Category Archives for Conditions

Why is Vitamin D Important?

Why is Vitamin D Important?

Hearing the words unrecognized pandemic can elicit fear in the most even tempered person. However; learning that you may have control over your exposure to this so called pandemic should come as some relief. To protect yourself you don’t need to get a shot, have your home debugged, or limit your travel. You probably don’t even need any special lotions or potions, you just need to have a simple understanding of why vitamin D is important.

Vitamin D, the “sunshine vitamin,” has a receptor site on every cell in your body, which means every cell in your body needs vitamin D for some function. A healthy level of vitamin D is needed to “maintain bone health throughout life, but also plays an important role in reducing risk of many chronic diseases including type I diabetes, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, deadly cancers, heart disease and infectious diseases.” 1

Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency may include:

  • Fatigue
  • General muscle pain and weakness
  • Muscle cramps
  • Joint pain
  • Chronic pain
  • Weight gain
  • High blood pressure
  • Restless sleep
  • Poor concentration
  • Headaches
  • Bladder problems
  • Constipation or diarrhea

Would you take action if protecting yourself from this global scourge required having fun and eating foods you like?

After having a breakfast containing whole eggs (yolks are a significant source of dietary vitamin D), go play outside for 15 or 20 minutes and you will be well on your way to satisfying your body’s daily need for vitamin D, and you will have done your part to protect yourself from a pandemic.

In truth, maintaining a healthy vitamin D level may be that simple. Because of a concern about skin cancer many people have done themselves a disservice by shying away from daily sun exposure by not going into the sun at all, using excessive amounts of sunscreen, or completely covering their skin when they are outside, thus becoming part of the pandemic. Although some vitamin D is found in food, it is not enough to maintain a healthy level. Moderate sun exposure is still the most effective way to ward off the ill effects of vitamin D deficiency.

Evaluation by a qualified professional is an important step in determining if you have a vitamin D deficiency, if it is the cause of your health concerns or the effect.

To learn more about why vitamin D is important, what is considered an optimal level, and the risks of not maintaining healthy levels click the links below:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2629072/

http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/87/4/1080S.full

1 The vitamin D deficiency pandemic and consequences for nonskeletal health: mechanisms of action.

Holick, MF-Department of Medicine, Section of Endocrinology, Nutrition, and Diabetes, Vitamin D, Skin and Bone Research Laboratory, Boston University Medical Center, Boston, MA, USA.

Finding the Cause of Your Peripheral Neuropathy

Trying to explain what peripheral neuropathy is, and how finding the cause of your peripheral neuropathy is essential to your successful treatment, may seem daunting in the space of a blog post. At times it can be a very easy condition to address and fix, but more frequently it is very complex.

Peripheral neuropathy means the nerves outside of your spinal cord are damaged. Although often related to diseases like diabetes, the nerve damage ultimately comes from one of five things.

Five common causes of Peripheral Neuropathy:

1. Nerves are not getting enough nutrients (fuel) to stay healthy.

2. Nerves are not being activated, or used enough to stay healthy.

3. Nerves are being deprived of oxygen.

4. Nerves are being compressed, and from the point of compression on down, they are dying because of a lack of fuel, oxygen or activation.

5. Or, you are suffering from a combination of all of the above.

Depending upon the cause of your peripheral neuropathy, and which nerves are affected, you will eventually have symptoms like pain, tingling and numbness predominately in your feet, but it may spread to your hands as well. As nerves continue to die these symptoms will worsen and start to affect other tissue. The most commonly affected is the cerebellum, the part of your brain that controls eye movement, balance, and coordination of movement, so it is not coincidental that along with your peripheral neuropathy you may also have trouble balancing.

Try this test: stand in a relaxed manner, putting more weight on your left foot, then try to place your right foot on the floor directly in front of the left, touching the right heal to the left toe. Were you able to keep your balance? Now switch sides and try again? You should not wobble.

Pain is a normal, natural and essential sensation for your body to experience. It tells you something is wrong. Medications may truly give you relief from your pain symptoms, but relief only occurs while taking the medication; it masks symptoms for as long as you continue taking it. When you stop, you are still left with the underlying condition – your peripheral neuropathy. It has not been cured. And what’s worse, the entire time your symptoms and pain were being masked there is a good chance your nerves degenerated further. The purpose of medication is to change your brain chemistry NOT find the root cause of your symptoms. How will you ever regain healthy nerves if you don’t find which of the 5 causes of peripheral neuropathy you are suffering from?

