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Is social pollution and workplace stress harming you?

802 social pollution workplace stress

Thanks to science and public awareness, we know environmental pollution from industry harms our health. Same goes with tobacco. But did you know “social pollution” is just as harmful? Social pollution refers to the long hours, lack of economic security, high cost of health care, exhaustion, surviving in a gig economy, lack of parental support, and high stress that has come to characterize work life in the United States and other industrialized countries. It is now recognized as they fifth leading cause of death.

In the new book Dying for a Paycheck, author and Stanford University professor Jeffrey Pfeffer uncovers the disastrous toll of modern work life on human health.

Sixty-one percent of American workers say workplace stress has made them sick, and 7 percent have been hospitalized by it.

Workplace stress leads to the chronic diseases that make up three quarters of the health problems crushing our health care system, including diabetes, metabolic syndrome (pre-diabetes) cardiovascular disease, and circulatory diseases. Disorders such as alcoholism, drug addiction, and overeating are also linked to high stress and the erosion of family and social structures from work-related stress.

In fact, one of the worst aspects of modern work life is the effect it is having on our social support structures. Long, stressful hours at work breaks up marriages, children, and families, leaves too little time for healthy socializing with friends and family, and makes it difficult for single people to date or establish new relationships.

Research clearly shows regular healthy socialization is vital to good health and that isolation and lack of positive social time can be as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

When work place stress and social pollution keeps you stuck in fight-or-flight mode

One of the many downsides to workplace stress and social pollution is that it can keep your nervous systems stuck in fight-or-flight mode. A normal stress response is to flee, fight, or freeze. When work stress and the havoc it causes on your home life is constant, you never get a chance to unwind from being in a constant fight-or-flight state.

The chronic stress from this is devastating to brain and body health. It accelerates brain aging, causes leaky gut, raises inflammation, imbalances the hormones, and increases the risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease, and addictive habits.

What can you do to protect yourself from social pollution and workplace stress

Unfortunately, most of us cannot single-handedly change this unhealthy situation in which we find ourselves. However, you can be aware of and not psychologically buy into the subtle or not-so-subtle shaming and unhealthy expectations around productivity.

Companies expect longer hours at lower pay yet provide little to no job security, sick days, maternity or paternity leaves, and so on. Be aware of this and don’t internalize the messaging that working long days with no days off makes you a better person. It doesn’t, it makes you a sicker person.

If you can downsize your housing, car payments, or other expenses, consider the positive impact living more modestly can have on your health. It could be the ticket to a dramatic health turn around.

However, not everyone can afford to downsize as many are working non-stop to barely get by. Although there is no easy answer to this, recognize your situation and don’t ask too much from yourself.

The more people who are aware of the problem, the better chance we have at changing public perception and workplace policies.

In the meantime, support your health the best you can with an anti-inflammatory diet, seek out support, and make sure to include healthy, restful, and relaxing time in your life as much as possible.

If you have a desk job and are too tired to make it to the gym, take regular breaks to move your body and go for short walks as frequently as possible. Regular physical activity is vital to the heath of your brain and body and will help protect you from the harm of workplace stress.

Ask my office for more ways we can help you buffer your body from the negative effects of too much stress.

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Optimizing your body’s best defense against toxins

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You’ve heard antioxidant foods and supplements can help fight inflammation and protect you from toxins, but the most important antioxidant is one we make in our own bodies: glutathione.

Unlike common antioxidant sources — vitamins C and E, beta carotene, turmeric, resveratrol, and foods such as blueberries, tomatoes, and red wine — you can’t take plain glutathione as it’s too hard to absorb. However, you can take glutathione precursors or special forms of glutathione that can be absorbed by the body.

Glutathione: the “master antioxidant”

Antioxidants are molecules that inhibit other molecules from going through oxidation, a chemical reaction that produces toxins called free radicals.

Free radicals are unstable molecules created as a result of natural biochemical processes. We can also ingest them via toxins in food, air, water, and even medication. Left unchecked, free radicals damage cells and contribute to the development of serious health problems.

While we need plenty of dietary antioxidants from varied and plentiful fresh fruits and vegetables, our most powerful antioxidant source is the glutathione our bodies produce.

In fact, glutathione is so powerful it’s referred to as the “master antioxidant.”

