Thursday, November 11, 2010

Going Gluten Free - The Trouble with Gluten

In the health world, fads are simply the norm. Whether its high-carb, low-fat or high-protein, low-carb or anything in between there is no shortage of fad diets and new waves of thinking about eating. This is especially true for gluten. Grocery stores, specialty shops, and even italian restaurants are offering gluten-free menu items and food products. So gluten-free appears to be just another fad right? As you will see, nothing could be farther from the truth.

We are beginning to learn that the protein glaidin (gluten) found in wheat, barely, and rye is a major health threat. It is not a problem with gluten, per se, but a problem with our modern immune systems. Our immune systems are responsible for one simple but profoundly important task - to differentiate between "self" and "non-self". Its like our own internal armed forces. Their job is to protect the citizens (self) from the aggressors (non-self). Simple idea with major health consequences when it goes awry.

Gluten-free might be viewed as a just a fad that will fade with time. I'm here to tell you that in ten years gluten-free will be as mainstream as fat-free. The scientific evidence continues to mount and is profound in its implications. Gluten is a problem for tens of millions of Americans due to genetic and environmental factors that have rendered their bodies susceptible to an autoimmune reaction. Once only a minor aspect of our diet, gluten (named for glue-like properties) has made its way into products from ice cream to soy sauce and everything in between. Needless to say the modern garbage food we eat is loaded with gluten.

What is gluten sensitivity really?...

1) Gluten sensativity means that gluten/gliadin causes the immune system to malfunction.

2) Celiac disease is a subcategory of gluten sensativity. 1% of the population has celiac's disease while another 40% has a genetic predisposition to have an immune reaction to gluten.

3) Any symptom can be caused by gluten reactions. You may not even "feel" that you have a sensativity, yet your tissues and thus your physiology are being attacked by the immune system because of gluten in your diet.

A list of common conditions associated with gluten sensitivity:
* Microscopic colitis
* Relatives of gluten-sensitive individuals
* Gluten-sensitive individuals 1 year after treatment
* Chronic diarrhea of unknown origin
* Irritable bowel syndrome
* Inflammatory bowel disease
* Gastroesophageal reflux disease
* Hepatitis C
* Autoimmune liver disease
* Other causes of chronic liver disease
* Dermatitis herpetiformis
* Diabetes mellitus, type 1
* Rheumatoid arthritis
* Sjogren's syndrome
* Lupus
* Scleroderma
* Autoimmune thyroid disease
* Dermatomyositis
* Psoriasis
* Any autoimmune syndrome
* Chronic Fatigue
* Fibromyalgia
* Asthma
* Osteoporosis
* Iron deficiency
* Short stature in children
* Down's syndrome
* Mothers of kids with neural tube defects
* Female infertility
* Peripheral neuropathy
* Cerebellar ataxia
* Seizure disorders
* Psychiatric disorders
* Depression
* Alcoholism
* Autism

4) 70% of our immune system lives in our GI tract, so any toxins in our diet are quickly identified by our immune cells. In those 40% (nearly half) of Americans who are predisposed to be sensitive, whenever gluten is eaten, the immune system creates inflammation.

5) The immune system is trying to destroy gluten (the gliadin protein) but since other tissues in the body are somewhat similar, it ends up attacking the body as well. There cannot be pain in the body without inflammation, and since gluten creates inflammation, it can be a source of pain in joints, muscles, organs...basically anywhere in the body!

6) Gluten sensitivity is NOT just a gut condition. Gluten sensitivity is a system-wide autoimmune condition where inflammation and tissue destruction can attack cells in areas from the skin, gut, or brain. Its this gut-immune-brain connection that leads many astray in trying to understand this condition. Because the toxic effects of gluten are felt all over the body, almost any symptom can be caused by this inflammatory immune response. Importantly, gluten sensitivity has a special fondness for destroying tissue in the nervous system, which is the most critical portion of our human body.

7) The main reason we avoid gluten is that it simply has no nutritional value at all. It is completely unnecessary for health and well-being.

8) More importantly, anyone with an autoimmune disease must never eat gluten ever again. The relationship is over! You cannot be a little pregnant and if you have an autoimmune disease you must calm down the immune system in order to live a quality life. If gluten causes the immune system to ramp up and go nuts, then you are making yourself sicker every time you put it in your mouth.

9) Autoimmune diseases are the 3rd leading cause of death worldwide. Gluten for an autoimmune patient is like throwing gasoline on a fire. It forces the overactive immune system into further dysfunction. The path to health requires that we leave gluten behind!

10) Life without gluten is great! Without gluten we are eating the way we were designed to eat - fresh vegetable, meats, and fruits. You will be better when you give up gluten!

