Poor sleep habits raise the risk of dementia

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Are you a night owl who can’t fall asleep? Are you half dead in the morning without several cups of coffee? If so, you may have an increased risk of developing dementia later in life.

Our “body clock,” or circadian rhythm, regulates our sleep/wake cycles.

A healthy circadian rhythm has you alert in the morning, tired at night, and able to sleep through the night.

When it becomes imbalanced your risk of developing dementia, Alzheimer’s, and other diseases increases.

Dementia and circadian rhythm share same area of the brain

The area of the brain that governs the circadian rhythm, the hippocampus, also plays a role in short-term memory and learning. The hippocampus is the first target of degeneration in dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

An imbalanced circadian rhythm could point to problems in the hippocampus and an increased risk of dementia later in life.

Studies link circadian rhythm imbalance with dementia risk

A recent study found the risk of dementia was higher in older women with weaker circadian rhythms.

A 2008 study also found that tracking circadian rhythms over time could predict cognitive decline in healthy older adults.

Circadian rhythm balance goes beyond dementia

Dementia isn’t the only risk. Studies have also linked an imbalanced circadian rhythm with cardiovascular disease, weight gain, mood disturbances, constipation, prostate cancer, and breast cancer.

Are you at risk for dementia later in life?

How do you know if your circadian rhythm is off balance? Look at whether you suffer from any of the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Difficulty waking in the morning
  • Not feeling rested after sleep
  • Poor recovery from exercise
  • Drop of energy between 4 –7 p.m.

Preventing dementia naturally

How can you normalize your circadian rhythm and lower the risk for dementia? The answer lies largely in regulating cortisol, an adrenal stress hormone. Studies show high cortisol from physical or mental stress degenerates the hippocampus.

The stress from inflammation in particular has been shown to be associated with atrophy of the hippocampus. This has been evidenced on blood panels by higher levels of homocysteine, a telltale sign of inflammation.

Lower inflammation to prevent dementia

One of the best ways to normalize the circadian rhythm is to reduce inflammation; your diet is the first place to start. Address food sensitivities, such as to gluten, lower the amount of starchy foods and sweets to stabilize blood sugar, and eliminate processed foods. Ask my office about an anti-inflammatory diet program.

Other tools I can help you with include addressing brain health and chemistry. Chronic stress can disrupt the balance of neurotransmitters, brain chemicals that regulate mood and wellbeing. Restoring balance to neurotransmitters helps regulate the body’s clock.

Adrenal adaptogens, herbs that help modulate adrenal cortisol levels, can significantly balance the circadian rhythm and protect the hippocampus, as can liposomal phosphatidylserine.

Of course, establishing healthy sleep habits and reducing lifestyle stressors will also help lower cortisol levels and normalize your circadian rhythm.

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Gluten could be causing your heartburn

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Call it acid reflux, heartburn, or GERD, but having stomach acid splash back up into your esophagus is painful and distressing. Although researchers cite various causes, one that many doctors overlook is gluten, the protein found in wheat, spelt, rye, barley, and other wheat-like grains.

Studies link gluten with acid reflux

Research shows acid reflux symptoms more commonly affect those with celiac disease, an autoimmune disease triggered by gluten. One study found 30 percent of celiac disease patients had GERD compared to less than 5 percent of those not diagnosed with the disease. Another study found almost 40 percent of children with celiac disease suffer from esophagitis, inflammation of the esophagus and heartburn.

Gluten-free diet found to relieve heartburn

Fortunately, researchers also found a gluten-free diet relieved symptoms of GERD rapidly and persistently. Some people have found they also need to give up grains, processed foods, or other foods to which they are intolerant (such as dairy) to completely relieve acid reflux.

GERD could be autoimmune

Some research shows that stomach acid is not acidic enough to immediately damage the esophagus. Instead, it triggers an inflammatory reaction within the tissue of the esophagus, causing damage.

What does gluten have to do with this? Gluten has been shown to be very pro-inflammatory in many people, and has been linked with 55 autoimmune diseases. It’s possible acid reflux could be yet another inflammatory disorder triggered by gluten.

Antacids increase health risks

Most people relieve acid reflux by taking an antacid to neutralize stomach acid, with sales of the drug topping $10 billion annually. Not only does this fail to stop stomach acid from washing back up into the esophagus (one study showed protein-pump inhibitors actually induce acid reflux), it also impairs nutrient absorption.

Antacids may increase food poisoning risk

Stomach acid is vital to the absorption of minerals and vitamins, and protects the stomach from bacteria, fungus, and infection. Chronic use of antacids has been linked to increased risk for bacterial infections, candida (yeast) overgrowth, and food poisoning.

Antacids may increase osteoporosis risk

Chronic antacid use also impairs absorption of minerals, including calcium, which can increase the risk of osteoporosis and fractures.

