Living Well Blog: Saratoga's Holistic Health Forum

March 2010 Archives



Local area spa located in Ballston Spa, NY, Living Well Healing Arts Center & Spa, is the site of a rare discovery:  the cavewoman.

How toxic our world has become is getting harder to ignore. The recent release of the CDC's Fourth National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals provided the most comprehensive assessment to date on the chemical exposure to the US population and its resultant health affects. The study estimated that an average of  212 chemicals can be found in an any individual's blood or urine. Furthermore, out of these 212 chemicals, 75 are new and have never before been measured in the U.S. population until this study. (These new chemicals include acrylamide, arsenic, environmental phenols (including bisphenol A and triclosan), and perchlorateorate). What this translates to is a lot of extra burden placed on our body as the years go by, the main organ being affected is our detoxifying powerhouse- the liver. 

The liver is responsible for not only detoxifying harmful substances, but it also cleanses the body of old red blood cells, converts ammonia to urea for exertion, and breaks down hormones. The liver is also involved with amino acid synthesis for proteins, the metabolism of  carbohydrate, protein, and lipids, synthesizing of platelets, blood clotting factors, and angitotensinogen hormone, and the formation of bile. Furthermore, your liver stores glucose, vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin B12, iron, and copper.

There are many ways to support our liver. One is by aiding detoxifying pathways through our diet. Dark leafy greens and healthy lean proteins provide good support for the two liver detoxification pathways. "Greening our home" using chemical-free products and natural personal care products also reduces toxic burden. A final way to help out our liver is to avoid things which harm it such as excess alcohol, drugs, and processed foods. The top processed food offender today is high fructose corn syrup.

Below are some highlights in journal articles between liver disease and processed foods.

Fructose, Sugar and Fatty Liver 

The results of  the Hepatology Journal article concluded that fructose consumption is associated with fibrosis, increased triglycerides, lowered HDL, and increased cholesterol levels in those with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease:

After controlling for age, sex, BMI, and total calorie intake, daily fructose consumption was associated with lower steatosis grade and higher fibrosis stage (P < 0.05 for each). In older adults (age  48 years), daily fructose consumption was associated with increased hepatic inflammation (P < 0.05) and hepatocyte ballooning (P = 0.05). Conclusion: In patients with NAFLD, daily fructose ingestion is associated with reduced hepatic steatosis but increased fibrosis. These results identify a readily modifiable environmental risk factor that may ameliorate disease progression in patients with NAFLD.

Furthermore, the combination of fructose with glucose can complicate matters. Another study in International Journal of Obesity Related Metabolic Disorders links liver steatosis (fatty infiltration of the liver) with obesity and higher serum glucose. 

The severity of the steatosis was associated with BMI (P = 0.002) but not with the duration of obesity or the age of the patient. When compared with patients without fatty change, those with liver steatosis had significantly higher fasting plasma glucose (5.5 mmol/l vs 5.1 mmol/l, P = 0.007) and triglycerides (1.8 mmol/l vs 1.3 mmol/l, P = 0.002). Mean serum liver enzyme activities (alkaline phosphatase, aspartate aminotransferase (AST), alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and gamma-glutamyl-transpeptidase (gammaGT) were significantly (P < 0.001) increased in patients with fatty change but remained within laboratory reference values.

(Here's a link to an overview of how different sweeteners are processed with a surprise for most healthy food junkies-agave may be worse than HFCS!)

The good news is that we have healthy sweet alternatives! Appetiate Journal provided evidence on the benefits of stevia affecting insulin and blood glucose levels.

Stevia preloads significantly reduced postprandial glucose levels compared to sucrose preloads (p<.01), and postprandial insulin levels compared to both aspartame and sucrose preloads (p<.05). When consuming stevia and aspartame preloads, participants did not compensate by eating more at either their lunch or dinner meal and reported similar levels of satiety compared to when they consumed the higher calorie sucrose preload.

(Another helpful sweet option is xylitol, which has been shown to be anti-microbial and have negligible effects on blood glucose).

Although its easy to tell someone to stop doing a behavior, in reality the cycle of food addiction can be hard to break. Dr. Amen and Dr. Emmons have both published books that explain how different addictive patterns have different brain imbalances. These imbalances make following through with healthy eating patterns a lot harder to follow.

For example, those who crave carbohydrates and sugar could have overactivity in their prefrontal cortex and be deficient in serotonin. Those who are impulsive with eating, may have under-active basal ganglia and may be lacking the stimulant neurotransmitter dopamine.

