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.
If you suffer with fibromyalgia, you are not alone, as Chiropractic Healing Hands For You sees many patients with this particular problem in our Portland chiropractic office. Actually, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that roughly two percent of all adults in the United States have fibromyalgia. Thankfully, chiropractic care is one treatment option that can provide positive results.
In a study released in mid-2015, 215 adults with fibromyalgia were assessed based on factors ranging from pain to quality of sleep to the levels of depression symptoms or anxiety they felt. Then they were divided into two groups with one group receiving a multi-modal treatment program for three months and the second group receiving the same program with the addition of chiropractic care (specifically, to the upper neck area) for the same length of time.
The individuals who received chiropractic adjustments combined with the multi-disciplinary therapy approach reported greater results in all areas (pain, sleep, depression, and anxiety) at three months post-treatment when compared to the study participants who received multi-modal treatment without chiropractic. Additionally, those positive benefits were lasting as the patients reported continued improvement one full year later.
Fibromyalgia can substantially decrease your quality of life, both psychologically and physically. If you're struggling with fibromyalgia, we might be able to help.
You don't have to suffer! To find out what Chiropractic Healing Hands For You can do for your fibromyalgia, call our Portland chiropractic office today.
- Fibromyalgia. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/arthritis/basics/fibromyalgia.htm on November 2, 2015.
- Moustafa I & Diab A. (2015, July). The addition of upper cervical manipulative therapy in the treatment of patients with fibromyalgia: a randomized controlled trial. Rheumatology International;35(7):1163-74.
It doesn’t take long once you learn about functional medicine to realize it attracts primarily women. Why? Chronic disorders affect more women than men and conventional medicine’s treatment of women often ranges from disappointing to dehumanizing.
Conventional medicine failing women
When women show up at doctors’ offices with “mystery” symptoms from chronic disorders they are often left feeling demoralized and hopeless.
What are some of areas where conventional medicine fails women?
Mystery symptoms dismissed as psychosomatic or whining. Autoimmune disease overwhelmingly afflicts more women than men and can cause years and even decades of symptoms before diagnosis. Many women are told to exercise more, meditate, or take anti-depressants for their symptoms but given no real solutions.
Told to exercise more for chronic fatigue. Chronic fatigue affects four times as many women as men. However, these women are often simply told to exercise as many doctors don’t believe in chronic fatigue, even though it is now medically recognized. These women often end up feeling worse.
Pain in women undertreated. Studies show doctors are slower to treat pain in female patients in emergency rooms and generally undertreat women for pain.
Fibromyalgia, a disorder of chronic pain, also affects mostly women and is often regarded as not legitimate.
In fact, some researchers believe disorders such as fibromyalgia and autoimmunity are so frequently belittled and dismissed because they affect predominantly women.
Poorer response to female heart disease. Women have worse outcomes from heart attacks because medicine looks at male-based heart symptoms. For instance, many women do not have chest pain. As a result, treatment is often less aggressive than necessary.
Hospital childbirth practices traumatic. If there is one place where many women lose their faith in medicine, it is during a hospital childbirth. Women are often pressured into unnecessary procedures or left hung out to dry emotionally in the event of a problem or emergency. As a result, many leave the hospital with postpartum PTSD.
Female sexual abuse survivors also experience worse outcomes in these scenarios.
Male-based studies don’t translate to female patients. Most medical models are based on male physiology. As a result, many signs and symptoms that present differently in women go misdiagnosed or dismissed. Autism and heart attacks are two examples.
Plus, women experience chronic diseases such as autoimmunity, fibromyalgia, and hypothyroidism at significantly higher rates than men and thus are often told their symptoms are “in their head.”
Functional medicine for women
Fortunately, in functional medicine we conduct comprehensive histories, examinations, and testing with all patients regardless of gender.
We specialize in working with chronic so-called “mystery” disorders that predominantly affect women and are explained in the scientific literature.
One thing we frequently hear from women is how good it feels to finally be heard. Ask my office how we can help you.
The United States enjoys liberal access to nutritional supplements. We can buy virtually any supplement from multiple sources either at the local grocery store or online. Other countries can be more stringent when it comes to access and don’t enjoy near the wide range of variety.
However, the freedom around nutritional supplements in the United States means consumers must be wary of shoddy, fraudulent and even unsafe supplements with misleading claims. It’s important to learn how to be a smart supplement shopper to make the most of our supplement-shopping freedom. You may be surprised to learn the worst supplements aren’t from some shadowy corner of the internet, but rather usually from your local drug or grocery store.
