Weight Issues

Curb Your Sugar Cravings with this Delicious Smoothie

When you cut refined sugar out of your diet, what is the first thing you crave? I don’t know about you, but for me, it is chocolate. I’m not even much of a chocolate person, but I crave it when the sugar is gone.

Oftentimes, there are ways to curb our cravings without giving into unhealthy ways of eating again. That’s why I love this smoothie.

This Chocolate Almond Banana Smoothie is the perfect way to satisfy that sweet tooth and keep you cool and refreshed this summer. Made with almond butter, almond milk, cacao powder, and bananas, it almost tastes like a liquid peanut butter cup!

Ingredients:
1 cup almond milk
1 banana
2 tablespoons cacao powder
2 tablespoons almond butter
1 date
Dash of sea salt

To make this delicious smoothie, simply toss all of the following ingredients into your favorite high-powered blender, and blitz until smooth. If you’re feeling fancy, top with almond slivers and/or cacao nibs for some added crunch.

Almond milk is quickly becoming the favorite non-dairy milk product of the health conscious and lactose sensitive. Fortified almond milk contains many of the same nutrients as cow’s milk, without any of the effects of the lactose - and it has a fraction of the calories. Almond milk also contains no cholesterol or saturated fat.

You’ll notice that this recipe also calls for cacao powder. You may be asking yourself, “Couldn’t I just use cocoa powder instead of cacao powder? What’s the difference?” You could use the cocoa powder sitting in your pantry that you would typically use for baking, but you would be doing your body a disservice. While the two powders look identical, there is a vast nutritional difference.

Cocoa powder has been roasted at high temperatures, which removes the enzymes that actually makes chocolate (or cacao) healthy. Cacao powder is cold pressed, so it retains all of the healthy enzymes. By using cacao powder, you will feel a mood boost – as if you were eating a chocolate bar, without worrying about looking great in a swimsuit.

If you are trying to stay healthy, but can’t seem to shake that chocolate craving, this smoothie is sure to help.

Want fresh, chef-crafted smoothies to sip on this summer but don’t want to make them yourself?

Get a month of free smoothies when you sign up for a SAVOR meal delivery service from now until July 31. To get started, simply fill out a food questionnaire and mention this blog post!

 

Written by Savor Culinary Services | www.savorculinaryservices.com

Conversations with Jake: SAVOR Culinary Services

Jake recently had the pleasure of talking with Chef Deb from SAVOR Culinary Services, a personal chef company that has been in business for over 15 years and served over 5,000 families in the DFW area.

They provide busy families, professionals, athletes and those with special dietary needs, chef-prepared, customized meals made with fresh, wholesome ingredients delivered right to their fridge! Besides their weekly prepared meals, SAVOR also provides food intolerance testing, dietary consulting and boutique catering.

Here is a recording of Jake and Deb's conversation:

Do you experience some of the symptoms Jake and Deb talked about like fatigue, brain fog, weird weight gain, etc.? Let us know! We would love to help you find natural solutions to the root cause behind your symptoms so you can experience optimal health.

 

Fore more information about SAVOR, click here.

Leaky Gut


Leaky gut is a condition where the integrity of the gastrointestinal tract has been
compromised or damaged. In medical terminology this is described as increased intestinal permeability. This decreased barrier function has been linked to a number of autoimmune conditions such as MS, Celiac and Hashimoto’s, as well as asthma, eczema, allergies and the autism spectrum disorders. Leaky gut can be traced back to the use of immunizations, antibiotics and the
ever-changing environment of our resident gut bacteria – growing increasingly deficient in beneficial flora.

Common Causes of Leaky Gut

✓ born Caesarian
✓ born vaginally to mother with low beneficial vaginal bacteria
✓ immunizations prior to the repopulation of bacteria
✓ frequent antibiotics
✓ poor diet
✓ excessive grain consumption
✓ gluten consumption
✓ NSAIDs(aspirin, ibuprofen, acetaminophen)
✓ birth control pills
✓ steroid drugs
✓ chemotherapeutic drugs
✓ antacids
✓ excessive stress or trauma
✓ genetics

 

Note: autoimmune conditions do not cause leaky gut; it is likely the other way
around; with leaky gut being a trigger for the expression of autoimmunity.

Symptoms of Leaky Gut

✓ ADD / ADHD
✓ arthritis
✓ asthma
✓ autism-spectrum disorders
✓ autoimmune conditions
✓ chronic fatigue syndrome
✓ eczema
✓ failure to thrive
✓ food allergies and intolerances
✓ inflammatory bowel diseases
✓ irritable bowel syndrome
✓ joint and collagen problems
✓ faulty liver function
✓ malnutrition
✓ multiple chemical sensitivities
✓ skin disorders, including acne
✓ mental health challenges including depression and anxiety

Note: All health begins in the gut!

