Probiotics for a Healthy Intestinal Tract… and More? Learn the popular science being unearthed by researchers about the gut microbiome, and how to nurture it to prevent dysbiosis and disease.

Probiotics first rose to popularity in the 1990s, and have been recommended for good health as fermented foods since ancient times. And while research into the modern concept of improving gut health with certain bacteria only began in 1907, it has led to the knowledge we currently have about probiotics and their impact on the gut microbiome. For researchers today, identifying every species in the microbiome is the current equivalent of mapping the human genome: an unexplored frontier.

We hear a lot about the importance of probiotics, but how much is really known about which strains and how much? Like many other health-related topics, it’s not a one-size-fits-all answer. The health and balance of our intestinal microbiomes depend on diet, environmental toxin exposure, and other factors that we’ll get into shortly. Since there are so many personal variables that range all the way back to infancy, the road to a healthy gut is different and ever-changing for everyone.

But I Eat Yogurt Every Day…

While many people think that eating yogurt is enough to give them all the probiotic support they need, even a high-quality organic plain yogurt with no added sugars or flavors is only a drop in the bucket of what’s needed to balance the gut ecosystem, which is comprised of trillions of species of good and bad bacteria. Acidophilus is typically the strain found in most yogurts, and while it’s an important one, a balanced microbiome is more about the collective whole than any one particular strain.

When it comes to probiotics and microbial health, the more diverse the microbiota, the better. This is why diet is so important—the more diversification in the vegetables and fruits being eaten, the more diverse the microbiome will be. These plants feed the healthy gut bacteria, providing them the fuel source they need to transform whole food into useful nutrients. And although there are an increasing array of probiotics that can be taken orally, they should be used in addition to eating a diversified selection of veggies and fruits, rather than replace them.

The 3 Categories of Probiotics

The beneficial bacteria in probiotics can help to correct many imbalances and aid in digestion by helping to maintain a proper balance of good and bad bacteria in your gut. There are three broad categories of probiotics:

  • Lactic acid species – these are mostly transient, and have been shown to boost the immune system, help to prevent infection and improve mood. They need to be continually replenished and are the simplest to attain. Popular strains include Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium
  • Soil-based or spore forming species – these are harvested from soils or grown in a culture medium. In spore form (not having reached the bacteria stage yet), these can get past stomach acids and enzymes that make up the gut’s hostile environment. Popular strains include Bacillus species.
  • Beneficial yeast species – these actually help to prevent yeast overgrowth that can cause yeast infections. One example, S. BoulardiI protects the intestinal lining and can often survive antibiotic use.

The balance of our intestinal microbiome can shift and change relatively regularly, which is why a switch to healthy eating and lifestyle habits, along with supplemental probiotics are a front-line strategy for many patients. There are no lab tests yet that can determine which type of probiotic a person needs; however, there are specific urine and stool tests that can indicate inflammatory conditions and imbalances. Symptoms that are indicative of a problem include experiencing frequent or continual upset stomach for no apparent reason, diarrhea, constipation, halitosis, bloating, fatigue, depression, weight gain, brain fog, and more.

What Happens When Bad Bacteria Proliferate? Can Bacterial Overgrowth Impact Health?

Imbalances that cause dysbiosis become detrimental when allowed to remain unchecked for long periods of time. For this reason, most people need to take probiotics on an ongoing basis in order to replenish the bacteria that’s needed.

An imbalance of the gut bacteria can occur for a number of reasons including extended use of antibiotics and some other medications, high levels of stress or anxiety, not eating enough different types of vegetables and fruits, having a diet that includes too many processed and fast foods, consumption of too many pesticides on produce, and a change in diet where too many sugars and additives are consumed. The purpose of antibiotics is to destroy bacteria, but they don’t differentiate between good and bad bacteria—they just wipe everything out. This not only leads to an overgrowth of bad bacteria, it also leads in many cases to an overgrowth of yeast, causing yeast infections.

Prolonged dysbiosis in the small intestine can lead to numerous chronic and degenerative diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, celiac disease, diabetes, polycystic ovary syndrome, leaky gut syndrome, colitis and others. Treating dysbiosis is very individualized, especially when treating a condition; so, the best path is to take them in combination and test for areas of insufficiency, malabsorption and inflammation using testing methodologies that are available from functional medicine doctors and independent laboratories across the country.

Dr. Doug Pucci is a functional medicine practitioner who was honored in 2020 to receive both The Best Of 2020 Awards for Functional Medicine in Oradell, NJ, and entry into Trademark Publications’ Who’s Who Directory, Honors Edition, for his pioneering work. He provides comprehensive testing for health biomarkers, advanced discovery into brain/body well-being and personalized nutrition for a diversity of people and symptoms.

For more information, call 201-261-5430 or visit

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Overweight and Annoyed? Could Be Metabolic Syndrome and Heart Disease Elevated blood sugar, insulin resistance, and high blood pressure are often overlooked as nuisance concerns by patients at risk of heart attack, diabetes and stroke.

For many years, institutional medicine didn’t recognize metabolic syndrome as a disease entity, nor discuss how it affected our heart. Thankfully, that’s changed. It is now recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the American Society of Endocrinology as a global epidemic and major health hazard; meaning, we can start receiving funding and research to help reverse the trajectory of this disease.

Metabolic syndrome is defined as a breakdown in metabolism, the process by which our bodies convert food, or fuel, into energy. Marked by insulin resistance, elevated fasting blood sugar, dyslipidemia, hypertension, low LDL (good cholesterol), use of cholesterol medication, and abdominal obesity (belly fat measuring 40 inches or more for men and 35 inches or more for women), the syndrome is a major risk factor for cardiovascular health and heart disease.

