Migraines – Natural Solutions

Ask anybody who has ever experienced it and they will tell you that a migraine is more than just a headache. Migraines are an incredibly prevalent debilitating neurological phenomenon which regularly affect more than 38 million people in the U.S. alone and over 1 billion worldwide. I have seen hundreds of various headache sufferers in my practice – from children with vomiting migraines since they were 2 years old, to adults who are miserable but “have learned to just live with it”, to those who must get into bed, hide under their blanket, cover their ears and eyes, and tell their kids that this is “leave mommy alone time”. One of the most frustrating things about seeing migraine patients is their lack of hope. Oftentimes they have seen a practitioner years ago that told them it is genetic and there is nothing that can be done except take medication when you feel a migraine coming on. Even then, most of the time, they have given up on the drugs even working. If you are reading this article, you either currently suffer from migraines or you know someone close to you who does. Fortunately, there is often a solution. Unfortunately, we are often “the last resort”.

Migraine Facts:


  • Migraine is an extremely incapacitating collection of neurological symptoms often accompanied by:
    • Visual disturbances – including an “aura” which occurs in about 25% of sufferers
    • Nausea, Vomiting
    • Dizziness, Vertigo, inability to visually focus
    • Extreme sensitivity to sound, light, touch, smell
  • Migraine is the 3rd most prevalent illness in the world
  • Migraine is the 6th most disabling illness in the world
  • More than 90% of sufferers are unable to work or function normally during a migraine
  • Every 10 seconds someone goes to the ER complaining of severe headache
  • 3x more women (18%) suffer from migraines than men (6%) – 28 million women in the U.S.
  • Roughly 1 in 4 women will suffer a migraine in their lifetime
  • 63% have one or more migraine attack per month
  • 25% have one or more migraine attack per week!
  • More than 4 million suffer from chronic daily migraines (15+ migraine days/month)
  • Healthcare and lost productivity costs associated with migraine are est. $36 billion/year
  • Healthcare costs are 70% higher for a family with a migraine sufferer
  • American employers lose more than $13 billion/year as a result of 113 million lost work days
  • S. headache sufferers receive $1 billion worth of brain scans each year


Migraines - Natural Solutions1

The worst thing about migraines is the strange combination of:


1) The incredible impact on the individual’s health – hiding in bed or under your cubicle in silence is no way to live your life;

2) The incredible impact on our country financially with healthcare service costs involved but more important the workforce disability costs; and

3) The lack of any successful or reliable answer for a cause OR solution from the medical field.




Migraines and (headaches in general) are always very different from person to person, and this makes “diagnosing” them correctly very difficult. They can’t be measured, they are often hard to describe, and they can be completely different each time. Brain scans are incredibly expensive and don’t give many answers, nor do MRIs or CT scans. Headaches and migraines are like a puzzle; different pieces will fit in different places and help complete the puzzle. Some puzzles are harder to solve than others. Often the smallest things can make huge improvements. Because headaches and migraines are so variable it is impossible to say for sure that any given solution will help you, but we have seen amazing results with headaches and migraines in our office (look at our testimonial page it’s full of migraine and headache stories!) through our integrative approach looking at three key areas of the wellness puzzle – nutrition, detoxification and cellular healing, and chiropractic.





Most (if not all) modern health conditions have a nutritional component, and headaches and migraines are no exception. Looking at the relationship from a big picture view, your nutrition largely controls your level of inflammation. Think about the last headache you had – you could probably feel the inflammation and pressure inside your skull. This isn’t to say that migraines are exclusively an “inflammation problem”, but inflammation is not going to help and it’s a great place to start. Decreasing inflammation is key with headaches and migraines. A good place to start is by increasing your omega-3 fats with salmon or fish oil and using anti-inflammatory spices like turmeric. These directly affect inflammatory pathways and instantly down-regulate inflammation. This is very general advice, and I’m not saying you should go out and take the first fish oil you find and take it forever. Everybody is different and it is very hard to know how much omega-3 your body needs without the proper testing. Although it’s possible to create a great nutrition plan without testing, I like to get basic inflammatory markers initially to see if overall inflammation is a problem. If it is, it needs to be addressed immediately!


Food Sensitivities

If you google which foods can trigger a migraine, it would be much simpler to make a list of which foods DO NOT trigger migraine. It’s almost everything. Some of the bigger culprits include:



Alcohol – especially red wine



Food Additives – Nitrites/Nitrates, Aspartame, MSG

Pickled or Fermented Foods


If you think your migraines are food-related, an elimination diet can be very helpful because you will find obvious triggers and avoid them. It can also be very frustrating, because for many people it takes months of discovering different triggers, eliminating them, experimenting, then finding the next trigger, eliminating a trigger and the headache still comes. Sometimes your trigger may not be the food itself but may be a component of the food – natural or added. Begin by eating a Real Food diet. This means no additives, no chemicals, no MSG, aspartame, sucralose, food dyes, hydrogenated oils. These changes alone can decrease headache and migraine intensity and frequency dramatically! After implementing a Real Food diet, I recommend taking a detailed food diary and noting any trends. Food sensitivities don’t always show up immediately, so look at everything you did the day of a migraine and the day(s) before – foods you’ve eaten, personal care products used, emotional stress level, exercise performed, how you slept the night(s) before. I’ve had patients notice they trigger migraines after running 7 miles, but not if they run 6 miles. A headache or migraine diary is a good idea whether or not you are going to do lab testing!


The easiest way to find food sensitivities is to use a lab to test your body’s immune reactivity to all foods at once. At Align Utah we use Cyrex labs, the world’s leader in autoimmune reactivity testing.  Cyrex tests over 180 different food allergens including the foods themselves raw AND cooked but also some more obscure allergens like spices, herbs, gums, lectins, meat glues, and food colorings. The testing is (quite frankly) more expensive than other sensitivity tests I’ve seen, but much more comprehensive. You should make your decision based on how severe your migraines are and how sick you are of suffering with them. Many migraine victims find solutions without testing. However, I have witnessed that people are often to the point where they are frustrated enough with the lack of answers that they are ready for the best testing to find a solution. This doesn’t mean we ever find a one and only answer, but it can be a big piece of the puzzle and a great place to start.



