sunlight, exercise, meditation, music and sleep.

Type 4: Depressed Overeater- This person usually medicates sadness with food. They struggle with boredom, loneliness, depression, low self esteem, pain, crying, low energy, and suicidal thoughts. Seasonal mood changes, dysthymia or major depression are more likely in women.

Brain scans show increased activity in the deep limbic areas of the brain where emotional trauma lives and decreased DOPAMINE activity in the prefrontal cortex.

Integrative Fix: Need to treat the underlying mood disorder. For serious conditions, it is necessary to have a medical team of psychiatrists, general practitioners, psychologists and health coaches to create a comprehensive plan that may include medications, nutrition plan, regular exercise, sleep hygiene, and supplements as mentioned above. Studies on mindful based stress reduction programs (MBSR) have shown to be beneficial in post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), especially patients with previous trauma. Meditation and yoga are also great tools to help balance the emotional centers of the brain.

Type 5: Anxious Overeater-They medicate anxiety, tension, fear, nervousness, panic and self-doubt with food. They tend to predict the worst and wait for something bad to happen, made worse with negative thoughts, caffeine, alcohol.

Brain scan shows increased activity in the basal ganglia and low gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) states.

Integrative Fix:  One can elevate GABA naturally with breath work, yoga and meditation. Focusing on getting a proper 7-8 hours of sleep, engaging in stress reducing activities, a healthy gut microbiome and a nutrient rich diet with amino acids like L-glutamine and taurine, Vitamin B6, Zinc and Magnesium. Consider teas such as lavender, lemon balm, skull cap, valerian and green tea to increase GABA naturally.

We are all on the same journey and share the same struggles in life. We are a product of our thoughts, experiences, environment and genetics. When we mindfully choose the nutrition, the movement, the people and the environment that serves us, we up-regulate the pathways and genes that promote health and wellness. Through this blog, it is my desire to instill hope and promise that health is an achievable goal and knowledge is the path to wellness.

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The light in me, bows to the light in you~ Namaste
Dr. Patel was named one of the TOP DOCS in Phoenix Magazine 2009, 2016, Healthcare Provider of the Year 2017 by the Fountain Hills Chamber of Commerce and Internist of the Year 2011 by the American College of Physicians Arizona Chapter. She is uniquely trained, board-certified and practices both Pediatrics and Internal Medicine in Fountain Hills, Arizona. She is additionally fellowship trained and board certified in Integrative Medicine.
She has a passion for teaching medicine and acts as a preceptor for both medical residents and providers in training. Dr. Patel has a special interest in Integrative Medicine, Women’s health, Pediatric & Adolescent care, Nutrition and Medical Cosmetics.

You Are What You Eat (Part 2)

skin and food

 

Did you know the skin is the largest organ in the body? It is covered with it’s own ecosystem of yeast and bacteria and it’s layers are made up of the food you eat. Need convincing? Let’s break it down!

What protects you from oxidation? Antioxidants from vegetables and fruit!

apple

What happens if you lack antioxidants?  Ever noticed what happens to an apple left out in the sun? The skin is bombarded with stress from UV rays, toxins, chemicals, injury, germs, inflammation and immune attacks. The phytonutrients in the apple are what keeps it from decaying rapidly. We too need to eat these powerful anti-oxidants from colorful fruits and vegetables to block free radical oxidation of our skin. Think of your vegetables as a ‘natural multi-vitamin’ for your skin. Without them, the skin oxidizes, turns hard, leathery, brown and mutations in the DNA can lead to skin cancer.

What to eat? Your leafy greens and highly colored vegetables like carrots, squash, oranges, spinach, strawberries, broccoli and pumpkin are loaded with beta-carotene, Vitamin A, C, E and K. These powerful antioxidants protect the skin from free radical damage and aging. Vitamin C helps build collagen, helps with skin healing and protection from oxidative stress. Vitamin E from nuts and seeds acts as a natural sunscreen. It absorbs harmful UV light from the sun when applied to the skin. Niacinamide, a form of Vitamin B3 has been clinically shown to decrease skin cancer risk.

What to cut out? Foods that increase oxidative stress to the body include oily, fried foods in vegetable, soy, corn, canola oils like french fries, fast food, donuts, fried pastries, fried fish and meats. Add to this soda and junk food loaded with sugar, preservatives, dyes, colors.

What makes your skin thick, moist and plump? Sugar and Proteins!

