Why Functional Medicine?

Have you ever gone to the doctor with a laundry list of symptoms and he/she is unable to diagnose your ailment or offer solutions? Or have you tried multiple prescriptions and therapies for symptoms that you can’t seem to alleviate? That is because conventional medicine treats the disease state instead of the individual person. Conventional medicine does not treat the causes of the disease; instead, its purpose is to diagnose and to treat the signs and symptoms of a disease state AFTER a patient’s symptoms have progressed. This is just a band aid and ultimately does not restore health or promote wellness.

The purpose of functional medicine is to identify and to alleviate the causes of disease while seeking to determine how and why the illness progressed. With proper treatment, most chronic disease is preventable and curable since chronic disease is a result of dysfunction in our bodies. This dysfunction is caused by genetics, lifestyle choices, and the environment.  Since each person is different, the root causes of disease may vary from person to person. Both the environment and genetics influence the body’s physiological symptoms, and they must be investigated to correct clinical imbalances. Functional medicine relies on research from nutritional science, genomics and epigenics to create personalized, individual treatment plans. Patients and practitioners work together to alleviate and to reverse the causes of disease at the cellular level.  Instead of treating disease states with medications and surgery, functional medicine focuses on lifestyle and environmental changes including diet, nutrition, exercise, stress, and psychosocial issues. It combines western medical practice with alternative therapies such as supplements, herbs, detoxification programs, therapeutic diets, and stress management techniques.

Many patients who visit functional medicine practitioners find that after years of unsuccessful treatments, they now feel dramatically better. My personal story is a great example of why I advocate for functional medicine practitioners. In my mid-twenties, I developed symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and every night I was plagued by terrible stomach pains and bowel issues. For ten years I sought treatment from GI doctors, who could only offer me my diagnosis of Irritable Bowel Syndrome. They said there was no treatment, and while some doctors did recommend some different food choices,  I could not correct my problems. I thought I was doomed!

In my thirties, a friend recommended that I see a functional medicine practitioner, and my choice to follow that path has been life changing. The first thing my functional medicine doctor said to me was, “We know that your bowel is irritable, but why is it irritable?” After a detoxification diet, a heavy dose of probiotics, and some herbal supplements to heal the inflammation in my gut and to improve my gut flora, I ceased having irritable bowel symptoms. After some trial and error, we discovered my personal dysfunction and how to treat my individual issues. I still have to be careful with what I eat and I had to learn my triggers, but I was able to heal.

My goal is for anyone plagued by symptoms they can’t alleviate to seek treatment other than conventional medicine. This is not a boycott of regular medical checkups or therapies. Conventional medicine has its place, especially in advanced disease states. However, sometimes a combination of conventional medicine and functional medicine is the correct path to follow for optimal health and wellness. Research has shown that conventional medicine needs to catch up with the current studies.

Fitness

Lower Body Workout – Circuit Style

Circuit training is a GREAT way to burn a lot of calories in a short amount of time. Be sure to take your time and drink plenty of water as you do this workout!

Cutting calories on white background

Not All Calories Are Equal

From a young age we are taught that the key to maintaining weight is to burn off as many calories as we ingest. We also have learned that weight loss occurs when we consume less calories than we expend, and that we gain weight when we eat more than we burn off. However, research over the past decade has shown us that this formula may not be quite as simple as it seems.

A calorie is actually a measurement of heat energy. Specifically, it is the amount of energy  that is needed to raise the temperature of one kilogram of water by one degree Celsius.  This heat energy is what gives our body fuel.  Our calories come from the protein, fat and carbohydrates that we eat. Protein and carbohydrates have 4 kcal/g, fat has 9 kcal/g, and alcohol has 7 kcal/g.

Current research shows us that the source of our calories is extremely important, and that different food groups affect our weight status differently. It is a myth that a calorie is just a calorie. While all calories do have the same amount of energy – 4184 Joules of energy – our body reacts to the sources of calories differently. This is because we digest and absorb various types of food differently. Those foods go through diverse biochemical pathways and affect hormones in the body, which may also affect satiety and hunger.

As stated above, different foods are digested and go through different metabolic pathways, some of which are more efficient than others.  Protein requires a lot more energy to metabolize than fats or carbohydrates. When protein is ingested, it requires more energy to digest and absorb, which uses more energy.  Therefore, the calories ingested from protein are less fattening than carbohydrate or fat calories.

