Category Archives: Articles

Probiotics On The Go with OrthoMolecular Products

Many of you already know all the amazing benefits of probiotics, however with so many probiotics out there, how do you choose the best one for you? Of course if you have stool test results, we can customize one based on your results, but you don’t absolutely need a stool test to be able to find one that will work great for you. If you want to take a probiotic to help improve your digestion, boost immune system, help with skin conditions and balance your body after the use of antibiotics or other medications, we have some great choices for you.

If you travel and refrigerated items are not ideal, or if you just simply don’t want the hassle of refrigeration, you will love the probiotics by Orthomolecular Products. They are produced to be stable at room temperature (up to 95°F) and last at their full potency for up to 1 year making them a great choice.

The Orthobiotic is a multi-strain probiotic containing 20 billion CFU’s with 6 strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium as well as Saccharomyces boulardii. It is fantastic for anyone that has mild digestive issues such as looser stool or constipation as well as mild gas and/or bloating and for anyone looking to maintain their digestion and immune function. We recommend taking 1-2 capsules per day around bedtime.

If you have more serious digestive issues or have recently been on an antibiotic and need to support your digestive system, the Orthobiotic 100 is a great choice. It provides 100 billion colony forming units of multiple strains in 1 convenient pill. We recommend taking 1 capsule per day around bedtime.

If you need to take it a step further and have been on a longer course of antibiotics (or several round of antibiotics in a short period of time) or have more serious digestive or immune challenges, the Probiotic 225 is for you. This high dose probiotic is  is packed with 225 billion multi-strain organisms and comes in a convenient packet which can be mixed in any beverage. As with all the Orthomolecular Probiotics, it also does not require refrigeration.

Healthy Foods That May Actually Harm You

Many of our patients already know that kale as well as many of the cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower can negatively affect thyroid function in their raw form. However there is another situation where these vegetables – and in this case both raw and cooked – can create issues.

There is a crucial biochemical cycle in the body called the methylation cycle. This cycle is responsible for many areas of the body including detoxification, inflammation, immune system, energy and much more. There are many enzymes that are used to bring forth reactions in this cycle and it is quite common for these enzymes to have various polymorphisms due to our genetic variations.

In previous newsletters, we talked about the MTHFR enzyme and that those with this polymorphism need to avoid synthetic folic acid and need more natural folates. However there are many other enzymes in this cycle. Another very critical enzyme is the CBS enzyme which helps to convert homocysteine, a very inflammatory compound into cystathionine which then does down the chain to form sulfate. When compounds go down that pathway, the end result leads to sulfur, and if someone has an up-regulated CBS enzyme due to genetic factors, too much homocysteine can be sent down that pathway to create more sulfites. Sulfites are actually very toxic in the body and need to convert to sulfate in a proper manner. Not everyone is able to make that conversion therefore sulfites can build up. When sulfites cannot go down to sulfate, they back up and can actually create ammonia. This can be very problematic as a buildup of ammonia can cause digestive issues, allergies, skin rashes, brain fog and even anxiety because of its link to cortisol.

How does kale and other leafy greens and cruciferous veggies relate to this? These vegetables are naturally very high in sulfur and can significantly overwhelm the pathway if it is already taxed. If your body is not able to process sulfur well, eating foods that are high in sulfur especially in high amounts in the case of green juices, can create this backup of ammonia and cause all of the symptoms mentioned above. A genetic test can reveal polymorphisms in various enzymes and even more importantly, our TRIAD test can look at the individual biochemical pathways to see (among many other things) how your sulfur is being processed.

If you think that this can be affecting your health, we highly recommend looking at the pathways with a TRIAD test to know for sure. You can also try limiting the above foods for 6 to 8 weeks to help unburden this pathway. If sulfur is part of your issue, you should see an improvement in your symptoms in a few weeks. The mineral molybdenum can also be very helpful (many people are deficient in this mineral as seen on their hair analysis) as it helps stimulate the SOUX enzyme which converts sulfites into sulfate and is another critical enzyme in the methylation cycle.

It May Not Be Gluten Afterall, Glyphosate May Be Causing Your Issues

Gluten or glyphosate, what is causing your issues?
Gluten or glyphosate, what is causing your issues?

Ever wonder why wheat seems give people so many issues in this country? While gluten certainly plays a huge role, the question we are often asked is why people who are so sensitive to wheat in the US seem ok with it when traveling to other countries. It has been said that the genetic modification of wheat and hybridization plays a big role and while that is true, the new hybrid wheat has spread all over the world so it’s no longer specifically concentrated here in the US. So what is the issue?
There was a wonderful article about this in the healthy economist last month and below is a summary of what they found:

Believe it or not, it is actually a common wheat harvest protocol in the United States to drench the wheat fields with Roundup several days before the combine harvesters work through the fields as the practice allows for an earlier, easier and bigger harvest.

“Pre-harvest application of the herbicide Roundup or other herbicides containing the deadly active ingredient glyphosate to wheat and barley as a desiccant was suggested as early as 1980.  It has since become routine over the past 15 years and is used as a drying agent 7-10 days before harvest within the conventional farming community.”
According to Dr. Stephanie Seneff of MIT who has studied the issue in depth, desiccating non-organic wheat crops with glyphosate just before harvest came into vogue late in the 90s with the result that most of the non-organic wheat in the United States is now contaminated with it.  Seneff explains that when you expose wheat to a toxic chemical like glyphosate, it actually releases more seeds resulting in a slightly greater yield:   “It ‘goes to seed’ as it dies. At its last gasp, it releases the seed” says Dr. Seneff.”

While the herbicide industry tells us glysphsaphe is supposedly non toxic, there is multiple studies showing its effects on the cytochrome P450 system (which is the pathways our liver uses to detoxify). Just because it doesn’t kill us instantly, it certainly does not mean its non toxic and doesn’t have serious and long term effects.
Roundup disrupts the balance of healthy bacteria in the gut which then leads to intestinal permeability which is the breeding ground for autoimmunity. In fact, since roundup has been introduced in this practice in the 90’s, the amounts used have skyrocketed.  Interestingly, celiac disease has as well. There is a very interesting study from Dec of 2013 connecting glyphosate in roundup to many of the things that are thought to be celiac symptoms.

Celiac is associated with imbalance in gut bacteria and that can be explained in the known effects of glyphosate on gut bacteria. Characteristics of celiac diease point to impairment in many cytochrome p450 enzymes which are involved in detoxifying environmental toxins, activating D3, breaking down vitamin A and maintaining bile acid production and sulfate supplied to the gut. Glyphosate is known to inhibit these enzymes. Deficiencies in iron, cobalt, molybdenum, copper and other metals associated with celiac disease can be attributed to glyphosate’s strong ability to attached to these elements. Deficiencies in tryptophan, tyrosine, methioine and selenomethionine are associated with celiac disease match glyhosate’s known depletion of these amino acids.

Furthermore, this exposure happens a little at a time over years which slowly damages the cells contributing to high levels of inflammation and inflammation is linked to a myriad of diseases. This can lead to a perfect storm where things are just enough off balance that the body is not able to self correct and leads to chronic disease.

If you do not have a wheat/gluten sensitivity but find that you don’t feel well when eating wheat at restaurants, this can be your issue. Eating organic wheat would be helpful for you as well as avoiding wheat when going out as most restaurants do not use organic wheat.

