Cholesterol Testing: What You Really Need To Know

The common cholesterol panel (aka lipid panel) is a test that is done during routine follow-ups and physicals. Physicians often base treatment decisions on the results of these tests. The idea is that if we lower “bad” cholesterol, we reduce cardiovascular risk.

However, most standard cholesterol testing is not good enough, so it is highly likely that your primary care physician is ordering outdated tests that only give part of the story. The result of this limited data is a greater possibility of prescribing unnecessary statins or other cholesterol-reducing drugs.  

The typical standard panel usually consists of these tests:

  • Total cholesterol (this is a calculation using HDL, LDL and a % of triglycerides)
  • LDL aka “bad cholesterol”
  • HDL aka “good cholesterol”
  • Triglycerides (a type of fat in the blood)
  • Total Cholesterol to HDL Ratio

These tests only tell part of the cholesterol story, are not good enough for most patients, and in general do not warrant many statin prescriptions.

We now know that your LDL cholesterol is made up of different components, some of it good, some of it perhaps, not so good. The fact is, there is a heck of a lot more to your cholesterol story than what a standard panel can reveal. We can easily get the full story by running what we call a “fractionated lipid panel”.

The Fractionated Lipid Panel: A More Accurate Measurement Of Cardiovascular Risk

A fractionated lipid panel measures sub-categories of LDL and HDL cholesterol. Sub-categories of LDL include small, dense particles as well as large, buoyant particles. Small dense particles are more prone to imbed into arterial walls where they play a role in plaque formation. The more small particles you have floating around in your bloodstream, the higher your actual risk. Large particles pose less risk, although if you have a high number of them floating around that is not great either. Essentially, in the fractionated lipid panel we ask two questions- What size are your particles? And How many particles do you have floating around? These questions are essential to knowing the reality of your cardiovascular disease risk.

A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing?

It is common knowledge that up to 50% of people who have had a heart attack have “normal” cholesterol numbers.  This can be prevented by doing accurate testing with a fractionated lipid panel.

In this scenario, people have completely normal LDL cholesterol and are told by their physician that their numbers are good and not to worry. Up to 30% of these people actually have something called cholesterol-depleted LDL, where LDL is viewed on a standard panel as “normal” but when you measure the small particle numbers, they turn out to be very high. These people typically also have high triglycerides and low HDL. This is a wolf in sheep’s clothing because these people are actually at higher risk of cardiovascular disease yet it may actually be missed because their total number was within a standard normal range (usually under 200 mg/dL).

In my clinic, I run a fractionated lipid panel along with inflammatory markers, fasting insulin and fasting glucose as well as an Omega fatty acid check. The Omega Check examines the ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 fatty acid ratio in the blood. Using this full Cardiometabolic Panel by SpectraCell, we get a comprehensive look at what your personal cholesterol profile looks like and we can then take into consideration your individual risk factors for disease.

For example, Sally can have a cholesterol number of 125 mg/dL but she may have many small, dense particles floating around. Her physician runs a standard, non-fractionated panel and only sees the basic numbers. The doctor has not measured particle numbers and therefore cannot know Sally’s true risk. Sally is told her cholesterol is “great” and to keep up whatever she is doing. Sally leaves the doctors office not knowing her true risk and assuming all is well.

What Is Your Baseline?

If you are trying out a new dietary or lifestyle approach, you can get a fractionated lipid panel along with the full cardiometabolic panel at baseline and then retest periodically. I usually recommend every 3 months for several cycles. This gives you a great baseline and a more accurate picture of your individualized response to lifestyle and dietary changes as time goes on.

Let’s Do Better, Period.

The fact is, the standard cholesterol panel is outdated and rudimentary. It can lead to unnecessary prescriptions and misguided dietary protocols.  We can do better by running a test that gives a vastly more accurate picture of true and specific risk factors. If your healthcare provider is not up speed on the fractionated lipid panel, please ask them to update their testing policies to reflect a better and more accurate data set. This is your health! They work for you!

