Hair Dyes and Relaxers Linked to Significant Cancer Risk

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It is hard being a woman in a society that disapproves of aging women and favors straight hair. In fact, coloring and straightening hair is regarded as “professional,” “good grooming,” or “taking care of yourself.” But at what a cost — a new study shows hair dyes and relaxers are significantly associated with breast cancer…especially for black women.

The Journal of Cancer article showed the results of a study that tracked more than 45,000 women over eight years. Black women who regularly used permanent hair dyes had a 60 percent higher chance of developing breast cancer than black women who did not. White women had an 8 percent higher chance.

Women who used chemical hair straighteners were 30 percent more likely to develop breast cancer. While some white women straighten their hair, in the study three quarters of the black women straightened their hair.

Why the cancer link? The researchers pointed to toxic compounds in hair dyes known as “endocrine disrupters.” This means these compounds mimic hormones and interfere with normal hormone function, thus causing imbalances and an increased risk of cancer.

The chemicals used in products geared towards black women may be more “hormonally active,” according to researchers.

Women are increasingly being encouraged to choose health and longevity over toxic cosmetic options. For instance, a movement is under foot to embrace silver and gray hair and black women are encouraged to embrace their natural hair, with one state so far banning discrimination against black people who wear their hair naturally (many employers discriminate against black women who forgo chemical straightening).

Black women bear the brunt of toxic hair products

Although most commercial women’s hair and body products are laden with toxins, hair products aimed at black women contain a disproportionate amount of chemicals linked with early puberty, obesity, asthma, and cancer.

A 2016 study showed black women’s bodies contained higher burdens of the toxic chemicals found in hair products than in women of other ethnicities.

Researchers have so far identified more than 70 harmful chemicals in relaxers, root stimulators, and anti-frizz products.

Toxins in these products (and in other beauty products in general) have been shown to have the following impacts on health:

  • Parabens and phthalates disrupt hormone function and are linked to early puberty and pre-term births.
  • Nonylphenol is linked to obesity and cancer.
  • Formaldehyde is linked to miscarriage risk and respiratory issues.
  • Various compounds irritate the eyes and skin, burn and blister the scalp, damage hair follicles, cause hair loss, and cause respiratory disorders.
  • Hair relaxers are linked to uterine fibroids in black girls and women at a rate two to three times higher than in other women. Uterine fibroids affect up to 80 percent of black women during their lifetime.
  • Cosmetologists exposed to these products during pregnancy experienced twice the rate of miscarriages.
  • Breast cancer is a leading cause of death among black women; they generally have a more aggressive forms of cancer compared to white women.

Just one product alone can contain 30 different toxic chemicals. How these chemicals affect human health when in combination with one another has not been studied.

Toxic hair products could help explain why black women suffer from more endocrine disorders than white or Hispanic women.

While these products harm black women, the Black Women for Wellness Report also points to the complexity and conflict between harmful hair products and the positive role of hair salons in black communities.

Ask my office for advice on how to lower your toxic burden, buffer your body from the effects of toxins in our everyday lives, and improve your overall health and well being.

New Study Shows Mold Triggers Brain Inflammation

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Landlords dismiss it, friends and family think you’re making it up, and doctors have no idea what you’re talking about — but mold illness is often an unsuspected trigger of chronic health problems. The recent revelation of a string pediatric deaths at a Seattle hospital due to mold in the air system brought national attention to the gravity of mold illness.

Newer construction methods and materials, water damage that was not properly addressed, high indoor humidity levels, and genetic susceptibility are all factors that play a role in whether a person becomes sick from mold. Estimates vary, but some research shows up to 85 percent of building inspected had past water damage.

A new study found that people affected by mold illness experienced:

  • Brain inflammation in the hippocampus, the area of the brain that governs memory, learning, and the sleep-wake cycle.
  • Decreased neurogenesis, or the formation of new brain cells.
  • Impaired memory.
  • Increased sensitivity to pain.
  • Increased anxiety.

The study also noted that the mold spore alone is not necessary to trigger mold reactions and mold illness. We’ve long known that mycotoxins, toxic compounds produced by mold spores small enough to pass through most materials, are the primary trigger in mold illness.

The study also found that mold spore skeletal elements and other mold metabolites also cause symptoms of mold illness.

