Summit Health owner, Vince Canzanese, RPh, was recently recognized in the August 2019 issue of Apothagram for writing a petition to ensure that patients with BH4 deficiency continue receiving the compounded medications they need. You can read more about his work here, or keep an eye out for the latest issue of Apothagram.
August 7, 2019
The thyroid is one of many glands that form the endocrine system. It is found in front of the neck just above the base of the throat. The thyroid produces and regulates specific hormones involved in several functions in the body, including:
-The menstrual cycle
When the thyroid is not functioning properly, it influences all of the aforementioned processes and more. Both people who have been diagnosed with a thyroid disorder and people looking for ways to prevent or delay thyroid issues can take certain steps to optimize thyroid health.
1. Manage stress
Stress affects everyone at one point or another and can have a significant impact on one’s health and immune system. Although stress may not directly cause thyroid disease, it has been shown to make thyroid conditions worse. When the body is under stress, it produces hormones called glucocorticoids. Glucocorticoids lower thyroid stimulation hormone (TSH) levels. Stress can also slow thyroid activity and interfere with the conversion of T4 hormone to T3.
A study published in 2015 in Archives of Medicine and Health Sciences observed the effects of daily exercise on male patients diagnosed with and undergoing treatment for hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid). Participants were split into two groups: group one exercised for one hour, every day, for three months, while group two did no exercise. The levels of certain hormones (T3, T4, and TSH) were measured before the start of the trial and three months later. At the end of three months, researchers observed notable improvements in hormone levels in participants who exercised daily. Researchers concluded that all patients diagnosed with hypothyroidism should exercise regularly in addition to their hormone replacement treatment therapy.
3. Take steps toward maintaining a healthy gut
Certain thyroid disease, such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (HT) and Graves’ disease are associated with specific changes in the gut. Moreover, individuals diagnosed with diseases of the gut, like ulcerative colitis, may be at a higher risk of developing certain thyroid disorders, like thyroid cancer. If you’ve been diagnosed with a gastrointestinal disorder, it’s important to follow all treatment instructions as directed by your doctor in order to reduce the risk of or prevent further health complications.
4. Find the root cause of the thyroid issue
There are a number of things that can affect the proper function of the thyroid gland. In order to understand what actions to take to maintain proper thyroid health, It’s important to know the root cause of any thyroid issue. For example, studies have shown that low levels of vitamin D may cause autoimmune thyroid disease. Moreover, a study published in 2015 in the Hellenic Journal of Nuclear Medicine showed that vitamin D supplementation could play a role in treating individuals diagnosed with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (Hashimoto’s disease).
If you’ve been working with an endocrinologist to treat a thyroid issue, and are looking to find more answers, consider working with a functional medicine practitioner and a pharmacy that specializes in functional medicine. In addition to testing the levels of certain hormones produced by the thyroid, a functional medicine practitioner will also look at vitamin and mineral deficiencies and food allergies.
Migraines affect more than 39 million people in the US, including children, and are considered the third most common illness worldwide. Some people may only experience a migraine once or twice a month, but those who suffer from chronic migraines can have an attack 15 or more days per month. Migraines are more serious than headaches, as they are part of a neurological disorder that causes debilitating symptoms.
The underlying cause of migraines varies from person to person and can be complex. Directly addressing contributors of migraines can reduce and possibly even eliminate migraine attacks. Some of the most common contributors to the development of migraines are discussed in this article.
It is estimated that roughly 32 million people in the US suffer from food allergies, including children. This has led researchers to wonder whether food sensitivities, such as allergies or intolerances, could possibly trigger migraines. As of now, the relationship between food sensitivities and migraines is not fully understood. However, there are a few studies that suggest that by eliminating possible trigger foods, the incidence of migraine attacks can be reduced.
For example, a study published in 2010 tested for allergen antibodies associated with 108 foods in 56 patients. Subjects were randomly chosen to consume either an elimination diet (that excluded foods to which they showed an allergic response) or a challenge diet (to which they continued eating foods to which they showed an allergic response. Participants were not told whether their diet was an elimination or a challenge diet. Throughout the diet, study participants were asked to record their migraines (number, intensity, and duration). The results of this study showed that subjects who ate an elimination diet significantly reduced the frequency of migraines, without the need for medication, compared to subjects who ate a challenge diet.
