Monthly Archives: July 2015

Adrenals often wrong target with chronic stress

510 adrenals wrong target stress

When stress levels go too high, the first thing many in the alternative health do is support the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands are two walnut-sized glands that sit atop each kidney and secrete stress hormones. Popular supplements include adrenal glandulars (adrenal tissue from animals), minerals, B vitamins, and a variety of herbs — all focused on boosting the ailing adrenal glands.

Although this is a sometimes a valid approach, more often the real target for support should be the brain. The adrenal glands simply take orders from the brain to manufacture and secrete adrenal hormones such as cortisol, our primary adrenal hormone. The brain has stress pathways that sometimes need support.

When stress becomes chronic and intense, the adrenal glands flood the brain and body with too many stress hormones. This exhausts the adrenal glands and eventually they fail to make enough cortisol. When this happens you don’t have the energy to handle even mild stressors, such as a common virus or a bad day at the office. As a result, fatigue sets in and your overall quality of life diminishes.

Although the adrenal glands may need support, the best thing to do is target your brain health for stress support. This will not only help you feel better but also slow down brain degeneration. Chronic stress has been shown to literally cause the brain to atrophy  or shrink. In turn, a degenerating brain stresses the body, creating a vicious cycle.

One of the first things to look at when supporting brain health is whether it is getting enough of the basic nutrients it needs, such as essential fatty acids and methyl B-12. Are you low in vital brain chemicals, called neurotransmitters, such as serotonin or GABA? Are you sending enough oxygen to the brain with good circulation, which is best boosted by exercise? Do you have anemia or blood sugar imbalances that rob the brain of good health and function?

Nutritional compounds that support healthy stress responses and target the brain include phosphatidylserine  which dampens the effects of the inflammation caused by stress on the brain.

Herbs called adrenal adaptogens also have a powerful effect on stress pathways in the brain. They include Panax ginseng extract, ashwagandha, Holy basil extract, Rhodiola rosea, and eleuthero. They have a synergistic effect when used in combination — ask my office about adrenal adaptogens.

Too much stress inflames the brain, which compounds stress and ages the brain too quickly. A common symptom of brain inflammation is brain fog. If your entire body is inflamed or if you have an unmanaged autoimmune condition, it is very possible your brain is also inflamed.

Another way chronic stress promotes brain degeneration is by constricting blood vessels and blood flow, depriving the brain of oxygen.

The best way to address stress is to cut unnecessary stressors from your lifestyle. It’s also important to address lesser known factors that are still very stressful, such as poor diet, unstable blood sugar, inflammation, food intolerances, or poor circulation.

Stress is your body’s way of trying to warn you that you’re in danger and putting your well being at risk. Ask my office for ways to mitigate the effects of stress on your health and wellness.

How to keep your gut healthy while traveling abroad

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Nothing refreshes the mental landscape better than an exciting trip to a foreign land. However, nothing can have you regretting that adventure more than being glued to the toilet with traveler’s diarrhea or vomiting instead of traipsing through temples and markets.

With some advance planning and knowledge about gut health, stomach bugs, and supplements that can protect your gut, you may be able to breeze through your trip without days-long sessions in the hotel bathroom.

Nix stomach bugs with hydrochloric acid

Hydrochloric acid (HCl) is the acid in the stomach. You can also obtain it in a supplement. Why would you want to take an acid when it seems everyone is taking antacids? Because it’s our first line of defense against stomach bugs and can help prevent traveler’s diarrhea.

It may surprise you to know that many adults are deficient in HCl, especially the ones who suffer from acid reflux and pop antacids. This is because if stomach acid is low, food in the stomach is improperly digested. This lack of acidity also fails to trigger the valves that usher the food into the intestines. As a result, it ferments in the stomach, causing that burning feeling, and then shoots back up into the esophagus, scalding its delicate tissue. Although antacids bring relief, they fail to address the problem of low stomach acid.

HCl is vital to not only digest food, but also to kill bacteria, yeast, and other harmful pathogens. When stomach acid is low, you are more vulnerable to stomach bugs. Throw in strange, new cuisine of questionable hygiene in a developing country and you’ve got yourself an impending date with the porcelain god. Or the hole in the bathroom floor.

