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Food Sensitivities - Part One

There are a number of symptoms that my patients most often describe during our visits:

  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Irritable Bowel
  • Brain Fog
  • Weight Gain
  • Joint Pain
  • Rashes
Sound familiar?

In medical school I was taught to evaluate symptoms in order to form a diagnosis. That diagnosis was then used to determine which medication to prescribe - such as a pill for your headache or a cream for your rash.

20 years later my approach has changed. Rather than focusing on which medication to prescribe for your symptoms, I ask the question:
WHY are you experiencing these symptoms?

I use Functional Medicine to evaluate and treat the root causes of illness.

While there are many factors that can contribute to illness, perhaps none are more important than FOOD. I see it with patients every day - the food that you eat has an immediate and significant impact on the way that you feel.

Could food sensitivities or intolerances be causing your symptoms?

Many of the symptoms that my patients describe, including the most common ones listed above, are often the result of food sensitivities or food intolerances. Identifying these reactions and addressing their root causes can provide lasting symptom relief.

In part one of this food sensitivity series, we answer the question:
What’s the difference between food allergies, food intolerances, and food sensitivities?

Food allergy reactions are immediate, within minutes of exposure to the trigger food.

They are immune-system mediated by IgE, a fast-acting immunoglobulin specific to particular foods.

Food allergy symptoms can range from mild to life-threatening and may include swollen or itchy tongue, runny nose, skin itching, hives, wheezing/shortness of breath, closing of the airway, abdominal pain or vomiting.

Common food allergy triggers include peanuts, tree nuts and shellfish.

With true food allergies, strict avoidance of trigger foods is critical, as reactions are potentially life-threatening.

While I have seen the terms food intolerance and food sensitivity used interchangeably in some media, I separate these terms into two different types of reactions when discussing with patients.

Food intolerances are not mediated by the immune system, but rather are a result of the body lacking an enzyme or nutrient needed to properly digest or break down a particular food or a component of the food.

Symptoms of food intolerance generally occur within an hour of eating a trigger food. Common symptoms include gas, bloating, abdominal pain or cramping, nausea, and diarrhea, but may also include flushing, inflammation and flu-like symptoms.

One of the most common food intolerances is to lactose, a component of milk products. Those with lactose intolerance lack lactase, the enzyme needed to break down lactose, and will experience abdominal bloating and diarrhea after consuming milk products. Supplemental lactase may be given for better tolerance of milk products.

Less well-known trigger ingredients I commonly see with patients include histamine, preservatives/flavorings, sulfites and acidic foods.

Food intolerances are not immune system mediated. They are a result of the body lacking a substance needed to break down a food component.

Like food allergies, food sensitivities are mediated by the immune system. Unlike food allergies (IgE mediated), food sensitivities involve reactions that are delayed and not life-threatening (IgG or IgA).

Food sensitivities essentially represent your immune system creating inflammation in response to foods you eat. Symptoms related to food sensitivities may occur several hours up to several days after eating a trigger food.

Symptoms will vary from person to person and and can include multiple symptoms outside of the digestive tract. Common symptoms of food sensitivities include:
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Irritable Bowel
  • Brain Fog
  • Weight Gain
  • Joint Pain
  • Rashes
Other symptoms can include mood changes, changes in menstrual patterns, migraine headaches, poor sleep, acne and nasal/sinus congestion.

Food sensitivities are common to gluten/wheat, dairy products, sugar, eggs, corn, nightshade vegetables and more.

Food sensitivities are most often the result of increased intestinal permeability - the breakdown of the intestinal barrier often referred to as “leaky gut”. This breakdown of the intestinal barrier, often associated with an imbalance of bacteria, yeast and other organisms in the gut, allows foods to more easily trigger the immune system, resulting in increased inflammation and symptoms.

Food sensitivities are the result of your immune system creating inflammation in response to food. Many symptoms throughout the body may be related to food sensitivities, and the root cause underlying most food sensitivities is increased intestinal permeability, or “leaky gut”.

Learn more about the root causes of food sensitivities in part two of the series, coming soon!

