The Rising Toll: U.S. Death Rates Increase

Cancer research is progressing, medical technology is constantly improving, and new knowledge about disease is being produced each day. As the world of healthcare continues to revolutionize, it seems that average life expectancy should increase at the same rate. However, this is not the case. According to recent reports, the U.S. death rate rose 1.2% from 2014 to 2015. This may seem like a small number at first, but broken down, this means 86,212 more U.S. citizens died in 2015 than in 2014—a statistic that is much more difficult to grapple with. Just as well, it is important to note that out of all U.S. citizens, the newest generations have the lowest life expectancy. So why is it that the U.S., a global leader who has seen success in so many other areas, is now ranked 49th out of 52 industrialized countries for life expectancy?

The following is a list of the top 10 causes of death in the U.S:

1. Heart disease

2. Cancer

3. Chronic lower respiratory disease

4. Accidents (unintentional injuries)

5. Stroke

6. Alzheimer's disease

7. Diabetes

8. Influenza and pneumonia

9. Kidney disease

10. Suicide

The rates for most of these causes of death have increased in the past two years. Making matters worse, these rising rates are accompanied by rising healthcare costs, which only add to the stress of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. So the question presents itself—is the U.S. healthcare system to blame for these increasing death rates, or are there other factors we’re missing?

In a study conducted by, it is hypothesized that the U.S. healthcare system is indeed to blame for our nation’s deteriorating health. This is primarily due to the fact that, as health spending rises, so does the number of people without health insurance. Just as well, increased health spending diverts federal money from public health, education, public safety, and community development programs—all important aspects of a country’s survival rates. The researchers in this study suggest that, in order to both save money and save lives, meaningful healthcare reform is necessary.

However, regardless the state of the U.S. healthcare system, there are still many ways we can take our health outcomes into our own hands. One such example is the prevention of obesity. Of all high income countries, the U.S. has the highest obesity rates, with over one third of the population being obese. What’s worse, this rate is projected to rise to 50% by 2030. Since obesity is a leading predictor of deadly diseases such as cancer and heart disease, it is imperative to take preventative measures such as daily exercise and healthy eating. It is especially important to instill healthy habits in young children, as changing health patterns throughout generations is the only way to efficiently resolve our nation’s health.

Another rising cause of death in the U.S. is suicide. Every year, 30,000 people die of suicide in the U.S. out of 650,000 attempts—outnumbering the number of yearly homicides 3 to 2. The highest predictors of suicide are depression and alcoholism. Suicide rates are also commonly correlated with social, political, cultural and economic forces. With this in mind, it is important to note that the best way to prevent suicide is social support. In other words, those who have close relationships are less likely to succumb to stresses like job loss, illness, or bereavement. If you or someone you know seems to be isolating themselves or acting strangely, do not hesitate to ask for or offer help.

As the rates for causes of death such as suicide and obesity continue to rise in the U.S., it is now more important than ever to learn more about how to avoid these risks. Even if the modern healthcare system is to blame, it is still up to U.S. citizens as individuals to take responsibility for their health and well-being. If we take the initiative to learn more about the diseases that are killing us at a quickening rate, we will have the ability to stop them in their tracks. The greatest form of disease prevention is knowledge, so do not hesitate to become the catalyst that sparks your individual journey to healthy living. 

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Coffee is good for you--unless it's not!

November 2016

Featured article by: Chris Kessler

            When you wake up in the morning, what’s the first thing you think about? Feeding the dogs? Getting the kids ready? Or is it… coffee? If you (perhaps guiltily) answered yes to the latter of these questions, you aren’t alone—and this article is for you.

            We live in a coffee-crazed nation, where our daily cup of joe is so deeply engrained in our subconscious that we often feel we can’t function without it. In fact, in America alone, 400 million cups of coffee are consumed per day, costing a grand total of 30 billion U.S. dollars.  So the question presents itself, is this espresso epidemic helping or harming our overall health? In his article, “Coffee is good for you—unless it’s not”, Chris Kessler explores the often contradicting theories concerning the health effects of caffeine consumption.

            Before you kick your Keurig to the curb, it’s important to note that there are proven health benefits of coffee. Coffee consumption has been linked to decreased risk of health issues such as cancer, Parkinson’s disease, obesity, diabetes and heart disease. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, drinking 4-5 cups of coffee per day also has the potential to lower depression rates in women. Although there is not much research proving why coffee has these positive effects, they are certainly still worth noting.

            But before you run to your nearest Starbucks, it’s important to note that coffee has also been linked to negative health effects—but these effects are only experienced by some people. So why aren’t effects identical across the board? To explain, caffeine is broken down by an enzyme in the liver. This enzyme is encoded for by a gene called CYP1A2. As it turns out, 50% of the population have a variation in this gene which causes slow processing of caffeine. For these people, drinking coffee can lead to higher risk of heart disease and hypertension as well as impaired fasting glucose. However, despite these negative effects, most large studies observe the overall effect of coffee to be positive.

            Confused? Allow me to clarify: in sum, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to diet. This holds true in all areas of nutrition, not just concerning the effects of caffeine. You don’t have the same genes, gut microbiome, or even activity level as your neighbor—so it should be expected that your bodies will respond to different foods in different ways. For example, caffeine consumed later in the day disrupts sleep in some people but not others. This is because our bodies process food based on various factors and characteristics unique to the individual.

            So now you’re probably wondering, how do I know if coffee is good for me? The following three steps will assist you in determining how your body reacts to caffeine:

1.     Firstly, I would suggest listening to the podcast “Is Drinking Coffee Good For You?” to understand the non-genetic factors that play a role in caffeine reactions.

2.     Next, try slowly removing caffeine from your diet and remain caffeine-free for 30 days. Then, re-introduce it to your diet and pay close attention to if/how your body responds.

3.     Lastly, you can utilize websites like 23andme to find out if you are a “fast” or “slow” metabolizer. After creating an account, search for the gene “CYP1A2”. Once you’ve found it, locate the rs762551 SNP under the search results. Find the variants of that SNP (on the same page) and look for AA (this means you’re a fast metabolizer), AC or CC (slow metabolizer).

            In total, it is critical to understand the individualized nature of nutrition. There exists no “one-size-fits-all” method when it comes to your body’s unique needs. In terms of caffeine, effects and reactions depend on both genetic makeup and individual factors including gut microbiome, lifestyle, and stress levels. If you consider coffee as a staple in your every day routine, it may be a good idea to utilize the afore-mentioned steps to find out if you are a “fast” or “slow” metabolizer of caffeine. Taking these precautions will allow you to understand the long-term implications of your latte love affair.

Please call 734-726-0153 to schedule a free consultation and evaluation. At Digestive Health Ann Arbor we are known for providing professional and compassionate care. We strive to guide people towards a comprehensive and holistic healing strategy. Restoring your body to health will restore the quality of your life.


