The New Breakthrough for Endometriosis: Cannabis?

I’ll never forget my 24 year old patient that came to me desperate to get pregnant. She was tearful in the office as she described everything she and her husband have been through trying to conceive. She had endometriosis, a disease which causes abnormal endometrial growths outside the uterine wall. If severe, it can lead to infertility. Endometriosis affects one in ten women today in the United States. It causes excruciating pain that is diffuse and hard to characterize. Most women with endometriosis describe painful periods, uncomfortable intercourse, chronic abdominal pain, and even infertility. Conventional medical treatments include synthetic hormones, like birth control pills (which lead to other problems, such as depression) or ablation/surgery, which often does not fix the problem. Efficient medical interventions are pretty dire for many women.

Enter: Cannabis.

As a medical marijuana expert, I have witnessed many female patients come to the office to secure a medical card for their exruciating pelvic pain due to endometriosis. They have always told me this medicine takes the edge off for them. Its my nature to always trust the patient, but now science is proving why cannabis is so good at alleviating this particular pain.

THE ENDOCANNABINOID SYSTEM 

Let  me explain a little about cannabis and the endocannabinoid system so that you can understand the science behind this misunderstood plant.

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) was never something we were taught about in medical school. It happens to run from your brain to your bowels…and the receptors, known as CB1 and CB2 receptors, are in the highest concentration in the uterus. These receptors wear many hats, including but not limited to modulating pain sensation, mood, memory, appetite, sleep, and immune response.

Many components of the ECS—a group of cannabinoid receptors found in the human body—are found in endometrial tissue. Rodent models of the disease have revealed ECS levels are regulated by the menstrual cycle. These include:

  • Cannabinoid receptors type 1 and type 2 (also known as CB1 and CB2)
  • N-acyl phosphatidylethanolamine phospholipase D (NAPE-PLD), an enzyme that synthesizes natural endocannabinoids
  • Fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH), an enzyme that breaks down endocannabinoids

What’s more, the reproductive system makes a natural endocannabionoid that is potentiated by cannabis use. It is known as anadamide. Moreover, the highest concentration of this endocannabinoid anandamide, is found in the uterus. It has been demonstrated in female reproductive tract fluid and even in ovaries.

CANNABINOIDS AND ENDOMETRIOSIS: HOW DOES IT HELP?

Most pain comes from unchecked inflammation or neuropathic pain (nerve pain). Endometriosis is no exception. As cannabinoids are known to decrease inflammation and work well on neuropathic pain, it makes sense that this would be an attractive option. Now that research studies are publishing the mechanism of action, science can no longer deny such a viable choice for women and pain.

Research has shown that in rodents at least, the CB1 receptior protein is found in the uterus and in something called a blastocyst. A blastocyst is a human embryo that was fertilized 5-6 days ago. What this infers is that the CB1 receptor likely contributes to normal fetal implantation vs implantation failure. Yes, it is possible that endocannabinoids play a role in fertilization and growth of the human embryo early on. They even look like they may be involved in reproductive dysfunction. It is well established that the ECS plays a key role in pain receptors and feedback loops and in fact, cannabinoids have been used for centuries to alleviate dysmenorrhea, or pelvic pain.

Some studies described endometriosis as an “endocannabinoid deficiency” condition, thereby partially explaining its implication with pain. Indeed, women with endometriosis have lower levels of CB1 receptors in endometrial tissue. Reduced ECS function has been suggested to lead to growth of endometriosis tissue and a more severe pain experience. The ECS seems to be important for the establishment of pain associated with endometriosis. It is interesting to note that CB1 receptor EXPRESSION is greater in unhealthy endometrial cysts than in healthy uterine tissue from the rats in the study (this why the receptors are shown with greater expression in the endometrium of rats with endometriosis-their bodies are trying to increase expression in an attempt to increase CB1 production since they have a deficiency). This suggests that medications or treatments to activate CB1 receptors (CB1 receptor agonists) could provide substantial pain relief for women suffering from pelvic pain syndromes, such as endometriosis, without many side effects. The study, headed by Jerome Bouaziz at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at The Chaim Sheba Medical Center in Israel, showed that cannabinoid receptor agonists, including the phytocannabinoids found in regular cannabis, are effective at regulating the inflammatory response, reducing the growth of endometriotic lesions, and improving neuropathic pain.

Of note,  CB2 receptors are preferentially expressed abundantly in the immune system and intestines and in other tissues such as the lungs, uterus, pancreas, and skin, but do not seem to play a major role in the uterus and with endometriosis. But thats a whole other post.

In this particular study, rather than use natural cannabis, researchers chose a synthetic cannabinoid known as WIN 55,212-2 (WIN). WIN has been found to be a potent agonist and to have high therapeutic potential. Human endometriosis cells divided and grew LESS (too much tissue growth is the problem in endometriosis) when stimulated with WIN 55212-2. Rodent studies of endometriosis found the animals had more pain when treated with AM251, a drug that inhibits the cannabinoid receptors, and less pain when treated with WIN 55212-2. Interesting, no?

 

“The graph above shows cell proliferation/growth (vertical column) plotted against WIN concentration added to the cells (horizontal row). Cs, Ds, and Es stand for the type of cell used, with Cs corresponding to inter-uterine “healthy cells”, Ds referring to cells taken from surface level growths, and Es referring to cells taken from deep cysts. Regardless of the cell type, readers can see that as the micromolar concentration of WIN (horizontal axis) increased past 5, cell proliferation plummeted! By 40, cell proliferation had all but stopped in all cell types, with between 96% and 99% reduction in all cases. Readers will notice the horizontal dotted line located at 1,00 on the vertical axis. This line represents the expected level of cell proliferation had no WIN been added, and in fact, this line matches the data at low concentrations of WIN. Breaking this all down, essentially what we’re seeing is a dose-dependent reaction to WIN, which means that effects increase with increased addition of WIN.” -Cornerstonecollective.com

HOW TO USE CANNABIS FOR ENDOMETRIAL PAIN

If you are interested in using cannabis for PMS, pelvic pain, or endometriosis, then there are options for you. Unfortunately you cannot legally obtain any products containing more than 0.3% THC if marijuana has not been medically approved in your state. You can, however, obtain full spectrum CBD products which is sufficient for most people. There are many options, but here are my favorites:

  1. CBD suppositories or “tampons:” These look like tampons but are actually glycein vaginal suppositories that are inserted locally, right where the pain occurs. These are relatively new, but work amazingly well for any sort of pelvic pain and most women are pleasantly surprised. Pairing this with Hormone Master is a sure fire bet to alleviate cramping, PMS and any pain.
  2. CBD oil: CBD oil is taken sublingually and then swallowed. It depends on your dosage per drop, but attempt 15mg twice a day to begin. There is a fairly large therapeutic window so titrating up is safe. When purchasing, look for organic, full spectrum and at least 500mg of CBD per bottle. You can email support@drjess.com for CBD.
  3. CBD salves and patches: Salves are nice because you can also apply them topically and locally, right where the pain occurs. Patches are applied every 2-3 days. They are convenient since you dont have to think about taking your medicine daily.

 

THE FINAL WORD

Cannabis and any CB1 agonist seem very promising in the treatment of endometriosis. My personal experience as a cannabis doctor has proved this to me time and time again.  This puts the medicine, or CBD, directly in the localized area of pain and inflammation, and thus provides a rapid delivery system for pelvic pain.

I am excited to oversee clinical research studies using cannabis as a treatment for endometriosis in the near future. And don’t worry-I’ll keep all of you posted!

Remember-you do NOT have to live in pain or take addictive narcotics. There are so many options, including cannabis. Please be sure to do your reseach so that you can be your own best doctor!

Much love

Dr Jess

 

REFERENCES:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5436335/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2972363/
  3. https://news.medicalmarijuanainc.com/endometriosis-pain-endocannabinoid-system-study/
  4. https://cornerstonecollective.com/endocannabinoids-for-endometriosis/

The Jury Is In: The Mirena IUD and Low Dose Birth Control Contributes to Breast Cancer

DO YOU TAKE THE BIRTH CONTROL PILL?

For decades holistic practitioners and functional medicine practitioners, have been sounding the alarm about the risks of synthetic birth control pills, especially the regular, higher doses of synthetic estradiol and progesterone. These have been dolled out to women for decades under the guise of a safe option for preventing pregnancy. Unfortunately conventional medicine does not usually get to the root cause of disorders like polycystic ovarian syndrome, PMS, acne or menopause, instead birth control pills are often prescribed to keep the symptoms at bay. But, at what cost? Long term use of these pills has proven controversial.  Studies have already shown risks for thromboembolism, heart disease, strokes, and gallstones. In my practice alone, I see birth control pills or a rampant estrogen dominance both leading to cholecystectomies, or removal of the gallbladder due to stones, quite often. It even happened to me! Stressed out and teetering on the brink of adrenal fatigue in residency, I suffered debilitating gallbladder attacks while on the pill for years. I was lucky enough to save my gallbladder from impending surgery with diet changes, stress management and stopping the pill.

And not just that, but I often see patients with the dreaded triad of low thyroid, estrogen dominance, and adrenal fatigue. Nearly all of these women have had hormonal issues that prompted their physician to put them on the birth control pill. Birth control pills increase thyroid and sex hormone binding globulin which effectively lower the amount of  “free” or bioavailable circulating thyroid and sex hormones. This leaves us feeling drained, fatigued, with zero sex drive, thinning hair and aging skin. Yikes.

I want to stress….the birth control pill will NOT fix your hormonal issues. It is only masking them. I, along with many other practitioners, was hopeful that low dose birth control pills, including IUDs, would be a safer option for women. Now a new study confirms the risk of ANY sort of synthetic supplementation that interferes with our natural hormonal balance.

IS THERE AN INCREASE IN CANCER IF I TAKE THE BIRTH CONTROL PILL?

On December 6th, 2017, the New England Journal of Medicine published a study showing a 20% increase in breast cancer for women who take low dose pills. The study, which used all of Denmark as its sample, followed nearly 1.8 million women of childbearing age for over a decade on average, drawing data from national prescription and cancer registries. During that time period, 11,517 cases of breast cancer were identified. The researchers concluded that hormone users over all experienced a 20 percent increase in the relative risk of breast cancer compared to nonusers, although the risk increased with age and varied by formulation.

The study, which is the largest of its kind, upends widely held assumptions about modern contraceptives for younger generations of women. Many of us have felt low libidos, less excitement about life and more irritable on synthetic hormones. It is now time to listen to our bodies.

The new paper estimated that for every 100,000 women, hormone contraceptive use causes an additional 13 breast cancer cases a year. That is, for every 100,000 women using hormonal birth control, there are 68 cases of breast cancer annually, compared with 55 cases a year among nonusers. It is a small, but statistically significant risk.

We have associated the pill with an increase in breast cancer before, however this study is the first and largest of its kind to explore the risks of different formulations and deliveries of the hormones (the Mirena IUD, for example). The Mirena, as well as some implants, use low dose progestin, a synthetic progesterone that is released slowly into the uterus. This is thought to shut down the body’s own natural progesterone production, leading to a relative estrogen dominance upon removal of the device. Now this newest study links progestin to an increase in breast cancer.

