Functional Neurology
of Middlesex County
Gregory Symko, D.C., D.A.B.C.N.
747 Main Street Suite 205
Concord, MA 01742
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Posts about the topic: General

Dr. Symko, Concord-area Functional Neurologist, and Functional Medical Practitioner writes about the Evolution of Health.

The Evolution of Health

I was thinking about health and the system we currently have in place when the above phrase came to mind.

Healthcare has evolved over the centuries but so have our ailments.  There was a time when a tooth abscess could kill a person, or a minor scrap could cause a massive infection.  Today, fortunately, these seem minor.

Image result for Chief Red Cloud

Unfortunately, now we have heart disease, kidney disease, liver disease and cancer, not to mention chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, diabetes, MS, and the list goes on.

Some say we have these diseases because we are living longer, but others say it is because of how we treat ourselves.

According to the World Health Organization, most modern diseases are due to lifestyle choices.

It is becoming clear that that is the case, so what are the correct lifestyle choices?  Some would say a vegetarian diet and plenty of exercise is the best.  Others would argue that a diet based on meat along with exercise is the best, some say food is not that important, but Yoga or meditation.

There are as many opinions about what the right choices are as there are people on the planet.  So what works?

Here are a few examples.  First, my mother-in-law and my next door neighbor, both are in the mid to late nineties.  Neither relies on a cane or walker; they walk up and down a flight of stairs never getting out of breath or needing help other that holding onto the railing.  Both think and speak clearly; both are well-informed and funny.

What did they do to encourage such good health?

My mother-in-law does not drive, never drank alcohol or smoked, and neither did my next door neighbor.

So is that the answer?  Not sure, but it certainly helped.

Another example is women in Asia that climb trees for fruit, well into their nineties.  My mother-in-law and neighbor could climb trees to collect fruit.  So what kind of lifestyle do those women have?

The last example is a the Sioux Chief Red Cloud.  He was riding horses and fighting battles well into his eighties.  (I’m not sure I could ride a horse now, and I’m only in my 50’s!)  What kind of lifestyle did he have?  He slept, walked a lot, probably smoked, but he ate buffalo and root vegetables.

What are the commonalities between these people that we can put together to follow a lifestyle that can copy theirs?  Is there a central thread or habit that we should incorporate into our daily lives?  That is for the next blog.

Eat that Cow!

Meat has gotten a terrible rap, and it’s unfortunate that not enough good information about why meat is necessary exists. For the past 50+ years, we have been fed information suggesting that animal proteins and fats from meat and eggs are bad for us. We’ve been told we will live longer if we avoid them. That kind of information – put out over and over again – has become so embedded into our brains that we don’t question whether it is true or not.

I’m here to tell you; it’s not.

Eat That Cow

There are a lot of reasons why eating meat is beneficial. Here are the top three.

  1. We need protein! Our genes are made of protein so for the body to replace cells that get invariably depleted or damaged, it needs protein so it can make more DNA. As well, enzymes are protein. Many of our cells have enzyme receptors on them and to turn a process on in a cell, an enzyme (or protein) has to bind to that receptor. Think of a key needed to turn the engine of your car on. The fact that our ancestors – those cave people – ate meat is, in fact, a large reason why our bodies were able to grow and develop. The amino acids we get from meat are the building blocks needed for the brain to function normally.
  2. We need the fat! Fat is another thing that has gotten an unfortunately bad rap. The essential fatty acids (“essential” meaning the body can’t produce them; you have to eat them) found in meat are necessary for almost all of the chemical reactions in your body. And our cell walls – which are the gatekeepers for the body, keeping certain substances in and harmful ones out – are made of fat. Eating it contributes to the cell wall’s strength.  But perhaps most importantly, fat helps our brain function by making sure that the nerve pathways are insulated, and don’t interfere with each other.
  3. We need the vitamins! Vegetables are quite nutrient dense. No one will argue and eating a lot of them is certainly beneficial.  But meats – organ meat, beef, fish, and shellfish – are nutrient dense as well. They provide the body with many key vitamins from B to iron to zinc, and two very important fat-soluble vitamins (A and D) that many are deficient in. These vitamins play a key role in many areas of human health from promoting healthy immune function and fertility to regulating calcium metabolism and reducing inflammation. And they are in concentrated           amounts and found almost exclusively in animal foods.

Next time you hear someone tell you that you will die early from eating meat remember not to believe everything you hear. There are too many factors that can affect that statement and we should question them – like the source of the meat (grass-fed, pasture-raised, organic) because that matters.  We should question what we pair the meat with (breads and sugar-laden condiments vs. fresh vegetables).  That matters as well.

What we don’t need to question is whether we should be eating meat.  That question can be left out to pasture – with the cows.

Dr. Symko, Concord-area Functional Neurologist and Functional Medical Practitioner, continues to write about back pain.

It is clear to me that we do not know enough about back pain.

Related image

One morning a long-time patient whom I hadn’t seen in a while asked if he could talk to me about a problem he had for over eighteen months.

At first, he stated that he had back and hip pain.  Before our appointment, he went to the orthopedic doctor who prescribed physical therapy for the back; however, his back felt worse after the treatment.  (He was doing a whole range of back and hip exercises.)

He then received a series of cortisone injections in his back and hips.  The injections did not help, but in fact, aggravated the pain, making it worse.  Even walking up and down stairs was problematic.

I examined him which included discussing his symptoms, like what type of pain, where did it hurt, how does it hurt, what makes it hurt and what makes it feel better. Once I had an idea as to what might be the problem, I performed a few orthopedic tests to help me confirm what I thought the problem was.