Remember that gluten is not the problem. It is our immune system's reaction to it that deteriorates our health. In the support of metabolic health in those with autoimmune diseases, the focus should be on modulation of the immune system with natural means. The autoimmune patient today in the 21st century has an array of effective, affordable, and natural approaches that will strengthen their overall systemic health.

Its important to realize that pharmaceutical interventions designed to treat autoimmune diseases often only target the symptoms and offer no real long term efficacy for resolution of the disease. Immunosuppressant drugs are often used to manage symptoms. Patients may get better for a while, but the CAUSE of the immune malfunction is never addressed. And besides, suppressing the immune system can lead to horrible afflictions like cancer and viral infections as a side effect. Obviously if you have an autoimmune disease and you continue to put toxic antigens in your body (gluten, or dairy, soy etc.) which drive your immune system wild, how will you ever "cure" anything?

Here's an idea. Why not remove the antigens like gluten and others from the diet. This information comes straight out of peer-reviewed literature in the most highly respected journals in the world. There is no "big money" in treatments where people can cure their disease by changing their eating habits. But maybe that is okay. Maybe its okay to earn a little money helping people get better naturally, without poisoning them with pharmaceuticals which are dubiously tested and researched to begin with.

Let me finish by saying that if I had an autoimmune disease there are three things I would do. First I would completely remove anything in my diet that could stimulate my immune system into overdrive which would contribute to my condition. Second I would work with a chiropractor who is skilled with nutrition and under their care use high quality nutritional support to further help balance my immune system. And third I would have that chiropractor work on a treatment program designed to create a stronger, healthier brain. Since the brain controls everything in the body, having it work at its highest level will result in an immune system that is more balanced and healthy.

Remember that if you have an autoimmune disease and it is attacking your thyroid, that there is nothing wrong with your thyroid! That is where the medical model fails miserably. Any treatment designed to support the thyroid without addressing the cause of the autoimmune attack is a waste of time. The thyroid is working fine, its just under attack. If you quell the attack, then the thyroid will do its job. That is where we should aim treatment and if you follow the advice and links on this blog, you will find such practitioners who can help you make great strides in your quest for health.

Information from Internationally Recognized Natural Health Professionals

Thyroid 360

Diet and Lifestyle Resources

Celiac Disease Foundation

Celiac Disease & Gluten-free Diet Information

Friday, August 13, 2010

Toxins in the Home - Cosmetics

Below you will find a great video which highlights a major route of toxic exposure in our lives. The power of marketing is profound and we are living in a world where garbage and poison is packaged with beautiful packages and pushed by gorgeous celebrities. We begin to ignore what the products are made of, but instead focus on what the products represent - sex, power, self-esteem, success...Do not assume this is by accident. The only way to successfully navigate the minefield of modern life with your health intact is to raise your awareness. Take a minute and watch this excellent video which puts the facts out there for all to see.

It is important to remember that we should only put things on our skin that we would be okay putting in our mouths. Our bodies are one harmonious unit and whatever enters our skin, enters our body. This is especially true under the arms where there exist large sweat glands and pores which open up and allow whatever products we use to enter our bodies. A large part of taking back your health starts with using non-toxic personal care products.

Try this at home:
1. Grab a product from your bathroom you suspect may be toxic.
2. Navigate to where you can type in the name of your product.
3. Read the evidence and then decide if that is a product you wish to keep using.
4. IF your product is toxic - THROW IT OUT!
5. Search for safe products that will leave you feeling clean, refreshed, and unpolluted!

When you are considering a practitioner or health care provider, it is important to realize that most medical and alternative practitioners are unaware of the toxic burdens we encounter every day. The medical profession is predisposed to cover up the symptoms of toxicity by suppressing physiology. The alternative health care modalities offer more hope by using holistic approaches, but still many fall short. Make sure you find a natural, holistic health care provider who is trained in the use of Functional Medicine and Clinical Nutrition. These select practitioners are trained to work with your physiology using natural, safe vitamins and minerals to help reduce the toxic burden of your body. A common program will consist of a modified elimination diet, a medical food powder, and various other nutritional complexes designed for your specific biological profile. How cool is that to have health care designed around you as an individual?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

DC - Doctor of Cause

Doctor of Chiropractic is written DC and it means Doctor of Cause. That distinction is important in a world where most decisions are made by treating symptoms. The assumption is erroneous that by suppressing symptoms the body will be healthier. What we call symptoms - runny noses, sneezing, headaches, muscle aches, etc. - are intelligent responses by the body to rid itself of an offending substance. The body never makes mistakes. Never. If perfection exists in this Universe then I suggest the human body as a perfect example.