“This is an important study because we had no idea how the modern day pills compared to the old-fashioned pills in terms of breast cancer risk, and we didn’t know anything about I.U.D.’s,” said Dr. Marisa Weiss, an oncologist who founded the website breastcancer.org. “Gynecologists just assumed that a lower dose of hormone meant a lower risk of cancer. But the same elevated risk is there.”

And the risk increased the longer you use the pill or the longer the IUD is in place. The relationship is very causal. All of this makes me happy that I removed my Mirena IUD after only one year. I never felt like getting dressed up to go out, was effectively a hermit, and all the while I watched my skin age in front of my eyes. (I have a  YouTube video all about why you should not get the Mirena IUD on Doctor Jess MD)

Holding an IUD birth control

SO WHAT DOES ALL THIS MEAN?

Even if the relative risk increases 20%, it remains less than one-tenth of 1%. But by the time a woman reaches 40, her probability of developing breast cancer in the next 10 years is 1.45 percent. That is approximately one in 69 women. A 20% increase would raise her risk to 1.74%, or 1 in 57.

Women who stayed on hormones for 10 or more years (sadly this is many women, including myself) experienced a 38% increase in their relative risk of developing breast cancer, compared with nonusers.

Basically the risk increases with longer usage and with increasing age.

ARE THERE OTHER RISKS? WHAT THE STUDIES SHOW: 

  1. Oral contraceptives deplete vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants as measured by activity of Coenzyme Q10 and vitamin E. They are also known to deplete Vitamin B6, or pyroxidine, which aids in preventing fatigue. B6 is also a precursor to making the neurotransmitters, GABA and serotonin, the “happy” neurotransmitters. Birth control pills are also linked to depleting levels of important minerals like zinc, selenium, phosphorus, and magnesium demonstrated by this cross-sectional, randomized study.  Interestingly, birth control use was associated with elevated levels of copper, which is linked to increasing estrogen and xenoestrogen levels.
  2. Oral contraceptives can create oxidative stress within the body. Sex hormones are intimately connected to immune cells, sleep hormones, gut bacteria and mood. If we are skweing our normal levels with synthetic hormones, all of these areas will be affected. Oxidative stress cannot fully be avoided but is tempered by antioxidants in the body. One measure of oxidative stress is lipid peroxidation and was found to be higher in women who are on the pill. It decreased to near baseline levels once the pill was weaned off. These oxidative stress markers were also lowered with vitamin E and C, both potent antioxidants.
  3. Besides being linked to poor thyroid function, the pill is also now linked to depression and mood disorders. Just last year, a study published in the esteemed Journal of American Medical Association Psychiatry linked birth control pills to a higher rate of depression. You can find the study here: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapsychiatry/fullarticle/2552796  These women were more likely to be prescribed an antidepressant, like Prozac.

SAFER ALTERNATIVES?

I personally use the Daysy fertility monitor which you can find here- https://usa.daysy.me

It is a German computer that is 99.3% effective in preventing pregnancy by tracking core body temperature! It does not mess with your hormones and leaves you accountable for preventing pregnancy by checking your temperature every morning before getting out of bed.

The copper IUD and condoms are also safer alternatives.

No matter what you decide is right for you, please do your own research. We live in times where corporations and mainstream media often cannot be trusted. You are your own best health advocate. Knowledge is power.

 

Much love

Dr Jess

 

Brain Disease: How To Prevent Memory Loss and Get Your Life Back

Brain disease. Alzheimer’s. Parkinson’s. ALS. Autism. These disorders rob us and our loved ones of their precious minds and understandably strike fear into the hearts of most of the population. So many broken brains and the sad part is that conventional medicine only provides a pill without offering many lifestyle changes. However there is hope. A preventative and mindful lifestyle works to prevent the loss of neurons, the accumulation of toxic brain proteins and to reverse memory loss. It turns out that most of the emerging studies do validate the efficacy of a clean lifestyle in preventing brain disease.

 

The Far Reaching Effects of Brain Disease: 

30 million people worldwide suffer from Alzheimers and other forms of dementia. Just in the United States alone, 5.3 million people suffer from this specific dementia. Thats one in 8 Americans over the age fo 65. This number doesn’t even include other neurocognitive disorders like Parkinson’s, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), autism, Lewy Body dementia, Vascular Dementia (think strokes), Multiple System Atrophy, or Multiple Sclerosis. The burden of these diseases cost the US economy billions of dollars each yearin direct healthcare costs as well as lost opportunities. For example, its estimated that 100 billion dollars per year is spent on Alzheimer’s disease alone! But the emotional and financial price placed on families of brain disorder victims is often not taken into account.

You may ask how autism and Parkinsons could be similar, but they are both are malfunctioning of the central nervous system that lead to cognitive difficulties and understanding. Although we are focusing on the elderly population in this particular blog, some of these remedies may also be entertained for younger patients suffering from brain disorders.

It may seem as if these diagnoses are increasing….and they are, but theres a couple different reasons for that. First, the baby boomer generation is rapidly aging and there is an absolute link to increasing age and likelihood of a brain disease diagnosis. Modern medicine has adopted screening tests which capture more diagnoses than ever before. We even know a few genetic mutations that predispose us to developing brain diseases. However the environmental risk factors are ever increasing and cannot be ignored if we wish to truly help curb this frightening disorder that robs us of our essence. I want to stress that the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative conditions is still largely a mystery.

 

What Is Brain Disease?

Neurodegenerative diseases result from the gradual and progressive loss of neural cells or the myelin sheath, the covering over the nerve cells, all leading to nervous system dysfunction.

Whats interesting is the environment is often implicated in causing cancer. Cancer is the proliferation of unchecked growth among cells, whereas neurodegeneration is the loss of cells. They feel like they are on opposite ends of the spectrum. Luckily, research is now heavily focused on environmental triggers and toxins’ potential for damaging the nervous system.

I’ll never forget when my grandpa was diagnosed with Lewy Body’s dementia. This was in the early 2000’s so a diagnosis wasn’t immediate and we all knew something was terribly wrong. Papaw Charlie just wasnt himself anymore. I was in high school when he began to claim a small dark hair girl was running wild through his house and interrupting his morning coffee. His wild delusions even fooled us at first. Things progressed quickly, however, and one night my mom even had to rush out to his house after he’d packed his bags and told everyone that aliens were coming to abduct him that night….and he was ready. By the time, he didn’t really smile anymore and had a shuffling gait, we had our diagnosis.

Lewy Body dementia is characterized by abnormal dopamine loss, accumulation of Lewy Body proteins and inclusions in the brain. It is the second most common form of dementia behind Alzheimers and the symptoms are a mix of Parkinson’s and Alzheimers. Patients, just like my grandpa, have masked facies, a shuffling gait, are a falls risk, have visual hallucinations, delusions and sometimes, violent behavior due to cognitive decline. It was not easy to watch him slip away, but the shell of his body remain. The saddest part about it all is that evidence indicates that it could be preventable, despite genetic mutations.

Symptoms of Early Cognitive Decline:

Early cognitive defects can be difficult to recognize initally. Get help for yourself or a loved one if you recognize:

Memory Loss, mostly short term

Difficulty with word finding

Visual perception or hallucinations

Reasoning and judgment issues

Inappropriate frustration or unexplained anger

The Gut-Brain Connection

If I stress anything with my patients, my social media community and within my own scope of practice, it is the gut-brain connection. It is so complicated and we are just now understanding the implications of it. The brain and the gut communicate intimately and bidirectionally with the gut sending many more messages to the brain than the brain does to the gut. They are connected. In fact, in embryology, they originate from the same group of cells and then separate to form the brain and gut. No matter how far apart, we are now learning they are forever connected. So if your gut is a mess, then this likely means your brain is at risk too. Sugar and the standard American diet are likely culprits in the cause of many patients’ brain fog.

What Environmental Triggers Can Be Avoided? Whats the Answer? 

Causes of brain deterioration are often multifactorial so answers are not straightforward. Here are some of my best tips for keeping your brain as healthy and sharp as possible.

“Two forms of fat that are vitally important for brain health are cholesterol and saturated fat.” -Dr David Perlmuter, author of Grain Brain

  1. Dietary: DON’T: Eat a diet high in processed carbs and refined sugar. Eliminate high fructose corn syrup, processed foods, food additives, and trans fats. This has been shown to promote inflammation and predispose some people to developing neurocognitive decline. DO: Eat an organic diet high in good fats like seeds, nuts, avocados, olive or coconut oils as well as a plethora of organic fruits and vegetables. Medium chain triglycerides found in coconut oil are easier for the brain to break down than the long chain triglycerides that are more commonly found.  Healthy fats feed the brain and keep it functioning properly because over 60% of the brain is made up of DHA, an omega 3 or healthy fat. They provide a back door of energy for the brain. Omega 3, like DHA, can increase mental clarity and focus. When I check for omega 3’s on labwork, the majority of people are low! Omega 3 fatty acids can drastically improve mood, memory and clarity. Protein is also extremely important for a properly functioning brain and for that matter, healthy skin. Aim for 25-30 grams of protein per meal.

  1. Hormonal: If you suffer from a thyroid condition, an estrogen dominance, or low testosterone than this can also affect your mood, vitality, mental clarity and even personality. Many of these conditions can predispose patients to panic attacks, anxiety, depression, insomnia, and apathy. Be diligant about seeking out a healthcare provider who is willing to look beyond standard testing and check for sex hormone abnormalities too, not just a run of the mill thyroid panel (although thats important too). Many hormones are made and recycled through the gut. Melatonin is partially made in the gut. Serotonin is made in the gut. A large portion of our immune systems are housed in the gut. It is often responsible for our insomnia, anxiety, lowered immunity, and depression. So if your diet isn’t a whole foods diet, try to make changes quickly. Its important for thyroid disease patients to cut out soy and gluten as well. Ridding your home of toxic cleaning products, personal care products, makeup and perfumes that are not natural can also improve hormonal abnormalities. Supplementing with iodine and selenium may also improve thyroid function but be sure to check with a healthcare professional before adding in any supplementation.
  2. Don’t Lower Your Cholesterol Too Much: The medical system has demonized cholesterol over the years. We have all been bombarded with statin commercials for drugs like Lipitor. I remember hearing doctors in echo chambers stating that everyone should be on a statin and that “cholesterol could never be too low.” How wrong we were. Low cholesterol is a risk factor in developing neurodegenerative conditions. Cholesterol is actually found in the brain-about 25% of the total . In fact, many hormones, like progesterone, estrogen, cortisol, testosterone, and vitamin D are made from cholesterol. To lower it beyond its means, may lead to hormonal depletions, which can lead to brain fog, mental decline and aging. A 2008 study published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry showed that in the elderly, the best memory function was observed in those with the highest levels of cholesterol!
  3. Screen for Diabetes: Believe it or not, high blood sugars can wreak havoc on brain health by causing inflammation. This happens because when your sugar is consistently high, more insulin is secreted to try to counter it but the problem is… insulin is super inflammatory. Sugars also change the protein structure throughout the body, adding even more inflammation, which the brain is particularly susceptible to. An anti inflammatory diet full of fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, healthy fats and lean proteins. Get your A1c checked and look for warning signs of diabetes like excessive thirst, urination, dizziness, blurry vision and fatigue. Anti-inflammaory herbs and supplements include curcumin/turmeric, alpha lipoic acid, cat’s claw, grape seed extract, frankincense, and CBD oil. Metformin is not a terrible route to treat type 2 diabetes. Natural remedies that also are effacacious include berberine, cinnamon, chromium, and alpha lipoic acid.
  4. Test for Pollutants/Heavy Metals: I always advise my patients with cognitive symptoms to be checked for heavy metal toxicities that are often overlooked and unexpected. Lead paints, mercury amalgams, pesticide exposure, and the increasing vaccination schedule all add to the heavy metal load in our bodies. It is wise to look into heavy metal analysis via hair sampling, oral chelation with herbal supplementation. Cilantro with chlorella is also helpful.
  5. Don’t Forget About Infections: Yep, pathogens like Epstein Barr virus, Lyme, Bartonella, Strep and candida can lie dormant or exist in biofilms, which remain hidden from the body’s defenses. They use heavy metals as an inflammatory shield. The heavy metals create inflammation that allows the pathogens to take over the body’s defenses. The immune system can have a hard time getting a hold on the infection, depending on your specific genes and predispositions. I personally believe that many of these pathogens remain hidden due to our lack of lab capabilities and they could be responsible for chronic diseases. We don’t understand why most chronic diseases manifest, however science is getting closer. Recent studies have even suggested that Epstein Barr Virus is behind thyroid disease.

