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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.

The Diet Beverage and Stroke Connection

Over the years, more and more health risks are being associated with soda consumption, and the list grows longer all the time. Everything from diabetes, obesity and COPD to heart disease, asthma and tooth decay have been connected to these sugary drinks. Many doctors warn their patients against drinking soda frequently, and some legislators have even tried taxing soda drinkers or limiting the size of drinks a restaurant can offer as a way to force them to cut down.

Of course, soda industry giants dismiss the studies linking their products to health problems and conduct skewed studies of their own to “prove” the opposition research wrong, overblown, or as nothing more than media hype. But just looking at the ingredients and nutrition statements on their packages shows nothing beneficial but plenty of sugar, sodium, calories and potentially harmful additives like high fructose corn syrup.

A separate spotlight has been focused on the health risks of diet beverages. As a way to combat weight gain and other health issues caused by sugary drinks, many people turn to diet soda without considering the risks posed by artificial sweeteners (as well as the additional sodium). Now a new study has connected all diet beverages to a higher risk of heart attack, stroke and early death in women over 50, according to the American Stroke Association and the American Heart Association. The artificially sweetened beverages considered in the study included not just diet soda, but also artificially sweetened teas, fruit juices and other such drinks.

This isn’t the first time that diet drinks have been connected with serious health issues. In the past, dementia, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, heart disease and more—even obesity, the very thing that drives some people to switch to diet drinks—have been linked to diet beverages. Artificial sweeteners have also been shown to kill important gut microbiota and contribute to metabolic dysfunction. In addition, Boston University researchers found that the risk of metabolic syndrome was 50 percent higher in people who drink as little as one or more diet or non-diet sodas daily.

The latest study connecting diet beverages to stroke and heart disease covered a span of 11.9 years and focused on over 81,000 postmenopausal women between the ages of 50 and 79. It concluded that those with the highest consumption of artificially sweetened beverages—two or more per day—showed a significantly increased risk of stroke, heart disease and death. The highest risk factors were found in obese women as well as those without any history of diabetes or heart disease. Regular drinkers of diet beverages in the study had a 31 percent higher risk of stroke, a 29 percent higher likelihood of heart disease, and a 16 percent higher chance of dying from another related cause.

Don’t be fooled by the latest promotions by the companies making artificial sweeteners, which claim that they’re a “good source” of certain vitamins. These companies are adding very small amounts of vitamins to their products—the scales weigh far more heavily on the side of health risks as opposed to any minor benefit from the miniscule amount of added vitamins.

Similarly, several years ago some major soda corporations started advertising that their diet soft drinks were a “good source” of a few vitamins and minerals. Not only do these small amounts do nothing to promote good health, but once again, the risks far outweigh any claimed benefits. In addition, these are not high-quality supplements, and some medical professionals have stated that the added vitamins in unrefrigerated soda deteriorate faster and are of even lower value by the time they go from production to consumption. No matter what the advertising says, using the words “healthy” and “soda” together is an oxymoron. Dr. Sudha Seshadri, senior author of a study linking diet soda to dementia and stroke (published in the American Heart Association journal, Stroke), said in a 2017 New York Times article that while some beverages such as coffee and tea do provide health benefits, neither regular nor diet soda “of any kind” offer health benefits.

Drinking water is your best bet, and if you want flavor, you can make any number of refreshingly satisfying drinks by infusing your water with a variety of healthy choices. Combine mashed fruits, squeezed citrus, or vegetables with complementary fresh herbs like mint, ginger, basil or whatever else your taste buds enjoy. Not only are you getting good hydration, you’re also getting full-value vitamins and minerals (not processed ones) as well as antioxidants directly from nature’s source without added sugars or sweeteners.

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.

5 Principles for Optimum Health: A Blueprint

If there’s one thing we know to be a primary cause of illness and disease, it’s inflammation. Not the kind of swelling and redness that can occur when you injure yourself or when your body is fighting infection—we’re talking about chronic systemic inflammation. A number of things can cause systemic inflammation, including stress and environmental toxins.

