By: John Boyle D.C.
The adult human body is made up of about 37 trillion cells. WOW, that’s a lot of cells! In fact, if you lined up all the cells in a human body end-to-end, you could actually circle the earth more than 2 times.

Cells communicate by sending and receiving signals. Signals may come from the environment, or they may come from other cells. In order to trigger a response, these signals must be transmitted across the cell membrane. Sometimes the signal itself can cross the membrane. Other times the signal works by interacting with receptor proteins that contact both the outside and inside of the cell. In this case, only cells that have the correct receptors on their surfaces will respond to the signal.

According to an article on by Dr. Peter Proctor, “redox signaling is the concept that electron-transfer processes play a key messenger role in biological systems.” This “redox signal” determines damage extent. Our cells are constantly under attack from bacteria, pollution, pesticides, chemicals, and even aging. Cells must be able to send a signal to communicate. Problems get worse when cellular communication goes wrong and the result is disease. In fact, most diseases involve at least one breakdown in cell communication.

For example, let’s look at diabetes. According to the University of Utah’s Health Sciences Department, “The food that you eat is broken down into sugar, which enters the blood stream. Normally, cells in the pancreas release a signal, called insulin, that tells your liver, muscle and fat cells to store this sugar for later use. In type I diabetes, the pancreatic cells that produce insulin are lost. Consequently, the insulin signal is also lost. As a result, sugar accumulates to toxic levels in the blood. Without treatment, diabetes can lead to kidney failure, blindness and heart disease in later life. Type I and type II diabetes have very similar symptoms, but they have different causes. While people who have type I diabetes are unable to produce the insulin signal, those with type II diabetes do produce insulin. However, the cells of type II diabetics have lost the ability to respond to insulin. The end result is the same: blood sugar levels become dangerously high.” (

When communication is restored, the problems can be solved and health improves. It is actually quite simple. Redox signaling is universal to every function and system in your body and naturally created within every cell. As we age, our cells make fewer and fewer of these molecules, and the body’s ability to combat everyday ailments decreases.

To meet this challenge, a number of physicians and researchers have been collaborating to see if there is a viable way to assist the body in restoring its own cellular communication system. More than sixteen years ago, a group of medical professionals, engineers, and researchers discovered a proprietary method for creating Redox Signaling molecules native to the human body, and have recently made it available to consumers. Hazel Green Chiropractic Clinic has added ASEA and RENU 28 to its line of services and products that we believe will improve the quality of life and health for our patients, in combination with chiropractic treatment.

We have found these products to be invaluable in strengthening our immune systems, fighting disease, and the effects of aging. It’s even proving to be remarkable for naturally enhancing stamina and decreasing recovery time for athletes of all types.

ASEA and RENU 28 are now available through Dr. John Boyle at Hazel Green Chiropractic. If you are interested in receiving more information on how regular chiropractic care in combination with ASEA and RENEW 28 can take your health and quality of life to the next level, contact us at or simply text your email address to 256-503-2276.
By: Dr. John Boyle, D. C.

By Rachel Clark, RN, BSN
It’s that time of year again: the dreaded flu season. We’ve all heard the stories on the news of the numbers of cases of the flu skyrocketing this year. We’ve heard that this year’s flu vaccine is already ineffective in preventing it, so much sooner than flu vaccines in years previous. The strain has mutated, according to researchers, and even if you received the flu shot this year, it may not be protecting you against the mutated strain.

This is not the first year that I have seen this as a nurse. It seems that it has been going on for at least the last 3 years. Each year, our hospitals have been full of patients diagnosed with the flu. Last year was one of the most concerning to me personally, as those who were coming down with the flu and being hit the hardest were people in my age group: their 20s and 30s. Young people across the country last year ended up in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and some even died as a result of getting the flu. Many of them had also been vaccinated against it. This year seems to be no different, except that the virus is less discriminate in who is being hit hard.

So, what can you do to protect yourself and your family if the flu shot you received this year is already ineffective, and may not prevent you from contracting this potentially life-threatening illness? There are many ways that you can help boost your immune system at home. Below you’ll find a few simple tips to help you this season as you make your health and your family’s health a top priority.

