Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Imagine life without belly fat!



Top 5 hidden causes of weight gain 



Did you enjoy the holidays a little too much?  Is your New Year's resolution to lose some weight?  Here is what you need to know....

For many years you have been told that weight loss is straight forward - eat less and exercise more.  Unfortunately for many people it is just not that easy!

Whether you are a woman with perimenopausal or menopausal hormone problems, or a man with low testosterone, weight gain is typical (in fact the average woman gains about 20 pounds as she goes through menopause!).

Thyroid hormones and stress hormones including cortisol and DHEA closely regulate whether you burn or store calories.  Insulin is a fat storing hormone, so if you are creeping towards pre-diabetes (or if you are already there) your body will tend to store fat even if you are not over-indulging.

Obviously hormonal balance is important for successful weight loss.  But sometimes it is just not enough.

Apart from balanced hormones and good lifestyle habits, did you know that there are often many other underlying factors that are affecting your weight?

Here is a list of the top 5 hidden (fixable!) causes of weight gain.  


1.  Food sensitivities.   It is very common to develop sensitivities to common foods.  A sensitivity causes low grade inflammation which promotes weight gain.  Changing nutrition to avoid the foods you are sensitive to can help with mood, energy, memory, joint pains, digestive symptoms, menstrual problems as well as weight gain.





2.  Toxins.  There are tens of thousands of chemicals that we are exposed to on a regular basis.  Many of these are “hormone disrupters” - meaning that they interfere with metabolic processes and hormonal  balance.  We know that people with higher levels of toxins tend to be more overweight and more likely to have diabetes, as well as many other hormonally related problems.  Avoidance of toxins and learning how to help optimize your natural detoxification pathways can be a very important step in weight loss.



3.  Dysbiosis.  This is a word that means there is an imbalance in your “microbiome” - the trillions of micro-organisms that live in your digestive tract.  If you have too many of the wrong bacteria and not enough of the good health-promoting "probiotic" bacteria, this is associated with weight gain.  In some cases the bacteria literally cause us to extract more calories from the same amount of food.






4. Candida.  Overgrowth of digestive yeast (candida) is another common problem.  Candida causes sugar cravings that can be quite severe, making it much more difficult to avoid the sugary junk.  Candida also causes bloating, brain fog, fatigue, and hormonal imbalances








5.  Inflammation.  If there are too many inflammatory chemicals circulating in your blood stream, these directly cause problems with insulin and cortisol, resulting in weight gain.  Insulin and cortisol can contribute to more inflammation - so a cycle is created where your body wants to store more fat... 












Solutions are available!



As you can see, the "calories in vs calories out" equation is not the whole story.

If you have hormonal issues, these must be addressed.

In addition to balanced hormones, a medical weight loss program that addresses ALL of these underlying issues simultaneously is much more likely to result in successful longterm weight loss.



As the above issues are corrected, you won't just lose weight, but you can expect to FEEL better!  Symptoms that commonly resolve include fatigue, brain fog, bloating, joint aches, mood problems, and quality of sleep.

If you are ready to lose weight now,  please know that there are options and that we can help!  Call today to get started!  704-752-9346


Friday, August 26, 2016

Could you be in perimenopause?

Before you go through menopause, there is a period of time (up to 10 years!) where things start to change. The changes can be subtle or not so subtle. We call this phase of life "perimenopause", and it can be one of the most difficult transitions in a women’s life. Sadly, some women are told to tough it out and that it will pass. And often women are told that they are too young to be in perimenopause.

Addressing the hormonal symptoms of perimenopause can dramatically improve quality of life for many women. Lets talk about what is going on.

While estrogen levels start to decline around the time of menopause (average age of menopause is 52), progesterone levels start to decline much earlier.  In fact a your progesterone production may decline by as much as 80% between age 30 and 40.  This is one of the reasons that women in their forties have a harder time getting pregnant.

Progesterone is produced in two main places in your body. It is produced in the ovaries and in the adrenal glands. The majority of progesterone is produced in the ovaries after ovulation.  It helps to prepare the uterine lining in case of a pregnancy and is very important throughout pregnancy (it is “pro-gestational”).  

When a woman is in the second half of her monthly cycle, she is producing between 20 and 25 mg of progesterone a day. During pregnancy, production of progesterone spikes to between 300 and 400 mg per day.

When progesterone levels start to decline because of age, and symptoms of hormone imbalance become noticeable, we call this “perimenopause”.  

Progesterone deficiency is the most common hormonal problem we see in peri-menopausal women, but younger women can have this problem as well.  Because progesterone levels naturally vary over the menstrual cycle, the symptoms vary as well.  

Typically the week after a period is a “good” week; you are eating your broccoli, exercising regularly, and cleaning out your closets.  Then as you get closer to your period,  symptoms get worse and worse including irritability, anxiousness, and interrupted sleep.   You may feel more negative, critical, impatient, and easily frustrated - and this can affect how you behave towards your family and co-workers!

In fact, this variation in symptoms is a big clue that hormones are the problem.  If your mood symptoms or insomnia are exactly the same on every day in your cycle, it is less likely that hormones are the cause.

Progesterone has mainly been studied for its effects on the uterus but it turns out that progesterone has far more roles to play.  Women have progesterone receptors on cells in all parts of our bodies, and surprisingly the cells with the most progesterone receptors are our brain cells.  Anyone who has experienced PMS symptoms with mood swings and irritability may not be surprised after all!  

Research is showing that progesterone has important neurological effects.   It acts as a natural anti-anxiety compound, helps with sleep and is calming - sort of like nature’s version of valium or a glass of red wine.

Here is a checklist of symptoms that you may experience if you progesterone levels are declining:

Insomnia (especially wakening in the night)
Night sweats
Anxiety
Irritability
Mood swings
Weight gain
Increased PMS
Pre-menstrual headaches
Heavier periods
Shorter cycles (periods coming less than 28 days apart)

If this sounds like you, please know that there is help! You can feel like YOU again.

