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Leaky Gut and Food Sensitivities

Did you know that your biggest exposure to the outside world every day is through your mouth?  That’s why 70% of your immune system lives in your gut, lying in wait to protect you from anything that seems foreign to the body (called antigens because they stimulate the immune system), which believe it or not includes food and the toxins and microbes that ride along with the food that you ingest while eating.

Your gut, which starts in your mouth, travels through your stomach, small intestine, colon or large intestine, and ends in your rectum, is supposed to be a closed tube – with the intestinal lining creating a barrier that separates the inside of your body and immune system from these outside exposures.  When you digest your food, the intestinal lining can then selectively choose what can enter your body by opening and closing special gates called tight junctions.

In functional medicine, an intestinal barrier with damaged tight junctions that isn’t keeping antigens out of the body is known as a leaky gut.  Studies have increasingly found that a leaky gut is associated with arthritis, autoimmune disease, allergies, and food sensitivities.

Causes of leaky gut vary, but the most important is dysbiosis, which is an imbalance in the bacteria in the gut, also called the gut microbiome.  Dysbiosis can be an overgrowth of harmful bacteria, yeast or parasites, or not enough good bacteria, and is commonly caused by a poor diet, a course of antibiotics, frequent use of antacids, and stress. These gut bacteria are important because not only do they interact with your immune system to keep it healthy, they also turn the food we eat into healthy compounds, especially something called short chain fatty acids which heal the tight junctions between your cells and protect the integrity of the gut barrier.  This is why food is so important, too, because the food you eat determines which bacteria will thrive and what kinds of compounds they will make when they digest your food.  

But why is leaky gut associated with inflammatory disease like arthritis? When the contents of your gut, which includes pieces of food and gut bacteria, “leak” into your body, your immune system is activated creating inflammatory chemicals that travel throughout your body and cause system-wide inflammation, especially in the joints. And this happens non-stop until your gut microbiome and lining are repaired.  

The good news is that you can rebuild your microbiome and repair your gut. Food has the most influence on the diversity of the microbiome, and that’s why you should always start with changing your diet by increasing fruits and veggies, especially those rich in polyphenols, bioflavonoids, and fiber because these tend to increase the good bacteria that make short-chain fatty acids and heal the gut. Also, you need to remove foods from your diet that feed the bad bacteria like sugar, processed flour products, alcohol, and too many animal products.  You also need to test yourself for food sensitivities and remove sensitive foods such as gluten, dairy, soy, corn, eggs and the nightshade vegetables. Our elimination diet explainer shows how to do this.

The next step is to treat your dysbiosis. At Blum Center for Health we start with cleansing herbs like berberine, grape seed extract, black walnut, and oregano that can clear out bad bacteria and yeast. In fact, we created our own custom herbal antibiotic mix called Gut Cleanse. Once you have eliminated the bad bacteria and yeast, probiotics and the right food can help you rebuild the good stuff, repair the gut lining, reduce inflammation, and eliminate food sensitivities.

For more, please review the video above.

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Herbs As Medicine: What You Need To Know

Herbs are used medicinally all over the world. For instance, morphine comes from the Poppy plant, aspirin comes from Willow Bark, digitalis comes from Fox Glove, taxol an important cancer drug, comes from the Yew tree. The list goes on.

It is ironic that doctors in the U.S. don’t learn about the healing powers of plants given that many powerful medicines are derived from plants. As a traditionally-trained Ob Gyn I was taught to prescribe a lot of medicine —  hormones, antibiotics, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), to name a few.

The problem is that many of these medicines have pretty hefty side effects.  NSAIDs are prescribed widely for menstrual pain and heavy bleeding, but prolonged use can cause GI bleeding. The three month injectable progestin shot, medroxy progesterone acetate (aka: “Depo”) works very well to prevent pregnancy, but at the expense of bone density.  It is well established that Depo users sustain a decrease in their bone density while taking the shot, but long term outcomes were not known until relatively recently.  According to a 2015 Cochrane review, we now we have evidence that postmenopausal women who took Depo in the past have increased risk of bone fractures.  

After practicing in the traditional model for many years, and being concerned about these types of side effects, I began to wonder, “what other choices do we have?”  This quest for more options to offer my patients led me to pursue an Integrative Medicine Fellowship, where I received extensive training in herbal medicine. I can tell you for certain that herbs are a wonderful addition, and sometimes replacement, for traditional pharmaceuticals.

