Hormone Imbalances and Fatigue

Contrary to popular belief, fatigue is not just an inevitable product of age. Instead it is a telltale sign of hormonal imbalances for both men and women. Fatigue is not simply the feeling of being tired. It is much deeper and includes a state of lethargy over an extended period of time. Chronic fatigue fosters a range of additional symptoms often typified by hormonal imbalance such as mood swings, insomnia, depression, anxiety and even hinders adrenal function.

As an aside, many of the most important hormones are actually made from cholesterol. It is the mother of all fat molecules in the body: a cornerstone of normal cell function and mood regulation. It is needed to maintain neurotransmitter and brain function, build brain and nerve tissue, and nourish the immune system. It provides the crucial insulation around nerves that transmit electrical impulses and helps to digest fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E and K. Indeed, it’s no wonder that fatigue, lethargy, a waning capability for work and everyday activities, brain fog, and so on, go hand in hand with hormone imbalances.

Cholesterol is often a feared term, and in my opinion, unnecessarily so. We rarely hear about why it is so crucial to our wellness and how it can be instrumental to hormonal balance and the production of vitamin D. In its natural, unstressed state, the liver makes 75% of the cholesterol needed. (However, because of alcohol, pharmaceuticals, environmental and food toxins and unprocessed anger, the liver is among the most overstressed organs in the body.) By depriving the body of cholesterol (and eating carbs and sugar instead), metabolism goes into famine mode causing the liver to overproduce cholesterol in order to make up the difference.

For men, fatigue is indicative of the male counterpart to menopause, known as andropause, and usually occurring between the ages of 45 and 55. Andropausal males not only exhibit low levels of testosterone overall, they will often become estrogen dominant. And since testosterone plays an important role in energy production, diminished levels are a major cause behind insomnia or sleep apnea, both of which contribute to fatigue in men.

For women, fatigue is especially prevalent during perimenopause and menopause. Obviously this leads to the belief that fatigue is an inevitable by-product of age. Instead, low estrogen levels (relative to the production of progesterone), many times found in menopause, can result in insomnia and night sweats, which contribute to fatigue. Diminished estrogen also causes irritability and mood swings in women which furthers exhaustion. Too little progesterone is also a problem. Low progesterone not only decreases sex drive, but contributes to a proliferative, estrogen dominant status.

Balancing hormones does not have to be an elusive scientific procedure filled with bio-identical replacements. We always recommend starting with root causes, such as environmental toxins, liver congestion, neurotransmitters in the brain, and reduction of the stress hormone cortisol, which, because of its survival component, will trump the production of all other hormones. This is the most natural and effective, lasting approach. When hormones are balanced, many things fall into place. Symptoms begin to lessen and disappear, energy levels increase and mood improves, thereby effectively reducing or eliminating the fatigue you have been experiencing.

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.

Thyroid and Low Metabolic Energy

Are you often tired and worn out? Do you have problems with your weight? Is your skin dry and hair falling out? Do you have difficulty sleeping? Do you feel cold all the time, like you can’t warm up? Is your memory not what it used to be?

If the answer to any of the above is “yes,” but you think it’s just something you have to live with–think again. While all of the above seem like nothing more than day-to-day annoyances, in reality they are all symptoms of low metabolic energy.

So what is “low metabolic energy, and what can you do about it? You are likely familiar with the term “metabolism” and you are also aware that people with an active metabolism (from working out, lifting weights, eating well) seem to have a lot of energy. This is because exercise circulates the blood, transporting oxygen to the brain, passing through the thyroid to deliver fuel and hormones to the cells, thereby enabling all your organs and body systems to function at peak capacity.

If, however, you are under stress, you eat a poor diet, you have an infection, or a host of other causes, all of those bodily functions will be compromised. You will have trouble manufacturing metabolic energy because your blood isn’t circulating through the thyroid, gathering the hormones that turn on the energy (ATP)-making mechanisms inside your cells.

Without that ATP, your body systems stop functioning the way they should. The result can be hormone imbalances, cellular degeneration, chronic inflammation, elimination problems, emotion and sleep disturbances, as well as stressed organs, which together result in a wide range of seemingly inexplicable and unpleasant symptoms such as those cited above.

