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Vitamin B12 Deficiency: It’s Not Just a “Vegan Thing”

If you felt fatigued, had an increased heart rate, experienced shortness of breath, felt numbness or tingling in your extremities, had trouble walking, and/or noticed your skin was pale, you might think a trip to the ER was in order. And while some of these symptoms can be indicators of a health emergency, they can also be indications that you, along with about 40 percent of the US population, have a vitamin B12 deficiency.

Traditionally, vitamin B12 deficiencies were associated with vegan and vegetarian diets because B12 is derived from meats, dairy, and eggs, but the human body can’t produce it on its own. Yet it’s an essential nutrient that is critical for the proper formation of red blood cells, for making DNA, and for nerve function, and without it, some pretty serious conditions can arise. These can include:

  • neurological disorders
  • depression
  • cognitive difficulties
  • anemia
  • paranoia
  • delusions
  • loss of taste/smell
  • vision loss

Besides diets lacking or containing insufficient amounts of meats, dairy, and eggs, long-term use of certain medications can also cause vitamin B12 deficiencies. It’s a dangerously sneaky side effect because you can’t feel it happening until it’s too late. Unlike other drug side effects, like dizziness, nausea, drowsiness, etc., by the time it’s discovered, you’re already deficient…and sometimes that deficiency is irreversible. Among the medications that have been shown to deplete B12 are the diabetes drug metformin, PPIs (proton-pump inhibitors) which can interfere with the body’s ability to absorb B12, and the Parkinson’s drugs carbidopa and levodopa.

Older people can be at risk of developing a B12 deficiency because their bodies produce less stomach acid, which is necessary for B12 absorption. Anyone who has had weight-loss surgery is more likely to have lower B12 levels because the surgery hampers the body’s ability to pull B12 from consumed foods. Finally, some health conditions can also make you more prone to a B12 deficiency, including:

  • pernicious anemia
  • Crohn’s disease
  • celiac disease
  • lupus
  • Graves’ disease
  • atrophic gastritis

Pregnant women need to be especially careful to get enough B12 in their diets – a B12 deficiency can lead to developmental delays in babies.

Besides taking a good B12 supplement, you can make sure your diet contains foods that deliver the necessary amounts of B12 to your body. These include fish (particularly trout, wild-caught salmon, sardines and clams), poultry, meat (especially liver and kidneys, but avoid processed meats), dairy (a highly absorbable source), and eggs. Nondairy milks like soy, almond, and rice that are fortified can contain decent amounts of B12 as well. While a few plants like seaweed, some mushrooms, and algae contain B12, the body doesn’t absorb it as well from these sources and they won’t increase your B12 level, so you can still remain deficient.

If you fit into any of the higher-risk categories for being prone to a vitamin B12 deficiency, talk to your doctor about getting regular blood tests to monitor your levels. If they’re low, ask for a recommendation for a high-quality supplement to get them back up to a safe level, and consider altering your diet to include B12-rich foods.

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.

On The Rise: Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

When people hear about fatty liver disease (FLD), they usually shrug it off as something that happens to people who consume alcohol every day or who binge drink. Add in poor dietary habits, and it’s a recipe for FLD, cirrhosis, and even liver organ failure.

But today, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is increasing in prevalence, and not just in adults—children are being diagnosed with NAFLD at an alarming rate. In fact, NAFLD has become the most common cause of liver disease and can lead to NASH (nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, which is liver cell damage as well as fat and inflammation in the liver), cirrhosis, and liver cancer. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (part of the National Institutes of Health):

  • 30 to 40 percent of adults (about 1 in 3) have NAFLD
  • about 10 percent of children between the ages of 2 and 19 in the US have NAFLD
  • between 80 and 100 million Americans have NAFLD
  • approximately 7 million American children have NAFLD
  • 38 percent of children with NAFLD are obese
  • 23 percent of children with NAFLD have NASH
  • 24 percent of people globally have NAFLD, nearly doubling over the past 14 years

Like the name states, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is an accumulation of fat in the liver that’s not caused by regular or excessive alcohol consumption. Risk factors include hypothyroidism, insulin resistance, hyperglycemia, type 2 diabetes (which can also result from NAFLD), obesity, choline deficiency (an essential nutrient; approximately 90 percent of Americans are deficient) and other factors. In addition, prescription and OTC medications as well as poor dietary choices also lead to NAFLD, including things like fried foods, foods and drinks with added sugar, carb-heavy foods (white bread, pasta, etc.), fat-laden foods, and high amounts of salt. The liver needs plenty of water to help it function optimally, so dehydration—something that affects up to 75 percent of Americans—can be another contributing factor.