 

 

Lifestyle Treatment for Leaky Gut:

✓ chew food well
✓ try to avoid eating when anxious or rushed; eat in relaxing or pleasant environment
✓ avoid antacids of all sorts
✓ avoid antibiotics whenever possible (explore options carefully and remember to weigh the cost/risk benefits)
✓ stress management/reduction techniques


Food Treatment for Leaky Gut:

✓ avoid high inflammatory foods – sugar, gluten, dairy
✓ remove food sensitivities particular to that individual (IgG testing or elimination diet)
✓ incorporate fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, coconutyogurt and kefir
✓ incorporate fresh ground flax
✓ add bone broth, collagen or gelatin

Supplemental Treatment to Consider for Leaky Gut:

✓ probiotics
✓ aloe vera juice (2-4oz) or aloe vera extract
L-glutamine
digestive enzymes
✓ work to identify and replace micronutrient deficiencies
✓ vitamins A and D or FCLO (fermented cod liver oil)
✓ glutathione (can be taken in the form of organic non-denatured grass-fed whey, if tolerated)
berberine
✓ ginger

Functional Testing when Leaky Gut is Suspected:

✓ If allergies are suspected, have a full IgE panel run to rule those foods and environmental substances out
✓ IgG food sensitivity testing
✓ Comprehensive Stool Test including Secretory IgA level
✓ Organic Acids Test for yeast, metabolic and overgrowth concerns
✓ Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) hydrogen breath test

*NOTE: There is a direct test for Leaky Gut through Cyrex labs called Array 2 Intestinal Antigenic Permeability Screen. Though this test is pretty cool we rarely recommend it because it is assumed in most cases listed above.

If you suspect that leaky gut is behind some of your health issues, highly consider getting a 2-part consultation with our Functional Nutritionist. 

A STEP-BY-STEP APPROACH TO HASHIMOTO'S THYROIDITIS

Hashimoto's Disease is one the most common causes of thyroid problems, particularly hypothyroid. However it is also one of the most commonly missed and mistreated causes as well. Hashimoto's is diagnosed most commonly by lab testing that reveals elevated antibodies on a lab test. It can also be diagnosed with an ultrasound or biopsy report.  There is no definitive way to completely rule out Hashimoto's because it would entail biopsy of 100% of the thyroid. When Hashimoto's Disease is found it is a lock for an autoimmune process in which the immune system has triggered the thyroid as a foreign invader and is trying to destroy it. This point is critical because it is NOT inherently A THYROID PROBLEM. Let me repeat this foundation point: Hashimoto's Disease is not primarily a thyroid problem. It is an immune system malfunction.

Possible Symptoms of Hashimoto's Thyroiditis:
✓ Weight gain or weight loss (because thyroid hormone output can fluctuate early on)
✓ fatigue
✓ brain fog
✓ hair loss
✓ dry skin
✓ thinning of outer 3rd of eyebrows
✓ palpitations
✓ tremors

Not A Thyroid Problem

Let me explain further. Conventional training has taught me and other practitioners that we treat Hashimoto's disease no different from any basic hypothyroid condition; we replace thyroid hormone.  However in Hashimoto's the thyroid is really just the innocent bystander who got falsely accused of a crime he didn't commit. The immune system is the real culprit who is misguided and killing the thyroid. If that critical component is not at the core of your thinking, treatment and further investigation then you are treating as superficial as you can get. The sad reality is that most people don't even get a diagnosis for years because it is not even looked for when symptoms are present. 

So What Do I Do? 

If you have been diagnosed with hypothyroidism and never had your antibodies checked, the first step is get them checked and make sure you get an ultrasound.  The antibodies you need to request are TPO (thyroid peroxidase) and TGB or TAA (Thyroglobulin Antibodies). If you request these from your medical provider they should be happy to run them for you. If not, look for someone who will. You are paying them. They work for you. The ultrasound is a screen to look for something really abnormal that needs further investigation like a biopsy. Thyroid cancer is relatively common and needs to be looked for or you won't find it. 

Educate Yourself

Secondly, educate yourself! Don't blindly assume others will do what's best for you. Everyone is different and you won't even know the right questions to ask your practitioner if you haven't done some reading. You will have to wade through some things online but you will find some good info if you look.  Stop the Thyroid Madness and Facebook groups like Hashimoto's 411 are popping up often helping people get educated. One of the first areas you will want to educate yourself on is the link between the immune system and the digestive system. In other words, your diet matters significantly! With any autoimmune disease the most important place to start the healing process is through using food as medicine.  Don't tune out here. Seventy to eighty percent of your immune system lines your digestive tract. If there is an unhealthy barrier system due to lack of sleep, processed foods, gluten, stress, or over-training then every time you eat you may possibly be damaging and over-working your immune system. Read about "leaky gut" or increased "intestinal permeability" and work toward an autoimmune paleo diet (AIP). 

