Gut Health: Six Things to Do About Gut Health

Starting off the new year right can be tricky.

There are millions of messages in our everyday lives that tell us we have to look or act a certain way to be acceptable.

What we need are ways to be intentional about our health without becoming obsessed by unattainable weight loss goals.

One of the most important systems in our body is the gut microbiome that regulates the functionality of both our heart and brain.

To maintain optimal wellness (not just a focus on weight)

we must ensure the overall health of our gut.

Here are six things you can do to intentionally change your life by changing your gut:

  1. Think about your food. A diet based mostly on plants is optimal for your overall health. If at all possible, opt for food that is whole (with no added fat, sugar or sodium). Chew your food slowly and completely to aid in digestion. Consider fermented foods (probiotics) and fibrous foods (prebiotics).
  1. Listen to your body’s signals. Consider that food cravings are sometimes caused by an imbalance within your gut microbiome. Other signals like brain fog, stomach aches, fluctuations in weight, sleeplessness, a change in bathroom habits and acute inflammation can also be indicators of an imbalance.
  1. Consider your sleep schedule. Getting an adequate night’s sleep is an essential way for your gut microbiome to restore itself naturally. It is suggested that adults get at least 7-9 hours of sleep each night.
  1. Choose to drink more water. Water aids gut health naturally. It’s a simple and efficient way to repair your gut lining and the good bacteria in your intestines.
  1. Pay attention to your poop. Notice whether there are fluctuations in the way your body eliminates waste. Notice whether your stools are loose or hard. Track how often you eliminate and consider whether that is regular for your body or not.
  1. Get tested. As you become more aware of how your gut is interacting with other parts of your body, you might have questions. I can help you assess the health of your gut and how it might be impacting your life. Together we can look at food sensitivities, supplements and beneficial ways to nourish your gut microbiome. Schedule time with me here.

Whether you set goals or intentions for the new year, make it a priority to focus on the health of your gut microbiome. It could literally change your life.

If you live in the Guilford/ Branford/ New Haven/ Madison/ Clinton area and would like to learn more about the innovative programs Dr. Fisel has to offer, call (203) 453-0122 or CLICK HERE to schedule a consultation.

THIS SEASON: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT PROTECTING YOUR BRAIN FROM INJURY

Brain Injuries, Concussions, Collisions, Athletes, Concussion Symptoms, Anti-Inflammatory, Natural Solutions

In the midst of the transition from fall to winter:

We plan to watch our kids participate in athletic activities at school,

We plan to get on our road bikes before the snow flies,

We plan for that first ski run of the season.

We often talk about our plans for this transitional time…

BUT WHAT ABOUT WHEN THINGS DON’T GO AS PLANNED?

Statistics show that either you or someone you know has been involved in a collision that may have caused your brain to be injured in a significant way. (SOURCE)

And, although we know that helmets are helpful in protecting humans from head injuries, they are not 100% effective in preventing concussions.

Here’s why…

The CDC defines a concussion as “a type of traumatic brain injury—or TBI—caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or by a hit to the body that causes the head and brain to move rapidly back and forth.

This sudden movement can cause the brain to bounce around or twist in the skull, creating chemical changes in the brain and sometimes stretching and damaging brain cells.” (SOURCE)

The tricky thing about brain injuries is that they do not present the same in any one person. Two people can have similar seeming injuries and have different symptoms and outcomes.

In fact, many high schools and colleges are gathering baseline brain data on their athletes so they can be more proactive in a situation where a concussion may occur.

After a head injury, you might notice certain signs of a concussion in others:

  • Can’t recall events prior to or after a hit or fall.
  • Appears dazed or stunned.
  • Forgets an instruction, is confused about an assignment or position, or is unsure of the game, score, or opponent.
  • Moves clumsily.
  • Answers questions slowly.
  • Loses consciousness (even briefly).
  • Shows mood, behavior, or personality changes.

Or the person receiving the head injury might report certain symptoms such as:

  • Headache or “pressure” in head.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Balance problems or dizziness, or double or blurry vision.
  • Bothered by light or noise.
  • Feeling sluggish, hazy, foggy, or groggy.
  • Confusion, or concentration or memory problems.
  • Just not “feeling right,” or “feeling down”.

If, after a head injury, you show or feel symptoms that are common in concussion scenarios, in almost all cases the key to recovery is reducing oxidative damage that causes inflammation in the brain.

