contact us

Use the form on the right to email us, or by phone or mail.

Phone

503.248.1182

Office

1306 NW Hoyt, Suite 411
Portland, OR 97209

1306 NW Hoyt St #411
Portland, OR 97209

(503) 248-1182

Naturopathic Medicine, Neurotherapy

2013-09-23 17.41.27.jpg

Blog

Positivity is good for health, but so is appropriate negativity — how to avoid “toxic positivity”

Noel Thomas

914 negativity important too

If you are working to manage your Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism or other chronic or autoimmune disorder, you may have heard a positive attitude is good for your health. And it’s true — positive thinking, gratitude, and healthy socialization have all been linked to better health outcomes. However, chasing a positive attitude can have a dark side.

It’s common to be hear “just think positive,” “focus on the good,” “don’t dwell on the negative,” and so forth. But the truth is, sometimes life circumstances are awful and sometimes people do horrible things to others.

The demand for a positive attitude when it’s not appropriate is known as toxic positivity. Avoiding or denying negative emotions only makes them bigger and more persistent — and hence more inflammatory for your system if you have an autoimmune condition such as Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.

Also, negativity exists as a survival trait. It alerts you to danger, or if something isn’t right.

In fact, telling someone who is suffering that they just need to be positive is referred to as spiritual bypassing or gaslighting. Spiritual bypassing is an attempt to use false positivity to bypass a difficult issue, and gaslighting occurs when someone tries to make you feel like you’re crazy when you express uncomfortable thoughts or feelings.

Many autoimmune patients have felt gaslighted by doctors who insinuated they were making up their symptoms or just seeking attention.

Practice mindfulness, not just positivity

It’s normal to want to avoid negative and unpleasant emotions because they are uncomfortable and distressing. As such, we think of them as “bad.” But they are not there to be banished us but rather to guide us through life and help us make decisions that protect and support us.

Instead of denying them through forced positivity or drowning them out through whatever addiction or bad habit is our go-to, psychologists say we should listen to what they reflect about a current situation.

For instance, if you’re frustrated and angry about your health, it means you care about yourself and being able to participate in life. Allowing and accepting our negative thoughts and feelings can help us understand who we are and make good choices.

Resilience and self-care are the bedrocks of positivity

In self-help circles some tout the theory that bad things happen if you think negative thoughts, but the truth is bad things happen to everyone on a regular basis. Positivity isn’t about feeling good all the time, but rather about practicing resilience and positive self-talk in the face of adversity.

Do you practice these negative self-talk habits?

  • You filter out the good parts of an experience and dwell on the bad.
  • You think you are to blame for when things go wrong, or that it’s only happening to you and other people are luckier.
  • You catastrophize and make problems out to be much bigger than they really are.
  • You polarize things into very good or very bad and fail to see that most things in life have a grey area.

Practicing positivity through bad things means avoiding the temptation of despair and hopelessness and instead becoming your own cheerleader and coach.

Positivity is a practice, not a destination

Perhaps the most important thing to understand is that positivity is something that takes ongoing practice and application. It is like playing an instrument or a sport — you have to keep up with it to be proficient.

This is the concept of neuroplasticity in how the brain works. By applying yourself regularly to the practice of positivity, you hardwire new neural pathways into your brain, which makes you more efficient at positivity over time. And if you have a chronic autoimmune condition such as Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, every time you practice positivity you also release anti-inflammatory chemicals in your body that help tame inflammation and modulate immunity.

Try these tricks at learning how to be a more resilient, positive thinker who can also handle the negative aspects of life:

  • If an area of your life is constant major stressor, whether it’s a job or relationship, start strategizing on how to change it.
  • Check yourself throughout the day to see if your thoughts are negative or positive.
  • Seek out humor. Laughing at life reduces its weight and lowers stress.
  • Follow a healthy diet to lower inflammation. Many studies now prove what we eat affects how we feel. Eat food that feeds a good mood.
  • Exercise at least 30 minutes a day. Generating feel-good endorphins through exercise beats any addictive substance or habit. It makes it easier to practice positivity and weather the storms.
  • Surround yourself with positive people. Although we all have down days and need to vent, incessantly negative people can make it hard to stay positive. Seek out and cultivate friendships with other people who also practice positivity.
  • Pay attention to how you frame things. We all say things that can be reframed more positively. For instance, if you make a mistake, instead of saying, “I’m such an idiot,” reframe it to something like, “Whoops, I’ll see if I can get it right next time.”
  • Talk to yourself the way you would talk to someone you care about. Chances are you would never talk to someone you love the way you talk to yourself. Make self-respect and self-care a priority in your self-talk.

Some people were taught healthy positive self-talk in childhood by their parents and teachers. Others have to learn it later in life. Either way, it’s a skill that simply takes awareness and practice in order to develop the resilience to see you through the tough times of dealing with an autoimmune or chronic health disorder such as Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.

Are you getting enough of this dementia-prevention nutrient on a vegan or vegetarian diet?

Noel Thomas

913 choline on vegan diet

Eating a vegetable-based diets has loads of proven health benefits, including enriching your gut bacteria diversity, loading you up with plant vitamins and minerals, and ensuring you get plenty of fiber. However, if your plant-based diet is strictly vegan or strict vegetarian you may be missing out on this essential dementia-fighting nutrient: Choline.

Choline is only found predominantly in animal fats and is a vital brain nutrient that helps prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s.

In addition to supporting the brain — which is made of primarily fat, by the way — choline also supports healthy liver function. Good liver function is necessary to not only keep the body detoxified, but also to keep chronic inflammation in check. A choline deficiency raises the incidence of fatty liver.

Choline is also an essential part of cell membranes in the body and brain; cell membranes act as the cellular command center in directing cell function and communication.

Choline is found primarily in meats, fish, dairy, and eggs. Significantly smaller amounts are found in nuts, legumes, and cruciferous vegetables. The liver is able to manufacture a small amount, though not enough to meet the body’s needs.

Experts say that in order to meet the brain’s needs for sufficient choline, it needs to come from dietary sources rich in choline.

Most people are choline deficient

The bad news is most people aren’t getting enough choline, and some people are genetically predisposed to a deficiency. Research shows the rising popularity of vegan and vegetarian diets is raising rates of deficiency.

The recommended daily intake of choline is about 425 mg a day for women and 550 mg a day for men.

The two richest sources of choline are beef liver and egg yolk. Research has shown that people who eat eggs regularly have higher levels of choline (we can assume most people aren’t eating liver these days).

In fact, pregnant women who consume at least one egg a day are eight times more likely to meet choline intake recommendations compared to those who don’t.

Beef liver capsules can be a good source of choline if you don’t prefer to eat straight liver. Most products recommend 6 capsules a day. Look for a grass-fed source that has been tested for purity.

Choline is vital for the fetal and infant brain

The choline recommendation for pregnant and breastfeeding women is about 930 mg — choline is vital for the developing child’s brain.

Choline is vital for the adult brain

Choline is also recognized as a vital brain nutrient for the adult brain. In a study of mice bred to have Alzheimer’s like symptoms, a choline-rich diet resulted in improvements in memory and brain function in the mice and their offspring.

Choline protects the brain in several ways. First, it reduces homocysteine, an inflammatory and neurotoxic amino acid if levels are too high. High homocysteine levels are found to double the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Choline prevents this by converting homocysteine to the helpful compound methionine.

Choline also reduces the activation of microglia, the brain’s immune cells that cause inflammation and damage to brain tissue when triggered.

Choline is an essential component of acetylcholine, a brain chemical known as the memory neurotransmitter. Sufficient acetylcholine is vital for memory and healthy brain function.

Choline also helps regulate gene expression.

Choline is just one of the many essential nutrients necessary for healthy brain function. Ask my office how we can help you support your brain health.

New research provides more clues in PANDAS

Noel Thomas

912 new pandas insights

Children who recently had a strep infection and then go on to suddenly develop symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), Tourette’s, tics, odd behaviors, emotional instability, and other psychiatric and neurological disorders are believed to have PANDAS.

PANDAS stands for Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections.

In some children, a strep infection appears to trigger an autoimmune attack against the brain, causing a sudden onset of neuropsychiatric symptoms.

PANS, or Pediatric Acute-Onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome, is similar, except environmental factors or other infections trigger symptoms.

PANDAS/PANS isn’t believed to be fully credible by many experts or doctors, in part because it must be diagnosed by symptoms and because the supporting research hasn’t been very strong. Instead, they diagnose affected children with conditions such as OCD.

However, recent research sheds new light on the disorder and why it affects some children and not others.

PANDAS/PANS causes inflammation in an area of the brain called the basal ganglia, which helps govern emotions and motor control. When the immune system creates antibodies to the strep infection, these antibodies mistakenly attack tissue in the basal ganglia as well.

In 2018, researchers isolated cells in the basal ganglia, called cholinergic interneurons, which are affected by the immune attack. Previous research has shown these cells are depleted in Tourette’s syndrome.

These cholinergic interneurons fire less when strep antibodies attach to them, which is believed to cause the symptoms associated with PANDAS/PANS.

Normally, antibodies would not be able to cross the blood-brain barrier to cause immune attacks in the brain. However, research shows the spike in inflammatory immune cells called TH-17 from a strep infection can cause the blood-brain barrier to open up. This is commonly called leaky blood-brain barrier and can allow strep antibodies and other pathogens to enter into the brain.

It has been found that most of these TH-17 cells pool in the olfactory bulb, an area of the brain that receives signals from the nasal passages.

This creates a path through which antibodies can enter, especially with repeat strep infections.

Genetic susceptibility has also been found to be a link in PANDAS/PANS.

PANDAS diagnosis criteria

  • Significant obsessions, compulsions, tics
  • Abrupt onset of these symptoms or relapsing and remitting symptom severity
  • Onset prior to puberty
  • Association with strep infection
  • Association with neuropsychiatric symptoms, including PANS symptoms

PANS diagnosis criteria:

Abrupt, dramatic onset of OCD or severely limited food intake and the addition of at least two of the following:

  • Anxiety
  • Emotional swings and/or depression
  • Irritability, anger, oppositional behavior
  • Regression
  • School performance deteriorates
  • Sensory or motor abnormalities
  • Sleep disturbances, urinary frequency, bed wetting

Functional medicine for PANDAS/PANS

Functional medicine strategies can help reduce inflammation and autoimmune attacks in PANDAS/PANS and support immune and brain health.

