Illness and Childhood Trauma

Make sure you tell your physician if you’ve had childhood trauma. Ongoing adversity in childhood leads to a chronic state of “fight, flight or freeze.” Researchers at Yale recently demonstrated that when inflammatory stress hormones flood a child’s body and brain, they alter the genes that oversee our stress reactivity, re-setting the stress response to “high” for life. This increases the risk of inflammation, which manifests later in cancer, heart disease, and other autoimmune diseases, and often death decades earlier than our non-traumatized counterparts.

donna-book-coverDonna Jackson Nakazawa has studied autoimmune illness and chronic illness extensively, partly because of her own history.  She also wrote the book “The Auto-Immune Epidemic” which helped me understand my mercury toxicity much better. This new study on traumatic childhood experiences is groundbreaking and every doctor should add the questions about childhood trauma to their initial intake/history. This blog post I’m linking to below shows the power of functional medicine and intelligent questioning.  Instead of writing more of a post, I am choosing to share it in it’s entirety.  Please take a few minutes to read it.  Especially if you or someone you love has had childhood trauma such as abuse, alcoholism, death, divorce, etc. It may factor into your (or their) adult health much more than you realize.

Heidi Aylward spent much of 2015 going to doctor’s appointments for back and joint pain, dizziness, swelling of the legs and feet, high blood pressure, elevated platelets, heart palpitations and extreme fatigue. 2016 isn’t looking much better. She’s worn a heart monitor, had a bone marrow biopsy and continues to have blood work. She holds down a job as a full-time project manager, tends to her daughters, home and pets.

But she feels like her body is falling apart.

“I’m not going to make it to 60,” she said, “Why do I even contribute to my retirement savings account?”

Heidi is 39.                              [read more…]


You can overcome your past.  It starts with understanding what effect it has had on your health:  physical and mental.

Direct link:







The Essence of Functional Medicine

Because I am a nurse, I know a lot of people in the medical community and as they learn my story and I get healthier, I’ve often been asked what functional medicine is. This image below sums up completely what a patient’s experience with functional medicine is like:

Patients have evolved since the 1950s and they’re much more informed and want to participate in their care compared to decades ago. They often want to know why they have whatever illness it is they have. Unfortunately  during those same decades, conventional medicine became more specialized, and, at least where primary care is concerned, it took a turn away from what was important: seeing the entire person and trying to figure out how the symptoms come together and solve a puzzle. Don’t misunderstand me — patients are being treated more efficiently and quicker than ever before, the problem is that chronic illness is exploding in a way that we’ve never seen in history.  So, despite having better drugs and more efficient technology, we are getting sicker faster and younger than previously.

Western medicine and pharmaceuticals have saved millions of lives. This has insidiously led us to the false conclusion that there can be a drug to cure every single problem that we have. And so we go to the doctor thinking that he can fix our problem with a pharmaceutical. In America we really have illness care — we don’t have wellness care. We need a paradigm shift, and that’s what functional medicine does, it focuses on keeping you healthy — not waiting until you get sick and then dealing with it.

The pharmaceutical industry is big business. When they come up with a pill that alleviates suffering, it’s welcomed as a positive medical advancement, and sometimes it is. But while drugs alleviate the symptoms, they often do not fix the underlying root of what’s really happening. It’s like putting a finger in the leaking dike. The water may stop pouring out, but the wall keeps crumbling, and eventually collapses. Often, these same meds cause side effects that bring even more pills — pills to alleviate the side effects of the pills that were first prescribed — a cascading snowball down the mountain that becomes an avalanche. An avalanche of chronic illness.

Personally, conventional medicine failed me. No one could figure out what was the matter with me, and it wasn’t until I saw a functional medicine practitioner that they started asking the questions that I was already asking myself:

  • Why was I unable to lose weight?
  • Why did I get breast cancer?
  • Why was my body attacking my own platelets?
  • Why was I exhausted most days?
  • Why did I have a rash that wouldn’t go away?
  • Have Rosacea?

And most importantly, could they possibly be connected?

And the answer to all those questions was one thing:  MERCURY TOXICITY. Mercury caused a disruption of my immune system, exhaustion, my rash, it destroyed my thyroid, and it probably caused the environment for my breast cancer to grow. I can say all that with a fair amount of certainty because I know that how I feel today is light years better than how I felt in 2008.

It took an hour-long appointment which included a lot of talking, going over all my symptoms, and some non-traditional lab work by Dr. Mark Hyman (a functional medicine physician) to determine that I had mercury toxicity. Within two months I was on the road to recovery from all of it.

What’s your trigger? Do you have an autoimmune condition? Can’t lose weight? Have heart disease? Have digestive or chronic pain? It all may point back to an undiagnosed food allergy, toxin, or inflammation, but they all can lead to chronic illness.

I have a lot of empathy for today’s physicians. I see how hard they work and how many patients they have and often how little time they can spend with a single patient. And often it’s not their choice, this is dictated to by the healthcare administrators that  are often their employers. A few have stepped away from this and created their own independent functional medicine practices. And for the clinics that are run more independently, I hope they have the foresight and the long-range planning to start putting some functional medicine pieces in place.

