Dr.Karol, MD

The doctor with alternative solutions


Insomnia: Causes and Natural Solutions

In order to fall asleep and stay asleep we must be calm both physically and mentally. Without this balance we will have a hard time falling asleep and maintaining sleep. Anything that overstimulates our brain will negatively impact our sleep cycles. The most common causes of sleep disturbances generally stem from stress, environmental stimuli and in some cases substance abuse.  Too much stress or a hectic home environment can preoccupy our brains to the point of insomnia. This is especially true with work or tasks that deal with a great level of responsibility.

New York City at night

Of course there are natural methods to help facilitate sleep. First sleep in a dark environment (light inhibits the release of melatonin, the sleep hormone in our brain). A great way to relax before sleep is by meditation, reading a relatively boring book, taking a hot bath or shower, drinking a warm glass of milk with honey (milk contains tryptophan which stimulates sleep and honey contains simple sugars which also facilitate sleep). If you need something stronger you can opt for melatonin, tryptophan or herbal teas that contain valerian, hops, chamomile or passion flower. All of these are well known sleep herbs.



A word about alcohol: Alcohol is a neural depressant. This means that it acts as a depressant on the brain. It relaxes the nerves and the brain. When you stop drinking there is a rebound effect in the opposite direction. The brain is overstimulated and you will have problems sleeping for a while. This usually lasts a few days up to a couple of weeks (depending on how much and how long you have been drinking for). Drinking more alcohol will temporarily help in this situation. But you don’t want to do this as it will lead to alcoholism. Try the natural options listed above. If you still have major problems sleeping look into the use of medical marijuana for insomnia. You can legally get a prescription and it is an effective method for insomnia (especially the indica strains that are high in CBD content).

shutterstock_232551340 (1)

Remember also that other deficiencies (other than melatonin) can also lead to sleep problems. The most common type is the deficiency of the B vitamins. Try a B complex vitamin before sleep and you may notice a significant difference. Try not to eat a large meal right before bed and be sure to exercise at least a few hours before bed (right before can cause over-stimulation). Again, hot milk and some simple sugars (in the form of honey for example) induce sleep, while stimulants such as coffee, chocolate, black and green tea can inhibit sleep. Of course, also steer clear of stimulating illicit drugs such as cocaine, amphetamine, etc before sleep (and at times if possible).

Finally, try and stay away from over-the-counter sleep aids or prescription sleeping pills if possible, as they can be highly addictive. If you must use something strong try medical marijuana. But remember it may leave you drowsy in the morning. Till next time.


Dr. Karol

Leave a comment

The Health Benefits of Alcohol


We have all heard it before. Alcohol is bad for you! Alcohol causes accidents, alcohol is a carcinogen, and alcohol cases moral and social degradation! This is true but it requires high doses over a prolonged period of time and on a regular basis.

At low doses, and what I mean by that is 1 to 2 glasses of red wine each evening, it has more health benefiting than health damaging effects. Red wine in particular is the best source of alcohol since it also contains Resveratrol, the anti-oxidative molecule that protects our arteries and our hearts.

But what about alcohol itself? What are its health benefits, if any? Well, alcohol is a neuro-depressant. It slows down the firing of brain cells and thus eases the inhibitions and relaxes the mind. It binds to certain receptors in our brain that also bind a neurotransmitter called GABA. GABA is a molecule that inhibits over-excitation of our nerve cells.


Continue reading

Leave a comment

Alcohol and Insomnia: Breaking the Cycle

Over half of all Canadians have insomnia, the medical term for problems falling asleep, waking up at night, being unable to go back to sleep, and very early morning wakings.

People who suffer from insomnia feel tired in the morning, are irritable, have a lack of concentration and thus lower work performance throughout the day. These effects stimulate our brains to do something to make us feel better and to take the edge off. The most common go-to remedies are junk food, coffee, smoking and alcohol. All four of these things bring short-term, temporary relief but all they also worsen the insomnia in a vicious cycle. Usually the initiating factor is stress, which leads to poor quality sleep, and sometime afterwards alcohol consumption to reduce the stress.

The Trouble with Alcohol
Alcohol (or ethanol in chemical terms) is a neural inhibitor and a depressant. It inhibits communication between brain cells. This is in contrast to stimulants like amphetamine and cocaine, which increase communication between nerve cells.

Alcohol binds to our brain receptors called Gama Amino Butyric Acid (GABA) receptors. This is one of the neurotransmitters in the brain. A neurotransmitter is a chemical molecule that nerve cells use to communicate between each other. GABA normally inhibits nerve cells. This has a calming effect on our mind. This effect of GABA is also conducive to falling asleep and maintaining good quality sleep. Melatonin is another major compound responsible for sleep. What is important is that alcohol binds to the GABA receptor at a different site from GABA on the same receptor.

Alcohol and the Brain
So how is this connected to alcohol? Well, as mentioned above, alcohol binds to the same receptors as GABA. But here is the interesting part: Whenever you stimulate a receptor by the molecule that binds to it, the brain reacts by increasing the number of receptors. This is the foundation of what is called drug tolerance. As a person uses a drug, (in this case alcohol), it requires progressively more and more of the drug to achieve the same effect. This is due to the brain increasing the number of receptors. Of course such a process takes months, as new receptors require new protein synthesis from the genetic code.

