Immune Recovery Challenge

This steeply discounted bundle provides supplements that you need to follow the Immune Recovery protocol in Dr. Blum’s book, The Immune System Recovery Plan, and in her online Immune Recovery program.

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Healing Arthritis

Your 3-Step Guide to Conquering Arthritis Naturally

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The Immune System Recovery Plan

A Doctor’s 4-Step Program to Treat Autoimmune Disease

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Common Probiotic Myths Debunked

The amount of information found online about probiotics can be mind boggling. Search “should I take probiotics,” for instance, and you’ll likely close your browser none the wiser. There’s a lot of credible information, and there’s equally loads of erroneous information, including “experts” who have extrapolated data from research studies and made umbrella statements that are just plain … wrong.

For instance, many people believe that probiotics are like seeds that plant themselves in the gut and that they are supposed to grow and flourish. In fact, studies show that most probiotics pass through our digestive tract in about 6 weeks. Bloggers, experts and the media picked up this information and, suddenly, a buzz was created that probiotics were useless. This is not true!

Here’s what we know: 

Over 100 trillion microbes live in your digestive tract. Most of them are “good” bacteria, but there’s always some “bad” bacteria that live in your gut ecosystem (like weeds in your inner garden), always looking for an opportunity to overgrow and cause an imbalance. 

There are about 500 different strains of these microbes (estimates range from 300-1000) and when you take probiotics, you are ingesting just a few of the strains that have been well studied and found to be beneficial to your health.  You can eat probiotic foods, such as cultured (yogurt) food or fermented vegetables (kimchi, sauerkraut), or you can take a probiotic supplement, with many different types that vary by the dose and the number of strains that they contain. 

What’s most important is that you think about probiotics as influencers on your gut ecosystem.  While you take them, they are exerting a tremendous influence without needing them to “plant and grow”.  Here’s what we know.

How Probiotics Help You

GUT

Many studies have shown that taking probiotics can alleviate myriad gastrointestinal symptoms, including reducing bloat, gas, diarrhea, and constipation.  While the exact mechanism for how they do this has still to be completely worked out, we do know that probiotics help improve the overall balance of the good:bad bacteria, and help heal the intestinal lining.  This really matters because a damaged microbiome can give rise to many chronic health conditions, including inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, mental health issues, obesity, increased infections and lowered resistance to viruses. 

Here’s the good news:  If you have a “leaky”gut (increased permeability of the digestive tract lining), or dysbiosis (too many bad bacteria), probiotic supplements can help restore your gut barrier as they are passing through.  They can also help improve the number and function of your own good gut bacteria, and inhibit the growth of the “bad” bacteria. This ability to influence the overall health and functioning of your gut highlights why taking probiotics helps so many people, and why probiotic foods have been around for hundreds of years in many different cultures around the world.  Pretty important stuff, right?

INFLAMMATION

Probiotics also play a huge role in helping treat inflammatory conditions like arthritis, and immune system imbalances like autoimmune disease. Think of any condition with -itis at the end — gastritis, colitis, bursitis, diverticulitis, rhinitis, dermatitis — these are all inflammatory conditions. Many of these conditions are related to a damaged microbiome, and leaky gut, where microbes and toxins are leaking through the digestive tract lining into the bloodstream. Yeah, not good, as this triggers a system-wide immune response … inflammation. 

Susan Blum, MD, reports in her latest book, Healing Arthritis, that researchers have studied the use of probiotic supplements to treat the dysbiosis (overgrowth of “bad” bacteria) of inflammatory arthritis and found that probiotics improve symptoms in arthritis sufferers. Generally speaking, when it comes to arthritis, probiotics are thought to improve all the functions of your own good flora, including helping T regulator immune cells work better and live longer, turning off inflammation and repairing the gut lining and tight junctions. Because probiotics help treat a leaky gut, and because of the gut-arthritis connection, it follows that they would also treat systemic inflammation and arthritis, and they do!  

Probiotics help reduce inflammation by helping the immune system block pro-inflammatory responses that trigger inflammation over time. In other words, probiotics are a must for any one who has an inflammatory condition, and are beneficial for anyone trying to keep inflammation at bay. 

IMMUNITY

Did you know that the majority of your immune system resides in your gut? In fact, about 80% of your immune system lives in your digestive tract. With your gut playing such an important role in your body’s ability to defend itself against infection, it’s imperative that your gut microbiome be in tip-top shape. 

Your immune system has an innate response and an adaptive response. Innate immunity is an immediate inflammatory response — a signal that your body needs to defend itself from an invader, such as an allergen. Adaptive immunity takes longer to come to fruition. It is the body’s way of developing antibodies to pathogens — for example this is the way a vaccination works. When you consume probiotics, you are directly tuning up your gut-immune system, because the probiotics “talk” to your immune cells as they are passing through.  This is like arming your gut to protect you from foreign invaders!

CHOLESTEROL

Studies show that certain probiotics, particularly Lactobacilli, can help reduce cholesterol. They do this by preventing cholesterol from being absorbed, as well by helping to break it down. Evidently, probiotics can bind with cholesterol in the intestines to block it from being absorbed, and they also influence the metabolism of bile acids, which then affects the way that your body metabolizes fat and cholesterol.

MENTAL HEALTH

You’ve likely heard of the Gut-Brain Axis — meaning that neurotransmitters not only reside in your brain, but also live in your gut, and they communicate with one another. Take care of your gut, and you take care of your brain.

In fact, researchers recently found that probiotics improved psychiatric disorder-related behaviors including anxiety, depression, autism spectrum disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and memory abilities, including spatial and non-spatial memory.

Probiotics help your mood and your functioning? Pardon the pun, but this is a no-brainer.

ANTIBIOTICS

Probiotics can also help offset the bacterial imbalance caused by taking antibiotics. Antibiotics kill good bacteria along with the harmful ones, often leading to gas, cramping or diarrhea. These side effects often drive patients to the pharmacy in search of an appropriate probiotic.

