The Adrenal Glands
Gram for gram, the adrenal glands receive more blood flow than any other part of the body–including the heart and the brain. The body is an efficient machine, so this relatively massive dedication of blood flow is an indication of how important these often tiny organs are. Theysit on top of your kidneys weigh in at a mere 3-5 grams each and measure are 1/2″ tall and 3″ wide.
The Adrenal Medula & Cortex Your adrenal glands have two layers that secrete different sets of vital hormones. The outer layer of the adrenal gland (the adrenal cortex) secretes steroid hormones which are made from cholesterol. Cortisol is, by far, the major hormone product of the adrenal cortex. It is called a “glucocorticoid” because of it’s effects on raising blood sugar (glucose).
Healthy cortisol levels have a “diurnal” cycle, with normal levels being highest around 7AM and lowest levels occurring around midnight. This morning cortisol boost is intended to wake you up with plenty of blood sugar and blood pressure. If you wake up feeling unrested, groggy and wrecked there may be a problem with your sleep or your Adrenal glands may be fatigued or exhaustred. That’s what this article is about.
What is Naltrexone? Naltrexone is a drug that is typically used at “full” dose for opioid addiction or overdose. When naltrexone is taken at a much lower dose, patients with autoimmune conditions may experience significant benefits in symptom reduction, improved lab markers, and slowed or reversed disease progression. The therapeutic dose of low-dose Naltrexone for autoimmune conditions is typically between 3.0mg – 4.5mg. Conditions that may benefit from LDN include: lupus (SLE), rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis, MS, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, celiac, psoriasis, Sjogren’s, scleroderma.
How does LDN work? Low doses of Naltrexone taken at temporarily block your opioid receptors. This signals your brain that your levels are low, then your body responds by ramping up the production of endorphins. This surge of endorphins (and opiate receptors) can modulate your immune system and decrease autoimmune symptoms.
(Seattle, WA USA) Greetings from ground-zero of the novel coronavirus in the United States. Seattle has a vaccination rate of >80%, and no matter where you live, vaccination is your best defence against getting seriously sick.
Symptoms of minor cases of Covid-19 infection are similar to a severe cold or flu and include: fever >101.5, headache, and cough. A common hallmark symptom is loss of taste or smell. Severe symptoms indicating the need for urgent medical care include: severe shortness of breath, chest pain, loss of consciousness (or inability to be aroused), blue face/lips.
Unlike the influenza virus, with an incubation period of ~2 days, Covid-19 can have a incubation/prodromal period as long as 14 days (average ~5 days). This means that asymptomatic carriers can easily infect others well before they feel sick themselves.
The Delta varient of corona virus is 1.5-1.6 times as infectious. Vaccinated people can still get infected and spread the disease, but are unlikely to get seriously ill. The vast majority of hospitalisations for Covid-19 are occuring in unvaccinated adults. Thankfully, children are highly unlikely to get seriously sick or require hospitalisation if they get covid-19.
“Chronic Disease of any kind (in the absence of geneic or acquired immune deficiency) is never a single issue. In some proportion, the effectors listed feed into the terrain that allows the chronic illness to exist.” ~Paul Anderson, ND
Naturopathic doctors and functional medicine providers are often seeking to help patients who have not been well-served by conventional medicine. I call these patients, “medical refugees”. If you are one of these patients, or a provider that tries to help them, you know this is not easy work. It can feel like dark and impenetrable wilderness, but there are places to look.
How does addiction develop? Contrary to common perspective, addiction is not the result of insuficient moral character and education. A different way to look at it is that we are all striving for a reliable way to get comfortable inside our own heads by the most efective means available. This is basically how appealing external rewards like alcohol, drugs, sugar, food, phones/internet, sex, gambling, etc. all become compulsive addictions.
Behaviorly, it’s pretty easy to observe addition develop with animal models. Rats with free access to cocaine and opitates quickly get addicted and use them. The animals then fanatically use the drugs–often to the exception of food, water and sleep until death. What wasn’t noted in these early animal studies was that these animals were isolated, with nothing to do, in stark wire cages.
We know now that environment matters. The “Rat Park” experiemnt from Dr. Bruce Alexander replicated the animal addiction studies by giving rats free access to addictive drugs. Alexander also gave them a GREAT social setting and environment. The rat park animals also had large clean enclosures, oportunities to play with toys and puzzles, and exercise. They also had room to roam, privacy and other rats to socialize and have sex with.
