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830 epigenetics intergeneational

The notion that genes dictate our destiny has been solidly debunked in favor of epigenetics, the study of external or internal mechanisms that switch genes on and off. Exciting new research shows epigenetic memory can span multiple generations.

Studies have linked epigenetics to cognitive dysfunction, autoimmunity, reproductive disorders, cardiovascular disease, and nearly all cancers.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that genetics are responsible for a mere 10 percent of disease, while the remaining 90 percent is due to environmental variables.

Consider these research findings:

In rats, maternal exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals caused infertility in male offspring that was passed down to 90 percent of males in four subsequent generations.

Adaptations to traumatic experiences can also be passed down multiple generations as a way to inform offspring about methods for survival.

For example, mice who learned to fear a scent associated with a negative experience passed the response down two generations, despite the offspring never having experienced the same situation.

A similar transfer of responses has been observed in humans:

Exposure to starvation during pregnancy is associated with poor health outcomes for offspring such as:

  • Lower self-reported mental health and quality of life
  • Major mood disorders
  • Antisocial personality disorders
  • Schizophrenia
  • Decreased intracranial volume
  • Congenital abnormalities of the central nervous system
  • Enhanced incidence of cardiovascular disease
  • Hypertension
  • Obesity

Descendants of people who survived the Holocaust show abnormal stress hormone profiles, in particular low cortisol production. Because of altered stress response, children of Holocaust survivors can be at increased risk for PTSD, depression, and anxiety.

Children of women exposed to intimate partner violence during pregnancy have higher predisposition to mental illness, behavioral problems, and psychological abnormalities due to transgenerational epigenetic programming of genes acting in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA axis), a complex communication pathway between glands involved in our stress response.

Classic genetic theory states that genetic change occurs over a time scale of hundreds to millions of years.

Epigenetics explains how our lifestyle, diet, environment, and experiences affect the expression of our genes over multiple generations, but it does not account for actual changes to our genetic code.

How do genetics and epigenetics relate?

Via epigenetics our genes can be influenced by factors such as:

  • Diet
  • Sleep habits
  • Where you live
  • Who you interact with
  • Exercise habits
  • Smoking
  • Environmental toxins
  • Heavy metals
  • Stress level
  • Social support (or lack of it)
  • Medications
  • Method of birth (cesarean vs. vaginal)
  • And more

We inherit one variant of each gene from each parent. Epigenetics can turn off one of these two gene variants (this is called “imprinting”).

This can result in a negative health outcome if the other, still-active variant is defective or increases our susceptibility to toxins or infections.

The cumulative impacts of our lives on our genes

Related to epigenetics is the exposome, the cumulative measure of all the exposures of an individual in a lifetime — starting at conception — and how they relate to our health. Some consider the exposome the environmental equivalent of the human genome.

The exposome is divided into three overlapping categories:

The environment inside our bodies that affects our cells:

  • Hormones and other cell messengers
  • Oxidative stress (excess highly reactive and damaging molecules)
  • Inflammation
  • Lipid peroxidation (damage to cell membranes and other molecules containing fats)
  • Body shape
  • Gut microbiota
  • Aging
  • Biochemical stress

The external environment to which we expose our bodies:

  • Diet
  • Lifestyle
  • Occupational factors
  • Pathogens and toxins
  • Radiation
  • Medical interventions

The general external environment, including broader sociocultural and ecological factors:

  • Socioeconomic status
  • Geopolitical factors
  • Psychological stress
  • Education status
  • Urban or rural residence
  • Climate

Using epigenetics to positively impact the future

Epigenetic processes are natural and essential to many bodily functions. But if they go wrong they can negatively impacts not only our health but the health of our children. Researchers feel the ability for these changes to be passed down has significant implications regarding evolutionary biology and disease causation.

There are factors we have no control over such as certain environmental toxins, method of birth, and exposure to some level of stress. The good news is we can affect change in many areas that can powerfully affect our epigenetics:

  • Anti-inflammatory diet
  • Daily exercise
  • Stress-relief activities
  • Good sleep habits
  • Who we interact with
  • Antioxidant status
  • Not smoking
  • Social support
  • Addressing food intolerances
  • Mediating autoimmunity

Functional medicine offers many avenues to support healthy epigenetic expression. If you seek ways to help your body express its genes in the best ways possible, contact my office for help.

