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When Joint Pain isn’t Simply Arthritis

Recently a patient of mine came in complaining of joint pain. This wasn’t something she’d experienced previously—she said it came on suddenly and had worsened over several days’ time. While she felt it in her hands the most, she also had pain in her ankle, knee, and left jaw joint. Other joints would hurt one day and not the next. She assumed her Lyme Disease had returned, but we needed to do some testing to confirm the true cause.

Tests for Lyme, rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and osteoarthritis all proved negative. But she did test positive for joint inflammation and heavy metals. When I asked her if she’d had any dental work done lately, she said an old silver filling had started disintegrating, and her dentist had fixed it a few days later by removing the remainder of the filling and putting in new amalgam.

Chances were high that she had swallowed some of the old silver filling when it broke down, as well as while she waited for her dental appointment and when the dentist cleaned out the rest of the filling; it was only about a week after the filling had broken that she started experiencing pain. It was interesting to note that her jaw pain was only on the side where the filling had come out and the new amalgam had been put in.

Typical dental amalgams are made from about 50 percent elemental mercury, which is classified as a toxic heavy metal. As if that’s not dangerous enough, they also contain an alloy that consists of tin and two other toxic heavy metals: copper and silver. When these enter the body, they can cause a variety of reactions, including joint pain that mimics arthritis.

The medical community connects most chronic joint pain to either osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, though there can be a number of other causes. An estimated 52.5 million American adults have been diagnosed with some form of arthritis, and that number is projected to rise to about 78.4 million by 2040. In addition, the most current research by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) shows that approximately 14.6 million Americans are living with severe joint pain.

Over 2 million Americans have been diagnosed with RA—which is an autoimmune disease—but not all are experiencing relief from treatments. When this is the case, there’s a high probability that the underlying cause of joint pain and inflammation is actually heavy metal toxicity rather than RA; this can also be the case when osteoarthritis is misdiagnosed. Unfortunately many doctors do not take this into consideration and don’t test for heavy metals, which is one of the reasons why so many people end up on dangerous, addictive painkillers and OTC pain medications that can damage their gut and other organs.

We are exposed to toxins every day, both environmentally and in some of the foods we eat. When heavy metals build up in our bodies, they can be deposited in joints, leading to inflammation and pain. We can lessen our toxic load by choosing organic foods and going to holistic biological dentists, who use mercury-free composite fillings rather than the standard heavy metal-based silver amalgam fillings.

Among the heavy metals that can put a toxic burden on our bodies are:

  • mercury
  • lead
  • cadmium
  • arsenic (found in most rice and rice products)
  • aluminum
  • antimony

Small amounts of heavy metals may not cause any reaction, and we’re continually assured that various food and beverage products, mercury-based vaccines, amalgams, pollution levels, etc. are within “acceptable” limits. However, toxins from all these sources build up in the body, and the resulting accumulations can affect us biologically and/or neurologically. Biotoxicity can manifest in a range of ways, from arthritis-like symptoms to digestive problems; neurotoxicity includes things like sleep problems, headaches, cognitive difficulties and even depression.

Over time heavy metals in the body can actually lead to development of arthritis as well as other health issues like endocrine system disruption (hormonal imbalances, adrenal exhaustion, and food allergies/sensitivities), liver stress, lymphatic system overload, and more.

Some elements classified as heavy metals like copper, selenium and zinc are necessary to our health in small amounts, but when they’re out of balance, they, too, can lead to systemic toxicity.

You functional medicine doctor can perform comprehensive heavy metal testing to discover whether your joint pain and inflammation are due to heavy metal toxicity. He can then determine the best method to eliminate the metals and prevent further joint damage or other health issues from progressing.

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.

Salt vs. Sodium: Is Either One Healthy?

The words “salt” and “sodium” have practically become synonymous, but they’re not really the same thing. When most people refer to salt, they’re talking about table salt, which contains 40 percent sodium and 60 percent chloride (a mineral). Both sodium and chloride are necessary to good health, but what’s not healthy is the excessive amounts of sodium—not always salt itself—contained in processed foods. Ingredients like monosodium glutamate (MSG), the preservative sodium nitrate, sodium phosphate, and many more all add hefty doses of unhealthy sodium to packaged foods.

The human body needs a certain amount of healthy sodium in order to function properly; the scales shouldn’t be tipped too far in either direction. Whereas the right amount of sodium intake helps to regulate blood pressure, promote sleep, and helps with brain, muscle and nerve functions (among other things), too much sodium can result in such health issues as high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.

