Is Psoriasis Reversible?

Anyone who has psoriasis knows the discomfort it can cause—itching, burning, stinging, soreness. It can even prevent some people from participating in the social activities they enjoy if they’re uncomfortable being seen in public with the telltale raised red patches, sometimes with silverish-white scales on their skin.

Psoriasis can be confused with eczema because the two share some symptoms, but there are a couple of symptoms that can set psoriasis apart—stiff, swollen joints and patches of inflamed redness. People can be genetically predisposed to contracting psoriasis if one or especially both parents suffer from it, but it can also arise from environmental triggers.

At its core, psoriasis is an autoimmune disease; it’s an immune system response in which the body’s T cells that normally protect it against disease go awry and start attacking healthy skin cells. This, in turn, triggers other immune responses, creating more severe reactions.

Flare-ups can last from weeks to months and can be cyclical; outbreaks can range from mild to severe, showing up in small spots or spreading over large areas. Some of the most common triggers are chronic stress, obesity, food allergies or sensitivities, medications, drying environmental conditions, infections, over-consumption of alcohol, and smoking.

The National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF) states that there are five different types of psoriasis, ranging from common to rare: plaque (most common type), guttate, inverse, pustular, and erythrodermic (rare and most severe; can become life-threatening). Each type presents with a different appearance and usually shows up in specific areas of the head and body, but flare-ups can occur anywhere.

There are further risks to having psoriasis, and among them is the possibility of developing psoriatic arthritis, a debilitating condition marked by inflammation, pain, and progressive joint damage. The NPF estimates that approximately 30 percent of people with psoriasis will be diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis. If left untreated, psoriatic arthritis can cause permanent joint damage; in addition, more than 30 percent of patients with psoriatic arthritis developed hearing loss, and more than 26 percent had inner ear damage.

Other possible serious health conditions that could arise from having psoriasis include cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, Crohn’s disease, kidney disease, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, osteoporosis, depression, diabetes and more. The NPF states that there is a “significant association between psoriatic disease and metabolic syndrome”, which includes several health issues like heart disease, high blood pressure and abdominal obesity; approximately 40 percent of psoriasis patients develop metabolic syndrome.

Dermatologists typically treat psoriasis with topical creams and moisturizers in an effort to minimize discomfort and lessen the appearance of flare-ups; they may also use phototherapy or prescribe immune-suppressing medications. However, these creams and medications merely suppress the symptoms to some degree—and many have dangerous side effects that can lead to new serious health issues.

While conventional medicine looks to suppress the immune system, functional medicine works to strengthen it. Specialists like dermatologists, endocrinologists and others focus only on the affected organ system of their specialty rather than the whole person; therefore, if the root of the condition stems from a different part of the body or another undetected disorder, it will remain overlooked and the problem continues…and usually worsens.

As with any autoimmune disease, there is an underlying cause that goes far deeper than the skin reactions you see on the surface. And the only way to truly manage any autoimmune disease, including psoriasis, so that you don’t have to endure the constant cyclical flare-ups is to find out why your immune system has become confused enough to attack healthy tissue. Standard blood, urine, and other tests don’t dig deep enough to unearth the real problem, but your functional medicine doctor will conduct extremely comprehensive tests to reach the “why” of your psoriasis.

The answer to reversing or preventing your psoriasis—or any health issue—from progressing further lies in finding both the root cause and your specific triggers. Everyone’s triggers are different, and there can be a combination of culprits including food sensitivities or allergies, stress, environmental toxins, nutritional deficiencies, undiscovered infections, genetic factors, leaky gut and others. Through a correct diagnosis of the true cause of your psoriasis, proper lifestyle changes will help to heal the source—which not only helps your skin, but can also prevent other health issues from developing.

Find out what you need to know about your thyroid hormone or health disorder diagnosis today, and get health news updates via Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and The Wellness Essentials newsletter.

If you’d like to leave a question for me to answer in a future blog, you can do that via social media or email.

For more information about my clinic in Oradell, NJ, including Functional Medicine, Neurology & Nutrition, and The Grassroots Medicine Initiative, please call (201) 261-5430.

