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Do You have Estrogen Dominance?

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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.

Live in our neighborhood? If this topic sounds interesting and you’d like to learn even more, please join me at the Blum Center for Health on Thursday, March 30th at 6pm for my talk, “Could you have Estrogen Dominance?” for an in-depth discussion and my approach to treatment.

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. 

 

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5-Steps to Finding Chronic Headache Relief

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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.

Live near Blum Center for Health? Come to our FREE community talk, Say Goodbye to your Headaches, featuring Dr. Gereau on Thursday, March 23rd, 6-7pm. Register Now!

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.

 

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Protecting our Youth from Colorectal Cancers

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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.

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Clean Your Pantry, Lose Weight & Transform Your Diet

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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.” (If you live in our neighborhood sign up here: Pantry Makeover I teach it!)

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.

Do you live near Blum Center in Rye Brook, NY? Join Melissa for Pantry Makeover, the very popular workshop that will help you transform your kitchen the Blum way: Sign Up Now

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.

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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!

Do you live in our neighborhood? Sign up for our free community talk on Thursday, February 16th: Natural Remedies for Anxiety and Low Mood. Dr. McConnell will be discussing how to combat the Winter Blues and available to answering all your questions. Space is limited. Sign Up Now

 

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.

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How to Manage Cancer Treatment Side Effects with a “Whole-Person” Plan

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By Pamela Yee, MD

Breast cancer patients often see me to reduce a variety of treatment side effects. Side effects during chemotherapy. Side effects from radiation. Side effects from being on long term estrogen suppression, such as Tamoxifen or Femara.

For some women, estrogen suppression, and the assumption that they are going to hit menopause like a wrecking ball, induces more fear than either chemotherapy or radiation. One day you’re living with a certain level of hormones and the next day the cord is cut. It’s easy to start imagining what it means to suddenly live without the hormones that define womanhood.

Some of the side effects of estrogen blockers are much like those in menopause: night sweats, hot flashes, vaginal dryness, insomnia, mood changes on the spectrum of irritability up to depression. Additionally, the Aromatase Inhibitors, like Femara, can cause muscle or joint pain and stiffness. In my practice, this is actually one of the most limiting side effects and a cause for some to stop their treatment.

Good News: There’s Another Way

Treatment of the muscle and join pain associated with Aromatase Inhibitors does not have to come in the form of more pharmaceuticals like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents (NSAIDS), such as ibuprofen and naproxen, which are very disruptive to the gastrointestinal system.

For years I’ve been advising my patients to employ techniques like acupuncture and exercise to treat side effects. Now there is research to back up my approach.

A study recently published in the Obesity Journal (1) demonstrates that exercise — both resistance training and aerobic — mitigates the side effects of Aromatase Inhibitors. How much training did it take? Weight training twice a week and 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise. Not only were side effects reduced but patients had a positive change in body composition. This is very exciting news and shows how even a small amount of exercise can have a big impact.

In many prior studies looking at the role of exercise in breast cancer patients, exercise has shown to increase survive and weight gain has been been associated with increased mortality.

Exercise has always been an important part of my treatment strategy with patients with breast cancer. The data clearly reinforces my approach as I continue to support my patients in helping them prioritize exercise in their treatment plan to increase their lifespan, improve their quality of life, and prevent recurrence.

About Dr. Yee

Pamela Yee, MD is an Integrative and Functional Medicine Physician at Blum Digital, LLC 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

Reference:

(1) Thomas, G. A., Cartmel, B., Harrigan, M., Fiellin, M., Capozza, S., Zhou, Y., Er-colano, E., Gross, C. P., Hershman, D., Ligibel, J., Schmitz, K., Li, F.-Y., Sanft, T. and Irwin, M. L. (2016), The effect of exercise on body composition and bone mineral den-sity in breast cancer survivors taking aromatase inhibitors. Obesity. doi:10.1002/oby.21729

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6 Tips for Creating Healthy Habits For When Life Gets Busy

Create Healthy Habits

You commit to eating well, taking better care of yourself with exercise and meditation. You’re going along just great. In fact, you might feel like you’re on a roll, and then, bam, life gets busy.When this happens most people abandon the healthy habits they are trying to create.