1. Get enough sleep. Sleep is very important to the healing process of the body. Though there is no “magic number” as far as sleep is concerned, researchers have long said that 8 hours is a good target to shoot for. That may not be the best number for each individual, so listen to your body. You may need more or less. When you are sick, your need for sleep increases, as sleep is the time when your body repairs and rejuvenates itself. As a protective measure, go to bed a little earlier than you normally would in order to give yourself a bit more time to sleep than usual.

2. Drink plenty of water. Yes, WATER! You can add things like lemon, lime, or other fresh fruit juices to it if you can’t stand the taste of plain water, but water is one of your body’s best defenses against getting sick. The average adult body is made up of 50-65% water. That of an infant is much higher, 75-78%. This is why children dehydrate much faster than adults. Women need about 9 cups of water (2.2Liters) and men need 13 cups (3Liters) of total water intake per day. This increases if you are sick, so stay on top of it before getting sick, to make sure dehydration isn’t as severe as it could be.

3. Eat your fruits and vegetables. I know this may sound simple, but it is some of the best advice out there. The US government now recommends that fully HALF your plate at EACH meal should be made up of fresh, raw fruits and vegetables. Most people are lucky if they eat one fruit or vegetable a day, let alone half their plate 3 times a day. Fruits and vegetables are packed with antioxidants, phytonutrients, and other components that are essential to building a healthy body. It’s true what Grandma used to say: “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” That’s because of all the necessary things your body gets when it eats that apple, or other piece of fruit or vegetable. Your body can’t use fractionated vitamin supplements nearly as well as it can use whole food nutrition found in fruits and vegetables.

4. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water. Yes, another simple way to increase your immunity this flu season. Alcohol based hand rubs can be very drying to the skin and cause cracks. Any area of breakdown on your skin is a portal through which bacteria and viruses can enter and attack. Use these products sparingly. Whenever possible, use soap and warm water to wash your hands. Fully dry them to prevent cracking and drying of tissue.

5. Cover your cough/sneeze. If you or your family is sick, cover your cough/sneeze. Use tissues whenever possible and dispose of them into the garbage as quickly as possible to prevent the spread of bacteria from the tissue to other surfaces and people. If you don’t have a tissue available, use your elbow rather than your hands. Wash your hands immediately after coughing/sneezing to prevent spread of infection.

6. STAY HOME IF YOU ARE SICK! If you or your family is sick, especially if running a fever, stay home. Exposing others to the bacteria can be life threatening, especially in the very old or very young since their immune systems aren’t as responsive as that of a healthy adult. If you go to the doctor’s office, stay away from others even if they also appear sick, as you could cross infect each other.

These six simple steps, if heeded, may help keep you and your family a little healthier during this flu season.
By: Rachel Clark, RN, BSN

By: Rachel Clark, RN, BSN
It’s winter again, and the days are getting shorter. The skies seem cloudier, the air colder, and the wind has a bite to it that isn’t there in Spring and Summer. With the change of the seasons can come a change in mood for some people. This is known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. According to the Mayo Clinic, SAD is a type of depression related to the change in seasons that begins and ends around the same time every year. For most, that happens in the winter.
How do you know if you’re “SAD?” Some common signs and symptoms include irritability, feeling tired or having less energy, issues getting along with others, hypersensitivity to rejection (real or perceived), oversleeping, heavy feeling in arms or legs, appetite changes (especially increased cravings for high-carbohydrate foods), and weight gain. As SAD as this all sounds, there are some simple, natural ways to combat this change in moods. So if you’re ready to get back to your usual self, and leave the grumpy, irritable you that comes in the winter behind, below are five simple ways to get started.

1. Scents can be used as a “pick-me-up.” Most people have scents that they personally associate with positivity and comfort. For some, that is the mingled scents of baking sugar cookies, with warm vanilla and sugar wafting through the house. For others it might be roses, cinnamon, or oranges. Diffusing essential oils can be a great way to help lift your mood, without side effects connected to anti-depressants and other chemical alternatives. A “recipe” of sorts that I can’t wait to try is as follows: 20 drops Sweet Orange oil, 20 drops Clove Bud oil, and 20 drops Cinnamon oil. Check out Pinterest or other social media sites for additional information on essential oils and blends that can help lift your mood this winter.

