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Viruses and Autoimmunity

If you are a human, living and breathing on this planet, then you have already discovered that viruses are everywhere.  

Sometimes you get sick from them and sometimes you don’t. Have you ever wondered why?  

Some people can clear these viruses out of the body easily after their cold or flu, while in other’s the virus can persist and run amok causing problems like autoimmune disease. How does that happen?  

This issue is important whether or not you have an autoimmune condition because persisting, active viruses can cause ongoing symptoms like fatigue, too.  

Let me explain.  

We are all exposed to viruses.  

A healthy immune system should be able to respond to the infection and take care of business, clearing out the virus after a self-limited short illness. I think of a robust and well functioning immune system as the product of good “soil” within your body.  

Another name for the inner soil that grows your immune system is your terrain, which is part of a larger ecosystem that determines the functioning of, well, every system in your body..  (note the gardening metaphors).

If you have good inner terrain, you will “grow” normal functioning immune cells that can clear out the viruses. If you don’t, then they can persist. We believe there is a genetic predisposition that allows viruses to persist and trigger autoimmunity.  

But that’s not all that’s going on. Twin studies have shown us that two people with the same genetics and the same triggering virus, can have two completely different responses, all because of their terrain.

By the way, you can repair your immune system terrain with me LIVE beginning Tuesday, October 16th → The Immune Recovery Challenge Begins!

How do Viruses Trigger Autoimmunity?

When viruses linger in the body (again, most often because of terrain issues), it is called “chronic persistence.” This leads to an ongoing antiviral immune response, which can trigger autoimmunity in a few ways.

First, the chronic antiviral immune response at some point moves from being focused on the virus to targeting your own tissue. This can be because the immune response becomes less specific and it spreads to other tissues.

Second, autoimmunity happens because the virus is inside your cells or damaging them and your immune system appropriately is attacking the cells to get at the virus.

And finally, as the virus continues to spread its “proteins” around your body, there is mistaken identity as these proteins can look like your own tissue. We call this molecular mimicry.  

But you can see, no matter the mechanism, to prevent and treat autoimmunity that has been triggered by viruses, you want to make sure your immune terrain is functioning well so that the viruses are cleared out and not allowed to become chronic persisters.

Here is how to improve your terrain to create a robust and healthy immune system to clear out viruses:

  1. Nutrition:  
    1. Anti-inflammatory diet: whole foods rich in antioxidants, low in sugar, animal and processed fats;  elimination of foods that trigger inflammation including gluten and gmo foods. Less animal, more vegetable.
  2. Balanced hormones:  
    1. Stress system and adrenals are balanced and resilient
    2. Sex hormones:  good estrogen metabolism; adequate androgens to balance estrogens
  3. Healthy Gut:  
    1. Intestinal ecosystem:  adequate beneficial bacteria, good barrier function
    2. Digestion:  stomach acid, bile acids, pancreatic enzymes
  4. Well functioning liver:
    1. Maintain a low toxic load
    2. Clean up environment and make sure biotransformation pathways through liver are working well
    3. Support Estrogen detox pathways

Remember, you can’t avoid viruses! They are everywhere. Instead we work on creating resilience in the immune system so that the viruses don’t become chronic. To do this, we focus on the terrain of the immune system, which leads to the 4-step Immune System Recovery Plan, the focus of my first book on autoimmunity.

How You Can Repair Your Immune System with Me

I am teaching the Immune Recovery Challenge online beginning next week. It is the step-by-step companion to my book, The Immune System Recovery Plan. During the course, you will follow the 4-Step Immune System Recovery Plan together with me LIVE, using video and live coaching. It is a wonderful opportunity, and I hope you’ll join me!  

>>Yes, I Want to Repair My Immune System LIVE With Dr. Blum<<

If you haven’t read The Immune System Recovery Plan, you can find it HERE. In print around the world, it has transformed the lives of tens of thousands of people including my patients in my private practice.

 

References:  

Vieira et al.  Diet, microbiotia, and autoimmune diseases.  Lupus 2014 23: 518

Getts, D, et al.  Virus, infection, antiviral immunity, and autoimmunity.  Immunol Rev. 2013 September; 224 (1): 197-209.

Vanderlugt, C, and Miller, S.  Epitope spreading in immune-mediated diseases: implications for immunotherapy. Nature Reviews Immunology 2, 85–95 (1 February 2002)

 

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Autumn Apple Almond No-Guilt Muffins

Autumn is here! The transition from Summer fruits and vegetables to Fall produce may leave you thinking, “No more juicy peaches, no more heirloom tomatoes, what should I eat now?”

And for those who struggle with an autoimmune condition, like Hashimoto’s, Rheumatoid Arthritis or Sjogren’s you might be thinking, “What can I have that aligns with my autoimmune food plan?”

The great news is: Mother Nature gives you lots of options!

Look for fruits, like apples (so many different types to try!), blackberries and pears. And explore the autumn vegetables — all the varieties of squash, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, kale, leeks, onions, parsnips, pumpkin, purple broccoli, spinach, sweet potatoes and turnips.

But for many people, some of these vegetables, even though they are healthy and considered anti-inflammatory, may leave you feeling bloated or uncomfortable. Perhaps, no matter what you eat, your symptoms flare.

