MENU

Blog

No more egg shaming; cardiovascular risks unfounded

751 eggs and cardio risk

For years we’ve been warned the cholesterol in eggs raises the risk of cardiovascular disease, however new research shows that in people with pre-diabetes and Type 2 diabetes, eggs do not raise cardiovascular risk if they are part of a healthy diet. What’s more, they pose no additional challenges to weight loss. These findings, along with previous research, indicate we need to jettison the outdated stance on cholesterol dangers.

The study emphasized a healthy diet that replaced saturated fats such as butter with monounsaturated fats such as olive and avocado oil. In tracking cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure, no significant differences were found between groups.

Researchers tracked two groups for one year: a high-egg group that ate 12 eggs per week and a low-egg group that ate fewer than two eggs per week. They found the following:

  • In the firsts three months of the study, neither group experienced an increase in cardiovascular risk markers.
  • During the second three months, both groups participated in a weight-loss diet while continuing their egg consumption protocols and achieved equivalent weight loss.
  • In the final six months, both groups achieved equivalent weight loss and showed no adverse changes to cardiovascular risk markers.

Eggs are commonly immune reactive

While the heat is off regarding egg consumption in relation to cholesterol levels, it’s important to know that for many people eggs are immune reactive and need to be avoided. Cyrex Labs offers a variety of panels that test for reactivity to eggs.

“Despite being vilified for decades, dietary cholesterol is understood to be far less detrimental to health than scientists originally thought. The effect of cholesterol in our food on the level of cholesterol in our blood is actually quite small.”

— Dr. Nick Fuller, lead author in the research

Why we need cholesterol

Conventional medicine would have us believe dietary cholesterol is bad, but we need to consume plenty of it in the form of healthy, natural fats.

Cholesterol is found in every cell of our bodies, and without it we wouldn’t survive. We use cholesterol to make vitamin D, cell membranes, and bile acids to digest fats.

Sufficient cholesterol is necessary to digest key antioxidant vitamins A, D, E, and K.

Cholesterol is also a necessary building block for our adrenal hormones and our reproductive hormones such as progesterone, estrogen, and testosterone.

The brain is largely made up of fat, and the fats we eat directly affect its structure and function, providing insulation around nerve cells, supporting neurotransmitter production, and helping maintain healthy communication between neurons.

Unraveling “good” vs. “bad” cholesterol

We hear a lot about “good” HDL and “bad” LDL cholesterol. They are actually lipoproteins, small fat and protein packages that transport cholesterol in the body.

HDL: High-density lipoprotein. Called “good” cholesterol, HDL helps keep cholesterol away from your arteries and removes excess arterial plaque.

LDL: Low-density lipoprotein. Called “bad” cholesterol, LDL can build up in the arteries, forming plaque that makes them narrow and less flexible, a condition called atherosclerosis.

Triglycerides. Elevated levels of this fat are dangerous and are linked to heart disease and diabetes. Levels can rise from smoking, physical inactivity, excessive drinking, and being overweight. A diet high in sugars and grains also puts you at risk.

Lipoprotein (a) or Lp(a). Made of an LDL part plus a protein (apoprotein a), elevated Lp(a) levels are a very strong risk for heart disease.

When considering test results, your doctor will pay attention to:

  • HDL levels vs. LDL levels
  • Triglyceride levels
  • The ratio between triglycerides to HDL
  • The ratio between total cholesterol and HDL
  • The size of the particles

There are small and large particles of HDL, LDL, and triglycerides. Large particles are practically harmless, while the small, dense particles are more dangerous because they can lodge in the arterial walls, causing inflammation, plaque buildup, and damage leading to heart disease.

More important than knowing your total cholesterol is knowing the ratio between your HDL and your LDL, and especially the size of the particles.

However, according to the Mayo Clinic, many doctors now believe that for predicting your heart disease risk, your total non-HDL cholesterol level may be more useful than calculating your cholesterol ratio. Non-HDL cholesterol contains all the “bad” types of cholesterol; it is figured by subtracting your HDL cholesterol number from your total cholesterol number.

However, either option appears to be a better risk predictor than your total cholesterol level or simply your LDL level.

In some cases, people have a genetic tendency toward extremely high cholesterol. In those situations, it may take more than diet to manage cholesterol levels.

Contact my office to learn more about diet and lifestyle to support healthy cholesterol levels, find out about your cholesterol levels and heart disease risk, and to test for egg reactivity.

