Prevention and Treatment for Diabetes

Prevention and Treatment for Diabetes

Diabetes is a major health concern. In the U.S., about 1 in 10 people have diabetes, and a third of the population has prediabetes. Many people may know that eating healthy foods and exercising more can help with this condition. However, scientific research has also shown that a person’s genetics and family history also affect whether or not they get this condition. Is it worth it to try to develop new, healthy habits if diabetes runs in your family?

What Exactly Is Diabetes, Anyway?

As we eat food, the body breaks it down into smaller components. Large carbohydrate molecules are broken down into smaller sugar molecules called glucose. Glucose travels through the bloodstream and is delivered to all of the body’s cells, which use it to make energy. Normally, after a person eats a meal, blood glucose levels rise. This signals the body to produce insulin, which tells cells to absorb glucose from the bloodstream and use it for fuel.

In people with diabetes, the body either stops producing insulin or cells become unable to use insulin. The end result is that too much glucose stays in the blood. The excess sugar can then damage the eyes, kidney, and nerves. Additionally, people with diabetes are more at risk for heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, blindness, and amputation.

Types of Diabetes

There are three main types of diabetes:

  • Type 1: This occurs when a person’s body does not produce any insulin. Anyone can develop type 1 diabetes, but it occurs most commonly in children and young adults. This type of diabetes is often called insulin dependent diabetes.
  • Type 2: In this type of diabetes, a person’s body does not make or use insulin as well as it needs to. This type of diabetes is often called non-insulin dependent diabetes. Type 2 diabetes risk increases as a person gets older and with other health conditions.
  • Gestational diabetes: Some women develop diabetes when they are pregnant. This condition typically goes away after the mother gives birth, but women with gestational diabetes are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes in the future.

Some people also develop a condition that is known as impaired glucose tolerance or impaired fasting glucose, which is sometimes called “prediabetes,” although I don’t use this term much with my patients because I don’t want them to feel destined to become diabetic so it is an important distinction I make in my practice.

People with impaired fasting glucose (or impaired glucose tolerance) have higher blood glucose levels than normal, although these levels are not as high as they are in those with an actual diagnosis of diabetes. If one has this condition, he or she is more likely to develop type 2 diabetes in the future, although patients can do many different things to change this risk and avoid this diagnosis.

Who Gets Diabetes?

Anyone may develop this health condition. However, diabetes is more common in certain groups of people. For example, white people are more likely than others to have type 1 diabetes. However, people of other races are more likely to have type 2 diabetes:

  • American Indians are 2-5 times more likely to have diabetes than are white people
  • Black people are 1.7 times more likely than white people to have diabetes
  • Mexican-Americans and Puerto Ricans have double the chances of developing diabetes as do white people
  • Alaska Natives, Asian Americans, other groups of Hispanic/Latino people, Native Hawaiians, or Pacific Islanders are also more likely to develop type 2 diabetes

Additionally, there are other factors that may increase a person’s risk. These include being over the age of 45, having high blood pressure, not getting enough physical activity, being overweight, or smoking. People with a history of certain diseases, including heart disease, stroke, depression, polycystic ovary syndrome, or acanthosis nigricans, are also more likely to have diabetes. Just like those who have prediabetes, people with risk factors can take steps to help prevent diabetes.

Women are just as likely to get diabetes as are men. However, diabetes often leads to additional complications in women compared with men. Women with diabetes have:

  • A higher chance of getting heart disease
  • An increased risk of becoming blind
  • A greater chance of developing depression

Diabetes is Genetic – Is There Any Point of Trying to Lower My Risk?

Genes provide instructions that control the way our bodies operate. The genes that we have influence everything from our hair color to which diseases we develop. Because each of us inherits our genes from our parents, researchers look at whether certain diseases run in families in order to be able to tell whether these conditions are genetic.

In the case of type 1 diabetes, siblings of people with diabetes are more likely to develop this disease themselves. This means that genes play a role in whether a person gets this condition.

The same can be said for type 2 diabetes: it runs in families. If someone has one parent with type 2 diabetes, they have a 40% chance of having this condition. If both parents have diabetes, this risk increases to 70%.

What does this mean for a person with a family history of diabetes? Are they automatically going to develop the disease, no matter what other choices they make? Not quite. Even with a strong family history of the disease, a person’s risk of getting diabetes doesn’t reach 100%. This means that there are other factors in play that also affect whether or not a person gets diabetes. These other factors consist of lifestyle choices such as what we eat or how much activity we get.

Diabetes Prevention

So how do you lower your chances of diabetes? There are many ways. The healthier lifestyle changes you can work into your daily life, the lower your risk will be.

  • Eat smaller meals: There are many ways to encourage yourself to not overindulge, such as drinking water 10 minutes before your meal so you feel more full, eating smaller portions of meat, sharing a serving of dessert with a family member, or eating more slowly.
  • Use a healthy eating plan: Getting more fresh fruits and vegetables and eating whole grains can lower your diabetes risk. Foods to avoid include foods with a lot of fat, such as fried foods.
  • Shed a few pounds: You may be able to prevent diabetes by losing only 5-10% of your body weight. This might be more doable than you think. If you weigh 200 pounds, then you would only need to lose 10-20 pounds to meet this goal.
  • Get more exercise: Try getting at least half an hour of physical activity five days per week. Going on a walk or jog around your neighborhood may be a simple solution, but other forms of activity help, too. Try dancing as you clean the house, following fitness videos online, or taking the stairs more often.

Programs that combine these elements can have a big impact. For example, the CDC established the National Diabetes Prevention Program to help people make necessary life changes. Participants are coached in eating healthier, working out, and lowering stress levels. Those who lost 5-7% of their body weight and exercised for 150 minutes per week more than halved their chances of developing type 2 diabetes.

Nutrition and Diet for People with Diabetes

Healthy eating is a very important part of managing diabetes. Controlling your diet can lead to better control of blood glucose levels and prevent future diabetes-related health problems.

People with diabetes should try to meet healthy eating goals like:

  • Eat several small meals throughout the day rather than a couple of big ones
  • Limit the number of carbohydrates
  • Eat less sugary foods
  • Reduce the amount of salt in the diet
  • Eat fewer high-fat foods
  • Drink less alcohol
  • Incorporate more fruits, veggies, and whole grains into the diet

One of the best ways to meet these goals is to meet with a registered dietician to come up with an eating plan. A professional dietician can help you understand what exactly you need to eat based on factors such as your weight, other health conditions, and the medicines you’re taking.

Some people who have diabetes are interested in adding natural supplements to their diet. Some of these supplements have demonstrated remarkable efficacy in studies. For example, several studies demonstrate that supplements that contain alpha-lipoic acidchromium, or vitamin C may help people with diabetes control their insulin levels and may assist in maintaining a healthy blood sugar balance.