What you need to know if you get sick this winter

The recent frigid temperatures and extra stress put on so many by hurricane Sandy, more and more people have been getting sick this winter. In our office, we have seen many patients with cold/flu like symptoms and wanted to take a moment to go over a few key facts to clarify any confusion you may have about how you can find out what you have and the best ways to treat it as well as some preventative tools to hopefully help you to avoid getting sick.

Different kinds of infections

Many of you most likely already know that infections can be either bacteria or viral.

Bacterial Infections – usually need antibiotics to help your immune system fight it

Viral infections – antibiotics are not effective and will not help you to feel better but can only make things worse as the use of unnecessary antibiotics can make you resistant and will not be effective when you truly need them.

Because antibiotics are not effective against viral infections, it is very important to find what kind of infection you have as taking unnecessary antibiotics can kill off good bacteria in the intestines leading to digestive problems and yeast infections and can also contribute to antibiotic resistance (when you need them for real, they will not work)

I recently had a bout with a persistent upper respiratory infection that had me feeling off for several weeks (unfortunately Alyssa got it from me as well since we work in a fairly small space) and after talking to several patients that seemed to have a similar experience, I wanted to explain the situation and hopefully help others from having to g through the same thing.

So how do you know what type of infection you have?

If you are not better in 2-3 days after onset of symptoms, you should see a health care provider that can perform some very simple tests to help figure out what type of infection you have. A doctor will often perform a rapid strep test where they will swab inside your throat and put it into a special solution that will produce a positive or negative result in just a few minutes. Strep A is a very dangerous bacteria that if not treated, can cause serious health complications and the rapid strep test looks for that specific strain. If that test is positive, antibiotics such as Amoxicillin are necessary to make sure the bacteria does not harm your system. As many of you know, I am not usually a fan of antibiotics, but in these cases, you do not have a choice and you do not want to mess around with this bacteria. If the test is negative however, it DOES NOT automatically mean your infection is viral. This is because there are many different bacteria aside from Strep A that can attack your system and therefore a throat culture is extremely helpful.  Also, it is important to note that the rapid strep test is not always 100% accurate and does have false negatives, especially if its done at early onset of symptoms so it can be missed without a culture.

To do a throat culture, the medical provider will use another cotton swab and swipe the back of your throat often trying to get any potential post nasal drip and that will get sent to the lab. Even if the rapid stress test is positive, I still recommend doing a culture to see if that is true and if any other infections are present (rapid strep tests are very effective but they do not identify any other bacteria aside from Strep A). Even if you don’t have a terrible sore throat, a culture can still be helpful as the stuff that drips down from your nose often ends up in your throat and can be collected for the culture. It normally takes a few days for a culture result and we suggest waiting for those results if possible before taking any medication (unless of course the Strep A test was positive). If the culture comes back positive, that is confirmation the infection is bacterial and antibiotics will be needed. Furthermore, labs will often provide specific medications that will be effective against the infection that is present to make sure you are taking the best medication for your case. If the culture is negative, that is confirmation your infection is not bacterial and therefore viral and antibiotics are not needed because cultures can only grow bacteria and not viruses.

In my situation, my rapid strep test was a faint positive (the test resembles a pregnancy test where 1 line is negative and 2 lines is positive) and the doctor was quick to prescribe amoxicillin and did not feel it was necessary to send out for a culture. I didn’t push for it (and now kicking myself for it) and just let it go. After 10 days of amoxicillin, I was not feeling 100% and experienced intermittent cough, sore throat and congestion. I went to an ENT and asked for a culture and a few days later got a call from the doctor that the culture was in fact positive for a bacteria called Moraxella. I explained to the doctor that I already took a course of Amoxillin but unfortunately found out that most strains of Moraxella produce something called β-lactamase and are thus resistant to to Amoxicillin and I had to take yet another 10 day course of a stronger antibiotic called Augmentin. As you can imagine, I was less than thrilled that I now had to take 10 more days of medication, but at this point what I had turned into bronchitis and I didn’t have a choice. In my situation, it’s likely that the strep and Moraxella were there together which is why I didn’t feel completely better after the first course of antibiotics. Had I done a culture right away and saw the other bacteria, I would have taken the Augmentin from the beginning and avoided the extra antibiotics. But as they say, you live and learn right! So just wanted to share this so that others do not have to experience what I went through.

Things you can do to protect yourself if you have to take an antibiotic

If you do in fact have to take an antibiotic, there are precautions you can take to prevent the negative effects of the antibiotics. As you probably already know, antibiotics destroy all bacteria, good and bad as they do not always know the difference. Therefore, taking a strong probiotic is extremely important both during and for at least 2 weeks after the antibiotic course. While taking antibiotics, take your probiocits about 2 hours away from the medication is possible so that the antibiotic doesn’t kill off the probiotic on the spot.

We recommend using the Probiotic 225 as that one comes in a convenient sachet with each serving containing 225 billion organisms (yes that is A LOT!) and perfect to replenish during and after antibiotics. Alternatively, we also use Probiotic Synergy Powder as the amount of the powder can be titrated up to increase the dosage as necessary. Both of these will help prevent digestive discomfort, help immunity and replenish good bacteria. If you experience a lot of diarrhea with antibiotics which is another possibility, the Recolonize 1 is the perfect option and will help eliminate loose bowels right away.

For women who are prone to yeast infections, taking probiotics is especially helpful, however for those of you who are particularly prone, taking probiotics orally does not always do the trick because the bacteria gets used up in the digestive track and doesn’t  always make it to other places. In these cases, probiotic vaginal suppositories work amazingly well, we are very excited as we have been getting great results with them.  Probiotic Feminine Suppositories are formulated to contain various strains to compliment your natural bacteria, they are very small and neat and easy to use, forget those creams and wearing panty linters to bed! They are great for prevention while on antibiotics but also work on existing infections and can help to clear it up without the use of those harsh and messy creams and without having to take Diflucan which has to travel through your whole system to work, is not always effective and has various side effects.

Another thing that is important to keep in mind is that illnesses such as sinus infections, bronchitis and pneumonia do not usually start out as that. Oftentimes an infection that is not properly treated will linger and ends up turning into some of these other conditions.

How contagious are these?

Alyssa unfortunately got my infection so generally they are pretty contagious and it is helpful to stay home and rest for a few days to prevent spreading to others. If you have a bacterial infection that is being treated with antibiotics, your ability to spread the infection will go down significantly after 24 hours of treatment. It is also important to know that bronchitis, sinus infections and pneumonia are not always contagious in themselves. It is usually the original bacteria that cause the illness and then progresses to these other inflammatory conditions so you cannot catch bronchitis from someone else, but you can catch the original infection that made that person sick.

If your infection is viral

If all the tests are negative, you can be more assured that your infection is in fact viral and antibiotics are not going to help and therefore are not needed. In these cases, rest, lots of fluids and immune support nutrients will help to fight the infection quicker. At CNW, our favorites are:

Mycoferon – a powerful mushroom extract

Lomatium – a natural anti-viral herb

Liquid Vitamin C – immune booster and antioxidant delivered in a liposomal form for superior absorption.

Zinc Supreme – concentrated zinc and synergistic nutrients for immune strength.

These are great to take for a current infection and they can also be used to strengthen the immune system overall in the winter months to help prevent illnesses before they start.

Why are so many people misdiagnosed or completely missed when screened for Hypothyroidism?

