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5 Truths and 5 Myths about the Common Cold

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

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

True or False:

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

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

Answers:

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

TRUE

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

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

FALSE

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

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

FALSE

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

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

FALSE

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

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

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

  1.  True immune deficiencies are rare.

FALSE

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

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

FALSE

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

  1. Food allergies can give you nasal symptoms.

TRUE

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

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

TRUE

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

  1.  Viruses cause most recurrent colds or sinus infections.

TRUE

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

      10.Your gut is responsible for recurrent colds.  

TRUE

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

How We Can Help You Improve Your Immune System

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

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

 

Meet Dr. Gereau: Sezelle Gereau, MD, is an integrative ENT/Allergist with more than 20 years of experience. She uses an integrative and functional medicine approach to conditions such as allergies, chronic sinusitis, sleep apnea and headaches. She is one of the few physicians in the New York City metro area certified to prescribe sublingual immunotherapy drops (SLIT) instead of allergy shots.

 

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

 

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How to Help Your Immune System Perform at its Best

The body is indeed your castle – and your immune system is the army of warriors that is here to protect you from invaders.  The word “immune” derives from the Latin word immunis, which means “free” or “untouched”, and the immune system attempts to do just that – keep the body free from harmful influences, bacteria, viruses, and from the body’s own predators – cancer cells.

According to the National Institute of Health, the 3 main tasks of the immune system are to:

  • “Neutralize pathogens like bacteria, viruses, parasites or fungi that have entered the body, and remove them from the body
  • Recognize and neutralize harmful substances from the environment
  • Fight against the body’s own cells that have changed due to an illness, for example cancerous cells”1

This may seem like a simple task – recognize invaders and eliminate them. But doing so requires an intricate set of interactions, so many that the immune system has been called the most complex organ in the body.

The proper functioning of the system is essential to every organ system.  At each step along the way, there is the potential for the process to go awry and for the body to either not mount an adequate response, or to mount too much of one.  There is also the situation where cells either go inappropriately on high alert and begin to attack for unusual reasons, or to attack self. This can lead to autoimmunity – the mistaken recognition of self as non-self.

As health care professionals, we are continually learning more about the intricacies of how the immune system works, why it works, and how best to keep it running properly.  Here’s a simple version of it:

A “non-self” substance comes into contact with the body. These substances are called antigens. Some of the proteins on the surfaces of bacteria, fungi, viruses, and foods for example, serve as antigens. These antigens bind to special receptors on the body’s defense cells, and a series of cell processes begin.

The older part of the immune system (aka innate) makes a choice – is this a friend or a foe?

If it’s thought of as a friend, there are signals that allow the antigen to pass through and not be attacked – as in foods that you are NOT allergic to. If the antigen is perceived as a foe, as in the flu virus, there is a different set of signals that the body utilizes to call in cells to attack and contain the threat.

Ultimately, once that decision is made and executed, the newer or “adaptive” immune system stores information about the enemy. This stored information allows for faster decision-making the next time such an enemy presents. Thus defenses can be mobilized more swiftly.

As long as our body’s immune system is running smoothly, we do not notice it. And yet, it is constantly performing its surveillance. Illness can occur if the system is compromised, if the pathogen is especially aggressive, or sometimes if the body is confronted with a pathogen it has not come into contact with before.

The signals we send the immune system, the way we treat it daily, nurture it when we are sick, and even the amount of stress we experience, all impact its functioning.

Often patients come in and tell me that “their immune system is weak.” They believe this because they have frequent infections, lots of allergies, or simply because when they do become ill, they are not instantly better with an antibiotic.

But, the immune system does not have to run full throttle all the time. It is the balance in the immune system that is most important – for it to be robust when necessary and to stand down when it is not. There is an inherent intelligence to the immune system that knows what to do. Our job, as its caretaker, is to provide the environment in which it can do just that.                      

The Immune System Best Practices

So what are best practices that we should institute on a regular basis to keep immunity functioning best?

