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Time to kick gluten to the curb!

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Just a decade ago conventional medicine believed that non-celiac gluten sensitivity was a bunch of nonsense.  A doctor could be laughed out of the room for even bringing it up!  Now a quick search of PubMed.gov shows that there are hundreds of scholarly papers and studies from prestigious medical journals on the topic.  As we have started to understand the interplay between the gut and the immune system we have discovered that sensitivity to gluten exists on a spectrum.  Whenever we see a patient with any kind of chronic health concerns eliminating gluten is one of our first recommendations.  One of my favorite health crusaders on the subject is neurologist Dr. David Perlmutter.  He has written several excellent books summarizing the latest research on the impact of gluten on our health.  As he says:

“Hardly a day goes by that I don’t see an article either in print or on the Internet indicating that the notion of going gluten-free is entirely overblown. Typically, the conclusions often sounds something like, “While only about 1.6% of Americans, those with confirmed celiac disease, need to be on a gluten-free diet, there is absolutely no reason for anyone else to adopt this diet.””

click here to read more!

Correcting Your Stress Response: The Most Important Thing You’ll Do This Year!

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A proper functioning stress response is at the core of our health.  Our main stress hormone, cortisol, manages our alertness, mental focus, inflammation, digestive health, mood, etc.  It play a role in almost every system of our body.  It is intimately connected with other hormones, such as melatonin, to create the circadian rhythm which keeps us alert and productive during the day and sleepy at night.  It governs our fight-or -flight response and rallies our resources in the presence of acute stress.  This proper ebb and flow of cortisol worked well for millions of years, as life was probably pretty boring, punctuated by moments of terror.  We would either survive and our stress hormones would reset or we wouldn’t.  What the system was never designed for is the chronic day to day grinding stress we experience in our modern world.  This chronic stress profoundly dysregulates these hormones leading to a condition called adrenal fatigue (not my favorite term), adrenal insufficiency, or HPA-axis dysregulation.


This adrenal fatigue is an experience many of us can relate to.  We feel constantly under attack, as our fight-or-flight system is always activated.  We feel drained of energy, but also over stimulated.  This “tired, but wired” state means that we are groggy in the morning, but also anxious and buzzy when we try to sleep.  We often require coffee to stimulate us in the morning and sleeping pills to finally transition to rest..  Systemic inflammation leads to achy joints and irritated digestion.  The body loses resilience across the board.  We lose interest in hobbies and patients often tell me that “even going out to dinner with friends seems like a pain in the ass.” (pardon my language!)


I think most of us can appreciate why this hormonal balance is a priority. A proper stress response is critical for our health, job performance, and relationships.  If this cortisol production and rhythm is not corrected it is extremely difficult to make progress on other health challenges.  It is at the core of our health, productivity, rest, and happiness.  So, when it goes out of whack how do we correct it?  With a simple functional lab test called an Adrenal Stress Profile.


An Adrenal Stress Profile is a simple lab test that you can take in the comfort of your own home.  It is a saliva based test, so there’s no need for blood draws or sharp needles.  It requires 4 saliva samples through the course of the day, so we can measure not only the amount of cortisol your body is producing, but also the rhythm of its output.  Wonky rhythm leads to us feeling like we are crashing in the afternoon or waking at 3am unable to fall back to sleep.  We also test for the hormone DHEA, which is the primary anabolic (repair) hormone of the body and the precursor to sex hormones, such as estrogen and testosterone.  Once we get the results of your adrenal stress lab we can create a lab based supplement program that gently and effectively corrects the production and rhythm of these critical hormones.  You will finally feel like you have your life back!


Here at Origins Medicine, in conjunction with the Kalish Institute, we have reviewed thousands of adrenal stress profiles from all of the major labs.  We currently use the Biohealth 201 lab as our primary and if we need more specific information on sex hormones we use a DUTCH test.  We will happily explain which test is appropriate after completing a consult with you.


If there was just one thing I could do with every patient I interact with it would be to correct their stress hormones.  Many nagging health problems correct themselves when the hormones are restored and inflammation cooled.  Give us a call and let’s get you started on an adrenal restoration program today!

In Health,

Duncan Macdonald, L.Ac.

The Danger of Ibuprofen!

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In the 20 years I have been in clinical practice I’ve found that there is one symptom that drives people to seek help more than any other: pain.  Pain, of course, is the body’s natural signal of injury and inflammation and it doesn’t like to be ignored.  For decades standard medicine has had one answer to the nagging pains that don’t resolve and that answer is to take NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti inflammatory drugs).  There are two main downsides to this strategy.  One is that pain is a sign that the body is trying to resolve an injury.  If it doesn’t resolve it means the body is chronically inflamed and that inflammation must be driven by some process in the body.  The true answer to chronic pain is to properly diagnose and treat the root problem which is disturbing the body and calm the inflammatory process.  This is the strategy of both Functional and Chinese medicine.  The second downside to the NSAIDS strategy is that these drugs are proving to be incredibly dangerous.  Multiple countries in Europe are now considering pulling them from over the counter sales.  We have known about toxicity to the liver and irritation to the gut lining from these drugs, but recent studies have pointed out there dramatic risk to our hearts!  Here is a summary from the Guardian:

“There have been fresh calls for restrictions on the sale of the painkiller ibuprofen after another study found it heightens the risk of cardiac arrest.