Scientists know that stress is a trigger for migraines. They also know that “coming down” from stress can also trigger migraines. Moreover, migraines can cause stress, which can then trigger subsequent headaches. Many types of stress can trigger migraines, including anxiety, tension, and excitement. Moreover, the stressful event can occur two or three days before the migraine occurs.
To determine whether stress is triggering migraines, consider keeping a journal of stress levels, stressful events, and migraine attacks. This will help to identify any correlation between the two.
Vitamin and/or Mineral Deficiencies
There is a strong correlation between vitamin and mineral deficiencies and migraines. A study presented at the 58th Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Headache Society revealed that a significant portion of children, adolescents, and young adults who suffer from migraines are deficient in certain vitamins, including Vitamin D, Riboflavin (vitamin B2), CoEnzyme Q10, and folate. This has led researchers to question whether vitamin supplementation could benefit these patients.
Additionally, it is estimated that up to half of migraine sufferers are deficient in magnesium. Magnesium is a thoroughly studied mineral in both its role in the development of and prevention of migraines and researchers suggest that those who suffer from migraines take magnesium to help them ward off migraines.
How to Identify Migraine Triggers
When trying to identify migraine triggers, consider making an appointment to work with a neurologist who specializes in headaches or a functional medicine practitioner. Functional medicine practitioners work with the patient to find the underlying cause of a condition.
CBD oil is the common name given to cannabidiol, a cannabinoid found in cannabis plants, including marijuana and hemp. Cannabis has been used medicinally around the world for centuries — as early as 2900 BC. Today, CBD is extracted from cannabis plants and added to oils, mixed into body creams and cosmetics, and incorporated into candies.
CBD is different from tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the main active component in marijuana. While THC is known to have psychoactive effects that make people feel high, like increased heart rate and slower reaction time, CBD does not cause a high or have any of these psychoactive effects. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Drug Enforcement Agency tell us that marijuana is addictive. But according to the World Health Organization, CBD does not elicit effects that indicate abuse or dependence, meaning that it does not show signs of being an addictive substance.
Scientists are conducting numerous research trials to explore and confirm the therapeutic effects of CBD. Currently, many individuals use CBD to treat a number of conditions, some of which are discussed below.
In 2018, the FDA approved a purified CBD oral solution for the treatment of two rare pediatric (childhood) seizure syndromes: Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. In recent studies, CBD oil has shown to decrease the frequency of convulsive (previously called ‘grand-mal’) seizures in individuals diagnosed with Dravet syndrome and decrease the frequency of atonic (or drop) seizures in individuals diagnosed with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, compared to placebo treatment.
Moreover, scientists have discovered how CBD helps relieve pain. The body contains an endocannabinoid system (ECS) that has cannabinoid receptors that interact with CBD. The ECS is involved in regulating hormones in numerous systems of the body, including:
CBD interacts with the ECS to relieve symptoms associated with numerous conditions, including epilepsy, anxiety, and chronic inflammation.
Anxiety is a worldwide mental health issue — it’s the sixth largest contributor to global disability according to the World Health Organization. Anxiety is typically treated with prescription medications, but these oftentimes come with unwanted side effects, like nausea, weight gain, and reduced sexual desire. Moreover, some medications used to treat anxiety, like benzodiazepines, can be addictive. Multiple studies are showing that CBD reduces anxiety. A recent study published in 2019 in The Permanente Journal showed that CBD reduced anxiety and helped improve sleep in adults while being well tolerated.
Are There Any Side Effects Associated With CBD?
CBD is generally well-tolerated, but some people have experienced some side effects. So far, documented side effects associated with CBD include:
-Drowsiness and/or fatigue
CBD can also Interact with certain medications, including blood thinners. Before taking CBD, it’s important to consult with your doctor about the safety of CBD and to avoid any unwanted interactions with your current medications.
May 22, 2019
Functional medicine is a type of alternative medicine that is gaining more popularity in the United States. It’s referred to as alternative medicine because it is not considered mainstream or orthodox, according to Western medical practices. However, functional medicine can play a huge role in the prevention and progression of chronic health conditions, like heart disease and diabetes.
The defining characteristics of functional medicine differ from those of traditional Western medicine and are what benefit patients the most. So, what are the characteristics of functional medicine and how can they help you achieve optimal health?
