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dark side NSAIDs copy

If you complain of mild to moderate pain a doctor will freely prescribe NSAIDs, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. However, they are not benign as you think, especially if taken long term. NSAIDs are linked to numerous health complaints.

Common brands of NSAIDs include ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) and naproxen (Aleve). Celecoxib (Celebrex), diclofenac (Cataflam, Voltaren) are prescription NSAIDs. Aspirin is also an NSAID, but it doesn’t pose the same heart attack and stroke risks.

NSAIDs have been linked to many health disorders:

  • 40–60 percent increased risk of cardiovascular problems
  • 25 percent increased risk of hearing loss
  • 60 percent increased risk of heart failure
  • Gastrointestinal problems such as pain, heartburn, nausea, vomiting, bleeding, ulcers, and leaky gut.
  • Increased risk of asthma and eczema in children

NSAIDs increase heart attack and stroke risk

The link between NSAID use and heart attack is so well founded the FDA has issued a warning. The risk may begin within a few weeks of taking an NSAID and the longer you take NSAIDs, the higher your risk.

Functional medicine and NSAIDs — leaky gut

In functional medicine, we look at another sabotaging factor of NSAIDs — leaky gut.

Leaky gut means the lining of the small intestine has become so damaged that it becomes overly porous, allowing undigested food, bacteria, yeast, and other pathogens into the bloodstream from the gut. This triggers inflammation and pain throughout the body, exactly the sort of thing people use NSAIDs to relieve.

Functional medicine alternatives to NSAIDs

Nobody wants to be pain. It’s understandable to seek relief so you can feel and function better. However, many people are surprised to find their chronic pain diminishes substantially when they adopt functional medicine basics.

Following are a few ways functional medicine can relieve pain and eliminate the need for NSAIDs:

Eat an anti-inflammatory diet. This means removing foods that trigger inflammation, which for many people is gluten and dairy. Grains, legumes, eggs, sugar, and nightshades are other common culprits. After following the diet strictly for a period of time you can customize it so it’s more liberal but does not trigger pain.

Take plenty of nutrients that combat inflammation and pain. These include vitamin D (some people have a genetic variance that prevents sufficient vitamin D uptake), other fat-soluble vitamin (A, E, and K), nutrients to boost the primary antioxidant glutathione, and omega 3 fatty acids.

Look for natural remedies for inflammation and pain. There are many alternatives, such as liposomal turmeric and resveratrol. Ask my office for advice.

Balance blood sugar. Many people have blood sugar that is too high, too low, or a combination of both. Balancing blood sugar is critical to reduce inflammation and pain. These are just a few ways to use functional medicine to address the root causes of inflammation and pain so that you can stop taking NSAIDs. Ask my office for more advice.

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713 insulin resistance

The road to chronic disease — from arthritis to heart disease — is paved with sugar and refined carbohydrates. It’s a freeway that leads straight to insulin resistance syndrome, given the right conditions, most notably being overweight and inactive.

The devastating chain of events that leads to chronic disease goes like this:

  • Carbs and sugar break down in the digestive tract to glucose that the body uses for energy.
  • Beta cells in the pancreas make and secrete insulin into the blood to ferry any glucose you don’t use to muscle, fat, and liver cells for storage.
  • Given the right conditions and more glucose than your cells can manage at the moment, the call goes out for even more insulin.
  • Beta cells keep the insulin flowing but eventually the body’s cells can’t absorb it or the glucose building up in your blood stream. That’s called insulin resistance.
  • Eventually the beta cells can’t keep up and insulin levels plummet. Now your bloodstream is flooded with glucose, which damages nerves and blood vessels, causes inflammation, and leads to a host of chronic diseases.

Chronic Diseases Linked to Insulin Resistance Syndrome

Here’s a short list of what may lay ahead for you if you fail to reverse insulin resistance as soon as possible:

  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Prediabetes and diabetes
  • Arthritis Alzheimer’s disease
  • Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
  • Obesity
  • Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
  • Pancreatitis

Take the First Exit

The sooner you give those beta cells a rest, the better your chances of avoiding insulin resistance and diabetes. The intervention is simple but not easy if you’ve spent a lifetime eating processed foods and drinking sweet sodas.

