Glutathione: A power tool in autoimmune management

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Our bodies have to work hard to deal with hundreds of toxic chemicals in our daily environment, in our food, and our water. Even if you eat a clean, organic diet and use non-toxic products, it’s impossible to completely avoid them. Thankfully, certain natural compounds can boost levels of our most powerful antioxidant, glutathione, in our bodies.

Glutathione is a powerful defense against toxins and inflammation. It protects the body’s cells from damage, it helps detoxify the body, and supports optimal immune function.

When glutathione levels drop too low, this makes you more susceptible to autoimmune disease, multiple food sensitivities, chemical and heavy metal sensitivities, chronic inflammatory disorders, leaky gut, and other immune-related issues.

By ensuring your glutathione levels stay at robust levels, you provide your body with an army of soldiers ready to “take a bullet” and shield your cells from the destructive forces of toxins and inflammation.

Things that deplete glutathione

In an ideal world, we have plenty of glutathione. Our bodies make sufficient amounts and the glutathione system is not overly taxed. Sadly, the modern world is far from ideal. Chronic stress, environmental toxins, diets low in nutrients but high in inflammatory triggers, sleep deprivation, smoking, sugar, excess alcohol, and other stressors slowly deplete glutathione levels. Glutathione levels also decrease naturally as a result of aging.

A straight glutathione supplement is not effective taken orally. Instead, people can take glutathione through a liposomal cream, nebulizer, suppository, IV drip, or injections. S-acetyl-glutathione, reduced glutathione, and oral liposomal glutathione are forms that are absorbable orally. These methods will help raise glutathione levels and your general antioxidant status, which can reduce inflammation and improve health.

Another method that raises glutathione uses precursors to boost levels and recycle glutathione within cells.

Glutathione recycling helps guard against autoimmunity

Recycling glutathione entails taking existing glutathione the body has already used in self-defense and rebuilding it so it can work for us again.

Research shows a link between poor glutathione recycling and autoimmune disease. In other words, if you’re not recycling glutathione well you’re at more risk of developing autoimmune disease. Healthy glutathione recycling is a vital tool in managing autoimmune disease.

Glutathione recycling helps repair leaky gut

Glutathione recycling also helps repair leaky gut and protect it from permeability. Leaky gut can lead to or exacerbate autoimmunity, multiple food sensitivities, and chronic inflammation. When glutathione recycling is insufficient, a person is more prone to developing leaky gut and all that maladies that accompany it. Glutathione recycling is vital to good gut health.

How to boost glutathione recycling

The most important first step to boost glutathione recycling is to remove the stressors depleting glutathione levels to the best of your ability. Look at your life around sleep deprivation, smoking, foods that cause inflammation, sugars and processed foods, excess alcohol, and other factors.

In addition to addressing lifestyle factors, you can take a variety of nutritional and botanical compounds that have been shown to support glutathione recycling. They include:

  • N-acetyl-cysteine
  • Alpha-lipoic acid
  • L-glutamine
  • Selenium
  • Cordyceps
  • Gotu kola
  • Milk thistle

Booting your glutathione levels with an absorbable form and then supporting glutathione recycling can significantly help you manage autoimmune disease, inflammatory disorders, chemical sensitivities, food sensitivities, and more.

A hidden trigger of autoimmunity: Too much salt

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Those with high blood pressure and heart disease know to avoid salt, but researchers have learned salt comes with another risk — too much alters immune cells in a way that promotes autoimmune disease.

Examples of autoimmune disease include Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, lupus, and type 1 diabetes. Autoimmune disease rates have skyrocketed in recent years, affecting more people than heart disease and cancer combined.

Although salt is not in itself harmful, Americans are guilty of eating way too much salt, more than the human body was ever designed to process. Fast foods, junk foods, and snack foods are all heavily salted to increase palatability and mask their inherent poor quality.

Sadly, our extreme consumption of salt raises the risk of the body’s immune system attacking itself and destroying viable tissue; this is what autoimmune disease is. For instance, in Hashimoto’s, the immune system attacks and destroys the thyroid gland. In type 1 diabetes, it is the pancreas that falls under attack. This gradual tissue destruction, along with the inflammation generated from the autoimmune attacks, causes a wide array of chronic and seemingly irresolvable symptoms.