How to Detoxify Your Body Naturally

On a daily basis, our bodies are subjected to toxins from our environment, on and in foods, leaching into us from clothing and into our food from plastics and cookware – the list goes on. The result is that our bodies end up with toxic overload, which can lead to a wide range of health problems including autoimmune disease, heart disease, depression, diabetes, anxiety, and so much more.

The good news is that the human body has a built-in natural detoxification system that filters out toxins through organs like the liver, kidneys, lymphatic system, and skin. Unfortunately, these organs aren’t always able to keep up with today’s high levels of daily toxic bombardment our bodies face, and a resulting buildup of toxins can leave you with muscle pain, sinus problems, fatigue, constipation, skin problems, hormonal disruptions and lots more. Over time, toxic buildup can cause even more serious health issues.

You’ve probably seen plenty of ads for detox drinks, methods, etc., but these can be temporary solutions at best and health risks at worst. Detoxification is not a one-time thing – your body is constantly hit with toxins on a daily basis, so your organs need to function optimally in order to continually eliminate wastes and flush toxins and allergens rather than allowing them to build up. The only effective way to achieve this, relieve suffering permanently, and avoid damaging vital organs is by strengthening your body’s many systems and organs involved in the detoxification process.

Understandably, most people don’t recognize the signs and symptoms they’re experiencing as organ congestion, and unfortunately, neither do many doctors. A patient who visits their dermatologist with a rash or sudden acne flare-up will most likely be treated with a hydrocortisone cream, retinoids or antibiotics. Someone suffering from chronic sinus infections, post-nasal drip or runny nose may receive prescription or OTC antihistamines or decongestants. These treatments only target the symptom, not the root cause, so while the patient may see some improvement in the short term, their symptoms will either return, increase, or show up in different ways.

The only way to determine the underlying cause of a person’s symptoms is through a comprehensive individualized analysis, including medical history, diet and lifestyle, along with in-depth blood tests. Only then can the actual cause of these symptoms be established, the locations of the congestion be pinpointed, and finally the proper method of detoxification can be determined. For example, in an attempt to eliminate harmful waste products, a person’s body filters these toxins out of the bloodstream and into the brain, heart, liver, breast, belly, etc., where they’re stored and build up to dangerous levels unless the body’s natural detoxification process is functioning well enough to eliminate them regularly.

Keeping the body’s systems moving gives them the ability to flush wastes properly. Your skin, for example, is a detoxifying organ whose efficiency is maximized through sweat, exercise, and exposure to fresh air, among other things. When the skin isn’t able to detoxify properly, it becomes congested and unhealthy; as it attempts to purge itself of excessive toxic burden, it gives us signs like liver spots, rosacea, acne, eczema and psoriasis. A root cause for these types of issues can be poor gut and liver health, which can include issues like leaky gut or autoimmune disease. This further illustrates why treating outward symptoms rather than uncovering and correcting root causes is a futile approach.

Although chelation is promoted by some integrative medical doctors, I don’t advise this because an unhealthy person who undergoes this procedure is more susceptible to its negative side effects, which can include a drop in blood pressure, fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, convulsions, seizures and more.

Some easy, everyday ways to help your body detoxify naturally are through regular exercise, deep breathing, sweating, drinking enough water, eating certain herbs, and the like, or ion therapy and other therapies that work at the cellular level. All of these methods promote “flow” and prevent important systems from becoming static. Nutritional support may also be needed to remove congestion from the particular organ (especially the liver) and/or to heal damaged systems like the gut and mucosal barrier systems.

Find out what you need to know about your thyroid hormone or health disorder diagnosis today, and get health news updates via Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and The Wellness Essentials newsletter.

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For more information about my clinic in Oradell, NJ, including Functional Medicine, Neurology & Nutrition, and The Grassroots Medicine Initiative, please call (201) 261-5430.

The Headache-Migraine-Gut Connection

If you’re one of the 38 million Americans who suffer from migraines, you know how the severe pain, stomach upset and light sensitivity can stop you from living your life for hours—or even days. Migraines are known to affect the gut, causing diarrhea, vomiting and nausea, but new studies have shown that the reverse is also true: poor gut health can increase the risk of neurological disorders, including migraines.

