One of the hardest things about dealing with a chronic health or autoimmune disorder is how isolating it can be. Because it’s an “invisible” illness, you look healthy and normal to people when, in fact, you may have periods where you suffer profoundly from the symptoms of your illness along with fatigue, brain fog, and depression. Many people with chronic health disorders are disbelieved by doctors and family members or told they are being lazy or whiny. You are not alone, and you can even find validation and comradery in a few streaming shows on the topic.
Below are a list of streaming shows that take you inside the world of chronic and autoimmune health disorders. Even if you don’t have the same disorders as the subjects in these documentaries, chances are you can relate to their journeys.
This 2018 Netflix docuseries follows the lives of several people with mysterious chronic health disorders as they bounce from one treatment to the next in their search for healing. Afflicted drew considerable criticism from the subjects of the film for being edited in a way that makes their disorders look psychosomatic — the biggest stigma people with chronic and autoimmune disorders struggle against. So, keep that in mind if you watch this series, but otherwise the subjects are very open and vulnerable about their struggles.
This 2008 Amazon Prime documentary chronicles the disabling effects of long-term Lyme disease and the endless search for effective remedies. Under Our Skin reveals the emotional and psychological journey of despair with debilitating symptoms, the ongoing search for remedies, and medical denial and neglect that is still systemic today.
Brain on Fire
Brain on Fire is a 2016 drama based on a true story about a young woman who suddenly begins to experience a range of neurological and psychiatric symptoms that progressively worsen. Doctors run multiple tests and insist nothing is wrong with her until one doctor diagnoses her with neurological autoimmunity.
My Kid is Not Crazy
My Kid is Not Crazy follows the struggles of parents whose children suffer from neurological and psychiatric disorders triggered by a strep infection, a condition known as PANDAS (Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections.) Parents must navigate not only the frightening and tragic symptoms their children face but also medical skepticism, controversy, and ridicule. It is now established in the research that infections can trigger neurological autoimmunity in both children and adults.
Living Proof is a 2017 documentary that chronicles one man’s diagnosis with multiple sclerosis and his battle not only with this autoimmune disease but also conventional medicine, pharmaceutical companies, and the drug-funded Multiple Sclerosis Society. Filmmaker Matt Embry and his family turn to the science for answers when doctors fail him, and as a result he emerges as an advocate for a diet and lifestyle approach he uses to successfully manage his condition.
Gaga: Five Foot Two
Although Gaga: Five Foot Two is primarily a look into Lady Gaga’s life, she talks about her struggles with chronic pain, body-wide muscle spasms, fibromyalgia, and a search for relief. Viewers are also allowed into Gaga’s life as she suffers through a pain flare in this 2017 film. Gaga said she chose to portray her struggles with chronic pain and fibromyalgia because she is tired of people thinking it’s not a real condition.
Unrest, 2017, was created by a Harvard PhD student who was two months away from marriage when she became bedridden with ME/CFS, also known as chronic fatigue syndrome. No longer able to work, write, or read, the filmmaker begins chronicling her disease through her iPhone and then including footage of other people from around the world. She and the others in her film suffer not only from the disease but also from ridicule and dismissal from both conventional medicine and society at large. Unrest is available on Amazon.
Functional medicine for chronic health and autoimmune disorders
One common thread that runs through these documentaries is the disbelief, disregard, and ridicule that patients with chronic health and autoimmune disorders run into in the insurance-based health system. Patients are accused of making up their symptoms, of needing psychiatric help instead of medical attention, and repeatedly told nothing is wrong with them.
In functional medicine, we take your symptoms seriously and do not accuse you of attention-seeking. We run tests that look for underlying causes of your symptoms and help you revamp your diet and lifestyle to support recovery and remission.
Ask my office for more information about managing a chronic health or autoimmune disorder.
