Friday, July 10, 2015

Dehydration....What it can do to the body.

While most people are under the assumption that they are getting enough water in their bodies each day, the reality is that many people are walking around partially dehydrated and don’t realize it. Relying on thirst alone does not give you the best indication, as this means you’ve already fallen below an optimal intake and are in the earliest stages of dehydration. Planning and just “getting in the routine” of drinking more water are two of the easiest strategies you can take, and may be some of the best at protecting your health on a very basic, but necessary, level.

The human body is about 60% water and almost every major organ system of the body is dependent on it for proper functioning. If you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms, think about inadequate water intake as a possible culprit or contributor:

Running hot or cold frequently – It may not be just fluctuations with hormones like estrogen or thyroid hormone. Water helps regulate your body temperature by producing sweat to cool the body down and to keep the blood circulating through the body to help transfer or dissipate heat.

Muscle cramps – beyond nerve irritation and mineral or electrolyte imbalances, dehydration of our muscles can cause cramping or spasms. Since our muscles are approximately 75% water, it is critical that we keep them properly hydrated.

Brain fog or poor concentration – your cognitive functions and ability to concentrate are diminished right along with your water intake. This could also impact things like reaction time or job performance. Keep your water intake high, right along with your omega-3 essential fatty acids.
Joint aches and pains – if your diet is low in sugars and other pro-inflammatory foods like vegetable oils and trans fats, give your water intake a boost. All of our joints need proper lubrication to keep motion fluid and the cartilage healthy.

Headaches – too much alcohol or caffeine can both lead to headaches as they act like natural diuretics in the body and cause you to lose more water (thus the headache “the next morning”). If you do partake, or deal with frequent headaches not related to nerve irritation in the neck, try upping your water intake.

And remember, we also need plenty of water to help our bodies with detoxification and to assist the kidneys in flushing out toxins and waste products. But how much water do we need? The old rule of thumb that everyone needs eight 8-oz glasses per day is a general guideline, but doesn’t take into account size differences and activity level. A better method is to divide your body weight in half and take that number as the number of ounces of water you should be taking in each day. If you are very active outdoors or in the gym and sweating, then increase your consumption accordingly.

Since we exhale water and carbon dioxide all night long while we are sleeping, a good thing to do to start the day is to get a big glass of water into your system first thing in the morning. That way, you are already on track with helping meet your body’s daily needs and you’ve got a head start on decreasing your risk for any of the above-mentioned symptoms. Water is a foundational key to helping us maintain an optimal level of health, so don’t let this easy health maintenance habit fall by the wayside. Drink up!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Cause of Acid Reflux....A Common Misconception

Ever feel a burning sensation that starts in your stomach and radiates up through your chest?  This sensation is known as acid reflux or “heartburn”, and is very common.  Acid reflux affects about 50 percent of Americans today.  Gastroesophageal reflux disease or Peptic Ulcer disease are other common terms for this condition as well. 

There is a misconception that acid reflux is cause by too much acid in your stomach, and is conventionally treated with acid-blocking medications.  This misunderstood condition adversely affects many people, as heartburn is actually caused by too little acid.

When you swallow your food, it passes through your esophagus and then into your stomach.  There is a muscular valve between your esophagus and stomach called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES).  After food reaches the stomach, the LES closes, preventing food from moving back up into the esophagus.  Acid reflux occurs when the LES relaxes inappropriately, allowing acid from your stomach to flow (reflux) backward into your esophagus. It's important to understand that acid reflux is not a disease caused by excessive acid production in your stomach; rather it's a symptom more commonly related to:
    Hiatal hernia
    Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection
Although a Hiatal hernia and H. pylori are unrelated, it is not uncommon for an individual to have both conditions simultaneously.  This can lead to chronic inflammation of the stomach lining, and can eventually result in an ulcer.  (Mercola) 
Proton pump inhibitors (PPI’s) are the most commonly prescribed drugs for heartburn and acid reflux, which designed to block acid production in the stomach.  Since stomach acid is creeping up into your esophagus when you suffer from acid reflux, it may make sense to most to block acid production in order treat it.  However, this is often the worst approach possible, since it is typically caused by too little acid production in the stomach. 
There are over 16,000 articles in the medical literature showing that suppressing stomach acid does not address the problem. It only temporarily treats the symptoms.
PPIs like Nexium, Prilosec, and Prevacid were originally designed to treat a very limited range of severe problems. According to Mitchell Katz, director of the San Francisco Department of Public Health, who wrote an editorial on this topic, proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) are only warranted for the treatment of:
    Bleeding ulcers
    Zollinger-Ellison syndrome (a rare condition that causes your stomach to produce excess acid)
    Severe acid reflux, where an endoscopy has confirmed that your esophagus is damaged
According to Katz, "about 60 to 70 percent of people taking these drugs have mild heartburn and shouldn't be on them." Part of the problem with PPIs is that when you suppress the amount of acid in your stomach, you decrease your body's ability to kill the helicobacter bacteria. So if your heartburn is caused by an H. pylori infection, it actually makes your condition worse and perpetuates the problem. Besides that, reducing acid in your stomach diminishes your primary defense mechanism for food-borne infections, which will increase your risk of food poisoning. PPI drugs can also cause potentially serious side effects, including pneumonia, bone loss, hip fractures, and infection with Clostridium difficile (a harmful intestinal bacteria). (Katz)
There are some natural ways to treat the actual cause of acid reflux, rather than just suppress the symptoms.  Balancing and restoring the balance of bacteria in the GI tract is key.  Having an unhealthy balance of good and bad bacteria can promote overgrowth of harmful bacteria, and lead to infections, such as H. pylori.  This healthy balance is important not only for relief of acid reflux, but also for optimal gut function and long-term health as your gut flora can increase absorption of nutrients and is important for mental and physical health.  Eating a diet high in processed foods and sugars increases unhealthy bacteria, and is a breeding ground for infections such as H.pylori.  Thus, cutting out processed foods and reaching for whole food sources is the best way to achieve the proper balance.  It is also important to make sure you are consuming enough good bacteria from fermented foods, or from a probiotic supplement.  This will help to eliminate Helicobacter bacteria naturally. (Mercola)