Are you suspicious that food sensitivities or food intolerances may be casing your symptoms? Are you ready to start your journey to feeling better? Contact our office to schedule an appointment! 231-638-5585

Carin Nielsen, MD Integrative Medicine I use an Integrative/Functional Medicine approach with my patients to treat a variety of chronic medical conditions. During the COVID-19 pandemic I continue to see both new and returning patients using our secure, easy video-visit format. 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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What you need to know about Mold & Mycotoxin Illness

 Mycotoxin Illness is not something I learned about in medical school. In fact, even in my early years of practicing Integrative and Functional Medicine, I was reluctant to explore the concept of Mycotoxin Illness with my patients. Similar to conditions like Lyme disease (which I also now treat frequently), Mycotoxin Illness seemed “taboo” and dismissed by traditional Western Medicine.

Yet as is often the case when you have a medical practice like mine, you tend to see patients with multiple symptoms who have consulted with multiple providers and have not been given an explanation, diagnosis or clear treatment plan.

I was not looking to treat Mycotoxins…they came and found me!

Mold is a fungus that can grow in any wet environment. Mycotoxins are very small toxins that are released from mold into the air. Mycotoxins are considered as a type of Biotoxin - and can cause injury to and dysfunction of multiple organs and systems, including the:

  • Respiratory system
  • Immune system
  • Neurological system
  • Hematological (blood) system

Mycotoxins are tricky! They are difficult to detect in your blood. They are very small and can move into and out of your cells with ease. Mycotoxins are secreted by the liver into bile and can be reabsorbed back into the body unless “tagged: by your immune system for removal.

In genetically susceptible individuals, the immune system is unable to “tag” mycotoxins for removal, and they are resorbed back into the body. This may lead to chronic stimulation of the immune system, and in some, to the development of Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS) that causes injury and dysfunction throughout the body.

Certain gene variants can make you more likely to develop Mycotoxin Illness. These gene variants are associated with poor clearance of mycotoxins and increased inflammation and tissue damage.

This is why four people can be living in a water-damaged home, yet only one is significantly ill! Only those with certain gene variants are likely to be affected.

For those who are genetically susceptible, any mycotoxin exposure is a potential risk. Suspicion is raised for those who live or work in a building that has a history of flood or known water damage, leaks or a damp basement.

Buildings with flat roofs are more at risk. Signs of water intrusion may include a musty odor, condensation on windows, discoloration of vents or ceiling tiles and/or a need to constantly run dehumidifiers.

Symptoms of Mycotoxin Illness may vary from person to person. Individuals will also vary in how severe symptoms are in relation to the degree of mold to which they are exposed.

A key feature in Mycotoxin Illness if the onset of symptoms after a move or job change.

I use the following bullet-points when evaluating the possibility of Mycotoxin illness in my patients. For adults, symptoms in 8/13 bullet-points raises high suspicion.

  • Fatigue
  • Cough, increased thirst, confusion
  • Appetite swings, body temperature dysregulation, urinary frequency/urgency
  • Memory changes, problem finding words
  • Weakness, achiness, headaches, difficult new knowledge assimilation, light sensitivity
  • Concentration problems
  • Joint pain, morning stiffness, muscle cramps
  • Red eyes, blurred vision, excessive sweating or night sweats, mood swings, unusual pain (especially sharp stabbing “icepick” pain)
  • Abdominal tenderness or pain, diarrhea/loose stools
  • Unusual skin sensations, tingling, numbness
  • Eyes tearing up, disorientation, metallic taste in mouth
  • Shortness of breath, sinus congestion or nasal drainage
  • Vertigo, static electric shocks

I test for mycotoxins in patient’s urine, most often using Great Plains Laboratory Urine Mycotoxin kit. Cyrex Labs offers mycotoxin blood antibody testing that can be very helpful, however the cost of these tests for some is prohibitive (over $500) and they are often not covered by insurance.

Treating Mycotoxin Illness begins with a first, most important step - the patient needs to be removed from the mycotoxin exposure. This is generally the most difficult part of the process. If the exposure if through a work place there may be fear of job loss. One’s home is typically one of their most important life investments, and the decision to sell or leave is often difficult. In addition, mold remediation/clean up can be expensive and does not always solve the problem 100%.

I have had this conversation with many patients over the years and it is never an easy one, however I have seen dramatic improvement and resolution of symptoms once those affected are removed from their source of exposure.

Other steps involved in treating Mycotoxin Illness include:

  • Thorough cleaning of the home or work space with consideration for air filters
  • Avoiding toxin exposure from other sources by choosing clean, non-toxic cleaning supplies, home furnishings and self-care products. This helps to reduce the overall toxic burden.
  • For some, a low-mold diet is helpful.