If this speaks to you, consider joining Dr. Blum and me for our 8-week Immune Recovery Challengea step-by-step companion to Dr. Blum’s bestselling book, The Immune System Recovery Plan. During the course, you will follow the 4-Step Immune System Recovery Plan together with Dr. Blum, using video and live coaching with me. It is a wonderful opportunity to learn from Dr. Blum in a group setting and get all the support you need along the way. Join the Challenge

In the meantime, I want to share with you one of my favorite Blum Center for Health recipes:

Autumn Apple Almond No-Guilt Muffins

This recipe features whole foods and healthy low-impact ingredients to help keep autoimmune conditions at bay. No refined flour, sugar or butter. Unlike conventional flour muffins, these are filling too! Chia seeds serve double duty by providing helpful fatty acids that your body needs to fight inflammation, and by adding a crunchy and nutty texture to the top.

Use your favorite apple variety and then try others. You might even want to try these with pears and blackberries. Just know … any way you choose to make them, they’re delicious!

Here’s my personal favorite: I use tart Granny Smith or crunchy Gala apples. I love to eat one warm muffin out of the oven (just can’t resist!). And once they are cooled I’ve been know to cut one in half, lengthwise, place a wee bit of Ghee (clarified butter) in a skillet, put the halves facedown in the skillet to make them warm and slightly brown, and then (finishing touch!) spread with almond butter. Add a cup of hot tea and … hello Fall!

And here’s my special note: I’ve seen first-hand how Dr. Blum’s Immune System Recovery Plan changes lives. How do I know? I work with every single patient who walks through the doors of Blum Center for Health. Her 4-step plan works. And now, no matter where you are in the world, you can do it with us. If you suffer from an autoimmune condition … Do The Immune Recovery Challenge With Us

 

Autumn Apple Almond No-Guilt Muffins

Serves:  12 muffins

Serving size:  1 muffin

 

Ingredients:

Coconut oil

3 cups almond flour

1 ¼  teaspoons baking soda

1/2  teaspoon fine ground sea salt

2 ½  teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon ground flax seeds

1/3 cup water

1 ½  teaspoon pure vanilla extract

¼ cup honey

1 cup fresh apples, unpeeled, cored/seeded, diced small

1 ½ tablespoons chia seeds, whole

 

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 325F.     
  2. Lightly oil a 12-muffin pan with coconut oil  
  3. In a medium  bowl, combine the almond flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and apples, and mix until well combined.
  4. In another medium bowl, combine the flax seeds, water, vanilla extract, and  honey and whisk together until well combined. Allow to sit for 5 minutes
  5. Slowly transfer the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients bowl. Stir until well combined.     
  6. Evenly distribute the muffin mix between the 12 muffin pan cups.
  7. Sprinkle the chia seeds evenly over the 12 muffin cups.     
  8. Place on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 21 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through.     
  9. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before taking out of the muffin pan.    

 

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

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5 Truths and 5 Myths about the Common Cold

Ready or not, cold and flu season is on its way!

Take this quiz with Blum Center for Health’s resident Integrative ENT, Dr Sezelle Gereau, and test your knowledge about the health of your nose and sinuses.

True or False:

  1. Allergies, colds and sinusitis are all manifestations of immune dysfunction.
  2. If you have a cold for more than 7 days, it’s a sinus infection.
  3. 3 sinus infections in a year, which last 1 month each, means you have chronic sinusitis.
  4. Green or brown nasal secretions means it’s time for antibiotics.
  5. True immune deficiencies are rare.
  6. Saline spray in a can or squeeze bottle is inferior to a neti pot.
  7. Food allergies can give you nasal symptoms.
  8. Taking Vitamin D on a regular basis can help prevent recurrent colds.
  9. Viruses cause most recurrent colds or sinus infections.
  10. Your gut is responsible for recurrent colds.

By the way, if you are constantly dealing with colds, flu, sinus infections or allergies, you’ll want to check out Dr. Blum’s new LIVE course, The Immune Recovery Challenge! It’s a group program specifically designed to help you heal your immune system. Check it out

Answers:

  1. Allergies, colds and sinusitis are all manifestations of immune dysfunction.

TRUE

Upper respiratory infections and sinusitis are not the only ways the body demonstrates that the immune system is not working well.  Allergies are in and of themselves a way that your body is telling you that something is awry with the immune system. One way to think about this is that instead of being “weak”, and not mounting enough of a response to pathogens, your immune system is “too strong” and fires to all the wrong triggers.  Techniques for getting the immune system in better balance work for all 3 issues.

  1. If you have a cold for more than 7 days, it’s a sinus infection.

FALSE

Colds usually resolve in seven to 10 days, but some can last for up to three weeks. The average duration of cough is 18 days¹, and in some cases, people develop a post-viral cough which can linger after the infection is gone.

  1. Three sinus infections in a year, which last 1 month each means you have chronic sinusitis.

FALSE

Chronic sinusitis is defined as chronic sinus infections that last 8 weeks or longer, and/or occur 4 or more times a year.² The Center for Disease Control actually advises patients to see their practitioner for symptoms that continue to worsen or do not improve within 10 days.

