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Archive for October, 2016

wheat reactivity copy

Turns out gluten isn’t the only culprit when it comes to an immune reaction to wheat.

New research suggests non-gluten proteins are also a source of those immune reactions to wheat.

The new suspects are a family of proteins called amylase-trypsin inhibitors, or ATIs  While they make up only four percent of the proteins in wheat, ATIs can trigger powerful immune reactions that can spread from the gut to other tissues in the body, such as the lymph nodes, kidneys, spleen, and even the brain.

ATIs are also shown to inflame pre-existing chronic conditions, including multiple sclerosis, asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, non-alcohol fatty liver disease, lupus, and inflammatory bowel disease.

And, ultimately, ATIs contribute to the development of gluten sensitivity.

At this time, it’s not entirely clear how much of a role ATI proteins play compared to gluten. We know from previous research that people with symptoms of gluten sensitivity have been shown to react to several different types of gluten, as well as lectins and agglutinin.

The evolution of understanding wheat sensitivity

It used to be celiac disease was the only recognized immune reaction to wheat. Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition that affects a small percent of the population and requires medically invasive diagnostic criteria.

Only more recently has mainstream medicine begun to accept non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Newer research, the sheer volume of gluten-sensitive patients, and the explosion of the gluten-free market has made gluten sensitivity impossible to deny.

For decades, patients who tested negative for celiac disease or even gluten sensitivity (standard testing is severely limited) have been told “It’s all in your head.” Today, the scientific legitimacy of an immune reaction to wheat is growing.

Likewise, a growing number of doctors are more willing to offer a diagnosis of gluten sensitivity and effective treatment strategies.

Gluten reactions occur in brain and elsewhere

Symptoms of gluten sensitivity can include digestive issues such as abdominal pain and symptoms similar to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). However, common symptoms not related to the gut include headaches, joint pain, eczema, brain fog, and a number of dysfunctions related to the brain and nervous system.

Research on wheat immune sensitivity continues

Research continues and in the future, it may be your doctor recommends an “ATI-free” diet instead of a gluten-free diet.

Either way, if you react to gluten, avoiding it is the best choice for your long-term health.

If you have concerns about reactions to gluten, contact my office. Functional medicine has effective protocols to assess, diagnose, and manage gluten sensitivity.

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SIBO copy

Do you have gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, IBS…or maybe all of the above? Then you may have SIBO, or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth.

Doctors have long blamed stubborn gut problems on stress. For the person whose life is dictated by the cruel whims of their digestive system, this can feel like shame and blame. Thanks to new research, these days we know many things cause gut problems. They include food sensitivities (especially to gluten and dairy), leaky gut, gut inflammation, autoimmunity, poor brain function, and SIBO.

SIBO results from too much bacteria that belong in the large intestine migrating into the small intestine. When these bacteria consume sugars and carbohydrates, they produce large amounts of gas that causes not only bloating, belching, and flatulence, but also constipation or diarrhea (depending on the type of gas produced).

These bacteria also inflame and damage the lining of the intestinal tract, causing leaky gut. Leaky gut allows undigested foods, bacteria, yeast, and other antigens into the bloodstream, triggering inflammation, autoimmunity, and chronic disease.

Many different lab tests, stringent dietary strategies (managing SIBO often requires a diet that restricts most everything but meats and a limited variety vegetables), and treatment protocols exist to treat SIBO, and sometimes it’s a matter of trial and error to land on an approach that works.

But if you don’t want a relapse, it’s important to ask why you have SIBO in the first place.

The causes include:

  • Food poisoning
  • Poor diet and excess sugar
  • Low stomach acid
  • Repeated antibiotic use
  • Chronic stress
  • Problems with brain function or health

Brain function is one of the most overlooked and unaddressed causes of SIBO. The digestive system maintains close communication with the brain. Poor brain function leads to poor gut function (this explains why people often suffer from gut problems after a head injury). Digestive juices and hormones are not sufficiently released, motility slows so that food sits longer in the intestines, giving rise to bacterial overgrowth, and the valve between the small and large intestine does not stay shut, allowing bacteria from the colon to escape into the small intestine where it does not belong. All of these are examples of how poor brain function leads to SIBO.

This explains how childhood brain development disorders, brain injuries, brain inflammation, brain degeneration, and brain aging all contribute to SIBO.

The elderly are especially vulnerable to malnutrition caused by SIBO, as are the increasing numbers of children born with autism and other brain development disorders. Fortunately, you can improve gut function through simple exercises that help tone the digestive system and prevent relapses of SIBO.

Managing SIBO does not have a one-size-fits-all solution, and there are various ways to approach it that include both nutraceutical and/or pharmaceutical approaches. Diet is always an important strategy. For more information, contact my office.

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acid vs alkaline

One of the many downsides to a modern junk food diet low in vegetables is that it makes your body too acidic. The human body must maintain a healthy pH for optimal cellular function. When it’s too acidic, diseases take root.

A body that is overly acidic sets the stage for obesity, diabetes, heart disease, chronic pain, inflammation, autoimmune disease, and other chronic health problems.

Fortunately, you can sway your body toward a more healthy and alkaline pH through your diet.

