Posts

Yes, Men Do Get Thyroid Disease

Most people associate thyroid disease with women, but the truth is that men are also susceptible to thyroid problems, and the number of men affected is rising. Because women are up to eight times more likely to be diagnosed with thyroid disease, doctors frequently miss thyroid problems in men. And men themselves may not realize some of the issues they’re noticing are related to thyroid disease, or they may brush them off as normal parts of aging or think they’re “no big deal” if their lifestyle isn’t being impacted. Add to that the fact that men tend to visit doctors far less frequently than women, and you can see why so many men remain undiagnosed.

While there are thyroid symptoms specific to men, there are also a number of symptoms that are shared by both men and women. These include:

Hypothyroidism (underproduction of thyroid hormone)

  • Slow metabolism (weight gain, difficulty with weight loss)
  • Cognitive issues (problems with concentration, memory, attention, multi-tasking)
  • Intolerance to cold
  • Dry, cool, and/or pale skin
  • Brittle nails
  • Hair loss
  • Constipation
  • Mood fluctuation (depression, irritability, aggressiveness, etc.)
  • Joint pain
  • Muscle pain or weakness, cramping, stiffness
  • High cholesterol
  • Weight gain

Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid)

  • Weight loss
  • Sweating/feeling hot
  • Fatigue
  • Heart palpitations or faster heartbeat
  • Nervousness/feeling anxious
  • Tremors
  • Sleep problems
  • Restlessness

Men who are experiencing thyroid dysfunction may also experience symptoms that are more common to their sex, which include:

  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Low sex drive
  • Baldness/hair loss
  • Trouble growing facial hair
  • Lower testosterone levels
  • Decreased muscle mass/strength
  • Low sperm count

Since men usually experience thyroid problems after the age of forty, the above symptoms are easy to misdiagnose or overlook as part of aging. And since doctors may not consider the possibility of thyroid dysfunction in their male patients, men may need to specifically request thyroid testing themselves. Even if a male patient isn’t sure that thyroid is the cause of their symptoms, by ruling it out, their doctor can more accurately focus on other potential causes. It’s best to take a pro-active approach because thyroid problems only get worse if they’re not addressed and can lead to more serious health issues (including heart disease, nerve injury and more), so doing nothing can create a far bigger problem.

It’s important to remember that, as I mentioned in a previous blog post titled “Could I Have Thyroid Disease and Not Know It?”, standard testing for TSH levels isn’t enough—they only scratch the surface and your results may appear normal, but more comprehensive blood tests can catch thyroid problems earlier.

If you’re a man diagnosed with thyroid disease, you may be asking, “How did I get thyroid disease?” It can be hard to pinpoint, but there are several factors that could be at the root of male thyroid disease. There could be a genetic factor—a man whose father had thyroid disease has an increased chance of having thyroid problems. Low testosterone can be at either end of the spectrum—it can be a cause or a result of thyroid dysfunction; it can also make men more prone to Hashimoto’s disease, where the immune system attacks the thyroid. Hashimoto’s can then lead to hypothyroidism.

This is just the short list—many factors including stress can play a role in thyroid disease, and your functional medicine doctor can help make that determination and put you on the path to healing.

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.

Could I Have Thyroid Disease and Not Know It?

The short answer is yes, you could have symptoms you may not realize are indicative of some form of thyroid disease. In fact, the American Thyroid Association states that approximately 20 million Americans have thyroid disease, but an estimated 60 percent actually have thyroid disease and don’t realize it. Women are between five and eight times more likely to develop a thyroid problem than men—one in eight women will have some type of thyroid disease in her lifetime.

One reason thyroid symptoms are often overlooked or misinterpreted is because they can be the same as or similar to familiar signs of aging. Early symptoms of both hypothyroidism (underproduction of T3 and T4 hormones) and hyperthyroidism (overproduction of T3 and T4 hormones) can seem like something relatively innocuous or like a different health problem altogether.

For example, a middle-aged woman who starts gaining weight but hasn’t changed her diet, feels tired, and has some trouble focusing on tasks may write all this off to normal aging. However, she may actually be experiencing some early signs of hypothyroidism. On the other hand, someone who’s experiencing increased heart rate, fatigue, weight loss, and is having difficulty sleeping (among a number of other possible symptoms) may attribute these symptoms, individually or in combination, to something else—hyperthyroidism shares the same symptoms as other diseases and disorders.