Guess what? Even with free access to cocaine and optiates, the animals in rat park largely avoided drug use and addiction. Why? Because they were already comfortable in thier own brains. Humans arent too different. In this light, as society “progresses”, modern humans are increasingly living in our own versions of isolated cages. THIS is the a prime environment for addiction to take hold, adn so it is no surprise to see addiction on the rise.
Here are three factors that need addiction in the cause or perpetuation of addiction:
Genetics: Do you have a family history of addiction?
Psychological: Are you still troubled by feeling unsafe as a child? (Were you traumatized or abused or neglected?)
Social/environmental: Is your current social environment isolated, stressful, or abusive and is there easy access to drugs?
If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, you likely have an increased risk of developing some kind of addiction–AND relapse of that addiction.
Below are some of the more common addictions that develop in susceptable individuals.
Lets get into the nero anatomy side of addiction.
The limbic system is our “GO” reward system: mediates our will to live and our pleasure centers (via. dopamine) that lead us to eat, drink, and have sex and–other less helpful addictive behaviors.
The Frontal lobe is our “STOP” reasoning system that (when functioning) mediates our limbic/reward system: insight, judgement, and empathy.
Adiction develops when activity in the dopamine-driven limbic/reward system overwhelms the rational governance of the frontal lobe. Once addicted, frontal brain function continues to decline relative to limbic function. People with addiction literally do not have the frontal brain function needed to make rational decisions. Once abstaining it takes around 2 full years of abstinance and treatment care to expect to recover a normal ammount of frontal brain funtion.
Dopamine is a chemical signal sent between brain cells, and it is especially important to the limbic system reward system. Dopamine does not act alone. It’s like a thrown ball that only completes it’s journey when it lands in a mitt. The mitt is the dopamine receptor and the abundance or defecit of dopamine receptors effects how prone to addiction you are.
Like us, monkeys like to socialize. They also like cocaine. We now know that monkies in troups with higher social standing and freeer access to resources grow more dopamine (D2) receptors in their brains. Extra D2 receptors translates to a stronger dopamine response in our limbic systems and resistance to addiction. Conversely, monkies with lower social standing and access to resources have brains that are less comfortable, crave more dopamine, and are more susceptible to addiction.
Addiction to drugs is truly a health crisis.
Deaths due to drug use, are a Major cause of death:
U.S. lifespan estimates have declined for the second year in a row. (Dowell, D. JAMA 2017) This is primarily due to deaths from drug overdose.
From 1999 to 2016, more Americans had died from opioid overdose than American soldiers who died in battle in World War II. (351,602 vs. 291,000) according to the National Center for Health Statistics, 2016 and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 2017.
In 2017, there were 70,237 deaths due to opiods vs. 47,000 American soldiers who died the Vietnam War 1964–1975.
Back to the notion that addiction develops because we are just trying to get comfortable in within our own brains. Attempts at abstinence alone is not terribly effective with addiction. Detox and withdrawl may take a couple of weeks to get through, but we need to remember that it typically takes years for people dealing with addiction to recover fully functioning frontal cortex reasoning capasity around thier addicion. People with addiciton need long-term support, feeling connected, higher self esteem, and new coping mechanisms to deal with stress.
While we can’t do much about your genetics, we can and should address the psychological and social factors for people with addiction. To treat and prevent addiciton and relapse, we need to address past trauma, stress in current living and work environments and social connections. Addiction also cries for attention given to the fundamentals of health: movent, sleep, nutrition, stress, and healthy relationships. It takes a whole person support process.
Gluten. There is wave of gluten avoidance sweeping around the modern world. 22% of Americans currently follow a gluten-free diet, compared to 15% in 2013. In 2014, consumers spent $8.8 billion on gluten-free products — an increase of 63% from 2012
So what is gluten? Gluten is a mix of two proteins (gliadin + glutenin) found in the Triticeae family of grains including wheat, barley and rye.
Modern processed food may be common, but to our bodies, the modern diet is an extraterrestrial encounter.
In humanity’s 200,000 year history, farming is an suprisingly new development. About11,000 years ago, agriculture started popping up around the globe in a few disconnected areas: Asia, South America, Europe and the Middle East (“The Fertile Crescent” in modern day Iraq and Syria). What this means is that for more than 90% of our development as a species, humans were not eating grains or or any modern farmed foods. Processed foods with refined sugars, refined grains, preservatives, artificial flavors, etc. are only 50-75 years old. This means that, at most, 99.3% of humanity’s evolution was apart from any processed food.
