Posts

How a High-Fiber Diet Can Add Years to Your Life

We’ve always known that fiber-rich foods are important to good health, but scientists are now finding out why this is true, and you may find the answer surprising.

Eating foods high in fiber, like fresh fruits and vegetables as well as beans, nuts and seeds, has long been recommended to help manage or lower the risk of chronic health issues like obesity, cardiovascular disease, certain cancers and diabetes. With these and other benefits, a diet filled with fiber-rich foods can actually help you live longer. What scientists are now discovering is that it all comes down to one important thing – gut health.

Here’s a simple explanation: our gut microbiome is made up of hundreds of types of bacteria that rely on different kinds of dietary fiber to survive and stay healthy. And if the bacteria in your gut is healthy, you’re more likely to be healthy because you’ll have less inflammation and a stronger immune system.

Scientists reached this conclusion through tests in which they fed mice two different types of diets: one was a low-fiber, high-fat diet; the other was a high-fiber, high-fat diet. Since both groups of mice received high-fat diets, the only variable was the amount of dietary fiber they ingested.

The low-fiber, high-fat diet, as explained to The New York Times by biologist Dr. Fredrik Bäckhed of Sweden’s University of Gothenburg, contained about twenty percent fiber and high amounts of sugar and lard – it was essentially “what you’d get at McDonald’s,” Bäckhed explained. The study focused on the resulting diversity of bacterial species in the microbiome of mice, and the results could only be described as “dramatic”.

After just a few days, bacterial diversity was significantly altered with many species becoming rare, chronic intestinal inflammation developed, and both fat and sugar levels were elevated. The intestines shrank and the all-important intestinal mucus layer thinned, causing bacteria to move closer to the intestinal wall. This, in turn, produced an immune reaction.

Mice on high-fiber, high-fat diets fared much better – with only a modest amount of inulin fiber added to their diets, these mice gained far less weight, their intestines were more normal, and their gut bacteria remained at healthy levels.

These studies show that a low-fiber diet actually starves important gut bacteria, which causes a chain reaction and disrupts the entire gut ecosystem. This causes inflammation and makes us vulnerable to many forms of chronic illness. Biologist Justin L. Sonnenburg of Stanford University goes even further, stating that his own research, separate from that discussed above, indicates that diets low in fiber can actually cause inflammation beyond the gut and throughout the entire body.

The takeaway from these studies is that a high-fiber diet is necessary to maintain a healthy gut microbiome and to help keep inflammation down while healing, preventing or better managing disease. However, dietary fiber sources should come from a variety of plants in order to maintain a good diversity of gut bacteria, since different bacterial species feed on different types of fiber. Couple this with reducing or eliminating processed foods and sugars, and you’ll be on track for a healthier gut and a healthier you.

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.

Added Sugars and Heart Health

For decades, Americans – and people around the world – were led to believe that fats were the true evil behind cardiovascular disease. Doctors preached that a protein-packed breakfast of eggs and meat should be replaced by whole grain cereals and other carb-based choices. But now JAMA Internal Medicine, the American Heart Association and the British Heart Foundation report that it is actually added sugars, not fats, that contribute to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Many people don’t realize how much sugar they’re ingesting on a daily basis, mainly because they’re used to unhealthy choices being a regular part of their lives, they don’t realize how much added sugar is in the products they’re eating, or because of hidden sugars in some products. But when all of these commonplace or seemingly small everyday choices are added together, the amount of sugar being consumed by most people is staggering. JAMA reports that most adults consume 10% of their calories from added sugar, and 10% of adults get a whopping 25% or more of their calories from added sugar. When researchers compared these two groups to people who get less than 10% of their calories from added sugar, there was a significant difference in cardiovascular disease rates and mortality.

Just how serious are these numbers? The study showed that adults who consumed 21% of their caloric intake from added sugars had more than twice the risk of a heart attack; those with the highest sugar intake raised their risk of cardiovascular disease by 400%. Those are some pretty serious numbers.

