Feeding Your Stem Cells

What you put in your mouth every day sets the stage for how well your body functions, down to fueling the smallest building blocks you don’t necessarily think about as you choose a banana over a baked good.

These building blocks include stem cells, the body’s raw materials from which all other cells with specialized functions are generated. We study them to understand diseases, and doctors and scientists use stem cells to help repair or regenerate damaged or diseased cells in patients suffering from spinal cord injuries, type 1 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, stroke, burns, cancer and osteoarthritis. Stem cells also play a leading role in the testing of new drugs for safety and effectiveness. [1]

Keeping stem cells happy is critical to aging gracefully, and we must feed them an array of nutrients so that they can grow, proliferate, and even protect us from toxins. Below is a list of foods and supplements Dr. Autoimmune recommends to do just that or you might consider fasting.

When you are fasting, either intermittently or via restricted time periods throughout the day, your cells are repairing themselves and are essentially cleaning out old, defective proteins inside the cells. There are many different ways to break up your eating and fasting time periods, and you should speak with a professional to learn of ways to improve your metabolism and boost those stem cells. [2]

If fasting doesn’t appeal to you or fit in your busy schedule, consider actively supplementing your diet with foods rich in vitamins and minerals. Such micronutrients are not only necessary for fueling you throughout the day, growing bones, balancing fluids in the body, and boosting your immune system – they’re also very important in reducing inflammation and helping stem cells grow.

While there are many different types of vitamins and minerals, one in particular is considered a powerhouse in increasing how fast stem cells are made. Niacin, or Vitamin B3, is a part of every cell in the body, and it aids in breaking down the food you eat into usable energy in the mitochondria of the cell. Niacin is found in plentiful amounts in meats like grass-fed beef, salmon, chicken and even in products such as eggs. Other foods have been found useful in helping stem cells to grow include berries, broccoli and nuts. 

Nuts are also a fabulous source of Omega-3’s. These fatty acids aren’t made by the body, so you must consume them through the foods that you eat. Chia and flax seeds, grass fed beef, and salmon, are great sources of Omega-3’s, or consider supplementing your diet with something like fish oil to help boost your body against illness and protect against inflammation. [3]

Omega-3’s may have the ability to help stem cells grow significantly, and they are incorporated into the cell membranes throughout the body, enriching the membrane to be both protective and able to change signals so that stem cells can then repair and rejuvenate.

N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) is a potent antioxidant that we use in functional medicine for many reasons. It can protect stem cells from becoming damaged from environmental toxins and it can promote the growth of stem cells when exposed. This sulfur based amino acid can also help fight infections and helps to produce glutathione, your body’s strongest antioxidant!

Organic green tea (EGCG) has been shown through medical trials to both increase healthy stem cells and decrease production on cancerous stem cells. In fact, cancer produces its own stem cells, and daily consumption of green tea is a wonderful way to promote your stem cells into a healthier state! As an added value, it also seems to have an impact on promoting healthy gut bacteria.

Lastly we wanted to mention a food that we are absolutely in love with, Oleic acid. Better known as olive oil, oleic acid is known to produce the “Mediterranean Diet” effect and has a huge list of benefits. In Mesenchymal Stem Cells, it can increase viability, differentiation, proliferation and the cells’ ability to regenerate. [4] First press oils done by mechanical means are the only ones we recommend!

Whether you have invested in Stem Cells via regenerative medicine or you just want to age with grace, the vitamins and nutrients mentioned here can help you remind these critical cells that they are well taken care of. With care, they will keep regenerating and providing the benefits of long term, abundant health!

Dr. Autoimmune offers the best quality products, including vitamins and supplements, through our online portal. And we stock a selection of the world’s best olive oil in our wellness centers.

[1] https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/bone-marrow-transplant/in-depth/stem-cells/art-20048117
[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3106288/
[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24505395
[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6904865/#!po=14.0000

Vitamin D to Fight Hashimoto’s Disease

Our immune system does much more than guard against colds and flu. Yes, it works to fight germs and harmful bacteria, but it also determines which cells are good and bad. If the immune system is not balanced correctly, it can essentially turn against its own cells, resulting in an autoimmune disease. There are more than 100 autoimmune diseases, and it is estimated up to 8% of people globally are affected by one or more of them. [1]

One of the most prevalent autoimmune disorders in the world today is Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, which accounts for 90% of hypothyroid cases. This disease is caused when the body’s immune system attacks the thyroid gland in the neck, which is an important gland for making vital hormones to ensure the proper functioning of the body.