As an integrated medical professional, I try to support lifestyle choices not just through facts, but by assessing biochemical imbalances. What's one of my most quoted statements by my patients? "Biochemistry will trump willpower every time!" Blaming someone for not being able to stop an addiction ignores that brain biochemistry could be going haywire and creates a viscous cycle of self deprecation to the patient and frustration for the practitioner.

I have seen wonderful results for those with addictive behavioral patterns and weight loss resistance when their brain biochemistry is supported. Then they are better able to implement the lifestyle modificaitons. This seems to be  the key player that is missing or ignored in integrated medicine, yet one of the most vital. Remember mind-body-brain connection is just a one way street! You can create a better body, through a better brain!

Other Resources not linked in article:
Induction of Phase II Detoxification Enzymes in Rats by Plant-Derived Isothiocyanates:  Comparison of Allyl Isothiocyanate with Sulforaphane and Related Compounds J. Agric. Food Chem., 2004, 52 (7), pp 1867-1871. DOI: 10.1021/jf030549
Chemoprotective glucosinolates and isothiocyanates of broccoli sprouts: metabolism and excretion in humans. Shapiro TA, Fahey JW, Wade KL, Stephenson KK, Talalay P. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2001 May;10(5):501-8.PMID: 11352861
Physiological effects of broccoli consumption. Phytochemistry Reviews. Volume 8, Number 1 January, 2009. DOI:10.1007/s11101-008-9106-4 
Broccoli contains many bioactives, including vitamins C and E, quercetin and kaempferol glycosides and, like other members of the Brassicaceae, several glucosinolates, including glucobrassicin (3-indolylmethyl glucosinolate) and glucoraphanin (4-methylsulphinylbutyl glucosinolate). A key bioactive component responsible for much of this activity may be sulforaphane (1-isothiocyanato-4-methylsulfinylbutane), a hydrolysis product of glucoraphanin. Sulforaphane not only upregulates a number of phase II detoxification enzymes involved in clearance of chemical carcinogens and reactive oxygen species, but has anti-tumorigenic properties, causing cell cycle arrest and apoptosis of cancer cells. 
Changing your Body By Changing Your Brain. Dr. Daniel Amen, MD. 

Do I have your attention? I'm speaking of one of the most common and most overlooked inactivity and nutrient deficiency in America today- sleep.  Recently, medpage today reported that not only does lack of sleep result in excess weight gain, but it could also contributes to the accumulation of more dangerous visceral fat around vital organs. It is this bioactive fat which is associated with many chronic inflammatory disease processes. The article further concludes that excess sleep is potentially just as harmful, validating the importance of balance in one's lifestyle.

Several other studies have also demonstrated that chronic lack of sleep not only increases the pesky "muffin top" belly, but also increases the risk of developing diabetes and heart disease. In fact, one study of over 1,000 young men and women linked sleep as an independent risk factor for these diseases.

It also zeroed in on the relationship between sleep and gains in abdominal fat -- both the superficial fat layers just below the skin and the "visceral" fat that surrounds the abdominal organs. Deep abdominal fat is believed to be particularly important in the risks of health conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease, Hairston told Reuters Health.

Purposed mechanisms to lack of sleep tend to attribute weight gain to hormonal appetite signaling and resultant miscommunication of satiety to the brain. According to webmd, leptin and ghrelin are the two key hormonal players in this hormone-fat-sleep connection:

Leptin and ghrelin work in a kind of "checks and balances" system to control feelings of hunger and fullness, explains Michael Breus, PhD, a faculty member of the Atlanta School of Sleep Medicine and director of The Sleep Disorders Centers of Southeastern Lung Care in Atlanta. Ghrelin, which is produced in the gastrointestinal tract, stimulates appetite, while leptin, produced in fat cells, sends a signal to the brain when you are full.

So what's the connection to sleep? "When you don't get enough sleep, it drives leptin levels down, which means you don't feel as satisfied after you eat. Lack of sleep also causes ghrelin levels to rise, which means your appetite is stimulated, so you want more food," Breus tells WebMD.

The two combined, he says, can set the stage for overeating, which in turn may lead to weight gain.

Furthermore, it would make sense that decreased sleep would elevate stress hormones and mood issues due to altered perceptions of events (ever more grumpy and moody when you wake up on the "wrong side of the bed"??). These stress hormones further contribute to insulin and other hormonal signaling imbalances, which could lead to being overweight.

A report on one study did test this theory and demonstrated that lack of sleep could be related to depression in a bi-directional relationship. This means that insomnia may not only be a sign of mood imbalance, but could also be the cause. Depression could contribute to overeating patterns in order to soothe uncomfortable and hopeless emotions.