To promote the clearing of Mycotoxins from the body I recommend:
Intestinal Binders
Intestinal binders of various forms are taken by mouth to bind Mycotoxins in the gut, preventing reabsorption back into the body. Examples of intestinal binders include activated charcoal, chlorella, zeolite and bentonite clays, and prescription WelChol (most often prescribed to lower cholesterol).

Glutathione is an antioxidant “powerhouse” which aids the detoxification of Mycotoxins from the body. Glutathione levels are often reduced in those suffering from Mycotoxin Illness and Glutathione supplementation plays a key role in the treatment process.

Sweat, Hydration and Regular Bowel Movements
Sweat, urine and stool are the three primary paths Myctoxins take to leave the body. Many of my patients incorporate regular sauna use (staring with very short sessions and working up slowly) into their treatment plans. Adequate hydration is important not only to encourage the “flushing” of toxins through urine, but also to prevent tissue damage throughout the body. Intestinal binders can be constipating, so I often add extra magnesium to promote regular daily bowel movements.

For those who have developed CIRS, testing and treatment protocols are often more complex. While response to treatment varies per individual, I have been amazed by the rapid and significant improvement in symptoms witnessed in those diagnosed and treated for Mycotoxin Illness.

Much of the information in this blog was learned from Dr. Jill Carnahan through educational training with the Institute for Functional Medicine. Dr. Jill is a nationally-recognized mold illness expert and I encourage you to check out her website for more information.

Carin Nielsen, MD Integrative Medicine I use an Integrative/Functional Medicine approach with my patients to treat a variety of chronic medical conditions, including those conditions often dismissed by Western Medicine like Mold/Mycotoxin Illness and Lyme disease.  During the COVID-19 pandemic I continue to see both new and returning clients using our secure, easy video-visit format.  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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Reducing COVID-19 Risk - Step Two, Support for High Risk Conditions and Situations (updated November 2020)



As I review emerging research data, and in conjunction with recommendations from the Institute for Functional Medicine, I have updated my three-step plan to reduce COVID-19 risk using nutrition, lifestyle factors, botanicals, and nutraceuticals.

STEP ONE - Foundations of immune system support
STEP TWO - Support for higher risk conditions and situations.
STEP THREE - A plan if you are exposed or infected.

Step Two - Support for high-risk conditions and situations.

When it comes to reducing risk of COVID-19 complications, the best time to start is long before exposure to the SARS-Cov-2 virus. The data on lifestyle interventions and natural agents to impact the viral life cycle is compelling, and as we enter cold, flu, and COVID season there are a number of steps you can take to prime your immune system and reduce your risk of illness.

In Part One of this updated series, I outlined foundations of immune support that could be considered for most adults to reduce risk. Today we will review support for high-risk conditions and situations:

  • Support for those with chronic medical conditions that place them at higher risk of becoming infected and/or increase risk of COVID-19 complications.
  • Support for travel or entering other high-risk situations


Do you have one of these chronic medical conditions?

  • Hypertension
  • Heart disease
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Elevated insulin and/or triglycerides

If so, you are at an elevated risk of contracting COVID-19. These conditions are associated with higher circulating levels of Furin, an enzyme that makes it easier for the SARS-Cov-2 virus to infect your cells. Now is the time to make an appointment with your practitioner to outline a plan to lower blood pressures and blood sugars, optimize heart health, reduce body fat.

You can also consider adding natural inhibitors of Furin to your routine to reduce risk of infection: As you will see, many of these agents have multiple immune-modulating properties.

EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate) from green tea has been shown to reduce the risk of developing acute respiratory infection. In addition to inhibiting Furin, it also reduces inflammasome activation (see below).
Dose: 4 cups green tea or approx 225mg EGCG daily

Andrographis paniculata not only Inhibits Furin, it also works to prime the innate immune system and promotes viral inactivation.
Dose: follow instructions, usually as part of a combination herbal product

Glutathione is an antioxidant “powerhouse” in your body. Glutathione prevents oxidative stress and inflammation and helps boost your immune function in a number of other ways. There is mounting evidence of the role of Glutathione deficiency and COVID-19 complications. Glutathione has been shown to inhibit Furin and reduce the inflammasome response (see below). Some researchers have hypothesized that Glutathione deficiency may serve as the most likely cause of serious complications and death in COVID-19 patients.

