Functional Medicine Health Newsletter Supplements

Supplement Corner – October

N-acetyl cysteine (NAC)

At WellCentric Health we have a few supplements that we consider foundational that we recommend to every client because of the benefits they provide in avoiding disease and promoting health.  N-acetyl cysteine is, definitely, one of those supplements and one we all take daily.

N-acetyl cysteine is a compound of three amino acids–cysteine, glutamate, and glycine– bound together that act, primarily, as a donor of cystine.  It’s two main strengths are as support for our anti-oxidant system and as a breaker of disulfide bonds. 

NAC is used in hospital emergency departments to save lives from those who overdose on acetaminophen (Tylenol).  Acetaminophen is partially broken down in the liver to a compound, NAPQI, that is very toxic to the liver. When enough liver cells die, so does the patient.  NAC is used for its antioxidant ability to quickly change the NAPQI into a safe compound that can then be excreted from the body. It is also used for respiratory patients to protect their lungs from oxidative damage, but also to break the disulfide bonds of mucous.  This thins the mucous to allow easier and improved respiration. 

Oxidation is occurring constantly in our bodies.  It is the process used to make energy in the form of ATP in our mitochondria.  Some of our white cells kill invasive pathogens by oxidation.  

A fire in your fireplace or from the burner of your gas stove is an oxidative process and it serves well by providing heat.  Obviously, however, that same fire has the potential to cause devastating damage to your home.  In the same way, uncontrolled oxidation in our cells can cause of lot of damage—some of it irreparable and can cause the death of the cell. 

This oxidative damage to cells can be the source of poor cell/tissue/body performance is a major contributor to many disease states such as cardiovascular disease, dementia and other neurological diseases, cancer, fibromyalgia, diabetes, mood disorders (such as rampant depression and anxiety), and the list goes on and on. 

Glutathione is a chemical our cells use to control oxidation.  If a cell does not have an adequate supply of glutathione oxidation starts destroying cellular proteins, cell membranes, DNA, and more. NAC provides cysteine to make more glutathione and is very good at it.  You may ask why not simply take glutathione itself, and you could.  The problem is glutathione is poorly absorbed from the gut, it does not stay around long enough to work well, and it can be pretty expensive—especially for the forms that work better.  In contrast, NAC is better absorbed, lasts longer, and is quite affordable.  

NAC has also been shown to reduce inflammation and can interfere with certain viral infections. While there is evidence that it may help prevent COVID infections by interfering with the viral spike proteins interaction with the ACE2 receptor, there are not yet clinical studies to demonstrate its effectiveness in this regard.  Now, we do have studies that show that for those who do get sick with COVID, or other severe respiratory diseases, that NAC is definitely beneficial.  Similarly, we do know that it can help prevent influenza, reduce symptom severity, and expedite recovery.  As the authors of one journal article wrote, “NAC treatment […] resulted in a significant decrease in the frequency of influenza-like episodes, severity, and length of time confined to bed. Both local and systemic symptoms were sharply and significantly reduced in the NAC group.”

So, whether you are working with WellCentric Health to correct a disease process or are working to optimize your health and longevity, NAC should be among your regular supplements that support an otherwise healthy diet and lifestyle.


COVID-19 Updates Functional Medicine Health Newsletter Supplements

How Familiar Are you with your Immune System?

Immune function is getting a lot of attention these days with the looming threat of COVID-19, but sadly, for many, our immune systems were very much in a suboptimal state when this new threat was introduced.  Are you confident your immune system is prepared for a COVID attack? Will you be ready for the next threat? And, what about the threat that is present every day, silently threatening our lives, but getting no daily media coverage and not violently stirring emotions, the news cycle, and social media? That threat? Cancer.

As a physician who studies the physiology of wellness and disease, I am absolutely astounded by the complexity, the genius, and the miracle, of the human body. Like a high-performance car or racehorse, when our bodies are optimally fed and cared for, their performance is artful, and we feel energetic and pain-free. Our thinking is sharp, and our immune systems behave like an amazing security and defense system, protecting us from myriad threats, from outside and from within. And when infection or insult does occur, our immune systems quickly go about the task of infection eradication, injury repair, and then restoring balance and vigilantly scanning for the ever-present next threat.