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829 berberine for high blood sugar

In functional medicine one of the most common causes we see for many health disorders is imbalanced blood sugar. The good news is it is also one of the easiest things to remedy. A powerful tool in this process is a botanical compound called berberine.

An epidemic of blood sugar imbalances

According to the CDC, nearly 84 million American adults — more than one out of three — have prediabetes, or metabolic syndrome, a serious health condition in which blood sugar levels are too high but not high enough to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes.

Ninety percent of people with prediabetes don’t even know they have it. Prediabetes puts you at increased risk of type 2 diabetesheart disease, stroke, obesity, autoimmunity, infertility, dementia, and other disorders.

In fact, high blood sugar is so clearly linked to Alzheimer’s that researchers refer to the disease as “Type 3 diabetes.”

Berberine for high blood sugar and diabetes

A natural plant compound, berberine is found within the stems, bark, roots, and rhizomes (root-like subterranean stems) of numerous plants such as barberry, goldenseal, Oregon grape, tree turmeric, and Chinese goldthread.

Berberine is generally well tolerated and has been used in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years to treat digestive issues and infections. The extract has a deep yellow color and is also commonly used as a dye.

Recently, berberine has become known for its ability to reduce high blood glucose. By working at a cellular level, it helps move glucose (sugar) from your blood into your cells where it’s most needed.

Berberine also promotes healthy blood sugar levels that are already in normal range.

Berberine works by activating AMPK (adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase), an enzyme that that regulates how the body produces and uses energy.

AMPK senses and responds to changes in energy metabolism on both the cellular and whole-body level. It regulates biological activities that normalize lipid, glucose, and energy imbalances.

Metabolic syndrome happens when AMPK-regulated pathways are turned off. This triggers fat storage and burning abnormalities, high blood sugar, diabetes, and energy imbalances.

Depleted energy activates AMPK while excess energy inhibits it. In other words, high blood sugar inhibits AMPK while exercise and calorie restriction activates it.

Berberine’s effect is similar to what you’d see in someone who increased exercise while restricting calorie intake because it activates AMPK, making it a useful tool in the management of type 2 diabetes.

Berberine as effective as metformin

Other known AMPK activators include resveratrol and the diabetes drug metformin. Berberine is so effective at balancing blood sugar that both animal and human studies compare it to metformin in its effectiveness.

Berberine has also been shown to be as effective in treating other conditions that respond positively to metformin, including polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), the reduction of weight gain triggered by antipsychotics, and potentially cancer.

Berberine’s many qualities

While berberine is most commonly considered for metabolic syndrome, inflammation, and cancer, its potentially helpful for a long list of other disorders, including high cholesterol, obesity, small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), leaky gut, lung inflammation, Alzheimer’s disease, and heart disease due to these actions.

Below are additional functions of berberine:

  • Supports healthy blood cholesterol levels.
  • Has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory qualities.
  • Has a moderate weight-loss effect.
  • Exhibits antibacterial qualities.
  • Reduces the effects of tobacco smoke-induced lung inflammation.
  • Inhibits growth and proliferation of cancer cells.
  • Enhances neuro-protective factors.
  • Stimulates the release of nitric oxide, a signaling molecule that relaxes arteries, increases blood flow, and protects against atherosclerosis.
  • Stimulates bile secretion and bilirubin discharge.
  • Reduces dysfunction of the intestinal mucosal barrier.

How much berberine should I take?

For diabetes and blood sugar support, the recommended dose is 500 mg two or three times a day. It’s important to spread your dose out throughout the day because berberine has a short half-life in the body and taking it all at once might rob you of the full benefits. Make sure to take berberine prior to or with a meal.

Studies show that gut bacteria play an important role in transforming berberine into its usable form. Therefore, supporting microbiome diversity and abundance is a smart way to increase its effectiveness. Make sure to eat varied and plentiful produce (go easy on the sugary fruits) and consider supplementing short chain fatty acid supplementation (SCFA) to help your gut bacteria thrive.

How long should I take berberine?

Continual use of berberine can impact cytochrome P450 (CYP) enzymes in the liver which may affect drug-to-drug interactions. Therefore, it’s recommended to use it in a pulsed 8-week cycle with two to four weeks off, then starting again if symptoms have not resolved.

