Monthly Archives: March 2015

SIBO common cause of wasting away in elderly

SIBO in elderly copy

Do you have an older loved one in your life who seems to be wasting away no matter what you do to keep them nourished and healthy? This may be due to a condition called SIBO, or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. SIBO happens when bacteria that normally belong in the large intestine travel backwards to colonize the small intestine. The small intestine is where we absorb the majority of our nutrients. Because SIBO inflames and damages the small intestine, this prevents these vital nutrients from being absorbed. As a result, the body and brain cannot function efficiently and it is difficult to maintain weight.

Symptoms of SIBO

For most people, symptoms of SIBO are straightforward. One of the most common symptoms is bloating after eating, particularly after eating grains, desserts, or other starchy foods. Other SIBO symptoms include gas, belching, indigestion, heartburn, nausea, abdominal pain and cramping, and either constipation, diarrhea, or both.

Doctors often misdiagnose SIBO as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), as the symptoms are so similar. In fact, SIBO has been found in more than 80 percent of patients diagnosed with IBS.

Wasting away in elderly is usually SIBO symptom

Most doctors and patients haven’t heard of SIBO and blame such a rapid decline in the elderly on aging. However, researchers have identified SIBO, which is treatable, as the leading cause of malabsorption, and thus wasting away, in older adults.

SIBO doesn’t always result in malabsorption and wasting away. People can fall anywhere along a range of symptoms, from asymptomatic to the severe. But those who fall in the middle of the spectrum can become progressively worse. That’s why complaints of bloating and gas after meals should be taken seriously and not thought of as normal.

As SIBO and malabsorption worsen, nutrition status can plummet. Levels of B vitamins drop, which impacts many functions in the body, including brain function. Inflammation may also increase as the body’s ability to regulate immune function deteriorates. Also, it seems no matter how much older adults suffering from SIBO supplement, they cannot improve their low vitamin D status or persistent anemia.

The most devastating consequence of untreated SIBO and malabsorption is that it profoundly affects brain health and function, increasing the risk of dementia. It also saps energy and vitality. When an older person complains of bloating and distention after meals, it should not be dismissed as a minor complaint but rather regarded as a red flag indicating for more serious problems down the road.

The cause and treatment of SIBO

A variety of things can cause SIBO, including antibiotic use, poor diet, and digestive damage, such as from a long-standing undiagnosed celiac condition.

In older adults (and in those who have sustained a concussion or brain injury), another cause to watch out for is declining brain function. The digestive tract depends on healthy brain function to work properly. When signals from the brain to the gut are inadequate, the ileocecal valve  which separates the large intestine from the small intestine, may weaken and allow contents from the large intestine to travel backward into the small intestine, where they colonize. It is not the bacteria themselves that cause SIBO symptoms, but the byproducts they produce. These bacteria also compete with the host for protein from food.

Treatment for SIBO includes a strict diet to starve the bacteria, as well as targeted botanicals to kill them. Doing specific exercises to improve communication between the brain and the gut can also help prevent SIBO from perpetuating.

Ask my office for more information.

Do you sometimes “crash” with debilitating fatigue?

crashing with autoimmunity copy

Do you “crash” after a busy or stressful event, suffering from extreme exhaustion that keeps you confined to your bed or couch? Do these crashes last anywhere from a day to a week or even longer? If so, you’re not alone and you may suffer from autoimmunity, a condition in which the immune system attacks and destroys tissue in the body. (Which tissue depends on genetics and the type of autoimmunity you have.)

In fact, a recent survey of almost 8,000 autoimmune patients found the overwhelming majority listed bouts of debilitating fatigue as one of their most troubling symptoms.

Any number of things can cause a person with autoimmunity to “crash.” They can include a very stressful event, such as a car accident or a move. Pleasant events can cause crashes because they are long or exhausting, such as a wedding, a trip out of town, or a work conference. Many people hold up fine during the event but crash when it’s over. Exposure to certain foods or chemicals causes it in others.

Because such crashes are not commonplace or medically recognized, they cause anxiety and embarrassment. It’s like having the flu or a bad cold, except without the symptoms. Sufferers worry others will think they are lazy, another stressor on top of stressing about all the things not getting done because you’re in bed, barely able to function. Unfortunately, brain power bottoms out along with physical energy, which makes working at home from your laptop difficult if not impossible.

New survey brings light to autoimmune crashes

Fortunately, you may not have to make excuses for your inability to function forever as awareness about these bouts of debilitating fatigue grows. The survey polled those suffering from a variety of autoimmune diseases, such as Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, or autoimmunity affecting the brain or nervous system.

Overwhelming number of autoimmune patients report debilitating fatigue

The survey of patients with autoimmune disease, which was conducted by a patient advocacy group, revealed:

  • 98 percent suffer from fatigue
  • 89 percent said fatigue was a major issue
  • 59 percent said fatigue was their most debilitating symptom
  • Two-thirds said their fatigue was profound and prevented them from doing everyday tasks
  • 75 percent said fatigue impacts their ability to work, 40 percent said it causes financial stress, and another one in five said it has cost them their jobs and they’re on disability
  • The overwhelming majority reported fatigue not only impacts their professional life, but also their romantic and family life and self-esteem.
  • The overwhelming majority also say it has resulted in emotional distress, isolation, anxiety, and depression.