Sweetened drinks like sodas, sports/energy drinks, bottled iced tea drinks, specialty coffees and others top the list of the most heavily consumed sugar-added products. For perspective, a 12-oz. soda can contain anywhere between 9-1/2 to 12-1/2 teaspoons of sugar – if you drink a 16 oz., 20 oz. or larger container or if you have more than one soda per day, you can see how quickly your sugar intake increases just from soda alone. Then add in even more sugar from these commonly consumed culprits (and many others):

  • Sweetened breakfast cereals and oatmeal mixes
  • Jams, jellies, preserves, honey, spreads, syrups
  • Cakes, candy, cookies, etc.
  • Yogurts with sweetened fruit added
  • Other processed foods like packaged meals, frozen waffles, etc.

Naturally occurring sugars found in the structure of fruit isn’t the same as “free sugars” that are added to products, and the study found fruits did not contribute to heart disease. In addition, fresh fruit offers many other important nutrients that benefit good health.

There are a few different ways that sugar takes a toll on heart health. First and most obviously, an excess of sugar can lead to becoming overweight or obese, both of which are known to increase the risk of heart disease. But regardless of weight, sugar also raises blood pressure and creates inflammation in the body, which is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and other health problems.

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t have any sugar in your diet, but less is more when it comes to your health. The American Heart Association has revised its recommendation for sugar consumption, stating that women should have less than 6 teaspoons of sugar per day and men should consume less than 9 teaspoons per day. One small 12 oz. soda already exceeds both of those numbers.

The majority of children, teens and adults are consuming far more added sugar than is considered safe, but the good news is that it’s easy to find healthy alternatives that will benefit you in multiple ways and begin to reverse the effects of added sugars. Replace sugary snacks with fresh fruits, seeds, nuts and the like, squeeze citrus fruits into sparkling water or cold still water to replace soda and “enhanced” waters, and use fresh vegetables, rice and meats rather than frozen or prepackaged products. You’ll be surprised how many health improvements these simple dietary changes can make.

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.

Minimizing Your Exposure to Phthalates

Yet another revelation to underscore the health advice, “shop the perimeter of the supermarket.” This most recent disclosure, stemming from a study conducted by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, is that most boxed macaroni and cheese products contain high levels of the industrial chemical phthalate – including products labeled as organic.

Phthalates are plasticizers that make plastics more pliable; they’re also used in packaging inks and as solvents and adhesives. Although they’re not added as a listed ingredient in packaged food products, phthalates leach into foods from packaging or during the manufacturing process. Six types of phthalates have been banned from certain children’s toys and child care items, but not from all child-related products – the chemical was only banned from items that researchers believed children might put into their mouths. However, alternative plasticizers and other types of phthalates that were not banned can still be used.

This ban did not address the presence of phthalates in foods or other personal care products. According to The New York Times, “food, drugs and beverages, and not toys, were the primary source of exposure to phthalates.” These chemicals build up in fatty foods because they bind with fats – this is especially dangerous with packaging on infant foods and formulas, fast foods, baked products, and more.

The study tested thirty cheese products for the presence of phthalates, and of those thirty, twenty-nine showed phthalate contaminations. The highest concentrations were found in boxed mac and cheese products, which contain highly processed cheese powder. These concentrations were four times higher than in other cheese products such as string cheese, block cheese, and cottage cheese. But boxed mac and cheese isn’t the only everyday product containing phthalates – they’re also found in cosmetics, vinyl, hair products and just about everything packaged in or processed with plastics.

Some of the known health issues associated with phthalates are:

  • endocrine disruption, particularly regarding male hormones
  • learning and behavior disabilities in children
  • genital birth defects in boys
  • infertility
  • risks to young children and pregnant women

Besides these health problems that can be caused by phthalates, the National Toxicology Program’s “Report on Carcinogens”, Fourteenth Edition regarding dioctyl phthalates, is introduced with this sentence: “Reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.” Studies have also linked phthalates to myriad other conditions, from asthma, ADD, and breast cancer to type 2 diabetes, low IQ and autism.

The perimeter of the supermarket is generally considered to have the healthiest foods – that’s where you find fresh produce, meats, dairy and fish. On the other hand, the central supermarket aisles contain a wide assortment of processed foods that are loaded with chemicals, refined sugars, high sodium content, bad fats and other unhealthy ingredients. Local organic farm markets are even better choices for produce, both environmentally to lower your carbon footprint and health-wise, since you’ll be avoiding pesticides and herbicides as well as getting the maximum number of vitamins and minerals from freshly picked produce. Try to avoid storing or microwaving foods in plastic bags or containers; instead, use stainless steel, ceramic or glass, and never put hot liquids into plastic cups. Minimizing your family’s exposure to phthalates in whatever ways possible is the best course of action.

