Your Immune System – Taking A Moment To Marvel

Recently, I had the opportunity to experience the remarkable actions of my immune system.  Having been “gifted” by one of my patients with a rousing upper respiratory infection, I was reminded of the many mechanisms of the body that work to keep me healthy.  I saw this patient again after we had both recovered, and we laughed together and shared that it was wonderful that neither of us would likely be affected by this virus in the future.  That is because of the marvelous mechanisms of our immune systems.

Our immune system is designed to protect us from harmful bacteria, microbes, viruses, toxic substances, parasites, and helminths (worms).  Without our immune system, we would be invaded by numerous organisms that would break us down cell by cell and leave us as a skeleton. Eventually, the bones themselves would be broken down, too.

Our immune systems never sleep and are mind-boggling in their complexity.  Two full-semester courses are dedicated to the immune system during medical school.  During the first semester, medical students learn about the normal workings of the immune system mechanisms (fever, hives, inflammation, infections, antibodies, vaccinations, etc.) and the second semester, they learn about how it goes awry.  Despite this intensive study, there are many aspects of the immune system that we have yet to understand and, hopefully, eventually harness for our greatest good.

The skin is your first defense.  It consists of multiple layers that protect against the invasion of bacteria and other pathogens. Its job is to recognize invaders and close off wounds.  Inflammation (such as a red bump around a mosquito bite) and the formation of pus (immobilizing the pathogen) are visible effects of your immune system in action.

Your next layer of defense is the linings of your body cavities and pathways, and the components that live there.  Some examples: your ears and nose use wax and secretions and small hairs to catch particles, your sinus cavities trap unwanted particles or pathogens giving your body a chance to tackle them before they cause illness or infection, your saliva is hostile to several pathogens, your stomach acid is a potent agent for killing undesirable pathogens in your food or water, and your stool is an excellent eliminator.  Some pathogens are so potent, that the body immobilizes them rapidly via vomiting or explosive diarrhea—have you ever thought to say “thank you” for those mechanisms!

Once an organism gets past your initial defenses, other mechanisms become activated.  The most common organisms are bacteria and viruses. Bacteria are living organisms that feed on nutrients in your body and then reproduce.  Viruses are not living organisms. They place a fragment of their DNA into your healthy cells. Your cells then act as factories that do the “dirty work” for the viruses by replicating them.

 

Some of you may think that your immune system isn’t working well because you get sick often, or you have a lot of allergies.  In actuality, this is NOT because your immune system isn’t working, but it is working too much and perhaps has become too reactive.  Autoimmune system disorders are the result of the immune system working improperly, almost like a short-circuit in a light fixture.  When the switches should be off, they continue to send signals. Some examples of this are type 1 diabetes, wherein the body attacks its own pancreatic beta cells, rheumatoid arthritis, wherein the body attacks its own joints, and thyroiditis, wherein the body attacks its own thyroid cells.  These are immune system errors. While we understand how these conditions affect the body and often have treatments that slow the processes, we do not have a clear understanding of exactly why these conditions initially occur or how to reverse the underlying mechanisms that initially triggered the immune system malfunction.  We do know that many factors are involved: nutrients, genetics, environmental factors, damaged or unhealthy organs, and others.

Your major immune system players are (take a deep breath):  your thymus (located very near the heart), your spleen (located under the left ribs), your lymphatic system, your bone marrow, your white blood cells (lymphocytes, monocytes, granulocytes, B-cells, plasma cells, T-cells; helper T-cells, killer T-cells, suppressor T-cells, natural killer cells, neutrophils, eosinophils, basophils, phagocytes, and macrophages—whew), your antibodies, your complement system (made in the liver and “complement” your antibodies), your hormones (many!), tumor necrosis factor (able to kill tumor-like cells), interferon (“interferes” with viruses), and your Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC, also called Human Leukocyte Antigen or HLA) that identifies the cells in your body as being “you.”