As reported by many sources including the National Institutes of Health (NIH), NAFLD is the primary cause of chronic liver disease, and its prevalence is increasing at a rate equal to the increase of obesity. Researchers believe that soon, NAFLD will become the main cause of liver-related illness and death. Although the medical community has found very few treatments for NAFLD, a strong spotlight is now being focused on the liver-gut-diet connection, since there’s a close functional association between the gut and liver. In an NIH review on PubMed, researchers stated that “the current evidence supports the association between NAFLD, the gut microbiome, and the role of diet.”

Research from multiple studies has found that exercise is one important component to preventing NAFLD and other diseases of the liver. Resistance exercises in particular were shown to lower the amount of fat in the liver and also significantly reduced cholesterol levels. Studies also showed that any type of physical activity can help—liver fat in participants of the study decreased 0.87% for every 1,000 steps taken, whereas liver fat increased 0.87% for every hour of sedentary behavior.

The latest study states that probiotics were beneficial in treating both NAFLD and NASH—with no major adverse side effects. Not only did probiotics restore gut flora to normal, they also reversed or stopped the progress of these diseases. The importance of a healthy gut microbiome is something functional medicine practitioners have long known, and your functional medicine doctor can determine which type of probiotic will return balance to your microbiome. But remember that probiotics, like all other supplements, are not a one-size-fits-all solution—it’s never a good idea to self-prescribe supplements.

Every probiotic is different, not all are of good quality, and not everyone needs the same amount or the same type. Taking the wrong probiotic or the wrong quantity for your particular imbalance can throw your gut balance even further out of whack.

While the right probiotic for your gut health is important for many reasons, supplements alone aren’t enough. Dietary changes are necessary to get and keep your microbiome in proper balance which, for the most part, will eliminate the types of foods that contribute to or worsen NAFLD. In general, a diet of whole foods—fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, grass-fed meats, whole grains—is great for your gut balance and can help make you healthier in general.

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.

Fibromyalgia’s Link to Cipro Toxicity

Fibromyalgia has been one of those “mystery” ailments that can create tremendous amounts of pain, yet doctors still don’t have a definitive answer as to its cause, nor is there a cure. A wide net has been cast as to possible risk factors, including chronic stress, certain infections, autoimmune disorders, rheumatoid arthritis, traumatic injuries and more, most of which puts pretty much everyone at some level of risk.

The number of people suffering with this life-changing, debilitating condition is growing; today it affects about 10 million people in the US alone and about 6 percent of people worldwide, according to the National Fibromyalgia Association. The chance of being diagnosed with fibromyalgia increases with age—currently 8 percent of people suffer with this disorder by the age of 80.

One other important risk factor associated with developing fibromyalgia that has come to light more recently is the use of a certain class of antibiotics called fluoroquinolones. While you may not be familiar with the term, you’ve probably heard of Cipro (generic name ciprofloxacin); in fact, chances are you or someone you know has been prescribed Cipro at some time. A common “go to” broad-spectrum antibiotic, Cipro is readily prescribed for UTIs, bronchitis, ear infections, sinusitis, and a wide range of other bacterial infections. Some doctors also prescribe Cipro for infections caused by viruses—viral illnesses don’t respond to antibiotic treatment and shouldn’t be treated with them.