What happens if you lose proteins and sugar? Breakdown of key proteins in the mattress of the skin, collagen and elastin, lead to saggy, crepe-like skin with no recoil. A natural sugar, hyaluronic acid, maintains moisture in your skin. When this sugar is depleted, the skin is dry and thin.

What do I eat?  Vitamin C, amino acids like proline and lysine are essential in building new collagen. Fruits and vegetables with yellow, orange, red colors are rich in Vitamin C. Egg whites and wheat germ are good sources of proline, whereas all lean meats, fish, dairy products and nuts are good sources of lysine. Also, to help slow down the breakdown of collagen and hyaluronic acid, increase your consumption of Vitamin A (retinoids) and Alpha lipoic acid found in organ meats, spinach, broccoli and yeast extract.

What do I cut out? Degradation of collagen, elastin, fibrin, destruction of fibroblasts and hyaluronic acid is caused by oxidative stress from pollution, UV radiation, tobacco, heat exposure, poor sleep, increased stress and poor eating habits. Invest in your health by using good sun protection, healthy organic foods, quit smoking and spend time in nature away from urban areas when possible.

What makes your skin Water Proof? FATS!

Good fats play a critical role in the structure and water-proofing of the SKIN.

What happens if the fat breaks down? It leads to thinning, dehydration, eczema, wrinkles and dull skin. Eating the right foods with Omega 3, 6, 9 fats and ceramides can help provide the building blocks for your fortress, making younger, healthy, beautiful looking skin.

What to eat? Essential fatty acids are found in foods like wild caught fresh water fish, salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, herring, omega 3 eggs, almonds, walnuts, seeds, olive, sunflower and safflower, coconut and avocado oils . Ceramides which are frequently deficient in eczema and wrinkled skin, are found in wheat germ, brown rice and vegetables like spinach and beets.

What to cut out? Bad fats like trans-fats in frosting, cakes, cookies, biscuits, breakfast sandwiches, crackers, donuts, margarine, fried fast food and frozen pizza. These fats are inflammatory and may lead to rapid aging, eczema, psoriasis and other inflammatory conditions.

Life is a ongoing cycle of growth and destruction, cells constantly evolving based on its contact with the environment. Your body is an intricate web of proteins, carbohydrates, fats, minerals, vitamins and energy. To restore, repair and protect your skin, add foods that serve you. Using nutrition to improve function, longevity and resiliency is the path to restoring vitality and living a healthy life.

 

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The light in me, bows to the light in you~ Namaste
Dr. Patel was named one of the TOP DOCS in Phoenix Magazine 2009, 2016, Healthcare Provider of the Year 2017 by the Fountain Hills Chamber of Commerce and Internist of the Year 2011 by the American College of Physicians Arizona Chapter. She is uniquely trained, board-certified and practices both Pediatrics and Internal Medicine in Fountain Hills, Arizona. She is additionally fellowship trained and board certified in Integrative Medicine.
She has a passion for teaching medicine and acts as a preceptor for both medical residents and providers in training. Dr. Patel has a special interest in Integrative Medicine, Women’s health, Pediatric & Adolescent care, Nutrition and Medical Cosmetics.

You Are What You Eat (Part 1)

brain food

Is the body just a composition of all the food that you eat?  YES! To convince you, let’s talk!

I will walk you through your brain and show you how what you eat makes up every intricate part of your cells affecting how you act, sleep, feel and move. Making the connection between food and the body will allow you to take back control of your mental health. Here is how it works!

What is the Brain?

Your brain is made up of food – 80% water, mostly fat, some protein, amino acids, micro-nutrients and glucose. So when you feel sluggish, tired, foggy brain, irritable, moody, sleepy, angry, anxious, forgetful, it is all related to food! Food can be healing or can be toxic leading to cellular breakdown, malfunction and harmful disease. What you feel is just a symptom of an injured brain, signaling you to find out what substances you need to REMOVE or what you need to ADD.