You can find more information at our website www.signaturewellness.org or contact the office at 704-752-9346

Yours in health
DrM

Friday, July 29, 2016

Is this why you are tired?

Do you have a hard time getting going in the morning?  Do you have an energy crash in the afternoon?  And then, after feeling tired all day, do you get a second wind late in the evening and have a hard time falling asleep?  If so, you certainly aren't alone!

Cortisol is your stress hormone.  If you have a sudden stressful experience, like being late for an important appointment and getting stuck in traffic, your cortisol level goes up to help you cope with the stress.  Then when you get there and everything turns out ok, your cortisol level goes back down to normal.  This is a normal stress response.

The problem is that in our modern world we tend to have lots of little stresses all day long.  In the past, our stresses were things like being chased by a saber-toothed tiger and having to run for our life. The physical activity (running) helped us to clear the extra stress hormones from our system.  Today our stresses typically don't involve running for our life - they are much more likely to involve fuming at the slow traffic while we sit in our car worrying about being late for our appointment.  The end result can be chronically elevated cortisol levels.

When we are thinking about stresses it is important to realize that we don't just include the emotional stressors.  You are typically well aware of those - family issues, work stress, etc.  But physical stressors count as well - things like allergies, chronic back pain, insomnia, nutritional deficiencies and hormonal imbalances.  And you can have stresses on your system without being aware - for example toxins in the environment.  It is very common in our modern world to have high stress burdens.

If cortisol levels remain chronically elevated health problems can follow.  High cortisol may promote fatigue, mood symptoms including depression and anxiety, food cravings, weight gain, insomnia, high blood pressure, bone loss, poor memory, impaired immune system function and increased menopausal symptoms.  In a nutshell, high cortisol is a wear and tear hormone; it ages you at an accelerated rate.    You have probably witnessed this - people who have lived under extremely stressful conditions often look older than their biological age.

Over time, cortisol levels may drop inappropriately.  If you now have insufficient amounts of cortisol to meet your body's daily demands problems can get even worse.  This is when you start to feel really exhausted, have difficulty coping with stress and feel like little things (that shouldn't really be stressful) feel somewhat overwhelming.

Do you think you may have a cortisol problem?  Here is what can be done.

Your cortisol level can be measured in a saliva or urine test.  We prefer to measure your level at multiple times during the day, since the levels change - they should be higher in the morning to help you wake up and lower at night to help you fall asleep.   We commonly find low levels in the morning and high levels at bedtime - when your daily pattern is backwards, no wonder it is hard to wake up and hard to fall asleep!

Reducing your stress is important.  Breathing exercises, meditation, yoga, walking, laughter and heartfelt prayer are good examples of stress management techniques.  Sometimes reducing stress is not easy.  Please talk to us if you need help.

Caffeine, alcohol and sugar may make you feel a little better in the short term, but in the long term they are not helpful and should be minimized.  Supporting cortisol levels can improve your energy so you don't need to rely on caffeine to keep you moving.

There are a number of supplements that are very helpful, and which ones we recommend for you depend on your symptoms and the pattern of your cortisol levels.  Ashwagadha, rhodiola and holy basil are examples of herbs that are typically safe and beneficial regardless of whether your cortisol is too high or too low.

If you have having symptoms that are affecting your quality of life, and would like to be evaluated to see if cortisol may be a problem for you, please contact the office for further information at 704-752-9346 or questions@signaturewellness.org.  You can also find more information at www.signaturewellness.org

Yours in Health,

DrM




Is this why you are tired?

Do you have a hard time getting going in the morning?  Do you have an energy crash in the afternoon?  And then, after feeling tired all day, do you get a second wind late in the evening and have a hard time falling asleep?  If so, you certainly aren't alone!

Cortisol is your stress hormone.  If you have a sudden stressful experience, like being late for an important appointment and getting stuck in traffic, your cortisol level goes up to help you cope with the stress.  Then when you get there and everything turns out ok, your cortisol level goes back down to normal.  This is a normal stress response.

The problem is that in our modern world we tend to have lots of little stresses all day long.  In the past, our stresses were things like being chased by a saber-toothed tiger and having to run for our life. The physical activity (running) helped us to clear the extra stress hormones from our system.  Today our stresses typically don't involve running for our life - they are much more likely to involve fuming at the slow traffic while we sit in our car worrying about being late for our appointment.  The end result can be chronically elevated cortisol levels.

When we are thinking about stresses it is important to realize that we don't just include the emotional stressors.  You are typically well aware of those - family issues, work stress, etc.  But physical stressors count as well - things like allergies, chronic back pain, insomnia, nutritional deficiencies and hormonal imbalances.  And you can have stresses on your system without being aware - for example toxins in the environment.  It is very common in our modern world to have high stress burdens.

If cortisol levels remain chronically elevated health problems can follow.  High cortisol may promote fatigue, mood symptoms including depression and anxiety, food cravings, weight gain, insomnia, high blood pressure, bone loss, poor memory, impaired immune system function and increased menopausal symptoms.  In a nutshell, high cortisol is a wear and tear hormone; it ages you at an accelerated rate.    You have probably witnessed this - people who have lived under extremely stressful conditions often look older than their biological age.

Over time, cortisol levels may drop inappropriately.  If you now have insufficient amounts of cortisol to meet your body's daily demands problems can get even worse.  This is when you start to feel really exhausted, have difficulty coping with stress and feel like little things (that shouldn't really be stressful) feel somewhat overwhelming.

Do you think you may have a cortisol problem?  Here is what can be done.

Your cortisol level can be measured in a saliva or urine test.  We prefer to measure your level at multiple times during the day, since the levels change - they should be higher in the morning to help you wake up and lower at night to help you fall asleep.   We commonly find low levels in the morning and high levels at bedtime - when your daily pattern is backwards, no wonder it is hard to wake up and hard to fall asleep!

