Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Bruce Blaus

Gallbladder surgery is one of the most commonly performed surgeries today. Did you know simply going gluten-free may lower the risk of needing gallbladder surgery?

For people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, gluten triggers a wide range of adverse reactions, from joint pain to poor brain function. In the last several years, research has also linked gluten with gallbladder disease in gluten-sensitive individuals.

Gluten sensitivity largely undiagnosed

An astonishing number of people are gluten intolerant but do not know it. Undiagnosed gluten sensitivity can cause leaky gut, chronic pain, inflammation, neurological damage, and autoimmunity (when the immune system attacks and destroys body tissue). Gluten sensitivity is estimated to affect between 20 and 40 percent of the general population, and is less frequently identified than celiac disease, though this is changing.

How gluten can raise the risk of needing gallbladder surgery

So how can gluten raise the risk of requiring gallbladder surgery? The process begins with damage to the small intestine. This damage inhibits its ability to properly secrete a hormone called cholecystokinin. Cholecystokinin is the hormone that signals the gallbladder when it’s time to release bile, which aids in the digestion and absorption of fat. As a result, bile builds up in the gallbladder, causing inflammation and raising the risk of gallbladder disease and subsequent gallbladder surgery.

Approximately 60 percent of people with celiac disease — an autoimmune reaction to gluten — also have gallbladder, liver, or pancreatic conditions, and this is apparently one reason why.

Why you need a gallbladder

Although you can live without your gallbladder, it is essential to overall health. The bile stored and secreted by the gallbladder enables you to digest fats. Without a gallbladder, your liver still produces bile, but the bile just “leaks” continually into the small intestine. This means there are no adequate reserves of bile to break down fats when needed.

These fats then become rancid and inflame the digestive tract while fat-soluble vitamins and essential fatty acids are not properly absorbed. Ultimately, this compromises the function of your entire digestive tract. In fact, studies have linked gallbladder removal with an elevated risk of colon cancer.

Also, if the gallbladder is not removed but isn’t doing its job well, this can be detrimental to liver function.

It is worth caring for your gallbladder to preserve the health of your digestive system, and hence your immune system. If you are sensitive to gluten, it’s important to go gluten-free to maintain gallbladder health and lower your risk of needing gallbladder surgery.

Additionally, your gallbladder appreciates a diet high in omega 3 essential fatty acids, and free of processed oils and hydrogenated fats. And in general, it is safest to keep starchy carbs (cake, potatoes, white flour, refined sugar, etc.) to a minimum.

Various botanicals and nutrients can support liver and gallbladder health. They include milk thistle seed extract, dandelion root, ginger root, and phosphatidyl choline.

If you have already had your gallbladder removed, don’t despair. Taking ox bile with your meals can help you emulsify and absorb your fats, which are vital for many aspects of health including brain function. For more information, contact my office.

Breast implants in hand 01 copy

If you have succumbed to mysterious and debilitating symptoms after breast implant surgery, or if you are considering breast implants, take note that both silicone and saline can make you sick.

Not only can breast implants break down, leak, or burst, but the body’s immune system may simply reject them. This rejection may lead to autoimmune reactions to other tissues in the body, meaning the immune system attacks and destroys these tissues.

Symptoms vary widely but often include fatigue, muscle and joint pain, brain fog, memory loss, depression, hair loss, and symptoms associated with specific autoimmune diseases.

Why breast implants are risky

All breast implants – whether filled with silicone or saline – leak and/or break down eventually. Some of the consequences are merely uncomfortable, while others are potentially far more serious.

Sometimes an implant can last as long as 12 years without fracturing; others may develop problems within just a few months. But no implant will remain intact indefinitely.

Mammograms will not always reveal when an implant has ruptured. In fact, pressure from the mammogram itself can damage the implant.

Possible breast implant complications

Autoimmune disorders. Any foreign substance in the body can cause an autoimmune reaction, including breast implants. Sometimes removing the implants will relieve the symptoms, although the autoimmune reaction may persist after removal and require functional medicine management.

Infection. Though leakage is less frequent with saline implants than with silicone implants, mold and bacteria can grow within the saline solution. It has been speculated that when the solution inevitably leaks out, it may cause illness and possibly even endanger a nursing baby, though this effect has not been conclusively studied or established. (For more about potential complications with saline implants, see the FDA’s comprehensive report on saline breast implant surgery.)

Cancers. Breast implants may be linked with cancer in two ways. One is that the implants can obstruct early detection of breast cancer. The other is that silicone implants in particular are believed by some doctors to leak cancer-causing chemicals.

Raynaud’s Syndrome. This is a condition in which blood circulation is restricted by a narrowing of the small arteries, causing coldness and numbness in the hands and feet. It occurs more often in women who have had breast implants.

