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Functional Medicine

Sugar is the villain in the diet-cancer connection

By | Functional Medicine, Origins News, Uncategorized | No Comments

A few basic facts to remember are that sugar is extremely toxic to the body and must be kept in a very narrow range within the blood. This is why diabetes is such a dangerous disease! Also, glucose metabolism leads to greater oxidative stress than fat metabolism. It’s like putting racing fuel in your Honda Accord. It burns a little too hot and can wear out the motor! This oxidative stress can directly damage the DNA of the cell leading to potential cancerous change. It also damages the mitochondria of the cells. The mitochondria are the little powerhouses of the cell that use glucose and fat and turn them into energy. Damage to the mitochondria leads to further metabolic damage and potentially higher insulin to deal with excess sugar! Insulin also drives a hormone called Insulin Growth Factor. High IGF leads to greater cell division. This is great if you’re a toddler looking to grow, but in us adults it’s not so great. I think we can all certainly recognize how signaling greater cell division could be a problem for cancer and cancer risk. There are several important markers on the Organic Acids Test that allows us to directly measure how the body is dealing glucose as a fuel, insulin resistance, and overall oxidative stress to the body. It’s like getting a snapshot of your metabolism. This information allows us to steer the whole ship back on course through lifestyle change and targeted therapeutic supplements. If you’d like to know more please reach out to us!

“OP-ED It’s getting clear – the diet-cancer connection points to sugar and carbs”

In Health,

Duncan Macdonald, L.Ac.

Acupuncture for Pain: the research is in!

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Our country is reaching an epidemic problem with opioid addiction and other pharmacological treatments for pain often fall short.  By using pharmaceutical treatments we risk addiction and toxicity.

Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the US, with 52,404 lethal drug overdoses in 2015. Opioid addiction is driving this epidemic, with 20,101 overdose deaths related to prescription pain relievers, and 12,990 overdose deaths related to heroin in 2015.

Acetaminophen overdose sends as many as 78,000 Americans to the emergency room annually and results in 33,000 hospitalizations a year, federal data shows. Acetaminophen is also the nation’s leading cause of acute liver failure, according to data from an ongoing study funded by the National Institutes for Health.

The problem is truly staggering.  What if there was a better way to treat pain entirely?  There is, it’s called acupuncture, and it has virtually no downside!

As more well trained acupuncturists have begun practicing in the United States we are seeing a growing amount of research.  There have been some recent meta-analysis performed looking at high quality studies of acupuncture for common pain conditions and the results are overwhelmingly positive.

It’s not sham, it’s not placebo, it’s effective medicine.  What is truly amazing is that many of the studies find that the benefits are ongoing, lasting over a year after treatment ceases.

A very interesting summary of the scientific validation of acupuncture’s effectiveness was published today on Medscape.  You can read about its proven benefits here.

Here at Origins Medicine we practice acupuncture, Chinese medicine, and Functional medicine together.  The synergy is phenomenal for pain.  You can read more about our unique approach for effectively treat the most complicated chronic pain cases in my previous blog on the subject here.

If you are suffering, or know someone who is, please share this.  Conventional medicine’s current strategy for treating pain isn’t working and people are dying.  It’s time for a new approach.


In Health,

Duncan Macdonald, L.Ac.

Turmeric and Curcumin: comparing the modern view of an ancient remedy

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Having practiced Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture for 20 years now, it is always interesting to me when conventional medicine “discovers” a new natural treatment.  One of the most popular heavy hitters on the supplement scene in recent months is turmeric, also referred to sometimes by one of its active constituents curcumin.  I thought it could be a fun exercise to look at the conditions for which turmeric has been prescribed for thousands of years, compare that to our known research, and see if we’ve discovered anything new at all!  Then I’ll share with you the turmeric product I am currently using in the clinic and how you can benefit from it.

The Chinese name for the herb turmeric is yujin and jianghuang, depending on the part of the plant utilized.  It was traditionally prescribed for: pain, arthritis, digestive disorders, liver disease, anxiety and depression, and skin disorders (acne, ulcers, etc.).

Now, let’s take a look of the summary of turmeric (curcumin) research from PubMed, the largest government medical study library.

Click here for summary of published research.

What do we see?  The research backs up every one of these traditional indications!  Plus, it seems to have some incredibly promising anti-cancer properties, probably due to its strong anti-inflammatory nature.  And, unlike NSAIDs, it actually protects your liver and stomach!

Turmeric (curcumin) is a powerful standalone supplement, however it was traditionally prescribed with other herbs which help its efficacy and absorption.  That is what we offer here at Origins Medicine.  The ability to seamlessly combine thousands of years of traditional medical knowledge with the latest in evidence based scientific medicine.

The supplement world moves fast and we are constantly evaluating and updating our recommendations based on the very best products in the market.  My current favorite curcumin product, which I use daily in the clinic can be found here.

You can use discount code: DFH50641 to save 25% on your first order!

