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No-Bake Blueberry Almond Whole 30 Snack Bars

No-Bake Blueberry Almond Whole 30 Snack Bars

Disclosure:  This post may contain affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a commission if you click on, or make a purchase through a third-party link.

If you have been through the Total30 diet plan, you know sweets are off-limits. You are not allowed to eat sugar, honey, agave nectar, maple syrup, or any other sugar substitute. This includes Equal, NutraSweet, Stevia, Splenda, etc. After doing some research, I found that dates are about as sweet as you can get. If you add different kinds of nuts, some dried fruit, and a little sunflower seed butter for moisture, you can make snack bars that are very satisfying. I made several versions of these during my 30-day party.

Only five initial ingredients

No Cooking Necessary

You read that right. You don’t need to cook these in any way. All you need is the five ingredients pictured above, a food processor, a pan lined with parchment paper and a little time. The first step in all of my recipes is gathering ingredients. I have started preparing too many meals only to find out I was missing a key ingredient. This frustration has taught me to set all ingredients out before beginning.

Prepare the Pan

Set the pan (I used a cake pan) down on a piece of parchment paper. Draw an outline around the pan. Cut the parchment paper along the line drawn to form a circle that fits into the pan as shown above.

White Mulberry Leaf Blend Works by Suppressing Appetite

Add Ingredients to Food Processor

To be honest, the hardest part of this recipe is being sure all your ingredients are Whole30 compliant. Be sure the dried fruit does not contain any added sugar or sulfites. Whole Foods has dried fruit that has no added ingredients. Do the same with the dates. The next thing to do is to measure out the dry ingredients and add them to the food processor as shown above.

Next just pulse the nuts dates and dried fruit until well mixed. Add 2 tablespoonfuls of sunflower seed butter (or almond butter) . This adds moisture and makes it possible to press into your pan.

Press mixture into your pan and refrigerate. I told you this was easy. Sweet, healthy, yummy blueberry bars.

No-Bake Blueberry Almond Whole 30 Snack Bars

This is a super simple, Whole30 compliant healthy snack bar recipe.
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time0 mins
Course: Snack
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Blueberry bar, healthy snack, Larabar, Whole30
Servings: 10
Calories: 144kcal
Author: Michael Brown
Cost: $15

Equipment

  • Food processor
  • Cake Pan
  • Parchment paper

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Raw Almonds
  • 1 cup Raw cashews
  • 1 cup Pitted dates
  • 1 cup Dried blueberries May use any dried fruit that DOES NOT contain added sweeteners or sulfites. Read labels closely
  • 2 tbsp sunflower seed butter could substitute almond better

Instructions

  • Place cake pan on parchment paper and draw circle around bottom of pan.
  • Cut out circle and place into the bottom of the cake pan and set aside.
  • Add Nuts, pitted dates, and dried fruit to the food processor.
  • Pulse until well mixed.
  • Add sunflower seed butter and mix until moist.
  • Press into the lined cake pan and refrigerate.
  • Slice into wedges and serve.
My new Best Friend “Ginger”

14 Surprising Berberine Uses

The newest supplement available in the Sunshine Store is berberine. We chose to add this product based on the evidence available on its usefulness. As you will learn from this article, berberine may be useful for a variety of health-related conditions. It is one of the few herbal supplements that can have similar effects on the body as prescription medications.

Berberine has been used in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years. This yellow, bitter alkaloid is found in the roots, bark, and rhizomes of plants such as Oregon grape, goldenseal, European barberry, and tree turmeric, among others.  

What is berberine used for?

Is it safe?

Are there drug interactions?

As mentioned above, berberine has a variety of uses. Some of the most popular are listed below.

Berberine for Diabetes

Berberine has been shown to have a positive effect on diabetes in several studies. 

Some of these effects are listed below.

Taking 500mg of berberine twice daily for three months in patients with type 2 diabetes may reduce glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c), post-prandial glucose (PPG), and fasting plasma glucose (FPG).1

Taking berberine 500mg two to three times daily for two to three months works as well as metformin two to three times a day or rosiglitazone 4mg daily in the regulation of glucose metabolism in type 2 diabetics.

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Berberine for Hypertension

Hypertension is a growing problem. Approximately one million visits to emergency departments listed hypertension as the primary diagnosis in 2016.

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This condition often does not have symptoms associated with it and can go unnoticed for years. 

Hypertension can damage your arteries, heart, kidneys, eyes, and brain. It may lead to stroke, dementia, kidney failure, and blindness.

A meta-analysis showed that combining berberine with amlodipine is more effective at reducing blood pressure than taking amlodipine alone.

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Source: 5

Berberine for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

There have been studies examining the use of berberine in women with PCOS who were attempting to become pregnant. Although there are mixed results, one study showed that 500mg of oral berberine taken three times daily for three months before IVF increased pregnancy and live birth rate. These results were similar to those obtained when taking oral metformin 500mg three times daily for three months before IVF.

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Berberine for Hyperlipidemia

Meta-analyses show that berberine may reduce total cholesterol (TC), triglycerides (TG), and LDL (bad) cholesterol. 

It can also increase HDL (good) cholesterol levels. It also leads to a more significant reduction in TC and LDL when combined with lipid-lowering medications.

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Berberine may also be useful for the following conditions, although less quality evidence is available to support its use for these.

Congestive heart failure (CHF) – May reduce premature ventricular contractions and lower mortality.

Burns – As an ointment in combination with beta-sitosterol.

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Cholera

Coronary heart disease (CHD) – See hyperlipidemia above.

Diarrhea – May be effective for diarrhea caused by E. coli.

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Glaucoma – As eyedrops in combination with tetrahydrozoline.

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Hepatitis B and C – Berberine decreases triglycerides and blood glucose. It also reduces markers of liver damage, including aspartate aminotransferase (AST) and alanine aminotransferase (ALT).

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Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) – May reduce the frequency of abdominal pain, diarrhea, and defecation frequency when compared to placebo.

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Symptoms of menopause – When taking berberine along with soy isoflavones, vasomotor symptoms in menopausal women may be decreased when compared to calcium plus vitamin D administration.

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Obesity – Berberine has been shown to decrease weight by 2.3 kg (~5 lbs) in obese patients compared with a control group when ingested for twelve weeks.

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Berberine interactions with Drugs:

Drugs used to treat diabetes – Do not use berberine with antidiabetic medications. There is substantial clinical evidence suggesting this combination increases the risk of hypoglycemia. Berberine should not be used with any drug that lowers blood sugar. 

This includes insulin as well as other oral and injectable diabetes medications.

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Amlodipine and other drugs for high blood pressure – Combining berberine with amlodipine may result in a decrease in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

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This effect may also occur with other antihypertensive medications.

Anticoagulants – Since berberine may inhibit platelet aggregation, caution should be used when combining it with antiplatelet or anticoagulant medications. 

The risk of bleeding may be increased.

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Cyclosporine – Do not combine berberine with cyclosporine. This combination may result in an increased level and increased adverse effects of cyclosporine.

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Drugs that may cause sedation – Use caution when combining berberine with medications that produce sedation. 

This combination may lead to an increase in sedative effects. Some examples of sedative agents include.

  • Benzodiazepines
  • Narcotics
  • Barbiturates
  • Sedating antihistamines such as diphenhydramine and hydroxyzine
  • Anticonvulsants

There are other sedating medications, please contact your physician or pharmacist or send me a message to me for clarification.

Medications metabolized by Cytochrome P450 – There are several agents in this category. Below is a shortlist but again, if you have questions about what you are taking, please consult a physician or pharmacist, or simply shoot me an email.

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Ibuprofen (Motrin) – May increase ibuprofen levels.

Losartan (Cozaar) – May decrease therapeutic effects of losartan.

Dextromethorphan (Robitussin DM, Delsym, others) – May increase dextromethorphan levels leading to drowsiness, irritability, and confusion.

