Living Well Blog: Saratoga's Holistic Health Forum

April 2012 Archives

In my study of functional medicine, learning about the science of nutrigenomics (how the information of nutritional constituents interact with our DNA to change our cellular health) was an eye opener to how nature truly is the most powerful medicine. Below is a compilation of blogs and studies that provide proof that what we eat impacts our health. 

Top 10 Foods to Eat

Rue (Ruta graveolens): Called Ruda in Spanish, this herb contains a tangy alkaloid-rich oil that is used as an antispasmodic and muscle relaxant. It is most commonly given to treat menstrual cramps, but some Hispanic herbalists also recommend chewing the leaves to treat intestinal parasites. In concentrated doses, oil of rue can be hepatotoxic and nephrotoxic, and it can also be an abortifacient. There are no known interactions with conventional pharmaceuticals.

• Sage (Salvia officinalis): Latin Americans have discovered many uses for this plant, which grows widely in the Southwestern US and many parts of Latin America. Topically, it is an excellent antibacterial and astringent, and some people make a plaster of sage which is used to curb excess perspiration. It is also used for mucositis and gingivitis. Because it contains caffeic acid, sage is also an appetite stimulant. There are reported cases of tachycardia with its use, and it is not recommended for pregnant women.

• Spearmint (Mentha spicata): Latin Americans refer to this as Yerba Buena or "good herb." It contains L-carvone and a flavinoid called thymonin, which is an excellent carminative. Spearmint is a pleasant and inexpensive means of stimulating GI muscle activity and can be used to expel flatus, relieve hiccoughs, and relieve nausea. Most often, it is taken as a tea. There are no known adverse reactions or drug interactions with spearmint tea, though topically-applied spearmint oil can cause localized dermatitis in some patients.

Source: Victor Sierpina, MD.  A Guide to Hispanic Healing. Holistic Primary Care. June 2001.

Just as important as what to include in our diet, is what we could be replacing with our new love of green veggies. Below is some information on....


HFCS vs. Sugar (Mark Hyman, MD)

HFCS also consists of glucose and fructose, not in a 50-50 ratio, but a 55-45 fructose to glucose ratio in an unbound form. Fructose is sweeter than glucose. And HFCS is cheaper than sugar because of the government farm bill corn subsidies. Products with HFCS are sweeter and cheaper than products made with cane sugar. This allowed for the average soda size to balloon from 8 ounces to 20 ounces with little financial costs to manufacturers but great human costs of increased obesity, diabetes and chronic disease.

Now back to biochemistry. Since there is there is no chemical bond between them, no digestion is required so they are more rapidly absorbed into your blood stream. Fructose goes right to the liver and triggers lipogenesis (the production of fats like triglycerides and cholesterol) this is why it is the major cause of liver damage in this country and causes a condition called "fatty liver" which affects 70 million people. The rapidly absorbed glucose triggers big spikes in insulin - our body's major fat storage hormone. Both these features of HFCS lead to increased metabolic disturbances that drive increases in appetite, weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, dementia and more.

But there was one more thing I learned during lunch with Dr. Bruce Ames. Research done by his group at the Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute found that free fructose from HFCS requires more energy to be absorbed by the gut and soaks up two phosphorous molecules from ATP (our body's energy source). This depletes the energy fuel source or ATP in our gut required to maintain the integrity of our intestinal lining. Little "tight junctions" cement each intestinal cell together preventing food and bacteria from "leaking" across the intestinal membrane and triggering an immune reaction and body wide inflammation.

The takeaway: Cane sugar and the industrially produced, euphemistically named "corn sugar" are not biochemically or physiologically the same.

Dr. Hyman provided additional information on how HFCS has other dangers. These include its mercury content and it's link to CAUSING obesity. HFCS creates the formation of a fatty liver and halts the insulin-leptin signaling important for appetite regulation.  

