30-Day HealMyGut Program

This is the program for those who want all the tools and support they need for sustained wellness in just one place.

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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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In Defense of Grains

If you’re reading this, you’ve likely been tuned into the integrative/functional health community for some time. And if you’ve suffered from an autoimmune condition, perhaps you’ve tried a Paleo (aka ancestral) or AIP (autoimmune protocol) diet, both of which eschew grains (and other whole foods).

Years before the popularity of these diets peaked, we’d been hit hard with the “low carb” craze. Carbohydrates come in many forms (grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables), but grains have gotten a particularly bad rap, primarily because a diet heavy in processed grains (flour-based products like conventional bread, crackers, muffins, etc.) can be kryptonite for blood sugar and inflammation management.

Indeed, for some, grains can cause brain fog, bloating, and digestive upset. I get it. But my feeling is that for many, the preexisting digestive imbalance is the reason for the intolerance, not the other way around. Until digestive function is optimized, many foods—not just whole grains—can cause issues.

I agree that, for some people, going grain-free can be helpful for managing autoimmunity. But I don’t believe that whole, gluten-free grains are categorically bad for everyone—even those looking to reverse their autoimmune condition.

Speaking of gluten, I do believe that it should be avoided, especially during a healing/immune modulatory phase. Gluten-containing grains include wheat (einkorn, durum, faro, graham, kamut, semolina, spelt), barley, rye, and triticale. Gluten-free grains include quinoa, amaranth, millet, teff, buckwheat, and various types of rice.

The case against grains is that they contain the anti-nutrients phytic acid and lectin, along with enzyme-inhibitors that inhibit mineral absorption. Yet these “anti-nutrients” are also found in vegetables like beets and dark leafy greens. Should we avoid these nutrient-rich foods too?

Grains are naturally high in vitamins and minerals (B vitamins, iron, manganese, magnesium, and zinc, to name a few) and the key is to properly prepare them to release these nutrients. See below for more information.

It’s only in the past century or so that we’ve largely stepped away from the traditional practices of leavening/fermentation, soaking, and sprouting (germinating), which “pre-digests” grains. Additionally, Vitamin A inhibits the potentially negative effects of phytic acid.

When traditionally prepared, grains are much easier to digest, we’re able to absorb their nutrition, and they help us produce serotonin, a neurotransmitter that brings about a sense of comfort and calm, which in itself is enough to consider whether grains should be avoided. In my work with “low carb refugees,” once these clients begin adding some complex carbs from whole grains (and other foods, especially starchy vegetables) back into their diets, the overall feedback is that they feel so much calmer and more grounded and centered. And they start sleeping better.

Dr. Susan Blum mentions quinoa, amaranth, millet, teff, buckwheat, various types of rice, and legumes in her book, The Immune System Recovery Plan, and incorporates these foods in several of her recipes. She calls them “foods to include.”

While being grain-free may be part and parcel of some of the popular diets today, it doesn’t mean it’s helpful or warranted for everyone. Moderate grain intake simply offers too many benefits—vitamins, minerals, and fiber and…calm and comfort in the form of serotonin production. So next time you’re inclined to take a “chill pill,” maybe reach for some millet instead.

The guide below was written by Lisa Markley, MS, RDN, and co-author of The Essential Thyroid Cookbook.

Purchasing
When purchasing whole grains, select intact gluten-free grains, such as brown rice, quinoa, certified gluten-free whole oat groats, steel cut or rolled oats, buckwheat, millet, and amaranth. When possible, opt for these grains in their sprouted form; your store may carry some sprouted whole grain options such as brown rice, oats, and quinoa in the aisle where you’d find other packaged grains. According to the Whole Grains Council, sprouting increases the grain’s antioxidant activity as well as many of the grains’ key nutrients, such as B vitamins, Vitamin C, folate, fiber, and essential amino acids, such as lysine. You can cook dried sprouted grains the same way you would regular grains, but follow the package for specific instructions, as cooking time may be less in some instances.

Rinsing
Certain grains should be rinsed before cooking to remove dust or other debris and to yield the best flavor. These include millet, quinoa, and rice. Quinoa has a bitter coating on the outside called saponin that will negatively impact flavor if not rinsed. Rinse the grains by placing in a fine mesh strainer and rinsing with warm water.

Soaking
If you’re unable to purchase sprouted grains, it’s generally recommended to pre-soak grains to enhance digestibility and break down phytic acid.  With the exception of quick-cooking grains like quinoa, millet, amaranth and teff, soak in their measured amount of water in a glass measuring cup for 12-24 hours on your kitchen counter. Add 1 tablespoon of raw apple cider vinegar or lemon juice per 1 cup of liquid, if desired. When ready to cook, note the water level of the soaked grain, drain off the soaking water, add fresh water to the measure you noted, and simmer on stove with a pinch of salt for recommended cooking time (see “Cooking” below). Note that soaking some grains reduces their overall cooking time by a few minutes, but the cooking time for pre-soaked steel cut or rolled oats is reduced by about half.

Sprouting
If you’d like to try your hand at sprouting your own grains, it’s fairly simple:

  1. Measure approximately ½ cup of an intact, unmilled whole grain such as brown rice, forbidden black rice, quinoa, millet, or certified gluten-free oat groats, place in a bowl, and cover with water. Soak the grains for 8-12 hours.
  2. Drain and rinse thoroughly, then place soaked grains in the bottom of a quart-sized mason jar. Cover jar with cheesecloth and hold in place with a rubber band or the metal ring from a screw lid. They also sell special sprouting lids/screens that are handy for this.
  3. Invert jar over a bowl and keep at room temperature, but out of direct sun.
  4. Rinse and strain grains thoroughly twice daily, then re-invert over bowl.
  5. Repeat step 6 every day for 1 to 5 days. You’ll know the grains have sprouted once a tail appears. You can continue sprouting/germination until tail is the length of the original grain.
  6. Enjoy them fresh, sprinkled on salads. Store the sprouted grains in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Discard them if they begin to smell off or become slimy.
  7. The sprouted grains can also be dried by spreading evenly on a sheet pan and placing in at oven set to 150-200 for 8-12 hours. Or use a dehydrator, if you have one. Once the grains are dried thoroughly, you can store or cook as you would normal dried grains. They can also be ground into flour and used in baking.

