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Everyone experiences stress to some degree. The amount of stress and ability of your body to adapt to it will determine how it affects your health and well-being.

We have 2 adrenal glands that sit atop each of our kidneys and are sometimes referred to as the “stress glands”, because they secrete stress hormones (cortisol) and neurotransmitters (adrenaline and noradrenaline). They also produce sex hormones (estrogen testosterone, etc.), electrolyte-balancing (aldosterone) hormones, and the “anti-aging” hormone DHEA.

All of these biochemicals contribute significantly to blood sugar and pressure regulation, electrolyte and fluid levels, inflammation levels, immune system response, sleeping patterns, mood changes, bone turnover rate, and more.

There are 5 main categories of stressors that the adrenals (and the rest of the body) must respond to. These include:

1) structural: any injury, compromising musculoskeletal condition, etc.
2) chemical: nutrient deficiencies or excesses, exposure to exogenous (external) or endogenous (internally produced) toxins, etc.
3) mental/emotional: fear, worry, panic, anxiety, etc.
4) thermal: extreme temperatures
5) electromagnetic radiation: cell phones and towers, computers, our environment
environmental factors like noise, etc. may also be considered stressors.

Fortunately, we can put ionizing radiation (nuclear reactor and weapon-type) aside; as it is rarely confronted.

Hans Selye, a doctor who studied the stress response extensively, reported 3 phases in which the body reacts to stress. This is known as the General Adaptation Syndrome.

Phase 1 – The Alarm Phase: this refers to the  body responding via a “fight-or-flight” response.  This is generally considered a normal adaptation to stress and causes the major hormones (cortisol and DHEA) to increase at normal levels. Additionally, adrenaline and noradrenaline output is increased. These hormones and neurotransmitters are designed to help the body by increasing heart rate and blood pressure; increasing the respiration rate; shunting blood away from the digestive tract to the brain and muscles instead – thus allowing the individual to “flee” from the stressful event. Think of running away from a saber-toothed tiger. That is what this system is designed to respond to. Everyday “tigers” in the “developed” world equate to every day stress responses as described above. Typically, this is a short-lived stressor and normally functioning response.

Phase 2 – The Resistance Phase: this phase is incorporated during and after  prolonged bouts of stress. Cortisol tends to rise and DHEA tends to be suppressed. This stage may begin after one bout of stress that is never resolved or after the accumulation of many small day-to-day stressors. If, or when this stage begins depends on a number of individual factors.

Phase 3 – The Exhaustion Phase: this is characterized by low levels of the stress hormone cortisol and DHEA. Essentially, this occurs when a person is so drained and exhausted that they have lost most of their ability to adapt to stressors (of any kind).

Behaviors, signs, symptoms, and conditions resulting from (or being exacerbated by) stressed adrenal glands will vary individually but generally include: high or low blood pressure, blood sugar imbalances (esp. hypoglycemia), fatigue and chronic fatigue, depression, eating disorders, panic and/or anxiety attacks, infertility and male/female hormonal imbalances, sleep disorders, low back pain and neck pain, PMS and menopausal symptoms, weak/lax ligaments, irritability, osteopenia and osteoporosis, food cravings, dizziness (esp. when rising from a seated or lying position), swelling and fluid retention, dehydration, heart palpitations, fibromyalgia, thyroid disorders, fat deposition in the abdomen (or central obesity), depressed immune system, insulin resistance, sluggish digestion and/or digestive disorders, etc..  The list continues…

One major complication that results from adrenal stress syndrome of any degree is blood sugar imbalances – because of the problems that can cause. Adrenal stress can cause blood sugar imbalances through hormone fluctuations from stressors; or it can result from hormone fluctuations in response to blood sugar imbalances (caused by poor food choices and nutrient deficiencies).

So either way you look at it… You can’t “fix” the adrenals if you don’t “fix” the blood sugar, and you can’t “fix” the blood sugar if you don’t “fix” the diet (and lifestyle).

By the way, when encountered with “stressful” situations, please remember that it is not the situation that is the “problem” as much as it’s the individual’s response to the situation. I’ll have more on how to help adrenal stress syndrome in future articles.