The National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) journal Frontiers in Neurology reports that possible root causes of GI diseases and migraines “could be increased by gut permeability and inflammation.” Separate studies indicate that the same pro-inflammatory immune responses responsible for such gut issues as celiac disease, leaky gut, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and irritable bowel disorder (IBD) may also be responsible for causing migraines. The NIH also reports that the cause of migraines may be more about environmental factors, including gut microbiota, than genetics, since in only 20 percent of identical twins does one or both suffer from migraines.

Poor gut health doesn’t just cause migraines—Norway’s Nord-Trøndelag Health Survey showed that people with ordinary headaches as well as migraines also complained regularly of gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms as opposed to people who had no GI complaints or headaches. And in the US, approximately 45 million people (about 1 in 6 people) are known to experience common headaches; about 8 million of those visit a doctor specifically for headache complaints. A number of statistics bear out the gut health-headache-migraine connection:

  • more than half of migraine patients have IBS (American Academy of Neurology)
  • approximately one-third of headache sufferers have IBS (American Academy of Neurology)
  • a study of patients with IBD and celiac disease showed migraines were “more prevalent” in these patients than in control subjects (American Headache Society)
  • patients with IBD are more than two times more likely to suffer migraines (American Headache Society)
  • inflammation is at the root of IBD, IBS and leaky gut, and the nerve associated with migraines is also triggered by inflammation (Annals of Neurosciences)

The gut and brain have a strong connection through three pathways—endocrine, immune and neural—which communicate in both directions: brain to gut and gut to brain. Because of this connection, the gut is referred to as the “second brain”; in addition, it produces the majority of our body’s serotonin, which is referred to as the “happiness hormone”.  It’s no coincidence that patients with migraines are found to have low serotonin levels, further underscoring the relationship between the gut and brain.

Gut permeability, otherwise known as leaky gut, is a condition in which the gut wall becomes perforated, allowing toxic waste, undigested foods, and bacteria to pass into the blood system rather than being properly processed and eliminated. These inflammatory molecules can lead to IBD, IBS, and celiac disease; they also stimulate pain receptors in the fifth and largest cranial nerve (the trigeminal nerve), resulting in migraines.

It’s no secret that we’re living more inflammation-prone lives due to higher stress levels, gluten consumption, poor dietary choices that include processed and fast foods, environmental chemicals, and so on. The lower quality of non-organic food also plays a role because there are now far fewer nutrients in plant-based foods due to the use of pesticides, genetic modification, mechanized farming, and chemical fertilizers. All of these factors negatively alter the gut microbiome and, in turn, the gut-brain pathway.

The road to ending migraines begins by finding out what triggers your attacks—everyone’s body is different; some may have allergies or sensitivities to cleaning products, gluten, or certain foods while other people may have leaky gut or another immune disorder. Your functional medicine doctor can help you determine the root cause of your body’s inflammation and the best way to help heal any issues so you can get back to living your life more fully.

Find out what you need to know about your thyroid hormone or health disorder diagnosis today, and get health news updates via Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and The Wellness Essentials newsletter.

If you’d like to leave a question for me to answer in a future blog, you can do that via social media or email.

For more information about my clinic in Oradell, NJ, including Functional Medicine, Neurology & Nutrition, and The Grassroots Medicine Initiative, please call (201) 261-5430.

How Pure (or Safe) are Essential Oils?

Anyone doing their best to live a healthy lifestyle has heard plenty about using essential oils for a myriad things, from healing to relaxation. They’re massaged in, diffused into the air, and even ingested by some. Essential oils are derived from plants in nature, so that should make them pure and safe to use – a no-brainer, right?

Well, there’s a lot more to the story that you need to consider before diving into using essential oils. (We should note here that the topic of whether essential oils are safe and effective is hotly debated.) First, not all essential oils are created equal; contrary to their natural-sounding name and marketing gimmicks, there may be synthetic chemicals added during the distillation process that alter the product. On top of that, although pesticides aren’t needed when growing these types of plants (most repel bugs naturally), anti-fungals are sometimes used by farmers if field fungus becomes a problem.

In addition, many essential oils are heavily diluted with other types of oils – including other undisclosed essential oils and/or vegetable oils – which can turn rancid, whereas pure, unadulterated essential oils don’t go bad if stored correctly. It’s important to look for a statement of purity on the label that guarantees there are no additives of any kind and that the distilling method doesn’t include the use of chemical solvents. Truly pure essential oils are pricey, and for good reason – it takes an extremely large amount of plants to make small amounts of pure, unadulterated essential oils that are considered therapeutic grade (not to be confused with fragrance grade; also, the term “therapeutic grade” is one used within the industry, essential oils are not regulated). Most essential oils that are relatively inexpensive don’t meet the purity level of true therapeutic grade oils and won’t be as effective.

