Posted on

An Integrative Gynecologist’s Advice for Teens and Young Adults

TEENS

Making the transition from childhood into the teenage years and young adulthood is a tender time for most young women. Navigating the world of menstruation, sexual relations, sexual health, and even understanding how her body works, can create anxiety, wonder, excitement and, inevitably, loads of questions.  How can we best support young women as they make this transition? The answer lies with using a more holistic approach to Gynecology.

Traditional gynecology is solely focused on reproductive health. It can feel cold and medicalized no matter how warm the practitioner is. And, let’s face it, our reproductive system is only a small part of our entire body.

The Integrative (which includes Functional Medicine) approach to Gynecology focuses on the entire body. This holistic way of viewing a woman addresses nutrition, exercise, stress management techniques, and lifestyle choices, all of which positively sets up a young woman for a lifetime of excellent reproductive health. Often, all kinds of issues, like PMS, painful periods, and polycystic ovarian syndrome, can be treated using lifestyle approaches, either alone or coupled with herbs and supplements.

Perhaps the most important difference between me and a conventional gynecologist, is that when I start working with you or your daughter, my goal is to develop a relationship. It is important to create a partnership based on trust and respect in order to most effectively help you, the woman sitting in front of me. What are your goals?  These drive everything. I start with a detailed history, paying great attentiveness to your physical, mental, and spiritual well-being.

In creating a reproductive wellness plan I incorporate nutrition, exercise, mind/body techniques, supplements, and herbs.  I may recommend acupuncture, massage/manual therapies, energy work.  Of course, if birth control is desired also, we do include contraception with or without hormones. Again, it is co-created with you, and It all depends on your goals.

For a teenager or young woman an initial appointment often may not include a pelvic exam.  This is because, truthfully, many questions/concerns don’t require one.  Eventually we’ll get to an exam but first there is benefit in educating you about your own anatomy.

Often our first visit is just a “talk” visit.  I understand that there can be fear surrounding a pelvic exam. My belief is that we don’t need to do anything that is not necessary, especially if it is uncomfortable or anxiety provoking!  Even for mature patients, we are moving away from reflexively doing a pelvic exam at each visit because the evidence shows that it is not always necessary.  I would rather spend our time with education.

So many routines that are started in our youth carry forward.  What better time to take the steps needed to build your bones up, maintain your gut microbiome, establish food choices that support reproductive health and decrease the long term risks of cancer, diabetes, heart disease?  We also teach mind/body techniques like deep breathing, meditation that helps you to handle all the stress that our crazy world throws at us.  As a young woman, the sooner you learn to manage this, the better off you will be.  It’s also important for you to learn about how toxins in the environment, food, plastics, cosmetics impact your reproductive health.  If you take steps early in life to lower the toxic load, we can ensure your future wellbeing.

You can see that I believe strongly that if we can teach the young women of today the principles of nutrition, exercise, stress management and toxin avoidance, they will be a much healthier generation tomorrow!  And my goal is to help make that happen.

Would you like to learn more and live in our neighborhood? Join Dr. Bronwyn Fitz at Blum Center for Health on May 4th at 7pm for her free community talk, An Integrative Gynecologist’s Advice for Teens and Young Adults. Dr. Fitz will describe the Integrative approach to some of the common health concerns that face young women: irregular and difficult periods, birth control, HPV vaccination, sexually transmitted infections.  Register Now 

About Dr. Fitz:

Dr. Bronwyn Fitz is a board certified Obstetrician Gynecologist who is fellowship trained in Integrative Medicine.  In her practice she melds traditional medicine with non-Western approaches, nutrition, botanicals, mind/body therapies and lifestyle interventions to help women address their gynecological and reproductive health concerns. Her interest in mindfulness and meditation led her to pursue a two-year Fellowship at The Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, under the leadership of world-renowned Integrative physician, Dr. Andrew Weil.

Posted on

How To Choose The Right Supplement

Untitled design (1)

You eat a healthy diet—fresh vegetables and fruits every day, lean animal protein or high quality vegetarian protein, and whole grains—and you limit your intake of processed foods, right?

Do you still need a multivitamin or any kind of supplement?

In functional medicine, we often find the answer to be yes, because there are multiple reasons why you might not be getting what you need just from food.

First, we eat food for energy and nutrients:

The food we eat is more or less nutritious depending on the soil it is grown in or, in the case of animal protein, the feed the animals have been given.  Conventional farming puts only a limited number of nutrients back into the soil through fertilizers, so food grown on those farms tend to have lower nutrient quality over time.  In particular, zinc often becomes depleted.