Reducing your stress is important.  Breathing exercises, meditation, yoga, walking, laughter and heartfelt prayer are good examples of stress management techniques.  Sometimes reducing stress is not easy.  Please talk to us if you need help.

Caffeine, alcohol and sugar may make you feel a little better in the short term, but in the long term they are not helpful and should be minimized.  Supporting cortisol levels can improve your energy so you don't need to rely on caffeine to keep you moving.

There are a number of supplements that are very helpful, and which ones we recommend for you depend on your symptoms and the pattern of your cortisol levels.  Ashwagadha, rhodiola and holy basil are examples of herbs that are typically safe and beneficial regardless of whether your cortisol is too high or too low.

If you have having symptoms that are affecting your quality of life, and would like to be evaluated to see if cortisol may be a problem for you, please contact the office for further information at 704-752-9346 or questions@signaturewellness.org.  You can also find more information at www.signaturewellness.org




Friday, July 1, 2016

How to have younger looking skin

You know the basics for promoting healthy skin.  A “whole foods” diet (as opposed to processed foods), rich in a variety of colorful fresh fruits and vegetables is the basis of overall health, and skin health is no exception.   Staying hydrated is important.   Exercise improves blood flow to the skin, and helps maintain skin health.  

Avoiding sun damage is critical.  Some sun exposure is important to make sure you are getting vitamin D (which is also good for skin health!), but sun damage can be prevented by wearing a hat and a non-toxic sunscreen.

Did you know that hormonal balance is also important to skin health?  A medical study found that women with the lowest estrogen levels looked 8 years older than their actual age, and women with higher estrogen levels looked 8 years younger than their age (that is a 16 year differential!).  Estrogen helps maintain collagen production in your skin, which helps minimize fine lines and wrinkles, and it helps your skin remain hydrated.  You may notice that your skin “glows” when you are hormonally balanced.

Significant changes occur in your skin during menopause, including thinner skin, increased wrinkling, skin dryness, and loss of elasticity and firmness of your skin.    Skin thickness has been found to decrease by 1.5% per year after menopause, and collagen content can be reduced by as much as 30% within 5 years of menopause.  These skin changes appear to be more closely related to length of time that you have been estrogen deficiency than to your actual chronological age.  (In other words, the longer you have been without estrogen, the older you look!)

Hormone replacement has been shown in a number of studies to help improve hydration of the skin, maintain skin thickness and elasticity, improve blood flow to the skin and increase collagen production. 

In one study, estrogen replacement resulted in a measurable increase in skin thickness after only 2 weeks of applying topical estrogen.  Another study found that skin thickness was increased by 30% after 12 months of estrogen therapy.

A large study showed reduced wrinkling in postmenopausal women on estrogen replacement.    Another study of women on hormone replacement found less wrinkles in the estrogen treated group compared with women on no hormones.  

Estrogen has also been shown to speed up wound healing and offer some protection against photoaging (sun damage).  

Estrogen is good for your heart, your bones, your brain and also your skin!

Apart from maintaining your hormone balance, there are a number of aesthetic treatments that can help you to look as young as you feel!  

SkinPen treatments are ideal if you want to treat fine wrinkles, acne scars,   or sun damage.  A small device contains tiny surgical-grade needles that produces microscopic punctures in your skin.  This stimulates the production of collagen and elastin which give your skin a more youthful appearance. It mimics what a laser treatment does, but without the discomfort or downtime. 

And have you heard about PRP (platelet rich plasma) to rejuvenate the skin?  PRP is obtained from your own blood - it is the fraction of your blood which contains growth factors.  It is injected into your skin, where it activates your own stem cells to stimulate growth of collagen, blood vessels and nerve fibers.  We are harnessing your own innate healing potential to create younger looking skin! 

If you are interested in learning more about how to have younger looking skin,  please visit our website at www.signaturewellness.org.  Or you may contact us at questions@signaturewellness.org, or call at 704-752-9346.   

Yours in health, 
DrM


Monday, June 13, 2016

The most important nutritional factor in healthy aging

Fat used to be the bad guy, but recently carbs have become the dietary villain.  Low carb diets have convincingly shown more benefit than low fat diets for weight loss . But WHAT KIND of carbs we are talking about matters a lot.  A doughnut is a carb, but so is broccoli! 

In an effort to reduce the starchy carbs in our diet (which is a a good thing to do!) we need to be careful that we don't end up eating less fiber.  

A recent Australian study looked at 1,600 adults aged 50 years and older and evaluated their dietary risks for long-term sensory loss and systemic diseases, related to their carbohydrate consumption. Out of all the factors they evaluated,  including total carbohydrate intake, total fiber intake, glycemic index, glycemic load, and sugar intake - fiber intake resulted in the biggest difference in "successful aging.  

"Essentially, we found that those who had the highest intake of fiber or total fiber actually had an almost 80 percent greater likelihood of living a long and healthy life over a 10-year follow-up. That is, they were less likely to suffer from hypertension, diabetes, dementia, depression, and functional disability."

Here are a few possible reasons behind these important findings.   

1. Bowel regularity.    Insoluble fiber helps to keep you regular by "sweeping out" your colon.  Having regular bowel movements is an important part of detoxification.  We are all exposed to environmental chemicals and natural waste compounds from our own bodies that we need to eliminate.  Many of these compounds are excreted into the digestive tract.  If you aren't moving your bowels regularly, there is a greater opportunity for these compounds to be reabsorbed and result in increase health risks.

2.  Stable blood sugar levels.  Fiber in your meal also helps to slow the rate that your blood sugar rises as you digest your meal.  A slower rise in blood sugar is healthier - it allows the body to make an appropriate amount of insulin to handle the sugar load.  A meal high in sugar or refined carbohydrates (like white bread) and low in fiber results in a rapid spike in blood sugar and the body has to scramble to gain control over the metabolic situation.  Over time, this can lead to insulin resistance and diabetes.

