The Key to Health Is in the Mind

Psychoneuroimmunology is the study of the relationship between the mind or psyche, the nervous system and the immune system.  Another way to state this is the relationship between stress the immune system and our health.   When we are “stressed” the body produces “stress-induced” chemicals like cortisol and epinephrine – which are part of our survival mechanism and absolutely necessary.  These chemicals rise in the blood in order to protect us from immediate harm.  The problem arises when these chemicals are chronically elevated due to ongoing stress triggers i.e., modern life.

How can we turn down this stress response, you say?  By increasing its opposite, the

Business People Yoga Relaxation Wellbeing Concept

relaxation response.  It is no mistake that women, in particular, are flocking to the yoga studio.  A review of the literature studying the benefits of yoga found that, compared to no exercise, yoga was linked to a lower rate of obesity, reduced high blood pressure and even tended to reduce high cholesterol.  The Cochrane Collaboration found that yoga can reduce diastolic blood pressure and triglycerides in the blood and increase the HDL (good) cholesterol.

Another easy way to induce the relaxation response is to practice “deep breathing” techniques – which have long been part of meditation.  The researchers at Harvard Medical School found that practicing deep breathing 20 minutes a day for eight weeks increased the expression of genes involved in energy release and increased the protein NF-B – which is part of the body’s response to inflammation, stress and trauma.  The end result is that deep breathing helps to reduce the symptoms of anxiety, lowers heart rate and blood pressure, and improves oxygenation of tissues.

The practice of meditation continues to attract the attention of scientists for its potential stress-relieving effects on the mind and body.  Thailand researchers studied the effects of transcendental meditation (which creates a state of profound relaxation while remaining awake).  Over the course of 18 weeks, study participants felt less anxiety, felt better in social situations at work as well as with their private relationships with family and friends.

Break your stress pattern and take the time to breathe deeply and “smell the roses” – preferably daily.

Take the time to still your mind and body.  Your health depends on it.

Until next time….

Dr. Gatis

Testing For Malnutrition and Impaired Metabolism (“Sludge” and “Burnout”)

There are many ways to test for the first and second force of Illness (called malnutrition, orMale thyroid anatomy what we have called the “sludge” factor and impaired metabolism or “burnout”).  When we take in food, and digest and assimilate it, only the waste or unusable portion should be eliminated in the stool.   If meat fibers or fats are showing up in the feces, then you are not fully breaking down and absorbing the protein and fats in your food. Your Naturopathic or Medical Doctor may order a comprehensive digestive stool analysis to determine if this is the case.  Levels of the essential fatty acids and amino acids can also be measured in the blood also.  Individual vitamins like B12 and vitamin D can be individually measured as can homocysteine – a major methylation and cardiovascular health marker.

Mitochondrial function can be indirectly tested by a urine organic acid profile – a relatively new and non-invasive way to indirectly measure certain factors related to metabolic function i.e.,  fatty acid and carbohydrate metabolism markers (B1, B2, B3, Carnitine, Lipoic Acid, CoQ10), Energy production markers (B complex, Amino Acids, Mg), B-complex vitamin markers (B1, B2,B3, B5, B6, Biotin), Methylation Cofactor markers (B12, Folate), Neurotransmitter Metabolism markers (Tyrosine, Tryptophan, B6, antioxidants) and Detoxification markers (Arg, NAC, Met, Mg, antioxidants).

Mitochondrial function can also be affected by pollutants, heavy metals, and so on.  Many of the environmental contaminants can now be tested for in blood or urine.

One of the most important factors to test for is insulin resistance (IR).  As I mnaturopathy 3entioned in the previous blog, IR is linked to obesity, arteriosclerosis, stroke, high blood pressure and diabetes Make sure that your M.D. or N.D. orders HbA1c and serum insulin in addition to fasting serum glucose.  Optimum levels of HbA1c and Insulin are below 5.5% and less than 40 (fasting) respectively in addition to a fasting blood sugar less than 6.0.  In routine blood work, a lipid panel is done (total cholesterol, LDL, HDL, triglycerides).  If the triglyceride-to-HDL ratio is greater than 4.3, this suggests a high probability of insulin resistance.  The waist-to-hip ratio is an easy way to determine you tendency to IR.  Divide your waist measurement at the belly button level by the hip measurement.  For women, any value over 0.8 is associated with IR and, in men, any value over 0.9.

Thyroid dysfunction is becoming somewhat of an epidemic.  In my opinion, everyone should have a full thyroid panel done early in their life to provide an individual’s “normal” levels.  Optimal levels of TSH, or thyroid stimulating hormone, should be between 1 and 2.  Please be aware that the “normal” range is up to 4 – but the normal and “optimum” functional ranges are different.  Free T3 should be measured as well as free T4 – because T3 is the more active thyroid hormone form.  T3 is formed from T4.  There are many factors that affect this conversion – including stress and female/male hormones.

In the next blog, we will consider the Third Force of Illness called “Inflammation” or “Heat”.

Until then…..

Dr. Gatis

The Second Force of Illness: Impaired Metabolism or Burnout

The First Force of Illness is inadequate digestion and absorption of foods (or “sludging” – as we mentioned in the previous blog) and endothelial dysfunction.  The Second Force of Illness is “burnout” due to impaired metabolic/cellular processes creating an overall lack of energy.  How many of you suffer from being “tired”.    Metabolism is the term used to describe the creation of usable energy from food – and fatigue is an indicator that you may have an impaired metabolic ability to generate this “food energy”. The main factors in impaired metabolism are:  insulin resistance, mitochondrial dysfunction and thyroid dysfunction.