Functional medicine strategies may include removing inflammatory triggers from the diet and the environment; nutritional therapies to lower inflammation and support brain health; addressing blood sugar, gut health, and toxicity; supporting neurotransmitters; and repairing mitochondrial function and the blood-brain barrier.

Quick action can improve outcome. For more information, contact my office.

Google is censoring valid health information; opt for alternate search engines for better results

Noel Thomas

911 Google censoring health info

Anyone who has learned how to manage Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism or another autoimmune condition will tell you they had to learn it on their own. The vast majority of doctors either do not test for or do not adequately treat Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune disease that attacks and damages the thyroid gland, causing weight gain, hair loss, fatigue, depression, and other symptoms. Now, the ability to find health advice backed by peer-reviewed, scientific literature is seriously compromised due to censorship, or blacklisting, by Google. Google is increasingly censoring legitimate information and instead sends people to conventional medical, pharmaceutical-oriented sources of information such as WebMd.

Most doctors do not adequately test for or treat autoimmune disease such as Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism because there is no drug for autoimmunity. True, people are prescribed thyroid hormone replacement medication, which is frequently necessary. However, it does not address the ongoing and progressively worsening immune attack on the thyroid gland. That is why many people do not feel better when they begin taking thyroid hormone.

The lack of adequate autoimmune care in conventional medicine means millions of people go misdiagnosed or undiagnosed. In most cases, autoimmune destruction has to be advanced and severe before an autoimmune disease can be diagnosed and treated with steroids, surgery, or other methods that are invasive and riddled with side effects and problems. For instance, nerve damage has to be significantly advanced before conditions such as multiple sclerosis or type 1 diabetes are caught, while patients suffer for years.

Add to this studies that show the inherent sexism in conventional medicine. Women account for more than three-quarters of autoimmune patients. Yet when women go their doctors with complaints of autoimmune symptoms, most are not adequately tested. Instead, they are told they have depression or anxiety, that they need to lose weight and exercise, that they are making it up, or that it’s just aging.

Until now, millions of people have been able to successfully learn how to manage their Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism and other autoimmune conditions through online sources based on peer-reviewed science. They have also been able to find healthcare practitioners who are knowledgeable in how to apply this science to help manage chronic conditions.

Please note that just because something is in the published scientific literature, that does not mean your local medical doctor is either aware of it or supports it. There is a huge gulf between the scientific literature and the doctor’s office, with pharmaceutical companies wielding significant influence over doctors’ practices and education.

Now, Google is limiting our access to legitimate information and redirecting searches toward conventional sources, which are extremely limited when it comes to chronic illness.

True, opportunists and snake oil salesmen abound on the internet and consumers must do their due diligence in rooting out valid sources of information and good communities to help them on their health journey.

Vitriolic corporate-driven public controversies lend a hand in the Google censorship. Rather than looking at the peer-reviewed literature on the links between environmental toxins and brain inflammation in the developing child’s brain for instance, complex neuroimmune topics have been reduced to crude black-and-white arguments that have no basis in relevant neurophysiological mechanisms.

While Google is penalizing many science-backed integrative health sites so they no longer show up on the first page, other search engines such as Bing, Yahoo, DuckDuckGo, and Ecosia (a search engine that plants trees based on searches) still rank sites legitimately.

About one billion health questions a day come through Google. Now, they are routing those searches away from such well-known sites as Mercola, PaleoHacks, Bulletproof, GreenMedInfo, Self-Hacked, Kelly Brogan, and many more.

Instead, seekers are routed to sites such as WebMD, Healthline, Mayo Clinic, and other institutional sites. While these sites offer worthwhile information, they are not yet caught up to the science surrounding the many chronic illnesses that have become so common today. They even provide false information in some instances, especially in regards to nutritional compounds.

Google is unfairly throwing its weight around in other industries as well, and the EU levied its third antitrust fine against Google earlier this year.

Don’t let Google bully you into Big Pharma’s pipelines. If you are looking for sources of legitimate health information that have been blacklisted by Google, try alternative sites such as Bing, Yahoo, DuckDuckGo, and Ecosia.

In the meantime, we attend educational conferences to stay up to date on the latest research and clinical protocols to help manage autoimmune and chronic conditions such as Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism. As the field is ever evolving, it’s important to stay abreast of developments. Contact my office if you need help managing your chronic health condition.

The American Diabetes Association finally recommends low carb; still recommends foods that promote diabetes

Noel Thomas

910 ADA finally recommends low carb

Although they are more than a couple of decades behind functional medicine, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) is finally recommending lower carbohydrate diets for people with diabetes.

In functional medicine, we have long seen the deleterious effects of carbohydrate-laden diets on not only blood sugar, but also on chronic inflammatory disorders, weight, hormonal balance, and brain function.

High blood sugar disorders such as type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance, or pre-diabetes, not only make you feel worse, they also significantly raise your risk of numerous chronic health disorders, including heart disease, stroke, autoimmune disease, and Alzheimer’s. In fact, some researchers call Alzheimer’s type 3 diabetes because high blood sugar is so damaging to the brain.

While it’s heartening that such a large and official organization is finally making dietary recommendations to stabilize blood sugar, their list of recommended foods remains problematic. Some foods on the ADA list have been shown to trigger autoimmune attacks on the pancreas, worsening type 1 diabetes and increasing the risk of developing autoimmune diabetes in people with type 2 diabetes, a lifestyle-induced disease.

The ADA’s new recommendations for carbohydrate consumption

Previously, the ADA warned against diets under 130 grams a day of carbohydrates because people would be deprived of essential nutrients. They also stated the brain needs more than 130 grams a day to meet its energy needs.

However, given the success of lower carb diets in not only reducing the need for insulin but also in lowering heart-disease risk, the ADA has adjusted its recommendations to support a lower carb diet.

In what may eventually prove to be a sea change in government recommendations, the ADA bases the new recommendation on findings that a low-carb diet better manages health than a low-fat diet.

It also states that dietary recommendations should depend on the patient and that a “one-size-fits-all” diet should not be given to every patient.

They do not recommend a low-carb diet for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, people who have eating disorders or at risk of developing eating disorders, people with kidney disease, and for those taking SGLT2 inhibitor medication.

ADA guidelines on low-glycemic foods fail to consider foods that trigger autoimmune attacks

It’s a step in the right direction that the ADA is finally recognizing the vast amounts of research and the countless case studies linking lower carb diets with better health.

However, they have yet to recognize the science showing that some ADA recommended low-glycemic foods trigger autoimmune attacks on cells that cause type 1 diabetes.

The most prevalent triggers are gluten and dairy, although other foods also cross-react with cells involved in type 1 diabetes. This does not mean that these foods trigger an autoimmune attack in all people, but research shows certain foods raise the risk of exacerbating autoimmune diabetes.

For the person with type 1 diabetes it’s especially important to be aware of which foods may trigger autoimmune attacks that worsen their condition. You can screen for these foods with testing from Cyrex Labs.

However, research also shows that about 10–20 percent of people with type 2 diabetes, which is lifestyle induced, also have undiagnosed type 1 diabetes. This is referred to as type 1.5 diabetes.

Should you go on a low-carb diet?

The average American eats more processed carbohydrates than the human body was designed to handle. The incidences of inflammatory disorders related to high blood sugar are crushing the healthcare system — diabetes, obesity, heart disease, chronic pain, depression, dementia, and neurodegenerative diseases are just a few.

However, this doesn’t mean every person should be on the same diet. For some, a very low-carb ketogenic diet is highly therapeutic. For others, such as those with compromised brain function that has caused dysregulated metabolic and neurological function, a ketogenic diet can be disastrous.

Although finding your optimal carbohydrate consumption may take some trial and error, it’s safe to assume you do not need sugar, high fructose corn syrup, processed carbohydrates, and industrial oils. Instead, the bulk of your diet should come from a diverse array of ever changing vegetables and fruits (be careful not to go overboard on fruits), and healthy fats and proteins.

It’s also safe to assume the human body was designed for daily physical activity, time outdoors, and healthy social interaction.

Ask my office for help on customizing and diet and lifestyle plan designed just for you.

Floss your teeth daily to reduce your risk of stroke

Noel Thomas

909 oral bacteria and stroke

You may be familiar with common stroke-prevention strategies: Exercise regularly, eat plenty of vegetables, minimize stress, and keep inflammation at bay. But did you know taking good care of your teeth and gums is a major way to lower stroke risk?

A new study has found a significant link between stroke and oral bacteria. An analysis of blood clots from 75 ischemic stroke patients found almost 80 percent of them had oral bacteria DNA concentrated in the blood clots that weren’t found in other blood samples from the same patient.

The presence of oral bacteria in blood clots rounds out a much larger picture that shows the role gum disease and oral bacteria play in cardiovascular and neurological health.

The same research team has also found that blood clots containing oral bacteria cause heart attacks and brain aneurysms, that thromboses in the leg veins and arteries contain oral bacteria, and that oral bacteria is linked to heart infection.

Other research has linked oral bacteria from gum disease with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s. The bacteria produce toxins in the brain that give rise to the misfolding of proteins in the brain that is the hallmark of Alzheimer’s.

An ischemic stroke occurs when a blood clot starves a part of the brain of blood flow and vital oxygen, causing massive tissue damage. It is commonly caused by the narrowing and hardening of the arteries from plaquing, or atherosclerosis.

There is evidence that oral bacteria activates platelets and speeds up the development of atherosclerosis and blood clotting.

Here’s a tip to motivate you to floss

We get it, flossing is tedious and annoying. You just want to brush your teeth and be done.

