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Are Kidney Stones Preventable?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Pure (or Safe) are Essential Oils?

Anyone doing their best to live a healthy lifestyle has heard plenty about using essential oils for a myriad things, from healing to relaxation. They’re massaged in, diffused into the air, and even ingested by some. Essential oils are derived from plants in nature, so that should make them pure and safe to use – a no-brainer, right?

Well, there’s a lot more to the story that you need to consider before diving into using essential oils. (We should note here that the topic of whether essential oils are safe and effective is hotly debated.) First, not all essential oils are created equal; contrary to their natural-sounding name and marketing gimmicks, there may be synthetic chemicals added during the distillation process that alter the product. On top of that, although pesticides aren’t needed when growing these types of plants (most repel bugs naturally), anti-fungals are sometimes used by farmers if field fungus becomes a problem.

In addition, many essential oils are heavily diluted with other types of oils – including other undisclosed essential oils and/or vegetable oils – which can turn rancid, whereas pure, unadulterated essential oils don’t go bad if stored correctly. It’s important to look for a statement of purity on the label that guarantees there are no additives of any kind and that the distilling method doesn’t include the use of chemical solvents. Truly pure essential oils are pricey, and for good reason – it takes an extremely large amount of plants to make small amounts of pure, unadulterated essential oils that are considered therapeutic grade (not to be confused with fragrance grade; also, the term “therapeutic grade” is one used within the industry, essential oils are not regulated). Most essential oils that are relatively inexpensive don’t meet the purity level of true therapeutic grade oils and won’t be as effective.

Essential oils are highly concentrated and need to be diluted according to label instructions before use. Still, these oils need to be used in limited quantities – getting too much of a “good thing” can cause negative reactions of varying degrees. You could be applying more essential oils than you think if they’re also in your soap, shampoo, or other personal care products.

Using essential oils in the right way is also important – for example, an oil that is recommended for massage may not be safe to use in a diffuser. Conversely, oils that are best for inhalation may cause skin irritations if used topically. And certain essential oils can cause burns or lead to skin cancer if applied topically before spending time in the sun.

Even more seriously, commonly used lavender and tea tree essential oils have been found to cause gynecomastia in men. A March 2018 BBC news article stated that a study linked topical use of lavender and tea tree oils to enlarged male breasts because the chemicals in these oils “are potential endocrine disrupters” which lower testosterone and raise estrogen levels. Other contraindications include using certain essential oils on infants, young children, the elderly, and pregnant women. Essential oils can also react with prescription or OTC medications.

As with any product, become well educated on the subject before using essential oils, read oil labels carefully, and ask questions about purity. It’s also best to get tested first to make sure you’re don’t have allergies or sensitivities to the plant family, which can cause anything from minor to serious reactions, and that the oil won’t react negatively with any medications you may be taking.

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 Gut Bacteria Predict, Prevent or Cause RA?

An imbalance or lack of diversity in the body’s microbiome – the good and bad bacteria living in our intestinal tract – directly affects your immune system and, quite often, is at the root of a wide range of chronic ailments. Just take a look through the articles here on my website, and you’ll find a connection between gut health and hormone function, thyroid disease, skin disorders, and many other autoimmune diseases.

Rheumatoid arthritis, or RA, is a painful swelling of the joints that can also result in bone loss. RA is one of the myriad autoimmune diseases that rheumatologists and the overall medical community are now realizing has an important connection to poor gut health. It is believed that a proliferation of a particular bacteria, Prevotella copri, in people with RA can either trigger inflammation in the joints or displace bacteria that act as anti-inflammatory agents.

In a study reported by and partially funded by the National Institutes of Health, the gut bacteria of 114 individuals – both healthy people and participants with early-onset RA or psoriatic arthritis – was tested. Fully three-quarters of the participants with early-onset RA and 38 percent of those with psoriatic arthritis were found to have Prevotella copri in their microbiome and that increased levels of P. copri “correlated with reductions in several groups of beneficial microbes.” Additionally, two separate studies published by immunologist Veena Taneja, Ph.D. at the Mayo Clinic, indicated that gut bacteria may even be able to prevent RA or predict a susceptibility to the disorder, both of which offer a chance at staving off the condition before it even starts.

Leaky gut syndrome may also be a culprit – when bacteria, food and allergens pass through perforations in the intestinal lining of a person with leaky gut, they can cause an autoimmune response that then creates joint inflammation.

Both prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medications may mask the symptoms of RA temporarily, but they don’t heal the condition. Symptoms are merely indicators that something is wrong in the body, but the only way to stop or control them is to find and address the root cause. In addition, medications of any kind come with a host of potential side effects and health risks, some of which are serious or can create new problems. Much like the symptoms of disease, side effects are warning signs that a medication is negatively impacting a function or an organ of the body.

