Healing Rheumatoid Arthritis with Naturopathic Medicine

People living with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) compare the pain and inflammation to a fire raging out of control. RA is a chronic, systemic autoimmune disease causing swelling, stiffness, and pain in the joints. It can result in joint deformity and damage to other organs, including the nerves, heart, and lungs.

Approximately 1.5 million Americans have Rheumatoid Arthritis: most are adults over age 40; about 12,000 children under age 16 have juvenile-onset RA.

Symptoms of RA (aggravated by stress and lack of sleep)

  • Swollen, painful, hot and disfigured joints on both sides of the body
  • Pain, stiffness and limited movement making daily activities difficult
  • Fatigue, muscle aches, and fevers

The prevailing, conventional theory is that inflammation results from an “over-reaction” of the immune system that may include genetic factors. Doctors of naturopathic medicine believe there is a deeper, root cause for this haywire immune system response. They theorize immune dysregulation originates in imbalances that involve a person’s genetics, lifestyle choices, nutritional status, gut health, stress, environmental triggers and emotional wellbeing.

Treatment of RA

Conventional treatment includes physical therapy and prescription medicines (steroids, painkillers, and immune suppressors) to treat pain and swelling. While these drugs may be necessary for some people, they have side effects including hair loss, liver damage, stress on the kidneys and heart, and risk for addiction, without correcting the underlying imbalance.

At Journey of Health our naturopathic doctors emphasize on identification and treatment of root causes. Naturopathic doctors use safe, natural therapies and interventions that stimulate the restoration of health without side effects. Here’s a sampling of naturopathic interventions that can make a huge impact in healing the root causes of RA.

An Anti-inflammatory Diet

Commit to a diet that includes: organic fruits and veggies; healthy fats such as olive, avocado, and coconut oils; whole grains; bone broth; wild-caught fish; and nuts/seeds. These foods provide natural antioxidants – cellular superheroes that gobble up the free radical cells that contribute to development of RA. There are many foods that are considered healthy in general, but may cause inflammation for some people, leading to immune dysregulation. Holistic doctors will test for food sensitivities, such as gluten, dairy, egg, or others, and work with a patient to create a diet with healthy alternatives when needed.

Keep Moving

Movement is important for managing symptoms (including pain) and enhancing psychological wellbeing. Low impact exercise, such as cycling, walking, water aerobics and Tai Chi, are ideal. Symptoms can improve with strength training.

R & R: Rest, Relaxation & Pain Reduction

Massage therapy, acupuncture or acupressure, reflexology, yoga, deep breathing, and guided imagery provide protection against painful bouts of RA by helping improve body awareness, reduce muscle tension, enhance sleep, and decrease stress hormones.

Manage Symptoms, Naturally

Nutritional and herbal supplements can help reduce pain and inflammation. Vitamin D deficiency is associated with RA, so supplementing can be important. Extracts of ginger and turmeric, Omega-3 fish oil and digestive enzymes are some nutrients that help tame the fire of inflammation.

A natural medicine approach to healing RA will be unique to each person. Consult with your La Mesa naturopathic doctor for interventions that will work best for you.

References
Contact our office for more information

Journey of Health Medical Clinic

619-772-1164

Celiac Disease & Gluten Sensitivity

How did gluten, a naturally-occurring protein found in wheat, barley and rye – sources of nutrition for people over thousands of years, become so unhealthy?

Many scientists attribute the increase in Celiac Disease (CD) and non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (GS) to alternations in wheat’s biological structure, the result of modern farming and bread-making practices and the chemicals used today. The result: wheat crops that are biochemically different from the virgin wheat of agrarian society. Because our bodies have not adapted to these chemically treated crops, we’re unable to digest them properly.

Modern bread-making has gone from being a simple four-ingredient wholesome loaf of sustenance to being a less-nutrient dense squishy loaf of preservatives. Old-fashioned baking involved giving flour time to absorb as much water as possible, and waiting for yeast and bacteria to activate the dough (fermentation). Today, industrialized baking replaces natural hydration, fermentation and kneading with artificial additives and massive mixers to accelerate dough formation. To endure commercial processing and increase shelf life, additional concentrated vital wheat gluten and preservatives are stuffed into bread products.