What’s perhaps more important, and lesser known, is that frequent or extended use of antibiotics can lead to leaky gut and is implicated as an underlying root cause of autoimmune disease. 

Research demonstrates that probiotics strains can act as adjuncts to antibiotic therapy by reducing side effects, protecting the digestive tract lining from leaky gut and they can actually improve antibiotic function.

ORAL HEALTH

Flossing and brushing aren’t the only ways to care for your mouth. Emerging research is demonstrating that the microbiome of the mouth benefits from probiotics. From preventing plaque to fighting bad breath and reducing gingivitis, and even to preventing oral cancer, probiotics are proving to be good for the mouth, too! Pucker up with confidence!

SKIN

Who doesn’t want clear skin? People predisposed to skin conditions, such as acne, eczema or rosacea, tend to flare when their gut microbiome is out of balance. It is well documented that probiotics help prevent and treat skin diseases including eczema, atopic dermatitis, acne, allergic inflammation, skin hypersensitivity, wound protection and even UV-induced skin damage.

Which Probiotic Strains to Take

Look at probiotics and you might be wondering, “How the heck do I know which one to choose?” Great question. 

General recommendations call for ingesting 1 to 25 billion colony-forming units (CFUs) daily. To put these guidelines into perspective, most store-bought probiotic yogurts only contain about 1 billion CFUs per serving. 

We are now learning that perhaps different strains are effective for different health issues, but research has a long way to go until we can choose a specific strain for a specific condition.  Case in point: Studies performed in inflammatory bowel disease suggest that high doses of combinations of different probiotic strains are more effective in decreasing inflammation and maintaining patients in remission than a single probiotic strain. This is one of the reasons that we always recommend multi strain formulas.  

For this reason at Blum Center for Health we recommend 25 billion CFUs to best support your gut microbiome. Ours is a hypoallergenic blend of 12 certified probiotic species — a complete spectrum of microorganisms. And, it’s on sale right now!  Learn More Here

Ready to improve your gut and improve your health? A probiotic is a great place to start.

 

Meet Melissa: Melissa Rapoport is the Manager of Health Coaching and Lifestyle Programming at Blum Center for Health in Rye Brook, NY. She combines her graduate work in Developmental Psychology with her education in nutrition, health and coaching to create highly individualized programs that result in lifetime change. A contributing author to three international bestselling books, Melissa’s greatest joy is her relationship with her two daughters.

 

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Menopause Made Easy

Ok, let’s face it…every woman will transition through menopause, whether they like it or not. For some of us, it happens without any fanfare. One day your period is gone, and you’re done! (Yes, ladies, this does happen for some women). For others, it is a nightmare with hot flashes and sweats during the day and night, often ruining what used to be a good nights’ sleep. Other symptoms may include difficulty with memory, sometimes called ‘mental-pause’, low sex drive and painful intercourse when you do decide to make it happen.

So what is going on? One theory is that estrogen receptors in the brain become starved of estrogen, and this affects temperature regulation and memory. While this makes a lot of sense, there has to be more to it than that because all women have a loss of estrogen during menopause, but only some women suffer symptoms. To understand this, let’s look at the other influences on your hormones that could be the culprits.

First, you must look at your entire endocrine orchestra and make sure all of your hormones are working optimally. These include your thyroid hormones, your adrenal hormone cortisol, and also your blood sugar hormone insulin. If any of these are out of balance, your sex hormones will be too, and you are more prone to having menopause symptoms.

Second, you must look at your detox system and make sure your liver is doing a good job of processing both every day toxins and metabolizing your hormones properly. Even after menopause you should have some healthy estrogens in your body, and these need to be processed. Faulty estrogen metabolism can result in more symptoms.

What can you do? Here are 5 tips to help make menopause a non-event.

  1. Eat for hormone balance. This means eating protein (vegetarian or animal) and plants rich in fiber with all meals and cut out the processed sugar. This will keep your insulin in balance. 
  2. Have your thyroid checked, including the hormone T3. If you are already hypothyroid, make sure you aren’t taking too much or too little medication. 
  3. Do an adrenal saliva test to make sure your adrenals are healthy. An integrative practitioner can help you do this.  Live in our neighborhood? You can have a consultation with one of our practitioners at Blum Center for Health for testing.  
  4. Improve your estrogen metabolism by eating cruciferous vegetables, rosemary. Consider trying the supplements DIM (Di-indole methane), methylfolate and methylcobalamin. 
  5. Beware of alcohol and caffeine. They can make your temperature system go haywire during this time of transition. 
  6. Consider a safe and medically sound liver Detox program.  Renew your body by eliminating your toxic load and resetting your hormones. Try our 14-Day Whole Life Detox. 

Try one or more of these steps and evaluate how you feel.  Let me know how you are doing! 

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The Truth About Fiber

Fiber. It’s not a very…sexy topic. Just the word conjures up images of Metamucil commercials with the sandy-looking granules swirling in a glass and promises of being “regular.” But the benefits of a whole food, high fiber diet are many and certainly extend beyond the water closet.

Most Americans are fiber deficient—some experts in the functional medicine community claim that it’s the most clinically important dietary deficiency, a deficiency largely due to the Standard American Diet (SAD), which doesn’t favor whole, nutrient-dense foods like fruits and vegetables (complex carbs) and is chock full of sugar and processed carbohydrates in the form of “junk flour” (conventional bread, pasta, bagels, etc. (simple carbs)).

Unlike macronutrients (fat, protein, and carbohydrates) that our bodies break down and absorb, dietary fiber (also known as roughage or bulk) isn’t actually digested. It comes in two forms, soluble and insoluble; both are essential and can be obtained from a wide variety of delicious, high-fiber foods like true whole grains (vs. flour), fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes, which indeed, are mostly carbohydrates. (If you’re aghast at the suggestion to consider whole grains and/or legumes, you can read my prior post for Dr. Blum, In Defense of Grains and read my post[JG1] , In Defense of Legumes.)

