Archives for September 2017 | Integrative functional medicine blog

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

AIP diet and Hashimotos Thyroiditis

We are continuing our short blog series on “food is medicine” with another study to show to powerful effects a diet can have on your health.

A recent
study showed a low-carbohydrate, whole foods diet low in inflammatory foods significantly decreases thyroid antibodies — the marker for autoimmune thyroid disease, or Hashimoto’s.

Let me make a side note and be clear about something. Even though Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis is often called an autoimmune thyroid disease. It is not a disease of the thyroid. It is an immune disease that affects the thyroid. There is a difference!

Hashimoto’s occurs when the immune system attacks and destroys the thyroid gland; it is the cause of about 90 percent of hypothyroid cases. This study is further evidence you can profoundly influence autoimmune Hashimoto’s through diet and lifestyle interventions.

In the three-week study, almost 200 people with Hashimoto’s were divided into two groups.

One group followed the low-carbohydrate study diet while the other followed a standard low-calorie diet.

The results were significant: Levels of several different thyroid antibodies that serve as markers for Hashimoto’s
dropped between 40 and almost 60 percent! This group also lost a little weight, not really the important part, but a nice side benefit.

Meanwhile, the group that followed a low-calorie diet
saw antibody levels go up between 9 to 30 percent!

What the study group ate to tame Hashimoto’s

The study designers chose a curious route for their research in having their subjects follow both a low-carbohydrate, anti-inflammatory diet as well as a diet low in goitrogens. Goitrogens are compounds that lower thyroid function and are found in raw cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, etc.), soy, and other foods. So for my patients (and others) that will only eat broccoli or cauliflower because they don’t LIKE other veggies, CUT IT OUT!

Before people understood the mechanisms of autoimmune
Hashimoto’s, it used to be the rule of thumb was to avoid goitrogenic foods.

However, through the evolution of functional medicine, we have learned most people with Hashimoto’s can safely eat normal amounts of cruciferous vegetables. In fact, they contain many beneficial nutrients as well as fiber. People with unresolved small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) or genetic difficulty metabolizing sulfur may not do well with these vegetables. So we don’t know how subjects would have fared in this study had they included these vegetables.

Soy, on the other hand, has been shown to lower thyroid hormone levels in studies
and is best avoided by those with Hashimoto’s.

The study diet that improved Hashimoto’s
Here is the diet the study subjects ate that lowered their thyroid antibodies:

  • Low carbohydrate diet that was 12 to 15 percent carbohydrates, 50 to 60 percent protein, and 25 to 30 percent fats. (Most people eat a diet that is at least 50 percent carbohydrates.)
I often hear the argument, “but don’t I need to eat carbs?” That’s what the food guide pyramid says right?! pppppppfffffftttt!

  • Lots of DIFFERENT vegetables. Research shows a diet high in veggies improves immune health through its impact on beneficial gut bacteria.

  • Lean meats and fish.

  • No goitrogens: cruciferous vegetables (which, if not eaten to excess, improve beneficial gut bacteria), canola, watercress, arugula, radish, horseradish, spinach, millet, tapioca, and nitrate veggies, NOT nitrites.

  • Eggs, legumes, dairy products , bread , pasta, fruit, and rice. Remember, this is what was done in the study. This is not necessarily what I would recommend and each person is different.
  • In functional medicine we know gluten and dairy exacerbate autoimmune Hashimoto’s for the most part. Eggs, legumes, and grains are inflammatory for many people as well. People with poor blood sugar stability may need to limit their fruit intake.

This study backs up and is very similar to my previous post on the AIP diet. Check that post out too. So there you have it. More evidence that food is medicine.

I’m Dr. Craig Mortensen
Be Healthy, be happy

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HA! I knew we were right about the AIP diet!

A recent study confirmed what functional medicine practitioners, like myself, have long since known —
the autoimmune paleo (AIP) diet is HIGHLY successful for
managing chronic health disorders.

first-of-its-kind study showed the majority of participants quickly achieved and maintained remission of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis on the AIP diet. A number of participants were even able to discontinue drug therapies. That’s pretty powerful and big news!

It also happens to be news some people don’t want to hear.

