Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for October, 2012

mother s autoimmunity autism

While practitioners of functional medicine have long understood the link between the health of a mother’s immune system and the risk of giving birth to a child with autism, asthma, allergies, and other disorders, it is validating to see this information in the New York Times: An Immune Disorder at the Root of Autism.

In this article, the author reports one-third of autism cases are the result of an inflammatory disease that began in the womb, thanks to the mother’s imbalanced immune system. Looking back through 20 years of data, researchers discovered that infections during pregnancy increase the risk of autism. Hospitalization for a viral infection (i.e., the flu) during the first trimester tripled the odds for autism, while a bacterial infection (including urinary tract infections) during the second trimester increased the risk by 40 percent.

Maternal autoimmunity increases risk of autism in children

While viral and bacterial infections have declined over the last 60 years, autoimmune and chronic inflammatory disorders are steadily climbing. Autoimmune disease dwarfs cancer and heart disease combined, now affecting about 50 million people, or 20 percent of the population.

Investigation revealed it isn’t the infections themselves that cause autism, but instead the reaction of the mother’s immune system to infection (her inflammatory response), as well as the overall health of her immune system.

One study of 700,000 births found that a mother’s rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, or Type 1 diabetes more than doubles the risk of autism in her child. Other research has connected additional autoimmune diseases, such as Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, with an increased risk of giving birth to a child who develops autism.

In an autoimmune response, the immune system mistakenly creates antibodies to the body’s own tissue, thereby tagging the tissue for destruction. Researchers have found that some mothers of autistic children create antibodies to the brain tissue of their fetus, meaning the child is a born with a brain already developmentally imbalanced by immune destruction. In fact, research indicates that mothers of children with autism are five times more likely to have anti-brain antibodies in their systems.

Chronic inflammation in pregnancy raises risk of childhood disorders

Other risk factors for autism include maternal asthma, allergies, insulin resistance, obesity, and chronic low-grade inflammation. In other words, when a mom’s immune system is in constant overdrive—never getting the opportunity to rest—the development of the fetal brain is adversely affected and the overall risk for disorders is increased.

Western diet and lifestyle behind inflammation and autoimmunity

Unfortunately, the story An Immune Disorder at the Root of Autism veers into the promise of using whip worms—yes, worms—to tame the out-of-control immune system. The theory is that autoimmune disease has skyrocketed in developed nations because we are too clean.

The article fails to mention those other hallmarks of Western civilization besides good hygiene: overabundant diets laden with sweet, starchy, processed foods; chronic stress; a sedentary lifestyle; and daily bombardment of environmental toxins.

Thankfully, practitioners of functional medicine have measures other than the whip-worm therapy to manage autoimmune diseases and chronic inflammation, all backed by peer-reviewed science. These include an autoimmune diet and the use of targeted, customized nutritional therapies.

Ask my office how we can assist you in balancing your immune system and, in so doing, help you to lower the risk of giving birth to a child with asthma, allergies, autism, or other brain and immune disorders.

Read Full Post »

wake up at 3 a m

Do you consistently wake up around 3 a.m. and can’t fall back asleep? Although the reasons for sleep problems can be complex, waking up too early is often a symptom of hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, and can be remedied through dietary changes and nutritional therapy.

Why you wake up at 3 a.m.

The brain is highly active at night, transforming short-term memory into long-term memory and carrying out repair and regeneration, and it depends on a steady supply of energy to do these tasks. When you sleep at night your body goes into a fasting state. In order not to deprive the brain of the food it needs for energy, the body compensates by gradually raising cortisol, an adrenal hormone. Cortisol stimulates the body to release or create glucose to supply the brain with energy during the night-long fast.

Chronic low blood sugar, however, throws a kink in this process. People with hypoglycemia tend to have difficulty making the right amount of cortisol at the right times of the day or night. They also have blood sugar levels that spike and then crash throughout the day. If they go too long without eating they experience lightheadedness, irritability, shakiness, a spacey feeling, and other symptoms that signify the brain is not getting enough glucose.

