P: 281-298-6742 | F: 281-419-1373|info@TWIHW.com

Our Love-Hate Relationship With Gluten

by Mila McManus, MD

There was a time in history when this conversation was unnecessary, and wheat (our primary source of gluten) would have been included in a healthy diet. Why all the ruckus about gluten[1] now?

The wheat we eat today is not what we ate even fifty years ago. Today, conventionally produced wheat crops undergo super-hybridization as well as chemical and radiological mutations so that it is highly resistant to pesticides. Another way to say it is to describe wheat as a man-made fake food. Wheat is also treated with noxious chemicals twice, including just before harvesting. As a result, when we eat wheat, we are consuming these poisons in every bite. Additionally, processing techniques used in the United States and Australia also increase the gluten content, especially in wheat,  making it even more difficult to digest.

What happens when we eat wheat or other glutinous foods?[2] Even people who do not have a sensitivity[3] to gluten may have a temporary leaky gut and increased inflammation after consuming it.

In the gut during digestion, gluten:

First: Activates zonulin, a protein that regulates the tight junctions of the small intestine.

Second: When zonulin is released, the tight junctions open slightly, allowing larger particles of food, including gluten, to pass through the intestinal wall and into the bloodstream.

Third: The body releases anti-inflammatory cytokines to help heal the leaky gut situation. Chronic consumption of gluten makes healing extremely difficult.

Fourth: In the meantime, the immune system, specifically a number of immunoglobulins (e.g. IgG, IgA), move in to attack the larger food particles which are recognized as foe, rather than friend, since they are not broken down properly during digestion. (food sensitivities result, as does inflammation and congestion caused by them).

Specifically, the permeability of the gut barrier and an imbalance of microbiome is a primary trigger of the inflammatory process in the human body.

The truth about gluten is one of our least and most favorite messages to share with our patients. It is a love-hate topic.  Hate, because glutenous foods are all around us and they are some of the most popular, well-loved foods in the world from bread and pastries to hamburger buns and pizza. Love, because we witness over, and over, and over again, the dramatic improvement in gut health and overall health, and weight when it is removed from the diet.

We love you too much to not tell you what you hate to hear. Eat well, Be well.

You can learn more about this topic by reading this article we published in 2017 about gluten:

[1] Gluten is a protein found in specific grains including wheat and its many derivatives, rye, barley, malt, and brewer’s yeast. An excellent resource for sources is found here:

[2] Goodness Lover Pty Ltd. The Inflammation Solution: Top 29 Gut Healing & Inflammation-fighting Foods.2022.

[3] About 2 million people in the US and 1% of the global population have been diagnosed with celiac disease, the  most extreme gluten sensitivity. An estimated 20% of the population has a non-celiac gluten sensitivity. We find most people feel significantly better and experience greater health by avoiding it.

By |2022-07-06T13:02:21-06:00July 7th, 2022|General|

Cross-Reactivity: What does Ragweed have to do with Bananas?

by Nancy Weyrauch Mehlert, MS

Understanding allergies can be difficult because they are complex! You may want to believe it is simple, such as, “if I eat x, it causes y”. Or if you are exposed to pollen or dust, it makes your nose run. Allergies are, unfortunately, not this simple. In fact, inhalant/airborne allergies can be difficult to distinguish from food allergies and often are related. One of the reasons allergies are so complex is due to cross-reactivity. Cross-reactivity occurs when molecular structures are so similar that the immune system is unable to make a distinction between them. For example, poison ivy, oak, and sumac are closely related molecular proteins to pork and black pepper. As a result, evidence of respiratory allergy may indicate an increased risk of food sensitivities and visa versa.

