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Berberine rivals metformin for high blood sugar

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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Weight training offers the most benefits for seniors

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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Breast implants linked to autoimmunity and cancer

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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Navigating the holidays when you have Hashimoto’s

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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NSAIDs linked to 50 percent increase in heart attacks

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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Eating organic associated with lower cancer rates

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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This antibiotic is rupturing people’s tendons

823 antibiotics rupture tendons

Most of us have taken antibiotics to treat infections, whether for a nasty bug, a bad scrape, or after surgery. We tend to trust doctors’ recommendation, however, new data about the alarming side effects of a class of antibiotics called fluoroquinolones makes it clear they should only be used as a last resort.

Fluoroquinolones are a class of broad-spectrum antibiotics commonly prescribed for infections of the kidneys, urinary tract, sinuses, and respiratory tract.

Known by names such as Cipro (ciprofloxacin), Cipro XR, Proquin XR, Levaquin (levofloxacin), Floxin, Noroxin, Avelox, Factive, and certain generics, any drug ending in “floxacin” is in this class.

The side effects — sometimes called “getting floxed” — are so severe, the Food and Drug Administration warns to avoid taking this family antibiotics unless there is absolutely no another option.

Fluoroquinolones increase risk of tendinitis and tendon rupture

While fluoroquinolones are known for various side effects, one that may come as a surprise is increased risk of tendinitis and tendon ruptures.

Fluoroquinolones have been shown to weaken and disrupt the underlying structure of tendons. Researchers propose the following causes:

  • A boost in levels of enzymes that damage soft tissue.
  • Interference with the way our bodies replicate DNA, essential to repair of minor damage that running might cause.
  • Disrupted blood flow to collagen in the muscles and tendons.

The Achilles tendon seems to be particularly susceptible, making fluoroquinolones especially problematic for runners.

The average person taking fluoroquinolones has a 70 percent greater risk of tendinopathy and a 30 percent greater risk of full rupture than someone taking a different class of antibiotics.

Signs might include tendon, join, and muscle pain, sometimes soon after taking the drug. However, the side-effect risks can continue for weeks after you stop taking the drug.

The higher your dose and the longer you take fluoroquinolones, the greater your risk of tendon problems.

The most vulnerable populations include:

  • Older people
  • People with kidney disease
  • Patients taking corticosteroid medications

Fluoroquinolones: a long history of side effects

Fluoroquinolones have been required for years to carry warnings to alert doctors and patients of increased risk of certain health issues. As time has revealed the true severity of the effects, the FDA has raised the bar and required them to carry its sternest “black box” warning.

Side effect alerts include:

  • In 2008, the FDA added a black box warning to fluoroquinolones regarding the increased risk of tendinitis and tendon rupture.
  • In 2011, the risk of worsening symptoms for patients with myasthenia gravis was added to the labeling rule.
  • In 2013, the FDA required labeling updates to reflect potential for irreversible peripheral neuropathy (serious nerve damage).
  • In 2016, the FDA enhanced warnings on all fluoroquinolones to the “black box” level regarding disabling and potentially permanent side effects involving tendons, muscles, joints, nerves and the central nervous system.
  • Because the risk of these side effects generally outweighs potential benefits to patients with acute bacterial sinusitis and uncomplicated urinary tract infections, the FDA determined that these drugs should only be used for as a last resort after other antibiotic classes were tried unsuccessfully.
  • As late as July 2018 the FDA announced a labeling change to strengthen warnings about the risks of mental health side effects and severe blood sugar disturbances.

Blood sugar disturbances. Both high and low blood sugar are already included as a warning on most fluoroquinolone labels, however the FDA added that these low blood sugar levels can lead to coma.

Mental health side effects. Across the fluoroquinolone antibiotic class, a range of mental health side effects are already described on the drug labels, including disturbances in attention, disorientation, agitation, nervousness, memory impairment, and delirium. The revised labels will make these side effects more prominent and more consistent across the drug class to better alert doctors and patients.

Fluoroquinolones help create antibiotic resistant bugs

Another reason to avoid this class of drugs is they appear to be especially good at creating antibiotic resistant bugs.

The effectiveness of fluoroquinolones at destroying bacteria associated with certain infections has dropped from 100 percent to about 70 percent.

Only use fluoroquinolones as a last resort

The spread of knowledge about the increased FDA warnings seems to be slow. While medical groups such as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Infectious Diseases Society of America, and the American Thoracic Society have stopped recommending fluoroquinolones as the first line of defense, studies show little reduction so far in the prescription of fluoroquinolones outside of hospitals.

The FDA recommends that whether you are an athlete, if you have a common infection such as bronchitis, sinusitis, or a simple urinary tract infection, don’t agree to take these drugs unless you have no other option.

