Sunday, October 25, 2015

Diabetes Awareness

Dear Readers,

Todd Humphrey, Practice Manager of Vaughan Integrative Medicine, compiled the information in this article. When his hemoglobin A1c resulted at 5.4 he started evaluating the lifestyle choices he was making. Combined with high blood pressure and a few other high risk factors, he decided it was necessary to pay attention to the possibility of prediabetes. Join him in pursuing a life free of insulin injections.

- Dr. Vaughan

According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA) more than 8 million Americans have undiagnosed diabetes. Diabetes is a number of diseases that involve problems with insulin in the body. Insulin is the hormone used to regulate blood sugar (glucose); it is the key that opens the door for glucose to enter cells to be used as fuel to support metabolic processes in the body. People with diabetes either don't make insulin or their body's cells are resistant to insulin, leading to high levels of sugar circulating in the blood. Diabetes is classified as Type 1, Type 2, or Gestational. The classification of diabetes helps determine the best course of treatment each individual.

If the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas are destroyed by the body’s immune system and the body ceases insulin production, type 1 diabetes is the result. Type 1 diabetes typically occurs in individuals less than 20 years of age. Symptoms, which can occur suddenly and become severe, include:
  • Increased thirst 
  • Increased hunger (especially after eating) 
  • Dry mouth 
  • Frequent urination 
  • Unexplained weight loss (even though you are eating and feel hungry) 
  • Fatigue (weak, tired feeling) 
  • Blurred vision 
  • Labored, heavy breathing 

Type 2 diabetes, the most common type of diabetes, occurs in individuals who either do not produce enough insulin or whose bodies are insulin resistant. While type 2 diabetes is historically most common in overweight individuals age 40 or older, it is found in those who are not overweight. More recent studies show an increase in the number of youth with type 2 diabetes – in direct correlation with the rising epidemic of obesity in young people. Symptoms of type 2 diabetes may mimic those of type 1. Most often, there are no symptoms or a very gradual development of symptoms. Other symptoms of type 2 diabetes may include:
  • Slow-healing sores or cuts 
  • Itching of the skin (usually in the vaginal or groin area) 
  • Yeast infections 
  • Recent weight gain 
  • Numbness or tingling of the hands and feet 
  • Impotence or erectile dysfunction 

Hormonal changes during a pregnancy can affect the body’s ability to produce and effectively use insulin. When this occurs, the result is gestational diabetes; this affects approximately 4% of all pregnancies. A woman is at higher risk of gestational diabetes if she is overweight before the pregnancy begins, is over 25 years of age, or is Hispanic, black, Native American, or Asian. Left untreated, gestational diabetes increases the risk of complications to both the mother and her unborn child. Within six weeks of delivery blood sugar levels typically return to normal. Having gestational diabetes increases a woman’s chance of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.

While all classifications of diabetes are treatable, the disease is the primary cause of death for more than 69,000 Americans annually. The downside to treating diabetes is the cost associated with treatment. People with diabetes have a health care cost that is 2.3 times higher than what expenditures would be in the absence of diabetes. The ADA reports that $245 billion is spent annually in the direct costs (treatment) and indirect costs (disability, work loss, premature mortality) associated with diabetes.

The complications that can result from diabetes are significant: Adults with diabetes are more likely to be admitted to a hospital after a heart attack or a stroke than are adults without diabetes. Diabetes is the leading cause of new cases of kidney failure. 60 – 70% of people with diabetes have mild to severe neuropathy. Hearing loss is is twice as common in individuals with diabetes. More than 60% of nontraumatic lower-limb amputations occur in people with diabetes.

If current trends continue, as many as 1 in 3 American adults will have diabetes by 2050. Statistics indicate that in addition to the 8 million diabetics, there are 86 million Americans who have prediabetes – most of whom are undiagnosed. Prediabetics are individuals who are at a significant risk of developing Type 2 diabetes based on elevated blood sugar levels. The most reliable test in determining if an individual is prediabetic is called a Hemoglobin A1c (HA1c), or the glycated hemoglobin test. This test provides an average of an individual’s blood sugar levels over a 2-to-3 month period. Lab results for HA1c are considered normal by most medical providers if they are between 4 and 5.6. Most integrative providers would advise patients that any HA1c result that it above 5.2 indicates that glucose levels are elevated and that a patient has significant inflammation in the body and the body is aging faster. These are factors that contribute to someone becoming prediabetic, and eventually experiencing type 2 diabetes.

Avoiding Prediabetes and Type 2 Diabetes

Of the three classifications of diabetes, type 2 diabetes and its precursor, prediabetes, are the only two that have significant risk factors that can be eliminated through healthy lifestyle choices and with supplementation. According to, risk factors for type 2 diabetes include:
  • Obesity or being overweight. Research shows this is a top reason for type 2 diabetes. Because of the rise in obesity among U.S. children, this type is affecting more teenagers. 
  • Impaired glucose tolerance. Prediabetes is a milder form of this condition. It can be diagnosed with a simple blood test. If you have it, there’s a strong chance you’ll get type 2 diabetes. 
  • Insulin resistance. Type 2 diabetes often starts with cells that are resistant to insulin. That means your pancreas has to work extra hard to make enough insulin to meet your body's needs. 
  • Ethnic background. Diabetes happens more often in Hispanic/Latino Americans, African-Americans, Native Americans, Asian-Americans, Pacific Islanders, and Alaska natives. 
  • High blood pressure. That means blood pressure over 140/90. 
  • Low levels of HDL ("good") cholesterol and high levels of triglycerides. 
  • Gestational diabetes. If you had diabetes while you were pregnant, you had gestational diabetes. This raises your chances of getting type 2 diabetes later in life. 
  • Sedentary lifestyle. You exercise less than three times a week. 
  • Family history. You have a parent or sibling who has diabetes. 
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome. Women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) have a higher risk. 
  • Age. If you're over 45 and overweight or if you have symptoms of diabetes, talk to your doctor about a simple screening test. As sex hormones drop during menopause and andropause, the risk for diabetes increases. 