Researchers link mold-triggered immune activation with these symptoms in the brain and the body, concluding that mold causes symptoms and illness through its inflammatory effects.

Symptoms of mold illness

Symptoms of mold illness vary from person to person, although mold has been correlated with a significant increase in asthma.

People who live, work, or go to school in moldy buildings complain of pain, fatigue, increased anxiety, depression, and cognitive defects such as memory loss. Researchers say the symptoms are similar to those from bacterial or viral infections, due to the inflammatory cascades mold triggers.

The effects of mold illness on the brain have gone largely dismissed by the standard health care model due to insufficient research on the neurological effects of mold illness.

However, this study demonstrates what people with mold illness already know — it messes with your brain. Hopefully similar studies will follow.

In the study, researchers observed that mice inoculated with mold spores showed increased inflammation in the hippocampus, causing notable losses of memory, increased pain, and more anxious behavior compared to mice inoculated with saline.

Addressing mold illness

If you suspect you suffer from mold illness, a variety of in-home tests can show whether the building has high levels of mold and which kinds. Lab testing can show whether you are dealing with high mold mycotoxin levels and if so, which molds are the culprits.

It’s important to have this information because the type of mold you’re dealing with will help determine the best course of action for recovery.

You must take action to deal with mold illness. Sometimes this can mean dramatic changes, such as moving or leaving a job. If the mold contamination is advanced, it can also mean getting rid of all your belongings. However, without action, the inflammation will continue to ravage your system and progressively damage the brain and body. Mold can also trigger or exacerbate autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, multiple sclerosis, vitiligo, and more.

Ask my office how we can help you address possible mold illness.

Regular Crafting Helps Undo Damage From Screentime

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If you’re like most people today, you spend hours a day in front of a screen. Americans now spend at least half their lives in front of a screen, five times as long compared to 50 years ago. This excessive screen time has been linked with neurodevelopmental issues in children and “digital dementia” in adults, not to mention depression, isolation, sleep disorders, and anxiety.

While the answer is to spend less time using screens, the problem is screen time also appears to be uniquely addictive for us all.

Is there an antidote? Studies show spending time working with your hands crafting, building, gardening, etc. can provide unique qualities that boost your physical and neurological health. If you’re working to manage a chronic condition such as autoimmune disease of gastrointestinal disease, regular craft time can be a fun and beneficial tool in your health toolbox.

For instance, knitting, crocheting, sewing, and other textile crafts have been shown to have the same neurological benefits as meditation and mindfulness.

Regular knitters have reported knitting makes them feel happy and they are drawn to the craft for its stress relief and anti-anxiety effects. People who knit three or more times a week reported more benefit than those who knitted less frequently.

What’s more, people who knitted in a group or did some other type of group craft activity were even happier than those who knitted solo, thanks to the proven health benefits of socialization.

About three quarters of patients with anorexia nervosa reported knitting distracted them from obsessive, ruminating thoughts about food and weight and helped them feel more relaxed.

Oncology nurses reported knitting reduced compassion fatigue and stress in one study, and another found people with chronic fatigue, depression, and other chronic health disorders experienced increased positivity and well being engaging in textile crafts.

While these crafts are associated primarily with women, research has also found traditionally male crafts, such as woodworking, repair jobs, and “tinkering” impart the same benefits.

The benefits of crafting are believed to be derived from the “flow state” of repetitive mindful action crafts require.

Working with your hands is good for the brain

Although crafting delivers psychological benefits that translate into biochemical mood boosts, there is another important aspect of crafting — working with your hands is great for the brain.

In an era when many of us use our hands primarily for texting, typing, and swiping, handiwork and crafting can activate long dormant areas of the brain. And healthy brain activity in one area, such as the “hands” area, will help improve activity throughout the rest of the brain, contributing to overall improved brain health.

Working with your hands on something physical boosts reward circuits in the brain in ways working abstractly only with your brain doesn’t. This in turn triggers a cascade of neurochemical reactions that improve motivation and self-esteem and relieve depression.

