Hydrochloric acid (HCl) and enzymes for digestion

hydrocholic acid digestive enzymes

Do you suffer from acid reflux, indigestion, slow gut transit time, or feeling like there’s a brick in your stomach after eating? Or perhaps you’re on a restricted diet for a chronic health condition but still react to an ever shrinking list of foods. If so, you need to work on restoring digestion.

Many factors affect digestion, including aging, poor brain function that affects gut function, poor diet, and more. Often the problem often isn’t the food itself, but a hyper sensitive immune system reacting to food proteins that are not broken down properly. Thankfully, you can improve your symptoms greatly with proper supplementation.

Breakdown of food proteins is key for good digestion

For good digestion, you need sufficient hydrochloric acid (HCl) and digestive enzyme activity in the gut. These both serve the important function of breaking down food proteins, which prevents the immune system from targeting them and causing symptoms.

HCl is naturally present in the stomach and is vital for digestion of proteins. Low HCl symptoms include:

  • Not feeling well after eating meat
  • Feeling like meat sits in their stomach too long
  • Feeling like they ate a brick
  • Acid reflux
  • Constipation

It may sound contrary that low stomach acid can cause acid reflux. In fact, many people with acid reflux-like symptoms are mistakenly prescribed acid-blockers intended to cut stomach acid, when in fact it’s low stomach acid causing the problem — the low stomach acid results in undigested food becoming rancid and moving back up the esophagus to cause the pain and burning sensation. What these people need is additional HCl to improve digestion.

Many people with poor digestion also have poor pancreatic enzyme output. Similar to stomach acid, these enzymes are critical to break apart food proteins so the immune system doesn’t react to them, causing inflammation.

Supplement with HCl and digestive enzymes for healthy digestion

Supplementing with HCl and digestive enzymes can go a long way toward improving your digestion by supporting breakdown of food proteins as well as relieving symptoms.

Follow this advice when supplementing with HCl and digestive enzymes:

  • HCl: Supplement with HCl when you eat meats to help break down the proteins better. This will not only improve your digestion but also bring you relief from uncomfortable symptoms.
  • Digestive enzymes: Take these with all meals; include pepsin, bromelain  and proteases. Look for a high-quality, broad-spectrum digestive enzyme supplement with a minimum of fillers.

Oral tolerance and digestive function

It’s particularly important for people with food sensitivities to support food protein breakdown with proper levels of HCl and digestive enzymes. At the root of this is the concept of oral tolerance  Oral tolerance is how well a person’s immune system can tolerate acceptable foods while responding appropriately to bacteria or other harmful compounds.

While there are other factors that affect oral tolerance, it’s important for food proteins to be broken down small enough that the body accepts them and doesn’t mount an immune reaction causing symptoms.

You’ve heard the phrase, “You are what you eat.” When we can’t digest food properly, it means our bodies aren’t getting the fuel to function at their best. If you suffer from symptoms of poor digestion or food sensitivities, contact my office.

Functional neurology versus conventional neurology

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How does functional neurology differ from conventional neurology? Conventional neurology diagnoses neurological disorders that can be treated with pharmaceutical or surgery. Functional neurology, on the other hand, identifies a broader range of brain disorders and restores function through rehabilitation that either dampens or activates specific regions of the brain.

A good example is migraines. Many people see neurologists for debilitating migraines. However, virtually every person who suffers with chronic migraines has a normal brain scan. As a result, conventional neurology has little too offer beyond pharmaceuticals. In other words, the neurons are there, they just aren’t firing correctly.

The same can be said for other brain disorders. Autism, depression, anxiety, insomnia, chronic fatigue, chronic pain, hyper sensitivity to light and pain, emotional instability, loss of memory, gut problems, childhood developmental disorders, autism, brain injury, memory loss, vertigo, tremors, dystonia, are examples of brain-based disorders functional neurology can help.

An analogy for brain function is a symphony orchestra. Before the performance, the musicians tuning their instruments sounds jarring. However, when the instruments are tuned and the musicians play at the appropriate time, the result is lovely.

Our brain works the same way. Firing and timing that are off in the brain causes symptoms while restoring function through rehabilitation improves neurological harmony.

