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.

Are You Getting Enough of This Dementia-Prevention Nutrient

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Eating a vegetable-based diets has loads of proven health benefits, including enriching your gut bacteria diversity, loading you up with plant vitamins and minerals, and ensuring you get plenty of fiber. However, if your plant-based diet is strictly vegan or strict vegetarian you may be missing out on this essential dementia-fighting nutrient: Choline.

Choline is only found predominantly in animal fats and is a vital brain nutrient that helps prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s.

In addition to supporting the brain — which is made of primarily fat, by the way — choline also supports healthy liver function. Good liver function is necessary to not only keep the body detoxified, but also to keep chronic inflammation in check. A choline deficiency raises the incidence of fatty liver.

Choline is also an essential part of cell membranes in the body and brain; cell membranes act as the cellular command center in directing cell function and communication.

Choline is found primarily in meats, fish, dairy, and eggs. Significantly smaller amounts are found in nuts, legumes, and cruciferous vegetables. The liver is able to manufacture a small amount, though not enough to meet the body’s needs.

Experts say that in order to meet the brain’s needs for sufficient choline, it needs to come from dietary sources rich in choline.

Most people are choline deficient

The bad news is most people aren’t getting enough choline, and some people are genetically predisposed to a deficiency. Research shows the rising popularity of vegan and vegetarian diets is raising rates of deficiency.

The recommended daily intake of choline is about 425 mg a day for women and 550 mg a day for men.

The two richest sources of choline are beef liver and egg yolk. Research has shown that people who eat eggs regularly have higher levels of choline (we can assume most people aren’t eating liver these days).

In fact, pregnant women who consume at least one egg a day are eight times more likely to meet choline intake recommendations compared to those who don’t.

Beef liver capsules can be a good source of choline if you don’t prefer to eat straight liver. Most products recommend 6 capsules a day. Look for a grass-fed source that has been tested for purity.

Choline is vital for the fetal and infant brain

The choline recommendation for pregnant and breastfeeding women is about 930 mg — choline is vital for the developing child’s brain.

Choline is vital for the adult brain

Choline is also recognized as a vital brain nutrient for the adult brain. In a study of mice bred to have Alzheimer’s like symptoms, a choline-rich diet resulted in improvements in memory and brain function in the mice and their offspring.

Choline protects the brain in several ways. First, it reduces homocysteine, an inflammatory and neurotoxic amino acid if levels are too high. High homocysteine levels are found to double the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Choline prevents this by converting homocysteine to the helpful compound methionine.

Choline also reduces the activation of microglia, the brain’s immune cells that cause inflammation and damage to brain tissue when triggered.

Choline is an essential component of acetylcholine, a brain chemical known as the memory neurotransmitter. Sufficient acetylcholine is vital for memory and healthy brain function.

Choline also helps regulate gene expression.

Choline is just one of the many essential nutrients necessary for healthy brain function. Ask my office how we can help you support your brain health.

The American Diabetes Association finally recommends low carb; still recommends foods that promote diabetes

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Although they are more than a couple of decades behind functional medicine, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) is finally recommending lower carbohydrate diets for people with diabetes.

In functional medicine, we have long seen the deleterious effects of carbohydrate-laden diets on not only blood sugar, but also on chronic inflammatory disorders, weight, hormonal balance, and brain function.

High blood sugar disorders such as type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance, or pre-diabetes, not only make you feel worse, they also significantly raise your risk of numerous chronic health disorders, including heart disease, stroke, autoimmune disease, and Alzheimer’s. In fact, some researchers call Alzheimer’s type 3 diabetes because high blood sugar is so damaging to the brain.

While it’s heartening that such a large and official organization is finally making dietary recommendations to stabilize blood sugar, their list of recommended foods remains problematic. Some foods on the ADA list have been shown to trigger autoimmune attacks on the pancreas, worsening type 1 diabetes and increasing the risk of developing autoimmune diabetes in people with type 2 diabetes, a lifestyle-induced disease.

The ADA’s new recommendations for carbohydrate consumption

Previously, the ADA warned against diets under 130 grams a day of carbohydrates because people would be deprived of essential nutrients. They also stated the brain needs more than 130 grams a day to meet its energy needs.

However, given the success of lower carb diets in not only reducing the need for insulin but also in lowering heart-disease risk, the ADA has adjusted its recommendations to support a lower carb diet.