The repetition, memory, and learning required when engaging in a task keeps the brain engaged in a mindful manner while freeing up the “thinking” centers of the brain that are engaged for knowledge tasks. This is not only calming and therapeutic for anxiety and obsessive thoughts, but many people report that this cognitive brain break allows problem solving and creative solutions to spontaneously arrive while crafting.

Knitting, woodworking, scrapbooking, and other crafts may seem like an odd recovery tool when you’re working to manage autoimmunity, gastrointestinal disease, or other chronic health disorders, but once you understand their physical and mental benefits, it makes perfect sense to ditch the screen for some handiwork on a frequent basis.

How To Avoid Autoimmune Flares During Holiday Travels

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As if managing an autoimmune condition isn’t hard enough, traveling and holiday schedules can make it downright daunting. Staying with relatives, life on the road and in airports, trying to prepare a good meal in a hotel room, and constantly being offered foods that will throw your autoimmune symptoms into a tailspin all present constant challenges. However, sticking to your autoimmune protocol and diet as much as possible will help prevent flares and relapses so you don’t spend the holidays crashed in bed.

So how do you manage? First, check in with your stress levels. Stress is one of the most potent triggers for flare ups, so commit to a no-stress, can-do attitude. You simply need to invest in a little advance planning and strategic thinking.

Following are tips to stick to your autoimmune protocol and diet while traveling.

Don’t let yourself get too hungry! Letting yourself get overly hungry is the biggest saboteur of the best laid plans. It’s only natural to want to eat when your energy is flagging and you’re starving. This will make you more likely to eat trigger foods, such as gluten or dairy.

Map out your options at your destination before you arrive. Is there a Whole Foods or other health food market in the area? Will your hotel room have a fridge?

You can also travel with frozen food you have insulated to heat up at your destination. Some people even bring their own hot plate and cookware.

Also, make sure you have plenty to eat on long flights, such as beef jerky, celery, sardines, olives, coconut meat, and other filling snacks.

Pack plenty of anti-inflammatory support. Traveling during the holidays is stressful. As much as we love them, sometimes our family members can be stressful. Make sure to save space in your check-in luggage for your go-to anti-inflammatory supplements, such as liposomal glutathione, resveratrol, and turmeric. Glutathione is the body’s most powerful antioxidant and essential for preventing and taming autoimmune flares. Liposomal resveratrol and turmeric in high doses are also great.

Early morning flights, long travel days, overstuffed flights, Aunt June’s air freshener, uncomfortable guest beds, and so on — these stressors can deplete glutathione and raise inflammation, so have your arsenal handy.

Effective anti-inflammatory supplements include glutathione precursors such as N-acetyl-cysteine, alpha-lipoic acid, cordyceps, and milk thistle. You can also take s-acetyl-glutathione, or an oral liposomal glutathione. Note that taking straight glutathione is not effective. You also may want to bring a bottle each of a powerful liquid liposomal resveratrol and turmeric — ask my office for more info.

Search ahead for unscented hotel rooms. Sadly, some hotel rooms can knock you over with the sickly perfume stench as soon as you walk through the door. Or the rooms are dusty and stale. Look for hotels that offer scent-free, allergy-friendly rooms with hypoallergenic bedding, air purifiers, and windows that open. Or at least ask them to air out the room for you before you arrive.

Carry a mask to avoid inhaling triggers. Sometimes you’re simply trapped in an environment that is overly scented, smoky, or potentially triggering in some other way. Just in case the woman next to you on the plane reeks of perfume, keep a face mask with you so you can breathe safely. Invest in a quality face mask that allows you to breathe comfortably. If you wear glasses look for one that won’t fog them up. Some companies also make face masks for children.

Schedule in alone time, time away, and time to rest. It’s too easy for a vacation to feel like an overbearing job. Make sure you take naps, read, meditate, or go for peaceful walks. Stress is one of the most powerful inflammatory toxins, so create and enforce boundaries to keep yours as low as you can.

What Leaky Gut Is and Why Should You Care

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If you have been researching how to improve your health, you may have heard of leaky gut, also known as intestinal permeability. If that conjures an unpleasant image of your gut contents leaking into the rest of your body — that’s not too far off the mark.

Leaky gut happens when contents from the small intestine spill into the sterile bloodstream through a damaged and “leaky” gut wall. This contamination of the bloodstream by not only partially digested foods but also bacteria, yeast, and other pathogens begins to create a foundation for chronic inflammatory and autoimmune health disorders.

