Statins as Preventives? Can They Bring on Parkinson’s Symptoms?

Many people know someone who has suffered from the negative side effects of statins or have experienced these debilitating side effects personally. Some of the most common statins being heavily advertised and prescribed are Lipitor, Crestor, Zocor, Pravachol and others. The medical community typically denies that these side effects are directly related to statin use; in fact, many doctors are not reporting statin-related side effects at all. Some of the common side effects include memory loss, muscle pain and weakness, prediabetes, brain fog, confusion and more, including symptoms mimicking dementia. In some instances, these effects can be permanent.

But now there’s a new study conducted by Penn State College of Medicine and published in the Movement Disorders journal of the International Parkinson and Movement Disorders Society stating that statins may hasten the onset of Parkinson’s symptoms for people who are prone to the disease. This is even more alarming because doctors have been considering prescribing statins not only for high cholesterol, but also as a preventive against Parkinson’s disease. Research on whether statins protect against Parkinson’s has so far been unclear and results are inconsistent.

Penn State researchers analyzed the data of about 22,000 Parkinson’s patients under 65 years old, of which 2,322 were newly diagnosed, and paired each with a person from a control group without Parkinson’s. They noted which patients had been taking statins and the length of time they were on them before symptoms of Parkinson’s occurred. The final analysis showed that patients taking statins – particularly fat soluble lipophilic statins that can get into the brain – had a higher risk of Parkinson’s and that Parkinson’s symptoms were more obvious during early statin use.

This is in direct conflict with a previous study suggesting that patients who stopped taking statins had a higher rate of developing Parkinson’s; the conclusion those researchers drew from this was that statins helped to prevent Parkinson’s. However, Penn State’s assistant professor of public health sciences, Guodong Liu, said that this conclusion may instead indicate that new Parkinson’s symptoms began while patients were using statins; when these patients stopped taking statins and symptoms progressed, it was interpreted that the statins had been preventing Parkinson’s. Liu also pointed out that the study did not show that statins cause Parkinson’s, but rather that they do not protect users from developing Parkinson’s.

Statins have also been prescribed to not only to lower cholesterol, but also to prevent cardiovascular events. This strategy has also been called into question, when another recent study published in JAMA Internal Medicine showed that statin use in people over 65 did not lower the number of strokes or heart attacks when compared with people of the same age who were not taking statins. The study also showed that there was no reduction in deaths from cardiovascular events or any other cause in statin users aged 65 and up. However, use of statins by older people can put that population at higher risk for physical decline, possibly causing issues like fatigue and muscle damage.

Of course, with such conflicting studies, more research needs to be done on these issues. However, we know that all prescription drugs put patients at risk of side effects or permanent complications, and many only mask symptoms while doing nothing to heal the root cause. While some medications can’t be avoided for certain serious health issues, natural prevention of many conditions is possible through regular exercise, a good diet low in or devoid of processed foods and sugars and the proper balance of minerals and healthy fats.

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 Aspirin Reduce Your Risk of Cancer?

The largest long-term aspirin study covering 32 years and following 130,183 people (86,206 women and 43,977 men) has shown that regular use of aspirin over a long period of time lowered the risk of death from some types of cancer. These included colorectal, prostate, breast and lung cancers; both duration and dosage of aspirin use were followed from 1980 to 2012.

Earlier studies had shown the benefits of aspirin in preventing heart disease as well as colorectal cancer and possibly reducing the risk of death from cancer; women were shown to have less risk of stroke rather than heart attacks. The long-term follow-up study was among the first to focus on aspirin dosages and duration of use.

Researchers saw a lower risk of death in general and from cancer in people who took between half an aspirin and one-and-a-half aspirin a week; even better results were seen in people who took between two and seven aspirin per week. Interestingly, those taking more than seven aspirin per week did not have such positive results. However, researchers also noted that a long-term aspirin regimen is not a one-size-fits-all solution for all patients, nor does regular aspirin use work for everyone. 

So, what is it about aspirin that’s so beneficial in preventing and lowering the risk of death from heart disease and cancer, currently ranked as the top two killers in the United States? Aspirin is both an anticoagulant and an anti-inflammatory; inflammation is a major underlying cause of cancer, heart disease, and many other health issues.

This study proves what functional medicine doctors have been saying for years – that keeping inflammation in the body to a minimum is one of the keys to good health. Chronic inflammation is at the core of a host of illnesses from asthma, arthritis and Crohn’s disease to cancer, cardiovascular disease and autoimmune disease.