For more detail about possible complications, see the FDA’s report on Risks of Breast Implants  A new type of implant, known as stem cell fat transfer, involves injecting fat from a woman’s hips or thighs into her breasts. This may prove a safer alternative to silicon or saline, though it is still in the testing phases.

If you suspect you are sick from your breast implants or you are trying to recover after breast implant removal, functional medicine can improve immune function and help with autoimmune remission. Contact my office for more information.

family and autoimmunity copy

A family gathering this Thanksgiving may feel like reality TV survival show if you have autoimmunity and politically polarized family members.

Stress, anger, and fear trigger an inflammatory immune response that can rage on for weeks, flaring attacks against your tissue and sending inflammation coursing through your body and brain.

This brings not only your autoimmune symptoms, but also general symptoms associated with autoimmunity: brain fog, fatigue, depression, lethargy, chronic pain, gut problems, and insomnia.

This year more than ever, it pays to be extra careful given the fractious national mood. Avoid political discussions, but if they happen around you, try the following.

Focus on being calm, not right. Remember, the goal is to protect your health, not be right. You’re not going to change anyone’s mind anymore than they are going to change yours. Arrive knowing this is not an argument that’s going to be won.

Learn and practice self-calming techniques before you arrive. Anger is like a fire that’s hard to put out once lit. Commit to preventing anger by practicing some proven relaxation techniques you can employ even if Aunt Sally or Cousin Fred are going off.

Self-calming, anti-inflammatory ideas include:

Breathing from your diaphragmThis slows your heart rate, improves oxygen flow, and inhibits stress. Shallow, rapid chest breathing puts your body in the fight-or-flight response, which will lure you into an argument against your better judgment.

Alternate nostril breathing. Casually place your fingers near your nose and press your right nostril shut to inhale through your left nostril. Then exhale through your right nostril, inhale through your right nostril, and start from the beginning. Remember to breathe from your diaphragm. This slows the heart rate, lowers stress, and focuses the mind.

Sensing your body. Bringing awareness into your body, especially the parts where you may be feeling anger or fear, can help neutralize those emotions. Start with sensing a hand, or the feeling of your feet on the ground, and slowly move that sensation through different parts of your body.

Do not get “hangry.” I repeat, do not get hangry. Hanger is that angry hunger triggered by low blood sugar and is a recipe for war. Keep your autoimmune-legal snack items with you at all times.

Accept people where they are. And yourself. You feel strongly about your beliefs, as do your family members. You may not understand one another, but accept we can only be where we are with our beliefs.

Give thanks. This holiday is about gratitude, an enormous boon to health, so practice it (authentically) regularly. Even if you think Uncle Bob’s vote was an act of treason, focus on how generous he is, or his sense of humor.

Consider whether to go. If your autoimmunity is severe or your family especially toxic, weigh whether your health can afford the visit. It’s ok to avoid having to spend a month recovering in bed.

If you’re already managing your autoimmunity, then you know avoiding inflammatory foods, excess alcohol, sleep deprivation, and exhaustion are important. Just remember to be mindful of how powerfully stress affects autoimmunity during this particularly unusual Thanksgiving holiday.

election recovery copy

Weathering one of the most acrimonious elections in U.S. history can be hard on health. Fortunately, functional medicine offers some strategies to help take the edge off.

Prolonged heightened stress  fear, anger, and negativity have been shown to harmfully impact the body in the following ways:

Raises inflammation. Heightened stress and negativity can inflame joints, cause skin breakouts, disrupt brain function, upset the stomach, provoke respiratory problems, and trigger headaches.

Triggers anxiety, depression, and/or insomnia. People have lost sleep and become anxious and depressed this election year. Chronic stress keeps the central nervous system in a heightened state, chipping away at your health.

Causes stomach aches and abdominal symptoms. Chronic stress ravages the gut, predisposing one to pain, inflammation, and digestive upsets.

Tightens muscles. Chronic stress keeps the body in a fight-or-flight state, with the muscles constantly tense.

Imbalances hormones. Stress hormones can devastate the delicate balance of hormones in both women and men. This can impact menstrual cycles, libido, and the brain.

Causes brain fog and memory loss. Because chronic stress and negativity are so inflammatory, the brain may become inflamed as well. Common symptoms of brain inflammation are brain fog, depression, and memory loss.

Weakens or over stimulates immunity. Chronic stress weakens the immune system so that you’re more susceptible to illness. It can also over stimulate it so that autoimmune conditions flare up.

Promotes high blood pressure and respiratory stress. Chronic stress constricts the blood vessels, raises blood pressure, and inflames respiratory conditions.