Works Cited

Katz, MH. "Failing the acid test: benefits of proton pump inhibitors may not justify the risks for many users." Internal Medicine (2010): 747-748.

Mercola, Dr. 28 04 2014. 1 05 2015 <>.

Leaky Gut....What does this mean for our Body?

The small intestine is composed of cells called enterocytes that make up the membrane and prevent food particles from being absorbed into the blood stream.  When these cells become damaged, and gaps form allowing food particles to enter the blood stream, this is know as “leaky guy syndrome”.   This is problematic because our bodies were not designed to have food particles floating around in our blood.  When this happens, our immune system is alerted of something foreign in our system, and the inflammatory cascade kicks in in efforts to dispose of it.  Over time, this leads to excessive inflammation in the body, and the immune system will often become “confused” and begin attacking our own tissues, thinking they are foreign.  This is referred to as autoimmunity. 

Did you know that 80% of our immune system is in our gut?  Therefore, if our GI tract is not healthy, we are likely to have disease or side effects that can manifest in various ways.  Some examples include hypothyroidism, Hashimotos, eczema, rosacea, arthritis, sinus issues, just to name a few.  That being said, a lot of diseases can be addressed through repairing the GI tract, and restoring its optimal function. 

It is important to identify any food sensitivities and food triggers that may further the damage to the intestinal damage.   Genetically modified organisms, antibiotics, gluten, processed sugar and dairy are some of the key ones to avoid.  Other people will most likely have other food sensitivities that they need to identify and eliminate from their diet as well.  There is a growing body of scientific evidence showing that grains contain anti-nutrients and other problem substances that may increase intestinal permeability. This includes Gliadin, which is the primary immunotoxic protein found in wheat gluten and is among the most damaging to your health. Gliadin gives wheat bread its doughy texture and is capable of increasing the production of the intestinal protein zonulin, which in turn opens up gaps in the normally tight junctures between intestinal cells (enterocytes).

In celiac disease the body will make antibodies to gliadin after it is digested by the intestinal enzyme tissue transglutaminase, resulting in severe autoimmune damage to the delicate, absorptive surfaces of the intestines. It does not, however, require full-blown celiac disease to suffer from the adverse effects of this protein. In fact, it is likely that our intolerance to gliadin and related wheat proteins is a species-specific intolerance, applicable to all humans, with the difference being a matter of the degree to which it causes harm. (Mercola)  This helps to explain why new research clearly shows gliadin increases intestinal permeability in both those with, and those without, celiac disease. (Drago) (Mercola)
Food is medicine, so some super foods to incorporate into your diet in order to repair “leaky gut syndrome” include bone broth, coconut oil, sauerkraut, fermented vegetables, cabbage, blueberries and goats milk kefir.  Bone broth contains key nutrients, such as proline and L-glutamine, which helps to repair the gap junctions in the small intestine.  Sauerkraut and fermented vegetables feed your GI tract with the healthy bacteria that it needs, or probiotics.  Cabbage contains a specific type of sulfur that supports liver detoxification, and goat’s milk kefir improves mineral absorption. 

