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Can Processed Meats Affect Your Brain?

It’s no secret that processed foods are major contributors to unhealthy environments in our bodies, from poor gut health and inflammation to organ and bone damage. This, in turn, results in a myriad of serious health issues including cancer, weakened bones, infertility, kidney failure…the list goes on and on.

But many times, the term “processed food” is thought of as frozen meals and pizzas or canned and prepared foods down the central aisles of the supermarket—these are only part of the picture. Deli meats, jerky, bacon, hot dogs, sausage and the like are also heavily processed foods containing added chemical nitrates, and studies are now showing a connection between these processed meats and brain health.

A Johns Hopkins School of Medicine study (conducted on over 1,000 people with no history of psychiatric disorders) published in Molecular Psychiatry stated that “nitrated meats are associated with mania in humans and altered behavior and brain gene expression in rats.” Previously, environmental toxins were more highly associated with the onset of mania and other psychological disorders, but researchers have now shown that a history of eating processed meats with nitrates is strongly associated with mania in humans at a “95 percent confidence” level. The study examined a variety of “dietary exposures”, but the study’s lead author, Robert Yolken, said that “cured meat really stood out.” Yolken went on to say that “the key is probably inflammation.”

To a lesser degree, but still significant, human consumption of processed meats containing nitrates were associated with other mental health disorders, including schizoaffective disorder, attention deficit, and delusional thinking. Rats that were fed meats with added nitrates showed changes in both brain pathways and in intestinal microbiota, which were equivalent to those associated with bipolar disorder and hyperactivity in humans. Researchers also found that people admitted to the hospital with episodes of mania—such as insomnia, hyperactivity and euphoria—were more than three and a half times more likely to have eaten meats containing nitrates than those who had no psychiatric issues.

The nitrates referred to in this study are the chemicals that are added to processed meats to preserve color and inhibit the growth of bacteria, not those that are naturally occurring in fruits and vegetables. These added chemicals negatively alter gut bacteria—which are directly connected to the brain and have a profound effect on overall health—and have previously been connected to neurodegenerative diseases.

Not only are added nitrates in foods potential links to psychiatric disorders and episodes, processed foods of all kinds contain added sugars, sodium, bad fats and other chemicals that contribute to an unhealthy microbiome and disease. What’s worse is that the added sugars and sodium have an addictive effect, creating cravings that can make people dependent on them for brief bursts of energy (followed by an energy drop) and taste satisfaction.

As opposed to the chemical nitrates added to processed meat products, the naturally occurring nitrates in fruits and vegetables are actually good for you. Plant nitrates are balanced by antioxidants within the plant that convert nitrates into beneficial nitric oxide, which promotes heart health, lowers blood pressure, decreases plaque in the arteries, and improves systemic blood flow. By improving blood flow in the brain, plant nitrates can improve mental function and may help to reduce age-related cognitive decline. And because people with type 2 diabetes also have impaired nitric oxide production, it may also help to manage, treat, or prevent the disease.

The takeaway from all this is that while added chemical nitrates work against you by harming your overall health as well as brain function, natural plant nitrates work for you by improving brain function and overall health.

Exchanging processed meats for unprocessed, natural meats is a good first step toward better health; you can take it one step further by switching to grass-fed organic meats. To increase your body’s nitric oxide levels, look to fresh organic fruits and vegetables that are high in naturally occurring nitrates, including root vegetables (carrots, beets, etc.), dark leafy greens, garlic, green beans, strawberries, cherries, raspberries, and more. A general rule of thumb is that the closer to the soil a vegetable or fruit grows, the higher it will be in natural nitrates.

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 Kidney Stones Preventable?

If you’ve ever had a kidney stone, you know how severe the pain can be—it’s said to be one of the most unforgettably excruciating pains a person can experience. Made up of salts and minerals, these hard deposits affect an estimated one in ten people in the U.S., sending over half a million people to the emergency room each year, according to the National Kidney Foundation.

Kidney stones can range in size from a fraction of an inch to a few inches large and are formed in the kidney but may move to the ureter via the urinary tract. They can sometimes be eliminated through the urine stream, but if they’re too large or become lodged, they may require surgery or laser lithotripsy, which breaks the stone down into smaller, passable pieces.