Of these 11 risk factors, only a few cannot be influenced by dietary, exercise, and supplementation choices. Reducing the risk factors that lead to prediabetes and eventually to type 2 diabetes not only slows the body’s aging process, but also reduces the risk of other serious health conditions and can promote lower health care costs over a lifetime. To lower the risk factors of prediabetes, the following lab values should be checked annually (or more often if you or your physician have concerns):
  • Hemoglobin A1c. As discussed earlier, a score of greater than 5.2 indicates elevated glucose levels. 
  • Fasting Comprehensive Metabolic Panel. This lab includes a blood glucose level; a value of higher than 99 is indicative of insulin resistance. 
  • Fasting Morning Insulin. This value should be between 2 and 10. 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

From Olive Oil Superior to Mammography in Preventing Cancer

Important information for women to be aware of--this month, in particular. reports:
The researchers noted that extra-virgin olive oil contains a range of polyphenols. One of them is oleocanthanal. It's been shown to have powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Oleocanthanal has been called an alternative to ibuprofen.[iii] 
Lab studies also show oleocanthanal can kill cancer cells in 30 minutes.
Read the entire article here.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Surgery: An Integrative Approach to Preparing for and Recovering

Dear Readers,

Todd Humphrey, Practice Manager of Vaughan Integrative Medicine, compiled the information in this article. He had surgery more than 15 years ago to alleviate sleep apnea. The surgery included a septoplasty and a tonsillectomy. He wishes someone had given him this article; the pain was unbearable and the liquid antibiotics resulted in thrush. Knowing what he knows now, he’s certain that visualization would have made an incredible difference.

- Dr. Vaughan

According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 51 million inpatient procedures were performed in Ambulatory and Hospital Care clinics during 2010. Any type of surgery, including non-invasive procedures, is traumatic to the body. The benefits of surgeries clearly outweigh the inconveniences – including pain, reduced mobility, and a delay in returning to routine activities – that accompany surgical procedures. By following the following integrative tips, it’s possible to reduce these inconveniences.

Oxygen Therapy
The Jan-Jun 2011 issue of The National Journal of Maxillofacial Surgery included the article Supplemental oxygen therapy: Important considerations in oral and maxillofacial surgery. The study’s authors write in the introduction,

The administration of supplemental oxygen is an essential element of appropriate management for a wide range of clinical conditions; crossing different medical and surgical specialities [sic].

In this evidence-based era, there is a growing acknowledgement of oxygen as a drug with specific biochemical and physiologic actions, a distinct range of effective doses and well-defined adverse effects at high doses.

But this subject remains poorly understood and therefore inadequately practiced. However, the safe implementation of oxygen therapy with appropriate monitoring is an integral component of the Healthcare Professional’s role.

Oxygen therapy is an excellent way to both prepare the body for surgery and to help support the body’s healing process. Oxygen and nutrients from food are the primary ingredients used to create energy at the cellular level; they are the basis of all metabolic function. Oxygenating the body helps reduce inflammation and helps provide cells with the energy needed to fight infection, grow new cells, and repair tissue damage.

Integrative specialists acknowledge the benefits of supplemental oxygen. Oxygen can be administered though an oxygen concentrator and sometimes delivered as 100% oxygen through a canister. The most potent way to receive oxygen therapy is by using a hyperbaric oxygen chamber. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy involves a patient breathing condensed or pure oxygen while in a pressurized room or tube. Because the patient is under pressure, more oxygen is dissolved into the blood stream, providing more oxygen deeper into cellular tissue.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT), first used in dive medicine to treat deep sea divers who returned to the surface too quickly, is now commonly used to treat serious infections and wounds that won’t heal. Some cancer centers and burn units utilize hard-sided hyperbaric oxygen chambers. Soft-sided chambers provide benefits of HBOT at a lower pressure and typically at a much reduced price.

To use HBOT to prepare for surgery, use the chamber at least once one or two days prior to surgery. The supplemental oxygen before surgery will help the recovery from general anesthesia with less occurrence or severity of some side effects. As soon after surgery as possible, continue with HBOT for a total of ten to 40 sessions depending on the degree of the surgery’s invasiveness. Post-surgery HBOT sessions provide supplemental oxygen to help reduce inflammation and support the immune system by fighting infection.

Nutritional Supplements
The majority of surgeons will recommend that patients discontinue all supplements prior to a surgery. While it is true that some supplements – especially those that thin the blood – should definitely be discontinued, other nutritional supplements can actually promote healing and lead to a shorter recovery time. Integrative and holistic practitioners with training in functional medicine can provide recommendations to support the affected organs and systems impacted by surgery and provide overall support for healing. Common instructions include:

Increase your Vitamin C. Studies indicate that as little as 250 mg of this antioxidant daily after surgery can reduce recovery time in half. Vitamin C offers support to the immune system and promotes healing. In most instances it is possible to significantly boost Vitamin C with no adverse reactions with surgery. For patients facing invasive procedures and people with compromised immune systems, a nutritional IV with high doses of Vitamin C can be the easiest and most effective way to support the body. Vitamin C supplementation and IV therapy can be started prior to and continue after surgery for most people. To boost Vitamin C levels prior to surgery, take between five and ten grams daily in divided doses the week leading up to surgery. Too much Vitamin C will result in a looser-than-normal stool and indicates that someone should back off on the dose but not stop taking it.

