A recent study confirmed what functional medicine has long since known — the autoimmune paleo (AIP) diet is highly successful for managing chronic health disorders. The first-of-its-kind study showed the majority of participants quickly achieved and maintained remission of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis on the AIP diet. A number of participants were even able to discontinue drug therapies.
Many people follow the AIP diet to manage not just Crohn’s but also chronic pain, Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, irritable bowel syndrome, skin rashes such as eczema or psoriasis, high blood pressure, depression, anxiety, brain-based disorders, diabetes, autoimmune disease in general, and other chronic health problems.
People are surprised to find that not only do their symptoms fade but also they enjoy more energy, better sleep, weight loss, increased libido, less stress, and a general overall improvement of their well being.
A primary reason the diet is so effective is because it helps repair leaky gut, a condition in which the lining of the gut becomes inflamed and porous, allowing inflammatory compounds into the bloodstream. This creates inflammation throughout the body and brain and leads to a wide array of chronic gut, metabolic, and autoimmune disorders.
Anti-inflammatory is the key to the AIP diet
An anti-inflammatory diet focuses on whole foods and is free of inflammatory foods, additives, fillers, and artificial colors. It includes an accompanying protocol of appropriate sleep, physical activity, rest, and positive socialization and self-treatment. Certain nutritional compounds that gently cleanse and detoxify the body may boost the success of the diet.
AIP diet sites and articles abound, but here are basics:
- Eliminate all processed foods, fast foods, desserts, coffee drinks, sodas, etc. Your anti-inflammatory diet should consist of whole foods found in the produce and meat sections of the grocery store, with an emphasis on plenty of vegetables. Also eliminate processed vegetable oils and hydrogenated oils and stick with natural oils.
- Eliminate common inflammatory foods, the most common culprit being gluten. Many people’s symptoms resolve simply on a gluten-free diet. However, dairy, eggs, soy, nuts, grain, and nightshades are commonly immune reactive as well. Eliminate these foods for about six weeks to see whether you react upon reintroducing them one at a time.
- Eliminate sweets. On the anti-inflammatory diet you will avoid all sweeteners. This helps curb cravings, stabilize blood sugar, lower inflammation, and lose excess fat. Enjoy low-sugar fruits instead, such as berries.
- Eat lots of vegetables. Not only do plenty of veggies load you up with vital nutrients and fiber, new research shows they create a healthy gut microbiome – the bacteria in your gut that profoundly influence your immune and brain health. A diet based around veggies creates an abundant and diverse gut microbiome and thus better health.
- Get enough sleep and exercise. Sufficient sleep is a major inflammation-buster, as is regular physical activity. Overtraining, however, can cause inflammation so watch out for that.
Boost success with gut repair and detoxification
Adding in specific nutritional compounds can help repair a damaged gut, lower inflammation, support the liver, and detoxify the system. Ask my office for more information about a detoxification and gut-repair program using the AIP diet.
It’s now common knowledge that nighttime exposure to computer, tablet, and TV screens sabotages sleep —the light they emit simulates sunlight, thus suppressing sleep hormones. However, plenty of daytime sunlight is vital for good sleep. Most of us don’t get near enough.
Research shows the average person spends less than an hour a day outside. For shift workers it’s even worse. Lack of exposure to sunlight inhibits production of melatonin, a hormone that puts us to sleep.
A Finnish rat study observed one group living under fluorescent lighting and another group exposed only to sunlight through windows every day. While both groups received the same duration of both light and darkness during the study, the rats exposed to sunlight produced significantly more melatonin.
It’s not that the artificial light was detrimental. It simply wasn’t strong enough — the sunlight was more than seven times brighter than the fluorescent light. This is what boosted melatonin production. Researchers assert variation of light throughout the day, from dawn to dusk, also supports healthy melatonin production.
During a sunny day, lux levels (which measure the intensity of light) reach 50,000. Compare this to indoor lighting, which ranges in the low to mid hundreds at the most. For most of human history we have lived with natural light and it plays a significant role in the function of the body and brain.
Why melatonin and light rhythms are so important
Anyone who has suffered through insomnia and sleep deprivation understands the importance of sufficient and quality sleep.