Symptoms and disorders linked to leaky gut include fatigue, depression, brain fog, skin problems, joint pain, chronic pain, autoimmune disease, puffiness, anxiety, poor memory, asthma, food allergies and sensitivities, seasonal allergies, fungal infections, migraines, arthritis, PMS, and many more. Basically, your genetic predispositions will determine how leaky gut manifests for you.

Leaky gut is referred to as intestinal permeability in the scientific research. It means inflammation has caused the inner lining of the small intestine to become damaged and overly porous. This allows overly large compounds into the small intestine. The immune system recognizes these compounds as hostile invaders that don’t belong in the bloodstream and launches an ongoing attack against them, raising inflammation throughout the body. Also, some of these compounds are very toxic (endotoxins) and take up residence throughout the body, triggering inflammation wherever they go.

At the same time, excess intestinal mucous and inflammation from the damage prevents much smaller nutrients from getting into the bloodstream, which can lead to nutrient deficiencies and poor cellular function.

Leaky gut is increasingly being recognized as a common underlying factor in most inflammatory symptoms and disorders.

Medicine finally recognizes leaky gut

Conventional medicine has long ridiculed leaky gut information and protocols as quack science and alternative medicine folklore, but newer research now establishes it as a legitimate mechanism. In fact, pharmaceutical companies are even working on drugs to address leaky gut.

Research has established links between leaky gut and many chronic disorders. It’s good this long-known information is finally being validated in the dominant medical paradigm as the gut is the largest immune organ, powerfully influencing the rest of the body, as well as the brain.

Current studies link intestinal permeability with inflammatory bowel disorders, gluten sensitivity, celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, type 1 diabetes, depression, psoriasis, and other chronic and autoimmune conditions. Given what we know about the connection between gut health and immunity, it’s vital to include a gut repair protocol in overall treatment of inflammatory and autoimmune disorders.

How to mend leaky gut

Sometimes, repairing leaky gut can be as simple as removing inflammatory foods from your diet. Other times it’s more complicated. Most importantly, you need to know why you have leaky gut. Either way, however, your diet is foundational.

Many cases of leaky gut stem from a standard US diet of processed foods and excess sugars. Food intolerances also contribute significantly, especially a gluten intolerance. A leaky gut diet, also known as an autoimmune diet, has helped many people repair intestinal permeability. Keeping blood sugar balanced is also vital. If blood sugar that gets too low or too high, this promotes leaky gut. Stabilizing blood sugar requires eating regularly enough to avoid energy crashes. You also need to prevent high blood sugar by avoiding too many sugars and carbohydrates. Regular exercise is also vital to stabilizing blood sugar and promoting a healthy gut.

Also, failure to eat enough fiber and produce leads to leaky gut by creating a very unhealthy gut microbiome, or gut bacteria. Our intestines (and entire body) depend on a healthy and diverse gut microbiome for proper function. A healthy gut microbiome comes from eating at least 25 grams of fiber a day and a wide and rotating variety of plant foods.

Other common things that lead to leaky gut include antibiotics, NSAIDs such as ibuprofen, excess alcohol, hypothyroidism, and autoimmunity.

A leaky gut protocol can help you improve your health, relieve symptoms, boost energy, make you happier, and clear your brain fog. Ask my office for advice on improving your well being through a leaky gut diet and protocol.

Why It’s Important to Filter Your Drinking Water

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Although tap water is treated to prevent waterborne diseases, you still need to filter your tap water for truly clean water. Treated water protects us from things like Cryptosporidium and Giardia, yet municipal water supplies are loaded with chemicals used for treatment in addition to the hundreds of pollutants that contaminate our water supplies.

The most common chemicals used to treat drinking water are chlorine and chloramine. Chlorine has long been used to treat most water supplies. Chloramine, a combination of chlorine and ammonia, is less commonly used. Unlike chlorine, chloramine stays in the water longer and cannot be removed through boiling, distilling, or letting water sit uncovered.

Both chlorine and chloramine are effective in killing disease-causing organisms, however they are somewhat toxic themselves. Chloramine corrodes pipes, increasing the exposure to lead in older homes. Water that is treated with chloramine should also not be used in fish tanks, hydroponics, home brewing, or for dialysis.

