Understanding and Avoiding Virus Infections

Viruses are everywhere—they’re living microscopic organisms that are simply a fact of life. We come in contact with virus germs of various strengths and types every day, but not every virus causes a noticeable reaction. Understanding what a virus is, how it works in our bodies, and how to minimize your vulnerability can help lessen fear and give you a proactive advantage.

Virus germs are even smaller than bacteria, which is why some types of surgical masks are ineffective at preventing them from getting through. Made of genetic material coated in a protective protein, a virus needs a host in order to survive, which is why they’re considered parasitic.

Once it finds a suitable host cell—which can be human, animal, or plant, depending on the virus type—a virus replicates quickly. It’s only after the “incubation period”, once virus has replicated enough, that we start feeling symptoms. Some viruses cause more serious diseases like smallpox, measles, Ebola, herpes, rabies, and others.

Unlike bacterial infections, there are no cures for viral infections. Anti-viral drugs only work to potentially stop the spread or replication of viruses, but they cannot penetrate the protective protein coating or kill existing virus-infected cells.

The best defense against any type of virus is to keep your immune system as healthy and strong as possible. Of course, good personal hygiene (including frequent hand washing) is always important to help reduce your chances of getting any type of bacterial or viral infection.

Hippocrates wisely wrote, “Let food be thy medicine, and let medicine be thy food”, and one of his lesser-known writings states, “In food excellent medicine can be found.” Over 2,000 years later, these beliefs still prove true. Foods have medicinal value—both healing and preventive—as long as they’re fresh and not processed; it’s also best to choose organic produce and organic, grass-fed meats to avoid toxins as much as possible. Increasing your variety of greens and other fresh fruits and veggies creates a healthy and diverse gut microbiome, the basis of a strong immune system.

Focusing your diet on a variety of fresh, unprocessed foods, whether during an outbreak or not, can help get your system in disease-fighting shape. Known immune-boosters include (among others):

  • Citrus fruits
  • Broccoli
  • Green and red peppers
  • Strawberries
  • Cauliflower
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Garlic, ginger, turmeric (added to cooking or made into tea)
  • Spinach
  • Sunflower seeds, nuts

In addition, staying away from added sugars, industrial cooking oils (highly processed oils like canola, cottonseed, safflower, soybean, corn), and processed foods, as well as any foods you may be allergic to or have sensitivities to can help you stay healthy, recover from an infection quicker, and minimize chronic inflammation. Avoiding unhealthy choices is as important as including healthy choices in empowering your body to fight off infections. Also make sure to get enough sleep and make positive lifestyle choices, like not smoking and exercising regularly.

Viruses can spread easily in a number of ways, including person-to-person contact and consuming food or water that has been contaminated; some viruses can survive on surfaces for hours or even days. Touching a surface that has been handled by someone with the virus and then rubbing your eyes or touching your face before washing your hands thoroughly can transfer the virus to you. This is one reason why frequent hand washing is always recommended, whether there’s a widespread viral outbreak or just as a precaution against the common cold and flu.

Quarantine and self-isolation during a large-scale outbreak can feel challenging to individuals and families who are used to leading busy, active lives, but you can turn it into a positive experience for yourself and everyone else in your home. This is the time to go old school—if you have young kids, you can view this as an opportunity for some enjoyable bonding time. Rather than each family member spending hours on their own social media, encourage some “together time” with puzzles, games, arts and crafts, watching cute animal videos together, and coming up with other creative ideas. Reading, enjoying movies together and just taking the time to talk not only helps pass the time, but draws a family together in ways that can create better understanding and closeness in the long term.

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.

Reversing and Reducing Chronic Inflammation

If I asked a variety of people what one condition is the cause of most diseases, disorders, and discomforts, I’d probably get a host of different answers, ranging from stress to diet to inactivity. And while those factors certainly have negative impacts on health, science is now confirming what functional medicine doctors have known for quite a while: chronic inflammation is a major contributor to most major health problems, from arthritis and Alzheimer’s to cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Chronic inflammation differs from acute inflammation—acute inflammation is the body’s healthy short-term response to injury or infection, whereas chronic inflammation happens when the immune system perceives a threat that isn’t actually there and stays on high alert for a long period of time. Over time, this can lead to or worsen:

  • cardiovascular disease
  • cancer
  • diabetes
  • depression
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • stroke
  • arthritis or RA
  • asthma
  • inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
  • autoimmune diseases
  • neurodegenerative diseases

These are just some examples of the health risks chronic inflammation can cause. This type of inflammation is typically caused by environmental toxins, diet and lifestyle choices, like smoking, poor eating habits, chronic stress, and obesity. However, inflammation also tends to increase with age—referred to as “inflammaging”—but is age-related inflammation inevitable?

