Inflammation Decreases Recovery Potential

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Inflammation is the root of all evil.  In fact, we know that it’s a part of every disease process known to man.  The tricky thing is that it can be caused by many different things within the body and if it is present it dramatically hinders the body’s ability to perform properly and recover efficiently.   

Inflammation can come from overuse, trauma, gut dysfunctions, food sensitivities, improper eating patterns, hormone dysfunction, and many other things.  The trick is to figure out if there is inflammation present, what various things are causing it, and what strategies are needed to eliminate it.

Unfortunately, most people only think of inflammation in situations where they can see visible swelling.  A sprained ankle, for instance, creates obvious swelling and the damage is apparent.  If the ankle were to stay swollen for many months it would make you concerned and wonder why it wasn’t healing.  You would probably then take appropriate steps to seek medical advice in order to determine why the swelling remains and what to do to eliminate it.  However, inflammation can be present in your body and causing damage without any obvious signs.   This can be the worst kind because it goes on for months, sometimes years, undetected and causes continual irritation and destruction.  This destruction can show up in many different forms: unhealthy skin, dysfunctional bowel movements, brain fog, painful joints, fatigue, frequent sickness, repetitive injuries, etc. 

One of the most common causes of systemic inflammation is gut dysbiosis.  This is basically just a dysfunction or imbalance of the gut environment.  There are many things that can cause this, but all of them cause gut irritation and increased levels of inflammation.  Some common things that cause gut inflammation are chronic medication use, food sensitivities, chronic constipation, viruses, excessive bacterial growth, infections, inefficient enzyme production, alterations in acid production, as well as many others.  What’s concerning about this list is that many of these are very common.  Most people don’t consider GI symptoms like bloating, constipation, diarrhea, etc., to be anything serious. The reality is that these symptoms are telling you that something is wrong!  And if these are causing inflammation then your ability to recover from workouts and the stressors of life is drastically reduced. 

Another common situation that I see in my office is the dysfunction of the adrenal gland.  The adrenal gland is responsibly for many hormones, but most notoriously for cortisol, which is known as our ‘stress’ hormone.  When cortisol is dysfunctional it can not only promote inflammation, but it can also cause problems with sex hormone function and your body’s ability to regulate blood sugar effectively.  These things can further lead to the promotion of inflammation.  Since our collective stress levels have never been higher in the history of mankind, this is an important area to normalize in the body.  Especially for athletes whose use of cortisol is increased due to the normal stress of training on the body.  Training, by nature, creates inflammation on its own, so it is important to know if your ability to handle and recover from that stress is diminished.

First of all, you should understand that inflammation is actually a good thing.  It is a smart response by the body to kick-start processes that lead to healing and detoxification within the body.  Without inflammation we would not be able to heal.  However, the real problem lies in situations where inflammation is excessive or never turns off, and this is more common than you can imagine. 

I like to educated my clients by using the analogy of a bucket.  Your body can handle a certain level of inflammation without negative consequences.  However, when this bucket of inflammation overflows it becomes too much for the body to handle and symptoms begin to appear (fatigue, brain fog, poor GI health, unhealthy skin, painful joints, recurring injuries, etc).  The goal is to keep inflammation at manageable levels and not let your bucket overflow.  Now consider that you have a dysfunctional gut and you consistently eat poor foods.  Inflammation may never shut off and your bucket may be constantly half full just from poor lifestyle choices.  When you add the stress of training to the mix, your bucket begins overflowing and your ability to train hard is reduced.  If you can identify and remove the things that are keeping your bucket constantly half full, then your training will no longer cause the bucket to overflow.

Recovery is your body’s ability to clean up any damage from the day, rebuild tissue, and hopefully grow stronger and more resilient.  It is mainly done while you sleep, but can be hindered if there are constantly fires that it is trying to put out.  If excessive inflammation is present then your body is using all of its energy trying to remedy those situations and has less energy to spend on recovering, rebuilding, and growing.  This is why a reduction in inflammation can help speed and improve recovery.  Your body now has more energy reserves for the building process.  Again, another analogy to help this sink in.  If firefighters are continually putting out fires in your house you have little time and energy to start rebuilding the damaged areas.  Give the firefighters less fire to put out, they can finish the job, then you have plenty of time to rebuild. 

Remember, your ability to recover greatly influences the gains you can make from training.  This is because you are poorly equipped to spend energy on getting bigger, stronger, and faster, if your body cannot sufficiently recover from the previous training session.

So here are some things that can you do to try and reduce your bucket of inflammation:

Eat healthy

Avoid sugar, processed foods, inflammatory oils, known food sensitivities, etc.  What you put in your mouth is the most important thing you can do for your health. Learn how to do it properly and what works best for you.

Sleep well

This is where you recover most so take advantage of it.   Focus on quality, quantity, and timing of sleep.

Supplement with quality supplements

Things like turmeric, fish oil, resveratrol, boswelia, glutathione, etc.  Just remember to only use high-quality supplements from trusted brands or practitioners.  Otherwise you are probably not getting any benefit.

Optimize your adrenal function

Tests like the DUTCH test can help comprehensively assess your adrenal function.  Find someone qualified to help you.  If you don’t know someone then we will be happy to order and analyze this test for you.

Make sure blood markers are looking good

Obviously, blood labs are one of the best ways to analyze internal health.  Running comprehensive panels instead of standard basic panels can help you analyze your overall health, rather than just look for disease. Find a practitioner who is interested in using blood labs to assess your overall HEALTH status.  Again, if you don’t have one then we would be happy to help you with this.

Manage emotional stress

You’ll never conquer stress completely.  Learn strategies that help you reduce your anxiety and stress.  Everyone is different so find what works for you.  Some ideas are meditation, yoga, gardening, walks on the beach, tai chi, etc. If you feel like the activity helps shut off your brain then it is probably a good thing for you!

In summary, we all know that inflammation is a problem when it is allowed to continue excessively in our bodies.  What we need to realize is that there are many things that can cause inflammation that don’t signal us to a problem as clearly as a sprained ankle.  Uncovering and eliminating other more subtle areas of inflammation allows your body to recover faster and more efficiently.  After all, recover is simply the name of the game!  Improve recovery ability and you can train harder and longer!

