Sunday, December 30, 2018

What to do about the flu

Not just Christmas season, this is also flu season and the vaccine makers are not sparing any expense to convince all humans that they must have a flu vaccine or risk death.

As a Functional Medicine doctor my patients are a little more wary than the average citizen and have a lot of questions about whether they should get a vaccine.

My story is that I'm allergic to most of the components of the vaccine so the last time I got a flu vaccine was in 1993 and that was also the only year I've ever had the flu. It was awful.

Vaccines are supposed to stimulate your immune system and help you create antibodies against a potentially harmful infection. Many vaccines helped our society immensely when communicable diseases like smallpox and measles were rampant and we didn't have tools to help sick people get better. I think when vaccines were first created that our immune systems were not as compromised as they are today.


My hypothesis is that our environment and water and food are now so contaminated that our immune systems are already overly challenged and that is why we are seeing dramatic rises in the rates of cancer, autism and autoimmune diseases.

But this post isn't about how to safely give vaccines, there are lots of books about that topic. This post is about flu prevention.

If you are required to get a flu shot for your job and know that it doesn't harm you then do a little research and decide for yourself whether you'd like to get one. Read this before you give yourself or your children the flu shot.

Since I am allergic to almost every ingredient in the flu vaccine I elect not to get it. My flu prevention starts with the vitamins you see in the photo. Taking a high quality multivitamin helps by giving your cells the nutrients they may not be receiving in our nutrient deficient food supply. I also don't use hand sanitizer because of allergies but recommend hand washing and making sure not to drink or eat after others. Don't share utensils or dishware!

Remember during the holidays that excess sugar, alcohol and processed foods also compromise your immune system. Try to celebrate the season in moderation and treat yourself with whole foods and vegetables - your immune system will function better and you'll be less likely to get sick.

If you aren't living at the equator and out in the sun daily your immune system probably could use some extra vitamin D. See a Functional or Integrative physician to have your vitamin D, thyroid, zinc, folate and B12 levels checked. You could also get a functional nutrient assessment that will show whether you have any other vitamin deficits or heavy metal toxicity.

I take 50000IU of vitamin D3 every week and if someone around me gets sick I take an extra D3 the first day of exposure  and the next day just for good measure. Vitamin C (1000mg per capsule in the Ascorbplex example above) is also necessary to help your immune system fight off a viral attack.

I recommend taking at least 3000 mg a day if you suspect exposure or begin to have symptoms of a viral infection. Zinc is also necessary so make sure your multivitamin has 30mg of zinc or get a good zinc supplement. I also like the Elderberry and zinc lozenges by Sambuca to help with fighting off a virus.

Mushrooms like Shitake, Maitaki, Cordyceps and Turkey tail will help give your immune system a boost. If you don't like the taste or can't get a steady supply of mushrooms there are supplements made from these species of mushroom to help strengthen your immune system's defenses.

Last but not least, your immune system will be compromised if you are overly stressed and don't take time out to manage your stress levels. Regular activities that are relaxing and let your adrenal gland (main organ of stress management) have a break will help your immune function.

I really enjoy yoga and reading books so I make time for those. I also recommend a good meditation app like Stop, Breathe and Think. A few minutes of meditation daily has been shown to increase mental clarity and focus and help reduce the effects of stress. Lowering the effects of stress will help your immune function.

Take charge of your health in 2019 and have the healthiest year yet.

Happy New Year!




Sunday, December 16, 2018

Phthalates and why you care



These products have phthalates. They don't mention fragrance but there are phthalates in fragrance.

As a Functional Medicine doctor I spend a lot of time explaining how our every day lives and the things to which we are commonly exposed are hazardous to our health. In this busy Christmas season I've noticed many stores have increased the number of products with fragrance.

My journey began with a severe allergic reaction to fragrance.

In 2004 I was visiting a friend and awoke in the middle of the night covered in hives. My friend is a nurse practitioner and as soon as she saw me she asked if we should go to the Emergency room. I suggested I take a Benedryl and write myself a prescription for a steroid taper and remove myself from the room in which I was sleeping. The sheets on the bed were very fragranced and she admitted she had just laundered them prior to my arrival.

The rash and itching seemed to subside over the next 24 hours and I finished my steroid taper and returned to work the next week. I was in surgery, performing a very difficult hysterectomy, when I began to have a return of my symptoms along with severe burning in my hands. I was already using a specially formulated glove that did not contain latex.

That event led to my skin being in a constant state of itchiness and irritation (called dermatitis) for the next month. The dermatologist prescribed steroid creams and moisturizing shampoos, both of which only made the condition worse. He finally threw up his hands and sent me to the national expert in contact dermatitis in Louisville, Kentucky.

After patch testing I was told I was allergic to many different chemicals, especially to chemicals in surgical gloves and to fragrances. I had to stop working because there were no surgical gloves that were safe for me to use to deliver babies and do surgery. I had to walk away from a job that I loved doing and figure out how to live safely. Luckily I eventually was introduced to Functional Medicine.