  1. Water- Believe it or not, water makes up 80% of the brain. Every single chemical reaction needs water. Dehydration causes neurological dysfunction and causes the brain to physically contract and shrink. Even mild dehydration affects memory, cognition and focus. Drinking a warm glass of water before a test has been shown to increase reaction time dramatically. The next time you feel fatigued and need a boost, reach for a full glass of spring or filtered water and aim for 2 liters or 8 glasses of water a day. What not to drink? Soda, water in plastic bottles, sugary drinks, juice, sports drinks with artificial dyes, colors and sweeteners, because they poison the brain cells causing glycation end products corrupting your neurons leading to neuropathy, damaging cellular signaling and causing brain inflammation. How does this translate to how you feel? Your brain function declines, memory fails, mood swings, sleep is disrupted and you feel sick and tired. Bottom Line: Water = Energy Production
  2. Good Fats– The cell membrane is like the walls of your home. It keeps the outside from coming in. Just as your front door stays closed, until you invite someone in, receptors on the surface of the cell membrane decides what gets in and what stays out. As long as your walls and doors are in good condition, you and your family are safe inside from bad elements. Right? Your cell membrane also protects your precious belongings (DNA, Mitochondria, organelles) from bad toxins and influences outside the cell. It screens and allows only approved items into the cell. This cell membrane is entirely made up of fat. On nerve cells, there is a special insulation, called a myelin sheath, also made out of fat to help the nerve cell conduct electricity. Breakdown of the myelin sheath causes poor nerve conduction and conditions like Multiple Sclerosis.  The cell membrane and myelin sheath need good fats like Omega 3 from fresh sources of wild caught fatty fish (SMASH) Salmon, Mackerel, Anchovies, Sardines, Herring, grass fed animals and fats from plant sources, olives, avocados, hemp, chia, flax seeds, almonds, walnuts and other tree nuts. These fats make up a robust cell membrane that can seal the inside and send the right signals for proper brain function. Like in the story of the three little pigs, if you build your cell membrane with straw or sticks, your home will not last long and will break down quickly when taxed by bad influences. What not to eat? Transfats, hydrogenated oils, fried goods, processed vegetable oils, fats from industrial animals, pastries, french fries, potato chips, processed meats like cold cuts, sausage, bacon, hot dogs, icing, fast food, cookies, donuts, crackers, muffins, pies, corn chips, tortillas, movie or microwave popcorn, ready to use dough and margarine. These fats, when incorporated into the nerve cell membrane, causes the membrane to send inflammatory and distress signals to the interior of the cell. This signaling leads to abnormal protein production, demylenization, glial cell activation, cellular and mitochondrial destruction and poor cell to cell communication. How does this affect you? Memory loss, movement disorders, behavioral disorders like ADHD, neuropathy, weakness and dementia. Bottom Line: Good Fats = Cellular Integrity & Anti-inflammation
  3. Amino Acids & Protein– What makes up your emotions? They are made of amino acids from protein. When you are happy, calm, satisfied, relaxed, you are releasing serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, GABA, all produced from amino acids like tryptophan, tyrosine and glutamine. In addition to neurotransmitter production, proteins also conduct intra-cellular communication and DNA translation to produce essential enzymes, messenger, structure and transport proteins. So, good sources of protein from plant sources like beans, lentils, legumes, vegetables, seeds, nuts and grass fed animal and fish sources support good brain function. What not to eat? A high refined sugar, processed carbohydrate diet. Diets rich in crackers, cereal, rice, bread, pasta, cookies, cakes, pretzels, chips, donuts, muffins, candy, soda, factory animal proteins and pre-packaged processed foods rich in preservatives, dyes, chemicals, pesticides and additives poison the brain’s physical and chemical functions. This destruction in nerve cell function and communication leads to mood disorders like depression, anxiety, insomnia, anger, irritability and fatigue. Bottom Line: Good Proteins = Good Mood
  4. Vitamins, Minerals & Phytonutrients-  What makes up memory?  When you remember your childhood sweetheart or where you left your car keys, it is all due to the magic of vitamins and minerals. Acetylcholine, made from choline from the B Vitamin family, is the major neurotransmitter involved in memory, movement and cognition. Other B vitamins like B1, B6, folate and B12 also play an essential role in the production and protection of neurotransmitters for memory and mood. Deficiencies in B vitamins has been long associated with neurocognitive decline, brain atrophy, dementia and memory loss. In addition to vitamins, minerals like magnesium, iron, calcium and zinc are an integral part in making the magic of memory happen. Replacing these vitamins and minerals through leafy greens, vegetables, lentils, oats, grass fed liver and meats, wild caught fish, organic eggs, nuts, seeds, whole grains can help restore brain function. Phytonutrients found in colorful vegetables and fruit like blue berries and spices like tumeric have powerful antioxidants that act like superheros to protect the nerve cells from oxidative stress from pollution, toxins, infections and chemicals in our soil, air, water and food. What not to eat? Foods like fish and shellfish contaminated with mercury, nitrates from processed meats (cold cuts, hot dogs, bacon, sausages), artificial sweeteners like aspartame in diet soda, sugar-free ice cream, jams, cookies, pudding, ketchup, jello, gum, pies, candy and yogurt, and high sugar foods listed above including alcohol. Bottom Line: Vitamins, Minerals, Phytonutrients = Memory