Research has shown that combining berberine with cinnamon may increase its bioavailability. What’s more, cinnamon has also been shown to support insulin sensitivity.

Berberine cautions

While berberine is highly recommended for high blood sugar issues, it does come with some cautions:

  • Berberine is considered UNSAFE for pregnant women and nursing mothers. It may cross the placenta during pregnancy, and some newborns exposed to berberine developed a type of brain damage. It also can be transferred to babies through breast milk.
  • Berberine can interact with a number of medications, increasing the risk of adverse reactions.
  • Taking berberine when you are on medications that reduce blood sugar can push your blood glucose levels too low.
  • Berberine can lower blood pressure, so it should be used with caution by anyone who already has low blood pressure. 

If you are concerned about your blood sugar status and want to discuss non-medical methods for helping regulate your blood sugar, contact my office.

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827 weight training best for seniors

Weight training is not the first exercise choice that comes to mind for seniors. Instead we think of chair yoga, walking, dancing, or aqua aerobics. However, science shows weight training is one of the best types of exercise for aging whether you’ve been doing it your whole life or have never touched a barbell in 60-plus years.

Of the 57 million deaths worldwide in 2008, more than 5 million were caused by lack of physical activity. Roughly 80 percent of adults fail to meet recommended guidelines for physical activity.

For seniors in particular inactivity and a sedentary lifestyle are dangerous, increasing the risk of health conditions such as:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Obesity
  • Cholesterol issues
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Diabetes
  • Cancer
  • Depression

There is a common misperception that the elderly should stay away from strenuous activity. It is important to use safe equipment, focus on correct form, and warm up and cool down properly, but using your muscles as you age isn’t inherently dangerous.

In fact, studies show that lifting weights — whether heavy or light — helps us in many ways as we age.

Weight training reduces the risk of falling by maintaining or even increasing muscle mass and helping maintain bone density. This makes the elderly much less susceptible to age-related and disabling bone breaks from falls or accidents.

This also helps stave off loss of independence, one of the greatest worries around aging.

Strength training can promote mobility and function and even help combat depression and cognitive decline.

An analysis of the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) database found that adults 65 and older who strength trained twice a week had a 46 percent lower mortality rate. He also found strength training reduces all causes of death, including cancer and cardiac death.

Drawing from the data, the analysis outlined 78 science-backed benefits for seniors who lift weights. The main categories include:

  • Combat age-related muscle loss and sarcopenia
  • Burn fat and increase muscle mass
  • Support functional independence
  • Improve quality of life
  • Improve osteoarthritis and bone health
  • Increase cardiovascular health
  • Improve mental health and cognitive functioning
  • Reduce mortality risk
  • Fight Type 2 diabetes
  • Improve quality of sleep
  • Recover from hip fractures

The study showed that those who had lifted regularly for some time were protected against numerous age-related health issues related to neuromuscular functioning, sarcopenia, muscle force-generating capacity, cognitive functioning, overall functional capability and performance, and mitochondrial impairment.

Is weight lifting riskier in old age?

Lifting weights risks at any age, however, hundreds of studies have shown weight training to be safe, enjoyable, and beneficial as we get older.

Anyone can get injured when working out, so knowing how to safely use equipment, warming up and cooling down properly, and using proper form will keep you in action.

Before starting, have a medical checkup or ask your doctor for clearance. This is especially true if you haven’t exercised before or have taken a long break from physical activity.

What type of weight training is best?

Weight training is an activity anyone can start regardless of age. It doesn’t take lifting like a competitor to gain major benefits, and many of the benefits are immediate. As you train, your cardiovascular and musculoskeletal fitness will improve, thus helping you to prevent injuries as you progress.

Whether you train using your body weight, dumbbells, systems weights, full Olympic style, or with some other style, focus on gradually increasing intensity and power.

A personal trainer can help you meet your goals with a form that works for you, plus teach you how and when to safely increase your challenges. Finding a weight training style you like will motivate you so you keep showing up for workouts — whether it’s at the gym or in your living room.

Before starting any exercise program, be sure to consult with your health care practitioner, and if you are uncertain where to begin, reach out to a local certified personal trainer who can guide you.