Sufficient vitamin D levels requires more than a healthy diet and taking supplements—good vitamin D levels need the right cofactors too. A shocking three-quarters of the US population has too little vitamin D, even in sunny locales. Vitamin D is necessary to dampen inflammation and tame autoimmune diseases. Some people with autoimmunity may even need extra vitamin D due to a genetic variation that affects the ability of their cells to absorb adequate vitamin D.
In addition to supplementing with fat-soluble vitamin D (cholecalciferol), make sure you are getting the right cofactors, or “helper molecules” that assist in the biochemical transformations required by vitamin D.
These include fat-soluble vitamin A, magnesium, and K2, which make vitamin D more bioavailable and help prevent D overload.
Vitamin A and vitamin D work together to make sure your genetic code functions appropriately. There are two main types of vitamin A:
Beta-carotene, found in brightly colored fruits and vegetables, apricots, mango, and leafy greens.
Retinol, found in organ meats and dairy products.
You can take vitamin A in supplement form as both beta-carotene and retinol, however retinol is the more active form. Although it’s also possible to take too much retinol. Your body can’t get rid of it easily, which can be harmful.
Magnesium. You can obtain sufficient magnesium through food, but high doses of vitamin D3 deplete magnesium. If you are already low in magnesium and supplement with vitamin D, supplementing with magnesium may avoid headaches, cramping, nausea, numbness and more that may accompany high doses of D3.
The Vitamin D Council recommends 500–700mg of magnesium per day. Supplement sources include magnesium glycinate, magnesium citrate, and magnesium malate. Each has unique effects, so consult with my office to learn which is right for your needs.
Magnesium-rich foods include dark leafy greens, potato, beans, lentils, avocado, bananas, figs, strawberries, blackberries, nuts, seeds, brown rice, and dark chocolate.
Vitamin K2. Vitamin D toxicity can cause soft tissue to accumulate calcium and calcify like bone. In contrast, sufficient vitamin D i may even protect against calcium deposits in arteries.
Vitamin K2 is an important cofactor for vitamin D to help the body deposit calcium in appropriate locations such as the bones and teeth, and to prevent calcium from depositing where it doesn’t belong, such as the soft tissues, arterial walls, joints and organs.
Healthy gut bacteria are necessary to convert vitamin K1 to the more active form K2. However, we can supply our K1 needs through eating cabbage, kale, spinach, chard, green leafy vegetables, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels’ sprouts, and sauerkraut. These foods will also promote healthy gut bacteria.
The National Academy of Sciences recommends 90mcg of K2 for women and 120mcg for men.
However, Osteoporosis International recommends 180 mcg a day of K2 as MK-7.
If you take blood thinning medicines such as Warfarin or Coumadin, vitamin K supplements can affect how well your blood clots, so please talk to your doctor.
If you would like help understanding about the the necessity of vitamin D cofactors, you can schedule a FREE 15-MINUTE CONSULTATION with Dr. Celaya.
Checking your vitamin D level periodically can help you improve your health if you suffer from chronic illness.
In functional medicine we measure vitamin D levels with a serum 25-hydroxy vitamin D test. Optimal levels are between 50 and 80 ng/mL.
If you suffer from leaky gut or autoimmunity, you may be more prone to a genetic vitamin D deficiency, so make sure to pay attention to this vital vitamin.
Most of us have taken antibiotics to treat infections, whether for a nasty bug, a bad scrape, or after surgery. We tend to trust doctors’ recommendation, however, new data about the alarming side effects of a class of antibiotics called fluoroquinolones makes it clear they should only be used as a last resort.
Fluoroquinolones are a class of broad-spectrum antibiotics commonly prescribed for infections of the kidneys, urinary tract, sinuses, and respiratory tract.
Known by names such as Cipro (ciprofloxacin), Cipro XR, Proquin XR, Levaquin (levofloxacin), Floxin, Noroxin, Avelox, Factive, and certain generics, any drug ending in “floxacin” is in this class.
The side effects — sometimes called “getting floxed” — are so severe, the Food and Drug Administration warns to avoid taking this family antibiotics unless there is absolutely no another option.
