Archive for the ‘food’ Category

This article is the third in a series entitled: “How to Interpret Your Blood Tests”. Here I’ll discuss the lipid (including cholesterol) profile of a blood test.

This set of blood markers is often the most scrutinized because of all the hype around cholesterol and fats these days. Most Americans appear to be pressured and confronted with having to be concerned with matters of heart disease and whether or not to take medication to lower cholesterol. This is obviously a concern, however cholesterol levels alone don’t show a big enough picture to determine a person’s cardiovascular (or general) health and/or risks. Regardless, here are the markers:

Total Cholesterol
This is self-explanatory and includes LDL, HDL, and vLDL.

HDL Cholesterol
Also known as “good” cholesterol because of its function in transporting cholesterol away from the tissues (especially arteries) to the liver

Non-HDL Cholesterol
Again, self-explanatory – made up of the sum of LDL and vLDL cholesterol

LDL Calculated
Also known as “bad” cholesterol because of its ability to help deposit cholesterol in arteries and other tissues

These are fats in the blood that can come from diet or triglyceride production by the liver. And if more calories are consumed than can be used by the cells immediately – the body will convert the excess into triglycerides to be stored. Typically triglycerides are in excess because of too much sugar, caffeine, or alcohol; essentially with blood sugar imbalances.

For more in-depth information of cholesterol, see my article titled: “Understanding Cholesterol“.

Over the years, the ability to assess cardiovascular disease (CVD) has been improved. One good type of testing includes testing the particle size of both LDL and HDL cholesterol. Essentially, it’s better to have LDL cholesterol particles that are large (or “Pattern A”). When the particles are large, it implies less surface area for that cholesterol to be oxidized (which is when cholesterol really becomes problematic and contributes to CVD). When the particles of LDL are small (or “Pattern B”), there is more surface area that can be oxidized, thus compounding the problem.

The exact opposite is true of HDL. HDL is best when the particle size is small.

In conclusion, it should be noted that most of the time when I see cholesterol and triglycerides elevated, it is due to insulin resistance or other issues with blood sugar management. This is basically the result of imbalances in other systems typically due to diet and stress hormone levels. Another possibility is low thyroid function. This will decrease metabolism in every cell of the body, and slow the metabolism of cholesterol leading to a higher level. Lastly, microbial imbalances in the intestinal tract can contribute to high cholesterol due to bile salt analogue production (a topic for another article).

High cholesterol is not usually the most pertinent issue I see in my practice. That just has to do with the patients that walk through the door. And when I do see (functional) high cholesterol on a patient, I don’t simply give natural cholesterol “blockers” like red rice yeast. I see high cholesterol as a symptom, not a primary disease process. Keep in mind that some people do truly have genetically-based high cholesterol, but I don’t find that to be the norm. If genetically-high cholesterol is something that is suspected (because of extremely high levels or levels that are non-responsive to care), a lipid electrophoresis can be run to determine if in fact a genetic lipid disorder exists known as hyperlipoproteinemia.

There are even more cholesterol markers that can be run nowadays, for example oxidized cholesterol and apolipoprotein studies. Again, I don’t often see this, but will deal with it when necessary. I often see more issues with low cholesterol in my practice. Yes, a person can have too little an amount of cholesterol. Cholesterol is a necessary ingredient in every cell in the body.

Dr. Robert D’Aquila – NYC Chiropractor – Applied Kinesiology

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Juice cleanses

Juice cleanses seem to be all the rage these days, especially with celebrities like Beyonce, Demi Moore, Ashton Kusher and Gwyneth Paltrow touting them. A patient of mine recently sent me an article from The New York Times titled “The Juice Cleanse: A Strange and Green Journey”. She was asking my opinion about juice cleanses, and because they’re so popular I thought I should write about it.

First things first. I feel that (organic) vegetable juicing is by far one of the most health-giving ways that we can support our body and mind. Drinking fresh, live vegetable juice offers the most efficient way I know of getting an enormous amount of natural vitamins, minerals, enzymes and phytonutrients into our body. The healthiest way to go is with “green” juices, as they contain the most chlorophyll, calcium, magnesium, and other supportive and detoxifying nutrients and antioxidants. Therefore, they’ll help build blood, bone, and other important tissues in addition to helping detoxify and regenerate the liver, colon, kidneys, and just about all the organs and cells of the body. So as far as drinking vegetable juice – I’m ALL for it! What about juice cleansing though?

