Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Gift Within Tragedy

by Glen Depke, Traditional Naturopath

A week ago Monday, tragedy had shown its face to my family as my brother Mark passed at the age of 59. Mark was diagnosed with ALS about 18 or 20 months ago and it has been quite a journey with him during this time. As I know Mark, he would not want a fuss made over his passing and I am sure that he would want others to be aware of this tragic diagnosis of ALS and more importantly, some of the underlying challenges that we were able to uncover for him personally. This way, his tragedy can actually be a gift for somebody else.

Mark, this article is written in your honor.

I know Mark was very excited about the Ice Bucket Challenge to bring awareness to ALS in the hope of finding a cure for this tragic diagnosis. While I support bringing an awareness to this deadly and debilitating disease, I want to be very focused on the fact that I believe that this can be prevented when we look at the underlying factors. I personally wish my brother would have looked at all the underlying challenges earlier in his life because I truly believe that he would not only be alive today, but he would have never developed this disease in the first place.

You may ask how I can say this with such conviction.

So here's the story of my brother in the hope that this is a gift for one of the Depke Wellness followers or one of your friends or loved ones.

When my brother was first diagnosed, conventional medicine was trying to understand why he was have some difficulties with his speech. He was referred to a speech therapist and was provided a pharmaceutical drug that was suppose to help with his speech. Ironically I later found that one of the symptoms of this drug was neurological dysfunction. I want to be clear that I do not feel that the drug itself was the cause of Mark's challenges but it likely did not help. Once he was officially diagnosed we made it a point to get him into our clinic ASAP to take a look at the underlying factors that he was dealing with. Understand that here at Depke Wellness, we do not look at the disease or the diagnosis as the problem, we see the underlying causes as the real issue. Based on conventional medicine ALS is a somewhat diverse and decidedly mystifying disease. In more than nine out of every 10 cases diagnosed, no clear identifying cause of the disease is apparent, that is, patients lack an obvious genetic history, complete with affected family members.

So what would we look at then as a cause?

Let's first recognize that ALS, often referred to as Lou Gehrig's Disease is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Motor neurons reach from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to the muscles throughout the body. The key here is neurodegeneration!

This is where we found many challenges for my brother and I would estimate that you would find similar challenges for others diagnosed with ALS. Let me be very clear though, you want to understand these keys before you are living with the symptoms or diagnosis of ALS.

Once my brother started working with Depke Wellness, we went through a battery of test to understand his function and underlying causes. These are the tests that we ran for Mark.
  • Comprehensive adrenal saliva testing
  • Gluten sensitivity testing
  • Cross reactive sensitivity testing
  • Urine porphyrin testing for heavy metals
  • Brain autoimmunity testing
  • Muscle testing for infection
  • Chiropractic assessment
The results of this testing showed some conclusive evidence of why Mark was living this this neurodegenerative disease. Upon initial review of his adrenal function, this revealed stage III adrenal insufficiency which directly impacts neural connectivity, muscle integrity and immune function as well as many other functions of the body. He had shown to be sensitive to gluten, dairy and corn, all of which he ate for most of his life on a consistent basis. Understanding that these sensitivities lead to gut/brain connection disorders, chronic inflammation, immune dysregulation and neural degeneration. We also found that he was loading with mercury toxicity, which is a known neurotoxin. When we received the results of his autoimmune testing, which tested five different levels at which that immune system can be attacking the brain, Mark was dealing with autoimmunity on all five levels. Upon muscle testing, it was discovered that he was also dealing with chronic infection throughout his body and the chiropractic assessments had shown definite neurological challenges based on subluxation in his vertebrae.

If it sounds as if Mark was a mess at this point, you could not be more correct and based on these findings it would be expected to also be living with some type of neurological degenerative disease state, which he was.

At that time, we of course initiated our focus on Mark's care. He removed the foods from his diet that he was sensitive to, we worked on balancing his adrenal function, supported his immune system with the intention of fighting infection, used proper chiropractic intervention to assist in aligning his spine, assisted on eliminating the mercury toxicity from his body and focused on the chronic inflammation which most often leads to autoimmune conditions. Throughout this time Mark often felt as if he was improving but it was a couple steps forward and some steps backward.

In the end, we caught this all too late and his body was beyond the ability to recover from the depth of this neurodegeneration.

