Human Optimization

The extracellular matrix is a network of proteins and other molecules in the space between cells. It helps cells attach to one another and move around. You can think about this like scaffolding for building a house: it provides support and structure for all kinds of activities inside the cell without getting too involved in how those things happen. When there’s damage or injury, it also sends signals to help repair or replace damaged parts of tissue by recruiting stem cells from elsewhere in the body. In this blog post, we will explore how extracellular matrix regulation works to maintain homeostasis from birth to death so you can better understand your body’s natural aging process!


The extracellular matrix (ECM) is a dynamic structure that provides a structural framework for cellular organization and movement. It is a three-dimensional space, extending between cells that are defined by components produced by the cells themselves as well as cells that they neighbor.

The ECM consists of a dynamic mixture of structural proteins which are typically secreted from the cell into the extracellular environment. The extracellular matrix is made up of many components, including molecules like collagen and elastin, macromolecules like glycoproteins or proteoglycans, proteins like adhesion proteins that allow cells to bind to each other, growth factors that signal new tissue formation, and others.

Collagen is one of the most prominent components of the extracellular matrix. It provides strength and stability to tissues and is primarily responsible for wound healing and tissue repair.

There are many types of glycoproteins, or proteoglycans, which give the matrix its winding appearance, similar to DNA’s iconic double helix. These macromolecules allow cells to recognize and bind to the matrix components.

Several types of adhesive proteins promote cell-to-cell contact, which can be found on either side of a plasma membrane where they’ll spread out from the cell’s surface towards the extracellular matrix. These proteins will crosslink, or bond together with other adhesive proteins to form a mesh that reinforces the adhesive bond between cells.

4 Major Purposes of the Extracellular Matrix:

Containment of cell growth: This refers to how the matrix can “wrap” around cells while still allowing them to grow in size while confined by the surrounding ECM.

Cell signaling and communication: Cell signaling and communication refer to how cells can send signals through the matrix so that growth and development happen in the right place at the right time.

Binding cells together to form tissues or organs:  The adhesion proteins that hold cells together can also link them to the extracellular matrix.

Removal of dead or damaged cells from the body:  Cells are constantly dying and being replaced, so the ECM will send signals to attract stem cells that can migrate towards their location within tissue in order to repair or replace damaged cells.


The extracellular matrix is a critical mediator of cell behavior. In fact, cells respond to their environment by changing shape and altering gene expression in order to perform their job properly. 

Cell adhesion: This refers to how cells bind together very tightly with adhesive proteins that can crosslink with other adhesive proteins across the plasma membrane so they strengthen the bond between cells.

In order for cells to join together correctly at the right times and places, they need to be able to sense their environment and respond by sending signals through a network of proteins that bind together in a very specific way. So if a developing embryo is going to form into multiple layers that will eventually become distinct tissues or organs, cells in each layer will need to bind to the ECM and pass signals through it to be able to change shape and function into whatever they’re supposed to become.

3 Types of Cell Adhesion:

Integrin: These proteins anchor cells to the extracellular matrix, primarily binding between adhesive proteins on one side of a plasma membrane and “integrin-binding sites” on the other side of the plasma membrane.

Cell-matrix adhesion: This refers to how cells can bind directly to ECM components, which involves integrins as well as other types of adhesion proteins.

Compartmentalization/Segregation: This refers to how cells can create closed boundaries that will separate different tissues from each other.

In order for cells to be able to create compartments, they need to regulate the way substances enter and exit the local environment. In fact, many types of tissue have a limited list of molecules that can diffuse across their borders in one direction or another – this is called “selective permeability”, and it’s a feature of many cell types.

2 Main Features of Selective Permeability:

1) Pores in the plasma membrane allow solutes to move through them but prevent water from moving freely through those pores, due to the presence of lipid bilayers. This allows cells to selectively control which molecules can enter or exit their local environment.

2) Cells can have a different level of permeability in different directions, so some proteins will move freely across the cell membrane while others cannot – this is called “anisotropy”.


Different types of cells can adjust how permeable their plasma membranes are to help create local boundaries and also take in the right molecular nutrients for their job. In regards to the extracellular matrix, the ECM can bind to integrins on the plasma membrane of cells, which helps create a boundary that separates tissues from each other. Integrins are the major cell adhesion proteins, which means they bind cells to the ECM. Cells will be able to pass molecules through the border into neighboring tissues, but if the molecule is too large it won’t fit through the pores of the membranes and therefore cannot go across. All cells have distinct levels of permeability in different directions to help create a very specific environment for each cell type.


Part of what allows cells to remain differentiated is the extracellular matrix. It provides cells with the appropriate molecular signals to maintain their state, and when they move to a different tissue it also helps ensure that they will behave correctly in their new local environment – which is why this system breaks down when there is damage or disease. Abnormalities in the extracellular matrix are linked with age-related diseases. When ECM is broken down, it releases many different molecules that can cause inflammation. Inflammation is an immune response meant to eliminate threats to the body, but chronic inflammation can be very harmful and eventually result in death. When this happens over time the extracellular matrix will degrade and build up in ways that are detrimental to our health. When this happens, it causes “inflamm-aging” which is when inflammation builds up over time due to wear and tear on the body.

As we age, the extracellular matrix continues to degrade in many ways. The aging process involves many deleterious changes in the cells and tissues of an organism, which can affect how it functions. Lifestyle factors may accelerate the degradation of the extracellular matrix. Since ECM is responsible for cellular differentiation, preventing this degradation could lead to greater longevity because it would allow cells to maintain their state and continue functioning properly.  

Disclaimer: The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Additionally, the information provided in this blog, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images, and other material contained on this website, or in any linked materials, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice and are for informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Before taking any medications, over-the-counter drugs, supplements or herbs, consult a physician for a thorough evaluation. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this or any website.

The body’s immune system is a complicated, elegant machine that protects us from the outside world. It does this by recognizing invaders through amazing sensing mechanisms and responding to them with incredible precision. In the case of cell danger response (CDR), our cells do their best to protect themselves as they are being attacked by viruses or bacteria. Yet CDR can be dangerous if it overreacts and causes inflammation – which can lead to chronic diseases such as diabetes or even cancer. In this week’s blog post we will not only explain what CDR is but also how we minimize its risks so we may live a healthy life.


The cell danger response (CDR) is the evolutionarily conserved metabolic response that protects cells and hosts from harm. 

How it works is by the cell senses that it is being attacked, then using specialized proteins to monitor our metabolism. When CDR is activated, the body will use available energy sources and switch its focus to self-defense rather than growth and reproduction. CDR is a mechanism that allows cells to sense ‘danger’ that may be caused by viruses or bacteria. This danger can also come in the form of molecules such as DNA, RNA, and proteins – all of which are components found inside our cells.  When these substances get leaked into the extracellular environment, CDR kicks into gear.

The activated CDR will then enter into a cascade – this is where it gets its name, the danger response cascade (DRC). The danger response cascade can be broken up into five steps that occur in succession: 

1. Detection: Detection of PAMPs (e.g., pathogen-associated molecular patterns like lipopolysaccharides) or damage-associated molecular patterns (DAMPs). PAMPs are substances that can be recognized by specialized receptors, such as Toll-like receptor (TLR), NOD-like receptor (NLR), and RIG-I like helicases (RLH). DAMPs refer to the cellular debris or damage that results from being attacked. 

2. Activation of MAPKs, IKKɛ, TBK1, PKA, and PKR. Next these activated enzymes activate transcription factors (which refers to a biochemical process by which a particular gene’s instructions are copied into RNA) that then activate or suppress inflammation-promoting genes while suppressing other essential genes involved in repair pathways. When we discuss activated enzymes, this refers to enzymes that have been phosphorylated, which means a phosphate group has been added to the enzyme.  

3. Activation of transcription factors such as NF-kB, FOXO3a, and HIF1α. These transcription factors then go on to stimulate or suppress the transcription of genes that regulate inflammation and also cell survival. 