Detoxification and Cellular Healing


Toxins can be another huge trigger for migraines. Many acute exposures cause immediate symptoms – the most obvious being chemicals in personal care products, especially perfumes, or cleaning products. Chemicals like phthalates, parabens, and BPA are added to your personal care products, fluoride and chlorine are added to your water, and MSG, aspartame, and hydrogenated oils are added to your foods. If you understand the toxic bucket analogy, you understand how toxins trigger migraines – one more drop in the toxic bucket causes it to overflow! Many migraine sufferers have experienced a toxin-induced migraine – from a cologne or perfume, a cleaning product, an inversion or other pollution. Check our past Real Health articles and Real Health podcast episodes for Top 10 Toxic Personal Care Products and more information on sources of toxins.


Avoiding these toxins is key. Change out your personal care products (we use two companies called Abba’s Set Apart Remedies (local) and Pure Haven Essentials), filter your air, filter your water, & eat real food. This is the first and most important place to start, but then you must remove any toxins that are stored in your body, and lastly, fix the damage the toxins have caused to your cells. Toxins create cellular inflammation which decreases the body’s natural ability to detoxify, decreases hormone sensitivity leading to weight gain and other hormone imbalances, and destroy your body’s ability to produce enough energy leading to fatigue and brain fog. By using our True Cellular Detox program and cellular healing strategies we effectively address these issues at the cellular level and restore your cell’s natural, normal energy and detox functions. Once again, it’s critical for all migraine sufferers to:


  • Remove the source – avoid toxic exposures, especially those you are sensitive to
  • Remove stored toxins from cells – fat cells and brain cells particularly
  • Fix the damage the toxins have caused on the cellular level




Chiropractic has always helped greatly with migraines. Unfortunately not enough people know about the benefits which often end up being the “last resort” that actually works. If you look at our testimonials on our website you see many about headaches and migraines, including people who have had MRIs, brain scans, CT scans, pain pills, steroids, botox, you name it. For a long time chiropractic care was the only approach we used in our office, and many people got well. If there was one thing I would suggest for a loved one suffering from migraines, it would be “go see a chiropractor.” In fact, several clinical trials show that chiropractic improves migraine headaches. In one study of people with migraines, 22% of those who received chiropractic manipulation reported more than a 90% reduction of attacks. Also, 49% reported a significant reduction of the intensity of each migraine. But how does chiropractic help with migraines??


Your spine is made up of hundreds of joints that all work together to hold you upright and allow you to move. This bony column is the foundation for all your limbs and muscles to attach to. Think of your spine like a chain on a bike. A chain has 2 joints per link and all of the joints need to be working in unison for proper chain motion. If one joint is dysfunctional or stuck, it affects the chain’s overall function and thus the bike’s overall function. This is a very basic explanation of chiropractic. If one spinal joint is dysfunctional, “locked up”, or subluxated, it decreases proprioception or messages coming from the joint to the brain, which (among other neurological consequences) increases pain signals from that joint. This is the basis for how joint dysfunction of the spine can create pain signals!


This vertebral subluxation, or spinal joint dysfunction can cause joint pain, neck pain, or tension headaches, decreased range of motion, muscle spasms…but remember how I said that migraines are a neurological phenomenon? So does that mean the spine affects neurological function? Your spinal column and your nervous system are intricately connected, and proper spinal joint alignment and biomechanics are necessary for proper neurological function. In other words, yes, damage to the spine can cause neurological issues and imbalances which lead to health problems when not correctly addressed.


Each individual is different, but in a patient suffering with migraines, I often see damage in two spinal areas upon examination and x-ray – the upper cervical area AND/OR the lower cervical or upper thoracic area (top of the neck and bottom of the neck). Both of these areas are commonly damaged with whiplash injuries. The upper cervical area includes the skull or occiput (surrounds the brain) and the first (C1 or atlas) and second (C2 or axis) cervical vertebra. This area has one of the highest concentrations of ‘proprioceptors’ in the body. Proprioceptors send signals to your brain telling it where your body parts are located and what they are doing. The proprioceptors in the neck are responsible for the important tasks of keeping your eyes level at all times while being able to move your head around and still see. If your head moves too fast you get dizzy because those signals go haywire. If you think about it, these are incredibly complex coordinated actions. The upper cervical spine structures surround and protect the lower brainstem, which controls many bodily functions that we have no conscious control over like your heartbeat, respiration, digestion, cranial nerve function and special senses. Any abnormality in the upper cervical area can greatly affect neurological function. Ear infections, sinus issues, vertigo, migraines – these are all issues commonly associated with upper cervical subluxation.


The other area often associated with migraines is the upper thoracic region, specifically the T1 and T2 nerve roots. Your sympathetic nervous system neurologically controls blood flow by directing blood vessel dilation and constriction, or opening and closing. Sympathetic nerve control begins in the thoracic region, with innervation from T1 and T2 (think right below your tee shirt’s neckline) controlling blood flow to the head. Any irritation or interference to the spine and nervous system at T1 or T2 could affect neurological control of blood vessel dilation or constriction in the head, leading to migraine headache.

Migraines - Natural Solutions
Migraines – Natural Solutions

Pieces of the Puzzle


The most important thing I do for my patients is help them find the right pieces of their puzzle and start putting it together. These three pieces (nutrition, cellular detox, chiropractic) are the biggest and most common solutions but far from our whole integrative approach. We look at vitamin and mineral deficiencies, supplements, emotional stress, weight-loss and metabolism, exercise habits…all the pieces of a personal wellness puzzle. I’ve had patients with severe headaches who we helped uncover that they had serious underlying systemic disease, I’ve helped patients find trigger foods and chemicals, I’ve recommended to have dental work re-examined, and I’ve had patients who we discovered just needed to change their reading glasses, but whatever the cause we have helped hundreds improve their headache symptoms. Whatever pieces are missing from your puzzle, Align Utah can help you find the pieces and start putting the puzzle back together again.