  1. Green or brown nasal secretions means it’s time for antibiotics.

FALSE

Hmmmmm….not necessarily!  But the following signs are common with sinusitis vs the common cold:

  • Headache
  • Stuffy or runny nose
  • Loss of the sense of smell
  • Facial pain or pressure, especially only on one side
  • Postnasal drip (mucus drips down the throat from the nose)
  • Sore throat
  • Fever
  • Coughing
  • Fatigue (being tired)
  • Bad breath

Remember, even if it is sinusitis, you might not require antibiotics.  In my office I often perform a nasal endoscopy and a nasal culture to help differentiate a simple cold from allergies or a sinus infection.  

  1.  True immune deficiencies are rare.

FALSE

Immune deficiencies are more common than previously thought – almost 1% of people have them.  If you are suspected of having an immune deficiency, and referred to a specialist for a work up, your chances of having one are more than 64%. ³ But for many doctors, it’s much easier to give you yet another prescription for antibiotics for your sinus infection than to take a hard, long look at what might be causing the issue in the first place.

  1. Saline spray in a can or squeeze bottle is inferior to a Neti pot

FALSE

Patients should use whichever method of delivery they prefer.  There’s lots of data to show that nasal washing is important to shorten the course of a cold or sinus infection.

  1. Food allergies can give you nasal symptoms.

TRUE

Food allergies and sensitivities can sometimes cause nasal congestion and post nasal drip. But more commonly those symptoms come from environmental allergies.  Furthermore, less than 10% of the general population have food allergies, but up to 40% of the general population have environmental allergies – dust being the most common.  So, start first with allergy testing for things in the environment – then discuss with your doctor if foods might be causing the issue.

  1. Taking Vitamin D on a regular basis can help prevent recurrent colds.

TRUE

Even if your Vitamin D levels are in the low normal range, they might not be high enough to help ward off infections.  For anyone who is experiencing recurrent infections, I recommend supplementation with Vitamin D in the winter months. Taking Vitamin K2 along with this can help with the absorption of the Vitamin D.

  1.  Viruses cause most recurrent colds or sinus infections.

TRUE

Nine out of 10 cases of sinusitis and upper respiratory infection in adults and 5/7 cases in children are caused by viruses.² So antibiotics won’t work.  What does work are techniques such as good hand washing, staying home when sick and keeping your immune system at its best with proper diet and supplements.

      10.Your gut is responsible for recurrent colds.  

TRUE

The vast majority of the immune system lies in the gut. So, directly or  indirectly it plays a key role in all immune issues. Nearly everyone who struggles with recurrent colds has a gut microbiome that is out of balance. A leaky gut, also called increased intestinal permeability, is associated with chronic illness,, and research has made it clear that to repair the immune system and reduce inflammation, you must heal the leaky gut. We repair the gut through food, proven, scientifically-supported antimicrobial supplements and building resilience to life’s stressors.

How We Can Help You Improve Your Immune System

“Do It With Us” with Dr. Blum! Yes, that’s right! Dr. Blum’s new LIVE course, The Immune Recovery Challenge is open! The Immune Recovery Challenge is the step-by-step companion to Dr. Blum’s bestselling book, The Immune System Recovery Plan. During the course, you will follow the 4-Step Immune System Recovery Plan together with Dr. Blum, using video and live coaching. It’s devoted to your HEALTH TRANSFORMATION! Get the Info

If you want personal one-to-one treatment, come to Blum Center for Health. People travel from around the world to meet with our practitioners. You’ll meet with your practitioner for an hour and a half, meet with our Functional Medicine Nutritionist, and receive your first treatment plan. Get More Info

 

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 sublingual immunotherapy drops (SLIT) instead of allergy shots.

 

Resources:
  1. Ebell, M. H.; Lundgren, J.; Youngpairoj, S. (Jan–Feb 2013). “How long does a cough last? Comparing patients’ expectations with data from a systematic review of the literature”. Annals of Family Medicine. 11 (1): 5–13.
  2. https://www.cdc.gov/antibiotic-use/community/for-patients/common-illnesses/sinus-infection.html
  3. https://www.amjmed.com/article/S0002-9343(12)00274-4/pdf

 

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6 Reasons You Always Get Sick

Ever notice how some people get sick all the time – colds, flus, stomach viruses, and so on?  Those people who seem to pick up every bug they come into contact with?

And then there are others who are always healthy and seem to never have an encounter with a germ?

Sometimes there is a simple explanation – an immune deficiency, or other genetic predisposition that leads to a less-than-robust immune system.

Or, it has to do with something else we can’t change now – such as how much time we spent outside in childhood.  A popular theory as to why some people may be more prone to illness is the hygiene hypothesis – the more bacteria and viruses you come into contact with as a kid, the “smarter” your immune system becomes.  

As for the present moment, another reason might be that you’re just coming into contact with more germs – you’re a parent of a young child, or a teacher, or working with sick people.

(By the way, if this sounds like you, you’ll want to check out Dr. Blum’s new LIVE course, The Immune Recovery Challenge! It’s a group program specifically designed to help you heal your immune system. Check it out)

But if none of the above are the case, why else might you be getting sick all the time?

6 Reasons You Get Sick All the Time

      You’re too stressed out.

Studies have shown that the amount of stress hormone you are producing directly correlates your likelihood of getting a cold.

How to de-stress?

  • Sometimes, changing how you schedule your time is the best way to decrease anxiety.  Making and keeping a schedule for your busy life can be freeing – especially if you are sure to schedule in (and keep) some time just to be.
  • Meditation, too, is one of my favorite ways to lessen that stress – just 5-10 minutes of seated breathing exercises a day can bring down your stress hormones and keep those bugs from making you sick.