3.  Prebiotics.  You have probably heard that the healthy bacteria in your digestive tract is very important to your health and disease prevention.  Probiotics are the healthy bacteria (for example found in yogurt) that you need to stay well.  Have you heard of Prebiotics?  This is the food source for the probiotics!  It is not enough to simply take a probiotic supplement - you need to nourish your gut bacteria by feeding them plenty of prebiotics.  And can you guess what your probiotic bacteria eat?  Fiber, of course!  So a diet rich in fiber is a diet rich in prebiotics, which help to nourish your healthy gut bacteria.

4.  Healthy cholesterol levels.  Soluble fiber does not dissolve in water (think about how oatmeal becomes gelatinous when you mix it with water).  Soluble fiber binds to cholesterol and helps you to clear it from your system.  We know that the actual AMOUNT of cholesterol is not really what is important - it matters much more whether or not the cholesterol is inflamed or oxidized.  But eating enough soluble fiber helps to maintain cholesterol levels in the normal range.  

5.  Estrogen metabolism.  Another factor to consider is the very important role that fiber plays in hormonal balance, and this is important in women AND men.  Each day you excrete estrogen into your digestive tract to clear it from your system (whether you made the estrogen in your own body or whether you are on estrogen replacement or birth control pills).  The insoluble fiber in your diet helps to keep you regular so you can excrete estrogen.  Soluble fiber helps carry estrogen out in your stool, and helps prevent it from being reabsorbed into the blood stream.  This makes sense when you remember that many of your hormones (including estrogen) are made from cholesterol!  So just as fiber is important for lowering your cholesterol, it is also important for clearing estrogen.  

This is especially important in women who have "estrogen dominance" with symptoms like heavy periods, PMS symptoms, breast tenderness, weight gain, insomnia, anxiety, fibroids, fibrocystic breast disease, or ovarian cysts.  Estrogen dominance is a risk factor for breast cancer, and a high fiber diet can help reduce the risks (we have lots of research to support this).  Too much estrogen is also a risk factor for prostate cancer.  As men age, they often convert more of their testosterone into estrogen, and an increase in fiber can help minimize the amount of estrogen that accumulates.

How much fiber do you need?  Many studies have looked at a goal of 30gram of fiber per day.  One challenge in trying to achieve this goal is that I typically recommend eating "whole" foods that do not come in a package (and therefore don't have a label to tell you how many grams of fiber per serving).   But here are some foods that are good sources of fiber, especially soluble fiber which is the best for balancing hormones.  

Fruits including citrus fruit, berries, apples, apricots, dates, prunes, and pears.  
Vegetables including asparagus, brussels sprouts, squash, zucchini, broccoli and root veggies like carrots, turnips and sweet potatoes.  
Legumes including lentils, chickpeas and pinto beans
Nuts such as almonds and walnuts
Seeds like ground flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, raw pumpkin seeds

While you are eating these terrific foods to make sure you get enough fiber, you will also be benefitting from the antioxidant vitamins, trace minerals and abundant "phytonutrients" (plant compounds) that will help keep you heathy.  Perhaps higher fiber intake was not the only reason the people in the study had reduced rates of disease - it may have been because fiber tends to come packaged by nature along with the other important nutrients you need to stay well!  So eat more fiber today to help maximize your chances for a healthy tomorrow.  

For more information on healthy hormone balance and healthy aging, please see our website www.signaturewellness.org or contact the office at 704-752-9346 or questions@signaturewellness.org

Yours in health,

DrM


1.  Association Between Carbohydrate Nutrition and Successful Aging Over 10 YearsThe Journals of Gerontology, Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences, 2016

2.  High fiber diet reduces serum estrogen concentrations in premenopausal women.  American Society of Clinical Nutrition.  1991

P.S.:  New testing allows us to measure your estrogen metabolites.  Would you like to know whether you are metabolizing estrogen in a way that increases your breast cancer risk (and then do something to correct the problem?)  Please contact the office for more information.  The test is $200 and is not covered by health insurance.  





Sunday, June 5, 2016

How to reduce your risk for breast (or prostate) cancer

Are you worried about breast cancer?  (Or prostate cancer?) You certainly, aren’t alone!  This is the number one concern I hear about when I am talking to patients about hormone balance.  Many men are not aware that their estrogen level can affect their risk for prostate cancer (high estrogen levels may increase the risk).   

Estrogens are essential for health and well being in both women and men. Estrogen plays a role in mood, energy, memory, sleep and sexual function.   Estrogen is important for bone health, brain health, heart health, breast health and prostate health.  

Every day, the body has to clear today’s estrogen to make way for tomorrow’s estrogen.  This is true whether you are making your own estrogen or whether you are taking estrogen replacement (synthetic or bio-identical).  If you are not clearing the estrogen properly, levels can climb and lead to symptoms.  Another factor to consider is HOW your body is clearing the estrogen.

Some estrogen metabolites (or “breakdown” products) have been shown to be harmful and increase risk for breast cancer in women, and prostate cancer in men.  On the other hand, some estrogen metabolites are protective, and associated with a REDUCED risk of breast cancer.  Wouldn’t you like to know which ones you are making?

The levels of the various metabolites can be measured, and we can use this information to help assess breast cancer (and prostate cancer) risks.  The good news is that armed with this information, there are many steps we can take to CHANGE the risks.  

How does it work?

There are 2 main estrogens we need to consider here.  Estrone,  also called E1, is the predominant postmenopausal estrogen.  Estradiol, also called E2, is the predominant pre-menopausal estrogen and the one that we replace in estrogen replacement therapy.   Men also have these estrogens, and estrogen levels tend to increase in men with age.