According to one patient, “It’s difficult for other people to understand fatigue when it can’t be seen. It’s hard trying to get others, even doctors, to understand how very tired you are. One wonders if they think we are just mental cases or whiners.”

Fortunately, using functional medicine approaches can significantly improve your health and reduce the frequency and severity of these bouts of fatigue. Ask my office for more information.

Daylight Saving Time can be hard when you have Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism

DST health impacts

Do you curse every spring when we have to move the clocks forward for Daylight Saving Time (DST)? Does it take you weeks to recover? You’re not alone. Studies show DST is hard on our health and dangerous to boot, making it an outdated relic that adds stress to an already over-stressed society. When you’re managing an autoimmune disease such as Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism DST can make things even harder.

DST doesn’t just make people tired in the morning. Studies show the number of car accidents increases after DST, likely due to tired drivers. A Swedish study also found that the risk of heart attacks goes up the first few days after DST, and that risk drops after setting the time back to Standard Time. An Australian study showed an increase in suicides the first few weeks after DST goes into effect.

Some people aren’t ruffled by the change in time, others recover in a few days, and then there are those for whom DST means a few weeks of feeling out of whack while their body adjusts. In fact, one study showed our bodies never fully adjust to DST until we switch back to Standard Time. Night owls are affected the worst, taking as long as three weeks to recover. Research has shown on their days off, people revert to sleeping and waking according to what’s seasonally appropriate, not what DST dictates.

We are designed to gradually adjust to the changes in light as the seasons change. Forcing this change overnight once a year flies in the face of our internal clocks, which are tuned into nature.

This is because light dictates how much of the sleep hormone melatonin we make. The more light we are exposed to the less melatonin we make so that we are awake longer.

The sudden disruption to our internal clocks with the time change and loss of sleep causes a loss in production, concentration, and memory, as well as fatigue and sleepiness during the day. When you are working to improve your Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, the change in time can set you back in your healing journey.

DST bad for business as well as Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism

DST isn’t just hard on health for those who have Hashimoto’s. Enacted during World War I to decrease energy costs, DST has now been shown to actually increase energy demands, due largely to more air conditioner use and more driving time to daylight activities. Also, contrary to popular belief, it does not benefit farmers; they actually oppose it. Dairy farmers in particular say cows do not easily adapt to the change in schedule. Orthodox religions don’t like their sunrise and sunset prayer tinkered with. However, the golf, barbecue, and retail industries love it.

Broader research has shown DST costs the economy anywhere from $400 million to $2 billion due to loss of productivity, workplace injury, and “cyber loafing.”

How to cope with Daylight Saving Time

If DST is wrecking you and flaring your Hashimoto’s symptoms those first few weeks, you can do a few things to help ease the transition (in addition to signing an online petition to end DST):

Lay low until you adjust. Honor the disruption to your natural rhythms and take it easy by avoiding taking on extra activities or added stressors until you feel back to normal. Also, avoid dangerous activities.

Add in extra time to rest and nap. The biggest cost of DST is sleep loss, especially if you are a night owl. It is difficult to go to bed and wake up an hour earlier. Make time for a nap or at least some time to lie down and rest during the day those first few weeks.

Block blue light at night to help you adjust. Wearing orange glasses in the evening a couple of hours before bed will also help increase the production of sleep hormones so you can fall asleep. Exposure to sunlight during the day will also help regulate sleep hormones. You can use a light box in the mornings to help you wake up.

Ask my office for advice on helping you sleep better and managing your Hashimoto’s.

Botox can mess with your brain in more ways than one

botox risks

Botox, fillers, and plastic surgery seem de rigueur these days, with anti-aging spas in practically every strip mall. No longer the domain of celebrities, Botox treatments are more affordable than ever and hence accessible to the masses. But at what price? Some research suggests those regular wrinkle-relaxing Botox shots may be messing with your brain — in more ways than one.

For starters, some studies suggest Botox may actually make its way into your brain. Rat studies showed that when botulinum toxin, type A (the active ingredient in Botox) was injected into one side of the brain, it was found in the opposite side of the brain. When the substance was injected into their whiskers it also made its way into the brain. Of course, these studies used small amounts of the purified and more potent form of the toxin, and not the diluted form found in Botox. But it does raise concerns.

Botox affects brain signals from hands

A Swiss study on humans found Botox has neurological effects. Researchers measured electrical signals from the brain in human subjects before and after a Botox treatment. Because facial expressions activate different parts of the brain, paralyzing minute facial movements reduces the amount of impulses sent to the brain. As a result, a nearby area that responds to input from the hands also becomes underactive. Researchers concluded that the small loss of movement in the face due to Botox injections may affect touch sensation in the hands. Further studies are needed to determine whether other parts of the body are affected as well.