In what may eventually prove to be a sea change in government recommendations, the ADA bases the new recommendation on findings that a low-carb diet better manages health than a low-fat diet.

It also states that dietary recommendations should depend on the patient and that a “one-size-fits-all” diet should not be given to every patient.

They do not recommend a low-carb diet for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, people who have eating disorders or at risk of developing eating disorders, people with kidney disease, and for those taking SGLT2 inhibitor medication.

ADA guidelines on low-glycemic foods fail to consider foods that trigger autoimmune attacks

It’s a step in the right direction that the ADA is finally recognizing the vast amounts of research and the countless case studies linking lower carb diets with better health.

However, they have yet to recognize the science showing that some ADA recommended low-glycemic foods trigger autoimmune attacks on cells that cause type 1 diabetes.

The most prevalent triggers are gluten and dairy, although other foods also cross-react with cells involved in type 1 diabetes. This does not mean that these foods trigger an autoimmune attack in all people, but research shows certain foods raise the risk of exacerbating autoimmune diabetes.

For the person with type 1 diabetes it’s especially important to be aware of which foods may trigger autoimmune attacks that worsen their condition. You can screen for these foods with testing from Cyrex Labs.

However, research also shows that about 10–20 percent of people with type 2 diabetes, which is lifestyle induced, also have undiagnosed type 1 diabetes. This is referred to as type 1.5 diabetes.

Should you go on a low-carb diet?

The average American eats more processed carbohydrates than the human body was designed to handle. The incidences of inflammatory disorders related to high blood sugar are crushing the healthcare system — diabetes, obesity, heart disease, chronic pain, depression, dementia, and neurodegenerative diseases are just a few.

However, this doesn’t mean every person should be on the same diet. For some, a very low-carb ketogenic diet is highly therapeutic. For others, such as those with compromised brain function that has caused dysregulated metabolic and neurological function, a ketogenic diet can be disastrous.

Although finding your optimal carbohydrate consumption may take some trial and error, it’s safe to assume you do not need sugar, high fructose corn syrup, processed carbohydrates, and industrial oils. Instead, the bulk of your diet should come from a diverse array of ever changing vegetables and fruits (be careful not to go overboard on fruits), and healthy fats and proteins.

It’s also safe to assume the human body was designed for daily physical activity, time outdoors, and healthy social interaction.

Ask my office for help on customizing and diet and lifestyle plan designed just for you.

New Research Provides More Clues in PANDAS

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Children who recently had a strep infection and then go on to suddenly develop symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), Tourette’s, tics, odd behaviors, emotional instability, and other psychiatric and neurological disorders are believed to have PANDAS.

PANDAS stands for Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections.

In some children, a strep infection appears to trigger an autoimmune attack against the brain, causing a sudden onset of neuropsychiatric symptoms.

PANS, or Pediatric Acute-Onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome, is similar, except environmental factors or other infections trigger symptoms.

PANDAS/PANS isn’t believed to be fully credible by many experts or doctors, in part because it must be diagnosed by symptoms and because the supporting research hasn’t been very strong. Instead, they diagnose affected children with conditions such as OCD.

However, recent research sheds new light on the disorder and why it affects some children and not others.

PANDAS/PANS causes inflammation in an area of the brain called the basal ganglia, which helps govern emotions and motor control. When the immune system creates antibodies to the strep infection, these antibodies mistakenly attack tissue in the basal ganglia as well.

In 2018, researchers isolated cells in the basal ganglia, called cholinergic interneurons, which are affected by the immune attack. Previous research has shown these cells are depleted in Tourette’s syndrome.

These cholinergic interneurons fire less when strep antibodies attach to them, which is believed to cause the symptoms associated with PANDAS/PANS.

Normally, antibodies would not be able to cross the blood-brain barrier to cause immune attacks in the brain. However, research shows the spike in inflammatory immune cells called TH-17 from a strep infection can cause the blood-brain barrier to open up. This is commonly called leaky blood-brain barrier and can allow strep antibodies and other pathogens to enter into the brain.

It has been found that most of these TH-17 cells pool in the olfactory bulb, an area of the brain that receives signals from the nasal passages.

This creates a path through which antibodies can enter, especially with repeat strep infections.

Genetic susceptibility has also been found to be a link in PANDAS/PANS.