Fluoroquinolones aren’t just associated with fibromyalgia—Baylor College of Medicine reports that these antibiotics have received an FDA black box warning due to the fact that they may “disrupt the normal functions of connective tissue, including tendon rupture, tendonitis, and retinal detachment.” When a drug receives a black box warning—the most serious the FDA can give—doctors are supposed to inform their patients of the warning and the potential harm the drug can cause. However, many doctors are not communicating any of this information to their patients, putting them at risk without their knowing or giving them the opportunity to request a different approach.

In addition to the above side effects, there is concern that there may be a connection between fluoroquinolones and cardiovascular problems as well as “severe aortic problems”, including aneurysms. A 2016 FDA news release states that the potential disabling side effects that may affect joints, the central nervous system and muscles can be permanent, occurring anywhere from hours to weeks after use. (Dangerous side effects can happen after just one dose, as the article in The New York Times illustrates.) It concludes that fluoroquinolones should only be prescribed for serious bacterial infections or when there is no alternative treatment.

While antibiotics definitely have their place in medicine and are necessary to fight certain illnesses and, in some cases, can save people’s lives, the problem is that Cipro use should be limited to more powerful bacterial strains, including life-threatening infections. As reported in The New York Times, University of British Columbia pharmacological epidemiologist Mahyar Etminan stated that fluoroquinolones are being overprescribed “by lazy doctors who are trying to kill a fly with an automatic weapon.” In fact, the Drug Law Center reports that over 26 million people are prescribed fluoroquinolones annually.

Many common viral and bacterial infections can clear up on their own with proper care; you can help your body fight back by increasing your intake of “natural antibiotic” foods, such as manuka honey, cinnamon, garlic, foods rich in vitamin C and more. If necessary, safer, less powerful medications can be prescribed. Of course, the best treatment is prevention, which means strengthening your immune system and maintaining a healthy gut microbiome.

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 Headache-Migraine-Gut Connection

If you’re one of the 38 million Americans who suffer from migraines, you know how the severe pain, stomach upset and light sensitivity can stop you from living your life for hours—or even days. Migraines are known to affect the gut, causing diarrhea, vomiting and nausea, but new studies have shown that the reverse is also true: poor gut health can increase the risk of neurological disorders, including migraines.

The National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) journal Frontiers in Neurology reports that possible root causes of GI diseases and migraines “could be increased by gut permeability and inflammation.” Separate studies indicate that the same pro-inflammatory immune responses responsible for such gut issues as celiac disease, leaky gut, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and irritable bowel disorder (IBD) may also be responsible for causing migraines. The NIH also reports that the cause of migraines may be more about environmental factors, including gut microbiota, than genetics, since in only 20 percent of identical twins does one or both suffer from migraines.

Poor gut health doesn’t just cause migraines—Norway’s Nord-Trøndelag Health Survey showed that people with ordinary headaches as well as migraines also complained regularly of gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms as opposed to people who had no GI complaints or headaches. And in the US, approximately 45 million people (about 1 in 6 people) are known to experience common headaches; about 8 million of those visit a doctor specifically for headache complaints. A number of statistics bear out the gut health-headache-migraine connection:

  • more than half of migraine patients have IBS (American Academy of Neurology)
  • approximately one-third of headache sufferers have IBS (American Academy of Neurology)
  • a study of patients with IBD and celiac disease showed migraines were “more prevalent” in these patients than in control subjects (American Headache Society)
  • patients with IBD are more than two times more likely to suffer migraines (American Headache Society)
  • inflammation is at the root of IBD, IBS and leaky gut, and the nerve associated with migraines is also triggered by inflammation (Annals of Neurosciences)

The gut and brain have a strong connection through three pathways—endocrine, immune and neural—which communicate in both directions: brain to gut and gut to brain. Because of this connection, the gut is referred to as the “second brain”; in addition, it produces the majority of our body’s serotonin, which is referred to as the “happiness hormone”.  It’s no coincidence that patients with migraines are found to have low serotonin levels, further underscoring the relationship between the gut and brain.

Gut permeability, otherwise known as leaky gut, is a condition in which the gut wall becomes perforated, allowing toxic waste, undigested foods, and bacteria to pass into the blood system rather than being properly processed and eliminated. These inflammatory molecules can lead to IBD, IBS, and celiac disease; they also stimulate pain receptors in the fifth and largest cranial nerve (the trigeminal nerve), resulting in migraines.