Here’s a little tip that may motivate you to floss and brush more regularly: After you floss between a couple of teeth, smell your floss. If it has a foul odor that’s a sign you’ve got oral bacteria accumulating on your teeth and gums. This is also a sign your breath probably stinks as well! Smell check your floss after flossing each section of teeth — you may find areas that need extra attention.

Reacquaint yourself with healthy flossing and brushing habits and consider investing in a water flossing device. These devices use water to deliver extra cleaning power to the teeth and to stimulate gum tissue, so it stays healthy. However, please note that a water flosser should be an adjunct to flossing and not a substitute. Water flossing is not as effective as using dental floss.

Use functional medicine to prevent strokes

Healthy teeth and gums also depend on a healthy diet and lifestyle. This ties in with general stroke prevention strategies — 90 percent of strokes are caused by dietary and lifestyle habits.

Strokes are the third leading cause of death in the United States and the leading cause of disability.

Studies have found the following factors are the most common causes of strokes:

  • High blood pressure
  • Smoking
  • Poor diet
  • Lack of exercise
  • Excess alcohol
  • Stress and depression
  • Diabetes
  • Excess abdominal fat
  • Heart disorders

As research continues, poor oral hygiene may get added to this list.

Functional medicine strategies to prevent stroke

Focus on whole foods, plenty of vegetables, and healthy fats. Ditch the sodas, desserts, sweet coffee drinks, and processed foods. It might be hard at first, but you’ll start to feel heaps better.

Stabilize blood sugar

High blood sugar from too many sweets and processed carbohydrates causes chronic inflammation, which damages and thickens arterial walls and promotes the formation of arterial plaques and blood clots. Type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance, or pre-diabetes, increase your risk of stroke by two to four times.

Regular exercise prevents strokes and makes you feel awesome

Exercise is a magic bullet when it comes to preventing strokes and promoting a healthy brain. Regular physical activity keeps blood vessels strong, improves oxygenation of the brain, and increases your metabolism. Exercise after a stroke also significantly reduces the severity of the repercussions and improves recovery.

Ask my office how we can help you lower your risk of stroke and support your brain health.

How to reduce your toxic burden and protect immunity

Noel Thomas

908 tips for lowering body toxins

We live in a sea of toxins and we all carry significant amounts of heavy metals and environmental toxins in our bodies. Even if you eat all organic foods, drink filtered water, and use non-toxic home and body products, you will still come in contact with numerous toxins as a part of daily modern life.

Thankfully, we can support our health and buffer the impact of these toxins on our bodies. Strategies include a diet that helps your body detoxify regularly and that minimizes toxic exposure, anti-inflammatory protocols to buffer the inflammatory effects of toxins on your body, supporting the pathways of elimination, and including binders in your regular protocol to “sponge up” toxins in your system.

Anti-inflammatory diet

Toxins are inflammatory to the body. One of the best things you can do is reduce your inflammatory load with an anti-inflammatory diet. Although even organic foods are shown to contain toxins these days due to air, water, and soil contamination, choosing foods that have not been produced with pesticides, hormones, or antibiotics will reduce your overall burden.

You also want to keep your blood sugar stable by avoiding sugars and foods that are high in processed carbohydrates. This means not letting yourself crash from low blood sugar and not overeating yourself into a food coma.

Especially important is to avoid the foods that trigger an inflammatory response in you. If you have a food sensitivity or intolerance, eating a food that flares your immune system will keep it in a state of constant red alert, stoking inflammation throughout your body. The most common immune reactive foods are gluten, dairy, soy, egg, and corn.

In addition to minimizing your dietary sources of inflammation, certain supplements can also tame and reduce inflammation.

Studies show taking larger doses of the antioxidants resveratrol and curcumin can help protect the body from the damage of toxins, especially if you take them together in a liposomal form.

Glutathione that is liposomal or in another absorbable form is another way to lower inflammation and protect your body. In fact, insufficient glutathione increases your risk of developing chemical sensitivities. In addition to taking an absorbable glutathione you can also raise glutathione levels inside your cells with n-acetyl-cysteine, cordyceps, Gotu Kola, milk thistle, L-glutamine, and alpha lipoic acid.

Binding toxins in your body

Taking nutritional compounds on a regular basis that bind with toxins for easy removal is another way to buffer your body. Binders can help remove heavy metals, environmental toxins, mycotoxins from molds, infectious bacteria, and fungal infections from your body.

Here are some examples of effective binders:

Modified citrus pectin: This is derived from citrus peel and processed in a way that it allows it to enter the bloodstream and bind with toxins for safe elimination from the body. Modified citrus pectin also serves as a great “prebiotic,” or a nutrition source for your good gut bacteria. A healthy gut microbiome is critical to helping protect you from toxins. Look for a source that is free of fillers.

Activated charcoal: Activated charcoal is a popular and affordable binder for toxins. It can also help soothe common digestive complaints.

Bentonite clay: Bentonite, montmorillonite, and illite (French clay) are used to bind toxins. When mixed with water, these clays develop a sponge like quality and take on an electrical charge to attract harmful compounds. Look for a quality product that does not have lead contamination.

Zeolite: Zeolite is formed from volcanic rock and ash and is a well-known binder for heavy metals and other toxins.

Chlorella: Chlorella is a blue-green algae that has an affinity for mercury and lead. It is also rich in B vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. You may need to avoid chlorella if you take blood thinners.

Silica: Most people think of silica to improve their hair, skin, and nails, but it’s also good at binding metals such as thallium that are harder to detox.

You must support your pathways of elimination when you detoxify

Binders work great at latching onto toxins, but if your body’s pathways of elimination are faulty, you could make yourself more toxic. You also want to ensure you are sufficiently mineralized — heavy metals can bind to cellular receptors in the absence of necessary minerals.

Ways to support the elimination of toxins include supporting healthy liver and gallbladder function, supporting healthy bowel elimination, and making sure you stay hydrated and take care of your kidneys and bladder. Eating 25–38 grams of fiber a day, staying well hydrated, eating foods that are good for the liver (like bitters and greens), exercising regularly to stimulate the lymphatic system, and sweating regularly are some examples of how to keep toxins flowing out of your body.

Avoiding chemical sensitivities

Although we want to minimize our overall toxic burden, we especially want to avoid developing chemical sensitivities. In the end, your overall toxic burden may not matter as much as whether you have an immune reaction to these toxins. You can react to a toxin the same you can react to gluten or dairy. This is problematic as it’s much harder to eliminate a toxin from your environment than a food from your diet, especially if that toxin is prevalent in the air, such as benzene, or in plastics, such as BPA.

This is why it’s so important to live an anti-inflammatory lifestyle. If you already have chemical sensitivities, ask my office about methods to lower your sensitivity so you can better tolerate everyday life.

Depressed & anxious? Volunteering reduces symptoms

Noel Thomas

907 volunteering improves mental health

Depression and anxiety are hitting all-time highs these days, sending millions of Americans in search of relief. While many avenues reduce or eliminate symptoms, particularly functional medicine protocols that reduce chronic inflammation, one must still tend to the health of the psyche. One powerful but overlooked relief from depression and anxiety is to spend time volunteering.

Volunteering has been shown to relieve depression and anxiety, lower blood pressure, release the social bonding hormone oxytocin, improve contentment, and trigger the same dopamine reward centers in the brain that food, drugs, and sex trigger.

In fact, studies on volunteering suggest it’s beneficial for us because the human brain is wired to help others. Although greed and selfishness are characteristic human traits, researchers have also found that altruism and cooperation are inherent qualities that set us apart from much of the animal kingdom.

Volunteering can be a way to exercise these areas of the brain and the mind that can easily go neglected in our overly busy survival-oriented society. However, human survival over the millennia has been credited to our ability to work together in child rearing, hunting, gathering, creating domiciles, and caring for sick or older members of the community.

Given our evolutionary history, it’s no wonder so many people are depressed and anxious. Social isolation and loneliness are considered just as risky to health as are obesity and smoking. Most Americans live in single-family dwellings with no links to their neighbors or a community.

How volunteering helps relieve depression and anxiety

Depression and anxiety can be very inwardly focused disorders. Even if that focus is intensely negative, it creates a feeling of separation and isolation from others. People with these disorders also commonly complain of feeling like they are useless and a burden to others.

Volunteering, on the other hand, has been shown to help people feel more connected to others, more optimistic, and more useful and purposeful. This is believed to be due in part to the release of oxytocin that volunteering triggers. Oxytocin is a “love and bonding” brain chemical that is also released during sex or from cuddling a baby or a pet.

Oxytocin not only makes you feel better, it has also been shown to reduce stress levels and lower inflammation — two powerful factors in causing depression.

Volunteering works on another powerful neurotransmitter when it comes to mood: Dopamine. Dopamine is our “pleasure and reward” neurotransmitter that is released when we have feelings of accomplishment, pleasure, or reward. Addictions are dopamine surges run amuck as people become hooked on the dopamine rush that comes with drugs, gambling, and other pleasurable indulgences.

However, sufficient dopamine is necessary to help us get things accomplished as well as to feel self-worth and purpose in life, two things people with depression often lack. Volunteering triggers a healthy dopamine release that then extends into other areas of their life.

Researchers also point to the fact that volunteering simply takes you out of yourself. Although dismissing your woes doesn’t make them go away, having compassionate perspective for other people’s struggles can help put your own in healthier perspective.

Also, while volunteering has mental health benefits, a caretaker position is also your source of income is commonly linked with increased stress and burnout.

The paradox of “being too busy” to volunteer

Most people cite their overly busy lives and booked schedules for not being willing or able to volunteer. But the experience of volunteers frequently shows that a paradoxical effect happens when you work it into your schedule anyways — the stress-lowering and mood-boosting effects of volunteering reduce the sense of chronic overwhelm that many people experience daily.

Volunteering can calm the over anxious mind and relax the muscles and breathing.

Functional medicine and depression

Although volunteering has proven benefits for depression and anxiety, it’s important to nevertheless pay attention to physiological factors that cause depression.

Depression has now been linked to things like chronic inflammation, lack of gut bacteria diversity, too much bad gut bacteria, leaky gut, and compromised brain health, such as from a past brain injury or brain inflammation.