Many of them are as simple as a good diet, adequate rest and having healthy resources for keeping stress at bay. The same adages of less sugar, eating an array of fruits and vegetables, and establishing a daily time to be in contemplation, hold true here as they do for every organ in the body. Some interventions specifically directed at the immune system that have proven benefits are:

4 Additional Ways To Support Your Immune System

Vitamins: D, A, B6 (pyridoxine), B9 (folic acid) and C – have been shown to have a beneficial immune impact in studies both in animals and humans. The same is true for the micronutrients: zinc, selenium, iron, copper. Adequate amounts of these in the diet are important for warding off infections and keeping immune function in balance. Vitamin D levels, in particular, contribute to fewer infections in winter months. A large study performed on nursing home residents showed that even low normal levels of D were associated with higher rates of infection. I recommend either monitoring your blood levels of D, or routinely supplementing during the cooler months of the year

Probiotics – our latest superhero of the immune system, good bacteria are helpful in so many of the processes that keep the body running well.  In the gut, where the majority of the immune system resides, these bacteria present antigens to the innate immune system – signaling whether they are friend or foe. Specific strains, such as lactobacillus rhamnosis and reuteri have been shown to lower the frequency of recurrent upper respiratory tract infections in children. Here’s the Probiotic we use at the Blum Center.

Adequate sleep – The body counts on 7-8 hours of sleep nightly, and while you rest, many active processes are going on to restore resources depleted during the day. Studies have shown that less than this amount of sleep reduces the number of natural killer cells – a part of the immune system that is critical for eliminating invaders

Stress – it is a well-known fact that stressful lifestyles can contribute to an imbalanced immune system. Caregivers of the chronically ill, for example have higher rates of cancer and other illnesses.

 

Live in the Neighborhood?  Dive deeper into the immune system with Dr. Gereau at her free community talk, “How Does the Immune System Work?” on May 18th at 7pm.  Sign up here.  

Can’t come to Dr. Gereau’s talk? Check out Dr. Blum’s bestselling book, The Immune System Recovery Plan. It features her 4-step program that includes using food as medicine, understanding the stress connection, healing the gut and optimizing liver function. Learn More

Meet Dr. Gereau: Sezelle Gereau, MD, is an integrative ENT/Allergist with more than 20 years of experience. She uses an integrative and functional medicine approach to conditions such as sleep apnea, headaches, allergies and chronic sinusitis.  

Resources
  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0072548/
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Flu Season Isn’t Over Yet: Keep Your Immune System Strong Through the Spring!

At this time of the year many patients ask me how can they enhance their immune system.  The truth is that our immune systems are designed to work just fine if we eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly and get enough rest.  However, if you find yourself getting sick with an upper respiratory infection (URI) there are some herbs and supplements that can shorten the duration of symptoms.  They work best if taken at the very first sign of a URI, and stopping them when those symptoms clear.

7 Supplements for Immune Health

Elderberry : Elderberry has both antiviral and antibacterial effects. Research suggests its efficacy — even against the H1N1 virus. Four tablespoons of the elderberry fruit syrup Sambucol daily for three days, has been shown to reduce symptoms of fever and muscle ache by about 50 percent. For kids, reduce the dosage to one tablespoon twice a day.

Medicinal Mushrooms: Mushrooms have been shown to work against bacteria, viruses and some forms of detrimental mold. They contain polysaccharides, a component of cells that can prevent bacterial growth in the laboratory setting. I have my patients keep on hand a product known as Mycommunity, which is a blend of 17 fungi types.

Zinc: You want to make sure you’re taking a good multivitamin with zinc – 15 milligrams is generally thought to be a good amount for maintenance, but you can go up to 30 daily.  Zinc glycinate and zinc gluconate are usually well tolerated, and start with 10 milligrams as these are least likely to give you stomach upset. Otherwise, take as directed on the package.

Andrographis:  Andrographis — sold under the name Kold Kare — is an herb widely used in Ayurveda, the traditional form of medicine in India. When started within 72 hours of the onset of symptoms, it can improve symptoms of the common cold.

American Ginseng: There are various forms of ginseng and some may be beneficial if used early in the onset of cold symptoms. Some evidence suggests that taking 200 milligrams twice daily of the American ginseng extract CVT-E002 (brand Cold-fX) during influenza season may decrease the risk of developing URIs, and seems to reduce both the severity and the duration of symptoms. Another combination ginseng product called Kan Jang, which contains Siberian ginseng and Andrographis, may also prove effective.