Consider testing Glutathione levels and aiming for the upper quartile of your laboratory reference range.
Dose: N-Acetylcysteine (NAC), a glutathione precursor, 600-900mg twice daily, or Liposomal Glutathione 2-4 pumps twice daily.

Berberine is a plant extract that is antiviral and anti-inflammatory (see below). Berberine primes the innate immune system as well as inhibiting Furin. Berberine is also used clinically to lower blood sugars and cholesterol and restore a healthy balance of gut bacteria.
Dose: 500mg 2-3 times daily


Chronic inflammation may put you at a higher risk of COVID-19 complications and more severe disease.
Inflammation is a primary pathway by which the body responds to viral infection. In COVID-19 infection, the “cytokine storm”, an exaggerated inflammatory response (think of this like a forest fire), is partly responsible for severe complications of COVID‐19 illness, including ARDS (acute respiratory distress syndrome).

Those with conditions associated with chronic inflammation are at higher risk for COVID-19 complications and hospitalization - including a higher risk for acute respiratory distress and exaggerated inflammation in the intestines, heart, kidneys, eyes, and brain.

Conditions associated with higher levels of chronic inflammation.

  • Hypertension
  • Diabetes
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Obesity
  • Elevated insulin and/or triglycerides
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Active autoimmune disease
  • Gout
  • Chronic respiratory conditions

In addition to working with their practitioner to optimize health and get better control of chronic medical conditions, those with chronic inflammation may consider adding natural inhibitors of inflammation:

Curcumin, the primary constituent of the yellow-spice Turmeric, has powerful anti-inflammatory properties. I routinely recommend an absorption-enhanced formula of Curcumin to my patients with inflammatory conditions.
Dose: 500-1000mg twice daily of absorption-enhanced Curcumin

Resveratrol is a naturally occurring polyphenol that is found in many foods, including peanuts, grapes, blueberries, and dark chocolate. Resveratrol powerfully reduces inflammation and aids in protecting cells from inflammation-induced damage.
Dose: 100-150mg daily

Quercetin has been shown to have direct anti-viral effects against RNA viruses (like the coronavirus). Quercetin has powerful anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and can be helpful in resolving virus-induced inflammation and damage. Quercetin also stabilizes mast cells and is often used in the treatment of allergy and asthma.
Dose: regular 1gram twice daily, phytosome 500mg twice daily - use for 12 weeks

Melatonin enhances several aspects of immunity and has been shown to have an inhibitory effect on the inflammatory response generated by COVID-19 infection. There is ongoing research into the use of Melatonin as a targeted therapeutic agent in COVID-19 illness.
Dose: 5-20mg


What about travel or other high-risk situations?
Obviously, the preferred method of prevention is to avoid high-risk situations such as travel and large-groups., however, there will certainly be times for somewhere this cannot be avoided. In addition, if you are living in close-quarters to others or work in public in an area with a high prevalence of COVID-19 injection, that can also be considered a high-risk situation.

Review my blog on Cold, Flu, and COVID Season - Immune-Boosting Basics and review Part One of this series. Don’t forget your Vitamin D, and consider adding immune-enhancing herbs such as Astragalus, Elderberry, and/or Echinacea. If in the high-risk categories listed above, consider additional measures to reduce Furin and inflammation. Herbal blends can also be helpful, combining several ingredients for fewer pills to take. 

Consider using a filter in your mask, such as polypropylene or three-ply facial tissues, especially with air travel or facing long periods of time in enclosed spaces with other people. You can review my Cloth face masks - recommendations, tips, and tricks.

Elderberry extracts may help to prevent the early stage of coronavirus infection, which includes COVID-19. Elderberry contains compounds that decrease the ability of viruses to infect cells.

This research paper demonstrated a significant reduction of cold duration and severity in air travelers treated with Elderberry. Travelers were initially given 600 mg/day starting 10 days before travel followed by 900 mg/day starting the day before travel and continued for 4 or 5 days post-flight. 

There is significant data showing that melatonin limits virus-related diseases and would also likely be beneficial in COVID-19 patients. 


Please note: Due to the novelty of COVID-19, minimal peer-reviewed research has been published regarding the effectiveness of dietary or lifestyle interventions for its prevention or treatment. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Consult your healthcare provider prior to use of any botanical or nutraceutical.