These dysfunctions can stem from food intolerances, blood sugar imbalances, poor nutrition, a sedentary lifestyle, undiagnosed autoimmunity, hidden infections, or other underlying disorders that antidepressants will not address.

Ask my office for more ideas on how functional medicine can help you relieve depression and anxiety.

Your gallbladder can cause gut and health problems

Noel Thomas

906 gallbladder can cause gut issues

People tend not to think about their gallbladder unless gallstones become a painful and debilitating problem requiring surgery. However, your gallbladder could be causing gut problems or chronic inflammatory issues, even if you have no overt gallbladder symptoms.

In fact, gallbladder issues are one of the most common reasons people have chronic gastrointestinal symptoms that are difficult to treat. This is because people rarely consider gallbladder health.

The gallbladder is reservoir for bile, which it secretes to emulsify fats in the diet.

The issue with many cases of poor gallbladder health isn’t gallbladder stones but instead biliary stasis. This is a condition in which the bile becomes overly thick and doesn’t secrete well to help digest fats.

Gallstones are obvious and easy to diagnose. Symptoms of gallstones include:

  • Severe and sudden pain in the upper right abdomen and possibly extending to the upper back.
  • Fever and shivering.
  • Severe nausea and vomiting.
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes)
  • Clay colored stools or dark urine.

Typically, gallstones include a trip to the emergency room and gallbladder removal surgery, one of the most commonly performed surgeries today.

However, by paying attention to your gallbladder health, you can not only avoid an unnecessary surgery that raises the risks of developing other health problems, but also you can improve your gut function and lower inflammation.

Sometimes in cases of biliary stasis, an ultrasound can show gallstones that have formed but not yet obstructed the gallbladder. However, for many people, overly thick bile is the problem. This can be identified via symptoms.

Symptoms of biliary stasis include:

  • Bloating after meals
  • Burping after meals
  • Fish oil burps from fish oil capsules
  • Fatty foods make you feel worse
  • Floating stools
  • Chronic constipation

These are symptoms that a conventional doctor may dismiss altogether, and that can also be caused by other imbalances.

Biliary stasis is especially common in overweight women over 40 who have had children due to the effects of hormonal shifts on the gallbladder.

It’s important to address gallbladder function and biliary stasis as sufficient bile flow is necessary to digest fats. When fats aren’t digested, the undigested fats cause imbalances elsewhere in the body.

Undigested fats can lead to poor sphincter function in the digestive tract, which facilitates the transport of bacteria from the large intestine into the small intestine, causing a condition called small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). SIBO causes myriad symptoms, including chronic constipation, chronic diarrhea, or both. Bloating is also common with SIBO.

Biliary stasis also backs up the liver’s detoxification pathways. As a result, the liver cannot effectively detoxify hormones, toxins, and other metabolites. This increases the toxic burden on your system, which in turn increases inflammation.

Many people with poor gallbladder function and biliary stasis naturally start avoiding fats, even healthy fats like olive oil and avocado oil. They also may avoid fish or fish oils because they get “fishy burps.” This increases health risks, particularly for the brain and the hormones, because we need ample healthy fats for optimal function. It also leads to deficiencies in the vital fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.

If you are taking all the right GI supplements and doing the right gut health diets but still not improving, your gallbladder health is one thing you may want to consider.

How to improve your gallbladder health

Fortunately, various nutritional compounds support gallbladder health, fat digestion, and liver detoxification, including dandelion root, milk thistle seed extract, ginger root, phosphatidylcholine, and taurine.

These compounds can also help if your gallbladder has been removed, along with ox bile.

In order to improve and maintain your gallbladder health, also include these practices:

  • Eat 25–38 grams of fiber a day.
  • Avoid processed and excess starchy carbohydrates (white flour, sugar, potatoes, pasta, etc.).
  • Avoid trans fats, hydrogenated fats, and processed vegetable oils.
  • Get plenty of essential fatty acids and omega 3s.
  • Eliminate foods to which you have an immune response; gluten and dairy are the two most common.
  • Support low thyroid function or autoimmune Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.

Ask my office for more advice on how to support your gallbladder health or your general health if your gallbladder has been removed.

Nine possible reasons why you can’t lose weight

Noel Thomas

905 9 reasons can t lose weight

For some people weight loss is pretty straightforward: They just need to cut out sodas and sweets and hit the gym regularly. For others, especially those with a chronic health disorder, weight loss remains elusive despite and weight gain happens far too easily despite doing everything right.

Weight gain and weight loss resistance are very common symptoms among people with chronic health disorders. Contrary to popular belief, an inability to lose weight or keep it off is not a sign of a character flaw but instead flaws in your metabolic, immune, or neurological health.

Fat shaming is culturally accepted, particularly in the alternative health spaces and against women. The truth is, overweight and obese people may have some of the healthiest diets and lifestyle practices you’ll encounter. They have to — should they dare to eat “normally” they would quickly balloon out of control.

Instead of beating yourself up if you can’t lose the weight or you have mysteriously gained it too easily, consider if any of the following underlying causes may apply to you.

Nine possible reasons why you can’t lose weight — none of which are due to being lazy or undisciplined

1. You are a veteran lifelong dieter. The multi-billion-dollar diet industry coupled with unrealistic cultural body image standards have turned low-calorie dieting into a way of life. That works great in your youth, but as you age your metabolism fatigues from constant famines.

The human body responds to famines by progressively lowering metabolism and increasing fat storage hormones. As a result, each low-calorie diet can make you a little bit fatter than the last one once you resume normal caloric intake. This explains why diets have such low long-term success.

This phenomenon was most poignantly illustrated in a study of participants from the The Biggest Loser reality TV show. Six years after participating in the show, researchers found they were burning 800 fewer calories per day and the majority of them returned to their pre-show weight and had to under eat by 400–800 calories a day just to not gain weight.

2. Your hunger hormones are out of whack

Conversely, if you routinely eat ample sugar and desserts and processed carbohydrates (breads, pastas, white rice, etc.), you likely have leptin resistance and skewed hunger hormone function that causes constant food cravings and hunger. Minimizing or eliminating processed carbohydrates and exercising regularly helps improve leptin sensitivity so your hunger cues and fat burning returns to normal.

3. Your thyroid isn’t working well

One of the most common causes of weight gain and weight loss resistance is hypothyroidism, or low thyroid activity. And the most common cause of this is Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune disease that attacks and damages the thyroid gland. This is why many people do not lose weight even after they start taking thyroid medication. It’s important to address the underlying causes of Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism to improve your health and lose weight.

4. You are chronically inflamed

Chronic inflammation skews hormone function, metabolism, and gut health in a way that can promote fat storage and prevent fat burning.

Many people enjoy easy weight loss by following an anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle. Nutrient-dense foods void of inflammatory triggers also manage pain, gut problems, autoimmune diseases, high blood pressure, depression  anxiety, and other health issues.

5. You’ve had a brain injury or have compromised brain function

Many sufferers of concussions and brain injuries find they suddenly gain weight after their injury and are not able to lose it. Brain injuries cause inflammation in the brain, which can not only impact brain function, but also disrupt metabolic, hormone, and immune in a way that promotes promotes weight gain and inhibits fat burning. Brain injury victims also often struggle with fatigue, exercise intolerance, depression, and other symptoms that interfere with appropriate fat burning and storage.

6. You have mold illness

Mold illness is increasingly being identified as an underlying cause of many health disorders and symptoms, including weight gain and weight loss resistance. Almost a quarter of the US population is susceptible to mold illness. Toxicity from mycotoxins, the byproducts of molds, can seriously impact metabolic, immune, and neurological health leading to unexplained weight gain and weight loss resistance. This refers not just to the dreaded black mold but also the more commonly found strains of mold caused by leaks and water damage in buildings.

7. You were born with an obese gut microbiome

Research into the gut microbiome, our trillions of gut bacteria, show they impact virtually every aspect of our health, including whether we are more likely to be thin or heavy.

Studies on both mice and humans have shown that obese subjects inoculated with the gut bacteria of thin subjects went on to quickly and easily lose weight.

Factors that impact your gut microbiome “signature” in a way that promotes obesity include being delivered via C-section, being formula fed versus breastfed, and frequent antibiotic use in childhood.

8. You are a victim of childhood sexual abuse or sexual assault or have PTSD

After more than two decades of trying to understand why most obese people regained the weight they lost, an obesity researcher made an accidental discovery — the majority of his study subjects had been sexually abused as children or sexually assaulted right before the time their weight gain began. This can drive complex PTSD and the genesis of a food addiction to cope.

Likewise, researchers have found a correlation between food addiction and PTSD in women.

9. You have a brain-based disorder that promotes food addiction and an eating disorder

For many people with weight issues, food becomes the source of torturous addictive behaviors that can then morph into eating disorders. It is increasingly being found that addictions and eating disorders are linked to brain-based disorders such as ADHD. Skewed neurological function triggers the obsessive thought patterns that lay the foundation for addictive eating and eating disorders.

Look for the underlying cause of weight gain and weight loss resistance to develop self-compassion

I hope this article helps you understand some of the factors that play into a chronic struggle with weight gain and weight loss resistance. Our society begs us to gorge on eat sugary foods and drinks through incessant advertising while a multi-billion-dollar diet industry and impossible pop culture body ideals value human worth based on thinness.

The result is millions of people, the majority of them women, internalize society’s fat shaming and develop shame and self-loathing around food and their bodies when the real sickness is in the society and not the individual.

The body is a miraculous machine that operates in constant service to us. You can learn to live and eat in a way that honors good health and function regardless of your size. Ask my office how we can help you.

Controversial new study reports statins useless

Noel Thomas

904 study says statins useless

A controversial new study found that high cholesterol does not shorten life span and that statins are essentially a “waste of time,” according to one of the researchers. Previous studies have linked statins with an increased risk of diabetes.

The study reviewed research of almost 70,000 people and found that elevated levels of “bad cholesterol” did not raise the risk of early death from cardiovascular disease in people over 60.

The authors called for statin guidelines to be reviewed, claiming the benefits of statins are “exaggerated.”