Functional neurology and underlying causes

Neither drugs nor surgery are appropriate or effective for many brain-based disorders.

For one thing, medications are not selective for one area of the brain, but instead they bathe the entire brain. Depression may be related to dysfunction in just the frontal lobe, but an anti-depressant affects the entire brain and may cause negative side effects.

Another example is a patient with Meniere’s disease, which causes dizziness, ringing ears, and nausea. They may be told they need anti-nausea or anti-vertiginous medication and surgery to sever the nerve in the inner ear. However, Meniere’s is an autoimmune disease caused by the immune system attacking and destroying the inner ear.

Functional neurology looks at not only the underlying causes of an over zealous immune system, but also at the areas of the brain that are responsible for interpreting this information. The combination of these two can provide relief and slow or halt progression of the disease.

Functional neurology exams and protocols

Functional neurology uses a variety of techniques to assess which areas of the brain are breaking down. An important aspect of the functional neurology exam includes observing your eyes in response to various stimuli; eye function involves almost every part of the brain.

How your eyes respond when tracking fast movements, slow movements, and when you are rotating or balancing delivers specific insights into brain function and what kinds of rehabilitation will work best.

Other exam techniques involve observing your response to balance, coordination, gait, and rotation challenges. The discipline requires a strong understanding of neurological anatomy, physiology, function, and the various pathways and networks in the nervous system.

The functional neurologist uses the data from your exam to create brain rehabilitation exercises that activate sluggish areas of the brain or dampen over active areas.

For instance, a person with anxiety, insomnia, hyper sensitivity to light and sound, and who startles easily may suffer from degeneration of the cerebellum (at the back of the brain) that is causing the midbrain (in the lower center of the brain) to become over active, resulting in PTSD-like symptoms.

This is a broad overview of functional neurology basics. For more information, contact my office.

Suffer from chronic health issues? Eat real food!

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  eat real food copyWhen you’re starting on a new health journey, knowing what to eat can seem confusing. For starters, there is a ton of conflicting advice out there, with proponents of each diet insisting their diet is the healthiest.

The truth is, the best diet depends on which one works best for you. Factors that determine this include your individual food sensitivities, digestive health, blood sugar handling, and stress handling.

In functional medicine we follow general guidelines that focus on whole foods, removing foods to which you are intolerant, and stabilizing blood sugar. Beyond that, your history, lab tests, and current condition serve as guides in customizing your diet.

A custom diet plan starts with real food

With customization tips in mind, one basic rule still applies across the board: Eat whole foods.

When you eliminate foods that have been through processing (like breakfast cereal or chips), foods with artificial colorings, additives, and preservatives, and foods laden with industrialized fats and too much sugar, you are already on solid ground nutritionally.

This means sticking largely to the produce, meat, and nut sections in the grocery store. Use healthy, natural fats such as coconut oil and olive oil. Avoid vegetable oils, which are unstable and become inflammatory free radicals in your body.

Avoid hydrogenated oil as it has been shown to damage brain cells and raise heart disease risk.

You have to develop new habits to shop for and prep vegetables, cook healthy meats, and wean yourself off sodas, pizza pockets, chips, and other quick-grab items. But you’ll start feeling so much better you won’t mind. In fact, you’ll likely feel enthusiastic about it.

When eating real food is difficult

Some people favor processed food because they have trouble digesting real foods. This is a red flag digestion is seriously compromised.

For instance, if your stomach feels heavy after eating meat, as if it just sits there and does not digest, your stomach may be low in hydrochloric acid (HCl). HCl is necessary to digest meats and it’s a common deficiency.

In functional medicine, we know that a diet that consists primarily of produce is very beneficial. However, the dramatic increase in fiber from eating more fresh fruits and vegetables causes digestive problems in some people.

Factors that make eating produce difficult include an overgrowth of the wrong bacteria  low HCl, insufficient output of pancreatic enzymes, inflammation of the gut lining, and other digestive issues.

These people need to work on restoring gut health and slowly ease into eating more vegetables.

Blood sugar and stress handling

Most Americans eat too many carbohydrates and sugars, which contributes significantly to inflammation and chronic disease. At the same time, not everyone fares well on a very low-carb diet.