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 Heartburn and GERD Medication Really Safe?

At some point, most people experience the uncomfortable feeling of heartburn. While heartburn is typically associated with a burning feeling in the chest and/or throat, there are other symptoms that can be experienced as well, including difficulty swallowing, chest and/or back pain, chronic hoarseness or cough, sore throat or the feeling of food getting caught in the throat.

Heartburn is caused by stomach acid that is released into the esophagus when the LES (lower esophageal sphincter) muscular valve malfunctions and allows stomach acid to flow back into the esophagus, causing irritation and that all-too-common burning feeling. This discomfort can last from a few minutes to hours and can interfere with sleep, focus and activities, so to get immediate relief, most people automatically reach for an over-the-counter (OTC) heartburn medication.

There are a number of things that can trigger heartburn, and it can be different for everyone. Individual triggers can include overeating, food with high acid content, smoking, caffeine, onions, alcohol, food allergies and other things. Unfortunately, heartburn has become so commonplace that most people don’t realize it’s a symptom and not a normal part of life.

Because OTC relief can easily be found through seemingly harmless antacids like Tums, Alka-Seltzer and Mylanta as well as formerly prescription-only PPIs (proton pump inhibitors) like Nexium, Prevacid, Zantac and Prilosec, they’re thought of as safe “go-to” ways of preventing or relieving heartburn. This couldn’t be further from the truth – heartburn medication, including non-prescription types, come with their own set of health risks, especially for chronic users. Known health risks include:

  • acute kidney injury (AKI)
  • chronic kidney disease (CKD)
  • vitamin B12 or magnesium deficiency
  • higher risk of certain bacterial infections, bone fractures, osteoporosis, pneumonia, dementia, heart problems
  • reduction in calcium absorption

Approximately 20 million Americans take PPIs for mild to moderate heartburn, but PPIs weren’t originally intended for that. Instead, PPIs were created to treat more serious physician-diagnosed ailments like esophageal damage caused by severe acid reflux, bleeding ulcers and a few other extreme issues. It’s estimated that over 90 percent of patients prescribed PPIs do not have health issues requiring their use. However, long-term users of PPIs need to be weaned off them; stopping use suddenly can cause serious withdrawal symptoms such as severe stomach pain and hyperacidity.

Occasional heartburn is one thing, but persistent heartburn, called GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), can lead to esophageal cancer and may be a symptom of an underlying health issue like an H. pylori imbalance or too little stomach acid. Doctors typically prescribe PPIs to patients with GERD in an attempt to lessen the symptoms, thereby temporarily restoring their quality of life and possibly reducing the risk of esophageal cancer. However, this is only treating the symptom; it’s far more important to diagnose and heal the underlying cause of GERD. If an insufficient amount of stomach acid is being produced, patients are prone to even more serious conditions such as food poisoning, infections of the digestive system and nutritional deficiencies.

Rather than taking medications to alleviate heartburn, a better strategy is to prevent heartburn through dietary changes, adding or increasing probiotics or adding certain supplements to improve digestion. By restoring gut health and eliminating your personal triggers, you can end heartburn safely and naturally while improving your immune system, microbiome and overall 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.

Low Fiber Diets = Poor Gut Health

There’s no question that gut health has a direct impact on overall health, including everything from the strength of our immune systems to the condition of our skin. But now a scientific study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, conducted in mice has shown that a diet low in natural fiber not only causes certain healthy bacteria to die off, it also causes starved gut microbes to eat the soft mucosal lining of the intestinal tract. This not only negatively impacts gut health since the mucosal barrier becomes weakened, but, as the study indicates, the loss of these species of bacteria is permanent and carries forward to next generations of offspring.

Gut microbes rely on fiber as their natural food source, and when they don’t get it, some turn to the lining of the gut for sustenance, eroding it and leaving it prone to infection. This happens because as the microbes dine on the protective mucus along the digestive tract, the lining thins and becomes patchy, allowing bad bacteria, such as E. coli, to penetrate it and pass through to cells in the colon. The resulting gut infections can cause diarrhea, inflammation, irritation and other uncomfortable symptoms. In a healthy gut, the mucus layer is thick and can help to prevent infections from settling in.