Essential oils are highly concentrated and need to be diluted according to label instructions before use. Still, these oils need to be used in limited quantities – getting too much of a “good thing” can cause negative reactions of varying degrees. You could be applying more essential oils than you think if they’re also in your soap, shampoo, or other personal care products.

Using essential oils in the right way is also important – for example, an oil that is recommended for massage may not be safe to use in a diffuser. Conversely, oils that are best for inhalation may cause skin irritations if used topically. And certain essential oils can cause burns or lead to skin cancer if applied topically before spending time in the sun.

Even more seriously, commonly used lavender and tea tree essential oils have been found to cause gynecomastia in men. A March 2018 BBC news article stated that a study linked topical use of lavender and tea tree oils to enlarged male breasts because the chemicals in these oils “are potential endocrine disrupters” which lower testosterone and raise estrogen levels. Other contraindications include using certain essential oils on infants, young children, the elderly, and pregnant women. Essential oils can also react with prescription or OTC medications.

As with any product, become well educated on the subject before using essential oils, read oil labels carefully, and ask questions about purity. It’s also best to get tested first to make sure you’re don’t have allergies or sensitivities to the plant family, which can cause anything from minor to serious reactions, and that the oil won’t react negatively with any medications you may be taking.

Find out what you need to know about your thyroid hormone or health disorder diagnosis today, and get health news updates via Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and The Wellness Essentials newsletter.

If you’d like to leave a question for me to answer in a future blog, you can do that via social media or email.

For more information about my clinic in Oradell, NJ, including Functional Medicine, Neurology & Nutrition, and The Grassroots Medicine Initiative, please call (201) 261-5430.

Vitamin D Deficiencies in Seniors

You may already know that vitamin D deficiencies have become increasingly common in recent years, especially since more people of all ages are spending larger amounts of time indoors. But what you may not know is that seniors have an increased risk of vitamin D deficiency, not only because they may not be as inclined toward outdoor activities, but also because their bodies can’t synthesize vitamin D from sunlight as efficiently as people under the age of 50. This deficiency has become so prevalent, The International Society for Clinical Densitometry has called it “the silent epidemic of the elderly”.

There are a number of signs of vitamin D deficiency that shouldn’t be ignored, including:

  • muscle weakness
  • mobility problems
  • fatigue
  • chronic gut issues such as IBS
  • moodiness
  • weight gain
  • weakened immune system

A study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism states that at least 70 percent of seniors aged 65 to 88 have at least one physical limitation due to a vitamin D deficiency and are likely to experience further functional decline.

Unfortunately, too many people push off symptoms like this to “normal aging” and just accept the symptoms rather than bringing them to their doctor’s attention. However, not all doctors will check vitamin D levels unless requested and instead may automatically prescribe an unnecessary medication for the symptom. This, of course, will either help only for a short period or won’t help at all, and new health issues may arise from the medications.

Vitamin D is a necessary catalyst for serotonin production, the “feel good” brain hormone that affects our moods. A serotonin-deficient person could experience depression, mania and become prone to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), all of which are typically treated with dangerous psychiatric medications. Low vitamin D levels can also weaken the immune system and create an overall hormonal imbalance resulting in low brain serotonin and high gut serotonin production.

Proper vitamin D levels offer these protections as well as others:

  • maintain bone density
  • lower risk of heart disease, some cancers and diabetes
  • mobility maintenance
  • strengthened immunity
  • fall and fracture prevention
  • maintain independent lifestyle
  • lessen risk of Parkinson’s disease

Besides natural sunlight, certain foods contain higher levels of vitamin D; these include fatty fish (choose fish that are lower in mercury such as salmon, sardines, anchovies and trout, among others), egg yolks, almond milk fortified with vitamin D, cheese and beef liver.

It’s important at any age to know your vitamin D level, and it’s just as important to know how much vitamin D supplementation you should take, if any. Each person’s levels are different, depending on the foods they eat, their time spent outdoors, and more; too much of anything can be just as bad as not enough. Only through comprehensive individualized testing can the proper levels of vitamin D be reached and maintained for optimal health.