Proper testing for gluten intolerance vital

With one in five people now believed to be suffering from gluten sensitivity, it’s important to know whether you are too, and whether undiagnosed gluten intolerance is contributing to heartburn.

The conventional tests to screen gluten intolerance are notoriously inaccurate. For cutting-edge testing, please contact my office.

Overtraining: Too much of a good thing

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Mary was a mother of two who began a vigorous exercise program of weight lifting and running, one to two hours a day, six days a week. Not only did she fail to lose weight, she actually gained weight, and found herself battling fatigue, irritability, and constant colds and flus. As it turns out, Mary was exercising too much.

Overtraining weakens the body

While regular exercise is vital to good health, studies show overtraining can actually deplete hormones, depress immunity, lead to bone loss, increase the risk of injuries, slow healing, increase inflammation, and cause a general feeling of burn-out.

Sufficient recovery between exercise sessions and exercising at an appropriate intensity will get you fitter faster without compromising health.

Overtraining and high cortisol

Overtraining causes your body to pump out extra cortisol, a hormone secreted by the adrenal glands that helps us cope with stress. High cortisol can cause bone loss, and muscle breakdown, create belly fat, increase sugar cravings, and lead to insulin resistance, a pre-diabetic condition that causes high blood sugar.

Overtraining and low cortisol

Some people who overtrain suffer from low cortisol, which can lead to weight gain, fatigue, low blood sugar (with dizziness, light-headedness, and irritability), muscle weakness, difficulty recovering from workouts, and poor immune strength.

American life is already stressful

Clearly, neither high nor low cortisol produces the desired effects of an exercise regime, and both cause a chronic inflammatory state that ages you quickly. Throw in other factors of modern American life—stressful lifestyles, too little sleep, poor diets, too many sweets and caffeine—and overtraining can be the tipping point into cortisol-driven disorders.

Symptoms of overtraining

How much exercise is too much? This varies from person to person. Overtraining for one person can be another person’s warm up. An adrenal salivary panel will show you your cortisol levels, but it’s especially important to pay attention to signals from your body, which is harder than it sounds for the driven athlete accustomed to pushing the envelope.

Symptoms of overtraining include persistent tiredness, worsening strength and stamina, sleep disturbances, slow recovery, aching joints or limbs, injuries, and frequent illness, to name a few.

Exercise should boost energy, not drain it

Appropriate exercise boosts your energy and your sense of well-being. And while some muscle soreness is normal, you should experience energy, mental focus, and a good mood during recovery periods between workouts.

Ask us about an adrenal cortisol panel to help you establish and appropriate intensity level for your workouts.

Statins increase risk of diabetes 50%

A new study found older women who take cholesterol-lowering statin drugs increase their risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by almost 50 percent.

Statins diabetes cholesterol naturally

Researchers say it isn’t clear why the drug raises the risk of diabetes, and that the findings could be applied to men.

Many people don’t realize that inflammation, not a statin deficiency, underlies high cholesterol, and that the condition usually can be managed naturally.

The study looked at data of more than 150,000 women ages 50-79 for over 12 years. Interestingly, the risk was greater for Asian women and women of a healthy body mass index.

Statins most commonly prescribed drugs

Darlings of the health care industry, statins are the most commonly prescribed drug, accounting for $20 billion of spending a year. About one in four Americans over 45 take statins, despite such common side effects as muscle weakness and wasting, headaches, difficulty sleeping, stomach upset, and dizziness.

Beware low cholesterol

As a result, lab ranges for healthy cholesterol are skewed too low. Not only do statin users grapple with side effects and raise their risk of diabetes, but they also risk symptoms of low cholesterol. Cholesterol is necessary for brain and nerve health and to manufacture hormones, including the sex hormones estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone.

Low cholesterol can imbalance hormones and increase the risk for anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders.

In functional medicine, we don’t like to see cholesterol go below 150 mg/dL.

Statins do not address cause

Although statins lower cholesterol, they do not address the underlying cause of high cholesterol, which is typically inflammation. The body uses cholesterol to patch up damage caused by inflammation. In fact, research shows inflammation is the primary cause of heart attacks and strokes, not high cholesterol.

Hypothyroidism, a condition estimated to affect more than 20 million Americans, raises cholesterol. Many find a gluten-free diet lowers cholesterol, as gluten is inflammatory for so many people.

Research also shows diets low in fat and high in carbohydrates increase the “bad” form of LDL (there are two to look at) and decrease the protective HDL.

Lowering cholesterol naturally

Functional medicine is highly effective for the person wanting to lower cholesterol naturally.

Management includes an anti-inflammatory diet, exercise, and rooting out causes of inflammation. These include hypothyroidism, autoimmune disease, bacterial infections in the digestive tract, poor blood-sugar handling, or other chronic health issues.