South African Geranium: A number of studies have shown that extracts of the South African geranium can be helpful in reducing symptoms of bronchitis, sore throat, sinusitis and the common cold. Both children and adults tolerate it well. These products are usually readily available in your local health food store, marketed under the brand name Umcka.

N-Acetylcysteine (NAC): One of my favorites for preventing cold and flu.  NAC is widely used in the medical community for a number of conditions, and has terrific clinical data that shows it to be helpful for patients with chronic respiratory illnesses.  It also helps to keep the immune system in its best condition for warding off illness. It can be helpful with coughs, cold, runny noses – it also converts to Glutathione, the body’s most powerful antioxidant.  I usually recommend 900 milligram tablets – start with one twice daily and increase to two twice daily as needed. Pharmanac, a Canadian brand that comes in an effervescent form is easy to take as a fizzy drink – even for children!

My thoughts on immune enhancement:

If you wanted to take something throughout season that will help to keep you healthy, I’d recommend Vitamin D.  It is essential for immune health, and our levels often drop during the winter months because we get less sun exposure. A large study performed in elderly adults at Yale University suggests that even patients with low-normal levels of Vitamin D are more prone to URI’s than patients with higher levels. Many of us are deficient in Vitamin D, so try at least 2000 iu of vitamin D3 – and include a good quality fish oil, as it will give you an additional D boost but will also serve as  a great antioxidant. One that has at least 1,400mg EFA/925 DHA is a good dose to be used twice daily in patients with underlying asthma and allergies as well.

As in with any supplement, be cautious in taking with medicines, or other herbs or supplements.  Ginseng can interact with medicines for diabetes. Fish oils can cause blood thinning. And if you have allergies or are on medications, please check with your doctor first before adding any new her or supplement.  All of these products must be avoided if you are on medications or other herbal supplements that thin the blood.

I’m here on Thursdays if you need more advice or have chronic sinus or ENT issues – happy to see you for a consultation!

Live in our neighborhood and need help with chronic sinus or ENT issues?  Make an appointment with Dr. Gereau. She will address your concerns and develop an integrative plan that focuses on holistic, high-impact treatments. To make an appointment, call 914-652-7800.

Meet Dr. Gereau: Sezelle Gereau, MD, is an integrative ENT/Allergist with more than 20 years of experience. She uses an integrative and functional medicine approach to conditions such as sleep apnea, headaches, allergies and chronic sinusitis.  

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Here’s the One Easy Solution to Your Food Allergies

For many people with food allergies, completely avoiding problem foods isn’t easy or even practical. Accidental exposures happen and, as we’ve seen recently in the press, can lead to dangerous and sometimes lethal consequences.  

Sublingual immunotherapy (allergy drops) for foods, otherwise known as SLIT, can help both adults and children safely build tolerance in case an accidental exposure to allergens occurs. For some, it can help them enjoy many foods that once caused reactions.  

While it is common knowledge that shots can be helpful for patients with  environmental allergies, SLIT is not as widely recognized in the United States. Just as shots work by injecting tiny amounts of the tree, dust, or pollen that you are allergic to, SLIT works by giving that same substance as a drop placed under the tongue. The amount is enough to prime the immune system to stop reacting to the substance, yet is below the level that triggers an allergic reaction.  

Allergy drops are safe and effective as treatment for both environmental and food allergies.  They have been used in the US and Europe for over 50 years.

6 Common Questions About Allergy Drops:

How does sublingual immunotherapy for food allergies work?

All forms of immunotherapy work in the same way – by giving you small amounts of allergen so that your body learns to tolerate them without having reactions.

What food allergies can be treated with sublingual immunotherapy?

The most common food allergies that are treated with sublingual immunotherapy are the usual culprits –  egg, milk, corn, yeast, wheat, soy, peanut and shellfish, but more than 100 different foods can be treated if needed.   Your doctor formulates a special prescription of drops for you – you then take these 3 times daily to impart what is known as “tolerance”.  This gives your body the ability to be exposed to the food without reacting.