3 Ways Herbs Outperform Standard Medicines

  1. Lower dose and less toxicity — The medicines I listed above — morphine, aspirin, digitalis and taxol — are all made from an active ingredient that has been isolated, extracted, purified, and packaged in a highly potent form. With high potency, comes increased risk of toxicity and side effects.  When you consume an herb in its natural form (root, leaf, bark) you are often getting lower doses of the active ingredient, which are often less toxic.  Still, even herbs can have side effects and can interact with other herbs and medicines that you might be taking.  It is important to be well informed about these potential side effects and interactions.
  1. Herbs are multi-faceted — Most medicines have one active ingredient whereas each plant has multiple active ingredients that work synergistically. There can be hundreds of distinct compounds in the plant that potentially contribute to its medicinal properties.  Sometimes these compounds work together to make the herb more efficient.  

For example: Red Yeast Rice, the fermented product of a fungus, Monascus purpureus, is known to contain monacolin K, which is lovastatin, a commonly prescribed cholesterol lowering drug. Many studies have proven that Red Yeast Rice also lowers LDL cholesterol by 30%. Some wonder how Red Yeast Rice, which has relatively low doses of monacolin K, can result in such great clinical outcomes when compared to the typical dose of lovastatin.  

Likely the answer resides in the fact that monacolin K is not the only compound in it.  Red Yeast Rice contains eight other monacolins, plus other plant compounds with beneficial health effects such as sterols, isoflavones and monounsaturated fatty acids.  

A word of caution: it is important to do research to find a reputable brand of herb to take because there is also the unfortunate practice of cutting herbal products with both active drugs (Red Yeast Rice can be spiked with lovastatin), heavy metals, or the opposite problem of not having enough active ingredient.  Working with a good Herbalist or Healthcare provider who is trained in herbs is essential.

  1. Less Side Effects — There are numerous examples of herbs that have fewer side effects than conventional medicines. St. John’s Wort (SJW) is a perfect example.  We often recommend SJW for mild depression. It has been extensively studied and found to be safe and efficacious. There is even a Cochrane Review (traditional medicine’s gold standard of evidenced-based medicine) that evaluated 29 studies of over 5,000 patients and concluded that SJW is more effective than placebo, as effective as other antidepressants with fewer side effects.  A word of caution, however: SJW can interfere with some medications (like birth control pills, antidepressants, coumadin, digoxin, cancer therapies, immunosuppressive agents) so ALWAYS check with your provider before taking it.  

Herbs are worthwhile additions to your medicine cabinet. Unfortunately, herbs are not well understood, particularly in places like the United States, where traditional medicine is the norm. Over the next few months I will be writing an informational series highlighting some of my favorite herbs for women’s health. Keep your eyes peeled!

Live in our neighborhood and want to learn more about using herbs for women’s health? Make an appointment with Dr. Fitz!  In her practice at Blum Center for Health she takes a multi-pronged, holistic approach, a combination of medical and lifestyle considerations, to address, diagnosis and treat your condition. For more information, call 914-652-7800.

Meet Dr. Fitz:  Bronwyn Fitz, M.D. 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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How to Efficiently and Effectively Navigate an Elimination Diet

Perform an Elimination Diet

Elimination diets are the cheapest, most effective way of identifying the foods that trigger inflammation and disease in your body. For many, elimination diets hold the key to conquering chronic pain and I use one with arthritis patients as outlined in my book Healing Arthritis.

The great news, is that elimination diets are generally short and easy to follow. My elimination diet requires just two main steps.

Step 1:  Remove Gluten, Dairy, Corn, Soy, Eggs and Sugar From Your Diet For 3 Weeks

Gluten, dairy, corn, soy, and eggs represent the most common culprits for food sensitivities. Eliminating them makes it likely you’ll be cutting your problem foods from your diet. Sugar is also removed because it is a trigger for inflammation and removing it will help you learn to avoid processed foods, which usually include the common culprits, too.

A lot of times my patients ask me why we are removing all five foods at once, and whether it would be better or just as good to remove one at a time.  However, first you have to remove the foods and feel better, and then you can reintroduce each food one at a time to see if you feel worse.  If you only removed one food, you might not feel better because you are still eating another problem food.  It would be hard to complete the experiment because you might not notice you feel worse when you reintroduce the food, because you never felt better in the first place!