After all, it takes time and energy, and it’s often uncomfortable, to transform new behaviors into habit. It’s human tendency to fall back to what’s familiar rather than keep up with goals that seem increasingly difficult to employ. This is exactly the time old eating habits, and foods, creep back into your day.

Here’s a little secret: Almost everything comes down to planning. In the wise words of Benjamin Franklin:

“When we fail to plan, we plan to fail.”

Here are some useful tips to help you create healthy habits and new eating patterns:

  1. Stock up on plenty of your allowed foods and beverages — Foods that don’t serve you don’t have as much appeal when you have healthy food options ready to go. Have lots of fresh veggies and fruits washed, cut and ready to eat. Or, buy pre-washed veggies. Do whatever you need to do to succeed.
  2. Take food with you when you go out for the day — Could be a meal or could be healthy snacks. Just be sure you have fuel!
  3. Plan your meals for the next few days — We get into trouble when the fridge is bare and the big question is, “What’s for dinner?” We tend to do what’s familiar until we have an ingrained new habit. That makes pizza night pretty darn tempting!
  4. Eat out with a plan — Check out the menu online and know what you will eat before arriving at the restaurant.
  5. Never skip meals — The temptation of skipping meals is an unhealthy habit, indeed. You slow down your metabolism, and set yourself up for overeating.
  6. Set firm limits and boundaries – Protect the time you need to care for yourself. Say “No” to people or events that prevent you from planning, eating well, and taking the time you need for self-care, whether it’s exercising, going for a quiet walk or meditating. You first!
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Make Ghee in 1,2,3!

Ghee

Ghee is another name for clarified butter and is a traditional healing food in India. It is made by heating butter until it liquefies. The milk solids are removed, making it suitable for those who are dairy sensitive. You can also buy it already made in health food stores and Indian markets or you can try our ghee recipe below.  Traditionally, ghee has been used for ulcers, constipation, would healing and soothing the digestive track.

To learn more about the benefits of ghee check out: Fall in Love with Ghee: Healthy, Dairy-Free and Tastier Then Butter

Ghee Recipe:

1 pound unsalted organic butter

1. In a medium saucepan, heat butter on medium heat.

2. The butter will melt and then come to a boil. You will hear the butter snapping and crackling as it boils.

3. It will begin to foam at the top. Remove the foam with a spoon and discard.

4. After about 15-20 minutes you will hear the “voice” of the ghee change. It will get quieter. You’ll see the oil become clear rather than cloudy.

5. Take it off the heat and strain it through cheesecloth or use a mental coffee filter and filter paper. You can wait 15 minutes or do this immediately. It’s hot, so be careful.

6. Put into a ceramic, glass, or stone bowl and cover. This ghee will last for about a year unrefrigerated.

Reprinted with permission from Liz Lipski, PhD, CCN

This recipe can be found in Dr. Susan Blum’s groundbreaking book, The Immune System Recovery Plan (LINK TO BOOK). It is her 4-step plan to achieving optimal health and features 40 delicious recipes.  Check it out HERE.

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Fall in Love with Ghee: Healthy, Dairy-Free & Tastier Than Butter

Ghee 1

Have you tried Ghee? It’s creamy, it’s rich, it’s delicious! Ghee is clarified butter, the pure milk fat that is rendered by separating the milk solids and water from the butterfat. It’s made by melting butter and skimming the fat off the top.

Ghee has been used in Indian Ayurvedic cooking for thousands of years. And, just as we at Blum Digital, LLC believe that Food is Medicine, Ghee in Indian culture is seen as an aid for digestion, ulcers, constipation, and the promotion of healthy eyes and skin. It can be found in Indian beauty creams and is used to treat skin conditions.

“Ghee contains butyrate a short chain fatty acid found in the gut that is incredibly beneficial not only to the gut but to the entire body,” explains Mary Gocke, Director of Nutrition at Blum Digital, LLC. “Cutting-edge research suggests, among many things, butyrate can be used in the prevention and treatment of cancer. There are very few food sources of butyrate, Ghee is one of them.”