How are food allergies diagnosed and what tests are performed?

Diagnosing food allergies starts by observing symptoms when troublesome foods are included in a person’s diet.  Runny nose, mouth itching, or skin rashes can occur with food or environmental allergies.   Other symptoms, though, such as upset stomach, fatigue and loose stools are more specific to foods.   There are a number of ways to test for these allergies, and determine the level to which your body is reacting to the allergen. Special blood tests reveal the level to which your body is reacting – and the drops are formulated specifically for your unique level of reactivity to those specific allergens.

What about my seasonal allergies?

It’s always important to treat environmental allergies either first, or relatedly. Environmental allergies are much more common than food allergies, and the symptoms are often confused. Also, once environmental allergies are more under control, the body could become less reactive to foods, and thus you can treat fewer allergens, or perhaps not treat the foods at all.  If you begin immunotherapy for environmental allergies and aren’t seeing results after three to six months, you may consider asking about food allergy testing and treatment.

How long does it take to see results?

Studies show that improvements in immune tolerance begin within days, while more permanent changes require more than a year of treatment. The length of treatment depends on the severity of your allergies and how compliant you are in taking the prescribed treatment. For mild to moderate allergies, a common treatment length is three to five years; more severe food allergy cases can take longer.

What is the end goal for the patient treated with sublingual immunotherapy for food allergy?

The goal of sublingual immunotherapy treatment for food allergy will vary by individual. If you have mild to moderate allergies, it may be possible to reintroduce allergic foods into your diet. If you have severe and life-threatening allergies, the goal is to reduce the likelihood of an allergic reaction to an accidental exposure.

Live in our neighborhood?  Join Dr. Gereau for a free community talk, A Novel Approach to Treating Food Allergies.  Come fInd out more about allergy drops and if they are right for you and your family.  Sign up here.  

Meet Dr. Gereau: Sezelle Gereau, MD, is an integrative ENT/Allergist with more than 20 years of experience. She uses an integrative and functional medicine approach to conditions such as sleep apnea, headaches, allergies and chronic sinusitis.  Make an appointment with Dr. Gereau.

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Improve Your Sleep and Improve Your Life

A good night of sleep – seems like the simplest thing, yes? Almost a right  – shouldn’t everyone sleep like a baby?

While this appears to be true, we know that even babies don’t always sleep well. And for some, a full evening of rest is an elusive thing. According to a study conducted by the Center for Disease Control, nearly 9 million Americans have used prescription sleep aides in the last month.1 That study also found that more women than men use them, and their use is greater in the 50 and older age group.

Sleep disorders can significantly impact one’s work and home life – and your health. Snoring and sleep apnea are the Number One medical cause of relationship and marriage break-ups. Prolonged sleep apnea can lead to hypertension, diabetes, obesity, depression, heart attack, and stroke.  Chronic fatigue that results from sleep issues can keep one from being at their best and contributes to poor work performance.

Is Your Sleep Disturbance Chronic or Acute?

Sleep can be disordered for a number of reasons. Some can’t fall asleep or stay asleep – this is known as insomnia. Everyone at sometime in their life will not sleep due to an acute condition – a problematic day at work, racing mind, or maybe just too much coffee close to bedtime. These times are short and self-limited. Chronic insomnia is defined as having difficulty falling asleep 3 nights a week, for 3 months or longer. Insomnia can be “co-morbid” – due to a medical condition that is known to cause sleep issues. Both psychiatric and medical conditions can cause this to happen, as can a host of medications.

So, no, it’s not all in your head, and as you well know, if you’ve ever had trouble sleeping – wishing it away won’t work. While there is no definitive test for insomnia, the diagnosis usually involves an inventory of sleep-related medical questions, a sleep log, and blood work or sleep testing. Thus, visiting a sleep professional is essential to getting the right diagnosis and proper help.

Do You Have Sleep Apnea?

For some, falling asleep easily is actually the sign of a sleep issue. Long-standing fatigue can make one fall asleep inappropriately – as a passenger in a car, in the theatre, or at your desk when it’s expected you will be alert and productive. In this case, the problem is poor quality sleep. It could be that you are frequently awakened by something known as “apnea.”

