Functional Medicine: A Health-Care Future Worth Fighting For

Though America’s health care has become a political battlefield, we the people can be grateful for, among other advantages, our top-notch acute hospital care and our unparalleled ability to guide an injured citizen through a medical crisis. Chronic disease, however, is where we fail miserable so much so, that we’re currently ranked 37th of industrialized nations, yet we spend two times more than the second highest-spending nation.

The solution: functional medicine. A unique and dynamic approach to preventing, assessing, and treating complex chronic disease, functional medicine helps identify the key factors causing physiological and biochemical dysfunctions. It acknowledges the fact that all disease is preceded by long-declining function in one or (usually) more body systems, resulting from lifelong interaction with one’s lifestyle and biochemical individuality– a unique biochemical profile based on one’s genetics, nutrition, and environment.

Functional medicine, then, is necessarily patient-centered, not disease-centered, and applies science-guided information to address an individual’s dynamic balance, internal and external, that affects not only the body but also the mind and spirit. The functional-medicine practitioner tailors a concise, clear, pragmatic plan so that the patient can take charge of their health and restore it to positive vitality.

While not a cookie-cutter modality, functional medicine does have certain elements you can expect. First, a practitioner should use cutting-edge diagnostics that gauge your results against the norms of a healthy population, not according to a bell curve that determines varying diagnoses based on geographic region. Second, a practitioner should explain your results such that you respond, “Oh, that’s why I feel like this!” Third, you should leave the practitioner’s office feeling confident you’re in good hands because you have a treatment plan designed for your body.

Functional medicine is one promising aspect of America’s health-care future, in that it resolves medical issues at their source, before they become chronic challenges in your future.

Perfect Training = Perfect Performance

Is it true that training leads to better performance and fewer injuries? Vince Lombardi said, – perfect practice makes perfect -, not practice makes perfect. Vince was correct in that proper training far outweighs any quantity of training. So, what is proper training? Proper training focuses on balancing structural, nutritional and emotional health.

Proper structural health maintains the 550+ muscles and 212+ bones through chiropractic, massage and strengthening programs. Additionally, a target heart rate should be maintained during exercise that emphasizes your aerobic capacity. Proper nutrition focuses on evolution as mammals.

Dr. Loren Cordain wrote a masterpiece called ‘The Paleo Diet’, which emphasizes a predominantly seasonal, protein and vegetable diet that humans have utilized for millions of years. This diet incorporates our genetic background and allows us to express its wisdom even in the face of increased training and related stress. Emotional health should not be overlooked as a factor in overtraining as our mind affects every cell in our body.

Support your mind and body by heeding Mr. Lombardi’s words and train with a professional who respects your bodies needs for structural, nutritional and emotional support. Please contact Dr. Autoimmune to set up your professional program and let your health soar!

Is Your Forehead Related to Your Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

“The craniofacial morphology of patients with celiac disease reveals an altered pattern of craniofacial growth,” claims an article titled ”Large Forehead: A Novel Sign of Undiagnosed Celiac Disease,“ in a 2005 issue of Digestive and Liver Disease.

Specifically, the study found that people who suffer from gluten intolerance had a larger forehead due to abnormal growth patterns as a child. To determine if this is a factor for you, measure from the bottom of your chin to the bottom of your nose, from the bottom of your nose to between your eyebrows, and from between your eyebrows to the top of your forehead.

The face should be divided into equal thirds; if your forehead is larger than the other two sections, there’s a good chance that gluten is affecting your gastrointestinal condition. Furthermore, a 2009 Polish scientific article states that one of five IBS patients suffer from positive antibodies to gluten!

Whether you have a large forehead or not, if you suffer from digestive irritability, there are many possible causes and treatment options that can greatly improve your life.