    You’re not getting enough sleep.

Studies show that sleeping more than 7 hours nightly is protective – and less than 5 is VERY detrimental.  I consider a goal of between 8 and 9 hours for adults best.

How to make the zzz’s happen?

  • Give yourself a bedtime ritual – and a regular bedtime.  A calming tea, a Epsom salt bath, or that 10 minute meditation sounds good to me.
  • Banish the screens 2 hours before your scheduled bedtime.  It’s not just that they are often stress-inducing (see above), but the light from our devices can be what is keeping us from our restful sleep.

    You’re not eating right.

Certain nutrients are home-runs when it comes to keeping us away from the tissue box. The big ones are Vitamins A, D, and of course, C – and Omega fatty acids (fish oil) – and the miracle mineral Zinc.

Where to find those super-nutrients?

  • Healthy, whole foods and a variety of them.  Eat plenty of vegetables and fruit.
  • Supplementation can be helpful during the cold season too. Those zinc lozenges with vitamin C can work wonders if you notice you are starting to feel run down.

    You’re not active enough.

Activity boosts the immune system. It’s well-studied that people who exercise regularly have a reduced chance of becoming ill – and that being a couch potato lowers the cells in your immune system that fight infection

How to make the move?

  • Pick activities you actually enjoy doing.  Play around with exercise until you find something you like. This will make you 100x more likely to get it done.  
  • Mix it up – variety will help you stick with a program. Walk one day, go to an exercise class another, swim another.

    You don’t wash your hands.

You have germs on your hands, and touch your face frequently, often without realizing it. The CDC recommends improved hand hygiene to avoid spreading germs – and it’s been shown over and over again to work.

How to do it?

  • Wash hands frequently throughout the day with soap and warm water.  Carry a hand lotion with you if this dries your skin.
  • If there’s nowhere to wash and you’ve been touching lots of stuff, antimicrobial are an acceptable (but imperfect) alternative.

    Your gut is a mess.   

Gut microbiota that are out of balance can lead to so many distressing things, including getting sick more often. A healthy, thriving ecology in the colon is protective against the germs looking to take up residence in our throat and lungs and sinuses.

How to rebalance the microbiome?

  • An easy (and well studied for boosting immunity) step is to just take a daily broad spectrum probiotic.
  • Eat healthy whole foods, including lots of fiber to feed the microbes, and probiotic foods like yogurt to support a robust environment.  

How We Can Help You Improve Your Immune System

Do it with Dr. Blum! Yes, that’s right! Dr. Blum’s new LIVE course, The Immune Recovery Challenge is open! The Immune Recovery Challenge is the step-by-step companion to Dr. Blum’s bestselling book, The Immune System Recovery Plan. During the course, you will follow the 4-Step Immune System Recovery Plan together with Dr. Blum, using video and live coaching. It’s devoted to your HEALTH TRANSFORMATION! Get the Info

If you want personal one-to-one treatment, come to Blum Center for Health. People travel from around the world to meet with our practitioners. You’ll meet with your practitioner for an hour and a half, meet with our Functional Medicine Nutritionist, and receive your first treatment plan. Get More Info

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.

 

Resources:

 

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What You Need to Know if You’re Diagnosed with an Autoimmune Disease

Donna is a 35-year old woman who had her second child a year ago, but she just hasn’t been able to recover her energy. She kept chalking it up to having a toddler and a newborn. But, when the baby turned one-year old and she was still exhausted, she decided to get a thorough check-up.

Her lab work showed she had the most common of autoimmune diseases: Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.  

On the one hand she was relieved to have an answer, but on the other she was saying a big, “Now What!?”

Autoimmune diseases are on the rise, and many people are asking the same question as Donna, “Now What?”

The approach to repairing the immune system involves a few essential lifestyle changes and evaluation of some basic body functions to begin the road to healing.  

Here are the 4 Pillars of a Healthy Immune System

  • Having healthy digestion with balanced gut microbiome
  • Practicing ways to prevent stress from entering the body and changing your body chemistry
  • Cleaning up and avoiding environmental toxicants in your home and workplace, and improving the body’s ability to detoxify
  • Enjoying an anti-inflammatory diet that is high in whole foods, vegetables, healthy fats, lean protein, fruits, nuts and seeds and low in processed foods, sugar and alcohol

By the way, these four pillars are the basis of Dr. Blum’s book, the The Immune System Recovery Plan. And right now she is diving deep to create a new LIVE course: The Immune Recovery Challenge, a group program specifically designed to help relieve the suffering of people with autoimmune diseases!  

Healing Your Gut

Everything begins with healing the gut. Nearly everyone who has an autoimmune disease has a gut microbiome that is out of balance. A leaky gut, also called increased intestinal permeability, is associated with autoimmunity, and research has made it clear that to repair the immune system and reduce inflammation, you must heal the leaky gut. We repair the gut through food, proven, scientifically-supported antimicrobial supplements and building resilience to life’s stressors.

Understanding Digestive Symptoms

If you have digestive symptoms such as gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, heartburn or reflux, it’s important to get to the bottom of why you are having these, and not just cover them over with a medication, such as an antacid or laxative. You can try food-based approaches first, such as eliminating dairy and alcohol triggers if you have heartburn or reflux, increasing vegetable intake for more fiber if you have constipation, and adding a probiotic to balance gut bacteria if you have diarrhea. If these steps don’t work, then consider getting a functional stool test to look more closely at gut imbalances that can then be specifically addressed.