In “Phase One” of detoxication of estrogen, the liver metabolizes these estrogens into 3 different possible metabolites:

2-hydroxyestrogen (2-OH) is breast protective, so we want the most of your estrogen to go down this pathway.

16-hydroxyestrogen (16-OH) is bone protective (reduces the risk of osteoporosis) but is not breast protective.  We used to think that the ratio of 2 to 16 hydroxyestrogen (or the “2 to 16 ratio”) was a good predictor of breast cancer risk, but the current research does not support this.

4-hydroxyestrogen (4-OH) is the metabolite that you really don’t want.  This one has been associated with an increase in the risk for breast cancer.   This is also the one that breast cancer cells release into the bloodstream, so an increased level of 4-OH is concerning.  This is a newer test, and was not available in the past.   If the level of 4-OH is too high, we can help correct this with cruciferous vegetables (like broccoli, cauliflower,  kale, brussels sprouts), ground flax seed and fish oil.  We can also use a nutritional supplement called DIM.

In “Phase Two” of estrogen detoxification, the metabolites are altered further:

2-methoxyestrogen (2-Me) and 4-methoxyestrogen (4-Me) are made when 2-OH and 4-OH estrogens are “methylated” into methoxyestrogens.  This is a biochemical event where a “methyl” molecule is attached to the estrogen.  Even if estrogen has been converted into the “bad”  4-OH, once it is “methylated”  into 4-Me,  it becomes harmless.  Some people have a genetic variation resulting in reduced ability to methylate, and this leaves more 4-OH.  If the level of 4-OH is too high, we can help reduce it with supplements such as folate, B12 and SAMe which help methylation.

If the 4-OH is not methylated, it can be “oxidized” to a quinone-estrogen which can damage DNA and cause cancer.  But here too, we can intervene to prevent this!  Anti-oxidants, including glutathione (an important anti-oxidant produced in your liver), protect the 4-OH from being oxidized into a quinone-estrogen.  We can help clear the 4-OH safely by increasing your levels of glutathione.  This can be done by eating foods such as garlic, onions and beets, and with a supplement called N-acetylcysteine (NAC).  

Where should you start?

Previously we could only test for 2 and 16 estrogen metabolites, which didn’t give us the whole picture.  Now we can also measure for the 4 estrogen metabolites, which allows us to map out your personal estrogen metabolism  pattern.  We can also test for genetic variations that may be pushing your estrogen metabolism in the undesirable direction, as well as test for levels of anti-oxidants such as glutathione which help to clear the “bad” estrogen metabolites.   With this information we are able to make recommendations to alter your pattern so you make more of the protective estrogen 
metabolites and less of the harmful ones.  Then we can repeat the test to make sure we got it right! 

There are many other factors that are important for reducing cancer risk, including maintaining a healthy weight, eating a whole foods diet rich in fruits and vegetables of many colors, getting regular exercise, coping with stress in a healthy way, avoiding environmental toxins and making sure your estrogen is balanced with progesterone.  

Knowing your estrogen metabolism pattern, and optimizing it, is an example of how emerging medical science can help guide our nutritional recommendations to help you reduce your risk for hormone sensitive cancers.  The test is not covered by health insurance, and the cost is $200 or less, depending on the lab.  I recommend this test be done at least once in all patients.  If it is abnormal, we can talk about further testing for the gene variants, so we can compensate for any genetic weaknesses.  
If you are interested in being evaluated for your estrogen metabolism pattern, please contact the office for more information, 704-752-9346 or email us at questions@signaturewellness.org.   You can find more information at www.signaturewellness.org

Yours in health,

DrM








Sunday, April 17, 2016

A simple way to optimize recovery after surgery

Will you be having surgery?  Whether for a medical problem or for cosmetic reasons,  of course you hope for a quick and easy recovery!  Did you know that your nutritional status may play an important role in your post-operative recovery?

Poor nutrition, obesity, diabetes, and other chronic diseases can have a significant impact on surgical outcome and complications.   Deficiency of single nutrients can result in altered immune responses, even when the deficiency state is relatively mild!

Malabsorption of nutrients can result from a host of conditions, including:
  • Bariatric surgery
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Lactose intolerance
  • Celiac disease
  • Inflammatory bowel disease like Crohn's and Ulcerative Colitis
  • Intestinal parasites and other infections

I commonly find nutritional deficiencies in my patients, even without any of the above medical problems.  

Do you have bloating, gas, indigestion, heartburn, constipation or diarrhea?  These are clues to digestive dysfunction.  If your digestive tract is not functioning optimally, you may not be optimally digesting and absorbing the nutrients in your food.   

Some very common causes of insufficient nutrient status include:
  • poor dietary habits
  • food allergies and intolerances, such as gluten
  • low stomach acid (common in people over 50)
  • pancreatic insufficiency
  • leaky gut
  • imbalances in the gut microflora
  • toxic burden
  • Bile salt deficiency, especially after gall bladder removal

Even if your GI tract health seems to be fine, the food available to us no longer contains as many nutrients as in the past due to processing and modern farming practices, and most americans have one or more nutrient deficiencies.

According to the NIH, the prevalence of digestive disorders known to cause an absorption deficiency is approximately 1 in 4 of the American population,

Malnutrition is associated with increased incidence of surgical complications and mortalityActa Chir Scand. 1988 Apr;154(4):249‐51

Nutrition deficiencies impede the normal processes that allow progression through stages of wound healing.  Malnourished patients are at higher risk than well nourished patients for:
  • Delayed wound healing
  • Inflammation and bruising 
  • Infection

Nutrition in Clinical Practice, Vol. 25, No. 1 (2010)

A Solution - Nutritional IVs
By carefully administering a blend of nutrients essential to a speedy and healthy recovery, we can effectively reduce the number of surgical complications you may face.  Oral nutrition alone is not sufficient;  intravenous nutrition offers better bioavailability of nutrients for your metabolic needs.