I read this in a Medscape article while I was, literally, drinking my morning coffee. California law is awomely aggressive about how any carcinogen in a consumer product must be labled. The unsettling fact is that consuming coffee does pose some increased cancer risk due to the acrylamide that is made in small but significant amounts when coffee beans are roasted.
Separately, drinking coffee upregulates phase I liver enzymes (primarily CYP1A2) which activates other cancer-causing agents we modern folks are exposed ot every day including: aromatic heterocyclic amines, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and aflatoxin.
Acrylamide and the CYP1A2 issues are even more problematic when the body’s slower and more metabolically costly Phase II detox systems can’t handle the increased load of our modern toxin-loaded lives.
Honestly, I am more concerned about the chemicals used to line the inside of paper cups: PFCs or polyethylene plastics. Plastic lids from disposable cups are highly suspect too. They have Polystyrene: a known carcinogen and a neurotoxin, especially when HEATED. (Zoiks!!)
I finished my coffee while researching this post, and I’m going to continue drinking it–at home, in ceramic or stainless steel mugs. That’s because I take care of my liver with a high-vegetable diet with ample fiber, antioxidants, and phytonutrients. I also hydrate well and take extra liver and phase II support: NAC, selenium, milk thistle, Vitamin C ,Vitamin E, methylation support (methyl-folate, methyl-B12, B6-P5P) and whey protien. I also take probiotics to help ensure that my body is more effective at eliminating the toxic chemicals I inevitably encounter in today’s world.
The take-home point is that is you are a coffee drinker, DO NOT USE DISPOSABLE CUPS–for all kinds of environmental and health reasons and also be sure to take care of your vital liver and gut function. These simple steps will help reduce your risk of serious chrionic illnesses including diabetes, cancer, thyroid problems and autoimmune conditions. Also, buy a couple stainless steel travel mugs to prevent adding to… this.
I consult with patients in the Seattle area and worldwide through remote consultations. If you are interested in maintaining your optimal health, or if you are suffering from a chronic illness that that conventional medicine alone could not fix, I invite you to check out my services and reach out for a consultation.
Lab tests can be expensive. Without insurance, the ten tests I routinely order for adults to monitor and ensure optimal health would cost $1237. With special access to direct laboratory pricing, these tests are available through me for just $150. That’s 88% off, and less than a 20% insurance copay.
Through 2017, new patients can also receive a 20-minute introductory consultation for $50 where health goals, current concerns, medication and supplement lists, lifestyle factors, and past diagnostic testing can be reviewed from anywhere in the world. Please visit https://trmorrisnd.com/ for more details.
Optimal thyroid hormone production is one of the most important factors to whole body health. In response to TSH signals from the pituitary gland, the thyroid gland produces the vital T4 and T3 hormones that set the basic metabolic rate for every cell in the body. This includes brain, heart, lung, bone, muscles, your immune system, digestion, liver and kidney function and everything else.
Sub-optimal thyroid function can cause a wide range of chronic or debilitating symptoms including: fatigue, depression, weight gain, brain fog, cold intolerance, hair loss, constipation, low bone density, and poor immune function.
With a system this important, you might think that conventional medicine would be completely up to date on how to keep track of this vital hormone. However, if you thought that conventional medicine had this well in hand, you’d be completely wrong.
It was long believed that neurons in the human brain were incapable of growth and repair after maturity. We now know this to be false and that the human brain retains the potential for self-renewal throughout our lives. Even more exciting is that self directed neuroplasticity is a real possibility.
Neuroplasticity: The ability of the brain to form and reorganize synaptic connections, especially in response to learning or experience or following injury. Even more exciting is that self directed neuroplasticity is a real possibility.
Neurogenesis: is the process by which neurons are generated from neural stem cells and progenitor cells.
Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF): A growth factor encoded by the BDNF gene that promotes both neuroplasticity and neurogenesis.
Much to the chagrin of the pharmaceutica industry, there is no “silver bullet” for preventing and reversing cognitive decline and diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Instead, what we do have is “silver buckshot” in the form of numerous dietary and lifestyle interventions that can increase the body’s production of BDNF.
Things you can take to increase neuroplasticity, and neurogenesis and BDNF levels include:
As a Naturopathic Doctor, I am always encountering people who want better health. The most common themes include: more consistent energy, improved mental focus, more stable moods, a stronger immune system, better athletic performance, faster healing and recovery times, and a more ideal body composition while also avoiding and reversing disease.
