Although they are more than a couple of decades behind functional medicine, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) is finally recommending lower carbohydrate diets for people with diabetes.
In functional medicine, we have long seen the deleterious effects of carbohydrate-laden diets on not only blood sugar, but also on chronic inflammatory disorders, weight, hormonal balance, and brain function.
High blood sugar disorders such as type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance, or pre-diabetes, not only make you feel worse, they also significantly raise your risk of numerous chronic health disorders, including heart disease, stroke, autoimmune disease, and Alzheimer’s. In fact, some researchers call Alzheimer’s type 3 diabetes because high blood sugar is so damaging to the brain.
While it’s heartening that such a large and official organization is finally making dietary recommendations to stabilize blood sugar, their list of recommended foods remains problematic. Some foods on the ADA list have been shown to trigger autoimmune attacks on the pancreas, worsening type 1 diabetes and increasing the risk of developing autoimmune diabetes in people with type 2 diabetes, a lifestyle-induced disease.
If you would like help understanding about food recommendations for low carb diet, you can schedule a FREE 15-MINUTE CONSULTATION with Dr. Celaya.
The ADA’s new recommendations for carbohydrate consumption
Previously, the ADA warned against diets under 130 grams a day of carbohydrates because people would be deprived of essential nutrients. They also stated the brain needs more than 130 grams a day to meet its energy needs.
However, given the success of lower carb diets in not only reducing the need for insulin but also in lowering heart-disease risk, the ADA has adjusted its recommendations to support a lower carb diet.
In what may eventually prove to be a sea change in government recommendations, the ADA bases the new recommendation on findings that a low-carb diet better manages health than a low-fat diet.
It also states that dietary recommendations should depend on the patient and that a “one-size-fits-all” diet should not be given to every patient.
They do not recommend a low-carb diet for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, people who have eating disorders or at risk of developing eating disorders, people with kidney disease, and for those taking SGLT2 inhibitor medication.
ADA guidelines on low-glycemic foods fail to consider foods that trigger autoimmune attacks
It’s a step in the right direction that the ADA is finally recognizing the vast amounts of research and the countless case studies linking lower carb diets with better health.
However, they have yet to recognize the science showing that some ADA recommended low-glycemic foods trigger autoimmune attacks on cells that cause type 1 diabetes.
The most prevalent triggers are gluten and dairy, although other foods also cross-react with cells involved in type 1 diabetes. This does not mean that these foods trigger an autoimmune attack in all people, but research shows certain foods raise the risk of exacerbating autoimmune diabetes.
For the person with type 1 diabetes it’s especially important to be aware of which foods may trigger autoimmune attacks that worsen their condition. You can screen for these foods with testing from Cyrex Labs.
However, research also shows that about 10–20 percent of people with type 2 diabetes, which is lifestyle induced, also have undiagnosed type 1 diabetes. This is referred to as type 1.5 diabetes.
Should you go on a low-carb diet?
The average American eats more processed carbohydrates than the human body was designed to handle. The incidences of inflammatory disorders related to high blood sugar are crushing the healthcare system — diabetes, obesity, heart disease, chronic pain, depression, dementia, and neurodegenerative diseases are just a few.
However, this doesn’t mean every person should be on the same diet. For some, a very low-carb ketogenic diet is highly therapeutic. For others, such as those with compromised brain function that has caused dysregulated metabolic and neurological function, a ketogenic diet can be disastrous.
Although finding your optimal carbohydrate consumption may take some trial and error, it’s safe to assume you do not need sugar, high fructose corn syrup, processed carbohydrates, and industrial oils. Instead, the bulk of your diet should come from a diverse array of ever changing vegetables and fruits (be careful not to go overboard on fruits), and healthy fats and proteins.
It’s also safe to assume the human body was designed for daily physical activity, time outdoors, and healthy social interaction.
Ask my office for help on customizing and diet and lifestyle plan designed just for you.
A controversial new study found that high cholesterol does not shorten life span and that statins are essentially a “waste of time,” according to one of the researchers. Previous studies have linked statins with an increased risk of diabetes.