Supplements, like pharmaceuticals, also may cause side effects. Unfortunately, research has shown that supplements like cinnamon, fenugreek, ginseng, milk thistle, and selenium don’t work for controlling diabetes. If you’re interested in taking supplements, talk to your physician first, as some of them may cause drug interactions with other medications that you are taking. This way you can come up with a game plan that works with your philosophy and also with your body chemistry. Win-win!

Physical Activity

Just as working out can lower your chance of developing diabetes, getting more exercise can also help you keep your blood sugar under control. Try to find some physical activity that gets your heart pumping just a little harder and works all of the muscles throughout your body. Tips to incorporate working out into your routine include:

  • Don’t try to do too much all at once. If you start small, and gradually increase your activity level, you’ll be more likely to exercise safely and to stick with it over the long haul.
  • Choose an activity you like, so you’re more likely to keep up the new habit. Try something new, like biking or swimming. Alternately, see if there are any fun exercise classes or sports leagues in your area, if and when it is safe to do so.
  • Get a workout buddy. You may be more likely to stick with a workout program, and have more fun, if you are going through it with a friend.
  • Make a specific action plan. If you want to go on a jog every day, pick specific days and times and mark it on your calendar. You could even try setting an alarm to make sure you don’t forget!

Make sure to check your blood sugar level before and after you work out to make sure it’s within a healthy range. If it’s too low or too high, you could run into serious health problems while exercising. Additionally, people with diabetes have a higher risk of developing foot problems. Wear comfortable shoes and socks and check your feet often for blisters or cuts.


Some people with diabetes need to take insulin. In particular, taking insulin is important for people with type 1 diabetes, because their bodies no longer make any insulin at all, although some people with type 2 diabetes also need to take this hormone due to insulin resistance the body may develop and the decrease in the secretion of insulin by the pancreas. Insulin may be injected with a needle or a pen, or delivered to the body through a pump, inhaler, or injection port. Different methods of insulin work for different lengths of time and may kick in more quickly or more slowly.

People with type 2 diabetes may also take other medications to help control blood sugar levels. One of the most common is metformin, which helps the body produce less sugar. Many other types of medications also affect blood sugar in different ways, such as stimulating the body to produce more insulin or helping the body use insulin more efficiently. Some people find that a combination of multiple different medications helps lower their blood glucose levels more than any one pill alone.

Managing Mental Health

Taking care of your mental health is important, because high stress levels can lead to high blood glucose levels. Stress reduction techniques may include:

  • Deep breathing exercises
  • Meditation
  • Yoga
  • Listening to music
  • Taking a walk
  • Gardening
  • Participating in a hobby

Managing a long-term illness can be tough, and many people with a condition like diabetes end up struggling with depression. Having a support network may help you manage. Try talking to friends or family members when you’re going through a rough patch. Additionally, in-person or online support groups exist to help people deal with diabetes. Many people also find it useful to go to a counselor, therapist, or other mental health professional.

Coming Up with a Care Plan That Works For You

There are a lot of things that people with diabetes can do to help manage their condition. Work with your healthcare team to come up with a strategy that works with your lifestyle, your age, your weight, and your other health needs. You may end up working with an endocrinologist (a doctor who specializes in treating hormone-related conditions like diabetes), dietician, certified diabetes educator, eye doctor, podiatrist (a doctor that treats foot conditions), social worker, counselor, or other healthcare professionals.


There are many factors that may increase a person’s risk for diabetes. Some of these, such as age or genetics, are completely outside of our control. However, other factors are more easily changed. But just because one person’s genetics may predispose them to diabetes, there is still no guarantee that one is destined to develop diabetes. Focusing on the things you can control, such as how much physical activity you get throughout the day, can allow you to take your health into your own hands and help delay or prevent diabetes.

What Is Sensitive Gut and Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

What Is Sensitive Gut and Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

When you eat food, it travels a long distance through your body. It passes through your mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, and anus. Each of these organs plays a different role in breaking down food into the energy and nutrients that your body uses in order to function. This process is known as digestion. Other organs such as the gallbladder and pancreas also help digestion by producing chemicals that break down food.

Unfortunately, any of these organs can stop working optimally, which may lead to pain or discomfort. Problems with organs in the digestive system are one of the main reasons people visit their doctor and I see patients with these conditions almost daily. Two very common conditions related to digestive troubles are known as sensitive gut and irritable bowel syndrome. The causes of these conditions are often unclear, but science is increasingly uncovering new ways to help relieve symptoms.

Digestive Troubles

Problems with the digestive system can be a big deal. Stomach or intestinal issues can disrupt a person’s sleep, and they can interfere with a person’s normal daily routine. For example, some people have unpredictable symptoms, and need to plan their day around having access to a bathroom. Additionally, digestive troubles can cause a person to miss work, school, or social events. There are many different disorders and conditions that can result in these sorts of problems.

Sensitive Gut

The term “sensitive gut” isn’t an official medical diagnosis. It’s a general name that can be used when someone frequently gets an upset stomach or experiences other digestive issues. While everyone experiences stomach or intestinal problems occasionally, some people’s digestive systems are more sensitive to certain foods or habits, leading to pain, discomfort, or other symptoms on a regular basis.

Digestive symptoms can include many things, such as:

  • Stomach cramping
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea
  • Indigestion or upset stomach
  • Vomiting
  • Feeling uncomfortably full during or after a meal
  • Bloating
  • A burning feeling in the chest or stomach
  • Excess gas
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation

People with a sensitive gut experience one or more of these symptoms on a regular basis. If you have some of these issues, it may be helpful to spend some time trying to figure out if certain foods or actions make these symptoms worse, as we’ll explore further below.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

This disorder, also known as IBS, is one example of a “functional gastrointestinal disorder.” When people have disorders in this category, they experience stomach or intestinal symptoms, but their digestive systems look normal on tests like x-rays or endoscopies. Doctors think that the brain plays a role in these disorders. However, this is not to say that your stomach troubles are all in your head – there is a very real, physical connection between your mind and your gut.

Throughout your digestive system, there are millions of nerve cells, called neurons. The neurons communicate with each other and with the brain in order to control how your digestive system works. The brain sends signals to the digestive system to help it function correctly, and the digestive system in turn sends signals back to the brain so that the brain can control things like appetite, mood, and sleep. There is thought to be a disruption in this process in functional gastrointestinal disorders. The neurons connected to the intestines may be too sensitive, the intestines or stomach may not move properly, or the brain’s ability to control digestion may not be working right.

