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Antibiotics: When To Say No Thanks

There’s no question that some illnesses require antibiotics to cure certain more serious types of bacterial infections, but their overuse has become detrimental to people’s health. The most recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) show that over 266 million antibiotic prescriptions are given to patients annually on an outpatient basis (this doesn’t include hospitalized patients), which translates to about 838 prescriptions written for every 1,000 people. According to the CDC, “At least 30 percent of antibiotics prescribed in the outpatient setting are unnecessary, meaning that no antibiotic was needed at all.” So about one in every three people who were prescribed antibiotics didn’t actually need them.

In addition, the CDC states that approximately 50 percent of antibiotics are inappropriately prescribed, meaning that either the wrong dosage, the wrong period of usage, or the wrong drug—such as powerful broad-spectrum drugs rather than targeted medications—is given to patients. Inappropriately and overly prescribed antibiotics contribute to antibiotic resistance, which is when bacterial “bugs” survive antibiotic treatment, leading doctors to prescribe more potent antibiotics.

This vicious cycle has led to the modern-world problem of “superbugs”, which infect about 2 million Americans annually and lead to death in approximately 162,000 of these patients, according to Washington University School of Medicine researchers; worldwide, the number of deaths increases to 700,000. The number of US deaths is significantly up from a long-held 2010 estimate of 23,000.

The upshot is that the more antibiotics you take, the more you increase your chances of either developing an infection that is resistant to antibiotics or these same medications may no longer effectively treat bacterial infections in your system.

Inappropriate reasons for prescribing antibiotics—and cause for you to either question or say “No thanks” to your doctor—are when you have:

  • a cough
  • the flu
  • a head cold
  • viral respiratory infections
  • sore throats
  • sinusitis
  • most ear infections

These illnesses and others are most often caused by viruses, which are not curable through antibiotics. However, if your symptoms persist, you should see a doctor, but if s/he wants to prescribe an antibiotic, make sure to confirm the infection is bacterial and not viral, and discuss the possibility of getting a targeted medication rather than a broad-spectrum one. The age-old wisdom for getting over viruses is still the best: rest, drink plenty of liquids (bone broth is highly recommended!), and wash your hands often, which will also help to prevent the spread of the virus to others in your household.

Two other causes of antibiotic resistance are hospital-borne infections and livestock raised with antibiotics. The only way to avoid meat-related antibiotic build-up in your body is to consume grass-fed organic meats and dairy products; these animals are given no antibiotics or growth hormones and are healthier than animals raised on factory farms.

Another reason it’s important to limit your use of antibiotics is the fact that they destroy critical gut bacteria. Medications don’t discriminate between the bacteria that’s causing your illness and bacteria that make up your gut microbiome. With an imbalance or a poor diversity of gut flora, your immune system is weakened and you become more prone to future illnesses.

Taking the right probiotic to restore your microbiota is important both during and after any course of medication. Talk to your functional medicine doctor about how to take probiotics while taking antibiotics—they must be taken far enough apart so the drug doesn’t kill off the live bacteria in the probiotic. Once your course of medication is over, eating fermented foods will also help to restore gut bacteria.

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.

Fight Seasonal Allergies Naturally

Seasonal allergies can seriously impact our lives, causing us to feel so miserable and distracted that we can’t function effectively. Many people turn to over-the-counter (OTC) medications, like Benadryl, Dimetapp and Chlor-Trimeton, believing that because they don’t require a prescription, they’re safe to use as much as necessary. Nothing could be further from the truth.

All medications, whether OTC or prescribed, carry health risks and side effects you may not be aware of. While some people don’t bother to read the warning labels, others expect – and accept as inevitable – more common side effects like dizziness, dry mouth, tiredness, diarrhea, nervousness and many more. Although this shouldn’t be acceptable and may be causing other issues in your body, there are even more serious health risks associated with these drugs, from racing or uneven heart rate and increased blood pressure to short-term memory loss and impaired cognitive function.

The Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation reported on a study conducted by Group Health and University of Washington researchers which revealed that allergy medications can cause “damage to the brain”, and that people who take these drugs are at a higher risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. That risk increased with higher dosages and long-term use.