2. Let the sunshine in! The lack of available sunlight is a key factor in SAD. Open up your curtains, blinds, and doors on sunny days. Letting in the sun can lift your mood exponentially. Sit next to those open windows to maximize your sunlight absorption. You can also use phototherapy to help. This involves using lights that mimic natural sunlight. You can also surround yourself with imagery that is bright and sunny when the days are cloudy and dull. Set your screensaver on your phone or computer to something warm, inviting, and bright. This can also help elevate your mood.

3. Start listening! Music and mood have been linked for quite some time. Choose music that is uplifting rather than dark and moody. Christmas carols or summer themed choices are generally best for combating the blues. Who can be sad when the beat is happy? Also, schedule time to talk with your significant other, best friend, or someone else you care about. Consider an alarm clock that uses natural sounds and/or light to wake you rather than your usual methods. And enjoy the peace and quiet, get away from the noise and chaos that is everyday life.

4. Taste the joy! Many people gain weight when battling SAD. Choose foods that remind you of summer. Mix blueberries, chocolate, and nuts into trail mix and snack on it. Choose hot tea rather than coffee when you need to warm up on cold afternoons. Eat fresh fruits and vegetables as often as you can. When you can’t choose frozen options. Put them in salads, smoothies, or as dessert itself. You’ll be amazed at the difference it can make as far as your mood is concerned.

5. Be sensitive to TOUCH! Touch is one of the first senses to develop inside the womb, so it only makes sense that it can be a huge anti-depressant for some people. Clothing that is soft, breathable and comfortable can go a long way. Also, the same characteristics in bedding can be helpful. Get affirming touches such as hugs, cuddling, and other gentle affections from your spouse, significant other, or even your pets. You may also wish to consider getting regular massages from a licensed massage therapist.

Don’t be SAD this winter. Take some of the tips above and change the pattern that may have been going on for years. You’ll be glad you did.
By: Rachel Clark, RN, BSN

Courtesy: BrandPoint content
(BPT) – With colder months arriving, there are a few things on everybody’s minds: festive treats, gift shopping and of course, time spent with family and friends. As many people look forward to the holiday season, asthma sufferers need to be aware and prepared for all the triggers this time of the year can bring. The change in weather, traveling or being in a relative’s home with new allergens can all trigger an asthma attack.

Charmayne Anderson has been living with asthma for as long as she can remember. Now, as Director of Advocacy at the Allergy and Asthma Network, she educates others on how to prepare for an asthma attack and enjoy life – and the holidays – unencumbered by their condition. After living with asthma through childhood, adolescence and now adulthood, she has witnessed an evolution of asthma medications and respiratory treatments firsthand.

“When I was diagnosed with asthma as a child, there were no inhalers or similar treatments for us to take home,” Anderson said. “My parents would have to take me for after-hours emergency care visits for an injection to help get my breathing under control.”

Anderson, along with the approximately 25 million asthma patients in the U.S., has more advanced and effective treatment options today to help manage symptoms and asthma attacks. For most people with asthma, having a rescue inhaler on-hand at all times is crucial, whether at home or on the go. Since asthma triggers may change frequently, it’s difficult to predict when an attack could strike. Particularly at this time of year, walking in the chilly winter air could be enough to cause wheezing and shortness of breath.

“For someone who has asthma, it can be a life-or-death situation. When you’re experiencing an attack, even if it’s minor, if you can’t get relief immediately it just escalates and becomes even greater,” said Anderson. “Having my rescue inhaler with me at all times and being able to check the dose counter is critical.”

One modern feature of asthma inhalers that has been especially helpful for Anderson and others areis dose counters integrated into rescue inhalers. For Anderson, dose counters serve as a forewarning that her inhaler is running low. Such a seemingly small reminder has certainly made a big difference; Anderson believes dose counters have helped her be more proactive in filling her prescription and being aware how much medication is left.

