The Immune System Recovery Plan

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

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Healing Arthritis

Your 3-Step Guide to Conquering Arthritis Naturally

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Mythbusting Common Arthritis Beliefs

Last month I ran a 4-day Arthritis Reset group program. We had a great turnout, and during those four days together several myths revealed themselves through participant questions. Let’s take a look:

Myth #1: Arthritis is an inevitable part of aging.

Myth #2: There is no way to reverse arthritis.

Myth #3: My doctor said I need to stay on medication the rest of my life. 

Myth #4: I’ll never be able to exercise again. 

Myth #5: My doctor said that my arthritis is not connected to food, stress or any other underlying medical condition.

To which we say: False, false, false, false, false!

 

Here are some truths:

Truth #1: Arthritis is the #1 disability in the country and more than 50 million people needlessly suffer with it.

Truth #2: Arthritis is afflicting more and more young people every day.

Truth #3: Arthritis is an inflammatory disease, and very often the root cause has nothing to do with age!

Truth #4: Food, stress, your gut microbiome and underlying medical conditions all influence the expression of arthritis

Truth #5: You can live a vibrant, pain-free life.

In fact, that’s why Dr. Susan Blum wrote her bestselling book, Healing Arthritis. Since its release, 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 2 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:  “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 Stop Arthritis Pain Starting Now

1. 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. Aim for 50-75% of your food you consume each day be produce! 
  • Include healthy fats in every meal, such as extra virgin olive oil, avocado, avocado oil, nuts, seeds and wild caught salmon
  • 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.  

Equally important: 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. Join us for the Healing Arthritis Challenge – I’ll be helping you navigate this healing food plan start to finish. 

2. Give Stress the Boot. 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. 

Here are a few hot tips:

  • 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. 
  • 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. 
  • 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 also be as simple as breathing in and out throughout your day with intention.

3. Heal Your Gut Microbiome.

Your gut microbiome, the 100 trillion or so bacteria that live within you, are key players in the health of your immune system and a healthy gut is mandatory for preventing and treating any inflammatory disease. It’s clear that healing the gut to heal the joints is a valid, scientifically supported approach to treating arthritis. In fact, hundreds of research studies and articles have been published in the past decade proving the gut-arthritis connection, and showing us how system-wide inflammation begins deep inside your digestive system. 

How do you heal your gut? Through using food as medicine, mitigating your stress response and using supplements to support your gut microbiome. Powerfully deal with stress: Less stress = less pain.

To Recap Dr. Blum’s Steps to Heal Arthritis:

Step 1: Use Food as Medicine

Step 2: Heal Your Gut Microbiome

Step 3: Build Resiliency to Stress

 

Sounds simple, right?

Here’s one last TRUTH: Most people succeed when they have someone with them every step of the way!

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

If that’s you – you want someone to walk you through each step and you love the power of community, please consider joining me and Dr. Blum for the Healing Arthritis Challenge. We 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. 

Ready to live a pain-free life? Join us

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Is CoQ10 the Secret to a Healthy Heart?

CoQ10 Heart Health

When Heart health is talked about in a conventional setting, lowering cholesterol, quitting smoking, increasing exercise and reducing red meat intake is often recommended.  While we agree with those important steps for prevention or treatment of heart disease, the buck doesn’t stop there.  There’s many more building blocks that contribute to a healthy heart that we talk about from a Functional Medicine perspective.  

Mitochondrial health, your gut microbiome and hormone health can impact cardiovascular disease, too.  Inflammation will increase your risk of making plaque in all your arteries.  At Blum Center for Health, we treat the whole person and work with our patients to design a program to correct these underlying issues quickly and effectively. 

One treatment we often recommend is CoQ10 shots in our Infusion Center.  Because it is fat soluble and how well you absorb it is affected by the quality of your digestion, an injection is a great way to make sure you are getting what you need. 

CoQ10 is short for Coenzyme Q10, and is found in the highest concentrations in your heart and brain.  It powers up your mitochondria, which are the critical energy producing organs inside every cell of your body.  CoQ10 is also a potent antioxidant with many health benefits–heart health and beyond!

The whole approach to heart health and CoQ10

The prime candidate for CoQ10 injections are those who are taking a statin or red yeast rice for lowering their cholesterol, because both of these block CoQ10 production as a side effect of blocking cholesterol. Low CoQ10 levels are likely one factor responsible for the muscle aches and brain fog that are commonly reported in people taking statins especially.

If you have fatigue, taking a CoQ10 should be part of your program because it boosts mitochondrial production of energy. 

This is also why it’s so critical to take if you’ve had a heart attack or any damage to your heart or want to prevent damage to your heart, because it keeps those heart cells going strong.  

The same is true for your brain.  If you’ve had a stroke or any damage to your brain or want to prevent damage to your brain, CoQ10 will support optimal functioning of all your brain cells.   

Because we know the virus that causes COVID infects the heart and brain, it is especially important for those of you recovering from this virus, and probably all viruses too.

What to expect when receiving a CoQ10 shot

The best way to receive CoQ10 is through our infusion center as an injection so you can absorb the entire dose. When given as an injection, it makes the CoQ10 100% bioavailable because it bypasses the GI tract and goes straight to the cell. 