Patient A and Patient B both suffered from peripheral neuropathy. Both had symptoms that were continuing to worsen. Patient A was 57 and Patient B was 62. Both were on Lyrica to minimize pain yet, their pain was slowly increasing, especially the burning foot pain at night.

Patient A suffered from diabetes and blood tests also revealed macrocytic anemia. Both conditions can deprive nerves of adequate fuel and oxygen. Knowing 2 of the causes of peripheral neuropathy are a lack of fuel (nutrients) and a lack of oxygen to the nerves, a fairly simple treatment plan was developed for Patient A. One which got his blood sugar under control and supported the efficient transport of oxygen rich blood. Within 4 months Patient A related that his peripheral neuropathy pain was gone, his use of Lyrica eliminated, and his blood sugar which was 160-180 with meds before treatment was reduced to 85-110 after treatment enabling him to decrease is diabetes medication by 75%.

Patient B, also diabetic, presented a more complex case. In addition to his diabetes, his initial examination showed he was suffering from loss of “wide diameter afferent neurons.” These nerves, when healthy, block pain. With this information treatment was directed to stabilize blood sugar and improve activation of these “wide diameter afferent nerves.” It was explained to Patient B that this treatment would take longer to see results. Five months into the care he related an 80% reduction of pain intensity and he was able to sleep at night with no pain.

Even though their peripheral neuropathy symptoms seemed the same, it took a careful individual assessment to find the underlying cause or causes in each case. Finding the cause of your peripheral neuropathy is the first step in a successful, drug free plan to improve nerve health and live a pain free life.

Why Are My Hands and Feet Always Cold?

Why Are My Hands and Feet Always Cold?

It’s a warm and slightly humid 82 degree end of summer kind of day. Bright sun, kids heading back to school, thoughts of reorganizing and cleaning out the house are pervasive as we move from one season to the next. If you look carefully the outer tips of leaves are starting to change, some have even begun to fall bringing with them thoughts of apple picking, football and pumpkins. A wonderful stirring of emotions until you remember this seasonal change brings with it a drop in temperature and the longing for spring when your hands and feet will be warm again. Unfortunately, some of us don’t even enjoy the reprieve of summer; we spend our days wondering “why are my hands and feet always cold?”

Contrary to popular belief cold hands and feet don’t just happen, they are a symptom of something not working optimally in your body that the warmest of mittens won’t fix. Although there can be a number of CAUSES for your cold hands and feet, it’s important not to fall too quickly into the trap of focusing on one single thing as the culprit.

Possible causes of cold hands and feet:

  • Anemia and other nutritional deficiencies
  • Autoimmune diseases like Raynaud’s and Hashimoto’s
  • Over active sympathetic nerves
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Thyroid Dysfunction 

Chances are you have been researching your condition and understand my caution when reading the above list. For those new to this information let me explain. All of the conditions listed have the ability to cause cold hands and feet on their own BUT they are most often intertwined with one another. We refer to this as a “web of physiologic dysfunction.” For instance, thyroid dysfunction occurs in approximately 30% of women, some will have anemia and cold hands and feet, or the autoimmune condition known as Raynaud’s and an inability to lose weight, others may be experiencing digestive disorders and depression along with their cold hands and feet. So, again it is essential to consider all the possible culprits.

Let’s look at some of the possibilities more closely starting with thyroid conditions.

As mentioned, 30% of women in the US suffer from thyroid related issues. Your thyroid gland controls your metabolism. Metabolism is your body’s process for turning food into energy. If your thyroid is sluggish your metabolism slows down and so do all of the systems of your body that depend upon it. Cold hands and feet can easily be attributed to poor blood flow to peripheral nerves as a result of faulty metabolism. Other metabolic break downs may appear as hair loss, weight gain, depression, fatigue and digestive disorders.

80% of thyroid related issues actually stem from an autoimmune condition call Hashimoto’s. What does that mean for you? Your thyroid symptoms, fatigue, depression, hair loss, dry skin, digestive disorders and yes, cold hands and feet are secondary to an autoimmune condition. Meaning you generally won’t have one without the other. The web of physiologic dysfunction is in play here. If your thyroid condition is treated without considering the autoimmune component or vice versa there is a high probability you will continue to suffer and allow the underlying cause to wreak havoc on your body.