Celiac Disease

One in 133 adults and children have CD, a genetic, autoimmune disorder that occurs in response to ingesting gluten, triggering the immune system to attack the delicate lining of the small intestine. This creates inflammation and can lead to nutrient malabsorption and secondary health problems. There are over 200 symptoms for CD, including:

  • extreme abdominal pain
  • nausea, vomiting
  • gas, constipation, diarrhea
  • joint pain, anemia, fatigue
  • stunted growth, skin rashes
  • behavior disorders, mood disturbances

Symptoms can begin immediately and last from a few hours to several days. The primary treatment for CD is a life-long gluten-free diet.

Non-celiac Gluten Sensitivity (Gluten Intolerance)

Non-celiac Gluten Sensitivity (GS) affects 6-7% of the U.S. population. It’s an adverse food-induced reaction that seems to have an immune component. Gluten activates an inflammatory response that can affect tissues anywhere in the body. Symptoms vary based upon individual and environmental factors. Determining if you have GS requires testing to rule out CD. Blood/genetic tests are not available for directly assessing GS. Currently, holistic doctors use a Food Sensitivity Panel to identify reactions to wheat. Also, an elimination diet with symptom monitoring can assess GS.

Testing for CD

genetic test (Celiac HLA) indicates your risk for developing CD. If a first-degree family member has CD, a negative gene test excludes you from the possibility of developing it.

Blood tests require that you continue eating gluten products in order to get an accurate result. (Abstaining from gluten will skew the results.) A naturopathic doctor can inform you on the appropriate amount of time required to eat gluten prior to testing. The tTg-IgA (Tissue Transglutaminase Antibodies) test looks for antibodies toward gluten. Your La Mesa Naturopathic Doctor may order a panel of antibody tests to assess if you are deficient in antibodies the body needs, or if the body is creating antibodies against its own tissues.

Your naturopathic doctor may decide to order an endoscopic biopsy to obtain a definitive diagnosis of CD. In this procedure, performed by an M.D. who specializes in digestive disorders, a part of the small intestine is removed and examined for damage.

Based on your symptoms and test results, your La Mesa Naturopathic Doctor can determine the type of testing you need and design an appropriate, personalized treatment plan.

References
Contact our office for more information

Journey of Health Medical Clinic

619-772-1164

Are we more concerned with getting sunburned than with our Vitamin D status?

In this article, I want to take another look at Vitamin D and our epidemic of Vitamin D deficiency.

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble steroid that is used throughout the body for many processes. Some symptoms of deficiency are commonly known while others may be new concepts. We take Vitamin D to help balance calcium that is taken from and stored in the bones. Immune function relies on Vitamin D to keep infection at bay. The vitamin also plays an important role in mood, autoimmune disease, obesity, and likely, most chronic disease. It is also vital to brain development.

Vitamin D synthesis starts in the skin and concludes in the kidney with an endocrine transfer that distributes the vitamin to tissues throughout the body. With this mind, we can consider why so many people have Vitamin D deficiency. Sometimes, Vitamin D deficiency simply results from inadequate intake; other times, deficiency can be due to the body’s inability to utilize the Vitamin D it has absorbed. About half of the patients with the MTHFR mutation or methylation defect also have a defect in their Vitamin D receptors, which causes suppression of Vitamin D production in the body. Cytochrome P (CYP) in the liver can also activate receptors and deactivate the Vitamin D molecule. Even from the simplified biochemical explanation here, you can see that the body’s system of utilizing Vitamin D is rife with complexities and details.