People with chronically low blood sugar and adrenal fatigue need to eat smaller meals more frequently to protect their brain health, whereas others find eating three meals per day optimal.

Some people feel great on a very low-carb, or ketogenic, diet, while others develop anxiety and insomnia. Finding the right amount of carbohydrates to eat so that you keep blood sugar stable and lower inflammation, yet function optimally, can take some tweaking. Then, as blood sugar and stress handling improve, you may be able to readjust.

Parkinson’s vs. parkinsonism and nutritional therapies

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Parkinson’s and parkinsonism — symptoms that mimic Parkinson’s — stem from the same areas of the brain. These disorders both cause tremors, stiffness, slowness of movement, however they have different causes and may be helped with different nutritional therapies.

Parkinson’s versus parkinsonism

It’s helpful to know the difference between the two. Parkinson’s is a disease that slowly destroys brain cells (for some people it happens quickly) in an area of the brain that produces the brain chemical dopamine. Symptoms worsen over the years and include resting tremors, stiffness, slowness, not blinking enough, loss of smell, digestive problems, depression, and dementia.

Parkinsonism belongs to a class of disorders called “hypokinetic disorders,” which means diminished muscle function. Symptoms are slow or stiff movements.

Parkinson’s is due to degeneration of the brain’s dopamine area; parkinsonism is caused primarily by abnormal clumping of proteins called alpha-synuclein.

This clumping interferes with communication within the brain and also degenerates tissue.

Nutritional support for Parkinson’s

Because Parkinson’s disease degenerates the area of the brain that produces dopamine, nutritionally (and pharmaceutically) supporting dopamine can significantly help people Parkinson’s patients.

Dopamine is an important brain chemical that helps regulate not only feelings of reward and pleasure, but also mood, movements, learning, and motivation.

Nutritional compounds that support dopamine include L-dopa, pyridoxal-5-phoshate, DL-phenylalanine, beta-phenylalanine, and acetyl-tyrosine.

Nutritional support for parkinsonism

Parkinsonism also involves dopamine, but nutritional support should focus more on preventing or slowing the clumping of alpha-synuclein. In fact, research shows dopamine medications may worsen parkinsonism.

The key is to support the energy factories inside each brain cell, called mitochondria, and to support cell function.

Nutritional support for Parkinson’s and parkinsonism

These strategies have been shown in studies to help nutritionally support both Parkinson’s and parkinsonism:

Support healthy gut bacteria and function. Research shows an unhealthy balance of gut bacteria and gut inflammation can cause aggregation of alpha-synuclein, thus increasing the risk of Parkinson’s and parkinsonism.

Consider a ketogenic diet or intermittent fasting. Both these diets have been shown to slow down protein aggregation and promote healthy function of brain cells.

Take flavonoids to protect brain cell mitochondria. Flavonoids are anti-inflammatory plant compounds that have been shown to protect the brain. Turmeric and resveratrol are examples of powerful flavonoids.

Take nutrients to protect mitochondria. Nutritional compounds that have been shown to protect the mitochrondria include CoQ10, carnitine, riboflavin, niacin, alpha-lipoic acid, and magnesium.

Make sure you consume enough essential fatty acids. Essential fatty acids are anti-inflammatory and protective of brain health. Consume enough in the right ratio.

Support methylation. Methylation is a molecular process necessary for healthy brain function and helping prevent brain inflammation and degeneration. Nutritional compounds that support methylation include methyl B12, L-methylfolate (5-MTHF), trimethylgycine, choline, riboflavin, and pyridoxine.

Exercise! Increasing your heart rate through regular aerobic activity has been shown to help manage the progression and symptoms of Parkinson’s and parkinsonism. It’s best to get your heart rate up to higher levels for at least a few minutes every time you exercise.

What not to take. Acetycholine is a brain chemical and a supplement that can be great for the brain but it opposes dopamine. Therefore, in many cases it is recommended not to take acetylcholine supplements or precursors when you have parkinsonism or Parkinson’s disease.

