Archives for April 2017 | Integrative functional medicine blog

"Any fool can Know. The point is to understand" - Albert Einstein

Going gluten free may not be as healthy as you thought! Chew on this wrench!

Going gluten free may not be as healthy as you thought!

Gluten free is all the rage theses days. Every one and their grandmother is doing it. It’s sooo cool. All the popular kids are doing it. You should be too!

And there are some really valid reasons for going gluten free, which is too big of a topic for this short little blog/vlog. But, for most people I’m a big fan of going gluten free.

However, most people are doing the whole gluten free thing all wrong, and I’m throwing a big fat wrench into how healthy your gluten free diet may be. In fact, for some people going gluten free can be one of the most unhealthy things they do.

Walk into any health food store and you will see all types of new foods and food variations that are gluten free.

How do they make all those breads, crackers, pastas, cereals, etc. gluten free?

One simple ingredient. RICE!

Gluten-free folks accustomed to eating rice-based gluten-free breads, pastas, cereals, and other substitutes may be consuming dangerously high levels of arsenic.

In fact, a 2017 study showed people consuming rice-based products on a regular basis showed almost twice as much arsenic in their urine compared to those who did not (and 70 percent more mercury, another troublesome finding.)

Why arsenic is harmful

Arsenic is a naturally occurring heavy metal. It is the inorganic arsenic (not bound to carbon) that is toxic to humans if levels ingested are too high.

Although inorganic arsenic occurs naturally, it also accumulates in soil and water due to pesticides and fertilizers. Because rice grows in water, it is the grain highest in arsenic.

Consistent exposure to small amounts of arsenic increases the risk of bladder, lung, and skin cancer, as well as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and neurological disorders. Consuming arsenic during pregnancy may affect the baby’s immune system.

Consumer Reports found one serving of rice pasta, rice cereal, and rice milk exceeded a safe amount of arsenic for one week while one serving of rice cakes came close.

The FDA recently proposed a limit of 100 parts per billion of arsenic in infant rice cereal.

However, it’s impossible to know how much arsenic is safe to consume as risk is dose dependent; the more you consume the higher the risk.

Personally, I think ZERO is a good number. I don’t want my kids getting exposed to any arsenic if I can help it.

How to minimize arsenic exposure from rice

These troubling truths about arsenic exposure through rice don’t have to spell doom for gluten-free folks who depend on rice-based substitutes.

For starters, look for products made from other grains besides rice. Thankfully, there are many more on the market these days. But you will still have a hard time finding one that fulfills all your health requirements. Sometimes you may need to make slight trade offs.

Look at where your rice comes from.

In 2014 Consumer Reports found that rice from Arkansas, Louisiana, or Texas had the highest concentrations of inorganic arsenic
while California rice has almost 40 percent less arsenic.

Brown basmati rice from California, India, or Pakistan has a third less inorganic arsenic than other brown rices.

Unfortunately, because the arsenic comes from the water, organic rice may not be lower in arsenic.

Consider white rice.

Since arsenic tends to accumulate in the outer layers that are removed to turn brown rice into white, white rice contains less of the toxin than the whole grain. But, as I outline below this may contribute to making the whole high glycemic index issue worse.

Rinse your rice thoroughly and cook in excess water.

Wash your rice thoroughly before cooking and then cook your rice in a ratio of about six cups of water to one cup of rice and drain the excess water after. This cuts down arsenic levels by about one third compared to letting rice absorb all the water during cooking.

Consider a grain-free diet. (Probably the best route for most people)

Many people feel and function significantly better on a grain-free diet. If you don’t eat rice-based products, excessive arsenic exposure is one less thing to worry about in a world where we are constantly at battle with toxic chemicals and heavy metals.
Ask my office for more ways to protect yourself from toxic chemicals and heavy metals.

P.S. - Another reason why the typical gluten free diet can be bad is because with all this substituting certain gluten free foods for other things, particularly breads, crackers, cereals and pasta type foods, they tend to be higher glycemic index.

The glycemic index is a measure of how quickly a food turns into sugar. This makes it more likely that those eating this type of diet will develop or worsen diabetes. So it seems as though you are doomed if you do and doomed if you don’t.

Health can often be a complex and tricky endeavor. If you need help restoring or maintaining your health please give my office a call to set up an appointment.

Until next time,
Be healthy, be happy,

Dr. Craig Mortensen

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Hemorrhoids bumming you out? Get to the bottom of the cause. Beware of puns!

Going to the bathroom or living with hemorrhoids can often feel a little like this picture. Not too pleasant. Let me start by giving you a little warning about puns, yeah I’m going to be using a few of them. So just turn the other cheek and lets put it behind us.