Artificial Sweeteners (Marc Hyman, ND)

What's one of the most addictive legal substances that is linked to neurological disorders, vision issues, headaches, menstrual irregularities and more? Artificial sweeteners:

In another alarming study, rats offered the choice of cocaine or artificial sweeteners always picked the artificial sweetener, even if the rats were previously programmed to be cocaine addicts.  The author of the study said that, "[t]he absolute preference for taste sweetness may lead to a re-ordering in the hierarchy of potentially addictive stimuli, with sweetened diets . . . taking precedence over cocaine and possibly other drugs of abuse. "

The use of artificial sweeteners, as well as "food porn," the sexy experience of sweet, fat, and salt in your mouth, alters your food preferences.  Your palate shifts from being able to enjoy fruits and vegetables and whole foods to liking only the sexy stuff.

My advice is to give up stevia, aspartame, sucralose, sugar alcohols like xylitol and malitol, and all of the other heavily used and marketed sweeteners unless you want to slow down your metabolism, gain weight, and become an addict.  Some may be worse than others like aspartame that is what we call an excitotoxin that can cause neurologic symptoms like brain fog, migraines or worse.  And some may just give you bad gas because they ferment in your gut, like the sugar alcohols (anything that ends in "ol" like xylitol).  Others like stevia, which comes from a South American plant, may be slightly better and could be enjoyed from time to time, they all keep us yearning for more and more - so our brains get confused, we eat more food and we get fatter.  There are ways to cut cravings by naturally balancing your blood sugar.

Source: Hyman, M. Diet Drinks-Harmful or Helpful in Kicking the Sugar Habit? utm_source=WhatCounts+Publicaster+Edition&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=drhyma n+newsletter+issue+%2368&utm_content=Get+the+story

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for lash extension.jpg With proper application, lash extensions are a wonderful, natural looking, affordable and easy to-wear addition to your life; however when applied improperly or with low grade materials, they can create big, painful problems. Want to know how to avoid getting into a sticky mess? Read on!

As the word of the wonder of lash extensions has spread, many women are choosing to have them applied. And, as it is with any service, some practitioners are skilled and unfortunately others are not.

I became certified in lash extension application in 2006 after seeing a practical demonstration at a show in Philly, and have been doing them ever since. I have been an independent trainer for years, helping other licensed* professionals learn application procedures. (*In New York State, lash extensionists must be Licensed as a Nurse, Aesthetician or Cosmetologist to perform the service.)

From the standpoint of application, lash extensions are a difficult service to perform - as you can imagine when you think about constructing a set of eyelashes one by-one using a surgical type adhesive - and yet, they are incredibly beautiful when applied well.

Although extremely popular among the rich and famous, lash extensions have taken some time to reach the general public. In my opinion, this is because many women may not want to advertise that they're wearing lash extensions and also that when people see you with them on, they will most likely not notice the extensions but will notice that you look well and say things like, "You look rested."

As the popularity of this service grows, I find myself treating victims of lash botch jobs. These problems are mainly due to poor application like the use of too much adhesive causing natural lashes to stick together that can ultimately have an adverse affect on the natural lash, or poor quality product like low grade lashes, and/or adhesive that is rough and irritating to the eye. Poor application can result in the lashes being too heavy for your natural lash, causing drooping, pulling, and poking of the loose lashes into the tender skin of the lid.

But there are other, stranger problems. Just last week, I treated a lovely woman who had had lashes applied at a nail salon. A nail salon? Since Licensed Nail Specialists may not legally perform lash extension application, it is dubious as to whether the practitioner(s) of this establishment is licensed/trained/certified to put on eyelash extensions.

This problem application included not only an 1/8 inch layer of some kind of adhesive which was almost impossible to remove, but also the use of rows upon rows of knotted flares to create the lash set. People - listen up! This technique (if you can call it that!) is not a lash extension application! Lash extentions are applied one lash to one lash.

Lash extensions are not the same as false eyelash strips. False eyelashes are meant to be applied to the skin above the lash at the lash line - not on the lashes themselves! - with a rubbery glue made for false eyelashes. They are not meant to be applied to the natural lash with a semi-permanent glue where they will gather dirt, dust and other debris. Lash extensions are applied to the lash with a surgical type, semi-permanent adhesive.