However, melatonin and our sleep-wake cycle (also called circadian rhythm) are intertwined with every system in the body, affecting much more than how rested or tired we feel. Heaps of studies point to the importance of a healthy sleep-wake cycle for overall immune, hormonal, and mental health.
For instance, one study found that women suffering from PMS show chronically low melatonin levels. Just two hours a day of exposure to sunlight increased their melatonin levels and relieved their symptoms.
A German study showed subjects with mood imbalances exhibited healthier serotonin levels after just one week of light therapy.
Another study showed subjects experienced a 160 percent increase in melatonin at night after just a half hour of exposure to bright light from a light box.
How to get enough outdoor light in an indoor world
It’s not easy getting enough sunlight when you’re indoors all day working or going to school. But it’s vital for healthy sleep, brain function, and metabolic function to get enough light exposure.
Some solutions are obvious — spend time outside as much as you can. Eat lunch outside and go for a walk on your breaks. Maybe you can even work outside on your laptop if your job is portable.
If possible, work near windows that get plenty of natural light. One study showed employees working near a window received twice as much light as their coworkers who didn’t and hence enjoyed more sleep.
If sufficient exposure to natural light isn’t possible, indoor light therapy has been shown to help relieve sleep and mood imbalances.
Look for a light box that delivers plenty of lux and is big enough for sufficient exposure. The Center for Environmental Therapeutics provides criteria for purchasing a reliable light box, which they recommend using for at least a half hour in the morning.
A new study that had subjects handle store receipts showed BPA absorbed through the skin stays in the body much longer than ingested BPA. The study had subjects handle common store receipts for five minutes, then wear gloves for two hours before washing their hands.
BPA measurements in the subjects’ urine showed BPA levels highest for the first two days after handling the receipts. After one week, three of the six volunteers still showed BPA in their urine.
However, when the subjects ate a cookie with BPA, follow up urinalysis showed BPA levels spiked after five hours but was cleared after a day. The scientists concluded that the body can more quickly metabolize and clear ingested BPA than BPA absorbed through the skin.
BPA toxicity in everyday food and beverages
BPA (bisphenol-A) is the main component of polycarbonate and is found in water and beverage bottles, plastic lids, the lining of tin cans, food storage containers, dental sealants, contact lenses, and electronics.
Store receipts aren’t the only place people come in contact with BPA. Canned foods often contain significant amounts of the chemical — the lining in a soup can can deliver 1,000 percent more BPA than fresh soup.
Plastics beverage bottles are another common source of exposure, especially if the bottle has been exposed to heat, light, or acids (such as soda).
Plastic food containers, especially if they have been heated, are another common source. Plastic coffee lids, straws, and any other plastics that come in contact with foods deliver BPA as well.
BPA on store receipts
Store receipts aren’t the only source of BPA that can be absorbed through the skin. Other sources of thermal paper that contains high amounts of BPA include fast food receipts, ATM receipts, airline tickets, gas station receipts, lottery tickets, fax paper (if anyone still uses that), etc.
Although this latest study had subjects handle the receipts for five minutes, previous studies have shown handling a receipt for just five seconds transfers BPA through your skin and into your bloodstream. Your skin absorbs ten times as much if your fingers are wet or greasy.
You can even absorb BPA from handling cash that has been stored with receipts.
Why BPA is toxic to the body
Studies have shown BPA to be problematic to human health in various ways. It has estrogen-like properties that skew hormone balance. Rodent studies have shown BPA causes reproductive defects, cancer, and breakdowns in metabolic and immune health.
BPA is especially toxic to a developing fetus, raising the risk of causing chromosomal errors, miscarriage, and genetic damage.
BPA raises the risk of triggering autoimmunity
Recent studies have also shown that BPA can both trigger and exacerbate autoimmune diseases due to its disruptive effect on the immune system. It has been linked to autoimmunity to nerve sheathes, the common target of attach in multiple sclerosis, and to Hashimoto’s thyroid autoimmune disease.
BPA-free is no guarantee
Unfortunately, products listed as “BPA-free” are not a green light either. Many non-BPA plastics also contain synthetic estrogens.
How to reduce your body burden of BPA
Reduce your exposure to BPA as much as possible by not handling receipts and avoiding plastic food and beverage containers. Additionally, help buffer the damage of BPA and other toxins by eating a whole foods diet and supplementing with nutritional compounds that support detoxification and cellular protection. Ask my office for more advice.