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  1. migraine.com/migraine-statistics
  2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10714533




Fibromyalgia – Is It Really Incurable?

Fibromyalgia is a tough thing to see in a chiropractic office, even though that’s right where the person needs to be. Sometimes a patient is in so much pain it’s hard to touch them for an exam let alone adjust their spine. They are usually skeptical, and rightfully so. Often times they have been told by friends, family, and even doctors that their problems are “all in their head”. Many times they say things like “I hurt from the top of my head to the tips of my toes”, “I feel like I got hit by a Mack truck”, or “My arms and legs feel like they are stuck in cement”. My least favorite is “I really love to exercise and I can’t do anything with my kids anymore because I’m in too much pain all over. Please help me be able to exercise.” It’s terribly debilitating and can take a person’s hope away.

Fortunately for the millions of suffering Americans this disease IS reversible, although a Google search or an outdated textbook (or medical doctor) might tell you otherwise. I can confidently tell you this because I have personally helped many people not just limit their flare-ups to virtually non-existent but actually reverse their Fibromyalgia diagnosis to merely a memory in their medical charts (listen to our podcast accompanying this article, I interview one of these patients).


We don’t “treat” fibromyalgia (or any disease for that matter), but by understanding some of the basic designs and functions of the body and working with a qualified doctor and team, you can begin to understand more about your potential solutions. We implement three Real Health solutions: Nutrition, True Cellular Detox, and Chiropractic for an Innate healing solution. When used together they remove any possible interference from your body healing and are the secret to you getting your life back.




Fibromyalgia literally translates to muscle pain, or pain in the ligaments, tendons, and joints. It’s characterized by unexplained pain all over the body which can vary in intensity, and is diagnosed by that too – pain all over the body in 11 out of 18 pain spots. It’s one of the worst conditions to suffer from and one of the worst diagnoses to receive because it gives no real answers – you have pain all over you body. Medical doctors have no answers at all outside of switching medications from Lyrica to gabapentin to prednisone to muscle relaxers and back again in a search to relieve your pain but never finding a true cause. Fibromyalgia is much more than just pain too, it is usually accompanied by chronic fatigue, brain fog, troubled sleep, and an inability to recover from normal physical exertion. Over 10 million Americans suffer with fibro, and it affects 4x more women than men.


Although very misunderstood and mysterious, fibromyalgia is classified as a “heightened pain state”. It’s described as “overactive nerves”. Your body produces and interprets more pain signals than it should considering the given pain stimulus, often times with no painful stimulus at all. In other words, if a 1lb weight was dropped on your normal healthy arm and you said it was a 2/10 on a 1-10 pain scale, a fibromyalgia patient would rate it a 12/10 and three days later it might still be a 5/10. The touch of a small pet’s paw might make them jump off the couch. Picking up a granddaughter might lead to 2 days of bedrest. Debilitating pain – burning, aching, stabbing, shooting.


Fibro is classified as a Centralized Pain State, meaning the abnormal pain perception is occurring in the Central Nervous System, or brain and spinal cord, even though the pain is felt throughout the arms and legs. Many hypotheses exist regarding cause and cure including theories on brain and pain neurotransmitters, inflammatory cytokines, sleep disturbances, circadian rhythm of cortisol, oxidative damage, etc etc…and it’s a big (and growing) part of the pharmaceutical drug industry’s research and marketing. As always though, there is no one single cause, and there is no one single solution (like a drug or pill or shot).


The Real Health 3-Part Solution for Fibromyalgia

Nutrition – It Starts With Food


Good health starts with real food. It’s hard to heal while eating junk. But will nutrition reverse fibromyalgia? I would argue that while you can’t heal without proper nutrition, you won’t fully heal from diet alone, but it’s the most important place to start. You can’t extinguish a fire and fuel it at the same time. The goal of eating for fibromyalgia is DECREASING INFLAMMATION. Many “diets” have had great success because the one thing they all have in common is they (typically) avoid fake food and encourage real foods including vegetables. That’s a great place to start! It’s an absolute MUST for anyone suffering from fibromyalgia to avoid inflammatory foods and follow a strict anti-inflammatory diet. Eating processed or sugary junk foods is like pouring gas on the fire, and that kind of self-sabotage deserves no sympathy. As I’ve heard many patients tell me – “No food tastes as good as NOT having fibro flare-ups feels.”


I recommend a ‘plant-based paleo’ diet rich in a large variety of vegetables, high-fat foods like coconut products and avocados, grass-fed beef and butter, organic chicken and eggs, wild-caught fish, nuts, and seeds with very little sugar, little to no grains (no bread, pasta, rice, corn) and absolutely no processed or genetically modified (GMO) foods. I also like to incorporate different healing techniques taught originally by Dr. Pompa called Diet Variation to challenge metabolism and down-regulate cellular inflammation faster. Once you are eating a healthy diet you can then begin to “supplement” additional things (like cyclic doses of probiotics, omegas, L-Carnitine, etc etc – work with a physician!) that can also help decrease inflammation, but not until your diet is right. When these techniques are combined with detoxification and chiropractic it’s magic!


True Cellular Detox – You Have to Fix the Cell to get Well!