Encourage addiction and bad habits. Chronic stress makes people more prone to addictive behaviors.

Healthy ways to buffer the effects of election stress

Stress is a normal function that serves a survival purpose. The trick is to rebound from it appropriately.

Although it’s tempting to mix a drink or pop a Xanax, aim for functional medicine tips that ease election anxiety and support your health:

Take an adrenal adaptogen supplement. These herbs help buffer the body and brain during stress. Examples include ginseng, ashwagandha, holy basil, rhodiola, eleuthero, and pantethine.

Connect with others. Seek out like-minded friends and do something fun. Positive socialization is a well-documented health booster.

Release feel-good hormones through exercise. Exercise can’t be beat in the face of chronic stress and negativity. It floods your body with feel-good hormones that improve health and brain function. Just be careful not to overdo it, over exercising stresses and inflames the body.

Find unidentified causes of stress. Much of our stress today comes from factors we’re not even aware of. Unstable blood sugar is the most common. Unidentified food sensitivities, such as to gluten or dairy, is also common. Chemical sensitivities, anemia, unmanaged autoimmunity, leaky gut, and infections are examples of health issues that keep one in a state of chronic stress.

Practice positivity. Although it’s important to allow and process any negative emotions, at some point it’s helpful to practice positivity, something science shows is vital to good health.

By taking better care of your health and managing how outside events affect you, you have a better chance of having a more positive impact on your own life and the people around you.

can t lose weight copy

Do you keep trying weight loss diets but can’t seem to drop the pounds? Are you instead exhausted and frustrated by an ever growing layer of fat?

Calorie-restricted diets have been popular for decades as a way to lose weight, but clearly more is at play as many people under eat and still can’t lose weight or keep it off.

If you’re doing everything right and the fat isn’t budging, the culprit may lie in underlying health issues slowing metabolism and blocking fat burning.

Feast or famine? Dieting slows metabolism for years

For most of human history, life vacillated between feast or famine, with plenty of bouts of famine. The human body body has smart coping mechanisms to get us through hungry times — lowered metabolism and increased fat-storage hormones.

As far as the body is concerned, a low-calorie diet is a famine and it employs the same measures to save you from starving. As a result, each low-calorie diet can add weight in the end when you resume normal caloric intake.

This dieting-caused metabolic slow-down can last for years. The phenomenon was recently documented in participants from the The Biggest Loser reality TV show. Six years after participating, contestants’ metabolic set point was below what it was when they started. They burn up to 800 fewer calories per day! After all that hard work, most of them returned to their pre-show weight and have to under eat in order to prevent weight gain.

Dieting disrupts key hunger hormones

Conversely, if you have a history of overeating or eating too much sugar, you may suffer from leptin resistance, which hinders fat burning.

Leptin is a hormone that controls appetite, satiety — that feeling of being full and satisfied — and whether your body burns or stores fat. A diet is high in starches and sugars causes frequent swings in blood sugar. This leads to chronic insulin surges, which, in turn, cause cellular resistance to leptin. With leptin resistance, you’re constantly hungry and you store fat.

Lowering intake of processed carbohydrates and exercising regularly help sensitize the cells to leptin so your hunger cues and fat burning abilities return to normal.

Underlying health issues hinder weight loss

For most people, weight loss is not as simple as “calories in, calories out.” Sometimes inflammation and other metabolic factors can be a driving factor behind the inability to lose weight.

Many people are surprised to find unwanted pounds drop away when they follow an anti-inflammatory diet. These nutrient-dense diets void of inflammatory triggers are used to manage pain, digestive problems, autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, high blood pressure, depression  anxiety, and other health issues.

Why do they work? Excess weight can be a symptom of underlying health imbalances that slow metabolism and block weight loss. Systemic inflammation, leptin resistance, hormonal imbalances, stress, leaky gut, blood sugar imbalances, food intolerances, and hypothyroidism are examples of factors that block weight loss.

How do autoimmune protocols and diets fit in?

The autoimmune diet and protocols are effective for people suffering from various chronic illnesses. Anti-inflammatory in nature, special attention is given to gut health and food reactivity.

While highly effective for many in not only managing autoimmunity but also dropping unwanted pounds, sometimes people take these diets to low-calorie extremes. Even if you’re eating healthy foods and avoiding the inflammatory ones, it’s still important not to starve the body and trigger the famine response that holds onto fat.

In fact, increasing healthy fats, protein, and nutrient-dense foods encourages the body to drop pounds. Meeting your nutritional needs, providing healthy sources of fat to remind the body it’s not a time of famine, and enough protein to keep blood sugar stable are key for helping the body increase its metabolic rate and drop extra weight.