 

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827 breast implants linked to autoimmunity

After assurance from breast implant makers that concerns about silicone leaks were a thing of the past, more than 10 million women worldwide have received silicone breast implants in the past decade. However, a growing body of research — supported by increased symptom reporting by women —links silicone breast implants to autoimmune disorders and a rare form of immune cancer.

Silicone breast implants linked to autoimmune disease

Doctors commonly advise potential breast implant candidates that the risks are minimal, yet multiple recent studies indicate otherwise.

A recent study at the University of Alberta comparing nearly 25,000 women with breast implants to nearly 100,000 without them confirmed that nearly one in four implant recipients is at risk of developing an autoimmune disorder.

The risk for women with breast implants developing an autoimmune disease is 45 percent higher than for those without implants.

While former studies on the topic have been criticized because they were based on self-reporting by subjects, this study used doctor-based diagnoses to confirm results.

Previous research has also found surgical mesh implants used for gynecological or hernia repair may be linked to autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. Additionally, patients with allergies prior to the procedure were significantly worse afterward.

In the Alberta study, the strongest links were shown between silicone implants and these autoimmune conditions:

  • Sjögren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disorder of the salivary and tear glands.
  • Sarcoidosis, an autoimmune disorder of the lung, skin and lymph nodes.
  • Systemic sclerosis, an autoimmune disorder of the connective tissue affecting the skin, arteries, and visceral organs such as lungs and kidneys.

The theory behind these findings is that foreign material of the mesh and silicone implants causes an activation of the immune system. The body continues to fight the “invader” and over time autoimmunity develops.

In the largest-ever long-term safety study of breast implants, a similar study this year at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center linked silicone implants with higher rates of Sjögren’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, dermatomyositis, and melanoma compared to the general population.

Emerging form of breast implant-related cancer on the rise

Individuals with breast implants are also at risk of developing breast implant large cell lymphoma, or BIA-ALCL. BIA-ALCL is not breast cancer but a form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer of the immune system.

In most cases BIA-ALCL is found in fluid and scar tissue near the implant, however there are cases where it spreads throughout the body.

The FDA states, “At this time, most data suggest that BIA-ALCL occurs more frequently following implantation of breast implants with textured surfaces rather than those with smooth surfaces.”

Plastic surgeons have identified 615 cases of BIA-ALCL worldwide with the disease occurring at higher rates among women with textured implants. French authorities have recommended against the use of textured implants due to the cancer risk.

At present, however, the risks are difficult to determine due to significant limitations in world-wide reporting and lack of data.

Lax reporting rules at fault for lack of patient awareness

Prior to 2017 the FDA allowed breast implant companies to report breast implant injuries as routine events that did not require public disclosure. This effectively kept the information from the public and may have skewed opinions on the safety of using them.

In 2017 reporting rules were changed and reports of injuries soared. At the current rate, they are slated to increase more than 20-fold in the last two years from the previous two-year period.

According to an ICIJ analysis of FDA data, after the rule change the number of suspected breast implant injuries skyrocketed from 200 a year to more than 4,500 in 2017 alone.

In just the first half of 2018, that number almost doubled to more than 8,000 filed reports.

The increase in reports doesn’t mean implants are suddenly going bad but that they may never have been as safe as patients were told in the first place.

The FDA has acknowledged a “transparency issue” regarding the undisclosed injury reports and that the increase in numbers reflected the change in reporting rules.

Changing the system to better protect breast implant recipients

The FDA warns that as many as one in five women who receive breast implants will get them removed within a decade due to complications such as rupture, deflation, and painful contraction of scar tissue around the implant, but currently there is no warning about autoimmunity.

The good news is that in response to the new information, the FDA and agencies around the world acknowledge that more research needs to be done to determine the autoimmune and cancer risks of implants.

While current studies do not prove breast implants cause these diseases, they do show that women with the implants suffer them at significantly higher rates than women without implants.

It’s proposed that bacterial infection of a biofilm that surrounds the implants is the likely cause of implant-related illness, including BIA-ALCL.

Patient advocates propose rules requiring breast implants to be sold with “black box” label warnings, which are reserved for life-threatening and other serious risks.

Undoubtedly, it will take much larger and longer studies to root out the details and bring about protective actions, and in the meantime doctors and patients need to have deeper conversations about the benefits and risks of silicone breast implants.

