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Archive for April, 2016

omega 6 and 3 fats copy

For decades, media experts have promoted a diet high in omega 6 fats — found in corn, soybean, canola, and safflower — to lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. We now know excess omega 6 fatty acids is connected to type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity, psychiatric issues, and cancer.

Omega 3 fats, however, are linked with lowered inflammation, better brain function, and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.

Our grandparents ate a much different ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acids than we do; omega 3-rich wild and grass-fed meats were the norm, and traditional omega 3 fats such as butter and lard were always on hand.

Omega 6 fats promote chronic illness

Introducing processed seed, nut, and bean oils into our diet while reducing grass-fed and wild fats has resulted in Americans becoming deficient in essential omega 3 fats, while having way too many omega 6 fats on board.

In addition, these processed oils are commonly chemical-laden and rancid, carrying toxic free radicals that promote inflammation throughout the body.

Many studies show a connection between inflammation and chronic health issues. It’s common knowledge in the medical world that omega 6 oils encourage inflammation in the body. They also reduce the availability of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats in your tissues, resulting in even more systemic inflammation.

Even more, they reduce conversion of plant-based omega 3 fats into essential, active forms of omega 3s called EPA and DHA—by about 40 percent!

Over consuming omega 6 fats and under consuming omega 3 fats significantly increases the risk of:

  • Heart disease
  • Obesity
  • Pre-diabetes
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Inflammatory bowel syndrome
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Asthma
  • Cancer
  • Autoimmunity

In addition, consuming too many omega 6 acids increases the likelihood of mental illness and suicide, due to the connection between inflammation and mental health issues.

Which fats should I eat?

While we do need some omega 6 fats in our diet, we need a higher ratio of omega 3 fats to keep inflammation in check. It’s easy to get plenty of omega 6 fats in the American diet, so our focus needs to be on getting enough omega 3 fats.

Fats that protect the brain and reduce inflammation include:

  • Extra-virgin, cold-pressed, organic coconut oil—which is anti-inflammatory and may help improve your cholesterol numbers. It also handles medium to medium-high cooking heat.
  • Unrefined, extra-virgin, cold-pressed olive oil.
  • Avocados and avocado oil.
  • Nuts such as walnuts, almonds, pecans, macadamia; avoid peanuts.
  • Grass-fed meats and butter, which have about 7 times the omega 3 fats that conventionally-raised beef has (which is near zero).
  • Fatty cold-water fish such as sardines, herring, salmon and mackerel, which are all rich in omega 3 fats.

With the epidemic of inflammation-based chronic health issues skyrocketing today, it’s important to reduce your risks for inflammation. Changing the fats you eat is one easy way to boost anti-inflammatory effects. If you have concerns or questions regarding your diet, or your level of inflammation, please contact my office.

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stable blood sugar for stable mood

You’ve probably heard that depression and other mental health issues are based on a lack of brain chemicals such as serotonin and GABA. Conventional treatment is to give medications that trick the brain into thinking it has enough chemicals. But new research shows in many cases mental health issues are related to chronic inflammation, not necessarily a lack of chemicals, and unstable blood sugar is often at the root of inflammation.

How does inflammation cause mood issues?

When the body is chronically inflamed, it sends chemical messengers to the brain, where they activate the brain’s immune cells, called glial cells. Chronic inflammation permanently activates the glial cells, setting off a cascade of destruction:

  • Reduced production of brain chemicals such as serotonin, dopamine and GABA.
  • Brain cells can’t produce vital energy to thrive.
  • Cells degrade and die, releasing toxins into the brain, causing even more damage.
  • The result? Depression, anxiety, and even Alzheimer’s.

How does blood sugar factor in?

The fix for these issues is managing the destructive inflammatory cascade  At the core of systemic inflammation for many people is blood sugar balance. When we eat too many sugars or carbs, the body over-produces insulin, a hormone that helps escort glucose (sugar) into cells for energy. Too much insulin in the blood exhausts the cells, resulting in them becoming resistant to it (insulin resistance). This leads to excess glucose in the bloodstream, which is severely damaging to tissues in the blood vessels and brain. It is also a precursor to diabetes.

How can I keep my blood sugar balanced?

By keeping blood sugar balanced, we can help reduce the inflammatory cascade that creates brain inflammation. Below are dietary and lifestyle habits that help keep blood sugar stable. By practicing them, you may notice positive shifts in your mood, energy level and mental focus:

  • Always eat a protein-strong breakfast within an hour of waking. Include healthy fats, and avoid sweets and fruit before lunch.
  • Eat every 3–4 hours to avoid low blood sugar.
  • Eat protein with every meal and snack; never eat just sweets.
  • When you crave sugar, choose protein or foods with healthy fats such as coconut or olive oil.
  • Eat a small high-protein snack before bed to keep blood sugar stable throughout the night.
  • Don’t use caffeine to boost low energy in that afternoon “crash;” it’s your brain telling you it needs real nutrients, not stimulants. Instead, eat a healthy snack with protein, fat and a few carbs, and hydrate with water.
  • Wake and go to bed at the same time every day. Get plenty of sleep and if you’re tired, let yourself nap. Exercise regularly to keep blood sugar stable. Also, a 5- to 7-minute burst of high intensity exercise helps reduce inflammatory factors in the brain.

In addition to the factors above, certain botanicals are highly effective in helping manage blood sugar and reduce brain inflammation. If you have questions about mood and blood sugar stability, please contact my office.

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nitric oxide for inflammation copy

If you have an autoimmune disease, chronic inflammation, or signs of brain inflammation (such as brain fog), you may have noticed it can be tough to tame the inflammation. This is because the body can get trapped in vicious cycles that feed the inflammation.

