Posts Tagged ‘healthy gut’

Protecting Your Skin In The Winter Months

protecting your skin in the winter monthsYou may have noticed this past week your skin is feeling a little “rougher around the edges.” Not surprising with temperatures taking a rapid nose drive. There are steps you can take for protecting your skin in the winter months.

Eczema flare-ups can worsen in the winter. Eczema is a condition where the skin becomes red, itchy and inflamed. The word “eczema” is derived from a Greek word meaning “to boil over.”

While eczema is not contagious, it can cause debilitating discomfort that can affect one’s self esteem and create social embarrassment.  According to National Eczema society, “while the exact cause of eczema is unknown, researchers do know that people who develop eczema do so because of a combination of genes and environmental triggers. When an irritant or an allergen “switches on” the immune system, skin cells don’t behave as they should causing an eczema flare-up.”

Some of the symptoms of eczema may include:

  • Dry, sensitive skin
  • Red, inflamed skin
  • Very bad itching
  • Dark colored patches of skin
  • Rough, leathery or scaly patches of skin
  • Oozing or crusting
  • Areas of swelling

In cases of severe eczema, the itch gets so bad that people scratch it until it bleeds, which can make your eczema worse. This is called the “itch-scratch cycle.”

Dry air combined with indoor heating systems can dry out your skin. Eczema flares up because the skin can’t stay moist on its own. Flare-ups can also be caused by wearing too many layers of clothing, taking hot baths, or using too many bed coverings.

While there are no cures for eczema, treatment includes:

  • Knowing your triggers (ie cold, animal dander, foods, medications etc)
  • Keeping clean hygiene
  • Topical OTC and prescription creams
  • Phototherapy
  • Immunosuppressants
  • Natural remedies

But for those of you that don’t have eczema, here are some ways to keep your skin healthy this winter season:

  1. Avoid prolonged hot baths/showers. Heat can cause skin to dry out. So instead, use warm water, and bathe less frequently. You can also add moisturizing bath products such as oatmeal blends. While drying off, pat the skin. Rubbing with a towel can exacerbates the “itch-scratch cycle.”
  2. Use gentle products. Look for soaps and detergents that are made for sensitive skin free of dye, alcohol and fragrance.
  3. Avoid contact with certain materials. Wool and nylon cause overheating which can irritate the skin and lead to an eczema flare up. Choosing cotton materials and breathable fabrics and avoid wearing multiple layers allows for cooling on the skin.
  4. Keeping the skin hydrated with good lubrication, such as petroleum jelly, goes a long way in healing. Lotions have been shown not to be as effective in winter months. Apply immediately after bathing on damp skin.
  5. Vitamin D supplements. Taking vitamin D supplements in the winter may improve eczema flare-ups. According to a study conducted by Massachusetts General Hospital looked at 100 Mongolian schoolchildren and found that the children treated daily with vitamin D supplements saw a reduction in winter eczema symptoms. Alternative option includes using ultraviolet light to stimulate vitamin D production.
  6. Alternative remedies. Although the safety and effectiveness of many complementary and alternative medicine therapies are uncertain, the use of  home-made concoctions may prove to be the best treatment of all.  Some of these include:
    1. Topical Coconut Oil. Coconut oil is known to have weak anti-bacterial properties and when applied may help calm the skin.
    2. Topical Sunflower oil. Although the mechanism appears unclear, topical application of sunflower oil appears to have soothing relief of symptoms.
    3. Probiotics.   “In October 2012, The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, found that supplementation with strains of Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Bifidobacterium longum or Lactobacillus paracasei and Bifidobacterium longum in combination reduced the risk of developing eczema in infants.” The initial theory thateczema was caused from microbial imbalances leading to immune suppression is now proving to be true. And therefore maintaining homeostasis of gut flora may lead to integumentary control.

Despite the unknowns, the skin remains the largest organ of our body. Just as we are mindful of keeping our heart and lungs healthy, ultimately the outside is a reflection of inside health. Treat the skin like the warm blanket that protects you from the brutal external conditions.  Hydrate, eliminate processed foods, maintain gut health, sleep and stay strong and hopeful. No better treatment than that!

Dr. Raman’s Concierge Medical Practice is focused on caring for each person as a whole, not just a list of symptoms. Our office is committed to helping our patients stay well and maintain good health rather than treating patients only after they become ill.

For more information or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Raman, please contact us today.

Have You Seen My Metabolism Anywhere?

metabolismWe all know it is coming. We fight it tooth and nail. We don’t give into the relentless annoyance of it. But yet, somehow it always seems to have the upper hand. And by “it”,  I mean your metabolism or lack thereof.

How is it that three little numbers makes us lose so much sleep?

Before starting yet another dieting spree, let’s take a step back and understand what metabolism is and how it changes through the aging process. If we don’t understand it, we can’t change it.

Metabolism is a “series of chemical reactions that sustain the living state of organisms and cells.” Metabolism can slow one to two percent each year after the age of 30.

Nutrition is the KEY to metabolism! Carbohydrates, protein, fats, minerals and vitamins comprise the majority of fuel needed to keep metabolism operational.

Let’s take a brief look at how each one plays a role.