Cooking
Place measured grain with water or stock and a pinch of sea salt in a pot, cover with a tight fitting lid, and bring to a boil. A 1-quart pot is best for cooking 1 cup of grain, a 2-quart pot for 2 cups of grain, and so on. Reduce heat and simmer for suggested cooking time, which will vary depending on grain. (See “Soaking” above about the reduction in cooking time for soaked grains.) Refrain from stirring the pot while the grains are cooking; this will disrupt the steam pockets that allow the top layer to cook as evenly as the bottom and cause some not to fully cook. To check if all of the water has been absorbed, simply tilt the pot to the side to see if there’s still water pooling at the bottom; if water is still present, continue to cook for a few additional minutes until it has all been absorbed.

Jill Grunewald, HNC, FMCHC, is the founder of Healthful Elements, an alopecia expert, and best selling author of The Essential Thyroid Cookbook.

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Superfood Salad with Lemon Almond Dressing

This cheerful salad makes for a perfect mid-day dish. It’s high in both protein and fiber to help keep you satisfied during the day and it offers a balance of flavors and textures that elevate a typical desk lunch into a refreshing and nutritious meal.

Superfood Salad with Lemon Almond Dressing

Serves 6-8

Base

1 cup French lentils
1 cup brown rice
1 ¾ cups vegetable broth
1 bunch curly kale
½ small red cabbage
1 bunch radishes
1 pomegranate
1 cup pecans, toasted and chopped
1 lemon

Lemony Almond Dressing

3 tablespoons almond butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
⅓ cup water
Juice of 1 large lemon
2 teaspoons nutritional yeast
1 ½ teaspoon agave/maple syrup
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cayenne

Procedure:

Prepare the brown rice by adding 1 cup brown rice, 1 ¾ cups vegetable broth, and ¼ teaspoon of salt to a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then simmer covered for 40-45 minutes or until cooked to a slight al dente.

In a separate saucepan, cook the lentils by adding 1 cup lentils, 2 cups water, and ¼ teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, then simmer covered for 30-35 minutes or until cooked to a slight al dente.

While the rice and lentils are cooking, prepare the kale by destemming and chopping into thin ribbons and adding to a large bowl. Drizzle lightly with olive oil, add a dash of salt and massage to soften the leaves. Set aside.

Remove outer layer of red cabbage and slice thinly. Add to bowl with kale and toss. Slice radishes thinly and add to the bowl and toss.

In a Vitamix, combine almond butter, olive oil, water, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, agave/maple syrup, apple cider vinegar, salt and cayenne. Blend on high until smooth. Add to the bowl of greens and toss.

To serve, squeeze juice of one lemon on top of the salad as well as a drizzle of olive oil and salt to taste. Garnish with chopped pecans and pomegranate seeds.

 

Live in our neighborhood? Registered Dietitian Shauna McQueen teaches nutritional wellness classes at Blum Center for Health focusing on creating dietary harmony and bringing nutrition science to life in the kitchen. To learn more about these classes, click here.

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Do You Feel Knotted-Up? Is Muscle Pain Holding You Back?

If you suffer from headaches or chronic pain in your neck, shoulders, muscles, or joints,  then you probably have KNOTS in your muscles that are either the cause of the pain or contributing to it.

Why Do Knots Form? Factors that may increase your risk!

  • Chronic Muscle Overuse (repetitive muscle stress, strain and injury)
  • Poor Posture
  • Lack of Exercise
  • Injury to Vertebral Discs
  • Chronic Medical Conditions
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Stress and Anxiety

Where Do These Knots Come From?  

Chronic stress, strain and injury to the myofascial tissue (the muscle fibers and the fibrous connective tissue – that cover the muscle) can form taut, bulb-like pockets. These appear as contracted myofascial knots, which cause the muscle to shorten and tighten. As a physician, I can often find the areas where there are knots just by pressing on them.  

But…NOT all Knots are the SAME!

What Kind of Knot Do You Have?

  • An acutely inflamed knot feels sore when pressed.  
  • A  chronically inflamed knot will begin to calcify, and is often described as a “rock” or “pebble.”
  • A trigger point knot leads to localized shooting pain when pressed. In other words, a knot in one muscle can create pain in another area. This is an important distinction, as trigger points can result in severe muscle spasm, limit your movement, and decrease strength.

What are the Symptoms?

Trigger point pain is often misleading and misdiagnosed as something more serious.
The trigger point can cause severe unpleasant and even debilitating pain with a referral pain pattern described as a shooting pain, tingling sensation, or numbness to adjacent areas.  The referral pain mimics the symptoms of other common conditions such as a pinched spinal nerve; “sciatica” or peripheral neuropathy (peripheral nerve problem).

Here is a good example.

Acute strain or stress to trigger point(s) of the muscles of the shoulder, neck and face are a well known source of headaches and migraine symptoms. One common trigger point in this area is located at the top of your shoulder, in the trapezius and rhomboid muscles, which can refer pain to the neck and head. Trigger points can also occur in the low back and in extremities.

To complicate matters, the trigger point might develop secondary to an underlying joint, spinal disc or peripheral nerve problem. Even if the primary problem is treated, you may continue to suffer with pain, if the trigger point was not identified as an contributing problem.

