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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.

Eczema: Beyond Management to a Cure

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

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

What’s the Real Cause of Eczema?

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

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

Healing is Possible

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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 Healing Mindset for Curing What Ails

Medicine has its place in a moment of crisis. For instance, when you’ve been working way too hard and the pressures are mounting. You have what feels like a heart attack but it’s determined to be a panic attack instead. Medications are then given to relieve anxiety and to prevent future heart-related events. In an acute scenario like this, I fully support it. If your house is on fire, you want to call the fire department, not a medical detective.

Sometimes a quick intervention is warranted to quell the emergency. You take medications long enough to implement changes in your life that are beneficial. If your health keeps deteriorating and you continue to come down with mysterious ailments, you want an investigator. You want a Columbo of sorts to keep asking the pointed questions.

And since it’s your life and you live it all day every day, you also want to get to the root of the problem and take care of as much of it as you can yourself. This is what I call a Healing Mindset, and here are the shifts involved in achieving that mindset:

Shift No. 1. From Affliction to Conviction – Shift your headspace from a feeling of affliction to one of conviction about what it will take to get better. Look at the whole picture, and connect the dots as you realize that your health problem did not happen overnight. This is not about a lightning bolt coming out of the sky; it’s about a conscious examination.

Shift No. 2. From Helpless to Accountable – To become personally responsible for changes that had to occur in your life, you must hold yourself accountable for what went wrong, and also for what is going right. Look at your relationships, your wellbeing and your happiness. Chronic does not mean irreversible, and it does not imply hopeless. What it means is that you have to learn new habits and put them into practice immediately for your own benefit, holding yourself accountable for your own aches and pains.

Shift No. 3. From Passive to Interactive – A typical doctor-patient interaction lasts about 4 to 7 minutes and is rife with mishaps. Communication flows in a one-way direction, if at all, often because the doctor is pressed for time and has only a limited set of options: referral slips, prescriptions and other critical time-saving devices. To truly get well, you have to find an expert, someone you can learn from and who will participate in your treatment. Find a doctor who’s a healing partner, someone you can trust for exceptional advice and insight.

Shift No. 4. From Cured to Recovering – For most of us, there is no such thing as “cured.” True healing is not something that occurs only over a set period of time. Like alcoholism, the illness is never truly gone. Instead, we are Recovering. We will heal ourselves for the rest of our lives, living in recovery so that we preserve the good moments and minimize the setbacks.

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 Your Type 2 Diabetes Reversible?

When someone receives a diagnosis, he tends to respond in either of two ways. The first is a tendency to settle for “as is,” which is to say he accepts that his health will continue to deteriorate over time. As his health worsens, he attributes each new symptom to the disease and just accepts it. When subsequent medications are prescribed, he takes them without question even if his suffering increases.

The other is to fight it. To seek a second opinion. To get to the root cause because there’s more behind the diagnosis…including a belief that he can reverse it.

Let’s take a look at what happened with John R, who had been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.

Despite being closely monitored by his nurse and having his medications adjusted every 6 months, John’s condition was worsening. In addition to the diabetes, his primary complaints when he first came to see me were that his energy level was poor, he had prostate issues and stooped when he walked, which was painful. He also had red, irritated skin, balance problems and stomach discomfort. John expressed the hope that nutritional supplements could replace his medications.

Conditions like diabetes go far beyond their generic labels; there’s a deeper understanding that offers clues to improvement. I explained to John that diabetes is a carbohydrate metabolism problem and asked him about his dietary habits. Prior to care, he told me he typically started each day with cereal, toast, a banana and orange juice, except for Fridays, when he ate bagels. He ended each day with dessert after his dinner.

Because John’s a fighter, and believed he could reverse his diabetes he followed my recommendations and changed his eating habits overnight.

With just this initial information, I gave John a different diet strategy. He eliminated processed, refined carbohydrates, and ate more animal protein and had healthy fats. He also ate smaller meals more frequently throughout the day to stabilize his blood sugar. In only two weeks his energy level improved and his skin began to clear. We went on to deal with the insulin resistance and the results of more comprehensive tests that revealed a past virus residing in and weakening his prostate.

With the use of remedies, supplements and John’s commitment to targeted physical and neurological exercises, we saw additional improvements in a relatively short time. Among the positive outcomes, over the course of a few months, were his ability to improve core strength and posture (eliminating his pain and breathing), weight loss resulting in a smaller waistline, and better gut function. Even his eyesight improved, which was noticed and commented on by his eye doctor. He came off three medications with my support and the assistance and approval of his doctor.

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.