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When Joint Pain isn’t Simply Arthritis

Recently a patient of mine came in complaining of joint pain. This wasn’t something she’d experienced previously—she said it came on suddenly and had worsened over several days’ time. While she felt it in her hands the most, she also had pain in her ankle, knee, and left jaw joint. Other joints would hurt one day and not the next. She assumed her Lyme Disease had returned, but we needed to do some testing to confirm the true cause.

Tests for Lyme, rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and osteoarthritis all proved negative. But she did test positive for joint inflammation and heavy metals. When I asked her if she’d had any dental work done lately, she said an old silver filling had started disintegrating, and her dentist had fixed it a few days later by removing the remainder of the filling and putting in new amalgam.

Chances were high that she had swallowed some of the old silver filling when it broke down, as well as while she waited for her dental appointment and when the dentist cleaned out the rest of the filling; it was only about a week after the filling had broken that she started experiencing pain. It was interesting to note that her jaw pain was only on the side where the filling had come out and the new amalgam had been put in.

Typical dental amalgams are made from about 50 percent elemental mercury, which is classified as a toxic heavy metal. As if that’s not dangerous enough, they also contain an alloy that consists of tin and two other toxic heavy metals: copper and silver. When these enter the body, they can cause a variety of reactions, including joint pain that mimics arthritis.

The medical community connects most chronic joint pain to either osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, though there can be a number of other causes. An estimated 52.5 million American adults have been diagnosed with some form of arthritis, and that number is projected to rise to about 78.4 million by 2040. In addition, the most current research by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) shows that approximately 14.6 million Americans are living with severe joint pain.

Over 2 million Americans have been diagnosed with RA—which is an autoimmune disease—but not all are experiencing relief from treatments. When this is the case, there’s a high probability that the underlying cause of joint pain and inflammation is actually heavy metal toxicity rather than RA; this can also be the case when osteoarthritis is misdiagnosed. Unfortunately many doctors do not take this into consideration and don’t test for heavy metals, which is one of the reasons why so many people end up on dangerous, addictive painkillers and OTC pain medications that can damage their gut and other organs.

We are exposed to toxins every day, both environmentally and in some of the foods we eat. When heavy metals build up in our bodies, they can be deposited in joints, leading to inflammation and pain. We can lessen our toxic load by choosing organic foods and going to holistic biological dentists, who use mercury-free composite fillings rather than the standard heavy metal-based silver amalgam fillings.

Among the heavy metals that can put a toxic burden on our bodies are:

  • mercury
  • lead
  • cadmium
  • arsenic (found in most rice and rice products)
  • aluminum
  • antimony

Small amounts of heavy metals may not cause any reaction, and we’re continually assured that various food and beverage products, mercury-based vaccines, amalgams, pollution levels, etc. are within “acceptable” limits. However, toxins from all these sources build up in the body, and the resulting accumulations can affect us biologically and/or neurologically. Biotoxicity can manifest in a range of ways, from arthritis-like symptoms to digestive problems; neurotoxicity includes things like sleep problems, headaches, cognitive difficulties and even depression.

Over time heavy metals in the body can actually lead to development of arthritis as well as other health issues like endocrine system disruption (hormonal imbalances, adrenal exhaustion, and food allergies/sensitivities), liver stress, lymphatic system overload, and more.

Some elements classified as heavy metals like copper, selenium and zinc are necessary to our health in small amounts, but when they’re out of balance, they, too, can lead to systemic toxicity.

You functional medicine doctor can perform comprehensive heavy metal testing to discover whether your joint pain and inflammation are due to heavy metal toxicity. He can then determine the best method to eliminate the metals and prevent further joint damage or other health issues from progressing.

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.

High Blood Pressure, Lipid Abnormalities and Thyroid Disease

In a 2010 clinical abstract posted to PubMed and originally published in the Expert Review of Cardiovascular Therapy, researchers concluded that hypothyroidism should be recognized as a cause of secondary hypertension. This acknowledgement was based on a prior 2007 study in which 100 individuals who were recently diagnosed for hypothyroidism and who had never been treated before with antihypertensive treatment or received drugs for hypothyroidism demonstrated elevated blood pressure values.

All participants underwent around-the-clock “ambulatory” blood pressure monitoring, meaning that blood pressure was monitored at all levels of activity throughout a 24-hour day. The control group consisted of 100 healthy volunteers matched to hypothyroid patients of the same gender and age. Clinical systolic and diastolic blood pressures were significantly higher in patients with hypothyroidism compared to the blood pressure of volunteers.

Based on the findings, the researchers were able to conclude that hypothyroidism may be an important predictor of cardiovascular target organ damage. Specifically, elevated blood pressure values include a higher mean 24-h systolic blood pressure, 24-h pulse pressure, and 24-h systolic blood pressure variability. Lastly, serum cholesterol tended to be marginally higher in patients with hypothyroidism compared with volunteers, while fasting serum triglycerides were significantly higher.

