Posts Tagged ‘Obesity’

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Gut Bugs, Behaviors and Disease

Sunday, November 10th, 2013

The role of healthy intestinal bacteria (“gut bugs” as they are affectionately know) in supporting health and preventing diseases of many kinds is all the rage. The conventional medical research world is stumbling wide-eyed into this topic as though the role of these bugs in maintaining health hasn’t been known for half a century or more. But in a great example of better-late-than-never “discoveries,” articles are showing up in the conventional research literature, linking the absence of these bacteria to everything from autoimmune diseases to cancer to depression to obesity.

And that’s great news to get out to the public.

Unfortunately, journalists are not asking naturopaths about the implications of these findings. A great example is the New York Times‘ recent article. After explaining that obesity is a major problem and causes a large health burden, here is how it differentiates between it’s two causes:

For many health problems, of course, behavior plays some role but biology is often a major villain. “Biology” here is my catchall term for the myriad bodily mechanics that are only weakly connected to our choices.

It goes on to note that, while obesity can of course be the product of choices that people make, it can also result from a lack of the appropriate healthy intestinal bacteria, which process calories for us and synthesize vitamins, among other important functions. Thus, the writer says, our “biology” (i.e. the health of our intestinal bacteria) is “only weakly connected to our choices.”

The implication is that the status of our gut bacteria is only marginally a product of the behaviors we engage in. And that is just plain wrong.

We kill off the healthy bacteria in our digestive system with everything from medications (prescription and over-the-counter), hospitalizations, electromagnetic fields and alcohol, to sugar, high-carb foods, foods with pesticide residue and just plain ol’ stress. And how does one keep a healthy population of bugs in their gut? By eating a healthy set of foods, avoiding exposures that deplete them, consciously reducing stress levels, and through appropriate supplementation.

Our gut health is not, as the Times says, “only weakly connected to our choices.” It is intimately connected to our choices. The conventional world generally has us believe that we are each innocent victims of our maladies. And there are, of course, times when this is true. But a great deal of power comes through recognizing that our choices can not only bring us down, but can build us up as well.

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Posted in Alternative medicine, Articles by our Doctors, Chronic disease, Conventional medicine, Diet, Dr. Greg Nigh, Health, Healthy lifestyle, Human behavior, Medical research, Naturopathic medicine, Nutrition, Obesity, probiotics | Comments Off

Obesity Now a Disease

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013


In June of this year the American Medical Association voted to classify obesity as a disease. This was done against the recommendation of the AMA’s own Council of Science and Public Health, which researches and offers its recommendations on these matters. Over 26% of American adults met the criteria of being obese in 2012, meaning a Body Mass Index (BMI) over 30. An additional 36% were officially overweight, with a BMI 25-30. Perhaps an even greater tragedy is that around 25% of children aged 2-5 are overweight or obese, as are a full 1/3  of school-aged children. The number of morbidly obese adults, those with a BMI over 40, is now up to 6%.

Obesity is a scourge, to be sure. It sits stubbornly at the confluence of some moderately influential genetic and hormonal factors, and an absolute deluge of social and environmental assaults. In any respectable court of law, an obese individual offering a defense of their weight could present a rock-solid case that they were framed, completely set up. Billions are spent every year to convince us to consume all manner of substances that masquerade as food. The least healthy of these are also the most easily accessible, whether that is measured by the  ubiquitous corner location of the fast food dispensaries, or the eye-level grocery shelves replete with artificially colored, ultra-refined and thoroughly preserved packaged foods.

The greatest mystery is not that so many people are obese, but that more aren’t. Among other reasons, fat accumulates on our bodies in a desperate attempt to encapsulate the persistent organic pollutants (POPs) that perfuse our foods, as well as our home and working environments (sourcesource). Both diabetic and obese patients frantic to lose their excess weight are often mystified that their most heroic dietary and exercise efforts have no effect.

What is not realized is that the fat stores chemicals that are better kept out of circulation. The POPs sit for years, even decades, quietly acting as endocrine disruptors in their gracious hosts. Accumulation of fat is, in this circumstance, a byproduct of simply living in the modern world. Obesity is the exhaust of an industrial engine that roars on. Evidence of these things can be seen on lab work, but only in hints, so it remains hidden to the eyes of doctors not trained to look for clues regarding environmental contributions to our maladies.