Symptoms of being too acidic

Many people are too acidic but are not aware of it. Below are common symptoms of over acidity:

  • Swelling and bloating
  • Frequent urination
  • Poor brain function
  • Brain fog
  • Salt cravings
  • Muscle cramps
  • Muscle twitches
  • Constipation
  • Reduced endurance for exercise
  • Difficulty holding breath
  • Rapid, shallow breathing
  • Poor sleep

Testing how acid or alkaline you are

People use several different methods to identify pH levels, but not all are reliable. The most well-known test is a salivary pH test, however this method does not have much support in scientific studies.

Testing blood pH is also not accurate because it only fluctuates in events such as poisoning, kidney disease, or lung disease. However, looking at functional medicine blood ranges of CO2 and anion gap can help identify a pattern of over acidity.

Urine testing has shown to accurately reflect how acidic or alkaline you are. It can also help you assess whether dietary changes, such as eating more leafy green veggies and less sugar, are helping you become more alkaline.

Ideal urinary pH is between 7.2–7.8. Please note, however, that infections, bacterial overgrowth, dehydration, incontinence, and other issues can affect your results.

How do you become more alkaline?

The modern American diet makes it easy to become too acidic. Sugars, processed starches, industrialized oils, and junk foods promote excess acidity.

Excess caffeine, sodas, and alcohol also promote acidity, as does too much meat and not enough colorful vegetables and fruits.

You do not need to become a vegan or vegetarian to maintain good alkalinity, however your diet should be based primarily on leafy green and colorful vegetables and low-glycemic fruits.

An alkaline diet is rich in magnesium, potassium, calcium, and other minerals that help maintain a healthy pH.

An added bonus: A plant-rich diet also feeds the right kind of bacteria in your gut so that you are less prone to food sensitivities, enjoy better brain function, and better immune function.

Avoid an alkaline stomach

The stomach needs to stay strongly acidic in order to digest proteins and fight pathogens. Many people suffer from insufficient stomach acidity, which paradoxically causes symptoms of acid reflux. Taking supplemental hydrochloric acid (as long as you don’t have ulcers) can actually help promote a healthy pH.

Health conditions that promote being too acidic

While being overly acidic can promote poor health, certain health conditions can likewise promote acidity. These include anemia, asthma, low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), or high blood sugar (insulin resistance or diabetes).

Acidity that is too severe becomes life threatening. Diabetes, kidney disease, and lung disease acidify the body to a severe degree and require medical attention.

Contact my office for ideas on how diet and nutritional therapy can help improve alkalinity and health.

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BPA may trigger autoimmune damage to nerves

BPA linked to MS copy

If you handle store receipts or use plastics (who doesn’t?), brace yourself for some disturbing new findings about BPA (bisphenol-A), the toxin in plastics and store receipts.

A new study shows BPA is linked with an autoimmune reaction that destroys the lining of nerves. Autoimmune nerve sheath degeneration is connected to autism spectrum disorders, multiple sclerosis (MS), neuropathy, and neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s disease.

Previous research has shown blood levels of BPA spike after handling store receipts for just five seconds, and that the toxin long lingers in the body.

BPA and neurological autoimmunity

A 2016 study found a significant link between an immune reaction to BPA and an autoimmune attack against nerve sheaths.

The important part about this study is that it’s based on immune sensitivity to BPA, not the amount of BPA in the blood.

A person can react to BPA the way people react to gluten, dairy, or other foods, developing inflammatory symptoms.

This means person may have low levels of BPA in their blood yet still have an immune reaction to it that can trigger autoimmunity. Conversely, a person may have high blood levels of BPA but no immune reaction and thus a lower risk of it triggering autoimmunity (although BPA is associated with other health disorders, too.)

Animal studies also show a high degree of correlation between BPA and autoimmunity.

BPA sensitivity in mothers raises autism risk in children

Autoimmunity to nerve sheaths is commonly associated with autism spectrum disorders. In fact, some research has found autoimmunity to nerve sheaths in almost 80 percent of subjects with autism compared to a control group.

Other studies show subjects with autism have significantly higher levels of BPA in their blood than controls.

Most disturbing are the findings that immune reactions to BPA in mothers can be passed on to offspring, thus considerably raising the risk of autism in their children.

Receipts major source of BPA contamination

BPA is ubiquitous in our environment. The toxin is found in large amounts on thermal receipts used by stores, restaurants, gas stations, airlines, ATM machines, and so on. Holding one of these receipts for as little as five seconds is enough to absorb it into your bloodstream.

BPA in plastics and other products

BPA is found in many other common products as well, such as plastic food and beverage containers, toys, tin can linings, and medical products.

BPA is leached from products through heat or exposure to acidic foods or beverages.

BPA also harms hormone health

BPA’s estrogen-like qualities have been shown to cause reproductive defects, cancer, and immune problems in animal studies. In the developing fetus, BPA can cause chromosomal errors, miscarriage, and genetic damage.

BPA is also linked to decreased sperm quality, early puberty, ovarian and reproductive dysfunction, cancer, heart disease, thyroid problems  insulin resistance, and obesity.

BPA-free is no guarantee

BPA-free products are available but many unfortunately still have synthetic estrogens and pose a health risk.

How to protect your body from BPA exposure

In addition to reducing exposure to BPA as much as possible, functional medicine strategies can help protect you from the negative effects of BPA.

The goal is to keep the immune system balanced and not prone to over reacting, which can trigger chemical sensitivities and autoimmunity. Ways to do this include an anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle, shoring up your glutathione reserves to protect your cells, and making use of natural compounds to support neurological and immune health. For more information, contact my office.

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