January 10, 2019
by Dr. Maya Sarkisyan
We all want to start our day will good energy and carry it on through the day. We want to achieve something, or just plain feel good.
Starting your day is actually directly related to how you ended your previous day. The state of your mind in the evening and the quality (and quantity) of your sleep will affect not only the energy you have the following day but your overall health – your digestion, immune system, nervous system, cardiovascular system and everything else.
Many of us can remember all-nighters we were able to pull off and get away with it next day. Some of us still do that, and it’s getting harder to maintain good health without proper sleep.
Sleep is the king!
During sleep, your body undergoes essential repairs, and your brain undergoes maintenance as the cellular waste is being flashed from it. It takes a lot of energy to do all this work, and the deeper you sleep, the more successful these repairs and detox.
So it requires some changes in your lifestyle to start towards a better night rest.
Perhaps not every day, but most days during the week you can perform all the steps. Other days perform only your favorites. But once you set up your night environment, it will be easy.
DOCTOR MAYA FAVORITES:
I recommend being home for 2 hours before bedtime. I cannot do it every day because I go out dancing at least once a week, and dance socials such as Argentine tango and Salsa dancing all start very late. So I have to modify this night ritual to feel more energy the next day.
I will share in a different article what I do in the morning to get myself back to high energy.
- Move electronics out of your bedroom. Do it once for a more permanent staff like TV, and every day for smaller stuff like iPads and consoles. I’m surprised that many people find it impossible to do. A TV in the bedroom is a big problem for every are in your life. Seriously, move it out. Bedroom is for resting, sleeping, and intimacy.
- Shut down all the screens. Blue light is very stressful for your nervous system. Make sure you have filters or software on your electronic devices to get rid of blue light.
- Many people use phones as alarms and/or running apps that measure sleep/snoring/etc. Put your phone on airplane mode, and turn it face down.
- If you use standard alarm – block it, so you don’t see the screen.
- Keep the temperature cooler during the night than through the day. The best sleep temperature is between 65 and 72 degrees.
- At least two hours before bedtime stop eating anything and don’t drink alcohol. The best it to have your last bite before 7pm, and have only water or herbal tea after. Sometimes it’s not possible but still, keep it in mind.
- Clean up your environment. It is much better to sleep in a clean room knowing that in the morning you will wake up to an organized space.
- Prepare your morning clothes, so you don’t have to waste your brain power on ordinary tasks. Even if you are going to work out in the morning – prepare your workout outfit and sneakers.
- Relax with a book.
- Get blackout curtains and block all the light sources you can. Get your bedroom as dark as possible.
- If you cannot fall asleep for 30 min – get up, go into another room, have dim lighting only and repeat some of your routines. After 15 minutes you can then go back to bed and try to fall asleep again.
- Drink a cup of herbal tea while reading or listening to relaxing music.
- Journal about the day and write down tasks for tomorrow.
- Take at least 10 minutes to practice mindful relaxation and/or spiritual practices. Usually, spiritual practices take longer. Examples – Prayer, Meditation, Breathing, Qigong.
- When you are in bed with your eyes closed – practice gratitude. First – appreciate defeats – they teach you valuable lessons. Then – recite gratitudes for which is good and positive in your life – name every little thing and be really grateful for it.
The steps are not in a specific order, and you can move them around, create new steps, and do whatever is necessary to fit it into your idea of relaxation.
But the main idea is this – create an environment in which every night you will be able to be repaired and washed on the cellular level.
Everything is better with health. And sleep is one of its main components.
December 23, 2018
by Dr. Maya Sarkisyan
You know how holiday season can take a toll on our health – eating at improper times, drinking perhaps more than usual, sleeping late, etc. I have put together this Holiday Essentials Supplements Guide with some of my most recommended supplements to help you take on the holiday season.
Check out “Holiday Essentials” category in my Favorites. (You can safely create an account on Fullscript – my online pharmacy that protects your information by law. Free shipping over$50)
Sleep & Stress
Between all the holiday activities it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Check out what I recommend for relaxation.
