Tilapia has experienced a significant increase in popularity. It can be found in almost any retail grocery store and is often a featured item on many restaurant menus. But have you ever wondered what you are really eating? I did. Having grown up around both fresh and salt water fisheries, no one ever talked about tilapia. The reason is that this is not a native fish to the United States. This should create your first suspicion about this species of fish.
Where Does Tilapia Really Come From?
As tilapia is not native to the United States, we have to ask, were does tilapia come from. Tilapia is a tropical fish that originated out of Africa with a relatively short growth time. They live in fresh water environments and are not found in saltwater. So at this point, the questions should begin to stir in your mind as to what is the tilapia that is so often found in the grocery store and being served.
Most of the tilapia in the United States actually comes from China and Indonesia. This fish is farmed and then shipped to the United States. At this point, I feel that it is important to understand what farmed fish means. In a nutshell, you are rapidly growing fish in an artificial environment by feeding them “food stuff” that they would not have exposure to in the wild. These environments to not lend themselves to a vast amount of space to swim in, but rather the fish are densely packed in the man-made environment and routinely exposed to high amounts of ammonia and waste.
One big concern with the source of these fish is that according to a report from the USDA in 2009, China fails miserably with food safety standards, including those that are exported to the US. It appears from the findings of this study that many of the fisheries are located next to heavily polluted areas. Such toxins include environmental pollutants, agricultural residues, feces and veterinarian drug residues. It should be no surprise that if the fish are exposed to these toxins, then those that consume the fish are also going to be ingesting these toxins. What is also interesting is that tilapia fisheries exist in the United States but do not meet the demand, thus encouraging import from foreign markets.
Tilapia Nutrition is Questionable
One of the reasons that many individuals turn to fish in their diet is the consumption of omega 3’s. Omega 3’s have been shown to be effective at supporting conditions including cardiovascular disease, arthritis, autoimmune conditions and cancer just to name a few chronic conditions. However, farmed tilapia is higher in omega 6’s, which are inflammatory and have the opposite effect on our health. The unnatural diet that the fish are fed creates a low omega 3 content and a high omega 6, whereas the fish in its natural environment has just the opposite profile. (Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2009;60 Suppl 5:203-11.) From this we can see that the food provided to these fish makes a significant difference in their nutritional value, leaving us to ask what else we should question regarding tilapia nutrition.
Well, since you asked, the fatty acid ratio is not the only problem with tilapia nutrition. The concern of genetic modification rears its ugly head again. In this case it is not referred to as genetic modification, but rather transgenic. Transgenic tilapia has had genes added to their DNA for a desired outcome. In this case, it resulted in “successful production of transgenic tilapia by injection of transgenes (mouse metallothionein promoter/rat growth hormone gene). (Aquaculture. Volume 105, Issues 3–4, 1 August 1992, Pages 219–232) So rat genes to enhance growth hormone production were added to tilapia DNA. No doubt this is to enhance the rate at which the fish can produce. The bigger concern is that by eating genetically modified, or transgenic, tilapia, you are consuming something that is not in natural state and thus has the potential to increase the activity of the immune system in a negative manner. As we have seen with other GMO (genetically modified organism) debacles, this usually comes at a price.
What You Can Do
If you have been eating tilapia, starting off with a good detox would be recommended. Since these fish are mostly coming from polluted foreign sources, you have likely accumulated some of these toxins. You can begin the detox process by eliminating all of the refined, non-organic sources of food from your diet. You will want to transition to foods that are colorful and nutrient dense along with consuming adequate amounts of protein to support your inherent detoxification pathways.
If you are consuming fish to increase the amount of omega 3 fatty acids in your diet, a safer option than eating farmed raised tilapia is taking omega 3 rich supplements. You could eat the fish itself, but this is not an option in the United States, leaving supplementation as preferred source. The other option that you have is to consume wild caught fish. Wild fish such as salmon, cod and halibut are better options and do not come with the same risks of altered fatty acid composition as farmed fish. Therefore, the nutrition of any of these fish is going to exceed tilapia nutrition.
Just the word toxin sounds scary enough, but did you know that toxins may be making you fat. That’s right! The toxins that you are exposed to in your environment may be the reason that you are not losing weight. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Many of the conditions that wish to never deal with such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease can trace part of their roots back to toxins and how they cause fat tissue to become overactive.
Here is what you must understand. Toxins are going to keep making you fat. You are not going to get away from toxins. Why? Because our environment is continually being polluted by a growing number of chemicals. These are not harmless chemicals. Rather they are extremely harmful. What is even worse is that many of these toxins are passed off to the public as safe. Nothing could be farther from the truth. They may not cause immediate effects, but the cumulative effects are traumatic to our health. How big is this problem? Well according to the Institute for Functional Medicine, more than 80,000 new chemicals are released each year. That is a massive amount.