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826 holidays and Hashimotos

If you are on an elimination diet for your Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, the holidays might be a source of serious anxiety. Sticking to a specialized diet can be enough of a challenge on a normal day. When we add in travel, unfamiliar restaurants and grocery stores, family events and social outings, the challenge — and potential consequences — can seem insurmountable. However, with some good planning you can not only survive but thrive during the holiday season.

Below are time-tested suggestions to help you navigate the holidays with ease when you have Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.

Plan ahead

Look at your holiday schedule to see which events or plans pose challenges. Write them down and plan out what you need to do to avoid pitfalls.

Travel. Whether you drive or fly to see family and friends, plan ahead for your food options.

Airlines allow you to bring pre-made food even if it’s in a soft-sided cooler pack.

However, airlines won’t allow you to carry on any items in glass jars so make sure your pre-made items are canned or in a box.

If you are unsure about what you can bring on a plane each airline has a webpage where the food rules are listed.

Easy items to bring on the airplane or in the car include:

  • Canned fish
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Protein bars
  • Chips
  • Dried fruit (but not too much!)
  • Coconut butter packets (not in a jar)
  • Nut butter packets (not in a jar)
  • Homemade energy bars
  • Jerky
  • Cut fruits and veggies

If you are driving overnight bring along a pre-made dinner and breakfast in a cooler.

If you plan to eat in restaurants along the way, research them in advance and call ahead if needed to verify gluten-free or other diet needs. Trying to figure it out in the car is likely to create poor results and leave you either hungry or sick.

Bring digestive enzymes to help your system break down food proteins.

Bring Gluten Flam by Apex in case you get glutened.

Stay hydrated — it’s one of the best remedies for recovering from food reactions.

Being a guest at a party or holiday meal

Educate your host. When your host is aware of your food limitations and the medical reasons for them they are in a better position to support you. Explain your diet and why it’s important for you to stick to it.

Send a list of ingredients you can eat or even a couple simple recipes well in advance so they can accommodate you (keep in mind their kitchen may not be gluten-free).

Bring your own food. When your host understands the importance of sticking to your diet they may welcome you bringing your own dish.

Bring food to share. It helps others to appreciate your dietary protocol when they can try your food. Bring something simple but delicious such as soup or pumpkin pie. They may not even realize it’s different — until you tell them. You may even provide a welcome surprise for another guest with food allergies who didn’t plan ahead.

Eat ahead of time. If you are unsure about what will be served, eat ahead. You can also tell the host ahead of time that you need to eat light due to a medical issue.

Always have an emergency snack in your purse and car. You never know when you’ll find you can’t eat what’s offered or get stuck in traffic or at an appointment. Having an emergency snack on hand can make or break your day. See the food list above for ideas.

Family and friends’ attitudes

This can be one of the hardest parts of the holidays for those on a restricted diet. The hard work of smoothing this over likely has to start with you, but the effort can really pay off.

Educate your family and friends. Explain your health condition and how your special diet helps it. Also explain what symptoms you experience when you eat the foods you are supposed to avoid. Not everyone will want to listen, but those who do are more likely to become your allies.

Find an ally. If someone in the room is on your side, whether sibling, parent, partner, or friend, it can make a big difference when others pressure you to “Just have a slice of pie!” Decide on a secret signal to let them know to speak up on your behalf in front of others.

Direct the conversation elsewhere. Nobody wants to spend the whole party telling the crowd about their Hashimoto’s brain fog, IBS, arthritis join pain. Try not to draw attention to your special food, and if asked, give a simple answer such as, “I’m on a medical diet for health reasons.” The use of the word “medical” tends to get more respect than other options.

If someone refuses to understand, or if you receive rude comments, share a link to the “Spoon Theory” of chronic illness.

Host your own event

One great way to enjoy holiday food is to host your own event. If you have the reserves, cooking a full meal for family and friends can be a great way to show them how amazing your “weird” diet is. It can also help bridge the gap of understanding and respect that commonly emerges in family groups.

If you don’t have the bandwidth for hosting a dinner party, create a potluck with specific food rules. Assign some dishes and explain why you need to keep certain foods out from under the roof.

