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Archive for September, 2015

gallbladder important copy

Have you been told you don’t need your gallbladder? Think again. Sure, you’ll live without it, but the gallbladder is actually a vital digestive organ.

The gallbladder stores bile, a chemical made by the liver that emulsifies fat, and secretes it into the small intestine when needed.

Bile is necessary for the digestion and absorption of fats, and it helps ensure you absorb vitamins and minerals from foods in your diet.

Gallstones and a congested gallbladder

Gallbladder removal is one of the most common surgeries today and is performed when the gallbladder becomes congested with gallstones.

Things that can cause gallstones are nutritional deficiencies, hydrogenated fats (trans fats), processed vegetable oils, hypothyroidism, and no-fat or low-fat diets.

The gallbladder there is like a holding tank for bile that secretes it as needed, such as when you eat something fatty.

Without a gallbladder the liver continuously leaks bile into the small intestine.

This means there is not enough stored bile to digest fats. As a result, fats can be become rancid and irritate and inflame the digestive tract. This can result in not only discomfort, but also poor digestive function and inadequate absorption of nutrients.

If you have a gallbladder but it’s sluggish and congested with stones, this backs up the liver’s detoxification pathways. As a result, the liver cannot effectively detoxify hormones, toxins, and other metabolites.

Things to watch out for if your gallbladder has been removed

Gallbladder removal puts you at risk for deficiencies of essential fatty acids, which are vital for good brain health and hormone function, and fat-soluble vitamins, such as vitamin D, A, and E, which are especially important for good immune health.

Also, if the gallbladder isn’t there to emulsify fats, the health of the entire digestive tract may become compromised. Studies suggest gallbladder removal increases the risk of colon cancer.

How to support gallbladder health

Luckily, various nutritional compounds support gallbladder health, fat digestion, and liver detoxification, including dandelion root, milk thistle seed extract, ginger root, phosphatidylcholine, and taurine.

These compounds can also help if your gallbladder has been removed, along with ox bile.

Maintaining good gallbladder health

Following are some tips to support good gallbladder health:

  • Eat a diet high in fiber
  • Avoid refined and excess starchy carbohydrates (white flour, sugar, potatoes, etc.)
  • Avoid trans fats, hydrogenated fats, and processed vegetable oils
  • Get plenty of essential fatty acids and omega 3s
  • Eliminate food intolerances
  • Make sure to properly support low thyroid function or autoimmune Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism

Ask my office for more advice on how to support your gallbladder or your digestive health if your gallbladder has been removed.

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is your brain inflamed copy

When most people think of inflammation they think of arthritic joints, or maybe a sprained ankle. But did you know your brain can become inflamed, too?

The problem is an inflamed brain won’t hurt. Instead you should look for other symptoms of brain inflammation. These include brain fog, slow thinking, fatigue, and depression.

Brain fog is a hallmark symptom of brain inflammation. The inflammation slows down communication between neurons. This is what causes you to feel foggy, dull, and slow.

Brain inflammation is serious because it means nerve cells in the brain are dying. In other words, brain inflammation is causing your brain to atrophy and age too fast.

What causes brain inflammation

A common cause of brain inflammation is head injury. Injuries cause immune cells to turn on in order to begin the healing process. But unlike immune cells in the body, the brain’s immune cells do not turn off. This means brain inflammation can continue to be a problem long after the injury. This is one reason football players have high rates of the chronic degenerative brain disease called chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

Other common causes of brain inflammation include chronic inflammation in the body, leaky gut, high blood sugar and diabetes, hormone imbalances, hypothyroidism  food intolerances (gluten is a notorious brain inflamer), stress, and brain autoimmunity — a disorder in which the immune system erroneously attacks and damages brain tissue. It is more common than people realize.

Depression and brain inflammation

Depression is a common symptom of brain inflammation (although different things can cause depression, depending on the person). Immune cells called cytokines that are created by inflammation impair brain function. Cytokines also hamper the activity of serotonin, the “joy and well-being” brain chemical commonly linked with depression.

A good illustration of this is the fact that many patients given the anti-viral drug interferon  which increases cytokine activity, develop depression. Conversely, many people who tame inflammation relieve depression.

Brain inflammation: Autism to Alzheimer’s

Brain imaging and autopsies show brain inflammation is more common in individuals with autism.

Brain inflammation is also increasingly being linked with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The inflammation both degenerates brain tissue and increases amyloid beta, the hallmark of Alzheimer’s.