In Functional Medicine we search for the root cause of disease and environmental exposures are a huge cause of disease. There are hundreds of articles related to phthalate exposure and thousands related to environmental exposure causing harm to humans. Phthalates have been implicated as endocrine disrupting chemicals. If you've been reading this blog then you know that an endocrine disruptor wreaks havoc on your hormones and can be the root cause of many different hormone issues.

Here is just one list of ways you can be unwittingly exposed to harmful chemicals in candles. I personally only use beeswax candles in my home and rarely a soy votive candle. If you have small children you should think twice before exposing them to fragrances and other chemicals that can disrupt their hormones.

The fact that we are seeing girls go through puberty at the ages of 8-10 is a direct consequence of environmental exposures and can be the cause of many hormonal issues in life, including increased probability of reproductive cancer.

I hope by shedding some light on this issue that I can help others to create a healthier environment for themselves and their families.

Peace.


Sunday, December 2, 2018

What you eat may be killing you

I have basically two types of patients that I commonly see at my Functional Medicine practice - those who are willing to do anything - even change their diet - to live longer healthier lives, and those who flat out refuse to even think about changing their diet or lifestyle to better their health.

For those of you who don't think food is connected to disease, the science is out there but the medical community isn't keeping up with it very well so you may be suffering from disease and receiving medications and thinking the medications 'fix' things but in reality the medications may be making things worse.

In my Functional Medicine training, we learn about the 'Standard American Diet' or SAD diet that frequently contributes to disease. When I'm consulting with patients, I always explain to them the impact that food has on our health.

Our bodies need nutrients to function at their best and unfortunately the current American food supply (even if all you eat is organic fruits and vegetables and pasture-raised animals) has lost its nutrient-density over the last 75 years due to over-farming and over-use of pesticides and chemicals on the soil.

If the contents of your refrigerator currently look like this picture then you are doing better than the majority of your neighbors at improving your health and preventing disease but I find when I ask patients to keep a diet diary that they are frequently eating food from restaurants and fast food places which contain the most inflammatory substances and the least nutrient content.

Another major issue with our diets is the emphasis on refined carbohydrates. That includes sugar, white rice and white flour. These are all very inflammatory as is dairy and animal fat.

If you have any kind of cancer or metabolic disorder such as diabetes, hormone imbalances like PMS or endometriosis or infertility, high blood pressure or heart disease, hypothyroid or hyperthyroid, autoimmune issues like rheumatoid arthritis or Multiple Sclerosis, then what you eat may be killing you, especially if you diet is mostly carbohydrates, dairy and animal fat (from chicken skin, beef or pork).

If you are suffering from any of the above conditions, you would benefit from trying a plant-based diet (you can also have fish that is clean and without high levels of mercury a couple of times a week) and seeing how you feel over time.

New research from a doctor who studies fasting and longevity has been published this year and shows that a Fasting Mimicking Diet (FMD) can slow down or reverse these disease processes when done along with a pescatarian diet.

The researcher, Dr. Valter Longo, also recommends taking a high-quality multivitamin and a omega 3 supplement every day that you follow the FMD. His initial research shows that the FMD can decrease the side effects of chemotherapy and improve the effectiveness of chemo for cancer. He has shown that while following the FMD, stem cell production increases and diseased cells are disposed of at a more efficient rate.

If you have a metabolic disorder you should not undertake a self-prescribed fast without consulting a health care provider. A good integrative or Functional medicine provider can help you incorporate a regular FMD into your lifestyle to promote health and help reverse disease. If you are a science nerd like myself, you might enjoy reading about all the health benefits of FMD in Dr. Longo's book The Longevity Diet.

If you would like to find out whether the FMD could help you reverse disease, contact me for a consultation at KarenFMillerMD@gmail.com.

As we are transitioning to winter this month we can take the opportunity to be more reflective. I invite you to start a mindfulness practice. Mindfulness can help improve your brain function (memory and clear thinking) and reduce the deleterious effects of stress. Mindfulness is simply being present and aware in the current moment.

A PRACTICE:

Begin by sitting or lying in a comfortable position, if sitting bring your spine erect to allow deeper breathing and make sure your head isn't craning forward but situated directly between your shoulders with the crown parallel with the ceiling or sky. Imagine a string pulling the crown of your head upward so your head doesn't droop.

Close your eyes or bring your gaze to a point on the floor in front of you and notice your breath. Bring your attention to the sensation of your breath moving through your nostrils and down into your chest and expanding your belly. Try not to control the breath but merely to observe the effects of the breath on your body.

If your mind wanders away from being present, gently bring it back without judgment. You can use rosary or mandala or bodhi beads to track your progress. One circuit around a string of beads is a good place to start. If you don't have beads, set a timer for 10 minutes. There is a free app called Insight Timer that you can put on your phone and set for any length of time you wish.

Peace be with you.