If you struggle with excess weight or high blood sugar, your blood tests show may also show fatty liver (high liver enzymes). Although fatty liver has no overt symptoms, a liver filled with fat hinders detoxification, promotes inflammation, may increase gallstones and increases heart attack risk. So a fatty liver means eat less fat, right? Wrong, the culprit in fatty liver isn’t too much fat but rather too many sugars and carbohydrates.
Too many carbs are the main culprits behind the excess belly fat that is a sure sign of fatty liver. This is because sugar signals the liver to produce more fat.
This process is heightened when the liver must process fructose particularly high-fructose corn syrup found in soft drinks and other junk foods.
From fatty liver to fatty liver disease
While some fat in the liver is normal, if it exceeds 5 to 10 percent of total weight of the organ, it is considered fatty liver and the first stage of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). If fatty liver progresses unchecked, it can lead all the way to cirrhosis.
(Alcohol abuse can also cause fatty liver disease and the majority of alcoholics have a fatty liver.)
NAFLD is the most common liver disorder in the west, affecting as many as one third of Americans. It primarily afflicts those who overweight and middle-aged, but NAFLD is increasingly affecting children and teens due to their over consumption of sodas, sweets, and high-carb foods. High cholesterol and diabetes are typically found with NAFLD too.
How to reverse fatty liver and regain liver health
The good news is you can reverse fatty liver before it’s too late. Even though the liver may not initially complain with symptoms, it’s important to take liver health seriously to prevent serious long-term complications. Steps to reverse fatty liver include:
Adopt a lower-carb, sugar-free diet. High blood sugar leads to fatty liver. To start reversing it you need to bring blood sugar down to healthy levels with a whole foods diet abundant in fibrous vegetables, healthy fats, and proteins while low in foods that spike blood sugar. Most people will begin to lose excess fat on this way of eating as well, further unburdening the liver.
Exercise daily. Exercise helps lower high blood sugar, detoxify the body, and shed excess fat, all of which will help reverse fatty liver.
Avoid alcohol and unnecessary medications. Alcohol is very hard on the liver, as are many medications. Avoid both as much as possible while working to reverse fatty liver.
Lower inflammation. The liver actually plays an important role in inflammation and lowering overall inflammation will likewise ease its burdens. The most important ways to do this are by removing foods from your diet that promote inflammation (gluten and dairy are the most common) and minimizing exposure to toxins and chemicals.
Take natural anti-inflammatory compounds. Certain nutritional compounds really shine when it comes to lowering inflammation. These include high doses of emulsified turmeric and resveratrol, absorbable forms of glutathione, vitamin D, and many other compounds. Ask my office for more advice.
Support liver detoxification pathways. If your liver cells are clogged with fat it may have trouble with everday detoxification duties. The liver responds wonderfully to herbs and compounds that support detoxification, such as milk thistle or n-acetyl-cysteine.
Ask my office for more ways to reverse fatty liver and support liver health.
Autism spectrum disorder rates have increased by about 80 percent in the last 15 years, and an estimated one in 45 children have autism. While both parents scramble and scientists search for answers, one factor increasingly shows up in research: An immune system gone awry attacking the brain — also called autoimmunity.
Research has shown that some children with autism develop autoimmunity to the brain due to antibodies passed to them from their mothers while in utero. One study found one in 10 mothers of children with autism carry antibodies in their blood that reacts to their children’s brains.
Maternal autoimmunity raises autism risk
A mother who already has ongoing autoimmunity (which often may not have been diagnosed) is at a higher risk for having a child with autism.
Studies show children born to moms with autoimmune diseases such as celiac disease, type 1 diabetes, or rheumatoid arthritis, are three times more likely to develop autism.
This is because the mother carries antibodies in her bloodstream that are programmed to target human tissue for attack, including brain tissue. These antibodies then get passed to her fetus.
Obesity and diabetes in moms also raises risk
The factors that predispose a person to triggering autoimmunity are another risk mothers can pass onto their kids, the most common being disorders stemming from high blood sugar: obesity, diabetes, and PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome). This is because excess sugar is highly inflammatory and raises the risk of autoimmunity.
For instance, maternal obesity almost doubles the risk of a child developing autism, while obesity combined with diabetes quadruples the risk. Maternal PCOS a hormonal disorder caused by high blood sugar, has also been linked with an increased risk of autism in children due to excess testosterone.
Leaky gut and fetal immune health
Another maternal risk factor that can affect fetal brain health is leaky gut, also known as intestinal permeability. This is a common condition in which the inflamed and damaged gut wall allows 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.
