New Understanding: How to Successfully Treat Autoimmune Diseases

New Understanding: How to Successfully Treat Autoimmune Diseases

      Autoimmune disease rates have been escalating dramatically over the past 30 years, some by up to 23%.  These diseases occur when the immune system, which is supposed to attack invaders like bacteria, viruses, fungi and yeast instead attacks one’s own body.  The medical and scientific community does not know exactly what causes autoimmune conditions like type 1 diabetes, celiac disease, lupus, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and Crohn’s disease. (More than 100 autoimmune diseases have been identified). 

     The immune system is comprised of white blood cells, lymph nodes and the whole lymph system, the spleen, tonsils, and bone marrow (which makes white blood cells).  It also makes certain types of chemical messengers, while some types of white blood cells make proteins called antibodies.

     The immune system can send out cells that act like Pac-Man, gobbling up bacteria and viruses. It also makes free radicals, which act like miniature bombs to blow up the invaders. Essentially, the whole process is designed to create inflammation in the body that is targeted at killing bacteria, viruses, yeast, and other things that can cause disease.

     For example, with rheumatoid arthritis, the immune system attacks joint tissue, which can cause very bad pain and disfigured joints.  With lupus, the skin, joints, and internal organs are affected.  In multiple sclerosis, the immune system eats away at the protective coating around the nerves, preventing them from functioning properly.

     Fortunately, there are a few pharmaceutical medications that disrupt specific aspects of the autoimmune process, but for the most part, the conventional approach is usually either steroids or other medications that suppress the entire immune system.  These drugs aren’t specific, and because they affect the whole immune system, not just the area of the disease, the immune system as a whole is weaker than it should be.  This can result in the person being more susceptible to infections.

     While we don’t know exactly what causes autoimmune diseases, a critical part of treating them is healing the digestive system.  Every patient I’ve seen with an autoimmune disease has been helped to some extent by adopting a specific diet to heal the gut.  Some patients who undertook very restrictive diets, like the Autoimmune Protocol Diet, enjoyed dramatic improvement.  This is because new research is finding that the gut is very important in regulating the immune system.  Good bacteria in the gut actually communicate with the immune system cells there by exchanging chemical messages.  When the gut gets balanced and there is no inflammation there, the immune system benefits regardless of what part of the body is affected by an autoimmune disease.

     For example, researchers in Israel and Germany have noted that the increases in autoimmune diseases have occurred in too short a time to be caused by genetic changes.  Focusing instead on other causes, they discovered a strong correlation between the skyrocketing use of industrial food additives in processed food and the increase in autoimmune diseases.  The studies revealed that processed foods damage the intestinal lining, increasing the likelihood of developing an autoimmune disease.

     Other stressors on the immune system include pollution, exposure to toxins, and lack of sleep.  People who work night shifts long term have a higher risk of developing autoimmune diseases and cancer, as well.  When we don’t get enough sleep, our bodies are missing out on a major time when it repairs damaged cells or fixes mutations in DNA.

     While I have found that pharmaceutical medications are often still needed in managing autoimmune diseases, using diet and natural remedies to regulate the immune system  can bring major improvements and in some cases even lead to remission.  I typically focus on working with patients to develop a healing diet as a foundation.  I will also recommend certain types of probiotics and natural remedies to help heal the gut and regulate the immune system, along with regular acupuncture.  The acupuncture helps reduce pain and inflammation and strengthens the internal organs.  Over time, patients with an autoimmune condition are usually able to live healthier, happier lives with less dependence on medication.

 

Heartburn Medicine Can Do More Harm Than Good

Heartburn Medicine Can Do More Harm Than Good

     As they say on TV, “Talk to your doctor….”  Only talk about getting OFF heartburn medication.  Heartburn medicine is one of the most widespread examples of the conventional approach to disease.  None of the drugs cure the condition and continued use can actually harm the body, sometimes seriously.  Yet, apparently, 15 million Americans would rather take the medication than change their ways.

     The class of drugs is called proton pump inhibitors, or P.P.I.s.  They are prescribed for acid reflux, which is a serious disorder involving corrosive stomach acid reaching the soft tissues of the esophagus.  The constant irritation can cause serious damage and even lead to esophageal cancer, which is frequently fatal.  In addition to heartburn, it can cause a persistent dry cough, sore throat, frequent throat clearing, bloating, difficulty swallowing, and more.

     While the acid reflux requires treatment, the medications are linked to side effects and complications including nutrient deficiencies, joint pain and infections, bone fractures, heart attacks, and dementia.  Certainly, the treatment should not be worse than the disease.  Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be.  There are any number of lifestyle changes that can help.

     Eliminating acidic foods and adding high-fiber foods is very helpful one-two improvement.  Fiber improves digestion and reduces pressure on the lower region of the esophagus.  A combination of raw and cooked vegetables will support healing.  A wide selection of raw fruits should be enjoyed daily.  These changes assist in losing weight where necessary while returning the body to a healthier state.  Developing a regular exercise routine will increase circulation of lymph, which helps to remove toxins from the body.

     If all those measures don’t eliminate acid reflux, it should at the least allow for the lowest possible dose of a P.P.I.  The condition is serious and important to get under control, so, as they say on TV, talk to your doctor about getting off your heartburn medication.  Read the article here.