Continuing the diet for three weeks will give your immune system a chance to quiet down without the food triggers around.  More importantly,  it should reduce your symptoms and help you feel better.

Step 2:  Reintroduce Each Food One at a Time

Good job on making it three weeks without eating gluten, dairy, corn, soy, eggs and sugar! Now, you begin the second, and final, step, which is the reintroduction of each food, one at a time.

This is when you will gather all the information about whether the food is good for you or not and you’ll uncover some food sensitivities.  Use this symptom chart to help you keep track.

Symptom Chart - Blum

For each food that you reintroduce, think about the symptoms on your list and use none, mild, moderate, or severe to describe your reaction to it in the boxes provided. This will help you remember later when you look back.

After the three weeks on the elimination program, do the following. Introduce one food at a time:  It doesn’t matter which order you choose to reintroduce the foods.  I usually tell my patients to choose the food you miss most to go first. Eat that food at least twice each day, for two days, noticing how you feel.  On day three, don’t eat the food, but continue to observe how you feel. If you have no reaction to the food, you are ready to move on to the next food on day four.

If you do have a reaction – such as headache, rash, brain fog, fatigue, digestive reaction, or other symptoms – stop eating it, and write it down in the above table so you don’t forget later.  [Once you know a particular food isn’t good for you, remove it again.]  The food reaction should go away within a day or two, but for some people it can take longer.  Try the next food: Once that reaction goes away, it is time to try the next food.

Finding out if you are having a noticeable reaction to gluten is important. If you don’t have a reaction and don’t have an autoimmune disease, you can add it back into your diet.  However, keep in mind that gluten is known to damage the gut, and so we still recommend eating it in limited amounts.

Be patient, because it will take you another two weeks or so to reintroduce all the foods you have eliminated. At the end of those weeks, you should now know whether gluten, dairy, corn, soy, or eggs are creating an immune reaction in your body.

Once you’ve identified your triggers you can successfully avoid them. But the better news is that it may not be permanent. Some people, after an additional period of healing, can reintroduce the foods and be symptom-free. In my own experience, I have been eating a diet 95% free of these foods for more than ten years, my reactions when I do eat them are minor compared to what they once were. They are still there, but it’s much more pleasant than it used to be!

Looking to make your elimination diet successful? Sign up for the email list (on the bottom right of this page) to stay up to date on our next article “5 Things To Know Before Starting an Elimination Diet”!

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Eliminating Food Sensitivities To Treat Arthritis

 

Having just finished a book on arthritis, arthritis is really on my mind! There’s a lot of confusion around arthritis, so let’s start with a definition. To have arthritis you must have evidence of inflammation with redness, pain, swelling, and heat in at least one of your joints. Typically if you have arthritis you can see it.  If you have pain in a joint but no swelling, we call that an arthralgia.

To begin to understand arthritis, the first step is to realize that there are a number of categories.  As I explain in detail in my book, Healing Arthritis, it is important to know what kind of arthritis you have so that you can target your treatment.  This is especially true if you have arthritis from an infection (for example lyme, a virus like parvovirus, or a bacteria like mycoplasma and prevotella), because treating the infection is always the first place to start.  It’s a good idea to ask your doctor to test you for these infections and treat what you find.

Most people with chronic, painful arthritis fall into one of these two categories:

  • Inflammatory Arthritis – which includes rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, and arthritis from autoimmune conditions.
  • Osteoarthritis –  also known as degenerative joint disease

Although they seem to be different on the surface, both are inflammatory in nature, and that’s why the foundational approach to both is to seek out and treat all the triggers of inflammation in your body, typically these are food, stress, and gut health. The first two factors (food and stress) have a direct effect on inflammation, and they are also the biggest influences on your gut health, too. There is an enormous amount of evidence and research now proving the gut-arthritis connection, and this research also shows that healing the gut to heal the joints is a valid and successful approach. That’s why we always start our treatment programs with eating an anti-inflammatory diet.  And the first step for this is to identify and remove foods that are triggering arthritis symptoms, often referred to as food sensitivities.  

