Written by Erica on . Posted in Wellness

Over 5 million Americans know what it is like to suffer from fibromyalgia. This disorder is characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain but often it is accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues. Unfortunately, fibromyalgia is a great example of how putting a label on a condition does very little to actual treat it. Truthfully, there really is no definitive diagnosis of fibromyalgia, it is based mainly on the opinion of the provider. Fibromyalgia is really a collection of symptoms that could have many different causes.

In functional medicine, we never want to diagnose a name we want to diagnose a dysfunctional process. Many of the people that suffer from fibromyalgia do not realize that there are natural approaches for fixing the condition and that the natural approaches can be more effective. It is very common for fibromyalgia patients to also suffer from chronic fatigue, IBS, sleep dysfunction, hormone imbalances, and depression. Therefore, it is necessary for the provider to understand that all of these symptoms may be related and that there may be common underlying causes to all of these symptoms.

Typical treatment for fibromyalgia usually involves anti-inflammatory medications, anti-depressants, anti-seizure, or some combination of all three. These medications may provide some relief, but most patients are still often dealing with chronic daily pain, in addition to lack of energy and excitement for a fulfilling life.

In order to treat fibromyalgia the following issues need to be addressed:

1. Neurotransmitter Imbalances

2. Neuroinflammation

3. Lack of movement

The following article will discuss some of the natural approaches required to address the above causes of fibromyalgia.


Two of the most common medications for fibromyalgia are anti-depressants and anti-anxiety drugs.These medications attempt to improve the effectiveness of your body’s neurotransmitters; namely Serotonin and GABA. But many people do not realize that there are natural approaches for increasing the availability of these neurotransmitters.


Many anti-depressants are considered Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs). The purpose of these meds is to increase the amount of available serotonin in your nervous system. Serotonin is considered the feel good neurotransmitter. Symptoms of low serotonin can be:

Loss of pleasure in hobbies and interests
Feelings of inner rage and anger
Feelings of depression
Difficulty finding joy from life’s pleasures
Depression when it is cloudy
Loss of enthusiasm for favorite activities
Not enjoying your favorite foods
Unable to sleep

One key aspect of serotonin deficiency that is rarely discussed is that 90% of your serotonin is made in your gut; therefore a digestive dysfunction may very well be causing you to have low serotonin. Other causes may be B-vitamin, Mg, or Zinc deficiency, lack of exercise, lack of brain stimulation, hormone imbalance (particularly estrogen) or lack of sunlight (sunlight does way more than just increase Vitamin D). If you have fibromyalgia and you received a benefit from Cymbalta or Lexapro, then you need to ask yourself why, and try to explore possible solutions for improving your serotonin status.


Anti-anxiety medications are considered GABA-ergic drugs, and they are popular medications such as Neurontin, Lyrica, Xanax, and Ambien. GABA is the main inhibitory neurotransmitter in the central nervous system. One way to think of fibromyalgia is that the nerve fibers are over-excited and GABA will help calm down this excitability. Patients with low GABA can have the following symptoms:

Difficulty sleeping
Panic Attacks
Hard to turn off your brain
Can’t relax
Easily overwhelmed

However, there can be a variety of causes why someone will have low GABA. Gluten sensitivity is common among patients with low GABA. This is because gluten interferes with the enzyme needed to make GABA. In addition, when the enzyme to make GABA is inefficient, the problem is compounded because patients will end up with not only low GABA but also excess Glutamate. Glutamate is an excitatory neurotransmitter and in excess it is very neurotoxic. This is why people get headaches from Chinese food with MSG. Therefore, patients with fibromyalgia should have strict avoidance of MSG and Aspartame because if this neurotoxic effect.

Hormone issues are often accompanied by GABA dysfunction. Many females suffer from estrogen dominance or another way of saying low progesterone. Progesterone and GABA worked together, therefore a patient may have GABA issues being driven from progesterone imbalances. Other causes of GABA dysfunction are anemia, poor energy production, dysfunctional Ammonia metabolism (often driven from poor gut function), poor blood sugar metabolism, and toxicity. Key supplements that I frequently use to improve GABA status are Magnesium, Valerian Root, B6, Ashwagandha, Theanine, and Taurine.