This may lead to unintended consequences like prolong pain and chronic use of pain medications, with an increased risk of medication related side effects. The best-case scenario is to determine whether the trigger point is the primary or secondary cause of your pain problem with a trigger point injection.  

If you have struggled with chronic, unexplained aches and pains that seemingly have no cause, read on because there’s good news…

There is something you can do to help relieve your pain.  

Doctors like me who specialize in Pain Management and Physiatry, can “release” these knots by injecting different kinds of fluids into them, and can immediately relieve the pain and muscle tightness created by the trigger point. This simple procedure is called a “trigger point injection”.

What Exactly are Trigger Point Injections?

A trigger point injection is a routine office procedure involving an injection (usually a local anesthetic or normal saline) at the the trigger point (myofascial knot) site. The local anesthetic will numb the area, provided symptomatic pain relief, and decrease the muscle spasm.

As part of our Integrative Medicine approach, we also use Homeopathic injectables like Traumeel and Zeel for additional anti-inflammatory and healing benefits.  

Top 5 Benefits of Trigger Point Injection Therapy

1. Improved Headaches
2. Immediate Pain Relief
3. Improved Range of Motion
4. Improved Flexibility
5. Improved Posture

Are Trigger Point Injections Right for You?

  • If you have pain, reduced range of motion, or any physical issue that’s preventing you from  sleeping at night, exercising, or reaching your optimal performance, a trigger point injection might be for you.
  • It is used to both diagnose and treat the source of the issue.
  • As a diagnostic tool, it helps us know if muscle spasm, muscle cramp or muscle aches are in fact the root of your problem.
  • As a therapeutic tool, trigger point injections provide pain relief, help you move more easily with increased range of motion, and improves your tolerance of physical activity and exercise.

Other Treatment Options

In addition Trigger Point Injections, physical therapy, massage, manipulative therapy (osteopathy and chiropractic), and acupuncture are also good ways to treat trigger points, especially in the early stages of trigger point formation. However, for chronic trigger points, trigger point injection is the most effective treatment.

Advanced Trigger Point Intervention

Depending on the location of the trigger point, the injection can often be done by palpating it directly during a physical exam. At Blum Center, we also perform Musculoskeletal Ultrasound-Guided trigger point injection for hard to treat areas, especially calcified trigger points. Trigger point injections have been shown to provide significant pain relief and improvement of functional mobility.

Live in our neighborhood? Want to know if you are a good candidate for trigger point injections?   Make a Trigger Point Evaluation appointment with me! Call Blum Center for Health at 914-652-7800 to get on my schedule and relieve your pain.

 

Meet Dr. Aligene:  Dr. Kathy Aligene is Double-Board Certified in Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation (Physiatry) and Interventional Anesthesiology Pain Management. She completed her medical residency and ACGME-accredited Fellowship training at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, where she served as Chief Resident. 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.  

She is recognized as a local and national leader in her field, an innovative physician in the field of Integrative Pain and Regenerative Medicine. She recently recognized as New York 2018 and 2019 SuperDoctors.

 

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3 Strategies to Create New Habits That Stick

Do you begin something new — like losing weight, exercising or meditating — maybe even have some success — and then STOP?

Do you catch yourself saying, “I have no willpower”?

Or my personal favorite, “I know what I need to do, but just can’t seem to do it.”?

All of these scenarios are about only ONE thing: Changing the ingrained behaviors that lead you astray.

It’s not about diet, it’s not about exercise, it’s not about meditation.

3 Strategies to Create New Habits That Stick

Forget about goals, and laser focus on Just One Thing. Let’s be honest, who doesn’t have the best intentions (“I’m going to workout 3 times a week.” “I’m going to meditate every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.” “I’m going to eating cleanly all week.”) only to “fail” when life gets busy. And life always gets busy. Focus on one thing that you can do every single day, no matter what. And only one thing. You might want to lose weight, start flossing your teeth, exercise, and meditate. But, choose one thing.

Here’s an example:

I will meditate every day for 1 minute. Yes, 1 minute! The consistency of doing it every day trumps everything else. You’re teaching your brain to expect it and need it. Can you do more? Absolutely. Will you do less? Nope. Do at least one minute every day for a week, and then go up to 3 minutes. You might then go up to 5 minutes. Eventually you will get to the number that works best for you. And, in your back pocket you have your bare minimum: No matter what I will meditate 1 minute a day.

 

Pair Your New Habit With Something You Already Do — How many times have you tried to squeeze in a new habit, only to realize at the end of the day you either forgot or couldn’t make the time. The truth is time is finite and the way we use time is habit! Want to start a meditation practice? Either pair with it something you already do, or do it at the same time every day (and set a reminder). For instance, I meditate every morning with my tea. I sit in the same comfy spot, with a cup of tea, every single morning. Habit.

 

Stop Focusing On Staying On Track and Start Focusing On How Quickly You Can Get Back on Track — Everyone falls off track. Everyone! The absolute key to success long term is learning how to get back on track quickly, leaving behind the feelings of shame and guilt that often snowball when we “stop doing” the habit we are trying to create. One day turns into two, two days turn into three and before you know it a month has gone by.

 

It doesn’t have to be that way! It is 100% possible to meet your goals. You need a plan that works for you. It doesn’t have to work for your sibling, your friend or your co-worker. It has to work for you, and only you.

And I can help.

In our work together, you will create new habits that stick. And, perhaps most importantly:

You will have the exact tools you need to get back on track in record time when an obstacle gets in your way.

Game-changer. No, this is a life-changer!

 

“In working with Melissa I stepped outside my comfort zone and became motivated to move forward and accomplish things that I normally would not have.  I felt empowered, and learned strategies to stick to my diet plan and healthier lifestyle. — Christina, New York

 

Here’s How You Can Work With Me:

Private Coaching — Say good-bye to overwhelm and dread, let go of shame and guilt, and say hello to a new way, molded to fit you and you only. Your tools, your success. Ready to make a change? We meet online or in-person. Start Today
For in-person appointments contact 914-652-7800.  

