Research has confirmed what many people have long known: Gluten sensitivity is a real thing.
A Columbia University Medical Center study found gluten sensitivity is not an imagined condition, as many seem to think these days, and that celiac disease or a wheat allergy are not required to react to gluten.
Although people with gluten sensitivity may not demonstrate classic symptoms or lab markers of celiac disease, gluten nevertheless causes an acute immune response in gluten sensitive people.
Symptoms of gluten sensitivity vary widely and often include fatigue, brain fog, memory problems, mood imbalances, joint pain, skin eruptions, respiratory issues, and worsening of existing health conditions.
In celiac disease, the immune response to gluten happens primarily in the small intestine.
With gluten sensitivity, however, the immune response is systemic, meaning the inflammatory cells travel in the bloodstream throughout the body. This explains why symptoms vary so widely.
Researchers found that six months on a gluten-free diet normalized the immune response and significantly improved patient symptoms.
Studies like this are important to help educate doctors that gluten sensitivity can cause chronic health problems.
Many doctors still believe that only celiac disease is to blame for a reaction to gluten. Because gluten sensitivity is largely dismissed and conventional testing for it is so inadequate, many patients unnecessarily suffer from undiagnosed gluten sensitivity.
What’s worse, gluten is linked to many autoimmune diseases. An autoimmune disease is a condition in which the immune system attacks and destroys tissue in the body. Common autoimmune diseases include Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and type 1 diabetes.
However, the tissue most commonly attacked in response to gluten sensitivity is neurological tissue.
In other words, your undiagnosed gluten sensitivity could be destroying your brain This is why gluten causes brain-based disorders in many people.
Celiac disease was long thought to affect about 1 percent of the population, but newer research shows rates have gone up 700 percent in the last 50 years.
Also, numbers are likely even higher because testing for celiac disease is extremely stringent and outdated. (Diagnostic criteria were developed in Europe, where a celiac diagnosis qualifies one for disability payments.)
Estimates for the rate of gluten sensitivity range from 6 percent of the population to considerably higher—a randomized population sample of 500 people conducted by immunologist Aristo Vojdani, PhD found one in three people had gluten sensitivity.
Most testing for gluten sensitivity is inaccurate as people can react to at least 12 different compounds in gluten. Standard tests only screen for one, alpha gliadin.
Also, many people have cross reactions to gluten, meaning they respond to other foods they eat as if it were gluten. Dairy is one of the most common of these. It’s important to test for cross-reactive foods and remove them from the diet along with gluten.
It’s also vital to strictly adhere to a gluten-free diet as the occasional cheat can keep inflammation high and chances at symptom recovery low.
Ask my office for advice on the latest in testing for gluten sensitivity.
It’s a frustrating but not uncommon scenario: You struggle with food or chemical sensitivities, suspected autoimmunity, and leaky gut symptoms. You plunk down hundreds of dollars (or more) for state-of-the-art testing from Cyrex Labs, eager for specific guidance.
And all the results come back negative. Or they all come back positive. Either way, you’re poorer and still clueless about the specifics of your situation.
Because Cyrex Labs testing is relatively new, people are still learning how best to test. Follow the tips below to maximize your lab testing dollars.
This is a major culprit in producing primarily or totally negative results. If your immune system is wiped out, you may not produce enough antibodies to test.
You can screen for this prior to your Cyrex test by ordering a total immunoglobulin (IgG, IgA, and IgM) test. If they’re low, your Cyrex results may come back negative despite obvious symptoms.
Shoring up your immune system is an in-depth topic, but here is an overview: Follow the autoimmune diet and supplement with nutrients such as vitamins A and D, glutathione and other compounds to dampen autoimmune flares, and omega 3 essential fatty acids. Plenty of sleep, balancing blood sugar, physical activity, and lowering stress are also important.
A key strategy is to eat an ample amount and wide variety of vegetables to foster the gut bacteria that support immunity. If you cannot eat many vegetables, supplement with short-chain fatty acids and probiotics.