How Stress Fuels Autoimmunity

Stress is almost always about how we perceive our world—what is very stressful for one person can be completely neutral for someone else because of how each person views that same situation.  

The key is to figure out what your personal stress response is—for example, trouble sleeping, anxiety, slow digestion—and then finding and using tools to turn it around. A recorded guided relaxation at bedtime can help with sleep, learning a measured breathing technique can help with anxiety, and just chewing your food 15-20 times per bite can change your digestion for the better.  Having a daily practice such as meditation, prayer, or a walk in Nature without your phone, can begin to remind your body about how to relax and let go of stress. There are some great free meditation apps with Learn to Meditate courses and guided meditations, and I encourage you to try them out, too. My favorite is Insight Timer; it has lots of free guided options that are wonderful.

How Toxicants are Related to Autoimmunity

We are all exposed to multiple toxicants in our environment every day, some of which we can control through our buying and eating habits and some, like air pollution, we can’t.

Take control of the ones you can control—substitute glass food storage containers for plastic ones, use wax paper instead of plastic, use refillable stainless steel or glass water bottles instead of disposable single-use plastic ones. Visit the Environmental Working Group’s website, www.ewg.org, for more ways to reduce your exposures.

To support your liver’s ability to detoxify what’s coming into your body, eat lots of leafy greens, onions, garlic, leeks, and as many different colors of vegetables as you can every day. These have antioxidants which put out the fire of inflammatory free radicals and help stop the damage of toxins in the body. If you had significant workplace or home exposures to chemicals or molds, then you may need additional professional help to support healthy detoxification.

Food is Medicine … Especially When You Have an Autoimmune Condition

As we say everyday at Blum Center for Health, food is medicine. It’s not the only medicine, but it is an important part of anyone’s medicine who is trying to get healthy or healthier. Dietary regimens need to be tailored to each individual’s unique needs, traditions, and preferences. But some basic principles for choosing food that applies to almost everybody who isn’t vegetarian:

  •     the more vegetables, the better—a minimum of 5 half cup servings a day
  •     the more colorful vegetables, the better
  •     healthy fats such as avocados, nuts and seeds, olive oil
  •     whole grains
  •     small amounts of animal proteins without hormones, antibiotics
  •     fish that are low in mercury
  •     no ingredients that you can’t pronounce
  •     the fewer foods out of a box, carton or plastic container, the better
  •     fruit for dessert

These are the basics of what is known as the Mediterranean diet which has been shown in scientific studies to reduce heart disease and inflammation in the body.

The Importance of Discovering Your Trigger Foods

If you have an autoimmune disease it is important to identify foods that trigger your symptoms. We typically suggest starting with  a short-term elimination diet, where we take out the most inflammatory foods, and then add back each food in a methodical way, to identify exactly which foods cause problems.  In essence, you walk away with a personalized nutrition plan!

How We Can Help You Reverse Your Autoimmune Disease

If you want personal one-to-one treatment, come to Blum Center for Health. People travel from around the world to meet with our practitioners. You’ll meet with your practitioner for an hour and a half, meet with our Functional Medicine Nutritionist, and receive your first treatment plan. Get More Info

If you want a do-it-yourself approach, follow the 4-step plan outlined in Dr. Blum’s bestselling book, The Immune System Recovery Plan. Written specifically for people with autoimmune conditions, this book will put you on the road to recovery.

And if you want to do-it-with us, keep your eyes peeled for Dr. Blum’s new LIVE course: The Immune Recovery Challenge!  We begin in October (it will be here before you know it!) The Immune Recovery Challenge is the step-by-step companion to The Immune System Recovery Plan. During the course, you will follow the 4-Step Immune System Recovery Plan protocol together with Dr. Blum, using video and live coaching. It’s devoted to your HEALTH TRANSFORMATION! I hope you’ll join us!

Meet Elizabeth Greig, FNP:  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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Is There a Way to Prevent and Delay Knee Arthritis?

Chronic Inflammation in the bones and the joints (osteoarthritis, OA, or commonly referred to as arthritis) is one of those hushed terms that we tend to associate with aging or obesity. Yet, as the U.S. population ages, surviving well past “old age,” and remaining physically active, more and more people will suffer from OA. Due to chronic pain and limited range of motion, OA places a significant functional limitation on the individual and can negatively impact mental health and well-being.

How do people develop OA?

Knee osteoarthritis, the most prevalent type of OA, is a main cause of disability, and affects men and women equally. Over a person’s lifetime, bones and joints are subjected to normal wear and tear. Our bodies will naturally repair itself through an inflammatory and healing process. As we age, inflammation in bones and joints can become unchecked, made worse by poor diet and other system-wide triggers of inflammation like digestive issues (imbalanced gut microbiome) and chronic stress. (You can learn more about that in Dr. Blum’s book, Healing Arthritis).   In weight-bearing joints, such as the knee, in addition to systemic inflammation, the direct and repetitive physical impact with abnormal loading forces and stress to the joint, further contributes to increased inflammation and slowing of the healing process.