How does food trigger joint pain?  Those with arthritis tend to have damage to the tight junctions in their intestinal lining, causing holes or gaps that allow foreign looking food particles and pieces of gut bacteria (collectively called antigens) to slip through the lining and enter the body (a condition called leaky gut).

Once these antigens enter the body they start an immediate immune reaction, which ends up in your joints leading to inflammation and pain. This is also a process that can lead to food sensitivities! Often, the food you eat isn’t really the problem, instead, the problem is the leaky gut is allowing food particles to pass through. This is why you will continue to have food triggers and symptom flares if you eat sensitive foods while the gut is still damaged.  The good news? After you heal the gut you can often eat these foods again.

To get started treating your arthritis with food, the first step is to identify your food triggers and remove them from your diet.  Then you can focus on healing your gut.  Sadly the standard American diet is abundant in foods that can damage the gut and also cause food sensitivities like:

  • Gluten
  • Dairy
  • Soy
  • Corn
  • Eggs
  • Sugar
  • Processed foods
  • and especially for arthritis sufferers, the Nightshade Vegetables (tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, peppers)

Try removing these foods for 3 weeks, and then reintroduce each one separately for a few days, one at a time, to see if you experience any symptoms.  If you do, then remove the food for 3-6 months while you work on healing your gut.  

Removing food sensitivities is the first part of an anti-inflammatory diet.  The second part is to follow a sensible, basic, food plan, and my recommendation is a Mediterranean Diet.  I have dedicated an entire section of my book to reviewing the different diets and explaining exactly what foods you should eat for reducing inflammation and promoting good gut health and why.

For more please review the full Facebook Live video above, or reserve your copy of Healing Arthritis. But the takeaway is, the first step to treating arthritis is healing the gut, and to get started doing this, we begin with food!  

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Are You Tired of Being Sick and Tired?

Processed foods are defined by The International Food Information Council Foundation as “Any deliberate change in a food that occurs before it’s available for us to eat”, and are usually found in a bag, box or can. When you eat these foods, they sabotage the powerhouses inside your cells called mitochondria.  I call them powerhouses because mitochondria take the fats, carbs and protein that you eat and combusts them for cellular energy, much like the engine in your car burns gasoline.  They keep our bodies running, and are the prime driver of metabolism, which we all need to maintain low levels of body fat and to keep a healthy weight.  When they die, the cell dies, too.  Because your magical mitochondria take a BIG hit when exposed to processed food, you can be left feeling sick and tired.

There are over 50 food based nutrients that are needed for proper mitochondrial function – no easy task to consume daily.  But, with some concerted effort on incorporating foods that boost mitochondrial function you can reach your goals regularly.

Foods to Eat for Healthy Mitochondrial Function:

Eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, you have heard this before –but it is critical. Be sure to include red, blue, purple, yellow and green fruits and vegetables, the deeper, darker colored foods are the best. Gradually increase the number of servings that you have a day to reach 9 cups a day. Find your farmer’s market and get to work. You can do it! Be sure to add some seaweed into the mix for iodine.

Eat more omega-3 rich foods. We do not make omega-3 fatty acids in the body so they must come from the diet daily. Include wild fish, grass-fed meats and omega-3 rich eggs. Boost this brain food — the brain has lots of mitochondria — by adding one to two tablespoons of flax or hemp oil, or seeds, to your vegetables.

Build your meal from the foundation of vegetables up, then add your omega-3 rich protein, some legumes, like your favorite beans, for fiber, toss in some dulse or seaweed, sprinkle with nuts and seeds, douse with a healthy oil for dressing and you are good to go – literally go, because eating this way you will give you more energy to go!

Two Other Factors that Boost your Mitochondrial Function:

Intermittent fasting and calorie restriction increase your ability to generate energy while increasing the number of mitochondria in the cells.  A simple way to practice intermittent fasting is to eat no food (you are allowed to have herbal tea or broth) for 12-14 hours overnight, from dinner to breakfast. Calorie restriction can be done by eating only vegetables for 600 – 800 Calories in one day, perhaps one day each week.

Reduce your intake of carbohydrates. This shift causes your body to switch to using ketones (produced by burning fats) instead of glucose as its primary source of fuel. Ketones are efficiently used for the generation of energy in the mitochondria while increasing the number of new mitochondria.

 

Need Help Making These Changes?