Also, you may need to ferret out and address hidden sources of infection.
Please note that taking immune-enhancing herbs such as Echinacea is not recommended as it can worsen autoimmunity in some people.
Immunosuppressant medications and drugs that contain steroids, such as hydrocortisone, will often result in false negative results. If you are able to go off them, wait at least a couple of months before testing.
Don’t expect positive results for foods you don’t eat, even if you know they are problematic for you. You need to eat the foods on the panel at least a month before testing. If you have not eaten that food in the last three to four months you will not test positive (unless you ate it accidentally).
If you know you react severely to certain foods, then of course do not eat them just to test.
If almost all of your results on the Array 5 Multiple Autoimmune Reactivity come back positive, this does not mean your entire body is under attack. Instead, it means you’re likely fighting an active viral, bacterial, or parasitic infection.
If you test positive to most of the 180 foods on the Array 10 Multiple Food Immune Reactivity screen, this does not necessarily mean you have to give up all of those foods. Instead, it means you have lost “dietary oral tolerance” and the immune system is over reacting to all foods.
When this happens, only avoid foods to which you knowingly react and work to restore oral tolerance using the same strategies to shore up your immune system. The key is to dampen the hyper zealous immune response and boost secretory IgA levels so you can better tolerate more foods.
This is a very general overview of some things to address before using Cyrex Labs testing. When approached with the right knowledge, the results can be powerful in helping fine tune your wellness journey.
Ask my office for more advice on Cyrex Labs testing and autoimmune management.
Star Trek’s Zoe Saldano recently revealed she has Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, a thyroid disease affecting millions of women that causes weight gain, fatigue, depression, cold hands and feet, brain fog, constipation, and many other symptoms.
Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune thyroid disease. Autoimmunity is a condition in which the immune system attacks and destroys body tissue, in this case the thyroid gland. It is one of the most common autoimmune diseases, affecting an estimated more than 23 million people.
The thyroid gland governs metabolism in the body and produces thyroid hormones, which are needed by every cell in the body, including brain cells.
This is why a thyroid disease such as Hashimoto’s causes a person to gradually lose function, feel run down, lose brain function, and find it impossible to lose weight (although not in Saldano’s case.)
When asked about her Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism diagnosis, Saldano said, “Your body doesn’t have the energy it needs to filter toxins, causing it to believe that it has an infection, so it’s always inflamed.”
This is an unusual and narrow explanation for autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s.
Research shows multiple factors play into the development of an autoimmune disease, including:
In a nutshell, rarely can we point to one defining trigger of autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism. Typically, a person experiences a number of chronic health issues that go undiagnosed until the overburdened immune system tips into an over zealous attack on the body.
Although her explanation for Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism may be a bit off base, Saldano otherwise puts forth some good lifestyle examples.
For starters, she follows a gluten-free and dairy-free diet. Studies link these foods with autoimmunity, including Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.
She also talks about the stress reducing techniques of not being too hard on herself and surrounding herself with the support of loved ones.
Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism often goes undiagnosed in the conventional health care model. This is because doctors often only test for TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) to prescribe medication.
About 95 percent of hypothyroid cases are due to Hashimoto’s. It’s important to check for TPO and TGB antibodies which tell you if you have autoimmunity. Managing Hashimoto’s goes far beyond using thyroid medication as you must work to balance and regulate the immune system so it stops attacking the body.
For more information on identifying and managing Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, contact my office.
Most cases of chronic disease can be linked to stress, even if that stress is more physical than psychological. About two-thirds of doctor’s visits are for stress-related complaints.
How does stress causes disease? The body responds to stress by making adrenal hormones (such as epinephrine, norepinephrine, and cortisol that cause the “fight or flight” response. This response raises blood pressure, increases the heart rate, and sends blood to the limbs in preparation for action. The sweaty palms, quickened breathing, and jitters before a job interview, first date, or big test? That’s from stress hormones.
A healthy body quickly returns to normal after a stressful situation. The problem with life today is stress is ongoing and many people never return to “normal.” Chronic financial worries, a stressful job, or a bad relationship keep us locked in fight-or-flight.