Take brain inflammation seriously to save your brain

If you have brain fog or other symptoms that suggest brain inflammation, this means your brain is degenerating (aging) too fast. Be proactive in saving your brain health:

  • Take flavonoids. Flavonoids are plant compounds that have been shown to reduce inflammation in the brain. Ask my office for more information.?Balance your blood sugar. Low blood sugar, insulin resistance (high blood sugar), and diabetes all inflame the brain. Don’t skip meals or overdo carbs.
  • Food sensitivities. Gluten is a common cause of brain inflammation. Rule out a sensitivity to gluten or other commonly inflammatory foods, such as dairy, soy, eggs, and other grains. 
  • Balance hormones. Low sex hormones (such as estrogen and testosterone) and low thyroid hormones contribute to brain inflammation. 
  • Heal your gut. The gut and the brain profoundly influence one another. An inflamed gut causes an inflamed brain.
  • Take glutathione precursors. Glutathione is the body’s master antioxidant and can help quench brain inflammation. Sufficient essential fatty acids and vitamin D are important, too.

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We all want enough sleep so we’re less cranky and more alert. We want it for our kids too. But recent research found an even more important reason: Sleeping less than six hours a night for one week can lead to more than 700 changes in the way our genes behave. Among these are genes that regulate stress, our ability to fight disease, our sleep-wake cycles, inflammation, and aging.

Researchers believe this helps explain why chronic sleep deprivation is linked to heart disease, diabetes, obesity, stress, and depression.

Sleeping less than five hours a night has also been linked with greater risk of death.

Early mornings hard on youth

Researchers are increasingly sounding the alarm about the ill health effects of early mornings. They suggest elementary school start at 8:30, middle and high school at 10 a.m., and university classes at 11 a.m.

These wake up times better match the body’s natural circadian rhythm, or sleep-wake cycle. Early starts are particularly onerous on youth because sleep is when they develop mentally, physically, and emotionally. Sleep deprivation can also be fatal as sleep-deprived teens are more likely to get in car accidents.

One study found British students were losing an average of 10 hours of sleep a week, making them more deprived than doctors on a 24-hour shift.

Another study of 900,000 children globally found American youth are the most sleep-deprived.

Most workers should start the day at 10 a.m.

Children and teens aren’t the only ones who should start the morning later. Research has also found early work times are not in sync with the internal clocks of working adults in their 20s and 30s. In fact, the nine-to-five day is best suited only for children under 10 and adults over 55.

Meanwhile, young people between the ages of 14 and 24 are the most sleep-deprived group of any age sector. This translates to a more drastic impact on gene expression that can raise the risk of various health disorders.

Limit screen time at night to facilitate sleep

Although our body clocks may be more in tune with later wake times, poor habits play a role in sleep deprivation, too.

Adults and children are on their smart phones and tablets late into the night, not only forcing themselves to stay up too late, but also over-exposing their internal clocks to too much “artificial daylight.”

The blue light emitted from LED screens used on smart phones, tablets, computers, and LED televisions are similar to the daylight.

This suppresses the release of melatonin, the sleep hormone, while keeping the adrenal hormone cortisol active. The result is insomnia and poor sleep.

It’s important to limit screen time at night. If that seems like too much to ask, wearing orange tinted glasses can limit the blue wavelengths from entering the eyes and induce evening sleepiness.

A small study of Swiss teen boys showed they felt significantly more sleepy at night after wearing the glasses at night for just one week. Also, apps for your devices such as f.lux reduce blue wavelengths emitted from your screen as the sun goes down, resulting in less eyestrain and better sleep at night.

Poor sleep can have many causes including those I’ve already mentioned, but also blood sugar imbalances, hormonal imbalances, brain-based issues, and more.

Ask my office for more advice on improving your sleep.

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health effects household chemicals copy

It’s amazing how toxic the standard American household is. Chemicals that are toxic to the brain, immune system, hormonal system, liver, and more are in virtually every household and body product used by the average person. When seeking to improve your health, it’s important to “go green” and use non-toxic house and body products.

Check out the effects these products have on the human body:

Dish soaps, detergents, fabric softeners, air fresheners, soaps, shampoos, perfumes, skin creams, etc.: The fragrances in these products contain phthalates  which have been shown to lower sperm counts, cause early puberty in girls, raise the risk of cancer and lung problems, and harm the organs. Go for unscented versions of these products or those made with essential oils. You can also make your own household cleaners very easily and cheaply.

Spot removers, upholstery and carpet cleaners, and dry cleaning solutions: These products contain perchloroethylene, or PERC, which is toxic to the brain and increases the risk of cancer. Go for non-toxic stain removers and dry cleaning services.