A recent study found that as many as 40% of people around the world may have some type of functional gastrointestinal disorder. IBS is one of the most common conditions in this category. People with IBS have several of the digestive symptoms listed above, which persist over a long period of time. The most common symptoms are abdominal pain and changes in bowel habits. There are a couple of different types of IBS. People with IBS-C tend to have constipation and hard, lumpy stool. Those with IBS-D frequently have diarrhea and loose, watery stool. Some people have problems with both constipation and diarrhea. Other symptoms like bloating and whitish mucus in the stool are also typical.

Other Digestive Disorders

Some other diseases or conditions may cause some of the same symptoms as sensitive gut and IBS. For example:

  • Gallstones are clumps of hardened material that form in your gallbladder and can cause pain and cramping.
  • Gastritis is inflammation of the stomach lining that may be caused by an infection and can lead to pain and nausea.
  • Infections of the stomach or intestines can occur when certain types of bacteria become overgrown.
  • Ulcers are sores that develop in the stomach that can be caused by infection or overuse of certain pain medications.
  • Pancreatitis occurs when your pancreas becomes inflamed and causes abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting.
  • Taking medications like antibiotics, aspirin, or ibuprofen may sometimes have side effects that mimic indigestion.

In many cases, discomfort and irregular bowel habits aren’t a severe health problem. However, if your symptoms are frequent or last longer than a couple of weeks, talk to your healthcare provider to check whether there is something more serious going on. Warning signs of a more serious condition include blood in your vomit or stool, difficulty swallowing, weight loss, severe abdominal pain, shortness of breath, yellow-tinged eyes or skin, or pain in your chest, neck, or arm. If you experience any of these symptoms, contact a doctor right away.

Potential Causes and Treatments

Knowing how to make your digestive issues better first starts with better understanding the root of the problem. It can be difficult to determine the exact culprit, and you may have to try several strategies before pinpointing problem foods or behaviors.

Change Your Eating Habits

Eating your meals in a different way may help your body more easily digest your food. Strategies like the following may help:

  • Eat multiple small meals rather than a couple of large ones
  • Chew slowly
  • Make sure your food is properly chewed before swallowing
  • Drink liquids slowly
  • Don’t eat within two hours of going to sleep

Avoid Harder-to-Digest Foods

Certain types of food or drink can make indigestion, stomach pain, and intestinal symptoms worse. Try avoiding common problem foods for a few weeks to see if your symptoms improve. Things to stay away from include:

  • Acidic foods like tomatoes and oranges
  • Spicy foods
  • Greasy or fried foods
  • Foods with high levels of fat
  • Caffeinated drinks such as coffee and tea
  • Alcohol
  • Carbonated drinks such as soda and seltzer water

Eating a bland diet for a couple of weeks or months may help digestive problems go away. Bland foods are easier for your stomach and intestines to digest, and include things like cooked and canned vegetables, eggs, soup, pudding, breads and crackers made with white flour, and baked poultry and fish. Ask your healthcare provider for recommendations regarding when you can start adding other foods back into your diet.

Food Intolerances

Some people have food allergies, which can cause serious reactions involving rashes and breathing difficulties. On the other hand, food intolerances are typically less severe and lead to digestive symptoms. Some of the most common food intolerances involve gluten, dairy, and molecules called FODMAPs.

Gluten is a type of protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. People who have gluten intolerance, also known as gluten sensitivity, experience digestive symptoms when they eat products that contain these grains. Gluten intolerance may also lead to symptoms like tiredness or muscle cramps. A related disorder is celiac disease, a more severe condition in which eating gluten leads to damage to the small intestine.

People who have lactose intolerance have symptoms like gas and diarrhea when they eat dairy products such as milk, cheese, and butter. All of these milk products contain a type of sugar called lactose. Over a third of people in the United States may have trouble digesting and absorbing lactose. People who have lactose intolerance may be able to get rid of their digestive symptoms by limiting or completely avoiding consuming milk and dairy products.

Another common source of digestive distress is FODMAPs. These molecules are a type of carbohydrate that may be more difficult for the body to digest, especially for people with a sensitive gut. FODMAPs are found in:

  • Fruits like apples, blackberries, cherries, pears, and watermelon
  • Vegetables like artichokes, asparagus, cabbage, garlic, and onions
  • Beans and lentils
  • Milk-based foods like cheese, yogurt, and ice cream
  • Wheat and wheat-containing foods like bread and pasta
  • Foods and drinks containing artificial sweeteners

If you think you have a food intolerance, you can try avoiding that food for several weeks to see if your symptoms improve. A low FODMAP diet might work for you. If you aren’t sure which foods you may be intolerant to, you can try an elimination diet in which you avoid all potential problem foods for several weeks and then gradually add them back into your regular diet. Adding foods back one at a time can help you determine which foods are likely to trigger your symptoms. Talk to your healthcare provider or a registered dietician for further guidance in setting up an elimination diet that meets your needs.


Because disorders like IBS involve communication between the brain and the gut, stress and anxiety can often cause these disorders or make them worse. People with IBS are also more likely to have anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders.

Stress can be particularly tricky to address for people with a sensitive gut or IBS. Digestive problems are often themselves a main source of stress. Worrying about rushing to a bathroom or losing sleep because of abdominal troubles can make people feel more stressed, and this extra stress may in turn make their digestive problems worse. It can be a vicious cycle. However, learning how to better reduce stress can help make IBS symptoms better.

Certain mental health treatments have been shown to help with IBS. Cognitive behavioral therapy can help people change their thoughts and behaviors and teach people how to better manage stress and anxiety. Learning deep breathing or relaxation skills can also help people with IBS. Finally, gut-directed hypnotherapy, in which a person is guided into a hypnotic state, can help restore better communication between the brain and the gut and can provide long-term relief from IBS symptoms. Building other healthy habits into a daily routine, such as getting more sleep and exercising more, can also help treat IBS.


We all have lots of different types of healthy bacteria in our intestines that help us digest food. Some people with IBS have too many bacteria, or have high numbers of harmful bacteria. Giving your body more of the “good” types of bacteria may help.

Bacteria and other microorganisms that are good for you are known as probiotics. Yogurt is one popular source of helpful bacteria. People can also get probiotics from unpasteurized fermented foods like sauerkraut, miso soup, kefir, kimchi, pickles, and komboucha. Additionally, probiotic supplements are available over-the-counter in the form of capsules or gummies. Several studies have found that taking probiotics can reduce IBS symptoms.


Different herbs have long been used as traditional treatments to help with digestive problems. For example, peppermint oil is known to help with IBS symptoms, especially when taken in the form of a coated capsule. Clinical trials have found that other herbal supplements can also be effective at reducing pain and symptoms in IBS patients, including bitter candytuft, chamomile, caraway, licorice root, and lemon balm.

Herbal and other non-prescriptions supplements can be helpful in treatment but they can also have interactions with other supplements and medications so please don’t start taking any supplements without a consultation with your doctor to ensure they are appropriate for you.