Take phosphatidylcholine. Phosphatidylcholine is a fat that is found in cod liver oil, eggs and lecithin. It is the thin outer layer of fat that enfolds the membrane of each cell in the body. Phosphatidylcholine is important during surgery recovery because it acts as the primary foundation for liver detoxification enzymes – the enzymes that process the multiple drugs that are used in anesthesia as well as clearing out any cells damaged by the surgical procedure.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Add Life to Your Years: Healthy Choices for Graceful Aging

Dear Readers,

Todd Humphrey, Practice Manager of Vaughan Integrative Medicine, compiled the information in this article. He hopes at least some of it will make sense to you. Take the parts that work for you and discard the rest. Except the part about eating avocado; everyone should eat avocado! If you don’t like avocado, you should meditate on the reasons why. 
- Dr. Vaughan

If you search the internet for “Healthy Aging,” you’ll find more than 18 million entries for websites and online articles that promote achieving a higher quality of life as your body ages. From a holistic view, healthy aging encompasses much more than just the physical body; being healthy includes having a body capable of enjoying daily adventures, having an active mind, and engagement in social activities, sound financial planning, and personal spiritual practice. The sooner one starts to create balance the easier it is to create habits that support a life marked with vitality. Life, in all your years! Here are some ideas to help you get started on a path of graceful aging.

The Physical Body
Healthy aging starts with taking care of your physical body by making sure you fuel it with the proper nutrients and foods that boost metabolism, support brain function, and reinforce bone density. Fill your meals with colorful, fresh vegetables matched with lean proteins and enjoy sweets in moderation. When possible, choose desserts of fresh fruit or sweets that are low in processed sugars. Avoid all sodas and sugar-filled beverages like sweet tea; instead choose herbal teas, filtered water, or even filtered water that is flavored with fresh fruit or vegetable slices. Keeping the body well-hydrated and avoiding blood sugar spikes is a key to heath. Healthy eating has been credited for lowering the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension.

While there is insufficient research to convince the National Institutes of Health that food and diet, along with lifestyle choices, can prevent Alzheimer’s, many researchers believe that certain foods do support a healthy brain. Foods considered fuel for a healthy brain include: 
  • Foods high in Vitamin E, such as healthy vegetable-based oils like olive and coconut oil 
  • Fish, like salmon, that are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids and DHA--a vital nutrient for the functioning of neurons in the brain 
  • Dark green, leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, and broccoli, are also high in Vitamin E and include a healthy dose of folate (believed to help break down homocysteine levels preventing nerve cell damage in the brain)
  • Avocados, which--in addition to Vitamin E--are full of the antioxidant Vitamin C
  • Almonds, hazelnuts, and sunflower seeds
  • Blueberries, strawberries and acai berries
In addition to a menu focused on nutrient-rich, colorful vegetables and lean meats, there is also great value in supplementing the diet with quality nutritional supplements. Choose a quality multivitamin as a foundation. There are different formulations of multivitamins for both men and women that focus on their different nutritional needs as they age. In addition, using essential minerals and a probiotic supplement can help support the digestive function so that you get the best absorption of the nutrients in your food. If you experience premature graying of your hair, talk with your doctor about checking your bone density; studies indicate that there is a correlation between premature graying and an increased risk of osteopenia and osteoporosis. If you have bone loss, consider adding a calcium supplement to reduce the risk of breaks and fractures that can interrupt your graceful aging.

Maintaining an active lifestyle helps keep you youthful! Regular exercise or energetic activities are shown to increase mood and help keep people healthy. Make a priority of exercising at least three days a week for at least thirty minutes; do more if you’re able. This can include walking when the weather permits, participating in a yoga class to keep you limber, or taking up biking. Some people may enjoy weight training, golf, or tennis. If you enjoy being in or around water, take up swimming, a water aerobics class, or go kayaking with friends. Talk with your doctor and/or a fitness professional about your lifestyle to find an exercise program that will work for you. Find the activities that you enjoy so you will be motivated to continue doing them. When possible, make exercising an adventure to keep it interesting and to keep your mind engaged!

An Active Mind
Keeping an active mind is imperative for adding life to your years. Research suggests that engaging in life-long learning results in better mental and psychological health. To keep your mind active, look for educational opportunities like university and community college offerings, classes with senior centers and arts organizations, or at local churches and synagogues. At the very least, limit your exposure to television and instead invest your time in crossword puzzles, Sudoku puzzles, or find a renewed interest in coloring in an adult coloring book. Rediscover the public library in your community or join (or start) a book club.

Part of the joy in maintaining an active mind is discovering the freedom you can experience in meditation. Regardless of the spiritual tradition, religion, or choice to be atheist, meditation offers an opportunity to clear the mind and truly be present while life is occurring. Meditation of only 20 minutes a day offers many benefits, including stress and anxiety reduction. Visit for a list of 76 ways that meditation can improve your health and well-being.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Choosing Supplements: Seeing Past Low Prices

Dear Readers,

This information was compiled by Todd Humphrey, Practice Manager at Vaughan Integrative Medicine. He’s been a part of my organization since 2009. He’s included some very practical information on selecting supplements and has addressed an unfortunate misconception that supplements sold by specialty retailers are too expensive. Supplementation is an investment in your quality of life. You deserve the best!

- Dr. Vaughan

The use of supplements to treat the nutritional deficiencies that underlie many problematic medical conditions has long been the standard-of-care for integrative practitioners. Supplementation has emerged as a common activity of people seeking improved health and vitality. Treating nutritional needs for optimal metabolic functions–and not just addressing the deficiency-related symptoms that are associated with a medical diagnosis–has caused a dramatic increase in the use of nutritional supplements over the past several years. Choosing the right supplements, especially with the growing number of brands available on the market, can be an overwhelming task! Taking personal responsibility for your personal health and the heath of your family invites the questions: What are the best supplements to take? How do I know which products are the safest and most effective? The task requires even more discernment when you are confronted by low prices and marketing gimmicks. To help you navigate the many supplement options available on the market today, here are a few tips on choosing supplements:

Supplement Grade
It’s tempting to reach for the cheapest price when choosing supplements. The thing to remember, though, is that the “best value” does not always equate to the best quality; when it comes to correcting nutritional deficiencies, the quality of the supplements used can make an incredible difference in achieving the health you seek. Supplements are typically available in different categories: pharmaceutical grade, food grade, and agriculture grade. While agriculture grade supplements are not manufactured for human consumption and are most often utilized by veterinarians, the other types meet manufacturing requirements for humans.