PANDAS diagnosis criteria

  • Significant obsessions, compulsions, tics
  • Abrupt onset of these symptoms or relapsing and remitting symptom severity
  • Onset prior to puberty
  • Association with strep infection
  • Association with neuropsychiatric symptoms, including PANS symptoms

PANS diagnosis criteria:

Abrupt, dramatic onset of OCD or severely limited food intake and the addition of at least two of the following:

  • Anxiety
  • Emotional swings and/or depression
  • Irritability, anger, oppositional behavior
  • Regression
  • School performance deteriorates
  • Sensory or motor abnormalities
  • Sleep disturbances, urinary frequency, bed wetting

Functional medicine for PANDAS/PANS

Functional medicine strategies can help reduce inflammation and autoimmune attacks in PANDAS/PANS and support immune and brain health.

Functional medicine strategies may include removing inflammatory triggers from the diet and the environment; nutritional therapies to lower inflammation and support brain health; addressing blood sugar, gut health, and toxicity; supporting neurotransmitters; and repairing mitochondrial function and the blood-brain barrier.

Quick action can improve outcome. For more information, contact my office.

Floss Your Teeth Daily to Reduce Your Risk of Stroke

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You may be familiar with common stroke-prevention strategies: Exercise regularly, eat plenty of vegetables, minimize stress, and keep inflammation at bay. But did you know taking good care of your teeth and gums is a major way to lower stroke risk?

A new study has found a significant link between stroke and oral bacteria. An analysis of blood clots from 75 ischemic stroke patients found almost 80 percent of them had oral bacteria DNA concentrated in the blood clots that weren’t found in other blood samples from the same patient.

The presence of oral bacteria in blood clots rounds out a much larger picture that shows the role gum disease and oral bacteria play in cardiovascular and neurological health.

The same research team has also found that blood clots containing oral bacteria cause heart attacks and brain aneurysms, that thromboses in the leg veins and arteries contain oral bacteria, and that oral bacteria is linked to heart infection.

Other research has linked oral bacteria from gum disease with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s. The bacteria produce toxins in the brain that give rise to the misfolding of proteins in the brain that is the hallmark of Alzheimer’s.

An ischemic stroke occurs when a blood clot starves a part of the brain of blood flow and vital oxygen, causing massive tissue damage. It is commonly caused by the narrowing and hardening of the arteries from plaquing, or atherosclerosis.

There is evidence that oral bacteria activates platelets and speeds up the development of atherosclerosis and blood clotting.

Here’s a tip to motivate you to floss

We get it, flossing is tedious and annoying. You just want to brush your teeth and be done.

Here’s a little tip that may motivate you to floss and brush more regularly: After you floss between a couple of teeth, smell your floss. If it has a foul odor that’s a sign you’ve got oral bacteria accumulating on your teeth and gums. This is also a sign your breath probably stinks as well! Smell check your floss after flossing each section of teeth — you may find areas that need extra attention.

Reacquaint yourself with healthy flossing and brushing habits and consider investing in a water flossing device. These devices use water to deliver extra cleaning power to the teeth and to stimulate gum tissue, so it stays healthy. However, please note that a water flosser should be an adjunct to flossing and not a substitute. Water flossing is not as effective as using dental floss.

Use functional medicine to prevent strokes

Healthy teeth and gums also depend on a healthy diet and lifestyle. This ties in with general stroke prevention strategies — 90 percent of strokes are caused by dietary and lifestyle habits.

Strokes are the third leading cause of death in the United States and the leading cause of disability.

Studies have found the following factors are the most common causes of strokes:

  • High blood pressure
  • Smoking
  • Poor diet
  • Lack of exercise
  • Excess alcohol
  • Stress and depression
  • Diabetes
  • Excess abdominal fat
  • Heart disorders

As research continues, poor oral hygiene may get added to this list.

Functional medicine strategies to prevent stroke

Focus on whole foods, plenty of vegetables, and healthy fats. Ditch the sodas, desserts, sweet coffee drinks, and processed foods. It might be hard at first, but you’ll start to feel heaps better.

Stabilize blood sugar

High blood sugar from too many sweets and processed carbohydrates causes chronic inflammation, which damages and thickens arterial walls and promotes the formation of arterial plaques and blood clots. Type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance, or pre-diabetes, increase your risk of stroke by two to four times.