Did you know that thyroid disease affects more than 13 million Americans, yet more than half remain undiagnosed? More and more patients are coming in with symptoms of hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) so this month we are setting out to explain it in detail and bring you all the facts that you need to know because it is very likely that either you or someone you know may be affected by it.

Does this sound familiar?

You went to the doctor because you were having symptoms that can be associated with a slow thyroid but after running a blood test, they said your thyroid is just fine! Lets take a look at the different thyroid parameters and why this often happens even though the thyroid may not be “fine” at all.

The importance of a good functioning thyroid

It is important to know that thyroid hormone is used by every cell in the body. Let us repeat that.. “every single cell in the body”, which means that when the thyroid gland is not optimal, the effects can be seen in ALL areas of the body.

The thyroid is most notably known for regulating body temperature, energy, metabolism and sleep, but that is just the beginning. Below are a few of its other very important functions:

1. Manufacturing and storing calcitonin – regulating calcium for bone absorption and use

2. Keeps stomach acid at a beneficial level. Low stomach acid has the following implications:

  • Hinder absorption of key nutrients (B12, IRON, CALCIUM)
  • Allows for the growth of harmful bacteria in the GI causing symptoms such as gas, bloating and a weaker   immune system
  • Slow transit time i.e. constipation

3. Liver and thyroid have a give-and-take relationship. A well functioning thyroid gland is necessary to keep liver excreting toxins it accumulates. The liver is the location where 60% of thyroid hormone conversion takes place, so a sluggish liver can then lead back to low thyroid output in a vicious cycle.

4. Egg quality along with achieving and maintaining pregnancy. Once the fetus is formed, it does not start producing thyroid hormones until the 2nd trimester and thus is dependent on the mother’s thyroid hormones.

Symptoms of an underactive thyroid are very vast and include the following:

  • Fatigue, sluggishness or weakness
  • Dry skin
  • Brittle nails
  • Hair loss and/or course and dry hair
  • Increased sensitivity to cold
  • Constipation
  • Memory problems or having trouble thinking clearly
  • Heavy or irregular menstrual periods
  • An enlarged thyroid gland (goiter)
  • Weight gain
  • Swelling of the arms, hands, legs, and feet, and facial puffiness, particularly around the eyes
  • Hoarseness of the voice
  • Muscle aches and cramps
  • Low blood pressure
  • Elevated blood cholesterol level
  • Infertility
  • Sleep irregularities

There also appears to be a strong genetic component to thyroid conditions

Why are so many people misdiagnosed or completely missed when screened for Hypothyroidism?

To understand this question, we have to look at the various definitions of hypothyroidism, as well as basic thyroid physiology (don’t worry, in layman’s terms) and in a few short paragraphs, you will understand exactly why this happens and how you can see if your thyroid may have an issue too.

The definition of hypothyroidism is medical condition where the thyroid gland makes insufficient thyroid hormones.

How does your doctor define “hypothyroidism”?

The most popular method is to directly check thyroid output with a blood test, measuring TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone). If this falls outside of your physician’s range, only then you will be considered for medication or other support. The problem is that there are various discrepancies between lab ranges and doctor opinion.

In 2002, The AACE (The American Academy of Clinical Endocrinologists) redefined “normal range” of TSH to be between 0.3-3.0, however most labs still use a reference between 0.5-5.0 as the suggested “normal” for doctors. This means that a level of 3.5 is considered “normal” by your doctor while tons of research for over 10 years found that you would benefit from thyroid assistance.

What is subclinical hypothyroidism?

Many people experiencing the common symptoms of hypothyroidism have been told that despite their symptoms, they do not have an under active thyroid gland because their thyroid blood test results were within the normal range. Some may have even been told that their symptoms are part of the “normal” ageing process.

Such symptomatic individuals may actually have a condition known as subclinical hypothyroidism. In this condition, a patient may have all the symptoms of hypothyroid, and yet the hormones tested via blood do not suggest a problem. In subclinical hypothyroidism, there is a partial decrease in the thyroid glands ability to produce enough hormones to make the body’s metabolism work at 100% efficiency; hence an individual will be symptomatic.

Why are these results not matching the symptoms? The first problem is the “normal range” for TSH which we just discussed. The second problem is that TSH is just the beginning and only shows part of the thyroid picture. It has not yet become common practice for many doctors to run ALL the thyroid hormones (we really don’t know why that is not happening when it really should be).Without running multiple hormones in a pathway, effectiveness is assumed rather than proven. Luckily, there is a specific reason for each pathway breach so comparing the levels relative to one another is not only very informative but necessary in defining the problem area.

What are the other thyroid hormones and how do they work together?

The process actually starts in the brain where your hypothalamus sends a signal to your pituitary gland via a hormone called TRH. Once the pituitary receives it, it sends a signal to your thyroid via a hormone called TSH. As we discussed above, TSH is the most common marker used in conventional lab testing to measure thyroid function and you will soon see in just as second more reasons why this is seldom sufficient.

Once the pituitary sends a message to the thyroid via the TSH, the thyroid produces 2 substances, T4 and T3. T3 is the active hormone that is needed by the body and can be absorbed and used by your cells while T4 is called a pro hormone which has to be converted to T3 in order to be used. The body is very smart and produces about 93% T4 and only 7% T3 because the if T3 was produced by the thyroid at once, it would be used by the cells in the thyroid and never get a chance to get around to the rest of the body where it is also needed. Remember, the thyroid hormone is needed for every cell in the body.

Once the hormones are produced, they don’t usually hang out on their own, but will quickly get bound to different proteins. A good way to visualize this is thinking of the hormones getting on a truck which will drive them to where they need to go. Once the T3 and T4 hop on the truck, the truck takes them to the liver where most of the conversion takes place and T3 is created. In order for this to happen, good liver function is mandatory and since the liver works like a filter, it needs to be cleaned periodically to prevent an accumulation of toxins. Furthermore, the enzyme that converts T4 to T3 is selenium dependent which is why adequate levels of this mineral are so important. About 60% of the T4 is converted to the active T3, but 20% or even more (if there are issues) can be converted to something called Reverse T3 which acts as an opposite of T3 and prevents the T3 from doing its job. The last 20% of T4 gets converted in the gut and good intestinal function and bacteria balance is needed for that to take place properly.

Once converted, T3 gets bound to proteins (jumps back on the truck) and the truck “drives” around the body looking for cells that need thyroid hormone (T3). When the hormones are on the truck and are bound, they are called Total T4 and Total T3, however when they jump off the truck to become available to the cells, they are called Free T4 and Free T3. When the truck gets to a cell, the T3 jumps off the truck (becomes Free T3), knocks on the door (cell receptor) and absorbs in. There are various things that can affect receptor sensitivity, one of the more common being high cortisol levels due to stress and/or inflammation.

As you can see from the above, there is quite a process that happens from the beginning of thyroid hormone production to the end result of the hormone getting into the cell where it belongs. Looking at this, it is crystal clear why measuring TSH alone can often be misleading and various problems are often missed leaving as many as 50% of patients misdiagnosed.

It is essential that we look at all the hormones down the line to see what else can be off. Any regular lab such a Quest or Labcorp have the ability to measure the rest of the hormones so we can see if there are breaks in the pathway.

