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Integrative/Functional Medicine

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b2ap3_thumbnail_SupplementSwap3.jpgIf you take nutritional supplements, the changing of seasons is a great time to clean and organize your supplement cupboard and re-think your routine. The demands on your mind and body vary with the seasons, and adjusting your supplements to meet seasonal needs can help you to look and feel your best all year long!

Check out these “Summer Supplement Swaps” from my personal routine to help you get started:

SWAP OUT IMMUNE SUPPORT FOR ANTIOXIDANTS

During Winter months I take Vira-Resist herbal immune support daily to fight off coughs, colds, and flu. In the Summer months, I take a break from my immune support and tighten the cap and store the bottle in a cool, dark cupboard.

Summer months bring the potential for increased oxidative stress from sun exposure, summer cocktails and restaurant meals. To fight the effects of oxidative stress I increase my antioxidant routine, adding extra Antioxidant Support Formula, which contains the powerful antioxidants Selenium, Alpha-Lipoic Acid, and N-Acetyl Cysteine, as well as Milk Thistle, which helps to protect my liver from potentially damaging effects of summer cocktails. I also add extra antioxidant-rich Vitamin C in the form of Buffered Vitamin C (which is more gentle on the stomach) to help protect my skin from sun damage and boost collagen synthesis.

ADD EXTRA MINERALS

Summer = Sweat. Combining the increased perspiration of summer with regular infrared sauna use puts me at risk for excess mineral loss, so I add extra Zinc and Magnesium to my routine to replenish losses. In addition, I am liberal with my use of sea salt to replenish minerals and stay hydrated.

KEEP YOUR VITAMIN D DOSE IN CHECK

For myself and many of my patients, a hefty dose of Vitamin D is recommended during Fall and Winter months. During Summer months, with increased sun exposure, this may not be necessary. I check my 25, OH Vitamin D levels and adjust my dose of Vitamin D3 as necessary. Why is this important? You can overdose on Vitamin D! Vitamin D is one of four fat-soluble vitamins (along with Vitamins A, E, and K), so levels can build up in your system and become toxic. It’s important to know your number!

Here’s to a happy, healthy Summer!

Carin Nielsen, MD


Carin Nielsen, MD Integrative Medicine I use an Integrative/Functional Medicine approach with my patients to treat a variety of chronic medical conditions. Treating symptoms simply by prescribing medication as a “band-aid” does not address the underlying factors that contributed to your problems in the first place, and is not likely to provide lasting results. My approach involves getting "under the surface” to find and correct underlying imbalances. If you are interested in learning more or if you would like to schedule a consultation, please contact our office at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 231-638-5585.
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SEASONAL ALLERGY ALTERNATIVES

b2ap3_thumbnail_Depositphotos_2734528_l-2015.jpgAccording to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, at least 50 million people in the US suffer from symptoms of nasal llergies, and that number is on the rise.  If you suffer from allergies, you likely know the symptoms well - nasal congestion, runny nose, sneezing, itchy and watery eyes. as well as fatigue and “brain fog”.  In today’s blog, I present alternatives to the standard prescription and over-the-counter antihistamines commonly used to treat seasonal allergies - calling on the advice and recommendations of Dr. Andrew Weil. world-renowned leader and pioneer in the field of Integrative Medicine, and Director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona



QUERCETIN

b2ap3_thumbnail_blueberries.jpgQuercetin is a bioflavonoid found in a variety of foods, and can also be taken in supplement form.  Dr. Weil states that in the lab, Quercetin stabilizes mast cells that release histamine, the principal mediator of reactions to pollen and other allergies, making it a natural antihistamine. It is used to treat symptoms of hay fever (when taken regularly for at least six to eight weeks), such as runny nose, watery eyes, and itching, as well as other forms of allergy and hives.
Food sources of Quercetin: buckwheat, apples, onions, kale, tomatoes, broccoli, asparagus, berries, red wine, and tea.

STINGING NETTLE
b2ap3_thumbnail_nettle.jpgStinging Nettle is a perennial flowering plant that has been used medicinally for ages. dating back to ancient Greece.  Dr. Weil states that Stinging Nettle, while often used to treat conditions such as osteoarthritis, eczema and gout, may also affect the sneezing and itching of hay fever, perhaps because the herb can reduce the amount of histamine the body releases from mast cells in response to an allergen.
Stinging Nettle grows all over the world and blooms June through September, with pink and yellow flowers.