  1. Carbohydrates: This includes starch, sugar and fiber. When eaten in moderation, carbohydrates are broken down to fuel metabolism.
  2. Protein: Proteins are the main tissue builders in the body. They are part of every cell in the body. Proteins help in cell structure and function. They are also vital in supplying nitrogen for DNA and RNA genetic material and energy production.
  3. Fats: Fats produce twice as much energy as either carbohydrates or protein. They help form the cellular structure, help absorb fat soluble vitamins and provide a reserve storage for energy.
  4. Minerals and vitamins: Minerals do not play a direct role in energy needs but play an important role in metabolism. Vitamins are essential compounds that the body doesn’t produce and therefore relies up nutritional intake.

What are some other potential causes of a slowed metabolism?

  • Hypothyroidism and other endocrine issues
  • Inadequate sleep
  • Chronic stress
  • Exogenous hormone intake
  • Hormonal imbalance (low estrogen and testosterone)
  • Medication side effects
  • Excess supplement intake
  • Excess fat intake
  • Calorie deprivation
  • Low muscle mass

The good news is that there are ways to naturally increase our metabolism. But first understand something. Chasing after a “goal” weight or “ideal” size is unrealistic and can lead to frustration and disappointment. The scale doesn’t take in to account skeletal density, muscle mass or fat reserves. It only tells you an absolute number, a number which is false and misleading.

Don’t panic yet. We are not doomed forever. Here are some simple ways (many of which we have seen before) to raise your metabolism.

  1. Assessing the Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR). The Resting Metabolic Rate test (RMR) determines the amount of calories your body is using at rest. The results of a Resting Metabolic Rate test can tell if you have an increased or decreased metabolism, and if your body primarily uses fats or carbohydrates for energy. This information can be used to determine the amount of calories you need to eat each day to maintain or lose weight. The testing is done by breathing into a mask that measures your Oxygen –Carbon Dioxide exchange.
  2. Increase muscle mass. Strength training three to four times a week is mandatory when trying to increase metabolism. Developing and maintaining muscle mass allows the RPR to increase. Every pound of muscle uses approximately six calories a day to sustain itself, while each pound of fat burns only two calories daily.
  3. Eat. Calorie deprivation causes the body to go into crisis mode. As a preservation mechanism, the body slows down its metabolic response by storing fat and calories. Adding protein to every meal allows a constant release of glucose and maintains insulin regulation.
  4. Drink up. Dehydration is the killer when it comes to a slow metabolism. Calories need water to process. Even small levels of dehydration can cause  a slowing of the RPR.  Try for a goal of 90oz/day. If you struggle to get down your daily water quota, consuming fresh fruits that contain natural water is a great alternative.
  5. Sleep. Think of sleep like pulling into the gas station. We have to bring the car to a complete stop before we can fuel up. Just the same, sleep forces us to stop so that the body may refuel. If we compromise on sleep, we wake up on an empty tank of gas and expected to go the same distance as if the tank was full. Not possible. To sustain life, the body saves energy by decreasing metabolism.
  6. Question your medications and supplements. Just because it doesn’t say it on the package insert doesn’t mean it can’t happen. Assume everything going into your mouth is the cause until you proven otherwise. See what lifestyle changes you can make that could help you get off of prescription drugs.
  7. Maintain zero expectations. Our body will never be how it was in our 20’s and 30’s. So how can we expect it to respond in the same manner? Don’t be disappointed because you lost “only three pounds”. Be happy you didn’t gain three pounds. Body fat percentage, changes in clothing fit, how you feel is the REAL goal.

Don’t set yourself up for disappointment by looking for a solution under every advertisement. In the US, the weight loss market is a billion dollar industry! If these companies claim to have the answer, then how come we are still the most overweight nation? These are empty promises. The diet pills, the latest calorie restricted programs that leave you emaciated and crabby, the guaranteed “to lose 20# in 20 days” nonsense.  THEY DON’T WORK.  Don’t waste your money. Our parents and grandparents didn’t seem to struggle as we are now. So how come it is the topic of almost every conversation? What was once a simple seamless process of aging has now become a race against who can promise the fastest results.

If we stop for a second and reflect, in every moment of life our bodies are in constant conversation with us. The symptoms we experience are the body’s attempt to get our attention. A slowed metabolism isn’t something to become consumed by.  It is an opportunity to live a healthier lifestyle. Rather than trying to “fix” it, listen to what it has to say.

There is no fast way to lose weight. Let me repeat….there is no fast way to lose weight. Dropping weight faster than the body can handle is a sure fire way to crash the metabolism to an all-time low.

Be gentle and patient with yourself. No matter what the scale says, you will always be worth more than those three little numbers.

Dr. Raman’s Concierge Medical Practice is focused on caring for each person as a whole, not just a list of symptoms. Our office is committed to helping our patients stay well and maintain good health rather than treating patients only after they become ill.

For more information or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Raman, please contact us today.

 

Natural Remedies For Allergies

Natural Remedies For AllergiesAs I sat down to write this month’s blog on natural remedies for allergies, I thought, “That’s easy. Stay indoors. Move out of St. Louis.” Done. That’s the easiest blog I have ever written.

Nothing can be that simple, right?

As always, it is important to understand what is happening on a cellular level before intoxicating it with medicines it may not need.  Medications can interfere with the body’s natural immune response and alter pH balance.

An allergy is defined as a hypersensitive response to anything that enters the body or touches the skin. The allergen could be environmental, food, chemicals, heavy metals, or anything your body deems as foreign.