It’s no secret that we’re living more inflammation-prone lives due to higher stress levels, gluten consumption, poor dietary choices that include processed and fast foods, environmental chemicals, and so on. The lower quality of non-organic food also plays a role because there are now far fewer nutrients in plant-based foods due to the use of pesticides, genetic modification, mechanized farming, and chemical fertilizers. All of these factors negatively alter the gut microbiome and, in turn, the gut-brain pathway.

The road to ending migraines begins by finding out what triggers your attacks—everyone’s body is different; some may have allergies or sensitivities to cleaning products, gluten, or certain foods while other people may have leaky gut or another immune disorder. Your functional medicine doctor can help you determine the root cause of your body’s inflammation and the best way to help heal any issues so you can get back to living your life more fully.

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.

Eczema: Beyond Management to a Cure

The symptoms of an autoimmune disease come in many forms. You might experience anxiety, muscle pain, fatigue, allergies, headaches, frequent colds and a myriad other common things that many people brush off as just being part of life. While everyone experiences an occasional bout with something unpleasant, the frequency of occurrences can tell you if something more is going on.

Various forms of dermatitis, including acne, psoriasis, rashes and eczema, can also be signs of an autoimmune disease, which affects almost one in six people. Any of the over 30 million Americans – from infants and children to adults of all ages – who have experienced eczema (atopic dermatitis) knows the discomfort and embarrassment of flare-ups: itchy rashes; dry, scaly, leathery or dark patches; inflamed red skin and more. All of these symptoms can worsen if left untreated. If you’ve gone to a dermatologist for eczema, you’ve probably been given a topical medication, OTC recommendation, biologic drug, or immunosuppressant steroid to help keep the itching and redness at bay. These medications just manage eczema, they don’t cure it, and those flare-ups can and will return when triggered. In addition, both prescription and OTC medications come with their own set of risks and side effects, from mild to downright dangerous.

What’s the Real Cause of Eczema?

Conventional medicine has long accepted that environmental triggers like stress, chemicals on clothing, some foods and allergens can cause flare-ups. Although many in the medical community still stick to the theory that there is no cure for eczema and that sufferers will face a lifelong cycle of outbreaks followed by symptom management, the opposite is being proven. Important medical journals including the International Journal of Gastroenterology, The British Medical Journal, The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology and others as well as the National Eczema Association are now reporting that eczema is actually an autoimmune disease, something functional medicine doctors have known for years. Some of these journals also finally recognize that leaky gut is at the root of autoimmune disease, another fact long known in functional medicine circles. This means that rather than just suppressing the symptoms on the outside, you can actually heal the problem from the inside.

In many people with autoimmune problems, the gut microbiome is out of balance; since the gut houses two-thirds of your immune system, you need a healthy microbiome in order to have a strong immunity. A microbiome that’s out of balance may be missing key anti-inflammatory good bacteria and/or have an overgrowth of bad bacteria or yeast. Ironically, a yeast overgrowth can be caused by steroids, which are among the treatments commonly prescribed for eczema. Other causes include diets high in sugar, refined carbohydrates or processed foods as well as antibiotics or hormone use.

Healing is Possible

Leaky gut can be healed naturally by following an anti-inflammatory diet, getting your microbiome back in balance and healing gut lining perforations with nutrients. Achieving the right balance that will restore your microbiome to a healthy level is an individual thing and depends upon many different factors that are specific to you; there are no one-size-fits-all solutions.

The medical community is touting new topical and systemic drugs that suppress either the entire immune system or specific immune proteins. FDA approval is being fast-tracked, and long-term health risks will be determined only in the aftermarket phase, a blind risk for those who use these new medications. Tampering with the body’s natural functions is not a safe approach, but healing the body for optimal functionality is both safe and widely effective. Once again, these new medications are not cures, merely more means of symptom suppression. Since medications like these can cause other health problems, whether recognized as associated or not, the safer and more permanent alternative is to heal the condition naturally. Not only will you avoid additional risky health issues, you’ll be strengthening your immune system and creating a healthy gut microbiome, which yields a wide range of both physical and mental health benefits.