While there is currently no cure for Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, there are promising treatments shown to normalize hormones, improve the immune system, and even aid in regulating metabolism that might be thrown off due to this disease. Even more promising is the help therapeutic doses of micronutrients like Vitamin D provide.

Vitamin D is a micronutrient that is produced within the body and through the synthesis of sunlight. We can boost Vitamin D by taking supplements. Healthy Vitamin D levels are critical, because every single cell requires it to function, and Vitamin D plays multiple roles within the body. For instance, the combination of Vitamin D with calcium is essential for growing healthy and strong bones, and it even helps in decreasing inflammation within the body. Vitamin D plays a role in the growth of cells, and it actually helps regulate the entire immune system.

Specifically, normal levels of Vitamin D ensure the immune system’s regulatory T cells do their job. T cells communicate with B cells, which then produce antibodies. If we lose normal levels of Vitamin D, T cells stop communicating, creating a downstream issue which eventually leads to chaos in the immune system and autoimmune disorders.

Within the last decade, a deficiency of this important vitamin has been noted in patients with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. One study in particular divided 42 women with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis into two groups – one that took a placebo, and one that took a Vitamin D supplement of 50,000 IU weekly for three months. At the end of the study, scientists found both anti-thy-roglobulin antibodies and thyroid-stimulating hormones significantly decreased in the control group, leading them to report Vitamin D can help in decreasing Hashimoto activity within the body.

Another similar research study was conducted on 75 patients with Hashimoto’s to see what effect Vitamin D had on the disease. After eight weeks of treatment and supplementation with Vitamin D, the thyroid autoantibodies were decreased.

Because the deficiency of Vitamin D is so prominent in those with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, supplementing it in patients who are struggling with hypothyroidism can prove to be beneficial. Part of the study even demonstrated a decrease in the risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease as well, so Vitamin D supplementation is certainly an option to consider across multiple realms.

Your functional medicine practitioner will offer Vitamin D as an effective tool to support your immune system and guard against autoimmune diseases like Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. At Dr. Autoimmune, we base dosage on your current levels of Vitamin D, level of inflammation and how your body responds to therapy. We then rerun lab analysis after 8 weeks to ensure effectiveness. Ultimately, these therapeutic doses should increase your level of Vitamin D and your health should improve!

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31841960
[2] https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hashimotos-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20351855

Exercise & Neurodegeneration

We know that incorporating regular sessions of physical activity into your everyday routine is beneficial for health, and in more ways than one; not only can exercise help you lose weight, but it can also reduce anxiety, decrease your risk of certain cancers, reduce the risk of developing diabetes, help to increase balance and coordination, and build strength within the muscles and bones (1). But did you know that exercise can also help to reduce neurodegeneration that occurs with age?

Neurodegeneration is not probably a word you hear often, although its quite a prominent disease. If we break the word down, it’s essentially referring to the breakdown or loss of function within nerve cells. This condition has been primarily touted in diseases like Parkinson’s, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and Alzheimer’s, just to name a few. With the number one risk factor of neurodegeneration being age (#2 is diabetes!), we can see just how problematic this can be within a growing population of elderly people. Granted, there are plenty of pharmaceutical interventions out there to help reduce some of the symptoms of neurodegeneration – many of those being prescription drugs – but unfortunately, these come along with highly unwanted side effects (and very short window of improvement). (2)

Thankfully, there is another way to combat this breakdown of nerve cells within the body as we age…and that is with physical activity! Studies have shown that consistent exercise improves overall cognitive function, which is fantastic news for those looking for a more natural way to stay healthy and combat mental decline that can go along with aging. Based off information from the Alzheimer’s Association, one out of every three people older than 65 passes away due to complications from Alzheimer’s, or some other neurodegenerative disease resembling dementia. If we can use physical activity to lower these statistics while reducing the need for pharmaceutical intervention, then quality of life can be improved as we age as well! (3)

So, how exactly does exercise help to slow the neurodegeneration that can happen as we get older? Studies have shown us that one of the main components of this question leads back to the mitochondria within the body; aging decreases the functioning of mitochondria, which are essential in order to think, learn, and retain memory. Exercise comes into play by improving the overall functionality of the mitochondria, and has even been shown to help reduce inflammation as well! (4).  Also of critical importance is that your mitochondria are integrated into how you regulate blood sugar.  Insulin Resistance is when you start to lose the ability to get blood sugar inside our cells, so therefore it accumulates outside and begins to damage tissue.  As this continues the damage builds up and critical cells like neurons become compromised, and die off faster.  Exercise stimulates these mitochondria to help you optimize insulin/glucose within the cell and keep the inflammation in check!  This is so critical it is estimated that 80% of the root cause of Dementia in our country is “Type 3 diabetes”, or insulin resistance of the brain.