There are also some key supplements that will aid in the repair of the small intestine if you suffer from leaky gut syndrome.  Probiotics are very important to maintain a healthy balance of good bacteria in order to ward off disease, especially if you are not getting fermented foods in your diet.  When looking for a supplement, look for one with 50 billion CFU’s.  Digestive enzymes are also important for helping your body break down foods.  This allows you gut some time to rest so that it can heal.  Adaptogenic herbs can also be a great support for not only the GI tract, but for the thyroid and adrenal glands.  Some of these herbs would include ginseng, ashwaganda or licorice root.  L-glutamine powder is also another great supplement to include into your regimen.  It acts as a band-aid for the gut lining and repairs the intestinal lining.

Works Cited:

Drago, Sandro. "Gliadin causes intestinal permeability in both celiac and non-celiac intestinal mucosa." Scand J Gastroenterology (2006).

Mercola, Joseph. 21 Jan 2012. 14 May 2015 <>.

Vitamin D Deficiency

If you haven’t yet heard about the importance of maintaining optimal vitamin D levels, which has become more prominent over the past decade, then you need to get on top of it. Vitamin D deficiency is incredibly common in the US, but many Americans mistakenly believe they aren’t at risk because they consume vitamin-D-fortified foods (such as milk). The reality is that there are very few foods that actually have therapeutic levels of vitamin D naturally and even fortified foods do not contain enough vitamin D to support your health needs. Despite its name, vitamin D is not a regular vitamin. It's actually a steroid hormone that you are designed to obtain primarily through sun exposure, not via your diet.

Before the year 2000, very few doctors ever considered the possibility that you might be vitamin D deficient. But as more and more studies were done, it became increasingly clear that vitamin D deficiency was absolutely rampant. For example, according to one of the leading vitamin D researchers, Dr. Michael Holick:

·     The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that 32 percent of children and adults throughout the US were vitamin D deficient -- and this is grossly underestimated as they used vitamin D levels that were not consistent with optimal health.
·     The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found that 50 percent of children aged one to five years, and 70 percent of children between the ages of six and 11, are deficient or insufficient in vitamin D
·     Researchers such as Dr. Holick estimate that 50 percent of the general population is at risk of vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency

Researchers have also noted that vitamin D deficiency is prevalent in adults of all ages who always wear sun protection (which blocks vitamin D production) or limit their outdoor activities. People with increased skin pigmentation (such as those whose ancestors are from Africa, the Middle East, or India) are also at risk, as are the elderly. It’s estimated that over 95 percent of US senior citizens may be deficient in vitamin D, not only because they tend to spend a lot of time indoors but also because they produce less in response to sun exposure (a person over the age of 70 produces about 30 percent less vitamin D than a younger person with the same sun exposure).

The only way to know for sure if you’re vitamin D deficient is via blood testing. However, there are some signs and symptoms to be aware of as well. If any of the following apply to you, you should get your vitamin D levels tested sooner rather than later.
  • You have gastrointestinal issues (bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhea, reflux, etc)- Remember, vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, which means if you have a gastrointestinal condition that affects your ability to absorb fat, you may have lower absorption of fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin D as well. This includes gut conditions like Crohn’s, celiac and non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and inflammatory bowel disease.

  • You’re Overweight or Obese-Vitamin D is a fat-soluble, hormone-like vitamin, which means your body fat acts as a "sink" by collecting it. If you're overweight or obese, you're therefore likely going to need more vitamin D than a slimmer person.

  • You’re Fifty or older- As you get older your skin doesn’t make as much vitamin D in response to sun exposure. At the same time, your kidneys become less efficient at converting vitamin D into the form used by your body and older adults tend to spend more time indoors (i.e. getting even less sun exposure and therefore vitamin D).

  • You Feel Down or Depressed- Serotonin, the brain hormone associated with mood elevation, rises with exposure to bright light and falls with decreased sun exposure. In 2006, scientists evaluated the effects of vitamin D on the mental health of 80 elderly patients and found those with the lowest levels of vitamin D were 11 times more prone to be depressed than those who received healthy doses.

  • Your Bones Ache- Many people see their doctors for aches and pains, especially in combination with fatigue, and end up being misdiagnosed as having fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome. These symptoms can be classic signs of vitamin D deficiency osteomalacia, which is different from the vitamin D deficiency that causes osteoporosis in adults. The vitamin D deficiency causes a defect in putting calcium into the collagen matrix into your skeleton. As a result, you have throbbing, aching bone pain.

Obviously, if your sun exposure is minimal (and you’re like the majority of our patients when they first come in to the office) you can pretty much bet the farm that you’ll test deficient. Your optimal vitamin D level should be in the 50-70 ng/dl range when testing for the 25-Hydroxy form. If we find that this is not the case, then the next steps will be to not only ensure that you’re getting the required sources of vitamin D, but to also make sure that your body is healthy enough to fully process what you’re getting into your system.