4. Activation of MDA5 & RIG-I: MDA5 and RIG-I are critical to the CDR response because they activate an antiviral pathway known as type I interferon production. Type I interferon production is a pathway that allows our body’s immune system to help fight infections. 

5. Secretion of inflammatory cytokines to induce downstream immune cells to take action against the infection. Inflammatory cytokines are a group of signaling proteins that trigger inflammation at sites of infection. The cells which release these cytokines are called antigen-presenting cells (APCs) and include monocytes, macrophages, dendritic cells, and B lymphocytes. This cascade is what allows CDR to induce inflammation – yet it can have negative consequences if activated over and over again.

In addition, CDR can also occur in response to non-infectious stresses such as heat, UV irradiation, and oxidative stress. These stresses have been shown to activate IKKɛ (which is one of the last components in the cascade) and cause it to activate NF-κB (Nuclear factor-kappa B). When activated, this protein moves into the nucleus where it works with other transcription factors to promote the expression of genes that trigger inflammation. It is important to note that these events happen within minutes of your body detecting CDR triggers. 


Inflammation is a vital part of the CDR cascade. It’s what helps cells fight off disease, but there are consequences if it goes on for too long or isn’t properly regulated.  Left unchecked, inflammation can lead to several chronic conditions. 

 Inflammation has been linked to cardiovascular disease, arthritis, atherosclerosis, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and even depression. One of the most well-known links between inflammation and chronic illness comes from the research of Dr. Robert Ader. In 1974 he conducted a study in which two groups were given an antitoxin to protect against poison. 

 Group A only received the treatment, while group B also had their spleens removed beforehand to prevent their immune systems from mounting an inflammatory response. After receiving the antitoxin both groups were then injected with the poison. However, unbeknownst to them this second injection was not actually poisonous but just saline solution therefore they should not have gotten sick. 

To the surprise of the researchers, group B got just as sick as group A even though they did not have an immune system. Basically, because their bodies had already mounted an inflammatory response when injected with the saline solution it was interpreted by their brains to be a poison so they could become ill. This example is just one of many that illustrate how chronic inflammation can lead to the development of disease.


The answer to this question is multifactorial. First, it’s important to avoid or control infections with your immune system because that is what triggers the response in the first place.  

Second, it’s also best to take care of your body. This means eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, practicing stress management, and more. 

Third, optimizing your immune system is important.  The better it functions the less likely you are to succumb to disease and the more effective it will be at fighting off infections.

Fourth, protect your cells from damage and stress by limiting exposure to toxins and sources of oxidative stress such as UV radiation and environmental pollutants. This includes using antioxidants that can directly neutralize free radicals before they do damage: vitamin C, vitamin E, manganese, selenium, copper, zinc, and more.

Finally, genetic variation also determines how many times your immune system can mount a CDR response before producing dysfunctional cells. This means that although the danger responses in everyone are the same there is a big difference in their potential scope because of individual genetics. Different SNPs have also been linked to an impaired danger response.

Although the danger response is an important part of fighting infections, it can also be responsible for chronic inflammation which has been linked to many health problems. Fortunately, there are things you can do to prevent this from happening. By implementing lifestyle changes you can help your body fight off disease while simultaneously protecting your cells from damage. 

How can the Institute for Human Optimization help you? At IfHO, we utilize a personalized, precision-based approach to medicine. Precision Medicine acknowledges individual differences in genes.  By having a better understanding of the individual’s genes and making therapeutic decisions based on their genetics, we can work together to drive CDR in a desirable direction.   

Disclaimer: The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Additionally, the information provided in this blog, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images, and other material contained on this website, or in any linked materials, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice and are for informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Before taking any medications, over-the-counter drugs, supplements or herbs, consult a physician for a thorough evaluation. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this or any website.

Metabolic endotoxemia is a condition that affects many people in America. In fact, recent studies estimate that over one-third of adults in the United States have this health issue. It’s been estimated that it may soon be indirectly a leading cause of death. Follow us on this week’s blog to learn what it is and how to prevent metabolic endotoxemia.

Metabolic Endotoxemia

Metabolic endotoxemia is the presence of too much LPS (lipopolysaccharides) in the blood. LPS are toxins that reside on the outer membrane of bacteria that would otherwise not be allowed into our bloodstream. The American Diabetes Association identified bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS) as the inflammatory factor causative of the onset of insulin resistance, obesity, and diabetes.  LPS triggers a cascade of immune responses. For example, after binding to its receptor TLR4 (TLR4 is a receptor found on the surface of cells that can detect LPS) or CD 14, there is an elevated level of tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNFα). TNFα is a protein signaling molecule that is an inflammatory mediator that triggers the innate immune response. The innate immune system, as its name implies, is a primitive type of immunity that all living organisms have. In contrast to the adaptive immune system (which is found in humans and other higher-order species), there are no actual distinguishing features between cells belonging to the innate system or adaptive immune system – they simply look different. TNFα activates more TLR4 which results in more TNFα. As you can see, it becomes a vicious cycle leading to chronic inflammation.

LPS also induces cytokine production by activating inflammatory transcription factors known as nuclear factor kappa B (NF-κB). NF-κB is a protein complex that controls the expression of genes involved in immunity and inflammation. Inducing cytokine production helps our bodies fight off infections. However, it also activates the immune response to clear away cells that are injured or damaged by short-term inflammation. If this clearing of dead cells occurs chronically, it can lead to tissue damage and autoimmune diseases where the body starts attacking its own healthy tissues.


Paracelsus, a Renaissance physician said: “All things are poison; everything is poisonous; there is nothing without poisonous qualities. Only the dose permits something not to be poisonous.” 

The severity of this disorder depends on how much LPS enters circulation and how sensitive an individual’s body is to these inflammatory agents. As expected, diet and lifestyle are critical when it comes to metabolic endotoxemia and other diseases. 

Inflammatory transcription factors are also activated in response to a high-fat diet rich in saturated fats and low in fruits and vegetables. Inflammatory transcription factors are transcription factors that contribute to the initiation, regulation, and mediation of inflammation.

Saturated fatty acids trigger macrophages to create a cascade of inflammatory signals. Saturated fats refer to a type of dietary fat with no double bonds between the carbon atoms. They are typically solid at room temperature and found in foods such as beef, pork, poultry, butterfat (in dairy products), palm kernel oil, lard (in meat products), and cocoa butter. Inflammatory foods have been linked to causing an inflammatory immune response that results in endotoxemia, which is the presence of bacterial endotoxin (LPS) in the bloodstream.


The relationship between metabolic endotoxemia and the onset of diabetes, obesity, and heart disease is well established. Metabolic endotoxemia causes the body to have increased cortisol levels. This causes increased insulin resistance, which can contribute to type 2 diabetes. Metabolic endotoxemia causes the body to have increased cortisol levels. This causes increased insulin resistance, which can contribute to type 2 diabetes. In a healthy body, insulin resistance may be caused by high cortisol levels in response to stress. This insulin resistance is typically temporary as a protective mechanism for the body, but in most people who are insulin resistant, a high carbohydrate diet makes them even more insulin resistant. So, these individuals will typically crave carbohydrates when their blood sugar is low from the stress cortisol is causing on their bodies with elevated insulin resistance.

Metabolic endotoxemia causes an increase in persistent free radicals, which contributes to chronic inflammation and aging of the cells. An increase in persistent free radicals is not optimal as this can result in the accelerated development of chronic disease. Chronic inflammation is cause for concern because it is associated with elevated risks of cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, and many other chronic diseases. Metabolic endotoxemia also causes oxidative stress. Oxidative stress refers to the process whereby free radicals in cells cause damage to molecules leading to tissue and organ dysfunction. The human body has both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory mechanisms in place that operate in a feedback loop, such as red blood cells, white blood cells, vitamins C and E, uric acid, nitric oxide synthase (NOS), and more. This feedback loop works by protecting the cells from oxidative damage and removing damaged cells. However, there are many variables that can break the loop using mechanisms called hormesis. Hormesis refers to acute stress that leads to a beneficial effect. For example, exercise causes the body to emit oxidizing free radicals because it requires large amounts of ATP (energy) for muscle contraction. Metabolic endotoxemia however is not a beneficial mechanism. It is the result of an overload of free fatty acids (FFAs), cytokines, and NOS-derived NO which cause circulating endotoxins to disrupt the host’s metabolism. 