If you complain of mild to moderate pain a doctor will freely prescribe NSAIDs, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. However, they are not benign as you think, especially if taken long term. NSAIDs are linked to numerous health complaints.
Common brands of NSAIDs include ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) and naproxen (Aleve). Celecoxib (Celebrex), diclofenac (Cataflam, Voltaren) are prescription NSAIDs. Aspirin is also an NSAID, but it doesn’t pose the same heart attack and stroke risks.
NSAIDs have been linked to many health disorders:
- 40–60 percent increased risk of cardiovascular problems
- 25 percent increased risk of hearing loss
- 60 percent increased risk of heart failure
- Gastrointestinal problems such as pain, heartburn, nausea, vomiting, bleeding, ulcers, and leaky gut.
- Increased risk of asthma and eczema in children
NSAIDs increase heart attack and stroke risk
The link between NSAID use and heart attack is so well founded the FDA has issued a warning. The risk may begin within a few weeks of taking an NSAID and the longer you take NSAIDs, the higher your risk.
Functional medicine and NSAIDs — leaky gut
In functional medicine, we look at another sabotaging factor of NSAIDs — leaky gut.
Leaky gut means the lining of the small intestine has become so damaged that it becomes overly porous, allowing undigested food, bacteria, yeast, and other pathogens into the bloodstream from the gut. This triggers inflammation and pain throughout the body, exactly the sort of thing people use NSAIDs to relieve.
Functional medicine alternatives to NSAIDs
Nobody wants to be pain. It’s understandable to seek relief so you can feel and function better. However, many people are surprised to find their chronic pain diminishes substantially when they adopt functional medicine basics.
Following are a few ways functional medicine can relieve pain and eliminate the need for NSAIDs:
Eat an anti-inflammatory diet. This means removing foods that trigger inflammation, which for many people is gluten and dairy. Grains, legumes, eggs, sugar, and nightshades are other common culprits. After following the diet strictly for a period of time you can customize it so it’s more liberal but does not trigger pain.
Take plenty of nutrients that combat inflammation and pain. These include vitamin D (some people have a genetic variance that prevents sufficient vitamin D uptake), other fat-soluble vitamin (A, E, and K), nutrients to boost the primary antioxidant glutathione, and omega 3 fatty acids.
Look for natural remedies for inflammation and pain. There are many alternatives, such as liposomal turmeric and resveratrol. Ask my office for advice.
Balance blood sugar. Many people have blood sugar that is too high, too low, or a combination of both. Balancing blood sugar is critical to reduce inflammation and pain. These are just a few ways to use functional medicine to address the root causes of inflammation and pain so that you can stop taking NSAIDs. Ask my office for more advice.
Knee pain is a common issue for people in our Portland chiropractic office, and Dr. Helton has happily provided many of these men and women relief. This is largely because chiropractic care has been found to help with many types of knee pain.
For example, some people feel pain in and around the knee tissues due to degenerative arthritis. Research has shown that this ailment responds very well to chiropractic--and rather quickly, too. In fact, one study published in The Journal of the Canadian Chiropractic Association found that people with osteoarthritis in their knees felt significant pain relief and enhanced function after just two weeks of chiropractic care.
If your knee pain is as a result of a medial meniscus tear, chiropractic could likely help with that as well. One article found that integrating chiropractic with soft tissue therapy, rest, ice, and compression on the affected knee helped lower the intensity of the pain.
Of course, sometimes a knee replacement surgery is required in order to correct the problem, and if that's the case, chiropractic care can also help improve the outcome. How?
Research has found that patients with low back pain often have less positive outcomes after knee surgery. Therefore, dealing with your back pain through chiropractic prior to having a total knee arthroplasty can help with your post-surgery healing.
No matter what your knee issue, Dr. Helton can likely help. Call our Portland practice today and find out what we can do for you!