The injection takes only a few seconds and is usually given in either the deltoid or gluteal muscle. There may be some pain when the injection is given and zero to mild soreness for a day in the muscle that the injection is given. 

We recommend that you get an injection once a week for four weeks and then to continue with maintenance injections every two to four weeks thereafter. 

CoQ10 is a very well tolerated injection with a good safety profile. Majority of people do not experience side effects but nausea, diarrhea, or heartburn have been reported.

It is important to note that CoQ10 should not replace any current medication regimen you are on, and can be helpful in addition to current medications or treatments. Do not stop any of your medications without discussing with your healthcare provider first. Management of almost all diseases at Blum Center remains interdisciplinary with functional aspects such as diet, exercise, supplementation and mindfulness in addition to conventional modalities. Our Functional Medicine doctors can do a work up to see on any existing conditions or can help with prevention of heart conditions. And our Functional Nutritionist and Health Coach are here to work with you on lifestyle and diet changes.

Call or text 914.652.7800 to book your CoQ10 shot in our infusion center.  



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The Power of Visceral Manipulation: Improving Digestive Function

Guest post by Dr. Miho Urisaka, PT, DPT, OCS

Many patients who come to see me for low back pain often have underlying chronic digestive issues that contribute to their musculoskeletal pain. I often use visceral manipulation to the mesentery as a technique that can help reduce their low back pain as well as alleviate symptoms of digestive dysfunction. 

The mesentery is a sheet of tissue that attaches the stomach and intestines to the abdominal wall. It is also responsible for providing blood supply and nerve innervation to these organs. When the mesentery becomes restricted, it can cause tension in the organs it attaches to, leading to symptoms such as bloating, constipation, and abdominal pain.

Visceral manipulation is a gentle manual therapy technique that aims to release these restrictions and improve the mobility of the organs. The technique involves the therapist using their hands to gently move and manipulate the organs and surrounding tissue. This can help to break up adhesions and scar tissue, which can cause the organs to become stuck in one position. By improving the mobility of the organs, blood flow and nerve function can be restored, leading to a reduction in symptoms.

Visceral manipulation can also be used to help improve the function of the gut by encouraging the movement of food through the intestines. This is known as peristalsis, and it is important for maintaining regular bowel movements.

Lifestyle changes such as regular exercise, stress management and a healthy diet can also be beneficial for improving digestive function. Nutritional therapy can help to address underlying causes of digestive dysfunction, such as nutrient deficiencies or food sensitivities. Visceral manipulation can help to support these changes by improving the function of the gut and allowing for better absorption of nutrients.

A comprehensive approach that includes both nutritional therapy and visceral manipulation can provide the best results for digestive issues. It can help to reduce symptoms, improve the function of the gut and support the body’s ability to absorb nutrients, and overall, improve the results of nutritional therapy. If you are experiencing symptoms of digestive dysfunction, it may be worth incorporating visceral manipulation as part of your treatment plan.

 

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Book an appointment with Miho who sees patients on select days at Blum Center for Health.

Contact info:

Orthopedic Movement Physical Therapy

info@omptny.com

212-695-2769

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Constipation Issues? Here are 4 Tips to Get You Going

Do you struggle with constipation? You’re not alone. Constipation is the most common gastrointestinal complaint, resulting in 2.5 million doctor visits annually.

Constipation is frustrating, painful and can be connected to other health issues either as a cause or as a symptom. It can create bloating, irritability, lack of appetite, incontinence and even vomiting.

People often ask, “How often should I poop a week?” Well, that’s a great question! 

You should be pooping every day – ideally, twice a day. Yes, seriously. I know, I know, it’s not what your internist said. But, here’s the thing: Going to the bathroom daily is a sign of a healthy digestive tract and critical to your overall health. 

Think about it this way: When you poop, your body is eliminating waste. Waste! Do you really want waste sitting in your large intestines for days on end? Absolutely not. 

Plus, it’s important to recognize that your ever-important liver flushes out toxins housed in your body, and disposes of them into your intestines. If you’re not pooping daily, then all those toxins get reabsorbed into your body. Not good. 

You are considered constipated if you experience: 

  • Straining during a bowel movement
  • Hard, dry stools or stools like pellets or balls
  • Incomplete evacuation, meaning you don’t feel like you’ve passed the entire stool
  • Less than one normal formed, soft stool daily

There are many factors that contribute to constipation. Some are lifestyle, some are medical. Let’s take a look …

Lifestyle causes of constipation and what you can do about it: 

Diet! We always start with diet: Eat more fiber. The average person eats less than 15 grams a fiber a day, yet your body requires optimally in the range of 30-40 grams a day, depending on your size. Vegetables, legumes, fruits and whole grains like oats, brown rice and quinoa will help add “bulk” to your stools (with the added benefit of feeding your gut microbiome.) Here’s an easy way to add 5 grams of fiber a day to your diet: Fiber Blend

Drink more fluid – you need fluid to help pass a bowel movement. Aim to drink half your body weight in ounces. If you weigh 150 pounds, for example, you’ll want to drink about 75 ounces of liquid – water, herbal teas, mineral water. Coffee and other caffeinated drinks don’t count. They are dehydrating and may be contributing to your constipation. And remember, as you add more fiber, you must add more liquid!