Once the allergen enters the host, it causes an activation of an immunoglobulin called IgE.  Although everyone has IgE, those prone to allergies produce them in larger quantities. The allergen then binds to the IgE receptors. This binding triggers a “degranulation” of mast cells and basophils. Degranulation causes the mast cells and basophils to break open releasing histamine.  Histamine is responsible for all of those classic allergy symptoms that keep us from feeling our best.

We all know those pesky symptoms and if you live in St. Louis, likely you have experienced a majority of them. So let’s skip over to the important stuff.

Aside from the standard treatments of an antihistamine, eye drops, nasal spray or the ultimate allergy shots, let’s look at some natural ways that may provide relief.

    1. Avoidance. While this may seem obvious, there is much more we come in contact with then we realize. Allergies are not all from pollen, grass or mold. With a weakened immune system, one can become sensitive to day to day exposures (i.e. household products, foods, daily use chemicals etc). Assume everything and anything is contributing to your symptoms until proven otherwise. Begin an elimination process by taking out one allergen every 2 weeks.
    2. Eat an anti-inflammatory diet. Eating foods that are more alkaline help restore pH balance and thereby strengthening the immune system. Foods such as garlic, lemons, green leafy vegetables, bone broth, coconut milk, almond or almond milk are great sources.
    3. Apple Cider Vinegar. ACV has some promising clinical response to decreasing cellular inflammation. Add one tsp in a glass of lemon water first thing in the morning at the onset of symptoms or add one tsp in your Netti pot solution.
    4. Netti Pot. There is nothing like clearing out the nasal passages with good ole saline. I like to call the Netti Pot “IV fluid for the nose.” Word of caution: make sure to use distilled water. Tap water is contaminated with chlorine and fluoride that can aggravate the sinus passages.
    5. Essential oils. Dr. Axe has provided great tips for use of oils. Oils help by reducing inflammation and improving detoxification of harmful bacteria, parasites, microorganisms and toxins that can trigger an attack.An all time favorite is eucalyptus oil. Add few drops into a Netti pot solution and diffuse it in each room. Or mix with coconut oil for a topical saav. Homemade “Vicks” with the added benefit of smelling minty fresh.
    6. Healthy gut. Healthy life. And there it is again! Everything comes back to the lumens of the GI tract. Eliminating gluten, dairy, soy, and sugar goes a long way in controlling those sniffles.

So, next time you long to be one with those peonies, give these tips a try. It is a whole lot easier than moving across the country.

Dr. Raman’s Concierge Medical Practice is focused on caring for each person as a whole, not just a list of symptoms. Our office is committed to helping our patients stay well and maintain good health rather than treating patients only after they become ill.

For more information or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Raman, please contact us today.

The Root Causes of Cravings – And What To Do About Them

Root Causes of CravingsMerriam-Webster’s dictionary defines cravings as, “an intense, urgent, or abnormal desire or longing.” We know that feeling all too well. Salivating at the commercials that lure us inside those restaurant doors, whiffs of free samples handed by sweet little ladies in the grocery aisle, or my personal favorite –  the buy one get one free trick.

It seems whichever direction we turn, we cannot get away from the altered nutrition we call food. No wonder it is so hard to stay healthy. But it doesn’t have to be! Before going head to head with these temptations, it is first important to understand the root causes of cravings, and then we will discuss solutions.

While the reasons are many, here are few explanations that may shed light on the mysteries of our palate and what you can do to help curb those temptations.

  1. Conditioning: Much like the analogy of Pavlov’s response to a bell, we too have been conditioned to associate certain foods to environmental triggers. How many times have you sat down at home to watch a movie and had a sudden craving for popcorn? How about at the ballgame where you hear the pretzel and hot dog calling your name? Or when the summer carnival days has you longing for the cotton candy and funnel cakes? We, as consumers, absorb the silent suggestions of marketers. We subconsciously create a link between their product and our environmental familiarity.

    Solution: When we become aware of our thoughts, we begin to question whether we truly want to indulge or if it is just a Pavlov’s response to a past experience.

  1. Stress: Under the umbrella of stress includes emotional, physical, psychological, and spiritual triggers. Stressors cause a disruption in the adrenal glands which elevates cortisol. Surges of cortisol signal that an attack is occurring on your body. As a defense mechanism, the body searches for sources of fuel that can be broken down easily and quickly. Hence, under stress we crave sugar and salt.

    Solution: Get help. Deal with the stress head on. Don’t try to resist and fight the cravings. It is there for a reason. The cravings aren’t the issue. Whatever is causing the stress is the issue. See your doctor, therapist, spiritual confidant or a friend.

  1. Leaky Gut: It always appears to come back to the gut, doesn’t it? This has been a recurring theme in multiple, if not in all, health conditions. The gut is a source of serotonin production – our feel good hormones. In a weakened GI tract, there is decreased serotonin release leading to an increased cravings for processed foods

    Solution: Heal the gut. Begin by going on a 21 day gluten, soy, dairy, grain and sugar elimination. Our taste buds have memory. It takes 21 days to reset the palate. This is not a diet or calorie deprivation technique. This is simply to take out what shouldn’t be there in the first place.