New Medical Uses For Oil From Cannabis Plant

New Medical Uses For Oil From Cannabis Plant

     To fulfill the commitment I have to my patients I believe I must be a student as well as a teacher.  There is more knowledge and more information about the science of medicine than any one person can ever hope to know, so I feel I should always be learning.  My intention is to consistently give my patients the very latest treatment approaches based on the best, evidence-based, cutting edge research.

     I recently attended a conference on Maui for naturopathic physicians.  One important take away from that meeting concerns the ways that cannabidiol (CBD) oil extracted from hemp is proving to be an important medicine. 

     CBD oil extracted from hemp is not a controlled item and may be purchased online legally.  It is classified as a food grade substance rather than as a drug, so one does not need a medical marijuana card to use it.  We see this food grade hemp in hemp milk, breads, and clothing.  CBD oil taken orally is proving to be of benefit for children who are afflicted with seizures or seizure-like symptoms.

     I have recommended oral CBD oil for a number of my patients and have found it helpful.  For children with epilepsy who are not responding to pharmaceutical anti-seizure medications, the frequency and intensity of seizures have decreased, sometimes dramatically.  CBD oil is also helpful for anxiety and for moderating aggressive behavior in children with autism, and seems to have other benefits as well.  One family whose child was not having seizures reported that there was improvement in expressive language.  

     There is also evidence that CBD oil can help reduce neuropathy from chemotherapy (nerve pain and nerve problems).  It seems to help with the nausea associated with chemo as well.  If I determine that a patient would benefit from CBD oil, I can recommend dosages that I have seen be most helpful for that individual’s condition.

Being Uninformed Is Something I Never Want Happening With My Patients

Being Uninformed Is Something I Never Want Happening With My Patients

     “You mean you’re actually going to spend 45 minutes with me in an office visit?”  I hear that a lot from my new patients.  They are comparing what we do to the conventional approach to primary care, which typically consists of 15 minutes with the doctor and a prescription. 

     There is so much more to healing than taking pills that I hardly know where to start.  And that’s why my office visits are so different.  I want my patients to understand what is going on with them.  I can’t do that until I have first taken the time to carefully listen to what is on their mind and to ask them questions about it.  But what about questions that patients should be asking me?

     I am very happy that two cancer specialists have written an article that advises patients on what to ask their doctor(s).  Honestly, when patients ask me questions, it helps me be a more effective physician, because uncertainty about dosage, timing, the meaning of certain symptoms, etc., can interfere with a patient’s ability to comply with my recommendations.

     When it comes to informed patients, I am committed to being a leader in the field.  It is good medicine for patient and doctor alike.  Find the article here.

 

“Ugly” Fruits And Vegetables Are Coming To A Store Near You

“Ugly” Fruits And Vegetables Are Coming To A Store Near You

     I have written in previous posts about the staggering amount of food that is wasted in this country:  upwards of 40% of all the food that is produced goes uneaten, including 56% of the produce.  In a world and nation where millions of people don’t have enough to eat or are lacking in fresh, healthy fruits and vegetables, this situation is heartbreaking.  It is also largely unnecessary.  Thousands of tons of perfectly good food is thrown out by grocers because of appearance.  Yet, nutritional value is not at all dependent on how the papaya or potato looks.

     There are many causes for this problem and many viable solutions up and down the food supply chain.  One of them is overcoming our insistence on “good looking” fruits and vegetables.  I don’t know why we became fixated on appearance when it is what is inside that counts, but it looks like progress is starting to be made in changing our attitudes.

     Walmart, which has become the nation’s largest grocer, with more than 4,000 produce-selling stores, made an important announcement last week.  It is going to start offering “ugly” apples in 300 stores across Florida. This builds on an ugly potato program that Walmart launched in England earlier this year.

     Food is big business for the retail giant, with groceries accounting for 56%  of sales in the company’s U.S. stores for the past three years.  And where Walmart goes, other retailers follow.  Hopefully, American consumers will come to see “ugly” fruits and vegetables as being just as valuable as their picture perfect cousins. 

     Adding thousands of tons of fresh produce to our food supply is good for our wallets, as increased supply can bring down prices.  It also helps the planet by giving us more to eat without any need for more land, more fertilizer, and more pesticides.  Get ready to eat “ugly” fruits and vegetables.  They taste just fine.  Read the article here.

Obesity Now Tied To 13 Types Of Cancer And 42% Of All New Cancer Diagnoses

Obesity Now Tied To 13 Types Of Cancer And 42% Of All New Cancer Diagnoses

     A prominent medical publication, the New England Journal of Medicine, just published a review of over 1,000 studies which provided solid evidence that being overweight or obese is linked to most of the common types of cancer, including colorectal, breast, kidney, liver, gallbladder, pancreatic, thyroid, and ovarian. 

      According to the chairman of the working group behind the study, only smoking comes close as a risk factor for cancer:  “Obesity is associated with significant metabolic and hormone abnormalities, and with chronic inflammation, factors that may help explain its link to cancer.” 

     This study affirms the emphasis that holistic medicine has long placed on the importance of overall health, beginning with good food.  People who grow up eating highly processed foods can damage their body’s balance mechanisms at a young age, which can lead to a lifetime of weight and health issues.  The study emphasizes that the priority should be to avoid weight gain, because so few people can lose weight and keep it off once it’s there.  Find the article here.

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