Lovastatin (Mevacor) – May increase lovastatin levels.

Sildenafil (Viagra) – May increase sildenafil levels.

Tacrolimus – There has been at least one case report of berberine, causing an increased serum creatinine and tacrolimus level in a 16-year-old patient with idiopathic nephrotic syndrome.

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Patients who take berberine along with tacrolimus should have drug levels checked as tacrolimus dose adjustment may be necessary.

Safety of Berberine in Pregnancy and Lactation

Berberine should NOT be used in pregnant or lactating women. Berberine is believed to cross the placenta and may cause kernicterus and harm the fetus. Berberine may also be secreted into breast milk when taken orally, so it should not be used by breastfeeding mothers.

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Side Effects of Berberine

Although berberine is generally well tolerated, the following side effects were the most commonly reported during research studies.

  • diarrhea
  • constipation
  • abdominal pain
  • abdominal distention
  • vomiting
  • flatulence

Berberine is a substance that has been used in other countries for its health benefits for thousands of years. I became interested in it while reading a book I recently purchased on nutraceutical preparation. This herbal product has the best evidence for its use in diabetes, hyperlipidemia, hypertension, and polycystic ovary syndrome. It can also be effective for several other ailments described above.

 

Berberine should never be used in children or pregnant or breast-feeding mothers. There is some evidence that it may be harmful to the fetus as well as small children. As a pharmacist, I believe in using herbs and medications in pregnancy or children only when absolutely necessary. The risk is just too substantial.

 

Berberine, along with turmeric and ashwagandha, has effects on the body that can rival prescription medications. It can be beneficial for those who have diabetes, PCOS, or obesity. It is generally well-tolerated and is now available in the Sunshine Store for purchase. 

 

Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Always remember to take care of yourself, eat whole foods, drink plenty of water, exercise, and get adequate sleep. These can significantly help in your quest for happiness.

 

 

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Michael Brown in Lab Coat with arms crossed

Michael J. Brown, RPh, BCPS, BCPP

Mr. Brown is a Clinical Pharmacist specializing in pharmacotherapy and psychiatry.

Read Michael’s story here.

Feel free to send Michael a message using this link.

 

 

Abnormal Condition of Dry or Scaly Skin in Older Individuals

What can be done to prevent dry skin as you age?

The skin is the largest organ of the body. It serves as a barrier and protects us from bacteria. 

Skin also helps to regulate body temperature and allows us to respond to heat, cold, and touch. There are three layers that compose the skin.

  • Epidermis – This is the outer layer that serves as a barrier. The epidermis keeps pathogens from entering the body and regulated water being released from the body.
  • Dermis – The layer below the epidermis is called the dermis. This layer contains blood vessels, nerve endings, sweat glands, and hair follicles.
  • Hypodermis – This layer contains fat and connective tissue, and provides cushioning and insulation to the body.

Dermatologists are specialized physicians who diagnose and treat various conditions of the skin. This post will explore dry skin, its causes, treatments, and effects on the aging population.

Effects of Age on the Skin

As we age, our skin becomes thinner. The number of blood vessels, nerve endings, and the amount of connective tissue also decrease. These changes lead to a reduced ability to retain moisture, control body temperature, and sense the environment.

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Pruritis, or itching, is the most common complaint involving the skin in older individuals. Short-term itching, less than six weeks, may protect us, but pruritis lasting more than six weeks can be bothersome. Pruritis can effect the quality of life and, in some cases, patients would rather live a shorter life without symptoms than live longer with pruritis.

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Dry skin (xerosis) is more common in older individuals and those living in colder climates. Heating homes in the winter months leads to decreased humidity that can dry the skin.

Prevention of Dry, Itchy Skin

The best treatment for most anything is prevention. 

Dry, itchy skin is no exception. 

The first step is to monitor the health of the skin regularly. This can be done by scanning the body for problem areas. A physician may also perform skin monitoring during a routine physical exam. 

Some causes of dry skin include:

  • Cold, dry air during the winter months
  • Skin damage from the sun
  • Use of soaps and detergents that damage the skin
  • Excessive immersion in water (taking long baths)
  • Some diseases such as lymphoma, malnutrition, hypothyroidism, eczema, and others
  • Direct exposure to fan heaters3

     

    One of the best ways to prevent dry to skin is to eat an adequate amount of protein, vitamins, and fatty acids.

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Best Foods to Eat for Healthy Skin

What should you eat to help keep your skin healthy? In general, fresh fruits and vegetables are a good choice because of the vitamins and antioxidants. Below are some great suggestions.

  1. Salmon – Fatty fish, such as salmon, contain omega-3 fatty acids which reduce inflammation and keep the skin moisturized.5
  1. Bell Peppers – Bell peppers are an excellent source of beta-carotene, especially the red and yellow variety. Green bell peppers are picked before they turn color and do not contain as much beta-carotene, which is converted to vitamin A in the body. Bell peppers are also high in vitamin C, which helps keeps the skin healthy by helping form collagen.6

3. Broccoli –

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Probably my favorite vegetable, broccoli, contains many vitamins and minerals necessary for good skin health, including:

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin C
  • Zinc

Broccoli, as well as cabbage, cauliflower, and kale, also contains sulforaphane. This substance may protect the skin from the sun’s damage, thus decreasing photoaging.

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  1. Avocados – Packed with healthy fats, this guacamole ingredient can improve skin health by moisturizing and improving flexibility.9

Avocados also contain vitamins C and E, which act as antioxidants. One symptom of vitamin C deficiency is dry, scaly skin. Vitamin C also is needed to make collagen that helps keep skin healthy and strong.

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  1. Tomatoes – Another favorite of mine, tomatoes contain vitamin C, lycopene, and beta-carotene. 

These substances can protect skin from the sun and help prevent wrinkles.

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  1. Soy – Isoflavones are contained in soy. These have been shown to improve skin elasticity and decrease fine wrinkles in at least one study.13

Isoflavones can also protect the skin from the sun’s harmful rays.  

  1. Sweet potatoes – We started eating more sweet potatoes when consuming the Whole30 diet. These are an excellent beta-carotene source that can protect the skin from the sun. Sweet potatoes are a better option than white or yellow potatoes. Give them a try.
  1. Green leafy vegetables – spinach, kale, and collard greens contain vitamins A, C and E. They are also a good source of protein and spinach contains selenium which can protect the skin from UV rays.
  1. Eggs – These are a good source of protein, selenium, zinc, vitamin A and vitamin C.  

10. Healthy oils –  Extra virgin olive oil and fish oil can help with keeping the skin moist and pliable.

Dietary supplements may be necessary if you cannot get enough nutrients from the foods you eat. 

Some of these can be found in the Sunshine Store. The supplements listed below are the same as those contained in the foods above.  

  • Fish Oil
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin E
  • Zinc
  • Selenium

Topical Agents for Dry Skin

Daily use of moisturizers that hydrate the skin is important. Some examples of ingredients that can help are:

 

Topical Urea – This is a molecule produced by our body that is naturally found in the skin. It is generated from the metabolism of proteins and other compounds. 

Urea is excreted in the urine and through sweating.

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Urea is one of the best moisturizing agents available to dermatologists today. It has been used safely for over a century and can be utilized for several skin conditions. Urea has different effects on the skin, depending on the concentration employed. At lower concentrations (~10% or less), it acts as a moisturizer, while at concentrations greater than 10%, it has an emollient/keratolytic action. Urea can also enhance the penetration of other molecules through the skin and is used in combination therapies.

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Other skin moisturizers available include glycerin, lactic acid, and petrolatum.

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Other Ways to Help Dry Skin

  • Avoid traditional soaps – regular soap can alkalinize the skin damaging the moisture barrier. Synthetic cleansers such as Dove, Olay, and Cetaphil are preferred.
  • Avoid excessive washing – This can worsen dry skin, especially if very hot water is used. 
  • Avoid aggressive scrubbing and use luke-warm water.
  • Use a Humidifier – Increasing humidity can help decrease skin drying, especially in the winter months.

