Are you a night owl who can’t fall asleep? Are you half dead in the morning without several cups of coffee? If so, you may have an increased risk of developing dementia later in life.
Our “body clock,” or circadian rhythm, regulates our sleep/wake cycles.
A healthy circadian rhythm has you alert in the morning, tired at night, and able to sleep through the night.
When it becomes imbalanced your risk of developing dementia, Alzheimer’s, and other diseases increases.
The area of the brain that governs the circadian rhythm, the hippocampus, also plays a role in short-term memory and learning. The hippocampus is the first target of degeneration in dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
An imbalanced circadian rhythm could point to problems in the hippocampus and an increased risk of dementia later in life.
A recent study found the risk of dementia was higher in older women with weaker circadian rhythms.
A 2008 study also found that tracking circadian rhythms over time could predict cognitive decline in healthy older adults.
Dementia isn’t the only risk. Studies have also linked an imbalanced circadian rhythm with cardiovascular disease, weight gain, mood disturbances, constipation, prostate cancer, and breast cancer.
How do you know if your circadian rhythm is off balance? Look at whether you suffer from any of the following symptoms:
How can you normalize your circadian rhythm and lower the risk for dementia? The answer lies largely in regulating cortisol, an adrenal stress hormone. Studies show high cortisol from physical or mental stress degenerates the hippocampus.
The stress from inflammation in particular has been shown to be associated with atrophy of the hippocampus. This has been evidenced on blood panels by higher levels of homocysteine, a telltale sign of inflammation.
One of the best ways to normalize the circadian rhythm is to reduce inflammation; your diet is the first place to start. Address food sensitivities, such as to gluten, lower the amount of starchy foods and sweets to stabilize blood sugar, and eliminate processed foods. Ask my office about an anti-inflammatory diet program.
Other tools I can help you with include addressing brain health and chemistry. Chronic stress can disrupt the balance of neurotransmitters, brain chemicals that regulate mood and wellbeing. Restoring balance to neurotransmitters helps regulate the body’s clock.
Adrenal adaptogens, herbs that help modulate adrenal cortisol levels, can significantly balance the circadian rhythm and protect the hippocampus, as can liposomal phosphatidylserine.
Of course, establishing healthy sleep habits and reducing lifestyle stressors will also help lower cortisol levels and normalize your circadian rhythm.]]>
Call it acid reflux, heartburn, or GERD, but having stomach acid splash back up into your esophagus is painful and distressing. Although researchers cite various causes, one that many doctors overlook is gluten, the protein found in wheat, spelt, rye, barley, and other wheat-like grains.
Research shows acid reflux symptoms more commonly affect those with celiac disease, an autoimmune disease triggered by gluten. One study found 30 percent of celiac disease patients had GERD compared to less than 5 percent of those not diagnosed with the disease. Another study found almost 40 percent of children with celiac disease suffer from esophagitis, inflammation of the esophagus and heartburn.
Fortunately, researchers also found a gluten-free diet relieved symptoms of GERD rapidly and persistently. Some people have found they also need to give up grains, processed foods, or other foods to which they are intolerant (such as dairy) to completely relieve acid reflux.
Some research shows that stomach acid is not acidic enough to immediately damage the esophagus. Instead, it triggers an inflammatory reaction within the tissue of the esophagus, causing damage.
What does gluten have to do with this? Gluten has been shown to be very pro-inflammatory in many people, and has been linked with 55 autoimmune diseases. It’s possible acid reflux could be yet another inflammatory disorder triggered by gluten.
Most people relieve acid reflux by taking an antacid to neutralize stomach acid, with sales of the drug topping $10 billion annually. Not only does this fail to stop stomach acid from washing back up into the esophagus (one study showed protein-pump inhibitors actually induce acid reflux), it also impairs nutrient absorption.
Stomach acid is vital to the absorption of minerals and vitamins, and protects the stomach from bacteria, fungus, and infection. Chronic use of antacids has been linked to increased risk for bacterial infections, candida (yeast) overgrowth, and food poisoning.
Chronic antacid use also impairs absorption of minerals, including calcium, which can increase the risk of osteoporosis and fractures.
With one in five people now believed to be suffering from gluten sensitivity, it’s important to know whether you are too, and whether undiagnosed gluten intolerance is contributing to heartburn.
The conventional tests to screen gluten intolerance are notoriously inaccurate. For cutting-edge testing, please contact my office.]]>
Mary was a mother of two who began a vigorous exercise program of weight lifting and running, one to two hours a day, six days a week. Not only did she fail to lose weight, she actually gained weight, and found herself battling fatigue, irritability, and constant colds and flus. As it turns out, Mary was exercising too much.
While regular exercise is vital to good health, studies show overtraining can actually deplete hormones, depress immunity, lead to bone loss, increase the risk of injuries, slow healing, increase inflammation, and cause a general feeling of burn-out.