As we age, we inevitably accumulate cellular damage, and our bodies tend to have higher levels of certain inflammatory proteins and are less able to clear out damage and toxins. Their continued buildup can result in organ function decline and damage as well as tissue dysfunction and the type of age-related chronic diseases listed above. In the past, it was thought that the blood-brain barrier protected the brain from being affected by inflammatory proteins, but science has now shown that those proteins cause autoimmune reactions in the brain as well, leading to health issues like depression, Alzheimer’s, autism, and poor memory. A study published in by the National Institutes of Health states, “Systemic increases in inflammation is believed to contribute to increased disease prevalence and severity during aging.”

Diet and lifestyle play a huge role in chronic inflammation—by making the right choices at any age, you can reduce, reverse, or prevent chronic inflammation. And while chronic inflammation is a common factor in age-related diseases, there are plenty of things we can do to help stop or reverse inflammation; this, in turn, can minimize our risk of developing these diseases and potentially let us live longer, healthier, more active lives.

Things like quitting smoking, reducing stress, and getting regular exercise to help your body flush toxins are good steps and beneficial in many ways. With diet, what you put into your body has a direct effect on energy, mood, and inflammation. It’s just as important to know which foods cause inflammation as it is to understand which ones prevent or reduce it. Here are a few to get you started; there are lots more inflammation-fighting foods as well:

Foods that Cause Inflammation

Added sugars (pastries, sodas, sports and energy drinks, candy, etc.)
Starchy “white” foods such as white bread, white rice, white potatoes
Processed meats like bacon, sausage, hot dogs, most deli meats
All processed foods
Fast foods
Fried foods
Margarine, lard
Gluten

Foods that Fight Inflammation

Leafy greens (the darker the better)
Omega-3-rich fatty seafood (fresh caught, not farm raised)
Certain seeds and nuts, like walnuts, flax and chia seeds
Fresh fruits including apples, blueberries, cherries, pineapple
Fresh vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus
Ginger, turmeric, cinnamon

Don’t just think of these measures as something you’ll do “when the time comes”, “when you reach that certain age”, or once you start experiencing problems caused by chronic inflammation. The best time to start is now, at whatever stage of life you may be, so you can give your body the best advantage to avoid unnecessary suffering and damage.

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.

Antibiotics: When To Say No Thanks

There’s no question that some illnesses require antibiotics to cure certain more serious types of bacterial infections, but their overuse has become detrimental to people’s health. The most recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) show that over 266 million antibiotic prescriptions are given to patients annually on an outpatient basis (this doesn’t include hospitalized patients), which translates to about 838 prescriptions written for every 1,000 people. According to the CDC, “At least 30 percent of antibiotics prescribed in the outpatient setting are unnecessary, meaning that no antibiotic was needed at all.” So about one in every three people who were prescribed antibiotics didn’t actually need them.

In addition, the CDC states that approximately 50 percent of antibiotics are inappropriately prescribed, meaning that either the wrong dosage, the wrong period of usage, or the wrong drug—such as powerful broad-spectrum drugs rather than targeted medications—is given to patients. Inappropriately and overly prescribed antibiotics contribute to antibiotic resistance, which is when bacterial “bugs” survive antibiotic treatment, leading doctors to prescribe more potent antibiotics.

This vicious cycle has led to the modern-world problem of “superbugs”, which infect about 2 million Americans annually and lead to death in approximately 162,000 of these patients, according to Washington University School of Medicine researchers; worldwide, the number of deaths increases to 700,000. The number of US deaths is significantly up from a long-held 2010 estimate of 23,000.

The upshot is that the more antibiotics you take, the more you increase your chances of either developing an infection that is resistant to antibiotics or these same medications may no longer effectively treat bacterial infections in your system.