  1. Leptin resistance: Leptin is a hormone produced in fat cells. Its primary role is to stimulate appetite and signal fullness. An increase in body fat and a diet high in sugar triggers an overflow of leptin release. This causes the brain to feel hungry even when it is not. The continuous cycle of leptin production eventually leads to leptin resistance. It is this resistance and the breakdown of communication within our system that causes insatiable cravings.

    Solution: Limit processed foods. Even decreasing by 10% has significant healing on the body.

  2. Dehydration: Even a 1.5% drop in water can be felt in the body. According to Dr. John Higgins, M.D., Associate Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine University of Texas in Houston and Chief of Cardiology at Lyndon B. Johnson General hospital, “Dehydration can make it difficult for the liver, which uses water, to release glycogen. That can lead to food cravings.” Dehydration also interferes with brain levels of serotonin.

    Solution: Divide your weight by 2 and that is the number of ounces of water needed per day.

I am a firm believer that we must enjoy the indulgences life offers, but moderation is key! Containing cravings has less to do with weight and more to do with living. When you heal, you live. When you live, you awaken. And when you awaken, health and happiness is all you will ever know.

Dr. Raman’s Concierge Medical Practice is focused on holistic care and good health maintenance.  For more information on natural ways to relieve stress, CONTACT  our office today to schedule your appointment.  You can learn more by following Dr. Raman on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest.

Over The Counter Medicine Safety

Over The Counter Medicine SafetySince getting over the counter medicine has never been easier, over the counter medicine safety should be at the forefront of everyone’s mind. From the GI relief of the PPI’s to the cold remedies of antihistamines, the choices are endless. But these self-prescribed options need to be used with caution and care. Many symptoms we often experience can be a sign of something more serious. A little Tylenol for headaches or Zantac for heartburn or Zyrtec for alleriges may seem innocent enough. However, being vigilant with your body’s responses to these medications can prevent catastrophic outcomes.

If your symptoms are new or different from previous times, or you have never used an OTC medicine before, it is worth putting in a call to your doctor for advice. Many of these medications have interactions with prescription medications. So only use them if no other options exist.

First and foremost, find out what is the actual CAUSE of your symptoms. Don’t merely medicate them. Identify the trigger and begin to remedy that cause. Medications temporarily bandage the immediate issues, not always fix the root problem.

I have known many patients to use OTC meds on a daily basis “just because” or “that’s how they have always done it.” Just because you don’t need a doctor’s authorization to purchase these drugs, doesn’t mean they don’t come without the same risk as prescription meds.

Here are some staggering OTC Statistics:

  • Approximately 5 BILLION OTC drugs are purchased annually.
  • This number accounts for 60% of all health-related drug purchases.
  • Teenagers are 18 times more likely to fatally overdose on OTC medications than illicit street drugs.
  •  40% of US teens think OTC medicines are safer than illegal drugs.
  • Almost one-third of American teenagers think that it is perfectly safe to occasionally abuse OTC drugs.

According to Consumer Med Safety, here are the top 5 most commonly abused OTC medications:

  1. Dextromethorphan:

This is an active ingredient in more than 100 OTC cough and cold medicines. Side effects include impaired judgment, vomiting, loss of muscle movement, seizures, blurred vision, drowsiness, shallow breathing, and a fast heart rate. Dextromethorphan is also addictive and can cause withdrawal symptoms, including depression and difficulty processing thoughts, when the drug is stopped.

  1. Caffeine:

OTC caffeine pills such as NoDoz or pain relievers with caffeine have been abused for the buzz or jolt of energy they seem to provide. If these pills are taken with high caffeine energy drinks, the effects are felt even quicker. Large doses of caffeine can cause serious dehydration, gastric reflux disease, panic attacks, and heart irregularities that have occasionally been linked to accidental deaths, particularly in those with an underlying heart condition. 

  1. Diet Pills:

Although the FDA has banned several of the most dangerous stimulants commonly found in OTC diet pills—phenylpropanolamine, ephedrine, and ephedra—other ingredients in these OTC products can also be dangerous. Bitter orange is a common ingredient that acts much like ephedrine in the body. It can cause nervousness and tremor, rapid and irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, stroke, heart failure, and death. The FDA ban on ephedra pertained only to diet pills considered dietary supplements, not herbal remedies such as teas and Chinese preparations.

  1. Laxatives/Herbal Supplements:

Laxatives and herbal diuretics (including uva ursi, goldenseal, dandelion root, rose hips) can cause serious dehydration and life-threatening loss of important minerals and salts that regulate the amount of water in the body, acidity of the blood, and muscle function.

  1. Pseudoephedrine:

This nasal decongestant and stimulant is found in many cold medicines. Its similarity to amphetamines has made it sought after to make the illegal drug methamphetamine. This medicine has also been taken as a stimulant to cause an excitable, hyperactive feeling. Abuse may be less common with pseudoephedrine than with other OTC medicines due to a federal law requiring it to be kept behind the pharmacy counter, limiting the purchase quantity, and requiring photo identification prior to purchase. However, people have taken pseudoephedrine to lose weight, and athletes have misused the medicine to increase their state of awareness and to get them “pumped up” before a competition. Dangerous side effects include heart palpitations, irregular heartbeats, and heart attacks. When combined with other drugs, such as narcotics, pseudoephedrine may trigger episodes of paranoid psychosis.

No doubt that having medications available to us at the 11th hour has certainly made life easier. But as prescription drugs continue to become readily available on shelves throughout the world, we must err on the side to be even more diligent and mindful of its risks. Due to the ease of accessibility of these meds, we must remain guarded to prevent overuse and abuse.