How you can prevent or delay knee arthritis 

Luckily, knee OA  is more preventable than is commonly assumed. The early stages of joint degeneration often does not cause pain, and early detection is key to making sure your arthritis doesn’t progress to irreversible damage. So, what are some of the warning signs to look out for?

Signs that might indicate you have knee OA:

  • Decreased range of motion or pain on initiating movement (sitting to standing, getting up out of bed, squatting)
  • Difficulty walking up/down stairs
  • Knee swelling (with exercise or activity)

How can we solve the Knee OA problem?

Here are ways you can help make sure you don’t get OA, and how you can prevent it from getting worse:

  • Have a Physiatrist (Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation Specialist) evaluate the physical factors that might be adding wear and tear to your joints:
    • Biomechanics — addressing underlying or potential biomechanical problems leading to abnormal forces or stress on your knee joint.
    • Ergonomics — activities or position that lead to knee ache, pain or stiffness.
    • Footwear — wearing well-fitted and appropriate footwear that supports the entire foot
    • Physical and Joint Health — maintaining joint stability with muscle strengthening, range of motion and balance exercises. The key to maintaining active exercise routine is to use proper positioning techniques that are personalized to you. Using proper techniques during any activity, decrease your risk of abnormal joint stress.  
  • Work with a Functional Medicine Practitioner, such as ours at Blum Center for Health, to treat underlying medical conditions that may cause chronic inflammation, like improving your gut microbiome.
  • Work with a Nutritionist to learn how to eat an anti-inflammatory diet.

How is Blum Center of Health helping to change the course of Knee OA?

We are thrilled, that in addition to our functional medicine and nutrition team, we are now able to offer Regenerative Medicine — a state-of-the-art treatment focused on directly impacting the damage in, and around, the joint.

Treatment Options:

  • Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP)– used to repair the damaged degenerative cartilage, tendons and ligaments.
  • Bone Marrow Derived Stem Cells– recommended for more progressive and severe knee OA
  • Prolotherapy– for loose and unstable knee ligament and tendon

Remember, knee osteoarthritis (OA) is a medical condition that is increasing in prevalence in the US, as the population ages and survives longer. OA is a chronic condition in the soft tissue of joints that causes significant disability due to pain and limited range of motion. OA can be delayed, or even prevented with proper medical management and innovative/integrative medical interventions. If you or someone you love shows signs of OA, please call us to make an appointment!

Meet Dr. Aligene: Dr. Kathy Aligene is Board Certified Physiatrist, Interventional Pain Management Specialist and an innovative physician in the field of Integrative Pain and Regenerative Medicine.  Her expertise in these complementing areas of medicine has led her to successfully treat patients with musculoskeletal, joint, spine, pelvic and nerve related problems without depending on chronic use of pain medication. Dr. Aligene treats men and women of all ages and activity levels to support their functional goals and promote an active and healthy lifestyle. Book an appointment with Dr.Aligene by calling 914-652-7800.

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Summer Green Smoothie Instead of Coffee? You Bet!

Like most of you, I really love my morning coffee (my morning fuel of choice is espresso).  The nespresso machine in my kitchen has been an attractive nuisance since I bought it, making it way too easy to have one or two shots as I am revving up to start my day.  As August rolled around, I decided to do an experiment to see if my espresso was affecting how I felt, good or bad. To do this, I decided to kick the habit, and substitute my espresso for black tea (which also has caffeine), followed by a green smoothie made from contents of my garden. Yummy live food that I whipped up in my Nutrabullet.  And here is what I discovered.

It took a few days to adjust, but by day 3, I noticed that I was sleeping deeper and longer.  Since I was having my espresso only very early in the mornings, it shocked me that it had such a dramatic effect on my sleep so many hours later. I always thought that because I wasn’t having caffeine or coffee after 10 am, it wouldn’t make a difference.  Boy was I wrong!

I found myself sleeping later in the mornings and remembering my dreams.  If you are having any sleep issues whatever, I strongly recommend quitting coffee and see what happens!  It has been about 4 weeks now, and I am still sleeping great, feeling more rested in the mornings.

What I Learned About Green Smoothies

I used to be more of a berries-in-the-smoothie girl, but I switched to a more tart, savory drink instead of sweet.  You will see my recipe below. After my live, green, smoothie breakfast, I am zipping to work and buzzing with a better energy than I used to get from espresso!  I decided to write this blog to inspire those of you that read this, to try this experiment. The good news is that you can get greens triple washed and ready to use, making this smoothie super easy to make each morning.  I usually go out to the garden and add fresh parsley, rosemary, basil, or mint, in addition to the kale and spinach. You can customize this to your taste.

Here are the nutrition facts:

Total calories:  265;

Fat: 12.9 grams; Carbs: 34.6 grams; Fiber: 7.2 grams: Sugar: 17 grams; Protein: 11.2 grams

Green Smoothie Recipe:

½ apple, skin on

½ banana

½ cup Baby Kale

½ cup Baby spinach

1 TBL fresh lemon juice

1 TBL fresh lime juice

2 TBL organic Hemp seeds

1 cup cold filtered water

Optional:  A twig of rosemary and a handful parsley from the garden, or other herbs of your choice like a few leaves of mint or basil.

Put all ingredients in the Nutrabullet and enjoy!

 

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Coffee Was My Lifeline. Why Did I Give It Up?