The medical system’s interest in bringing obesity into the land of disease has to do primarily with economics, not health. We should not be appalled by this, even if we’re saddened. Modern medicine does reasonably well with acute illnesses. No one, though, has acute obesity; it is a chronic condition. In fact, as a percentage, those with acute illness are a trifling next to those with chronic illness.

Ironically, we have a medical system that does virtually nothing to reduce the burden of chronic illnesses, or even to alter their course beyond the superficial suppression of symptoms. The system manages, when it works, to poorly manage some of those chronic symptoms into perpetuity. The great majority of health care expense is racked up in the ongoing treatment of chronicity: diabetes, heart disease, cancer, respiratory disease, and now obesity officially joins this team.

Like smallpox, asthma and cancer, obesity is now a diagnostic island unto itself. No longer simply a confluence of circumstances, it stands alone,  and as such it is calling out for treatment as a billable medical condition. Sure, it was recognized as a problem before, but being billable makes all the difference. Advocates of the change have suggested, apparently with a straight face, that this disease classification will bring doctors to finally give it the attention it deserves.

“(Diagnosing obesity as a disease) acknowledges that obesity is a chronic health condition that has genetic as well as environmental causes that requires lifelong treatment using medical and psychological support,” said Connie Crawley, a University of Georgia Cooperative Extension nutrition and health specialist in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences. (source)

One can imagine an almost palpable wave of renewed compassion sweeping through the medical community as physicians, who once thought obesity to be a problem of self-control, now understand it as a disease that takes hold and, in its chronic way, doesn’t let go of its target.

Would that this were the case. In reality, the new classification means that instead of offering generic advice about exercise and eating healthier, physicians can prescribe medications to their frustrated but hopeful obese patients. What is treatment, after all? In a system of for-profit medicine, it’s hardly noteworthy that the diseas-ification of obesity comes less than a month after FDA approval of two new drugs to “treat” obesity. They each cost about $150/month.

Consuming pills, we should come to believe, will shrink our waistlines, tighten our thighs, and negate a lifetime of exposures and patterns of eating. Our medical system is expert at seeing a raging fire, and finding ways to make money off of the smoke. This is not conspiracy; it is a fact of daily business.

In the conventional model of health and disease, chronic illnesses don’t go away. Obesity is now officially granted a lifelong sanction, the medical seal now firmly in place, tens of millions of obese individuals – men, women and children – are a welcome new market. The commercials are not far behind, where the actor, heavy and moribund, convinces viewers that there is new hope in these pills to manage obesity.

Regardless of its new classification, obesity is still sitting, unchanged, at the tangled intersection of individual and social/environmental influences. Opening it up to management by prescription does little to address these underlying causes except in the most trivial way. But a new market has been created, and enormous amounts of money will be made from obesity’s medical management.

The culprits who have set us up for this disease – through cheap and degraded foods, through the chronic stress of financial and food insecurity, through the obfuscation of basic relevant health information, and through allowing an environment laden with the chemicals that push us toward accumulation – have no reason to fear they will be asked to account for their contributions to this epidemic. Like obesity itself, these circumstances are now permanent,  invisible aspects of this modern world.


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Posted in Alternative medicine, Articles by our Doctors, Chronic disease, Diet, Dr. Greg Nigh, General, Health care reform, Obesity, Pharmacuetical, Politics | Comments Off

Why Do We Gain Weight? A Holistic Perspective

Thursday, May 2nd, 2013


7970162422_7a8273ec94In the United States, we are some of the world’s most well fed people, despite the S.A.D. diet term, which is the acronym for the Standard American Diet. From the perspective of our national fast food intake statistics and giant proportions of meat and heavy carbohydrate type meals, it can actually be a relatively sad diet. Some of us simply over consume calorie rich, nutrient deficient foods. We also eat quite a large amount of protein compared to our global neighbors. Our cuisine is robust in many ways and some of the common foods in the American diet are not ideal from a holistic nutrition perspective. With all of the dietary fads and viewpoints out there in the world, it can be hard to navigate the best diet for your body.