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 Heart and the Thyroid Gland

Diseases of the thyroid gland can directly alter the normal function of the heart and cause significant complications and personal discomfort. To better understand why this happens, it is helpful to appreciate how the heart works.

The heart itself is called a muscle. It requires oxygen to work and receives oxygen through coronary arteries. If there is disease in these coronary arteries causing a blockage within the lumen and a reduction in coronary artery blood flow, the heart muscle then works with an inadequate oxygen supply and heart pain or “angina” can be produced. Additionally, in order for the heart to beat in a coordinated fashion and expel blood smoothly and efficiently, the heart muscle is stimulated to contract in a synchronized fashion by specialized tissues within the heart which conduct electrical impulses. The impulse normally starts at the top of the right atrium and spreads down through the heart.

When a patient is in a hyperthyroid state, increased levels of thyroxine release from the thyroid gland and stimulate the heart to beat more quickly and more strongly. Initially this may produce a fast heart rate, which is called a tachycardia. In some patients, prolonged stimulation of the heart may cause an irregular heartbeat. Functionally, this is where the electrical impulses form a short circuit within the atria and cause partial or poorly coordinated atrial contractions.

Prolonged and irregular stimulation such as this can cause some increase in blood pressure, which is called systolic hypertension. The diastolic blood pressure, that is the lower of the two blood pressure numbers, is not normally increased. The increased contraction of the heart with increased cardiac output causes a pulse that is easily felt at the wrist and contributes to warm, sweaty hands.

Symptoms and signs of a heart problem for an overactive thyroid gland tend to be the opposite to those mentioned above. They primarily consist of slow heart rate and low blood pressur e. Common symptoms for slow heart rate and low blood pressure in patients include constipation, poor blood flow, and lightheadedness or dizziness upon standing. Prolonged hypothyroidism causes metabolic changes in the body and may produce elevated levels of cholesterol, for example. We are aware of the media attention surrounding some types of elevated cholesterol levels that may produce or aggravate narrowing of the coronary arteries. However, a more exciting area of research now examines the role of blood pressure in regulating cellular nutrition.

Nitric oxide is what the body uses to stimulate your blood vessels to expand and contract, keeping blood pressure in check. Individuals, both men and women, with poor circulation, a history of thyroid or heart disease, including many common symptoms like high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol, are often deficient in the critical molecule nitric oxide. Precursors for the synthesis of nitric oxide include dietary amino acids such as L-arginine, ornithine, and citrulline. The right balance has been shown to stimulate growth hormone for anti-aging benefits, improve insulin sensitivity to help normalize blood sugar, and increase fertility and pleasure sensation by stimulating oxygenation and blood flow.

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 Hormones Part 3: Misunderstood and Mismanaged

It is widely known by endocrinologists, physicians and the medical community that low thyroid function is always secondary to something else; yet the issue of the autoimmune attack is almost never addressed. Instead, patients are considered to be managed and treated properly when the TSH normalizes. In a sense the patient is having his or her TSH managed, but the underlying mechanism for low thyroid function (the autoimmune attack) is not. In many instances a doctor will even refuse to run thyroid antibodies because it is not seen as an effective agent of change for the prevailing method of treatment.

In conventional medicine, what I call The Replacement Model, a drug, or in this case a hormone, is meant to replace actual physiology. Any symptoms that remain after the normalization of the TSH marker are attributed to some other cause. In other words, the prevailing medical thinking is that since the TSH reads as “normal” on your lab report, or within laboratory range for prescribing medicine, not only should the symptoms be resolved, but the drug you are taking has worked as a perfect replacement for actual thyroid hormone! We know otherwise.

For example, if your thyroid condition is causing depression, which it commonly does, then the medical doctor or psychiatrist will give you antidepressants instead of trying to identify and correct the root cause. Why? Because if the TSH, which is the standard measure of thyroid function, is now in the normal laboratory range, how could the depression symptoms be related? On the surface it seems logical unless you yourself are suffering from this condition.

