Multivitamins: Who Needs Them?

A recent editorial that appeared in the Annals of Internal Medicine entitled, “Enough is Enough: Stop Wasting Money on Vitamin and Mineral Supplements,” grabbed a lot of media headlines and left many people wondering if they should toss out their vitamin supplements.

Unfortunately, this editorial was misleading; and the conclusions of the studies were misreported not only by the editorial, but also by the various media sources that covered the story.

These studies failed to consider several important and relevant factors, and so we shouldn’t be so quick to get rid of the multivitamins that can play a very important role in supporting good health.

What is important to look at here are the facts presented in the three studies which were the basis for this editorial.

The three studies looked at the effects of multivitamins on preventing both heart attacks and cancer, and improving cognitive function in men older than 65. Here is a synopsis of the actual findings of these studies:

  1. The study by Fortmann, et al., was a meta-analysis or review of clinical studies that looked at the benefits and harms of vitamins and minerals in nutrient-sufficient adults for the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease and cancer. Worth noting is that two of the studies included in this review actually found a reduced risk of cancer in men, and the authors acknowledge limitations that their analysis only included primary prevention studies in adults without known nutritional deficiencies and that the studies were conducted in older individuals.
  2. The second study by Lamas, et al., looked at 1,700 people who previously had heart attacks. Almost half of the participants stopped taking the multi-vitamin during the study making the findings very difficult to interpret. Even with a high drop-out rate, those participants who continued taking multi-vitamins had a trend of reduced heart attacks.
  3. The third study by Grodstein, et al., involved 5947 male doctors over the age of 65 and found no difference in mean cognitive change over time between the multivitamin and placebo groups. The authors of this study actually state limitations: the doses of vitamins may be too low or the population too well nourished to benefit from a multivitamin. After all, this group included male doctors, a traditionally affluent group at very low risk of inadequate nutritional intake).

It is important to note that these studies did not evaluate the benefits of multivitamins for women and men who are younger, vitamins for vegetarian women and men, people with nutritional deficiencies or poor dietary intake, or those with health conditions that can compromise nutrient status such as celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, colitis, or other chronic diseases. They also did not take into consideration lifestyle factors that can affect nutrient levels such as stress, exercise or consumption of fast/processed food or use of prescription drugs that can deplete nutrients in the body such as oral contraceptives, diuretics, statins or blood pressure medications.

The reality is that many Canadians suffer from nutritional deficiencies due to inadequate or inappropriate intake from food. According to a recent report by Health Canada, many adults have inadequate intakes of magnesium, calcium, vitamin A and vitamin D.

Multivitamins and other supplements are not intended to replace the need for a proper diet. Rather they can complement the diet, help prevent nutrient deficiencies and play a role in optimizing good health for women and men, and preventing disease.

A multivitamin should be considered as the foundation of your supplement regimen. It can help to fill in gaps from your diet and compensate for the many factors that deplete nutrients in our bodies.

What’s Behind those Weird Dreams?

I want to preempt this blog post by disclosing that I am as ‘unspiritual’ as they get. When I’m stressed, it’s not because there’s a full moon, it’s because I’ve procrastinated and not left myself enough time to do something. When I get in an argument with my boyfriend, it’s not because he’s a Scorpio and I’m a Taurus, it’s because he’s clearly wrong about something!

Because of my unwavering cynicism, I have been reluctant to credit dreams with having any kind of symbolic meaning, but I have to admit that I might be wrong about this one. I was at a museum exhibition on the science behind the human mind a couple of years ago, and it had a whole section dedicated to the psychology behind dreams and sleep. I was surprised to find that I had had all but one of what they deemed the most common dreams. I had thought that my recurring dream (nightmare) about my teeth falling out was just residual paranoia from having braces as a teenager, but as it turns out, this is one of the most frequently reported dreams and has been linked to vanity, anxiety, and (according to Freud), a fear of castration.