Two vital duties of glutathione

Two of glutathione’s most important duties are promoting liver detoxification and dampening inflammation.

Liver detox. In the liver, glutathione binds with toxins to help move them out of the body. This process is so effective people who overdose on Tylenol receive an IV infusion of NAC (N-acetyl cysteine), a precursor, or building block, for the body to produce more glutathione.

Inflammation and immune function. When you have enough glutathione in your cells, it “takes the bullet” by offering itself up to free radicals so they don’t attach to and damage cells.

However, when your glutathione reserves are too low, free radical damage can spiral out of control, leading to cell damage and the foundations for inflammatory health condition such as:

  • Intestinal permeability (leaky gut)
  • Chemical sensitivities
  • Heavy metal sensitivities
  • Autoimmune diseases and flares
  • Inflammatory and immune disorders

Glutathione depletion is also linked to a number of other disease states and groups:

  • Aging
  • Athletic overtraining
  • Major injuries and trauma
  • Patients with wasting diseases such as HIV and AIDS
  • Lung cancer
  • Gut-based diseases such as Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Alcoholism and fatty liver disease
  • Diabetes and low glucose tolerance
  • Cancer

In many of these cases, raising glutathione levels has shown therapeutic benefits.

Support glutathione’s antioxidant status

In these overly-stressed times of inescapable toxic burdens, it’s nearly impossible to maintain proper glutathione levels strictly through diet. You can find plain glutathione over-the-counter, but it’s not worth taking because your gut breaks it down before you can use it.

However, it is possible to support your glutathione status in the following ways:

S-acetyl glutathione is one of the newest and most accessible forms of glutathione that the intestinal tract can efficiently absorb. It can be helpful in managing autoimmunity.

Oral liquid liposomal glutathione covers two bases by providing both bioactive glutathione and glutathione precursors that help your body make glutathione inside the cells.

Liposomal cream is used in localized areas of pain or inflammation, such as an inflamed knee or on the thyroid for autoimmunity.

IV drip is highly effective but is expensive and difficult to access for some patients.

Other glutathione delivery methods include glutathione suppositories, glutathione nebulizers, and sublingual glutathione.

Support glutathione recycling for optimum immune function

It’s important for the body to be able to make glutathione inside the cells to protect mitochondria, the energy-producing factories that lie at the foundation of our health and longevity. To do this, the body must be able to recycle glutathione.

For glutathione to be recycled, it must be reduced:

There are two main forms of glutathione in the body:

  • Reduced glutathione
  • Oxidized glutathione

When there is plenty of reduced glutathione in the cells, they sacrifice themselves to free radicals — “taking the bullet” as previously mentioned — to protect the precious mitochondria. An enzyme called glutathione peroxidase triggers the conversion of reduced glutathione to oxidized glutathione, a free radical itself.

However, when there is sufficient glutathione in the cell, the newly unstable oxidized glutathione pairs with available glutathione with the help of an enzyme called glutathione reductase. This sends it back to reduced glutathione status and ready for duty.

To support glutathione recycling, it is important to first reduce stress on the body:

  • Balance blood sugar
  • Restore gut health
  • Address food intolerances: An elimination diet or a lab test can help you determine which foods are responsible
  • Manage your autoimmune disease
  • Manage hormonal imbalances
  • Get plenty of sleep
  • Cut down on an over-committed schedule
  • Get adequate exercise
  • Make time for play and enjoyment
  • Minimize exposure to toxins in and out of the home

If these factors don’t bring the needed relief, then the following botanicals and nutritional compounds can help support glutathione recycling:

  • N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC) is rapidly metabolized into intracellular glutathione.
  • L-glutamine is important for glutathione generation.
  • Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) directly recycles and extends the metabolic life spans of vitamin C, glutathione, and coenzyme Q10, necessary for glutathione recycling.
  • Selenium is a trace element that serves as the essential cofactor for the enzyme glutathione peroxidase, which converts reduced glutathione to oxidized glutathione so glutathione can “take the bullet” to protect cells.
  • Milk thistle significantly increases glutathione and positively influences the ratios of reduced and oxidized glutathione.
  • Gotu kola increases the activity and amount of glutathione peroxidase and the quantity of glutathione.
  • Cordyceps activates glutathione synthesis and protects cells by engaging the glutathione enzyme cycle.