Because of the common fiber-constipation association (you’re not allowed to laugh if you’ve never had it), many may not be aware of the many other benefits of adequate fiber intake:

  •       Promotes weight loss: What if I told you that fiber may be your best friend if you’re trying to lose weight? According to Monica Reinagle, licensed nutritionist, “Trying to lose weight on a low-fiber diet is like parallel parking without power steering.” Foods rich in fiber are filling, which means you eat less and stay fuller longer.
  •       Lowers risk of digestive conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome
  •       Lowers risk of heart disease by getting rid of digestive debris and environmental toxins and keeping bad cholesterol in check.
  •       Lowers risk of diabetes: Researchers are now finding that the fiber in grains specifically lowers the risk of diabetes. A September 2018 study from The Journal of Nutrition that followed 55,000 middle-aged women and men for 15 years discovered that those who consumed the most whole grains had the lowest risk of Type 2 diabetes.
  •       Lowers risk of stroke
  •       Provides fuel for the microbiome: You may be thinking…What?? I thought I was supposed to be low-carb to heal my gut and reverse my autoimmune condition. Read on!

Low Carb, Low Fiber?

We can’t discuss the important role of fiber and sidestep the carb conversation, given that so many gut-healing, immune modulatory diets eschew—or largely eschew—carbs and that fiber-rich foods are largely carbohydrates.

Fact: A low-carb diet, with its overreliance on fat and protein and under-reliance on complex carbs in the form of whole grains, legumes, and vegetables (including—and especially—starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes, yams, squash, carrots, etc.), tends to be low-fiber.

The importance of fiber in the diet is indisputable and has a profound impact on our digestive health and microbiome, our 100 trillion organism-strong “mini ecosystem” also known as “the forgotten organ.”

Justin Sonnenburg, PhD and Associate Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at Stanford, is the author of The Good Gut, co-authored by his wife, Erica Sonnenburg, PhD. The Sonnenburgs are considered some of today’s preeminent experts on digestive health and in the science of the fibers found in grains and their role in providing an important fuel source for the microbiome.

Justin says, “You have to ask the question of what it means when we’re consuming 15 grams of dietary fiber per day instead of 150—a 10-fold decrease in the foods that feed our gut microbe.”

In their book, The Good Gut, the Sonnenburgs state, “Increasing dietary fiber is essential to cultivating diversity in the microbiota. Microbes in the gut thrive on the complex carbohydrates that dietary fiber is primarily composed of. But rather than ‘dietary fiber,’ we prefer ‘microbiota accessible carbohydrates,’ or MACs. MACs are the components within dietary fiber that gut microbes feed on. Eating more MACs can provide more nourishment to the microbiota, help gut microbes thrive, and improve the diversity of this community. Our family eats what we jokingly refer to as a ‘Big MAC diet.’ This diet is rich in complex carbohydrates from fruit, vegetables, legumes, and unrefined whole grains, and is designed to create and maintain diversity within the gut microbiota.”

Dr. John Douillard states, “While fiber is linked to heart health, it is also critical for the protective health of the intestinal skin. If the intestinal skin breaks down, the beneficial gut microbes disappear.”

If you’re still unconvinced that grains and legumes can be part of a gut healing protocol, Dr. Susan Blum mentions quinoa, amaranth, millet, teff, buckwheat, various types of rice, and legumes in her book, The Immune System Recovery Plan, and incorporates these foods in several of her recipes. She calls them “foods to include” and states, “Fit lots of fiber onto your plate in the form of veggies, low sugar fruit like berries and apples, whole gluten-free grains, and legumes—to feed the good bacteria of the gut.”

It’s Easy to Get Enough

If you think you may be fiber deficient, slow and steady wins the race. Going overboard and increasing your intake with gusto can cause gut distress. And drink plenty of water.

Regardless of any deficiency, we all need regular fiber in our diet. At the end of the day, if you’re committed to a whole foods diet rich in color and variety, you’re likely getting the fiber that you need.

  •       Add nuts and seeds (especially flaxseeds and chia) to whole grain cereals, salads, soups, and smoothies
  •       Snack on raw veggies
  •       Legumes/beans play well with others; use them in soups, salads and many of your other favorite dishes
  •       Choose true whole grain foods vs. refined grains
  •       Eat fruit as a dessert or snack; the skin and/or seeds is where you’ll get the most fiber. Berries are a great choice, as they’re low on the glycemic index. Apples and pears are the best skin-on fruits.
  •       Incorporate all kinds of vegetables into every meal. In general, the darker the veggie, the higher the fiber. Get all that you can—it all counts!

 

Jill Grunewald, HNC, FMCHC, is the founder of Healthful Elements, an alopecia expert, and best selling author of The Essential Thyroid Cookbook.

 

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The Functional Medicine Approach to Breast Cancer Prevention

Breast cancer is a health issue that most women will think or worry about at some point in their lives. One of the reasons is because we hear so much about breast cancer these days: in the media; through fundraising organizations; and from family and friends facing the diagnosis. Another is because it has become much too common. Perhaps you, or someone close to you, are a breast cancer survivor.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and we want to honor and support all women by highlighting our Functional Medicine approach to the prevention of breast cancer, whether the focus is on primary prevention, or prevention of recurrence. 

Because research shows that how you metabolize estrogen can increase your risk, we focus on supporting estrogen detoxification, a process that happens primarily in the liver.

HOW MUCH ESTROGEN DO YOU HAVE?

Many women believe that after menopause they aren’t making estrogen anymore.

This is not true. 

Before menopause, estrogen is produced in several places in the body, including the ovaries, adrenal glands, and produced from testosterone by the enzyme aromatase in fat cells. After your ovaries have been removed or you have gone through menopause, estrogen is still being produced, in low but measurable amounts, by these other tissues. 

You might wonder: since we all have estrogen, why do some women, and not others, end up with breast cancer? 