Another common medication for fibromyalgia are NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatories, ex. Tylenol, Ibuprofen, Aleve). However, long term use of these medications can lead to many problems and they are definitely not addressing the cause. For more information please see the article, How Does Ibuprofen Work?

The most important thing to understanding chronic inflammation is to understand that it is a reflection of immune dysfunction. And the most common causes of immune dysfunction are:

Poor Diet – a diet high in processed foods (refined carbohydrates, industrial seed oils) predisposes an individual to inflammation

Dysbiosis – chronic infections are often at the root of chronic immune dysfunction

Food Allergies/Sensitivities – often driven from leaky gut syndrome, where your body ignites its inflammatory process caused from undigested protein particles.

Toxic overload – living in a toxic environment, could be a moldy house or poor water/air quality can wreak havoc on your immune responses

Stress / Overtraining – working too hard without sufficient time to recover will over time impair your immune function.

Any chronic inflammatory disease is often dealing with at least one of the above problems. With fibromyalgia one of the unique aspects of the syndrome is that it has a tendency to create inflammation on the nerves not just the muscular tissue. Therefore, key supplements for nerve health are:

DHA – fish oil supplements will contain DHA, but you will be better served taking one that has more DHA than EPA, my two favorites are Tuna Oil from Standard Process and ProDHA from Nordic Naturals

Arachidonic Acid – a key component of the brain, the best sources of this are from organic/pasture raised meat and dairy

Magnesium – similar to GABA, magnesium will help calm down neurosensitivity

Resveratrol / Curcumin – these two bioflavonoids are great anti-inflammatories


The last key component for dealing with fibromyalgia is exercise but more importantly movement. Fibromyalgia could be considered a condition where there is no inhibition of nociceptors to the brain. Nociceptors are the nerve fibers that sense tissue damaging stimuli. Think of when you hit your finger with a hammer, that is an excessive stimulation of nociceptors. Also, when hit your finger you will instinctively shake your hand, this occurs because this will stimulate mechanoreceptors. Mechanoreceptors travel to the brain faster than nociceptors and will block nociceptor signals from getting to the brain.

One of the best ways to stimulate mechanoreceptors is through exercise and movement. Early on, gentle movement practices will be more beneficial because most fibromyalgia patients will have difficulty meeting the metabolic demand for more strenuous activity. Activities such as Yoga, Qi Gong, Pool Exercises, but also just walking is a great pain reliever and healer to the nervous system.

This information is intended to make the patient aware that in order to fix a fibromyalgia condition many different aspects of health need to be addressed. There will never be a fibromyalgia pill that cures the disease, because there are too many root causes that drive the condition. Also, if you have been labelled with fibromyalgia don’t use the condition as an excuse to be in constant pain and not participant in activities, use the diagnosis as a wake up call that you need to change your habits and work with a professional who can guide you along the way.

Healthy lifestyle. Back and spine disease. Closeup back view tired female massaging her neck colored in red isolated on gray background

Healthy lifestyle. Back and spine disease. Closeup back view tired female massaging her neck colored in red isolated on gray background

The Year of Anger By Emily Lorraine

Written by Erica on . Posted in Wellness

an•ger /’aNGɡər/

noun 1.a strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure or hostility. Anger is hard. It’s hard to express and it’s hard to handle. It makes us anxious and uncomfortable. Rather than deal with it, many of us try to sweep it under the rug. We’ve been led to believe we should simply let it go. This belief has literally become a pop culture phenomenon cultivated by the theme song Let It Go from the movie Frozen.

Has anyone ever just let it go? I’m not talking about when someone cuts you off during your morning commute. I’m talking about the kind of problems that keep you awake at night. To appease your confidants, you might quell talking about it to death, but it probably plays in your head at the same rate as Friends reruns on TBS. It affects your sleep, your work and your ability to handle daily tasks. It can be consuming. And all because you’re trying to just let it go rather than just.deal.with.it.