Find out what you need to know about your thyroid hormone or health disorder diagnosis today, and get health news updates via Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and The Wellness Essentials newsletter.

If you’d like to leave a question for me to answer in a future blog, you can do that via social media or email.

For more information about my clinic in Oradell, NJ, including Functional Medicine, Neurology & Nutrition, and The Grassroots Medicine Initiative, please call (201) 261-5430.

Can Gut Bacteria Predict, Prevent or Cause RA?

An imbalance or lack of diversity in the body’s microbiome – the good and bad bacteria living in our intestinal tract – directly affects your immune system and, quite often, is at the root of a wide range of chronic ailments. Just take a look through the articles here on my website, and you’ll find a connection between gut health and hormone function, thyroid disease, skin disorders, and many other autoimmune diseases.

Rheumatoid arthritis, or RA, is a painful swelling of the joints that can also result in bone loss. RA is one of the myriad autoimmune diseases that rheumatologists and the overall medical community are now realizing has an important connection to poor gut health. It is believed that a proliferation of a particular bacteria, Prevotella copri, in people with RA can either trigger inflammation in the joints or displace bacteria that act as anti-inflammatory agents.

In a study reported by and partially funded by the National Institutes of Health, the gut bacteria of 114 individuals – both healthy people and participants with early-onset RA or psoriatic arthritis – was tested. Fully three-quarters of the participants with early-onset RA and 38 percent of those with psoriatic arthritis were found to have Prevotella copri in their microbiome and that increased levels of P. copri “correlated with reductions in several groups of beneficial microbes.” Additionally, two separate studies published by immunologist Veena Taneja, Ph.D. at the Mayo Clinic, indicated that gut bacteria may even be able to prevent RA or predict a susceptibility to the disorder, both of which offer a chance at staving off the condition before it even starts.

Leaky gut syndrome may also be a culprit – when bacteria, food and allergens pass through perforations in the intestinal lining of a person with leaky gut, they can cause an autoimmune response that then creates joint inflammation.

Both prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medications may mask the symptoms of RA temporarily, but they don’t heal the condition. Symptoms are merely indicators that something is wrong in the body, but the only way to stop or control them is to find and address the root cause. In addition, medications of any kind come with a host of potential side effects and health risks, some of which are serious or can create new problems. Much like the symptoms of disease, side effects are warning signs that a medication is negatively impacting a function or an organ of the body.

For the over 1.5 million Americans who suffer from RA, the fact that the condition lies in a bacterial imbalance is actually good news, and it is especially good for anyone who heeds the early warning signs of gut bacteria that lacks diversity, offering an opportunity for prevention. Correcting any bacterial imbalance and introducing bacteria that may decrease disease progression and symptoms is the ultimate goal, but only after being tested by your functional medicine doctor to determine your body’s individual needs and to assess whether you have leaky gut. Probiotics are not a one-size-fits all solution, and more needs to be considered – allergies, food sensitivities and your medical history are among the important factors in finding the correct course of action for getting your microbiome back into balance.

In the meantime, there are some dietary changes you can make to help get your gut started on a positive course. Replace foods that are highly processed, contain high amounts of sodium and sugar, and fast foods with healthier options: fermented foods like pickled vegetables, high-fiber foods including fresh fruits and veggies, and anti-inflammatory foods higher in omega-3s such as walnuts, salmon, grass-fed beef, and others are all good choices. Organic foods are always the best option whenever possible, and always read labels carefully for added sugars, chemicals and sodium that may turn a potentially good selection into an undesirable one.

A healthy gut will reward you in plenty of other ways too – as your immune system gets stronger, you may see other health issues lessen or clear up as well. It’s never too early or too late to get your microbiome in balance!

Find out what you need to know about your thyroid hormone or health disorder diagnosis today, and get health news updates via Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and The Wellness Essentials newsletter.

If you’d like to leave a question for me to answer in a future blog, you can do that via social media or email.

For more information about my clinic in Oradell, NJ, including Functional Medicine, Neurology & Nutrition, and The Grassroots Medicine Initiative, please call (201) 261-5430.