A kidney stone can be a sign of other health problems, and lodged stones can cause complications including kidney damage. Other long-term problems can also arise once you develop kidney stones; for example, your chances of forming more stones within the next five to seven years are fifty percent higher, and there is an increased risk of developing chronic kidney disease.

So what causes kidney stones? There are several factors that can put you at a higher risk of developing kidney stones, including:

  • not drinking enough water
  • obesity
  • a diet with too much sodium
  • too much fructose in the diet (this includes processed sugars and high fructose corn syrup)
  • lack of or low amount of calcium in the diet
  • lack of or too few vegetables and fruits in the diet
  • acidic urine
  • too much or too little exercise
  • certain health conditions such as diabetes, urinary tract infections (UTIs), hyperparathyroidism, Crohn’s disease, and high
  • blood pressure

While some kidney stones are so small they pass without incident, the majority have warning symptoms that should be heeded immediately. Depending on the severity, you may be able to avoid a trip to the emergency room, but you should see your doctor without delay. These symptoms include:

  • blood in the urine
  • pain in the lower back, possibly severe
  • fever and chills
  • low urine output or a flow that stops suddenly
  • cloudy or smelly urine
  • nausea or vomiting
  • unrelenting stomach ache or pain
  • pain during urination
  • frequent urination

Prevention is the best cure, and the good news is that there are a number of dietary changes you can make to help prevent kidney stones. Keeping your body well-hydrated is most important, but it’s also important to choose the right type of hydration—water is the best choice. You can take it a step further and squeeze some lemon into the water, which will help neutralize and lower uric acid levels, one of the underlying causes of kidney stones. Stay away from liquids like energy drinks, soft drinks, bodybuilding drinks, “enhanced” waters and such, which do more harm than good.

Our bodies can become acidic from environmental toxins, medications, stress, high sugar intake, processed foods, and more. Alkalizing your body naturally will not only help to prevent urine from becoming acidic, it will also benefit your health in a number of other ways. Neutralizing your body’s pH level by improving your acid-alkaline balance will help boost your immune system, improve brain and heart function, lower inflammation, and much more. Some steps you can take include starting your day with a glass of lemon-water, minimizing or managing stress, minimizing sugars and eliminating processed foods, and adding alkalizing foods to your diet such as almonds, cucumbers, pink grapefruit, cantaloupe, cabbage and others. Organic is always the best choice; check with your functional medicine doctor first to make sure you’re not allergic or sensitive to any of these foods and that you don’t have any known or underlying health issues that may contraindicate adding certain foods to your diet.

A good magnesium supplement—especially for anyone taking calcium for osteoporosis—can help prevent kidney stones by dissolving calcium and binding oxalates, which helps to prevent calcium oxalate crystals from forming. Vitamin B6 and certain probiotics can also help to reduce oxalate acid. Your functional medicine doctor can work with you to determine the best way to lower your risk of kidney stones and help to eliminate or minimize underlying causes that can lead to stones and other kidney 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.

A Healthy High Fiber Diet May Not Be What You Think

In our last blog post, we talked about the importance of a high fiber diet and how it can help you correct or avoid chronic constipation and the myriad health issues it can cause. Medications and/or enemas aren’t the answer, since each can cause its own set of complications, even having the opposite effect and becoming the cause of constipation themselves.

While the idea of a high fiber diet may sound relatively simple, there’s a lot of misleading information about what constitutes a healthy high fiber diet. Just scour the internet and you’ll see practically every healthy living and medical website recommending high fiber cereals as a good way to get your daily fiber. However, most of these sites aren’t discussing a few important considerations.