In these cases, not only does blood sugar drop too low during the night, but the adrenal glands don’t produce enough cortisol to keep the brain fueled. In response, the body sounds the emergency alarm by releasing “fight-or-flight” hormones. These stress hormones raise blood sugar back to a safer level. Unfortunately, they also raise stress, which can cause anxiety or panic in the middle of the night. Hence the waking up at 3 a.m. and not being able to fall back asleep.

How to fall asleep if you wake up at 3 a.m.

A quick fix for waking up at 3 a.m. can be as simple as eating a small amount of protein, with perhaps some fat thrown in—a spoonful of nut butter, a little bit of meat, or a hard-boiled egg. For some people this raises blood sugar to a healthier level and sustains it so they can fall back asleep. It’s best not to eat something sweet or starchy (however tempting to your hungry brain) because this will just cause blood sugar to spike and crash again.

Daytime tips to avoid waking up at 3 a.m.

Although a 3 a.m. snack may help you fall back asleep, it’s better to prevent that anxious awakening in the first place. If you wake up regularly at 3 a.m. you may suffer from chronic low blood sugar and need dietary therapy. Symptoms include:

  • Sugar cravings
  • Irritability, light-headedness, dizziness, or brain fog if meals are missed
  • Lack of appetite or nausea in the morning
  • The need for caffeine for energy
  • Eating to relieve fatigue
  • Energy crashes in the afternoon

A diet that stabilizes daytime blood sugar levels will have you sleeping better. This requires that you:

  • Never skip breakfast and eat a breakfast lower in carbohydrates. If you have chronic low blood sugar you may have lost the ability to feel hunger and you need to eat in the morning and throughout the day (even if you don’t feel like it).
  • Eat frequently enough so blood sugar does not crash.
  • Ditch the sweets and starchy foods and adopt a lower-carbohydrate diet. People with low blood sugar symptoms typically eat too many sweets and starchy foods (breads, pasta, rice, potatoes, etc.) and also frequently skip meals. Go for foods lower on the glycemic index and eat enough protein and healthy fats to sustain your energy.

A variety of nutritional compounds can further support your blood sugar handling and stress hormone functions so you sleep better. Ask my office how we can help.

Read Full Post »

B12 deficiency

Vitamin B12 deficiency is more common than people realize and can mimic or cause other disorders. A B12 deficiency is linked with memory loss, anemia, cardiovascular disease, and autism, to name a few. B12 is necessary for the brain and nervous system to function and for other aspects of health. It’s believed B12 deficiency is due in most cases not to lack of dietary sources but to poor absorption of the vitamin in the digestive tract.

Could your declining brain function be a B12 deficiency?

Because B12 is so vital for brain function, a B12 deficiency can manifest as numbness and tingling in the hands and feet, shakiness, depression, and loss of memory and cognition that can mimic the beginnings of dementia. It’s especially important to pay attention to a possible B12 deficiency in older people as the ability to absorb the vitamin declines with age. Studies show older people with higher B12 levels show less brain shrinkage and cognitive decline than their B12 deficient counterparts.

Is your anemia a B12 deficiency?

Other common manifestations of B12 deficiency are symptoms of anemia, which include fatigue, lethargy and weakness. Many people with B12 anemia discover they have an autoimmune disease called pernicious anemia, which inhibits the absorption of B12. In this case managing the autoimmune disease is important as well as supplementing with B12 sublingually or through injection.

A deficiency in B12 is also linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, autism, autoimmune disease, infertility, and more.

B12 deficiency often due to poor absorption

So what causes B12 deficiency? For many people it’s due not to diet but rather to poor absorption of nutrients.

Many people today have damaged guts due to diets high in inflammatory foods, chronic stress, and food intolerances, such as to gluten. It’s difficult for nutrients such as B12 to pass through an inflamed and damaged gut lining into the bloodstream.

Other factors that can lead to a B12 deficiency include a decline in stomach acid (common in elderly), the use of antacids and acid-blocking drugs, the use of metformin and other prescription drugs, alcoholism, and weight-loss surgery.

Repairing and restoring gut health should always be addressed in the event of a B12 deficiency.

Vegans and vegetarians at risk for B12 deficiency

One group at risk for dietary deficiency of B12 are vegans and vegetarians—B12 is only found in animal foods. Natural plant sources of B12 such as spirulina, algae, seaweed, or grasses are poorly absorbed and may give a false reading of normal B12 on a lab result. This population especially should supplement with B12.

