Stem Cell Treatment Explained: A Beginner’s Guide to the Regenerative Therapy

Stem Cell Treatment Explained: A Beginner’s Guide to the Regenerative Therapy

Regenerative therapy is an emerging subset of healthcare that leverages treatments aimed to functionally restore specific tissues in the body. It helps patients with chronic illness or persistent injuries when traditional medicine has fallen short. One of the most promising forms of regenerative medicine is stem cell therapy.

Although it’s already been in place for many years, stem cell therapy is still considered a “new” treatment, as practitioners are still finding novel applications for stem cells all the time. More than one million treatments have been performed since the therapy’s inception, and outcomes are significantly improving as protocols are refined. Here’s what you should know about stem cell therapy.

What Are Stem Cells?

Stem cells are the body’s natural repair kit. They’re the building blocks upon which all tissues and organs are built since they have the ability to transform into mature cells. While every mature cell type has a specific role – muscle cells support the muscular system, for example – stem cells’ primary role is to regenerate into other cells as needed.

If tissue breaks down due to injury, for example, stem cells will target the affected area and regenerate into the specialized cell types. When transforming into these distinct cells, they take on their properties and functions. 

A stem cell can turn into any one of the following differentiated cell types:

  • Bone cells
  • Muscle cells
  • Blood cells
  • Fat cells
  • Skin cells
  • Nerve cells
  • Stem cells (through the process of self-renewal)

Stem cells are already within our bodies, so they are not a new “invention” from scientists. While they can be harvested and transplanted from external sources, they are also able to be retrieved from the patient themselves.

Stem cells have been found naturally within the brain, as well as bone marrow, adipose (fat) tissue, and the umbilical cord tissue. They are also present in the muscles, skin, and liver.

Our bodies are constantly regenerating stem cells. For instance, we shed skin cells all the time, and thus have an entirely new set of skin every two to three weeks. Our intestinal lining and liver also have innate regenerative qualities. And, while many different systems excel at regenerating on their own, other parts need some assistance. This is the very reason stem cell therapy was created.

Doctors can extract stem cells from a patient, then concentrate and activate them to ready them for therapeutic use in the body. They can then be transplanted to the area where they are needed most, where they’ll renew, multiply, and differentiate into specialized cells with distinct properties.

Where Do Stem Cells Originate From?

Stem cells are present in embryos as well as the adult body. Embryonic stem cells are only used in research applications after they’ve been donated by individuals who have undergone in vitro fertilization (IVF) after consent. 

Adult stem cells referred to as pluripotent stem cells, have been used in therapeutic applications since the 1950s. While they can only multiply a certain number of times and transform into specific cell types, they still hold tremendous potential in therapeutic applications.

There are many new applications for disease and injury treatment is continuing to be discovered by stem cell researchers. Since the earliest findings of stem cells showed that there were considerable concentrations in the bone marrow, they were widely used as bone marrow transplants for patients with leukemia and other blood diseases. By 2010, stem cell therapy was being used for spinal injuries, and its applications in orthopedics have progressed rapidly since then. 

In addition to patient-derived sources such a bone marrow or adipose (fat) tissues, stem cells can also be found in the umbilical cord. These cells are donated after a c-section birth by a patient who has given the proper consent and has been thoroughly screened for blood diseases. For patients who have insufficient stem cell sources or maybe of a certain age, umbilical stem cells may be a good alternative. 

What Is Stem Cell Therapy?

While stem cell therapy is a cutting-edge medical option with immeasurable potential, the process itself is fairly simple. Choosing the provider is also part of the process of discovering stem cell therapy as a potential option.

First, the patient undergoes a consultation to discuss their condition and symptoms. The healthcare provider must ensure they’re a good candidate for stem cell therapy, and if so, determine which protocols will suit the patient best.

Once the stem cells have been acquired from either the patient or from a donated tissue source, they are prepared to then be readministered to the patient in targeted areas in their pre-determined treatment plan. Stringent quality control measures are in place to promote safety and optimal patient outcomes.

