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Archive for March, 2016

You’d have to live under a rock to not recognize the popularity of gluten-free diets by now. But if you think going gluten-free is just another fad, think again. Although it may be a passing fad for some, a gluten-free diet is powerful medicine for most.

The benefits, which attain almost miraculous heights for some people, vary depending on the person.

A gluten sensitivity is not a one-size-fits-all disorder with requisite symptoms. Contrary to popular belief, it does not simply cause digestive complaints (although it does cause severe digestive distress for many).

Neurological symptoms common with gluten

gluten free not a fad

In fact, one of the most common consequences of a gluten intolerance are symptoms that express themselves neurologically, and even these can vary.

The part of the brain most commonly affected by a gluten intolerance is the cerebellum, the area at the back of the brain that controls motor movements and balance. This can cause issues with balance, vertigo, nausea, car sickness and sea sickness, and getting dizzy or nauseous looking at fast-moving images or objects.

Also commonly affected are the protective coating of nerves called myelin. As damage to myelin progresses one can develop multiple-sclerosis type symptoms such as numbness, tingling or muscle weakness.

Other neurological symptoms associated with gluten include obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), attention deficit disorder (ADD), depression, anxiety, memory loss, brain fog, autism symptoms, and even more serious psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia.

How a person with a neurological response to gluten reacts depends on that person’s genetic makeup.

Other common symptoms caused by gluten

For others the reactions to gluten manifest elsewhere in the body. Some common symptoms include skin disorders (i.e., eczema, psoriasis, rosacea, dermatitis herpetiformis), joint pain, digestive problems, and poor thyroid function (Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism).

Why does gluten cause such diverse symptoms?

The symptoms of a gluten intolerance vary from person to person because of its effects on the immune system and brain.

Gluten is inflammatory and damaging to the gut in many people, causing leaky gut. The gut is the seat of the immune system, and also communicates intimately with the brain.

When the gut is constantly inflamed and becomes leaky (even though one might not have digestive symptoms), this increases overall inflammation in the body and the brain.

Increased inflammation not only gives rise to myriad disorders on its own, it also increases the risk of developing an autoimmune disorder. This is a disorder in which an imbalanced immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys tissue in the body, such as the brain, the thyroid, the pancreas, joint cartilage, and more.

Gluten and autoimmune disease

When it comes to autoimmune disease, no tissue in the body or brain is safe from an overzealous immune system deranged by constant inflammation. The rates of autoimmune diseases have exploded in recent years, and most are yet undiagnosed — meaning years of chronic and “mysterious” symptoms.

If you suffer from troubling and chronic symptoms, it is definitely worth considering an intolerance to gluten and other common trigger foods, such as dairy, eggs, soy, and different grains. Although giving up a favorite food is rarely easy, getting back your health is always wonderful.

Ask my office for more advice on how to manage a chronic health disorder and how to adjust your diet to support your health.

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10 things that cause leaky gut copy

If you’ve been googling how to manage your chronic health condition, chances are you’re heard of leaky gut. Leaky gut is what it sounds like — the lining of the intestines have become “leaky,” allowing undigested foods, bacteria, and other undesirables into the sterile bloodstream.

This causes system-wide inflammation that becomes chronic health issues: autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, chronic pain, brain fog, food allergies and sensitivities, depression, eczema, asthma, and myriad other complaints.

It makes sense, then, that people want to heal leaky gut.

However, it’s best to know why you have leaky gut first. That way you’re not chasing down the wrong remedies.

Ten causes of leaky gut

Although we understand the role of leaky gut in chronic health disorders, the underlying causes of leaky gut itself can be harder to pin down.

Here are the causes we know about:

1. Many inflammatory foods damage the intestinal walls, leading to leaky gut. Gluten in particular is associated with leaky gut. Dairy, processed foods, excess sugar, and fast foods are other culprits.

2. Excess alcohol is another common cause of leaky gut.

3. Some medications cause leaky gut, including corticosteroids, antibiotics, antacids, and some medications for arthritis  It’s important to note some drugs have inflammatory fillers such as gluten.

4. Certain infections, such H. pylori overgrowth (the bacteria that causes ulcers) or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) can cause leaky gut. Yeast, parasites, and viruses are other possibilities.

5. Chronic stress raises stress hormones, which damages the gut lining over time.

6. Hormone imbalances can cause leaky gut as the intestines depend on proper hormone levels for good function. Imbalances in estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, thyroid hormones, and stress hormones all contribute to leaky gut.

7. Autoimmune conditions can lead to leaky gut. We often think in terms of leaky gut causing autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, rheumatoid arthritis, or psoriasis. However, sometimes it’s the other way around. The constant inflammation of autoimmune disease can make the gut leaky. Or autoimmunity in the digestive tract can sabotage gut health. In these cases, managing autoimmunity is a strategy to improve leaky gut.

