Mon, 30 January 2017
Lab testing is foundational to functional medicine, and for good reason. It can show you what is causing your symptoms, if you are headed toward a disease (even if you don’t have symptoms), track the progress of your protocol, and motivate you to stick with your protocol.
Lab testing includes many different tests. Some examples of testing used in functional medicine include:
Food sensitivity testing. If a you eat food regularly causes inflammation, this contributes to chronic health disorders.
Gut testing. Gut problems contribute to chronic health issues. Tests can screen for leaky gut, gut function, parasites, bacterial overgrowth, and autoimmune reactions.
Blood chemistry panel. This is an excellent starting point in functional medicine testing and includes the use of functional medicine ranges (versus lab ranges). Blood testing screens for some diseases and can catch a trend toward a disease while there’s still time to reverse it.
Chemical and metal sensitivity testing. As with foods, an immune reaction to metals and/or chemicals can trigger chronic inflammatory health disorders.
Adrenal testing. Adrenal testing reveals the relationship between your health and stress handling. The most important test is the second one because it shows if your protocol is working. If not, you need to dig deeper.
Hormone testing. Hormone imbalances profoundly affect health. Testing screens for excesses, deficiencies, feedback loops, and how well you metabolize hormones.
DNA genetic testing. Genetic testing delivers insight into disease risk and genetic metabolic variations that affect health. An example is the MTHFR variance.
These are just a few examples of the types of testing used in functional medicine. What type of testing you need depends on your symptoms and health history.
Why lab testing is important in functional medicine
Functional medicine is based on peer-reviewed science and finds the root cause of your symptoms. There are a variety of factors that can lead to depression, fatigue, chronic pain, poor function, and other chronic health disorders.
Functional lab testing shows a trend toward disease
In conventional medicine, doctors use labs to screen for disease. Once a condition has become a disease, such as diabetes or autoimmune disease, the damage is significant.
Functional medicine uses lab testing to catch a health trend that is on the way to disease but that can still be slowed, halted, or reversed. For instance, lab markers that show elevated blood sugar, inflammation, and poor liver function allow you to easily reverse the march towards diabetes.
Another example is autoimmunity. A significant amount of tissue must be destroyed before conventional medicine can diagnose autoimmune disease. However, by testing for antibodies against tissue, the autoimmune progression can be slowed or stopped in its early stages.
Functional lab testing tracks progress
Although the first test is important for identifying health problems, subsequent testing is also crucial to let you know whether your protocol is working. If there is no improvement, it means you have not hit on the right protocol or discovered all the underlying causes.
Lab testing improves compliance and social support
Seeing the results of a lab test makes it easier to stick with a protocol. It also can encourage a disbelieving spouse, family member, or friend to support you. Many people think gluten sensitivity is just a fad, or that your symptoms aren’t real and you simply complain too much. Your lab results validate your symptoms and can help others be more supportive.
Ask my office about functional lab testing to help you get to the bottom of your chronic health condition, 704-895-2240
Category:Blog -- posted at: 3:00am EDT
Fri, 27 January 2017
Parkinson’s and parkinsonism — symptoms that mimic Parkinson’s — stem from the same areas of the brain. These disorders both cause tremors, stiffness, slowness of movement, however they have different causes and may be helped with different nutritional therapies.
Parkinson’s versus parkinsonism
It’s helpful to know the difference between the two. Parkinson’s is a disease that slowly destroys brain cells (for some people it happens quickly) in an area of the brain that produces the brain chemical dopamine. Symptoms worsen over the years and include resting tremors, stiffness, slowness, not blinking enough, loss of smell, digestive problems, depression, and dementia.
Parkinsonism belongs to a class of disorders called “hypokinetic disorders,” which means diminished muscle function. Symptoms are slow or stiff movements.
Parkinson’s is due to degeneration of the brain’s dopamine area; parkinsonism is caused primarily by abnormal clumping of proteins called alpha-synuclein.
This clumping interferes with communication within the brain and also degenerates tissue.
Nutritional support for Parkinson’s
Because Parkinson’s disease degenerates the area of the brain that produces dopamine, nutritionally (and pharmaceutically) supporting dopamine can significantly help Parkinson’s patients.