I determined that the primary issue was his hip, which was causing pain, but also causing a problem in his lower back.  He had a physically demanding job, and it has taken a toll on his hip, and because of this, his back was also affected.

I directed treatment to his hip, which only helped a little, so I then suggested an MRI of both hips.  The MRI revealed that he had a tear in the ligament supporting his hips.  One was worse than the other.  He needed surgery.

It is hard to say, but if the issue was figured out eighteen months before his visit with me, chances are his hips would not have been as bad.

back pain

Dr. Symko, Concord-area Functional Neurologist and Functional Medical Practitioner, What You Should Know About Back Pain.

Eighty percent of us will suffer from back pain, it is one of the leading causes of not going to work costing the US about 635 billion dollars annually.  That is a lot of pain.

Why is it so hard to figure out how to treat back pain?  I think the answer lies first in what we don’t know about backs.  You might hear that backs are complicated, or that “we don’t know everything about backs”.

In fact, is a lot of information out there and many little tidbits about the back and why we have pain.  Here are just 10.

  1. Backs are meant to move in a variety of directions without causing any pain.
  2. There are two types of muscle groups found in our back; fast twitch (stabilizers) and slow twitch (movers).
  3. Each type requires a different set of exercises to help them to be strong.
  4. Sitting for long periods is not good for back health.
  5. Pain is not always caused by a disc bulge.
  6. Movement is one of the best cures for back pain.
  7. It is not always necessary to have an x-ray or MRI of the back to determine what is wrong.
  8. The majority of back pain is of a functional nature and not a structural one.
  9. Simple orthopedic testing can help determine what is causing the pain and where it is coming from.
  10. The longer there is back pain the harder it is to correct.

If you have back pain and don’t know where it is coming from or how to heal it, we can help!  Give us a call or connect on email:  978-369-7070;


Dr. Greg Symko, Concord-area Functional Neurologist, writes about what we need to be healthy. Part One.

Our brain and body are amazing and can immediately respond to positive activities.  We understand that most diseases, especially chronic, are caused by our lifestyle.  As a Functional Healthcare Medical Office, we help individuals who are suffering from chronic problems through lifestyle changes to achieve complete health. 

What are the easiest things to do to help your body function efficiently?

First, is food, but how can we make this simple?

Let’s look at what our bodies need to survive.

  1. A good source of protein.
  2. A good source of fats.
  3. A good source of minerals, vitamins and micro-nutrients.

What are the best sources of these?

  1. For protein and fats: animal protein.
  2. For minerals, vitamins and micro-nutrients.
  3. For fats: coconut oil, ghee, olive oil, and avocado oil.

Notice, there are no carbs and no fruits, the above is all that you need to survive and flourish.

The plate above should be filled with three-quarters vegetables and one-quarter protein.


Dr. Symko, Concord-area Functional Neurologist, writes about migraines.


It is estimated that 20% of Americans suffer from migraines, costing the US economy about 13 billion dollars annually. Surprisingly, about half of migraine sufferers go unreported and the 50% that are treated are still suffering from migraines and relying on some type of rescue medication.

Is there a natural way to reduce the incidence of migraines? In order to properly treat migraines, it is necessary to understand what they are.

Migraines are a functional neurological problem, in other words, a brain excitability issue. To make it clearer, the brain of a migraine sufferer is more susceptible to certain stimuli than those who are not.

These stimuli include:

  1. Hormonal changes
  2. Head trauma
  3. Lack of exercise
  4. Medication
  5. Stress
  6. Food additives such as MSG or Aspartame
  7. Bright lights or loud noises
  8. Lack of sleep
  9. Certain foods
  10. Changes in barometric pressure

Normally these triggers would not influence an unexcited brain, but for a migraine brain they can trigger the migraine.

So what can be done to reduce the incidence of migraines? It is actually quite simple, but it takes time and can be challenging.

How do we do this? First, reduce the excitability of the brain. Secondly, make sure those ten things above are reduced in their effect, and lastly support your body’s chemistry so that it can better handle the things that bring on a migraine.

This is done through nutrition, supplementation, exercise and certain lifestyle changes.

If you suffer from migraines and would like to reduce their frequency and intensity, 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. 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. Greg Symko, Boston Area Functional Neurologist, weighs in on the vaccination debate.

There has been a fire storm over vaccinations. The majority of parents vaccinate their children.

The parents that feel vaccinations can be harmful want the right to not vaccinate their children, this is the minority point-of-view. This dissension has made it a very emotional topic.

Let’s delve into the history of vaccinations in this country. What are they made of and how they have impacted our lives.

As the subject is vast, this topic of vaccinations will be spread out over a few blogs.

When I was born in 1958, there were only three vaccinations. They were for polio, measles and mumps and rubella. The actual vaccinations were called tetanus diphtheria, and pertussis (DTP vaccine).

In the 1980’s the number of vaccinations increased three fold. In addition, the number of booster shots have also increased.

Before the 1980’s the incidence of Autism was about 1 in 10,000, now it is about 1 in 100.  A study was done to determine if this increase had to do with increased awareness or something else.  The study showed that indeed there was an increase of 25%. That does not account for the total increase.

Many parents of Autistic children state that their child changes after the vaccines given when they turned 3.

A child’s immune system is immature, the barriers that protect their brain, lungs and gut are also immature.

Did the increase in vaccinations at an early age have something to do with the increase in the incidence of Autism? Does the old adage apply “Too much of a good thing?”