My client was in a lot of pain and luckily, I was able to safely and gently remove all the lash clumps without hurting or breaking her own lashes. After a short break, I applied a fresh, new set of single, high quality lash extensions and she was thrilled.

Just yesterday, I saw yet another client who, I suspect, had gone to the same place. After struggling for a day with the same problems as my other clients, she returned to the shop to have the lash botch job removed. In the process, they pulled out many of her own lashes. I would not recommend going back to a place that had done a poor job. Go somewhere else! When I mentioned this, my new client said that she had called other places to have them removed and that none of those establishments were willing to help her, which is really sad to hear. She said that she wished she had found me sooner!

Unfortunately, not all practitioners are skilled, trained, have integrity and, in some cases may not have the proper licensure to perform the services that they offer. It's uber important for you, the consumer, to ensure your safety.

Please keep in mind that you are working around your eyes! We don't want to be fooling around. Proper sanitation, quality product and certified training are of the utmost importance.

The cost should be appropriate and within range of all other places in the specific area! If it's too inexpensive - there's a reason!

So, how do you avoid having a sticky mess? Here are some suggestions:

1. Check out the establishment by searching the web, and set up a time to go to there to see their work.
2. Do some research about the practitioner and ask questions like how many years the extentionist has been practicing lash extensions.
3. Ask for references.
4. Research the cost in your area.
5. Stay away from "deals" or prices that are too low. High quality extensions and adhesives are expensive and experienced lash artists expect to be paid for their expertise AND expert extensionists will be quite busy with happy customers!
6. Ask around and get a recommendation from someone you know whose lashes you like!

Questions? Feel free to ask me anytime online here, or email or call!

Compiled by Sarah A LoBisco, ND

Another Stress Busting Tip- Music

Last week, I discussed the negative impact of excess stress on health and provided some solutions to counter its effects. Besides meditation, chocolate, and social support, listening to music can remedy the stress response. Specifically, one study found that playing enjoyable music reduced the production of the stress hormone, cortisol. (This biochemical connection can help provide a more compassionate understanding and tolerance for teenagers who slam and pump up the volume of their iPods when frustrated!)


Everyday music listening reduces stress

News: Feb 23, 2012
Music can evoke positive emotions, which in turn can lower the listener's stress levels. Everyday music listening is therefore a simple and effective way to enhance well-being and health, according to a new doctoral thesis in psychology from the University of Gothenburg.

The results of the studies show that positive emotions were experienced both more often and more intensively in connection with music listening. The experiment group did also perceive less stress and had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. The more the participants in the survey study liked the music, the less stress they experienced.

Source: Everyday music listening reduces stress. February 23, 2012. University of Gothenburg.

Link to thesis:

Depression in Mom Affects Baby's Growth

Stress and depression can go hand-in-hand. Even though most view a new baby as a positive stressor, pregnancy can take a toll on one's biochemistry:

Although pregnancy is often portrayed as a time of great joy, that's not the reality for all women. At least one in ten pregnant women suffers from bouts of depression.

For years, experts mistakenly believed that pregnancy hormones protected against depression, leaving women more vulnerable to the illness only after the baby was born and their hormone levels plunged. They now believe that the rapid increase in hormone levels at the start of pregnancy can disrupt brain chemistry and lead to depression.

Hormonal changes can also make you feel more anxious than usual. Anxiety is another condition that can and should be treated during pregnancy.

One recent study demonstrated a positive association between depressed moms and delayed fetal development. This connection was higher in those who used antidepressants. Still, as mentioned above, researchers caution that association does not prove causation. In other words, other factors like the shift in women's hormones, environmental stressors that come with a new baby, and dietary shifts can be correlated to depression and factor in to fetal development.

According to an article in Medscape:


March 7, 2012 -- Use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) during pregnancy may increase the risk for adverse fetal development and birth outcomes, new research suggests. However, untreated depression was also associated with delayed fetal growth.

"SSRIs are generally safe drugs, but animal studies have suggested that this may be different during pregnancy, when serotonin is a neurodevelopmental hormone," explained Dr. Tiemeier.

The investigators note that this is one of the first SSRI-assessing studies in humans to focus on head development during pregnancy.