Not only did the study find no link between high cholesterol and early death, it also found that people with high “bad” cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein, or LDL) actually lived longer and had fewer incidences of heart disease.

The co-author and vascular surgeon went on to say that cholesterol is vital for preventing cancer, muscle pain, infection, and other health disorders in older people. He said that statins are a “waste of time” for lowering cholesterol and that lifestyle changes are more effective for improving cardiovascular health.

Naturally, the paper drew fire and its conclusions were dismissed by other experts in the field. Statins are among the most commonly prescribed drugs — one in four Americans over the age of 40 take statins and the drug accounts for more than $20 billion in spending each year. Statin use has gone up more than 80 percent in the last 20 years.

Statins linked to higher risk of diabetes and other health disorders

In functional medicine we recognize cholesterol as a vital compound in the body for multiple functions, including brain function and muscle strength. Overly low cholesterol is linked with an increased risk of several health disorders, including diabetes.

One study of almost 9,000 people showed that people in their 60s who used statins had an almost 40 percent higher risk of type 2 diabetes. They also had higher rates of high blood sugar and pre-diabetes, or insulin resistance. High blood sugar disorders underpin numerous chronic inflammatory conditions, including Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Previous research found a 50 percent increased risk of diabetes in women who took statins.

In addition to raising the risk of high blood sugar and diabetes, statins also may cause such side effects as muscle weakness and wasting, headaches, difficulty sleeping, and dizziness.

Statins do not address the underlying cause of heart disease: Chronic inflammation

Statins may lower cholesterol, but they do not address the underlying cause of heart disease, which is typically chronic inflammation (some people are genetically predisposed to cardiovascular disease). The body uses cholesterol to repair arteries damaged by inflammation — the primary cause of heart attacks and strokes.

For instance, the vast majority of people who have heart attacks have normal cholesterol. In other countries where people have higher cholesterol than Americans, they also have less heart disease. In fact, low cholesterol in elderly patients is linked to a higher risk of death compared to high cholesterol.

Improving heart health through functional medicine instead of statins

Functional medicine is a great way to improve cardiovascular health because it avoids drugs that cause potentially harmful side effects. Although lifestyle changes may require more work than popping a pill, they address root causes of your disorder versus overriding them. This means you feel and function better overall.

What does a functional medicine approach to heart health look like?

  • An anti-inflammatory diet
  • Releasing feel-good endorphins on a regular basis through exercise (endorphins are anti-inflammatory)
  • Targeted nutritional support
  • Identifying and addressing the root causes of your inflammation, which are different for everyone. Possibilities include high blood sugar, poor thyroid function, an undiagnosed autoimmune disorder, chronic bacterial, fungal, or viral infections, leaky gut, or a brain imbalance, such as from a past brain injury.

It’s important to address things from this angle because cholesterol is vital to good health. It is found in every cell and helps produce cell membranes, vitamin D, and hormones. It’s also necessary for healthy brain function.

Inflammation promotes heart disease

Chronic inflammation and not cholesterol is the concerning factor in heart disease. The blood marker C-reactive protein (CRP) identifies inflammation. If it’s high, you have a higher risk for heart disease than those with high cholesterol. Having normal cholesterol but high CRP does not protect you from heart disease.

By using functional medicine to lower your inflammation and improve your heart health, you not only avoid the risks and dangers of statins, but also you get to better enjoy your golden years thanks to improved energy and well being.

Gut problems can have different root causes

Noel Thomas

903 gut disorder root causes

In the world of functional medicine, it has long been known that gut health is paramount to the health of the rest of the body. For decades we didn’t fully understand why, although we knew the gut was the seat of the immune system and chronic inflammation. Now with the gut microbiome renaissance underway, we also understand how integral gut bacteria is to health.

As such, addressing gut health has always been one and continues to be one of the first steps in managing a chronic inflammatory or autoimmune condition. However, people tend to fall into the trap of thinking everyone needs to follow the same gut healing protocol, wondering why it works for some and not others.

As it turns out, repairing gut health is not a one-size-fits-all approach. There is not just one diet, one type of probiotic, or one gut healing powder that works for everyone. Although there are some basic foundations to gut healing — remove immune reactive foods, keep blood sugar stable, and create a healthy gut microbiome — the truth is you still need to know why your gut health deteriorated in order to address the root cause.

Examples of root causes of poor gut health

For example, a number of patients can come in with a complaint of constipation. While laxatives may help the patient, it is nevertheless important to understand why they are constipated in the first place. This goes for any digestive complaint and not just constipation.

Here are some different reasons why a person can develop a digestive complaint such as constipation:

  • A past brain injury has dampened activity of the vagus nerve, which carries communication back and forth between the gut and the brain. This slows down motility of the intestines and causes constipation.
  • The gut’s nervous system, called the enteric nervous system, has degenerated significantly due to chronic gut inflammation from immune reactive foods, too many sugars and junk foods, chronic stress, gut infections, or brain degeneration. Intestinal motility depends on a healthy enteric nervous system, and constipation develops.
  • Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) releases gases that shut down motility.
  • Medications impact intestinal motility and cause constipation.
  • Dysautonomia, a dysregulation of the central nervous system, prevents the body from getting into the “rest and digest” state that allows for healthy bowel function.

A one-size-fits-all gut protocol can completely heal one person, create improvement in another, do nothing at all for a third, and perhaps make another even worse.

It’s also important to screen for more serious conditions. These can include gastric ulcers from an h. pylori infection, intestinal permeability — or leaky gut — from damage to the microvilli of the small intestine, inflammatory bowel disease, ulcerative colitis, or Crohn’s disease. Knowing whether these conditions are an issue also impacts how you manage gut health.

Also vital is knowing whether gut autoimmunity is the root cause of your gut issues. You can test for this through Cryex Labs. If so, this changes your expectations of your outcomes and how you evaluate your progress. Autoimmune disease occurs when the immune system erroneously attacks and destroys tissue in the body. Eventually this leads to symptoms and breakdown of function.

Although autoimmune disease cannot be cured, it often can be dampened or driven into remission for long periods of time. However, unpredictable flare ups also happen, and the person with gut autoimmunity must have realistic expectations in order not to feel demoralized if their symptoms flare and recede. Also, there is still much we don’t know about autoimmunity. For some people it’s easy to manage and for others it’s a constant battle. In these cases, the goal can be as simple as “more good days.”

This is an overview of why common gut-healing protocols work gangbusters for some people and little to not at all for others. Our digestive system is one of the most fascinating, complex, and influential systems in the body. The more scientists learn about it, the more apparent it becomes that gut health largely determines the health of the rest of the body, including the brain.

This is why we are seeing so many chronic health conditions in modernized societies that subsist largely on industrialized agriculture and food processing. The commercialization of cheap, processed, chemically laden, and highly sweetened “foods” largely void of produce has inflamed and damaged the digestive tract, decimated the gut microbiome (some researchers call it an extinction event), and ravaged the brain in today’s modern populations.

Fortunately, functional medicine excels when it comes to repairing and maintaining gut health. Ask our office how we can help you.

“Lazy” and no motivation can be due to inflammation

Noel Thomas

902 inflammation kills motivation

Many of us are pretty good at beating ourselves up when we have lost our motivation, calling ourselves lazy or worthless. But research shows laziness, or lack of motivation, can actually be a symptom of chronic inflammation.

A natural state of health is to want to engage in life. If you don’t want to and don’t care, this is a red flag to look for an underlying health condition.

New research shows that chronic low-grade inflammation hinders the activity of areas in the brain responsible for motivation.

Called the dopaminergic signaling system, these parts of the brain rely on sufficient dopamine, a brain chemical responsible for motivation, drive, and a sense of self-worth — hence the feelings of worthlessness that often accompany low motivation or “laziness.”

The hypothesis is that when the body is suffering from chronic inflammation, this means it has an injury or illness it must heal. In order to meet the demands for healing, the brain lowers drive and motivation so that energy is freed up for healing.

Our everyday tasks and chores, or working toward our goals and dreams suddenly no longer feel worth it.

That’s because inflammation has down regulated areas of the brain that link a sense of reward to effort and work.

We can especially feel this when we are laid up with the flu or a bad injury that can make watching Netflix tiring.

However, low-grade chronic inflammation is not just about the flu or an injury anymore. It is an epidemic problem these days, as evidenced by the mushrooming incidences of chronic inflammatory disorders, such as heart disease, obesity, diabetes, autoimmune disease, and cancer.

In fact, many brain-based disorders are often a consequence of inflammation, including depression, anxiety, fatigue, memory loss, brain development disorders in children, and even acute psychiatric conditions.

Understanding the cause of no motivation can lift shame and stigma

Because chronic illness and inflammation causes lack of motivation and fatigue, sufferers are often stigmatized for their condition.

The majority of people with chronic illness are women, and they are commonly dismissed or disbelieved by doctors in the standard health care model or even by their own families.

What’s worse, many internalize the stigmatization and suffer in isolation and with shame around their low energy and lack of motivation.

That’s why it’s important to understand “laziness” and lack of motivation can be symptoms of a larger, underlying problem and not character flaws.

Why is modern life so inflammatory?

Compared to our ancestors and many people on the planet today, many Americans have it pretty easy in terms of ease and convenience.

Yet why are we so inflamed and chronically ill?

Here are just a few factors driving epidemic levels of chronic inflammation and illness:

Blood sugar is too high. Advertising, restaurants, grocery store aisles — everything about modern life is hellbent on making us gorge on sugar and processed carbohydrates. However, science shows high blood sugar is one of the most common and relentless sources of chronic inflammation.

Modern foods are pro-inflammatory. Gluten intolerance is responsible for more inflammation than people realize, thanks to modern hybridization, storing, and pesticide use of gluten grains and other grains. Industrialized fats such as canola oil, soybean oil, and hydrogenated fats are recognized as inflammatory and are ubiquitous in the food supply.

People eat too little produce. Americans eat about half the amount of fiber they should to be healthy. A diet rich in plant fibers creates a gut microbiome rich in healthy gut bacteria. Bad gut bacteria and an unhealthy microbiome are pro-inflammatory and pro-disease.