One of the most important ways to reduce oxidation and inflammation in the brain is through diet and nutrition.

A common anti-inflammatory nutritional regimen would be the Mediterranean Diet or something similar. Stick with fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, lean meats, dairy products, eggs, whole grains and healthy fats.

Also, antioxidants/ anti-inflammatory supplements such as a higher DHA version of omega 3 fatty acids, Zinc, Curcumin, Creatine, Glutathione, NAC and green tea have been shown to reduce inflammation and promote brain healing. (SOURCE)

Dr. Fisel can help you find natural solutions and relief if you are recovering from the symptoms of concussions, brain inflammation or brain injury.

If you live in the Guilford/ Branford/ New Haven/ Madison/ Clinton area and would like to learn more about the innovative programs Dr. Fisel has to offer, call (203) 453-0122 or CLICK HERE to schedule a consultation.

RESOURCES:

Brain Injury Association of America

CDC: Heads Up Program

Traumatic Brain Injury: Impact, Assessment & Management of Concussion & MTBI

Traumatic Brain Injury: Definitions related to TBI

Neuropathy and Natural Medicine

Neuropathy, whether it’s diabetic or idiopathic, is often challenging to treat, with any modality. However, I do find that the combination of acupuncture and naturopathic interventions tend to be much more successful than the “standard” protocol (which usually includes gabapentin and various cocktails of prescription painkillers). A recent study from the journal Diabetes Care (2011 July 25) discovered that 600 mg/day of the nutrient alpha-lipoic acid lead to a clinically significant improvement in patients with diabetic neuropathy. Clinically, I’ve also found that other forms of neuropathy often respond well to alpha-lipoic acid therapy as well. Other treatments that help to enhance peripheral circulation and restore nutrition to damaged nerves, such as acetyl-l-carnitine, mixed bioflavonoids, and B-vitamins, can also be beneficial in the treatment of peripheral neuropathy.

It’s not uncommon for people to be kept on medications for life when trying to deal with peripheral neuropathy pain, with the resulting relief being minimal at best. If this is something you have suffered from, don’t be afraid to seek alternatives, as there is enough clinical and research evidence to support the benefits.

Pregnant Moms and Genes

This is a great article discussing how chronic stress during pregnancy can cause behavioral problems in children, especially because of epigenetics, or how the child’s genes influence their stress response:

http://www.economist.com/node/18985981

Understanding Chronic Sinusitis

Once again, time has proven naturopathic medicine to be way ahead of the game when it comes to effectively treating a condition before modern medicine finally acknowledges the truth. In this case, we’re talking about chronic sinusitis. As long as I’ve been practicing, we’ve always addressed this largely as an inflammatory condition. By removing underlying triggers of inflammation (food and environmental allergens in particular), and using natural anti-inflammatory treatments, along with treatments to help facilitate sinus drainage, patients almost universally have long-lasting relief. Now, modern medicine is recognizing that chronic sinusitis is indeed an inflammatory issue, rather than having a whole lot to do with infectious causes. If you’re stuck in a cycle of repeated antibiotics for recurring sinus infections, definitely consult with a naturopath for treatment advice. 

As a reference, please visit the following article: http://www.nytimes.com/ref/health/healthguide/esn-sinusitis-ess.html

Eczema and Kids

The discovery that DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) from breast milk promotes healthy brain, eye, and nervous system development was an important step towards understanding why breast milk is a perfect first food for babies. DHA is now commonly added to infant formulas, but it’s not the only fatty acid that is important for developing babies. A new study shows that other fatty acids in breast milk may protect them from allergies.

The sharp rise in allergic diseases like asthma, eczema, food allergies, and hay fever might be explained in part by a shift in the fatty acid balance in our diets. The widespread use of vegetable oils and the comparatively low intake of omega-3 fatty acids (mostly from fish) have tipped the scales in favor of omega-6 fatty acids, which contribute to inflammation in the body.

Does breast milk affect eczema?

As part of the KOALA Birth Cohort Study, scientists investigated the composition of breast milk and its relationship to eczema and allergy development in 310 infant-mother pairs. Based on earlier findings that organic dairy seems to protect against eczema during the first two years, some of the women included led “alternative lifestyles,” meaning that they ate organic foods and breast-fed for an extended period. Researchers were interested to see how the fatty acid composition of their breast milk compared with that of moms who ate a more conventional diet.