Find an Advocate

Self education is foundational but does not negate the need of finding a health care practitioner who can take you deeper.  The reason why is because you will need to investigate deeper as to how to heal and balance your overly reactive immune system. If you don't, there is a risk of additional autoimmune diseases presenting in your future. Supporting gut healing, hormonal balance and inflammation in the body can not only improve your symptoms but it can also prevent future disease processes that are dependent on these broken systems.   Functional Medicine's philosophy is built on finding the underlying cause rather than just treating symptoms. If you can find a Functional Medicine practitioner near you, you will gain one of the best teammates you can hire.  Functional lab testing is essential to rule out digestive pathogens (i.e. bacterial infections, parasites, candida, overgrowth of opportunistic infections), hormonal imbalances (i.e. Hypothalamic Pituitary Adrenal dysfunction, estrogen dominance), or detoxification issues affecting your mitochondrial health and neurotransmitter production. These tests are typically around $500 total out of pocket but can provide a huge direction when it comes to focus on healing the body. 

Medications Versus Supplements

If you catch Hashimoto's early, there is a chance you can avoid needing thyroid replacement medications. However, it is not the worst thing in the world if you do need thyroid support. There are two main options for prescription support: synthetic medications (synthroid/levothyroxine, cytomel/liothyronine) or natural dessicated medications (Armour, Nature-throid, Westhroid). Most people do better on the natural dessicated glandulars but this is when you need a practitioner who is thoughtful and will work with you until you find the right medication for you. Once a new medicine is started you will want to recheck your labs in 4-6 weeks to see how you are responding and keep your practitioner abreast on how you feel. Very few general practitioners are thoughtful in this area but I was blessed to learn under a very thoughtful DO and he taught me a lot in this area about listening to patients and being a constant learner. Thank you Dr. Simonak! 

So if you have discovered Hashimoto's early and are not terribly symptomatic (weight gain, fatigue, brain fog, dry skin, hair loss...) then you should go hard after the root cause and see if you can facilitate healing with supplement protocols.  This should be lab based. Blindly supplementing can at times be dangerous and make things worse. But again, do not feel bad if you need a medication. Thyroid medications are not terribly expensive and for the most part are safe to be on long term. If you are a young female looking to get pregnant it is vital that your thyroid levels are optimal and this sometimes requires frequent lab checks and tapering of medications. 

Final Thoughts

While you are working with your thoughtful PCP or Functional Medicine Provider to heal the root cause of your Hashimoto's Disease, you may also want to consider looking into Low Dose Naltrexone (LDN). There are not many medications that I am excited about but this is one. The risk to benefit ratio is amazing and can help balance the immune system while the body is healing. It may not be needed long term but may prove very helpful at reducing your antibody count and need for increasing medication dosages. 

Educate + Teamwork = Healing

Here is the winning equation again. Get serious about self-educating. Let me know if you want additional reading material and I can recommend several books and websites. Next start looking for your teammate/health detective who can help you look deeper. And get to work! Don't sit on the sidelines and wait for someone else to take care of you and don't even rely on a medication or supplement protocol. Your choices each day to eat a clean nutrient dense diet, think positively, go to bed early, and exercise will be the most potent prescriptions you can fulfill! 

For Further reading, check out this very thorough article from Verywell.com on thyroid disorders.  

Detoxing? Voodoo or Legitimate?

 

Detoxing has become quite a trend and I think leaves a lot of confusion in its wake. What is a detox? Why do some people rave about them? Who needs a detox? Are they safe? There are tons of questions and dozens of ways to help the body detox better. My goal with this blog is to simplify and educate on the world of detoxification. Here we go…

Let’s Start With Toxins

What are toxins? Is this only something people working with chemicals everyday needs to be concerned about? Unfortunately no. We all need to be concerned about this. Without knowing it everyone is exposed to a large toxic load daily. 2000 new chemicals are brought into our environment daily in America and most have not been studied for adverse health effects they may cause. To compound the issue, even if they did study this in a short clinical study it would likely prove grossly inadequate because these tend to accumulate in our tissues over time (i.e. years) before causing significant health issues. Those born with gene mutations like a MTHFR mutation(s) or underlying liver disorders often have decreased ability to detoxify these toxins normally and they may experience even more significant and quicker symptoms from the chronic exposures.

Where Do the Toxins Come from?

One of the largest sources that has bombarded our bodies over the past 50yrs is plastics. Plastics have been linked to many neuroendocrine disorders and we are exposed to them all day every day almost. To make matters worse many of us heat our food and drinks up in them releasing more toxins!  And don’t be fooled by BPA free labels. BPA is not the only bad guy in plastics. Take my word or do some self study online but please, please, please reduce your use of plastics. Other sources are pesticides, exhaust fumes, carpet, drywall, clothing, cleaning supplies and beauty products. Even in small doses, if we are exposed to it daily then it will add up and can eventually lead to cancer, autoimmune disease and other chronic diseases.