If changes in diet or lifestyle don’t help reduce IBS symptoms, doctors may prescribe medication. Different medicines can be used to treat diarrhea, constipation, and abdominal pain.


If you feel like you are having a lot of problems with an upset stomach, pain, or irregular bowel habits, the first step is talking to your doctor, who can help you make sure there’s nothing serious going on. Changing your diet to avoid irritating foods and include more easily digestible foods is another helpful step. Many people suffer from digestive problems, but that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing you can do to help ease your symptoms.

Superfoods Part 1: What Is a Superfood and What Is So Super About Them?

Superfoods Part 1: What Is a Superfood and What Is So Super About Them?

In recent years, many people have become excited about superfoods that bring good health and help fight disease. Foods like blueberries, kale, and salmon have earned a reputation for being some of the healthiest foods out there. Here, I will explain why certain foods have earned the “superfoods” label.

What Is a Superfood?

Generally speaking, superfoods are foods that offer a lot of vitamins and minerals and provide positive health benefits. While all foods contain nutrients, some foods are much more packed with health-promoting nutrients than others.

There isn’t one standard scientific or nutritional definition that says which foods can be called superfoods. There isn’t a legal definition either, which means that companies can call any food they want a “superfood”. Many foods are labeled as “superfoods” simply for marketing purposes, and when companies say that a certain food or drink product is a miracle food, the actual science often doesn’t live up to the hype.

However, some foods certainly contain more health benefits than others. Learning more about how our bodies use the food we eat can help us make sure we’re meeting our nutritional needs. Labeling certain items as “superfoods” may help us better understand which foods can provide us with higher levels of health-promoting molecules.


Nutrients are molecules that the body needs in order to work properly. There are two types: macronutrients and micronutrients. Cells get energy from macronutrients and use these as building blocks in order to function and grow. Carbohydrates, fats, and proteins are all macronutrients. Micronutrients include vitamins and minerals.

There are some nutrients that your body can make for itself. Others need to be obtained from the things we eat and drink, and these are called “essential nutrients.” It’s important to get enough of these essential nutrients to keep yourself healthy. Eating superfoods can help you get high levels of many different types of nutrients.


Although many popular diets such as paleo and keto involve low-carb eating plans, some carbohydrates are necessary in order for your body to function properly. Your cells primarily get their energy from carbohydrates, making them an important source of fuel for your body.

There are three primary types of carbohydrates:

  • Sugars are the basic building blocks of other types of carbohydrates. They are found in sweet foods like desserts, soda pop, and candy. Sugars are also found at high levels in processed foods and fast food. When people eat a lot of sugar, some is used for energy, and the extra is stored as fat within the body. Most superfoods have lower levels of sugar. Some superfoods, such as fruits and vegetables, have some naturally occurring sugars.
  • Starches are made up of many different sugar molecules connected together. These molecules need to be broken down before the body uses them, so the body digests them more slowly. This leads to longer-lasting energy for the body and more feelings of fullness. Starches are found in products made from grains, such as bread and pasta. Some vegetables, like potatoes and corn, also have a lot of starch.
  • Fiber can’t be completely broken down by the body. It leads to even stronger feelings of fullness. Fiber can support a healthy digestive system and reduce cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Many superfoods such as vegetables, fruit, beans, and whole grains contain high levels of fiber.

One way to get the carbohydrates you need using superfoods is by eating a lot of fresh vegetables and fruits. Additionally, some people consider whole grains to be superfoods. Whole grains are less processed, so they have more health benefits such as extra vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Whole wheat bread and pasta, brown rice, oatmeal, and quinoa are all types of whole grains.


Like carbohydrates, fats supply your cells with energy. They also have several other roles within your body:

  • Helping your body stockpile and use certain vitamins and minerals
  • Supporting skin and hair health
  • Developing a healthy brain
  • Supporting healthy inflammation levels
  • Controlling proper blood clotting

Certain types of fats are less healthy than others. Saturated fats are unhealthy fats that are solid at room temperature, like butter and lard. Trans fats are also unhealthy. They are often added to foods as a preservative. Both saturated fats and trans fats can increase your levels of LDL, or “bad” cholesterol, and raise your risk of heart disease and stroke. Animal products like milk, cheese, and fatty meats have high levels of saturated fat. Oils that have a lot of saturated or trans fats include coconut oil, palm oil, and hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils. Experts say that fewer than 10% of your calories should come from saturated fat.

Unsaturated fats, on the other hand, have the opposite effects, leading to higher levels of HDL, or “good” cholesterol, and lowering your chance of developing heart disease. Some foods are thought to be superfoods because they contain high levels of these types of fats.

One type of healthy unsaturated fat is monounsaturated fat. This form of fat can be found in foods like nuts and avocado, which are often thought of as superfoods. Additionally, cooking with oils that contain monounsaturated fat can be a healthier option than cooking with butter. Oils with monounsaturated fats include:

  • Olive oil (is by far the best type of oil to use in my opinion)
  • Canola oil
  • Sunflower oil
  • Sesame oil
  • Safflower oil
  • Polyunsaturated fats are another healthy fat type. Omega-3 and omega-6 are polyunsaturated fats that are found in high levels in many superfoods. These fats lead to better heart health and reduce your chance of developing diabetes. Foods high in omega-3 and omega-6 include fatty fish like salmon, trout, herring, mackerel, cod and light tuna.

Walnuts, flax seeds, and soybean, corn, and safflower oils also contain polyunsaturated fats.


Every cell in the body contains proteins. Proteins are made up of smaller molecules called amino acids. When we eat proteins from animal or plant sources, the body breaks them down and uses the amino acids to build new proteins to be used throughout the body. It’s important to eat proteins from multiple different sources to make sure that you’re getting all of the different amino acids you need.

The body uses amino acids to build healthy muscles, bones, skin, cartilage and blood. Amino acids are also used to make enzymes, antibodies, and hormones.

Animal sources of protein include meat, chicken, fish, and eggs. These foods can be healthy in moderation, as they provide several kinds of vitamins and minerals. However, they also typically contain a lot of saturated fat, which can raise cholesterol levels. Sticking to superfood sources of protein, such as salmon, walnuts, and beans, can give you an extra nutritional punch. Additionally, green tea contains several beneficial amino acids that may boost brain health, improve mood, and help reduce stress.


Vitamins are molecules that play many different roles within different cells and organs. If you don’t eat enough of a particular vitamin, you might develop a disease or poor health.