L-theanine, an amino acid found primarily in green tea leaves, can help promote relaxation and sleep. A study of individuals with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) found that 250 mg of L-theanine administered daily over 8 weeks decreased anxiety, depressive symptoms, and sleep disturbances. Another double-blind, placebo-controlled trial examined the effects of l-theanine supplementation on healthy adults when confronted with a stressor. L-theanine reduced both the subjective stress response and the salivary cortisol response to the stressor, supporting the anti-stress effects of L-theanine.
Melatonin, a neurotransmitter-like compound produced by the pineal gland, is synthesized from tryptophan through a series of reactions. These reactions are stimulated by darkness and suppressed by light, which suggests that melatonin is involved in the regulation of the body’s sleep cycle, the circadian rhythm, and other body functions.Research has shown that melatonin improves sleep quality, increases total sleep time and decreases sleep onset latency (SOL). A meta-analysis found that melatonin supplementation of 5 mg administered at 10 pm shortened time to sleep and increased sleep duration, indicating improved sleep quality. The recommended dose of effectiveness ranged from 0.3 to 10.0 mg/day depending on your individual needs.
During the holiday season, most of us are guilty of a little indulgence. Unfortunately, for many of us, indulging in certain foods can cause digestive discomfort and indigestion.
DGL (deglycyrrhizinated licorice), may help soothe indigestion due to its anti-inflammatory and protective effects. DGL is a form of licorice extract that contains no glycyrrhizin and is safe for those individuals concerned about hypertension.One study found that supplementing 75 mg of licorice root extract twice daily for 30 days resulted in significant improvement in the symptoms of individuals suffering from functional dyspepsia, also known as non-ulcer dyspepsia. Research has also demonstrated licorice extract to be as effective as bismuth (the main ingredient in Pepto Bismol) in H. Pylori eradication.
Digestive enzymes are naturally secreted in the stomach and small intestine to help you digest your food. During the holidays, taking additional enzymes can give your digestive system a little extra help to get through those large meals and decadent foods.Supplemental digestive enzymes often used to address various gastrointestinal disorders, help break down proteins, carbohydrates and lipids to their absorbable forms. Studies show that supplementation with pancreatic enzymes reduced symptoms of bloating, gas and fullness after a high calorie, high-fat meal (hello holidays!). When choosing an enzyme supplement, it’s important to note that broad-spectrum digestive enzymes may be more effective for overall digestion whereas single-enzyme supplements, such as lactase alone, are targeted for specific needs.
Your liver is involved in hundreds of body functions, including balancing hormones, metabolizing fats, and detoxification. Whether you missed a few hours of shut-eye or had an extra glass of wine (or two), B vitamins and Milk Thistle can support your liver and help you recover from the holidays.
Milk Thistle, a plant originating from Europe, has long been used for its hepatoprotective (liver protecting) effects. Its ability to prevent damage to the liver is thought to be primarily due to the antioxidant and free radical scavenging effects of silymarin and silybin, active constituents of milk thistle. Research has shown that silymarin decreases liver enzymes, ALT and AST, in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease patients.
B vitamins are essential to the activation of liver enzymes and proper functioning of liver detoxification pathways. For example, B vitamins, particularly B6, B12, and folate, are essential to the methyltransferase pathway, part of the liver’s Phase 2 detoxification.
You’re healthy all year, then the holidays roll around and suddenly… Hello, colds and flu! Sound familiar? Stress, loss of sleep, and indulging in certain foods, such as rich meals and sugary treats, can leave you vulnerable to illness. The good news is supplementing with probiotics or elderberry may help you feel better faster.
With over 70% of the human immune system residing in the gut, it’s no wonder that probiotics, well-known for keeping our digestive system happy, also play a role in keeping our immune system healthy.
Probiotics help modulate the immune response by influencing the actions of dendritic cells, macrophages, and T and B lymphocytes. Research has shown that probiotics may help prevent or decrease the duration and severity of upper respiratory tract infections, such as the common cold. Multi-strain probiotics, in particular, have demonstrated beneficial effects on immune health and greater efficacy than single-strain options.