So why cardiometabolic syndrome? Because anyone with this combination of metabolic dysfunctions has twice the risk of dying from heart disease, three times the risk of having a heart attack or stroke, and five times the risk of developing diabetes. And it’s not a small number of people who are affected—the American College of Cardiology estimates that approximately 47 million Americans have cardiometabolic disorders, and the problem is growing and extends globally.

Am I At Risk?

There are a number of things that create a higher risk of developing cardiometabolic syndrome, including:

  • elevated triglycerides
  • smoking
  • chronic inflammation
  • low level of physical activity
  • poor dietary choices
  • certain health conditions
  • high blood sugar
  • thyroid problems
  • diabetes

…and more.

There are telltale symptoms of cardiometabolic syndrome like high blood sugar, insulin resistance, and high blood pressure that can be felt when the patient is attuned to the signs, but most often these are overlooked as nuisance concerns. And while a diagnosis of metabolic syndrome is formally made by a doctor who identifies two or more risk factors, most patients resist a change in lifestyle.

It’s no wonder. Although the most common trait in patients at risk is obesity, not all clinically obese people are at risk; alternatively, about 20 percent of people who are not obese do have metabolic syndrome and are at risk for heart disease or stroke. It feels random!

To be sure, there are risks, predispositions and warning signs:

  • chronic stress
  • chronic inflammation
  • schizophrenia when treated with clozapine
  • polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
  • celiac disease (for patients who replace gluten with an increase in dietary sugars, calories and
  • unhealthy fats)
  • gestational diabetes
  • unhealthy gut microbiome

Does gender make a difference?

For both genders, the risk of developing metabolic syndrome increases with age. However, new research published by the National Institutes of Health states that there are differences between the sexes when it comes to metabolic and cardiovascular traits, such as gut microbiota, fat distribution, insulin signaling, and more. The hope is that these differences will lead to new insights.

Researchers are taking a look at how emotions like anger, tension, anxiety, depression, and stress, increase the likelihood of disease. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (JCEM) of 3,003 women in midlife found that physically active study participants had a 26-62 percent lower risk of metabolic syndrome than those who were not physically active.

For men with cardiometabolic syndrome, a study in The Lancet showed that mortality rates were “substantially higher” in those who experienced job stress than in men who did not. This mortality difference was comparable to the risk from smoking and was even greater than the mortality rate due to high blood pressure, high alcohol intake, a sedentary lifestyle, and obesity.

Reversal, Prevention, and Improvement

Positive lifestyle changes help! Small tweaks sustained over a time are shown to prevent, reverse, and improve many risk factors, which in turn lower the risk of developing CMS. Improvements in diet and physical activity—modifiable behaviors like quitting smoking, monitoring sodium, creating mindfulness, implementing relaxation techniques, and so on—were associated with recovery from and a decreased risk of metabolic syndrome.

The path to alleviate risk can be pinpointed by a good functional medicine practitioner who wants to investigate systemic imbalances in the gastrointestinal tract and gut microbiome. To work together and look at sluggish detoxification that contributes to fatty liver, and so on. And who will take a deep-dive into the testing, really get to know important factors about history, family, lifestyle and diet—and create a targeted, individualized approach for patients.

Dr. Doug Pucci is a functional medicine practitioner who was honored in 2020 to receive both The Best Of 2020 Awards for Functional Medicine in Oradell, NJ, and entry into Trademark Publications’ Who’s Who Directory, Honors Edition, for his pioneering work. He provides comprehensive testing for health biomarkers, advanced discovery into brain/body well-being and personalized nutrition for a diversity of people and symptoms.

For more information, call 201-261-5430 or visit

Toxic Stress is Causing Leaky Gut and More In practice, I could have three different people with rheumatoid arthritis.

They all have autoimmunity, i.e. rheumatoid arthritis, and each person’s response is a result of so many factors – genetic issues, lifestyle issues, compliance issues, and so on. There are so many variations and they each can have different responses to treatment. I’m not saying this is easy, so the goal is just to meet people where they’re at, try to focus on the priorities, and see how they respond to certain things and be flexible enough, have enough adaptability to just keep steering the ship a little bit and get them on the right course and give them the tools to work with so that they can control this.

Clinical Pearl: Quieting the Immune System, Not Curing Autoimmunity, Is How to Manage Autoimmune Disease Progression – There’s one thing I need to make clear – if you have been diagnosed with an autoimmune condition, you have to understand that there is no cure for autoimmunity. The real goal is to calm down the immune response, an aggressive immune response. If the immune system is aggressive, there’s going to be a lot of tissue destruction.

I’ll give you a personal example – my mom. My mom some years back – she’s passed away now, but years back – she literally woke up and was in what’s called a thyroid storm, meaning she woke up and her autoimmune thyroid had just turned on aggressively and was destroying her thyroid so quickly that it was dumping a lot of thyroid hormones, T3s, into her circulation, which was causing her heart to pound out of her chest. And so she had to get rushed to the hospital and they had to radiate her thyroid and kill its output, which was appropriate because without that, she ran the risk of having a heart attack. In that specific case, she had to move on and take the medications and all that required.

So the one thing I wanted to at least message in this chapter is: How does this really happen? How do we get these autoimmune conditions? So let me begin by saying to you that what we have is a barrier system. For example, when you think about your skin, your skin is a barrier to the outside world. And if you had a
cut on your arm, you would clean it. You’d put a bandage over it, and then after a week let’s say you’d take the bandage off and look to see if the the skin is healing over. If it is, okay, that’s good. You put the bandage on now –why? Because you don’t want an infection. You don’t want something, a pathogen, getting in.