Cholesterol: A Love Story

Do you cringe when asked about your cholesterol? The word alone strikes fear of atherosclerosis, heart disease, and stroke. All the studies, the diets, the doctors’ orders seem geared toward lowering cholesterol, eliminating the “bad” kind, and consuming low-fat, cholesterol-free foods. Interestingly, there is little scientific evidence showing that cholesterol is a cause of atherosclerosis, heart disease, or stroke. Rather, current research indicates that cholesterol actually protects against these diseases and many others.

That’s just one reason to love and appreciate cholesterol’s presence in the body. Cholesterol is an important part of a healthy, functioning body. The brain and nervous system depend on it to work properly which is why mother’s milk is minimally 60% cholesterol, the proper nutrition for a developing baby. Cholesterol is also essential for the body’s production of hormones and vitamins that allow us to grow and adapt to stress. It also helps maintain the intestinal wall, allowing for proper digestion and reducing inflammation that can lead to many diseases.

Because there’s genetic variability in how a body processes fat no matter its source, how do you know if your cholesterol intake is appropriate for you? Many internal and external factors impact cholesterol level, so getting a comprehensive metabolic blood test is recommended. A healthy cholesterol level, determined by the ratio of HDL, LDL, and total cholesterol levels, falls within a pretty wide range.

HDL, or “good” cholesterol, and LDL, or “bad” cholesterol, are both needed to maintain health and prevent disease. That is, they’re both good cholesterol, essential for your body. Of course, moderation and variety in your diet is always a good idea, but you can enjoy the foods you love, even eggs and animal fats, as part of a healthy lifestyle that also includes regular exercise and sufficient sleep. Looking at all the relevant factors takes the fear out of consuming cholesterol and ensures that your body gets its healthy amount of dietary cholesterol.

Thyroid Sign Language

SignLanguage“Cold hands, warm heart” a sweet old adage that may say more about the thyroid than the personality. Anxiety, depression, fatigue, digestive troubles, constipation, insomnia, heart palpitations, itchy dry skin, brittle thinning hair, difficulty with weight gain or loss, morning headaches, cold hands and feet are the signs of a poorly functioning thyroid.

These signs are so diverse they can easily be associated with such life factors as a busy family, a stressful job, weather changes, or a poor mattress.

Our body communicates its state of well-being the only way it can– through itself! Unfortunately, much of that communication gets covered up, ignored, or blamed on innocent bystanders, as we buy in, literally, to a culture that emphasizes how we look and what we do. Salon products camouflage our dry hair and nails; supplements boost our energy and weight loss; fragrant lotions soften our skin.

Even when your body “speaks” faintly, consider what’s going on inside it before you change it on the outside. Simple blood testing will illuminate how your thyroid is functioning and if your symptoms are due to a hypothyroid condition. “Listen” to the language of your body. Your good health is riding on it.

Mercury & Your Thyroid: How Many Fillings Do You Have?

DentalExamMost of us understand that Mercury is a toxic metal that can cause serious health concerns. Besides an old broken thermometer or vaccination, what is the most common way we are exposed to harmful levels of mercury? The answer is to look at your teeth!

If you notice dark fillings there is a good chance you may have mercury fillings. And, if you currently suffer from a thyroid condition, these filling may have been the trigger!

A majority of thyroid cases are autoimmune, and mercury can stimulate the body to attack itself. Although few doctors associate dental fillings with a patient’s thyroid condition, a study in the December 2006 Journal of Neuro Edocrinology showed that thyroid antibodies decreased with the removal of mercury containing dental amalgams in patients with mercury hypersensitivity.

Removal of mercury fillings decreased the immune attack against the thyroid and consequently resulted in successful treatment of the thyroid condition. Before you race to your dentist to have your fillings changed, know that there are precautions to take so that escaping mercury will not negatively impact your health, and removal is not the safest answer for everyone. Your thyroid health is dependent on many factor, your teeth are just one of them!