At the same time, it’s also important to protect consumer access to supplements. The FDA’s approach to the industry is often viewed as unnecessarily aggressive due, it is widely believed, to the influence of the pharmaceutical industry. As the the rates of “untreatable” or “mysterious” chronic diseases and dementia continue to skyrocket, people increasingly turn to alternative health care and nutritional supplements to address their health concerns. This has turned the supplement industry into one worth many billions of dollars.
What supplements to avoid
The supplement industry as created its own standards of quality that manufacturers can choose to comply with in order to reassure their buyers only the purest ingredients are used.
Avoid cheap, mass marketed supplements comprised of synthetic or inflammatory fillers (such as wheat and corn), poor quality ingredients, inactive ingredients, and artificial colors. There is also no way of knowing how shipping and storing has affected the ingredients.
What to look for in quality supplements
For starters, avoid fillers that use wheat, corn, starches, and magnesium stearate. Also, research the origin of the ingredients. Herbal ingredients can come from heavily polluted areas in other countries and be loaded with toxins. Good companies test their ingredients for toxins.
Research the brand. Are they formulated with a health-care professional and scientific advisory board? Are there peer-reviewed studies to back up the ingredients? Does the company test purity?
What is their marketing like? Do they use sleazy snake-oil selling tactics? Or do they cater to licensed practitioners and provide educational seminars to teach about the products and how best to incorporate them into a health care plan?
Also, look for supplement companies that send their products out to independent labs to test for quality and purity.
NSF International, and independent organization, certifies supplements on three levels of quality:
Certified Good manufacturing practices (CGMPs): Guidelines that assure a product conforms with what’s listed its label.
American National Standard for dietary supplement products: Testing that ensures products contain what is on the label and not undeclared contaminants.
NSF Certified for Sport: Screens for athletic banned substances.
Chiropractic Healing Hands For You sees many people weekly in our busy Portland chiropractic office who are searching for relief from the pain and distress they feel due to herniated discs. Our experience isn't unique; the medical literature confirms that chiropractic is a great way to treat herniated disc pain.
One particular study involved 27 people, 8 male and 19 female, who had magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) confirming a disc herniation in either their neck or lower back. The individuals documented that they were experiencing pain, reduced range of motion, and sensory problems bad enough to keep them off work.
During the course of the research period, the individuals were treated using one of two common chiropractic methods: traction for herniated discs in the cervical area or flexion distraction for the men and women who had herniation issues in the lumbar area.
Each individual was seen four or five times per week for the first two weeks, then three times each week, and then as needed for the remainder of the study. Based on the extent of the disc herniation, treatment varied anywhere from six weeks to six months, with MRIs being conducted at various stages to determine what effect, if any, the chiropractic care was having in regard to the disc herniation.
The researchers discovered that 80 percent of the participants obtained a "good clinical outcome," meaning reduced pain and a reduction in other issues, such as numbness. Additionally, 77 percent of these individuals also showed MRI evidence that their disc herniation was either reduced or resolved completely. This resulted in 78 percent of the study participants being able to return to their place of employment and led the authors to conclude that chiropractic is both "safe and helpful" for disc herniations.
If you have a herniated disc and you're near Chiropractic Healing Hands For You in Portland, contact our office today to see what chiropractic can do for you!
BenEliyahu, DJ. Magnetic resonance imaging and clinical follow-up: study of 27 patients receiving chiropractic care for cervical and lumbar disc herniations. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics 1996;19(9):597-606.
Aging gracefully is all about taking care of your mitochondria — the little energy factories in each cell. As we get older, their function can start to diminish, which plays a key role in aging of the body. However, new research has shown a little-known strategy to boost the longevity and function of your mitochondria — regular bursts of high intensity exercise.
People are told to exercise for all sorts of reasons, but regular exercise is one of life’s magic bullets when it comes to remaining physically and mentally agile into the elder years. Any kind of regular exercise is better than none when it comes to health and longevity.
However, when it comes to nurturing cellular mitochondria and thus better preserving your overall health, one form of exercise outshines the rest — intervals of high intensity exercise. This means an exercise routine that boosts the heart rate to healthy upper thresholds for several minutes at a time.
How different forms of exercise affect aging
Although any regular physical activity makes for a better aging process, a recent Mayo Clinic study showed different types improve aging in different ways.
The study divided healthy but sedentary men and women under the age of 30 and over the age of 64 into several groups of exercise:
- Vigorous weight-lifting several times a week.