By addressing the cause of high cholesterol not only do you avoid the dangerous risks and unpleasant side effects of statins, but also you journey into your golden years with improved energy and well-being.

Detox Diet Plan for the New Year

Detox weight loss diet plan

Now that the food comas, sugar hangovers, and holiday binges are over, it’s a good time to “clean house” with a detox diet. A detox diet calms inflammation, stimulates repair and recovery, and boosts energy. A detox diet should never involve frequent hunger or lack of nutrients, factors that only stress the body further.

Finding food intolerances

Many people don’t realize they have food intolerances. These foods trigger an immune reaction and cause such symptoms as low energy, rashes, joint pain, digestive issues, headaches, anxiety, depression, and more. They also prevent weight loss. The foods people most commonly react to are gluten, grains, dairy, eggs, and nuts.

Other inflammation triggers

Other common immune triggers include nightshades (potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, etc.), legumes, coffee, and, of course, foods high in sugar. Don’t forget, sugary foods include sweet fruits and natural sweeteners, such as honey, maple syrup, and agave.

The hunger-free diet plan

At this point you might be saying, “There is nothing left to eat!” On the contrary, the detox diet resembles what our ancestors ate prior to the industrialization of food, and there is plenty to eat. In fact, it is important not to get too hungry as the low blood sugar caused by chronic hunger causes inflammation. Eat frequently enough to sustain energy and avoid crashing.

Healthy diet plan foods

Grass-fed and organic meats, wild fish, plenty of vegetables, healthy fats, and fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, make up the detox diet, along with plenty of water and non-caffeinated herbal teas.

Good fats are key to success

An appropriate amount of good fats ward off hunger and sustain energy. Include healthy fats such as coconut oil, avocado, olive oil, ghee (butter oil), and salmon. Avoid processed vegetable oils and strictly avoid hydrogenated oils, or trans fats.

Rewards outweigh difficulties

Yes, the diet is difficult at first. It requires planning and preparation. Initially you may experience sugar and carb cravings, low energy as your body adapts to burning fat instead of sugar for fuel, and such detox symptoms as headaches, rashes, or joint pain. Please call our office for guidance if so.

A great weight-loss diet plan

Many find the detox diet is the best weight loss diet yet. Cutting out sweets and high-carb foods naturally promotes weight loss. More importantly, however, the detox diet becomes a weight loss diet plan by reducing inflammation, stabilizing blood sugar, and restoring balance to the adrenals, our stress-managing glands.

Reintroducing foods

After 30 to 90 days of the detox diet, you may wish to add in some of the foods you eliminated, one at a time every 72 hours to see whether you react in any way to them. This will help you build a healthier lifelong diet. However many find a gluten-free and even grain-free diet builds lasting health.

Support with detox supplements

I can help you enhance the effects of the detox diet with nutritional compounds to aid in cleansing and ease the symptoms of transition. They support the liver, the digestive tract, blood sugar balance, and stress handling. Just call my office for advice.

Detox diet plan

Foods to avoid

  • ALL sugars and sweeteners, including honey, agave, maple syrup, etc.
  • High-glycemic fruits: Watermelon, mango, pineapple, raisins, grapes, canned fruits, dried fruits, etc.
  • Nightshades: Tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, eggplant, and other nightshades
  • Mushrooms
  • Grains: Wheat, oats, rice, barley, buckwheat, corn, quinoa, etc.
  • Dairy: Milk, cream, cheese, butter, whey.
  • Eggs or foods that contain eggs (mayonnaise)
  • Soy: Soy milk, soy sauce, tofu, tempeh, etc.
  • Alcohol
  • Lectins: Lectins promote leaky gut. Avoid nuts, beans, soy, nightshades, peanut oil, peanut butter, and soy and soy products.
  • Coffee: Many people react to coffee as if it is gluten, and it can be overstimulating.
  • Processed foods
  • Canned foods

Foods to eat

  • Most vegetables (except nightshades and mushrooms): Asparagus, spinach, lettuce, broccoli, beets, cauliflower, carrots, celery, artichokes, garlic, onions, zucchini, squash, rhubarb, cucumbers, turnips, watercress, etc.
  • Fermented foods: Sauerkraut, kimchi, pickled ginger, fermented cucumbers, coconut yogurt, kombucha, etc. You must make your own or buy one of the few brands that are genuinely fermented (not made with vinegar) and free of sugars or additives.
  • Meats: Grass-fed and organic chicken, turkey, beef, bison, lamb, etc., and wild fish.
  • Low glycemic fruits sparingly: Apricots, plums, apple, peach, pear, cherries, berries, etc.
  • Coconut: Coconut oil, coconut butter, coconut milk, coconut cream.
  • Olives and olive oil
  • Ghee (butter oil) unless severe dairy allergy