Unfortunately, many of the world’s basic foods and especially prepared foods are now highly processed and may be genetically modified, chemically altered, pesticide laden, and environmentally questionable from a sustainability perspective. Our goal is to simplify the foods we ingest and return to the basics of what we know to be good quality healthy nourishment. However, it is not always easy to have the time, interest, or financial ability to prepare the healthiest of foods for ourselves and our families, despite our best intentions.

Let’s look on the bright side and consider that many of us, millions in fact, have seen the light and are doing our best to make good conscious choices for our own personal food consumption and for that of our families. The natural and organic foods business is ever expanding around the world and I believe there is a growing desire for people to be more well informed and health conscious. People want to take action and find ways to act preventatively. As we are living longer, it is wise to seriously consider how you may want to feel at seventy, eighty, or maybe even at one hundred.

It takes effort to be healthy and as naturopathic medicine has touched my life and helped me to become more aware, I hope to do the same for those of you seeking new information and perspectives on health and well being.

I titled this article “Why Do We Gain Weight? A Holistic Perspective” for two main reasons. The first is that I understand that many of us struggle with weight issues, especially as we become midlife adults and the second reason is that the answer is not always as obvious as it may seem. Of course the foods that one chooses to eat and the lifestyle that one chooses to live have an impact on our bodies, but there are many other factors that can play into the metabolism of body fat.

The metabolism of fat is a process that involves many of the hormonal and enzymatic systems of the body. From an energy perspective, the caloric intake from the food that is ingested in a day’s time needs to be used in order for the body to maintain the same weight. In the absence of exercise, movement or activity, the body will naturally store fat. This is the most superficial and simplistic way of trying to understand body weight and body fat. The physics of the relationship between diet and exercise, calories into the body versus calories burned, is straight forward and for many people changing the diet and exercise practices works well, but what about those individuals who eat well, sleep well, exercise regularly and still hold unwanted body fat?

As our body’s hormones are beautifully orchestrated into homeostasis and harmony most of the time, once in a while one hormonal system may become a little imbalanced. The analogy of the orchestra helps to tell this story. As one instrument plays slightly out of tune or a different musical piece all together, the sound changes. The various other musicians may play louder or take the role of that one musician or instrument that became out of tune and led to the imbalance. This is what happens in the body. As an imbalance occurs, the other organs and hormonal systems will take hold and shift the biochemistry toward homeostasis. Our bodies continually try to seek the best way to heal and maintain balance.

In respect to weight gain, the following are the body systems that need to be addressed especially if basic alterations in diet and exercise are not bringing you to your goals of weight loss.

Basic blood chemistry analysis from a naturopathic perspective can help to rule out any blood sugar metabolism issues including hypoglycemia, insulin resistance, and pre-Diabetes, oxygenation issues in the body related to anemia, liver inflammation or elevations in liver enzymes that can lead to poor metabolism in general, low grade chronic infections, thyroid imbalance, pancreatic and kidney function and inflammation issues.

Hormonal testing is appropriate for both men and women. The steroid hormonal cascade including progesterone, estradiol, estrone, estriol, testosterone, follicle stimulating hormone, lutenizing hormone, cortisol, DHEA, and others may be appropriate to rule out hormonal imbalance at the various stages of life. Hormone testing can be completed with a saliva, blood, or a urinary sample. Cortisol levels are a specific measurement to assess the adrenal glands and are often a crucial piece in the hormonal balance of the body, especially in those of us that may be under stress or lead a very busy life.

Food Sensitivities can cause quite a bit of general inflammation in the body. Many people report that once the food sensitivities are removed from the diet, weight comes off very easy.
As the lining of the gastrointestinal tract heals from the inflammatory processes related to offending foods, digestion and metabolism improve and the body can function with more ease. Finding the foods that work the best for your body type and metabolism are key aspects to maintaining optimal weight.

