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The Link Between Mental Health and Antibiotics

“The best wealth is health,” said the Roman poet Virgil. You may also have heard, “You can have all of the money in the world, but if you don’t have your health, you have nothing.” 

Our most recent health crisis has surely made these quotes true. Mental Health of America has shared some alarming statistics that include:

  • Nearly 50M or 19.68 % of American adults experienced mental illness in 2019.
  • 4.58% of adults report having serious thoughts of suicide. This has increased every year since 2011-2021.
  • 10.6% or over 2.5 million youth in the U.S. have severe major depression. 
  • 11.1% of Americans with a mental health issue are uninsured.
  • 8.1% of children had private health insurance that did not cover mental health services totaling almost 1 million children.

What are Anxiety and Depression?

They are two different conditions, but they commonly occur together. Having the blues occasionally is normal, and everyone experiences anxious feelings at times. These are a common response to a stressful situation. It’s when those feelings become severe or ongoing that you may want to get to the root cause of the trigger. If you or a loved one shows early signs of depression, seek out a practitioner who can help. 

1 in 4 people are affected by mental health illness at some point in their life. What and why are these staggering numbers increasing each year? 

Research suggests that the microbiome (a community of microorganisms including viruses and bacteria) in your intestines may be related to brain functioning. By this definition, if your gut bugs are out of balance, and/or your intestinal lining permeability is enough to “leak” toxins into your bloodstream—guess where that gunk goes? It travels via your veins, your organs, and straight to your brain. Think of an ice cream headache. News travels fast!

How are the Gut and Brain Connected?

Sometimes referred to as your second brain, the gut communicates with your brain both physically and chemically.

The graphic below shows how your gut health can affect your mental health, or visa versa.

Antibiotics ~Not~ to the Rescue

What happens when you have an infection of any kind and you go to your general practitioner? You have an ear infection from too many summer hours spent in the pool, you get chronic sinus or respiratory infections, strep throat, urinary tract infections, acne, and the list goes on. What do all of these infections have in common besides a weakened immune response? They all are prescribed a 10-day round of antibiotics. Exposure to broad-spectrum antibiotics prescribed for the treatment of infectious diseases is one of the most common environmental factors which can affect the microbiome (Mayer et al., 2014). 

It’s public knowledge that antibiotic resistance is a real thing. Compounded years of taking these flora destroying medications, along with other environmental factors can contribute to the leaky holes in our gut. In fact, more than 2.8 million antibiotic-resistant infections occur in the US each year. 

A study including 5,244 subjects, none with diagnosed or reported anxiety or depression suggests that particularly male children who received antibiotic treatment for an infectious disease, may be at increased risk for future anxiety or depression. The mechanisms behind this outcome due to the disruption of the microbial balance in the gut. More research is needed to determine which, if not both the chicken (the infection) or the egg (the antibiotics) came in first place as the trigger for anxiety and depression.

Inflammation and Depression

70% of our immune system is located in the gut. Maintaining the proper balance of diversity is important so we can fight off infections, possible chronic disease, and psychosocial stressors. Research shows us that those residing in urban areas exposure to inflammatory responses are greater than those who are hunter-gatherers (think Paleo) or have a diverse agricultural-based lifestyle. “You are what you eat” has never been truer.

Go with Your Gut

Probiotics are live bacteria that are similar to the ones that are already in our gut. You can find them in fermented foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, and kimchi. They’re also in supplements. Along with testing, probiotic treatments may provide potential support and preventative measures for depressive and anxiety disorders. Researchers think that probiotics might work by affecting the way the brain and the gut communicate. Not all pre and probiotics are made equal. Talk with Dr. Ian or your practitioner to see which one may be right for you.

If you suffer with anxiety or depression and have a history of antibiotic use, give us a call to schedule a new patient exam at Dr. Autoimmune. We now have remote care options, so wherever you are, you can still receive great care and achieve results.

There is nothing “Sweet” about Artificial Sweeteners and Leaky Gut

Your habits influence your attitude, sleep, food cravings…and autoimmunity. Many of you that suspect you may have an autoimmune condition, or have been diagnosed with one, may in fact have two or more lurking within. 

Have you noticed that when you eat pleasure-seeking foods such as sweets, alcohol, or caffeine (and for some, Chinese food), you want more of it shortly after you consume them? In an age of sugar-free, Keto, and every diet under the sun, where does real sugar stop and artificial sweeteners start?

Every restaurant table and coffee bar have these colorful, single-serving sized packets screaming at your taste buds, “Hey Sweet Tooth, I’m down here.” A laboratory accident turned popular over 130 years ago and the first super villain, saccharin, made its way into our food chain as a cheap and calorie-free alternative to cane sugar. Originally it was believed to be harmless, but over time, its question of safety rode a rollercoaster between science and industrial priorities.

Celebrities in the the cooking world have nothing good to say about these fake sweeteners. Colleague, close friend, and cookbook editor to Julia Child, Avis DeVoto wrote:

“Desserts, of which there is a fat section, are incredible—sweetened with saccharin [sic] and topped with imitation whipped cream! Fantastic! And I do believe a lot of people in this country eat just like that, stuffing themselves with faked materials in the fond belief that by substituting a chemical for God’s good food they can keep themselves slim while still eating hot breads and desserts and GUNK.” 