Fluoroquinolones increase risk of tendinitis and tendon rupture
While fluoroquinolones are known for various side effects, one that may come as a surprise is increased risk of tendinitis and tendon ruptures.
Fluoroquinolones have been shown to weaken and disrupt the underlying structure of tendons. Researchers propose the following causes:
A boost in levels of enzymes that damage soft tissue.
Interference with the way our bodies replicate DNA, essential to repair of minor damage that running might cause.
Disrupted blood flow to collagen in the muscles and tendons.
The Achilles tendon seems to be particularly susceptible, making fluoroquinolones especially problematic for runners.
The average person taking fluoroquinolones has a 70 percent greater risk of tendinopathy and a 30 percent greater risk of full rupture than someone taking a different class of antibiotics.
Signs might include tendon, join, and muscle pain, sometimes soon after taking the drug. However, the side-effect risks can continue for weeks after you stop taking the drug.
The higher your dose and the longer you take fluoroquinolones, the greater your risk of tendon problems.
The most vulnerable populations include:
People with kidney disease
Patients taking corticosteroid medications
If you would like help understanding that Antibiotics is rupturing Tendons, you can schedule a FREE 15-MINUTE CONSULTATION with Dr. Celaya.
Fluoroquinolones: a long history of side effects
Fluoroquinolones have been required for years to carry warnings to alert doctors and patients of increased risk of certain health issues. As time has revealed the true severity of the effects, the FDA has raised the bar and required them to carry its sternest “black box” warning.
Side effect alerts include:
In 2008, the FDA added a black box warning to fluoroquinolones regarding the increased risk of tendinitis and tendon rupture.
In 2011, the risk of worsening symptoms for patients with myasthenia gravis was added to the labeling rule.
In 2013, the FDA required labeling updates to reflect potential for irreversible peripheral neuropathy (serious nerve damage).
In 2016, the FDA enhanced warnings on all fluoroquinolones to the “black box” level regarding disabling and potentially permanent side effects involving tendons, muscles, joints, nerves and the central nervous system.
Because the risk of these side effects generally outweighs potential benefits to patients with acute bacterial sinusitis and uncomplicated urinary tract infections, the FDA determined that these drugs should only be used for as a last resort after other antibiotic classes were tried unsuccessfully.
As late as July 2018 the FDA announced a labeling change to strengthen warnings about the risks of mental health side effects and severe blood sugar disturbances.
Blood sugar disturbances. Both high and low blood sugar are already included as a warning on most fluoroquinolone labels, however the FDA added that these low blood sugar levels can lead to coma.
Mental health side effects. Across the fluoroquinolone antibiotic class, a range of mental health side effects are already described on the drug labels, including disturbances in attention, disorientation, agitation, nervousness, memory impairment, and delirium. The revised labels will make these side effects more prominent and more consistent across the drug class to better alert doctors and patients.
Fluoroquinolones help create antibiotic resistant bugs
Another reason to avoid this class of drugs is they appear to be especially good at creating antibiotic resistant bugs.
The effectiveness of fluoroquinolones at destroying bacteria associated with certain infections has dropped from 100 percent to about 70 percent.
Only use fluoroquinolones as a last resort
The spread of knowledge about the increased FDA warnings seems to be slow. While medical groups such as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Infectious Diseases Society of America, and the American Thoracic Society have stopped recommending fluoroquinolones as the first line of defense, studies show little reduction so far in the prescription of fluoroquinolones outside of hospitals.
The FDA recommends that whether you are an athlete, if you have a common infection such as bronchitis, sinusitis, or a simple urinary tract infection, don’t agree to take these drugs unless you have no other option.
If your doctor wants to prescribe fluoroquinolones, make sure to tell them about any history of kidney disease, steroid use, or any previous issues with your tendons or muscles.
And remember that other serious side effects are possible, including nerve damage, confusion, hallucinations, and blood-sugar related coma.
Please contact my office for more information about how to treat infections without this dangerous class of drugs.