Studies have also shown that, regardless of age (from children to the older generations), there is a positive correlation between exercise and doing well with cognitive assessments. One particular research segment showed that when a group of older women were divided into groups of fit versus sedentary, the women who were fit had much better cognition than those who were sedentary. (5) A large link here between the improved cognition and better fitness levels is an increase in blood flow to the brain during exercise; this increase in blood flow can be one of the key elements in determining how well exercise helps to improve brain functioning, although more research needs to be done to determine just how this happens. (3)

The question is, what type of exercise needs to be performed in order to obtain the benefits of improved cognitive function and decreased neurodegeneration? While more research needs to be presented in order to see the full depth of this particular question, some studies have noted that activities like dancing, yoga, interval training, and aerobic exercise are all optimal ways to improve brain functionality. (4) One study compared balance exercises to strength training, and found that there was greater blood flow during testing of cognitive function with those participants that did strength training more so than balance training (6), and it appears as though workout programs that include multiple areas of fitness – i.e. balance, strength, aerobic endurance, mobility – are going to be more beneficial in improving cognitive function as opposed to one particular area of fitness by itself. (4)

Living in the Denver and Boulder metro area provides us with an abundance of opportunities to find exercise that we enjoy.  I remind clients daily one of the only ways you will stick to an exercise program is to truly enjoy what you are doing!  Community is also essential and we all know that a class, exercise partner or gym is a great motivator to keep on target with daily exercise.

Figuring out how to optimize brain health is essential in not only delaying neurodegeneration, but also to improving one’s quality of life and increasing health and wellness parameters. It’s clear that exercise, across multiple capacities, is capable of slowing down cognitive decline, and should be a vital part of a treatment program for those looking to prevent further breakdown of nerve cells and their counterparts. If you’re needing more assistance on how to incorporate fitness into your routine in order to help boost cognitive functioning, speak with your local functional medicine doctors in Boulder!
Yours in health,
Ian Hollaman, DC, MSc, IFMCP

PS Can’t seem to get the energy to exercise right now?  Is there something interfering with that initial bump in energy to get you going? I’ve found many times the lack of exercise is NOT the primary culprit to jump-start your energy system!  If there are metabolic problems, gut, hormone or brain imbalances many times those need to be addressed first.  Don’t beat yourself up if you are so tired you can’t exercise!  Call us and we can look deeper into areas like your thyroid, cortisol/adrenal health, blood sugar and gut problems like food sensitivities or bacterial overgrowth.  Once we can get you started on a customized plan most of our clients find it dramatically easier to start an exercise program they can maintain and enjoy!

Embrace Sleep and Dramatically Improve Your Health

At Dr. Autoimmune, the tenets of functional medicine inform every consultation about sleep optimization. We work with patients to uncover what might be behind sleep issues and setting goals to achieve an amazing night’s sleep!

Do you personally struggle with sleep? Falling asleep, waking up throughout the night, struggling with chronic exhaustion, or just achieving a consistent schedule of rest – these are all common nighttime struggles. No matter the reason, a great amount of Americans find adequate sleep to be elusive.

Why does this matter? Well, with 1 in 3 adults not getting enough sleep, the CDC states that insufficient sleep is actually considered a public health problem!1 According to the National Heart, Lung & Blood Institute, people with sleep deficiency are at greater risk of health complications, including heart and kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, and obesity. And from a functional medicine perspective, research indicates that if a person is not getting adequate sleep, all other health practices, such as diet and exercise, potentially become irrelevant. Sleep optimization just may take the gold medal when talking about maximizing health.2

While sleep is certainly essential to many known physiological functions, such as hormone regulation and metabolism, an increasing body of research suggests that another one of those essential functions may also include the theory of the glymphatic system (or paravascular clearance pathways), highlighting the critical role of sleep in the clearance of many brain toxins.3

The glymphatic system is a newly discovered waste clearance system in the brain. The word “glymphatic” is a combination of the words “glial” and “lymphatic,” as the glymphatic system is theorized to work through the utilization of glial cells to help clear the brain of waste in a way similar to the lymphatic system. Glial cells surround neurons and hold them in place, supply nutrients and oxygen to neurons, insulate one neuron from another, and destroy pathogens and remove dead neurons. The lymphatic system is part of the vascular system and an important part of the immune system, composed of a large network of lymphatic vessels that carry a clear fluid called lymph. Put these two systems together, and there is the glymphatic system theory. 