The cells in the immune system responsible for this auto-destruction are called TH-17 cells. Researchers discovered that immune cells exposed to salt turned into TH-17 cells. Further experimentation showed mice fed a high-salt diet were more likely to develop a disease similar to multiple sclerosis.

A later study on human subjects showed just seven days on a high-salt diet put the immune system into inflammation overdrive, just as if it were encountering an infection or in the throes of an autoimmune attack. An interesting side note: The high-salt diet used in the study represented salt intake for the average American.

Increased TH-17 means increased inflammation in general. This not only raises the risk of autoimmune disease, but other inflammation-based diseases all too common today: heart disease, cancer, stroke, and disorders of the gut, skin, and respiratory system.

Should you stop eating salt?

Although researchers are quick to say removing salt is not going to cure an autoimmune disease, it’s important to pay attention to your salt intake if you are working to manage an autoimmune disease or other chronic inflammatory condition.

Researchers found lowering salt intake in human subjects produced beneficial, anti-inflammatory changes in the immune system.

The USDA daily recommended intake of sodium is 2300 mg, which is the equivalent of only one teaspoon of salt. Some argue we need even less than that and get plenty from produce and meats. Either way, the average American consumes twice the recommended amount, which research has shown causes inflammatory changes in the immune system.

Those who have low blood pressure may have been told to consume extra salt in order to raise blood pressure. Low blood pressure means tissues in the body, including the brain, are not getting sufficient oxygen, nutrients, and other compounds. In this case, trial and error may be necessary to see what works. Glycyrrhiza, a compound in licorice root, may also be effective in raising blood pressure.

Trapped in a hostile marriage? It’s healthier to be alone

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Although we’ve all read the stories about marriage being good for your health, a bad marriage is bad your health. In fact, bad marriages are far worse for you than healthy marriages are good for you. In other words, if your marriage is a constant stressor, you’ll lower your risk of chronic disease either going it alone or doing the work to make the marriage a good one. What’s more, the risks are higher for women.

Contemporary studies show marriage lowers your risk of many modern ailments, including heart disease, cancer, and even dementia. Why? Research into adult attachment shows humans are hardwired to depend on a significant other as a matter of survival. Though we may think it’s about love and romance, to the human brain, a long-term relationship is the difference between life and death.

However, these benefits don’t extend to troubled relationships. It’s the human body’s life-or-death approach to relationships that also makes a bad marriage a health risk. One study went so far as to show a bad marriage entails the same risks as smoking, and another showed being single is healthier than having married and divorced, prompting researchers to encourage people to try and make a bad marriage good again.

Stress negatively impacts the immune system

When researchers analyzed blood samples of unhappy couples immediately after a big fight, they saw a significant decline in immune function, with the biggest drops happening in those whose fights were the most hostile. Fighting couples also showed slower wound healing.

Fighting and hostility in a relationship both depress immune function and promote inflammation, particularly for women, raising disease risk.

Constant fighting and bickering with your spouse can trigger inflammation and exacerbate symptoms if you have Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism. 

Men and women respond differently to arguing

Researchers measured how different styles of arguing affected couples’ health. The results showed surprising differences in how men and women react physiologically to arguing.

For women, the biggest predictor of health risk is lack of warmth and openness from her partner. For instance, small cues during an argument (a term of endearment or a squeeze of the hand) gives a woman the reassurance she and her partner are still connected.

Men, on the other hand, are triggered by battles for control and use of controlling language.

Either way, hostile fighting turns out to be as predictive of heart disease in women and men as a history of smoking. The key isn’t to stop the inevitable arguments, but rather to learn how to fight in a more thoughtful manner that doesn’t trigger the subconscious, immune-sabotaging threat to survival.

Why health depends on a healthy relationship

Healthy relationships are good for us because they give the survival-wired brain back-up during times of stress. Affection from a caring partner during a stressful time helps you regulate negative emotions, relieving the brain of the need to do it all alone, and thus buffering the body from the detrimental impacts of stress.