Here’s what you’ve got to do:

  • Clear your cupboards and fridge of processed foods and those that contain sugar, even if they seem to be “healthy,” like packaged granola, energy bars, and even yogurts with fruit.
  • Eat whole, “real” foods — that is, foods made with ingredients you recognize as foods and without pesticides, additives, or any ingredient you can’t pronounce.
  • Count your veggies and fruits. Seven to 10 servings a day is currently recommended. A serving is a half cup or, for lettuce and leafy greens, a cup .
  • Avoid simple carbs like sugar and white flours and eat complex ones found in high-fiber foods. These digest more slowly and don’t cause a surge in glucose.
  • Regular exercise, particularly high intensity interval training, makes muscles more sensitive to insulin. Sleep well, night after night.
  • Sleep deprivation has been shown to promote inflammation and obesity.

712 gut bacteria food

You can eat fermented foods every day and take all the probiotic supplements you want, but if you aren’t also feeding those intestinal bacteria what they want, you could be throwing your money away. That’s because to thrive and multiply, healthy gut bacteria need to eat. And what your gut bacteria like best is fiber.

Recently published research done at the University of Oveido in Spain found that obese people with low levels of a group of intestinal bacteria — Bacteroides, Prevotella, and Porphyromonas — also had a lower intake of fruit.

Fruit is a good source of pectin, which is metabolized in the colon by bacteria, such as Bacteroides, producing small chain fatty acids (SCFAs). SCFAs are known to keep the immune system in check and turn down inflammation, known to be implicated in obesity.

The researchers conclude in the journal Nutrients, “These results could be useful for designing strategies targeted to obesity prevention.”

Why Feed Your Microbiome Prebiotics

Researchers have yet to agree on a precise definition of prebiotics, the substances that intestinal bacteria feed on, but generally the scientists agree that these are “undigested dietary carbohydrates that are fermented by colonic bacteria yielding short chain fatty acids.”

Different prebiotics may nourish different types of bacteria, and researchers have not yet pinned down the specifics — that is, exactly what prebiotic nourishes which bacteria. But you can’t go wrong covering your bases by eating with a wide variety of fruits and vegetables.

A high fiber diet has often been recommended for people who need to lose weight, but now we know the point of eating more fiber is not only to make you feel full, but also because of its integral role in sustaining a healthy diversity of gut bacteria. Meanwhile, the opposite — an unhealthy microbiota — is being increasingly associated with inflammation and obesity.

Supporting gut bacteria with probiotics

In addition to a diet of ample and diverse produce that is rich in prebiotic fiber, you can also support your microbiota with probiotics. Probiotics work best when you are already fostering your gut environment with healthy prebiotic fiber. Look for probiotics that will survive the acidic environment of the environment. Many different strains exist and researchers are increasingly finding different strains support different aspects of health. Research which ones may be best for you and switch them up on occasion.

Fermented foods such as kimchee, sauerkraut, kefir, and kombucha contain live microbes that can help improve the health of your gut bacteria. Make sure you get truly live products and not pasteurized. They will usually be in the refrigerated section at the store.

Ask my office for more advice on building good gut health.

711 healthy travel

Although managing an autoimmune condition requires us extra care with diet, stress levels, sleep, and exertion, that doesn’t mean making travel off limits. Many people with autoimmunity have learned how to travel flare-free, even though it may take some extra prep time before hand. Be mindful to go into a travel experience with the mentality for a slow and steady marathon and not an all-out sprint.

Although travel can be busy and distracting, self-care must always be a priority. Taking command of some travel basics will allow you to relax and better enjoy your trip so you can come home rejuvenated instead of needing a vacation to recover from your vacation.

Here are some tips to manage your autoimmune condition while traveling.

Know what to expect food-wise and plan ahead

The autoimmune diet, or some version of it that works for you, will prevent you from flaring and crashing. Do some research and planning to make sure you can stick to it on your journey.

For instance, is there food you can safely eat where you’re going? Find out if there are health food stores in your area, or gluten-free friendly restaurants that serve other safe foods.

If you’re staying in a hotel room, make sure it will include a mini fridge or ask them to have one in your room. Some people even bring their own mini crockpot or hot plate to heat up frozen meals — stews, curries, stir fries — they cooked ahead of time.

Bring safe snack foods for when you’re stuck on a plane or on the road so hunger doesn’t tempt you to stray into dietary danger zones. Ideas include coconut chips, beef jerky, celery, sardines, olives, nuts and nut butter packets (if you’re ok with nuts), and other filling snacks.

Bring glutathione support. Travel includes many stressors, such as lack of sleep, jet lag, different time zones, long days, unfamiliar environments, crowds, and so on. Stress is hard on the body, but glutathione is a great defense system that works well for many people. Glutathione is the body’s main antioxidant and it helps keep inflammation and flare-ups under control. It basically protects cells from damage caused by stress and toxins.

