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DR. MARK’S INTEGRATIVE MEDICINE CABINET: Eat better, sleep better
JACKSON HOLE, WYO – Remember the warm glass of milk before bed? Probably one of the worst choices we can make for our kids. We see so much whey and dairy sensitivity, and we also see sleep improve in most people who stop using dairy, so what you eat may influence how you sleep.
The other myth I hear is “don’t drink anything after dinner.” Well, here in beautiful Jackson Hole, if you don’t drink water you will get dehydrated very easily. Especially if you are very active, you must hydrate to stay safe. What I see is that some of us can drink water up until bed and be fine and others just cannot sleep throughout the night without a few trips down the hall. The real key is what you drink and eat. The worst thing to drink is any sugar or simple carbohydrate like fruit juice, some dairy products, chips or other processed snacks. Alcohol is particularly bad.
Heartburn does not exist in our clients. We look for the cause and eliminate heartburn, not throw the Purple Pill at it. I was told in my Internal Medicine Training that heartburn is from too much acid so take an acid blocker. My Natural Medicine friends say the problem is too little acid and they give massive amounts of hydrochloric acid each meal. Who is right? Neither!
For some people, there is an imbalance in acidity and its support for digestion with specific enzymes, and they need more. For others, there are food sensitivities and poor lifestyle choices that contribute. Mint, peppermint, caffeine, chocolate and alcohol relax the sphincter muscle that holds acid in the stomach, so these are easy avoidance ideas late in the day. Sometimes, extreme exercise can cause this too, especially late in the day. My recommendation is to balance your life, exercise and eating and drinking to find the combination that allows a better balance to sleep.
Do you ever awaken at 2 a.m. and can’t fall back asleep? We call this the Chinese Adrenal Hour. You are stressed from life or food or fear, and you drop cortisol at night. Ever notice how kids get sicker in middle of night due to lower cortisol immune support? So many of us also do this and it causes low blood sugar, which our brain is not happy about, and forces adrenaline throughout the body to bring sugar to our brain and calm it down. But the adrenaline rush killed our sleep, and we are awake for three hours. Turn on Fox News or your email or Google and you are done for the night as that stimulation forces further adrenal stress. You will never fall back to sleep; though you may be so tired you are unconscious.
We are all simply Pavlovian dogs and psycho-susceptible, so one trick is to condition the body to only sleep in bed. To do this, create a 20-minute routine prior to bed that includes a small amount of chamomile or sleep-time type tea. Don’t drink too much or you will be up all night. Then take a warm shower or bath or place an essential oil cloth on your face. Lavender is best. Then go to a chair and read a book. The 30 journals I read each month are better than Ambien to put me out. Then fall in to a cozy, comfortable bed with no electronics and dream about breaking the less than three-hour running record from Lupine parking lot to the top of Grand Teton and back.