Another benefit to protein is that it increases satiety more than the other macronutrients. Appetite is reduced and less food and calories are consumed, which may lead to weight loss. This just demonstrates that the type of food that you eat is extremely important, and that all calories are NOT the same.

Further, people who eat whole foods rather than processed foods tend to eat less and have less issues with obesity. Whole foods require more energy to break down and digest than processed foods. This is because many processed foods contain refined carbohydrates, which are low in fiber, low in nutrients, and usually have a high glycemic index. Foods with a high glycemic index are digested quickly and rapidly spike blood sugar levels. This causes food cravings and increased hunger and food intake.

Additionally, foods high in fiber are less likely to cause weight gain. This is because more energy is needed to breakdown the food, and much of the fiber is not absorbed into the body but rather is excreted as waste. Therefore, the body is not necessarily getting the amount of calories listed on the label.

The take home message is not to worry about counting your calories to lose weight. The food choices that you make are much more important for both your health and for your weight. Different food sources affect energy expenditure, hormones, and hunger, which all affect satiety and weight gain. Think about what you are eating rather than how many calories you are eating and look at your food a little differently. If you change your perspective, you will ultimately reach your goals and get healthy!

 

By Denise Groothuis

mens health

Breaking the Silence on Men’s Health

It’s important for everyone to take responsibility for their own health. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, especially among men. Research shows that women are 100% more likely to visit the doctor for annual examinations and preventive services than men. June is National Men’s Health month, in which we heighten the awareness of preventable health problems and encourage early detection & treatment of disease among men and boys.

There is a silent health crisis in America. On average, American men live sicker and die younger than American women. The health of men in America is steadily deteriorating, largely due to poor health education, lack of awareness, and culturally induced behavior patterns. This has caused a silent health crisis, whereby men face higher mortality rates than women for 9 of the 10 leading causes of death, in addition to a shorter life span. Today men, on average, die almost five years earlier than women, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Men are dying at significantly higher rates than women for the top 10 causes of death. This crisis in men’s health has very little to do with physiology. It has to do with the tendency of men to not seek care for their health issues. No matter the age, men have issues with things that don’t have every day symptoms, like diabetes, high blood pressure, and cholesterol.

Studies show that an alarming 13 million men have diabetes, while 450,000 die each year from heart disease! While genetics certainly play a role in getting both, so does lifestyle. The same cardio-metabolic risk factors that lead to heart disease, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and other conditions are just as prevalent in men as in women. However, if more men sought diagnosis and treatment for those risks, their chances of controlling or eliminating those conditions would increase dramatically. High blood pressure has been referred to as “the silent killer” because people are often unaware that they have an issue. Have your blood pressure and your cholesterol checked often by your doctor, and closely follow any prescribed treatment they provide. In addition, you should exercise and eat right. By exercising moderately for about 30 minutes per day and eating a well-balanced diet with limited cholesterol and no saturated fats, you will be off to a good start. Always be sure to drink at least 8 glasses of water per day, and limit your alcohol consumption as well.

Along with heart disease, cancer is among the top two leading causes of death among men, with prostate cancer being one of the most prevalent. The prostate gland is prone to three main conditions — 1). inflammation that can cause burning or painful urination, the urgent need to urinate, trouble urinating and other symptoms;  2). benign enlargement that can compress the urethra and slow or stop the flow of urine, a condition that affects about ¾ of men over 60; and 3).  prostate cancer, affecting about 1 in 7 men during their lifetime. As men approach their 40s, familiarity with the prostate gland becomes important. The prostate gland is a walnut sized male accessory sex gland that rests in front of the bladder. It usually enlarges with age and can constrict the urinary tube, thereby causing trouble with urination. Symptoms can include: diminished urinary stream, excessive nighttime urination, increased frequency and urgency.

 

by Gina Stallone

Fit to Be Fit

HIIT It Up

High Intensity Interval Training, or HIIT, workouts are a phenomenon sweeping the nation. What is it, and is it safe? Read on!

HIIT is a cardio session that consists of short, high intensity bursts. HIIT can be an incredibly effective way to work out to see the body composition and fitness results that you want, but you need to do it right. Numerous studies have shown that working your hardest is key when it comes to boosting endurance, increasing metabolism, regulating insulin levels, and losing body fat. HIIT routines that involve bodyweight work (e.g. push-ups) or added weight, such as kettlebells, medicine balls, or dumbbells, will tone your muscles while spiking your heart rate. All types of exercise will ultimately help you burn fat by burning calories, but the more intense the exercise, the more fat you will burn. As a result, it is a very effective way of helping people get the “shredded” look.