Additionally, oxidative stress decreases cellular DNA repair. Cellular DNA repair is critical to our overall health and well-being. As we have discussed in recent blogs, DNA repair is critical for maintaining metabolic homeostasis. Failure to maintain metabolic homeostasis due to DNA damage from oxidative stress can lead to obesity, insulin resistance, and even type 2 diabetes.

In addition to causing insulin resistance and oxidative stress, metabolic endotoxemia has been linked to dysfunction of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. Our HPA Axis is critical for maintaining metabolic homeostasis. Our HPA Axis is responsible for the release of cortisol, our main stress hormone. We often think of the HPA Axis as being involved in stress but it involves every organ system in the body and is critical for maintaining normal body functions, including inflammation. Recent studies have established that in vivo administration of bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS) enhances hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis function by a mechanism involving endotoxin-stimulated cytokine release.  


Deceasing our allostatic load is a component of reaching our optimal health.  Allostatic load refers to the wear and tear on the body through stress. Metabolic endotoxemia contributes to the reduction in our allostatic load. Meeting one’s optimal health includes having a healthy weight, healthy blood sugar levels, and low inflammation among many things. The decreasing allostatic load can be done by increasing physical activity and mindfulness, improving nutrition, reducing stress, maintaining social connections, and getting enough sleep. Decreasing the number of factors involved in the allostatic load will help decrease the overall inflammatory response. 

Don’t know where to start? At the Institute for Human Optimization, we will work with you directly to optimize your well-being. No two patients are the same, so we work with you and create a personalized and individual approach to your health concerns. Contact us today to get started.



Hashimoto’s, also known as Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, is considered to be the most common cause of hypothyroidism. It is an autoimmune disorder that causes your thyroid to produce less than optimal amounts of hormones. The body needs these hormones to regulate its metabolism and other functions. Follow us along as we discuss what Hashimoto’s is and how it relates back to Hypothyroidism.

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The thyroid is a small gland in the front of your neck. It releases hormones that affect everything in the body, from heart rate to energy levels. Hormones produced in the thyroid include T3 and T4, two of the most important thyroid hormones. These hormones are responsible for growth, development, metabolism (the rate at which all chemical processes in the body take place) and many other functions throughout your body.

T3 specifically helps with the thermal regulation of the body and is essential for growth, development, and general homeostasis (stable state).

The thyroid gland produces T4 and then converts it into T3; this conversion process can be inhibited by inflammation. When your body is inflamed (for example, due to injury or illness), your thyroid may not produce enough T3. 

When your thyroid is not working optimally, this can result in an overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism) or an underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism).

Thyroid hormones are responsible for many functions throughout the body, including regulating metabolism. It is not rare to see low levels of thyroid and rapid weight gain in the same individual.  Let’s discuss common types of thyroid disorders. 


Hyperthyroidism is when you have an overactive thyroid gland that generates too much thyroid hormone. This results in symptoms such as:

· Fast heart rate

· Increased appetite

· Excessive perspiration

· Weight loss

· Nervousness, irritability, and/or anxiety

· Diarrhea

· Sensitivity to heat

· And more!


Hypothyroidism is when you have an underactive thyroid gland that does not generate enough thyroid hormone. This results in symptoms such as:

· Fatigue and excessive sleepiness

· Weight gain or inability to lose weight

· Depression, mood swings, and/or irritability

· Muscle pain and stiffness

· Cold intolerance

· Constipation and dry skin

· And more!

Primary, Secondary, Tertiary, and Subclinical Hypothyroidism

There are different types of hypothyroidism. 

  • Primary Hypothyroidism: is when the thyroid gland itself does not maintain adequate levels of T3 or T4. This can be caused by a number of things, but the most common cause in the US is Hashimoto’s Disease. In primary hypothyroidism the problem is with the thyroid itself.
  • Secondary Hypothyroidism: is when the pituitary fails to produce enough Thyroid-Stimulating Hormone (TSH) in response to low levels of thyroid hormone in the blood. This can be caused by pituitary disease, hypothalamic disease, medications that reduce TSH (such as amiodarone or lithium), autoimmune destruction of the pituitary, and more. In secondary hypothyroidism, the issue is not with the thyroid but the  pituitary, which monitors the thyroid.
  • Tertiary Hypothyroidism: is when the hypothalamus fails to produce enough thyrothropin-releasing hormone (TRH).  TRH is needed to stimulate the pituitary to produce enough TSH. TSH is necessary to stimulate the thyroid gland. Research shows that this can be caused by hypothalamic disease, medications that reduce TRH (such as lithium), autoimmune destruction of the hypothalamus, and more.
  • Subclinical hypothyroidism: is an early, mild form of hypothyroidism. Usually, your thyroid is functioning properly but your TSH levels are slightly elevated. This form of hypothyroidism is most common in women, the elderly, and those with other autoimmune diseases.


The most common cause of hypothyroidism is Hashimoto’s.  It’s important to note that Hashimoto’s and hypothyroidism are not the same conditions. People who have Hashimoto’s often progress to hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid.  But not always. Sometimes people can be diagnosed with both at the same time, while some might only ever experience Hashimoto’s and never develop hypothyroidism. Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune disorder. Autoimmune disorders are when your body’s immune system starts attacking healthy cells. In the case of Hashimoto’s, this is when you have an immune system that incorrectly identifies the thyroid gland as something foreign and attacks it, resulting in damage to your thyroid. 

Although Hashimoto’s most often results in hypothyroidism, it can also cause hyperthyroidism, when your thyroid gland is overactive. However, this form of hyperthyroidism may go undetected because some of the symptoms are similar to that of people with Hashimoto’s who present with hypothyroidism (such as weight gain, fatigue, lethargy, lack of concentration).  

What are the symptoms of Hashimoto’s? 

Hashimoto’s is usually asymptomatic for years which makes it difficult to diagnose. One of the first signs of this disease would manifest through fatigue, which is the most common symptom. Other symptoms include weight gain, feeling cold all the time, constipation, and depression.  

With Hashimoto’s, symptoms will worsen as your disease progresses and it becomes harder to recover from them. 

People with Hashimoto’s typically present with:

· A goiter (an enlarged thyroid)

· Decreased TSH levels

Hashimoto’s is caused by antibodies attacking the thyroid, which causes it to not produce enough hormones. The specific triggers for this attack are unknown but there are some ideas on why this happens. Some research links Hashimoto’s to genetics, exposure to viruses and environmental toxins, chronic inflammation, gut health issues, diets high in goitrogens, obesity, soy, and bacterial or viral infections. There is also a belief that Hashimoto’s may be brought on by stress hormones.

Hashimoto’s is important to address because left untreated, it can lead to an underactive thyroid or hypothyroidism. The thyroid gland is responsible for producing thyroxine which is responsible for regulating your metabolism. It also affects the way you use energy, the way your body uses food for energy, how your body molds fat and sugar, as well as how your heartbeats. An underactive thyroid can have long-term health effects such as weight gain, anxiety, lethargy, and depression. 

Personalized Approach to Hashimoto’s

Generally, your health care provider will take your medical history and perform a physical exam. Additionally, they will check your Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) and your Free T4 (FT4) levels. 

At the Institute for Human Optimization, we believe the best way to help our patients is by having all the insight we can get access to. This in turn helps us create a personalized, precise, protocol unique to you. 