Move moreExercise helps constipation by lowering the time it takes food to move through the large intestine. By moving through quickly, water doesn’t get reabsorbed from the stool, thus helping keep it soft and moving easily. 

Reduce stress – Stress hormones affect your gut which can lead to constipation. There are lots of ways to reduce stress, such as yoga, meditation, gentle exercise, journaling, Qi Gong and Tai Chi. Try them all and find the best fit for you. 

Go to the bathroom when you need to go to the bathroom – chronically suppressing the urge to poop can lead to constipation. 

Stop using laxatives – laxatives decrease your colon’s ability to contract and they can actually worsen constipation.

But, sometimes we all need a little help.

Here are 4 simple ways to “get you going”:

Try our constipation recipe – Mix together 1 cup pure applesauce, 1 cup prune juice and 1 cup cooked oat bran – start with 2 tablespoons and add an additional tablespoon until you reach the point of regularity.

Take a probiotic According to research, probiotics have been shown to  increase “gut transit time” by 12.4 hours, increase the number of weekly bowel movements by 1.3, and help soften stools, making them easier to pass. Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus positively affect constipation. Our Probiotics is a blend of 7 strains of Lactobacillus and 4 strains of Bifidobacterium. Score!

Magnesium – One of the first lines of defense I typically recommend is adding magnesium citrate at bedtime. Magnesium citrate not only pulls fluid into the colon making easier to poop, but magnesium helps many sleep better and have less muscle pain.  Start with 200mg and titrate up to 500mg nightly. Here’s my Magnesium Go-To

Vitamin C – High dose Vitamin C (4-6 grams/day) can cause diarrhea, therefore, taking Vitamin C in amounts just below bowel tolerance (gas, bloating or diarrhea) can definitely improve bowel movements and regularity. Start slow with 3000 mg spread throughout the day. Then, every 2-3 days add another 1,000 mg. Once stools loosen up, maintain the dose that works for you. Plus, it’s an important antioxidant! Our Vitamin C fits the bill. 

While lifestyle goes a long way in alleviating constipation, the root cause of constipation may be medical. It’s important to address the root cause of constipation. If you make the lifestyle changes but continue to need daily supplement support to poop, it’s time to take a deeper look under the hood. 

Medical causes of constipation and what to do about it …

  • Dybiosis and Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth – an imbalance in the gut microbiome or an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine are often implicated in chronic constipation. Besides constipation you might be experiencing gas, bloating, burping and/or reflux. 
  • Food sensitivities – certain foods are known to cause constipation, such as gluten, diary, corn, soy and eggs. 
  • Autoimmune disorders, such as Hashimoto’s and Celiac Disease.
  • Nutrient deficiencies – often associated with the first three medical causes of constipation listed here, nutrient deficiencies, such as Vitamin C, Magnesium and Fiber can contribute to difficult stooling. 
  • Too many antacids, and too much calcium and iron in supplements – are well-known instigators of constipation.
  • Toxins, such as lead and mercury, are an oft-overlooked source of constipation. 
  • Neurological conditions, like Parkinson’s Disease or Multiple Sclerosis.
  • Prescription medications, such as antidepressants or painkillers.

 

The best thing you can do for yourself is work with a functional medicine practitioner. We take a Whole Body approach, working with you to understand how all your symptoms are connected. We use “food as medicine,” assess your gut microbiome and your detox pathways. We can run the appropriate functional medicine tests based on your symptoms, if warranted. As a certified Functional Medicine Coach I can help lead the way. Click here set up an appointment, or learn more.

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. To learn more about Melissa’s coaching practice at Blum Center for Health, click here.

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How Viruses and Infections Trigger Autoimmune Diseases 

It’s been my mission to teach people how to balance and strengthen their immune systems since the release of my first book The Immune System Recovery Plan. With the emergence of Long Covid and prevalence of other viruses such as the flu and RSV, it’s more important than ever to keep your immune system in tip top shape to prevent autoimmune diseases. 

It’s also essential to have an understanding of the nature of viruses and how they can impact the health of your immune system in the long run. It’s so important that I recently added an entire new chapter to The Immune System Recovery Plan that has just been re-released this month!

Viruses. Sometimes you get sick from them and sometimes you don’t. 

Have you ever wondered why?  

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

This issue is important whether or not you have an autoimmune condition because persisting, active viruses can cause ongoing symptoms like fatigue, too.  And this is something we are clearly seeing after infection with SARS-Cov2, aka “Long Covid”. 

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

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

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

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

3 Viral Triggers for Autoimmune Diseases 

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

 

  1. Molecular Mimicry:  As the virus continues to spread its “proteins” around your body, there is mistaken identity as these proteins can look like your own tissue. We call this molecular mimicry.  This can be because the immune response becomes less specific and it spreads to other tissues. The tissue being attacked determines which autoimmune disease you have. For example, if this happens to the myelin in your brain, then you get MS; if it’s your thyroid, then you get Hashimoto’s thyroiditis or Graves’ disease.
  2. Bystander Effect: Autoimmunity can also happen when the virus infects the cells directly, living inside them and causing direct cell and tissue damage. There are two things that can happen as a result, both of them bad.