Eczema: Beyond Management to a Cure

The symptoms of an autoimmune disease come in many forms. You might experience anxiety, muscle pain, fatigue, allergies, headaches, frequent colds and a myriad other common things that many people brush off as just being part of life. While everyone experiences an occasional bout with something unpleasant, the frequency of occurrences can tell you if something more is going on.

Various forms of dermatitis, including acne, psoriasis, rashes and eczema, can also be signs of an autoimmune disease, which affects almost one in six people. Any of the over 30 million Americans – from infants and children to adults of all ages – who have experienced eczema (atopic dermatitis) knows the discomfort and embarrassment of flare-ups: itchy rashes; dry, scaly, leathery or dark patches; inflamed red skin and more. All of these symptoms can worsen if left untreated. If you’ve gone to a dermatologist for eczema, you’ve probably been given a topical medication, OTC recommendation, biologic drug, or immunosuppressant steroid to help keep the itching and redness at bay. These medications just manage eczema, they don’t cure it, and those flare-ups can and will return when triggered. In addition, both prescription and OTC medications come with their own set of risks and side effects, from mild to downright dangerous.

What’s the Real Cause of Eczema?

Conventional medicine has long accepted that environmental triggers like stress, chemicals on clothing, some foods and allergens can cause flare-ups. Although many in the medical community still stick to the theory that there is no cure for eczema and that sufferers will face a lifelong cycle of outbreaks followed by symptom management, the opposite is being proven. Important medical journals including the International Journal of Gastroenterology, The British Medical Journal, The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology and others as well as the National Eczema Association are now reporting that eczema is actually an autoimmune disease, something functional medicine doctors have known for years. Some of these journals also finally recognize that leaky gut is at the root of autoimmune disease, another fact long known in functional medicine circles. This means that rather than just suppressing the symptoms on the outside, you can actually heal the problem from the inside.

In many people with autoimmune problems, the gut microbiome is out of balance; since the gut houses two-thirds of your immune system, you need a healthy microbiome in order to have a strong immunity. A microbiome that’s out of balance may be missing key anti-inflammatory good bacteria and/or have an overgrowth of bad bacteria or yeast. Ironically, a yeast overgrowth can be caused by steroids, which are among the treatments commonly prescribed for eczema. Other causes include diets high in sugar, refined carbohydrates or processed foods as well as antibiotics or hormone use.

Healing is Possible

Leaky gut can be healed naturally by following an anti-inflammatory diet, getting your microbiome back in balance and healing gut lining perforations with nutrients. Achieving the right balance that will restore your microbiome to a healthy level is an individual thing and depends upon many different factors that are specific to you; there are no one-size-fits-all solutions.

The medical community is touting new topical and systemic drugs that suppress either the entire immune system or specific immune proteins. FDA approval is being fast-tracked, and long-term health risks will be determined only in the aftermarket phase, a blind risk for those who use these new medications. Tampering with the body’s natural functions is not a safe approach, but healing the body for optimal functionality is both safe and widely effective. Once again, these new medications are not cures, merely more means of symptom suppression. Since medications like these can cause other health problems, whether recognized as associated or not, the safer and more permanent alternative is to heal the condition naturally. Not only will you avoid additional risky health issues, you’ll be strengthening your immune system and creating a healthy gut microbiome, which yields a wide range of both physical and mental health benefits.

Find out what you need to know about your thyroid hormone or health disorder diagnosis today, and get health news updates via Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and The Wellness Essentials newsletter.

If you’d like to leave a question for me to answer in a future blog, you can do that via social media or email.

For more information about my clinic in Oradell, NJ, including Functional Medicine, Neurology & Nutrition, and The Grassroots Medicine Initiative, please call (201) 261-5430.

Fight Seasonal Allergies Naturally

Seasonal allergies can seriously impact our lives, causing us to feel so miserable and distracted that we can’t function effectively. Many people turn to over-the-counter (OTC) medications, like Benadryl, Dimetapp and Chlor-Trimeton, believing that because they don’t require a prescription, they’re safe to use as much as necessary. Nothing could be further from the truth.