Every year, asthma accounts for 10.5 million doctor visits and 1.6 million emergency room visits in the United States. By utilizing dose counters and maintaining an asthma treatment plan, asthma sufferers like Anderson can help avoid emergency situations like these and travel with some confidence knowing they’re prepared.

Anderson said, “Prior to using a rescue inhaler with a dose counter built in, there were many times when I was away, out or not necessarily paying attention to how much medicine was in my inhaler. I’d get to a point when I would need it and I realized there was nothing in it, and I’d scramble to refill it.”

Now, when it comes time to travel for the holidays, the number one thing on Anderson’s to-do list is to make sure her and her children’s inhalers are filled.

“Before heading out of town I check everyone’s dose counter to make sure there is enough medication,” said Anderson. “Reaching out to a pharmacy while you’re traveling for the holidays is hard, especially when you’re experiencing an asthma attack and in an emergency situation.”

For additional information on the importance of dose counters, visit
Ms. Anderson has been compensated for her time in contributing to this program.

By: Rachel Clark, RN, BSN
Ironically, we kick off a month in which we are trying to cure diabetes immediately on the heels of a holiday celebrated by the majority of Americans that involves consuming massive amounts of sugar. This is sad to me on a number of fronts, but mostly because people do not realize the direct link between what they eat and what diseases show up in their body as a result of it.

Here are some statistics taken from

  • Nearly 30 million adults and children in the United States have diabetes
  • Another 86 million have prediabetes, thus at risk for developing Type 2 Diabetes
  • Total national cost of Diabetes care in the United States is approximately $245 billion
  • Those with diabetes are nearly twice as likely to be hospitalized for heart attack or stroke
  • Diabetes causes nearly 50% of kidney failure
  • More than half of all amputations in adults occur in those with diabetes
  • More than half a million Americans advanced retinopathy (disease of the retina in the eye) causing severe vision loss
  • One in 10 healthcare dollars is spent on diabetes care or that of its complications
  • One in 5 healthcare dollars is spent caring for people with diabetes

Even worse, Alabama ranks 47th in the nation for Diabetes and its complications. This means that only 3 other states are doing worse than we are in preventing and treating this deadly disease. In Alabama, 510,000 people have been diagnosed with Diabetes, and an additional 254,000 have prediabetes.

Let’s start with defining terms. Diabetes is a group of diseases that affects how your body uses blood sugar (or glucose). A diagnosis of diabetes means there is too much sugar in your blood. There are two types, 1 and 2. Type 1 is usually diagnosed in younger children and teens, previously called juvenile diabetes. Type 2 is usually seen in older adults, but has become more prevalent in teens and children in recent years. Prediabetes is when your blood sugar is higher than normal, but not yet high enough to classify as a diagnosis of diabetes. Gestational diabetes is developed during pregnancy when blood sugar levels are elevated.

Most of the following information is related to type 2 diabetes, as this type is most prevalent.

Risk Factors for Diabetes:

  • Obesity/overweight
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Over age 45
  • Race (increased in Hispanic/Latino, African American, Native Americans, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders)
  • Family history of Diabetes
  • Smoking

Signs and Symptoms:

  • Urinating often
  • Feeling very thirsty
  • Feeling very hungry even if you are eating
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Cuts/bruises are slow to heal
  • Tingling, pain or numbness in the hands or feet


  • High blood pressure
  • Kidney disease
  • Foot complications
  • Eye complications
  • Neuropathy
  • Skin complications
  • Stroke
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA)

As with most diseases, changes in diet and lifestyle can make a difference. It can prevent disease, reverse some of the effects, improve overall health, and decrease the complications. The same is true of diabetes when it is caught early enough. After a certain point, even changes in diet and lifestyle may not reverse the disease itself, but it will certainly help prevent the complications of it. Type 2 Diabetes can often be prevented or delayed by losing only 7% of your total body weight. For someone who weighs 250 pounds, that means you would only need to lose 17.5 pounds!

How can you do that? By making one simple change at a time. Increase your physical activity. Go for a walk. If you can walk for 5 minutes, walk for five minutes. Increase that amount of time little by little, working your way up to 30 minutes a day, five days a week. Make small simple changes in diet, such as decreasing sweets and sodas, and increasing the amount of fruits and vegetables in your diet. The United States government recommends that fully HALF of your plate at EVERY meal should be fresh, raw, fruits and/or vegetables, or 9-13 fruits and vegetables every day.