If the cereal isn’t organic, it’s probably made with genetically modified (GMO) ingredients.
The safety and health risks of GMOs throughout our food supply—meats, fruits and vegetables—is probably one of the most hotly debated topics today. Gene manipulation in plants, insects and animals has raised concerns among consumers as to its safety for humans as well as for crops and nature in general. And with no long-term studies on their effects on human and animal health prior to releasing these altered genes, there are good reasons for concern. Among them are:

  • the creation of new allergens
  • increasing the level of allergens already present in a food
  • introducing allergens to a food without public knowledge
  • creating more antibiotic-resistant genes
  • increased human exposure to pesticides
  • the unpredictability of altering genes without enough testing for long-term safety and reactions

The wheat, soy, corn and other grains used to make non-organic cereals all contain GMOs, so while they’re touted as being “healthy” in the respect that they may be high in fiber, they’re also potentially harmful because of their genetically-modified ingredients. By choosing a high fiber organic cereal, you’re getting the extra fiber without the risks that GMOs can present.

If your cereal isn’t organic, every spoonful contains dangerous chemicals.
There’s been a lot of news about the dangerous pesticide glyphosate that’s been found in just about every non-organic grain-based cereal on the market. Glyphosate, a key ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup, is an herbicide that has been greatly minimized or banned in 14 other countries (that number continues to rise) due to its strong potential as an endocrine disruptor and for birth defects, its disruption of the reproductive system and destruction of beneficial gut bacteria. It has been classified as a “probable carcinogenic to humans” by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer.

And that’s just the start, because plenty of other pesticides and fungicides are also used on crops that go into breakfast cereals, including corn, wheat, oats, soy and more. Certified organic cereals not only eliminate these toxic chemicals, they also contain no GMOs. Be careful to choose “certified organic” foods and products rather than those simply marked “non-GMO”—by definition, organic crops and products cannot contain genetically modified ingredients, but products marked only “non-GMO” may not be organic and so may still contain harmful pesticides, fungicides and herbicides.

How much sugar are you starting your day with?

Reading and understanding ingredients and nutritional information on cereal packages is a cornerstone of choosing the right high-fiber cereal. Added sugar can appear in different forms including fructose, dextrose, maltose, sucrose, glucose, lactose and corn syrup; this is also true of terminology used for sodium. Check the serving size as well—what may look like a low amount of sugar could actually be the amount of sugar you get in a very small amount, like a quarter of a cup, which is far less than you’d have in one breakfast serving. It’s also important to remember that starchy ingredients like corn turn to sugars once consumed, adding to the total amount of sugar delivered to your system.

How much fiber is enough and how do I get it safely?

Recommendations vary as to how much fiber we need, ranging from 21 to 38 grams per day, but it’s safe to say that if you base your diet on organic foods high in fiber, you’ll not only get enough to keep you “regular”, but you’ll also be supplying your body with plenty of important and essential nutrients naturally. These include such choices as pears, apples, chia seeds, avocados, raspberries, lentils, artichokes, carrots, oats, almonds, popcorn and many more.

It’s not difficult to reinvent your family’s diet to include high fiber selections that are free from toxic additives, and you’ll be surprised at how much better you feel and how much more energy you have. At the same time, you’ll be strengthening your body’s immune system and creating a healthy gut microbiome, both of which are important to maintaining good 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.

The Common Secret No One Talks About: Constipation

It’s a topic no one wants to discuss. It’s an extremely common health issue, yet it’s a gray area for many of the 63 million Americans who suffer with it—and that number is rising. It can cause pain and discomfort that can impact your quality of life and has more potential causes than most people think. We’re talking about chronic constipation, and we’re going to help you understand more about this seemingly hush-hush health problem.

Annually, over 6 million Americans visit hospital emergency rooms for constipation and more than 5 million prescriptions are written for it, so there’s no doubt this is a widespread problem. You’ll find plenty of misinformation online about what’s considered normal or acceptable when it comes bowel movement frequency. Some sites will tell you that whatever you’ve experienced throughout your life is what’s normal for you. Even if you’re used to going as infrequently as once a week for as long as you can remember, they say that’s okay because it’s your personal “normal”. Conventional medicine even says that as few as three times a week is acceptable. None of this could be further from the truth.

Regular bowel movements—at least once daily—are a necessary function of good health; this is one important way the body cleanses itself of toxins and waste materials. Without regular daily elimination, toxins can be reabsorbed into your body, and a host of health issues can arise.