Toxic pollutants in our water supplies

Although chlorine and chloramine prevent water-borne diseases, they unfortunately create carcinogenic compounds by reacting with organic particles ordinarily found in water.

The byproducts they create in this process are more toxic than the chlorine or chloramine alone. Research shows these compounds cause cancer in lab animals, produce inflammatory free radicals, irritate the skin and mucus membranes, impact the nervous system, and are linked to birth defects. Some researchers believe these byproducts are also associated with thousands of cases of bladder cancer each year.

Chlorine, chloramine, and the toxic byproducts they trigger are only part of the picture — our water supplies are contaminated by an estimated more than 100,000 industrial chemicals and heavy metals. These toxins come from car exhaust, pollution, farming, and industrial waste.

Treated drinking water has also been found to contain almost 40 different pharmaceutical drugs. There is no regulation on pharmaceutical drugs in drinking water and experts warn they could accumulate in people’s bodies, potentially interact with medicine people are taking, or contribute to antibiotic resistance.

Water bottles also contain contaminated water

Many people think drinking bottled water is the safe solution but bottled water is contaminated too. It also leeches harmful BPA chemicals from plastic bottles and sends them straight into your system. BPA is a hormone-disrupting chemical linked to multiple health disorders. Plastic water bottles also create serious pollution, particularly of our oceans.

Use a filter for healthier water

Filtering your water with a quality water filter can help reduce your exposure to industrial chemicals, their toxic byproducts, and pharmaceuticals. Invest in a heavy-duty carbon filter, one that will remove particles 0.8 microns or under. Check if your water has chloramine, and if so, look for filters designed to remove it as it is harder to remove.

Also, consider filtering water coming from your bath faucet and shower head. Your skin is very permeable and also absorbs toxic chemicals. Whole-house filters are a good option for this. People who filter their shower water often report improved skin and hair condition.

Do You Have Autoimmunity or Brain Inflammation and Suffer from Exercise Intolerance?

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If there were just one magic bullet to feel and function better, it would probably be exercise. Countless studies show the numerous benefits of exercise. Our bodies and brain were designed for constant physical activity and perform at their best when we provide that. Exercise releases chemicals that boost your overall energy and dampen inflammation.

But what to do if exercise actually makes you feel worse? Some people battling autoimmunity or brain inflammation suffer from exercise intolerance and see their symptoms worsen after physical activity.

Many autoimmune and brain inflammation patients see multiple doctors before receiving a diagnosis. Most of these doctors will tell a severely compromised patient they just need to exercise more. This advice can actually worsen a patient’s symptoms until they start bringing their inflammation under control.

What is exercise intolerance?

In the conventional medical model, exercise intolerance is most often associated with heart disease, particularly from the heart not filling adequately with blood. As a result, insufficent blood is pumped out to the rest of the body.

However, in functional medicine we frequently see exercise intolerance in people struggling with autoimmunity and brain inflammation.

It’s normal to feel sore or tired after a tough workout, but people who suffer from exercise intolerance experience more severe and unusual pain, fatigue, a flare up of their autoimmune symptoms, nausea, vomiting, or other negative effects that go beyond normal muscle tiredness. Some “crash” for a day or more with flu-like symptoms, feeling unable to get out of bed or function normally.

Exercise intolerance can be very emotionally distressing for people who care about their health and are working to improve it. Afterall, we are constantly bombarded with images of uber athletes and messaging about intense workouts.

What causes exercise intolerance?

When exercise intolerance is related to autoimmunity or brain inflammation, exercise intolerance is a result of compromised mitochondria.

Mitochondria are known as the “energy factories” insde each cell, as their role is to take nutrients and oxygen and turn that into energy.

Unfortunately, mitochondria are also very sensitive to inflammation and will under function when the body is struggling with intense inflammation. This means the cells don’t function well, the brain under functions, and you generally feel crappy and fatigued.

How to exercise if you have exercise intolerance?

One of the most common mistakes people make is to push themselves too hard and over exercise. Over training spikes inflammation and can make an autoimmune or brain inflammation condition worse.

