A teenage girl suffering from multiple seizures a day spends two weeks in one of the top clinics in the world. There she undergoes about $100,000 worth of testing and is seen by multiple specialists, many of whom witness her having the seizures. However, brain scans and EEG testing show no evidence of a seizure disorder and she is sent home with an anxiety diagnosis.
After a functional medicine neurology visit and three weeks on a gluten-free anti-inflammatory diet, plus some supplements to tame inflammation and support brain health, the seizures stop completely. They return only briefly when she goes off her diet during a holiday and eats foods that trigger inflammation in her brain causing it to seize again.
Why would a conventional medicine approach involving tens of thousands of dollars and multiple specialists turn up empty while functional neurology produced a simple solution?
The answer lies within how conventional medical doctors are required to give a diagnosis that conforms to ICD-10 codes. ICD-10 stands for the International Classification of Diseases.
The ICD-10 is a system all medical doctors in the United States are required to use to classify and code diagnoses, symptoms, and medical procedures. It is copyrighted from the World Health Organization and contains about 70,000 different codes doctorsmust choose from (compared to about 14,000 with the previous ICD-9 version).
And yet with so many disorders to choose from for a diagnosis, physicians were unable to find a proper one for a girl having multiple seizures a day.
Functional neurology fills a large void in medicine.
Functional neurology and functional medicine fill a large and ever growing void in the world of conventional medicine - disorders of inflammation. Depending on whether or how health insurance is used, functional neurology in practice is not always required to conform to ICD-10 codes.
In the case of the girl having seizures, it turns out gluten was the primary trigger of her seizures. There is no ICD-10 code for this when test results are negative as hers were, yet people can have extreme neurological reactions to gluten due to a gluten sensitivity or celiac disease.
In fact, research shows the tissue in the body most damaged by an immune reaction to gluten is neurological tissue. Dairy is another common and potent trigger. Gluten and dairy trigger a wide range of neurological disorders, including tics, obsessive compulsive behavior, movement disorders, memory loss, migraines, seizures, depression, anxiety, fatigue, and even schizophrenia.
However, if neurological damage does not show up on approved testing, doctors cannot make a diagnosis. This proves extremely unfortunate for many patients. For instance, about 90 percent of nerve sheaths have to be damaged before the autoimmune disease multiple sclerosis shows up on a brain scan.
In functional neurology we catch the people who fall through these cracks. We are seeing an explosion in disorders related to inflammation and autoimmunity thanks to the many environmental and dietary triggers so common today. Autoimmunity happens when an imbalanced immune system goes haywire and attacks and destroys tissue in the body.
Patients struggling to recover from brain injuries are told nothing can be done when, in fact, research shows nutritional therapy and brain rehabilitation strategies can help them recover their brain health.
People alarmed at perpetual brain fog, memory loss, and confusion are not too far gone to warrant intervention for advanced brain degeneration.
Patients often have a strong intuitive knowing when something isn't right with their brain health, and there is often something that can be done to improve it, even if that something does not have an ICD-10 code. Although we depend on conventional medicine for the excellent care they provide in acute situations, you do not need to suffer through years of misery and ever declining performance until you become an acute case too.
Ask my office how functional neurology and functional medicine can help you regain back your health and your brain function. You can contact Dr. Ralston directly at email@example.com call our office at 317-848-6000 to schedule an appointment.
Does your child have ADHD, autism, Tourette's, OCD, dyslexia, learning disabilities, or another brain-based disorder? Or are you having second thoughts about conceiving because the risks of giving birth to a child who develops autism, ADHD, or other brain development disorders is so much higher today?
Some couples today are choosing not to have children because the risk of autism, ADHD and other disorders is so much higher today. Autism and ADHD rates continue to rise and ADHD now affects 11 percent of children. Research shows environmental and lifestyle factors influence childhood brain development and many cases can be prevented prior to conception if parents tend to their immune health..
Environmental and lifestyle influences on genes
A parent's diet, physical activity, stress hormone levels, immune health, and exposure to environmental chemicals can affect a child's brain development beginning in utero. This is called epigenetics - when environmental factors influence gene expression. It doesn't mean genes are mutated, but instead diet and lifestyle determine whether genes turn on or off. If we turn off the genes for healthy brain development in the mother or the father before conception, those genes can pass on to the children in the turned-off position. Researchers have been able to trace this in up to 11 generations.
Simply improving the maternal diet before pregnancy can alter gene expression in the offspring and their susceptibility to certain diseases for up to four or five generations. Epigenetics means couples can reduce the risk of giving birth to a child who will develop a disorder by choosing dietary and lifestyle factors that favor healthy brain development.
Using functional neurology to help children's brains We can also positively influence genes after the child is born by removing inflammatory foods, supporting good nutrition and brain health, and activating specific areas of the brain to recover missed stages of development (such as learning to crawl) in functional neurology.
Early childhood milestones are vital to proper brain development and meeting them too late, too soon, or not at all is typical for many children with autism, ADHD, and other brain development disorders. Functional neurology is yielding unprecedented results in these arenas.
Dropped connections in the brain
The human brain is divided into two hemispheres that work together. It is the ability of the human brain to fire in both hemispheres simultaneously that distinguishes us from other species. The slightest disruption in the timing of this firing can have devastating affects on brain function. In autism, ADHD, Tourette's, OCD, and other brain development disorders the brain is extremely good at firing short-range connections within one hemisphere of the brain, which may make a child gifted in particular areas, such as math.