As the stem cells proliferate and transform into the necessary cell types, some symptoms may improve. The goal of these therapeutic treatments is to help stop or halt the progression of the patient’s condition and some also may gain symptom improvements as well as a result. Since treatment is delivered via injection and there is no large surgical site, symptoms are minimal and may include slight temporary soreness. 

The benefits of regenerative therapy are vast, however. Not only is it simple and convenient, but it can help to reverse the effects of chronic, challenging conditions. As more positive research emerges, it will likely become even more widely embraced as a go-to treatment method.

How Is Multiple Sclerosis Diagnosed?

How Is Multiple Sclerosis Diagnosed?

According to the National Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Society, there is no single test available which can diagnose MS on its own. Instead, healthcare providers must use a variety of approaches to confirm that a patient has the condition. These may include lab tests, neurologic exams, and the patient’s medical history. Here is how multiple sclerosis diagnosed.

Doctors must also rule out other conditions which bear similar symptoms. For instance, infections such as Lyme disease, inflammatory disorders such as vasculitis, genetic conditions, and vitamin deficiencies can all cause neurological symptoms. Various tests, including MRI, blood tests, and a spinal fluid analysis are used to rule out these conditions and confirm the presence of MS. 

As doctors work to rule out other conditions, the diagnosis process can take considerable time. Some patients may receive a definitive MS diagnosis relatively quickly, however. An accurate and timely diagnosis is critical, since uncovering the root cause for worrisome and uncomfortable symptoms can allow you to focus on treatment and alleviate any concerns over other potential causes. Moreover, starting treatment early can help to control the progression of Multiple Sclerosis, as neurologic damage can begin early on. 

What Criteria Must Be Present for an MS Diagnosis?

For a confirmed MS diagnosis, there must be:

  • Evidence of damage in at least two areas of the central nervous system (CNS), such as the spinal cord, brain, or optic nerve
  • Evidence that the damage found occurred at different times

In addition, all other potential diagnoses must be ruled out. 

What Methods Are Used to Diagnose MS? 

The McDonald Criteria call for specific guidelines for diagnosing MS using MRI and cerebrospinal fluid. An MRI may be able to uncover a second area of damage in an individual who has experienced only one MS attack. In some cases, cerebrospinal fluid analysis can also indicate two separate instances of damage. 

In addition to these measures, doctors will also ask you to describe any symptoms you’ve experienced, and may also gather information about your medical and family history, preexisting conditions, and places of travel which could indicate other illnesses or MS. They’ll also perform a comprehensive neurologic evaluation, which will encompass an analysis of the cranial nerves through swallowing and facial sensation, among other measures. Reflexes, coordination, sensation, gait, and balance will also be looked at. 

Oftentimes, medical history and neurologic exams are sufficient for getting Multiple Sclerosis diagnosed. Additional testing can confirm the diagnosis or uncover other potential causes for symptoms.

While there is no blood test that concludes the presence of MS, a blood draw can be used to rule out other conditions with similar symptoms. For instance, vitamin deficiencies, certain infections, and conditions such as Sjogren’s or lupus may be identified through a blood test. If you would like to learn more please contact a care coordinator today!

Does Stem Cell Therapy Work for Rotator Cuff Injuries?

Does Stem Cell Therapy Work for Rotator Cuff Injuries?

The rotator cuff is a complex network of muscles and tendons which stabilize the shoulder joint. As its name suggests, it allows you to rotate and raise the shoulder and is thus critical to the functionality of your arm. Injuries to the rotator cuff can cause pain and affect your daily life, and if they’re bad enough, may require surgery. Today, many are exploring another alternative to surgery: stem cell therapy

A Closer Look at Rotator Cuff Injuries

The rotator cuff can experience a partial tear or a complete tear. A partial tear occurs when the muscles that make up the cuff fray become torn, but if the damage extends through the muscle, the tear is considered complete. The tendon could pull away from the bone if left unaddressed.