As a solution to chronic constipation—defined as difficult, infrequent, pebble-like, or painful bowel movements over a few months’ time—many people turn to prescription or OTC medications and end up dependent on them for years. While this may produce the desired result in the moment, it is by no means a long-term solution, and it’s never a good idea to continually put medications of any kind into your body.

What makes this an even more dangerous “solution” is that the real reason for the constipation is not being uncovered or addressed. Like pain elsewhere in the body, constipation is a symptom that something is wrong, which can be as simple as dietary and lifestyle choices or something more serious, such as an underlying health condition. Rather than medicating the symptom, functional medicine looks deeper into the causation behind each individual’s constipation problem and finds a way to correct the root cause.

Constipation lies on both sides of the health equation—it can be caused by other health issues and, if left untreated, it can cause health problems. Let’s take a look at both.

Underlying Health Issues That Can Cause Constipation

  • lack of physical activity
  • diet high in processed foods, unhealthy fats and/or sugar
  • low fiber/low greens diet
  • certain medications
  • not enough daily water intake
  • ignoring the urge to go
  • excessive caffeine or alcohol consumption
  • neurological disorders
  • medical conditions including hypothyroidism, diverticulitis, diabetes and more

Conditions Caused By Chronic Constipation

  • hemorrhoids
  • fissures
  • blockage caused by impacted (stuck) fecal matter
  • potential for colon cancer
  • possible cause of diverticulitis
  • urological disorders
  • bowel incontinence
  • rectal prolapse

New connections between causes and resulting conditions are continually being discovered; it’s even been reported that regular use of enemas or constipation medications can eventually become causes in and of themselves.

When is it time to seek medical advice?

An occasional bout of constipation happens to everyone, especially under certain circumstances like during times of extreme stress, when traveling, or if your diet changes for the worse for a period of time. This can cause temporary, or “acute”, constipation that goes away after things return to normal. However, you should see your doctor if you notice lasting changes in your stool consistency or overall bowel habits. In addition, if you experience pain, feel as though you’re not eliminating completely, or are having difficulty moving your bowels on a regular basis for several weeks, it’s time to get help.

Increasing your fiber intake is not only important to avoiding constipation, it’s also important for your overall health—and lettuce and tomato on your burger is not the same as having a side salad! But not all fiber is created equal—we’ll talk about breakfast cereals as well as the types of fiber you should include in your diet and why in our next blog post.

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.

Is an Iodine Deficiency at the Root of Your Health Issues?

Iodine deficiencies are being called a “silent epidemic”; it’s been estimated that approximately 74 percent of adults have iodine deficiencies worldwide. In fact, according to the National Institutes of Health, Iodine Deficiency Disorders (IDD) are considered to be among today’s biggest health problems, affecting over 1.5 billion people around the world.

The health problems that can result from an iodine deficiency include:

  • goiter (enlarged thyroid gland)
  • hypothyroidism
  • skin problems
  • neurological issues
  • gastrointestinal abnormalities
  • cognitive impairment

Each of the above IDDs has its own set of symptoms, from puffiness and fatigue to heart and joint problems, as well as additional complications such as cardiovascular problems, peripheral neuropathy, and depression.

Children and teens with an iodine deficiency may experience poor mental or dental development, slower growth rate, and delayed puberty. Infants can also develop IDD if they don’t get enough iodine in their first year of life or if they didn’t receive enough iodine in utero—pregnant women actually require extra iodine, and if their intake is too low, it can cause an IDD in their unborn baby.

A well-rounded whole food diet that includes choices with naturally occurring iodine can help stave off IDD. These foods include:

  • eggs
  • shellfish
  • saltwater fish
  • sea vegetables (kelp, seaweed, etc.)
  • dairy from grassfed cows grazed in iodine-rich fields

Pure sea salt can contain some natural iodine, but not as much as iodized sea salt. (Processed foods contain high amounts of salt and sodium, but the salt used in these prepackaged products is unhealthy and is not iodized.) A pure iodine supplement in an amount recommended by your functional medicine doctor specifically for your body’s needs is another way to keep iodine levels where they should be.

