Tag Archives: inflammation

Fix your pain with your diet

Businesswoman Having Backache At Work

Inflammation is all the rage lately. And rightfully so. Research has shown that chronic inflammation is at the core of most, if not all, of the chronic diseases that affect Americans. But what about chronic pain? Could chronic joint pain, back pain, or muscle pain be caused by chronic inflammation? And can it be alleviated by changing your diet? The answer is yes.

What is Inflammation?

First, we must understand what inflammation is. Inflammation is the term given to describe the biological response that occurs as a result of tissue damage. Bacterial infections, trauma, chemical exposures and dying tissue may all start the inflammatory cascade. In human physiology there are two kinds of inflammation. First, there is the acute form. In this form of inflammation the body responds to an injury by creating an environment that is conducive to healing and tissue repair. The body does this by sending fluids and blood to the area. That’s why the injury swells, turns red and becomes warm to the touch. This is a necessary step after an injury. Acute inflammation is a good thing for the body.

The second type of inflammation, called chronic inflammation, is not a good thing for the body. Chronic inflammation is a lower grade inflammatory response, but it is persistent. Unlike acute inflammation, which resolves, chronic inflammation is a continuous phenomenon that persists silently for years on end. The chronicity of the response is precisely what makes it so problematic. It increases the risk of heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes and many other conditions.

Chronic Inflammation and Pain

How does chronic inflammation affect your pain level? First, it’s important to remember the most widely used pain relievers in the world like ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and aspirin work by reducing inflammation, not by working directly on nerves. This should illustrate the importance of inflammation in producing pain in the human body. However, there are ways to reduce inflammation without resorting to medications, which have serious side-effect profiles, even when taken as directed. The diet is the key.

Dietary-induced chronic inflammation produces an assortment of inflammatory chemicals capable of sensitizing the pain pathways. Moreover, if this sensitization of the pain pathways persists, adaptive responses by the brain cause the sensation of the pain to become exaggerated or inappropriate. The key to fixing this is to reduce the chronic inflammation.

The Pro-Inflammatory Diet

In this country, most people eat a “pro-inflammatory” diet.  That is, they consume food that consistently feeds the inflammatory cascade in the body, leading to chronic inflammation.  As previously pointed out, chronic inflammation leads to tissue destruction and many disease states.  In order to fully understand why our diets lead to this state, we must understand the basics of fatty acids.

Fatty acids are individual molecules that make up triglycerides in our body.  Triglycerides are the storage form of fat that humans use for energy.  In human physiology there are three important fatty acids.  There are omega-3 (n-3), omega-6 (n-6) and omega-9 (n-9) fatty acids.  Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are essential in the human diet.  This means that we must consume them in our diet in order to survive.  Omega-9 fatty acids are classified as non-essential because we are able to synthesize them from other unsaturated fats in our body.  It is the balance of these fatty acids that is critical for controlling and reducing inflammation in human physiology.

First, we must examine the role of fatty acids in our body when speaking about inflammation.  Fatty acids work to produce a variety of chemicals in the body called eicosanoids.  These chemicals are at the heart of the inflammatory cascade.  Some eicosanoids are beneficial while others can contribute to inflammation.  The harmful eicosanoids that contribute to the inflammatory cascade are related to an omega-6 fatty acid called arachidonic acid.  If arachidonic acid is incorporated into a specific eicosanoid then it becomes pro-inflammatory.  If it is not incorporated it becomes anti-inflammatory.  It is arachidonic acid that will fuel the inflammatory cascade, eventually resulting in the production of chemicals capable of sensitizing the pain pathways.

So, we must take a closer look at this specific fatty acid called arachidonic acid.  Arachidonic acid is found preformed in animal products, especially meat.  In addition, it is easily converted in the body from the fatty acids found in grains and vegetable oils like corn, safflower and sunflower oil.  Also, animals fed a steady diet of grain are exceptionally high in arachidonic acid.

Obviously, what we eat will determine our fatty acid profile and potentially contribute to chronic inflammation and pain.  One might think, based on the information given above, that becoming a vegetarian would significantly reduce one’s overall inflammatory load.  And it does make sense especially if we take into account that arachidonic acid is preformed in meat.  It has been shown, however, that the opposite is true.