You may be asking, “If my symptoms aren’t severe and don’t impact my lifestyle, is thyroid disease still a health risk? Do I need to be concerned about thyroid disease?” As I state on my Thyroid Recovery Formula site, what you don’t know can hurt you: “Undiagnosed thyroid disorders put patients at risk for infertility, osteoporosis, and heart disease.” Symptoms that seem unimportant or tolerable are still signs that something is wrong, and the sooner you’re diagnosed, the better your chances for reversing or better managing your thyroid disorder and avoiding serious health risks.

So let’s say you’ve experienced some thyroid symptoms and you wisely decide not to take the risky “wait and see” attitude. You make an appointment and tell your doctor about your symptoms, and he runs a standard blood test for TSH levels (thyroid stimulating hormone). When your results come back, your doctor says your markers are within normal range, so he sends you home telling you it’s all in your head, your symptoms aren’t related to your thyroid, or maybe he offers you a random prescription to “see if it helps.” If you’re lucky, you’ll get a brief—not permanent—respite from some symptoms; at worst, you’ll develop new symptoms or health issues for which your doctor may add more medications.

None of these outcomes is a solution, and as I’ve already mentioned, doing nothing is risky business. At this point you’d probably be wondering how your TSH levels can be normal if you’re still experiencing symptoms that all seem to relate to your thyroid. This is, unfortunately, not an unusual situation—about fifty percent of patients remain undiagnosed after being tested for thyroid disease.

The fact is that simply testing TSH levels isn’t enough; far more comprehensive blood tests along with other lab tests as well as consideration of cortisol levels, nutritional/vitamin/mineral deficiencies, medications, lifestyle factors, medical history, and more paint a complete picture of what’s really going on in a person’s body and where the root of the problem lies. Only then can a true solution be reached. TSH levels aren’t the end of the story, they’re just the very beginning.

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 Your ‘Allergy’ Symptoms Really a Histamine Intolerance?

You’re breaking out in hives, experiencing nasal congestion or a runny nose, have red eyes, or are sneezing a lot. You figure you have an allergy and pop antihistamines to quell the symptoms, and you feel better…temporarily…maybe.

Perhaps your symptoms seem less related to allergies, like diarrhea, asthma-type, headaches, brain fog, or irregular heartbeat, among others. So you see a specialist and your tests come back negative, leaving the only option a prescription or recommendation for an OTC medication that may suppress those symptoms for a while so you can return to some level of comfort.

After a while, neither of these “solutions” works well, or maybe they stop working altogether. Your problem may be that you have a histamine intolerance – this doesn’t mean that you’re allergic to histamines, it means that you either have an overabundance of histamines in your system or your body can’t break them down as quickly as it should.

In a balanced immune system, histamines – a natural biochemical – are released as an inflammatory immune response to allergens when your body senses an attack. Although the reactions they create cause us discomfort, they’re actually serving a purpose in sending blood rushing to the source of the problem. But when the enzymes that break down histamines don’t do their job or there aren’t enough of them, you end up with histamine intolerance. It’s a reaction caused by foods with higher histamine levels that trigger a “pseudoallergy” reaction – the body reacts as if allergens are present when none are actually there.

If you think you might have a histamine intolerance, you can try an elimination diet to avoid foods that are high in histamines, trigger the release of histamines, or block the histamine-controlling enzyme called Diamine Oxidase (DAO). Some (but certainly not all) of these foods include:

  • processed foods
  • spinach
  • fermented foods
  • smoked meats
  • alcohol
  • vinegar
  • avocados
  • energy drinks
  • tomatoes

Now, you’re probably thinking, “But some of those things like avocados, spinach, and tomatoes are part of a healthy diet!” And you’d be right. But eliminating these known histamine triggers will tell you whether you have a histamine intolerance and relieve your symptoms. Your functional medicine doctor can guide you in this practical approach, determine the correct supplements for your individual issues, and/or order lab tests.