Inappropriate reasons for prescribing antibiotics—and cause for you to either question or say “No thanks” to your doctor—are when you have:

  • a cough
  • the flu
  • a head cold
  • viral respiratory infections
  • sore throats
  • sinusitis
  • most ear infections

These illnesses and others are most often caused by viruses, which are not curable through antibiotics. However, if your symptoms persist, you should see a doctor, but if s/he wants to prescribe an antibiotic, make sure to confirm the infection is bacterial and not viral, and discuss the possibility of getting a targeted medication rather than a broad-spectrum one. The age-old wisdom for getting over viruses is still the best: rest, drink plenty of liquids (bone broth is highly recommended!), and wash your hands often, which will also help to prevent the spread of the virus to others in your household.

Two other causes of antibiotic resistance are hospital-borne infections and livestock raised with antibiotics. The only way to avoid meat-related antibiotic build-up in your body is to consume grass-fed organic meats and dairy products; these animals are given no antibiotics or growth hormones and are healthier than animals raised on factory farms.

Another reason it’s important to limit your use of antibiotics is the fact that they destroy critical gut bacteria. Medications don’t discriminate between the bacteria that’s causing your illness and bacteria that make up your gut microbiome. With an imbalance or a poor diversity of gut flora, your immune system is weakened and you become more prone to future illnesses.

Taking the right probiotic to restore your microbiota is important both during and after any course of medication. Talk to your functional medicine doctor about how to take probiotics while taking antibiotics—they must be taken far enough apart so the drug doesn’t kill off the live bacteria in the probiotic. Once your course of medication is over, eating fermented foods will also help to restore gut bacteria.

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.

Learning to Love Your Metabolism

Are you familiar with this scenario? You get on the scale and see that you’re five pounds heavier than you were at this time last year. And yet you’ve been really careful about your eating and kept up your exercise plan. Why is this happening?

A recent study published in the journal Obesity followed fourteen contestants from the reality show The Biggest Loser who lost huge amounts of weight in a relatively short period of time through diet and exercise.

But six years later, thirteen of the fourteen people regained a significant amount of weight; four of them were even heavier than when they started on the show. Even worse, measurements showed that their metabolisms had slowed down, with their bodies burning an average of 500 calories less per day than would be expected, given their weight.

Research indicates that slowing metabolism is the body’s evolutionary way of defending itself against weight loss. Your body fights much more strongly to keep weight from dropping than it does to keep weight from increasing. This is not good news for most of us who struggle with dieting.

Why Metabolism Matters

Is it possible to outsmart your metabolism? Yes, but what works is a sustainable approach to lifestyle, diet, and exercise and an understanding of root causes.

The key is to resolve to eat smart for life, not just to diet for your cousin’s wedding and then go back to old habits. Metabolism varies a lot between people for reasons that aren’t fully understood. Women’s metabolism tends to be a bit slower than men’s. And as we age, our metabolism gets slower.

This means that even if you have the same amount of fat and muscle tissue at age sixty as you did at age twenty, you’ll likely be burning fewer calories at rest in your sixth decade than you did in your second. Combined with the fact that dieting can slow down your metabolism (remember the people from The Biggest Loser?), this means an uphill battle for most of us.

Taking Another Route

So how do we break out of such a negative cycle? One way is to acknowledge the power of our slowing metabolism and not beat ourselves up when it gets the upper hand and our weight goes up.

Another way is to confront the very persuasive myths about weight loss and dieting that have burrowed their way into our culture. Losing weight is NOT simply a matter of:

  • eating less
  • cutting out fats
  • eating in moderation
  • following a quick-loss diet

These basic tenets are wrong. There IS no quick fix. Fats are not the enemy. No fad diet will help you make a lasting change in your weight.

Instead, you need to understand some basic concepts about metabolism.

Basic Concepts about Metabolism

First, it happens at the cellular level. Metabolism refers to a series of chemical processes in each cell that turn the calories you eat into fuel to keep you alive. “Basal” or resting metabolism measures how many calories you burn when you’re doing nothing, i.e., resting. The work of changing your metabolism and achieving weight loss mostly has to do with resting metabolism.

Second, poor metabolism can be the result of hypothyroidism or blood sugar dysregulation or both. When your thyroid is underperforming and/or you’ve developed insulin resistance, your metabolism is going to be severely affected.

Third, one of the variables that affects your resting metabolic rate is the amount of lean muscle in your body. No matter what your weight, the more muscle you have and the less fat, the higher your metabolic rate will be. That’s because muscle uses up way more energy than fat while you’re at rest.