To say the least, she was not a fan of this fake food and considered saccharin an empty pleasure. 

When sugar became scarce during World War II, this diabetic substitute’s production ramped up. Between 1963 and 1967 artificially sweetened soft drinks nearly tripled their market share. By 1979, 44 million Americans used this sickly sweet, zero calorie alternative daily. As you can see by this chart, the rise has not slowed down, and is contributing to the obesity epidemic in America. 

Chemical named by brand:

  • Acesulfame Potassium – Sunnett, Sweet One
  • Aspartame – Nutrasweet, Equal
  • Neotame – N/A
  • Saccharin – Sweet ‘N Low, Sweet Twin, Sugar Twin.
  • Sucralose – Splenda

Nutrition is among one of the contributing leaders to leaky gut syndrome. When foods are laden with pesticides, chemicals, artificial sweeteners and colors, combined with our nutrient deficient foods, our gut is constantly under attack and is no match for these “gut busting” toxins. If our food sources can not naturally support and feed the good bacteria, the bad bacteria begin to take over. Along with a nutrient dense diet, pharmaceutical grade supplementation has become paramount in therapeutic doses in order to restore our gut balance to tackle our autoimmune risk and conditions.

The sweet taste receptor (T1R3) is activated by artificial sweeteners. At high concentrations, many of the aforementioned chemical compounds were found to increase leaky gut and degrade cell regulation. This can lead to a myriad of issues including insulin resistance and diabetes. Primarily and first most, leaky gut leads to inflammation>symptoms>autoimmunity. 

What about the reportedly safe “new age” sweeteners?

  • Chicory
  • Coconut sugar
  • Honey
  • Maple Syrup
  • Monk Fruit
  • Stevia

Although a monumental improvement in the form of nature vs lab, sugar in any form can spike your blood sugar and cause imbalances if consumed frequently (have you heard about devices which monitor your blood sugar?). 

Grandma always said, “everything in moderation”. Unlike natural sugars including honey, maple syrup, and coconut sugar, stevia may be the lead in this cast of best choices for a sweet alternative, touting that it remains neutral in your bloodstream, and has a reduced calorie intake and low risk of cavities. 

It has been reported that stevia could interfere with good bacteria in the gut, a strain on your kidneys or other organs, and/or possibly lower blood pressure, which could interfere with those on high blood pressure medications. There are always two sides to every story, and there isn’t enough research to conclude its downfalls. Just another reason to see an integrative or functional practitioner to get to the root cause of your tummy troubles.

The bottom line is: eat as close to the farm and whole food as possible. Teach your children at a young age how to read an ingredient label at the grocery store. It’s a fun and educational game that supports awareness around what is actually food, and what are lab experiments. Remember, you are what you eat. Bon Appetit!

Meet the Master Manipulator: Your Thyroid

Your thyroid is a gland located behind your Adam’s apple. Its job is to produce thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3) which are the hormones that control your metabolism. This process of transforming the food you eat into energy can result in (T)erminator-like symptoms where you begin to feel inhuman. 

Think of the story of the tortoise and the hare. Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid is under-producing these hormones and can lead to Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Hyperthyroidism occurs when too many hormones are being produced and can lead to Graves’ disease. Balance is the key to keeping your body running well.

If you are a woman, you know how much our hormones can take over and drive us either straight and narrow, or straight into a truck depending on stress, menstruation, food or environmental triggers. Men are not immune from thyroid disorders. Women tend to have higher instances with thyroid disorders, generally after menopause. Regardless of gender, autoimmune-related thyroid conditions are on the rise. 

10 most common symptoms that your thyroid is under attack or needs support:

  1. Weight gain or loss

An early sign of thyroid irregularity is weight gain or loss. Since your thyroid can control your energy, it’s no wonder your weight can be affected. Rapid weight gain can be an indicator of low thyroid hormone function, while weight loss can be triggered by an overactive thyroid gland. 

  1. Fatigue

Just like weight gain, fatigue or excessive tiredness can be a sign of hypothyroidism or low thyroid function.

  1. Brain fog

Thyroid hormones are directly related to the health of your brain neurons. There are only two things that every single cell in the body has a receptor for: thyroid hormones and vitamin D. It’s no wonder that vitamin D status influences thyroid function and your immune system.

  1. Intolerance to heat or cold

Your circulation is affected if your thyroid is not functioning properly. This could present as feeling chilled or cold. If you notice that your hands and feet are particularly cold, this could be a symptom or sign of hypothyroidism. Alternatively, you might always run warm or experience hot flashes.

  1. Poor quality hair skin nail

A slow thyroid can cause dry skin, hair loss,and  brittle or ridged nails caused by follicle cycling. Sometimes slow and steady does not always win the race.

  1. Digestive problems

Leaky gut and gastrointestinal discomfort are most often connected to thyroid dysfunction. Constipation is caused by a sluggish metabolism (lower thyroid hormone), while loose stools could be a symptom or a hyperactive thyroid.

  1. Insomnia

When your hormones are out of whack, everything seems to follow suit. Whether your thyroid is over- or under-producing, you can have disrupted sleep from nervousness, be up with frequent urination, or experience night sweats.

