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ImmunoXym: The Best Way to Get the Benefits of Green Tea

Green tea has been used for centuries in Asia for its medicinal properties, and recent research has taught us that it may be an important tool for tackling autoimmunity. The extract from green tea has been shown to support T-regulatory cells, which help to suppress an overactive immune response and reduce inflammation. Sunphenon®, a decaffeinated and highly potent green tea extract, is a key ingredient in our proprietary supplement ImmunoXym that provides these benefits.

The Benefits

Green tea has been shown to have a number of health benefits thanks to its high polyphenol content. Polyphenols are antioxidants that help protect against oxidative stress and inflammation. Learn more about antioxidants, how they work, and another potent antioxidant in ImmunoXym here.

Green tea is also thermogenic, meaning it helps to boost metabolism and promote weight loss. In addition to all of this, green tea has been shown to protect against kidney damage, reduce risk of cancer, and control blood sugar levels. Simply put, green tea is a powerful tool for maintaining good health.

The Tea for T-Cells

According to research from Oregon State University, one of the beneficial compounds found in green tea has a powerful ability to increase the number of “regulatory T cells” that play a key role in immune function and suppression of autoimmune disease. Regulatory T cells (or “T-reg cells“) are a type of white blood cell that helps to keep the immune system in check, preventing it from overreacting and attacking healthy tissues. That’s why they are often referred to as the “police” of our immune system.

The major compound in green tea that they studied is a polyphenol called EGCG. In a study with mice, EGCG significantly increased the levels and activity of T-reg cells. The research was focused on potential treatments for lupus, but the findings have much broader implications for other autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. As stated by Mitzi Nagarkatti, an OSU professor and vice president for research:

“This is one of the most potent ways we’ve seen to increase the numbers and function of T-reg cells. These results are very exciting and could have broad implications for treatment of autoimmune disease.”

Medical College of Georgia researchers also say that green tea may help protect against autoimmune disease. Researchers studied an animal model for type 1 diabetes and Sjogren’s syndrome, which is an autoimmune condition that damages the glands that produce tears and saliva. The study found that green tea helped to reduce the production of inflammatory cytokines, which are molecules that play a role in the development of autoimmune disease by causing inflammation.

The Caffeine Drawback 

Clearly green tea has a lot of benefits, but it also contains caffeine. Caffeine interferes with cortisol levels– the “stress hormone.” Cortisol is a hormone that helps us to deal with stress. When our cortisol levels are too high, we can feel anxious and stressed out. Caffeine can interfere with the normal production of cortisol, which can lead to feeling more stressed. It can also cause other problems such as insomnia, headaches, and gastrointestinal upset.

Sunphenon® is a decaffeinated, highly potent green tea extract that is used in our proprietary supplement for autoimmune patients, ImmunoXym. Sunphenon® is a powerful antioxidant that helps to protect cells from damage, and it has been shown to be effective in reducing the symptoms of autoimmune diseases by promoting T-reg cells.

ImmunoXym is a unique formula that is designed to support the body’s natural ability to stimulate these critical T-reg cells. Our supplement contains a blend of ingredients that are known to be effective in supporting immunity, and Sunphenon® is an important part of our formula. For the month of June, ImmunoXym will be 15% off in-office and 10% off online using code IAN10.

If you are ready to get to the root cause of your health issues and begin your healing journey, click the “Start Your Journey” button at the bottom of this page.

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.

The Immune Power of Antioxidants

What Are Antioxidants?

“Antioxidant” is probably a term you have heard before. It is used commonly to refer to health beverage ingredients, so-called ‘superfoods’, and supplements as an anti-aging tool. But what is an antioxidant?

To understand how antioxidants work, you will need to understand what “free radicals” are. Free radicals are unstable atoms that are naturally made in the body. They are unstable because they do not have enough electrons, so they want to steal electrons from other atoms. When they steal electrons from our body’s atoms, it causes “oxidative stress” on our cells.

Oxidative stress, or free radicals stealing electrons from our bodies’ atoms, has been linked to a number of diseases such as:

In addition to all of these conditions, oxidative stress from free radicals also causes the effects of aging such as wrinkles, gray hair, vision decline, and hair loss. As we get older, our bodies produce more free radicals and have a harder time fighting them.

