Living Well Blog: Saratoga's Holistic Health Forum

July 2010 Archives


This 20 minute video is very eye-opening on the politics and science behind artificial sweeteners. Like anything, "tis the dose that is the poison." Many of you are aware that I do work with neurotransmitters in my practice; therefore, the topic of consumption of artificial amino acids which affect your brain chemicals, grabs my attention. My concern is how these "excitotoxins" are affecting health, not just physically, but emotionally, where disease can be perpetuated (see my past articles on stress and disease).

The two amino acids that make up nutrasweet/equal aka aspartame, cause an increase in excititary signals to the brain. This can downregulate other calming neurotransmitters and even deplete hormones. (For example, phenalyanine, one component, is a precursor to catecholamines and thyroid hormone.)

Not only can artificial sweeteners affect biochemistry, they can also cause harmful side effects. Here is a link to my website which lists some published research documentation on the side effect of these exicto-toxins.

Therefore, my advice is to use stevia or xylitol. Both are beneficial to health, blood sugar, and bones and are very safe. For that sugar craving, sip on 2 oz of braggs apple ciear vinegar in 8 oz water, 2 T of xylitol, and 3 drops of lemon essential oil, as bitters decrease sweet cravings. If you don't like it that bitter, you can always adjust the vinegar portion. Either way, protect your brain and your health, by avoiding these products whenever possible.

Here's to a sweet, natural, life! :)


It's the buzz word for all the magic pills and potions. When unchecked, it's the underlying mechanism for most chronic diseases and the reason why long-term stress contributes to so many of them. Know what it is? It's inflammation. This means that your chronic red, hot, joint could be signaling an underlying process that is spreading throughout your whole body. How?

A recent article in July's Integrative Practitioner by Lise Alschuler, ND, FABNO sheds light on how inflammation contributes to the other symptoms that seem to pop up more with your chronic joint pain (fatigue, digestive disturbances, ect.):

Chronic inflammation is a complex prolonged internal response to a tissue insult. This response involves the immune and endocrine systems.  The initial tissue insult results in a massive release of powerful chemical messenger molecules (cytokines, enzymes, interleukins and prostaglandins). These chemicals stimulate specific activities such as blood vessel growth and also bind to cellular membrane receptors and create cell division and anti-apoptotic signals. A powerful mediator of these reactions is nuclear factor kappa  B (NF-kB). NF-kB engages the inflammatory response, stimulates cell division, alters immunity and decreases apoptosis.

Huh, Dr. Sarah? In English- an inflammatory response triggers a massive release of chemicals that can enter the body systemically. If your body doesn't have the resistance to put out the fire, these mediators could damage various organs, tissues, and cause changes in our DNA structure (cancer).

How do we control inflammation? What could prevent our resistance and cause low immunity? Stress is a big factor, along with many other environmental and lifestyle choices. The stress mechanism signals a whole array of events from inflammatory mediators, blood sugar deregulation, hormonal imbalances, changes in digestive processes and circulatory functions.

According to the American Institute of Stress, stress contributes to 70-90% visits to primary care doctors and the American Psychological Association reports the following:

More than half of working adults-and 47 percent of all Americans-say they are concerned with the amount of stress in their lives, according to a new telephone survey conducted...Moreover, the survey finds that people experiencing stress are more likely to report hypertension, anxiety, depression or obesity.

Here is a review on some of these conditions associated with chronic inflammation (and probably linked to stress):

The American Heart Association- Heart Disease

C-reactive protein (CRP) is one of the acute phase proteins that increase during systemic inflammation. It's been suggested that testing CRP levels in the blood may be an additional way to assess cardiovascular disease risk. A more sensitive CRP test, called a highly sensitive C-reactive protein (hs-CRP) assay, is available to determine heart disease risk.

Circulation Journal

A role for inflammation has been well established over the past decade or more in describing the artherogenic process.

Neurobiology Aging Journal [abstract] - Alzheimer's disease

Thus, animal models and clinical studies, although still in their infancy, strongly suggest that AD inflammation significantly contributes to AD pathogenesis. By better understanding AD inflammatory and immunoregulatory processes, it should be possible to develop anti-inflammatory approaches that may not cure AD but will likely help slow the progression or delay the onset of this devastating disorder


Nature Journal [abstract] - Cancer

Recent data have expanded the concept that inflammation is a critical component of tumour progression. Many cancers arise from sites of infection, chronic irritation and inflammation. It is now becoming clear that the tumour microenvironment, which is largely orchestrated by inflammatory cells, is an indispensable participant in the neoplastic process, fostering proliferation, survival and migration. In addition, tumour cells have co-opted some of the signaling molecules of the innate immune system, such as selectins, chemokines and their receptors for invasion, migration and metastasis. These insights are fostering new anti-inflammatory therapeutic approaches to cancer development.


