Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Sleep Study Results: the continuing saga "in search of restorative sleep"

About a year and a half ago I had a sleep study done.  It was a grueling and painful experience that I never wanted to repeat.  The results of that study:  completely normal.  I was told there was nothing wrong with my sleep so my question was "Why isn't that my experience?"  What I have learned is that not all sleep studies are equal.  I recently had another sleep study done and the experience wasn't nearly as bad or as painful.  The electrodes on my head were more comfortable and the staff were warm, friendly and professional.  What a difference from one sleep lab to another.  My health insurance didn't want to approve my second sleep study so I filed a grievance and spoke with representatives at the insurance company several times.  When I'm not getting anywhere with staff I always ask to speak to their manager.  I presented compelling facts that convinced the insurance company that further delay was only going to add to the cost of my healthcare for them and me too.  The sleep study was approved, but their reluctance did result in a delay in my care.

In follow up after the sleep study and a pulmonary function test for my complaint of shortness of breath, I learned that I do have sleep apnea and I also have asthma.  I know when the asthma started . . . it was 11 years ago and I'm just being diagnosed.  I know that I have had sleep apnea for years, especially since there are subtle changes in my heart due to the physiological
stress from untreated sleep apnea.  This is an important point for everyone with a diagnosis of fibromyalgia.  Fibromyalgia has so many associated symptoms that patient complaints are ignored resulting in a lack of care.  If a doctor ignores your symptoms, go see another doctor.  I was fortunate to have seen a very good neurologist that referred me to a pulmonologist.  This pulmonologist is an astute healthcare professional that relies on his own intuitive sense.  My move to Arizona has been a good one, because I have found compassionate, competent healthcare professionals.  Without this move I would continue to have untreated health issues.

My next step is a stress echocardiogram and Cpap titration for my sleep apnea.  Just maybe I am going to finally get a good night's sleep.  I'll let you all know how this works out.  Meanwhile, nighty night and sleep tight.  Good night.  Don't ever give up . . .

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Psychobiotics and the dark chocolate connection . . .

There has been a fair amount of interest regarding neurotransmitters in the medical community, but treatment for depleted neurotransmitters has remained a mystery.  Nutritional supplements have been the first line of treatment with dubious results and psychoactive medications have been prescribed for decades with little to no benefit.  Neurotransmitters are those chemical messengers in our body that modulate all the functions of our body and mind.  The table below provides a brief explanation of common neurotransmitters and their function.

It is interesting to note that many people with fibromyalgia have depleted neurotransmitters, which may be responsible for some of the symptoms that decrease quality of life.  But renewed hope may be just around the corner.

It seems that the human body is teeming with beneficial microbes that are critical for our physical and emotional health.  There are approximately 15 trillion cells in our bodies and 100 trillion bacteria.  Amazing, huh?  These bacteria are essential to digestion, metabolism, immunity and our psychological health, and that's just the tip of the iceberg.  These bacteria act as messengers that orchestrate our body's function and wellbeing.  So the question is "How do we ensure these essential and beneficial bacteria remain healthy and functioning properly?"  As it turns out, probiotics rarely make it past our stomach and its acid environment.  According to Davidson in "The Psychobiotic Revolution" (Davidson, Jordan.  Psychology Today, April 2014, pg. 40), "It's long been known that the stress system is intimately involved in depression.  People suffering from major depression frequently have elevated levels of the hormone cortisol, released in response to stress.  In a recent study, a probiotic cocktail of Lactobacillus helveticus and Bifidobacterium longum was found to reduce cortisol levels."  In addition, "many physiological and psychological processes associated with depression can be traced to a deficiency in the neurotransmitter GABA.  Lack of GABA in the brain may bring on the negative ruminations long linked with depression."  Researchers have determined that gut microbes secrete GABA, which include Lactobacillus helveticus and Bifidobacterium longum organsisms.  It is interesting to note that dark chocolate increases numbers in both of these bacterial families.  The polyphenols in the chocolate act as a prebiotic and enhance the growth of benefical gut bacteria.  Now that's the best news I have heard in the last 20 years.  I not only drink red wine for health benefits but I am also eating 2 squares of dark chocolate every day.  The specific strain of Lactobacillus reuteri that is found in yogurt or as a supplement works to improve mood, appearance and general health by increasing levels of oxytocin.  Oxytocin is that hormone that gives you a feeling of wellbeing when you cuddle, hug, or have sex.  There are also active yogurt ingredients that reduce anxiety and fear.

We are on the cusp of gaining more knowledge regarding the best way to ensure the health of our body's microbial community that will ensure the health of our body and mind.  Meanwhile, I intend to eat Greek yogurt and dark chocolate every day so my microbes don't go hungry.  Blessings to you and your microbes; may you live happily ever after!