Many people follow the AIP diet to manage not just Crohn’s but also chronic pain, Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, IBD (irritable bowel syndrome), skin rashes such as eczema or psoriasis, high blood pressure,
depression, anxiety, brain-based disorders such as Alzheimer and Parkinsons, diabetes, autoimmune diseases in general, and other chronic health problems.

So this type of diet is proving to be a very powerful health tool.

People are surprised to find that not only do their symptoms fade but also they enjoy more energy, better sleep, weight loss, increased libido (woohoo!), less stress, and a general overall improvement of their well being.

Just goes to show you that a little sacrifice and work
with something as simple as your diet can go a loooooong way.

A primary reason the diet is so effective is because it helps repair leaky gut, a condition in which the lining of the gut becomes inflamed and porous, allowing inflammatory compounds, toxins and proteins into the bloodstream that normally shouldn’t be there. This creates inflammation throughout the body and brain and leads to a wide variety of chronic gut, metabolic, and autoimmune disorders.

Check out my gut health webinar series I have recorded on my youtube channel.
It’s also posted on my website under the videos section.

Anti-inflammatory is the key to the AIP diet

An anti-inflammatory diet focuses on whole foods and is free of inflammatory foods, additives, fillers, and artificial colors. It includes an accompanying protocol of appropriate sleep, physical activity, rest, and positive socialization and self-treatment. Certain nutritional compounds that gently cleanse and detoxify the body will boost the success of the diet, and are often necessary to fully heal and restore a leaky gut. Again, Check out my webinar series on healing the gut.

There are tons of articles and website on the AIP (Autoimmune Paleo) diet, but here are basics:

  • Eliminate all processed foods, fast foods, desserts, coffee drinks, sodas, etc. Your anti-inflammatory diet should consist of whole foods found in the produce and meat sections of the grocery store, with an emphasis on plenty of vegetables, not just fruits. Also eliminate processed vegetable oils and hydrogenated oils and stick with natural oils.

  • Eliminate common inflammatory foods, the most common culprit being gluten. Many ï people’s symptoms resolve simply on a gluten-free diet. However, dairy, eggs, soy, nuts, grain, and nightshades are commonly immune reactive as well, but it all depends on each individual person. So it’s not always necessary to eliminate all of them. Try eliminating these foods for about six weeks to see whether you react upon reintroducing them one at a time. Again, this isn’t the end all, be all to see if you are reacting to a certain food. Sometimes a food sensitivity test is required.
  • Eliminate sweets. On the anti-inflammatory diet you should avoid ALL sweeteners. This helps curb cravings, stabilize blood sugar, lower inflammation, and lose excess fat. Enjoy low-sugar fruits instead, such as berries.

  • Eat lots of vegetables. Not only do plenty of veggies load you up with vital nutrients and fiber, new research shows they create a healthy gut microbiome (no surprise there) – the bacteria in your gut that profoundly influence your immune and brain health. A diet based around veggies creates an abundant and diverse gut microbiome and thus better health.

  • Get enough sleep and exercise. Sufficient sleep is a major inflammation-buster, as is regular physical activity. Overtraining, however, can cause inflammation so watch out for that.

Boost success with gut repair and detoxification
Adding in specific nutritional compounds can help repair a damaged gut, lower inflammation, support the liver, and detoxify the system. Ask my office for more information about a detoxification and gut-repair program using the AIP diet.

I have included some links to help with some of the above mentioned issues.

Repair damaged gut - Only take this if you have done the necessary steps before.
Lowering inflammation
Liver support
Detoxification - Glutathione

TIP: Use this code Practitioner Amazon Code: DFH28841 to get an extra 10%
off Designs for health products through Amazon.

Or, order direct through
and use code FIRST25 to get 25% off your first order.

So go eat your way to better health.

I’m Dr. Craig Mortensen
Be health, be happy

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Don't touch those BPA receipts!

We’ve always known that BPA’s are bad, or at least some of us have. Now there is even more evidence backing us up.

A new
study that had subjects handle store receipts showed BPA absorbed through the skin stays in the body much longer than ingested BPA. The study had subjects handle common store receipts for five minutes, then wear gloves for two hours before washing their hands.

BPA measurements in the subjects’ urine showed BPA levels highest for the first
TWO DAYS after handling the receipts. And remember, they only handled the receipt for 5 minutes.