European Journal of Endocrinology [abstract]-Metabolic Syndrome & Hormonal Effects

Low testosterone and SHBG levels were strongly associated not only with components of the metabolic syndrome, but also with the metabolic syndrome itself, independently of body mass index. Furthermore, sex hormones were associated with inflammation and body iron stores. Even in the absence of late-stage consequences such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, subtle derangements in sex hormones are present in the metabolic syndrome, and may contribute to its pathogenesis.


So, my beautiful patients, you now know why the mind-body approach is so important. It's not so much the event, but our perception and reaction that contribute to stress. So what do we do about this? Here are some simple tips to quench inflammation and calm the stress response:

1.      Eat real, whole, organic, unprocessed foods.

2.      Exercise in a way that is enjoyable for you

3.      Drink plenty of filtered water to dilute toxins

4.      Take a good multivitamin (see my webpage on supplement quality) and any lacking nutrients in your diet.

5.      Supplement your many colorful vegetables with spices which down-regulate inflammatory mediators.

6.      Most importantly, breathe and find relaxation therapies that work for you, such as yoga, deep breathing, or google techniques from the heartmath institute.

7.      Get sleep





Neurobiology and Aging. PMID: 108586

Nature. 2002.

America's No. 1 Health Problem. American Institute of Stress.

Brain and Cognition. Volume 65, Issue 3, December 2007, Pages 209-237

The American Psychological Association. Stressed out Nation.

European Journal of Endocrinology. 2003.


Literally....approximately 12% of Americans suffers from migraines, and about 20-40% experience insomnia. Recently, a connection between headaches and sleep has been revealed, making yet another reason, (besides brain health, memory, longevity) to get some shut-eye.


Many people who are interested in Health Care Reform and Integrative Medicine are familiar with Gary Null's  publication, Death By Medicine, a compilation of various studies on the state of healthcare statistics in the US. This publication, which cites references for estimated costs, death rates, and unnecessary medical events, concludes the alarming statement that American medicine causes more harm than good.

For example, the article listed the following conditions with their estimated rates of mortality:

Adverse Drug Reaction
Medical error  
Nosocomial Infection
Unnecessary Procedures
Total 7,841,360  

The conclusion was, "Our estimated 10-year total of 7.8 million iatrogenic deaths is more than all the casualties from all the wars fought by the US throughout its entire history." Yikes.

A June 2010 report by the Commonwealth Fund echoed this disconcerting news on the state of  US healthcare. The Commonwealth Fund is a private organization advocating for a "high performance health care system providing better access, improved quality, and greater efficiency."  The Fund supports independent research on health care issues and grants to improve health care quality, access, and an international program in health policy.

The 34 page report released in June 2010 read:

The U.S. health system is the most expensive in the world, but comparative analyses consistently show the United States underperforms relative to other countries on most dimensions of performance. This report, which includes information from the most recent three Commonwealth Fund surveys of patients and primary care physicians about medical practices and views of their countries' health systems (2007-2009), confirms findings discussed in previous editions of Mirror, Mirror. It also includes information on health care outcomes that were featured in the most recent (2008) U.S. health system scorecard issued by the Commonwealth Fund Commission on a High Performance Health System.

Among the seven nations studied--Australia, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States--the U.S. ranks last overall, as it did in the 2007, 2006, and 2004 editions of Mirror, Mirror. Most troubling, the U.S. fails to achieve better health outcomes than the other countries, and as shown in the earlier editions, the U.S. is last on dimensions of access, patient safety, coordination, efficiency, and equity. The Netherlands ranks first, followed closely by the U.K. and Australia. The 2010 edition includes data from the seven countries and incorporates patients' and physicians' survey results on care experiences and ratings on various dimensions of care.

The most notable way the U.S. differs from other countries is the absence of universal health insurance coverage. Health reform legislation recently signed into law by President Barack Obama should begin to improve the affordability of insurance and access to care when fully implemented in 2014.