Dr. Raman’s Concierge Medical Practice is focused on holistic care and good health maintenance.  For more information on natural ways to relieve stress, CONTACT  our office today to schedule your appointment.  You can learn more by following Dr. Raman on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest.

 

Ways to Effectively Manage Holiday Stress Without Medication

manage holiday stressIt’s that time of year again; that whirlwind holiday season of parties, baking, and gift-giving. While this season is supposed to be about love and family, it is also the cause of stress for many people. More than 80% of people find the holidays to be a very stressful time, but what what are some ways to manage holiday stress without resorting to medication?

What is the Cause of Holiday Stress?

Doing too much can be part of the problem. The problem with holidays is that it can be too much of a good thing. Too much stress can have a negative impact on our mental and physical health. Too many fun activities can leave us feeling crazed rather than content.

An overload of parties and gift-giving can lead you to eat, drink, and be merry just a little too much. It’s tempting to overspend on gifts, eat rich desserts, or drink too much alcohol. If you do, you are left to deal with the consequences. In these tough financial times, finding less expensive gifts can be a stress trigger all on its own. Holiday debt is a stressor that can linger long after the season is over.

Too much togetherness can also be a stressor. Sure, you love to see your family and catch up, but too much of being together can make it hard for family members to keep a healthy balance between togetherness and alone time. This can bring more dread than cheer. On the other hand, maybe you don’t get to see enough of your family. Loneliness can be just as stress full, if not more.

So how can you get through this time of year and still keep the holiday cheer?

Yoga for Reducing Holiday Stress

Try a standing side stretch to open yourself up to calm feelings. Holding an open posture for two minutes can lower stress hormones and increases testosterone that can induce confidence.

You can breathe your way to calm control. Deep diaphragmatic breathing turns on your parasympathetic nervous system and blocks your body’s production of stress hormones and stimulate the feel-good hormones.

Raise your feet above your heart. It only takes 30-60 seconds to take the pressure off of your tired legs. It also improves circulation and helps to decrease swelling.

Yoga has been proven to raise endorphins, lower cortisol and balance thyroid. So why not try taking your stressors to the mat?

Stress Relieving Foods

Peppermint is a stress reliever because it contains manganese, iron, magnesium, calcium, folate, potassium, and copper. It also has omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin C and Vitamin A. You can make a soothing peppermint tea, add peppermint leaves to your salad, or put some in your hot cocoa.

Broccoli is full of stress-relieving B vitamins. It also contains folic acid that helps to relieve stress, anxiety, panic, and depression. Broccoli, asparagus, kale, and other dark green vegetables have vitamins the help replenish your body during stressful times. Those with thyroid issues should be mindful of consuming smaller amounts so as to not trigger a thyroid relapse.

Pumpkin seeds are a great source of protein and omega-3’s. Omega-3’s help to protect against high blood pressure and improve mood. They also contain glutamate, which is used by your body to make gamma-amino butyric acid (GABA). GABA is an anti-stress brain chemical that helps reduce anxiety.

Almonds are great relievers of stress. They are packed full of vitamin B2, vitamin E, and zinc. Vitamin B helps in the production of serotonin, which helps regulate mood and relieve stress. Zinc has been shown to fight negative effects of tress. Vitamin E in an antioxidant that gets rid of free radicals related to stress.

Don’t let the stress of this holiday season effect your health and well-being.

Dr. Raman’s Concierge Medical Practice is focused on holistic care and good health maintenance.

For more information on natural ways to relieve stress, CONTACT  our office today to schedule your appointment.

You can learn more by following Dr. Raman on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest.

How To Keep Your Liver Healthy

How To Keep Your Liver HealthyThe liver, also known as the ultimate multitasking organ, is underestimated in its importance and significance. That is why it is it should be a top priority to keep your liver healthy.

The liver, weighing in about 3 pounds, sits on the right side of the abdominal cavity. Situated below the liver sits the gallbladder and portions of the pancreas and intestines.

The liver serves in multiple roles:

  • It helps to filter the blood from the digestive tract, before passing it to the rest of the body.
  • It aids in detoxifying chemicals and metabolizing drugs.
  • It helps secrete bile to assist in food breakdown.
  • It makes proteins so blood clotting is possible.
  • It helps break down damaged blood cells so that the body may remove them.

So what issues can arise if the liver is not operating at optimal standards?

There are many medical conditions associated with the liver, such as hepatitis, alcoholic cirrhosis, gall bladder disease, primary biliary cirrhosis, and hemochromatosis only to name a few.

According to ancient Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine, the liver is the primary organ responsible for removing toxins and purifying byproducts so that they may be delivered to the necessary organs in a purified condition.

When the liver is healthy and happy, the body will experience:

  • Increased energy levels
  • Clearer skin
  • Regular menstrual cycle with reduced PMS
  • Improved allergy symptoms
  • Stronger immunity
  • Fewer GI issues
  • Improved oral health
  • Improved mood and mental clarity

“A healthy liver results in better blood flow upward and outward, throughout our vessels, veins and capillaries, which transport oxygen and nutrients to our cells. The liver also interacts with other organs like the gallbladder, stomach and spleen, since it receives digested particles or toxins and decides what to do with them: circulate them around through the blood or eliminate them before they can cause damage.”  Dr. Axe

While the jury is still out on the efficacy of “liver detox”, the American Liver Foundation outlines ways you can keep your liver out of trouble.