Magnesium Deficiency

Many people have either heard or learned about magnesium. However, most people don’t realize how essential it is for the human body. Interestingly enough, magnesium is actually more important for our bodies than most other vitamins and minerals. Magnesium not only plays a vital role in calcium absorption and energy production but it also helps to maintain our nervous system, cardiovascular health, healthy bones, and a healthy hormonal balance. More specifically, our bodies need magnesium to synthesize DNA, RNA, and proteins and to transport ions across bone and cell membrane surfaces, among many other tasks. <p>

Unfortunately, despite its importance, most Americans suffer from magnesium deficiency. Various factors such as large consumption of alcohol, caffeine, salt and sugar or even exposure to high levels of stress can cause magnesium deficiency. On a community scale, modern farming methods have stripped large amounts of nutrients from the soil on which our fruits and vegetable grow, causing the nutritional quality of our food to decrease. As a result, magnesium deficiency is becoming more of a prevalent problem. <p>

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A World Free of Cancer

A World Free of Cancer

Most of us, in one way or another, have been impacted by the horrifying consequences of cancer. We all dream of a world without cancer. We all dream of the day when the cure to cancer will be found, in hopes that it will never again have the power to ruthlessly take the lives of our loved ones. But, what if I told you this world already exists? <p>

The Hunza people live in a world free of cancer. "How?" you may ask. But the right question is what. What is the key to “curing” the ruthless disease? Experts have found that the secret to their world is actually quite simple, their nutrition and lifestyle. <p>

Let’s begin with the question, who are the Hunzas? They are a small population of 30,000 who live in the Himalayas located at the ultimate northern point of India where the borders of India, China, Kashmir, and Afghanistan meet. <p>

An important aspect to note about the health of these people without cancer is that in addition to the absence of disease, they’re energetic, enthusiastic, and peaceful all at the same time. Moreover, unlike the average 70-year lifespan of a Westerner, the Hunzas’ average age is 120 years. Their exceptional longevity allows the Hunza to do things that Westerners can not after a certain age. For example, it’s typical for a 90-year-old Hunza man to become a father. <p>


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Leaky Gut Syndrome: Origins, Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

The concept of a leaky gut is confusing and odd-sounding. It evokes an image of a tin pail riddled with holes, or a faucet with a constant drip. How can our guts be leaky?
Let's start with normal digestion. The intestines are not solid barriers, as tin pails and faucets tend to be, but are permeable - like filters. The digestive tract serves as a filtering system, much like the ones people use in their homes to purify water.


A healthy filtering system has a wall of cells which are closely bound together in what are called tight junctions. This filtering system has three important jobs:

  1. Absorb food filtered through the intestinal wall.
  2. Serve as a protective barrier by preventing the passage of toxins, partially digested food, bacteria, yeast, and viruses into the blood stream. These larger molecules are too big to properly filter through and are shuttled to the large intestine where they are expelled.
  3. Act as a key element of the immune system.

Now that you’re able to picture a healthy gut, let’s compare it to a leaky gut. Have you ever gone camping and tried to purify water that was filled with sludge and debris? Even if you haven't, try to imagine filtering drain pipe run-off in your home Brita filter. It probably wouldn't be something to serve to friends. Those with leaky gut syndrome have malfunctioning intestinal filters, often caused by what they have been forced to filter.

Digestive tracts can be stressed by undetected food allergies, overuse of antibiotics, and excessive alcohol consumption, among other things. Over time, these stressors wear microscopic holes that allow toxins and undigested food to enter into the blood stream. This triggers a defensive reaction from the liver, lymphatic system, and an immune response. White blood cells attack the undigested food and inflammation increases. Cells that make up the wall of a healthy small intestine are closely bound together. The stress of increasing inflammation causes these tight junctions to give way and gaps appear between the cells.  This is the essence of a leaky gut. 

Once our filtering system begins to fail, its job performance suffers:

The gut cannot absorb nutrients properly, leading to malnutrition and nutrient deficiencies.

The protective barrier is compromised and toxins, partially digested food, bacteria, yeast and viruses enter the blood stream. However, with increased permeability, it is not only the “sludge” and “debris” that cause problems. Healthy foods can trigger immune responses as they escape through our permeable gut into our blood stream. Our immune system begins to label these healthy foods as toxins too. What may have initially been only one food allergy or sensitivity could turn into many.

Additionally, nutrient absorption dysfunction leaves our immune system constantly activated and overstressed. An overstressed immune system can potentially cause an autoimmune illness such as rheumatoid arthritis or thyroid problems.

So, how do we know if we have a leaky gut? Since 70% of our immune system is located in our digestive tract, poor digestion and absorption becomes a systemic problem - our whole body feels the effects. This is why discovering and treating a leaky gut is so important.
While the following is not an exhaustive list of symptoms or systems affected by a leaky gut, here are some of the most common: abdominal pain, diarrhea/constipation, asthma, chronic join/muscle pain, skin rashes, acne, eczema, migraines, fuzzy or foggy thinking, mood swings, poor memory, aggressive behavior, anxiety, fatigue, poor immunity, and bed wetting.


Michael Pollan, one of the more recent critics of the industrial food system, has commented that “populations that eat a so-called Western diet (including commercially prepared and stored foods)...invariably suffer from high rates of the so-called Western diseases: obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.[...].Four of the top ten killers in America are chronic diseases linked to this diet.” (Food Rules, xii) As Michael Pollan sarcastically quipped in his most recent book, Westerners “have developed the one diet that reliably makes its people sick!” (Food Rules, xiii) But what are we excluding or including in our diets that is making us so sick that some of us even have holes in our guts to prove it? The following are a few examples of the general causes of a permeable digestive tract:

  1. Chronic Inflammation
    Induced by stress, IBS, or a food allergy, chronic inflammation is one of the biggest causes of a leaky gut.
  2. Antibiotics
    Excessive use of antibiotics harms our guts in two ways. Firstly, antibiotics kill beneficial bacteria, which is responsible for metabolizing wastes and building immunity, causing our bodies to be more susceptible to leaky gut syndrome. Secondly, antibiotics promote the growth of Candida, one of the largest contributors to the development of leaky gut syndrome.
  3. Excessive alcohol consumption
    Alcohol consumption can irritate the stomach and intestinal lining and can impair some of our body’s natural reparative defenses called Prostaglandins. 
  4. Food Sensitivities/allergies
    Food sensitivities can cause inflammation and worsen a leaky gut. Food sensitivities are also symptoms of a leaky gut because once our digestive tract becomes permeable, additional food sensitivities may develop.

 Leaky gut syndrome is implicated in many other serious health complications, such as: Rheumatoid arthritis, ADD, ADHD, Autism, Schizophrenia, Crohn's disease, and IBD.

So how do we “mend” the leak? Luckily, most elements of a leaky gut are often tied to a food allergy, so the discovery and removal of certain foods can drastically improve our health. After the offending food is removed, many health practitioners recommend taking additional supplements to strengthen your digestive tract. Once we know what food is causing us problems, we can jump start our healing with some natural remedies such as, supplements such as quercetin and curcumin and vitamin D. 

One of the most commonly used food allergy tests and healing agents for leaky gut syndrome are stool samples. They serve as excellent barometers of human health. Since the majority of the body's immune cells are present in the intestinal tract, a stool sample is the best place to search for evidence of food allergies. 

Fortunately, The Salveo Diagnostics Gut Health Assessment is a simple, inexpensive stool-based test that can be taken at home. This stool test will tell you if you have a leaky gut and if you do, how severe it is. It tests for gut inflammation by checking for indicators such as Eosinophil Protein X, which is a glycoprotein that is released when fighting infectious parasites and bacteria. Increased levels of it may reflect infection, inflammation, and tissue damage caused by food allergies. Salveo Diagnostics Gut Health Assessment also tests for intestinal permeability, among a few other things, by checking for levels of Zonulin, a protein which regulates the permeability of tight junctions. Increased levels of this indicates bacterial or fungal overgrowth. To take The Salveo Diagnostics Gut Health Assessment, please contact Gary Merel at or call 734-222-8210.


