Feel sleepy after meals? This could be an Alzheimer’s risk

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Do you feel sleepy or have intense cravings for sugar after meals? Are you a woman whose hair is thinning, yet you’re growing facial hair? Are you a man who cries at movies and has “moobs” (male breasts)? If so, you probably suffer from insulin resistance. Not only does insulin resistance gender bend your hormones, research shows it also raises your risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s.

What is insulin resistance?

A high-carb, high-sugar diet consistently raises blood sugar levels, which in turn requires the body to secrete high levels of insulin to lower blood sugar. Eventually these insulin surges exhaust the body’s cells, which then refuse entry to the insulin, causing insulin resistance. Insulin resistance brought on by high blood sugar arises from eating a diet that is high in sweets, soda, and starchy foods such as breads, pasta, rice, corn, potatoes, etc.; a habit of overeating; and living a sedentary lifestyle.

The link between insulin resistance and Alzheimer’s

Insulin resistance has long been linked with many common health conditions, including obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and hormonal imbalances. More recently, researchers have discovered that it also increases the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s. In fact, the link is so well established that some researchers refer to Alzheimer’s as “type 3 diabetes.” This is because a high-carbohydrate diet has the ability to accelerate brain degeneration and cause dementia.

Insulin necessary for brain function

Insulin does more than regulate blood sugar in the body. Appropriate levels of insulin in the brain manage glucose levels for sustained mental energy. In turn, this regulates inflammation and helps produce brain chemicals that regulate mood.

The insulin surges and insulin resistance that result from a sugary, high-carbohydrate diet raises inflammation in the brain and disrupts the brain’s ability to perform even simple operations.

For many people, insulin resistance eventually becomes type 2 diabetes—the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar has broken down. Moreover, studies have demonstrated a clear link between diabetes and an increased risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Don’t wait until it’s too late

Both insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes often can be reversed by changing your diet and lifestyle. So, it’s best not to wait until you have developed dementia or Alzheimer’s to take action. While a low-carb, ketogenic diet has been shown to be beneficial to those with dementia and Alzheimer’s, it is also key to prevention.

Reversing insulin resistance to prevent Alzheimer’s

Some of the most powerful tools to prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s are, unsurprisingly, the same tools that can reverse insulin resistance. These include:

  • Ditching all sweets, sugars, desserts, and sodas. Beware natural sweeteners, such as honey, maple syrup, and agave, as they still raise blood sugar and insulin. Also, avoid over-indulging in sugary fruits.
  • Adopt a lower-carb diet. Some people will need a low amount of carbohydrates—coming primarily from leafy green vegetables—for optimal function, some will need more. Ask our office for guidelines to get started.
  • Exercise regularly. Studies show a combination of both aerobic and weight lifting exercises offers the best brain protection. High-intensity interval training and weight lifting have been shown especially effective to reverse insulin resistance (but do not derail your progress by overtraining). Even just a half-hour walk daily can be extremely beneficial.
  • Eat healthy, natural fats instead of processed vegetable oils. Coconut oil has been shown to be especially beneficial for brain health.
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Gluten could be causing your child’s cavities

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While childhood is full of surprises, some parents are unprepared for the staggering dental bills and persistent cavities children get, even when they brush and floss regularly. Parents know to restrict sugar, but what they may not realize is that a hidden gluten intolerance and poor gut health, not a fluoride deficiency, may be the cause of those cavities.

Fortunately, help can be just a meal away. Many have witnessed a near-miraculous halting of dental decay simply by putting their child on a gluten-free diet and restoring gut health.

Gluten intolerance causes wide range of dental defects

Defects in dental enamel are common in children who cannot tolerate gluten. In some children, dental problems may be the only symptom of a gluten intolerance or celiac disease (an autoimmune gluten intolerance). In addition to tooth decay, one may see enamel defects: white, yellow, or brown spots on the teeth; mottled or translucent teeth; pitting or banding of the teeth. Unfortunately, the majority of dentists peg these problems on excess fluoride or an early illness, missing an opportunity to alert parents to a possible gluten intolerance.

Going beyond gluten to repair the gut and stop cavities

For many children, simply transitioning to a gluten-free diet works wonders for halting decay and improving dental health. Others may need more intensive dietary restrictions and nutritional therapy. This is because gluten damages the lining of the small intestine, causing it to become inflamed and porous. As a result, the small intestine cannot properly absorb nutrients from food, causing malnutrition. This also allows undigested food to escape into the bloodstream, triggering an immune reaction and intolerances to foods other than gluten, most commonly dairy, eggs, soy, corn, and other grains.

The inflamed and damaged intestinal walls also disturb the balance of bacteria in the gut, allowing bacterial and fungal infections to take root. The overall result is a chronically inflamed, poorly functioning gut. Sometimes (but not always) other digestives issues, such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, or acid reflux, are also present.