Detox is the wrong word to use for what we do in our office and what you need to do to really truly get healthy. People think of detox as a 10-Day Detox package from their local health food store or a Liver and Gut Cleanse they read about on Pinterest. While all of those things can be helpful, they aren’t going to solve the problem of fibromyalgia. You have to fix the cell to get well. What that means is that when your cells are functioning properly, your body is functioning properly and you don’t have pain or symptoms. Many symptoms of fibromyalgia are linked to toxicity and the problems caused at the cellular level including low energy or chronic fatigue, brain fog, and abnormal sleep cycles. A critical part of our True Cellular Detox program we offer is getting your cells functioning properly again – decreasing cellular inflammation, repairing the cell membrane, restoring cellular energy,  re-establishing an important cellular process called methylation. Fibromyalgia has been linked to toxicity from many sources including excitotoxins from food like MSG and aspartame, glyphosate (round-up), Volatile Organic Compounds (fumes), heavy metals, and more. These toxins create cellular inflammation and without effectively getting rid of the toxins, you will never eliminate the inflammation and never truly get well.


Chiropractic – The Missing Piece of the Puzzle


It doesn’t make sense to me. 10 million people in our country have a debilitating disease causing pain all over the body and horrible suffering. The medical system is of little-to-no help outside of dangerous medications. All they know is that it’s a problem with the central nervous system interpreting sensory information improperly and creating a heightened pain state. It begs the question – WHY AREN’T MORE FIBRO PATIENTS GETTING THEIR SPINE & NERVOUS SYSTEM CHECKED AND ADJUSTED BY A CHIROPRACTOR REGULARLY? The answer is because people have huge misconceptions about what chiropractic is and what it does.


Your spine is an incredibly complex combination of bones, muscles, ligaments, joints, and not the least – the nervous system. The spinal column surrounds and protects the central nervous system and the beginning of the peripheral nervous system, the sensitive nerve roots. Each bone or vertebra of the spine has at least 6 joints associated with it, and there are 24 moveable segments. When the spine is subluxated, or a specific vertebra or group or vertebrae has restricted motion, this decreases what’s called proprioception or mechanoreception at that joint or in that given area. Decreased mechanoreception at any joint (knee, hip, shoulder, spine) has negative neurological effects on the nociceptive or pain pathways, and this leads to a cascade of neurological and eventual endocrinological consequences including an increased stress response. This is often accompanied by other physiological features such as muscle spasms and local inflammation, eventually leading to fibrosis and degeneration, adding further insult to injury and causing more and more deleterious results. This in turn affects generated pain signals in many different ways and even affects the way the brain interprets these pain signals. In the clinic we often see the most spinal damage in the lower cervical and upper thoracic area (lower neck, shoulders, upper back), and that’s no surprise. Research shows that fibromyalgia patients show the same spinal cord hypersensitivity seen in a recent whiplash injury.3 The more scary fact is that these ‘altered nociceptive signals’ are often sub-cortical, meaning you don’t consciously feel the pain although neurologically the root cause is still happening just the same and affecting your health on every level. This is the basis for the chiropractic adjustment! When combined with certain techniques like intermittent compressive/extensive traction and physical therapy exercises we can decrease subluxation, improve abnormal joint patterns, remove neurological interference and improve fibromyalgia symptoms. Spinal alignment and segmental motion is an absolute must for everyone but especially fibromyalgia sufferers.


What Do You Do Now?


Many people will try to do this on their own, and for 99% of people – you just can’t. You can do a lot, but you really need a coach and a partner, and you literally have to have a chiropractor to get adjusted. No stretching or massage or yoga will take it’s place. Visit our website to make an appointment or even schedule a digital consultation. If you aren’t ready for that yet, read our other blog posts or listen to our podcast episodes and keep learning about your health and how you can take control of it. We don’t take all patients and we don’t want you until you are ready to commit to taking control of your own health. When you are ready, we can’t wait to meet you and hear how we can help you!

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2.Indian J Clin Biochem. 2014 Jan; 29(1): 1–2.
A Quest for Better Understanding of Biochemical Changes in Fibromyalgia Syndrome
3.Pain. 2004 Jan;107(1-2):7-15.
Evidence for spinal cord hypersensitivity in chronic pain after whiplash injury and in fibromyalgia.


Variation – The Key to Unlocking Health

One thing you don’t hear enough about in the natural healthcare world is the importance of variation. “You have to be alkaline!” “You have to be a runner!” “You have to be a vegetarian!” “You have to eat meat!” “You have to take Vitamin D!” All of these could be true for different people!

While I believe most healthcare advice to be well-meaning, if you take everything 100% literally this can be very dangerous – my own advice included. One thing that we all need to bear in mind is – for long-term, overall health – variation is key.


Variation is really a “paleo” health concept. Paleo is a broad way of looking at our innate way of living – how we were genetically designed to eat, live, heal and function and what we can do to support that. Our ancestors did not eat the same thing every day or every week. They didn’t have taco Tuesdays or order pizza with family every Friday, and they didn’t order their favorite sandwich several times per month. They didn’t run 15 minutes three times a week, they didn’t clock in at 9 and clock out at 5. Their lives were filled with variety, and we should make a conscious effort today to incorporate variation into our health habits.


Diet Variation


Two important steps must take place for a person to have a healthy, long-term diet. First, they need to learn to eat real food. That step alone accounts for the overwhelming majority of nutrition-based health conditions and would dramatically shift the health in our country if we all made the choice to only eat real food. Once that decision has been made, the next step is variation! Often the “healthy” eaters have the least variety because they find healthy foods they love and they only eat those. They only eat cashews for nuts, they only eat salads with the same lettuce and dressing, they make the same smoothie every day for the past 5 years. While these habits are great, we need vitamin and nutrient variety! Each natural food has a different vitamin and nutrient profile, and we need a little bit from each one. Switch up your nuts, switch up your vegetables, switch up your smoothies. The Institute for Functional Medicine teaches a great protocol for kids – have one food from each color of the rainbow each day.