When visiting your doctor or lab, insist that the following are measured:

  • TSH
  • Total T4
  • Total T3
  • Free T4
  • Free T3
  • Thyroid Antibodies (more on this in the next article)

We want to look at total Total T4 to see what the thyroid gland is producing and Free T4 to see the amount that is not bound (off the truck). We also want to measure Total T3 to see how the liver is converting it as well as Reverse T3 to see how much opposition we have. Finally, an incredibly important and often missed level is for the Free T3 which is the active hormone that goes into the cell as without this number, we really don’t get a full picture. By looking at all these numbers, we can see if there is an issue with the pituitary signaling the thyroid, the thyroid producing hormones, converting hormones or accepting hormones. It’s pretty amazing what we can tell from all these numbers even if the TSH is “in range”.

Also, it is important to remember that just as TSH has an “optimal range”, so do all the other hormones so just because nothing of highlighted in the blood test as out or range, it does not mean everything is necessarily ok. In our practice, we specialize in analyzing blood tests (especially thyroid panels) and can walk you through what we see and what needs to be fixed. Once the imbalances are identified, there are various ways that we can fix the roadblocks that we see with nutrition, supplements, herbs and glandulars customized specifically for your results.

Hormone analysis is often complicated because the body is always regulating itself and these hormonal messengers are constantly responding to signals coming from all ends of the body. If you have any of the above symptoms, ruling out thyroid dysfunction is imperative.  It is likely that you will also see symptoms associated with parallel hormone systems because it is rare that thyroid hormones are “off” on their own as they relate to so many different functions. Taking a whole body approach is the best way to analyze the root cause of dysfunction and get you back to your old self.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to email or call us, we are here to help!

What is an autoimmune disease and how can it possibly relate to gluten?

In the June article, we covered gluten sensitivity, why it is so difficult to test for this sensitivity as well as the various reasons that people can become sensitive over time. If you missed the June newsletter, you can access it here.

This month, we want to continue the discussion and focus on the genetic component of gluten sensitivity and its relationship to autoimmune disease. This connection is very important and can affect virtually anyone because autoimmune diseases develop overtime and can happen at any age.


What is an autoimmune disease and how can it possibly relate to gluten?

Autoimmune diseases arise from an in appropriate immune response against substances and tissues normally present in the body. In other words, the immune system mistakes some part of the body as a pathogen and attacks its own cells. This attack can happen against any of the organs, tissues or cells. There are known autoimmune diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis (MS) which attacks the central nervous system, Hashimotos which attacks the thyroid, Lupus which attacks connective tissues and rheumatoid arthritis which attacks the joints, just to name a few.

What is important to understand though is that while modern medicine has identified various autoimmune diseases which have names, the body has the ability to attack virtually any of its own tissues, cells and compounds if there is immune confusion and thus autoimmune disease are not really just limited to the ones that we are aware of but can really be anything.

The Conventional Approach

The conventional approach to autoimmune disease “treatment” is immune suppressants which are also called steroid medications. They work by suppressing your immune system to stop the improper attack, but while this may sound promising, it comes with many negative effects. First off, when your immune system is suppressed you cannot properly fight true infections such as bacteria or viruses that you may be exposed to. Steroids also disturb the functions of your metabolism, blood sugar, digestion and adrenals glands and can cause very serious problems.

While conventional medicine feels there is no cure for autoimmune disease and offers immune suppression as the only option, if you look at the whole body from the inside out, there are actually various ways to naturally help balance the immune system.

A Different Point Of View

A very important fact that is often missed is that no matter what kind of autoimmune disease may be present, the issue is the immune system, not the tissue that is being attacked. So if someone has MS, its not the fault of the nervous system, but rather the immune system for getting confused and attacking the wrong tissue. Therefore, the more integrative approach to addressing it is focusing on teaching the immune system what is good and what is bad, instead of the actual tissue that is being attacked.

While there are various reasons for why the immune system gets confused, we are finding that one big reason lies behind gluten.

Let us show you an example of how this can play out. Let’s say that someone may not feel well from gluten, so they decide to do some tests. Their biopsy comes back negative, all the antibody tests are negative and even the inflammatory test comes out fine. In such cases, doctors would usually tell the patient that eating gluten is fine, but is it really? If we test for the gluten genes and find that 2 are positive, it means that this person is actually not genetically designed to process gluten. If the person eats gluten anyway, the immune system has to work extra hard as it is constantly bombarded by something it doesn’t like and becomes “corrupted” overtime. The actual autoimmune problem is usually not sudden and often takes many years to fully develop due to the constant immune system pressure. This phenomenon is sometimes called silent celiac disease and there are people walking around with silent celiac for years and then later in life and what seems like “all of a sudden” get diagnosed with an autoimmune disease.

Yet while it seems as it just came out of nowhere, you can now see here how the process has been in the works for many years. Another interesting and important fact to know here is that if a patient is diagnosed with a particular autoimmune disease, they can actually go on to develop as many as 8 other autoimmune diseases in their lifetime (due to the fact that the immune system can start attacking different tissues overtime).

One of the main ways that we can stop the process is to avoid gluten especially if you have the gluten gene. Genetic testing is really the only true way to know if gluten is an issue and in many cases can be used as a preventative because if you stop eating gluten before any serious problems occur, the body will not react to it and there will be a lower likelihood of other problems down the road.


Corn gluten can also cause a reaction in patients with celiac disease and/or gluten sensitivity  

Gluten is not just one protein. Traditionally we measure for antibodies against gliadin, which is a gluten found in wheat, barley, rye and oats, however there are as many as a thousands of other glutens found in all other grains. There has been 400 new glutens discovered in the last year and out of the 400 discovered 40 of them, some of which are found in corn are potentially more toxic to celiacs than even gliadin.

Since 1978 there have been a number of studies investigating whether or not corn gluten is a problem for patients with gluten sensitivity. Below is an excerpt from a recent study on corn products

“Maize is used as an alternative to wheat to elaborate foodstuffs for celiac patients in a gluten-free diet. However, some maize prolamins (zeins) contain amino acid sequences that resemble the wheat gluten immune-dominant peptides… analysis indicated that other zeins contain similar sequences, or sequences that may bind even better to the HLA-DQ2/DQ8 molecules compared to the already identified ones. Results concur to indicate that relative abundance of these zeins,…may be of paramount clinical relevance, and the use of maize in the formulation and preparation of gluten-free foods must be reevaluated…”

At this point there is ample evidence to consider corn gluten as a major contributor to gluten related illnesses.  The average celiac patient feels better cutting out wheat, but the truth of the matter is simple – feeling better does not always mean healthy, especially with the autoimmune connections related to gluten that we discussed earlier. Furthermore, we are seeing patients feel better on a traditional gluten free diet for a period of time, however in some, their progress may level out or even reverse until corn is removed.

Whether you have celiac disease or just a gluten sensitivity and are noticing that the positive changes you saw from removing gluten have been reversing, please consider corn gluten as a potential issue and try taking it out. There is a good change it can help!

You cannot control what genes you are born with, but you can identify them and change your diet and lifestyle to accommodate them. By looking at the whole person and their genetics to help find their potential food sensitivities can help us get to the root and heal from the inside out.

Miracle Foods – Fact of Fiction?

 “Now I’ve got the #1 miracle in a bottle to burn your fat”. This was an actual quote from one of day-time television’s most trusted doctors.

The obesity epidemic is in the spotlight of politics, prime-time television, news and even the latest NYC legislation. Complete Nutrition and Wellness is here to give you the facts behind the most talked about “miracle” fat-burners and super foods.