Clinical Pearl: Cortisol Stress a Leading Factor For Intestinal Permeability and Root Cause of Autoimmunity – What are the factors that really contribute to that barrier system breaking down? Well, they’re numerous. But if I can say one thing that really is at the top of the list, it’s stress. When we experience stress, we upregulate a stress hormone in the body called cortisol. Our adrenal glands pump out cortisol, and we need it. Don’t get me wrong, cortisol is important. We need the right amounts at the right time. When we have chronic stress, ongoing stress, prolonged stress, we’re producing a lot of cortisol. And one of the things cortisol is going to do is beat down on this immune barrier system and contribute to gut permeability. So if you don’t get a handle on stress, you’re never going to have an easy time trying to mend this.

Well, we also have an internal barrier system. Your sinus cavity, your bronchials, your lungs, your entire GI tract, and your bladder is a barrier system, but instead of skin, think of it as a hollow cavity. Not sterile, but hollow, as opposed to organs, which are dense. Think of a food particle, or a pathogen, inside a cave. It always sounds strange when I say to patients: When you eat food, when you drink fluids and breathe in air, it goes into the internal cavity. It’s not actually in you yet. Patients are like, “Well, that doesn’t make any sense.” Well, the food is in the cavity. It’s not actually in your blood stream until it passes through the lining of that cave, that cavity, and gets into circulation. That is known as your mucosal barrier, and there are a lot of specialized immune cells in there that are checking every entity and particle that comes into it’s environment. Is it friendly or is it foe? We want to let the good things pass through, like the nutrients, and we want to keep the infected agents out and we want to excrete the environmental chemicals out and pollutants out, and even what we call undigested proteins. We want them out. We don’t want undigested proteins getting into circulation.

So the best analogy, although the mucosal barrier system itself is very complex, but to simplify, the best analogy is like the screen on a window. If it’s a warm night and you open the window, the screen is there and lets the air come in and keeps the bugs out. What would happen if I started poking some holes in that screen? And if it’s a hot, muggy day, the mosquitoes are going to show up and they’re going to be able to penetrate through. And before you know it, I’m scratching. I’m all bitten up by mosquitoes.

Clinical Pearl: How Toxins Permeate and Cause Leaky Gut – If our barrier system begins to breach, generally because of cortisol stress, if toxins permeate the gut, we refer to that as leaky gut. It’s really intestinal permeability, but the term leaky gut means the barrier system is breaching, breaking. It’s allowing for passage of everything from endotoxins to bacteria to metals to environmental pollutants to move into circulation. It also means that nutrients are not being properly dissembled before moving into the blood stream.

Now as it moves through circulation, at some point it’s going to start binding to different tissues. And that’s how the protein structure of that organ or tissue is now changed because these chemicals are bound to it and they’re able to permeate through. And at some point the immune system sees that. That tissue looks different. So really the entry point of autoimmunity is through a breakdown in these barrier systems.

But the point is that even if we do things to get the barrier system back in shape, if the pathogen has already entered, it’s already come in. And if the immune system is already reacting to what’s come in, it’s already reacting. So again, a lot of people talk about fixing leaky gut, but that’s not enough because the inflammatory response that the immune system is creating is already happening. So we’ve got to do both. We’ve got to regulate the immune system, but we’ve also got to fix the leaky gut so we don’t keep bringing more stuff in.

Dr. Doug Pucci is a functional medicine practitioner who was honored in 2020 to receive both The Best Of 2020 Awards for Functional Medicine in Oradell, NJ, and entry into Trademark Publications’ Who’s Who Directory, Honors Edition, for his pioneering work. He provides comprehensive testing for health biomarkers, advanced discovery into brain/body well-being and personalized nutrition for a diversity of people and symptoms.

For more information, call 201-261-5430 or visit

Common Foods That Trigger Immune Reactions What's the big deal about food? Everybody comes into my treatment room to talk about food.

Should I do a paleo diet? Should I do keto? Those are not different. I will begin by telling you first off is that there is no one diet that is right for everybody. Paleo, keto, Mediterranean – they’re all good. The thing that’s really important, the thing that you really have to understand is that food is not neutral. Food is either going to be non-inflammatory, not going to cause inflammation, is anti-inflammatory, and is nutritious, or it’s going to be pro inflammatory, and problematic. It is different from person to person.

Clinical Pearl: Gluten Is A Classic Example of a Food Trigger for Autoimmunity – The majority of people have some degree of reactivity to gluten. And since so many people eat so much gluten on a daily basis, there is a high probability they’re having an immune reaction to gluten. And if they have Hashimoto’s thyroid, they have what’s called cross-reaction, meaning the immune system cannot differentiate between gluten and thyroid, as strange as that sounds. So if you’re eating gluten and your immune system is reacting to that gluten, causing inflammation, it’s turning right around and going after your thyroid.

One of the things I was speaking about earlier is the leaky gut or the gut permeability. When we eat foods, our stomach is a very acidic environment, and the reason for that is that hyperacidity acts to limit infections like bacteria and maybe even viruses. But the real purpose of the acid in your stomach is to break down proteins. It always sounds strange to patients when I say, “Your body does not want protein.” What it wants is amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins. So we need to digest our proteins, break them down into these individual building blocks called amino acids that our bodies put together to form its own protein like your muscles and skin and your bones and for our brains.

Now one of the most common things I see in practice, especially with people over fifty, is that they’re not digesting proteins very well. Again, a protein is like a chain of amino acids. Animal proteins are going to be longer chains and plant proteins are going to be shorter chains. So, it takes less energy to break down and is a little bit easier to break down a plant protein. I’m not advocating vegan or meatless diets or anything. I’m not saying that, but I’m just saying that it’s easier to digest plant proteins because of the shorter amino acid chain.

Regardless, if we don’t really digest proteins well, we’re left with partial chains in the form of peptides. So if we have these partially or undigested peptide proteins and we have that leaky gut going on, if those proteins move through that barrier and get into circulation, at some point your immune system is going to see that and not recognize that it’s friendly. It sees these peptide chains as foreign and your immune system is going to create a reaction against that protein. So guess what you just developed? You developed a food sensitivity to that protein. Meaning, every time you eat that food, it’s turning on your immune system, it’s going to turn on inflammation and give an inflammatory response.