Organic farming has a greater potential for higher nutrient quality because the soil is often fertilized with richer nutrient sources than just standard fertilizer.  But again, if the soil has been used for decades for agriculture, it may become depleted especially of trace minerals.

Before we became such an urban culture, people ate much more of the “whole” of whole foods—nothing was thrown away.  We ate organ meats like pancreas, kidneys, liver, brain that all have nutrients that aren’t necessarily found in vegetables or the usual meats we eat.  We ate much more fish and so got our omega- 3 fatty acids we need for healthy cell membranes.  We also used vegetable skins to make soup stocks and roasted pumpkin seeds for snacks (think zinc) to get minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants.  Overall, then, we have narrowed our nutrient sources by just eating the “good” parts of our foods.

Supplement Suggestion: In order to compensate for these changes in our foods and diets, we recommend a daily regimen of:

  • A daily multivitamin-mineral
  • Omega 3s, and
  • Vitamin D

These will meet the basic needs of almost everyone.

Looking for these essentials in an easy daily packets? Our specially-formulated Once Daily Vitamin and Mineral Essentials  has everything you need, and is third-party tested for purity.

Then there is your digestion:

If you are not digesting your food well, then you may not absorb your nutrients well.  We can determine what the problem is with your digestion by doing functional testing.

Then, while you work on improving your digestion, targeted supplements based on what’s going on in your body can really make a difference in how you feel.

We determine that based on symptoms or medical conditions that are associated with certain deficiencies in addition to the testing.  We do with each person who comes to Blum Center to tailor a program specifically to you.

When choosing supplements you also want to be aware of the quality of the products you are taking. 

News reports come out frequently about how the supplements at some of the chain stores don’t have the nutrients they are labeled to have.  Professional quality supplements have third party verification of their ingredients and also have testing for contaminants like lead.  We are careful at Blum Center to choose high quality, third party verified supplements.  We can advise you on resources to check supplement testing for products as well.

Do you live near Blum Center in Rye Brook, NY? Join Elizabeth and Darcy McConnell, MD for their community talk, What You Need to Know about Supplements, on Wednesday, April 19th at 7pm. Register Now! 

Meet Elizabeth: In her dual role as our Functional Medicine Nurse Practitioner and a teacher in our Mind.Body.Spirit programs at Blum Center for Health, Elizabeth Greig, MSN, FNP, helps treat and heal patients with complex chronic health conditions. Whether she’s treating a medical condition or leading a class in meditation, Elizabeth helps people understand that when it comes to healing, it’s more about nourishing life, than it is about battling illness.

 

 

 

Posted on

8 Reasons All Women Need Non-Negotiable Self-Care

Woman Meditating for Self-Care

Women are told that they can have it all — parenthood, families, careers, relationships, and community involvement.

Women are not told, however, that by juggling all these hats they put themselves at risk for feeling perpetually burned out.

Many women become so busy taking care of kids, partners, parents, in-laws, pursuing careers, and managing the day-to-day maintenance of running a home (cooking, cleaning, shopping), that everyone else gets their best. They get shortchanged.

Some women even put basic needs on hold — doctor’s appointments, haircuts, coffee with a close friend. If this resonates, you might feel dissatisfied, lonely, unappreciated, haggard, cranky, disheveled and even unattractive.

Having it all leaves you with no strength and no time to care for yourself.

I remember one particular Mother’s Day, sitting in one of my favorite cafes overlooking a park in bloom, surrounded by my two daughters and my then-husband. I was absolutely exhausted — caring for two small children, working, taking care of the house, attempting to keep it all together. Sitting there, on Mother’s Day, fighting to keep my eyes open, all I could think was, “What about me?”

Research (1) has shown that women today are less happy than they have been over the past 40 years. Why? Theories abound, but l suspect a lack of “me-time” is a major reason. All the hats we juggle leave many women not taking adequate care of ourselves — the very thing we need to give us the strength and energy to address all the responsibilities we have.

It’s a depletion loop. We keep taking and taking and taking from ourselves without giving anything back.

In fact, the chronic underlying stress of keeping all these hats in the air can lead to serious health conditions, such as anxiety, depression, headaches, digestive problems, weight gain, memory issues and even autoimmune disease. Self-care is an important antidote in battling all of these conditions.

Yet, in my health coaching practice at Blum Center for Health, most women tell me that they “don’t have time” to take time for themselves. When we delve a little deeper, however, it becomes clear that “time” is not the issue.

What’s the issue? There is an insidious undercurrent of guilt for taking care of herself.  Many women internalize the implied message that it’s her “duty” to minimize her needs in order to care for others. That, if she is taking care of herself, then she is taking time away from caring for someone else.