There are 13 vitamins that are necessary in order for cells to function. Some examples of include:

  • Vitamin C: An antioxidant that protects cells from damage, supports healthy gums and teeth, and helps heal wounds
  • Vitamin K: A vitamin that helps build bone strength, allows for proper blood clotting, and fights inflammation
  • Folate: A type of B vitamin that supports a healthy heart, builds red blood cells, and helps protect against cancer

Eating a diet full of many different types of foods can help you make sure you’re getting all of the vitamins you need. Additionally, many superfoods contain high levels of several different vitamins. For example:

  • Berries contain high levels of vitamin C and vitamin K, as well as vitamin B6 and vitamin E.
  • Goji berries have large quantities of vitamins A, C, E, and K.
  • Leafy greens such as spinach and kale are also good sources of vitamins A, C, E, and K. Some other green vegetables, including broccoli and mustard greens, also contain several B vitamins.


Minerals are necessary for everything from building strong bones and keeping your heart beating to controlling your metabolism and helping you stay hydrated. There are two main types of minerals. Trace minerals such as iron, copper, and zinc are only needed in small quantities. On the other hand, your body needs higher amounts of macrominerals like calcium, sodium, and potassium.

Superfoods tend to have high levels of the minerals we need. Leafy greens have a lot of iron, magnesium, potassium, and calcium. Soybeans and tofu contain high levels of calcium. Whole grains can give you a high dose of magnesium.

Other Helpful Substances in Superfoods

Superfoods are also a great source of other substances that can promote good health:

  • Catechins are a type of antioxidant that can fight arthritis, inflammation, and cancer, and lead to better heart health. Green tea contains a lot of catechins.
  • Carotenoids are found in leafy green vegetables as well as brightly colored produce like tomatoes, pumpkins, carrots, and beets. They can lower a person’s chance of developing certain cancers and eye disease.
  • Flavonoids protect the body from damage and boost heart and brain health. Tea, dark chocolate, fruits, and vegetables are some of the superfoods that contain flavonoids.
  • Probiotics are “good” bacteria that help you digest food and fight off disease. Many people consider yogurt and fermented foods like kimchi and komboucha to be superfoods because they contain probiotics.
  • Polyphenols are micronutrients that help your body control blood sugar and lower your risk of diabetes. They also help your body digest food, promote healthy brain function, and lower your risk of heart disease. If you want to incorporate more polyphenols in your diet, look to superfoods like berries, soybeans, and whole grains. Resveratrol, found in red grapes and blueberries, is a well-known polyphenol that promotes healthy aging and protects against disease.

Putting It All Together

Eating a diet filled with superfoods can promote health and reduce your risk of disease. Although the definition of “superfood” isn’t all that clear, prioritizing foods that are packed with healthy nutrients can help you maximize health benefits. This article is the first instalment of a series I will be publishing here on’s “Ask the Doctor”. Keep an eye out for future installments which will focus on different key nutrients in different superfoods and their health benefits.


Superfoods Don’t Need to Break the Bank

Some of the more popular superfoods can be expensive. However, you don’t have to go to specialty grocery stores or spend lots of money getting highly-advertised superfoods. Chances are, the vitamins and minerals found in one superfood can be easily found in other foods too. For example, kale gets a lot of attention as a superfood, but many other leafy greens offer the same pack of nutrients. Swiss chard, collard greens, and spinach can be eaten as superfoods too!

In fact, nearly all fruits and vegetables can be considered superfoods because of their high nutritional value. Eating more fresh produce can help you have better health and protect you from many different types of disease! Aim to have fruits or vegetables with every meal. Try adding fruits to your breakfast, and adding extra veggies to dinnertime meals like pasta and soup.

How Many Superfoods Do You Need to Eat to Be Healthy?

If superfoods are so good for you, does that mean you should try to only eat foods in this category? Not quite. A healthy diet consists of eating many different types of food. The more variety you have in your meals, the more different types of nutrients you will be getting. It’s healthier to concentrate on overall balance and variety in your diet rather than fixating on just a couple of individual nutritious foods.

But occasionally eating superfoods won’t magically erase the impact of the rest of your diet. If you tend to eat a diet high in sugar, saturated fat, or processed foods, you are putting yourself at risk of health problems, regardless of whether you sometimes add a superfood to your meal. Focus on improving overall healthy eating habits instead of simply adding a few superfoods to your usual routine. The best way to work towards good health is to eat a variety of nutritious foods with each meal.

Weight Loss and Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

Weight Loss and Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting has become very popular in recent years. Many people use intermittent fasting to lose weight, but scientific research shows that it can have many other positive health effects as well.

Intermittent fasting is a type of eating plan based around periods of eating and periods of fasting, or avoiding food. Whether you realize it or not, you already go through a period of fasting over the course of a typical day: you fast while you sleep. When following an intermittent fasting plan, you purposefully make these fasting periods longer, by skipping certain meals or by not eating at all on some days. Intermittent fasting isn’t like a traditional diet plan – it doesn’t tell you exactly which foods to eat or how much food to have. Instead, intermittent fasting tells you when to eat.

Why are People Trying Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent Fasting: Weight Loss and Health Benefits
Experiments throughout the 20th century showed that eating fewer calories each day, also known as calorie restriction, could lead to longer life for multiple different types of animals. The studies also found that calorie restriction could reduce symptoms of several different kinds of diseases. In recent years, researchers have begun clinical trials in humans to try to discover whether calorie restriction can offer us the same results. Many of these studies have led to positive health benefits.

In the past couple of decades, researchers have realized that one of the reasons calorie restriction may be effective is because it often leads to long periods of fasting. Therefore, many new studies are currently underway to study whether intermittent fasting can also lead to good health and long life.

Weight Loss and Muscle Gain

When it comes to dropping pounds, intermittent fasting is at least as effective as cutting calories. In fact, some clinical trials have found that fasting may lead to even greater amounts of weight loss. Additionally, people with a higher BMI are especially likely to shed pounds when on an intermittent fasting eating plan. Researchers think that the reason fasting helps you lose weight is that it can boost metabolism.

In recent years, intermittent fasting has become very popular among health and fitness enthusiasts, with many personal trainers and fitness communities recommending the diet. Scientific research shows us there is probably good reason for this. Multiple studies have looked at the combination of intermittent fasting with resistance training, which includes strength-building exercises such as weight lifting and bodyweight exercises. The studies found that the combination of fasting with resistance training led people to burn more fat and maintain or possibly even build more lean muscle.

Other Health Benefits

Intermittent Fasting: Weight Loss and Health Benefits

Heart Health

Intermittent fasting can boost heart health in several ways. It can help people lower blood pressure, heart rate, cholesterol, and insulin levels. Fasting also drops levels of fat and sugar in the blood. All of these factors affect a person’s likelihood of developing heart disease or of having a heart attack or stroke. It’s possible that intermittent fasting eating plans could reduce a person’s risk of disease by keeping these factors under control.