While on your elimination diet, replace problematic foods with low-histamine choices (avoiding any you may have allergies or sensitivities to); here’s a very small sample:

  • gluten-free grains
  • apples
  • apricots
  • fresh meats
  • asparagus
  • sweet potato
  • coconut
  • blueberries
  • summer squash
  • cherries
  • lettuce

There are a number of reasons why you may have a histamine intolerance, and as a functional medicine doctor, my job is to find the underlying cause rather than just treating the symptoms. Among the possible root causes of histamine intolerance are poor gut health, DAO deficiency, high histamine intake, or impaired histamine breakdown (possibly caused by medications or other health-related issues). Lab tests, a detailed review of your medical history and/or any current or long-term medications you take, and more can help make a final determination as to whether you’re suffering from histamine intolerance.

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.

PPIs Shown to Increase Risk of Death

Heartburn, acid reflux and GERD are typically treated with Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs) like Prevacid, Nexium, Prilosec, Zantac and Pepcid. Because they’re so commonly prescribed – the latest estimates are that approximately 15 million Americans use PPIs, making it a $13 billion industry globally – most people think nothing of taking them or popping OTC heartburn relief products.

But these medications are only suppressing symptoms by blocking the production of stomach acid, they’re not curing the underlying issue that’s causing you to feel miserable. And what’s worse – they’re known to cause additional serious health problems, including bone fractures, serious vitamin/mineral deficiencies, vomiting, kidney disease, infectious diarrhea, and more. Now researchers are reporting – not for the first time – that they are associated with an increased risk of death as well.

A new study, published in The BMJ, followed over 214,000 new PPI users for ten years and found there were “45 excess deaths for every 1,000 PPI users”. Causes of these early deaths included cardiovascular or chronic kidney disease, or upper digestive system cancers. To make matters worse, about half of the people who had been prescribed PPIs had none of the indicators for their use. Similar results are being reported by medical and pharmaceutical journals all around the world, with cases of overprescription and/or prescriptions given without a clear indication ranging from 40 percent to over 70 percent. In fact, the Pharmaceutical Journal reports that overprescription of PPIs has become “the norm” globally.

Chronic heartburn, acid reflux, GERD and related conditions can be extremely uncomfortable, to say the least. Symptoms of these conditions can go far beyond a burning sensation in your chest or throat; they can include a feeling of having a lump in your throat, vomiting, chest pain (which can mimic a heart attack), nausea, bad breath, difficulty swallowing or even respiratory problems.

But those symptoms are just the beginning of the story – they’re your body’s signal that it needs help, that an underlying condition needs to be fixed. So by taking an OTC or prescription PPI, you may lessen or eliminate the symptom temporarily, but you’re only suppressing your body’s signal, you’re not healing the actual cause. And any untreated health issue can lead to other, sometimes more serious health problems; however, in the case of PPIs – whether OTC or prescribed – the medicine can be a risk in and of itself.

Previous research supports the latest studies. It was reported in 2017 that an even larger study followed over 349,000 PPI users for just under six years and concluded that there was a “statistically significant excess risk of death”, which translated into 47 deaths annually for every 1,000 PPI users. In addition, the longer PPIs were used, the greater the risk of death, especially in patients with no recorded GI problems who were prescribed PPIs.

These latest findings reported in BMJ recommend that if PPIs are deemed necessary by a physician, they should be taken for the shortest period of time and in the lowest possible dosage amount. Unfortunately, some people may still experience serious and permanent side effects, or they may still be at risk of premature death; in addition, many physicians make no effort to decrease their patients’ dosage requirements or attempt to wean them off the drugs, despite the numerous warnings worldwide.

Rather than jumping into taking medications for relief, it makes more sense to look for the reason why these symptoms are plaguing you and find out if there’s a safer treatment protocol. A simple change in diet may be all that’s required. Your functional medicine doctor will take your health history and lifestyle into consideration in order to request lab tests that are more in-depth and conclusive, allowing a more pinpointed determination as to the root cause of your symptoms and what your individual course of corrective action should be.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fibromyalgia’s Link to Cipro Toxicity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is Psoriasis Reversible?

Anyone who has psoriasis knows the discomfort it can cause—itching, burning, stinging, soreness. It can even prevent some people from participating in the social activities they enjoy if they’re uncomfortable being seen in public with the telltale raised red patches, sometimes with silverish-white scales on their skin.

Psoriasis can be confused with eczema because the two share some symptoms, but there are a couple of symptoms that can set psoriasis apart—stiff, swollen joints and patches of inflamed redness. People can be genetically predisposed to contracting psoriasis if one or especially both parents suffer from it, but it can also arise from environmental triggers.