Every women requires self-care for peak performance and heightened self-esteem. After all, if you don’t carve out the time to truly care and love yourself, if you avoid things that make you feel mentally and physically well, you deplete your self-esteem. Essentially you’re robbing your own bank!

So, I ask you: “What do you want for you?”

8 Reasons to Put You First on Your List

  1. You will be better equipped to communicate your needs, and the support you require, to your partner, family, friends and co-workers.
  2. Putting yourself first will make you stronger and healthier.
  3. Attending to your needs, and learning to put yourself first, will raise your level of contentedness and happiness.
  4. Setting compassionate boundaries will make you feel cared for, nurtured and loved.
  5. Putting yourself first will recharge your battery, make you better rested and give you the space to discover (or rediscover!) your passions.
  6. You will feel more appreciated, and in turn, you will feel more appreciative and grateful toward the people in your life.
  7. You will be a more patient, attentive and attuned partner, parent, sibling, daughter, and/or professional.
  8. If you are a parent, you will demonstrate to your children what it looks like respect yourself. Kids learn from their parents. Do you want to teach them to put their needs last, or do you want to role model what it looks like to take care of themselves?

Ultimately, self-care is essential and non-negotiable. From getting enough sleep, to taking care of our basic needs, to setting personal limits and boundaries, to being honest with our partners, it’s making our health and wellness a non-negotiable priority.

Need help getting started?  Melissa can help!  Head over to our CoachMe page and learn how you can work with her to begin your self-care journey.

Do you live near Blum Center in Rye Brook, NY? Join Melissa for her special 4-session series, Reclaim Your Body, Love Your Life: A Women’s Group for Lasting Change, that begins April 26th: Learn More and Sign Up 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.

 

Reference:

  1. http://www.webmd.com/women/guide/womans-guide-to-me-time#1
Posted on

Your Microbiome: Caring For What’s Inside You

microflora

There are literally trillions of bacteria in our digestive tracts.  They make up what is called the microflora, because under a microscope they look like little (micro) flowers (flora).  We refer to it collectively as our microbiome and they play an unbelievable role in synthesizing vitamins, producing natural antibiotics and degrading and eliminating toxins.  There are more of them in our bodies than human cells.

Think about it, we are walking around harboring and supporting this microbiome, an entire ecosystem within us.

Recent science has taught us that the microbiome also dictates aspects of who we are – our personalities, what diseases we will get, our mood, the size of our girth. Most of us are oblivious to it, we pay no attention to it at all except for to take a probiotic, until it hurts.

Internally we are 98.6 degrees, very moist and we have a tube that runs through us that is 30 feet long that has an opening on each end (the mouth and the anus).   This internal environment is the perfect breeding ground for microbes – both good and bad.

Outside, external, influences often upset the balance.  How we control the external influences determines the delicate balance of good and bad players.  It is up to us – we must care for them, it is critical to good health and requires more than a probiotic.

Factors That Affect the Microbiome:

Stress, the food we eat, genetics, how much time we spend outdoors, if the windows of our homes are open or closed, our exposure to animals, toxin and chemical exposure, antibiotic use throughout our lives, how we were born — C-section or vaginally — whether we were breast-fed, how often we bathe – all affect our microbiome.

For most of us, our guts are a mess.  We have created a microbiome that looks very different from what nature intended for each of us.  So how do we get back to the farm?

Increase These Foods to Support your Microbiome :

  • Eat a rainbow of colorful vegetables and some fruit every day. They will provide fermentable fibers that feed our healthy flora.
  • Include coconut products like coconut oil, milk, yogurt and kefir. Coconut is filled with medium chain triglycerides which feed the cells lining our intestines, and has yeast-killing properties.
  • Include Ghee, which is clarified butter. Ghee is filled with butyrate, a critically-important fatty acid for the care and feeding of cells in our colon.
  • Eat organic, non-GMO These foods are low in pesticides and have not been genetically modified, which can alter your flora and damage you intestinal lining, causing leaky gut.
  • Include healthy anti-inflammatory oils like fish, flax, olive oil.
  • Choose grass-fed, pasture-raised, or free-range organic animals when possible. This will limit the hormones, antibiotics, and pesticides that we are expose our microbes to when eating animals raised in typical feed lots.  Also, the meat from grass fed animals have higher quality, anti-inflammatory fats than corn fed animals.

