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.

 

To Avoid Colds, Get Enough Sleep

To Avoid Colds, Get Enough Sleep

     Beginning in the eighties, sleep started getting a bad rap, as if it was something to avoid.  People didn’t want to miss out on anything.  The “anything” was likely to be work, as that decade saw the beginnings of the communication revolution in business and the impetus to “do it now”.  It started with pagers, evolved to fax machines and then cell phones.  By the mid-nineties, dial-up Internet came on the scene, and the pace of life has only sped up since then with the advent of smart phones.    

     Recently, researchers at the University of California, San Francisco conducted the first sleep study of its kind, using special technology to measure actual sleep time.  They established base lines for the study’s participants and then administered a cold virus.  Those with less than 6 hours sleep the week before were 4.2 times more likely to come down with a cold.

     While technology has certainly altered our lifestyles dramatically, our bodies haven’t changed in tens of thousands of years.  We need sleep.  It is not a luxury, but a necessity.  Sleeping less than 7 hours a night is associated with diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, stroke, weight gain, and depression.  It is also linked to weakened immune function, increased pain, more errors, and greater risk of accidents. 

    Along with good food and sufficient exercise, getting enough sleep is essential to good health.  It sounds easy enough, but I have many patients who have trouble sleeping.  Work schedules, family commitments, commuting time, certain illnesses or conditions, stress, emotional difficulties, all can contribute to insufficient sleep.  If this sounds like you, I invite you to call my office at 808-783-0361 and request a no-charge phone consultation.  There are many things I can do to help.  Find 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.

How To Stop Snoring

How To Stop Snoring

     While snoring might seem like a humorous topic to some, for those affected by it, it’s no laughing matter.  According to the National Sleep Foundation, 37 million Americans snore on a regular basis.  The annoying noises are the result of the airway narrowing or being partially blocked.  More than a nuisance, snoring can also be an indicator of health conditions that need attention.

      There are some simple lifestyle changes that can sometimes help reduce or eliminate snoring, ranging from nasal strips to sleeping on your side to avoiding alcohol for at least four hours before going to bed.  Alcohol relaxes the airway muscles, which constricts airflow.  Tobacco smoke can irritate throat membranes, so that is yet another reason to quit smoking.  Being over weight often includes excess fat around the neck.  This compresses the upper airway and restricts airflow, so losing weight can often help with snoring issues.

      Snoring occurs when the soft tissue in your throat partially blocks the airway.  Researchers have found that doing some simple mouth and tongue exercises can sometimes work to reduce snoring.  The article describes four of them.  If lifestyle and other techniques don’t help, it could be time to see a sleep specialist. 

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.

Tap Those Toes, Wiggle Those Ankles! Harm From Sitting Lowered By Fidgeting

Tap Those Toes, Wiggle Those Ankles!  Harm From Sitting Lowered By Fidgeting

     Research continues to document how our bodies are responding to today’s sedentary lifestyle.  Studies of movement patterns indicate that most of us spend between eight and 10 hours each day seated.  During that time, our bodies, and especially our legs, barely move. 

     Our bodies were not built for this, we were built to be in motion.  The dangers of this inactivity include increased risk for weight gain, as well as diabetes, since unused muscles in the legs do not pull sugar from the blood, leading to a dangerous rise in blood sugar.  Also, extended sitting causes an abrupt and significant decline in blood flow to the legs.  When blood flow drops, friction along the vessel walls also declines. The cells that line these walls, which can sense changes in the friction, begin to pump out proteins that contribute over time to hardening and narrowing of the arteries.  

     Other consequences include increased blood pressure and higher risk for atherosclerosis.  However, the very good news is that lower body fidgeting can result in enough muscular activity to elevate blood flow to the legs and significantly reduce the potential harm.  Read the article here.

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