And so what can you do, as a patient, in the meantime? You can read as much as you can about wellness and nutrition, you can ask your physician “why do I have this symptom” instead of “fix my symptom”. In other words, WHAT is causing this?  How can I change my lifestyle to alleviate this symptom?  Is there a non-pharmaceutical way to treat the symptoms I have?

This paradigm shift in how we DIAGNOSE illness and head it off before it damages us is the wave of the future, and our medical community needs to figure out ways to care more holistically for the patients that are coming in because often their multi system problems are related to a few single entities.

The bottom line is never give up. Be your own healthcare advocate.  And to those physicians reading this blog, run towards Functional Medicine.  It IS the wave of the future of healthcare.



10 Days, 10 Ways to Lower Carbs, Day 10

day10Ok, Day 10 of 10!  For my “finale” (thank God, this has been hard to post 10 days in a row!),  I’ll talk about supplements to add to your regimen and some general guidelines and links to articles that I think have important information about insulin resistance, weight loss, and staying healthy.


Here are a few supplements that can help stabilize your insulin levels and lower your blood sugar:

pillsIt’s important you take a good multi-vitamin, even if you are eating totally healthy.  (read why here and more here).  I take Multigenics Phyto Multi which contains vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients.  It is widely available.

Vitamin D is not really a vitamin, but plays a very important role in metabolism.  Many of us are Vitamin D deficient.  As you doctor to check your level.  Taking 1,000-5,000 units/day of Vitamin D3 is considered pretty safe in most people. read more here

There are a few other things that can help your insulin levels stabilize if you’ve struggled with your weight, or if you want to lose weight*:

  • chromium
  • biotin
  • magnesium (helps relax you, lowers blood pressure and a low Mg+ is shown to increase insulin resistance) read more here
  • alpha lipoic acid:  among many other things, ALA increases insulin sensitivity, recycles CoQ10 and is a great anti-oxidant
  • other herbs including green tea and cinnamon can also help stabilize blood sugar and insulin response
  • omega 3 fats (EPA/DHA) like fish oil help reduce inflammation
  • Fiber powder like PGX, which I devoted an entire post to, read here

A Few final thoughts, since this is Day 10:

  1. Consider intermittent fasting along with a low carb food plan.  Read my article on fasting here.
  2. Educate yourself.  There are several good books out there.  One is Mark Hyman’s 2016 “Eat Fat, Get Thin” and another is David Ludwig’s 2015 “Always Hungry?  Conquer Cravings, Retrain your Fat Cells and Lose Weight”   Here is a great interview with Ludwig, a Harvard researcher.
  3. It takes 28 days to change a habit.  If you mess up, start again.  And again.  Until it sticks.
  4. WHAT YOU EAT is way more important than WHAT YOU WEIGH.  Think of food as fuel for your body.  You wouldn’t put crappy fuel in your car, so why would you fill your body up with garbage?  Think of it as a way of extending the number of years you will be HEALTHY.  So much of our chronic disease is directly related to our intake of processed food and carbs!  (read a study here if you need to be convinced)
  5. You must exercise to lose weight.  Increasing muscle mass burns more calories even when you’re asleep!

*All these recommendations are for an average healthy person.  If you have medical problems, please talk to your doctor before starting any new plan.  And find a doctor who will work with you, assess your fasting insulin levels, levels of inflammation, and is willing to help you on your path to wellness. It’s easier than you think.  Food IS medicine.



10 Days, 10 Ways to Lower Carbs, Day 9

Today is simple.  The next time you want to reach for potato chips, try one of these low carb snack alternatives!  In general, I’ve avoided cheese because I don’t eat dairy.  You can add cheese in small amounts if you can tolerate dairy.

The key for a snack is this:  you MUST have some protein, some fat and some flavor!  Then, you won’t feel deprived!

Protein  +  Good Fat = Good Snack!

  1. Olives – high in healthy fats, they’ll keep you feeling full.
  2. Celery with Nut Butter
  3. Cucumber chips with guacamole
  4. Hard Boiled Egg!  A little salt and pepper and you’re set
  5. A handful of almonds, cashews, pecans or walnuts. High fiber, low carbs, good fats
  6. ½ cup berries, and if you can do dairy, ½ cup greek plain yogurt
  7. One or two of my strawberry cookies!
  8. Half an avocado with tuna or chicken salad (home made if possible)
  9. Half an avocado with ½ tomato with salt and pepper
  10. Organic lunch meat without fillers (read your label) with asparagus or dill pickles
  11. Egg salad in lettuce wraps

Although opinions vary about dairy, you can use it in moderation to snack wisely!

And now that I’ve worked on this post before my dinner, I’m starving, so see you all after I eat!  I’d love to know your favorite snacks!

10 Days, 10 Ways to Lower Carbs, Day 8

day8Condiment Caution!