Essentially, the glymphatic system is suggested to actively transport cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) through brain spaces, pushing CSF into glia cells that line the par avascular space. At night, this space expands, and harmful proteins and waste products are transported out of the brain. In plain language, research says sleep is critical for our bodies to rid themselves of brain toxins.4 When the glymphatic system is not activated due to lack of sleep, the consequences show up as brain fog, fatigue and depression, just to name a few! Even more concerning diseases like Alzheimer’s, heart and liver disease and more become possible when long-term sleep deprivation is an issue.5

For many, understanding sleep’s vital role in human health seems to be the easy part, but actually practicing better sleep hygiene can be very difficult. So, what can you do to optimize your sleep? Start by implementing these simple sleep hygiene hacks:

  1. Limit or block blue light. The blue light emitted from your TV, laptop and smartphone causes your brain to think it’s daytime, which gets in the way of your body releasing melatonin, a natural sleep hormone. If you just can’t turn off your electronic device, consider wearing amber-colored glasses or adding blue-light blockers to your screens. Such inexpensive options can be found on Amazon and can reduce blue-light melatonin suppression by about 60%.
  2. Keep your room like a cave – dark, cool and quiet. Your body associates light with waking hours, and even dim light during sleep can affect your cognitive function when you most need it. Invest in black out curtains or a sleep mask to help maximize your rest. As well, keep your bedroom between 65-72°F to support your body in naturally reducing its temperature. And finally, keep it quiet! Just like light and temperature can disrupt your sleep, so can sound.
  3. Stick to a sleep schedule. Not only does sleep rely on timing of hormones released in the body, but many other physiological cues contribute to sleep quality as well. For example, our bodies naturally release cortisol at specific times throughout the day so that it is lowest when we are falling asleep. Wacky sleep schedules are disruptive to your body’s systems and result in your body having no idea when to send appropriate sleep-promoting signals. 
  4. Limit eating before bed. The act of eating tells your body to immediately go to work processing, breaking down, and digesting. Don’t confuse things! When it comes time for bed, your body should be focused on rest.
  5. Keep the bedroom for sleep. Train your mind and body for rest and only use your bed for sleep. Avoid working, watching TV or eating in bed, and create a consistent nighttime routine of brushing your teeth, putting on PJs and such, to let your body know it’s sleeping time!
  6. Exercise your brain and body regularly. Releasing energy from a daily grind, as well as the hormones and chemicals exercise helps draw out, results in your body wanting rest and relaxation. 

And what happens when even these things are not helping you get a healthy amount of quality sleep? We still have options. It may be time to look at your sleep brain wave, or “Delta” level, using mapping. Brain mapping is a non-invasive way to dive further into the root causes of insomnia, and neurofeedback can actually train these pathways back into a healthier place. Further functional medicine testing of your circadian rhythm can also clue us into whether stress is driving problematic sleep.

For all these reasons and more, we strongly encourage optimizing sleep, both in quantity of hours and quality of rest. If shut eye continues to elude you and our sleep hacks don’t work, simple practices like breathing, meditation, neurofeedback, supplements and more may help.

And if all this fails? We remain optimistic! At Dr. Autoimmune, we work with each patient individually to uncover what might be behind sleep issues, and we co-author plans of action to work towards an amazing night’s rest:


  1. Jones JM. In U.S., 40% get less than recommended amount of sleep. Gallup Well-Being. Published December 19, 2013. Accessed August 2, 2019. https://news.gallup.com/poll/166553/less-recommended-amount-sleep.aspx
  2. Lichtenstein GR. The Importance of Sleep. Gastroenterol Hepatol (N Y). 2015;11(12):790
  3. Iliff JJ, Wang M, Liao Y, et al. A paravascular pathway facilitates CSF flow through the brain parenchyma and the clearance of interstitial solutes, including amyloid ?. Sci Transl Med. 2012;4(147):147ra111. doi:1126/scitranslmed.3003748.
  4. Rasmussen MK, Mestre H, Nedergaard M. The glymphatic pathway in neurological disorders. Lancet Neurol. 2018;17(11):1016-1024. doi:1016/S1474-4422(18)30318-1