Functional medicine has effective ways in working with underlying health issues that hinder weight loss.

wheat reactivity copy

Turns out gluten isn’t the only culprit when it comes to an immune reaction to wheat.

New research suggests non-gluten proteins are also a source of those immune reactions to wheat.

The new suspects are a family of proteins called amylase-trypsin inhibitors, or ATIs  While they make up only four percent of the proteins in wheat, ATIs can trigger powerful immune reactions that can spread from the gut to other tissues in the body, such as the lymph nodes, kidneys, spleen, and even the brain.

ATIs are also shown to inflame pre-existing chronic conditions, including multiple sclerosis, asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, non-alcohol fatty liver disease, lupus, and inflammatory bowel disease.

And, ultimately, ATIs contribute to the development of gluten sensitivity.

At this time, it’s not entirely clear how much of a role ATI proteins play compared to gluten. We know from previous research that people with symptoms of gluten sensitivity have been shown to react to several different types of gluten, as well as lectins and agglutinin.

The evolution of understanding wheat sensitivity

It used to be celiac disease was the only recognized immune reaction to wheat. Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition that affects a small percent of the population and requires medically invasive diagnostic criteria.

Only more recently has mainstream medicine begun to accept non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Newer research, the sheer volume of gluten-sensitive patients, and the explosion of the gluten-free market has made gluten sensitivity impossible to deny.

For decades, patients who tested negative for celiac disease or even gluten sensitivity (standard testing is severely limited) have been told “It’s all in your head.” Today, the scientific legitimacy of an immune reaction to wheat is growing.

Likewise, a growing number of doctors are more willing to offer a diagnosis of gluten sensitivity and effective treatment strategies.

Gluten reactions occur in brain and elsewhere

Symptoms of gluten sensitivity can include digestive issues such as abdominal pain and symptoms similar to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). However, common symptoms not related to the gut include headaches, joint pain, eczema, brain fog, and a number of dysfunctions related to the brain and nervous system.

Research on wheat immune sensitivity continues

Research continues and in the future, it may be your doctor recommends an “ATI-free” diet instead of a gluten-free diet.

Either way, if you react to gluten, avoiding it is the best choice for your long-term health.

If you have concerns about reactions to gluten, contact my office. Functional medicine has effective protocols to assess, diagnose, and manage gluten sensitivity.

SIBO copy

Do you have gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, IBS…or maybe all of the above? Then you may have SIBO, or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth.

Doctors have long blamed stubborn gut problems on stress. For the person whose life is dictated by the cruel whims of their digestive system, this can feel like shame and blame. Thanks to new research, these days we know many things cause gut problems. They include food sensitivities (especially to gluten and dairy), leaky gut, gut inflammation, autoimmunity, poor brain function, and SIBO.

SIBO results from too much bacteria that belong in the large intestine migrating into the small intestine. When these bacteria consume sugars and carbohydrates, they produce large amounts of gas that causes not only bloating, belching, and flatulence, but also constipation or diarrhea (depending on the type of gas produced).

These bacteria also inflame and damage the lining of the intestinal tract, causing leaky gut. Leaky gut allows undigested foods, bacteria, yeast, and other antigens into the bloodstream, triggering inflammation, autoimmunity, and chronic disease.

Many different lab tests, stringent dietary strategies (managing SIBO often requires a diet that restricts most everything but meats and a limited variety vegetables), and treatment protocols exist to treat SIBO, and sometimes it’s a matter of trial and error to land on an approach that works.

But if you don’t want a relapse, it’s important to ask why you have SIBO in the first place.

The causes include:

  • Food poisoning
  • Poor diet and excess sugar
  • Low stomach acid
  • Repeated antibiotic use
  • Chronic stress
  • Problems with brain function or health

Brain function is one of the most overlooked and unaddressed causes of SIBO. The digestive system maintains close communication with the brain. Poor brain function leads to poor gut function (this explains why people often suffer from gut problems after a head injury). Digestive juices and hormones are not sufficiently released, motility slows so that food sits longer in the intestines, giving rise to bacterial overgrowth, and the valve between the small and large intestine does not stay shut, allowing bacteria from the colon to escape into the small intestine where it does not belong. All of these are examples of how poor brain function leads to SIBO.

This explains how childhood brain development disorders, brain injuries, brain inflammation, brain degeneration, and brain aging all contribute to SIBO.

The elderly are especially vulnerable to malnutrition caused by SIBO, as are the increasing numbers of children born with autism and other brain development disorders. Fortunately, you can improve gut function through simple exercises that help tone the digestive system and prevent relapses of SIBO.

Managing SIBO does not have a one-size-fits-all solution, and there are various ways to approach it that include both nutraceutical and/or pharmaceutical approaches. Diet is always an important strategy. For more information, contact my office.