Even the best of marriages will have conflict. The key is to use those times to repair and strengthen the relationship rather than damage it.

Your gut bacteria can play a role in anxiety and PTSD

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New research has found a link between gut bacteria and anxiety — the diversity and quantity of your gut bacteria can affect your anxiety levels. Scientists believe this could play a role in treating PTSD, or post-traumatic stress syndrome.

In the study, researchers subjected mice to stressful conditions until they showed signs of anxiety and stress: shaking, diminished appetite, and reduced social interaction. Fecal samples showed the stressed mice had less diversity of gut bacteria than calmer mice who had not been subjected to stress.

When they fed the stressed mice the same live bacteria found in the guts of the calm mice, the stressed mice immediately began to calm down. Their stress levels continued to drop in the following weeks.

Brain scans also showed the improved gut flora produced changes in brain chemistry that promotes relaxation.

These biomarkers, according to researchers, can indicate whether someone is suffering from PTSD or is at a higher risk of developing it. Improving gut microflora diversity may play a role in treatment and prevention.

The role of healthy gut bacteria in the military

Because about 20 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans suffer from PTSD, the military is interested in the potential of influencing gut bacteria to manage and predict the risk of PTSD, anxiety, and depression. Enhancing gut microflora may also help submarine crews who go for long periods in confined spaces and with no daylight.

How to improve the health of your gut bacteria for anxiety, PTSD, depression, obesity, eating disorders

The quality and diversity of gut bacteria, or the “gut microbiome,” has been linked to not only anxiety, but also depression, obesity, eating disorders, autism, irritable bowel syndrome, and many other common disorders.

In other words, if you want to improve your health, you need to tend to your inner garden and make it richly diverse and bountiful. Although we’re still a ways off from a magic-bullet approach, there are many ways you can enrich the environment of your gut microbiome:

Cut out foods that kill good bacteria and promote harmful bacteria: Sugars, processed foods, processed carbohydrates, alcohol and energy drinks, fast foods, food additives, and other unhealthy staples of the standard American diet.

Eat tons of fiber-rich plants, which good bacteria love: All vegetables but especially artichokes, peas, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, as well as fruits. Either way, eat a large diversity of veggies on a regular basis instead of the same thing every day.

Use probiotics: Live, “friendly” bacteria that bolster your gut’s population of healthy microbes. Read the label to make sure they are high in live bacteria. Dietary fiber nourish these friendly probiotic bacteria. This combination of pre- and probiotic support is vital for healthy gut bacteria.

Eat fermented foods: Sauerkraut, kimchee, kombucha, and yogurt contain live microbes, and can also help boost the probiotic content of your digestive tract. Not all fermented foods have live cultures so make sure to read the labels.

Protect your existing gut flora: Medications, age, health status, and stress influence your gut microbiome. Eating a fiber-strong, gut-friendly diet and supplementing with probiotics and fermented foods is one of your best strategies for supporting gut health, a healthy mood, and stress resiliency.

Want to get fat? Go on a diet

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It’s an addiction to insanity in our culture, one of the most overfed populations in human history — the weight loss diet.

Despite plenty of scientific evidence that diets don’t produce lasting results for most people and despite countless numbers of dieters, most of them women, thrown into a lifetime of damaging despair, low self-esteem, and self-hatred thanks to failing diets, our culture still blindly adheres to the low-calorie diet as the panacea for all life’s problems, including those extra pounds.

The reality TV show The Biggest Loser provided the perfect high-profile platform for scientists to showcase what millions of Americans have learned the hard way: diets make you fatter in the long run.

Why dieting makes you fat

For most of our species’ history, meager food supply and bouts of famine have been the norm. As a result, the body prioritizes conserving fat and energy through altering its metabolism and fat-storing hormones.

Metabolism slows dramatically for years

Eating fewer calories to lose weight significantly slows your metabolism and causes you to regain the weight quickly and easily. The body will fight for years to get back to its previous set point. Contestants on the Biggest Loser learned they now burn between 400 and 800 fewer calories six years after their televised weight loss journey. In other words, they have to under eat just to not continually gain fat.