When a person drinks on a regular basis, the brain reacts by increasing the number of GABA receptors. But the amount of GABA in the brain stays the same. It is the alcohol and not the GABA that causes the increase in receptors. A normal amount of GABA in the brain will have a lesser overall effect on the brain because the number of receptors has increased due to alcohol. The consequence is that GABA will have a weaker effect. Since GABA is an inhibitory and a relaxing compound, the consequence of it having a weaker effect will be the opposite, i.e. anxiety, nervousness, and in the context of this blog, difficulty falling asleep and maintaining sleep. The difficulty of maintaining sleep in this scenario stems mostly from very vivid dreams.

The Vicious Cycle
So what do people reach for when they cannot sleep? Often it is alcohol. This compensates for the weaker effect of GABA due to increased receptors, and does bring relief in the form of sleep, albeit temporary. But the effect will be a hangover in the morning and further increase of receptors. This will require more and more alcohol to achieve the desired effect of “good” sleep. This is one of the ways to achieve complete alcohol dependence, otherwise known as alcoholism.

Breaking Free
So what is the healthy solution? There is only one: Complete abstinence from alcohol so that the number of GABA receptors in the brain return to normal. This takes anywhere from a minimum of one to three months. You will be able to tell when you achieve this when you begin sleeping normally without any alcohol. Unfortunately, the first few weeks will not be fun. Without alcohol and with GABA’S weaker effect, your quality of sleep will not be good.

But look on the bright side. You are doing something extremely healthy. You are breaking away from the vicious cycle of alcohol-sleep dependence and regenerating all of your organs that have endured the negative effects of alcohol.

This is just another example of the cycle of life and the balance of nature, or as Isaac Newton said, “What goes up must come down”.

See you next time.
For more sage advice from Dr. Karol and for natural health product recommendations, visit vitarock.com

Leave a comment

Radical Remedy: The Wonder of Amber


Baltic Amber use date back thousands of years. The Eastern Europeans used it as a tincture before of modern antibiotics came along. It was employed to increase immunity and treat pain like teething, stomach upsets, to boost energy in the elderly, and to enhance men’s libido.

How does it work?

Baltic amber is high in succinic acid. This substance is crucial to the Citric Acid Cycle, which generates energy in our cells. This acid is also vital to the cells of our immune system. It boosts the division rate of those cells and helps them eradicate pathogens. This is how amber imitates an antibiotic and helps increase vitality.

What can amber help ease?

Succinic acid is also a powerful anti-inflammatory agent and pain reliever. It prevents oxidative damage to cells in conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, general back pain and menstrual pain.

But that’s not all. Amber necklaces and amber smoke were used in early times to ward off bad spirits. Seem implausible? Amber may actually reverse the effects of electromagnetic waves from electronics and from the sun. This 50-million –year-old precious gem has more than a few tricks up its sleeve.

Leave a comment

Spiritual Beings: Cardiac Arrest and Conscious Awareness

Last week I wrote on the importance of Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation or CPR. But what I really wanted to write about is the latest research in the UK on people that underwent clinical death for a few minutes in a hospital setting. Here is the link to an article about that that research:


The study looked at 2060 individuals who underwent cardiac arrest in 15 hospitals. 330 of them survived. Out of this number, 40% reported some kind of conscious awareness during the time when their heart was not working. This took about 3 minutes on average. 13% of the 330 survivors reported an out-of-body experience during cardiac arrest. It’s pretty amazing stuff.

A Closer Look
Our consciousness usually shuts down after about 30 seconds of not supplying blood to the brain. This can be due to a cardiac arrest or putting pressure on the neck arteries (like a chokehold). Losing consciousness can also happen due to fainting or a severe blow to the head. Basically, we go totally blank. We are not aware of anything during this time and when we come back the entire period when we were “out” is like a black hole.

In the case of the cardiac arrest patients, it was different. Some 40% experienced awareness during the entire 3 minutes when they were “out”. We know that the brain is not dead during this time. It takes about 5 minutes of a complete lack of blood flow to the brain for the brain to permanently damaged and about 10 minutes to be proclaimed “clinically” dead. But before the 5 minutes are up, even if a person comes back, there should not have been any awareness. Memory during this time should have been completely blank, like when we lose consciousness as described previously.

We also know how long the patients in the study reported awareness during cardiac arrest. One person reported hearing two beeps of a machine in a resuscitation room. The beeps occur every 3 minutes, so this gives some indication of how long this individual was clinically dead before coming back and how long he was aware of his surroundings (at least from the perspective of hearing the machine beeps). Other people reported similarities in what they experienced: time slowing down or speeding up, the person being dragged through water, a very calm sensation, or a bright peaceful light.

