GET A FUNCTIONAL MEDICINE CONSULTATION FROM ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD

We can now see New Patients via ZOOM video and offering 10% off the usual price of our Initial Visit Packages when booked this way.

Learn More

LIVE WEEKLY UPDATES FROM DR.BLUM

Join Dr. Blum every Friday for her insight into the COVID-19 pandemic. With her expertise in both Public Health and Functional Medicine, she will bring you the latest information to keep you informed, safe and healthy. Sign up below for this free and secure series.

Learn More

Healing Arthritis

Your 3-Step Guide to Conquering Arthritis Naturally

Learn More

The Immune System Recovery Plan

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

Learn More
Posted on

Protecting our Youth from Colorectal Cancers

cancer

By: Pamela Yee, M.D.

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

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

The connection is obvious to me.

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

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

FOOD

What’s Changed? The MEDIA!

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

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

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

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

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

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

HOW TO HELP OUR CHILDREN

ROLE MODELS

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

MEDIA

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

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

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

Reference:

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

Meet Dr. Yee:

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

CLICK HERE  to learn more about Dr. Yee.

Posted on

Clean Your Pantry, Lose Weight & Transform Your Diet

Transform your pantry for health

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Extra Credit: As you clean out your pantry, make a list of items you need to replace and you will have it handy come shopping day.
About Melissa: Melissa Rapoport is the manager of health coaching and lifestyle programming at Blum Center for Health in Rye Brook, NY. She combines her graduate work in Developmental Psychology with her education in nutrition, health and coaching to create highly individualized programs that result in lifetime change. A contributing author to three international bestselling books, Melissa’s greatest joy is her relationship with her two daughters.

Posted on

Improve Your Mood: Bringing Light to the Winter Blues

By Darcy McConnell, MD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Posted on

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

By Pamela Yee, MD

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

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

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

Good News: There’s Another Way

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

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

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

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

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

About Dr. Yee

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

CLICK HERE to learn more about Dr. Yee

Reference:

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

Posted on

6 Tips for Creating Healthy Habits For When Life Gets Busy

Create Healthy Habits

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

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

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

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

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

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

Make Ghee in 1,2,3!

Homemade Ghee

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

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

Ghee Recipe:

1 pound unsalted organic butter

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reprinted with permission from Liz Lipski, PhD, CCN

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

Posted on

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

Ghee Jar

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

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

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

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

5 Reasons to Make the Switch to Ghee

1. Ghee Helps Strengthen the Digestive Tract — Ghee is high in butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid that reduces inflammation and helps balance the immune cells in your gut. According to Susan Blum, MD, in her book, The Immune System Recovery Plan, Ghee strengthens the intestinal lining, and improves the health of the cells that line the entire digestive tract, including the stomach, colon and small and large intestines. (1)

2. People with Dairy Allergies or Sensitivities Can Enjoy Ghee — Milk is comprised of two proteins — whey and casein. In the process of making ghee, these proteins are removed through skimming and straining, rendering it lactose and casein-free. Those with severe dairy allergies should refrain because ghee is not dairy free, but those with sensitivities or intolerances are usually fine.

3. Ghee Protects the Heart — Researchers found in a rural population of India a significantly lower prevalence of coronary heart disease in men who consumed high amounts of ghee. (2) Other researchers (3,4,5) corroborate these findings and further demonstrate in lab studies that ghee decreases serum cholesterol and triglycerides. They found, in fact, that arachidonic acid, a key inflammatory intermediate in the process of atherosclerosis, was decreased by 65% in serum lipids when ghee was used as the sole source of fat. (3)

4. You Can Cook With Ghee — Ghee has a higher smoke point, higher than nearly any other fat you might cook with — at 486 degrees, it is even higher than coconut oil! Smoke point is important because that is the temperature that an oil begins to degrade and create free radicals – those carcinogenic, unstable molecules that damage cells and cell membranes. Free radicals adversely alter lipids, proteins, and DNA and trigger a number of diseases and are associated with the development of conditions like atherosclerosis and cancer. (6)

5. Ghee Can Help You Lose Weight — Studies demonstrate that Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA), an Omega-6 fatty acid that naturally occurs in dairy and beef, has been found to reduce weight gain and decrease fat mass. It also has been shown to enhance immunity while also reducing inflammation. (7) One study, in particular, demonstrated that CLA among overweight adults significantly reduced body fat over 6 months and prevented weight gain during the holiday season. (8)

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

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

References 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted on

3 Hidden Triggers that Create Chronic Stress

Chronic Stress Triggers And Sleep

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

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

Stress vs. Chronic Stress

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

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

3 Hidden Triggers that Create Chronic Stress

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

What you can do:

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

What you can do:

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

What you can do:

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

Resources:

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

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

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

Posted on

What’s the Difference between a Food Allergy and a Food Sensitivity? An Interview with Sezelle Gereau, MD

There’s a lot of buzz these days about food allergies and sensitivities. There’s a lot of confusion too. We spoke with our resident expert, Sezelle Gereau, MD, to learn the difference between the two and why it matters.

What is the difference between a food allergy and a food sensitivity?
When one is allergic to a food the body recognizes it as a pathogen, and goes through a set of immunologic responses to attack and contain it.  They can be life threatening, as we recognize with children and peanut allergy.  While sensitivities can be uncomfortable, they do not trigger the immune system in the same way.  So, one can be either allergic or sensitive to a food, although the two are often confused.  For example, one can have a true allergy to milk, or a lactose intolerance, which is more of a sensitivity and not a true allergy.