While the results of this study are useful, it’s equally helpful to know that there is a risk-benefit issue to be considered, a fact recognized by the medical community. Daily aspirin use comes with its own set of risks, including:

  • gastro-intestinal bleeding
  • hemorrhagic stroke
  • ulcers
  • allergic reactions
  • digestive disorders
  • interactions with prescriptions, OTC medications, Omega-3s and herbal supplements
  • excessive bleeding during surgery and dental procedures

The good news is that there are safer, more natural ways to keep inflammation down and your blood flowing freely through your veins. A healthy diet is crucial to achieving these goals (whether you’re on prescription medications, or not); this would include a more anti-inflammatory diet that eliminates processed foods, gluten and refined sugars. Eliminate or minimize your intake of foods to which you may have sensitivities or allergies, as these can cause inflammation as well. Natural anticoagulants include ginger, ginkgo, vitamin E, fish oil, garlic and more. However, it is important to note that these are not to be considered replacements for prescription blood thinners for patients who have heart problems or who have had a stroke or heart attack, nor should they be taken in addition to medications without a doctor’s authorization. Only take these natural blood thinners after talking with your doctor about safety, dosages and whether these supplements are safe for you along with your prescription.

It’s never too late to reduce inflammation in your body through diet, but why wait until a problem develops before starting? By lowering your body’s inflammation, you may ward off many serious health issues as well as any seemingly genetically related health problems.

*NOTE: This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Always talk with your doctor about any planned dietary changes or additions and before eliminating or reducing your medications to avoid serious health complications.

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.

Genetic Testing

What is right or wrong with it depends on what you hope to learn

It’s only been within the past decade, since mapping of the human genome began, that genetic testing has shifted in focus from family planning to prediction. Take Huntington’s disease, for instance – a couple with a genetic history of Huntington’s looking to start a family would test to ensure they don’t carry the same gene defect to their offspring. Opposite to this is testing for BRCA-1 and 2 genes that is used to predict the possibility of breast cancer in a mature adult.

This type of predictive testing is novel but not infallible. In fact, before spending time and money on genetic tests, an individual might first think about what she hopes to learn. Who will interpret the results, and is the clinical philosophy prescriptive or simply part of the detective work? Is the outcome surgery, a new drug or a lifestyle modification and if so, how does the result support this? “I have my concerns about developing breast cancer,” says Sofie Allison, 49 years old and a mother of two, “but not enough to undertake a radical procedure beforehand.”

Part of the reason patients can feel confident whether to test is twofold: first, there is curiosity about one’s genetic makeup that overrides a feeling of dread or worry about it. Much of this has todo with an emerging concept in the field of human genome mapping called epigenomics, which is to say that there are numerous chemical compounds that can tell a particular gene what to do. In other words, a gene mutation in and of itself is not a predictor of disease. This puts a lot of the decision-making about lifestyle and personal choice back into the hands of the patient regardless of the test result.

A chief reason patients can feel confident not to test is that gene mapping still raises privacy concerns. Right now, it costs about $4,000 to map the human genome, making it a costly endeavor simply to learn that there is natural variation across a particular gene pool. Pharmaceutical companies including Genentech and Pfizer pay handsomely for access to these reports, and there is a reason why: pharmacogenomics, or personalized medicine. The promise of this is better therapeutic decisions related to dosing, but many people argue that centralized reporting will be made public.

The criticism of genetic tests is well founded in part because the results produce a very complicated set of percentages that someone, preferably a doctor with no stake in the outcome, must interpret. Even among practitioners who are comfortable ordering genetic tests, the data can be used to support a wide variety of practices and beliefs. As detective work, a negative result might indicate a risk factor, but only one of many that includes all the other environmental influences that are external to gene expression. A genetic test could be used to detect a weakness in detoxification methods that contribute to poor lymphatic drainage that, in turn, contributes to cancer, for instance. That said, much of that can already be detected by a skilled clinician.

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.

4 Truths for Evaluating Your Health

Chronic conditions and ailments that won’t go away end up rooting themselves so deeply into the lives and psyches of patients that, by the time they make it to my office, they are in anguish. The search for a doctor and the effort to seek out meaning behind the symptoms is a memory that is very difficult to erase. In some cases it’s been a whole lifetime, from childhood to parenthood, the full generational circle of life and time that elapses before the patient sees again some of her own earliest struggles spring back to life in her own child. The baby’s same symptoms that the mother herself has dealt with repeated in circles.

Truth No. 1 – You Can’t Medicate Your Way Back to Health.

There is a pang of vulnerability when you discover that the road ahead will be difficult and further discover that the same medicinal treatment is still the only one being offered today.

Have you ever awakened with a headache that lasted all day, for days on end, and nothing you tried worked? Or maybe you have taken over-the-counter pain medications for years to curb certain aches and pains, just enough to get through the work day. And then one day those stop working. Not only do they stop working, but the symptoms actually worsen.

Truth No. 2 – Your Diagnosis is a Powerful Naming Convention, a Label; It Is Not You.