Vaccinations are designed to “prime” our immune system.  For several diseases, once the body has been exposed to and handles the disease, it does not recur, for example, mumps or measles.  The B-cells are able to recognize the pathogen and eradicate it before it can multiply and cause disease. Vaccinations contain a very small amount of a disease-causing pathogen in either a live or inactivated form.  They trigger the same response as the disease, but because the vaccine is so much weaker than the actual disease, minimal symptoms occur. If there is exposure to the actual disease in the future, the body handles it very quickly.

When a bacterial infection appears to be overwhelming the immune system, antibiotics will often be prescribed.  These medications are either bacteriocidal—able to kill the bacteria, or bacteriostatic—able to slow the reproduction of the bacteria to give the body a chance to catch up and contain the infection. Antibiotics are NOT effective against viral infections.

Over time, antibiotics can lose their effectiveness, especially if they are used too often. Because of this, a major issue we are facing today is antibiotic “resistance.”  Because bacteria are living organisms, they change over time and can become able to resist the effects of certain antibiotics.

Supporting your immune system is challenging. It is a complicated system with many components.  This list from Harvard Medical School is a good start (with my embellishments added):

    • Don’t smoke.
    • Eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables.
    • Exercise regularly.
    • Maintain a healthy weight.
    • If you drink alcohol, drink only in moderation.
    • Get adequate sleep.
    • Take steps to avoid infection, such as washing your hands frequently and cooking meats thoroughly.
    • Try to minimize stress.  Finds ways to laugh and enjoy life.
    • Have regular check-ups with your doctor.
    • Be grateful for your immune system!

 

https://health.howstuffworks.com/human-body/systems/immune/immune-system.htm

https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/how-to-boost-your-immune-system

 

©Nov 2018 – Genevie Kocourek, M.D. is Board Certified in Family Medicine and practices at The Ommani Center. She is the founder of Trinity Integrative Family Medicine and focuses her practice on integrative care and prevention of disease for the entire family.  Schedule an appointment by calling 262.695.5311

Garbanzo Bean Coconut Curry

 

Garbanzo Bean Coconut Curry

©Rose Kumar 2018

Author Rose Kumar M.D.

Ingredients

  • 1 c dried garbanzo beans (Or two cans )
  • 3 then 6 c water
  • 1 T cider vinegar
  • 3 T olive or coconut oil
  • 1 t garlic ginger paste can substitute 3 chopped garlic cloves and 1 inch ginger
  • 1 can stewed tomatoes
  • 1 med onion chopped
  • 1 t turmeric powder
  • 10 curry leaves
  • 1 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1/2 t cumin seeds
  • 1/2 t garam masala
  • 1 t coriander powder
  • 1 can full fat coconut milk
  • 1 t salt (or to taste)
  • 1 t jaggery or brown sugar
  • 1/2 c cilantro leaves chopped

Instructions

  1. Soak the garbanzo beans in 3 cups of water with cider vinegar overnight. Rinse them in fresh water. Add an additional 6 cups of water and pressure cook for 12 minutes or till garbanzos are soft. (Can substitute 2 cans of beans)

  2. In a dutch oven, heat the oil and add mustard seeds, curry leaves and turmeric powder. When mustard seeds begin to pop, add garlic/ginger paste and chopped onions. Heat till onion is translucent then add the additional ingredients except cilantro leaves.

  3. Simmer 20 minutes. 

  4. Add cilantro leaves and serve with rice.

Are You Getting Too Much of a Good Thing?

For many people, supplements are an integral part of their daily routine.  Supporting their metabolic processes with vitamins, minerals, green powders, probiotics, and other supplements can certainly improve our health and often speed our recovery from illnesses.  But sometimes, too much of a good thing is no longer good. Many common supplements that are often helpful can harm us when there is an excess in the body. When there is an excess of a nutrient, the body must store or deposit it in places where it would not normally do so.

 

Vitamin D affects the functioning of many body systems.  It is a component of fighting against cancer, improving physical stamina, preventing loss of bone density, maintaining strong teeth, assisting in brain function, and reducing depression.  It is also important for kidney health, immunity, weight management, and sleep. In some studies, optimal levels of vitamin D were associated with reduced symptoms for those with multiple sclerosis.  An excess of vitamin D can result in digestive complaints such as nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, mental fog, thirst, frequent urination, urinary tract stones, or kidney damage/failure.