Blog

NSAIDs — the dangers and the alternatives for pain

750 NSAID dangers and alternatives

According to the National Institutes of Health, nearly 50 million American adults have chronic pain or severe pain. The conventional medical model teaches us to reach first for medication to relieve pain, with ibuprofen and other NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) at the top of the list. However, with research mounting to show NSAIDs have a notable list of dangers, it makes sense instead to look for the root causes of pain.

Many people turn to NSAIDs for relief from pain and inflammation. Common NSAIDs are ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) and naproxen (Aleve). Celecoxib (Celebrex), diclofenac (Cataflam, Voltaren) are prescription NSAIDs. Aspirin is an NSAID, but it does not pose the same risks for stroke and heart attack.

Ibuprofen is metabolized by the liver, and can cause lesions, liver failure, or jaundice over time. The FDA has even warned against NSAIDs because they increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.

NSAIDs promote leaky gut

Another reason to avoid NSAIDs is their tendency to promote leaky gut.

In leaky gut, the lining of the small intestine becomes damaged and overly porous, allowing undigested food, bacteria, yeast, and other pathogens into the bloodstream. This triggers inflammation and pain throughout the body — the same thing people use NSAIDs to relieve.

So, if the typical go-to medications for pain aren’t an option any more, where do we turn? Functional medicine offers solutions.

Address inflammation to root out pain

When pain is treated with NSAIDs, it typically comes back when the medication runs out. However, in functional medicine the goal is to identify and address the cause of the inflammation and pain instead of simply putting a temporary Band-Aid on it.

It’s understandable to want relief so you can feel and function better. The good news is many people find their chronic pain diminishes substantially or disappears completely when they adopt functional medicine strategies.

Following are a few ways functional medicine can relieve pain and inflammation:

Anti-inflammatory diet. Remove foods that trigger inflammation, such as gluten, dairy, grains, legumes, eggs, sugar, and nightshades. This is typically done as an elimination and reintroduction protocol where you follow the diet strictly for a period of time and then customize it depending on your food sensitivities.

Avoid nightshades. Vegetables in the nightshade family can cause pain and inflammation in the joints. These include eggplant, potatoes (but not sweet potatoes or yams), peppers, tomatoes, tomatillos, hot pepper products and pepper-based spices. Simply removing nightshades from the diet has brought relief from joint pain for many, especially those with rheumatoid arthritis.

Turmeric and resveratrol. Each is a powerful anti-inflammatory alone, but research shows that taking them together is much more effective, making them potent tools for quenching the inflammation and damage associated chronic inflammatory disorders.

Improve your posture. Chronic pain can develop due to spinal misalignment. Rarely do patients with chronic pain have even pressure on both feet or eyes that move in synchrony. Many patients experience significant or total relief of chronic pain by addressing these imbalances.

Nutrients that fight inflammation and pain. These include vitamin D, vitamins A, E, and K, and plenty of omega 3 fatty acids.

White willow bark is an herb traditionally used for pain relief.

Moderate to high intensity exercise can help reduce inflammation. It also improves insulin sensitivity, a bonus for diabetes prevention. Just make sure to choose exercises that do not exacerbate joint pain; there are lots of options.

Balance your blood sugar. Many people have blood sugar dysregulation issues that contribute to systemic inflammation and pain. In addition, imbalanced blood sugar is one of the risk factors for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Support production of SCFA. Short chain fatty acids (SCFA) produced by your “good” gut bacteria are helpful in dampening inflammation. Eat abundant and varied fresh vegetables daily, eat probiotic-rich fermented foods, and take SCFA-supporting supplements such as butyrate, Saccharomyces boulardii, Lactobacillus sporogenes, and DDS-1 Lactobacilli acidophilus.

Support glutathione. The most important antioxidant in your body, glutathione aids in detoxification, helps maximize immune system function, and shields cells from damage caused by oxidation and inflammation.

A healthy body makes enough glutathione, but faced with chronic stressors such as toxins, poor diet, sleep deprivation, smoking, and excess sugar, glutathione become depleted.

Glutathione supplements are not effective taken orally. Instead, boost glutathione levels through a liposomal cream, suppository, nebulizer, or IV drip.

One must also support glutathione recycling to balance the immune system, protect body tissue from damage caused by inflammation, and help repair damage.

To enhance glutathione recycling, remove stressors depleting glutathione levels such as lack of sleep, smoking, food intolerances, diets high in sugars and processed foods, and excess alcohol intake.