Even You are Toxic!
At this point, you may be saying, “but I am not toxic, otherwise I would know.” You may be surprised to find out that according to recent research, nearly everyone has appreciable levels of toxins that have built up in their body (Neurotoxicology 2012 May 31). You don’t necessarily know that you are toxic. The onset is usually slow and you become more toxic over time. So the take away is that if you are having trouble losing weight, it is not a question of are toxins making you fat because they are.
Are Toxins Making You Fat? – The Rationale
Here is exactly what happens. You encounter toxins, of which there are many sources. Some of the most common are refined foods, non-organic sources of food, plastics, medications and water. When we think of toxins, it is common to think of chemicals that are clearly marked as hazardous. However, we rarely realize we have encountered most of the toxins that we do. Once you have encountered these toxins, they are going to find their way to fat tissue in the body. The reason that toxins go to fat is not because it is a storage depot, but rather that many toxins are fat-soluble. They have a natural affinity for fat. Yet once the toxin reaches the fat, then problems for our fat tissue start to kick in.
Fat and fat with toxins embedded in it is not the same thing. Fat with toxins embedded in it does not look natural to our body and as a result, it sets off alarm signals. The answer to these alarms comes from the immune system. The increased activity of the immune system stirs up an inflammatory storm that causes the fat tissue to increase in size. This is how the toxins are making you fat. When the inflammation flares, the fat cells become more active. Worse yet, they also create problems elsewhere in the body that affect appetite control and blood sugar regulation. Clearly a seemingly harmless toxin is anything but harmless. It could be the stimulus to not just making you fat, but causing chronic disease. (Environ Health Perspect. Feb 2013; 121(2): a61.)
How to Detox
There is a way to overcoming the effects of toxins on your fat tissue. It starts with eliminating the sources of toxins that you can identify. For many though, this is simply not enough. If your body has been overwhelmed by toxins, you will need additional support. Supporting increased toxicity means supporting your body’s own detox systems. Before you jump to conclusions, we are NOT talking about purging your bowels which may actually make you more toxic over time. Rather there are specific nutrients to support detoxification as our body performs it. Replenishing these nutrients is the key to successful removal of toxins, and moreover dropping those stubborn extra pounds of fat. But you cannot stop there. Again, you must eliminate what you can and that means eating a cleaner diet without all the foods that are refined and contain chemicals. Do this and not only will you detox, but you will start dropping fat as well.
Our bodies were not meant to eat the diet we are eating..
The more I learn about functional medicine and all of the toxic foods out there and what they can do to our health, the more difficult it is to not be paranoid. It’s like every corner I turn I find something else that offensive to my health.. And I know sometimes I’m right, but also some times I’m making it out to be worse than it is. But for once, I know I’m not being paranoid about one thing, our diet. The way we eat now is nothing like our ancestors ate. We are now eating foods that our bodies are not designed to process. And that is why compared the our forefathers, we have so many diseases and thats why we have so much dysfunction in our bodies.
The Standard American Diet (Aka The S.A.D. Diet)
So I’m sure you are wondering how this is possible? If it’s labeled food, and it’s edible, then it should be considered food right? Couldn’t be farther from the truth.. To be honest, what people are eating these days, when they are in a rush, I’d be hard pressed to call food. It carries almost no nutritional value. And with that said, there are many foods that we should not eat as they don’t promote long term health. In fact, many of them promote disease when consumed regularly.
Are you sure that your food is really food?
Do you know what is the in the food that you are consuming? Another good question is do you really know what you are consuming? Is it what you think it is? I bet you may be surprised to find the answers to some of these questions. So much of our food supply is contaminated with chemicals in ways we would not even expect. From growth hormones to pesticides and herbicides, the food we eat leaves our detoxification system begging for support. Add to this the stripping of valuable nutrients and fiber and you are left with . . . . Well I’m not totally sure what the best description should be, but it hardly resembles the food you would find in nature.
Our food supply has been altered
Food as we have come to accept it, is the byproduct of industrialization. We have let “big money” take over agriculture and control the food supply. We were duped into thinking that big agriculture was the best way to feed the population. This is problematic on a number of levels, but one of the many reasons is that you are getting food that is adulterated all the way down to the genetics. The rouge science of genetic modification has created foods, and I use that term very loosely, that are not tolerated by our bodies any longer. In fact, these are the foods that are likely most responsible for the rapid increase in autoimmune disease in such a short period of time.