    The first is that your immune system reacts to the virus living inside the tissue and your body gets damaged in the crossfire. This is called a bystander effect.

    The second is that the infection inside your cell causes the cell to develop a different “name tag” on the outside of its cell surface. As a result, the immune system begins to see your own tissue as foreign. If the infection becomes a chronic situation, the immune system will continue attacking your cells because the infection is still inside. An infection can persist anywhere, including but not limited to your joints, brain, and thyroid. It is even possible for an infection to live inside your immune cells themselves, which can cause your immune cells to lose their tolerance for your own tissue. Epstein Barr Virus is a good example of a virus that wreaks havoc via its bystander effect, and by persisting inside your immune cells.
  3. Cell Damage: The final way that infections can exacerbate autoimmune conditions is when your tissues are already damaged from an autoimmune disease and then a virus is drawn to the inflammation and takes up residence in this tissue as a secondary problem. In studies that find viruses at the site of autoimmune damage, it is unclear whether the damage came first or if it was caused by the virus. Why do some people recover from an infection, whereas other peo-ple don’t? There is some evidence that in certain people bad genetics or damage from an environmental toxin or exposure has made their immune systems unable to get rid of a chronic infection. As a result, the infection triggers autoimmunity either right when the person first gets sick or because the infection persists. 

 

I go into more detail on viruses and autoimmunity, including information about the role of specific viruses in specific autoimmune conditions in the re-release of my best-selling book, The Immune System Recovery Plan.  I’ve added a whole chapter dedicated to this very topic. 

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

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

Nutrition:  

Eat an Anti-inflammatory Diet: whole foods rich in antioxidants and fiber, low in sugar, animal and processed fats;  elimination of foods that trigger inflammation including gluten and genetically-modified foods.  Overall, eat less food from animals and more from plants.  Remember to focus on eating more of the GOOD foods, not just on eliminating the bad.  

Supplements: 

I’ve put together my favorite supplements that include vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that your immune system needs for optimal well being.

Balanced Hormones:  

    1. Make sure your stress system and adrenals are balanced and resilient.  To do this, you must focus on your lifestyle, which includes sleep, exercise, daily relaxation, reducing toxins in your food and environment, and eating nourishing food. The good news? These are things all of which you have control over!
    2. Sex hormones:  No matter where you are in your life, we all have hormones that we need to help our bones, muscles, life force and immune system.  As we age, sex hormone levels are tied into stress.  

Join our meditation classes and learn how to destress, relax and as a result improve the functioning of your immune system and hormones.

Healthy Gut:  

    1. Daily goal should be to support your Intestinal ecosystem.  A “good gut” means that you have adequate beneficial bacteria, good barrier function (no leaky gut), and no “weeds” in the inner garden.
    2. Digestion:  a healthy gut also has good stomach acid, bile acids, and pancreatic enzymes so that you are digesting and absorbing all the nutrients from the food you eat.  

Sometimes, the gut microbiome just needs a good “reboot” to clean out the bad bacteria and yeast that can grow as a result of stress, illness, antibiotics or other medication, poor food choices, to name a few.  Our Gut Cleanse Box was designed to help you easily treat your microbiome which can improve digestive symptoms, reduce inflammation, reduce food sensitivities, improve memory and mood, and even help you reach your ideal weight. The packets are filled with herbal antibiotics (pills) that clean out the bad bacteria and yeast.  If you would like to be guided by a wellness coach while you do your gut cleanse, check out our HealMyGut Programs.  

Well Functioning Liver:

    1. Daily goal should be to reduce your toxin exposure and eat foods that support your liver’s detox system so that you can maintain a low toxin load in your body.  Toxins damage the immune system.  It’s often the total amount of all toxins that make you sick, not just one in particular.  
    2. Clean up your environment and make sure your “biotransformation pathways” through your liver are working well
    3. This will also support your Estrogen detox pathways, something that everyone needs to pay attention to, because toxic estrogens can cause damage in the body.

It’s important to detox your liver safely and effectively. I’ve put together a Detox Repair Kit that will renew your body and reset your system by eliminating your toxic load.

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

 

References:  

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

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

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

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Is Mold Making You Sick?

Are you struggling with non-specific vague symptoms that do not fit a known pattern for diagnosis? Have you been to a slew of specialist physicians and are still left without answers? Have you ever lived or worked in a place with water damage? Have you noticed your symptoms change or improve if you’re away from your primary home for an extended period of time?

If this resonates with you it’s time to consider mold as the root cause of your illness. 

Here’s why: Mold is dangerous to your health. Hard stop. 

Add to that, it is often overlooked as a source of illness since most conventional doctors are not trained in identifying it. 

But, don’t worry! It has become my mission to uncover and treat mold illnesses. My private practice is filled with people suffering from mold exposure, many of which were misdiagnosed or told there was nothing wrong and had they considered a psychiatrist.

Here are some of the most frequent questions I hear:

What is Mold, Mold Allergies, and Mycotoxins?

Mold is a type of fungus that loves to grow in moist, damp, and dark environments.