Juice cleanses will obviously offer the body all of the great nutrients and benefits mentioned above. However, there can certainly be (and more likely will be) a drawback for most people. The problem often arises when we consume ONLY juice in a single (or several) day(s). That problem mainly relates to the lack of other macronutrients, with the primary one being a lack of protein. The effects of going without protein for days (or even a single day) can be very detrimental. How (if at all) detrimental it is will certainly depend on the individual and his or her state of health, and also how the cleanse is actually done. The other issue that arises is when a person attempts to detoxify while their organs of elimination (liver, kidneys, intestines, lungs, skin, and lymphatic system) are not “up to par”.

Several problems of going without protein include severe blood sugar fluctuations and resultant spikes in insulin and stress hormones. See my articles on insulin resistance and blood sugar regulation to get more specific information on this. Additionally, without eating protein, your body will begin to break down muscle in order to get the protein it needs to survive. Blood sugar fluctuations or imbalances and/or a lack of protein and muscle mass are the cause of many people’s symptoms and disease to begin with. Therefore a juice cleanse can make a person even more imbalanced and unhealthy. And let’s not forget that protein is absolutely necessary in order for the body and especially the liver to properly detoxify in the first place. I’m not saying the answer solely lies in protein intake, because you may also need other supportive nutrients to support the organs of elimination while detoxing.

That said, here’s my take on some of the comments in the NY Times article. Here’s the first comment in the article that I’d like to touch upon: “As Mr. Glickman explains on his Web site, if you experience symptoms like cravings, fatigue, irritability, headaches, pains, nausea, vomiting, hot bowel movements (!) … congratulations! That means you were supertoxic, and the cleanse is working.” OK – this statement may be true, as those symptoms can definitely result from going on a juice cleanse. HOWEVER, if a person does in fact experience these symptoms, I would not say “congratulations”. These symptoms are actually the result of faulty detoxification pathways. Many people might call this a “healing crisis” and say “the cleanse is working. The reality is that the toxins are being released from the cells and tissues, but in fact NOT being released from the body. This is a classic example someone who needs support for their detoxification organs, as the organs can not keep up with amount of toxins that are being released. In a case like this, I’d support a patient with supplements (usu. herbal or homeopathic) that would help to actually get the toxins completely out of their body. Without support to help the drainage of these organs, people that undergo this type of reaction are most definitely simply transposing the toxins to another area of their body. And if they have a “leaky” blood-brain barrier, they can cause some serious harm by allowing chemicals/toxins to be deposited in the brain. In a sense this type of reaction is diagnostic that the detox organs aren’t up to par. Well, you say, isn’t that why we are detoxing, because the detox organs aren’t up to par? Sure, but if the above mentioned symptoms occur, without specific support to the detox organs (which would prevent those symptoms), you are likely doing more harm than good. So it may be OK to go ahead with the cleanse, but the appropriate support/drainage remedies need to be taken as well.

The next comment I’d like to make is in regards to these statements by the author: “By the third day I felt great in the way I’m told that the imminently drowning feel great right before they give up and inhale that last mouthful of water. My juice-aficionado friend Gilly told me I was on an endorphin high”. If you’ve ever been on an “endorphin high” you’d know that it doesn’t feel like “giving up” and inhaling a mouthful of water before your ultimate death. It may feel like you’re floating a bit, perhaps related to lightheadedness or dizziness, but not like you’re about to drown. The feeling the author is describing sounds more like both, a severe blood sugar imbalance with concomitant stress hormone and adrenaline (stress neurotransmitter) release, while the body is freeing up toxins into the bloodstream but not able to get rid of them. Adrenaline and stress hormones are catabolic, meaning they actually assist in breaking down the body, instead of building it up. That said, I wholeheartedly agree with the following comments made in the article by Dr. David Colbert: “That giddy feeling you get is what diabetics get when your body runs out of sugar and starts using other products for energy“.