Being a Doctor of Cause means that a Chiropractor is a healer. Healing is not about covering something up, or kicking the can down the road to deal with it later. Its all about doing the right thing, the difficult thing, to correct the underlying problem. That is healing. Its getting to the root cause of the problem no matter how difficult or frightening that might be.

Our culture is in crisis on many levels, esp. financially where we are collectively kicking the can down the road for the next group of people to bail us out or or deal with our debt. The analogy to the human body is pertinent. By going into debt, borrowing beyond our means, encouraging consumption, we have created a swath of financial and moral cancer that is slowly killing the patient - our economy. The debt and materialism are consuming our resources like a metastatic tumor, taking wealth without producing more in its place. Treating the cause of the problem - too much debt, not enough savings - requires touch decisions, personal sacrifice, careful planning and discipline.

Its the same with our human bodies. People want to have a quick fix. A magic pill. The fantasy that a lifetime of wrong decisions can be rectified without any personal effort, growth, or sacrifice is a powerful one - just look at the strong sales of pharmaceutical drugs. The trouble is that a drug without side-effects is no drug at all. Hundreds of millions of people are taking powerful, dangerous drugs for conditions that could be treated with holistic, natural, and safe health care. We are collectively very sick because everything is out of balance in our lives. The great lie is that only Medicine can cure what ails you, and since Medicine is another way of saying drugs and surgery, then that's all you are going to get! With few exceptions, an MD today is mostly just a drug-doctor. That's the only tool they have. Its effective in life-threatening situations, but entirely counter-productive and outright devastating 95% of the time when the root cause of the problem is simply glossed over by taking drugs that mask symptoms.

Listen, I was raised to believe that we are the greatest country on Earth. If that is true then why are we the sickest first-world nation in the world? Something doesn't compute. The issue is not whether or not we know how to fix our problems of disease in America. The issue is are we willing? Sadly there is so much money to be made in the unnecessary suffering of human beings that the task of getting healthy lies squarely on the shoulders of individuals. It will not come from the top down so the issue then is one of individuals choosing the right path, the life that resonates with their spirit - the path of healing.

Chiropractic is the greatest profession of healing ever gifted to mankind. Chiropractors are educated at the same level of scientific understanding and technical knowledge as medical doctors. Philosophy is the difference between those that treat symptoms and those that treat causes. Chiropractic philosophy is based on the premise that the world is inherently a spiritual world manifest in the physical realm. Modern science confirms what Chiropractic has said for a long time - that the mind controls matter. Read Bruce Lipton for more information on that topic.

There is no better healing profession than one where doctors are trained to understand and treat the cause of disease. These are healers. They are unique and powerful persons who are licensed by the law of the land to physically touch another human. The greatness of chiropractic comes from the skills of the hands. Touch is an act of power and should be regarded with utmost respect. A skilled chiropractor will understand the language of medicine and science and apply the latest advances in clinical nutrition, lifestyle, exercise, rehabilitation, neurology, etc. to create health from the inside out. This is the difference between being a Healer and a mechanic.

If you think that the human body is simply a machine, destined to perform preprogrammed functions over and over until the end, then you won't need a healer, you'll need a mechanic. It doesn't matter if you treat the machine like crap for 20 years, you'll just swap out parts as they wear out. This is the attitude people have with their bodies. Just keep abusing it until something needs to be replaced. These same people will be taking better care of their 20 thousand dollar cars that they can go and replace once they wear it out than they will of their own body. We only have a single body, one, and its ours to take care of!

What makes Chiropractic great is that there are no drugs or surgeries involved in getting patients well. Its about changing your life. Health is a reward for correct decisions. By touching patients with their hands chiropractors communicate to the patient on a level few other practitioners ever will. Imagine how powerful a doctor would be if this person knew the skills of the naturopath, the science and biochemistry of the medical doctor, and then combined everything with vast knowledge of caring for the human structure. That is a potent combination that can handle everything life throws at us, save those rare emergencies where medical attention at hospitals is absolutely necessary. Using the principals of treating subluxations, of using nutrition, and of educating patients on being healthy, Chiropractors represent the future of healing. The future of healing is bright for those with the courage and open mind to work with a chiropractor on finding the root cause of disease. Remember, DC means Doctor of Cause.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Peripheral Neuropathy: a Functional Perspective

Lately I've been busy researching the mechanisms behind a disorder that has effected two important people in my life. The disorder is called peripheral neuropathy. Simply stated that stands for pathology of nerves in the peripheral nervous system. Remember that the peripheral nervous system (PNS) is what brings information from "out there" into "in here". In other words, the PNS is what connects us with the world around us. All the sensations of cold, hot, pain, and vibration are carried by this system. Not only that, but the PNS is the data-gathering part of the central nervous system (CNS). The CNS is the main frame computer that runs the human experience and the PNS is all the sensors and data collectors that feed it. Just a simple explanation to help set the stage for what I'm about to talk about next.