Taking the over-the-counter drug was associated with a 31% increased risk, researchers in Denmark found.

Other medicines from the same group of painkillers, known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), presented an even higher risk, according to the findings published on Wednesday in the European Heart Journal.”

To read the rest of this important and alarming article from the Guardian please read here.


In Health,

Duncan Macdonald, L.Ac.

How Functional Medicine Melts pounds and helps you lose weight

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It’s an all too common story.  

We transition into adulthood and midlife, with all of its complications and challenges and our weight slowly creeps up.

 Before we know it we no longer fit into our clothes, fatigue sets in, and we get a stern talk from our doctor all about how we need to eat less and move more.  

We download our favorite calorie counting app and increase our steps, but the scale doesn’t budge.  

We try all the methods that worked for us in the past, but their magic is gone.  

Frustrated, we resign ourselves to the fact that this must be part of getting older.  


But what if you could jump start that magic?

What if it’s less about increasing your steps on the Stairmaster and more about having the right balance of body chemistry working the way it used to?  

This is what functional medicine is all about – restoring and maintaining the body in peak shape – so it can work the way it used to.

The way it was supposed to before the stress work, sitting at the computer all day, etc.


What doctors rarely ever explain, is that increased body fat and resistance to weight loss are symptoms of underlying physiological imbalances.  

The body does not store and stubbornly resist weight loss unless it has a reason.  

If this reason is not investigated and resolved, the slow creep of weight gain will continue — as is obvious by the skyrocketing obesity rates all over the industrialized world.  

In this blog we will briefly discuss three of the most common barriers to weight loss and how a properly formulated Functional Medicine plan can help you overcome them.


One of the primary reasons for resistant weight loss is stress.  

But, when I say stress I’m not just referring to the daily grind of modern life, but rather the proper interplay between brain and the primary stress hormone Cortisol.

 Cortisol has many vital functions in the body and among these are dictating how the body uses versus. stores energy.  

The proper production and rhythm of cortisol output leaves the body relaxed and energetic.

It also enables our bodies to effortlessly switch between burning glucose from our food, or fat from our bodies.  


If cortisol is significantly disrupted we accumulate fat around our abdomen, which is not just a vanity problem but increases our risk of chronic disease.

 When the stress response is disrupted, sometimes referred to as HPA axis dysregulation or adrenal fatigue, the body is experiencing prolonged stress and it will fight back ruthlessly against any efforts to give up its precious energy reserve in the form of body fat.

 Luckily, restoring the proper balance of stress hormones in the body can be accomplished through a simple “mail in” lab test to measure what’s happening.

 Once the test come back, all it takes is a therapeutic supplement program to correct the production and rhythm of cortisol, and appropriate lifestyle coaching to correct the root of the stress.  

The stress response sits at the apex of all the body’s hormones.  If this is not corrected permanent fat loss is almost impossible!


There are several others barriers to fat loss like impaired detox function,(drugs, pollutions, etc.) and insulin resilience – and I’ll discuss both of those in future blogs.

However, this blog post is not meant to be an exhaustive listing of all the ways our fat burning can break down.  

But, rather to point out that it is not a failure of your willpower.  

You are not holding 20 extra pounds because you are weak willed, but because your body is screaming out that something is wrong and it does not want to burn this valuable fuel.  

It is not that you are just getting older, have weak will power, or can’t count calories in vs out.  

We all dislike extra weight for vanity reasons, but your body will thank you for discovering and correcting the reason why that stubborn fat exists in the first place!


Lastly, this stuff can sometimes sound scary, and hard – but don’t let the big words or “calorie counting” or your time scare you out of it.

 Once you know what is going on and how to solve it, the feeling is priceless.  

Our goal is to find out what is happening and why, make it less scary, and provide you with you a doctor that you can contact via phone or Skype for advice along the way.  

You can literally do the test in your own house and send it to our lab for results, then contact us via Skype, phone, or video conference – so you don’t even have to miss work.  

We are professional doctors that want to change lives, and harness today’s technology to make it quick and easy and give you better access to health and medicine.

We believe in functional medicine to help restore your body to the figure and feeling of your youth, as well as to prevent future health issues.

Cutting through the brain fog

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Brain Fog: What is it? How do you get it? How can you get rid of it?

Most of us are familiar with that feeling of a fog descending into our minds, making our thinking slow and sluggish. Just like real fog — there is an ebb and flow to its appearance – which makes it difficult to notice and diagnose.

Before we dig into ways to get rid of brain fog for good, let’s look at the underlying processes in our body that allow the fog to appear in the first place.

Our bodies are a complicated symphony of hormones.