The average American diet has unfortunately shifted to promote excessive production, storage and utilization of arachidonic acid.  This leads to the over-production of pro-inflammatory eicosanoids.  Research has shown that man evolved with a ratio of omega-6 fatty acids to omega-3 fatty acids of about 1:1.  Today, the average ratio in the diet is anywhere from 10:1 to 20-25:1.  This is disadvantageous because we know that omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory and have a wealth of other health benefits.  Plainly put, our diets have shifted to favor inflammation.

As mentioned earlier, it would seem that vegetarian diets would be most beneficial in creating an anti-inflammatory state because animal products are high in preformed arachidonic acid.  This hypothesis, however, has not held up in clinical studies.  It has been shown that vegetarians, in fact, have a higher plasma level of arachidonic acid and an essentially equal level of arachidonic acid found in red blood cells when compared to meat eaters.  The study also showed that vegetarians have lower levels of the protective and anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, specifically EPA and DHA. This suggests that  vegetarian diets shift people closer to an inflammatory state than they probably desire.

A diet high in fruits, vegetables and healthy proteins and fats it ideal for stopping and preventing chronic inflammation.  This type of diet will invariably be low glycemic.  The glycemic index refers to the effect on blood sugar that a particular food will have.  A food that has a low glycemic index (GI) will raise blood sugar much more slowly than a food with a high GI.  Foods with a low GI are much more beneficial for controlling inflammation because low glycemic foods cause a much smaller response from the hormone insulin.  Insulin is the hormone that’s required for most of the cells in our body to use and store sugar for energy.  Insulin, which is secreted from the pancreas, actually stimulates an enzyme that converts omega-6s into the dreaded arachidonic acid.  So a diet that is high glycemic will cause one’s body to over secrete insulin and further drive the inflammatory cascade.

So a diet high in fruits, vegetables, protein and healthy fat will lead to lower inflammation and greater pain control, but are there are other things you can add into your diet to help? As it turns out, there are. Certain spices have powerful anti-inflammatory effects. Turmeric, ginger, garlic and black pepper all have the potential to reduce inflammation when consumed in the diet. There are many other spices that have anti-inflammatory properties so go ahead, spice up your food! Your body may thank you for it.

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3 Things That Happen To Your Brain With Leaky Gut

Gut health is essential for overall health. That connection is fairly easy to make. But what about your brain? Can the health of your gut really affect your brain? The answer is a resounding yes! Here are three things that happen to your brain when you have a leaky gut.

  1. Depression – the bacteria that naturally exist in our GI tract are mostly beneficial. However, if metabolic byproducts and cell constituents are able to escape the gut they cause a potent inflammatory response. This happens through a “leaky gut.” The resulting response alters levels of inflammatory hormones called cytokines. These cytokines have the ability to communicate with the brain and eventually change neurotransmitter levels. This change in neurotransmission actually begins to rewire the brain leading the changes in how we think and feel. Most often, people begin to feel depressed. 3.02-brain-on-fire
  2. An Inflamed Brain – through the mechanisms just mentioned, not only do your neurotransmitters and thoughts/feelings change, your brain becomes inflamed. This signals the immune cells within the brain, called glial cells, to become very active. This may sound like a good thing, but it’s not. As a result of being activated glial cellsgenerate more inflammation and create oxidative stress. This means the glial cells begin breaking down the brain. This may increase your risk of brain fog, fatigue, depression, anxiety, cognitive decline, and possibly even neurodegenerative disorders like Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
  3. Blood Brain Barrier Breakdown – there is a barrier than exists that separates what is circulating in our blood from our brain. Only things that are beneficial for the brain are supposed to have access to it. The blood brain barrier is an exceptionally important structure. With increased inflammation from a leaky gut and glial activation, the blood brain barrier breaks down. Now toxic byproducts, inflammatory hormones, and other noxious chemicals have free access to the brain. This is a disastrous consequence that interferes with brain function leading to a multitude of symptoms which include depression, brain fog, anxiety, and more. Leaky gut leads to a leaky blood brain barrier!

Gastrointestinal health is essential for brain health. Knowing how to fix the gut can lead to dramatic improvements in how you feel cognitively and emotionally.

For much more information and strategies to improve your gut and brain health join me for a FREE webinar on Tuesday, November 10th at 7:30PM called “The Gut-Brain Connection – Mood, Food, and More!” We’ll explore the amazing connection between gut health and brain health and give you tips and tricks to make both healthy.

