All posts by Gregory Symko

Dr. Symko, Concord-area Functional Neurologist, writes about why hormone replacement therapy and bioidenticals are not effective.

Hormone patch

In my last post, I wrote about hormones and how they impact one another, most people don’t realize that sex hormones can impact your thyroid hormones or adrenal hormones.

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT), or bioidenticals, are being prescribed for weight loss, libido issues, hair loss and many other things. They can help, but there is also a downside.


In my practice, I have seen many individuals who have been prescribed hormones with no supporting documentation as to why they take them. It seems to me as though the Prescriber is guessing, which is surprising because there are inexpensive ways to check hormone levels, thus eliminating the need to guess.

Putting that aside, I’d like to address the effects of introducing a hormone into the body. These hormones are call exogenous hormones.  Research has shown that exogenous hormones cause the overall hormone balance in the body to become skewed. (Please refer to my previous blog about hormone balance.)

What is the implication?  Let’s take estrogen, for example.  Estrogen has been linked to an increase in breast cancer.  Let’s look at a hormone called DHEA, which is found in many skin care products as well as protein drinks for body builders.  DHEA has been linked to excess acne and emotional issues.  These are just two examples.  Progesterone is also problematic. In itself, progesterone is a precursor to other hormones.  If there is a hormone issue such as too much estrogen, giving progesterone will only increase estrogen production.

So is there a better way?  Yes, there is, by looking at all the hormones and their relationship to one another.  By doing this it can be determined what is the real issue and why a certain hormone is too high or too low.  Once this is done a non-hormone therapy can be applied, which allows the body to naturally balance its hormones.

Although this approach may take a little longer than simply taking a hormone, there are no side-effects. If you would like more information, or have had bad reactions to hormones replacement, we might be able to help. Email or give us a call at or 978-369-7070.

Dr. Symko, Concord-area Functional Neurologist, writes about how chronic stress can do bad things to your sex hormones.

Hans Salie stated in his seminal work:“The Stress of Life,” that our body has the same chemical reaction to losing a million dollars as it has to winning a million dollars. 


In other words, stress is stress no matter where it comes from.  The problem with it is when it becomes chronic and when we feel powerless to do anything about it.

Today’s blog is not about how to change your life so you have less stress, but what that stress if not dealt with properly can do to your hormone balance.

hormone triangle

Above I think this picture explains it very nicely and simply.  The adrenal gland is responsible for releasing a hormone in response to any type of stress.  When a stressful situation comes up your brain sends a message to this gland saying produce your stress hormone so we can deal with this stressful situation.

Normally once the stress goes away your brain sends another message saying everything is ok so you don’t need to produce the stress hormone.

But what happens when the stress doesn’t go away?  The brain keeps sending the stress message and eventually the balance between these hormone producing glands becomes skewed.  The production of sex hormones becomes reduced and you become less interested in sex of have less drive or zest for life.

Or your thyroid gland gets affected and you are tired all the time, or you can lose weight, but you can lose hair.

What can make this even worse many times when we are under chronic stress your body wants to eat and it wants to eat carbohydrates, like cookies, cake and ice cream.   That is because the stress hormone cortisol is related to the sugar hormone insulin.  I talked about this in a previous blog post.

The high insulin signals to your brain that you need more glucose.  Thus the sugary snakes.

This further causes the carbohydrate to be stored as fat because the body doesn’t have room for the glucose.  Because your insulin is high your body just wants to use glucose so the sugar that was turned into fat is not used, but your body wants you to eat more sugar.

Eventually your body doesn’t know how to burn the fat anymore and you get what is called Leptin resistance.

That is just one of the many consequences of not dealing with chronic stress.  If you need help with your stress and hormones we might be able to help.  E-mail or give us a call: 978-369-707 or

Dr. Greg Symko, Concord-area Functional Neurologist, writes about the best source of energy for our bodies.


In my practice, I am often asked by patients how to replace the calories from carbohydrates from bread, pasta and other high-sugar snacks.  Their primary concern being where they are going to find the energy for that marathon of life!


Simply put, our bodies store energy in two ways, fat and glucose. Of the two, fat has twice the amount of energy as glucose.

Your body is able to stock about ninety minutes of stored energy in the form of glucose.  This is good for high-intensity routines such as CrossFit, interval training, burst training or simply chasing your dog and/or kids around.

Alternatively, fat has a great deal more staying power.  It is burned in low-intensity, high-duration activities such as reading or writing a book, marathons, gardening, or any other low-intensity manual labor.

When the body is burning the correct form of energy, it is a perfect system. The key is to make sure your body is functioning the way it should so that you burn your calories this way.

There are two primary conditions that are the result of poor eating choices, and these can interfere with this otherwise perfect system, they are insulin resistance and leptin resistance.

Leptin and insulin are hormones that help your body mobilize the right energy for the task; however, if you eat too many carbs or the wrong kind of fats, your system becomes resistant to using the correct energy and you end up hungry all the time and overeat, or you are overweight and you can’t seem to lose weight.

Both of these conditions can be helped.