The study reviewed research of almost 70,000 people and found that elevated levels of “bad cholesterol” did not raise the risk of early death from cardiovascular disease in people over 60.
The authors called for statin guidelines to be reviewed, claiming the benefits of statins are “exaggerated.”
Not only did the study find no link between high cholesterol and early death, it also found that people with high “bad” cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein, or LDL) actually lived longer and had fewer incidences of heart disease.
The co-author and vascular surgeon went on to say that cholesterol is vital for preventing cancer, muscle pain, infection, and other health disorders in older people. He said that statins are a “waste of time” for lowering cholesterol and that lifestyle changes are more effective for improving cardiovascular health.
Naturally, the paper drew fire and its conclusions were dismissed by other experts in the field. Statins are among the most commonly prescribed drugs — one in four Americans over the age of 40 take statins and the drug accounts for more than $20 billion in spending each year. Statin use has gone up more than 80 percent in the last 20 years.
Statins linked to higher risk of diabetes and other health disorders
In functional medicine we recognize cholesterol as a vital compound in the body for multiple functions, including brain function and muscle strength. Overly low cholesterol is linked with an increased risk of several health disorders, including diabetes.
One study of almost 9,000 people showed that people in their 60s who used statins had an almost 40 percent higher risk of type 2 diabetes. They also had higher rates of high blood sugar and pre-diabetes, or insulin resistance. High blood sugar disorders underpin numerous chronic inflammatory conditions, including Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Previous research found a 50 percent increased risk of diabetes in women who took statins.
In addition to raising the risk of high blood sugar and diabetes, statins also may cause such side effects as muscle weakness and wasting, headaches, difficulty sleeping, and dizziness.
Statins do not address the underlying cause of heart disease: Chronic inflammation
Statins may lower cholesterol, but they do not address the underlying cause of heart disease, which is typically chronic inflammation (some people are genetically predisposed to cardiovascular disease). The body uses cholesterol to repair arteries damaged by inflammation — the primary cause of heart attacks and strokes.
For instance, the vast majority of people who have heart attacks have normal cholesterol. In other countries where people have higher cholesterol than Americans, they also have less heart disease. In fact, low cholesterol in elderly patients is linked to a higher risk of death compared to high cholesterol.
Improving heart health through functional medicine instead of statins
Functional medicine is a great way to improve cardiovascular health because it avoids drugs that cause potentially harmful side effects. Although lifestyle changes may require more work than popping a pill, they address root causes of your disorder versus overriding them. This means you feel and function better overall.
What does a functional medicine approach to heart health look like?
An anti-inflammatory diet
Releasing feel-good endorphins on a regular basis through exercise (endorphins are anti-inflammatory)
Targeted nutritional support
Identifying and addressing the root causes of your inflammation, which are different for everyone. Possibilities include high blood sugar, poor thyroid function, an undiagnosed autoimmune disorder, chronic bacterial, fungal, or viral infections, leaky gut, or a brain imbalance, such as from a past brain injury.
It’s important to address things from this angle because cholesterol is vital to good health. It is found in every cell and helps produce cell membranes, vitamin D, and hormones. It’s also necessary for healthy brain function.
Inflammation promotes heart disease
Chronic inflammation and not cholesterol is the concerning factor in heart disease. The blood marker C-reactive protein (CRP) identifies inflammation. If it’s high, you have a higher risk for heart disease than those with high cholesterol. Having normal cholesterol but high CRP does not protect you from heart disease.
By using functional medicine to lower your inflammation and improve your heart health, you not only avoid the risks and dangers of statins, but also you get to better enjoy your golden years thanks to improved energy and well being.
American children are busier than ever. Between tutoring, over-scheduled after-school activities, and the addictive lure of video games and smart phones, children spend half as much time playing outside than their parents did. Kids today play outside an average of a dismal 4 hours a week, compared to 8 hours when their parents were children. Sadly, lack of play time robs children of important developmental and health benefits. Humans are actually designed to grow based on plenty of play time (adults too!).