 

 As we age, our bodies go through many transformations. Energy levels decrease, our kidneys and liver don’t work as well, and we have a higher percentage of body fat. Our skin also changes and becomes thinner, less pliable, and dry. If we don’t care for our skin, it can crack, leading to pain and possible infection.  

 

One of the best things you can do for your body at any age is to eat fresh, whole foods. If you eat a healthy, balanced diet, you are likely to help your skin stay strong and healthy. Always stay hydrated, exercise, and use high-quality moisturizing lotions. 

 

If you live in the northern part of the country where it is cold in the winter, consider using a humidifier to help decrease the effects of dry air on your skin.  

 

Avoid excessive bathing, especially with very hot water, as this may dry your skin. Stick with high-quality synthetic cleansers, and be sure to monitor your skin for dry, scaly areas. If you find problems with your skin, see your doctor. There are medicated creams and lotions available to help relieve the various skin conditions you may be suffering from.

Skin integrity is vital to our overall health. If you have any questions regarding this topic, or any other health or fitness related subject, feel free to contact us. If you have ideas for future blog posts, let me know. My goal is to keep you entertained and informed. Have a great day; be happy, healthy, and keep smiling.

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Michael Brown in Lab Coat with arms crossed

Michael J. Brown, RPh, BCPS, BCPP

Mr. Brown is a Clinical Pharmacist specializing in pharmacotherapy and psychiatry.

Read Michael’s story here.

Feel free to send Michael a message using this link.

 

 

Female Pattern Hair Loss, PCOS Alopecia Treatment, What Works?

Female pattern hair loss (FPHL), also called female androgenic alopecia is a diffuse, non-scarring loss of hair.  The hair loss is most apparent in the frontal, central, and parietal scalp regions.  This condition is most common in adult females and its incidence increases with age.  Unfortunately, this disease shows variable responses to treatment.

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Not surprisingly, FPHL can lead to low self-esteem, poor body image, depression, and a lower over-all quality of life.

We know that the hair follicle changes in alopecia are similar for men and women, but the presentation and response to therapy is different. 

FPHL normally occurs during the reproductive years.  The second peak occurs at menopause (50-60 years of age).  A study conducted in 2001 found a 3% incidence of FPHL among 1008 Caucasian women in their 30’s.  This prevalence increased slowly with age and was 32% in the ninth decade of life.  The combined prevalence was 19%.

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Minoxidil

The first line of treatment for FPHL is Minoxidil (Rogaine).  Many are familiar with Rogaine as it has been approved for use in men’s hair-loss since 2006.

We are not completely sure how minoxidil works but it is thought to promote the growth phase of the hair follicle, shorten the resting phase, and enlarge miniaturized follicles.

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 In 2014, 5% minoxidil was approved for FPHL.  Before this, only 2% minoxidil solution was approved for use in women.  Studies have shown that once daily application of a 5% foam is as effective as twice daily application of a 2% solution.  This is important because once daily application is more convenient for the patient. 

There are side effects associated with the use of minoxidil.  During the Rogaine clinical trials conducted by Johnson and Johnson, the following side effects were reported in at least 2% of the study participants.

  • Weight Gain
  • Headache
  • Itching
  • Nasal and upper respiratory tract infections        4

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One of the common concerns among women using hair growth products is the worry of hair growing in the wrong places.  Hypertrichosis has been reported with both strengths of minoxidil but is significantly less with the 5% foam.

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It is recommended that minoxidil be applied at least 2-4 hours prior to bedtime with hands thoroughly washed after application to limit unwanted hair growth on the face.

Although I do own stock in Johnson and Johnson, I currently am not paid for promoting their products.  I have included the link to the Rogaine site below as a convenience to my readers.  Both 2% solution and 5% unscented foam are available at:

https://www.rogaine.com/products/womens-hair-regrowth-solutions#women

Other Treatment Options

If Minoxidil is ineffective, other medications may be tried.  It is important to note that although these secondary treatments may be tried, no conclusive evidence supporting their effectiveness is available.  In fact, a Cochrane Review including 47 trials with 5290 subjects, found only minoxidil to be effective for FPHL.

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Although evidence is lacking, these systemic treatments are still utilized in some situations.  They will be briefly discussed here.

Spironolactone

Spironolactone is an aldosterone antagonist.  It works by blocking androgen receptors and has some inhibition of androgen synthesis.

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It is usually the initial second-line agent employed for FPHL because it is often used in women for other indications such as acne, hirsutism, and polycystic ovarian syndrome.  This gives providers more confidence in regards to side effects and tolerability.  Spironolactone has limited positive data available for its use in FPHL.  One open-label study treated patients with either spironolactone or cyproterone.  The average duration of treatment in this study was 16 months.  There was not difference between the groups.  Forty-four percent of the patients experienced regrowth of hair, forty-four percent showed no change, and twelve percent had continued hair loss.

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Finasteride

Finasteride is often used to treat baldness in men.  It works by inhibiting the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone.  This medication is usually well tolerated in females and because of the limited options for women who fail minoxidil, it may be another option.

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Flutamide

Flutamide has a few studies supporting its usefulness in FPHL.  In one prospective cohort study of 101 premenopausal women, flutamide was associated with an average of 15% improvement of hair thickness at six months and 28% at two years.

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Another case study found flutamide reversed hair loss in a patient who had failed treatment with a combination of spironolactone and topical minoxidil.

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Flutamide is associated with side effects such as decreased libido, GI distress and rarely liver failure.  The threat of liver failure has limited flutamide’s use in FPML.

Low-Level Laser Light Therapy (LLLT)

Photobiomodulation therapy, or low-level laser light therapy has also been used to treat FPHL.  A study published in 2014 in The American Journal of Clinical Dermatology found a clinically significant difference in terminal hair density between an FDA approved low-level laser product (Lasercomb) and a sham device.  This was a randomized, double-blind sham device controlled study of 128 male and 141 female subjects. 

The patients who used the Lasercomb also reported an improvement in hair thickness and an overall improvement of their hair loss condition as compared to the sham treated patients. 

There were no serious adverse effects reported with the use of the Lasercomb.  This device may be a good alternative for hair-loss patients who either do not respond to medications or have adverse effects or contraindications to available treatments.

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More information on the Ultima 9 Classic LaserComb can be found at:

https://hairmax.com/products/ultima-9-classic-lasercomb?variant=30328901664886&currency=USD&gclid=Cj0KCQiApt_xBRDxARIsAAMUMu_CUgG6KDzv5d4DMnuOrpiGeL5NHVb0edgODpcXETrwB8E1rGCknE8aArzhEALw_wcB

Surgery

When all other treatments fail, hair transplantation surgery is an option.  Unfortunately, this is not always effective as transplant failure is possible.  This procedure is also costly and time-consuming for the patient.  There may also be an increased amount of hair loss early on and pain and infection is also a risk.

 

PCOS Alopecia Treatment

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) alopecia is caused by an increase in male hormones.  Treatments for this are the same as those listed above.  In addition, birth control pills may be used to help decrease androgen levels.  Oral contraceptives not only help with hair loss but also can be effective for the treatment of other PCOS symptoms such as acne and irregular menstruation.  

There is evidence that weight loss in women with PCOS can also decrease androgen levels.  Even a loss of five to ten percent of body weight can have a significant effect on PCOS symptoms.14

Female pattern hair loss is an unfortunate ailment that increases in prevalence with age.  This condition leads to poor self-esteem, a distorted body image, and may even lead to depression.  Unfortunately, the treatments available for this disorder are scarce.  The only scientifically proven method is topical minoxidil, or Rogaine.  Other treatments have been used with some success but are not well supported by the clinical literature. 