Stress doesn’t have to be only related to lifestyle. In fact, stressors to the body are more insidious and can be more damaging. These include a diet high in sugar and starchy foods, not eating enough or eating too much, gut problems, food intolerances, high or low blood sugar, diabetes, anemia, autoimmune disease, chronic pain, and environmental toxins.
Unrelenting stress causes continual production of cortisol Cortisol is known as the aging hormone because it breaks us down more quickly. Chronic high cortisol is linked to:
You might think this is a no-brainer — a symptom of chronic stress is feeling stressed out.
This is true in many, but not all cases. Other lesser-known symptoms that indicate stress is robbing you of health include: constant fatigue, energy crashes, difficulty recovering from stressful events, headaches, trouble falling and staying asleep, trouble waking up, emotional mood swings, sugar and caffeine cravings, irritability, lightheadedness between meals, eating to relieve fatigue, dizziness upon standing, and gastric ulcers.
The most important first step in addressing stress to better manage chronic disease is obvious: remove the stressors. This can mean a diet and lifestyle overhaul.
It also means adding in activities that lower stress and release chemicals and hormones that lower inflammation and improve overall health of the body and brain.
These include plenty of sleep, meditation, daily physical activity, hobbies, socializing, laughter, a healthy whole foods diet, avoiding junk foods, and more.
Daily stress is a way of life for the average American. Just the toxic chemicals we encounter in our environment are considerably stressful. Urban life, traffic, raising children, and existing illnesses are examples of potent stressors you can’t simply jettison.
Adaptogens are herbs that help tame inflammation, sustain energy, boost brain function, and regulate sleep patterns. They include panax ginseng, Siberian ginseng (eleuthero), astragalus, rhodiola, ashwagandha, licorice root, holy basil (tulsi) and schizandra.
Phosphatidylserine is a nutritional compound that helps normalize cortisol levels and protect the brain from the damages of stress.
For more information on how to identify and manage adrenal stress, contact our office.
PCOS, or polycystic ovarian syndrome, is the most common female hormonal imbalance today. PCOS has far reaching consequences, including an increased risk of autism in offspring. The good news it may be reversible through diet and lifestyle changes.
PCOS is a condition in which an imbalance in estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone causes cysts to grow on the ovaries. While this can be painful, the consequences of PCOS can be severe, including a 60 percent increased risk in giving birth to a baby who will develop an autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
Consider the symptoms of PCOS, below, which reflect how pervasive this disorder is on the body as a whole.
Here are some symptoms:
The hormonal imbalances associated with PCOS cause higher levels of the male hormone testosterone. This in turn leads to the development of such male attributes as male pattern balding, facial hair growth, deepening voice, and perhaps a more aggressive or indifferent personality.
It’s no accident that symptoms of PCOS are similar to those of high blood sugar and diabetes. Although genetic predisposition plays a role in PCOS, the diet and lifestyle factors that cause insulin resistance (high blood sugar) and type 2 diabetes also cause PCOS: a diet high in sugars and processed carbohydrates, lack of plant fiber, overeating, and lack of exercise.
The upside to this is that switching to a whole foods diet that is free of sugar, lower in processed carbs, and high in vegetables and adding in daily physical activity can help reverse not only high blood sugar but also PCOS. For younger women this paves the path to a smoother transition through perimenopause and menopause, a period in life that can be made miserable by blood sugar imbalances.
Standard lab markers that can identify PCOS include a fasting blood sugar of over 100 and elevated triglycerides and cholesterol, especially if triglycerides are higher than cholesterol. Not surprisingly, these are also markers found with insulin resistance, or pre-diabetes.
Insulin resistance is a condition in which the body’s cells become less sensitive to insulin due to a high-sugar, high-carbohydrate diet, over eating, and sedentary lifestyle.
This leads to high testosterone and PCOS in women (and elevated estrogen in men).