Adding to Vitamin D deficiency issues is the trend of doctors instructing parents to keep their kids out of the sun. We smother our kids with sunscreen so they get very little sun absorption. This is not to suggest that we allow our kids to get sunburned during a long outing in the sun! Rather, we must reach a balance to ensure that little bodies adapt to tolerate the sun in regular doses from an early age – this way, our children are less likely to burn as they get older. In fact, we can reach our daily levels of recommended Vitamin D intake before we are even close to the sunburn level. It is estimated that it takes roughly half the time to reach satisfactory intake levels as it does to burn, which ranges from about 15 minutes for fair skin to two hours for dark skin. So save the strongest versions of sunscreen for the hours of 11 am to 3 pm, or the middle of the day, when children are in direct sunlight, and allow modest exposure otherwise. Even individuals with a history of skin cancer can increase the anti-oxidant levels in their skin, without increasing their risk for skin cancer reccurrence, through moderate sun exposure. For those times that do call for sunscreen, beware that some chemicals in poorly-formulated sunscreens can actually increase risk factors of skin cancer, as can sunscreens that only block UVB waves (and expose you to dangerous UVA radiation). Be sure to look for natural ingredients and make sure the product you buy protects against both UVA and UVB.

The founder of the Vitamin D Council has observed that three epidemics have started since our society has been taught to shelter kids from the sun: asthma, autism and autoimmune conditions. Parents put many resources into their children’s treatments for these serious conditions. As a naturopathic physician, I have been able to reverse the complications of these ailments in many of my patients. For instance, kids with asthma respond very quickly to natural treatment and often go off inhalers and steroids within the first month after visiting me. Autism, interestingly, is more common in households of higher socioeconomic status as parents with higher education tend to follow more strictly medical persuasion to keep kids out of the sun. Avoiding the sun altogether really is a new idea for the human race, as is sunscreen.

In countries with normal exposure to the sun, mean natural Vitamin D levels are 46 ng/mL of blood. The ideal concentration of Vitamin D in the blood depends on factors such as individual risk and illness, and can vary widely. In general, 46 ng/mL is a good number for which the already healthy should strive. Some studies show that Vitamin D can be washed off the skin within 12 hours of exposure simply by bathing. While sunbathing is the preferred method of getting Vitamin D, you can also get it from supplements and some limited food sources like reindeer meat, seagull eggs, lard, cold water fish, sun dried mushrooms, grass-fed meat, eggs and milk.

Finally, I’d like to address briefly the issue of medications and sun exposure. If you are in the sun while taking certain medications, you may experience a phototoxic reaction caused by interaction between the sunlight and the free radicals in the medication. This interaction may cause sunburn, rash or hives. There are several medications that can cause sun sensitivity. The most common are antibiotics such as tetracyclines and fluoroquinolones; anti-depressants acting as SSRIs or tricyclics; NSAIDs such as Advil, Aleve, Celebrex and Motrin; and diuretics. Your doctor will warn you to stay out of the sun for 48 hours after taking these medications. It is wise to avoid the sun when you have no choice but to take these particular pharmaceuticals.

Schedule a visit with your La Mesa naturopathic doctor for more information or if you are concerned about your vitamin D levels. For more articles on natural health, please subscribe to our newsletter here.

No Plastics Please

What’s the stretch on plastics and how they affect our health? Phthalates are the industrial chemicals used to make plastics flexible. We can find them in fast food packaging, medical, household cleaners, cosmetics, beauty products, flame retardants and more. Consumers are usually unaware since it is not required to list them as ingredients. Even gloves used for food prep contains BPA.
       These toxins are known for disrupting estrogen, thyroid and testosterone as well as links to cancer and fertility problems. Awareness is a great first step but also know that the substitutes for BPA are likely to be just as toxic. We won’t be able to avoid all plastics but we can limit our exposure as much as possible. Try the alternatives of stainless steal containers for lunch, silicon and of course the old fashion glass at home.

Pain in the ???

Muscle pain can be challenging and limiting. There is nothing like being held back by painful, uncooperative muscles.

First thing to try is magnesium. Those muscle fibers use calcium to contract and magnesium to relax. Many patients are deficient in magnesium, leading to cramps of all sorts, heart palpitations and myriad other muscle related symptoms. There are several types of magnesium and patients react differently to the different forms. Heat can often relax the intermittent pain that comes with injuries and again magnesium in the form of epsom salt baths. Our goal with heat and magnesium is to relax the muscles so they can release toxins. In general, diarrhea is a sign of too much magnesium supplementation. Magnesium alone has the potential to resolve muscle pain or growing pains, menstrual cramps, as well as anxiety.