Digestive health and proper bacterial ratios and enzymes are easily tested and can give a huge amount of insight into how your body is digesting food. If yeast or pathogenic bacteria or a parasite is present in your gastrointestinal tract, the body is chronically fighting a low grade infection. Food will not be digested correctly and the lining of the gut will become damaged. In naturopathic medicine, gut health is at the forefront of maintaining a healthy body. It is where the inside of the body interfaces with the outside world. It is where our immune system and enzymatic biochemical pathways originate. Good digestion is essential for sustained weight loss. Digestive health panels may include stool, saliva, and/or blood tests.

The liver is the main filter of the body and is responsible for many metabolic functions. Cleanse and detoxification programs are a great way to kick start a weight loss plan. If the liver becomes stagnant or does not function at the optimal level, metabolism will in turn become slower and less efficient. There are cleanses for everyone and it should not feel intimidating. A cleanse or detoxification program can be custom tailored to suite anyone’s lifestyle, intensity level, and financial status.

Mental and emotional health and relationships to food cannot go unaddressed in the process of losing weight. It is important to evaluate relationships with food and make sure that if there are bad habits or unresolved body image issues, self esteem, etc. that they can be addressed in an authentic and meaningful way. It may require significant inner reflection or counseling with your physician to identify the best ways to move forward. Constitutional homeopathy and acupuncture may be of great benefit in these types of scenarios.

The deeper investigations into reasons behind the inability to lose weight are worth looking into if it is an area of struggle or confusion. Several herbs within the pharmacy of naturopathic medicine have been identified to assist with fat metabolism and helping to decrease carbohydrate or sugar cravings. Clinical studies have shown great results with using herbal medicine in conjunction with a dietary and exercise plan. Herbs and other natural vitamins and nutrients are often used as an integral part of a holistic weight loss program.

If you have any questions or are interested in discussing additional considerations as part of your weight loss or longevity plans, please feel free to be in touch.

Thank you for your time.

NCC Practitioner

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Posted in Articles by our Doctors, Healthy diet, Healthy lifestyle, Naturopathic medicine, Nutrition, Obesity, Weight loss, Women's health | Comments Off

Organic or Non-Organic: It’s Not Just About the Nutrients

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

You may have read, and heard, recently about the latest study out comparing organic to non-organic foods.  The bottom line is that the researchers who conducted the study have concluded that there is virtually no difference in the nutrient content of the organic foods as compared with non-organic, or conventional foods.

That finding may (or may not) be true, but it’s not the point.  There is a big difference between “nutrient” content and “nutritional” content and that is what we need to look at – the bigger picture!

Nutrition is the interaction of the food and the organism.  To have good nutrition means much more than just taking a vitamin pill and feeling like you’re getting all your RDA’s of nutrients.  Organic food has nutritional benefits over non-organic food simply because of what they don’t do to it!  Besides the common use of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers in conventional farming and ranching, a much more ominous practice is the liberal use of antibiotics to grow fatter animals faster.  These antibiotics are not limited to the animal – they enter into the system of anyone who ingests the meat from that animal.  As Michael Pollan points out so perfectly, “You are what you eat eats.”  Think about that one.

I recently read an article that came across my radar about the epidemic of obesity in children.  (If you would like to read it please go to; or Google “obesity in children + antibiotics” and you’ll get a number of articles on the subject.)  This particular study was making the link between antibiotic use and the rising number of overweight children.  The author summed it up by saying:

  • Antibiotics kill good bacteria as well as bad, and some of the good bacteria could help keep us lean.
  • Exposure to antibiotics before six months was related to heavier children later in life.
  • The study was inspired by farmers, who have known for some time that using antibiotics produce heavier cows.

It’s that last bullet point that really got me….

But, back to the original study.  The Stanford researchers who were compelled to release their findings on the lack of evidence that organic foods are more beneficial than non-organic foods also stated that the differences they did find involved “pesticides and antibiotics.”  In fact, the research team found “a notable difference with antibiotic-resistant germs, a public health concern because they are harder to treat if they cause food poisoning.”

Further, the study also stated that “specialists long have said that organic or not, the chances of bacterial contamination of food are the same, and Monday’s analysis agreed. But when bacteria did lurk in chicken or pork, germs in the non-organic meats had a 33 percent higher risk of being resistant to multiple antibiotics, the researchers reported Monday in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine. “

And, that finding comes amid debate over feeding animals antibiotics, not because they’re sick but to fatten them up!