The Paleo Movement
If you are beginning to feel a little anxious about the food you eat every day, you should. But before you become too uptight about this topic, know that there is an answer. There is an army of us out there that refuse to accept the fact that we should eat what we have been told by the government and FDA. Rather, we prefer to eat the Paleo Diet, the diet of our ancestors that kept them free of disease. The Paleo Diet is optimally implemented with the consumption of organic sources, but if you cannot afford organic, you can still derive great benefit. The longer I practice, the more I am convinced that for the average portion of the population, the greatest insults come for grains and dairy. These foods as they are produced now are different from what our forefathers had in numerous ways.
As we know the Paleo Diet mostly focuses on eating non grain plants and animals, and the results of that diet are very very different compared to the results from the typical diet we consume in this country. My main goal is to make sure you understand that you don’t have to eat that toxic mess that is called our food supply, you can choose to take a different path. Just because those lifeless foods are in front of you, or cheaper, or easy access, does not mean you have to eat them. You can choose to take the extra step or put in a little more effort, after this is your health we are talking about. Instead trust the Paleo Diet, follow it and you will see results. I should know, it’s the only way I eat now. The Paleo Diet is the foundation of all diets ever existing for mankind, it has literally been proven for thousands of years to be the best diet for humans. It will free you of this toxic burden, guaranteed.
Without a healthy gut, nothing will function properly
Change is inevitable, we all go through it sometimes on a larger scale sometimes on a smaller scale. Most changes are good, some are not. We have gone from living a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, to agrarian, and eventually for too many of us have become a city dweller society, and with these changes we have undergone changes within our bodies that have had an adverse effect on our health in general. Considering that our GI system has a huge impact in all areas of our health, having a healthy GI tract is very necessary. The GI tract is the keystone for the health of the rest of the body. Without a healthy gut, no other system in our bodies can be expected to function normally. So you can see how very very important it is to keep the gut functioning the way it should, and if you are trying to improve your health your GI tract cannot be discounted.
The Standard American Diet
To really understand how the evolution of human foods have affected our gut, all we have to do is look at our diets. The negative affects of the Standard American Diet (or SAD diet) creates problems and dysfunction for every aspect of our health. For most people this is the very reason that causes the GI tract health to be so unhealthy and damaged. The SAD contains foods that are the very cause of the sluggish bowel movements, and all the refined meats, the sugars, bad fats, snacks and any refined foods really, with minimal fiber, causes the bowels to become acidic. When this happens the lining of your bowels become damaged and this is where the entire function of your gut is, in the mucus lining. When your lining is damaged, your colon cannot do their job. This includes acting as a primary barrier against microorganisms and undigested foods, absorption of vitamins, minerals and proteins and supporting the health of the immune system.
What is Leaky Gut?
Once the bowels begin to move less than 2-3 times each day, putrification of proteins begins to occur resulting in the production of acids. The resulting environment is one that is inhospitable to the resident beneficial bacteria known commonly as probiotics. It is these bacteria that act as part of the immune system and maintain the balance of “good” vs. “bad” microorganisms in the GI tract. With declining numbers of probiotics, the growth of harmful microorganisms increases, resulting in a greater production of acid. Additional acid further compromises the GI lining, compounding the situation and making the integrity of the lining worse. As a consequence, leaky gut develops.
Leaky Gut is more appropriately termed hyperpermeable gut, meaning that things are allowed to pass through more easily than they should. A primary characteristic of the GI tract is a process known as selective permeability. This means that various substances have to carried across the GI lining rather than just being able to filter directly across. Simply, they have to ask for permission. If the substance checks out okay, it is given permission to cross. If it does not check out okay because it is too large or looks foreign, it is denied. Hence, the GI lining is selecting what it wants to grant access. These are the events that take place under ideal circumstances.
It’s like pouring water through a pipe that has slits in it. It leaks.
Yet, we know that most individual’s GI tracts are not healthy because of things such as diet, antibiotics, high stress, and poor brain signaling, to name just a few. When this is the presentation, selective permeability is lost and for this reason we then label the GI tract as hyperpermeable. In this state, the cells of the cells that make up the GI lining are not longer touching each other and have gaps between them, whereas they should all be touching tightly. You can akin this to pouring water through a pipe that has several slits in it. Everywhere a slit is present, water will leak out and there is no way to stop it. This is the case in a leaky gut presentation. Foods, microorganisms, and anything else in the GI tract are leaking past a barrier that they should not.
Without a healthy gut, your immune system weakens.
While a leaky gut has many consequences, the most significant is the loss of regulation of the immune system and the resultant inflammation. From this, a very dire situation can result since on average 60-70% of the immune system is found in and around the GI tract. When the immune system becomes overactive, inflammation is the consequence. It is this scenario that is part of the cause, and at other times the sole cause, in many chronic disease states.