It is Equally Important to Remove These Foods:

  • Processed food high in sugar, white flour, baked goods, food dyes and preservatives. These foods and chemicals promote the growth of the wrong kind of bacteria in our gut.  Eating this way should be a permanent change.  This includes fruit juices, dried fruit, and all added sugar or artificial sweeteners except stevia.
  • Gluten, dairy, soy, corn, eggs and peanuts because these foods are the most common triggers for reflux, constipation and abdominal discomfort, as well as other non-gut related symptoms.
  • Foods high in histamines: Shellfish, processed or smoked meats and sausages, wine.  Many people are affected by histamine intolerance, caused by the body’s inability to break down histamine in the gut causing crazy allergy reactions. Reactions to histamines can look like allergic reactions, including nasal congestion as well as headaches, dizziness and digestive discomfort.
  • All alcohol

 

Live in our neighborhood? If you’d like to heal your, consider joining my HealMyGut 30-Day Program on Tuesday, April 17th at either 10am or 6pm Blum Center for Health. To learn more or enroll, Click Here.

Don’t live near Blum Center?  Try our online HealMyGut program that includes daily email support, a private Facebook group, and weekly live one-hour coaching calls.

About Mary: Mary Gocke, Director of Nutrition at Blum Center for Health, has been successfully using food and nutrition science to treat and heal people with chronic illnesses and acute conditions for over 25 years. When Mary’s not helping people feel better through nutrition, this mother of two grown children can be found practicing yoga, which she has taught for years, or in her kitchen cooking something colorful.

Posted on

Healing Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable Bowel Syndrome IBS pain

In my Functional Medicine practice, many people come to me with stories of terrible digestive distress, often labeled as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or “IBS. ”This diagnosis is often given to people with a wide range of functional digestive issues like GERD or reflux, heartburn, burping, bloating, feeling full, abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation,  or incomplete bowel emptying. Conventional approaches to treatment usually begin with an acid blocking medication, called a proton pump inhibitor (PPI), like Prilosec or Prevacid.  Many studies show these medications cause more harm than good and are not the ultimate answer.

Instead, we need to get to the root cause of these issues and this is where Functional Medicine really shines!

Here are the most common causes of digestive issues that need to be explored and treated to heal Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

Once you address these, you can be cured once and for all:

  • Food sensitivities or allergies
  • Lack of appropriate digestive enzymes or stomach acid
  • Motility disorders
  • Inflammation of the gut lining
  • Imbalance of the microbial flora
  • Digestive disorders that don’t allow nutrients to be absorbed
  • Leaky gut causing systemic inflammation
  • Overgrowth of certain bacteria that are associated with systemic illness.

So what to do?

  1.  Fix your food.
    This can be as simple as modifying your diet — adding gut-healthy foods and eliminating your personal food triggers are imperative to healing your gut and reducing symptoms. We always start with an elimination diet for 3 weeks, removing gluten, dairy, soy, corn and eggs, the most common triggers for IBS. Remember, this is an experiment and has 2 parts: after the 3 weeks are finished, carefully reintroduce each food, every 3 days, one at a time, and this is when you can really determine if the food is a trigger for you.
  2. Consider stool and breath testing to take a closer look at your gut microbes and digestion.
    If changing your diet doesn’t fix the problem, then we recommend further testing. We need to evaluate your gut microbes, which are the 100 trillion bacteria that live in your intestines. They need to be in balance….. after all, your microbiome is your inner garden and you want to be sure your garden is flourishing. We also need to make sure your digestion is working well.  We use functional testing to get more information, and the results help guide my treatment with herbs, supplements and probiotics to gently nudge the bacteria into a healthier state, support your digestion, and resolve your symptoms.Here are some suggestions to try on your own and get you started.
  • Digestive enzymes
  • Bitters or ginger
  • Probiotics
  • Magnesium citrate – when constipated.
  • Cleansing herbs like berberine – in cases of bacterial overgrowth.
  1. Remember, the single most important thing to do is to change your understanding of your gut.
    Let’s start to think of the gut as what it really is – a seemingly simple but actually incredibly complex tube, responsible for grabbing the necessary nutrients out of the food you eat, keeping you healthy by killing infectious disease, removing toxins from the body through the stool, supporting your immune system, and even moderating your mood by producing and affecting neurotransmitters and hormones like serotonin and estrogens.  The gut is important!

In our practice at Blum Center for Health we take a multi-pronged, holistic approach, a combination of medical and lifestyle considerations, to address your gastrointestinal condition. We help you change your relationship to food, make necessary adjustments to exercise, sleeping and stress reduction, all things that influence motility and the health of your gut. Lifestyle changes works in unison with dietary and our medical solutions to provide lifelong relief.

