Archive for July, 2010

Lost Z’s Not Easily Recouped

Lost Z’s Not Easily Recouped                                                               

Many individuals believe they can adapt to chronic sleep loss or that recovery requires only a single extended night’s sleep.  Yet, a recent study (see Uncovering Residual Effects of Chronic Sleep Loss on Human Performance published in the Science Translational Medicine January 2010), showed that sleep recovery is actually harder than we thought. 

 The study examined the effects of “sleep deficit” — the cumulative amount of lost sleep due to poor sleep habits, sickness, awakenings, etc., over three weeks of alternating staying awake for 33 hours and sleeping for 10 hours – – the equivalent of 5.6 hours per night.  

 According to the lead author of the study, Daniel A. Cohen, M.D.:

  • The brain literally keeps track of how long we’ve been asleep and awake — for weeks.
  • An extended nights’ sleep (10 hours in the study) can restore your performance from chronic sleep loss to normal during the first several hours of wakefulness, but you will peter out very quickly after that.   .
  • Those who pull an all-nighter after 2-3 weeks of chronic sleep loss will have reaction times comparable to those who are legally drunk within 18 hours of being awake.  
  • Circadian rhythms may make you think you are managing the effects of sleep loss better than you are because for most people, melatonin, the hormone that makes you sleepy is lowest between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. 
  • Of particular concern to researches was that the circadian low or some call it the circadian “night”, when the sleep producing melatonin is the highest, (roughly between 3 a.m. and 7 a.m.) magnified the effects of sleep loss, markedly slowing down reaction time – an important consideration for those with overnight jobs.
  • It could take up to two of weeks of a normal sleep schedule before someone overcomes a long-term sleep deficit.  

The Sleep Foundation says that sleep needs vary depending on lifestyle factors such as health, work schedules and stress, but they offer the following “sleep needs spectrum” below.

How Much Sleep Do You Need? *                                            

Newborns  (0 – 2 months) 12 to 18 hours
Infants  (3 -11 months) 14 to 15 hours
Toddlers (1 – 3 years) 12 to 14 hours
Preschoolers  (3 – 5 years) 11 to 13 hours
School-age children (5 – 10 years) 10 to 11 hours
Teens  (10 – 17 years) 8.5 to 9.25 hours
Adults (18 years and over) 7 to 9 hours



*Source: National Sleep Foundation


Erin O’Donnel, Fortifying Winks: Lost Sleep is Hard to Find, Harvard Magazine, July/August 2010.

Daniel A. Cohen, Wei Wang, James K. Wyatt, Richard E. Kronauer, Derk-Jan Dijk, Charles A. Czeisler, and Elizabeth B. Klerman, Uncovering Residual Effects of Chronic Sleep Loss on Human Performance , Science Translational Medicine 2, 14ra3 (2010).

The National Sleep Foundation


July 30, 2010 at 12:51 pm Leave a comment

Hair Today Gone Tomorrow

Hair Today Gone Tomorrow                                                                            

If you are losing more hair than usual, don’t neglect to think thyroid. The thyroid gland hormone is critical in cell division at the hair follicle. Cell division at the hair follicle affects both the initiation and rate of hair growth and hair loss. ¹

Plus an overactive or underactive thyroid can lead to dry, brittle and slower growing hair.  This is because it may produce less sebum from the sweat glands in the scalp.  Less sebum also puts people more at risk of fungal infections of the hair follicles.   In severe thyroid imbalances, hair loss can even spread over the scalp and cause the loss of the outside third of the eyebrows.¹

A simple blood test panel of the thyroid hormone levels will identify if there is a chemical evidence of a hormone imbalance.  In addition to the blood test, Dr. Bernstein recommends the hair health check at the Advanced Wellness Center, using the Digital Response Technique (DRT).  This will give you a broader, more complete diagnosis of the root cause for the imbalance.