We offer fractionated lipid panels in our office. If you want to get a more sophisticated, individualized look at what your cholesterol is actually doing, make an appointment for a lab consultation today! We can run and review labs. If you have an old lab you want to go over, bring it in! If you want to run new, more sophisticated labs we will talk about your goals and order the right panel for you.  

Are You A Fat Burner or a Sugar Burner?

Does the human body run better on fat or sugar? This question is probably too simple since there are many factors involved in how the body processes fuel. For instance, personal preference, individual health goals and activity levels may play a role. However, for the purposes of this blog, I just want to outline some basic principles and talk about fat burning vs. sugar burning.

Fat Burning Vs. Sugar Burning

When the body burns sugar (glucose), it gets its fuel source from carbohydrates. Carbohydrate sources are foods like refined sugar, fruits, bread, pasta, cereals, grains, starchy vegetables and a myriad of processed foods. When we eat carbohydrate, it goes into the body and is transformed into glucose in the bloodstream. Our pancreas then gets a signal from the body to produce a hormone called insulin. It is insulin’s job to push glucose into the cells so that the body can then use that glucose for fuel.

How high your blood sugar spikes is a result of how your body processes a particular carbohydrate as well as how sensitive or effective your insulin is at pushing glucose into your cells. This can vary among individuals depending on genetics, gut bacteria, metabolic health, etc…  Insulin suppresses fat-burning so it is also known as a fat-storage hormone. If you are running insulin all day to deal with glucose, you will store more fat. This can also be affected by activity level, so you can also be lean and be in a state of steady insulin production. However, for most people they will store more fat.

When the body burns fat, the story looks quite different. In the context of low carbohydrate consumption, the hormone insulin goes quiet. As a result, a different hormone called glucagon is manufactured by the pancreas. Glucagon signals the body to release fat stores and burn it as fuel. The result is quite interesting. The body will lose fat stores easily and will shift into a mode of fat-burning. However, this shift from glucose-burning to fat-burning can be uncomfortable for some people if they are not used to a low-carbohydrate diet. They might first experience the effects of a dip in blood sugar because the body is not yet efficient at fat-burning. This can give you typical low blood sugar symptoms like extreme cravings, shakiness, moodiness, tiredness, or what is colloquially known as “hangry”. This makes going from sugar-burning to fat-burning a little difficult for many people, but it can also be effectively mitigated if you plan meals correctly.

Your Body Is Like A Hybrid Car

Like a hybrid car, the human body is built to run on these two fuel sources- fat and glucose (sugar). Throughout history, most people fluctuated between a fat-burning and glucose burning state since there were periods of time with low carbohydrate or low food availability. Therefore, it is natural for the body to cycle in and out of a fat-burning state. We call this “metabolic flexibility”. Most ancient humans relied on metabolic flexibility because they could not be disabled by a state of low blood sugar. In fact, they likely did not experience being “hangry” as often or quite as regularly as modern people since they could seamlessly transition into fat-burning since carbs were simply not always around.

The problem is, in modern days, most people are burning glucose for fuel all day long because they are consistently eating every few hours. Also, most meals contain carbohydrate. They get a dip in blood sugar and hunger occurs, so they eat more glucose containing foods (fruit, bread, pasta). This keeps the body in a constant state of glucose dependence with a constant stream of insulin production to deal with the glucose as well as a constant state of fat storage.

Burning Sugar: It Makes You Hungry And It Makes You Fat

Since most people who are glucose dependent have multiple dips in blood sugar throughout the day, they need to eat shortly after they wake up and every 3-4 hours throughout the day. They also spend a lot of time having to look for food throughout the day. They often cannot stop eating 3 hours before bedtime and will eat right before bed. In this scenario, they may have signs of fomenting insulin resistance like abdominal obesity or they are generally overweight.

Sugar burning all day is like burning fuel in one half of the hybrid engine all day. Over time it puts a burden on one part of  the machinery and eventually, that part of the system wears down and no longer works very well. One way the system begins to shut down is when the body exhibits symptoms of insulin resistance and eventually, diabetes.