Also, although gut bacteria can synthesize B12, this requires healthy gut function and flora, and most of it is synthesized downstream of the small intestine where B12 is absorbed.

Taking B12

Recommended doses of B12 vary depending on whether you have a deficiency, and you should work with a qualified health care practitioner to determine the best dose. However, there is a low risk of B12 toxicity.

The more bioavailable form of B12 supplementation is methyl B12, or methylcobalamin, as opposed to the more common, synthetic cyanocobalamin. Not only is methyl B12 more neurologically active, it also enhances a liver detoxification process called methylation, which can reduce inflammation.

Read Full Post »

are you alkaline enough copy

If your body becomes too acidic it can lead to health problems—good pH balance is necessary for cells to function properly. Too much acidity plays a role in obesity, diabetes, heart disease, chronic pain and inflammation, autoimmune disease, and other chronic conditions. Fortunately, we can make the body more alkaline simply through changes to the diet.

How do you know if you are too acidic?

Many people are overly acidic today because of the modern diet. Below are some symptoms:

  • Muscle cramps
  • Muscle twitches
  • Constipation
  • Frequent urination
  • Brain fog
  • Poor brain function
  • Reduced endurance for exercise
  • Swelling and bloating
  • Salt cravings
  • Difficulty holding breath
  • Rapid, shallow breathing
  • Poor sleep

Testing for acid or alkaline pH

You can also test your body’s pH. Although a salivary test is a popular way to test pH it does not have much support in the scientific literature. Testing through blood is not accurate because blood pH fluctuates only if there is an acute event, such as poisoning or kidney or lung disease. However, if the blood test markers CO2 and anion gap are outside of functional medicine ranges it suggests acidity.

A urinary test has been demonstrated to be an accurate reflection of how acidic or alkaline you are and reflects whether nutritional therapy or changes in your diet are helping you become more alkaline. Ideal urinary pH is suggested to be between 7.2–7.8. It’s important to note, however, that infections, bacterial overgrowth, dehydration, incontinence, and other issues can affect the results of your urinary pH test.

How do you become more alkaline?

It’s easy in today’s world to become too acidic. Diets high in sugars, simple starches, and junk foods can lead to excess acidity. Caffeinated drinks, sodas, and alcohol promote acidity as well. Eating too much meat and not enough produce is another dietary factor. It is not necessary to become a vegan or vegetarian to maintain a good pH, however a diet based on ample leafy green and colorful vegetables as well as some fruits are at the foundation of an alkaline diet. The alkaline diet is rich in magnesium, potassium, calcium, and other minerals that help your body maintain a healthy pH.

Anemia, asthma, and poor blood sugar regulation can prevent you from being alkaline enough

Certain health conditions such as anemia or asthma can prevent you from being alkaline enough. Stable blood sugar levels are also necessary for good alkalinity. A diet high in carbohydrates and sugars will promote acidity, as will having low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) or high blood sugar (insulin resistance). It’s important not to skip meals or to overeat and to eat regularly enough to prevent your energy from crashing if you want to maintain a good pH.

If acidity becomes too severe it can be life threatening. Diabetes, kidney disease, and lung disease are health conditions that can raise the risk of acidifying the body to an extreme degree and require medical attention.

Nutritional therapy to be more alkaline

Although sodium bicarbonate can quickly alkalinize the system, it is too high in sodium to be used regularly. Instead, in addition to adopting a more alkalinizing diet, some nutritional compounds may help move you toward a more alkaline state more quickly.

Contact my office for ideas on how nutritional therapy can help you to be more alkaline.

Read Full Post »

ImageThere have been many advances in the early detection and treatment of cancer. While the standard medical care for cancer can be effective, the treatments are aggressive and cause numerous unwanted side effects in addition to a lowered immune system. Acupuncture has received much attention as an adjunctive therapy in cancer treatments addressing many of the symptoms and side effects that come up during and after chemotherapy, radiation, biological therapy and surgery.

How Does Acupuncture Help?