Leaky gut is just the beginning of your worries..
Many diseases states have been shown to be linked to GI dysfunction. The common thread is the inflammatory cascade that is secondary to the dysfunction. It would be easy to see a link in leaky gut and GI disorders such as Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis. However, the state of health does not have to be this grim to have an active leaky gut. More common day to day presentations would include skin disorders ranging from acne to psoriasis, a weakened immune system, brain fog and sinus congestion or infections. However, leaky gut has also been linked to conditions such as cardiovascular disease and cancer. In fact, we now know that the cholesterol and blood fat model of cholesterol has become secondary to the inflammatory model with the GI tract being a likely source of the inflammation. Ironically, detoxification programs incorporating proper bowel function often show dramatic reductions in elevated cholesterol levels. The most complex category of conditions associated with leaky gut is autoimmunity. Loss of regulation of the immune system causes it to turn on itself leading to damage of the body’s own tissues by a system designed to protect it.
You can only heal your gut with the right nutrients
Identification of a hyperpermeable GI state is best done through specific testing. Ideal methods include stool and monitoring of antibodies to foods and human tissues. These antibodies should only be produced against what our immune system perceives as harmful, not against food and our own body. Diagnosis and treatment of a hyperpermeable gut often centers around bringing back balance through restoring the GI lining, replacing the necessary missing constituents such as digestive enzymes and acid and probiotics, and eradicating any infections when present. One cannot hope to resolve a chronic disease state and heal a leaky gut by not addressing the necessary components listed above. Often in this state, a reasonable degree of inflammation exists at the GI lining. To allow the cells of the GI tract to move closer together and seal the lining, it becomes necessary to add the nutrients in that this environment is dependent on as well as to soothe any areas of inflammation. Oddly enough, this is something that prescription anti-inflammatories are incapable of as many of them actually breakdown the lining of the GI tract further and have been shown to lead to bleeding in some instances.
But what leads to the leaky gut in the first place?
If this was driven by a poor diet, this must be remedied by dietary modification consisting of consumption of high foods rich in a variety of nutrients, high in fiber, low in sugar and rich in healthy fats. When infections are identified, these must be eliminated. Such infections may include bacterial, fungal, or parasitic. These can be elusive at times, but persistent treatment pays off and eventually results in their elimination. Common to find along with an infection is a decrease of the probiotics. Probiotics being bacteria are susceptible to the effects of antibiotics and sometimes other antimicrobial treatments, yet they can also proliferate themselves once enough of them are in the GI tract. Building up these colonies adds stability to the body by strengthening the immune system, producing nutrients such as vitamins, and inhibiting the growth of foreign microorganisms. One of the factors that can lead to the presence of an infection is lower levels of acid production. Acid has been made to be the villain in our society, yet it acts as our first line of immune defense in the GI tract and initiates the protein breakdown process. When combined with the enzymes produced in the mouth and pancreas, the digestive juices breakdown foods into their smallest possible components causing them to be non-reactive to the immune system.
Your brain, hormones and gut are all connected
Just as important for a healthy GI Tract is healthy brain and and stress functions. When you are experiencing a lot of stress, you are also weakening your immune system because the lining of your intestines, the protective mucus lining inside your gut, will start thinning which in turn lowers your immune cell count gradually. When that mucus lining is damaged, it also makes it difficult for the intestines to repair themselves. All these dysfunctions are connected, and when you are having this much dysfunction in your gut, your brain will be impaired as far as signaling to create the digestive juices needed. When you get to this point you need to look outside of the GI tract to correct the functions.
As you can see based on what I have been discussing here, all of our systems are connected to our GI Tract. The GI system is of utmost importance when it comes to delivering the nutrients each system needs to keep our immune systems functioning correctly. It is a portal that can accept and reject the things we need or don’t need. It is the gateway to our bodies. If you are setting out to address a condition you may be having, the GI tract has to be considered. Through a proper diagnosis, with the right testing to make sure all bodily functions are considered, a precise treatment plan can be created that can specifically start fixing the many aspects of your GI function inside and outside of your GI Tract.
Diet is the core concept of health.
There are a lot of topics that I discuss with my patients but one of those topics I bring up most often. And I wouldn’t be surprised if I was driving them crazy with how much I discuss it. But it’s important, I keep bringing it up because it is for their benefit, their health. I feel it’s important they know. It would be on me if they don’t know, and I wouldn’t be doing my job if I weren’t telling them and reminding them. It is the core of their makeup and it determines how they feel and function on a daily basis. I am referring to none other than diet, the core concept of health. And when I say diet I don’t mean diet as in lose some weight diet, but rather diet as in the things you eat on a daily basis, your daily diet.