Sufficient recovery between exercise sessions and exercising at an appropriate intensity will get you fitter faster without compromising health.
Overtraining causes your body to pump out extra cortisol, a hormone secreted by the adrenal glands that helps us cope with stress. High cortisol can cause bone loss, and muscle breakdown, create belly fat, increase sugar cravings, and lead to insulin resistance, a pre-diabetic condition that causes high blood sugar.
Some people who overtrain suffer from low cortisol, which can lead to weight gain, fatigue, low blood sugar (with dizziness, light-headedness, and irritability), muscle weakness, difficulty recovering from workouts, and poor immune strength.
Clearly, neither high nor low cortisol produces the desired effects of an exercise regime, and both cause a chronic inflammatory state that ages you quickly. Throw in other factors of modern American life—stressful lifestyles, too little sleep, poor diets, too many sweets and caffeine—and overtraining can be the tipping point into cortisol-driven disorders.
How much exercise is too much? This varies from person to person. Overtraining for one person can be another person’s warm up. An adrenal salivary panel will show you your cortisol levels, but it’s especially important to pay attention to signals from your body, which is harder than it sounds for the driven athlete accustomed to pushing the envelope.
Symptoms of overtraining include persistent tiredness, worsening strength and stamina, sleep disturbances, slow recovery, aching joints or limbs, injuries, and frequent illness, to name a few.
Appropriate exercise boosts your energy and your sense of well-being. And while some muscle soreness is normal, you should experience energy, mental focus, and a good mood during recovery periods between workouts.
Ask us about an adrenal cortisol panel to help you establish and appropriate intensity level for your workouts.]]>
Researchers say it isn’t clear why the drug raises the risk of diabetes, and that the findings could be applied to men.
Many people don’t realize that inflammation, not a statin deficiency, underlies high cholesterol, and that the condition usually can be managed naturally.
The study looked at data of more than 150,000 women ages 50-79 for over 12 years. Interestingly, the risk was greater for Asian women and women of a healthy body mass index.
Darlings of the health care industry, statins are the most commonly prescribed drug, accounting for $20 billion of spending a year. About one in four Americans over 45 take statins, despite such common side effects as muscle weakness and wasting, headaches, difficulty sleeping, stomach upset, and dizziness.
As a result, lab ranges for healthy cholesterol are skewed too low. Not only do statin users grapple with side effects and raise their risk of diabetes, but they also risk symptoms of low cholesterol. Cholesterol is necessary for brain and nerve health and to manufacture hormones, including the sex hormones estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone.
Low cholesterol can imbalance hormones and increase the risk for anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders.
In functional medicine, we don’t like to see cholesterol go below 150 mg/dL.
Although statins lower cholesterol, they do not address the underlying cause of high cholesterol, which is typically inflammation. The body uses cholesterol to patch up damage caused by inflammation. In fact, research shows inflammation is the primary cause of heart attacks and strokes, not high cholesterol.
Hypothyroidism, a condition estimated to affect more than 20 million Americans, raises cholesterol. Many find a gluten-free diet lowers cholesterol, as gluten is inflammatory for so many people.
Research also shows diets low in fat and high in carbohydrates increase the “bad” form of LDL (there are two to look at) and decrease the protective HDL.
Functional medicine is highly effective for the person wanting to lower cholesterol naturally.
Management includes an anti-inflammatory diet, exercise, and rooting out causes of inflammation. These include hypothyroidism, autoimmune disease, bacterial infections in the digestive tract, poor blood-sugar handling, or other chronic health issues.
By addressing the cause of high cholesterol not only do you avoid the dangerous risks and unpleasant side effects of statins, but also you journey into your golden years with improved energy and well-being.]]>
Now that the food comas, sugar hangovers, and holiday binges are over, it’s a good time to “clean house” with a detox diet. A detox diet calms inflammation, stimulates repair and recovery, and boosts energy. A detox diet should never involve frequent hunger or lack of nutrients, factors that only stress the body further.
Many people don’t realize they have food intolerances. These foods trigger an immune reaction and cause such symptoms as low energy, rashes, joint pain, digestive issues, headaches, anxiety, depression, and more. They also prevent weight loss. The foods people most commonly react to are gluten, grains, dairy, eggs, and nuts.
Other common immune triggers include nightshades (potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, etc.), legumes, coffee, and, of course, foods high in sugar. Don’t forget, sugary foods include sweet fruits and natural sweeteners, such as honey, maple syrup, and agave.
At this point you might be saying, “There is nothing left to eat!” On the contrary, the detox diet resembles what our ancestors ate prior to the industrialization of food, and there is plenty to eat. In fact, it is important not to get too hungry as the low blood sugar caused by chronic hunger causes inflammation. Eat frequently enough to sustain energy and avoid crashing.