Restoring metabolic energy helps the body help itself. Some of this is accomplished through dietary changes and nutritional supplementation. We layer in products to support recharging the mitochondria, which are the individual energy packs in each of your cells. And because the thyroid is a target site for toxins, we want to reduce further exposure and help to mobilize existing detoxification pathways. These include clearing out the liver and the gall bladder that become overloaded with excess hormones like estrogen and chemical residues from medications and pesticides. Foremost, we want to address underlying infections that trigger your thyroid to go awry.

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.

Low Thyroid Hormones Cause Unwanted Suffering

Statistics indicate that 27 million otherwise healthy people suffer with thyroid hormone disorders. Thyroid hormones are metabolic hormones, meaning that they are your energy-producing hormones. The 70+ trillion cells in your body require energy, and all are affected by thyroid function. The failure to meet this energy requirement affects every organ and system in your body, including the brain, which requires over 20% of the total energy demand.

Low thyroid function is a big deal, and this is why thyroid problems are not isolated problems. Think of the thyroid gland as the gas pedal – the feature that allows you to produce energy at the cellular level and function throughout the day. When the thyroid fails, you do too. When you suffer with anxiety or depression, you must look at the thyroid. High cholesterol, digestive problems and diabetes? Think thyroid. Obvious symptoms can include brain fog, constipation, insomnia, weight gain, fatigue, hair loss, dry skin, brittle nails, chronic pain and more. Extreme cases can be debilitating.

The standard of care, medically speaking, for anyone with low thyroid is to prescribe replacement hormones forever and to monitor the results periodically, usually every six months, and adjust the dosage accordingly. For a minority of patients this is sufficient, but for most, it is not. This is because, while the hormone-replacement model might make your labs look normal, it does not allow you to feel any better. The labs simply don’t show everything we need to know, and so many people who need help are told they are “fine.”

There is more to thyroid health than what shows up on a lab. What’s causing the thyroid to fail in the first place? No amount of hormone replacement will fix that, and so the problems will continue.

We live in a toxic world where the ability to maintain healthy thyroid function is crucial. Most doctors aren’t trained to think about the underlying causes of disease, such as toxic build up, microbes, poor fuel delivery, nutrition, the ability to detoxify and eliminate waste, blood sugar management, etc. From a functional medicine perspective, a good way to understand low thyroid function is to view it as a downstream problem, part of a whole health approach. Ruling out autoimmunity is step one, followed by a complete workup to assess hormone and nutrient status, gut barrier integrity, detoxification and waste elimination capabilities, liver function, infection, brain fitness and so on. There’s a lot to do. Get started!

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.

You Are Not Your Diagnosis: The Lyme Disease Label

Often, a patient receives a diagnosis and treatment for a particular condition, and afterward, the diagnosis sticks to them like a label. And then what happens, is the patient may attribute any continuing or future symptoms to the original diagnosis without getting to the root of the problem.

This was the case with Lori M., a patient of mine who went to her primary care physician with symptoms of dizziness, extreme fatigue, episodic pain occurring mainly in the neck and shoulders, and panic-inducing disturbances. Her doctor made a diagnosis of Lyme disease and put her through an aggressive 74-day course of antibiotics to kill the spirochetes.

Clinically, this course of treatment should have been sufficient. However, once she finished the course of treatment, she continued to experience frequent mood swings including depression, dark periods, lack of productivity and anxiety. These recurring symptoms reinforced the Lyme label and caused her to become increasingly isolated since nothing seemed to work.

Antibiotics weren’t helping her get better and she was still experiencing dizziness along with a sensation that bacterial spirochetes were replicating in her brain. In an attempt to help her mood swings, she had taken doctor-recommended anti-anxiety medications that had caused her to feel numb to life. This, of course, was an unacceptable way to live and she decided that she wanted her health issues treated in a more natural, holistic way.