Key Findings were listed for quality of care, access ( we ranked bottom three), efficiency (last place), equity (last place), and quality of life (last place).

Depressing news, isn't it? Or is it? Despite some of the negative press around doctors and health care, I never cease to be amazed at the absolute dedication and brilliance across all forms of specialties in medicine and the doctor's dedication to do what is best for the patient.

As a Naturopathic Doctor and Integrative Medical Specialist, I admit the obvious difference in my viewpoint on how to treat certain conditions and the importance of treating the cause, but I still hold the upmost respect for the diagnostics and skills of doctors as a whole. Most Physicians got into the profession of medicine to help people, not to hurt them. That we are not doing well with results, allows us room to make change and the answer is now here at the forefront-integration! This is where integrative medicine, functional medicine, and naturopathic medicine shine. Instead of using the acute care model to treat chronic disease, focus is on lifestyle and diet modifications, epigenetics, and nutrigenomics, supplementation, and mind-body techniques to prevent high cost pathology to begin with.

Here's my thoughts: with these dreary statistics, maybe lack of access in the past was a self-protective mechanism? Why create more access to a broken down system that isn't producing results?

With statistics and dis-satisfaction of the current state of healthcare,  the day is coming when the focus on prevention, integration, and use of the most evidence based and clinically effective treatments (be them natural or synthetic) will be the norm.

In fact, the CDC even states the following about the leading cause of death, cardiovascular disease, "A healthy diet and lifestyle are the best weapons you have to fight heart disease. Many people make it harder than it is."

Furthermore, various journals are reporting the same conclusion:

Ford ES, Bergmann MM, Kroger J, Schienkiewitz A, Weikert C, Boeing H. Healthy living is the best revenge: findings from the European Prospective Investigation Into Cancer and Nutrition-Potsdam study. Arch Intern Med. 2009 Aug 10;169(15):1355-1362.

Yusuf S, Hawken S, Ounpuu S, et al; INTERHEART Study Investigators. Effect of potentially modifiable risk factors associated with myocardial infarction in 52 countries (the INTERHEART study): case-control study. Lancet. 2004;364(9438):937-952.

INTERPRETATION: Abnormal lipids, smoking, hypertension, diabetes, abdominal obesity, psychosocial factors, consumption of fruits, vegetables, and alcohol, and regular physical activity account for most of the risk of myocardial infarction worldwide in both sexes and at all ages in all regions. This finding suggests that approaches to prevention can be based on similar principles worldwide and have the potential to prevent most premature cases of myocardial infarction.

And, natural products with lower toxicity are being studied more and more. For example, the following was reported on breast cancer and the use of fish oil in a recent article from vitalchoice.

So the results of a very large epidemiological study from Seattle's Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center are making headlines worldwide.
In short, the study showed that women who took fish oil regularly were 32 percent less likely to develop breast cancer over a six-year period (Brasky TM et al. 2010).

The Seattle team surveyed 35,016 postmenopausal women between the ages of 50 and 76, who were taking part in the Hutchinson Center's Vitamins and Lifestyle (VITAL) study.
The goal was to compare the women's breast health over the six year study period to their intake of non-vitamin, non-mineral "specialty" supplements.

The nearly one-third reduction in breast cancer diagnoses among fish oil users came almost entirely from a reduction in common ductal tumors ... there was no drop in the fish oil users' risk of the far less frequent lobular tumors.
Invasive lobular carcinomas make up a small portion of all breast cancers. The most common type of breast cancer - ductal carcinoma - begins in the breast ducts.

Further references:

Science news:

Free abstract:

Environ Health Perspect. 2000 Sep;108(9):895-900.
Identification of phthalate esters in the serum of young Puerto Rican girls with premature breast development.

In summary, one must look at what is not working in order to take inventory and sort out what is. Rather than the "throw the baby out with the bath water approach," how about let's work with the best skilled team, using everything we have and empowering people to health rather than fighting disease! The new model will also embrace a new mindset!