Additionally, fasting may help lessen the impact of a poor diet. For example, eating a lot of saturated fat increases a person’s risk of heart disease. When mice are fed a high-fat diet, they develop obesity, high insulin levels, and fatty liver disease. However, mice that are fed a high-fat diet but are only allowed to eat for limited periods of time each day don’t have these heart disease risk factors.

Interestingly, a few studies have looked at the effects of fasting in religious populations. Studies of Muslims and Latter Day Saints found that people were less likely to have heart disease or heart failure while going through a religious fast.


Some studies have also shown that intermittent fasting plans can improve insulin sensitivity and blood sugar levels, meaning that their bodies can better digest and use sugar. When the body becomes more efficient at metabolizing sugar, a person is less likely to develop diabetes. However, these studies have only looked at short-term health effects, and some other studies have shown mixed results. It’s not entirely clear yet whether intermittent fasting can directly lower a person’s diabetes risk in the long run.

Brain Disorders

Intermittent fasting may help the brain age in a healthy manner by encouraging brain cells to grow and form new connections. Animals who fast are better protected against injury and have lower rates of Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.


Initial laboratory studies have found that fasting can starve tumor cells and activate genes that protect cells from cancer. In animals, intermittent fasting leads to fewer tumors, less cancer growth, and increased sensitivity of tumors to treatments like chemotherapy. In human studies, very early results have shown that fasting diets may shield cells from damage and lead people to have fewer symptoms after undergoing chemotherapy. These early studies haven’t yet been able to tell us whether intermittent fasting can be an effective cancer treatment in humans. However, many clinical trials studying this question are in progress.

Other Effects

Early evidence also shows that intermittent fasting may reduce symptoms of other diseases such as asthma, arthritis, and multiple sclerosis, and may help heal wounds more quickly.

Intermittent fasting may also have several other health benefits, such as:

  • Cells are more protected from damage
  • Cells can more easily repair themselves
  • The body increases levels of antioxidants
  • Cells can more efficiently produce energy
  • Old or damaged cells are removed from the body and recycled
  • Lower levels of inflammation

These benefits can lead to better physical and mental health. For example, animal studies show that intermittent fasting leads to much better physical endurance, as well as boosted balance and coordination. Additionally, restricting calories may lead to better brain function and an improved memory.

How Does Intermittent Fasting Work in Your Cells?

Scientists don’t yet completely understand how intermittent fasting works. However, they have come up with several possible ideas to help explain how fasting affects your cells, your body, and your metabolism:

  • Cell Damage: As your cells process food and extract nutrients, they create toxic molecules called free radicals. It’s possible that giving your body fasting periods helps cells produce fewer free radicals. Fasting also allows your body to heal and repair damage.
  • Circadian Rhythms: Your circadian rhythms are part of your body’s internal clock. Your body clock links eating/fasting cycles with the outside day/night cycles. This helps your body maximize its energy during the day, when you’re awake. When our body clocks become mismatched with the outside day/night cycles, problems can result. Studies of intermittent fasting have found that when people eat for a shorter period in the middle of the day, they have health benefits related to better metabolism and heart health, but these benefits aren’t seen when the feeding period is later in the evening when it’s dark.
  • Ketosis: Intermittent fasting can lead to a change in metabolism. After eating, your body uses carbohydrates such as sugars for fuel, and stores the fat. During fasting, sugars are no longer available in the blood supply, so your body starts using up the fat it stored. During this period, the body also produces molecules called ketones that it can also use as fuel. Ketones also help cells work properly by controlling many proteins within the cell, such as growth factors, DNA repair enzymes, and sirtuins, proteins that control many aspects of health and aging.

How Do I Go About Intermittent Fasting?

There are several different types of intermittent fasting eating plans. In general, they fall under two different categories:

  • Alternate-day fasting consists of skipping food for a full 24 hours. This may be done once or multiple times per week. For example, one common fasting plan is the 5:2 diet, where someone fasts for two non-consecutive days in a week and then eats normally for the other five days. Or, someone may rotate every other day between fasting and eating. Some alternate-day plans tell people not to eat anything for the entire day, while others say that eating a couple hundred calories is okay.
  • Time-restricted fasting is when someone fasts for certain hours each day. They may eat for only eight hours and then fast for 16 hours, or eat during a four-hour window and fast for the remaining 20 hours of the day. In this case, fasting means that you completely go without food. However, it’s important to still drink water during this time, so that you don’t get dehydrated. Other zero-calorie drinks such as coffee are also okay to have during fasting periods.

Most intermittent fasting plans don’t tell you exactly which foods to eat during feeding times. However, it’s still important to eat healthful foods while doing fasting plans. Eating more plant-based meals supplemented with healthy proteins such as chicken or fish will amplify the health benefits that come with intermittent fasting. If you are eating a lot of saturated fats, sugar, and salt during your eating periods, you may still be at increased risk for developing several different diseases.

Is Intermittent Fasting Safe?

Many clinical trials have been conducted to look at potential risks of intermittent fasting. So far, researchers haven’t found any major concerns. Even trials of more extreme fasting plans, such as eating zero calories every other day, have reported that fasting seems safe for most people. However, in certain groups of people, intermittent fasting should be approached with caution. No single diet or food lifestyle change is universally appropriate or effective for all people. Depending on one’s individual circumstances, an effective food lifestyle for one person could be harmful if practiced by a person with different personal or medical circumstances so I advise anyone who is considering intermittent fasting to first consult with their doctor.

By way of example, fasting may be risky for people with diabetes, especially for those who are on medications such as insulin that may cause hypoglycemia. Fasting could lead a person’s blood sugar to drop too quickly.

When women try intermittent fasting, some may find that they stop having their period. If this happens to you, try going back to a normal eating pattern and consult your doctor. Additionally, if you’re pregnant, trying to become pregnant, or breastfeeding, it’s probably not healthy for you to try intermittent fasting.

Minor Side Effects

When fasting, it’s common to feel very hungry. In clinical trials, people have also reported other minor side effects, such as:

  • Feeling cold
  • Headaches
  • Feeling light-headed
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Experiencing mood swings
  • Less energy
  • Bad breath
  • Constipation
  • Not being able to stop thinking about food

While these symptoms may be difficult to deal with, they do seem to go away over time. After a month or so, people tend to not feel as hungry or experience these symptoms.

Bigger Risk Factors

Sometimes, people who try IF eating plans are at risk for malnutrition. Taking vitamin or mineral supplements may help you ensure your body is continuing to get the nutrition it needs. Additionally, make sure to eat sufficient protein during meals, as protein malnutrition is a possible concern.

People trying IF should also be aware of signs of more serious health problems. Talk to your healthcare provider if you become dizzy, nauseous, or weak, or if you have trouble sleeping or faint.

Is it Possible to Do Intermittent Fasting Long-Term?