If you haven’t had this experience yet, you probably will. You will go into your doctor’s office because you STILL suffer with the same symptoms, and in an attempt to move you out of the office in the allotted 10 minutes for your visit, the medical doctor is going to shove an anti-depressant prescription at you and tell you that it will help alleviate some of the symptoms. The implication is that it’s all in your head!

Do you suffer from depression? Maybe. Perhaps you suffer as a result of the thyroid problem that is not being managed properly. Or it might be that you’re depressed because you have a chronic problem that no one is taking seriously and the only alternative you’ve been given are more pills. Either way, an anti-depressant isn’t the cure.

In most cases, since the actual autoimmune response is ignored, over time you will continue to lose more thyroid activity, and the requirements for your thyroid replacement hormone prescription continue to rise. Even more importantly, despite the fact that TSH is considered “managed” with replacement thyroid hormones, Autoimmune Thyroid patients will continue to have all the symptoms of low thyroid function. Why run extra tests if you are not going to alter the treatment based on the test results? This is considered “waste” in the HMO insurance model that has become so prevalent in this country.

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 Serious is My PN Pain?

We’ve talked a lot about nerve pain as a serious warning sign of disease. Tingling or burning in the arms and legs may be an early sign of nerve damage. Nerve damage can affect a single nerve or a group of nerves as well as the whole body. Diabetes is the most common cause of this type of nerve problem. It’s an indicator of high blood sugar and poor insulin response, which leads to nerve cell death and other equally serious complications.

People with nerve problems often have difficulty digesting food. They feel full and experience heartburn after eating only a little food. All too often they are taking one or more over-the-counter medications for acid reflux and bloating, not realizing that the unchecked nerve damage is related. For some, it deeply affects the digestive system resulting in the involuntary vomiting of food that has not been digested well. For others, it creates problems with swallowing or problems of waste elimination and the ability to clear the bowels.

These two problems (digestive problems and nerve pain) are related. Nerve damage causes problems with body organs and their ability to function. Another example of this is feeling lightheaded or fainting upon standing. There are several possible root causes of this, including unstable blood sugar, poor blood pressure, or weak adrenal gland response. But another primary cause is that the nerves to the heart are weak. Angina is the term used to describe the chest pain warning sign prior to a heart attack. Nerve damage can hide this warning sign. Sudden fatigue, sweating, shortness of breath, nausea, and vomiting (sympathetic responses) are warning signs as well.

Over-the-counter treatments for nerve pain include topical painkillers, pharmaceutical painkillers, and nutritional supplements. Topical painkillers include creams and ointments with ingredients that work as a local anesthetic, numbing the pain in the area where you apply them. An obvious disadvantage of topical treatments is that you apply them externally, never at the source. Some people with neuropathic pain turn to familiar over-the-counter painkillers like acetaminophenaspirin, and ibuprofen. With mild, sporadic and very occasional pain, they decrease inflammation enough to reduce pain. With chronic pain, they’re useless. There’s also a risk that one might begin to rely on these medicines too much. According to the American Academy of Pain Medicine, prescription painkillers are considered a major contributor to the total number of drug deaths. In 2007, for example, nearly 28,000 Americans died from unintentional drug poisoning, and of these, nearly 12,000 involved prescription pain relievers.

To really get at the cause of nerve pain, we have to look at several factors. Is there an oxygen deficit that is causing the brain to panic? Healthy red blood cells that carry oxygen and keep nerve cells healthy are in short supply. The most common cause of pernicious anemia is the loss of stomach cells that make intrinsic factor, which itself helps the body absorb vitamin B12 into the intestine. Is there a chronic liver infection or kidney disease? The main function of these organs is to remove wastes and excess water and filter the blood stream. Is there an underlying autoimmune condition such as lupus or Hashimoto’s? Poisoning due to heavy metals, such as lead? Or an unwanted side effect of high blood pressure meds?

Only after determining the root cause of your nerve pain can the proper course of healing – not just covering symptoms – begin.

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.

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