Two of the most important ingredients for beneficial childhood play are the outdoors and boredom. Though it can feel temporarily nightmarish to the child, boredom is great for the developing child brain — it forces children to employ their own agency, creativity, and, if other children are present, collaboration.
Why play is vital to childhood development
Free play develops social, emotional, and academic foundations that will server children later in life. It improves emotional intelligence and the ability to self-regulate. It also helps children learn about themselves, what they’re good at, and what they like to do.
Some industry experts argue that the qualities developed through free play will be what gives those children an edge in a world increasingly dominated by artificial intelligence and robots. Free play encourages compassion, creativity, complexity, and dexterity — skills that will always set humans apart from robots.
Also, health experts argue that lack of sufficient free play is contributing to the explosion of depression and other mental disorders in children. Depression is rising fastest among teens and young adults. Free play develops self-directed life-coping skills in kids that they don’t get in a violin lesson or soccer practice.
For children to fully enjoy the developmental aspects of free play, there is one thing parents must do: stay out of it. “Successful” childhood play is self-motivated by the child, as well as fun, engaging, and free of the normal rules of life.
If you would like help understanding how your children Become Healthier, you can schedule a FREE 15-MINUTE CONSULTATION with Dr. Celaya.
Several categories of healthy child’s play have been identified:
Imaginative play. This includes drawing, painting, sculpting, and playing with water. Imaginative play is necessary to develop creativity, self-expression, communication, and experimentation with reality.
Building. Kids love to build stuff out of whatever materials available, whether it’s Legos, rocks, or sticks. Building play develops fine motor skills, reasoning skills, resilience (because these structures always collapse), and problem-solving.
Physical play. This is the kind of play that makes harried moms send their kids outdoors in order to protect the furniture. Rough housing, wrestling, play fighting, and other forms of physical play develop gross motor skills, physical fitness, perseverance, and memory.
Dramatic play. Some of the most engrossing forms of childhood play are the elaborate dramas, play acting, dress up, and shows that kids create. This form of play develops emotional regulation, relationship skills, empathy, cooperation, and negotiation.
Nature: A vital ingredient to childhood play
In addition to allowing children the space to transition through boredom into play, the outdoors is another vital ingredient to healthy childhood play.
Between addictive digital lures, overscheduled afterschool activities, and helicopter parenting, children today spend less time outdoors than do maximum security prisoners. This is tragic.
Sunshine. Regular exposure to sunshine is necessary for human health to regulate the sleep-wake cycle and hormonal system, prevent mood disorders, and promote healthy immune function and bone growth.
Exercise. Children should exercise an hour a day. Free play outdoors better encourages this.
Healthy risk taking. Taking risks is an important part of free play, despite parental fear. Healthy risk taking during outdoor play helps children build good life skills and confidence.
Socialization. Socialization is one of the most important factors in good health. Letting kids play outside gives them the opportunity to meet other kids and develop social skills.
Appreciation of nature. Many studies point to the health benefits of time spent in nature. Letting children have unstructured play time among trees, dirt, streams, and other natural features instills a lifelong appreciation of nature.
It used to be parents sent their kids outside to play to get them out of their hair. These days, parents must contend with pushback from kids who would rather play video games or do other online activities indoors. Parents too must unplug long enough to enforce some digital-free outdoors play time — in all kinds of weather. Kids act like boredom is going to kill them, but if you let them see it through chances are they’ll eventually engage their innate resources for unstructured play.
Although autoimmune disease symptoms can vary depending on the tissue the immune system is attacking, most people with autoimmunity struggle with bouts of fatigue, energy “crashes,” brain fog, inflammation, and pain. These symptoms can throw a frustrating wrench in your exercise habit. Or if these reoccurring symptoms have prevented you from starting an exercise routine, take heart. Regular exercise can be one of the most effective ways to manage your autoimmune condition — you just need to heed your body’s fluctuating needs and tolerance levels.
