HealMyGut™ Program

Your gateway to feeling well again! End digestive symptoms, repair the immune system, reduce inflammation and heal arthritis.

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Immune Support Consult

Our team at Blum Center has created an accessible way for you to see us, so that we can support your needs during this time.

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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.

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Healing Arthritis

Your 3-Step Guide to Conquering Arthritis Naturally

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The Immune System Recovery Plan

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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An Apple A Day? Better Make It Two!

An Apple A Day

Apples have long been associated with a healthful diet. After all, the adage, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” which originated in the 1860s, is a common refrain around the world. (1)

Yet for some people, like those Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO), apples can trigger digestive symptoms like bloating and gas. If you find apples give you these symptoms it is a sure sign that our 30-Day HealMyGut program is for you. Once you heal your gut apples will once again become a staple to your diet.

The fact is we need apples!

Researchers are finding that the humble apple is not only nutritious but also has healing powers that begin in the gut.

One study (2) in Japan demonstrated that the population of friendly bacteria, bifidus and lactobacillus, increased significantly by eating two apples a day for two weeks. The pectin in apples seems to play a significant role so drinking a glass of apple juice does not have the same benefit.

The finding is significant because apple pectin is a prebiotic — a non-digestible dietary nutrient, which beneficially influences the intestinal bacteria by stimulating their growth. These “friendly” bacteria fight inflammation and prevent a host of digestive problems. In essence, apples provide your gut bacteria the food they need to do their job.

Further, in another study a research team at Washington State University (3) compared several different types of apples to measure the amounts of non-digestible compounds they contain, and they found that Granny Smith apples, (yes those tart, green apples!), contained the highest levels of prebiotics, including dietary fibers and polyphenols.

Clearly, food is indeed medicine. Adhering to the old adage, “An apple a day” is good for you. There are thousand of varieties to try. Don’t wait …treat your gut to the healing powers of apples today!

As Dr. Blum says, “A healthy gut equals a healthy immune system, and using food as medicine is always the path towards getting there!

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.

References
1. Story behind an apple a day. Ely, M. Washington Post Online. https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/wellness/history-behind-an-apple-a-day/2013/09/24/aac3e79c-1f0e-11e3-94a2-6c66b668ea55_story.html

2. Effect of apple intake on fecal microbiota and metabolites in humans.
Shinohara K, Ohashi Y, Kawasumi K et al. Anaerobe 2010; 16(5): 510-515

3. Condezo-Hoyos L, Mohanty IP, and Noratto GD. Assessing non-digestible compounds in apple cultivars and their potential as modulators of obese faecal microbiota in vitro. Food Chemistry. 2014.

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Gut-Friendly Coconut Carrot Soup

Carrot Ginger Soup

COCONUT CARROT SOUP
Serves 10

2 tbsp coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 lbs carrots, peeled and cut into ½ inch pieces
2 tsp grated fresh ginger
½ tsp curry powder
½ tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp ground coriander
tsp ground cinnamon
Small pinch red pepper flakes (omit for arthritis)
1 tsp kosher salt
6 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 can coconut milk
tsp honey (optional)

DIRECTIONS

1. Warm the oil in a pot on medium high heat.

2. Add the onions and a pinch of salt and sauteé until golden, about 15 minutes.

3. Add the carrots, ginger, curry, cumin, coriander, cinnamon and pepper flakes and stir to combine.

4. De-glaze the pan with 1 cup of stock and let reduce by half. Add the remaining stock, salt and coconut milk and cook uncovered for 15 to 20 minutes until the carrots are tender.

5. Using a hand blender, puree the soup.

6. If necessary, add water to make the soup consistency that you like. It should be thick and lightly sweet. Add the maple syrup if you would like it sweeter. Check seasoning and add salt and pepper if desired.

7. Serve hot.

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Blueberry and Spinach Smoothie

Blueberry Spinach Smoothie

When most people think of smoothies, they think of all-fruit drinks. But smoothies are a great way to pack in the vegetables and the antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals your liver needs to eliminate harmful substances.

Serves 1-2

Ingredients
1 cup almond, coconut, or rice milk
¾ cup frozen blueberries
1 banana
1 T. ground flax seeds (optional)
1 scoop protein powder
1-2 handfuls of spinach or kale

Directions
Blend all ingredients until desired consistency is reached, adding water to thin if necessary.

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3 Simple Steps To Great Gut Health

By Susan Blum, MD

If you have gas or bloating after you eat, or if you experience constipation and/or loose stools, or any type of intestinal discomfort, you have a problem with how your gut is functioning. While this is commonly labeled irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, the diagnosis doesn’t tell you why you’re having this problem.