I want you to know that you can prevent many of the neurodegenerative conditions. Most chronic illnesses are preventable, sadly. The power lies with you and your daily choices. Make self loving choices that your future self will thank you for later!

You are your own best doctor.

Dr Jess

 

 

 

Why Don’t My Antidepressants Work?

Mood Disorders Are Common… but whats the Root Cause?

Anxiety and depression are crippling problems for the American healthcare system because of the sheer number of people who suffer from these conditions. 30 million combined people have been diagnosed with some sort of variant of anxiety or depression. This is staggering considering the inefficiency of the mental health system, which is not prepared to handle that many diagnoses. So perhaps rather than focus on how to temporarily treat these mental disorders with medications, we should focus on why these diagnoses are sky rocketing? Why are so many of us anxious for no reason at all? Why do many of us feel as though we have lost the joy of life? Moreover, why do so many of us complain that the prescription medications don’t work or bring us back to feeling like ourselves?

Anxiety and depression are usually multifactorial,  meaning they have many causes. What baffles many is that their prescription medications like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) fail to bring them back to baseline and leave them feeling numb. The secret is that the problem is often not a neurotransmitter imbalance, but an INFLAMMATION PROBLEM. That being said, gut inflammation leads to brain inflammation. Nutritional imbalances can lead to brain inflammation. In fact, any systemic inflammation can lead to brain inflammation. Adults with bipolar disorder are commonly seen swinging from one emotional extreme to the next. This is due to transient inflammation within neuroendocrine immune cells in the brain rather than severely fluctuating neurotransmitters as previously thought. (1)

A study published last year showed that microglial cells, your nervous system’s immune cells) have rampant inflammation in disorders like schizophrenia and depression. No wonder drugs like Prozac or Lexapro, used in depression, only partially work for so many patients.

Its often hard to pinpoint without a personalized consult, but here are my top tips for getting to the root cause of your mood disorder. I want to stress that you do not have to live like this! Please never stop your medication without consulting your doctor first

A diet poor in fruits, veggies, healthy fats and clean protein-if this is you, be prepared to change your diet!

There was a time not too long ago where I did not value the benefit of a holistic lifestyle. I ate convenience food, which included diet soft drinks, microwavable dinners and boxed foods. I took birth control pills that affected the action of my natural hormones. I drank tap water, which often contains endocrine disrupting chemicals. I stayed up late when I had to get up early and drank wine. Then felt exhausted in the mornings but kept pushing my adrenals with a few cups of coffee. I was REALLY stressed out and pretty unhappy with my tedious career choice. Everything in my life was promoting inflammation. What ended up happening was that all of this compounded and lead to severe free-floating anxiety. It made me irritable and reactive. However, during that time, I was unaware of the fact that the cheese I loved may be contributing to my brain fog. And I’m sure there are many of us that have not made this connection. Mood disorders don’t affect everyone-some people chronically living the preformentioned lifestyle may end up with an autoimmune condition or cancer, but my genes predisposed me to mood disorders.

Our guts are connected to our brains via the housekeeping and calming nerve in our body, known as the vagus nerve. Indulging in a bag of chips that contain preservatives and fillers feed pathogenic bacteria in the gut that then send signals up this nerve to the brain. These bacteria have been proven to shape our moods, cravings and overall immunity. If we are helping to promote the growth of pathogenic bacteria in the gut, then our thoughts and focus will be affected as well.(1)

The majority of our serotonin, melatonin and immune cells are housed in the gut. This means that if we are not feeding harmonious bacteria, then our happiness, sleep and ability to fight infections will all be impaired. Inflammation of the gut leads to irritation of the microglial, or immune cells of the brain and disruption in neuro immune signaling is indicated in recent studies to play a large role in many mood conditions.

Aim to eat organic fruits, vegetables, whole grains like quinoa or brown rice and clean meats (if you eat them). This means free range, grass fed, no antibiotics or hormones. I can’t express how many of my patients resolve their lingering mood disorders by changing their diet alone.

Exercising-whatever calls to you-this is a great stress reliever and can release “happy” neurotransmitters

We all know exercise is good for us, but sometimes I don’t think everyone realizes just how good. When we build up a sweat, your body recognizes this as a moment of stress. As your blood pressure increases and your respirations uptick, your brain releases a protein called BDNF, or brain derived neurotropic factor, to protect you from the stress. This protein is protective and can even repair neurons and act as a reset switch. Not only that, but your brain also releases endorphins, or feel-good hormones, when exercising. The purpose of this is to lessen the discomfort associated with exercise. It can acutally become addictive, but the good news is that for the most part, it is a healthy addiction. This is why we feel so calm and focused after exercise. Daily exercise can prove to be REAL medicine for a mood disorder.

Herbs and Minerals That Help the Happiness Factor 

Due to diet and lifestyle, many of us are drained, nutritionally deprived and stressed to the max. Throughout my career, I’ve witnessed the power of herbs and minerals on one’s mental state. Many conventional medicines, especially for anxiety, are habit forming and have risks like withdrawal seizures if not weaned off properly. Thats why I always try to supplement naturally before trying other avenues (I’m partial to my own Stress Master that contains many of the herbs listed below).

 

Fave herbs/Minerals/Compounds for Anxiety:

Ashwagandha

Holy basil or Tulsi

Rhodiola Rosea

Chamomile

Passionflower

CBD, cannabinoids, the non-psychoactive part of the marijuana plant

Skullcap

Magnesium (magnesium glycinate is the most absorbable)

L-theanine

Gotu Kola

Beta Glucans

 

Fave herbs/Minerals/Compounds for Depression: 

SAM-e

St Johns Wort

5-HTP

Ginseng

Vitamin D

Curcumin/Turmeric

Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Probiotics

Low dose naltrexone is also useful for depression and autoimmune disorders. Please be sure to consult your trusted healthcare professional before trying to self diagnose or cure.

Genetic Testing

This is an avenue that I encourage many patients to follow. Rather than simply offer herbs or medications by trial and error, genetic testing for mutations can provide the missing links or keys in mental health.

One of my favorite genetic tests is the SNP test by Great Plains lab (it however requires a prescription). If you’re looking for something you can order easily, then 23 and me is a good choice. It tests multiple genes and scans for mutatations throughout the genome. It can tell you if youre at risk for Alzheimers or prone to panic attacks. The OAT (organic acid test), also by Great Plains lab, is excellent as it measures neurotransmitter by-products in the urine. This tells us what neurotransmitters have too much or too little activity and can target specific therapy for the patient. If you have tried everything else, then this is definitely something you don’t want to exclude.

Heres the skinny on the best SNPs/mutations to look out for on tests.

  1. Stat4-normally codes for proteins that activate TH1 immunity but a mutation here codes for an aggressive inflammation response instead
  2. TNF (tumor necrosis factor)-cytokine or cell communicator that codes for T and B cell activation. A mutation means T cell overactivation that leads to mood disorders through brain inflammation.
  3. CTLA4-cytotoxic T lymphocyte associated protein-4-downregulates the immune system when needed. A mutation means that you have chronic inflammation as the immune system is too overactive.
  4. MTHFR-40% of the population has a mutation in one or both of these genes. These patients cannot methylate or activate B vitamins and methylation is used in thousands of processes in our bodies. This causes a propensity towards depression and anxiety.
  5. COMT or MAO mutations-this means that the enzyme that breaks down certain neurotransmitters is slow, so there are higher levels of adrenaline throughout the body that these patients are not able to rid themselves of. This can lead to severe anxiety and behavioral issues.

Lifestyle Changes and Lab Checks

Tempering your exposure to EMF from computers and cell phones can help moods as well. Have you ever looked at the informational insert that comes with cell phones? They directly warn about the dangers of continuous EMF and low level radiation. On May 21, 2011, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a committee of 27 scientists from 14 different countries working on behalf of the World Health Organization (WHO), concluded that exposure to cell phone radiation is a “possible carcinogen” and classified it into the 2B category. This is the same category as the pesticide DDT, burning coal and dry cleaning chemicals, just to name a few. Be sure to put blue screens from computers and phones away at night. Practice good sleep hygiene.

If you still cannot sleep and are suffering from racing thoughts and mood swings, ask your healthcare provider to check your sex hormones (refer to my blog on hormones), your salivary cortisol levels to screen for adrenal fatigue and your vitamin D levels. These are crucial labs when dealing with mood disorders.

On top of diet and exercise changes, incorporating these lifestyle changes and checking on lab values can help to treat chronic depression and anxiety.

Addressing Emotional and Spiritual Wounds

Stress and trauma are inherently tied into our wellbeing. If you were abused or mistreated as a child and have not thoroughly processed the truama, it can reveal itself through disease or mood disorders. Autoimmune disorders nearly always have a traumatic event that proceeded the onset of the symptoms. Heart attacks can even occur due to a severe heartbreak, like the death of a loved one. Many mood disorders have root in trauma, emotional wounds, childhood abuse and unprocessed emotions. Be sure to let yourself grieve, mourn and cry over these events if this sounds like you. Even journaling can help with releasing suppressed emotions and pains.

Final Word

Treating mood disorders takes a multilevel approach. Don’t give up just because one thing didnt work for you. You can take control of your life by taking action in areas that need TLC, but be honest and ask for help when you need it. You are becoming your own best doctor!

Dr Jess

 

REFERENCES:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4701682/
  2. http://neuroscienceresearch.wustl.edu/userfiles/file/Gut_brain%20axis%20How%20the%20microbiome%20influences%20anxiety%20and%20depression_Tran%20%20%20.pdf
  3. https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/06/18/finally-experts-admit-cellphones-are-a-carcinogen.aspx

 

 

The Secret Health Issues Caused by Parasites, Candida, and Negative Bacterial Colonies

When I was in California, I met someone who was infested with parasites. It was absolutely not a coincidence that the universe brought me straight to him. He had been sick for five years and had been driving to see a naturopath for vitamin IVs and a number of different herbs. When I met him, he seemed frail and thin and I could feel how painful it was for him to be out for too long. He spoke candidly about the infestation and how allopathic medicine how called him crazy since all of his stool studies and blood tests had ended up negative. Without those scientific tests, the world I had onced worked in, aka conventional medicine, would never believe a patient. Sadly, these patients and countless others, are relegated to the electronic medical record files of mentally ill or even worse, “difficult patient.”