For the over 1.5 million Americans who suffer from RA, the fact that the condition lies in a bacterial imbalance is actually good news, and it is especially good for anyone who heeds the early warning signs of gut bacteria that lacks diversity, offering an opportunity for prevention. Correcting any bacterial imbalance and introducing bacteria that may decrease disease progression and symptoms is the ultimate goal, but only after being tested by your functional medicine doctor to determine your body’s individual needs and to assess whether you have leaky gut. Probiotics are not a one-size-fits all solution, and more needs to be considered – allergies, food sensitivities and your medical history are among the important factors in finding the correct course of action for getting your microbiome back into balance.

In the meantime, there are some dietary changes you can make to help get your gut started on a positive course. Replace foods that are highly processed, contain high amounts of sodium and sugar, and fast foods with healthier options: fermented foods like pickled vegetables, high-fiber foods including fresh fruits and veggies, and anti-inflammatory foods higher in omega-3s such as walnuts, salmon, grass-fed beef, and others are all good choices. Organic foods are always the best option whenever possible, and always read labels carefully for added sugars, chemicals and sodium that may turn a potentially good selection into an undesirable one.

A healthy gut will reward you in plenty of other ways too – as your immune system gets stronger, you may see other health issues lessen or clear up as well. It’s never too early or too late to get your microbiome in balance!

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.

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.

HIIT Exercise Improves Mitochondrial Health

We all know that exercise is important to a healthy body, and as we age, it becomes even more important for many reasons. From maintaining muscle tone and achieving optimal blood sugar levels to stronger bones and better mental health, physical activity and exercise are crucial to living a healthier life.

Throughout our lives, changes continually take place in our bodies from the skin to the cellular level, but these changes become more severe with age. Cells in older people have accumulated years of damage; these cells are weaker and their energy-producing mitochondria don’t regenerate as quickly or easily. And while most doctors and scientists understand the overall positive impact of exercise on the adult body, there has been no real knowledge about what types of exercise could possibly regenerate cells and those all-important mitochondria.

However, a study was recently conducted at the Mayo Clinic comparing the results of specific types of exercise on 72 sedentary but healthy volunteers consisting of two age groups:

  • ages 18-30
  • ages 65-80

People from both age groups were divided into four subdivisions. Three of these subdivisions were assigned a different type of exercise regimen:

  • high intensity interval training (HIIT) – short bursts of intense stationary bike pedaling
  • weight workouts twice a week
  • stationary bike exercise with weight workouts on alternate days

The fourth group was given no exercises at all and functioned as the control group.

These exercise regimens were followed for three months. Expected outcomes in all participants were realized, such as increased endurance, improved blood sugar levels and increased muscle mass.

But new information was discovered when results from the HIIT group showed that the mitochondria in cells had improved. Younger participants showed improvements in 274 genes, and older participants showed improvements in astounding 400 genes. (The two groups with weightlifting regimens also showed gene-related improvements, but to a far lesser degree.) Older participants’ cells showed a reversal in the decline of muscle-building proteins as well as improvements in mitochondrial health, increases in mitochondrial numbers and rejuvenation of the protein building blocks called ribosomes. All of which means that HIIT exercising actually halted aging at the cellular level by enabling cells to increase protein production for energy-producing mitochondria and protein-building ribosomes.

This study confirms the fact that you’re never too old to improve your health; in fact, the right types of vigorous exercise can reverse aging at the cellular level even more in older adults. For younger adults, incorporating high intensity interval training into their daily exercise routine can help slow the effects of aging and, quite possibly, make them healthier and more active as they age.

Before starting any exercise routine, including one of high intensity aerobic exercises, talk to your doctor about the safest way to approach exercising for your body and health; this is especially important if your lifestyle is generally more sedentary.

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.

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.

What to Look for in a Functional Medicine Doctor

When it comes to their health, patients want natural remedies. Whether medications aren’t working or because the side effects of taking them aren’t worth it, people seek a solution for their ailments that is outside the mainstream pharmacopeia. And doctors are listening.

Doctors of all stripes – gynecologists, cardiologists, chiropractors and more – are moving into the discipline of functional diagnostic medicine because it offers patients hope by combining natural remedies into a framework of healing that is at the core of patient care.

Moreover, functional medicine doctors don’t gloss over the fact that much of what is ailing you has been routinely ignored. Your health has less to do with genetic makeup, per se, as it does the functioning of your body’s systems (hormone, immune, neurological, and so on) when autoimmune reactions and chronic inflammation occur.

An example of this change in thinking is happening right now, today, with the current news that immunotherapy is more effective than conventional methods for treating cancer. Studying the immune system, especially in the context of what restores a patient to health, is past due.

So what do you look for in a functional medicine doctor? For many it comes down to good communication, starting with a basic affinity for each other. Illness can make a patient feel fragile, so finding a doctor who listens is important. Toward that end, there are some preliminary questions to ask that will help you better understand whether this partnership is a right fit going forward.

Question No. 1 – What’s Your Philosophy of Nutrition?

For anyone who is not well, changes to lifestyle and diet are critical steps to healing. Even for patients who are not “sick,” who might want to simply improve their wellbeing, learning to identify and remove any inflammatory culprits is the first step.