Due to the fact that it was extremes in sleeping patterns which caused weight gain, circadian influence (the body's natural time cycle), may be the regulating factor in how to heal this nocturnal pattern of obesity. In other words, going back to the rhythm of nature and allowing yourself to rest could be one healthy lifestyle factor that  would benefit those who are struggling with abdominal obesity and chronic conditions.

Does this sound like a repeat of last week's lesson: slow down, enjoy your food, and smell the roses?  By slowing down and sleeping, you'll be more aware of food choices, signaling pathway to your brain of saiety will be more effective, your mood will be happier (as you eat), you'll digest better, and stay thinner. Yippeee!! :) 

Therefore, in conculsion, the theory of "sleeping away excess pounds" does have some scientific validity. It is not just the wishful fairytale of hopeful dieters everywhere. (It is important to note that the most benefit seemed to be derived from 7-8 hours of sleep with less than six hours being more detrimental).

For tips on how to get good shut-eye, check out my link on the many pleasures of insomnia and Dr. Mercola's article.

Extremes of Sleep Related To Increased Fat Around Organs. Medpage today. February 1, 2010.
Lack of Sleep Associated with Depression in Adolescents. Medpage Today. January 1, 2010.
Reuters. March 1, 2010
Sleep Article Abstract
In a high paced society of fast food, super-sized fries, and instant breakfasts, we've been trained to not only get the most out of our money, but also out of our time. Most people eat at least one meal a week while driving in their car, working, or doing other various efficiency-oriented routines. It is this multi-tasked mindset which turns our food and dining experience into just another item to check off from our overextended to-do list. However, could this shifting of a biological need into a check off item have repercussions on people's overall health? Science says it might.

On February 22, 2010, New York Times reported, "Researchers have found evidence over the years that when people wolf their food, they end up consuming more calories than they would at a slower pace. One reason is the effect of quicker ingestion on hormones." 

The hormones the researchers are speaking of are insulin and glucogon-like peptides. Both of these enzymes are vital in the regulation of satiety and cell nutrient absorption. Another problem not mentioned in this study is that with fast eating comes fast foods. Fast foods contain high amounts of fructose and fructose further downregulates insulin, leptin, and ghrelin. This suppresses appetite signals even more and causes the body to store fuel as fat. A viscous cycle. 

Another problem with eating too quickly, or on the go, is that your body enters a fight-or-flight stress response. This is the exact opposite nervous system response you wish to ignite for healthy digestion. In fact, stress hormones down-regulate all the enzymes mentioned above and instead activate catecholamines and stress hormones. High stress hormones can lead to insulin resistance and cause an increase in glutamate receptors in your brain. Glutamate increases anxiety and down-regulates serotonin, this may further contribute to the viscous cycle of weight gain, especially for emotional eaters. 

So the equation of stress + chocolate chip cookie while driving = increased PROBABLITY of weight gain (and probably inflammation from stress) is one reason to learn to slow down and enjoy your food. A further reason is that with all this rushing and doing in life, there's no time to smell the roses, bond with family and friends, and enjoy a good meal. This  leaves us feeling empty, depleted, and lacking of true social connections. This is not good for our heart-literally. Studies cited by Dr. Dean Ornish show that social isolation is the NUMBER ONE predictor of heart disease holding all other risk factors constant.

It's time for a food revolution America! Not just what we eat, but HOW we eat. This means, we need to change our priorities and do as the Europeans do- remember to pause, rest, bond, and enjoy delicious real food with loved ones.

Scientific journal links:
Peptitde YY and Glucagone-like-peptide 1 increased with slowing down (Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism)

For more information on fitness, check out my website with a contributing article by the founder of menopause360, Gail Edgell.

This just in, and posted on my March Top Reads:

The Role of Vitamin D on the Immune System (Vital Choice)

Two studies are highlighted in this article:

Study one discusses Vitamin D's effect on innate immunity through its antimicrobial  activation of the anti-microbial peptide and the resultant recruitment of other immune boosting white blood cells. 

The second study demonstrates vitamin D's role on the adaptive immune system by it's signaling of an important immune cell, the helper T-cell, which controls activation of other immune players. Vitamin D acts at the genetic signaling level!

For readers:
Highlights from the articles

As Dr. Geisler said, "Scientists have known for a long time that vitamin D is important for calcium absorption and the vitamin has also been implicated in diseases such as cancer and multiple sclerosis, but what we didn't realize is how crucial vitamin D is for actually activating the immune system - which we know now."

Danish findings hold practical implications

The Danes say that they believe their discovery may help doctors enhance patient's immune responses and deal with autoimmune diseases and reduce rejection of transplanted organs.