Diabetes: The End of the Insulin Line

The pre-diabetic and diabetic state is when insulin receptors stop working and glucose is not being pushed into cells efficiently. This causes an increase in blood glucose or blood sugar. Most conventional doctors focus on blood sugar when it gets out of control. They may send you for a fasting blood sugar test to see if sugar is still floating around in your bloodstream after 12+ hours of no eating. If blood sugar is still high, you are diagnosed with either pre-diabetes (100-125 mg/dL) or diabetes (over 125 mg/dL).

The fact is, the damage is already being done before blood sugar levels increase to clear pathological levels. I believe that we need to focus on the state of hyperinsulinemia (high insulin) before glucose increases on a fasting blood test. Are you running insulin all day because you are eating carbs at every meal? Does your body (and brain) ever get a break from running on one fuel source all day? Are you slowly becoming insulin resistant and don’t even know it because your blood sugar appears “normal”?

Without metabolic flexibility (fat burning), we run on one engine all day (glucose) and over time we become inflamed and run the risk of autoimmune flare-ups and cardiovascular disease. There are studies that show that the state of insulin resistance is highly correlated with some types of autoimmunity, psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis in particular. The state of diabetes is the most overtly obvious pathological state of insulin resistance. However, this process starts much earlier with hyperinsulinemia and the constant stress of the carbohydrate-insulin-glucose cycle.

In order to reset the immune system and to stay insulin sensitive, we need to help the body out by reducing glucose consumption overall. We do this by reducing fruit, fruit sugar (juice), pasta, bread, and basically all foods that increase blood glucose and thus increase insulin production.  

Once we get out of a constant state of glucose dependence, hunger cravings abate and we can go longer periods of time without eating. Our bodies become more effective and efficient at fat-burning and we feel healthier. We start to slim down, we have more mental clarity. We are in a state of metabolically flexible and less prone to disease. We can eat carbs intermittently or cyclically and we will not be burdened by glucose dependence.

There are several methods of getting into a fat-burning state.

Low Carb Diets

These are diets that consist of high-quality proteins, high-quality fats and low carbohydrate foods like above-ground vegetables. There is a variety of ways to do a low carb diet. A good start is a whole foods ancestral or paleo diet that is low in starchy vegetables.

Ketogenic Diets

These are diets that consist of high-fat, moderate-to-high amounts of protein along with very low carbohydrate (about 50 grams per/day). I recommend anyone who is glucose-dependent to first do a simple low-carb diet and later ease into a keto diet for a period of time and see how they respond. It is important to note that there are many ways to do a ketogenic diet (cycling keto, full-time keto, etc..). There are also many ways to do a keto diet wrong.

It is best to consult a trusted health care provider who truly understands keto. If your doctor tells you that you are at risk for ketoacidosis by doing a ketogenic diet, and you are not a type 1 diabetic or severe type 2 diabetic, you need to walk in the other direction and that doctor needs to review their basic biochemistry and pathophysiology. If your doctor tells you that a ketogenic diet may increase risk for kidney stones, this could be true. However, there are ways to mitigate the risk and still do keto. If your doctor tells you that keto will drive up blood cholesterol, this could also be true. However, this is only for about 20% of people who do keto and this can also be mitigated dramatically by cutting foods that are very high in saturated fats, namely dairy and coconut oil. In my clinic, when we have patients who want to adhere to a keto or high-fat diet as a lifestyle intervention, we do an advanced fractionated lipid panel with fasting glucose and inflammatory markers every 3-4 months for the first year. We want to know how your body responds and then modify things as needed.

When done correctly, there are many amazing benefits of being in a ketogenic state of pure fat-burning. People report dramatic increases in mental clarity, decreased hunger and an overall sense of well-being. Ketogenic diets are used as a therapeutic tool for people with brain injury, cancer, Alzheimer’s and seizures. This is because the state of ketogenesis has neuroprotective and healing effects for many people.