When out of tune, they can produce profound changes in our mood and functioning.

One of the main players in this band of hormones is cortisol, better known as the “stress” hormone.

When we are existing in a state of chronic stress, the continued release of cortisol into the bloodstream leads to many negative effects including the symptoms of brain fog.

Cortisol is a very potent message released by our adrenal glands, both as a natural part of our circadian rhythm and also when our body is experiencing stress.

When it is present in small amounts and for a short amount of time, it can provide our bodies with the stimulus to get moving during the day and also to escape any real danger we may encounter.

It is important to understand that all of the hormones in our personal symphony have necessary roles to play in our health and vitality — the key is that they all play the notes written for them and with appropriate timing and volume.

Cortisol isn’t all bad though! As a part of a stress response, it has a necessary role in getting us out of harm’s way and in providing us with motivation.

The natural uptick in cortisol levels that occurs in the early morning hours is one of the more important stimuli that helps us to wake-up in the morning and get us rolling into the day.

It is also what is released into our system in times of acute stress. This mirrors the fight or flight reaction we have been programmed to experience when we are in life-threatening danger.

However, the reality is that most of us are not encountering actual beasts during our daily commutes, or working environments — but that does not prevent tigers and bears from entering our minds.

This can touch off a cascade of reactions that leads to excessive cortisol being dumped from our adrenal glands into our blood streams.

A little bit of cortisol is necessary for life, but a chronic excess leads to body fatigue and neurodegeneration.

We are then left with an inability to concentrate, presented with the difficulty to learn new things and have an even harder time with remembering them later.

Excess cortisol also leads to increased irritability, distraction, lack of motivation, problems with executive functioning, and an overall decrease in our cognitive tempo.

Sounds pretty bad, eh? Let’s continue to explore the causes of brain fog and what can be done to reverse them and prevent future dampness on the brain.

The initial approach to reversing this pattern and to bring ourselves back into balance is to address the triggers that contribute to the development of brain fog.

Examples of some common triggers include chronic perceived stress, lack of sleep (or poor sleep quality), lack of exercise and sunlight, gut inflammation, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, chronic infections, and toxic overload.

The treatment protocols for ridding yourself of brain fog depend on the cohort of triggers that are affecting each unique individual.

We discover the triggers via thorough history taking with each patient, advanced lab testing to look “under the hood” of an individual’s biochemistry, and a psychosocial assessment of their internal environment.

Once this information has been gathered we can begin to institute the changes necessary to feel good again.

Utilizing a broad range of therapeutic modalities including personalized nutrition and lifestyle programs, focused supplementation when warranted, neurofeedback, the use of adaptogenic herbs and essential oils and follow ups, we can help you to maintain personal wellness.

If you are ready to get back to firing on all cylinders to achieve optimal brain function don’t hesitate to get in touch with us here at Origins Medicine and we look forward to assisting you on your journey to wellness.


The 3 Keys to Naturally Boosting Your Energy

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There is nothing worse than feeling like your energy is in the tank.

Maybe it’s that 3pm energy dip that only coffee, Redbull, or 4-Hour Energy will cure.

Perhaps you wake up already dreading facing the day.

Or maybe things are generally okay, but you just don’t have the energy to get out, exercise and experience those wonderful feelings of vitality.

You might chalk this up to the fact that you are getting older.

Or, maybe you just feel like you have too much to do and not enough time to get it done. Don’t despair.

There is a proven path to greater energy that thousands like you have already travelled.

Here are 3 options you can follow that will help to dramatically boost your energy and get your life back on track!

  1. Mind your Mitochondria

Mitochondria are the energy engines in each and every cell of your body.

They make fuel called ATP. If they aren’t running well, simply put – your energy is going to suck.

The thing about mitochondria is they require maintenance.

This is both good news and bad news.

The good news is that if properly maintained they last forever! The bad news is that inflammation and nutritional deficiencies break them.

At Origins we have a test that can pinpoint how well your mitochondria are functioning. It also determines whether you’re not producing energy due to inflammation or nutritional problems.

I can’t tell you how many people I’ve seen who have both — inflammation and nutritional deficiencies, which have been ruining their mitochondria.

If you want to make your mito’s work, make sure to supplement properly (we recommend Designs for Health Mitochondrial NRG) and continue reading below.

  1. Hone your hormones

Hormones have a major effect on your energy.

You’ve probably heard of the “stress” hormone cortisol. Cortisol has gotten a bad rap in the press lately.

Of course that’s due to oversimplification and the desire of people to put things in the good vs. bad category.

Cortisol is neither good nor bad, it’s all about how much you have and when you have it.

Cortisol performs a bunch of hyper-critical functions in the body such as decreasing inflammation, regulating the immune response and…wait for it….freeing up blood sugar!

If you’re walking down the street and tiger jumps out in front of you, cortisol gets released to free up blood sugar so you can fight or run.

This is all well and good.

Where people get into trouble is when life situations (like work, finances, relationships etc) lead to a chronic fight or flight response.