The following nutritional and botanical compounds have been shown to support glutathione recycling:

  • L-glutamine
  • N-acetyl-cysteine
  • Alpha-lipoic acid
  • Milk thistle
  • Selenium
  • Cordyceps
  • Gotu kola

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.

Blog

Chronic viruses linked to inflammatory diseases

749 viral infections autoimmunity

The Epstein-Barr virus infects more than 90 percent of people in the United States by the age of 20. At least one in four of those infected will develop the commonly-known disease mononucleosis, or “mono,” experiencing a rash, enlarged liver or spleen, head- and body aches, and extreme fatigue.

However, Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is not only related to mono. Recent studies indicate it may be a catalyst for at least six more diseases, most of which are autoimmune in nature. These include multiple sclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, Type 1 diabetes, and juvenile idiopathic arthritis.

EBV isn’t the only virus associated with autoimmunity. Cytomegalovirus (CMV) has been linked to Sjögren’s syndrome, upper respiratory viral infections and human herpesvirus 6 (HHV-6) have been linked to multiple sclerosis (MS), and EBV has previously been linked to lupus.

Chronic viral infections can contribute to chronic inflammatory diseases

It has long been thought that viruses play a part in the development of chronic inflammatory diseases, especially autoimmunity. Many healthcare practitioners report there is frequently a hidden infection that either precedes or seems to trigger an initial autoimmune attack, or subsequently appears when the immune system is weakened once autoimmunity is activated.

This creates a vicious cycle of infection and illness. Infections are opportunistic and often travel together — many autoimmune patients find they host multiple infections that are bacterial, viral, parasitic and/or fungal, driving the inflammation that leads to symptoms.

The relationship between viral infection and autoimmune disease is multifaceted, involving numerous complex processes in the body. Scientists believe that a variety of factors must usually be present for an infection to result in an autoimmune condition. This includes not only a genetic predisposition but also lifestyle and environmental factors such as:

  • Stress
  • Poor diet
  • Poor sleep habits
  • Leaky gut
  • Environmental toxins
  • Dietary inflammatory triggers

In a nutshell, chronic disease develops as a result of an improper immune response to a viral infection due to other predisposing factors. The virus acts as the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Chronic viruses can prevent autoimmune remission

Remission from autoimmune symptoms is possible with proper diet and lifestyle management. However, if you already have an autoimmune condition, a chronic viral infection can prevent you from alleviating your symptoms and halting progression of the autoimmunity. In fact, a chronic virus is a deal-breaker in recovery for many patients.

If you have an autoimmune condition and suffer from symptoms that don’t get better after addressing inflammatory triggers through diet and lifestyle, contact my office to ask about testing for the viruses associated with your condition.

Viral infections can occur years before developing autoimmunity

Viral infections usually occur well before any symptoms associated with autoimmunity develop (sometimes years), so it can be difficult to make a definitive link between a particular infection and a yet-to-be autoimmune disorder. However, if you have not been diagnosed with an autoimmune condition but have had any of these viruses in the past and have unexplained symptoms now, it’s worth getting tested for autoimmunity and a chronic virus.

For more information on chronic viral infections and how to test and treat them, please contact my office.

Blog

Target gut microbiome for osteoarthritis and joint pain

748 gut bacteria joint pain

Osteoarthritis, or degenerative joint disease, is the number one cause of disability in the US, afflicting 31 million people. Until now, treatment strategies have been aimed at pain relief but not the inflammatory factors driving it.

However, new research shows that improving the gut microbiome — the community of bacteria that live in your gut — through prebiotic fiber may be the key to not only reducing the pain of osteoarthritis, but also curbing the inflammation.

Inflammation drives the arthritis of obesity

Obesity is a key risk factor for developing osteoarthritis. While it has been long been thought this is due to the extra weight overloading the joints, the new findings suggest it’s more likely linked to inflammation caused by shifts in an “obesity-prone” gut microbiome profile.

In the study, obese, arthritic mice showed less beneficial Bifidobacteria and an over abundance of inflammatory bacteria. The harmful bacteria caused inflammation throughout their bodies, leading to rapid joint deterioration.

However, when researchers fed the mice a nondigestible prebiotic fiber called oligofructose (a type of inulin), it shifted their gut microbiome to reduce inflammation protect from osteoarthritis despite no change in body weight.

This research suggests a new approach to treating osteoarthritis with a focus on gut microbiome and inflammation.

Prebiotics feed your gut bacteria

The effect of gut bacteria on arthritis pain is only one reason to improve your gut microbiome. It also helps your immune system, brain function, mood, and more. Systemic inflammation, regardless of obesity, is at the root of many chronic health disorders, including autoimmunity, heart disease, cancer, and more.