Everyone has a go-to emotion. When we become irritated, upset or stressed, some of us cry. Some of us get angry. I get angry. I mutter swear words. I think mean things. I grind my teeth. I become irritated with myself and others. I make myself sick, resulting in headaches and neck pain. This past year tested my ability to handle stress. It forced me to face my anger. As someone who takes her health seriously, I decided to heed my own advice and take my mental health seriously. I hired a therapist and here’s what I learned: • Anger is the unsexy emotion. It’s much cooler to appear calm, cool and collected. It’s cool to let it go. • You can’t stop anger. And that’s okay. But you can control how you react to it, how you cope. • You have a right to be angry. You are allowed to be angry as much as you experience other emotions.

As a culture, we associate anger with jealousy, hate, malice, abuse and negativity. It is ugly. It is villainous. We’ve been programmed to believe that. Think about your favorite Disney movies. There’s always a villain and often – but not all the time – they are misunderstood and angry with the cards they’ve been dealt.

Anger is normal. It can be beautiful. It can even nurture you by pushing you to become a better version of yourself. It can be the drive you need to help make the world a better place – or at the very least, your world. It is not your emotion that defines you, but how you cope. To cope means to struggle or deal, especially on fairly even terms or with some degree of success. It doesn’t mean you’ve solved your problems. I am coping. I’m not physically violent. I don’t have destructive behaviors (like alcohol or drugs). I’m not hateful. I am just angry, and sometimes I’m not. In fact, most of the time, I’m not. But when I am, I am allowed to peacefully deal with my anger in my own way – whether it be through therapy, writing, venting to a friend or working out. We all need outlets. When my normal gym routine failed me, I turned to therapy. It is incredibly uncomfortable for me to disclose my problems to a stranger, but I continue to do it. I believe it will make me a better person.

I am constantly reminded of this quote from Cheryl Strayed: “Whatever happens to you belongs to you. Make it yours. Feed it to yourself even if it feels impossible to swallow. Let it nurture you, because it will.” 2017: The year my anger nurtured me.

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Re-evaluating Your Friendship with Food by Amy English

Written by Erica on . Posted in Wellness

I’m an emotional eater. My main trigger is stress, but sadness, fear, and worry have played a large role as well. I turned to food for comfort and support for a very long time. Thinking about it, my earliest memory of emotional binge eating was probably somewhere around the age or 10 or 11. I remember sneaking food like chips, brownies from the pan, or even ice cream directly from the container with a spoon. When I look back on this, I recognize that the food filled a void for whatever was missing at the time. Food became who I needed at the moment. I know this now. I can see it clearly. I am fully aware. That awareness has been key to my understanding, to healing, and to helping me put an end to the behavior. We can’t fix anything if we don’t know it’s broken.

Before I was aware of WHY I emotionally ate, I tried to stop this behavior by beating myself into submission. I would force myself to be on ridiculously restrictive diets, and torture my body with insane workouts…especially when I “messed up”. I allowed myself little joy when it came to food and movement. I never realized how that spilled over into everything else. The diets worked for a while, until they didn’t. Life would happen, and there I was, stuffing my stress or sadness. I hated myself because of this. I was not patient, kind, or understanding with myself. I said some very mean things to myself, about myself. I kept thinking something was wrong with me. I didn’t know how to stop the cycle. I couldn’t allow certain foods in the house. No snacks, no chocolate, and definitely no ice cream. At times when we had an abundance of these “treats” (any of the major holidays), I would make my husband hide them. Unfortunately, hiding wasn’t enough. If I had a bad day at work I would search for it, and I would find it. I felt out of control with food, like it had a hold on me, and I couldn’t stop. I knew it was there, and I had to have it…especially on a bad day. I felt helpless. I couldn’t stop thinking about it, and I didn’t know how to shake it.