Less adventurous microbes starve to death. The loss of these microbes is irreversible and the study found that these important bacterial species are also missing in subsequent offspring and going extinct. Much like genetic heritage, the main source of intestinal bacteria is passed down from parents to their children. Each generation after those with depleted microbiomes showed less bacterial diversity than the one before it; by the fourth generation, only twenty-five percent of the original bacterial species existed – a full seventy-five percent were gone forever. Besides thinning the lining of the colon, low bacterial diversity has been shown in humans to relate to increasingly common chronic conditions such as asthma, obesity, diabetes and allergies.

Diets that rely heavily on processed and prepared foods, white bread, white rice and refined cereals, among other such things, including soda and junk foods, don’t provide the fiber necessary for microbial communities to thrive. You can feed those all-important microbes the nutrients they need while keeping your overall digestive tract healthy by including a variety of natural fiber-rich foods (organic is preferable) in your diet. Think of whole foods such as raspberries, apples and pears with their skin, flax seeds, brown rice, certain beans, almonds, pecans, carrots, broccoli and so forth.

Additional studies are being planned to determine whether low fiber diets also contribute to other chronic gut problems like inflammatory bowel disease (IBS). It’s almost certain that they do. Bacterial colonies in the gut have been under fire for a number of years as a result of the use and/or overuse of antibiotics, NSAIDs, antacids, aspirin, laxatives, pesticides, chlorinated water, some medical procedures – the list goes on. By supplementing the microbiome with probiotics and fermented foods as well as following a diet high in natural fiber-rich foods, we can keep our gut bacteria healthy and plentiful.

Find out what you need to know about your thyroid hormone or health disorder diagnosis today, and get health news updates via Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and The Wellness Essentials newsletter.

If you’d like to leave a question for me to answer in a future blog, you can do that via social media or email.

For more information about my clinic in Oradell, NJ, including Functional Medicine, Neurology & Nutrition, and The Grassroots Medicine Initiative, please call (201) 261-5430.

Toxic Metals and Thyroid Health

The modern world exposes us to chemicals and pollutants that don’t belong in our bodies. These include heavy metals such as mercury, aluminum, lead, and cadmium that embed into fatty organ tissue (e.g. thyroid, liver, adrenals and brain) and persistent organic pollutants (POPs) such as PCBs (a broad class of industrial chemicals) that are known to disrupt the endocrine system. Symptoms of metal toxicity include:

  • headache
  • neurological problems (nerve pain, trembling, visual disturbances, vertigo, neuropathy)
    nausea
  • skin rash (contact dermatitis, irritation, hives)
  • seizures
  • fatigue
  • digestive difficulties
  • suppression of immune system (autoimmunity)
  • difficulty breathing
  • fever and chills
  • muscle aches

To reduce the levels of toxic metals in the tissues, it’s important to take the obvious steps and minimize your everyday exposure to them. For example, with mercury you can try to limit overconsumption of larger, fatty fish, be wary toward certain vaccines (i.e. the flu vaccine), and consider replacing your dental amalgams at an appropriate time. Since cigarettes are a source of heavy metals, if you smoke or live with someone who smokes, then this needs to be addressed. Drinking water is a common source of different heavy metals, which is why you want to avoid drinking tap water, or at the very least get your tap water tested to detect the amount of heavy metals.

But why is mercury considered to be toxic? Mercury has the potential to bind to any molecule that contains sulfur. When mercury does this, it will prevent certain enzymes from doing their job. For example, mercury can actually bind to the cells of the thyroid gland. When this happens it can potentially lead to hypothyroidism by interfering with some of the minerals that are required to produce thyroid hormone. It can also affect the conversion of T4 to T3. And while most cases of hypothyroidism probably aren’t caused by mercury toxicity, this needs to be considered for anyone who is trying to restore their thyroid health naturally. In addition to the thyroid gland, mercury can affect other glands and organs of the body since it travels largely undisturbed throughout the vascular and lymphatic systems.