ACUPUNCTURE

b2ap3_thumbnail_acupuncture.jpgAcupuncture for allergies?  While you may be skeptical, Traditional Chinese Medicine specialists frequently use Acupuncture to lessen the signs and symptoms of seasonal allergies.  In a study published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers examined 422 people who tested positive for pollen allergies and had allergic nasal symptoms. The participants who received real acupuncture treatments with their antihistamines showed a greater improvement in their allergy symptoms and less use of antihistamines compared to the other groups.  While the conclusion had it’s limitations (those participants receiving “sham” acupuncture also showed some benefit, suggesting a placebo effect), Dr. Weil states the study’s outcome suggests that acupuncture may help relieve the symptoms of seasonal allergies and is worth further investigation.
To read more about this research article and Dr. Weil’s views on acupuncture for allergies click here.


THE GUT-ALLERGY CONNECTION

b2ap3_thumbnail_tarmar.jpgDid you really think that I could blog without mentioning the gut?  Dr. Weil also acknowledges that deleterious changes in the microbiome may underlie the increased incidence of allergy, as they are also felt to be linked to other conditions, including gluten sensitivity, autoimmunity, and autism.  In a study published in 2011 in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, Danish researchers showed that the risk of allergies is higher than normal in children with a less diverse microbiome. If you suffer from allergies, consider working with a Functional Medicine specialist to evaluate and optimize your gut microbiome.
Do the bugs in your belly cause allergies?  Read Dr. Weil’s article here.

 



Carin Nielsen, MD Integrative MedicineLooking for a personalized approach to your healthcare? I use an Integrative/Functional Medicine approach with my patients to treat a variety of chronic medical conditions. Treating symptoms and chronic disease simply by prescribing medication doesn't address the underlying factors that contributed your problems in the first place, and is not likely to provide lasting results. My approach involves getting "under the surface" to find and correct underlying imbalances. If you are interested in learning more or if you would like to schedule a consultation, please contact our office This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 231-638-5585.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_Alpha-lipoic-acid.jpgWHAT IS ALPHA-LIPOIC ACID?

Alpha-lipoic acid (sometimes referred to as ALA) is a co-enzyme found in every cell of the body, and is used to turn glucose into energy. Alpha-lipoic acid also functions as a powerful antioxidant, attacking "free radicals". Free radicals are produced in the body as a byproduct of energy production, and cause harmful chemical reactions that can damage cells, organs and tissues, and make it harder for the body to fight off infections.

Alpha-lipoic acid is the only antioxidant that is both water and fat-soluble, which means it has access too all parts of our body to attack free radicals and prevent oxidative damage. Alpha-lipoic acid also helps to regenerate other powerful antioxidants and make them active again.

WHAT IS ALPHA-LIPOIC ACID USED FOR?
  • Diabetes, Pre-Diabetes and Insulin Resistance
  • Peripheral Neuropathy
  • Heavy Metal clearance
  • General Antioxidant Support
Researchers believe Alpha-lipoic acid helps improve insulin sensitivity. More simply put, Alpha-lipoic acid may make it easier for your body to use blood sugar for fuel. Alpha-lipoic acid is also used to treat the symptoms and delay progression of diabetic and alcoholic peripheral neuropathy. Studies show Alpha-lipoic acid binds with toxic metals, such as mercury, arsenic, iron, and other metals that act as free radicals. Because alpha-lipoic acid can pass easily into the brain, it may help protect the brain and nerve tissue, researchers are investigating it as a potential treatment for stroke and other brain problems involving free radical damage, such as dementia.

HOW TO SUPPLEMENT: ADULTS
  • General antioxidant support: 50-400 mg per day
  • Diabetes and diabetic neuropathy: 600-800 mg per day

PRECAUTIONS/POSSIBLE INTERACTIONS


Because of the potential for side effects and interactions with medications, you should take dietary supplements only under the supervision of a health care provider. Side effects are generally rare and may include insomnia, fatigue, diarrhea, and skin rash.

Alpha-lipoic acid has not been studied in children, pregnant or breastfeeding women and is therefore not recommended for use in these populations.