Unfortunately, however, like so many things that function silently and, in the background, our immune function can be easy to take for granted and easy to neglect. This results in suboptimal or poor performance. This poor immune function performance leads to greater susceptibility to infection and to cancer, poorer recovery and wound healing, and suboptimal response to vaccinations. Adding a few supplements when a new threat is looming may offer some added support, but this is not unlike finding a lighter-weight jockey for your racehorse when it hasn’t been training. 

Like with our health in general, there are some principal ways to ensure our immune systems will be at their best, ready to defend and repair. This way, when the next insult threatens our health and happiness, whether it is an infection, injury, or cancer, we aren’t trying to win a race with a machine that has been neglected and cannot perform. Daily, routine, practice of these principles is necessary, long-term, to provide your best defense and your best offense against disease.

Now, here is some great news. The same principles that will ensure you have the most robust immune system possible for suppressing cancer, or fairing competitively against the next viral pandemic, are the same principles that will help you avoid chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, or Alzheimer’s disease. The same principles, again, are those that help ensure you live longer and full of vitality late into those years. 

So, what are these lifesaving principles? Any client of WellCentric Health should already be intimately familiar with them but let’s go through them for review.

Nutrition and Dietary support. To cover all the ways our nutrition can impact our immune system could be a book in itself. Our diets influence our microbiome, the integrity and function of our gut lining, and the function of the cells that comprise our immune systems. Our diets can provide the elements essential for immune function pathways or elements that essentially poison those same pathways. 

Adhering to general, healthy, nutrition principles, will be all you really need to do, diet-wise, to support your immune system. Get several servings of fruits and vegetables per day. “Eat the rainbow.” Buy organic (at least for the “dirty dozen”) to avoid the toxin exposure and for the better nutrient content of the food. Insist on grass-fed, grass-finished, free-range, and wild-caught meats. Again, they’ll provide greater nutritive value and fewer toxins and contaminants.

Regular Exercise. Exercise improves the function of our white blood cells which are responsible for finding and killing pathogenic invaders and rogue cancer cells. Exercise also helps move them through the body faster, thus improving surveillance. It also induces the release of cytokines that regulate immune function and can lower cortisol which suppresses immune function. As well, exercise reduces inflammation and combats obesity, which itself is an immune suppressant. 

Studies clearly demonstrate reduced infection rates among those who regularly exercise. Those who exercise do not get as sick and they recover faster when they do get sick. Along with this, those who regularly exercise enjoy reduced cancer rates and a greater chance of cure. 

Sleep. To optimally benefit from the remarkably restorative powers of sleep you need a sufficient quantity of sleep, and you must ensure it is good quality sleep. Just as with food, quality sleep strengthens immunity and poor sleep weakens immunity.  When we sleep and when we eat both regulate our circadian rhythm, which also plays an important role in regulating our immune systems. 

Ensure you’re getting between seven and nine hours of sleep per night. Practice good sleep habits to help ensure good quality, restorative sleep, and avoid eating in the three-hour window before bed. Your cells associate the work of digesting food with wakefulness and, thereby, will interfere with your need or desire to sleep. 

Stress mitigation. If you cannot extricate yourself from stressful environments or situations, you must learn effective ways of mitigating that stress. Acute or short-lived stress is not the problem. The problem is chronic stress. According to the American Institute of Stress, 77% of Americans suffer from stress that affects their physical health, 73% suffer stress that affects their mental health, and it is only getting worse. 

Stress, among other things, causes the release of cortisol. Long-term exposure to elevated cortisol blunts immune system responsiveness and function. It results in chronic inflammation and, again, can increase the risk of cancer.  

Socialization. The field of psychoneuroimmunology studies how our minds, our thoughts, influence our bodies in health and disease. One of the very strong causal associations observed is that of positive or negative social relationships on health and disease. As discussed above, chronic stress and cortisol exposure lead to reduced immunity and many disease states, and positive, supportive, social interaction with others is one effective way of reducing stress. One study demonstrated that lack of strong relationships increased the risk of premature death from all causes by 50%. How does tonight look for getting together with friends or family?