Finding Your Path: A Women’s Group for Creating Change — Are you in a life transition and ask yourself “what’s next for me?” Are you wondering what the heck happened to your “swagger?” This breakthrough 3-session program is designed for women who want to put the spring back in their step. Ready to walk into a room and feel like you own it? Learn More Here

 

“Melissa is a fun, caring, knowledgeable, and insightful health coach, and I thank her from the bottom of my heart for having this group.  She has helped me to realize what is important to focus on and helped me with strategies to get me where I want to be. She has great insight and a true gift for helping you realize your hopes and dreams.  I appreciate her knowledge and wisdom, and look forward to a continued relationship.” —Annie Acuti

 

Join me and start making lasting change today.

 

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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3 Things Your Doctor Won’t Tell You About Arthritis

The “itis” in “arthritis” means inflammation. Inflammation is the most basic problem in all arthritis, whether it is what we traditionally call “inflammatory arthritis,” like autoimmune rheumatoid arthritis, or the arthritis most associated with wear and tear on joints over time, osteoarthritis.

The traditional medical approach to these two kinds of joint inflammation is to use different medications, depending on the type or arthritis, to block the inflammation process. Although these can be successful in decreasing symptoms and can in some cases prevent further joint destruction, the medications don’t get at the root cause of why you developed the inflammation in the first place.  

Functional medicine takes a deeper look at the causes of inflammation and gives you options for reversing the process where it starts: in the gut, in the mouth, from your food, and from the stress response. Traditionally, doctors almost never evaluate  these areas when addressing joint pain, but fortunately functional medicine has the tools to do just that.

This is exactly why Dr. Blum, our Medical Director of Blum Center for Health, the medical center where I am a Functional Nurse Practitioner, is hosting the Healing Arthritis Challenge, a LIVE online 10-week arthritis gamechanger, designed to give you the exact same arthritis protocol we use with private patients — the exact food plan, our favorite, go-to supplements, the exact gut protocol and the exact lifestyle influencers — that you need to live a vibrant, pain-free life. Take a look, it’s closing soon!  See it Now

What Your Gut and Mouth Have to Do with Arthritis

The mouth and the gut are two of the biggest reservoirs of beneficial bacteria in the body. These bacteria are vital to our health and we can’t live without them. Normally, the bacteria in the gut do many good things for us, like nourishing our gut lining to keep it healthy—but keep in mind that the health of these bacteria depends on things like eating plenty of fiber, avoiding sugar, having very little exposure to antibiotics, and having strong digestive power.

Gut bacteria can become a major source of inflammation, if the bacteria are not in balance, leading over time to a condition called leaky gut, or increased intestinal permeability.  Leaky gut allows the bacteria, food particles and inflammation to seep out of the gut and spread throughout the body, especially to the joints, causing pain and inflammation. Research has borne out this connection: many people with arthritis will experience significant reduction or reversal of their joint pain and inflammation by rebalancing their gut flora with a program of food, antibacterial herbs, probiotics, and glutamine.   

In a similar way, the abundant bacteria in the mouth can create inflammation in the body in people with gingivitis or periodontal disease. The inflamed gums allow the inflammation generated by the bacteria to enter the body and cause system-wide inflammation. One of the most important things you can do to prevent this trigger for joint pain, in addition to eating a diet low in sugar and high in vegetables, is to floss every day and have your teeth cleaned regularly. Studies have shown—and it is our experience at Blum Center—that for a certain percentage of people with inflammatory arthritis, reversing their periodontal disease also reversed or reduced their joint disease.

The Food You Eat & Arthritis

At Blum Center, we have any number of patients with both osteoarthritis and inflammatory arthritis who have done an elimination diet and found out that by eliminating foods such as gluten and dairy, their joint pain got much better.  When they reintroduce these foods, they get a flare of pain. Most of the time, their rheumatologist will tell them that eliminating foods will not help arthritis, but we see the benefits every day and medical research supports the association as well.

And, Yes, Stress is a Major Arthritis Trigger

And then there’s stress!  We so often leave it for last, I think because we find it so challenging to figure out what to do about it. When stress comes into the body, it can make a significant impact on our biochemistry by changing hormone balance, energy production, and digestive power. Many of these biochemical changes lead to some form of inflammation and patients’ experiences as well as our own show us that a flare of symptoms often follows a stressful time. Doing practices like meditation, listening to beautiful music, restorative yoga, a walk in nature can shift this inflammatory biochemistry even when you may not be able to eliminate the life events that are triggering a stress response.  Ten minutes of focused breathing or meditation can make a world of difference as well as a difference in our world!

 

Meet Elizabeth: In her dual role as our Functional Medicine Nurse Practitioner and a teacher in our Mind.Body.Spirit programs at Blum Center for Health, Elizabeth Greig, MSN, FNP, helps treat and heal patients with complex chronic health conditions. Whether she’s treating a medical condition or leading a class in meditation, Elizabeth helps people understand that when it comes to healing, it’s more about nourishing life, than it is about battling illness. Learn more about Elizabeth’s practice.

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Should You Take Probiotics?

Probiotics are living bacteria normally found in the human digestive tract that are usually ingested to improve the quality and quantity of the gut’s beneficial bacteria. One of the goals of taking a probiotic is to shift the population of gut bacteria toward one that is more healing and low inflammatory. But most people don’t know that probiotics do a lot more than just influence the population of the microbes that live in your gut.