Caution:
  • If you are diabetic or have low blood sugar, as Alpha-lipoic acid many lower blood sugars further.
  • If you are an alcoholic, or have Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) deficiency, as animal studies have shown that Alpha-lipoic acid may lower Vitamin B1 levels.
  • If you are on thyroid medication, monitor thyroid levels as Alpha-lipoic acid may reduce thyroid hormone levels.
  • If you are on chemotherapy, you should check with your oncologist prior to using Alpha-lipoic acid.
SOURCES:
  • University of Wisconsin Integrative Medicine - Supplement Samplers
  • University of Maryland Medical Center - Complementary and Alternative Medicine Guide
  • Oregon State University, Linus Pauling Institute - Micronutrient Information Center



Carin Nielsen, MD Integrative Medicine I use an Integrative/Functional Medicine approach with my patients to treat a variety of chronic medical conditions. Treating symptoms simply by prescribing medication as a “band-aid” does not address the underlying factors that contributed your problems in the first place, and is not likely to provide lasting results. My approach involves getting "under the surface” (using assessments like estrogen metabolite testing) to find and correct underlying imbalances. If you are interested in learning more or if you would like to schedule a consultation, please contact our office This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 231-638-5585.
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b2ap3_thumbnail_BLOG_Human-Heart1.jpg

Have you or a loved one been diagnosed with high cholesterol? Have you been prescribed a statin medication? Functional Medicine provides a framework to determine why you have high cholesterol, assess other cardiovascular risk factors, and outline a treatment plan that is cu
stomized for your individual needs.

1. FUNCTIONAL MEDICINE ASKS THE QUESTION- WHY DO YOU HAVE HIGH CHOLESTEROL?

b2ap3_thumbnail_Blog_cholesterol-artery2.jpg

As Functional Medicine physician and best-selling author Dr. Mark Hyman likes to say, “High Cholesterol is not a Lipitor deficiency”.

Before jumping to a prescription, Functional Medicine asks the question why? By addressing the root cause of your elevated cholesterol you may be able to avoid medication and lessen cardiovascular risk.

Obviously, diet can play a big role in elevated cholesterol, but there are other factors that may be contributing to or causing high cholesterol that a Functional Medicine doctor considers, including:

  • Genetics
  • Hormone Imbalance (especially thyroid and insulin/blood sugar)
  • Hidden Infections
  • Toxicity (especially heavy metals)


2. FUNCTIONAL MEDICINE GOES BEYOND THE STANDARD LIPID PANEL WITH ADVANCED LABORATORY TESTING.

Why do we even care about high cholesterol? Because of risk for heart and vascular disease! Yet many physicians base risk and treatment decisions on a standard lipid panel alone.

Functional Medicine uses Advanced Laboratory Testing to get a more accurate assessment of risk and to develop individualized treatment plans that are not simply focused on statin medication.

b2ap3_thumbnail_ExampleLipidPanel_Click.jpgLDL cholesterol is typically referred to as “bad cholesterol”, but not all LDL cholesterol is created equal!

Advanced Laboratory Testing measures the size and number of your LDL particles - which is a better predictor of heart and vascular disease risk. If you have small, dense “sticky” LDL particles, these are much more concerning than large, buoyant “beach ball”-like particles, which carry less risk. In addition to measuring the size of your LDL particles, Advanced Laboratory Testing measures another type of lipid protein called lipoprotein(a). Lipoprotein(a) is a highly atherogenic “troublemaker” that has a strong genetic component and does not readily decrease with diet change or statin drugs. Knowing your lipoprotein(a) levels can help to direct a more individualized treatment plan.

What is LDL?
LDL is a “carrier protein”. Its job is to “carry” cholesterol particles around the body.

LDL isn't always "bad" because your body needs cholesterol!

Cholesterol is an important component of cell membranes and has an antioxidant effect on the brain. Cholesterol is also an important “building block” from which we make our hormones and Vitamin D.

LDL cholesterol itself isn't necessarily a bad thing, yet when LDL cholesterol is in an inflamed environment, your risk of heart and vascular disease increases.

Advanced Laboratory Testing measures the factors that make your LDL cholesterol more of a problem:

  • Inflammation (think of as “fire” in your arteries) measured with hsCRP and fibrinogen
  • Oxidation (think of as “rusting” in your arteries) measured by myeloperoxidase or oxidized LDL
  • Glycation ( think of as “sugar coating” LDL and making it stickier) measured with fasting glucose, insulin, and HbA1c

Advanced testing can also look for signs of plaque formation in the arteries - measured with LP-PLA2 activity laboratory testing, or imaging studies such as carotid artery ultrasound or coronary calcium CT scoring.