Carin Nielsen, MD Integrative Medicine I use an Integrative/Functional Medicine approach with my patients to treat a variety of chronic medical conditions. Physicians specializing in Functional Medicine are trained and experienced in providing personalized guidance to patients in the use of nutrition, nutraceuticals, and lifestyle to prevent, reverse, and decrease the burden of complex, often chronic medical conditions.  I continue to see new and returning clients using our secure, easy video-visit format.  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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Treating Crohn’s Disease - A Functional Medicine Approach

b2ap3_thumbnail_Abdominal-Pain-Is-It-Appendicitis_article_main.jpgI first met Todd* with his wife in October 2016. He had been diagnosed with Crohn's disease (an autoimmune inflammatory bowel disorder) three years prior.  His symptoms included abdominal pain and loose stools with blood and mucous.

During our first visit, I learned that during the time his symptoms began Todd had been under increased stress with an upcoming wedding, a change in employment, and home renovations.

He had originally been treated with sulfasalazine, a common prescription medication for Crohn's, however, the medication made him nauseated and his symptoms were not well controlled. He had been unable to increase the dose as recommended due to side effects.

Todd continued to have frequent loose bowel movements within 15 minutes of eating, often associated with mucus and blood. He was experiencing sharp localized abdominal pain with activity, and the pain was limiting his ability to perform his physically strenuous job as an electrical lineman.

Prior to our first visit, Todd and his wife had already explored holistic options for his treatment. He had tried digestive enzymes, probiotics, and homeopathic remedies without relief. He had also completed a two month trial of a gluten-free diet but was unsure if that made any difference.

At our first visit, I ordered a comprehensive laboratory evaluation to screen for:
  • Inflammation
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Anemia
  • Hormone balance
  • Candida/Yeast
  • Celiac disease
I also ordered Functional Stool Testing.

While waiting for results, I recommended that Todd begin a four-week Comprehensive Elimination Diet, and provided educational materials and book recommendations for support with this.

Blood testing revealed low levels of zinc, and significant vitamin D deficiency, but was otherwise normal. Functional stool testing indicated significant intestinal inflammation and low levels of "good" gut bacteria.

Recommendations were customized for Todd based on his laboratory results (no more “guessing game” when it comes to supplements):
  • Vitamin D (which supports the immune system response)
  • Zinc carnosine (a key factor in the health of the intestinal lining)
  • Fish Oil (a natural anti-inflammatory)
  • Immunoglobulin powder (derived from colostrum)
  • VSL#3 - A high-dose prescription-grade probiotic (this brand has solid evidence supporting its use in the treatment of Crohn’s)
I also prescribed Low-Dose Naltrexone (LDN), an opioid antagonist that has an outstanding safety profile and has shown promise in the treatment of Crohn’s in both adults and children with minimal side effects.

Two months after initiating diet changes, LDN and targeted supplementation, Todd reported his pain improved by at least 50% with some pain-free days and improved energy. While still experiencing blood in his stools, he described it as much less than before.

I recommended he add a glutamine/aloe combination to promote further healing of the intestinal lining.

b2ap3_thumbnail_intestines.jpgAt six months Todd reported that he continued to experience significant improvement and was very pleased with his progress. He described his pain as minimal, with only minor flares "nothing like it was before”. He had good energy and stamina and was no longer having any work pain. He had become a “believer” in his regimen of supplements and LDN, having forgotten them on two nights, each time with a symptom flare.

While bowel movements had earlier been improved, he had since noticed increased blood and mucus in his stools, so a low dose of Sulfasalazine had been restarted.

He continued to cautiously experiment with his diet, determining his “trigger foods”.

This past fall I was able to meet with Todd and his wife for his one-year follow-up. He reported great energy and stamina, no work pain, and no blood in his stools.

While still on the low dose of Sulfasalazine, it was a dose that did not give him side effects and his symptoms as a whole were nearly resolved. Follow up laboratory testing showed normalized levels of iron, zinc and Vitamin D.

I ordered comprehensive nutritional testing at this visit, which allowed us to customize Todd’s diet and supplement needs. His testing showed a need for B-vitamins, as well as magnesium and enhanced antioxidant support to reduce oxidative stress in the intestinal lining. Based on this testing, I also recommended he begin to reduce the amount of animal protein in his diet, transitioning to plant-based proteins.