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What do I need?

Today, the amount of skin products available is overwhelming.  Even as an aesthetician, when I go into the drugstore and happen to walk through that aisle, I'm astounded.  So, how do you make the right choices and what's really necessary?

The Choices:

More and more, I'm choosing natural over chemical.  Check the label.  A good rule of thumb is this:  if the ingredient list is more than an inch long and contains words you can't even pronounce, you probably don't need it.  Especially if your skin is sensitive or you have allergies. 

In general, the types of skincare available fall into these categories:

Traditional products contain fragrance, dye, chemical additives, and preservatives. 

Botanical lines that are plant based.

Treatment lines, which are specifically geared towards skin issues like acne, aging or rosacea.

Natural lines, which contain no "chemical" preservatives or additives, chemical fragrances, added dyes or fillers.  (And please check the label, since just saying something is natural doesn't guarantee it.)

And, lastly, organic product which takes natural a step further by only using ingredients that have been grown without the use of pesticides, fungicides, etc.  (Again, please make sure all ingredients are organic as labeling can be confusing.)

Now, there are two other distinctions in product:  over the counter and professional. 

Over the counter is product you can buy at the drugstore, supermarket, department or specialty store; whereas professional product is purchased through an aesthetician, spa, or doctor's office.

The benefit of using a professional product is that you are choosing something that has already been chosen by someone who knows their stuff, has the knowledge to check out the ingredients and their efficacy.  In my case, I take it a step further and actually use products first before selling them.  That way, I know what they feel like and how they work.  This way, I'm the guinea pig -- not you..

Now, I'd like to point out that just because product is professional doesn't mean that it's going to be more expensive than what you find at the supermarket or the drugstore.  This is a total misconception.  There are professional products that are inexpensive and ones that are very expensive, just the same as over the counter products.  Sometimes, clients are surprised at the affordability of products that I offer -- even those that are organic.

Okay, so now you know what kinds of products are out there in the general sense, so we'll move on! 

The Parameters: 

It's important to know your skin type -- which is best assessed by a professional aesthetician.  I say this from experience, since I find that many of us are not really familiar with or educated about the definition of a skin type nor what that skin type requires.  You see, when an aesthetician tells you your skin type, she'll also recommend what will work best for your skin type. 

For example:  clients often tell me that they have unusually large pores (when they don't) and they don't know what to do about it.  Or, people who have oily skin will want to use a scrub, which could tend to excite their oil glands to produce more oil.  I cannot emphasize more how important it is to use the right product for your skin.  When you do, it's amazing how well your skin will respond.  Afterall, your skin is as smart as you are!

With the knowledge of your correct skin type in hand, now we can talk about basic necessities. 

The Basics -- Cleanse, Tone, Nourish, Moisturize:

A good cleanser:  Skin type appropriate.  If you're sensitive, then the less ingredients, the better.

An effective serum:  This goes under the moisturizer and works as an ongoing treatment adding vitamins, hydration, oil control; specifically targetting those areas you want to work on. 

A day moisturizer:  Something that works well with your foundation -- if you wear it.  This may or may not contain sunscreen.


Night moisturizer:  For those of us who have mature or dry skin, a night time moisturizer may be heavier and more moisturizing than a day cream.

Viola!  And that's it!  The basics! 

It's been termed Diabesity by Mark Hyman, MD, the Silent Epidemic by Joseph Mercola, OD, and a threat to national security by the US Military. It is a condition with many names plaguing millions of Americans and one in three children all leading to the same effect-obesity. Whether it's labeled Pre-diabetes, Insulin resistance, Metabolic syndrome, Syndrome X, Adult onset diabetes, Diabetes Type II, or simply Obesity, all have the same underlying root cause. They are all due to a poor diet abundant in processed sugars, fructose, highly processed, trans-fat, frankenfoods. 

These foods are so different from nature, they are chemicalized and nutrient deprived, and can't be effecively processed by the body and used for energy. Worst of all, they are manufactured to create  a viscous cycle of cravings. Fructose and many of these foods actually shuts down the insulin-leptin signal of satiety leading to undernourished yet over-fed Americans. (View my article with a link to pediatric Endocrinologist, Dr. Lustig, on fructose and the explanation of the biochemistry.) 

Simple solutions offered by the first lady reported in SignOn San Diego include: 

It's 5-2-1-0, and it breaks down like this:

5 -- as in eat five fruits and vegetables a day.

2 -- as in limit screen time -- TV in particular -- to 2 hours or less a day. (The AAP says to avoid any screen time for children under the age of 2.)

1 -- as in do one hour of physical activity a day.