Toxin Avoidance and Elimination. In a study conducted by the Environmental Working Group and Commonweal, newborn babies’ cord blood was sampled and found to contain 287 of 400 chemicals tested for with an average of over 200 toxic chemicals per child. Consider that many such toxins only continue to accumulate in number and quantity over our lifespans. Also, consider that recent evidence shows the effects of such toxic burdens can be passed down at least two generations and we can see that the immune suppression from toxin exposure can impact our offspring and not only ourselves.  

Take the time to learn about all the myriad ways you are exposed to and accumulate toxins and then be determined about reducing your toxic burden. Your immune system, and your children and grandchildren, will thank you. 

Supplementation. Finally, the place so many turn to when a threat looms, supplements.  Supplementation can absolutely be beneficial in adding support but, again, is secondary to the basic lifestyle considerations listed above.  

We receive many questions about supplementation regarding staving off COVID-19, and justifiably so. I argue that to truly be fully nutritionally replete, especially in today’s food environment, you need to be well educated and well-disciplined. For the rest of us, supplements can fill the gap, acting as insurance. Certain nutrients and supplements are either critical for the immensely complex immune system to function well or have been shown to provide a boost or turbocharge our immune systems.  

Let’s cover a few that have good scientific support.

Vitamin D. Vitamin D can increase the cell types and the chemicals responsible for killing pathogens as well as suppress inflammatory chemicals that are the actual cause of death from COVID, the cytokine storm. Studies reflect greater resistance to COVID infection, fewer or no symptoms in those who do contract the virus, and dramatically improved survivability in those that have adequate levels. 

If you have not been supplementing with Vitamin D, there is a very good chance your levels are too low. If your levels are not between 50 and 60 ng/ml, supplementation is advised. High doses and time are required to get levels up, but do not stay on high doses of vitamin D long term as vitamin D can build to toxic levels. 

Suggested dosing: It’s safe to start with 5,000 IU of Vitamin D3 per day, but better would be to have your vitamin D level checked and dose accordingly.

Vitamin K2. Vitamin K2 ensures calcium is deposited where it belongs and not in places where it can do harm, such as our blood vessels. Vitamin K2 can help prevents dysfunction of our blood vessel lining, the endothelium, and our lungs. Like vitamin D it also suppresses the production of some of the inflammatory cytokines that result from COVID infection and that, in excess, do the damage leading to critical illness and death. 

Suggested dosing: 200 mcg per day. Review with your prescribing physician if you are on coumadin.

Zinc. Zinc has direct anti-viral activity and stimulates anti-viral immunity.  Immune cells release zinc ions that prevent viruses from binding to cells—the first necessary step for infection.  Zinc may also inhibit two of the enzymes necessary for the COVID virus to replicate. When taking zinc it is important to also get your copper to avoid an imbalance.

Suggested dosing:  10-15 mcg, three times per day. 

Omega 3 Fatty Acids (Fish oil). Omega 3s are a great supplement and one I consider foundational.  With regard to immunity, it can lower chronic inflammation and upregulate the immune cells responsible for fighting infection, priming them for battle.

Suggested dosing:  Four grams per day of a quality triglyceride form. 

N-acetyl Cysteine (NAC).  Another foundational supplement for so many reasons, but with regard to immunity and COVID-19 there is some evidence that NAC and interferes with the virus’s ability to bind to the cell receptor that allows entry of the virus into the cell.  Additionally, if infected, among the very damaging consequences of the infection is massive oxidative stress damage. NAC supports glutathione production which helps to control oxidative stress, thus reducing cell and tissue damage.

Suggested dosing:  600 mg three times per day. 

Multivitamin/mineral supplement. The above supplement recommendations may be specific to immune function, but support for metabolism, hormones, tissue repair, and so much more, is necessary for the immune system to function at full capacity.  We cannot afford to have any component of our body performing suboptimally. A multi-vitamin and mineral supplement in addition to a healthy, well-balanced diet will help ensure that deficiency states are not to blame for immune compromise.  

We’ve made it easy to order our preferred forms of the above supplements with just a click!

Many other supplements are available that support the immune system.  This list was comprised of those with reasonably good evidence for their efficacy with regard to COVID-19.  This list is also oriented toward prevention and not treatment.  