To find out if you have either insulin resistance or leptin resistance, please call us at 978-369-7070 or e-mail

Dr. Greg Symko, Concord-area Functional Neurologist, writes about depression and what can be done about it.

Sad face

At least a third of us will experience depression at some point in our lives.


There are several types of depression, the most common being melancholic depression.  Melancholic depression can be broken-down, more specifically, into episodic or chronic depression.  Episodic is often associated with a specific event, such as the loss of a loved one, a struggling marriage or other stressful situations.  Chronic depression usually cannot be attributed to one specific event or occasion.

The medical explanation for depression is the lack of serotonin, which is a brain neurotransmitter.  Thus, the traditional treatment is something called SSRIs, which try to boost serotonin levels.  (SSRI’s are used for both episodic and chronic depression.)  What typically happens is the SSRIs work temporarily, but eventually begin to wear off so the individual needs a stronger dose, a different SSRI or a combination of several drugs to have a beneficial effect.

Functional medicine’s approach to depression is quite different and doesn’t come with all the side effects of prescribed drugs.  (For more on that, please read my previous article on the effects of drugs on the body.)  As a functional doctor, I want to know why the serotonin level is low in the first place.

Serotonin can be deficient because of inflammation, and research is beginning to link inflammation to depression.  Researchers have found that individuals with inflammatory disease such as arthritis or diabetes often have depression associated with it.  You could say that they are depressed because of the disease, which might be true, but chemistry reveals the link between inflammation and low serotonin levels.

The chemicals that are released in the body because of inflammation actually block the production of serotonin, so it pays for your body not to be inflamed.

There is a functional way of reducing the inflammation in your body, therefore easing the depression you might be experiencing.  The interesting part is that you might not even be aware that you are inflamed!! We can help, to schedule an appointment, give us a call at 978-369-7070 or e-mail

Dr. Greg Symko, Concord-area Functional Neurologist, writes about male hormones and hormone replacement.

Concerned male

It is high time someone writes about how men can be helped with their hormone imbalance naturally, without resorting to testosterone replacement with all of its dangerous side-effects.

An important aspect of men’s health is their hormones and sexual function; however, it is often ignored. The adrenal gland (also referred to as the stress gland) has a huge impact on male hormone levels.

If a man’s adrenal gland is unbalanced, his male hormone levels will also be unbalanced. Taking testosterone, in the form of a cream, pill or injection, adds a hormone to a system that is already not working, and this addition can actually make it work worse.

Another piece of diagnostic information that is often ignored is that only testing for testosterone does not give the complete story.  There are at least ten hormones that need to be looked at in order to determine where the potential problem is in regards to why the maleness is not working.

Salivary testing captures all ten hormone levels and gives a more comprehensive picture of what someone’s hormone concentrations are and how to balance them.

If you are a male with erectile dysfunction, low libido, chronic fatigue or have lost you zest for life, and your doctor tells you it is because your testosterone is low, wouldn’t you want to know why it is low?

If you want to truly solve your ED, low libido, fatigue and lack of zest, call my office at 978-369-7070 or email for an appointment.  It is easier than you think!!

PS: and women, this can also apply to you!!

Dr. Greg Symko, Concord-area Functional Neurologist, writes about how certain foods can be good for one individual but not others and what to do about it.

Ever since I have been working with patient’s and the food they eat it has been a mystery as to why certain foods bother one person, but not another. 


It has given rise to specialized blood testing to evaluate each’s food sensitivities. These tests are extensive and can be expensive yet are incomplete and can be frustrating. They don’t always get it right, and multiple follow-up tests can change showing more foods that were once OK now become potentially harmful to eat. It can be frustrating and can give an individual pause as to what to do next.

Well, they may be a definitive answer: When we eat regular unprocessed foods our body has the enzymes to break them down to the building blocks that makes up these foods. In other words, all the minerals, calcium, vitamin D, vitamin A etc.. are all in these foods and our bodies digestive enzymes breaks these off the food for use by our bodies.

These building blocks of food or “elements” our body recognizes and can use with no trouble. Therefore, there is no need for the immune system to get involved because your body has no allergic reaction.

What happens when these foods are not broken down into their elements? Your body can’t use partially digested foods; they are foreigners: your body’s immune system doesn’t recognize them and then attacks them. Here is where inflammation comes in and possible autoimmunity.

If you have a history of eating highly processed foods, your body’s enzymes don’t know how to break these down, and partial foods get introduced to your system. The real problem comes in when you start to eat unprocessed foods. Because of eating these highly processed foods your body’s enzymes are so deficient that you don’t even break these down, and your body doesn’t recognize them. Thus you have reactions to carrots or blueberries or even eggs or bacon.

There is a solution. New testing can determine if you are allergic to say, cooked carrots, but not raw. There are also new strategies to increase what we call “Oral Tolerance “to foods. This is so that the diversity of foods you can eat increases over time not decrease.

It is possible to eat again.




Immune system

Dr. Symko, Concord-area Functional Neurologist, writes about Peripheral Neurogenic Inflammation.