A true HIIT workout will involve pushing yourself to the max during each set, which should never exceed 90 seconds. These workouts are typically quick and convenient since they are such high intensity; they usually are 30 minutes or less. They can also be done virtually anywhere, with little to no equipment. The only stipulation is that you should rest in between sets. This may not be the first thing that comes to mind with such an intense workout, however, it is imperative. Recovery is essential so that the body works to adapt from the anaerobic (high-intensity) period to the low-intensity recovery period in HIIT. This workload results in high caloric expenditure, which can lead to fat loss.

That fat loss also comes from an increase in metabolism, which is a benefit to any high intensity workout. Research shows that this is due to an increase in post-exercise exercise oxygen consumption, or EPOC. EPOC speeds up your metabolic rate and can result in a metabolic boost for up to 48 hours after a complete HIIT routine! The high intensity cardio raises your metabolic rate to the point where you continue to burn calories even after the session ends—in some cases 15% more.

If weight loss is your ultimate goal, the old saying that you can’t out-train a bad diet is true…even if your workouts are super demanding. HIIT isn’t an excuse to neglect your diet, so keep it clean! By incorporating HIIT training into your exercise regimen and keep your diet in check, you’ll start to see some amazing results!

We’ve put together a safe but killer HIIT workout for you to try. Give it a shot & let us know what you think! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G43UTJoa6gw&t=2s

 

by Gina Stallone

Celiac Disease

What is Celiac Disease?

Celiac Disease is a serious autoimmune disorder in which the body cannot process gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, & barley. When people with celiac disease eat gluten, their body mounts an immune response that attacks the small intestine. These attacks lead to damage of the villi, small fingerlike projections that line the small intestine, which promote nutrient absorption. When the villi get damaged, nutrients cannot be absorbed properly into the body. Eventually, this can lead to malnourishment, as well as to the loss of bone density, miscarriages, infertility – and even to the beginning of neurological diseases or certain cancers.

Celiac disease isn’t the same thing as a food allergy, so the symptoms will differ. If you’re allergic to wheat, you may have itchy, watery eyes or a hard time breathing if you eat something that has wheat in it. However, if you have celiac disease and accidentally eat something with gluten in it, you may have intestinal problems (like diarrhea, gas, constipation) or any of the following symptoms:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea
  • Anemia
  • Itchy, blistery rash
  • Loss of bone density
  • Headaches or general fatigue
  • Bone or joint pain
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Weight loss
  • Heartburn

This disorder occurs most commonly with a genetic predisposition. People with a first-degree relative with celiac disease (parent, child, or sibling) have a 1 in 10 risk of developing celiac disease. Most people with celiac disease never know they have it. It’s estimated that 2.5 million Americans are undiagnosed and are at risk for serious health complications. The damage to the intestine is very slow and symptoms are so varied, that it can be years before someone gets a diagnosis. Left untreated, celiac disease can lead to the following conditions:

  • Iron deficiency anemia
  • Early onset osteoporosis or osteopenia
  • Infertility and miscarriage
  • Lactose intolerance
  • Vitamin and mineral deficiencies
  • Central and peripheral nervous system disorders
  • Pancreatic insufficiency
  • Intestinal lymphomas and other GI cancers (malignancies)
  • Gall bladder malfunction

 

Currently, the only treatment for celiac disease is lifelong adherence to a strict gluten-free diet. Many people opt to eat gluten-free diets but for those with celiac disease, it’s a must. Those living gluten-free must avoid foods with wheat, rye and barley, such as bread and beer. Ingesting small amounts of gluten, like crumbs from a cutting board or toaster, can trigger small intestine damage.

Some people have a gluten sensitivity but not full blown celiac disease. People with non-celiac wheat sensitivity experience symptoms similar to those of celiac disease, which resolve when gluten is removed from the diet. However, they do not test positive for celiac disease. Some people experience symptoms the same symptoms found in celiac disease, such as “foggy mind”, depression, ADHD-like behavior, abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, headaches, bone or joint pain, and chronic fatigue when they have gluten in their diet. The terms non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) and non-celiac wheat sensitivity (NCWS) are generally used to refer to this condition, when removing gluten from the diet resolves symptoms.