Some fun ways to make those changes are recommended bye the American Diabetes Association include:

  • Get Moving Mondays
  • Tasty Tip Tuesdays
  • What’s Cooking Wednesdays
  • Get Together Thursdays
  • Fact Check Fridays
  • Weekend Challenge

For more information, please visit
By: Rachel Clark, RN BSN

By Rachel Clark, R.N.
As a young woman in my 20’s, I’ve asked myself this question many times. I am a young, vibrant, and healthy individual that doesn’t participate in risky behaviors. So why would I need a medical power of attorney? The answer is simple: should anything happen to me and I not be able to express myself, any and all decisions about my health and life could legally be made by two medical doctors. These would be people who likely do not know me, my values, or necessarily have my best interest at heart. Two medical doctors could decide to do anything they wanted to me without my consent, including but not limited to, invoking a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order and withholding food and/or water should they think that my “quality of life” would be compromised by prolonging my life.

What exactly is a Medical Power of Attorney? It is a document that allows an individual to name delegates to make healthcare decisions on that individual’s behalf should they become unable to make them for themselves. These delegates named by the signer are then able to make any and all healthcare decisions for the signer, such as giving consent for surgical or other procedures. Before signing such a document, it is critical that you are familiar with your state’s laws in regard to requirements for a medical power of attorney.

It is also important to be aware of the fact that there are multiple options out there for this document. As I’ve been researching, I’ve found that the best option for me is something called the “Will to Live.” The “Will to Live” is a legally binding document that is also a pro-life alternative to traditional living wills. It lays out the signer’s wishes in clear, explicit terms so that should the signer become “incompetent” to make decisions, their “healthcare agent” has the authority to carry out those wishes. Be sure to discuss your standard of care choices with your “agent(s)” to ensure that your choices are carried out. That way, when and if the time comes for the document to be used, there is no question as to what you would want.
There are specific documents for the state of residency of the signer. In order to obtain the correct “Will to Live” for you, visit After downloading the document specific for your state, sign it and make copies for yourself and those named as your “agent” and “alternate agents.” Most states require that a “Will to Live” be notarized by a public notary, making it an official legal document. Each copy should be notarized before being given to those named as “agents.”

There are trying times coming up in the American healthcare system. It will become more and more common for doctors to participate in activities that are against the oaths they took when becoming physicians. It is your responsibility to protect yourself from being acted upon in ways that are against your conscience. In my career as a R.N., I see too many people who have not named anyone to make these hard choices for them should they become unable to do so themselves. It is my sincere hope that you will download and sign your copy today to ensure that your wishes are made clear and carried out, should the need ever arise.
By: Rachel Clark, RN BSN

Courtesy BrandPoint Content
(BPT) – This post is brought to you by Eisai Inc.

When most people think of breast cancer, they think of the pink movement, and often times, “beating” the cancer. A diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer (MBC), a late stage of the disease in which the cancer has spread beyond the breast, is different. There is no cure and, until recently, the number of people living with MBC in the United States was basically unknown. A new study from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) estimates more than 150,000 people are living with metastatic breast cancer.

Although the MBC population is larger than ever before, an estimated 17 percent increase from 2000 to 2010, the implication is positive as it means people are living longer in spite of their diagnosis and sheds light on the increased need for more services and research focused on MBC.

The NCI study brings attention to a growing community of people with MBC whose meaningful lives and stories are largely unheard. To give voice to those living with MBC and bring to life the reality of living with MBC, #ThisIsMBC Serenity Project was created by METAvivor, an organization dedicated to funding research focused on the metastatic breast cancer, in partnership with Eisai Inc. #ThisIsMBC Serenity Project uses art to empower people with MBC to share their experiences, educate others about this disease and encourage donations for more MBC research.

“The metastatic community really wants to be involved in research. The more people we can educate about metastatic disease, the more money we can raise for research that will ultimately help us to live longer and better-quality lives,” said Leslie Falduto, who lives with metastatic breast cancer and participated in the project. “Participating in #ThisIsMBC Serenity Project was a very powerful moment for me. I felt confident. I felt like art. I felt good about what I was doing for my community and I felt good about myself.”