The First Step to Healing and Recovery

When she came to me, she continued to wear the Lyme disease label and repeatedly requested that we work on that specifically. From experience I know that a catch-all diagnosis like Lyme is rarely the fully story on a person’s health. After she filled out my in-depth symptom survey and forensic workup, it was revealed that there were other conditions and problems that needed to be addressed.

While the extensive antibiotic treatment had actually killed the spirochetes, it had created other intestinal problems and a widespread fungal infection called Candida. A person’s medical history often plays into their current issues, and I discovered Epstein Barr and mononucleosis in her background. These contribute to chronic fatigue and widespread pain.

We also uncovered issues including a pronounced drop in morning blood sugar causing irritability, and an elevated total cortisol load with an evening spike that contribute to nighttime worries and wakefulness. We also detected heavy metals and chemicals bound to lymph ducts and thyroid tissue that presented as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. In addition, there were emotional issues; we discovered that the emotional aspect stemmed from a childhood trauma that continued to haunt her.

Delving deeper, beyond the superficial Lyme diagnosis, it became clear that these other root problems were major contributors of her health issues and needed to be addressed immediately. I started Lori M on a course of homeopathic remedies and nutrients coupled with in-office treatments that focused on her total wellbeing. By focusing on them and shedding the Lyme label, she was able to see improvements while continuing to concentrate on her emotional recovery.

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.

Does Depression Always Require Taking Dangerous Prescription Drugs?

Prolonged periods of depression or constantly feeling like you’re sad every day impacts every avenue of your life; in fact, it can even impact your physical health. The connection between your emotions and your health is more powerful than you may think – whether temporary or long-term, depression can manifest in physical pain, illness, or chronic conditions. And all of these can take a toll on even more areas of your life, from hobbies and recreational activities to your social life and career.

Why Prescription Medications Don’t Work

Most people who experience depression, sadness or a roller coaster ride of emotions are often referred to a mental health professional, who usually prescribes one or more anti-depressants. Because they’re so commonly prescribed and heavily advertised, you’ll recognize some of the names: Paxil, Zoloft, Prozac, Cymbalta, and many others. These powerful, sometimes addictive medications can cause dangerous side effects like attempts/thoughts of suicide, heart problems, birth defects, violent/aggressive behavior, anxiety, delusional thinking and more including, ironically, worsening depression.

If you experience any of these side effects, you can’t just stop taking the medication, you need to be weaned off it under the supervision of your doctor, and sometimes it takes more than one attempt. Unfortunately, some doctors prescribe another medication to counteract the effects of the first one, and this is how the vicious cycle begins of escalating symptoms causing an increased number of prescription drugs that in turn cause new sets of symptoms. And on and on it goes.

The upshot is that these medications don’t fix what’s really causing the problem, they only mask the symptoms, and sometimes only for a limited time. At that point the dosage may be increased or a new medication may be added.

Finding the Root Cause

It’s usually at the point where a patient is taking too many medications and suffering too many ill effects that they come to me. Rather than covering up symptoms with medications, I look for the root cause, which is neurological and/or inflammation based. Depression is a symptom of an underlying problem, not a final diagnosis that points directly to the frontal lobe of the brain – it’s either unhealthy or not firing properly. This occurs due to inflammation, which can be caused by a number of different things, from blood sugar levels to food sensitivities.

“Medications for depression don’t fix the root cause of the problem.”

Mental health professionals usually consider the cause of depression to be chemical imbalances, and the medications they prescribe are chemicals that maneuver the brain’s neurotransmitters. Because these drugs don’t address the fundamental reason for depression, they’re constantly being altered, changed, or added to.

“It’s All in Your Head”

What I see a lot in my practice is that when people with chronic illness (particularly hormonal imbalances and thyroid issues) tell their doctors that they’re experiencing depression, they’re told “it’s all in your head.” They’re then prescribed anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medications in an attempt to alleviate depression, anxiety or mood swings.

But it doesn’t stop there. A patient, who had most of her thyroid removed many years ago, recently told me that she’s been taking a thyroid medication for some time, but it’s no longer working as it had. When she told her doctor this, he dismissed what she was experiencing, saying, “That can’t be right. It must be in your head.” Essentially, he was telling her that both the changes she experienced and her perception of them was nothing more than psychological.