- Pollard H et al. (2008, December). The effect of a manual therapy knee protocol on osteoarthritic knee pain: a randomised controlled trial. The Journal of the Canadian Chiropractic Association;52(4):229-42
Boyle J et al. (2014, March). Influence of low back pain on total knee arthroplasty outcome. Knee;21(2):410-4
- Jarosz B & Ames R. (2010, December). Chiropractic management of a medial meniscus tear in a patient with tibiofemoral degeneration: a case report. Journal of Chiropractic Medicine;9(4):200-8
We see a lot of folks with headaches in our Portland office, and Dr. Helton has been able to aid many of them. Actually, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that one half of all adults have difficulty with some type of headache problem, so this really isn’t a surprise. One of the most typical sorts of headaches that our patients experience is cervicogenic headache which, fortunately, chiropractic can generally help.
What is a Cervicogenic Headache?
A cervicogenic headache is one that arises from issues in the cervical spine. It might be thanks to a problem with either the spine itself (particularly, the vertebrae, joints, or discs), or it might be brought on by a problem in the muscles and tendons of your neck. This dysfunction in your spine brings about compression or irritation of the spinal nerves, which can contribute to headache pain.
How do you determine if the headache you are struggling with is a cervicogenic headache? Besides getting a diagnosis from a healthcare professional, a common symptom of cervicogenic headaches is tenderness or pain in your neck. This is occasionally coupled with pain in the back of your head or between your shoulder blades.
Headache Relief with Chiropractic
Since cervicogenic headaches will not go away until whatever problem is causing them is remedied, it is crucial to get treatment instead of just trying to "wait it out." Chiropractic care is an effective approach, and one that offers a great deal of pain relief.
In one study released in Chiropractic & Osteopathy, specialists studied 80 people who had frequent cervicogenic headaches. Half got chiropractic care and the other half engaged in light massage therapy. Each participant was examined 12 and 24 weeks after the procedures and it was found that chiropractic offered the optimum outcomes.
In particular, this study uncovered that chiropractic adjustments provided patients better pain relief and diminished the number of headaches that occurred. In addition, it also minimized the disability that resulted from these painful headaches.
To find out what Dr. Helton can do for you and your headaches, call us today. We'll do our best to get you the pain relief you deserve!
- Haas M, Schneider M, Vavrek D. Illustrating risk difference and number needed to treat from a randomized controlled trial of spinal manipulation for cervicogenic headache. Chiropractic & Osteopathy 2010 18(9).
- World Health Organization. (2012, October). Headache disorders. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs277/en/
You could be developing an autoimmune disease, one of the most common diseases today, and are not aware of it. This is because autoimmune diseases sometimes start off as “silent” autoimmunity. This means your immune system is attacking tissue in your body but the damage isn’t bad enough to cause symptoms yet.
Autoimmune disease is more common than cancer and heart disease combined, and that’s just the diagnosed cases. Many, if not most, cases of autoimmunity are happening without a diagnosis.
This is because medicine does not screen for autoimmunity until symptoms are advanced and severe enough for a diagnosis and treatment with steroids, chemotherapy drugs, or surgery.
Autoimmunity: The disease for the modern era
Autoimmunity can affect any tissue in the body or brain. It occurs when the immune system attacks and damages tissue as if it were a foreign invader.
Common autoimmune diseases include Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, Graves’ disease, multiple sclerosis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, celiac disease, and psoriasis. More than 80 different autoimmune diseases have been identified so far.
Autoimmune disease affects 1 in 5 people, the majority of them women. It is believed women are more commonly affected because of their hormonal complexity. Although autoimmune disease is very common, the statistics do not tell the whole story.
Autoimmunity can happen long before diagnosis
Autoimmunity can begin long before damage is bad enough for a disease to be diagnosed. Many people can go years, decades, or even an entire lifetime with symptoms but never have damage bad enough to be labeled disease.
As an example, autoimmunity against the pancreas can cause blood sugar issues long before the development of type 1 diabetes. Additionally, about 10 percent of people with type 2 diabetes, which is caused by diet and lifestyle, also have pancreatic autoimmunity. This is called type 1.5 diabetes.
One of the most common autoimmune diseases is Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism. Patients may need to gradually increase their thyroid hormone because although they were diagnosed with low thyroid, the autoimmunity was overlooked and left unmanaged.