In just one year, Todd was able to get much better control of his Crohn’s disease through changes in diet, targeted supplementation, and lower-doses of prescription medications without side effects. He had normalized bowel movements, no blood in his stool, minimal pain and improved energy. I look forward to continuing to work with Todd and his wife to optimize his nutrition, simplify his regimen as he continues to heal, and achieve further success!

*Patient names are changed to protect privacy

Carin Nielsen, MD Integrative Medicine I use an Integrative/Functional Medicine approach with my patients to treat a variety of chronic medical conditions, including many autoimmune 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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Book Review: "Healing Arthritis" by Susan Blum, MD, MPH

b2ap3_thumbnail_HealingArthritis.jpgIn Healing Arthritis, Dr. Susan Blum, author of the bestselling The Immune System Recovery Plan shares her science-based, drug-free treatment plan for the almost fifty million people who suffer from arthritis.

Arthritis is the most common cause of disability in the world—greater than both back pain and heart disease. One example, Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), is the most common autoimmune disease, affecting 1% of the US population, and almost 68 million people worldwide. Conventional medicine tends to treat arthritis with strong, gut-damaging, immune-suppressing pain medications, temporarily relieving the symptoms of the disease without addressing its root causes. Now, in her groundbreaking new book, Dr. Susan Blum, a leading expert in functional medicine, offers a better approach to healing arthritis permanently.

This book is a must-read for anyone suffering from joint pain or arthritis. While I’ve been recommending Dr. Blum’s first book The Immune System Recovery Plan to my patients for years, I find Healing Arthritis easier to read and more user-friendly for my patients to navigate. The book provides an overview of the root causes of inflammation/arthritis, focusing on:
  • inflammatory foods
  • gut health
  • the role of stress/trauma
Dr. Blum includes a straightforward two-week plan to quickly reduce pain through anti-inflammatory foods and supplements; followed by an intensive gut repair program. Once through this initial phase, her plan addresses the emotional issues that contribute to inflammation and outlines a simple, Mediterranean inspired diet to maintain a healthy gut.

I was pleased to see that the diet and supplement recommendations are given are the same available to patients in my office! This book will serve as a useful companion for patients navigating the world of Functional Medicine in treating arthritis and controlling inflammation.

Carin Nielsen, MD Integrative Medicine I use an Integrative/Functional Medicine approach with my patients to treat a variety of chronic medical conditions, including arthritis. 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. When treating arthritis and autoimmune disease, my approach involves treating root causes such as toxicity, food allergy/sensitivity, stress/trauma and underlying infection. 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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Leaky Gut Explained

Leaky Gut = Inflammation, Food Sensitivities, Nutrient Deficiencies and Autoimmune Disease

b2ap3_thumbnail_GutHealing.jpgOur intestinal lining is a very important barrier. When working properly, the lining allows only certain small desirable substances (like nutrients) to pass through, while keeping out larger undesirable particles (like infections, allergens and toxins).

Think of your intestinal lining like a net with very small holes. If the net becomes damaged and the holes of the net become larger, then larger particles are able to pass through the net that ordinarily couldn’t. This damaged intestinal lining is what may lead to increased intestinal permeability, or “leaky gut”.

b2ap3_thumbnail_FineMeshStrainer.jpgIf the intestinal lining is damaged or compromised, undesirable substances such as bacteria, viruses, undigested food particles and toxic waste products can leak from the inside of your intestines through the damaged lining into your bloodstream. Once they get into your bloodstream, these particles are transported throughout your body and can trigger your immune system to react. The end result is inflammation in various parts of your body.

An unhealthy intestinal lining can be a major source of inflammation in your body.

The inflammation in your body caused by a damaged digestive lining can lead to a wide variety of symptoms, including:
  • Bloating and abdominal cramps 
  • Fatigue and “brain fog” 
  • Rashes, Eczema and Acne 
  • Food sensitivities 
  • Weight Gain 
  • Joint pain 
  • Headaches 
  • Depression and Mood Swings 
  • Chronic sinus infections 
  • Allergies 

When your intestinal lining is unhealthy, you are more likely to have food sensitivities.

When you have a leaky gut, certain foods that you eat are likely to make your symptoms worse. This is because large, undigested food particles entering the bloodstream trigger your immune system to react, promoting more inflammation and symptoms such as listed above.

An unhealthy intestinal lining can also lead to nutrient deficiencies.

