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Archive for July, 2016

star trek hashimoto s copy

Star Trek’s Zoe Saldano recently revealed she has Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, a thyroid disease affecting millions of women that causes weight gain, fatigue, depression, cold hands and feet, brain fog, constipation, and many other symptoms.

Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune thyroid disease. Autoimmunity is a condition in which the immune system attacks and destroys body tissue, in this case the thyroid gland. It is one of the most common autoimmune diseases, affecting an estimated more than 23 million people.

The thyroid gland governs metabolism in the body and produces thyroid hormones, which are needed by every cell in the body, including brain cells.

This is why a thyroid disease such as Hashimoto’s causes a person to gradually lose function, feel run down, lose brain function, and find it impossible to lose weight (although not in Saldano’s case.)

Saldano’s unusual explanation for Hashimoto’s

When asked about her Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism diagnosis, Saldano said, “Your body doesn’t have the energy it needs to filter toxins, causing it to believe that it has an infection, so it’s always inflamed.”

This is an unusual and narrow explanation for autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s.

Research shows multiple factors play into the development of an autoimmune disease, including:

  • Genetic susceptibility (Saldano’s family members have Hashimoto’s)
  • Imbalanced immunity
  • Inflammation from food sensitivities
  • Environmental toxins
  • Leaky gut
  • Chronic stress
  • Pregnancy
  • Gender (autoimmunity primarily affects women)
  • Hormone imbalances
  • Blood sugar imbalances
  • Chronic inflammation
  • Viral or bacterial infection

In a nutshell, rarely can we point to one defining trigger of autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism. Typically, a person experiences a number of chronic health issues that go undiagnosed until the overburdened immune system tips into an over zealous attack on the body.

What Saldano is doing right for Hashimoto’s

Although her explanation for Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism may be a bit off base, Saldano otherwise puts forth some good lifestyle examples.

For starters, she follows a gluten-free and dairy-free diet. Studies link these foods with autoimmunity, including Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.

She also talks about the stress reducing techniques of not being too hard on herself and surrounding herself with the support of loved ones.

How to find out if you have Hashimoto’s

Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism often goes undiagnosed in the conventional health care model. This is because doctors often only test for TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) to prescribe medication.

About 95 percent of hypothyroid cases are due to Hashimoto’s. It’s important to check for TPO and TGB antibodies  which tell you if you have autoimmunity. Managing Hashimoto’s goes far beyond using thyroid medication as you must work to balance and regulate the immune system so it stops attacking the body.

For more information on identifying and managing Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, contact my office.

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why stress is so bad for you copy

Most cases of chronic disease can be linked to stress, even if that stress is more physical than psychological. About two-thirds of doctor’s visits are for stress-related complaints.

How does stress causes disease? The body responds to stress by making adrenal hormones (such as epinephrine, norepinephrine, and cortisol  that cause the “fight or flight” response. This response raises blood pressure, increases the heart rate, and sends blood to the limbs in preparation for action. The sweaty palms, quickened breathing, and jitters before a job interview, first date, or big test? That’s from stress hormones.

A healthy body quickly returns to normal after a stressful situation. The problem with life today is stress is ongoing and many people never return to “normal.” Chronic financial worries, a stressful job, or a bad relationship keep us locked in fight-or-flight.

Stress doesn’t have to be only related to lifestyle. In fact, stressors to the body are more insidious and can be more damaging. These include a diet high in sugar and starchy foods, not eating enough or eating too much, gut problems, food intolerances, high or low blood sugar, diabetes, anemia, autoimmune disease, chronic pain, and environmental toxins.

How stress damages your body

Unrelenting stress causes continual production of cortisol  Cortisol is known as the aging hormone because it breaks us down more quickly. Chronic high cortisol is linked to:

  • depression
  • insomnia
  • increased belly fat
  • diabetes
  • insulin resistance
  • high blood pressure
  • low energy
  • suppressed immunity
  • reduced libido
  • bone loss
  • heart problems

Symptoms of chronic stress

You might think this is a no-brainer — a symptom of chronic stress is feeling stressed out.

This is true in many, but not all cases. Other lesser-known symptoms that indicate stress is robbing you of health include: constant fatigue, energy crashes, difficulty recovering from stressful events, headaches, trouble falling and staying asleep, trouble waking up, emotional mood swings, sugar and caffeine cravings, irritability, lightheadedness between meals, eating to relieve fatigue, dizziness upon standing, and gastric ulcers.

How to buffer damages of stress

The most important first step in addressing stress to better manage chronic disease is obvious: remove the stressors. This can mean a diet and lifestyle overhaul.

It also means adding in activities that lower stress and release chemicals and hormones that lower inflammation and improve overall health of the body and brain.

These include plenty of sleep, meditation, daily physical activity, hobbies, socializing, laughter, a healthy whole foods diet, avoiding junk foods, and more.

Herbal adaptogens help the body cope with stress

Daily stress is a way of life for the average American. Just the toxic chemicals we encounter in our environment are considerably stressful. Urban life, traffic, raising children, and existing illnesses are examples of potent stressors you can’t simply jettison.

Adaptogens are herbs that help tame inflammation, sustain energy, boost brain function, and regulate sleep patterns. They include panax ginseng, Siberian ginseng (eleuthero), astragalus, rhodiola, ashwagandha, licorice root, holy basil (tulsi) and schizandra.

Phosphatidylserine is a nutritional compound that helps normalize cortisol levels and protect the brain from the damages of stress.