After one week, three of the six volunteers still showed BPA in their urine. Some studies show that the half life of BPA in the body is about 6 hours, but the half life isn’t a linear progression. It actually shows that the half life slows down and doesn’t get detoxed as fast.

Anyway, when the subjects ate a cookie with BPA, follow up urinalysis showed BPA levels spiked after five hours but was cleared after a day. The scientists concluded that the body can more quickly metabolize and clear ingested BPA than BPA absorbed through the skin. If you are looking on the bright side of things, I guess you can take this to mean that its better to use plastic to eat and drink out of than to touch it.

BPA toxicity in everyday food and beverages
BPA (bisphenol-A) is the main component of polycarbonate and is found in water and beverage bottles, plastic lids, the lining of tin cans, food storage containers, dental sealants, contact lenses, and electronics.

Store receipts aren’t the only place people come in contact with BPA. Canned foods often contain significant amounts of the chemical — the lining in a soup
can can deliver 1,000 percent more BPA than fresh soup.

Plastics beverage bottles are another common source of exposure, especially if the bottle has been exposed to heat, light, or acids (such as soda).

Plastic food containers, especially if they have been heated (like in a microwave or in a hot car), are another common source. Plastic coffee lids, straws, and any other plastics that come in contact with foods deliver BPA as well. And again, if those foods or liquids are exposed to heat (coffee) you are more likely to absorb increased amounts of BPA.

BPA on store receipts

Store receipts aren’t the only source of BPA that can be absorbed through the skin. Other sources of thermal paper that contains high amounts of BPA include fast food receipts, ATM receipts, airline tickets, gas station receipts, lottery tickets, fax paper (if anyone still uses that), etc.

So ask the cashier to toss the receipt for you. Or, if they have the ability like in my office, just have them email or text the receipt to you. That way you don’t have to touch it and you won’t ever lose it.

Although this latest study had subjects handle the receipts for five minutes, previous studies have shown handling a receipt for just 
five seconds transfers BPA through your skin and into your bloodstream. Your skin absorbs ten times as much if your fingers are wet or greasy.

You can even absorb BPA from handling cash that has been stored with receipts.

Why BPA is toxic to the body

Studies have shown BPA to be problematic to human health in various ways. It has estrogen-like properties that skew hormone balance. Also known as a xenoestrogen.

Rodent studies have shown BPA causes reproductive defects, cancer, and breakdowns in metabolic and immune health. Great stuff for the health of your kids!

BPA is especially toxic to a developing fetus, raising the risk of causing chromosomal errors, miscarriage, and genetic damage.

The chemical is also linked to poor sperm quality, early puberty, reproductive dysfunction, cancer, heart disease, 
thyroid problems, insulin resistance, and obesity OH MY!

BPA raises the risk of triggering autoimmunity

Recent studies have also shown that BPA can both trigger and exacerbate autoimmune diseases due to its disruptive effect on the immune system. It has been linked to autoimmunity to nerve sheathes, the common target of attach in multiple sclerosis, and to Hashimoto’s thyroid autoimmune disease.

BPA-free is no guarantee
Unfortunately, products listed as “BPA-free” are not a green light either. Many non-BPA plastics also contain synthetic estrogens.

Basically what they are doing is taking BP”A” and changing it to BP”S” and calling it BPA free. This is a load of B”p”S. It doesn’t mean a darn thing! It’s still toxic!

How to reduce your body burden of BPA
Reduce your exposure to BPA as much as possible by not handling receipts and avoiding plastic food and beverage containers. Additionally, help buffer the damage of BPA and other toxins by eating a whole foods diet and supplementing with nutritional compounds that support detoxification and cellular protection. I have included a few link to some products that can help you live a more toxin free life and support those natural detoxification pathways.

Stainless steel water bottles
Glass water bottles
Stainless lunch food containers
Glass food storage containers

The short list of some supplements that can assist in detoxification.
S - Acetyl - Glutathione
Alpha Lipoic Acid
Green Tea Extract
Indol 3 Carbinol

And of course, make sure your digestion is working right.
The last step of detoxification is elimination.
If you aren’t eliminating, you aren’t detoxifying.

Don’t put up with any BP “A” or “S” BS.