Information related to breast-feeding, eczema, and other allergic diseases was gathered from the women while they were pregnant and during the first two years after birth. Blood samples were taken from the babies at one and two years to determine the presence of allergies to things like hen’s eggs, cow’s milk, peanut, tree and grass pollen, dust mites, and cats and dogs.

Babies benefit from fatty acid combo

Compared with the conventional diet group, the breast milk of moms with alternative lifestyles had somewhat higher concentrations of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), DPA (docosapentaenoic acid), and DHA. The breast milk from this group was also higher in ruminant fatty acids (those derived primarily from dairy fat), including the immune-enhancing fatty acid, CLA (conjugated linoleic acid).

“Differences in fatty acid status between mothers may modify the protective effect of breastfeeding,” said Dr. Carel Thijs, lead author of the study from the Department of Epidemiology at Maastricht University in the Netherlands. “This may explain inconsistencies between studies in different populations with different intakes of fish, ruminant fats, and trans fatty acids from other sources.”

More interesting results:

By age two, 31% of the babies had parent-reported eczema, and 42% of the children with eczema also had allergies as determined by blood tests.

The risk of eczema and allergies at one year was lowest among babies whose mothers’ milk was highest in omega-3 fatty acids.

The risk of eczema and allergies also decreased with increasing concentrations of ruminant fatty acids, independent of the effect of the omega-3 fatty acids.

“Ruminant fatty acids deserve further investigations for their role in early immune development and are potential candidates to explain the protective effects of dairy fat as well as organic dairy and possibly unpasteurized farm milk on the development of atopic (allergic) conditions in early life,” the researchers concluded.

How to protect your baby from eczema

Breast-feed, if you can. For some women breast-feeding isn’t feasible, but it’s worth it for your baby’s health if you’re able to.

Eat more fatty fish. This is important during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. Avoid high-mercury fish including swordfish, shark, albacore tuna, king mackerel, tile fish, grouper, marlin, and orange roughy.

Make it creamy. The latest study adds to a growing body of evidence of the inflammation-fighting potential of full-fat dairy products.

(The study comes from Allergy 2011;66:58-67)

Acupuncture and Anxiety

In my practice, I’m always amazed at how effectively acupuncture is able to diminish the severity of anxiety, even for patients who experience panic attacks other extreme forms of this condition. A recent study measured the response of patients to acupuncture before operations, and how well it was able to reduce their anxiety levels. The results showed a marked decrease in anxiety levels after acupuncture was performed. Although this study applied exclusively to preopearative anxiety, it still demonstrates the efficacy of acupuncture in treating stress and anxiety. 

Please don’t be afraid to seek out acupuncture if you’re burdened by chronic stress, as you’re otherwise overlooking a proven treatment that could end up being very effective in your quest to destress.
“Comparing the treatment effectiveness of body acupuncture and auricular acupuncture in preoperative anxiety treatment,” Wu S, Liang J, et al, J Res Med Sci, 2011 Jan; 16(1): 39-42. (Address: Department of Psychology, School of Aerospace Medicine, Fourth Military Medical University, Xi’an, China).

Work Causes Heart Disease

People who regularly work long hours may be significantly increasing their risk of developing heart disease, the world’s biggest killer, British scientists said Monday.

Researchers said a long-term study showed that working more than 11 hours a day increased the risk of heart disease by 67 percent, compared with working a standard 7 to 8 hours a day.

They said the findings suggest that information on working hours — used alongside other factors like blood pressure, diabetes and smoking habits — could help doctors work out a patient’s risk of heart disease.

However, they also said it was not yet clear whether long working hours themselves contribute to heart disease risk, or whether they act as a “marker” of other factors that can harm heart health — like unhealthy eating habits, a lack of exercise or depression.

The study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine journal, followed nearly 7,100 British workers for 11 years.

“Working long days is associated with a remarkable increase in risk of heart disease,” said Mika Kivimaki of Britain’s University College London, who led the research. He said it may be a “wake-up call for people who overwork themselves.”

Cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks and strokes are the world’s largest killers, claiming around 17.1 million lives a year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Billions of dollars are spent every year on medical devices and drugs to treat them.

The findings of this study support previous research showing a link between working hours and heart disease.

For this study, men and women who worked full time and had no heart disease were selected, giving 7,095 participants.

The researchers collected data on heart risk factors like age, blood pressure, cholesterol, smoking and diabetes and also asked participants how many hours they worked — including work during the day and work brought home — on an average weekday.