If your doctor wants to prescribe fluoroquinolones, make sure to tell them about any history of kidney disease, steroid use, or any previous issues with your tendons or muscles.

And remember that other serious side effects are possible, including nerve damage, confusion, hallucinations, and blood-sugar related coma.

Please contact my office for more information about how to treat infections without this dangerous class of drugs.

 

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How to tell if your hypothyroidism is Hashimoto’s

822 how to tell Hashimoto s

Your doctor says you have hypothyroidism and this explains feeling like crap, the crazy weight gain, and your distressing hair loss. But how do you know if Hashimoto’s is causing your hypothyroidism? Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune disease, meaning the immune system is attacking and destroying the thyroid gland.

Hashimoto’s is responsible for more than 90 percent of hypothyroid cases. Chances are strong it’s the cause of your low thyroid function too.

But if your doctor does not want to screen for Hashimoto’s or if you would like to be sure, here are some tips to help you figure out if you have Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.

You feel worse despite taking your thyroid medication

One of the most common signs of Hashimoto’s is you still have symptoms despite taking your thyroid meds. In fact, your doctor prescribes ever increasing doses as your thyroid function deteriorates. You may even notice no difference if you forget to take your meds. Why don’t thyroid meds help in many cases of Hashimoto’s? Because the immune system continues to attack and destroy the thyroid gland even though the meds may make your TSH levels look normal.

You swing back and forth between low thyroid and high thyroid symptoms

Swinging back and forth between under active and over active thyroid function is another common sign of Hashimoto’s. One week you suffer from fatigue, headaches, constipation, depression, and low libido. The next week you have insomnia, a racing heart, anxiety, and tremors. This is because a flare up that damages thyroid tissue causes excess thyroid hormone to spill into the bloodstream. You may be misdiagnosed with anxiety or even bipolar disorder.

If you run blood tests during these surges and crashes you will see TSH also peaks and dips. TSH may even test as normal for short periods as its moves between these swings. This can lead to a misdiagnosis if you drew your blood during that time.

You have pernicious anemia, celiac disease, or other autoimmune diseases

Autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s are the result of an imbalanced immune system. It’s very common for people with one autoimmune disease to develop more. This is because the imbalanced system becomes overly sensitive and loses tolerance to new tissues in the body.

If you have hypothyroidism and other autoimmune diseases, chances are you also have Hashimoto’s. Pernicious anemia (an autoimmune disease that causes B12 deficiency), celiac disease, or a gluten intolerance are all commonly linked to Hashimoto’s.

If you think you might have Hashimoto’s, see if any of these symptoms apply to you.

Under active thyroid symptoms

  • Feeling tired or sluggish
  • Feeling cold — hands, feet, all over
  • Require excessive amounts of sleep to function well
  • Weight gain despite adhering to a low-calorie diet
  • Gaining weight easily
  • Difficult, infrequent bowel movements
  • Depression and lack of motivation
  • Morning headaches that wear off as the day progresses
  • Outer third of eyebrow thins
  • Thinning of hair on scalp, face, or genitals, or excessive hair loss
  • Dryness of skin and/or scalp
  • Mental sluggishness

Over active thyroid symptoms

  • Heart palpitations
  • Inward trembling
  • Increased pulse rate, even at rest
  • Feeling nervous and emotional
  • Insomnia
  • Night sweats
  • Difficulty gaining weight

Confirming Hashimoto’s

Symptoms are important but a blood test provides the proof you may need to convince doctors or family members. Look for these markers:

Thyroid peroxidase antibodies (TPO Ab). In most cases of Hashimoto’s the immune system attacks TPO, an enzyme that triggers thyroid hormone production.

Thyroglobulin antibodies (TGB Ab). You should also test for antibodies to TGB, which the thyroid uses to produce thyroid hormones.

Thyroid stimulating hormone antibodies (TSH Ab). This test can identify Graves’ disease (hyperthyroidism), although sometimes TSH antibodies can be elevated in Hashimoto’s. On lab tests, this marker is often labeled thyroid stimulating immunoglobulin (TSI). If your autoimmune thyroid condition is advanced, you have multiple autoimmune diseases, and/or you react to bioidentical thyroid meds but not synthetic, you may also have antibodies to T4 and T3.

When your test comes back negative despite massive symptoms

Don’t despair if your test comes back negative even though you have all the classic symptoms. Because the immune system and inflammation wax and wane, you may have had your blood draw during a time the immune system is not attacking the thyroid gland. However, if you’re test is positive this confirms Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism and that the immune system should be a target for therapy. Ask my office for more advice on managing Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism using functional medicine.