Usually, the issue is something called dysbiosis, which means your gut flora isn’t healthy. You might have an overgrowth of harmful bacteria, yeast or parasites, or you might not have enough of the good stuff: those probiotics you find in yogurt and cultured foods.

But who cares about a little gas or bloating?

You should! Your gut flora needs to be fixed, because the symptoms you’re having could just be the tip of the iceberg. A whopping 70% of your immune system is located in your gut and if the flora are out of balance, you have an increased risk of something called Leaky Gut Syndrome, and this can lead to autoimmune disease.

Here are my tips to heal your gut, which will treat your symptoms and keep your immune system happy, too.

  1. For your digestive symptoms, find out whether or not you’ve got food sensitivities, which could be causing the problem. Check yourself for gluten and dairy by removing them both from your diet at the same time for three weeks, and then reintroduce each one at a time, four days apart and monitor how you feel.
  2. For your flora, eat cultured food every day, like coconut or almond milk yogurt and kefir, sauerkraut or kimchee, and consider taking a probiotic supplement.
  3. If the above doesn’t do the trick, consider a gut-cleansing program using herbs like berberine or oregano to remove the harmful microbes. Our new HealMyGut program will help you do just that!
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Turn Off the Effects of Stress on Your Immune System

Stress is really about the degree of change you experience and how much it throws you out of balance.  Studies show that when stress pulls you too far off center, it affects your immune system in a negative way.  The body has a built in stress response for emergencies, which is often called “fight-or-flight.” In general, this is a good thing because it supports you when you need an adrenaline rush and cortisol boost from your adrenal glands to help you run, fight, or face an intense stressor, be it emotional or physical.

But when you think too much, you can get stuck in your thoughts, worrying about the future and replaying the past. At the same time, your adrenal stress hormones get stuck in the “on” position, producing those stress chemicals that have a negative impact on your immune system. It is this chronic stress that is the problem and the type of stress that makes you sick.

When you practice mind-body skills such as meditation, walking in nature, turning off the nightly news, knitting, or singing, to name just a few, you will learn to “turn the switch off” and your system will find balance again. Then you can easily move in and out of stress mode, benefiting from the adrenal boost when you need it and letting your system relax when you don’t.  But remember, learning to relax takes practice!

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Summer Sun and Vitamin D

Everyday, I am asked by someone, whether or not they need to take Vitamin D in the summer. Now that we are in the midst of lots of sunshine and summer is here, I thought this would be a good topic for our August newsletter. Vitamin D is much more than a vitamin. In fact, every cell in your body has a receptor on it for D, which makes it more like a hormone, than a vitamin. It supports your immune health, and is critical for people with autoimmune diseases. It is also necessary for your body to absorb calcium, and women with low vitamin D levels are at a higher risk of osteoporosis. And let’s not forget about mood … many of you might notice you feel bluer in the winter when there is less sunshine.

Yes, Vitamin D is made by sunshine. However, in the northern latitudes where we live (New York), the sun is only strong enough to stimulate Vitamin D production in your skin 3-4 months/year, May-August. During these months, your skin will make enough Vitamin D to support good blood levels, IF you are outside for at least 20 minutes/day, without sunscreen, between 10am – 2pm, in shorts and a tank top. Meaning your arms and legs need to be fully exposed without sunscreen during peak hours of maximum sun. Do most people get this? No. So if you walk or exercise outside, spend time in the garden or other outdoor activities regularly, and don’t use sunscreen every minute, you are probably okay taking the summer months off. But honestly, most of the people I see in my medical practice don’t have an appreciable bump in their Vitamin D levels in the summer. They simply don’t get as much exposure as they think so they need to stay on their normal regimen. And that could be you.

While I am certainly not advocating NO sunscreen, I do think it would be okay, to spend 20 minutes a day without it, if you are trying to get your D. But then be sure to slather up with a broad spectrum SPF!

Here are my suggestions:

  1. If your Vitamin D levels were in a good range before the summer (above 40) and you are outside most days during peak hours, you can probably take the summer off.
  2. If your Vitamin D levels were low before the summer, or if you aren’t outside much without sunscreen during the middle of the day, you should continue your supplement.
  3. In my experience, 2000 iu/day of Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) is the minimum amount to maintain your levels. If you are trying to raise them, double the dose to 4000 for 3 months or until you are tested again.
  4. Always adjust your dose by following blood levels. Your primary care doctor can do this for you.