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Archive for December, 2013

333 1 in 5 children mental disorder

One in five American children today has a mental disorder and the rate is rising, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Affecting 13 to 20 percent of youth under 18, mental disorders impact a child’s behavior, ability to learn, and cope with their emotions. Although researchers don’t have a definitive explanation for the rise, studies have linked a mother’s autoimmune disease during pregnancyenvironmental chemicals, and industrialization of food with the rise in childhood brain disorders. All of these factors profoundly affect the developing brain in utero and can lead to a brain disorder in childhood.

The rapid rise in the rate of childhood brain disorders is alarming and unnerving. For instance, one study showed the rate of hospital stays among children for mood disorders increased 80 percent since 1997. Inpatient admissions for mental health issues and substance abuse increased 24 percent between 2007 and 2010.

The most commonly diagnosed brain disorder is attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), affecting nearly 7 percent of children. Other commonly reported issues include autism, anxiety, depression, Tourette’s syndrome, and behavioral disorders. Alcohol and substance abuse are issues as well.

Autism linked to autoimmune disease in mothers

The brain begins developing as early as the first trimester and is profoundly impacted by the health of the immune system. When a pregnant woman has an unmanaged autoimmune condition, such as Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, vitiligo, etc., it means her immune system is imbalanced and overactive. Research has shown that some mothers of children with autism carry immune compounds called antibodies in their bloodstream that react against proteins in the brain. These antibodies damage the developing brain of the fetus while in utero and may cause autism. Women with autoimmune disease are more likely to carry these immune antibodies.

A parent’s diet, physical activity, stress hormone levels, and exposure to environmental chemicals are other examples of factors that can affect a child’s brain development beginning in utero.

We see evidence of immune imbalances in children with brain disorders as they typically also suffer from multiple food intolerances, stomach pain, chronic constipation, leaky gut, asthma, eczema, yeast infections, and other issues that signal an imbalanced immune system.

The rising rate of childhood brain disorders is a pressing concern that will continue to affect all aspects of society. Although there is no easy answer, parents-to-be can lower their risk of giving birth to a child with ADHD, autism, or other brain disorder by limiting exposure to environmental toxins both in the home and outside (for instance, rates of autism are found to be higher in those whose mothers lived near freeways during pregnancy), eating a whole foods diet free of common food sensitivities (such as gluten), and testing for and managing any autoimmune reactions.

For more information about how to manage autoimmunity, contact my office.

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What is MTHFR and why does it matter?

what is MTHFR

If you read the latest health news, you may have seen the acronym MTHFR popping up a lot recently. MTHFR stands for methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase, an enzyme that plays a role in processing the nutrient folic acid/folate into a form the body can use. With the increased popularity of genetic testing, many people are showing a mutation in the MTHFR gene. This genetic defect impacts the body’s methylation pathways, which affects detoxification and other important processes in the body and thus can give rise to health disorders.

Methylation is a process of adding a methyl group to a molecule. Methylation’s roles include:

  • Turns on and off genes
  • Processes chemicals and toxins
  • Builds brain chemicals called neurotransmitters
  • Processes hormones
  • Builds immune cells
  • Synthesizes DNA and RNA
  • Produces energy
  • Produces protective coating on nerves

When the MTHFR genes work properly, you can more efficiently make proteins, use antioxidants, metabolize hormones, enjoy more stable brain chemistry, better eliminate toxins and heavy metals, and manage inflammation.

In the case of MTHFR genetic defects, the MTHFR enzyme does not work optimally. As a result, certain folate vitamins are not properly broken down. This can lead to high homocysteine, which raises inflammation in the body and increases the risk of heart disease and dementia. Synthesis of glutathione, the body’s main antioxidant, becomes compromised, as does the synthesis of important brain neurotransmitters, so that depression and other brain-based disorders may arise. Because the MTHFR gene is involved in such fundamental processes in the body, an MTHFR mutation has been associated with numerous health conditions, including an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, venous thrombosis, cancer, birth defects, inflammatory bowel disease, and mental and mood disorders.

One way you can test for MTHFR gene mutations is through genetic testing companies such as Spectracell or 23andme.com and an interpretation at geneticgenie.org. There are more than 50 MTHFR genetic mutations, however the two deemed problematic are C677T and A1298C (written as just 677 and 1298), which exist in a variety of combinations. It’s important to understand that if you show a genetic MTHFR mutation, it doesn’t necessarily mean those genes have been expressed and are causing symptoms.

Dealing with a MTHFR enzyme defect that is causing symptoms can be complicated. But since this defect can result in compromised methylation, a good place to start is by supporting methylation pathways with methylfolate and methylcobalamin (methyl B12), avoiding supplements with folic acid, supporting glutathione activity, and taking care not to overtax your detoxification system by living as toxin-free as possible.

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histamine intolerance

Are you eating a good diet and finding certain healthy foods, such as sauerkraut, are causing hives, swelling of the face or throat, a headache, nasal congestion, skin problems, a racing heart, anxiety, watery red eyes, heartburn, or irritability? If so the problem may not be allergies but instead a histamine intolerance. Histamines are found in many common foods, especially those that have been aged or fermented, such as aged cheese, red wine, and sauerkraut. Reacting to sauerkraut and fermented foods? Could be a histamine intolerance

Histamine is a compound produced by the body when you have an immune reaction in order to increase blood flow to the affected area. It also plays many other important roles in the body. Most people are familiar with histamines in response to hay fever, which many people dampen by taking antihistamines.