Dr. Vreeland is a nationally recognized expert and author in functional medicine and will present information that will be life changing! You don’t want to miss this event!

Click here to register: http://www.anymeeting.com/PIID=EC51D98085463A

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Eight nutrients to protect the brain

Brain health is the second most important component in maintaining a healthy lifestyle according to a 2014 AARP study. As people age they can experience a range of cognitive issues from decreased critical thinking to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. In the March issue of Food Technology published by the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), contributing editor Linda Milo Ohr writes about eight nutrients that may help keep your brain in good shape.

1. Cocoa Flavanols: Cocoa flavanols have been linked to improved circulation and heart health, and preliminary research shows a possible connection to memory improvement as well. A study showed cocoa flavanols may improve the function of a specific part of the brain called the dentate gyrus, which is associated with age-related memory (Brickman, 2014).

2. Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Omega-3 fatty acids have long been shown to contribute to good heart health are now playing a role in cognitive health as well. A study on mice found that omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation appeared to result in better object recognition memory, spatial and localizatory memory (memories that can be consciously recalled such as facts and knowledge), and adverse response retention (Cutuli, 2014). Foods rich in omega-3s include salmon, flaxseed oil, and chia seeds.

3. Phosphatidylserine and Phosphatidic Acid: Two pilot studies showed that a combination of phosphatidylserine and phosphatidic acid can help benefit memory, mood, and cognitive function in the elderly (Lonza, 2014).

4. Walnuts: A diet supplemented with walnuts may have a beneficial effect in reducing the risk, delaying the onset, or slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s disease in mice (Muthaiyah, 2014).

5. Citicoline: Citicoline is a natural substance found in the body’s cells and helps in the development of brain tissue, which helps regulate memory and cognitive function, enhances communication between neurons, and protects neural structures from free radical damage. Clinical trials have shown citicoline supplements may help maintain normal cognitive function with aging and protect the brain from free radical damage. (Kyowa Hakko USA).

6. Choline: Choline, which is associated with liver health and women’s health, also helps with the communication systems for cells within the brain and the rest of the body. Choline may also support the brain during aging and help prevent changes in brain chemistry that result in cognitive decline and failure. A major source of choline in the diet are eggs.

7. Magnesium: Magnesium supplements are often recommended for those who experienced serious concussions. Magnesium-rich foods include avocado, soy beans, bananas and dark chocolate.

8. Blueberries: Blueberries are known to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity because they boast a high concentration of anthocyanins, a flavonoid that enhances the health-promoting quality of foods. Moderate blueberry consumption could offer neurocognitive benefits such as increased neural signaling in the brain centers.

via Eight nutrients to protect the aging brain — ScienceDaily.

Reference: Institute of Food Technologists (IFT). “Eight nutrients to protect the aging brain.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 April 2015. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/04/150415203340.htm>.

Dr. Court’s Comments:

This is a great list. I’d encourage people to consider adding some, if not all, of these to their diet. However, these alone will not be 100% protective. To get much closer to that elusive 100% mark, exercise must be included. The benefits of exercise on the brain are numerous. Exercise is inherently anti-inflammatory. It improves fuel delivery as well as waste removal in the brain. It increases neural feedback which preserves synaptic connections. Remember this fact; 90% of the information coming into the brain on a daily basis is from proprioception. That is, 90% of the information is from our muscles and our joints. A sedentary lifestyle reduces this flow of information, reducing the survivability of neurons in the central nervous system. Exercise also keeps the heart healthy, and a healthy heart means a healthy brain.

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Ibuprofen Kills Thousands Each Year. Here are 10 Natural Alternatives

A recent Reuters’ article opened with the following stunning sentence:

“Long-term high-dose use of painkillers such as ibuprofen or diclofenac is ‘equally hazardous’ in terms of heart attack risk as use of the drug Vioxx, which was withdrawn due to its potential dangers, researchers said.”

The 2004 Vioxx recall, as you may remember, was spurred by the nearly 30,000 excess cases of heart attacks and sudden cardiac deaths caused by the drug between 1999-2003. Despite the fact that scientific research had accumulated as early as 2000 linking Vioxx to increased heart attacks and strokes, the drug’s manufacturer Merck, and the FDA, remained silent as the death toll steadily increased.