You can enjoy ghee in any way you would butter. From cooking to spreading it on gluten-free bread.

5 Reasons to Make the Switch to Ghee

1. Ghee Helps Strengthen the Digestive Tract — Ghee is high in butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid that reduces inflammation and helps balance the immune cells in your gut. According to Susan Blum, MD, in her book, The Immune System Recovery Plan, Ghee strengthens the intestinal lining, and improves the health of the cells that line the entire digestive tract, including the stomach, colon and small and large intestines. (1)
2. People with Dairy Allergies or Sensitivities Can Enjoy Ghee — Milk is comprised of two proteins — whey and casein. In the process of making ghee, these proteins are removed through skimming and straining, rendering it lactose and casein-free.
3. Ghee Protects the Heart — Researchers found in a rural population of India a significantly lower prevalence of coronary heart disease in men who consumed high amounts of ghee. (2) Other researchers (3,4,5) corroborate these findings and further demonstrate in lab studies that ghee decreases serum cholesterol and triglycerides. They found, in fact, that arachidonic acid, a key inflammatory intermediate in the process of atherosclerosis, was decreased by 65% in serum lipids when ghee was used as the sole source of fat. (3)
4. You Can Cook With Ghee — Ghee has a higher smoke point, higher than nearly any other fat you might cook with — at 486 degrees, it is even higher than coconut oil! Smoke point is important because that is the temperature that an oil begins to degrade and create free radicals – those carcinogenic, unstable molecules that damage cells and cell membranes. Free radicals adversely alter lipids, proteins, and DNA and trigger a number of diseases and are associated with the development of conditions like atherosclerosis and cancer. (6)
5. Ghee Can Help You Lose Weight — Studies demonstrate that Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA), an Omega-6 fatty acid that naturally occurs in dairy and beef, has been found to reduce weight gain and decrease fat mass. It also has been shown to enhance immunity while also reducing inflammation. (7) One study, in particular, demonstrated that CLA among overweight adults significantly reduced body fat over 6 months and prevented weight gain during the holiday season. (8)

Ghee can be found in most health food stores as well as many specialty markets. Make sure the container says grass fed or pasture-raised.

Want to make your own? It’s easy! Check out the recipe HERE.

References 

1. Blum, S. (2013). The Immune System Recovery Plan. New York, NY: Scribner.

2. Gutpa R., Prakash H. (1997) Association of dietary ghee intake with coronary heart disease and risk factor prevalence in rural males. J Indian Med Assoc. Mar;95(3):67-9, 83.

3. Sharma, H., Zhang, X., & Dwivedi, C. (2010). The effect of ghee (clarified butter) on serum lipid levels and microsomal lipid peroxidation. Ayu, 31(2), 134–140. http://doi.org/10.4103/0974-8520.72361

4. Kumar, M.V., Sambaiah, K., Lokesh, B.R. (1999) Effect of dietary ghee—the anhydrous milk fat, on blood and liver lipids in rats. The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, 10(2), 96-104.

5. Kumar, M.V., Sambaiah K, Lokesh B.R (2000) Hypocholesterolemic effect of anhydrous milk fat ghee is mediated by increasing the secretion of biliary lipids. The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, 11(2), 69-75.

6. Lobo, V., Patil, A., Phatak, A., & Chandra, N. (2010). Free radicals, antioxidants and functional foods: Impact on human health. Pharmacognosy Reviews, 4(8), 118–126. http://doi.org/10.4103/0973-7847.70902

7. Pariza, M.W. (2004) Perspective on the safety and effectiveness of conjugated linoleic acid. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 79(6), 1132S-1136S.

8. Watras, A.C., Buchholz, A.C., Close, R.N., Zhang, Z. Schoeller, D.A. (2007) International Journal of Obesity 31, 481-487.

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3 Hidden Triggers that Create Chronic Stress

chronic stress triggers

We all know the stress of a busy, adult lifestyle – a delicate balancing act of work pressures, financial obligations, significant others, friends and family. Just the day-to-day running of your life can feel like a pressure cooker – managing a home, caring for kids or parents (or both), meeting obligations and running errands are all identifiable forms of stress.