Pharmaceutical-grade supplements, the highest quality grade, meet the United States Pharmacopea’s (USP) regulatory standards as verified by third-party testing for purity, dissolution, and absorption into the human body. The USP provides assurance of the purity of the capsule, certifying that each capsule contains in excess of 99% of the ingredients stated on the label. Additionally, the bioavailability (the percent of the supplement that can actually be absorbed/utilized by the body) is much higher in pharmaceutical grade supplements, especially in whole-food supplements. This grade of supplements is typically only sold by licensed health care practitioners including physicians, nutritionists, pharmacists, chiropractors, and some massage/body workers. These are typically sold without a prescription.

Food-grade supplements meet the requirements of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for human consumption. The FDA’s regulations are somewhat more lenient than the USP’s regulations in that the FDA allows fillers and binders such as cork byproducts, dyes, sodium benzoate, dextrose, ethycellulose, and propylene glycol. Although these ingredients are legal, in some people they can cause toxic reactions after prolonged exposure. Food grade supplements are often not tested for absorption and there is no mandate to test them for purity; some studies indicate that food grade supplements may not even contain the ingredients in the dosing as indicated on the label. This grade of supplement is most often sold by retailers unaffiliated with a licensed health care provider, like a big-box retailer.

As you shop for supplements, be sure you check the manufacturing processes of the brands you are considering. While pharmaceutical grade may be more expensive, the increased absorbability and effectiveness of the nutrients may make it a more economical purchase. Lower doses of a more absorbable nutrient will produce better results than high doses of a nutrient that contains fillers that interrupt absorption.

Nutrient Form
Read supplement labels carefully to identify the nutrient forms included in each capsule. Typically these are listed in parentheses after the name of the nutrient. While there’s no special form to look for with some vitamins, with others the natural form of the vitamin is definitely superior in efficacy. Minerals also come in various forms; elemental minerals, such as those found in soil, are not readily absorbed, so manufacturers bind them to amino acids or other substances to increase absorbability. These are called chelated minerals, and have names like magnesium succinate, calcium citrate, etc.

Generally speaking, most forms of minerals are acceptable, but there are some differences in bioavailability based on individual health status. Some people will experience poor absorption of specific vitamins or minerals because of the lack of other nutrients in the body. Achieving optimal absorption sometimes requires an empirical trial of a person’s biochemistry. Because of individual differences in the ability to absorb a nutrient, mineral supplements that contain a variety of sources are probably the best supplements to take, for example, several sources of calcium—such as carbonate, citrate, ascorbate, aspartate, and malate—can be considered to achieve different results. A physician trained in functional medicine or a well-trained supplement specialist can explain the benefits of the various forms of each nutrient.

Dosage Level
Once you've confirmed that a nutritional supplement has the forms of the nutrients that can optimize your health, the next step is to make sure the product has enough of those nutrients to actually achieve your desired results.

Some products boast a wide range of quality ingredients. However, when you read the ingredient labels the amount of each ingredient too small to offer any therapeutic effect. This can be observed often in products that contain a blend of different nutrients, particularly those targeting specific biochemical processes or physical activities like vision, brain or joint health.

For example, a supplement blend may promote itself as having a combination of great ingredients. While the blend itself may be a formulation that carefully balances ingredients that do work together to achieve a specific health goal, in reality the doses are so low that the product doesn’t do much good.

Avoid these marketing gimmicks by knowing the recommended therapeutic dosages for key nutrients before you go shopping so that you can better identify the best supplements to take. 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

How Dehydration Affects Your Body

Dehydration occurs when the body has too little fluid, specifically water, for proper metabolic functions. Because water has a low viscosity, i.e. a very low resistance to flow, it is the primary medium for various enzymatic and chemical reactions in the body. It moves nutrients, hormones, antibodies and oxygen through the blood stream and lymphatic system. Approximately 60% of the average adult human body weight is attributed to water. The quantity of water is highest in organs such as lungs and brain and in fluids such as blood, lymph, saliva and secretions by the organs of the digestive system.

Dehydration occurs when more fluid is excreted from the body than is taken in. The body most commonly loses water during expiration (exhaling), when sweating, during urination, and during bowel movements. Dehydration becomes more prevalent during hot months when people spend more time participating in outdoor activities including yard work and other strenuous activities in the sun and during times of high humidity. Water loss is also a factor whenever someone has diarrhea or is vomiting, and when nausea prevents fluid intake. Diabetics with elevated blood sugar levels often experience frequent urination as their bodies try to rid the body of excessive sugar levels; if they don’t replenish fluids they can become dehydrated. Individuals with significant burns are also at high risk for becoming dehydrated because the skin is unable to stop fluid from seeping out. 

To ensure that your body is sufficiently hydrated so that metabolic functions can occur easily, watch for these symptoms:


By the time you experience the physical sensation of being thirsty, your body is already somewhat dehydrated. Ensure good hydration by drinking the right fluids throughout the day and having a diet that includes water-rich foods, such as celery, watermelon, tomatoes, oranges, and melons. If you experience frequent excessive thirst, it could be a symptom of other metabolic issues. You should seek treatment from the physician of your choice.

Discolored or Heavy-Smelling Urine 
Your urine should be mostly clear with a slight yellow color, high in volume and without excessive odor. When you are slightly dehydrated your urine will appear more yellow in color. When you are about 5% dehydrated, which is considered severe dehydration, your urine will appear orange and may have a strong ammonia smell. Certain medications and supplements may affect urine color and smell. If you are well hydrated and have cloudy looking or smelly urine, check with your physician to verify that you don’t have a urinary tract infection. 

Two of the most common causes of constipation are inadequate intake of water and inadequate consumption of fiber. Many integrative and holistic practitioners agree that a healthy body has an equal number of bowel movements as meals consumed in a day, i.e. food in = waste out. Clear signs that you are not drinking enough water are: straining during a bowel movement more than 25% of the time, hard stools more than 25% of the time, incomplete evacuation more than 25% of the time, and two or fewer bowel movements in a week.

