Natural Treatments for Depression & Anxiety: The Defining Disorders of Our Time

depressed young man sitting on the bench

Depression is predicted to be the second largest contributor to the global burden of disease by the year 2020. By 2030, depression will be the #1 contributor to the global burden of chronic disease in high-income countries.

There is a greater than 16% lifetime risk of major depressive disorder (MDD). Persons living below the poverty level are nearly 2½ times more likely to have depression. 43% of persons with severe depressive symptoms report serious difficulties in work, home, and social activities.

There are no laboratory tests for MDD and diagnosis depends on Continue reading “Natural Treatments for Depression & Anxiety: The Defining Disorders of Our Time”

Improve Your Sleep for Optimal Health

Do you wake up feeling tired, foggy, achey? Do you tend to have a sore throat or a headache in the morning? If so, it’s likely that you have disturbed or insufficient sleep. Why is this important? Beyond just feeling tired, poor sleep is actually a leading cause of death and disease.

Recent studies show that disturbed or insufficient sleep predictably cause overeating, weight gain, and type II diabetes. “Sleep deficiencies and circadian disruption associated with metabolic dysregulation may contribute to weight gain, obesity, and type 2 diabetes potentially by altering timing and amount of food intake, disrupting energy balance, inflammation, impairing glucose tolerance, and insulin sensitivity.”(1) Other studies showed that chronic insuficient or disturbed sleep is directly linked to inflamation. (2) In this study participants were given a 4h/night sleep opportunity for for five nights and found increased levels of all the major inflamitory cutokines: IL-1beta, IL-6, IL-17 and hsCRP.

CDC Sleep StatisticAccording to the CDC, 35% of Americans get less than 7 hours of sleep per night. You can use the National Sleep Foundation Sleepiness Test to see if you are more or less sleepy than the general population. If you rate “very sleepy” on this test, you should speak to your physician.

Even if you dont have apnea, there are many things you can do to improve your sleep from changing your sleep environment (light, sound, bedding), modulating activities near bedtime, moderating caffeine and alcohol intake, reducing allergens, optimizing nasal breathing, supplementing melatonin, and many, many more. If you are concerned about your sleep, contact Dr. Morris or to help you optimize your sleep and give your health and vitality a major boost.

Natrol Quick-Dissolve Melatonin 1mg

We all tend to make less melatonin as we age. This vital hormone is made in the pineal gland. If you are having trouble falling asleep then quick-dissolve melatonin tablets are probably for you. Take 0.5 to 5mg about 45 minutes before you want to be feeling drowsy. Word to the wise, don’t take melatonin less than 7-8 hours before you want to be awake. Taking them with less than 7 hours to go in your sleep-night will have you feeling groggy when you wake up.

Natrol 3mg time release

If you have trouble staying asleep, then you may need time-release melaltonin tablets. These don’t have a dramatic effect on falling asleep, but they can help prevent middle of the night wakeups. Adults with middle of the night wakeups often benefit from taking 1.5-6mg before bed.

NOW L-Theanine

My front-line therapy for insomnia from an overactive mind, anxiety, and stress is L-Theanine. This is a simple amino acid with a variety of health benefits. It is abundant in green tea. It relaxes the mind and body by increasing GABA and glycine levels in the brain. GABA and glycine are inhibitory neurotransmitters that work to offset overactive excitatory neurotransmitters. Theanine promotes a state of relaxation and calm and thereby, reduces stress, anxiety, and ADD. Chewables or lozenges can be VERY effective. Click the picture on the left to buy my preferred brand. Paired with breathwork, L-theanine can help you find and explore a new normal of calm and relaxation.

Jarrow 100mg PhosphatidylSerine

If you are having really bad middle of the night wakeups, especially if you are feeling wide awake, worried and stressed in the middle of the night, and can’t fall back asleep for more than 15 minutes, you may benefit from Phosphatidylserine (PS) capsules. PS tempers evening cortisol spikes. Take 100-300mg at bedtime, or 100-300mg with dinner and at bedtime. Start at low doses and work your way up with this one. More is not better, and too much can make midnight wakeups worse. PS is not for everyone, so I save this intervnetion for last with really tough cases of middle of the night insomnia.

menopause sleep problemMenopause can be a time of major hormonal, physical and psychological change for women. During the perimenopause, womans ovaries gradually (over several years) decrease production of estrogen and progesterone. If a woman has her ovaries surgically removed (oophorectomy), menstrual cycles end abruptly and menopausal symptoms become more severe. One year after menstrual periods have stopped, a woman reaches menopause, on average around the age of 51.