And then, I decided to get BARE. If you follow me on social media, then you’ve probably heard me talk about the BARE program. BARE is a coaching program and weight loss method that focuses on how to stop dieting, and stop emotional eating. Using this method, I learned how to start loving my body now, at my current weight, and how to treat myself with love and kindness. BARE helps to strip away all the negativity and nonsense we’re taught about how we should look, what we should eat, how we should feel, and so on. BARE also helped me understand my relationship with food. Turns out I was using food as pleasure, as support, and as comfort. Food was the friend who didn’t judge, who didn’t talk back, who didn’t question, who didn’t neglect. Wow.

I started to take a closer look at my behavior. I started journaling. I became the watcher of my thoughts, and actions. I started to see a pattern. I could see that I was running to the pantry when something went awry. I noticed that I was reaching for food when I wasn’t hungry. I learned how to listen to my body, and to know when it was hungry. I started getting curious. I began to ask questions. Am I hungry? Why do I want this? What do I need right now? Does Hershey have the answer? I noticed all of the answers pointed to an emotion.

I’m still doing the work, but it’s amazing to see all the changes. I’m able to keep food in my house that was forbidden before. I don’t think about food like I used to. I don’t run to the kitchen when I’m feeling stressed, or sad. Instead, I journal, practice deep breathing, or meditate. I don’t binge nearly as much as I used to. I can’t say I haven’t slipped, I’m human after all. The difference is I don’t beat myself up when it happens. I pick myself up and move on. I have added other forms of pleasure into my life, things that bring me joy! Food no longer serves that purpose.

Amy English is a Certified BARE Coach who helps women learn to stop dieting, love their bodies, and step into the life they deserve.


Is Vitamin C for me? by Jennifer Jennings

Written by Erica on . Posted in Wellness

Throughout our lives, we have continuously heard volumes about the purported benefits of Vitamin C. Our elders would encourage us to put lemon in our tea when having a case of the sniffles. Orange and citrus boxes were commonplace around the Holidays to enhance our immunity during the winter months. Children would be encouraged to take their vitamin C tablets, primarily during cold and flu season. The question remains, what is the hype regarding Vitamin C?

Vitamin C in Humans and other Mammals

There are 4,000 other species of mammals that have the ability manufacture Vitamin C, and in substantial quantities. Unfortunately, to the dismay of the human species, we do not synthesize Vitamin C. This is due to a mutation in the GULO (gulonolactone oxidase) gene, which results in the inability to manufacture the protein. However, the red blood cells of the handful of Vitamin C-defective species are specially equipped to absorb the vitamin’s oxidized form, using the GULO enzyme.

With proper nutrition, humans are able to consume more than enough Vitamin C from our diet. It is also suggested that organisms without a functional GULO gene have a method of “recycling” the Vitamin C that they obtain from their diets using red blood cells. Of interest, a 2008 published study claimed to have successfully reinstated the ability to produce Vitamin C in mice. This human evolutionary flaw makes the focus on consuming Vitamin C so important for humans.

So what is all of the hype on Vitamin C? Why is it something that we should be concerned about and why should we consume this in oral supplement form- or better yet, though the intravenous route? Vitamin C has demonstrated anti-aging effects; this is why the cosmetic industry has included this ingredient in many skin care regimens and products. Topical therapy is useful, but also oral supplement use and intravenous administration have demonstrated their effectiveness. Anecdotally, many patients that receive Vitamin C intravenously for adjunctive cancer therapy have reported an improvement in their skin texture, tone, and reduction of overall inflammation.

Vitamin C is also plays a vital role in strengthening the immune system. The most bioavailable form is liposomal Vitamin C, which has the ability glide across the cell membrane, enhancing intracellular absorption. Vitamins C and D are staples in my integrative medicine practice to support immunity, and many of our patients are able to avert the typical seasonal cold and flu viruses. Diet and nutrition play an important role in absorbing vitamins and minerals, however most patients are unable to get a therapeutic dosage through diet alone. Additionally, many of us have a compromised microbiome in the gut, and may have a weakened ability to absorb critical vitamins and minerals. This is where the role of IV vitamin C can significantly improve one’s immunity, as it bypasses the stomach acid and the ‘first pass effect’ with the liver.