According to the National Cancer Institute, acupuncture may cause physical responses in nerve cells, the pituitary gland, and parts of the brain. These responses can cause the body to release proteins, hormones, and brain chemicals that govern a number of body functions. It is proposed that, by stimulating physical responses in these areas, acupuncture positively affects blood pressure and body temperature, boosts immune system activity, and causes the body’s natural painkillers, such as endorphins, to be released.

Acupuncture takes a holistic approach to health care and is particularly useful in providing pain relief, reducing the impact of side effects, accelerating recovery and improving overall quality of life.

Areas where acupuncture has provided the most help include:

  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Dry Mouth, Night Sweats and Hot Flashes
  • Stress, Anxiety and Fatigue
  • Pain Management
  • Increasing White Blood Cell Count

Relieving Nausea and Vomiting

The strongest evidence of the beneficial effect of acupuncture has come from clinical trials on its use for relieving nausea and vomiting. Several types of clinical trials using different acupuncture methods showed acupuncture reduced nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy, surgery and morning sickness.

Boosting the Immune System

Human studies on the effect of acupuncture on the immune system of cancer patients showed that it improved immune system response, including increasing the number of white blood cells.

Improving Pain Management

In clinical studies, acupuncture reduced the pain levels for some cancer patients. In one study, most of the patients treated with acupuncture were able to stop taking drugs for pain relief or to reduce their doses.

To learn more about how acupuncture can safely and effectively be incorporated into an oncology treatment plan call for a consultation today.

Read Full Post »

low blood pressure adrenal fatigue

We all hear about the risks associated with high blood pressure, but having low blood pressure can also pose health risks. When you have low blood pressure your blood, which carries oxygen and nutrients, is not being sufficiently pushed into the tissues throughout your body, including the brain. This means your brain and other organs are not getting enough oxygen to work as well as they could. A blood pressure of 120/80 is considered healthy and if the upper or lower number deviates by 10 your blood pressure is in an abnormal range.

Low blood pressure associated with adrenal fatigue

Low blood pressure is typically associated with poor adrenal function. The adrenal glands, which sit atop the kidneys, produce stress hormones and play an important role in regulating blood pressure. Many people today have fatigued adrenal glands thanks to chronic stress, poor diets, low blood sugar, chronic infections, digestive problems, inflammation, or other issues. Chronic stress from any or all of these factors may wear out the adrenal glands, causing adrenal fatigue. As a result, your body has a harder time maintaining health and balance through life’s ups and downs. Symptoms of adrenal fatigue may include constant tiredness, hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), and low blood pressure.

Feeling faint when you stand up

A common type of low blood pressure is a orthostatic hypotension, a drop in blood pressure when you go from sitting to standing that causes lightheadedness. For the person with orthostatic hypotension, standing up causes blood to pool in the legs. This slows the flow of blood back to the heart and decreases the amount of blood pumped from the heart. Medical professionals diagnose orthostatic hypotension when the top number falls by 20 and the bottom number falls by 10 upon standing.

Although lightheadedness is not cause for alarm, if standing up causes you to faint you should seek medical attention. Orthostatic hypotension also increases the risk of falling for elderly people. Orthostatic hypotension is common among people with low blood pressure and hypoglycemia, although people with high blood pressure can also have orthostatic hypotension.

What to do for low blood pressure and adrenal fatigue

If you have low blood pressure and suspect you may have adrenal fatigue, consider having an adrenal saliva test. This test measures how much cortisol, an important adrenal hormone, your body makes, and whether your cortisol level follows healthy daily patterns.

Although people with high blood pressure are told to avoid salt, those with low blood pressure may actually benefit by adding sea salt to their food.

Also, certain nutritional compounds have been shown to support adrenal function and thus healthy blood pressure. Because adrenal fatigue is always secondary to another problem, it’s important to find out what is taxing the adrenal system and address that as well. Eating a diet that prevents your blood sugar from dropping too low and causing symptoms of hypoglycemia is another important key. Strategies include eating a good breakfast, ditching sweets, starchy foods and sweetened drinks, eating regularly enough to sustain blood sugar, and making sure never to skip meals.

For more advice on supporting healthy adrenal function and blood pressure, contact my office.

Read Full Post »