Many studies have shown that probiotics can repair a leaky gut, reduce intestinal permeability and help increase the production of butyrate (a short chain fatty acid made by good gut flora that is very good for us).  In their role as influencers on the gut microbiome, probiotics have been found to specifically reduce proinflammatory bacteria such as Escherichia coli, Enterobacter aerogenes, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Streptococcus viridans, Bacteroides fragilis, Bacteroides uniformis, and Clostridium ramosum. When these and other potentially harmful bacteria are present in high amounts, they create a pro-inflammatory, leaky gut causing condition called dysbiosis. (1)  The term dysbiosis was introduced over a century ago by the Nobel Prize laureate Elie Metchnikoff, who used it to describe a disruption of the normal balance of the bacteria in the gut and then proposed using yogurt with active bacterial cultures to improve both the gut and human health.(2)

Probiotics have gotten bad press recently because many people believe that probiotics are like seeds that plant themselves in the gut and that they are supposed to grow there and flourish.  When studies recently showed that probiotics in fact pass through us in about 6 weeks, the buzz was that people shouldn’t bother taking them. This absolutely is not true, because probiotics exert their influence without needing to plant and grow.  They help improve the whole ecosystem of the gut and also have a huge role to play in helping treat inflammation like arthritis, and immune system imbalances like autoimmune disease.

For example, researchers have studied the use of probiotic supplements to treat the dysbiosis of inflammatory arthritis and found that probiotics improve symptoms in arthritis sufferers.  Generally speaking, when it comes to arthritis, probiotics are thought to improve all the functions of your good flora, including helping T regulator immune cells work better and live longer, turning off inflammation and repairing the gut lining and tight junctions.  Because probiotics help treat a leaky gut, and because of the gut-arthritis connection, it follows that they would also treat systemic inflammation and arthritis, and they do!  

The bottom line? The strains researched in arthritis with the most evidence for an anti-inflammatory effect are Lactobacilli:  casei, acidophilus, reuteri, rhamnosus GG and salivarius. There is also good evidence for Bifidobacterium bifidum.  Bifidobacterium infantis, E coli nissle, and Lactobacillus plantarum were found to improve tight junctions and heal leaky gut, even if they weren’t studied for their effects specifically on arthritis. This data tells me that a multi-strain formula that includes as many of these as possible, with a priority given to those that have been studied in arthritis patients, is best when using probiotics to reduce inflammation.

If you have arthritis or any inflammatory condition, taking a probiotic is a great place to start.  But to treat dysbiosis, functional medicine offers a more complete approach that includes an herbal program to clean the “weeds” out of the garden.  The HealMyGut program can be done by itself, or as part of the Arthritis Challenge.  

And finally, I leave you with a brief suggestion for choosing a probiotic.  This can be confusing! I prefer to use a multi strain formula that has as many anti-inflammatory strains as I can find.  I love Klaire Labs, because they have been around as long as I’ve been practicing Functional Medicine (almost 2 decades!) and I know they work since I have been using them all this time.  My favorite product is Therbiotic complete, because it includes all the above strains. That’s why I use this for my private label BCH! PURCHASE HERE

Klaire Labs Therbiotic Complete: 12 strains

  •      Lactobacillus rhamnosus
  •      Bifidobacterium bifidum
  •      Lactobacillus acidophilus
  •      Lactobacillus casei
  •      Lactobacillus plantarum
  •      Lactobacillus salivarius
  •      Bifidobacterium longum
  •      Streptococcus thermophilus
  •      Lactobacillus bulgaricus
  •      Lactobacillus paracasei
  •      Bifidobacterium lactis
  •      Bifidobacterium breve

 

[1]  Parian A, Limketkai B, Shah N, Mullin G. Nutraceutical Supplements for Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Nutrition in Clinical Practice. 2015. Vol 30, Number 4. 551-558.

[2] Zeng MY, Inohara N and Nunez G. Mechanism of inflammation-driven bacterial dysbiosis in the gut.  Mucosal Immunology. Online publication 24 August 2016. doi:10.1038/mi.2016.75

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3 Ways to Stop Arthritis Pain Starting Now

Did you know that arthritis is the #1 disability in the country and more than 50 million people needlessly suffer with it?

And did you know that arthritis is afflicting more and more young people every day?

Let’s buck the myth right now: Arthritis is not a old person’s disease.

In fact, arthritis is an inflammatory disease, and very often the root cause has nothing to do with age!

That’s why Dr. Susan Blum wrote her bestselling book, Healing Arthritis. Since its release last year we have helped thousands of people learn that arthritis is NOT inevitable, and that by following the 3-step Arthritis Protocol, arthritis sufferers will be on the road to living a pain-free life.

We are on a mission to help people all over the world reverse their arthritis! If you suffer from arthritis, we want to help you too. We invite you to join us for the Healing Arthritis Challenge — a 10-week arthritis gamechanger. Dr. Blum with host 5 LIVE calls and I will host 10 Q&A support calls. You will learn exactly what you need to do to reverse your arthritis and we will be with you every step of the way. → Show Me The Challenge!

Here’s a common question we hear from people all over the world, “What can I do to stop my arthritis pain?” While most doctors offer prescription medications that create a whole host of new problems, we offer a 3-pronged approach to begin your journey to living pain-free.

3 Ways to Start Arthritis Pain Starting Now

Make pain-free food choices

In fact, the single most important influence on reducing your pain is the food you eat!

Here’s what you need to do:

Increase the number of healthy foods you are eating.

  • Your grocery list should include antioxidant rich dark leafy greens like spinach, kale, swiss chard; and deep, colorful berries like blackberries and blueberries.
  • Make a habit of eating clean fish once or twice weekly, it’s full of inflammation-lowering omega 3 fatty acids. Buy high-quality, grass-fed, non-GMO animal products and eat them sparingly, perhaps once each week.
  • Eat loads of healthy, high-quality oils and fats like olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds.
  • Fit lots of fiber onto your plate in the form of whole grains, legumes and veggies — to feed the good bacteria of the gut. (Avoid gluten if you know you are sensitive to it, or if you have autoimmune disease).
  • Spice your foods with turmeric, the bright yellow indian spice that’s not only delicious but also combats inflammation.  