For over 20 years I have maintained, “Coffee is my medicine.” Imagine the shock when I realized recently, that, in fact, coffee has been playing havoc with my health.

Shock. Horror. Dismay.

Here’s the backstory: From the time I was a toddler I have suffered from migraines. As a young adult I went to the Montefiore Headache Clinic in New York City. I was put on a strict diet, eliminating every known migraine trigger, including coffee since too much caffeine creates “rebound” headaches. Once my system was “trigger-free” for several weeks, trigger foods were added back one-by-one to see what I reacted to.

With one exception: Coffee.

Coffee replaced all medications: One cup of coffee early in the morning, one cup of coffee around 2pm.

My mantra for the last 20 years has been: I can’t give up coffee! Coffee is my medicine! Doctor’s orders!

This came to a crashing halt recently. You see when I committed to the 14-Day Whole Life Detox, I decided to follow Dr. Blum’s plan exactly as outlined. That meant no coffee for 14 days.. The week before I started Whole Life Detox I reduced my coffee consumption from 2 cups to 1 cup.

Then one Day 1 of Whole Life Detox, the reckoning: No coffee.

What happened next shocked me! After completing the detox I decided I would add coffee back into my morning routine. I bought fresh beans, ground it to fill the kitchen with that delightful smell, and brewed the perfect cup of coffee in my French Press. I could not wait to taste it.

Oh, that coffee goodness! Full body, lovely bouquet, chocolatey, caramel flavors.

And then? A big, fat case of the shakes!

What? How can this be? I even tested it two days later to see if I was right. Yep, same response.

And the reality is …. several weeks later … I have less headaches without it.

So here’s the thing: We hold on tightly to the things that cause us pain.

I challenge you: What do you think you can’t live without? Sugar? Bread? Cheese? Meat? Whatever it is, drop it for a week and see what happens.

Looking for an easy 14-day detox to reduce your toxic load, and jumpstart weight loss & healthy choices? Check out the Whole Life Detox. It’s a great place to start. Show Me Whole Life Detox

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

 

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Let’s Talk About Sugar

A common question I ask my client’s is, “If you could change one thing to improve your health what would it be?” I get many different answers but many times I get a return question asking me what I think is the most important thing someone can do to improve their health.

My answer in short is….

R-E-M-O-V-E     S-U-G-A-R!

Why is removing sugar from your dietary plan the single most important action YOU can take to better your health?

So glad you asked!

6 Ways Sugar Ruins Your Health

Sugar …

  1. Feeds unwanted bacteria such as candida, causing an overgrowth of these bacteria resulting in oral thrush, yeast infections, skin rashes and fungus, digestive issues, food cravings, exhaustion and more…
  2. Ages your cells and Increases the risk of developing Alzheimer’s and dementia.  
  3. Raises your blood sugar levels. Sugar in the blood causes the secretion of the fat storage hormone, insulin, causing an increase in belly fat. This results in systemic inflammation, weight gain and an increased risk of developing diabetes.
  4. Is the top fuel for the growth of cancer cells.
  5. Weakens your immune system.
  6. Raises blood triglycerides levels increasing the risk of heart disease and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
  7. And the list goes on…

This is why we created the 7-Day Sugar Detox, a FREE, easy-to-follow program designed to make sugar cravings a thing of the past. Join us and get started today! It’s FREE!  Yes, I Want Off the Sugar Roller-Coaster

Sugar is Everywhere!

Sugar exists in so many forms and carries many names. There are simple processed sugars such as fructose, corn syrup, glucose, agave, sucrose (table sugar), and dextrose. Then there are more natural sweeteners including honey, pure maple syrup, molasses, monk, date or coconut sugar.

Sugars, whether in a more natural form or highly processed, can negatively affect your health, especially in high quantities. It’s summertime, a time full of barbeques and party events where sweet treats come along with the territory. Keeping the consumption of these sugars, whether natural or highly processed, to a minimum is key!

What about Sugar Substitutes?

Another category of sweeteners that are popular with “dieters” are low-calorie sugar substitutes.

There is an abundance of artificial sweeteners on the market today. Some common names include: Aspartame (Equal or Nutrasweet) and Saccharin (Sweet ‘N Low), Sucralose (Splenda), and sugar alcohols such as sorbitol, mannitol, erythritol and xylitol. These substances can be found in an abundance of different foods from yogurts and salad dressings to the gum that you chew! Sugar alcohols are generally considered “safe” in small amounts when compared to artificial sweeteners but may cause some gastrointestinal upset (gas and bloating).

Artificial sweeteners are unnatural man-made chemicals that are harmful to your health and can even cause weight gain. Yes, I said weight gain! Simply said, these sweeteners tend not to satisfy the sweet addiction our bodies crave so we tend to eat more of them!

I prefer you to consider fresh fruits or organic pure Stevia instead. Stevia is an herbal plant that is 200x sweeter than sugar so you only need a little bit when you use it.

The magic question is…how much sugar should you consume?

The answer to this question becomes a complicated one. If we take a look at the latest USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans (2015-2020), it recommends no more than 10 percent of our daily calories come from sugar.To understand this better, the Dietary Guidelines are based off of a 2,000-calorie diet. So, in general, ten percent of 2,000 calories equals 200 calories. This equates to 50 grams of sugar, the same as saying approximately 12 teaspoons of sugar!