Clinical Pearl: Antibody Testing Reveals Immune Reactions and Food Sensitivities – Now if I have autoimmunity or even potential autoimmunity, if I have antibodies against other tissues in my body – brain, bone, joints, thyroid – you may not even have any symptoms at this point, because unless you have recognizable symptoms and were tested for it, then you don’t know. But if we develop food sensitivities – immune reactions to these food proteins – it can turn on the immune system enough that it’s going to turn on the immune system to go after the tissue.

When dealing with inflammation and trying to get that inflammation down, it is really important that we give consideration to diet. Some foods for some people will need to be out for their entire life. For a lot of people, some foods might come back. When it comes to inflammation, immune system control, controlling autoimmune expressions, a lot of attention has got to be put to food because we’re eating every day. And if we’re eating every day and we’re not giving consideration to this, we’re doing ourselves a disservice.

Dr. Doug Pucci is a functional medicine practitioner who was honored in 2020 to receive both The Best Of 2020 Awards for Functional Medicine in Oradell, NJ, and entry into Trademark Publications’ Who’s Who Directory, Honors Edition, for his pioneering work. He provides comprehensive testing for health biomarkers, advanced discovery into brain/body well-being and personalized nutrition for a diversity of people and symptoms.

For more information, call 201-261-5430 or visit

Fiber is Key to a Healthy Gut Microbiome… and Inflammation We've always known that fiber-rich foods are important to good health, but scientists are now finding out why this is true, and you may find the answer surprising.

Eating foods high in fiber, like fresh fruits and vegetables as well as beans, nuts and seeds, has long been recommended to help manage or lower the risk of chronic health issues like obesity, cardiovascular disease, certain cancers and diabetes. With these and other benefits, a diet filled with fiber-rich foods can actually help you live longer. What scientists are now discovering is that it all comes down to one important thing – gut health.

Here’s a simple explanation: our gut microbiome is made up of hundreds of types of bacteria that rely on different kinds of dietary fiber to survive and stay healthy. And if the bacteria in your gut is healthy, you’re more likely to be healthy because you’ll have less inflammation and a stronger immune system.

Scientists reached this conclusion through tests in which they fed mice two different types of diets: one was a low-fiber, high-fat diet; the other was a high-fiber, high-fat diet. Since both groups of mice received high-fat diets, the only variable was the amount of dietary fiber they ingested.

The low-fiber, high-fat diet, as explained to The New York Times by biologist Dr. Fredrik Bäckhed of Sweden’s University of Gothenburg, contained about twenty percent fiber and high amounts of sugar and lard – it was essentially “what you’d get at McDonald’s,” Bäckhed explained. The study focused on the resulting diversity of bacterial species in the microbiome of mice, and the results could only be described as “dramatic”.

After just a few days, bacterial diversity was significantly altered with many species becoming rare, chronic intestinal inflammation developed, and both fat and sugar levels were elevated. The intestines shrank and the all-important intestinal mucus layer thinned, causing bacteria to move closer to the intestinal wall. This, in turn, produced an immune reaction.

Mice on high-fiber, high-fat diets fared much better – with only a modest amount of inulin fiber added to their diets, these mice gained far less weight, their intestines were more normal, and their gut bacteria remained at healthy levels.

These studies show that a low-fiber diet actually starves important gut bacteria, which causes a chain reaction and disrupts the entire gut ecosystem. This causes inflammation and makes us vulnerable to many forms of chronic illness. Biologist Justin L. Sonnenburg of Stanford University goes even further, stating that his own research, separate from that discussed above, indicates that diets low in fiber can actually cause inflammation beyond the gut and throughout the entire body.

The takeaway from these studies is that a high-fiber diet is necessary to maintain a healthy gut microbiome and to help keep inflammation down while healing, preventing or better managing disease. However, dietary fiber sources should come from a variety of plants in order to maintain a good diversity of gut bacteria, since different bacterial species feed on different types of fiber. Couple this with reducing or eliminating processed foods and sugars, and you’ll be on track for a healthier gut and a healthier you.

Dr. Doug Pucci is a functional medicine practitioner who was honored in 2020 to receive both The Best Of 2020 Awards for Functional Medicine in Oradell, NJ, and entry into Trademark Publications’ Who’s Who Directory, Honors Edition, for his pioneering work. He provides comprehensive testing for health biomarkers, advanced discovery into brain/body well-being and personalized nutrition for a diversity of people and symptoms.

For more information, call 201-261-5430 or visit

Trans Fats Increase Dementia Risk We’ve been hearing for years that dietary trans fats are bad for your health.

The American Heart Association warns that eating foods containing trans fats can raise your risk of stroke, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. Now, new research published in the journal Neurology shows that artificial trans fats – manufactured through an industrial process – may also increase the risk for developing dementia by 50-75 percent.

The FDA banned industrialized trans fats in the US as of 2018, although extensions were given to some companies through 2019. However, this “ban” didn’t eliminate all uses of trans fats – products are still permitted to contain trans fats as long as they don’t exceed 0.5 grams per serving. However, these companies are permitted to claim “zero trans fats” on their ingredient labels even though they actually contain up to 0.5 grams per serving.

It’s obvious that even with such restrictions, a person can easily consume higher levels of trans fats just by eating more than one serving at a time; in some cases, one serving may be only a few pieces or an ounce. Chances are that you’ll either eat more than one serving or consume several products with trans fats, all of which adds up in your body.