A lot of people say that doing keto is very hard and not sustainable. My response to that is it depends on how you do it. Some people love being in keto all the time, while others like to do more of a cyclic version of keto where they may spend Mon-Friday doing keto and take weekends off. There is a myriad of versions and endless food preparation options. In my clinic we work toward doing what is best for you and supporting you in making changes. We even offer personal chef services and meal planning for those who really want to dive in.

Fasting

Most people will go into a mild state of fat-burning during intermittent times of food restriction. Fasting is a natural state for the human body since for most of human history there were times of food scarcity. In a nutshell, our bodies are not only built to fast but our bodies also go into repair mode when in a fasted state.

There are several ways to fast. Intermittent fasting is usually where people start their fasting journey. This is when you limit the time you eat during the day. For example, you could stop eating at 6pm and then don’t eat until 8am the next day. This way you have fasted 14 hours. Your eating window is then from 8am-6pm (10 hours). There are a variety of ways to do this and you can play with times and eating windows. Some people compress their eating window into 8, 6 or even just 4 hours per/day. What you do depends on your goals and how you can practically fit intermittent fasting into your daily life.

Another way of fasting is to just not eat food and only drink water for 24 hours. Some people do this once or twice a week and turn up the volume on fat-burning and thus experience weight loss. This is when you might eat dinner one evening at 6pm and then not eat until 6pm the following day. Again, this is harder for glucose burners because they may experience blood sugar instability. For fat-burners or what we call individuals who are “fat-adapted” it will be much easier since hunger pangs are less intense while fat-adapted. This is why I only recommend fasting for people who have developed some level of metabolic flexibility.

Fasting is an advanced method of flexing your metabolic muscle. Again, I do not recommend that glucose-dependent individuals jump into fasting. I recommend adapting to at least a low-carb diet first for 30 days and then try some intermittent fasting. From there it is safer and easier to expand fasting times.

If you have more questions about anything related to fat burning, sugar burning, low-carb, ketogenic diets or fasting please make an appointment here for a personalized nutrition consultation today. We specialize in getting people into a program that suits their health goals, preferences and lifestyle.

If you are also suffering from complex issues, we also specialize in functional medicine consultations which include personalized nutrition protocols along with more in-depth investigative work that includes more extensive lab testing. Whatever option you choose, your individual needs and goals will be heard and we will work together to figure out the best path for you!

What is Personalized Nutrition?

 

A personalized nutrition approach is based on an individual’s specific health needs, their preventative health goals, personal values, genetics, as well as social and family life. We take into consideration the full constellation of a person’s life and come up with an optimal plan to meet those goals.  

How is personalized nutrition different from other kinds of nutrition advice?

In today’s world of nutrition science, you will find a dizzying amount of health claims. There is no lack of controversy when it comes to nutrition advice, some of which borders on religious fervor. 

But is there one superior diet that works for all people? 

Absolutely not. The idea that one-size-fits-all eating should work for all people is a myth. Some people flourish on low carb-diets, others don’t. Some people prefer to eat a vegan diet, while others don’t. Optimal nutrition starts not only with health, but also personal preference. 

Aside from all the controversy and conflicting advice, what about conventional dietary advice? The conventional medical establishment has been pushing a low-fat, high carb diet for 40+ years. Is there really evidence that this is the best path to optimal health? This is also questionable. 

So where does one start? Should you try Vegan? Paleo? DASH? Mediterranean? Keto? Low Carb? Carnivore? Atkins? Ornish? Pegan? Nutrivore?

Here is the real question: what diet actually works for you?

Personalized nutrition cuts through all the hype. Instead of trying to fit you into a cookie-cutter single way of eating, we tailor a plan that meets your needs. We start with asking a series of questions–

What are your personal health needs?

Are you dealing with any current health issues? For instance, someone may have concerns about diabetes, heart disease, reflux or autoimmune disease. Some people are struggling with achieving lasting weight loss. We look at what these current issues may be and consider what may be best for these conditions.

What kind of health issues are you trying to prevent?