The Generation R Study is an ongoing prospective trial of 9778 mothers in the Netherlands; it was designed to examine fetal life onward.

For this analysis, the researchers assessed data on 7696 women who were first enrolled in the Generation R Study during pregnancy.

Questionnaires were given to all of these participants during each trimester of pregnancy to assess SSRI use. The participants' responses were verified by pharmacy records. Women who used SSRIs before pregnancy were excluded from this analysis.

The Brief Symptom Inventory (BSI) was used to assess depressive symptoms at an average of 20.6 weeks of gestation. Each trimester, fetal ultrasonography was performed to determine head and body growth.

A Simple Solution to Pre-Baby Blues

One solution to stress and depression that doesn't cost a thing is exercise. Here's an excerpt from Dr. Mercola that gives guidance on exercise for mom's to be:

Among normal-weight women, higher levels of vigorous exercise may make it harder to conceive and lead to delays in becoming pregnant
Among women who were overweight or obese, any type of exercise improved fertility, and moderate exercise led to faster times to pregnancy among all women
Only very vigorous exercise -- which was defined as running, fast cycling, gymnastics or swimming for more than five hours a week -- appeared to delay fertility in normal-weight (but not overweight or obese) women
By exercising in short bursts, followed by periods of recovery, you recreate exactly what your body needs for optimum health. That said, engaging in these high-intensity exercises two to three times a week is likely to lead to a decrease in body fat.
If you are seeking to get pregnant you will need slightly higher body fat stores to be in the optimal range; short periods of high-intensity exercise like Peak Fitness are likely to be beneficial, but overdoing it may be counterproductive

Deborah Brauser. Mom's SSRI Use Linked to Delayed Fetal Growth, Preterm Birth. 3/7/12.

BabyCenter, LLC. Depression in Pregnancy. Accessed 4/20/2012.

Mercola, J. New Study Finds Too Much Exercise Can Delay Pregnancy in Normal-Weight Women. April 6, 2012.

More on the Gut-Brain Link

Your gut consists of its own nervous system which develops alongside the brain in utero. The gut's enteric nervous system is the home to over 70% of your neurotransmitters and also is responsible for over 80% of your immune system! Within the gastrointestinal tract is millions of bacteria and microorganisms that produce various neurotransmitters, chemical messengers involved in immune modulation, digestion and assimilation, vitamin production, and biotransformation. Therefore, an imbalance in our gut can affect how we think, process food and assimilate nutrients for overall health, and our inflammatory response.

I have written several articles and blogs on the importance of gut health with mood. In fact, a few weeks ago, I highlighted the link of a healthy gut to autism. Recent research has linked behavioral disorders, such as depression and mood imbalances to gut health. A new study is now linking a common bacterium that cause strep throat to OCD.

According to Dr. Mercola:

People with OCD are beset with anxious persistent thoughts (obsessions), or feel compelled to perform certain rituals like hand washing or repeatedly checking things (compulsions). For many people, the condition begins during childhood or the teen years.

The Streptococcus bacteria create proteins that mimic human proteins, thereby evading your immune system. Once your immune system identifies them as "foreign invaders," it begins creating antibodies.

However, these antibodies can also attack human tissues such as your heart, joints, and brain. Several years ago, evidence emerged suggesting that this attack on the brain can inflame brain structures, which possibly could trigger OCD (or OCD-like symptoms) in children.

The NIMH now exploring what causes OCD, and will work on finding a treatment that might help reverse the syndrome. According to the featured report in New Scientistiii , the Institute intends to find out whether an antibody treatment used to reduce autoimmune reactions might be beneficial.

Your vagus nerve--the tenth cranial nerve that runs from your brain stem down to your abdomen--connects these two organs together. Your gut actually produces more of the neurotransmitter serotonin--thought to play an important role in OCD, in addition to having a beneficial influence on your mood in general--than your brain does, so optimizing your gut flora may indeed have tremendous benefit for your psychological health. And there's plenty of evidence to suggest that this needs to begin from birth, or even, ideally, before birth.