The Body’s Natural Detox System

This will be a common sentence on this blog but it needs to re-iterated because it is foundational: The body is build to heal itself and remove foreign invaders. The body has built in detoxification that occurs constantly via the blood and sweat. The blood is filtered via the lymphatic system, liver and kidneys. If our natural detox pathways suddenly broke we would not be able to survive for a day. However, most people do not have a broken system but a poorly functioning system due to overload. In our highly toxic city-dwelling lives, if we were eating phyto-nutrient rich plant-based diets, clean meat, drinking filtered water and sweating daily then we would be supporting the body’s ability to keep up. Unfortunately this is not common practice for most of us. We are eating processed fast foods, drinking out of plastic bottles, and not exercising or sweating daily. This is a recipe for disaster.

Signs of Toxin Build-Up in the Body

As the body is exposed to more toxins than it can remove, it can start to show signs and symptoms slowly or it can wreak fast havoc. This all depends on the host environment and what you are already working with (genetically speaking).  Therefore the list of symptoms can be long and seem unrelated but a toxic internal environment will eventually show itself externally. If you suffer from any of the following symptoms you may want read on:

  • Increased adipose (fat) tissue and weight gain

    • this may be the most common side effect of toxin build-up. Why? Because the body will store extra fat to enclose and house the excess toxins it can’t get rid of. This is a common cause of resistant weight loss despite cleaning up diet and getting more active.

  • Swelling or bloating after a meal

  • Brain fog

  • Joint pains

  • Chronic fatigue

  • Mood imbalances (depression/anxiety/despair/anger)

Is There a Test to Assess the Body’s Detox Pathways?

I’m so glad you asked! Yes there is a phenomenal test called an Organic Acid test. Several labs offer these and they can give you a very good idea how well you are clearing toxins by looking at specific metabolites in the first morning urine. Is it necessary? Maybe. You could safely do a gentle 2-3 week detox and see how your body responds. In other words, do a clinical trial with N=1 (1 person that matters the most- You). If you feel significantly better after it and lose some body fat, then you were almost definitely not detoxifying well. If you don’t feel much better, see your functional medicine provider, do some further testing and see if you can identify where you need to put your focus.

Detox Options

If you are not ready to get any testing done but are ready to self experiment, it can be done safely. Here are my recommendations:

  • Try a food detox

    • This is safe and the most gentle way to see if food toxins are behind any of your symptoms.

    • Whole30.com gives a very well guided 30 day protocol which is an introduction into very clean eating but also functions as a gentle detox. You up for the challenge?

  • Try a food + supplement detox

    • This is a little more potent but still very safe and even more effective than food alone. There are many supplement based detox options and quality varies. Just make sure if you don't use the one recommended below, that you do your homework and make sure it is from a highly reputable supplement company.

    • PaleoCleanse Plus Detoxification Program is an easy-to-follow 14 or 21 day Detox Program that comes ready to go with Instruction Booklet in the box.

      • It has detailed instructions but it is basically a shake twice a day taken with a supplement pack and one clean meal. It even has recipe options in the booklet.

      • This will really give you an idea if your symptoms and weight loss resistance are really just a toxin overload!

      • Links to the 14 day Kit and 21 day Kit

      • They are pricey but remember that you are basically only eating one meal a day for the 2 or 3 weeks of the program so it’s not that bad

Other Daily Detox Tips:

  • Bounding daily

    • jumping pumps lymphatic flow better than most other exercises and is easy and gentle. Get a mini trampoline and bound for 5 mins every morning!

  • Sweat!

    • If you can't get in a good workout sweat 2-3 days per week, consider going to a local infrared sauna 2-3 times per week to sweat some toxins out.  If you live in the area, we have several to choose from. Send me a message if you desire details.

  • Increase high quality water intake

    • Nothing is quite as beneficial as good clean water. The problem is that good clean water is hard to find these days. Consider adding a high quality filtration system to your drinking water first and then consider adding one to the whole house! (www.ecowatertexas.com is who we used)

  • Clean Up the Meat First

    • Even before you start shopping for organic vegetables and fruit, get your meat sources clean. Poorly treated animals are highly toxic and we eat them daily if we are not intentional. Look for grass fed beef, free-range chicken, wild caught salmon, pastured eggs and “no hormones or antibiotics”

A Note on Chelation Therapies


Chelation therapies for removing toxins from the body are controversial. It is a form of detoxing in which a binder is injected into the blood to try to bind up toxins; commonly done for removing heavy metals.  Chelation therapy obviously has proven beneficial for many people or it wouldn’t still be very popular in certain circles. However, there is a higher risk of side effects and if the natural detox pathways are not ready to get rid of the toxins that have been bound up then it could cause a number of problems. Oral chelating agents have also been FDA approved but also have a high risk of side effects. This may prove useful for proven lead poisoning or other toxic heavy metals but not as a first line for suspected toxin overload like we are discussing here. There are some broad claims in this world of chelation therapies and I have not been exposed to enough of it to say whether they seem legitimate or not.  Exercise caution in this area.