What makes iodine so important to our bodies, and why must we make a concerted effort to eat foods rich in iodine? Iodine is an essential mineral, but our bodies don’t make it naturally, so we need to consume it in our diets. Iodine is critical for the production of thyroid hormones, which control bodily functions including metabolism. Recent research has shown that iodine may also function as an antioxidant, drawing free radicals away from tissue and lowering cancer risks. The Journal of Mammary Gland Biology and Neoplasia reported in 2005 that diets high in iodine are associated with lower breast cancer rates. Iodine is also used by the eyes, salivary glands, stomach lining and other organs.

During pregnancy, increased iodine intake is necessary for fetal brain development and to lower the risk of miscarriage, birth defects, low birth weight and stillbirth. The Lancet published a study in 2013 that followed the children of women who did not consume enough iodine during pregnancy. By the age of 8 or 9, these children scored poorly on tests for verbal and reading abilities. Another report in the Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism states that in early childhood, insufficient iodine levels can result in slower mental development and function, poor nerve development and learning abilities, and speech and/or hearing problems.

While there are general guidelines as to how much iodine people need based on their age from birth to adulthood, these guidelines vary greatly depending on the source; more importantly, your individual needs are likely to be different from generic numbers.

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.

Salt vs. Sodium: Is Either One Healthy?

The words “salt” and “sodium” have practically become synonymous, but they’re not really the same thing. When most people refer to salt, they’re talking about table salt, which contains 40 percent sodium and 60 percent chloride (a mineral). Both sodium and chloride are necessary to good health, but what’s not healthy is the excessive amounts of sodium—not always salt itself—contained in processed foods. Ingredients like monosodium glutamate (MSG), the preservative sodium nitrate, sodium phosphate, and many more all add hefty doses of unhealthy sodium to packaged foods.

The human body needs a certain amount of healthy sodium in order to function properly; the scales shouldn’t be tipped too far in either direction. Whereas the right amount of sodium intake helps to regulate blood pressure, promote sleep, and helps with brain, muscle and nerve functions (among other things), too much sodium can result in such health issues as high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.

There’s been a war raging against salt for years. It started as early as the turn of the 20th century but hit fever pitch in the 1970s. Salt as a whole has been demonized to the point that some people turned to low-sodium diets that actually harmed their health. Being sodium-deficient has been shown in some studies to cause increased insulin resistance, greater risk of death for those with diabetes or heart failure, an increase in triglycerides and LDL cholesterol, and hyponatremia (particularly for athletes and those on medications or with certain medical conditions).

Choosing the right type of salt for good health is just as important as getting the right amount of sodium. Table salt comes from underground mines and undergoes heavy processing, during which it’s superheated, eliminating beneficial minerals and altering its chemical structure. Anti-clumping aluminum compound agents are then added to keep it free-flowing, and the salt is also bleached; in some other countries, fluoride is also added to table salt. Although iodine is added, which is necessary to maintain a healthy thyroid, that isn’t a reason to use table salt, since you can use a high-quality iodine supplement according to your functional medicine doctor’s recommendations.

Sea salt has been touted as being healthier than table salt, and largely speaking, it is. Rather than being superheated, the water from which it is extracted is evaporated, so the salt retains its high mineral content. But not all sea salt is equally healthy; there are a couple of things to take into consideration before you buy:

  • Read the label to find out where the salt you’re buying has come from—some sources have pollution issues and salt from these waters should be avoided.
  • Look for unrefined sea salt; Celtic (gray) and Himalayan sea salts are among the best, but check to see if the label lists any additives. Free-flowing, pure white sea salt may have been bleached and contain anti-clumping additives. If sources and/or ingredients aren’t on the label, see if you can find the source and ingredient information online. Typically, companies selling pure sea salt from clean waters are open with this information.

Unrefined sea salt can be found in a variety of colors and is coarse; it may also contain some of its naturally occurring moisture. The coloring, ranging from black to pink to gray, comes from the different types of natural minerals  contained in the salt. Among the many benefits of unrefined sea salt are:

  • Great source of electrolytes, which are important for muscle function and the cardiovascular system.
  • Helps your body produce HCL (hydrochloric acid), essential to digestive health, and allows your body to absorb necessary minerals, vitamins and other nutrients from food.
  • Balances fluids and helps you avoid dehydration—it’s only if you overdo your salt intake that your body will start to retain water.