At its core, psoriasis is an autoimmune disease; it’s an immune system response in which the body’s T cells that normally protect it against disease go awry and start attacking healthy skin cells. This, in turn, triggers other immune responses, creating more severe reactions.

Flare-ups can last from weeks to months and can be cyclical; outbreaks can range from mild to severe, showing up in small spots or spreading over large areas. Some of the most common triggers are chronic stress, obesity, food allergies or sensitivities, medications, drying environmental conditions, infections, over-consumption of alcohol, and smoking.

The National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF) states that there are five different types of psoriasis, ranging from common to rare: plaque (most common type), guttate, inverse, pustular, and erythrodermic (rare and most severe; can become life-threatening). Each type presents with a different appearance and usually shows up in specific areas of the head and body, but flare-ups can occur anywhere.

There are further risks to having psoriasis, and among them is the possibility of developing psoriatic arthritis, a debilitating condition marked by inflammation, pain, and progressive joint damage. The NPF estimates that approximately 30 percent of people with psoriasis will be diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis. If left untreated, psoriatic arthritis can cause permanent joint damage; in addition, more than 30 percent of patients with psoriatic arthritis developed hearing loss, and more than 26 percent had inner ear damage.

Other possible serious health conditions that could arise from having psoriasis include cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, Crohn’s disease, kidney disease, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, osteoporosis, depression, diabetes and more. The NPF states that there is a “significant association between psoriatic disease and metabolic syndrome”, which includes several health issues like heart disease, high blood pressure and abdominal obesity; approximately 40 percent of psoriasis patients develop metabolic syndrome.

Dermatologists typically treat psoriasis with topical creams and moisturizers in an effort to minimize discomfort and lessen the appearance of flare-ups; they may also use phototherapy or prescribe immune-suppressing medications. However, these creams and medications merely suppress the symptoms to some degree—and many have dangerous side effects that can lead to new serious health issues.

While conventional medicine looks to suppress the immune system, functional medicine works to strengthen it. Specialists like dermatologists, endocrinologists and others focus only on the affected organ system of their specialty rather than the whole person; therefore, if the root of the condition stems from a different part of the body or another undetected disorder, it will remain overlooked and the problem continues…and usually worsens.

As with any autoimmune disease, there is an underlying cause that goes far deeper than the skin reactions you see on the surface. And the only way to truly manage any autoimmune disease, including psoriasis, so that you don’t have to endure the constant cyclical flare-ups is to find out why your immune system has become confused enough to attack healthy tissue. Standard blood, urine, and other tests don’t dig deep enough to unearth the real problem, but your functional medicine doctor will conduct extremely comprehensive tests to reach the “why” of your psoriasis.

The answer to reversing or preventing your psoriasis—or any health issue—from progressing further lies in finding both the root cause and your specific triggers. Everyone’s triggers are different, and there can be a combination of culprits including food sensitivities or allergies, stress, environmental toxins, nutritional deficiencies, undiscovered infections, genetic factors, leaky gut and others. Through a correct diagnosis of the true cause of your psoriasis, proper lifestyle changes will help to heal the source—which not only helps your skin, but can also prevent other health issues from developing.

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.

Vitamin D Deficiencies in Seniors

You may already know that vitamin D deficiencies have become increasingly common in recent years, especially since more people of all ages are spending larger amounts of time indoors. But what you may not know is that seniors have an increased risk of vitamin D deficiency, not only because they may not be as inclined toward outdoor activities, but also because their bodies can’t synthesize vitamin D from sunlight as efficiently as people under the age of 50. This deficiency has become so prevalent, The International Society for Clinical Densitometry has called it “the silent epidemic of the elderly”.

There are a number of signs of vitamin D deficiency that shouldn’t be ignored, including:

  • muscle weakness
  • mobility problems
  • fatigue
  • chronic gut issues such as IBS
  • moodiness
  • weight gain
  • weakened immune system

A study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism states that at least 70 percent of seniors aged 65 to 88 have at least one physical limitation due to a vitamin D deficiency and are likely to experience further functional decline.

Unfortunately, too many people push off symptoms like this to “normal aging” and just accept the symptoms rather than bringing them to their doctor’s attention. However, not all doctors will check vitamin D levels unless requested and instead may automatically prescribe an unnecessary medication for the symptom. This, of course, will either help only for a short period or won’t help at all, and new health issues may arise from the medications.