  1. Anxiety/depression

Hormones are the major players in mood regulation. They influence the neurotransmitters which cause imbalances in serotonin and dopamine. Thyroid imbalances cause inflammation, and when the hormone production is interrupted, it can affect proper blood flow to the brain.

  1. Changes in your voice

An underactive thyroid can cause thickening of the vocal cords or swelling from the inflammatory changes.

  1. Hormonal fluctuations

Your thyroid can directly affect your sexual function. From irregular periods to difficulty with sexual performance or enjoyment, your thyroid dysfunction may be a contributor.

The Thyroid-Autoimmune Connection

Are you aware that more than 90% of thyroid conditions are autoimmune? Unfortunately, most conventional doctors do not have the education or information about this connection. This can be incredibly frustrating!  

What if you are taking thyroid medication but still experiencing these symptoms? Commonly, providers are not taught how to look at chemistry and physiology, but do prescribe medication for your symptoms. We at Dr. Autoimmune addresses the systems that run the symptoms, diagnose your particular imbalances with comprehensive blood chemistry, and create a customized care plan for you! 

If you suspect your thyroid is the culprit of any of these symptoms, Dr. Autoimmune can help. We test specifically for all 8 thyroid markers. We have worked with close to 3,000 thyroid clients and have an 85% success rate! Call us at 303-882-8447 or fill out the form below today to see if your thyroid needs support.

Keep it Fresh

As comes Spring, so comes the opportunity to reap the rewards of homegrown deliciousness. This time of year is known for awakening all of the human senses. What better time to feel at one with the green spaces around you?  

Spring is the ideal season to start gardening as it helps get your produce and herbs ready for the rest of the year. A home garden is also a perfect way to save money; having fresh veggies and herbs on hand at all times can be expensive. Consider giving yourself the gift of a little -or a big- garden. 

Many of the herbs, fruits, and veggies that are AIP-compliant can also be grown indoors or in containers so you don’t need a big yard to do this! Become one with nature this Spring whether that means watering the herbs from the couch or roaming through expansive acreage. 

For many people, eating AIP-compliant diets means cooking a lot more at home than they may have been accustomed to previously. Because of the restrictions of this particular protocol, we encourage the use of myriad fresh herbs to bring flavor and interest to your meals.  

Easy Herbs to Grow This Spring:

Parsley

The first herb to dabble in is parsley. It’s relatively easy to grow and the yield is high. Parsley is great when you want to make dishes with rich flavors. A lot of Mediterranean dishes are actualized with the use of parsley. Check out Stevie’s grain-free tabbouleh recipe below!

Cilantro

Another herb that is great for AIP dishes is cilantro. It can be grown from the seed or by simply starting with a cilantro plant. Cilantro can survive in many climates so it’s recommended regardless of where you live. 

Dill

Dill won’t survive a frost so make sure to plant this herb when the Spring weather becomes more predictable. It does best with full sunlight so keep it outside or near a big sun-facing window. Dill is often under-utilized, but it can really bring life to both vegetable and seafood-based dishes alike. 

Basil

Basil is perfect for container gardening and grows extremely well indoors near a sunny window. Like parsley, it also produces a high yield so you can make new friends by sharing some of your extra basil. It goes great with meat, salads, vegetables- the list goes on! Hot tip: make a dairy-free, nut-free pesto with just your homegrown basil, hemp hearts, garlic, salt, and extra virgin olive oil. 

Happy Spring and Happy Gardening!

GRAIN-FREE TABBOULEH

Ingredients:

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

¼ cup lemon juice

½ tsp sea salt

3 bunches fresh Italian parsley, chopped

1 cup hemp hearts

1 cup riced cauliflower, fresh or frozen

8 green onions, finely diced

¼ cup fresh mint, chopped (optional)

Directions:

If using frozen riced cauliflower, add to a skillet and cook over medium heat for 3-5 minutes or until completely warmed through. Let cool completely before assembling the rest of the salad. 

Add olive oil, lemon juice, and salt to a large bowl. Whisk to combine. Add remaining ingredients, toss to coat, and serve.

What is Sjögren’s Syndrome?

April is Sjögren’s awareness month, so we thought it would be a great time to shed some light on it. Sjögren’s (pronounced show-grens) syndrome is a common autoimmune condition where moisture-secreting glands are attacked. This usually happens first in the eyes and mouth, so dry eyes and mouth are the most common symptoms.

Other symptoms can include:

  • Dry eyes
  • Dry mouth
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Dry nose, recurrent sinusitis, nosebleeds
  • Dry or peeling lips
  • Dry skin
  • Fatigue
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Inability to focus or ‘brain fog’
  • Respiratory issues like shortness of breath, dry cough, or recurrent bronchitis
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Memory loss
  • Dysautonomia 
  • Headaches (most commonly tension-type or migraines)
  • Mouth sores and dental problems
  • Swollen or painful salivary glands
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Acid reflux
  • Raynaud’s phenomenon
  • IBS

Sjögren’s syndrome can develop at any age and in any sex, but it is most common in women (9 out of 10 patients are women) and people over 40. It is considered a widely underdiagnosed condition, with the Sjögren’s Foundation estimating that over 2.5 million patients are currently undiagnosed.