With leaky gut not only is the intestinal lining more porous (bigger holes in the net) and less selective about what can get in, but normal absorption can also be affected. Intestinal villi are finger-like projections in the wall of the small intestine that are responsible for absorbing nutrients. When these villi become damaged, certain nutrients are not able to be properly absorbed, resulting in nutrient deficiencies. Common deficiencies seen include:
  • Iron 
  • Vitamin B12 
  • Magnesium 
  • Zinc 

An unhealthy intestinal lining over time can lead to autoimmune disorders.

There is a growing consensus that the immune system response triggered by leaky gut may be a primary cause of autoimmune disease. As discussed above, your immune system acts like your own personal army, ready for attack! When larger, undesirable particles get into the bloodstream, the immune system goes on “high alert”, increasing inflammation in preparation of fighting off invaders. The immune system then may begin to produce antibodies to attack and destroy these invaders. Problems result when this antibody response gets out of control, and begins to attack your own tissues. This is self-attack-self, the hallmark of autoimmune disease. This may trigger or worsen conditions such as:
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis 
  • Thyroid disorders 
  • Psoriasis 
  • Celiac disease 
Before you jump to potentially harmful prescription medication - get to the root of the problem! Healing an unhealthy intestinal lining is one of the most important steps in treating a variety of symptoms and conditions, including autoimmune disease.

Carin Nielsen, MD Integrative MedicineI use an Integrative/Functional Medicine approach with my patients to treat a variety of chronic medical conditions, including many that are linked to an unhealthy digestive lining. Treating symptoms simply by prescribing medication as a “band-aid" 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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Have you been tested for Chronic Inflammation?

b2ap3_thumbnail_fire.jpgIt is well established that chronic inflammation is a key factor in most chronic disease, yet many doctors overlook the one simple blood test that can assess your level of inflammation. Often without symptoms, chronic, low-level inflammation may be threatening your health right now without you even knowing it!

Inflammation - the Good and the Bad

Inflammation in your body has a purpose - to treat injury and illness. Without inflammation, wounds would not heal and simple infections could become deadly. The inflammation in your body that treats injury and illness comes from your immune system. Think of your immune system like your own personal army, ready for attack. If you become ill or injured, your immune system activates pathways of inflammation in your body for healing. You can see and feel this inflammation as swelling, pain, warmth and redness at an injury site or warmth from a developing fever. These symptoms are all signs that your immune system is doing it’s job! When your immune system is working properly, the inflammation is temporary, and the inflammatory pathways in your body are turned off as you heal.

b2ap3_thumbnail_injury.jpgWhile temporary, purposeful inflammation is healthy, too much inflammation in the body is not. When inflammation persists or serves no purpose, it damages the body and causes illness. In the brains of Alzheimer’s patients, inflammation destroys nerve cells. Inside arteries, smoldering inflammation damages the arterial lining and helps kick off atherosclerosis (plaque). Inside joints, inflammation eats away at cartilage causing painful arthritis.

It is well-established that chronic inflammation is the root cause of many chronic diseases, including:

  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Obesity
  • Many cancers
  • Arthritis
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Diabetes

Causes of chronic inflammation:

  • b2ap3_thumbnail_Donuts.jpgStress 
  • Lack of exercise 
  • Genetic predisposition
  • Elevated blood sugars
  • Excessive calorie consumption
  • Excessive body fat (fat cells release inflammatory signals in the body)
  • Exposure to toxins (cigarettes, pesticides, heavy metals, etc.)
  • Periodontal disease
  • Infection and Imbalance in the Digestive Tract
  • Inflammatory foods 

Testing for Inflammation

Knowing your level of underlying inflammation can be a key step in making changes to reduce the development of many chronic diseases and avoid age-related health decline.

hsCRP = high-sensitivity C-reactive protein

There are several tests that can be used to assess your level of inflammation, but the one test you need to start with is the high-sensitivity C-reactive protein, or hsCRP. C-reactive protein (CRP) is a substance produced by the liver that increases in the presence of inflammation in the body. Elevated levels indicate inflammation due to infection or tissue injury. The high-sensitivity type of this test can detect chronic inflammation even at very low levels.

Do you know your hsCRP value and what it means?

hsCRP value of 2.0 or greater is considered high risk

hsCRP value 1.0-1.9 is considered borderline risk

hsCRP value kess than 1.0 is desired

If you are interested in knowing your hsCRP value, you can order a hsCRP laboratory test directly through my website without an appointment!  Follow this link to avoid insurance hassles with affordable testing and get fast results!

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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