Companies use this artificial additive as a way to enhance flavor and/or texture or to extend a product’s shelf life. Some of the products that are permitted to continue containing trans fats (also called partially hydrogenated oil) are:

  • crackers
  • ready-to-use frostings
  • pastries
  • baked goods (cookies, cakes, frozen pies)
  • microwave popcorn (and some bagged popcorn)
  • snack foods
  • margarine
  • fast food
  • refrigerated dough products
  • frozen pizza
  • coffee creamers
  • vegetable shortening

Doesn’t look like much of a “ban”, does it? To illustrate the point above, imagine you put margarine on your toast in the morning or use it to cook an egg, then you also add an artificial creamer to your coffee. Later on you have a frozen pizza for lunch, followed by microwave popcorn or some other packaged snack in the afternoon. On your way home from work you grab takeout from your favorite fast food place, and later in the evening you have some cookies or crackers. Even if you stay within a single serving size of each – which isn’t likely, considering how small many serving sizes are – you’ve tallied up trans fats from six sources. This may sound extreme, but if you check ingredient labels for partially hydrogenated oils, you may be surprised at what you find.

The study in Neurology looked at over 1,600 people in one city in Japan for a period of ten years. Of the people with high and moderate serum elaidic acid levels (biomarkers indicating levels of industrial trans fats in the blood) at the end of that decade, approximately a quarter of the people in each group had developed dementia; those with the lowest levels fared best. After adjusting for other health issues that could affect dementia risk, such as blood pressure, smoking, and diabetes, researchers found that those in the groups with the two highest levels of serum elaidic acid were between 50 and 75 percent more likely to develop dementia or Alzheimer’s disease than those in the lowest group.

The study conclusion in Neurology states: “The findings suggest that higher serum elaidic acid is a possible risk factor for the development of all-cause dementia and AD [Alzheimer’s disease] in later life.”

The study also took into consideration which foods caused the highest increase of trans fats in the blood. The biggest contributor was sweet pastries, after which came candies and caramels, margarine, croissants, creamers, rice crackers, and ice cream.

The World Health Organization hopes to achieve a worldwide elimination of trans fats by 2023 in order to work toward dementia prevention as well as a reduction in heart disease and other trans fats-related health problems.

You don’t have to wait for a worldwide ban to minimize trans fats in your diet – staying away from processed foods as well as fried and fast food, checking labels of any packaged/prepared foods for partially hydrogenated oils, and focusing your diet on whole foods will go a long way toward lowering the trans fats in your body.

Dr. Doug Pucci is a functional medicine practitioner who was honored in 2020 to receive both The Best Of 2020 Awards for Functional Medicine in Oradell, NJ, and entry into Trademark Publications’ Who’s Who Directory, Honors Edition, for his pioneering work. He provides comprehensive testing for health biomarkers, advanced discovery into brain/body well-being and personalized nutrition for a diversity of people and symptoms.

For more information, call 201-261-5430 or visit

Salt vs Sodium: Is Either One Healthy? The words "salt" and "sodium" have practically become synonymous, but they're not really the same thing.

When most people refer to salt, they’re talking about table salt, which contains 40 percent sodium and 60 percent chloride (a mineral). Both sodium and chloride are necessary to good health, but what’s not healthy is the excessive amounts of sodium—not always salt itself—contained in processed foods. Ingredients like monosodium glutamate (MSG), the preservative sodium nitrate, sodium phosphate, and many more all add hefty doses of unhealthy sodium to packaged foods.

The human body needs a certain amount of healthy sodium in order to function properly; the scales shouldn’t be tipped too far in either direction. Whereas the right amount of sodium intake helps to regulate blood pressure, promote sleep, and helps with brain, muscle and nerve functions (among other things), too much sodium can result in such health issues as high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.

There’s been a war raging against salt for years. It started as early as the turn of the 20th century but hit fever pitch in the 1970s. Salt as a whole has been demonized to the point that some people turned to low-sodium diets that actually harmed their health. Being sodium-deficient has been shown in some studies to cause increased insulin resistance, greater risk of death for those with diabetes or heart failure, an increase in triglycerides and LDL cholesterol, and hyponatremia (particularly for athletes and those on medications or with certain medical conditions).

Choosing the right type of salt for good health is just as important as getting the right amount of sodium. Table salt comes from underground mines and undergoes heavy processing, during which it’s superheated, eliminating beneficial minerals and altering its chemical structure. Anti-clumping aluminum compound agents are then added to keep it free-flowing, and the salt is also bleached; in some other countries, fluoride is also added to table salt. Although iodine is added, which is necessary to maintain a healthy thyroid, that isn’t a reason to use table salt, since you can use a high-quality iodine supplement according to your functional medicine doctor’s recommendations.

Sea salt has been touted as being healthier than table salt, and largely speaking, it is. Rather than being superheated, the water from which it is extracted is evaporated, so the salt retains its high mineral content. But not all sea salt is equally healthy; there are a couple of things to take into consideration before you buy:

  • Read the label to find out where the salt you’re buying has come from—some sources have pollution issues and salt from these waters should be avoided.
  • Look for unrefined sea salt; Celtic (gray) and Himalayan sea salts are among the best, but check to see if the label lists any additives. Free-flowing, pure white sea salt may have been bleached and contain anti-clumping additives. If sources and/or ingredients aren’t on the label, see if you can find the source and ingredient information online. Typically, companies selling pure sea salt from clean waters are open with this information.

Unrefined sea salt can be found in a variety of colors and is coarse; it may also contain some of its naturally occurring moisture. The coloring, ranging from black to pink to gray, comes from the different types of natural minerals contained in the salt. Among the many benefits of unrefined sea salt are:

  • Great source of electrolytes, which are important for muscle function and the cardiovascular system.
  • Helps your body produce HCL (hydrochloric acid), essential to digestive health, and allows your body to absorb necessary minerals, vitamins and other nutrients from food.
  • Balances fluids and helps you avoid dehydration—it’s only if you overdo your salt intake that your body will start to retain water.