Some blood tests we will look at include but are not limited to:

  • Checking levels of Thyroid peroxidase Ab, Thyroglobulin Ab, and TPO-ab. These are antibodies that are fighting against your thyroid gland.  
  • Total T4 will be reviewed to look into the levels of protein that the thyroid gland produces. 
  • Total T3:   the active form of thyroid hormone 
  • Free T3: the active form of thyroid hormone 
  • Reverse T3: Reverse T3 is a protein that binds to T3. When this happens it makes T3 not available for the body to use, which will make your thyroid gland slow down production of thyroid hormone.
  • Thyroid Binding Globulin: Thyroid Binding Globulin will be tested to look for levels of protein that your thyroid gland produces.  
  • Thyroglobulin Antibodies: the presence of this antibody is a marker for Hashimoto’s disease.

People with Hashimoto’s, or autoimmune hypothyroidism, have special needs when it comes to thyroid hormone replacement therapy.  It can be difficult to find the right type of medication for you – what might work well in one person may not work at all in another patient. 

Disclaimer: The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Additionally, the information provided in this blog, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images, and other material contained on this website, or in any linked materials, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice and are for informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Before taking any medications, over-the-counter drugs, supplements or herbs, consult a physician for a thorough evaluation. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this or any website.

Heart rate variability is a new technique in the field of biofeedback that can help provide a more accurate picture of your physical and emotional state. This blog post will explore what heart rate variability is, how it works, and some benefits you may see from using this new way to track well-being. 

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Heart Rate Variability (HRV) is thought to be originally discovered by K. Grinberg back in 1896 but was not researched until the 1960s. Heart rate variability is a measurement of the time between heartbeats. It can be measured in milliseconds, which are 1/1,000th of a second. HRV is measured by your heart’s response to breathing patterns. As you breathe in, your body absorbs oxygen and nutrients that allow the lungs to release carbon dioxide when you exhale. As the body absorbs oxygen, it sends an electrical signal to the heart muscles to contract. This contraction is what pushes blood throughout your body via the circulatory system. During exhalation, there is less pressure on your heart since no new air comes in with each breath (and you exhale carbon dioxide). A low HRV value means that it takes longer for the heart to relax and fill with blood between beats, causing reduced circulation throughout the body. 


Sleep is critical to our overall health.  Not only does our body use this time to repair itself, but it is also an opportunity for the brain to go through stages of mental development. The average adult sleeps 7-8 hours per night. However, not all sleep is created equal. There are 4 stages of sleep and two types of sleep: rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and non-REM sleep (which has three different stages). 

Stage 1: is non-REM sleep. It is described as light sleep and you can be lightly stimulated without waking up. Additionally, your brain waves begin to slow down compared to your daytime activity. 

Stage 2: This stage is a deeper non-REM sleep. It is more difficult to be woken up during this phase, your brain waves further slow down and your body temperature begins to drop.

Stages 3: In these final stages of non-REM sleep, there are very slow brain waves called delta waves.  

Stage 4: REM Sleep. Rem sleep is when your eyes move rapidly back and forth behind your closed eyelids, where you are in a deep sleep but dreaming.

RV is very important when it comes to sleep. In fact, HRV has been successfully used to screen people for possible referral to a Sleep Lab. Typically, an individual’s heart rate will vary the most while awake and then decrease at night during REM sleep.  In non-REM sleep, HRV will begin to decline as your heart rate slows down. In REM sleep, however, HRV begins to pick back up again because it is a very active time for the body and you have a faster heart rate. 

Research has shown that an individual with a low HRV value may have a hard time transitioning from being awake to entering deep REM sleep because their nervous system won’t be able to relax between breaths. This may be one reason why those with a low HRV might have difficulty sleeping or even feel tired during the day. An individual with a high HRV will most likely have an easier time transitioning from wakefulness to sleep, and will also maintain their deep REM sleep throughout the night.


HRV is important in medicine today. HRV analysis is a recognized tool for the estimation of cardiac autonomic modulations.  Cardiac autonomic modulations refer to the changes of cardiac parasympathetic and sympathetic activity in response to variations in respiratory rates. Heart Rate Variability is the variability within your heart rate over time, which is also measured by taking an ECG recording.  It’s widely used nowadays for tracking health and is even a feature on common smartwatches. HRV has been used to predict mortality after a heart attack, among other things. 

HRV is used as a marker for physical and mental stress. How so? The parasympathetic nervous system lowers heart rate and controls the “rest and digest” function. The sympathetic nervous system raises the heart rate, dilates blood vessels to generate a fight or flight response which is particularly useful when dealing with stressful events. As HRV increases, your cardiac output decreases as you enter a state of parasympathetic dominance. For example, those with depression or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder have been found to have a lower HRV. Low HRV may indicate that the individual has a harder time recovering from daily stressors, which could ultimately lead to health issues if left untreated.

HRV may be able to give some insight into how stress has been affecting your mental and physical health. If an individual is having a hard time maintaining good cognitive function, HRV can be used as a gauge to determine whether that person needs more rest or if they need to take time off from work. In the case of those who have anxiety or depression, low HRV may be able to predict the likelihood of an individual experiencing issues with their mental health.

Generally, a low HRV is linked with an increased risk of death and cardiovascular disease. By taking HRV to heart, individuals are able to get a better picture of their health. There are also times when high HRV may indicate that the person’s body is not operating at its best. An example of this would be an individual who does workouts that are too intense for them to handle. 


When a person is in a stressful situation, their sympathetic nervous system takes over and an increased amount of cortisol will be released. This leads to a lower HRV which signals the body that there is stress present.

In response, one can attempt to reverse this effect by breathing slowly and deeply while engaging in relaxation techniques such as meditation or yoga. People who have a high HRV have been shown to have higher levels of a neurotransmitter called GABA, which is naturally released when a person is present in a relaxed environment.

Increasing your HRV will also increase the amount of energy that your body uses as it requires less energy from cortisol and adrenaline for this process. This leads to better blood pressure, weight management, performance under stress, and other optimal outcomes.

Just like you may use smart technology to count your steps, tracking HRV may be a useful tool to motivate behavioral and lifestyle change. For example, Sleep HRV measurements can provide insight on how you rate compared to other users in similar age groups. While HRV biometric tracking is still a new concept, I am hopeful it will help patients be more participatory in their health journey. 

Disclaimer: The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Additionally, the information provided in this blog, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images, and other material contained on this website, or in any linked materials, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice and are for informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Before taking any medications, over-the-counter drugs, supplements or herbs, consult a physician for a thorough evaluation. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this or any website.


The gut-brain axis is a term that refers to the two-way communication system between the gastrointestinal tract and the central nervous system. The gut-brain axis can be disrupted by many different factors, including stress. With an unhealthy gut microbiome (bacteria) in your digestive tract, you are more susceptible to many health conditions. These include inflammation, metabolic syndrome, obesity, type 2 diabetes, depression or anxiety disorders, and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s disease.

The purpose of this blog post is to share information on how a healthy diet can help heal your gut microbiome by providing proper nourishment for good bacteria while helping remove bad bacteria from your body through natural detoxification pathways.

. . .


The Gut-Brain Axis has recently been coined as the new “Central Nervous System”, which is a complex system of communication between the enteric nervous system in the gut and the central nervous system (CNS) in your brain. The Gut-Brain Axis is responsible for maintaining homeostasis between the autonomic nervous system and the immune system, regulating substances that may act as neurotransmitters. When the Gut-Brain Axis is not functioning optimally, this can lead to a range of problems including depression, anxiety, and stress-related disorders. Gut bacteria are responsible for maintaining the Gut-Brain Axis by producing neurotransmitters that can stimulate specific cells in the gut which can then send signals back to the brain through various neurological pathways.