Modern life is sedentary. Except for workers whose jobs are physical, our ultra-convenient, screen-based lives are extremely sedentary. Lack of regular physical activity and “sitting disease” are sources of chronic inflammation.

Modern life is toxic. Numerous studies link numerous toxins to inflammatory-based conditions. Plastics, pesticides, car exhaust, scented cleaning products, chemically laden body products and foods — we live in a sea of environmental toxins and heavy metals the body was not designed to manage. We are also exposed to too much artificial light, which confuses our biological rhythms and triggers inflammation.

People are stressed out. Despite our many comforts and conveniences, rates of depression, anxiety, and stress are high and afflicting younger and younger people. These negative emotions are known triggers of inflammation. When you experience them all the time, it can lead to inflammatory-based health disorders.

How functional medicine can help you restore your natural motivation

Although we are up against many daunting assaults on our physiology, functional medicine recognizes this and has strategies and protocols to help you.

One of the most common rewards of a functional medicine dietary, lifestyle, and nutritional game plan is the return of energy, motivation, and ambition.

“Laziness” and lack of motivation are red flags. Ask us how we can help you remedy them.

What kind of brain inflammation do you have?

Noel Thomas

901 types of brain inflammation

If you have a chronic health or autoimmune condition, chances are you also suffer from brain inflammation. Brain inflammation causes symptoms such as brain fog, fatigue, lack of motivation, and depression. We all have some degree of brain inflammation, but it can range from barely perceptible to debilitating depending on how advanced it is.

What kind of brain inflammation do you have? We can look at brain inflammation as either subtle, moderate, or severe, and as transient or chronic. Brain autoimmunity is another cause of brain inflammation and brain-based symptoms.

Subtle brain inflammation:

  • Brain fog
  • Slower mental speed
  • Reduced brain endurance (can’t read, work, or drive as long you used to)
  • Brain fatigue after exposure to specific foods or chemicals
  • Comes and goes with exposure to triggers

Moderate brain inflammation:

  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Lack of motivation
  • Inability to focus and concentrate for long periods
  • Sleepiness
  • Need to sleep more than 8 hours
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unable to be physically active

Severe brain inflammation:

  • Disorientation or confusion
  • Dementia
  • Delirium
  • Coma
  • Seizures
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Tremors or trembling
  • Involuntary twitching

Transient neuroinflammation:

  • Symptoms are activated by exposure to a trigger but subside. Person has more good days than bad.

Chronic neuroinflammation:

  • Symptoms are persistent symptoms and the person has more bad days than good.

Brain autoimmunity:

  • Autoimmunity is a condition in which the immune system attacks tissue in the body, mistaking it for a foreign invader. Neuroautoimmunity is more common than people realize and can cause a wide range of neurological symptoms, depending on the area of the nervous system being attacked. Symptoms are caused by flares of the autoimmune condition, which can be whatever triggers the body’s immune system. These people also have symptoms of brain inflammation.

Why the brain becomes inflamed

Most people think the brain is made up mainly of neurons and that neurons run the show. But in recent years, research shows neurons only make up about 10 percent of the brain. The rest is made up of the brain’s immune cells, called glial cells. Glial cells outnumber neurons 10 to 1.

Although the glial cells are the brain’s immune system, scientists have discovered they do much more than defend the brain. When the brain is not battling inflammation, glial cells support healthy neuron function, clear away plaque and debris that can lead to brain degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, and they help facilitate efficient pathways of communication in the brain.

Factors that cause brain inflammation include a brain injury, unmanaged autoimmune disease, high blood sugar, eating inflammatory foods, undiagnosed food intolerances, excess alcohol consumption, a chronic viral or bacterial infection, leaky gut, leaky blood-brain barrier, hormonal imbalances or deficiencies, or other chronic health conditions and imbalances.

When the brain is in a chronic state of inflammation, this takes glial cells away from their job of supporting neuron health, debris clearing, and neuronal communication. This not only causes symptoms like fatigue and depression but also raises your risk of more serious brain disorders down the road.

If your symptoms are in the mild category, following functional medicine protocols (finding and addressing the root causes of your brain inflammation) can help restore your brain health. As long as you follow a healthy diet and lifestyle, you can keep brain inflammation at bay.

These strategies include:

  • Balancing blood sugar; lowering blood sugar if it’s too high.
  • Removing foods that cause an immune reaction from your diet, gluten in particular.
  • Repairing leaky gut and leaky blood-brain barrier.
  • Improving microbiome diversity.
  • Addressing autoimmune conditions.
  • Addressing chronic infections.
  • Taking high-quality glutathione and other supplements to dampen inflammation.
  • Daily exercise, especially high-intensity interval training (HIIT).
  • Hormonal balance if necessary.

If your brain inflammation symptoms are in the moderate to severe category, you still need to follow these steps, but you may need pursue one or more of them very aggressively, as well as adjust your expectations. Unlike the immune system in the body, the brain’s immune system does not have an off switch and inflammation can move through the brain like a slow-moving forest fire for months, years, or even decades. If you have not been the same since a brain injury or other brain insult, this may apply to you.

Additionally, if glial cells undergo a severe inflammatory event, such as a brain injury, they can become “primed.” A primed glial cell permanently changes its physical structure to function less as a neuron helper and more as an immune soldier. This also shortens its lifespan. As with neurons, we only have so many glial cells — their numbers dwindle as we age, and unmanaged brain insults and injuries and unhealthy diet and lifestyle habits can accelerate their demise.

Once glial cells are primed, acute inflammatory events can trigger your brain inflammation symptoms, even if you are following a healthy diet and lifestyle. Also, symptoms from triggering events will be much more severe once your glial cells have been primed. Whereas someone with mild to moderate neuroinflammation may suffer from some brain fog or fatigue if triggered, a person with primed glial cells may see loss of brain function, depending on the area of the brain most affected. This could mean bouts of memory loss, inability to speak properly, loss of muscle function, fatigue so severe they are bed ridden, and more. Once your glial cells are primed, it becomes necessary to structure your life around preventing flares.

Note: One scenario that can occur with primed glial cells is that anti-inflammatory functional medicine protocols may work great for a few weeks and then the person has a rebound crash with severe symptoms. This does not mean the protocols aren’t working, it just means you need to slow down with your protocols and keep systematically working through the various mechanisms until you find your primary triggers, whether its blood sugar, hormonal imbalances, or a dietary or chemical trigger. They will be different for everyone.

Trigger-happy neurons

Outside of brain inflammation lies another mechanism of brain-based symptoms called “neurons close to threshold.” This means that a triggering neurological event, such as smelling perfumes for the chemically sensitive person, eating gluten for the gluten intolerant person, pushing your brain past what it can handle (with reading, working, studying, driving, etc.), too much noise for someone who is sound sensitive, etc. can fatigue fragile neurons and trigger symptoms.

For instance, a scent-sensitive person may develop migraines and fatigue walking past a perfume counter, or a gluten sensitive person may suffer from brain fog and fatigue after eating gluten. Or a day-long drive may take three days to recover from for the person whose neurons have lost endurance.

Poor health and chronic inflammation sabotage neuronal mitochondria, the energy factory in each cell. This causes a neuron to fire too easily, and then to fatigue. A classic example is tinnitus — auditory neurons are too close to threshold and “hear” noise that isn’t there, which causes ringing in the ears.

In these cases, rehabilitation includes anti-inflammatory strategies for the brain, but also gently exercising the neurons back to better health. This may mean a gradual introduction of essential oils for the scent-sensitive person, using hearing aids to gently stimulate the auditory neurons for the person with tinnitus (there are other causes of tinnitus, this is just one), or gradually increasing reading time each day to build endurance.

This is a broad overview of neuroinflammatory concepts. Ask my office how we can help you manage your brain inflammation.

New study links PPIs to earlier death, chronic disease

Noel Thomas

If you struggle with heartburn or acid reflux, you just pop some pills for that, right? Turns out regular use of drugs to treat heartburn, acid reflux, and ulcers can lead to an earlier death. These disorders are some of the easier to manage using functional medicine protocols, so it’s unnecessary to risk shortening your lifespan through chronic disease when you can enjoy improved health instead.

A recent study found that chronic use of proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) is linked to an increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, and upper gastrointestinal cancer. The degree of risk increases with duration of use, even if you take low doses. Other studies have linked PPIs to dementia, bone fractures, and pneumonia.

Common brands of PPIs include Prevacid, Prilosec, Nexium and Protonix.

The study looked through the medical records of more than 200,000 people over 10 years. They found those who took PPIs had an almost 20 percent increased rate of death over people who took other types of acid-suppressing drugs (unfortunately, they did not compare death rates to people who took no acid-suppressing drugs). This applied to both prescription and over-the-counter PPIs.

What’s even more alarming is that researchers found more than half the people taking PP!s had no medical need for the drugs and PPI-related deaths were more common in this group.

Why you should address the root cause of your acid reflux or heartburn instead of taking acid-suppressing drugs

It’s assumed overly high stomach acid causes heartburn and acid reflux, but in most cases it’s due to low stomach acid. Stomach acid is vital to the health of the body in its role of digesting foods, in particular meats. When stomach acid is too low your stomach is unable to properly digest foods. Your small intestine does not want to accept improperly undigested food — this will damage its lining and contribute to intestinal permeability, or leaky gut. The low pH of the stomach acid prevents the valve to the small intestine from opening and, as a result, the contents of the stomach shoot back up into the esophagus.

Although the food is not acidic enough to gain entry into the small intestine in a timely manner, it is too acidic for the delicate tissue of the esophagus, which it burns as it shoots back up toward your throat. The extra time the food spends in your stomach also causes it to putrefy, causing that acid stomach sensation, or the feeling of having a brick in your stomach. Some people quit eating meat not because they want to be vegetarians, but because eating meat makes them feel sick.