Lastly, I respectfully disagree with these comments made from Dr. Colbert: “You have to ask yourself this question: With a juice cleanse, what are you really cleaning? Really, nothing. The bowel self-cleans. It’s evolved over millions of years to do this.” Here’s my response to that. The bowel will self-clean but more often than not, it does need a cleanse or specific dietary changes and/or supplements in order to do so well. To elaborate, consider these points. The entire body is meant to detoxify chemicals, metals, etc.. However, day in and day out I see patients whose complaints are directly related to an inability to detoxify these substances – therefore, some of us have “lost” this capability. The body was meant to produce a proper amount of thyroid hormone, but in many cases it doesn’t (for many reasons); and hypothyroidism is rampant despite our evolution. The female hormonal system is meant to self-regulate through feedback loops as well, but PMS and a grueling, symptomatic shift into menopause for many woman seems to be the norm. The body is designed to “self-defend” via the immune system, but so many people are afflicted with acute and chronic bacterial, viral, fungal, parasitic, etc. infections. So even though the body is designed to function a certain way, that doesn’t mean it will. And even though the bowel “self-cleans” as Dr. Colbert points out, that doesn’t mean it will efficiently and effectively. The body doesn’t always work the way it was designed to. Believe me, I wouldn’t have a practice if it did. If the body did everything it was “supposed” to do, we wouldn’t have such a huge health crisis with rampant degenerative disease and illness.

In conclusion, juice cleanses can be done safely, and you don’t necessarily need to avoid consuming food while attempting to detoxify. Your best option is to find a practitioner that can monitor your progress in order to make sure it’s going safely and you achieve the benefits you set out for.

Dr. Robert D’Aquila – NYC Chiropractor – Applied Kinesiology

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Daily protein requirements

About a year ago, I wrote an article titled “How much protein do I need?“. This article is a follow-up based on the best research that I’ve read since then. If you want the basics on why protein is so important, please refer to the above article; and perhaps this one on collagen.

This (i.e.: “How much protein per day do I need?”) is a question that I do NOT get asked often enough from patients. Of course everyone’s needs are different, so there is no magic number for everybody. When it comes to protein (and other nutrients), it depends on weight, along with stress and activity levels. In wanting to stay up to date on the best information, I recently came across a spectacular article that talks all about protein requirements.

Before I summarize the article, I thought it would be interesting to point out the etymology of “protein”. The English word “protein” is derived from the Greek word “proteios”, meaning “chief rank”, “first place”, or “primary” depending on where you look. I feel that alone is enough to express the importance of getting ample amounts of protein everyday. That said, let’s now see why.

The author, Donald K. Layman makes four basic points about the importance of protein.
The key concepts are as follows:
1) “Protein is a critical part of the adult diet”
2) “Protein needs are proportional to body weight; NOT energy intake”
3) “Adult protein utilization is a function of intake at individual meals”
4) “Most adults benefit from protein intakes above the minimum RDA”

Let’s look at these points in more detail.

Number 1 – Well, this is generally obvious so I won’t expand on this point. You can read my other articles linked above if you’re not sure why it’s “critical”.

Number 2 – When a person asks me (or I determine) how much protein they need; I base it on body weight and physical activity as mentioned above. Layman says specifically, “protein needs are proportional to body weight;  NOT energy intake”. This means that you and I need to consume a certain number of grams of protein per day based on how much we weigh and NOT simply on a percentage of total caloric intake per day. So it wouldn’t be wise to say, “I eat  a 2,000 calorie per day diet, follow a strict 40-30-30 diet (carbs, protein, fat respectively) and therefore I’ll eat “x” number of grams of protein per day”. Depending on how much you weigh, you could be shorting yourself with a formula like this. Since protein requirements are based on body weight, you’d actually need to increase the percentage of protein in your diet if you restricted your total caloric intake (as one might if attempting to lose weight).