Vitamin D is a necessary catalyst for serotonin production, the “feel good” brain hormone that affects our moods. A serotonin-deficient person could experience depression, mania and become prone to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), all of which are typically treated with dangerous psychiatric medications. Low vitamin D levels can also weaken the immune system and create an overall hormonal imbalance resulting in low brain serotonin and high gut serotonin production.

Proper vitamin D levels offer these protections as well as others:

  • maintain bone density
  • lower risk of heart disease, some cancers and diabetes
  • mobility maintenance
  • strengthened immunity
  • fall and fracture prevention
  • maintain independent lifestyle
  • lessen risk of Parkinson’s disease

Besides natural sunlight, certain foods contain higher levels of vitamin D; these include fatty fish (choose fish that are lower in mercury such as salmon, sardines, anchovies and trout, among others), egg yolks, almond milk fortified with vitamin D, cheese and beef liver.

It’s important at any age to know your vitamin D level, and it’s just as important to know how much vitamin D supplementation you should take, if any. Each person’s levels are different, depending on the foods they eat, their time spent outdoors, and more; too much of anything can be just as bad as not enough. Only through comprehensive individualized testing can the proper levels of vitamin D be reached and maintained for optimal health.

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

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

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

Is Heartburn and GERD Medication Really Safe?

At some point, most people experience the uncomfortable feeling of heartburn. While heartburn is typically associated with a burning feeling in the chest and/or throat, there are other symptoms that can be experienced as well, including difficulty swallowing, chest and/or back pain, chronic hoarseness or cough, sore throat or the feeling of food getting caught in the throat.

Heartburn is caused by stomach acid that is released into the esophagus when the LES (lower esophageal sphincter) muscular valve malfunctions and allows stomach acid to flow back into the esophagus, causing irritation and that all-too-common burning feeling. This discomfort can last from a few minutes to hours and can interfere with sleep, focus and activities, so to get immediate relief, most people automatically reach for an over-the-counter (OTC) heartburn medication.

There are a number of things that can trigger heartburn, and it can be different for everyone. Individual triggers can include overeating, food with high acid content, smoking, caffeine, onions, alcohol, food allergies and other things. Unfortunately, heartburn has become so commonplace that most people don’t realize it’s a symptom and not a normal part of life.

Because OTC relief can easily be found through seemingly harmless antacids like Tums, Alka-Seltzer and Mylanta as well as formerly prescription-only PPIs (proton pump inhibitors) like Nexium, Prevacid, Zantac and Prilosec, they’re thought of as safe “go-to” ways of preventing or relieving heartburn. This couldn’t be further from the truth – heartburn medication, including non-prescription types, come with their own set of health risks, especially for chronic users. Known health risks include:

  • acute kidney injury (AKI)
  • chronic kidney disease (CKD)
  • vitamin B12 or magnesium deficiency
  • higher risk of certain bacterial infections, bone fractures, osteoporosis, pneumonia, dementia, heart problems
  • reduction in calcium absorption

Approximately 20 million Americans take PPIs for mild to moderate heartburn, but PPIs weren’t originally intended for that. Instead, PPIs were created to treat more serious physician-diagnosed ailments like esophageal damage caused by severe acid reflux, bleeding ulcers and a few other extreme issues. It’s estimated that over 90 percent of patients prescribed PPIs do not have health issues requiring their use. However, long-term users of PPIs need to be weaned off them; stopping use suddenly can cause serious withdrawal symptoms such as severe stomach pain and hyperacidity.

Occasional heartburn is one thing, but persistent heartburn, called GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), can lead to esophageal cancer and may be a symptom of an underlying health issue like an H. pylori imbalance or too little stomach acid. Doctors typically prescribe PPIs to patients with GERD in an attempt to lessen the symptoms, thereby temporarily restoring their quality of life and possibly reducing the risk of esophageal cancer. However, this is only treating the symptom; it’s far more important to diagnose and heal the underlying cause of GERD. If an insufficient amount of stomach acid is being produced, patients are prone to even more serious conditions such as food poisoning, infections of the digestive system and nutritional deficiencies.

Rather than taking medications to alleviate heartburn, a better strategy is to prevent heartburn through dietary changes, adding or increasing probiotics or adding certain supplements to improve digestion. By restoring gut health and eliminating your personal triggers, you can end heartburn safely and naturally while improving your immune system, microbiome and overall health.

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

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

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