The Top 3 Things Your Medical Doctor is NOT Testing

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Running labs can be one of the best tools to assess heath or uncover disease processes.  There are countless things that can be scientifically tested and the technology gets better and more accurate everyday.  Most people are surprised to find that some of these tests are even possible and that many health status factors can be tested in the comfort of your own home.  The biggest problem is that most of the labs that are typically run for patients are driven by what can be medicated.  Unfortunately, this only tells us when we have already reached the stage where we have a disease.  Don’t you think it would make more sense to start using lab testing to assess health so that you can avoid the diagnosis of a disease?  Well that’s what we are doing at Momentum!  There are many different tests that we use to help people correct or optimize their health.  Here are three examples of ones we commonly use in our clinic.

1.  Adrenal Status: DUTCH testing

If I asked you to tell me one major thing that impacted people’s health negatively, I’m sure many of you would say STRESS.  And for those of you who said that you would be absolutely correct!  However, most people have never had their adrenals tested accurately.  Cortisol, one of the major hormones produced in the adrenals, is your stress hormone.  Your body uses this to help you respond to stressful environments so that you can ‘run from the tiger‘.  However, in today’s world we never stop running from the tiger.  Accurately testing adrenal function can help uncover a huge piece of the health and/or performance puzzle.  DUTCH testing is the newest and most accurate way to assess adrenal health in a comprehensive fashion.     

2.  Digestive Health: GI-MAP

All of the cutting-edge research is continually uncovering the importance of the GI system in overall health.  The ‘second brain’, which is the new name for the GI system, is one of the most important organs in the body.  Not only is it responsible for the absorption of nutrients, but it is also responsible for immune system health, hormone production and conversion, and many other critical processes.  Ensuring that the GI system is healthy and free of harmful ‘bugs’ is a great way to assess health.  The newest technology is called the GI-MAP test.  This test uses DNA technology to analyze the sample for pathogens such as bacteria, parasites, and viruses.  The testing is extremely accurate and one of the best ways to see if your GI system is compromised.

3.  Organic Acids

One advantage of lab testing is that it allows us to create detailed strategies to correct any dysfunctions.  The organic acids test is a great test to give you a snapshot of what is going on inside the body.  The test we use gives 40+ metabolite markers that help show how efficiently numerous reactions in your body are occurring.  It helps to assess nutritional deficiencies, antioxidant deficiencies, fatty acid metabolism, yeast overgrowths, neurotransmitter levels, and Krebs cycle (energy productions) abnormalities.  This comprehensive test is probably one of the best ways to optimize health and improve function. 

These three tests are just a sample of things that can be scientifically tested to truly get a picture of your health.  Once we start using labs to improve normal function instead of just reacting to disease, we can start to help people feel better and avoid many chronic diseases. 

While these are just a few great tests that we use there are certainly many others.  Click below to learn about other labs that we frequently test with our patients.

LAB TESTING

If you are interested in taking look at your true health status, contact our office today for more information.  We can help determine what labs may be best to run for your specific situation and how we can help you optimized your health and start feeling your best!

Are Your Oils Killing You?

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One of the most overlooked aspects of healthy eating is which oils people use in their diet.  While it seems easy enough the rules change a bit depending on how you are using the oil.  In order to learn this it is best to first understand why it is so important.  Oils (and their corresponding foods) are most commonly known for their type of omega, most notably omega 3, 6, and 9.  All of these are typically good for us and serve slightly different purposes.  We probably wouldn’t even need to have this conversation if people had just continued to eat real, whole foods and nothing was processed.  However, that is not the reality that we live in so we must adapt.  One of the biggest things we need to pay attention to is the ratio of Omega-6: Omega-3 in our diets.  Many people have started hearing that Omega-6 fats are bad and we need to only consume high levels of Omega-3.  This is not entirely true.  The reality is that both are healthy, but the modern diet is full of high density Omega-6 oils which skew this ratio greatly towards Omega-6.  The problem with this is that this promotes an inflammatory state in our body.  Having a ratio closer to 1:1 is ideal.  So, the reason that people are told to greatly increase their levels of Omega-3 in their diet (wild fish, fish oils, etc.) is mostly because we are trying to get that ratio close to 1:1 for people who are eating lots of processed foods filled with vegetable oils and Omega-6 heavy foods.  Again, if people only ate real, whole foods then it would probably suffice to just also eat foods with high levels of Omega-3 in them to achieve this balance, and use supplement forms to only increase the benefits of higher levels of DHA and EPA. 

Oils are one of the biggest ways that we add all types of fat to our diet since they are very dense and contain high levels of fat in only small amounts.  So, if we add the wrong types of oils we can quickly take our Omega-6: Omega-3 ratio in the wrong direction.  However, if we use the right oils we can easily bring it in the RIGHT direction!

So, a couple of things we need to consider.

Which Oils Should I Be Eating?

This section pertains to oils specifically that we are consuming without cooking them.  So, oils that we use on salads or poured directly over meals that have already been cooked.  The first rule is that you should stay away from most vegetable oils.  Canola oil is an absolute no-no!  If it is in your house, throw it away!  There is never an OK time to use this oil and will only add to the inflammation within your body.  Two great oils to use that have many notable benefits are coconut oil and olive oil.  It seems that many people use olive oil as a staple in many foods so this might not be new information.  The problem with this oil only arises when you cook with it, which we’ll get to in a bit.  For now, just know that if you are consuming a raw oil stick to the basics and just use one of these 2 oils.  This doesn’t mean that certain forms of various vegetable oils aren’t acceptable, but to keep things easy just stick to these two oils and you’ll get plenty of health benefits.  The only other recommendation in this section is to get organic, unprocessed versions as their health benefits will supersede others.

What If I’m Cooking With the Oil?