 

Iron is a key nutrient for fighting infections, building the blood, preventing anemia, increasing brain function, reducing restless leg syndrome, regulating body temperature, and improving sleep by regulating circadian rhythms.  Too much iron is toxic to the heart and the liver and can lead to heart attacks or diabetes. Excess iron has been linked to various forms of cancer. Even though iron has infection-fighting properties, too much iron can actually lead to susceptibility to infections.

 

Iodine is especially important for proper thyroid function.  In the right amount, the thyroid gland uses iodine to convert stored thyroid hormones into active hormones.  In excess, iodine can burn out the thyroid gland and lead to hypothyroidism (low-functioning thyroid). Iodine from kelp sources can be too strong for the thyroid gland when taken on a regular basis.  Initially you might feel better, but in the long run, the thyroid can “burn out.”

 

Magnesium plays a key role in maintaining a healthy blood pressure, balancing water in our body reducing constipation, regulating blood sugar, lessening asthma symptoms, aiding restful sleep, and balancing minerals (calcium, copper, zinc, vitamin D).  In excess, magnesium can cause loose stools, irregular heart rhythms, calcium imbalance, kidney damage, fatigue, and depression

 

Calcium is important for maintaining a healthy blood pressure, building and keeping strong bones, improving muscle tone (strength AND relaxation), lessening hormone abnormalities, protecting the skin from damage, and perhaps playing a role in weight loss.  Too much calcium in your body can cause stones in the urinary tract, constipation, persistent headache, jittery reflexes, thirstiness, irritability or moodiness, loss of appetite, depression, fatigue, or a metallic taste in the mouth.  Excess calcium has also been associated with prostate cancer and heart attacks.

 

While many supplements can provide benefits, they also can interact with other medications or supplements you are taking.  Choose your supplements wisely and always tell your doctor what supplements you are taking.

 

©April2018 – Genevie Kocourek, M.D. is Board Certified in Family Medicine and practices at The Ommani Center. She is the founder of Trinity Integrative Family Medicine and focuses her practice on integrative care and prevention of disease for the entire family.  Schedule an appointment by calling 262.695.5311

PATIENT GOALS, PART 1: GETTING OFF YOUR MEDS

As an integrative medicine clinic, we have many patients that come to us with an intention for being completely free of all of their medications.  Many times, the patient wishes to substitute natural remedies for pharmacological medications.  For many patients, we heartily agree.  For other patients, however, it can be quite dangerous to discontinue traditional medications.  If you have this goal, it is very important for you to work with your physician and learn how to do this safely.  Some classes of medication can be easily discontinued, but some can be quite dangerous to abruptly discontinue.  For most medications, the wisest approach is to taper the medication, which means to gradually lower the dose of your medication while watching your laboratory tests and vital signs for adverse effects.  Another method for lowering the dose of your medication is called downward titration.  In this approach, the medication is lowered in a very specific manner, while closely observing symptoms along with test results.

 

For the following medications, abruptly stopping can be quite dangerous or life threatening.  These include insulin (type 1 diabetes), clonidine, propranolol, topiramate, venlafaxine (Effexor), paroxetine (Paxil), benzodiazepines (alprazolam, lorazepam, diazepam and others), gabapentin, opioid pain medications, and baclofen, as well as others.  In the case of clonidine, a person can experience a very serious rebound of high blood pressure, which can lead to stroke.  For propranolol, the heart rate can abruptly rise, leading to chest pain, heart attack or death.  For topiramate, especially when used for headaches, a patient can experience severe rebound headaches. In the case of venlafaxine, also known as Effexor, a person can have sweating, dizziness, fatigue, nausea, tremors, and a feeling of “losing my mind.”  Abrupt paroxetine cessation can lead to severe stabbing headaches and flu-like symptoms and last several weeks.  Benzodiazepines, in general, are notoriously difficult to discontinue.  The shorter-acting the benzodiazepine, the more difficult it is to discontinue and the effects are numerous and varied.  Gabapentin discontinuation, a medication for nerve pain, can cause confusion and disorientation, along with sweating and insomnia.  What makes gabapentin even trickier is that the side effects may not occur for as long as 7 days.  Opioid pain medications are a very specific class of medications that are very difficult to discontinue.  If you have been following some of the stories regarding opiate addiction in the news, you are likely aware of the crisis we are now facing with respect to opiate medications.  

