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.

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 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.

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.

New Lab Test in the Works for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

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Chronic fatigue syndrome — more correctly called myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) — is one of the more frustrating chronic illnesses because most doctors don’t believe it exists or that it’s a psychiatric issue. Despite symptoms that completely debilitate its victims, ME/CFS is often the butt of jokes or medical ridicule because there is no lab marker to diagnose it even though it has been linked to inflammation of the nervous system.

However, that may change thanks to the invention by a father whose adult son has been bedridden with ME/CFS for the last 10 years.

The father, who is also a Stanford scientist, developed a simple blood test that measures the energy cells expend in order to maintain homeostasis after exposure to salt. Salt stresses cells, which must retain balance in sodium levels in order to function properly.

The researcher passed the cells exposed to salt through a small microchip that uses an electrical current to measure the energy exertion of the cells. Less exertion indicates the cells are able to easily maintain sodium balance, while more exertion meant finding balance required considerable effort.

The test was run on 40 people — 20 of whom suffer from ME/CFS and 20 healthy controls. In all 20 of the ME/CFS group, the cells expended significantly more energy in response to the salt compared to the cells of the 20 healthy people. This indicates the ME/CFS group had cells that were considerably less functional and more stressed.

Poor cellular function leads to poor function of the body and brain. Dysfunctional cells that can’t produce enough energy result in a body that is constantly fatigued and in poor health with multiple symptoms.

Although the test needs to be run on larger groups of people, if the research is able to replicate these results, it means conventional medicine will finally have the biomarker it needs to legitimize ME/CFS as a medical condition in the eyes of ordinary doctors.

Conventional advice for ME/CFS can be debilitating

One mistake many conventional doctors make when they examine a patient with ME/CFS is to assume they are lazy or hypochondriacs. As such, it’s common for doctors to tell ME/CFS patients to exercise to improve their symptoms.

This is bad advice for the ME/CFS patient whose cells are struggling to maintain just basic functions.

In fact, many patients with chronic fatigue are so severely fatigued they cannot work, have normal lives, or even leave their beds. Any exertion exacerbates their symptoms in what is called “post-exertional malaise.” For these individuals, exercise is an extremely inappropriate prescription.

ME/CFS affects several million people in the United States, although it’s estimated that as many as 90 percent of sufferers have not been diagnosed, due to the difficulty of receiving a proper diagnosis. It can take years and visits to multiple doctors to find one who will take the symptoms seriously.

Another difficulty in diagnosis is that patients suffer from multiple symptoms in addition to chronic fatigue, such as chronic pain, difficulties with memory and concentration, gut issues, and extreme sensitivities to light, sound, smell. Poor cellular function affects multiple organs so that symptoms can vary depending on the person.

ME/CFS can be diagnosed though a simple checklist of symptoms, however most primary care doctors are not aware of the list or adhere to the belief the disorder is imaginary. Conventional doctors also don’t like to diagnose ME/CFS because no drugs exist to treat it.

However, should the new testing prove to be accurate, it would give the millions of sufferers a diagnosis, thus eliminating the demoralizing mystery. This would also open the doors to new research into the condition.

Recent research into brain inflammation could also bring hope for ME/CFS

Fortunately, recent research breakthroughs in brain inflammation offer promise in not only validating ME/CFS but also its treatment.

Brain inflammation is more common than previously realized and is increasingly linked to myriad conditions other than ME/CFS, including depression, anxiety, childhood brain development disorders, and Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Immune cells in the brain outnumber neurons 10 to one and are vastly more important than previously realized. They are responsible for maintaining neuronal health and function and removing debris and plaque from the brain. However, when the brain is impacted by inflammation from dietary or lifestyle factors or a brain injury, the brain’s immune cells must abandon their jobs of supporting neuronal health and instead go into persistent warrior mode, damaging brain tissue in the process. Unlike the body’s immune system, the brain’s has no off switch.