Now that you understand how free radicals cause oxidative stress, you will understand how antioxidants work. Free radicals need to steal electrons in order to become stable and stop causing damage. Antioxidants are special atoms that can donate their own electrons to the free radicals. Check out the image below to see how this works:

Some common antioxidants include vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, N-acetylcysteine (NAC), and our focus for this article: alpha lipoic acid (ALA).

How Antioxidants Help Autoimmunity

Oxidative stress from free radicals has been known to lead to autoimmunity because it messes with the immune system and causes inflammation. Here’s how:

Immune cells use free radicals to destroy bacteria, but when they start to produce too many, T-regulatory cells use them to suppress the immune cells. This is one way that T-reg cells ‘police’ the immune system. When immune cells are dysregulated (T-reg cells aren’t working right), they produce more free radicals, which increases inflammation. This is how oxidative stress dysregulates the immune system.

In fact, one study found that oxidative stress was a huge contributor to damage done by the autoimmune disease systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), the most common type of lupus. Free radicals increased inflammation, organ damage, and the chance of developing a second disease.

Since we know that oxidative stress can cause autoimmunity, it makes sense that antioxidants may help with managing autoimmune diseases. Studies have actually shown that this theory is true.

ALA and Autoimmunity

Alpha lipoic acid (ALA) is an antioxidant that our cells make naturally. We can also supplement with it and get great results, as some scientists have already tested.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease that affects your body’s nervous system. The version of this disease that mice can get is called EAE. When mice with this disease were given high doses of ALA early on, the disease was completely suppressed. The ALA helped regulate the immune system in the mice and was able to completely stop it from attacking their central nervous systems. The implications for humans with MS are very exciting. Even in mice that already had very serious symptoms, the ALA slowed down their disease progression and reduced their symptoms.

Similar research shows us that ALA can be helpful for rheumatoid arthritis (RA), lupus, psoriasis, autoimmune small-vessel vasculitis, and more.

ALA in Immunoxym

Our very own Dr. Ian Hollaman (a.k.a Dr. Autoimmune) developed a supplement formula for his autoimmune patients. Immunoxym is specifically made to support your T-regulatory cells, which are the ‘police’ of your immune system. One of the most important ingredients is ALA.

For the month of June, you can purchase Immunoxym for 10% off online using code IAN10 at checkout, and 15% off if you purchase in the office.

With an 85% success rate for resolution of symptoms, we are confident that we can get to the root cause of your condition and develop a custom plan with you that will help you reach your health goals. If you are ready to be brave and take the Dr. Autoimmune challenge, click “Start Your Journey” at the bottom of this page!

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!

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,

    HORMONES 101 Part 1: Cortisol & Progesterone

    Welcome to our hormone series! We hear all the time that people are curious about hormones, but their complexity makes understanding them a bit difficult. Because of this, we wanted to do a multi-part series covering some of our major hormones and how they interact with each other. We’ll start with cortisol and progesterone. Follow along for more!

    The human body is big, complicated, and extremely interconnected. Hormones are the signals our bodies use to communicate. Hormone balance is essential for maintaining and regulating your body’s systems. Your hormones all follow certain cycles of creation, usage, metabolism, and elimination. When one or more steps in the cycle are problematic, a domino effect can occur and cause a myriad of functional issues within the body’s systems. This results in symptoms like irritability, weight gain, acne, and painful or irregular periods in females.

    Nutrition and Hormone Signaling

    Nutritional factors can either help balance hormone levels or disturb them. For example, having consistent intake of selenium, iodine, and iron help to balance thyroid hormones.

    While environmental factors can affect hormone levels, we must also consider how they may impact hormone sensitivity. Some nutrition patterns can lead to our cells developing resistance to certain hormones; others may make them more sensitive. For example, some nutrition patterns could lead to rigid cell membranes, which can cause insulin resistance.

    Another example of diet affecting hormone sensitivity can be observed in the case of leptin, a hormone released from adipose (fat) tissue. Excess leptin (caused by excess fat) has been shown to disrupt cells’ leptin receptor pathways by overstimulating them. In other words, the more fat tissue is present, the more leptin is produced, so the more leptin receptors are bombarded. When the leptin cannot be received but is continuously produced, levels of environmental leptin will increase and continue to overstimulate cell receptor pathways in a vicious cycle called “leptin-induced leptin resistance” that can lead to obesity.