Functional Medicine Seeks to Find the Underlying Cause of Medical Issues
Functional medicine is described as holistic because it looks at every organ system in the body in order to understand why and how a condition has occurred. Instead of treating symptoms, functional medicine practitioners look for the underlying cause in order to treat a condition at the root of the problem. This is because a diagnosis can be caused by more than one factor in the same way that a cause or a symptom can be associated with more than one diagnosis. For example, depression can be caused by multiple factors, like omega-3 deficiency or even inflammation. In turn, inflammation is associated with multiple conditions, including diabetes, arthritis, or depression.
Functional Medicine Uses Systematic, Comprehensive Laboratory Testing
In order to investigate the cause of symptoms, functional medicine practitioners prescribe laboratory testing. Lab tests that your practitioner may diagnose include:
-Comprehensive functional blood testing: The most comprehensive blood chemistry test available — analyzes more than 50 blood markers, compared to 10 or 15 in conventional blood tests — that provides a “big picture” view of your overall health.
-Micronutrient testing: Test done to identify deficiencies in antioxidants, essential fats, minerals proteins, and vitamins.
-Food and chemical sensitivity testing: Test done to check for reactions to certain foods or substances.
-Hormone and adrenal gland testing: Test that measures levels of “unbound” hormones — hormones that are ready to be used by the body’s tissues.
-Stool testing: Test used to analyze gastrointestinal health.
-Organic acids testing: Test used to examine metabolic health.
Functional Medicine Focuses on Lifestyle Changes
Functional medicine places a big emphasis on lifestyle changes as part of any treatment plan. Lifestyle changes can address things like:
-Diet and nutrition
-Environment (work, home, etc.)
-Exercise and movement
Functional Medicine Offers Personalized Treatments
Functional medicine recognizes that each person is a unique individual, with a unique family health history, a unique emotional and social history, and a unique way of living life. In order to maximize the positive results of a treatment plan, each treatment plan must be tailored to the unique and extensive history of each patient. During the first appointment, functional medicine practitioners spend extended time talking to the patient and organizing information pertaining to his/her personal, family, social, and medical history as well as organizing this information into a timeline. Each concern is noted and seriously considered when investigating the cause of symptoms and diagnosis.
Want to Learn More About Functional Medicine?
If you’re interested in learning more about functional medicine, or if you’d like to get started with a functional medicine-based health plan, contact Summit Health Pharmacy at 866-872-5430.
April 25, 2019
Oftentimes, unused, unwanted, and expired medications get stored in the medicine cabinet, flushed down the toilet, or thrown in the trash. These may seem like simple solutions, but they can be unsafe for children, pets, and the environment. If you’re part of the one-third of Americans who have not emptied out their medicine cabinets this year, allow us to convince you to do so.
Safely Disposing of Medications is Important for Public Safety
It’s important to dispose of any unwanted or expired medications promptly. Failure to do so could lead to accidental use or intentional misuse of the products.
Throwing unused medications in the trash can cause serious harm to children and pets. Nearly 60,000 children each year suffer accidental poisoning after finding and ingesting medications at home.
Flushing medications down the toilet can contribute to the contamination of waterways, like rivers and canals, as wastewater treatment plants are not designed to remove medications from the water. This contamination can end up affecting our food and water supply.
Storing medications that are unwanted or expired increases the risk that someone will intentionally misuse the drugs. Two-thirds of teenagers and young adults who report abusing prescription medications admit to getting the drugs from family, friends, and acquaintances. Your medicine cabinet is a temptation to friends and family looking to abuse unused prescription medications.
Bring Us Your Unused, Unwanted, and Expired Medications
Bringing your unwanted medications to a drug take-back service is the safest and most responsible way to dispose of unused medications. Summit Health Pharmacy is a registered DEA drug disposal site in Pennsylvania. This means that we can properly and safely dispose of medications. Even if you’re not a customer of Summit Health Pharmacy, we welcome your unused, unwanted, and expired medications.
Before bringing us your unwanted medications:
-Keep all medications in their original container
-Use a marker to black out all personal information from the packaging. (But do not black out the name of the medication or dose.)
If you’re a regular customer or within local driving distance, we will come to you to pick up your unwanted and unused medications. If you’re not a customer or if you’re outside of a local driving distance, you can visit our pharmacy location and leave your medications in the “Drug Take-Back” bin (resembling a mailbox) in front of our building.