Surprisingly, you won’t always experience pain with a rotator cuff tear. In fact, in 65% of cases, rotator cuff tears are considered asymptomatic. With that being said, there are still signs outside of discomfort that could indicate this shoulder problem, including:

  • Weakness throughout the shoulder or arm
  • Popping sounds or other unusual noises when moving your shoulder
  • Diminished ability lifting or using your arm (to wash your hair, for instance)
  • Pain only upon moving your arm a certain way or while lying on it
  • Difficulty reaching certain directions, such as up, out to the side, or behind you

Causes of Rotator Cuff Injuries

Rotator cuff tears are fairly common. An estimated two million people visit the doctor for this injury each year, though the prevalence could be much higher due to tears that go unnoticed. 

Many circumstances could lead to a tear, with the most common being:

  • Repetitive use due to the nature of your work, such as scanning groceries, painting windows, or cleaning
  • Sports, such as baseball, tennis, or football
  • Wear and tear on the muscles that come with aging
  • Heavy lifting
  • Injury to the arm

Rotator Cuff Injury Treatment

Rotator cuff injuries must first be accurately diagnosed before you can explore treatment options. Your doctor may use an x-ray or MRI to identify the injury. From there, they may recommend traditional treatments such as physical therapy or corticosteroid injections. Surgery could also be an option depending on the severity of your tear, but understandably, many patients wish to avoid invasive procedures.

Some patients may be good candidates for stem cell therapy. This form of treatment is much less invasive than surgery, and instead uses natural healing agents (stem cells) to repair tissue, accelerate healing, and combat inflammation. The cells can even regenerate damaged tissue, allowing your shoulder to heal itself naturally. Studies for this treatment have shown promising results, such as an increase in biomechanical strength and reduced inflammation. Thus, for patients whose rotator cuff injury has begun to affect their daily lives but surgery is undesirable, stem cell therapy is a treatment option worth considering. Contact a care coordinator today!

A Beginner’s Guide to the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) Diet

A Beginner’s Guide to the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) Diet

Autoimmune diseases occur when the body’s immune system goes after healthy tissue because they can’t tell the difference between normal cells and foreign invaders. For people with these conditions, such as inflammatory bowel disease, dietary modifications may ease symptoms including inflammation. Here is a quick look at the Autoimmune Protocol Diet.

Research shows that damage to the intestinal lining, also known as the “gut barrier,” may be triggered by certain foods. When intestinal permeability increases, it could trigger certain autoimmune conditions. While there is no concrete evidence that links “leaky gut” with autoimmune diseases, experts do believe intestinal health has strong ties to the widespread inflammation seen in such conditions.

In a normal intestinal tract, there’s low permeability, meaning waste won’t leak and enter the bloodstream. On the other hand, when the gut is more permeable, foreign particles may exit the tract and entire the bloodstream, potentially causing inflammation. Certain foods have been shown to increase the intestines’ level of permeability. Research also indicates that people with certain autoimmune conditions can decrease inflammation and illness symptoms through an autoimmune protocol (AIP) diet.

Here’s what you should know about the AIP diet before talking to your rheumatologist or other specialists. 

What Is the Autoimmune Protocol Diet?

The AIP diet is similar to the paleo diet, in which individuals follow the eating habits of our ancestors, who were hunter-gatherers. It has two stages: elimination and reintroduction. 

During elimination, foods believed to contribute to gut inflammation are eliminated, including legumes, nuts, grains, seeds, dairy, and nightshade vegetables. All foods with added sugars, as well as alcohol, coffee, oils, and tobacco are eliminated as well. Individuals are also advised to avoid certain medications, including NSAIDs. While most people following the diet follow elimination for 30 to 90 days, some report improvements within three weeks.

After, if you see improvements in your symptoms, you can then gradually reintroduce items into your diet. The idea is to only have foods that don’t aggravate symptoms while continuing to avoid those that do. For this reason, foods must be reincorporated one at a time over a five- to seven-day period before another is reintroduced. And, since food tolerances can change over time, many people revisit the elimination diet again in the future.

