Tag Archives: functional medicine

I have a gut feeling…..that the health of our gut matters more than we ever knew!!

If you have been reading any recent publications(such as the New York Times or O magazine), you have probably come across the term “microbiome”. This word has been buzzing around the health care world for awhile( I first heard a lecture on it 3 years ago while attending a Functional Medicine conference in NYC), but now it has definitely hit the mainstream.

A microbiome describes the microbial environment of a person’s body and consists of hundreds of species of bacteria, viruses and fungi. The intrinsic  cells in our body are actually outnumbered 10: 1 by these organisms, so there is obviously something very important to be learned by studying this environment. Each individual has a microbiome that is unique to them which is shaped by genetics, the method of birth(vaginal versus Caesarian section), the home in which a person lives(families often share many aspects of their micro biomes: makes sense, doesn’t it? even pets in the household matter!) and clearly by the diet a person consumes.

Even pets in the home can have an impact on the health of one's gut!

Even pets in the home can have an impact on the health of one’s gut!

Microbiome researchers collect samples from various sites on an individual’s body and in turn sequence these organisms, creating a huge data base. Some very exciting correlations are emerging from this field: for example, the wider the diversity of the microbiome, the more likely you are to have a stronger immune system. In addition, certain microbiomes are more likely to be associated with obesity, diabetes, auto-immune disorders and depression. This begs the question: which comes first, the microbiome or the factors that shape it? Actually, the intestines of a newborn infant are sterile in utero and are soon populated by microbes. Again, this is shaped by genetics, birth process,  home environment and diet, amongst other things.

Factors that disrupt this environment include antibiotics, stress, eating a diet high in processed foods and low in fiber and variety, food poisoning, etc. Antibiotics are truly miraculous when we need them to fight certain infections, but too often they have been over-prescribed in the U.S.: the average child by the age of 18 has taken between 10-20 courses of antibiotics( I know I sure took many courses, as I had recurrent tonsillitis and ear infections). This trend does seem to be changing , thankfully, due to a greater awareness that many of these prescriptions are unnecessary. Farmers have long used antibiotics on their farm animals to help them gain weight(it is not understood how these are related just yet) but that should give us pause: can this be another reason for the epidemic of obesity we are seeing in our country?? If we are consuming meat that contains antibiotics, what are the implications on our health and well-being? This is yet another reason to choose animal products raised without hormones and antibiotics; thankfully this has become much easier in the past few years.

I believe the next 5-10 years will be incredibly exciting ones in terms of research on the gut and the implications our ‘gut health’ will have on our overall health and well-being. The expression ” You are what you eat” rings truer every day. Stay tuned for more ways to make sure that YOUR gut is healthy in the coming weeks.

Bon appétit!

Eating a wide variety of 'whole foods' helps ensure diversity of your microbiome

Eating a wide variety of ‘whole foods’ helps ensure diversity of your microbiome

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Filed under Essentials, Kyle Bell McAvoy, Whole Eating, Women's Health & Happiness

Ready, set , go(!) back to cleaner eating

I spent the last week traveling to NYC to attend my third IFM(Institute of Functional Medicine) Integrative Health Care symposium. The focus this year was on how our lifestyle can have a far-reaching effect on our health, particularly what and how we eat, how active we are and how we manage our stress.

What a perfect segue to our next ‘cleanse’! And as always after this type of conference, I walk away with a renewed awareness of and commitment to eating a cleaner, more nutritionally balanced and life-sustaining diet. I will be sharing with you many of the ‘pearls’ that I gleaned from attending this symposium so do stay tuned.

In case you don’t know what functional medicine is, briefly it is a shift in how we view the body. Often in Western medicine, we focus on the symptoms an individual presents with, which usually occur in a constellation of sorts, leading us to a particular diagnosis of pathology or disease. Functional medicine goes beneath the symptoms and tries to understand what mechanisms are ‘broken’ or altered so that the focus of treatment is more on correcting the imbalances and  the changes , and by supporting the various components of the immune system.  One of the main distinctions of functional medicine is a comprehensive evaluation of the individual’s lifestyle and careful attention is aimed at improving this. Studies have shown over and over again that many of the diseases that are prevalent in our western culture are directly linked to poor and inadequate nutrition(whether it be due to overeating of processed foods or simply not getting the correct balance of micro-nutrients).  Chronic stress is linked to the development of cardiovascular disease, cancer, mood disorders, and many others.

Poor diet, chronic stress and lack of exercise are also associated with hormonal imbalances, which we have talked about in many of our previous blog posts.  Whenever I meet with my patients who is obviously struggling with symptoms of hormonal imbalances, I always stress that along with testing and treating the obvious indicators, we will also devote quite a bit of time addressing dietary, activity(or lack thereof!) and life quality factors. Otherwise, hormonal treatment will only work for awhile and soon the patient will be back to square one.

Some of my favorite herbal teas and sweetener

Some of my favorite herbal teas and sweetener

By embarking on a mini-cleanse like this, you are doing your body a favor on so many levels. Remember to eliminate alcohol, caffeine(green tea is okay, as it has so many health benefits), sugar(other than stevia, small amounts of honey/agave or coconut sugar) and whites: pasta, rice, flour and potatoes. I will be on this starting Monday, March 4th , going through Friday March 8th and then I will resume on Monday, March 18th through Friday March 22nd. Please join in for the 10 days of your choice and as always, join in the conversation by posting a comment on the blog or on the Facebook page of Pearl Women’s Center. For more suggestions and information on how to do the cleanse, please refer back to my previous posts.

Eat a wide variety of fruits: the best 'dessert' of all, full of life-sustaining nutrients

Eat a wide variety of fruits: the best ‘dessert’ of all, full of life-sustaining nutrients

Kudos to all of you who are joining me!

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Filed under Hormone Imbalance, Kyle Bell McAvoy, Whole Eating, Women's Health & Happiness