We are constantly exposed to mold in our outdoor and even indoor environments. Some people are more sensitive to such mold spores and develop mold allergies. You may recognize these symptoms to be watery/itchy eyes, sneezing, and or runny nose. Doctors can diagnose mold allergies through blood testing and such allergies are treated with antihistamine medications. Finally, some molds produce mycotoxins, compounds that are invisible and can be inhaled or absorbed through your skin. These are the toxins that may cause mold illness if you are susceptible.

How do you know if you have been exposed to or are currently exposed to mold?

Part of my approach is taking a thorough environmental history during our first visit together. I delve into the history of water damage, musty smells, visible mold in your current and past homes. In general, most people find themselves with mold in their homes if the initial water damage is not remediated properly, if there’s a hidden leak behind a wall, or if there is moisture intrusion in the house that’s not obvious, just to name a few scenarios. 

Why are mold toxins difficult for the body to process?

Your liver helps process mycotoxins through bile and ultimately they are removed in the stool. In some, this process is not successful and leads to recirculation of the mycotoxin. So your immune system may have successfully killed the actual mold; however, the mycotoxins that the mold secreted can persist in your body. 

Many people are exposed to toxic mold; however, not all become sick. Why? About 25% of people are genetically handicapped to deal with these toxins. Even if you’re not one of the 25%, anyone’s detox system can become overwhelmed if exposed to high quantities of toxins over a long time. This helps explain why some members of your household can become severely ill and others are fine while being exposed to the same mold environment. The molds that produce the most dangerous mycotoxins include Stachybotrys, Aspergillus, Penicillium, Fusarium, Alternaria, and Walemia. 

Are you suffering from mold toxicity?

Mold is always a part of my differential diagnosis in anyone who presents with a myriad of symptoms in multiple organ systems. At the Blum Center, our patients complete a Medical Symptom Questionnaire and when their score is more than 80, I often suspect mold. 

Some of the more specific symptoms include electrical sensations in the body, areas of numbness/tingling that leave neurologists perplexed, unusual tics/muscle spasms, seizure-like events, and dizziness. These symptoms are often paired with fatigue, brain fog, intense anxiety/depression, chronic sinus congestion/recurrent infections, and shortness of breath.

How do mold mycotoxins cause such chronic complex presentations?

The following explanation is based on the ground breathing work of Dr. Shoemaker who synthesized how mold toxins impair your body’s biochemistry and thus came up with The Biotoxin Pathway. 

Mold toxins can easily dissolve in water and fat allowing them to penetrate various tissues. 

  1. Mycotoxin enters your body through inhalation or food (this is less common cause of systemic illness), or are made in your body (i.e. think the sinuses or your gut that has been colonized with mold).
  2. Toxin enters your fat cell and triggers a cascade of events inside the cell leading to cytokine production. Cytokines send signals to activate the immune system causing inflammation. If you are one of the genetically fortunate, the immune system binds the toxins and prevents this cascade of events; however, in 25% of the population there is no process to turn off this activation so the inflammation persists. 
  3. Cytokines affect your brain chemistry, endocrine/immune systems, thus explaining why patients present with such a variety of symptoms that transverse multiple organ systems. This can lead to inadequate production of adrenal, sex, and thyroid hormones. Overall this will also affect your pain pathways (think decrease in endorphins), sleep (think less melatonin), and also cause increased intestinal permeability (think leaky gut). 

If mold is suspected, how do we evaluate it?

Although there are some serum blood markers that give us an idea if you are suffering from mold illness, they are non diagnostic. The best test we have at this time is to assess urine mycotoxins. There are several functional medicine labs on the market offering such testing including RealTime Labs and Great Plains Laboratory. 

As part of the evaluation, It is also important to determine where the mold exposure is coming from (i.e. home, work, or your car), particularly if it’s ongoing. To do this, we recommend you partner with an environmental indoor expert who is trained in how to properly assess the home’s health and perform accurate mold testing and then guide you in remediation (if necessary).

You may prefer to try your own home assessment. You can order testing through Mycometrics the ERMI test (Environmental Relative Moldiness index). You collect dust from your home which is tested for mold.

How is mold toxicity treated?

The journey is often complex with many detours. Two people exposed to the same mycotoxin may present with completely different symptomatology. Treatment progress/resolution often depends on your terrain (what else are you battling with, i.e. your gut health, tick borne infections, viruses, other toxins-i.e. heavy metals) and how sensitive you may be to treatment. 

My approach is influenced by Dr. Neil Nathan’s work, an expert in mold treatment. What does that mean? We assess your gut microbiome, look for exposure in your home (and bring in a home expert if needed), support your detox pathways (after all, we have to get the mycotoxins out of your body), use appropriate botanicals and/or pharmaceuticals for treatment and mold decolonization. 

In the meantime, what can you do to help your body with mycotoxins starting today?

  1. Increase foods that support your liver’s detox pathways such as cruciferous vegetables (think broccoli/kale).
  2. Increase antioxidants, think eating colorful fruits and vegetables that are rich in quercetin/polyphenols (i.e. pomegranates, berries, yellow peppers, green tea).
  3. Spice up your food with turmeric and curry powder.
  4. Move more! Sweating is one of your body’s key daily detox methods. Just remember to shower after exercising so the toxins do not get reabsorbed through your skin.

 

If you’re interested in learning more about mold illness, testing, and treatment please come see me at Blum Center! For more information visit www.blumcenterforhealth.com or call 914.652.7800. 