What Foods Can You Eat with the AIP Diet?

The autoimmune diet is restrictive, but remember that the goal is to identify any and all foods that could be triggering symptoms. For the best results, you should avoid all grains, legumes, dairy and milk products, nightshade vegetables, nuts and seeds, and their products, and processed foods. With that in mind, here’s what you can still have during the elimination phase:

  • Vegetables (except for nightshade vegetables, including tomatoes, bell peppers, blueberries, eggplant, and potatoes)
  • Fermented foods, such as pickles, sauerkraut, and kimchi
  • Minimally processed meats, such as fish and wild game
  • Fresh fruit
  • Tubers, including taro, yams, and sweet potatoes
  • Minimally processed oils
  • Kinds of Vinegar
  • Natural sweeteners
  • Herbs and spices, except those derived from seeds
  • Certain teas
  • Bone broth

Each person experiences different results from the AIP diet, but it is often possible to notice an improvement when triggering foods are eliminated. For instance, people with IBD have reported fewer and less severe symptoms. Just be mindful to avoid staying in the elimination phase for too long, as it could cause deficiencies in key nutrients. If you’re concerned about falling short in any vitamins or minerals by avoiding identified trigger foods, consider looking into supplements, with your doctor’s approval.

If you are seeking a more scientific overview of your gut health, Stemedix offers a Precision Health Program that provides comprehensive gut testing that will specifically give you your personal health blueprint along with recommendations unique to you from a board-certified provider. Contact them today for more information.

How to Stay on Track with Your Resolution to Eat Better

How to Stay on Track with Your Resolution to Eat Better

While many of us set New Year’s resolutions to eat well, now is about the time when our aspirations start to lose steam. Making resolutions is the easy part, but actually sticking to them can be challenging. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to maintain your goal of eating better, both now and through the rest of the year. Here are a few simple tips on how to stay on track with your resolution to eat better that you can keep coming back to if you’re falling off track.

Choose Water Whenever Possible
The calories we consume in beverage form do count, and they’re often a sneaky source of added sugars. Whenever possible, reach for water over juice, soda, and energy drinks.

Fit in Five Fruits & Veggies a Day
Setting a goal to have five fruits and vegetables each day will automatically help you incorporate foods that are filling yet low-calorie and nutrient-dense. Get creative and aim to add a fruit or veggie to every meal: blend a handful of spinach into your morning smoothie or omelet, have some carrots or celery with lunch, serve a side salad with dinner, and enjoy some strawberries or apple slices for dessert.

Add in Some Protein
Foods like salads and pasta become much more filling if you add some protein to them, which can help keep cravings at bay later. Throw some grilled chicken, chickpeas, or chopped nuts into a salad for some protein. Consider adding shrimp or turkey meatballs to your pasta dishes, too.

Have Healthy Snacks on Hand
Getting too hungry while you’re on the go could lead to a trip through the fast-food drive-thru. Keep snacks like mixed nuts, apples, and granola bars on hand so you always have access to healthy options.

Map Out Your Meals
Before you do your grocery shopping, make a list of the meals you’ll have throughout the week. That way, you can limit your grocery list to the things you’ll really need, and you won’t find yourself stuck on what to make on a busy weeknight – which could otherwise lead to takeout.

Prep Meals to Reheat
If your weeknights are especially busy, you might consider making batches of meals on the weekends. Soups, chili, and even chopped veggies can be taken from the freezer and heated up with ease.

Never Skip a Meal
Finally, always be sure to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner, along with healthy snacks throughout the day if you feel hungry. When your stomach really starts rumbling, you’re more apt to reach for the quickest thing you can find – which may not always be the healthiest option. Plus, you could wind up overeating to satisfy a roaring appetite. This is a crucial step to take when trying to stay on track with your resolution to eat better.

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