It’s an embarrassing subject we like to put behind us, but
hemorrhoids can be a real bummer, with the pain of sitting butting into everyday tasks. (See, told you! Lots of puns) Although hemorrhoids tend to run in families, certain measures can prevent your backside from continually taking front and center.

Hemorrhoids are swollen and inflamed veins in the anus and rectum that cause pain from sitting, squatting, going to the bathroom, and other ordinary things. In addition to pain, other symptoms include bleeding, the urge for a bowel movement, itching, and irritation.
645 hemorrhoids bumming you out
Common root causes of hemorrhoids

Fortunately, the most common cause of hemorrhoids is also the most preventable — a diet low in fiber. Most Americans eat less than half the daily recommended amount of fiber. And that recommendation has gone up — from 5–7 servings a day to 7–10. (A serving is a half cup of vegetables and fruits or a cup of leafy greens.)

Upping your fiber intake may be all that’s required for relief. Ideas to make eating more veggies easier include:

  • Prepping and storing veggies to add to meals
  • Ordering salads with meals when eating out
  • Making big batches of veggies soups and stews
  • Keeping a container “salad bar” in your fridge
  • Veggie smoothies
  • Snacking on raw veggies
Make sure to drink plenty of water and exercise regularly, both which are important for constipation prevention. Exercising acts to help stimulate movement of the bowels, it literally helps to kinda shake things out and stimulates what is known as peristalsis (the milking type movement of the bowels that moves things along).

If eating lots of vegetables causes gastric discomfort, you may need to take
digestive enzymes with your meals. I know, I know, but which digestive enzymes do you take? It all depends. The two main varieties are with or without HCL (basically stomach acid). I will cover this in another blog coming up soon. Or you may have compromised digestion that require gut healing. Ask my office about ways to help repair your gut function.

Still constipated?

If you eat plenty of fiber and are still constipated, then you may have to investigate other possible root causes.


For instance, the autoimmune disease
Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism is known to cause constipation. Properly managing Hashimoto’s by addressing immune imbalances is fundamental to relieving constipation and hemorrhoids. Think of thyroid hormone as the activity hormone, it gives us energy (including the digestive system). This is particularly true when we are talking about T3. In thyroid disease people tend to have low levels of T3 leading to decreased energy and activity of the body, and in this case particularly the digestive system. If you tend to have very slow digestion and no matter how good your diet is you just can’t seem to get regular with how often you go the the bathroom, then you might need to investigate a possible thyroid issue.


Poor brain function can cause constipation and hemorrhoids. If your brain is aging too fast or under functions, the
vagus nerve, which runs between the brain and the gut, does not receive sufficient activation. An active vagus nerve signals the intestines to rhythmically contract and move food along in a timely manner. In fact, irresolvable constipation is an early symptom of Parkinson’s disease (although constipation does not always predict Parkinson’s).

Also, poor vagus nerve and brain function inhibit secretion of digestive juices and enzymes, which lead to constipation, as well as fail to keep the tissues and blood vessels of the rectum and anus healthy so as to avoid hemorrhoids. By now most people (at least in the health world) have heard of the “gut brain connection” or that the gut is often referred to as at the second brain. This can sometimes lead to the argument is the gut causing the brain stuff or is the brain stuff causing the gut stuff? My answer is a resounding “YES”. They are both true. Like any other system of the body, you cannot separate one part form another. You always have to look at everything. It’s the functional medicine way!

Fortunately, we can jumpstart the vagus nerve with
exercises such as gargling vigorously and frequently, singing loudly, or stimulating the gag reflex. You might sound or feel a little funny doing the excursuses but they really do help improve function.


An inflamed, leaky gut with too much bad gut bacteria (dysbiosis) contributes to constipation. The gut has its own nervous system, called the enteric nervous system. When gut health is bad, the enteric nervous system does not function properly and constipation can result.

Additionally, poor gut health and bad gut bacteria impact brain health in a way that can, thanks to the communication highway of the vagus nerve, set the stage for constipation and hemorrhoids due to faulty brain-gut interaction.

Toilet pedestals and non-surgical treatments

If you haven’t caught wind of the “Squatty Potty” movement yet, take notice. Elevating your feet when you’re on the toilet so that you’re closer to a squatting position is said to help prevent constipation and hemorrhoids. Also, be aware of non-surgical solutions for hemorrhoids, such as in-office treatments that use an electrical current.

A variety of factors can cause hemorrhoids, however it’s always important to address diet and health of the digestive tract, brain, and immune system when looking to manage the underlying cause.
Ask my office for more advice.