Selye’s description of changes in body function is a good starting point to understanding adrenal stress syndrome, but many times there is a wide array of variations. And his description may be seen as rudimentary to some.

Fortunately, specific testing of these hormones and neurotransmitters is now possible through “functional medicine” laboratories. Standard laboratory evaluations usually only pick up “outright” adrenal gland diseases, such as Addison’s disease. More people most likely suffer from functional adrenal gland imbalances as opposed to pathological ones. Tests to identify adrenal hormone output should be as commonplace as a CBC (complete blood count) in my opinion.

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

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Nightshades are plants in the solanaceae family. Within that family are some common foods in almost everyone’s diet. These include: potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, and all types of pepper (except black pepper).  According to Michael Lebowitz, DC, goji berries and ashwaganda (“Indian Ginseng”) contain the same potential toxin as nightshades. And the National Toxicology Program reports that apples, cherries, and sugar beets contain the chemical as well. Bilberry (huckleberry) is also in that list. Obviously, don’t forget about condiments and products that contain these foods. Lastly, tobacco is a nightshade.

OK, so now for the reasons these nightshades can cause a problem! These foods have a specific chemical in them known as solanine. First, according to one researcher, solanine may directly irritate the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. And additionally, when it is absorbed into the bloodstream, it can cause destruction of the oxygen-carrying red blood cells. I could not find the mechanism related to that effect.

Second, solanine is known as an aceytlcholinesterase inhibitor.  That means it acts to prevent the breakdown of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine (ACh), leading to an excessive build-up of ACh in the nerve receptor sites. Therefore, it will allow for a constant (over)stimulation of ACh receptors. Acetylcholine has many functions in the nervous system. Generally, it is responsible for stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system. To avoid boring you, I won’t go into all of the effects of ACh.

Instead, I’ll simply discuss the potential symptoms of nightshades as it pertains to their neurological effects. Don’t forget, as stated above, direct GI tract irritation can occur. And some researchers found that solanine can cause vomiting and enteritis (GI tract inflammation). In addition, nausea, diarrhea, and stomach cramps were reported. According to research by Michael Lebowitz, DC, solanine has the following potential attributes: “1- act as an endocrine disruptor especially to the thyroid; 2- cause chronic joint pain, arthritis (all forms), joint inflammation- this is due to solanine’s ability to remove calcium from the bones and deposit it in any weak or genetically predisposed area of the body; 3- for the same reason it can be a major contributor to osteoporosis (since it removes calcium from the bones) and arteriosclerosis (it can deposit the calcium in the blood vessels); 4- “leaky gut” as well as IBS; 5- appendicitis; 6- birth defects including spina bifida; 7- depression; 8- migraines; 9- can greatly interfere with calcium and vitamin D absorption, despite supplementation.” There may be more symptoms associated, but that’s a good start.

And for your information, “nerve gas” and certain pesticides act as acetylcholinesterase inhibitors as well. Strange to think of those foods acting like such toxic chemicals. Drugs that act as acetylcholinesterase inhibitors are used to treat Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Please be aware that not everyone will be affected by nightshades in the same way. However, if you are, you’ll want to know so you can avoid them. Some of my colleagues find solanine to be causing a problem in about one-third of their patients. You know I always ask the question: “Why?”, so let me address that. There can be many reasons why they affect an individual, and they are similar to why other potential toxins cause symptoms. They are: genetics, the ability to clear the chemical from the system (most likely liver and kidney metabolism), and the amount of exposure.  These are some of the main reasons affecting the body’s response to solanine. Additionally, it is unclear how long one will need to avoid ingesting solanine before their symptoms abate. It may be quite “difficult” to avoid eating nightshades, however, it will be well worth your while if something so simple can stop debilitating or annoying symptoms.

When I find this problem with patients, I also use supplement(s) to help clear the solanine from the system, to provide faster symptom relief. And with the in-office procedures I use, it is simple to tell “on the spot” if solanine may be causing you problems. My patients appreciate this because it prevents them from unnecessarily avoiding some of their favorite foods. This problem can be both a blessing and a curse. See you soon.