Call us at 866-872-5430 to get specific instructions on what medications are accepted, or to find out whether we can pick up your medications at your home. If you do not live in the area, visit the Drug Enforcement Agency’s Diversion Control Division website to find a registered disposal site near you.
How to Lose Weight and Keep it Off: Addressing the Global Obesity Epidemic, a Major Risk Factor for Serious Chronic Illness
April 19, 2019
Obesity affects nearly 2 billion adults, 340 million children and adolescents, and 41 million children under the age of five worldwide. It affects both children and adults, men and women, and individuals in both developed and third-world countries. In other words, obesity does not discriminate. The reasons why an individual becomes obese are complex and oftentimes the result of multiple factors. Knowing this, what are ways in which individuals with obesity can lose weight and keep it off?
Focus On Optimizing Your Diet
Researchers have determined that regular exercise does not outweigh the effects of a poor diet and, furthermore, that exercise does not promote weight loss. Exercise is still an essential part of reducing the risk and possibly preventing certain diseases, like cardiovascular disease, certain types of cancer, and type 2 diabetes. But individuals looking to lose weight or prevent weight gain should prioritize their diet.
Important steps for any individuals to take in order to optimize their diet are to:
-Significantly reduce or eliminate packaged processed foods
-Identify and eliminate inflammatory foods
-Eat gut-supporting foods rich in prebiotics (fibers found in plant-based foods), like asparagus, leeks, and dandelion greens.
Stress has been linked to fat in the abdominal region, a risk factor for chronic illness. Cortisol is one of the main hormones associated with stress and has been discovered to cause the body to redistribute fat to the abdominal region. Fat in the abdominal region is associated with an elevated risk of developing chronic health conditions, like cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
Learning how to manage stress may have a significant impact on the ability to lose weight and prevent certain chronic health conditions. Some examples of stress management include:
-Setting time aside for hobbies, like reading and doing arts and crafts
-Learning how to manage stress may have a significant impact on the ability to lose weight and prevent certain chronic health conditions. Some examples of stress management include:
Setting time aside for hobbies, like reading and doing arts and crafts
-Practicing relaxation techniques, like meditation and deep breathing
-Fostering healthy relationships by spending time with friends and loved ones
Sleeping too few hours has been directly linked to weight gain. A study published in 2008 by the journal Sleep shows that both children and adults who sleep shorter hours have a significantly increased risk of obesity compared to children and adults who sleep longer hours.
Scientists believe that lack of sleep causes disruptions in hormones. For example, poor sleep has shown to increase levels of a hormone called ghrelin that is known to increase appetite.
Sleeping enough hours every night is crucial to various processes in the body, including healing and repairing the organs and blood vessels, regulating appetite, and maintaining the health of the immune system.
Work With an Endocrinologist to Check and Monitory Hormones
An imbalance in certain hormones is a common cause of weight gain. For example, an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) is a common cause of weight gain. In fact, weight gain and/or the inability to lose weight is the number one symptom seen in individuals diagnosed with hypothyroidism. But thyroid hormones aren’t the only ones involved in weight gain. Sex hormones, like estrogen and testosterone, can also contribute to weight gain. Bottom line — when the body’s hormones are out of balance, it’s almost impossible to lose weight.
March 27, 2019
Summit Health Pharmacy had a great time at the “Cocktails for a Cure” event for Mitochondrial Medicine on Saturday March 23, 2019 in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania! The event benefits the Mitochondrial-Genetic Disease Clinic at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, which is one of the top research centers in the nation for mitochondrial-related diseases.
Thanks to all who attended and supported the Children’s Hospital.
March 26, 2019
The immune system, when functioning properly, protects the body from infectious diseases caused by bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites. Infectious diseases can range from more common illnesses, like a cold or the flu, to less common and even fatal illnesses, like HIV.
The immune system is a complex and vital system that works to maintain optimal health. Sometimes, a trigger can cause the immune system to become overactive and actually attack healthy cells in the body — this is referred to as autoimmune disease. There are more than 100 types of autoimmune disease, each of which affects a specific part of the body or, in some cases, the entire body. Some of the most common examples of autoimmune disease include type 1 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. In this article, we’ll introduce some of the causes associated with autoimmune disease.