While probiotics — bacteria that line your digestive tract, support your body’s absorption of nutrients, and fight infection — have received a lot of notice in recent years, prebiotics are only now getting the press they deserve.

Prebiotics are non-digestible carbohydrates that serve as food for the bacteria (probiotics) in your gut. They come in the form of dietary fiber supplied by the fruits and vegetables you eat.

Prebiotics pass through the small intestine undigested. Once they reach the colon, gut bacteria consume them for fuel and create byproducts, such as vitamins and short chain fatty acids, valuable to human health.

Strong sources of prebiotics include all vegetables but especially:

  • Garlic
  • Jerusalem artichokes
  • Jicama
  • Dandelion greens
  • Onions
  • Peas
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Fruits
  • Beans

Prebiotics and probiotics together are important for battling inflammation and lowering overall disease risk.

Support plentiful SCFA for proper immune function

The short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) gut bacteria produce are essential to dampening the inflammation implicated in obesity and osteoarthritis.

One of the most important SCFAs is called butyrate. To increase butyrate and other SCFAs:

  • Eat abundant and varied fruits and vegetables daily — 7 to 9 servings is recommended.
  • Eat probiotic-rich fermented and cultured foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, and coconut water kefir.
  • Take SCFA-supporting supplements such as Saccharomyces boulardii, Lactobacillus sporogenes, and DDS-1 Lactobacilli acidophilus.
  • Take arabinogalactan, a compound made up of protein and sugar, which is helpful for immune support and SCFA production.

Intolerance to gluten, dairy, or other foods also provokes joint pain

Joint pain can also be driven by immune reactivity to certain foods.

Two of the most common inflammatory foods are gluten and dairy — prevalent in most people’s diets. When a person with gluten sensitivity eats gluten (not just wheat, but gliadin, glutenin, and transglutaminase proteins in other grains), the immune system jumps into action, releasing pro-inflammatory signaling cells. This leads to systemic inflammation affecting the body’s organs and soft tissue, including the joints and even the brain. A similar process happens for those reactive to dairy.

Some people find vegetables in the nightshade family cause pain and inflammation in their joints. These include eggplant, potatoes (but not sweet potatoes or yams), peppers, tomatoes, tomatillos, hot pepper products (cayenne, Tabasco, etc.), and pepper-based spices. Simply removing nightshades from the diet has brought relief from joint pain for many, especially those with rheumatoid arthritis.

Gluten, dairy, and nightshades are common reactive foods, but there are more on the list. An anti-inflammatory diet is a great tool for dampening pain and inflammation while helping you determine your immune reactive foods.

Another way to find out which foods are inflammatory for you is through a food sensitivity panel.

Chronic pain can create vicious cycles both in the immune system and in the brain that perpetuate even more pain. Fortunately, through dietary measures and nutritional support, we can unwind these vicious cycles.

Ask my office for more information on alleviating your chronic joint pain by addressing the underlying cause.

Blog

Feeling alone with Hashimoto’s? Celebrities have it too

Gina Rodriguez at Filly Brown Miami premiere

One of the worst things about an autoimmune disease such as Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism is how alone it can make you feel. Most autoimmune diseases do not have outwardly obvious symptoms. People with Hashimoto’s, most of whom are women, also know not to complain lest they be labeled a whiner or lazy. That’s why it’s so refreshing to see an acclaimed and accomplished actor openly discuss the challenges of autoimmune Hashimoto’s.

Gina Rodriguez, star of the television series Jane the Virgin and the movie Annihilation, revealed in a recent interview her struggles with Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.

Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks and destroys the thyroid gland. Although thyroid medication may be necessary, it does not address the immune dysfunction or what triggered it.

Although the cheery pictures don’t reveal it, Rodriguez struggles with a disease that jeopardizes her career in an image-driven, exhausting career. Despite the challenges and bouts of despair, Rodriguez says Hashimoto’s forced her to acknowledge the need to take better care of herself.

Rodriguez is using her celebrity to help educate and empower women with Hashimoto’s to take charge of their health and their lives.

She went from viewing Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism as the “curse of a lifetime” to calling it her “super power” in a video interview with a Hashimoto’s patient.

Although she doesn’t go into the specifics of her diet plan, Rodriguez says she worked with a nutritionist to reclaim her health and experienced a boon to her energy levels. She does mention gluten and dairy as two foods that worsen her symptoms.