Well, it turns out that all estrogens are not the same, and these differences are influenced by genetics and the environment.

When estrogen is processed for elimination, the hormones are sent to the liver where they are metabolized, a process also called detoxification. During the estrogen detox process, you can end up with “bad” estrogens or “good” estrogens. The bad ones are considered “toxic” because they are very strong stimulators of estrogen receptors (causing more cell proliferation), and they can damage DNA, as opposed to the “good” estrogen metabolites that are weaker estrogens and not harmful to cells. Of course, the “good” estrogens are preferable!

Although our genetics influence how easily we make the good and bad estrogens, it turns out (no big surprise!) that food and other lifestyle factors have an enormous effect on the kinds of metabolites the liver will make. Influencing your estrogen detox pathways in a good way is what we focus on for breast cancer prevention at Blum Center for Health.

IMPROVE YOUR RATIO OF GOOD:BAD ESTROGENS

Our first step to help you reduce your cancer risk is to increase your good estrogens, and decrease the bad. 

Top 4 Ways to Reduce Your Breast Cancer Risk 

  • Eat lots of food that supports estrogen elimination and detoxification pathways, including:
    1. Lots of antioxidants and cruciferous vegetables like kale, broccoli and cauliflower
    2. Fiber from fruits and vegetables helps you excrete estrogens via the gut.
    3. Soybean that is organic and non-gmo, and in its whole form, like edamame or tofu. Or, fermented soy like tempeh or miso. Soy has a very gentle and positive effect on estrogen receptors and is actually good for most women.
    4. Ground flax seeds:  can block the conversion of testosterone to estrogen, thus lowering your levels.
  1. Consider taking the supplement Di-indolylmethane, or DIM, or it’s more powerful cousin, Sulforaphane, which are basically the active component extracted from cruciferous vegetables. This can improve the good:bad estrogen ratio with the goal of decreasing your risk of breast cancer. We also recommend it to reduce symptoms of too much estrogen, such as fibrocystic breasts, uterine fibroids or heavy painful periods. This condition is called estrogen dominance.
  2.  If you want to know more about your personal risk, genetic testing can be done to evaluate your probability for making bad estrogens, and urine testing can be done to assess your current ratio of good:bad estrogens. With these test results, we can determine how to use food, supplements and mind-body practices to increase good estrogen levels and lower bad ones. These tests are available from our Functional Medicine nutritionist or practitioners.
  3. Lower your total toxin load.  In addition to targeted support for detoxing and eliminating estrogens, keeping your general toxin load and exposure low is very important because environmental toxins like herbicides and pesticides can push your estrogens down the “bad” pathways. We recommend cleaning up your exposures, and supporting your liver with a general detox program. How to do this?  Read on!   

HOW TO REDUCE YOUR ENVIRONMENTAL EXPOSURES AND LOWER TOXIN LOAD

We always recommend doing a simple Liver Support Detox program in the spring and fall to help keep these toxins from building up in the body and causing problems. Check out our do-it-yourself 14-Day Whole Life Detox to get startedAdd a bottle of Broccoprotect (sulforaphane) if you are concerned about your estrogens and you’re all set.  

And if you are confused about what to do?  Make an appointment with our health coach, Melissa Rapoport! She will help you form a plan to reduce your toxic load and bring balance back to your body. Either call 914-652-7800 to set up an in-person appointment, or go to CoachMe to set up a video or phone appointment. 

Want to learn more about detoxification? Check out these detox blog posts.

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10 Ways to Influence Autoimmune Recovery

Truth #1: It is possible to reverse your autoimmune condition.

Truth #2: There is no one way to get there — everyone is unique. What works for me may not work for you. And, what works for you may not work for me. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Truth #3: There a multitude of core principles at play and finding your right mix is critical to reversing your condition. 

Truth #4: There is one key to this entire process that no one mentions. Stick with me and I will share it with you.

For the past 3 years I’ve had the privilege of working side-by-side with Dr. Susan Blum, one of the foremost authorities on autoimmunity. I work with patients at Blum Center for Health and with individuals through our CoachMe online platform, to implement the four steps of Dr. Blum’s international bestselling book, The Immune System Recovery Plan.

Two years ago we created the Immune Recovery Challenge — an online program that allows people from all over the world to learn directly from Dr. Blum in a LIVE group setting. It only happens once a year, and it’s coming up soon! Learn More

From working with hundreds and hundreds of people, I can tell you this: The Four Steps Work!

You might be wondering, “What are the four steps?”  They are: 1) Food as Medicine 2) Learning to Relax 3) Healing the Gut and 4) Supporting the Liver

Within those steps there’s a lot to learn, and it’s within those steps that things get personal. Here’s where YOU come into the equation. If you’ve been struggling with an autoimmune condition and autoimmune recovery, look at little deeper — look within the steps.

10 Ways to Influence Autoimmune Recovery

Eating the Right Foods — You’ve probably heard the phrase, “Food is Medicine.” Indeed it is! And, it can also be your poison. The first step to relieving symptoms, and getting a grip on which foods are right for you, is to do an autoimmune elimination diet. This is not only therapeutic, but it is also diagnostic. When done properly you walk away with a personalized nutrition plan.  How does this differ from person to person? Someone with an autoimmune arthritis, for example, may need to remove nightshades. Someone who is struggling with digestive distress may need to consider high lectin foods that might be exacerbating symptoms. The great news is, that once this short-term food plan is complete many people successfully reintroduce favorite foods back into their diet.

Healing your Gut — About 70% of your immune system lives in your digestive tract!  Nearly everyone who suffers with an autoimmune condition needs to heal their gut. Think of your gut as a garden with trillions of good bacteria, and includes hundreds of different species. Pretty cool, right? But when all those beautiful good bacteria get infiltrated with bad bacteria, yeast or parasites, the good bacteria get crowded out. And that, right there, can compromise the integrity of your digestive tract lining, creating minuscule breaks in the barrier where food leaks into the bloodstream. This is known as Leaky Gut Syndrome. Healing your gut is a CRITICAL component to healing your autoimmune condition.  And the amount of gut damage is different from one autoimmune person to another, and thus the treatment and focus will need to be different, too. 