Low stomach acid contributes to digestive issues throughout the rest of the digestive tract. As undigested food travels into the intestines, it causes inflammation and damages the lining of the intestines. This leads to intestinal permeability, or leaky gut, a condition in which the lining of the small intestine becomes inflamed and leaky. Leaky gut allows undigested foods into the bloodstream, yet prevents micronutrients from passing through because of the inflammation. Undigested foods in the bloodstream trigger inflammation throughout the body.

Stomach acid serves another useful purpose in that it kills bacteria, fungi, and other pathogens that may be in your food, preventing them from getting into the digestive tract and the bloodstream. When stomach acid is low, you lose this additional layer of protection.

Sufficient stomach acid also prevents food sensitivities. Undigested food particles trigger the gut’s immune system to become over burdened and over reactive. This causes the immune system to start reacting to more of the foods you eat, creating immune reactions that become food sensitivities. This is called losing oral tolerance, and it can be a primary cause of food sensitivities and other health issues.

Symptoms of low stomach acid
  • Heartburn
  • Acid reflux
  • Indigestion
  • Stomach ulcers (low stomach acid raises the risk of an pylori infection, which causes stomach ulcers)
  • Nausea
  • Belching after meals
  • Hiccups after eating
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Undigested food in stools
What to do for low stomach acid

You can help support your stomach acid by taking betaine hydrochloric acid (HCl) capsules. Take HCL after you begin eating a meal with meat or protein. How much do you take? Keep increasing your dose until you feel warmth in your stomach, then cut back down to the previous dose. You may need quite a bit in the beginning but then find you need to gradually lower your dose over time.

If you feel intense gastric burning with even one capsule, it means you may have ulcers and an H. pylori infection that can be treated with nutritional compounds.

Ask my office for more advice on how to manage your heartburn, indigestion, or acid reflux, and how to improve your overall health by improving your digestive health.

Many doctors misdiagnose trauma as ADHD in some children

Noel Thomas

FNM 325 trauma mistaken for ADHD

The number of children diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in the United States has risen from 6 percent to 10 percent in the last 20 years. While childhood brain development disorders are on the rise overall — increasingly evidenced as a result of brain inflammation — newer research suggests some children exhibiting symptoms of trauma and family dysfunction are being misdiagnosed with ADHD.

In a quest to understand why ADHD diagnoses were highest among low income children who lived in stressful, violent areas, researchers set out to determine if their ADHD symptoms were a product of their environments.

Experiences such as chronic stress, abuse, neglect, maltreatment, and violence can change a child’s behavior. Research shows that many children diagnosed with ADHD also deal with poverty, divorce, violence, and substance abuse in the family. The more adverse effects a child experiences, the more likely they are to be diagnosed with ADHD.

Children whose trauma manifests as ADHD also tend to be less responsive to conventional ADHD medications and therapies.

Many of these children’s parents were also diagnosed with ADHD and grew up in similar environments.

Symptoms of childhood trauma that can be mistaken for ADHD include:

  • Inattention
  • Inability to focus
  • Impulsivity due to acute stress
  • Hyperactivity
  • Difficulty controlling their behavior
  • Rapidly shift from one mood to another
  • Dissociative states, which can be misinterpreted as being distracted

A survey study of more than 65,000 children found that children diagnosed with ADHD had significantly higher levels of poverty, divorce, violence, and family substance abuse. Children who had experienced four or more adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) were three times more likely to be medicated for ADHD.

Assessing chronic childhood stress

Scientists measure the effects of childhood stress on health in the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study. This consists of a short quiz that assesses the link between childhood traumas and disease risk.

The higher the score the more likely a person is to suffer from chronic illness as an adult. This study on ADHD and trauma also shows children who score high on the quiz are more likely to be diagnosed and treated for ADHD.

ADHD and other brain-based disorders also linked with brain inflammation

Of course, not all cases of ADHD are a result of childhood trauma. Researchers are increasingly linking childhood brain development disorders such as ADHD with brain inflammation, or neuroinflammation.

Ninety percent of the cells in the brain are microglia cells, the brain’s immune cells. Once considered to function only as glue that holds neurons together, researchers discovered glial cells serve many important functions.

They dispose of dead neurons, beta amyloid plaque, and other debris in the brain that could interfere with healthy neuronal function. They also facilitate healthy neuron metabolism and neuron synapses.

In children, microglia help ensure proper brain development. They do this by pruning developing communication pathways in the brain to be efficient and high-functioning.

When glial cells are pulled away from supporting healthy neuron function into supporting brain inflammation, the developing brain is more likely to develop and grow improperly and with an increased risk of dysfunction.

Many children are born with neuroinflammation, which is passed on to them in the womb from their mothers. Mothers with unmanaged autoimmunity, chronic inflammatory disorders, and brain inflammation are more likely to pass on these immune dysfunctions to their children.

Things that can cause brain inflammation

Factors that cause brain inflammation include:

  • Diabetes and high blood sugar
  • Poor circulation, lack of exercise, chronic stress, heart failure, respiratory issues, anemia
  • Previous head trauma
  • Neurological autoimmunity
  • Eating gluten when you are gluten intolerant
  • Poor brain antioxidant status
  • Alcohol and drug abuse
  • Environmental pollutants
  • Systemic inflammation
  • Inflammatory bowel conditions
  • Leaky blood-brain barrier

Managing brain inflammation

In addition to addressing dietary and lifestyle factors and chronic health conditions, compounds that dampen brain inflammation include:

  • Apigenin
  • Luteolin
  • Baicalein
  • Resveratrol
  • Turmeric
  • Glutathione

Ask my office about the best nutraceuticals to help dampen brain inflammation, as well guidance on functional neurology rehabilitation techniques to manage ADHD and brain development disorders.

Exercise shown to significantly benefit psychiatric patients

Noel Thomas

324 exercise and psychiatric disorders

A recent study showed that exercise showed more benefits than pharmaceutical drugs and psychotherapy for patients in psychiatric care facilities. It helped reduce anxiety, depression, anger, and physical agitation while fostering a more integrated sense of self. The study asserts that exercise can reduce the time spent in psychiatric facilities and the dependence on prescription drugs.

Psychiatric in-patient facilities are often crowded, and patients frequently experience distress and discomfort in them. This often serves only to exacerbate their symptoms. As such, psychotropic medications are the first response for patients entering into this system, followed by psychotherapy.

A researcher at the University of Vermont decided to see what would happen if patients were prescribed daily exercise as well. Of the roughly 6,000 psychiatric hospitals in the United States, only a handful offer gym facilities.

Researchers built a gym that could accommodate about 100 patients at the medical center’s in-patient psychiatric hospital.

They then led patients through regular one-hour exercise programs as well as nutritional counseling.

About 95 percent of patients reported the exercise improved their mood, while more than 60 percent said exercising made them either happy or very happy, as opposed to the sadness they originally felt. The majority of patients also reported feeling improved physical well-being.

The researchers stated the exercise had greater benefit for patients in psychotic states for whom psychotherapy can be unproductive.

Other studies have shown positive benefits of regular exercise on more acute psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia. For instance, one study found regular aerobic exercise improved symptoms and lowered depression in about three-quarters of participants with schizophrenia.

Regular exercise is also shown to help people with schizophrenia improve their working memory, attention span, ability to understand social situations, and overall brain function. In general, regular exercise targeted the cognitive deficits that many people with schizophrenia struggle with and improved those.

Aerobic exercise has also been shown to help people with bipolar disorder have less severe manic episodes, sleep better, and reduce symptoms of depression. However, exercise can also exacerbate manic symptoms in some cases.

Numerous studies also show the benefits of exercise for depression and anxiety.

Why exercise improves mental disorder symptoms

Although an anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle are imperative for managing symptoms associated with mental disorders, exercise must not be overlooked. This is because of the many benefits exercise gives to the brain.

For example, exercise boosts a compound called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF supports the brain’s neurons in their daily functions as well as helping the brain repair damage and stave off neurodegenerative disease.

Exercise also boost endorphins, our self-generated opioid chemicals that produce euphoria and improve mood and well-being.

Both BDNF and endorphins help relieve depression and anxiety, make us feel better about ourselves, and reduce inflammation the brain and body — inflammation in the brain is a common factor underlying many cases of depression.

The best exercise to release BDNF and endorphins is high-intensity interval training (HIIT). HIIT is a form of exercise in which you work out as hard as you can to reach your maximum heart rate, allow yourself to recover, and then do it again. This type of workout can give you great results in durations of under an hour — many HIIT workouts are only 20 or 30 minutes.

Improve your health by lowering brain inflammation

HIIT’s anti-inflammatory benefits also mean you are preventing Alzheimer’s, dementia, Parkinson’s, and other diseases of brain degeneration. Brain inflammation is a very common problem today and found to be a common underlying factor in depression. Poor diets, inflammatory foods, chronic stress, environmental toxins, head injuries, and sedentary lifestyles are some of the factors that can cause brain inflammation.

Common symptoms of brain inflammation include brain fog, fatigue, memory loss, decline in cognition, slow thinking, anxiety, and depression.

Unlike the body’s immune system, the brain’s immune system does not have an off-switch, so brain inflammation can burn through your brain for years or decades. Eventually it can trigger more serious neurological issues.

Ask my office how functional neurology and functional medicine can improve mental and mood disorders and help you lower the risk of neurodegenerative diseases.

Four reasons why eye contact can over st imulate the brain

Noel Thomas

323 eye contact issues

If someone doesn’t look you in the eye during a conversation, they may come across as rude, aloof, or suspicious. Though avoiding eye contact can convey those things — or shyness — some people avoid eye contact simply to avoid short-circuiting their dysregulated neurology.

There are several reasons people avoid eye contact that have nothing to do with being arrogant or rude.

Eye contact avoidance and autism

For instance, avoiding eye contact is especially common in people on the autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Researchers at Harvard Medical School discovered neurological reasons why eye contact is stressful for people with autism. Eye contact over stimulates the subcortical system, an area in the brain responsible for reading emotions in other people’s faces.

The subcortical system is the layer just beneath the cerebral cortex, the outer layer of the brain that plays a role in consciousness and thought.