More and more areas have autoimmune paleo, or AIP meetup groups, and the holidays are a great time to organize an AIP potluck. Many people on special diets have nobody who understands. Having a room full of people who understand and appreciate their needs — not to mention a room full of foods everyone can eat — can create new friendships and really make the holidays shine again.

Falling off the wagon

The holidays are about celebration and sometimes a bit of excess. If you fall off the wagon don’t punish yourself. Just get back on and keep goimg. If you start each day with intention it’s easier to stay on track.

However, don’t use the holidays as an excuse to throw caution and dedication to the wind. You worked hard to get where you are, do you really want to backtrack to square one?

Learn to say “no”

The holidays are full enough of stress. Sometimes we get invitations to events we’d rather not attend, unwanted requests to help with tasks or events for community or kids, or pressure from friends and family to try foods we know we ought not to eat.

It’s hard for most of us to say no especially when we’re worried about hurting the feelings of friends or family. But remember, your health is paramount and sometimes a “no” is the most appropriate and self-loving answer.

A simple way to say no is, “No, but thanks for asking.” Don’t give justification or any reason for them to attempt to dismantle.

Saying no can be difficult and scary for those who aren’t used to using it. However, the more you practice, the easier it gets and the less “bad” you will feel for saying it.

Ask my office for more advice on managing your Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism through diet and functional medicine protocols.

 

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825 NSAIDs heart risk

Many of us reach for ibuprofen, aspirin, or another non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) when we have chronic pain or inflammation. But despite their easy access, these drugs present serious health concerns. While we’ve known for some time that NSAIDs increase the risk of heart attack, but a recent literature review showed that all NSAID types were associated with increased heart attack risk, and the risk was greatest during the first month of use.

Taking any dose of NSAIDs for one week, one month, or more than a month was associated with an increased risk of heart attack.

Greater risk was associated with higher doses.

When used for longer than one month, the risks did not appear to exceed those associated with shorter use duration.

Daily doses of 200 mg or more of celecoxib, 100 mg or more of diclofenac, 1200 mg or more of ibuprofen, and 750 mg or more of naproxen for just 8 to 30 days could raise heart attack risk.

For perspective, the recommended safe dose of ibuprofen is 1200 mg for menstrual pain — the same dose seen to raise heart attack risk — and 3200 mg for arthritis pain or fever.

Is a daily aspirin safe?

Many doctors recommend taking an aspirin to stop an impending heart attack, but as for daily use, aspirin’s heart benefits may be overshadowed by other concerns.

A 2018 study states, “The use of low-dose aspirin as a primary prevention strategy in older adults resulted in a significantly higher risk of major hemorrhage and did not result in a significantly lower risk of cardiovascular disease than placebo.”

NSAID risk not limited to heart attack

NSAIDs such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen are the most prescribed medications for painful conditions such as arthritis, bursitis, and tendinitis. They come in many strengths and formulas in both generic and brand-name forms. Not only pain relievers, NSAIDs also reduce inflammation and fever and help prevent blood clotting.

NSAIDs work by preventing the COX (cyclooxygenase) enzyme from doing its jobs.

COX has two forms, each with its own duties:

  • COX-1 protects the lining of the stomach from digestive acids and helps the kidneys maintain function.
  • COX-2 is involved in the synthesis of prostaglandins that cause pain and inflammation in the body.

Traditional NSAIDs block the actions of both these COX enzymes, which is why they can cause upset stomach while relieving inflammation and pain.

COX-2 inhibitors are special because they only target the enzyme that stimulates the inflammatory response. Because they don’t block COX-1 activity they don’t cause the stomach upset commonly associated with NSAIDs.

However, COX-2 have serious side effects including abdominal pain, nausea, indigestion, and in rare cases, abdominal bleeding. Before use, talk to your doctor if you have a history of angina, heart attack, stroke, blood clot or hypertension or if you are sensitive to sulfa drugs or other NSAIDs.

Because NSAIDs block the stomach-protecting qualities of COX-1, they can cause stomach upset and bleeding, so take them with food to minimize risk. Other common side effects include:

  • Heartburn
  • Gas
  • Bloating
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Mild headache
  • Dizziness
  • Difficulty concentrating

If you have a health condition such as diabetes, liver or kidney disease, asthma, history of stroke or heart attack, Crohn’s disease, or pregnancy, talk with your health care practitioner before taking NSAIDs.

