Q: After being on birth control and then just having my first child 2 months ago, I feel like my hormones are very imbalanced. What can I do to balance my hormones naturally?
Your liver is tasked with inactivating most of your hormones. So liver support is always a good idea with any hormonal issues. B-vitamins, Magnesium, Milk thistle are good supplements to consider, and a diet high in dark green leafy veggies, beets, garlic and onions will also support the liver. Limiting coffee consumption (green tea is LOTS better for your liver) and consuming alcohol in moderation if at all. Other than that, in order to support your liver’s job of eliminating excess hormones, make sure your diet is also high in fiber, to lock the hormones and other toxins in the bowel so that they can be efficiently eliminated, rather than reabsorbed.
Q: Zoloft Withdrawal? I have just stopped taking Zoloft approx. 3 weeks ago and just started experiencing symptoms of vertigo, joint pain, fatigue, light-headedness, etc. What can I do about these withdrawal symptoms?
Zoloft has a half-life of about 26 hours. That means that for every day that passes without taking the medication the level in your blood falls by about 50%. After three weeks, there is virtually no Zoloft left in your system.
Some withdrawal symptoms are normal. You can reassure yourself that these symptoms are common, take measures to ensure your safety, and wait it out. Make sure that you are getting a good night’s rest, eating regularly and drinking plenty of water. Exercise will help too, but since you are dizzy, choosing the activity wisely and doing it with a friend would be a good idea.
Zoloft is designed to artificially boost levels of the body’s “sunshine chemical” serotonin. The amino acid 5HTP is the natural building block for serotonin. If you are looking to support your serotonin production system naturally, I would probably recommend taking 50mg of 5HTP 2-3 times a day. This will probably also stop your withdrawal symptoms. If you like the effect, you can stay on the 5HTP. If not you can stop taking it after a week or two and then the withdrawal will probably be much easier if you notice anything at all.
One important note is that patients should NEVER take 5HTP while there is any Zoloft (or anther SSRI drug) in their system. Doing so could cause a toxic load of serotonin. In general, it is best to approach this, and all psychological issues, with the help of a professional health care provider experienced in these areas.
Q: What is a cluster headache? What causes it, and how can I treat it?
Cluster headaches are sudden, severe and usually short duration headaches that affect men 5-8x more often than women. They are called “cluster” because they will often come in packs affecting the patient a few times a day or week and then disappear for long periods of time. The cause is largely unknown. Drug therapy is often beta blockers, or tricyclic antidepressants. While often effective, these drugs can carry big side effects.
Natural therapy ideas include melatonin (1-3 mg/night) and calcium/magnesium supplements (500mg each with food). Stress reduction, adequate sleep, daily moderate exercise, and frequent small meals and plenty of water will help too. If you are a big caffeine drinker, taper down slowly and try avoiding it altogether for a month to see how that affects your experience.
Q: Can my abnormal Pap turn back to normal?
Abnormal paps (ASCUS or LSIL results) can and often do revert to normal paps given time in younger healthy patients, but it is IMPERATIVE that all patients with abnormal paps get screened again 6 AND 12 months later. This is done to follow your progress and to give appropriate treatment to prevent cervical cancer if the pap results do not revert back to normal. Cervical cancer can be very serious and so one must not take chances.
Abnormal paps and cervical cancer are caused by the human papiloma virus (HPV). The other approved option for women 30 and older is to get a Digene HC2 test which determines if the patient has any of a group of the 13 most cancer causing strains of HPV. If the HC2 test is negative, then the patient still must follow up in 12 months with another pap. If the HC2 test is positive, then the patient should go in for a colposcopy examination right away which is the best way to detect cellular changes that can lead to cancer in the early stages.
The Digene HC2 test is not routinely used in women younger than 20, because with or without an abnormal pap, these women (if sexually active) will often test positive for HPV and then clear the infection on their own.
There are newer genetic tests available that can determine exactly which strain or strains of HPV that patient with an abnormal pap has. Strains 16 and 18 are much more aggressive and dangerous than the other strains. Strains 6 and 11 cause genital warts, but do not cause cancer. Some other strains can still cause cancer, but they usually do this much more slowly than 16 and 18.
These newer genetic tests are very accurate but they are not FDA approved yet, so there are no clear guidelines about how doctors should use the information. That said, one could easily conclude that a patients with type 16 or 18 HPV infections should be watched very carefully.
Q: What is the difference between a naturopathic doctor and a homeopath?
Homeopathy is one tool in the toolbox of Naturopathic Medicine. Not all Naturopathic Doctors (NDs) use homeopathy. I am a ND, and I never recommend it myself. I’ll explain why below.
The practice of homeopathy was developed when European doctors were still using leaches and blood letting as primary “healing” methods. Patients and doctors alike were desperate to find less invasive remedies. A guiding principle in homeopathy is that “like cures like.” Homeopathic preparations are highly diluted quantities of various substances that in high doses can actually cause the symptoms the homeopathic remedy supposedly alleviates.
How diluted are we talking about? In a 30C strength homeopathic, the original solution with the supposedly active ingredient is diluted serially by a factor of 100, 30 times. This means that not even a single molecule of the original substance likely remains in the remedy. Potential magical effects aside, is quite literally just a sugar pill.
Proponents of homeopathy say that the powerful “energetic signature” of the original substance not only remains through the dilutions, but that it gets stronger the MORE you dilute it. That’s where the homeopathic camp lost my vote, completely. If this were true, one would have to be careful about taking too little of a homeopathic remedy–especially the most diluted ones.
Many users and practitioners of homeopathy claim that the benefits are profound, abundant and real. However, if in fact homeopathy has does have any impact beyond the placebo effect, modern science has definitely not caught up to how this could actually happen.