When you’re starting to feel a little under the weather, Elderberry, also known as Sambucus nigra, maybe your new go-to remedy. Often found in syrup form, Elderberry is a great choice for adults and children.
Elderberry extract has been shown to be antiviral and has immunostimulatory effects, increasing inflammatory cytokine production. Clinical research shows that some elderberry extracts might improve flu-like symptoms and reduce the duration of colds by four days due to its high concentration of flavonoids and other beneficial vitamins, minerals, phytosterols, and carotenoids.
In the end, prevention is the key, so be sure to get plenty of rest, minimize rich and sugary foods (when possible), do daily deep breathing to combat stress, and always remember…it’s a joyous time of year!
REFERENCES: Inspired by capable and knowledgeable clinicians at the FullScript Pharmacy – to-go place at my clinic and your home. https://fullscript.com/blog/holiday-supplement-essentials
December 14, 2018
by Dr. Maya Sarkisyan
I can see a high value in early mornings. Besides that magical glow of the early sunlight, the air is crisp, it’s still relatively quiet, and if you find yourself in the countryside, birds are singing in the way they do only early morning. Also, if you start your first 15 minutes right – your productivity/relaxation/enjoyments/or “whatever it is you woke up that early for” will be so much more and more enjoyable. Your brain is fresh from its cleansing through the night, and you had dreams that took you out of your everyday reality. Your beginner’s mind is more open and receptive.
However, there is a trick to that. And this trick will be necessary regardless of how early or late you will get up. Perhaps you read all of that and said: I still want to go to bed at 3am wake up at 11am. That’s fine and the trick I’m about to share with you still applies.
You have to have an effective “go to sleep” process and efficient sleep time. I’ll talk about sleep routine in later chapters, so keep in mind that your day depends entirely on how you went to bed last night and how well you slept. Then how you started the first hour of your day.
Everyone is different, maybe you are married with kids, or single, or traveling a lot, etc. You might be waking up in different places or in different environments. Life is much easier to fit into the routine if you exist in a stable environment, however for some of us it’s not possible. Your morning routines can be flexible according to your needs, and you can design a few for different situations. The trick is that you have to practice all of them to make them a habit. And they all have to have a few components that are common to them. Consistent practice makes perfect, and rewards are immense.
Make your bed.
It helps you to start your day with success. And something significant happens with your brain when it experiences tasks accomplished. It becomes pre-conditioned for future success to complete more tasks. You don’t need to be elaborate and pile a bunch of pillows and decorations on your bed. Simplicity is brilliant, just make sure your bed is tidy.
Brush your teeth.
Even though it is an obvious thing we all do in the morning, you can turn it into the bio hack. Use your non-dominant hand to hold your toothbrush. Everything unusual you do creates neuro-connections in your brain.
- Try oil pulling. Take a tablespoon of sesame or coconut oil and swish it in your mouth for as long as you can but not less than 5 minutes. Better 20 minutes. You can do it while taking a shower. Spit it into the toilet. All the bacteria in your mouth will be pulled into that oil, and you start your day fresh.
- Use natural toothpaste. You can make your own, or you can purchase one free of fluoride. Fluoride is a known neurotoxin and should not be used regularly. Even small amounts of neurotoxins can be detrimental to your health. Some dental work requires the use of fluoride so discuss it with your dentist and make sure you understand all the answers and reasons for using it.
- You can use unique oil blends while brushing to fight bacteria. It includes neem oil, clove oil, tea tree oil, etc.
- Scrape your tongue with a special dental scraper.
Drink “Morning Lemonade” before anything else.
You have been dehydrated during your sleep, and that includes your brain – you use a lot of water while sleeping. Especially if you have night sweats.
Use only filtered/purified water. Filters are inexpensive and absolutely necessary.
It’s better to use room temperature water. Sea salt is to re-mineralize your body. You also can use drops of trace minerals.
Recipe: 12 oz purified water + 1/2 squeezed lemon + 1/4 tsp sea salt
(3 to 5 minutes)
Take thirty to fifty deep breaths and hold breath after the thirty – at the bottom of the breath. You might feel tingling in your fingers and toes midway through the practice which shows your body is being oxygenated.