One type of cross-reactivity is when a food produces a reaction only in the presence of an inhalant allergen, such as pollen. Called concomitant foods, these foods cause a reaction only during the season when a specific inhalant, such as mold or pollen, are high, but not at other times of the year. Or another interesting example is for grill masters out there using oak, pecan, or mesquite woods for grilling/smoking who are experiencing cross reactivity to foods concomitant with these woods. Here is a short list of proven common concomitant foods:

Poison ivy, oak, and sumac ……………….pork and black pepper

Ragweed …………………………………………. egg, milk, mint, melon, cucumber, banana, sunflower, echinacea

Iva ciliate…………………………………………..wheat

Sage…………………………………….…………….potato, tomato, chewing tobacco

Pigweed…………………………………………… pork, black pepper

Grass………………………………………………… beans, peas, soybean, cottonseed oil

Cedar………………………………………………….beef, baker’s and brewer’s yeast, malt

Elm……………………………………………………..milk, mint

Cottonwood…………………………………….…lettuce

Oak……………………………………………………egg, apple

Pecan………………………………………………..corn, banana

Mesquite………………………………………….. cane sugar, orange

Dust………………………………………………….. cheese, mushrooms, truffles

Birch…………………………………………………..apple, carrot, celery, pear, tomato, cherry, tree nuts

 

Another type of cross-reactivity occurs when two foods are combined. These are called synergistic foods where a reaction may not occur when each food is eaten separately, but, when combined at the same meal, these foods cause symptoms. It might explain why a hamburger on a bun, or chicken/apple breakfast sausage with eggs are causing your symptoms. Here is a list of proven synergistic foods:

Corn………………………………………………………………banana

Beef……………………………………………………………….baker’s yeast, brewer’s yeast

Cane Sugar……………………………………………………..orange

Milk………………………………………………………………..mint

Egg………………………………………………………………….apple

Pork………………………………………………………………..black pepper

 

A third type of cross-reactivity can occur with those who have latex allergy. They may discover a cross-reactivity with banana, avocado, chestnut, kiwi, apple, carrot, celery, papaya, potato, tomato, or melons. Often times people are allergic to latex and don’t know it because they can tolerate exposure to latex quite well but react more severely to the foods that cross react with it.

Understanding cross-reactivity may help you better understand your inhalant or food testing results. If you have had testing, but can’t seem to sort out all of your allergies, getting tested with both skin prick and the specific IgE/IgA food testing via blood may provide much greater insight, and offer tailored treatment and relief. It is also important to explore the possibility of cross-reactivity in gluten-sensitive patients who are not experiencing improvements after eliminating gluten. Ask your provider if the skin screen test for inhalant/environmental allergens, or the IgE/IgA food sensitivity test are right for you.

https://www.usbiotek.com/blog/cross-reactivity-more-than-foods

Popescu F. D. (2015). Cross-reactivity between aeroallergens and food allergens. World journal of methodology5(2), 31–50. https://doi.org/10.5662/wjm.v5.i2.31

https://atouchoftherapy.com/prevent-allergies-concomitant-foods/

 

 

 

 

By |2021-11-17T13:38:47-06:00November 18th, 2021|General|

State of the Art Testing: Optimized Treatment and Prevention

By Mila McManus, MD

When I founded The Woodlands Institute for Health & Wellness in 2004, there were far fewer useful and affordable tests to utilize with my patients.  In Functional Medicine, our goal is to identify the root causes of disease while working to build overall optimal health. Functional medicine is observing the uniqueness of each person.  It is, in fact, individualized medicine. The human body is intricate and complex which can make the search for root causes in unique people a step by step, sometimes arduous process of elimination and trial and error. Thankfully, over the last decade, significant advancements in our understanding of the gut biome, immunology, nutrition and genomics have resulted in very advanced and affordable tests which tell us about you as an individual. This leads to personalized and optimized treatment plans with better health outcomes.  Not only do many of these tests lead us to the root causes of symptoms and disease, but also help to identify genetic mutations, predispositions for disease, and help to detect problems early. Below are descriptions of many of the tests we offer here, many of which are new.  