Avoid inflammatory foods — this includes highly processed foods made with white flour and white sugar, and practically everything that comes in a box.  Avoid processed flour products like baked goods and cookies, and sweetened dairy products like ice cream. Shop the perimeter of the store – buy real, whole foods in their natural state.

Even better, we highly recommend following Dr. Blum’s Leaky Gut Diet for Arthritis, which eliminates known arthritis triggers for a period of time, and then reintroduces them in a methodical way to create your personal nutrition plan. You can learn more about it in Healing Arthritis, or join us for the Healing Arthritis Challenge.

Utilize anti-arthritis supplements to decrease pain.

There are several supplements that have been scientifically proven to decrease inflammation and pain. These are some of the supplements Dr. Blum outlines in her book, and that we utilize in the Healing Arthritis Challenge with specific, exact dosing:

  • Omega 3 (EPA and DHA) & Omega 6 (GLA) Fatty acids – these powerful anti-inflammatory fats have been found to reduce pain and improve physical function in Rheumatoid Arthritis.
  • Curcumin – this plant-derived antioxidant and natural anti-inflammatory  has been found to reduce pain and stiffness in Osteoarthritis.
  • Vitamin C – the link between oxidative stress and joint damage is clear. Vitamin C (and other antioxidants) have been shown to reduce pain (and oxidative stress) in inflammatory joint disease.
  • Probiotics – when we think about joint health, our attention naturally turns to the gut and the health of the microbiome (the bacteria that live in the digestive tract).  Improving the balance of the terrain in your gut with a good probiotic can help with the arthritic pain and inflammation throughout the body.

Powerfully deal with stress: Less stress = less pain.

When it comes to arthritis, the impact of stress is largely overlooked. However, stress and trauma have serious consequences on your gut, your immune system, and your arthritis pain.  Improving your resilience in the face of stressors will keep your arthritis from flaring.

How to destress:

  • Simplify your schedule. If you are suffering from arthritic pain this is a cry for help from your biological system. Give yourself time and space to renew and rebuild the resilience that you are lacking. Open space in your week to just be.
  • Find time for sleep. Make sure you are getting over 8 hours of sleep a night. Work backwards from your wake-up time and get into bed 1 hour prior to that. Make a routine at bedtime that is relaxing and supportive – take a bath, sip some tea, read a pleasant book. Avoid screens 2 hours prior to bed and help the whole family get on board. Doing things with support makes them much easier!
  • Make room for movement. You don’t need to add a strenuous exercise routine right away unless you find that that helps your pain, but work towards getting there. To start, just make a plan to have a short walk outside, or put down your yoga mat and gently stretch and move your body beyond the confines of the standing and sitting of your normal day. If you’re feeling more ambitious, try a yoga or tai chi class for meditative movement.
  • Book a massage – or other bodywork – for pain relief and stress reduction.  Acupuncture, craniosacral, myofascial release are all good options to check out.
  • Explore mindfulness meditation.  This can be a simple as listening to a guided meditation on an app or with our Blum Center recordings.  It can be more regimented like finding an MBSR or TM class in your area and starting a daily practice. It can also be as simple as breathing in and out throughout your day with intention.
  • Consider therapy.  The stress and trauma from past experience sometimes holds us back from being able to let go of tension in the body.  We know that past traumatic experience leads to worse pain and function in autoimmune disease – and we’ve found that addressing it can lead to improved symptoms.  

The great thing is you don’t have to do this alone!

If you want someone with you every step of the way, if you love the power of community, please consider joining me and Dr. Blum for the Healing Arthritis Challenge. Dr. Blum will teach you LIVE the exact 3-Step Protocol that we use with patients at Blum Center for Health. You will learn the best food plan for arthritis, the precise supplements and dosage we recommend for an arthritis-free life, how to build resiliency so that life’s stressors won’t affect your health, and what your gut has to do with your arthritis symptoms. In essence, Dr. Blum gives you all the tools you need to fix your gut and heal your arthritis. Show Me More

To recap, the 3 actions you can start right now to decrease your arthritis pain is 1) eat an anti-arthritis diet 2) take the appropriate supplements and 3) learn to be resilient to stress. Do these things and you will feel better with less pain and much more energy.

 

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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How Stress Effects Your Heart and What You Can Do About it

For those of you who know me, either personally or professionally, you know that Mind-Body-Spirit self care strategies are at the core of what I practice and preach for preventing and treating chronic disease.  I meditate every morning and spend lots of time in nature. But more than this, I teach others about how stress affects your health and offer tools to do something about it.

For this month, I offer a guest blog on this topic from my friend and colleague, Dr Alon Gitig, a gifted cardiologist who I work with to help my patients get the best care, including prevention and treatment of various conditions.  Mind-Body Medicine for too long has been the step-sister to conventional medicine, but now you can see for yourself that it’s not any more!

Enjoy this perspective from a traditional cardiology practice!

Susan Blum, MD, MPH

 

Guest post by By Alon Gitig, MD, FACC

Health blogs talk a lot about “mindfulness” these days.  Many of us have read claims that controlling our emotions can improve our health, and are left wondering whether there’s evidence to support this.  Research into mind-body techniques is accumulating, as investigators look for ways to lower the risk of chronic diseases above and beyond the proven—yet incomplete–benefits offered by medications.  In the field of cardiology in particular, despite major gains in the past 50 years, there is still an unacceptably high burden of heart disease, even when people are well-treated with evidence-based therapy.  Let’s take a look at the evidence base behind whether stress management might help tackle this problem.