During the 11-year study, 192 participants had heart attacks. Those who worked 11 hours or more a day were 67 percent more likely to have a heart attack than those with fewer hours.

Of course, heart disease is a multi-factorial issue, but those working more than 11 hours per day need to take even further precautions to lower their heart disease risk. Talk to your naturopathic doctor about laboratory studies that can help to identify numerous cardiovascular risk factors, so the proper steps can be taken to help prevent heart disease and stroke in the future. 

Elderberry and Infections

As many of my patients are already well aware, I often rely upon Elderberry extract, especially in the treatment of influenza and other viral infections. This recent study demonstrates evidence as to why this treatment is effective.

In a study designed to examine the effects of a standardized extract of black elderberry (Sambucus nigra L.) on 3 Gram-positive bacteria and one Gram-negative bacteria responsible for upper respiratory tract infections, as well as two different strains of influenza virus, the extract was found to possess antimicrobial activity against both Gram-positive bacteria of Streptococcus pyogenes and group C and G Streptococci, the Gram-negative bacteria Branhamella catarrhalis, and human pathogenic influenza viruses. The results of this study suggest that elderberry extract such as the one used in this study may be an effective tool for helping to combat various types of upper respiratory tract infections.


Reference: “Inhibitory activity of a standardized elderberry liquid extract against clinically-relevant human respiratory bacterial pathogens and influenza A and B viruses,” Krawitz C, Mraheil MA, et al, BMC Complement Altern Med, 2011 Feb 25; 11-16. (Address: Institute for Medical Microbiology, Justus-Liebig-University, Frankfurter Strasse 107, 35392 Giessen, Germany. E-mail: Stephan.Pleschka@mikro.bio.uni-giessen.de ).

The Definition of Holistic Medicine

I’m posting an article written by Dr. David Katz, as I think it is a fantastic summary of what I strive for in my own practice, which is to emphasize healing by relying on both clinical intuition and scientific research, as too much focus on one or the other is not in the best interest of the patient. 

 

Holistic Medicine: How To Define It

 

We are probably all familiar with things that are tough to define,
but that we recognize when we see them. No, I’m not planning on talking
about that one

The term I have in mind is: holistic.

I practice holistic medicine. Specifically, for the past decade, I have directed a rather unique clinic that provides what we call ‘evidence-based integrative care.’ We have published and presented details of the model.

People tend to have a strong sense of what holistic means, whether or not they can actually define it. Detractors see it as an indication of quackery
without looking past the label. Proponents embrace it as an emblem of
virtuous humanism. Holistic is good, and all else … less so.

But if that is really true — if holistic care is better (I’m among
those who believes it is) — then a workable definition is important.
First, so that people who want to sign up for holistic care — to give
it, or receive it — know what they are signing up for, exactly. And
second, and more importantly, because you can’t practice what you can’t
define. Unless we can say just what holistic care is, it can’t be
taught, tested, replicated, or improved.

The medical version of TheFreeDictionary tells
us that holistic care is: “a system of comprehensive or total patient
care that considers the physical, emotional, social, economic, and
spiritual needs of the person; his or her response to illness; and the
effect of the illness on the ability to meet self-care needs.”

I am comfortable with this in theory, but not in practice. In
practice, it begs the question: how, exactly, do you do that? What does
considering ‘physical, emotional, social, economic, and spiritual needs’
look like in a doctor/patient encounter? What is a clinician actually
supposed to do in a room with a patient so that the care that transpires
between them is holistically concordant with this definition?

Let’s acknowledge that platitudes don’t really help. Of course, a
holistic practitioner looks beyond a battered body part to the whole
body; looks beyond the body to the mind and spirit; looks beyond the
individual to the body politic of which they are an intimate part; and,
if responsible, looks at the body of pertinent scientific evidence as
well.

But a devotion to holism does not impart mystical prowess to
clinician, or patient. No one gets a magic wand that allows for a
complex array of medical problems to be fixed all at once. Holistic
care is, in fact, most important when it’s hardest to do — when there
is a lot that needs fixing. I suppose there may be a holistic way to
suture the finger of a healthy, young person lacerated while dicing
zucchini, but I doubt it would matter much. It does, however, matter a
great deal in complex cases of chronic illness, attendant despair,
social isolation, and hopelessness. And at such times, it’s really hard!