There are no drugs to tame brain inflammation, however, it has been shown to respond to certain botanical compounds and functional medicine protocols that include dietary, lifestyle, and health interventions.

Ask my office for more advice on how we can help you with fatigue.

Is Chronic Stress Damaging You? Take a Salivary Cortisol Test to Find Out

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Many of us are too stressed out these days and this can have negative consequences on our bodies and brains, promoting chronic disease and rapid brain degeneration. If you’re concerned about the effects of stress on your body and how to manage it, an adrenal salivary test is an important ally. It can show you whether your stress hormone cortisol is too high or too low and whether this has affected your sleep-wake cycle, or circadian rhythm.

Symptoms of low adrenal hormones

  • Fatigue
  • Slow starter in the mornings
  • Crash in the afternoon
  • Crave sweets, caffeine, or nicotine to keep going
  • Prone to moodiness
  • Become shaky, light-headed, or irritable if go too long without eating
  • Wake up at 3 or 4 a.m.; inability to stay asleep
  • Become dizzy when move from sitting to standing

Symptoms of high adrenal hormones

  • Excess belly fat
  • Insulin resistance (high blood sugar)
  • Trouble falling asleep
  • Wake up not feeling rested
  • Women grow facial hair; men grow breasts
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).

How to do an adrenal salivary test

To perform the adrenal salivary test, simply collect a small vial of saliva several times throughout the day using the vials in your test kit. The lab will then analyze your saliva for cortisol levels and how much cortisol you produce in the morning, afternoon, and evening. Do not something unusual or stressful on the day of your test.

It’s important to understand that low or high adrenal hormones usually don’t reflect a problem solely with the adrenal glands, two glands that sit atop each kidney and secrete adrenal hormones. Instead, chronic stress affects stress pathways in the brain, which start to dysfunction when stress is chronic.

It isn’t just being too busy, a bad job, a bad relationship, and so forth that cause chronic stress. Lesser known factors of chronic stress can include unstable blood sugar (usually from too many carbs), a chronic infection, leaky gut, or an autoimmune disease. Using second and third adrenal salivary tests allow you to track whether you’re successfully managing your condition; adrenal health should improve as these conditions resolve. If adrenal health does not improve, it means you must keep investigating to find out what is causing the body stress.

Measuring the sleep-wake cycle, or circadian rhythm

A sleep-wake cycle, or circadian rhythm, that is out of whack is one symptom of adrenal stress. If the circadian rhythm is normal, then cortisol is highest in the morning and lowest at night. This is what allows us to feel alert when we wake up and sleepy before bed. Many people with altered circadian rhythms notice they are more awake at night. Or they may notice an energy crash in the afternoon and being wide awake in the middle of the night.

The stages of stress

The adrenal salivary test measures circadian rhythm, the cortisol precursor hormones DHEA and 17 hydroxyprogesterone, and cortisol levels. It can tell you where you fall on the spectrum of adrenal fatigue to high adrenal hormones. People don’t necessarily progress from high adrenal hormone to low; adrenal function can jump back and forth between phases or stay stuck in one phase.

The adrenal salivary test also measures total secretory Ig antibodies, or (SIgA). Low SIgA levels reflect poor and dysfunctional immunity. If your SIgA levels are low, you are more prone to food intolerances, chemical sensitivities, autoimmune disease, infections, and other assaults on the immune system.

Ask my office about functional medicine protocols that can profoundly influence your adrenal health. We will also search for and manage the root causes of your adrenal stress.

Effects of trauma and harm passed on for generations

830 epigenetics intergeneational

The notion that genes dictate our destiny has been solidly debunked in favor of epigenetics, the study of external or internal mechanisms that switch genes on and off. Exciting new research shows epigenetic memory can span multiple generations.

Studies have linked epigenetics to cognitive dysfunction, autoimmunity, reproductive disorders, cardiovascular disease, and nearly all cancers.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that genetics are responsible for a mere 10 percent of disease, while the remaining 90 percent is due to environmental variables.

