Ask The Doctor: Holday Blues, Snoring, and Acid Reflux

Every month we ask top practitioners to address your health concerns. This month find solutions for "holiday blues," snoring, and acid reflux.

Q: The holidays are supposed to be such a happy time, but last year I came down with a case of the “holiday blues.” How can I avoid that this year?

A: By David Kiefer, MD is a family practitioner and faculty member at the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, University of Arizona

The holidays can be tough for people. It’s when I see people in our clinic bottom out; it’s actually a predictable time of year for people’s moods to turn dark. However, we know the holidays are coming, and we can prepare our bodies.

First, fortify your system so you are more resistant to the lack of sunlight during the winter. Make sure you have adequate amounts of Vitamin D (1,000 IU to 2,000 IU daily). Also, take a B-complex vitamin to help nerves manage the stress of winter. They can be energizing though, so be sure to take them early in the day.

Exercise is one of the best antidepressants out there. I recommend anyone fighting off holiday blues get at least 20 minutes of aerobic activity daily (more like 30 or 40 minutes, if possible). It’s OK to divide it into shorter time frames, but make sure you break a sweat. You want to work hard enough that you can’t carry on a conversation. Along those same lines, try to find time in a sauna or steam room.

Sweat is an efficient way to rid our body of toxins. Many of us slip up with food and drink during the holidays. The sauna can help “rev up” our metabolism and help our bodies cleanse on many levels. Judicious use of the sauna can be rejuvenating, but take care not to sit for too long, and don’t let the temperature get too hot.

If nothing seems to lighten your mood, and you think there’s a chance it’s not holiday-related blues but a mild-tomoderate depression, check in with a health practitioner. Likewise, if a friend or family member brings it up to you, don’t think twice about finding a professional.

Q: My husband is a big-time snorer. It gets so bad that I sometimes have to sleep in another room. What are some remedies to help him stop snoring so much?

A: By Gregory Yasuda, ND is adjunct faculty at Bastyr University in Kenmore, Washington.

Snoring is usually a symptom of something else, and I’m always more interested in what is causing the snoring than the snoring itself. After ruling out sleep apnea, I look into the mobility of the oropharynx and things that effect airway mobility. There are exercises for improving mobility and surgical options for the soft palette, but I prefer nonsurgical methods.

I would direct patients to a trained osteopath who does manual therapy; such as Craniosacral work. For many people, manual therapies solve snoring issues quickly.

If it’s not a physical obstruction issue, I look at airway inflammation, which is often diet related. An allergy elimination diet is a good place to start. And while I don’t look at sugar as an allergen, it’s pro-inflammatory and incredibly pervasive, so cutting sugar out of the diet often impacts snoring.

It could also be a digestive dysfunction. Digestion is a finely orchestrated process and when one thing goes out of whack it can affect everything. Problems in the gut can cause chronic inflammation or increased mucus, which can lead to snoring. If there is a history of prolonged antibiotic use, I would recommend a diet change that includes probiotics.

Occasional snoring afflicts about 45 percent of adults; 25 percent are habitual snorers; and men, overall, snore more.
Source: American Academy of Otolaryngology

Q: I’ve recently been diagnosed with acid reflux. I don’t feel comfortable taking drugs or pharmaceuticals to cure it. What else can I do to make it go away?

A: Benjamin Asher, MD, is an Ear Nose and Throat specialist in New York City whose practice integrates conventional, evidencebased medicine with alternative modalities.

What we try to do with acid reflux is speed up the digestive process. The problem isn’t that there is too much acid in the stomach, the problem is that acid is escaping through the esophagus. The esophagus should tighten up and stay closed while food is pushed into the small intestine. Food in the stomach shouldn’t go up, but it does when that esophageal sphincter isn’t holding tightly enough. Unfortunately there’s no treatment to make that muscle tighter. Conventional medicine uses drugs to reduce stomach acid, but the more natural-minded approach is to speed up digestion so there is less in the stomach and fewer things get backed up.

My first suggestion would be to take both a digestive enzyme and calcium citrate after each meal. Try AbsorbAid after each meal, along with about a ¼ teaspoon of calcium citrate mixed in liquid. Some of my patients have had good results with capsules of apple cider vinegar. It sounds counterintuitive, but it seems to have some alkalizing properties.

Finally I think people suffering with heartburn or reflux should try an allergy elimination diet and try to pinpoint food sensitivities. I recommend working with your health provider to eliminate gluten, dairy, soy, corn, and sugar to see if the condition persists.

Note: Those with Barrett’s Esophagus, a condition where the lining of the esophagus is abnormal, can’t treat this with alternative medicine. This can be a premalignant condition that should be ruled out with an endoscopy.