Psychological stress can have profound effects on our bodies.  

Studies suggest that up to 60-80% of all primary care visits are related to manifestations of stress.  A Mayo Clinic analysis identified stress as the most powerful predictor of cardiac events, while other studies indicate that mental stress predicts cardiac death more strongly than cigarette smoking.  Depression roughly doubles the risk of heart attack. Both anxiety and anger have been linked to a 6-fold increased risk of cardiac events, including arrhythmias and sudden death.

Stress activates the sympathetic nervous system, with potential effects on blood pressure and heart rate.  There is also evidence that elevation in cortisol levels, increased platelet clotting, and abnormal reactivity of artery walls might be triggered by psychological distress.  What’s more, the brain may also directly affect the heart via descending nerve pathways.  Amazingly, recent research reveals that subjects who intentionally generate positive emotions, such as gratitude, influence the heart’s beating into a pattern that is associated with healthy cardiovascular function and decreased risk of arrhythmic death.

These observations prompted studies attempting to improve health outcomes via stress-reduction techniques, such as meditation, yoga, and biofeedback.  Results have been mixed, confounded by practical, methodological limitations inherent in conducting such trials. Not surprisingly, all of these modalities have generally led to significant improvements in psychological well-being, both in healthy volunteers and specifically in cardiac patients.

Some studies have demonstrated improved control of cardiac risk factors as well.  Statistically significant reductions in blood pressure or resting heart rate have been achieved in patients with coronary disease, congestive heart failure, and atrial fibrillation.  Interestingly, the magnitude of blood pressure lowering in some studies (i.e. 10 mmHg) mimics that seen in certain trials of hypertension drugs.

The data suggest that clinical symptoms and physical functioning can benefit from relaxation techniques as well.  Patients with established coronary disease randomized to a 24-day intensive stress-management program experienced less angina episodes compared to baseline (versus no change in the control group).  These patients also exercised longer on follow-up treadmill tests, and demonstrated improvements in blinded measurements of cardiac function.

Of note, a strict vegan diet was part of the experimental regimen, hence the impact attributable directly to the relaxation intervention is uncertain.  Several studies of congestive heart failure patients treated with meditation or yoga demonstrated improvements in symptoms of breathlessness and fatigue, along with improved walking distance on standard 6-minute walk tests.  Here too, the magnitude of the increase in distance walked was comparable to benefits seen in trials of drugs for angina and pulmonary hypertension. Three months of yoga therapy in atrial fibrillation patients resulted in less symptoms and fewer detected arrhythmia episodes on wearable heart rhythm monitors.

But do these techniques prevent heart attacks or prolong life?  Believe it or not, there are two studies demonstrating reduced long-term risk of death following 3 months of meditation training.  Since the magnitude of benefit observed was far greater than would be expected from the brief exposure to meditation, these results are intriguing, but far from definitive.

So what’s the bottom line on stress?

First, it’s clear that psychological stress, anxiety, and other adverse emotional states often cause or exacerbate a variety of symptoms, and that relaxation practices can offer symptomatic relief.  Furthermore, evidence supports that emotional-regulation tools are very safe. For these reasons, two separate American Heart Association committees have endorsed their use as “reasonable to consider” in the care of cardiac patients.

For many people, the benefits of improved emotional equilibrium are motivation enough to try out these practices.  If you’re hoping that your yoga class will control your palpitations, improve your exercise tolerance, or cut your risk of heart attack, there’s no guarantee.  But if you are struggling with persistent symptoms despite your doctor treating you with the best available, evidence-based care, then there’s reason to be optimistic that mind-body practice may offer you the extra relief you’re looking for, with little to no downside to giving it a try.

By Alon Gitig, MD, FACC
Mount Sinai Riverside Medical Group
Yonkers, NY

Do you suffer with stress and arthritis? If you are interested in learning how to become resilient to life’s stressors, and what your gut has to do with arthritis symptoms, join Dr. Blum for a FREE Arthritis Masterclass on 1/22.  Save Your Spot

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How to Navigate the Elimination Diet During the Holidays

Tis the season to be jolly! A time to embrace all the fun, laughter, family, friends and warmth around you.

Along with this wonderful socialization comes FOOD! A common question I am asked is, “How can I stay on the elimination diet plan during the holidays?” Let’s navigate this together!

You started an elimination diet to help you understand what food may be contributing to your symptoms. You are into the second week and you are feeling the best you have felt in a long time! You have a holiday party to attend and want to stay as compliant as possible. Otherwise, if you reintroduce foods at the party, how will you know which one of those foods provokes those terrible symptoms again?

When you are not feeling well, an elimination diet plan can be the single most important thing you can do to bring yourself relief from the symptoms you experience. It’s common to hear my clients tell me that they can’t believe the foods they eat daily cause their body so much distress.

At the Blum Center For Health, we guide you through an elimination diet known as the Leaky Gut Diet.  We remove the most common food sensitivities such as gluten, dairy, soy, corn, eggs, shellfish, peanuts, caffeine, and alcohol. These meal plans are further customized to meet individual nutritional needs as needed. These target foods are carefully reintroduced at a later date to test for tolerance. This is a perfect time to adapt to an anti-inflammatory eating plan by removing processed foods and sugars while determining possible food sensitivities that may be causing inflammation in the body. Once you complete the Elimination Diet, you are equipped with your own nutritional plan. Talk about power!

I did my first elimination diet years ago. I chose the month of December! It was the best decision I ever made. I suffered with daily bloating and chronic migraines. I had a great time trying new foods and recipes. While on the elimination diet, I ate without feeling bloated, my energy was optimal, and I was finally free from my headaches! I also lost a few pounds as a bonus! I encourage you to go for it and pick out your favorite holiday outfit!

5 Ways to Navigate the Holidays While on an Elimination Diet

Bring your own dish.