So does that mean you have to suffer through your seasonal allergies? Not at all. There are a number of natural ways to ward off allergy symptoms that also yield other health benefits – a double win. Here are just a few:

Improve gut health. Your gut affects more aspects of your health than you may think, from brain function to your immune and nervous systems. A diet riddled with processed foods and sugars can cause perforations in your intestinal wall, a condition called leaky gut. These tiny holes allow toxins, bacteria and undigested food to leak into your bloodstream, causing a myriad of problems such as allergies, asthma, skin problems, fatigue and so much more. Healing the gut through elimination of inflammatory foods, choosing whole foods over processed foods, and limiting or eliminating NSAIDs and alcohol are just some ways to control allergies and improve your overall health.

Antacids aren’t an answer. An unhealthy gut can cause symptoms like heartburn, but regular antacid use, including OTCs and prescription proton pump inhibitors (PPI), can actually cause allergies. This is because antacids are acid blockers, literally – they block your stomach acid to calm the burning or nausea symptoms, but your stomach needs that acid to activate the enzymes that break down allergens.

Natural antihistamines. You can bypass the drug aisle and stock up on natural allergy calmers instead. One of the most powerful antioxidants in your body is glutathione, which comes from foods like broccoli, garlic and onion. If you don’t eat enough of these sulfur-rich foods, you can still pump up your glutathione all year long with a good, additive-free supplement. You can also build up your immunity with other supplements including vitamin C, stinging nettle and quercetin.

Vitamin D. Most of us don’t get enough sunlight, especially during winter months when days are short. That can leave our bodies too low on vitamin D, which is essential for a healthy immune system. Once you find out what your body’s vitamin D level is, you can take a high-quality supplement to restore and replenish this important nutrient to the proper level.

Your functional medicine doctor can help uncover any allergies or sensitivities you may have and give you personalized advice on how best to treat them so you can enjoy every season of the year.

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.

Statins as Preventives? Can They Bring on Parkinson’s Symptoms?

Many people know someone who has suffered from the negative side effects of statins or have experienced these debilitating side effects personally. Some of the most common statins being heavily advertised and prescribed are Lipitor, Crestor, Zocor, Pravachol and others. The medical community typically denies that these side effects are directly related to statin use; in fact, many doctors are not reporting statin-related side effects at all. Some of the common side effects include memory loss, muscle pain and weakness, prediabetes, brain fog, confusion and more, including symptoms mimicking dementia. In some instances, these effects can be permanent.

But now there’s a new study conducted by Penn State College of Medicine and published in the Movement Disorders journal of the International Parkinson and Movement Disorders Society stating that statins may hasten the onset of Parkinson’s symptoms for people who are prone to the disease. This is even more alarming because doctors have been considering prescribing statins not only for high cholesterol, but also as a preventive against Parkinson’s disease. Research on whether statins protect against Parkinson’s has so far been unclear and results are inconsistent.

Penn State researchers analyzed the data of about 22,000 Parkinson’s patients under 65 years old, of which 2,322 were newly diagnosed, and paired each with a person from a control group without Parkinson’s. They noted which patients had been taking statins and the length of time they were on them before symptoms of Parkinson’s occurred. The final analysis showed that patients taking statins – particularly fat soluble lipophilic statins that can get into the brain – had a higher risk of Parkinson’s and that Parkinson’s symptoms were more obvious during early statin use.

This is in direct conflict with a previous study suggesting that patients who stopped taking statins had a higher rate of developing Parkinson’s; the conclusion those researchers drew from this was that statins helped to prevent Parkinson’s. However, Penn State’s assistant professor of public health sciences, Guodong Liu, said that this conclusion may instead indicate that new Parkinson’s symptoms began while patients were using statins; when these patients stopped taking statins and symptoms progressed, it was interpreted that the statins had been preventing Parkinson’s. Liu also pointed out that the study did not show that statins cause Parkinson’s, but rather that they do not protect users from developing Parkinson’s.

Statins have also been prescribed to not only to lower cholesterol, but also to prevent cardiovascular events. This strategy has also been called into question, when another recent study published in JAMA Internal Medicine showed that statin use in people over 65 did not lower the number of strokes or heart attacks when compared with people of the same age who were not taking statins. The study also showed that there was no reduction in deaths from cardiovascular events or any other cause in statin users aged 65 and up. However, use of statins by older people can put that population at higher risk for physical decline, possibly causing issues like fatigue and muscle damage.

