Archives for July 2017 | Integrative functional medicine blog

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

Are artificial sweeteners the best weight loss tool of all time? ;-)

Are artificial sweeteners the best
weight loss tool of all time? ;-)

If you use artificial sweeteners to avoid gaining weight, you’re not only wasting your time but also possibly (actually let’s make that probably) causing future health problems, according to a bunch of recent studies. As always, I recommend doing a Pubmed search to get the details. But it might make you a little depressed, or maybe mad.

A few of these studies have found that not only do aspartame and sucralose NOT prevent weight gain, they also raise the risk of diseases in people who use them regularly.

Some research even shows long term use of artificial sweeteners leads to
weight gain.

That is actually BRILLIANT marketing.

Let’s make a product and say it is supposed to help with something and actually make it do the opposite of what it’s supposed to do. It becomes a vicious cycle!

Recent research shows about a quarter of children and more than 40 percent of adults in the United States consume artificial sweeteners daily. A very sad statistic but also interesting when its estimated that over 20% of children are now obese and almost exactly 40% of adults are obese.

So that kind of begs the question. Are they obese because of these products or do they consume these products because they are obese? My answer is YES.

Some people eat them purposefully in the mistaken belief that is better for their health. Many others, however, are unwittingly consuming them in everyday food products. And, many times they are cleverly disguised.

Artificial sweeteners hiding in many foods

Artificial sweeteners are hiding in many foods unbeknownst to most people. These products are not always clearly labeled and some are even labeled with misleading claims such as “natural ingredients.” Clever little buggers!

While we expect to find artificial sweeteners in foods labeled “light,” “reduced sugars,” “diet,” and “sugar-free,” they also show up in “smart” popcorn, granola bars, yogurt, and even a popular pediatric electrolyte drink that rhymes with “poopyflight”.

Artificial sweeteners linked to obesity; disease

Studies also suggest long term use of artificial sweeteners leads to weight gain and chronic diseases such as diabetes, and heart disease.

Participants in a randomized trial who used artificial sweeteners as part of their weight loss program were shown to have an
increase in their body mass index, a 14 percent higher chance of developing type 2 diabetes, and a 32 percent higher chance of developing heart disease. Sounds like a winner to me!

Lobbyists for the artificial sweetener industry and researchers agree other variables need to be considered and more research needs to be done. Of course they do. They are never going to say its bad for you.
But I will!

Why artificial sweeteners cause weight gain

One reason it’s believed these fake sweeteners lead to weight gain and obesity-related health risks is because they trigger sugar cravings that a person eventually gives into and actually causes them to eat more “food” that you shouldn’t be eating.

Another theory suggests that consuming foods with artificial sweeteners leads a person to feel “virtuous” and thus justified in overindulging later. They think that because they ate this “lite” or that “sugar-free” thing that now they can splurge since they ate soooo healthy before.

Animal studies show artificial sweeteners
trick the brain into thinking you’ve eaten sugar, which can trigger inflammatory cascades and disease.

Artificial sweeteners also alter the
gut microbiome in a way that promotes obesity, diabetes, inflammation and more weight gain. And we all know the gut is the keystone to good health right? Or at least now you do.

Functional medicine approach to sweeteners

So what’s a gal or guy to do? I’m so glad you asked.

Number one, just don’t use them. If you are going to go after something sweet, my moto is like the Nike moto, “just do it”. Go get the real stuff. Keep it limited and under control but use
sugar, brown sugar, maple syrup, raw sugar, organic raw honey, or agave. I have included a link to some of the most common ones I use and recommend. This is not a recommendation to use these everyday.

As a little side note on sweeteners, I’m personally not a huge fan of Stevia either. I’m not necessarily against it right now, but I just haven’t seen enough evidence or studies on it. Not to mention it is a biofilm disruptor that can be used in the treatment of gut issues and even Lyme disease. Check out my
GI webinar series for a little more info on that subject.

In functional medicine, we see time and time again that people naturally lose their cravings for sugar and starchy carbs when they eat a whole foods diet that stabilizes blood sugar, lowers inflammation, and promotes brain health.

You won’t feel drawn to regular use of artificial sweeteners when you have no cravings for sweets in the first place. Ask my office how we can help.

I’m Dr. Craig Mortensen
Be healthy, be happy!

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The risks of having low blood pressure. (and taking blood pressure medications)

The risks of having low blood pressure.
(and taking blood pressure medications)

Most people worry about high blood pressure, and with good reason as it portends numerous health risks, such as the possibility of an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes.