However, we see poor simultaneous firing of long-range connections between the left and right hemispheres. This poor long-range firing is also evidenced by a smaller than normal corpus callosum in children with autism, the bridge between the left and right hemispheres across which communication travels. This poor long-range firing can begin in utero or during the first few years of life due to epigenetic influences.
The left brain is responsible for math, sciences, and language, whereas the right brain is responsible for art, creativity, and social skills. Brain disorders such as autism and ADHD are left brain dominant issues, which explains why a student might do well in school but have no social or relationship skills.
As a result of this lopsided stimulation, one side of the brain may become over developed while the other side never catches up to normal, which makes communication between the two sides difficult. It's like a brand new computer trying to communicate with an old, outdated computer.
Imbalanced development of the autonomic nervous system, which governs our "fight or flight," "rest and digest," or "freeze" mechanisms is another factor that affects the development of the brain. These imbalances can be seen as early as in newborns by a practitioner who understands early brain development.
In autism, ADHD, Tourette's, and OCD, we see a left brain that is overdeveloped compared to a weaker right brain. This explains why these children have unusually strong skills in some areas and unusually weak skills in others. Dyslexia or learning and processing disorders are examples of right brain over development. Researchers have been able to identify these imbalances by looking at how different areas of the brain vary in size, electrical imbalances, and concentrations of blood flow.
Although this is an overly simplified explanation, it introduces you the concepts of how subtle imbalances early in life can lead to significant brain disorders as the child matures.
Ask my office for advice on how functional neurology can help you improve your child's brain before you even conceive, or help rehabilitate your child's brain if you suspect a brain development disorder. You can contact Dr. Ralston directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When something stressful happens, our body goes into "fight or flight" mode, pumping out stress hormones, raising blood pressure and pulse, and shunting blood away from the organs and towards the limbs. When the stress is over, a healthy body bounces back and returns to normal.
Unfortunately, many people are stuck in fight-or-flight mode. This is especially true in people dealing with a chronic health or brain disorder, as their health itself is a chronic stressor in a self-perpetuating vicious cycle.
The autonomic nervous system, which runs such bodily functions as digestion, heart beat, breathing, etc., consists of two arms:
- The sympathetic system, also known as the fight-or-flight system.
- The parasympathetic system, also known as rest-and-digest system.
When you're in a life-or-death situation, you don't need to digest, detoxify, or regenerate cells - duties for the parasympathetic rest-and-digest system. The priority is simply to keep you alive. Once you're safe, the parasympathetic system kicks back in.
The problem is modern life has many of us on hyper drive, in what feels like an ongoing attack. This keeps us in sympathetic mode longer than we should be.
Causes of chronic fight-or-flight mode
It's not just daily stress that can keep a person stuck in sympathetic mode. It could be stress from the past that has been hardwired into your brain, a concept referred to as negative plasticity. The neuron pathways in your brain have become highly efficient at stress so it takes less and less to trigger a stress response.
The most common example of this is post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. It can also come from long periods of overwork and sleep deprivation that have essentially trained your brain to be agitated all the time, even though your health is being sacrificed.
Signs of chronic sympathetic stress
Signs you are stuck in sympathetic mode include problems with sleep, anxiety, blood sugar issues (even with a blood-sugar-balancing diet), sexual dysfunction, brain fog, memory issues, fatigue, difficulty recovering from exercise or stressful events, getting sick easily, and chronic pain.
Chronic sympathetic stress not only creates negative plasticity, it also damages the gut lining, leading to intestinal permeability, or leaky gut. This allows undigested foods, bacteria, yeast, and other pathogens into the bloodstream, where they trigger inflammation. This chronic inflammation is the foundation to many health maladies.
Getting out of chronic sympathetic stress mode
The most obvious first step to managing sympathetic stress is to address the cause of stress. The cause can be metabolic,
such as chronic infection, blood sugar issues, hormone deficiencies, inflammation, or undiagnosed autoimmunity. Or it can be lifestyle, such as a toxic job or relationship, not sleeping enough, or taking on too much to do and never taking time off. Another commonly overlooked cause is a brain-based disorder. The less healthy or more degenerated the brain is, the less able it is to dampen sympathetic stress.
If you suffer from brain fog, memory loss, poor cognitive skills, and lack of brain endurance, you may also find you're often in fight-or-flight mode. Problems with your vestibular (inner ear) system or cerebellum, both of which play a role in balance, can cause chronic sympathetic stress because the brain is constantly feeling unbalanced. People may also have issues with the basal ganglia - which acts as the gas and brake pedal of the brain - that keeps them chronically stressed out. These are just a few ways in which a brain-based disorder can contribute to sympathetic stress.
In functional neurology we look at all facets of health to help you unwind sympathetic stress. Sometimes the issue can be as simple as removing certain foods from your diet that are inflaming your body and brain, gluten being the most common.
Other times it takes a neurological exam and some sleuthing to determine whether the issue is brain-based. Often it is a combination of metabolic and brain-based causes.
Ask my office how we can help get you out of chronic sympathetic stress and into a more balanced neurological state that includes plenty of restful and restorative parasympathetic activation.You can contact Dr. Ralston directly at email@example.com.