Here’s where it gets a bit tricky.  This section depends entirely on the smoke point of the oil.  The smoke point is basically when the oil begins to smoke, which is essentially changing the molecular structure of the oil.  When this happens the oil becomes more unstable in its makeup.  This is important because unstable oils have a much higher potential of becoming inflammatory in your body.  So, if you take a healthy oil and heat it past its smoke point, you are now creating an inflammatory oil!  Not a good strategy.  Your good health intentions have now become health hazards.  Extra-virgin olive oil is a common oil that many people use for all purposes.  While the oil is really good in itself, its smoke point is very low which means you must be careful how you cook with it.  Take a look at this list to see the smoke point of various oils:

Fat

Smoke Point )

Avocado

520

Ghee

485

Olive oil (extra light)

468

Palm oil

455

Coconut oil (expeller pressed)*

450

Macadamia oil

413

Beef tallow

400

Duck fat

375

Lard

370

Coconut oil (extra virgin)

350

Olive oil (extra virgin)

320

Butter

250-300

 

As you can see there is a big difference in smoke point between various oils.  You will also notice that depending on the type you buy, the smoke point can change drastically.  For instance, extra-virgin olive oil has a low smoke point, while refined olive oil has a high smoke point.  The same goes for coconut oils.  So, you really need to pay attention to which one you’re using and have 2 versions in your house, using them according to how you’re preparing your food.

Smoke points are the most important when you are using oils to heat up in a pan before adding food.  This rises the temperature in the oil most dramatically so you must be careful.  If this is how you are using the oil you must use one with a very high smoke point, like avocado oil or refined, organic coconut oil.  However, if you are adding oil to a pan that also has other liquids in it, the temperature will not get nearly as hot, so you can get away with using oils with somewhat lower smoke points.  Start to pay attention to how you’re cooking and this will dictate which oil you can use.  While this may seem like a pain at first, just remember that this alone can determine whether the meal you are eating is helping to promote inflammation or reduce it!

What if an Oil is in the Food I am Buying?

This is where you really need to be careful!  Many companies use only inflammatory oils, like canola oil, in their products because it is cheap to use.  But remember, this oil is a ‘no-no’. It can make a ‘healthy’ product immediately unhealthy.  Sometimes this can become difficult to find.  One common food that is considered fairly healthy, but almost always uses unhealthy oils is hummus.  Start paying attention to labels and you will see.  I tell my clients that they are not allowed to buy a product unless they have read the ingredients label and it has passed the test.  You’ll be surprised how many foods you eat are littered with these bad oils, even though they are passed off as ‘healthy’ food options.  So, if the product you are buying uses canola oil, put it back and keep searching.  Even places like Whole Foods use many of these oils in their prepared foods.  If you tend to get some of your lunches or dinners from their self-service area, read the ingredients they provide for each food and start avoiding the ones that are prepared with canola and vegetable oils.  Again, you’ll be surprised how many products use these harmful oils even at places like Whole Foods! 

Eating healthy doesn’t really need to be that difficult.  We have made food a very complicated topic when all we need to do is start eating more whole foods.  It can really be that simply.  From that point all we need to do is start learning a few more tricks to really make our diets healthy.  Figuring out how to use oils is one of those tricks that can really make a huge impact on your health.  Start your learning process in this world and soon it will become second-nature!

Blood Sugar Levels are NOT All About Sugar

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Sugar is getting a lot of attention lately, and rightfully so,  It is creating a health catastrophe.  Diabetes rates are skyrocketing and proper advice is still not reaching the general public.  Diabetes Type 2 is a massive problem, and many times is completely reversible.  Proper advice, if followed correctly, can turn this devastating disease around and completely restore health to an individual. 

However, even for those who don’t have diabetes, proper sugar control in the body can be key to restoring optimal health.  I have had numerous clients whose lab tests show normal sugar levels and who are not diabetic, yet still have problems with blood sugar control.  This often times confuses them.  I implement better sugar control strategies in their program and questions always come: “Why do you think I have a sugar problem when my blood sugar levels are normal in my labs?”  Great question!

It is not always about how your fasting blood sugar levels look.  Remember that this is just a snap-shot in time and how your body looked at the exact moment that blood was drawn.  For better indications of how your body is controlling sugar interiorly we look more to symptoms expressed by the patient.  This can be a huge indicator of a problem yet to come.  It is also important to understand that dysglycemia, or poor blood sugar control, is one of the primary dysfunctions that needs to be addressed in order to normalize the body as a whole.  Excessive fluctuations in blood sugar can negatively affect almost every other system in your body! 

Some of the symptoms that I look for to indicate poor blood sugar control are:

  • Irritation or anger when hungry

  • Increased or decreased energy after eating

  • Cravings for carbs

  • Shakiness relieved by eating

  • Fatigue relieved with food

  • Waking at 2-3am

  • Mood swings

  • Poor brain function

  • Anxiety

These symptoms can mean that someone is constantly riding the blood sugar roller coaster.  These fluctuations cause intermittent spikes in insulin levels, which is the true problem with dysglycemia.  However, this doesn’t always mean that someone is eating high sugar snacks and foods all the time.  In fact, I have had many clients who eat ‘really clean’ and yet still display many of these symptoms.  There are many reasons why this can occur, but let’s just cover a few of them.

Adrenal Dysfunction

The adrenal system is crucial to overall health.  It is responsible for the production of many hormones, but most notably cortisol.  Cortisol is your stress hormone and is released anytime your body experiences any type of stress (physical, chemical, and/or emotional).  The main job or cortisol is to release sugar from cells into the bloodstream so that your body has access to quick energy.  A very useful technique when you need to run from an approaching tiger!  However, in today’s society this response tends to stay on all the time.  So, if this is the case, then no matter how ‘clean’ you are eating, your hormones are telling your body to release more sugar into the bloodstream.  This is why this system becomes critical to address if you want to truly control blood sugar.

Timing of Foods

Sometimes people eat ‘healthy’ foods, but just don’t understand how to pair them.  Fruits are not all bad.  While limiting total fruit intake is probably a good idea you can also use another strategy to slow the release of fruit sugar into your bloodstream.  One strategy I always give my clients is to eat fruits with either a healthy fat or protein.  This is not only good to get more good macronutrients on board, but it also significantly slows the sugar absorption into the blood.  This reflexively dampens the insulin response and does not allow for major spikes in insulin release, which can be the sole factor causing dysglycemia.  And once you get on the blood sugar roller coaster it can make it tough to get off for the rest of the day!  This is why a big bowl of fruit in the morning might not be the best strategy.

Not eating

Many people have a goal of weight loss and the first thing that they think to do is restrict calories.  This is an ancient way of thinking and can many times backfire.  Especially if your are trying to maintain a high level of exercise.  Skipping meals, while it can be a healthy strategy for some, can cause harmful effects in others.  Skipping meals causes your body to rely on cortisol to obtain blood sugar.  And if you are someone who has poor adrenal health to begin with,  you may be making your health worse!  These periods of not eating can cause fluctuations in blood sugar to increase in severity, which puts you back on this blood sugar roller coaster.  The longer you can stabilized blood sugar, the more your hormone response will normalize.  This is why many times the goal is to eat frequently and get to a point where you have none of the symptoms listed above.