What’s the magic number you ask? Well, the minimum RDA (recommended daily allowance) is 0.8 g/kg of body weight. The minimum number of grams per day can therefore be determined by dividing your weight in pounds by 2.2 and then multiplying that number by 0.8. So a 150lb. person would need a minimum of about 55 grams per day (150/2.2 = 68 x 0.8 = 54.4). Remember now, this is the minimum! RDA is intended to be “the average daily dietary intake level that is sufficient to meet the nutrient requirements of nearly all (approximately 98 percent) healthy individuals”. I’ll  get to more specific numbers soon, let me move on to point number 3.

Number 3 – Again, the third point reads: “Adult protein utilization is a function of intake at individual meals”. Note the term “protein utilization”. This is certainly worth looking into because after all, what good is protein intake if it’s not being utilized. Layman goes on to say that current guidelines focused on the RDA minimize the importance of having protein at every meal. When it comes to children and young adults, this point isn’t as critical; because “uneven meal distribution of protein appears not to adversely affect growth” in that age group. However, in adults (because of changes in metabolism) this is a very critical point. Layman’s research says: “Adults require a minimum of 15 grams of essential amino acids or at least 30 grams of total protein to fully stimulate skeletal muscle protein synthesis”. [italics and underlining added by me] In adults, diets that contain adequate protein at only one meal produce this beneficial effect only after that meal. So getting most of your days intake by eating say a steak or other significant source of protein at dinner alone will not cut it. Also, he cites two studies after saying “most adults consume less than 10 grams of protein at breakfast”.

Number 4 – This reads: “Most adults benefit from protein intakes above the minimum RDA”.
Bear in mind this last critical point because protein is not only beneficial for muscle and tissue growth. To quote Layman again, he says: “During the last decade a growing body of research reveals that dietary protein intakes above the RDA are beneficial in maintaining muscle function and mobility and in the treatment of diseases including obesity, osteoporosis, type 2 diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome, heart disease, and sarcopenia”. Even further health benefits include satiety (essentially feeling full and not wanting to eat more), thermogenesis (basically increasing the rate that the body burns stored fat allowing for the release of energy), and my personal favorite glycemic (or blood sugar) control.

I can’t think of a single patient who is ever fat- or carbohydrate-deficient, but protein-deficient, absolutely!

Last and not at all least, the utilization of your protein intake won’t occur very well if you’re not digesting it; and one of the most important reasons people don’t digest protein well is because of a lack of hydrochloric (stomach) acid.

Hope this helps!


Dr. Robert D’Aquila – NYC Chiropractor – Applied Kinesiology

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Pain is one of the most common reasons that people visit my office for treatment. That said, I thought I’d write a little bit on the topic.

Interestingly, pain doesn’t occur where you “feel” it or believe it to exist. In fact, pain really isn’t a “thing”. Pain is a perception triggered by the activation of certain areas in the brain. These “pain centers” (the neurology can get quite complex, so I’ll keep it simple) in the brain receive signals from specific nerves that have pain receptors (nociceptors) on them. So in the case of low back pain, for instance, the nociceptors harbored in the spinal joints, muscles, etc. get stimulated which then send nerve transmissions to be interpreted by the brain as pain. It’s because of this reason that “nerve blocks” work; basically blocking the signal to the brain. Now, what do we do about pain (other than a nerve block)?

Well, that of course depends on the type of pain you’re talking about. You see, nociceptors can get stimulated in different ways. Specifically, they respond to mechanical forces, inflammatory chemicals, and temperature changes.

As far as mechanical forces go; compression or stretching of a nerve(s) causes the stimulation of nociceptors, and results in the perception of pain. This can be caused by any number of structural imbalances, whether acute or chronic. The treatment for this type of “pain” stimulation is to balance muscle and joint function in order to eliminate the compression or stretching of the nociceptor. Furthermore, balancing muscle and joint function results in the stimulation of nerves that harbor mechanoreceptors (sensitive to light touch, vibration, position-sense, etc.) which actually act to: a) directly block the transmission of nociceptor signals to the brain, and b) travel faster to the brain in order to allow for the perception of something other than pain. By the way, “a” and “b” are the reason we rub an area of pain in order to relieve it.