An apnea is a cessation or pause in the breath – the cause for this is either in the central nervous system, or because the airway is unable to stay open enough to allow you to sleep. The body reflexively awakens you when your airway closes off – a protective response that wakes us up enough to breathe. Humans of all ages have some degree of apnea during sleep – and it is usually a combination of “central” and “obstructive.” But., when it becomes excessive and sleep becomes fragmented, there is a bigger problem.

Despite common belief, you don’t have to be obese to have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). In fact, OSA in and of itself can lead to insulin resistance and cause or promote obesity. OSA occurs in up to 10% of children of various weights and sizes and is the most common sleep disorder in children. We often observe that if we get children to breathe better at night, they gain weight, become more productive at school, and behavior and learning issues sometimes disappear.

There are definitive tests for apnea. While going to a sleep lab was once the gold-standard way to diagnose obstructive sleep apnea, most insurance companies now prefer in home sleep testing. A doctor who is familiar with the diagnosis and treatment of sleep can easily order such testing. It has to be interpreted by a sleep specialist, and recommendations are made how best to get treated. CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) is one way to treat obstructive apnea, and continues to be recommended for the most severe cases. But there are an array of other treatments, which the doctor will discuss with you when reviewing the results.

What You Can Do to Help Yourself, Your Child or Loved One Sleep Better

Try to get enough of sleep every night The American Sleep Foundation recommends at least 7 hours of sleep nightly.

Establish a consistent bedtime and stick to it The body does respond to a circadian rhythm that once broken is difficult to re-establish. That is as true of shift workers as it is of children. Try to go to sleep and awaken at about the same time every day. 

Exercise consistently, but not close to bedtime — Exercise is important for sleep as it decreases arousal, anxiety and depressive symptoms all of which are beneficial for sleeping. There is also a drop in body temperature after exercise – which helps you get sleepy.  Vigorous activity too close to bedtime will cause arousal, though, so make sure you have a gap of at least a few hours between activity and lights out.

Maintain good sleep hygiene – Limit screen time close to bedtime and give your body a period of time to wind down. Also don’t pick up your mobile or turn on your computer should you awaken in the middle of the night. This is not the time for catching up on your emails! Make sure your little ones don’t take their iPads and cellphones to bed. Make their rooms a sleep-only zone, so that homework and other activities occur outside of the sleeping space.

Be sure to have a comfortable bed and sleep position — Don’t expect your body to adapt to the wrong mattress and pillow. This will only worsen aberrant musculoskeletal feedback to the central nervous system – and make your sleep less restful.

Supplements for Better Sleep

In addition to the behavioral techniques, there are herbal remedies and supplements that can naturally help you get better sleep. It’s hard to know which one your body will respond to, and we recommend trying each one for 2-3 weeks before giving up and moving on to the next one.

Magnesium – This is one of the most important minerals for your sleep, muscle relaxation and mental health. Clinical studies have shown that magnesium improves insomnia, sleep efficiency, sleep time and sleep onset. Can be taken by mouth, put into a warm bath (Epsom Salts), or rubbed on the skin as a cream or oil.  We recommend an absorbable form of magnesium, like magnesium glycinate, instead of magnesium citrate which can cause loose stool (and in fact is used to treat constipation).

Melatonin – This hormone is produced by your body in response to light to help regulate your sleep-wake cycle. Melatonin can also help reflux – a condition that often occurs alongside obstructive sleep apnea. It should be used in small amounts, starting with 1 mg and perhaps increasing to 2, then 3 mg over a few weeks if you don’t feel it’s helping.  Take it about an hour prior to bedtime.

Valerian –This amino acid increases the neurotransmitter GABA in the brain. As such, it does what prescribed sleep aids like Xanax and Valium do – only without the associated risks. We love blends of valerian, passionflower and lemon balm, all combined. At Blum Center we use Myocalm PM.

L-Theanine – Well known as an anxiolytic, L-Theanine not only helps produce a state of calm, but has been shown to aid overall sleep quality.