Rodriguez isn’t the only actor using her celebrity to advocate for patients with Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism. Former Baywatch actor Gena Nolin had to nearly starve herself and exercise long hours to keep from ballooning while filming Baywatch.

Nolin learned about her condition after many years of suffering through gradually worsening symptoms. In order to draw attention to the disease, which frequently goes undiagnosed or treated with antidepressants, Nolin created the Facebook group Thyroid Sexy, which has almost 150,000 followers.

She also co-authored the book Beautiful Inside and Out: Conquering Thyroid Disease with a Healthy, Happy, “Thyroid Sexy” Life with Hashimoto’s hypothyroid advocate Mary Shomon.

Other notable stars who have talked about their Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism include Oprah Winfrey, Kelly Osbourne, Kim Cattrall, Jillian Michaels, Mary-Louise Parker, Zoe Saldana, Gigi Hadid, Brooke Burke-Charvet, Victoria Justice, and Molly Sims.

Model and social media superstar Gigi Hadid was candid about her struggles with Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism and its effects on her weight.

Hashimoto’s is the cause of more than 90 percent of hypothyroidism cases in the United States, though it continues to be woefully under diagnosed. It’s important when you have Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism to address and manage the immune dysfunction with functional medicine principles and search for the root cause of the dysregulation. An anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle underpin management of the disease.

Blog

Do you have chemical sensitivities? Tips for improving

746 chemical sensitivities

Do perfumes or heavy fragrance make you gag or trigger your inflammation or autoimmune symptoms? Do scented products, gasoline fumes, car exhaust, tire stores, new rugs or carpet, or other sources of chemical odors give you headaches, fatigue, and other symptoms? You are not alone. An increasing number of people suffer from migraines, rashes, fatigue, mood changes, autoimmune flare-ups, and other symptoms when they encounter chemical scents, odors, or fumes. Even products we used to associate with freshness and cleanliness, such as scented dryer sheets, can trigger debilitating symptoms.

The toxins in environmental chemicals have myriad short and long-term health effects and should be avoided by all people. However, some people become extremely sick from even mild exposure, which can limit their ability to be in public, their careers, relationships, and where they live. Just a walk in the neighborhood can turn toxic when the neighbor is running their dryer.

These people are suffering from a breakdown in the immune system called toxicant-induced loss of tolerance, or TILT. This is a disorder in which the body is no longer able to tolerate chemicals. Also referred to as multiple chemical sensitivities (MCS), TILT is often accompanied by food sensitivities, autoimmunity, sensitivity to electromagnetic frequencies from sources such as cell phones and computers, and even jewelry.

This is because the same underlying loss of immune tolerance is at the foundation.

How someone with TILT reacts depends on how they express inflammation and immune dysregulation. Reactions include asthma, migraines, depression, anxiety, fibromyalgia, fatigue, brain fog, memory loss, incontinence, neurological dysfunction, and rashes.

Research shows primary reason people develop TILT is depletion of the master antioxidant: glutathione. If the body’s glutathione levels are healthy, the risk of TILT and other immune-based disorders is much lower.

A healthy gut microbiome is increasingly being shown as a vital factor in preventing chemical sensitivities. The gut is the seat of the immune system and our gut bacteria profoundly influence all aspects of health, including immune function. When gut bacteria are not diverse enough or over ridden with bacterial infection, the immune system cannot respond appropriately to threats and becomes overzealous, reacting to everything.

Addressing leaky gut, inflammatory foods in the diet, and gut inflammation are equally important.

Deficiencies in vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids, chronic system inflammation, and chronic or acute stress are other factors that can contribute to the development of chemical sensitivities.

If you have autoimmune disease, be especially careful with toxic chemicals in everyday household and body products. Autoimmunity means the immune system is already hyper reactive and thus more prone to TILT.

Reducing chemical sensitivities can require a thorough functional medicine protocol. Strategies include boosting glutathione levels, eating a wide and ample variety of vegetables to diversify your gut bacteria, shoring up on vitamin D and omega 3 fatty acids, exercising regularly to boost immune-taming endorphins, practicing stress relief techniques, and following an anti-inflammatory whole foods diet.

Keeping your immune system resilient and stable with a customized functional medicine approach can help prevent and reduce chemical sensitivities. Ask my office for more advice.

Blog

Antacid and antibiotics raise allergy risk in children

745 antacids antibiotics allergies

Addressing the root cause of your child’s acid reflux or frequent illnesses instead of a pharmaceutical quick fix could save you both bigger headaches down the road — a large study shows antacid and antibiotic use in early childhood significantly raises the risk of developing allergies.