What is it: B vitamins and a number of other chemical compounds. It is essentially a natural probiotic.

Health Claims: Better energy, improved digestion and immune system and liver detoxification.

The glucaric acid component of kombucha is responsible for excreting liver “sludge” and using the GI tract to properly kill specific bacteria. The improved energy claim is likely due to supplying vitamin B6 and creating a healthier GI tract. Most find that the increased energy is not an immediate effect. The natural probiotics are great for your immune system. If you have digestive issues, probiotics are also very helpful there and it is likely that an improved digestive capacity will also improve your ability to fight off all types of infections even if they are unrelated to digestion.

Further investigation needed: For those who experience negative side effects when first drinking kombucha, those are likely attributed to candida die-off in the GI tract. If you experience this, you should investigate the possibility that you have an overgrowth of candida and consider a more rigorous candida cleanse.

Our opinion: Kombucha will benefit those with inconsistent bowel patterns, bloating after meals and people with history of lots of anti-biotic use. (Yes, even if it was as a child)

Please note: If you want to brew your own, do not use ceramic pots. Brewing in ceramic may cause lead poisoning- the acids in the tea may leach lead from the ceramic glaze. Glass is always best.

Bee Pollen

What is it: Bee pollen is a nutritious substance that contains more than a dozen vitamins, 28 minerals, 11 enzymes and co-enzymes, and 14 beneficial fatty acids.

Health claims: Improved immune system and better energy have been reported. Bee Pollen supplementation research has a large focus on those with immune deficient health. For example, using bee pollen in conjunction with radiation therapy has claimed to have increased a patient’s energy in comparison with those who did not supplement with bee pollen.

Cancer treatment assistance:  Exposure to radiation and/or chemical pollutants adversely decreases antibodies and other white blood cells (your immune response), red blood cells and nutrients such as protein and vitamins C and E.  Symptomatic improvements in health give rise to the claim that bee pollen’s effect directly addresses antibody count, histamine activity and immune system strengths as a whole.

Our opinion: We recommend bee pollen for those with a WBC (white blood cell) count below 5.0 on their recent blood work. We commonly find this in people with EBV (Epstein-Barr Virus), HSV1, various autoimmune disease, cancer and chronic candida overgrowth. Bee pollen is a gentle way to increase WBC count and therefore, create a stronger defense system, thus decreasing the likelihood of symptomatic illness such as the common cold. Suggested amount is two 450-580mg capsules three to four times per day.


What is it: Cruciferous vegetable gaining popularity in healthy eaters everywhere for its wealth of vitamins, antioxidants and a tasty flavor. It contains 20% of the recommended daily intake allowance (RDA) of fiber, 10% RDA Omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidant capacity comparable to garlic (ORAC=1700) and vitamins A and C. Cooking kale will enhance vitamin A absorption while raw kale will provide more vitamin C but a lesser amount of usable vitamin A/antioxidants.  

Health claims: Improved cholesterol – A diet rich in Omega-3 fatty acids (take your fish oils) will improve cholesterol levels and decrease inflammatory signals in the body. So although kale will contribute to omega-3 intake, it alone will not prevent a heart attack.

Weight loss – Very low in calories and high in fiber, kale may assists in weight loss goals, however what you do the rest of the day is also important and kale alone will not make you shed pounds.

Liver detoxification – Kale contains isothiocyanates (ITC), which assist in both phases of liver detoxification pathways thus this is an excellent vegetable to include in your diet while doing a cleanse.

Cancer prevention – Antioxidants fight free radicals and inflammation, both of which are the root of disease and cancer as a whole. Kale provides the body with antioxidants but it is not as high as blueberries or other “super-berries” you may have heard similar claims about.

Our Opinion: We love kale. It is no miracle cure for disease, but it can help you reach your daily vitamin goals. 

Get the kids to eat healthier with home-made kale chips.

Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C)

Line a non insulated cookie sheet with parchment paper

Wash and thoroughly dry kale with a salad spinner

With a knife or kitchen shears carefully remove the leaves from the thick stems and tear into bite size pieces

Drizzle kale with olive oil and sprinkle with seasoning salt

Bake until the edges brown but are not burnt which is about 10 to 15 minutes.

You can also try to add kale to your smoothie – Yes your fruit smoothie! If you don’t add too much, you will not even taste it, though it will turn the drink green.

Here is an easy recipe

1 cup of fruit of your choice (we love strawberries and watermelon, it’s very refreshing)

1 scoop of a high quality protein powder such as Dream or Paleo Meal

1 tsp of Paleo Fiber

1 TBSP of Flax or Chia seeds

1-3 leaves of kale

Blend with water, unsweetened almond milk or coconut water and enjoy the green delicious goodness!


What is it: CLA is an Omega 6 fatty acid, naturally found in various foods. Omega 6 is a PUFA (poly-unsaturated fatty acid) and has various health benefits.

Health claims: Lessens muscle breakdown and increases fat burning for energy.

Research studies showing these results were based on a mice study supplementing massive amounts (more than humans could easily consume) thus making the results’ applicability questionable.

Our opinion: Have you heard the term “You need fat to burn fat”? The body senses if calories drop too low or its source of quality fat, say for hormone production, drops too low. The body will take measures to slow down metabolism and therefore you may see a negative effect on your waistline. It is likely that successful fat loss while using CLA is linked to temporarily increasing the fat(grams) contributing to overall calories in those that were not consuming enough calories. Furthermore, while Omega 6’s do have health benefits, they need to be in balance with Omega 3’s for an anti-inflammatory effect. Consuming too much CLA may deplete Omega 3’s and contribute to inflammation which is not something that you want. In a nutshell, no miracles here, sorry!

Chia Seed

What is it: Similar to healthy fat and fiber sources like flax seed and psyllium, Chia seeds(dried) are a rich source of Omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals. Here are a few of the facts:

Complete protein (Rare for most non-animal source proteins)

Ideal anti-inflammatory fatty acid ratio. <3.5:1> ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 making up its fat content

9g fiber/oz (insoluble and soluble)

Rich in antioxidants

Filled with minerals such as potassium, phosphorous, zinc and calcium

Macro content of 4p/11c/9f (per ounce) for you protein/carb/fat counters

Health claims: Helps you stay on your diet as it keeps you full (high fat, high fiber, high nutrient density). High fiber also helps prevent diverticulitis and keeps you regular too.

Our opinion: Chia seeds are a great addition to your daily menu as long as you account for the nutritional content. Just because something is high quality, doesn’t mean you should have it in large quantities. We recommend keeping this to a 1 oz serving size 1-3 times per day. Chia seeds can be used in place of:

Tbsp of nut butter

Tbsp of flax seed

Tbsp of olive oil

2oz of salmon

Try this: Chia seeds swell in water and increase their volume ten-fold, while essentially containing the same amount of calories. This water-chia mixture turns into a gel. Substitute chia gel for butter in baking recipes. (1Tbsp butter= ½ Tbsp chia-gel)

Green Tea

What is it: A combination of a compound called EGCG and caffeine.