Consider these research findings:

In rats, maternal exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals caused infertility in male offspring that was passed down to 90 percent of males in four subsequent generations.

Adaptations to traumatic experiences can also be passed down multiple generations as a way to inform offspring about methods for survival.

For example, mice who learned to fear a scent associated with a negative experience passed the response down two generations, despite the offspring never having experienced the same situation.

A similar transfer of responses has been observed in humans:

Exposure to starvation during pregnancy is associated with poor health outcomes for offspring such as:

  • Lower self-reported mental health and quality of life
  • Major mood disorders
  • Antisocial personality disorders
  • Schizophrenia
  • Decreased intracranial volume
  • Congenital abnormalities of the central nervous system
  • Enhanced incidence of cardiovascular disease
  • Hypertension
  • Obesity

Descendants of people who survived the Holocaust show abnormal stress hormone profiles, in particular low cortisol production. Because of altered stress response, children of Holocaust survivors can be at increased risk for PTSD, depression, and anxiety.

Children of women exposed to intimate partner violence during pregnancy have higher predisposition to mental illness, behavioral problems, and psychological abnormalities due to transgenerational epigenetic programming of genes acting in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA axis), a complex communication pathway between glands involved in our stress response.

Classic genetic theory states that genetic change occurs over a time scale of hundreds to millions of years.

Epigenetics explains how our lifestyle, diet, environment, and experiences affect the expression of our genes over multiple generations, but it does not account for actual changes to our genetic code.

How do genetics and epigenetics relate?

Via epigenetics our genes can be influenced by factors such as:

  • Diet
  • Sleep habits
  • Where you live
  • Who you interact with
  • Exercise habits
  • Smoking
  • Environmental toxins
  • Heavy metals
  • Stress level
  • Social support (or lack of it)
  • Medications
  • Method of birth (cesarean vs. vaginal)
  • And more

We inherit one variant of each gene from each parent. Epigenetics can turn off one of these two gene variants (this is called “imprinting”).

This can result in a negative health outcome if the other, still-active variant is defective or increases our susceptibility to toxins or infections.

The cumulative impacts of our lives on our genes

Related to epigenetics is the exposome, the cumulative measure of all the exposures of an individual in a lifetime — starting at conception — and how they relate to our health. Some consider the exposome the environmental equivalent of the human genome.

The exposome is divided into three overlapping categories:

The environment inside our bodies that affects our cells:

  • Hormones and other cell messengers
  • Oxidative stress (excess highly reactive and damaging molecules)
  • Inflammation
  • Lipid peroxidation (damage to cell membranes and other molecules containing fats)
  • Body shape
  • Gut microbiota
  • Aging
  • Biochemical stress

The external environment to which we expose our bodies:

  • Diet
  • Lifestyle
  • Occupational factors
  • Pathogens and toxins
  • Radiation
  • Medical interventions

The general external environment, including broader sociocultural and ecological factors:

  • Socioeconomic status
  • Geopolitical factors
  • Psychological stress
  • Education status
  • Urban or rural residence
  • Climate

Using epigenetics to positively impact the future

Epigenetic processes are natural and essential to many bodily functions. But if they go wrong they can negatively impacts not only our health but the health of our children. Researchers feel the ability for these changes to be passed down has significant implications regarding evolutionary biology and disease causation.

There are factors we have no control over such as certain environmental toxins, method of birth, and exposure to some level of stress. The good news is we can affect change in many areas that can powerfully affect our epigenetics:

  • Anti-inflammatory diet
  • Daily exercise
  • Stress-relief activities
  • Good sleep habits
  • Who we interact with
  • Antioxidant status
  • Not smoking
  • Social support
  • Addressing food intolerances
  • Mediating autoimmunity

Functional medicine offers many avenues to support healthy epigenetic expression. If you seek ways to help your body express its genes in the best ways possible, contact my office for help.