Make sure you exercise caution and if at some point you feel dizzy, switch to the regular breathing and continue practicing.
(5 to 10 minutes)
It is essential to increase your metabolism in the morning to have good energy throughout your day. It is also important to preserve your adrenal glands and manage cortisol output. Therefore I recommend a short intense workout, nothing more than 10 minutes. All you need to do is to boost your metabolism for the day.
You can perform calisthenics, follow short workouts on Fitbit or any other exercise apps.
You can jump on a rebounder, do 15 min yoga routine, but whatever it is it has to raise your heart rate and get you out of the comfort zone.
(5 to 10 minutes)
You can combine it with oil pulling. If you don’t do oil pulling you can combine showering with a breathing practice.
You can also do gratitude practice in the shower. Recite everything and everybody you are grateful for. Avoid gratitude for extraordinary difficult events or people, after all, showering is not a therapy session, and you have a whole day in front of you to achieve great things. Save it for the forgiveness practice as it’s a bit more involved process. You can learn from everything in life.
In the last 3 minutes, you should alternate hot/cold water or just finish with cold water for 30 seconds to 3 minutes. It is best to expose your body, face, and head to the cold water.
Don’t be afraid of the cold, it signals your body to regenerate cells.
Start with 10 seconds and go with 10-second increments.
Important: Keep breathing.
Meditation is one single most effective tool for your personal and business success. All successful people meditate and tell others about wonders of it. There is no special power, talent, or skills required to start meditating. There is no competition, and nobody will test you on your meditation skills. And it is a powerful secret weapon nobody knows you have.
There are many different kinds of meditation – from guided to silent, walking to sitting, indoors to outdoors. It doesn’t matter which one you start with, as long as you start with something. There are youtube videos, apps, books, etc. Give yourself a chance to join the ranks of billionaires.
The best duration of meditation time is 20 minutes. More is better, less is acceptable. Concentrate on your breathing and follow instructions of whatever method you choose. The easiest one is to sit down, close your eyes and breathe.
Don’t expect your mind to be quiet because it will not – your brain is always working. Just breathe for 20 minutes. With time your mind will get quiet all by itself, and it can take years. It’s not a goal. Meditation doesn’t have a goal.
After that, you can write in your journal (while drinking tea or coffee), plan out the day, read your goals – for another 10 – 15 minutes.
Your day might feel very different after this short sequence of events. As it becomes a habit, you might want to add something to it or modify something. Maybe you will try “oil pulling” after all 😉
Have a great day!
Extra: Remember your dreams right after you wake up.
You unconscious mind might be telling you something through your dreams. Since the beginning of times dreams were told and interpreted, and even now we don’t know what exactly is the mechanism of dreaming. Chinese medicine explains dreams as your soul traveling while you are asleep to bring you the knowledge from other places. Some people practice lucid dreaming or shamanic journeying while sleeping, and I’m not talking about it here. If you remember your dreams – write it down.
June 25, 2018
by Dr. Maya Sarkisyan
For a long time, the conventional medical profession had an opinion that brain doesn’t regenerate past a certain age. Which doesn’t make any sense anymore, as now we know of pluripotent stem cells and science of epigenetics. We know that given right circumstances body will fight the disease and damage and will regenerate itself.
It is perhaps convenient and comfortable to accept limiting beliefs “supported by the science,” however, science is advancing rapidly, so we can, if we want, research more and start taking the health of our brain and nervous system into our own hands.
Well, I can help you to do that!
- Neurogenesis is the birth of new neurons – cells of your nervous system.
- Neuroplasticity is the creation of new neural connections in your brain.
I’m a big fan of both. Plus I have a DRD4 gene mutation – predisposing a person to “novelty seeking,” hence I continuously stretch my brain do all different directions. And it makes my life both interesting and challenging.
So, what can you do for your brain, you know, to ensure it’s growing, renewing, and stretching?
All roads to brain health are running parallel. In fact, it’s one road with multiple tracks. Let’s examine them.
- Nutrition – antioxidants, organics, hydration. Stop any processed foods. Your DNA has no idea what to do with it.