Sjögren’s can occur on its own, but it often shows up alongside other autoimmune conditions like lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, Raynaud’s phenomenon, fibromyalgia, pernicious anemia, and thyroid conditions such as Hashimoto’s and Graves’. This useful graphic below (by the Sjögren’s Foundation) uses percentages to show the overlap of each of these conditions with Sjögren’s.

How Does Sjögren’s Start?

Like all autoimmune conditions, Sjögren’s requires 3 things to develop:

  1. A genetic predisposition
  2. Leaky gut (intestinal permeability)
  3. Environmental trigger

The genes associated with Sjögren’s aren’t known yet, but we can’t control those anyway. What we can have some control over, though, is whether those genes are expressed. Our genes basically can be turned on and off with the right environmental factors. This is why gut health and removing triggers are more important than our genes.

In functional medicine, we use diet change and supplementation to heal the gut while working with you to find out possible triggers in your life. Common triggers include stress, viral or bacterial infections, and mold or toxin exposure.

Dry Eyes

One of the first things to occur in Sjögren’s is the glands that produce tears, the lacrimal glands, are attacked by the immune system. You might think that we only produce tears when we cry, but our lacrimal glands are actually always working to keep our eyes moistened.

Have you ever wondered why we blink? Our eyelids keep moisture trapped beneath, so when the part of our eye that is exposed to air starts to dry out, blinking spreads a new film of moisture over them. This method only works, however, when our lacrimal glands are producing moisture.

Dry eyes can lead to burning, itching, a feeling like sand is in the eyes, blurred vision, and difficulty tolerating bright lights. Think back to the last time you were challenged to a “blinking contest”. After some time of forcing your eyes to remain open, your vision starts to become affected and you start to feel a burning sensation. This is what chronic dry eyes associated with Sjögren’s syndrome can feel like.

Dry Mouth

One of the 2 most prominent symptoms, dry mouth is uncomfortable and can lead to dental problems. Along with the lacrimal glands, the salivary glands are the first to be affected. Salivary glands produce saliva, which keeps our mouths and gums moist and also helps with digesting food.

People with Sjögren’s are more likely to develop cavities and gum disease due to lack of moisture, so recommendations include stimulating saliva production with sugar-free (xylitol or maltitol if sugar alcohols are tolerated) lozenges and brushing teeth after every meal. These types of recommendations are only good for managing symptoms without actually addressing the root cause.

What Can You Do?

At Dr. Autoimmune, we are experts at getting to the root cause of your condition and working with you to develop a personalized plan to reach your health goals. Most of our clients notice huge changes within only 30 days. Fill out the form below to get started on your health journey!

Top 7 Foods For Immune Support

Food is medicine. By providing your body with the correct tools, it has the ability to heal itself. Whether you have a diagnosed autoimmune or thyroid condition, or just want to boost your immune system during these trying times, follow this guide to learn how to use food to your advantage!

Autoimmunity Is Rising- Have You Been Tested?

What are Antinuclear Antibodies?

Antinuclear antibodies (ANAs) are antibodies (proteins that our body creates to fight infections) that are made to attack our own body, or “autoantibodies”. The prefix ‘auto-’ means ‘self’. So, autoantibodies are antibodies against the self, and an autoimmune disease occurs when someone’s immune system is attacking their body using autoantibodies. Examples of autoimmune diseases include multiple sclerosis, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, lupus, and many more. Antinuclear antibodies attack the nucleus of our cells, hence their name.

A positive ANA usually suggests a vascular condition, or a condition that affects blood flow. Some autoimmune vasculitis conditions include systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), Sjogren’s syndrome, scleroderma, mixed connective tissue disease, and Wegener’s granulomatosis.

Implications

The presence of ANAs in your blood could mean that you might develop an autoimmune disease in the future, if you don’t already have one. Note that typical autoimmune disorders take 5-9 years to develop and symptoms may or may not be present.

In other words, testing for ANAs may provide a chance to stop a disease before it really starts. This is why it is included in our initial and every follow-up blood panel!

The prevalence of autoimmune disease and ANAs has been rising over the last few decades. While the western medical model deems the presence of ANAs a nonconcern without the presence of symptoms, we are now seeing that it can progress into an autoimmune condition over the course of a few years if left unchecked.

Researchers from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) studied the prevalence of positive ANA markers over a 25 year period. Here is what they found:

  • From 1988–1991, 11% (~22 million people) had a positive ANA
  • From 1999–2004, 11.5% (~27 million people) had a positive ANA
  • Here’s the kicker: From 2011–2012, 15.9% (~41 million people) had a positive ANA

From 22 to 41 million people in 25 years is a huge jump! Among the age subgroups, adolescents (ages 12-19) had the highest rate of change, with their prevalence nearly tripling over the time period from 5% to 13%.  Another way to grasp this is that from 88’-04’ ANA Abs jumped 23% and from 04’-12 ANA Abs exploded another 52%!!!

Understanding Test Results

So, you got a positive ANA result on your blood test. There are a couple of other pieces of information next to that result that may seem a bit confusing. Let us break it down for you.