At WellCentric Health, it is our mission to help you find the root cause of your problem and guide you through a personalized care plan. Our functional medicine doctors in Reno, NV recognize that in order to treat one part of the body, all other parts must also be considered. Schedule a consultation with Dr. Robert Watson, MD here.

Functional Medicine

JAMA Study Shows Functional Medicine Linked To Higher Quality of Life

It may seem obvious that working with our physiology and biochemistry to help our bodies restore the natural balance that millions of years of evolution carefully put into place with awe-inspiring complexity and precision would be smart thing to do.  How might that functional medicine (FM) approach to health and correcting disease compare to pharmaceuticals and the conventional medicine model? Some researchers sought to answer that question.

Functional Medicine

How Functional Medicine Differs from Conventional Medicine

The approaches involved in conventional medicine differ markedly from those in functional medicine. Maybe you’re like many Americans who aren’t familiar with functional medicine, but as more young people begin to try alternatives to traditional medicine, leading medical schools are incorporating functional medicine practices into their training.

Statistics show that twice as many millennials than baby boomers are using some type of alternative medicine.

Conventional medicine approach

Most Americans are familiar with conventional medicine. At this type of medical appointment, the practitioner focuses on your symptoms in order to diagnose a condition or disease and then recommends a drug or other treatment.

Conventional medicine targets specific body systems. The American health care system rewards specialists, so many doctors pursue training in various specializations. You may see a gastroenterologist for digestive problems; an endocrinologist for hormonal problems; an orthopedist specializing in hands for a hand issue. Doctors work in their own professional silos and may take a narrow focus to specific, presenting problems.

You may often feel rushed during your doctor’s appointment. Many of today’s doctor’s visits last about seven minutes.

Functional medicine approach

On the other hand, doctors who practice functional medicine are trained to see the body as an interconnected system in relation to the larger environment.

Individualized treatment

Functional medicine physicians focus on the individual, not simply the presenting symptom. Instead of relying on prescription drugs and surgery to combat the health problem, the physician works with you to focus on the importance of lifestyle and diet choices. For example, some patients can reverse the need for blood pressure medication by losing weight.

Functional medicine physicians often run more extensive lab tests than physicians practicing conventional medicine. The lab tests usually cover more vitamin and mineral deficiencies and hormonal and other body imbalances, which can reveal underlying causes of your health issue that conventional medicine may miss.

If you’re one number away from being “high” or “low” on a lab test, you’re classified as “normal” in conventional medicine. But these results tell functional medicine physicians that a body system is moving away from the norm. Your practitioner investigates to get to the root of the problem and start preventive action before you’re classified as having disease.

A holistic view of health looks at more than the affected body part

A health condition can result from more than one factor. Sometimes underlying causes are hidden. When evaluating symptoms in one system in your body, physicians trained in functional medicine take a broader, holistic view of your health than most doctors who practice conventional medicine.

For example, instead of just diagnosing a degenerating hip as arthritis from an X-ray and recommending drugs and other treatment prior to an eventual hip replacement, a physician trained in functional medicine examines all aspects of your health.

This physician may find that you have an undiagnosed case of scoliosis that has made one leg shorter than the other, advancing degeneration in your hip. In this case, your practitioner might recommend an orthotic that has a lift for the shorter leg, easing pressure on the hip. This may help prevent further degeneration of the joint so that a hip replacement may never be needed.

Amount of time of the medical appointment

As noted above, conventional medical appointments are invariably short. You may even leave the office forgetting to mention one or more of your concerns.

Visits with a functional medicine physician can take up to an hour, maybe even more. You’re not rushed. A health concern is evaluated in light of the functioning of all body systems — not only the particular body part presenting a problem.

Call or book an appointment with Robert Watson, MD, at WellCentric Health & Aesthetics for holistic, thorough medical care.

Functional Medicine

What Conditions Does Functional Medicine Treat Best?

If you’ve ever walked out of a doctor’s appointment with a prescription in your hand but an uneasiness in your mind because you feel like you didn’t get the whole story about your health, you’re a good candidate for functional medicine.The American medical system essentially works piecemeal. You have a primary care doctor, sure, but you also have a cardiologist for your heart, a neurologist for your brain, a gasteroenterologist for your gut, an opthamologist for your eyes – the list goes on and on. The point is that with our current healthcare system, it’s not easy for one doctor to have a full picture of their patients’ health.