To truly detoxify the body, toxins have to be moved from storage sites (in fat cells and other tissues of the body) into metabolically active pathways. They travel through the lymph system and blood to the liver, where they are chemically altered to something the body can get rid of, and then moved through the bile into the digestive system, where they are eventually eliminated in the stool. All of that needs to happen rather seamlessly. Some therapies such as colonics, lymphatic massage, and infrared detox (and others) can be useful, but most are used out of context. For example, fat cells are not just a place of stored fuel; fat (safely) stores toxins. When we lose weight and burn off fat, these toxins are released into the blood stream. It has been shown that weight loss can increase the levels of pesticides in the blood and decrease levels of active T3. As such, detoxification should always be a consideration with weight loss programs. This is especially true if there is a history of hypothyroidism symptoms.

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.

Stress and the Brain

Unfortunately, brain care is simply not a part of the common healthcare paradigm. Except in rare instances, (head trauma, for example) care is delivered from the neck-down only. This is despite the fact that the brain is one of the most fragile and susceptible organs to physical insult (injuries caused by accidents, falls, and participation in sports) and to the imbalances caused by poor diet and chronic stress. In fact, a majority of practitioners, whether conventional or alternative, have not been trained how to recognize brain degeneration at all, let alone how to manage it.

Drugs for stress and anxiety sit at the top of the 50 most-prescribed drugs in the United States. Worse, it is not uncommon for people with routine blood sugar disorders to be put on sleep medications, psychotropic drugs, or labeled as having bipolar disorder and referred out to a mental or behavioral health specialist. So how do you recognize when you or someone you love is not getting the correct diagnosis or proper care? Plenty of adults and younger people suffer when they push their fatigued, inflamed brains too far by getting too little sleep, working extended hours, caring for aged parents and children, and driving lengthy commutes.

When addressing brain inflammation, one of the first things to look at is how to improve brain endurance. Are you getting enough of the right nutrients for healthy brain function, such as Omega 3s or methyl B-12? Is poor neurotransmitter activity a problem, such as low serotonin or GABA? Or is there a problem in one of the stress pathways leading to the brain itself? Chronic stress responses can cause constriction of blood vessels and lead to poor circulation of the blood to the brain. A history of migraines, insomnia, low thyroid function, chronic pain and fatigue, poor focus and concentration, and lack of energy or motivation are all common symptoms of low brain endurance.

Of special concern are two groups: the young adults who were progressing just fine through high school, perhaps into college, at which point something just failed to click. Athletes who overtrain can become deficient in magnesium and lack the methyl production that is essential to the breakdown and clearance of dopamine. Symptoms of poor dopamine activity include poor motivation or drive, feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness, loss of temper for minor reasons, inability to handle stress, and a desire to isolate from others. Many have already started taking antidepressants, sometimes in conjunction with pain killers, SSRIs, and stimulant drugs such as Ritalin and Adderall.

The other is adult males and females whose hormones have become imbalanced to the extent that they cause an inflammatory firestorm. Erectile dysfunction affects 15 to 30 million men, with the rate having tripled in the last 20 years. Male breasts and hips are increasingly common as men’s estrogen levels soar. Low testosterone is behind the unfortunate descent many men make into becoming “grumpy old men.” When hormones become imbalanced you lose neurotransmitter activity, which affects how you feel, function, and view your life. By the same token, my perimenopausal patients are equally distraught. At home it’s as if an otherwise nice and normal woman sits handcuffed at the back of her brain while a demon entity takes over, causing her to lash out at loved ones, break down into hysterics, or develop anxiety, depression, and insomnia.

Before resorting to prescription drugs, which carry dangers of their own and rarely produce the desired long-term results, seek testing from a doctor knowledgeable in brain health to heal any problems at the source.

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.

Toxins and the Brain

More and more people today are showing up in their practitioners’ offices with neurodegenerative autoimmune diseases triggered by environmental compounds. An example would be Multiple Sclerosis. So what do many of these practitioners do? They test for heavy metals and environmental chemicals, which always come back positive, and then chelate the patient using other chemicals such as DMSA, DMPS, or EDTA. I have seen this occur with many of my elderly patients, regardless of health condition!

Sadly, this mistake makes the patient worse. Why? Because research has clearly found that chelation pulls heavy metals out of the fatty tissues and enters them back into the bloodstream. As a result, the heavy metals, which were once stored away somewhat safely have the opportunity to redistribute into other target tissues such as the thyroid, the heart, and most certainly, the brain.