The 16 people living with MBC chosen to participate in #ThisIsMBC Serenity Project tell their stories through the powerful and artful combination of body painting and underwater photography. Created by Ren and Keith Dixon, a married couple who have both lost loved ones to metastatic breast cancer, the storytelling begins in an interview with Ren Dixon, the body painting artist. After discussing their MBC experience, Ren visually represents each person’s experiences through the use of vivid color and symbols painted directly on their body. Next, Keith Dixon captures the mood and emotion of the patient’s personal journey through underwater photography.

“It is important for women and men to see that you can live a life, a fruitful and loving life, with metastatic breast cancer,” said project participant Sheila McGlown. “I think #ThisIsMBC Serenity Project brought out the boldness in me. It allowed me to express myself and my life experiences in a way I never thought I would be able to and it made me proud – proud of being a voice for young women, proud of being a voice for African-American women, proud of being a voice for veterans and proud of being a voice for the breast cancer community.”

From July 2017 to October 2018, one patient a month will be showcased, through images and video from the photoshoot, on and METAvivor’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts (@metavivor). The images will also be featured at an art gallery reception in New York City and made into a calendar. These calendars are available for free with a donation to METAvivor, which can be made at Donations will go to METAvivor to support research specifically for metastatic breast cancer.

A fundamental component of #ThisIsMBC Serenity Project is the belief that women and men with MBC should live their lives as fully as possible and take advantage of all resources available to them. Many educational resources and helpful information about metastatic breast cancer exists at To support METAvivor’s ongoing commitment to funding MBC research, which could help those living with this disease, consider making a contribution at

By: Tracy A Lowery MD
Venous Insufficiency (poorly functioning veins) and varicose veins of the lower extremities are some of the most common medical conditions experienced by people in this country. Over 40 million Americans have some degree of venous problems making it the most common chronic medical condition in North America.

Each of us has many veins in our legs, with these veins varying in size and location. Regardless of size and location, each of these veins provides the same function. Blood that is pumped to the legs is collected by these veins and returned to the heart. If the veins are not functioning correctly the legs may develop symptoms or become varicose. Varicose veins can be seen as dilated twisted blood vessels just below the skin surface that appear bluish and may bulge when sitting or standing. Spider veins are red or blue veins on top of the skin surface.

For many years physicians have considered most problems with abnormal veins to be cosmetic and not symptomatic. We now know that poorly functioning veins not only affect the appearance of the legs, but also have a tremendous affect on how the legs feel.

Symptoms of varicose veins and venous insufficiency include pain, aching, heaviness, fatigue, swelling, and restlessness at night. These symptoms may be present with or without any veins being visible to the naked eye. These symptoms may involve one or both legs.

Anyone can develop vein problems, but the risk is increased if there is a family history of vein problems. The risk is also increased as we age, as over half of us over the age of 50, will have some degree of vein problems. Often patients will overlook subtle symptoms thinking that as they age their legs are supposed to be tired and swollen. Women have a higher incidence of vein problems than men, most likely secondary to pregnancy. Other conditions, that may increase one’s risk of developing vein problems, are obesity, sedentary life style, standing for long periods of time on hard surfaces, and jobs that require prolonged sitting or standing.

The evaluation of vein function can be determined in a few minutes by a painless, outpatient ultrasound performed in a specialty vein center. If vein function is abnormal, treatment options include both conservative treatment and more aggressive intervention.

Conservative treatment of venous insufficiency and varicose veins include increased walking, elevation of the legs, and the wearing of graded compression stockings. Stockings can be below-the-knee, thigh-high or panty hose. Stockings do a good job of minimizing leg swelling which tends to improve symptoms of varicose veins.

If conservative therapy does not noticeably improve a patient’s symptoms, then more definitive treatment is available. This treatment of abnormal veins is performed in an outpatient setting; requires no sedation, only local anesthesia; and is covered by most insurance carriers. This treatment, radiofrequency ablation, is used to not only improve the appearance of the legs but also improve the symptoms of venous insufficiency.