Intravenous Vitamin C administration has shown promising results for adjunctive cancer therapy. A systematic review by Fritz & Flower et. al. (2014) reveals that intravenous Vitamin C has an excellent safety profile and important anti-tumor activity. The authors also suggest that intravenous Vitamin C may improve quality of life, reduce inflammation and can modulate disease and chemotherapy symptoms, and they endorse that several cases of cancer remission have been reported.

In summary, Vitamin C has many benefits to overall health, including reduced inflammation, anti-aging, immune support, and cancer therapy. Vitamin C has many perks for a relatively inexpensive, easy to consume Vitamin. So the question remains- what are you waiting for? Start taking your Vitamin C today.



Written by Erica on . Posted in Wellness

Breaking into 2017, actress and Goop lifestyle blog founder, Gwyneth Paltrow declared 2017 the year of clean sleep. The message is starting to pop up everywhere, get more sleep! But why? The last 50 years have not only built up a world and environment that is not conducive to a good night’s sleep, but has encouraged us to rave about how little we can survive on. But the way our health has changed it is sounding the alarm that we got it all wrong. Sleep is arguably the body’s best healing mechanism. It not only serves the purpose of energy conservation and memory consolidation but proves to be our most restorative function to keep all of our biological processes running smoothly. When we do not sleep well, we feel it. It only takes one night of bad sleep to cause havoc on our everyday lives. We have less patience, we become impulsive with both personal choices and our nutrition. We skip the gym because we are too tired or we go and end up getting hurt as our bodies are not able to repair and recover as quickly. It touches everything we do and who we are when it comes to our health.

We know that fatigue is the most common symptom of almost every disease or a sign that we are not consuming the right diet, but getting to the source of our sleep challenges isn’t always easy. Our sleep schedule, bedtime habits, and day-to-day lifestyle choices have an enormous impact on the quality of your nightly rest, but where do we look first when we are too tired to even think straight? We start at the bottom. We uncomplicate the complicated. Some of my best tips for getting to the source of a sleep issue come from a comprehensive assessment but listed below are the easiest places to start on your own, as an advocate for your individual health.

1.Medical History- What are you currently diagnosed with? What medications are you taking? What are the side effects? What time of day are you taking them? What is the diet you are consuming when taking them? And in my opinion one of the most important- is the prescription you are taking the best for you and is what you are taking what the prescription was intended for? Especially when it comes to sleep challenges, physicians are quick to prescribe off-label and sometimes cause more harm than good. A quick recommendation they often make although over the counter is melatonin- marketed as safe and natural it is actually a hormone. We now know that it does not resolve the underlying issues regarding insomnia. Did you know it can also can interfere with diabetic medications and undermine the effectiveness of blood pressure prescriptions. There are ways we can produce it naturally and safely every day. First by being conscious of how much natural light we take in. Start the day by going to the window and soaking it in.

2.What supplements are you taking? The majority of the nutrients we get should come from REAL food, not supplements because they are not all created the same. This is an area the FDA has truly failed the healthcare industry. Despite the fact that traditional medicine doctors spend less than 23 hours on nutrition they are quick to recommend multi-vitamins. Although most do not consist of quality ingredients or contain the right combination of recommended daily amounts. Also falls in there the debate that not everyone absorbs minerals in the same way, which is why despite even getting tested, the majority of the population tends to suffer from a magnesium deficiency. Are you seeing a pattern? Health is about you – what works for you as an individual.

3.Diet- Believe it or not. Your eating habits should be to promote good sleep! Avoiding spicy foods and dairy for some before bed is recommended to avoid issues with re flux and digestion. While we sleep our bodies are at work, help it out. At the same time, we can incorporate foods to promote sleep! Bananas are a natural source of potassium and magnesium, Tart cherries as a natural source of melatonin and sweet potatoes or oatmeal as a late night snack if you can’t beat the late night munchies. Juicing is a great way to incorporate the necessary recommended dietary needs.