 

For personalized support I am available in person or by Skype/Phone. I will help you create a personalized nutrition plan based on your needs and goals. To learn more, or to set up an appointment, call 914-652-7800.

If you live near Blum Center, consider joining one of my group programs. The next one is our popular 10-Day Easy Summer Detox, which will include discussion of mitochondria and weight loss.. The group kicks off July 10th at either 10:00am or 6:00pm.
J
oin Now

 

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.

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What is Dysbiosis – and What You Can Do About It

You have within you trillions of microbes – bacteria, fungi, viruses, even parasites – all living together in your gastrointestinal tract.  This lively bunch of microbes is known as your microflora. Often referred to as “The Garden Within,” your microbial garden can shift out of balance. Think about how a garden can become overgrown with weeds. When that happens, we say a person has dysbiosis.

Three Ways Dybiosis Can Impact Your Gut

  1. Too much of the bad stuff overgrowing in the gut is the most basic imbalance.  An overabundance of “bad,” typically inflammatory, bacteria, or too much yeast (candida albicans is a particularly common and unwelcome yeast in large amounts), are two examples of overgrowth that cause dysbiosis.  An unwelcome virus or parasite can also cause overgrowth imbalance.

    To treat this type of dysbiosis we sometimes prescribe medications to kill unwanted bacteria, parasites, or yeast, but more often we use gentler, broad-spectrum anti-microbial herbs to weed the garden, improving the balance of good and bad bacteria. We also use probiotics and fiber-rich foods to encourage growth of the good while we get rid of the bad.
  2. Microbial undergrowth can be the culprit. It is rarer than the situation above, but sometimes a stool test result shows an under-abundance of all bacteria – good and otherwise.  An under-abundance indicates we need to work on improving the terrain (the gut lining) where the flora will take residence, as well as supporting the growth of the flora we want to encourage. We do this with probiotics, prebiotics, lining supportive supplements like glutamine, and healthy, bacteria-supportive foods.
  3. Your microbiome settles in the wrong place. Living microbes are wanted, but we need them to live where they belong, and not take up residence in places where they cause problems. Most frequently, this type of dysbiosis is SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth). SIBO occurs when the gastrointestinal microbiome has shifted from primarily growing and thriving in the large intestines (the colon) to taking up residence in the small intestine in too great a number. This tends to cause digestive problems and bloating, but can be silent as well.  Herbs and antibiotics are our go-to for treating SIBO.

Could you have dysbiosis?

In our medical practice at Blum Center for Health, we suspect an imbalance in the flora (a dysbiosis) in anyone who complains of stomach troubles. Digestive difficulty of absolutely any kind suggests there’s something wrong with the trillions of microbes inside the gut. If you have stomach upset after eating, indigestion, the extremely common GERD (reflux), heartburn, slow digestion, or bloating, we think of dysbiosis.  If you have bowel problems, like excessive gas, lower belly pains, constipation, or diarrhea – then dysbiosis is our prime suspect too.

Dysbiosis as the Root Cause of Seemingly Unrelated Disorders

It surprises many patients that other symptoms, including those that on the surface seem to have nothing to do with the gut, also make me suspect dysbiosis.  We are becoming more and more aware the impact our microbiome has on our whole being – our whole health – and our disease processes.

When I see someone whose health concerns are not primarily digestive in nature – even those who report having a perfect digestive system – I usually investigate their microbiome, and will almost always prescribe a probiotic. Why? Because sometimes dysbiosis is silent gut-wise, while still causing trouble in other areas of your body.

Here are a few examples:

  • Hormonal imbalance – we know that certain bacteria encourage an imbalance in hormones.  
  • Autoimmune diseases show clear links to overgrowth of some bacteria.  
  • Joint aches and pains can be caused by leaky gut, which is usually a consequence of some kind of imbalance in the gastrointestinal microbiome.  
  • Neurological and psychiatric disease is being traced back to problems with our microbes.  
  • Weight loss resistance is often a consequence of over (or under) growth of the bacterial flora.  

Basically, any inflammatory process can be traced back to the gut.  

How do you know if you have dysbiosis?

How does your internal garden grow?  The tests we most often request are simple:  Stool, breath, and urine testing – all of which give us a picture of what your personal microbiome looks like.  We learn from the test results how many beneficial bacteria are growing, and how many malicious bacteria have taken up residence in your gut. We use that information to create your personalized treatment plan.