If you are currently on a gluten-free diet, your physician may recommend a gluten challenge to allow antibodies to build in your bloodstream prior to testing. The recommended gluten intake for the gluten challenge is two slices of wheat-based bread for 6-8 weeks. A gluten challenge should only be supervised by a physician trained in celiac disease, who can move you immediately to a biopsy if your symptoms are severe. Never undertake a gluten challenge when pregnant.

Celiac disease can be difficult to diagnose because it affects people differently. There are more than 200 known celiac disease symptoms which may occur in the digestive system or other parts of the body. Some people develop celiac disease as a child, others as an adult. The reason for this is still unknown.

The most common way to diagnose celiac disease is with a simple blood test. People with celiac disease who eat gluten have higher than normal levels of certain antibodies in their blood. These antibodies are produced by the immune system because it views gluten as a threat. You must be on a diet containing gluten for antibody (blood) testing to be accurate. For most children and adults, the best way to screen for celiac disease is with the Tissue Transglutaminase IgA antibody, plus an IgA antibody, in order to ensure that the patient generates enough of this antibody to render the celiac disease test accurate. For young children (around age 2 years or below), Deamidated Gliadin IgA and IgG antibodies should also be included. Some people with celiac disease have no symptoms at all, but still test positive on the celiac disease blood test.  A few others may have a negative blood test, but have a positive intestinal biopsy. However, all people with celiac disease are at risk for long-term complications, whether or not they display any symptoms. While it is very rare, it is possible for someone with celiac disease to have negative antibody test results. If your tests were negative, but you continue to experience symptoms, consult your physician and undergo further medical evaluation.

 

By Gina Stallone

How to sit

How Should I Sit?

Most Americans sit in an office chair all day. In fact, about 86% sit an average 13 hours per day! A good number of people realize that sitting all day is not ideal, but it is unavoidable in order to pay the bills and get from point A to point B. Since we spend most of our day sitting, it is imperative that we sit correctly to avoid back and neck pain as well as other issues. We need to consider how we sit at a desk, behind the wheel of a car, and on the couch in order to make the best of the situation.

For starters, the type of chair that you select is very important. It should support the curvature of your spine and be at about a 100-110 reclined angle so that your upper and lower back are both supported. When sitting, your hips should go as far back in the chair as possible and your feet should rest on the floor or a footrest so that your thighs are parallel to the floor. Ideally, your knees should be equal to or lower than your hips and your shoulders should always be relaxed.

Your keyboard and mouse should be easy to reach and at the same level.  The monitor should be directly in front of you, with the top of the screen around eye level or 2-3 inches above eye level to keep your neck relaxed.  Those who wear bifocals should lower the screen. Additionally, the screen should be centered above the monitor. Your hands should be at the level of your elbows or slightly, your wrists should be straight and your arms should be close to your body. After adjusting your chair to make sure your wrists and arms are correct, put your feet flat on the floor. If your feet do not reach the floor, use a footrest or anything nearby to keep your feet flat. Make sure there is room for your legs under the desk and try to keep this area free from clutter.

Many people use the computer and type at the same time while craning their neck to use the phone. If you talk on the phone, use a headset or put the phone on speaker to avoid neck issues. Also, be careful of the glare coming from windows or actual light. It is important to take frequent breaks to get up and stretch about every 20-30 minutes. Try to rest and refocus your eyes to avoid fatigue by looking away from the computer monitor into the distance or covering them for 5-10 seconds.

It is important to consider how you sit in every situation, not just behind a desk. Slouching on a couch, crossing your legs, or sitting incorrectly in a car can all have a negative impact.  When driving, the steering wheel should be as low as possible and you should hold it at 9 am and 3 pm instead of 10 am and 2 pm to help relax your shoulder. Also, try to keep your wrists straight while driving. Your knees should be in line with your hips, the seat should be reclined 100-110 degrees, and you should be able to reach the pedals without straining. Your neck should rest on the neck rest and you should try not to slouch. On a couch, if your couch is deep and you are slouching, put a small pillow behind your lower back.

Since we can’t help sitting too much throughout the day, let’s make the best of a bad situation. Correct your posture and pay attention. This will help you feel better and be more productive.

Living with IBS

 

Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS, is one of the most common health concerns facing Americans today yet it’s one of the least discussed. Many people who have this condition suffer in silence due to it being somewhat of a “taboo” subject or just for not knowing that there is an actual problem. April is IBS awareness month and with it we aim to shed light on a condition which plagues thousands of people every single day.