Chemical pain, on the other hand, results from the stimulation of nociceptors via various inflammatory mediators/chemicals. So why do inflammatory mediators get released? Simple, because of tissue damage. This can certainly result from a structural abnormality that causes damage; in addition to a “chemical assault” that results in inflammation such as a food allergen or sensitivity, infection, toxin, or nutritional deficiency. All of the above can (and usually do) cause an inflammatory reaction. The chemicals involved include the likes of histamine, prostaglandins, thromboxanes, leukotrienes, etc.. As a result, these chemicals need to be kept at bay in order to prevent pain from being perceived. This is the reason why you may still sometimes feel pain after a chiropractic treatment. The treatment is designed to balance the structural components of dysfunction, however if there are still inflammatory chemicals circulating in response to tissue damage, the pain will persist. Once the healing begins, the pain should diminish and ultimately resolve. Chemical mediators of pain can be controlled by balancing muscle and joint function in order to prevent further damage, in addition to being controlled by nutritional substances that assist in healing and reducing inflammation.

Thermal or temperature-related pain… To relieve this…take your hand off the stove and don’t play with matches!

This idea of mechanical and chemical-mediated pain can be of extreme importance in diagnosis. Let me explain. If the pain experienced can be fully relieved by holding your body in a certain position, then your pain is solely caused by mechanical insults. However, if there is no position you can get into that relieves the pain, your problem most definitely has an inflammatory chemical component to it. And of course, if a certain position relieves some of the pain but not all of it, then there is both a mechanical and chemical component involved (this is most often the case). Whenever there is a chemical component to the pain, your doctor needs to have methods that can easily determine why you are inflamed. Remember, this can be the result of the normal repair process from structural damage, a chemical toxin, a food allergen or sensitivity, and/or a nutritional deficiency.

Several decades ago, it was found out that the mind cannot be separated from the body (through the field of psychoneuroimmunology). Now, if we were to dismiss the chemical component of pain, we’d basically be trying to separate the body from the body. Hopefully this helps to explain why your doctor may ask you to avoid certain foods, change your diet altogether, and take supplements even though your primary complaint is “physical” pain.

Dr. Robert D’Aquila – NYC Chiropractor – Applied Kinesiology

some information in this article was sourced from: Chris Astill-Smith, DO, DIBAK – metabolics.com

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Very often, though not always, I find that patients require nutritional supplements in order to achieve noticeable and measurable results in their presenting condition. This is true whether the condition is chronic or acute.

The quality of the supplements used is certainly important; just as the quality of food you eat is important. However, in addition to the quality, another distinction can be made amongst supplements. That is: Is it a whole-food or synthetic source? And, by the way, which one do I want?…OK, let’s first assume the quality is superior from either source, thus not a variable. Although some may argue that whole-food derived supplements are inherently of higher quality. Again, we’re going to assume a level playing field with quality.

So, what’s the difference? Basically, food-based supplements are derived from a whole-food source, while synthetic supplements are synthesized in a laboratory and not necessarily derived from a food-source. So, a company that makes whole-food nutrients will take fruits, vegetables, grains, etc. and concentrate a portion (say the vitamin C) of the food into a tablet. The final product winds up being a concentrate of a food with a specific amount of a certain nutrient, after the fiber, carbohydrate, protein, etc. is removed. Now, there is one more distinction necessary to make. A supplement can be derived from a food-source, but the ingredient(s) can still be isolated to contain only certain compounds from that food.

Let’s take vitamin C for example. Vitamin C is a whole complex which contains ascorbic acid, bioflavanoids (including “p”, “j”, and “k” factors), tyrosinase, and ascorbigen. As you can see, ascorbic acid is only one portion of the entire vitamin C complex. However, the industry decided that (only) ascorbic acid is necessary to be present in order to say a supplement contains “vitamin C”. Therefore, most supplements that claim to be vitamin C, only contain ascorbic acid. However, whole-food based supplements include the entire vitamin C complex in addition to the ascorbic acid. So the point is that a supplement may be naturally derived from food, but still not be a “whole-food complex”. For example, the “vitamin C” in a supplement may originally be had from cherries (a food which contains the entire vitamin C complex), but the supplement still only contains ascorbic acid (again, lacking the bioflavanoids, tyrosinase, ascorbigen, etc.) because that’s the only portion they wanted to isolate.