NSAIDs linked to leaky gut

An additional reason to avoid NSAIDs is their ability to promote leaky gut. In leaky gut, inflammation and damage to the lining of the small intestine causes it to become overly porous. This allows undigested food and pathogens such as bacteria and toxins to pass into the bloodstream, triggering a cascade of inflammation and pain throughout the body.

Quell pain without pills

Americans are in increasingly in pain from chronic inflammation caused by poor diet, stress, inadequate exercise, toxic load, sleep deprivation, unaddressed autoimmunity, and other factors of modern life.

Pain is the body’s way of telling us something is wrong. It’s important to address its cause early so you don’t suffer long-term effects.

In functional medicine, we address pain from various angles, and while pharmaceutical drugs may be necessary sometimes, there are many ways to reduce pain without taking drugs.

Anti-inflammatory diet. The foundation of any pain management plan, your diet should exclude foods known to wreak havoc on the immune system. Many patients do well by removing triggers such as gluten, excess sugars, processed oils, eggs, dairy, nightshades, and nuts.

Sleep. Getting enough sleep is one of the most underrated ways to reduce pain and inflammation. The amount of sleep you get directly affects the amount of pain you will feel in the following days. To improve your sleep, avoid screen time in the evening, stick to a regular bedtime and wake-up time, and work on balancing your blood sugar.

Yoga and meditation. These practices help quiet the brain and assist the transition from “fight or flight” mode to “rest and digest mode” where our bodies can heal.

Hydration. It’s easy to forget to drink water when we’re busy. We are made primarily of water, and dehydration adds to chronic pain. The best way to hydrate is to drink small bits all day long. Minimize caffeine and alcohol intake because they serve as diuretics.

Moderate exercise can reduce inflammation and relieve pain associated with immobility (just don’t overdo it or you’ll cause more inflammation).

CBD oil. Proving to be one of the best pain-relief options, many patients prefer CBD over opioids. Myth bust: CBD sourced from hemp is not psychoactive.

Boswellia. Available both as a tincture and as pills, this tree-based resin is known for its anti-inflammatory compounds and is said to rival the anti-inflammatory power of NSAIDs. Take it with a meal to avoid gastric upset, and check with your doctor if you are pregnant or breast feeding.

Turmeric and resveratrol. Powerful anti-inflammatories independent of each other, research shows they are much more effective together.

Support glutathione. The body’s master antioxidant, glutathione helps you detoxify, helps immune function, and shields cells from inflammation-based oxidative damage.

White willow bark is commonly used in place of aspirin for inflammation and pain.

Test for the root cause. Sometimes the cause of pain isn’t obvious such as a sprained ankle. A functional medicine practitioner can test you for nutrient deficiencies, underlying infections, imbalances in hormones, and environmental toxin exposure that contribute to chronic pain.

Managing chronic pain requires a commitment to diet and lifestyle changes, but when it’s done right, enjoying a pain-free life is possible. If you suffer from chronic pain and want to know more about how functional medicine can help you, please contact my office.

 

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824 organic foods less cancer

Many people eat organic food because they believe it is better for their health, yet until recently scientific evidence of its benefits has been in short supply. Now a new study adds weight to previous research suggesting an organic diet may reduce the risk of certain types of cancer.

The French study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), surveyed nearly 70,000 subjects, mostly women, to determine whether an organic foods diet was related to a reduced risk of cancer during a five-year study.

Results showed that subjects who consumed organic foods most frequently had a surprising 25 percent fewer cancers than those who never ate organic. Organic foods were most strongly linked with much lower incidences of postmenopausal breast cancers and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

“We did expect to find a reduction, but the extent of the reduction is quite important,” said Julia Baudry, the study’s lead author. 

The study was consistent with findings from a previous British study that followed more than 600,000 female subjects for nine years and found consumption of organic foods linked to a 21 percent reduced risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

While subjects in the UK study only responded to one question about how often they ate organic food, participants in the French study gave more detailed information about three 24-hour records of their intake, including:

  • How frequently they consumed 16 different types of organic foods, including produce, dairy, soy, meat, fish, eggs, grains, legumes, flour, oils, condiments, wine, coffee, teas, and more.
  • Information about education, occupation, income, smoking habits, and more.