The walls of the intestines are lined with layers of muscle that contract and relax in a coordinated rhythm as they move food from your stomach through your intestinal tract to your rectum. If you have Irritable Bowel Syndrome, the contractions may be stronger and last longer than normal which will cause gas, bloating, and/or diarrhea. The opposite can also occur with weak intestinal contractions, slowing food passage and leading to hard, dry stools. Abnormalities in your gastrointestinal nervous system also may play a role, causing you to experience greater than normal discomfort when your abdomen stretches from gas or stool. Poorly coordinated signals between the brain and the intestines can make your body overreact to the changes that normally occur in the digestive process. This overreaction can cause pain, diarrhea or constipation.

As many as 1 in 5 American adults experience signs and/or symptoms of IBS. There are two common forms of IBS – IBS-C, with constipation, and IBS-D, with diarrhea. It is unknown what causes IBS but there are many factors, including family history, which are considered to be a trigger for those suffering with this illness.

One of the biggest triggers for IBS is a person’s diet. Many people have more severe symptoms when they eat certain things. Some doctors will recommend doing an elimination diet to pinpoint what the exact trigger food(s) could be. Some other recommendations include: eliminating high-gas foods such as carbonated beverages, vegetables (especially cabbage, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, and cauliflower) and raw fruits, eliminating gluten (wheat, barley, and rye) or avoiding refined (not whole) grains, eliminating FODMAPs, avoiding high protein diets, limiting or eliminating caffeine (such as coffee), and experimenting with fiber intake. A person suffering with IBS should eat smaller meals and drink plenty of liquids, especially water! It’s also important to note that a person with this illness should be careful with their dairy intake, regardless if they are lactose intolerant or not.

Another common trigger for IBS sufferers is stress. Many people find that their symptoms are worsened or brought on during periods of increased stress. While stress certainly will aggravate your symptoms, there has not been any research found to cause them.

Women, especially under the age of 45, are twice as likely to develop IBS. Researchers believe that this is due to hormonal changes. Many women find that their symptoms are more prevalent during or around their menstrual cycle. IBS worsens as hormone levels fall. As hormone levels fall to the lowest point during menstruation, symptoms such as stomach pain, discomfort, and constipation or diarrhea become more common and intense. What’s worse, those who suffer from painful periods, are twice as likely to have an increase in symptoms.

Even though the signs and symptoms are uncomfortable IBS, unlike ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease (which are forms of inflammatory bowel disease), doesn’t cause changes in bowel tissue or increase your risk for colorectal cancer. Some symptoms that may indicate a more serious condition include rectal bleeding, abdominal pain that progresses or occurs at night, and/or weight loss.

While there is no cure for IBS, there are certain things that have been proven to alleviate some of the symptoms. One easy remedy is to exercise regularly. Incorporating regular exercise into your routine will not only help you to look & feel better about yourself, it will also help to stimulate normal contractions in your intestines. If you’ve been inactive, start slowly and gradually increase the amount of time you exercise. If you have other medical problems, check with your doctor before starting an exercise program. Another form of therapy, while non-traditional, is the use of herbs such as peppermint. Peppermint is a natural antispasmodic that relaxes smooth muscles in the intestines. It’s important to note that while it may ease your IBS symptoms, peppermint may increase heartburn. Before taking any herbs, check with your doctor to be sure they won’t interact or interfere with other medications. Probiotics are “good” bacteria that normally live in your intestines and are found in certain foods, such as yogurt and in dietary supplements. It’s been suggested that if you have Irritable Bowel Syndrome, you may not have enough good bacteria so by adding probiotics to your diet, you may ease your symptoms.

IBS can be a long-lasting problem that can impact how you live your life. Many people with IBS miss work or school more often and they may feel less comfortable taking part in daily activities. If you feel that you may have IBS, contact your doctor for further testing.

By Gina Stallone

 

References:

http://www.webmd.com/ibs/guide/default.htm

http://www.newsweek.com/2016/11/18/fodmap-diet-ibs-digestive-disorders-healthy-eating-517684.html

http://www.ibsdiets.org/fodmap-diet/fodmap-food-list/

http://www.aboutibs.org/ibs-awareness-month.html

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/irritable-bowel-syndrome/basics/definition/con-20024578