The PNS also performs a very important task of telling the CNS where the body is in space. This may seem minor but it is a huge factor. The PNS has sensors all over the outside shell, or soma, of the body. Thousands of these sensors exist per square inch of skin and they also innervate the fascia, muscle, and joint surfaces of the body. If only we could conceive of a computer with this much sensitivity and intelligence!

Now it is important to note that the basic histology, or design, of the PNS nervous system involves a nerve body and axon. The nerve body serves as the brain of the individual neuron as it houses the nucleus, organelles, mitochondria, DNA, etc. This nerve body exists adjacent to the spinal cord in what is termed the dorsal root ganglion. The axon then grows during our fetal and infant development from the spinal cord to say, the outside of our foot. What I'm saying is that axon can be several feet long, traveling all the way from the outside of our feet or tips of fingers to the very edge of the spinal cord. The important point to get here is not to remember all this terminology but to start to build a picture in your mind of what we are talking about when we explain peripheral neuropathy.

What happens during peripheral neuropathy is that the nerve transmissions from far away places like the feet start to malfunction. Peripheral neuropathy affects the distal portions of our body first because the farther things are away from the core viscera, the more difficult it is to maintain healthy tissue. Its like when a plant dries out, it starts at the tips of the leaves farthest from the center and then dries out towards the stem. It is the same with the human body as those with peripheral neuropathy know that it begins in the feet but can progress to make its way up the ankle, then knee, then hip, etc. Its just a simple fact that providing nutrition to and removing toxins from areas of the body becomes more difficult as we get further from the heart. This is why when people start to lose neurological sensation like touch and vibration in their feet it is a warning sign that potentially could lead to more serious complications. Peripheral neuropathy is serious because of its effect on our activities of daily living - try walking and exercising when you cannot feel your feet!

The cause of the neuropathy can be multi-factoral but likely it is due to either a compromise in microvascular circulation and/or a dysregulation of fat metabolism. When nerves are injured they lose their function first in the most distal portion as we have already pointed out. This is why pain, tingling, and numbness in the feet are warning signs that PNS neurons are malfunctioning. As an example, in type 2 diabetes patients suffer from a multitude of symptoms including peripheral neuropathy that is often so severe that limbs are progressively amputated. Basically the nerve supply and blood supply are so compromised that no oxygen gets into tissues in the feet and large infections begin to take hold. This is a worse case scenario but does happen to many diabetics.

In the case of the two important people in my life, neither one are diabetics per se, but clearly there is an underlying set of metabolic conditions that is promoting the dysfunction of their peripheral nerves. Lets examine briefly by what mechanisms the nervous system can be affected in peripheral neuropathy and what measures can be taken by your astute chiropractor and natural healer to correct the underlying issues without resorting to dangerous drugs and surgeries.

Looking at the compromise in circulation we can understand how this will stress the nervous system because without the ability to expel toxins and take in nutrients the nerve cell will become toxic. More likely the Schwann cells that surround the axon will deteriorate which causes the transmission to be interrupted. Its just like losing the insulation of any electrical wire - without the high resistance and low capacitance of the insulating material, the electrical signal will leak out of the wire. And in the case of human nerves, the signal for vibration may be lost somewhere between the foot and the spinal cord because the nerve tissue has lost is insulation called myelination.

This loss of myelination is key in thinking about peripheral neuropathy. Once a clinician has ruled out upper motor neuron lesions, CNS problems, MS, etc. we are left with basic dysfunction of peripheral nerves. Losing the insulation of the nerve is possible when there is a great deal of inflammation in the body. As the blood inflames the body reacts to suppress it, releasing cholesterol and other blood-born anti-oxidant molecules. All of this is fine but when the blood becomes inflamed, all sorts of reactive molecules are present. This makes the blood "thicker" and more sludge like which makes it harder to pump into small vessels as effectively. So the big idea here is that with increased systemic inflammation, due to low anti-oxidant levels combined with modern high sugar, high fat, nutrient-deficient foods, the micro-vascular does not get as much blood. Less blood means less nutrition and less removal of toxins. It also alters the pH, creating more acidosis locally since CO2 is removed by hemoglobin. All these factors - thick blood, acid pH, high oxidation - will make it hard for the Schwann cells to keep the nerve properly insulated. This is one source of PNS dysfunction.