COLOGUARD Colon Cancer Screening is one of our newest test and a welcomed alternative to the traditional, and unpopular, colonoscopy.  The test kit is used at home and is a stool collection which does not require bowel preparation, dietary restrictions or medications to complete. The test uses advanced multiple-marker, stool DNA technology to detect colorectal cancer and advanced adenomas. It is 92% sensitive for detection of colorectal cancer and analyzes patient stool for the presence of 11 molecular markers, including hemoglobin and DNA markers and can detect pre-malignant neoplasia at early onset of abnormality. Patient Profile: Intended for adults, 50 years or older, who are at typical average-risk for colorectal cancer. Offers an excellent screening for colon cancer without the hassle of a colonoscopy. A positive test result would, however, lead to a colonoscopy.  It’s recommended every 3 yrs and is covered by most insurance companies, including Medicare.  You are NOT a candidate if you have a history of colon polyps, and family history of colon cancer, or if you have inflammatory bowel disease (i.e., Crohns, Ulcerative Colitis).

COLOR test: Genetic Risk for Cancer is tested by examining 30 genes including BRCA1 and BRCA2 to help women and men understand their risk for common hereditary cancers, including breast, ovarian, colorectal and pancreatic cancer. Patient Profile: Individuals with a family history of cancer, or those who want to make intentional proactive lifestyle and healthcare choices to avoid or minimize risk for cancer.

IvyGENE: Cancer screening for breast, colon, liver and lung cancer is available by blood draw in our office.  Patient Profile:  Individuals with lab markers suspicious for cancer and/or at the recommendation of the medical practitioner.

Genetic risk detection for heart disease tests for coronary artery disease, myocardial infarction and congestive heart failure risk. Patient Profile: Individuals with a family history or uncontrollable hypertension.

Wheat Sensitivity Testing is done at the highly sensitive peptide level and can confirm Celiac disease, leaky gut caused by wheat allergy, and WGA related Vitamin D deficiency.  The test also allows for tracking of the healing process for leaky gut. Patient Profile: Individuals with digestive disturbances, fatigue, chronic headaches, low vitamin D, joint pain or numbness in fingers, arms or legs, leaky gut syndrome or skin inflammation.

Gut microbiome evaluation examines bacteria, fungi and parasites, identifying imbalances and pinpointing potential risks associated with imbalances.  Patient profile: Individuals with IBS, Autoimmune disease, skin conditions, food intolerances, joint pain and inflammation, fatigue, and nutrient deficiencies.

Neural Zoomer is a test designed to assess an individual’s reactivity to neurological antigens.  Results provide a comprehensive set of autoimmunity markers, from a single blood draw.  Neurological risk for demyelination antigens, blood brain barrier disruption, optical and autonomic nervous system disorder, peripheral neuropathy, brain autoimmunity and neural genetics (available upon request) are assessed. The results allow for early risk detection to motivate the patient to improve lifestyle and information to guide the medical practitioner to an optimal treatment plan. Test provides ability to track progress.  Patient profile: Individuals with ataxia, sensory loss, neuropathic pain, muscle pain/spasm/weakness, brain fog, chronic pain, orthostatic hypotension, photosensitivity, and autoimmune disease.

IBS-D and Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth test confirms IBS-D and SIBO and allows tracking of progress following treatment.  Patient profile: Individuals with abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, flatulence, abdominal distension and weakness.

Lectin and Aquaporin Sensitivity test measures the body’s IgG & IgA immune responses to both specific lectins and aquaporins. Immune responses to lectins and aquaporins can result in microbial imbalances, damage of the gut lining and provoke delayed immune responses. This test is specific and defined for 16 commonly consumed high lectin foods and 7 aquaporin foods that often trigger autoimmune responses in the body. Patient profile: Individuals with known autoimmune disease, those who struggle to lose weight, or have bloating, gas, abdominal cramps, painful and swollen joints, fatigue, skin rashes, hormonal fluctuations, nausea or allergy like symptoms.

Genetic testing which, while similar to the popular 23 & Me, provides a deeper level of medical information upon which a provider can formulate treatment protocols. Many genetic mutations directly impact the methylation and detoxification pathways in the human body. Knowing the mutations allows the provider to guide the patient in addressing chronic medical conditions by using nutrition and nutrient supplementation as well as other treatment protocols. The test includes testing for MTHFR and other genes in methlyation pathways, COMT, genes related to detoxification, inflammation, and more. It’s done through a cheek swab from a home test kit. Patient Profile: Individuals with diagnoses, symptoms, or lab data indicating a tendency toward cardiovascular diseases, neurological disorders (e.g. depression, Alzheimer’s, autism spectrum, migraines insomnia), metabolic conditions (diabetes mellitus, kidney diseases, multiple chemical sensitivity, metabolic syndrome), musculoskeletal disorders (osteoporosis), macular degeneration, and cancers.