 

For some medications, abrupt withdrawal may not be dangerous, but can be quite uncomfortable. Some of the most common medications in this category are hormone preparations.  The patient who stops their hormone medications abruptly can have a robust return of symptoms, feel moody, irritable, or high strung, and affect the function of other glands, such as the thyroid.

 

Lastly, for some medications, abrupt withdrawal may not be immediately dangerous, but in the long run can be quite hazardous.  Some medications in this class include hypoglycemics for the management of type 2 diabetes, statins for the management of cholesterol, antidepressants for mood/anxiety/depression control, thyroid medications for the management of hypo- or hyperthyroidism, high blood pressure medications, and specialized medications for the treatment of autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis.

 

It is very important for you to work with your physician if you wish to discontinue your medications.  In most cases, we will agree with your plan to discontinue medications.  However, in many cases, lifestyle changes need to precede the trial of lowering medications.  For instance, if you wish to discontinue your diabetes medication(s), we will work with you to lower your weight, improve your diet, cleanse your liver, and see if your blood sugar drops to a level that will allow safe discontinuation of your medications.  If there are safe and effective supplements that can be substituted for your pharmacological medications, we will work with you to make those substitutions safely.  While you are lowering your dose of medication(s), you can expect to have more frequent blood work and regular visits with us.  Also keep in mind that the manufacture of supplements is not regulated in the same manner as pharmaceuticals, and the quality of supplements can be quite variable, leading to a less-than-optimal response once the substitution is made.  For example, supplements for lowering cholesterol are often not as effective as pharmaceutical options such as statins.  Let us be your partners in managing your medications—we will work to keep you safe!

 

©September2017 – Genevie Kocourek, M.D. is Board Certified in Family Medicine and practices at The Ommani Center for Integrative Medicine in Pewaukee, WI.  She is the founder of Trinity Integrative Family Medicine and focuses her practice on integrative care and prevention of disease for the entire family.  Schedule an appointment by calling 262.695.5311

 

STOP IT, ALREADY!

We are living in the information age.  Data and information are abundant—perhaps too abundant.  For some time, health care providers have been wrestling with how to blend clinical judgement and decision-making with patient self-interpretation and excessive concern regarding their test results.  Certainly, each person is encouraged to take charge of their health, and researching and asking questions about their test results is part of that.  Still, the education (11-17 years for a physician), experience, and clinical judgement of your physician is very important to gain a proper understanding of your test results.  For the purposes of this article, I will focus on blood tests and how interpretation and selection can be fraught with challenges.

 

Blood tests are often used to determine if a significant imbalance or abnormality exists within an organ system, such as the thyroid or kidneys, or to gain clues when a patient is experiencing various symptoms.  Almost everyone has some form of routine blood testing on an annual basis, and if you have a specific condition, such as high blood pressure or diabetes, you are likely to have tests done every few months.  When symptoms present themselves, such as abdominal pain or joint pain, specific non-routine tests are often ordered.

 

For most tests, there is a reference range, a range within which the value is considered normal.  The reference range is specific to each laboratory and is determined by the values into which 95% of healthy patients fall.  Reference ranges are dependent on various factors such as ethnicity, gender, age, and others (see References web link for more detail).  Over time, reference ranges can change.  Over the past six months, the references ranges for greater Milwaukee laboratories have changed for several tests, including calcium, thyroid (TSH), and creatinine, among others.  Each laboratory uses specific units of measurement, often based on the equipment they use, which makes comparison difficult.