Satiety hormones skewed for years

Diets also skew levels of leptin and other satiety hormones. These hormones control hunger and food cravings. All of the show’s contestants had normal levels of leptin prior to losing weight. After losing weight their leptin levels plummeted to near nil. A follow-up study showed after they had regained the weight leptin levels were at about half of original levels. Other satiety hormones were also out of range.

This caused contestants increased hunger and cravings.

Televised torture for weight loss

The weight loss program The Biggest Loser contestants were put on not only ultimately damaged their metabolisms, it was unrealistic, tortuous, and exhausting. Contestants ate too few calories and exercised many hours a day, needing to quit their jobs to meet the weight loss demands. Maintaining the weight loss required exercising two to three hours a day and continued under eating. They were also left with mounds of loose skin.

Understand how the body works to lose weight

Fortunately, sustainable weight loss is possible for many people who understand functional medicine approaches to metabolism, satiety hormones, and the effects of stress and inflammation on weight. Unfortunately, those who have lost and gained weight repeatedly during their lives will have a bigger battle. It is also important to manage underlying causes of weight gain, such as emotional and addiction issues, PTSD, and chronic stress. For instance, one study showed many overweight women have been sexually abused as children.

Although portion control and regular physical activity are important, so too are managing the types of foods you eat. For instance, processed carbohydrates and sweets trigger the mechanisms that cause cravings and weight gain. On the other hand, consuming ample vegetables can alter the composition of gut bacteria in a way that fosters weight loss. Eliminating foods that are inflammatory, such as gluten in the case of gluten-sensitive people, can reduce stress on the body, thus facilitating fat burning.

And lastly, ditching the self-loathing and shame that accompanies diets can also reduce fat-promoting stress.

Ask my office for ideas on how to release weight in a way that is sustainable and healthy for the body.

Omega 6 and 3 fats: Which to eat and which to avoid

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For decades, media experts have promoted a diet high in omega 6 fats — found in corn, soybean, canola, and safflower — to lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. We now know excess omega 6 fatty acids is connected to type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity, psychiatric issues, and cancer.

Omega 3 fats, however, are linked with lowered inflammation, better brain function, and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.

Our grandparents ate a much different ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acids than we do; omega 3-rich wild and grass-fed meats were the norm, and traditional omega 3 fats such as butter and lard were always on hand.

Omega 6 fats promote chronic illness

Introducing processed seed, nut, and bean oils into our diet while reducing grass-fed and wild fats has resulted in Americans becoming deficient in essential omega 3 fats, while having way too many omega 6 fats on board.

In addition, these processed oils are commonly chemical-laden and rancid, carrying toxic free radicals that promote inflammation throughout the body.

Many studies show a connection between inflammation and chronic health issues. It’s common knowledge in the medical world that omega 6 oils encourage inflammation in the body. They also reduce the availability of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats in your tissues, resulting in even more systemic inflammation.

Even more, they reduce conversion of plant-based omega 3 fats into essential, active forms of omega 3s called EPA and DHA—by about 40 percent!

Over consuming omega 6 fats and under consuming omega 3 fats significantly increases the risk of:

  • Heart disease
  • Obesity
  • Pre-diabetes
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Inflammatory bowel syndrome
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Asthma
  • Cancer
  • Autoimmunity

In addition, consuming too many omega 6 acids increases the likelihood of mental illness and suicide, due to the connection between inflammation and mental health issues.

Which fats should I eat?

While we do need some omega 6 fats in our diet, we need a higher ratio of omega 3 fats to keep inflammation in check. It’s easy to get plenty of omega 6 fats in the American diet, so our focus needs to be on getting enough omega 3 fats.

Fats that protect the brain and reduce inflammation include:

  • Extra-virgin, cold-pressed, organic coconut oil—which is anti-inflammatory and may help improve your cholesterol numbers. It also handles medium to medium-high cooking heat.
  • Unrefined, extra-virgin, cold-pressed olive oil.
  • Avocados and avocado oil.
  • Nuts such as walnuts, almonds, pecans, macadamia; avoid peanuts.
  • Grass-fed meats and butter, which have about 7 times the omega 3 fats that conventionally-raised beef has (which is near zero).
  • Fatty cold-water fish such as sardines, herring, salmon and mackerel, which are all rich in omega 3 fats.