So, wellness seekers if what you are looking for is better cognition, mood and memory, look no further than your plate. You are what you eat. Your daily choices have a direct impact on the health of your organs. Using nutrition to improve function, longevity and resiliency is the path to restoring vitality and living a healthy life.

 

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The light in me, bows to the light in you~ Namaste
Dr. Patel was named one of the TOP DOCS in Phoenix Magazine 2009, 2016, Healthcare Provider of the Year 2017 by the Fountain Hills Chamber of Commerce and Internist of the Year 2011 by the American College of Physicians Arizona Chapter. She is uniquely trained, board-certified and practices both Pediatrics and Internal Medicine in Fountain Hills, Arizona. She is additionally fellowship trained and board certified in Integrative Medicine.
She has a passion for teaching medicine and acts as a preceptor for both medical residents and providers in training. Dr. Patel has a special interest in Integrative Medicine, Women’s health, Pediatric & Adolescent care, Nutrition and Medical Cosmetics.

Natural Remedies for Stress

stress

A young lady struggling with daily worry, feelings of being overwhelmed, insomnia and chronic fatigue comes to the clinic to find solutions. She quit her job as her ability to focus and complete tasks had become exhausting. Her food choices have been poor, extreme fatigue keeps her from working out and her sleep is disrupted. She has been to multiple specialists and has tried a number of different mood medications to help her feel better. Her stress level has been high for a while, stemming from being a single parent, financial crisis, weight issues, diffuse pain, recurrent infections and irritable bowel syndrome. She is on a downward spiral and this has affected her daily life and relationships.

’21st Century stress’ can force us into a life of multi-tasking, chronic stress, technology, lack of time, information overload accompanied with poor nutrition, sedentary lifestyle and over-indulgence of other substances like coffee, sugar, salt, trans fats, hydrogenated oils, processed foods, drugs and alcohol. This chronic toxic stress and poor lifestyle leads to inflammation spreading like wildfire, setting the entire body ablaze, leading to eventual destruction and disease.

How Do We Regain Control of Our Health?