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

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Sunshine and Melatonin (and your sleep cycle)

It’s now common knowledge that nighttime exposure to computer, tablet, and TV screens sabotages sleep —the light they emit simulates sunlight, thus suppressing sleep hormones.
There are even special glasses that you can purchase pretty cheaply on Amazon that block the most disruptive light wavelengths.

However, plenty of daytime sunlight is vital for good sleep, and most of us don’t get near enough.

Research shows the average person spends less than an hour a day outside. Compare this to our ancestors that would literally spend all day outside.

For shift workers it’s even worse. So for all you firefighters, nurses, police officers and whoever else on those night shifts, thank you, but prob best to leave those shifts to the young ones.

That lack of exposure to sunlight inhibits production of melatonin, a hormone that triggers the sleep cycle and puts us to sleep. Also remember that Serotonin is converted into Melatonin.

So if you have a serotonin deficiency (think depression) it can make it even more difficult to get a good nights sleep. Now your tired, depressed and can’t sleep. And the cycle continues in a wonderfully perpetual cycle of never-ending torture. But, thankfully there is help!

A Finnish rat study observed one group living under fluorescent lighting (hmmm - sounds like just about every person in America right. Living in our little work boxes inside our bigger building boxes. We drive from our living box to our gym box to our shopping box to our work box, back to our house box. All to rinse and repeat the next day) Anyway, the other group was exposed only to sunlight through windows every day. While both groups received the same duration of both light and darkness during the study, the rats exposed to sunlight produced significantly more melatonin.

Also check out my previous post on melatonin and breast cancer. Very interesting!

It’s not that the artificial light was detrimental. It simply wasn’t strong enough — the sunlight was more than seven times brighter than the fluorescent light. Nature knows best!

This is what boosted melatonin production. Researchers assert that variation of light throughout the day, from dawn to dusk, also supports healthy melatonin production. Basically, it is better to have a little variation in the strength of the light like the sun rising, mid day, and late afternoon sun as opposed to the constant light from your little boxes.

During a sunny day, lux levels (which measure the intensity of light) reach 50,000. Compare this to indoor lighting, which ranges in the low to mid hundreds at the most. For most of human history we have lived with natural light and it plays a significant role in the function of the body and brain.

Why melatonin and light rhythms are so important

Anyone who has suffered through insomnia and sleep deprivation understands the importance of sufficient and quality sleep. Generally we should get at least 6 hours but preferably 8 for most people. And getting naps is a great way to help make up for a sleep deficiency, as long as they aren’t too late in the day. A short 20 - 30 minute power nap is a great way to regenerate your lagging brain function.

However, melatonin and our sleep-wake cycle (also called circadian rhythm) are intertwined with every system in the body, affecting much more than how rested or tired we feel. Tons of studies point to the importance of a healthy sleep-wake cycle for overall immune, hormonal, and mental health.

Remember, our body is like a complex spiderweb. Everything is connect to one another. I talk about this in some of my other blogs.

For instance, one study found that women suffering from PMS show chronically low melatonin levels. Just two hours a day of exposure to sunlight increased their melatonin levels and relieved their symptoms.

German study showed subjects with mood imbalances exhibited healthier serotonin levels after just one week of light therapy. And there are some pretty cheap options for some light therapy products. Check out the link for the most common light therapy lamp I recommend in my office.

Another study showed subjects experienced a 160 percent increase in melatonin at night after just a half hour of exposure to bright light from a light box.

How to get enough outdoor light in an indoor world

It’s not easy getting enough sunlight when you’re indoors all day working or going to school. But it’s vital for healthy sleep, brain function, and metabolic function to get enough light exposure. As long as its the right type of light.

Some solutions are obvious —
1. Spend as much time outside as you can (my personal favorite, but not always feasible). Eat lunch outside and go for a walk on your breaks. Maybe you can even work outside on your laptop if your job is portable. This is what I do when I’m working on patient files on my non patient days.

2. If possible, work near windows that get plenty of natural light. One
study showed employees working near a window received twice as much light as their coworkers who didn’t and hence enjoyed more sleep.