With the epidemic of inflammation-based chronic health issues skyrocketing today, it’s important to reduce your risks for inflammation. Changing the fats you eat is one easy way to boost anti-inflammatory effects. If you have concerns or questions regarding your diet, or your level of inflammation, please contact my office.

Stable blood sugar is the key to stable moods

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You’ve probably heard that depression and other mental health issues are based on a lack of brain chemicals such as serotonin and GABA. Conventional treatment is to give medications that trick the brain into thinking it has enough chemicals. But new research shows in many cases mental health issues are related to chronic inflammation, not necessarily a lack of chemicals, and unstable blood sugar is often at the root of inflammation.

How does inflammation cause mood issues?

When the body is chronically inflamed, it sends chemical messengers to the brain, where they activate the brain’s immune cells, called glial cells. Chronic inflammation permanently activates the glial cells, setting off a cascade of destruction:

  • Reduced production of brain chemicals such as serotonin, dopamine and GABA.
  • Brain cells can’t produce vital energy to thrive.
  • Cells degrade and die, releasing toxins into the brain, causing even more damage.
  • The result? Depression, anxiety, and even Alzheimer’s.

How does blood sugar factor in?

The fix for these issues is managing the destructive inflammatory cascade  At the core of systemic inflammation for many people is blood sugar balance. When we eat too many sugars or carbs, the body over-produces insulin, a hormone that helps escort glucose (sugar) into cells for energy. Too much insulin in the blood exhausts the cells, resulting in them becoming resistant to it (insulin resistance). This leads to excess glucose in the bloodstream, which is severely damaging to tissues in the blood vessels and brain. It is also a precursor to diabetes.

How can I keep my blood sugar balanced?

By keeping blood sugar balanced, we can help reduce the inflammatory cascade that creates brain inflammation. Below are dietary and lifestyle habits that help keep blood sugar stable. By practicing them, you may notice positive shifts in your mood, energy level and mental focus:

  • Always eat a protein-strong breakfast within an hour of waking. Include healthy fats, and avoid sweets and fruit before lunch.
  • Eat every 3–4 hours to avoid low blood sugar.
  • Eat protein with every meal and snack; never eat just sweets.
  • When you crave sugar, choose protein or foods with healthy fats such as coconut or olive oil.
  • Eat a small high-protein snack before bed to keep blood sugar stable throughout the night.
  • Don’t use caffeine to boost low energy in that afternoon “crash;” it’s your brain telling you it needs real nutrients, not stimulants. Instead, eat a healthy snack with protein, fat and a few carbs, and hydrate with water.
  • Wake and go to bed at the same time every day. Get plenty of sleep and if you’re tired, let yourself nap. Exercise regularly to keep blood sugar stable. Also, a 5- to 7-minute burst of high intensity exercise helps reduce inflammatory factors in the brain.

In addition to the factors above, certain botanicals are highly effective in helping manage blood sugar and reduce brain inflammation. If you have questions about mood and blood sugar stability, please contact my office.

Use nitric oxide to tame inflammation in body and brain

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If you have an autoimmune disease, chronic inflammation, or signs of brain inflammation (such as brain fog), you may have noticed it can be tough to tame the inflammation. This is because the body can get trapped in vicious cycles that feed the inflammation.

Luckily, researchers have pinpointed what perpetuates these cycles and ways to stop them. They include targeting two immune messengers called “nitrous oxide” and “IL-17.”

The immune system triggers inflammation by releasing an immune messenger called IL-17. IL-17 triggers other immune cells to damage body tissue, such as the thyroid gland in the case of autoimmune Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism or joint tissue in rheumatoid arthritis.

IL-17 isn’t all bad—in a healthy immune system it prevents infections. But chronic inflammation or an autoimmune disease create too much IL-17.