You might be as surprised as I was to find that what you believed where your private and unique thoughts are actually shared with millions of other people. So what are these dreams, and what could they mean?

1.  Being Chased
In evolutionary terms, flee/flight is one of our most primal responses to threat. It makes sense then, that dreams about being chased have been tied to feeling threatened by someone or something in waking life. This dream has also been linked to avoiding some kind of confrontation or obligation in real life.

2.  Being Naked in Public
Dreams about being totally undressed, partially undressed, or dressed inappropriately for an occasion are all tied to feeling some kind of vulnerability. When you are without your clothes, you are without a symbolic barrier that you can hide behind. This can be attributed to feeling helpless or exposed in a real life situation that you don’t feel fully prepared for or qualified to deal with.

Obviously, these dreams are correlated with anxiety, but it is worth noting that a lot of the time, no one seems to notice your nudity. This is likely indicative of the fact that your anxieties are merely your own projections: no one else thinks you’re unprepared or unqualified!

3.  Falling/Sinking
Dreams of falling or sinking are often attributed to losing control, or lacking security, stability, or confidence. These dreams often occur when you’re feeling insecure or lacking support in your waking life.

4.  Flying
Most people who have flying dreams associate them with feelings of euphoria. If you’re flying with ease in your dream, it could mean you’re feeling on top of a situation.

If you’re flying closer to the ground or having to navigate around objects, chances are the flying dream is more similar to a falling dream and you feel like there are obstacles between yourself and your goal.

5.  Teeth Falling Out
Dreams about your teeth falling out are less easy to ‘diagnose’ and have been attributed to a number of different causes.

On a basic level, fears about losing teeth are related to a fear of being found unattractive. Interestingly, this dream is most commonly reported by women in menopause, and so it could be attributed to a fear of the change that comes with age.

On a deeper level, dreams about teeth have been tied to power and communication. Apparently, your teeth are symbolic of your words, and a dream about losing them can represent a loss of control over your words and communication in general.

6.  Car Trouble
Dreams about trouble with your car, or any vehicle can range from your brakes not working to crashing to forgetting how to drive altogether.

A recurring theme here is not being in control, or being unprepared in situations in your waking life. The fact that dreams about car trouble often occur even in people who haven’t yet learned to drive indicates that they really don’t have anything to do with your driving ability. Much like nudity dreams, they are more likely anxiety dreams related to how you prepared you feel for something in your life.

It seems that the most commonly reported dreams are related heavily to anxiety. Maybe we are more anxious than we are conscious of, or maybe the fact that they bring out our anxieties is why these dreams are the ones we remember. In any event, if you’ve had any of these dreams or any other recurring dreams (or nightmares!), let us know and we’ll try and find out what they mean!

Beauty Sleep: More than Just a Figure of Speech!

There’s always a reason not to get enough sleep. You have too much work to do, there’s a good movie on TV, you need to go to the gym, you haven’t done your grocery shopping… the list goes on. We often forego sleep and accept that getting done whatever we need to do is worth the price of being tired the next day. What most of us don’t factor in when we make this decision is that losing sleep has many more effects on our bodies than just leaving us feeling tired.

Having a good night’s sleep is not only key to staying physically and mentally healthy, but also to maintaining our dashing good looks! Adequate sleep is as important for your overall health as diet and exercise, and is also vital for preventing dreaded weight gain and wrinkles. A lot of people struggle with getting better sleep because of insomnia, and turn to sleeping pills to usurp this problem. Unfortunately, sleeping pills can further contribute to health problems, which is why we recommend a non-addictive natural health supplement like femMED sleep.

The average adult needs between 7 and 8 hours of sleep a night in order to keep their metabolism functioning properly. Lack of sleep causes a simultaneous decrease in a hormone called leptin, and an increase in the hormone ghrelin. Leptin is responsible for controlling your appetite, and ghrelin stimulates appetite. An increase in ghrelin and a decrease in leptin forges a powerful and unfortunate bond that leads to an increased appetite and a resulting weight-gain.