Strong evidence suggests that gut microbiota has an important role in bidirectional interactions between the gut and the nervous system. It interacts with CNS by regulating brain chemistry and influencing neuro-endocrine systems associated with stress response, anxiety, and memory function. Gut microbiota can also influence brain function through the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and autonomic nervous system. The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis is the major neuroendocrine system that mediates the stress response. Our autonomic nervous system is made up of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) which is activated by stress and can stimulate colonic relaxation, vasoconstriction, and ileocaecal transit. Gut microbiota also interacts with immune cells in the gut, and these interactions have been shown to affect brain function. This has implications for mood disorders such as anxiety and depression that we will discuss later in this blog. Gut microbiota can also influence brain function through the autonomic nervous system, which regulates all of our unconscious actions (our heart rate, breathing pattern, etc).

Another factor worth mentioning is neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are essentially electrical signals in the brain that help us communicate and regulate many bodily functions including mood, emotions, ability to handle stress, and more. When our gut-health axis is off, our neurotransmitter signals can be disrupted which causes a cascade of brain issues. To make this simple, we are going to focus on serotonin as an example of what our gut-health axis can do for us. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that regulates mood and behavior. When serotonin levels get messed up, it not only causes anxiety but also disrupts sleep patterns and more.


Gut health is essential to mental health because it affects our mood, emotions, ability to handle stress, and symptoms of conditions such as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The Gut-Brain Axis is a two-way street, and both of these ‘roads’ are connected. When one road is in bad condition it affects the other road as well. This can cause inflammation, stress, and disease. As we learned in our inflammation series, inflammation can cause an increase in the release of cortisol from the adrenal glands. This is not good for us because too much cortisol disrupts our body and brain functions.

Stress also plays a large role in our gut-brain axis. Not only does stress cause our adrenal glands to release cortisol, but it can also lead to poor diet decisions that throw off your gut bacteria. Anxiety and depression are associated with changes in microbiome composition, as well as with increased gut permeability allowing lipopolysaccharides.  (LPS) refers to metabolic endotoxemia. LPS are not only harmful to your gut, but they are also a primary cell wall component of gram-negative bacteria. So as stress and anxiety increase your gut permeability and release lipopolysaccharides into the bloodstream these can cause inflammation in the brain leading to more cortisol production and an overall increase in inflammation throughout the body.


Maintaining good gut health is important as the gut microbiome may help with stress responses by influencing the synthesis of neurotransmitters and neuropeptides that have an impact on homeostasis, neuroinflammation, and neuronal plasticity. Recent research shows that the gut microbiome may also have an impact on neurogenesis. Neurogenesis is a vital process to maintaining mental health and is the generation of neurons from neural stem cells. Gut microbiota close to the enteric nervous system (ENS) exerts substantial influence over it. The gut microbiome can stimulate vagal afferent neurons by releasing transmitters such as 5-HT, acetylcholine, and norepinephrine. The gut microbiome can also stimulate afferent neurons in the submucosal and myenteric plexus of the ENS to release a range of chemicals including neuropeptides (e.g., substance P, cholecystokinin)


Research is still underway on how to improve the balance of gut microbiota or modulate the gut-brain axis. Gut microbiome therapy may be used in some future medical therapies for psychiatric disorders, autism, and neurodegenerative disease.

Biological psychiatry is currently studying the Gut-Brain Axis by focusing on how metabolites from the microbiome can impact neurotransmitter function, synaptic plasticity, and neuroinflammation. The Gut-brain axis is being studied in clinical psychiatry for treating conditions like depression, anxiety disorders, and autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Although research is still underway on how to improve the balance of gut microbiota or modulate the gut-brain axis, some recent studies have been completed for Gut microbiome therapy.


Diet is one of the most important modifying factors of the microbiota-gut-brain axis. If you are experiencing any gastrointestinal symptoms (gas, bloating, stomach pain) as well as mental health issues such as anxiety or depression then a Gut-Brain Axis evaluation is recommended to determine if there is an imbalance in neurotransmitters due to the Gut-Brain Axis not functioning efficiently. The most important thing that you can do if you’re not feeling like yourself is to visit your Provider and get these tests done!

In the meantime, it is important to improve your Gut-Brain Axis by trying the following tips to get back on track:

  • Get enough fiber in your diet from fruits and vegetables
  • Get rid of the bad bacteria’s and yeast with beneficial bacteria
  • Reduce stress as much as possible and practice self-care!
  • Exercise regularly
  • Practice mindfulness

 The Gut-Brain Axis is the intersection of your gut and brain that affect each other. When your Gut-Brain Axis isn’t set up correctly it can be harmful to your overall well-being. This new discovery has been coined as the “central nerve” for all three major organ systems–the CNS, endocrine, and immune systems. It’s not just about digestion anymore! If you want to learn more about how this process works or if you’re looking to improve health with an integrative approach to optimal gut health – check out our most recent blogs.  Follow us next week as we take on: Metabolic Endotoxemia.

At the Institute for Human Optimization, we understand that what starts in the gut impacts the entire body. No two patients are the same, so we work with you and create a personalized and individual approach to your gut health issues. What can that look like? Would you plant grass seed or kill the weeds first? Weeds should be killed first. Similarly, we will work directly with you to reduce or remove the weeds, aka factors that are driving dysbiosis. After that, we can work together to restore balance in your gut microbiome.

Disclaimer: The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Additionally, the information provided in this blog, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images, and other material contained on this website, or in any linked materials, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice and are for informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this or any website.

We recently discussed the importance of nurturing a healthy gut. Gut health has been linked to many health issues including autoimmune disease, heart disease, mood, obesity, endocrine disorders, cancer, and more. When dysbiosis in the gut occurs, it can lead to further gut problems. This week we will be discussing in more depth gut health issues such as leaky gut, SIBO, and what you can do at home to optimize your gut microbiome.

. . .

Leaky Gut Syndrome

The term “leaky gut” has been a buzz term on social media lately. In fact, leaky gut is a more recently known term within the conventional medical community. Leaky gut, also known as increased intestinal permeability, refers to when food particles and other things such as bacteria and toxins, “leak” through the intestinal wall that otherwise shouldn’t. Your gut is lined by the intestinal wall, think of it as a patio screen door. Ideally, the screen door in your home is free of damage providing a barrier from the outdoor elements from coming inside the house. The screen acts as a filter and allows only certain things of certain sizes to enter your home. However, if your screen door is damaged and/or has holes, over time it is easier for large bugs, debris, and other critters to enter your home. With time, the screen door is no longer functioning as a barrier. Similarly, in our gut when our intestinal wall is damaged, the small holes become larger which now allows for harmful substances to enter our system. Naturally, we all have some level of leaky gut as the barrier is a screen and therefore not completely impermeable.

What causes Leaky Gut Syndrome?

Your bio-individuality may make you more sensitive to changes in the digestive system, but your DNA does not determine your gut health destiny. Let’s look at a few common causes of leaky gut:

  • Dysbiosis
  • Diet
  • Alcohol use
  • Stress
  • Food Allergies and Sensitivities


Dysbiosis occurs when pathogenic microbes (viruses, bacteria, mycobacteria) and symbiotic microbes that are beneficial to the microbiota by regulating our immune system, can no longer coexist in the gut in harmony. This is the leading cause of leaky gut syndrome.


Diet can determine the composition of gut microbiota, favoring the growth of organisms that are best suited for metabolizing commonly consumed food groups. Western diets are rich in a complex mixture of fats and are high in simple sugars, which significantly impacts the gut microbiome composition, and often leads to the development of gut inflammation and other related diseases, including intestinal disease [12].  

A diet rich in processed foods or foods you are highly sensitive to (we will discuss this later) can lead to leaky gut. Unfortunately, I see more times than not how the American diet impacts patient health outcomes. Studies continuously show how ultra-processed foods adversely affect our gut microbiome which in turn, drives inflammation. The rationale is that the nutritional composition of ultra-processed foodstuffs can induce gut dysbiosis, promoting a pro-inflammatory response and consequently, a “leaky gut”. 