The best way to avoid this is to take HCl supplements with your meals. It’s best to begin this regimen before your trip so you can acclimate your digestive system to the change in chemistry and dial in your dose. Keep upping the dose with each meal until you feel burning. Then go back to the previous dose. As your natural acidity improves, you may find you need less over time. However, while traveling, it’s a good idea to take HCl prophylactically to lower the risk of traveler’s diarrhea.

Probiotics outwit bad bugs by beefing up the good bugs

Another great digestive force to support is your own colony of beneficial gut bacteria. Recent research has established how vital the three to four pounds of gut bacteria in our intestines are to our mental, immune, and digestive health.

It’s hard to say whether popping probiotics only during your travels will prevent traveler’s diarrhea. But if you start beefing up the good bugs several months prior, you’ll head into uncharted culinary territory better fortified.

One of the best ways to nourish your good bacteria is to make vegetables a primary part of every meal, even breakfast. Add cultured foods and drinks to your diet (such as kefir and kimchi), and supplement with probiotics. You may also need an herbal cleanse of the harmful bacteria to “weed the inner garden.” Ask my office for advice.

Best prevention to traveler’s diarrhea is a healthy gut

The best way to lower your risk of traveler’s diarrhea is to start your travels with a healthy intestinal environment. This includes making sure you have sufficient stomach acid, repairing leaky gut, cleansing out overgrowths of bad bacteria and yeasts, and eating a whole foods diet that is primarily vegetables while avoiding sweets, processed foods, and restaurant foods. Ask my office for more info on preventing traveler’s diarrhea.

If you have autoimmunity you need to look at leaky gut

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One of the primary things we look for when someone has autoimmunity is leaky gut, a condition in which the intestinal wall is damaged, as it is usually a key factor. Autoimmunity is an extremely common disorder today in which the immune system attacks and destroys part of the body. Common autoimmune disorders include Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, celiac disease, multiple sclerosis, and vitiligo. However, there are many more.

What is leaky gut?

Leaky gut, a condition in which inflammation damages the intestinal wall and makes it overly porous, creates a hyper inflammatory state in the body that can predispose one to autoimmunity. Also known as intestinal permeability, it has been shown to play a role in triggering and exacerbating autoimmunity.

Leaky gut is still a relatively new concept. Science once believed the digestive system’s only role was to digest foods and absorb nutrients. Now we know it also serves as barrier between the outside world and the inside of the body, and that it is home base to the immune system.

When you consistently eat foods that are inflammatory (junk foods, sugars, foods to which you are sensitive), are exposed to infectious yeast and bacteria, live with constant stress, take certain medications, or drink too much alcohol, the integrity of the gut and the immune system breaks down. As a result, the immune system becomes hyper zealous and can begin to attack the body, creating autoimmunity.

Repairing leaky gut can help improve autoimmunity

Now that researchers have established the role of leaky gut in autoimmunity, they suggest we can slow down the autoimmune process or even send it into remission by repairing a leaky gut wall. Repairing leaky gut prevents undigested foods and other foreign invaders from escaping into the bloodstream where they trigger the immune system. When you are dealing with autoimmunity, you do not want to give the immune system a reason to be activated unnecessarily. If every meal and snack you eat contains a food that activates your immune system, you are keeping inflammation alive. An anti-inflammatory diet and repairing leaky gut are key to managing your autoimmune condition.

Symptoms of leaky gut

Obvious symptoms of leaky gut are digestive symptoms, including bloating, gas, constipation or diarrhea, and food sensitivities.

However, many people with leaky gut have no gut symptoms. Instead, they may have problems with their joints, skin, lungs, mood, brain function, or fatigue, depending on how inflammation affects that person.

When autoimmunity causes leaky gut

Sometimes autoimmunity itself causes leaky gut as it creates chronic inflammation that can damage the gut wall. This is particularly true in the case of autoimmunity to gut tissue, which may cause symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.

In these cases it’s especially important to follow a leaky gut diet and to focus on nutritional compounds that dampen inflammation. Ask my office for more information.