Botox affects ability to read facial expressions

Humans are able to detect what others are feeling by instinctively mimicking facial expressions  Because Botox paralyzes facial muscles and hinders facial expressions, it may diminish a person’s ability to read the emotions of others. A 2011 study found that subjects who had Botox injections were less able to read the emotions of others compared to those who had non-paralyzing fillers used to smooth their wrinkles instead. Another study even suggested that Botox makes it more difficult for a person to feel their own emotions.

Fillers also can be problematic

Fillers also have their risks. There have been reported cases of filler injections blocking blood flow to the eyes, thus causing blindness. In a worst-case scenario, fillers that make their way into an artery that supplies the brain with blood can cause a stroke. There have been four reported incidences of stroke caused by fillers and almost 50 reported incidences of blindness. Of course, compared to the millions of people who use fillers to smooth out facial lines, these numbers are small, but under-reporting is a serious concern due to lack of regulations. In fact, many practitioners are not even aware of these risks.

Complaints more common than people realize

Although the industry could stand some more studies and more regulation, anecdotal reports on beauty forums, complaints, and lawsuits paint a more disturbing picture of Botox and fillers.

For instance, some Botox users allege devastating brain injury, chronic pain, double vision, and breathing difficulty after receiving the injections.

Other complaints on message boards include drooping eyes and eyebrows, intense pain and headaches, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, dizziness, and more.

Public Citizen, a watchdog group, found that during a 10-year period reports linked Botox to 180 life-threatening conditions, 87 hospitalizations, and 16 deaths. Again, it is believed lack of regulation has led to under reporting.

It isn’t easy to age in a culture obsessed with youth, media, and selfies, but it’s important to be aware of the risks before you decide on seemingly innocuous procedures.

By eating healthy, exercising regularly, and using functional medicine approaches to care for your health, you will not only look healthy and vibrant at any age, you will also have more natural self-confidence so you wear your “story-lines” with pride.

The problem with perfumes when you have Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism

problem with perfumes copy

Nicely scented products can trigger pleasant memories or a good mood. In fact, some of the chemicals used in perfumes have been found to have a mild narcotic effect. Sadly, however, they can also trigger serious physical illnesses and reactions in people who have developed a chemical sensitivity, and the numbers of such people are growing. But don’t blame the canaries in the coal mine — artificially scents are toxic to all people — just some folks have lost their resilience to them. Some people with Hashimoto’s find perfumed scents make them feel worse and flare their thyroid condition.

Perfumes contain chemicals derived from petroleum that have been associated with hormone disruption, allergic reactions, cancer  birth defects, nervous-system disorders, and a tendency to accumulate in human tissues, although most haven’t been tested for safety at all. For instance, some are linked to sperm damage and are found concentrated in human fat tissue and in breast milk. About 3,000 chemicals fall under this category, however manufacturers are simply required to label them as “fragrance.” These toxic effects can make it more difficult to manage Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.

In fact, 75 percent of products that list “fragrance” as an ingredient contain phthalates, a chemical linked to cancers, hormone disruption, and neurological disorders. Although many countries have banned phthalates and the United States has banned them in toys, they continue to be used in perfumes, including those marketed to children.

Unfortunately, you can buy organic foods, drink filtered water, use non-toxic products, and run an air purifier in your home, but you can’t escape perfume scents. They’re in your neighbor’s dryer sheets venting next door, other people wear fragrances or use them in their homes, they’re in air fresheners and insecticides in public buildings, in soaps in public restrooms, and so on. If you participate in public life, you are exposed to synthetic scents. As for your own product use, if you see “fragrance” on the label, then you know it contains an indeterminate amount of these chemicals. You should avoid these products if you have Hashimoto’s.

How to reduce the risk of developing a chemical sensitivity to perfumes when you have Hashimoto’s

Some people have lost their tolerance to chemicals and exposure to perfumes, dryer sheets, scented detergents and so on can trigger any number of symptoms, including migraines, incontinence, fatigue, inflammation, or a worsening of an autoimmune condition. For instance, someone with multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease, who is sensitive to chemicals may lose muscle control of her legs when exposed to perfume. Or if it may worsen your Hashimoto’s symptoms.

You can reduce your risk of developing a sensitivity to perfumes and other synthetic chemicals by doing the following things:

  • Reduce the toxic burden on your body. This means not using products in your home or on your body that contain synthetic chemicals. Also, avoid foods that have artificial colorings and additives, which also have been linked to numerous health disorders.
  • Make sure your glutathione status is good. Glutathione is the body’s master antioxidant that defends your cells against toxic chemicals. By reducing your toxic burden you protect your glutathione stores. You can also take supplements to boost glutathione production. Ask my office for details.
  • Remove foods to which you are sensitive. If you regularly eat a food to which you have an immune sensitivity, such as gluten, it causes your immune system to be hyperactive and more prone to developing sensitivities to other things, such as chemicals. Do a food immune reaction panel from Cyrex Labs or an elimination/provocation diet to find out which foods trigger inflammation in you.

These tips are also vital to managing Hashimoto’s.

You don’t have to give up wonderful scents, simply switch to essential oils and natural scents. Some essential oils not only smell good but they are therapeutic as well. However, those with a sensitivity to perfumes may not be able to tolerate natural scents.

Ask my office for more advice on preventing or managing chemical sensitivities and Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.