Today we’re bringing back our favorite Functional Medicine Practitioner – Dr. Will Cole! He has guest posted here on a variety of topics:
Today, Dr. Cole is dropping some inflammation-busting knowledge with this post (I’m doing my best to resist any terrible puns or jokes for the first treatment he outlines below). In all seriousness, this post is going to be really illuminating for those of you who have tricky inflammation issues in your body that are stubborn to resolve. And as always, Dr. Cole offers a free phone or webcam health evaluation to folks on his site, DrWillCole.com … so if you need a doctor in your corner who is familiar with this stuff, he’s your guy!
Inflammation is the one underlying factor that links all modern chronic health problems. From cancer, heart disease and autoimmune conditions to digestive, brain and hormone problems, inflammation is the commonality. My job as a functional medicine practitioner is to get to the root cause of inflammatory conditions and the find the most effective way to improve health that causes the least amount of side effects.
Most of functional medicine focuses on four practical, natural areas to regain health:
• Comprehensive labs: Getting to the root cause of health problems such as gut dysfunctions, immune imbalances, toxicity and nutrient deficiencies.
• Foods: Using meals as medicine, the foods we eat will either feed health or disease.
• Natural medicines: Herbal and natural medicines are customized based on labs to support and nourish the body so that your body can thrive.
• Lifestyle changes: Lifestyle modifications are also tailored to the individual in functional medicine. Using tools such as mindfulness meditation, yoga and tai chi are some ways I address the mind-body component to healing.
Some stubborn inflammatory problems also call for more advanced tools.These tools are not your mother’s, run-of-the-mill generic ideas, let’s take it to the next level. Here are 4 unconventional ways people are fighting against inflammation:
1. Helminthic Therapy
Autoimmune conditions, where the immune system attacks the body, have exploded to epidemic proportions over the last few decades, affecting an estimated 50 million Americans. To put that in perspective , there are around 14 million living Americans who have been diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives. Millions more have undiagnosed autoimmune spectrum problems, suffering with unexplained symptoms of inflammation. What was once a rarity is now commonplace. In addition to the many functional medicine tools for autoimmune diseases such as food and natural medicines, there is one therapy you may not have heard about: helminth therapy.
Helminths are parasitic worms such as hookworms,whipworms, and threadworms. These creepy guys have evolved to live within humans and animals, and eat what their host eat. Yum. Helminthic therapy, is the treatment of autoimmune diseases and other inflammatory conditions, by deliberately giving yourself parasites! It may sound disgusting, but research suggested a beneficial effect of helminth infections on autoimmune conditions such as inflammatory bowel conditions (Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis, multiple sclerosis (MS), type 1 diabetes and asthma.
How does it work? Well those parasites have evolved with humans, and they are remarkably savvy at surviving inside of you. These sneaky bugs are able to go undetected and unharmed by turning off inflammation (Th1 and Th17 cells) and increasing immune-balancing (regulatory T) cells! Human and animal studies have provided evidence of decreased Th1 and Th17 immune responses. Result: Less inflammation and symptoms. Researchers believe this is one reason why autoimmune diseases are exploding in industrialized nations while developing countries, where parasites are more common, have less cases of autoimmunity.
Your microbiome, the trillions of bacteria in your gut, is the foundation to your health. Where 80% of your immune system resides, the majority of chronic inflammatory problems are linked to microbiome problems. Bacterial imbalances (dysbiosis) has been shown to an underlying trigger to many inflammatory health problems. Bacteriotherapy is one way to reset balance to the microbiome. Bacteriotherapy or fecal microbiota transplant (FMT) is, you guessed it, a poop transplant!
Fecal transplants are more commonly known as a treatment for inflammatory gut problems such as c. difficile infections and colitis, case reports have also shown it to be helpful for problems such as chronic fatigue syndrome, parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, obesity, metabolic disorders, allergies, and brain problems!
Fecal transplants is a promising way to reset unhealthy, damaged microbiomes to balance the immune system and therefore calm inflammation.
Does enduring freezing temperatures, below -200 degrees Fahrenheit sound like a good time? Whole body cryotherapy (WBC), which involves standing in a deep-freezing tank for a few minutes (typically 2-4 to be exact) to decrease inflammation in the body.
Some small-scale studies have shown that cryotherapy was effective for people with inflammation in their muscles and joints. There is a growing number of cryo spas popping up around the world, so check one out near you.
4. Flotation tanks
The speed of our hectic lives can be stressful. Chronic stress has been shown to raise inflammation levels in many ways. Now imagine a place of quiet and silence with no light, no touch, no movement. Imagine floating effortlessly in a pitch black tank filled with salty water, the temperature of your skin. Flotation REST, or Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy provides a place for you and your inflammation to calm the heck down. Flotation REST involves floating in buoyant water in a light and sound-proof tank. When you are floating weightless with no external stimuli, it activates, inflammation-bustin
A meta-analysis found that flotation therapy lowered stress hormones and stress levels better than relaxation exercises, biofeedback or even relaxing on the couch (gasp!). Small studies have shown that flotation therapy improved inflammatory stress-i
So what now?
Are these tools for everyone? No, but in addition to the functional medicine foundations of food and herbal medicines, they can be amazing pieces to calm inflammation. Talk with your doctor about your health and options. Will your mainstream doctor know about these options? Since these tools are not in pill form, probably not. But information is power. So, you’ve heard it here first. The awareness for evidence based natural medicine options like functional medicine is growing. Something tells me you will be hearing more and more about these health tools in the near future.
If you want a functional medicine perspective on what you are going through, take advantage of a free webcam or phone health evaluation with Dr. Cole.