You have a food sensitivity and not sure what will be on the menu… play it safe and bring a dish. This will allow you a greater peace of mind so you can eat and socialize without being sorry about what food sensitivities could be lurking within the food around you. Besides, people will think you were so kind to contribute to the spread!

Don’t go to the event hungry.

Eat your regular meals so you don’t go to the feast ready to indulge.  This will help you prevent eating something you really wanted to avoid because to you were too hungry to resist. Stay hydrated. Sometimes we can mistake hunger for thirst.

Don’t be afraid to say, “No, thank you.”

I come from an Italian background and I know too well how a Grandparent could be offended if you say “no” to a food she is offering. My Grandmother used to say, “I didn’t see you eat this”, and would gracefully put a large portion on my plate. Always be polite and say it looks delicious, but no thank you. Recall how you felt before you started the elimination diet — it’s not worth setting yourself back. Know when you can practice the 90/10 rule with eating. For example, histamine sensitivity is all about threshold. You consume lemon in your seltzer and you’re fine but when coupled with a meal containing fermented vegetables and shellfish…you just ruined your evening!

You are not strange!

This is the generation of special diet modifications … gluten-free, nightshade-free, Paleo, low FODMAPs etc. People are more familiar with food sensitivities. Heck, they probably have tried a gluten-free or dairy-free meal plan themselves. Contact the cook or the person in charge of the menu. Nine times out of ten they have an alternative they can offer you.

Embrace how good you are feeling.

Live in the moment and let go of the stress. Embrace the joy the holidays can bring to you. You will be avoiding alcohol on your elimination diet. No problem, opt for a refreshing seltzer with lime.  Be creative with your food choices and make your own appetizers. Like popcorn, make your own version of a cauliflower popcorn. Use a head of cauliflower, cut into large bite size pieces and toss in avocado oil, sea salt and turmeric. Roast in a 425 degree oven until golden to your liking. Enjoy!

Above all be mindful of the food you are eating being grateful while savoring each bite!

Want to have your Best December Ever? Check out Health Coach Melissa Rapoport’s, terrific post this month about a December mindset vs. a Holiday mindset. Having a plan as you navigate through the holiday months will prove to reduce stress and the risk of unwanted guilt of feeling like your health spiraled out of control. → Show Me

Are you feeling the effects of too much holiday fun? About now many people feel heavy, bloated and blah. It’s the perfect time to do our 10-Day HealMyGut program — reboot and feel better —  it’s exactly what you need to bring your intestinal flora back into balance. Relief is on the way! — Yes, Please!

Keri Lynn MacElhinney, RD, CDN 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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Create your Healthiest December Ever!

Here’s a question: Do You Have a “Holiday Mindset” or “December Mindset?”

Here’s what I mean:

  • Do you put everything “on hold” during the holidays and think, “It’s the holidays. Once January 1st hits I’ll get back on track?” That is a “Holiday Mindset.”
  • Or, do you buckle down, stick to your plans and make stuff happen?” That is a “December Mindset.”

Most people, explains Hal Elrod, author of The Miracle Morning, have a “Holiday Mindset” (which puts life on hold and feels kinda crummy).

What does that mean from a health context?

You eat poorly, stop exercising, get caught up in holiday stress, feel overwhelmed and hit January 1st needing to make resolutions and a reboot.

But you can choose to create “The Best December Ever” by staying aware, committed and consciously understanding that everything you do this month sets us you up for success going into the New Year.

Doesn’t that sound awesome? Who doesn’t want success going into the New Year? Why wait for the ball to drop? Why even wait another day?

5 Steps to Creating Your Best December Ever:

1. Create Your Goal — I recommend creating one goal (okay, for you overachievers, you can have two — just be sure it’s something you can stick with for the month of December, one of the most stressful months of the year). It could have to do with food, exercise, self-care, meditation, family, journaling, how you approach the holidays — anything you want, but it has to be something that serves you and will make you feel awesome!

So what do you want to do? Let’s turn it into a “Smart” Goal. Smart Goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timebound.

I’ll use myself as an example. I want to exercise regularly.

My exercise Smart Goal is: I will workout 3x a week, mostly yoga, on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday, for the entire month of December. It is specific, measurable (3x a week), attainable (it’s not out of reach — saying I want to snow ski 3x a week would be unattainable), realistic (saying 5 times a week would be unrealistic for me) and time bound (the month of December).

Your turn! What do you want to create this month?

2.  Write a “Gold Card’ and post where you will see it — basically, this is a love note to yourself. Mine says, “I honor my body and choose to nourish my body. I give myself permission to say “no” to commitments that do not serve me. I will not allow my family/friends to take me off-track. I choose to care for me. Love. Light. Replenish.” I post mine on the bathroom mirror. Yep, seriously. First thing I see in the morning. Last thing I see before I go to bed. It’s hard work to rewire our brains!

3.  Visualize yourself achieving your goal — Performance athletes use visualization to “see themselves” in action. Basically, you’re rehearsing success in your mind’s eye. This is very powerful stuff? Try it … sit quietly and envision yourself achieving your goal. Feels good, right? Add it to your mediation practice if you have one. Or, when you read your Gold Card, take a moment and use visualization.

4.  Get an Accountability Buddy! — ask someone to join you – check in with them by text every day (or every other day). Hint: sometimes it’s best not to choose someone who you know really well. Why? Because you both are more likely to let one another off the hook!)

I started my Best December Ever on Monday (a bit of a head start) for the month. Feels good already.

Your turn! What’s your goal?

Looking to create your best year ever? Now is the time to get started! What do you want to achieve? Lose weight, stick to a food plan or exercise program, start a meditation practice .. I can help. Set up a free consultation and I will help you create your roadmap to success. Call 914-652-7800 and let’s chat!

 

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.