The quick answer is yes. Absolutely. AND, we should always be looking first to spend our time and money on picking good foods high in the nutrients we are concerned about.
For minerals, I do prefer zinc picolinate. For calcium and magnesium, I always recommend chelated forms, and there are many (citrate, malate, aspartate, etc.). I don’t usually care which chelated form they take so long as there is no magnesium oxide or calcium carbonate in the product.
One of my favorites ways to get patients to reduce and mediate their stress levels is to use a free “breath trainer” on their smart phone or computer. There are a lot of free apps to do this, and my favorite for the iPhones is Breathe+ and my pick for Android is MyCalmBeat. It’s as simple as a metronome with a breathing visual. Continue reading “Reduce and Manage Your Stress”
Naturopathic and functional medicine practitioners often interpret conventional labs more carefully than just a binary determination of “normal/abnoral”. There is good reason for this. A more careful look at lab values can an ammount to a life preserver for medical refugees who are castaways from strict interpretations.
Shoe size is a good analogy regarding lab interpretation. Most labs define “normal” as the average result of a pool of asymptomatic patients plus or minus 2 standard deviations. This covers about 90% of the “normal” population. If you were to use this standard to determine what the average shoe size was, it would probably be somewhere between 6 and 12. Given biological individuality, it becomes rather absurd to suggest that you could give any human being a shoe between size 6 and 12 and expect it to fit. Continue reading “What does “normal” really mean when it comes to lab tests?”
I frequently get asked by practitioners new to functional medicine how and when to take patients off of medications.
When I am thinking of helping a patient get off a medication, I always have lifestyle, diet, and nutriceutical interventions in place first. The time to consider whether to taper off of a medication is after several months of consistent practice and clear benefits from lifestyle changes. Continue reading “How do you help patients get off medications?”
Depression is predicted to be the second largest contributor to the global burden of disease by the year 2020. By 2030, depression will be the #1 contributor to the global burden of chronic disease in high-income countries.
There is a greater than 16% lifetime risk of major depressive disorder (MDD). Persons living below the poverty level are nearly 2½ times more likely to have depression. 43% of persons with severe depressive symptoms report serious difficulties in work, home, and social activities.
We are all familiar with classic signs of inflammation include: Heat, Redness, Pain, Swelling, Loss of function. While most of us associate inflammation with pain, acute, short-term inflammation is a normal and necessary part of the body’s response to injury or infection. Chronic low-grade inflammation is another, far more problematic, matter that underlies nearly all of the modern epidemics.
Inflammation occurs with everything from a flea bites, rashes, bruises and minor infections to serious heart attacks, autoimmune diseases and cancers. Less commonly known is that low-grade, chronic inflammation contributes to not just general aches and pains, but also cancer, diabetes, heart disease, autoimmunity, low testosterone, cognitive decline, depression, Parkinsons, Altzheimers.
Getting enough sleep and high-quality sleep is critical to mental, emotional and physical health. Deep sleep is when your body makes the most growth hormone–the body’s own fountain of youth that keeps your body and mind feeling young and facilitates recovery from stress, injury and disease.
First off, identifying and treating sleep apnea and snoring that may be disturbing sleep is key. There are now fairly inexpensive home-tests that measure pulse oxygen and nasal breathing as a fairly accurate screen for apnea that is far more convenient that a full, overnight sleep study. You still need to get the test from a doctor, but health insurance is often covering these convenient home screens. Depression, anxiety, peri-menopause, menopause, and andropause can also cause sleep disturbance and these are also all treatable with functional and naturopathic medicine.
Meditation and other mindfulness practices have been used for thousands of years to help individuals promote, sustain and regain mental peace. Today’s functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) has helped scientists identify and measure activity in the areas of the brain that meditation helps settle down in real time.
The two areas that meditation settles down are the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC) and the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC). In an experimental setting both experienced mediators and novices can be challenged to think of disturbing events and then to engage in mindfulness exercises to see how quickly and how well the subjects could return to baseline activity in these two areas of the brain that facilitate wandering thoughts, alarm, upset, and hyper-vigilance.
Do you wake up feeling tired, foggy, achey? Do you tend to have a sore throat or a headache in the morning? If so, it’s likely that you have disturbed or insufficient sleep. Why is this important? Beyond just feeling tired, poor sleep is actually a leading cause of death and disease.