The Paleo diet and the media.
Recently I’m sure you have heard some things about the Paleo diet in the media. The thing that bothers me about that is that the Paleo Diet is being portrayed as a “diet” and being lumped together with Atkins, the sprinkles, Weight Watchers etc. Although those diets may or may not be effective, the Paleo Diet is not a diet. You don’t start eating Paleo to lose weight (although it is a nice side effect). The Paleo Diet is a diet as in a way of eating for the rest of your life. I often refer to the Paleo Diet as the Paleo Lifestyle, because that is what it is, it’s a lifestyle, it’s permanent. So while I do appreciate all of the attention the Paleo Diet is getting lately in the media, when seeing or hearing anything about it, keep in mind, it’s not a diet, it’s a way of eating and living.
The Paleo Diet
You may say to yourself, “this guy is on a crusade with this diet talk.” The truth is that I am really not. I am not the “banner carrier” for any particular movement or diet. I am a promoter of truth and like it or not, the Paleo Diet is truth. When I say that it is truth, what I am in fact saying is that the Paleo Diet is the closest dietary pattern that aligns with how our body functions. Routine consumption of the Paleo Diet is able to be maintained indefinitely without concern for any ill effects to health or difficulties in maintaining it. In fact, it does just the opposite. Those that transition to the Paleo diet see great improvements in their health as well as find it easy to maintain.
The Paleo diet and the media.
Recently I’m sure you have heard some things about the Paleo diet in the media. The thing that bothers me about that is that the Paleo Diet is being portrayed as a diet it is being lumped together with Atkins, the sprinkles, Weight Watchers etc. The Paleo Diet is not a diet, you don’t start eating Paleo to lose weight (although it is a nice side effect). The Paleo Diet is a diet as in a way of eating for the rest of your life. I often refer to the Paleo Diet as the Paleo Lifestyle, because that is what it is, it’s a lifestyle, it’s permanent. So while I do appreciate all of the attention the Paleo Diet is getting, when seeing or hearing anything about it, keep in mind, it’s not a diet, it’s a way of eating and living.
This is why the Paleo Diet is such a natural fit for functional medicine. The focus of functional medicine is restoring the normal function of the body with precursors that it needs. Nothing is more central to this idea than diet. Eat the wrong foods and your diet works against you damaging your health. However, if you eat the right foods, your body maintains its function and you stay youthful and vibrant.
The best foundation is getting the right nutrients
When working with my patients initially, I am placing significant emphasis on getting the right nutrients in them and modifying their diet to meet their needs. This is a core concept in functional medicine. After all, if my patients are not starting off with a good foundation, how can they expect to get better? That foundation centers on the Paleo Diet. It provides the basis from which everything else can improve. Once the foundation is established, healing can take place.
Traditional medicine overlooks diet.
Functional medicine is a far different mindset than traditional medicine. Traditional medicine has long neglected the concept of food being core to healthcare. You can see this in the way that it is practiced daily. In routine clinical care, food is not a part of the treatment model. At best, mention is given to changing the diet with little instruction as to what that actually is. I see patients coming into my clinic having realized that their diet is central to their health and needs to change, but not having an idea of where to start.
After years of medical evolution, here those of us that are on the cutting edge of healthcare find ourselves having come full circle using the best medical technology to reinforce the basics such as diet.
“If people let government decide what foods they eat and what medicines they take, their bodies will soon be in as sorry a state as are the souls of those who live under tyranny.”
“An old-fashioned vegetable soup, without any enhancement, is a more powerful anti carcinogen than any known medicine.”
– James Duke M.D.(U.S.D.A.)
The new wave of medicine
I’d be surprised if you haven’t heard of Functional Medicine. It’s quickly on the rise and becoming the preferred method for healthcare by more and more people. I have been practicing Functional Medicine for over 10 years now, and I am happy to say that all the attention it is finally getting is very well deserved. Finally people are starting to realize that treating the underlying problem, what is causing your symptoms, is better and more logical than just slapping a “band aid” on the problem. Functional medicine is the new wave of medicine, and it’s not just for internal issues but also for muscle and joint issues as well.
Time for change
Let me introduce you to the concept of functional medicine just in case you are not familiar with it. The concept is so simple it is hard to believe everyone does not think this way in healthcare. I bet if you ask a hundred people on the streets here in the Houston area, not one of them would know what you are talking about. How can that be? How is it that there is a changing paradigm in healthcare happening around you and you don’t know about it? It is not your fault, but rather ingrained models of healthcare that are ready for a change. You can imagine in a city with a medical center as well recognized as Houston, change might come slow.
What is Functional medicine?