Lipid abnormalities, or dyslipidemia, are common findings in patients with thyroid disease. This is explained by the effects of thyroid hormones in nearly all steps of lipid metabolism.  For instance, total and LDL cholesterol (less often HDL cholesterol), triglycerides, lipoprotein (a), apolipoprotein A1, and apolipoprotein B can each be affected. Many of my patients have been asked by their doctors to do extensive testing for cardiovascular disease, and are often told to begin taking statins (and blood pressure medications) based on the results. But, as the research would indicate, thyroid is a critical component.

Thyroid hormones regulate the expression of enzymes involved in all steps of lipid metabolism. Lipoproteins themselves prevent infections, protect against toxins and inflammation. The most common underlying reasons for dyslipidemia are chronic inflammation, immune dysfunction, and oxidative stress of the vascular system. The underlying lesson is that lipid abnormalities coexist with other metabolic abnormalities, including, hypertension, insulin resistance, and oxidative stress, all of them being risk factors for cardiovascular disease. And, as is probably already evident to thyroid sufferers, the same root causes (chronic infections, accumulation of toxins such as heavy metals, POPs, etc, and chronic inflammatory reactions to foods) will cause negative vascular response.

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.

New Rules for A Better Prognosis

There is an advertisement that pictures a husband and wife sitting together side by side at sunset holding hands feeling amorous; in another commercial, a woman is collapsed on the couch underneath the weight of an elephant that is sitting on her chest. The messages are clear: it’s hard to breathe, and the woman feels suffocated. Or life would feel more relaxing and pleasant when the husband and wife are capable of having greater intimacy. The promise is that, with medication, not only will these very personal issues completely disappear but the people will also be happier and lead productive lives.

The reality, though. is plain: there is no single medication that will completely restore one to happiness and health. I believe that if we can take this single lesson to heart, it will help us avoid wasting precious effort, time and resources on miracle cures and wonder drugs. In general, we all are prone to quick fixes and are susceptible to fad concepts already. Single product marketing plays right into that sense of an effortless solution. Instead, what I have learned is that health and true healing are hard work.

Because of this I developed a short set of rules that I bring to my patients’ attention every time we consult. These help to get beyond the diagnosis conundrum and focus on the root instead:

Rule No. 1: Ignore the Lab Marker

Not all diagnoses begin with a blood test, but many of them do. The reason is because the marker is what a doctor uses to monitor and prescribe medications. Take cholesterol, for instance – what happens is that the patient and doctor get caught up trying to correct a particular marker on a blood test and fail to see the big picture. What are you feeling? In the case of high or low cholesterol, probably nothing.

In contrast, what I see all the time with thyroid sufferers is that they fixate on the thyroid markers and forget about the root causes for their symptoms like fatigue and constipation. They puzzle out all the various thyroid conversion pathways and ignore the fact that for most of them, fixing the marker doesn’t change the immune system problem caused by poor gut health, mercury buildup, or whatever.

A perfect dosage of anything, cholesterol lowering medication or thyroid hormone replacement, will never change that.

Rule No. 2: Learn Your Own Telltale Signs

Symptoms don’t lie. Someone with a thyroid issue has a list of complaints that start with hair loss and end with cold feet, and yet the resolution for these cannot be measured by the result of a lab test. Instead, what the patient needs to become aware of are the simple triggers and preliminary warning signs. For Bob it was burning the candle at both ends and continuing the same habits as before. He would work the lawn till sundown in the dead of summer heat and become completely dehydrated and weak. He’d trigger a viral flare-up that would land him in the emergency room. For Phoebe it was partly the pressure of doing well in school and not having her family close enough to lean on when needed. They live a three-hour plane ride away and most times she is too busy with homework to pay attention to what her body needs.

For both of them, seemingly esoteric factors such as mood and posture change over time as they trudge on. People around them notice it and chalk it up to an impending deadline. These are the things they need to pay attention to.

Rule No. 3: Follow the Results

I have a motto in my office for patients, which is to follow the results. When something is working, keep doing it. If following a particular protocol for 30 days allows someone to feel the best she has days, then don’t stop. I don’t care if it makes her feel better for ten minutes, stay with it!

Patients will say to me that they followed the anti-inflammatory diet for 30 days and they have the most energy they’ve felt in years but they really miss eating bread, or whatever it might be in their case. Or a patient has a weak organ such as the heart that is blocked from healing because of poor lymphatic circulation, so I ask him to start with three minutes of marching in place and he feels terrific. He wants to know when he can stop. Well, he can’t.

A patient and I spend fifteen minutes working on a tapping solution and the patient is able to divulge with clarity something that she’d been feeling deep inside and had forgotten about. For the first time in memory, she wakes up the following morning with a clear mind and is fifteen minutes into her day before any type of usual worry fills her mind. She gushes in amazement and then saddens herself with the notion that she didn’t fix it. I tell her to repeat it.

Healing, happiness and health, both physical and emotional, are attainable, but not in a prescription or OTC bottle.

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.