The gift of this entire situation with my brother is in knowing that this can all be understood long before you would ever have to live with the news of a diagnosis of ALS or any other neurodegenerative disease and I personally look at all these areas for myself with consistency. After all, I not only witnessed my brother progress through this but also watched my mother and grandmother both pass with severe dementia, which is another neurodegenerative disease.

A certain level of peace that I have found through this entire process with my brother is that he told his conventional doctor with conviction that he was not going to progress through the typical stages of neuromuscular degeneration that is typical of ALS, and he did not. Up until just days before the very end, he was still walking and even working from home which is very unusual for those with ALS. One thing that I always loved about my brother is that he did it his way, both in life and in death. I will always love my brother and am grateful for the gift that he will provide for someone else in preventing neurodegeneration.

In the end, we can use this tragedy as a gift and recognize that neurodegenerative disease can be addressed at the core, but don't wait until you have a significant diagnosis such as ALS, dementia or Alzheimer's. Catch this early and prevent!

If anyone cares to donate in memory of my brother Mark, please donate to either the San Fransico SPCA or the ALS Association. When my brother lived in San Francisco he would regular donate his time and money to the SPCA due to his love for animals and cats specifically and I know that he was very supportive for ALS awareness.

If you have any comments or questions, please leave these below and we will address them personally.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Daily Aches and Pains?

by Glen Depke, Traditional Naturopath

So many of our Depke Wellness clients begin their journey living with varied levels of aches and pains. While for some, this may seem manageable, to others this is truly excruciating and life altering. Regardless of what level you may find yourself in, their is hope for escaping these aches and pains.

To understand how to alleviate pain it is most important to understand its origination which is inflammation. You see, inflammation will lead to a production of a neurotransmitter called bradykinin and this neurotransmitter leads to pain hypersensitivity. So "getting" this deeply is the understanding that the inflammation is the problem and not the pain itself, right?

Not so fast...

Actually the deeper issue here is the triggers for inflammation and the feedback loops for chronic inflammatory states. We'll look at the main triggers first.
  • Food sensitivity - Whether this is a gluten sensitivity, cross reactive sensitivity or most often both, the first response of a food sensitivity is to lead to inflammation in the gut. Over time, when we continue to consume these foods, the inflammation becomes chronic and systemic.
  • Standard American diet (SAD) - A diet high in sugar and processed foods, which easily break down into sugar, is another major trigger for inflammation.
  • Chronic infection - When we are living with chronic infection we are living with chronic inflammation as the bodies protective response. It is essential to recognize these infections and address accordingly.
  • Chronic stress - This is the one area that most do not understand as an inflammatory trigger but honestly, I see this all the time with our clients. This is why it is so important to learn healthy way of perceiving and dealing with our stressors.
  • Obesity - An increase in fat cells and eventual obesity is an inflammatory trigger. The conundrum with this is that inflammation is not only caused by obesity but also leads to obesity.
Recognizing which triggers are influencing your chronic inflammation and addressing these properly is an important first step in addressing your aches and pains.

I did say "important first step" but there is more. We also have to understand that one you are living with chronic inflammation, there are feedback loops the continue this inflammatory state even after you recognize and eliminate your triggers. Once you have developed chronic inflammation, the inflammation itself potentially creates four different feedback loops as described below.

Feedback loop one:
  • —  Increase in fat cell production
  • —  Insulin resistance
  • —  Insulin surges
  • —  More inflammation
The PAIN of Inflammation Program

Feedback loop two:
  • —  Tight junction breakdown
  • —  Leaky gut—  
  •   Immune activation
  • —  More inflammation

Feedback loop three:
  • —  Suppression of cytochrome P450
  • —  Hepatic (liver) biotransformation
  • —  Activated liver end products
  • —  Add environmental triggers
  • —  More inflammation

Feedback loop four:
  • —  Immune cell activation
  • —  Cytokine release
  • —  Self-amplifying loop
  • —  More inflammation
I know that between the triggers and feedback loops, it may seem daunting to reduce or eliminate your pain, but I see this all the time with our clients. Here are some testimonials that I can share of clients that have either worked with us in the office or have completed online anti-inflammatory programs.

“Here is a list of things that have improved or disappeared while doing this program. My blood pressure is more regulated, I've only had one migraine (which I used to have almost daily), my aches and pains are much more improved, I can go to sleep at a decent hour, stay asleep throughout the night, and wake up an hour before my alarm goes off, I am no longer incontinent of urine, and my fatigue has all but vanished."