Let me tell you-shit got real when…lets call him, Luke….broke out his phone and started showing me pics. “That one came from a walled-off abscess on my left arm. I had to lance it.”

This a pic of parasites that came from an abscess on his back and one on his left arm

He had videos of them wiggling. He complained of never being able to sleep (most parasites are nocturnal and keep most patients restless during those hours). He felt constantly fatigued, with very little appetite. He had gone vegan years before and cut out all sugar, but it had not been enough.

Top pic: from the scalp

Bottom pic: from the bowels

I inquired about how Luke had contracted this vicious bug. It seems that he was very well traveled and had been in South America quite a bit. His best guess was that he was suffering from some sort of disseminated roundworm. Since then, he had suffered fairly significantly. He had also collected the following diagnoses after his infestation: fibromyalgia, eczema, and insomnia. Funny how those named “diseases” are just a collection of symptoms. Do we really know what causes pain, rashes and sleeping problems? I felt as though Luke had hit a wall in his treatment plan.

This is how I just knew that the universe has a plan with every person it connects. Parasites, candida, Lyme….any bugs that like to stay hidden in the body….just happen to be one of my specialties. I have studied them for years. The universe has given me no shortage of patients with this issue. I even have my own gut and parasite cleanse. So I cannot believe that meeting Luke was by chance.

Although our meeting was brief, I have stayed in contact with Luke. He has sent me videos of parasites wiggling, ones that pushed through the skin from his scalp, his left arm, his back, and ones expelled from the bowels. Although I don’t think its normal for parasites to come out of the skin except in rather extreme cases such as this, it can 0bviously happen. I can only hope I’ve helped him, but since my suggestions he has been having more Herxheimer, or detox reactions.

Herxheimer reactions occur when parasites die off during treatments. These pathogens like candida, Lyme, Epstein Barr or other parasites can release toxic by-products like acetylaldehyde that crosses the blood-brain barrier and can cause difficulty concentrating or brain fog. It can make some patients feel almost drunk. Once the body recognizes the pathogens that had previously been hiding from the body in a biofilm, it sometimes will give you a fever to burn it out, nausea or diarrhea to rid yourself of it. Of course these symptoms don’t always happen and usually affect those that have negative bacterial colonies or are sick with infestations.  These symptoms can be pretty miserable, but the solution is to make sure youre having plenty of bowel movements. This moves the released endotoxins out of the body, as well as any dying pathogens. Interstitial cystitis, or irriation and chronic infection of the bladder, is common in those with parasites. After Luke ramped up his treatment plan based on my suggestions, he began to experience severe pain like that of passing a kidney stone. He expelled more parasites than ever. Only time will tell if he is out of the woods or if he needs to add more layers to the current treatment plan.

Before going straight into that treatment plan, lets discuss how one might know if they have unwanted guests in the first place.

Parasites are sneaky and smart. They hide within the body in a sticky biofilm that protects them from the body’s normal defenses. Its like our immune system can’t see them. They often move “in-step” with other pathogens in a symbiotic relationship. In a study conducted in 2016 at Case Western Reserve, researchers showed that fecal samples from patients with Crohn’s disease had significantly higher levels of Escherichia Coli, Seratia marcescens, and Candida tropicalis, two bacteria and a fungus, respectively. This study also showed that all three of these pathogens moved in step, producing a biofilm that not only hides from the immune system but produces the inflammation leading to Crohn’s disease. This study is not stating that these pathogens alone are the sole cause of Crohn’s disease as there are many environmental and genetic factors at play. However, it is quite likely that these pathogens are playing a big role in the pathogenesis of the disease.

So symptoms can vary widely from person to person. Most people will know something is wrong, but be unsure about where to turn about the disconcerning symptoms.

Here are some of the more common symptoms:

  1. Grinding the teeth at night. Parasites, candida and Lyme are often more active at night and therefore cause undue stress on the body during hours needed to rest. The body often responds by gnashing of the teeth. This is also how they take hold of your immune system-by disturbing your sleep!
  2. Uncontrollable sugar cravings. Sugar and processed carbs are many of these pathogens substrate of choice to eat. This often lets them replicate and populate in the gut.
  3. Severe constipation. Parasites and some pathogenic bacterial species release endotoxins as they die that can “stop up the pipes.” They also have hooks that can latch on to the bowels to prevent release.
  4. Severe diarrhea. Often the body will recognize the presence of an unwanted guest and will give the patient diarrhea (which can lead to malabsorption) to rid itself of the bugs.
  5. Bloating after meals. I have heard this complaint many times from patients who ended up testing positive for candida. The byproducts that these parasites produce can cause distention in the abdomen and other digestive issues.
  6. Chronic yeast infections-this is a clue to what is happening to our bodies internally. Chronic infections indicate an altered pH and an inability to fully eradicate candida.
  7. Chronic toenail fungus-Again this is a clue that our bodies are not able to fully eradicate yeast on its own
  8. Anal itching-not to pleasant to talk about, but we still have to talk about since its a legit symptom. Pinworms are often the culprit here and are nocturnal as well, so symptoms are worse at night.
  9. Thrush-thrush again indicates a poorly functioning immune system and is a clue to what is going on internally in our bodies. Since yeast is on our tongue, it makes sense that it could tract down the esophagus and into the digestive system.
  10. Difficulty losing weight-let me say that some people who have parasites also may have difficulty gaining weight since their food is “stolen” by the parasites. But many times, I see patients who cannot lose weight due to having the wrong bacterial colonies living in their guts. One study even showed that people who had a higher proportion of the bacteria, Firmicutes in their guts were prone to obesity.

So what did I tell Luke to do? Well, his diet was already extremely clean so I gave him some more advanced tips. But first, lets start with the basics.

HOW DO I TREAT AN UNWANTED INVASION?

  1. Diet:

Avoid any white flour based products, simple carbohydrates, store bought fruit juices, dairy, white sugar, pasta, or breads. Eliminate canola oil, gluten and any chemical fillers. My rule is if you cannot reach into your fridge or cabinet to cook with it, then don’t eat it. The foods listed to avoid are some of candida, parasites and pathogenic bacteria/viruses favorite foods, especially sugar. When you give in to the cravings, you help to fuel the replication of unwanted pathogens. Eat loads of leafy greens, veggies, apple cider vinegar, lentils, legumes, minimal quinoa and brown rice. Fruit is ok too but try to avoid high sugar fruits like melons.

Incorporate more pumpkin seeds, pomegranates, beets, burdock root, raw garlic, oregano, and carrots into your diet. Pumpkin seeds are known for their potent parasite killers. Also try to include more fiber which helps facilitiate bowel movements.

  2. Medications:

Get off any acid blockers which change the pH of your stomach. If you have GERD or acid reflux, your body is warning you to CHANGE YOUR DIET because the wrong bacteria are alive and well in your gut. Once the pH is more alkaline due to the acid blocking medication, then your natural digestive enzymes are not triggered. Therefore, your body cannot efficiently break down, absorb and assimilate your food. Missing nutrients does not bode well with health, friends.

With that being said, often times, temporary digestive enzymes can be used with meals until the gut is healthy again or if you are going to engage in a meal that you know your body will have a hard time with. Look for a brand without fillers that contains a wide range of enzymes like bromelain (from pineapple), papain (from papaya), proteolase, amylase, lipase, betaine (thats a no no if you have an active ulcer) and pepsin.

Probiotics are also HUGE right now and for good reason. I liken them to dumping billions of solidiers into the war in your gut. The more good guys you have, the better you feel. So far, I havent created a probiotic, but when I do, I’ll make sure its the most quality one out there. For the time being, right now, I’m really impressed with VSL and Visbiome with contain anywhere from 200-450 BILLION good bacteria. Wowza.

  3. Herbs and Vitamins:

Vitamin C and Zinc are in my Immunity Master (see my store for products) for good reason! Both are potent pathogen fighters and can be taken in larger doses during an acute infection.

Many of the herbs used to treat intestinal parasites have toxic side effects or interfere with other medications. Use them only under the supervision of a qualified practitioner. Your health care provider should treat you with the most gentle herb that is effective for the type of parasite you have. A few of the herbs that your provider might consider include:

Berberine or Barberry-one of my most favorite herbs

Garlic

Goldenseal

Oregon Grape Root

Wormwood

Black Walnut Hull

Cinammon

Pau D’Arxo

Coconut Oil/MCT Oil

Castor Oil

Many of these are in my Microbiome Master! Again, it all serves a purpose. If you want great gut health, you first must ensure that you have the proper bacteria there to fight off pathogens and protect your immunity.

EXTRA TIPS:

So what are the extra tips I told Luke? Remember he was already taking herbs and getting vitamin IVs…..

One of them is terpentine. Turpentine comes from trees and is a resin or pine wood and its purpose is to protect trees from parasites. It works by placing a few drops on a sugar cube, which serves as the bait for the unwanted guests. You won’t find much medical literature on this one, but you will find anecdotal stories and blogs. I do hold weight in patients and what they say. This was also a well known remedy in the 1800’s. When Luke began taking terpentine, he began to expel many more parasites from his skin, scalp, kidneys and bowels.

Another extra I gave Luke was major autohemotherapy, or IV ozone. Ozone has gotten a bad rap in the USA, but internationally, it is well known to be a potent viral, parasite, and bacterial killer. When I trained in Gerson therapy module one in 2015, I’ll never forget what a surgeon from Dubai told me. He stated that he had used ozone in the ICU for years without negative consequence and had witnessed its benefits. He spoke of all the international ozone conventions and boards. When I asked how come no one in healthcare used it in the USA, he looked directly at me and said sternly, “because its against their medical mafia.” I have never forgotten that and never will. Since then, I have trained in ozonotherapy and administered it in clinics in California. I have watched it work extremely well against pathogens like Lyme.

The last tip was my Microbiome Master. The pics seen throughout this blog are from clients who used my cleanse and from Luke after he expelled parasites from his skin after incorporating more of these tips into his regimen.

Remember that not only can parasites cause many of the symptoms we’ve discussed, but bacteria and viruses can too! So many patients are suffering from lowered immunity from low grade, but persistent infections that can insidiously take over their systems, including Epstein Barr virus, cytomegalovirus, streptococcus and staphylococcus.

Remember to always check in and discuss your potential treatment plan with a trusted healthcare professional who understands YOU.

As always, learn to become your own best doctor.

Much love

Dr Jess

 

 

 

The Common Link Between Fibroids, Ovarian Cysts, Endometriosis and Breast Cancer

Estrogen Dominance: The Missing Link? My Story

For probably 15 years of my life I took birth control pills. When I finally decided to get the Mirena IUD in my 30’s, my body was done with the synthetic hormones. After about 5 months of having it in place, I began to have night sweats that were so profuse, they woke me up from sound sleep. I noticed that my skin and hair began to look more dull and dry. My sex drive was basically nonexistent. Don’t even get me started on the RIDICULOUS amount of brain fog in the mornings back then. I was on edge ALL THE TIME. And I couldn’t seem to get rid of the mini intertube that was magically appearing around my midsection. It finally dawned on me (because you know its always more difficult to see truth in yourself) that my hormones were the cause of most of my symptoms.