Screenshot 2019-03-25 13.28.06Menopausal symptoms vary from woman to woman. From peri-menopause to post-menopause, women report the most sleeping problems. Most notably, these include hot flashes, insomnia and sleep-disordered breathing. These sleep problems are also often accompanied by increased depression and anxiety which can also disturb sleep. When appropriate, bioidentical hormonal replacement therapy B-HRT with estrogen and progesterone can help with these and other menopausal symptoms. If night sweats and insomnia is the major complaint, or if hormone replacement is not appropriate, I often like to start with black cohosh which has a good track record of helping women from with sleep. The exact pharmacodynamic properties of black cohosh have not been established. Some studies suggest a selective estrogen effect, and others describe a serotonergic and dopaminergic receptor blocking effect.

OSA DiagramSleep apnea is very common, as common as type 2 diabetes. It affects more than 18 million Americans, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Risk factors include being male, overweight, and over the age of 40, but sleep apnea can strike anyone at any age, even children. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) occurs where your airway becomes obstructed by your tongue or relaxed airway muscles as you fall asleep. When this happens, it causes a severe dysruption to your sleep as your body gets starved of oxygen and is jolted awake–some times hundreds of times a night.

More than just making you severely tired, sleep apnea is a serious medical condition that causes high blood pressure, type II diabetes, and increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Suprisingly, most people with sleep apnea do not remember these sleep interuptions where they gasp for air or even sit bolt upright in bed. It often takes a sleep partner or a medical sleep study to determine if you have apnea. Snoring, being overweight, having difficulty breathing through your nose, swollen tonsils, a narrow throat, a large tongue are all risk factors for having sleep apnea. You can take the American Sleep Association Sleep Apnea Questionaire to gauge your risk of having sleep apnea.


For snoring and mild to moderate sleep apnea, a simple Breathe-Right nasal strip can make a world of difference. Even if you don’t snore or suspect apnea, many people who try nasal strips report feeling more rested and alert in the morning. They may even remember dreams more indicating more efficient REM sleep. Weight loss never hurts either. In more severe cases, an oral appliance to keep your lower jaw forward or a CPAP machine may be indicated.

Honeywell 17000 HEPA

White noise is the last recomendation I’ll make. I think the best way, by far, to generate soothing white noise is with a high quality HEPA air filter in your bedroom. The improved air quality is a bonus that may also improve your beathing and sleep. This is especially important if you have cats or dogs that like to sleep on your bed–or on you, like my velcro-kitty, Tommy.

TR +Tommy Face Snuggle 2016

 

 

 

 

Attention Deficit Disorder & Adrenal Hormones

adderall-cereal1

For starters, I take issue with the word “disorder” in attention deficit disorder (ADD). It’s not a stretch to suggest that ADD is actually a normal physiological response to the many insults of the modern world. The hyper-vigilance, distractibility, and impulsivity of ADD could all be predictable evolutionary adaptations intended to help us be safer and more successful in stressful environments.

Stress is not just mental, it quickly jumps to a physiologic effect. When the brain perceives stress, it sends both chemical and nerve signals to the adrenal glands ordering them to make two short-term stress hormones [epinephrine and norepinephrine] and the long-term stress master hormone cortisol. Not eating regularly enough and getting low blood sugar also spike cortisol levels. Cortisol is now known for promoting the dreaded stress-gut that gives chronically stressed people that apple shape.

Epinephrine and norepinephrine both promote the “fight or flight” response to the world by stimulating increased tone in the sympathetic nervous system. Other attributes of the “sympathetic state” are the tendency to freeze up, tense muscles, shallow breathing, and divert blood flow away from the extremities and digestive tract toward the large muscles. The sympathetic nervous system also interrupts digestion and makes it harder to concentrate and integrate and make new memories. If you have ever had trouble getting someone else (or yourself) to see a new point of view in a heated argument, you can probably thank the sympathetic nervous system for that gem of human psychology.

It all makes perfect sense if you think about it; if your body senses a threat (stress) it gets everything ready for a fight or flight from danger. Cortisol helps us prepare for stress by mobilizing resources to raise blood glucose and cholesterol. This sugar boost is good if you’re about to sprint away from an angry rhinocerous, but not so good (AKA promoting diabetes and heard disease) if the stress is an email or a phone call.

Here’s the problem: Continue reading “Attention Deficit Disorder & Adrenal Hormones”

Nutritional Neurotransmitter Support

Neurotransmitter effectsImproving Mood, Clearing Perception & Breaking Addictions with Nutritional Neurotransmitter Support

If you are struggling with anxiety, depression, obsessive tendencies, attention defecits or even some addictive tendencies, there is a good change that you could benefit from a leg-up in the form of nutritional neurotransmitter support.

The human body uses chemical messengers in the form of neurotransmitters to relay signals between and within our nervous system and our somatic body. Various neurotransmitters jump across the synaptic space between our nerves and other cells (muscles, sensory organs, glands…) in a highly controlled manner.

The concert of making, transporting, releasing, binding, degrading and reuptaking various neurotransmitters controls everything from our breathing & heart rate, appetite & digestion, all voluntary and involuntary movement, our reflexes, and all five of our senses.

Continue reading “Nutritional Neurotransmitter Support”