You’ll notice that many of the supplements I recommend are from Designs For Health.  They are a family run, extremely high quality brand.  But, because of their stellar reputation there have been some issues with counterfeit products on Amazon, so please only purchase through their Amazon page or from our Origins pharmacy.

For general inflammatory issues try 1 – 2 capsules per day.  Remember that it is always important to discover the source of inflammation in the body, so please use this powerful herb in conjunction with a lab based program to correct your health.  Also, curcumin is best used in conjunction with synergistic herbs for specific conditions.  To learn more please contact our office.

In Health,

Duncan Macdonald, L.Ac.

Liver Detox Properly-Don’t Make This Simple Mistake

By | Functional Medicine, Origins News, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Vegies for Liver DetoxOne of the things that drives us absolutely banana’s over here at Origins Medicine is all the horrible advice out there on “cleanses” and “liver detox programs.”

A huge amount of these “cleanses” can often do more harm than good.

When the body releases toxins the liver has to be in tip-top shape in order to eliminate them from the body.

If you’re liver is even a little overburdened then those toxins will simply get recycled right back into the body and not excreted like they should.

This can not only make you sick but increase your risk for degenerative disease.

We run most patients through a two week detox process and make sure to ALWAYS support the liver.

At the bottom of this post there is a link to the detox that we like to use.

Why Should I Detox Anyway?

We live in an incredibly toxic environment.  

It seems to come as surprise to some people that we are part of this polluted environment!

Studies show that the average american has between 300 – 700 toxic chemical contaminants and the average infant is born with 40-70 measurable toxins in their body tissues!

If you don’t eliminate and minimize these toxic loads you are drastically increasing your long term risk of disease.

How Toxins Affect Us

Many of these toxins are endocrine disruptors and neurotoxins, meaning they affect our hormones as well as our brain, nervous system and all the important glands of the body.Organ and Liver Detox

They also cause massive stress on our cells leading to fatigue, premature aging, and create conditions for diseases such as cancer and diabetes.  

When the body is shackled by an undue toxic burden it loses its ability to tolerate even gentle therapeutic supplements.

Solution: Support to Detox the Liver

The liver is a very complicated organ and we are going to make some big oversimplifications.  

Just like cleaning your clothes takes two steps (washing phase and drying phase), the liver goes through two steps as well when it detoxifies. 

Phase 1 is fueled by anti-oxidants to make toxins water soluble and cool inflammation.
Phase 2 Binds these toxins with amino acids so they can be eliminated and excreted.

VegeCleanse Plus Designs for Health

The VegeCleanse Plus provides all the necessary nutrients to make sure the body properly gets rid of toxins.

Imagine trying to wash your clothes with dirty water and no detergent.

It would not work well.

That’s why you need the proper nutrients to help the detox process along.

The Mistake of Most Cleanses and Liver Detox Plans

While the VegeCleanse and other liver supportive cleanses are an ideal way to complete a detox plan there are a bunch of ways that can end up hurting more than they help.

Juice cleanses, fasting without detoxing first and unsupported cleanses like the master cleanse can all be problematic.

When you restrict calories from the body, the body dives into its fat stores to create energy.

Fat is where toxins are stored once the enter the body.

As fat starts to get used these toxins go right back into blood circulation.

Without liver support they simply move to another area in the body.

That’s why people often report feeling sick or ill when they are detoxing.

What most people don’t know is that this is totally un-necessary.

In future blog posts on liver detox and detoxification in general we will dive into the different components to ensure that your cleanse is a success, you lose weight and you feel great!

In the meantime, we would love to know what questions you have.  Please write them in the comments below and we’ll do our best to answer.


The evidence against PPI medications continues to build!

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Hi Everyone,

Those of you who have followed this blog know that I am not a fan of the over prescription of PPI medications to treat heartburn (GERD).  It is effectively treated with Functional and Chinese medicine, so there is no need to use these dangerous medications long term. New research released this week shows that chronic use of PPI’s alters the gut to allow for infections that can lead to chronic liver disease.  Read about this risk to the liver here.

For those of you who haven’t read my original blog post on how heartburn (GERD) can be treated effectively with Functional and Chinese medicine you can find it here.

And, finally, I’ll link to an article that came out a few months ago which really summarizes all of the risks associated with these medications.  You can find that here.

As I detailed in my original blog I struggled with this painful condition.  It wasn’t until I discovered the root cause through functional testing (H. Pylori infection) and corrected it with natural medicine protocols that I finally was free of any medications.  If you are struggling with GERD please contact us.   We can help and, quite frankly, the evidence is in that it is dangerous to mask the symptoms with medications.

In Health,

Duncan Macdonald, L.Ac.

Time to kick gluten to the curb!

By | Functional Medicine, Origins News | No Comments

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!

By | Functional Medicine, Origins News, Uncategorized | No Comments

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!

By | Functional Medicine, Origins News | One Comment

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

By | Functional Medicine, Origins News | 2 Comments

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

By | Functional Medicine, Origins News | 7 Comments

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.


Phone: (415) 902-0771