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Blog Are You Tired Of Being Tired? Get some sleep!

Insomnia is a major problem in the US and is among the top ten most researched health topics on the internet with over 30% of people having a sleep disorder during their life. The two main categories of sleep disorders are sleep onset insomnia, not being able to fall asleep, and sleep maintenance insomnia, waking during the night, or it can be a mixture of both.

Sleep disorders need not be obvious. People with sleep disorders sometimes report that they fall asleep fine and sleep through the night but wake un-refreshed and are tired throughout the day. There are many causes for these disorders. Some are minor but some can be very serious.

The most common causes of sleep disorders are stress, anxiety and depression. Other causes include pain, allergies, a poor sleeping area, reactions to foods, herbs and medications, restless leg syndrome, waking to urinate, nocturnal hypoglycemia and szeep apnea. Sleep apnea is the cessation of breathing for up to 10 or more seconds. It can be a serious problem and should be assessed by your primary care physician.

Using a sleeping pill under the care of a physician may be indicated in rare instances but there are many potential problems associated with using pharmaceuticals including dependence, rebound insomnia when the pills are stopped and side effects. The other downside of taking anything for sleep is that it does not address the root cause. Stress, for instance can cause a major imbalance in the hormonal cycle responsible for sleep. An imbalance of cortisol or melatonin can cause you to have problems getting to sleep or staying asleep by actually tricking your body into thinking it is the morning and it’s time to get up. These can be checked with a simple salivary test which will determine where the levels are and what the appropriate protocol is to get them into balance.

Another problem that causes people to wake in the night is nocturnal hypoglycemia, low blood sugar at night. It can cause hot flashes, night sweats or simply make the body wake up.

People who wake to urinate, even once per night are not getting restful sleep. Sometimes it is due to simply drinking water too close to bedtime or drinking things that cause your body to urinate such as sodas, tea, coffee and some vitamins, herbs and medications. Drinking coffee, tea and sodas can be a major cause of insomnia for another reason. Caffeine can stay in your system for 18-20+ hours. If you do the math that means your morning coffee can be causing your insomnia.

Botanical sedatives such as Chamomile, Passion Flower, Hops and Valerian can be effective in helping with sleep. They are usually milder and cause less side effects than
pharmaceuticals. Melatonin, 5 HTP and other such substances are the next step after the herbs I mentioned above. However, even though they are available over the counter they are hormones and hormone precursors and are not harmless as they can disrupt the sleep/wake cycle, cause imbalances with neurotransmitters and can interact with medications including anti-depressants.

They should only be used under the guidance of a properly trained healthcare provider!! If you need anything to improve your sleep on a regular basis you are not finding the cause of the problem which can be accomplished by assessing medical history, testing for sleep apnea and by some functional testing such as the saliva test mentioned above.

Everyone has an occasional problem sleeping. If it becomes long term get checked out by a healthcare practitioner as something serious might be going on. Sleep is a fundamental need for your body, making it a priority in this fast paced world will improve your ability to cope with stress and will keep you healthier throughout your life. It’s your life. It’s your health!

Dr. Visconti has an Alternative Medical Clinic near the Citrus Tower in Clermont. If you have any questions on this or any other topic please contact him on his website:

Blog Acupuncture made it to the big time!

Well folks, we made it… made it to the big time! It wasn’t the fact that acupuncture has been a valid system of medicine used by billions of people since it’s inception roughly 1000 to 3000 years before Jesus Christ was born. It wasn’t the fact that acupuncture is showing positive results in
increasing numbers of scientific studies being published in prestigious medical journals. It wasn’t the fact that acupuncture is being incorporated into major medical centers and hospitals across the US.

What brought us to the “big time” was that acupuncture was recognized on “Oprah” last week!!! We made it! Oprah and one of her guests had a treatment on the show. Oprah had a general immune stimulating treatment and the guest’s shoulder pain was relieved within a few minutes. How is that for a testimonial.

I am being a bit cavalier in my embellishment above just because I know the benefits of acupuncture, I see them with my patients all the time. But, if it takes Oprah and the medical journals touting the benefits of acupuncture for people to find out then that is fine also. People ask how it works and I give both answers, western and eastern: The western, conventional medicine version is that the needles stimulate blood flow, endorphins and serotonin to deal with pain. This is a limited concept for acupuncture deals with much more than pain. However, it is much more dramatic to see an immediate relief of pain than it is to improve someone’s immune system or balance another person’s hormones.