Anemia, hormonal imbalances and nerve issues, all of which may be related to metabolic breakdown, are also listed above as possible culprits of your cold hands and feet. But as you are learning, these may be the primary problem causing your symptoms OR the secondary problem; remember the role the web of physiologic dysfunction plays in your health. The relationship of anemia in thyroid sufferers is well documented, with some studies claiming as many as 43% of hypothyroid patients having some type of anemia.

In reality you are suffering from two things: the SYMPTOMS – cold hands and feet, and the underlying CAUSES of your condition.

The biggest pitfalls in your care will be treating the symptoms as the problem, and focusing only on one possible cause. Avoid these pitfalls and stop asking “Why are my hands and feet always cold?” Get proper testing, including a complete thyroid panel (not just TSH) with thyroid antibodies, check Vitamin D levels, as low Vitamin D is a precursor for many diseases including autoimmune conditions, and when indicated, test for intestinal permeability, a condition that will cause significant nutritional deficits.

Wouldn’t it be a nice change to enjoy a mug of warm apple cider because of the sweet, spicy dance it performs on your tongue instead of holding onto it for dear life as your hand warmer?

Why Can’t I Eat Anything Without Feeling Sick?

One of the most commonly asked questions among IBS, Crohn’s & Colitis patients is “Why can’t I eat anything without feeling sick?” Typically when people are intolerant to may foods they will direct their attention to the “what” question.  “What can I eat? What will calm down the reaction? What do I take to settle my stomach?” Answering the “what” question will lead to many “solutions” but will not uncover the underlying cause.  “What” solutions are many: restrict your diet, take pills and acid blockers, get tested for food allergies. Or, you can start asking Why you can’t eat anything without feeling sick.

By asking why you can’t eat anything without feeling sick , you are seeking the root cause of your condition, not just a resolution to the effects or symptoms from your condition. Although there are other possible reasons you may be reacting to everything you eat, one of the most common causes is a condition called Intestinal Permeability, or Leaky Gut. Your digestive tract begins with your mouth and ends with, well, your other end. Each part of the system has a specific job, from ingesting food to excreting it, the system is finely tuned to keep your body functioning properly. The job of the small intestine, where Leaky Gut can occur is to breakdown the proteins, fats and carbohydrates from the foods you eat before they enter your blood stream to nourish all the cells of your body. A healthy small intestine is lined with densely packed cells that act as a filter for the broken down particles. The space between these cells are referred to as junctions. A healthy intestine will have tight junctions or a very fine filter. Like the screens in your house, the junctions create a barrier that are meant to let the good stuff in while keeping the bad stuff out. Large undigested particles of food, parasites, and bacteria are all able to pass through the weakened junctions of a leaky gut which alerts the body to a foreign invader causing an inflammatory reaction.

Systemic inflammatory reactions related to Intestinal Permeability: 

Nonspecific joint pain
Brain fog
Fatigue
Skin issues
Bloating
Constipation
Diarrhea
Without fixing this barrier, you will develop more food intolerances and more systemic inflammatory reactions.  

Going back to the most important question-Why? Why would you have Intestinal Permeability? This question has many answers. Foods sensitivities, low Vitamin D, intestinal parasites, medications, stress, and hyperthyroid or hypothyroid are all known culprits. From these culprits your barrier system will be affected in stages, starting with localized inflammation of the intestinal lining. As the lining continues to degrade your whole immune system will join the battle and, even though the damage is confined to the gut, the whole body immune/inflammatory reaction may cause symptoms anywhere in the body. Brain fog, skin conditions like acne or eczema, headaches, joint pain, and of course food sensitivities are all inflammatory reactions to Leaky Gut.  As leaky gut progresses even further you will develop an accumulation of lipopolysaccharides locally in the gut, which is basically an overgrowth of bad bacteria or sludge on the intestinal wall which further affects the inflammatory process and inhibits digestion, creating a state of malnutrition.

By allowing the condition to persist you are seriously hindering any chance of regaining health. There are tests available to determine if you have Intestinal Permeability and what type you may have. Uncovering this roadblock will help to answer the question “Why can’t I eat anything without feeling sick?”

Dr. Kirshner  holds Free Workshops where you can learn more about your condition and how to control it without medication.

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