The Reuters report focused on new research published in Lancet indicating the risk of heart attack increases as much as a third and the risk of heart failure doubles among heavier users of NSAID drugs.

INFLAMED: Our Default Bodily State

Why are so many folks taking NSAID drugs like ibuprofen anyway?

Pain and unhealthy levels of inflammation are fast becoming default bodily states in the industrialized world. While in most cases we can adjust the underlying pro-inflammatory conditions by altering our diet, and reducing stress and environmental chemical exposures, these approaches take time, discipline and energy, and sometimes we just want the pain to stop now. In those often compulsive moments we find ourselves popping an over-the-counter pill to kill the pain.

The problem with this approach is that, if we do it often enough, we may kill ourselves along with the pain…

Ibuprofen really is a perfect example of this. As mentioned above, this petrochemical-derivative has been linked to significantly increased risk of heart attack and increased cardiac and all-cause mortality (when combined with aspirin), with over two dozen serious adverse health effects, including:

  • Anemia[1]
  • DNA Damage[2]
  • Hearing Loss[3]
  • Hypertension[4]
  • Influenza Mortality[5]
  • Miscarriage[6]

Ibuprofen is, in fact, not unique in elevating cardiovascular disease risk and/or mortality. The entire category of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) appears to have this under-recognized dark side; cardiovascular disease and cardiac mortality score highest on the list of over 100 unintended adverse health effects associated with their use. See also our analysis of the rarely acknowledged dark side to aspirin: The Evidence Against Aspirin And For Natural Alternatives.

So, what does one do? Pain is pain. Whether it happens to you, or you witness it in another (which can be worse), finding relief is a top priority.

Research on Natural Alternatives To Ibuprofen

Here is some evidence-based research on alternatives to ibuprofen, sourced from the National Library of Medicine:

  1. Ginger – A 2009 study found that ginger capsules (250 mg, four times daily) were as effective as the drugs mefenamic acid and ibuprofen for relieving pain in women associated with their menstrual cycle (primary dysmenorrhea). [7]
  2. Topical Arnica – A 2007 human study found that topical treatment with arnica was as effective as ibuprofen for hand osteoarthritis, but with lower incidence of side effects.[8]
  3. Combination: Astaxanthin, Ginkgo biloba and Vitamin C – A 2011 animal study found this combination to be equal to or better than ibuprofen for reducing asthma-associated respiratory inflammation.[9]
  4. Chinese Skullcap (baicalin) – A 2003 animal study found that a compound in Chinese skullcap known as baicalin was equipotent to ibuprofen in reducing pain.[10]
  5. Omega-3 fatty acids: A 2006 human study found that omega-3 fatty acids (between 1200-2400 mg daily) were as effective as ibuprofen in reducing arthritis pain, but with the added benefit of having less side effects.[11]
  6. Panax Ginseng – A 2008 animal study found that panax ginseng had analgesic and anti-inflammatory activity similar to ibuprofen, indicating its possible anti-rheumatoid arthritis properties.[12]
  7. St. John’s Wort – A 2004 animal study found that St. John’s wort was twice as effective as ibuprofen as a pain-killer.[13]
  8. Anthrocyanins from Sweet Cherries & Raspberries – A 2001 study cell study found that anthrocyanins extracted from raspberries and sweet cherries were as effective as ibuprofen and naproxen at suppressing the inflammation-associated enzyme known as cyclooxygenase-1 and 2.[14]
  9. Holy Basil – A 2000 study found that holy basil contains compounds with anti-inflammatory activity comparable to ibuprofen, naproxen and aspirin.[15]
  10. Olive Oil (oleocanthal) – a compound found within olive oil known as oleocanthal has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties similar to ibuprofen.[16]

[1] Direct cytotoxicity of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs in acidic media: model study on human erythrocytes with DIDS-inhibited anion exchanger. Pharmazie. 2002 Dec;57(12):848-51. PMID: 12561250

[2] Genotoxicity of ibuprofen in mouse bone marrow cells in vivo. Drug Chem Toxicol. 2012 Jan 27. Epub 2012 Jan 27. PMID: 22283434

[3] Analgesic use and the risk of hearing loss in men. Am J Med. 2010 Mar;123(3):231-7. PMID: 20193831

[4] Effect on blood pressure of lumiracoxib versus ibuprofen in patients with osteoarthritis and controlled hypertension: a randomized trial. J Hypertens. 2008 Aug;26(8):1695-702. PMID: 18622250