Dopamine is an important brain chemical that helps regulate not only feelings of reward and pleasure, but also mood, movements, learning, and motivation.
Nutritional compounds that support dopamine include L-dopa, pyridoxal-5-phoshate, DL-phenylalanine, beta-phenylalanine, and acetyl-tyrosine.
Nutritional support for parkinsonism
Parkinsonism also involves dopamine, but nutritional support should focus more on preventing or slowing the clumping of alpha-synuclein. In fact, research shows dopamine medications may worsen parkinsonism.
The key is to support the energy factories inside each brain cell, called mitochondria, and to support cell function.
Nutritional support for Parkinson’s and parkinsonism
These strategies have been shown in studies to help nutritionally support both Parkinson’s and parkinsonism:
Support healthy gut bacteria and function. Research shows an unhealthy balance of gut bacteria and gut inflammation can cause aggregation of alpha-synuclein, thus increasing the risk of Parkinson’s and parkinsonism.
Consider a ketogenic diet or intermittent fasting. Both these diets have been shown to slow down protein aggregation and promote healthy function of brain cells.
Take flavonoids to protect brain cell mitochondria. Flavonoids are anti-inflammatory plant compounds that have been shown to protect the brain. Turmeric and resveratrol are examples of powerful flavonoids.
Take nutrients to protect mitochondria. Nutritional compounds that have been shown to protect the mitochrondria include CoQ10, carnitine, riboflavin, niacin, alpha-lipoic acid, and magnesium.
Make sure you consume enough essential fatty acids. Essential fatty acids are anti-inflammatory and protective of brain health. Consume enough in the right ratio.
Support methylation. Methylation is a molecular process necessary for healthy brain function and helping prevent brain inflammation and degeneration. Nutritional compounds that support methylation include methyl B12, L-methylfolate (5-MTHF), trimethylglycine, choline, riboflavin, and pyridoxine.
Exercise! Increasing your heart rate through regular aerobic activity has been shown to help manage the progression and symptoms of Parkinson’s and parkinsonism. It’s best to get your heart rate up to higher levels for at least a few minutes every time you exercise.
What not to take. Acetycholine is a brain chemical and a supplement that can be great for the brain but it opposes dopamine. Therefore, in many cases it is recommended not to take acetylcholine supplements or precursors when you have parkinsonism or Parkinson’s disease.
This is a broad and simple overview of some nutritional strategies that can help you manage Parkinson’s or parkinsonism in addition to medical and functional neurological care. Ask my office for more advice, 704-577-9676.
Category:Blog -- posted at: 11:36am EDT
Wed, 18 January 2017
The lack of control when a dizzy spell, or vertigo, hits you is frightening. The world spins and rocks, the ground feels like it’s giving way, your ears ring, and nausea may grip your gut.
Vertigo feels terribly wrong and frightening and understandably has people wondering, “Why do I get dizzy?”
Several things can cause vertigo and it’s important to understand the underlying cause of your dizzy spells to improve your success in addressing them.
Types of dizziness, or vertigo
Before looking for underlying causes, first figure out what type of vertigo you have.
Peripheral vertigo and dizzy spells
This is the most common cause of dizziness and is usually caused by an inner ear, or vestibular, problem, which plays an important role in balance. Peripheral means on the outside, indicating this is not a brain-based vertigo.
Common causes of inner ear problems include:
BPPV (benign paroxysmal positional vertigo): A small crystal is floating loose in the inner ear, causing dizziness. This can be treated with the Epley maneuver.
Vestibular neuronitis and labryinthitis: Nerves in the inner ear associated with balance become inflamed, usually due to infection. Using functional medicine and functional neurology approaches to address the infection and inflammation often help.
Meniere’s disease: A chronic inner ear disorder that also causes hearing loss and tinnitus and tends to progressively worsen. Functional medicine autoimmune protocols have been known to help; conventional approaches include medications and surgery in severe cases.
In addition to dizziness, other common symptoms of peripheral vertigo include nausea, vomiting, sweating, pain or fullness in the ear, hearing loss, or tinnitus (ringing in the ear). The vertigo comes and goes and fixing your eyes on a point can help stop the spinning.