It may seem negligible, but ketchup can sabotage you!  Hiding behind it’s pretty red “I’m a vegetable” mask is actually a food that has a fair number of carbs.  Let’s look at condiments, some of the common ones.  Everybody knows jam and jelly have sugar, so I won’t address those.  Just the usual common condiments we eat every day with food.

I did NOT use the same measurement for each one, for obvious reasons.  You would probably not eat 3 TBS. of mustard, but you could easily have that much mayo with tuna salad, or dipping french fries in either ketchup or mayo (yes, some people prefer mayo to ketchup on fries!).

So, here they are.  Now, the calories are important, but not NEARLY as important as what happens to your blood sugar and insulin levels after you eat anything.  Yes, calories matter, but carbs are the driver behind the steering wheel of your insulin response.  More carbs, more insulin.  More insulin, more fat storage, more hunger.  In order to break the cycle, you must eat less carbs.  And you can have an amazing meal of protein and veggies, and think you’re doing great, only to sabotage yourself with Fat Free Dressing and pickle relish!


Condiment hacks:  Dill Relish, Sugar Free Ketchup, Regular dressing (NOT low fat, see my other post on this here).

Best choices?  Skip the ketchup, use mustard, make your own dressing or use olive oil and vinegar!  At least be informed about what these “invisible calories” are doing to your sugar levels.


Oh, one final thing in comparison.  Seedless Strawberry Jam (Smuckers, 2 Tablespoons) has a whopping 26 grams of carbs!

Want to know your specific brand?  Go to and check it out!


10 Days, 10 Ways to Lower Carbs: Day 7

day7Avoid, or at least be skeptical of anything labeled “non-fat”.

This is the biggest scam around.  We were taught, since the 1960’s that fat was to be avoided.  Now that recent research has cleared that stinkin’ thinkin’ up, we still see recipes calling for low fat cheese, low fat milk, low fat yogurt.  WHY?!?  Because habits are hard to break!  Yes, it is ok to eat low fat cheese and yogurt, but NOT if you choose one that has had carbs added to make up for the taste of taking the fat out!  That’s how food companies get low fat/non-fat items to taste better.  Additives, carbs and thickeners.  (chemicals!)

I’m going to pick three common foods and compare them side by side.  Full fat is often better, keeps you full longer, and won’t spike insulin.  Dr. Atkins had some of it right, and with the exception of avoiding dairy, I basically eat a low carb diet.

Example 1: Peanut Butter

Low Fat Peanut Butter is a joke, because they add sugar to make it taste better.  Check out these three brands:  #1 is regular JIF.  #2 is reduced fat JIF. #3 is Smuckers natural — pure peanuts and salt.  Which one do you think won’t spike your insulin?  That’s right, the natural peanut butter, which clearly has the lowest carbs and sugars.  The reduced fat is WORST.    Compare the sugars, carbs and calories.  Do the math.


Example 2: Low Fat Granola

Most types of granola—”low fat” or not—sneak in sugar with names like brown rice syrup and evaporated cane juice. In fact, a serving of granola (just half to two-thirds of a cup) can have 17 grams of sugar. And they remove the nuts to make it low fat, so guess what?  That fiber that the nuts had, which slows down the absorption of sugar is gone, so whammo!  Sugar spike! This super sweet start to your day will leave you with a blood sugar crash that has you reaching for snacks long before lunch.  Read more about low carb options for breakfast here.  If you love granola, make my recipe from scratch.  No chemicals, and I guarantee you, it will never sit around long enough to spoil! Best option:  plain greek yogurt with fresh berries and a few nuts.  That WILL hold you until lunch.  Speaking of yogurt…

Example 3: Low Fat Yogurt vs. Plain Greek Yogurt vs. “light” yogurt

Although I don’t eat dairy, I’m adding it in here as an example. Yogurt is one of the most popular things in stores.  One of our local grocery stores has over 80 different yogurts!  Many people think that when they choose yogurt, they’re “picking healthy”.  Not so fast.  You may — or you may be sabotaging yourself!  Let’s take a look.

First, Greek Yogurt in general has more protein and a higher viscosity than regular yogurt, as it has had more water removed.  In general, greek yogurt is healthier, and has double or even triple the protein. I think either PLAIN greek yogurt below are good choices (full fat or nonfat).  The two in the second row?  Not so great:  Here’s where you need to get savvy.  What are the INGREDIENTS?  Look at the carbs and sugars, then read the ingredient list.  Clearly, the WORST yogurt here is the strawberry nonfat greek, with the Dannon “light and fit” a close second. So, my point?  Eating lowfat sugar free is not the best, both for satiety and wellness.



STAY AWAY: no milk protein concentrate, no thickeners, no rbST, no additives like sugar, corn starch, “natural flavors”, xanthan gum

LOOK FOR:  Organic, grass fed or pasture yogurt, plain, (and if you really need fruit, add fresh fruit and a bit of stevia for a sweetner), Live active cultures (s. thermophilus, l. bulgaricus, l. acidophilus, bifidus, l. casei).

Read your labels people.  They can definitely keep you out of trouble.  For another post on this, see Label Lessons, Learned the Hard Way.