All medications, whether OTC or prescribed, carry health risks and side effects you may not be aware of. While some people don’t bother to read the warning labels, others expect – and accept as inevitable – more common side effects like dizziness, dry mouth, tiredness, diarrhea, nervousness and many more. Although this shouldn’t be acceptable and may be causing other issues in your body, there are even more serious health risks associated with these drugs, from racing or uneven heart rate and increased blood pressure to short-term memory loss and impaired cognitive function.

The Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation reported on a study conducted by Group Health and University of Washington researchers which revealed that allergy medications can cause “damage to the brain”, and that people who take these drugs are at a higher risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. That risk increased with higher dosages and long-term use.

So does that mean you have to suffer through your seasonal allergies? Not at all. There are a number of natural ways to ward off allergy symptoms that also yield other health benefits – a double win. Here are just a few:

Improve gut health. Your gut affects more aspects of your health than you may think, from brain function to your immune and nervous systems. A diet riddled with processed foods and sugars can cause perforations in your intestinal wall, a condition called leaky gut. These tiny holes allow toxins, bacteria and undigested food to leak into your bloodstream, causing a myriad of problems such as allergies, asthma, skin problems, fatigue and so much more. Healing the gut through elimination of inflammatory foods, choosing whole foods over processed foods, and limiting or eliminating NSAIDs and alcohol are just some ways to control allergies and improve your overall health.

Antacids aren’t an answer. An unhealthy gut can cause symptoms like heartburn, but regular antacid use, including OTCs and prescription proton pump inhibitors (PPI), can actually cause allergies. This is because antacids are acid blockers, literally – they block your stomach acid to calm the burning or nausea symptoms, but your stomach needs that acid to activate the enzymes that break down allergens.

Natural antihistamines. You can bypass the drug aisle and stock up on natural allergy calmers instead. One of the most powerful antioxidants in your body is glutathione, which comes from foods like broccoli, garlic and onion. If you don’t eat enough of these sulfur-rich foods, you can still pump up your glutathione all year long with a good, additive-free supplement. You can also build up your immunity with other supplements including vitamin C, stinging nettle and quercetin.

Vitamin D. Most of us don’t get enough sunlight, especially during winter months when days are short. That can leave our bodies too low on vitamin D, which is essential for a healthy immune system. Once you find out what your body’s vitamin D level is, you can take a high-quality supplement to restore and replenish this important nutrient to the proper level.

Your functional medicine doctor can help uncover any allergies or sensitivities you may have and give you personalized advice on how best to treat them so you can enjoy every season of the year.

Find out what you need to know about your thyroid hormone or health disorder diagnosis today, and get health news updates via Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and The Wellness Essentials newsletter.

If you’d like to leave a question for me to answer in a future blog, you can do that via social media or email.

For more information about my clinic in Oradell, NJ, including Functional Medicine, Neurology & Nutrition, and The Grassroots Medicine Initiative, please call (201) 261-5430.

HIIT Exercise Improves Mitochondrial Health

We all know that exercise is important to a healthy body, and as we age, it becomes even more important for many reasons. From maintaining muscle tone and achieving optimal blood sugar levels to stronger bones and better mental health, physical activity and exercise are crucial to living a healthier life.

Throughout our lives, changes continually take place in our bodies from the skin to the cellular level, but these changes become more severe with age. Cells in older people have accumulated years of damage; these cells are weaker and their energy-producing mitochondria don’t regenerate as quickly or easily. And while most doctors and scientists understand the overall positive impact of exercise on the adult body, there has been no real knowledge about what types of exercise could possibly regenerate cells and those all-important mitochondria.

However, a study was recently conducted at the Mayo Clinic comparing the results of specific types of exercise on 72 sedentary but healthy volunteers consisting of two age groups:

  • ages 18-30
  • ages 65-80

People from both age groups were divided into four subdivisions. Three of these subdivisions were assigned a different type of exercise regimen:

  • high intensity interval training (HIIT) – short bursts of intense stationary bike pedaling
  • weight workouts twice a week
  • stationary bike exercise with weight workouts on alternate days

The fourth group was given no exercises at all and functioned as the control group.

These exercise regimens were followed for three months. Expected outcomes in all participants were realized, such as increased endurance, improved blood sugar levels and increased muscle mass.