A recent study also showed that people who are sleep-deprived tend to eat more sweet and starchy foods, which is a further contributor to weight gain and obesity. Our brains are fuelled by glucose, and so when we are lacking sleep it becomes natural to crave carbohydrates.

Clearly this combination of many factors indicates that if we want to prevent unnecessary weight gain, then sleep is key! But on top of its involvement in controlling weight, sleep also plays a role in our skin’s composition.

Do you ever wake up in the morning after a bad night’s sleep and look in the mirror to find more wrinkles and dark circles under your eyes? You’re not alone! While we’re sleeping, the body focuses on repair and recovery, and this includes preparing our skin for the next day. When we don’t sleep, this repair doesn’t happen.

Without adequate sleep, there is an increase in the hormone cortisol. Cortisol is responsible for breaking down the body’s skin cells and decreasing the human growth hormone. In function, the human growth hormone is the opposite of cortisol. It builds up and results in thicker skin and a more youthful appearance overall. When there is an increase in cortisol and a decrease in the human growth hormone, as is caused by inadequate sleep, wrinkles will be evident sooner than they should be! Sleep will remedy this, but there are also supplements to improve your skin’s overall health.

Next time you’re thinking about skipping out on sleep to get something done, remember that it’s probably not the best idea! If you’re really struggling to get the recommended amount of sleep in your schedule, check out these tips which might contribute to you getting a better sleep. We need a good night’s rest to optimize our health inside and out.

Healthy and Happy Relationships During and After Menopause

“It’s never too late -never too late to start over, never too late to be happy.” —Jane Fonda

Most of us believe that being HAPPY is our goal in life, and we often define our happiness in terms of our relationships.  While some fortunate women sail through peri-menopause into menopause with few symptoms or ill effects, many of us DO NOT!  Happiness seems elusive when you do not feel like yourself, and this affects how we are in our relationship with our partner, husband, or significant other.

The average age of menopause is 51, which is not so old these days. You could easily have many happy and healthy decades ahead of you and in fact, research suggests that happiness typically increases as we age.  Why then, is this time in our lives often so challenging for our relationships?

Menopause affects all of our relationships: those with our husbands or partners, as well as with our children, parents, friends, and colleagues in both positive and sometimes negative ways.  There are many positives.  Freedom from pregnancy brings sexual liberation, financial freedom and freedom from child-rearing responsibilities bring time for intimacy, time for nurturing friendships, new and old hobbies, and time to explore sexually.  Whether married or single, most boomers report they still want to have happy, sexual and intimate relationships.  They also admit that many of them do not.

Many women experience the common symptoms of menopause – irritability, anxiety, depression, sleeplessness, low libido, ‘brain fog,’ and vaginal dryness. These symptoms can make any and ALL relationships challenging.  It is difficult to be loving, sexual, kind, and patient in the throes of hot flashes, anger, exhaustion, depression all while not feeling like yourself anymore.  To make matters worse, many physicians prescribe the usual RX cocktail consisting of Ativan and Prozac which may make you numb, but may not help you live the life that you want at this age!

There are solutions.  Here is a list of my best and most useful tips to help you sail (even at half-mast!) into menopause with a healthy and happy relationship intact or perhaps even better than ever!