 

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Think twice before you Roundup some more oats

821 oats and glycophospates

Even if you eat all organic, many oat-based foods such as cereal, granola, instant oats, and bars contain glyphosate, the toxic weed-killer in Roundup.

The independent study commissioned by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) measured levels of glyphosate in 45 samples of products made with conventional oats, and 16 samples made with organically grown oats. The results were shocking.

Thirty one of 45 samples made with conventional oats had 160 ppb or more of glyphosate, higher than what the EWG considers protective of children’s health.

In the organic products, glyphosate was detected at concentrations of 10 ppb to 30 ppb in 5 of 16 samples — well below the EWG health benchmark, but still present.

Organic farming prohibits use of glyphosate, so how does it get in organic food? It could drift on the wind from nearby conventional crop fields or enter by cross-contamination at a facility that handles non-organic crops.

According to the EWG, “The EPA has calculated that 1- to-2-year-old children are likely to have the highest exposure, at a level 2x greater than California’s No Significant Risk Level and 230x EWG’s health benchmark.”

Glyphosate: Not just an herbicide

Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Roundup, the most heavily-used weed killer worldwide. Used widely in the US on at least 70 crops from corn, soy, oats, and wheat, to fruits, nuts and vegetables, the EWG states that more than 250 million pounds of glyphosate is sprayed on American crops yearly.

A systemic herbicide, when applied to the foliage of broadleaf plants, weeds, and grasses, glyphosate is absorbed through the tissues to kill them.

While most of the public knows of Roundup as an herbicide, it is also commonly used in a pre-harvest application called “dessication.” Applied 7 to 10 days before harvest, it has the following effects:

  • Acts as a drying agent on crops where uneven drying might risk ruining the harvest.
  • During wheat harvest it can result in slightly higher crop yield by triggering plants to release more seeds.
  • Pre-harvest application can initiate early harvest if weather conditions threaten the crop.
  • Encourages earlier ripening for earlier replanting of a new crop.
  • Reduces green material in fields that would otherwise strain farm machinery during harvest.

The “dessication” method was first suggested in the 1980s and has become routine in North America in the past 15 years. It is also catching on widely in the UK.

Most people assume glyphosate and Roundup are used only on GMO products, but it is also sprayed just before harvest on non-GMO oats, barley, wheat, and beans.

Cancer concern

While for years glyphosate was thought to be safe, recent studies have pointed to major health concerns from cancer to the disruption of gut bacteria that underlies many chronic illnesses.

While herbicide makers and the EPA deny glyphosate’s dangers, in 2015 the World Health Organization classified it as “probably carcinogenic to humans.”

While hundreds of other Roundup-related court cases are pending, in a 2018 landmark case, Monsanto was ordered by a California jury to pay $289 million in damages to a man dying of cancer, reportedly caused by repeated exposure to Roundup and other glyphosate-based weed killers in his job as a school groundskeeper.

Cancer not the only concern being researched

In addition to cancer risk, glyphosate also harms our gut bacteria.

Glyphosate also enhances the damaging effects of other chemical toxins in the environment. The effects manifest slowly over time damaging cellular systems throughout the body.

Monsanto claims that Roundup is harmless to animals and humans because its mechanism of action (called the shikimate pathway) is absent in all animals.

However, this pathway is present in bacteria, which is key for understanding how it can cause systemic harm in humans and animals.

Glyphosate disrupts beneficial bacteria thus allowing pathogens such as the highly toxic Clostridium botulinum to overgrow and take over the gut environment.

 Disruption of the gut biome is an issue which underlies many diseases and conditions including:

  • Gastrointestinal disorders
  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Heart disease
  • Autism
  • Infertility
  • Cancer
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Autoimmunity

In addition to the direct concerns for human health, environmental concerns exist as well:

  • Mounting weed resistance to the toxin, requiring stronger and stronger applications.
  • Demise of the monarch butterfly population.
  • Honey bees exposed to glyphosate lose some of their beneficial gut bacteria and become more susceptible to infection and death from harmful bacteria.

Despite resistance from herbicide producers, glyphosate has been banned or restricted by the following countries:

  • Belgium
  • Bermuda
  • Colombia
  • Netherlands
  • Sri Lanka
  • El Salvador
  • France
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Kuwait
  • Qatar
  • Bahrain
  • Oman
  • UAE

In addition, towns in many states have taken a stand against the chemical.