You’ll want to know if unhealthy hair strands or hair loss may be a reflection of any other factors such as estrogen deficiency, toxins or genetics in which the presence of an isoform of testosterone in the follicles prompts normal hair cycling to cease 2.   A lack of key nutrients, such as protein, iron, and essential fatty acids (found in fish oil supplements and wild salmon for example), will also impact just how strong and vibrant your hair is.  A deficiency in protein in particular, will force the body to conserve it (protein is the building block of all the body’s cells, including the hair) by shutting down hair growth.3    Also, stress can significantly deplete your B vitamins and reduce the   growth rate of your hair, and cause hair loss.

If not treated, thyroid imbalances can progress to more serious symptoms.  However, once the underlying cause is diagnosed, thyroid imbalances are generally treatable and result in the resolution of symptoms.

The sooner you get to the bottom of the hair loss, the better.  It’s the new hair growth, that will tell the real story, so it will be several months before you can tell how well your strategy is working.



¹ The Hair Foundation, Hair Loss and Hypothyroidism by Lisa Lambert, 1/19/09

2 The Hair Foundation, Hair Science: How and why Hair Grows, James L. Breeling, 1/14/2008

3 MSN, Health and Fitness, What Your Hair is Telling You About Your Health?, Sally Wadyka

Associated Content, LifeStyle, More About Hair Growth, Emelyn Lucinda, 7/26/10

July 29, 2010 at 6:15 pm Leave a comment

Mercury Higher in Ocean Fish Then in Freshwater Fish

Mercury Higher in Ocean Fish Than in Freshwater Fish           

While it is true that freshwater concentrations of mercury are far greater than in ocean water, eating salt water / ocean fish poses a greater health threat to humans, according to a new Duke University study*.  

 It turns out that in freshwater, sunlight can more easily disintegrate the methylmercury which latches onto decayed plants and animal matter.   But in saltwater the methylmercury remains tightly bonded to the chloride.   In this form it is ingested and accumulates in the tissues of marine life, making sea water and ocean fish more toxic than fresh water fish.     

 So what’s the big deal? Fish and shellfish have a natural tendency to store methylmercury in their organs, which makes them the leading source of mercury ingestion for humans. Some say contaminants found in fish can last years in the human body – hence a warning to women of child bearing age.  A potent neurotoxin, methylmercury can cause kidney problems, neurological disorders, and even death, says Heileen Hsu-Kim, PhD, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering. 

 Methylmercury is particularly harmful to children because their brains and nervous systems are still growing.  Cognitive thinking, memory, attention, language and fine-motor and visual spatial skills can be affected.  In light of this fact, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency identified four fish (shark, swordfish, king mackerel or tilefish – the list should be longer) which are not safe for children or women who may become pregnant, are pregnant or are nursing. 

 Nine fish the Environmental Defense Fund finds unsafe for anyone (as of 4/13/09):


           Bass, striped (wild)

            Bluefish, Croaker (white)

            eel (American)

            Eel (European)


            Sturgeon, wild (imported)


Close behind on the list are:

            Mackerel, king

            Tuna, bluefin




 Dr. Hsu-Kim believes scientists and policymakers should focus on the effects of mercury in oceans instead of freshwater.  (Currently, the Environmental Protection Agency and Food and Drug Administration make no distinction.)   The Global Biogeochem Cycles journal published a study which would also support this direction, having found increases of methylmercury in the Pacific Ocean.

 Are there any mercury-free fish left?   While eating seafood is our main source of exposure to methylmercury, it is also our best source of omega 3’s.  Even though most contaminant levels are on the rise, we can still make informed decisions.  Generally speaking, the smaller the fish, the less mercury it has. There are several guides to fish consumption choices to which the Advanced Wellness Center would add its recommendation to stay away from the bottom feeders regardless of mercury levels.    Shellfish tend to harbor parasitic organisms which also negatively affect the human body.  Until the Hsu- Kim study, wild atlantic salmon and sardines were thought to be amongst the best fish to eat.    You decide.  

 Guides to Fish Consumption:

Green Guide Fish Picks

Environmental Defense Fund Seafood Selector Health Alerts (

EPA Fish Advisories (has links to seafood advisories specific to your area).