This is a broad and simple overview of some nutritional strategies that can help you manage Parkinson’s or parkinsonism in addition to medical and functional neurological care. Ask my office for more advice.

Why lab testing is important in functional medicine

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Taken by Tom Mallinson

Lab testing is foundational to functional medicine, and for good reason. It can show you what is causing your symptoms, if you are headed toward a disease (even if you don’t have symptoms), track the progress of your protocol, and motivate you to stick with your protocol.

Lab testing includes many different tests. Some examples of testing used in functional medicine include:

Food sensitivity testing. If a food you eat regularly causes inflammation, this contributes to chronic health disorders.

Gut testing. Gut problems contribute to chronic health issues. Tests can screen for leaky gut, gut function, parasites, bacterial overgrowth, and autoimmune reactions.

Blood chemistry panel. This is an excellent starting point in functional medicine testing and includes the use of functional medicine ranges (versus lab ranges). Blood testing screens for some diseases and can catch a trend toward a disease while there’s still time to reverse it.

Chemical and metal sensitivity testing. As with foods, an immune reaction to chemicals or metals can trigger chronic inflammatory health disorders.

Adrenal testing. Adrenal testing reveals the relationship between your health and stress handling. The most important test is the second one because it shows if your protocol is working. If not, you need to dig deeper.

Hormone testing. Hormone imbalances profoundly affect health. Testing screens for excesses, deficiencies, feedback loops, and how well you metabolize hormones.

DNA genetic testing. Genetic testing delivers insight into disease risk and genetic metabolic variations that affect health. An example is the MTHFR variance.

These are just a few examples of the types of testing used in functional medicine. What type of testing you need depends on your symptoms and health history.

Why lab testing is important in functional medicine

Functional medicine is based on peer-reviewed science and finds the root cause of your symptoms. There are a variety of factors that can lead to depression, fatigue, chronic pain, poor function, and other chronic health disorders.

Functional lab testing shows a trend toward disease

In conventional medicine, doctors use labs to screen for disease. Once a condition has become a disease, such as diabetes or autoimmune disease, the damage is significant.

Functional medicine uses lab testing to catch a health trend that is on the way to disease but that can still be slowed, halted, or reversed. For instance, lab markers that show elevated blood sugar, inflammation, and poor liver function allow you to easily reverse the march towards diabetes.

Another example is autoimmunity. A significant amount of tissue must be destroyed before conventional medicine can diagnose autoimmune disease. However, by testing for antibodies against tissue, the autoimmune progression can be slowed or stopped in its early stages.

Functional lab testing tracks progress

Although the first test is important for identifying health problems, subsequent testing is also crucial to let you know whether your protocol is working. If there is no improvement, it means you have not hit on the right protocol or discovered all the underlying causes.

Lab testing improves compliance and social support

Seeing the results of a lab test makes it easier to stick with a protocol. It also can encourage a disbelieving spouse, family member, or friend to support you. Many people think gluten sensitivity is just a fad, or that your symptoms aren’t real and you simply complain too much. Your lab results validate your symptoms and can help others be more supportive.

Ask my office about functional lab testing to help you get to the bottom of your chronic health condition.

What is leaky gut and why should you care?

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Does stuff really leak out of your intestines when you have leaky gut? The truth is, contents of the small intestine escape through the wall into the bloodstream. This can trigger many different inflammatory disorders and autoimmune disease, a disease in which the immune system attacks and destroys body tissue.

Leaky gut is associated with symptoms including:

  • Skin problems (eczema, psoriasis, rosacea, acne, etc.)
  • Chronic pain
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Puffiness
  • Fatigue
  • Brain fog
  • Depression
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Poor memory
  • Asthma
  • Food allergies and sensitivities
  • Seasonal allergies
  • Fungal infections
  • Migraines
  • Arthritis
  • PMS and other hormonal issues

Leaky gut, referred to as intestinal permeability in the research, means the lining of the small intestine has become inflamed, damaged, and overly porous. This allows undigested foods, bacteria, molds, and other pathogens to enter into the sterile environment of the bloodstream. The immune system attacks these compounds, triggering inflammation that, when constant, turns into chronic health disorders.