Supporting your Liver — We live in a world filled with toxins that can trigger autoimmune disease and harm the immune system. These include pesticides/herbicides, hormones and plastics in food and water, solvents and mold in our homes and heavy metals in the fish we eat and water we drink. Others can come from cosmetics and products we use at home. At Blum Center for Health, we also believe that some relationships, home and work environments and thoughts can be toxic and have a negative impact on the body. We highly recommend detoxing at least once a year. This is another place where things get personal – your toxin exposure is going to be different than everyone else’s, and how much detox you need will be different, too. 

Taking the Right Supplements — Targeted supplements facilitate healing, reduce inflammation, heal the gut, and remove toxins. It’s important to use medical grade supplements that do not contain fillers, preservatives, additives, gluten, dairy, soy or corn. You’ve got to check labels carefully. You could very well be putting something in your body that’s contributing to your autoimmune condition!  

Learning to Relax — Stress, even low grade stress (you know, they kind we wave away, like having to make lunch everyday for your kids to take to school) fuel the fire of autoimmunity. Even good stress, like getting ready to go on vacation, can cause a flare. Many people will get on board with the food plan, and start taking the appropriate supplements, but have a hard time implementing a stress reduction process. This may very well be the most difficult part of an autoimmune program. And this is where coaching can make all the difference in the world. In a world that’s built on distraction and endless motion it can be difficult and uncomfortable to be quiet with oneself. 

Implementing Exercise When You Don’t Feel Well — Exercise is one of those “loops”— you don’t feel well so you don’t exercise (don’t worry, I feel the same) and when you don’t exercise you don’t get its anti-inflammatory benefits. Drop all the ideals you have about exercise: the person running on a treadmill, the women pushing weights at the gym, the man doing headstands in a yoga class, the people doing hardcore spin. You don’t have to go to the gym! You don’t have to run on a treadmill! You don’t have to do weights! You just have to start with moving. Start slow. Start low. Start with something you enjoy. Just start.

Getting enough Sleep — The research is clear: Lack of sleep or poor sleep impacts just about every system in your body, and increases inflammation. It increases your risk of autoimmunity and if you already have an autoimmune condition it impedes your ability to heal it. And by the way, lack of proper sleep drives sugar cravings and carb cravings, which makes it nearly impossible to stick to a healthy, anti-inflammatory food plan!

Learning to Say No — This is not scientific, but this is my observation in working with hundreds and hundreds of women: You can heal your autoimmune condition by holding your boundaries firm. No more giving away your time, no more saying yes to things that don’t serve you. Taking care of yourself means saying no. Or in other words, when you say no, you give yourself the space you need to heal. Want to read more on this subject? Check out 8 Reasons All Women Need Non-Negotiable Self-Care

Understanding Hidden Infections: Doing everything and still symptomatic? You may need additional testing. Functional medicine will help you get to the root of the problem.

AND FINALLY:  

The KEY that I promised you – CONSISTENCY:  

Yes, consistency! Taking imperfect action daily. Notice I said “imperfect.” We’re not trying to be perfect. In fact, it’s impossible to be perfect. It’s not all or nothing. When someone starts something new, they often give up. If they can’t do it “right,” they don’t do it at all. (Think New Year’s Eve resolutions. Done by February 1st!) You can be consistent. You can even learn to be consistent if it’s eluded you in the past. It’s all about figuring out your personal plan … a combination of what you need right now and the baby steps you need to get there. 

And, this is where it’s important to have a coach or a coaching program so that you’re not figuring it all out alone.

Are you ready to begin reversing your autoimmune condition? Join Dr. Blum and me for the Immune Recovery Challenge — a step-by-step companion to Dr. Blum’s bestselling book, The Immune System Recovery Plan. During the course, you will follow the 4-Step Immune System Recovery Plan together with Dr. Blum, using video and live coaching to help you personalize it just for what you need. It is a wonderful opportunity to learn from Dr. Blum in a group setting. Join Now

 

Meet Melissa: Melissa Rapoport is the Manager of Health Coaching and Lifestyle Programming at Blum Center for Health in Rye Brook, NY. She combines her graduate work in Developmental Psychology with her education in nutrition, health and coaching to create highly individualized programs that result in lifetime change. A contributing author to three international bestselling books, Melissa’s greatest joy is her relationship with her two daughters.

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How Conventional Medicine Gets Autoimmune Disease Wrong

Here’s a common scenario in our practice:  A patient comes in with a prior diagnosis of autoimmune disease. Sometimes it is a new diagnosis, and the patient is worried about how to proceed. Sometimes it is a longstanding illness they have lived with for much of their life. In most cases, they are looking for help where the conventional approach to autoimmunity has failed them.

There are many different types of autoimmune disease. All have in common the curious fact that the person’s immune system has become misdirected. The immune system is meant to provide protection against infection and foreign invaders to the body – like bacteria, viruses and other pathogens. When one has autoimmune activity, it means that the person’s own body is under attack.  

Falling under the umbrella of autoimmune disease is a variety of ailments, which vary widely in prevalence, symptomatology and severity. Some autoimmune diseases are very common, like Hashimoto’s thyroid disease. Others are rare, like Scleroderma. Some attack a single part of the body, like Hashimoto’s, while others, like lupus, can be more systemic, attacking multiple organ systems. Other examples of autoimmune disease are rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, Grave’s disease, Type I diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, psoriasis, and alopecia.

The Typical Conventional Response to Autoimmune Disease

Patients routinely describe that their physician — be it primary care or specialist — has diagnosed a condition or worse, a disease. Sometimes the patient is already on prescribed medications as treatment, but other times they are not.