Dizzy or Foggy Headed 
When your body is low on water it impedes blood circulation to the brain. The result can be dizziness. Likewise, just mild dehydration can make it difficult to focus mentally — creating an experience of being foggy headed. If you are having trouble concentrating on a mentally strenuous activity, having a glass of water may help sharpen your mental activity!

Small blood vessels in the brain respond quickly to hydration levels. Dehydration can trigger dull headaches to full-blown migraines. Consuming excessive amounts of beverages that are diuretics, meaning they promote the production of urine, can lead to dehydration; hangovers are the result of the diuretic effects of alcohol. When enjoying alcoholic beverages, do so in moderation and be sure to also stay hydrated with water while imbibing. If you feel like a headache coming on, try warding it off with a glass of water.

Feeling Tired 
Dehydration causes blood pressure to drop, the heart rate to increase and slows blood flow to the brain. These factors combined may create an experience of lethargy. Instead of reaching right away for coffee or another caffeinated beverage for a jump start, try having a glass of water first. If indeed you are dehydrated, the caffeine will mask your lack of energy and dehydrate you even more.

Cranky Mood 
Another possible side effect of dehydration is caused by the neurological reaction of too little fluid in the brain. Dehydration can cause a drop in serotonin levels which can have tremendous affect on mood. If you notice yourself feeling cranky after a long bout of exercise or a stressful day at the office, refresh your body and your mood with fruit infused water.

Bad Breath 
Saliva has antibacterial properties. When you are dehydrated, you produce less saliva which means bacteria can flourish in your mouth. The result of the overgrowth of bacteria is bad breath. Keeping hydrated, along with proactive dental and gum care and the use of a tongue scraper, can help keep your breath from becoming offensive.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Breast Health: Take Control (Part 2)

Last month in Part 1 of this two-part series, I talked about the early warning indicators that breasts often provide when something within the body is out of balance. I also discussed the importance of uncompromised lymphatic flow with respect to reducing one’s breast cancer risk, and how brassieres are one of the top contributors to lymphatic flow restriction. I continue below by discussing what options women have for early detection, methods for prevention, and additional steps to take for continued good breast health.

Screening Options
There are a number of tests available to screen women for their breast health. Most commonly, conventional doctors recommend mammography. Ultrasound, 3D mammography and MRI scans are now also used. Interestingly, most conventional doctors do not endorse the use of thermography, which is infrared imaging of the breasts; however, thermography is widely used around the world and has a long history of use in Europe.

What’s the difference between mammography and thermography?
The difference between thermography and mammography is simple. Mammography is able to diagnose changes in the anatomy, or physical structure, of the breast tissues. Specifically, mammography identifies masses, density of the breast tissue, and microcalcifications. These anatomic changes result from chronic physiologic changes in the breasts. The most common finding of a mammography is “dense breast tissue”. 50% of younger women have dense breasts. Dense breasts increase the risk of breast cancer to some degree. They also make it harder to interpret mammograms. In other words, it is harder to see a breast cancer lurking within dense breast tissue. Abnormal mammograms are a call to action; usually in the form of more mammograms, other tests, and biopsies.

Thermography, on the other hand, examines the physiology, or the health, of the breast tissues. Specifically, it utilizes a change in the predicted pattern of heat in the breasts to identify hot spots where there may be either early cancer or inflammation, or both. Remember; where there is inflammation, there is increased risk of cancer. Thermography does not diagnose cancer. It detects increased heat in an area, signifying a physiological change. Physiological changes in tissue ALWAYS precede anatomic changes. Thermography picks up abnormalities in the breasts five to eight years before mammography.

To repeat; changes in the functioning health of a single breast cell or of the breast tissue always precede anatomic changes. Thermography can pick up an abnormality when there are fewer than 300 abnormal breast cells; even that early, those wayward cells are increasing the heat locally. On the other hand, it takes more than 4 billion abnormal cells to be detected by a mammogram. Detection via mammogram may take up to five to eight years later than a thermogram, depending upon the doubling time of a breast tumor. So there is more lead time to correct those factors that may be increasing the risk of breast cancer.

Does thermography pick up all breast cancer? Does mammography pick up all breast cancer?
Neither screening modality can detect all breast cancer. Period. Mammograms may miss fast-growing tumors. Thermography may miss very slow-growing tumors. Slow-growing tumors may never develop to the point that they are problem for a woman.

This is true also of prostate cancers. It is estimated that 90% of men over age 70 have prostate cancer, but not all of them are treated for it. We have learned in the past decade that many men suffer from urinary incontinence, impotency and chronic pain because of overaggressive treatment of small prostate cancers that would never have bothered them. The same holds true for many breast cancers. They may not need to be treated aggressively.

In large-breasted women, thermography may miss problems that are deep within the breast. In such cases, and especially for high-risk patients, using the both screening procedures in conjunction is appropriate. That said, a 2008 study at New York Presbyterian Hospital-Cornell found that Breast Thermography (Digital infrared thermal imaging (DITI),had a 97% sensitivity in discovering malignancies; the use of a digital infrared camera identified 58 out of 60 malignancies in breast tissue. The authors reported that DITI is especially useful in women with dense breasts.

As with an abnormal mammogram, an abnormal thermogram is a call to action. The woman will be encouraged to follow-up with her family doctor or OB/GYN, or with the physician who performed the thermography. A breast exam and assessment of risk factors for breast cancer should be included in this follow-up visit. A mammogram, ultra-sound or MRI may then be ordered at this stage if there is a high suspicion of breast cancer; if the suspicion is low the woman will be encouraged to implement a Healthy Breast Lifestyle for several months, and then repeat the thermogram. Most of the time, the hot spot will have either disappeared or stabilized, signifying that it is not a cancerous growth.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Breast Health: Take Control (Part 1)

It used to be that only older women got breast cancer; now increasing numbers of younger women – even women in their 20’s – are developing breast cancer. More and more people of all ages, sexes and ethnic backgrounds are getting sick. Shouldn’t we be asking, “What’s going on? What can we do about it?”