Health Claims: EGCG (Epigallocatechinn-3-gallate) is an important extract in green tea that increases catecholamines, thereby increasing heart-rate and thermogenesis. In plain terms, this means it increases a fat burning hormone called HSL. Like a domino effect though, every action in the body will affect many more reactions downstream through various enzymes. Enzymes are like traffic lights set up throughout various pathways that help speed things up, or slow them down. While HSL is the fat burning hormone, remember that the body always has checks and balances, so when HSL increases too much, the body tries to slow things down for balance by producing a hormone called PDE which works in the opposite fashion from HSL. This is seen as the “red light” in the pathway. Wouldn’t it be great if there was something out there to decrease PDE, and keep the light green for longer? Well, there is and that is caffeine. So by drinking green tea, you extend the amount of time HSL (fat-burning hormone) is available to send its messages.

Our opinion: If fat loss is your goal, green tea can help, but unfortunately it alone will not get you there. We suggest you implement green tea or a green tea extract containing an adequate amount of EGCG in combination with a healthy food and exercise plan. It’s a great substitute for your morning coffee routine and an easy way to skip that daily serving of dairy (in your coffee).

Precaution: Those who are sensitive to caffeine should not make exceptions for the benefits of green tea as the benefits may not outweigh the risks in this case. In some cases, sensitivities to caffeine can be due to a sluggish liver because of toxin overload. If this is the case, a comprehensive cleanse may help the sensitivity and subsequent fat burning as a strong, clean and healthy liver is one of the keys to successful fat loss.

Testing For Gluten Allergy/Sensitivity – Your Result Can Be A False Negative!

Many of us are already aware of the myriad of health issues that can be related to gluten allergies, sensitivity and intolerances. Don’t worry, this article is not about going over what many of our readers already know (though if you need more information about what gluten is and what symptoms may be associated with its sensitivity, please see our article on gluten intolerance posted last year by clicking here). I would like to explore the variety of tests that are available, explain why so many have false negative results and detail the differences between celiac and gluten sensitivity and which tests are used for each. Even if you think you already know everything there is to know about gluten, please read on and I promise you will learn something new from the below.

Let’s Start By Clarifying Some Definitions

Celiac disease is an extreme intolerance to gluten where eating gluten will actually damage the lining of your intestines and cause mal-absorption along with many other symptoms such as all types of GI issues, skin issues, headaches, arthritis, depression and the list goes on and on.

A gluten sensitivity is when you do not have true blown celiac and your intestines are not completely damaged but eating gluten makes you feel worse and can often cause very similar if not the same symptoms of those with celiac disease.

What Are The Problems With Testing And Why Is It So Hard To Get A True Answer?

Testing for this is very tricky because the occurrence of false negatives is often likely. The only way to get a true celiac test is to go to the GI doctor and have a biopsy. Your intestines are lined with hair like structures called villi and in healthy intestines; they stand straight up like a shaggy rug. When a person has celiac disease, gluten causes damage to the intestines and the villi lose their integrity and become flattened – you can think of this looking more like a berber carpet instead of a fluffy rug. The biopsy looks at the state of the villi and only if they are flattened can there be a true celiac diagnosis.

A very important thing to note here is that if someone removes gluten from their diet, the villi can be revived fairly quickly and thus the intestines will heal. For this reason a person needs to actually eat gluten (equivalent to at least 1 slice of wheat bread) every day for 30 consecutive days before the biopsy in order to get an accurate reading. Patients who already started a gluten free diet prior to their biopsy can often get a false negative because of this.

There is also a way to look at antibodies your body may be producing against gluten in the blood and some GI doctors use this as a celiac test. (An antibody is something that is made when the body is fighting an antigen that it doesn’t like hence a present gluten antibody shows that there is some kind of a reaction). The problem here is that the gluten antibodies are produced in significant numbers only if the person has a good functioning immune system and has a good amount of total antibodies since the gluten antibody is a part of the total. If the total antibody production is low (which is common in many people especially if there is a chronic health condition) the gluten antibody will also be low therefore leading to a false negative result.

Furthermore, there are several types of antibodies that can be tested such and some of the main ones include IgE, IgG and IgA. IgE shows an immediate response and this often comes out negative unless someone has an anaphylactic shock type reaction to the food which is far less common. IgG and IgA are the delayed antibodies and are more likely to be found through testing because gluten containing foods take several hours to several days to show symptoms and inflame the immune system so the delayed antibodies can better catch this reaction. I have seen people who were told by their doctors that they did not have any issues with gluten but upon review of their blood results, the IgE was the only antibody tested which only shows a tiny piece of the picture.

What About Sensitivities?

While celiac disease is becoming more common, gluten sensitivity is much more rampant and affects an even bigger part of the population. Even though a sensitivity is not full blown celiac, the symptoms can be very similar and range from digestion to all other areas of the body. Those with a gluten sensitivity will not get a positive result through a biopsy and can often test negative on the gluten antibody blood test however notice they will feel worse when consuming gluten. This leaves many people confused and drives them to eat gluten even though they feel bad from it because they have been told by doctors their tests are negative and they do not have an issue with gluten.

When a celiac test is negative but someone feels worse after consuming gluten (this can happen from 1-72 hours post consumption) they most likely have a sensitivity to gluten. The reason the other tests are negative is because gluten reactions vary in strength. The easiest way to describe this is if you think of a spectrum from 0 to 100 with 0 being no sensitivity and 100 being extremely sensitive. If someone is all the way at 100 it would equate to celiac disease and/or extreme intolerance and often result in a positive biopsy but anything below that would not show up on those tests. So the problem is what if you are at 95? or 85? These cases would show up negative for celiac but as you can see from the example, 95 is still very high on the spectrum and the person would have a pretty severe sensitivity to gluten with all the same symptoms.

Testing for sensitivities is also tricky because people can react to gluten through various allergenic pathways and being able to find a possible reactive pathway is the way to see a true result. The major pathways that have been identified and where testing is available for food sensitivities so far are the delayed antibody pathways and inflammatory cell mediated pathways.

Antibody testing is very popular and used in many integrative practices all over the country. Antibodies can also be tested in blood, but only the IgA and IgG should be used (not IgE) as those are the delayed ones and of course the total antibody would need to be assessed because if that is low, the IgA and IgG would be considered invalid. IgA and IgG antibodies can also be tested in stool and saliva. There are different opinions on what is best (some say gluten is in contact with stool more than blood or saliva thus stool may be more accurate) but most likely testing in all 3, (blood, saliva and stool) is probably better because if at least one of those is positive, it means there is a sensitivity. If budget or other issues do not allow to test all 3 body fluids, I believe that stool gives a more accurate picture because food sits in the intestines longer than it does in saliva or blood hence there is more of a chance to see a reaction if one does exist.

The Story Doesn’t Stop Here Though

It is possible that all 3 antibodies tested in all 3 body fluids can turn out negative but a reaction can still be occurring. This is possible because the body can react to gluten on a cellular level without necessarily producing antibodies, or as mentioned above, if the total antibody is weakened due to immune weakness and other diseases, the antibody test would not be valid.

Another way to look at gluten sensitivity is through the inflammatory pathway of the white blood cells. The ALCAT technology has made their name in this area and they test by collecting blood, separating out the while blood cells and then introducing gluten to the white blood cells to look for information. If the while blood cell changes form/shape the result is positive and the severity of the change the white blood cell undergoes allows the technicians at the lab determine if the sensitivity is mild, moderate or severe. If there is no change to the white blood cell, there is no sensitivity.

What If Biopsy, Antibody And Inflammatory Tests All Show Up Negative But Symptoms Are Still There?