0 -- as in have zero sugar-sweetened drinks -- or at least make sugary drinks a special treat and not a veritable birthright.

Please view the references I linked above. Dr. Mercola also has a wonderful video posted by a British Cheif, Jamie Oliver. He offers solutions starting with our school lunches for children, cooking at home, parents modeling healthy behaviors, and changing our food choices for our family. 

The following two articles speak to solutions for our children.

Schools with Healthier Lunches Reap Major Benefits (Dr. Mercola)

Altering school lunches CAN help diminish illness and increase learning. In one Swedish study, when they eliminated all sweet buns, sweet drinks, and candy from school premises, they saw a 6 percent drop in obesity in four years.

Behavioral problems have also been remedied by giving kids healthier lunches at school.

For instance, in 1997 one Wisconsin high school instituted a healthy lunch program. No longer were the cafeterias filled with fast-food nachos and French fries; instead they were filled with fresh salads, meats, whole-grain bread and fruit. At the same time, vending machines were removed and good drinking water added.

The program is based on work done some 30 years ago by Dr. Feingold. He recommended that eliminating synthetic colors, synthetic flavors, and the preservatives BHA, BHT, and TBHQ would be beneficial to health, learning and behavior problems in children. However, his findings were not accepted by most medical professionals at that time.

When the healthier diet had been in effect for close to five years, the school showed amazing results. In annual state reports, the school's incidence of dropouts, expulsion, drug use, weapons and suicide was zero. On top of this, reports said that grades improved. This from a school that previously reported having discipline problems and students carrying weapons.

Another issue, TV commercials. A recent study was published on the relation of obesity to commercial television viewing.

According to the authors, the findings strongly suggest that steering children away from commercial television may be effective in reducing childhood obesity, given that food is the most commonly advertised product on children's television and the fact that almost 90 percent of children begin watching television regularly before the age of 2.

By the time they are 5 years old, children have seen an average of more than 4,000 television commercials for food annually. During Saturday morning cartoons, children see an average of one food ad every five minutes. The vast majority of these ads -- up to 95 percent -- are for foods with poor nutritional value, the researchers say. (Science Daily)

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Reisa Mehlman

As a New York State Licensed Aesthetician, New York State Licensed Nail Specialist, and the Director of Living Well Healing Arts Center & Spa, Reisa combines her love of spa services and healing arts to achieve optimum skin and nail health, create greater overall wellness and bring forth our optimal, individual beauty.

"I believe that the day spa should be an instant getaway; a place that is quiet without being stuffy, relaxed, elegant and yet entirely comfy. You should feel warm and welcome, surrounded by people who care about you and what they are doing. This is the environment we strive to create at Living Well Healing Arts Center & Spa. Here, you are never just the "next" number; we allow ample time for your services, offer a flexible schedule and can be reached after hours. After all, to me, spa craft is not really a business, it's a lifestyle." Read more...

About Dr. Sarah Lobisco

Dr. LoBisco has been in holistic healthcare for over 10 years. She became interested in holistic medicine when she was able to heal two herniated discs through nutrition, yoga, supplementation, and chiropractic. She has mentored with holistic practices throughout New York, Vermont, and Connecticut. In addition to her Naturopathic and Functional Medical training, Dr. LoBisco has extensive training in a variety of healing modalities, including therapeutic essential oils, nutraceuticals, herbs, whole food supplements, nutritional medicine, and mind-body therapies. She is a graduate of the accredited, four year post-graduate program in Naturopathic Medicine at the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut. This program includes clinical rotations and a demanding scientific curriculum in integrating conventional and natural medicine. Dr. LoBisco holds her license from the state of Vermont.

Dr. LoBisco has completed her postdoctoral training as a certified functional medicine practitioner. She is also certified in Applied Kinesiology and holds a BA in psychology from SUNY Geneseo. She has contributed as an item writer for the North American Board of Naturopathic Examiners (NABNE)and has several articles that have been published in the Naturopathic Doctor News and Review Digest (NDNR) and the Townsend Letter, both physician- based journals. Dr. LoBisco is also a hired speaker on integrative medical topics for medical professionals.

Dr. LoBisco currently incorporates her training in holistic medical practices and conventional medicine through writing, researching, private practice, and through her independent contracting work for companies regarding supplements, nutraceuticals, essential oils, and medical foods. She has a small, private wellness consultation practice through telephone and Skype. Dr. LoBisco also enjoys continuing to educate and empower her readers through her blogs and social media. Her new book, BreakFree Medicine, is now available on Amazon and through Barnes & Noble. Please inquire here for more specific information.

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