With some patients we assume dysbiosis without testing – and just get you started on the good stuff  – probiotics and healthy, fiber-rich foods.

Not sure if you have dysbiosis? Take our Assessment and find out!

How did you get this dysbiosis?

There are many reasons we harbor the microbes we do. Our developing microbiome begins at birth – it is different if we are vaginally delivered or born via c-section, for instance. Our food choices (throughout our lives) affect our microbiome, as does any antibiotics we might have taken.  Other medications, both prescription and over the counter, also affect the microbiome.

What to do if you suspect you have dysbiosis:

If you live in our neighborhood, make an appointment! In our practice at Blum Center for Health we take a multi-pronged, holistic approach, a combination of medical and lifestyle considerations, to address, diagnosis and treat your condition. We take your health seriously and get to the root of the problem rather than simply throwing medication at it. For more information, call 914-652-7800.

Don’t live nearby?  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.

 

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Is Mold Making You Sick—or Sicker?

Chronic headaches, strange rashes, recurrent allergies, chronic sinus symptoms, fatigue, brain fog, chronic infections or inflammatory conditions that get better and then relapse again and again—these are just a few of the symptoms that exposure to moldy environments are associated with.

There are good molds and bad molds—true for just about everything!  The good molds are the source of some of our best antibiotics, most delicious cheeses, and helpful probiotics.  The bad molds, like those that grow behind water-damaged walls, in a basement, or on wallboard and wood, can make us sick without being obvious.

Often water damage to a building goes unnoticed for quite some time because it’s hidden from view and an odor doesn’t develop to warn us. Only when we discover the leak or smell the smell, do we realize it’s time to do something about it.  By then we may have already had significant personal exposure to their toxic effects.

Molds reproduce themselves by producing tiny spores that easily become airborne and are blown from place to place, including through the ventilation ducts in our home.  We can then breathe them in or swallow them.  

While many of these spores will move through the body, sometimes they lodge on the mucus membranes of our nose, sinuses, airways, and gut and take up residence.  They then bloom into molds and release mycotoxins, chemicals that can be absorbed into the bloodstream, accumulate and be harmful to our bodies.  

The spores go through cycles of blooming and spreading and can stay in the body for a long time.  Not everyone gets sick from mycotoxin exposures, but people with weakened immune systems and chronic inflammatory conditions seem to be more likely to get sick from them.

If you know you have had mold problems in your home or workplace, and you have some of the symptoms above that you can’t explain or get rid of, then consider an evaluation for mycotoxin-related illness.  Even if the mold in your house was remediated, you may still personally have mold that may be making you sick.

At Blum Center, we can help you figure out if mold might be what is making you sick. We do this through detailed questioning about your exposures and symptoms as well as medical testing to look for signs of mycotoxin-related illness in your blood and urine.  If it looks like that is indeed one of contributions to your condition, we will work with you to create a plan to address it.  We start with helping you to ensure that your house or workplace is mold-free, and then design a step-by-step plan to begin to eliminate the mycotoxins from the body and support healing.  It is not necessarily an easy process, but it may be the key to finally getting well.

Are you concerned about mycotoxins, or your toxic load in general? Consider following our 21-Day Simply Detox Plan. With our program you will detox your body and walk away with your own personalized food plan. The Do-It-Yourself E-Guidebook helps you every step of the way with daily instructions, a healthy eating food plan, and easy-to-follow recipes. Learn More

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. Learn more about Elizabeth’s practice.

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FODMAPs Chart for treating SIBO and IBS

FODMAPs Chart for IBS and SIBO

As I discussed recently on Facebook Live, Small Intestinal Bacteria Overgrowth (SIBO) is an all too common gut ailment that can lead to many uncomfortable symptoms like chronic diarrhea or constipation, bloating, lots of gas, and abdominal cramping. SIBO is caused by an overgrowth of gut bacteria in the small intestine, crowding this area in high numbers where they don’t belong (only 10% should be in the small intestine, and 90% in the large intestine) and is particularly common in those with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).