The guidelines go further to explain no more than 100 calories (25 grams or 6 teaspoons) of added sugar per day for women and no more than 150 calories (36 grams or 9 teaspoons) of added sugar for men.  The FDA recently added to the food label “added sugar” and recommends no more than 10 grams of added sugar per serving. Added sugar is the sugar added in the processing of the product but this does not account for the amount of sugar already in the product. To understand this more clearly, see the label below.

 

Image adapted from the FDA.org

 

Subtract the amount of added sugar from the total sugar to find the total amount of natural sugar in the product.  Example from the label above: 12-10=2 grams of naturally occurring sugar.

The USDA Dietary Guidelines address the importance of reducing sugar in the diet but the truth has it…these guidelines are still too much!

A leading expert who is known for bringing the research forward on sugar is Dr. Robert Lustig. Check out one of his you-tube videos below https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBnniua6-oM . It’s worth the short time you invest to watch it!

The best meal plan to keep sugar intake to a minimum is a one sourced from organic whole foods! A whole foods meal plan is devoid of refined flours and sugars, and contains food that is minimally processed and exists as close to its natural state as possible. A lot less need for math and food label reading!

Include a healthy source of protein and fat at each meal or snack to promote satiety and head off cravings for sugary treats!

Follow an organic whole foods meal plan so your body can thrive! Include:

  • An abundance of phytonutrient rich produce including leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables as well as low glycemic high fiber rich fruits such as berries.
  • Pasture raised hormone free animal sources.
  • May include a small amount of whole grains such as quinoa and wild rice.
  • Quality fats such as nuts, nut and seeds and their butters and healthy oils such as avocado, coconut, olive, flax and ghee.

Are your ready to get off sugar? Join our FREE 7-Day Sugar Detox! We will help you kickstart your sugar-free life. It’s easy to follow and FREE! Get My First Action Plan Now

Keri Lynn MacElhinney, RD, CDN, CLT, IFNCP is a Functional Medicine Nutritionist at Blum Center for Health.  She has over 20 years of professional experience as a Registered Dietitian and holds a nutrition license in New York and the State of Connecticut. In her early years, her field experience covered a wide array of areas including acute care hospitals, community health centers, substance abuse.  Make an appointment with Keri Lynn at 914-652-7800.

 

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Is Stress the Cause of Your Health Issues? Here’s 5 Ways Chinese Medicine Can Help

Modern life brings many advantages and conveniences, and also many problems.  One of the biggest causes of health issues today is emotional stress – and it is taking a toll your body.

What Happens to Your Body During A Stressful Situation?

Your stress response is what happens when the body is stimulated to produce the hormone, cortisol, and the neurotransmitter, epinephrine (also known as adrenaline). These chemical messengers are very important when you are put in a dangerous situation (and even stressful good situations!) and are part of what’s called the “flight or fight” response.  When this system is functioning at it’s best, both cortisol and adrenaline are released from the adrenal glands keeping the body on high alert and triggering biochemical changes that help you cope with the stressor. And when the threat (or stress) is gone, cortisol and adrenaline levels go back down to normal baseline.

However, in chronic or prolonged stress these hormones continue to be pumped into your body, wreaking havoc on just about every system you have.  This process can lead to the very serious health issues that are plaguing our society today such as heart disease, diabetes, autoimmune disorders, anxiety, weight gain, arthritis, digestive disorders and cancer.

Chinese medicine, with its many tools, has been used for thousands of years to treat and prevent illness. The main objective is to keep the flow of Qi, or energy, open and flowing in order to keep the body in balance. Because chronic stress creates blockages and imbalances in your body, using the tools of Chinese medicine to treat the effects of stress is a good choice for many people.

5 Ways Chinese Medicine Can Help Reduce Stress

Acupuncture:

Acupuncture can alleviate stress symptoms by releasing endorphins which lead to feelings of euphoria, reduced appetite, enhancement of the immune response, and a meditative state in the brain, which can help with insomnia issues as well as anxiety. 

Meditation:

Meditation is a wonderful tool that anyone can use to calm the mind and body. By using any combination of breathing techniques, guided meditation, visualization and a body scan, you can bring the mind and nervous system into an alpha or meditative state.

Tai Qi/Qi Gong Exercises:

These are exercises that have been practiced for generations in China for the purpose of circulating ones qi or energy throughout the body in order to remove blockages. Anyone can do these exercises. They are slow, easy movements and have been proven to lower blood pressure, increase circulation and calm the body and the mind.

Chinese Herbal Medicine:

Chinese herbs are very helpful when stress has caused more serious internal issues such as digestive issues, insomnia, or heart palpitations, for example. Herbal formulas can come in pills, powders, tinctures or teas and can be found for every imaginable condition.

Dietary Therapy:

The Chinese, like Hippocrates, use food as medicine and can be used to treat the effects of stress especially on the digestive system. Soothing broths and light foods would be suggested for a nervous stomach, for instance, and spicy or greasy foods should be avoided. At Blum Center for Health, nutrition is at the core of all treatment, and Chinese Medicine is no different.

 

About Donna Bunte: Donna Bunte has practiced Chinese medicine, acupuncture and nutrition for over twenty years. She’s held private practices in NYC and Greenwich, CT, and has joined Blum Center for Health as our in-house acupuncturist. To book an appointment with Donna contact 914-652-7800.