When this happens the brain looks all the cortisol pumping around your body and says “hey wait a minute…there’s been too much cortisol running around here for too long.

I better dial this system back so I have it when I need it.”

The brain then down-regulates cortisol production and you start to feel tired.

We run salivary cortisol tests on clients to identify the status of the hormonal system which is a great idea if you think you might be a bit off kilter.

So what’s the solution?

Three things.

Sleep, cutting caffeine and adaptogenic herbs.

Most humans need at least 8 hours of solid sleep. Sleep is how your brain cleanses and resets itself.

Adaptogenic herbs like eleuthero, maca and ashwagandha are also helpful to regulate the overall stress response.

Cutting caffeine so you’re not jacking up your system all the time is also super important.

Some of these “herb” words may sound really different, difficult, or confusing, but it’s actually pretty simple.

At Origins Medicine, we help to identify what is going on and provide, plus explain what each one does and how it works.

That way you begin to feel better and don’t have to search all around town trying to find them and wondering how they work, or how much to take.

If you have insomnia, don’t sleep well, or depend on caffeine and sugar to get you through the day — then be sure to take our test below to see if you have adrenal burnout.

  1. Decrease your Inflammation

You don’t drive your car around with your foot on the brake. Inflammation is the brake that keeps your energy system sub-par.

Inflammation comes from physiological stress on the body and there are three basic types of stress, dietary, inflammatory and emotional.

Dietary Stress

It’s no mystery that the food we eat leads to stress on the body.

What most people don’t know is that many of the foods we eat may appear to be healthy, may actually be processed and have chemicals added to them.

The biggest culprits are sugar and processed foods, refined seed oils (canola, soybean, corn and vegetable), and hormone and antibiotic laden meat and dairy (go organic grass fed here folks).

Oh yeah, non-organic grains like wheat and corn also wreak havoc on your body, as much of it has been washed in fungicides and herbicides. Following an anti-inflammatory diet like the Mediterranean , Paleo or AIP  will do wonders to make you feel better.

Emotional Stress

Constant stress, feeling helpless, unexpressed anger and other emotions all affect our hormones.

Unstable emotions lead to unstable hormones, which lead to unstable emotions.

It’s a big feedback loop!

Emotional stress isn’t going away anytime soon, so it’s critical that we learn how to manage it.

Downtime, play, meditation, counseling/therapy, spiritual practice and getting honest with yourself will help lead you to feeling better, more vital and alive.

Inflammatory Stress

If you have another disease process running in around in your body, it’s important to get some help and therapy with it.

Whether it’s a chronic skin condition, low immune system, or pain that won’t go away — all of these can wreak havoc on other body systems.

This is because chronic inflammation starts to affect other body systems like the mitochondria we discussed above.

Getting these other disease processes managed will help everything else run so very much better.

If you’ve made it this far then you realize that the way we run our energy system has a big effect on how we feel.

Remember that getting your energy back is not an overnight short term project.

I can’t overstate the importance of giving yourself the time and tools to succeed.

If you need support, Origins Medicine is here to help.



Leaky Gut 101 – the Core of Chronic Inflammation and Autoimmunity

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What do people mean exactly when they talk about “leaky gut” or intestinal permeability? Just a decade ago most of the medical community looked at this concept as quackery and now, in the light of recent research, we now know that it is a very real and very common condition which leads to multiple health issues. Healing the gut and restoring its proper immune barrier is at the foundation of both Functional medicine and Chinese medicine. Although, only recently recognized by mainstream medicine and testing Chinese medicine recognized this condition for over 1000 years as an inability for the digestion to “separate the turbid from the clear.”
Leaky gut occurs when the immune barrier of the gut erodes to the point that it becomes permeable to intestinal contents allowing foreign contents to enter the bloodstream. These improper substances then lead to a strong inflammatory and immune response. This inflammatory response can lead to local symptoms such as bloating, IBS, and abdominal pain. Systemically, this draining immune reaction can tax all the systems of the body. It has major implications in autoimmunity, chronic allergies, skin conditions, fatigue, brain fog, joint inflammation, etc. Studies have directly linked intestinal permeability to rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, vasculitis, etc. As more studies are completed we are realizing it is at the root of many chronic inflammatory and autoimmune conditions.
How do I know if I have leaky gut? Leaky gut can often be diagnosed though a careful history, however the diagnosis is typically confirmed through testing for Sig-A, an important binding protein of the intestines, specific markers on a Genova Organix profile, and sometimes measuring the levels of mannitol and lactulose after the ingestion of a premeasured amount. Here at Origins Medicine we evaluate the integrity of the gut by testing the adrenal function, the gut directly with GI-MAP test, and through an Organic acids panel.
Although leaky gut can impact all systems of our health it can be effectively treated. The gut lining is constantly renewing itself and this dynamic quality means it can heal quickly! When the systemic inflammation has been addressed, gut health improves, and the toxic burden on the liver diminishes. The first step is to test the gut lining as it can be impacted by imbalances of the stress hormones, common infections, food sensitivities, toxic exposures, etc. Once the culprit or culprits are identified the true healing can begin. It’s like falling off your bike and skinning your knee. You wouldn’t expect the skinned knee to heal if you keep falling off! The testing allows us to identify the root cause of the damage so it can be corrected and lasting health restored.
For the more science oriented readers I’ve attached the following journal article that summarizes very well our current understanding of autoimmunity and intestinal permeability:

In Health,
Duncan Macdonald, L.Ac.