Low blood pressure brings a different set of problems, such as reduced
brain function and increased mortality risk. If the upper or lower number deviates by more than 10 from 120/80, it pays to be aware low blood pressure may be affecting your health.

Think of it like this.

The function of your blood pressure is to push the blood out of your blood vessels by permeating out of them to the rest of the body. High blood pressure is often a compensatory response to something that is going on in the body. If you cover up the end response of your body you can get other symptoms. Such as, a very common side effect of blood pressure medications is brain fog or mental “unclarity”. Which really makes perfect sense. Your brain is now not getting the blood (or oxygen) it needs to function, which equals……uhhhhhhhh? What?

As a side note I often find that in the elderly, if they have not taken care of themselves and their arteries are already starting to harden, this will lead to decreased permeability of the blood vessels.
As a result, blood pressure goes up to compensate and get blood to the brain. If you lower blood pressure too much, you no think too much! ;-)

Blood pressure pushes blood through about 100,000 miles of veins, arteries, and capillaries in the body, carrying oxygen, nutrients, immune cells, hormones, neurotransmitters, and other vital compounds.

High blood pressure strains blood vessels.
However, low blood pressure means not enough blood is getting to capillaries and tissues, particularly in your hands, feet, and brain. This deprives those tissues of sufficient oxygen and nutrients. You may have chronic nail fungal infections and cold hands and feet if so. These can also be signs of an immune system that is deficient as well. So it pays to check both.


Adrenal fatigue as a cause of low blood pressure

The most common cause of low blood pressure (other than taking blood pressure medications) in a functional medicine model is poor adrenal function.

The adrenals are two walnut-sized glands that sit atop the kidneys. They produce stress hormones and help regulate blood pressure. Many people today suffer from adrenal fatigue due to chronic stress. Other causes of adrenal fatigue are poor diets, low blood sugar, chronic infections, gut problems, inflammation, and unmanaged autoimmunity — all stressors.
Adrenal fatigue symptoms include chronic tiredness, low blood sugar, losing function between meals, getting sick all the time, and low blood pressure.

Part of the way that this happens is that with adrenal fatigue it is not uncommon for it to cause your potassium to go up to go up and your sodium levels to go down in the later stages, leading to even lower blood pressure. This is why sometimes I will recommend certain people with adrenal fatigue salt all of their food with liberal amounts of healthy salt (restrictions apply - primarily either
sea salt or Himalayan salt). This is not for everyone but it can be a very effective means of increasing blood pressure so as not to contribute to the chronic cycle of the adrenal fatigue loop.

Orthostatic hypotension when you stand up

Orthostatic hypotension is a common type of low blood pressure that causes lightheadedness when you go from sitting to standing. This happens because the blood pools in the legs upon standing, slowing blood flow back to the heart and thus the brain. You will be diagnosed with orthostatic hypotension when the top number of your blood pressure falls by 20 and the bottom number by 10 upon standing.

Although orthostatic hypotension is a red flag you need to address your low blood pressure, it becomes more dangerous when it makes you faint or fall. Orthostatic hypotension is commonly found in those with low blood pressure and low blood sugar (hypoglycemic) but people with high blood pressure can have it too.

Functional medicine tips for low blood pressure

If you have signs and symptoms of low blood pressure and adrenal fatigue, consider an adrenal saliva test. This test measures levels of the adrenal hormone cortisol throughout the day. This gives you a more precise therapy target and follow-up testing will let you know if your protocols are on the right track.

Everyone knows a person with high blood pressure should avoid salt, but adding some good quality sea salt to your diet may help boost low blood pressure. In fact, you may be one of those people who craves salt.

A nutritional compound that can help raise low blood pressure is
licorice root extract, or glycyrrhiza, which can extend the life of cortisol in the body and improve blood volume and electrolyte balance.

There are also certain herbs called adaptogenic herbs that will help you regulate healthy cortisol levels in the body. I have included a link to a few of my favorites:
Cortisol calm by pure encapsulations, Cortisol Manager by Integrative Therapuetics, and of course certain essential oils such as Lavender, Rose, and Chamomile essential oils or tea.

Of course,
it’s important to address what is causing adrenal fatigue. Adrenal fatigue is always secondary to something else.

One of the most common causes is eating a diet that causes low blood sugar. Eating a good breakfast, skipping sweets and sweet drinks, minimizing starchy foods, and eating regularly enough to sustain blood sugar are helpful strategies. Of course it is often a lot more involved than that though.

For more advice on supporting healthy adrenal function and blood pressure, contact my office.

I’m Dr. Craig Mortensen
Be healthy, Be happy.

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Why are women flocking to Functional Medicine Doctors?