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

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According the Associated Press (AP), every single fish tested from nearly 300 streams in the US were found to be contaminated with the toxic metal mercury.  However, “only about a quarter had mercury levels exceeding what the Environmental Protection Agency says is safe for people eating average amounts of fish”.  The EPA states on their website that “a variety of fish and shellfish can contribute to heart health and children’s proper growth and development”.  And then go on to say the following “women and young children in particular should include fish or shellfish in their diets due to the many nutritional benefits”.  “For most people, the risk from mercury by eating fish and shellfish is not a health concern.”  “Yet, some fish and shellfish contain higher levels of mercury that may harm an unborn baby or young child’s developing nervous system.”  Finally they state the obvious – “The risks from mercury in fish and shellfish depend on the amount of fish and shellfish eaten and the levels of mercury in the fish and shellfish.”

Some more specifics of what the EPA has to say: “Do not eat Shark, Swordfish, King Mackerel, or Tilefish because they contain high levels of mercury.  Eat up to 12 ounces (2 average meals) a week of a variety of fish and shellfish that are lower in mercury.  Five of the most commonly eaten fish that are low in mercury are shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock, and catfish.  Another commonly eaten fish, albacore (“white”) tuna has more mercury than canned light tuna. So, when choosing your two meals of fish and shellfish, you may eat up to 6 ounces (one average meal) of albacore tuna per week.  Check local advisories about the safety of fish caught by family and friends in your local lakes, rivers, and coastal areas. If no advice is available, eat up to 6 ounces (one average meal) per week of fish you catch from local waters, but don’t consume any other fish during that week.”

Before I continue on the dangers of ingesting mercury, I want to mention how mercury winds up in fish to begin with.  Basically, it is from coal-burning power plants that emit smoke stacks of pollution.  These emissions obviously get into the air and then settle into the oceans, lakes, rivers, streams, and ground near this water.  Oh wait, I presume the mercury in that pollution must also get into our reservoirs, but I haven’t seen that mentioned.  Perhaps because people are focusing on fish, when it comes to mercury.  Anyhow, the legislation that was supposed to be implemented forcing companies to control those emissions has been disgustingly delayed.  About.com had an article stating this: “By law the Environmental Protection Agency is obligated to require power plants to cut roughly 90 percent of their emissions of mercury and other toxic pollution by 2008. Instead, in March 2005 the agency let polluters off the hook, requiring much smaller reductions and giving electric companies more than two decades to accomplish them. What’s more, the agency essentially allowed polluting companies to do nothing for the next 12 years.”  Please see the link as there are more facts about fish and not just the politics behind the pollution.

Mercury is known to be extremely toxic to the nervous system in particular.  The EPA states that mercury can cause harm to the brain, heart, kidneys, lungs, and immune system in people of all ages.  For fetuses, infants, and children the major effect is impaired neurological development.  Lastly, the EPA says (and I can’t get over this one!): “In addition to the subtle impairments noted above (referring to the previous sentence), symptoms of methylmercury poisoning may include; impairment of the peripheral vision; disturbances in sensations (“pins and needles” feelings, usually in the hands, feet, and around the mouth); lack of coordination of movements; impairment of speech, hearing, walking; and muscle weakness. People concerned about their exposure to methylmercury should consult their physician.”  Bold type-face, underlining, and statement in parentheses added by me.

OK, now I’ll comment.  How does the EPA know what’s safe for you?  What symptoms must occur for certain amounts to be considered unsafe?  Also, I unfortunately can’t find information on how they determined safe levels, and of course, the state of the health of those people (presuming tests were done on humans?).  Please comment if you know.  But regardless, do they know the toxic burden (of all toxins) that already exists in you?  Do you know?  Remember, we ALL have some level of a toxic burden of chemicals and metals in us; from simply breathing the air, consuming conventionally grown foods, etc….the list is endless.  Do you have all the necessary nutrients to drive the kidney detoxification pathways?  We often think of the liver as the main detox organ, however, toxic metals are water-soluble and will be excreted through the kidneys into the urine.  As an aside, any time I find a patient’s most “stressed” organ(s) to be the kidneys or bladder, I think toxic metals first.