Many things can cause leaky gut, but the most common is excess sugars and starches, processed foods, and junk foods. Other factors are chronic stress, excess alcohol, antibiotics, NSAIDS, and metabolic imbalances.
Because the gut is the seat of the immune system, a leaky gut triggers a cascade of inflammation that extends beyond the gut and into the brain and body. This raises the risk of brain antibodies developing in the mother and being passed to the fetus.
Immune health affects the developing brain
While some children withstand the assaults of modern life relatively unscathed, the child with autism or whose brain and immune system are predisposed to autism will react to foods, vaccines, viruses, chemicals, or other immune triggers. This imbalance can begin in the womb.
An anti-inflammatory diet is foundational to a healthy immune system and pregnancy. Studies have shown the effectiveness of a gluten-free and dairy-free diet or, more ideally, the immune balancing autoimmune diet.
It’s important to approach conception and pregnancy with immune health in mind. This will not only reduce the risk of autism but also reduce susceptibility 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.)
For decades the diet industry has conned consumers into thinking good diet products are low in fat. This led to a boon in creation of low-fat, high-carbohydrate, and often high-sugar “diet” products that promote fat storage, prevent fat burning, increase cravings, and raise inflammation. Not only can diet foods make you fatter, they can also make you sicker.
Yet another new study shows low-fat diet foods lead to obesity. Rats given high-sugar, low-fat foods that mimic many diet products not only got fatter than the control rats, they also experienced liver damage and brain inflammation.
The sad thing about this study is that the low-fat rats didn’t eat more calories. They consumed the same amount of calories as their counterparts that were fed a balanced diet yet they still ended the study fatter and sicker.
Liver and brain damage from low-fat, high-sugar
The excess fat accumulated around the rats’ livers was similar to the liver damage caused by heavy alcohol use. This study and others similar to it show that brain-inflammation from the high-sugar, low-fat diet also impaired function of the vagus nerve. This is a nerve that runs between the brain and the gut and is vital to both healthy brain and gut function.
Diet foods skew hunger and satiety hormones
The impacts on the vagus nerve and the brain also alter hormone signaling around hunger and satiety. This explains why people on high-carbohydrate, high-sugar diets often feel hungry all the time despite how much they eat.
Dieting signals the body to store fat
The hormones that control hunger and satiety also play a role in fat burning and fat storage. When this system is dysregulated due to a high-sugar diet, this prompts the body to favor fat storing over fat burning.
The best way to reverse this process is to fuel the body with a lower carbohydrate diet that is adequate in proteins and fat, and abundant in vegetables. How many carbohydrates a person needs to consume depends on many factors and varies from person to person. Ask my office for advice.
Dieting makes the body efficient at fat storage
Add a low-calorie diet to the poor performance of mainstream diet products and you have a recipe for lifelong super-powered fat storing abilities. This means a person has to consume fewer and fewer calories simply to avoid gaining weight.
This was best evidenced among former contestants of the popular TV show The Biggest Loser Although contestants lost weight through a stringent regime of low-calorie dieting and intensive exercise, most contestants piled the weight back on after the show ended. They also had to consume 500–800 fewer calories below maintenance calories simply to avoid gaining weight. This is because the extreme dieting and exercise, though effective, had lowered their resting metabolic rate so that they were burning fewer calories each day compared to before participating in the show.
How to lose weight and stay healthy?
Often people lose weight simply by following a diet that lowers inflammation and removes foods to which they are intolerant, and by stabilizing blood sugar, repairing leaky gut, and addressing chronic inflammation. By focusing on a vegetable-dominant diet you also increase the proportion of gut bacteria that promote fat burning over fat storage.
The key is to gradually switch yourself over to a life-long way of eating you enjoy because it makes you feel better.
For more information on healthy weight loss, contact my office.
If you want to get fit and lose weight, you should exercise as hard as you can, for as long as you can, every day, right? Wrong! Research shows extreme exercise can cause chronic health problems and make you feel worse. (What constitutes over exercise depends on the individual and their fitness level.) Recovery time is as important as the exercise itself.
Over exercising can cause the following health issues:
Many of the issues caused by over exercising stem from inflammation. Although appropriate exercise can be anti-inflammatory and very good for the brain, too much has the opposite effect.
The cellular damage from over exercising triggers a systemic inflammatory response that sets the stage for a host of other health problems.
Too much exercise stresses out your body
The damage and inflammation from over exercising is very stressful to the body. Excess stress underlies the burnout, depletion, and increasing weakness often seen with over exercising. Results can be fatigue, poor thyroid function, depressed immunity, and more.