Why are women flocking to functional medicine doctors?

Women are attracted to functional medicine like a moth to a flame. In fact, my practice is approximately 75 - 80 percent women. And there are a bunch of reasons why. Primarily, they need it!

It doesn’t take long once you learn about functional medicine to realize it attracts primarily women.


Well, the first and most evident is that chronic disorders affect more women than men and conventional medicine’s treatment of women often ranges from disappointing to dehumanizing. In fact it is estimated that women are 4 times more likely to suffer from some type of chronic disease than men.
Let’s not mention the fact that women tend to make better patients than men. No offense guys, but for how much we tend to be the “fix it” guy or mentality. When it comes to actually fixing ourselves or our health, men suck at it.

For one, a lot of times guys don’t like someone telling them what to do. And secondly, with the way our society is and even more so with guys, if you don’t get an immediate reaction or result then we tend not to stick with it. Well, I have news for you,

That not how getting healthy works.
You will not get healthy by popping and pill.

Conventional medicine failing women
When women show up at doctors’ offices with “mystery” symptoms from chronic disorders they are often left feeling demoralized and hopeless.

So what are some of areas where conventional medicine fails women? AND unfortunately this is by no means a comprehensive list, which is very sad!

Mystery symptoms dismissed as psychosomatic or whining.
Autoimmune disease overwhelmingly afflicts more women than men and can cause years and even decades of symptoms before diagnosis. Many women are told to exercise more, meditate, or take anti-depressants for their symptoms but given no real solutions.

Another all to common comment I hear with many types of conditions but particularly with autoimmune disease it “your symptoms/condition is not bad enough, come back when they get worse or progress and then we will do something about it. “

Thats just crazy talk! Essentially what this breaks down to is that you might be in the early stage of an autoimmune disease but not technically “have” the disease. They are saying wait until you actually have it and then come see me.


Told to exercise more for chronic fatigue.
Chronic fatigue affects four times as many women as men. However, these women are often simply told to exercise as many doctors don’t believe in chronic fatigue, even though it is now medically recognized. These women often end up feeling worse. There can be many different reasons for chronic fatigue, from adrenal fatigue, low iron, low thyroid, malnutrition, Gut dysfunction, and parasites to name a few. These should at least be explored don’t you think?

Pain in women undertreated.
Studies show doctors are slower to treat pain in female patients in emergency rooms and generally undertreat women for pain.
Fibromyalgia, a disorder of chronic pain, also affects mostly women and is often regarded as not legitimate.
In fact, some researchers believe disorders such as fibromyalgia and autoimmunity are so frequently belittled and dismissed
because they affect predominantly women.

Poorer response to female heart disease.
Women have worse outcomes from heart attacks because medicine looks at male-based heart symptoms. For instance, many women do not have chest pain, it can often present as stomach pain similar to gallbladder problems. As a result, treatment is often less aggressive than necessary.

Hospital childbirth practices traumatic.
If there is one place where many women lose their faith in medicine, it is during a hospital childbirth. Women are often pressured into unnecessary procedures or left hung out to dry emotionally in the event of a problem or emergency. As a result, many leave the hospital with postpartum PTSD.
Female sexual abuse survivors also experience worse outcomes in these scenarios.

Male-based studies don’t translate to female patients.
Most medical models are based on male physiology. As a result, many signs and symptoms that present differently in women go misdiagnosed or dismissed. Autism and heart attacks are two examples.

Plus, women experience chronic diseases such as autoimmunity, fibromyalgia, and hypothyroidism at significantly higher rates than men and thus are often told their symptoms are “in their head.” Making a comment like this is the last thing anyone, let alone a doctor should say. You should never minimize a patients symptoms. They don’t know what someone else is feeling.

Functional medicine for women
Lets be honest, women are more delicate in general. And this is partly because there is a lot more going on inside a women than a man. More moving parts equals more things to potentially go wrong. They have monthly cycles in hormones which is a delicate balance or dance of hormones, they are built to carry babies, they tend to be smaller so outside forces such as toxins can affect them easier, and since their brains are wired differently than men, stresses affect them differently. And this is the short list.

Fortunately, in functional medicine we conduct comprehensive histories, examinations, and testing with all patients regardless of gender. Some of the testing that we routinely send clients for might include blood, urine, stool, hair, saliva, and anything or everything else that might be needed.

We specialize in working with chronic so-called “mystery” disorders that predominantly affect women and are explained in the scientific literature.

One thing we frequently hear from women is how good it feels to finally be heard.
Ask my office how we can help you.

I’m Dr. Craig Mortensen
Be healthy, be happy!

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