3. If sufficient exposure to natural light isn’t possible, indoor light therapy has been shown to help relieve sleep and mood imbalances.
Again, check out my link to my favorite lamp. You want to get one that is 10,000 Lux

Look for a light box that delivers plenty of lux and is big enough for sufficient exposure. The Center for Environmental Therapeutics provides criteria for purchasing a
reliable light box, which they recommend using for at least a half hour in the morning. I often recommend doing 2 - 30 minute sessions per day. Or, just leave it on all day.

So let your light shine on!

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

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The Darth (dark) side of NSAIDS - Buyer beware!

If you complain of mild to moderate pain a doctor will freely prescribe NSAIDs, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

You can even go and just buy them right over the counter at pretty much any store.

However, they are not benign as you think, especially if taken long term. I can’t tell you how many patients I see
(and kids of patients) that routinely take some sort of NSAID for pain on a daily basis. Many times even multiple times per day.

They think it’s Normal!

It’s almost like they think that their body has a deficiency in NSAIDs. Maybe so. Maybe there just isn’t enough NSAIDS in the foods or liquids they are eating and drinking. NOT!

NSAIDS are not a nutrient. If it wasn’t clear…..

I was being facetious. The first step in dealing with a person taking a steady supply or NSAIDS is to evaluate why do they need to take it.

NSAIDs are linked to numerous health complaints.

Common brands of NSAIDs include ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) and naproxen (Aleve). Celecoxib (Celebrex), diclofenac (Cataflam, Voltaren) are prescription NSAIDs. Aspirin is also an NSAID, but it doesn’t pose the same heart attack and stroke risks. So…Maybe it’s a slightly lesser of two evils. Or maybe its just evil differently, in it’s own special way ;-)

NSAIDs have been linked to many health disorders such as:

  • 40–60 percent increased risk of cardiovascular problems
  • 25 percent increased risk of hearing loss
  • 60 percent increased risk of heart failure
  • Gastrointestinal problems such as pain, heartburn, nausea, vomiting, bleeding, ulcers, and leaky gut.
  • Increased risk of asthma and eczema in children

NSAIDs increase heart attack and stroke risk

The link between NSAID use and heart attack is so well founded the FDA has issued a warning. The risk may begin within a few weeks of taking an NSAID and the longer you take NSAIDs, the higher your risk. So buyer beware!

Functional medicine and NSAIDs — leaky gut

In functional medicine, we look at another sabotaging factor of NSAIDs —the infamous, notorious, ever elusive and dreaded leaky gut. woooowoooowooo!

Leaky gut means the lining of the small intestine has become so damaged that it becomes overly porous, allowing undigested food, bacteria, yeast, and other pathogens into the bloodstream from the gut.

This triggers inflammation and pain throughout the body,
exactly the sort of thing people use NSAIDs to relieve

Not to mention that leaky gut is very tightly associated with autoimmune issues.
See my page on autoimmunity and I have some other blogs as well.

Functional medicine alternatives to NSAIDs

Nobody wants to be pain. It’s understandable to seek relief so you can feel and function better. However, many people are surprised to find their chronic pain diminishes substantially when they adopt functional medicine basics.

Following are a few ways functional medicine can relieve pain and eliminate the need for NSAIDs:

Numero uno: Eat an anti-inflammatory diet. This means removing foods that trigger inflammation, which for many people is gluten and dairy. Grains, legumes, eggs, sugar, and nightshades are other common culprits. After following the diet strictly for a period of time you can customize it so it’s more liberal but does not trigger pain. There is also the option of doing a food allergy and/or food sensitivity test to really narrow your particular food tolerances or intolerances down. You can check out the link for a page containing some common tests I use.

Numero Dose: Take plenty of nutrients that combat inflammation and pain. These include vitamin D (some people have a genetic variance that prevents sufficient vitamin D uptake), other fat-soluble vitamin (A, E, and K), nutrients to boost the primary antioxidant glutathione, and omega 3 fatty acids.

Numero Tres: Look for natural remedies for inflammation and pain. There are many alternatives, such as liposomal turmeric and resveratrol.

Numero Quatro: Balance blood sugar. Many people have blood sugar that is too high, too low, or a combination of both. Balancing blood sugar is critical to reduce inflammation and pain.

Keep in mind that there may be a variety of different issues that may be holding you back, and if you need help give my office a call. But these are some great ways to help reduce your “need” for those NSAIDS you love so much.

Remember, they are NOT loving you back!

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

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