The Rise of Food-borne Illnesses in America

Most people only pay attention to food and water safety when they’re in a developing country. Drinking bottled water and eating well-cooked food are essentials for any western tourist. But the problem is closer to home than you may think. Here in the US, 48 million Americans get sick with food poisoning every year. Astonishingly, FDA-regulated food calls have more than doubled in the past decade. Are the food industry’s safety regulations crumbling? Or has technology simply allowed us to trace outbreaks of food-borne illness better than we could before?

Since 2006, we’ve found E.coli, once thought to live only in meats, in bags of baby spinach, hazelnuts, and even cookie dough. We’ve found botulism in carrot juice and salmonella in peanut butter, ground pepper, jalapeño peppers, and pistachios. We’ve found hepatitis A in pomegranate seeds and Listeria in ice cream. It doesn’t matter whether you shop at Costco, Trader Joe’s, or Safeway. Food-borne illnesses are everywhere, according to the headlines at least.

Within the last few months, salads made by Dole killed four people and sent 33 more to the hospital. Within the last year, Chipotle’s notorious E.coli and norovirus crisis made national headlines and caused sales to plunge 16% in a single month. A 2015 study done by Robert Schartt, an associate professor at Ohio State University, estimates the annual cost of medical treatment pertaining to food-borne disease, lost productivity, and illness-related mortality at $55.5 billion. Now more than ever, people are getting food poisoning in a country that, for decades, has pioneered disease prevention knowledge and technology. So why are we having such a difficult time wiping out food-borne illness? There are three main reasons:

First off, discovering food poisoning outbreaks is much harder than it seems. Many who fall ill will not visit their doctor unless they experience extreme symptoms, and even then physicians don’t always order stool tests, the primary method used to detect harmful bacteria. As a result, very few people with food poisoning are ever formally diagnosed, making it almost impossible to deduce patterns of illness. Even when a doctor does find listeria, slamonella, etc. it’s still very difficult to pinpoint the guilty food or restaurant. A patient may have to supply a record of food consumption that goes back as long as 28 days. What are the chances a person will remember what she ate 4 weeks ago? 

Another reason for America’s 55.5 billion dollar problem is that food companies don’t always cooperate with scientific efforts to curb outbreaks. While most companies test their products extensively, oftentimes those companies won’t release any of their research, inhibiting scientists and pathogen experts. In other words, even if a company is tracking bacteria and viruses in it’s products, keeping those test results secret makes it harder for scientists to gather information about these bacteria that could help prevent future outbreaks on a mass scale. Companies get nervous about sharing data for obvious reasons: they don’t want to give away evidence that could ever incriminate them in any way.

The third reason is that Americans love lots of food! In particular food that could never be grown in the US. We import about 20% of our food, and each country we import from has its own food-safety standards and inspection regimens, making the regulation and prevention of food-borne contamination in the global supply chain almost impossible. Every country your food goes through, the less safe it becomes. In one instance, by the time a batch of milk from China was identified as contaminated, it had already been exported to 47 other countries in the forms of various products. 

Despite the three reasons given above, experts still seem to be in agreement that the rise in recalls and food poisoning cases is not a sign of poor safety standards in the food industry. Rather, the scientific community has simply gotten better at connecting disease with food and microbes. Now that we have the knowledge (or more knowledge) of how often our food makes us sick, we can start taking adequate steps to prevent food-borne illness.

One important step might be to improve the way companies interact with the FDA. For example, “Instead of the FDA having to show that firms are doing something wrong, firms have to show that they’re doing something right,” says Charles Breen, a former FDA district director who is now a food-safety consultant. Putting the pressure on companies to make food safety a top priority is one of the best ways we have to control outbreaks of food poisoning. Until then, we can achieve peace of mind to some degree with the knowledge that the rising number of outbreaks most likely means we are getting better at finding and tracing diseases—NOT that we live in a disease-ridden community.

While the media headlines may be more sensation than truth, food-borne illnesses have been all but eliminated from American Society. Until the food industry and food safety organizations like the FDA function more harmoniously, the burden falls upon consumers to know when its best to eat cooked food, use meat thermometers, and think about where we get our food in general—something we should be doing anyway for more reasons than just disease prevention.

Yes, You Can Predict the Future

I’m excited to inform you all that I’ve recently formed a relationship with the Cleveland Heart Lab—a branch of the renowned academic hospital, the Cleveland Clinic, located in Cleveland, Ohio. 

Cleveland Heart Lab specializes in predicting inflammatory issues, diabetes, and other things that can impact the quality of your life. In particular, it offers many different tests that are used across North America, Europe, and Asia in the management and prevention of heart disease—the number one killer of men and women in the US. A recent study published in the Journal of Medical Economics predicts that Cleveland Heart Lab’s inflammation testing could reduce the average heart attack and stroke rate by 10% over the coming years. That translates to about $187 million dollars saved and thousands of healthier, happier people. 

Cleveland Heart Lab can predict the future of your health by measuring the level of inflammation in your body, an often over-looked indicator of health problems either now or to come. People with higher levels of inflammation are more likely to suffer from heart attack, stroke, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and hypertension, amongst other things. 

What sorts of life choices might cause the body to become inflamed? Namely, poor diet. Certain foods are naturally pro-inflammatory or anti-inflammatory, which means that what you choose to eat can have a serious impact on your inflammation responses. Eating sugary, processed foods and trans fat, which tend to be found in fried foods, snack foods, industrial seed oils and baked goods, is one of the best ways to put your body on track to chronic inflammation.

When you eat inflammatory foods like the ones mentioned above, chemicals called “cytokines” are released into the blood and tissues. Cytokines are known to be destructive to our normal cells and, if the inflammation is chronic, they often wear down tissues and lead to further systemic inflammation. The result? Cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s, to name a few. Even if you manage to evade the worst outcome, studies have shown that inflammation of internal organs also leads to mental and emotional imbalances, digestive disorders, skin problems, and more.

This brings me back to the Cleveland Heart Lab. If you want to know the future of your health as it stands with your current lifestyle, consider getting one of the many tests offered by the Lab. Here is a quick summary of some of the tests available and how they can help you:

  1. C-reactive protein (hs-CRP) test: often used in combination with a lipid profile to evaluate an individual’s risk of cardiovascular disease. CRP is a protein found in the blood that increases with inflammation. The hs-CRP test is used to detect low but persistent levels of C-reactive protein in the blood, thereby indicating low levels of inflammation that could result in heart disease given enough time. The consensus within the medical community is that this test can be used to target people who have a moderate risk of heart attack over the next ten years. Very high levels of hs-CRP, especially in combination with high levels of LpPLA2 (an enzyme that produces inflammation in the artery walls) can be used to predict an adverse cardiac even within the next one to six months.
  2. TMAO test: another incredibly powerful way of predicting heart attack and stroke risk in individuals who seem otherwise healthy. This test measures the level of trimethylamine-N-oxide in the blood, a compound produced by the liver.
  3. Adiponectin test: targets individuals at risk of metabolic syndrome and diabetes due to poor life choices. People with low adiponectin levels have a 3X greater risk of developing metabolic syndrome and a 9X increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
  4. Fibrinogen test: Fibrinogen is a protein essential for blood clot formation. Low levels of fibrinogen can indicate a bleeding disorder or disseminated intravascular coagulation. 
  5. Vitamin D test: Vitamin D deficiencies are known to lead to a host of health problems including osteoporosis, some forms of cancer, stroke, heart disease, arthritis, and more—even in people who seem perfectly healthy. 
  6. Hemoglobin A1C test: used to monitor the glucose control of diabetics, helping to prevent the health complications that can come from long-term high glucose levels. This test can also be used to diagnose diabetes and pre-diabetes in individuals with or without symptoms.
  7. Homocysteine test: helps target individuals at high risk of myocardial infarction or stroke or individuals with a family history of coronary artery disease. A homocysteine test can also reveal Vitamin B12 or folic acid deficiencies. 