Researchers looked at the records of almost 800,000 children born during a 13-year period to families in the military.

Surprisingly, almost 10 percent of the babies were treated with antacids such as Zantac or Pepcid for acid reflux; spitting up is common in infants and does not typically need to be medicated.

Also surprising was that more than half of the children in the study went on to develop allergies, rashes, asthma, or hay fever.

However, the children who received antacids in infancy were twice as likely to develop allergic diseases compared to the rest.

What’s worse is that their risk of developing anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction that can be deadly, was 50 percent higher compared to the non-medicated children.

Children who received antibiotics as babies were twice as likely to have asthma and had a 50 percent higher likelihood of hay fever and anaphylactic allergies.

Why you must take care of the gut to avoid allergies and immune-based diseases

The researchers suggested the negative impact antacids and antibiotics have on gut bacteria, also called the gut microbiome, play a role in the development of allergies and other immune disorders.

Additionally, by neutralizing the acidity of the stomach, which is necessary to break down foods, antacids may be allowing undigested foods into the small intestine. This negatively impacts the gut microbiome and inflames the digestive tract.

The health of the digestive tract and gut microbiome profoundly influences immune health. When the gut is inflamed and damaged and gut bacteria is unhealthy and full of bad bacteria, this predisposes a person to myriad immune-based disorders, including:

  • Allergies
  • Food sensitivities
  • Chemical sensitivities
  • Eczema and other skin-based disorders
  • Asthma and other respiratory disorders
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Brain-based disorders

Look for the root cause of childhood illness

Although spitting is up normal for babies, if a baby is spitting up excessively you have to ask why.

Also, if a child has reoccurring infections that require antibiotics over and over, again you have to ask why.

These are signs that the health of the digestive tract, the gut microbiome, and the immune system are already in distress.

For instance, the child could be eating a food to which they are intolerant, such as gluten or dairy — two primary triggers of immune disorders. The child may have been born with food intolerances or autoimmunity (when the immune system attacks the body) passed on from the mother.

A child born via c-section and fed formula is likely to have a less healthy gut microbiome than a child born vaginally and breastfed. This may predispose a child to excess acid reflux or reoccurring infections.

However, medicating a child with antacids and antibiotics only further destroys the gut microbiome and dysregulates the immune system. This makes the child significantly more prone to immune disorders, such as allergies, anaphylaxis, autoimmunity, asthma, eczema, obesity, and other chronic issues.

The key is to address the underlying causes of an inflamed gut, an unhealthy gut microbiome, and inflammation. Ask my office how functional medicine can help manage these issues.

Blog

Try new veggies and fruit to boost healthy gut bacteria

744 diversity gut bacteria with veggies

Want to improve your mood, health, and brain function? An ample and diverse supply of healthy gut bacteria has been shown to be essential, and that is best obtained through eating lots of different kinds of produce. Try going out of your comfort zone in the produce aisle and incorporating some new varieties of vegetables and fruits.

The digestive system is host to nearly four pounds of bacteria — some considered “good,” some considered “bad” — and while both have roles to play, it’s critical to actively support the good bacteria to avoid leaky gut, SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth), and systemic inflammation, all of which contribute to autoimmunity and other chronic illnesses.

Gut bacteria rely on the fiber from fruits and vegetables as a source of energy. When bacteria metabolize fiber, they produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFA), vital compounds that regulate immune function, reduce inflammation, and boost brain health.

Support gut bacteria with plentiful and varied produce

Simply eating plentiful — and diverse — fruits and vegetables is one of the best ways to support a diverse population of bacteria in your gut. Also, probiotics work best in a gut environment that’s already being supported with plenty of fiber — the fruits and vegetables on your plate.

The recommended produce consumption is seven to 10 servings a day. That may sound like a lot, but one serving is only a half cup of chopped produce, or a cup of leafy greens. Aim for produce low on the glycemic scale — sugary fruits may create problems for those with unstable blood sugar.

Expand your options with new and unusual produce

If you are looking to expand your consumption of produce and need some inspiration, seek out some of these fresh fruits and vegetables at international or health food stores that bring in varieties of produce lesser known in the west:

Ayote is a tropical squash used similarly to summer squash or pumpkin. It can be eaten whole when tender, or when mature, made into a stew, creamy soup, or sweet dessert or pie.