Of course, with such conflicting studies, more research needs to be done on these issues. However, we know that all prescription drugs put patients at risk of side effects or permanent complications, and many only mask symptoms while doing nothing to heal the root cause. While some medications can’t be avoided for certain serious health issues, natural prevention of many conditions is possible through regular exercise, a good diet low in or devoid of processed foods and sugars and the proper balance of minerals and healthy fats.

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.

Can Aspirin Reduce Your Risk of Cancer?

The largest long-term aspirin study covering 32 years and following 130,183 people (86,206 women and 43,977 men) has shown that regular use of aspirin over a long period of time lowered the risk of death from some types of cancer. These included colorectal, prostate, breast and lung cancers; both duration and dosage of aspirin use were followed from 1980 to 2012.

Earlier studies had shown the benefits of aspirin in preventing heart disease as well as colorectal cancer and possibly reducing the risk of death from cancer; women were shown to have less risk of stroke rather than heart attacks. The long-term follow-up study was among the first to focus on aspirin dosages and duration of use.

Researchers saw a lower risk of death in general and from cancer in people who took between half an aspirin and one-and-a-half aspirin a week; even better results were seen in people who took between two and seven aspirin per week. Interestingly, those taking more than seven aspirin per week did not have such positive results. However, researchers also noted that a long-term aspirin regimen is not a one-size-fits-all solution for all patients, nor does regular aspirin use work for everyone. 

So, what is it about aspirin that’s so beneficial in preventing and lowering the risk of death from heart disease and cancer, currently ranked as the top two killers in the United States? Aspirin is both an anticoagulant and an anti-inflammatory; inflammation is a major underlying cause of cancer, heart disease, and many other health issues.

This study proves what functional medicine doctors have been saying for years – that keeping inflammation in the body to a minimum is one of the keys to good health. Chronic inflammation is at the core of a host of illnesses from asthma, arthritis and Crohn’s disease to cancer, cardiovascular disease and autoimmune disease.

While the results of this study are useful, it’s equally helpful to know that there is a risk-benefit issue to be considered, a fact recognized by the medical community. Daily aspirin use comes with its own set of risks, including:

  • gastro-intestinal bleeding
  • hemorrhagic stroke
  • ulcers
  • allergic reactions
  • digestive disorders
  • interactions with prescriptions, OTC medications, Omega-3s and herbal supplements
  • excessive bleeding during surgery and dental procedures

The good news is that there are safer, more natural ways to keep inflammation down and your blood flowing freely through your veins. A healthy diet is crucial to achieving these goals (whether you’re on prescription medications, or not); this would include a more anti-inflammatory diet that eliminates processed foods, gluten and refined sugars. Eliminate or minimize your intake of foods to which you may have sensitivities or allergies, as these can cause inflammation as well. Natural anticoagulants include ginger, ginkgo, vitamin E, fish oil, garlic and more. However, it is important to note that these are not to be considered replacements for prescription blood thinners for patients who have heart problems or who have had a stroke or heart attack, nor should they be taken in addition to medications without a doctor’s authorization. Only take these natural blood thinners after talking with your doctor about safety, dosages and whether these supplements are safe for you along with your prescription.

It’s never too late to reduce inflammation in your body through diet, but why wait until a problem develops before starting? By lowering your body’s inflammation, you may ward off many serious health issues as well as any seemingly genetically related health problems.

*NOTE: This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Always talk with your doctor about any planned dietary changes or additions and before eliminating or reducing your medications to avoid serious health complications.

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 Prescription Drugs Can Cause More Pain Than They Relieve

Studies have clearly shown that lowering the number of medications taken by people over 65 significantly reduces accidental deaths and extends the life of this cohort by nearly 40%. Whether from overdose, misuse or unwanted side effects, research has revealed that far too many seniors are taking way too many drugs. Yet the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) recently cited that prescriptions for multiple drugs affecting the central nervous system are on the rise. These include opioids, anti-anxiety medications, antidepressants, sleep aids, and antipsychotic drugs.