Autoimmune disease is a condition in which an immune imbalance causes the immune system to attack and destroy tissue in the body. It is a chronic inflammatory condition that many people successfully manage through functional medicine protocols that include dietary and lifestyle strategies as well as helpful nutraceuticals.
Regular exercise is paramount in managing an autoimmune condition for the following reasons:
It improves circulation, which helps oxygenate body tissue, deliver nutrients to tissues, remove debris, and facilitate detoxification.
It produces chemicals that enhance brain function, such as brain-derived neurotrophic factor; a healthy brain facilitates a healthy body.
How exercise may be different for the person managing autoimmune disease
Although autoimmune disease can feel like a burden, especially when you’re having a flare, many people report it has also forced them to live more balanced, healthy lives.
With autoimmune disease you typically don’t have the privilege of abusing your body to be more productive, to sleep less, to give too much, to say yes too often, and so on.
This also means you don’t always have the option of pushing yourself as hard as you’d like when you exercise. This can be hard on the ego, especially when it comes to exercising in a group situation. For instance, if you are involved in a team sport, group exercise class, or other situation that invites a competitive drive, your ego may want to do more than your body can deliver.
It’s important to pay attention to your body because while exercise has profound anti-inflammatory potential, over exercising will make inflammation worse and could trigger an autoimmune flare.
Likewise, if you’re new to exercise and afraid of triggering a flare, you may feel too intimidated by a group exercise class and looking “weak” or “lazy.”
Rest assured that’s just your ego talking and it’s best not to take orders from it if you want to prevent an autoimmune flare or excessive inflammation. Also, other people are too absorbed in their own workouts to notice yours.
If you would like help understanding Exercise and Autoimmunity disease, you can schedule a FREE 15-MINUTE CONSULTATION with Dr. Celaya.
Challenge yourself enough to release anti-inflammatory compounds but not so much you can’t comfortably return the next day
Many people with autoimmune disease find optimal results managing their autoimmunity by maintaining a consistent exercise schedule most days of the week.
Pulling this off means tuning in to your body to find the exercise sweet spot for autoimmune management — not too little and not too much.
Science shows using high-intensity interval training (HIIT) provides the most benefits for managing inflammation, boosting circulation and oxygenation, and improving brain function.
HIIT involves exercising at your maximum heart rate for short bursts of 30 seconds to 2 minutes, followed by a rest and recover phase, and then repeating.
If you’re new to exercise, even just a few minutes a day can start to deliver HIIT’s benefits. If you’d like to improve your fitness level, incorporate HIIT into a longer workout that also includes weight training and some endurance training.
It can be confusing knowing how to safely exercise to maximize its anti-inflammatory effects without going too far. Some great online resources exist that can help you figure out safe ranges using a heart rate monitor. Gyms such as Orange Theory Fitness also use heart-rate tracking, in addition to motivational coaching, to help you dial in your sweet spot.
The beauty of HIIT is that you can adjust it to your fitness level. One person’s HIIT may be sprinting up some stadium stairs while another person’s HIIT may be doing some push-ups from the knees. Both people benefit.
Keep these tips in mind when exercising with autoimmunity:
Find an exercise that is fun and enjoyable. Positivity is anti-inflammatory while dread and negativity are pro-inflammatory. Making it fun will be part of the health benefits. A group class or social setting may be healthy for the same reason.
Challenge yourself enough to get your heart rate up.
Don’t challenge yourself so much you trigger a flare. The key is to be able to do it again the next day. A consistent exercise schedule will deliver the most health benefits.
Pay attention to your body. If you are feeling so run down you can hardly get out of bed, that is probably not a good day to go work out. If you are feeling a little run down but can function, dial back the intensity of your exercise but see if you can still perform. Sometimes a light workout helps you recover faster than not working out.
If you are feeling really run down while working out, it may be better to quit early than to push through.
Capitalize on the days you feel good to challenge yourself a little more than normal, being cautious not to overdo it.
Remember, this is a lifelong condition that requires lifelong attention. Make each day of exercise about the long-range journey as much as that day’s session.
Ask my office for more information on managing autoimmune disease and chronic health symptoms.
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.
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.