Over exercising damages gut health
The gut and the bacteria it houses are increasingly being recognized as the seat of the immune system and foundational to our health.
Overdoing exercise has been found to damage the gut wall, causing “leaky gut.” This allows undigested foods, bacteria, yeast, and other pathogens into the bloodstream, where they then trigger inflammation throughout the body.
Overtraining also changes the composition of gut bacteria so there is too much bad bacteria.
How to know if you’re over training
How do you know if your exercise routine is making you unhealthy?
One of the most common symptoms is constant fatigue. Your workout routine should give you more energy, not less. Appropriate exercise boosts chemicals in the body that improve brain function, increase well being, and raise energy. If the opposite is happening to you, you’re overdoing it.
Other symptoms of over exercising include getting sick frequently, loss of muscle mass, gaining body fat, and difficulty recovering from injuries.
What to do if you’re over exercising
If you’re making yourself sick with exercise, the answer isn’t to stop exercising, but to go about your workouts differently. First of all, give yourself time to recover. This typically means exercising less frequently.
Also, it’s very important to get enough sleep. This is a critical time when your muscles repair and your metabolic system and brain recharge. Sufficient sleep is crucial if you want to stay active and healthy for the long haul.
For some women, their monthly period is no big deal. For others, it’s a grueling journey through depression, anxiety, irritability, pain, and more. If you think premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is too awful to be natural, you’re right — PMS is a symptom of a hormone imbalance often caused by too much stress.
Although a variety of factors can cause hormonal imbalances and PMS, one of the more common is low progesterone caused by long term chronic stress.
Low progesterone symptoms:
Chronic stress causes pregnenolone steal, a situation that causes progesterone deficiency and hormonal imbalances. Pregnenolone is a precursor hormone used to make progesterone and the stress hormone cortisol.
The body can only make so much pregnenolone. This means that if stress is always high, it “steals” pregnenolone from progesterone to make cortisol in order to meet the demands of stress. This causes an imbalance between progesterone and estrogen.
Factors that cause pregnenolone steal
Progesterone cream use can further skew hormones. It’s better to address the causes of low progesterone, which is typically stress-induced pregnenolone steal. Causes of pregnenolone steal and PMS include:
Ways to reduce pregnenolone steal include an anti-inflammatory diet, restoring gut health, and managing autoimmunity.
A variety of compounds can help soothe PMS, such as omega 3 fatty acids and gamma-linoleic acid (GLA—evening primrose oil, borage oil, or black currant oil.
Supporting serotonin, a brain chemical that promotes well-being, may help with PMS mood symptoms — tryptophan, 5-HTP, St. John’s Wort, and SAMe.
This is a broad overview. Ask my office for more advice on using natural therapies to alleviate PMS and support healthy hormones.
Parkinson’s and parkinsonism — symptoms that mimic Parkinson’s — stem from the same areas of the brain. These disorders both cause tremors, stiffness, slowness of movement, however they have different causes and may be helped with different nutritional therapies.
Parkinson’s versus parkinsonism
It’s helpful to know the difference between the two. Parkinson’s is a disease that slowly destroys brain cells (for some people it happens quickly) in an area of the brain that produces the brain chemical dopamine. Symptoms worsen over the years and include resting tremors, stiffness, slowness, not blinking enough, loss of smell, digestive problems, depression, and dementia.
Parkinsonism belongs to a class of disorders called “hypokinetic disorders,” which means diminished muscle function. Symptoms are slow or stiff movements.
Parkinson’s is due to degeneration of the brain’s dopamine area; parkinsonism is caused primarily by abnormal clumping of proteins called alpha-synuclein.
This clumping interferes with communication within the brain and also degenerates tissue.
Nutritional support for Parkinson’s
Because Parkinson’s disease degenerates the area of the brain that produces dopamine, nutritionally (and pharmaceutically) supporting dopamine can significantly help people Parkinson’s patients.
Dopamine is an important brain chemical that helps regulate not only feelings of reward and pleasure, but also mood, movements, learning, and motivation.
Nutritional compounds that support dopamine include L-dopa, pyridoxal-5-phoshate, DL-phenylalanine, beta-phenylalanine, and acetyl-tyrosine.
Nutritional support for parkinsonism
Parkinsonism also involves dopamine, but nutritional support should focus more on preventing or slowing the clumping of alpha-synuclein. In fact, research shows dopamine medications may worsen parkinsonism.
The key is to support the energy factories inside each brain cell, called mitochondria, and to support cell function.