Unfortunately medical doctors aren’t taught much about how to read hormones or even properly treat them outside of more prescription pills. So I did my own research on the IUD and how it works in the body. The Mirena works by producing synthetic progesterone in the uterus locally so the body is told to stop producing its own. The problem with this is that their are progesterone receptors all over the body, not just in the uterus. So these receptors, which also need progesterone, are neglected when the Mirena is in place as it only affects the local area. This is essentially a progesterone deficiency, which the body also views as an estrogen dominance. My crazy symptoms were due to unopposed estrogen!

Estrogen vs Progesterone’s Effects on the Body

Estrogen’s job is to increase cellular growth, especially in the uterus during the first part of the menstrual cycle. Estrogen also stimulates the maturation of the egg-containing follicle in the ovary. It is responsible for keeping the cervix the right consistency for possible implanation via the sperm. When it is in the correct ratio to progesterone, it also can lift our moods. If unchecked, cellular growth continues unabated and can lead to cancer.

There are three types of estrogens made in the body-estrone (E1), estradiol (E2), and estriol (E3). It is postulated that E1 is the more dangerous estrogen while E3 is protective. E2 is likely neutral. It is E1  that causes a problem when it builds up in a woman’s body. The word “estrogens” is also used collectively to descibe synthetic and naturally occurring compounds that have estrogenic like effects within the body. Think xenoestrogens from pesticides or plastics, natural phytoestrogens like soy and even some fungi have mycoestrogens. These compounds have the abiltiy to bind to estrogen receptors in our bodies and potentially cause problems depending on our genetics.

What balances estrogen out? Progesterone, or pro-gestation hormone! Progesteone’s main concern is that the environment is correct to carry a baby in case fertilization occurs. Progesterone also balances out estrogen and counters its cellular proliferation effects. If fertilization does not take place, the secretion of progesterone decreases and menstruation occurs 12 to 14 days later under normal conditions. If fertilization does occur, progesterone is secreted during pregnancy by the placenta and acts to prevent the loss of the pregnancy. Of note, progesterone is made from pregnenolone, which is made from cholesterol. I can’t tell you how many people have derangements in their cholesterol profiles and subsequent hormonal issues because of it.

In normal cycles, estrogen is the dominant hormone in the first half of the menstrual cycle until ovulation. After ovulation, progesterone raises while estrogen falls. Progesterone then decreases and menstruation occurs. The ratio of these two hormones is therefore of utmost importance. And that is what I am referring to when I say “estrogen dominance;” that is, having too much estrogen relative to the level of progesterone throughout the cycle. It could also mean having normal estrogen, but too little progesterone. Either way, the body views this problem the same.

It is estimated that approximately 50% of women over 30 have an estrogen dominance. Let me assure you-this condition is pretty miserable. Endometriosis affects 10% of women, PMS disrupts the lives of nearly 30% of women, uterine fibroids affect 25% of women and breast cancer is now striking one in three women in their lifetimes. We’ve come to believe that PMS and hormonal headaches are fairly normal, but nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, in my professional opinion and according to research, an estrogen dominance may be the hidden link behind all of these female issues.

 

Estrogen Dominance Symptoms:

  • Aging skin
  • Autoimmune conditions
  • Fibrocystic breast tissue/painful, swollen breasts
  • Thyroid Dysfunction
  • Anxiety/waking up at 3-4am ruminating about your to-do list for the next day
  • Depression
  • Copper Excess
  • Endometriosis
  • Breast Cancer
  • Endometrial Cancer
  • Abdominal Weight gain
  • Fatigue
  • Brain Fog
  • Gallbladder Disease
  • Thinning, Dry Hair
  • Hormonal Migraines
  • Cystic acne on jawline or chin
  • Blood clotting
  • Irregular Periods
  • Reactivity and Irritability
  • Magnesium Deficiency
  • Mood Swings
  • Painful Periods
  • PMS
  • Bloating and water retention
  • Night Sweats
  • Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
  • Frustration, Bossiness, Impatience, Fatigue

 

Many of you may be thinking-“Hey thats me!” I’m here to tell you that you do not have to fight those symptoms anymore. Many of these trying hormones can be fixed or at the very least, improved. But to improve ourselves, we first need to know how we got here.

So Where Does An Estrogen Dominance Come From?

  • Pesticides-Pesticides and herbicides are a huge problem and many of them are similar in structure to estrogen, therefore, they are able to trick the body. Fruits and veggies with the most pesticide residues are strawberries (contain vinclozolin, a known endocrine disruptor), bell peppers, peaches, apples, apricots, and spinach. Be sure to google “the dirty dozen” and make a mental note to never buy the produce listed unless it is organic. Boxed and preprepared foods also contain various preservatives which can disrupt hormones.
  • Exposure to xenoestrogens in the enviroment-most of the personal care products such as lotions, soaps, shampoos, perfumes, and room refreshers are petrochemical compounds that mimic our estrogen. Factory farmed meats, soaps, furniture, bedding, carpet and food preservatives also are xenoestrogens. This is the definition of an endocrine disrupter. Don’t forget about solvents and TPHP found in nail polish, and xenoestrogens in household cleaning products, glues, paint and all plastics. Even BPA free is not safe. One huge problem is flushing of birth control pills into the water supply via urine of women who take them. Since they are fat soluble, they are not very biodegradable. Hormonal IUDs also wreak havoc on hormones because they skew natural production by confusing the body with synthetic, exogenous hormones.
  • Emotional stress or trauma via the progesterone steal-cholesterol makes pregnenolone, which then converts to progesterone. If needed, progesterone can be converted to cortisol in the body when we are stressed. If stress is chronic or prolonged, then the body will “steal” from the progesterone to support the stress by making cortisol. This leaves a relative estrogen dominance in the body. (Cortisol, the stress hormone, steals from progesterone and throws off the hormonal cascade). Excessive estrogen in turn causes insomnia and anxiety, which further taxes the adrenal glands. After a few years in this type of vicious cycle, the adrenal glands become exhausted. This dysfunction leads to blood sugar imbalance, hormonal imbalances, and chronic fatigue.
  • A lack of Ovulation– which occurs in higher proportions as women age. This usually becomes more frequent after age 35.
  • Smoking-which contains not only carcinogens but endocrine disrupters as well as excessive drinking, which can add extra sugar to the diet and stress the adrenal glands.
  • A sluggish liver- Poor liver function can also cause big problems as its job is to conjugate estrogen to make it water soluble so the body can excrete it in the urine. It uses glucaronic acid to do this but if the liver is not performing properly, then estrogen will be recycled over and over throughout the body.
  • Obesity can also cause a problem as fat contains an enzyme that converts steroids to estrogen. So the more overweight you are, the higher the chances of having too much estrogen.
  • I wanted to stress this one again-Factory farmed meats! Nearly 80% of all antibiotics go towards farming-not even for humans. Feeds used contain a myriad of hormone-disrupting toxins including pesticides, antibiotics, and drugs to combat disease when so many animals are packed closely together. Recombinant growth hormone is also commonplace and can disrupt your hormone levels. If you eat meat, please be sure it is grass fed, free range and even visit the farm if you can.
  • Nutritional Deficiencies such as Zinc, B vitamins and Magnesium-nearly 80% of people are deficient in magnesium, which is a very calming mineral. Zinc stores are depleted as we age and B vitamins are often on a shortage due to a gene mutation called MTHFR, that affects nearly 50% of the population. People with MTHFR cannot activate or methylate B vitamins and therefore have low stores unless they are taking methylB12 or methylcobalamin rather than cyanocobalamin. Keep in mind that a poor diet consisting of processed carbs or fast food also helps deplete magnesium stores. All of these deficiencies can effect hormone levels.
  • A low-fiber diet-Low fiber in the diet can cause estrogen levels to be higher, while a diet high in fiber results in decreased estrogen levels in the bloodstream. This is because excess estrogen is removed from the body through the bowels. When stool remains in the bowel for a longer time, as in constipation, the estrogen is reabsorbed. Studies have shown that women on a high-fiber diet have lower levels of circulating estrogen. Lower levels of estrogen mean less growth and stimulation of breast tissue, for example, which reduces the risk of breast cancer. This also happens in the uterus too!

How Do I Know If I Have An Estrogen Dominance?

My favorite test to check for sex hormones like estradiol and progesterone is the DUTCH test or dried urine test. It looks at a number of different byproducts and metabolites. In my opinion, it is one of the more accurate tests out there. However if the Dutch test isn’t available to you, saliva or serum is ok as well. I recommend going to have your blood drawn one week after ovulation for women, which is usually the 21-25 days.

I won’t go into the exact calculations as of now, but essentially in both saliva and blood tests, you are aiming for a ratio of 100-500. The basic calculation is progesterone (x 1000 if it is in ng/ml rather than pg/ml) divided by estrogen which then provides this number. I aim for a ratio of around 200 P/E2. Anything much lower indicates an estrogen dominance and is SO COMMON.

You can also have a pretty good idea if you have the symptoms listed previously in this blog. Remember, PMS is not normal just because its common.

Balancing Hormones Naturally: Where Do I Start?

Many of you know I created my Hormone Master for myself due to my estrogen dominance and perimenopausal state after the Mirena IUD. It literally saved my hormones, skin, mood and body. Because of this, I knew I had to share it with the world. It has helped so many people because it contains herbs proven to decrease PMS, hormonal acne and headaches, night sweats, brain fog, endometriosis, fibroids, ovarian cysts, polycystic ovarian syndrome, low libido for MEN and women, and fibrocystic breast tissue. All of these conditions are due to a relative estrogen dominance compared to progesterone.

Also, these symptoms appear to worsen in perimenopause and menopause (from age 35 to 50) because progesterone decreases about 75% compared to estrogen which decreases only around 35% at the time of the change, leaving a relative estrogen dominance.

Balanced hormones are the key to health. They have an intimate chemical communication with immunity, sleep hormones like melatonin, and pain receptors. We don’t fully understand it. We do know that hormones are anti aging when kept in the right proportions. So how do you do that? Besides my Hormone Master, what else can you do to reverse the effects of declining hormones? Lucky for you guys, the Dr Jess store has organic herbal blends to help the liver, stress, sleep and pain.