Organic or not, check your brands

What can you do to reduce the impact of glyphosate for yourself and your family? First, eat organic produce whenever you can. Secondly, look out for the following products from the EWG study and know their risk level:

Potentially dangerous to children:

  • Back to Nature Classic Granola
  • Quaker Simply Granola Oats, Honey, Raisin and Almonds
  • Nature Valley Granola Protein Oats ‘n Honey
  • Giant Instant Oatmeal Original Flavor
  • Quaker Dinosaur Eggs, Brown Sugar, Instant Oatmeal
  • Great Value Original Instant Oatmeal
  • Umpqua Oats, Maple Pecan
  • Market Pantry Instant Oatmeal, Strawberries & Cream*
  • Cheerios Toasted Whole Grain Oat Cereal
  • Lucky Charms (without marshmallows)
  • Barbara’s Multigrain Spoonfuls, Original, Cereal
  • Kellogg’s Cracklin’ Oat Bran oat cereal*
  • Nature Valley Crunchy Granola Bars, Oats ‘n Honey
  • Quaker Steel Cut Oats
  • Quaker Old Fashioned Oats
  • Bob’s Red Mill Steel Cut Oats*

Contains safe amounts of glyphosate:

  • Back to Nature Banana Walnut Granola Clusters
  • KIND Vanilla, Blueberry Clusters with Flax Seeds
  • Kellogg’s Nutrigrain Soft Baked Breakfast Bars, Strawberry
  • Nature’s Path Organic Old Fashioned Organic Oats
  • Whole Foods Bulk Bin conventional rolled oats
  • Bob’s Red Mill Organic Old Fashioned Rolled Oats

Contained no glyphosate in any tests:

  • Nature’s Path Organic Honey Almond granola
  • Simple Truth Organic Instant Oatmeal, Original
  • Kashi Heart to Heart Organic Honey Toasted cereal
  • Cascadian Farm Organic Harvest Berry, granola bar
  • 365 Organic Old-Fashioned Rolled Oats

*This product underwent multiple tests and tested above the dangerous level in one or more and below the dangerous level in one or more.

 

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Six lifelong habits found among the happiest people

820 6 habits for happiness

In functional medicine we look at diet and lifestyle strategies to prevent or reverse disease, calm inflammation, and slow the aging process. However, other overlooked but extremely important aspects to your health are your general happiness, well-being, and attitude. Science shows happiness and positivity are correlated with better health. If you are not naturally happy, not to worry, simply putting forth small and regular efforts in the direction of happiness, such as writing in a gratitude journal, has been shown to improve health.

In what is thus far the most comprehensive study on what makes people happy, researchers looked at the lives of Harvard graduates, blue collar workers, and women spanning almost a decade. From that data, they found six common themes that ran through the lives of the happiest lifelong subjects.

1. Avoid smoking and alcohol. Researchers found those with lifelong smoking and alcohol habits were unhappier than those who abstained. Among the study subjects, not smoking was the most important factor in healthy aging.

Likewise, the study showed that alcohol robbed people of happiness and sabotaged their relationships (healthy relationships are one of the six factors of happiness).

In functional medicine we know smoking and regular alcohol consumption make it hard to be healthy and happy for other reasons. Smoking robs your brain of oxygen, degenerating it more quickly. This has an effect not only on your brain function, personality and mood, but also on the health of your body. Regular alcohol consumption has also been shown to more quickly degenerate the brain and promote leaky gut and inflammation.

2. A college education. Despite income, social class, or IQ, college-educated research subjects were happier in the long run. Those with higher education tended to take better care of their health and avoid destructive habits like smoking and drinking. Exercising your intellectual curiosity is also good for the brain at any age and despite your education.

3. A happy childhood. Ok, this one is unfair for a lot of people. Feeling loved by one’s mother was a bigger predictor of lifelong happiness despite income or IQ. Coping well with adolescence was another predictor. But not to worry if your childhood has been something only from which to recover. Caring, loving friendships and relationships have been shown to compensate for damaging childhoods, and those are factors you can develop through self-work.

4. Good relationships. Mutually heathy, loving, and supportive relationships were found to be fundamental to happiness across all the study subjects’ lives. This includes continually widening your social circles so that if some friends fall away new ones to fill their place.

5. Good coping skills. No one is spared from bad stuff happening. However, happier people are more resilient and better able to cope with hardship. This can be a learned skill, even if you need a therapist’s help. Coping skills include altruism, creating good outcomes out of bad situations, staying focused on the bright side, and keeping a sense of humor.

6. Giving back. The happiest study subjects intuitively followed a path that spiritual traditions have espoused for millennia — happiness is found through service. As they matured, the study subjects who served in building community and relationships thrived best. This includes mentoring, coaching, consulting, and otherwise selflessly sharing the fruits of well-earned wisdom.

Sometimes it can be difficult to “practice happiness” when we feel terrible. One of the most rewarding aspects to a functional medicine recovery journey is a boon to your general mood, well-being, and sense of love. Ask my office how we can help you shift your health and happiness into the right direction.