Invariably, what they have been told is that there is nothing to be done:

  • “We will wait and see.”  
  • “You will probably need to be on medication at some point.”
  • “Let’s continue to watch your blood testing yearly and wait and see when symptoms develop.”  

Few, if any of these doctors, offer advice on how to potentially keep the disease from progressing. Or, if already in the throes of symptomatic disease, offer suggestions how to lessen the symptoms with anything but anti-inflammatory medications, replacement hormones or immune-modulating drugs.

This is a very serious problem, and a failing of conventional medicine. It’s exactly why our practitioners chose to continue their training with the Institute for Functional Medicine.

A Functional vs Conventional Approach to Autoimmune Disease

Let’s take the case of early autoimmune thyroid disease:

With Hashimoto’s, for instance, the patient will often be told that they have autoantibodies – which means there are immune markers in the bloodstream directed not against invaders, like bacteria or viruses, but actively attacking the body’s own tissues of the thyroid or its receptors. This is the basis of autoimmune thyroiditis, or Hashimoto’s thyroid disease, which often leads to low functioning thyroid and the need to take thyroid hormone medication.  

The conventional doctor will let the patient know that these antibodies are there, and that most likely the thyroid will begin to malfunction, causing too little hormone to be released into the blood and causing the symptoms of hypothyroidism – low energy, weight gain, constipation, dry skin …  When that occurs, treatment with thyroid hormone replacement will begin.  

This leaves many people wondering – what can I do now?  Is there anything I can do to stop this from happening?  Am I going down a road I can’t switch out of?  

How can one reverse the damage – or halt the progression of the autoimmune disease ravaging the body?

The Functional Medicine Approach

We like to think of a Functional Medicine approach to treatment as two-fold:

  • Doing everything we can to improve the immune system’s ability to rebalance while…
  • Lessening the odds of the immune system continuing to rebel — and, quite possibly, beginning another attack on another system in the body — which could then lead to another autoimmune disease.

How do we do this? First, we work to support whatever system or systems in the body are under attack – replacing nutrients or hormones that are lacking due to the autoimmunity. We frequently use B-complex, D3 and multivitamin supplementation; and, of course, hormone replacement, as needed in hypothyroidism.

Then, we work to build resilience and decrease inflammation in the body by using good old detective work to find the root cause, or triggers, of the immune dysfunction, and treat that. We look at food, stress, gut health, toxin exposure and infections.

5 Steps to Decrease Inflammation & Rebalance Your Immune System

  • Practice improving your emotional and physical response to stress. Getting good sleep and exercising is imperative. Mindfulness meditation and other mind/body techniques are helpful for reducing stress hormones.
  • Experiment with your food – discover sensitivities, triggers, and intolerances. We usually recommend an allergy elimination diet – taking out gluten, dairy, soy, corn, and eggs, along with other common allergens depending on your specific medical condition- for a short time and reintroducing to see if symptoms are affected by food.
  • Support your microbiome and heal your leaky gut.  Eat healthy whole foods and lots of vegetables and fiber. Start taking a probiotic. Our go-to is Dr. Blum’s formula, created for our patients. Learn More
  • Decrease your exposure to toxins and improve your body’s ability to manage exposures. Watch out for common toxins in food (herbicides and pesticides), cleaning supplies, and even in personal care products.  We recommend looking at the Environmental Working Group and following their suggestions for cleaning up toxins in the home.
    If you are concerned about the toxin build-up in your body, you might want to consider our 21-Day Simply Detox. It’s the exact program we use with our patients at the Blum Center for Health. Learn More
  • Be assessed with functional testing for nutritional needs and to rule out any chronic or acute infectious disease processes.  We will often request stool testing for microbial balance, in depth blood testing for nutritional needs, and more extensive saliva and urine testing for hormone balance.

If you live near the New York City metro area, come see us! We would be happy to help. People travel from all over the world to work with us. Come join our family!

If traveling to us is not possible, Dr. Blum’s Immune Recovery Challenge is a great place to start. The Immune Recovery Challenge is the step-by-step companion to The Immune System Recovery Plan. During the course, we will follow the 4-Step Immune Recovery protocol together, using video live coaching. It’s devoted to recovering your health and your wellness. Sign up here.  

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Is Your Cell Phone Sabotaging your Health?

Chances are you check your cell phone for messages, alerts, or calls even when your device isn’t ringing or vibrating. You probably sleep with your phone next to your bed to be sure you don’t miss any calls, text messages, or other updates during the night. And you likely feel lost without your cell phone, reports a Pew Internet & American Life survey.

In fact, the average cell phone user checks their phone 110 times a day, with the highest users hitting the 900 mark, says Locket, an Android app that has collected data on over 150,000 users.

Yes, we are addicted to cell phones.

And the cost of this addiction to our personal well-being is substantial. The tethering to our cell phones interferes with our mental health, physical health and even our relationships.

  • The constant barrage of notifications increases our stress level, likely contributing to high blood pressure, headaches, eye strain, and anxiety.
  • The anticipation of messages keeps us constantly checking our phones and creates anxiety.
  • Cell phone use interferes with human relationships. Studies show that in face-to-face interactions a phone present made the other person think negatively about the cell phone holder. 
  • The incessant connection to one’s phone makes us less inclined to participate in conversation with those around us. We become less aware.
  • Our dependence on our phones as entertainment is a constant source of distraction, making it difficult to be with oneself in a quiet, still, disconnected space.
  • When we don’t have our phones we become bored, antsy and depressed.

Clients often tell me they want to feel less controlled by their phones. They want to take back their peace and quiet. 

The key? Baby steps and commitment.

8 Ways To Kick Your Cell Phone Addiction

Make No Cell-Phone Zones — Make a pact with other members of your household no cell phones at the table. Ever. Live alone? Put down the electronics, set the table, light a candle and enjoy your meal. You will taste your food, remember what you ate, and be more aware of how much you’re eating.