For more information on how to identify and manage adrenal stress, contact our office.

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PCOS causes and consequences copy

PCOS, or polycystic ovarian syndrome, is the most common female hormonal imbalance today. PCOS has far reaching consequences, including an increased risk of autism in offspring. The good news it may be reversible through diet and lifestyle changes.

PCOS is a condition in which an imbalance in estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone causes cysts to grow on the ovaries. While this can be painful, the consequences of PCOS can be severe, including a 60 percent increased risk in giving birth to a baby who will develop an autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

The symptoms of PCOS

Consider the symptoms of PCOS, below, which reflect how pervasive this disorder is on the body as a whole.

Here are some symptoms:

  • Infertility
  • Irregular menstrual periods
  • Ovarian cysts
  • Acne, oily skin, or dandruff
  • Obesity and excess weight, usually concentrated around the abdomen
  • Male pattern baldness
  • Dark, thick patches of skin on the neck, arms, breasts, or thighs
  • Skin tags
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Sleep apnea

PCOS causes male attributes

The hormonal imbalances associated with PCOS cause higher levels of the male hormone testosterone. This in turn leads to the development of such male attributes as male pattern balding, facial hair growth, deepening voice, and perhaps a more aggressive or indifferent personality.

What causes PCOS?

It’s no accident that symptoms of PCOS are similar to those of high blood sugar and diabetes. Although genetic predisposition plays a role in PCOS, the diet and lifestyle factors that cause insulin resistance (high blood sugar) and type 2 diabetes also cause PCOS: a diet high in sugars and processed carbohydrates, lack of plant fiber, overeating, and lack of exercise.

The upside to this is that switching to a whole foods diet that is free of sugar, lower in processed carbs, and high in vegetables and adding in daily physical activity can help reverse not only high blood sugar but also PCOS. For younger women this paves the path to a smoother transition through perimenopause and menopause, a period in life that can be made miserable by blood sugar imbalances.

The vicious cycle between PCOS and blood sugar

Standard lab markers that can identify PCOS include a fasting blood sugar of over 100 and elevated triglycerides and cholesterol, especially if triglycerides are higher than cholesterol. Not surprisingly, these are also markers found with insulin resistance, or pre-diabetes.

Insulin resistance is a condition in which the body’s cells become less sensitive to insulin due to a high-sugar, high-carbohydrate diet, over eating, and sedentary lifestyle.

This leads to high testosterone and PCOS in women (and elevated estrogen in men).

Unfortunately, elevated testosterone causes cells to become more resistant to insulin, thus creating more testosterone in a vicious cycle.

If you would like advice on managing PCOS naturally, ask my office for advice on functional medicine strategies to balance your blood sugar and hormones.

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do you need supplements copy

It’s a common argument: “You don’t need to take supplements if you eat a good diet.” Although a good diet is foundational to good health, supplements play an instrumental role in various health conditions.

People who don’t understand the value of supplements think they exist only to profit off of “suckers for snake oil.” To be sure, those products exist.

Others view them as dangerous and unregulated compounds that should be taken off the market. Those products exist as well.

The United States is unique compared to the rest of the west in terms of of the freedom of our supplement market. Supplement availability in Europe and Canada is severely limited compared to the United States.

With this comes pros and cons.

How to be a smart supplement shopper

The key to understanding supplements is to understand the underlying causes of your condition.

For instance, ten different people can each have a different cause for leaky gut, insomnia, pain, depression, and so on. Buying a “depression supplement,” or an “insomnia supplement,” can result in failure and frustration.

Also, quality matters. Supplements from your local chain supermarket are not going to meet the same standards of quality, care, specificity, and educational support of supplements sold through a practitioner.

The good news about our supplement market is we have access to high quality supplements and education.

Why you may need supplements

Here are some reasons you may need supplements even if you eat a pristine whole foods diet.

Because you are aging. As we age certain functions start to diminish, such as digestion, brain function, recovery time, hormone balance, and more.

Digestive supplements support diminishing hydrochloric acid and pancreatic enzyme support. Brain nutrients help support oxygenation and activity of the brain (although they won’t compensate for poor diet and lifestyle). Various herbs support hormone balance and energy production.

Because we live in a stressful, toxic world. We are dealing with extreme levels of stress and toxic chemicals in our food and environment. This contributes to such conditions as chronic pain, inflammation, autoimmunity, and brain dysfunctions. Many supplements are designed to buffer the effects of the stressful and toxic burdens we deal with daily.

Because many of us grew up eating a crap diet. You may eat a good diet now, but if you grew up on junk food and a sedentary lifestyle, you may have sustained metabolic damage, such as unstable blood sugar, hormonal imbalance, poor stress handling, chronic inflammation, autoimmunity, and more. These don’t always reverse themselves through diet alone.

Supplements geared toward stabilizing blood sugar, supporting stress handling, and taming inflammation can super charge your whole foods diet.

Because our foods are compromised. Even if you eat the perfect diet, studies show our foods aren’t as nutrient dense as they were in the past. You still may benefit from at least a good multi-vitamin and multi-mineral supplement.

“Supplements” have a long history of use

This is a broad overview of ways supplements can help. Most supplements consist of herbs and other natural compounds that have sound scientific support and have been used throughout humanity around the globe. While pharmaceuticals have been a vital boon to medicine, they are also relative newcomers.

Ask my office for advice on how to supplement smartly.

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