As I mentioned the other issue we deal with is fat metabolism gone awry. The same forces which compromise micro-circulation and promote inflammation in the blood will negatively effect how the neuron, way up by the spinal cord, will be able to produce energy. As we eat processed garbage, we get a huge amount of energy - glucose and fat - with very little anti-oxidants and vitamins to help us deal with all the energy. Too much energy is just as dangerous as too little. When you need to heat your house, you don't douse your fireplace with wood and gasoline just because more energy is better. You pick the right amount of logs and kindling and stay balanced between burning your house down and freezing. Your body is no different.

Insulin is required for the glucose and free fatty acids to enter most cells in the body. And we all know that Diabetes has "something" to do with insulin. Well as it turns out neurons are special cells who are so important to our survival that the innate intelligence of the human body designed them so they could get glucose into the cell without insulin. This is a blessing when blood glucose levels are low because this will guarantee that the CNS and PNS are fueled with energy so we can survive long enough to locate another source of food. However, this is a curse when we live in a world were people eat such toxic food.

As we consume processed food that is highly glycemic and high in energy but low in nutrition, our blood sugar spikes and remains elevated until we can secrete enough insulin to bring it down. Diabetics have insulin problems and they are not able to reduce their blood sugar effectively, which leads them to be susceptible to peripheral neuropathy. Excess blood sugar causes inflammation as discussed above, but it also forces neurons to absorb more glucose than they need. And when neurons are getting more glucose than they need, which happens via passive diffusion, they must convert the excess they do not need into free fatty acids. These free fatty acids are themselves converted into triglycerides which is the body's preferred method of energy storage - typical "fat" tissue.

As these neurons continually store more and more fats, the levels of free fatty acids inside the cell increase as the neuron begins to be saturated with too much energy. As these molecules are reactive, they start to create inflammation INSIDE the cell - a process called Lipotoxicity or toxic levels of fat. This results in damage to the mitochondria and other cell organelles. The net effect of this energy toxic scenario is that the neuron is both drowning in excess glucose and fat while at the same time losing the ability to effectively burn those molecules to create energy. This was all caused by the fact that the patient is consuming too many refined foods with high calorie loads while simultaneously not exercising or being physically active. This creates an environment where the neuron, just like other body cells, is forced to soak up this high blood sugar.

Now this neuron which has been drinking up blood glucose and storing it as fat eventually gets saturated with fats and this begins to interrupt the process of burning fat for energy. As the neuron becomes less efficient at producing energy, it can no longer effectively communicate with its most distal end. Thus as the neuron loses its ability to efficiently create energy, due to a lipotoxic effect, the transmission of nerve impulses along its axon is compromised.

In conclusion the reason for peripheral neuropathy in patients can be due to a lipotoxicity that is occuring in the neuron. The neuron is energy toxic with too much glucose entering the cell that must be converted to free fatty acids and stored as triglycerides. As this process occurs the cell cannot efficiently create energy. The oxidative stress and inflammation from excess energy in the cell (in the form of glucose and free fatty acids) damages organelles and mitochondria reducing the capacity for the cell to create ATP.

A natural practitioner will correct these deficits by directing the patient to alter their diet along the lines of the Modified Elimination Diet. Then the practioner will use the following supplements to help the neurons create energy efficiently and restore function to the peripheral nerve:

Acetyl L Carnitine - Helps cells burn fat by shuttling fats into the mitochondria to be burned for ATP.
Resveratrol - A powerful anti-inflammatory that quenches inflammation which is damaging the cells ability to efficiently oxidize energy.
Alpha Lipoic Acid - A power anti-oxidant that also protects the cell's membranes and promotes function of the mitochondria.

These supplements will aid the pathways of the cell which are involved in burning fat. This process is called beta oxidation and is different than the citric acid cycle. By using high doses of natural, safe vitamins and minerals a knowledgeable natural doctor can use the body's own systems to help heal it. Alpha lipoic acid and resveratrol will suppress inflammation while L-carnitine will help get the free fatty acids turned into useful ATP for nerve impulse transmission.

Using dietary changes and the above supplements in an intensive protocol, natural practitioners may be able to reverse the effects of peripheral neuropathy. The underlying cause of peripheral neuropathy may be that the neuron is toxic from excess energy consumption. By opening up the pathways inside the body that help cells burn fat more efficiently, neurons and other body cells will respond by lowering their toxic, pro-inflammatory burden. Once a doctor understands the complex nature of physiology, he or she can use simple, safe alternatives to expensive and risky drugs and surgeries to correct what is wrong with the human body.