My points above are meant to reflect the concept that you probably won’t experience the above OVERT and OBVIOUS symptoms of mercury toxicity as reported by the EPA, by consuming fish alone.  That is from my personal experience with patients.  The problem arises when people have sub-clinical symptoms from mercury toxicity.  These might include fatigue, irritability, “foggy-headedness”, depression, anemia, hypothyroidism, digestive complaints, and more.  Sub-clinical mercury (or other toxic metal) toxicity often results in the scenario of: “Mr./Mrs. Smith, all of your tests came back normal”. Let me expand on this.  It will be extremely uncommon for a person to have mercury levels elevated in their blood.  To date, out of literally hundreds of patients of I’ve seen with mercury-related symptoms, or other toxic metals, ONLY 1 actually showed elevated levels on blood tests.  And this is how conventional doctors often go about checking for it.  The problem is often that the metals get lodged into the cell/soft tissues and don’t get fully released into the bloodstream.  When in the cells/soft tissues, they can cause impairments of normal functioning leading to the above symptoms.  Fortunately, there are functional lab tests (especially urine) that can be used to detect levels of metals in the soft tissues.  Even though urine is a reflection of blood, the test involves “provoking” the metals out of the cells to get an accurate measurement of total body burden in the soft tissues.

The amount of mercury-laden fish you can consume without harm or causing symptoms will depend on a variety of factors; mainly your current “toxic-burden” and detoxification abilities.  And as you know, your symptoms may already be stemming from mercury (or other toxic metal) exposure; so perhaps you shouldn’t consume any fish at all.  It would be prudent to have functional (in-office and lab) tests performed to find out!  Lastly, I have helped many patients with symptoms related to toxic metal exposure by correcting simple and easily identifiable nutrient deficiencies, and education on avoiding further exposure.

I still can’t understand why some practitioners in the dental community consider it OK to put mercury in their patients’ mouth!!!  By the way, there is a right way and a wrong way to have mercury amalgams removed.  It can be more harmful to have mercury fillings removed, when done “improperly”.  Feel free to e-mail me if you have concerns about that.

One more thing.  You may go “MAD” if you are exposed to too much mercury.  The phrase “mad as a hatter” comes from the hat-making industry dating back to the 1800’s when some hat-makers apparently went “mad” because of breathing mercury fumes from a solution they used to make fur into felt.

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

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It is quite common for a (female) patient to come to my office and tell me she is anemic. And very often, she has been diagnosed with it several months ago. My question is always: “Why are you still anemic if you found out about several months ago?” With the exception of some (rare) complications and rare types of anemias, there is generally no reason anyone should have iron-deficiency anemia for more than about four months.  And this type tends to be the most common, at least in my patients.  Let’s discuss why it occurs and how it can be incredibly simple to correct.  To start, anemia refers to “a condition in which the blood is deficient in red blood cells, in hemoglobin, or in total volume”.  If you are not sure, red blood cells need iron to carry and distribute oxygen around the body by way of the hemoglobin molecule.  By the way, the oxygen carrying molecule in muscles is known as myoglobin.

Iron-deficiency anemia is a “no-brainer” as to why it occurs; that is, lack of sufficient amounts of iron.  The question is always: Why?  There are three answers: a) you are not consuming enough iron, b) you are not absorbing enough, or c) you are losing blood faster than you are making it.  These can all exist together, too.

For answer “a” – this is simply not consuming enough iron-containing foods.  I almost always see this mostly in vegetarian or vegan patients.  Now, I’m not at all against being vegetarian or vegan, but I am against being deficient in vital nutrients that may come as a result of a particular diet.  Unfortunately, for vegetarians and vegans, iron is most abundant (by weight/mass) in animal foods.  Some good sources are: beef, chicken, turkey, pork, liver (beef, chicken, etc.), oysters, egg yolks and other animal foods; and kidney beans, blackstrap molasses, spinach, raisins, peas, dates, broccoli, almonds, apricots, and some other vegetarian/vegan foods.  Check the nutrition information on the foods for the exact amounts.  Here is a chart listing the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for iron according to the National Institutes of Health.