Please leave any questions or comments below.  Thanks for reading, and have a great day!

Michael Brown in Lab Coat with arms crossed

Michael J. Brown, RPh, BCPS, BCPP

Mr. Brown is a Clinical Pharmacist specializing in pharmacotherapy and psychiatry.

Read Michael’s story here.

Feel free to send Michael a message using this link.

 

 

The 2019 Novel Coronavirus – What You Need to Know

Coronaviruses are a group of viruses that can be transmitted between animals and humans.

These viruses can cause mild ailments such as the common cold as well as more severe infections requiring hospitalization.

The latest outbreak initiated in China has already killed 427 people worldwide, as reported by NBC News on February 4th, 2020. This is alarming since this virus has only recently been identified as 2019-nCoV on January 7th, 2020.

How is this virus spread?

What can you do to protect yourself?

How Does This Virus Spread?

Since this is a new virus, we can only speculate on how it is transmitted.  It can be assumed that its spread is similar to other coronaviruses.  These viruses are normally spread by close physical contact (usually six feet or less). 

Droplet transmission is the most likely culprit. 

When an infected patient coughs or sneezes, droplets may be inhaled by others or land in their mouths or noses.  It may also be transmitted by touching a surface contaminated with these droplets and then touching the mouth, eyes, or nose, but this is not currently confirmed.

There is no vaccine against this virus at the current time.

Coronavirus Symptoms

The symptoms of the new 2019-nCoV virus are as follows

  • Fever over 100.4 degrees
  • Muscle aches
  • Breathing problems
  • Malaise
  • Cough

Some people with this virus will show no symptoms but may still spread the virus to others.  Some patients may have severe symptoms such as pneumonia, hypoxia, and even death.

The risk of death is higher in those who are immunocompromised, prone to pneumonia, elderly or frail.

Coronavirus Treatment

There is currently no treatment for this virus other than supportive measures.  Viruses are difficult to treat with medications.  A hospital stay may be necessary to keep the patient comfortable and prevent the condition from deteriorating.  In severe cases, being treated in the ICU to support breathing may be necessary. 

Prevention of Coronavirus

The best way to prevent this infection is to stay away from others who have it, wash your hands often, and clean work surfaces used by others frequently.

If you are not familiar with the correct hand-washing technique, please refer to:

 https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/

  • Hand washing is extremely important for optimal health.
  • If you don’t need to travel to China, don’t. 
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Cough or sneeze into a tissue and promptly throw the tissue in the trash.

If you are living with someone who you think may be infected with coronavirus, do the following:

  • Stay in a separate room and use a different bathroom if possible
  • Clean all surfaces the infected person may have had contact with well!
  • Wear disposable gloves, a disposable gown, and a face mask when caring for them, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after providing care.
  • Have the infected person wear a mask if possible. If this causes breathing problems, others in the same room as the patient should wear a mask.
  • Keep all surfaces very clean, especially ones the patient comes into contact with.

What if I Get Infected?

If you believe you have contracted this virus, see your doctor.  This is especially important if you have a high fever or trouble breathing.  Do not go to highly populated areas as this may cause the disease to spread.  Stay home from work.  If you are severely ill, go straight to the emergency room. 

The hospital or doctor will test you to confirm you are infected with 2019-nCoV.

It is important to stay away from elderly patients, those who are immuno-compromised, small children and anyone who is susceptible to pneumonia if you suspect you may have this virus. 

Protecting yourself against the coronavirus is much the same as avoiding other illnesses.

Stay away from other infected individuals.

Wash your hands often.

Do not travel to destinations where the disease is prevalent.

Wear protective clothing (masks, gowns, gloves) when caring for others with the condition, and keep yourself in good physical condition.

This virus is more dangerous in those with pre-existing respiratory problems, those who are immunocompromised, and the elderly and frail.


If you have any questions, feel free to contact me. There is sure to be more information available on this virus in the coming weeks.

Stay safe, and always remember to be happy and healthy.

Michael Brown in Lab Coat with arms crossed

Michael J. Brown, RPh, BCPS, BCPP

Mr. Brown is a Clinical Pharmacist specializing in pharmacotherapy and psychiatry.

Read Michael’s story here.

Feel free to send Michael a message using this link.

 

 
kids and dog

7 Great Health and Psychological Benefits of Bonding with a Pet Dog

Does owning a pet dog make you healthier?

What are the benefits?

little girl hugging dog

Pet Dogs May Decrease Child Anxiety

A study published in Preventing Chronic Disease in 2015 looked at several factors involving pet dogs and children.  This was a cross-sectional study with 643 kids over the age of 18 months.  The hypothesis was that pet dogs have a positive impact on healthy weight and mental health. The results of this study were:

  • Difference in BMI – No change
  • Screen time of 2 hours or less – No change
  • Change in physical activity – None noted
  • Change in the probability of childhood anxiety – 12% for those with dogs, 21% for those without dogs.

This study showed that having a dog in the home decreased the incidence of childhood anxiety.1

Buy Anxiety Formula Here

old man with dog in lap

Dogs May Lower Hypertension and Cardiovascular Death Risk

Patients with hypertension are often started on antihypertensive medications to prevent heart disease.  Unfortunately, most of these agents work on resting blood pressure but have little effect on physical and mental stress that can lead to hypertension.2

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Studies have been performed examining the effect of pet ownership on hypertension in individuals with high-stress occupations.  Since dogs are perceived by humans to be non-judgmental, they may be a healthy social support alternative.   A study published in Hypertension in 2001, found that pets had a greater effect on sympathetic responses than did treatment with an ACE inhibitor which is a popular antihypertensive medication.4

Another study examined 4039 elderly hypertensive patients who responded to a pet-ownership questionnaire.  Of these, 3490 owned at least one pet and 871 owned at least one dog.  The investigators found those who owned pets were associated with improved survival and a lower risk of fatal cardiovascular incidents compared to those who did not own pets. 

kids and dog

Owning a Dog May Increase Socialization

Owning a dog increases the chances of random interactions with other people.  Many dog owners walk their pets and often meet other dog-lovers along the way, thus increasing the chances of stopping to have a quick chat.   Humans love to talk about their pets, including those currently owned, as well as animals they have cared for in the past.  It is well known that increased socialization improves mood.  Many friendships have started in dog parks.

As the photo above shows, kids love to hang out with friends that have a dog!  They are much more fun than toys!

Dog Ownership Can Add Purpose to Your Life

Owning a dog comes with responsibility.  Caring for another living thing can bring purpose to one’s life and give an otherwise lonely person a reason to keep going.  Dogs need to be walked, fed, groomed, and loved.  They will always give more back in return than they receive.  Dogs can be just what the doctor ordered for a lonely individual because it is much harder to give up on yourself and life in general when you have another living thing depending on you for their care. 

Dog Ownership for Children may Decrease Incidence of Allergies and Asthma Later in Life

The hygiene hypothesis states that a lack of childhood exposure to various infectious agents, including parasites and bacteria, can increase the chances of developing asthma and allergies later in life.5

It is known that (Can f 6), which is an allergen found in canine saliva, is an immunomodulary protein that may promote airway hypersensitivity reactions such as asthma.  Therefore, decreasing the sensitivity to this substance may lead to decreased asthma incidence.6

Unfortunately, many families avoid owning pets when the parents have allergies to them.  This decreases the exposure of their children to the allergens that they are likely to be allergic to later in life based on genetic factors.  It is also difficult to measure such an effect due to the vast array of allergens that may lead to asthma. 

It is probably true that early exposure to dogs and cats will decrease the likelihood of being allergic to them as adults.

Service Dogs Can Decrease PTSD Symptoms in Military Veterans

There has been an increase in the use of service dogs for military veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).   This disorder is prevalent in service members returning from deployment overseas.  It is estimated that 6-14% of all Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom veterans who returned from Iraq or Afghanistan are affected by PTSD.7

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PTSD also leads to other psychiatric conditions such as substance abuse, suicide and depression. 