Central vertigo and dizzy spells
Central vertigo refers to dizziness caused by brain issues. These causes can be more serious and difficult to treat than most cases of peripheral vertigo.
One distinguishing factor of central vertigo is that fixing your eyes on one spot does not help relieve dizziness. Also, central vertigo episodes are more intense and last for longer periods of time. Although hearing is not as affected as it is in peripheral vertigo, people often experience headaches, trouble swallowing, and weakness.
Factors known to cause central vertigo include head injury, illness, infection, multiple sclerosis, migraines, brain tumors, stroke, transient ischemic attacks (mini strokes), and neurological autoimmunity.
How functional medicine and functional neurology can help address dizziness and vertigo
The first step is to identify what type of vertigo you have and what is causing it. This may involve lab testing to identify chronic inflammation, a blood sugar imbalance, an autoimmune reaction, or other health disorders.
For instance, multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease in which the immune system destroys the lining of nerves, can cause vertigo. An autoimmune protocol and functional neurology rehabilitation exercises can help.
Another example is when a head injury causes vertigo—a nutritional and dietary protocol to support brain healing along with functional neurology may help profoundly.
Vertigo is the symptom, not the disease
Your dizzy spells are a symptom of something else. Through functional lab testing, examination, and clinical history, we can help you address your problems with vertigo.
Category:Blog -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT
Tue, 17 January 2017
The placebo effect is a target of ridicule but studies show it has become increasingly effective in recent years, particularly in the United States, where drugs for pain, depression, anxiety sometimes barely outmatch placebos.
Fortunately, researchers have decided to study how and why the placebo effect works.
By embracing the mystery of the placebo effect, you can harness its powers and to enhance your health protocol or better cope with your ailment.
What is the placebo effect?
Researchers give one group of subjects a new drug or procedure and a different group a sham, then compare the results. Neither group knows which treatment they received. In some studies, the placebo treatment works as well or even better than the real treatment.
1: Use belief to enhance placebo effect
A person’s beliefs and expectations play a profound role in how their body will respond to something. When subjects are told their pain will drop before receiving a placebo, it does. Likewise, when they are told they will experience more pain, they do, even though pain delivery was not increased.
Scans during these experiments show brain activity corresponds with the expected outcome, even though neither pain relief nor increased pain was delivered.
Scientists have also learned that positive expectations release endorphins and dopamine, the “reward” brain chemical. Endorphins dampen inflammation and both endorphins and dopamine help relieve pain.
Spend some time every day reaffirming why you’re on your health journey and what you expect to gain from it. Visualize feeling and functioning better.
2: Receive care and attention to enhance placebo
Increased attention, concern, and care are also believed to be why the placebo effect has become much stronger in recent years. When people take part in these studies, they receive an increased level of interaction and care that positively impacts their health.
Seek out supportive care and nurturing during your health journey. This can be from a practitioner you work with, through body work appointments, or in the company of a support group or class. Make sure these are in person and not just online.
3: Develop a positivity and gratitude practice
Negativity is stressful and inflammatory. Doctors report that patients who are angry, don’t believe their treatment will work, or who are not supported by their friends and family in their healing journey may not experience optimal results.
However, the person who expects the best from their protocol, learns about their new diet and supplements, and enjoys working with their practitioner enjoys less stress and inflammation and better results.
Give some time each day to think positive thoughts about your health journey and what it involves. Keep a daily or weekly gratitude journal and make sure to note your progress. These tips really do help your health!
Remember, it’s the placebo effect and not superstition
Although we’ve all heard miracle healing stories, it’s best not to pin your hopes on one. The placebo effect alone is estimated to work between 18 to 80 percent of the time, which is a wide spread to bank on.
Functional medicine is about creating new lifelong habits as much as it is about restoring function. By injecting the best the placebo effect has to offer into your daily diet and protocol, you are laying the groundwork for a lifetime of more positive outcomes.
Category:Blog -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT
Thu, 12 January 2017
While phone apps and online programs that exercise the brain are popular to improve memory and prevent dementia, most people overlook a key component to lasting brain function: your balance.
Your brain requires good balance to stay sharp and lower the risk of dementia. In addition to doing brain exercises, make sure you regularly challenge and improve your balance.