Your diet can be another major contributor to inflammation, but the good news is that you can choose foods that reduce inflammation while you also eliminate foods that contribute to it. Systemic inflammation is being called “the silent killer”, and healing cannot begin until inflammatory foods are removed from your diet.

If you don’t think altering your diet is worth it or that it’s too much trouble, think about just a few of the serious diseases where inflammation is a primary contributor to their root cause:

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Cancer
  • Thyroiditis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Lupus
  • MS
  • Many other autoimmune diseases

Other conditions caused by inflammation that can negatively impact your lifestyle include chronic flare-ups of existing health issues, joint pain, ADHD, autism, migraines, vertigo, digestive problems, hormone imbalances, and more.

If you’re ready to reduce the inflammation in your body to achieve optimum health, follow these 5 anti-inflammatory principles for at least 30 days, and note the positive changes you feel.

1. Go grain free, dairy free, and soy free.

These types of foods are inflammatory and contribute to many of the chronic and recurring symptoms and conditions mentioned above.

2. Eliminate starchy foods, simple carbohydrates, artificial sweeteners, high glycemic index fruits, sweetened foods, etc.

Sugars affect insulin, hormones (cortisol), and brain health; they also cause cravings and weight gain. Some sugars, like artificial sweeteners, can be neurotoxins as well. Health issues linked to sugars include diabetes, Alzheimer’s, yeast overgrowth, cancer, and dysbiosis (an imbalance in the gut microbiota).

3. Introduce healthy fats, quality plant and animal proteins, and complex carbohydrates.

These types of foods can be utilized by the body at the cellular level to restore health. It’s especially beneficial to eat raw, steamed, poached, and lightly prepared meals because the enzymes, nutrients, and minerals remain intact; this will also increase your fiber intake.

4. Eat more frequently—up to every 2 or 3 hours and within an hour of waking.

As you change your eating habits from a carb/sugar-based diet to a fat-burning diet, you will be managing your blood sugar throughout the day. This results in more energy, clearer thinking, and lack of hunger; on the other hand, when your blood sugar isn’t regulated, you can have cravings, feel jittery, get headaches or feel hungry more often, which can lead to poor food choices.

5. Drink more water. Work up to drinking half your body weight in ounces—and herbal teas count!

Dehydration is a common condition—as many as 75 percent of Americans are chronically dehydrated. This can cause cravings, poor nerve flow, acidity, electrolyte imbalances and chronic inflammation. More importantly, water (as well as healthy fats) is an essential lubricant for metabolic processes that convert food into cellular energy. Water is also important for flushing toxins from the body.

Many people who strictly adhere to these anti-inflammatory principles see results after only the first couple of months. As their inflammation quickly subsides, pain and other symptoms are eliminated or greatly lessened while their health issues begin to be corrected.

Following an anti-inflammatory diet on a permanent basis will help you avoid many health problems, but if you don’t want to remain as strict after you reach your initial goal, you can slowly introduce certain foods one at a time to see if you have any negative reactions. (Omitting processed foods permanently is vital, as is omitting or greatly minimizing foods with added sugars.) However, keeping as close as possible to the optimum health blueprint and incorporating anti-inflammatory foods like turmeric, wild-caught fatty fish (avoid farm raised fish), organic blueberries and red grapes, etc. into your family’s meal plans will play a big role in achieving your best possible health for years to come.

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

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

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

Are Kidney Stones Preventable?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can Autoimmune Disease Contribute to Miscarriages?

The connection between autoimmune problems and miscarriages has been known by the medical community for many years. The National Institutes of Health published a study titled “Autoimmune diseases and pregnancy: analysis of a series of cases” which concluded that there is “a strong association between autoimmune disease and obstetric complications.” Yet addressing autoimmunity in order to increase a woman’s chance of carrying a pregnancy to term is not on most doctors’ radar. Instead, a variety of treatments are tried or women are told to “just keep trying”; unfortunately for many, yet more miscarriages occur. Understandably, this leads to depression, anxiety, self-blame and other psychological issues in the women who are affected, especially those who suffer multiple miscarriages.