Loss of chemical tolerance underlies many chronic illnesses today. First is a breakdown in the body’s natural tolerance to chemicals and heavy metals. Next, an ordinary exposure to everyday smells (exhaust, fragrance, cleaning compounds) suddenly triggers a negative immune response. Over the years hundreds of studies have explored the effects of environmental compounds on our health, turning up many disturbing findings. Toxins are linked with cancers, obesity, thyroid disorders, skin diseases, Alzheimer’s, autism, and neurological breakdowns of all kinds.

The most obvious question is, “How can I prevent this and what can I do once it has already happened?” Although important, the liver is the wrong approach because it cannot detoxify heavy metals and many synthetic chemicals. Instead, the various systems we want to support include:

  • Glutathione levels and recycling
  • Immune barrier health (gut, blood-brain barrier, and lungs)
  • Balancing the immune system as a whole
  • Reducing inflammation in the body and the brain

In short, the most we can do to improve chemical tolerance, reduce the impact of chemical exposure and toxic load, and protect the brain, is to support the immune barriers, control inflammation, and down-regulate the immune system from its hyperactive (often autoimmune) immune state. Glutathione is the body’s most powerful antioxidant and is integral to a healthy defense. We prefer liposomal delivery and S-acetyl-glutathione, which the gastrointestinal system can effectively absorb.

The gut, brain, and lung barriers take a beating from environmental toxins, especially if the glutathione system is depleted. Current testing allows us to check for antibodies to the Top 10 U.S. Government Priority List of Hazardous Substances. The list includes chemicals and compounds from arsenic to polychlorinated biphenyls to mercury, and more. We can also test for body burden, the integrity of your blood-brain barrier, and how well your methylation pathways, including glutathione production, are working. This is all useful information for putting together a health program that protects the body and heals the brain.

One way to shore up your defenses against environmental toxins and support brain health is to dampen gut inflammation and repair a leaky gut. Leaky gut symptoms can include multiple food sensitivities, allergies and asthma, or chronic bloat and inflamed skin. Often, leaky gut symptoms aren’t always the easiest to identify, so in addition to screening for food intolerances, following an anti-inflammatory diet, and supporting the gut-brain health axis with required nutrients, we are able to monitor progress with an immune barrier integrity test which we check using state-of-the-art Cyrex Laboratories.

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.

7 Strategies to Minimize Cravings and Boost Health

Cravings can be difficult to deal with and often lead to bad dietary decisions. By implementing these seven strategies, you can help conquer cravings while improving your health at the same time.

  1. Stabilize your blood sugar.
    Create a morning ritual that includes alkalizing your body upon waking with a green drink, a morning tonic, or ginger tea (or similar). Follow that (within a half hour) with a small amount of protein. Lack of adequate protein creates both an insulin surge and a reactive glycemic state that contribute to further fluctuations throughout the day that are difficult to overcome. Lack of focus, “brain hunger,” poor decision making, and so on, ensue. Even for people with no appetite, a bone broth or similar can be sufficient. Throughout the day small regular meals at two to three hour intervals are required. When your last meal of the day is at 6pm and you don’t eat again till 10am (or later), your brain and your body suffer.
  2. Eliminate pro-inflammatory foods.
    For at least thirty days, eat only animal protein, including fish and shellfish, vegetables, herbs and spices, a handful of nuts and seeds (preferably soaked and sprouted), healthy saturated fats, including pastured eggs, citrus, and berries. These should be whole, live foods prepared mostly by you. To restate this, you want to eliminate processed foods and foods that contain harmful components that are inflammatory to your system. To the greatest extent practicable you want your vegetables to be free of genetically modified organisms and pesticide residues (buy organic), your protein sources to be free of antibiotics and growth hormones. One hundred percent grass fed is preferred, and you want to forever eliminate food additives like sweeteners, food dyes, and other additives that are neurotoxic to the brain.
  3. Increase essential fatty acids and healthy fats.
    Healthy fats include coconuts and their by-products like coconut manna, as well as avocados, oils that are from tree nuts (e.g. macadamia oil), tree fruits (e.g. coconut, olive, avocado oils), clarified butter (called ghee) and 100% grassfed or pastured butter, and nut or seed butters (e.g. flax seed and cashew butters). Essential fatty acids like omega oils are also readily available from oysters and other shellfish that feed on algae, and micro-greens that convert the sun’s energy directly into food. All these help reduce inflammation by supplying the cells in your body, which are a self-contained life form themselves, with much needed nutrients.
  4. Increase prebiotic and probiotic foods, particularly those that are lacto-fermented or cultured.
    These are foods that utilize a culture starter or fermentation process that predigests the naturally occurring sugars and also create a thriving environment for healthy bacteria to flourish. These foods include sauerkraut and kimchi, pickled ginger, and chutneys. Also included are kefirs, buttermilk, and crafted yogurts (that are from 100% grassfed cows, sheep, or goats). Prebiotic foods are bitter leafy greens like dandelion greens, watercress, and asparagus.
  5. Minimize legumes.
    These include beans, lentils, and peanuts and are naturally difficult to digest. For many they contribute to gassiness and bloating. Now, a few beans in an otherwise well-prepared meal are fine for most people. That said, most cooks do not take time to adequately soak, sprout, and slowly cook their beans which will easily convert to a starch and lose the quality protein that is otherwise available. If you are relying solely on beans (and nuts, seeds, and plant proteins) for your nutrients, careful preparation is a must!
  6. Eat more raw dietary fiber, particularly in the form of leafy green plants.
    There is a myth that abounds that leafy green plants, particularly the cruciferous vegetables like Brussels sprouts, arugula, broccoli, and kale will somehow steal away precious iodine from your body, especially the thyroid gland. Or that high-oxalate content foods like spinach, Swiss chard, and beet greens should be avoided because of the risk of kidney stones. If these cases exist at all, the probability is so incredibly rare that I can safely advise my patients to eat these at every meal.
  7. Hydrate!
    Not only is good water a primary source for trace minerals and nutrients, it’s essential for ridding the body of unwanted wastes. Very often, even though my patients are drinking lots of water, the water is not making it inside the cells. One of my suggestions is to always add a pinch of sea salt. Make sure the one you have on hand for this purpose is produced by the process of evaporation of saltwater bodies only.