  • Educate yourself on the hormonal changes you are going through, and then educate your loved ones so they understand.  You are your own best health advocate and as such, you owe it to yourself to be informed.  Put yourself in the driver’s seat: this will help you feel more in control of YOU even when you do not always recognize yourself.
  • Humour: find it, use it and spread it around!  Sometimes laughing together at the changes you are both experiencing helps.
  • Try new sexual positions if you are having more aches, pains, and reduced mobility.  Be playful and have some fun!  Accommodations can make you more creative.  Use femMED’s Libido to enhance arousal, increase lubrication, and sexual response.
  • Be more emotionally intimate:  listen to each other, touch with affection, kiss more, share music or heartfelt notes.  Appreciate your love and connection.
  • Make healthy choices to support hormone balance using supplements and good nutrition.   I have used personally and recommended to many clients the Hormonal Balance for PMS and peri-menopausal symptoms and absolutely love the ingredients in Menopause Relief.   All the natural ingredients I want to see in a Menopause supplement are contained in this product.  It works for many women to help them manage night sweats, hot flashes, and mood swings.   Good quality amino acids (protein) will help balance your serotonin and dopamine levels in your brain.  They are our “feel-good” neurotransmitters.
  • Get support from close friendships.  Women provide a safe and nurturing place to discuss changes occurring.  Women also love to share good information with each other.
  • Practice loving kindness to yourself and to your partner.  “Let it be” – some things must just be let go of.  In this vein, be clear and non-judgemental in your communication with your sweetheart about the things that really matter.
  • Remember that intimacy is THE glue that holds relationships together; however, this is not just wild, crazy sex on the kitchen counter.  It is also cuddling, holding hands, kissing and being affectionate.  Oxytocin is our bonding love hormone and all of these things bring it on!

 

Remember Buddha’s words:  “You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and attention.  Be happy and help others be happy”.   Menopause is simply a natural and normal phase all women will go through.  Let’s sail through it being our best!

 

Camille Lawson  RN, BA, MEd.    March 2014

 

 

The ABCs of Getting ZZZ

If you have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, wake too early or feel tired, groggy and have difficulty concentrating during the day, you could have a sleep disorder, such as insomnia.

According to recent reports one-third of adults suffer occasionally from insomnia and 14 percent experience chronic insomnia.

Sleep is absolutely vital for good health. It is a fundamental need for survival, just like food and water. Yet it is often compromised to accommodate a busy schedule.

There are many misconceptions surrounding sleep. Contrary to common belief, if you miss sleep during the week you can’t catch up on the weekend. And if you think that sleep is just a passive state you may be surprised to know that during sleep our bodies
are actually producing hormones and working on important elements for repair and regeneration.

The consequences of poor or inadequate sleep go well beyond just feeling tired during the day. Getting less than six hours sleep is now associated with many serious health problems such as heart disease, depression, weakened immune function, headaches, memory loss and even low libido and weight gain.

Aside from a busy life, many factors can hamper our ability to get a good night’s rest, including stress, hormonal imbalances (such as menopause), use of alcohol or caffeine, side effects of drugs, working shift work, and more.

As a quick fix approach many turn to prescription sleeping pills. In fact, the use of these drugs in our sleepless society has almost doubled over the past decade. While these drugs may help put you to sleep, they do not provide a long-term solution and they are associated with several side effects including loss of short-term memory, next day drowsiness and sleepwalking. When used chronically, they become less effective, can result in dependency and can actually worsen sleep quality.

To sleep better without the risks of sleeping pills, try a few simple lifestyle changes. Here are some A, B, Cs to have better quality Zs:

A – Allow
Allow adequate time for sleep and make sleep a priority each day. Experts recommend
7-8 hours for adults.

B – Bedtime
Bedtime routines help develop good sleep hygiene. Try going to bed around the same time each evening. Do relaxing activities at night such as reading, stretching or meditation. This will help to signal your brain that it’s time to sleep. Avoid alcohol, caffeine and sugar in the evening; these are common sleep disrupters.

C – Consider
Consider a supplement. Sleep supplements  can help to reduce stress and promote relaxation and improve sleep quality. Try femMED’s Sleep formula.

D – Darkness
Darkness can help by promoting your body’s production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates our sleep and wake cycles. Make your room dark by using light blocking shades. Keep electronics such as cell phones and computers out of your bedroom.

If you are struggling with persistent problems sleeping, despite making lifestyle adjustments, consult with your doctor for a proper assessment.