PCOS: A Functional Medicine Approach

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PCOS is an abbreviation for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. This name is a little misleading because it entails a constellation of symptoms. Cysts on the ovaries are only one of many components to this complex syndrome. It is also misleading because it creates a label that feels like it can’t be changed and can lead to a hopeless feeling once the diagnosis has been given. This is similar to how diabetics get labeled and then often times succumb to the false notion that this is their lot and medical therapy is the only hope to try to keep the disease process at bay. Though medical diagnoses are needed and can be helpful, they can also often be very paralyzing and prevent people from finding ways to heal their body and prevent progression without always needing to rely solely on medications.

PCOS is an area where functional medicine shines. The conventional approach to PCOS relies on a medication or two in an attempt to try to manage the symptoms of blood sugar instability, elevated testosterone and DHEA levels and often increased acne and facial hair.  When the approach is solely medical, it is easy to miss the opportunity to get deeper and address things at the root cause instead of putting on band-aids that only cover things up.  If you or someone you know suffers from the side effects of PCOS and has not had much improvement with medications alone, please read on and pass this on to others.

PCOS tends to have several commonalities across the board. There tends to be several digestive issues going on. Though women may not be plagued with severe digestive symptoms, often there are multiple underlying food intolerances.  Gluten is often the worst and most common one. Grains of any kind also tend to cause a worsening of the inflammation that is going on in the GI tract. Therefore removing all grains for a period of time often provides significant healing opportunities. Much work can be done on the gut without even the need for lab testing and medical therapies. However, often it can be very helpful to get a few tests done to see what additional therapies would be beneficial and speed up the healing process. The majority of female hormones are made by the ovaries and therefore cysts in the ovaries could obviously cause a hormonal mess. The secondary place female hormones are made is in the adrenal glands which also manages our stress hormones. PCOS can lead to loads of stress, affecting adrenal function and further disrupting female hormone balance. Testing the adrenals and also getting a month long saliva test of estrogen and progesterone levels will show just how imbalanced the hormones are and likely show several areas where bio-identical progesterone at specific times during the month could show huge improvements in symptoms, including fertility!

As mentioned earlier, the GI tract has a huge potential for improving or perpetuating symptoms. Therefore testing this body system would also be very wise and could reveal a number of problems including dysbiosis (bacterial imbalance), pathogens (bugs) or bacterial overgrowth. The last body system to consider supporting is the body’s detox pathways. The main test for this is a urine Organic Acids Test. It not only shows detox issues but also nutrient needs, methylation concerns, neurotransmitter markers and mitochondrial energy markers. Amazing test but I’d probably do that one last if not in the budget up front.  Let me summarize the recommendations below:
 

PCOS Action List

  • Clean up diet - Remove grains (including gluten), dairy, soy, and sugar
  • Highly consider doing a Whole30 (see whole30.com) as a jump-start
  • If not significantly improving with dietary changes alone:
    • Meet with a functional nutritionist
    • Get functional lab testing done with your functional medicine practitioner
      • Adrenal Stress Profile
      • Month long female hormone panel
      • GI Pathogen Screen

I hope this short blog proves helpful for you or someone you love. If we can be of any service to you please send us a message and schedule an appointment to start looking deeper into how to support your body’s healing processes.

 

Why Focusing on Blood Sugar Could Save Your Life

Big claim right? Isn’t gluten the big thing to avoid right now? What’s next - apples are deadly too? Most people know sugar is not good for them but I think few of us realize how much we are really eating and what detrimental effects it may have on our health today and 20 yrs down the road. This goes far beyond a little bulge around the midsection - This could mean life and death.

Praise-Worthy but Misguided

    It’s common for people to try many things in order to get healthier. This usually happens around each New Year or after a loved one or friend passes away from a western world health issue like a stroke or heart attack or after their labs come back and cholesterol levels are high.

“This year I’m going to…”

Exercise more
Eat less
Lose some weight
Eat less twinkies and desserts
Get my cholesterol down

These are all noble goals but as you will read below, none of them really get to the root cause of most of American problems. I don’t want to downplay an exercise program or weight loss goals but don’t let this distract you from addressing your health at a deeper level.

A Sad Distraction

Progressive cardiologists and physicians and researchers are coming forward daily and confessing that the focus on lowering cholesterol at all costs has been a huge failure. Statin medication producing companies have sold billions of dollars worth of a medication that has been promised to save lives by reducing your cholesterol numbers. Sadly, though the number of Americans on statins has increased daily for years, the numbers of people dying from heart disease and stroke is not plummeting as would be expected if cardiovascular disease truly was only a cholesterol issue. Tragically, many have considered themselves healthy though continuing to eat the standard American diet because their doctor told them their cholesterol levels were perfect!  What false assurance. As heart surgeon Dr Lundell discusses, the real culprit of cardiovascular disease is inflammation. The cholesterol delusion will be unvelled over the years but a multi-billion dollar industry will not die quickly or without a fight. Statin medications may have their place in “healthcare” but it should be a small place and in the corner of the room and not on the throne. If you desire long term health don’t bank on your good cholesterol levels. Focus on removing anything that causes chronic inflammation inside your body. And what is the most common and most deadly form of chronic inflammation Americans suffer from? You guessed it - blood sugar instability. And you don’t have to be a diabetic to suffer from this.