How good balance improves brain function
What does good balance have to do with preserving memory and brain function?
The cerebellum, the area at the base of the brain, governs balance, as well as precision, coordination, and timing.
It makes sure you can walk upright, put a spoon to your mouth, or hit a tennis ball. The movements of daily life keep the cerebellum in a constant state of activity.
It’s this constant activity that keeps the rest of the brain on its toes. A healthy cerebellum feeds the brain a steady stream of information to keep it actively firing and healthy. (This is also one reason regular physical activity is so vital to brain health and function.)
Bad balance leads to bad brain function
This explains why symptoms of cerebellum degeneration, such as bad balance, often tie into loss of memory, cognition, and brain endurance. The brain isn’t getting enough juice from the cerebellum to keep it charged and running well.
Brain overwhelm from bad balance
If a different area of cerebellum degenerates, this can overwhelm the brain with information.
The outer area of the cerebellum serves as a gatekeeper, regulating information that travels from the body to the brain. When this area of the cerebellum degenerates, the gates are left unguarded, and too much sensory input floods the brain.
Symptoms may include restless leg syndrome, tinnitus, hypersensitivity to stress, depression, fatigue, anxiety, and others that you wouldn’t think could be related to balance.
Can you pass this balance test?
How to improve your balance and hence brain health
Since we know regular exercise is a must to preserve brain function, look for forms that emphasize balance. Ideas include specific balance exercises, yoga, tai chi, stand-up paddle boarding, dancing, and the use of a wobble board or Bosu ball. Just be safe and work within your limits!
Good balance is only part of a bigger brain puzzle
Good cerebellum health is important, but it’s not the end all. The inner ear, or vestibular system, also plays a vital role in balance and may need attention if your balance is off.
Also, screening for gluten sensitivity is important, as a gluten intolerance degenerates the cerebellum in many people.
Follow an anti-inflammatory diet and reduce stressors. The brain and cerebellum are very sensitive to inflammation from junk foods, sleep deprivation, chronic stress, and more.
And make sure you keep your blood sugar stable — blood sugar that is constantly too low or too high (or both) rapidly ages the brain and contributes to poor balance.
Category:Blog -- posted at: 8:00am EDT
Mon, 9 January 2017
Millions of people drink diet soda in the belief they’re preventing weight gain, and the soda industry invests millions of dollars to perpetuate this belief. Research, however, paints a different picture — diet sodas are dangerous and can make you fat.
Artificial, low-calorie sweeteners used in diet sodas confuse the body and derange its ability to metabolize sugar and carbohydrates. This “confusion” increases hunger and sugar cravings.
Also, artificial sweeteners create imbalances in gut bacteria, boosting the bacteria that turn calories into body fat, which can lead to obesity, diabetes, and inflammation.
Diet sodas bring bigger risks than obesity
The health risks associated with diet soda are far more serious than weight gain.
The primary sweetener used in diet sodas, aspartame (which goes by the benign-sounding names Equal and NutraSweet), has been linked to numerous cardiovascular conditions, including stroke, heart failure, and heart attack.
In fact, a nine-year study of 60,000 women showed women who drank two or more cans of diet soda a day were 50 percent more likely to die of heart disease.
The other FDA-approved artificial sweeteners — saccharin, neotame, sucralose, and acesulfame potassium — have also been linked to increased risk for heart disease and other health conditions.
Aspartame is a controversial topic. It has been linked to myriad health conditions, some as serious as brain tumors, birth defects, cancer, and memory loss, and is behind numerous complaints to the FDA. However, industry science holds fast to its safety.
Fruit juice is not a healthy substitute
Unfortunately, fruit juice is not a healthy substitute for soda. Fructose is every bit as fattening and inflammatory as sugar or chemical sweeteners. Excessive consumption of fruit juice also puts you at risk of heart disease and diabetes.
In contrast, eating whole fruit also has you consuming fiber, enzymes, minerals and other healthful compounds stripped away by juicing. Also, chewing tells your brain that you’ve eaten, which reduces your appetite.