What makes this noteworthy – even alarming – is the fact that the number of seniors being prescribed these medications has more than doubled (tripled in rural areas), even though at least half of these seniors have no diagnosis. Even worse – many of these patients are being prescribed not just one, but at least three psychiatric drugs despite the FDA issuing warnings against combining such drugs. Additionally, most doctors fail to use a physician’s cross-check guide or monitoring database before handing out an additional prescription and rarely, if ever, look for signs of abuse and addiction.

This significant increase came to light by 2004 when Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).CSA is the statute establishing federal U.S. drug policy under which the production and prescribing of certain substances is regulated; prior to this, patients had easy access to any number of mind-altering and pain-relieving drugs from their doctors. To put it in perspective, these numbers translate to approximately 3.68 million people aged 65 and older taking three or more psychotropic drugs. The side effects to each of these types of drugs can be extremely severe and even lead to death, especially when taken in combination.

Although the AMA recognizes this ongoing trend and the FDA has issued a black-box warning against the prescription of multiple central nervous system medications, there is not yet a full understanding as to why these drugs are being prescribed so frequently, especially to patients who don’t present with symptoms warranting such dangerous medications. Is it because doctors are so pressed for time in their appointments with patients that offering a new prescription is the fastest solution? Or because masking the real problem with a drug is simpler than doing the hard work of healing? These drugs are meant to be used as short-term interventions while the detective work is under way, not as quick-fix solutions.

Regardless of why this is happening, the fact is that even when a patient is having trouble sleeping, having pain issues or feeling depressed, drugs are not the answer. A medication is merely an ineffective bandage, not a solution to the problem. While a medication may help for a short time, the problem typically returns with additional issues attached to it, either because of the medication or because the underlying condition has worsened.

The only way to improve a patient’s quality of life and heal or improve a health problem is by getting to the root cause of the issue, not by temporarily covering up symptoms. There are no one-size-fits-all solutions to healing, and multiple medications are not the answer. Generic blood tests don’t provide enough information; more comprehensive testing along with an individual’s medical history and an understanding of lifestyle and diet all need to be considered. Only then can each person’s path to wellness be discovered.

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 NSAID Pain Trap

Most people don’t think twice about popping over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers like Advil, Tylenol, Aleve or other NSAID medications for everything from headaches to muscle pain to arthritis. In fact, sales of nonprescription NSAIDs rank in the billions in the US annually. There’s a general assumption that because these painkillers are nonprescription and readily available, they’re safe to use as much as necessary. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

NSAIDs can cause a host of serious problems in the body, including leaky gut (which can trigger autoimmune diseases), bleeding ulcers and joint deterioration – and that’s just the start. They can also impede healing (including broken bones) and increase the risk of heart and kidney disease, stroke and hypertension. In fact, the April 2017 issue of the European Heart Journal – Cardiovascular Pharmacotherapy reports that NSAIDs have been “associated with an increased cardiovascular risk” in a nationwide study. In addition, Science Daily reported that a study conducted and published by the American Gastroenterology Association showed that long-term NSAID use “causes severe intestinal damage”, including “increased risk of bleeding and visible damage to [the] small intestine”. Those are just two of the many cited studies about NSAID-associated risks.

Having a history of heart or kidney issues increases the likelihood of NSAID-related complications, especially in people over 50, regardless of whether the medication is prescription or OTC. Add to that the possibility of dangerous drug interactions with other prescription and nonprescription medications that a person may already be taking and there’s potential for serious problems.

Ironically, when NSAIDs are taken for joint pain including pain caused by arthritis, the short-term pain relief is outweighed by the long-term negative effect of permanent joint damage. NSAIDs merely offer temporary symptom relief, they don’t cure the cause of pain nor do they prevent progression of the underlying problem. And long-term use creates a need for more frequent doses as well as higher dosages; as these become less and less effective over time, additional drugs are needed just to achieve temporary pain relief. The cycle only grows larger and more dangerous.

So how does a person manage chronic pain without daily NSAID use? The answer is different for everyone, but clearly it shouldn’t include an automatic prescription for painkillers or a recommendation for continued use of OTC pain relievers. Each person needs to be evaluated individually – their medical history, comprehensive test results, dietary habits and lifestyle all need to be taken into consideration by their doctor to determine the root cause of their pain.