One of the myths about having a diagnosis is that it will, in and of itself, catalyze a whole body of knowledge and a cure. That it will create an Aha! moment and start in motion a new set of standards and practices never before revealed. The reality can be disappointing.

A diagnosis is simply a label; it is a name for a collection of symptoms that is given for the purposes of assigning value. With a diagnosis, the doctor can provide justification to the insurance company for additional testing and for the prescribing of medical devices or drugs. It can give the patient a name that she can spend hours on the internet searching.

Truth No. 3 – Your Current Health Status is Not Your True Potential.

What becomes plainly evident is that nearly all diagnoses begin with a very similar set of warning signs. Having an actual diagnosis is appealing because it brings a kind of closure to the search and points to a direction where healing can begin.

It’s worrisome when symptoms are ill-defined and persistent. It’s hard to communicate precisely with doctors and it feels almost impossible to carry on with family and friends. Everyone has advice. No one really understands how hard it is. Each well-meaning relative has another suggestion and a new set of ideas. Everyone is really trying to help, which is wonderful, if not exhausting. The only satisfying reason for having a diagnosis: Peace of Mind.

Truth No. 4 – Re-Writing Your Health Narrative is Transformative.

With peace of mind comes clarity and options for true healing. Ask anyone who’s spent time in a doctor’s office what it took to nurse herself back to health, and she will likely tell you it took a lot of soul searching, decision making, perseverance and vision. That she saw a fork in the road – one way was the medical route and the other was the road less traveled. It’s very likely that these two roads intersected often as she picked her way back and forth between them based on what she knew and felt was best for her. And that the end result was truly a new beginning.

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.

3 Steps to Finding Dr. Right

Your doctor sees a lot of patients every day. You need his or her help; you want to stand out and get the care you so desperately need. What do you do?

1. Maximize Your Time Together

It’s your first appointment. You want to make a great impression and be sure the doctor is committed to your case. Do this by calling to receive your paperwork so that you can complete it ahead of time. Gather any additional records, including blood tests, hormone analyses, radiology reports, and so on, and send those in too. This is what we do in our practice and it makes a difference.

By pulling together your records and returning these a day or two ahead of schedule, you allow the doctor time to review and prepare his notes. He will get to know you inside and out. He will be able to make an initial assessment based on years of experience and clinical expertise. Being prepared means that he will know immediately where to look for clues.

2. Tell Your Side of the Story

As you sit down to write your narrative, begin with a simple exercise: List everything leading to what brought you here today. List your medical appointments, surgeries and hospitalizations, and when you developed your most pressing symptoms.

The doctor wants to get to know the details of your life. He wants to know what you’ve tried that did not work for you, and perhaps what did. He wants to know what medications you are taking and if you are experiencing side effects.

As you think about your timeline, you want to layer in any emotional blocks or deep personal wounds that could be detrimental to your health. Sometimes it’s no accident that your first trip to the doctor ten years ago came just after your second child left home, and that in addition to the empty nest, you started to develop sleepless nights.

3. Prepare Yourself for What’s Next

You have a list of pressing questions that start with “I take black cohosh, is that okay? ” and end with “Do you think I’m crazy? My other doctor said I was nuts.” Rest assured the doctor is going to emphatically say “No!” to that last question.

The distance between these two questions is what’s important. It helps to write down your talking points because even though the doctor’s main goal is to listen, really listen to what you have to say, his mind is working immediately to piece everything together. There is a framework, a clinical picture in his mind that filters out the nonessential from the truly significant.

That’s your goal, right? To figure out what’s really going on. So go ahead and dazzle the doctor with all your thoughts on the problem, everything you’ve tried, all the research you’ve put into this, all the years of pain and anguish you’ve suffered. Just start at the beginning and then move on to the next question. There’s a lot of material to cover.

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.

Toxic Metals in Vital Organs and the Bloodstream

One of the fad medical concepts of recent years is called “chelation” (KEY-lay-shun) therapy, which is a treatment that is designed for heavy metal poisoning. Medicines and nutritional compounds called chelators are used to bind to the metals in the bloodstream; this metal-chelator compound is then eliminated in the urine. An example of an intravenous (IV) metal chelator is called edatate calcium disodium. A nutritional compound would be dimercaptosuccinic acid, or DMSA. Both are examples of products designed for use in extreme and rare cases to rapidly remove metals and prevent further damage from exposure.

Chelation therapy has serious side effects. It is approved for limited use in documented cases of heavy metal poisoning when carried out under medical supervision with prescription drugs. In 2007, the National Center for Health Statistics cited statistics that many more people (111,000 adults, along with 72,000 children) reported having used chelation therapy than would be likely for the limited number of approved indications. There are numerous side effects, along with more serious risks that include kidney failure, brain damage, coma, and death. What this tells us is that patients are concerned about the effect of their toxic load on their health and are willing to risk serious complications for better health.