  1. Liver cleanse-As discussed above, a sluggish liver will recycle estrogen over and over in the body. Herbs like milk thistle, NAC, bilberry, dandelion, fennel and barberry are excellent for liver health. Foods that help ciculate bile and keep the liver running efficiently are mostly vegetables or roots that grow underground and include ginger, carrots, beets and burdock root.
  2. Destress- I cant say it enough. Stress is a killer! It can cause heart attacks and wreck hormone levels. Meditation, deep belly breathing, yoga, and mindfulness can all help lower stress…and even blood pressure!
  3. Sleep-if you aren’t sleeping, or your days and nights are confused, then mark my words…this is affecting your hormone production. Lack of sleep can alter hormones and skewed hormones can also affect quality of sleep. It can become a vicious cycle. Please focus on good sleep and plenty of it. No blue lights from the computer, tv or phone once its nighttime, practice only sleeping or having sex in the bedroom, treat hormones that may be causing you nighttime anxiety, treat pain that keeps you awake with Inflammation Master +/- CBD oil, which is a very powerful combo.
  4. Diet- If you are eating processed carbs or tons of sugar daily, you really need a good bacterial or parasite cleanse. These cravings are not coming from you, but from pathogens that feed off these sources in your gut. They send powerful signals up the vagus nerve to tell your brain that you want SUGAR, but it is not really YOUR craving! You can eradicate these unhealthy eating habits by changing the bad bacteria colonies in your gut to healthy bacteria that live in harmony with your immunity and hormones. It will be nearly impossible to keep hormone levels appropriately ratioed without dietary and lifestyle changes. Cut out dairy, factory farmed meats, processed carbs or snack foods from bags or boxes, bread, white pasta, and refined sugar. Eat only whole foods that grow organically from the earth and that your ancestors would recognize as real food.
  5. Personal care products-Switch out all products like lotions, shampoos, conditioners, soaps, body washes, tampons, hair products and deoderants to organic, all natural ingredients. Many of the preservatives and stabilizers contained in these products contain known endocrine disrupters. For example, the FDA has known since the 1970’s that Triclosan in soaps like Dial, disrupts hormones. They have just recently removed it from personal care products. This is why you need to be your own best doctor!
  6. Lose weight-It is imperative to keep a healthy and loving weight. As fat converts estrogen, the more overweight you are, the higher the risk of an estrogen dominance.
  7. Avoid soy products-Soy is estrogenic meaning it can contribute to an unwanted estrogen dominance if you are already leaning in that direction.
  8. Regular Bowel Movements-again if you are on narcotics or even antibiotics, this can decrease the realease of toxins by constipating you or disrupting your delicate gut balance. Both of these can increase the levels of estrogen.
  9. Ditch the birth control pills and IUD-The World Health Organization has classified the pill as carcinogenic. Synthetic hormones also disrupt the natural and innate production of your body’s hormones. Why produce them if you’re taking them?
  10. Inflammation-two words: Inflammation Master! Yes, its true, systemic or body wide inflamamtion from a poor diet or sedentary lifestyle leads to pain and can distort proper hormone levels.
  11. Add in Omega 3 Fatty Acids-

Other Ways to Balance Hormonal Imbalances Besides the Ones in Hormone Master: 

Evening primrose oil, DIM, Vitex or Chasteberry, probiotics, and black cohosh. Hormones are synthesized from cholesterol and vitamin D is also intimately involved. Often I see that these two will be abnormal when our hormones are skewed. So it is useful to have these labs checked with a hormonal panel including estradiol, progesterone, DHEA and free testosterone.

FINALLY….if none of these achieve the desired results with hormones, my last and final step is to consider bioidentical hormone replacement with progesterone pills or cream. The pills seem to improve the quality of sleep more efficiently. I try to avoid this as much as possible. I always think its best to be as natural with the body as possible. I do believe bioidentical hormones are safe and an excellent last choice for those women and men who’s hormones aren’t easily balanced otherwise.

Now you are empowered with knowledge that you can use to BE YOUR OWN BEST DOCTOR!

Much love

Dr Jess

 

Six STELLAR and SNEAKY Ways You Can Educate Your Family to Pursue A Holistic Lifestyle

I’ll never forget when my mom bought all natural deodorant for the first time from the local wellness store. She presented it to me proudly, grinning ear to ear like a little girl. “It contains NO aluminum and parabens,” she touted. It was in that moment that I thought-FINALLY. I had spent weeks lecturing to she and my dad about the importance of ditching the antiperspirant for a safer alternative. She had watched wide eyed in slight fear as I explained that the we are rubbing questionable preservatives and aluminum right into our armpits where many women just freshly shaved, providing easy access to the bloodstream. She winced as I reminded them that’s right where some of our lymph nodes are, whose job is to carry and dispose lymph throughout the body. So many of us don’t realize that suppressing sweat is suppressing your body’s ability to detox itself! But this exercise in parental education actually ended up teaching ME. Let me explain why.

You see this was not my first “lets wake the folks up” rodeo. In years past, I had gone about all of it the wrong way. As I learned about herbs, holistic healing and (especially) corruption in medicine, I began to openly share with them and the rest of my family. But sometimes….ok actually A LOT…my delivery was all wrong. I used to “preach” at them. I would provide SO much overwhelming information and statistics about the scary side of the health world that it was counterproductive. My point was to show them why the system is broken and must evolve. It was easy for me to spit out health facts and basic science gems because of my background. But no one likes preaching and reprimanding. No one likes to focus on the negative. No one really enjoys being told they are inadvertently harming their bodies.

Unfortunately, it seems to be quite easy to get frustrated with the older generation who can be set in their ways and not willing to give up their unhealthy lifestyles. And don’t get me wrong-I don’t mean to single out the baby boomers only. Of course there are people of all age ranges who obsessively eat McDonald’s, indulge in tobacco and don’t fully understand that food is medicine. However, in my experience, the older generation grew up in an era when tobacco was promoted by doctors, Monsanto food was everywhere beginning in the 1980’s, and fast food restaurants were a nice convenience when both parents began working. Society spent a DAMN long time brainwashing them to believe that all of these vices were healthy and acceptable. So always keep that in mind before you get frustrated with them! Some of them are here to teach us how to temper our words and control our tongues!

The key is to know your audience. What do they enjoy? Talking, cooking, debating, movie watching or reading? So without further ado, here are my best ways to sneakily and stellarly encourage those you love to look at health from a whole new perspective.

  1. Watch Documentaries that Incite Radical Change

Ok so this is probably the easiest way since all the info is presented nicely and most of us don’t have to do a lot of work. There are so many wonderful, enlightening choices that are packed full of lifesaving information. The difficult part is getting your parents/siblings/friends to sit down and actually watch. If they generally like educational documentaries, then you might be in luck. However I wouldn’t push the topic too much if this is not their cup of tea. Remember that anytime you force a subject, you are often not winning the case. Being overbearing causes others to stop listening to our message. Be kind in your journey. My top documentaries (if they are willing to watch) are:

  • The Truth About Cancer (found on youtube)

  • Food Inc
  • GMO OMG
  • Forks over Knifes
  • Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead
  • The Human Experience
  • Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare

If food documentaries aren’t there thing or you intuitively know they aren’t quite ready to watch, maybe try an enlightening film instead.  Two of my favorite, feel-good-movies are I Am and Happy. Sometimes you have to sit back and wait until they approach you, but you may be able to crack them open with a film about

   2. Cook For Them (everyone likes mad kitchen skills) or Take Them Shopping with You

I’m not exaggerating one bit when I say that most people don’t know how good a plant based, healthy meal full of vibrant herbs and colors is. It wasn’t until I went to India in early 2015 that I realized how many foods we do not enjoy much in the USA! Eggplant, tempeh, buckwheat, barley, turmeric, yucca, greens, flavorful herbs and spices filled each plate that I was served DAILY. Unfortunately many of us think a diet Coke, pasteurized fruit juice or a sandwich with cheese and brominated bread is healthy. Sometimes its not about what we are eating and more about what nutrients we are NOT eating. Nutritional deficiencies account for an alarming number of chronic diseases. So you can make a huge dent in your family’s understanding of what IS healthy by cooking it for them! Of course, this does make you a bit vulnerable since there’s no guarantee that they’ll like it. But don’t give up and definitely don’t take offense. There is actually studies demonstrating that it is the colonies of bacteria in our guts that determine our palette. This is why if people can stick to a diet, over time their tastes change and they don’t crave sugar anymore. The bacteria that were in the gut, thriving off of the sweet stuff, have been eradicated since they were starved of their substrate of choice!

Even going on a couple of grocery trips can be super eye opening for people. Sometimes they aren’t sure what to eat so you have the opportunity to be a wealth of information if they are open to it.

Don’t forget to leave some recipes lying around for your folks! HINT: This means you have to keep yourself in check, know how to cook, and have done at least some of your research. Don’t worry! If you don’t like cooking, then there are plenty of other ways to sway your folks….

 3. Educate Them (Science yo)

I think most of us grew up eating Fruit Rollups, Pizza bites, Cocoa Puffs and Gushers, didn’t we? I am a firmly believer that many of us would do better, if we only knew better (ok not everyone, but I know a lot of people who would!) We are all doing the best we can from our consciousness level. This route is great for the cerebral parental unit or friend. Some people are hardwired to only believe black and white scientific studies. And I’m not knocking it-these stuides are absolutely needed to rigourously and objectively test our hypotheses! But these left brained minds also need to be shown the evidence of money controlling the publications behind closed doors. They need to be guided to see some of these ties between biotech firms like Monsanto and the federal goverment. (Think of examples like Michael Taylor-who served as VP of the biotech firm, Monsanto and then also worked for the FDA).

It is also useful to dig up studies which link gut bacteria to mood, cravings and immunity. I know there’s no way my grandparents knew that 85% of your immune cells reside in the GALT, gastrointestinal associated lymphatic tissue that line the intestinal tract. That means that whatever we decide to ingest is in intimate contact with our soldier protector cells. Heavy metals, allergens like MSG or aspartame and diets lacking in basic vitamins/minerals can eventually affect our genes and defense systems. Vitamins like D or C and other trace minerals like magnesium, folate or zinc are used in countless reactions in our bodies. They help to make the very building blocks of our cells. If someone you love is eating a diet lacking these nutrients, they need to understand that the body cannot function in good standing for long like that. Based on the genetic makeup, some people with this lifestyle will come down with a physical ailment while others will suffer mentally, which brings me to my next point.

90% of our serotonin receptors are located in the gut. What this means is that the food we choose will feed beneficial gut bacteria or pathogenic gut bacteria. When we choose boxed, prepared food, dead food, or food our ancestors would not recognize, then we help to feed bacterial colonies that release toxic byproducts or biofilm into our bodies that contributes to brain fog, lethargy, obesity, depression, and anxiety. Many patients have reversed their anxiety with dietary changes. If you have a loved one who needs to see some cold hard studies before they even consider skipping the Oreos, then reference some of my fave studies below.

4. Talk About Their Emotional Issues Surrounding Food

This is an interesting concept but it does work by revealing hidden thought patterns that may have been blindly accepted, but not properly evaluated. I think we can all agree that when people are addicted to alcohol, tobacco or are morbidly obese, they are usually self medicating due to an emotional wound or trauma. It is rarely JUST about the food or the drug of choice. Have you ever sat down and asked your parents how food was “used” in their household? Some patients use food to soothe them as they did not recieve the love they needed at home. Unfortunatley, I have seen women who were sexually abused overeat as a defense mechanism so they will not be attractive to men. Others were rewarded with food, so eating brings about feelings of pleasure beyond what is sometimes healthy. My mother distinctly remembers feeling less loved than her brother, the only boy, because he would get special treatment by being rewardedd with ice cream in the evenings while all the girls sat and watched.

I think its always good practice to hear another’s story as this brings mutual understanding. Once you hear the societal programming that most of us have received over our lives on top of food and family dynamics, you may understand where your dad, who comes home from work and self soothes with a greasy burger and beer, is coming from.