Breasts can be early warning devices for women. If our breasts are tender, painful and lumpy, and anything other than completely healthy, they are telling us not only that something is wrong with our breasts, but that there may also be something wrong with our bodies. These signs tell us that it is time to take action to avoid more serious disease in our breasts and in the rest of our bodies.

Breast Tenderness and Excessive Effective of Estrogen
The most common breast complaints have to do with premenstrual breast tenderness. This is most commonly due to an excessive accumulation of our own natural estrogens in the breasts, relative to progesterone. It may also be due to birth control pills, which may have a stronger estrogenic effect, other medications, which exert an estrogenic effect, or environmental toxins that are estrogenic (aka xenoestrogens). Symptoms can be treated by getting out of bras as much as possible, taking supplemental progesterone, and taking iodine.

Some women may go on to develop fibrocystic breast disease, which presents as lumpy, bumpy and tender breasts. These women need to do the exact same things as women who simply have tender breasts. In addition to these steps, women can help resolve fibrocystic breast disease by taking evening primrose oil and sufficient amounts of vitamin D, and avoiding or reducing the intake of caffeine, which alters the way the body metabolizes estrogen and affects the estrogen receptors. Topical iodine applied directly to the skin over the painful cysts speeds resolution of the problem.

Breast Lumps
Another problem is a breast lump. Fortunately, over 90% of the time breast lumps are not cancerous. In younger women, a single nontender lump is almost always a non-cancerous tumor called an adenoma. Surgery is curative. However, because of the heightened awareness of breast cancer – even in young women – it can be quite alarming when a woman finds a lump in her breast. A woman is thrown into limbo, and she may feel as if she is not in control of her life. Breast lumps should not be ignored.

The first thing to do is to pay attention to when you noticed the breast lump. If the breast lump is tender and first noticed during the two weeks prior to the onset of one’s period, then it is reasonable to wait until after having a period to see if the breast lump resolves. If it gets much smaller and the tenderness disappears, this indicates fibrocystic breast disease, so follow the recommendations above. If, however, the breast lump is not tender and it does not go away, a woman needs a mammogram and an ultrasound, and possibly a biopsy.

Monday, April 20, 2015

My Go-To Resource Guide

There are certain websites I know I can count on for the latest news, research and tips on many important subjects related to healthy living. I have compiled a list of these sites (with links) for anyone who wants to learn more. 

If you're a Piedmont Triad resident who attended the Natural Triad Health, Wellness & Green Living Show this past weekend, you'll recognize a lot of this information from my talk.
The Environmental Working Group is a good place to start. It has many subsections, including:
  • FOOD Scores provides information about food safety. EWG’s smart phone app, Food Scores, gives you information about processed food when you scan the product barcode. Search for it on Google Play or AppStore.
  • Food News provides information on pesticides and food, and ranks the dirty dozen and the clean 15. Smart phone app also available as Dirty Dozen.
  • EWG’s The Shoppers Guide to avoiding genetically engineered food.
  • EWG also provides information on Filtering Water.
  • SkinDeep is EWG's comprehensive list of safe and not-so-safe personal care items.
  • This EWG-sponsored website focuses on how to raise healthy kids.
Moms Across America is a grassroots organization that is working to increase the awareness of the toxicity of glyphosate, i.e.  RoundUp®. They have documented that it is bio-accumulating in breast milk.

Monsanto’s dream bill, which blocks states from requiring GMO labeling, was reintroduced into Congress in March by Rep. Mike Pompeo (KS). Its formal name is the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act. It is also called the DARK Act (Deny Americans the Right to Know Act) by critics and opponents of the law. Contact your representatives to let them know you oppose this act!

Institute for Responsible Technology is the first and the most comprehensive website on the dangers of GMO foods and products. It's run by Jeffrey Smith, who first sounded the alarm against GMOs in the late 1990s.

The Power of Poop explains the importance of having a healthy microbiome. It details the availability of fecal transplants as an option to reintroducing life-enhancing microbes into the digestive system.

This TED Talk concerns the microbiome in the gut. The American Gut Project lets you donate money and a stool sample and find out exactly what critters are living in your gut.

The movie BOUGHT looks at different factors that may be contributing to why children are getting sicker and what we need to do to promote greater health.

The World Health Organization created this report on indoor and outdoor air contaminants.

The WaterKeeper Alliance informs people about pollutants in our natural waterways and why we need to take action to protect them.

BYRDIE provides a short simple list of ingredients to avoid in cosmetics.

MercOut details the problems of Mercury toxicity and offers an oral chelation therapy to remove mercury from the body. This product is available at Vaughan Integrative Medicine.

Thrive Market is a great place to buy better food at reasonable prices.

Wise Choice Market specializes in recently produced organic fresh foods--bone broth, fermented foods, etc.--that can be ordered for delivery.

Holy Crap offers gluten-free, vegan and certified organic breakfast cereals.

Wholesome Chow offers gluten free and organic grains and baking mixes.

GoodRx helps you shop the prices of pharmaceuticals at local pharmacies. You can also download coupons that may save you more money than your insurance.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Human Microbiome: Cleaning it Up (Part 2)

In last month’s post I discussed the Human Microbiome. To recap, simply defined, the human microbiome is the total inclusion of every microorganism living in, on, and perhaps even around the human body. We cannot achieve or maintain health unless we respect and care for these “friendly critters” that live on our skin, nose and sinuses, mouth, esophagus, intestines, and genitals.

We learned that a newborn who is not born vaginally and not breastfed likely would not fully receive the host of beneficial bacteria that are passed from the birth mother through natural delivery and nursing. We also learned that our microbiome houses an ecosystem with thousands of species harmoniously living tissues of the human body. It is estimated that the combined microorganisms and microbial cells that live inside or on the body outnumber human cells by about ten to one!