Although evidence-based PTSD treatment is effective for some, dropout and nonresponse rates may be up to 50%.9

10

 

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A study was completed comparing two groups of PTSD veterans.  The control group, (Group A), were those waiting to receive a service dog but provided usual care and the treatment group, (Group B), were those receiving usual care and a service dog. 

There was a total of 141 patients who completed the study.  Sixty-six subjects received usual care while waiting for a service dog, while seventy-five subjects received usual care and were paired with a service dog. 

The investigators came to the conclusion that the group paired with the service dogs showed less PTSD symptoms, reduced depression, and increased socialization as compared to those waiting for their service dogs.

Owning a Dog May Increase Exercise

Dogs love to go on walks.  It is well-known that getting outside and being exposed to sunlight can decrease the chances of becoming depressed.  Dog owners often feel the need to take their dogs on walks.  This exercise is beneficial for both the dog and their owner, and may also be more enjoyable because the owner feels like he or she is doing something special for their “companion.”  As I have stated many times in the past, any exercise is better than no exercise. 

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I don’t believe anyone who has owned a dog is surprised by the many benefits they can provide.  Canines are loyal, playful, and always happy to see you.  They improve mood and help us get through some of our toughest days.  They will never give up on you and provide unconditional love.  Dogs help keep us active and may even save our lives.  If you haven’t owned a pet dog, you really should give it a try.  Visit your local animal shelter and find the perfect friend.  They will love you even more than you love them.  Life is too short to miss out on the happiness these furry creatures can bestow upon us. 

If you have an active child as I do, dogs can help to burn some of their energy.  Joshua spends hours chasing and being chased by Ginger in the backyard.  The exercise is good for both of them, and gives mom and dad a break!  Dogs do take some work and money to care for them, but I believe the investment is well worth it. 

I hope you have enjoyed this post.  Since our family just brought a dog into our home, I thought it was an appropriate time to write about this.

Any questions regarding this article or any other, can be entered into the comments section below.  I will answer all of the questions posted.  Thank you for reading and, if you like my posts, tell a friend. 

Always remain as happy and healthy as possible.

Michael Brown in Lab Coat with arms crossed

Michael J. Brown, RPh, BCPS, BCPP

Mr. Brown is a Clinical Pharmacist specializing in pharmacotherapy and psychiatry.

Read Michael’s story here.

Feel free to send Michael a message using this link.

 

 

Garcinia Cambogia Medication Interactions, Contraindications, Safety, Effectiveness and Use in Pregnancy and Lactation.

Disclosure:  This post may contain affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a commission if you click on, or make a purchase through a third-party link.

Garcinia cambogia (Malabar tamarind) is a fruit tree found in the evergreen and semi-evergreen forests of southwest India. The fruit of this tree resembles a small pumpkin and comes in a red, orange, or yellow variety. This fruit ripens during the rainy season, and the rind contains large amounts of hydroxycitric acid (HCA). The dried fruit rinds have been used for centuries as a flavoring agent.  

 

In Ayurvedic medicine, Garcinia is used to promote general health. It has also been used for rheumatism and bowel symptoms — an oral rinse containing G. cambogia has been used by veterinarians to treat mouth diseases in cattle.

 

HCA, which is related to citric acid, is a common ingredient in weight loss products. G. cambogia is available as a weight-loss supplement, either alone or mixed with other ingredients.   

 

Garcinia Cambogia Dose

Doses of Garcinia cambogia extract in clinical trials ranged from 1500 to 4667 mg per day. The supplement offered by Sunshine Nutraceuticals contains 700 mg Garcinia cambogia extract, and the recommended dose is one capsule by mouth twice daily 20-30 minutes before a meal with eight ounces of water.

Garcia Cambogia Side Effects

Side effects of Garcinia Cambogia are generally mild and include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Headache
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea

Since Garcinia Cambogia is not centrally active, it should not cause anxiety, hypertension, or problems with sleep. 

Garcinia Cambogia in Pregnancy and Lactation

In my professional opinion, Garcinia cambogia should not be used by pregnant women or those who are breast-feeding. We do not have sufficient evidence to assure its safety; therefore, the risks outweigh the benefits.

 

Garcinia Cambogia Medication Interactions

Antidepressant Drugs and Serotonergic drugs

There has been a case report of serotonin syndrome being caused by a combination of Garcinia extract and escitalopram (Lexapro). The patient was re-challenged with sertraline (Zoloft) and again experienced serotonin syndrome.1

For this reason, caution should be exercised when taking G. Cambogia with any antidepressant medication. Monitor for signs and symptoms of serotonin syndrome.  These include:

  • Headache
  • Agitation
  • Restlessness
  • Confusion
  • Shivering
  • Increased heart rate
  • High blood pressure
  • Dilated pupils
  • Loss of muscle coordination
  • Muscle rigidity
  • Muscle Twitching
  • Heavy sweating
  • Diarrhea
  • Goose bumps

Serotonin syndrome may also occur when G. Cambogia is taken with other drugs that have serotonergic properties such as:

  • Tramadol (Ultram)
  • Pentazocine (Talwin)
  • Dextromethorphan (present in some OTC cough and cold preparations) 

Anti-diabetic agents

G. cambogia may increase the hypoglycemic effects of anti-diabetic agents. It is suggested that blood sugars be closely monitored when using both Garcinia and anti-diabetic medications. 

Statins and other hepatotoxic medications

There was a case report of rhabdomyolysis being caused following the ingestion of an herbal medicine containing G. Cambogia.2Caution is recommended when administering statins with other medications which may cause rhabdomyolysis.

Use caution when combining Garcinia with other drugs that negatively affect the liver. Some examples include

  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol)
  • Amiodarone (Cordarone)
  • Carbamazepine (Tegretol)
  • Isoniazid (INH)
  • Methotrexate (Rheumatrex)

Safety of Garcinia Cambogia

According to the TRC Natural Medicines Research Collaboration, Garcinia Cambogia gets a “possibly unsafe” grade. This is due to numerous case reports of liver toxicity. Most of these reports were the result of combination products that included G. Cambogia as one of the ingredients. There were at least two reports where the patient was taking Garcinia alone. Although the casualty was likely or probable, this is still concerning.

 

Effectiveness of Garcinia Cambogia

Obesity

There is conflicting evidence regarding the effects of Garcinia on treating obesity. Some studies show a significant weight loss while others do not. As mentioned in some of my previous posts, I prefer to consult meta-analyses when available. One such study was published by Onakpoya, et al in 2011 in the Journal of Obesity. 

 

The investigators of this meta-analysis did not believe the studies were of sufficient length to assess the effects of HCA on body weight. These studies ranged from two to twelve weeks. There were also different strains of Garcinia used in the studies. We are unsure what impact this might have on bioavailability. 

 

Finally, there was a difference in caloric intake in the various studies. 

 

Calories eaten ranged from 1,000 kcal, to as high as 3,009 kcal per day. This would certainly have an impact on weight loss.

 

The conclusion of this meta-analysis was that Garcinia extracts generate weight loss on the short term. 

 

They point out that the effect is small, and is not statistically significant when only rigorous random controlled trials are considered.3

Garcinia Cambogia Contraindications

The only known contraindication at this time, according to Lexicomp (accessed 1/12/2020), is a known allergy or hypersensitivity to any components of Garcinia Cambogia.

After researching Garcinia cambogia, many questions remain. 

Can this supplement be effective for weight loss long-term?

Does Garcinia cambogia cause liver damage or contribute to increased liver enzymes in some patients?

Is this supplement safe and effective?

The answers to the above questions cannot be answered until new research is available.  The current studies were of insufficient length and not well designed.  The liver damage side effect must be examined more closely before I can recommend starting this supplement for weight loss.