Finding out this information now can help you pursue the most promising and tailored path of preventative care—before it’s too late. Yet, your doctor is likely not going to recommend any of these tests to you. While conventional medicine often focuses on the treatment of present illness, Cleveland Heart Lab saves lives every day by revealing prophecies of ill health before they become a reality. With this information so readily available, patients can make informed decisions about how to ensure disease prevention based on their personal situation and disease risk. The Lab offers many more tests than the ones mentioned here for people at all different places in their health. Chances are there is at least one test that can help illuminate the future wellbeing of you and almost anyone else.

The effects of inflammation on your body may not always be obvious—but that means you have even better reason to seek professional help to predict the future of your health. It is crucial that you monitor low, but persistent levels of inflammation on your body now before the effects start to appear. To find out more about the services offered by Cleveland Heart Lab, please contact Gary Merel at or call 734-222-8210.

The Power of Holistic Medicine in Treating Infertility: Meet Allie

At least 6 million people of reproductive age in the US (that's 7.4% of the population) are struggling with infertility. Causes of infertility can vary from genetics (e.g. PCOS), to illness, to the unexplained. Making things even more stressful is the number of infertility treatments available on the market. Every couple has different experiences and different needs; every treatment has different success rates and different risks--so how do you know which treatment will work for you?

Through a combination of functional medicine, diet changes, the right supplements, acupuncture, and blood work, Ann Arbor Holistic Health is able to help many women find balance and successfully conceive. Meet one of them: Allie, a 33 year old Michigan native (and her beautiful daughter Scarlett)! Allie is a project coordinator for a Detroit automaker who enjoys cooking, being outdoors, and genealogical research. She was gracious enough to share her experience at Ann Arbor Holistic Health with our readers.

Can you tell us a bit of your story with Gary?

I got married at 29 and [my partner and I] began “trying” within a few months of our wedding.  I expected to have difficulties conceiving due to irregular and infrequent periods, as well as diagnosed PCOS.  My doctor strongly advised I start taking Clomid and I wanted to try an alternative/holistic approach first.
I’ve received acupuncture from Gary in conjunction with Clomid for both pregnancies.  The second pregnancy (I’m currently about 3 months pregnant), I actually got pregnant after several failed cycles of Clomid, but while receiving acupuncture and using the supplements Gary recommended.  So, the success of this current pregnancy can be attributed completely to Gary!

What kinds of services has Gary been able to help you with?

He helped me achieve two pregnancies - one beautiful daughter, and baby #2 still cooking.
In addition to PCOS and irregular periods, my periods were extremely painful and my doctor suspects endometriosis.  She prescribed Tylenol 3 with codeine, which helped take the edge off the pain.  With acupuncture, my periods were immediately regulated (even before the first round of Clomid, which also helps regulate) and the pain was greatly reduced to where a single ibuprofen or even nothing at all was needed.  The regulation and pain reduction amaze me almost more than the fertility help!

What was your perception of conventional medicine before your choice to pursue holistic treatments, and has that changed after?

I believe conventional Western medicine has its value.  Sometimes, however, Western medicine’s aim is simply to ease or erase symptoms with the use of drugs or surgeries, not necessarily resolve the problem causing the symptoms.  

What sorts of things did you learn about yourself and your body as you were receiving holistic treatments?

I happily learned that my irregularities and pain could be easily managed with relaxing acupuncture.  Holistic treatments seem to be a much more gentler way of coaxing your body back to health & optimal function.  And my body certainly responded positively.

What advice would you give to other women going through what you once did?

Don’t waste another day trying to self-diagnose or fret over medical intervention.  Try acupuncture with Gary.  I certainly wouldn’t spend a dime on IUI or IVF without first trying acupuncture.




When Cancer Hits Home: Finding a Path When None Exists

Many of the people who are close to me, including my friends and many of my patients, know that my wife, Mariah, is being treated for a fairly aggressive form of breast cancer. In addition, my older sister Sharon passed away last fall (2015) from a long-term battle with leukemia. As you can imagine, cancer hitting this close to home has been a lot for me to take in. Like many others, I find myself challenged to understand the indiscriminate nature of this terrible illness. My healing and dealing (or coping) process is to kind of “put it all out there;” to share the gist of what I am feeling, share my life and explore what works and what doesn’t. I want us all to learn together; to let go of the “right and wrong,” black-and-white illusion of the decisions and judgments we have to make.

I want to make this the first article in a series about my experience with cancer. I want to open up about creating a support system for my wife and I want to share how my process of coping and self-discovery has evolved over time in this very stressful place. Most importantly, I want to create a space to explore, support and create a community where we can stumble together towards a deeper understanding of life and ourselves. 

The story begins 4 years ago, when Mariah was first diagnosed with Her 2 Positive breast cancer. She chose to treat what was then a fairly large tumor in her right beast with some aggressive holistic therapy. She decided on a month long program in a holistic cancer treatment center in Arizona called Sun Ridge Medical Center—a program that was not covered by insurance.

Forced to grapple with the cost of treatment, there was a second when my mind went through this futile process of trying to calculate just how much my wife’s life was worth. Of course I would have paid anything; I would have given anything in the world. But coming up with over $60,000 is not easy, especially when we had to borrow a good deal of it. 

At Sun Ridge Medical Center, Mariah received daily IV treatments of large doses of glutathione, vitamin C, and Ozone to name only a few types of infusions. From what we read about Sun Ridge and their success, we were to say, at the very least, quite optimistic. In those days, I was overwhelmed with anticipation for the future. I was certain these treatments would cure Mariah. In no time, she would be out of the “woods” and all this uncertain spending would come to an end.

Mariah returned after her 30-day stay with little to no improvement. One thing was certain: the tumor continued to grow.

From the moment Mariah was diagnosed, I felt a dire need to understand why this was happening to my family. Things like this usual happen to other people--not my wife; not us. I just wanted a path to follow; a neatly paved path that would lead us to a clear and concise understanding of what went wrong.

Mariah and I are fundamentally good people. We do not lie, cheat, steal or hurt anyone. I would say we are generally nice people who treat others with respect and kindness. We live a healthy life. We mediate. We exercise. We eat organically. We do all the things you’re supposed to in order to support your health and your body as a whole. But when Cancer struck home, I found the core of my beliefs challenged. At the time, it looked like the beliefs that saw me through most of my life were not really working so well.

My journey of continual understanding led me to one night. I came across a book by Pema Chodron called “When Life Falls Apart”. I found her to be real and grounded in the reality of what a person can go through when life turns to complete shit. That book held a deep resonance for me. It was almost as if Chodron was talking to me about me. 

Two things really stuck out to me from Chodron’s writings. First, she said to give up hope. Now, that doesn’t mean to be hopeless, mind you. She explains that hoping for something better in the future takes you out of the present moment. For her, and I think myself, the answers I am looking for need to be found here, now. Who knows what the future may bring? Maybe something good…but also maybe something not so good. Life, and especially my wife, is here now. That is where I want to be: with my wife in the present moment. 