Possibly the most important foods to vary are your good fats. Increasing your good fats is a great idea in general, but don’t just start eating one kind of good fat. Fats are the building blocks for your cell membranes and your hormones and play major roles in inflammatory processes. You have anti-inflammatory omega-3s, pro-inflammatory omega-6s, omega-9s, PUFAs, MUFAs, MCTs from coconut oil, saturated fats, cholesterol, EPA from fish oil, ALA from flax oil ….all these incredibly important fats from various sources so it’s important to not just take a fish oil every day and think you are getting good fats!

On a larger scale, it’s a great idea to do health challenges and short-term diets, but once again – variation is key. For example, juice fasting is a great health resource.I’ve had patients experience tremendous results going 7, 14, or even a full month on a juice-only diet. Juicing is a nutrient express right into your bloodstream, giving you vitamins, nutrients, and enzymes that you simply would not be able to get from eating alone. Juicing also gives your digestive system a break, because there is no solid food to break down. Juice fasting can kickstart metabolism and weight-loss, it can improve all areas of function including sleep, cognitive function, and energy. It can improve biomarkers seen on lab tests including cholesterol, CRP, triglycerides which are critical for heart disease. But I don’t think juice fasting something to be done exclusively for the rest of your life!

The same is true for restrictive diets and metabolic therapies like the ketogenic diet, of which I am a huge proponent. Going in and out of these diet-induced metabolic states challenges your metabolism and challenges your cells and they become stronger and more efficient. This is why I encourage diet variation. Maybe in the summer when fresh fruits and vegetables are plentiful you eat more of a raw, plant-based diet. In the winter you follow a higher-fat diet, possibly moving in and out of ketosis. For many people January might include a 28-day challenge for the new year where you restrict your diet for a month. This is healthy variation!


Supplement Variation


This one is important because we are such creatures of habit, and so many people take the same supplements because someone told them to 5 years ago and they are still taking the same thing, and often it’s a lower quality brand which could be doing more harm than good. This creates nutrient and vitamin imbalances, which I would argue are more of an issue in our country than deficiencies (I think we are eating plenty of everything). For example, taking Magnesium can cause Zinc imbalances, although both are critically important. Calcium can also create imbalances, and calcium supplements are linked to heart disease, but if you poll most 55+ Americans, what do you think they are taking? Calcium. What else? Fish oil – taking the same fish oil without variation can create massive inflammatory imbalances. Probiotic? Taking the same strain repeatedly, even a “beneficial” strain, can create a mono-culture of good bacteria in your gut leading to digestive, immune, and hormonal imbalances. I even like to vary brands, because even among the most reputable brands formulas are different. Working with a natural healthcare practitioner is key to getting the right supplements, but if you aren’t, make sure you are getting a variety. I personally am taking different brand and different types of supplements each month if not week based on my health goals to get proper variation and balance.


Exercise Variation


First – exercise is exercise, and if you run three times a week great job, you are better than most of our country. Let me start there. But, to get the most out of your exercise, variation is key. This is a paleo principle, our ancestors did not do exercise programs. They ran, they played, they worked, they chased animals, they were chased BY animals. They ran or walked for hours at a time and they sprinted for meters at a time. Real life includes a massive variety of movement, and that’s how we were designed. Movement variation is key to challenge all the areas of your health – cardiovascular exercise improves heart and lung function and efficiency, resistance training increases strength and lean muscle mass, stretching improves range of motion and joint mobility. Following the same program for a long period of time can create imbalances, so make sure that your regular exercise routine involves more than just walking the block and is constantly varying and challenging your body from different angles.


Overall Variation


Overall I hope you see that variation or variety is incredibly important to your long-term health and well-being, but don’t let this discourage you from your trusted life-long health habits. You don’t need to VARY brushing your teeth every day or praying regularly or drinking enough water. I would never ask my 89 year-old grandfather to VARY his habit of waking up every morning and stretching, doing push-ups, sit ups, and calisthenics, but he also gets a lot of variety by playing golf, tennis, biking, and working with his hands (coordination). If you like to run, please run. If you like to eat berries for breakfast, please do. I’m only asking you to keep this concept in mind when developing healthy habits and DON’T GET STUCK IN A RUT!

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Sun, Sunscreen, and Cancer

Do you Avoid the Sun or Love the Sun? Sun, Sunscreen, and Cancer



As the weather gets nicer and we start to enjoy the outdoors more, do you tend to AVOID the sun or LOVE (and respect) the sun? A 2014 study published in the Journal of Internal Medicine followed almost 30,000 women over the course of 20 years and the conclusion of the study: Avoiding sun exposure is a risk for all-cause mortality. Not only is avoiding sun exposure a risk, the major finding of the study was – women who avoided sun exposure were 2x more likely to die early than those who sunbathed regularly.1


This goes against everything we hear through media and marketing! Sunlight causes cancer right?

Most people who avoid the sun do so to avoid the risk of melanoma, or skin cancer, a legitimate fear in the minds of most Americans. What they fail to realize is that by avoiding the sun they are actually increasing their risk. In fact, even the link between sun exposure and melanoma is debated in the actual science.


“The link between melanoma and sun exposure is unproven. There’s no conclusive evidence that sunburns lead to cancer. There is no real proof that sunscreens protect against melanoma. There’s no proof that increased exposure to the sun increases the risk of melanoma.”

–Dr. Bernard Ackerman M.D., one of the world’s foremost authorities on the subject of sun, sunscreen, and skin cancer.


This is in part due to the incredibly important sun exposure causes the body to produce the hormone called Vitamin D3, which actually helps prevent against many diseases including cancer, diabetes, and degenerative diseases. Sunscreen blocks UV ray absorption, which causes the body to produce less Vitamin D3, effectively blocking cancer fighting. In today’s culture, it’s estimated that 80%+ are deficient in Vitamin D3.