  1. Foods that have been shows to have protective effects include:
  • Coffee (in moderation): Increases antioxidant levels while decreasing inflammation
  • Tea: Black and green tea have been shown to improve fat and enzyme levels. Avoid green tea extract as it can cause damage to the liver.
  • Grapefruit: The two main antioxidants found in grapefruit are naringenin and naringin that reduces inflammation.
  • Blueberries/Cranberries/Grapes
  • Beetroot juice: Protects the liver from oxidative reactions and increases detoxifying enzymes.
  • Cruciferous vegetables: Be cautious with concurrent thyroid conditions.  These vegetables have been found to increase detoxifying enzymes.
  • Nuts: One six-month observational study in 106 people with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease found eating nuts was associated with improved levels of liver enzymes.
  • Fatty fish. Studies have shown that fish help prevent fat from building up, keep enzyme levels normal, fight inflammation and improve insulin resistance.
  • Olive oil. Helps prevent fat accumulation in liver and improved blood flow.
  1. Limit alcohol.
  2. Manage medications.
  3. Avoid prolonged exposure to toxic chemicals. Use natural hair and skin products as well as natural household supplies.
  4. Avoid excess supplements. Iron, Niacin, Vitamin A have been shown to be harmful to the liver in excess doses.
  5. Avoid a plethora of unnecessary herbal products. A recent study in the journal Hepatology claims that liver injury due to supplements and herbs is on the rise.
  6. Get the heart rate up and just move.

While discussions of liver health often end up taking a back seat to more exciting health news, it is a vital component to achieving greater balance. So drink your coffee, limit your supplements and get your body moving!

Dr. Raman’s Concierge Medical Practice is focused on holistic care and good health maintenance. For more information on healthy eating habits and achieving and maintaining OPTIMAL health,  CONTACT our office today to schedule your appointment. You can also learn more by following Dr. Raman on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn and Pinterest.

Colon Cancer Screening – Don’t Put It Off

Colon Cancer ScreeningIn the world of camera crazy selfies, the one picture that could be life saving is that selfie of the colon. Colon cancer screening is never something you should put off.

Ahhh yes, mentioning anything about that 5 foot luminous tube that weaves itself around the core of our essence makes us want to run in the opposite direction. Don’t!

The colon is VITAL to maintaining homeostasis and overall balance.

The colon absorbs essential vitamins, salts, nutrients, and water that gives us our good health. However any disruption is this function causes toxins to be absorbed back into the blood stream rather than expelling them. The reversal of this pathway leads to not only GI complaints, but also systemic symptoms. Examples include, fatigue, skin changes, hormonal imbalances, sleep issues, depression, hair loss, weight gain, weight loss, and headaches.

Over one hundred trillion microorganisms (bacteria) reside in the colon. There are more microorganisms in the colon than are contained within the skin, heart, bone, brain, and the rest of the body’s cells combined. A proper balance of healthy bacteria must be maintained inside the colon to avoid being constantly plagued with digestive ailments.

Since we live in a world where processed food is a staple, it is no surprise we are being plagued with continuous health ailments. The impurity of our diet has led to an epidemic of persistent illnesses. Also, the overuse of antibiotics has resulted in a paradigm shift of our normal gut flora. The overwhelming force of trauma of both of these habits has made it difficult for the colon to withstand any level of normalcy.

The sharp rise in obesity, ADHD, adult and children’s cancer, diabetes, heart disease and other health conditions, must leave us wondering, why? What are we doing wrong?

Once again, the answers lie in the lumen of our GI tract. This is exactly why you SHOULD NOT avoid your colon cancer screening.

Taking care of our gut health is not optional, it is vital. 

How can we do that when we constantly feel like we are swimming against the current?

Here are a few simple ideas:

  1. Eliminate sugar. “On the high sugar diet mouth-to-anus transit time was significantly prolonged, despite a shortened mouth-to-cecum transit time. The fecal concentration of total bile acids and the fecal concentration of secondary bile acids increased significantly. Diet affected neither the serum bile acid pattern nor the concentration. Breath hydrogen tests showed significantly enhanced H2 production on the high sugar diet. We conclude that the quantity of refined sugar in the diet can significantly influence gut function and the composition of bowel contents”. (Gut. 1991 Apr; 32(4): 367–371.)
  2. Increase water intake. Water helps break down food and improves waste transit and elimination. It also enhances vitamin and nutrient absorption and helps maintain a balanced pH in the gut.
  3. Listen to your “Gut”.  Whether the symptoms are of GI origin or systemic, it is important to have the gut evaluated in its entirety. A GI work up may include:
    a). Evaluation for food allergies,
    b.) Hydrogen breath test for bacterial overgrowth,
    c.) Celiac disease,
    d.) Stool sample for fungal or bacterial infection.
    e.) Upper Endoscopy for reflux, hernias, erosions etc.
    f.) Colonoscopy for polyps, cancer, Crohn’s, Ulcerative Colitis, generalized colitis etc.
    This is by no means a complete list. It only outlines different ways of getting into the GI tract. It is imperative not to ignore the body’s communication with us.
  4. Probiotics. These are the “good” guys that have come to save the day. Packaged and labeled under many different disguises, it is hard to know which one is the right one. Before starting down the road of pill-popping, first find the cause of the symptoms. Once identified, then reach for these microbes.