 

Although many patients obsess over their “numbers”, the reference range is a guideline for use by your provider.  Individuals can have values outside the reference range and still be very healthy.   Conversely, individuals can have values inside the reference range and not be well.  Having a value toward the low end of the range is not necessarily worse than a value near the high end of the range.  When many tests are done for an individual, it is very common for at least one or two values to be outside the reference range and not be significant.  In addition to interpreting each specific test result, providers also look for trends (test results over time), reliability (results that make sense clinically), and the systemic picture (the collective interpretation of the results).  For example, a blood sugar level that is mildly elevated may have occurred only once in six measurements (trend), be caused by a medication or acute illness and not a disease (clinical sense), or occur in combination with other abnormalities (collective interpretation).

 

It is typically quite easy for an individual to determine if a specific test result is outside the reference range, such as an elevated blood sugar reading.  It is much more difficult and requires a skilled healthcare provider to interpret a test result and its significance, or lack of significance.  An abnormal value may have been caused by some intervention (a medication or procedure) or an acute issue (non-fasting status, dehydration, viral illness, injury).  The collective picture of your test results may be quite challenging to interpret, even for the most skilled provider.  For example, when one test is positive, it can cause another test to be uninterpretable or useless.  A solid understanding of biology, chemistry, and physiology is needed to interpret test results appropriately.

 

Once an abnormal result is found, you might google the result and decide you wish to have additional testing. Share your concerns with your physician who can help you understand whether additional tests may help or hinder interpretation.  At this point, your provider must determine if the test is medically necessary.  Medical necessity for tests is determined by governing bodies such as the American Diabetes Association or American Heart Association, your insurer, and/or your physician.  For instance, if your fasting blood sugar has never been abnormal, a hemoglobin A1c test may not be considered medically necessary.  Some tests do not fit your clinical picture and will not help in determining the cause of your problem and therefore are not appropriate to order.  A frequently posed question by medical school faculty is: “Why are you ordering this test, and how will it change the condition of the patient and what you will do for the patient?” Your doctor asks these questions with every test she/he orders for you.

 

It is wise to remember that our bodies are always in flux and always working to maintain homeostasis (balance).  Just like the weather, we can change from day-to-day and still be healthy.  If you find yourself obsessing over your test results, expect your test values to be perfect, or find yourself asking for more testing or testing for very rare conditions, STOP IT, ALREADY!  You will drive yourself crazy!  Schedule an appointment and have a discussion with your physician regarding the medical necessity and value of additional testing.  Think about how willing you are to make lifestyle changes based on test results, be they positive or negative. For example, if you have a slightly elevated glucose test and want the doctor to order an A1c test – but you’re not willing to eliminate refined sugars, alcohol, and refined flour products from your diet – there may be no immediate reason to incur the expense of doing further testing. Without a commitment to making necessary lifestyle changes, your results and health status won’t change and further testing will just give you another set of numbers without providing any valuable information for healthcare decision making.

Be kind to yourself, give your body time to heal, and collaborate to pursue only the tests that will provide you and your doctor with valuable healthcare information.

References:

http://www.amarillomed.com/howto  (This is an excellent website pertaining to the interpretation of common tests.)

http://www.clinlabnavigator.com/reference-ranges.html

 

©February2017 – Genevie Kocourek, M.D. is Board Certified in Family Medicine and practices at The Ommani Center for Integrative Medicine in Pewaukee, WI.  She is the founder of Trinity Integrative Family Medicine and focuses her practice on integrative care and prevention of disease for the entire family.  Schedule an appointment by calling 262.695.5311

Coloring Mandalas – An Ancient Form of Meditation and Relaxation

What is a mandala?  In Sanskrit, mandala means circle.  In every culture and in nature, mandalas are innumerous.  They are often intricate and typically quite beautiful.  They can be seen in halos, prayer wheels, seashells, flowers.  In Indian and Tibetan religions, mandalas have been used for centuries to facilitate meditation and relaxation.  In common use today, mandala is a generic term for diagrams, charts or geometric patterns that represent metaphysical energies symbolically.  An especially powerful mandala is the Sri Yantra.  It is structured to promote consciousness via sacred geometry.