A recent study has found a link between stress and the development of autoimmune disorders. In this study, researchers analyzed more than one million people from the Swedish population using census data and registries that indicated prescription medications and medical diagnoses. The study tracked the health of more than 100,000 individuals diagnosed with a stress disorder and compared their risk of developing an autoimmune disorder to individuals who did not have a stress disorder. Scientists found that individuals diagnosed with a stress disorder were more likely to develop an autoimmune disorder compared to individuals without a stress disorder.
A Gut Imbalance
The gut (or the gastrointestinal tract) plays an important role in maintaining the health of the body’s immune system. Certain tissue found in the mucosal layer of the gut, called lymphatic tissue, constitutes 70 percent of the entire immune system. Moreover, the diverse colonies of microorganisms in the gut, called the gut microbiome, interact with the gut’s mucosal layer to maintain the integrity of the immune system. An imbalance in the gut microbiome affects the body’s immune system and has recently been linked to the onset of autoimmune disease.
Exposure to Toxic Substances
Evidence shows that certain substances in the environment and even certain medications can increase the risk of autoimmune disease. A well-cited example is the onset of a musculoskeletal disease that affected hundreds of people after ingesting contaminated cooking oil in Spain in 1981.
Multiple studies have shown that autoimmune disease can be triggered by infection from bacteria, virus, or parasites. Scientists believe this can happen in one of many ways, including:
–Molecular mimicry: Molecular mimicry occurs when a pathogen (like bacteria, a virus, or a parasite) shares structural similarities with one or more of the body’s own cells. In addition to attacking the pathogen, the immune system starts to attack healthy cells that are similar to those of the pathogen.
–Sustained immune activation: A persistent infection or chronic infection can trigger autoimmune disease. This occurs when an inflammatory response is sustained by the immune system for a long period of time.
One or More Factors Can Initiate Autoimmune Disease
Autoimmune disease can develop from one or a combination of the factors outlined in this article, in addition to others not mentioned here. There is also a genetic factor involved that increases a person’s risk of developing certain autoimmune diseases. Having one or more of these risk factors does not guarantee the onset of an autoimmune disease, but it may increase the likelihood that one will develop.
March 25, 2019
Stress is known to affect the body and the mind. But stress, especially when chronic or prolonged, can also have a negative impact on the brain. Most people experience forgetfulness when stressed, but there are also changes happening to the brain that one doesn’t notice. So, what are these changes and how exactly does stress affect the brain?
Stress Changes the Brain’s Structure
Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, have found that chronic stress leads to an increase in white matter in the brain, more specifically in the hippocampus (the part of the brain involved in emotion, learning, and memory). White matter is composed of networks of nerve fibers and makes up about half of the human brain. The white color comes from the substance that coats the nerve fibers, called myelin. An excess of myelin in the brain interferes with communication between the brain’s nerve fibers.
Stress Affects Short-Term Memory and Memory Retrieval
Chronic stress is associated with an increased risk of short-term memory loss. A study conducted by researchers at Ohio State University observed changes in the behavior of mice after repeated encounters with aggressive mice. Before the aggressive encounters, the mice were repeatedly placed in a maze with an escape hole, which they learned very well. After repeated stressful encounters with aggressive mice, the observed mice were unable to remember the location of the escape hole.
Moreover, acute stress (short-term stress) has been shown to affect how the brain collects and stores memories. Even stress lasting as little as a few hours can disrupt how brain cells communicate in the hippocampus region.
Stress Kills Brain Cells
A study published in 2005 showed that a single stressful social encounter is enough to lead to nerve cell death in the hippocampus from surviving. During this study, researchers placed a younger rat in a cage with two aggressive older rats for 20 minutes, then examined the brain of the younger rat under a microscope. Researchers found that the stress in the younger rats did not inhibit the hippocampus from generating new cells, but it did prevent a portion of the new cells from surviving — as little as one-third of newly generated cells survived one week later. Scientists also noted that the ability of the new nerve cells to survive was even affected one month after the stressful encounter, with as many as one-third having died.
Stress Shrinks Certain Areas of the Brain
Chronic stress is associated with the loss of brain volume and eventually cognitive impairment. A study conducted on rats showed that chronic stress resulted in a loss of volume in the hippocampus region of the brain. Studies on humans show that individuals diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder have a significant reduction of the hippocampus region of the brain. Loss of brain volume in the hippocampus affects its ability to make and store memories.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The relationship between stress and brain function could lead to new therapies that may help reduce the risk of developing long-term changes to the brain after experiencing stressful events.