Don’t be deterred by the courseness of unrefined sea salt—there are easy ways to prepare it for daily use. One simple way to turn coarse salt into a much finer texture is to grind it in an electric coffee grinder so you can quickly make it as fine as you like.

By avoiding the unhealthy salt used in packaged, processed and prepared foods and using unrefined sea salt in moderate amounts, you’ll maintain a healthy sodium balance and enjoy its positive health effects.

Dr. Doug Pucci is a functional medicine practitioner who was honored in 2020 to receive both The Best Of 2020 Awards for Functional Medicine in Oradell, NJ, and entry into Trademark Publications’ Who’s Who Directory, Honors Edition, for his pioneering work. He provides comprehensive testing for health biomarkers, advanced discovery into brain/body well-being and personalized nutrition for a diversity of people and symptoms.

For more information, call 201-261-5430 or visit

Stress Eating and Healthy Weight Stress is a part of life—we can’t escape it, but we all react differently to it.

Where some people feel tired and tend to sleep more during stressful times, other people can’t sleep at all. By the same token, stress can cause some people to lose their appetites while others tend to eat their way through stressful periods. No extreme is healthy; the key is to know why these extremes happen and how to regulate your body when you’re experiencing extended stressful situations.

A study published in Cell Metabolism showed that stress causes the stimulation of a particular pathway in the brain that increases your caloric intake. In the study, mice eating a high-fat diet while experiencing chronic stress tended to gain more weight than mice that were not experiencing stress while on the same high-fat diet. Researchers attributed this to the brain’s neuropeptide Y (NPY) molecules, which drive stress eating (also called emotional eating).

What does this mean for humans? In brief, it means that during stressful times, it’s extremely important to watch what you eat as well as how much you eat.

Here’s the reason. The NPY neurons in the amygdala (the part of your brain that controls fight-or-flight and is part of the brain’s fear circuit) control feeding, and when stress combines with a high-calorie diet, your insulin-controlled NPY expression increases, leading to insulin resistance. The study in Cell Metabolism concludes, “Stress combined with a high-caloric diet causes insulin resistance in central amygdala.”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen long lines of cars at fast food restaurants or takeout donut shops during times when society as a whole is facing a crisis of one type or another, let alone when individuals are experiencing their own emotionally stressful situations. Emotional eating typically focuses on comfort foods that are high in fat and/or sugar. Stress eating has even become normalized in television shows and movies as an accepted way of dealing with difficult situations, even if it’s handled comedically. However, in real life, the result of habitual stress eating will result in weight gain (possibly to the point of obesity), diabetes, high blood pressure, fatigue and more. These types of foods will also take a toll on your immune system and make you more vulnerable to diseases.

So how do you get stress eating under control? I have a few suggestions for some stress management techniques that can help to reduce your stress level, which in turn helps stop stress eating, aids your immune system, and is beneficial to your overall wellbeing.

When you feel your stress level rising or you feel the need to indulge in emotional eating, start by doing some deep breathing. When we feel stressed, we tend to do more shallow breathing, which makes our nervous system weaker. To counteract that, take in a slow, steady deep breath through your nose, hold it for four to six seconds, then slowly exhale through your mouth. Do this several times in a row, and repeat it several times throughout the day. At first you may feel a bit lightheaded, but that will pass.

I cannot stress enough how important movement is—physical activity can’t be an afterthought, it needs to be a priority. Being sedentary in combination with stress and emotional eating is a recipe for disaster, and no amount of vitamin or mineral supplementation will help. Go outside and soak up some sunlight (which helps boost mood and gives you that all-important vitamin D), and take a walk for at least ten minutes, or indulge in any outdoor activity you enjoy. Hiking, shooting hoops, swimming, kayaking—all types of physical activity help both physically and mentally and can get you past the craving for low-value comfort foods.

Tune out the news for a while, and tune in to your favorite music. In the privacy of your home, you can put the popular saying into practice: “Dance like no one is watching”. Not only can your favorite music elevate your mood, dancing is a great form of indoor exercise. When you want to relax, put on some calming music or try meditation; you can find plenty of music specifically suited to relaxation and meditation online if you don’t have it at home.

Proactive measures like these not only help you avoid stress eating, they can also help boost your immune system and keep a positive mental attitude.

Dr. Doug Pucci is a functional medicine practitioner who was honored in 2020 to receive both The Best Of 2020 Awards for Functional Medicine in Oradell, NJ, and entry into Trademark Publications’ Who’s Who Directory, Honors Edition, for his pioneering work. He provides comprehensive testing for health biomarkers, advanced discovery into brain/body well-being and personalized nutrition for a diversity of people and symptoms.

For more information, call 201-261-5430 or visit

7 Best Strategies to Boost Health and Minimize Cravings In this week's article, we wanted to take a step back from our usual material and offer some basic dietary suggestions.

While this is gospel for so many of you it is also a pleasant reminder for friends and family who are less certain of what to do. Instead of arguing it out with them over the holiday table, maybe just send over some ideas for the New Year.

1. Stabilize your blood sugar

Creating a morning ritual that includes alkalizing your body upon waking with a green drink, a morning tonic, or ginger tea (or similar). Quickly followed by that, within a half hour, you want a small amount of protein. The lack of adequate protein creates an insulin surge and reactive glycemic state that contribute to further fluctuations throughout the day that are difficult to overcome. Lack of focus, “brain hunger,” poor decision making, and so on, ensue. Even for people with no appetite, a bone broth or similar can be sufficient. Throughout the day small regular meals at two to three hour intervals are required. When your last meal of the day is at 6pm and you don’t eat again till 10am (or later), your brain and your body suffer.