Regular exercise prevents strokes and makes you feel awesome

Exercise is a magic bullet when it comes to preventing strokes and promoting a healthy brain. Regular physical activity keeps blood vessels strong, improves oxygenation of the brain, and increases your metabolism. Exercise after a stroke also significantly reduces the severity of the repercussions and improves recovery.

Ask my office how we can help you lower your risk of stroke and support your brain health.

How to Reduce Your Toxic Burden and Protect Immunity

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We live in a sea of toxins and we all carry significant amounts of heavy metals and environmental toxins in our bodies. Even if you eat all organic foods, drink filtered water, and use non-toxic home and body products, you will still come in contact with numerous toxins as a part of daily modern life.

Thankfully, we can support our health and buffer the impact of these toxins on our bodies. Strategies include a diet that helps your body detoxify regularly and that minimizes toxic exposure, anti-inflammatory protocols to buffer the inflammatory effects of toxins on your body, supporting the pathways of elimination, and including binders in your regular protocol to “sponge up” toxins in your system.

Anti-inflammatory diet

Toxins are inflammatory to the body. One of the best things you can do is reduce your inflammatory load with an anti-inflammatory diet. Although even organic foods are shown to contain toxins these days due to air, water, and soil contamination, choosing foods that have not been produced with pesticides, hormones, or antibiotics will reduce your overall burden.

You also want to keep your blood sugar stable by avoiding sugars and foods that are high in processed carbohydrates. This means not letting yourself crash from low blood sugar and not overeating yourself into a food coma.

Especially important is to avoid the foods that trigger an inflammatory response in you. If you have a food sensitivity or intolerance, eating a food that flares your immune system will keep it in a state of constant red alert, stoking inflammation throughout your body. The most common immune reactive foods are gluten, dairy, soy, egg, and corn.

In addition to minimizing your dietary sources of inflammation, certain supplements can also tame and reduce inflammation.

Studies show taking larger doses of the antioxidants resveratrol and curcumin can help protect the body from the damage of toxins, especially if you take them together in a liposomal form.

Glutathione that is liposomal or in another absorbable form is another way to lower inflammation and protect your body. In fact, insufficient glutathione increases your risk of developing chemical sensitivities. In addition to taking an absorbable glutathione you can also raise glutathione levels inside your cells with n-acetyl-cysteine, cordyceps, Gotu Kola, milk thistle, L-glutamine, and alpha lipoic acid.

Binding toxins in your body

Taking nutritional compounds on a regular basis that bind with toxins for easy removal is another way to buffer your body. Binders can help remove heavy metals, environmental toxins, mycotoxins from molds, infectious bacteria, and fungal infections from your body.

Here are some examples of effective binders:

Modified citrus pectin: This is derived from citrus peel and processed in a way that it allows it to enter the bloodstream and bind with toxins for safe elimination from the body. Modified citrus pectin also serves as a great “prebiotic,” or a nutrition source for your good gut bacteria. A healthy gut microbiome is critical to helping protect you from toxins. Look for a source that is free of fillers.

Activated charcoal: Activated charcoal is a popular and affordable binder for toxins. It can also help soothe common digestive complaints.

Bentonite clay: Bentonite, montmorillonite, and illite (French clay) are used to bind toxins. When mixed with water, these clays develop a sponge like quality and take on an electrical charge to attract harmful compounds. Look for a quality product that does not have lead contamination.

Zeolite: Zeolite is formed from volcanic rock and ash and is a well-known binder for heavy metals and other toxins.

Chlorella: Chlorella is a blue-green algae that has an affinity for mercury and lead. It is also rich in B vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. You may need to avoid chlorella if you take blood thinners.

Silica: Most people think of silica to improve their hair, skin, and nails, but it’s also good at binding metals such as thallium that are harder to detox.

You must support your pathways of elimination when you detoxify

Binders work great at latching onto toxins, but if your body’s pathways of elimination are faulty, you could make yourself more toxic. You also want to ensure you are sufficiently mineralized — heavy metals can bind to cellular receptors in the absence of necessary minerals.

Ways to support the elimination of toxins include supporting healthy liver and gallbladder function, supporting healthy bowel elimination, and making sure you stay hydrated and take care of your kidneys and bladder. Eating 25–38 grams of fiber a day, staying well hydrated, eating foods that are good for the liver (like bitters and greens), exercising regularly to stimulate the lymphatic system, and sweating regularly are some examples of how to keep toxins flowing out of your body.