The ESSENTIAL pillars of health include a plant based, whole food, nutrient-dense diet, regular exercise, good sleep, spirituality, cultivating gratitude and resiliency through mind-body exercises, social connection and self-care.
Slowing down, finding balance and learning the nutrition hacks to creating resiliency is the key. 
A well-balanced diet is one that includes all the colors of the rainbow. Your cells need A, B, C, D, E, K Vitamins, minerals like Chromium, Zinc, Selenium, Magnesium, Iron, amino acids, good fats, fiber, fermented foods, herbs and spices. Think of nutrients as powerful weapons against stress, each color with its own unique super powers. They help your cells function normally and protect the cells from toxins, pollution, infections that cause oxidative damage. These nutrient-rich foods act as chemical signals which help optimize the cell’s anti-oxidant function, energy production and health.
The Standard American Diet provides empty calories, refined and processed chemicals, salt, bad fats and high sugar foods. They are lacking all the nutrients a cell needs to prevent aging, disease, damage and death. Instead, unhealthy food sends the wrong signals to cells, breaking down the cell’s mitochondria, cell membrane, DNA, protein and energy synthesis, cellular function, and eventually makes the whole body sick.
Food also has a tremendous power to heal. There are herbs, roots and mushrooms that can be added to support the adrenals and help us through a stressful event. The best way to receive benefits from these foods is through dried herbs or teas. Some clinical studies have looked at how adaptogens support vitality, immunity and longevity.
WIRED?
  1. Ashwagandha,Withania somnifera- (Indian Ginseng) ‘Fried’ or ‘reaching your limit’?  This herb has shown to help balance stress. It can lower inflammation (CRP), dampen anxiety (noradrenaline and cortisol ),  support memory and sleep. It helps down regulate the fight or flight, upregulate the parasympathetic system (acts like GABA and increases acetylcholine). It comes from the nightshade vegetable family (tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, okra). Helpful with sleep.
  2. Holy Basil– (Tulsi) – acts as a mild relaxant, it’s leaves can be used to help people who are nervous and have frequent colds. It can support the liver and immune system. Easy to grow in your backyard, leaves can be used as tea.
TIRED?
  1. Asian Ginseng (Panax)- used for vitality, stamina, mental & physical performance.
  2. Siberian Ginseng(Eleutherococcus senticosus)- supports longevity, fatigue, muscle pain and immunity. Studies show increased endurance and mental performance in patients with mild fatigue and weakness.
BRAIN FOG?
  1. Bacopa- cognitive enhancer that preserves acetylcholine (supported by Vitamin B1, B5) that helps with memory, focus, recent recall by reducing the stress response.
  2. Rhodiola– helps with fatigue, exhaustion & inflammation. Studies show improved attention, cognitive function and mental performance in fatigue and in chronic fatigue syndrome.
SICK?
  1. Astralagus– “Qi” tonic supporting stamina and resistance to disease. Boost immune function and decrease inflammation. Has a role in the mitochondrial function in muscle cells.
The best way to receive nutrition is through the food choices you make. If you choose to take a supplement, always consult with your doctor to verify any drug interactions or harmful effects from the product. Just as you would not take a prescription that has not been clinically tested and evaluated by regulatory agencies for safety and efficacy, similarly you would not want to take a vitamin or supplement that is based on testimonials, uncertain ingredients, marketing promises or false labeling.
Food is Medicine, Energy, Information, Connection.  Making the right decisions with food may seem like a difficult path to follow. Start where you are, make small changes, announce your decision to others, remind yourself of ‘why’ you need to take back control of your health. Let us guide you on your journey to wellness!
‘A journey of a thousand miles, begins with a single step’- Lao Tzu.
  • Panossian A1, Wikman G.: Evidence-based efficacy of adaptogens in fatigue, and molecular mechanisms related to their stress-protective activity. Curr Clin Pharmacol. 2009 Sep;4(3):198-219. Epub 2009 Sep 1.
  • Alexander Panossian* and Georg Wikman: Effects of Adaptogens on the Central Nervous System and the Molecular Mechanisms Associated with Their Stress-Protective Activity.Pharmaceuticals (Basel). 2010 Jan; 3(1): 188-224.
  • Pooja, A. S. Bawa and Farhath Khanum, Anti-inflammatory activity of Rhodiola rosea – “a second-generation adaptogen”, Phytotherapy Research, 23, 8, (1099-1102), (2009).
  • S.K. Kulkarni and Ashish Dhir, Withania somnifera: An Indian ginseng, Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry, 32, 5, (1093)
  • V. Gupta, S. Saggu, R.K. Tulsawani, R.C. Sawhney and R. Kumar, A dose dependent adaptogenic and safety evaluation of Rhodiola imbricata Edgew, a high altitude rhizome, Food and Chemical Toxicology, 46, 5, (1645)
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The light in me, bows to the light in you~ Namaste
Dr. Patel was named one of the TOP DOCS in Phoenix Magazine 2009, 2016, Healthcare Provider of the Year 2017 by the Fountain Hills Chamber of Commerce and Internist of the Year 2011 by the American College of Physicians Arizona Chapter. She is uniquely trained, board-certified and practices both Pediatrics and Internal Medicine in Fountain Hills, Arizona. She is additionally fellowship trained and board certified in Integrative Medicine.
She has a passion for teaching medicine and acts as a preceptor for both medical residents and providers in training. Dr. Patel has a special interest in Integrative Medicine, Women’s health, Pediatric & Adolescent care, Nutrition and Medical Cosmetics.

The Road to Relaxation

old man

Last week in clinic, I sat with a man in his ’80’s who I have been treating for anxiety and depression for the past year. He shared with me that he was once a high functioning executive and his life changed dramatically after his wife suffered a stroke. It led him on a downward spiral to insomnia, panic, grief, loss, hopelessness and loneliness. It triggered an intense fear of death and dying and he has trouble leaving the house or engaging in social activities.

It is natural to have feelings of loss, grief and sadness. A stressful event may cause feelings of panic or anxiety with rumination and worry. It is easy to get stuck in this place of worry, perseveration, re-living past events, leading to a path of months or years of depression and anxiety. As part of a holistic approach, I often recommend evidence-based relaxation techniques to help restore balance in the system. I hope they can be helpful to those who suffer from anxiety and depression.