Many of us ignore the warning signs because we may feel it is “gross” or “embarrassing.” Physicians and specialists are highly skilled and trained in the area of Gastroenterology. There is nothing there we have not seen or experienced before.

Health is #1 priority. By allowing toxins to continue to reside in the seat of our solar plexus, we continue to live in a toxic environment.

Would we let toxic individuals stay in our home? Then why are we doing it to our OWN self?

Dr. Raman’s Concierge Medical Practice is focused on holistic care and good health maintenance. For more information on healthy eating habits and achieving and maintaining OPTIMAL health,  CONTACT our office today to schedule your appointment. You can also learn more by following Dr. Raman on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn and Pinterest.

Your Guide to a Gluten-Free Lifestyle

Gluten-Free LifestyleDoes maintaining a gluten-free lifestyle measure up to the promised hype of feeling better? That’s the million dollar question. Let’s take a look at this more closely and recap what we already know about gluten.

Gluten is a composite of storage proteins found in wheat, barley, rye, and oat. It gives elasticity to dough, helps it rise, keeps its shape and gives food a chewy texture. But here are a few reasons why gluten has earned a bad rap:

Gut Inflammation. The proteins in wheat are gut irritants which dig into the lining of the gut wall, causing amylase trypsin inhibitors to provoke an inflammatory immune response.

Increased Intestinal Permeability. The gut is a patrol system that regulates which nutrients may enter and which may not. Inflammation in the gut caused by gluten halts that process of control. It loosens the junctions between cells in the gut wall so too much stuff can pass through. Hence the name of “leaky gut.” This leak is thought to be the number one contributing factor to developing autoimmune disease.

Vulnerability to Gut Autoimmunity. Gliadin is a component of gluten and once it enters the system, the problems begin. The exposure to gliadin causes one’s body to form antibodies against its own tissue, thereby creating an avalanche of toxins. Gluten-related inflammation may also be a factor in the development of Crohn’s Disease.

Autoimmune Reactions. Studies have found wheat exposure might be causing autoimmune issues even without evidence of celiac disease. With the abundance of GMO’s, there have been an exponential surge of autoimmune disorders thought in part due to the toxic effects of gluten.

Symptoms of gluten sensitivity can vary. Some common ones include:

  • Fatigue
  • Mood changes
  • GI issues
  • Poor sleep
  • Rash (Dermatitis Herpatiformis is specific to gluten)
  • Hormone dysregulation
  • Hair loss
  • Weight changes
  • Joint/muscle pain/swelling

If these are reasons enough to make you want to consider cutting back on gluten, here are steps you can take to make the process a little easier.

  1. Get educated. There is nothing more empowering than understanding exactly why you are choosing this path. When I first began my gluten free journey it was not by choice, but out of necessity. I was one of the few that experienced all 10 of the above symptoms. It was daunting and overwhelming. I simplified the process by reading. A great way to start is with the book “Wheat Belly” by Dr. William Davis. Dr. Davis takes you through the history of how gluten has become toxic to our system. Sit with the information and absorb the rationale of why maintaining a gluten-free diet can be life-saving.
  2. Make a list of the foods your currently eat. Rather than trying to figure out which foods do or do not have gluten, start by streamlining and looking at your own diet. Make a list of all the foods and ingredients you eat on a regular basis. Then begin researching that specific food. Remember –  gluten is not listed as an ingredient. It is a protein! You won’t find it on the label. You will learn over time how gluten is disguised in various forms.
  3. Start slowly. Don’t expect yourself to change overnight. It is not safe for the body, nor is it healthy. Start by decreasing a certain percentage of what you are currently eating. For example, eat only one slice of bread with your sandwich rather than two. This small change can make a significant impact. Remember, gluten is inflammatory. As you decrease your intake of gluten, body inflammation also diminishes. This will result in decreased cravings and an overall decrease in inflammation.
  4. Limit the gluten-free foods. While reaching for gluten-free cookies is nice when you need that sugar fix, gluten-free products are filled with other ingredients and chemicals that are not good for us. In August 2013, the FDA issued a final rule, effective August 2014, that defined the term “gluten-free” for voluntary use in the labeling of foods as meaning that the amount of gluten contained in the food is below 20 parts per million. This means only a small portion of the food needs to be gluten-free to earn that label. It very well could be that the other portion in the food is not. If you wouldn’t eat a regular cookie, then you shouldn’t be eating a gluten-free one. Indulgences are ok as long as they remain on that special occasion.
  5. Clear out expectations. Lose the idea that going gluten-free will be the “IT” weight loss miracle. Because it is not! If you lose weight from removing gluten, it is because you are caliberating your metabolism. While weight loss may be an added benefit, the real reward is overall health. When the body is balanced and brought to its natural homeostasis, everything will be in perfect working order, including the weight. Don’t chase the weight loss. Allow it to present itself to you along with all of the other great benefits!

Gluten-free eating is truly not the next fad. There are many, and more to come, unfolding studies and evidence of benefits to living gluten free. It is not a quick fix. We didn’t get here overnight. So stay the path. Stay focused. Stay determined and above all STAY COMMITTED!

CHANGE IS COMING!