How is histamine intolerance different from a food allergy

Histamine intolerance is different from an allergy in that the response builds up over time—the more foods with histamine you consume, the more you react. This is what makes it difficult to pinpoint. It’s common for people with histamine intolerance to screen for food allergies and have the results come back negative. They’re not allergic to the high-histamine foods. Instead, they react to the elevated histamine levels they experience after eating too many of them.

In the case of a food allergy, the immune reaction happens soon after consuming the food. With an intolerance, however, the reaction does not necessarily happen immediately after. This is because histamine levels in the blood need to reach a certain level for reactions to take place.

What causes histamine intolerance?

A histamine intolerance is caused by defect in the breakdown process of histamine, particularly a deficiency of the diamine oxidase (DAO) enzyme. Normally, when histamine levels rise too high DAO helps breakdown histamine. When this system falters histamine levels climb too high and a person experiences allergy-like symptoms.

Why do people get histamine intolerance?

Many believe an imbalance of bacteria in the gut play a role in histamine intolerance. We all have both beneficial and harmful bacteria in our guts, although ideally the good outnumber the bad. However, modern diets, stressful lifestyles, and the use of antibiotics can tip these bacteria out of balance so that the bad outnumber the good.

When harmful bacteria rule the gut, food doesn’t get thoroughly digested and inflammation runs rampant, scenarios that create a build-up of histamine in the intestines. This leads to higher overall levels of histamine in the body so that eating histamine-rich foods could be the tipping point that causes symptoms. This is confounding for people who eat sauerkraut and other fermented vegetables to improve gut bacteria. Fortunately, there are other ways to help banish the bad bacteria and support the good, such as with probiotics, to address histamine intolerance. Ask my office for advice on how to balance your gut bacteria.

Foods high in histamines

While you are working on repairing your gut and restoring balance to your gut bacteria, it will be helpful to avoid foods high in histamines. Fermented foods such as sauerkraut are the biggest culprits (although anaerobically fermented foods may be fine).

Here is a list of foods to avoid on a histamine restricted diet:

  • Fish and shellfish, unless freshly caught
  • Eggs
  • Processed, smoked, fermented meats
  • Leftover meats (bacteria act on leftovers, producing histamines)
  • All fermented milk products, including all cheeses, yogurt, buttermilk, and kefir
  • Some fruits: Citrus, strawberries, apricots, cherries, grapes, raspberries, pineapple, cranberries, prunes, loganberries, dates, raisins, currants
  • Some vegetables: Tomatoes and tomato products, spinach, red beans, eggplant, olives, pumpkin, avocado, pickles, relishes, and other foods containing vinegar
  • Food additives: Tartrazine, artificial colors, preservatives, especially benzoates and sulfites (check your medications and supplements)
  • Seasonings: Cinnamon, cloves, vinegar, chili powder, anise, curry powder, nutmeg
  • Miscellaneous: Fermented soy (miso, soy sauce), fermented foods, tea, chocolate, cocoa, cola drinks, alcoholic beverages, and de-alcoholized beer and wine.

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Good balance equals a better brain

good balance for brain health

Do you wobble if you stand on one foot? How about with your eyes closed? If you walk in a straight heel-to-toe line do you stumble? How about with your eyes closed? If you stand with your feet together and close your eyes do you sway to one side? Do you walk with a wide gait, or feel like you’re going to fall if you don’t hold the handrail going down the stairs? If you answered yes to any of these questions you have balance issues that could be a sign of compromised brain health and increased risk of dementia later in life.

Balance is governed largely by the cerebellum, the area at the base of the brain that also helps with precision, coordination, and timing of motor movements. The cerebellum is one of the most continually active areas of the brain because not only does it keep you from falling over, it also processes information from gravity.

A healthy cerebellum is important because it constantly feeds a steady stream of information to the entire brain, which is necessary for overall good brain health and function.

This is where problems can occur. When cerebellum function begins to break down, causing such symptoms as worsening balance, this impacts the stream of information going to the rest of the brain. For instance, a healthy cerebellum regulates this stream of information so as not to flood the brain. When the cerebellum degenerates, it can overwhelm the brain with excess input.

This can cause problems in other areas of the brain with symptoms that may seem totally unrelated to balance, including restless leg syndrome, tinnitus, being hyper sensitive to stress, depression, fatigue, anxiety, and many more. These are signs the brain is functioning poorly and degenerating too quickly, increasing the risk of dementia or Parkinson’s later in life.

You’re never too young or too fit to work on improving your balance as it’s a great way to help protect and preserve brain health.

How to improve your cerebellum health

There are several ways to protect the health of your cerebellum. One is to perform balance exercises, such as the ones listed in the first paragraph. Yoga and tai chi are also beneficial. As your balance improves or if you are already athletic, continually challenge yourself, such as by doing your balance exercises on a wobble board or Bosu ball. Just be safe!

Screen for gluten sensitivity. Believe it or not, a gluten sensitivity could be destroying your cerebellum and your balance. The proteins in gluten are very similar in structure to those in the cerebellum. If your immune system is attacking gluten every time you eat because you are sensitive to it, it could be attacking your cerebellum as well. This is called gluten ataxia and is actually pretty common. For some people, a gluten-free diet is imperative to restoring their cerebellum and balance.

Follow an anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle. The brain is very sensitive to inflammation, including the cerebellum. Junk foods, sugars and processed carbohydrates, lack of sleep, too much stress, lack of exercise — these are all factors that can accelerate degeneration in the cerebellum and the rest of the brain.

Ask my office for more advice on how to protect your brain health.

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