Friday, September 21, 2012

What Vitamin Deficiency Encourages Autoimmune Disease?

There have been many reports over the past year or two about the importance of Vitamin D.  Once thought to be only a vitamin involved in the regulation of calcium and bone health one benefit after another has recently been tied to the level of Vitamin D.  The recommended daily allowance of 400 IU a day has been replaced by different suggestions of 2,000 IU to as much as 10,000 IU.  Vitamin D is now known to be important in the function of the immune system, neurological system, and gastro-intenstinal system in addition to the skeletal system.

A new study was recently published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry.  It illustrates the kind of importance Vitamin D could be playing in our health.  The study found a higher likelihood for people to develop Multiple Sclerosis within two or three years if they had had Epstein-Barr virus with a low Vitamin D level (serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D).  This study possibly points to a reason that Multiple Sclerosis occurs more frequently in the Northern Latitudes where Vitamin D levels have been shown repeatedly to be low.  It may offer some insights into at least one more causality of developing not just Multiple Sclerosis, but autoimmune diseases of all kinds.  At the very least the study reiterates the vast importance for each person to get adequate amounts of Vitamin D.

The primary and best source of Vitamin D is from the sun.  UV light from the sun falling on human skin triggers a chemical conversion that results in Vitamin D being made.  Other UV sources, from a tanning bed for example, also improve Vitamin D levels.  These two ways of getting Vitamin D have proven themselves to be the most effective, though there is some variation from genetic factors.  The less effective, but better than nothing, source is supplementation.  Most current knowledgeable advice suggests 2,000-4,000 IU a day.  The only way to know if your levels are adequate is to monitor your levels through blood tests.  There is a potential toxicity from excessive amounts of Vitamin D, so some monitoring of your levels is essential if you're taking supplemental Vitamin D.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

What ONE thing lowers blood pressure enough to eliminate 1 blood pressure medication?

Many people have high blood pressure.  Generally, high blood pressure has been defined as any reading above 140/80.  If you are less than 50 years old the line is perhaps more in the above 135/70.  The first number in a blood pressure is called the "systolic pressure" and is a measurement of how forcefully your heart is squeezing blood out into the body.  The second number is the "diastolic pressure" and it measures the heart at rest between beats.  The only time a heart muscle gets a rest is that fraction of a second between beats.  While both numbers are important, when the lower number is high the more stress it puts on your heart.  High blood pressure puts stress on the heart, but more damaging is the effects on the blood vessels.  High pressure on arterial walls is like sandpaper rubbing the inner sensitive lining with every beat of the heart.  If you have ever used a pressure washer to blow moss and dirt off your deck or driveway, you know that high pressure does a better job than just spraying with the hose.  If you've ever hit your bare leg or foot with a pressure washer you know that pressure can actually cut into your skin.  Arteries are susceptible to high pressures and get damaged.  The body heals this damage using cholesterol, plaque, and clotting.  The repair job decreases the inner size of the vessels raising blood pressure further and creates the potential for loose particles to break off and get stuck in smaller vessels leading to a blockage.  You don't want blockages like this to happen in your brain, lungs, or heart!  Or rather, your family doesn't want it because they might well end up living without you.  The good news is you don't have to die!

A Word About Medications
If you've been diagnosed with high blood pressure for long, then you are probably on a blood pressure medication -- or several.  There are five drug categories with perhaps nearly 50 different medications for high blood pressure treatment.  They all possess side effects, so the fewer medications you have the better!  Typically, you will be started on a diuretic, this decreases the volume of blood.  Less water in the hoses equals less pressure.  The right diuretic can have the least side effects.  If blood pressure isn't controlled with a diuretic then different drug categories are added until the pressure is in an acceptable range.  It is not unusual for people to be on two or three different drugs.  The truth of the matter is that for many people - most or all medications can be avoided with some lifestyle changes.

How to Avoid Drugs
  1. Losing weight will decrease blood pressure.  Typically, for every ten pounds you lose you will be able to drop one blood pressure medication.  Carrying extra weight puts an extra burden on your heart in the same way it would if you carry a 10 or 20 pound sack of potatoes with you everywhere you go.  To make this kind of deep impression on your psyche try that!  Buy a 10# sack of flour or potatoes and carry it with you an entire day.  Are you taking a blood pressure medication (with its attending side effects) just so you can carry an extra ten pounds that you really don't need?
  2. Exercise improves heart function.  A more efficiently beating heart reduces the pressure and how fast your heart has to beat.  A normal resting heart rate is 70-80 bpm.  A struggling cardiovascular system will show a higher rate.  A well conditioned cardiovascular system will be below that.  Many marathon runners have resting heart rates in the 50's.
  3. Eliminate refined and processed sugar.  Think of sugar as extra grit grinding against the walls of your blood vessels.  Combining sugar and high blood pressure is a serious recipe for a heart catastrophe.  Elevated sugar levels contribute to bad cholesterol more than ANY other dietary ingredient!  Bad cholesterol makes gloppy paste that the body goo-s on to damaged artery linings to protect itself.  Don't muck up your smooth, sleek arterial walls with damaging sugar and cholesterol goo!  Take the sugar out!
  4. Get your stress under control.  Exercise helps with it.  Prayer and meditation help with it.  Identifying sources of stress and eliminating those sources help.  Doing at least one FUN and ENJOYABLE activity a day helps with it.
 Four simple life tasks that do require a bit of will power, intentionality, and desire to love yourself and your family enough to do.  Is the decision that difficult, or the effort that impossible?