Alcohol Use

Alcohol and its metabolites specifically promote intestinal inflammation through its influence on intestinal microbiota, immune function, and more. In large amounts, alcohol and its metabolites can overwhelm the gastrointestinal tract (GI) and liver and lead to damage both within the GI and in other organs.  Alcohol disrupts the epithelial cells, cells that line the surfaces of your body, and disrupts the space between the cells which allows increased gut leakage.


Stress is a health disruptor on your body, mood, and behavior. In the case of leaky gut, it can increase gut barrier permeability which can result in “leaky gut”. There are many stress management strategies that you can try to incorporate from the comfort of your home such as physical activity, meditation, relaxing music, and yoga. If you are unsure where to start and/or have taken steps to manage your stress with no results, your healthcare provider can work with you to create a stress management care plan.  

Food Allergies & Sensitivities

There is a difference between food allergies and food sensitivities. Food allergies are typically an acute hypersensitivity reaction that typically takes place within 2 hours of consuming the allergenic food. The symptomatic presentation can vary ranging from anaphylaxis, hives to respiratory or gastrointestinal distress. Food allergies are mediated by IgE immunoglobulin activity and cause a profound histamine release. Treatment can range from needing an epinephrine pen, steroids, and antihistamines. In contrast to Food Sensitivities, or intolerances which is typically more of a delayed hypersensitivity reaction which can take place upwards of 72 hours post-consumption which a varying symptomatic presentation which includes postprandial fatigue, migraines or body aches to common GI symptoms of gas, bloating, diarrhea or constipation. Food sensitivities are typically mediated by IgG and trigger inflammation. The problem is that foods that we are intolerant can present themselves very mildly compared to an allergy and cause chronic gut inflammation thereby increasing gut permeability. Additionally, it is important to keep in mind that 80% of our immune system resides in the digestive tract in the form of Gut Associated Lymphatic Tissue (GALT), and chronic exposure to larger food particles can ultimately lead to immunological programming and intolerances to foods that we commonly consume. Ultimately, this can trigger immunological dysregulation and autoimmunity.


Another unassuming condition that often goes underdiagnosed and undetected is, Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) occurs when excess bacteria are growing in the small intestine, disrupting the balance, and causing dysbiosis in your gut microbiome. Clinically, SIBO is an often-neglected mechanism for have patients presenting with weakened nutrition. Normally, you would find very little bacteria in the small intestine compared to the large intestine. SIBO has negative consequences on the structure and function of the small intestine and can cause mounting issues, including:

  • Osteoporosis
  • Kidney Stones
  • Incomplete Digestion
  • Vitamin Deficiency


Our bones are constantly undergoing continuous recycling throughout our lives. This process is known as bone remodelingand involves the removal of mineralized bone by osteoclasts followed by the formation of bone matrix through the osteoblasts that subsequently become mineralized. In other words, old bone is broken down and new bone is formed. For this to occur, our bones need a steady supply of protein, vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats to be properly absorbed. Healthy digestion is needed for optimal bone health. Over time, SIBO can cause poor calcium absorption which in turn drives bone loss.  

Kidney Stones

If you know anyone who has had kidney stones, you’ve heard enough to hope you never have one. Kidney stones are a multifactorial complex disorder between the gut, liver, bone, and kidney. If you have SIBO, you have an increased risk of kidney stones because of the absorption issues that are a result of bacterial overgrowth.

Incomplete Digestion

Our small intestine continues the process of digestion that begins in the stomach and runs to your large intestine. But unlike the stomach, which has minor absorptive properties, 90% of food absorption occurs in the small intestine. Whatever is not absorbed is then passed on to the large intestine. Bacterial overgrowth disrupts conjugated bacterial cells, and dihydroxylation of bile salts, which are needed to digest fats, resulting in incomplete digestion of fats and diarrhea. 

Vitamin Deficiency

The adverse effects of SIBO on nutrition involve several factors but one of the most common clinical manifestations is malabsorption. Vitamin B12 deficiency occurs in SIBO as the bacteria take up the vitamin. Vitamin A, D, and E are also commonly seen in SIBO due to the malabsorption of fat-soluble vitamins. 

How can you optimize your Gut Health? 

The health of our gut determines the health of the rest of our bodies. What are simple steps you can do at home to optimize your gut health?

At the Institute for Human Optimization, we understand that what starts in the gut impacts the entire body. No two patients are the same, so we work with you and create a personalized and individual approach to your gut health issues. What can that look like? Would you plant grass seed or kill the weeds first? Weeds should be killed first. Similarly, we will work directly with you to reduce or remove the weeds, aka factors that are driving dysbiosis. After that, we can work together to restore balance in your gut microbiome.

Disclaimer: The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Additionally, the information provided in this blog, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images, and other material contained on this website, or in any linked materials, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice and are for informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this or any website.

Gluten-Free (GF) is necessary for anyone with Celiac Disease. Yet more than ever, we are seeing non-celiac disease individuals opting for a GF lifestyle. With the rise of GF items at grocery stores astronomically more expensive than their non-GF counterparts, this has raised questions. Are there any benefits to a GF lifestyle? Or is avoiding gluten the latest diet trend?

. . .

What is Gluten?

According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, Gluten is the name for a group of proteins most commonly found in wheat, rye, barley, and triticale – a hybrid between wheat and rye. Gluten is a Latin word that stands for the word: glue. The two main components of the gluten portion of wheat are gliadin and glutenin. Gliadin is the water-insoluble (unable to be dissolved in water) component of gluten. Gliadins are what gives bread the ability to rise while baking. This gluten is found in products such as wheat flour. Glutenin is water-soluble (able to be dissolved in water) that gives dough strength and elasticity. Together, gluten proteins play a key role in the baking quality of wheat by providing flour with a high-water absorption capacity. When you knead the flour with water, the gluten gives the dough a cohesivity, viscoelastic mass that provides, for example, bread its structure and chewiness.

Common Grains that have Gluten:

  • Wheat
  • Barley
  • Rye
  • Triticale — a cross between wheat and rye
  • Oats – While oats are naturally GF, it is possible for them to be exposed to Gluten during production with other grains that have gluten. If you are looking for GF oats, make sure it is labeled as certified gluten-free.

Some foods that contain gluten that may not be as obvious:

  • Soy Sauce: Wheat is the primary ingredient in standard soy sauce. A good alternative for soy sauce is Coconut Aminos that is not only GF but much lower in salt.
  • Beer: It is typically made from malted barley and hops.
  • Processed Lunch Meats: Lunch meat such as deli meats may have gluten due to its potential gluten contamination with slicers, knives, etc. that is in contact with gluten-containing foods.
  • Dressings: If a dressing has wheat, barley, rye, (wheat) after an ingredient, then it contains gluten. Ingredients such as artificial color, dextrin, soy sauce, food starch, malt, malt vinegar may contain gluten.
  • Krab: Imitation crab meat contain wheat

Celiac Disease

Celiac Disease is an autoimmune disorder triggered by consuming foods containing gluten. Celiac Disease was first identified in the early 1900s. It wasn’t until about 1953 when scientists Dicke, Weijers, and Van de Kamer identified Gluten as the culprit. It is estimated that Celiac affects 1 in 133 people and about 3 million Americans are diagnosed with Celiac Disease. When a person with celiac disease consumes foods with gluten, the immune system begins to attack it. As a result, gluten destroys the villi, small fingerlike projections that line the small intestine, which then leaves the intestines with no fibers to absorb nutrients, resulting in malnourishment. Regular and ongoing intake of gluten for individuals with celiac disease can lead to serious irreversible health consequences such as osteoporosis, skin rashes, nervous system problems, infertility, anemia, and more. Individuals with Celiac Disease need to eliminate gluten altogether from their diet and ensure that the food they are consuming has not been cross-contaminated with gluten-containing ingredients during production or preparation. A strict lifelong gluten-free diet is the only as of the only treatment for individuals with celiac disease as there is no medication or surgical intervention that cures the celiac disease.