Fourth, corrupt practices of the food industry and Big Pharma have gotten most of us hooked on food additives and synthetic drugs. Do you know how much sugar there is in your food? How many chemical preservatives are added? It’s a lot! And we start our children out early in life on many of these substances. No wonder kids crave desserts and snacks, and rates of childhood obesity have skyrocketed.

Where to Start to Understand Your Metabolic Level

Obviously, regulating one’s metabolism is a complicated chemical process that involves monitoring thyroid, hormonal, and blood sugar levels and identifying the possible toxic effects of our environment. Start by asking for a complete metabolic work-up. Find out your health biomarkers and, with guidance, start to work on changing them.

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 Autoimmune Disease Contribute to Miscarriages?

The connection between autoimmune problems and miscarriages has been known by the medical community for many years. The National Institutes of Health published a study titled “Autoimmune diseases and pregnancy: analysis of a series of cases” which concluded that there is “a strong association between autoimmune disease and obstetric complications.” Yet addressing autoimmunity in order to increase a woman’s chance of carrying a pregnancy to term is not on most doctors’ radar. Instead, a variety of treatments are tried or women are told to “just keep trying”; unfortunately for many, yet more miscarriages occur. Understandably, this leads to depression, anxiety, self-blame and other psychological issues in the women who are affected, especially those who suffer multiple miscarriages.

According to the American Pregnancy Association (APA), between 10 and 25 percent of all pregnancies in the US end in miscarriage (this increases in women over the age of 35); the APA also estimates that once a woman has one miscarriage, there is a 25 percent chance that she will experience another. After two clinical miscarriages, they’re considered recurrent pregnancy losses (RPL), or recurrent miscarriages, and the chances of her experiencing more miscarriages elevates beyond 25 percent. In research conducted by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, doctors are unable to find a cause for recurrent miscarriages in 50 to 75 percent of their cases.

There are uncountable stories of women going from doctor to doctor—even going to doctors in different countries—in an effort to find someone who can correct whatever is causing their recurrent miscarriages. In approximately 60 percent of miscarriages, there is evidence of genetic (chromosomal) abnormalities. But once doctors ascribe the blame for a miscarriage on genetic abnormalities, no further investigation is done. However, two things need to be considered: there can be underlying causes for these genetic abnormalities, and autoimmunity issues can appear as genetic abnormalities. The medical journal Autoimmunity Reviews published research in 2011 stating that there is substantial evidence that a pregnant woman’s autoimmunity alone can increase the risk of genetic abnormalities in embryos, which can lead to miscarriages.

As with any health issue, the root causes will differ for each person, and the same is true for women experiencing recurrent miscarriages. If it’s determined that a woman has autoimmunity issues, such as celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, Hashimoto’s, rheumatoid arthritis, Grave’s disease, etc., then her functional medicine doctor can perform comprehensive testing to discover which health issue(s) exist, whether there are additional factors complicating or causing the problem, and how to best go about reversing or improving these issues without dangerous prescription medications. This will ultimately achieve two things: the patient’s health in general will be improved and associated future health concerns may be avoided, and she will have a better chance of carrying a pregnancy to term.

The connection between multiple miscarriages and celiac disease (it’s important to note here that not all women with celiac experience miscarriages) is not completely understood, although there is strong evidence for a link. However, while conventional medicine rarely addresses celiac issues as a cause for RPL, there are documented cases in which functional medicine doctors have found elevated anti-gliadin and anti-transglutaminase antibodies in women with celiac who have experienced recurrent miscarriages. After removing gluten from these women’s diets and using appropriate natural supplementation, viable pregnancies were achieved.

Healthy thyroid function in expectant mothers is critical to a healthy, full-term pregnancy as well as to the development of the baby’s brain and nervous system. While standard monitoring of TSH, T3 and T4 levels in women with RPL may show acceptable “normal” levels, these tests don’t show whether there are elevated levels of thyroid antibodies (these may also be present before pregnancy), which can be responsible for multiple miscarriages.

While there are certainly other reasons for recurrent miscarriages that need to be addressed differently, autoimmune issues are one area where the underlying cause can be either eliminated or lessened naturally, which will improve the overall health of the patient in both the short and long term and may improve pregnancy outcomes.

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.

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.

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.

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.