In fact, a 2000 Swedish study looked at melanoma rates with people who used sunscreen more or less often. What they found was that not only did sunscreen not decrease the rate of melanoma, it actually increased the rate of melanoma in people who used it more often!*2


I’m not suggesting you need to turn into a bronzed statue. I’m not suggesting you deliberately spend lots of time fully exposed to the mid-day sunlight. I’m definitely not suggesting you get any sunburned skin. I’m only suggesting that you challenge the status quo and think differently about sunlight and conventional sunscreen use (which is full of toxic ingredients). Here are a couple real-life suggestions to protect yourself while at the same time exposing yourself to a safe amount of sunlight regularly:


  1. Cover yourself up, and cover your kids up. Lightweight long-sleeve tops work great as a sun-cover without being too hot. Our ancestors (not very long ago) would wear long sleeve shirts and pants all year long and still get plenty of sun exposure just from being outside. Hats are easy, sunglasses are easy too. Even if you forget these things you can always pick them up at a gas station and it’s probably better than picking up gas station sunscreen brands. Baby swimsuits are really cute, but put a shirt and pants on the kids after too long. Our girls have bucket hats and lightweight cover-alls, and sometimes they wear long-sleeve rashguard-type swimsuit tops to cover their arms.
  2. If you are going to the pool or the beach or the waterpark, find a high-quality, non-toxic sunscreen that you like. There are many homemade DIY recipes that you can make, but if you don’t want to make your own you can check www.ewg.org for their Sunscreen Guide and find a brand that you trust. We personally use a sunscreen from Pure Haven Essentials.
  3. Take smaller doses of sunlight more often. Spending a few minutes a day is much better for your vitamin D3 production. Think about it like the Vitamin D3 that you might take as a supplement. You don’t necessarily want to take a ton at once. It’s designed to be taken on a regular basis in small doses (I recommend 5,000 IU even in the summer unless you are exposed to the sun very often). Go out for 45-60 minutes in the morning or evening, or 30 minutes in the mid-day sun and maybe just let your face, neck, and arms be exposed to the sun. Like exercise, chiropractic, supplements, etc…a little bit on a regular basis goes a really long way.


  1. Avoidance of sum exposure is a risk factor for all-cause mortality: results from the Melanoma in Southern Sweden cohort. Journal of Internal Medicine Volume 276, Issue 1, pages 77-86, July 2014.
  2. Sunscreen use and malignant melanoma. Int J Cancer. 2000 Jul 1;87(1):145-50.



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Glutathione – Your Master Antioxidant and Detoxifier

Glutathione – a Key Ingredient for Optimal Health and Longevity

Have you heard of glutathione? It is known as your body’s “master antioxidant” and also your body’s “master detoxifier” because it is such a powerful disease-fighting molecule! It’s been featured on Dr. Oz and many other shows, blogs, websites, and books on every health topic from fighting cancer, to slowing down the aging process, to preventing DNA damage. Glutathione (pronounced glue-tah-thigh-own) is a tripeptide of amino acids that is found inside every cell in your body, and it’s one of the most important factors and measures of your overall health.



Glutathione, or GSH, is comprised of three amino acids: cysteine, glutamate, and glycine. It is different than other antioxidants (like vitamins A, C, E, CoQ10, Zinc, Selenium, etc) in the fact that it is intracellular, or found inside the cell, and it can even help some other antioxidants work better! Your body builds it’s own GSH from these building blocks, but as you age your body’s ability to produce glutathione decreases. Because GSH is used to fight oxidation and cellular damage as well as stimulate detoxification processes, it can be rapidly depleted when a person is fighting an acute infection or especially a chronic disease like diabetes, HIV/AIDs, cancer, autoimmune disease, heart disease, Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s, when a person has chronic toxicity such as heavy metal toxicity, or chronic inflammation due to a leaky gut. This includes most people in our society! 6

The main function of GSH is to protect your cells, your DNA, and your energy-producing mitochondria from oxidative damage while also playing a central role in defense from infection, free radicals, and carcinogens like radiation. GSH also detoxifies xenobiotics, or foreign compounds like chemicals and toxins. It plays an important role in both phase I and phase II of liver detoxification, your body’s main filtration of toxins. Glutathione is found in every cell, but it is found in highest concentration in the cells of the liver, which is no surprise considering what it does. GSH is your body’s most effective cellular protective system because it participates directly in the destruction of reactive oxygen compounds which damage your cells, while also maintaining and improving the antioxidant capacity of other molecules like vitamin C and E. 1

Glutathione isn’t just an antioxidant fighting free radicals and DNA damage, its synthesis depends on Adenosine Triphosphate, or ATP, your body’s main source of energy, and low glutathione levels are closely related with energy deficiency or low ATP. This is one reason why many people with chronic diseases lose much of their energy, their cellular energy is quite literally being used to fight disease! Because glutathione is so crucial to effectively fight toxicity, oxidative stress, DNA damage and aging, significantly lower levels of GSH have been associated with:

  • Autism Spectrum Disorders
  • HIV/AIDs
  • Cancer
  • Inflammatory Conditions like Arthritis
  • Atherosclerosis (Heart Disease)
  • Asthma and Allergies
  • Autoimmune Diseases
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s

Low levels of GSH have been associated with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and some have hypothesized that low levels of GSH combined with toxic environmental exposures combined with genetic predisposition will trigger a regression into autism. This theory would explain why some kids become autistic while others do not while receiving the same vaccinations. Another potent depletor of GSH is Acetaminophen, best-known brand Tylenol, which is often doctor-recommended for our infants and children. Our kids are fighting an uphill battle from the beginning. When you combine toxins from Mommy’s body (found and proven in umbilical cord blood studies, read our past articles) + toxins from the environment (air pollution, water, baby formula, etc – read past articles) + antibiotics in the first couple years of life for an ear infection (destroy the gut flora) + children’s Tylenol for teething (depleting GSH) + THEN a child goes in for a standard round of vaccinations with known toxins like Aluminum and Formaldehyde into a child’s bloodstream and crosses their not-yet-formed Blood-Brain-Barrier – THAT SCARES ME! And we wonder why the numbers have gone from 1 in 1500 children to 1 in 88 to now 1 in 45 children on the Autism Spectrum? 2,3

