Your Health and the Environment

chemicaltoxicityMost of us realize that the environment we live in isn’t exactly pristine.  From chemicals in our water supply to the ubiquitous use of plastics, we’re constantly challenging our body’s ability to handle environmental pollutants.  The incidence of chronic disease in this country has continued to grow, and most any chronic disease you can think of (diabetes, autoimmune disease, cancer, endocrine disorders, you name it!) is influenced by the chemicals that surround us.  However, when it comes to the relationship between exposure to environmental toxins and disease, conventional medicine pays little to no attention to this connection. [Read more…]

Heartburn Drugs Typically Not Necessary

gerdProton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs) such as Nexium, Prevacid, and Protonix, are some of the most widely prescribed drugs in the U.S. They are typically given to patients who complain of heartburn or reflux (GERD), who are then kept on the medication indefinitely. In fact, it’s not uncommon for many of the patients I see to think of being on this medication almost as an afterthought, because it’s so common in our culture. What they may not realize is that long-term use of these medications can lead to long-term complications, and may be doing more harm than good! When first approved by the FDA, the suggested use of PPIs was for 4-6 weeks, mainly for treating serious gastrointestinal issues, like ulcers and Barrett’s esophagus.  [Read more…]

IBS? It May Be Something Else . . .

SIBOPeople often come to my office saying they’ve been diagnosed with IBS. They may complain of intestinal pain, constipation, diarrhea, or all of the above, yet all of their test results come back “normal”, so they are prescribed anti-spasmodic medications to manage their symptoms, and sent on their way. In my experience, IBS is merely a symptom of other underlying causes, rather than  a definitive diagnosis. Whether it’s food intolerances, poor eating habits, or restoring optimal production of stomach acid and digestive enzymes, naturopathic medicine has a lot to offer when it comes to identifying and treating the underlying cause of IBS. [Read more…]

Does Arthritis Originate in the Gut?

I see quite a few patients with rheumatoid arthritis, and other autoimmune arthropathies, and what is the first thing I do?  Give them anti-inflammatory medications? Give them immune-modulaters? No! Chances are, their rheumatologists have already done this. The first thing I will always do with patients in this category is address their digestive health. What does digestion have to do with systemic inflammation? Everything! [Read more…]

Acid-Blocking Medications Aren’t Meant For Long-Term Use!

While I may have written about this more than once in the past, I feel like it’s a topic that continues to need revisiting.  A recent New York Times article highlights the many reasons why proton pump inhibitors (PPI’s), such as Prilosec, Nexium, and Prevacid, can cause more harm than good when used beyond the recommended window of 8 to 12 weeks.  While it seems to come as a surprise to the doctors who are handing out these medications like candy, our stomachs are supposed to make hydrochloric acid! This is essential for initiating the digestive cascade that leads to the proper assimilation of nutrients. As the article points out, blocking stomach acid production for an extended period of time can lead to a host of nutritional deficiencies, including iron, vitamin B12, and magnesium.  A decrease in stomach acid also takes away the protective barrier meant to protect us from harmful bacteria, setting up an environment that’s more prone to infection with Clostridium and other pathogenic bacteria. [Read more…]

Patients With Type II Diabetes Benefit From Naturopathic Care

Diabetes is a complex, multi-factorial condition that takes many variables into account, including diet, exercise, and family history. Typically, if certain markers are detected early enough (elevated blood glucose, increased hemoglobin A1C), lifestyle and/or pharmaceutical treatments can be implemented to slow or reverse the progression of type II diabetes before long-term complications arise. Since the essence of naturopathic medicine is addressing core diet and lifestyle issues that may be contributing to disease, it’s essential for anyone who’s dealing with type II diabetes, or even “pre-diabetes”, to incorporate a naturopathic treatment protocol as part of their long-term strategy. [Read more…]

Can Diet Reverse PCOS?

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a condition that affects the hormone balance in women, favoring the production of male hormones like testosterone over female hormones like estrogen and progesterone. This imbalance can lead to symptoms such as menstrual problems and infertility. Many women with this condition also develop insulin resistance, diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease. In a new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, blood sugar control, weight loss, and cardiac risk were all improved when women with PCOS were put on a high protein, low carbohydrate diet. [Read more…]

Rethinking Fat in the Diet

With all the hype surrounding statin medications this past week (see http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/05/opinion/the-diabetes-dilemma-for-statin-users.html), it’s a perfect opportunity to take a step back and discuss some basic diet fundamentals.  For the past 40 or more years, the “benefits” of low-fat diets have been ingrained in our consciousness, and advocated by a majority of the medical community.  The thinking behind this was simple: high fat in the diet must lead to a buildup of fat and plaque in the arteries, so the less fat you eat, the better.  In recent years, research evidence has overwhelmingly refuted this concept, yet it continues to be the mainstream recommendation for preventing heart disease.  Even the “Dairy” section in the USDA’s “My Plate” emphasizes low or non-fat sources of dairy.