Leaky gut now on the research radar

Conventional medicine once believed leaky gut wasn’t a valid concept, but researchers now validate it as linked with many chronic disorders, including inflammatory bowel disorders, gluten sensitivity and celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, type 1 diabetes, depression, and more.

How to repair leaky gut

If you have a chronic health condition — even if it’s not digestive — addressing leaky gut is vital to improving your health. The bulk of this work is done through diet. The most common causes of leaky gut are processed foods, excess sugars, lack of plant fibers, and foods that trigger an immune reaction (as in gluten sensitivity).

Excess alcohol, NSAID use, and antibiotics are other common culprits.

leaky gut diet, also known as an autoimmune diet, helps many people repair leaky gut. Stabilizing blood sugar is also key.

If you have Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism you are not managing correctly, or if your liver is not detoxifying properly, you will likely have problems with leaky gut. Nutrients that can help support liver detoxification include milk thistle, dandelion root, and schizandra.

In addition to diet, many nutrients can help support gut healing. Some of these include probiotics, enzymes, l-glutamine, deglycyrrhizinated licorice root, collagen, hydrochloric acid, and anti-fungal herbs.

Targeted nutrients can help stabilize blood sugar, manage stress, tame inflammation, and support a healthy balance of gut bacteria. All these factors help repair leaky gut. If you have an autoimmune condition, managing leaky gut can be a lifelong process as autoimmune flares can inflame the gut.

Ask me for advice about a leaky gut diet and protocol.

Why do I get dizzy? Common reasons and solutions

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The sudden lack of control is frightening when a dizzy spell, or vertigo, hits you. The world spins and rocks, the ground feels like it’s giving way, your ears ring, and nausea may grip your gut.

Vertigo feels terribly wrong and frightening and understandably has people worrying, “Why do I get dizzy?”

Several things can cause vertigo. it’s important to understand the underlying cause of your dizzy spells to improve your success in addressing them.

Before looking for underlying causes, first figure out what type of vertigo you have.

Peripheral vertigo and dizzy spells

The most common reason for dizziness is usually an inner ear, or vestibular, problem, which plays an important role in balance. Peripheral means on the outside, indicating this is not a brain-based vertigo, but instead peripheral vertigo.

Common causes of inner ear problems include:

BPPV (benign paroxysmal positional vertigo): A small crystal is floating loose in the wrong area of the inner ear, causing dizziness. This can be treated with the Epley maneuver.

Vestibular neuronitis and labryinthitis: Nerves in the inner ear associated with balance becomes inflamed, usually due to infection. Using functional medicine and functional neurology approaches to address the infection and inflammation often help.

Meniere’s disease: A chronic inner ear disorder that also causes hearing loss and tinnitus and tends to progressively worsen. Functional medicine autoimmune protocols have been known to help; conventional approaches include medications and surgery in severe cases.

In addition to dizziness, other common symptoms of peripheral vertigo include nausea, vomiting, sweating, pain or fullness in the ear, hearing loss, or tinnitus (ringing in the ear). The vertigo comes and goes and fixing your eyes on a point can help stop the spinning.

Central vertigo and dizzy spells

Central vertigo refers to dizziness caused by brain issues. These causes can be more serious and difficult to treat than most cases of peripheral vertigo.

One distinguishing factor of central vertigo is that fixing your eyes on one spot does not help relieve dizziness. Also, central vertigo episodes are more intense and last longer. Although hearing is not as affected as it is in peripheral vertigo, people often experience headaches, trouble swallowing, and weakness.

Factors known to cause central vertigo include head injury, illness, infection, multiple sclerosis, migraines, brain tumors, stroke, transient ischemic attacks (mini strokes), and neurological autoimmunity.

How functional medicine and functional neurology can help address dizziness and vertigo

The first step is to identify what type of vertigo you have and what is causing it. This may involve lab testing to identify chronic inflammation, a blood sugar imbalance, an autoimmune reaction, or other health disorders.

For instance, multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease in which the immune system destroys nerve sheaths, can cause vertigo. An autoimmune protocol and functional neurology rehabilitation exercises can help.

Another example is when a head injury causes vertigo—a nutritional and dietary protocol to support brain healing along with functional neurology may help profoundly.