Direct and sustained eye contact and looking at facial expressions activate the subcortical system. This response is what allows newborns to instinctually respond to human faces. But for the ASD individual, eye contact over activates the subcortical system, causing extreme stress and discomfort.

The scientists hypothesize this is a consequence of an imbalance between brain networks that activate and inhibit activity in the brain, thus leading to over activation and agitation.

As a result, the “social brain” is not able to appropriately develop. Other studies have shown this trait can be identified in infancy.

Forcing these individuals to maintain eye contact can be neurologically inappropriate and stress-inducing.

Gentle, gradual habituation to eye contact over time, however, has the potential to gently strengthen and relax the overactive subcortical region.

Eye contact triggers fear response in people with PTSD

People with autism aren’t the only ones who struggle with neurological imbalances.

People who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and complex PTSD (CPTSD) have also been shown to become agitated by eye contact.

A 2019 study of women with PTSD from childhood abuse found that their brains associated eye contact with threat. Their brains also had to compensate with heightened emotional regulation compared to the brains of the control group.

A 2018 study performed brain scans on subjects with PTSD and a control group during eye contact with a video simulation. In the control group, eye contact activated the prefrontal cortex, which is involved in decision making, personality, and social behavior. The prefrontal cortex also helps a person assess the nature of the person they’re looking at.

However, in the PTSD group, the simulated eye contact did not activate the prefrontal cortex but instead the periaqueductal gray, an area associated with pain, fear, and anxiety. This area of the brain is also associated with submissive and passive defense responses to PTSD such as disassociation and depersonalization.

Eye contact difficult for people with social anxiety

Avoiding eye contact is also common in people with social anxiety as it raises their anxiety levels. Avoidance of eye contact is associated with shame, embarrassment, and self-consciousness, things people with heightened anxiety suffer from.

Thinking and concentrating can be more difficult while making eye contact

Sometimes we all need to break eye contact to put our thoughts into coherent sentences. This tendency may be more pronounced in people who aren’t natural orators.

Research shows you’re able to speak more thoughtfully when looking away from a person. A Japanese study found participants struggled to find the right verbs for a language task when making eye contact with faces on a screen. The scientists asserted that eye contact drains our cognitive resources needed for other tasks — the more complicated your story (or lie?), the more difficult it will be for you maintain eye contact.

Is your brain inflamed? How to know and what to do

Noel Thomas

FNM 322 brain inflammation

Do you have any of the symptoms of brain inflammation, also called neuroinflammation, listed below? Brain inflammation doesn’t hurt like an inflamed ankle would. Instead it causes various symptoms, depending on the person, including:

  • Brain fog
  • Unclear thoughts
  • Low brain endurance
  • Slow and varied mental speeds
  • Loss of brain function after trauma
  • Brain fatigue and poor mental focus after meals
  • Brain fatigue promoted by systemic inflammation
  • Brain fatigue promoted by chemicals, scents, and pollutants

The brain can become inflamed like the rest of the body, although the brain has its own immune system. It’s important to take brain inflammation seriously because it can rapidly degenerate the brain, raising the risk of dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other brain degenerative diseases. In fact, scientists have discovered that brain aging is more related to the brain’s immune cells than the neurons, as previously thought.

Learning how to spot and dampen brain inflammation can help you enjoy better brain function, slow the aging process, and lower your risk of diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

What causes brain inflammation

Brain inflammation can be caused by inflammation in the body, such as from chronic joint pain, infections, leaky gut or gut inflammation, or an unmanaged autoimmune condition. Inflammation in the body releases immune cells called cytokines that activate inflammation in the brain.

This is now being cited as a primary cause in many cases of chronic depression, such as in cases where people don’t respond to antidepressants. This is because the medications do not address brain inflammation.

The brain’s immune system

At the root of brain inflammation are microglia cells, the brain’s immune cells. They were once considered simply to be glue that held neurons together, but newer research shows how important to brain function they are. In fact, they outnumber neurons ten to one.

When the brain is healthy the microglia dispose of dead neurons, beta amyloid plaque, and other debris that interfere with healthy communication between neurons. They also facilitate healthy neuron metabolism and neuron synapses.

However, when something triggers inflammation in the brain, the glia cells switch into attack mode.

This hinders communication between neurons so they fire more slowly, creating symptoms such as brain fog, slower mental speed, slower recall, and slower reflexes.

Brain inflammation also shuts down energy production in the neurons, so brain endurance drops, making it harder to read, work, or concentrate for any length of time. This also leads to depression.

In the long run, chronic neuroinflammation results in neuron death and brain degenerative disorders.

Factors that cause brain inflammation

Many things can cause brain inflammation. If you have symptoms of brain inflammation, you want to address any of these factors to restore health to your brain.

  • Diabetes and high blood sugar
  • Poor circulation, lack of exercise, chronic stress, heart failure, respiratory issues, anemia
  • Previous head trauma
  • Neurological autoimmunity
  • Eating gluten when you are gluten intolerant
  • Poor brain antioxidant status
  • Alcohol and drug abuse
  • Environmental pollutants
  • Systemic inflammation
  • Inflammatory bowel conditions
  • Leaky blood-brain barrier

The blood-brain barrier and brain inflammation

One of the biggest risks to triggering brain inflammation is a leaky blood-brain barrier. The blood-brain barrier is a thin lining that surrounds the brain and is designed to allow only nano-sized particles in or out as needed.

However, like the gut, it can become damaged and “leaky,” allowing foreign invaders in to trigger the microglia. Although the blood-brain barrier degrades easily, it can also regenerate through dietary and lifestyle modifications similar to how you can repair leaky gut. For instance, high stress degrades the blood-brain barrier, but normalizing stress can allow it to repair. Simply stabilizing your blood sugar and stress levels, removing inflammatory foods, addressing chronic health issues, and taking powerful antioxidants can help restore the blood-brain barrier.

Factors that can break down the blood-brain barrier

  • Chronic stress
  • Alcohol
  • Elevated blood sugar and diabetes
  • Chronic environmental toxic exposure
  • Elevated homocysteine from B vitamin deficiency
  • Poor diet and antioxidant status
  • Systemic inflammation

Taming brain inflammation

Brain inflammation can be caused by a food intolerance, lack of sleep, gut infections, hypothyroidism, extreme stress, autoimmunity, systemic inflammation, and other factors. If you start to feel your “head clear” when addressing brain inflammation, that’s a sign you’re on the right track. Although various botanical flavonoids can address brain inflammation, you still need to address the underlying cause of inflammation.

Compounds that have been shown to help dampen brain inflammation in addition to addressing underlying cases are:

  • Apigenin
  • Luteolin
  • Baicalein
  • Resveratrol
  • Rutin
  • Catechin
  • Curcumin

Dose depends on the degree of brain inflammation. Ask my office for high-quality, extremely bioavailable forms of nutraceuticals that help dampen brain inflammation, as well for guidance on how to address underlying causes.

The body makes best drugs for depression and memory

Noel Thomas

FNM 322 endorphins for brain health

We all want to feel good, and many people turn to outside sources to produce those feelings. Those sources can include alcohol, prescription medications (anti-depressants or anti-anxiety drugs), illegal drugs, food, and other sources that ultimately rob of us health.

However, it only takes a little bit of work to produce our own feel-good chemicals, such as endorphins. Endorphins not only make us feel better, they’re also very beneficial to the body and the brain and usually work in conjunction with other beneficial chemicals our bodies make.

Endorphins are important to immunity and neurology and some studies suggest chronic conditions are in part a result of low endorphins. Low endorphins are linked with alcohol fetal exposure, alcoholism, drug abuse, anxiety, depression, and chronic psychological stress.

How endorphins help the brain

Endorphins are neurotransmitters that facilitate communication between neurons. They also interact with opioid receptors in the brain in a similar way to morphine or codeine to reduce our perception of pain.

But they also do so much more. The most beloved benefit of endorphins is they produce feelings of euphoria. This is the “high” people get from exercise.

They regulate appetite hormones and sex hormones and enhance immunity. They also help with fibromyalgia, headaches, and chronic headaches.

Best of all, endorphins have been shown to help reduce depression.

Here are some ways to boost your endorphin levels:

  • Strenuous exercise. High intensity interval training (HIIT) is a great way to boost endorphins and other chemicals that help your brain, including brain derived neurotrophic factor and nitric oxide. The beauty of HIIT is that it can be adapted to your fitness level.
  • Acupuncture or massage therapy
  • Sex
  • Meditation
  • Laughter
  • Healthy socialization
  • Play

Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and brain health

Another weapon against depression you already have in your arsenal is brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF is an anti-inflammatory brain chemical that promotes growth of new neurons. It plays a major role in memory formation and storage, and has also been shown to play a role in relieving depression.

The most well-known way to boost BDNF is through high-intensity interval training (HIIT). Even just a few minutes a day of HIIT can boost BDNF levels, meaning you don’t have to be a hardcore athlete to reap the benefits of this brain chemical.

Whereas a post-exercise endorphin rush gives you immediate and obvious results, the key to promoting BDNF levels is consistent exercise that gets your heart rate up — best brain results from BDNF occur a few months after consistent exercise. Shoot for an exercise program that you can do every day and keep going lifelong.

Below are a few ways endorphins, BDNF, and other chemicals the body naturally makes can improve your brain health:

  • Prevention of cognitive decline
  • Protects you from neurodegeneration that causes disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s
  • Reduces stress and anxiety
  • Alleviates depression
  • Boosts intelligence
  • Improves learning and memory
  • Improves creative thinking
  • Grows new neurons in the hippocampus, the seat of learning and memory in the brain
  • Prevents addiction
  • Increases pain threshold
  • Improves attention
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Improves brain plasticity, the ability of the brain to learn new things

Endorphins and BDNF are just a couple of factors to consider when you are looking to manage depression, anxiety, fatigue, memory loss, brain fog, and other brain-based symptoms.

Other things to consider include gluten sensitivity, food intolerances, chemical intolerances, quality of diet, leaky gut, inflammation, nutritional status, brain health, and more.

For more information about managing your depression, memory loss, and other brain-based symptoms, contact my office.