Until next time, its been lots of pun!
Be healthy, be happy,

Dr. Craig Mortensen

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Keep your body in detox tip-top shape.

time to detox

Detoxing is all the rage these days in the healthcare industry. And for good reason. If you are trying to be healthy or get healthy, the first step is getting rid off all the extra junk that is getting in the way.

It’s nice to think eating organic food and using “green” household and body products keeps us toxin-free. While those measures certainly help, the sad truth is we are nevertheless inundated with unprecedented levels of toxins in our air, water, food, and everyday environment.

As of 2014 is was estimated that there were some 80,000 different chemicals used in industrial production and processes. To add injury to insult, there are 1,000 new chemicals added to that list every year. Pretty sad.

There are numerous studies linkining toxins with a myriad of health disorders, including autoimmunity, cancer, brain disorders, obesity, hormonal imbalances, and more.

If you don’t believe me or would like some more information all you have to do is go to and do a search for the specific toxin you are interested in. It makes for some good horror nighttime reading. I guarantee you won’t be able to sleep.

Studies show humans carry hundreds of toxins in their bodies. The only reason it isn’t more is because of limits as to how many are tested. We simply don’t have the ability to test that many things. Children contain a higher body burden of toxins and toxins are found in umbilical cord blood and breast milk.

Though this is depressing, understanding the situation can help you better protect your body from the tens of thousands of synthetic chemicals in our environment.

I’ll be honest, sometimes after going to a conference I will sometimes be a little discouraged at the state of our (worlds) health. I seriously question how long humans will be able to successfully reproduce without some type of severe medical intervention.


Be aware of chemical sensitivity

Of course, we’d like our toxin levels to be as low as possible. However, it’s even more important that you do not react to toxins. People develop sensitivities to toxins the same way they do to gluten, dairy, or other foods.

A sensitivity to a chemical or heavy metal contributes to autoimmune disease, food sensitivities, and and an overall decline in health. Plus, since it’s difficult to impossible to avoid toxins, a sensitivity to them will leave you with an ongoing immune battle.

Weathering a toxic environment

Studies have turned up ample disturbing evidence on the effects of toxins on human health, and tens of thousands have not yet been studied. Nor do we understand how these toxins may work in combination.

Although there is no way to completely escape (the deepest parts of the
ocean contain high levels of toxins), there are ways you can protect your body from toxins and prevent chemical sensitivities.

Clinical Pearl: Many toxins are lipophilic, meaning they like fat. So, if you are overweight or have a little extra here or there then you have a tendency to have more toxins in your system. i.e. - lose the weight.

Take these first steps to help you detoxify

Start with your diet.

Foods and beverages, even organic ones, contain toxins because of how prevalent they are in the environment. So avoid the obvious offenders of artificial additives and foods that contain pesticides, hormones, and antibiotics.

Also, look up the
dirty dozen and stay away from those.

Beyond that, the goal is a balanced immune system. This requires eating a diet that stabilizes blood sugar (no sugars or sweeteners, not too high on carbohydrates, and avoid skipping meals, over eating, or under eating.)

It also requires following a diet that does not trigger an immune response. This is different for everyone although gluten and dairy are the most common offenders.

Resveratrol and curcumin

Toxins trigger inflammation and damage cells. Studies show high doses of resveratrol and curcumin can help buffer the body from the damage of toxins, especially if you take them together in a liposomal form.


Glutathione is the body’s MASTER antioxidant that protects the cells from damage. Low glutathione raises your risk of chemical sensitivities and suffering damage from toxins. Nutrients that boost glutathione levels include n-acetyl-cysteine, cordyceps, Gotu Kola, milk thistle, L-glutamine, and alpha lipoic acid. Straight oral glutathione doesn’t work well, but liposomal, reduced, and s-acetyl glutathione are absorbed. Glutathione can also be delivered via IV, suppositories, or a nebulizer. There are a lot of different choices and they tend to work in slightly different ways. Regardless, get on at least one of them.

Boost detoxification

Another strategy against toxins is to improve your body’s detoxification. This can mean supporting the liver, lymph glands, kidneys, and bowel motility (so you’re not constipated). An inability to excrete toxins makes you more inflamed and raises your overall body burden.

Clinical Pearl: The last step in detoxification is elimination (bowel movement). So if you are not going to the the bathroom regularly or don’t have healthy digestion you will definitely will not be detoxifying properly.

Nutrients that support the liver pathways include
methyl B12 (very helpful for those that are MTHFR positive), selenium(also good for thyroid support), molybdenum, dandelion root (also great for liver and gallbladder function), milk thistle (liver protection), trimethylglycine, Panax ginseng, and MSM.

Ask my office about how best to protect yourself from environmental toxins.

Be healthy, be happy,

Dr. Craig Mortensen

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