Glutathione is not absorbable orally on its own but glutathione precursors are N-acetyl-cysteine, alpha-lipoic acid, cordyceps, and milk thistle. You can also take s-acetyl-glutathione, or liquid liposomal glutathione. A topical glutathione cream may help too.

Is your hotel room overly toxic? Call your hotel and ask whether scents are used in the rooms. Some hotels offer room options for extra sensitive people, such as allergy-free bedding, air purifiers, and windows that open.

Carry a mask. Sometimes you just can’t avoid toxic exposure, whether it’s from pollution, exhaust, perfumes, or the person next to you on the plane sneezing and coughing. It’s becoming more common to see people wearing a face mask when flying or in polluted cities, and it’s a good idea to always have one with you. A good face mask is comfortable and is easy to breathe through reducing the load of toxins and other pathogens in the air. This can help prevent flare-ups and glutathione depletion. Some companies even make face masks  for children and babies.

Ask my office for more advice on managing your autoimmune condition and improving your quality of life.

710 silent autoimmunity

You could be developing an autoimmune disease, one of the most common diseases today, and are not aware of it. This is because autoimmune diseases sometimes start off as “silent” autoimmunity. This means your immune system is attacking tissue in your body but the damage isn’t bad enough to cause symptoms yet.

Autoimmune disease is more common than cancer and heart disease combined, and that’s just the diagnosed cases. Many, if not most, cases of autoimmunity are happening without a diagnosis.

This is because medicine does not screen for autoimmunity until symptoms are advanced and severe enough for a diagnosis and treatment with steroids, chemotherapy drugs, or surgery.

Autoimmunity: The disease for the modern era

Autoimmunity can affect any tissue in the body or brain. It occurs when the immune system attacks and damages tissue as if it were a foreign invader.

Common autoimmune diseases include Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, Graves’ disease, multiple sclerosis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, celiac disease, and psoriasis. More than 80 different autoimmune diseases have been identified so far.

Autoimmune disease affects 1 in 5 people, the majority of them women. It is believed women are more commonly affected because of their hormonal complexity. Although autoimmune disease is very common, the statistics do not tell the whole story.

Autoimmunity can happen long before diagnosis

Autoimmunity can begin long before damage is bad enough for a disease to be diagnosed. Many people can go years, decades, or even an entire lifetime with symptoms but never have damage bad enough to be labeled disease.

As an example, autoimmunity against the pancreas can cause blood sugar issues long before the development of type 1 diabetes. Additionally, about 10 percent of people with type 2 diabetes, which is caused by diet and lifestyle, also have pancreatic autoimmunity. This is called type 1.5 diabetes.

One of the most common autoimmune diseases is Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism. Patients may need to gradually increase their thyroid hormone because although they were diagnosed with low thyroid, the autoimmunity was overlooked and left unmanaged.

Or a patient may have an autoimmune reaction that has not been recognized as a disease. For instance, autoimmunity to nerve cells may produce symptoms similar to multiple sclerosis (MS), which is an autoimmune reaction to nerve sheathes. However, because the autoimmunity is not attacking nerve sheathes specifically, the patient cannot be diagnosed despite MS-like symptoms.

Autoimmunity can attack anything in the body

People can also have symptoms that suggest many types of autoimmunity. Although symptoms vary depending on which tissue is being attacked, many autoimmune sufferers experience chronic fatigue, chronic pain, declining brain function, gastrointestinal issues, hair loss, weight gain or weight loss, brain fog, and more.

Fortunately, functional medicine offers lab testing that can screen for autoimmunity against a number of different tissues. We also use strategies such as an anti-inflammatory diet, blood sugar stabilizing, gut healing, addressing toxins, and habits that minimize stress and inflammation.

Ask my office if autoimmunity may be causing your strange and chronic symptoms.

709 art sweeteners

If you use artificial sweeteners to avoid gaining weight, you’re not only wasting your time but also possibly causing future health problems, according to a new study.

The study found that not only do aspartame and sucralose not prevent weight gain, they also raise the risk of disease in people who use them regularly.

Some research even shows long term use of artificial sweeteners leads to weight gain.

Recent research shows about a quarter of children and more than 40 percent of adults in the United States consume artificial sweeteners daily.

Some people eat them purposefully in the mistaken belief that is better for their health. Many others, however, are unwittingly consuming them in everyday food products.

Artificial sweeteners hiding in many foods

Artificial sweeteners are hiding in many foods unbeknownst to most people. These products are not always clearly labeled and some are even labeled with misleading claims such as “natural ingredients.”

