Toxic Stress is Causing Autoimmune Disease, Leaky Gut and More Chronic Stress Affects Every System in the Body

We’ve all experienced stress, it’s a normal reaction to emergencies or other serious events in life. Short-term, situation-related (acute) stress reactions to specific events can actually help us cope with the temporary issue at hand. But stress can become toxic when it’s chronic—ongoing daily heightened stress can take a serious toll on your health and negatively impact your overall wellbeing.

Being in a stressed state activates the central nervous system’s “fight or flight” response, which creates a cascade of neuro-endocrine-immune responses and tells the adrenal glands to release cortisol and adrenaline. These two stress hormones immediately affect the cardiovascular and respiratory systems: they are what cause your heart rate to increase and your breathing to become shallow and rapid. This emergency response sends blood rushing to your muscles, heart, and organs. Oxygen is sent to your muscles, your blood vessels constrict, extra blood sugar is produced in the liver to increase energy, more acid is produced in the stomach, muscles become tense, and the immune system is stimulated.

All this is necessary for a physical response to an emergency, but when stress becomes chronic—constant reactions to regular annoyances, feeling under pressure, ongoing worries that we can’t shut off—it begins to damage various systems in our body. Toxic stress can cause damage to:

  • The immune system, which becomes weakened. This makes you more susceptible to sickness and can make it harder to recover from viral and bacterial infections.
  • The digestive system, which produces more acid. This can cause heartburn, acid reflux, and can increase ulcer symptoms. Chronic stress is also a factor in eating disorders, including both overeating under-eating, as well as making poor food choices (stress eating). In addition, when the liver is signaled to produce more sugar due to chronic stress, the risk of developing type 2 diabetes increases.
  • The muscular system, which remains tense and tight. This can cause a myriad of symptoms from backache and headache to neck and shoulder pain as well as overall body aches.
  • The reproductive system, which affects both men and women. Men can experience low testosterone and an increased risk of infection in male organs; women’s menstrual cycles can become heavier, more painful, or irregular.
  • The cardiovascular system becomes overtaxed under chronic stress, increasing the risk for heart attack and stroke.
  • The respiratory system, which is taxed by more rapid, shallow breathing, can make respiratory problems like COPD, asthma, emphysema, etc. worse by making breathing even more difficult.

In addition, toxic stress can lead to sleep disorders, depression, leaky gut and autoimmune disease. Leaky gut, which we discussed in a previous blog post, occurs when the stomach barrier system becomes permeable, allowing foreign particles into the bloodstream. While leaky gut can be healed, the unfortunate reality is that once you develop an autoimmune disease, you have it for life. But that doesn’t mean you have to suffer with constant flare-ups and symptoms—autoimmune diseases can be managed once the triggers are determined.

A report published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) states that at least 50% of autoimmune conditions are triggered by unknown factors, but “physical and psychological stress has been implicated in the development of autoimmune disease”. However, a number of studies have shown that as many as 80% of patients with autoimmune disease reported having “uncommon emotional stress” prior to the onset of autoimmune disease. The NIH report points out a somewhat vicious cycle: not only does stress cause autoimmune disease, but once diagnosed with autoimmune disease, patients’ stress levels increase significantly.

These findings led to the report’s conclusion that: “It is presumed that the stress-triggered neuroendocrine hormones lead to immune dysregulation, which ultimately results in autoimmune disease, by altering or amplifying cytokine production.” In such cases, chronic stress would be a likely culprit in triggering autoimmune flare-ups, so stress management and a better understanding of stress reactions would help these patients better manage their autoimmune condition while at the same time improving the health of their immune system.

Of course, diet and specific foods can also be triggers for autoimmune disease, so it’s important to pay close attention to any food-related reactions. Once a dietary trigger is determined, the food or foods should be eliminated from the diet permanently because your immune system remembers whatever it has an antibody against. For example, if your thyroid is reacting to gluten (a common food sensitivity that can also contribute to leaky gut), it can’t just be eliminated for a matter of weeks or months; any time you have gluten, your thyroid will react to it.