According to the American Pregnancy Association (APA), between 10 and 25 percent of all pregnancies in the US end in miscarriage (this increases in women over the age of 35); the APA also estimates that once a woman has one miscarriage, there is a 25 percent chance that she will experience another. After two clinical miscarriages, they’re considered recurrent pregnancy losses (RPL), or recurrent miscarriages, and the chances of her experiencing more miscarriages elevates beyond 25 percent. In research conducted by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, doctors are unable to find a cause for recurrent miscarriages in 50 to 75 percent of their cases.

There are uncountable stories of women going from doctor to doctor—even going to doctors in different countries—in an effort to find someone who can correct whatever is causing their recurrent miscarriages. In approximately 60 percent of miscarriages, there is evidence of genetic (chromosomal) abnormalities. But once doctors ascribe the blame for a miscarriage on genetic abnormalities, no further investigation is done. However, two things need to be considered: there can be underlying causes for these genetic abnormalities, and autoimmunity issues can appear as genetic abnormalities. The medical journal Autoimmunity Reviews published research in 2011 stating that there is substantial evidence that a pregnant woman’s autoimmunity alone can increase the risk of genetic abnormalities in embryos, which can lead to miscarriages.

As with any health issue, the root causes will differ for each person, and the same is true for women experiencing recurrent miscarriages. If it’s determined that a woman has autoimmunity issues, such as celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, Hashimoto’s, rheumatoid arthritis, Grave’s disease, etc., then her functional medicine doctor can perform comprehensive testing to discover which health issue(s) exist, whether there are additional factors complicating or causing the problem, and how to best go about reversing or improving these issues without dangerous prescription medications. This will ultimately achieve two things: the patient’s health in general will be improved and associated future health concerns may be avoided, and she will have a better chance of carrying a pregnancy to term.

The connection between multiple miscarriages and celiac disease (it’s important to note here that not all women with celiac experience miscarriages) is not completely understood, although there is strong evidence for a link. However, while conventional medicine rarely addresses celiac issues as a cause for RPL, there are documented cases in which functional medicine doctors have found elevated anti-gliadin and anti-transglutaminase antibodies in women with celiac who have experienced recurrent miscarriages. After removing gluten from these women’s diets and using appropriate natural supplementation, viable pregnancies were achieved.

Healthy thyroid function in expectant mothers is critical to a healthy, full-term pregnancy as well as to the development of the baby’s brain and nervous system. While standard monitoring of TSH, T3 and T4 levels in women with RPL may show acceptable “normal” levels, these tests don’t show whether there are elevated levels of thyroid antibodies (these may also be present before pregnancy), which can be responsible for multiple miscarriages.

While there are certainly other reasons for recurrent miscarriages that need to be addressed differently, autoimmune issues are one area where the underlying cause can be either eliminated or lessened naturally, which will improve the overall health of the patient in both the short and long term and may improve pregnancy outcomes.

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.

Inflammation May Cause Brain Disorders

Here’s What You Can Do…

Chronic inflammation is at the root of a myriad health problems, from arthritis and heart disease to Crohn’s disease and cancer. Now a new study published in Neurology shows that inflammation in midlife may lead to brain shrinkage and brain disorders in later life.

This study followed 1,633 participants for a period of 24 years; when these volunteers reached the age of 77, scientists measured their brain volume using MRI scans. They discovered that those who had a higher number of inflammatory markers in their 40s and 50s now had lower performance scores on word memorization tests than those with lower inflammation. Significantly, the scans also showed that there was less volume in certain areas of the brain – particularly those (such as the hippocampus) that are related to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

The takeaway from this study is that people who have higher chronic inflammation markers in midlife may be at higher risk for degenerative brain diseases than those who do not.

Likewise, inflammation is also at the root of other brain issues such as depression, anxiety, and brain fog (among other things). As reported by Fortune magazine in October 2017, the number of people globally who suffer from depression is staggering at over 300 million, and 260 million are suffering with anxiety disorders. While there are, of course, other medical and/or psychological reasons for some of these brain disorders, inflammation may still account for the underlying cause itself, whether in part or wholly.