Sugar Shakes

Protein shakes have become popular both for their convenience and for their ease in getting many nutrients into the body quickly.  However, a major pitfall often occurs when people add things to these shakes.  You must remember that blending foods and drinking them as liquids speeds there absorption into the body.  This can be a good and a bad thing.  People who add mainly fruits into their shakes in the morning are actually just having a sugar shake.  It would be the same as having a big glass of fruit juice.  It is not only high levels of sugar, but it also hits the system quickly.  And while you are getting protein and other nutrients you cannot take the liberty to also add immense amounts of sugar!  Fruit in shakes should be minimal and only used to add some flavor and sweetness.  Just understand that anytime you drink a food it hits your bloodstream faster, so just be aware of what you are putting in your shakes.

 

While these are just a handful of reasons, you can see why blood sugar regulation is not as simple as just avoiding sweets.  Unfortunately, many of the strategies that people think may be helping their situation may in fact be hurting.  You can also see how people can develop poor blood sugar control even if their diet is void of candy, sweets, and soda.  Overall health can be a bit trickier sometimes.  It is important to begin to learn what strategies may help you for your particular situation.  Once you start to learn the reasons why certain strategies are implemented, then you will know when you can use them and when you should avoid them!  It is not always the best idea to just follow the latest trend or do something just because it worked like magic for friend of yours.  Sometimes this pays off, but other times it makes our conditions worse even though we think we are doing something ‘healthy’.

The absolute best way to figure out what health strategies will work best for you is to do some comprehensive lab testing and work with someone who can understand how your symptoms intertwine with the lab data.  As you can see, sometimes certain lab markers make you think everything is fine, when in reality there is a storm brewing that will eventually cause damage.

For more information on how we can help feel free to call our office.  We would be happy to help get your health back on track!

“Primary Care” Physician??

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Over the years I’ve helped many people to not only overcome injuries, but restore health on many levels.  This could be in the form of weight loss, more energy, improved GI health, and many other things.  In many instances these people are able to stop using multiple medications in the process, sometimes those they have been taking for over 20 years!  (all of this of course under the supervision on their prescribing physician ;))  This is always extremely rewarding for me and I’ll never get tired of helping someone transform their life by vastly improving health and ridding themselves of the chains of medications.  However, in many of these instances I hear people talk about going back to check-in with their primary care physician.  Obviously as a chiropractor this has always somewhat bothered me.  We (chiropractors) have always been thrown into this ‘alternative care’ bucket, as if the care I provide is some alternate to ‘real’ healthcare.  This even happens with some patients in which I provide the vast majority of care when it comes to their health.  Helping them with injuries and pain, assessing labs, modifying nutrition intake, running labs to assess health and not just disease, providing natural approaches to restore health, etc.  All of this seems to be the real main focus in a person’s health, so why then is it considered ‘alternative’ healthcare.  Since this has been boiling inside my head for quite a while I’ve decided to completely redefine the way in which we see and label physicians.  While viewpoints are beginning to change many people still use their MD of choice as their primary care go-to.  However, I would like to try and change that paradigm for you, in what I think makes a lot more sense when it comes to optimizing the health of an individual.  So, in unfolding this new paradigm of primary care let’s explain this in what I believe should be three levels of care and how I think they should be defined.  And since the term primary care is so widely used (and in my opinion so grossly misused), we will use the terms primary, secondary, and tertiary to explain this new paradigm

#1  Primary-care Physician:

Firstly, the definition of physician is:

a person skilled in the art of healing; specifically : one educated, clinically experienced, and licensed to practice medicine as usually distinguished from surgery  

Now, while physician does mean someone who has a license (MD, ND, OD, DC, etc), adding the primary care to the front really changes the game.  In my opinion, the primary care physician should be the one who has the most ability to change the scope of your total health and wellbeing.  And if we really want to label who the primary care physician should be: IT IS YOU!!!

That’s right! If you are looking to maintain and optimize your health, then you are your own primary care physician.  The #1 way that you can protect your health is by doing the things that you’ve always heard about: eat well and stay moving.  Now, while it is not as simple as just that, you can tremendously improve your quality of life, vitality, and longevity by following a ‘healthy’ lifestyle.  Healthy is in quotations because this doesn’t always mean the same thing for everyone.  Nutrition can be slightly different for everyone, beneficial types of exercise can be different for everyone depending on their situation, and healthy protocols can differ widely depending on someone’s current health status.  However, in all situations, YOU are the primary care physician.  If we can start to wrap our heads around that, then I think health care may just start to shift in the right direction.

#2 Secondary-care Physician

Secondary-care physician should be by definition the layer of care necessary if the primary care physician (YOU) cannot sustain or improve health.  We should have levels of intervention when it comes to health and the first level should always be the most non-invasive.  So, the secondary level of care should be those health professionals who are experts in the areas that most greatly affect health status, while also at the same time doing it in the most non-invasive manner.  So, then we need to know the areas that most greatly affect daily health status so we can find these professionals.  These areas are nutrition, fitness/movement, sleep, and stress management.  I think that most people can agree that these are definitely pillars of health and those who are typically the most healthy, are the ones who understand how to optimize these pillars.  The strategies are not always the same for everyone and proper self-protocols may change situationally or depending on what stage of life you are in.  So, finding professionals who are experts in these fields is important.  They are crucial people that should be on your health team.  Again, if we look at them as ‘secondary-care physicians’ then we can truly appreciate their importance.  Some professionals that might fit this category are chiropractors (of course!), nutritionists, dietitians, personal trainers, massage therapists, movement specialists, yoga instructors, Pilates instructors, meditation leaders, tai chi instructors, etc. etc.  While you might not think of all of these people as standard health care practitioners or physicians, I would argue that they many times have a much bigger impact on your health that medical doctors.  Remember, MDs are FANTASTIC at acute care or disease management, but not so much at addressing the pillars of health previously described.  It’s not their fault, it’s just not what they are trained to do.  So, if you can’t seem to find the ways to optimize your own health, or need a little help in seeing what is going wrong, find the appropriate ‘secondary-care physician’.  An even better plan is to find “YOUR TEAM”.  These are the people that contribute to your overall well-being and I believe that everyone should have multiple people on this team.  People who help you move well, eat right, reduce stress, and keep a clear mind.