While we expect to find artificial sweeteners in foods labeled “light,” “reduced sugars,” “diet,” and “sugar-free,” they also show up in “smart” popcorn, granola bars, yogurt, and even a popular pediatric electrolyte drink.

Artificial sweeteners linked to obesity; disease

Studies also suggest long term use of artificial sweeteners leads to weight gain and chronic diseases such as diabetes, and heart disease.

Participants in a randomized trial who used artificial sweeteners as part of their weight loss program were shown to have a slight increase in their body mass index, a 14 percent higher chance of developing type 2 diabetes, and a 32 percent higher chance of developing heart disease.

Lobbyists for the artificial sweetener industry and researchers agree other variables need to be considered and more research needs to be done.

Why artificial sweeteners cause weight gain

One reason it’s believed these fake sweeteners lead to weight gain and obesity-related health risks is because they trigger sugar cravings that a person eventually gives into.

Another theory suggests that consuming foods with artificial sweeteners leads a person to feel “virtuous” and thus justified in overindulging later.

Animal studies show artificial sweeteners trick the brain into thinking you’ve eaten sugar, which can trigger inflammatory cascades and disease.

Artificial sweeteners also alter the gut microbiomein a way that promotes obesity and diabetes.

Functional medicine approach to sweeteners

In functional medicine, we see time and time again that people naturally lose their cravings for sugar and starchy carbs when they eat a whole foods diet that stabilizes blood sugar, lowers inflammation, and promotes brain health. You won’t feel drawn to regular use of artificial sweeteners when you have no cravings for sweets in the first place. Ask my office how we can help.

708 low blood pressure

Most people worry about high blood pressure, and with good reason as it portends numerous health risks. However, low blood pressure brings a different set of problems, such as reduced brain function and increased mortality risk. If the upper or lower number deviates by more than 10 from 120/80, it pays to be aware low blood pressure may be affecting your health.

Blood pressure pushes blood through about 100,000 miles of veins, arteries, and capillaries in the body, carrying oxygen, nutrients, immune cells, hormones, neurotransmitters, and other vital compounds.

High blood pressure strains blood vessels. However, low blood pressure means not enough blood is getting to capillaries and tissues, particularly in your hands, feet, and brain. This deprives those tissues of sufficient oxygen and nutrients. You may have chronic nail fungal infections and cold hands and feet if so.

Adrenal fatigue as a cause of low blood pressure

The most common cause of low blood pressure in a functional medicine model is poor adrenal function.

The adrenals are two walnut-sized glands that sit atop the kidneys. They produce stress hormones and help regulate blood pressure. Many people today suffer from adrenal fatigue due to chronic stress. Other causes of adrenal fatigue are poor diets, low blood sugar, chronic infections, gut problems, inflammation, and unmanaged autoimmunity — all stressors.

Adrenal fatigue symptoms include chronic tiredness, low blood sugar, losing function between meals, getting sick all the time, and low blood pressure.

Orthostatic hypotension when you stand up

Orthostatic hypotension is a common type of low blood pressure that causes lightheadedness when you go from sitting to standing. This happens because the blood pools in the legs upon standing, slowing blood flow back to the heart and thus the brain. You will be diagnosed with orthostatic hypotension when the top number of your blood pressure falls by 20 and the bottom number by 10 upon standing.

Although orthostatic hypotension is a red flag you need to address your low blood pressure, it becomes more dangerous when it makes you faint or fall. Orthostatic hypotension is commonly found in those with low blood pressure and low blood sugar but people with high blood pressure can have it too.

Functional medicine tips for low blood pressure

If you have signs and symptoms of low blood pressure and adrenal fatigue, consider an adrenal saliva test. This test measures levels of the adrenal hormone cortisol throughout the day. This gives you a more precise therapy target and follow-up testing will let you know if your protocols are on the right track.

Everyone knows a person with high blood pressure should avoid salt, but adding some good quality sea salt to your diet may help boost low blood pressure. In fact, you may be one of those people who craves salt.

A nutritional compound that can help raise low blood pressure is licorice root extract, or glycyrrhiza, which can extend the life of cortisol in the body and improve blood volume and electrolyte balance.

Of course, it’s important to address what is causing adrenal fatigue. Adrenal fatigue is always secondary to something else. One of the most common causes is eating a diet that causes low blood sugar. Eating a good breakfast, skipping sweets and sweet drinks, minimizing starchy foods, and eating regularly enough to sustain blood sugar are helpful strategies.

For more advice on supporting healthy adrenal function and blood pressure, contact my office.