Fasting – Perhaps the Best Diet of All!

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People who know me know that I have a deep interest in nutrition and diet strategies. I am also a big proponent of self-experimentation. Over the next several months I will be releasing several blog posts that examine different strategies for diet and their benefits and drawbacks. For some reason people have it in their minds that there must be one true “healthiest diet,” when in fact different nutritional strategies are necessary for different health conditions, different times of our lives, various health goals, and even different seasons! But, today we are going to examine the simplest of strategies: not eating! To quote Bruce Lee from Enter the Dragon (yes, I’m a fan) it’s “the art of fighting without fighting,” or dieting without dieting. For thousands of years healers have respected the power of fasting and now modern medicine is rediscovering its therapeutic benefit. There are many types of fasts, water fast, compressed eating window, 5:2, alternate day fasting, extended fasting, etc. They all have their pros and cons. I’d encourage you to research these different approaches, as the best type of fasting is the one that meets your goals and fits with your lifestyle. I have experimented with several. So, let’s look at who should be fasting, some common myths, different strategies, and then a little about my personal experience (hint: I’m currently on day 5 of a fast!). I wanted to add that this blog post is completely inspired by the terrific work of Dr. Jason Fung in reversing diabetes, insulin resistance, and obesity. His new book “The Complete Guide to Fasting” is an absolute must for anybody interested in this intense therapy and I’ll be linking to some of his lectures at the end of this post.

According to a study recently published in JAMA 50% of Americans are either prediabetic or diabetic. This health crisis is costing an estimated $245 billion dollars a year to our healthcare system. Over two thirds of Americans are overweight or obese. It is unsustainable. Yet, the same advice is given to all of these people: eat less and move more. And if it doesn’t work then I guess the problem is that you are a weak person with no will power. The rise of obesity and diabetes and the failure of medicine to address it deserves its own blog post, so I’ll try to avoid a rant. But, to best understand the benefit of fasting it is important to understand the two compartment theory of energy storage. I promise this is the only physiology I’ll cram down your throat! The two compartment theory basically states that the body has two separate ways of storing excess energy. The first, glycogen, is the easily burned sugar stored in the muscles and liver. This is quick and easy fuel for the body and great for high intensity activity like running away from attacking tigers (an activity I hope you don’t do much). The second storage is, of course, fat. Fat can be thought of as long term storage. It is the energy the body expects to burn when winter or famine arises. This ability for the body to store energy in two separate ways probably worked great for millions of years until the rise of the modern food industry. That famine our body was counting on never happens anymore! What controls which compartment we draw energy from is the the hormone insulin and, to a lesser degree, cortisol. As we all probably know insulin rises in the presence of glucose. If Insulin is consistently high the body adapts to its constant signalling and we become “insulin resistant.” Once we are insulin resistant and our constant insulin signalling is too high our bodies can no longer access the fat stores. Thus, a few pounds creep on to us year by year and it seems to get harder and harder to lose weight. So how do we break this insulin resistance and get insulin to drop back to normal levels. You guessed it! Fasting!

A few quick myths to debunk before we go further. People are often worried that hunger will overwhelm them on a fast. Hunger is the response to a hormonal signaling, mainly ghrelin, when the body is not getting expected food and is worried about running out of energy. Once insulin drops and the fat stores are released hunger subsides to a very manageable level. People are also concerned that they are going to slow their metabolism down. This is also a myth. If you want to slow your metabolism down consistently eat a high-carb low-calorie diet! When we fast our body significantly increases your resting metabolic rate and cortisol and norepinephrine rise. It is a survival response that is basically saying get off your ass and find food! Mental clarity also increases because we need to be more clever to find food. But, aren’t we going to lose muscle? Why would our body break down its muscle when it has all this lovely fat it has been storing? After a day or so there is a massive upsurge of HGH (human growth hormone), which protects our lean muscle mass. This HGH surge is a hack that bodybuilders have employed for ages! What is not good for our bodies is having insulin still stimulated, but inadequate calories coming in. The body is unable to unlock its fat stores due to stimulated insulin and the food energy is not enough, so there is no other choice but to slow the metabolic rate. This is what happened to the poor contestants on The Biggest Loser.