Perhaps you have had kidney stones in the past and would like to prevent them in the future?  There is also the issue of genetics. Many people now have access to genetic reports like 23andMe that give information about certain genetic markers. Perhaps you are interested in understanding what kind of nutrients you need to help prevent a condition like Alzheimer’s? Or how to reduce overall inflammation as a way to help prevent certain cancers?

What brings you joy?

For most people, food and the sharing of meals is a source of social connection and joy. We will discuss what is important to you in terms of keeping you healthy and happy. We will also discuss and strategize how to make your family happy while you make changes. Many people find that they need their family members or fellow household members to be at least partially on board when making changes in order for there to be long-term success.

We use science to inform your process. We don’t guess, we test. 

We take a blood serum baseline when you first come in. We test cardiometabolic markers like fasting insulin, fasting glucose, lipid profiles, HbA1C, inflammatory markers, as well as the omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acid balance in your cells. We test micronutrients to see if you are low in anything that may be crucial to your individual health. 

Once you have a nutrition protocol to implement, we have you adhere to your new way of eating for 3-4 months. We then retest your blood serum using the same panel. We can then see how your individual blood values have shifted in response to your new diet and lifestyle. We look at the numbers and we can then see if we are headed in the right direction!

Do you need some support in the kitchen? Do you need someone to come in and show you how it’s done? We got you covered!

Some people need a kitchen makeover to help them get started. We will help you stock your cabinets with new, healthy foods that fit your lifestyle and goals. We offer a program that involves one or more house visits where we asses cooking and food items, suggest healthy alternatives and we then help you get on your way by formulating weekly menu plans. In the beginning of this process, we send a personal chef to your home to show you how to prepare meals and snacks in order to make this transition simple and fun!

If you are seeking an in-depth dietary consultation that addresses lifestyle and health concerns, please make a personalized nutrition appointment here! We will do an intake that addresses all your health concerns and pertinent issues. From there we take you on your personalized nutrition journey toward better health. 

Is Egg Count an Important Predictor of Your Fertility?

Have you been told by your physician that you have high FSH or low AMH blood serum levels? Have they told you that based on these tests, you may have a more difficult time getting pregnant naturally? That you may need IVF?

Women often lose hope in their natural ability to get pregnant when their doctors give them the results of their follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and anti-Mullerian hormone (AMH) blood tests.  High FSH levels and low AMH levels have been associated with reduced fertility. Based on this idea, doctors tell their patients that when the numbers are too high or too low, their chances of having a natural pregnancy may be tough. They are often told they may need expensive fertility treatments like IVF.

This leaves many women feeling sad, frustrated and hopeless. They have lost some degree of faith in their bodies and the pressure to make a baby starts to take on a life of its own.

But says who? Turns out, this may not be the right thing to tell these women.

Are Women Losing Hope In Their Fertility For No Reason?

A new study published in the medical Journal JAMA, suggests that these tests may not be a reliable predictor of fertility after all. The study took a total of 750 women between ages 30 to 44 years old without a history of infertility and compared them to women who had normal FSH and AMH levels (Steiner et al 2017). There was no significant difference between the groups. Meaning, the women conceived at nearly the same rate, despite their test results. The study’s conclusion is that these particular fertility indicators are not reliable markers to assess natural fertility.

What this study is telling us is what we, as holistic health clinicians, have known for a very long time– that you are more than just a number and you are more than just a snapshot in time on a blood panel. Health and age are still the greatest predictors of fertility. That said, being over 35 doesn’t necessarily mean you will have a hard time conceiving, it just decreases the chances of conception as time goes on. It’s important to remember that this is a gradual decline and doesn’t mean you are doomed if you start your family after 35. As a matter of fact, many many women have healthy, happy babies after 35 and beyond! 

If you have questions about natural support for healthy conception using acupuncture or functional medicine, please contact me with your questions or schedule your first appointment. There are many things you can do to support your chances of having a healthy baby, despite ovarian reserve test results! 

Concerned about smoke inhalation from the California wild fires?