While inflammation is, many times, a key component of pain, there may be undiscovered food allergies or sensitivities that may also be contributing to the previously unidentified cause of the painful condition. Gut health is also extremely important; an unhealthy gut can result in any number of different health issues that cause seemingly unrelated pain in other areas of the body. Pain is a symptom, an indication of a deeper problem; masking pain won’t heal the root cause.

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 Dark Side of Opioids for Pain Relief

In her recent broadcast, Why Opioid-Related Deaths Continue to Rise and What Can Be Done to Reverse the Trend, popular National Public Radio host and author Diane Rehm touched on the central problem of doctor-prescribed opioid pain killers: they are highly addictive and too easy to dispense. Under the culture of quick fixes, doctors readily hand out prescriptions when a milder, less abusive option is available. Why is this?

The fact is these medications are not safe. Nearly twenty percent of Americans already take at least five or more prescription drugs regularly. And rarely, if ever, are these prescriptions cross-checked. In a startling statistic on causes of death in the U.S., total drug overdoses from prescribed medications alone, including opiates, killed more Americans than firearms or motor vehicle accidents. The real crux of our nation’s heroin epidemic stems from the overprescribing of opiates, legally. Nearly four out of five current heroin addicts state that they began using illegal drugs only after being prescribed opiates by doctors for pain.

So what is the reason why so many Americans are on prescription drugs?
The risk of addiction is high, whether for school athletes, parents of young children or seniors. Isit that doctors are simply too heavy-handed with their prescription pads? Are these doctors being influenced by Big Pharma and believe that prescription drugs are a quick fix to all our health problems? The honest answer is that, yes, physicians have been giving out way too many prescriptions, and in their defense, patients also do not want to leave the office without a script. In her new book, Drug Dealer, MD – How Doctors Were Duped, Patients Got Hooked, and Why It’s So Hard to Stop, author and psychiatrist Anna Lembke, MD, points out that we live in a society today that does not want to feel pain.

Per Dr. Lembke, this change in thinking about pain marked a radical shift in America’s attitude from 100 years ago, when the medical community thought that pain made patients stronger. “Doctors believed that pain was salutary,” she tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross, “meaning that it had some physiologic benefit to the individual, and certainly some spiritual benefit.” Today, not only do doctors believe that pain is something they must cure at all costs, but patients have become less willing to endure it. Further complicating the whole transaction is that for too long there has never been any oversight.

Are there alternatives to effectively manage pain?
Now, with prescription drug monitoring programs, the easy prescribing habits of doctors have come to a halt. Still, pain is real and very often patients are the ones having to manage it. Can I restore quality of life without having major surgery or popping too many pills, they ask? Yes, a better way to approach pain relief is to target the different ways in which pain is produced. It’s not about adding more and more, but about treatments complementing and enhancing one another to reduce inflammation, alleviate anxiety, decompress nerves, increase metabolism, lower toxicity, reduce unnecessary pills, and so on. Studies have shown that statin drugs, for instance, are a primary predictor of pain. Likewise, an eleven to eighteen percent reduction in body weight significantly decreases the severity of pain. By taking a holistic, functional approach to pain relief, patients find there are numerous ways to restore quality of life that can be sustained into old age.

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.

Better Medicine for Hormone Health and Heart

Balancing thyroid function is a vastly overlooked health variable in women and men. It plays a crucial role in the enzymatic processing of LDL cholesterol in the liver, meaning that it is very common to see elevated LDL on a blood test for a patient with a thyroid condition.This is important to understand because hypercholesterolemia and elevation of the low density lipoproteins are the primary markers used for prescribing statin drugs to patients, a practice that is based on persistent misconceptions about dietary drivers of heart disease. Instead, the emphasis should be on balancing hormones and reducing the inflammatory effects of oxidized LDL.