Another big piece of the gluten puzzle is a gluten intolerance due to the slight genetic change of the seeds of wheat. This phenomenon is outlined wonderfully in Dr. Davis’s book “Wheat Belly” which is a great read. The premise here is that about 50 years ago, a geneticist was able to slightly modify the wheat seed to allow the wheat plant to grow faster and be harvested more often to help with world hunger. While this was a great intention, the genetic modification in the seed created a plant that now has a higher gluten content. Also while plants can naturally mutate from strain to strain over time, the natural process can take hundreds of year and this was done overnight. The human DNA is not familiar with this new strain of wheat and thus there are many people who are just plainly intolerant to this new wheat as their body cannot recognize this changed grain. Dr. Davis uses a wonderful analogy in his book to describe it. The new wheat is 99.9% genetically the same as the old wheat which doesn’t seem like it would be that harmful, but apes are also 99.9% genetically the same as humans and yet we are quite different.

This new intolerance that comes from this genetic change does not necessarily cause your body to be sensitive which is why it is so hard to test for it, but people are finding that they just don’t feel well when they eat wheat and this can be the answer why.

The Final And Perhaps The Most Important Piece Of The Puzzle – Your Genetics

I saved the best for last! One extremely important factor that is often missed when talking about gluten sensitivity/allergy is genetics. Genes are something that you are born with and are carried down from generation to generation. There are a set of genes recognized as celiac genes and they are called HLA DQ2 and DQ8. We now know that the DQ2 gene has 2 pieces each with 2 alleles for a total of 4 and the DQ8 has 1 allele for a grand total of 5 different alleles so we need see all of them. Studies show that if you have a specific number of these genes segments, your body is not designed to process certain gluten proteins and therefore you may have celiac already or will be likely to become gluten intolerant/sensitive.

Gluten sensitivity is not a disease like celiac disease but can be looked at as a state of genetics. If a person is not designed to process gluten properly based on their genetics but eat it anyways, the end result is a constant attack on the immune system which can subsequently lead to autoimmune disease. But if we knew a person’s propensity was to be gluten sensitive, we can stop the disease before it even happens.

Most labs only do 2 of the gene pieces, but since we now know that there are  others pieces that  measure non-celiac gluten genes (Yes! there is actually a type of gluten in corn and rice, but more on that next month) it is essential to have a complete profile of all of them. I have been searching for labs and found a panel that does all the peices. They are a subsidiary of Labcorp so there is a good chance the test may even be covered by insurance which is a huge plus!

What Is The Best Test Then?

Depending on who you ask, you will most likely get different answers, but as you can see from the above discussion there are several ways to look at gluten issues. They are all important and the only way to know for sure is to look at all the pathways through various tests and if any are positive then you have an issue with gluten. Please don’t just take one test and assume things are ok if only that one test is negative, especially if you may not feel well with gluten or have an autoimmune disease.

After a lot of research, I believe that looking at genetics holds the biggest key in the gluten puzzle. All the other tests measure only a fraction of how a person’s immune system can react to gluten but genetics can actually tell us what the immune system is going to do in the future.

You cannot control what genes you are born with, but you can identify them and change your diet and lifestyle to accommodate them to both heal a health issue as well as prevent a potential future health issue.  There is a lot more that I want to tell you about the genetic gluten connection with autoimmune disease and the different types of glutens found in other grains but I realize this article is already getting very long so stay tuned for next month for the continuation of this discussion.

What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Your Adrenal Glands

We all know that stress is bad for our health but many are still confused about exactly why and how stress affects so many areas of our body.

Our body is equipped with mechanisms to combat all types of stresses. Many of us don’t realize that stress is not just emotional, but can also be physical stress from exercise, stress from illness and stress of everyday demands.

One of the most powerful defenses our body has is the adrenal glands. Proof that good things come in small packages, these glands weigh less than a grape but are responsible for regulating your reaction to stress. The two adrenal glands sit on top of each kidney and their main function is to store and excrete the essential hormone Cortisol. These hormones are crucial for regulating our body’s homeostasis and under or over production as you can imagine, would throw our body off balance. The adrenals are responsible for determining the way you will cope with the stress factor being presented to you.

Cortisol plays a part in a myriad of processes (and not just stress they way we may think) including:

  • Blood sugar levels
  • Fat, protein and carbohydrate metabolism
  • Immune responses
  • Anti-inflammatory actions
  • Blood pressure
  • Heart and blood vessel tone and contraction
  • Central nervous system activation

Our body will always produce a certain amount of Cortisol and like many things in life, it is something we can’t live without but also can’t get too much. Cortisol levels will normally flare during times of stress,but they should return to normal after that stressor is gone.

The problem is that in today’s world, the stress is constant. Constant stress can turn thousands of chemical pathways in your body upside down and cause normal bodily functions like converting food to energy and absorbing nutrients to become less effective or even completely shut off. When your body is repeatedly “switched on” and it never gets the relief it needs, chronic illnesses arise and only get worse with time. This makes stress one of the most severe and devastating strains on your health.

To explain this a bit better, let’s look at a pack of zebras.

It’s a beautiful day and the zebras are happily grazing in a field when all of a sudden 3 huge tigers come out of nowhere. The zebras see the tigers, realize that there is danger and start running away like crazy. (In this case Cortisol is released as they go into fight of flight mode and that Cortisol is used to actually help them run faster which shows its beneficial effect when there is a true emergency). The tigers may catch one of them if they are not fast enough but the others will outrun the tiger and eventually stop running once the chase stops.

The next day the zebras are grazing happily and back to their normal selves. They are not thinking “Oh no, what if the tigers will come back!?” or “What if when I am trying to run away my hoof will get caught on a rock and make me fall!”

Their stress comes and then it goes away allowing them to recover where as in many of our lives, we have big stresses that may go away but among them there are usually smaller constant stressors and worries that never allow our adrenal glands to actually rest.

Effects of malfunctioning adrenals on the rest of your body

1. Under stress, Cortisol delivers glucose to the body to help the fight or flight mechanism function properly. If Cortisol is consistently doing this, blood sugar levels are constantly high, which can lead to hypo/hyperglycemia, energy problems and even diabetes.

2. Cortisol levels will make the body favor fat storage, also known as visceral fat. Furthermore, since Cortisol elevates blood sugar levels, this can increase hunger and promote overeating. It can also influence cravings and stimulate appetite. Cortisol regulates energy and selects the “right” source to get energy from (carb, fat or protein) depending on your physiological state. This is why Cortisol can have such a tremendous effect on weight.

3. In normal production, Cortisol works as an anti-inflammatory hormone, however we need certain levels of inflammation in our body to fight off bacteria and illness. If Cortisol is continuously elevated, it constantly suppresses some of the beneficial inflammation which can make you sick more often and take longer to heal.

4. Elevated Cortisol levels can also affect your digestion. Your gastrointestinal system is run by the parasympathetic nervous system, an antagonist of the sympathetic nervous system. In other words they can’t run at the same time. So if Cortisol has triggered the sympathetic system, which controls skeletal muscle, your digestion and absorption is going to be compromised. This can lead to an array of complications, including ulcers.

In addition to the above, unbalanced Cortisol can also lead to:

Cardiovascular disease

Fertility problems


Depression and mood disorders

Chronic fatigue

Low Libido

Cravings for sweet or salty foods

In addition to obvious stressors, it is also possible to elevate stress levels by hidden triggers such as overindulgence or sensitivities to foods, air pollution or lack to sleep.

Conventional Approach

Western medicine is finally starting to recognize adrenal insufficiencies and the Cortisol connection but unfortunately the testing is still behind the times.