Vertigo is the symptom, not the disease

Your dizzy spells are a symptom of something else. Through functional lab testing, examination, and clinical history, we can help you address your problems with vertigo.

Three ways to make the placebo effect work for you

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The placebo effect is a target of ridicule but studies show it has become increasingly effective in recent years, particularly in the United States, where drugs for pain, depression, anxiety sometimes barely outmatch placebos.

Fortunately, researchers have decided to study how and why the placebo effect works.

By embracing the mystery of the placebo effect, you can harness its powers to enhance your health protocol or better cope with your ailment.

What is the placebo effect?

Researchers give one group of subjects a new drug or procedure and a different group a sham, then compare the results. Neither group knows which treatment they received. In some studies, the placebo treatment works as well or even better than the real treatment.

1: Use belief to enhance placebo effect

A person’s beliefs and expectations play a profound role in how their body will respond to something. When subjects are told their pain will drop before receiving a placebo, it does. Likewise, when they are told they will experience more pain, they do, even though pain delivery was not increased.

Scans during these experiments show brain activity corresponds with the expected outcome, even though neither pain relief nor increased pain was delivered.

Scientists have also learned that positive expectations release endorphins and dopamine, the “reward” brain chemical. Endorphins dampen inflammation and both endorphins and dopamine help relieve pain.

Spend some time every day reaffirming why you’re on your health journey and the positive things you expect to gain from it. Visualize feeling and functioning better.

2: Receive care and attention to enhance placebo

Increased attention, concern, and care are also believed to be why the placebo effect has become much stronger in recent years. When people take part in these studies, they receive an increased level of interaction and care that positively impacts their health.

Seek out supportive care and nurturing during your health journey. This can be from a practitioner you work with, through body work appointments, or in the company of a support group or class. Include plenty of in-person social time as it is better for you than online socializing.

3: Develop a positivity and gratitude practice

Negativity is stressful and inflammatory. Doctors report that patients who are angry, don’t believe their treatment will work, or who are not supported by their friends and family in their healing journey may not experience optimal results.

However, the person who expects the best from their protocol, learns about their new diet and supplements, and enjoys working with their practitioner experiences less stress and inflammation and better results.

Take some time each day to think positive thoughts about your health journey and what it involves. Keep a daily or weekly gratitude journal and make sure to note your progress. These tips really do help your health!

Remember, it’s the placebo effect and not superstition

Although we’ve all heard miracle healing stories, it’s best not to pin your hopes on one. The placebo effect alone is estimated to work between 18 to 80 percent of the time, which is a wide spread to bank on.

Functional medicine is about creating new lifelong habits as much as it is about restoring function. By injecting the best the placebo effect has to offer into your daily diet and protocol, you are laying the groundwork for a lifetime of more positive outcomes.

Good balance is key to good and lasting brain function

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While phone apps and online programs that exercise the brain are popular to improve memory, most people overlook a key component to lasting brain function: your balance.

Your brain requires good balance to stay sharp and lower the risk of dementia. In addition to doing brain exercises, make sure you regularly challenge and improve your balance.

How good balance improves brain function

What does good balance have to do with preserving memory and brain function?

The cerebellum, the area at the base of the brain, governs balance, as well as precision, coordination, and timing.

It makes sure you can walk upright, put a spoon to your mouth, or hit a tennis ball. The movements of daily life keep the cerebellum in a constant state of activity.

It’s this constant activity that keeps the rest of the brain on its toes. A healthy cerebellum feeds the brain a steady stream of information to keep it actively firing and healthy. (This is also one reason regular physical activity is so vital to brain health and function.)

Bad balance leads to bad brain function

This explains why symptoms of cerebellum degeneration, such as bad balance, often tie into loss of memory, poor ability to learn, and weakened brain endurance. The brain isn’t getting enough “juice” from the cerebellum to keep it charged and running well.

Brain overwhelm from bad balance

At the same time, if a certain area of the cerebellum degenerates, this can overwhelm the brain with information.

The outer area of the cerebellum serves as a gatekeeper, regulating information that travels from the body to the brain. When this area of the cerebellum degenerates, the gates are left unguarded, and too much sensory input floods the brain.