- Dara


Glen Depke's program has been a big turning point for me. It allowed me to finally get a sense of control over my health. In the program, I learned about the gut-brain connection, the absolute importance of having a nutritionally sound diet and what makes a diet nutritionally sound. Virtually all of my "less than healthy conditions" that I identified at the beginning of the program, simply disappeared or greatly diminished. The group dynamics really helped as well as the webinars and blog site. I've been able to carry forward most of the healthy practices since the program ended. I highly recommend this program to anyone who is interested in excellent health and living life to the fullest." 

- Katherine


"I was one of the fortunate ones that got to participate in Glen Depke's program. Glen had previously done the program and had reported amazing results! I was excited when he decided to do the program again and invite those of us who were interested. Years of self- medicating my adrenal fatigue with sugar and caffeine were going to be a challenge to break away from. At this point...I really felt my life depended on it.

The diet restrictions involved in the program are do-able!! The supplements become a routine. The first few days I did experience some mild withdrawal symptoms from the caffeine. But, after that I felt great!!

My favorite part of the program was the 24/7 blog we had access to. Here we could share our triumphs and mishaps. Ask any questions we may have. Share recipe ideas. I'm such a creature of habit it was nice to read about others more adventurous in trying new things. If I needed encouragement someone was always there to offer a word of advice. If someone else was struggling, I could provide support. We could offer motivation to those who needed it and share, together, as we all made amazing progress throughout the program. Glen was ever present with his knowledge, advice, insight, positive attitude and guidance. The weekly information webinars were educational and helped to keep us focused and motivated throughout the program.

By the end of the 6 weeks I couldn't believe the changes that I had experienced! I lost 12 lbs! My acid reflux was gone! I was able to wean off all hormone supplements and sleep aides! With the improvement of my energy level increased. And most important to me, the joint and back pain I had been experiencing was gone!!

Would I recommend this program...HECK YES!!! No matter where you are with your health and will benefit. This program was definitely much more than I had hoped it could be!!! Thank you Glen for putting this wonderful program together for us!" - Kit 

I can even share my personal experience. When I was 17 years old I hurt my knee playing football. Over the next 30 years, I had developed severe degeneration in my medial knee joint and moderate degeneration in the rest of my knee. With this degeneration and accompanying inflammation, I would feel chronic pain and discomfort with even the smallest use of my right knee. I was seriously resigned to the "fact" that I would have to live with this knee pain for the rest of my life. Shockingly though, when I focused on my own chronic inflammation, triggers and feedback loops, my knee pain was all but eliminated. Understand that nothing changed in my knee functionally except for the reduction in inflammation.

So in the end recognize that if you live with daily aches and pains, there is hope for you.

If you would like to learn more about "The PAIN of Inflammation" program, visit this link.

If you have any comments or questions, feel free to post these below and we will address these personally for you.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Is Sleep Eluding You?

By Glen Depke, Traditional Naturopath

So many clients enter into Depke Wellness with poor sleep habits to to point that I would share that these numbers are staggering. Proper sleep is one of your fundamentals of health that is essential, unfortunately our culture often views sleep as a luxury and not an essential component to health and happiness. I cannot say it enough, proper sleep is essential and insomnia is actually more of a norm!

Let's first define proper sleep. Many feel that proper sleep is simply getting approximately 7 to 8 hours of sleep nightly, but not so fast. Proper sleep would include approximately 8 hours of sleep but it is also important to sleep at the proper times of the day to honor assist in balancing our Circadian rhythms. A good general rule is to be in bed from 10:00PM thru 6:00AM but this does shift seasonally. We typically need much more sleep in the winter months than we do in the summer months. During summer months we may be fine going to bed at 10:30PM and waking at 6:00AM but during the winter months the best times to head off to bed may be closer to 9:30PM and waking at 6:30AM. An important focus to assist in getting to bed at a proper time is to prioritize a shutting down period. This means no cell phone, television or computer. This is time to unwind from the day, read a book, journal, take a bath, converse with your spouse or roommate, or play a relaxing game.

We also want to recognize our sleep patterns. While it is not unusual to wake during the night to urinate, if this occurs we should be able to "take care of business" and easily fall back into a deep sleep. Please be sure to not turn on bright lights at this time because this will likely hinder your ability to fall back into a deep sleep quickly. I recommend having a night light with a dim red bulb that will not lower melatonin when lit.