The Chinese definition of what is happening is a bit different: pain or dysfunction in the body is caused by blockage or imbalance in blood, fluids and energy flow. The energy flow is the thing most western people have a problem with. However, since quantum physics, Einstein and a bunch of other very smart nerds, I mean scientists, came up with the commonly held “laws of physics” the biochemical model of how the body works is essentially outdated. Our body does not only work with chemicals running through our arteries and veins but with bio-electricity. Our cells have electrical charges that dictate what passes into and out of the cells. Our nerves function by the conduction of electrical impulses. Our hearts pump and our muscles work due to electrical charges firing the muscles.

Our brains generate electricity. This is bio-energetic theory. We have electric fields that can be measured from our skin and some people say we can measure electric fields away from the skin. So, what the needles do is stimulate the energetics at specific points in the body that have been determined to effect changes in the body over the past 3000 years. The needles also stimulate blood and fluid flow to various points of the body depending on needle placement. By the way, 3000-5000 years of observing something that is working is a valid scientific technique in itself. The needles will remove blockage along the channels or meridians of the body and can balance poorly balanced energy, tonifying energy that is deficient and reducing energy that is in excess. This allows the body’s natural systems of healing to work to the best level they can.

Well, whatever theory you believe of why this works or whether your friend, family member or Oprah reports this could help at least check it out. Acupuncture has made it to the big time, lets hope it stimulates continued information and growth toward integrative medicine using the best of all the healing modalities for the betterment of our lives and our health!

Functional Endocrinology

There are many new tests and ways of looking at common problems with hormones. I’ll get into some of them a bit later but I have to vent a bit… I have always said that the modern “conventional” medical community does the best testing to diagnose disease. I am finding that is not necessarily the case. There are many tests that are already available that the conventional community does not use for various reasons, some for ideological reasons such as they do not believe the test is useful or valid. Or,
the tests are not the conventional “standard of care” or are not covered by insurance since the conventional community’s management of the disease process does not warrant finding out what is really happening so the root can be addressed.

I practice Functional Medicine (and Functional Endocrinology). Many of you are wondering what “Functional Medicine” and “Functional Endocrinology” are anyway. These types of medicine are rooted in science. The core beliefs are that the body’s organs are inter-connected and that each person is different biochemically and genetically. This difference and the balance between the organ systems is the power of Functional Medicine. We address the cause of a problem and make the body’s own
function address the problem not just give things to address symptoms or over power the body’s function. For instance, many GYNs will hear a woman’s complaint of menopause type of symptoms and prescribe HRT or Hormone Replacement Therapy. GYNs who believe in a more natural way (or those who are bowing to public pressure by subscribing to Suzanne Sommer’s partially misguided teachings) will prescribe “bio-identical” HRT. At least these doctors acknowledge that human women
are biochemically different than pregnant horses (Premarin = Pregnant Mares Urine).

These treatments may or may not help the patient out. Many times the symptoms start again when the woman goes off the HRT leading to the woman staying on HRT for years and potentially causing side effects and increasing cancer and heart disease risks. By contrast, when I find that the body is deficient in certain hormones, neurotransmitters, etc. my patient and I will work on the organ or gland to make it produce the thing that is deficient instead of just giving the hormone or neurotransmitter in a pill, cream or a shot. From a functional standpoint we look at many different things and many things differently:

First, there are many things that are happening during menopause- are the hot flashes being caused by no estrogen? (There are a majority of women who do not have hot flashes during menopause). Are the hot flashes being caused by adrenal problems, thyroid problems, blood sugar problems? Is the reason the HRT is not working because the formulation is wrong or because it is not addressing the problem in the first place? Or is the problem that something else is blocking the cellular function? Or, is something happening that even many conventional endocrinologists are not even looking for: is your immune system attacking the hormones and glands? There are tests for this autoimmune response for the Thyroid that some conventional doctors will look at but these conditions are not regularly looked at for estrogen, testosterone, etc. These conditions can render HRT useless or can even worsen symptoms a person is experiencing.

Over the next few weeks I will be discussing the different glandular/hormone systems, some of the “Functional” testing that is available and some of the differences in theory and practice between Functional and Conventional approaches. Doc Visconti’s office is located near the Citrus Tower. If you have any questions regarding this
or any other health related topics, please contact us now.