Functional medicine is the idea of providing the body the constituents that it needs to allow it to function as God intended it to. When the necessary precursors are given to the body, the biological systems will work as they should. Such constituents might be as simple as antioxidants and minerals, but nonetheless they are what is required for normal physiologic function. The end result is that allowing the systems of the body to carry out their role provides a restoration of function. When function is restored, the symptoms that manifested are alleviated.
Medicine is usually just a band aid.
Functional medicine is a different mindset than traditional medicine. Patient symptoms and complaints drive the majority of healthcare. The burden on the healthcare system is not derived from acute injuries, but from chronic conditions. Chronic ailments are a manifestation of a change in function of the body. With this change come symptoms. Classic approaches to symptoms have revolved around masking the symptoms with medication or the use of surgery to remove the offending problem. These approaches to medicine, while necessary in some case, don’t often address the underlying issue.
Functional medicine gets to the root of the symptom. The underlying cause.
In contrast, functional medicine looks at the symptom in a much different manner. The symptom is the alarm. Something is wrong and action needs to be taken. When patients present with a symptom, as a practicing functional medicine doctor, I begin to ask why. Why does a person have joint pain? I may determine that it is due to dysfunctional muscles that need support. Why are the cholesterol levels going up? A possible explanation for my patient might be that their stress is on the rise causing an increased demand for cholesterol to support hormone production.
Functional medicine is the way healthcare should be.
Having decided to become a functional medicine doctor means that I have also decided to think out side of the box. It’s in my nature. I just have to know and determine why. Rather than being restricted and limited to the algorithms of traditional healthcare, I decided to brand myself as a doctor my patients can trust and rely on to get to the root of the problem, one that will take the time to look at the whole picture and listen carefully to what patients are telling me. I also spend a lot of time with each patient usually 45 minutes to an hour. It’s important to hear what patients are saying to me so that I can accurately test them, assess their needs them and design a comprehensive protocol that specifically fits their needs. One size does not fit all. So you see, the movement has already begun. Functional medicine, is being backed by more and more research, and will become increasingly established as part of the medical system, even in cities with medical traditions such as Houston.
Do you have a blood sugar problem?
Once I knew what kind of symptoms to pay attention to, I was shocked at how many of my patients have blood sugar problems to one degree or another. Most commonly I will see anything from low blood sugar aka hypoglycemia, to insulin resistance aka pre-diabetes all the way to diabetes. Surprisingly a lot of my patients aren’t aware that they even have a blood sugar issue until I start asking them questions. Some of the questions I ask are whether they get tired after meals, or get tired in the afternoon, or do they have cravings? Before I can finish some of these questions I can already see a concerned look in their eyes. That look suggests they didn’t know they have a problem but are becoming aware of the fact that they do.
Abnormal glucose causes damage
Most of my patients have no clue the degree to which blood sugar problems are contributing to their demise. The tentacles of abnormal glucose are far reaching. In fact, nearly every system in the body within time will succumb to the effects of abnormal glucose regulation. This makes sense as all cells in the body are dependent on glucose for energy. When we no longer manage glucose efficiently, the body begins to deteriorate. However, this is not the message commonly conveyed until the latter stages of abnormal glucose.
The first problem is the way in which blood sugar problems are addressed. This is clearly seen by the continued rise in the number of diagnosed diabetics in spite of supposed advancements in treatment. We have been misinformed to think that unless your fasting glucose reaches the magic number of 126, then you remain in a safe zone. I’d like to ask you a question, can you tell me what is different about dysfunction in your body when you glucose levels are at 120 and when they are at 126? There isn’t one. No difference, and if you think waiting until it’s 126 to do something about about it is ok think again, it’s only making the damage worse. Also, you aren’t paying any attention to the to the effects of secondary damage that the abnormal glucose is causing which can make the problem worse.
In contrast to standard approaches, functional medicine offers a comprehensive approach that not only looks at the causes of abnormal glucose, but also the implications upon other tissues. Classic considerations to managing glucose have been diet and exercise. However, even in concepts as fundamental as these, the wrong message is being stated to those that need help. The incorrect, but well entrenched RDA food guide pyramid continues to be pushed in mainstream circles over the well proven and highly effective Paleo Diet. If the “authorities” associated with traditional approaches have been so mistaken in their method, maybe it is time for the introduction of functional medicine on a wider scale.
When you come in to my office and through a series of simple question that I ask you, you find out you have a glucose problem, then you have been let down because of the simple fact that no one has taken the time to explain to you what may be wrong, what it can do to you and how to fix it. When you have abnormal glucose levels, you really need to look to functional medicine so that someone can tie all of the physiology together. Restoring your glucose levels back to normal is more complicated than just exercise and/or diet. What it really requires is someone looking at how all of your other systems are working to determine if they are functioning properly and getting the support they need. Just to give you an example, if someone is not sleeping well, and they are stressed out, then how can we manage their glucose levels? If there is dysfunction in one system it could be caused by the dysfunction of another system or could be the cause for dysfunction in other systems. it. This is the reason that it is ideal to be under the care and principles of functional medicine.