Vitamin D is one of the few nutrients we can’t get enough of from food. Our bodies are designed to make vitamin D from sunlight, yet modern life has made that difficult. The result is a worldwide 50 percent deficiency in vitamin D, even in sunny locations.
Why we can’t get enough of the sunshine vitamin
While some foods contain vitamin D, our main source is supposed to be sun exposure and we synthesize it using cholesterol.
However, certain factors stand in the way:
Reduced sun exposure. We spend far fewer hours outside than our ancestors and slather on sunscreen when we are outside. People with dark skin or who live farther north have even less ability to make vitamin D from sunlight.
Limited diet. Most people don’t eat the foods that contain more vitamin D, such as organ meats, salmon and fish liver oil, and egg yolks. Two foods fortified with vitamin D — dairy (a common immune reactive food) and breakfast cereals (gluten and grains).
Gut inflammation and fat malabsorption. Vitamin D is fat-soluble. When the gut is inflamed due to leaky gut and other inflammatory gut disorders, fat absorption is compromised and your vitamin D levels suffer.
Stress. High cortisol levels from chronic stress can deplete vitamin D levels.
Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency can include:
Muscle, joint and bone pain
Brittle or soft bones
Suppressed immune system
What vitamin D does for you
Vitamin D is actually a hormone, and along with thyroid hormone, is one of the two hormones every cell in your body needs. It regulates hundreds of different pathways throughout the body.
Bone density. Vitamin D has long been known to play a role in preventing breakdown of bones and increasing the strength of the skeletal system.
Mood regulation. Low vitamin D is linked to a 14 percent increase depression and a 50 percent increase in suicide rates. Increasing vitamin D intake can help improve anxiety and depression.
Brain health. Vitamin D’s biologically active form has shown neuroprotective effects including the clearance of amyloid plaques common to Alzheimer’s Disease. Associations have also been noted between low 25-hydroxyvitamin D and dementia.
Reduced cancer risk. Optimal vitamin D levels are associated with lower rates of cancers of the breast, ovaries, prostate, and pancreas.
Sleep quality. Adequate vitamin D is associated with improved sleep.
Immune regulation. Vitamin D plays a key role in promoting regulatory T cells, which decide whether to dampen or promote inflammation in the body.
This is particularly important in dampening autoimmunity, when the immune system attacks body tissue.
Studies show more than 90 percent of those with autoimmunity have a genetic defect that promotes vitamin D deficiency.
A common thread in all chronic illnesses, inflammation is shown to be reduced by adequate vitamin D levels.
Ways to boost vitamin D
Sunshine. Get 20 to 60 minutes of sun on your skin per day, depending on your skin tone and latitude. The more skin exposed, the more D you produce.
Food sources. Include salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines, and egg yolks in your diet.
Supplementation. Vitamin D exists in two forms, D2 and D3.
While vitamin D2 is commonly seen on mainstream vitamin labels, vitamin D3 is twice as effective at raising vitamin D levels in the body.
Current mainstream dosage guidelines for vitamin D are based solely on maintaining proper bone density and not preventing chronic health conditions.
Since vitamin D is fat soluble, its recommended to take it in an oil-based soft gel capsule or liquid form with a meal that includes fat.
For autoimmune management, doses of vitamin D can range from 5,000 to 10,000 IU per day. Some people take higher doses if their genetics hamper absorption. It’s best to test your levels every three to six months.
Emulsified vitamin D
Emulsified vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) enhances absorption and helps prevent toxicity at higher doses.
Support fat metabolism with digestive enzymes
If you have leaky gut, celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, or have had your gall bladder removed, your ability to absorb fat may be compromised. Since vitamin D is fat-soluble, make sure your body can absorb it by adding digestive enzymes to your daily regimen.
Have you ever wanted to know everything there is to know about your thyroid? This 7-part video series will cover thyroid lab testing, nutrition and infections that affect the thyroid, toxins, thyroid hormone conversion, lifestyle, and adrenal interplay.