As I have explained in the past, the best way to lose weight is to eat whole foods, avoid fast food, drink plenty of water, and exercise.  You will feel substantially better if you follow these simple rules.  Supplements can help reduce hunger but exercise and proper food intake will get you much better results. 

At this time, my recommendation is to use Garcinia cambogia only if you have had success with it in the past.  If you have had no negative effects and have lost weight, it may be a reasonable option.

 

I will continue to research this supplement.  As new research is available, I will decide whether to keep it, or remove it from our product line.

If you want a safer alternative, I recommend our Keto Ultra supplement.  This contains raspberry ketones, African mango, green tea extract, caffeine, apple cider vinegar, kelp and grape seed extract.  You can order this supplement below.

Our goal is to give our readers the best information available to live a happy, healthy lifestyle.  Sometimes, the information I present to you will not be positive.  I want to remain unbiased with regard to the products I offer for sale.  If you have any questions, please click on the link next to my picture below to send a message.  I will respond!

Michael Brown in Lab Coat with arms crossed

Michael J. Brown, RPh, BCPS, BCPP

Mr. Brown is a Clinical Pharmacist specializing in pharmacotherapy and psychiatry.

Read Michael’s story here.

Feel free to send Michael a message using this link.

 

 
Woman in sensory room holding fiber optics

Snoezelen Therapy for Dementia Patients

Woman in sensory room holding fiber optics

Disclosure:  This post may contain affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a commission if you click on, or make a purchase through a third-party link.

The world population is ageing and, because of this, the incidence of dementia has risen.  According to the World Health Organization, approximately 50 million people have dementia worldwide, and 10 million new cases are diagnosed every year.  The incidence of dementia is expected to reach 131 million people by 2050.1

  Dementia has a tremendous impact on both the patient, and the family.    Patients with dementia are unable to remember things, have a difficult time solving problems, and can become easily frustrated.  Their sleep-wake cycle may become reversed and, at times, they may even become violent to the ones they love.  Dementia occurs in older people but is not a normal part of the ageing process.

Dementia patients may reach a point where they need to be hospitalized due to behaviors which are not able to be controlled by their caregivers.  Some of these behaviors include agitation, depression, aggression, and apathy.

I have been working on a unit which cares for dementia patients for three years.  During this time, I have learned a great deal about this condition as well as common and not so common treatments.  I have written other blog posts relating to dementia but this post will concentrate on the use of Snoezelen therapy for these patients.

A Snoezelen room is a controlled multisensory environment (MSE).  Equipment in these rooms cause a variety of stimulation including tactile, auditory, olfactory and visual.  Snoezelen rooms should provide a calm and comfortable environment for the patients.  These rooms can be used for patients with autism, brain injuries, developmental disabilities as well as dementia.  MSE’s are not inexpensive to set up.  Associated costs could run from $10,000 to $30,000 and even more if complex, high-end equipment is used.

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Assessing Unmet Needs

The Unmet Needs Model suggests negative behaviors in dementia may result from the inability to communicate one’s needs to caregivers.  There are ways in which we can attempt to learn what these unmet needs are by trial and error.  In the hospital setting, we often talk about the following possibilities that may make the patient uncomfortable.

  • Pain – This one is difficult to assess. There are pain signs such as grimacing.  The patient may also be suffering from a urinary tract infection, or other ailment.
  • Constipation – Keep track of bowel movements. Constipation can be uncomfortable, and is usually easy to treat.
  • Hunger – Offer food. Attempt to learn the patient’s food preferences by speaking to those close to the patient.
  • Thirst – Offer fluids.
  • General Comfort – How the patient is sitting, temperature, clothing, etc.

If these don’t help, the patient may be suffering from boredom.  This is where the Snoezelen room can help.  Always remember, dementia patients are people like us who have a disease and it is important to view them as such.  What works for one patient, may not be effective for another.  Get to know what the patient prefers and keep track of successful interventions.  Always start with the basic needs described above.  If the patient is in pain or uncomfortable due to being constipated, a Snoezelen room experience will likely have little effect on behavior.

Benefits of Multisensory Environments in Dementia Care

Later stage dementia patients are usually unable to seek out enriching and meaningful activities on their own.  In fact, left to their own devises, they would quickly decline.  Most of the time, they are completely dependent on others for their care.  Older people are also less able to perceive sights, sounds, tastes, and smells which increases their risk of sensory deprivation.3

This can have a negative impact on health and wellbeing.4

Some believe that sensory experiences are able to trigger positive memories.  This may promote a feeling of pleasure for the patient.  Think about this in your own life.  I believe we’ve all experienced being taken back in time when we’ve smelled something that triggers a positive time in our lives, or heard a song that takes us back to a happy time.5

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The goal of the multisensory environment is to positively effect the dementia patient using sensory channels that are still intact. 

The three main avenues by which a multisensory experience can be achieved are.

  1. Daily care routines such as bathing, feeding, and administering medications 7

    8
  1. Sensory enhancements of the patients living environment. This may include special units in long-term care facilities which provide staff specially trained to care for dementia patients, special activities geared towards these residents and involvement of the family.9

  1. Specially designed rooms or MSEs.10

Studies have shown that MSEs can be beneficial for dementia patients.  Some of these benefits include.

  1. Decreased agitation and disruptive behavior.11

     

    12

     

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I would like to point out that some of the medications utilized to combat aggressive and disruptive behavior can cause agitation.  

  1. Increased alertness14

  1. Increased social interaction, reduced apathy, and better mood.15

    1617
  1. Better communication with others.18

  1. Improved functional performance19

These positive attributes of MSEs leads to a more relaxed, engaged patient who gets along better with his or her peers. 

Research also shows caregivers who utilize MSEs for their dementia patients have better job satisfaction and a better relationship with their patients.

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This leads to improved patient care and reduced caregiver burnout.

Obstacles to Adding a Snoezelen Room to a Facility

Many facilities do not have the financial resources or space to implement a Snoezelen room.  As mentioned earlier in the post, these spaces can get expensive.  The institutions who have these rooms often under-utilize them.  Another problem is deciding how to design such a space.  There is much debate on exactly what to put into these rooms and research is still being conducted in this area. 

Anti-suicide regulations can also hinder certain facilities from adding a Snoezelen room.  This is especially true of psychiatric facilities where dementia patients may end up due to negative behaviors.

Perspectives of an Expert

I have the pleasure of sharing an office with an occupational therapist.  Kendra Munroe, OTR/L works with our patients daily and was the person who designed our sensory room.  Our main piece of equipment is a Vecta which was purchased from TFH Special needs Toys.  This company specializes in sensory-focused equipment and toys which promote learning and living skills.

The Vecta Full Mobile Sensory Station can turn any room into a relaxing, distracting and empowering multi-sensory room. 

According to Kendra, the sensory room “provides a safe and contained spot where the patients can explore”.  She explains that you want to have different things available to engage their senses.  Some examples include music that is tailored to the specific patients tastes, as well as things they can see or touch.  Kendra also believes it is important to include things related to nature. 

We provide weighted blankets by Salt of the Earth as well as quilts, stuffed animals, robotic pets, and a weighted baby doll to provide a realistic sensory experience.

Munroe stated that certain things are often neglected in sensory rooms, specifically regarding the geriatric population.  She mentioned things that provide proprioceptive and vestibular input in particular. “This is why we put a glider in,” Kendra explains.  We purchased a specific glider that locks in place when the patient attempts to stand.  The Thera-Glide safety glider decreases fall-risk and rocks back and forth which is soothing to the patient.

Kendra does point out that there may be dangers involved with sensory rooms.  She emphasizes that we must be trauma-informed with any of our treatment.  We must be aware that small, enclosed spaces may bother some patients.  We also need to be sure there are no objects or equipment available that the patient may throw due to confusion. 