Our gut microbiome weighs as much as our brains
about three poundsand many might say that it’s just as important. Our gut microbiome certainly not only interacts with but also can actually control our brains. It, combined with the gut itself, is deservedly called “the second brain”. People really do have gut instincts. Out of the approximately 100 trillion microbial cells in the human body, the human gut alone contains 40,000 bacterial species and that our microbiota (all the microbes of a particular site, in this case the human body) influences our health. For example, we discussed last month that 85% of our Serotonin and Dopamine transmitters are made in the large intestines, and that disruptions in the gut’s health have a huge impact on mental health.

The gut microbiome also influences tissue building and hormone regulation, obviously through nutritional absorption, but also by influencing how we metabolize the food we eat. Our gut’s health and bacterial composition affect nutrient and mineral absorption
especially zinc, calcium and magnesium. (Very much like prebiotics, which we’ll discuss later in this article). The gut microbiome also manufactures enzymes, amino acids, and short chain fatty acids; it influences how herbs, vitamins and medicine work in our bodies to help metabolize drugs, hormones and other molecules.
Last month we discussed how food, medications, pesticides, GMO and Bt toxin containing foods, stress and numerous other factors have a major negative impact on out gut microbiome. Let’s look at how we begin to reverse the damage.

Where to Start
Elimination Diet
Considering that we’ve all had multiple exposures to the offenders mentioned above and in Part I of this series, how do we heal and restore our gut health? One of the first steps an Integrative Physician, Functional Medicine Physician or Naturopathic Physician will ask you to take is to perform an elimination diet. This requires the elimination of foods that are known to be problematic and allergenic. Some of these foods may include gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, corn, sugar and nuts. Once these foods have been eliminated for a period of time, reintroduce each food, one at a time. When you do, do it in a big way. Enjoy that first serving of the food you’ve been just “DYING” to reintroduce, eat a nice, large serving and see how your body reacts. If you have sensitivity to it, you may notice brain fog, overnight weight gain, abdominal bloating, gas, abdominal pain, joint pain, skin irritation, sinus/allergy-type symptoms and/or more. 

When you eat foods to which you are sensitive, your gut will not heal. Once the sensitive foods are eliminated, however, and you are eating cleaner foods (i.e. not sprayed with herbicides and laden with Bt toxin), the healing can begin. There are many references available on the web to help you do an elimination diet. They range from a four-food elimination diet to much more comprehensive diets. Choose one that you can stick with.

Optimize Your Stomach Acid and Enzymes
Insufficient stomach acid contributes to deterioration in the microbiome. Stomach acid is your first line of defense against invading germs that you consume from your fingers, foods, toothpicks, etc. every day. If you are on a drug to reduce your stomach acid for long periods of time, this will change the microbiome downstream in your small and large intestines.

So take a little acid with your meals. Lemon in your tea or water. Vinegar in water. Betaine HCl in capsules. Swedish Bitters. All will achieve the same effect. They will raise the acid in your stomach enough to protect you against dangerous germs and help you better digest your food.

Some people may need enzymes to better breakdown food. These do not break down bacteria, but they enhance digestion and reduce the chances of food sensitivities, which in turn increase inflammation in the gut. Your stool should look like a uniformly brown banana that sinks in the toilet. Anything else suggests the need to chew your food better and or take enzymes. (Oh, and stomach acid promotes the release of enzymes!)

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Human Microbiome: Cleaning it Up (Part 1)

Through the Human Genome Project, completed in 2003, scientists finally sequenced and mapped the 23,000 genes of the human body. After this world-changing feat, the scientific community has begun the arduous task of identifying the genetic makeup of the non-human genetic forms in our body. You didn’t misread that… according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), 90% of cells in the human body are not human. Advances in DNA technologies have birthed an amazing new field of research called metagenomics, allowing comprehensive examination of the microbial communities in and on our bodies. As a result, the Human Microbiome Project (also referred to as the Human Metagenome Project) was initiated in 2007.

The Project is a global initiative with multiple countries participating, whose aim is to characterize microbial communities found at multiple human body sites and to look for correlations between changes in the microbiome and human health. They are doing this by studying the human microbiome. Simply defined, the human microbiome is the total inclusion of every microorganism living in, on, and perhaps even around the human body. It not only encompasses the trillions of microorganisms themselves (bacteria, fungi, yeast, protozoa, and other viruses); it also includes all the combined genetic material of those microorganisms. This genetic material – both the “good” and the “bad” – makes up the building blocks of our DNA that live on our skin and in our nose, mouth, esophagus, lungs, intestines, genitals, etc.

The microbiome is a gift from the mother. When babies are delivered through the birthing canal, they are exposed to their mother’s microbiome, giving their brand new immune system a leg up on cesarean-birthed babies. According to Dr. David Perlmutter, in his new book, Brain Maker, statistics suggest there is an increased risk of disease for infants born by cesarean section. The rate of autism is doubled, Celiac Disease increases 80%, adult obesity increases 50%, Type 1 diabetes increases 70% and ADHD is tripled. Clearly, our healthy germs are critical for our mental and physical health.

Amazingly (or maybe not so amazingly), different diets, families, cultures, and places of residence are reflected in variances in the human microbiome. A study, published in Nature, indicates that changes can happen incredibly fast in the human gut—within three or four days of a big shift in what we eat. Our microbiome is continually adapting to a changing environment.

MarĂ­a Gloria Dominguez-Bello, a microbiologist at New York University, is studying the gut microbiome of hunter gatherers in the Amazon in order to determine what a clean microbiome would look like. “We want to see how the human microbiota looks before antibiotics, before processed food, before modern birth… These samples are really gold.” She is finding that these samples have much greater biodiversity and higher levels of prevotella bacteria… than in the West. Interestingly, these Amerindians have much lower rates of allergies, asthma, atopic disease and chronic diseases.