Regarding nutritional supplementation, whether it’s hormones or heart disease, your doctor’s approach to supplements has to be thought of as more than a replacement for drugs. Nutrition is a tool for healing, and as healing takes place the cache of products will lessen.

Question No. 2 – What Testing Do You Use as Your Baseline?

Typically doctors will run tests in order to rule on a diagnosis. The result of the test becomes the basis for a treatment and is an important safety precaution in an acute scenario, as in a hospital. A doctor might call for a CBC to test for infection or an MRI prior to surgery.

In functional medicine, the tests that are used are less for pathology as they are for insight. When balancing hormones, for example, a doctor is looking for blood sugar response, adrenal function, steroidal hormone ratios, food sensitivities and many other indicators that are part of an overall pattern.

Question No. 3 – Which Therapies Would You Use in My Case?

At first blush a condition such as vertigo presents very differently than a thyroid disorder. However, in many instances there are similar root causes including blood sugar dysregulation, parasitic or viral infection, nutritional deficiencies, toxic overload and hormonal imbalances, and so on.

Therapies should seek to remove any antigens and be supportive of healing and rejuvenation. Those that are best are noninvasive and lead to a restorative outcome in the patient’s ability to detoxify, increase metabolic capacity (more energy), recover brain-body balance and provide pain relief when needed.

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

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

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

A Return to Plant-Based Medicine: The Antibiotic Backlash

The effectiveness and risks of antibacterial soap use has been in question for several years, and recently the FDA banned the use of 19 chemicals commonly found in these products. The two most commonly used, triclosan and triclocarban, are being replaced with three other chemicals that the FDA is currently testing for safety.

They’re Not Just in Soaps…

If you’re concerned about these types of chemicals leaching into your body, it’s important to know that triclosan is also used in other products including toothpastes (Colgate, for one), baby pacifiers, fabrics and laundry detergents. So far, the FDA has said that when used in toothpaste, triclosan’s benefits outweigh its risks, and the agency is not banning that type of use.

Antibacterial soaps with these 19 chemicals are only being banned from consumer products, not from antibacterial soaps used in medical facilities or food service areas.

“We’re being bombarded by dangerous chemicals in antibacterial soaps.”

Why They’re So Dangerous

Besides the obvious negative point that we’re being bombarded by dangerous chemicals in these soaps, there’s also the alarming evidence that these antibiotics are disrupting children’s hormones as well as aiding in the creation of “super-bugs”, which are drug-resistant infections. Tests have shown that they may also disrupt developing reproductive systems and metabolism and cause muscle weakness.

Better Ways to Stay Healthy

Many people who have put their faith in antibacterial soaps in the hopes of keeping themselves healthy and germ-free can put their faith in something much better than chemicals – their own immune systems. By boosting your body’s own defenses and cultivating a healthy gut microbiome, you’ll be surprised at how healthy you can be. Many of my patients report having gone years without contracting the typical colds, flu, viruses and other nasty illnesses once they optimize their immunity and improve their gut health through healthier lifestyle changes.

Moving Forward into The Past

In my upcoming book, Grassroots Medicine: Facing Illness and Finding the Courage to Heal, I dedicate a chapter to the question “When Did Natural Become Alternative?”. A recent New York Times article on ethnobotany, titled “Could Ancient Remedies Hold the Answer to the Looming Antibiotics Crisis?”, reported that the answer to “when” goes back to the 1940s, when scientists harvested natural molecules and synthesized them into antibiotics. It’s a forgotten truth that modern antibiotics were originally derived from natural sources and produced by generally following ancient remedy recipes. But as pharmaceutical industry chemists quickly crafted more and more drugs synthetically, their manmade medications couldn’t compensate for various factors in nature and synthetics replaced natural ingredients. Therefore, the resulting product became dangerous in unexpected ways: the escalation of drug-resistant “super-bugs”, damage to patients’ gut health, rising ineffectiveness of antibiotics, and more.

According to the New York Times article, the answer may lie in a full-circle return to ethnobotany – the study of how plants were used as medicines over thousands of years. With drug-resistant bacteria on the rise and the pharmaceutical storehouse of viable antibiotics depleting, scientists are once again turning to these proven, natural cures to prevent “the evolution of [bacterial] resistance”. These new ethnobotany-based antibiotics, in short, would inhibit bacteria so your immune system can then wipe them out.

Make Better Choices

We’re living in a time when doctors have been overprescribing antibiotics for years – even as preventives – and non-organic farmers recklessly dole them out to livestock. We’re continually absorbing these pharmaceutical chemicals, whether through prescriptions, antibacterial soaps or the meats we eat (or all of these), and these antibiotics build up in our bodies, destroying gut health. Poor gut health not only lowers immunity, but the inflammation it causes can increase the likelihood of many brain disorders, from Parkinson’s to Alzheimer’s. Because the body is a complex tapestry, when one thing is out of balance, other areas also become affected. It’s more important than ever to read labels, avoid as many chemicals as possible, and improve your gut health, giving your immune system a chance to keep you healthy.

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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.