For holistic solutions to repopulating and nourishing your gut, be sure to read my blog on how to treat your mood with taking bugs on my website (

Sources: Mercola, J. The Hidden Cause of Psychiatric Disorders Almost No One Considers. April 16 2012.

Debora MacKenzie New Scientist Health. Bacteria could be significant cause of OCD. March 28, 2012.

My latest blog at discusses the mind-body connection of stress and physical health. I highlighted one way to modulate the stress effect with mediation.

Below are more examples and excerpts on how to manage the stress response:

Laughing Decreases Stress (Am J Med Sci.1989 Dec; 298(6):390-6.)

Abstract: Positive emotional activities have been suggested as modifiers of neuroendocrine hormones involved in the classical stress response. To detect changes in these components during a mirthful laughter experience, the authors studied 10 healthy male subjects. Five experimental subjects viewed a 60 minute humor video and five control subjects did not. ...These biochemical changes have implications for the reversal of the neuroendocrine and classical stress hormone response. 

Source: Berk LS,et al.Neuroendocrine and stress hormone changes during mirthful laughter. PMID: 2556917

Gardening Reduces Stress on Caregivers (Alzheimer's Association)

(CHICAGO) November 3, 2008 - According to the Alzheimer's Association 2008 Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures Report, more than 40 percent of the 10 million American unpaid caregivers rate the emotional stress of caregiving as high or very high. However, according to a online survey of 1,340 respondents, nearly 60 percent of respondents say gardening relaxes them. 

Continued at:

Mom Can Actually Reduce Stress??!! (Scientific America)

Yup, a phone call to mom can raise oxytocin, the bonding hormone!

In my recent blog (, I discussed the importance of treatment tailored to the individual vs. the individual tailored to a one-sized-fits all approach. The solution for me is a combination of using Naturopathic Medicine (address the cause) with functional medicine (address biochemical individuality and which natural treatment will be optimal for THAT individual). Below are two highlights from the Metametrix Institute, a functional lab that I use in my practice:

A New Measurement for Autism (Metametrix Blog, Dr. Fitzgerald)

One key intervention for both boys that resulted in a significant reduction of behavioral symptoms was the removal of bovine dairy and gluten-containing grains. Both are big problems for many kids with ASD, and their removal is a common first step.

The older boy recently started a trial of high-dose folinic acid (1mg/kg body weight). This intervention appears to have made a remarkable difference in him. Both parents noted that rather quickly after starting, his expressive language greatly improved--he began articulating his needs and desires--in a way he's never done before. (In all fairness, we cannot rule out benefit from his various other treatments. This trial, like life, wasn't controlled.)

Given the above history, and the favorable folinic acid trial, is it possible for us to form a hypothesis around a potential causative factor in this case? Yes we can. I strongly suspect that Cerebral Folate Deficiency is an underlying etiologic factor with these boys. Here's why:

The article continues on to explain how various individual bio-markers are tested to tailor an approach that suited each brother. 
Watch this Video by Dr. Lord from Metametrix on Alternative Testing for Autism (Metametrix)

This 8 minute video explains the gut-brain connection and how inflammation in the brain can affect the features of autism.


The above highlights the importance of not just addressing the cause, or treating symptoms, but addressing the individual. After all, it is more important to know what kind of person has the disease, than what disease has the person.

Fun Fact for Oil Lovers:

A highlight on Rosemary's ability to boost brain function!

Rosemary EO for mood (Therapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology )

Here we show for the first time that performance on cognitive tasks is significantly related to concentration of absorbed 1,8-cineole following exposure to rosemary aroma, with improved performance at higher concentrations. Furthermore, these effects were found for speed and accuracy outcomes, indicating that the relationship is not describing a speed-accuracy trade off.  The relationships between 1,8-cineole levels and mood were less pronounced, but did reveal a significant negative correlation between change in contentment and plasma 1,8-cineole levels.

Conclusion: These findings suggest that compounds absorbed from rosemary aroma affect cognition and subjective state independently through different neurochemical pathways. (Moss, M. Plasma 1,8-cineole correlates with cognitive performance following exposure to rosemary essential oil aroma (abstract). Therapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology. February 24, 2012. 2045125312436573.)

More info:

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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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