Posts Tagged ‘energy’

Ashwagandha: The Rejuvenator

ashwagandha-root

 

Withania somnifera, or Ashwagandha, is a revered herb in Indian Ayurvedic medicine – referred to as the “Indian ginseng” and the “rejuvenator”. Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb used to increase the body’s resilience to physiological and psychological stress and improve the body’s state of health overall. Although useful for a wide range of other health conditions, Ashwagandha is particularly known for its adaptogenic properties and the regulation of hormones, reducing anxiety, improving sleep, and treatment of Alzheimer’s.

Regulation of Hormones

Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb. This means that it supports the body’s systems, assists the body’s ability to adapt to stressors, and has a normalizing and balancing effect on the body. If a system is either under or over active, adaptogenic herbs like Ashwagandha will aid the body to restore its natural balance. Ashwagandha’s adaptogenic properties particularly benefit the endocrine system, which allows for the proper regulation of hormones. One study determined that Ashwagandha has thyroid enhancing properties and effectively regulates TSH, Free T4, and T3. This may be beneficial for those struggling with under or overactive thyroid glands, or for anyone looking to help balance their hormones.

Lower Anxiety

Traditionally Ashwagandha has been most often used for anxiety relief. A number of studies have demonstrated its effectiveness as both an anxiolytic and an anti-depressant due to its chemical composition and its adaptogenic properties. The biologically active chemical components of Ashwagandha include sitoindosides and acylsterylglucosides, both of which are anti-stress agents. As well, because of its adaptogenic properties Ashwagandha improves an individual’s resilience to stress, and therefore improves overall mood. One study measured Ashwagandha consumption in stressed rats and found that serotonin levels went up with the use of Ashwagandha, the neurotransmitter associated with feelings of happiness. Another study on patients with alcohol addiction found that Ashwagandha significantly increased GABA levels, a neurotransmitter known to reduce anxiety. As made evident by these studies, Ashwagandha may be useful support for those experiencing anxiety, or for those looking to improve their mood and overall well-being!

Improved Sleep

Ashwagandha has also shown positive results in improving sleep and fatigue. One study measured mice with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), a syndrome characterized by persistent fatigue and exhaustion. The study determined that Ashwagandha improves fatigue by decreasing lipid peroxidation and restoring glutathione (GSH) levels. Most people that struggle with insomnia have lower GSH levels, as it is an antioxidant that helps produce melatonin and induce delta-wave sleep. Another study demonstrated that Ashwagandha is effective for insomnia by decreasing cortisol, as elevated cortisol levels are another cause of insomnia. Ashwagandha may be a good solution for those looking to improve sleep, reduce fatigue, and boost energy throughout the day.

Treatment of Alzheimer’s

Ashwagandha has been shown to be effective in improving memory and cognitive performance. Many recent studies have also shown its potential as a treatment for Alzheimer’s. It does this by improving cognitive abilities, which allows for improved motor and memory skills. One study showed that Ashwagandha inhibits the formation of beta-amyloid plaques, plaques found in the brain cells of Alzheimer’s patients. Another study demonstrated that it has cognitive promoting effects and is useful for children with memory deficit and those with neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s. It does this by helping restore memory loss, as it aids in the formation of dendrites which are necessary for synaptic processing in the brain. In addition, while Ashwagandha is particularly helpful for those experiencing memory loss and cognitive impairment, it is also useful for improving cognition in otherwise healthy individuals. In a 2014 double-blind study, subjects were randomly given either Ashwagandha capsules or a placebo and assessed on cognitive and psychomotor performance. Significant improvements were seen in the Ashwagandha group as compared to the placebo group. Although further research is still needed, these studies demonstrate that it may be an effective natural treatment for Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases, as well as support for improved cognition in general population.

 

Ask your naturopathic doctor for more information.

Wellness Naturopathic Centre, North Vancouver, BC

www.wellnessnaturopathic.com

The information on this website is for educational purposes only. It does not substitute for proper assessment and treatment by a licensed health care provider.

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Vitamin D and Its Impact on Your Health

 Vitamin D also known as the “sunshine vitamin” is a fat-soluble vitamin required for normal growth of teeth and bones, and many other systems. It is found in foods such as fish, eggs and fortified drinks. Skin production of vitamin D depends on exposure to sunlight. Active people living in sunny regions produce most of the vitamin D they need from their skin. In less sunny regions, the skin production of vitamin D is greatly diminished especially during the winter months, during which time vitamin D supplementation becomes vital.

Vitamin D is activated in the kidneys and it works as a hormone, regulating, among other things, the concentration of calcium and phosphate in the bloodstream, and promoting normal growth and strength of bones. Vitamin D deficiency can result in thin, brittle or misshapen bones, while enough vitamin D helps prevent rickets (softening of bones in children potentially leading to fractures and deformity) and osteomalacia (milder form of the same disease) in adults. These are extreme cases of vitamin D deficiency, but today, the impact of vitamin D deficiency is evident in every system of the body, from the immune to the nervous system.

It is very important to have your vitamin D levels tested so that you know if your current lifestyle, nutritional intake, and overall health are providing you with the adequate levels of this vital nutrient. First you need to know how low you are, which will determine how much you need to take, and then you need to be retested after a few months so that you know when to reduce the amount you are taking.