Or a patient may have an autoimmune reaction that has not been recognized as a disease. For instance, autoimmunity to nerve cells may produce symptoms similar to multiple sclerosis (MS), which is an autoimmune reaction to nerve sheathes. However, because the autoimmunity is not attacking nerve sheathes specifically, the patient cannot be diagnosed despite MS-like symptoms.
Autoimmunity can attack anything in the body
People can also have symptoms that suggest many types of autoimmunity. Although symptoms vary depending on which tissue is being attacked, many autoimmune sufferers experience chronic fatigue, chronic pain, declining brain function, gastrointestinal issues, hair loss, weight gain or weight loss, brain fog, and more.
Fortunately, functional medicine offers lab testing that can screen for autoimmunity against a number of different tissues. We also use strategies such as an anti-inflammatory diet, blood sugar stabilizing, gut healing, addressing toxins, and habits that minimize stress and inflammation.
Ask my office if autoimmunity may be causing your strange and chronic symptoms.
Most people worry about high blood pressure, and with good reason as it portends numerous health risks. However, low blood pressure brings a different set of problems, such as reduced brain function and increased mortality risk. If the upper or lower number deviates by more than 10 from 120/80, it pays to be aware low blood pressure may be affecting your health.
Blood pressure pushes blood through about 100,000 miles of veins, arteries, and capillaries in the body, carrying oxygen, nutrients, immune cells, hormones, neurotransmitters, and other vital compounds.
High blood pressure strains blood vessels. However, low blood pressure means not enough blood is getting to capillaries and tissues, particularly in your hands, feet, and brain. This deprives those tissues of sufficient oxygen and nutrients. You may have chronic nail fungal infections and cold hands and feet if so.
Adrenal fatigue as a cause of low blood pressure
The most common cause of low blood pressure in a functional medicine model is poor adrenal function.
The adrenals are two walnut-sized glands that sit atop the kidneys. They produce stress hormones and help regulate blood pressure. Many people today suffer from adrenal fatigue due to chronic stress. Other causes of adrenal fatigue are poor diets, low blood sugar, chronic infections, gut problems, inflammation, and unmanaged autoimmunity — all stressors.
Adrenal fatigue symptoms include chronic tiredness, low blood sugar, losing function between meals, getting sick all the time, and low blood pressure.
Orthostatic hypotension when you stand up
Orthostatic hypotension is a common type of low blood pressure that causes lightheadedness when you go from sitting to standing. This happens because the blood pools in the legs upon standing, slowing blood flow back to the heart and thus the brain. You will be diagnosed with orthostatic hypotension when the top number of your blood pressure falls by 20 and the bottom number by 10 upon standing.
Although orthostatic hypotension is a red flag you need to address your low blood pressure, it becomes more dangerous when it makes you faint or fall. Orthostatic hypotension is commonly found in those with low blood pressure and low blood sugar but people with high blood pressure can have it too.
Functional medicine tips for low blood pressure
If you have signs and symptoms of low blood pressure and adrenal fatigue, consider an adrenal saliva test. This test measures levels of the adrenal hormone cortisol throughout the day. This gives you a more precise therapy target and follow-up testing will let you know if your protocols are on the right track.
Everyone knows a person with high blood pressure should avoid salt, but adding some good quality sea salt to your diet may help boost low blood pressure. In fact, you may be one of those people who craves salt.
A nutritional compound that can help raise low blood pressure is licorice root extract, or glycyrrhiza, which can extend the life of cortisol in the body and improve blood volume and electrolyte balance.
Of course, it’s important to address what is causing adrenal fatigue. Adrenal fatigue is always secondary to something else. One of the most common causes is eating a diet that causes low blood sugar. Eating a good breakfast, skipping sweets and sweet drinks, minimizing starchy foods, and eating regularly enough to sustain blood sugar are helpful strategies.
For more advice on supporting healthy adrenal function and blood pressure, contact my office.
If you use artificial sweeteners to avoid gaining weight, you’re not only wasting your time but also possibly causing future health problems, according to a new study.
The study found that not only do aspartame and sucralose not prevent weight gain, they also raise the risk of disease in people who use them regularly.
Some research even shows long term use of artificial sweeteners leads to weight gain.
Recent research shows about a quarter of children and more than 40 percent of adults in the United States consume artificial sweeteners daily.