Titer

Your titer is the measure of how many antibodies were found in your blood. You may have a titer of <1:40, 1:40, 1:80, 1:160, or 1:320. The ‘1’ before the colon represents a certain volume of blood, and the number after the colon represents the amount of ANA’s found in that amount of blood. 

A negative test would be a level, or ‘titer’, of less than (<) 1:40 (a.k.a. 40 antibodies per measure). A low titer is between 1:40 and 1:80 (40-80 antibodies per measure), while a high result would be 1:80 or above. It can be confusing because the number presents as a ratio, so one might think that 1:160 is smaller than 1:80, but the reality is a 1:160 titer is double that of a 1:80. 

Pattern

If you have a positive ANA result on your labs, next to your titer there will be a pattern. This just describes how the ANAs look under a microscope. Here are the types of ANA patterns and their associated conditions:

  • Speckled (most common in females)
    • Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)
    • Sjogren’s syndrome
    • Systemic sclerosis (scleroderma)
    • Polymyositis
    • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Homogenous (most common in males)
    • Can be seen in any autoimmune disease, higher levels associated with Lupus
  • Nucleolar
  • Mitochondrial
    • Primary biliary cholangitis (PBC)
    • Systemic sclerosis (scleroderma)
  • Cytoplasmic
    • Primary biliary cholangitis (PBC)
    • Systemic sclerosis (scleroderma)
    • Autoimmune hepatitis (AIH)
  • Speckled + Cytoplasmic
    • Antisynthetase syndrome
  • Centromere
    • Systemic sclerosis (scleroderma)
    • Raynaud’s phenomenon
  • Homogenous + Nucleolar
    • Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)
    • Chronic autoimmune hepatitis
    • Juvenile idiopathic arthritis

What Can We Do?

All autoimmune conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, lupus, and Sjogren’s syndrome, require three things to develop:

  1. Genetic predisposition
  2. Intestinal permeability (a.k.a “leaky gut”)
  3. An environmental trigger (can be inflammation, toxin exposure, food sensitivities, infections, or even stress)

Two of these things can be controlled. With proper nutrition and supplementation, we can heal leaky gut, reduce inflammation, and remove food triggers. Interventions can be taken to remove other triggers also, such as testing your house for mold and treating infected sinuses.

When we see a positive ANA marker, we want to get those antibody levels down to slow down or stop disease progress. One of the first things to do is remove gluten from the diet because gluten is a common food trigger that causes inflammation and worsens leaky gut.

What may be most important to realize is that this one marker is a wake up call.  You need to become very serious about your health if this is positive, and your level of dedication to daily habits and lifestyles that promote inflammation need to change!  That may be hard to swallow, but your body is infinitely wise and it is trying to tell you that what you are doing is not working and we need to change direction to get back into harmony!  Our program has shown an 85% success rate with autoimmune disorders, but it requires your participation – the pill to fix the ill is not our approach!

If you’re interested in getting a comprehensive blood test that includes the ANA marker, and then developing a plan for reaching optimal wellness, contact us below!

Ian Hollaman, DC, MSc, IFMCP

What Can Your Poo Tell You?

Every human body is different in so many ways, but one thing we all have in common is poop! Pooping is something every living creature on this planet must do in order to stay alive and healthy. The process of defecation means the discharge of feces from the body. Poop is the left-over waste in our system after all of the nutrients of our food have been absorbed (or so we hope). It’s vital for our health that we are properly eliminating these toxins, otherwise they get reabsorbed into our system. There’s a delicate balance that happens in our body based on fiber consumption, hydration, and muscle motility (determined by healthy brain function) that deter-mines how our bowel movements might appear and how often you’ll pass them.

What is a normal poo?

There are many sizes, shapes, and colors your stool can be and all of them tell us different things about our health. Consistency is key: whether you’re having one or two bowel movements every day, you still want to make sure they are healthy! The Bristol Stool Chart is a helpful reference point to guarantee your bowel movements are where they should be.

According to The Bristol Stool Chart, the seven types of stool are:

•Type 1: Separate hard lumps, like nuts (hard to pass

•Type 2: Sausage-shaped, but lumpy

•Type 3: Like a sausage but with cracks on its surface

•Type 4: Like a sausage or snake, smooth and soft

•Type 5: Soft blobs with clear cut edges (passed easily)

•Type 6: Fluffy pieces with ragged edges, a mushy stool

•Type 7: Watery, no solid pieces, entirely liquid

Types 1–2 indicate constipation, types 3–5 are considered to be ideal, normal poops (especially 4), and types 6–7 are considered abnormal and indicate diarrhea.

The color (and even smell!) of your stool can tell you things about it as well. Colors can range from a medium brown, black, green, red, or even yellow/gray. Here’s a list of what some of these might say about what’s going on inside your body:

  • Medium to dark brown: Normal!
  • Black: Can mean there is upper GI bleeding going on. If this continues for 2-3 poops, consult with your doctor.
  • Green: Can be a sign that your stool is moving too quickly through your digestive tract. Vegetables like spinach, kale, blueberries, or green supplement powders can show up in your stool without enough fiber to slow down the digestive process.
  • Red/Purple: Can be a result of eating deeply colored vegetables like beets, but if you haven’t eaten anything of this color, you should reach out to your doctor (could be as simple as a hemorrhoid or something else).
  • Yellow/Gray: Typically a sign of mucous, or bile, in the stool which can mean an issue with the liver or gallbladder.