Avoiding chemical sensitivities

Although we want to minimize our overall toxic burden, we especially want to avoid developing chemical sensitivities. In the end, your overall toxic burden may not matter as much as whether you have an immune reaction to these toxins. You can react to a toxin the same you can react to gluten or dairy. This is problematic as it’s much harder to eliminate a toxin from your environment than a food from your diet, especially if that toxin is prevalent in the air, such as benzene, or in plastics, such as BPA.

This is why it’s so important to live an anti-inflammatory lifestyle. If you already have chemical sensitivities, ask my office about methods to lower your sensitivity so you can better tolerate everyday life.

Depressed and Anxious? Volunteering Reduces Symptoms

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Depression and anxiety are hitting all-time highs these days, sending millions of Americans in search of relief. While many avenues reduce or eliminate symptoms, particularly functional medicine protocols that reduce chronic inflammation, one must still tend to the health of the psyche. One powerful but overlooked relief from depression and anxiety is to spend time volunteering.

Volunteering has been shown to relieve depression and anxiety, lower blood pressure, release the social bonding hormone oxytocin, improve contentment, and trigger the same dopamine reward centers in the brain that food, drugs, and sex trigger.

In fact, studies on volunteering suggest it’s beneficial for us because the human brain is wired to help others. Although greed and selfishness are characteristic human traits, researchers have also found that altruism and cooperation are inherent qualities that set us apart from much of the animal kingdom.

Volunteering can be a way to exercise these areas of the brain and the mind that can easily go neglected in our overly busy survival-oriented society. However, human survival over the millennia has been credited to our ability to work together in child rearing, hunting, gathering, creating domiciles, and caring for sick or older members of the community.

Given our evolutionary history, it’s no wonder so many people are depressed and anxious. Social isolation and loneliness are considered just as risky to health as are obesity and smoking. Most Americans live in single-family dwellings with no links to their neighbors or a community.

How volunteering helps relieve depression and anxiety

Depression and anxiety can be very inwardly focused disorders. Even if that focus is intensely negative, it creates a feeling of separation and isolation from others. People with these disorders also commonly complain of feeling like they are useless and a burden to others.

Volunteering, on the other hand, has been shown to help people feel more connected to others, more optimistic, and more useful and purposeful. This is believed to be due in part to the release of oxytocin that volunteering triggers. Oxytocin is a “love and bonding” brain chemical that is also released during sex or from cuddling a baby or a pet.

Oxytocin not only makes you feel better, it has also been shown to reduce stress levels and lower inflammation — two powerful factors in causing depression.

Volunteering works on another powerful neurotransmitter when it comes to mood: Dopamine. Dopamine is our “pleasure and reward” neurotransmitter that is released when we have feelings of accomplishment, pleasure, or reward. Addictions are dopamine surges run amuck as people become hooked on the dopamine rush that comes with drugs, gambling, and other pleasurable indulgences.

However, sufficient dopamine is necessary to help us get things accomplished as well as to feel self-worth and purpose in life, two things people with depression often lack. Volunteering triggers a healthy dopamine release that then extends into other areas of their life.

Researchers also point to the fact that volunteering simply takes you out of yourself. Although dismissing your woes doesn’t make them go away, having compassionate perspective for other people’s struggles can help put your own in healthier perspective.

Also, while volunteering has mental health benefits, a caretaker position is also your source of income is commonly linked with increased stress and burnout.

The paradox of “being too busy” to volunteer

Most people cite their overly busy lives and booked schedules for not being willing or able to volunteer. But the experience of volunteers frequently shows that a paradoxical effect happens when you work it into your schedule anyways — the stress-lowering and mood-boosting effects of volunteering reduce the sense of chronic overwhelm that many people experience daily.

Volunteering can calm the over anxious mind and relax the muscles and breathing.

Functional medicine and depression

Although volunteering has proven benefits for depression and anxiety, it’s important to nevertheless pay attention to physiological factors that cause depression.

Depression has now been linked to things like chronic inflammation, lack of gut bacteria diversity, too much bad gut bacteria, leaky gut, and compromised brain health, such as from a past brain injury or brain inflammation.

These dysfunctions can stem from food intolerances, blood sugar imbalances, poor nutrition, a sedentary lifestyle, undiagnosed autoimmunity, hidden infections, or other underlying disorders that antidepressants will not address.

Ask my office for more ideas on how functional medicine can help you relieve depression and anxiety.