Mystery symptoms? Lab testing can reveal whether it’s autoimmune

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Do you have chronic, mysterious symptoms that drag your life down but your lab tests come back normal? You may have an autoimmune reaction, a disorder in which your immune system attacks and destroys a part of your body.

Autoimmunity can strike any tissue or compound in the body and symptoms will vary based on the part of the body attacked. However, people with autoimmunity have many symptoms in common:

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Muscle weakness
  • Swollen Glands
  • Inflammation
  • Allergies
  • Digestive problems
  • Memory problems
  • Headaches
  • Low-grade fevers

Conventional medicine has yet to fully recognize autoimmunity

Identifying autoimmunity can bring considerable relief. It validates you are not lazy, crazy, or that it’s all in your head, as many people struggling with autoimmunity are made to feel.

Autoimmunity has exploded in incidence in recent years and neither medicine nor society fully accepts it unless it is at its most severe, end stages. Autoimmunity can slowly undermine your health and quality of life for years of decades before it is medically recognized.

This leaves those with autoimmunity alone in their struggle, wondering what’s wrong and why no one will acknowledge their suffering. Identifying an autoimmune process with proper testing provides solid proof for the fatigue that keeps you pinned to the couch, chronic pain, unexplainable weight gain or loss, depression, poor brain function, and other symptoms.

Testing for autoimmunity

You can identify autoimmunity by screening for antibodies against a particular tissue with a blood test. Antibodies are proteins made by the immune system that attach to the affected tissue to tag it for destruction. You can screen for antibodies to thyroid tissue, joint tissue, brain tissue, the pancreas, and other tissues in the body.

For instance, the book Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms? talks about screening for Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune thyroid disease, by running antibodies against thyroid peroxidase (TPO), the enzyme that is a catalyst for thyroid hormone production, and thyroglobulin (TGB), a protein involved in thyroid hormone production. If those values come back positive then you know autoimmunity is responsible for low thyroid symptoms causing weight gain, depression, fatigue, constipation, cold hands and feet, and more.

Screening for individual autoimmune reactions is difficult and costly and conventional medicine does not offer treatments to manage autoimmunity until it is in more severe stages. This is why doctors don’t screen for it more routinely. Also, many types of autoimmunity are still considered obscure. The average doctor will not think to test for autoimmunity the brain, the adrenal glands, the ovaries, or bladder muscle, even though these autoimmune disorders are more common than people realize.

Modern, comprehensive testing for autoimmunity

Fortunately, we now have a lab test called the Array 5 Multiple Autoimmune Reactivity Screen  through Cyrex Labs, that screens for antibodies to 24 different tissues at once much more affordably than running them individually. It can help both the patient and practitioner understand what is causing symptoms.

A positive (or equivocal) response indicates the immune system is tagging that particular tissue for destruction. However, it’s important to know that a positive result does not necessarily mean you have autoimmune disease. It could indicate your body is in the early stage of autoimmunity, which may be silent or causing less severe symptoms. By following autoimmune management protocols you may be able to keep it in a silent or less severe stage indefinitely.

The Cyrex Array 5 panel screens for the following antibodies to indicate specific autoimmune reactions:

  • Parietal cell and ATPase instrinsic factor: stomach autoimmunity
  • ASCA, ANCA, and tropomyosin: intestinal autoimmunity
  • Thyroglobulin and thyroid peroxidase: thyroid autoimmunity
  • 21 hydroxylase (adrenal cortex): adrenal autoimmunity
  • Myocardial peptide, alpha-myosin: cardiac autoimmunity
  • Phospholipid platelet glycoprotein: phospholipid autoimmunity
  • Ovary/Testes: reproductive organ autoimmunity
  • Fibulin, collagen complex, arthritic peptide: joint autoimmunity
  • Osteocyte: bone autoimmunity
  • Cytochrome P450 (hepatocyte): liver autoimmunity
  • Insulin, islet cell, glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD): pancreatic autoimmunity
  • GAD, myelin basic protein, asialoganglioside, alpha and beta tubulin, cerebellar, synapsin: neurological autoimmunity

To learn more about how to find the cause of your chronic symptoms of how to manage your autoimmunity, contact my office.