Are you ready to calm your irritable bowel? A great place to start is with our 10-Day or 30-Day HealMyGut program — it’s a total gut reset with a nutritional plan, recipes, just-right supplements, daily email support, and a private online community. Our 30-Day program includes the added bonus of a weekly chat with our Functional Nutritionist to answer all your questions. Find out which program is ideal for you: Take the Assessment

 

Meet Darcy McConnell, M.D.:  Dr. McConnell brings her broad expertise in prevention, mind-body medicine, and women’s health to Blum Center for Health, in Rye Brook, NY. She is board certified in Family Medicine and Integrative Medicine, with postgraduate training from the Institute for Functional Medicine. Darcy lives with her husband and three sons and enjoys the outdoors, cooking healthy meals for her family and friends and is an enthusiastic yogi.

Posted on

Do You have Estrogen Dominance?

Estrogen Dominance

In Functional Medicine we often refer to the relationship between estrogen and progesterone as the “dance of the hormones” or the “hormone orchestra.”

Ironically, what sounds like a beautiful evening at the ballet often plays out each month as a real hand-banging, body-slamming cacophony!

So what gives?  Why is it that we often feel out of control, and sometimes out of body, for days at a time?

The answer could be Estrogen Dominance.

Here are typical symptoms that can be attributed to a relative excess of estrogen in relationship to progesterone:

  • irregular bleeding
  • mood swings
  • depression
  • water retention/bloating
  • painful breasts
  • hot flashes
  • heavy periods
  • painful periods
  • fatigue
  • brain fog
  • sleep disturbance

How did we get here?  Unfortunately, there are many roads that lead to estrogen dominance.  Let’s start at the beginning.

The Typical Menstrual Cycle

During a typical menstrual cycle, the first half of the month, known as the estrogen dominant phase, progesterone is relatively low and estrogen levels steadily rise. Due to some nifty feedback loops that involve the brain and other hormones, ovulation occurs at around Day 14, and an egg is released from the ovary.  During this second half of the menstrual cycle, estrogen levels fall somewhat and progesterone levels rise significantly. This is when progesterone takes the lead in our hormone tango.

5 Roads that Lead to Estrogen Dominance

  1. Irregular Ovulation — One road that leads to estrogen dominance is if ovulation doesn’t occur and progesterone doesn’t have the opportunity to take that lead. We see this type of problem in young girls who haven’t started ovulating regularly, and in peri-menopausal women who are close to the end of their ovarian reserve, and also aren’t ovulating normally.
  1. Any Type of Stress — Often stress can lead to skipped ovulation. Typically we think of extreme episodes of stress such as a severe illness, anorexia/malnutrition, intense athletic training. But commonly, your average woman who goes through a stressful time will notice that her period becomes irregular. Even long standing, chronic stress can take a toll on your female hormones.
  1. Foods and Food Packaging — In this day and age of genetically-modified, pesticide-laced, prepackaged food to go, we are constantly exposed to xenoestrogens. These are toxic chemicals that act like weak estrogens in your body. These nasty chemicals can be found in pesticides, plastics that our food comes wrapped in, that “to-go” coffee lid, even the lining of your canned goods and drinks.
  1. Cosmetics and Household Products — Other examples of endocrine disruptors are phthalates and parabens that are used in hygiene products, cosmetics, and fragrances. This is where women are potentially very vulnerable considering how many bath, haircare, cosmetic, nail, feminine hygiene products we use daily. These just add to your total estrogen “load” that your body sees on a regular basis and that your liver has to metabolize and detoxify.  It turns out that optimal liver function is very important in estrogen metabolism and clearance.
  1. Your Gut Flora — The gut microbiome and your gastrointestinal function is another major player in this hormonal dance that is now looking more like a square dance with all its moving parts. It turns out that the bacteria that reside within our GI tract plays a very important role in helping us eliminate our estrogen by-products once the liver has packaged them up nicely for excretion. Sadly, the average American diet, full of high fructose corn syrup and other inflammatory foods often keep our livers working over-time just trying to detoxify lunch, let alone efficiently remove spent hormones from our systems.  Obesity itself is a problem since estrogen is stored in fat cells.  The fact that 2/3 of Americans are overweight or obese points to how prevalent this form of estrogen exposure is.

As you can see, there are many, many influences that lead to Estrogen Dominance. It’s not just “the way you are.”

The great news is there is something you can do about it.

First, you don’t need to treat Estrogen Dominance with birth control pills!

While birth control pills may help alleviate symptoms, they do not solve the root problem, In fact, taking birth control pills to treat estrogen dominance could possibly lead to more longer-term problems. (There are other excellent uses for birth control pills, such as actual birth control, and it is important to understand a woman’s goals for her health when deciding how to treat her.)

As a fellowship-trained Integrative Medicine and Functional Medicine doctor, I attack this problem of Estrogen Dominance from many angles.  The truth is we have so many ways to help women feel better, without the use of medicine and surgery.  We can, and should, use food as medicine, weight loss, botanicals, mind-body modalities for stress management so that women can actually heal themselves.