Next in our tool box is anti-inflammatories in the form of herbs. Curcumin is probably the most common used. It does seem to work at the right dose, particularly for knee pain. Many patients have tried curcumin on their own and are disenchanted with it since low quality products don’t work. We use high doses in our La Mesa Naturopathic Medical Clinic and forms that have the same standardized amount for each dose so patients get the same results every time. Another favorite anti-inflammatory for me is Shea Butter – yeah, that stuff you put on your skin, but internally it can do wonders for certain kinds of pain. There are many more herbal options and we choose them based on what else is going on in the body. For example, adequate doses of Boswelia is great for patients with pain and unstable bowel symptoms.

Preventing inflammation in the muscles can be even more powerful than anti-inflammatories. Getting foods that are nourishing rather than inflammatory can take some time to work into your lifestyle. The big inflammatory food groups that wreck havoc in your muscles are sugar. Then there are those oils that are processed and changed beyond anything recognizable in nature. Processed foods in general just make it harder for those muscle fibers to relax and let go. Nourish your muscles with healthy meats, lots of veggies (which work well in stir-fries and soups) nuts, fruits, olive oil, coconut oil, and whole grains like quinoa and wild rice.

Another way to nourish those muscles is by doing a series of B12 shots. Whether these help you detox excess toxins or supply needed B12 to your nerves, B12 shots seem to work when muscle pain is stubborn.

The ultimate goal is to find the cause of the muscle pain – autoimmune, chronic viral infections, hormonal issues can cause stubborn, aggravating muscle pain. There are some temporary help options for these ailments but until you get to the bottom (turn off the spicket) of whatever’s feeding the inflammation in the muscles, the relief is temporary.

Cheers to healthy, functioning muscles! If you need help with your muscle pain, we the team at Journey of Health are here to help you find your answers.

Is there hope for MTFHR polymorphs?

Is there hope for MTFHR polymorphs?

These conditions are associated with MTHFR genetic mutation in research: Several can be considered a genetic disorder since treating the mutation will resolve the illness. There continues to be correlations of health problems with MTHFR that are not mentioned here.

Atrial Fibrillation ALS
Alzheimers Anemia
Anxiety Arthritis
Autism Bipolar disorder
Blood clot Breast Cancer
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Colorectal Cancer
Connective Tissue Disease Diabetes
Down Syndrome DVT
Epstein Barr Virus Fibromyalgia
Gluten intolerence Heart attack
Heart Murmurs Heavy metal toxicity
Hemolytic anemia High homocysteine
Homocystinuria Hunnington’s
Infertility in both men and women Insulin resistant diabetes
Leukemia Lupus
Meniere’s Disease Migraine
Miscarriages MMA
Multiple Chemical Sensitivity Multiple Sclerosis
Myalgic encephalomyelitis Neural tube defects
Neuralgia Non Hodgkin Lymphoma
Panic Attacks Parkinson’s
Post eclampsia Pre eclampsia
Pulmonary Embolism Retinal Vascular Occlusive Disease
Schizophrenia Spina bifida
Stroke Thyroid disease
Tongue Tie Vaccine Injury

What is gene mutation, MTHFR (methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase)?

Explanations for MTHFR can get very complex so let’s try to keep it simple.

The –ase tells us that it is an enzyme.  This enzyme is at the center of the activity of so much of your biochemistry, from turning homocysteine into methionine, making the most important antioxidant in your body, glutathione and converting neurotransmitters like dopamine that will affect your mood.  The enzyme also makes the active form of folate, called methylfolate.  The active form of folate is able to get around the body better and is the only form that is absorbed in the gut properly and can adequately be used in the brain.  As you can see, being able to make methyl-folate is very important for nervous system function, growing babies and much, much more.

The two little sections that code for the enzyme are known as MTHFR C677T and MTHFR A1298C.  If we remember back to biology class, there are two letters that determine outcome of a particular trait in the Punnett square.  Capital letters general indicate the wild type or normal variant of a gene.  Little letters indicate a mutation.  Two of the same letters indication homozygous and one of each indicates heterozygous.