Luckily, researchers have pinpointed what perpetuates these cycles and ways to stop them. They include targeting two immune messengers called “nitrous oxide” and “IL-17.”

The immune system triggers inflammation by releasing an immune messenger called IL-17. IL-17 triggers other immune cells to damage body tissue, such as the thyroid gland in the case of autoimmune Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism or joint tissue in rheumatoid arthritis.

IL-17 isn’t all bad—in a healthy immune system it prevents infections. But chronic inflammation or an autoimmune disease create too much IL-17.

Inflammation, IL-17, and “bad” nitric oxide

IL-17 damages body tissue by activating a compound called “inducible nitric oxide.” Nitric oxide is a gas in the body that activates various processes.

Two good forms of nitric oxide tame inflammation: endothelial and neuronal nitric oxide.

However, IL-17 triggers the pro-inflammatory inducible nitric oxide, which damages body tissue.

Targeting nitric oxide to tame inflammation

When it comes to taming chronic inflammation, we want to dampen IL-17 and inducible nitric oxide.

So why not just take the nitric oxide booster arginine? Although arginine may boost the anti-inflammatory endothelial nitric oxide, it also may increase the inflammatory inducible nitric oxide.

It’s safer, therefore, to go with nutritional compounds that boost the anti-inflammatory endothelial nitric oxide for maximum inflammation fighting effects:

  • Adenosine
  • Huperzine A
  • Vinpocetine
  • Alpha GPC
  • Xanthinol niacinate
  • L-acetyl carnitine

Endothelial nitric oxide aids in tissue repair and regeneration, enhances blood flow, dissolves plaques, and dilates blood vessels. Exercise is another excellent way to boost endothelial nitric oxide.

These compounds may also boost the activity of neuronal nitric oxide, which enhances the health of the brain and nervous system.

Other anti-inflammatory tools

Others inflammation busters include vitamin D3, omega 3 fatty acids, and glutathione  Glutathione is vital to dampening inflammation, repairing damaged tissues, maintaining a healthy gut (which houses most of the immune system), and buffering the body from the many stressors we face these days.

Other helpful tools are high doses of emulsified resveratrol and curcumin. Taken together, these two compounds dampen IL-17 and quench inflammation.

Of course, eliminating pro-inflammatory foods with an autoimmune diet (especially gluten), getting enough sleep, not overstressing yourself are important, too. Ask my office for advice.

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teen girls cramps pms copy

It’s an all-too-common scenario for teen girls today: That time of the month comes around they are home from school white-knuckling it through agonizing menstrual cramps, having only just endured a week of equally debilitating PMS depression and anxiety.

It’s just your standard entry into womanhood, right? Not!

Although hormonal irregularity is normal in the early years, excessive pain and anguish is not. It signals underlying causes of hormonal imbalance that may be alleviated through diet and lifestyle changes.

Of course one must also consider the possibility of serious medical disorders  such as uterine fibroids, pelvic inflammatory disease, or, most commonly, endometriosis, disorders that tend to be overlooked in young girls in early menses.

Going beyond NSAIDS and the pill for teen cramps

The conventional approach to severe cramps and PMS is the use of over-the-counter pain medication and low-dose oral contraceptives.

Oral contraceptives are synthetic hormones that interfere with the body’s natural hormonal feedback loops and disrupt the balance of intestinal flora, not to mention raising the risk of serious medical complications such as migraines, stroke, and even cancer.

Although birth control pills can bring relief, it’s better to ask why hormones are imbalanced in the first place. Birth control pills merely resolve the symptoms but not the cause of teenage menstrual cramps and PMS.

Underlying causes of severe teen cramps and PMS

The female hormonal system is intricate, complex, and easily toppled by many modern habits we consider normal. Add standard teenage predilections for excess and indulgence, and you’ve got a recipe for monthly sick days home from school.

Here are some common factors we see when looking at teenage menstrual cramps and PMS with a functional medicine perspective:

Unstable blood sugar skewing hormones. This is very often an underlying factor of hormonal imbalance in women of all ages, but particularly in teens. Skipped meals, diets high in sugar, caffeine, processed carbohydrates, junk foods, and other staples of teen diets can cause the delicate balance between estrogen and progesterone to spiral out of control

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) frequently occurs when blood sugar is chronically out of balance, and brings with it the requisite symptoms of severe cramping and PMS. Other PCOS symptoms include depression, acne, irregular periods, and ovarian cysts (with pain).

A diet that eliminates sugar, minimizes caffeine, regulates carbohydrate consumption, and focuses on plenty of produce and healthy proteins and fats can help bring blood sugar, PCOS, and the accompanying cramps and PMS under control. Of course, this won’t be easy for the average teen girl, but sometimes the pain of the problem outweighs the pain of the solution.

Adrenal imbalances. The adrenal glands are two walnut-sized glands that sit atop each kidney and produce adrenal hormones. Teen habits of missing sleep, pushing themselves too hard, skipping meals, and eating too much sugar all send adrenal function into over drive or under drive.

Adrenal imbalances severely impact hormonal balance and can deplete progesterone, the “calming” hormone that helps prevent PMS.

Too much screen time. Hormonal balance is tightly linked to the light cycles of day and night. The blue light emitted from smart phones, tablets, and TVs are interpreted as sunlight by the brain. When teen girls stare into their phones texting and sharing late into the night, the brain, and then the hormones, become awfully confused as a result. (This also causes insomnia.)

Although restricting exposure to screens is a tall order for today’s teens, you may be able to convince your daughter to wear orange glasses  use an orange film over the screen, or download an app like f.lux or Twilight that filters out blue light after sunset.

These are just a few ways in which modern teen habits can result in severe menstrual cramps and PMS. For more information on how to balance hormones and alleviate cramps and PMS using functional medicine, please contact my office.

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