If you are addicted to diet sodas (as many people are), you may have to wean yourself gradually. Begin by substituting sparkling water with lemon or lime juice, or even just plain water, for some of your sweet drinks. Often when you think you want something sweet, you’re really just thirsty, and plain filtered water will do you fine.
With patience, you can develop an automatic preference for whole, healthy, unsweetened foods and drinks, largely because they make you feel better. After a while, the foods you crave most can actually be those that are best for your body.
Ask my office about transitioning to a whole foods diet so you can feel and function your best.
Category:Blog -- posted at: 11:01am EDT
Tue, 3 January 2017
Medical advice following a concussion is straightforward: Get plenty of rest, avoid stimulating the brain, and don’t return to regular activities until your brain can handle it.
But a concussion is a much bigger deal than people realize, and there is plenty more you can do to improve brain recovery after a concussion.
Lower inflammation after a concussion
Your diet following a concussion is more important than ever before. You want to focus your efforts on reducing inflammation in the brain.
The immune system in the brain is different than the body’s. The body’s immune system has mechanisms to shut off an immune attack when it’s no longer needed.
The brain’s immune system, however, has no off switch. A concussion can result in unchecked inflammation that slows recovery and continues to destroy healthy brain cells long after the concussion.
This is why concussions can increase the risk of gut problems, depression, suicide, brain issues, and other health disorders.
A healthy post-concussion eating plan
Studies have firmly established the link between diet, gut health, and brain health. What you eat after a concussion matters greatly. Here is an overview of brain healing strategies:
Stabilize blood sugar. Blood sugar that is too low or too high inflames the brain. Cut out sugars and starchy carbs and eat frequently enough to keep energy stable (but don’t overeat).
Remove inflammatory foods. Gluten and dairy are inflammatory to the brain in many people. Undiagnosed food intolerances, such as to corn, eggs, soy, or other foods can inflame the brain. MSG and artificial sweeteners are toxic to the brain and should be avoided, too.
Improve gut bacteria diversity. A slew of studies recently established a link between brain health and the bacteria in your gut. Now is the time to build a healthy gut microbiome.
Eat good fats. The brain is made primarily of fat, so it’s important to eat healthy fats such as olive oil, avocado, cold water fish, and nuts and seeds.
Follow an anti-inflammatory autoimmune diet. It’s best to follow the autoimmune diet as it focuses on lowering inflammation and healing the gut, two things that will help heal the brain. Just make sure you eat enough to sustain energy and blood sugar.
This is a general overview of post-concussion nutrition. For more detailed advice, contact my office.
A healthy post-concussion protocol
Fortunately, certain herbal compounds are effective in reducing brain inflammation. They include apigenin, luteolin, baicalein, resveratrol, rutin, catechin, and curcumin.
Nutrients that improve oxygen flow to the brain also aid recovery. They include feverfew, butcher’s broom, ginkgo biloba, huperzine, and vinpocetine.
Additionally, supporting the omega-3 fatty acid DHA and the body’s master oxidant, glutathione, is helpful.
Lifestyle factors that can aid brain recovery include identifying and addressing autoimmune diseases and chronic infections, and stabilizing hormones (especially in perimenopausal or postmenopausal women).
These are some foundations that can make the difference between a downward spiral after a concussion or the beginning to a more brain-healthy way of living.
If your life hasn’t been the same since your concussion, ask my office how we can help.
Category:Blog -- posted at: 7:30am EDT
Sun, 1 January 2017
If you’re like most people, you over indulged during the holidays and now you’d like to reboot your health with a detox diet. The autoimmune diet calms inflammation, stimulates repair and recovery, and boosts energy while preventing hunger. It also helps tame autoimmunity and repair leaky gut.
Remove foods that cause inflammation
Many foods people eat daily can be inflammatory, causing fatigue, rashes, joint pain, digestive issues, headaches, anxiety, depression, autoimmune flare ups, and more.
The foods most people react to are gluten, dairy, various grains, eggs, nuts, and nightshades. Sugar, sweeteners, and sweet fruits also cause inflammation.
The autoimmune detox diet calms inflammation
People new to this diet often wonder if there is anything left to eat. There is plenty to eat on the autoimmune diet! In fact, the autoimmune diet more closely resembles what people have eaten for most of human history.