Brain fog, considered a cognitive dysfunction, can impact daily life and ranges in its level of severity, from annoying to severe. Symptoms include fatigue, lack of focus, poor memory, confusion, difficulty in putting words together and other such things. While many people put these symptoms off to things like aging or “just part of life”, they aren’t something to be ignored or laughed off and accepted. Brain fog is your brain’s way of telling you that something needs to be corrected, just like pain, nausea or other symptoms are your body’s way of letting you know something is wrong.

Medications can also cause brain fog, but the answer is not to add yet another medication in order to counteract the effects of the one(s) causing the problem. Fortunately, there are easy ways to reduce or avoid inflammation without prescription or OTC medications. A couple of major contributors to inflammation are sugar and processed or packaged foods. Not only do they cause inflammation on their own, but if they make up a good portion of your diet, you can also become deficient in some vitamins and minerals that are important to both physical and mental health. Processed foods contain excessive amounts of sodium, sugars, and a host of chemicals that can damage your health in many different ways. And supplements alone aren’t enough to make up for any of that.

You can start lowering your inflammation level by replacing refined sugars and processed or packaged foods with whole foods (organic is always best, if possible). Some good choices include these “brain foods”:

  • fatty fish
  • nuts
  • coconut and olive oils
  • seeds
  • avocado

Antioxidant-rich foods, teas and spices are also a great benefit and are easy to incorporate into your diet, such as:

  • berries
  • turmeric
  • cumin
  • oregano
  • cinnamon
  • white, green and black teas

And there are many more. Your functional medicine doctor can give you comprehensive testing to detect any food sensitivities or allergies you may not realize you have, which can cause inflammation as well as leaky gut syndrome.

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 a High-Fiber Diet Can Add Years to Your Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Minimizing Your Exposure to Phthalates

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

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

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

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

Some of the known health issues associated with phthalates are:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alarming New Trend: Young Adults Dying From Colorectal Cancer

It’s a startling and alarming fact – more young adults in their 20s and 30s are not just being diagnosed with colorectal cancer, they’re dying from it at higher rates.

A recently published JAMA Network research letter states that while the overall mortality rate for colorectal cancer has gone down, the mortality rate for adults under 55 has risen. Researchers did not consider this to be a unique phenomenon, but rather a frightening trend that appears to have surfaced beginning in the 1990s. Dr. Thomas Weber of the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable expressed to The New York Times that something “truly important” is going on.

More research is being done as to what’s causing this trend; various types of environmental, lifestyle and genetic factors have been tied to increased risks, such as diets high in processed foods, alcohol, obesity and sedentary lifestyles. But researchers are now focusing on some new angles, including the possibility of extended use of antibiotics during adult years – long-term use of antibiotics can negatively impact the gut microbiome, making people susceptible to a wide range of diseases.

Most doctors are hesitant to recommend that young adults begin getting cancer screenings in their 20s, but research is being considered to determine whether this might be the new guideline. One reason for the hesitation is the high cost; the other is that even physicians aren’t convinced that the benefits from colonoscopies in general outweigh the potential harm. There are a number of frequently occurring complications associated with colonoscopies, one of the worst being tears in the rectum or colon wall. Approximately two percent of 300,000 Medicare patients who underwent colonoscopies ended up in the emergency room within a week; these tears can be so serious as to be life-threatening. False positives, which require additional testing, are also an issue, putting undue stress and increased costs on the patient.

Prevention is always the best “medicine”, and there’s a lot we can do to help prevent colorectal cancer in people of all ages. In fact, the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) states that maintaining a healthy diet and weight along with physical activity can help prevent about fifty percent of colorectal cancers and approximately one-third of other common cancers. Among the foods that lower the risk of colorectal cancer are:

  • Fruits – especially those containing high levels of vitamin C
  • Whole grains
  • Non-starchy vegetables

By swapping processed foods – especially meats like hot dogs – for these choices and moving toward a more plant-based diet, young adults can lower their colorectal cancer risks. Parents can help by instilling healthy lifestyle choices in their young children; combining better food choices and daily exercise can help significantly lessen the risk of young adult cancers and create a healthy pathway into the future.

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.

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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.

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.