Wait! Don’t rush out and buy glutathione tonight! Glutathione is naturally produced by your body and is poorly absorbed when taken in a supplement form. For this reason, it’s more important to give your body the right building blocks to manufacture its own GSH and help your body fight disease. Several supplements may help boost GSH – including turmeric, vitamin D, alpha-lipoic acid, glutamine, and N-Acetyl Cysteine. 4,5 There are definitely times when supplementing to build your GSH stores could be necessary! We recommend a product called GCEL by Systemic Formulas which provides all the necessary specific GSH building blocks in a proprietary blend along with many other vitamins, minerals, and herbs which are all designed to aid your body’s ability to boost glutathione and detoxification capacity.

The first step is always to start with your food. Your body knows what to do when it’s given the right building blocks and power supply. A balanced diet rich in real, whole foods will provide your body with the right building blocks for glutathione while also keeping out the sugars, trans fats, chemicals, additives, and toxins that will deplete your body’s GSH stores. The foods that provide the most GSH-boosting benefits are:

  • Sulfur-containing foods: cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, kale), raw garlic, onions, leeks, shallots
  • Pastured/Grass-Fed Red Meats and Organ Meats contain Alpha Lipoic Acid which may help boost GSH – especially liver meat!
  • Pastured Free-Range Eggs (raw is best)
  • Pastured/Grass-Fed Raw Milk Products – GSH occurs in the highest concentrations in fresh, uncooked meats and raw milk and cheese and is almost non-existent in pasteurized products!
  • Grass-Fed Whey Protein – The best way to boost GSH! Quality (cold-pressed, non-denatured, grass-fed organic source) whey protein provides all the key amino acids and is the most bioactive source of protein available. Whey has also been shown to stimulate metabolism and weight-loss among other benefits. It truly can be a super-food! 6

Your body will create enough glutathione to keep you healthy as long as you don’t deplete it too rapidly. Avoid toxins in your food supply, personal care products, minimize stress (physical, chemical, mental), exercise regularly, get adjusted and look for the cause of any health issue rather than the symptom – and your glutathione will be good to go

  1. Glutathione metabolism and its implications for health.J Nutr. 2004 Mar;134(3):489-92. Wu G1, Fang YZ, Yang S, Lupton JR, Turner ND.

2. Glutathione-related factors and oxidative stress in autism, a review. Curr Med Chem. 2012;19(23):4000-5.

Ghanizadeh A1, Akhondzadeh S, Hormozi M, Makarem A, Abotorabi-Zarchi M, Firoozabadi A.

3. The Impact of Neuroimmune Alterations in Autism Spectrum Disorder.Front Psychiatry. 2015 Sep 9;6:121. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2015.00121. eCollection 2015. Gottfried C1, Bambini-Junior V2, Francis F3, Riesgo R4, Savino W5.

4. Deficient synthesis of glutathione underlies oxidative stress in aging and can be corrected by dietary cysteine and glycine supplementation.Am J Clin Nutr. 2011 Sep;94(3):847-53. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.110.003483. Epub 2011 Jul 27 Sekhar RV1, Patel SG, Guthikonda AP, Reid M, Balasubramanyam A, Taffet GE, Jahoor F.

5. Effect of increasing glutathione with cysteine and glycine supplementation on mitochondrial fuel oxidation, insulin sensitivity, and body composition in older HIV-infected patients.J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2014 Jan;99(1):169-77. doi: 10.1210/jc.2013-2376. Epub 2013 Dec 20. Nguyen D1, Hsu JW, Jahoor F, Sekhar RV.


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Episode 31: 7 Food Additives Causing Leaky Gut and Autoimmune Disease

The research is clear linking the Standard American Diet to most prevalent diseases of today through many different mechanisms. Today I want to talk about one of those mechanisms – food additives. A recent article from June 2015 in the journal Autoimmunity Reviews looked at how food additives lead to intestinal permeability (or leaky gut) and this leads to Autoimmune Diseases.

Autoimmune diseases are among the fastest growing diseases in our country and others. They have shown a steady rate of increase over the past 3 decades, especially in Western cultures, and it’s now estimated that 25-50 million Americans suffer, making it more prevalent than cancer or heart disease. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimates annual direct healthcare costs for Autoimmune Diseases to be in the range of $100 billion. In comparison, cancer costs are $57 billion and heart and stroke costs are $200 billion. Multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes, inflammatory bowel diseases (mainly Crohn’s disease), systemic lupus erythematosus, primary biliary cirrhosis, autoimmune thyroiditis, hepatitis and rheumatic diseases (rheumatoid arthritis), and celiac disease are several examples. Over 100 different diagnoses have been considered autoimmune in their mechanism.1

Autoimmunity occurs when the body’s own defense system – the Immune System – has trouble differentiating good things from bad things, or telling “self” from “non-self”. The immune system is designed to attack invaders, which are “non-self” (bacteria, viruses, toxins). It shouldn’t attack your body’s own tissues. When the immune response is altered or abnormal, it will begin to attack “self” tissues. For example, if the immune system mounts an attack against thyroid tissue, this is called autoimmune thyroiditis, often diagnosed as Hashimoto’s Disease.

Your body’s first line of defense against invaders (before the immune system mounts an attack) is keeping those bad things out of your body, such as chemicals, toxins, additives – what are called xenobiotics – or foreign substances. There are four main ways xenobiotics can enter the body – injecting them directly into the bloodstream (vaccines), breathing them in through the lungs (air pollution), absorbing them through the skin (personal care products), or probably the most destructive – entering through the digestive tract. The reason this can be the most destructive method of toxification is because most of us eat every day, we have to eat to survive, and if you are eating any version of an American (Western) Diet you are constantly exposing yourself to a plethora of inflammatory proteins, chemicals, and toxins that are continually making your body sicker and sicker.