[5] The effect on mortality of antipyretics in the treatment of influenza infection: systematic review and meta-analysis. J R Soc Med. 2010 Oct;103(10):403-11. PMID: 20929891

[6]  Taking non-aspirin NSAIDs in early pregnancy doubles risk of miscarriage, study shows. BMJ. 2011 ;343:d5769. Epub 2011 Sep 9. PMID: 21908536

[7] Comparison of effects of ginger, mefenamic acid, and ibuprofen on pain in women with primary dysmenorrhea. J Altern Complement Med. 2009 Feb 13. PMID: 19216660

[8] Choosing between NSAID and arnica for topical treatment of hand osteoarthritis in a randomised, double-blind study. Rheumatol Int. 2007 Apr;27(6):585-91. Epub 2007 Feb 22. PMID: 17318618

[9] Summative interaction between astaxanthin, Ginkgo biloba extract (EGb761) and vitamin C in suppression of respiratory inflammation: a comparison with ibuprofen. Phytother Res. 2011 Jan;25(1):128-36. PMID: 20632299

[10] The antiinflammatory and analgesic effects of baicalin in carrageenan-evoked thermal hyperalgesia. Anesth Analg. 2003 Dec;97(6):1724-9. PMID: 14633550

[11] Omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil) as an anti-inflammatory: an alternative to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for discogenic pain. Surg Neurol. 2006 Apr;65(4):326-31. PMID: 16531187

[12] Potential analgesic and anti-inflammatory activities of Panax ginseng head butanolic fraction in animals. Food Chem Toxicol. 2008 Dec;46(12):3749-52. Epub 2008 Oct 1. PMID: 18930781

[13] Antinociceptive activity of methanolic extracts of St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) preparation. Pak J Pharm Sci. 2004 Jul;17(2):13-9. PMID: 16414593

[14] Cyclooxygenase inhibitory and antioxidant cyanidin glycosides in cherries and berries. Phytomedicine. 2001 Sep;8(5):362-9. PMID: 11695879

[15] Antioxidant and cyclooxygenase inhibitory phenolic compounds from Ocimum sanctum Linn. Phytomedicine. 2000 Mar;7(1):7-13. PMID: 10782484

[16] Molecular mechanisms of inflammation. Anti-inflammatory benefits of virgin olive oil and the phenolic compound oleocanthal. Curr Pharm Des. 2011 ;17(8):754-68. PMID: 21443487.

via Ibuprofen Kills Thousands Each Year, So What Is The Alternative?.

Dr. Court’s Comments:

When approaching pain, it’s best to always address the source of the pain. If it’s structural, a chiropractor is a good option. If it’s metabolic, such as an autoimmune disease, then a doctor trained in functional medicine will be best. They will likely use some of the things listed above to provide relief in addition to functional testing designed to treat the cause of your symptoms, not simply cover them up with medication. Dietary changes are almost always needed. The American diet is pro-inflammatory with high levels of omega-6 fatty acids. These omega-6s feed the inflammatory pathways, allowing people to over produce the pain causing molecules. Once this is addressed, people often feel much better. Remember, just about every chemical we make in our bodies, good or bad, is heavily dependent on dietary factors. If you correct those dietary factors, you correct the dysfunction.

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Recommendation for vitamin D intake was miscalculated, is far too low, experts say

Researchers at UC San Diego and Creighton University have challenged the intake of vitamin D recommended by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) Institute of Medicine (IOM), stating that their Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for vitamin D underestimates the need by a factor of ten.

In a letter published last week in the journal Nutrients the scientists confirmed a calculation error noted by other investigators, by using a data set from a different population. Dr. Cedric F. Garland, Dr.P.H., adjunct professor at UC San Diego’s Department of Family Medicine and Public Health said his group was able to confirm findings published by Dr. Paul Veugelers from the University of Alberta School of Public Health that were reported last October in the same journal.

“Both these studies suggest that the IOM underestimated the requirement substantially,” said Garland. “The error has broad implications for public health regarding disease prevention and achieving the stated goal of ensuring that the whole population has enough vitamin D to maintain bone health.”

The recommended intake of vitamin D specified by the IOM is 600 IU/day through age 70 years, and 800 IU/day for older ages. “Calculations by us and other researchers have shown that these doses are only about one-tenth those needed to cut incidence of diseases related to vitamin D deficiency,” Garland explained.