    Beyond nutritional factors, our hormone balance can be affected in other ways. Our bodies metabolize hormones the same way they do food. If these metabolic pathways are hindered, this will lead to imbalances.

    In functional medicine, hormone imbalance issues are approached with the Institute for Functional Medicine’s (IFM’s) mnemonic device “PTSD”. By identifying where the dysfunction is coming from, we find the areas where we can intervene. 

    “P” stands for Production, as in how much of the hormone is synthesized. 

    “T” stands for Transport, referring to the interaction of hormones with other cells and how they are distributed. 

    “S” stands for Sensitivity, which is the level of resistance a cell has to a hormone signal.

    “D” stands for Detoxification- how well the body metabolizes and eliminates hormones.

    Cortisol:

    Unlike most hormones, which are made primarily of protein, cortisol is a steroid hormone made from cholesterol and therefore more similarly resembles fat. Cortisol is produced in the adrenal glands, which are small organs located just above our kidneys. The adrenal glands are also responsible for the production of adrenaline, noradrenaline, and DHEA (which is a precursor to a couple other hormones).

    Cortisol functions on a diurnal cycle, which is one that occurs every 24 hours. It spikes at the beginning of the day upon waking and provides you with energy and alertness. Throughout the day, cortisol levels decrease until they are at their lowest point at the end of the night, allowing you to relax for bedtime.

    All hormones have effects on systems in the body, not just one process. This is why maintaining their rhythm/cycle is so important. Cortisol connects the brain and adrenal glands in a system that is mainly responsible for our body’s stress response. The hypothalamus in the brain uses a hormone to signal the pituitary gland to produce another hormone that signals the release of cortisol (yet another hormone). You can see how the intricate relationship between all of our hormones would cause a domino effect when one or more is knocked out of balance.

    What does it do?

    Have you ever used hydrocortisone cream or heard of someone getting a cortisone injection? These medical interventions utilize cortisol’s anti-inflammatory properties to treat inflammation locally. Cortisol also plays a role in metabolism, raises blood sugar, regulates blood pressure, supports bone health, impacts mental health, and as we already discussed, maintains a healthy sleep-wake cycle.

    What affects cortisol levels?

    Acute and chronic stress can cause fluctuations during cortisol’s daily cycle. Anything from losing a loved one to driving in traffic can cause an impact. Stress does not need to be external, though. Internal stress factors include injuries, inflammation, microbiome imbalances, over-exercising, and exposure to toxins. This strong relationship led to cortisol’s nickname “the stress hormone”.

    The internal stress factors I mentioned can be largely impacted by diet. Caffeine is known to raise cortisol levels and keep the body in a state of fight or flight, which can also increase inflammation in the body. (Check out this blog to read more about caffeine and cortisol.) Studies have suggested a link between increased cortisol levels and a Western diet consisting of saturated fats, simple sugars, and less fiber.

    When an abnormal growth is present on the adrenal or pituitary gland (both components of the cortisol production system), extremely high levels of cortisol can result. This condition usually results in Cushing’s disease over time. Addison’s disease results from the exact opposite: extremely low levels of cortisol over time due to autoimmunity.

    Functional medicine practitioners regularly test cortisol levels and identify and remove disruptors by learning about their patients’ individual situations.

    Progesterone

    Progesterone is a steroid hormone made from cholesterol, just like cortisol. It is calming, anti-inflammatory, and sleep-promoting. Its balance is more of a concern for females than males because of its importance during the second half of the menstrual cycle.

    Progesterone is produced in the ovaries after ovulation. Its job is to maintain the thick uterine lining created by estrogen during the first half of the cycle and keep the uterus ready for pregnancy. If the egg isn’t fertilized after ovulation, progesterone levels drop and trigger menstruation (the shedding of the thick uterine lining). Progesterone is not created without ovulation.

    Low Progesterone

    Low levels of progesterone can cause symptoms such as PMS, anxiety, fatigue, low fertility, low libido, and migraines. Causes of this condition could include stress, age, estrogen dominance, insulin resistance, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), and inflammation.