Also, when you have an inflammatory condition, you must realize your immune system is never at a constant. Stress, viruses, diet, and myriad other factors keep our immune systems in a constant state of fluctuation.

People with autoimmunity or brain inflammation must always tweak and adjust their activity level to not overburden their immune system or neurological health.

If you are used to working out a certain level and then suddenly notice your workout make you feel worse, it could be an outside factor flaring up inflammation. So you need to dial it down or even take some time off. Listen to your body.

For instance, someone who does high-intensity interval (HIIT) and weight traning four or five days a week suddenly feels fatigued and lethargic the day after each class. They may need to reduce the duration, the intensity, or the frequency of those workouts, or substitue in something that doesn’t push their inflammation over the edge, like a brisk walk.

Forget about cultural messaging around fitness

Managing autoimmunity and brain inflammation is highly individulaized; no two people will have the same protocol. You must always be tuned in to what your body says. This can be difficult in our hyped-out fitness culture.

After all, for some autoimmune or brain inflammaton folks, the mildest workouts can be triggering. The goal is to find what works for you and makes you feel good. When we stimulate blood flow through movement, it sends more oxygenation to our bodies and brains and triggers the relase of beneficial chemicals. If it feels good, it’s lowering inflammation and helping you manage your autoimmunity and brain inflammation.

Autoimmune appropriate exercises for building exercise tolerance could be walks, light weight training, gentle yoga or stretching routines, water aerobics — explore and find what works for you. You are the ultimate expert on what’s right for your body. As you start to feel better you will naturally feel inclined to take on more.

Start low and slow so that you are able to stay consistent and keep it up on a daily basis. Once you have established that, then gradually increase intensity and duration.

Ask my office for more advice on managing autoimmunity or brain inflammation.

How You Were Born Could Shape the Rest of Your Life

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Whether you’re fat or thin, anxious or relaxed, sickly or resilient — this could all stem from the way you were born thanks to the effects of bacteria in our first few seconds of life. Babies born via c-section are shown to have less desirable gut bacteria, or a gut microbiome, compared to babies born vaginally, who have healthier microbiome “signatures.”

Results from the largest study of the newborn microbiome were recently published. The study found that newborns delivered via c-section lack the healthy gut bacteria found in vaginally delivered babies. Their guts also contain strains of harmful microbes — Enterococcus and Klebsiella — commonly found in hospitals.

In fact, the lead researcher said the levels of harmful hospital bacteria in the c-section newborns was “shocking.” These babies were also deficient in the healthy bacteria that made up most of the guts of the vaginally born babies.

The difference was so profound that he said he can tell you how the baby was born simply by analyzing the bacteria in their stool.

C-section babies missing strain vital for health, weight management, and immune resilience

After several months the gut microbiomes between the two set of infants became more similar with one striking difference — the c-section babies had significantly lower levels of Bacteroides, a strain vital to human health.

Bacteroides are a key strain when it comes to health challenges modern societies face. A number of studies have shown Bacteroides levels are lower in people with obesity. Studies in both mice and humans show that when gut bacteria from thin subjects are transplanted into the colons of obese subjects, most subjects lose weight.

Bacteroides has also been linked with preventing anxiety, and boosting and regulating immunity to prevent inflammatory disorders. This may explain why people who were born via c-section are at increased risk for obesity and asthma.

The study is part of a larger Baby Biome study that is following thousands of newborns through childhood.

Why method of birth affects the gut microbiome

Research suggests that the vaginal canal imparts beneficial bacteria to the infant during birth, while c-section babies are deprived of that and instead immediately exposed to the bacteria of the hospital and the people attending the birth. Studies are underway in which babies born via c-section are swabbed with the mother’s vaginal microbes.

Other factors to consider beyond birth

It may not just be the birth that determines a c-section baby’s poorer microbiome status. Women who undergo c-sections also receive antibiotics, which may transfer to the newborn through the placenta and later through breast milk. These babies also tend to stay in the hospital longer and thus are exposed to more hospital bacteria.

How to develop healthy gut bacteria

Developing good gut bacteria is not neccesarily as simple as taking probiotics. You may also be overrun with detrimental bacteria that need to be “weeded.”

Perhaps most important is whether your diet supports a healthy gut microbiome.