I try to encompass this vision everyday by empowering my clients to be their own best doctor and giving them information from both sides of medicine; conventional and integrative. I don't believe there has to be a choide. The answer isn't ALL in integrative medicine or ALL in conventional medicine, but in what's best for the patient. As one of my mentors always said, "I don't fall in love with the theory of medicine, I fall in love with the patient." Amen to that!
The Power of Anti-oxidants

I was fortunate enough to spend a lot of my time with my family and friends on the 4th. It was a great time. My very first mentor, who is an integrative chiropractor, was a wonderful surprise addition to the family gathering. I was reminded about the power of anti-oxidants when my cousin had asked me how to treat a certain allergic/chemical sensitivity skin reaction. Immediately, my mind jump started into biochemical pathways, the importance of liver detoxification and modulating phase two reactions, cleaning the diet up of triggering immune mediators such as sugar and gluten, balancing the inflammatory response with omega fatty acids, addressing blood sugar imbalances which trigger skin issues, making sure you support the body with antioxidants, etc

Well, my cousin is 14. His eyes began to glaze over as I began to discuss the liver pathways and I stopped before I headed into phase II detoxification and glutathione. This kid wanted a simple solution and quick fix. My mentor came to my rescue. He giggled as he witnessed my working brain and placed his hand on my shoulder.

"Well, with chemical sensitivities, you want to aid the body with anti-oxidants." Snap. I was jolted back into the reality of how best to treat the patient at the moment they present to you!

Although it's true that eventually people will need to address all the above areas as the route cause of what is occurring in order, my cousin is a teenage boy!


Using integrative and functional medicine in my practice, I've learned the importance of honoring the process of healing. For example, the steps to healing will be different for each person. For my cousin, a relatively young male, anti-oxidants and a basic supporting protocol would be the first step. The next step, once the body is supported and the symptom is addressed, it would be time to honor the healing response and work on preventing chronic disease later on. This is especially important for my younger patients. If someone at a young age is presenting with a chronic symptom, it is very important to make sure that the underlying mechanism and contributing factors are addressed so that it won't progress to something more intense down the line.

Although most people wait until the disease has progressed to do preventative work, it's important to note that for every year a disease exists, it takes 1-3 months to heal. The younger one starts, the more quickly it can be corrected and more intensive protocols down the road can be prevented.

Therefore, my lesson for the day was this-keep things simple first and takes baby steps in order to grow more healthy and strong. As I'm writing this, my beautiful baby niece just smiled in approval.

Here's some additional benefits of anti-oxidants from some of recent research- from skin to weight loss to blood sugar regulation:

Weight Loss and Antioxidants:

The researchers randomly assigned the subjects to one of four treatment groups. All groups ate a low-calorie, Mediterranean-type diet averaging 1,500 calories daily, containing only 25 percent from protein foods, with the rest made up of low-glycemic-index carbohydrates (carbs that do not raise blood sugar levels quickly or greatly, such as whole grains). Group A only ate this kind of diet, and group B ate the same diet plus took the drug metformin. For groups C and D, the researchers prescribed a diet enriched in antioxidant, with a calculated intake, 800 to 1,000 milligrams a day, coming from fruits and vegetables, but group D also took metformin.

Despite similar weight loss in all the groups, only the two groups receiving the antioxidant diet (groups C and D) had a significant decrease in insulin resistance, the authors reported. Group D had the best improvement in insulin resistance on some measures of insulin response to an oral glucose tolerance test, according to the abstract.


My comment:

Of course, with weight loss you release toxins, and your body knows this. It needs support so it will work better with release!

Antioxidants: In fish?


Omega-3 (ω3) fatty acids, particularly eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), protect against cardiovascular disease. Despite these benefits, concern remains that ω3 fatty acids may increase lipid peroxidation. It has previously been shown that urinary F2-isoprostanes (F2-IsoPs) were reduced following ω3 fatty acid supplementation in humans. It is now determined whether EPA or DHA supplementation affects plasma F2-IsoPs. In two 6-week placebo-controlled interventions, Study A: overweight, dyslipidaemic men; and Study B: treated-hypertensive Type 2 diabetic, patients were randomized to 4 g daily EPA, DHA. Post-intervention plasma F2-IsoPs were significantly reduced by EPA (24% in Study A, 19% in Study B) and by DHA (14% in Study A, 23% in Study B) relative to the olive oil group. The fall in plasma F2-IsoPs was not altered in analyses that corrected for changes in plasma arachidonic acid, which was reduced with EPA and DHA supplementation. Neither F3- nor F4-IsoPs were observed in plasma in both studies. These results show that in humans, EPA and DHA reduce in vivo oxidant stress as measured in human plasma and urine.


Chart of Antioxidants:

Oils and Species trump food, the power of the golgi.

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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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