Dementia patients should never be left alone in a sensory room.  They may become confused because the room is unfamiliar to them.  They may damage the equipment, or injure themselves.

Munroe ended by saying that we really didn’t have many guidelines available to us when setting up our sensory room.  We tried to provide a mixture of adult and pediatric sensory experiences that we believed would be most beneficial to our patient population.

Michael Brown pictured with Final Thought written

I am a big supporter of sensory rooms.  My thought is we should utilize all other treatment modalities prior to resorting to medications for dementia patients.  All drugs come with side effects and currently there are no medications indicated for the behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia. 

Always try to meet the basic needs of the patient before moving on to other therapies.  Assess for pain, hunger, thirst, constipation and comfort. 

As a society, we have a responsibility to care for our ailing population.  This includes the mentally ill.  Unfortunately, none of us are immune from this debilitation condition.  We can all learn about it, and try to limit our risk of developing dementia.  I will continue to write about this subject as I believe it is very important.

If you have any questions regarding Snoezelen rooms or dementia in general please reach out to me.  I have access to some of the best professionals in this area. 

Please take a look at the Sunshine Store for all of your vitamin and nutritional needs.

Michael Brown in Lab Coat with arms crossed

Michael J. Brown, RPh, BCPS, BCPP

Mr. Brown is a Clinical Pharmacist specializing in pharmacotherapy and psychiatry.

Read Michael’s story here.

Feel free to send Michael a message using this link.

 

 

The Passionate Marriage – Keeping Love and Intimacy Alive in Committed Relationships

We have all heard the jokes about married couples: weight gain, no sex, endless fighting. 

It doesn’t have to be this way. 

Why not make one of your goals a commitment to improving your relationship? 

Let’s take a look at some ways to make your marriage exciting, intimate, and fun. 

Why am I writing about this? 

Healthy relationships are one of the many keys to happiness. These include friendships and business associations, as well as intimate relationships.  Humans are social creatures.  We like to interact with others.

This post will concentrate on committed relationships.

Relationships Take Work

The most important thing I want to emphasize is that relationships don’t just get better on their own. Just like anything else, they take work to help them grow. My grandfather always used to tell me “nothing worth doing is ever easy”.  

 

Remember how it was when you first met your partner? Everything was great. You couldn’t wait to see each other. Time spent together was blissful. 

 

As time moves on, you start to realize that this other person is not exactly like you. They do things differently, have different opinions, and may even have habits that drive you crazy. No relationship will ever be perfect. The goal is to work together to function as a happy team. How do you accomplish this? What tools can you use? 

 

Communication

Communication is the cornerstone of a good relationship and, if you don’t learn how to communicate effectively, you will likely have trouble co-existing. Understand that there are different communication styles. Your partner may talk in an entirely different way. Be willing to accept your partner’s method of expression, even if it differs from your own. Communication with your lover is an on-going process and should be a priority. Here are some communication guidelines.

Avoid Anger

Yelling, calling each other names, swearing, and putting each other down are all barriers to constructive communication. Remain calm and civilly discuss the concerning topics. If you have a problem with anger, take some time to cool off before blowing your top. Be patient, compassionate, and kind. Not only will your partner appreciate this, but you will feel better about yourself.

Listen

It is easy to keep talking in an attempt to get your point across. Always remember, your partner may see things in an entirely different way. Many arguments have no right or wrong solution and the best thing you can do to improve communication is to listen!  

 

  • Give focused attention to your partner.  
  • Try to receive their message with acceptance and understanding.  
  • Ask clarifying questions. 
  • Summarize what is being said to show your partner you are listening.
  • Focus on the message, not how it is being communicated.

Think Before You Speak

Do not automatically say everything that comes to mind, especially if it may be hurtful to the other party. Remember, it is not necessary to express everything you are feeling. Ask your partner if they understand what you are communicating and be positive and encouraging. Negative energy is counter-productive.

Resolving Conflict

Conflict is prevalent in all intimate relationships. The goal is not to eliminate conflict but to handle it effectively when it occurs. When our needs are not met, or we don’t receive what we expect, conflict can arise. We all enter into relationships with expectations. Our vision of the relationship might be much different from that of our partner.  

Remember to confront your spouse in a loving way when conflict arises. Don’t keep your frustration hidden as this can lead to resentment. The steps to resolve a dispute can include the following.

 

Decide whether the issue is worth discussing. Although it isn’t a good idea to keep frustrations hidden, we do have to pick our battles. If the problem is small or doesn’t occur often, it may be best just to let it go. 

 

Consider your contribution to the problem. This is important. Is it possible that your actions can change? Most conflicts involve both parties. If you can change, bring this up in the conversation.

 

Consider the timing of the confrontation. Try not to approach your partner when they are tired or in a bad mood. Be loving, honest, and stay focused.  

 

Be willing to forgive. Forgiveness is the first step in rebuilding trust. This is not accomplished by pretending something didn’t happen or just forgetting about it. Forgiveness is a choice to set your partner free.

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Make Time for Each Other

Our lives have become extremely busy. Jobs, kids, activities, meals, and everyday chores can leave us exhausted by the end of the day and it is easy to forget to spend quality time with our partner. The best solution to this problem is to schedule weekly dates. Be proactive and decide to carve out a few hours per week for your relationship.  

These “dates” don’t have to be extravagant. Even going out for coffee is better than nothing. Take some time to connect and enjoy each other’s company without distractions.

 

Spend a few minutes each week talking specifically about your relationship. Are there things you would like to change? What is going right? What needs attention? This will give each of you a chance to discuss how you feel, your needs and expectations in a neutral situation. Remember, always to be positive and respectful. 

Some Common Stumbling Blocks

Sex

One of the most common causes of conflict in a relationship is sex. Unfortunately, men and women often feel differently about this topic. Men are usually more interested in the physical aspects of sex, whereas women are more drawn to the emotional connection. Sexual appetites can also differ substantially. Several factors can affect sexuality. Some of these include.

 

  • Stress
  • Diet
  • Exercise
  • Pregnancy
  • Sexual Dysfunction
  • Guilt
  • Anger
  • Past Abuse
  • Unreconciled relationships

 

It is important to discuss your feelings about sex with your partner. Tell them what you enjoy and what you would rather avoid. None of us can read minds, and your sex life might improve with communication. Remember the factors listed above. Your partner may be dealing with issues that you don’t know about or are unable to understand.  

Money

It is common for couples to argue about money. Again, expectations may be different. If a spender and a saver are in a relationship, frequent problems may arise. There are ways to help with this issue.

 

Create a budget. Everyone should do this. A budget helps give you a spending plan and helps avoid surprises. Take some time with this. Have monthly meetings regarding the budget and make adjustments when necessary. Try to stick to the budget.

 

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Blended Families

This is something I have personal experience with.  My family is pictured above.  Blended families are a common cause of conflict. If this becomes a significant problem, I suggest seeking professional counseling. There are too many factors involved to discuss this here. This topic is a blog post in itself. Keep in mind that the children your partner brought into the relationship are used to a different set of rules and have other expectations. It isn’t their fault. They were just raised differently.

Work Stress

Most of us have jobs that can cause stress at times. Learning how to deal with this can help improve your relationship at home. Here are some tips.

 

Try to refrain from discussing work at home.

 

Learn and practice techniques to reduce anxiety. Take a look at my anxiety post for ideas on anxiety reduction.

Michael Brown pictured with Final Thought written

Relationships can be complicated. They take work and commitment from both parties. There are many tools available to help improve your relationship. My wife and I recently went to a weekend retreat for married couples. I strongly suggest considering attending one of these, especially if you are having issues. A quick Google search will give you plenty of options to suit your needs.

 

Remember, communication is key. Try to listen more and talk less, and you might learn something.  

 

Take a trip together. A surprise getaway may be just what you both need to reconnect.