A Fine Balance
Within our microbiome lies an ecosystem with thousands of species of microbes (microorganisms, especially disease-causing bacteria) living in the cells and tissues of the human body. It is estimated that the combined microorganisms and microbial cells that live inside or on the body outnumber human cells by about ten to one! There are approximately 100 trillion microbial cells in the human microbiota (all the microbes of a particular site, in this case the human body); the human gut alone contains 40,000 bacterial species. It is not surprising that our microbiota influences our health. The symbiotic bacteria in our microbiome can be considered good bacteria, those that benefit us. These bacteria – “the good guys” – escort out the “bad bacteria” and rid the body of digested food and inflammatory molecules. There are also compensatory bacteria, which can be considered neutral; however, these so-called “neutral” organisms can be influenced into becoming good or bad. There are also potential pathogenic microbes (aka pathogens – bacteria capable of causing disease) and we all have them in our bodies. They include popular offenders like Candida, E-coli, and H-pylori, just to name a few. Microbes become pathogenic when they are not kept in check.

Our microbe DNA outnumbers our human DNA 99:1. Pathogens and symbiotic bacteria work and live together, making a sticky, slimy protective matrix in the gut and sinuses called biofilm. The biofilm is like a city where the microbes live, eat and multiply. It is a complex structure that includes channels where food is transported in and waste is transported out. The sticky matrix also helps protect the bad microbes from antibiotics, antifungals, and our immune system. They also communicate via quorum sensing, a sophisticated stimulus/response system that allows them to alert each other of an adversarial event. Pathogens respond and protect themselves, sometimes through mutation, multiplying and becoming more resistant.

In spite of such an overwhelming majority of potential offenders, our microbiome inhabitants coexist on basically friendly terms… that is, until imbalances in the body disrupt the natural order of things.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Chemistry of Sex

Sex is one of the most intimate and privately held aspects of our lives, yet it is expressed openly in the media. There are certainly conflicting viewpoints and opinions on this subject, and because of this polarity, talking to your doctor can bring about anxiety, embarrassment, and awkwardness. This is why choosing the right doctor is paramount. After all, sex is part of Maslow's hierarchy of needs. It is one of the most basic biological and physiological needs along with air, food and drink, shelter, warmth, and sleep. A doctor with a holistic approach considers all aspects that influence sexuality. They look at mind, body and spirit.

Benefits of Sex
Sex does a body good. A study in Biological Psychology found frequent intercourse was associated with lower blood pressure and lower overall stress. Sex is a form of exercise and can improve your strength, flexibility, balance, and your emotional health. Having sex is an aerobic workout and burns calories. Thirty minutes of sex burns 85 calories on average.

Sex enhances immunity. Scientists at Wilkes University found those who had sex once or twice a week had higher levels of an antibody called immunoglobulin A, or IgA. IgA antibodies protect body surfaces that are exposed to outside foreign substances and are found in areas of the body such the nose, breathing passages, digestive tract, ears, eyes, and vagina.

Having sex and orgasms increases levels of oxytocin, a hormone that increases levels of contentment and a sense of bonding and closeness with a partner. Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh and the University of North Carolina evaluated 59 premenopausal women before and after warm contact with their husbands and partners. They found that levels of oxytocin increased with increased contact. This hormone is also responsible for decreased pain levels after sex. As oxytocin surges, endorphins increase and pain declines. A study published in the Bulletin of Experimental Biology and Medicine had participants inhale oxytocin vapor and then had their fingers pricked. Those who had inhaled oxytocin raised their pain threshold by more than half.[i] The oxytocin released during orgasm also promotes sleep. Getting enough sleep has been linked to a healthy weight and blood pressure.

In the British Journal of Urology International, Australian researchers found that frequent ejaculations in 20-something men may reduce the risk of prostate cancer later in life. Another study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that frequent ejaculations -- 21 or more a month -- were linked to lower prostate cancer risk in older men.

Obstacles to Sex
Many people do not enjoy sex; others don’t perform well when having sex. Forty-three percent of women experience sexual dysfunction. Of those women, 40% do not seek help from a physician. As women grow older this percentage increases. Additionally, 31% of men also experience sexual dysfunction.

The ability to enjoy sexual relations can be affected by many factors. Psychological factors can influence our ability to enjoy sex. Events from the past, especially our childhood, and social, religious, and moral beliefs can all intrude upon or warp our attitudes toward sex. Mind, body and spirit are connected and intertwined. Depression, low libido, not feeling sexy, low self-worth, and inability to focus on pleasurable feelings are all factors that influence our sexuality. Hormonal imbalances associated with perimenopause, menopause, postpartum, and andropause are well-known influences of changes in sexual function. Also physical injury, diabetes, kidney disease, vascular disease, nerve damage, toxins, and medications influence how we feel, respond, and function with respect to sexuality. The physical issues affect the mental state and this can affect the spirit.

Women’s sexual dysfunctions have been virtually ignored partly because there is no pharmaceutical wonder drug to treat it. While a man’s impotence is obvious and is psychologically linked to his “manhood,” if a woman becomes less interested in sex or has difficulty achieving orgasm, she is still physically able to participate in sex. As a result, sexual dysfunction in women rarely gets reported to physicians, and it is unusual for such reports to be entered into drug company databases or forwarded on to the FDA.

Medications may play a large roll in sexual dysfunction. Sex seems simple, but it is actually very complex. There are a number of ways in which medicines can interfere with sexual satisfaction. Many medications affect libido; others may cause erectile dysfunction (ED), vaginal dryness, and difficulty achieving an orgasm. See Graedon’s Guide to Drugs That Affect Sexuality, made available by The People’s Pharmacy®. While not directly associated with sex, drowsiness, fatigue, depression, confusion, decreased focus, and weight gain can all affect the ability of people to feel good about themselves, just relax and enjoy sex.

Poor adherence to a medication regimen is often due to the side effects of medications, especially when it comes to sex. Physicians must be pro-active and inform their patients ahead of time of possible side effects and work with them to minimize these side effects. This is imperative for compliance and wellbeing. Some of the most widely-prescribed medications have sexual side effects. Anti-depressants such as SSRIs can cause ED, anorgasmia (inability to have an orgasm), premature ejaculation, and decreased sexual desire. Blood pressure medications – especially beta blockers – may cause ED. There are alternatives to treatment; talk to your physician about alternative medications, supplements, herbs and essential oils. They can help develop a regimen designed especially for you.