By Dr. Scott Figueroa, ND

Sleep, Pain & Stress: A Naturopath’s Advice

Published in HWS Magazine

Dr Scott Figueroa is a licensed naturopathic doctor with a clinical practice in Niagara Falls. He is also available Mondays and Thursdays to help customers navigate natural health at The Peanut Mill Natural Foods Market. Dr. Scott was asked to comment on his top three most commonly asked health concerns:

Sleep: Getting There & Staying There!
Many customers come to the store with difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep and getting a restful night’s sleep. In general, if people have trouble falling asleep or delayed sleep, melatonin is a good starting point. Melatonin is the hormone responsible for helping to regulate our sleep-wake cycle. It can be very helpful in those situations where someone has an irregular sleep schedule, such as shift workers or jet lagged travelers. Most people I speak to don’t just have trouble falling asleep but also staying asleep and that’s where combination products like Ortho-Sleep from AOR or Tranquil Sleep from Natural Factors may help with a more restful sleep. They both contain ingredients that promote the production of calming brain chemicals and hormones.

Research shows that a lack of calcium and magnesium can cause sleep issues. The Health First Cal-Mag Supreme offers a plant-based source of calcium and other minerals as well as vitamin D and K2 for proper calcium utilization. Magnesium is a favourite recommendation as it is very calming to both the nervous system and muscles. So, it’s helpful for some of the core reasons people can’t sleep such as anxiety, restless legs, muscle cramps and other aches and pains. High doses may be necessary to correct deficiency and magnesium bisglycinate is a well absorbed form that will have the least digestive side effects at higher doses.

Pain & Inflammation Options
Joint pain is another common customer concern at The Peanut Mill. Many people can either no longer tolerate or have serious concerns about using prescription medications for chronic pain. Glucosamine, chondroitin and MSM are some well-known alternatives for joint health. Natural Eggshell Membrane (NEM) is a newer product showing promise for osteoarthritis. It is convenient at one capsule per day and best of all it’s relatively fast-acting. People start to see improvement after about 10 days.

I also like the benefits of natural anti-inflammatories like the omega-3 EPA and turmeric extract. Not only will these help with joint pain but have cardiovascular, brain health and anti-cancer benefits as well.  Fish oils are the most available source of the omega-3 EPA. What most people are not aware of is the dose of EPA required. You need at least 1,500 mg of EPA per day to see benefit. SeaRich Omega-3 has a high-potency formula that provides 1,500 mg of EPA in a single teaspoon.

Many people are now familiar with the anti-inflammatory benefits of turmeric and its active compound curcumin. However, turmeric is difficult to absorb, so it’s important to use an extract that has been enhanced for better absorption. Natural Factors CurcuminRich Joint Optimizer combines a highly absorbable curcumin with other herbal anti-inflammatories such as Boswellia and White Willow. Another good option is Health First’s Curcumin Supreme. It combines the patented turmeric phytosome Meriva with the joint nutrient MSM to reduce inflammation and improve joint mobility.

Stress & Anxiety Support
Stress is something that affects everyone, so it should be no surprise that I get asked a lot about dealing with stress and anxiety. I group them together because people most often experience anxiety when under a lot of stress and many of the recommendations are similar. Stress can be associated with many symptoms including high blood pressure, fatigue, insomnia, muscle tension, gastrointestinal and immune system disturbances, and depression and anxiety.

Some of the basic nutrients to support your adrenal glands and regulate your stress response include vitamin C, vitamin B5 (pantethine) and magnesium. It’s important to keep your B vitamins in balance, so consider a complex of all the Bs that is high in B5, such as AOR’s Advanced B-Complex. Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb that has been used for centuries for its restorative benefits. Adaptogens help you “adapt” to stress and normalize body processes. Ashwagandha is an excellent example as it exerts effects on cortisol, thyroid and testosterone balance to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety as well as improving thinking, exercise response and energy levels. KSM-66 is a specific extract of Ashwagandha that has been well studied. It can be found in both the 88 Herbs and Health First brands of Ashwagandha.

Acupuncture is an in-office treatment I often recommend for all the above conditions. Acupuncture is an excellent therapy for pain but it also has a very calming, balancing effect for stress, anxiety, and sleep. My clinic, Hart & Sol Integrative Healthcare, also offers massage therapy and physiotherapy as part of our integrative approach in a patient’s recovery.

The above are general recommendations which will benefit most people. If your case requires a more thorough and individualized approach which includes testing and examination, an office visit with a naturopathic doctor is suggested.