#3 Tertiary-care physicians

This level of care should be seen like a safety in football.  Once your primary and secondary defenses have not proven strong enough to restore health, sometimes you have to rely on the safety to save the day.  This is when the big guns need to be called in to act.  This level requires targeted strategies and interventions to help get things back on track so that health does not further decline.  Again, 1st and 2nd levels should be attempted first in the majority of cases.  Sometimes this third level may even require drugs and surgery.  Yes, these things are not always bad!!  They are extremely useful and many times can save lives.  Medical doctors are amazing physicians and I still marvel at some of the things that they can do to intervene in a situation.  However, we need to get away from using them as primary care tools.  This strategy has really gotten us into a mess and is making people even more sick.  Pharmaceutical companies spend millions of dollars annually to keep drugs as the primary tool for health care.  It’s NOT WORKING!  Let’s keep them as a tool because they are very powerful, but start to learn when and where to use them judiciously.  But, if you need to go the tertiary level of care then you need to find the proper medical doctor or functional medicine practitioner who can handle the job.  The specific professional will vary depending on what condition you may be facing.  Many times a non-medical functional medicine practitioner can intervene naturally and restore health without resorting to medications.  However, sometimes medical doctors are the only ones who can address the severity of the situation. Always best to have both on your team so that you can use the proper professional and they can refer to each other as needed.

I think that this re-defining of the primary care physician and levels of health care should make sense to most people.  In fact, I think more and more people are trying to find ‘alternative’ health care practitioners so they can avoid drugs and surgery.  Sometimes they just don’t know where to look.  Hopefully this new paradigm will help you find professionals that can really make an impact on your health.  It’s time to find your own personal team.  A team of professionals who can play a part in keeping you healthy.  You just need to stop seeing your whole team as made up by a guy (or girl) in a white coat.  Your team is much more vast than that.  And the major team players are probably much different than you have ever thought about before.  The primary one being YOU!  And don’t be afraid to ‘shop around’ for your team.  Don’t think that you have to just accept what anyone on your team says.  Find the people who are not only educated, but are also primarily interested in your health first.  If anyone on your team in unwilling to work with other people on your team, then it is probably a good time to move on.  No health practitioner knows it all.  No health practitioner should be unwilling to co-manage care with others who are looking after your health.  The flip side to this is also true.  Don’t think that you can find a ‘secondary-care physician’ who can just take care of EVERYTHING.  They must also know when it is appropriate to refer out to a medical doctor for consultation and co-treatment.  Every health professional has a part to play in your health.  Search for your team, find the best, and watch your health soar!

The Easiest Way to Reduce Inflammation

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The name of the game for maintaining health is keeping inflammation under control.  Every disease on the planet has inflammation as part of its process.  Every doctor on the planet can agree upon this fact.  We have many tools that ultimately are designed  to reduce inflammation in the body to improve our overall health status.  This can be from many different forms: supplements, prescription drugs, lifestyle changes, dietary changes, etc.   However, one of the most basic forms of combatting inflammation in not purposely done by most people.  This is probably because we are never taught about it and so never do it.  This simple tool is called Grounding and it couldn’t be any easier!  All you have to do is put your bare skin in contact with the Earth.  And while this may seem very ‘granola’ and ‘hippie’ the physiological effects are evident.  When you are in contact with the Earth your body naturally absorbs its electric field.  This electric field just happens to be a flow of electrons that can help counteract the free radical, or positive charge, present in our bodies.  This doesn’t just mean if you have a swollen ankle that shows visible inflammation.  Free radicals are present everywhere in your body and many healthy chemical reactions in your body produce free radicals.  Now, our body does have natural defenses against these, but in today’s world we are bombarded with free radicals and external electric charges that affect our bodies.

The first thing to understand is that our bodies are basically made of varying charges.  Our heart beats off of an electrical charge.  Our brains work off of electricity.  Our muscles constrict due to electrical charges.  So, avoiding interference towards our body’s electrical field seems like a wise thing to do.  However, we cannot avoid many of these interferences.  Things like bluetooth, wi-fi, electrical wires, computers, etc. all have electrical charges that our bodies are affected by.  While most of us don’t feel the negative consequences of these electrical fields, they are in fact affecting us.  Again, we have natural defenses agains these, but if we can reduce these stressors to our body is gives us a much better chance to improve recovery potential and overall health.

This is where Grounding comes into play.  By getting in contact with the Earth you are absorbing the electron field and helping to counteract this ‘electric interference’.  If you were able to do this daily you would be helping to return your body back to a healthy electrical balance.  The problem is that most of us are NEVER in contact with the Earth. Think about it.  How often are you barefoot in nature.  Some of us haven’t done that for months!  Even if we do go barefoot it is typically in our house which doesn’t allow us to absorb the Earth’s electric field.  Try to think about the last time you were grounded.  Hopefully for some of you this was recent!  But I would bet that many of you can’t even remember the last time (unless you were recently at the beach).  But, I bet that we can all easily recall when we were around devices that interfere with our body’s electric field! Typically because we do this everyday, ALL day.  Anything that is plugged in can do it.  For many people sitting next to a computer for 8 hours a day is just a reality that we can’t avoid. 

So, let’s see what you can do about it.  Firstly, just get in contact with the Earth as often as possible.  Here are the rules so that you know you are actually getting the benefits:

Skin is Essential

 

You have to have bare skin to make it work. Socks and shoes don’t work.  The only exception (if you can find them) are sandals that have a metal conductor built into the sole that contacts your feet.  If not, just get barefoot!  It’s also better for strengthening your feet.

Dirt is Best!

Just get dirty!  This is one of the best ways since you are directly in contact with Earth with nothing separating you from its benefits.

Grass Works, but Best if Wet!

Grass can work but exceptional thick grass can mute the benefits.  However, if the grass is wet (like early morning dew), it acts as a conductive medium and greatly enhances your absorption.

Sand is Amazing

Besides having great mental calming effects the beach is one of the best places to ground.  So, next time your are there just take the time to stick your feet in the sand.