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.

Cultivating a Healthy Immune System

The immune system is your body’s defense mechanism for fighting colds, staving off infection and remaining healthy. If you suffer with common chronic ailments including asthma, allergies and eczema, or if you are frequently sick, then your immune system is wearing out.

Think about this fact: The human gastrointestinal tract (also commonly referred to as the ‘gut’) houses most of the immune system – about 70%. If you take a bite of food and follow its entire journey, the whole long pathway from your mouth at one end to the other end where you discard your wastes, then you have an idea of how lengthy and complex the gut is.

Your adaptive immunity is the portion that begins to recognize and alter its response so that you build up immunity. When a virus flares and you develop a common cold or the flu, it is your body’s way of developing immunity. You also have innate immunity, which is the one passed down through generations.

The remaining portion is your basic line of defense: primarily your skin. Skin, along with mucus membranes and other physical responses like sweat, tears and salivation, protect against the intrusion of foreign bodies and antigens.

Support your gut microbiome.
Whether you want to lose weight, gain muscle, increase energy levels or just generally look and feel healthier, then you need to maintain a healthy gut flora. Did you know that 90% of the cells in the human body are microbial? Your microbiome is teeming with life. Keep it alive and well and free of antigens and foreign bodies by increasing your pre- and probiotics, maintaining adequate stomach acid (toss out those acid reflux pills and start working on the root cause!) and repairing any nutrient deficiencies in the gut barrier.

Eliminate antibiotics altogether.
It goes without saying that if you have a bacterial infection, you need an antibiotic. Since fewer than 1% of bacteria cause diseases in people, requiring an antibiotic should be extremely rare. An example of a bacterial infection is the bubonic plague or MRSA, a hospital acquired infection.

Most bacteria are harmless and some actually help by digesting food, destroying disease-causing microbes, fighting cancer cells, and providing essential nutrients. Each time you take antibiotics (or eat them in your food supply) you are destroying your gut flora and making yourself susceptible to a host of ailments.

Welcome fat back to the table.

It’s good for the heart, brain, immune system and just about every aspect of human physiology you consider. Every cell in your body is comprised of a “phospholipid” bilayer that wants to remain young, soft and supple. Nutrients can easily pass in, bypassing wastes that are on their way out. Fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K) need dietary fats to become absorbed. Think of it. In a single generation we have somehow become convinced that dietary fat represented a threat to our health. Indeed, nothing could be further from the truth.

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.