You should be. The particles of liquid and solids that are suspended in the smoky air are so tiny they cannot be seen. They make their way down deep into the lungs where they can easily cross over into the bloodstream. The long-term health ramifications of continued exposure are not well known, however, those who suffer any respiratory ailments like asthma or COPD will feel it right away. Either way, it is best to limit exposure as much as possible by protecting yourself.

The air quality is the worst it has ever been in the Bay Area for the past few days since the fires started in Sonoma and Napa. The sky is hazy and has an odd, apocalyptic orange glow. I walked from my office a few blocks away today wearing my N95 mask. As I looked around, I saw people out and about, walking their dogs, running errands and working in their yards.

All without masks.

This is what not to do. I may look a little strange with a mad max respirator on my face but I know I’m well protected in the short-term. The wildfires can create many days in a row of bad air. You want to limit exposure as much as possible. It may seem silly to wear a mask just to take a short walk or to get the mail but trust me, your lungs will thank you.

Protection from wildfire smoke

If leaving the area is not an option then protection is your first line of defense.

  • Find the filtered air. Go to the local library or shopping mall and hang out. Read a book, work on your laptop, window shop, see a movie. Get out of the bad air for as long as you can.
  • Set your A/C on recirculation mode at home. This will help keep the air moving in your house and it will feel less stagnant.
  • Masks and respirators labeled N95. They are supposed filter out 95% of particulate matter, although they may not filter gases. The trick is to make sure that the mask is well-fitting. Wear this whenever you go outside, even if it’s just to walk the dog.
  • Wet rags, bandanas and surgical masks don’t do much. You need a filtration system between your lungs and the air you are breathing.
  • Limit exercise. The more you move, the deeper you breath. Kids naturally breathe at a more rapid rate and they are typically always moving (at least my 5-year-old son is!).  So save your hike or run for another time and go to an indoor gym instead.
  • Stay inside as much as possible. Get an air purifier for your house or make your own with a box fan and a furnace filter. As of today, most of the stores in my county have sold out of box fans. I had to order my supplies next-day shipping on Amazon. The key here is to use the correct filter. Some furnace filters only filter out dust and do not filter out the particulate matter from the smoke. You want your filter to have a MERV rating of 11 or above. I ordered a 4-pack of FiilterBuy furnace filters that have a MERV rating of 13 just to be sure. Anything less than an 11 will not filter out smoke particles.
  • If you are experiencing breathing problems, please see a doctor right away!

An acupuncture treatment can help. Treatment can bring down stress and help expand the lungs. You can also utilize nutritional and supplemental support to help your lungs and liver detox. Contact me with questions or book your appointment to come in!

If you are being directly affected by the fires, have lost your home or have close family or friends who have lost their homes and you are currently housing victims, your treatment is free. Please contact me with details of your situation and we will get you on the schedule. 

 

 

 

 

Can I Stop Chronic Reflux Without Medications?

Can I Relieve Chronic Reflux Without Medications?

Most people have heard of heartburn or acid reflux. As a matter of fact, it is so common that up to 60% of people have had reflux in the past 12 months and up to 30% experience symptoms weekly.

Some people experience occasional acid reflux or “heartburn” after a big meal. This only happens once in awhile, and it’s usually nothing that a few tums can’t take care of. Other people experience reflux several times a week and for the truly unfortunate, reflux is an everyday experience that is managed successfully or semi-successfully with daily medications, most often a proton-pump inhibitor like Prilosec or Nexium.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

For those who suffer consistently, this is known as Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease or GERD. There is also another, emerging diagnosis being acknowledged. This is reflux that contains other digestive contents aside from acid like bile and pepsin.

Non-Erosive Reflux Disease (NERD)

This is also very common and is known as Non-Erosive Reflux Disease (NERD). Although the term “non-erosive” can sound less problematic, in fact, this reflux can be nearly as damaging and also contributes to airway reflux or what is known as “silent reflux.”