Asphalt Doesn’t Count

The make-up of asphalt just doesn’t let the electric field through.  You’ll be getting black feet without the benefit!

Concrete Can Do the Trick

Concrete does in fact allow the electric field to penetrate.  So, if there is no Earth around then find some concrete to at least get some benefit.

 

What If I Just Can’t Find Time to Get to the Earth??

While this is sad, it is a reality for many of us.  Luckily there are companies now that create products that can allow us to ground ourselves at work and even while we sleep.  They simply utilize the grounded part of your plugs (the little circular part of the plug).  This part of the plug is actually connected to the Earth so when you access that portion only you are basically accessing the Earth.  So, get a mat for work or buy a sheet for your bed.  The more time you can spend grounded the better your health benefits will be and the more you will avoid the negative consequences of the electric fields around you.  For more information on products or to read the book that shows the studies on how grounding can help go to https://grounded.com/

Every little thing that you can do to improve your health can make a difference.  Sometimes the simple things can make the biggest impact on our health.  Take advantage of this simple trick.  You can do it everyday and the best part is that it is completely free!

 

Top 5 Tips to Better Sleep

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Sleep is really an under-appreciated art. Many people brag about how little sleep they can get away with and still function at high levels. Sleeping 5 hours and night is seen as a milestone and many people are jealous of those that can pull it off. This ‘achievement’ is only seen as a benefit because our work lives get more and more demanding every year. However, all the most recent research is starting to show the real importance of sleep and how much it plays a role in overall health and longevity. For instance, we now know that sleep is the only time that our brains gets to detoxify. Without proper deep sleep this process cannot occur efficiently and toxins can build up in the brain. And we do not want any toxins lingering in our brains for long.

Sleep is also the time when our hormones work to regenerate our bodies, recover from the day’s stressors, and repair any damage. Limiting the hours of ‘shut-eye’ reduces the time that your body can grow, heal, and restore. So, while it may seem counter-intuitive, the more you sleep, the more productive you may become. While sleeping excessive hours can reduce brain performance, sleeping too little can also do the same. However, I think that we can safely say that most people are not struggling from a problem of getting too much sleep. Those instances are few and typically because of a chronic disease process that is occurring. For the rest of us, sleeping more should only prove to improve health. And it is not just hours spent in bed, but the quality and quantity of time that you are actually sleeping. So, here are a few easy tips to help you try and achieve that goal.

Get Rid of the Blues

Blue light is part of the spectrum of light, but is specifically important because it can directly affect the body’s circadian rhythms, or biological clock. This is important because if too much blue light it detected by the eye at night then the body thinks that it is the day and time to fire on all cylinders. This obviously is a bad idea for someone trying to sleep. Problem is that most people are exposed to blue light just before bed as it is present in our phones, laptops, computers, TVs, etc. So, get rid of the electronics at least 1 hour prior to bed to avoid this ‘blue-light confusion’. Or, if you just can’t you’ll need to wear blue-light blocking glasses to avoid telling your body it is daytime.

Stay in Rhythm

Your body’s circadian rhythms are very important to regulating many functions within your body. Many hormones fluctuate based on these rhythms so allowing your body to maintain a ‘normal’ is important not only for getting the right amount of sleep, but also so that you don’t set up an environment for dysfunction hormones. We are naturally geared to use light and dark as our body’s signals. However, given our current lifestyles we can stay in bright environments whenever we want. For best health try and keep the same sleep/wake cycle every night. This means having a set bedtime and a set wake time. While this may vary slightly, trying to stay on a normal rhythm will help you get better sleep.

Be Cool

Research shows that sleeping in a cool environment is more conducive to quality sleep. Our body is wired to cool internally close to bedtime so that it is easier for us to sleep and achieve deep sleep. Too much heat and it disturbs our ‘shut-off’ process. This doesn’t mean that you have to feel cold, but the room should be a cool. A temperature of 65 degrees in the room is shown to have best results, but having it as low at 60 degrees can also be beneficial is you sleep with excessive amounts of sheets.

Come to the Dark Side

This means the darker the better. Even ambient amounts of light can be enough to rouse our brains and prevent full, deep REM sleep. While this sounds obvious most people’s bedrooms are littered with light from their clocks, TVs, DVD players, fans, phones, etc. These lights can be sensed by our bodies and can disrupt sleep. So try to eliminate all artificial light in the bedroom and get blackout curtains if you live an area that has lots of neighborhood light. This ensures that your brain and body know it is bedtime and can get the appropriate rest.

Keep Caffeine as a Morning Treat

Caffeine consumption does have an affect on sleep. Whether or not you can fall asleep it can disrupt your ability to get quality, deep sleep. Remember it’s not all about how many hours your eyes are shut, but the quality of sleep that you get. Caffeine stays in your body longer than you’d think. Avoiding caffeine after lunch can help your sleep quality improve and maybe just get rid of some of your fatigue that is causing you to drink so much caffeine in the first place!

 

If you are not doing any of these already, give them a try and see if you can improve your quality of sleep.  Remember that the quality of your sleep is really important.  ‘Sleeping’ for 8 hours is not going to do very much good if the sleep is disturbed and broken.  Using these 5 tips does not take anymore time.  It is simply trying to improve the quality of sleep while you are actually sleeping.

If your sleep hygiene is already dialed in and you are still having difficulty sleeping, then it may be time to take a closer look at what may be causing this.  Long term lack of sleep can cause many downstream health conditions.  So, take the time to find someone who can help solve this riddle for you.  It will not only improve your health, but will most likely improve your productivity and mental function.

For any further questions about improving your sleep, feel free to contact my office.  We would be happy to start helping you sleep and live better!

Recovery: The Missing Link

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When someone is training, whether it be for an event or just to get in better shape, many hours are spent not only planning each days’ activities, but also in working towards a goal.  Most athletes spend most of their time making sure that they get enough training hours into each week.  A smaller number of athletes spend adequate time ensuring that their nutrition supports their training efforts (which is as equally important as the training itself).  However, very few athletes give enough attention and respect to one of the most important parts of training:

Recovery. 

 

Recovery is the glue that holds everything together. 

Without this glue areas in the body will gradually become dysfunctional and begin to fall apart.  Physical training, in any form, pushes the body to its limits.  This causes the body to breakdown as limits are surpassed and the athlete tries to make improvements.  As muscles and other soft tissues are stressed, as in training, they essentially breakdown and cause micro-tears in the muscle fibers.  After training, the body responds by building that tissue up stronger than before to support such efforts the next time.  This is how muscles become larger and performance is increased. 