It’s easy to understand how depression can really take hold after hearing something like this; if the patient isn’t already depressed, they can become depressed because they feel trapped, with nowhere to turn to for help and no hope of improvement.

These aren’t unusual stories. I hear the same thing all the time – doctors telling their patients that they’re crazy rather than taking the time and effort to look deeper, beyond the symptom, for the actual cause of the problem.

In my opinion, no patient’s complaints should be ignored or dismissed; one of the most important things a doctor can do is listen carefully to his patients. By performing a comprehensive evaluation of each person’s case, from their past health history to their current symptoms and medications along with other considerations and tests, medications can be reduced or eliminated and the real cause of depression can be treated.

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.

Are Your Emotions Preventing Your Good Health? 12 Tips for Emotional Healing

Most people don’t see a connection between emotional issues and physical pain or good health, but the relationship between them is actually quite powerful. In fact, emotional healing is a necessary component of physical healing; deep emotional pain, especially for people who have little or no support system, can lead to self-sabotage and the belief that there is no hope of recovery.

The good news is that everyone has the power to heal within them. We’re born with it, but because of various circumstances and events that occur throughout our lives and in our surroundings, we lose our connection to it. However, we can reconnect with that important healing energy within ourselves by implementing some proven methods to change our internal messages and create a happier, healthier future.

“Everyone has the power to heal within them.”

The plan I use to help my patients become more open to the healing process includes these steps:

  1. Consciously invest your resources toward what you believe you can create.
  2. Envision a version of you that is healthy (even if it requires you to stop being the person everyone thinks you are).
  3. Learn and study using the guidance of a trusted authority whether a doctor or mentor who can assist you to implement this vision.
  4. Anticipate at least 30 days to create a new habit and begin by scripting each day.
  5. Notice what’s keeping you the way you are in order to overcome habits and attachments that hold you back.
  6. Use newfound time and energy to continuously monitor and adapt.
  7. Halt the automatic repetition of the past by acknowledging the scars and wounds that no one else can see and moving beyond them.
  8. Prepare at home.
  9. Focus on the outcome you’d like to create. There are a million futures we don’t want to create and only one that we do want to have happen.
  10. Find comfort in the uncertainty as it’s happening.
  11. Work to achieve authenticity, which is the standard of credibility for becoming a new person. If in the beginning you feel like an actor moving from role to role, through repetition you will achieve a feeling of who you are inside and out.
  12. Learn optimism and joy in the smallest of things.

It isn’t always easy to understand what’s at the root of our emotional pain; there can be a difference between what we think the problem is on the surface and what the original cause and core emotions are underneath. In my practice, I have helped many of my patients push past the emotional blockades that are not allowing them to live their lives to the fullest, whether due to physical pain, depression, illness, lack of focus or any other issue. By learning how to redirect your thoughts away from damaging emotions and negative energy and instead turning them toward healing and positive beliefs, you can help both your physical and emotional healing process. You’ll be surprised at how much your life and health can improve.

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 Gene Inheritance Factor: Do Health Problems Run in the Family?

You hear it all the time: “Heart problems run in my family, so there’s no way around it for me.” “Both of my parents have vertigo, so that’s why I have it too.”

This doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. Why? Epigenetics.

Epigenetics is a super-hot topic in medicine and life sciences today; essentially – and very boiled down – it means the health problems of your parents and grandparents do not inevitably have to be the future of your health too.

This is very good news and offers hope to all of us whose families have a history of certain illnesses, conditions or disorders. But it doesn’t stop there – even if none in particular run through your family, epigenetics shows us that we can take the best preventive measures against health problems – both for ourselves and for our children.

How Does Gene Expression Work?

The key is in our genes, or rather, the level of gene function. We have over 20,000 genes in the DNA of our bodies, and when protective genes are “turned on”, they help to protect us from disease, disorders, and so on. But when something happens to turn a protective gene “off”, it can no longer do what it should to help us. This is called gene expression – the way genes express themselves: strongly, weakly or not at all.

“Your family health history doesn’t have to be your future.”