Gluten and food intolerances cause inflammation, which may lead to cavities

Together these conditions can cause not only tooth decay and poor dental health but also other inflammation-based conditions, such as eczema, allergies, or behavioral issues. Taming the inflammation and allowing the gut to repair may require your child follow a diet that eliminates foods in addition to those containing gluten. Parents can run a lab test to screen for problematic foods or have their child follow an elimination diet for several weeks before reintroducing potential problem foods, one at a time, every 72 hours to see whether they trigger a reaction.

Although these diets can be a challenge to implement in our fast-food, sugar-addicted society, many parents find the pronounced improvement in dental health and other conditions makes it worthwhile. Bonus: as inflammation subsides on this diet, many parents say the palate of their normally picky eaters grows to include a wider variety of healthy foods, making meal times less of a struggle.

Ask me for tips and strategies to help improve your child’s dental health.

Got PMS? Stress could be robbing your body of progesterone

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It’s the time of the month that so many women dread, the PMS days. For some, premenstrual syndrome is simply an irritating inconvenience, but for others it is a cause of extreme suffering. Yet because it is so common, many women don’t take PMS seriously, even though the effect on their lives is serious indeed.

Common or not, PMS, especially the extreme variety, is not normal or healthy. It is a sign that the delicate balance of female hormones is all out of whack. PMS symptoms may be a signal that the body is experiencing a progesterone deficiency due to chronic stress.

Symptoms of low progesterone include:

  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Changes in weight or appetite
  • Crying easily
  • Irritability
  • Lack of concentration
  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Frequent or irregular menstruation
  • Low sex drive
  • Migraines

Natural remedies for PMS

Instead of reaching for the progesterone cream at your local supplement store, it’s safer to first address the underlying causes of low progesterone. For many women, progesterone levels take a beating because of chronic stress. Every time you experience stress, your body responds with cortisol, an adrenal stress hormone that works to keep the body in balance.

But in these fast-paced times, we experience stress so frequently that the body’s demand for cortisol is constantly high. To keep up with demand, the body borrows the materials needed to make reproductive hormones, including progesterone, and makes cortisol instead. This is called “pregnenolone steal,” when the body steals pregnenolone needed for other hormones to keep pace with the demands of stress.

Factors that can cause chronic stress:

  • Sugar and sweeteners, too many starchy foods (rice, pasta, bread, etc.), and excess caffeine
  • Food intolerances (gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, corn, nuts, grains, etc.)
  • Gut problems (gas, bloating, indigestion, heartburn, diarrhea, constipation, stomach pain, etc.)
  • Lack of sleep
  • Chronic inflammation (joint pain, muscle pain, skin rashes and disorders, brain fog, fatigue, etc.)
  • Autoimmune disease (such as Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism)
  • Overdoing it; pushing yourself without breaks or enough rest
  • Poor nutrition

Restoring hormonal balance naturally

Many times, the best way to reduce symptoms of PMS is to stop the pregnenolone steal, thereby allowing the body to make enough of its own progesterone. Strategies for stopping pregnenolone steal include an anti-inflammatory diet, which eases the body’s burden of stress. You may also need to work on restoring gut health, taming chronic inflammation, or managing your autoimmune disease appropriately, approaches that benefit from the guidance of an experienced practitioner.

Nutrients to ease PMS

Basic nutritional support can sometimes ease the symptoms of PMS. For instance, are you getting enough omega 3 fatty acids and gamma-linoleic acid (GLA)? You may find that supplementing with a high-quality emulsified fish oil or krill oil is helpful, especially if you add one of the GLAs—evening primrose oil, borage oil, or black currant oil—as well.

Supporting serotonin, your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitter, may also alleviate symptoms when you’re premenstrual. Compounds that support serotonin activity include tryptophan, 5-HTP, St. John’s Wort, and SAMe. Other nutrients that may offer additional support include magnesium, B6, and vitamin D3.

Ask my office for natural therapies to alleviate PMS and support healthy hormonal balance.

Important note: If you are taking an antidepressant, do NOT embark upon a serotonin support regimen without the guidance of your physician.

Autism is often an autoimmune brain disorder

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The rate of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) has increased 78 percent in the last decade, with autism now affecting a staggering 1 in 88 children. While parents scramble for answers, researchers increasingly find a common denominator: inflammation affecting brain function.

While some children withstand the assaults of modern life relatively unscathed, the child with autism has neurologically-based reactions to foods, vaccines, viruses, environmental chemicals, or other immune triggers. Some studies show this imbalance in immune function can begin in the womb, often influenced by the mother’s health. The question, of course, is why.

Children born to moms with autoimmune disease more likely to develop autism

For starters, recent studies show that autoimmune diseases run in families, and children born to mothers with autoimmune diseases, such as celiac disease, type 1 diabetes, or rheumatoid arthritis, are three times more likely to be born with autism. Researchers say the mother’s circulating autoimmune antibodies may create an abnormal immune environment that can affect the developing fetus.