Bring On The Zen — Introduce meditation, yoga, tai chi or one of the other meditative practices into your daily routine — even if it’s for only 10 minutes it will slow you down, bring your awareness back to your body and reap a myriad of health benefits, including better concentration, lower blood pressure, reduced stress, better mood and better sleep.

Home From Work? Just Say “No” — Implement limits and boundaries in relation to work-related email and messages. Just because someone sends you an email at 10pm in the evening does not mean you have to answer it. When you answer emails you set the precedent that you are available. When does your work day end? You decide: “I will not answer any work-related emails after 7pm in the evening or on the weekends.” And then stick to it. If the mere thought of that makes you anxious create an auto-responder letting people know you will answer their email first thing in the morning.

Blackout Periods — Schedule “No Cell-Phone” Periods during your day. Start small — even 10 minutes. Put it on your calendar (or set an alarm) and disconnect for that time. After a week increase the time, or add another Black Out period to your day. Week by week increase the time until you are able to disconnect for several hours a day.

No Fly Zone — When you travel for holiday set your phone to “no data roaming” so that you only receive messages when you are connected with Wifi.  This will limit the amount of new communication that is coming your way and provide a more peaceful journey.

Your Boots Are Made For Walking — Take a walk and leave your phone at home. Look up, look down, pay attention to your surroundings. Taking a walk is a great way to boost your mood, find solutions to challenges, and increase productivity.

Engage With The World — Make a decision to not use your phone in the presence of others. Pay attention to your conversations, make eye contact and give 100% to the other person/s you are with.

Sleep It Off — Do not use your cell phone as an alarm clock. Leave it outside your room. You might consider implementing a sleep routine to help you wean — reading, or listening to music.

Put down your cell phone? The answer is clear. Just say “yes.”

Do you find that you start a new habit but get derailed? Consider private coaching! I help people attain their goals by unraveling those self-sabotaging behaviors that get in the way. Let’s play! I’ll help you create new habits that lead to long-term change. Get what you want. Finally. Check out CoachMe

Meet Melissa: Melissa Rapoport is the Manager of Health Coaching and Lifestyle Programming at Blum Center for Health in Rye Brook, NY. She combines her graduate work in Developmental Psychology with her education in nutrition, health and coaching to create highly individualized programs that result in lifetime change. A contributing author to three international bestselling books, Melissa’s greatest joy is her relationship with her two daughters. To learn more about Melissa’s coaching practice at Blum Center for Health, click here.

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Growing A Better Brain

We live in a culture that is increasingly obsessed with physical health. We understand the importance of having healthy bodies and eating well, but what about the health of our physical brain; that all important filter between you and everything you experience?

Thanks to modern neuroscience, we have ways to train our brains just like we train our bodies. In fact, done right it’s easier to train our brains. And when we train our brains we become more resilient, learn faster, and are generally more equipped to roll with whatever life throws our way.

Could it possibly be that easy? Yes. With advances in brain technology, living in a deeper state of calm and well-being, sleeping better, eliminating stress and anxiety, even increasing your IQ are all possible. Not just possible, probable.

You just need the tools and experience to make it so.

For those of you who haven’t met me, my name is Devon White. I’m the co-founder and CEO of Field, a brain optimization and neuro-enhancement company now operating at the Blum Center for Health. Today, I want to share a little bit about how your brain works and some practical tips for how to improve it.

The first thing to know is that your brain is responsible for every perception, sensation, and experience in your life.  No matter what’s happening, it’s being filtered by your brain like a Hollywood production. But in this case the biases of the production team are determined by the way your brain has developed throughout your life. If you’re living in a horror movie, a rom-com, an adventure, or are the star of a movie about Woody Allen type with low-grade anxiety who can’t seem to ever catch up – that’s all being produced by your brain, which means you can change it.

You see, your brain is highly plastic. That’s a fancy way to say it’s flexible and ready to change and adapt. And because it’s connected to every other dimension of your body and mind, any change in the brain affects the system as a whole. And I mean you can change just about anything: pain levels, memory, focus, coordination, mood, energy, IQ, creativity, even your sense of self!

You’re doing it all the time already, but probably just in a less intentional way.

A good rule of thumb is that anything that changes the way you feel is changing your brain’s firing patterns. If you’re at the gym running on a treadmill, your brain looks different than if you’re enjoying a book in your favorite reading nook. If you spend every day meditating, your brain will change to accommodate the new neurochemistry of calm and relaxation. Following this logic, good habits make for a better brain. Since any habit you develop is also a habit in the way your brain is firing, it’s important to develop the best possible habits to support the life you want to be living.

Here are four habits for a healthy brain that you can start right now:

  1. Identify your best relationships and shower your attention and love on them. At the same time, cut the amount of time you spend with people who leave you feeling drained or unsupported.
  2. Do an accounting of your life over the next week.  Write down each activity you engage in and how much happiness and energy it brings you. At the end of the week, notice the things that suck the joy and motivation from your life and cut them out.
  3. Eat well, hydrate, and exercise. Why? Because all of these things support good brain health and longevity and will lead to every other system working better.
  4. Practice gratitude. As hokey as this may sound, gratitude is one of the greatest and most profound ways to develop happiness and well-being.

As for direct brain training, I can’t overstate its power and profound benefits and I’ll get into how it works in future posts. For the moment, just know that there are safe and incredibly effective ways to exercise your brain for balance, health, and overall well-being. Also, training your brain has some effects that just can’t be beat, and anyone who has struggled with addiction, depression, anxiety, insomnia or a host of other concerns knows that it can be really difficult to update the way you feel directly.

Finally, since this is our first blog post at The Blum Center for Health, we’d like to offer you $250 off of your initial consultation and Know Yourself Better ReportTM if you schedule an appointment and mention this post before September 23rd. If you want to find out more visit our website or contact the Blum Center for Health at 914-652-7800.