Robert Heaney, M.D., of Creighton University wrote: “We call for the NAS-IOM and all public health authorities concerned with transmitting accurate nutritional information to the public to designate, as the RDA, a value of approximately 7,000 IU/day from all sources.”

“This intake is well below the upper level intake specified by IOM as safe for teens and adults, 10,000 IU/day,” Garland said. Other authors were C. Baggerly and C. French, of GrassrootsHealth, a voluntary organization in San Diego CA, and E.D. Gorham, Ph.D., of UC San Diego.

via Recommendation for vitamin D intake was miscalculated, is far too low, experts say — ScienceDaily.

Dr. Court’s Commentary – 

I’ve been recommending anywhere from 4,000-6,000IU/day of vitamin D (supplementally) to my patients for many years. This is consistent with the above recommendations that people get about 7,000IU/day from all sources. Vitamin D deficiency is a culprit in many diseases of aging, and the IOM’s recommendations were far too low. It’s good to see this becoming more well recognized.

Only one study has been done (that I can find) that actually measured how much vitamin D human beings use on a daily basis. The conclusion of that study was that humans use about 4,000-6,000IU per day (hence my recommendation). In that context, the IOM’s recommendation of 600-800IU/day becomes even more startling.

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Depression – not just a disorder of the mind

Robin-Williams-robin-williams-32089778-2798-2798

Update 11/9/15 –

FREE WEBINAR – Join Dr. Vreeland for a free webinar on Tuesday, November 10th at 7:30PM called “The Gut-Brain Connection – Mood, Food, and More!” We’ll explore the amazing connection between gut health and brain health and give you tips and tricks to make both healthy.

Dr. Vreeland is a nationally recognized expert and author in functional medicine and will present information that will be life changing! You don’t want to miss this event!

Click here to register: http://www.anymeeting.com/PIID=EC51D98085463A

The Robin Williams tragedy has highlighted depression and the terrible consequences it can have. It has also highlighted that most with depression are improperly treated. Only 30% achieve remission with one treatment, and only 70% with 4 cumulative treatments. Clearly there is need for better treatments. But what if the treatments just aren’t that effective? Perhaps medicine is treating the wrong thing? Recent study has shown an enormous publication bias when it comes to the efficacy of antidepressants. Studies that show positive outcomes are much more likely to be published and even studies that aren’t positive are, in the author’s opinion, are published in a way that make them appear positive. Imagine the effect that might have on the prescription habits of doctors. Again, a new, more comprehensive approach is necessary.

More and more information is linking depression with inflammation. This inflammatory load causes changes in neurotransmission leading to depression in susceptible individuals. Inevitably, some are going to experience mood so low they see suicide as the only way out. A big piece of the depression-inflammatory link is gastrointestinal health. Yes, your gut and your brain are connected and it can affect you mood. Here is a summary of how it occurs.

Bacterial load in the gut is immense. There are more bacterial cells in your gut than there are cells in the rest of your body. This collective load of bacteria can be considered an inner organ. Just as disruptions in the function of other organs in your body can affect brain function, disruptions of this “organ” can affect your mood. The balance of the bacteria is key. A shift that allows overgrowth can cause many symptoms. Some of them may be gastrointestinal, some of them dermatological, some of them might cause fatigue, some might cause mood change. And here’s how.

There is a toxin on the surface of many of the bacteria in our gut. It’s called lipopolysaccharide (LPS). LPS should stay in the gut where it belongs. However, when it gets out of the gut it causes a potent immune response. This immune response is inflammatory. Over time, inflammatory load builds and builds to a point where it begins to cause systemic levels of inflammation to rise. Once this has happened, this inflammation begins to break down the blood brain barrier (BBB). The BBB is critical for keeping our brain in an isolated and controlled environment. With its breakdown, inflammatory chemicals circulating in the blood stream gain access to the brain and can begin to alter neurotransmitter levels, including serotonin. Eventually, these changes in neurotransmission result in altered synaptic plasticity and, literally, alters the way your brain is wired. This is reversible and can be improved, but only if the right treatments are applied. For many, the right treatment is not  antidepressant medication. Unfortunately, they don’t know the above information either and they’re left to suffer. A new paradigm is starting to unfold in mental health – one that addresses overall health of the individual to get results rather than simply altering neurotransmitters with drugs that, arguably, don’t work.