Nutritional Repercussions of Celiac Disease

toastI had the pleasure to present “Nutritional Repercussions of Celiac Disease” to the Boulder County Celiac Association this past August. Celiac Disease and gluten intolerance are very important to me, as I was diagnosed gluten intolerant during a stressful period in Chiropractic College and my grandfather suffered from Parkinson’s disease brought on as a complication from Celiac Disease. Although gluten is becoming a household word, many people including doctors are not aware of the complexity and seriousness of being gluten intolerant or Celiac. It is my hope that you will gain insight into your condition and be empowered to make changes that will improve your quality of life.

Gluten intolerance is ranked as the most common genetic disorder in the United States making it one of the most common lifelong disorders a physician will encounter. Unfortunately, for every one patient diagnosed there are 8 others whose symptoms are not overt and therefore are misdiagnosed. This is because Celiac is thought of as a gut condition; however celiac and gluten sensitivity affects almost every system in the human body from skin and teeth to the liver and brain.

The consequences of intolerance have dramatic repercussions as described in a 2005 Alimentary article: “Children identified, but never put on a gluten-free diet, as adults have a significantly higher percentage of auto-immune disorders, osteoporosis, dental enamel defects, alcohol intake, cigarette smoking, sexual habits and lower neo-natal weight in their children with subsequent shorter breast-feeding time”. Furthermore, gluten “sensitivity” is nothing to shake a stick at according to a 2009 JAMA article: “looking at 30,000 patients, there was a 39% increased risk of death in those with Celiac Disease, a 35% increased risk of death in those with Gluten Sensitivity but no CD, and a 72% increased risk of death in those with gut inflammation related to gluten. It is shocking to think of the patients who have been told “it’s just a mild elevation in antibodies”, or “try eating smaller amounts and we’ll see how you do” after reading that article!

One of the most important take home messages I feel is that according to a 2001 Neurology article, Gluten sensitivity can be primarily and at times exclusively a neurologic disease. Specifically, the most common neurologic symptoms I encounter and this article indicates are: 1) Fatigue & Depression 2) Headaches (especially migraines) 3) Peripheral neuropathy (unusual symptoms in the extremities) 4) Behavioral disorders, and in my personal clinical opinion 5) Brain Fog or Fuzzy Headed. It is known that far fewer celiacs achieve university degrees or higher paying jobs.

Additionally, behavioral disorders in children and adults are common and have become a passion of mine. The standard treatment are schedule II narcotics which have potentially life altering side effects. ALL children diagnosed with ADD/ADHD showed a significant improvement in their behavior and functioning after 6 months on a gluten-free diet according to the Journal of Attention Disorders, 2006. Results like these are unheard of in medicine, making this finding very exciting! Although it can sound daunting to remove gluten from a child’s diet, knowing that they will perform better in school and live and longer, healthier and more prosperous is comforting.

The incidence of celiac disease increased by 400% in the past 50 years!

Why? To understand, we must know three things about all auto-immune diseases: There is an environmental trigger, genetic susceptibility and a gut abnormality (Surprises From Celiac Disease, Scientific American Aug 2009). Triggers can range from stress, gastro-intestinal infections, dysbiosis (poor gut bacteria ratio), trauma/child birth, inadequate vitamin D, lectins or early exposure to gluten, enzyme deficiencies, NSAIDS, steroids, anti-biotics, and excessive alcohol consumption. Our gut mucosal barrier called secretory IgA depends on a tightly regulated stress hormone called cortisol. If the body fails to adapt to stress, that barrier may be weakened until the stress is addressed and the hormone is balanced. Gut infections are very common in the United States. Helicobacter Pylori is estimated to reside in 80%+ of Americans. Additionally, viruses, bacteria, molds and fungi may cause inflammation and toxicity, which create a vicious cycle with gluten in the mix!