- Creative movements exercises – dancing, tai chi, qigong
- Limit artificial blue lights
- Fast – regularly or intermittent. Ask me if you don’t know how.
- Do non-dominant hand movements
- Continuously learn new skills – a new language, vocabulary
- Create positive affirmations
- Make goals and plans to achieve them
- Create art – paint, make jewelry, draw, ceramics, etc.
- Travel and see new, unusual places, mingle with locals, learn new things
- Practice gratitude. Every day pick something new to be grateful
- Ponder on the meaning of life. People get stuck in their belief system – get out of the box for a change. You can always go back.
- Pay daily attention to the wonders of nature
- Listen to people of opposite belief system.
- Practice tolerance and acceptance.
May 31, 2018
by Dr. Maya Sarkisyan
Just in case you didn’t know or forgot, we, humans, are animals just like our pets, lions, cows, etc. We are just different species of primates, and we have a prefrontal cortex which gives us a cognition. Sometimes we think we are superior. However, I recently watched a documentary on mantis shrimp, and now I have my doubts about a concept of human superiority.
Anyway, we are animals and, for the sake of this article, I will concentrate only on purely physical human body specifics such as multiple colonies of microbes living on us and in us.
Overall each average individual contains 3.5 lbs of microbes, parasites, fungi, and other microorganisms spread through his/her body! You are probably thinking you don’t have that much of it and thinking of that someone special who has way more parasites than you. Wrong. It’s the average, and you have to make peace with it. We are animals, and it means we host parasites in symbiotic (“mutually beneficial”) relationship.
Our microbes protect us from danger, digest our food, influence our food cravings, attract mosquitoes, and do million other things you thought were happening automatically! Nothing happens automatically, the colonies of your personal microbes are working day and night to ensure your existence and support their comfort. You indeed cannot survive without most of them, and you must obey some of them.
Thank your microbes! I’m kidding… just simple acknowledgment will do.
So, as gracious hosts, we have to be responsible for the balance in our kingdom, because balance is the key. Most of your microbiome is harmless, and some constitute most of your immune system. You almost always have some pathological microorganisms in you, and when the balance is in place, these organisms are in check.
But, if that balance is tipped to the pathological side by any internal or external events, severe damage can happen to many of your body systems and functions.
Just in case I failed to capture your attention – check this out.
Scientists discovered that gut microbiota dramatically affects your emotional state and susceptibility to stress. Perhaps your microbes have consciousness and influence your thoughts and behaviors…
Also, every day you can be a subject to accepting and hosting somebody else’s microbes along with all their abilities to affect you. How does that sound?
I can talk about microbiome for hours, especially about its abilities to influence our thinking. However, I want to make it practical and share with you what you can do and what’s in your control.
If you are suffering from pretty much any chronic symptoms, the answer can be in your gut. Therefore it is always a great idea to check your microbiome and digestive functions with a stool test.
Regular stool test will not do, I’m talking about comprehensive analysis revealing a lot of information. We, who are practicing functional medicine love this test. It gives us a great insight into identifying problems and creating treatment approach.
This test can reveal the balance between beneficial and harmful bacteria, the presence of yeast, candida, indications of an allergic reaction, and the leaky gut biomarker. That’s right, and we can even test for zonulin – the indicator of a leaky gut to know for sure what is going on.
There are protocols to restore the inner lining of the gut, heal the perforation, and close the opening through which particles of food are escaping to your blood stream and causing immune reaction.
These treatment protocols vary from one person to another depending on the test findings. The best thing about it that by having test results, your doctor’s extended explanation of it, and a treatment plan you can take control of your health and heal yourself.
May 24, 2018
by Dr. Maya Sarkisyan
I’m all for the natural and authentic lifestyle, and to not take anything at all if unnecessary. You can adjust many imbalances and heal many disorders by changing your habits and lifestyle. However, the environment around us does create a significant disruption to our natural body rhythm and functions, and I’m glad to bring you the latest scientific research on what you can do to correct it.