It’s important to note that there is no way to supplement your way around these necessary diet and lifestyle changes. Managing any autoimmune disease can be successfully accomplished by eliminating toxic stress and/or trigger foods permanently, which will also help to improve your overall health and wellbeing.

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 Food sensitivities can lead to leaky gut and autoimmune disease

A lot of people come into my treatment room asking which diet plan is best. “Should I follow a paleo diet?” “Should I do Keto?” “How about the Mediterranean diet?” These are common questions, but there is really no one diet that is right for every person. All three of these diets—paleo, keto, Mediterranean—are all good ways of eating healthy. However, the most important thing to understand is that food is not neutral; it’s either going to be anti-inflammatory or pro-inflammatory, and the triggers differ from person to person.

Gluten is a classic example of a food trigger for autoimmunity. The vast majority of people have some degree of reactivity to gluten. And because so many people consume so much gluten every day, there’s a high probability they’re having an immune reaction to gluten without even realizing it, possibly attributing their symptoms to other things or just accepting them. The reality is that they most likely have developed “leaky gut syndrome”, or intestinal permeability. Some of the more typical symptoms of leaky gut include:

  • Bloating
  • Gas
  • Cramps
  • Brain fog
  • Autoimmunity
  • Digestive problems or discomfort
  • Skin problems
  • Mood swings

So what is leaky gut, and what causes it? Intestinal permeability, more commonly referred to as leaky gut, occurs when the gut’s barrier system has been breached. There are a number of things that can cause leaky gut, such as prolonged or repeated use of medications including antibiotics, NSAIDs and antacids (whether prescription or OTC), food allergies, chronic stress, inflammation, yeast overgrowth, parasites, pesticides, and more.

By far the most common food source causing leaky gut is gluten, but other inflammatory foods like dairy, alcohol, and sugars are also high on the list. Once the gut barrier has been breached, everything from endotoxins and bacteria to heavy metals and environmental pollutants to move into the body’s circulatory system. Think of the gut barrier like a window screen in your home that’s meant to prevent unwanted outdoor invaders like mosquitoes from getting into your home. If the screen is weakened and develops holes, mosquitoes and other pests will breach that barrier and cause damage.

The same type of thing is happening in your body when your gut barrier is breached and unwanted particles and toxins are allowed to circulate freely throughout your body where they don’t belong, causing the immune system to view them as foreign invaders and repeatedly attack them. The immune system’s heightened state of alert creates a constant state of inflammation, overstressing the immune system, which can then inaccurately attack healthy tissues. This is the beginning of autoimmunity.

In some cases, like with someone who has Hashimoto’s thyroid, there may even be a cross-reaction, which is when the immune system can’t differentiate between gluten and thyroid. When that happens, the immune system reacts to gluten, which causes inflammation, and then the immune system goes on to attack the thyroid.

There are a number of foods that more commonly trigger immune reactions, although gluten is by far the highest on the list. Some other typical culprits are:

  • Dairy
  • Eggs
  • Peanuts
  • Tree nuts
  • Grains
  • Sugars

Here again, different foods can cause immune reactions in different people, and the type of reactions can also differ from person to person. Keep in mind that any food, however seemingly safe, can trigger an immune reaction if a person has become sensitive to it at some point.

New food sensitivities can develop as a result of leaky gut—when food particles move through a permeable gut barrier and into circulation, the immune system will recognize those particles as “unfriendly invaders” and attack them, creating a reaction against that food. So every time that food is eaten, it activates the immune system which creates inflammation and causes the body to launch an inflammatory “attack” response. In addition, these “invaders” can also bind to different organs and tissues; when the immune system sees that those tissues and organs now look different or recognizes the familiar “invader” attached to them, it will attack the tissues or organs themselves, which also leads to autoimmunity.

It’s important to note that while autoimmunity cannot be cured, it can be better managed to control progression. At that point the goal is to calm down the body’s aggressive immune response as one autoimmune expression generally begets another. At the same time, we want to heal the intestinal permeability known as leaky gut. A number of things can be taken into consideration and corrected, including diet, stress levels, potential infections, and so forth. Once gut health has been restored and inflammation has been reduced, many patients experience fewer food sensitivities or have a better sense of what is the primary culprit.

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.

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