3. FUNCTIONAL MEDICINE OFFERS TREATMENT FOR HIGH CHOLESTEROL THAT GOES BEYOND STATIN DRUGS.

b2ap3_thumbnail_Blog_vegetables.jpgDon’t get me wrong, a Functional Medicine doctor may prescribe statin medications if indicated, but not as first-line therapy. These days it seems almost a “knee-jerk” reaction for doctors to prescribe statin medications at the first sign of elevated cholesterol. In fact, statin drugs are one of the most frequently prescribed classes of medication worldwide and account for hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue for pharmaceutical companies.

Once you’ve determined why your cholesterol is elevated, and what other risk factors are present, Functional Medicine then outlines a treatment plan that is individual for each patient, based on this information.

Food First!

Diet is first and foremost in the treatment of high cholesterol and the discussion of heart and vascular disease risk. This doesn’t have to be difficult! The principles of a heart-healthy diet can be broken down to a few simple goals:

  • reduce the “white stuff” (sugar and processed and refined carbohydrates)
  • avoid unhealthy fats
  • eat more plants
  • choose high-quality protein sources

Functional Medicine does not believe in a “one-size-fits-all” diet approach. Based upon a person’s genetics, testing results, and the current state of health, various diet plans may be recommended, including:

  • A low glycemic load diet, such as “The Blood Sugar Solution” by Dr. Mark Hyman
  • A modified Mediterranean Diet such as the Institute for Functional Medicine’s Cardiometabolic Food Plan
  • A plant-based diet such as Rip Esselstyn’s Engine 2 Diet
  • A “paleo” diet such as Chris Kresser’s “Your Personal Paleo Code”

Laboratory studies are re-checked about three months after making diet change to assess the impact on disease risk.

Beyond Diet

Moving “beyond diet”, a Functional Medicine treatment plan for high cholesterol will focus on the underlying causes listed above, and the results of Advanced Laboratory Testing, and may include:

  • Treatment of low thyroid to achieve optimal thyroid levels (not simply “normal range”)
  • Stress-reduction and mind-body tools to lower cortisol output
  • Weight reduction to lower blood pressure and reduce sleep apnea
  • Treating insulin resistance and lowering blood sugars
  • Treating infections in the gut and restoring gut balance
  • Antioxidant support to reduce oxidation stress
  • Detoxification/chelation of heavy metals
  • A regular exercise program to increase cardiovascular fitness


Carin Nielsen, MD Integrative MedicineDo you have questions about a Functional Medicine approach to High Cholesterol or Cardiovascular disease risk? Are you ready to get your own evaluation started? If you are interested in learning more or if you would like to schedule a consultation, please contact our office This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 231-638-5585.

 
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b2ap3_thumbnail_6DayDetox.jpg

“Detox Jump-Start” - Five Tips for Success



1. GIVE YOURSELF TIME TO PREPARE.

Take time to look the kit over and become familiar with the diet plan. Make a shopping list and stock your kitchen for success!

2. IF YOU ARE CONSTIPATED, START THE COLON-X AND DRAINAGE PRODUCTS FOUR DAYS PRIOR TO THE DETOX START, RATHER THAN TWO.

You should never detox if you are constipated, you need to be able to “take the garbage out”! Ensure adequate bowel movements prior to starting.

3. IF YOU DRINK COFFEE, CUT BACK SLOWLY.

Stopping coffee “cold turkey” can cause headaches! Cut back slowly, down to 1/2-1 cup in the AM. If you desire, eventually stop completely or switch to decaf.

4. KEEP IN MIND - YOU MIGHT NOT FEEL WELL THE FIRST FEW DAYS OF THE DETOX PROGRAM. 

This is common. As your body begins to detox, you may experience symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, mental fog or irritability. Don’t worry! After a day or two these symptoms should subside. Drink plenty of water and get plenty of rest.

5. PLAN FOR LONGER THAN SIX DAYS!

While the kit says “6-Day Detox”, you will get more benefits if you extend your program. We ask clients to try to commit to a minimum of two weeks. With the exception of OptiCleanse GHI, all products in the kit contain a 30 day supply! As you wrap up your program, make note of how you are feeling, and consider re-introducing food groups one at a time. Allow about three days before re-introducing new foods, and monitor how you feel for 1-3 days after reintroduction. This will allow you to identify food sensitivities you may not have been aware of.

If you have any questions or concerns, don't hesitate to contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Carin Nielsen, MD
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