Inflammation, IL-17, and “bad” nitric oxide

IL-17 damages body tissue by activating a compound called “inducible nitric oxide.” Nitric oxide is a gas in the body that activates various processes.

Two good forms of nitric oxide tame inflammation: endothelial and neuronal nitric oxide.

However, IL-17 triggers the pro-inflammatory inducible nitric oxide, which damages body tissue.

Targeting nitric oxide to tame inflammation

When it comes to taming chronic inflammation, we want to dampen IL-17 and inducible nitric oxide.

So why not just take the nitric oxide booster arginine? Although arginine may boost the anti-inflammatory endothelial nitric oxide, it also may increase the inflammatory inducible nitric oxide.

It’s safer, therefore, to go with nutritional compounds that boost the anti-inflammatory endothelial nitric oxide for maximum inflammation fighting effects:

  • Adenosine
  • Huperzine A
  • Vinpocetine
  • Alpha GPC
  • Xanthinol niacinate
  • L-acetyl carnitine

Endothelial nitric oxide aids in tissue repair and regeneration, enhances blood flow, dissolves plaques, and dilates blood vessels. Exercise is another excellent way to boost endothelial nitric oxide.

These compounds may also boost the activity of neuronal nitric oxide, which enhances the health of the brain and nervous system.

Other anti-inflammatory tools

Others inflammation busters include vitamin D3, omega 3 fatty acids, and glutathione  Glutathione is vital to dampening inflammation, repairing damaged tissues, maintaining a healthy gut (which houses most of the immune system), and buffering the body from the many stressors we face these days.

Other helpful tools are high doses of emulsified resveratrol and curcumin. Taken together, these two compounds dampen IL-17 and quench inflammation.

Of course, eliminating pro-inflammatory foods with an autoimmune diet (especially gluten), getting enough sleep, not overstressing yourself are important, too. Ask my office for advice.

When teen menstrual cramps and PMS are disabling

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It’s an all-too-common scenario for teen girls today: That time of the month comes around they are home from school white-knuckling it through agonizing menstrual cramps, having only just endured a week of equally debilitating PMS depression and anxiety.

It’s just your standard entry into womanhood, right? Not!

Although hormonal irregularity is normal in the early years, excessive pain and anguish is not. It signals underlying causes of hormonal imbalance that may be alleviated through diet and lifestyle changes.

Of course one must also consider the possibility of serious medical disorders  such as uterine fibroids, pelvic inflammatory disease, or, most commonly, endometriosis, disorders that tend to be overlooked in young girls in early menses.

Going beyond NSAIDS and the pill for teen cramps

The conventional approach to severe cramps and PMS is the use of over-the-counter pain medication and low-dose oral contraceptives.

Oral contraceptives are synthetic hormones that interfere with the body’s natural hormonal feedback loops and disrupt the balance of intestinal flora, not to mention raising the risk of serious medical complications such as migraines, stroke, and even cancer.

Although birth control pills can bring relief, it’s better to ask why hormones are imbalanced in the first place. Birth control pills merely resolve the symptoms but not the cause of teenage menstrual cramps and PMS.

Underlying causes of severe teen cramps and PMS

The female hormonal system is intricate, complex, and easily toppled by many modern habits we consider normal. Add standard teenage predilections for excess and indulgence, and you’ve got a recipe for monthly sick days home from school.

Here are some common factors we see when looking at teenage menstrual cramps and PMS with a functional medicine perspective:

Unstable blood sugar skewing hormones. This is very often an underlying factor of hormonal imbalance in women of all ages, but particularly in teens. Skipped meals, diets high in sugar, caffeine, processed carbohydrates, junk foods, and other staples of teen diets can cause the delicate balance between estrogen and progesterone to spiral out of control

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) frequently occurs when blood sugar is chronically out of balance, and brings with it the requisite symptoms of severe cramping and PMS. Other PCOS symptoms include depression, acne, irregular periods, and ovarian cysts (with pain).

A diet that eliminates sugar, minimizes caffeine, regulates carbohydrate consumption, and focuses on plenty of produce and healthy proteins and fats can help bring blood sugar, PCOS, and the accompanying cramps and PMS under control. Of course, this won’t be easy for the average teen girl, but sometimes the pain of the problem outweighs the pain of the solution.