The same example can apply to vitamin E. Whole-food vitamin E contains alpha, beta, gamma, and delta tocopherols; xanthine; selenium; lipositols; and factors named “E1”, “E2”, “F1”, and “F2”. Typically however, most “vitamin E” on the market only contains alpha tocopherol. Lately, researchers have begun to see the importance of the other factors, and now you can find a mixed tocopherol (containing alpha, beta, gamma, and delta tocopherol) “vitamin E”. Keep in mind that this is still not a true “whole-food” vitamin E, because it doesn’t contain all the factors of the vitamin E complex. And again, it can still be derived from food, but then the tocopherols can be isolated out of the vitamin E complex, while still calling it “vitamin E”.

In this article, I am distinguishing between “whole-food” nutrients (i.e.: containing all the vitamin factors), and isolated nutrients (e.g.: ascorbic acid).

I think it’s safe to say that most people agree we should be getting all of our nutrients from the food we eat. Unfortunately this is not easy given the modern-day industrial agricultural methods. Through these methods, the soil becomes quickly depleted of nutrients, and food winds up losing (or never having) the nutrients that they have contained since the dawn of their existence. So now comes the debate. If we should get all of our nutrients from food, shouldn’t our supplements be (concentrated) whole-food.

One camp claims that when we ingest ascorbic acid, the body “robs” the other factors naturally contained in the vitamin C complex (from other areas of the body) in order to make it whole again. Again, they are saying that if you ingest ascorbic acid, your body will scour for ascorbigen, bioflavanoids, tyrosinase, etc., in order to put the whole vitamin C complex back together in the body. Then they go on to explain how this can actually create deficiencies in the long run; because you are constantly “robbing” different areas of your body to turn the ascorbic acid into vitamin C complex. The same goes for vitamin E and any other nutrient that is originally contained in a complex.

One more thing about whole-food supplements… They often contain very small amounts of the nutrient(s). For example, a whole-food vitamin C tablet may contain only 5mg of vitamin C; while an isolated ascorbic acid supplement (marketed as vitamin C) may contain 500mg per tablet. Now recall, the 5mg supplement contains the entire vitamin C complex, while the other contains 500mg of ascorbic acid only.

The “whole-food camp” says that 5mg is all that is necessary to supplement (or perhaps 10-5mg tablets/day), where the “isolated-nutrient camp” says that that dose is way too low. One reason it is considered to be too low of a dose is because most of the research has been done on isolated supplements, like ascorbic acid, not whole-food complex supplements.

So now what? Most research has been done on isolated nutrients, but we should really be getting the entire complex as nature intended. “She” did in fact put the vitamin C complex in the orange, not just the ascorbic acid.

My take…it depends… Fortunately, I use applied kinesiological manual muscle testing methods to determine what a patient will respond to best. This is done by using muscle function analysis as an indicator of the nervous system, and then “challenging” the person with different types of nutrients (whole-food or isolated) to see how the nervous system responds. This is my preferred approach to see what will work best. From a logical perspective, I’d like to think that everyone will respond best to a whole-food complex because we are intended to get our nutrients from whole foods. However, this is not always the case. Some people do better with an isolated nutrient in high doses, as opposed to a whole food complex nutrient in relatively low doses.

At the end of the day, I’d say that I prescribe a mixture of both types to most patients. Unfortunately, there are not very many scientific research studies done using whole-food complexes. Without the literature, it can be difficult to compare. Considering that most research is done using “isolated nutrients” (and most of the multi-billion-dollar supplement industry sells these), we can conclude that “isolated nutrients” do work to provide a specific outcome. From my own clinical experience, along with the experience of my peers, whole-food complexes also work to provide a desired outcome.

Fortunately, I use in-office methods that help me to determine what will work best for a patient. One option is to take both an isolated supplement along with a whole-food complex in order to “balance it out” and make sure you are getting everything, assuming you need the isolated supplement in the first place. Another option is to use whole-food complexes in cases where there is no specific ailment that needs treating, such as taking a whole-food multi-vitamin. However, whole-food complexes certainly work to help specific ailments as well.