  1. Breathing Exercises – There are many techniques that work to bring attention to our breath. It creates an awareness of our bodies and tethers our minds to our physical beings for the moment. When we focus on our breathing, slow our breath with intention, we down regulate the stress chemicals that make us anxious or depressed. Find a quiet spot, start by sitting in a relaxed position, observe your breath without trying to control it. You may place one hand on your chest and the other on the abdomen to appreciate the rise and fall. You can remind yourself with something as simple as “breath-in, breath-out”. I often teach children finger breathing, trace the fingers of one hand with the index finger of the other hand as you breath in and out. And I also teach a technique called 4-7-8 where you breath in through your nose for a count of 4, hold for a count of 7 and exhale through your mouth for a count of 8 to induce relaxation. When your exhalation is longer than your inhalation, you are activating the relaxation pathways that message your body to rest and digest. This changes the conversation in your body and decreases cortisol and adrenaline levels and infuses your system with happy, calm signals.
  2. Meditation – There are many misconceptions about this word as some incorrectly associate it with ritual or religious beliefs. Think of it as a technique to clear the stress from your mind. Meditation is simply the act of inward concentration. Taking the wandering mind and redirecting it to the inner workings of your body. Whether you concentrate on your breath, your heart beat, relaxing your muscles, or you repeat a phrase that brings you peace or calms your mind, they all work and are considered meditation. It is difficult for most people to sit still and keep their mind from wandering to the past or future events. Guided meditation websites, CDs and apps can help lead those seeking assistance with their practice. Apps like Calm, Headspace, Insight Timer, and Stop Breath Think are very easy to follow and have become immensely popular. My recommendation is to work up to a 20 minute twice daily meditation practice to help reverse the inflammation caused by the toxicity of stress on our systems. Think of it as a mind re-boot. In addition to lowering anxiety and depression, studies show that meditation helps lower blood pressure, risk of heart disease and stroke.
  3. Progressive Muscle Relaxation- A wonderful technique to use at night to settle the restless mind. As you lay in bed, find a relaxed position, and close your eyes if you feel comfortable. Now, feel your toes. Appreciate the sensations, whether they feel tingly, numb or cold. Now curl your toes and tighten your muscles, take a deep breath, relax your toes and breath out. Next move up to your calves, then your thighs, abdomen, shoulders, hands, face, taking one part at a time, tightening the muscles, breathing in and then relaxing the muscles and breathing out. This exercise is excellent when the mind needs to quiet down and the body needs to relax and sleep.
  4. Guided Imagery Exercise- Redirection of the mind to a happier place can help decrease our stress response. Children and artistic people with an active imagination find this technique to be easy and beneficial. Taking your mind to a pleasant experience, like a visit to the beach. Find a quiet spot, close your eyes and then transport yourself to this place. Experiencing it with all your senses; feel of the hot sand, sound of the breezy ocean, taste of the salty air, seeing the waves crash across the shore with the cool, blue water washing over your toes. Allowing for the mind to enter a quieter level without the busy chatter that drives tension and stress. This is a beneficial technique for those who have trouble resting at night.

Relaxation techniques such as the ones mentioned above are only a few suggestions. Any other methods whether it is music, dance, massage, pet therapy, spirituality, exercise, art therapy, social connections, nature walks can all work to restore balance in the brain. Start treating any imbalance with nutrition, exercise, sleep, and mind-body work. It is also important to seek proper mental health and medical professional care in treating serious conditions. It is my belief that true health is obtained by taking the middle road, bridging Eastern and Western medicine.

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The light in me, bows to the light in you~ Namaste
Dr. Patel was named one of the TOP DOCS in Phoenix Magazine 2009, 2016, Healthcare Provider of the Year 2017 by the Fountain Hills Chamber of Commerce and Internist of the Year 2011 by the American College of Physicians Arizona Chapter. She is uniquely trained, board-certified and practices both Pediatrics and Internal Medicine in Fountain Hills, Arizona. She is additionally fellowship trained and board certified in Integrative Medicine. 
She has a passion for teaching medicine and acts as a preceptor for both medical residents and providers in training. Dr. Patel has a special interest in Integrative Medicine, Women’s health, Pediatric & Adolescent care, Nutrition and Medical Cosmetics.