Mandalas are beginning to be used in medicine as healing tools.  Some clinical trials are suggesting that mandala meditation might boost the immune system.  Meditation has been shown to reduce stress, lessen depression, reduce pain, lower blood pressure, lower breathing rates, and stimulate melatonin release.  Coloring a mandala combines meditation and art therapy.  Those who color mandalas often experience a deep sense of calm.  They are a vehicle for expressing our creative side—a side often neglected in our busy, often stressful, daily lives.

The next time you are at the Ommani Center, you will have an opportunity to experience mandala coloring.  On the table in the waiting area, you will find a folder with various mandala coloring pages and a box of colored pencils.  Ask for a clipboard and spend a few moments coloring a mandala.  There are no rules!  You will rarely have time to finish one, so color a ring or an area that calls to you.  Choose any color you wish and do not worry if you do not stay within the lines.  The mandala and colors you choose are personal choices and can help to balance the right and left sides of your brain.  It is not necessary to match colors—your instincts will guide you.  Sometimes one color will naturally follow the color that was just used, or “come along” like someone who brings a friend to a party. When you are called to your visit, you may leave the mandala for others to color, or you may take it with you.  Please leave all the colored pencils behind for others to use. 

I find the mandala coloring book entitled Bio-Geometry Signatures: A Mandala Coloring Book very beneficial. The mandalas in this book help you to balance the energy in various organ systems, simply by focusing on the shapes and patterns as you color them. In the near future, we will have a copy of this book in our lobby for you to enjoy.

There are many mandala coloring books available for purchase, and many coloring pages that are available for free download.  A simple set of coloring pencils will suffice, or you can dive in and get a large set of pencils or other markers.  To find coloring pages, simply use your Internet search engine to find “mandala coloring pages.”

Reference:  https://www.verywell.com/coloring-mandalas-as-a-meditation-technique-89818

©April2017 – Genevie Kocourek, M.D. is Board Certified in Family Medicine and practices at The Ommani Center for Integrative Medicine in Pewaukee, WI.  She is the founder of Trinity Integrative Family Medicine and focuses her practice on integrative care and prevention of disease for the entire family. Schedule an appointment by calling 262.695.5311

Novel Supplements for Handling Cholesterol

For some time now the role of non-pharmacologic management, alone or in combination with drug treatment, has been controversial.  However, since the 1990s many medical conferences have been held (all over the world) and research has been done by experts from many disciplines within the health sciences resulting in a new respect and appreciation of these combined therapies. About 12% of U.S. adults have elevated cholesterol levels.  Elevated cholesterol increases the risk for heart disease and strokes.  Heart disease is still the number one cause of death in the U.S., and stroke is the number five cause of death [source: https://www.cdc.gov] (1).  Treatment of cholesterol is an area in which wisely-chosen nutraceuticals and a healthy lifestyle can lead to significant reductions in harmful cholesterol levels and thereby reduce the risk for heart attacks and strokes. 

In a lecture given by Mark Houston, MD, February 2016, from the Cardiovascular Summit in Miami, FL and recorded in the Audio-Digest® lecture series, success with various non-pharmaceutical options for controlling high cholesterol were discussed.  While these may not be enough in themselves, they may help to lessen dependence on anti-lipidemic pharmaceutical agents which often have undesirable side effects.  Here’s the list of considerations: 