NatureWords for your Health,
Dr. Mark

Monday, September 10, 2012

How You Know If Your Thyroid Is Off?

Your thyroid gland is perhaps the most important metabolic organ in your body.  The thyroid makes hormones that tell your cells to make energy and replicate.  It is among the most influential organs in the body for determining weight, body temperature, heart rate, blood pressure, menstrual regularity, digestive function, and energy level.  So, when the thyroid goes bad people tend to feel it.  Hormonally, the thyroid tends to go bad one of two ways:  it either makes too much hormone or it makes too little.

Too Much Thyroid Hormone: Hyperthyroid
If your body is making too much thyroid hormone you will experience these symptoms:
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Jittery or nervous
  • Sweating easily
  • Overactive thoughts
  • Anxiety and restlessness
  • Panic attacks
  • Difficulty gaining weight
  • Feeling hot 
  • Irregular periods
Too Little Thyroid Hormone: Hypothyroid
If your body is making too little thyroid hormone you will experience these symptoms:
  • Feeling cold
  • Hair falling out and nails brittle or not growing
  • Tired and wanting to sleep a lot
  • Difficulty losing weight
  • Low blood pressure
  • Constipation
  • Dry skin
  • Heavy periods 
The symptoms listed above speak volumes as indicators that your thyroid is acting up.  There are a lot of different reasons for the thyroid to be off, but the more symptoms on a list you have the more likely your thyroid is a problem.  As long as a thyroid problem exists it will be very difficult for you to feel well until it is corrected.
The simplest home test for checking thyroid (especially for low thyroid) is to take your basal body temperature.  You do this by getting a thermometer and taking your temperature the very first thing in the morning before you get out of bed.  A low morning temperature of less than 97.5 is a near sure indicator of thyroid dysfunction.

Blood tests are available from your health care provider that look at the hormones involved in regulating your thyroid.  To give a true picture they need, at minimum, to include TSH, T4, and T3 levels.

Your health practitioner will help you choose the best options for correcting thyroid problems.

NatureWords for Your Health,
Mark Fredericksen, N.D. 


Friday, September 7, 2012

Attention Deficit Disorder

Attention Deficit Disorder is a very common mental disorder; it is more common than we can imagine or fully know.  My theory for the reason it is so common involves the dietary changes that  have infiltrated over time, beginning with food dyes, artificial preservatives, artificial sweeteners, and extending to low fat diets and antibiotics and hormones used in the meat industry.  Attention deficit disorders can sap a person's self esteem and impact one's ability to function such that feelings of worthlessness take over.  Where worthless feelings exist depression and other mood disorders are not far behind.  Where other emotional issues exist, someone should be looking at whether there is an underlying attention deficit difficulty.  If you find that you have 15 of the following 20 items there's a good chance you have some degree of attention deficit and getting it checked out more thoroughly and instigating some natural interventions would be helpful.

1.      A sense of under-achievement, of not meeting your goal, or of “not getting my act together.”
2.      Difficulty getting organized.
3.      Chronic procrastination or trouble getting started.
4.      Many projects going on simultaneously; trouble following through.
5.      Tendency to say whatever comes into your head without thinking of what effects it may have or how appropriate it is.
6.      Frequently on the search for higher stimulation.
7.      An intolerance of boredom.
8.      Easily distracted, trouble focusing attention, tendency to drift off or day dream a lot; coupled with times of super focus (if the activity is of high interest to you.)
9.      Often creative, intuitive, and highly intelligent.
10.  Trouble sticking with rules, authority, going through channels or proper procedures.
11.  Impatient, low tolerance for frustration.
12.  Impulsive – spur of the moment decisions, changes plans quickly without much thought.
13.  Worries needlessly or endlessly.
14.  Feels insecure like the bottom is going to fall out of life all the time.
15.   Mood swings.
16.  Restlessness, lots of nervous energy.
17.  Tendency toward addictions of all kinds; uses substances to calm inner jitters.
18.  Chronically lacking in self-esteem.
19.  Inaccurate observations about yourself, e.g. “I’m just a screwup (a ditz, stupid…)”
20.  Family history of ADD, substance abuse, or mental illness.
(Taken from Driven to Distraction, by Edward m. Hallowell, M.D., and John J. Ratey, M.D.)