Because all your nutrients are absorbed in this part of your gut, SIBO can cause malabsorption and lead to deficiencies of vitamins, minerals, fats and amino acids. Fortunately, herbal supplements and dietary changes can provide quick relief.  For instance, our Gut Cleanse Packets are designed to clear out the overgrowth of bad bacteria and yeast, but dietary changes can help, too, and may be necessary especially if you have lots of symptoms.

One category of food should stand out for those with SIBO and IBS – Fermentable Oligosaccharides Disaccharides Monosaccharides And Polyols (FODMAPs). FODMAPs are foods that are fermented by the bacteria in your bowels. When you have SIBO, there are lots of bacteria that are exposed to these foods very soon after you eat, and the fermentation creates excessive amounts of painful gas. Thus, foods high in FODMAPs are more painful to digest and foods low in FODMAPs are easier to digest for those with this condition.  

But, temporarily eating a restricted FODMAP diet won’t just reduce your digestive symptoms, it also reduces the gut bacteria’s access to food and thus assists in rebalancing your gut microbiome for optimal health. If you have IBS and aren’t sure if you have SIBO, you can often diagnose yourself by following the low FODMAP diet.  If you feel much better, then you likely have SIBO.  So what is the low FODMAP food plan? The food lists won’t necessarily be intuitive. Bananas and blueberries are some of my favorite low-FODMAP foods, while delicious fruits like apples and mangoes can actually cause acute pain!

Rather than trying to guess what foods should be high or low in FODMAPs, use this handy FODMAP Chart.

Once you’ve taken a moment to review the chart you may be shocked at how many foods could pose a problem for you. A FODMAP diet is a very restrictive diet, that’s why I don’t recommend it as a long-term solution. But, switching to a FODMAP diet could give you quick relief and the control to permanently improve your gut symptoms. Then once you’ve got a handle on your symptoms you can begin to progressively introduce foods back into your diet seeing what works for you.

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5 Tips To Control Your Allergies From An Integrative ENT

Tips to beat allergies

Allergy season is upon us, and for those of us troubled by seasonal allergic symptoms, it’s still not too late to find help.  While nothing substitutes creating a pre-season allergy plan, here are some useful tools that might give you relief.

Stay Indoors.  Check pollen counts on the radio or internet before you leave the house in the morning. (Great source: www. Pollen.com). Though pollen levels vary over the course of the day, a pollen count (the measure of pollen levels and type in a given area over the preceding 24 hours) can tip you off when it’s particularly hazardous outside. Many people start having trouble when the count reaches the 20 to 100 grains per cubic meter range. Note that the time of day when levels are highest is from 5:00 to 10:00 am and early evening. The time of day when levels are lowest is from mid- to late-afternoon.  If you must be outdoors, shed your clothing before you bring the allergens into the house, and immediately jump into the shower.

Try Nasal Irrigation.  Cleaning the nose with saline spray will decrease the amount of allergen that gets into your system. I like the squeeze bottle variety, such as the Neil Med brand – simply mix the enclosed packets with distilled or boiled water. Then, bend your head forward, and while squeezing the bottle into one nostril, pant like a puppy – it will keep the solution out of the back of your nose, so you can avoid that drowning feeling. You can find nasal irrigation kits at your local pharmacy.

Take Herbs or Supplements that Reduce Inflammation. Inflammation is one the biggest contributors to the allergic process in the body right behind repeated allergen exposure. Probiotics, Omega-3 and -6 fatty acids, herbal blends, such as Natural DHist or Histaeze, and homeopathy, such as Sabadil and Histaminum, can all be used to control and prevent symptoms. For dosing, check instructions on the package – some need to be given in higher doses first to attain a loading dose. Also check for any interactions with medications that you may be using.

Consider Immunotherapy. Allergy shots are a conventional option that can be useful, however, there is a new hot option for the allergy prone: Sublingual Immunotherapy. You simply place drops under the tongue that act like allergy shots, which reduces the immune response to the allergen. Like allergy shots this kind of treatment requires weeks to months to become effective. The great thing is that making allergy drops the foundation of your pre-season allergy plan changes your potential to have allergies for years to come. These can be useful for adults or children with allergies, and no shots in the arm! And for children, it can prevent the “allergic march” – the tendency for children to progress from eczema to allergies and then asthma later on in life.