In conclusion, I aim to provide the patient with what will work best for him/her based on in-office testing methods. Sometimes it’s only whole-food complexes, sometimes it’s isolated supplements, and sometimes it’s both. I jump between the two “camps” depending on the patient I’m treating.

Dr. Robert D’Aquila – NYC Chiropractor – Applied Kinesiology

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Sinus congestion

Sinus congestion a very common condition that patients report to me. Sometimes people are bothered by it along with an infection and/or a sinus headache, although sinus congestion often occurs in isolation. Interestingly though, the root of the problem is rarely located in the actual sinuses where the symptoms are nagging. I’ll explain…

Mucous is naturally secreted by certain cells in select areas of the body. Those cells are mainly located in the digestive tract (especially the small intestine), the sinuses, the lungs and the urogenital tract. Mucous provides the body with the means of carrying out necessary functions, such as the secretion and exchange of nutrients and waste products, in addition to protecting the body from exposure to chemicals and microbes.

As a result, sinus congestion can occur when an individual is exposed to a man-made environmental or household chemical (inc. beauty-care products); an infection from a microbe such as yeast, fungus, mold, parasites, bacteria, or viruses; certain foods (esp. allergens which incite an immune system response); as well as from pollens. Any of the above mentioned offenders can result in sinus congestion, and possibly lead to a headache and/or sinus infection.

The idea is to find the source of the problem, which should eventually lead you to eradicate the root cause. I know I’m stating the obvious with all of this. Now I’ll discuss the not-so-obvious. Many of my patients report that they have no environmental or food allergies they know of, along with no signs of an infection, yet they still have (chronic) sinus congestion. When there is no apparent trigger to cause sinus congestion like this, the first place I look to is the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. This is because when one area of mucous-secreting cells in the body begins to produce excessive mucous, the other areas seem to follow. As a result, a problem leading to excessive mucous in the GI tract often results in excessive mucous in the sinuses. This winds up being the reality in about ninety-percent of the cases in my patient population.

Because of this phenomenon, the GI tract needs to be “cleaned up” in order to eliminate the sinus congestion. Typically, this is the result of an underlying yeast or fungal overgrowth in the intestines. Whether or not it is labeled “candida” or an “infection” is besides the point. The idea is that there is an overgrowth of harmful organisms in relation to helpful organisms. This can also occur from a parasite, bacteria or virus. Very often exposure to a microbe may be obvious from eating a meal that you know didn’t “agree” with you. However, you can’t always assume that you’ll get (immediate) symptoms when you eat food that contains a harmful pathogen. When the gut is exposed to pathogens like these, the mucous-secreting cells tend to become active in order to help protect the lining of the GI tract while hoping to rid the body of the invader.

Additionally, you’ll want to consider the possibility that a food allergen or sensitivity is leading to your sinus congestion. The reason these can cause excessive mucous production is due to damage and inflammation inflicted on the cells of the GI tract. And, again, when the cells in the GI tract step up mucous production, the mucous-secreting cells in the sinuses often kick in as well. The most typical foods I see as offenders tend to be wheat, corn, dairy, sugar, yeast, and any aged or fermented foods, including alcohol.

The treatment is obviously to eliminate the offender, whether it’s a microbe or a food (very often it’s both). Supplements to help get the GI tract functioning optimally should also be considered. This typically includes enzymes and hydrochloric acid, anti-microbials, probiotics, and nutrients to help repair the lining of the GI tract. Keep in mind that very often, patients will be completely unaware of any GI complications despite the fact that it is the source of the problem (i.e.: sinus congestion).

Other than dietary changes and supplements, treatment should include balancing the muscles and joints of the cranium, TMJ, and neck in order to allow for proper sinus drainage. This is especially true when there is a sinus headache or known structural imbalance that leads to symptoms that are asymmetrical. This would be the case in instances when there is more of a problem on one side of the head; or when the pain or congestion is localized to a specific sinus or ear canal (whether right, left or both).