Some people eat them purposefully in the mistaken belief that is better for their health. Many others, however, are unwittingly consuming them in everyday food products.
Artificial sweeteners hiding in many foods
Artificial sweeteners are hiding in many foods unbeknownst to most people. These products are not always clearly labeled and some are even labeled with misleading claims such as “natural ingredients.”
While we expect to find artificial sweeteners in foods labeled “light,” “reduced sugars,” “diet,” and “sugar-free,” they also show up in “smart” popcorn, granola bars, yogurt, and even a popular pediatric electrolyte drink.
Artificial sweeteners linked to obesity; disease
Studies also suggest long term use of artificial sweeteners leads to weight gain and chronic diseases such as diabetes, and heart disease.
Participants in a randomized trial who used artificial sweeteners as part of their weight loss program were shown to have a slight increase in their body mass index, a 14 percent higher chance of developing type 2 diabetes, and a 32 percent higher chance of developing heart disease.
Lobbyists for the artificial sweetener industry and researchers agree other variables need to be considered and more research needs to be done.
Why artificial sweeteners cause weight gain
One reason it’s believed these fake sweeteners lead to weight gain and obesity-related health risks is because they trigger sugar cravings that a person eventually gives into.
Another theory suggests that consuming foods with artificial sweeteners leads a person to feel “virtuous” and thus justified in overindulging later.
Animal studies show artificial sweeteners trick the brain into thinking you’ve eaten sugar, which can trigger inflammatory cascades and disease.
Artificial sweeteners also alter the gut microbiome in a way that promotes obesity and diabetes.
Functional medicine approach to sweeteners
In functional medicine, we see time and time again that people naturally lose their cravings for sugar and starchy carbs when they eat a whole foods diet that stabilizes blood sugar, lowers inflammation, and promotes brain health. You won’t feel drawn to regular use of artificial sweeteners when you have no cravings for sweets in the first place. Ask my office how we can help.
Do you dread going to the doctor because you know they will pin your health problems on your weight? Or maybe you quit going to the doctor all together to avoid feeling embarrassed and ashamed. Because the stigma attached to body size has been shown to cause weight gain, researchers are calling for doctors to emphasize exercise rather than weight loss.
Although it’s true obesity is linked to myriad inflammatory health conditions, it’s also true that diets fail the majority of people and often lead to weight gain. Also, some people are overweight due to genetic predisposition, numerous starvation diets, a history of an eating disorder in response to childhood trauma, and so on.
For those people who have spent a lifetime battling their weight and the stigma associated with it, a visit to the doctor simply opens a Pandora’s box of shame, despair, hopelessness, and self-loathing. Many decide it’s simply healthier not to go.
Policy may shift to taking the emphasis off weight
Fortunately, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is aware of the ineffectiveness of shaming patients.
A recent essay published by the CDC called for doctors to lay off patients who don’t meet the body mass index (BMI) guidelines and instead shift the focus to helping a patient exercise regularly.
The essay argues that avoiding “fat shaming” will go a long way to establishing better doctor-patient rapport and trust, thus facilitating a patient’s sense of positivity and willingness to adapt healthier habits.
Diets and thinking you are fat lead to obesity
Studies consistently show diets actually lead to long-term weight gain and obesity.
What’s even more shocking is that the perception you are overweight also leads to long term weight gain, even if your original BMI was in the normal range.
In other words, telling a patient they are too fat can actually make them gain weight, not lose it.
And telling yourself you are too fat will do the same.
Addressing obesity and health without stigma
Clearly, telling people they are too heavy and need to lose weight isn’t working.
The key, say researchers, is to promote the idea that a person can be healthy at any weight. This requires decreasing the stigma, establishing trust and rapport, and encouraging exercise and healthy behaviors. It also requires taking into consideration the patient’s social and financial situation.
According to recent studies, regular exercise improves health at any weight. It also reduces the risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s.
Focusing on regular exercise also shifts the focus away from judging the person’s body and instead puts it on behaviors that can be influenced, barriers that can be addressed, and progress that can be measured at follow-up visits, regardless of weight.
Diets have a terrible track record for the majority of people. However, exercise is an area where most people can succeed, regardless of their body size or fitness level.
Ask my office how we can help you improve your health in a way that works for you.