Most of us wouldn’t believe the HUGE impact that just talking about our emotional wounds can have. If you believe your parents or grandparents may have an emotional blockage driving mindless or unhealthy habits, then just getting them to talk about it can crack them wide open. Act interested in their story. We all have one. Question their beliefs surrounding that story. Sometimes the limitatons or stories we tell ourselves are FALSE and all we need is someone to question those beliefs before we see that they are a fallacy. We often subconsciously lie to ourselves so we don’t have to change. Just having a conversation can make others become more aware of their emotional baggage that needs healing. Remain supportive and don’t judge. Your role here is to stay curious and loving AF. Great things rarely happen overnight!

   5. Provide Examples of Success Stories 

I’ll never forget the pushback I got from friends and medical professionals when I launched my first product, which happened to be a gut bacteria and parasite cleanse. They chuckled in disbelief…”parasites are a problem for third world countries, but not here in the United States.” It was not until my patients began to bring in pictures of disspelled worms or stories of complete health 180’s that they began to question our standard medical trainings. Some still refused to believe the evidence, but the overwhelming majority were shocked. Remember that occasionally, even when presented with the truth, people will refuse to acknowledge its presence. Oftentimes this happens when they cling tightly or feel secure in their belief systems. The cognitive dissonance and potential reality that their whole lives have been lived in misalignment can be too much to bear. Plus old habits die hard!

Be patient with whoever you speak with because everyone is right where they are supposed to be, even if you don’t want to believe they are. Give examples like the success stories in Gerson therapy, that uses juicing, coffee enemas and herbs to help treat cancer. Give examples of how autism, cancer, and autoimmune disorders have risen in frequency since the industrial revolution. In fact, one in three people will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetimes! This is not just genetics. To elaborate on this, explain epigenetics to them. Lovingly discuss how environmental toxins, triggers and pollutants can lead to genetic changes that then present as physical diseases. Takosubo cardiomyopathy is a documented heart attack often leading to heart failure that is caused by stress!

    6. Be The Change You Want to See (with a dose of humility and patience)

I can’t stress this enough. If you are going to be leading the way for the older generation, friends, family, or the younger generation (basically anyone), then you must be walking the walk. Your dad probably isn’t going to listen to you about holistic healing if you’re out getting drunk every night that you don’t have to work. Your overweight aunt won’t be too keen on your ideas if she sees you cheating more than maintaining a clean diet. Your brother might not believe you if you’re sick all the time but preaching about how diet can improve immunity.

If you have parents that are stubborn as mules or grandparents resistant to change, then you may have tried different versions of what I listed above to no avail. So what can be done? Well obvi you can’t change anyone who is not ready. And with veganism, plant based diets and holistic health booming, then this information will soon be everywhere. We all come to it on our own time and when we are exactly supposed to. Sometimes we can feel pressurized to “save” our families, but what I have found are these lessons are often for the person who continues to press the issue, not the one who isn’t listening to the lesson. In this situation, it is best to continue to live your lifestyle to the best of your ability and to show them the changes in your own health, body, and mind. The inspiration bug is quite effective!

Last but not least, if those in your life don’t change despite the evidence, it is really an issue of self love and this is deeply personal. Perhaps it is in their life plan to do it their way and accept the knowledge when the time is right for them. My dad has asked me multiple times to “just love him and accept hime the way he is.” Dont get me wrong-both my parents eat super clean and don’t take prescription meds, but when it comes to other governmental policies…well, thats another story. Hey its baby steps!

Balance is key when dealing with our families and close friends. Emotions can run high and we all want the best for those we love. Sometimes the best thing we can do is give love where its accepted and trust that the universe will teach what needs to be taught, on its own magical time frame of course.

 

 

Sleeping in This One Position Can Improve Digestion, Drain Lymph and Improve Overall Health

When it comes to full health, getting enough sleep is paramount. We all know this on an intuitive level, but it doesn’t mean that life doesn’t barge in and get in the way of our precious rest. Friends keep us out late, alcohol interrupts REM sleep, and many of us have undiagnosed conditions like sleep apnea which affect our quality of sleep and can even damage the heart. Even if we have the best of intentions, there can be hidden reasons for our aches, pains, and chronic conditions that are linked to our sleeping behavior.

For example, here are some common reasons that patients have undiagnosed pain or tight muscles that can be traced back to sloppy sleeping positions:

  1. Sleeping on your Stomach-I’m guilty of this one! It took me a long time to train myself to not roll over in the  middle of the night. We humans have an innate tendency to protect our underbelly, or stomachs during periods of vulnerability, like during sleep. What happens, however, when we enjoy prolonged belly time, is that our shoulders collapse inward, rounding towards the heart. This pulls the neck forward and causes tight cervical and upper back muscles. This is similar to text-neck syndrome and can cause cervical and thoracic problems. I have a sneaky suspicion that my bad habit lead to closed shoulders over time. If you have this poor sleeping habit too, look into a body pillow which can rest between your legs and still gives the feeling that your abdominal area is protected.
  2. Sleeping on the Back is Ok unless.…patients with sleep apnea may experience a choking or gasping sensation when sleeping on their backs unless they are completely compliant with their CPAP usage. (A CPAP is a machine that uses positive pressure to keep the throat open during sleep which prevents oxygenation levels from dangerously falling). If this is the case, then opt for an orthopedic pillow and an inclined sleeping position.
  3. Sleeping on the Right Side-This position has been associated with increased heartburn, poorer circulation and digestion. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology showed that patients who laid on their right side suffered from significantly worse heartburn after a fatty meal.

So whats the best position to sleep in?

THE LEFT SIDE!

And believe it or not, this has been verified by science and taught by Ayurveda, the ancient eastern medicine that originated in India over 500o years ago. Ayurveda believes that each side of the body is distinctly different and carries energies and issues all on their own. Heres some of the ways you can improve your health by incorporating this one sleeping trick.

  • Facilitate lymphatic drainage-In the body, the lymphatic system is the sewer system. It transport waste products that the body no longer needs to the thoracic duct. In medical school in my gross anatomy class, I remember finding it so odd that the thoracic duct was only on the left side and NOT on the right! The remaining lymph fluid is filtered and purified and then dumped into the left side by way of the heart. In Ayurveda, edema caused by chronic lymphatic congestion or heart failure will more than likely occur on the left side in the early stages. Alternatively, early stage edema caused by liver failure will usually occur on the right side as this is where the liver is found.
  • Better digestion and bowel movements-This all makes so much sense when you understand the anatomy of our digestive system. During digestion, food moves past the ileocecal valve where it enters the colon. Food is then propelled across the right side of the abdomen and down the left side of the body into the descending colon before it hits the rectum. Sleeping on the left side throughout the night encourages easy transit of waste products due to gravity. One of the first questions I ask my patients about are bowel movements! They are so important for proper elimination of toxins and overall health. Not only should everyone be having 1-2 bowel movements a day, but all of us should be headed straight to drop the kids off at the pool first thing in the morning. If you are not going first thing in the morning, this is constipation! Try incorporating more fiber, water, my Colon Master and sleeping on your left side!
  • The Heart is on the Left Side-Sleeping on the left side encourages blood flow through the aorta down to the descending aorta on the left. It is actually medically advised to sleep on the left if pregnant as this encourages return blood flow to the heart. This allows the intestines to hang away from the inferior vena cava which brings blood back to the heart. When there is no pressure from the intestines, the vena cava can fully fill with blood. The intestines is free to hang without any pressure from other organs so that it can fully appreciate adequate blood supply as well.
  • Decreased Acid Reflux-As mentioned above, The Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology found that after lying on either side for four hours after indulging in a fatty meal, participants experienced more heartburn when lying on the right, rather than left sides. This is not fully understood, but is thought to be due to the gastric secretions lying below the level of the esophageal sphincter when sleeping on the left. This means it is more difficult for them to reflux back up into the esophagus where we feel it! Since the pancreas is on the left, it is also postulated that perhaps digestive enzymes are more effectively produced when lying on the left and this helps to digest and breakdown nutrients better, leading to less GERD symptoms.
  • The Spleen Is Also on the Left! The spleen is an almond shaped organ on the left side of our bodies right above the kidney. It loves high blood flow as its job is to filter the blood and remove debris or signal immune cells if there is a problem. When sleeping on the left, we are again increasing blood flow to this organ passively through gravity. This can improve lymph flow and immunity, or our ability to fight infections.

 

REFERENCES:

  1. http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/410292
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8071510?dopt=Abstract
  3. https://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/10/25/the-benefits-of-left-side-sleeping/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4275245/

The Risk of Birth Control Pills and The All Natural, Alternative Way to Prevent Pregnancy Without Hormones

I took birth control for nearly 20 years before I realized the toll it was having on my body. At age 34, I got the Mirena IUD which works by releasing synthetic progesterone into the local area of the uterus. But there are progesterone receptors all over the body that are neglected when the IUD is in place, since it acts only locally. It seemed like it aged me overnight, made me anxious, interfered with my sleep and caused cystic acne. I had it removed after only one year, but the damage was done–at least temporarily. It took me nearly 2 years to get back to feeling like “me.” Once the IUD is pulled, the body has not been accustomed to making its own natural progesterone so progesterone bottoms out, however estrogen is still present. This leads to a relative estrogen dominance which can be pretty miserable. I was one of those girls that was always moodier on birth control too. But underneath the irritability was a slight chronic sadness that I could not put my finger on. I almost felt like the world was not as bright when my hormones were synthetically supplemented. Trees looked less green and the sun didn’t make me smile quite as much. I also realize that, statistically birth control pills are not supposed to cause THAT many girls to gain weight, but I was one of those girls. And it seemed that the more women I spoke to, the more I realized I was not the only one who had these symptoms.

Approximately 98% of sexually active women have taken birth control at some point in their lives and 62% of women are currently on birth control. Hormonal contraceptives, better known as birth control pills, are synthetically-made hormones that aim to mimic the effects of our body’s own natural hormones. They can do this a number of ways including:

  • Preventing ovulation by blocking the release of the egg through the use synthetic hormones
  • If ovulation does occur: stopping uterine wall implantation by disrupting sperm cilia, affecting the buildup of the uterine wall or stimulating cervical mucus which prevents implantation

THE RISKS THAT COMES WITH THE PILL AND THE IUD

So lets be real. How good or bad are synthetic hormones? Well they aren’t as bad as Premarin, the hormonal replacement therapy made from pregnant horse urine, but they still are not healthy. More than 20 studies have shown the connection between birth control pills and breast cancer. Other studies have linked birth control pills to altered gut bacteria, immunity, increased risk of heart attack and strokes.  The World Health Organization conducted a study that found that women who have taken the pill for 5-9 years are 3 times more likely to develop cervical cancers (as compared to non pill takers). Hows that for decreasing immunity since cervical cancer is mainly caused by Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)? The World Health Organization also categorizes oral contraceptives as a Type 1 carcinogen. Women who take low dose birth control are nearly twice as likely to have a stroke or heart attack. Birth control pills have been linked to insulin resistance and a higher risk of diabetes. They also increase your risk for clotting and pose a real problem to young women who choose to take the pill and smoke, which together cause a pro-clotting state. In fact, one  of my best friend’s suffered a blood clot in the leg, that then broke off and went to her lungs. This is called a pulmonary embolism and can sometimes be life threatening! And thats not all…a recent study showed a convincing link between the pill and depression…which I think most of us gals can agree on! Its easy to feel down when your hormones are askew.