2. Eliminate pro-inflammatory foods

For at least thirty days, eat only animal protein, including fish and shellfish, vegetables, herbs and spices, a handful of nuts and seeds (preferably soaked and sprouted), healthy saturated fats, including pastured eggs, citrus, and berries. These should be whole, live foods prepared mostly by you. To restate this, you want to eliminate processed foods and foods that contain harmful components that are inflammatory to your system. To the greatest extent practicable you want your vegetables to be free of genetically modified organisms and pesticide residues (organic), your protein sources to be free of antibiotics and growth hormones. 100% grass fed is preferred, and you want to forever eliminate food additives like sweeteners, food dies, and other additives that are neurotoxic to the brain.

3. Increase essential fatty acids and healthy fats

Healthy fats include coconuts and their by-products like coconut manna, avocados, oils that are from tree nuts (e.g. macadamia oil), tree fruits (e.g. coconut, olive, avocado oils), clarified butter, called ghee, and 100% grass fed or pastured butter, and nut or seed butters (e.g. flax seed and cashew butters). Essential fatty acids like omega oils are also readily available from oysters and other shell fish that feed on algae, and micro-greens that convert the suns energy directly into food. All these help reduce inflammation by supplying the cells in your body, which are a self-contained life form themselves, with much needed nutrients.

4. Increase pre-biotic and probiotic foods

…and particularly those that are lacto-fermented or cultured. These are foods that utilize a culture starter or fermentation process that predigests the naturally occurring sugars and also create a thriving environment for healthy bacteria to flourish. These are foods like sauerkraut and kimchi, pickled ginger, chutneys. It also includes kefirs, buttermilk, and crafted yogurts (that are from 100% grassfed cows, sheep, or goats). Prebiotic foods are your bitter leafy greens like dandelion greens, watercress, and asparagus.

5. Minimize legumes

Beans, lentils, and peanuts are designed by nature to be difficult to digest. For many they contribute to gassiness and bloating. Now, a few beans in an otherwise well prepared meal are fine for most people. That said most cooks do not take time to adequately soak, sprout, and slowly cook their beans which will easily convert to a starch and lose the quality protein that is otherwise available. If you are relying solely on beans (and nuts and seeds, and plant proteins) for your nutrients, careful preparation is a must!

6. Eat more raw dietary fiber

Particularly in the form of leafy green plants. There is a myth that abounds that leafy green plants, particularly the cruciferous vegetables like Brussels sprouts, arugula, broccoli, and kale will somehow steal away precious iodine from your body, especially the thyroid gland. Or that high-oxalate content foods like spinach, Swiss chard, and beet greens should be avoided because of the risk of kidney stones. If these cases exist at all, the probability is so incredibly rare, that I can safely advise my patients to eat these at every meal.

7. Hydrate!

Not only is good water a primary source for trace minerals and nutrients it’s essential for ridding the body of unwanted wastes. Very often, even though my patients are drinking lots of water, the water is not making it inside the cells. One of my suggestions is always to add a pinch of sea salt. Make sure the one you have on hand for this purpose is produced by the process of evaporation of salt water bodies only.

Dr. Doug Pucci is a functional medicine practitioner who was honored in 2020 to receive both The Best Of 2020 Awards for Functional Medicine in Oradell, NJ, and entry into Trademark Publications’ Who’s Who Directory, Honors Edition, for his pioneering work. He provides comprehensive testing for health biomarkers, advanced discovery into brain/body well-being and personalized nutrition for a diversity of people and symptoms.

For more information, call 201-261-5430 or visit

Gaining Weight, Eating Too Often, and Still Craving the Wrong Foods? 5 Popular Dietary Strategies That Trigger Weight Gain and Cause Metabolic and Hormonal Stress

One of the traps people often fall into is diving into new healthy-sounding diets they hear about from Dr. Google, friends, or family members, but they’re jumping in with only superficial knowledge of that particular dietary lifestyle. The concepts and buzzwords associated with these diets are reinforced while grocery shopping, when they see labeling and buzzwords such as “gluten free”, “keto-friendly” or “paleo” without really understanding what those dietary choices mean.

We’ve compiled the five biggest misconceptions people have when trying a new type of diet based on hearsay and generalities.

Mistake #1: Gluten Free is Grain Free

Just because packaged foods are marked “Gluten Free” doesn’t mean they’re healthy; in fact, most have added sugar and are heavy in processed grain flours. These wheat flour substitutes can still be reactive for gluten-sensitive people, causing similar immune system reactions to gluten. In addition, processed grains are still carbs and are converted to sugar in the body, causing the same kinds of insulin surges as sugars. So even though cookies, breads, and snacks are labeled gluten-free, it doesn’t mean they’re healthy choices.

If you have celiac disease or you’re trying to remove gluten from your diet altogether, you need to remove all gluten-containing grains and processed grain foods. There are some seed-based alternatives like flax and hemp, but for the most part, it’s best to move away from any type of processed grain.

Mistake #2: Not Watching Your Keto Carbs

Like other diets, if you want to get the benefits of a keto diet, you need to adhere to the guidelines. Unfortunately there are a large number of people who think they’re doing keto but are actually doing a modified paleo diet mixed with a few keto concepts. Without a full understanding and adherence to every aspect of keto, you won’t reach your objectives and you’ll most likely gain weight.

Many people make the mistake of not sticking to the fat requirement (70-80% of your daily caloric intake), and even more people eat too many carbs, which can come from less obvious sources including starchy vegetables like corn, potatoes, squash, and peas. Carbs should be limited to 5-10% of your daily caloric intake.

Another key mistake people tend to make is becoming over-reliant on processed meats: bacon, hard salami, chicken sausage, luncheon meats, cured and salted meats, etc., which can drive up your histamine response and heavily increase your sodium intake, possibly leading to hypertension.

The point of the keto diet is to push your body into ketosis, which is a higher fat-burning state.
You can think of keto as an adjunct to an otherwise already healthy Mediterranean diet.