A lot of people think that a detoxification means that you take some supplements and then run to the bathroom all day, I am here to tell you that is not what this is and not what I’m going to talk about. That is not a detox, it’s a colon cleanse aka “colon purge”. That is a short term solution to a specific problem, there are no long term benefits when you go that particular route. What I am talking about here, is giving the support your body needs to clean out toxins and impurities and function the way it needs to. The toxins inside of you come from your own body as well as the out side environment. If you do not remove them, they will cause your body harm.
Getting back to basics
Now that we have lined out exactly what detox is not, let’s talk about what it is. And it makes more sense to talk about it from a functional medicine stand point. As in, we need to support the functions of our bodies, by using detoxification as a medicine. If you look at it from that perspective it means going back to basics. You cannot realistically expect your body to function well when it is overrun with toxins.
Toxins come from many sources. Most realize that toxins can be found in the air and water. However, a lesser known source includes food, and not just the chemicals on it, but in the case of genetically modified food, the food itself. Additional hidden sources are also new carpet, paints and common household solutions. The point that I am making here is that toxins are ubiquitous in our environment. Here in Houston, we are not only a metropolitan area, but also close to the petrochemical industry. Toxins lurk around every corner. If nothing else, they are in the air you breathe. You cannot run from them. Likewise, we also make toxins internally daily. So even if you are in an ideal environment free of toxic burden, you still need to have an adequate detoxification system. Adequate detoxification should be part of any health maintenance strategy.
What is detoxification
Yet, detoxification is not a guaranteed process. It can become sluggish. This is where functional medicine and detoxification meld. Detoxification as the term is commonly used implies a theoretical process that the body must undergo for a defined period of time to rid itself of a buildup of toxins. It assumes that once the detox process is complete, the body will have rid itself of the toxic accumulation. In reality, this is not the way in which detoxification functions. Detoxification is about taking a fat soluble substance and modifying it to water soluble, thus made easier for excretion. This process happens daily and is dependent on having adequate nutrient availability, specifically B vitamins, antioxidants and amino acids. However, hindrance of detoxification can be secondary to thyroid dysfunction, poor sleep habits, and hormones just to name a few.
Detoxing is a lifestyle not an event
When you go through a poorly executed detoxification, there are usually symptoms present. These usually include headaches, skin problems and hormone imbalances. Underscoring function as the primary importance in human biochemistry, functional medicine ideally the best route to go when you are wanting to realign your systems functions and overcome impaired detoxification systems. There are a plethora of reasons. As I practice functional medicine, I am thinking big picture not thinking of 1 single system. It takes many systems functioning together to make a proper detox happen. If you are only looking at one system from a reductionist’s standpoint you are singling out the other systems that are just as important in the process. Also, functional medicine as an approach, can help guide you in many aspects of your life while trying to learn to detox your body, because it affects more than just your diet. When you start thinking along the lines of a science based approach, the impediments and causes of impaired detoxification can be addressed completely. What this mean is that you will learn to support your detoxification daily not just for a short period of time. This is a lifestyle. The best part about it is that you won’t be falling for those “detox” gimmicks that claim they will detox you, you will actually be taking care of your body all of the time so that you will not get to a point where you feel the need to detoxify yourself. You will be caring for your body the way you are supposed to.
We have a 14 day Detoxification kit available that I recommend. It is comprehensive and includes everything but the food. It even has a meal plan to help aid your body and the supplements in the detox process. This can jump start you into a new healthier lifestyle. Please contact our office if you would like to set up an appointment to discuss this with me.
The Affordable Care Act
For a long time now we have known that we need a change in Healthcare. It seems more people are getting sicker, and that increases the demand on services and its getting harder to pay for these services. And now we have the the Affordable Care Act, aka ObamaCare, which promises to insure a new paradigm in medicine. The one thing the new healthcare law has in common with the current administration of medicines, is that they are both designed to alleviate symptoms rather than treating the underlying problem.
Sick care or Wellness??
Our state of healthcare has many many problems, the the problem that stands out the most is that people are treated for being sick. “Sick care”. When we need to be focused on “Wellness”. This is just one of the reasons that the new healthcare system will do very little to fix you health problems. The idea of the new legislation is to make care available to everyone. In theory, this is a good idea, but follows the way of socialized medicine, which by all accounts is a system patients do not want to be seen in. Moreover, clinicians are limited in their ability to deliver care in such a system due to restrictive guidelines. The question must be asked, “What kind of care are we talking about delivering?” The emphasis of a doctor visit is to attend to your immediate needs, not guide your health down a path of wellness. How is this acceptable?