What you should know about your thyroid

Last week we talked about how hormones are regulated in the body. I gave an example of the Thyroid hormone system. Here, again, to refresh your memory: The hypothalamus senses more thyroid hormone is needed so it tells the pituitary. The pituitary sends and order for thyroid hormone called Thyroid Stimulating Hormone or TSH. The thyroid gland receives the order and releases a bunch of T4 (the less active form) and a small amount of T3 (the more active form). T4 is coupled with (TBG)
Thyroid Binding Globulin and it is sent out into the bloodstream. (Without a binding globulin the hormone would be immediately used so it would not reach its target). T4 and its chaperone then travel to target cells, mostly in the liver where the T4 is separated from the TBG leaving the T4 in its “FREE” form. It can then be converted to the more active T3 so it can do its job. When there is enough T4 in the blood the hypothalamus recognizes this and will then tell the pituitary to slow down or stop the orders for thyroid hormone to be released.

Most often in conventional medicine only TSH is tested. If the TSH is too high then your Thyroid is hypo, or underactive. If TSH is too low they your Thyroid is hyper, or overactive. The insurance companies pay for TSH testing and believe that is all that is needed to adequately treat people. (Due to space constraints I’ll only be discussing hypothyroid issues. (You can contact me if you’d like to discuss hyperthyroid conditions.)

In recent years the testing of “Free” T4 has become more prevalent in conventional medicine. (Years after we in “alternative” health care have been testing for it.) The use of Free T4 plus TSH to evaluate the Thyroid has helped more women who in the past would not have had satisfactory results but using these tests are still very limiting. A big issue is that the “normal” range of TSH on lab tests is usually between 0.5 and 4.5 or 5.5. That means that you would not even be considered as having a problem if your TSH was between that range despite having any or all the symptoms of hypothryoidism. (Dry skin & hair, brittle nails, overweight/ hard to lose weight, fatigue, poor sleep, depression, menstrual/menopause problems, constipation sometimes alternating with diarrhea.)

The conventional philosophy is- with hypothyroid give synthetic thyroid hormone and bring the TSH down and the problem is solved. Unfortunately, despite the TSH coming into “normal” range people may get a bit better but are often still suffering with the symptoms since the lab test is being treated and not the patient. I have had patients who had TSH values of 2.5 and still had symptoms. When we addressed other issue the patients felt better and decreased their need for Thyroid hormone because we were addressing the cause and making their Thyroid glands work better.

Other tests can give a more complete picture so the core problems may be addressed. There can be problems converting T4 into T3. There can also be problems with not having enough “Free” or unbound T4 or T3 so the hormones do their jobs inefficiently. These problems are sometimes due to nutritional deficiencies or other hormonal imbalances as all hormones have effects on other hormones.

For instance, when a woman’s estrogen levels change it can change the amount of Thyroid Binding Globulin and change the “Free” T4 levels. Another, more complex issue occurs when the target cells themselves limit access to the hormone. This often happens when a person is taking external hormone.

The cells are exposed to higher levels of circulating hormone than they were used to and the cell receptors or doorways used by the hormone shut down making the hormone replacement less effective. Another issue that deals with the body making the hormone less effective is a more serious issue know as Hashimoto’s Autoimmune Thyroiditis. It is where the body sees the thyroid gland and hormone as an enemy and attacks. This causes the thyroid to work poorly if at all. Stress, nutritional and Adrenal imbalances can also cause a conversion of T4 to another hormone called “Reverse T3” which worsen hypothyroid symptoms.

All of these things can be dealt with in most cases but unfortunately the tests needed are not being done except by some broad-minded MDs, Endocrinologists and alternative practitioners. A complete panel for the Thyroid should include TSH, Free T4, T3 uptake (this is inversely related to Thyroid Binding Globulin), Free T3 and Reverse T3 are nice to have and Anti-Thyroid antibodies and TPO peroxidase will tell if there is an autoimmune condition. Iodine status testing should also be performed.
Just be aware that there are more tests and treatments out there than being offered by conventional medicine or paid for by your insurance. If you want an opportunity to get better you should make sure you are getting the best care whether or not insurance pays for it. Anyway, next week we’ll hear about the Adrenals and how it affects stress, sleep, moods, etc. Until then… It’s your life. It’s your health! (You decide whether you’re worth the investment!)