Nervous system and the link with the immune system:

NervesImmune system

The nervous (particularly the nerves that travel to your legs and arms) and immune systems are traditionally thought of as serving separate functions. But research and studies are showing that these two systems are, in reality, closely related.  This is happening because of the discovery of Peripheral Neurogenic Inflammation.

There are nerves that their only job is to transmit feeling to your brain.   These nerves respond to the same pathways that the body’s immune cells do.  This sets up a network with the immune system that helps keep the body protected from foreign invaders.

It is like the communication network supports the front line troops in fighting all the problems our bodies face every day.

This is a great asset, but can also cause problems.  If there is autoimmunity or any allergic disease, like Asthma to MS, the peripheral nervous system can become inflamed and cause not only an increase in these issues, but an increase in pain.

So what is the solution?  It seems that a complete treatment program involves treating both the nervous system and the immune system.

The question is, “Can this be done?”.  And the answer is yes.  There is a new therapy involving a cream called “Prologel.”  This was developed by the team that developed Prolotherapy.  The beautiful thing about this is, like eating the correct food, this is a therapy that can be done at home.


Peripheral neurons also seem to contribute to immune dysfunction in autoimmune and allergic diseases. Therefore, understanding the coordinated interaction of peripheral neurons with immune cells may advance therapeutic approaches to increase host defense and suppress immunopathology.

Dr. Symko, Concord-area Functional Neurologist, writes about the typical chronic back pain sufferer.

back pain


I wrote in my last blog about the ATM® and how the brain works to keep our joints coordinated and moving correctly.  Now I’d like to address what the ATM® can do for a typical chronic back pain sufferer.

This is a typical chronic back pain sufferer’s history:

It all started 20 years ago when you hurt your back by doing something from lifting weights to bending down to pick up a pencil. Because of the pain, you go to see your Primary Care Provider (PCP) who says something to the effect of “The pain will go away eventually – here are some pain killers and muscle relaxers”. These medications relieve the immediate pain; however, a few months or years later, the pain returns. More pain killers are prescribed, they might work, and they might not. If this is the case, your PCP may suggest physical therapy. PT helps some and gives you exercises to do. You do them for a while and the pain goes away. A few years later, however, the pain comes back again. You try everything from acupuncture to chiropractic. These do help, but you keep having to return.

It’s an endless cycle that you’re tired of dealing with. Now you come to a functional chiropractor/ neurologist who identifies and treats the root cause of the chronic pain. The ATM® could be the key to that change and the solution to your problems.


Dr Symko, Concord-area Functional Neurologist, writes about how the brain can cause chronic back pain.


On the surface, it may not seem like the brain governs the movement stability components of our spines and the rest of our bodies and core muscles, but it’s true. Normal core stability provides a healthy body with the ability to perform normal good quality movements. This means that a little amount of energy will be exerted to execute highly efficient movements.

However, when the body experiences pain, the brain changes its activation strategy to high energy/low efficient movements. This altered control that the brain has over movement is clearly visible in the presence of pain, but even where there isn’t any pain, subtle physical tests can detect significant muscle control changes in people with a history of chronic back pain. This is why you can have pain in your back, shoulder, or elbow without having had an injury.

Many times, this sort of brain adjustment goes unnoticed and untreated. People often get treated for the pain and not the root cause of the problem. That’s where the ATM comes in. No, it’s not the thing you can get your money out of, but you will see great returns. ATM2® stands for Active Therapeutic Movement, and it’s a machine that helps create neutral-range movement while holding the proper body position. In other words, it helps retrain your brain to function correctly and not hurt your posture or back muscles. A few movement exercises are performed, usually 10-30. The proper body position is essential, because it will ensure that the active movement will alter the brain activation strategy from abnormal to normal.

This should produce immediate pain reduction and improved range of motion.

The ATM2®is designed to enable doctors to prescribe quality weight-bearing active movements. We use restraining belts that are connected to the ATM support pad to obtain passive joint re-positioning and stabilization. This helps reduce symptoms. Then we perform specific exercises using a harness connected to resistance bands.

Dr. Greg Symko, Concord-area Functional Neurologist, writes about the difference between health care and medical care.

To some, the difference between health care and medical care may be an unusual comparison; however, I believe there is an important difference between the two.

While medical care is necessary and valuable to us all, it has its limitations. If a life has to be saved, a limb needs to be mended or a tumor removed, nothing surpasses medical care. Hence, this is where medicine excels.

Where medical care is falling short is apparent when looking at the chronic diseases our population is suffering from, sadly it is on the rise.

Health care addresses all problematic symptoms that Medical Care does not have a test for, a label for or any means of treating. More often than not, they end up treating the symptoms without ever getting to the cause. I mostly find the underlying issues of those symptoms are related to eating habits and lifestyle.

In health care there are no magic bullets, no prescribed drugs or heroic surgeries to fix the symptoms. Instead, there is a comprehensive investigation into lifestyle and diet and when addressed and adjusted properly can correct the underlying symptoms.

That is what I do, health care.