What the gut microbiome needs most is an ample supply of vegetables and fruits on a regular basis in a wide, ever changing variety. Eating a diverse and abundanat array of plant foods will help create a diverse and abundant gut microbiome.

Ask my office for more advice on how we can help you improve your gut microbiome and overall health.

What is MTHFR and Why Should You Care?

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Have you been googling for ways to improve your hypothyroid or brain condition and come across suggestions to test MTHFR? What is MTHFR and what does it have to do with hypothyroidism or the brain? If you are one of the 60 percent of people with a genetic defect in the MTHFR gene, it could affect your ability to successfully manage Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism or brain-based symptoms.

MTHFR is the acronym for methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase, an enzyme involved in processing folate, or vitamin B9, into a usable form the body can assimilate. It’s also necessary to metabolize folic acid, a synthetic form of folate used in supplements.

Thanks to the popularity of gene testing, people can now learn whether they have a mutation in the MTHFR gene. If so, it means their methylation pathways are impacted and contributing to health challenges.

Methylation pathways govern detoxification and many important metabolic processes in the body, which makes a MTHFR defect something worth paying attention to. If you are struggling to manage your Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism or brain-based symptoms such as brain fog, fatigue, or depression, you may find the MTHFR test valuable.

Methylation is a process of adding a methyl group to a molecule. Methylation’s roles jobs include the following:

  • Turning genes on and off
  • Detoxifying chemicals and toxins from the body
  • Building brain neurotransmitters
  • Metabolizing hormones to maintain hormonal balance
  • Building immune cells
  • Synthesizing DNA and RNA
  • Creating cellular energy
  • Producing a protective coating that sheathes the nerves
  • Metabolizing histamine
  • Supporting eye health
  • Burning fat
  • Supporting liver health

Proper methylation means one can efficiently make proteins, use antioxidants, metabolize hormones, enjoy more balanced brain chemistry, detoxify toxins and heavy metals, and dampen inflammation. All of these factors are vital to managing Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism and brain-based symptoms.

However, if you’re one of the 60 percent of people with a MTHFR genetic defect, you may not be able to properly break down folate in foods or folic acid in supplements.

An inability to properly process folate can raise levels of homocysteine. Homocysteine is an amino acid in the bloodstream that can be dangerous when levels are too high. High homocysteine is linked to an elevated risk of heart disease and Alzheimer’s.

Poor methylation also impacts another vital process — the production of glutathione, the body’s main antioxidant. When we become deficient in glutathione, we lose our natural defenses and are at higher risk of developing autoimmune diseases, food sensitivities, and chemical sensitivities.

An MTHFR defect can also impair the body’s ability to synthesize important brain neurotransmitters, so that brain-based disorders may arise. An MTHFR defect has been linked to depression, anxiety, brain fog, ADHD, bipolar disorder, and even schizophrenia.

Because methylation is involved in so many important processes in the body, an MTHFR gene defect has been associated with many health conditions, including:

  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Venous thrombosis
  • Cancer
  • Birth defects
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Mental and mood disorders
  • Autoimmune disorders such as Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism

If you are trying to manage a condition like Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism or brain-based symptoms, it’s imperative that you be able to dampen inflammation and raise glutathione levels. An MTHFR defect can work against you.

Fortunately, it can be easy to address.

First of all, you can test for MTHFR gene mutations through genetic testing companies such as Spectracell or 23andme.com, and get an interpretation at geneticgenie.org.

More than 50 MTHFR genetic mutations exist, but the two considered the most problematic are C677T and A1298C (written as just 677 and 1298).

Also, keep in mind gene defects don’t always become activated. If you show those genes on a test it doesn’t necessarily mean they have been expressed and are causing symptoms.

To address a MTHFR enzyme defect, support your methylation pathways with methylfolate and methylcobalamin (methyl B12). Avoid supplements with folic acid, boost your glutathione levels with high quality oral liposomal glutathione, and minimize your exposure to toxins. These are also beneficial strategies to aid in the management of Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism and brain-based symptoms.

How To Avoid Toxic Positivity

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If you are working to manage your Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism or other chronic or autoimmune disorder, you may have heard a positive attitude is good for your health. And it’s true — positive thinking, gratitude, and healthy socialization have all been linked to better health outcomes. However, chasing a positive attitude can have a dark side.