Recent studies show that disturbed or insufficient sleep predictably cause overeating, weight gain, and type II diabetes. “Sleep deficiencies and circadian disruption associated with metabolic dysregulation may contribute to weight gain, obesity, and type 2 diabetes potentially by altering timing and amount of food intake, disrupting energy balance, inflammation, impairing glucose tolerance, and insulin sensitivity.”(1) Other studies showed that chronic insuficient or disturbed sleep is directly linked to inflamation. (2) In this study participants were given a 4h/night sleep opportunity for for five nights and found increased levels of all the major inflamitory cutokines: IL-1beta, IL-6, IL-17 and hsCRP.
According to the CDC, 35% of Americans get less than 7 hours of sleep per night. You can use the National Sleep Foundation Sleepiness Test to see if you are more or less sleepy than the general population. If you rate “very sleepy” on this test, you should speak to your physician.
Even if you dont have apnea, there are many things you can do to improve your sleep from changing your sleep environment (light, sound, bedding), modulating activities near bedtime, moderating caffeine and alcohol intake, reducing allergens, optimizing nasal breathing, supplementing melatonin, and many, many more. If you are concerned about your sleep, contact Dr. Morris or to help you optimize your sleep and give your health and vitality a major boost.
We all tend to make less melatonin as we age. This vital hormone is made in the pineal gland. If you are having trouble falling asleep then quick-dissolve melatonin tablets are probably for you. Take 0.5 to 5mg about 45 minutes before you want to be feeling drowsy. Word to the wise, don’t take melatonin less than 7-8 hours before you want to be awake. Taking them with less than 7 hours to go in your sleep-night will have you feeling groggy when you wake up.
If you have trouble staying asleep, then you may need time-release melaltonin tablets. These don’t have a dramatic effect on falling asleep, but they can help prevent middle of the night wakeups. Adults with middle of the night wakeups often benefit from taking 1.5-6mg before bed.
My front-line therapy for insomnia from an overactive mind, anxiety, and stress is L-Theanine. This is a simple amino acid with a variety of health benefits. It is abundant in green tea. It relaxes the mind and body by increasing GABA and glycine levels in the brain. GABA and glycine are inhibitory neurotransmitters that work to offset overactive excitatory neurotransmitters. Theanine promotes a state of relaxation and calm and thereby, reduces stress, anxiety, and ADD. Chewables or lozenges can be VERY effective. Click the picture on the left to buy my preferred brand. Paired with breathwork, L-theanine can help you find and explore a new normal of calm and relaxation.
If you are having really bad middle of the night wakeups, especially if you are feeling wide awake, worried and stressed in the middle of the night, and can’t fall back asleep for more than 15 minutes, you may benefit from Phosphatidylserine (PS) capsules. PS tempers evening cortisol spikes. Take 100-300mg at bedtime, or 100-300mg with dinner and at bedtime. Start at low doses and work your way up with this one. More is not better, and too much can make midnight wakeups worse. PS is not for everyone, so I save this intervnetion for last with really tough cases of middle of the night insomnia.
Menopause can be a time of major hormonal, physical and psychological change for women. During the perimenopause, womans ovaries gradually (over several years) decrease production of estrogen and progesterone. If a woman has her ovaries surgically removed (oophorectomy), menstrual cycles end abruptly and menopausal symptoms become more severe. One year after menstrual periods have stopped, a woman reaches menopause, on average around the age of 51.
Menopausal symptoms vary from woman to woman. From peri-menopause to post-menopause, women report the most sleeping problems. Most notably, these include hot flashes, insomnia and sleep-disordered breathing. These sleep problems are also often accompanied by increased depression and anxiety which can also disturb sleep. When appropriate, bioidentical hormonal replacement therapy B-HRT with estrogen and progesterone can help with these and other menopausal symptoms. If night sweats and insomnia is the major complaint, or if hormone replacement is not appropriate, I often like to start with black cohosh which has a good track record of helping women from with sleep. The exact pharmacodynamic properties of black cohosh have not been established. Some studies suggest a selective estrogen effect, and others describe a serotonergic and dopaminergic receptor blocking effect.
Sleep apnea is very common, as common as type 2 diabetes. It affects more than 18 million Americans, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Risk factors include being male, overweight, and over the age of 40, but sleep apnea can strike anyone at any age, even children. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) occurs where your airway becomes obstructed by your tongue or relaxed airway muscles as you fall asleep. When this happens, it causes a severe dysruption to your sleep as your body gets starved of oxygen and is jolted awake–some times hundreds of times a night.