Now, what happens if you put your body through the same physical stress before it has had time to recover? 

Essentially, you will be breaking down tissue that began the day at 90% instead of 100%.  This means that by the time you are done training you will have once again broken down the muscle tissue, but this time to a greater extent since you were not 100% at the start of training.  Now, the body is a remarkable machine that can adapt to many situations and learn to cope with many stresses.  By no means does this mean that you have to be 100% rested and fresh before each day of training.  However, if this scenario is repeated numerous times you can see how eventually the tissue will not be able to withstand the same levels of training.  Soon the tissue will be starting the days’ training at 20% and little work can be done before the tissue fails and injury occurs. 

Recovery is a complex puzzle that requires more than just a little time off.  Understanding the importance of recovery and how to implement it correctly into your training plan will not only boost performance, but it will keep you active and injury free.  I am amazed at how many people completely ignore their rest days, or don’t pay any attention to their bodies to help themselves feel better.   It happens ALL THE TIME!

Question: Would you repeatedly push the limits of a Formula 1 car without tuning up the engine, rotating the tires, and tightening any loose parts?

The answer is NO WAY!  However, for some reason we think that we can just push our bodies to the limit everyday and not have maintain them.  The harder you push your body, the more time you have to pay attention to assisting with recovery.  Now, the biggest reason I hear for why people don’t do this is they don’t have time.  Trust me, I get it.  Time is essential, especially when you are working full time, have 2 kids, and are training 10+ hours per week.  I’m not talking about spending an hour each day on recovery.  If you do little bits each day it will pay off HUGE down the line.  One of the reasons people get hurt at the peak intensity of training is because they didn’t put in the 10 minutes each day taking care of their bodies.  Most people want to wait until they have pain before they think about pulling out the foam roller, getting some chiro work or massage work, or stretching.  This just isn’t going to cut it.  Rotating the tires once all the tread is gone isn’t going to help you very much.

So what can I do?

I knew you’d be asking that right about now so here are some things that you can do to keep your body tuned up:

  • Foam roll: everyday! (or better yet get yourself a HyperVolt)
  • Eat healthy: this plays a much bigger role that you can imagine
  • Take specific supplements: it is important to support your active lifestyle and give your body all the ingredients it needs to perform at a high level
  • Make sure your internal health is dialed in: get periodic comprehensive testing to makes sure your hormones and blood markers are supporting your training
  • Epsom salt baths: help your muscles recover, improve blood flow, and just relax!
  • Strength train: you must stay strong in order to support whatever sport your participate in (and don’t tell me your running is your strength training)
  • Get regular massages: from an actual therapist, not just someone who is going to press and rub on muscles
  • Get sport appropriate tune-ups: sports chiros are the best (of course!): make sure muscles are healthy, joints are moving appropriately, and you’re moving at functional levels
  • Stay hydrated: many people miss the boat on this one
  • Sleep: if you are not sleeping well enough or enough hours you are missing the #1 way to recover

 

This list could go on and on, but don’t underestimate how important each one of these are.  If you are not doing these then start now.  Most of them don’t have to take too much time out of your schedule.  Just understand that they will pay off when you are not taking time off from training because you are hurt!

And of course, we can help you with each of these ( and more).  This is specifically why I have added assessment of all of these pieces to my practice.  Recover is the name of game.  Find a way to maximize your recovery and you are guaranteed to be able to train harder and perform better!

When Does Training Hurt You?

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One of the most overlooked pieces of any training schedule are the days and times where you are supposed to do NOTHING.  While most competitive athletes consider these days as a waste they are probably the most important days.  In fact, many times I see that athletes are not building enough of these into their training schedule.  Your body only gets stronger when you are resting.  Training is used to tear the body apart so that it can grow back stronger.  This increase in strength (or speed or endurance) can only fully be realized if the body is given enough time to recover.  If not, the next day of exercise stress will occur to a body that is beginning the day at a sub-optimal level.  

Now, the body can handle this routine for quite a while, but at some point it will become overwhelmed and not only will injury occur, but continued training will provide no benefits.  As you can see in the graph below, increasing exercise intensity improves your health to a certain point.  

However, there is a time where continued exercise drives a person into metabolic overtraining syndrome.  This is not a good place to be as an athlete.  Many things can start to change at this point both physically and mentally.  Some common overtraining symptoms are:

  • Elevated resting heart rate
  • Excessive and chronic muscle soreness
  • Increased injuries and pain
  • Irritability and moodiness 
  • Depression
  • Frequent sickness
  • Loss of motivation
  • Difficulty sleeping

When athletes reach this stage not only are their training hours being wasted since increased performance is no longer a result of training, but their injury-risk goes through the roof!  And not only are injuries a concern, but overall health also diminishes.  This leaves an athlete open for things such as fatigue, sickness, decreased mental function, elevated heart rate, irritability, lack of motivation, and many other symptoms.

This is really why rest days are so crucial.  Rest days allow the body to fully recover from the multiple bouts of training stress to the body.  This allows athletes to start the next day at 100% (or close to) which allows for much better training sessions and less chance of injury.  It is the same reason why endurance athletes have a taper period at the end of the training schedule just before the race. This is to allow the body to fully recover so that you are feeling 100% for race day.  Nobody thinks twice about allowing this increased rest into their schedule, but they many times have a difficult time taking time off throughout the earlier portion of training plan.  Getting to the start of the race or to a competition at 100% is much better than completing every single training session and getting there at 80%.   Seems obvious but many athletes are doing this all the time!  We become so neurotic about not missing one single thing in our plans that we loose sight of the fact that the entire thing is designed to make us perform better.  And if performance hinges highly on health status (which is does!), then we need to start paying more attention to our bodies and not just what our GPS and fit watches say.

I’m sure many of you have had times where you were unexpectedly forced to miss some training sessions due to work or home life.  I’m also confident that you have also at some time noticed that some of your best training sessions were just after taking this extended time off.  This is probably because you were headed into metabolic overtraining syndrome and the extra time off allowed you to actually fully recover.  That was not a fluke!  Sometimes less is more.  Most of the time when this phrase applies to athletes it is because their training is excessive in relation to what their body can handle.  