 

 

References:

Biotoxin Pathway:

https://www.survivingmold.com/resources-for-patients/diagnosis/the-biotoxin-pathway

 

“Toxic” by Neil Nathan, MD; published 2018

 

Resources:

https://iseai.org/about/

 

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The 5 Steps to Ensure Your Immune System is Ready to Protect You

Here’s an important question: Is your immune system ready for the next hit?

This question has been at the top of my mind for months. Having struggled with chronic tick-borne diseases, I’m concerned about my immune system mounting a response against other pathogens, such as COVID, influenza and even the common cold. 

Perhaps you relate? The pandemic has been a reality check … we are not as big and strong as we’d like to think we are. One little virus brought our world to its knees. 

There’s good reason to be concerned. Infectious diseases are on the rise globally. From medical journals to the news, it seems something new is constantly popping up. Today we’re talking about Monkey Pox and Tomato Flu. What will be next?

The statistics are sobering: 

 

  • The World Health Organization reports infectious diseases kill more than 17 million people a year. In fact, 30 new diseases have emerged in the last 20 years.

  • A report from the CDC shows a three-fold increase in the number of diseases from mosquitoes, ticks and fleas like West Nile, Zika, Malaria and Lyme disease from 2004 to 2016. Climate change will only make this worse.

  • Viral infections, bacterial and spirochete infections, such as tick-borne diseases, are implicated in the root cause of autoimmune disease. Infections such as Epstein-Barr Virus and Lyme Disease have been well studied as triggers of autoimmunity. And, you guessed it, autoimmune diseases are increasing year over year – over a 50% increase in the last 25 years.

You read correctly: Pathogens are potential triggers of autoimmune disease and their flares. 

Autoimmune diseases are a family of more than 80 chronic, often debilitating and, in some cases, life-threatening illnesses. According to the National Institutes of Health, up to 23.5 million Americans (more than 7% percent of the population) suffer from an autoimmune disease.

This begs the question (stick with me, there is good news): If infectious diseases and autoimmune diseases and flares are on the rise, what are we to do?

Here’s the quick answer: Ensure that your immune system is working optimally. Period. End of story. 

And the good news is: You can do this!

The 5 Steps to Ensure Your Immune System is Ready to Protect You:

Give your undivided attention to your gut microbiome – Nearly 80% of your immune system lives in your digestive tract. Yep, 80%! Your gut plays a key role in your body’s ability to defend itself against infection. It is imperative that your gut is in top working order. Signs your gut needs attention: gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, heartburn, food intolerances, undigested food in your stool, feeling tired or lethargic. If you struggling with Long Covid or get sick a lot, this is an absolute must-do. 

Eat foods that support your immune system – Food is medicine, or food can be poison. –Minimize immune-suppressing foods, such as sugar, processed foods, refined carbs, fried foods, vegetable oils, artificial anything and alcohol. 

–Maximize vegetables, fruit, olive oil, whole grains, nuts, seeds, fermented foods and healthy fats, like avocado and wild caught salmon.

Reduce your toxin load and remove toxins from your home We live in a world filled with toxins that can harm the immune system (and even trigger autoimmune disease). These include pesticides/herbicides, hormones and plastics in food and water, solvents and mold in our homes and heavy metals in the fish we eat and water we drink. Others can come from cosmetics and products we use at home. 

Become stress resilient – Bottom line: Stress damages the immune system. Even low grade stress (you know, they kind we wave away, like having to deal with a daily commute) depletes your immune system, opening you up to pathogenic infection, and fueling the fire of autoimmunity. Even good stress, like getting ready to go on vacation, can be problematic

Consider supplementation – There are targeted supplements that will support your immune system and make your body less hospitable to viruses. These include Vitamins A, C, and D3, Zinc, N-Acetylcysteine, mushroom extracts, and herbs, such as elderberry, astragalus, and echinacea. Not all of these are appropriate for everyone. If you have an autoimmune disease, the mushrooms and herbs may not be right for you. 

Bringing this full circle … if you are like me … if you are concerned that your immune system is up to the task of protecting you from infectious disease and the havoc it creates in the body, consider joining Dr. Blum and me for our newly-updated course — Immune System Strong. Two LIVE classes and four video classes with Dr. Blum, and 9 LIVE coaching calls with me, you’ll learn exactly what you need to do to fortify your immune system.

We begin soon! I’ll be with you every step of the way. Learn More

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How You Can Benefit from Glutathione — the Ultimate Antioxidant

The benefits of antioxidants are undisputed – they slow the aging process and help prevent vision loss, cancer, heart disease, strokes, and other chronic diseases.  Most importantly, they help you feel vibrant and healthy!  Glutathione is known as the “master antioxidant” and is an extremely important molecule found in every human cell. It is considered the main protector against oxidative stress in the body. 

What is Oxidative Stress? 

Oxidative stress occurs when the ratio between antioxidants and free radicals are out of balance. Free radicals are molecules that are produced naturally in the body,  as a byproduct of normal metabolism or by exposure to environmental pollutants and stressors. Free radicals are molecules that are missing an electron, so they become activated and try to “borrow” electrons from other molecules in healthy cells.  This borrowing action damages the cells themselves and is often the earliest trigger that starts inflammation. 