Vitamin D and Infection

The role of vitamin D as an infection fighting nutrient is now obvious. Researchers have shown that vitamin D plays an essential role for activating immune defenses from T cells in the body. A study published in 2009, by the researchers at the EMNet Coordinating Center in Boston, linked vitamin D deficiency with increased risk of respiratory infections and asthma. Another study done in 2006 by the UCLA researchers showed that vitamin D deficiency is connected with higher susceptibility of tuberculosis. Vitamin D increases the body’s production of naturally occurring antibiotics, namely the antimicrobial peptides. Antimicrobial peptides are produced in numerous cells in the human body where they directly and rapidly destroy the cell walls of viruses and bacteria.

Researchers have found a link between vitamin D deficiency and the flu. Most vitamin D is created from exposure to sunshine, therefore vitamin D deficiency is more common in winter exactly when cold and flu levels reach their peak. A large study appearing in the February 2009 Archives of Internal Medicine found that people with the lowest blood vitamin D levels reported having more recent colds or flu. Vitamin D plays an important role in the prevention of common respiratory infections such as colds and the flu.

Vitamin D and Cancer Prevention

A study published by the Journal of American Dietetic Association in 2010, showed that the role of Vitamin D in overall health including cancer prevention is undeniable. There is a lot of scientific evidence showing that the risk of colorectal cancer is reduced with adequate Vitamin D status. The sunshine vitamin has also been shown to reduce the risk of breast cancer and prostate cancer. Vitamin D may help prevent cancer in several ways, including maintaining healthy cells with normal life spans, discouraging out-of-control cell reproduction, and hindering the formation of new blood vessels for tumors.

Vitamin D and Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease in which the nerves of the brain and spinal cord are damaged by one’s own immune system, resulting in loss of muscle control and sensation. One environmental factor influencing the risk for developing MS is sunshine, and in particular a vitamin D deficiency, therefore people in parts of the world that get less sunlight (such as Canada) are more likely than others to get multiple sclerosis. Studies showing the involvement of vitamin D in immune and nervous system functioning bring evidence to support this. It has also been shown that Vitamin D helps control a gene known to increase the risk of multiple sclerosis. Thus adequate levels of vitamin D taken during pregnancy and early in life may help prevent the disease in those predisposed to MS.

Vitamin D and Lung Function

A study published in August 2010 by researchers from the University of Cincinnati, showed a high occurrence of vitamin D deficiency in patients with interstitial lung disease and connective tissue disease, and thus vitamin D deficiency has been connected with reduced lung function. Another study conducted by researchers from the University of Colorado in April 2010 showed that in asthmatics, reduced vitamin D levels are associated with weaker lung function, suggesting that supplementation with vitamin D may improve the severity of asthma symptoms. Vitamin D has potent anti-inflammatory properties, one more reason why vitamin D is useful for asthmatics.

Vitamin D and Diabetes

Recent studies show that vitamin D supplementation is beneficial for people with diabetes or insulin resistance and may prevent or delay symptoms of diabetes. While increasing vitamin D levels is not considered a cure for diabetes, vitamin D supplementation have been shown to be helpful in treating diabetes, improving insulin secretion and reducing insulin sensitivity.

Vitamin D and Mood

Vitamin D may help increase the brain’s serotonin levels, having a positive impact on depressive symptoms. In June, 2010, the researchers from the Loyola University in Chicago found that the effective detection and treatment of low vitamin D levels in depressive patients may be an easy and cost-effective therapy which could improve patients’ long-term health as well as their quality of life.

A recent study conducted by VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam showed that vitamin D may be an effective and intriguing possibility for the treatment of depression, especially in older patients. The study indicated that low levels of vitamin D may be linked to depression symptoms.

Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is a situational mood disorder caused by decreasing daylight in the winter months. High doses of vitamin D during winter have been proven to be a very effective natural remedy for SAD.

Vitamin D and Pregnancy

In a very recent study, published in September 2010, researchers from the CHA University, School of Medicine in Seoul stated that an adequate vitamin D intake is essential for the health of the mother and child during pregnancy, and there is sufficient evidence that many pregnant women have low vitamin D levels. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to preeclampsia, gestational diabetes mellitus and an increased risk for C-section delivery. Vitamin D has also been proved to decrease the risk of infection and improve the length of gestation, and infant bone mineralization.

Vitamin D and Kids

Vitamin D plays an incredibly important role when it comes to the growth and development of children. In an extreme case, vitamin D deficiency can cause rickets, a disease that results in soft, weak bones in children. But there are other cases such as impaired brain function and asthma in kids that have been linked to vitamin D deficiency.

A study published in April 2008 by the researchers from the Children’s Hospital & Research Center in Oakland, showed that vitamin D is vital for the brain development of children because of the wide distribution of vitamin D receptors throughout the brain. Hence, adequate levels of vitamin D have been shown to improve memory, learning ability and concentration.

A recent study, published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine found that asthma symptoms may be worse for children who had low vitamin D levels.

Vitamin D plays a critical role in all body functions, helping many systems including the immune, nervous and respiratory system. In order to enjoy the wonderful benefits of Vitamin D, such as healthy bones, lower cancer risks and better mood, make sure you get your vitamin D levels checked, take the appropriate dosage for your specific needs and also enjoy moderate sun exposure several times a week, weather permitting.

Vitamin D testing is available at the Wellness Naturopathic Centre.

Wellness Naturopathic Centre, North Vancouver, BC
www.wellnessnaturopathic.com

The information on this website is for educational purposes only. It does not substitute for proper assessment and treatment by a licensed health care provider.