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Start Your Day with a Taste of the Tropics Smoothie

Start your day with a smoothie that will make you smile! This colorful and refreshing pineapple kale smoothie is a great way to add greens into your breakfast routine with a taste of the tropics.  Kale has detoxifying benefits for the liver and pineapple is loaded with digestive enzymes that are good for the stomach. The coconut oil provides your body with healthy fats and a flavor that instantly transports you to a tropical island getaway.  A VitaMix-type blender is the best blender to achieve a smooth consistency. There’s happiness in every sip!

Wondering how to pick a ripe pineapple?

It’s pretty easy, actually. Just follow these three steps and you’ll be choosing perfectly sweet, slightly tangy pineapples: 

Check the color — The exterior of a pineapple changes from green to yellow as it ripens. The more yellow the exterior, the more ripe the fruit. Once it starts to turn an orangish color, it’s gone too far. 

Give it a gentle squeeze — A ripe pineapple will “give” a little bit when you squeeze it. If it’s hard, leave it at the grocery store!

Smell it — If it passes your color and squeeze test, sniff the base of the pineapple. If it smells sweet and fruity, you’re good to go. If it smells funky, or like vinegar, it’s past its prime.

Pineapple Kale Smoothie

Ingredients

  • ½ cup coconut water
  • 1 tsp coconut oil
  • ½ cup seeded and diced cucumber
  • 1 cup fresh pineapple
  • 1 cup loosely packed kale, washed, stemmed and chopped
  • ½ tsp lime juice

Preparation

Blend all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Serves 1-2.

Serving Size: 1 cup

ENJOY!

 

Do you find that you start eating healthy but get derailed? Consider private coaching! I help people attain their goals by unraveling those self-sabotaging behaviors that get in the way. Let’s play! I’ll help you create new habits that lead to long-term change. Get what you want. Finally. Check out CoachMe

Meet Melissa: Melissa Rapoport is the Manager of Health Coaching and Lifestyle Programming at Blum Center for Health in Rye Brook, NY. She combines her graduate work in Developmental Psychology with her education in nutrition, health and coaching to create highly individualized programs that result in lifetime change. A contributing author to three international bestselling books, Melissa’s greatest joy is her relationship with her two daughters. To learn more about Melissa’s coaching practice at Blum Center for Health, click here.

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Carrot Ginger Rainbow Wraps

Summer barbecues, beach days, long hikes, road trips, picnics in the park – warm weather means we’re on the go more than usual and healthy portable snacks are essential. If you have a packed schedule, but want to make sure you have nutritious options to fuel all your summer plans, these collard wraps are for you!

As a member of the cruciferous family, collard greens have been shown to exhibit powerful anti-cancer properties – they also make for a perfect grain-free wrap! Paired with red cabbage, avocado, carrots, and walnuts, these wraps are not only colorful, but they’re a great source of vitamins A and C – they’re also jam-packed with fiber.

There are a few steps to this recipe, but they make a bunch, are addictively delicious, and can easily be wrapped in tinfoil and tossed in your cooler for your next picnic or hike!

These vibrant wraps are so refreshing and nutritious – they’ll be sure to satisfy no matter what your plans are this summer.

Carrot Ginger Rainbow Wraps with Peanut Dipping Sauce

Makes about 24 wraps

Ingredients

1 bunch collard greens

½ red cabbage, shredded

1 bag brown rice vermicelli noodles, prepared according to instructions

1 avocado, sliced into thin strips and drizzled with lemon juice

1 cup sprouts

1 bunch scallions, chopped

1 bunch cilantro, chopped

 

Carrot Ginger Filling

3 large carrots, peeled

1 cup walnuts

½ inch piece of ginger, peeled

1 clove of garlic

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon rice vinegar

1 teaspoon maple syrup

½ teaspoon salt

dash cayenne

Peanut Sauce:

1 small clove garlic

½ cup peanut butter

1 inch piece ginger

1 cup vegetable broth

2 tablespoons tamari/coconut aminos

½ teaspoon chickpea miso

½ teaspoon rice vinegar

½ teaspoon maple syrup

¼ teaspoon cayenne

Dash of salt

Procedure

1. Bring a pot of salted water to a light boil. Meanwhile, create an ice bath by filling a large bowl with a mixture of ice and water. Once water is ready, add 1-2 collard leaves at a time. Once leaves turn bright green (about 20 seconds), remove from hot water and place in ice bath to cool. Repeat with all the leaves and set aside for them to dry.

2. Prepare the carrot ginger filling by placing carrots, walnuts, ginger, garlic, olive oil, rice vinegar, maple syrup, salt, and cayenne to a food processor. Pulse a few times until mixed and set aside.

3. To make the peanut dipping sauce, add garlic, peanut butter, ginger, vegetable broth, tamari/coconut aminos, chickpea miso, rice vinegar, and maple syrup to a blender. Mix on high. Add salt and cayenne to taste.

4. To prepare collards for wraps, place them smooth side down on your cutting board. Use a paring knife to gently slice the thickest part of the collard green stem running parallel to the cutting board. Next, use the bottom of a cup to press up and down a few times on the veins of the leaf softening them so they’re flexible enough to bend.

5. To assemble wraps, spread the collard leaf with a layer of carrot ginger filling. Top with cabbage, cooled brown rice vermicelli noodles, avocado, sprouts, scallions and cilantro. Fold like a burrito and enjoy! These can be served immediately or stored in the fridge for 1-2 days.

To learn more recipes like this, be sure to come to my classes!  View the schedule here.

 

Shauna McQueen, is a Registered Dietitian with a MS degree in Nutrition Science from Syracuse University and a graduate of The Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts. She develops nutrition curriculum for the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and has experience working as a private chef, teaching both culinary and nutrition education classes, developing workshops, and creating tailored recipes—often with a vegan, gluten-free spin.

Shauna’s unique background in both nutrition science and the culinary arts allows her to create truly nourishing and health supportive food that is tasty to boot! She loves teaching others the skills necessary to create a diet they love, feel inspired by, and that supports wellness inside and out.