Many factors can impact how a gene expresses itself. The foods we eat, our environment, stress, our lifestyle choices and more can switch genes on or off. Until recently, medicine and science believed that it took generations for genes to change, but now we know differently. Epigenetics has proven that genes can change in a single generation, so if someone is an overeater, the obesity gene can be turned on and longevity turned off or weakened. If this person then has children, the changed gene expression can be passed down, resulting in a child with a tendency toward obesity. Scientists have also shown that certain genes within a child can change not only from their diet and other exposures, but also from their emotional experiences of being raised in a negative or nurturing home.

Epigenetics vs. Family Histories

So how does all this tie in to family histories going back one, two or more generations? One of the reasons certain illnesses or conditions seem to run through families is that people in immediate families tend to live the same lifestyle.

Let’s say heart disease runs through several generations of a family. The dietary habits of that family have always included a significant amount of gluten (cereals, breads, pastas, etc.), sugars, fried foods, dairy and such. These foods cause inflammation, and chronic inflammation is one of the leading causes of many diseases including heart disease. By continuing with the same basic diet that’s heavy in inflammatory foods, the genes that protect the heart can be switched off, continuing the inherited tendency toward heart disease. However, if those dietary habits are changed and replaced with foods and supplements that are rich in nutrients that turn on those protective heart genes, the family history of heart disease can be stopped.

What It All Means To You

The bottom line is that when a protective gene is turned off, it can’t do its job of protecting you from its designated target. But when you activate the gene through dietary and lifestyle changes, you can lessen your risk – and possibly your children’s risk – of getting that illness. Science is continually making breakthrough discoveries on this topic; one such finding is that folate, found in leafy green veggies and some fruits, peas and dried beans as well as nutritional supplements, can turn on the gene that helps to protect you from lung cancer. In addition, scientists who studied the DNA of people with heart disease found DNA “silencing marks”, meaning that the genes designated to help maintain a healthy heart were switched off.

This does not fault anyone for any illnesses or conditions they may have – things can still happen that are beyond our control – but rather it offers an opportunity to change things for ourselves and the next generation. By taking preventive measures like lowering inflammation and toxin levels, strengthening your immune system, correcting emotional responses and creating more positive environments for ourselves, we can help change the patterns of our family health histories and give our genes a chance to keep us healthy.

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.

Thyroid Disorder Diagnosis? It’s About More Than Your Blood Test Marker

If you’ve been diagnosed with a thyroid disorder, you’re not alone – more than 27 million people are affected nationwide. There are over 30 known thyroid disorders, including hypothyroidism, autoimmune thyroid, thyroid over-conversion or under-conversion, and more. Medications may help improve your thyroid marker, but they may not actually improve the disorder itself.

The question that needs to be answered is – what’s the underlying cause of my particular thyroid problem? To answer that, we need to take a look beyond the standard blood test thyroid marker and do a deeper analysis of your specific symptoms.

A thyroid disorder isn’t some standardized problem with a one-size-fits-all solution. Because the body and mind are a complex network of interwoven causes and effects, a person’s medical history along with their lifestyle needs to be analyzed in order to discover the underlying and exacerbating issues.

One example of this is a patient of mine who came to me complaining of dry skin, constipation, brain fog and cloudy thinking, all symptoms of a thyroid disorder. He also was affected by long-term poor balance.

In going through his medical records, I discovered a diagnosis from eight years earlier of cerebellar ataxia, an autoimmune attack against the brain that causes balance and coordination problems. His more recent diagnosis of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune attack against the thyroid, stems from the same root as cerebellar ataxia – both are the result of an out-of-control immune system that’s attacking the thyroid and brain. He was also plagued by recurring viral infection flare-ups when he worked himself to exhaustion.

By focusing on fixing only the blood marker rather than looking at the bigger picture – the connection between diagnoses and the root causes of the symptoms themselves – progression of the disorder would have continued, even if medications had helped to bring the marker itself back into an acceptable range. Root causes can range from poor gut health to heavy metals in the body; if these issues are not addressed directly, it is possible that not only will diagnosed disorders progress, but new disorders could arise, resulting in yet more medications that can be the cause of new problems.

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.