For those who experience frequent reflux events, whether it be GERD or NERD, the symptoms can range from nausea, burning in the chest or throat, coughing, stomach pain, hoarseness and refluxing of damaging liquids into the throat and mouth. In severe cases, reflux can damage the voice and teeth, cause problems with the inner ear and sinuses and it can also severely impact sleep. People report waking in the middle of the night, coughing and gasping for air as acid backs up into their mouth and hits their airway. This is one of the more frightening and debilitating symptoms of GERD/NERD. The lack of sleep and discomfort from the reflux damage can severely impact the quality of life. Some people have reflux so bad that they can’t even drink a glass of water without it coming right back up. The most serious consequence of unmanaged reflux is cellular changes in the esophagus called Barrett’s esophagus. This is a precursor to cancer.

Some people with uncontrolled reflux are resistant to medications and end up getting surgery. This surgery can be very effective, but it is not without side effects and potential complications. Many people also report having severe gas and bloating that does not go away.

Side Effects of Acid Reflux Medications

Over the past year or so, there has been more information coming out about the dangerous side effects of the most popular and effective acid medications, the proton-pump inhibitors. These medications include Prilosec (omeprazole), Nexium (esomeprazole magnesium), Protonix (pantoprazole) and Dexilant (dexlansoprazole). These medications drastically reduce stomach acid to negligible amounts. They can be very effective for some, but they can also come with some very severe side effects.

Side effects of proton-pump inhibitors include higher rates of depression, higher rates of kidney disease and possible dementia. These drugs also drastically reduce stomach acid and therefore can inhibit the absorption of key nutrients like magnesium, calcium, and B12. As a matter of fact, there is an increased risk of hip fractures and broken bones in those who take PPIs long-term. There is also an increased risk of pneumonia and C. Diff infections of the gastrointestinal tract. As these side effects and risks come more and more to light, many people are questioning what to do, especially those who have chronic, unrelenting reflux.

Can my reflux be relieved without medication?

Fortunately, there is a way out of this mess! There are new ideas emerging about the causes of reflux and thus, how to manage it. The old thinking was there was “just too much stomach acid”. Although it is true that reducing stomach acid can improve symptoms, it does not actually cure reflux or even stop it from occurring, it just neutralizes it so you can’t feel the damage being done. As a matter of fact, although counterintuitive, it is thought that some people may actually not have enough stomach acid. While that may sound crazy, it actually makes sense if you look into it.

Stomach acid is responsible for breaking down food but it also helps control and suppresses bacteria. The older we get, the less stomach acid we may produce and bacteria can start to grow. Proton pump inhibitors also suppress stomach acid and one of the risks of using PPIs is bacterial infections of the gut and respiratory tract. Bacteria also produce gas that can put stress on the lower esophageal sphincter, making it more prone to open up and allow stomach acid and other digestive content to enter the esophagus and airway.

There is a myriad of reasons why you may have reflux. There are very effective ways to remedy stomach acid problems, bacterial overgrowth and reflux without medication or surgery. This is all done using natural methods and by looking into the root cause of your symptoms.

If you suffer from reflux and are looking for an alternative to using dangerous acid reflux medications, functional medicine might be the solution for you. I encourage you to book an initial patient visit with me or contact with directly with questions.

What Is An Acupuncture Face-Lift?

What Is An Acupuncture Face-Lift? Does It Really Work?

By Amy Shouse | Published April 15, 2017

Experience a new vitality and glow with facial acupuncture treatments. This non-invasive, gentle treatment involves the placement of tiny, hair-thin needles on the face that effectively stimulate collagen production and promote elasticity. You can reduce wrinkles and experience a fresh, vital look in as soon as one treatment.

Treatments include facial massage and specially formulated Chinese herbal creams to further enhance the holy trinity of a youthful, vital appearance: circulation, rehydration and relaxation.

Because beauty is a reflection of health, facial rejuvenation acupuncture is more than a facial. It is also a full-body treatment. Included in each treatment are individualized body points for whole body wellness, as well as nutritional guidance and supplement recommendations to improve healing and vitality from the inside out.