Unfortunately, elevated testosterone causes cells to become more resistant to insulin, thus creating more testosterone in a vicious cycle.
If you would like advice on managing PCOS naturally, ask my office for advice on functional medicine strategies to balance your blood sugar and hormones.
It’s a common argument: “You don’t need to take supplements if you eat a good diet.” Although a good diet is foundational to good health, supplements play an instrumental role in various health conditions.
People who don’t understand the value of supplements think they exist only to profit off of “suckers for snake oil.” To be sure, those products exist.
Others view them as dangerous and unregulated compounds that should be taken off the market. Those products exist as well.
The United States is unique compared to the rest of the west in terms of of the freedom of our supplement market. Supplement availability in Europe and Canada is severely limited compared to the United States.
With this comes pros and cons.
The key to understanding supplements is to understand the underlying causes of your condition.
For instance, ten different people can each have a different cause for leaky gut, insomnia, pain, depression, and so on. Buying a “depression supplement,” or an “insomnia supplement,” can result in failure and frustration.
Also, quality matters. Supplements from your local chain supermarket are not going to meet the same standards of quality, care, specificity, and educational support of supplements sold through a practitioner.
The good news about our supplement market is we have access to high quality supplements and education.
Here are some reasons you may need supplements even if you eat a pristine whole foods diet.
Because you are aging. As we age certain functions start to diminish, such as digestion, brain function, recovery time, hormone balance, and more.
Digestive supplements support diminishing hydrochloric acid and pancreatic enzyme support. Brain nutrients help support oxygenation and activity of the brain (although they won’t compensate for poor diet and lifestyle). Various herbs support hormone balance and energy production.
Because we live in a stressful, toxic world. We are dealing with extreme levels of stress and toxic chemicals in our food and environment. This contributes to such conditions as chronic pain, inflammation, autoimmunity, and brain dysfunctions. Many supplements are designed to buffer the effects of the stressful and toxic burdens we deal with daily.
Because many of us grew up eating a crap diet. You may eat a good diet now, but if you grew up on junk food and a sedentary lifestyle, you may have sustained metabolic damage, such as unstable blood sugar, hormonal imbalance, poor stress handling, chronic inflammation, autoimmunity, and more. These don’t always reverse themselves through diet alone.
Supplements geared toward stabilizing blood sugar, supporting stress handling, and taming inflammation can super charge your whole foods diet.
Because our foods are compromised. Even if you eat the perfect diet, studies show our foods aren’t as nutrient dense as they were in the past. You still may benefit from at least a good multi-vitamin and multi-mineral supplement.
This is a broad overview of ways supplements can help. Most supplements consist of herbs and other natural compounds that have sound scientific support and have been used throughout humanity around the globe. While pharmaceuticals have been a vital boon to medicine, they are also relative newcomers.
Ask my office for advice on how to supplement smartly.
If you have diabetes, whether it’s type 1 or type 2, your doctor likely recommended a diet endorsed by the American Diabetes Association. But did you know the diabetic diet recommends foods that could be slowly worsening your diabetes condition?
Turns out there is more to a diabetic diet than grams of carbs and sugar, although those are vitally important.
For people with type 1 diabetes and for an estimated 20 percent of people with type 2 diabetes, diabetes is an autoimmune disease.
This means the immune system is attacking and destroying the parts of the pancreas involved in insulin production and regulation. Over time destruction is severe enough the body can no longer adequately regulate blood sugar.
Certain foods on the diabetic diet, such as gluten and dairy, have been shown to both trigger autoimmunity and make it worse.
People with type 1 diabetes, which begins in childhood, understand diabetes is an autoimmune condition.
However, many people with type 2 diabetes can go for years without knowing there is an autoimmune component to their diabetes, which generally sets in during adulthood.
This type of diabetes is called type 1.5 diabetes, latent autoimmune diabetes of adults (LADA), or even double diabetes.
Type 1.5 diabetes involves the lifestyle components of being overweight or obese and eating a diet that promotes high blood sugar, along with the autoimmune component that slowly destroys the insulin-producing abilities of the pancreas.