  • Niacin: Talk with your doctor about whether this is a fit for you and to determine an appropriate dose.
  • Red Yeast Rice:  600-2400 mg taken at night.  Add Co-Q10 (100 mg twice daily), and vitamin E (400 IU daily).
  • Plant Sterols: Talk with your doctor about whether this is a fit for you and to determine an appropriate dose.
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids:  1000-4500 mg daily.  Talk with your doctor first before taking doses above 2000 mg daily.  Your supplement should have a ratio of EPA to DHA of approximately 3 to 2, for example, 600 EPA / 400 DHA. If the label does not specify, choose another supplement.
  • Monounsaturated fats, such as Olive Oil and Nuts:  40-50 gm per day can lead to as much as a 30% relative risk in coronary heart disease and a 40% reduction in diabetes.
  • Tocotrienols (Form of Vitamin E):  200-250 mg daily in the evening.
  • Berberine:  500 mg one to two times daily.
  • Citrus Bergamot:  doses vary, follow instructions on bottle or discuss with your doctor.  With higher quality products, up to a 20% reduction in cholesterol can be achieved.
  • Lycopene:  10-20 mg daily.  Caution advised when taking other medications as lycopene is found in grapefruit and consumption of grapefruit is contraindicated with some pharmaceuticals.
  • Garlic:  300 mg 3 times daily, or as an alternative, can take 600 mg twice daily.
  • Pantethine / Pantothenic Acid / Pantethenate (B vitamin):  400 mg twice daily, but may take 6 months before benefits are seen.
  • Probiotics, especially Lactobacillus reuteri:  100 mg/day.  Dr. Kocourek’s preferred brands are Orenda Eaze, OrthoMolecular’s OrthoBiotic, and Innate probiotics.  For children: OrthoMolecular’s Springboard-Flora Boost.
  • Sesame Seed or Oil:  40 gm daily.
  • Pomegranate Seeds:  0.5 to 1 cup ground in blender added to smoothies.
  • Green Tea:  drink 60-100 oz/day, or take EGCG 500 mg twice daily.

AS ALWAYS, consult your physician before taking on any supplements and DO NOT stop your present cholesterol-lowering medications without the recommendation and agreement of your physician. There may be contraindications with certain supplements, depending upon your biology and/or other supplements and medications you are taking. It’s always important to have your doctor check. If you want to try a non-pharmaceutical approach and your doctor isn’t familiar with such options, find a doctor who is familiar, or who is willing educate her or himself to support you in improving your healthcare status.

1.https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/leading-causes-of-death.htm

©February2017 – Genevie Kocourek, M.D. is Board Certified in Family Medicine and practices at The Ommani Center for Integrative Medicine in Pewaukee, WI.  She is the founder of Trinity Integrative Family Medicine and focuses her practice on integrative care and prevention of disease for the entire family. Her practice is open to all ages and genders, infants/children from birth; and adults, including seniors. Schedule an appointment by calling 262.695.5311

A New Year’s Resolution We Can All Live With

Years ago my life coach told me there are three rules by which to live:  “Be kind.  Be kind.  Be kind.”  Although it may sound quite simplistic, it is, in practice, quite challenging.  And—if practiced often—it can be exceptionally healing.  In the words of Albert Einstein, “Everything is energy . . . that’s all there is to it.  Match the frequency of the reality you want and you cannot help but get that reality.  It can be no other way.  This is not philosophy, this is physics.”  Everything brings a unique form of energy to our lives–thoughts, words, sounds, colors, fragrances/odors, movements, temperatures, etc.  Each form of energy has its own vibration and frequency.  So then, what type of energy comes when we are kind?

Recall for a moment, the feelings that you have had from someone paying you a genuine compliment, or unexpectedly doing something kind for you.  Even more importantly, think of when you paid yourself a genuine compliment or did something kind for yourself.  The power of kindness is remarkable.  There are many studies confirming the importance of encouraging children rather than criticizing them.  Yes, we need to be honest and truthful and avoid false praise, but often we can be honest using words of kindness. 

Being kind means saying truthful words to ourselves WITHOUT judgment.  As an example, you can change the phrase “Wow, I am so overweight and ugly,” to “Wow, I allowed this to happen and I can move toward a healthy weight by being kind to myself every day.”  Instead of:  “I am useless, I cannot do anything right,” we can say “I am having a challenging day and will pay closer attention to details.”  The technique requires us to be positive with truthfulness.  We cannot simply effect desired change by being “new-age” and thinking positive thoughts if they are not true.  Our minds know the difference between truth and falsehood.  When we make poor choices or act in ways we really don’t like, we cannot sugarcoat our actions.  We must acknowledge what occurred, accept the learning that we invited, and then choose to take a different path.