About Dr. Fitz:

Dr. Bronwyn Fitz is a board certified Obstetrician Gynecologist who is fellowship trained in Integrative Medicine.  In her practice she melds traditional medicine with non-Western approaches, nutrition, botanicals, mind/body therapies and lifestyle interventions to help women address their gynecological and reproductive health concerns. Her interest in mindfulness and meditation led her to pursue a two-year Fellowship at The Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, under the leadership of world-renowned Integrative physician, Dr. Andrew Weil. 

 

Posted on

5-Steps to Finding Chronic Headache Relief

headache

 

Headache blogger Kerrie Smyre (thedailyheadache.com) expresses the sentiments of many with migraines or other forms of chronic headache.  “Headaches steal so much of your life. The list is long, but includes jobs, relationships, having children, self-respect, ambition and identity”.

Headache symptoms can vary from a dull ache, to razor sharp pain that stops you in your tracks. Even the simplest headache can be life altering.  In making your way through treatment options, often there aren’t good choices– either the medications don’t work, or they work for a while. And then over time, you find yourself taking more and more medications, which can also end up paradoxically being the actual cause of (rebound) headaches themselves!

There are many different triggers for headaches, and uncovering the cause of yours is essential to finding the cure. Many of our headache patients come in thinking that their sinuses are the cause.  Usually they are not!

The 3-Prong Approach to Alleviating Chronic Headaches 

IDENTIFY THE TRIGGERS:

Could It Be Food?– There are many foods that can cause headaches. Unfortunately, they are not universal. For one person it may be raw onions, for another it could be vinegar, red wine and aged cheese. Just as every person is different, so are individual triggers. The good news is that a skilled practitioner can help identify your triggers and help you remove them.

Could It Be Non-Food Lifestyle Triggers? – There are a significant number of lifestyle triggers that are often overlooked as a cause of headache. For instance, do you get a headache if you don’t wear sunglasses? How about going in and out of air conditioning? Again, just as with food triggers, it is possible to figure this out and then help you make a personalized plan.

Could It Be Stress? (Particularly if you say you don’t have any!) – Stress and headaches often go hand-in-hand. It does not have to be acute stress (“Oh my gosh, I’m so stressed?”) It is also related to long-term, under-the-surface stress, like financial pressure, a troubled relationship, or putting off life decisions. It is important to work with a practitioner to learn mind-body tools to help you relax for headache prevention, and also for in-the-moment when-you-need-it-most stressful situations.

Could It Be Hormones? – Many women find that headaches are in some way related to their cycle. Once you and your practitioner determines that this is the issue, these kind of headaches can be treated easily with herbs that help balance your hormones.

Could It Be Toxins? – Toxins like pesticides, heavy metals, and plastic residues can build up in both your body and your brain, and trigger headaches. A skilled Functional or Integrative Medicine practitioner can evaluate your toxic load and then help you reduce the toxins in your body and treat your headaches with a detox program that provides supplements and a food plan to help support the liver in doing this important toxin-clearing work.

Could It Be A Structural Issue? – A common cause of headaches for many people is an issue in their musculoskeletal system. Problems like TMJ (temporomandibular joint inflammation), neck issues, myofascial pain syndromes (muscle pain in the scalp, shoulders and neck radiating up into the head) and others, can all be causes of headaches. Once we figure out this is the issues, we can treat it and the headaches can be gone for good!

Could It Be Sinusitis? – Of course it could be! But now you know that there are many other possibilities and we need to check for them all. However, sinusitis remains on the list and if it turns out this is the culprit, there are great herbal and alternative ways to treat this other than antibiotics. Also, food and environmental triggers are often an underlying issue, and these can be treated as well.

2. WORK WITH A HEADACHE PROFESSIONAL

It takes skill and experience to create an individualized plan. At Blum Center for Health, while all the practitioners treat headaches, it is a particular focus of my practice. I work with my patients to uncover and treat the underlying causes. Remember, it is critical to find someone who will be your partner – if they are only throwing medication at the issue, walk away!

3.  STAY COMMITTED:

It takes vigilance and attention on your part and mine to discover all the triggers that contribute to your headaches, but it can be done and I can show you how. Most importantly, once this is sorted out, you will have the tools and strategies you need to remain headache-free.

Ready to take aim at your headaches? A great place to start is with our 10-Day or 30-Day HealMyGut program — it’s a total gut reset with a nutritional plan, recipes, just-right supplements, daily email support, and a private online community. Our 30-Day program includes the added bonus of a weekly chat with our Functional Nutritionist to answer all your questions. Find out which program is ideal for you: Take the Assessment

Meet Dr. Gereau: Dr. Gereau is an Allergy and ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat) specialist who uses an integrative and functional medicine approach to conditions such as chronic sinusitis, allergies, sleep apnea and headaches.

