Archive for December, 2012

Oral Hygiene, Inflammation and CRP tests

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I have read many medical articles, including clinical studies, that show correlations between the mouth and body – poor oral hygiene can lead to numerous health issues within your body.  For example:

Poor oral hygiene = overgrowth of bad bacteria = gum disease = inflammation = heart disease.

Granted, if you have poor oral hygiene you won’t necessary have heart disease, but a healthy mouth can decrease the odds of getting other factors that lead to heart disease.

healthy mouth healthy body

Dentists are increasingly treating the onset of gum disease.  In fact, gum disease affects up to 75 percent of all adults and is primarily caused by the build up of bacteria in the mouth, especially the gums.  When the bacteria are significant, the gums react and will become red, swell and bleed.  Gum disease is known as gingivitis and if left untreated can provide serious tissue and/or bone damage.

The relationship between gum disease and heart disease has been studied by the American Heart Association as a direct causal relationship with a strong association:  there’s an increased risk of heart attack.

More research is being conducted, but the biggest factor appears to be inflammation because this is the way bacteria can enter the blood stream.  Many people test their blood for inflammation :

The Cardiac C-Reactive Protein Test (hs) is a tool for assessing risk of cardio vascular disease.

CRP is a protein present in the blood when certain inflammatory processes are occurring. It is now known that arteriosclerotic plaques in the coronary arteries are an inflammatory process that correlates with C-reactive protein, and it is believed to be a good prognosticator of heart disease. The test can help estimate your chance of developing cardiovascular disease, and your risk of having a sudden heart attack. This blood test was redesigned from the traditional C-Reactive Protein test to be sensitive enough to detect chronic low-level inflammation. Test results are independent of cholesterol, family history, and other traditional risk factors for cardiovascular disease. The test can be used in conjunction with traditional tests, such as cholesterol, to determine your risk. Recent illness or tissue injury, and chronic inflammation from arthritis can increase C-RP levels and falsely influence the risk rating for heart disease from this test.

With so many adults having increasing incidences of gum disease, it is important to monitor inflammation to identify potential risks.

Research has also shown that significant numbers of premature and low-weight births are accompanied by unhealthy gums.   Hormonal changes during pregnancy can exacerbate sensitive gums and can aggravate symptoms.  Again, studies have shown that inflammation provoked by bacteria is one of the possible factors affecting the premature and low-weight birth data.

There is a stronger connection with diabetes and gum disease: poorly managed diabetes compromises the immune system and the body must fight harder to fight any infections.  Inflammation can become heightened thereby creating an environment to developing gum disease.  Increased levels of inflammation are associated with a decrease in insulin sensitivity and higher blood sugar.

Stress is also known to compromise the immune system and increases the risk of developing infection.  It appears that cortisol, which is released when stressed, weakens the immune system and leaves strained bodies more prone to infection.  Additionally, when you are stressed out, you are less likely to take care of yourself, including getting adequate sleep.

Take Control of Your Health

Medical Disclaimer: The information included on this site is for informational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The reader should always consult his or her health care provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan. The writer is not a physician or other health provider.


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Gluten Sensitivity vs. Celiac

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There’s a lot of media attention regarding gluten free diets.  There has been an increase in the interest in gluten free diets:  new books, new foods, new celebrity promotions.  Is going gluten-free the wave of the future or just a fad?  Is it medically necessary to get better health?

Gluten Intolerant image resized 600

If an individual has gluten-sensitive enteropathy and sprue, they have celiac disease. Celiac is a chronic disease of the digestive tract that interferes with the digestion and absorption of nutrients from food.  Individuals that have celiac disease cannot tolerate any gluten, the protein commonly found in wheat, rye, barley and oats.  Celiac disease has been diagnosed more frequently, therefore it has gained some recognition in the media.  At the same time, it has been found that some patients that have intestinal symptoms such as diarrhea, weight loss and malnutrition, may find improvement from discontinuing gluten from their diet.  Technically, they are diagnosed as having non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

So, what is the difference and how is it diagnosed?

When people with celiac disease eat foods or use products containing gluten, their immune system responds by damaging or destroying villi—the tiny, fingerlike protrusions lining the small intestine. Villi normally allow nutrients from food to be absorbed through the walls of the small intestine into the bloodstream. Without healthy villi, a person becomes malnourished, no matter how much food one eats.  It’s an immune disorder triggered by gluten in genetically predisposed group of individuals, estimated as many as 1 in 250 Americans have this disease.  It is more common in people of northern European descent.  Females are more prone to celiac than males.

Gluten intolerance is not an immune disorder, but rather the individual has symptoms similar to celiac that benefit from a gluten-free diet.

There is no single test to definitively diagnose or exclude celiac disease in every person, but it is imperative that diagnostic tests for celiac disease be performed while the patient is on a gluten-containing diet. A specific and sensitive blood test helps screen suspected patients for celiac disease. Patients with a positive test, or a negative test but a high clinical suspicion, should have a small bowel biopsy.  A physician friend believes the stool test is the gold standard to help with diagnosis, although many physicians will use blood serum tests to assist with diagnosis.

Treatment is simple for non-celiac gluten sensitivty and celiac:  a lifelong gluten-free diet.  If you are not gluten sensitive or do not have celiac, having a gluten-free diet does not provide a health benefit.

 


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Thyroid Testing – Thyroid Antibodies Test

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Why Do I Need a Thyroid Antibody Test?

Over 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease.  The thyroid gland can produce too much hormone, hyperthyroidism, or too little hormone, hypothyroidism.  To help diagnose an autoimmune thyroid disease, a thyroid antibody test is ordered.  This tests helps diagnose thyroid dysfunction and determine causes of goiter or other reasons for low or high thyroid hormone levels.  The thyroid antibody test is usually ordered along with the thyroid panel.

Typically, when the test results indicate the presence of thyroid antibodies there is an autoimmune thyroid issue.  Furthermore, the higher the level, the more likely that there is an autoimmune thyroid issue.  Testing over time helps establish a baseline since increasing levels autoimmune activity is more significant than stable levels.  Lastly, if antibodies are present in a pregnant woman there is an increase risk to the fetus and newborn to develop hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism.  The Thyroid antibody test is a simple and inexpensive blood test.

thyroid blood test

What are the Diseases Typically Associated with Thyroid Antibodies?

Thyroid and autoimmune disorders, such as thyroid cancer, Type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, pernicious anemia, etc., are likely to have mild to moderately elevated thyroid antibodies.  High concentrations of thyroid antibodies are frequently indicated in thyroid autoimmune diseases such as as Hashimoto and Graves diseases.

Negative test results means that the autoantibodies are not present in the blood at the time of testing.  This does not indicate that you do not have an autoimmune disease, so repeat testing may be done at a later date to see if antibodies develop.  There’s a small percentage of people who have autoimmune thyroid disease but do not have autoantibodies.
Conversely, a certain percentage of people who are healthy may be positive for one or more thyroid antibodies.  The risk of developing thyroid disease may increase with time so a doctor may track and test to ensure thyroid disease can be diagnosed and treated early.


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