There’s been a war raging against salt for years. It started as early as the turn of the 20th century but hit fever pitch in the 1970s. Salt as a whole has been demonized to the point that some people turned to low-sodium diets that actually harmed their health. Being sodium-deficient has been shown in some studies to cause increased insulin resistance, greater risk of death for those with diabetes or heart failure, an increase in triglycerides and LDL cholesterol, and hyponatremia (particularly for athletes and those on medications or with certain medical conditions).

Choosing the right type of salt for good health is just as important as getting the right amount of sodium. Table salt comes from underground mines and undergoes heavy processing, during which it’s superheated, eliminating beneficial minerals and altering its chemical structure. Anti-clumping aluminum compound agents are then added to keep it free-flowing, and the salt is also bleached; in some other countries, fluoride is also added to table salt. Although iodine is added, which is necessary to maintain a healthy thyroid, that isn’t a reason to use table salt, since you can use a high-quality iodine supplement according to your functional medicine doctor’s recommendations.

Sea salt has been touted as being healthier than table salt, and largely speaking, it is. Rather than being superheated, the water from which it is extracted is evaporated, so the salt retains its high mineral content. But not all sea salt is equally healthy; there are a couple of things to take into consideration before you buy:

  • Read the label to find out where the salt you’re buying has come from—some sources have pollution issues and salt from these waters should be avoided.
  • Look for unrefined sea salt; Celtic (gray) and Himalayan sea salts are among the best, but check to see if the label lists any additives. Free-flowing, pure white sea salt may have been bleached and contain anti-clumping additives. If sources and/or ingredients aren’t on the label, see if you can find the source and ingredient information online. Typically, companies selling pure sea salt from clean waters are open with this information.

Unrefined sea salt can be found in a variety of colors and is coarse; it may also contain some of its naturally occurring moisture. The coloring, ranging from black to pink to gray, comes from the different types of natural minerals  contained in the salt. Among the many benefits of unrefined sea salt are:

  • Great source of electrolytes, which are important for muscle function and the cardiovascular system.
  • Helps your body produce HCL (hydrochloric acid), essential to digestive health, and allows your body to absorb necessary minerals, vitamins and other nutrients from food.
  • Balances fluids and helps you avoid dehydration—it’s only if you overdo your salt intake that your body will start to retain water.

Don’t be deterred by the courseness of unrefined sea salt—there are easy ways to prepare it for daily use. One simple way to turn coarse salt into a much finer texture is to grind it in an electric coffee grinder so you can quickly make it as fine as you like.

By avoiding the unhealthy salt used in packaged, processed and prepared foods and using unrefined sea salt in moderate amounts, you’ll maintain a healthy sodium balance and enjoy its positive health effects.

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 to Detoxify Your Body Naturally

On a daily basis, our bodies are subjected to toxins from our environment, on and in foods, leaching into us from clothing and into our food from plastics and cookware – the list goes on. The result is that our bodies end up with toxic overload, which can lead to a wide range of health problems including autoimmune disease, heart disease, depression, diabetes, anxiety, and so much more.

The good news is that the human body has a built-in natural detoxification system that filters out toxins through organs like the liver, kidneys, lymphatic system, and skin. Unfortunately, these organs aren’t always able to keep up with today’s high levels of daily toxic bombardment our bodies face, and a resulting buildup of toxins can leave you with muscle pain, sinus problems, fatigue, constipation, skin problems, hormonal disruptions and lots more. Over time, toxic buildup can cause even more serious health issues.

You’ve probably seen plenty of ads for detox drinks, methods, etc., but these can be temporary solutions at best and health risks at worst. Detoxification is not a one-time thing – your body is constantly hit with toxins on a daily basis, so your organs need to function optimally in order to continually eliminate wastes and flush toxins and allergens rather than allowing them to build up. The only effective way to achieve this, relieve suffering permanently, and avoid damaging vital organs is by strengthening your body’s many systems and organs involved in the detoxification process.

Understandably, most people don’t recognize the signs and symptoms they’re experiencing as organ congestion, and unfortunately, neither do many doctors. A patient who visits their dermatologist with a rash or sudden acne flare-up will most likely be treated with a hydrocortisone cream, retinoids or antibiotics. Someone suffering from chronic sinus infections, post-nasal drip or runny nose may receive prescription or OTC antihistamines or decongestants. These treatments only target the symptom, not the root cause, so while the patient may see some improvement in the short term, their symptoms will either return, increase, or show up in different ways.