Coughs & Colds: Your Natural Guide

cold

It’s cough and flu season again. Missing school and days of work can be difficult during this time of year. Scavenging the pharmacy aisles for the perfect remedy to get you through the night can be frustrating and confusing especially when you are sick. So, here a few quick tips on how to stay healthy in the winter and what to stock up on.

Prevention is Key!

Studies show that our immune systems flourish at higher body temperatures and our immunity is reduced at cooler body temperatures. Unfortunately, cold and flu viruses thrive in cooler environments where our immune systems are not optimal. Some suggest it may be one of the reasons we are more likely to get sick in the winter.

To make yourself more resilient, increase your core temperature. Consume foods that are nourishing and warming during the winter months. Enjoy soups, stews, hot drinks and teas with immune boosting herbs and foods.  Use warming spices like cinnamon, cloves, ginger, fennel, black pepper, cayenne and cardamom. Minimize your time with large crowds to limit your exposure to potential viruses during the cooler months like cruise ships and shopping malls.

Manage your stress level, slow down, balance your commitments and breathe. Wash your hands frequently. Consider hot yoga, steam, warm baths, and saunas during these months. As it gets darker earlier in the winter months, plan to go to bed earlier. Resting, celebrating, and being merry in the winter months may have some added health benefits for mood and boosting your immunity.

Nature knows Best!

Eat seasonally. Nature provides us with the right foods to help us stay healthy. In the fall and winter, eat seasonal yellow, orange and red vegetables which are loaded with Vitamin C and A. These vitamins are essential for a strong immune system. Winter fruits and vegetables like clementines, oranges, lemons, grapefruit, tangerines, pomegranate, pumpkin, squash, yams, sweet potatoes, bell peppers (yellow, orange, red), onions, garlic, beets, turnips and carrots provide essential vitamins to boost your immunity. It is amazing how Food Is Medicine!

Plant Based Remedies!

Here are some simple, safe plant-based remedies for cough and cold symptoms.

  1. Menthol, Eucalyptus, Frankincense, Cinnamon, Cloves, Oil of oregano and Camphor – essential oils help as decongestants for cold symptoms. Add nasal massage for added benefit.  Use as nasal ointments or drops, chest rubs, or added to bath water, a cup of hot water as an inhalant, or even an aromatherapy infuser.
  2. Infusions with Thyme, Peppermint, Eucalyptus and Horehound- loosen secretions as an expectorant.  Other expectorants are garlic, cinnamon, cayenne pepper and ginger. Hot and spicy foods will do the trick!
  3. Teas for ant-viral properties, sore throats and cough: Ginger-Honey-Lemon Tea, Sage Tea, Echinacea Tea, Elderberry Tea. Sip on these for prevention and to shorten the duration of the common cold.
  4. Warm salt water gargles, nasal saline rinses and warm sinus compresses
  5. Fermented Foods- yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, kambucha, miso
  6. Supplements like Zinc, Vit D3 , astralagus, panax ginseng, andrographis can be added to boost your immune system during the cold & flu season.(always consult with your doctor first!)

With all natural remedies, it is important to partner with your healthcare provider to make sure they are safe with your prescription medications and medical conditions. Any condition that progresses to respiratory distress, dehydration, high fever or symptoms in high risk patients should lead to immediate medical attention. Medical advice should be taken particularly with infants under the age of one, pregnant women, elderly or sick with any over-the-counter remedies.

As with everything, my first recommendation is balance. Proper nutrition, sleep, exercise, stress reduction and self-care are the corner stones to good health. Nourish your body with healthy habits and reap the benefits of a healthy mind, body and soul!

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The light in me, bows to the light in you~ Namaste
Dr. Patel was named one of the TOP DOCS in Phoenix Magazine 2009, 2016, Healthcare Provider of the Year 2017 by the Fountain Hills Chamber of Commerce and Internist of the Year 2011 by the American College of Physicians Arizona Chapter. She is uniquely trained, board-certified and practices both Pediatrics and Internal Medicine in Fountain Hills, Arizona. She is additionally fellowship trained and board certified in Integrative Medicine. 
She has a passion for teaching medicine and acts as a preceptor for both medical residents and providers in training. Dr. Patel has a special interest in Integrative Medicine, Women’s health, Pediatric & Adolescent care, Nutrition and Medical Cosmetics.