It’s common to hear, “just think positive,” “focus on the good,” “don’t dwell on the negative,” and so forth. But the truth is, sometimes life circumstances are awful and sometimes people do horrible things to others.

The demand for a positive attitude when it’s not appropriate is known as toxic positivity. Avoiding or denying negative emotions only makes them bigger and more persistent — and hence more inflammatory for your system if you have an autoimmune condition such as Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.

Also, negativity exists as a survival trait. It alerts you to danger, or if something isn’t right.

In fact, telling someone who is suffering that they just need to be positive is referred to as spiritual bypassing or gaslighting. Spiritual bypassing is an attempt to use false positivity to bypass a difficult issue, and gaslighting occurs when someone tries to make you feel like you’re crazy when you express uncomfortable thoughts or feelings.

Many autoimmune patients have felt gaslighted by doctors who insinuated they were making up their symptoms or just seeking attention.

Practice mindfulness, not just positivity

It’s normal to want to avoid negative and unpleasant emotions because they are uncomfortable and distressing. As such, we think of them as “bad.” But they are not there to be banished us but rather to guide us through life and help us make decisions that protect and support us.

Instead of denying them through forced positivity or drowning them out through whatever addiction or bad habit is our go-to, psychologists say we should listen to what they reflect about a current situation.

For instance, if you’re frustrated and angry about your health, it means you care about yourself and being able to participate in life. Allowing and accepting our negative thoughts and feelings can help us understand who we are and make good choices.

Resilience and self-care are the bedrocks of positivity

In self-help circles some tout the theory that bad things happen if you think negative thoughts, but the truth is bad things happen to everyone on a regular basis. Positivity isn’t about feeling good all the time, but rather about practicing resilience and positive self-talk in the face of adversity.

Do you practice these negative self-talk habits?

  • You filter out the good parts of an experience and dwell on the bad.
  • You think you are to blame for when things go wrong, or that it’s only happening to you and other people are luckier.
  • You catastrophize and make problems out to be much bigger than they really are.
  • You polarize things into very good or very bad and fail to see that most things in life have a grey area.

Practicing positivity through bad things means avoiding the temptation of despair and hopelessness and instead becoming your own cheerleader and coach.

Positivity is a practice, not a destination

Perhaps the most important thing to understand is that positivity is something that takes ongoing practice and application. It is like playing an instrument or a sport — you have to keep up with it to be proficient.

This is the concept of neuroplasticity in how the brain works. By applying yourself regularly to the practice of positivity, you hardwire new neural pathways into your brain, which makes you more efficient at positivity over time. And if you have a chronic autoimmune condition such as Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, every time you practice positivity you also release anti-inflammatory chemicals in your body that help tame inflammation and modulate immunity.

Try these tricks at learning how to be a more resilient, positive thinker who can also handle the negative aspects of life:

  • If an area of your life is constant major stressor, whether it’s a job or relationship, start strategizing on how to change it.
  • Check yourself throughout the day to see if your thoughts are negative or positive.
  • Seek out humor. Laughing at life reduces its weight and lowers stress.
  • Follow a healthy diet to lower inflammation. Many studies now prove what we eat affects how we feel. Eat food that feeds a good mood.
  • Exercise at least 30 minutes a day. Generating feel-good endorphins through exercise beats any addictive substance or habit. It makes it easier to practice positivity and weather the storms.
  • Surround yourself with positive people. Although we all have down days and need to vent, incessantly negative people can make it hard to stay positive. Seek out and cultivate friendships with other people who also practice positivity.
  • Pay attention to how you frame things. We all say things that can be reframed more positively. For instance, if you make a mistake, instead of saying, “I’m such an idiot,” reframe it to something like, “Whoops, I’ll see if I can get it right next time.”
  • Talk to yourself the way you would talk to someone you care about. Chances are you would never talk to someone you love the way you talk to yourself. Make self-respect and self-care a priority in your self-talk.

Some people were taught healthy positive self-talk in childhood by their parents and teachers. Others have to learn it later in life. Either way, it’s a skill that simply takes awareness and practice in order to develop the resilience to see you through the tough times of dealing with an autoimmune or chronic health disorder such as Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.