The Sedative Effect

Another argument is that only 40% of patients reported awareness during cardiac arrest after they came back because of sedative drugs during the time when they were “clinically” dead (sedative drugs erase memory) or because they were “clinically” dead for so long that after they came back they already had brain damage (i.e., they were under for more than 5 minutes). Brain damage, in this case, would have erased any memory of conscious awareness when they were out. This may explain why only 40% reported awareness and not a larger number.

Another thing to consider is that the reporters of the study said that this study gives evidence of what is perhaps “a small amount of life after death”. We have to remember that these individuals came back after resuscitation. There is no way of knowing if their awareness during “clinical” death extends beyond the 3 minutes when they were out (because they came back) or even beyond 5 minutes when they were out (because in this case even if they come back they already have brain damage so they could not remember the awareness they experienced when they were “clinically dead”).

The Bottom Line
These individuals, even when they came back before 5 minutes passed without any blood to the brain, should have remembered nothing. Cardiac arrest should have had the same effect as choking someone, i.e., a total blackout. But in this case it was different. People remembered events when they were out. One person even reported watching the resuscitation procedure from the corner of the room.

If you ask me, this is the first very strong indication that there is a spiritual existence after our physical death. We may be eternal spiritual beings after all.

See you next time.

For more sage advice from Dr. Karol and for natural health product recommendations, visit vitarock.com

Leave a comment

Every Second Counts: Cardiac Arrest and CPR

Cardiac arrest refers to the total cessation of heart activity, usually caused by a heart attack, i.e., by a narrowing of the arteries that supply blood to the heart due to cholesterol plaques.

I recently posted a link on my Facebook page about new research that was done on patients who underwent cardiac arrest in a hospital setting. The hospital setting is obviously the best place to have a heart attack due to the availability of trained staff and proper resuscitation equipment.

CPR Saves Lives

When a heart attack happens outside of the hospital, the chances of survival drop by 20% with each passing minute without Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR). This is why it is so crucial to know the basics of CPR and perform this emergency procedure — even on strangers — while awaiting an ambulance. By the way, calling an ambulance is the first step in the CPR procedure. A lot of people that know and begin CPR forget about this because of all the commotion and the seriousness of the situation. They go into the procedure immediately because they want to save a life, but overlook calling the ambulance.

Performing CPR until an ambulance arrives triples the chances of survival. Here are some other interesting stats:

  • 88% of cardiac arrests occur outside of the hospital.
  • Out of this 88%, only 37% involve CPR from a bystander.
  • The person requiring CPR will most likely be a loved one or a co-worker.

What to Do

The rules are simple: Someone who is lying on the ground not breathing needs CPR. CPR continues to benefit the patient even if it is performed for more than 40 minutes.

The procedure is simple:

  1. Tilt the head back (when the patient is on their back flat on the ground) and lift the chin.
  2. Pinch the nose and give two breaths mouth to mouth.
  3. Then start chest compressions right in the middle of the chest. Do them deep and strong. If you break the ribs, don’t worry. This means that you are performing the procedure correctly. Ribs can be reattached easily after the patient arrives in the hospital.
  4. There are 10 compressions for every two breaths. It is as simple as that.

There are only two exceptions. One is when the patient has vomit in his mouth (e.g., in the case of a heroin overdose). In this case, he or she needs to be turned on the side so the vomit can exit the mouth. If you are not too grossed out, you can help get the vomit out with your hand. Do not perform CPR until the mouth is clear. Another exception is when the person has blood in his mouth. In this case, you risk contracting HIV or another communicable disease. It’s your call. Is it a loved one whom you know does not have HIV, or is it an unknown heroin user?

In my next blog, I will talk about the research that has shown that people experience an out of body experience during cardiac arrest. I meant to talk about that today, but got a little side-tracked by CPR because of my physician training. Once I get started on a life saving procedure, I have to finish it. It’s too important.

And by the way, have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Dr. Karol

For more sage advice from Dr. Karol and for natural health product recommendations, visit vitarock.com

Leave a comment

Holiday Digestive Health: The Natural Way

Thanksgiving is not only a time to celebrate with family and friends. It’s also a time when overeating abounds. Here are some tips for managing your digestive system in the face of all that food and drink:

  • Make a smooth and slippery coating in your GI track with psyliium husks so that food can pass easily without irritating the inner lining of our gut. This will prevent constipation as well as diarrhea.
  • Help the gall bladder and the pancreas with plant digestive enzymes like those found in the DigestMore
  • Probiotics (in capsule form or via kefir) ensure proper digestion in our large intestines and the prevention of the buildup of toxins. They also help treat Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis as well as irritable bowel syndrome.
  • Some great remedies for heartburn are licorice (a component of DigestMore listed above), aloe vera (it has that nice mucous texture that protects the stomach), as well as calcium and even baking soda. This last one is also very beneficial to our kidneys, something I have written about before.
  • The more we eat, the more the liver is taxed. Milk Thistle protects the liver from the effects of alcohol, something that can also come in handy around Thanksgiving.

That may be a lot to swallow, but it comes down to this: Take 2 DigestMore capsules per day with food, some probiotics, milk thistle and something for heartburn like calcium, which also benefits our bone health. Happy Thanksgiving!

Dr. Karol