People who eat organic tend to have higher incomes and more years of education than those who don’t. The study adjusted for these factors as well as physical activity, use of alcohol and tobacco, weight, and family history of cancer.

Those who most frequently consumed organic foods had astounding results:

  • 76 percent fewer lymphomas
  • 86 percent fewer non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas
  • 34 percent reduction in post-menopausal breast cancers

The reduction in lymphomas might be expected as former studies revealed a higher rate of some lymphomas among farm workers exposed to certain pesticides.

This brings up two questions:

  • Is the reduced risk of cancer associated with organic food liked to the reduced pesticides used in organic farming?
  • Does an organic diet reduce breast cancer risk because many pesticides are endocrine disruptors that mimic estrogen function, and hormones play a role in breast cancer?

Are pesticides to blame?

Previous research has shown that those who eat more organic foods have lower levels of pesticide residues in their urine, and a recent study showed that consumption of pesticide-laden foods directly increases levels of urinary pesticides.

The UK and French studies did not measure urinary pesticide levels, which has earned criticism from Harvard nutrition experts who have called for long-term studies to confirm results and learn more about why organic foods reduce cancer risk.

“Natural” doesn’t mean “organic”

As we learn more about the effect of environmental toxins on our health, increasing numbers of people are reading food labels. We all want foods that are safe, healthy, and made using practices that align with our values.

Yet food marketing can be misleading and it’s important to understand food labeling terms, in particular “natural” versus “organic.”

The USDA sets strict guidelines for organic food production and labeling.

Organic. Products can be labeled “organic” only if they are independently certified as meeting USDA National Organic Program standards.

Natural. With the exception of meat and poultry, the term “natural” is unregulated. Foods labeled “natural,” “all natural,” and “100% natural”  might contain artificial ingredients, pesticides, herbicides, growth hormones, antibiotics, and GMOs.

Five USDA requirements for foods to be labeled organic:

1. Produced without genetic engineering. GMOs (genetically modified organisms) include the transfer of genetic information from one species to another to achieve a desired trait. While supporters of GMOs claim there are no dangers, many scientists warn that not enough research has been done to determine long-term risks to the environment and to those eating these foods. Use of GMOs has led to increased use of the toxic herbicide glyphosate, now classified as a probable human carcinogen.

2. Produced without sewage sludge. Conventional farming practices include application of sewage sludge to fields. This can introduce contaminants such as heavy metals to soil and foods.

3. Produced without ionizing radiation. Commonly used to preserve and increase the shelf life of conventionally-produced spices, meats, and fresh produce, this process is hotly contested.

4. Produced with allowed substances. In order to prevent harm to the environment or interfere with the nutritional value of food, the USDA has a long list of barred substances such as synthetic herbicides, pesticides, and ash from burning of manure.

5. Include only allowed ingredients. Certain packaged foods that are labeled as organic are allowed to contain certain non-organic ingredients. Artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives are not allowed.

How do I know if food is organic?

According to Organic.org, the USDA has identified for three categories of labeling organic products:

  • 100 percent Organic: Made with 100 percent organic ingredients.
  • Organic: Made with at least 95 percent organic ingredients.
  • Made with Organic Ingredients: Made with a minimum of 70 percent organic ingredients with strict restrictions on the remaining 30 percent including no GMOs (genetically modified organisms). Products with less than 70 percent organic ingredients may list organically produced ingredients on the side panel of the package but may not make any organic claims on the front of the package.

The USDA Organic seal means facilities and farms that are organic-certified must have an organic system plan and records that verify compliance with that plan and are inspected annually and randomly.

Conventionally-grown produce has higher residues of herbicides and pesticides. A recent report by the Environmental Working Group even found notable levels of glyphosate in all the samples of mainstream breakfast cereals tested.

Conventional animal products are more likely to contain antibiotics, growth hormones, and heavy metals than their organic counterparts.

While more studies are needed to determine why organic foods are associated with lower risk of cancer, when you look at the USDA requirements above, you begin to see why foods that are not grown organically may pose health risks — not only to humans, but to animals in the environment.

And as we see more results come in, foods we formerly thought of as “healthy” and “wholesome” may now shift to the “dangerous” list.

Get to know your food labels, and as much as you can and choose organic foods for the health of you and your family. You can learn more about organic foods by going to the website of the Organic Consumers Association.

 

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