Nine Possible Reasons Why You Can’t Lose Weight

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For some people weight loss is pretty straightforward: They just need to cut out sodas and sweets and hit the gym regularly. For others, especially those with a chronic health disorder, weight loss remains elusive and weight gain happens far too easily despite doing everything right.

Weight gain and weight loss resistance are very common symptoms among people with chronic health disorders. Contrary to popular belief, an inability to lose weight or keep it off is not a sign of a character flaw but instead flaws in your metabolic, immune, or neurological health.

Fat shaming is culturally accepted, particularly in the alternative health spaces and against women. The truth is, overweight and obese people may have some of the healthiest diets and lifestyle practices you’ll encounter. They have to — should they dare to eat “normally” they would quickly balloon out of control.

Instead of beating yourself up if you can’t lose the weight or you have mysteriously gained it too easily, consider if any of the following underlying causes may apply to you.

Nine possible reasons why you can’t lose weight — none of which are due to being lazy or undisciplined

1. You are a veteran lifelong dieter. The multi-billion-dollar diet industry coupled with unrealistic cultural body image standards have turned low-calorie dieting into a way of life. That works great in your youth, but as you age your metabolism fatigues from constant famines.

The human body responds to famines by progressively lowering metabolism and increasing fat storage hormones. As a result, each low-calorie diet can make you a little bit fatter than the last one once you resume normal caloric intake. This explains why diets have such low long-term success.

This phenomenon was most poignantly illustrated in a study of participants from the The Biggest Loser reality TV show. Six years after participating in the show, researchers found they were burning 800 fewer calories per day and the majority of them returned to their pre-show weight and had to under eat by 400–800 calories a day just to not gain weight.

2. Your hunger hormones are out of whack

Conversely, if you routinely eat ample sugar and desserts and processed carbohydrates (breads, pastas, white rice, etc.), you likely have leptin resistance and skewed hunger hormone function that causes constant food cravings and hunger. Minimizing or eliminating processed carbohydrates and exercising regularly helps improve leptin sensitivity so your hunger cues and fat burning returns to normal.

3. Your thyroid isn’t working well

One of the most common causes of weight gain and weight loss resistance is hypothyroidism, or low thyroid activity. And the most common cause of this is Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune disease that attacks and damages the thyroid gland. This is why many people do not lose weight even after they start taking thyroid medication. It’s important to address the underlying causes of Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism to improve your health and lose weight.

4. You are chronically inflamed

Chronic inflammation skews hormone function, metabolism, and gut health in a way that can promote fat storage and prevent fat burning.

Many people enjoy easy weight loss by following an anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle. Nutrient-dense foods void of inflammatory triggers also manage pain, gut problems, autoimmune diseases, high blood pressure, depression anxiety, and other health issues.

5. You’ve had a brain injury or have compromised brain function

Many sufferers of concussions and brain injuries find they suddenly gain weight after their injury and are not able to lose it. Brain injuries cause inflammation in the brain, which can not only impact brain function, but also disrupt metabolic, hormone, and immune in a way that promotes promotes weight gain and inhibits fat burning. Brain injury victims also often struggle with fatigue, exercise intolerance, depression, and other symptoms that interfere with appropriate fat burning and storage.

6. You have mold illness

Mold illness is increasingly being identified as an underlying cause of many health disorders and symptoms, including weight gain and weight loss resistance. Almost a quarter of the US population is susceptible to mold illness. Toxicity from mycotoxins, the byproducts of molds, can seriously impact metabolic, immune, and neurological health leading to unexplained weight gain and weight loss resistance. This refers not just to the dreaded black mold but also the more commonly found strains of mold caused by leaks and water damage in buildings.

7. You were born with an obese gut microbiome

Research into the gut microbiome, our trillions of gut bacteria, show they impact virtually every aspect of our health, including whether we are more likely to be thin or heavy.

Studies on both mice and humans have shown that obese subjects inoculated with the gut bacteria of thin subjects went on to quickly and easily lose weight.

Factors that impact your gut microbiome “signature” in a way that promotes obesity include being delivered via C-section, being formula fed versus breastfed, and frequent antibiotic use in childhood.

8. You are a victim of childhood sexual abuse or sexual assault or have PTSD

After more than two decades of trying to understand why most obese people regained the weight they lost, an obesity researcher made an accidental discovery — the majority of his study subjects had been sexually abused as children or sexually assaulted right before the time their weight gain began. This can drive complex PTSD and the genesis of a food addiction to cope.