8. Food processing changes the natural structure of foods in a way that makes them inflammatory to the gut. Examples include deamidating wheat to make it water soluble and the high-heat processing (glycation) of sugars. Additives such as gums (xanthan gum, carrageenan, etc.), food colorings, and artificial flavors are inflammatory for some people, too.

9. Our environment surrounds us with toxins, some of which have been shown to degrade the gut lining. Regularly taking glutathione, the body’s primary antioxidant, helps protect the body from toxins.

10. Sufficient vitamin D is vital to protecting the gut lining and a vitamin D deficiency can make the intestinal lining more vulnerable to damage.

These are some of the factors known to contribute to leaky gut. By understanding the cause of your leaky gut, you will have more success restoring health to your gut and managing your chronic health or autoimmune condition.

For more information on how to support leaky gut and autoimmune management, contact my office.

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still have thyroid symptoms despite normal labs copy

Your doctor says your hypothyroid condition has been treated, but do you still suffer from symptoms of low thyroid function?

  • Fatigue
  • Weight gain
  • Hair loss
  • Constipation
  • Depression
  • Memory loss
  • Cold hands and feet

If so, you may suffer from Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune disease that attacks and destroys the thyroid bland.

Hypothyroidism is usually caused by Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune disease

Hypothyroidism means your thyroid gland is under functioning and not producing enough thyroid hormone. This is bad news because every cell in the body depends on thyroid hormones. Including brain cells. This explains why people with untreated or poorly managed hypothyroidism are at higher risk for rapid brain decline.

Hypothyroidism affects millions of Americans, many of them whom continue to suffer from worsening health despite treatment. What’s more, 90 percent of hypothyroid cases are caused by autoimmune Hashimoto’s. As Hashimoto’s gradually destroys the thyroid gland, this lowers thyroid function, causing myriad symptoms.

Lab tests can identify Hashimoto’s by testing for TPO and TGB antibodies. If positive, these markers indicate an autoimmune disease is attacking the thyroid gland. It’s vital to dampen the inflammatory autoimmune attacks against the thyroid and balance the immune system.

However, thyroid hormone medication may still be necessary if damage is already extensive.

How to manage Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism

Managing Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism is rarely a quick fix. Instead, it involves a multi-faceted approach to diet and lifestyle to reduce inflammation and autoimmune flares against the thyroid. Strategies include:

Adopt a strict gluten-free diet. Numerous studies show a strong link between Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism and gluten  In fact, people with a gluten intolerance are genetically more prone to Hashimoto’s disease. Gluten sensitivity also promotes inflammation and leaky gut, which flares autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.

Adopt an autoimmune diet. For many people, going gluten-free is not enough to manage Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism. You may need to go deeper with an anti-inflammatory diet that eliminates common inflammatory foods, such as dairy, eggs, grains, legumes, and other foods. A whole-foods, Paleo-based diet that emphasizes plenty of produce and eliminates processed foods is important to manage Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.

Repairing a leaky gut. Leaky gut, or intestinal permeability, typically plays a primary role in Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism and other autoimmune diseases. In leaky gut the lining of the small intestine becomes inflamed, damaged, and porous, allowing undigested foods, bacteria, fungus, and other foreign invaders into the sterile environment of the bloodstream where they trigger inflammation and autoimmunity.

Stabilize blood sugar. Stabilizing blood sugar is vital to managing Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism. A diet high in sugars and refined carbohydrates (such as breads, pastas, pastries, and desserts) spikes inflammation, skews hormones, and flares autoimmunity. Energy crashes, fatigue after meals, excess belly fat, hormonal imbalances, mood swings, and sleep issues are all signs you may have low blood sugar or high blood sugar (insulin resistance).

These are just a few of the basics of autoimmune management for Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism. Ask my office for more information.

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5 things that cause brain fog copy

Do you suffer from brain fog? That muggy feeling your brain is operating in a puddle of mud and life is moving in slow motion. People think brain fog is funny or normal, but it’s not. It’s a red flag your brain is inflamed, functioning poorly, and likely degenerating too quickly.

What causes brain fog and why should you care? Consider these reasons:

1. Brain cells not communicating well with each other

Brain fog happens when brain cells, or neurons, don’t communicate well with each other. This causes brain function to slow down and diminish, giving you symptoms of brain fog.

Many factors cause neurons to fire sluggishly or not all with each other, which I’ll talk about more in this article.

When you have brain fog, you have to ask yourself, “Why are my neurons not able to fire effectively?”

2. Unstable blood sugar and brain fog

Blood sugar that swings too low or too high can cause brain fog. Symptoms of low blood sugar include irritability or lightheadedness between meals, cravings for sweets, waking up at 3 or 4 a.m., dependence on coffee or sugar for energy, becoming upset easily, and forgetfulness.

Symptoms of high blood sugar (insulin resistance) include fatigue after meals, constant hunger, cravings for sweets not relieved by eating them, constant thirst, frequent urination, difficulty falling asleep, and a big belly.