More than just making you severely tired, sleep apnea is a serious medical condition that causes high blood pressure, type II diabetes, and increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Suprisingly, most people with sleep apnea do not remember these sleep interuptions where they gasp for air or even sit bolt upright in bed. It often takes a sleep partner or a medical sleep study to determine if you have apnea. Snoring, being overweight, having difficulty breathing through your nose, swollen tonsils, a narrow throat, a large tongue are all risk factors for having sleep apnea. You can take the American Sleep Association Sleep Apnea Questionaire to gauge your risk of having sleep apnea.
For snoring and mild to moderate sleep apnea, a simple Breathe-Right nasal strip can make a world of difference. Even if you don’t snore or suspect apnea, many people who try nasal strips report feeling more rested and alert in the morning. They may even remember dreams more indicating more efficient REM sleep. Weight loss never hurts either. In more severe cases, an oral appliance to keep your lower jaw forward or a CPAP machine may be indicated.
White noise is the last recomendation I’ll make. I think the best way, by far, to generate soothing white noise is with a high quality HEPA air filter in your bedroom. The improved air quality is a bonus that may also improve your beathing and sleep. This is especially important if you have cats or dogs that like to sleep on your bed–or on you, like my velcro-kitty, Tommy.
Exposure to potentially harmful chemicals on a daily basis is virtually unavoidable. The majority of the 85,000 chemicals registered for production under the U.S. Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) were grandfathered in with little or no health and safety testing.1 Medical conditions linked to toxic chemicals include obesity, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, cancers, and multisystem complaints such as fibromyalgia, sick building syndrome and multiple chemical sensitivities.2
I have identified ten high-priority categories of toxic chemicals based on their prevalence, persistence, and known detrimental effects on human and environmental health:
Everyone has coping strategies. It’s less known that unconscious stories are frequently driving coping behaviors that trigger or mediate the presenting and quite real medical concerns. This holds true not just for psychological presentations like anxiety, depression, and ADD, but also nearly always plays some role in other medical conditions like fatigue, heart disease, migraine headaches, weight gain, arthritis, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, and even cancers.
My path in health care started with graduate studies in counseling psychology. Though do appreciate the profound art of counseling, I switched paths to pursue naturopathic and functional medicine. I did this because I wanted training in a broader tool box. I was especially excited by the idea of really getting under the hood with patients using prescribed lifestyle interventions.
It did not take long to learn that simply telling people to take better care of themselves with better diet and lifestyle often falls short of profound results. Small wonder really. I now understand that people do what they do for reasons that are important to investigate. Many detrimental lifestyle choices are “coping mechanisms” that can not be stopped easily or to good effect without first looking at what purpose they are serving and why they developed in the first place. Continue reading “The Stories We Tell & Life’s Grand Show”
We are often told in medicine that cancer cells are a single cell that “went bad” and started making copies of itself without all the normal mechanisms that limit reproduction and promote adhesion. We know now that this is not entirely right. Cancer cells are primarily ones that have lost the ability to repair breaks and mutations in their DNA. In this way, they begin a kind of accelerated evolution and become a diverse set of rapidly changing (i.e. evolving) cells with different properties, and adapted to environments that promote cancer growth and inhibit the immune cells that would normally kill cancer cells. The conditions under which cancer cells generally thrive in can be called “The Onco-Metabolic State”. Continue reading “The Onco-Metabolic State: How to Make Your Body Less Hospitable to Cancer”
Recently, there have been revolutions in the cost of genetic testing and methylation cycle SNP analysis. 23andme will run ~1,000,000 SNPs for $199, and GeneticGenie will isolate 30 methylation SNPs from the 23andme raw data for free. While the cycle’s various parts and levels of function are inherently interrelated, the focus has been largely been on two SNPs on a single enzyme: MTHFR C667T and A1298C. That’s what I would like to talk about here. Continue reading “MTHFR Testing & Methy-Folate Dosing”
A recent VA study published in JAMA indicated that men taking testosterone replacement therapy had a 29% increased risk of stoke, MI and death. The VA study was observational, not a clinical trial, so it’s findings are of limited scope, but as there are now over 5-million prescriptions for testosterone therapy given in the US every year, the study ought to sober up the increasingly rowdy testosterone replacement party. There are naysayers to the study, including the Life Extension Foundation (LEF). I was asked to review the VA/JAMA article and the LEF rebuttal. Below is my analysis. Continue reading “Testosterone Replacement Therapy: Skating on Thin Ice?”