Leaky Gut

Your digestive tract (or gut) consists of not just your stomach or intestines, but the whole food pathway from the mouth to the anus. Each section of the “gut” has a different specific function (the mouth for initial food breakdown via saliva, the stomach for enzyme degradation, small intestine for nutrient absorption, large intestine for water and B12 absorption, etc).

The job of the gut is to let the good stuff in (vitamins, nutrients) and keep the bad stuff out (xenobiotics and waste).

Your gut is lined by a single layer of cells called the gut epithelium. It’s this thin layer of cells that lets the good stuff pass through and keeps the bad stuff out! When this layer becomes damaged, bad stuff gets into the bloodstream and the immune system will then recognize this and mount an immune attack. I always use the analogy of a screened-in porch. The job of a screen is to let the good stuff in (fresh air and cool breeze) while keeping the bad stuff out (mosquitos, bugs). A screen is a very simple yet very effective single layer of protection against these things, just like your gut lining. But what happens if somebody is poking holes in your screen? The good stuff still gets in, but so does the bad stuff. This is what is called a Leaky Gut, and it’s at the root of many disease processes today, including autoimmune diseases. Many factors influence the integrity of your screen, or gut lining (diet, stress, alcohol, antibiotic use, oral contraceptives, etc) but I want to share with you specifically these 7 food additives that this particular study proved cause leaky gut and will absolutely contribute to autoimmune disease.

  1. Sugar. I always put sugar as number one on my lists of foods to avoid, and it’s no coincidence that this study did the same. Sugar fuels inflammation, it feeds cancer, it feeds candida and bad bacteria in the gut, and according to this study, it pokes holes in your gut lining.
  2. Salt*. “Cereals and baked goods are the single largest contributor to sodium intake in the US and UK…The salt content in processed foods can be 100x higher than homemade meals.” Added salt not only increases intestinal permeability, but increases inflammation often associated with autoimmune diseases. *This is ADDED salt into PROCESSED foods, it’s not the same as dietary sea salt at home!
  3. Emulsifiers and Surfactants. “….widely used in the bakery, confectionary, dairy, fat and oil, sauces, butter and margarine, ice cream, cream liqueurs, meat, coffee, gum, beverages, chocolate and convenient food industries…numerous synthetic surfactant food additives have been shown to increase the intestinal permeability through paracellular and/or transcellular mechanisms.” These are seen on the label as things like lecithins (soy lecithin is in everything) or polysorbates (polysorbate-80 is also an ingredient in several vaccines).
  4. Organic Solvents. “The organic solvent chemicals are genuinely dangerous. Most of them have warning information on the labels as poisons. Examples of organic solvents used in industry are: benzene, xylene, toluene, turpentine, acetone, methyl/ethyl acetates, hexane, ethanol and several detergents…..Some nutrients like glutamine and polyphenols protect TJ barrier integrity (gut lining), in contrast, several organic solvents used in the food and beverage industries, like alcohol and its metabolites impair the TJ barriers.” Alcohol is one of the biggest culprits for poking holes in a leaky gut, not just alcohol that you choose to consume, but added alcohols and other solvents! I have personally tested high for xylene exposure in the past, this is one of the sources.
  5. Gluten. Gluten has a lot of research showing what it does to the gut lining and its implications in Celiac disease. Gluten’s main antigen called Gliadin has been shown to inhibit cell growth, cause cytotoxicity (cell toxicity), alter cellular metabolism, and destroy the gut lining.
  6. Microbial transglutaminase (mTG). “Multiple applications of mTG in the food industry exist: improvement of meat texture, appearance, hardness and preservability, increased fish product hardness, improved quality and texture of milk and dairy products, decreased calories, improved texture and elasticity of sweet foods, protein film stability and appearance and improve texture and volume in the bakery industry.” These are fake meat glues and texturizers that make food look, feel, and taste a different way. Gross!!
  7. Nanoparticles. This is the newest and fastest-growing technology in food additives, and we still don’t know a lot about future health implications, but we do know that it causes intestinal permeability. But that never stopped us before!

Some of these additives we may be more familiar with (sugar, salt, gluten) while others we may have never heard of. This is just one paper also, this isn’t an all-inclusive list. (*Another major player in poking holes in the gut lining is Glyphosate, or Roundup. Glyphosate has been shown to not only poke holes in the gut leading to leaky gut, Celiac disease, and autoimmunity but also decrease your body’s own detoxification methods, leading to increased toxic burden.)3

The point that I hope you take-away from this article isn’t to go looking on your food labels for “Sugar-Free” or “Gluten-Free” or to check your ingredients list for soy lecithin (it’s in there!) or nanoparticles. The point is TO EAT REAL FOOD. The food additive business is a multi-billion dollar industry, it’s not planning on slowing down anytime soon. You can choose not to buy processed foods! You are responsible for your health. You decide what you put in your mouth and your children’s mouths and bodies! When you eat real food you can avoid and eliminate these and many many other chemicals, toxins, additives, dyes, preservatives, sweeteners, texturizers, etc and stop causing sickness and disease to be treated with more medicine. Don’t eat food that looks like real food. Like Sean Croxton of Underground Wellness always says:


  1. http://www.aarda.org/autoimmune-information/autoimmune-statistics/
  2. Lerner, A. Matthias, T. Changes in intestinal tight junction permeability associated with industrial food additives explain the rising incidence of autoimmune disease. Autoimmunity Reviews Vol 14, Iss 6. June 2015. Pages 479-489
  3. Samsel, A. Seneff, S. Glyphosate, pathways to modern diseases II: Celiac sprue and gluten intolerance. Interdisciplinary Toxicology. 2013 Dec; 6(4); 159-184



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