4.What type of sleeper are you? What position do you sleep in and do you have the right tools? People often overlook the importance of the right mattress, pillows, sheets, pajamas and temperature regulation. Which all play a huge part in how well we sleep through the night and if we wake up stiff or rested.

5.Evaluation of Environment- to include air quality, airborne mold, toxins, pet dander and dust. The tools we use can also play into this. Wake up sniffling? It could be the composition of the materials your mattress is made of. Make sure to dust often and incorporate plants into the bedroom. There are many factors beyond the generic- watch your caffeine intake, which just to clarify everyone has different sensitivities too. It also depends on the type of caffeine you are consuming. There is also the well-known recommendation to turn off your electronic devices. There are tools for that too, apps like f.lux to dim your screen and blue blocker glasses to cut through the blue light. You can still scroll through social media, emails and help your body produce the melatonin it needs naturally to get to a place where you are ready to fall asleep. Although in this day and age it isn’t just about the light, what you are reading or watching can affect stress levels and raise your blood pressure. It really is all connected.

Sleep is fairly new in that we are still studying the body and learning more every day the role it plays in our everyday functioning. If you are struggling with sleep take the time to speak with a sleep specialist. In terms of integrative medicine, sleep is right at the top. You have to understand yourself holistically to get to the bottom of why you are not sleeping well. It is too important to ignore the long term effects of sleep deprivation or the risks of a medical sleep disorder like sleep can have on your overall health and quality of life. Do not wait for your doctor to ask. Make the move, make the connection and start living happier, healthier days. Good Sleep = Good Health, make 2017 the year you make yours a priority.

Soda Kuczkowski is the owner of START WITH SLEEP an integrative education resource center and retail boutique that focuses on both behavioral and medical sleep challenges in Buffalo, NY. She is also the founder of the Start Your Journey Sleep Program ™, a guide for improving sleep quality naturally. She is committed to addressing sleep concerns and questions by providing sleep health education through a channel of various educational components including sleep consulting, coaching, workshops and health programs.


Open the Window by Jill O’Hara

Written by Erica on . Posted in Wellness

As we begin this New Year we look forward to many opportunities to bring more joy, goodness and new beginnings into our lives. It is time to hit the re-set button, blossom into what we desire, enrich or lives, and latch onto new habits that will bring us to a better place. All bright, sparkly things to ring in the New Year. And so it is…

In order to do this we have to let go of the past, release the hopes and dreams we longed for a year ago. Time to reboot and focus on what we wish to accomplish in this year. Whether it is better health, improved communications, peaceful relationships or whatever else is in your heart we can achieve it by setting that intention and most importantly taking action.

This is often a time of grieving and that is not a bad thing. Grieving allows us the ability to review, re-live and then to let go. Say goodbye, thank you for the lessons learned, the love shared and be grateful for the experience that have shaped us. The mourning of lost dreams, loves and opportunities that have vanished is a part of the re birthing process. It is the bridge to the opening of a window to the unseen, as yet unspoken hopes of our futures.

As I begin this New Year for the second time my greatest desire is to find that I can follow my path, listen to the inner guidance that is always available to all of us. My actual New Year was brought in under duress, grieving for loved ones who have crossed over and with little joy. So I have chosen to give it another shot and declared that today was my New Year. Though my new beginning came later than the traditional one I trust,and that is an important word that this year will be the best ever. We always have the opportunity to start over, every day, or even every minute if need be. As I have found my way back to more joy and a more optimistic frame of mind I am reminded that “ it is not the events in our lives that are important, but rather our thoughts about those events that truly matter”.Always trust that what you go through in life is for a good reason. Believe that as our experience strengthen us, and help us to know ourselves better.

My wish for you is that you have the happiest, healthiest and most brilliant New Year of your life. Believe in your self, your dreams, your goals and trust and have faith that the Universe has your back.