Now, the longer you stay in this overtrained state, the less work you can actually do before you start having a decline in health.  You ability to handle training volume and intensity begins to decline.  This is a double whammy!  Not only are you hitting the point of diminishing returns, but you are going to start hitting that point at early points in your training sessions.

This may be another thing that you start noticing.  If you have repeated training sessions where you notice fatigue much early than you should, this is probably what it happening.  This should tell you that it is time to rest, give you body some time to recover, then come back strong once you’re recovered.

After looking at both of the graphs in this article the question should really be, “ How can I push that point on the graph upwards instead of downwards?”.  If that was what you were thinking then nice work!  

…………………………….

The answer to that is improve your overall health and fitness.

…………………………….

The healthier you are as an individual the more stressors your body can endure and recover from without harm.  So, some ideas you can start thinking of are:

  • Improve your nutrition
  • Reduce overall inflammation
  • Make sure hormones are balanced and sufficient
  • Incorporate things to speed physical recovery (massage, chiro, foam rolling, epsom salt baths, grounding, etc.)
  • Make sure total caloric intake is appropriate for your exercise output
  • Hit the best carb, protein, and fat counts specific to you
  • Make sure blood labs look good
  • Improve your sleep quantity and quality

As I’ve said many times before, improve your health and you will improve your performance.  Too often we put 100% confidence in our training program without thinking much about the status of the person going through the program.  We figure that if we can just check off every workout then we will automatically hit our goal and become better.  Unfortunately, this is not the case all too frequently.  Injuries sideline us, burnout crushes us, sickness overwhelms us, and then the target is never reached.   Or, if we are able to get to the end goal, the performance gains are nowhere near where they should be.

Understanding this concept of metabolic overtraining syndrome can really help you appreciate and enjoy the days off from training.  After all, this is where the real magic happens.  Don’t consider yourself lazy or unproductive when you are not training.  You are actually both improving your health and your performance on those days!

Gluten Free: Fad or Science?

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Gluten-free foods continue to gain in popularity.  It is no longer strange to hear someone ask for gluten free items on a menu at a restaurant.  In fact, most restaurants have changed their menus to make gluten-free choices obvious to the consumer.  Still, there are many people who think that this is non-sense and just another way for BigFood to make more money off of people.  There continues to be those who think that unless you are allergic to gluten and have Celiac’s Disease, that gluten is not a problem.  Is this true?  Is there any science to back up this gluten-free craze?

First of all let’s take a look at gluten a little closer.  Gluten is known to mostly be found in wheat, but it is present in an insane amounts of foods.  The best way to start learning about these foods is to visit www.celiac.org.  However, another thing to know is that gluten is much different here in the United States than in other places.  We do 3 things to the gluten protein structure that has made it more of an enemy in the eyes of our immune systems.

#1 Hybridization 

We have combined different gluten proteins to create a new type of gluten and this predominates what is found in US food products.  The problem is that when our immune systems do not recognize this new protein structure, then it decides to attack it and cause destruction both within our guts and elsewhere in our body.  To be clear, there is no GMO gluten in the US, rather it has been hybridized.  GMO means that the DNA was altered by scientists to create something new.  Hybridized means that two different varieties of plants were crossbred to form a new version.  This, in effect, alters the natural gluten structure and has caused problems for us.

#2 Deamidization

This means that they have chemically changed the structure of the gluten protein molecule so that they can use it as a binder in foods.  Again, helpful for the production of fake foods, but not so helpful to our immune systems.  Remember, that anything the immune system sees as foreign it will likely attack.  And this deamidated version of gluten presents as another enemy to our immune system.

These two changes are precisely why someone who is sensitive to gluten in the United States can travel to Italy and eat bread there without any GI complications.  Unfortunately the United States is one of the worst places when it comes to allowing BigFood to alter and produce foods that are terrible for us.  And why gluten-free has become mainly a US phenomenon.

#3 Glycophosphate

Which brings us to another consideration when it comes to gluten-sensitivity and the United States.  Glycophosphate is another reason why we are finding gluten reactions are becoming more prevelant.  Glycophosphate is basically Round-up.  Monsanto’s baby and potentially one of the most devastating things added to our food products.  It is a herbicide, but causes MASSIVE damage to human health.  This product can bind to the gluten protein which creates a new structure.  When our immune system sees this new and unrecognized protein structure it begins to attack it.  So even if you don’t react to the gluten protein molecule itself, you now react to this new gluten-glycophosphate protein molecule.  Yet another great thing that we have decided is OK to add to our crops.  It is so bad that countries such as France have outlawed the use of this chemical on any of their crops country-wide!  Yet, we seem to think that it is not harming our health.  There is a big reason why organic foods are becoming so much more common!

 

Beyond these changes there is still the common belief that only those with Celiac disease should worry.  However, we have another disease category that is called non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity.   These individuals do not have an ‘allergy’, but their immune systems are reacting to gluten and causing a little GI war every time it is ingested.  This can be highly problematic since these people continue to ingest gluten multiple times daily and don’t realize that many of their symptoms are due to the gluten itself.  This can be joint pain, brain fog, irregular bowel movements, fatigue, and on and on.  I can’t tell you how many clients I’ve had who removed offending foods like gluten and pain levels dramatically reduce.  Yet many people continue to go back to gluten despite seeing amazing results when it is removed.

**Tip to Remember**

Immune system activation from gluten is not dose dependent.  What does that mean?  It means that if your immune system is reacting to the gluten protein then it doesn’t matter if you have an entire piece of wheat bread or small amounts of gluten found in your salad dressing.  Your immune system is going to react the same way and can create an equal amount of damage.  Second, in some cases, the cascade of events triggered in the immune system by ingesting gluten can last many months with just one exposure.  This means that you should not think that eating gluten just once a week is OK.  Many times this can be enough to keep inflammation in the gut constant and create an intestinal war zone.

Understand that the research on gluten impacting health negatively is out there everywhere.  BigFood does not like to have their profits diminished and so they will do whatever they can to try and tell you that gluten-free is just a fad.  Don’t believe it.  Avoiding gluten is a big way to improve your current and long-term health.  It is only one piece of the puzzle, but one that is pretty easy to say that everyone (at least in the United States) will do better without it in their diet.  Try it and you’ll see!