Now let’s talk benefits! For one there is weight loss. With the metabolic rate preserved and actually raised some our body freely uses the fat on our body for its energy needs. We are basically on a low carb high fat diet when we fast. We are just eating the fat on our bodies! By burning this fat the body enters a state called ketosis, meaning it is burning ketones for fuel. Ketones are considered a super fuel for the brain and we often experience heightened cognition. Maybe the ancient Greeks were onto something when they would fast to heighten their intellectual prowess… Burning fat for fuel instead of glucose also produces far less oxidative stress on our cells and inflammation dramatically drops in the body. Stubborn aches and pains often heal and our complexion often clears up. Another extremely interesting benefit is something called autophagy, which literally means self eating. This is the process by which the body scrounges and recycles all the damaged tissues of the body. This appears to have a strong anti-aging effect and there is some extremely interesting research on autophagy and cancer prevention.

Ok, so from a scientific and Functional Medicine standpoint the benefits seem pretty clear, but what about through the lens of Chinese medicine? Surely, a pragmatic medical system with over 2000 years of clinical usage has an opinion. Much of Chinese medical theory came out of Taoism, which is the study of natural cycles. Since feast and famine is a natural cycle of all creatures in nature, fasting was recognized for its health benefits. The Taoist recognized two forms of fasting, complete fasting for increasing mental clarity and health, and interestingly, abstaining from grains. But, we have to keep in mind that for much of the history of Chinese medicine’s development over-eating was not much of a problem. In fact, the only place we find information on a patient base that is similar to the average American is in the medical texts written specifically for the Emperor and his Court. These guys knew how to feast! This is a fascinating part of Chinese medicine that I will save for another post!

But, as with any eating strategy, it is not right for everybody. Who should avoid it? Let’s start with the obvious: pregnant or breastfeeding women, teenagers, and children. People with really low body fat should probably not do extended fasts. Those on blood pressure or blood sugar medication need to be carefully monitored by their physician. Fasting is one of the quickest ways to heal the body from diabetes or hypertension, but the medications really need to be monitored. Finally, those who have dysregulated cortisol output. Fasting is a stress on the body and significantly affects cortisol. Cortisol is a glucocorticosteroid, meaning one of its effects is on blood sugar management. I hate to use the term “adrenal fatigue,” because it does not reflect what is physiologically happening. But, many people use this term when they mean dysregulation of the hypothalamus – pituitary – adrenal axis (HPA axis). If your cortisol output or rhythm is significantly disrupted fasting will make you feel worse and cause further disruption. Clinically, I don’t use intensive tools like fasting until I have done a salivary or urinary adrenal output test. Basically, if you are under significant stress in your life or feel generally unwell some simple testing should probably be performed before any extended fasting.

As of writing this blog post I am currently on day 5 of a fast. So, what did I experience? I felt the expected hunger on day 1 and had a little trouble sleeping the first night because I was hungry. By about noon of day 2 the hunger had largely subsided and would come in intermittent waves that were easy to ride out. I am following Dr. Jason Fung’s protocol, so I am consuming broth, water, tea, and coffee. I actually had to ditch the coffee on day 3 because I found it was triggering some acid reflux. On day 3 I began to experience a really profound sense of calm. All background buzziness or low grade anxiety that often accompanies our busy day to day existence seemed to disappear. I felt more mental focus and felt more attentive. I was measuring my ketone levels with a breath analyzer and these benefits all seemed to occur when my body fully adjusted to burning fat as fuel. I dropped about 8 lbs, half of which was probably water. The overall experience was much easier than I anticipated. In general, my hunger was minimal, maybe 2 out of 10 with an occasional brief wave of intensity. My energy level overall was superb. I do my usual 3.5 mile walks every day and felt mildly euphoric. In my next go-around I’d like to experiment with hitting the weights hard to see if I can take advantage of the HGH surge. The calm, focus, and improved mood make me want to run an experiment with the ketogenic diet to see if those benefits were from my brain’s use of ketones for fuel or something else unique to fasting.

If fasting is so great why don’t we hear about it all the time? Well, actually a large portion of the world’s population does regularly fast for religious, spiritual, or cultural reasons. Also, not to be too cynical, but nobody makes money on fasting. I don’t have any magic fasting supplements to sell you or Chinese herbs that are required. It is fundamentally the action of not putting anything in our bodies. If the pharmaceutical industry could come up with a pill that could lower insulin, reduce inflammation, surge HGH, reverse diabetes, increase cognition, and burn fat we would see a commercial for it every five minutes on the TV! We actually save money when we fast. It’s the cheapest and most convenient diet ever! And I do say “diet” because, once again, we are eating. We’re just not putting food in our mouths.

So, remember, fasting can be as easy as not snacking after dinner and therefore having a fast from about 7pm until about 7am. This is an eating pattern that pretty much everybody in this country used to do a generation ago when obesity rates were magnitudes lower than now! Or you can experiment with any of the more intensive fasting strategies. But, please, if you are on any significant medications consult with your prescribing doctor first. If you are concerned about whether fasting may impact your already overwhelmed stress response then please contact our office for a consult and some simple testing. Everybody can (and already does) fast, so I encourage you to explore its health benefits. But, remember, if you are fasting and feel unwell then something is wrong! Just eat something. Then call someone qualified and do some troubleshooting. For more information I recommend Dr. Jason Fung’s new book The Complete Guide to Fasting. You can also find many fascinating lectures by Dr. Fung on youtube. Thanks for the inspiration, Dr. Fung. You are doing a lot of people a lot of good!