If you have veins visible on your legs or symptoms similar to those described above, please call Crestwood Vein Center at 256-429-5346 to schedule your evaluation.
By: Tracy A. Lowery MD
Board Certified Vascular Surgeon
Varicose Vein Specialist
Crestwood Vein Center
185 Whitesport Drive
Suite 2
Huntsville, Alabama 35801

By: Dr Shanna Ndong
Insomnia, or difficulty initiating or maintaining sleep, is a common complaint and approximately 1 in 3 American adults experience it over the course of a year. Sleeping less than seven hours per day is associated with an increased risk of developing chronic conditions such as obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and mental disorders. The southeastern United States reports the least amount of sleep of any region and not surprisingly, it also has the highest prevalence of obesity and associated medical conditions.

Many people turn to sleep aids, both over-the-counter and prescription, to help with their sleeping issues. A 2015 Consumer Reports survey found that one-third of U.S. adults had tried a sleep drug in the past year. Prescription sedatives are the most popular treatment for insomnia in the U.S. Although they are meant for temporary use in most people, they are often taken indefinitely. Long-term use of sedatives such as Ambien, Lunesta, and Restoril have been shown to decrease the ability to think clearly, worsen memory, and increase risk of falls. There is also a significant risk of developing drug dependence and a high abuse potential.

Melatonin is a hormone produced in the brain in response to darkness. It helps to regulate the body’s sleep and wake cycle (i.e. circadian rhythm). Melatonin levels decrease with age and may contribute to the increase in sleep issues in elderly populations. Studies suggest that melatonin supplements may help people with disrupted circadian rhythms (such as people with jet lag or those who work the night shift), and those with low melatonin levels (such as the elderly) to sleep better.

Melatonin has been touted as a natural sleep aid and in the U.S., unlike many other Western countries, it’s production and sale is completely unregulated. As a result, over-the-counter doses of melatonin range from 0.3 mg to as high as 20 mg. The dose that most closely resembles what the human body makes is 0.3 mg (300 micrograms). When melatonin receptors in the brain are exposed to too much of the hormone, they become unresponsive. This happens with high initial doses of hormone and may happen after several weeks of melatonin usage leading to loss of effect. As a result, melatonin should be used for short periods of time (a few weeks). A 2001 MIT study comparing treatment of insomnia in patients over age 50 with 0.3 mg, 1 mg, and 3 mg doses found that while all three doses improved sleep, the 1 mg and 3 mg doses were associated with side effects including low body temperature and the levels of melatonin in the blood remained elevated into the daylight hours.

An important first step for anyone with insomnia is improving ‘sleep hygiene’ which means that bedtime and awakening should be consistent everyday, including weekends. Quit smoking and avoid caffeine and alcohol in the evening. Avoid taking naps and decrease the amount of time spent lying in bed. This will increase the likelihood that sleep will be achieved at the appropriate time. Do not watch TV, read, write, eat, or lie awake for an extended period in bed. Keep the sleeping environment quiet and dark; there should be no TV, radio, or lights on while sleeping. Develop a relaxing routine before getting ready to sleep such as taking a warm shower, reading (in another room), or meditating.

The most effective treatment for insomnia after sleep hygiene is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which involves talking to a therapist to learn a new set of behaviors regarding sleep. CBT is as effective as sleeping pills and has been shown to help up to 80 percent of chronic insomnia sufferers. The positive effects of CBT can be long lasting. CBT is offered through licensed counselors and other mental health professionals.

Here are some important tips to remember prior to beginning melatonin: 1) Due to the potential for side effects and interactions with medications, talk to a health care provider first. 2) If melatonin is used for insomnia, generally the dose should be within the 0.3 mg to 1 mg range. 3) The dose should be taken 90 minutes before bedtime, if possible. Melatonin can cause drowsiness if taken during the day. 4) If drowsiness occurs the morning after taking melatonin, try taking a lower dose. 5) Pregnant or nursing women should not take melatonin because it can interfere with fertility and pregnancy. 6) Melatonin use should be avoided in children.
By: Dr. Shanna Ndong

By Shanna Ndong
In part one of this series on epigenetics (“Fundamentals”) we reviewed some general definitions and concepts and gave an overview of the topic. Epigenetics is the study of inherited changes in gene expression that, unlike mutations, are not caused by changes in the sequence of DNA. These are mechanisms that help to turn genes off and on, and include DNA methylation and acetylation, respectively.