Sad Distraction #2 - Gluten

Gluten is another health factor laden with false information on the web and health care practitioners who stopped reading PubMed after they graduated medical school. Gluten is a huge issue and not just for celiacs. Any medical practitioner who tells you “gluten-free diets are a fad” please turn and run the other way. Articles and clinical trials and studies mount daily pointing to gluten being a major contributing factor to all sorts of health issues and most people will have zero digestive symptoms to warn them!

However, there is a degree of “fad” to this and the “fad” part of it can lead people to think they are making healthy choices.  Here is is the lie wrapped up in the fad: “Gluten Free = Healthy.” This is a very easy trap to fall into. When I tell a patient that removing gluten for at least 60 days before attacking an intestinal parasite is essential for helping secure a victory, the common instinct is to just find packages of processed food that are labeled “gluten-free.” This is my own instinct at times as well. However, gluten free processed food is often nearly just as harmful in many ways at non-gluten free processed foods. They are still high in sugar, dairy, vegetable oils, and a host of other unpronounceable fillers that are often inflammatory in even more ways than gluten is. The easy fix with gluten to avoid the tempting lie is to focus on real food. Real whole, unprocessed food doesn’t contain gluten so you don’t have to guess or look for a gluten free label. A potato is a potato and an apple is an apple. Don’t buy the lie. It’s tempting and it’s dressed up in delicious looking pictures, packages and boxes. But eating “gluten-free” could leave you with out of control inflammation from the loads of sugar that hide behind the “gluten free” label.

Balance Is Key (as it is in most of life)

 Now with that being said, you may think I’d be grossly disappointed if I saw you eating packaged food. On the contrary, most saturday mornings, I make waffles for my family. It comes out of a package labeled “Paleo Waffles.” It is not daily but it is almost once a week. It’s not the best food I could be serving my family but it’s not causing any irreparable harm that I know of either. Trying to avoid all things packaged is not reasonable in most people’s lives and it could lead to unnecessary stress. Though plastics are disrupting all sorts of neuroendocrine processes in the body (which is a whole blog topic in itself), eating some organic frozen veggies a couple times a week is not likely going to ruin your health. Stay balanced. Do your best. Keep learning and never think you’ve arrived. Be your own biggest health advocate because the people selling you food at the grocery store definitely don’t know what’s best for you.


Healthy Blood Sugar Tips from Our Lead Nutritionist

  • Avoid packaged foods and go for real food, 1 ingredient options

  • Make sure every meal or snack contains fat, fiber and protein

  • Stay active daily- exercise pulls sugar out of the blood stream to be used

  • Learn to read labels and identify all the hidden sugars put into your food

  • Consider doing a Whole30 and reading the book It Starts With Food (sign up for free 30 day trial of audible and get the book for free - don’t forget to cancel your account unless you want to keep getting audible books and a monthly charge!)

  • Meal plan weekly to prevent making bad food decisions (see my weekly meal plan posts for recommendations)


Conclusion

In conclusion, many people can focus on diet and exercise and see huge improvements in body composition, weight, cognitive function, sleep, digestion, energy and hormonal balance. However, many also will still struggle with these things despite their hard work and clean eating. This is when you need a functional medicine practitioner to be your detective in looking for an underlying cause that needs addressing.  Labs can often find significant hormonal imbalances, digestive pathogens or detox pathways needing support. In this case, a lab based healing protocol may be able to get the body back into a healthy place. 


Common Hidden Causes of Inflammation

Inflammation is a normal process by which your body sends signals and starts a repair process. Think of a scraped knee after a bike wreck. It swells and gets red and then it starts to heal up over the next several days to weeks. This is an amazing phenomenon that we take for granted because we see movies portray super fast healing and lose the awe of what our own bodies have been designed to do - self heal.

Now let’s work our brains a little. Acute inflammation as described above is healthy and helpful but too much of a good thing or too “long” of a good thing can turn into a bad thing.  It continues to be discovered that “chronic inflammation” is behind almost everything from heart disease to stroke to alzheimer's and various cancers. Chronic inflammation is bad news. Several mechanisms that should be turned off after a short time stay turned on. Stress responses persist and inflammation damages the body in a vast number of ways. Basically any medical condition will be worsened if this is the case. Osteoarthritis of the joints will speed up like pouring fuel on a fire. Autoimmune diseases will continue to flare more frequently and with a greater intensity. The inside of your vessels will be frayed and harmed like taking sandpaper to them causing plaque to build up and increase your risk of having a heart attack or stroke. Cognitive decline can perpetuate as well.