Genetics of course play a central role in celiac disease. Currently, there are two genes commonly connected to celiac disease: HLA-DQ2 & HLA-DQ8. Most genetic tests will address these two; however they are not 100% sensitive since all genes coding for celiac disease and sensitivity are not yet known. A diagnosis of Celiac can be frightening, but also a relief. It’s great to know what’s wrong, but it’s challenging to adhere to a strict diet.
Yet that diet is the glimmer of hope to improved quality of life. Unfortunately, the gut is often damaged from years of gluten consumption, causing wide spread vitamin deficiencies including: A,E,D,K,B6,B12 zinc, selenium, calcium, magnesium, carnitine and fatty acids. Signs are the body’s way of showing deficiencies. A larger forehead (vertical dimension) indicates long-term gluten intolerance.

Additional signs are white spots or lines on nails or teeth, rashes on the extremities, dry eyes, night blindness, bruising easily, and rough red spots on the back of arms. Even if you feel “fine” and do not notice these signs, the June 2003 New England Journal of Medicine indicated that patients with celiac disease should be treated, whether or not they have symptoms or associated conditions!

With a strict gluten free diet and the coaching to maintain this lifestyle plus a functional medicine workup anyone can turn their life around! Nutritional deficiencies can be a challenge for anyone’s health, but with modern diagnostics and a thorough history and examination your health can begin to turn around. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link and a celiac has a long road to making sure their health is strong and robust.

Thank you for letting me educate you a little more on celiac disease and gluten sensitivity and remember, everything we learned about is reversible or preventable – it only requires your determination and willingness to let your health soar.

Inflammation Strategies

Most everyone has experienced some form of pain in his life, whether falling off a bicycle, lifting a heavy box, a stress headache, or due to a car accident. All of these different injuries stem from the same response in the body–inflammation.

This is the unsung hero of pain, because while inflammation causes pain, it also protects the body and is necessary for injuries to heal. Unfortunately, sometimes the body is unable to regulate inflammation properly and chronic pain can result. There are many ways to support the body when pain becomes overwhelming.

In my office, I address pain in a multifaceted way – through the use of chiropractic adjustments, specific muscle work, diet, and proper exercise. These categories in combination target inflammation, decrease pain, and ultimately improve function.

A quick way to determine if you are not healing appropriately is to ask yourself these questions. Is your pain preventing you from doing something? Did you use to heal quickly? Do you want more relief? If you answered, yes to any of these consider finding a doctor of chiropractic who can help your body heal and let your health soar!

Do Low Carb Diets Promote Weight Loss?

Well, according to the research, YES!!!

Our bodies are experts at converting the food we eat into energy our cells can use. The body uses a couple of different strategies (called metabolic pathways) to provide cells with energy, and it turns out that some pathways are healthier than others. A study published this month in the Annals of Internal Medicine provides support that one metabolic pathway called ketosis is associated with an array of health benefits including weight loss, loss of fat mass, and decreased cardiovascular risk factors.

Ketosis is a pathway used by the body during fasting states, when blood sugar is low. Every night our bodies naturally switch into a state of ketosis, and break down fat stores into something called ketone bodies that cells can use for energy. Our bodies leave ketosis after eating carbohydrate rich meals that cause blood sugar levels to increase.

In the study, which was conducted at the Tulane University School of Public Health, researchers had one group of participants follow a low-fat diet, and another group follow a low-carbohydrate diet which promotes ketosis. After 12 months, participants from the low-carbohydrate group lost more weight compared to the low-fat group; the great news is that most of that weight loss was from a decrease of fat mass.

Participants who followed the low-carbohydrate diet also experienced other health benefits like improved ratios of good cholesterol versus bad cholesterol.

You can help your body enter a state of ketosis by following a diet similar to the one used in the study–a diet low in carbohydrates and rich in healthy fats. We have a recipe for delicious morning coffee which will keep your body in ketosis!