Cancer is caused by an imbalance in the mechanisms that control cell reproduction. Loss of reproductive control in cancer cells can occur due to random gene mutations, exposure to high-risk environmental and lifestyle factors (e.g. poor diet, smoking, alcohol, obesity), or rare inherited cancer syndromes (e.g. BRCA mutations and increased risk for breast/ovarian cancers).

The loss of control of cell proliferation can be due to genetic mutations and epigenetic abnormalities. Epigenetic changes are potentially reversible and are targets for the development of future nutritional, drug, or dietary interventions to treat or prevent genetic conditions including cancer.

Nutrition can potentially affect epigenetic processes at multiple points in DNA methylation. Nutrients are the main source of methyl groups or act as coenzymes for methyl transfer and DNA synthesis. A number of phytochemicals found in plant foods and in dietary supplements alter epigenetic processes by interfering with the activities of methylation enzymes. I will review some of the foods that have been shown to have cancer preventative and therapeutic properties with epigenetic targets below.


Folate is one of the B vitamins and is obtained solely from food (green vegetables, beans, grains, and pasta). Folate regulates the biosynthesis, repair and methylation of DNA, whereas deficiencies in folate can initiate cancer due to disruptions of these processes. Low folate intake is reported to contribute to the development of several different cancers, including breast, cervix, ovary, brain, lung and colon.

Green Tea (EGCG)

EGCG, the major polyphenol in green tea, has been extensively studied as a potential demethylating agent. In cell culture and animal models of lung, colon, bladder, liver, prostate, breast and skin cancers, the most commonly observed anti-cancer mechanisms of EGCG include inhibition of proliferation and induction of programmed cell death.

Soybeans (Genistein)

Genistein is one of the many phytoestrogens contained in soybeans and is a demethylating agent. Several epidemiologic studies showed a relationship between a soy-rich diet and cancer prevention. These studies arose from observations that in Asian countries, such as Japan and China, where diets are high in soy products, the incidence of breast and prostate cancers is relatively lower. Furthermore, migration studies showed an increase in prostate and breast cancer incidence in Asians after immigration to the United States, suggesting that environmental factors and changes in lifestyle, particularly in dietary practices, affect these types of cancer.

Berries (Resveratrol)

Resveratrol is a polyphenol found in grapes, peanuts, and berries. It is concentrated in the skin of grapes, so the process of crushing and mashing grapes for winemaking results in high levels of resveratrol in wine. It has anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, blood-sugar-lowering and other beneficial cardiovascular effects. It has been found to have anti-cancer activity against colon cancer in human clinical trials. Several studies using animal models for non-melanoma skin cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, liver cancer, pancreatic cancer, lung cancer, and stomach cancer all showed anti-tumor effects.

Cruciferous vegetables

Members of the Brassicaceae family include broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, kale, and cabbage. They have anti-inflammatory properties and contain chemicals that stop cancer cell growth and stimulate programmed cell death. High rates of cruciferous vegetable consumption have been associated with lower risk for bladder cancer. Laboratory studies on human prostate, colon, and breast cancer cells have all shown positive anti-cancer effects of cruciferous vegetables and their metabolites.

Additional foods that have been shown to prevent cancer through epigenetic mechanisms are human breast milk, extra-virgin olive oil, garlic, selenium, curcumin (turmeric), and caffeic acid (thyme, sage).

It’s important to keep in mind that much of this research is in its infancy and many of these studies have been performed in the laboratory or on animals. In general, most of the foods listed are healthful and would be a great addition to your diet, but I suggest that you speak to your doctor before beginning any supplements as they may interact with medications you are already taking. Stay tuned for part three of this series called “Behavioral Epigenetics” where I review evidence that experiences can cause epigenetic changes, and psychological and behavioral tendencies are inherited.
By: Dr. Shanna Ndong