 

There are many ways to improve relationships and I have only scratched the surface in this post. Be creative, don’t be afraid to do something different, and, most importantly, have fun!  

 

Michael Brown in Lab Coat with arms crossed

Michael J. Brown, RPh, BCPS, BCPP

Mr. Brown is a Clinical Pharmacist specializing in pharmacotherapy and psychiatry.

Read Michael’s story here.

Feel free to send Michael a message using this link.

 

 

Elderberry for Flu Prevention, Safety in Pregnancy, Drug Interactions, and More…

I am excited to be able to introduce an elderberry supplement into the Sunshine Nutraceutical product line.  Elderberry is a purple berry produced by the European elder tree, a shrub which grows up to ten meters tall.  Elder flowers and berries have been used as medicines and flavorings for centuries and are especially popular as potent cold and flu remedies.  These common ailments have few treatments and can be annoying and even deadly in certain individuals.  Elderberries have been utilized to treat various health conditions including diabetes, gingivitis, inflammation, acne, and more. This post will concentrate on the evidence available for the use of elderberries as a nutraceutical agent.

Elderberry for Colds, Flu and Bacterial Infections

Probably the most common use for elderberry is as a treatment for upper respiratory infections.  Colds and influenza are prevalent especially during the winter months and are often treated with over-the-counter medications to combat symptoms and at times antibiotics are prescribed.  Both colds and the flu are caused by viruses.   Antibiotics are ineffective in the treatment of viral infections.  Taking antibiotics unnecessarily can lead to resistant bacteria so it is important to use antibiotics only when they are indicated.  No antibiotic is 100% effective and, if a resistant bacterial strain begins to multiply, it can be difficult to treat the infection.

The real question is whether elderberry will help with upper respiratory symptoms.  I know plenty of individuals who swear it works.  Before adding the elderberry product to my line, I did some research.  I located a meta-analysis published in February of 2019.  I have mentioned in previous posts that I like meta-analyses because they have a larger sample size and are generally more accurate than single studies. 

This meta-analysis showed that elderberry supplements, when taken at the onset of respiratory symptoms, substantially reduced symptom duration compared to a control group.  The investigators concluded that elderberry supplementation reduced influenza virus symptoms substantially more effectively than the upper respiratory symptoms caused by the common cold.  It should be noted that this meta-analysis included only one study on elderberry supplementation for the common cold.1

Elderberries neutralize hemagglutinin spikes found on the surfaces of some viruses.  This prevents the viruses from piercing cell walls or entering the cell to replicate.  If the viruses are unable to replicate, they cannot spread.2

Elderberries can also increase the antibodies produced by our bodies against the influenza virus.  This indicates elderberries may actually be able to prevent the flu from occurring.3

A study published in the BMC Complementary & Alternative Medicine Journal in 2011 concluded that elderberry liquid extract was effective against human pathogenic bacteria and influenza viruses.  Many patients develop bacterial infections when ill with the influenza virus.  Elderberry may prove to be helpful in fighting both the influenza virus as well as bacterial infections during outbreaks.4

Elderberry for Treatment and Prevention of Cancer

A study published in 2007 found extracts of the fruits of both the European elderberry (Sambucus nigra) and American elderberry (Sambucus Canadensis), demonstrated anti-initiation and anti-promotion properties.  This may prove to be useful in fighting cancer in the future.  However, more studies need to be conducted on this subject 5

 

 

Elderberry as an Antioxidant

Elderberry may act to protect the body against oxidative stress.  Elderberry has been proven to be an antioxidant and free radical scavenger in vitro (outside the body).  It has antioxidant activity comparable to other highly antioxidant fruits such as blueberry and chokeberry.6

Elderberry Effect on Obesity, Diabetes and Inflammation

Obesity is the result of excessive adipose tissue growth.  This can happen through two different mechanisms; Hypertrophy, which is the expansion of existing fat cells, and hyperplasia, which is the addition of new fat cells. 

The oxidative stress caused by an increase in fat tissue leads to obesity-related comorbidities including insulin resistance, diabetes, cancer and heart disease.7

The accumulation of fat in hypertropic adipose tissue associated with obesity leads to oxidative stress and chronic inflammation.8

A recent study found an extract of the elderberry fruit (EDB) was able to decrease reactive oxygen species (ROS) in hypertrophic adipocytes suggesting an antioxidant action.  This may be a potential protective mechanism against obesity risk factors such as insulin resistance and chronic inflammation. 

This study also suggested that the anti-obesity and anti-diabetic effect of EDB may be due to inhibition of dietary sugar and fat absorption from the GI tract.9

Some evidence suggests polyphenols from several berry fruits can inhibit digestive enzymes which are responsible for the hydrolysis necessary for absorption of dietary lipids and carbohydrates.10

Zielinska-Wasielica et al. cited the following in their study published in August of 2019:

Results of the study indicate that Sambucus nigra fruit extract may offer substantial preventive and therapeutic potential for the treatment of obesity and obesity-related disorders, accompanied by oxidative stress, inflammation and insulin resistance. Moreover, the extract can inhibit digestive enzyme activity, and consequently, significantly reduce the intestinal absorption of dietary lipids and carbohydrates, which is an effective strategy for the prevention and treatment of obesity and metabolic comorbidities.11

Contraindications

No contraindications to elderberry have been identified.

Side Effects

Consuming uncooked leaves, stems, or berries can lead to cyanide toxicity, which may cause vomiting and diarrhea. Commercial preparations generally do not cause adverse effects at prescribed dosages.

Pregnancy and Lactation

I do not recommend taking an elderberry supplement if you are pregnant or breast feeding as there are not enough studies confirming safety in infants and small children. For this reason, I recommend reserving the use of elderberry supplements to those over the age of eighteen.

Elderberry Drug Interactions

Although drug interactions with elderberry are not well-documented, exercise caution when taking the following:

  •  Insulin
  •  Blood pressure lowering   medications  Chemotherapeutic agents
  •  Laxatives
  •  Theophylline
  •  Caffeine (Elderberry may   inhibit the enzyme that   metabolizes theophylline   and   caffeine). 12
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Sunshine Nutraceuticals has a brand-new elderberry product that contains 600 mg of elderberry extract per capsule. This supplement is designed to be taken twice daily 20-30 minutes prior to a meal with eight ounces of water. I DO NOT recommend taking this product if you are pregnant, breast feeding or under eighteen years of age. If you have a known medical condition, consult your physician or pharmacist prior to taking supplements containing elderberry.

Michael Brown pictured with Final Thought written

I expected to find a lot of information on elderberry for the treatment of colds and flu. After all, this is why many utilize this supplement and praise its effectiveness. What I didn’t expect was that elderberry has positive effects on diabetes, insulin resistance, and inflammation. We all know about the positive effects of blueberries as an antioxidant. It appears elderberries are not just good as a flavoring agent

and food source, but also possess medicinal properties beyond treatment of upper respiratory tract infections. As with all nutraceuticals, more studies are needed to determine the exact mechanism of action of the benefits of the elderberry. In the future, we may be able to isolate the active compounds from this plant, and use it not only to treat colds and the flu, but to prevent cancer, help fight insulin resistance, and more.

I firmly believe that, as a society, we under-utilize the natural substances provided to us in favor of chemicals which may help treat diseases but not without serious side effects. If we eat right, exercise, and spend time concentrating on our health, we may be able to avoid ingesting harmful chemicals. I know this sounds odd coming from a pharmacist, but this is the conclusion I have come to. Prescription drugs are absolutely necessary in some circumstances, but with the right lifestyle, we can limit our exposure to them.

Michael Brown in Lab Coat with arms crossed

Michael J. Brown, RPh, BCPS, BCPP

Mr. Brown is a Clinical Pharmacist specializing in pharmacotherapy and psychiatry.

Read Michael’s story here.

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