Think of oxidative stress as a situation when your antioxidants aren’t keeping up, and then these free radicals can create little sparks or embers of inflammation throughout the body. When you are sick, stressed or come in contact with pollutants, your body produces even more free radicals – and in turn more oxidative stress – that can damage your DNA, cause inflammation, contribute to disease and accelerate aging.

How Glutathione Combats Oxidative Stress

Your body comes equipped with antioxidants, especially glutathione, to neutralize these free radicals. Antioxidants work to balance the load of free radicals and create a harmonious, healthy environment for you to thrive. The two ways nature gave us to prevent oxidative stress is through food and our natural antioxidant systems in the body of which glutathione is the champion. That’s why eating a diet with a variety of colorful  fruits and vegetables is so important! 

Additionally, the body naturally creates glutathione to balance and repair damaged cells. Glutathione is critical for the function of the liver to detoxify and works to put out the “fires” that free radicals have sparked. Glutathione is a tripeptide of three amino acids (glycine, cysteine, and glutamic acid). This antioxidant helps your body fight disease and injury by binding to free radicals and facilitating their removal from your body.

Under certain conditions you may have a higher demand for antioxidants. There are several factors that can significantly use up and decrease your antioxidant levels, thus increasing your need, including: 

  • high toxic burden 
  • poor diet
  • Stress
  • Infections, including gut dysbiosis 
  • chronic illness
  • Pollution
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol
  • certain medications
  • excess body fat
  • age 

The use of Functional Medicine testing can measure the amount of oxidative stress you may be carrying. A session with our Health Coach or one of our Functional Medicine Physicians can help determine your best course of action.  To replenish glutathione, we typically recommend intravenous therapy as it completely bypasses the digestive system and delivers the antioxidant directly to your cells.  When taken as an oral supplement, glutathione is not typically absorbed well as it is destroyed by digestion in the stomach. 

A glutathione infusion has many incredible benefits:

  1. Detoxifies the liver 
  2. Combats oxidative stress
  3. Prevents chronic illness
  4. Decreases inflammation
  5. Increases energy
  6. Slows aging 

Glutathione is an extremely well tolerated infusion. Depending on the dose, it can either be given as a slow IV push over 5 minutes or a quick 10 minute infusion with very few side effects. Many people add on glutathione to a longer infusion, such as a Myer’s Cocktail, Detoxify, or Immunity infusions. 

Text or call 914-652-7800 to schedule an appointment! Schedule a FREE consultation with our Infusion Director, Michelle Levins, NP, to get your questions answered.

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5 Ways to Protect Your Gut in the Summer

Warmth, water, mountains, family, friends … summer means fun in the sun. But, what could be more annoying than an uptick in gut symptoms – particularly gas and bloating? No one likes to feel uncomfortable in their summer clothes.

Perhaps you can relate to this: I recently went on vacation. By the end of my time away I felt pretty good in the morning, but by dinnertime bloating was making me feel (and look) like I was pregnant.

What gives? Well, a bit of alcohol and eating more of the foods I generally avoid, added up in a negative way. And even though it wasn’t excessive, it impacted my gut in a relatively short amount of time.

If this resonates with you, don’t despair. In 10 quick days, you can reverse course. More about that in a moment. Can’t wait? Join Me

In the meantime, here’s what you can do to support your gut for the rest of the summer…

5 WAYS TO PROTECT YOUR GUT IN THE SUMMER: 

→ RETHINK ALCOHOL – Summer typically equals an increase in cocktails. Get clear: How many drinks are you consuming daily. If you’re in good health, and at low risk for cancer, then alcohol in moderation is likely okay. What is moderation? A few social drinks a week. There’s no need to drink every day, afterall. Plan for them — wait for the rooftop get-together or the weekend summertime bash. And If you’re a beer drinker, switch! Beer contains gluten and can be bloating if you’re sensitive to it. Have you considered a mocktail? Take a look at my Blueberry Lime “Margarita” recipe. 

→ GET YOUR SLEEP – Long, summer days with evenings out often lead to burning the candle at both ends. When your sleep suffers, so does your gut. And don’t forget, many of your summer activities affect the quality of your sleep: drinking alcohol, consuming sugar, eating foods that don’t serve you, and even travel and activity stress can all cause sleep disturbances. And, sleep disturbances and stressors suppress your immune system, making you vulnerable to infections. Get your zzzzz’s!

→ SUPPORT YOUR GUT WITH APPROPRIATE SUPPLEMENTS – Now is not the time to leave your gut-loving supplements behind. In fact, now is the time to be vigilant. If you’re indulging in alcohol, eating foods that you generally avoid, you’ll want to make sure you’re protecting your gut microbiome and gut lining as best you can. My summer go-to’s are:

Probiotics – support and influence the bacteria that live in your digestive tract. Use a well-rounded, multi-strain product, and since it’s summer, opt for a shelf-stable, heat-resistant probiotic like this one: my favorite summer probiotic

L-Glutamine – this important amino acid will help support the integrity your digestive tract lining by shoring tight junctions and helping to prevent a leaky gut. You want this why? Because about 80% of your immune system lives in your digestive tract and your gut lining is imperative to keeping out invaders, such as viruses (yep, like COVID). Oh, and it’s relevant to add: Alcohol consumption puts your optimal gut health at risk. Alcohol can, in fact, increase gut permeability. Here’s the the L-Glutamine I use. 