Mistake #3: Paleo = Bacon, Bacon, And More Bacon!

The paleo diet is another misunderstood dietary choice, mostly because articles about paleo can be illustrated with images of piles of meat, giving the impression that you have a green light to freely consume lavish amounts of bacon and hamburger.

This couldn’t be further from the concept of true paleo, which is focused on an understanding of our ancestral diet driven by the hunter/gatherer lifestyle and, like with keto, does not embrace processed meats. For example, major components of the paleo diet are nuts, berries, seeds, mushrooms, and in-season fresh vegetables including micro greens in spring. When it comes to meats, it’s about the whole animal including and especially organ meats and bone broth, as well as wild-caught fish and pasture-raised animals.

More than a diet, paleo can be thought of as a lifestyle: think farm to table or forage to table. Paleo supports the concept of foraging—eating smaller meals more often throughout the day to help stabilize blood sugar. A great book that explains this well is Nom Nom Paleo by Michelle Tam and Henry Fong, in which they demonstrate how paleo is beneficial for the whole family as opposed to other diets that are more isolationist or exclusionary.

Mistake #4: Intermittent Fasting (IF) Is Good For Everyone

Intermittent fasting has received a lot of attention and has become a sort of dietary buzzword that has generated quite a bit of interest. The basic idea is to concentrate your caloric intake to a shorter period of time (typically an 8-hour period), then allow your body to rest and process food overnight.

Unfortunately, people often use IF as an excuse to skip breakfast and have a big dinner; this isn’t the point of IF—in fact, having breakfast and skipping dinner is a better option. Indulging in a big or heavy dinner defeats the purpose, since your digestive process slows down at night while you sleep. To get the benefits of IF, move your higher caloric intake to the earlier part of the day and use intermittent fasting no more than two or three days a week, eating regularly on other days.

Intermittent fasting can help you achieve results such as reducing insulin resistance, weight loss, inflammation reduction, and helps the body initiate the cell waste removal process, among other things. Certain cardiometabolic patients, like those with type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or who are overweight have benefitted from IF. Like keto, IF is a strategy that can be incorporated periodically—hence, the “intermittent” part of the term.

Intermittent fasting is a viable strategy for some people but not for everyone, particularly if you’re hypoglycemic. If your blood sugar drops in the morning, or if you skip a meal and your blood sugar drops causing anxiety, panic, heart palpitations, or feelings of anger or irritability, IF is not a strategy that would work for you.

Mistake #5: Vegan Is Another Word For “Healthy”

Veganism is a vegetable-based diet in which all protein consumed is from plants, including soy. However, plant proteins are generally incomplete proteins (except for soy and hemp) and lack important amino acids, so most vegan diets need to be supplemented with amino acids as well as other essential vitamins and nutritional supplements, like B-12 and CoQ10.

It’s incredibly labor-intensive to eat a strict vegan diet and get the required nutrients and calories you need throughout the day. The reason some celebrities are able to follow veganism successfully is that they have knowledgeable chefs preparing their food on a regular basis.

There are several major problems with veganism that I have frequently encountered in my practice. These include:

  • People with exceedingly low cholesterol, which contributes to an overall low hormone profile (testosterone and progesterone).
  • Vegans tend to eat too many carbs because of the difficulty in preparing vegan foods; at the same time, very few vegans regularly eat enough healthy fats (like nuts and seeds) that are critical for many bodily functions.
  • It’s rarely sustainable for growing children who need a full range of healthy proteins, including those from eggs, fish, fowl, shellfish, and so on, in order to support brain and hormone development.
  • Over-reliance on soy as a “meat-like” food (i.e., hamburger-like substitutes and cheese-like replacements) which is unhealthy when it comes to the endocrine system; soy is actually estrogen proliferative.

Plus, A Reminder to Not Overlook Reading the Labels

The most important thing you can do for your health and to reduce inflammation in your body is to stick with a whole foods diet—eating fresh food that you prepare at home rather than buying processed and packaged foods. A lot of people look for general terms on packaged foods like “gluten free”, “keto-friendly”, “low carb”, “vegan”, or “paleo-friendly” and assume the products are healthy and fit their dietary choices. If you find yourself doing this, next time make sure you look carefully at the nutrition information.

For the most part, packaged foods contain excessive amounts of sodium and added sugar and can contain other unhealthy ingredients as well. A typical mistake is buying gluten-free chicken sausage—the package may even say “minimally processed”, making it sound even better, but read the label well and you’ll find that each link has 500mg of sodium. To make that even worse, it’s not unusual for someone to have two links with breakfast. Also, packaged food companies very often strip out nutrients in order to make their products shelf-stable.

Anyone avoiding dairy to focus on more plant-based foods might think Chobani extra creamy oat milk would be a good milk replacement, but each serving actually has 18g of added sugar. With the glut of packaged products trying to attract consumers looking for fast, ready-to-eat foods, desserts and snacks that appear to fit their dietary lifestyle, it’s extremely important to read labels carefully and not make assumptions or believe marketing hype.

The one sure way to follow an anti-inflammatory diet is to buy whole foods and prepare them at home, where you can be sure of every ingredient. Simpler eating that includes more healthy fats, fish, fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables, microgreens, herbs and spices and follows the basics of the Mediterranean diet is the best way to eat healthy and get the nutrients your body needs naturally.

Dr. Doug Pucci is a functional medicine practitioner who was honored in 2020 to receive both The Best Of 2020 Awards for Functional Medicine in Oradell, NJ, and entry into Trademark Publications’ Who’s Who Directory, Honors Edition, for his pioneering work. He provides comprehensive testing for health biomarkers, advanced discovery into brain/body well-being and personalized nutrition for a diversity of people and symptoms.

For more information, call 201-261-5430 or visit