What might be causing problems?

There are many reasons why you might not be eliminating properly! Constipation and diarrhea can result from stress, dehydration, lack of fiber, too much alcohol or caffeine, inflammation, or autoimmune disease. Dysbiosis is an “imbalance” in the gut microbial community and can mean that the bad bacteria in your digestive system has overgrown the good. This can cause bacterial over-growth, like SIBO, resulting in constipation, gas, bloating, food intolerances, and nutritional deficiencies.

Food sensitivities may be one of the most common, yet overlooked reasons for change in bowel movements. If you find your pattern flip flopping this could be IBS, but in reality there may be a chronic food sensitivity that you are unaware of! Foods like gluten and dairy are potentially inflammatory to your body and this may be causing either constipation (from bacterial overgrowth) or diarrhea (body needs to get it out fast!). At Dr. Autoimmune, we will help you determine any food sensitivities you may have so you can drop that inflammation and get this common leaky gut trigger removed. Without fully getting your diet dialed in to what you need, it may be impossible to have normal gut function.

Consistent bowel movements are a way to avoid dysbiosis and potential disease. Keep a look out for changes in your stool to help you stay aware of what’s going on inside your body. Fiber (vegetables, people!) and hydration might be two easy additions to your routine that could help you stay regular AND stay healthy! If you have tried all of the tricks and are still suffering, this is where functional medicine shines! Dr. Ian and our nutritionist are trained to pick up on these abnormal patterns and help you find the root cause of abnormal poo!

If you’d like to get started, fill out the form below and we’ll reach out shortly. We look forward to working with you to help you reach your health goals. We have a very comprehensive stool analysis that all of our clients complete because of just how important gut health is.

May the (good) poo be with you,

Ian Hollaman DC, MSc, IFMCP

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    where functional medicine shines! Dr. Ian and our nutritionist are trained to pick up on these ab-normal patterns and help you find the root cause of abnormal poo!May the (good) poo be with you,

    How Does Autoimmunity Start?

    There is a phrase in functional medicine by Mehmet Oz: “Your genetics load the gut; your lifestyle pulls the trigger.” Specifically, genetic risk for autoimmunity sets the stage, but our environment (lifestyle, diet, and mindset) can trigger a happy or tragic ending.

    There is much we can do to influence our genetics and health through our actions and behaviors. Many individuals not only improve their quality of life but sometimes even reduce their autoimmune lab markers and go into remission! So how does autoimmunity start in the first place? It takes a triad of factors: genetic predisposition, intestinal permeability (leaky gut), and environmental triggers.

    Genetic Predisposition

    Most people think of their genetics as a life sentence or a predetermined future. However, the emerging field of epigenetics has shown that environmental factors have a huge influence on which genes are actually expressed. In other words, just because you may have genes related to autoimmunity does not automatically mean that those genes will do anything harmful to you (you are NOT chained to your family’s destiny). Genetic predisposition is only one of the factors contributing to disease. Research shows there are common genetic factors that set the stage for autoimmunity, yet findings show that glutathione production and redox capabilities (the body’s ability to get rid of free radicals by reducing oxidative stress) dramatically influence autoimmune gene expression.

    Single nucleotide polymorphisms, frequently called SNPs (pronounced “snips”), are the most common type of genetic variation among people. Each SNP represents a difference in a single DNA building block, called a nucleotide. Types of SNPs such as MTHFR, GST, and COMT can affect glutathione production and oxidative stress management systems. Individuals with these types of genetic variations require more support through epigenetics (modifying diet, preterm environment, chemical/drug exposure, stress, long term supplementation, etc.).

    An SNP within a gene can lead to further genetic variations because genes are in charge of coding DNA. But some SNPs can occur in non-coding sections of DNA. So, even though genetic variances are correlated with diseases like Celiac, they may not have been the cause of the disease. In fact, the bulk of genetic research shows that DNA methylation (the process of changing the activity of a DNA segment) has been found to contribute most to immune tolerance breakdown and autoreactivity (the loss of self V. non-self and therefore autoimmune disease).

    Fortunately, many nutrition and lifestyle strategies can limit the impact of these genetic variations and SNP’s!

    Intestinal Permeability AKA “Leaky Gut”

    The intestines span a single-cell wall that protects your body from the external world. This wall is protected by a mucous membrane called secretory IgA, which is influenced by the environment of bacteria in the intestinal tract known as the microbiome. The cell wall has many functions, mainly providing a barrier between the intestinal tract and the body cavity. Between each cell in the intestinal wall are tight junctions which are meant to be just that: TIGHT! Research is now finding that tight junction failures are associated with a host of conditions, from chronic inflammation, cancer, and autoimmune diseases to allergies and heart disease.