Bitter melon (balsam pear, bitter gourd, bitter cucumber) is a tropical green melon native to Asia, Africa and parts of the Caribbean. Unripe it is bitter, but allowed to ripen, the interior turns a reddish hue and has a sweeter flavor. Cooked like zucchini, bitter melon has cancer-fighting properties, is reported to help cure diabetes, and can help cleanse the body of toxins.

Camote: A starchy white sweet potato that can be prepared and eaten in the same way as the sweet potato. In Costa Rica camotes are used in soups or mashed into puree and served with a bit of milk, butter, and sugar. Camote can also sub for sweet potato in casseroles.

Cherimoya (cherimolia, chirimolla, anone): Native to southern Ecuador and northern Peru cherimoya is the size of a large apple or grapefruit, with a green dimpled skin and a creamy white, sweet-tart flesh. The flavor is a blend of pineapple and banana. Eat cherimoya like an apple, cubed, scooped out with a spoon, or cut in half and peeled. It can also be pureed and used as mousse or pie filling.

Choy Sum (bok choy sum, yu choy sum, flowering Chinese cabbage) looks much like baby bok choy, but its yellow flowers set it apart. The leaves are more bitter than the stems, and the entire plant is edible. Steam or saute, or try blanching and then cooking in oyster sauce.

Daikon Radish (Asian or Oriental radish, mooli, lo bok) is a large white radish with a lighter flavor than small red radishes. Used in kimchi, as a palate cleanser, and as an accompaniment to sashimi, it’s also great in light salads where its flavor isn’t overwhelmed by other ingredients.

Galangal (galanga root, Thai ginger, blue ginger) resembles ginger in appearance, but has a distinct waxy skin ringed with reddish-brown skin. The flesh is white but turns brown when exposed to air. Used in the same way as ginger root, galangal is more spicy and pungent.

Guava: A common tropical fruit, guava can have white, pink, or red flesh. It is eaten fresh, juiced, made into jam or preserves, and used in desserts.

Lemongrass (citronella grass, fever grass, hierba de limón) is a native Southeast Asian plant with a thick woody stem used to flavor dishes. To impart its lemony flavor, bruise the stalks, simmer or saute in the dish, then remove before serving. Lemongrass also makes a nice herbal tea infusion.

Plantain: A staple crop throughout West and Central Africa, India, the Caribbean and Latin America, plantains are used both green and starchy like a vegetable, as well as yellow and sweeter like fruit. Plantains must be cooked. A green plantain can substitute for potato, and ripe yellow plantains are commonly baked, boiled, or fried in coconut oil and served with salt.

Rambutan: Very similar to lychee and longan fruit, rambutan are common in Costa Rican markets. Great for snacks, with a sweet and sour taste somewhat like grapes.

Taro Root (cocoyam, arrow root, kalo, dasheen): A tuber native to Malaysia, its somewhat plain flavor makes it a good host for stronger flavors. In Hawaii, taro is used to make poi; in Indian cooking, slices of taro root are seasoned and fried; it’s also used in China as taro cakes and moon cakes. In the U.S. it’s common to find snack chips made from taro.

Yacón: Also known as Peruvian ground apple, this tuber consists mostly of water and contains inulin, a low-calorie, high-fiber sweetener that aids digestion while inhibiting toxic bacteria.

Yuca (cassava, manioc): Different from yucca, yuca is a starchy tropical tuber that is made into flour for bread and cakes, and can be cooked just like a potato to make chips or mash.

Blog

Want to trash your lungs? Use basic cleaning products

743 cleaning products wreck lungs

Smoking is bad for you and cleaning house is good, right? Wrong, if you use conventional cleaning products — you may as well smoke. A new study shows the lung decline over 20 years caused by using conventional cleaning products, which have no federal regulations for health or safety, equals that of smoking 20 cigarettes a day. The toxic chemicals used in cleaning products damage the lungs little by little, adding up to a significant impact that rivals a pack-a-day smoking habit.

The Norwegian study tracked 6,000 women over two decades — women responsible for keeping the home clean, women who cleaned as a job, and women not regularly engaged in cleaning. Compared to the women who didn’t clean house, the regular home cleaners and occupational cleaners who used cleaning sprays and other products showed an accelerated decline in lung function.

This study was the first of its kind to look at the long-term effects of cleaning products on the respiratory tract. Shorter term studies have already established a link between cleaning products — bleach, glass cleaner, detergents, and air fresheners — and an increase in asthma. In fact, the women who cleaned regularly in the Norwegian study also showed an increased rate of asthma.

Household cleaners are toxic and damaging to multiple systems in the body

The lungs aren’t the only part of the body conventional cleaning products damage. They also impact the brain, immune system, hormonal system, and liver.