Sadly, even after a generation of statin use and many studies demonstrating that patients presenting to the hospital with heart attacks don’t have elevated total cholesterol, the widespread prescribing of drugs that lower cholesterol persists. It’s maddening to think about. On the one hand, statins are prescribed en masse to reduce total cholesterol, which the medical community thinks of as a key indicator for heart disease. Rather, the actual science indicates that in menopausal women, the incidence of new-onset Diabetes Mellitus increases for those who are taking statin drugs. Statins induce diabetes in women, who are then inexcusably put at risk for cardiovascular events.

The concerted effort to control total cholesterol ignores actual body chemistry. The body is so intelligent that when too little cholesterol is consumed, the liver will automatically start to make it in order to guarantee a baseline level of it is running through the system. In its natural, unstressed state, the liver makes 75% of the cholesterol needed. Cholesterol is a precursor to vitamin D and to pregnenolone and the sex hormones that derive from it. It is also a primary component of cell membranes, where all of the action is, including hormone receptor function and gatekeeping of nutrients and toxic elements.

Hormones influence many bodily functions including metabolism, blood sugar balance, blood pressure, energy levels, kidney function, sleep patterns, aging, and appetite. Signs of imbalance in both sexes include the typical symptoms of fatigue, headaches, digestive complaints, poor sleeping, easy weight gain, increased signs of aging, depression, anxiety, and decreased sexual desire. Balancing the hormones can be a delicate and challenging process. We have an enormous amount of control over the way we feel through how we approach diet and lifestyle.

While age is often blamed for imbalance, it’s important to remember that balance directly correlates with diet. Inadequate consumption of dark leafy greens, brightly colored vegetables, lack of protein and persistent dehydration can all be contributing factors. And of course there’s the biggest one – stress, and how we relate to it and perceive it. Additionally, the prescription medications used to treat the above symptoms of these conditions can further deplete the nutrients that are most needed. Without the necessary micronutrients, metabolism is compromised and disease can develop.

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 Inflammation Affects the Thyroid

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, also called autoimmune or chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis, is the most common type of hypothyroidism. The term “thyroiditis” refers to an inflammation (not an infection) of the thyroid gland itself. It is named after the Japanese physician, Hakaru Hashimoto, who first described the condition in 1912.

Inflammation is a normal, natural sign that your immune system is working. It is the natural defense mechanism of the body to protect against foreign invaders or injury and can become chronic in certain cases. In a localized infection, for example, the sequence of events can be summarized as follows:

  1. Microbes (bacteria) enter the body.
  2. Small blood vessels become dilated to increase blood flow.
  3. There is an increase in vascular permeability to protein.
  4. Fluid moves into the tissue causing swelling.
  5. Neutrophils (a type of white blood cell) and later monocytes (another type of white blood cell) move from the blood vessels into the tissue.
  6. Microbes are engulfed and destroyed by white cells.
  7. Tissue repair is initiated.

The sequence of events that occur during an inflammatory response can vary, depending on the type or cause of injury (i.e., bacteria, trauma), the site of the injury, and the state of the body.

The ability to resist infection and disease is compromised by long-term deficiency in essential nutrients. One of those is iodine, which has many non-endocrine biologic effects, including the role it plays in the physiology of the inflammatory response. Iodides increase the movement of white blood cells called granulocytes into areas of inflammation and improve the destruction of bacteria. Because iodine is so useful in combating inflammation, it is fair to say that the immune system will deplete all available reserves, including those essential to thyroid function.

Iodine is required for thyroxin production and is concentrated in the thyroid gland. Worldwide research shows that iodine deficiency is a major cause of breast, ovarian, uterine, and prostate cysts and cancers. Iodine levels in US soils have fallen by more than 50% over the past 50 years. Several long-term studies have observed clinical findings such as reversal of fibrocystic disease, decreased insulin requirements in diabetics, significantly less need for medication for hypothyroidism, resolution of migraine headaches and fibromyalgia pain. Does this mean that we all should rush out and begin taking iodine?

One of the problems of our current thinking about nutrition and disease is that we often still try to “medicate our way” out of the condition. Just as the solution to migraines is not “more aspirin”, the solution to thyroiditis is not “more iodine.” First, there are good quality sources of iodine that are easily assimilated and absorbed, and then there are cheap bulk supplies. Foremost, however, is the reality that no amount of iodine (or other nutrient) is going to offset a chronic inflammatory response without also treating the root cause of that immune attack.

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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.