The only way to determine the underlying cause of a person’s symptoms is through a comprehensive individualized analysis, including medical history, diet and lifestyle, along with in-depth blood tests. Only then can the actual cause of these symptoms be established, the locations of the congestion be pinpointed, and finally the proper method of detoxification can be determined. For example, in an attempt to eliminate harmful waste products, a person’s body filters these toxins out of the bloodstream and into the brain, heart, liver, breast, belly, etc., where they’re stored and build up to dangerous levels unless the body’s natural detoxification process is functioning well enough to eliminate them regularly.

Keeping the body’s systems moving gives them the ability to flush wastes properly. Your skin, for example, is a detoxifying organ whose efficiency is maximized through sweat, exercise, and exposure to fresh air, among other things. When the skin isn’t able to detoxify properly, it becomes congested and unhealthy; as it attempts to purge itself of excessive toxic burden, it gives us signs like liver spots, rosacea, acne, eczema and psoriasis. A root cause for these types of issues can be poor gut and liver health, which can include issues like leaky gut or autoimmune disease. This further illustrates why treating outward symptoms rather than uncovering and correcting root causes is a futile approach.

Although chelation is promoted by some integrative medical doctors, I don’t advise this because an unhealthy person who undergoes this procedure is more susceptible to its negative side effects, which can include a drop in blood pressure, fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, convulsions, seizures and more.

Some easy, everyday ways to help your body detoxify naturally are through regular exercise, deep breathing, sweating, drinking enough water, eating certain herbs, and the like, or ion therapy and other therapies that work at the cellular level. All of these methods promote “flow” and prevent important systems from becoming static. Nutritional support may also be needed to remove congestion from the particular organ (especially the liver) and/or to heal damaged systems like the gut and mucosal barrier systems.

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

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

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

How Pure (or Safe) are Essential Oils?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Toxic Metals and Thyroid Health

The modern world exposes us to chemicals and pollutants that don’t belong in our bodies. These include heavy metals such as mercury, aluminum, lead, and cadmium that embed into fatty organ tissue (e.g. thyroid, liver, adrenals and brain) and persistent organic pollutants (POPs) such as PCBs (a broad class of industrial chemicals) that are known to disrupt the endocrine system. Symptoms of metal toxicity include:

  • headache
  • neurological problems (nerve pain, trembling, visual disturbances, vertigo, neuropathy)
    nausea
  • skin rash (contact dermatitis, irritation, hives)
  • seizures
  • fatigue
  • digestive difficulties
  • suppression of immune system (autoimmunity)
  • difficulty breathing
  • fever and chills
  • muscle aches

To reduce the levels of toxic metals in the tissues, it’s important to take the obvious steps and minimize your everyday exposure to them. For example, with mercury you can try to limit overconsumption of larger, fatty fish, be wary toward certain vaccines (i.e. the flu vaccine), and consider replacing your dental amalgams at an appropriate time. Since cigarettes are a source of heavy metals, if you smoke or live with someone who smokes, then this needs to be addressed. Drinking water is a common source of different heavy metals, which is why you want to avoid drinking tap water, or at the very least get your tap water tested to detect the amount of heavy metals.

But why is mercury considered to be toxic? Mercury has the potential to bind to any molecule that contains sulfur. When mercury does this, it will prevent certain enzymes from doing their job. For example, mercury can actually bind to the cells of the thyroid gland. When this happens it can potentially lead to hypothyroidism by interfering with some of the minerals that are required to produce thyroid hormone. It can also affect the conversion of T4 to T3. And while most cases of hypothyroidism probably aren’t caused by mercury toxicity, this needs to be considered for anyone who is trying to restore their thyroid health naturally. In addition to the thyroid gland, mercury can affect other glands and organs of the body since it travels largely undisturbed throughout the vascular and lymphatic systems.

To truly detoxify the body, toxins have to be moved from storage sites (in fat cells and other tissues of the body) into metabolically active pathways. They travel through the lymph system and blood to the liver, where they are chemically altered to something the body can get rid of, and then moved through the bile into the digestive system, where they are eventually eliminated in the stool. All of that needs to happen rather seamlessly. Some therapies such as colonics, lymphatic massage, and infrared detox (and others) can be useful, but most are used out of context. For example, fat cells are not just a place of stored fuel; fat (safely) stores toxins. When we lose weight and burn off fat, these toxins are released into the blood stream. It has been shown that weight loss can increase the levels of pesticides in the blood and decrease levels of active T3. As such, detoxification should always be a consideration with weight loss programs. This is especially true if there is a history of hypothyroidism symptoms.

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.