You may have taken steps to mitigate these stressors through meditation, exercise, eating well, setting boundaries or scheduling self-care. Awesome!But, did you know that you might be undermining your efforts, and causing stress in your body, without realizing it?

Stress vs. Chronic Stress

Stress elevates cortisol and adrenaline, hormones responsible for “fight or flight” in what your body perceives as an emergency — something as serious as jumping out the way of a careening car, or something as nerve-wracking as public speaking. Once the event is over, our cortisol and adrenaline levels return to normal. This is a healthy stress response.

Chronic stress, however, creates havoc in the body. Cortisol levels, which spike during a stress-inducing event, remain elevated. As Susan Blum, MD, discusses in her book, The Immune System Recovery Plan, this increased baseline can damage the immune system and prevent it from healing. Ultimately, chronic stress can have a negative effect on the levels of good bacteria of the gut, reducing the ability of the immune system to fight infection and puts us at risk for autoimmune disease.

3 Hidden Triggers that Create Chronic Stress

  1. Over-exercising – While exercise, in general, is a great way to relieve stress, overdoing it can cause a host of problems that we don’t necessarily attribute to exercise. Intense exercise increases cortisol, the hormone that is released when your body is under stress. So if you participate in daily high-intensity workouts you may be getting too much of a good thing. Chronically elevated cortisol is related digestive issues, weight gain and even depression. Further, over-exercising can have a detrimental effect on the immune system, making you more vulnerable to illness, and triggering flare-ups of underlying autoimmune disease.

What you can do:

  • ** Work with a trainer to create an exercise plan that includes a balance of interval training, strength training, core work and stretching.
  • **Add a “slower” more reflective activity to your weekly routine, such as restorative yoga, tai chi or Qi Gong.
  • **Find other ways to get your exercise high without stressing your body on a daily basis, such as a salsa dance class or learning a new sport.
  1. Skipping Meals – You consider yourself a healthy eater. You eat lots of seasonal, organic vegetables and fruits. You enjoy deliciously healthy fats, like avocado and nuts, and make a point of having some protein every time you eat. But, because of your busy lifestyle or, perhaps, because you’re trying to drop a few pounds, you skip meals, undermining your nutritious food choices. Skipping meals increases cortisol because your body thinks its starving. It also causes your blood-sugar levels to take a dive. You might have noticed that when you skip meals your thinking becomes foggy and suddenly you have a short fuse. Ultimately, skipping meals can slow your metabolism, putting you at risk for weight gain, and making weight more difficult to lose.

What you can do:

  • ** Plan meals ahead of time.
  • ** Set reminders on your phone to eat.
  • ** Carry nutrient-dense, whole-food snacks in the event you find yourself on-the-go.
  • ** Make eating a priority — it is your body’s fuel!
  1. Not Getting Enough Sleep – Research demonstrates that even slight sleep loss boosts cortisol levels and can accelerate the development of insulin resistance. In fact, one study found that getting just 30 fewer minutes sleep than you should per weekday can increase your risk of obesity and diabetes. Not getting enough sleep is related to a host of other issues including heart disease, high blood pressure, accidents, mood disorders, depression and decreased productivity.

What you can do:

  • ** Focus on what time you go to bed rather than focusing on what time you wake up.
    ** The earlier you eat dinner, the better — less digesting ensures a better night’s sleep.
    ** Ban screens from your bedroom – the light signals the body that it’s time to be awake.
    ** Create a sleep environment – make your bedroom cozy, clutter-free and a cool temperature to induce sleep.

Resources:

Blum, S. (2013). The Immune System Recovery Plan. New York, NY: Scribner

Endocrine Society. (2015, March 6). Losing 30 minutes of sleep per day may promote weight gain and adversely affect blood sugar control. ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/03/150306082541.htm

Leproult R., Copinschi G., Buxton O., Van Cauter, E. (1997)  Sleep loss results in an elevation of cortisol levels the next evening. Sleep. 20(10), 865-70.