Likewise, researchers have found a correlation between food addiction and PTSD in women.

9. You have a brain-based disorder that promotes food addiction and an eating disorder

For many people with weight issues, food becomes the source of torturous addictive behaviors that can then morph into eating disorders. It is increasingly being found that addictions and eating disorders are linked to brain-based disorders such as ADHD. Skewed neurological function triggers the obsessive thought patterns that lay the foundation for addictive eating and eating disorders.

Look for the underlying cause of weight gain and weight loss resistance to develop self-compassion

I hope this article helps you understand some of the factors that play into a chronic struggle with weight gain and weight loss resistance. Our society begs us to gorge on eat sugary foods and drinks through incessant advertising while a multi-billion-dollar diet industry and impossible pop culture body ideals value human worth based on thinness.

The result is millions of people, the majority of them women, internalize society’s fat shaming and develop shame and self-loathing around food and their bodies when the real sickness is in the society and not the individual.

The body is a miraculous machine that operates in constant service to us. You can learn to live and eat in a way that honors good health and function regardless of your size. Ask my office how we can help you.

Gut Problems Can Have Different Root Causes

903 gut disorder root causes

In the world of functional medicine, it has long been known that gut health is paramount to the health of the rest of the body. For decades we didn’t fully understand why, although we knew the gut was the seat of the immune system and chronic inflammation. Now with the gut microbiome renaissance underway, we also understand how integral gut bacteria is to health.

As such, addressing gut health has always been one and continues to be one of the first steps in managing a chronic inflammatory or autoimmune condition. However, people tend to fall into the trap of thinking everyone needs to follow the same gut healing protocol, wondering why it works for some and not others.

As it turns out, repairing gut health is not a one-size-fits-all approach. There is not just one diet, one type of probiotic, or one gut healing powder that works for everyone. Although there are some basic foundations to gut healing — remove immune reactive foods, keep blood sugar stable, and create a healthy gut microbiome — the truth is you still need to know why your gut health deteriorated in order to address the root cause.

Examples of root causes of poor gut health

For example, a number of patients can come in with a complaint of constipation. While laxatives may help the patient, it is nevertheless important to understand why they are constipated in the first place. This goes for any digestive complaint and not just constipation.

Here are some different reasons why a person can develop a digestive complaint such as constipation:

  • A past brain injury has dampened activity of the vagus nerve, which carries communication back and forth between the gut and the brain. This slows down motility of the intestines and causes constipation.
  • The gut’s nervous system, called the enteric nervous system, has degenerated significantly due to chronic gut inflammation from immune reactive foods, too many sugars and junk foods, chronic stress, gut infections, or brain degeneration. Intestinal motility depends on a healthy enteric nervous system, and constipation develops.
  • Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) releases gases that shut down motility.
  • Medications impact intestinal motility and cause constipation.
  • Dysautonomia, a dysregulation of the central nervous system, prevents the body from getting into the “rest and digest” state that allows for healthy bowel function.

A one-size-fits-all gut protocol can completely heal one person, create improvement in another, do nothing at all for a third, and perhaps make another even worse.

It’s also important to screen for more serious conditions. These can include gastric ulcers from an h. pylori infection, intestinal permeability — or leaky gut — from damage to the microvilli of the small intestine, inflammatory bowel disease, ulcerative colitis, or Crohn’s disease. Knowing whether these conditions are an issue also impacts how you manage gut health.

Also vital is knowing whether gut autoimmunity is the root cause of your gut issues. You can test for this through Cryex Labs. If so, this changes your expectations of your outcomes and how you evaluate your progress. Autoimmune disease occurs when the immune system erroneously attacks and destroys tissue in the body. Eventually this leads to symptoms and breakdown of function.

Although autoimmune disease cannot be cured, it often can be dampened or driven into remission for long periods of time. However, unpredictable flare ups also happen, and the person with gut autoimmunity must have realistic expectations in order not to feel demoralized if their symptoms flare and recede. Also, there is still much we don’t know about autoimmunity. For some people it’s easy to manage and for others it’s a constant battle. In these cases, the goal can be as simple as “more good days.”

This is an overview of why common gut-healing protocols work gangbusters for some people and little to not at all for others. Our digestive system is one of the most fascinating, complex, and influential systems in the body. The more scientists learn about it, the more apparent it becomes that gut health largely determines the health of the rest of the body, including the brain.