Duke University News & Communications, June 22, 2010

Organic Authority June 30th, 2010 – Barbara Feiner

EPA & FDA Fish Advisories

Mother Nature Network, Is There Such a Thing as Mercury-Free Fish? 12/2008

¹ Sunderland E. M., Krabbenhoft, D. P., Moreau, J. W., Strode, S. A. & Landing, W. M., Global Biogeochem Cycles (a journal of the American Geophysical Union) doi:10.1029/2008GB003425 (2009).

July 23, 2010 at 1:26 pm 1 comment


When molecules of the chemicals that get added to plastics during manufacturing get into our bodies, it is not a good thing. Some of these chemicals, called phthalates, are environmental contaminants that can mimic estrogen.    Getting too much of these estrogen mimicking molecules disrupt the endocrine system and have been associated with breast and prostate cancer, early puberty, miscarriage and low sperm count*.   It was researchers fromTufts Medical School who first discovered the plastic-cancer link when the plastic leached into the researchers’ test tubes and cancer multiplied like crazy.  

If you are going to use plastics to store your food remember – the higher the recycling number in the triangle on the bottom of the plastic, the more toxic and volatile the chemical in the plastic.

As your plastic containers wear out it is best to transition to containers made from what they call “inert” materials.  (It’s also more earth friendly).  The best of these is glass, followed closely by porcelain, ceramic and stainless steel.  In the meantime:

 1.         Only store “non-liquid” foods, like washed raw veggies, in plastics and only in those plastics with the recycling # 1 & 2 in the triangle on the bottom of the container.

            (Plastics with numbers 3, 6 or 7 have a chemical called BPA (Bisphenol A), are the most dangerous and should be avoided at all cost.)  

2.         Store all other food in heat resistant glass, porcelain, ceramic or stainless steel containers.  (Remember to fill glass containers only about ¾ full if you are storing liquid items like spaghetti.  Otherwise the glass receptacle could crack as the liquid expands in the freezer).   

 3.         Stop microwaving your food in plastics (especially pre-packaged frozen meals)!  It releases the plastic chemicals into your food.  You shouldn’t use microwaves at all, but if you must, transfer the meal to a porcelain, ceramic, or glass container first.  If this receptacle has a plastic lid, leave it off and cover it with a plate.

 As long as we’re talking about plastics:

 4.         Consider glass baby bottles rather than the polycarbonate plastic ones.  Researchers heated 19 different brand name baby bottles to 175 degrees F  (80 degrees C)  and everyone of them leached bisphenol A.* (See Time Health & Science article Are Plastic Baby Bottles Harmful? February 8, 2008).

 5.         Don’t put a straw or plastic stirrer into a hot beverage!  You are basically extracting the properties of the straw into the liquid.

 6.         It is best to use stainless steel cooking utensils.  If you are going to cook with plastic utensils, be sure you follow the manufacturers’ directions. 

 7.         It is best not to use (certainly not re-use) Styrofoam containers.   They will live longer than you do and weigh less with each use because they leach chemicals into your food.   Use sturdy paper cups, etc., in their stead.


*,8599,1711398,00.html#ixzz0tsgUR2nK – Plastic Food Containers

Natural Healing, summer 2010

Johns Hopkins Medicine, Health Alerts, Healthy Living After 50, June 2010, Interview with Dr. Rolf Halden

July 22, 2010 at 12:33 pm Leave a comment

Electrolyte Smarts

Next time you sip a cool drink after sweating a lot in the heat; ask yourself if it has electrolytes.  

Electrolytes are important because they are what your cells (especially nerve, heart, muscle) use to maintain voltages across their cell membranes and to carry electrical impulses (nerve impulses, muscle contractions) across themselves and to other cells.   The main electrolytes in the blood are sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, chloride, phosphate and carbonate.   

Most commonly problems occur when the level of sodium, potassium or calcium is off.  Sodium is the major positive ion in fluid outside of the cells.  When you perspire, you lose a lot of salt.  Having a low sodium level can cause confusion, drowsiness, muscle weakness, and seizures.   On the other hand, when you don’t drink enough fluids and there is too much salt, it can result in swelling and blood pressure to rise.

Keeping electrolytes balanced is especially important for people who are athletes, work outdoors, perspire a lot, lie in the sun or even work in the garden.  They can be critical for older people who are more likely to develop electrolyte imbalances because as the body ages, the kidneys function less well and due to the use of certain drugs.  When children or infants vomit or have diarrhea, they also lose electrolytes.  These electrolytes and the fluids must be replaced to prevent dehydration and seizures.   