Interesting.  So, the conventional practice of feeding animals antibiotics to quickly fatten them up (I always thought they were given because of gut inflammation from eating the wrong diets) – not only contributes to the growing problem of antibiotic resistance but to obesity in humans as well.  A pretty big “nutritional” issue.

However, having your food marked as “organic” is not always a guarantee of quality either.  There is a lot of elasticity these days in the terms organic, natural, free-range and grass-fed.  Unfortunately, there will always be producers that will stretch the limits of certification requirements.  On the other hand, there are several conventional producers who have stopped using growth-hormones, antibiotics and other dangerous practices by choice –not by law – due to consumer demand and, hopefully, in response to the mounting evidence that these practices are truly not good for us.

By the way – The USDA certifies products as organic if they are produced without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers, or routine use of antibiotics or growth hormones.  Non-organic foods have “allowable” or so-called “safe levels” of these substances.  But the question is – if someone offered you a glass of water and sprinkled in just a pinch of pesticide – a safe amount – would you drink it?  Would you feed it to your child?

What do you think?

Eat well – be well!


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Posted in Diet, Food, GAPS, General, Health, Health News Headlines, Healthy diet, Healthy lifestyle, Nature Cures, Nutrition, Obesity | Comments Off

Hypertension in Children: A Symptom of a Much Deeper Problem

Monday, July 16th, 2012

A recent review of the reasons for children being admitted to emergency rooms found that admissions for high blood pressure doubled between 1997 and 2006. Hypertension accounted for almost 25,000 admissions to the emergency room for pediatric patients in 2006. This is tragic enough, but add to this the finding that up to 30% of kids diagnosed with hypertension already have signs of damage in their blood vessels caused by the condition.

The experts, of course, offer their sage advice regarding this issue. Dr. Joshua Samuels, writing in the journal Hypertension, states the conventional case clearly: “Now is the time to invest in early detection, prevention, and treatment of elevated BP in children.” He goes on to write that there is “an array of pharmacological interventions with pediatric dosing, safety, and often even labeling. If the current study tells us anything, it is that we cannot afford to wait.”

What is most telling is that Dr. Samuels – as well as the authors of the study – believes that the main cause for the increase is the rising tide of obesity in the pediatric population. So the mystery is this: if these doctors believe they know what is causing the increase, and they are working in a profession called “health care,” why are their treatment recommendations not focused on treating the cause of the hypertension? To advocate for the use of medications is simply to accept the inevitability of obesity in kids, and to medically manage the resulting diseases.

The real tragedy is that, as a society, we have come to accept these after-the-fact drug-based proposals, and even to refer to them as “health care.” They aren’t. To medicate children with high blood pressure is to ignore its preventable and treatable underlying causes. That our medical system doesn’t focus there says nothing about the challenge of managing pediatric hypertension. It says volumes, though, about the unwavering commitment of our medical system to profit-generating disease management rather than life-enhancing care for health.



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Posted in Alternative medicine, Articles by our Doctors, Children, Conventional medicine, Dr. Greg Nigh, General, Health care reform, Medications | Comments Off

Excessive intake of omega 6 and deficiencies in omega 3 induce obesity down the generations

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

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Fighting Fat With Chili Pepper Ingredient: New Evidence

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

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Vitamin Deficiency After Weight Loss Surgery Can Cause Vision Loss In Newborns

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

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Spicy peppers may cause your body to burn more calories

Saturday, July 10th, 2010

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Study: Higher-protein diets support weight loss, but may lower bone density in postmenopausal women

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

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Manipulating Microbes in the Gut May Remedy Disease and Enhance Health

Monday, June 28th, 2010

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Resveratrol Supplement Leads To Weight Loss In Lemurs

Friday, June 25th, 2010

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Women With Polycystic Ovary Syndrome Have Higher BPA Blood Levels, Study Finds

Friday, June 25th, 2010

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Size of Prostate Tumor Linked to Patients’ Weight

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

A study of over 3,300 prostate cancer patients found a direct correlation between patient weight and size of tumor.

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Big Belly In Middle Age Linked To Higher Risk Of Dementia

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

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