Chronic systemic inflammation will wreak havoc on your immune system as it taxes it persistently. It can cause antibodies to start to build against the wrong things (like self) and autoimmune diseases can be triggered if there is a genetic predisposition. This usually occurs after a chronic stress has destroyed your healthy adrenal balance and therefore depleted your body of SigA (your body’s first line of defense - your linemen). This loss of  your defense mechanism will lead to a leaky gut barrier system, food that is not fully broken down getting into the bloodstream prematurely and causing your immune system to freak out. “Leaky gut” or increased “intestinal permeability” is being implicated as one of the most critical, preventable and healing triggers of autoimmune disease. Because 70-80% of your immune system lines  your intestines, can you see how this could affect everything?

So with that foundation, here is a summary of some hidden sources of inflammation you really want to find and correct for your long term health:

  1. HPA Dysfunction - (Aka Adrenal fatigue or adrenal burnout). This is number 1 because it’s usually the first system to fail with any chronic stress on the body. The adrenal glands make cortisol which is one of the most important hormones to regulate inflammation. Hence why we give steroid (cortisone) shots into chronically inflamed joints. If you test your adrenal glands and find that you are in HPA dysfunction, you likely have a significant inflammation problem that could show itself in a vast number of symptoms including: fatigue, weight gain, joint pains, cognitive decline, blood sugar imbalances, sleep/mood issues, digestive complaints... you get the point.

  2. Food allergies and sensitivities - This is listed second because it tends to occur once the adrenals have been compromised, gut barrier systems are offline, and leaky gut has allowed undigested foods into the circulatory system. Foods eaten often will then often develop an immune response that occasionally can be discovered with elimination diets but often has to be found on lab testing because symptoms can be delayed as long as 3-7 days after ingesting the food. This makes it hard to link symptoms (depression, fatigue, rash, bloating, constipation) to the food. If you don’t find these foods and remove them, while your functional medicine practitioner is helping you heal  your adrenals and restore your barrier systems, there will be a chronic inflammatory response occurring leading to high risk of the above mentioned health consequences.

  3. Intestinal Pathogens - This can be in the form of  bacterial infections, yeast infections or even parasitic infections! WHAT!!!!  So my studying under Dr Dan Kalish is rocking my world. I’ve used conventional lab testing for years and looked relatively often for parasites having yet to find one. Little did I know how hard parasites are to find and most labs miss the vast majority of them. I even started using a specialty lab that I thought would be more likely to catch them but even they have proven to be insufficient and have low sensitivity.  However, the good news is that there are at least 2 current labs that are much more accurate at detecting bacterial and parasitic infections in the digestive tract. Would you definitely have digestive issues if you have a parasite? Nope. Up to 50% of people with pathogens in the belly have ZERO digestive symptoms. Why and how does someone get a parasite? Well the most common cause is 3rd world traveling and drinking contaminated water but this can even occur in those who have not traveled outside the borders but have a compromised barrier system. Sensing a common theme here??

  4. Toxin overload - We live in a toxic world. Little did I realize this until I started doing some reading in this area. Even young children are exposed to hundreds of endocrine disrupting chemicals before the age of five. We live in a plastic world which is a modern phenomenon and the majority of our drinking water, make-ups, deodorants, skin lotions, and foods are filled with chemicals that disrupt our body’s normal functioning and can often lead to a host of problems especially if our natural detox pathways are hindered. Why would they be hindered you ask? Well let’s backtrack again. When the adrenals dysfunction, mucosal barriers are compromised, digestive health is impaired, and the liver is overtaxed and bombarded with toxins losing it ability to properly remove toxins at the rate they are coming in. Throw on top of that any genetic mutations that you were born with like MTHFR that may further this problem and we now have issues including chronic inflammation.

These are some of the most common sources of inflammation in the body and they typically all play in together and can be a vicious cycle and difficult to get out of without assistance identifying and correcting.  If you suffer from any of the symptoms of chronic inflammation or you have a strong family history of diseases that could be related to chronic inflammation, please come visit us next month when we open or find a local functional medicine practitioner to test these systems for you. Your family physician will be able to get a general idea of your inflammation with some lab parameters like a C-RP (c-reactive protein) or ESR (erythrocyte sedimentation rate) and may be able to locate an underlying cause like H.pylori, Ebstein Barr Virus, celiac disease, uncontrolled blood pressure or blood sugar and help you correct these. Start here always and then seek out some functional lab testing to see if further protocols are needed to get your inflammation under control.

Steward your life well
Jake


Why our culture desperately needs Functional Medicine?