    Tight junctions fail due to:

    • Toxins
    • Infection
    • Free radicals (ROS)
    • Inflammation Stress (blood sugar issues)
    • Hormone Imbalances (pregnancy, menopause)
    • Microbial imbalance (Dysbiosis)
    • Diet (food allergies, poor digestion)
    • Drugs (NSAID’s etc.)
    • Early exposure to gluten and casein
    • Chronic cortisol
    • Autoimmunity
    • Zonulin
    • Not breastfed or breastfed from a mother with intestinal permeability

    After the tight junctions fail, something called molecular mimicry occurs. This is where food, viruses, and bacteria enter the bloodstream through the intestinal cell wall. Essentially, your gut leaks. Your body then starts making antibodies to these foreign invaders. Antibodies are usually antigen-specific, but they can easily bind to something that they perceive as dangerous even if it isn’t because of similar molecular structures. To put it simply, your antibodies can get confused and start to see your own tissue as foreign bacteria, viruses, or food. Molecular mimicry is found in research between the foods gluten & casein and the thyroid; or also between bacteria, viruses, and self tissue. This is how autoimmunity begins. The self (auto-) is attacked by the immune system (-immunity).

    Environment

    The most influential environment for autoimmunity is preterm and during pregnancy. However, you can still do a lot to reduce environmental triggers of autoimmune disease for the rest of your life. Many of the triggers for autoimmune diseases have been studied and infections, vaccines, and other toxins are considered important implications in autoimmune disease. For example, the infection Epstein–Barr virus (EBV) is associated with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE), Rheumatoid Arthritis, Graves (hyperthyroid), and Hashimotos (90% of the issue behind hypothyroidism).

    Nutrient depletion and dietary environmental triggers also trigger autoimmunity. For example, Vitamin D deficiency affects the genetic production of vitamin B’s and T-regulatory cells, which are both associated with autoimmunity prevention. Zinc deficiency contributes to a leaky gut and alters the microbiome. Research shows taking zinc can tighten the junctions between cells in the gut. In addition to nutritional factors, other environmental triggers of autoimmunity can include sleep disturbances and stress. Melatonin production from adequate sleep can improve inflammatory diseases like Multiple Sclerosis.

    Toxin and chemical exposure in our air, clothing, furniture, water, food, and other products contributes to autoimmunity. The verdict is out on many major toxins already in use in our society: such as flame retardants, pesticides/herbicides, air fresheners, hair dyes, cleaning supplies, wood stains and oils, laundry detergents, home insulation, art supplies, carpet, smoking, air pollution, mercury fillings, and most plastics. Thankfully, we can vote with our dollars and choose to change the environment we live in by purchasing EWG.org-approved low-toxin products and reducing our exposure.

    Key Learnings

    1. Autoimmunity starts with the trifecta overlap of leaky gut, genetic predisposition, and environmental triggers.
    2. Despite the genetic influences in your body, your environment is what contributes most to the expression of autoimmune diseases.
    3. You can change your diet, improve your sleep, reduce your stress, and toxin load. Each behavior change improves leaky-gut and reduces your environmental triggers.
    4. Oftentimes making epigenetic changes can influence the genetic expression of the autoimmune disease and can halt or even reverse the autoimmune diagnosis.

    Trust us, this is overwhelming at first but when you start to break down your unique contribution towards disease or optimal health it becomes incredibly empowering!  Chronic disease is a lifestyle, not destiny.  You have the choice in this journey to accept your fate or take charge and find a functional medicine practitioner who can guide you through this individualized process.  Trust your gut, find that person who can lead you to a new level of health, and let your health soar!

    Yours in Health,
    Dr. Ian Hollaman, DC, MSc, IFMCP

    The Thyroid Gut Connection

    Thyroid

    The Thyroid Gut Connection

    So you were diagnosed with a thyroid condition or you suspect you have thyroid disease because you have constipation, cold feet or hands, hair and skin problems, terrible fatigue, weight gain and brain fog? Well, join the 40 million other Americans who suffer from Hypothyroidism. But is it really just a simple thyroid problem?  Do you suspect there is something more going on below the surface that has the thyroid entangled?

    If you were diagnosed with hypothyroidism via an elevated Thyroid Stimulating Hormone, TSH, or you have some of the above symptoms, you most likely have an immune disorder called “thyroiditis” or “Hashimoto’s Hypothyroidism”. The American Endocrine society says that 90% of people who get diagnosed with hypothyroidism suffer from autoimmune thyroid. But what causes it?

    The GutLike many problems in health, we need to “look to the gut” to understand why our immune system is so flared up and starting to attack our own tissue.
    While researchers were studying Celiac disease, an autoimmune condition that attacks the gut, they uncovered the “holy trinity” of autoimmune conditions. That is, that anyone with autoimmunity must have three things: 1) genetic predisposition, 2) an environment in the gut ripe for problems and 3) had a triggering event that turned on their genes to start making antibodies against their own tissue.