Purported uses include:

  • treating damaged arteries (atherosclerosis) by removing calcium from arterial plaques
  • treating intermittent, painful leg cramps due to arteriosclerosis (claudication)
  • curing or improving symptoms of autism
  • preventing or curing neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease
  • treating diabetes and heart disease

The problem with this is that most if not all of these patients already have compromised immune systems and underlying, often untreated, inflammatory conditions. Their health is poor to begin with and in the process of chelating, their bodies are flooded with free-floating, unbound metals.

It’s important to note that everyone has toxic metals in their bodies. All children are born with some toxic burden as metals pass from mother to child. After birth, vaccine administration is a source of mercury and aluminum exposure, along with food, drinking water, pharmaceutical drugs of many kinds, over-the-counter drugs, cosmetics, and other environmental sources that accumulate over a lifetime. These include, but are not limited to, air pollution, dental amalgams and other dental materials, as well as contact with toxic metals at home and at work.

In healing, a good practitioner will assume that everyone has toxic metals. Indicators would include a history of fungal infection such as Candida, chronic bacterial or viral infection, autoimmune disease and damage to major organs such as the heart, the gut, and the thyroid, hormone imbalances, and diseases of the joints, bones, nerves, and so on. So toxic metals are not the most important assessment. It is far more important to figure out a person’s energy level, exact oxidation rate, ability to eliminate toxic metals, ability to digest and assimilate nutrients and a few other parameters of 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.

Overview of My Forthcoming Book

Your body has been failing you, possibly for decades, and no one can tell you why or how to fix it. The option you’ve been given, relying on prescription drugs with unknown side effects, is not working for you. You have been passed from doctor to doctor, and had to begin figuring it out on your own. My book, Grassroots Medicine: Facing Illness and Finding the Courage to Heal, will support you when medicine fails, enabling you to take control of your health through better knowledge and foundational action. I will share with you the clinical histories of others whose health had become elusive; medicine had failed them, but together we were able to move them on the path toward wellness. Grassroots Medicine will help you do that, too.

Using my twenty-five years of personal and professional experience, I will share all that I’ve learned from working in the field. Grassroots Medicine is about a new paradigm born from the adversity of working outside the mainstream, with patients who want and need answers. Readers who follow my teachings will be better equipped to make informed decisions and will learn how to work in partnership with a supportive doctor. I will illustrate these principles with anecdotes, exercises and lessons, making it easy for readers to find the courage to implement the teachings I provide.

Like millions of people across the country, my patients tend to be undermanaged or over-diagnosed. Either they don’t receive the tests they need and the means to resolve their growing list of symptoms, or they have seen every specialist, been through all the tests, and are taking far too many medications. Both categories include people who believe they are following the rules, but still not getting any resolution as day by day, their condition worsens.

My patients have two tendencies: first, they believe themselves worthy of care. They often see themselves as “basically healthy” even while taking prescription drugs or recovering from a major medical procedure. They carry with them a laundry list of side effects and unresolved symptoms. They see themselves as needing care, worth of it, and having the capacity to heal with better instruction. This mindset is crucial for healing.

Second, everyone wants a doctor who listens. In part, I believe this is the result of an overburdened medical system that is beginning to fail. The doctor-patient relationship has become strained, as doctors feel pressured to quickly diagnose and prescribe effective treatment that satisfies either insurance companies or hospital administrations. By the time my patients find their way to me, they’ve seen doctor after doctor after doctor. Many have been told they’re crazy or that their symptoms are all in their heads. They receive one more unwanted prescription and are referred out.

My readers are tired of this. They have grown sick and tired of travelling from doctor to doctor not getting the answers they need. They don’t want to “wait and see” if their health worsens—they want to do something now, today! They are motivated to take action, but they need to be empowered. Grassroots Medicine will be the handbook they need. It will place the promise of better health at their fingertips by:

  • allowing them to grasp, possibly for the first time that while a cure is not likely, recovery, with a lot of hard work and guidance
  • seeing in others their own story of pain and helplessness and transform it into one of personal struggle and perseverance
  • providing knowledge about root causes of disease and how to address these one by one
  • giving reasons why their health is failing, including the emotional blocks, habits and mindsets that are contributing factors and what they can do to avoid these

When readers finish Grassroots Medicine, they will understand how their most painful experiences can also be their most rewarding. Getting well is a lifelong commitment to nurturing body, mind and spirit. Readers will come to approach illness as an opportunity to change their lives in ways they never imagined, fulfilling dreams they never thought possible, making each day, each moment more transformative. Grassroots Medicine is about making good health a revolutionary act, and turning the conscience of healing into an everyday habit.

Be sure to check back soon for more info about my next book!

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.