Here are some good references for the information above if you’re a glutton for punishment 🙂

Reference 1

Reference 2

Reference 3

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New Guidelines on Cardiovascular Disease Miss Mark

Well, they’re at it again. New guidelines on reducing cardiovascular disease risk have been released. They’ve called these “much anticipated,” however, I call them “inconsistent with research” and “likely to cause more harm than good.” The guidelines, appearing in Circulation, are likely to change clinical practice, unfortunately. They are the result of collaborations among the American Heart Association, the American College of Cardiology, and other organizations.

Essentially, it makes it far easier for physicians to prescribe statins (cholesterol lowering medication). It will likely result in tens of millions more Americans begin put on these medications.

Let’s start with the things that I do agree with in the new recommendations.

Obesity

There’s no single, ideal diet for weight loss. Intensive, supervised lifestyle changes for at least 6 months received strong endorsement. This is important. We offer professionally supervised weight loss programs at our office for the simple reason that it reduces the risk of many diseases and it can be very difficult to manage alone.

That’s it. That’s all I agree with. The rest of the recommendations fail to actually focus on the problem: INFLAMMATION! They focus far too much on treating cholesterol without any actual targets in mind to treat.

Inflammation

“The traditional view of atherosclerosis [hardening of the arteries] as a lipid storage disease [cholesterol accumulation] crumbles in the face of extensive and growing evidence that inflammation participates centrally in all stages of this disease, from the initial lesion to the end-stage thrombotic [clot forming] complications.” This quote is from a great study that reviews the mechanism behind cardiovascular disease. I added the information in the brackets to make it easier to understand.

The pharmaceutically-driven marketing and media would have you believe that high cholesterol alone will cause it simply to accumulate in your vessels eventually narrowing them so much they can no longer deliver enough blood to your brain or heart. Or alternatively, the narrowing causes a clot to form only to be dislodged and sent “downstream” where it gets caught in smaller arteries causing a heart attack or stroke.  This just isn’t true! Want to know what actually happens!!!?

How you actually get atherosclerosis:

Inflammation is central to this process. It begins with inflammatory changes in the cells that line your blood vessels. These cells are collectively called the endothelium. The cells begin to express adhesion molecules. These molecules do what they sound like – they make things stick! However, they don’t make cholesterol stick, they attract monocytes (a type of white cell), which then travel through the walls of our arteries (BAD) under the influence of various proinflammatory molecules designed to attract more white cells. Once within the arterial wall, the monocytes continue to undergo inflammatory changes, transform into another type of white cell called a macrophage, swallow up cholesterol, and they become what is called a foam cell. T lymphocytes (another type of white cell) also migrate into the arterial wall, where they release proinflammatory cytokines (messengers) that amplify the inflammatory activity. Through these inflammatory processes, the initial lesion of atherosclerosis, called the fatty streak, is formed. This continues to evolve to cause the dangerous atherosclerotic plaque, but every step along the way involves inflammation!

There you go – as you can see, it is not caused simply by the accumulation of “too much” cholesterol as it floats through your blood stream. It all starts because of inflammation. Without the inflammatory process the white cells of our body cannot penetrate the walls of our vessels. If they cannot get into the walls of our vessels, they cannot swallow up cholesterol and begin to build plaque. It really is that simple.

So what causes inflammation?

That’s a great question and very easy to answer. Poor diet and low levels of exercise cause inflammation to build leading to atherosclerosis. A diet that is high in refined sugar increases inflammation. A diet that is low in antioxidants (brightly colored fruits and vegetables) increases inflammation. And exercise is inherently anti-inflammatory; therefore, low levels of exercise drive up inflammation. Here are the basic diet and exercise recommendations everyone should follow:

Diet

Every time you eat, have a source of healthy protein (chicken, fish, grass-fed beef, bison, etc.) and a fruit or a vegetable. Make the emphasis on vegetables. Keep grain (yes, even whole grains) to a small portion of your diet (no more than once per day).

Exercise

Combine resistance training with cardiovascular training. Get at least 45 minutes of moderate activity 3 times per week. High intensity interval training is very beneficial.

If you incorporate these things into your life, you’ll avoid inflammation and you’ll live a long, healthy life without statins!!!

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