So far, we don’t know of any safety concerns for healthy people who try intermittent fasting over the long haul. However, it might be tough to stick with this eating plan, as it can be very inconvenient or be difficult to incorporate into your daily routine.

It may help to gradually ease into a fasting eating plan. For example, if you’re doing alternate-day fasting, you could try to eat 1000 calories on fasting days for the first month, 750 calories the second month, and 500 for the third. Or, to gradually take on time-restricted fasting, you could try to gradually extend your fasting time each day. Try fasting for 12 hours every day the first month, 14 hours the second month, and so on until you hit your goal. If you immediately jump into a very restrictive plan, you may have more trouble sticking with the diet.

For best results, work with a registered dietician or nutritionist to come up with an eating plan that works for you. A professional nutritionist can help you make sure you’re getting all of the nutrients you need to stay healthy and see maximum health benefits!

Benefits, Risks and Alternatives of Hormonal Replacement Therapy for Women

Benefits, Risks and Alternatives of Hormonal Replacement Therapy for Women

Hormone replacement therapy is a common way to treat symptoms of menopause. Hormones are complicated and come with great benefit as well as risk if not dosed appropriately. Follow-up with regard to clinical symptoms and lab testing is imperative for all patients who decide to initiate and take hormone therapy, so it is important for patients to discuss options with someone who is very experienced in this realm of hormone supplementation therapy. Women should talk to their doctors about which menopause treatment plans may be best based on their own personal symptoms.

Benefits, Risks and Alternatives of Hormonal Replacement Therapy for Women

Hormones are chemicals made by the body. They act as signals, allowing one part of the body to communicate with another part. Hormones are important for many functions in the body, such as growth, metabolism, mood, and sexual reproduction.

Estrogen and Progesterone

Different hormones are responsible for the development and health of male and female reproductive organs. In women, the reproductive hormones are estrogen and progesterone. They are made in the ovaries, and then released throughout the body, where they play important roles in:


As women get older, their bodies gradually stop producing hormones. Their menstrual cycles become more irregular, and eventually stop altogether. Once periods stop, women can no longer get pregnant. This process is known as menopause.

When people go through menopause, they often experience many symptoms that frequently last for seven years or more. One of the most common symptoms is a “hot flash,” in which someone suddenly feels hot, starts sweating, and develops redness or flushing on the chest, neck, or arms. (Most often this is at the level of the neck and above.) Other frequent symptoms include:

  • Shorter or longer periods that occur more or less often
  • Night sweats
  • Sleeping problems
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Incontinence (leaking urine when sneezing, coughing, or running)
  • Lower or higher sex drive
  • Mood swings or anxiety
  • Thinning hair
  • Development of facial hair or sporadic hair on the chin

Women generally start transitioning into menopause in their mid- to late 40s. This transition generally lasts around four years. The period before menopause is termed “peri-menopause” and often starts to occur in a woman’s 30s and can last for more than a decade until menopause occurs. Women is said to have reached menopause when they haven’t had a period for 12 months in a row. Menopause occurs on average, at the age of 52, although it may happen several years earlier or later in many women.

Some women go through menopause at an earlier-than-normal age. It’s not always clear why women go through early menopause, although some possible reasons include smoking, genetics, chemotherapy or radiation treatments, autoimmune diseases, and surgical removal of the ovaries. Typically, women who go through early menopause have the same sorts of symptoms, but the symptoms are more likely to be severe.

HRT Benefits

 Alternatives of Hormonal Replacement Therapy for Women

Menopause symptoms will usually go away eventually on their own, without treatment. However, taking extra hormones as the body stops producing them can help reduce symptoms. Using medications that contain hormones is known as hormone replacement therapy, or HRT.

Women are often at higher risk of having other health problems after they go through menopause, and HRT can also help prevent some of these conditions. For example, a drop in estrogen levels typically leads to bone loss. Women often develop osteoporosis and have a higher risk of breaking bones once they go through menopause. HRT can help women maintain bone strength as they age and stop producing estrogen. HRT can also help post-menopausal women maintain healthy muscle function and improve skin health. Additionally, women younger than 60 who utilize HRT tend to live a little longer.

Using HRT can also help with cognition, or the dreaded “memory fog,” a common symptom experienced by women going through menopause.

People may also go through HRT when they transition away from the biological sex they are assigned at birth. Transgender women may take estrogen and/or progesterone along with testosterone blockers (aka: androgen blockers) as a way to develop more feminine features. HRT can have physical and psychological benefits and lead to greater quality of life for people who are transgender.

Types of HRT

 Alternatives of Hormonal Replacement Therapy for Women
HRT medications typically contain estrogen, progesterone, or a combination of the two. Some forms of progesterone also go by the name “progestin.” Types of HRT include:

  • Estrogen-only medication, which may be called estradiol or conjugated estrogen. Estradiol is the strongest type of estrogen used. Brand names include Premarin, Estrace, and Estraderm, although the molecular structure of Premarin (equine estrogens from horse urine) is different from the female body, so it is not used as much anymore. Other estrogens used include estriol and combinations of the estrogens as well.
  • Progestin-only medication, which may be taken along with estrogen-only drugs. One Brand name is Provera, which is medroxyprogesterone. There is a significant difference between progestin and progesterone as progestin is not bio-identical and has a different molecular structure than the female progesterone. To put it simply, medroxyprogesterone and any progestins are molecularly “cousins” of the naturally occurring progesterone found in the female body. In my opinion and in my practice, patients should use bio-identical HRT – this is the only type of hormone supplementation or replacement I recommend.
  • Combination estrogen and progesterone medication, including Prempro, Climara Pro, and Activella.
  • Combination estrogen and hormone medication, which consists of the drug Duavee. Duavee contains both estrogen and bazedoxifene, a medication that amplifies the effect of estrogen.
  • Progesterone-only medication includes brand names such as Prometrium which are bio-identical, of the same molecular structure as the body’s own progesterone.

Ways of Taking HRT

Hormones can be delivered to your body in several ways. In the most common method of HRT, hormone levels are increased throughout your entire body. This may come in the form of:

  • A pill or tablet taken by mouth, usually once per day.
  • A patch worn on the skin, which is taken off and replaced every couple of days.
  • Topical treatment, including creams, gels, sprays, or foams, which are often applied to the skin once per day in a specific location (such as the arm or leg)
  • Injectable HRT.
  • Hormone Pellets that are implanted underneath the skin every 3-6 months, depending on gender and serum (blood) levels.

Another form of HRT raises hormone levels only in the vagina. These products usually give off a lower dose of estrogen, and are effective at treating vaginal symptoms like dryness. However, they won’t work on symptoms that affect other parts of the body, such as hot flashes. Vaginal HRT medications may come in the form of a cream, ring, or vaginal tablet.

Each form has different pros and cons, and specific side effects may be more or less likely with each type of HRT. Please talk to your doctor about which form might work best for you and your specific needs and lifestyle.