Today I’ll share with you what I know about melatonin and how to take it if necessary. You probably know it’s something about sleep and circadian rhythm, but it’s not the whole story.
There is much more that can be done for the healthy uninterrupted sleep beside taking supplemental melatonin. Let me know if you are interested, and I’ll write another article on that subject.
And now… Melatonin!
The melatonin is naturally synthesized by pineal gland from serotonin. It is also produced by the retina, lens, and GI tract.
It regulates sleep and waking, it increases in the dark and dramatically decreases when you are exposed to bright light.
Endogenous (means internal natural) melatonin production starts 2 hours before bedtime provided the light around you is dim.
The melatonin mediates body’s response to variations of light due to seasons, and disruption in melatonin levels can lead to interrupted sleep.
Melatonin and cortisol (your stress hormone) are related inversely – when cortisol levels are low – melatonin is high and vice versa. Maintaining correct melatonin curve through 24 hours dramatically helps to fight stress. We all know what all-nighters do to our body and mind, especially later in life.
Besides being well known in association with sleep melatonin has many other significant roles.
- Melatonin has an influence on many body functions such as inflammation, stress response, sleep, metabolism, and immune system.
- It stimulates your immune system, and when decreased it is hard for your body to fight infections.
- It is an antioxidant found almost in every type of cell in the body. So it helps to fight free radicals and protect you from danger.
- It certainly plays a significant role in mood support and anti-aging.
What can decrease melatonin?
Anything decreasing melatonin contributes to lower immune function and rapid aging process.
- Blue light – most commercial lights are blue. Blue light of LED-backlit computer screen dramatically suppresses melatonin.
- Medication – aspirin, ibuprofen, benzodiazepine, HBP medication
alcohol less than 4 hours n=before bed
- Age > 55.
- Some lifestyle choices – sleep patterns, high stress, coffee even in the morning, deficiencies in B6, iron, folate, tryptophan, SAMe
How much light do you need?
Full spectrum light contributes to surpassing melatonin during the day, and it’s good for keeping a healthy circadian rhythm. You need to be exposed to full spectrum light 20-40 minutes a day.
If you are exposed to bright light during the day, it can counterbalance the exposure to blue light from computer screens or any other electronics in the evening.
Misperception about melatonin is that the supplementation of it will suppress the natural production of it. The clinical research data doesn’t support it. So, occasional use of it is ok, but, still, for the long term, it is much better to adjust your lifestyle.
Melatonin is found to be valuable in the treatment of migraines, IBS, it is anti-inflammatory, and it is an antioxidant. The standard curve of melatonin levels in the body protects you from cancer and decreases beta-amyloid to protect the brain.
Research shows that melatonin supplementation actually increases serotonin levels and helps to fight depression.
How much of melatonin can I take?
Slow release formulations are 0.3 mg and 0.5 mg of melatonin are more useful than higher doses for helping with sleep.
The higher doses of melatonin like 6mg are adequate to help you to regulate night sweats and cool you down during the night.
There will be no withdrawal effects if you take it and then discontinue it.
Funny, that often, if taken in high doses, melatonin will not help sleep as well as in low doses. Counteractive to conventional logic. It proves that any supplements and herbs taken have their own way of interacting with other chemicals in your body.
What forms of melatonin exist? Very important to know.
The immediate release formulation has an effect for up to 60 min – to initiate sleep if you have problems falling asleep.
The sustained release formulations gradually release melatonin for over 6-8 hours. You might choose it if you have a difficulty staying asleep.
When to take melatonin?
Ideal time – 6 hours before the desired time of mid-sleep.
An example: If you want to sleep from 11pm – 7 am you should take melatonin at 9pm.
If it is sublingual, chewable or liquid – it might work faster so should be taken closer to bedtime.
If it is in the extended release formulation – take it at bedtime.
The sleep disturbances can be a symptom of more significant issues, and it is a much more responsible choice to seek the help of a holistic physician to be evaluated appropriately. We are trained and educated to select the best supplements possible for a different presentation of symptoms.
Please take the information above as an educational guideline, evaluate your lifestyle, turn off your electronics 2 hours before bedtime, and… have a good night sleep.