A scientific analysis of 21 earlier studies showed “no significant evidence” that saturated fat in the diet is associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease.  In fact, the dietary evidence collected from these thousands of participants found no difference in the risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, or coronary vascular disease between those individuals with the lowest and highest intakes of saturated fat.  The bigger issue appears to be the added amounts of sweeteners and carbohydrates that people are eating instead of fats.  More and more evidence is suggesting that it’s this continuous increase in carbohydrate consumption that is truly responsible for an increased risk in diabetes and coronary artery disease.

I think the main take-away message from this information is that you don’t have to be afraid of good quality sources of saturated fat.  We’ve been so trained to be suspicious of it for so long that it becomes difficult to change our perception of how healthy it can be.  Now, does this mean you should be eating nothing but cheese, bacon, and beef for the rest of your life?  Of course not!  If you’re already consuming low-fat sources of dairy (skim milk, low-fat yogurt, etc.), switch to organic whole milk sources, and use butter instead of margarine or other processed forms of fat.  In general, try to limit your saturated fat intake to 10% of your total diet, while discontinuing the consumption of hydrogenated oils, artificial sweeteners, and high-glycemic carbohydrates.  By doing this, and continuing to emphasize fruits and vegetables as a mainstay, you’ll be much better off in the long run!

Celiac Disease or Gluten Intolerance?

When people are experiencing nutritional deficiencies, anemia, weight changes, and/or other symptoms that seem to be of an unknown origin, it’s fairly common practice for doctors to rule out the presence of celiac disease with a small intestinal biopsy. While this is certainly considered the “gold standard” for identifying the pathological changes associated with celiac disease, many experienced physicians are finding that patients can still have a sensitivity to gluten containing grains, making celiac disease and gluten intolerance separate entities altogether.  This led experts at the recent International Celiac Disease Symposium to define the term gluten insensitivity for patients who don’t meet the criteria for celiac disease or wheat allergy, yet improve dramatically when following a gluten-free diet.

The incidence of Celiac disease has doubled since 1974, and gluten sensitivity alone is estimated to be 6 times the prevalence of celiac disease. Fortunately, for patients and doctors who have recognized this phenomenon for quite some time, there is finally a more established definition of gluten sensitivity. Some of the criteria being used to separate gluten sensitivity from wheat allergy and celiac disease include: Negative testing for the presence of IgE antibodies to wheat; Negative endomysial and ttg antibodies (typically present with celiac disease); Negative small intestinal biopsy; Resolution of symptoms following as gluten-free diet. Researchers have concluded that the genetic makeup and immune response of gluten sensitivity patients is unique, and may be more enzyme mediated (like lactose intolerance), rather than immune based.

Since objective testing is still lacking, people who are symptomatic should consider implementing a gluten-free diet. Some of the most common symptoms associated with gluten sensitivity include abdominal pain, rashes, headaches, “brain fog”, fatigue, depression, anemia, and joint pain. If your doctor tells you that celiac testing is negative, don’t give up hope!

 

PCOS and Diet

A recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (Jan 2012) showed that women with PCOS who followed a higher protein diet (>40% of energy from protein), as opposed to women who consumed the “standard” amount of protein (<15% of energy from protein), were able to lose weight more effectively. The study also showed that the women on a higher protein diet were also able to maintain healthier blood sugar levels, even after adjusting for changes in weight.

This is the type of diet I’ve always emphasized with PCOS patients, and have found this to be one of the most effective means of helping these women lose weight. Clinically, I’ve also found that this diet is the single most important factor when it comes to controlling other PCOS-related symptoms, such as hirsutism and menstrual irregularities. In fact, most women are able to discontinue metformin and related prescription medications upon adhering to a higher protein diet. Other nutritional interventions (chromium, fiber, etc.) can also be incorporated, with the main emphasis being that of blood sugar control.

If you’re currently undergoing treatment with prescription interventions, and not responding well, don’t be discouraged. Seek out a practitioner who can guide you through a high protein diet, and offer some of the many other nutritional options that will be effective in the management of PCOS.