Alternatives of Hormonal Replacement Therapy for Women

Side Effects

Different HRT medications have different side effects. Some common side effects include headaches, stomach cramps, nausea or vomiting, tender breasts, hair loss, muscle spasms, dizziness, and throat or neck pain. If you are experiencing severe side effects from HRT, talk to your doctor about trying a different medication or stopping your use of the medication.

Health Risks

Taking hormones can lead to certain more serious side effects. Depending on a person’s health and family history, HRT may increase the chance of developing:

  • Blood clots
  • Heart attacks
  • Stroke
  • Dementia

For this reason, HRT is often not recommended for people with a history of bleeding problems, heart attacks, stroke, or liver disease. However, not every person is at high risk of developing these conditions. Talk to your doctor to determine whether these disorders are a concern for you.

Taking estrogen can also lead to an increased risk of getting cancer of the uterus. If a woman still has her uterus and has not gotten a hysterectomy, taking progesterone in addition to estrogen can reduce this risk. Additionally, taking progesterone helps protect the uterus and also reduces the risk for abnormal endometrial cell growth or proliferation which can cause the lining of the uterus to become thickened and cause vaginal bleeding.

Does HRT Lead to Cancer?

In the early 2000’s, two large clinical trials that included tens of thousands of women analyzed the long-term effects of HRT. These trials were the first to find that there may be a link between HRT and breast cancer. After following the women in the trial for more than a decade, researchers found that women who took a combination of estrogen and progestin (not progesterone) were more likely to develop breast cancer but I note that these studies were done on subjects that were not taking bio-identical hormones, which are the only type I recommend in my practice. However, women who took estrogen alone had a decreased cancer risk. Since these trials, many more studies have been published, and they have often come to conflicting conclusions, Cancer risk needs to be assessed on an individual basis with any patient who is considering taking HRT and this may be especially important for women with a personal or family history of the disease. Work with your healthcare provider to determine whether the benefits of HRT outweigh the risks.

How to Take Hormones Safely

In order to decrease health risks, some experts recommend taking hormones for the shortest amount of time needed, using the lowest dose that works. HRT carries less risk for younger women and for women who went into menopause within the last few years. However, now we have ample data to support taking HRT for many years and that doing so can help protect the brain, breast, and bones.

If you do decide to take hormones, there are things you can do to take them more safely. I always recommend that patients take an HRT that is the bio-identical form. Make sure to have regular doctor’s appointments where you can discuss both your menopause symptoms as well as any possible side effects from HRT. In particular, tell your healthcare provider if you experience any new bleeding problems. You can also ask your doctor about whether you need to be screened for certain health conditions, as people who take hormones may need to get mammograms or bone density tests more often than others. Finally, do not smoke while taking hormones, as this can lead to potentially dangerous blood clots.

Alternatives to HRT

Alternatives of Hormonal Replacement Therapy for Women

Relaxation Techniques

Research has found that practices that lead to less stress and anxiety can help improve menopause symptoms. For example, mindfulness meditation can help women have fewer, less severe hot flashes, and help with symptoms related to sleep, mood, and muscle and joint pain. A clinical trial also found that hypnosis could make hot flashes occur 74% less often and be 80% less severe, although scientists don’t know exactly how this works.

Additionally, researchers have studied whether certain types of relaxing physical activities can help with menopause. Tai Chi is a mind-body exercise that involves meditation and relaxation. Studies have found that Tai Chi can help menopausal women have fewer hot flashesstronger bones, and higher levels of antioxidants in their bodies. Additionally, yoga may help reduce hot flashes. Exercises that engage both the body and the mind might be a way to help treat menopause symptoms.

Herbal Supplements

Many herbal or natural supplements are often taken for menopause symptoms. However, many herbs don’t seem to actually work when they’re studied in clinical trials, or they have not been studied at all.

For example, women undergoing menopause commonly use evening primrose oil. One study found that this supplement could make hot flash symptoms slightly better, while another found that it had no effect. The use of red clover in menopause has also led to mixed results. However, there is some evidence that black cohosh can help treat menopause, especially when combined with St. John’s wort. More clinical trials need to be conducted in order to better determine which herbs are most helpful for treating menopause.

If you do decide to use herbal supplements, make sure your doctor knows. Just because a treatment is natural and comes from a plant doesn’t mean it’s completely safe. Evening primrose oil can lead to bleeding problems when combined with ginseng, and black cohosh may cause liver damage. Some herbal supplements can also have interactions with other drugs, leading to increased side effects.

Change Your Diet

Try tracking your hot flashes and keeping a food diary to see if you notice that certain food or drink makes your hot flashes worse. Caffeine, alcohol, and spicy foods may all act as triggers for hot flashes. Avoiding food and drinks in these categories may help your symptoms improve. Eating lots of fruits and vegetables and having meals at regular times throughout the day can also help you manage your symptoms. Additionally, some women find that eating soy products such as tofu or edamame may help treat menopause.

Manage Hot Flashes

Even if you can’t make your hot flashes disappear, you can make them more manageable. Wear light, breathable clothing, and dress in layers so that you can take off a jacket or sweater if you feel a hot flash coming on. Keep cold water and a fan close by at all times, in order to help cool yourself off if you start sweating. It may also be helpful to sleep with a fan by your bed. Finally, taking slow, deep breaths as a hot flash starts can help them go away more quickly.

Addressing Sexual Symptoms

Using a vaginal moisturizer can help relieve dryness. Additionally, you may want to try a water-based lubricant in order to make sex more comfortable. Kegel exercises may also help work out muscles in the vagina and lead to less urine leakage.

Keep Your Bones Healthy

Because bone density decreases after menopause, and bone breaks become more common, it’s important for women to think about bone health. Exercise and physical activity can keep bones strong as you age. Taking extra calcium or vitamin D can help, too. Calcium comes from foods containing dairy, such as milk and cheese, as well as from leafy green vegetables, salmon, and tofu. Vitamin D comes from getting sunlight. Both calcium and vitamin D can also be taken as supplements. Talk with your physician about making sure that your vitamin D levels are optimal.

Getting Better Sleep

Many women going through menopause have sleeping problems. Try getting better sleep through:

  • Getting more physical activity during the day
  • Avoiding eating or drinking alcohol before bed
  • Drinking warm milk or tea before you sleep
  • Turning off your phone and TV when it gets close to bedtime
  • Avoiding naps during the day
  • Talking to your healthcare provider about treating insomnia


Hormone replacement therapy may be right for some but unnecessary or risky for others. Your physician can help you figure out whether the benefits outweigh the risks based on your health and family medical history and can help guide you in the right direction regarding the benefits of hormone replacement therapy. Contact Dr. Brynna Connor to learn more.


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