 

I guess before this blog can really be written, an initial question must be asked and answered: What is Functional Medicine? Here is a quote from the Institute for Functional Medicine who is one of the leading organizations training practitioners in this model of medicine:

“Functional medicine addresses the underlying causes of disease, using a systems-oriented approach and engaging both patient and practitioner in a therapeutic partnership. It is an evolution in the practice of medicine that better addresses the healthcare needs of the 21st century.”

The keywords in these short two sentences are “underlying cause” and “systems-oriented approach.” It is a model built on the idea that the body is designed to function together in systems and if one system loses it integrity then a cascade of systems can suffer thereafter. This is why functional medicine practitioners like the one I train under, Dr Kalish, says that symptoms are distractions at best.  By the time a symptom surfaces it could be 2 or 3 body systems down the line from the original body system that was compromised. Hence the need for high quality and reliable lab testing. See image below for a snapshot at how complicated finding a root cause may be.

 

To summarize - functional medicine uses functional lab testing to seek out the root causes of health issues. Now we can move on to the title of the blog: Why our Culture Desperately needs Functional Medicine?

Treating symptoms is not in and of itself a bad thing. A cough is keeping you up all night compromising your immune system even further. A cough medication may be beneficial short term to help get some sleep and get your immune system back up. However other times, treating a symptom can have significant health consequences down the road. An easy example of this is the conventional approach to heartburn. Even though studies have shown that 8-9 out of 10 people who experience heartburn are actually lacking in stomach acid, we are taught to give all 10 people a medication that will further deplete their stomach acid. This may very well help the symptoms but in no way does it hardly ever treat the cause. And the majority of the time the person goes on thinking everything is ok but now they can’t properly break down proteins or absorb vital nutrients like B12, iron and minerals without adequate stomach acid.  Therefore getting to the root cause and eradicating or correcting it often leads to better function and lasting health.

Our conventional approach to headaches is similar. We’ve just been conditioned to pop a Tylenol or Advil with a headache and minimize the symptoms. This may not be a big issue is you only get a headache once a year but for those that get headaches frequently, this is covering a much deeper problem. Frequent headaches are NEVER normal even if you have a family history of migraines and you have been told you inherited them. Allergies and autoimmune diseases fall into a similar category. An imbalanced immune system can over-react to the environment or even self.  Of course again there is often a genetic component but again this is never normal and never should be just medicated to cover up the symptoms. The immune system needs support and balance. And often there needs to be deeper investigation into what may have triggered the immune system imbalance. Is there an underlying leaky gut caused by adrenal dysfunction that has led to immune compromise that needs to be healed? If so, then healing this underlying cause may very well take care of the symptoms instead of just covering them up.

Our culture is growing more busy and less rested every year. New technology. More ways to be connected. We work more and sleep less. We buy things we can’t afford and then have to work more to pay for them. Our relationships grow shallower with the delusion that we have more friends thanks to social media explosion and notifications interrupting almost every conversation.  Kids are developing sleep disturbances due to phones living in their beds with them. And if that’s not bad enough, we eat convenience fast food that has nearly zero nutritional value because we don’t have time to prepare real food. Therefore our bodies are starving for the essential nutrients they need to function properly. And then we wonder why we feel terrible, have no energy, can’t lose weight and have digestive issues. We are almost all chronically inflamed on the inside. And remember that Americans die of diseases like heart disease, cancers, strokes, diabetes that have their root in inflammation!

This is no surprise to anyone with their eyes open but still worth pondering and wondering what in the world can fix something this broken.  Do we need more medications to be developed? Maybe but is that going to really fix anything? Are we deficient in anti-depressants or TUMs? Of course not but again we’ve trained ourselves to want a quick fix but often the quick fix really doesn’t fix things well or for very long. Hence the deep seeded need for Functional Medicine in our culture. Things have to change at the root. Families have to learn the importance of communal eating - joining around the dinner table again (without twitter and facebook) and enjoying a real food nutrient dense meal. We have to re-learn how to simplify life, get good sleep and have fun. And often we need a practitioner who can help us identify these things and then test and correct the imbalances our life choices have developed over years of abuse. Sometimes these types of practitioners can be hard to find but can be found if you know where to look. The Institute for Functional Medicine has a directory of any practitioners being trained under this model. The Kalish Institute (where I am being trained) also has a directory. And sometimes old-fashioned asking around may be all you need to find someone who thinks this way.

 

A final caveat is that functional medicine does not replace the need for a strong conventional family doctor, specialists or the possible need for surgical interventions.  It just means that the conventional medical model is not based on looking for root causes, it's based on diagnosing and then treating (usually with a pharmaceutical product). Lifestyle nor nutrition is emphasized in the medical training that the majority of medical doctors or mid-level providers receive. If you have a doctor/provider who talks to you about removing gluten,sugar and processed foods from your diet, you’ve stumbled onto a rare jewel! Don’t let them go. Use functional medicine as a tool to dig deeper if you still don’t feel great despite your labs and check-ups saying you should. There is likely an underlying cause that just hasn’t been uncovered yet.