Gluten Sensitivity

Celiac Disease is not the only issue with Gluten. Many individuals suffer from gluten sensitivity or allergies. One gluten-related condition is a wheat allergy. Wheat allergic reactions occur when someone allergic to wheat eats anything with wheat or even when inhaling wheat flour. Unlike celiac disease, wheat allergy occurs when you produce antibodies to proteins found in wheat. This is a different reaction than that of Celiac Disease. Symptoms usually occur within minutes of consuming anything with wheat and may include swelling of the throat, hives, nasal congestion, difficulty breathing, cramps, nausea, and in some cases a life-threatening reaction known as anaphylaxis.

Another type of gluten reaction is non-celiac gluten sensitivities. GI symptoms include bloating, diarrhea, constipation. Extraintestinal symptoms vary but include joint pain, brain fog, anemia, depression, eczema, and more. Gluten sensitivities are commonly due to an intolerance to eating FODMAPs. FODMAPs stands for Fermentable, Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, & Polyols which together are a group of sugars that your body is unable to digest or absorb in our intestines. This means that when FODMAPs are consumed, they move very slowly, attracting water as it goes, and ultimately gut bacteria ferments undigested carbohydrates resulting in gas and abdominal discomfort. Let’s look at common foods that make up FODMAPs

  • Oligosaccharides: includes fructans and galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS). The human body cannot produce the enzymes needed to break the sugars down into single sugars, so these foods move through the gut unabsorbed. In IBS patients, these foods result in bloating, altered motility, and abdominal discomfort. Found in foods such as wheat, rye, garlic, legumes, and onions.
  • Disaccharides: 3 major disaccharides are sucrose, lactose, and maltose. Sucrose is found in table sugar, manufactured foods such as cakes, cookies. Lactose is found in dairy products such as milk, yogurt, sour cream, and other milk products such as frozen yogurts, ice cream, and more. Maltose is found in malt extract, molasses, beer, breads, bagels, cereals, and more.
  • Monosaccharides: Found in foods with fructose such as dried fruits, fruit jams, cereals with fruits, canned fruits, honey, and more.
  • Polyols: Sugar alcohols. Naturally occurring in certain fruits but most commonly found in sugar-free sweeteners or products.

How wheat is cultivated today

Earliest archeological findings of wheat date back to over 12,000 years ago. If wheat has been around so long, then why is this such an issue today? Quite frankly, wheat is just not grown and harvested the same way. Traditionally, farmers would harvest wheat through the process of winnowing. Winnowing involves harvesting wheat by hand using an instrument known as a sickle.  After, stalks would undergo “trashing” that loosens the grains from the stalks by beating the stalks. Grain is then thrown in the wind to blow the chaff dividing it from the grain. Modern wheat found today is not the same wheat that was found 60 years ago due to processes such as bleaching, stripping, and more. 

Diagnosed gluten-related diseases are rare conditions, affecting less than 1% of the population in the United States. Yet the consumption and availability of gluten-free foods have significantly increased. I recall a time when most people had never heard of “gluten” let alone “celiac disease”. Gluten-free bread usually has about 20 ingredients and a complex production method. When you compare regular sliced bread that is about $2 to common GF brands that range about $6 a loaf, this leaves my patients wondering if a GF diet is worth the high price. It’s important to note that you do not need to rely on heavily processed foods to stay gluten-free. A diet made up of whole foods will usually be gluten-free as these are foods that are not processed. 

Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is not intended as medical or healthcare information or advice. Please consult your healthcare professional(s) regarding all matters related to your diet and health.

Anything with the term “vegetable” is commonly advertised as healthy or a healthy alternative to a food item we love. For a long time, Canola oil was considered by most as a healthy cooking oil option ultimately, being the oil of choice for most due to its versatility and price point. In recent years, canola oil’s health claims have been put in question. This has led to many of my patients asking me: What are the best fats to use at home?  

Currently, in the USA, the top 4 vegetable oils consumed regularly are soybean, canola, palm oil, and corn oil. These 4 oils are referred to as RBD which stands for refined, bleached, and deodorized oils, named after their manufacturing process. RBD oils are produced through a refining process by crushing the plant material to express the oil, commonly followed by treating the plant material with hexane, a petrochemical solvent, to extract the last bit of oil left in the plant material. Refined oils then go through various treatments. These treatments may include: using an earthen bleaching clay to reduce the color and smell of the oils by filtration, steam distillation, exposure to phosphoric acid, and more. Ultimately, the exact process will differ for each oil. Interestingly, when you compare Organic Virgin Coconut Oil or Extra Virgin Olive Oil(EVOO), vegetable oils are considerably cheaper.

Canola Oil Origins

Canola oil was originally bred from rapeseed cultivars of B. Napus and B.Rapa in Canada in the early 70s. There is no canola plant. Canola oil is made from crushed seeds from a variety of rapeseed, which are in the turnip family. The name canola is the combination of “Can” from Canada and “OLA” that stands for “Oil, low acid”. Originally, Canola oil had a different nutritional profile than what is currently accessible on the shelf of our grocery stores today. Traditionally, rapeseed oil contains almost 60% monounsaturated fats. However, two-thirds of that 60% is erucic acid. Erucic acid has a chain length of 22 carbon atoms with one double bond at the omega 9 position. Erucic acid consumed at high levels is very dangerous as animal studies have shown that its exposure leads to adverse heart health effects. As of 1956, the American FDA has banned rapeseed from the human food chain as a whole. Since the strain developed in Canada was considered low acid, it was granted GRAS (generally regarded as safe) by the FDA, making its way to the United States in the 80s.

In 1995, a genetically engineered rapeseed was introduced to Canada to increase plant resistance to herbicides. This resulted in a genetically modified variety being developed a few short years later. Genetically modified crops are traditionally lab-made by combining the DNA of various species that cannot naturally reproduce together (think Salmon and Romaine Lettuce). In the case of Canola, this genetically modified variety is considered the most disease, herbicide, and drought-resistant canola variety to date. In fact, currently, around 90% of this Canadian variety is herbicide-resistant.

Concerns over GMO

Currently, in the United States, around 93% of the canola grown is from genetically modified seeds. Despite this, it is commonly considered a GMO-free product. There have been health and ethical concerns surrounding genetically engineered foods such as:

Impacts on traditional farming practices

GMO agricultural practices were originally developed to prevent crop and food loss. Unfortunately, this has also led to superweeds and resistant pests. This has forced farmers to have to utilize more labor and use more toxic chemicals to manage this. In an effort to combat this, there has been an overuse of glyphosate which hinders the plant’s ability to absorb nutrients and adversely reduces the longevity and health of the soil. The overuse has resulted in several glyphosate-resistant weeds. 

Harm to human health

A group of scientists conducted a study where they fed rats a diet of GMO potatoes and reported after 10 days of feeding that every organ system was adversely affected. Several organizations have expressed concerns as introducing foreign genes that we would otherwise not have exposure to may hurt human health. Currently, scientists do not believe GMO foods present a risk to human health.

Threat to Genetic Biodiversity

Biodiversity is the variability among living organisms. In farming, this includes plants’ genetic resources and is critical for the sustainable production of food. Additionally, genetic diversity helps us adapt to new conditions whether it be weather, disease, or pests, and aid ecosystems in acclimating to changing environments.

Unintended crossbreeding to non-modified crops

Generally, Crossbreeding occurs when you intentionally select a plant for specific traits and then transfer pollen from one plant to another. GM crops can crossbreed with non-modified crops by pollen. While many times unintended, pollen can be carried by the wind, by water, or even insects and cross-pollinate non-modified crops.

Potential allergic reactions

There have been many concerns regarding the allergenic potential of a genetically modified plant.  

-and more!

 Many countries have placed a total ban on GMO products.