Gluten Free – The Latest Fad or The Next Real Thing?

gluten freeTo be or not to be……gluten-free? Ahhhhh…….that’s the million dollar question. Does being gluten free really offer the extended health benefits that science claims to offer or is it just another peg on the board of healthy eating?

I have written previously about peeling back the layers of understanding leaky gut syndrome. While this concept is still in its infancy, the research appears to have solid validity. Let’s go one step further and isolate specific microscopic causes that contribute to forming the hole in the ozone of our gut.

First, we must understand what gluten is. Many of the references here are from the research of Dr. William Davis, one of my favorite writers and author of Wheat Belly.

What is gluten?

“Gluten is a complex two-part protein found in wheat with virtually identical structures and amino acid sequences of the protein also found in rye and barley. Each gluten molecule comes in two parts: a larger, polymeric glutenin molecule that confers the stretchiness, or viscoelasticity, of wheat dough, and gliadin, a smaller protein. Both glutenin and gliadin share overlapping sequences also, but it’s the gliadin that is the source of most of the health issues associated with wheat, and thereby rye and barley. Note that the gliadin protein of wheat also resembles the zein protein of corn and, to a lesser degree, the avenin protein of oats, which therefore share some of the same effects, including activation of the immune system. While there is no gluten or gliadin in corn and oats, they have related proteins that have similar effects.” –Dr.William Davis

Although gluten is primarily in wheat, similar chemical properties are seen in oat, barley, rye and most recently discovered in corn. Remember the days of our grandmother’s homemade biscuits, pies, cookies? We devoured them without even giving it a second thought.

Why is gluten now being linked to a host of symptoms and diseases?

Remember, gluten is a PROTEIN, not an actual ingredient. It serves as a binder that prolongs shelf life and helps maintain the product’s shape. With the genetic modification of gluten, the human system is unable to process and breakdown the products as nature intended. This results in an explosion of inflammation within the cell walls. These inflammatory markers then leak into other areas causing cellular and hormonal disruption. It is this disruption that causes our symptoms.

What are symptoms of gluten sensitivity?

  1. Rash/Itching
  2. Weight gain
  3. Fatigue
  4. Worsening PMS
  5. Acne
  6. GI issues
  7. Muscle/Joint pain
  8. Hair loss
  9. Difficulty sleeping
  10. Mental confusion/Depression/Decreased concentration

This is only a partial list of potential symptoms. Inflammation is not discretionary. It hits in all corners of the human body.

What can gluten consumption cause?

  1. Leaky gut. The gap between the intestinal cell junctions allows foreign proteins to spill into the bloodstream. The body looks at this debris as foreign and begins to attack. This is how autoimmune conditions begin. This is why wheat, rye, barley and corn are associated with Type 1 Diabetes, Hashimoto’s and Rheumatoid Arthritis.
  2. Mood changes. The unique amino acid sequences of these peptides act asopiates on the human brain. Opioids activate hunger, increase calorie intake, cause mental fogginess, anxiety, anger, food obsessions, mania and decreases attention span.
  3. Allergies. Just as pollen, grass, mold triggers a histamine response, the allergen component of gluten and its by-products triggers the same histamine release leading to itchy and watery eyes, sneezing, congestion, rash.
  4. Increased risk for Celiac Disease. “There is a 33-amino acid long sequence within gliadin that is most powerfully associated with triggering celiac disease. One gene, in particular, coding for this amino acid sequence, Glia-alpha9, was uncommon in the wheat of 1950, but is common in modern semidwarf strains of wheat, explaining why there has been a 400% increase in celiac disease over the last 50 years.” –Dr.William Davis

The science is unarguable! The manipulation and modification of our crops since the 1950’s correlates directly to the increasing symptoms and health ailments entering our lives. It is imperative to understand gluten is only ONE such contributor. Researchers continue to isolate others causes.

Until then, what do we do? Do we go completely gluten free? Is gluten free better than not? Will I lose weight if I am gluten free?

Ideally, is it better to be fully gluten free? Yes. Is it practical? No. So where to start? Begin by cutting down the most obvious sources of gluten, (ie. bread, pastas, baked goods etc.) Gluten is hidden under many different titles. Labels will not list gluten as an ingredient because it is not an ingredient, it is a protein. It is important to learn what ingredients do contain gluten. (I highly recommend reading Wheat Belly.)

Be sure to keep a detailed food journal and make note of any subtle changes you may be feeling. Your body takes a minimum of two months to begin responding to any changes made. Don’t expect to lose weight right away or burst through the doors with untapped energy. Or for that matter, you may not see any difference at all. Don’t lose hope and don’t under estimate what is happening on a cellular level.

Eating “gluten free” products is NOT any better than the real stuff. A gluten free cookie is STILL a cookie. If you wouldn’t eat it before, then you shouldn’t eat it just because it is gluten free.

Keep expectations out of the equation. No matter what you see or don’t see on the surface, below ground, you are doing your body good! Above all, be gentle with yourself. It has taken us six decades to create this mess. We have to begin to dig ourselves out with the shovel of knowledge and a bucket of patience.

Dr. Raman’s Concierge Medical Practice is focused on holistic care and good health maintenance. For more information on healthy eating habits and achieving and maintaining OPTIMAL health,  CONTACT our office today to schedule your appointment. You can also learn more by following Dr. Raman on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn and Pinterest.