Archive for December 4th, 2017

Photo: Martí Sans

You’ve had a long day, and you’re stressed and frazzled from work, kids, your partner—life! You can’t wait to get home and pour a glass of red wine, kick up your feet and relax. Thank goodness all the latest news about red wine boasts its antioxidants and its potential memory-protecting and anti-aging properties…I know it’s not technically a food, but all the news makes it sound like it’s practically a vegetable. And what’s more relaxing than a beautiful glass of jewel-colored deliciousness?

Sorry to cork your wine, but I’ve got some not-so-relaxing news—wine can actually exacerbate stress and anxiety and disrupt sleep, especially if you are already someone who suffers from being a bit tightly wound. And seriously, if you ever suffered from anxiety, you know how debilitating the condition can be—and common. Over 30 percent of people will have an anxiety disorder in their lifetime. Plus, it occurs nearly twice as often in women.

Here’s how wine can contribute to anxiety:

It throws your body chemistry off balance.

Any sort of alcohol changes the levels of serotonin, other neurotransmitters, and other hormones in your brain and body, which can worsen anxiety. While one glass may feel relaxing, alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, which can cause a rebound effect when it wears off, which can last for several hours and up to an entire day after imbibing.

It sparks hot flashes and night sweats.

When your body is thrown off kilter, it goes to work to get you back into balance. If you are perimenopausal or menopausal, your body can miss the mark when striving for balance. When you have a glass of wine, your body reads it as a sugar, which causes a spike in insulin to handle the increase in blood sugar, which disrupts other hormones including estrogen and progesterone. This means that in an attempt to reach equilibrium, your body can try too hard and overcompensate, which can cause hot flashes and night sweats.

It disrupts sleep.

When your body is out of its normal state of homeostasis, it can’t relax. So, while you might swear that a glass of wine helps you to drift effortlessly off to bed—and it may be true—it is equally true that the reason you wake up a few hours later is because the sedating effects wear off, and you are left with the aftermath of a body trying to get back into balance. Not sleeping well can cause—you guessed it—more anxiety, creating a vicious cycle.

It’s a slippery slope.

Even if you’ve never had issues with alcohol, you may still have some addictive characteristics (most of us do) that can lead you to overdo it in other areas of your life. Think sweets and/or salty snacks, shopping at the outlets or online, bingeing on Netflix or other recorded shows, and all the many other addictions our 24/7 lifestyles offer us. Consider also that anxiety issues and alcohol abuse seem to go hand in hand; if you have one, you are more likely to find yourself in trouble with the other.

While anxiety is more likely to happen among women, the results that work best for you depend on your unique mental, emotional, and physical makeup and also what your lifestyle is like and many other factors. You can find out more about your distinctive needs in my book Super Woman Rx, as well as tons of stress- and anxiety-relieving strategies.

A better strategy for busting anxiety in the evening:

Here are some of my favorite alcohol-free evening relaxation techniques. You can pick and choose what seems doable, or do the whole list in order for the perfect evening relaxation routine!

1. Shut off screens.

I’ll get the hardest one out of the way first…I highly recommend having a time in the evening when you shut off anything that has a screen. I try to do this! This includes any beeping, vibrating, or buzzing that goes along with said gadget. I recommend a solid hour at minimum, and three hours before bed being ideal.

2. Power up a diffuser.

Soothing scents such as lavender, vanilla, jasmine, rose, sandalwood, ylang-ylang, bergamot, and chamomile are known for their relaxing and calming effects. You can also dab some of these essential oils on your wrists to take the scent with you wherever you go.

3. Have a healthy nightcap.

My whole family loves to have this warming golden milk that is full of natural anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antiviral components from turmeric, ginger, cloves, and honey. You can make it dairy-free with almond or coconut milk. This is not only relaxing to your digestive system, it also strengthens your immune system.