While many sports drinks have sodium chloride or potassium chloride added to them, they are typically loaded with sugar.  Please do not give these sugary sports drinks to a sick child!  It is much healthier to add a couple of drops of pure electrolytes to the recommended amount of water, usually 8 ounces.   One such product is ConcenTrace made by Trace Minerals Research, a naturally occurring, liquid trace element and food supplement which contains a full spectrum of trace and ultra-trace elements in ionic form (available at the Advanced Wellness Center).

 Be electrolyte smart and keep some on hand to maintain healthy cell communication.

July 16, 2010 at 5:51 pm Leave a comment

News on Preventing Brain Shrinkage

Colorado State University researchers*discovered that simultaneous low levels of insulin and proteins (called insulin growth factors) cause the brain to shrink.     Although the role of these two chemicals in dementia has been suspected, this is the first time research highlights that these two chemicals work together to actually prevent brain shrinkage when they are present in the brain in adequate amounts.   Additional research is planned to find ways to test and apply the most recent findings.    

It is the gradual loss of both the insulin and insulin-like growth factors brought on by aging and disease that are likely to increase the risk for brain shrinkage.   Insulin resistance, a condition in which the body becomes resistant to processing insulin is thought to be a key factor in the progressive drop of these two chemicals in the brain.

It is possible to have high levels of insulin in the blood, but abnormally low levels in the brain because of a blockage between the blood and the brain.    This Colorado State Study showed that everything from brain shrinkage, brain cell loss, protein loss and damage to neurons and glia cells, which are the cells that provide support and nutrition to the brain, were virtually halted in brain tissue when insulin-like growth factors were put directly into the brain tissue.

Insulin-like growth factors are proteins that support nerve cell survival, the regeneration of nerves and the formation of synapses (what connects the nerve cells).     This protein is often reduced in diabetic and Alzheimer’s patients.  Insulin is also typically low.  

* Information taken from Today at Colorado State University, Researchers Discover What Causes Brain to Shrink Providing Key to Mysteries of Dementia, October 2009.  Research conducted by Professor Douglas Ishi and student Dr. Pete Serbedija.

July 16, 2010 at 5:22 pm Leave a comment

Care for Caregivers


The Advance Wellness Center is increasingly seeing caregivers who are run aground, exhausted, at times depressed and suffering from related health issues.  When you’re caring for others, it is critical that you do not put off taking care of yourself.    It is harder to turn your health around when your body has been neglected, than it is to practice basic prevention and health maintenance.   Out of all the things you can do to help those you care for and yourself, the most important is to put your physical and spiritual needs first.   Then work on organizing your responsibilities.



Eat nutritious meals.  Resist junk foods, high carbs and sugar.   They will drive your immune system way down and make you susceptible to opportunistic viruses, bacteria and yeast.   Sugar here is not just your typical sweets, but includes sugary fruits except for the berries.   Also stay away from high glycemic starchy foods such as potatoes.  Eat simple balanced meals.  For the crunch times, have frozen organic foods which are quick to prepare.  Stay on a basic supplement protocol that includes anti-oxidants and adrenal support (for stress) and immune strengthening.

 Get Enough Sleep.   If you need to take even a short nap during the day, do it.  Lack of sleep affects your judgment and productivity.

 Schedule regular wellness checks.  Prevent health issues from getting out of hand.  You should see a health care professional at least every quarter.  It is worth coming in to see Dr. Bernstein for an evaluation to identify deficiencies and establish a basic nutritional support protocol.    

 Find time to Exercise.  Even if you have to ask someone else to provide care while you work out or go for a walk.

 Take a break. You must take time to relax and refresh yourself with friends!

Get Help.  Be smart.  Mobilize community help and search out a support group.  

 For a more extensive list of recommendations to caregivers go www. and read Stressed Out by Caregiving: 10 Smart Tips on How to Relax.   Check out their Caregiving Resource Center.

July 9, 2010 at 6:22 pm 2 comments

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