Antibacterial soaps and hand sanitizers: These products contain triclosan, which was first registered as a pesticide. Triclosan promotes the development of drug-resistant bacteria, is a carcinogen, and disrupts hormone regulation. Wash your hands with a non-toxic soap and look for a non-toxic hand sanitizer.

Fabric softener liquids and sheets: These contain quats, or quarternary ammonium compounds. Quats are another type of anti-bacterial compound that promote drug-resistant bacteria. Quats are also linked with respiratory disorders and are well known triggers of illness in those with chemical sensitivities. Vinegar, essential oils, and the use of wool dryer balls are great ways to soften your clothes naturally and prevent polluting the air inside and outside your home.

(Here’s a neat tip if you’d like to get the toxic reek of fabric softener or other perfumes out of your clothes: put the item in a bag with activated charcoal for as long as necessary. Activated charcoal is great at absorbing unwanted odors.)

These are just a few examples of toxic chemicals lurking in everyday products most people and their children use. You also have to consider artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives in foods and beverages, which introduces a whole other world of toxins to the human body. Oh, and don’t forget chemicals and pollutants in our water and air.

Our environment contains more than 85,000 synthetic chemicals  yet only a handful of them have been tested. Toxins have been linked with the explosion in the rates of autoimmunity and even autism  which is increasingly being recognized as neurological autoimmunity.

Toxins are also a problem for the growing number of people dealing with chemical sensitivities, who get sick when exposed to different synthetic chemicals.

Our bodies were simply not designed to handle such a heavy toxic burden, which has been shown to begin in the womb. The best thing you can do for your health and your children’s health is remove toxins as much as possible from your life and your budget (so companies take notice) and use natural alternatives instead.

Fortunately, through healthy eating, exercise, spending time in nature, good hydration, and using anti-inflammatory compounds such as glutathione precursors (the body’s master antioxidant), we can mitigate the effects of toxins on the body.

Ask my office for more information on how to help protect your body from toxins.

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fish oil can prevent schizophrenia copy

Forget low-fat diets, especially in teens at risk for mental illness — healthy fats are vital for good brain health. They’re so important that fish oil has been shown to prevent schizophrenia in young people who show early signs of the disease, such as minor delusions or paranoid thoughts.

Schizophrenia is usually diagnosed in the late teens or early 20s when the brain is nearing the end of its development. However, a recent study showed that teens at risk for schizophrenia who took fish oil were less likely to develop the disease compared to those who didn’t.

Research has also shown that people with schizophrenia have lower blood levels of fatty acids the brain needs, suggesting their brains are deficient in these essential fats. Giving fish oils to adults diagnosed with schizophrenia has not produced good results — it appears the key is to give fish oil to youth before it’s too late, thus changing the trajectory of the disease.

Fish oils and other healthy fats, such as oils from olives, nuts, seeds, and avocados, have been shown to dampen inflammation in the brain, protect neurons, and enhance neuronal function and communication. Fish oils are high in the omega 3 fatty acids EPA, which dampen inflammation, and DHA, which supports brain health and function.

The brain is made up of primarily fat, especially the cell membranes, which are vital for communication within the brain, so the fats you eat determine how well your brain performs. It’s best to go for healthy fats and avoid trans fats, or hydrogenated oils, as they have been shown to sabotage brain health and function.

Fish oil group fares better than placebo group

The study followed 81 young people between the ages of 13 and 25 who showed early signs of schizophrenia. About half were given fish oil supplements to take daily while the other half were given a placebo.

A year later, the group given fish oil were less likely to develop psychosis.

A follow-up seven years later of 71 of the participants showed that only 10 percent of the group given fish oil went on to develop schizophrenia, compared to 40 percent of the group given the placebo.

Researchers say the results are striking but the trial needs to be done again with a larger group of people.

Gluten: Another factor in schizophrenia

Shoring up brain health with fish oils and other essential fatty acids isn’t the only tool in the prevention toolbox. A gluten- and dairy-free diet may also help.

Gluten, the protein found in wheat, has been found to play a role in many cases of schizophrenia.

Quite a bit of research has found a higher rate of a sensitivity to gluten among schizophrenics than in the general population. Casein, the protein in dairy, has also been linked with schizophrenia.

In fact, some research has shown symptoms in early-onset schizophrenia improved on a gluten- and dairy-free diet. Adding gluten back to the diets of patients who improved significantly worsened symptoms.

One interesting study from the 1960s even shows that hospital admissions for schizophrenia declined across Europe and the United States after the rationing of wheat during World War II.

Schizophrenia is a complicated disease with no easy answers. However, preventive measures before it’s too late may produce significant results in some people.

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