I was appalled by the article that appeared in the Atlantic Jul 19 2013: The Vitamin Myth: Why We Think We Need Supplements. Not surprisingly, Atlantic did not publish my toothy critique–which I’ll now copy below:
Atlantic did not print an even-handed article. The Author, Paul Offit, spends most of it building up then vigorously tearing down Linus Pauling–as if that alone would make his bizarre case against vitamins. Then he hand-picked studies that supported his conclusions and completely failed to mention anything to the contrary. To suggest that the benefits of vitamins are a complete myth and to unabashedly suggest that no-one should take vitamins goes *way* too far. This guy and his wobbly conclusion are both puntable. Shame on you Atlantic! How about some balance?
A number of laboratories offer testing for toxic metals (Pb, Hg, Cd, As, etc.) through blood, urine, hair and stool samples. Because they’ve been around longer than any of the synthetic chemicals, we know more about the health effects of heavy metals than any other group of toxins and a generous list of conditions and symptoms are being attributed to metal toxicities. These toxicities are real, and we all need to avoid new exposures and some people need therapy aimed at pulling these metals out of us. The trick is figuring out who that is.
Enter chelation. There’s little if any doubt that chelating agents (DMSA, EDTA, DMPS, etc.) bind to and increase the urinary and stool excretion of various metals (both toxic and non-). However, with only two recent exceptions (discussed below), the labs performing this testing have conventionally used some underhanded hokus-pokus to make the results look worse than they are. How did they do this? The labs have typically reported chelation-provoked sample results and unprovoked samples on the same reference range. That may not sound bad, but it’s a “big no-no” in medicine. The result of comparing chelation-challenged toxic metal testing to the “normal” unprovoked ranges (which themselves are internally established) is the common appearance of shockingly high levels of the poisonous metals. Continue reading “Heavy Metal Testing, Chelation Provoked Samples & Irrelevant Reference Ranges”
For starters, I take issue with the word “disorder” in attention deficit disorder (ADD). It’s not a stretch to suggest that ADD is actually a normal physiological response to the many insults of the modern world. The hyper-vigilance, distractibility, and impulsivity of ADD could all be predictable evolutionary adaptations intended to help us be safer and more successful in stressful environments.
Stress is not just mental, it quickly jumps to a physiologic effect. When the brain perceives stress, it sends both chemical and nerve signals to the adrenal glands ordering them to make two short-term stress hormones [epinephrine and norepinephrine] and the long-term stress master hormone cortisol. Not eating regularly enough and getting low blood sugar also spike cortisol levels. Cortisol is now known for promoting the dreaded stress-gut that gives chronically stressed people that apple shape.
Epinephrine and norepinephrine both promote the “fight or flight” response to the world by stimulating increased tone in the sympathetic nervous system. Other attributes of the “sympathetic state” are the tendency to freeze up, tense muscles, shallow breathing, and divert blood flow away from the extremities and digestive tract toward the large muscles. The sympathetic nervous system also interrupts digestion and makes it harder to concentrate and integrate and make new memories. If you have ever had trouble getting someone else (or yourself) to see a new point of view in a heated argument, you can probably thank the sympathetic nervous system for that gem of human psychology.
It all makes perfect sense if you think about it; if your body senses a threat (stress) it gets everything ready for a fight or flight from danger. Cortisol helps us prepare for stress by mobilizing resources to raise blood glucose and cholesterol. This sugar boost is good if you’re about to sprint away from an angry rhinocerous, but not so good (AKA promoting diabetes and heard disease) if the stress is an email or a phone call.
Randolph Nesse, a professor of psychiatry and psychology at the University of Michigan, could be called the father of “evolutionary medicine.” He co-authored an influential paper in 1991 called “The Dawn of Darwinian Medicine,” which made the case for researching how an understanding of human evolution by natural selection can explain what’s making modern humans so sick today. Enter the paleolithic diet movement. It’s basically on solid ground, because the diet directs people to swear off anything that was not readily available before agriculture: sugar, dairy, grains, beans, and artificial chemicals. Not a bad start. Continue reading “Paleolithic Diets & Evolutionary Medicine”
The percentage of US children between 12 and 19 with diabetes or pre-diabetes increased from 9% in 1999 to 23% in 2008. That’s a staggering 2.5x increase in just 10 years, and is an alarming public health problem. What’s at the root? Dietary choices and sedentary lives surely figure in, but those two factors alone do not explain the increase. What else is there? Evidence is mounting that everyday chemical exposures from our air, food, water, clothing, furniture, homes and workplaces are also to blame.