AA Homozygous

Aa  Heterzygous

aa  Homozygous

The MTHFR section of the chromosome in a gene test with normal variants of amino acids should looks like this:

C677C   A1298A

It is possible to have 1 or 2 gene mutations between these 4 amino acids.  We will use DNA below.  Some tests done by saliva use RNA so the amino acids are different.

One gene mutations or Heterozygous MTHFR:

677: CT   1298: AA   This is heterozygous 677.

(One cytosine amino acid has been changed to tyrosine and reduces the ability to make the enzyme by 30%.)

677: CC  1298: AC  This is heterozygous 1298.

(One adenosine amino acid has been changed out for a cytosine reducing the enzyme being made by 30%.)

Two gene mutations or Homozygous MTHFR:

677: TT   1298: AA   This is homozygous 677.

(Both cytosine amino acids have been changed to tyrosine which means this is only 30% chance or so of making the correct coding for making the enzyme.)

677: CC   1298: CC   This is homozygous 1298.

(Both adenosine amino acids have been changed to cytosine which means this is only 30% chance or so of making the correct coding for making the enzyme.)

677: CT   1298: AC   This is compound heterozygous.

(One cytosine has been switched and one adenosine has been switched in each gene.)

What does it mean?

Simply, this genetic mutation decreases the ability for your biochemistry wheels to spin.  Throughout our bodies we have ferris wheels that are used to turn one molecule into another.  The enzyme is like the worker who loads the ferris wheel.  Without adequate enzymes the ferris wheel doesn’t turn or gets clogged up and you can end up with a crowd of people in one section of the ferris wheel or a crowd of metabolites who cannot go the next step.  This crowd of metabolites can cause symptoms- a myriad of symptoms that are endless.

MTHFR is at the center of your biochemistry wheels and interact in so many wheels.  If you are positive for a MTHFR mutation or polymorphism, it means that your body has less enzyme to help those biochemistry wheels turn and less active folate or methylfolate being made.  If you are not able make active folate, it can clog up the gears causing many of the common symptoms of MTHFR.

MTHFR disorders are treatable.  I find 80% of patients improve immediately with the right treatment.  MTHFR is one of the most satisfying conditions that I treat because patients get so well when their treatment is focused.  There are a number of other mutations, such as COMT, CBS, MAO that can complicate treatment.  Some patients are so sick that we have to address other health problems before they are able to tolerate treatment.

How is it treated?

Many people believe only homozygous MTHFR needs to be treated.  I beg to differ and find that even heterozygous MTHFR will find that their health problems can be resolved by treating MTHFR.  Treatment of MTFHR is often very hopeful.

In general, treatment is nutritional.  The goal is to work toward lifestyle changes and a maintenance dose of a multi-vitamin with methyl-folate in it and avoidance of synthetic forms of folate.  It can take some stepping stones to get to the maintenance dose as we tweak your body’s ability to spin biochemistry wheels and make the gears more efficient.  We want to spin them at the right speed, not too slow and not too fast causing detox.  Some patients see immediate life changing results while others see results consistently but more slowly especially if things have been going on for a very long time.

Any medications that involve folate pathways are generally contraindicated with a decrease in your enzyme.

Who should be screened?

If there is a family history of MTHFR or methylation defects in your family, you should be screened.  It is estimated that 30-40% of the population has this mutation depending on ethnicity, therefore it is wise to screen for it whenever there is chronic disease, infertility, or in pregnancy.  Growing a baby involves adequate active folic acid so screening in pregnancy MTHFR is essential.

There is a very long list of chronic diseases that are linked to MTHFR but in short, I often screen for it in my La Mesa Naturopathic Medical Clinic if there is some family history of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, any clots, depression and/or addiction.  I also screen in more unusual conditions such as sensitivity to caffeine, a feeling of something creeping up such as a panic attack, estrogen dominance such as fibroids and autoimmune conditions.  In the first patient visit, we are creating a painting of the person’s well being and if the picture fits MTHFR, a screening is well worth it.

Screening can be done in our La Mesa Naturopathic Medical Clinic by blood test. There are kits offered online for blood and saliva testing.  I do counsel patients on the best option for them depending on their finances, health goals and concern for genetic testing and data mining of the information.