5 Things I wish I knew when I was diagnosed gluten intolerant

1) The disease does not stop after going gluten free – A 2009 study from the Journal of Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics indicated that after studying 465 Celiac disease patients only 8% of the group reached “histological normalization” after following a strict gluten free diet for 16 months. That is, only 8% of the group regained a healthy gut. Their final conclusion:

“Complete normalization of duodenal lesions is exceptionally rare in adult coeliac patients despite adherence to GFD.” We cannot be passive after a diagnosis of Celiac, or gluten sensitivity. Your quality of life depends on you taking action and determining any remaining food allergens, sources of inflammation or gut imbalances. Please consider working with a trained functional medicine doctor to help attain optimal health!

2) Hidden contamination is the most common cause for relapse – Research paper after paper indicates that non-compliance to a gluten free diet will continue the vicious auto-immune circle of damage and adhering to a 100% gluten free diet is the first step in healing. The most common source of hidden contamination is eating out or using packaged foods with shared equipment!

3) Cross reactivity may hinder full healing – To date there are 24 different foods that can mimic gluten because the amino acid sequences found in say corn, rice or buckwheat are similar to those found in gluten containing grains.

So, even though a gluten free diet is adhered to the typical gluten free foods may continue to drive the vicious circle of disease.

4) A safety blanket called DPPIV – This digestive enzyme should normally be produced to help us break gluten down but in those with intolerance it appears we may have less available or it just doesn’t work the same. So, for eating out or where circumstances prevent full control of the food you are exposed to, we recommend a product call “gluten flam”, which can help control exposure to gluten. Please DO NOT consider this a “fix” to the problem and use as if it were a cure to regular exposure to gluten.

5) 5 labs that MUST be checked that are frequently out of balance:

  • Full thyroid panel including Thyroid antibodies (Thyroid peroxidase & Anti-thyroglobulin). In those diagnosed with Celiac disease there is a dramatic increase in the incidence of Hashimoto’s (and vice versa). Even without an elevated TSH (which is normally the only test checked by MD’s) autoimmunity can drive damage to the thyroid organ and intervention can potentially lower the damaging auto-antibodies.
  • Serum 25-OH Vitamin D – Although this hormone is found to be low in 50% of the US population North of Altanta, Georgia it is particularly crucial in leaky gut. Vitamin D appears to be one of the necessary hormones to keep cells tightly together preventing the “leakiness” in the first place.
  • Serum Ferritin – Iron deficiency is one of the most common presentations of gluten intolerance irrespective if a woman has a heavy cycle. Even without gut symptoms, if there is history of anemia, it must be ruled out and if a diagnosis of Celiac disease is made then there is a good chance storage iron is low!
  • Complete blood count with differential – This is important for two reasons, one, MCV or Mean Cell Volume is an indicator of folic acid and vitamin B12 status and a mild elevation can indicate deficiency here. Secondly, alterations in the differential, or different white blood cell types may indicate bacterial, viral or parasitic infections and any of these infections may inhibit proper gut healing!
  • Stool testing for bacterial overgrowths, parasitic infections and pancreatic digestive enzyme function – When the normal environment is in upheaval with digestive diseases many times the instigator, or inability to heal properly is from foreign microbes dominating our internal environment. Celiac disease significantly increases the risk of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth which is connected to many autoimmune conditions. Also, lack of digestive enzymes creates inflammation because our signal for proper digestion begins with adequate digestive enzyme function.

So many people struggle post diagnosis (which is many times a feat in itself!) that I have focused my practice into helping this unique patient population. I have heard horror story after horror story of Gastroenterologists telling patients little to nothing except they have this “Celiac” disease and they should avoid gluten. Well I’m here to tell you that you have some one on your side, fighting for your health. I’m confident that if you can change your diet, take some supplements and maintain a positive attitude, you will dramatically change your health. My Grandfather died of Celiac disease and if I can prevent one more person from suffering needlessly, I will have triumphed as a doctor. If you were recently diagnosed or are a long-term sufferer, enough is enough, pick up the phone and call the Dr. Autoimmune and we will let your health soar!