The focus of medicine has to change if we expect the burden of healthcare that each of us shares to go away. Medicine needs to take on a new image. That image is functional medicine. Functional medicine is based on the idea that if all aspects of the body are functioning as intended, health abounds and sickness is subdued. The body is an integral system with all areas dependent on each other. To understand how to support health, a doctor must have the time to listen to your concerns and procure a better understanding of your health limitations. This is not our current model. The current model, even with the new legislative oversight, limits the doctor-patient interaction to insure that everyone is seen. Everyone may be seen, but at what cost?? Both financially and as it relates to your health.
Your ailment is just the starting point to find out whats really wrong with you.
Finally people are starting to recognize Functional Medicine, people are starting to understand how functional medicine can keep you away from the Doctor. Wellness is the future. Taking care of yourself, getting tested eating correctly instead of “dieting” this is the future. To prevent sickness. It is the only way to limit or remove what we spend on sick care. If we use it less, it costs us less. If you keep thinking that you should only see a Doctor when you are sick, or ailing, the wellness message will continue to be lost. Functional medicine points out a different path. We need to focusing on wellness from before time of conception until passing.
If you could imagine having a Doctor focus on every aspect of your life, how you feel inside and out, what you eat, what is your outlook on life, are you satisfied, how much do you exercise. That is Functional Medicine, this is the future. Most people still view Functional Medicine as something new and unusual, but less so now. People are educating themselves more, they are sick and tired of being sick and tired. Literally. The reason it’s changing is because people want someone to care about the way they feel. Someone that will really listen to them and look a little deeper. One size does not fit all, antidepressants do not heal everyone. Not everyone that cannot sleep needs medicine. What are the reasons? Why does this person feel this way? These are the questions that need to be asked. You don’t have to be a prisoner to the constraints of limited, system oriented care. You don’t have to wait until Functional Medicine is popular, you can do something now. You can see a Functional Medicine Doctor, and find out why you feel the way you do, and how to fix it forever naturally.
Window into our bodies
Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to just look in to how your body functions through a window? Or even better, if we could just visually see how our bodies are affected by what we do and eat? Then we could see how certain actions are healthy and will make our organs and tissues last longer, or maybe we will see how smoking and eating the wrong things weakens our bodies. At one time these questions were theoretical. But now in this modern day things are different, what we once could only imagine, we are now very capable of.
What age are you really?
How are you aging? That is the question. Are you aging fast or slow? To answer this question, you have to know your chronological age vs. your biological age. Chronological age is easily determined. It is your age. The missing variable has been determining biological age. There was no standardization to suggest how your body was functioning as a product of age. Traditional lab markers gave at best insinuations about your biological age, but nothing definitive. Yet, with the upsurge of research in the field of genomics, we began to learn about telomeres. If you are not familiar with Telomeres, you are going to want to know them.
What are Telomeres?
In short telomeres are the tips of your chromosomes, or genetic material. They are predictive of biological age. The longer they are the better your biological age. In contrast, shorter equals faster aging. You can now literally determine if your body is older than what the calendar says, or if you are younger.
Without question, everyone wants to be younger biologically than chronologically. If you are younger than your chronological age, you want to maintain. If you are older than your chronological age, you will want to make changes. But how do you know you are doing the right things to help you age slowly.
This is where functional medicine finds its role. At the center of anti-aging and rejuvenation is functional medicine. Functional medicine as the name implies centers on restoring function to the body. As it relates to telomeres, better function equals longer telomeres. Vice versa, longer telomeres equal better function. As an example, take blood sugar. When blood sugar rises routinely, secondary inflammation is created and telomeres are damaged. The prolonged shortening of telomeres also makes it more difficult to control blood sugar. It becomes a vicious circle. Cycles such as this are not broken by a single intervention aimed at symptoms, but rather a comprehensive approach targeting all possible areas of contribution.
Balance is the key
Many things are known to influence the length of the telomere. These include hormone balance, low levels of inflammation, proper exercise, sleep, a good diet, and a balanced nutritional state. The focus of functional medicine is to realign the health of the body. To illustrate this point, a good diet with proper exercise at some point will become limited in its ability to support long term health if you are not getting adequate sleep. The key to preserving your telomere length is balance. Yet to achieve balance, you must equally manage all aspects of your life and understand the interplay that they have. As a paradigm focused on creating synchrony between all aspects of health, functional medicine is well poised to help you protect your delicate telomeres.