For instance, phthalates are used in the perfumed scents many cleaning products have. Phthalates lower sperm counts, cause early puberty in girls, and raise the risk of cancer and lung problems.

Perchloroethylene (PERC), a solvent used in spot removers, carpet and upholstery cleaners, and dry cleaning, raises the risk of Parkinson’s disease and cancer.

Although hundreds, if not thousands, of studies have repeatedly demonstrated the toxicity of chemicals in common household ingredients, their use in manufacturing is largely unregulated.

Our over exposure to toxic chemicals has been linked to skyrocketing rates of autoimmunity and even autism, which is a neurological presentation of autoimmunity in many people.

In the past few decades we have seen autism increase tenfold, leukemia go up more than 60 percent, male birth defects double, and childhood brain cancer go up 40 percent.

Helping protect your body from toxins

Unfortunately, it is not possible to be toxin-free in today’s world. Toxins have gotten into our air, water, food (even organic), and our bodies. Everyone carries hundreds of toxins in their bodies, even newborn babies.

When a person has a highly reactive immune system, various toxins and heavy metals can trigger inflammation in the same way a gluten sensitivity can, causing a flare up of autoimmune and inflammatory symptoms. By using functional medicine principles to keep inflammation as low as possible, we can help prevent toxins from becoming immune reactive.

To accomplish this, first avoid toxins as much as possible and use non-toxic products in your home and on your body. The Norwegian researchers suggested cleaning with a microfiber cloth and water.

Also, eat an anti-inflammatory whole foods diet consisting primarily of produce, nurture healthy gut bacteria, exercise regularly, spend time in nature, have healthy social interactions, and supplement with compounds such as vitamin D and glutathione precursors (the body’s master antioxidant). These are a few ways to support the body and make it more resilient to the many toxins it must battle.

Ask my office for more information on how to help protect your body from toxins.

Blog

Food quality, not calories, matter in managing weight

739 food quality over caloriesIf there is one thing Americans love, it is a prescribed diet, and the internet abounds with rules for grams of protein, fats, and carbohydrates, genetic and body type diets, calorie counting, and so on. But a recent 12-month study found focusing on whole foods and ditching sugars and processed foods resulted in weight loss and improved health for the subjects.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, showed it didn’t matter whether the diet was low-carb, low-fat, the genetic factors, or insulin response issues.

Here is what the subjects were told to eat:

  • Nutrient-dense, minimally processed, whole foods cooked at home as often as possible.
  • Fresh vegetables
  • Fresh fruits
  • Legumes and whole grains for the low-fat group
  • Grass-fed meats and salmon for the low-carb group
  • Lean meats for the low-fat group
  • Nuts and nut butter
  • Healthy fats for the low-carb group
  • Low-fat dairy for the low-fat group
  • Hard cheeses for the low-carb group

Here is what all participants were told to avoid:

  • Products made from refined flour: Breads, pasta, bagels, muffins, etc.
  • White rice
  • Sugary snacks and beverages
  • Fruit juice
  • Processed foods, even if they were low-fat or low-carb

Participants were also encouraged to follow national guidelines for physical activity but generally did not change their exercise routines.

After 12 months in the study, which included nutritional counseling and support, the low-carb group lost an average of 13 pounds while the low-fat group lost an average of 11.7 pounds. Both groups also saw improvements in body fat, blood sugar, and blood pressure.

However, individually, some members of the study gained weight while some lost as much as 50 to 60 pounds. Those who lost the most weight were the ones who reported changing their relationship with food. They no longer snacked in the car or in front of the television and they cooked at home more often.

The researchers concluded it is time to shift the national focus from calories to nutrient-dense foods.

What this study means for functional medicine

In functional medicine, we always emphasize the importance of a whole foods diet and avoiding processed foods and sugars.

However, people managing complex health conditions may need to go beyond a basic whole foods diet as grains and dairy are inflammatory in many people.

Dairy and gluten are common triggers in people with autoimmunity and many feel better avoiding them. Many people also find they react to other grains, such as corn. The lectins in legumes pose a problem to some as well.

This study is great because it cuts through the clutter of complex dietary recommendations — and the industries built on them — and shows the value of getting back to the basics of human nutrition.

If you suffer from a chronic inflammatory condition or autoimmune disease, that is a great first step. However, if you continue to have problems, you may need to temporarily follow an autoimmune diet to identify dietary triggers of inflammation. Ask my office for more advice.