CLICK HERE to learn more about Dr. Gereau.

 

Posted on

Protecting our Youth from Colorectal Cancers

cancer

By: Pamela Yee, M.D.

A photograph of a beautiful, vibrant, 22-year old woman with the following headline recently caught my eye: Colon and Rectal Cancers Rising in Young People (1). As reported by The New York TImes, the American Cancer Society cites an increase in the number of young adults developing colon cancer, a disease most associated with that of an aging population.

Interestingly, researchers are at a loss to explain this rise.

The connection is obvious to me.

I strongly believe our diet foremost, and plethora of toxic environmental exposures, cannot be ignored. These exposures, both food and environment, begin in the womb and continue throughout childhood.

The larger question is, how can we collectively get our children to develop good eating habits to set the stage for optimal health?

FOOD

What’s Changed? The MEDIA!

As a kid of the 70’s I witnessed the early blossoming of processed foods.  Doritos, Lucky Charms, Kool Aid and Twinkies were common kids’ staples and few spoke of organic food. But, coming from a family that immigrated from China, these foods were kept at bay since my Grandma home-cooked almost all meals. There was no need, or pressure, for convenience foods — they were seen as treats.

Also, the art of corporations marketing to children had just began taking off. The allure of characters beckoning children to sample their spaceship-shaped waffles or cookies bathed in food coloring could not readily reach children through TV and other media. I believe the kids I grew up with benefitted from this relative media innocence.

A crucial point in 1980 changed everything.  The Federal Trade Commission had been trying to set restrictions on advertising to children. Their argument was that young children could not discern commercials from entertainment programs and older children could not understand the long-term health consequences of eating lots of sugar.  But pressure from the sugar, toy, candy and cigarette industries and farmers growing wheat for sugared cereals, all swooped down to prevent this from happening.

In 1980, Congress passed an Act that “mandated that the FTC would no longer have any authority whatsoever to regulate advertising and marketing to children, leaving markets virtually free to target kids as they saw fit,” wrote Anna Lappe, author and food advocate.

This one act launched the onslaught of marketing to children, and morphed into the complex state it is today where movies create characters which then show up on cereal boxes, plastic toys and candy wrappers.  [To read more about this pivotal act in detail, you can read Anna Lappe’s take on it here.

It’s surprising there was no extended commentary on the New York Time’s report on why this increase in colorectal cancers are being seen in young adults, and that the reasons are “baffling.” To me it all boils down to the environmental change that has occurred over the last four decades. And if food is the “medicine” that we put in our bodies all day, processed by our gut and microbiome, it seems that there would be an association between diet and incidence of disease.  Of course we can wait and wait for further studies to elucidate or we can do something about it now.

HOW TO HELP OUR CHILDREN

ROLE MODELS

From a preventative sense, one of the most potent things we can do for ourselves, and for our children, is to set a behavior we want modeled.  The younger you start with children, obviously the better. But, discussions with older children about why and how food impacts how they feel are powerful. They may not take to them right away, but you are sending a verbal message that you then reinforce by walking the talk. If mom and dad are eating sugar or convenient processed foods on a regular basis how can you expect your children to take you seriously?

MEDIA

Another way we can help our children is to limit media.  Easier said than done, I know as tech is the easy babysitter we employ so that, as parents, we can do chores around the home or placate an angry toddler on an airplane.  But the more we rely on that easy solution the more detriment it imposes on our children, not only because of the advertising and marketing, but also on the very relationships parents have with their own children.

Catherine Steiner-Adair Ed.D, a clinical psychologist and expert in child development and education, wrote the book, The Big Disconnect: Protecting Child and Family Relationships in the Digital Age after extensive interviews with children and parents on how social media and technology change the way children learn, grow and make connections with others.  She also gives advice to parents and educators on how to deflect the detrimental effects of media on our children.

These suggestions can all translate to better eating — not only because of the reduction of media influences — but because it will force us to pause, parents included. When both parents and their children employ awareness and make conscious choices surrounding food, media and their relationships with one another, family health automatically comes to the forefront. Suddenly you will find that you’re at the dinner table, without your devices, and enjoying a meal together, conversation included.

Reference:

(1) https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/28/well/live/colon-and-rectal-cancers-rising-in-young-people.html?smid=fb-share&_r=0]

Meet Dr. Yee:

Pamela Yee, MD is an Integrative Physician at Blum Center for Health in Rye Brook, NY.   Dr. Yee has a special interest in integrative cancer care and creates highly personalized treatment plans for each of her patients. She lives in Nyack NY where she and her husband manage their own organic micro-farm.