Does facial acupuncture hurt?

For the most part, facial acupuncture/rejuvenation involves minimal sensation. For those who have sensitivity, we can apply a gentle numbing cream to the face in order to minimize any discomfort. Overall, the experience is relaxing and revitalizing.

How many treatments will I need?

Because facial acupuncture stimulates circulation so effectively, you will notice a glow to your face in as soon as one treatment. For most people, fine lines begin to diminish between 3-6 treatments and a subtle lift will appear between 8-10 treatments.

The usual course of treatment is a commitment to once or twice per week for a total of 8-10 treatments. After that period of time, you can plan on coming in for a facial rejuvenation “tune-up” once every 6-8 weeks or so.

Does facial acupuncture really work? I mean, c’mon, how can you give someone a face-lift with acupuncture?

This is a question that is asked often by those who first hear about facial acupuncture as an alternative to a face-lift. They are skeptical, and rightfully so! There are so many products and methods on the market that promise to reduce the effects of aging and many just don’t really seem to deliver.

For those who are skeptical and or just plain curious, here it goes:

Yes, Facial Rejuvenation really works. But, let’s talk about what we mean by, “works.”

Are you going to come see me in one treatment and leave looking like one might look after surgery? No, you are not. Acupuncture is not surgery and doesn’t claim to be. Facial rejuvenation is a non-invasive procedure for those who are looking to reclaim a revitalized glow to their appearance. The “face-lift” part of the procedure produces results that are subtle and gradual. This is not a treatment for those who expect what a cosmetic surgeon can do. This is a treatment for those who wish to obtain a fresh, natural look and do not want to go under the knife. This is also a treatment for those who wish to obtain health from the inside out as well. The focus on overall constitutional wellness is just as important as the facial treatment.

Ok, I get it. So then, how does it actually work?

As I mentioned above, my mantra for facial rejuvenation is circulation, rehydration and relaxation. Each one of these words in my mantra has ancient acupuncture theory and modern science to back it up.

Circulation: Hair-thin needles are placed on the face at specific points designated by the acupuncturist as important to lift and tone based on the anatomy and musculature of the face. Intradermal needles are also placed directly into wrinkle lines. These tiny needles produce areas of “micro-trauma” within the wrinkle itself. These tiny areas of “micro-trauma” are there just long enough for the body to register and send signals for repair to the area, which stimulates collagen production. This action of collagen production will begin to fill in fine lines and wrinkles over time with each treatment.

Due to the needle placement, the face will also get a fresh, abundant surge of blood coming in. This acts to help repair wrinkles, but it also gives the face a beautiful glow. Think about how pregnant women tend to have a “glow” about them. A big reason for this is the increased circulation of blood to the body and face during pregnancy.

Rehydration: During the facial enhancement treatment, there will be a face massage that includes the use of specially formulated masks and creams to rehydrate the skin. I also use a serum that includes hyaluronic acid, which is a naturally occurring compound in skin and joints and is abundant in youthful skin. Hyaluronic acid draws water into the skin and literally rehydrates and plumps. The act of using the serum directly after needles are taken out is so that the serum penetrates the dermis deeply and effectively.

Relaxation: Anyone who has ever had acupuncture will tell you that it is very relaxing and grounding. In my acupuncture treatments, I include stress-relieving points as well as immune enhancing points. The goal of treatment is to have you looking beautiful AND feeling healthy and beautiful at the same time. I use the dual-pronged approach of guiding healing from the inside-out, as well as the outside-in.

It has been shown that chronic stress can be debilitating to health and actually shorten the lifespan. Those who have chronic stress have more damage to DNA. As cells divide, the tips of DNA strands called, “telomeres”, the protective coating of our DNA, become more frayed and damaged when the body is under stress. In essence, the more healthy and less stressed you feel, the more healthy you will become.

So, during facial rejuvenation, I make a special focus on relaxation and stress-reduction. I do this with strategic use of points, but I also use facial massage to further enhance relaxation.