The second piece of advice Chodron gave me is not to look to God for “The Answer”. She called it being a “non-theist.” She was not asking me to give up belief in God. I do believe in God, and I often pray. I think what she means, rather, is not to ask God for a certain outcome, or a certain event that might or might not happen. Looking to someone or something else all the time is another factor that can separate from you the present moment, or from the reality of you and your loved ones. 

Both giving up hope and not looking to God for an answer helped me find my way in the present moment and helped me to stop projecting all my energy into the future. These 2 simple practices tend to work for me in my darkest times. I welcome your thoughts, comments and suggestions on these coping mechanisms and your own experiences. This is only one man’s journey of trying to understand what often seems incomprehensible.



Why Go Paleo?

Need more reasons to go Paleo? Just look at the Tokelau, an indigenous population of the South Pacific. Tokelauans are characterized by two extraordinary things: 1) their reliance, for centuries, on a limited diet of coconut, seafood, wild fowl, and fruit and 2) remarkably low rates of heart disease, hypertension, obesity, and diabetes among the population.

In fact, as a general rule, the most common killers of modern times (cancer, heart disease, etc.) are absent or barely present in most indigenous peoples across the globe. What might account for the disparity in health between us and them? Well, we know that these people generally don't consume modern foods like wheat flower, industrial seed oils, and sugar. We also know that when these populations are introduced to the foods listed above, we see disease rates rise significantly within their communities.

To be sure, diet is not the only relevant factor when it comes to disease prevalence. But the fact remains: some of the healthiest people in the world tend to eat a nutrient-rich diet of grass-fed meat, seafood and starchy vegetables; otherwise known as the Paleo diet! To find out more about going Paleo, see this link.

How Your Diet Affects Your Reproductive Success

At least 6 million people of reproductive age in the US (that's 7.4% of the population) are struggling with infertility. For many in this group, the cause of that infertility remains somewhat mysterious, only adding to the frustration. Meanwhile, we continue eating processed foods, living stationary life styles, and enjoying all the other perks of the modern world. But our reproductive systems didn't evolve in an environment where vegetables came in cans and "work" meant sitting at a desk for eight hours a day. Actually, our bodies adapted to a vastly different environment many thousands of years ago, where fresh vegetables and meat made up the bulk of our diet.

That's why some health practitioners are starting to back the notion that what you eat effects your reproductive success. There's data to support it too: In a recent (2009) study of 223 women who were unable to conceive, 23 % of women had vitamin deficiencies (specifically, Vitamin B12). If you think about it, the correlation between diet and reproductive success is not that surprising. females have to support a fetus for nine months; a body won't take on that task until it knows it has the proper nourishment.

Iron, Vitamin E, B Vitamins, Vitamin D, and amino acids DHA and EPA are all crucial to prepping the body for conception. But don't run to the supplement store just yet. Many supplements are made with cheap fillers and low-quality ingredients, despite whatever dramatic claims might be on the bottle. The best way to prep your body for pregnancy is to eat nutrient-rich foods. Think: egg yolks, salmon and other fish, grass-fed beef, organic meats and vegetables, etc. To make it simple: eat Paleo! Your body will thank you and it can only help your chances of conceiving.

Gary’s Story: Coping with the impossible. Cancer hitting home.

Many of the people that are close to me know that my wife Mariah is being treated for a fairly aggressive form of breast cancer. My older sister Sharon passed away last fall (2015) from a long term battle with leukemia, and overall it has been a lot for me to take in.

I am challenged to understand the indiscriminate nature of cancer. My healing and dealing (or coping) process is to share my story and kind of put it all out there. To share the grist of what I am feeling. Share my life. Explore what works and what doesn’t work. Learn together. Let go of the “right and wrong” of the decisions and judgments we have and make.

So, on National Women’s Day, I would like to start the first of a series dedicated to my wife and her strength. I want to share my journey of supporting my wife and my process of coping and self-discovery in this very stressful place. I want to create a space to explore, support and create a community where we can stumble together towards a deeper understanding of life and ourselves.

My hope is that many of you who have also been affected by cancer may engage in this conversation. Look out for some future posts, and please feel free to reach out to me at any point if you have stories to share.

If Living Healthy is so Important to Longevity, Why Do Some Unhealthy People Live so Long?

Did you know that people who live to be 95 are just as likely to make unhealthy lifestyle choices as anyone else? At least that’s what one study from the Yeshiva Institute for Aging found. Smoking, drinking, failing to exercise, eating processed foods—some people do these things all their lives and somehow still manage to outlive their healthier peers. Likewise, some people who make all the right choices (eating Paleo, exercising, wearing sunscreen etc.) are sometimes the ones who get the sickest. 

People who do end up living to 95+ are a rarity (~ .01% of the population). But several studies have shown this to group to smoke, drink, and lead sedentary life-styles just as much, or, in some cases, even more than the general population. At first, this might seem absolutely baffling. You might be wondering: is all my work to stay healthy done in vain if people who do just the opposite outlive me?

The answer is: of course not. The real story behind these long-lived, yet unhealthy people is luck—more specifically, the luck of winning the genetic lottery. Oftentimes, people who live to be very old simply have longevity encoded within their genes. They might interact with environmental factors differently than others. Their good genes work to counteract the effects of bad behavior and bad habits. Some genes not only slow down cellular aging, but also provide an anti-aging effect—giving some people a huge advantage when it comes to living a long, if unhealthy, life.

Now you might be wondering, how do I know if I’m one of these people? Well, you can’t—that is, until you actually live to be very old. In other words, only time will tell if you made out with the genetic winnings—and the odds aren’t in your favor. For 99.9% of us, life-style choices matter a great deal. While a small segment of the population might seem to defy the idea that how we live our lives dictates how old we live to be, the fact is, these people are the exception to the rule; they’re going to live a long time no matter what. The rest of us actually do have control over how long we do or don’t live; which is really a good thing if you think about it.

But we don’t always have complete control. On the other side of the spectrum, you could practice healthy habits your whole life and still fall victim to disease, particularly cancer. My wife is one of these people. In spite of exercising, eating healthy, and controlling for environmental toxins, she became a victim of breast cancer four years ago. A study from Johns Hopkins found that most incidences of cancer are caused not by unhealthy lifestyles, but by plain old bad luck—as is my wife’s case. Again the question arises: is all your work towards staying healthy done in vain?

The answer, again, is: of course not! The study found 22 cancers that were tied to random gene mutations—but nine others, including skin cancer, colorectal, and lung cancer, were proven to be tied to environmental and life-style factors. Breast cancer was not evaluated in the study.

The moral of the story is that some cancers (particularly some of the most common forms) leave more room than others for taking measures of prevention. I.e., what you choose to eat and put on your skin does affect your risk of developing some forms of cancer. Additionally, several studies have shown that healthy living tends to turn off cancer-promoting genes and turn on cancer-suppressing genes—more evidence that making healthy choices does affect our risk of developing cancer.

At the end of the day, the work you do to stay healthy matters. A combination of conventional medicine and holistic health almost certainly has a meaningful effect on how old we live to be. And even if you do happen to be one of those people who will live to be 100 no matter what, or one of those people who unfairly falls victim to disease, living healthy will, at the very least, improve the quality of however many years you do live—whether that’s 45, 75, or 100+. 

How to Relieve Stress--The Natural Way

Stress—its something we’ve all experienced, albeit at varying intensities. What most people don’t know, though, is just how bad persistent stress is for our bodies. Excess amounts of DHEA, adrenaline, and cortisol (the primary stress hormones released by the body) can cause everything from depression and sleep deprivation to chronic pain and weakened immunity. Some healthcare professionals estimate that as much as 80% of the population suffers from stress-overload.