→ EAT SUMMERY GUT-LOVING FOODS – Summer produce is here! Take advantage of it while you can. Make sure half of the food you eat everyday comes in the form of produce. Eat the rainbow – all the different colors offer a range of necessary phytonutrients. Plus, the fiber found in produce provides much needed food for your gut microbiome. Also consider adding some kimchi, sauerkraut and low-sugar kombucha. Some of my favorite summer foods are: berries (love them all!), herbs like basil and mint, as well as broccoli, cucumbers, snap peas, green beans, watermelon and peaches. 

→ REMEMBER TO HYDRATE & REPLACE ELECTROLYTES – Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. You might think eight glasses of water is enough. Actually, the proper amount of fluid is half your body weight in ounces. So if you weigh 150 pounds, you’re aiming to consume 75 ounces of liquid. And for every hour you’re outside, add another 16 ounces of water. Yes, really. Since it’s hot and you’re likely sweating, you might consider adding electrolytes to your day. Many of my clients like Nuun. My personal fave is Ultima.  

Which brings me back to what you can do right now about summer bloating and digestive discomfort  … Join me for the 10-Day Summer ReBoot! We’ll bring down the bloat and make the remainder of your summer gut-happy. Learn More Now

Happy summer!

 

 

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. To learn more about Melissa’s coaching practice at Blum Center for Health, click here.

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How Infusions Can Kick Your Detox Up a Notch

We recently finished our 14-Day Whole Life Detox program led by our Health Coach, Melissa Rapoport. If you completed the program, you are walking away with more energy and mental clarity, several pounds lighter and a clean slate to start the summer toxin-free. 

If you weren’t able to make the Detox program with Melissa but are still interested in clearing your body of the everyday toxins you encounter or if you want to continue the benefits from the program, infusions can help support the detoxification process. 

How Detox Infusions Work: 

The liver is essential for clearing toxins out of your blood. It is your natural filter and our Detox infusion gives it a jumpstart by feeding it targeted nutrients that transform and bind to toxins, while adding antioxidant support to improve liver function.   When your liver is overburdened, you may feel sluggish, experience brain fog, have chronic headaches, poor sleep, constipation, and undesired weight gain. 

Providing your liver with targeted nutrients helps support it in its task to lower your toxic load. These vitamins, amino acids, and minerals are key to improving liver function and aiding in the detoxification process. Moreover, getting them infused allows your body to absorb 100% of the dose because it bypasses the GI tract and liver, which greatly reduces the dose by the time it ever gets to your cells. 

What’s in Medical-Grade Detox Infusions?

B Complex– contains B1, B2, B3, B5, & B6 to help your cells function better and make energy.  B vitamins are crucial to the detoxification process.

Vitamin C– a potent antioxidant, high doses of vitamin C helps flush toxins from the body.

Magnesium– an electrolyte that is needed to keep your nervous system and muscles functioning properly & keep your body balanced and relaxed. Stimulates cell activity to release toxins and heavy metals into the bloodstream to then be filtered out by the liver.

B12- essential for all biochemistry and body functions that involve methylation, including production of red blood cells, DNA synthesis, neurotransmitters, liver detox, and maintaining health of the nervous system.  As we age, it is harder to absorb B12 from the gut, another reason to regularly get B12 by infusion.

Taurine- amino acid that improves liver function and promotes elimination of toxins

N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC): Boosts the immune system, increases Glutathione (antioxidant), and supports the liver to clear the body of toxins.

Methionine: Sulfur containing amino acid, where the sulfur helps inactivate free radicals in the body. Protects the cell from pollutants and aids in excretion of heavy metals.

Why It’s Important to Flush Toxins and Heavy Metals:

  • If you have an excess of toxins, your liver will get overburdened
  • Your liver uses glutathione (a powerful antioxidant) to process these toxins out and it will use up your glutathione supply (why we recommend adding on a glutathione infusion at the end of your Detox infusion!)
  • As your glutathione levels get depleted, you become more susceptible to getting infections like Covid
  • If your body isn’t properly excreting toxins, the toxins are stored in your fat cells (this can cause weight gain too!)
  • Leaves you feeling more vibrant and lighter

Everyday Toxins You May Be In Contact With:

  • Air pollutants
  • Mercury found in fish
  • Medications and bacteria in the water supply
  • Herbicides and pesticides found in food
  • Hormones, antibiotics and herbicides in our animal protein like chicken or beef
  • Plastics from water bottles
  • Cleaning chemicals like hand sanitizer

Detox infusions are just one of many amazing tools we have at Blum Center for Health to support the detoxification process. Helping your liver function optimally is a whole lifestyle approach – including diet, sleep, hydration, self care, and the household products you use (and don’t use). Our Functional Medicine doctors and our Health Coach are available to work one-on-one with you to evaluate your toxic load and get you back to feeling better and brighter! 

Text or call 914-652-7800 to schedule an appointment to jumpstart your summer with a Detox infusion! Schedule a FREE consultation with our Infusion Director, Michelle Levins, NP, to get your questions answered.