Adrenal imbalances. The adrenal glands are two walnut-sized glands that sit atop each kidney and produce adrenal hormones. Teen habits of missing sleep, pushing themselves too hard, skipping meals, and eating too much sugar all send adrenal function into over drive or under drive.

Adrenal imbalances severely impact hormonal balance and can deplete progesterone, the “calming” hormone that helps prevent PMS.

Too much screen time. Hormonal balance is tightly linked to the light cycles of day and night. The blue light emitted from smart phones, tablets, and TVs are interpreted as sunlight by the brain. When teen girls stare into their phones texting and sharing late into the night, the brain, and then the hormones, become awfully confused as a result. (This also causes insomnia.)

Although restricting exposure to screens is a tall order for today’s teens, you may be able to convince your daughter to wear orange glasses  use an orange film over the screen, or download an app like f.lux or Twilight that filters out blue light after sunset.

These are just a few ways in which modern teen habits can result in severe menstrual cramps and PMS. For more information on how to balance hormones and alleviate cramps and PMS using functional medicine, please contact my office.

Think being gluten-free is a fad? Think again

You’d have to live under a rock to not recognize the popularity of gluten-free diets by now. But if you think going gluten-free is just another fad, think again. Although it may be a passing fad for some, a gluten-free diet is powerful medicine for most.

The benefits, which attain almost miraculous heights for some people, vary depending on the person.

A gluten sensitivity is not a one-size-fits-all disorder with requisite symptoms. Contrary to popular belief, it does not simply cause digestive complaints (although it does cause severe digestive distress for many).

Neurological symptoms common with gluten

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In fact, one of the most common consequences of a gluten intolerance are symptoms that express themselves neurologically, and even these can vary.

The part of the brain most commonly affected by a gluten intolerance is the cerebellum, the area at the back of the brain that controls motor movements and balance. This can cause issues with balance, vertigo, nausea, car sickness and sea sickness, and getting dizzy or nauseous looking at fast-moving images or objects.

Also commonly affected are the protective coating of nerves called myelin. As damage to myelin progresses one can develop multiple-sclerosis type symptoms such as numbness, tingling or muscle weakness.

Other neurological symptoms associated with gluten include obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), attention deficit disorder (ADD), depression, anxiety, memory loss, brain fog, autism symptoms, and even more serious psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia.

How a person with a neurological response to gluten reacts depends on that person’s genetic makeup.

Other common symptoms caused by gluten

For others the reactions to gluten manifest elsewhere in the body. Some common symptoms include skin disorders (i.e., eczema, psoriasis, rosacea, dermatitis herpetiformis), joint pain, digestive problems, and poor thyroid function (Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism).

Why does gluten cause such diverse symptoms?

The symptoms of a gluten intolerance vary from person to person because of its effects on the immune system and brain.

Gluten is inflammatory and damaging to the gut in many people, causing leaky gut. The gut is the seat of the immune system, and also communicates intimately with the brain.

When the gut is constantly inflamed and becomes leaky (even though one might not have digestive symptoms), this increases overall inflammation in the body and the brain.

Increased inflammation not only gives rise to myriad disorders on its own, it also increases the risk of developing an autoimmune disorder. This is a disorder in which an imbalanced immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys tissue in the body, such as the brain, the thyroid, the pancreas, joint cartilage, and more.

Gluten and autoimmune disease

When it comes to autoimmune disease, no tissue in the body or brain is safe from an overzealous immune system deranged by constant inflammation. The rates of autoimmune diseases have exploded in recent years, and most are yet undiagnosed — meaning years of chronic and “mysterious” symptoms.

If you suffer from troubling and chronic symptoms, it is definitely worth considering an intolerance to gluten and other common trigger foods, such as dairy, eggs, soy, and different grains. Although giving up a favorite food is rarely easy, getting back your health is always wonderful.

Ask my office for more advice on how to manage a chronic health disorder and how to adjust your diet to support your health.