Symptoms may include restless leg syndrome, tinnitus, hypersensitivity to stress, depression, fatigue, anxiety, and others that you wouldn’t think could be related to balance.

Can you pass this balance test?

  • Do you wobble if you stand on one foot? How about with your eyes closed?
  • If you walk in a straight heel-to-toe line do you stumble? How about with your eyes closed?
  • If you stand with your feet together and close your eyes do you sway to one side?
  • Do you walk with a wide gait, or feel like you’re going to fall if you don’t hold the handrail going down the stairs?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, your balance issues could be a sign of compromised brain health and increased risk of dementia later in life.

How to improve your balance and hence your brain health

Since we know regular exercise is a must to preserve brain function, look for forms that emphasize balance. Ideas include specific balance exercises, yoga, tai chi, stand-up paddle boarding  dancing, and the use of a wobble board or Bosu ball. Just be safe and work within your limits!

Good balance is only part of a bigger brain puzzle

Good cerebellum health is important, but it’s not the end all. The inner ear, or vestibular system, also plays a vital role in balance and may need attention if your balance is off.

Also, screening for gluten sensitivity is important, as a gluten intolerance degenerates the cerebellum in many people.

Follow an anti-inflammatory diet and reduce stressors if you have balance issues. The brain and cerebellum are very sensitive to inflammation from junk foods, sleep deprivation, chronic stress, and more.

And make sure you keep your blood sugar stable — blood sugar that is constantly too low or too high (or both) rapidly ages the brain and contributes to poor balance.

Contact my office if you’d like more information on how your balance is related to your brain function.

Diets sodas are dangerous and they make you fat

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Millions of people drink diet soda in the belief they’re preventing weight gain, and the soda industry invests millions of dollars to perpetuate this belief. Research, however, paints a different picture — diet sodas are dangerous and can make you fat.

Artificial, low-calorie sweeteners used in diet sodas confuse the body and derange its ability to metabolize sugar and carbohydrates. This “confusion” increases hunger and sugar cravings.

Also, artificial sweeteners create imbalances in gut bacteria, boosting the bacteria that turn calories into body fat, which can lead to obesity, diabetes, and inflammation.

Diet sodas bring bigger risks than obesity

The health risks associated with diet soda are far more serious than weight gain.

The primary sweetener used in diet sodas, aspartame (which goes by the benign-sounding names Equal and NutraSweet), has been linked to numerous cardiovascular conditions, including stroke, heart failure, and heart attack.

In fact, a nine-year study of 60,000 women showed women who drank two or more cans of diet soda a day were 50 percent more likely to die of heart disease.

Moreover, aspartame overstimulates the brain chemical dopamine, which over time can result in depression, migraine headaches, and seizures.

The other FDA-approved artificial sweeteners — saccharin, neotame, sucralose, and acesulfame potassium — have also been linked to increased risk for heart disease and other health conditions.

Aspartame is a controversial topic. It has been linked to myriad health conditions, some as serious as brain tumors, birth defects, cancer, and memory loss, and is behind numerous complaints to the FDA. However, industry science holds fast to its safety.

Fruit juice is not a healthy substitute

Unfortunately, fruit juice is not a healthy substitute for soda. Fructose is every bit as fattening and inflammatory as sugar or chemical sweeteners. Excessive consumption of fruit juice also puts you at risk of heart disease and diabetes.

In contrast, eating whole fruit also has you consuming fiber, enzymes, minerals and other healthful compounds stripped away by juicing. Also, chewing tells your brain that you’ve eaten, which reduces your appetite.

If you are addicted to diet sodas (as many people are), you may have to wean yourself gradually. Begin by substituting sparkling water with lemon or lime juice, or even just plain water, for some of your sweet drinks. Often when you think you want something sweet, you’re really just thirsty, and plain filtered water will do you fine.

With patience, you can develop an automatic preference for whole, healthy, unsweetened foods and drinks, largely because they make you feel better. After a while, the foods you crave most can actually be those that are best for your body.

Ask my office about transitioning to a whole foods diet so you can feel and function your best.