Wound healing involves the deconstruction and restructuring of tissue and blood vessels.  If the raw ingredients and requisite energy stores to support this process aren’t available then an ordinarily straightforward process becomes hampered.

Here are some studies that showed postoperative complications are reduced with peri-operative nutrition:

1.  IV Nutritional supplementation in the period before and after surgery can have a significant impact on surgical outcome by:
  • reducing bruising, swelling, and inflammation
  • promoting wound healing
  • enhancing immunity
  • reducing oxidation generated by surgery and anesthetic agents

Aesthetic Surgery Journal Vol. 24, Issue 4, July‐August 2004

2.  A marked improvement in wound healing response has been shown in most surgical patients receiving postoperative nutritional careBritish Journal of Surgery Volume 74 Issue 4, 8 Dec 2005

3.  Early nutrition therapy given to patients after surgery results in an important reduction in infectious complications.  Gut 1996;39:833‐835 58


Peri-operative IV nutrition offers a safeguard from the postoperative complications of insufficient nutrient status.   By direct and targeted delivery of a proven blend of vitamins and antioxidants to replenish cellular energy stores, we can help improve your odds for a healthy and rapid recovery.

If you have an elective surgery planned, and are interested in knowing more about whether Nutritional IVs may be beneficial for you, please contact us at questions@signaturewellness.org or call 704-752-9346.  Please visit our website  www.signaturewellness.org

Yours in Health

DrM


Thursday, April 7, 2016

Miracle grow for your tissues?

During the past several years, much has been written about a preparation called platelet-rich plasma (PRP).

It has been used by famous athletes including Tiger Woods to help with more rapid healing from injuries including sprains and chronic tendon injuries.  It has also been used in race horses, in dentistry,  and in surgery to help improve the healing process.

Other uses for PRP are now available - including correcting incontinence, rejuvenation of the skin, stimulating hair re-growth, and restoring lift and fullness to breasts.


PRP for Stress Incontinence - the O Shot



Many women lose urine when laughing, coughing, or exercising.  This is called stress incontinence, and is caused by a weakening of the pelvic sphincter muscles due to the effects of childbirth or aging.

Until now we did not have good solutions, other than wearing a pad or having surgery.  The O-Shot has been a game changer in managing incontinence - it is non-invasive, simple, fast and relatively inexpensive, with virtually no risks. 

It starts with a simple blood draw.  Using a proprietary technique, the platelets are separated and the Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP), containing growth factors, is extracted.  The PRP is injected into an area adjacent to the urethra.  The area is numbed prior to the procedure, so there is little to no discomfort.

The O-Shot activates stem cells in the localized region and these tissues are able to regenerate and improve their strength and ability to prevent urine flow.  In many cases, the incontinence may be completely resolved.  We have had patients who had been able to cancel surgery for their incontinence .


PRP for Skin rejuvenation - the Vampire Facelift

With age, your skin changes.  The color becomes more gray because of less blood flow, the shape of the face collapses as muscle and collagen decrease, and the skin texture becomes less smooth.  As a result, you look worn and tired. 

The Vampire Facelift offers a way of both restoring shape, and improving tone and texture, as well as literally rejuvenating new and younger tissue!   

The procedure involves using fillers such as Juvederm to restore shape followed by injecting growth factors (PRP) into the skin to help restore color and texture along with enhancing a normal shape.   The PRP activates stem cells in your skin to grow new collage, new fatty tissue (for smoothness) and new blood vessels (for a healthy glow).  The effects of the procedure improve for 2-3 months and last for at least 1 to 2 years.  


PRP for hair regrowth


Did you know that 40 percent of Americans with hair loss are women?  Hair loss can effect our self image, and in some cases can be very devastating to emotional health.  

While restoring hormone balance and nutritional status can help in some cases, it is not always enough.   PRP may be a good choice for women (and men!) with chronic hair thinning.  
The application of PRP stimulates the hair follicles to become healthier and larger, producing thicker, darker hairs with better scalp coverage.  

First, your blood is drawn and then specially processed to produce the PRP.  A local anesthetic is administered to numb the scalp treatment area. The PRP is then administered via a series of tiny injections in the required areas of the scalp or in areas such as the eyebrows or beard. Additional growth factors are then applied topically.

New hair growth can be seen as early as 2 months, but is typically evident between 5-8 months and will continue to improve up to a year after treatment. The addition of Laser Therapy (LaserCap) can enhance the outcome.


I am really excited about offering PRP to our patients.  This treatment honors the body’s intelligence and ability to heal itself, it does not disrupt hormone balance, does not contain chemicals, and offers great results.  


If you have an issue that may be helped with PRP and would like more information, please click here. To schedule an appointment please call at 704-752-9346 or email us at questions@signaturewellness.org.

Yours In Health, 

DrM

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Is this the cause of your hormone problem?

Are you concerned about chemicals in the environment?  Did you know that chemicals may be the cause of your hormone imbalance?



There are literally tens of thousands of chemicals that have been invented in the past 70 years.  Most of these have never been tested to see whether they are safe for humans.   We are exposed to small amounts of these chemicals on a daily basis through food, water, cosmetics, and air.  These compounds are often persistent (they don't get flushed out of the body) and build up over time.

Many of these chemicals are "hormone disruptors", meaning that they interfere with our normal hormone function.   Examples include industrial chemicals like dioxins and PCBs, pesticides including DDT, plasticizers like BPA and phthalates, and preservatives like parabens.

Health problems in women that may be associated with hormone disrupting chemicals include uterine fibroids, fibrocystic breast disease, endometriosis, infertility, PMS, and menstrual problems.  

In men these chemicals have been associated with low testosterone levels,  reduced sperm count, infertility, and impaired sexual function.  

Lets look at some of these in more detail.