If you’re feeling too stressed too often, there’s no immediate need to turn to anxiety drugs, though. Most of these medications are often accompanied by serious side effects that can make you feel even worse. Instead, try some of these natural stress-relief techniques:

2)   Ashwaganda is an Indian herb that reduces anxiety by lowering cortisol levels. It can boost your immune system and also help you sleep at night. You can purchase it from a trusted provider in tablet, capsule, and liquid forms.

6)   Simple stress reduction techniques, like getting some moderate exercise, doing yoga or tai chi, taking time for yourself, and just resting when you can find the time.

5)   Vitamin C is used up quickly during times of stress, so you need to make an effort to replenish it. You should aim for 2,000-4,000 mg a day.

Histamine Intolerance: When Allergies Get Out of Hand

In this day and age, the food we eat and the lifestyles we lead don’t always leave us feeling so great. Headaches, constipation, lethargy, gas, bloating, etc. are things we’ve all experienced at some point. But nailing down the exact cause of our symptoms can be a real challenge—oftentimes they can signify anything from daily wear and tear to a more serious medical issue. So how do you know which one it is?

The first step towards finding the answer is usually to start the Paleo diet, which keeps from us eating the foods that tend to lead to the annoying symptoms listed above. Many people will find their quality of life transformed after being on the Paleo diet for an appropriate length of time. But if you’ve given the Paleo diet a try and your symptoms remain, it might be time to look at some other explanations for that persistent feeling of illness. One of those explanations is histamine intolerance.

Before I talk about histamine intolerance, I want to say a bit about what histamines are and the purpose they serve. Histamines are chemicals that we come into contact with in a few different ways. The first and most common way is when the body itself releases histamines. This happens any time an allergen triggers the immune system. Once released, the histamines leave us with runny noses, rashes, itchy throats, and the other typical allergy symptoms most of us know all too well. We also come into contact with histamines when 1) we eat foods containing them and 2) certain bacteria in our guts produce them. 

To keep histamine production under control, our bodies produce an enzyme called diamine oxidase (DAO). DAO breaks down these histamines, subduing the allergic reaction. But some people have a deficiency of DAO, which means histamines are allowed to build up inside the body over time. Histamine buildup can lead to a variety of symptoms including migraines, digestive upset (constipation/diarrhea), nausea, and low blood pressure, in addition to all the other allergy symptoms listed above. In other words, you may have what feels like an allergic reaction but in the absence of any allergen at all. We call this histamine intolerance. 


Histamine intolerance, unfortunately, is often hard to diagnose because most of these symptoms (runny nose, headache, constipation, etc.) are nothing out of the ordinary. However there is at least one give-away to the histamine intolerant—they always respond poorly to foods that contain high levels of histamines. Although your body produces them as well, our biggest histamine source tends to be the food we eat. In reality, its not the food that contains the histamines—it’s the bacteria living on the food. Anything aged or fermented will contain a lot of these histamine-producing bacteria—think yogurt, aged cheese, cured meat, alcohol, vinegar, fish and seafood, mushrooms, dried fruit, and more. Sometimes even leftovers contain enough bacteria to cause problems. 

However, a person’s reaction to specific foods can very widely. For example, someone might be able to eat fish from one store without a problem, but suffer terribly after eating fish from another grocery store or restaurant.  There are also foods that don’t actually contain histamines themselves, but rather cause our bodies to produce more histamines, like spinach, citrus fruit, pineapple, pork, shellfish, chocolate, and nuts. Individual sensitivities to these foods often vary greatly, but most of the time people are primarily affected by only the very high-histamine foods, which like I said, includes anything aged or fermented.

The best way to diagnose histamine intolerance is to follow a customized histamine-elimination diet for four weeks. After that time, the patient should reintroduce the eliminated foods to see if there is any noticeable difference in well-being. A food journal and the guidance of a medical practitioner can be valuable tools in diagnosing histamine intolerance. If you want to know more about what foods should be avoided in a histamine-elimination diet, please see the following link:

If you believe high-histamine foods might be behind your symptoms, there are a couple things you can do to feel healthy again. In addition to avoiding the foods containing the most histamine, you’ll want to make sure your meat is as fresh as possible or frozen as soon as possible after slaughter. It’s also important to pay attention to your gut health. Like I said earlier, some of the bacteria in our guts produce histamines. If the bacteria population in our guts becomes imbalanced (due to taking antibiotics, eating the wrong foods, etc.), then histamine buildup can become a problem. Taking particular probiotics, like Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, can help suppress this histamine release. Other helpful supplements are Vitamin B6, copper, and Vitamin C. These nutrients encourage a healthy population of DOA, which again, eliminates histamines. 

At this point in time, scientists are unsure just how much of the population is histamine intolerant. If you’re having allergy symptoms accompanied by digestive upset, headaches, low blood pressure, etc. for no apparent reason, you might be one of those affected. Luckily, simply giving your diet a little more attention can often alleviate the symptoms of histamine intolerance. The best way to find out more is to contact your healthcare practitioner about crafting a histamine-elimination diet and reintroduction to see the difference for yourself. 

Toxins in Modern Day Farming: What Your Food Labels Aren’t Telling You

The next time you go the grocery store and fill up your cart with fruits, vegetables, bread, and snacks, chances are that most of them will contain traces of a chemical called glyphosate. Glyphosate is the most widely produced herbicide in the world. In the US, it’s referred to as “Roundup.” You could say that Roundup is ubiquitous in our environment. People everywhere, every single day, are being exposed to over 700 different products treated with it (from agriculture and forestry to home use). That’s why I want to take this newsletter to call your attention to something that has almost certainly had an effect on your health.

Certain individuals and organizations have taken great pains to make sure that the safety of glyphosate remains foggy. Proponents claim that it’s organic and breaks down, but that is highly debatable. In reality, new data is suggesting that glyphosate is NOT harmless; rather, it may pose serious health risks to anyone who ingests it.

The World Health Organization International Agency for Research on Cancer just published a study this past March classifying glyphosate as a probable carcinogen in humans, citing correlations to cancers of the thyroid, liver, bladder, pancreas, and kidney. In addition, glyphosate exposure may be a cause of many chronic health problems. Autism in particular tends to be strongly correlated to glyphosate usage (see chart). Stroke, diabetes, obesity, metabolism disorders, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and inflammatory bowel disease are other conditions that become more common with increased glyphosate exposure. In one instance, a 54-year old man accidentally sprayed himself with glyphosate. A month later, he developed parkinsonian syndrome. 

Scientists think glyphosate might even be disruptive to the community of bacteria living in our intestines—otherwise known as the microbiome—by causing the population of bad bacteria to overtake the gut. Studies show that good bacteria tend to be more susceptible to glyphosate than bad. The good bacteria often can’t survive at all when exposed. Scientists are still assessing the importance of the microbiome to overall human health, but it is speculated that the disruption of the microbiome could be tied to diseases such as metabolic disorder, diabetes, depression, autism, cardiovascular disease, and autoimmune disease. Other conditions glyphosate has been tied to include allergies, infertility, depression, and Crohn’s disease. 

Remember, correlations are not causations; but they do give us good reason to be concerned over the use of a chemical that seeps into each and every one of our lives. Glyphosate enters the body by being either 1) absorbed through the skin or 2) directly ingested with food and water containing glyphosate. Soy, corn, and sugar beets tend to be heavily treated with glyphosate. These crops have been genetically modified to be resistant to glyphosate; so when farmers treat their fields with roundup, the weeds die but the crops live—only saturated with glyphosate. These crops are referred to as “Roundup Ready Crops.” Roundup Ready crops are staple ingredients in most processed foods. Soy especially is often used in livestock feed; meaning animals are also ingesting large amounts of glyphosate. We then ingest that glyphosate when we eat meat. 