    At Dr. Autoimmune, we use the wonderful and comprehensive DUTCH test to monitor hormone levels. Contact us using the form at the bottom of this page if you are interested in pursuing this test. We use natural methods to increase progesterone levels, such as enriching the diet with zinc-rich foods and supplementing with magnesium, vitamin B6, and herbs. Check out this case study to read a bit about an actual patient’s experience with hormone testing and how it helped with her case.

    The Progesterone-Cortisol Connection

    You may have noticed that stress can impact the production of both cortisol and progesterone, but in opposite directions. Stress increases cortisol production, but decreases progesterone production. Why is this?

    Cortisol follows the HPA-axis (hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis), and progesterone follows the HPO-axis (hypothalamus-pituitary-ovary axis). When the hypothalamus perceives stress, it makes a decision to prioritize survival over reproduction and decreases the production of reproductive hormones. It is a mechanism our bodies created in order to avoid becoming pregnant during times of famine or war.

    Progesterone also plays an important role in balancing estrogen, another sex hormone. Stay tuned for Part 2 where we will dive into this relationship and the concept of estrogen dominance!

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      Caffeine Percolates Cortisol

      Caffeine is the most widely used psychoactive stimulant drug on the planet. It is addictive, so the body and brain begin to rely on the feeling that caffeine can provide. Although there are some benefits to drinking caffeine (most actually come from the polyphenols found in coffee beans or tea leaves), there are also negative side effects. When dealing with autoimmune disease, it’s likely the brain is already in a state of fight or flight and the effect caffeine has on the body will make that stress worse. Caffeine is known to increase the body’s levels of cortisol, “the stress hormone,” which can lead to other health consequences like anxiety, weight gain, depressed mood, lowered beneficial bacteria in the gut, and even diabetes.

      Why do we want to avoid excess stress hormones?

      In order to decrease inflammation in the body and reduce autoimmune symptoms, it’s vital to avoid stress as much as possible. Excess stress hormones can keep our body on high alert and our immune system active. High levels of cortisol can also affect our blood sugar. “Under stressful conditions, cortisol provides the body with glucose by tapping into protein stores via gluconeogenesis in the liver. This energy can help an individual fight or flee a stressor. However, elevated cortisol over the long term consistently produces glucose, leading to increased blood sugar levels,” (Today’s Dietician).  If you are consuming caffeine throughout the day, you may be elevating those stress hormones and impacting your immune system. 

      The Role of Cortisol & Sleep

      Cortisol is an essential hormone we need in order to live, have energy, stay alert, and stay motivated in our lives. Although we describe it as the “stress hormone,” it does have an important role in our body. When testing our hormones, cortisol levels should be at our highest in the morning and slowly lower throughout the day. When our body is stressed, those levels of cortisol are consistently high, which can cause a number of health issues. The gradual decrease in cortisol each day is what helps us feel relaxed in the evening in order to get proper sleep. Caffeine at any time of the day, for someone already dealing with chronic stress, can contribute to those high levels of cortisol in the evening making it very difficult to sleep.

      It’s important to get seven to nine hours of sleep in order for our body to properly detoxify and heal. High levels of cortisol can contribute to insomnia throughout the evening that keeps you from getting into deep levels of restorative sleep.  You need to ask yourself a few questions before buying that quad shot in the dark:

      1) Do you feel anxious, jittery or “jacked up” from consumption of caffeine? 

      2) Do you get lightheaded, especially coming from seated to standing after caffeine consumption?

      3) Do you notice fluctuations in blood sugar symptoms such as irritability, fatigue or craving of sugar with caffeine consumption? 

      These symptoms may be byproducts of caffeine consumption, or at the very least they may be from excessive consumption or consuming this chemical later in the day.   

      Products to help you transition to caffeine-free:

      • Rasa: Here at Dr. Autoimmune, we have an herbal adaptogenic beverage called Rasa that supplies that boost of energy you may need to get you going in the AM or PM without the stressful side effects. Adaptogens are herbs that protect you from stress rather than create more of it. Right now we are offering 15% off all Rasa products, so stop by our office to grab a bag before the promotion ends!
      • Headache Soother Tincture: Withdrawals are possible when quitting caffeine without slowly reducing it over time. If it’s important to quit quickly, there are tinctures we can provide to aid in symptoms like headaches or fatigue.
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