    It goes something like this:

    Mary Lou was born via C-section or did not breast feed very well. Or, maybe Mary Lou took a lot of antibiotics because of strep infections or had many yeast infections as a kid and also took a lot of antibiotics. Unfortunately for Mary Lou, she wiped out 80% of her immune system, which is really the healthy bacteria in the gut. Then she grew up, had kids, went through a highly emotional or stressful situation and she began to notice symptoms. Weight gain, gut problems, fatigue, feeling out of sorts and wanting to just lay in bed and let the world wash over her. On top of that Mary Lou’s hair was thinning, she was constipated and life felt like an endless fog that she was trying to part. Sound familiar? Mary Lou had just developed Leaky Gut and was suffering miserably. On top of that her doctor either told her “Here, take this thyroid hormone the rest of your life” or “Your tests only show minor elevations in TSH, there is nothing I can do for you but my friend the psychologist can give you his drugs if you would like”.
    So what is going on? Well, like I mentioned, the gut is the root of the problem.  Many people have gut changing events like antibiotics, poor breast-feeding or elevated stress that suppresses our immune system. Then, pour on life with the high sugar, high fat standard American diet (SAD), not enough fiber and the constant deadline driven society and your gut barrier begins to break down.

    Our small intestine consists of 25 feet of tubing that has a shag carpet lining called the “microvilli”. This is where we absorb our food and where the outside world interacts with the inside world. This barrier has the surface area equivalent to a doubles tennis court! It is covered by an immune system barrier called secretory IgA. This helps to grab onto bacteria and food and slows down items as they try to pass through our barrier. Like I said previously, stress begins to wear this immune system down and we have large food molecules trying to get into our body coupled with bad bacteria and yeast. What prevents a flood of material into the gut are proteins called “tight junctions”. These guys are the glue between our enterocytes, the single cell layer that separates the outside world from within.  What keeps these guys tight? Vitamin D! Vitamin D, which is also called “the sunshine hormone”, keeps these tight junctions working normally. With low levels of Vtamin D, coupled by inflammation in the gut, we start to widen the space between intestinal cells. Then, materials start to pour through, more inflammation results and we call in the immune system to defend ourselves! Guess what? Leaky gut just started!

    So now our immune system recruits “antibodies” which are really lock-and-key proteins that fit around invaders, foods or bacteria and help to flag and destroy threats to our immune system. Unfortunately this process is supposed to be short term, but with a leaky gut, the immune system continues producing antigens. Our immune system gets tired as it constantly deals with a barrage of foods and bacteria coming through the small intestine cells. When we get fed up with this process we start to turn our attack against the gatekeepers, those tight junctions, which help regulate the flow of traffic. Our immune system is pretty smart overall but because it is getting so overwhelmed with this leaky gut it starts to attack the very structures that are regulating traffic, the tight junctions. This is actually the first autoimmune event. Then over time as the process continues these newly formed “self antibodies” flow through the rest of your bodies’ circulatory system and find their way into and around thyroid tissue. It just so happens that the tissue in your gut, look very similar to that thyroid tissue and BANG! Now you are creating antibodies against the gut tissue AND your thyroid. In research it’s called “molecular mimicry” but in real life its called Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism because now your immune system is attacking your own tissue and with nothing to stop the process you begin to suffer from thyroid symptoms: brain fog, depression, fatigue, hair loss, constipation and weight gain. Sound familiar?

    The bad news is this can move on and target other tissue like joints, nerves, skin and even the brain. The good news is Functional Medicine can create a targeted approach to address the underlying cause and get you feeling optimal again!  But, this process is not for everyone. It takes work, diet changes and supplementation that help heal not only the gut, but also the inflamed immune system. You can try to just heal the gut but unfortunately you are still left with an angry red headed step-child (thyroid) and an immune system that is in disarray! So this is why Dr. Autoimmune developed a specific program to heal the gut and immune system for optimal results.

    Here is what our program consists of:

    1. Contact our office to see if you qualify for care, set an appointment and submit paperwork 48 hours in advance of your appointment so Dr. Ian can thoroughly review your case
    2. At your New Patient Exam and Consultation we conduct a comprehensive neurologic and metabolic examination with a full health history and case review – the Functional Medicine process
    3. Any necessary labs are obtained to confirm our suspicions
    4. Your results from the Initial Exam are explained to you at the Report of Findings (the second visit), which you attend with your spouse/partner/parent/child/dear friend so you don’t have to play “telephone” to them and they can get their questions answered
    5. If we accept you for care and you are ready to tackle your health challenges, we begin a program that may consist of any or all of the following:
    • A 5R Elimination Provocation Diet customized to your needs
    • Additional lab work to uncover more triggers and mediators
    • Custom, pharmaceutical grade supplementation to speed healing
    • Therapies such as PeMF or Cold Laser to encourage tissue healing
    • Brain therapies like Neurofeedback or Functional Neurology
    • Environmental assessments and recommendations for remediation
    • Lifestyle recommendations to promote self-regulation
    • Exercise prescriptions to promote anti-inflammation
    • Nutritional Coaching to create lasting changes
    • Applied Kinesiology examination and treatments
    • Exit strategies so that you maintain your newfound health

    Everyone is evaluated uniquely and his or her program reflects what is absolutely critical to solve the autoimmune process, not just bandage it. Our goal is to repeat labs at 8 weeks and definitively show regression and eventual remission. Isn’t that what we all want? See symptoms resolve but also know deep down we healed at the cellular level so we can thrive, not just survive!

    What’s next?

    If this peaks your interest please call 303-882-8447 for your free 15-minute consultation with Dr. Ian. Join us and let your health soar!

    Ian Hollaman, DC, MSc, IFMCPSupporting complex, chronic thyroid and autoimmune diseases in the Denver-Boulder area