The IUD comes with its own risks as well. Not only does the Mirena mess with the natural hormone ratio and cycles, but additional risks of ALL IUDs include uterine perforation, infections like PID (pelvic inflammatory disease) or an ectopic pregnancy, which is when an embryo implants in the Fallopian tubes rather than the uterus. More rare consequences are cramping, painful periods or sex and even fertility. Even the copper IUD can lead to copper toxicity, which is especially prominent in those with adrenal dysfunction. Copper overload can also cause Phase 2 liver detoxification problems.

HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOUR HORMONES ARE IMBALANCED?

  • mood swings
  • weight gain around the abdomen
  • painful, heavy or scant periods
  • fibrocystic or “lumpy” breast tissue
  • endometriosis
  • insomnia, waking up in the early morning ruminating about things you have to do the next day
  • anxiety, flightiness
  • brain fog
  • hives
  • aging skin
  • adult acne, especially around the jawline and chin
  • low libido
  • night sweats, hot flashes
  • migraines
  • ovarian cysts and fibroids

I’m sure many of us, even men included, have some of these symptoms. Conventional medicine and OB/gyns often prescribe birth control pills to “control” acne, mood swings, irregular periods, and to balance hormones. This works for some women, but at what long term cost? Could there be a better way to naturally balance hormones and get to the root of the problem? Trading out personal care products, food, and plastics for healthier, organic, or glass substitutes can help hormones as many of these contain endocrine disrupters. For hormone balancing herbs, check out my blog post here. https://drjess.com/5-herbs-help-balance-hormones/

LIFESTYLE TIPS FOR IMPROVING HORMONES:

  • Pranayama breathing from yoga. Think the Darth Vader breath that everyone in yoga uses! This breath stimulates the vagus nerve that controls our relaxation system and helps to calm the nervous and hormonal systems.
  • Yoga, meditation, and mindfulness all help to foster a sense of gratitude. Gratitude stimulates serotonin and oxytocin production, two hormones responsible for happiness and love.
  • Forgiveness and quelling reactivity can help replace negative feedback patterns that control thinking and behaviors
  • Heal any adrenal fatigue since the stress hormone cortisol can steal progesterone, throwing off the whole hormonal cascade
  • Omega 3 fatty acids, like fish, krill or flaxseed oil can help to balance cholesterol which makes the sex hormones
  • Hormone Master, Vitex, licorice, DIM, and Maca can all help to balance hormones
  • Liver cleanses and liver cleansing herbs/foods help to balance hormones by preventing recirculating estrogen and include milk thistle, burdock root, beets, carrots and NAC.
  • Check Vitamin D levels and cholesterol levels as both are tied intimately into the balance of hormones.
  • Cut out dairy, processed sugar and carbs

WAIT THERES A WAY TO PREVENT PREGNANCY SAFELY WITHOUT CHEMICALS, HORMONES OR IMPLANTS?

Some people are surprised to learn there is a extensively researched computer that can track your cycle down to pinpoint accuracy using core body temperature. This is the basis for some old rhythm methods but has come a loooong way!

  1. My number one choice (and the one I’ve used for years now) is the Daysy Fertility Monitor https://ca.daysy.me which uses the fertility awareness method (FAM) by learning your own unique cycle. It is 99.3% accurate! It is a German computer built inside a thermometer that measures temperature down to 1/100 of a degree precision. Each morning, before getting out of bed, take your temperature. It takes the Daysy about a month to learn your own cycle. Once it does, it flashes a green light if it is safe to have sex or a red light if you are fertile. If yellow, this means Daysy is still learning about your cycle. It costs anywhere from $350-450 and has been a Godsend.
  2. OvaCue Fertility monitor is a close second at 98.3% accuracy. It uses the Electrolyte Method to predict ovulation and has been tested by the National Institute of Health. Throughout a woman’s cycle, different electrolytes increase or decrease and are quite measurable. HELLO-think sodium retention right before you start your period? I haven’t personally used this one but do know it is a safely and accurate alternative method.
  3. Queen Annes Lace has been used for centuries by ancient cultures to prevent pregnancy. PLEASE NOTE THAT QUEEN ANNES LACE, OR WILD CARROT SEEDS, CAN BE USED AS THE MORNING AFTER PILL AND THEREFORE IS KNOWN AS AN ABORTIFACTANT. Not a lot of human studies exist on Queen Annes Lace as birth control but there are some small animal studies which show the seeds disrupt the implantation process or can cause the fertilized egg to be released from the wall. Take one teaspoon immediately after sex and continue for seven days.
  4. Neem Oil has also been paired with Queen Annes Lace to help prevent unwanted pregnancy. Neem is a spermicidal and the gel can be used as such.
  5. Smartweed infusions can be used after intercourse to also prevent implantation. It contains elements of gallic acid, quercetin and rutin. The period should begin shortly after consuming.

Trust me one of the best ways to prevent aging and prolong your health is to take care of your hormones!

You are becoming your own best doctor

Dr Jess

 

 

Energy Drinks: Have We Ignored a Surprising Gateway Drug?

Since Red Bull was introduced in the USA in 1997, its popularity has soared and given it wings. (Haha you know you love my corny jokes). From festivals to bars, this drink and the other competitor, Monster Energy, are super convenient to find. I never liked them, but growing in West Virginia, you learn to do what your friends do to be accepted. I drank a Monster energy drink once and felt nauseated and light headed. That was my first and last experience with energy drinks.

Which leads me to ask, just how safe are these sugary, mood boosting drinks?

How Much Caffeine is in an Average Energy Drink?

Energy drinks contain anywhere from 50mg to 500m mg of caffeine per can. Many other countries have set rigorous standards for warnings and cautions surrounding energy drinks. The United States unfortunately, has very lax regulations compared to others. Iceland, Norway, Scotland, Denmark and Turkey have recently limited the amount of caffeine in any alcoholic drinks to 150 mg per liter. The absence of regulation in the USA has led an explosion of marketing of energy drinks, especially to male teenagers for the purposes of performance enhancing and stimulation.

There are increasing reports of young adults being rushed to the ER, suffering from caffeine intoxication (yes this is a thing!) or even dying from the effects of these drinks. In May 2017, a 16 year old boy passed away after consuming an energy drink, a latte and a Mountain Dew. The coroner ruled the cause of death as a cardiac arrhythmia. Although this is rare, more and more research is revealing that energy drinks may not only be different than “normal caffeine sources,” but may be a gateway drug for adventure seeking teens. As surprising as this may sound, when you look at the science, it makes sense.

How are Energy Drinks Different than A Normal Cup of Joe?

        Caffeine chemical molecule structure. 

There are approximately 320 mg of caffeine in four cups of coffee. Plenty of people drink 4 cups of coffee in a day without any ill effects. Energy drinks, however, contain 4 ounces of sugar, several synthetic B vitamins and a proprietary “energy blend” of taurine and other secret ingredients are found in Red Bull, Monster or 5 Hour Energy. It seems that this blend effects the body somewhat differently. I don’t know about you guys, but I had one friend who had physical withdrawal symptoms from Red Bull.

For example, in one study, Sachin A. Shah of David Grant Medical Center on Travis Air Force Base and University of the Pacific in Stockton, California, and colleagues measured the participants’ blood pressure and used an electrocardiogram (or EKG) to measure heart electrical activity for 24 hours after the subjects consumed the drinks versus a caffeine only placebo.

“The QT interval is the measurement of the time it takes ventricles in the heart, the lower chambers, to repolarize, or prepare to generate a beat again,” the researchers said. “It’s the pause from the end of the electrical impulse generating the heart to beat to the next impulse. If this time interval, which is measured in milliseconds, is either too short or too long, it can cause the heart to beat abnormally. The resulting arrhythmia can be life threatening.” This is how the 16 year old mentioned above actually died. Very scary indeed.

In the study, compared to the caffeine-only group, those in the energy drink group had a corrected QT interval 10-milliseconds higher still at two hours. Most medications require a warning if they prolongate the QT interval longer than six milliseconds! As would be expected, both caffeine and the energy drinks had an increase in blood pressure, however after six hours, the blood pressure of the placebo had returned to normal while the energy drink group had not.

This suggests that the other ingredients in energy drinks may purport other effects on the body that we are not aware of…..

With that being said, lets dive into how energy drinks could lead to other pleasure seeking activities that infer a higher risk for drug use.

Energy Drinks: A New Gateway Drug?

Caffeine withdrawal alone is listed as as a research diagnosis in the Diagnostic Manual IV which is kinda like the Bible of Psychiatry diagnoses. Not saying all caffeine is bad. Don’t get me wrong I love it too. But here, as in  most things on earth, the devil is in the dose. Most things are toxic when used in extreme.

According to Psychology Today, adolescent brains, which are still developing, react differently to caffeine than adult brains. Long term caffeine consumption leads to greater tolerance faster suggesting it produces changes in the brain chemistry. Moreover, long term caffeine consumption in teens leads to greater sensitivity to amphetamines like Ritalin, used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD). “Recently a new study highlights how adolescent consumption of caffeine actually altered the brain’s neurochemistry so that the adult brain’s response to cocaine was enhanced!”

A paper in the Journal of Addiction Medicine reported that 1/3 of teens consume energy drinks and the kids that do also report higher rates of alcohol, cigarette or drug use. Once adjustments for other factors were made, it still found that personalities which are attention and stimulation seeking, may be more likely to seek out not just energy drinks, but other feel good substances as well.

Energy drinks are also promoted for use with alcohol, which masks the intoxicating effects of alcohol, leading to higher consumption. One theory is drinks like Monster, mask the depressant effect of alcohol when consumed together. Alcohol boosts levels of adenosine in the brain, whereas caffeine blocks it, leading to the feeling of less intoxicated than one actually is. It seems we have perhaps been programmed to think one thing is a drug when another is not?

“In one 2006 survey Published in the Academy of Emergency Medicine,  4,271 students from ten universities in North Carolina, some 24% said they had consumed alcohol mixed with energy drinks in the previous 30 days. This group was significantly more likely than other students to engage in binge drinking, and got drunk twice as often. Even after adjusting for the amount of alcohol they consumed, this group was at increased risk of alcohol-related consequences including being taken advantage of sexually, taking advantage of another person sexually, riding with an intoxicated driver, being physically hurt or injured, and requiring medical treatment.

In another study published in 2010 in Addiction Behavior, researchers interviewed approximately 800 people as they left bars near a university area, and then measured their alcohol concentrations with breathalyzers. Those who had consumed alcohol mixed with energy drinks were three times more likely to be leaving the bar highly intoxicated, and four times more likely to be attempting to drive home, compared to other patrons! Yikes not good huh?

Let me note that this not exactly a open and shut case for cause and effect. These studies do not PROVE that energy drinks lead to substance abuse, although circumstantial evidence is convincing.

Final Words…..

So are caffeinated energy drinks a gateway drug? Possibly and the evidence so far is quite convincing. Although energy drinks vary greatly from plain old caffeine, it seems both infer a risk to the developing teenage brain and should possibly be treated more like a drug than a daily food.

Be Your Own Best Doctor

Much love

Dr Jess

 

REFERENCES:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18439201?dopt=Abstract&holding=npg

Thombs, D. L. et al. Add. Behav. 35, 325-30 (2010).

Walters Kluwer Health