Even though pesticides, plasticizers, antimicrobials, and ﬂame retardants have had benefits, the side effects on human and environmental health are a growing concern. Literally. We now know that many chemicals can disrupt our normal hormonal functions. We call them “endocrine-disrupting chemicals” (EDCs). Scientific studies linking EDC exposure with obesity, metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes are piling up, and now the term “metabolic disruptor” is becoming common.
Improving Mood, Clearing Perception & Breaking Addictions with Nutritional Neurotransmitter Support
If you are struggling with anxiety, depression, obsessive tendencies, attention defecits or even some addictive tendencies, there is a good change that you could benefit from a leg-up in the form of nutritional neurotransmitter support.
The human body uses chemical messengers in the form of neurotransmitters to relay signals between and within our nervous system and our somatic body. Various neurotransmitters jump across the synaptic space between our nerves and other cells (muscles, sensory organs, glands…) in a highly controlled manner.
The concert of making, transporting, releasing, binding, degrading and reuptaking various neurotransmitters controls everything from our breathing & heart rate, appetite & digestion, all voluntary and involuntary movement, our reflexes, and all five of our senses.
One in ten Americans are now taking antidepressants. Is this at all shocking? Hardly. I think increasing levels of depression and anxiety are a natural response to the increasingly bizarre and unhealthy environment modern humanity is living in.
Check it out. We have: a global population bursting at the seams, increasingly stressful & sedentary jobs, personal debt at an all time high, piles of nutrient-poor processed food, skyrocketing synthetic chemical exposures, relentless electronic stimulation, rampant corruption in political and religious leadership, and we are all basically being born into a society of psychological and economic slavery that is difficult to perceive, let alone escape. In this environment, feeling anxious and/or depressed may be the sign of a normal and healthy reaction to the situation at hand.
Like all animals, human behavior is largely based on responding to immediate needs to reduce perceived discomfort. So it is not at all surprising that people suffering from anxiety and depression are turning to drugs (prescribed and otherwise), and indulging in foods, alcohol, and other distractions that provide easy distraction and relief. Continue reading “A Sane Response to Anxiety & Depression”
Complementary and alternative medical (CAM) clinics are serving as the de facto refugee camps for people with health conditions that are not addressed by “conventional” medicine. CAM clinics are staffed by licensed Naturopathic Doctors (NDs) and Integrative Medical providers who blend conventional healthcare with alternative diagnostic and therapeutic techniques. The 2007 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), found that 38 percent of US adults use CAM. The boundaries between CAM and conventional medicine are not absolute, and over time specific CAM practices may become widely accepted.
I am investigating the health impacts of artificial sweeteners. Although I was already expecting a thick slimy layer of corporate greed & obfuscation, what I found has pried my eyes open even wider. I was moved to write a letter to the White House that I sent in today. It follows below…
President Obama and FDA commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg.
Many quarters have repeatedly raised concerns that the synthetic chemical sweetener aspartame (NutriSweet/Equal) actually increases the risk of obesity, causes seizures, endocrine disorders, and is conclusively linked to metastatic brain tumors and other cancers.
Whether you are already well or dealing with a chronic illness or injury, finding and maintaining our optimal health today is a personal journey. It is also often one of personal evolution as we learn how to better align our strengths and weaknesses with our modern lives. For these reasons, I call my practice the “Human Evolution Project.”I became a naturopathic doctor and took additional training from the Institute for Functional Medicine to help guide people into greater alignment with themselves, their communities, and our amazing biosphere. My practice blends the best of a conventional medical approach with time honored traditional medicine and the very latest in nutritional, genetic and lifestyle medicine. In practice, I seek to partner with motivated patients who are ready to examine their habits and take charge of their own health as we aim to avoid and reverse illness—and promote optimal health. You can read learn more my philosophy and experience here.
I look forward to serving you, and may we all be well!
Dr. T.R. Morris is a licensed naturopathic medical doctor (ND). He is currently serving as faculty and consultant to the Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM). The IFM mission is to revolutionize medicine by teaching the latest genetic, nutritional, hormonal and other biochemically-based integrative medicine techniques to MDs and other practitioners looking for new tools to prevent and treat chronic disease. In the past, T.R. served as the medical director of a large integrative clinic and taught (genetics, physiology, biochemistry, microbiology, cellular & molecular biology) for 10 years for various medical programs in the Puget Sound. He sees patients in person (or long-distance via Skype consultations) from his home office in Seattle. Contact Dr. Morris