What could make a happy-go-lucky child develop symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) seemingly overnight or start throwing temper tantrums and banging his head when he gets frustrated? What could make another child instantly develop an aversion to food so strong she vomits at the sight of it? What would explain a straight-A student suddenly developing a learning disability or difficulty with their handwriting?
Tragically, more and more parents are asking these questions as their children, teens, and even some young adults suddenly develop neuropsychiatric illnesses that have no clear connection to a cause. And these parents are rarely getting any clear answers or effective treatment options from their primary care physicians. Frequently, parents are advised to seek psychiatric care for their children, which often leads to medication that fails to treat the underlying medical issues and causes other health issues.
Fortunately for these children and their parents, there is a possible explanation and treatment options that target the root cause of these mysterious illnesses. These children may be suffering from a condition referred to as Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder Associated with Streptococcal Infections (PANDAS) or, more generally, Pediatric Acute-onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome (PANS).
PANS and PANDAS are autoimmune conditions that disrupt neurological function. With any autoimmunecondition, the immune system attacks healthy cells of the body when it should be attacking only pathogens, such as harmful bacteria and viruses. In the case of Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder Associated with Streptococcal Infections (PANDAS) or Pediatric Acute-onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome (PANS), the immune system attacks certain cells in the nervous system, including cells of the brain and spine.
Why would the immune system attack the body it is supposed to protect? Usually because the pathogen it is trying to eliminate from the body has taken on the appearance of healthy human cells to hide from the immune system — a self-defense technique called molecular mimicry. Unfortunately, these harmful microbes are so good at mimicking healthy cells that the immune system ends up attacking both the harmful microbes and the body’s own cells, causing inflammation and dysfunction.
PANS is a broad classification of autoimmune conditions that affect brain and nerve cells and is caused by nearly any infection that triggers an immune response. Currently, the following infections are thought to be primarily responsible for triggering PANS: continue reading
There ought to be a Liver Appreciation Day. The liver is not only the largest solid organ in the body, but it is the only organ that can regenerate. And it performs more than 500 functions in the body, including filtering and eliminating toxins from the blood, producing bile (to break down fats), making proteins and blood plasma, turning excess glucose into glycogen for storage, and facilitating the clotting of blood.
Unfortunately, the liver is susceptible to a wide range of factors that can negatively impact its health and function — factors that cause different types of liver disease, which can be grouped by cause:
Liver diseases caused by viruses, such as hepatitis
Liver diseases, including cirrhosis (scarring of the liver), caused by alcohol, drugs, or other toxins
Inherited liver diseases, such as hemochromatosis and Wilson disease
Fatty liver disease (an accumulation of excess fat in the liver), which may or may not be related to heavy consumption of alcohol
Fatty liver disease not caused by excessive alcohol consumption is referred to as nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), which is becoming more and more prevalent around the world, affecting on average about 25 percent of the population. NAFLD is especially common in advanced Western nations. In fact, here in the United States, NAFLD is, by far, the most common form of chronic liver disease, affecting up to an estimated 30 percent of the population. NAFLD also accounts for more than 50 percent of all cases of chronic liver disease (followed by alcoholic liver disease, which accounts for slightly more than 20 percent).
According to Zion Market Research, the global anxiety disorder market is expected to surge at a steady rate in the coming years, due, at least in part, to the COVID-19 pandemic. This forecast is no surprise, and it’s due to more than the pandemic. Social unrest, which is both a symptom and a cause of anxiety, is also a big driver, as are the 24/7 cycle of bad news and negativity and the constant stimulation delivered by electronic devices and social media.
In this world of increased connectivity, we here at BioDesign Wellness Center see people struggling more and more with isolation, relationship and family conflict, financial strain, and uncertainty. Others we see are suffering from generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) — ongoing anxiety about a variety of issues — which may have started with an early childhood trauma. And marriage, raising children, and dealing with uncomfortable situations at work haven’t become any less stressful over the years.
Conventional treatment for anxiety typically involves psychotherapy and anti-anxiety medications. Psychotherapy can do wonders. Addressing stressful relationships and situations, training the brain to follow healthier thought patterns, and developing more effective communication and problem-solving skills can all help to reduce stress and anxiety naturally. Medication can be helpful as a temporary solution or to provide quick symptomatic relief when the anxiety is intense or overwhelming, but medication alone is generally thought to be only a partial solution and is potentially dangerous.
Identifying and Treating Root Causes
Here at BioDesign Wellness Center, a Tampa functional medicine practice, we work closely with patients who struggle with chronic illness — including anxiety — to identify and address all possible root causes, including stressful relationships and situations but also diet, lifestyle, and environmental factors that may be outside any individual’s control. Here are some of our areas of focus that may be overlooked by conventional medical and/or mental health practices: continue reading
Do you feel bloated? Abdominal bloating refers to the sensation of abdominal inflation or swelling that may or may not be accompanied by measurable distension of the belly. According to an article by Dr. Brian E. Lacy, Dr. Scott L. Gabbard, and Michael D. Crowell, PhD, titled “Pathophysiology, Evaluation, and Treatment of Bloating,” studies have shown that 15–30 percent of the U.S. population experience bloating symptoms. Obviously, that statistic doesn’t represent occasional bloating such as a full belly after Thanksgiving dinner. Instead, the stat refers to people who suffer from chronic or recurring bloating that cannot easily be traced to a specific cause.
If you’ve experienced such bloating, you know all too well that it can be uncomfortable, annoying, painful, and embarrassing. At BioDesign Wellness Center, a Tampa Functional Medicine practice, we often hear complaints from patients that their clothes no longer fit or that they look pregnant! Bloating can be a real setback to a person’s self-esteem, and it can be a frustrating problem. That’s because regardless of how diligent someone may be in following a strict diet and exercise regime, many patients continue to feel bloated.
Worse yet, modern medicine has no single solution. We have pills for indigestion and gas, but no pharmaceutical equivalent for bloating. (Granted, you can find numerous de-bloat supplements on the market, but in medical experience, they’re mostly ineffective or provide only temporary relief.) Given how common bloating is, the absence of a medication for bloating may seem surprising, but bloating is usually just a symptom of an underlying condition, such as a food sensitivity or yeast or bacterial overgrowth in the gut.