Avoiding glyphosate isn’t easy and unfortunately, no one alive today will have led a glyphosate-free life. The question is, just how much has it affected your health? If you want to know more about the effects glyphosate has had on you personally, Ann Arbor Holistic Health can perform a comprehensive test for you measuring glyphosate exposure. For more information please contact Gary Merel at or 734-222-8210. 

As far as how to avoid glyphosate: try to eat non-genetically modified foods and drink reverse osmosis water. Always buy organic when you can and always buy grass-fed meat. Avoid products made with corn, soy, and other roundup ready crops which, like I said, tend to be in most processed products. Ideally, you would wean yourself off processed foods altogether. Drinking extra water might also be helpful. Since glyphosate is water soluble, drinking more can help flush your system. 

Again, if you want to know more about the effects glyphosate has had on you, consider getting tested. When a toxin is ubiquitous in our environment, it becomes almost impossible to escape the consequences; but the first step to better health is to be informed on the state of your own body.

Red Meat Isn't Bad for You

Red meat (beef, pork, lamb) has been in the headlines recently, and not in a sympathetic light. Just this past month the World Health Organization declared cured and processed meat (like bacon, sausage, ham, etc.) as “group 1 carcinogenic”; that means that when it comes to causing cancer (colon cancer, specifically), these meats are now in the same category as tobacco, asbestos, alcohol, and arsenic, according to the WHO.

The WHO’s conclusion is disturbing, but not entirely unprecedented. Different people and different health organizations have been preaching against red meat for decades now, telling us not to eat it due to high fat content, high cholesterol content, or now, carcinogenic effects.

I want to take this newsletter to put to rest the idea that red meat is bad for you. To start, comparing bacon to cigarettes is absurd. Smoking raises a person’s risk of developing cancer by about twenty-fold; eating bacon doesn’t produce a risk anywhere near that. Even though the WHO placed red meat in the same category as cigarettes, asbestos, etc., not all substances in this group share the same level of hazard. In fact there have yet to be any studies conclusively showing that red meat is in any way bad for your health, let alone a carcinogen.

That’s because almost every study on red meat consumption is subject to a phenomenon called “healthy user bias.” Healthy user bias is when people who engage in one healthy behavior tend to engage in many other behaviors they perceive to be healthy. Likewise, people who engage in one unhealthy behavior often engage in many other unhealthy behaviors. For example, participants in most observational studies who eat red meat also have a tendency to smoke more, exercise less, and eat unhealthily in general. Most of these people, when they eat red meat, will eat it with a huge white bun and a load of fries cooked in refined oil! Because we can’t control for these other factors, we can’t conclude that red meat specifically is the culprit behind cancer presence; especially considering the fact that refined carbohydrates and oils may very well be the true carcinogens. 

Ideally, we would be able to conduct experiments that could control for things like healthy user bias. But this is an impossible mission. Cancer often develops slowly from any number of things: environment, genetics, etc.. We could never control for every detail of a participant’s life over several decades. Thus we have to rely on mere observational studies, which often show a correlation but fail to establish causation. There is good evidence that what is taking place in these red meat studies is in fact correlation, and not causation, because we can’t single out red meat as the cause of cancer in these individuals, especially given that they tend to lead an unhealthy life style. In other words, people with cancer tend to eat more red meat, but if you eat red meat you aren’t more likely to get cancer.

Actually many studies have failed to show even mere correlation between red meat and cancer. For a positive correlation to be present, you would expect to see a linear relationship between red meat consumption and cancer rates—i.e. as a person’s red meat consumption increases, his/her risk of developing cancer increases just as much. But we don’t see this in many cases. In fact some studies result in a decrease in cancer rates in people who ate the most red meat.

Now, certain studies are offering a different explanation behind the increased cancer rates in red meat eaters. Because people who eat red meat tend to engage in many other unhealthy behaviors, they often develop a dysbiotic microbiome. The human microbiome is the vast community of baceria living in and on the human body. These microbes help us digest food, keep our immune systems healthy and much more; in fact, they are crucial to our health. A dysbiotic microbiome occurs when the trillions of microbes living in and on the human body (specifically in the gut), are compromised—often due to poor diet, alcoholism, etc. There is scientific evidence that people with unhealthy microbiomes tend to be at a greater risk for cancer, regardless of whether they eat red meat. 

Likewise, someone who eats a lot of red meat but who has a very healthy microbiome is likely at a much lower risk of developing cancer. Red meat can even contribute to the health of the human microbiome when eaten responsibly. It’s rich in B vitamins, Vitamin D, Omega-3 fatty acids, Iron and other minerals. Just be sure to buy it organic and grass-fed. If you skip the bun and starchy sides, red meat is good for us so long as, like everything else, we eat it in moderation. 

As long as you’re doing other things right (exercising, eating vegetables, checking portion size, etc.), red meat does not pose a threat to your health. So don’t let the headlines scare you away from it. In reality, organic, grass-fed read meat is rich in nutrients and can help make us healthier when eaten in moderation. 

The Calcium Lie--How Much is Enough?

When it comes to calcium, more is not better. You’ve heard that calcium is the key to good bone health, or even bodily health in general—but that is only partially true. When taken in the right form and in the right amount, calcium is very beneficial. But if you exceed that “right amount,” you won’t be doing yourself any favors.
In fact, you could be setting yourself up for some problems that have serious health implications—and I’m not just talking about kidney stones, which are one result of too much calcium in the body. Excess calcium can actually play an important role in the development of diseases like osteoporosis, obesity, and even heart disease. See below to find out why.

Shockingly, excess calcium actually puts us at greater risk of fracturing our bones. Bones are made of at least 12 different minerals, and when these minerals are out of balance with each other, bones are compromised. Having too much calcium in our bodies exaggerates these mineral imbalances and deficiencies, and even causes other minerals to be lost or excreted in urine, leaving our bones more susceptible to fractures.

Further, bones serve as storehouses for the minerals we ingest, so when the body needs a particular mineral to perform some bodily function, it goes to the bones to get it. These minerals include magnesium, phosphorous, fluoride, and more—all of which are vital for bone strength. If some of the minerals are depleted, your body will substitute a more accessible one—but not without consequences. Minerals are responsible for maintaining the pH balance in the body, facilitating the transfer of nutrients across cell membranes, maintaining proper nerve conduction, helping relax and contract the muscles, and much more. Forcing your body to substitute one for the other could cause any of these important roles minerals play to suffer.

Excess calcium in the body may be a contributing factor to obesity. Too much calcium again leads to mineral imbalances, which in turn make it harder for our cells to get the essential amino acids and glucose needed for good health. As a result, the cells become starved for glucose and the body starts craving simple carbohydrates. The more carbs we eat, the greater chance we have of gaining weight and developing conditions like insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, and diabetes.

Heart Disease:
Several recent studies show that excess calcium in the body puts us at risk for cardiovascular disease and hypertension. Researchers believe that the calcium that goes unabsorbed in our bodies starts to settle in the arteries, causing them to harden. This is most prevalent in people taking over 1,000 mg of calcium a day.
For example, in one large study, researchers followed a group of 60,000 women for almost two decades. They found that those who ingested the most calcium (1,00mg+) were more likely to develop heart disease. This is because the extra calcium in your body builds up on the inside the arteries. Normally, arteries are elastic enough to flex and pulse with each heartbeat. However, calcium buildup will harden them, which makes it harder for the heart to pump blood through the body. As a result, we are more susceptible to heart attack and stroke.