Taken together these botanicals and compounds activate the glutathione peroxidase and reductase enzymes to promote a healthy glutathione recycling system.

To optimize your glutathione levels and recycling, contact my office for guidance.

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Cholesterol, good fats, bad fats, and heart health

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Conventional medicine is slowly admitting that instead of fat, sugar and refined carbohydrates are the biggest sources of high cholesterol. Excess sugars and carbs drive good cholesterol down and triglycerides up, leading to the small, dangerous particles that encourage plaque buildup in the arteries. This contributes to heart disease and insulin resistance, or pre-diabetes.

High blood sugar and insulin levels also drive chronic systemic inflammation, playing a large role in heart disease and most other chronic illnesses. Systemic inflammation arises not only from poor diet, but also from an inactive lifestyle, chronic stress, food sensitivities, chronic viral and bacterial infections, and more.

Recently busted cholesterol myths include:

  • Statins: Recent research shows that statin benefits are likely due to their ability to lower inflammation, not cholesterol.
  • Heart attack: 75 percent of those who have heart attacks have normal cholesterol levels.
  • Age: In older patients, those with higher cholesterol have a lower risk of death than those with lower levels of cholesterol.
  • Harvard research has shown that a high level of systemic inflammation ranks higher than high cholesterol for putting subjects at risk for heart disease.

Consume plenty of fats from healthy sources

Conventional medicine has touted a low-fat diet for years, but researchers and doctors are coming to realize we need more fat in our diet than previously thought. However, not all dietary sources of cholesterol are created equal. The type of fat you consume matters more than the quantity.

For the health of your entire body, it’s important to consume plenty of healthy, unprocessed fats and avoid processed vegetable oils. Avoid all trans fats as they raise your risk of cardiovascular disease and can damage your brain.

Omega 3 and monounsaturated fats improve the type of cholesterol in our bodies.

The dietary reference intake (DRI) for fat in adults is 20 percent to 35 percent of total calories from fat. That equals about 44 to 77 grams of fat per day for a 2,000 calorie diet.

*Below are the recommended consumption ratios:

  • Monounsaturated fat: 15 percent to 20 percent
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 5 percent to 10 percent
  • Saturated fat: less than 10 percent (unless keto)
  • Trans fat: 0 percent
  • Cholesterol: less than 300 mg per day

Unsaturated fats. Typically liquid at room temperature, sources include monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. When used in place of saturated fat, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats can lower cholesterol levels.

Monounsaturated fats. Healthy versions come from plant-based sources such as nuts, olives, and avocado. Avoid canola oil.

Polyunsaturated fats. Healthy plant-based sources include nuts. Avoid processed seed and grain (corn) oils due to frequent rancidity.

Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats that help lower inflammation. Good sources include cold water fish (salmon, tuna, herring, and anchovies), flax and chia seed, and walnuts.

*Saturated fats. Typically solid or waxy at room temperature, these come from animal products and tropical oils. Taking in too much saturated fat is linked with raising levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol in the blood and increasing internal inflammation. Healthy foods high in saturated fat include:

  • Beef, pork, lamb, veal, and skin of poultry
  • High fat dairy products
  • Butter, lard, and bacon fat
  • Palm, palm kernel, and coconut oil

*Low-carb and ketogenic diets: The rules on fat ratios change on diets that are very carb-restricted due to how carb levels affect saturated fat in the bloodstream. People on these diets are able to consume higher ratios of saturated fats safely.

Trans fats form when a liquid fat is changed into a solid fat through a process called hydrogenation. This extends shelf life, however trans fats raise levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol and decrease levels of “good” HDL cholesterol. 

Avoid trans fats completely! Sources of trans fat include solid margarine, shortening, powdered and liquid creamers, and most convenience and prepackaged foods.

Ask my office for more advice on how much and what types of fats to eat in your diet.

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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.

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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.

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Chronic viruses linked to inflammatory diseases

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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.

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Target gut microbiome for osteoarthritis and joint pain

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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.

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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.

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Do you have chemical sensitivities? Tips for improving

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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.

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Antacid and antibiotics raise allergy risk in children

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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.