Blood sugar that is too low or too high means neurons are not receiving the energy they need to function, which often causes brain fog.

Unstable blood sugar is commonly caused by eating too many processed carbohydrates and sugary items, skipping meals, or chronic overeating.

Quite often relieving symptoms of brain fog can be as easy as stabilizing your blood sugar. Eat a whole foods diet based around vegetables, proteins, and healthy fats. Avoid sweets and processed foods, and keep carbohydrate consumption to a level that prevents symptoms of low or high blood sugar.

3. An unhealthy gut environment

Communication between the gut and the brain is ongoing and intimate. Bad gut health affects the brain and can cause symptoms of brain fog.

For instance, some people develop brain fog after eating certain foods, such as gluten, that trigger inflammation in the gut. If you have digestive problems, your gut may be playing a role in your brain fog.

Leaky gut is a condition in which the lining of the intestine becomes overly porous, allows undigested food particles, yeast, bacteria, and other harmful compounds to enter the bloodstream.

This triggers chronic inflammation in the gut, body, and brain, along with other health problems, such as food intolerances, pain, autoimmune disorders, skin issues, joint problems, depression, and, of course, brain fog.

4. Poor circulation and brain fog

Are your fingers, toes, and nose are cold to the touch? This may mean your brain is not receiving enough oxygen due to poor circulation. Other symptoms of poor circulation include weak nails, fungal nail infections, low brain endurance, and cramping in the hands and feet.

Low circulation deprives the brain of oxygen and nutrients, thus causing brain fog. Factors that cause low circulation include anemia, chronic stress, hypothyroidism, low blood pressure, smoking, and blood sugar imbalances.

5. Autoimmune disease and brain fog

Autoimmunity is a disorder in which the immune system attacks and destroys body tissue. Examples include Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, Type 1 diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis.

This chronic inflammation goes on to inflame the brain, which hampers function and can cause brain fog. Brain fog is a common complaint among autoimmune sufferers.

Also, autoimmune attacks in the brain are more common than people realize. This, too, is linked with brain fog.

Don’t assume your brain fog is something to shrug off. It’s best to discover the underlying causes of brain fog and address them. This will not only give you better brain function but also help prevent dementia later in life. Ask my office for more information.

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Concussions triple suicide risk

concussions increase suicide risk copy

While concussions have gained attention for their link to dementia, did you know they also increase the risk for suicide? Just one concussion can triple the long-term risk of suicide in otherwise healthy people.

Although brain-injured football players have been receiving all the attention lately, the typical concussion patient is a middle-aged adult. Most concussions happen during traffic accidents, falls at home, and in other everyday situations.

study looked at a quarter-million subjects who had been diagnosed with a mild concussion during the last 20 years. Researchers found suicide occurred at three times the norm in this population. They also found that on average suicide occurred nearly six years after the concussion. Also, the risk increased with additional concussions.

Why does a concussion increase suicide risk? 

In functional medicine we know a concussion causes brain inflammation, from which the patient may never fully recover. Unlike the body’s immune system, the brain’s immune system does not shut off once triggered. As a result, unchecked brain inflammation damages and destroys healthy brain cells.

Brain inflammation is tied to various brain-based disorders, including depression and mental illness. In fact, a 2014 study concluded that sustaining a head injury leads to a greater risk of mental illness later in life.

When patients fail to employ strategies to dampen brain inflammation, post-concussive inflammation continues its crawl through the brain like a slow-burning fire, consuming neurons in its path. This can go on for years after the concussion, impacting mood, memory, and general function.

What’s more, thanks to intimate communication between the brain and the gut, a concussion often impacts gut health and function. Many people report the onset of digestive issues after a concussion.

This is bad news because research shows an inflamed and unhealthy gut is directly linked to depression, giving post-concussive patients a double whammy of depression-inducing inflammation that travels back and forth between the gut and the brain.

Functional medicine strategies for concussions 

For every person who dies from suicide, many others think about it or suffer from chronic depression. 

This study shows a clear need for better long-term care of patients with concussion.

Fortunately, functional medicine offers many strategies to reduce brain inflammation and lower the risk of mood disorders such as depression after a concussion:

  • Stabilizing blood sugar
  • Removing inflammatory triggers from the diet (such as gluten) or the environment (such as synthetic scents or toxic cleaning products)
  • Improving gut health and gut bacteria diversity
  • Identifying and addressing autoimmune diseases, situations where the body’s immune system attacks body tissue, creating chronic inflammation. Autoimmune reactions in the brain are more common than people realize.
  • Addressing chronic infections.
  • Improving blood flow and oxygenation flow in the brain.
  • Stabilizing hormones.
  • Using nutritional compounds to reduce inflammation in the brain.

These are among the foundations of functional medicine that can make the difference between a post-concussive downward spiral or be the springboard to a more brain-healthy way of living. 

If life hasn’t been the same since your concussion, ask my office how functional medicine strategies can help.

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