- Interval training three times a week on stationary bikes (they did three sets of pedaling hard for four minutes and resting for three minutes).
- Alternated between mild weight lifting and moderate pedaling on a stationary bike throughout the week.
- No exercise.
Not surprisingly, all the groups who exercised reported better blood sugar control and fitness after three months of regular exercise. The vigorous weight lifters gained muscle mass while the interval exercises gained more endurance.
But the finding that surprised researchers was cellular improvement in the interval exercisers. The under-30 interval exercisers showed changes in 274 genes, compared to 170 genes in the young moderate mixed exercise group and 74 genes in the young weight lifters.
However, the older interval exercisers showed changes in 400 genes, compared to only 19 for the older moderate exercisers and 33 for the older weight lifters.
In other words, interval exercising is the most advantageous at any stage of life, but it’s significantly more advantageous the older you are compared to other forms of exercise.
How interval exercise improves the aging process
Researchers theorize interval training is beneficial because it increases the number and health of cellular mitochondria. This means more energy for muscles (including the heart), better brain function, and better recovery and regeneration.
The fact that the older participants had more robust responses to high intensity interval training shows it is never too late to exercise, especially if you do the most beneficial kind. Another bonus? You can extract the most gains in the least amount of time from interval exercise, which requires less time than other forms.
How to interval train for better cellular health
To interval train simply push yourself to your maximum effort for several minutes several times in your routine, with short periods of rest in between sets. Work within your capacity and don’t over train — over exercising causes inflammation and can damage mitochondria.
Ask my office for more advice on the best way to exercise for optimal health.
If you struggle with excess weight or high blood sugar, your blood tests show may also show fatty liver (high liver enzymes). Although fatty liver has no overt symptoms, a liver filled with fat hinders detoxification, promotes inflammation, may increase gallstones and increases heart attack risk. So a fatty liver means eat less fat, right? Wrong, the culprit in fatty liver isn’t too much fat but rather too many sugars and carbohydrates.
Too many carbs are the main culprits behind the excess belly fat that is a sure sign of fatty liver. This is because sugar signals the liver to produce more fat.
This process is heightened when the liver must process fructose particularly high-fructose corn syrup found in soft drinks and other junk foods.
From fatty liver to fatty liver disease
While some fat in the liver is normal, if it exceeds 5 to 10 percent of total weight of the organ, it is considered fatty liver and the first stage of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). If fatty liver progresses unchecked, it can lead all the way to cirrhosis.
(Alcohol abuse can also cause fatty liver disease and the majority of alcoholics have a fatty liver.)
NAFLD is the most common liver disorder in the west, affecting as many as one third of Americans. It primarily afflicts those who overweight and middle-aged, but NAFLD is increasingly affecting children and teens due to their over consumption of sodas, sweets, and high-carb foods. High cholesterol and diabetes are typically found with NAFLD too.
How to reverse fatty liver and regain liver health
The good news is you can reverse fatty liver before it’s too late. Even though the liver may not initially complain with symptoms, it’s important to take liver health seriously to prevent serious long-term complications. Steps to reverse fatty liver include:
Adopt a lower-carb, sugar-free diet. High blood sugar leads to fatty liver. To start reversing it you need to bring blood sugar down to healthy levels with a whole foods diet abundant in fibrous vegetables, healthy fats, and proteins while low in foods that spike blood sugar. Most people will begin to lose excess fat on this way of eating as well, further unburdening the liver.
Exercise daily. Exercise helps lower high blood sugar, detoxify the body, and shed excess fat, all of which will help reverse fatty liver.
Avoid alcohol and unnecessary medications. Alcohol is very hard on the liver, as are many medications. Avoid both as much as possible while working to reverse fatty liver.
Lower inflammation. The liver actually plays an important role in inflammation and lowering overall inflammation will likewise ease its burdens. The most important ways to do this are by removing foods from your diet that promote inflammation (gluten and dairy are the most common) and minimizing exposure to toxins and chemicals.
Take natural anti-inflammatory compounds. Certain nutritional compounds really shine when it comes to lowering inflammation. These include high doses of emulsified turmeric and resveratrol, absorbable forms of glutathione, vitamin D, and many other compounds. Ask my office for more advice.
Support liver detoxification pathways. If your liver cells are clogged with fat it may have trouble with everday detoxification duties. The liver responds wonderfully to herbs and compounds that support detoxification, such as milk thistle or n-acetyl-cysteine.
Ask my office for more ways to reverse fatty liver and support liver health.