4. Don’t forget to breathe.

It sounds so simple, but most of us don’t partake of this powerful, and always available, stress-relieving tool. Instead, the majority of people I meet tend to breathe shallowly. When you take slow and full inhalations and exhalations, it increases blood circulation, and better transports the nutrients and chemicals to all the many important areas of your body and brain, which maintains overall balance. I love to use Dr. Weil’s 4-7-8 breath technique. I like to do this either in a chair or seated on the floor. Simply inhale for a count of 4, hold the breath for 7 counts, and then exhale for a count of 8. Do this cycle 3 or 4 times.

5. Be thankful on paper.

A gratitude list never fails to take me down a few notches. You may have had a rotten day, but I bet you can still find at least 10 things every day that you are thankful for—a working fridge, a soft blanket, the smile someone shared, those deep breaths you just got done taking, your pulse. We don’t need science to tell us that gratitude goes a long way for a positive, less-anxious state-of-mind!


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Headaches are so common and widespread that sometimes we simply pop a pain reliever and go on with our day. But it’s important to remember that when it comes to the body, there’s always a reason we’re not feeling our best. Headaches are no exception to this rule! So how do we become more knowledgeable and therefore empowered to manage any headache that comes along? How do we best treat them or, better yet, prevent them in the first place?

Well, Dr. Isha Gupta is a board-certified neurologist at IGEA Brain & Spine, and she deals with headaches every single day. Here’s what she thinks everyone should know about headaches:

There’s more than one type of headache.

In fact, according to Dr. Gupta, there are five! There’s a lot to learn, so here’s a little bit of information about each:

1. Tension headache.

These headaches commonly present as painful pressure or a tightening sensation around the head, sometimes the entire head! Dr. Gupta’s best tip? Try to reduce sources of stress and tension in your life. (Which, we know, is easier said than done.

2. Migraine headache.

Migraines commonly present as a pulsing or throbbing pain in one or both sides of the head, lights in your vision, great sensitivity to noises and lights, and possible vomiting and nausea. Oftentimes an NSAID can help treat migraines, but if you have more than one per week, Dr. Gupta recommends seeing a doctor who may be able to prescribe you something stronger.

3. Sinus headaches.

These headaches are characterized by sinus pain and pressure—normally in the front of the head. Dr. Gupta often tells her patients to treat headaches with a neti pot or an over-the-counter pain reliever. It’s also important to make sure a doctor looks at your sinuses to make sure your headache really is a sinus headache.

4. Cluster headaches.

Cluster headaches are often described as a stabbing pain in one side of the head and are also often accompanied by one eye tearing up and sweat on the face. These usually last about 30 minutes but often occur frequently. These are the most difficult types of headaches to predict and treat.

5. Hormone headache.

Some women experience headaches or migraines at certain times of the month, especially before, after, or during menstruation. Luckily, this means they are often more predictable than other types of headaches, and I tell my female patients to take preventive measures during those few days of the month and try to pinpoint any triggers.

6. Rebound headache.

These headaches occur when a certain medication is used too frequently. In other words, if you take Tylenol every day to treat your headaches, you might start developing them on a daily basis. Dr. Gupta normally tells her patients to stop taking their acute medication for a while to give the body a rest.

If you suffer from headaches, do this:

When it comes to headaches, knowledge is power. So it’s great news when you can identify exactly what type of headaches you’re suffering from. Luckily, there are certain steps you can take when you’re suffering from headaches frequently or even just occasionally—especially if it’s been hard to identify the cause. Here are 10 that Dr. Gupta recommends:

  1. Start a headache diary, where you keep track of symptoms.
  2. Take a good hard look at your sleep (are you getting too much or too little?).
  3. Watch your intake of chocolate, cheese, deli meats, red wine, and any other type of alcohol.
  4. Keep track of neck pain symptoms, as this is often linked to headaches.
  5. Evaluate your stress levels.
  6. Consider that your caffeine intake might have something to do with your headaches.
  7. Try taking a B vitamin complex; these are great for people who are wary of prescription medications.
  8. Magnesium is great migraine prevention.
  9. Consider a massage—especially temporal massage.
  10. Uncover your triggers. For example, preventing sinus headaches is more about controlling pollen and the allergies that are causing the flare.


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