The diet is based on grass-fed and organic meats, wild fish, healthy fats, fermented foods, and lots of veggies. Eating plenty of vegetables will help build good gut bacteria, detoxify the liver, and boost immune health and tolerance of more foods.
Healthy fats include coconut oil, avocado oil, olive oil, and ghee (if tolerated). Avoid processed vegetable oils and strictly avoid hydrogenated oils, or trans fats.
The rewards of feeling better outweigh the downsides
The autoimmune detox diet is certainly more work than eating fast food or microwave meals. But the rewards in how much better it will make you feel are worth the effort.
This diet requires planning and preparation. You may experience cravings, low energy, and some detox symptoms for a few days in the beginning. Online support groups can be very reassuring and helpful.
However, it doesn’t take long before most people feel an increase in energy and well being and actually come to enjoy the diet. Many also lose unwanted fat.
After following the diet for 30 to 90 days, you may wish to add in some of the eliminated foods — one at a time every 72 hours — to see whether you react to any of them. This will help you customize a lifelong diet that is healthy but satisfying. Many find going off at least gluten and dairy bring substantial health benefits.
Supplements to enhance detoxification and gut repair
Certain nutritional compounds can aid in your health reboot. Some are great at supporting liver detoxification, gut repair, blood sugar balance, and stress handling, all of which can aid you in your new diet. Just call my office for advice, 704-895-2240.
Foods to avoid on the autoimmune detox diet
Foods to eat
Category:Podcast -- posted at: 12:30am EDT
Sat, 31 December 2016
What is the difference between food allergy and food sensitivity? Are food sensitivities real? Or are they just a fad?
Today's episode will answer these questions and more.
Direct download: Food_Allergy_vs_Food_Sensitivity_-_Understanding_Semantics.mp3
Category:Podcast -- posted at: 11:10am EDT
Sat, 24 December 2016
If you have chronic gut problems, you could have a brain problem. This is especially true if you’ve had a head injury or if you also suffer from worsening memory, brain fog, cognitive decline, or other symptoms of poor brain function.
Chronic digestive complaints — indigestion, acid reflux, constipation, burping, gas, bloating, diarrhea, pain, or irritable bowel disorders — are common complaints of a brain that is not functioning well.
The brain gives orders to the gut through the vagus nerve, which then tells the gut to digest food, repair and regenerate the gut lining, push food through the intestines (motility), and many other functions.
When brain function declines, the brain doesn’t give the vagus nerve enough input. As a result, constipation, leaky gut, food sensitivities, irritable bowel disorders, and other problems can arise.
This is one reason why people with a head injury or dementia have chronic gut complaints.
Exercise the vagus nerve to address gut problems
In functional neurology, we conduct a neurological exam to evaluate areas of the brain that are not functioning well. We then provide activities to activate or dampen different areas of the brain, depending on your needs, to improve function. This in turn can improve communication between the vagus nerve and the gut.
However, sometimes you can activate the vagus nerve yourself at home with some very simple daily activities.
Vagus nerve exercises
A few simple tests can tell you if your vagus nerve may not be sufficiently active:
Here are some simple exercises to activate the vagus nerve:
Gargle vigorously several times a day. Gargling contracts the back of the throat, which activates the vagus nerve. Gargle each drink of a glass of water several times a day. Gargle vigorously and for a good length of time, ideally until your eyes tear (it may take a while to build up to that.)
Sing loudly. If you are alone at home or in the car, spend some time singing as loudly as you can. This also activates the back of the throat and hence the vagus.
Gag. Using a tongue depressor, which you can buy from Amazon, gently press on the back of your tongue to make yourself gag. Please do not poke the back of your throat. Do this several times a day, again, ideally until your eyes tear. Gargling and singing are like sprints for the vagus nerve, whereas gagging is strength training.
Coffee enemas. Please Google instructions for doing a coffee enema (or email me for a How-To guide). Hold the enema solution as long as you can. That, together with compounds in coffee that stimulate nerve receptors, will help activate the vagus nerve.
This is a simple overview of how to improve gut function by activating the brain. For more customized advice, please contact my office, 704-895-2240
Category:Blog -- posted at: 6:00am EDT