Although grams of carbs and sugars are vital considerations for people with all types of diabetes, what is overlooked is the immune reactivity of foods.
Research shows a link between certain foods and the triggering or exacerbating of autoimmune diseases such as type 1 and type 1.5 diabetes.
If you have an immune reaction to certain foods and consume them daily, they are going to keep the immune system in a constant state of inflammation and attacking body tissue. This makes blood sugar continually difficult to manage, despite careful consumptions of carbs and sugars.
The two top foods to avoid if you have autoimmune diabetes are gluten and dairy. Both have been linked to a number of autoimmune diseases, including diabetes.
Gluten has been shown to trigger an autoimmune attack against the GAD enzyme which plays a role in insulin regulation and brain function. Casein, the protein in dairy products, has also been linked with autoimmune diabetes.
If you have a sensitivity to these foods or other common immune reactive foods, it is worth getting tested or doing an elimination diet Knowing which foods are provoking an autoimmune attack can help you better manage your type 1 or type 1.5 diabetes.
Ask my office for more advice on ways to tame inflammation and manage your autoimmune diabetes. If you have type 2 diabetes, it’s important to rule out autoimmunity.
Are you often wide awake around 3 or 4 a.m., your mind racing with anxiety, but then collapsing into a near coma in the late afternoon? This maddening cycle of waking up and falling asleep at inconvenient hours is often relieved by managing low blood sugar.
Although sleep is a time for the body to rest, your brain is still busy working on repair and regeneration, transforming the day’s impressions into lasting memories, and keeping you entertained with dreams.
The brain demands more fuel than any other organ, about 20 percent of the body’s total supply. These needs don’t abate during sleep, when your body is fasting.
In the absence of food, the body keeps the brain going by gradually raising the adrenal hormone cortisol, which triggers the production of glucose to feed the brain through the night.
At least in theory.
Chronic low blood sugar breaks this system down because it skews cortisol rhythms and release. When your brain starts to run low on fuel during the night, cortisol may lag in triggering glucose release.
The brain cannot wait until breakfast and perceives this lack of fuel supply as an emergency. As a result, the body releases more urgent “fight-or-flight” adrenal hormones, which raise blood sugar back to safe levels.
Unfortunately, these adrenals hormones are also designed to help you either flee from danger or fight it. This does not bode well for a sound night’s sleep and explains why if you wake up at 3 or 4 a.m., it’s usually with a mind racing with worry.
Meanwhile, 12 hours later when you could really use the energy to finish a work project or deal with after-school duties, you crash and can barely function thanks to blood sugar and cortisol levels bottoming out. Reaching for that shot of caffeine may pull you through, but in the long run it’s only compounding the problem.
If you wake up at 3 or 4 a.m. with a racing mind, eating a little something may feed your brain and calm your mind so you can fall back asleep. But do not eat something sugary, which will spike blood sugar and perpetuate the cycle. Instead, eat some protein and fat.
Examples include nut butter, a little bit of meat, boiled egg, or a coconut snack. Have these prepared ahead of time and even next to your bed so you don’t have to go into the kitchen and turn on bright lights. You will not feel hungry because adrenal hormones are appetite suppressants, but you don’t need to eat much.
To avoid the afternoon crash without caffeine you need to stabilize blood sugar as a way of life. Eat frequently enough to avoid sending blood sugar into a nose dive, and avoid foods that cause blood sugar to spike and crash: Sugar, caffeine, energy drinks, too many carbohydrates, and starchy carbs.
Low blood sugar symptoms include:
A variety of nutritional compounds can further support your blood sugar handling and stress hormone functions so you sleep better. Ask us for advice.
Aging can cause us to feel invisible and unwanted in a society that worships youth. However, the key to staying youthful into your latter years doesn’t lay in the hands of your hair stylist or medical spa, but instead in your attitude.
Research shows internalizing negative stereotypes about aging harms your health, which speeds up aging. However, having a positive attitude toward aging can boost immune function, promote healthy behaviors, and help you feel in control of your life.