Leverage Diet to Reduce Allergy Symptoms. Even if you don’t have food allergies, eating a healthy diet keeps inflammation at bay – and makes you less prone to an allergy attack even if it’s your worst season. The Mediterranean Diet is a great anti-inflammatory diet. It is a sensible way to eat overall — reducing your animal based proteins, increasing your grains, vegetables and plant based proteins.  Of course, be sure to avoid foods that you are allergic to.  And remember, the body recognizes certain foods as the same allergen that is produced by certain trees.  If you have birch allergy, for example, you might find that you get an itchy mouth to “stone fruits” – apricots, cherries, plums, peaches – as well as to apple and pear.  These symptoms can be worse if the birch tree is in bloom.  You can find lists of cross-reactive foods at:

https://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/library/allergy-library/outdoor-allergies-and-food-allergies-can-be-relate

Wondering if you have food sensitivities? You might want to follow our 21-Day Simply Detox Plan. With our program you will discover, through a process of elimination and reintroduction, exactly which foods you have sensitivities to. You’ll detox your body and walk away with your own personalized food plan. The Do-It-Yourself E-Guidebook helps you every step of the way with daily instructions, a healthy eating food plan, and easy-to-follow recipes. Learn More 

 

Meet Dr. Gereau: Sezelle Gereau, MD, is an integrative ENT/Allergist with more than 20 years of experience. She uses an integrative and functional medicine approach to conditions such as allergies, chronic sinusitis, sleep apnea and headaches. She is one of the few physicians in the New York City metro area certified to prescribe allergy drops.

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Savor Spring with Sauteed Spring Vegetables

Green Vegetables to Sautee for Spring

Choosing produce in-season allows you to get the most flavor and nutritional bang for your buck.  These sautéed Spring vegetables can easily serve as a health supportive, and colorful addition to any meal, or even on their own. Pair with cooked quinoa for a quinoa-vegetable pilaf, or roll with red cabbage leaves with a lemon-tahini dressing for a refreshing wrap.  

One of our favorite things about this recipe is how versatile it is. Take a walk through your local Farmer’s Market and add, or substitute, the Spring produce calling your name. In fact, a saute is a great way to try new vegetables — start with a small amount and see how you like it.

Here’s a list of what is in season right now that you can try in your Sauteed Spring Vegetables: Asparagus, beets, beet greens, cabbage, garlic scapes, peas, scallions, spinach, summer squash, Swiss chard, and turnip greens.

Looking for more clean-eating recipes? Check out our BlumKitchen Recipe Book.  Created in our test kitchen, our recipes are free of gluten, dairy, corn, soy and egg to support your anti-inflammatory eating style. Further, BlumKitchen recipes are designed to reduce inflammation, support your thyroid, improve your liver’s detoxification function and heal your gut. 

Bon Apetite!

Sautéed Spring Vegetables

Servings: 8

Serving Size: 2 cups

Ingredients

  • 5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb yellow onion, peeled, medium diced
  • ½ lb leeks, white and lite green portion only, cut in half lengthwise, thinly sliced on bias, washed after sliced
  • 5 cloves garlic, peeled, minced
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger root, peeled, minced
  • 1.5 lbs zucchini with skin, ends trimmed, cut in half lengthwise, sliced into ½-inch thick half moons
  • 1 lb broccoli florets, tough stems removed, cut into 1-inch pieces, blanched
  • 1.5 lbs bok choy, leaves and stems separated, leaves rough chopped, stems sliced on bias into ½-inch thick pieces
  • ½ lb sugar snap peas
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp ground black pepper

Directions

  1. Fill a medium saucepan ¾ full with water.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to a simmer.
  2. In small batches, add the broccoli carefully into the water until it turns bright green and is just fork tender.  With a slotted spoon, transfer the broccoli from the simmering water, to a colander in the sink, running under cold water until broccoli is completely cooled.  
  3. Blanch the sugar snap peas similarly to the broccoli.
  4. Heat the olive oil in a large heavy bottomed skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion and leeks and sauté until just caramelized, about 4 minutes.  
  5. Add the garlic, ginger, zucchini, and bok choy stems and cook another 2 minutes until just tender.  
  6. Add the blanched broccoli florets, blanched sugar snap peas, bok choy leaves, salt, and pepper, and stir to combine until vegetables are warmed through and bok choy leaves are just wilted, about 2 minutes.  

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.