CLICK HERE  to learn more about Dr. Yee.

Posted on

Clean Your Pantry, Lose Weight & Transform Your Diet

Pantry Spices

Here’s a little-known secret: There’s a connection between your health, your weight and the food you store on your pantry shelves. Cookies, nutritionally-void crackers, cans of junky soup, the white flour that’s sitting on the shelf for months unused — it’s the same thing as storing stuff under your bed. You may not see it all the time, but you know it’s there.

• It creates stress.
• It creates obsessive thinking (“Oh, there’s cookies in the cabinet.”)
• It creates mental clutter every time you open the cabinet (I’ve really gotta clean out this cabinet.”

At Blum Center for Health we feel strongly that your pantry is the foundation of healthy eating. So strongly, in fact, that we conduct a free workshop every month simply titled, Pantry Makeover, where participants make their own “pantry plan.”

Here’s 8 things you can do to transform your pantry shelves:

1. Discard obvious “junk” food. Unless it’s something you love and incorporate into your diet with healthy choices, Get. Rid. Of. It. Otherwise it’s only taking up space in your cabinets and in your head. You know it’s there, your head knows it’s there and every time there’s a trigger you have to fight the impulse. Why do that to yourself?

2. Discard the not-so-obvious junk food. Look at everything that comes in a package or can. Don’t be fooled by clever marketing phrases like “all natural” or “whole grains” or “100% healthy.” There’s so much leeway in these claims. The goal is to get consumers to purchase the product, not to improve their health.

3. Look at the ingredient list: Are the top ingredients truly whole grain? You might be buying “gluten-free” goodies but closer examination of the ingredients might tell you it’s junk food.

4. If sugar is one of the first three ingredients, consider it a dessert. That includes honey, molasses, agave, or any other of the “healthy” sugars. It’s all sugar.

5. Check out how many grams of fiber it has. While some products boost the fiber content by adding cellulose (not necessarily the best thing), it is an indication of the integrity of the product.

6. Look for artificial food coloring such as red dye 40, yellow 5 and green 3.

7. Does it have artificial sweeteners like aspartame, Splenda or xylitol? Dump it.

8. Does it contain trans fats, also called hydrogenated oil, partially hydrogenated oil or shortening? Get rid of it.

Extra Credit: As you clean out your pantry, make a list of items you need to replace and you will have it handy come shopping day.

About 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.

Posted on

Improve Your Mood: Bringing Light to the Winter Blues

Happy Mood

By Darcy McConnell, MD

Wintertime can be challenging for any of us, but especially for those with a tendency to become depressed or anxious.  The shorter days and colder weather invite a kind of hibernation that affects our mood.

Many people find that during this time they can become tense, stressed, anxious, worried, and fearful. It’s also common to feel depressed, low, and unable to cope. Sometimes, it’s a combination of both.

You might just feel “off” and can’t figure out quite why … or may have been prescribed medication and are not sure if it’s the right approach.

At Blum Center for Health, we like to treat these mood imbalances with some simple and healthy changes before prescribing, if possible, or together with medication.  Our goal is to bolster resilience during stressful times.  With heightened resilience, you are better able to tolerate stressors and find balance, calm, and peace.

Some tools that we use to improve our resilience are obvious – like getting enough sleep or avoiding unhealthy foods. Others are less intuitive, but do bring good results – supplementation of certain vitamins, minerals, and herbs are shown to improve mood imbalances.

5 Ways to Improve Resilience & Maintain a Balanced, Contented Mood:

  1. Hot drinks are lovely this time of year, but instead of sugary coffee, choose a caffeine-free calming tea with non-dairy milk and honey.
  2. Take an invigorating walk outside – bundle up! Even 30 minutes of activity can increase endorphins, naturally improving mood.
  3. Make it a habit to sit at a window in the morning with your breakfast – allow the morning light to hit your retinas and balance your circadian rhythm, especially now when sunlight is in short supply.
  4. Call upon a friend or relative and catch up, either by phone or even better in person!
  5. Take a vitamin D supplement every day in the winter months – and get your D checked to make sure it’s in a good range!

 

About Dr. McConnell: Dr. Darcy McConnell brings her broad expertise in prevention, mind-body medicine, and women’s health to Blum Center for Health, in Rye Brook, NY. She is board certified in Family Medicine and Integrative Medicine, with postgraduate training from the Institute for Functional Medicine. Darcy lives with her husband and three sons and enjoys the outdoors, cooking healthy meals for her family and friends and is an enthusiastic yogi.