Here are some ways you can be kind to yourself this coming year:

  • Find fifteen minutes of calm or beauty or healthy pleasure for yourself to experience every day.
  • Give a genuine compliment to yourself.
  • Notice when you are criticizing yourself and interrupt your thought process by replacing it with something you are grateful for in yourself.
  • Keep a gratitude journal.
  • Keep your promises to yourself—and make sure your promises are realistic and attainable.
  • When you fall short of one of your own expectations, acknowledge that it occurred (without judging yourself!) and ask, “What is it that I need to learn from this experience/situation?”

Being kind is a daily practice and requires us to be patient with ourselves.  Set a New Year’s Resolution to be kind—to others, yes, but especially to yourself.

January 2017 – Genevie Kocourek, M.D. is Board Certified in Family Medicine.  She practices at The Ommani Center and is the founder of Trinity Integrative Family Medicine; focusing her practice on integrative care and prevention of disease for the entire family. She is accepting new patients (children beginning at age 0 as well as adults). Schedule an appointment by calling 262.695.5311

Novel Supplements for Treating Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)

For some time now the role of nonpharmacologic management, alone or in combination with drug treatment, has been controversial.  However, since the 1990s many medical conferences have been held (all over the world) and research has been done by experts from many disciplines within the health sciences resulting in a new respect and appreciation of these combined therapies. About 1 in 3 U.S. adults have high blood pressure and only about half of these people have their pressure under control.  Treatment of high blood pressure is an area in which provocative and beneficial research with nutraceuticals and healthy lifestyle approaches reveal a lot of success. 

In a lecture given by Mark Houston, MD, February 2016, from the Cardiovascular Summit in Miami, FL and recorded in the Audio-Digest® lecture series, success with various non-pharmaceutical options for controlling hypertension were discussed.  While these may not be enough in themselves, they may help to lessen dependence on anti-hypertensive pharmaceutical agents which have undesirable side effects.  Here’s the list of considerations: 

  • Lifestyle is number one and very important!  Increase exercise, decrease consumption of starchy foods and sugary snacks/treats.  Work to achieve your optimal weight.
  • Consume more protein (any type of protein is shown to reduce risk):  Hydrolyzed whey protein; vegetable protein, fish – bonito protein (bonito fish is from the mackerel family) is considered optimal
  • Omega-3 fatty acids (DHA:EPA 3:2), 3-4 g daily
  • Virgin olive oil; olive leaf extract 500 mg, twice daily for 8 weeks
  • Aged garlic, 600 mg twice daily  (YES, this can cause garlic breath)
  • Wakame (dried seaweed), 3.3 g
  • Vitamin C, 600 mg/day
  • Vitamin D: 2000 IU per day, with a goal of bringing your level to at least 50-60 ng/mL
  • Dark chocolate in small amounts
  • Co-Q10:  60 mg twice daily, measure level
  • Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA):  acetyl-L-carnitine (500 mg) or ALA (200 mg)
  • Carnitine, 2 g/day
  • Taurine, 6 g/day
  • Pycnogenol, 200 mg/day
  • Grape seed extract, 150-300 mg daily
  • Pomegranate:  0.5-1 cup ground pomegranate seeds
  • Melatonin, 3 mg/night
  • Sesame, 60 mg/day
  • Quercetin
  • Probiotics
  • Beet root extract

AS ALWAYS, consult your physician before taking on any supplements and DO NOT stop your present anti-hypertensive medications without your physician recommendation and agreement. There may be contraindications with certain supplements, depending upon your biology and/or other supplements and medications you are taking. It’s always important to have your doctor check. If you want to try a non-pharmaceutical approach and your doctor isn’t familiar with those options, find a doctor who is or who will educate her or himself to support you in improving your healthcare status.

©November2016 – Genevie Kocourek, M.D. is Board Certified in Family Medicine and practices at The Ommani Center for Integrative Medicine in Pewaukee, WI. She is the founder of Trinity Integrative Family Medicine and focuses her practice on integrative care and prevention of disease for the entire family. Schedule an appointment by calling 262.695.5311