Bis-phenol A (BPA) is a component of plastic and has estrogenic effects.  (In fact, it was first discovered in the 1880's and was evaluated for use as an estrogen drug, before it was abandoned in favor of a compound with even stronger estrogen effects - DES.  DES was one of the first hormone disruptors identified and was banned by the FDA for causing birth defects. )

BPA is found in hard plastic bottles (including baby bottles!), dental sealants that we put on our kids teeth, credit card receipts, dollar bills, and the inside lining of cans of food.  

 To minimize your exposure,  avoid plastic bottles (especially if scratched or old),  buy fresh or frozen food instead of canned whenever possible, strongly consider the pros and cons of dental sealants (BPA-free sealants are available), and avoid products packaged in recyclable plastic containers marked #7.


Phthalates are found in soft plastic, such as water bottles, teething toys, baby bottle nipples, and plastic wrap for food.

To minimize your risk,  don't reuse your water bottles, and don't microwave your food in plastic (the heat increases the leaching of the chemical into your food) - use glass instead.








Parabens are preservatives found in personal care products like cosmetics, lotions, and shampoo.

Read the labels of all the products that you put on your skin to see if they contain parabens. Anything you put on your skin will be absorbed into your body.



Dioxins come from industrial processes, such as incineration of medical waste, smelting,  pulp and paper bleaching, and production of pesticides and herbicides.  Agent Orange is a dioxin, and dioxins are closely related to PCBs which were banned in the 1970s.  Both dioxins and PCS are persistent, meaning they last for decades in our bodies and in the environment.



The chemicals are deposited on the ground and ingested by farm animals, where it is concentrated in their fat tissues.  Our main exposure is through consumption of meat and dairy products.

According to the EPA, adults consume approximately 300-600 times the "safe" limit for dioxins. These chemicals tend to be concentrated in breast milk, and nursing infants are estimated to to consume 15,000-30,000 times this limit!  The average levels of dioxins in all Americans are now estimated to be "at or approaching" the point where we can all expect to experience adverse health effects.  Because dioxins (and PCBs) are eliminated very slowly from the body, they can last (and cause effects) for up to several decades after exposure.

Avoiding exposure to dioxins is a challenge.  The primary solution is for industries to change so that our environment is not being polluted.  Limiting consumption of meat and dairy products is a partial solution.   In this case, buying organic meat and dairy products will not prevent exposure.

Pesticides  DDT was banned decades ago when it was found to be a hormone disruptor, but overall our use of pesticides has increased over the years.  In recent research,  30 out of 37 commonly used pesticides tested by the University of London were found to be hormone disruptors.  The one found to have the most potent effects at blocking male hormones was an insecticide called fenitrothion, which is an organophosphate used on orchard fruits, grains, rice vegetables and other crops.

There is significant concern for fetuses and nursing infants, as these hormone disruptors may have effects on the developing reproductive tract.

In this case, buying organic foods DOES help to reduce risk of exposure.    A study found lower levels of pesticide residues in the urine of preschoolers fed an organic diet compared with preschoolers fed a standard diet.  It is so shocking to me that pesticides are found in ANY preschoolers!



So apart from avoiding toxins, what else can be done?

Hormone testing is available to help identify the problem;  sex hormones (estrogen, progesterone, testosterone), thyroid hormones, and stress hormones including cortisol.   It is also possible to do genomic testing and nutritional testing to learn how well your detoxification pathways are functioning and to help optimize your ability to clear toxins from your system.

If you are having hormonal symptoms and would like to be evaluated, please call us!  704-752-9346 or email questions@signaturewellness.org.  Please visit our website to learn more  www.signaturewellness.org 



Sunday, March 13, 2016

Is Estrogen Replacement Safe?

In July 2002, the well publicized Women's Health Initiative (WHI) study suggested increased rates of heart disease, strokes and breast cancer in women on hormone replacement therapy.  Naturally women and their doctors were fearful of the risks, and in the next 10 years hormone replacement use dropped by 79 percent.  Newer studies are showing that warning women off hormones was a mistake.  We know that estrogen and other sex hormones are vital for many functions in a woman's body.  

A study done by doctors at Yale and published in the American Journal of Public Heath, Sept 2013, evaluated the result of this widespread reduction in hormone use.  According to their calculations, estrogen AVOIDANCE may have led to as many as 90,000 preventable deaths.  The study found that estrogen therapy (ET) was actually associated with a REDUCTION in deaths from heart attacks and breast cancer.   According to the authors:  “Estrogen therapy in younger postmenopausal women is associated with a decisive reduction in all-cause mortality” 

A new study supports this.  Almost half a million women in Finland were followed over 15 years, and the results show that the longer the women were on estrogen replacement, the lower their risks for heart disease and strokes.  In fact, all cause mortality (meaning death from ANY cause, including breast cancer) was reduced by up to 30%.


There is no need to suffer with symptoms of menopause due to fear of side effects of hormone replacement. Your individual risks are related to many factors including your age, whether you are using bio-identical or synthetic hormones and the delivery method of the hormones (for examples pills vs topical estrogen).  Please ask us about your personal risks and the potential benefits, including improved memory, energy, mood, sleep and even younger looking skin.   Click here for more information.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Why is estrogen important for women?

Lets talk about the benefits of estrogen.  It has literally hundreds of roles in a woman's body!

Estrogen helps to protect your heart.  When you are premenopausal, your risk of a heart attack is significantly less than a man’s risk.  But after menopause, when estrogen levels drop, the risks become equal.   

It also helps to keep your tissues hydrated.  Without estrogen you can become dry:  dry eyes, dry mouth, dry skin, dry hair, dry vagina……

Bone health also depends on hormones, and estrogen in particular helps to prevent bone loss.  While this may not be something you are particularly worried about right now, it should be!  If you have a broken hip because of osteoporosis, there is a good chance that you will end up in assisted living. Preventing bone loss now is very important for your future mobility and independence.  