But new information was discovered when results from the HIIT group showed that the mitochondria in cells had improved. Younger participants showed improvements in 274 genes, and older participants showed improvements in astounding 400 genes. (The two groups with weightlifting regimens also showed gene-related improvements, but to a far lesser degree.) Older participants’ cells showed a reversal in the decline of muscle-building proteins as well as improvements in mitochondrial health, increases in mitochondrial numbers and rejuvenation of the protein building blocks called ribosomes. All of which means that HIIT exercising actually halted aging at the cellular level by enabling cells to increase protein production for energy-producing mitochondria and protein-building ribosomes.

This study confirms the fact that you’re never too old to improve your health; in fact, the right types of vigorous exercise can reverse aging at the cellular level even more in older adults. For younger adults, incorporating high intensity interval training into their daily exercise routine can help slow the effects of aging and, quite possibly, make them healthier and more active as they age.

Before starting any exercise routine, including one of high intensity aerobic exercises, talk to your doctor about the safest way to approach exercising for your body and health; this is especially important if your lifestyle is generally more sedentary.

Find out what you need to know about your thyroid hormone or health disorder diagnosis today, and get health news updates via Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and The Wellness Essentials newsletter.

If you’d like to leave a question for me to answer in a future blog, you can do that via social media or email.

For more information about my clinic in Oradell, NJ, including Functional Medicine, Neurology & Nutrition, and The Grassroots Medicine Initiative, please call (201) 261-5430.

How Prescription Drugs Can Cause More Pain Than They Relieve

Studies have clearly shown that lowering the number of medications taken by people over 65 significantly reduces accidental deaths and extends the life of this cohort by nearly 40%. Whether from overdose, misuse or unwanted side effects, research has revealed that far too many seniors are taking way too many drugs. Yet the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) recently cited that prescriptions for multiple drugs affecting the central nervous system are on the rise. These include opioids, anti-anxiety medications, antidepressants, sleep aids, and antipsychotic drugs.

What makes this noteworthy – even alarming – is the fact that the number of seniors being prescribed these medications has more than doubled (tripled in rural areas), even though at least half of these seniors have no diagnosis. Even worse – many of these patients are being prescribed not just one, but at least three psychiatric drugs despite the FDA issuing warnings against combining such drugs. Additionally, most doctors fail to use a physician’s cross-check guide or monitoring database before handing out an additional prescription and rarely, if ever, look for signs of abuse and addiction.

This significant increase came to light by 2004 when Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).CSA is the statute establishing federal U.S. drug policy under which the production and prescribing of certain substances is regulated; prior to this, patients had easy access to any number of mind-altering and pain-relieving drugs from their doctors. To put it in perspective, these numbers translate to approximately 3.68 million people aged 65 and older taking three or more psychotropic drugs. The side effects to each of these types of drugs can be extremely severe and even lead to death, especially when taken in combination.

Although the AMA recognizes this ongoing trend and the FDA has issued a black-box warning against the prescription of multiple central nervous system medications, there is not yet a full understanding as to why these drugs are being prescribed so frequently, especially to patients who don’t present with symptoms warranting such dangerous medications. Is it because doctors are so pressed for time in their appointments with patients that offering a new prescription is the fastest solution? Or because masking the real problem with a drug is simpler than doing the hard work of healing? These drugs are meant to be used as short-term interventions while the detective work is under way, not as quick-fix solutions.

Regardless of why this is happening, the fact is that even when a patient is having trouble sleeping, having pain issues or feeling depressed, drugs are not the answer. A medication is merely an ineffective bandage, not a solution to the problem. While a medication may help for a short time, the problem typically returns with additional issues attached to it, either because of the medication or because the underlying condition has worsened.

The only way to improve a patient’s quality of life and heal or improve a health problem is by getting to the root cause of the issue, not by temporarily covering up symptoms. There are no one-size-fits-all solutions to healing, and multiple medications are not the answer. Generic blood tests don’t provide enough information; more comprehensive testing along with an individual’s medical history and an understanding of lifestyle and diet all need to be considered. Only then can each person’s path to wellness be discovered.

Find out what you need to know about your thyroid hormone or health disorder diagnosis today, and get health news updates via Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and The Wellness Essentials newsletter.

If you’d like to leave a question for me to answer in a future blog, you can do that via social media or email.

For more information about my clinic in Oradell, NJ, including Functional Medicine, Neurology & Nutrition, and The Grassroots Medicine Initiative, please call (201) 261-5430.