Doc Visconti’s office is located near the Citrus Tower. If you have any questions regarding this or any other health related topics, please contact us.

Getting back on the exercise track safely

I started back lifting weights again recently after a 6 month stretch without due to a shoulder injury. My shoulder is not 100% yet but it is able to do the work I’m putting it through since I am being smarter this time. I have been plagued with a bum shoulder for the last 1 ½ years after I injured it… being stupid. I knew the rules and didn’t follow them. I was over enthusiastic one day doing heavy yard work and didn’t listen to my body when my shoulder didn’t feel right about half way through. Most injuries
happen to “weekend warriors”, people who don’t do much activity most of the time but then try to do something more strenuous that their bodies are not used to. Your body is an amazing machine and can do things all the way until old age (ask my idol Jack LaLane who is 95 and still works out 2 hours every day). What the body can’t do is be asked to perform at levels that it is not prepared to do on a moments notice. It would be like taking a race car that has been sitting for years with rotting tires, old
oil, leaky seals, etc. and taking it out to the track and racing it.

Something is bound to happen, and not a good thing at that. But, if you replace the tires, changed the gas and oil, fixed the seals and tuned it up –that car could go out and perform almost as well as it did in it’s day. Maybe not enough to keep up withthe newer models but it would be “respectable”.

There are ways we can perform “respectably” again: First is to get back into shape. Now, I’ll give a little latitude to those of you who have never been in shape but there are people know as personal trainers who can guide you on how to do it in a safe and effective way. There are others of you who don’t have as much of an excuse. You know who you are former high school and college athletes, former cheerleaders and track stars, former swimmers and tennis players. You slowly let yourself get away from some of those hobbies that made you feel and look great. Life started to get a bit more complex, you heard the little voice that said, work out tomorrow or you can start again next week. Then a week became a month, that became a year, then a decade. Now weaker, non-motivated and 20+ pounds later you say I wish I could be like that again but are overwhelmed at how to do it. Here’s the easy part: JUST START!

Do the opposite of the little voice telling you to put down the second helping of potatoes or the one that said I’ll wait for 5 minutes for a closer parking spot so I don’t have to walk. After that go back to what you did before. If you played tennis then get a raquet and some balls and go. Part of why people fail at something new is because they don’t know the culture, they don’t know how to incorporate it into life. You already know those things because they were in your life before and they used to be fun. Now for the big BUT: DO NOT TRY TO DO THE THINGS YOU USED TO BE ABLE TO DO!!!

You are older and weaker than you were and your body is not used to the stress even a light exertion will cause. Start slowly and don’t push it. Do not wait until your body becomes sore swinging the racket the first few times as you will not know how much you actually worked the muscles until the next day or two. A thing that will greatly reduce the risk that you will hurt yourself and that will enable your body to respond better is to warm up for at least 5 minutes before you start.

Light jumping jacks, marching in place, swinging your arms and torso are all things that will help. Moving your joints in a full range of motion in circles will also help warm and lubricate the joints. Only stretch lightly before you work out. Deeper stretching should only be done after a good warm up and at the end of the workout as cold muscles are like cold rubber bands, they don’t like to be stretched and they may break if you stretch too much. Stretching after exercising will help the muscle regain
flexibility faster and will enable the muscle to recover faster. Drinking plenty of water and eating proteins will also help recovery and healing of muscle. Don’t do the same exercise every day, especially in the beginning. When we do strenuous exercise it breaks down muscle fibers. It is only when we rest the muscles in between workouts that the muscle repairs itself and makes itself stronger in preparation for the next workout. So give yourself at least one if not two or three days rest between, especially if you have not done the activity in a very long time or are older. You can do a different, lighter exercise between the more strenuous activities to improve your health and work you body in another way.

Get back into the shape you were or the shape you want to be. Don’t give into that little “voice of sabotage” telling you that you can’t or you deserve a rest. Get your old chassis back on the track but tune it up before you start racing again. You will have less illness and injury, need less medication and feel better than you have in years. It’s your life. It’s your health.

Doc Visconti’s office is located near the Citrus Tower. If you have any questions regarding this or any other health related topics, please contact us. On Facebook? Like us at the “Visconti Acupuncture & Natural Medicine” page for interesting information and updates on natural health!

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