Grass-fed and organic meats, wild fish, plenty of vegetables, healthy fats, and fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, make up the detox diet, along with plenty of water and non-caffeinated herbal teas.
An appropriate amount of good fats ward off hunger and sustain energy. Include healthy fats such as coconut oil, avocado, olive oil, ghee (butter oil), and salmon. Avoid processed vegetable oils and strictly avoid hydrogenated oils, or trans fats.
Yes, the diet is difficult at first. It requires planning and preparation. Initially you may experience sugar and carb cravings, low energy as your body adapts to burning fat instead of sugar for fuel, and such detox symptoms as headaches, rashes, or joint pain. Please call our office for guidance if so.
However people who stick with the diet inevitably feel such a boost in energy and well being that they come to enjoy the diet.
Many find the detox diet is the best weight loss diet yet. Cutting out sweets and high-carb foods naturally promotes weight loss. More importantly, however, the detox diet becomes a weight loss diet plan by reducing inflammation, stabilizing blood sugar, and restoring balance to the adrenals, our stress-managing glands.
After 30 to 90 days of the detox diet, you may wish to add in some of the foods you eliminated, one at a time every 72 hours to see whether you react in any way to them. This will help you build a healthier lifelong diet. However many find a gluten-free and even grain-free diet builds lasting health.
I can help you enhance the effects of the detox diet with nutritional compounds to aid in cleansing and ease the symptoms of transition. They support the liver, the digestive tract, blood sugar balance, and stress handling. Just call my office for advice.
Left in their wake, however, is the sugar hangover, that annual holiday tradition that may include an upset stomach, headache, lethargy, brain fog, skin problems, join pain, mood swings, allergy symptoms, and a heap of regret.
While alcohol hangover cures are a folklore staple, you can take solid steps to recover from your sugar hangover:
To recover, put blood sugar levels on an even keel by eating protein every two to three hours, eating a good breakfast, and avoiding starchy foods, desserts, and sweet drinks (soda, sweet coffee drinks) that spike blood sugar. Instead focus on quality proteins, leafy vegetables, and good sources of fat (olive oil, avocado, coconut oil, salmon, etc.)
Drink plenty of water. This is also the most popular alcohol hangover cure for a reason. Staying hydrated with clean filtered water will help flush your body of toxins and aid in recovery.
Support your liver. Processing all those sweets burdens your liver. Help your liver flush these toxins with such liver detox nutrients as milk thistle, dandelion, N-acetyl L-cysteine, beet root, panax ginseng, and more. Contact my office for more advice on liver detoxification.
Restore your gut. Sweets cause inflammation, promote overgrowth of harmful yeast and bacteria, and irritate the gastric lining. You can restore gut health by avoiding sweets and other starchy foods, temporarily adopting a strict detox diet that eliminates common immune triggers (i.e., gluten), and by eating cultured and fermented foods.
Move your body. A brisk walk, a swim, yoga, or some other gentle exercise will get your lymphatic system pumping and blood flowing to help flush toxins and rejuvenate cells. You may want to avoid extremely vigorous exercise until hangover symptoms subside so as not to further promote inflammation.
These are some basics to help you recover from a sugar hangover and get you back on the wellness path. In fact, all of these tips will help you recover from an alcohol hangover, too. For more advanced strategies and to get started on a detox plan for the New Year, contact my office.
Of course the best way to cure a sugar hangover is to avoid one. But if you happen to overindulge on special occasions, what are some of your tips for a sugar hangover cure?]]>
Researchers found infants with lower levels of cortisol, an adrenal hormone released in response to stress, developed fewer allergies than other infants.
Stress hormone cortisol triggers allergies
The researchers believe environmental and lifestyle factors during pregnancy and early infancy raise adrenal cortisol levels, which increases the risk of allergies.
Studies show high cortisol in a pregnant mother raises levels of the hormone in the fetus.
In functional medicine, we see many women enter into pregnancy with high cortisol. Common symptoms include excess belly fat, insomnia, insulin resistance (high blood sugar), hair loss, and an irregular menstrual cycle.
Stress isn’t just about too much to do on too little sleep (although that is certainly a factor).
Factors that cause high adrenal cortisol
Common factors that elevate cortisol are:
Rate of childhood allergies rising
The rate of allergies has risen sharply in the United States. About 54 percent of Americans are allergic to at least one thing, an up to five-fold increase the late 1970s. The number of children with food allergies has risen 18 percent since the late 90s; witness the prevalence of peanut-free classrooms.
Manage health before pregnancy
The best thing a mother can do to reduce the risk of allergies in her child is to address her own health and nutrition before conception.