Here’s an illustration, based on any number of patients we’ve treated
over the years. Consider a woman of roughly 70, who comes to the
clinic ostensibly to get dietary advice because she wants to lose
weight. She is, indeed, obese — with a body mass index of 32. She has
high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes, and is on medication for these.
Her husband passed away 4 years ago, and she lives alone. She is
lonely, tends toward sadness, and is always tired. She sleeps poorly.

She eats in part because she is often hungry, in part to get
gratification she doesn’t get from other sources. She does not exercise
because she has arthritis that makes even walking painful. Her arthritis
has worsened as her weight has gone up, putting more strain on already
taxed hips and knees. Medication for her joint pains irritates her
stomach, and worsens her hypertension. There’s more, but you get the
idea.

I regret to say that medical practice propagates its own uncouth
vernacular, resorted to in part to relieve the pressure of 30 hour
shifts and life and death crises. Much of the slang is too shameful to
share, but one term is especially germane to a case such as the one
above: circling the drain. A complex array of medical, emotional and
social problems really can resemble a cascade in which each malady
worsens another, and the net effect is a downward spiral into despondent
disability. Circling the drain is crude, but apt.

I present the term here because it actually has hidden utility. If
you can descend one degenerating spiral at a time, you can reverse
engineer the process — and ascend the same way! In my view, that is
what holistic care — in its practical details — needs to be.

For the hypothetical case in question, and innumerable real people
like her, reversing a descent begins with one well prioritized move in
the other direction. So, for instance, it is likely that this woman has
markedly impaired sleep, due perhaps to sleep apnea. A test and
intervention to address this effectively may be the best first move for a
number of reasons.

Poor sleep can cause, and/or compound
depression; poor sleep invariably lowers pain thresholds, making things
hurt that otherwise might not, and things that would hurt anyway, hurt
more; poor sleep leads to unrestrained and emotional eating; poor sleep
leads to hormonal imbalances that foster hypertension, insulin
resistance, and weight gain; and poor sleep saps energy that might
otherwise be used for everything from social interactions, to exercise.

Whether a focus on sleep is the right first step will vary with the
patient, of course. But let’s imagine that in this case it is a good
choice, as I have found it to be on a number of occasions. So, we
intervene accordingly — just to improve sleep. So far, this doesn’t
sound defensibly holistic. But it does sound like something the patient
might be able to tolerate.

But as soon as sleep does improve, the benefits start to accrue. Ms.
Patient has a bit less pain, a bit more energy, and a slightly more
hopeful outlook. So now that she has some more resources, we ask more of
her. We now need her to invest these benefits back into herself! Let’s
use that energy to start a gentle exercise regimen (water-based if need
be to avoid joint strain); initiate some social activity of interest to
get some stimulation and purpose reintroduced; and perhaps begin the
process of dietary improvements to address the weight loss goals
initially espoused. We might also start a course of massage therapy or
acupuncture to further alleviate joint pain, now that Ms. P believes
feeling better is possible.

A little exercise further improves energy, and sleep, and
self-esteem; and actually helps ease joint pain. Less pain further
improves energy, sleep — and willingness to exercise. Social engagement
— perhaps a church or civic group — confers gratification that no
longer needs to come from food. Hormonal rebalancing that occurs with
restoration of circadian rhythms alleviates constant hunger. Diet
improves. Medication doses are dialed down. Helpful supplements may be
started.

Weight loss starts. Energy goes up. Joint pain improves some more.
Physical activity becomes less and less problematic, and increases
incrementally. Energy and sleep improve further, weight loss picks up.
With more hope, and more opportunity to get out, Ms. P establishes, or
reestablishes social contacts that restore friendship and love to their
rightful place in her life. Her spirit rises, and with it, the energy
she has to invest back into her own vitality.

And so on — with many time consuming details left out, of course.
This may sound like wishful thinking — but it’s a rewarding reality I
have been privileged to help choreograph innumerable times over the past
decade.

If the erosion of health is a degenerating spiral, then its reclamation is a spiral staircase.
Which leads to the good news, and bad, about holistic care, practically
— and practicably — defined. The good news is that with real
dedication and a commitment to one another and the process, almost every
clinician and patient can find a way to ascend at least some distance
toward the heights of holistic vitality. The bad news is that I’ve yet
to see a helicopter fly in to get anyone there in one fell swoop. We all
need to be realistic. The climb is made one step at a time.

Dr. David L. Katz; www.davidkatzmd.com