So why is this touted as a healthy oil?

Canola oil is commonly marketed as a healthy oil and a healthy alternative to replacing saturated fats and trans-fat. The American Heart Association recommends using oils such as Canola as a substitute for butter, shortening, lard, and even coconut oil. Let’s look at the nutritional fatty acid composition of Canola Oil:

  • Saturated Fats: 7%
  • Monounsaturated Fats: 62%
  • Polyunsaturated Fats: 28% 
  • Trans Fat 1.9-3.6%

Canola oil is low in saturated fat at 7%, making it one of the cooking oils with the lowest amount of saturated fats. It is important to note that Canola oil has low (yet some) trans-fat content although it is commonly marketed as “zero grams trans-fat”. Despite this claim, all vegetable oils contain small amounts of trans-fat. However, the FDA allows a “zero grams trans-fat” claim for any serving size with less than >.5 grams of trans fat.

With the health industry promoting eating less fat, specifically saturated fat, I believe this has opened room for Canola to take center stage as the oil of choice for many. Critics for decades have associated saturated fats with increased heart disease-promoting a low-fat diet. Despite many health organizations pushing for a lower saturated fat diet, The Journal of the American College of Cardiology published an article that there is mounting evidence that saturated fats are not the issue in itself but of combining saturated fats with highly refined carbohydrate foods. Saturated fats are not all the same and it is a complex nutrient. We simply cannot compare grass-fed, organic, lean cuts of steak to a highly processed, cheap, low-quality, fast food burger. Additionally, it is important to note the difference between fat and fatty acids. Saturated fats as we have learned in the past few weeks are foods that are primarily lipids and solid at room temperature due to their structural property of fatty acids.

Alternative Fats 

Most of my patients prefer whole naturally occurring foods and prefer their oils to reflect that as well. Luckily, we have an array of options with oils.

– Quality EVOO: – Quality EVOO: Primarily made of oleic acid, a beneficial monounsaturated omega-9 fatty acid that is linked to health benefits such as reduced inflammation and blood pressure levels. EVOO also contains oleuropein and hydroxytyrosol that have strong antioxidant, cardioprotective, and neuroprotective properties. EVOO is made from pure, cold-pressed olives. This makes it the least processed version of olive oil readily available. Since many antioxidants and vitamins are lost throughout the manufacturing process cold-pressed oils are considered better choices as their processing preserves their nutritional integrity. 

– Extra Virgin Coconut Oil: is unrefined coconut oil. We want to stick with unrefined oils as the refined process can strip the flavor and nutrients.

– Extra Virgin Avocado Oil: This is another great option and has a high smoke point (≥250°C). Additionally, the fatty acid profile is similar to that of olive oil and is primarily made up of oleic acid.

– Extra Virgin Cold Pressed Grapeseed Oils: High smoke point making it a better option for sautéing or stir-frying. High in vitamin e and phenolic antioxidants. Also, a rich source of omega-6 polyunsaturated fats (70%). 

-and more!

One of the best things you can do is have a variety of oils in your pantry between higher monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats and get creative. What are your favorite oils? Leave a comment below.

As we have learned throughout the Cell Membrane Series, Omega 3 (n-3) fatty acids are important in human nutrition. Specifically, because these are essential fats that the human body cannot make on its own. N-3 fatty acids are integral structural components of the cellular membranes of tissues throughout the human body necessary from conception and throughout the entirety of our lives. 

Most of us have heard the term “good fats” and “bad fats”. Not all fats are created equal and some even have anti-inflammatory properties while others have pro-inflammatory properties. “Bad fats” usually refer to omega-6 fatty acids that promote inflammation in the membrane phospholipids of cells. While inflammation plays a key role in the healing process, chronic inflammation contributes to tissue damage, aging, and disease. 

What makes essential fatty acids essential?

Fatty acids are the building blocks of the fat in our bodies and in the food we eat. While the human body can produce most of the fats it needs, it cannot produce Omega-3 fatty acids. This means that the body must obtain them through the foods we eat. In our last blog, we took a dive into N-3 Fatty acids which are necessary for cell growth and preservation, providing energy and forming important components of cell membranes. 

The three main omega-3s are 

  1. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) 
  2. docosahexaenoic acid (DHA
  3. Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)


Primarily found in seafood such as salmon, shrimp, and algae. EPA is used by the body to produce signaling molecules and play a role in anti-inflammatory processes. Prescription EPA is used to reduce triglyceride levels.


Similarly to EPA, it is also primarily found in seafood. DHA is an integral structural component of your skin and retina. The human retina is well known for its unique lipid profiles and not having sufficient fatty acids results in decreased vision and compromises the integrity of the retina. Additionally, studies have shown the impact that DHA has is protective against retinal diseases. DHA is also important for brain development. The developing brain needs sufficient DHA for optimal visual, cognitive development, and brain function.


ALA is the most commonly found omega-3 fatty acid in our diet. Several plants contain ALA such as flaxseeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, flaxseed oil, and walnuts. 

Omega 3s and Disease

Omega 3 fatty acids support and modulate numerous molecular and cellular mechanisms especially in the retina, brain, and in inflammatory reactions. Omega 3 fatty acids support molecules that perform critical signaling between cells. Omega 3 fatty acids modulate membrane fluidity that is essential for the proper functioning of the tissues in the retina, brain, etc. 

Coronary Disease

Large-scale epidemiologic studies suggest that people at risk for coronary heart disease can benefit from adding omega-3 fatty acids to their daily diet. How? 

Omega 3s reduce coronary heart disease by: 

  • decreasing risk for arrhythmias
  • decrease triglyceride and remnant lipoprotein levels.
  • decrease rate of growth of the atherosclerotic plaque.
  • (slightly) lower blood pressure.
  • reduce inflammatory responses
  • And more!

Omega-3s are essential fatty acids that you get from food or supplements that help build and support a healthy body.  Fatty acids play a role in cardiovascular, neurologic, and other diseases due to their mechanisms at a cellular level. They’re key to the structure of every cell wall you have. They’re also an energy source and help keep your body working the way they should.

Disclaimer: Talk to your Physician before taking a supplement first. They may have specific recommendations or warnings, depending on your health and the other medicines you take.

More about The Institute for Human Optimization

At the Institute for Human Optimization, we are committed to helping you create a personalized plan for living your longest, healthiest life possible. My team and I leverage the most cutting-edge advances in genetic testing, nutritional analysis, and functional medicine to get to the root biological imbalances that cause aging.

The Institute for Human Optimization was created with the intention of pursuing a highly personalized approach to longevity medicine to help enhance healthspan. Where lifespan is the actual number of years we’re alive, healthspan is how many of those years are spent in health and wellness.

We believe that a long healthspan – not just a long lifespan – is the most important thing you can cultivate. A long healthspan means you don’t miss out on life as you get older. It means remaining independent and having the vitality to travel and see the world.  A long healthspan means that you can be there – in full body and mind – for the people who need you the most and that every day will feel like a gift.

We know that each person is truly unique. From DNA to iris, we all possess a blueprint that is genetically inherited and environmentally influenced. By gaining a deeper appreciation for the person on a molecular level and addressing the root causes driving disease, we can help promote optimized health through our unique scientific, N of 1, approach to individualized care.

The Institute for Human Optimization provides the most comprehensive, data-driven, personalized approach to wellness. It is:

·   Predictive – We use genomics and advanced biomarker testing to risk stratification and empowerment.

·   Personalized – We use data-driven health information to curate actionable change for disease mitigation and prevention.

·   Preventive – We utilize highly individualized programs tailored to your unique genomic blueprint.

·   Participatory – We empower engagement in personal choices, which allows for improved outcomes and enhanced results.

I am so excited about the possibility to support you on this cutting-edge journey to extend your lifespan AND your healthspan. Click here to schedule Your Longevity Equation Epigenetic Consult! Can’t wait to meet you!