Complete Guide to Fasting

The Autoimmunity Presentation Notes

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Hi Everyone

A big thank you to everyone who made it out on 4/22 for our first Origins Medicine workshop, Autoimmunity: 3 Steps to Cool the Fire Within. For those who couldn’t make it I wanted to post the handout. The talk was extremely popular and we’ll be giving it again in the very near future!


Origins Medicine
Duncan Macdonald, L.Ac.
Jonah Larkin, L.Ac.
Harry McIlroy, MD

Autoimmunity: Three Steps to Cool the Fire Within

This is your cheat sheet! No need to take notes. We are also going to cheat and do your homework for you by delivering you a comprehensive resource list in a couple of days. This will give you a clear path to dive deep into your own healing!

The three body systems:


Somewhere in the interaction of these systems is the root cause of your autoimmunity. Here are the action steps to figure it out!

1. Neuroendocrine a.k.a. Stress!

The stress response is always examined and treated first in every patient walking through our door. Without regulating these hormones the body cannot maintain a healthy immune response.
Meditation: meditation is a general term for a large number of relaxation practices. If you’ve never found a practice that sticks it’s because you haven’t found the right style for you! As a simple intro we suggest trying the apps Headspace or Insight.
Breathing exercises: the nervous system can be powerfully calmed with simple belly breathing. We will get start with the 4-7-8 breath at our first meeting.
Circadian rhythm: All creatures are governed by hormonal rhythm. Try to get fifteen minutes of sun exposure first thing in the morning. After the sun goes down try to limit blue light exposure by downloading filter apps, swapping out light bulbs to warmer light, and blue light blocking glasses also work well. You will be amazed at how your sleep deepens!

2. Gastrointestinal a.k.a. Digest!

Eliminate common immune and inflammation provoking foods! We cannot emphasize this enough. It’s time to ditch gluten, dairy, soy, corn, and seed oils until we know how they affect you. Bye, bye processed food!
Nourish yourself! Try to eat at least 2 cups of vegetables, 1 – 2 palm sizes of protein, and 1- 2 thumb sizes of fat at every meal (including the meaty part by your palm!). Always emphasize food quality i.e. organic, grass fed, etc.
Absorb: Try to eat in a relaxed state. Realize that an overtaxed and under functioning stomach may require some supplemental enzymes for a period of time to help absorption. Common infections will inflame the gut and block absorption of nutrients. When in doubt… test!
Supplement: There are some extremely common nutrient deficiencies associated with autoimmunity. It is nearly impossible to achieve the necessary levels through food alone (although, check out Terry Wahls, MD!). The RDA for nutrients such as B-Vitamins, Magnesium, Selenium, antioxidants, etc. is not sufficient when addressing autoimmunity. Solution: Multi-pack (we like Twice Dailies by Designs for Health)
Impaired mitochondrial function, protein malabsorption, methylation issues, etc. are all extremely common in autoimmune conditions, so if no improvement with dietary changes then… test and correct!

3. Detox System a.k.a. Liver

All inflammatory and immune byproducts are broken down in the liver.
The rise in autoimmunity has correlated strongly with the increasing toxic burden of the environment and its effect on the human body.
Common environmental toxins are introduced through the air, our skin, water, and food. Reduce the toxicity of your environment!
The solution to pollution is dilution! Drink a minimum 64 ounces water daily.
The two main detox pathways of the liver rely on antioxidants and sulphur compounds. Eat lots of colorful fruits and vegetables, cruciferous vegetables, and lots of greens!
Impaired liver detox leads directly to inflammation and autoimmunity.
This is so imperative that most Functional med docs will begin autoimmune patients with a 2 week liver detox plan. This can be critical to success, as it prepares the patient for more therapeutic treatments.
Detox allso serves as a diagnostic tool. Patients often experience dramatic improvement, which reveals the extent of liver involvement.
Solution: we strongly believe the best formulated and comprehensive detox plan is PaleoCleanse 14-day by Designs for Health. It can be purchased on Amazon or through originsmedicine.com at a discount. Our detox program also includes email and video coaching.

Parting thoughts: Medicine is not an us vs. them profession. There is no conventional vs. natural, Chinese vs. Western. There is only the proper medicine for the patient, at the right time, with the greatest efficacy, and least amount of side effects. Functional medicine is a bridge between all of these models. This is the guiding philosophy of Origins Medicine. Pharmaceutical immune suppression is necessary on occasion to prevent irreversible tissue damage. This is not a failure. Suppressive therapy is a tool that can be helpful until the underlying cause of disease is discovered and corrected. Never mistake the tool for the solution. Let’s get you healthy!

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How To Work With Us!

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Working with Origins Medicine

We get a couple of questions asked of us more than any others. The first question is what is functional medicine? You can find the answer to that here.