Here’s where physicians such as Robert Watson at WellCentric Health in Reno come in. Dr. Watson practices what is called functional medicine. These kinds of doctors don’t listen to your symptoms and quickly give you a prescription for the drug that best relieves those symptoms.

Doctors who practice functional medicine instead focus more on the root cause of an issue than the end symptoms. They don’t want to just make the symptoms disappear – they want to keep them from ever coming back.

What is functional medicine?

Functional medicine looks at each patient as a unique individual. While your symptoms might be similar to other patients, the causes may be completely different – and there may be multiple causes. This means the treatments should be individualized as well.

You are not a collection of unrelated systems – you are a whole, unique person. Understanding the complex network of interactions that make up the human body is at the heart of functional medicine.

What conditions does functional medicine treat?

Most people want to know what kinds of conditions functional medicine treats well. The actual answer is all of them (remember, the body is a collection of interrelated systems), but here are a few conditions that seem to respond particularly well:

  • Cardiometabolic conditions – these include diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and weight issues.
  • Autoimmune and inflammatory diseases – these include problems like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and celiac diseases.
  • Digestive disorders – these include ulcers, pancreatitis, diverticulosis, irritable bowel syndrome, and acid reflux.
  • Hormone and fertility issues – these include thyroid issues, chronic fatigue, menopause, and fertility struggles.
  • Neurological and psychiatric conditions – these include migraines, attention deficit disorder, depression, and mental health.

In each of these cases, functional health doctors will connect the dots to treat you in the best way possible for your whole body – not just the one area that hurts. They will put together a personalized plan to address your issues as a whole. Treatment options include diet and lifestyle changes, exercise programs, stress management, detox programs, prescription drugs, and nutritional supplements.

These treatment plans are designed to address the imbalances causing the problems that yielded the symptoms. Once your body is in balance, the symptoms should decrease. And the preventative aspects of your plan should keep you in better health in the future as well.

Call Dr. Watson at WellCentric Health in Reno for more information and to set up an appointment to see how functional medicine can help improve your life.

Functional Medicine

Does Functional Medicine Only Offer Preventive Benefits?

Gone are the days when preventive care and alternative forms of medicine were a niche segment of medicine. In fact, The Cleveland Clinic, which is consistently ranked as one of the top three hospitals in the United States, has set up a functional medicine clinic that’s been so successful, it’s had to double its staff and size.

That’s because functional medicine shifts the focus to you the patient, with customized treatment plans that take into consideration all of your holistic health needs. This is done by carefully considering each patient’s genetic, biochemical, and lifestyle factors.

With functional medicine, we’re not looking at each patient’s illness as though it’s a textbook case. But, rather, there’s an understanding that each person experiences illnesses and health problems differently.

Instead of looking at symptoms, we look at the root causes of your illness, so that we can treat them more effectively. Here are some of the practices of functional medicine that help us do this.

Functional medicine treats labs differently

Not only does functional medicine prescribe running more tests, but it also provides a better scale for test results. With traditional medicine, there’s a range or reference of what’s considered normal.


However, falling within a few numbers out of a range can mean that you’re still at risk for developing a disease. Functional medicine takes this into account, whereas traditional medicine doesn’t.

Functional medicine considers underlying factors

While traditional medicine has a tendency to throw medication at medical problems, functional medicine instead examines the root causes of a disease. It looks at the factors that lead to a disease that causes it in the first place, so that your health problems can be addressed at the root.

Functional medicine customizes your treatments

In mainstream medical care, you’re basically given the same treatment, usually medications, that is given to every other person who has the disease. Functional medicine, instead, understands that everyone’s body is different. Instead, treatment is customized to your biological, genetic, and lifestyle factors, to treat the person and not just the disease.

Start healing with functional medicine today

At WellCentric Health & Aesthetics, we take the time to really listen to how your health impacts you. We take a complete look at all the factors of your health that may be causing you illness. Thus, functional medicine, while it does place an emphasis on preventative care, is an effective method for treating illnesses. Call us to set up an appointment and start receiving more personalized care today.