Here are some benefits researchers have found to a positive perception of aging, such as feeling useful and happy with yourself:
Although you might not be able to embrace aging overnight, it can be done, even in this culture. The first step is to survey your attitude about aging and what you believe old age holds in store for you: Senility and disability? Or wisdom and vitality?
Beyond that, turn your attention away from a cultural philosophy that values people based on their work productivity and instead toward one that values aging as socially valuable and even a time of renaissance.
A positive attitude has been shown to be vital to good health. However, it’s important to pay attention the nuts and bolts of good health, too.
Regular exercise is regarded as somewhat of a magic bullet by researchers. People who exercise regularly throughout their lives age better and enjoy better brain function throughout their lives.
Along with that that comes a diet low in sugars and processed carbs — chronically high blood sugar is behind many chronic diseases and brain degeneration. In fact, some researchers call Alzheimer’s disease type 3 diabetes because of the links between high blood sugar and brain degeneration.
Avoiding other inflammatory foods (besides sugar, gluten and dairy are the most common inflammatory foods) while loading up on fresh veggies is another preventive dietary approach.
Lastly, healthy aging depends on a healthy, nutrient-dense diet that is rich in fresh vegetable as well as healthy fats.
Ask my office for more advice on how to age in a healthy, positive way you can embrace.
We often think of good health in terms of blood pressure or cholesterol levels, but your libido is also an important indicator. If yours has gone missing, it could be a red flag that important underlying health issues need to be addressed.
People who turn to functional medicine for other health issues, such as low thyroid function, an autoimmune disorder, or depression, often report a boost in their libido thanks to their protocol.
Of course, it’s natural to expect low libido following a major stressor or during an unhealthy relationship, but if it’s chronically absent, investigate why.
Below are some common causes of low libido that can be addressed through functional medicine:
Blood sugar imbalances. Many people eat more carbohydrates than their body can handle, they skip meals, or they consume too much caffeine. Eating habits that send blood sugar constantly soaring and crashing will eventually lead to fatigue, irritability, sleep problems, and depression. All of these make zoning out in front of Netflix more tantalizing than a roll in the hay.
Adrenal fatigue. Your adrenal glands secrete stress hormones to help you manage life’s daily ups and downs. Most people are so stressed out from not only their lifestyles, but also their diets, chronic inflammation, gut health problems, and other health issues that adrenal function is fried. This is one of the primary causes of hormonal imbalances in men and women, delivering a double whammy to libido.
Leaky gut. Leaky gut means inflammation has made the lining of the small intestine too porous, allowing undigested foods and other pathogens to escape into the sterile bloodstream. This causes inflammation throughout the body, which typically leads to pain, fatigue, depression and other unsexy symptoms.
Food intolerances. Can a gluten or dairy intolerance really cause low libido? Yep. When you constantly eat a food that triggers an immune reaction, you send your body into an inflammatory tailspin. How you react depends on your genetic makeup. Symptoms include flare ups of your autoimmune disease, skin rashes, gut problems, joint pain, depression, migraines, anxiety, fatigue, brain fog, and, you guessed it, no desire for sex. You can run a food panel from Cyrex Labs to figure out which foods rob you of vigor, or follow an autoimmune diet for at least a month before reintroducing foods.
Diminished brain function. They say the biggest sex organ is the brain and it’s true. Many people today suffer from a brain that is aging too fast, besieged by inflammation, not getting properly oxygenated, struggling from poor fuel supply, or suffering from poor activity of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. Although all of these issues can often be addressed with the functional medicine basics I just mentioned, various nutritional compounds can also help boost brain function and, as a result, libido.
These are just a few underlying causes of low libido. Sometimes, of course, it’s more complicated, especially if you are unhappy in your relationship, suffer from low self-esteem, or run yourself ragged putting others’ needs before your own.
However, don’t shrug off low libido as no big deal. You could be missing out not only on the health benefits of regular sex, but also on the opportunity to address an underlying health concern.