With stakes this high, it’s important to know how much calcium is really enough. We want to have healthy bones without the worry of gaining weight or developing heart disease. The National Institute of Health puts the upper limit of calcium ingestion at 2,000 mg a day. In reality, you really shouldn’t ingest any more than about 1,000mg of calcium a day. Additionally, you’ll want that 1,000mg to come form your food, not from a supplement. The calcium in food is easier for our bodies to absorb and utilize, reducing the risk of calcium build-up. Since the body can only absorb about 500 mg of calcium at any one time, supplements are often a significant cause of calcium build-up because your body can’t absorb all that calcium at once.

Though you’ve been told a lie about calcium, I don’t want to downplay the fact that bone-loss can be a debilitating problem. It’s also much easier to prevent than it is to resolve. There are many steps you should be taking to ensure proper bone health, such as getting the proper minerals through your diet. This can be as simple as adding more organically grown vegetables in your diet. Vegetables contain a great balance of vitamins and minerals and vegetable juicing is a fast and easy way to give your body the nutrition it needs.

Omega 3 and Vitamin K2 also play important roles in osteoporosis prevention. Flax seed and seafood are two great choices for omega-3; fermented foods (like cheese and natto), spinach, kale, and collard greens for Vitamin K2. Some studies indicate that Vitamin K2 specifically can even increase bone mass and reverse osteoporosis in some people. For calcium-rich foods, try eating a container of yogurt with lunch (contains about 200-300mg of calcium), and incorporating a couple ounces of cheese into any meal (another 200-300mg). You really don’t need much more calcium than that.

Apart from diet changes, sunshine exposure is a great way to keep your bones strong. The Vitamin D that we get from the sun’s rays is vital to bone health and also helps your body absorb the calcium you ingest. 15 to 20 minutes a day is all it takes. Even better, spent those 20 minutes in the sun exercising. Bone is living tissue that requires physical activity in order retain and rebuild itself.

The takeaway here is that there are important steps to take when it comes to preventing bone-loss. So don’t dwell on the calcium lie—otherwise you might find yourself faced with health issues that are easily prevented, but much harder to cure.

Please call 734-726-0153 to schedule a free consultation and evaluation. At Digestive Health Ann Arbor we are known for providing professional and compassionate care. We strive to guide people towards a comprehensive and holistic healing strategy. Restoring your body to health will restore the quality of your life.

Why Coconut Oil is a Superfood

A few months ago, I wrote a newsletter about the amazing benefits of organic Apple Cider Vinegar, one of my top 5 super foods. This month, I want to share with you the second of my top 5 super foods: coconut oil. Truly a “super food,” coconut oil has the power to encourage weight loss, improve brain function, boost the immune system, and much more I will expand upon later in this newsletter.

But first, I realize that many of you may be under the impression that coconut oil is unhealthy because of its high saturated fat content (a whopping 90% of the fatty acids in it are saturated). You’ve probably been told that saturated fats are horrible things that will do nothing but clog up your arteries. But this is a myth! At least when it comes to coconut oil. There are entire populations that rely on coconut oil for cooking and nutrition that show no evidence of heart disease. The Tokelauans, for example, in the South Pacific, consume 60% of their calories from saturated fat and are a very healthy people. This is because the fats found in coconut oil are different than the fats found in, say, cheese or steak. As it turns out, the saturated fats found in coconut oil are actually good for our hearts! That’s because they are in the form of Medium Chain Triglycerides (or MCTs), while most other unhealthy fats are Long Chain (LCTs).

MCTs are metabolized differently than LCTs. Once ingested, they are absorbed quickly between the stomach and intestine rather than mixing into the bloodstream (like LCTs would). This allows the MCTs to go straight to the liver to be converted into energy. Because they are so rapidly absorbed, the calories in the MCTs are NOT stored as fat. Instead, they are converted into fuel and used very efficiently by the body, giving you a boost of energy and helping to preserve your waistline!

Let’s dive a little deeper into the many ways coconut oil can improve your mind and body:

1.     Coconut oil can help you loose weight! It’s especially great at reducing that stubborn abdominal fat (the most dangerous, heart-unhealthy fat of all) because it removes stress on the pancreas, thereby increasing the body’s metabolic rate. Studies show that coconut oil can increase energy expenditure in a 24-hour period by as much as 5%, which is about 120 calories a day! coconut oil may also have an appetite-reducing effect, making you eat less. Taken together, these properties can help lead to significant weight loss.

2.     Coconut oil can boost your immune system and function as a natural antimicrobial because it contains Lauric acid (which then turns into Monolaurin in the body). Monolaurin helps kill bacteria, viruses, and fungi. It’s even been shown to combat ailments like yeast infections, herpes, the flu, Staphylococcus Aureus, measles, hepatitis, ringworm, athlete’s foot, pneumonia, gonorrhea, and ulcers. You can also apply coconut oil topically to cuts and bruises to speed up healing.

3.     Coconut oil can improve blood cholesterol levels and may lower your risk of heart disease. The MCTs in coconut oil raise good cholesterol levels and may even improve blood coagulation factors and antioxidant status. Some scientific evidence also suggests that coconut oil supports healthy thyroid function and insulin levels, lowering your risk for diabetes.

4.     Coconut oil can reduce IBS by treating many digestion-related problems. The aforementioned antimicrobial properties can kill off various bacteria, fungi, and parasites—the culprits behind many digestive woes. It also helps you absorb the nutrients in your food better.

5.     When applied topically, coconut oil can protect hair against damage, moisturize skin, and even function as a light sunscreen—it blocks out about 20% of the sun’s ultraviolet rays. The oil will also improve the moisture and lipid content of your skin. You can even use it as a mouthwash to kill any harmful bacteria in our mouth and improve overall dental health. Other topical applications include: healing stretch marks during pregnancy, lightening age spots, soothing eczema or psoriasis, and stimulating hair growth. Numerous other personal care uses for coconut oil are all over the Internet.

6.     The fatty acids in coconut oil can be therapeutic to a number of mental disorders. Upon ingestion, these fats are turned into substances called “Ketones.” Ketones have been shown to reduce the rate of seizures in epileptic children and may even boost brain function in Alzheimer’s patients by providing extra energy to the malfunctioning brain cells. Ongoing studies are assessing the use of MCTs as an intensive treatment against Alzheimer’s.

7.     Coconut oil improves kidney health by helping to prevent kidney infection and dissolving kidney stones.

Who knew something so delicious could be so good for you? My hope is that many of you will think about adding coconut oil into your daily routine. There are several easy and convenient ways to do so. You can use it for baking or as a dairy-free replacement for butter. It’s also delicious in stir-frys and can replace vegetable oil in any recipe. Some people even use it as a coffee creamer. I personally love to use it when I make sweet potato fries. Again, you can find different uses all over the Internet.

Finally, if you want to experience all that coconut oil has to offer, please by organic, virgin coconut oil. Here are some of my preferred online shopping resources: Coconut Oil Online (, Nutiva (, and Aloha Nu Coconut Oil ( 

Please call 734-726-0153 to schedule a free consultation and evaluation. At Digestive Health Ann Arbor we are known for providing professional and compassionate care. We strive to guide people towards a comprehensive and holistic healing strategy. Restoring your body to health will restore the quality of your life.