The other factor is how you wake up. When you wake you should be ready to "rock and roll" and if you find this to not be the case and your snooze alarm is your best friend, we can recognize that you are not getting proper sleep. Basically wake as close to sunrise as possible. I would recommend setting a timer for a low wattage lamp in your bedroom to turn on about 10 minutes prior to your alarm. This is a good idea since an alarm is often stimulating to the adrenals and nervous system.

Per the definition above, if you are not getting proper sleep we'll review the most common challenges leading to this.
  • Personal Choice
    • If you are simply choosing to go to bed later than is healthy, only you can change this. It is better to go to bed earlier and get up earlier than it is to go to bed late and get up late.
  • Adrenal Challenges
    • When adrenal function is off, this can have an effect on melatonin utilization in your body among other factors with sleep disorders.
  • Poor Digestion
    • When digestion is challenged, we often find ourselves looking at nutritional deficiencies that lead to sleep issues. This most common factors behind this is food sensitivity and/or gut pathogens.
  • Poor Neurotransmitter Function
    • Neurotransmitters play a role in sleep/wake patterns. These would definitely include the four primary neurotransmitters, which I consider to be serotonin, dopamine, GABA and acetyl-choline. While most would first look at GABA, I have to share that the bigger deficiency we see in our clinic is serotonin.
Due to the significant serotonin deficiencies that we recognize, let's focus on serotonin for the remainder of this article today.

First off, how can you easily recognize if you have a serotonin deficiency? Here are some common symptoms if you serotonin is compromised.
  • Unable to fall into a deep and restful sleep
  • Loss of pleasure in hobbies and interests
  • Feelings of inner rage and anger
  • Feelings of depression
  • Difficulty finding joy in life's pleasures
  • Depressed when it is cloudy or lack of sunlight
  • Loss of enthusiasm for your favorite foods or activities
  • Not enjoying your friendships or relationships
If half or more of these are challenges for you, low serotonin would be likely. Serotonin is involved in several important body functions such as memory, emotions, moods, appetite and thermoregulation, so it comes as no surprise that this neurotransmitter is important in regulating sleep-waking also. Serotonin deficiencies have been linked to depression, anger, OCD, sleep disturbances, irritable bowel syndrome and many other emotional and physical disturbances, while proper levels also help people feel contented and safe.

Does serotonin make one more sleepy or more awake?  Seemingly both. But given we need to sleep sometimes and to be awake at times, serotonin is generally a good thing.  Scientists have found that serotonin directly promotes wakefulness and also promotes the formation of sleep-promoting brain factors, perhaps as part of an evolutionary negative feedback look.  Orexinergic wake-promoting neurons also stimulate serotoningic neurons.

So why is your serotonin low?

Serotonin and Estrogen
Estrogen play a direct role in serotonin receptor sites. With this said, if estrogen is high that can lead to symptoms of serotonin excess and if estrogen is low this can cause symptoms of low serotonin activity. Because of the estrogen/serotonin connection, taking supplements to support serotonin may not have a significant impact if you are estrogen deficient. This is one reason to consider a comprehensive adrenal panel that also reviews estrogen hormones. Thankfully, this is what we regularly utilize at Depke Wellness.

Tryptophan and 5-HTP
Both 5-HTP and tryptophan have been shown to assist in increasing serotonin and can be helpful in addressing the symptoms caused by low serotonin. Both of these substances are precursors to serotonin production and often I will suggest the use of both to assist in increasing serotonin production. 

Iron and Serotonin
The production of serotonin depends on adequate levels of iron so iron deficiency has to be a factor to consider when considering low serotonin. This is common for those that follow a vegan or vegetarian diet or for those with low stomach acid production. One of the most common challenges that leads to low stomach acid production is a H-pylori infection.

Nutritional Deficiencies
There are many nutrients that are essential to synthesize serotonin in your body. Adding to the list that we mentioned above you could add vitamin B6, niacin, vitamin B12, folate and magnesium. 

Other Factors 
When addressing serotonin deficiencies you have to consider some of the typical "deal breakers" that will hinder your success. This would include general brain health, chronic stress, blood sugar imbalances. Also understand that chronic alcohol use can also hinder the serotonin pathways.

When addressing serotonin deficiencies with our clients it is important to understand all of the potential challenges listed above. We also want to provide you an opportunity to understand your current serotonin levels. If you have not assessed this recently, feel free to fill out our complimentary neurotransmitter assessment from Depke Wellness. Once you fill this out, please save this on your computer and email to the Depke Wellness team at We would be happy to review this for you!