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Did you know that we live in a sleep deprived society?

According to a study produced by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 1/3 of Americans report that they get insufficient sleep. That is a lot of people! The CDC has declared sleep deprivation in the United States as a public health epidemic. This is a significant public health concern because long-term inadequate sleep or sleep disorders can increase the risk for cancers, obesity, diabetes, anxiety, depression and cardiovascular disease.

Sleep deprivation can also impact immune function. Cytokines, proteins that are secreted from immune cells that regulate immune and inflammatory responses, are released while we are sleeping. Obtaining fewer hours of sleep reduces the production of these important messengers.

The National Sleep Foundation advises a sleep range of 7- 9 hours per night for adults and 10-11 hours per night for children. The suggestions listed below can support us in improving sleep hygiene and maintaining adequate amounts of sleep consistently:

  • Getting more sunlight during the day helps to support the secretion of melatonin at night. Melatonin is an important hormone that helps to regulate sleep-wake cycles.

  • Sleep in a dark, quiet space. This means that television and electronic devices (i.e. computer, smartphone, ipad) should be turned off during sleeping hours. The blue light emitted from these devices can be disruptive and inhibit the secretion of melatonin.

  • Avoid alcohol and stimulants such as caffeine (i.e. coffee, black tea, green tea, dark chocolate) late in the day.

  • Implement a relaxing routine before bedtime, i.e. warm bath, listen to peaceful or meditative music.

  • Go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning.

  • Valerian root is an herb that can help with falling asleep and staying asleep. This tea can be sipped during the evening hours.

Committment to getting a healthy amount of sleep each evening is important to our health and overall wellbeing.

Sweet dreams!

In Health,

Dr. Keats

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Many studies are showing that there may be a link between Vitamin D and COVID-19. Recently, the journal, Aging Clinical and Experimental Research, published a study that found an association between low levels of vitamin D and high numbers of COVID-19 cases and mortality rates across 20 European countries. The COVID-19 virus is known to cause the release of inflammatory chemicals referred to as pro-inflammatory cytokines. Vitamin D may help to prevent the release of these inflammatory chemicals.

Italy and Spain have each experienced high COVID-19 mortality rates. This study shows that both countries had lower average vitamin D levels compared to most northern European countries.

Previous observational studies have reported an association between low levels of vitamin D and susceptibility to acute respiratory tract infections. Other studies have also shown that Vitamin D may help to reduce the respiratory symptoms associated with COVID-19.

As we know, there is no evidence-based approved treatment for COVID-19. However, there are actions that we can take to help to protect ourselves. Things like maintaining healthy sleeping patterns, following a nutrient-rich, anti-inflammatory diet and participating in a regular exercise routine can be beneficial for supporting immune function. In addition, Vitamin D levels should be checked. Vitamin D is important for immune function and so many other processes in the body. I typically recommend for patients to have their 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels checked at least twice per year. This allows for appropriate, individualized dosing of Vitamin D3.

In Health,

Dr. Keats

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The National Institute of Health (NIH) defines stress as a physical or emotional reaction experienced as we encounter changes in life. The two broad categories of stress include physiological or physical and psychological stressors. Examples of physiological stressors include illness, pain or injury and psychological stressors can involve concerns about health, finances, job demands, family difficulties and other matters that produce worrisome thoughts or emotions.

Elevated levels of stress can disturb our quality of life, leading to conditions like insomnia, depression, anxiety, gastrointestinal distress, irritability, headaches, and fatigue. Stress can also have a deeper impact on our health. Studies have shown that chronic stress levels significantly impact immune function negatively. Also, 75-90% of human diseases have been shown to be related to the activation of the stress system, i.e. cardiovascular, metabolic, neurodegenerative diseases, cancer.

How can herbs help?

Adaptogens and Nervines are herbs that serve as excellent aids in supporting the mind and body during stressful times. Two of the most studied adaptogenic herbs are Ashwagandha and Rhodiola. These herbs support the body’s ability to accommodate physiological and psychological stresses by regulating a stable hormonal balance between the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and adrenal glands, also referred to as the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis.

Ashwagandha and Rhodiola each help to regulate cortisol levels, our major stress hormone, and have a variety of additional properties which include helping to reduce anxiety and depression, reducing inflammation, and regulating healthy sleeping patterns.

Lemon balm and Passionflower belong to the nervine family of herbs which means that they help our bodies adapt to stress while reducing anxiety and supporting a more relaxed mood. These herbs can also help to reduce muscle tension, insomnia, depression, and worrisome mental patterns.

These Adaptogenic and Nervine herbs can be taken as a standardized capsule, tincture or in tea form. Be sure to speak with your healthcare provider before taking to avoid any potential contraindications with medications or medical conditions.

In Health,

Dr. Keats

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