If a food sensitivity does not trigger the immune system in the same way as a food allergy then why are they so uncomfortable?
Sensitivities are different, both in their symptoms and their underlying mechanisms. Most commonly one will present with gastrointestinal symptoms such as gas, cramps, bloating, heartburn, headaches, or irritability. Some will complain of brain fog and fatigue. The most common food sensitivity is lactose.  Sulfites and alcohol are other frequent offenders.

What about gluten?
Common, but not as much as generally thought by the public, is gluten sensitivity – you can be allergic to wheat, or have a sensitivity to gluten. A gluten sensitivity is not a true allergy, but can trigger a set of responses that feel like an allergy.  Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease also related to sensitivity to gluten, but again, not an allergy. It is important to know if one has gluten sensitivity, as it can lead to issues in other parts of the body, such as your thyroid gland.

Do we outgrow allergies and sensitivities?
One can outgrow food allergies. Many children have food allergies early in life, and they commonly outgrow them by about age 8.  Food sensitivities are idiosyncratic, and there is no specific pattern.  The best way to train your body to outgrow both allergies and sensitivities is to eliminate the food completely.  Sometimes foods can be re-introduced on occasion without adverse effect, but if one has a severe reaction it is recommended that you completely eliminate these foods from your diet for good.

How do I know if I have an allergy or a sensitivity?
There are a number of ways to test for food allergies, including blood tests such as IgE or IgG.  You may have heard of the ALCAT or MRT testing.  Your doctor may choose to do any one of a number of these, and each has its pros and cons – but the best way to understand if one is allergic or sensitive is to eliminate the food strictly for 3-6 weeks and then reintroduce it in small amounts, one by one over a series of days and observe for reactivity.

When should I call a doctor?
Many times a functional medicine doctor, such as one of our doctors at Blum Digital, LLC, can help you sort out these issues.  They can help you start to grapple with your reactions and relationship to foods.  A comprehensive history with some additional testing can help one to understand if this is truly reactivity to foods, or if something else is out of balance in the body.

What’s new and exciting?
An exciting new treatment available for food allergy is allergy drops – which offers a way to eliminate the allergy entirely, not just control symptoms.  It is safe and effective for both adults and children. Come in for a visit if you’d like to learn more.

Posted on

Autumn’s Must-Have Immune-Boosting Foods

Autumn is here in full glory … the beautiful display of jewel-colored leaves, the waning light and the crisp, cool air all signal the arrival of the Fall harvest, a cornucopia of gut-healthy foods perfectly suited to cooler days.

It’s the perfect time of year to visit your local Farmers Market. Right now farm stands are hitting their peak with produce that has taken all summer to mature. Better yet, visit a farm and pick your own! From crisp apples to hearty greens and deliciously sweet root vegetables, Fall foods are nutritional powerhouses –they are packed with antioxidants that help your immune system fend off viruses and bacterial infections as we head into winter.

7 Immune-Boosting Foods to Add to Your Plate Right Now

1. Figs — High fiber and loaded with potassium, fresh figs are a rich source of phytosterols — plant nutrients that help reduce cholesterol. They are also high in beta-carotene, a carotenoid known to protect against cancer. Try them cut in half with just a drizzle of raw local honey. Divine!

2. Pomegranates — Pomegranate seeds owe their superfood status to polyphenols, powerful antioxidants thought to offer heart health and anti-cancer benefits. They are also a good source of fiber, B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin K and potassium. Add pomegranate seeds to salads, sprinkle over oatmeal, toss in green salads, or blend them in smoothies.

3. Sturdy Greens — Leafy greens are full of vitamins, minerals, and disease-fighting phytochemicals. They are rich in fiber, vitamin C, vitamin E. Boost your consumption of greens by adding them to salads, smoothies, soups and stir fry recipes.

4. Pumpkin Seeds — Rich in magnesium, immune-boosting zinc, fiber and plant-based Omega-3 Fatty Acids, pumpkin seeds are power-packed little kernels of nutrition. Either eat them raw (after they’re cleaned and dried, of course) or roast them at 170 degrees for about 20 minutes. Either way, toss them in salads or pack them to put in your bag for a midday snack.

5. Sweet potatoes — Chock-full of beta-carotene, vitamin C and magnesium, sweet potatoes are anti-inflammatory powerhouses. Try oven-baked sweet potato wedges, add sweet potato cubes to chili, or simply bake it as you would a white potato and add a little ghee, cinnamon and black pepper.

6. Winter squash — Packed with vitamins A and C, beta-carotene, potassium and fiber, the winter squashes soothe our bellies, boost our immune system and support vision and skin health. Cut one in half, brush a little coconut oil on the flesh and roast it flesh-side down in a 450 degree oven for about 20 minutes. Yum! Or, add it to stews, curries and stir-fry recipes.

7. Parsnips — Though these veggies may resemble carrots, they have a lighter color and sweeter, almost nutty flavor. Loaded with potassium and high in fiber, parsnips have an impressive array of vitamins, including vitamins B, C, E and K. Use them in stews and soups or roast them for a delicious alternative to french fries.