Don’t be deterred by the courseness of unrefined sea salt—there are easy ways to prepare it for daily use. One simple way to turn coarse salt into a much finer texture is to grind it in an electric coffee grinder so you can quickly make it as fine as you like.

By avoiding the unhealthy salt used in packaged, processed and prepared foods and using unrefined sea salt in moderate amounts, you’ll maintain a healthy sodium balance and enjoy its positive health effects.

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.

Is it Healthy to Go Vegan?

The debate over whether a vegan diet is healthier than a diet that includes animal products has been going on for decades. Both sides have presented opposing information, which is confusing for anyone trying to decide which side of the argument makes more sense. However, the truth is muddied when either side exaggerates or misrepresents facts to bolster their beliefs.

In my practice, I’ve been seeing an increasing number of young vegans who are experiencing a range of health problems, from hormonal imbalances caused by incredibly low cholesterol to anxiety stemming from poor blood sugar management. I don’t challenge their choice to be vegan – most do it for completely understandable reasons, whether religious or over animal welfare, environmental or health concerns – and I work with them to restore their health within their chosen dietary parameters.

If you’re trying to decide whether to go vegan like approximately two million other Americans have, there’s more to consider than how to get enough protein through non-meat sources. First, let me state that I’m not advocating for or against following a vegan lifestyle, but it’s important to understand the known health concerns associated with any dietary shift before embarking on it.

Vegan is different from vegetarian in that a vegan diet not only eliminates all meats and fish, it also excludes any and all products from meat or fish sources, such as dairy (cheese, milk, yogurt, etc.), eggs, gelatin, and so on. While plant-based diets are generally associated with lower cholesterol, lower risk of cardiovascular disease, lower blood pressure and the like, these health benefits are achieved only through “appropriately planned diets”, as stated by the American Dietetic Association.

One of the pitfalls people can fall into on a vegan diet is not getting enough of the important nutrients that are provided by animal products. Protein, of course, is one of the primary deficiencies vegans can face if they don’t have a complete understanding of the difference between plant and animal proteins as well as their body’s protein requirements. Because plant proteins are different from animal proteins, vegans may need to take in more grams of plant protein than would be required from animal proteins. Also, it’s important to get plant proteins from a variety of sources, such as nuts, beans, seeds, whole grains, lentils, and more.

Because the heme iron in animal products is better absorbed by the body than the non-heme iron in plant sources, a sufficient amount of vitamin C needs to be included in the vegan diet, which increases absorption of non-heme iron. On the other hand, consideration should be given to the fact that phytic acid in the same plant protein sources – lentils, whole grains, nuts, beans – can inhibit non-heme iron absorption.

Another important nutrient found mainly in animal and dairy products is vitamin B12, which helps to regulate the nervous system. Deficiencies in this vital vitamin can cause health problems that range from fatigue and immune system disorders to pernicious anemia and neurological issues. Vegans need to make sure they choose foods fortified with vitamin B12 and/or take B12 supplements (always check with your functional medicine doctor to make sure any supplements you take are pure and that you take the right amount for you personally).

Omega-3 fatty acids, derived mainly from fish and eggs, is an important nutrient in many ways, including controlling blood pressure and contributing to heart health. If your diet is missing or low in Omega-3s, you may experience symptoms like fatigue, poor concentration, dryness of hair, nails, eyes and skin, sleep problems, moodiness, irritability, joint discomfort, lower energy, and others. A high-quality Omega-3 supplement as well as including flaxseed and walnuts in your diet is important to avoid these issues as well as other long-range health problems.

One final note: Sometimes people following what they consider to be a healthy diet forget that they also need to be vigilant about the amount of added refined sugars they ingest. Vegan snacks and desserts, especially if they’re processed, may fit within the scope of a vegan diet, but if consumed too frequently, they can still cause health problems. Similarly, soda may be vegan, but it’s an unhealthy beverage choice for anyone and should be avoided.

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.