Clinical Pearls in Functional Endocrinology

Many of us are likely aware that hormone imbalances can contribute to many health complications. The logical next step is to have hormone levels checked and get them balanced. Sounds easy, but is it? Many people have gone to doctors and naturopaths who have attempted to their normalize hormone levels, only to find it is a game of whack-a-mole at best.

For those who have tried balancing hormones and found it to be an impossible task, the chances are that something significant is being overlooked. From hormone delivery methods to testing procedures and supplemental nutritional support, all aspects of hormone adjustments can be tweaked for maximum success.

Here are 6 pearls of clinical wisdom to help guide us down the challenging path towards optimal hormonal balance.

Pearl No. 1 – Hormone Delivery

Typically, effective hormone supplementation, especially progesterone and testosterone, are delivered either topically (creams) or sublingually (oil or alcohol based liquid solutions placed under the tongue). One potential drawback of creams—particularly for menopausal women—is that chronic use of hormone creams can lead to tissue saturation, thereby rendering them ineffective.

Pearl No. 2 – Repeat Testing

It is all too common to hear of doctors prescribing hormone creams or capsules but failing to run repeat tests soon enough, if ever, to monitor the effectiveness of a particular course of treatment. Regular follow-ups are essential because testing will show whether the regimen is balancing hormones in the right direct. Clinical success depends on monitoring the results and taking action every 8 to 12 weeks in the beginning.

Pearl No. 3 – Testing Methods

Many doctors will run blood tests to measure reproductive hormone levels; however, this is not necessarily the best approach. A better approach is salivary hormone testing that measures the free fractionated forms of each hormone so that it is possible to tell what amount of hormones is not just in the bloodstream, but actually available to cells and used.

Pearl No. 4 – Root Cause Investigation

What is “functional endocrinology”? While everyone agrees it is important to achieve hormonal balance in order to feel well, only a functional endocrinologist will inquire about the root cause of any imbalances present.

Supplementing hormones is by trial and through follow up, and with a comprehensive look at everything going on. There is a reason why a hormone imbalance is present in the first place, and we want to understand what that reason is.

Culprits include compromised adrenal function, blood sugar regulation, hormone receptor saturation, inflammation and brain-body communication. Administering hormones without addressing these root cause issues won’t work.

Pearl No. 5 – Supplement Overload

There are articles and advertisements all over the media touting the health benefits of new supplements and the latest products. However, consumers are mostly in the dark regarding what supplementation their body needs. Add to this a problem with product authenticity, harmful fillers, and potency. It is imperative to have a doctor prescribe high quality, all-natural, pre-screened products on a regimen tailored to an individual’s needs.

Pearl No. 6 – Hormone Clearance

An often overlooked but potent aspect to hormone balance is bile synthesis and clearance of excess saturation from the body. The liver must be supported to aid the body in pushing out excess hormones. Sometimes it is not only adding in hormones, but often pushing excess hormones out that can be key.

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.

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.

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.

The Path to Wellness and Wellbeing is Within You

If you’ve come to my website, you’re ready for a change. You’re ready to take control of your health and well-being and to understand why your symptoms are happening in the first place.

Symptoms are clues or signals from your body that a deeper issue or condition needs fixing. Some of these symptoms may include chronic pain, fatigue, allergies, anxiety, low energy, weight gain or weight loss, dizziness…the list goes on and on. By addressing the root cause of your symptoms rather than covering them up with over-the-counter or prescription medications, you can rid yourself of them once and for all while at the same time preventing the underlying issue from escalating or causing even more problems.

While mainstream medicine has its place, the overuse and sometimes unnecessary use of prescription painkillers (opioids), anti-depressants, depressants (for sleep disorders and anxiety), antibiotics and other drugs only address symptoms rather than root causes. Negative side effects can create new symptoms that are typically treated with yet more prescription drugs, and this vicious cycle can continue until the original condition becomes buried under each successive new symptom.

The worst part is that many times, no diagnosis has even been made for the condition whose symptoms are being treated. That just doesn’t make any sense, and the “wait and see if it works” approach to medications is a poor and sometimes damaging option.

Many of my patients come to me immersed in this endless cycle of increasing symptoms and prescription medicines from a long string of doctors. They’ve reached the point of not wanting to take any further medications, refusing additional surgical procedures or wanting to end increasing pain. They recognize that their quality of life is diminishing as they continue to feel worse and worse. The one thing they’re sure of is that they deserve and need to feel better.

My approach to functional medicine digs deep beneath the superficial symptoms to uncover the actual cause of your problems. Through functional diagnostic tests including hormones, nutrition, a forensic analysis of harmful and toxic agents and an examination of brain-body function, I can develop a customized plan for each patient. My patients are sometimes surprised to discover that their issues may stem from a completely different cause than they expected, but they get answers and a definitive path to well-being that they can continue following on their own. As their medications are either reduced to the bare minimum or completely eliminated, a better quality of life returns and symptoms can disappear.

The upshot is that you don’t have to learn to live with your health problems, and hoping they’ll go away isn’t a plan of action. You can take control of your health and well-being and live the life you always wanted.

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.