Nutritional support for Parkinson’s and parkinsonism
These strategies have been shown in studies to help nutritionally support both Parkinson’s and parkinsonism:
Support healthy gut bacteria and function. Research shows an unhealthy balance of gut bacteria and gut inflammation can cause aggregation of alpha-synuclein, thus increasing the risk of Parkinson’s and parkinsonism.
Consider a ketogenic diet or intermittent fasting. Both these diets have been shown to slow down protein aggregation and promote healthy function of brain cells.
Take flavonoids to protect brain cell mitochondria. Flavonoids are anti-inflammatory plant compounds that have been shown to protect the brain. Turmeric and resveratrol are examples of powerful flavonoids.
Take nutrients to protect mitochondria. Nutritional compounds that have been shown to protect the mitochrondria include CoQ10, carnitine, riboflavin, niacin, alpha-lipoic acid, and magnesium.
Make sure you consume enough essential fatty acids. Essential fatty acids are anti-inflammatory and protective of brain health. Consume enough in the right ratio.
Support methylation. Methylation is a molecular process necessary for healthy brain function and helping prevent brain inflammation and degeneration. Nutritional compounds that support methylation include methyl B12, L-methylfolate (5-MTHF), trimethylgycine, choline, riboflavin, and pyridoxine.
Exercise! Increasing your heart rate through regular aerobic activity has been shown to help manage the progression and symptoms of Parkinson’s and parkinsonism. It’s best to get your heart rate up to higher levels for at least a few minutes every time you exercise.
What not to take. Acetycholine is a brain chemical and a supplement that can be great for the brain but it opposes dopamine. Therefore, in many cases it is recommended not to take acetylcholine supplements or precursors when you have parkinsonism or Parkinson’s disease.
This is a broad and simple overview of some nutritional strategies that can help you manage Parkinson’s or parkinsonism in addition to medical and functional neurological care. Ask my office for more advice.
Lab testing is foundational to functional medicine, and for good reason. It can show you what is causing your symptoms, if you are headed toward a disease (even if you don’t have symptoms), track the progress of your protocol, and motivate you to stick with your protocol.
Lab testing includes many different tests. Some examples of testing used in functional medicine include:
Food sensitivity testing. If a food you eat regularly causes inflammation, this contributes to chronic health disorders.
Gut testing. Gut problems contribute to chronic health issues. Tests can screen for leaky gut, gut function, parasites, bacterial overgrowth, and autoimmune reactions.
Blood chemistry panel. This is an excellent starting point in functional medicine testing and includes the use of functional medicine ranges (versus lab ranges). Blood testing screens for some diseases and can catch a trend toward a disease while there’s still time to reverse it.
Chemical and metal sensitivity testing. As with foods, an immune reaction to chemicals or metals can trigger chronic inflammatory health disorders.
Adrenal testing. Adrenal testing reveals the relationship between your health and stress handling. The most important test is the second one because it shows if your protocol is working. If not, you need to dig deeper.
Hormone testing. Hormone imbalances profoundly affect health. Testing screens for excesses, deficiencies, feedback loops, and how well you metabolize hormones.
DNA genetic testing. Genetic testing delivers insight into disease risk and genetic metabolic variations that affect health. An example is the MTHFR variance.
These are just a few examples of the types of testing used in functional medicine. What type of testing you need depends on your symptoms and health history.
Why lab testing is important in functional medicine
Functional medicine is based on peer-reviewed science and finds the root cause of your symptoms. There are a variety of factors that can lead to depression, fatigue, chronic pain, poor function, and other chronic health disorders.
Functional lab testing shows a trend toward disease
In conventional medicine, doctors use labs to screen for disease. Once a condition has become a disease, such as diabetes or autoimmune disease, the damage is significant.
Functional medicine uses lab testing to catch a health trend that is on the way to disease but that can still be slowed, halted, or reversed. For instance, lab markers that show elevated blood sugar, inflammation, and poor liver function allow you to easily reverse the march towards diabetes.
Another example is autoimmunity. A significant amount of tissue must be destroyed before conventional medicine can diagnose autoimmune disease. However, by testing for antibodies against tissue, the autoimmune progression can be slowed or stopped in its early stages.
Functional lab testing tracks progress
Although the first test is important for identifying health problems, subsequent testing is also crucial to let you know whether your protocol is working. If there is no improvement, it means you have not hit on the right protocol or discovered all the underlying causes.
Lab testing improves compliance and social support
Seeing the results of a lab test makes it easier to stick with a protocol. It also can encourage a disbelieving spouse, family member, or friend to support you. Many people think gluten sensitivity is just a fad, or that your symptoms aren’t real and you simply complain too much. Your lab results validate your symptoms and can help others be more supportive.