The second question is how does this whole thing work? This is the question I will seek to explain in this post.

Working with us is a long term project

This is not a take two of these pills to obscure your symptoms and call me in the morning type of medicine.

This is investigative health. Investigative health means we seek to understand the root of the problem. We don’t simply try to suppress symptoms like conventional medicine often does. For us accurate diagnosis=accurate treatment.

Whatever your current health status, it has been years in the making. So it can take a little while to regain health and start to optimize.

Working with us means a commitment to better health over your entire life.

We don’t just solve the symptoms in front of us. If we only looked at symptoms instead of investigating and discovering the underlying cause we would be mis-treating you.

Lifestyle accounts for at least 50 percent of the results of any of our programs. The other 50 percent is specific and correct supplementation. I should mention that 95% of the time people who try to create supplement programs themselves completely blow it. Supplementation based on lab test results is the one sure way to know what is necessary and what isn’t.

There is a significant investment that goes into working with us.

The first investment is one of time and lifestyle. Getting healthy and maintaining vitality takes time, focus and energy. Most people fail because they try to do this alone. However, this is your life and the ultimate pay off is the health, vitality, and happiness to fully engage work, family, and leisure.

Our number one mission is to help you succeed. We do this by being with you every step of the way and having a robust coaching program to keep you going even when things get tough.

The second commitment is a financial investment. I have no idea why but we humans seem to have no problem throwing money at all sorts of things but seem to hesitate when it comes to allocating resources to the most important thing of all, your body.

We are comfortable spending almost $10,000 per year on our cars (that’s the average according to AAA), buying tons of things we don’t really need or spending money on expensive dinners and overpriced vacations.

We often treat our bodies like dumpsters. We treat them poorly with almost no maintenance and expect them to keep going and going for ever. Then we’re surprised when they break down!

My point is that it’s all about priorities. If you want to have health, energy, well-being, vitality and wake up energized and excited to face the day, you have to be willing to invest in it. I can’t think of a better investment I’d rather make.

What it Means for Your Health

Working with us is an investment in you. It’s an investment in your health, vitality and well being. And it’s an investment in your future. The adage that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure has never been so true. Even if you are suffering from a real illness, working with us will be preventing lots of frustrating doctor visits in your future, not to mention the tens of thousands you and your relatives will likely save on future medical care.

Thousands of patients have experienced success working with us. We see people get their energy back, be able to sleep well through the night, recover from diseases like IBS, Crohns, reverse burnout, lose weight and recover from debilitating depression and anxiety.

It’s not a miracle cure, but we have a proven track record of success. At Origins we use the same protocols that my mentor Dr. Kalish developed and tested recently in this highly regarded clinical study that was done at the world famous Mayo Clinic.

Functional medicine, Chinese medicine, and lifestyle medicine, in general, is not something you just learn in 4 years. It takes many years of study and application to heal the root of people’s disease. Every member of our clinical team has over a decade of actual clinical practice and we are closely connected to the Functional medicine community as a whole. In fact, we discuss all complex cases on a weekly Grand Rounds call with Dr. Kalish and 10 other Functional medicine doctors with various backgrounds. There are literally hundreds of combined clinical years of experience behind the analysis and implementation of every therapeutic plan.

The Process

We start off with a consultation. This is where we go over your complete health history, discuss your pain points as well as goals. We figure out what lab tests we’re going to run and you walk away with some take home lab tests.

Our lab tests use saliva, urine or stool as samples and can all be done from the comfort of your own home. Then it takes 2-4 weeks to get the results.

Next comes a two week detox. Many patients are dealing with so many issues like inflammation and enzymatic and neurological and hormonal pathways that are broken that without moving out some of the junk that’s stopping everything up, the supplements we prescribe won’t get absorbed.

Most people also tend to lose a few pounds and often report feeling great afterward.

After the detox is complete the labs done and we have a follow-up appointment where we go over the report of findings and create a treatment plan. The treatment plan usually includes a supplement protocol as well as lifestyle interventions.

We then do a check in every month at a minimum to make sure you’re on track. There may be more frequent mini consultations in the beginning to ensure the clinical improvement we expect is being met. In between the monthly check-ins you will get access to our coaching programs with emails, videos and occasional calls and webinars.

After about 6 months we may decide to re-test to see where things are and if we need to course correct. Treatment plans are always logical, progressive, and based on a clear diagnosis and clear objectives. You should never feel lost in the process.

Preventing Future Illness

Finally one of the huge benefits our patients get is that we can often catch small problems before they turn into big problems. A patient with an inflamed gut brought on by an all too common parasite can be saved from years of future anguish or even something worse like an an autoimmune disease by completing a gut testing and rebuilding program with us.

While your regular doctor may order some blood tests when something is already “wrong” we have a string of tests that look for systemic imbalances. By the time a real problem has manifested in the body, an imbalance has been active for years.

A yearly check-in with us goes a long way to preventing and catching things before they become insurmountable.

Phone: (415) 902-0771