Maternal obesity and diabetes raise autism risk

An autoimmune disease isn’t the only risk. Any kind of maternal immune imbalance can affect the immune health of the fetus. For instance, women who are obese are 67 percent more likely to have a child with autism. Women with diabetes are also more likely to give birth to a child with autism. Both obesity and diabetes keep the body in a state of chronic inflammation, which can affect the immune health of the developing fetus.

Leaky gut and fetal immune health

Another risk factor that can pass to the fetus is intestinal permeability, commonly referred to as leaky gut. Excess sugars and starches in the diet (i.e., gluten and junk foods) along with chronic stress can inflame the gut and cause the intestinal lining to become porous, or leaky. Because some 80 percent of the body’s immune system resides in the gut, a leaky gut triggers a cascade of inflammation that extends beyond the gut and into the brain and body, including the placenta of a pregnant woman.

Damaged gut walls will allow undigested foods, bacteria, and other pathogens to escape from the intestines into the bloodstream. These circulating pathogens affect the fetus by stimulating an immune response that may affect the development of the fetal brain.

Immune health affects the developing brain

Since we know the immune system affects the developing brain of the fetus, it’s important to approach conception and pregnancy with immune health in mind. This will not only reduce the risk of autism but also make the child less susceptible to other immune disorders, including asthma, eczema, food intolerances, allergies, and other brain developmental disorders (e.g., Tourette syndrome, obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, ADD/ADHD, etc.)

You don’t HAVE an immune system; you ARE an immune system

Regulating immune health requires a whole-body approach that addresses diet, adrenal health, hormone health, gut health, food intolerances, and the autoimmunity of both parents—though the mother in particular. An anti-inflammatory diet is foundational to a healthy immune system. Studies have shown the effectiveness of a gluten-free and dairy-free diet or, more ideally, the immune balancing autoimmune diet. Not surprisingly, many children see symptoms of autism resolve through a similar whole-body approach.

Of course, most children born to a parent with an autoimmune disease do not get autism, however properly managing an autoimmune disease not only reduces the risk of autism, but also makes the pregnancy and postpartum period easier and more enjoyable.

Baywatch beauty brings Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism out of the closet

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Talk to a group of women with Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, and they’ll likely all share the same frustrating story. Frequently dismissed, misdiagnosed, or ignored by doctors, Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism is finally getting the recognition it deserves thanks to former Baywatch beauty and Playboy cover girl Gena Nolin.

Struggling with Hashimoto’s on the Baywatch set

Nolin struggled through marathon days on the set of Baywatch in a tiny red tank while battling symptoms of Hashimoto’s: fatigue, depression, hair loss, and weight gain. According to one interview, she gained weight despite exercising and eating very little—a salad or a can of tuna a day—and her hair became dry and brittle. Exhausted and starving, she pushed on with the help of antidepressants.

Symptoms worsened after her first two pregnancies. Doctors simply pegged her problems on postpartum depression, and prescribed her antidepressants. After her third pregnancy she suffered from arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeats, a common symptom of Hashimoto’s. She visited a couple of doctors before one finally diagnosed her with Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, explaining the mysterious symptoms she had been battling since the age of 18. After experimenting with different thyroid hormones, she was almost symptom-free after just three days of finding the right one.

Nolin stands apart as a hypothyroid celebrity

What separates Nolin from other celebrities with hypothyroidism—Oprah Winfrey, Kelly Osbourne, Kim Cattrall, Jillian Michaels, and Mary-Louise Parker—is that Nolin uses her notoriety to speak up for the millions of Americans with hypothyroidism who are misdiagnosed or mismanaged by the health care system.

Nolin also recognizes and promotes the fact that for 90 percent of Americans, hypothyroidism is caused by an autoimmune disease, Hashimoto’s, which attacks and destroys the thyroid gland (explained in the book Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms When My Lab Tests Are Normal? by Datis Kharrazian, DHSc, DC, MNeuroSci.) Nolin advocates a gluten-free diet and other natural thyroid strategies outlined in Dr. Kharrazian’s book.

Imagine if Oprah Winfrey helped hypothyroid sufferers

Imagine if Oprah Winfrey had access to the same knowledge and information when publicly discussing her thyroid condition—she could have helped millions of sufferers and advanced thyroid care in this country. Faced with patient demand, doctors would have been forced to increase their knowledge and education to offer genuine help to their patients.

Nolin reaches out for those with Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism

Online thyroid communities have warmly embraced Nolin. Her Facebook page Thyroid Sexy has almost 13,000 likes, and she posts frequently and communicates with her followers. Her post I am Hashimoto’s Disease—A letter for patients, family and friends, garnered a huge response for readers.

Nolin is the first internationally known celebrity who has made it a personal mission to bring positive awareness to thyroid disease. She is co-authoring a book about her journey and Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism with thyroid author Mary Shomon. Shomon is the author of the About.com Thyroid Disease blog, and the author of several best-selling thyroid books.