This is why we are seeing so many chronic health conditions in modernized societies that subsist largely on industrialized agriculture and food processing. The commercialization of cheap, processed, chemically laden, and highly sweetened “foods” largely void of produce has inflamed and damaged the digestive tract, decimated the gut microbiome (some researchers call it an extinction event), and ravaged the brain in today’s modern populations.

Fortunately, functional medicine excels when it comes to repairing and maintaining gut health. Ask our office how we can help you.

Controversial New Study Reports Statins Useless

904 study says statins useless

A controversial new study found that high cholesterol does not shorten life span and that statins are essentially a “waste of time,” according to one of the researchers. Previous studies have linked statins with an increased risk of diabetes.

The study reviewed research of almost 70,000 people and found that elevated levels of “bad cholesterol” did not raise the risk of early death from cardiovascular disease in people over 60.

The authors called for statin guidelines to be reviewed, claiming the benefits of statins are “exaggerated.”

Not only did the study find no link between high cholesterol and early death, it also found that people with high “bad” cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein, or LDL) actually lived longer and had fewer incidences of heart disease.

The co-author and vascular surgeon went on to say that cholesterol is vital for preventing cancer, muscle pain, infection, and other health disorders in older people. He said that statins are a “waste of time” for lowering cholesterol and that lifestyle changes are more effective for improving cardiovascular health.

Naturally, the paper drew fire and its conclusions were dismissed by other experts in the field. Statins are among the most commonly prescribed drugs — one in four Americans over the age of 40 take statins and the drug accounts for more than $20 billion in spending each year. Statin use has gone up more than 80 percent in the last 20 years.

Statins linked to higher risk of diabetes and other health disorders

In functional medicine we recognize cholesterol as a vital compound in the body for multiple functions, including brain function and muscle strength. Overly low cholesterol is linked with an increased risk of several health disorders, including diabetes.

One study of almost 9,000 people showed that people in their 60s who used statins had an almost 40 percent higher risk of type 2 diabetes. They also had higher rates of high blood sugar and pre-diabetes, or insulin resistance. High blood sugar disorders underpin numerous chronic inflammatory conditions, including Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Previous research found a 50 percent increased risk of diabetes in women who took statins.

In addition to raising the risk of high blood sugar and diabetes, statins also may cause such side effects as muscle weakness and wasting, headaches, difficulty sleeping, and dizziness.

Statins do not address the underlying cause of heart disease: Chronic inflammation

Statins may lower cholesterol, but they do not address the underlying cause of heart disease, which is typically chronic inflammation (some people are genetically predisposed to cardiovascular disease). The body uses cholesterol to repair arteries damaged by inflammation — the primary cause of heart attacks and strokes.

For instance, the vast majority of people who have heart attacks have normal cholesterol. In other countries where people have higher cholesterol than Americans, they also have less heart disease. In fact, low cholesterol in elderly patients is linked to a higher risk of death compared to high cholesterol.

Improving heart health through functional medicine instead of statins

Functional medicine is a great way to improve cardiovascular health because it avoids drugs that cause potentially harmful side effects. Although lifestyle changes may require more work than popping a pill, they address root causes of your disorder versus overriding them. This means you feel and function better overall.

What does a functional medicine approach to heart health look like?

  • An anti-inflammatory diet
  • Releasing feel-good endorphins on a regular basis through exercise (endorphins are anti-inflammatory)
  • Targeted nutritional support
  • Identifying and addressing the root causes of your inflammation, which are different for everyone. Possibilities include high blood sugar, poor thyroid function, an undiagnosed autoimmune disorder, chronic bacterial, fungal, or viral infections, leaky gut, or a brain imbalance, such as from a past brain injury.

It’s important to address things from this angle because cholesterol is vital to good health. It is found in every cell and helps produce cell membranes, vitamin D, and hormones. It’s also necessary for healthy brain function.

Inflammation promotes heart disease

Chronic inflammation and not cholesterol is the concerning factor in heart disease. The blood marker C-reactive protein (CRP) identifies inflammation. If it’s high, you have a higher risk for heart disease than those with high cholesterol. Having normal cholesterol but high CRP does not protect you from heart disease.

By using functional medicine to lower your inflammation and improve your heart health, you not only avoid the risks and dangers of statins, but also you get to better enjoy your golden years thanks to improved energy and well being.