Conventional labs such as Quest and Labcorp use a 24 hour urine collection to look at total Cortisol or a onetime snap shot level through blood. The problem with these methods is that we need to see Cortisol throughout the day, not just at one time or just total Cortisol.

Our natural Cortisol levels should ideally be at their highest early in the morning and then should gradually go down throughout the day with the lowest level in the evening which promotes good sleep.

Testing total or random Cortisol level does not give us an understanding of what is happening and how the levels are connected thus not allowing us to determine if the adrenal glands are really working properly.

Let me give you an example. In a healthy person, a good Cortisol output would look something like this:

Morning – 18                Range 13-24

Early Afternoon – 7       Range 5-8

Late Afternoon – 5        Range 4-7

Evening – 2                   Range 1-3

Total  = 32

This shows a nice “ski slope” curve with a good level in the morning and then slowly diminishing throughout the day. When someone is under stress and the adrenals are not functioning properly, it is common to see levels in the morning diminish but night time levels go up and then we may see something like this:

Morning – 13                Range 13-24

Early Afternoon – 7       Range 5-8

Late Afternoon – 5        Range 4-7

Evening – 7                   Range 1-3

Total = 32

As you can see both have a total of 32 which is in the normal range but the second shows a very clear stress pattern of lower morning and high evening levels.

This would never show up on a total urine Cortisol and hence the main reason why adrenal issues are missed by that conventional test. The story is similar with the onetime snap shot because if someone took a blood test at 8am and came out with a level or 15, it will appear all is great but we need to know how that 15 compares to the levels the rest of the day.

Our Approach

For this reason we use The Adrenal Function Profile. The test is done through saliva which allows for an easy and quick way to check Cortisol throughout the day by collecting a small amount of saliva in a plastic vial 4 times throughout the day.  In short you would be spitting into a plastic tube and that will then be sent to the lab for analysis.

The profile also measures another stress hormone called DHEA. An increased Cortisol level and a decreased DHEA level is an indication of a chronically stressful physical or mental condition. With these results, we can pinpoint not only the imbalance itself, but also the specific time of day it is happening. Once we find the problem, a combination of stress reducing lifestyle changes, food, supplements and herbs can be used to rebalance the gland to its normal function.

The nice thing about this work is that if the body has what it needs, it can start to heal. While the foods and lifestyle changes should be kept up, the herbs and supplements are usually used on a temporary basis because once the adrenal glad is back on track, keeping it there with good nutrition allows us to maintain all the good results.

Sunscreens and Skin Cancer

After the harsh winter we endured this year, people are delighted to feel the strong rays of the sun on their skin. Hours in the sun means more use of sunscreens as the connection between sun exposure and cancer has been embedded in our heads. In the last few years however, there has been a dilemma regarding the safety of many sunscreens.

Problems With Many Popular Sunscreens

Skin cancer is a relatively new epidemic, and it seems there is a direct correlation between the daily use of sunscreen and skin cancer rates skyrocketing.

First of all, we must understand that being in the sun without sunscreen for a short period of time does have benefits. We have been taught to be afraid of the sun and wear sunscreen on every part of our body every time we step out the door. While it is true that burning the skin is very harmful and contributes to premature aging and possibly cancer, a little sun exposure is harmless and actually needed.

Our body uses the sun to synthesize vitamin D, an extremely important nutrient whose deficiency can lead to a plethora of diseases such as autoimmune illnesses, hormone disorders and 27 types of cancer. You can make sufficient Vitamin D by exposing face, arms and legs to the sun for 10-15 minutes a day. For those of us who do not live near the equator, vitamin D is not made as efficiently during the winter months and supplementation may be required. So what many do not realize is that wearing sunscreen all the time during the summer months may inhibit the synthesis of vitamin D.  It’s best to get some sun exposure during off peak hours (early morning or late afternoon) to get adequate vitamin D in the body.

If you are going to be in the sun during peak hours for extended periods of time, then sunscreen should be used. This brings us back to our question if the right sunscreen is being used.  Studies are revealing that those who use sunscreen products regularly have an increase risk of developing skin cancer. How can this be? How is it that the very product you’re using to protect yourself from cancer is the product perhaps causing it? It’s because not all sunscreens are created equal!

Many sunscreens have chemical ingredients that can actually damage and age the skin. Ingredients such as oxybenzone, very commonly used in these products, absorb through the skin and get into systemic circulation. This can damage all the cells in the body, especially when these chemicals mix with UV rays inside the body. Poor quality oils or other substandard ingredients may also increase oxidative damage to the skin. Furthermore, other chemicals collectively known as parabens are used in sunscreen products and are known carcinogens (carcinogens are substances that can cause cancer) and hormone disruptors. Our bodies are “fooled” by these TOXINS, which bind to the same sites that our natural hormones bind to, altering, magnifying or blocking the function of the natural hormones.

Recent sunscreen reports also exposed retinyl palmitate (a derivative of vitamin A and a very common sunscreen additive), as an ingredient that helps malignant cells spread…Yikes!

Lastly, in the Environmental Working Group’s study they also found that “People don’t get the high SPF they pay for,” the report says. “People get about a quarter of the recommended amount.”

What To Avoid

The Environmental Working Group, or EWG, is a non-profit organization made up of lawyers, engineers, policy experts and scientists that collect research and documents to help protect public health. They evaluated over 600 sunscreen products and compiled a list of both safe and what they consider unsafe sunscreens.

The following is their list of sunscreens that have evaluated NOT to be safe and thus should be avoided:

EWG recommend avoiding any products containing oxybenzone and Vitamin A.

So what can you do to ensure you’re actually getting protection?

Here at Complete Nutrition And Wellness we have been educating our patients about this sunscreen dilemma over the last few years. We recommend using sunscreens containing titanium dioxide and zinc oxide because they are large molecules that form a physical barrier to block the damaging rays and do not absorb into the skin and get inside the body.  Look for combinations that contain these ingredients in natural oils versus parabens and other preservatives.  Also avoid sprays and powders that can be inhaled by anyone, especially children.

The EWG is in line with our thinking.  Which products did they recommend? Here’s a list of its best beach and sport sunscreens.

Safer, Affordable Sunscreens: 

I have had great success with the Aubrey Organics brand. They just reformulated their whole sunscreen line so it is no longer thick or goes on white. Their body and face blocks go one smoothly, feel silky and do not leave a residue. I have not had a chance to try some of these others, but if you have a favorite, please feel free to email me with your recommendations so we can pass it on to our patients.

What Can You Do If You Accidentally Burn?

Applying blocks during peak hours (even on cloudy days) as well as reapplying after prolonged swimming will protect your skin and prevent burning however if you have a slip up and accidentally burn there are a few things you can do.

Overexposure to the sun creates free radicals which damage the skin and are the cause of skin turning red. Antioxidants are very useful in quenching the free radicals and can help minimize some of the damage. (Please note that they will not prevent the damage completely and avoiding burning is the only way to completely prevent it).

From the outside:

Using a complete natural, chemical free moisturizer with antioxidants immediately after can soothe the skin and actually prevent you from peeling.  

From the inside:

Taking antioxidants such as the Detox Antioxidant, Stellar C, Lipoic Acid Supreme and/or Ubiquinol immediately following the episode and for the next few days will help reduce the free radical load to lessen the damage and allow the skin to heal faster.