Age Males
(mg/day)
Females
(mg/day)
Pregnancy
(mg/day)
Lactation
(mg/day)
7 to 12 months 11 11 N/A N/A
1 to 3 years 7 7 N/A N/A
4 to 8 years 10 10 N/A N/A
9 to 13 years 8 8 N/A N/A
14 to 18 years 11 15 27 10
19 to 50 years 8 18 27 9
51+ years 8 8 N/A N/A

For answer “b” we come to the issue of iron absorption.  This can be caused by many factors.  Here are the most common ones I see.
1) Your intestinal tract can become literally be clogged up!  Iron is absorbed in the duodenum and upper jejunum of the small intestine.  There are little hair-like protrusions lining your small intestine which act to literally take up the food for absorption.  If your villi are clogged with old, undigested food from poor dietary choices, you may not be absorbing iron sufficiently (along with other nutrients as well).

2) You might not be fully breaking down the foods you are eating.  This can be due to improper chewing, or lack of hydrochloric acid and/or other digestive enzymes.  Deficiencies in minerals that stimulate the production of these digestive enzymes are one thing to consider; and possibly an enzyme supplement to help “prime the pump” while you are restoring those minerals.  By the way, iron-deficiency in a male or post-menopausal woman who is consuming enough iron in thier diet almost always results from lack of sufficient amounts of hydrochloric acid in the stomach.

3) Additionally, an outright digestive disorder like irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and others may not allow for proper absorption of iron (and other nutrients).  So these conditions would need to be addressed as well.

By the way, iron from animal sources is called “heme” and from vegetable sources it’s called “non-heme”.  Please be aware that a non-heme source will be absorbed much better when combined with vitamin C in the same meal.  And phytic acid (or phytate) which is high in legumes and grains (e.g.: soy, kidney beans, wheat, rye, oats, barley, corn, and peanuts) will substantially inhibit iron (and other mineral) absorption.  However, vitamin C will also help to counteract the effect of phytic acid.

Lastly, answer “c” has to do with the issue of losing blood, faster than you are making it.

1) The most common cause that I see related to this is when women have a heavy menstrual cycle.  This is usually the result of hormone imbalances, especially a condition known as estrogen dominance.  I’ll discuss that in another article.  This is a rampant problem for females due to many reasons; and you won’t necessarily have heavy periods because of it.

2) Men and post-menopausal women (in particular) may become iron deficient due to gastrointestinal blood loss from digestive conditions like ulcers, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, colon cancer and other digestive disorders.  Also, excessive intake of aspirin or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (e.g.: Advil®, Motrin®, Aleve®, etc.) can cause blood loss through the gut.  These tend to be the most common reasons for blood loss, however their certainly are others.  And these conditions can obviously occur in menstruating women as well.
Let’s hope you are not losing blood because of undetected internal bleeding!

Now for the symptoms of iron-deficiency anemia.  Some common ones are as follows: pallor (pale skin and mucous membranes – nail beds and inner membranes under the eyeball can often/not always be spotted), fatigue, irritability, brittle nails, cold hands and feet (usually hypo-thyroid though), trouble concentrating, shortness of breath, irrregular heartbeat, mild depression, muscle fatigue/lack of endurance, and perhaps more.

Another strange symptom is called pica which a craving to eat ice (probably most common), soil, paper, soap, chalk, and other things I won’t mention.  This can be especially common in children.  The jury is still out on why it relates to iron deficiency.

The best blood test to run for iron-deficiency is ferritin (the amount of stored iron in your body.  But I’d also want to see levels of actual blood iron, total iron-binding capacity (TIBC), and transferrin (the molecule that transports iron).  And of course of complete blood count, which will measure total red blood cells, hemoglobin, hematocrit, RDW (random distribution of weight) and MCV (mean corpuscular volume).  Beware however, functional/sub-clinical iron deficiency can still (and often does) exist because the reference ranges considered normal by blood labs are extremely wide – so you will be quite deficient if you fall below the lab’s “normals”.

There are several applied kinesiology functional muscle tests that can cause me to suspect iron deficiency, especially one involving muscle fatigue/endurance.  And also in-office, cross-checks to help verify.  But I definitely consider it prudent to have blood levels checked for functional ranges; as an overload of iron can be very dangerous.  Get the blood tests and have them evaluated for functional ranges, it’s simple.

Finally, it can easily be corrected through diet and/or supplements.  And will most likely take a minimum of four months to correct, because the life-span of a red blood cell is about 120 days.  Hope this helps!

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

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