Comprehensive nutrient analysis measures functional deficiencies at the cellular level.  It is an assessment of how well the body utilizes vitamins, minerals, amino/fatty acids, antioxidants, and metabolites. It also provides treatment recommendations to improve the deficiencies to enable the production of enzymes, hormones, and other substances essential for proper growth, development and good health. Patient Profile: An excellent first assessment to ensure proper supplementation as well as an excellent starting point to assess overall cellular function and needs. Also used when symptoms have not resolved with diet and supplements.

Heavy Metal Testing provides an analysis of the levels of toxic metals and essential elements in urine after administration of a metal detoxification agent. This provides an indication of the accumulated toxic burden on the body.  Low level exposure to toxic metals and essential elements can result in significant retention in the body and can be associated with a vast array of adverse health effects. Patient Profile: Patients with known exposure to heavy metals, unresolved allergies, seizures, unusual neurological symptoms, metabolism issues such as inability to lose weight, history of dental work, and compromised immune function.

Food sensitivity testing helps to identify if the immune system is out of balance, irritated and up-regulated, causing it to attack our food as if it were a threat.  Tests identify what foods are causing these inflammatory responses which most often result in a variety of symptoms. Results allow the patient to remove foods which irritate the immune system so that it can be balanced and down-regulated as well as provide some insight to the provider as to the degree of gut inflammation. Patient Profile: An excellent first assessment for anyone with issues of the digestive system, skin, respiratory system, migraines, muscle or joint pain, low energy, mood swings, anxiety, poor sleep, or children with failure to thrive.

Environmental Allergy Testing is a skin prick, intradermal test for 40 airborne environmental allergens including weeds, grasses, trees, dust mites, mold spores and animal dander. Test also includes wheat, corn, egg, milk, yeast, soy and oat. Intradermal testing is more accurate and sensitive than most typical blood tests for IgE allergies to foods and inhalants. Test results allow for the personalized preparation of allergy drops (not shots!) containing the antigens you need, no matter where you travel. Administering small amounts of these antigens daily will train your immune system to accept the allergens instead of fighting them. Patient Profile: Individuals who suffer with sneezing, post-nasal drip, coughing, sore throat, snoring, headaches, poor sleep, dark circles under eyes, itchy eyes and nose, bloody nose, decreased sense of smell, decreased sense of hearing, eczema or other skin rashes or bumps, fatigue, and/or frequent upper respiratory infections.

Neurotransmitter Testing evaluates the levels of neurotransmitters that directly impact daily life function related to pleasure, reward, mood, alertness, calmness, learning, libido, appetite, energy, attention, aggression, and sense of wellbeing. Patient Profile: Individuals who struggle with anxiety/panic attacks, depression, negativity, easy agitation, low mood, fatigue, impulsive behaviors/addiction, sleep disturbances, hyperactivity, PMS or PMDD and/or poor concentration/focus.

Cognitive Health Assessment by Cambridge Brain Systems provides simple and powerful online brain health assessment solutions.  Patient Profile: Individuals who want to quantify cognition, track cognitive trends and want to educate themselves.

Metabolic Rate Analysis (aka Metacheck) allows you to quickly and accurately learn your resting metabolic rate.  Patient Profile:  Individuals wanting to know how their metabolism is truly working, i.e. how many calories are burned daily at rest, and with exercise.

Consult with your medical provider for suggestions and guidance regarding which test or tests may help to optimize your treatment plan and expand your knowledge about your health!

By |2022-10-10T17:06:59-06:00July 25th, 2018|General|

Are You Full of It?

frogby Mila McManus MD

Are your bowels moving at posted speeds? This article discusses various underlying causes of constipation and sluggish bowel function and how to address the issue naturally.  Laxatives are NOT the answer.  Read on to find out why.