An adrenal saliva test is a good way to measure whether cortisol levels are normal. A mother’s health before conception and during pregnancy greatly influences the health of her baby.
Stress is a fact of life for us all. How have you managed to lower stress levels during pregnancy?]]>
Compelling evidence links low vitamin D levels with illness.
One study showed vitamin D-deficient subjects were 36 percent more likely to report an upper respiratory infection than those with higher levels. That rate jumped significantly for those with asthma.
Another study found children taking vitamin D supplements suffered almost half as many incidences of the flu virus than the children not taking vitamin D.
Also, vitamin D levels were found to be lower in children who died of swine flu than in those who survived.
Vitamin D does so much more than fight the flu. Sufficient vitamin D lowers the risk of cancer, autoimmune disease, gum disease, heart disease, diabetes, pulmonary disease, and weak bones.
Vitamin D is a corner stone to good health, however research shows many people do not get enough from sunlight and diet alone. In general, we spend most of our lives indoors, wear sunscreen when outside, and don’t eat a vitamin D-rich diet.
More than 40 percent of the population and 60 percent of children are estimated deficient. Blacks, Hispanics, and other populations with darker skin show the highest rates of deficiency. Living at a northern latitude, obesity, and aging also increase the risk for deficiency. One study found 60 percent of postmenopausal to be deficient in vitamin D.
Supplementing with vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) and its cofactors will help you outpace the flu and prevent disease. A 25-hydroxy vitamin D test is the most accurate way to measure and monitor your levels, with optimal levels falling between 50–80 ng/mL. However if you suffer from an autoimmune disease or other chronic illness, your practitioner may recommend a more specific goal.]]>
Why did pregnancy trigger my hypothyroidism?
Natural immune shifts during pregnancy, together with a genetic tendency and other predisposing factors, can trigger hypothyroidism in some women.
For 90 percent of Americans, hypothyroidism is caused by Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks and destroys the thyroid gland.
The immune system has two major arms of function, one that reacts immediately to an invader, and one that reacts later to produce antibodies. When one of these arms of becomes overly dominant it can trigger an autoimmune disease.
Pregnancy and the postpartum periods naturally polarize the immune system. In the third trimester the delayed immune response is dominant. Postpartum the immediate immune reaction is stronger.
If a genetically predisposed woman goes into pregnancy with an existing immune imbalance, these natural immune shifts could be the tipping point for Hashimoto’s.
Pregnancy can also cause hypothyroid symptoms secondary to chronic stress. Stressors such as gut infections, food intolerances, blood sugar imbalances, and hormonal imbalances can depress the pituitary gland, which controls hormone function in the body. As a result the pituitary fails to signal thyroid activity.
For many women this manifests not only as low thyroid function, but also postpartum depression. Because so many women enter pregnancy dealing with multiple chronic stressors, the increased demands of pregnancy overwhelm the pituitary gland and depress thyroid function.
A woman should address health and immune imbalances before conceiving to reduce her risk of developing hypothyroidism.
Doing so also may lower the risk of her infant developing eczema, asthma, food allergies, and even autism, which has been found to be caused by an autoimmune disease in many. When the mother’s immune system is healthy and balanced, there’s a stronger possibility her baby’s will be too.]]>
Is it my imagination or are broken bones more common than ever today?
Boys are 32 percent and girls 56 percent more likely to break a bone than children 40 years ago. Fractures are also common in older adults.
Dairy provides 70 percent of calcium in the American diet. However 40 years ago children drank four times more milk than soda; in 2001 they drank two and a half more times soda than milk. Today males ages 12-29 average half a gallon a day of soda. Not only is soda replacing more healthful, bone-building options, but it also contributes to obesity, blood sugar imbalances, inflammation, and other metabolic disorders that lead to poor bone quality.
For instance, just the chronic, low-grade inflammation caused by regular soda consumption can lead to weaker bones; inflammation accelerates the breakdown of bone so that it outpaces bone building. Soda consumption is also linked to a rise in obesity, another barrier to good bone health. Studies show obese people have weaker bones as their bone marrow produces more fat cells than bone cells.
Many people today find dairy is not a viable option for them due to an intolerance to lactose, the sugar in milk, or casein, the milk protein. Consuming dairy when you are dairy intolerant will actually trigger inflammation and work against your bone-strengthening efforts. Many other foods are good sources of calcium, including canned salmon and sardines with the bones, ample homemade bone broth, greens, certain nuts and seeds, nettle and raspberry leaves, and more.
Calcium supplements are another option, however not all calcium supplements are the same. Some forms are easier to absorb than others. Also, it’s important to take a calcium supplement with the necessary cofactors for appropriate assimilation. These include other minerals, vitamins D3 and K2, and omega-3 fatty acids. Talk with your practitioner to learn the best way to get enough calcium and ensure good bone quality.]]>