Ask my office about functional lab testing to help you get to the bottom of your chronic health condition.
Sleepy after meals? You’re raising your risk of dementia and Alzheimer's
If you pass out after meals or find yourself feeling desperate for something sweet, you are likely increasing your risk of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s in your later years.
Post-meal sleepiness and sugar cravings are signs of insulin resistance, a condition in which blood sugar is chronically too high and aging your brain too quickly.
Look for other common signs of insulin resistance to know if you’re at risk. For women this includes balding, growing more facial hair, and a deepening voice. PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) is also commonly linked with insulin resistance.
Men with insulin resistance may find they are growing breasts and they cry more easily.
People take on characteristics of the opposite sex because insulin resistance promotes excess testosterone production in women and estrogen production in men.
What causes insulin resistance?
Whether you develop insulin resistance depends on your diet and physical activity. If you subsist on a high-carbohydrate diet, indulge regularly in sweets, and never or rarely exercise, your body must secrete high levels of insulin to lower your chronically high blood sugar.
The human body is designed to survive times of famine more so than times of excess calories. These chronic surges of insulin eventually exhaust the body’s cells, causing them to refuse entry to insulin. This is “insulin resistance.”
Starbucks pastries and syrupy coffees, soda, breads, pasta, rice, corn, potatoes, hours in front of the computer and television, overeating…it’s no wonder rates of insulin resistance, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s are soaring to shockingly high levels.
Alzheimer’s is type 3 diabetes
We have long known insulin resistance is linked to many chronic health disorders, including obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, hormonal imbalances, and type 2 diabetes (insulin resistance is also called pre-diabetes).
This is because a high-carbohydrate diet accelerates brain degeneration and atrophies the brain.
Insulin necessary for brain function
Insulin does more than usher glucose into cells to manage blood sugar. Healthy levels of insulin also sustain energy in the brain, regulate inflammation, and help produce brain chemicals that regulate mood.
Insulin resistance does the opposite—it inflames the brain and impairs the brain’s ability to perform even simple operations.
Unless it’s reversed through diet and exercise, insulin resistance often progresses to type 2 diabetes, even further increasing the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Reversing insulin resistance to prevent Alzheimer’s
Some of the most powerful tools to prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s are the same tools that can reverse insulin resistance. They include stabilizing blood sugar by eating a lower-carb diet (ratios vary based on the person), regular physical activity (it helps sensitize cells to insulin), and a diet that is primarily vegetables (they foster health-promoting gut bacteria).
This is a broad overview of how your blood sugar levels affect the health and longevity of your brain. For customized advice, contact my office.
What is leaky gut and why should you care?
Does stuff really leak out of your intestines when you have leaky gut? The truth is, contents of the small intestine escape through the wall into the bloodstream. This can trigger many different inflammatory disorders and autoimmune disease, a disease in which the immune system attacks and destroys body tissue.
Leaky gut is associated with symptoms including:
Leaky gut, referred to as intestinal permeability in the research, means the lining of the small intestine has become inflamed, damaged, and overly porous. This allows undigested foods, bacteria, molds, and other pathogens to enter into the sterile environment of the bloodstream. The immune system attacks these compounds, triggering inflammation that, when constant, turns into chronic health disorders.
Leaky gut now on the research radar
Conventional medicine once believed leaky gut wasn’t a valid concept, but researchers now validate it as linked with many chronic disorders, including inflammatory bowel disorders, gluten sensitivity and celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, type 1 diabetes, depression, and more.
How to repair leaky gut
If you have a chronic health condition — even if it’s not digestive — addressing leaky gut is vital to improving your health. The bulk of this work is done through diet. The most common causes of leaky gut are processed foods, excess sugars, lack of plant fibers, and foods that trigger an immune reaction (as in gluten sensitivity).
Excess alcohol, NSAID use, and antibiotics are other common culprits.
If you have Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism you are not managing correctly, or if your liver is not detoxifying properly, you will likely have problems with leaky gut. Nutrients that can help support liver detoxification include milk thistle, dandelion root, and schizandra.
In addition to diet, many nutrients can help support gut healing. Some of these include probiotics, enzymes, l-glutamine, deglycyrrhizinated licorice root, collagen, hydrochloric acid, and anti-fungal herbs.
Targeted nutrients can help stabilize blood sugar, manage stress, tame inflammation, and support a healthy balance of gut bacteria. All these factors help repair leaky gut. If you have an autoimmune condition, managing leaky gut can be a lifelong process as autoimmune flares can inflame the gut.
Ask me for advice about a leaky gut diet and protocol.