OK, so not the cleanest or most fun topic we could come up with, but it’s an important one.  Sluggish bowel function and constipation are a serious matter with potential for contributing to, or causing, other health issues.  Toxic sludge, for one, will simply recycle back into your body, thereby increasing toxic load.  And toxic load is a cause of constipation!  The causes most people think of in relation to constipation are dehydration and lack of fiber in the diet.  While adding water and fiber to your diet are important for many reasons, I rarely find that these interventions alone will fix the problem.

Other causes of sluggish bowel function and constipation:

  • Inflammation in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.  This includes Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis, but these are usually accompanied by bouts of diarrhea, bloody stools, and other symptoms.
  • Dysbiosis.  This is a fancy word for “the bacteria, yeast, viruses, and parasites living in your GI tract are out of balance”.  Have you ever had a course of antibiotics? Of course you have.  This is one of the main contributors to dysbiosis.
  • Low thyroid function.  EVEN IF your thyroid levels are normal, this does not confirm that your thyroid function is normal or optimal.  Test your thyroid function here with our online symptom checker.
  • Food allergies and sensitivities. Unfortunately, conventional medical doctors typically test for only IgE reactions to foods.  It’s important to test for other types of food sensitivities, such as IgG reactions.  The most common food sensitivities include gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, yeast, and corn.
  • Certain supplements, particularly calcium and iron.
  • Congesting foods, particularly gluten (wheat, rye, spelt, barley) and dairy (cheese, ice cream, milk, yogurt, cream)
  • Colon cancer or other conditions affecting your anatomy, such as scar tissue from surgeries or endometriosis.
  • Side effect of medications, including narcotic pain meds (e.g., hydrocodone), calcium-containing anti-acids (e.g. TUMS), certain antihistamines (e.g., Benadryl), certain blood pressure medications including calcium channel blockers (e.g., amlodipine) and diuretics (e.g., hydrochlorothiazide), and certain antidepressants (e.g., fluoxetine, amitriptyline)
  • Dependence on laxatives. The more you use them, the more difficult it’ll be to stop using them
  • Diabetes.  Diabetes can affect nerve function, including the nerves that control the function of the GI tract.
  • Neurologic diseases such as Parkinson’s disease and Multiple Sclerosis (MS).
  • Magnesium deficiency
  • Poor dietary habits in general.  This makes sense because eating a lot of processed food will contribute to inflammation, magnesium deficiency, low fiber, and other health issues that lead to the need to take medications such as those listed above which further contribute to the problem.

Recommendations:

  • Heal your GI tract by working with our functional medicine specialists.  This usually involves a customized vitamin/mineral regimen, detoxification support, dietary changes, probiotics, and hormone balance and optimization
  • Test for food sensitivities and/or start an elimination diet (e.g., eliminate all dairy and gluten from your diet for 4 to 6 weeks to see if bowel function improves.)
  • Work with our functional medicine specialists to address the underlying causes of what ails you so that you can potentially wean off your medications that are contributing to your sluggish bowel function.
  • Clean up your diet.  Schedule a consultation with our nutritionist on staff for help.
  • Supplements that can be very effective in alleviating your constipation include probiotics, magnesium citrate, aloe vera, and digestive enzymes.  We highly recommend that you work with a functional medicine specialist for advice on brands, doses, etc.  It’s also important to be properly evaluated.
  • Fiber can actually make constipation worse.  This sometimes should NOT be your first line of defense.
  • A word about Miralax (and other laxatives with polyethylene glycol as the active ingredient):  The FDA has added “neuropsychiatric events” to the list of potential side effects in relation to the use of these laxatives.  “Neuropsychiatric events” would include conditions such as memory loss, autism, depression, schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, etc.  Polyethylene glycol is a string of ethylene glycol molecules.  Ethylene glycol is anti-freeze.  Need I say more?  Please remember that, just because you can get a drug over-the-counter, doesn’t mean it’s safe.
References:
https://www.gutsense.org/constipation/normal_stools.html
www.mercola.com
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
By |2016-07-06T06:40:59-06:00July 5th, 2016|Articles, General|