A major player in “burnout” is glucose regulation and control.  There is a saying that you chargercan have “too much of a good thing” – and this applies to carbohydrates – especially glucose and sugars.  Insulin, secreted by the pancreas in response to carbohydrates in the blood, regulates the uptake of glucose into the cells.  In the current North American diet, insulin secretion is virtually constant due to the almost continual intake of sugar and carbohydrates.  The only thing the body can do is to continue to secrete insulin in the attempt to lower the blood sugar level.  The cells can only take in a certain amount of glucose at a time, so the cells, under the stress of too much insulin, will do the logical thing – change the receptors for insulin making them inactive.  The scientific term for this is Insulin Resistance.

When a cell is unresponsive to insulin, our cells become unable to get energy from the food we eat – despite the fact that we have eaten enough – and our insulin blood levels become chronically elevated.   We become tired and hungry.   The cells are crying out for energy and we crave the quickest energy source (sugar) – which only compounds the problem when we eat them.   For our ancestors, food availability was always in question, so the body adapted by being able to store away the energy that we didn’t immediately need in the moment for use later – as fat tissue.  In today’s society, however, food (especially carbohydrates) is plentiful for most of us, so the “rainy day” never comes – but we still eat as if it could.  This is the crux of our obesity epidemic.  .  High insulin levels in the blood and Insulin Resistance have not only been linked to obesity, but also to arteriosclerosis and heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and diabetes.

Mitochondrial Dysfunction is the second major part of burnout. Mitochondria are the energy producers of the cell.  They do this by taking sugar, fatty acids or amino acids from your food and, in the presence of oxygen, burn them to create energy.  Mitochondrial dysfunction is caused by a number of factors.  Overproduction of free radicals (also known as “reactive oxygen species” or RburnoutOS) can cause mitochondrial damage.  This is why you take antioxidants like vitamin A and E.  Poisoning from heavy metals, petroleum products, pesticides and trans fats also contribute.  At the cellular level, we find mitochondrial damage or dysfunction occurring in almost every type of major illness e.g., heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer.

The third major factor in impaired metabolism is thyroid dysfunction.  The thyroid is like the gas pedal in your car and determines your rate of speed.  Too little thyroid hormone and your metabolism slows.  Too much and your metabolism “red-lines”.  A low-functioning thyroid – especially in women – is becoming the norm.  Symptoms of hypothyroid include:  being cold all the time, weight gain, constipation, oily skin, coarse hair, increased cholesterol and depression.  There are many possible causes which include allergic reactions (wheat allergy/celiac disease has a well-known association with autoimmune thyroid disease), toxins, infections, hormonal disturbances and low selenium or iodine levels.

In the next blog, we will explore the ways you can test for “sludge” and “burnout”.  Until then……

Dr. Gatis

Are You Suffering From Sludge?

In a previous blog, I mentioned the book “Ultraprevention” by Dr. Mark Hyman, M.D.   According to Dr. Hyman, there are Five Forces of Illness.  The First of these Forces is what he calls the “sludge” factor.  Sludge (from a process I like to call “sludging”) is a term that means the result of abnormal or incomplete digestion and absorption of food.  Many of us are deluded into thinking that eating “right” i.e., eating lean meats, fruits, vegetables and cereals while avoiding fatty foods,  means that we don’t have to consider the possibility that we are malnourished.  This is unfortunately untrue.   Diet is important, of course, but how your body processes food is as important as the food itself.

Digestion, the breakdown of food into its components is complicated and involves severalHuman internal organs key players – the most important being hydrochloric acid from the stomach, pancreatic enzymes and bile from the liver/gallbladder.  If all of these digestive factors are working well, then there should be no fats, carbohydrates or proteins in the fecal material.  If there is, then either the digestion or absorption process has gone wrong.  Many individuals, for example, say that they eat well – but have digestive problems like chronic diarrhea, constipation or abdominal pain that is unrelated to an overt pathology.

It is now known that there is a process, called endothelial dysfunction, which occurs in the lining of the stomach and digestive tract, the lining of the arteries, the lining of the bones, the skin and the blood-brain barrier .  The same factors that cause inflammation in the gut can also cause inflammation in these other areas.   When a patient presents with symptoms on the skin (like psoriasis or eczema), autoimmune reactions or demonstrated arterial disease, the first thing that an ND suspects is a problem with digestion or absorption leading to a state of malnutrition.  Malnutrition in this sense is the chronic lack of certain essential nutrients that are either not being supplied in the diet or less-then-optimally absorbed that are necessary for the optimum functioning of the system in question.

70% of our immune system is located in the gut because swallowing “germs” is one of their major entrance routes into the body.   Any protein that is not recognized as yours is considered a potential invader and attacked.  The last thing that you want is your body to react against a food component.

Incomplete digestion is the major contributor for the digestion of food sensitivities.  Food How Do You Feel Question 3d Wordssensitivities occur when a food (especially protein) is not digested fully.   These incomplete breakdown particles can enter the circulation and create an antibody response because they are seen by the body as a foreign protein.

One of the reasons food sensitivities develop is a lack of hydrochloric acid (or HCL) production by the stomach or enzymes by the pancreas.    HCL is necessary for the breakdown of proteins into single amino acids.  Single amino acids don’t trigger an immune response where tripeptides (three amino acids bound together) can.   HCL is also necessary for mineral absorption.  This is why individuals that are taking a drug like Tecta for overacid conditions on a daily basis will eventually suffer from osteopenia or soft bones – due to the reduction in mineral absorption.   It has also been related, I believe, to creating low thyroid conditions – probably for the same reason.

In summary, chronic health conditions are usually related to problems with “sludging” or abnormal digestion and absorption of foods.  This “sludge” interferes with the cell’s ability to optimally function and is one of the first signs of the beginning of illness.

In the next blog, we will talk about Force 2:  Impaired Metabolism or Burnout.

Until then……

Dr. Gatis