Something you may be very concerned about right now is how old you look!  Estrogen affects skin health - it helps to provide hydration and blood flow to keep that youthful glow to your skin,  and it maintains collagen to provide elasticity, which helps to minimize fine lines and wrinkles.  You may notice your skin aging rapidly as you go through the menopause.  One research study found that women with higher estrogen levels looked on average 8 years YOUNGER than women with low estrogen levels! 

Arguably the most important role of estrogen is on brain health.  Estrogen is energizing to the brain, so if estrogen levels are low you may feel more tired.  It is also important for quality of sleep, and obviously you have to be able to sleep to have good energy!

Estrogen is a natural anti-depressant in women.  It is needed to activate serotonin receptors in your brain, and serotonin is the natural brain chemical responsible for peace and joy, so obviously you want that!  If your estrogen levels are low, you may feel more flat, anxious or unmotivated.   You may be prescribed an anti-depressant medication to try to boost serotonin levels (like Prozac, Celexa, or Zoloft for example), but if you can normalize your estrogen levels,  your mood may improve without the need for medication.

There is a very important relationship between estrogen and memory.   If your estrogen level drops you may find yourself forgetting names, why you walked into the room or where you left the car keys.  It can be alarming and you may even worry that you are experiencing the early stages of Alzheimers!  Fortunately in many cases your memory can improve significantly with restoration of normal estrogen levels.  

Did you know that the average woman gains 20 pounds as she goes through menopause?  Estrogen deficiency can cause you to pack on the pounds, even if you haven't changed your diet or exercise. Of course, if you are tired, unmotivated and not sleeping well you may be finding it more difficulty to maintain healthy lifestyle habits!


As you can see, estrogen is very important for how you feel, how you look and how you will age. 

If you are interested in learning more about estrogen and whether estrogen replacement may be a good idea for you, click here.  If you are interested in scheduling an appointment to talk with us about your personal situation, please call 704-752-9346.  

Monday, February 1, 2016

Why not ensure 100% absorption of your vitamins and minerals?

Did you know that for many people, over 50% of the vitamins and minerals taken by mouth are poorly absorbed?  This can be due to digestive problems like gut inflammation from food sensitivities, dysbiosis (imbalances in digestive microflora), or yeast overgrowth (candida).  Stress and aging can also influence nutrient absorption - most people over the age of 40 are not  optimally digesting and absorbing nutrients.  Even in young, healthy people, the gut is only able to absorb a limited amount of certain nutrients.

In a nutritional IV, vitamins, minerals and amino acids are infused directly into the bloodstream.  We are able to deliver much higher doses of the nutrients since we bypass the limitations of the digestive system, and this allows much better correction of intracellular nutrient deficiencies.  

A good example of this is Vitamin C.  The antiviral effects of Vitamin C are seen when blood levels are approximately 10-15mg/dL.  Oral intake of Vit C typically raises blood levels only up to 1.2-4mg/dL,  so trying to overcome a cold with oral Vit C is unlikely to be very effective. We can deliver a higher dose with IV therapy,  and are able to raise levels up to 50-90mg/dL.

Besides boosting immune system function, another benefit of improved intracellular nutrition is increased energy production.  Mitochondria are the energy producing batteries in each cell. The influx of vitamins and minerals in a nutritional IV fuel the mitochondria and help to “kick start” the energy production in the cells.  This is especially valuable in treating patients with fatigue.

Already fairly healthy?  IV Therapy is great for boosting health and preventing illness.  

Planning an elective surgery?  Nutritional IVs before and after surgery can help to promote a reduced risk of complications from surgery and anesthesia, and promote faster recovery time with less swelling and bruising.  

Having your silver fillings removed?  Nutritional IVs can be very important to help reduce the effects of mercury exposure.  

High stress circumstances coming up, like a wedding, running a marathon, travel, final exams, or a sports competition?  Nutritional IVs can help keep you feeling on top of your game and reduce the risk of a weakened immune system due to stress.

Feel like you are coming down with a cold or flu?  A nutritional IV can resolve symptoms quickly.  This works best if the IV is administered within 24 hours of the start of symptoms.

For patients with medical problems exacerbated by intracellular nutritional deficiencies, IV Therapy can be an important tool in helping to restore wellness.  Conditions that may be helped with nutritional IVs include:

hormone imbalance
poor detoxification
poor memory and concentration
chronic stress
candida 
weakened immune system
fibromyalgia
chronic fatigue syndrome
muscle twitches and spasms
hypertension
athletic performance recovery and endurance
diabetes
migraines
depression
anxiety
arthritis
asthma
allergies
sinusitis
eczema and other skin conditions
chronic pain
cardiovascular disease
poor circulation
post-gastric bypass
Epstein Barr
heavy metal toxicity
influenza
Crohn's disease/ulcerative colitis
cancer
and even the common cold!

What is a Myers’ Cocktail?

During the 1960s, Dr. John Myers’, an internist from Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, proposed that a mixture of key nutritional supplements might be given in a single intravenous 
infusion– literally flooding the body with nutrients– to help improve cell performance. Each of the vitamins and minerals Dr. Myers’ selected had actually been available in intravenous form for years, but no one had ever considered combining them into an intravenous “cocktail.”

The basic Myers’ formula consists of a mixture of Vit C, B Vitamins, magnesium, and calcium.   All of these nutrients have known benefits and low potential for serious side effects. 

What is IV Glutathione?  

Glutathione is the most important anti-oxidant in the body.  It is produced in the body, especially the liver and is very important for detoxification of carcinogens, toxins, drugs, alcohol, and heavy metals like lead and mercury.  It activates the immune system and plays an important role in DNA synthesis and repair.  It activates nitric oxide to dilate arteries.  When given intravenously it helps with liver and brain function, and can be helpful for fatigue, brain fog, memory, parkinson’s and other neurologic conditions. 


Interested in learning more about how nutritional IVs can help you?  Give us a call!  704-752-9346  Or email us at questions@signaturewellness.org.