So when it comes to chronic sinus congestion, I always look to the GI tract (and liver, which really can’t be separated from the GI tract) to be the cause of the problem. Again, this tends to be the case ninety-percent of the time.

Dr. Robert D’Aquila – NYC Chiropractor – Applied Kinesiology

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One of the most commonly used phrases related to health and healthy eating is: “you are what you eat”. This obviously refers to the fact that our tissues are made from the food we consume on a daily basis. However, this phrase is a bit simplistic. After thinking about this concept for a while, I realized that we are a lot more than what we eat. Because of this, we need to consider some other factors beyond just what we eat in order to really gauge what we are made of. OK, so besides what you eat, what are you? Here’s a list for you:

1) You are what you eat

2) You are what you digest

3) You are what you absorb

4) You are what your environment contains

5) You are what you do not detoxify

6) You are…the result of 1-5

These may be self-explanatory, but I’ll expand on them a bit.

Number one mentioned above is obvious. This relates to the foods (and things referred to as “food”) we choose to eat/drink on a daily basis. This is a no-brainer and what we all refer to when using the phrase, “you are what you eat”.

Number two begins in the mouth. Well, it can be argued that actually seeing food is when digestion begins, but I won’t go into that. Digestion begins chemically and mechanically in the mouth. Chemically-speaking, we need to have a salivary pH of about 7.2-7.4 in order for our salivary enzymes to begin processing and digesting food. I have seen different pH ranges mentioned, but I generally find that my patients do well with a salivary pH between 7.2-7.4.  Salivary amylase is a starch-digesting enzyme, so it’s especially important when eating starchy vegetables. I hope you don’t consume too many starches from grains. The other step involving digestion in the mouth is chewing. If you don’t chew your food well, the digestive acids and enzymes won’t be as effective as they should be in breaking down food, and you’ll surely miss out on some of the nutrients in the food. By the way, it’s probably more important to chew your plant-based foods, because humans don’t have the enzyme cellulase in order to break down fiber.

In addition to the digestive processes that take place in the mouth; you’ll need sufficient hydrochloric acid in your stomach to break down proteins, and sufficient pancreatic enzymes to help with protein, fat, and carbohydrate digestion. Also, a properly functioning gallbladder is necessary to fully break down fats.

Number three has to do with (mainly) your small intestine’s ability to absorb food. There are small hair-like projections that line the small intestine called villi. These increase the surface area in the small intestine in order to be able to absorb more nutrients. A common hypothesis is that these villi can get clogged up with impacted matter. This is thought to be due to eating processed food, and not eliminating very well. The bottom line is that if the villi are clogged up, you won’t be absorbing everything that you are eating. Additionally, the “glue” that holds the cells in the small intestine together can get damaged resulting in leaky gut syndrome. When this occurs, you absorb too much. And you won’t want to be absorbing some of those things.

Number four refers to the chemicals in the environment that we are exposed to on a daily basis. This goes for everyone, but if you live in a major metropolitan area, you’ll most likely be more at risk.

Number five does relates to what we eat and the environmental chemicals we encounter. If your detoxification pathways aren’t running as smoothly as possible, you can be sure that “you are” a lot of toxins no matter what you eat. Additionally, if your digestive function isn’t up to par, then you may also be “made of” the food that sits in your small intestines and clogs up those villi mentioned in number three. There are five major detoxification pathways that need to work effectively for optimal detox. They are the liver, kidneys, lungs, skin, and colon. Making sure that these pathways are capable of dealing with the toxins of every day life in the modern world will go a long way in making sure that “you are not the toxins you encounter”.

So in conclusion, we are quite a bit more than what we eat. We are the result of the how our body’s respond to what we encounter on a day-to-day basis. This includes the (digested and absorbed) food we eat, the toxins we are exposed to, and whatever our body doesn’t let go of (whether those substances are helpful or harmful). Starting with a healthy diet is a great way to get all of those steps in order, but chances are you may need some more assistance (e.g.: supplements, specific diet(s)/food choices, detoxification methods, etc.) when building a better you; at least in the beginning.

Dr. Robert D’Aquila – NYC Chiropractor – Applied Kinesiology

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