Live in our area and want to sleep better? Join Dr. Gereau and special guest Dr. Brad Gilden for their FREE community talk, Sleep: The Essential Pathway to Optimum Health on Monday, September 25th at 7pm. The discussion and demonstration will include sleep position, posture, the importance of nasal breathing and stress management. You will walk away with 7 strategies to improve your sleep immediately. Join Us! Sign Up 

Meet Dr. Gereau: Sezelle Gereau, MD, is an integrative ENT/Allergist with more than 20 years of experience. She uses an integrative and functional medicine approach to conditions such as sleep apnea, headaches, allergies and chronic sinusitis.

The Blum Center is teaming up with Elite Health Services to provide patients suffering from sleep disturbances with a natural and holistic solution to improving breathing and sleep-related problems. Elite Health Services located in Greenwich and Westport CT provides hands on manual physical therapy to improve postural and mechanical limitations that may be depriving you of a restful night sleep. Elite’s team of physical therapists and performance specialists are at the forefront of collaborating with your medical team to solve your sleep dilemma.  

 

 

Reference: 

NCHS Data Brief. 2013 Aug;(127):1-8.

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5 Tips To Control Your Allergies From An Integrative ENT

Tips to beat allergies

Allergy season is upon us, and for those of us troubled by seasonal allergic symptoms, it’s still not too late to find help.  While nothing substitutes creating a pre-season allergy plan, here are some useful tools that might give you relief.

Stay Indoors.  Check pollen counts on the radio or internet before you leave the house in the morning. (Great source: www. Pollen.com). Though pollen levels vary over the course of the day, a pollen count (the measure of pollen levels and type in a given area over the preceding 24 hours) can tip you off when it’s particularly hazardous outside. Many people start having trouble when the count reaches the 20 to 100 grains per cubic meter range. Note that the time of day when levels are highest is from 5:00 to 10:00 am and early evening. The time of day when levels are lowest is from mid- to late-afternoon.  If you must be outdoors, shed your clothing before you bring the allergens into the house, and immediately jump into the shower.

Try Nasal Irrigation.  Cleaning the nose with saline spray will decrease the amount of allergen that gets into your system. I like the squeeze bottle variety, such as the Neil Med brand – simply mix the enclosed packets with distilled or boiled water. Then, bend your head forward, and while squeezing the bottle into one nostril, pant like a puppy – it will keep the solution out of the back of your nose, so you can avoid that drowning feeling. You can find nasal irrigation kits at your local pharmacy.

Take Herbs or Supplements that Reduce Inflammation. Inflammation is one the biggest contributors to the allergic process in the body right behind repeated allergen exposure. Probiotics, Omega-3 and -6 fatty acids, herbal blends, such as Natural DHist or Histaeze, and homeopathy, such as Sabadil and Histaminum, can all be used to control and prevent symptoms. For dosing, check instructions on the package – some need to be given in higher doses first to attain a loading dose. Also check for any interactions with medications that you may be using.

Consider Immunotherapy. Allergy shots are a conventional option that can be useful, however, there is a new hot option for the allergy prone: Sublingual Immunotherapy. You simply place drops under the tongue that act like allergy shots, which reduces the immune response to the allergen. Like allergy shots this kind of treatment requires weeks to months to become effective. The great thing is that making allergy drops the foundation of your pre-season allergy plan changes your potential to have allergies for years to come. These can be useful for adults or children with allergies, and no shots in the arm! And for children, it can prevent the “allergic march” – the tendency for children to progress from eczema to allergies and then asthma later on in life.

Leverage Diet to Reduce Allergy Symptoms. Even if you don’t have food allergies, eating a healthy diet keeps inflammation at bay – and makes you less prone to an allergy attack even if it’s your worst season. The Mediterranean Diet is a great anti-inflammatory diet. It is a sensible way to eat overall — reducing your animal based proteins, increasing your grains, vegetables and plant based proteins.  Of course, be sure to avoid foods that you are allergic to.  And remember, the body recognizes certain foods as the same allergen that is produced by certain trees.  If you have birch allergy, for example, you might find that you get an itchy mouth to “stone fruits” – apricots, cherries, plums, peaches – as well as to apple and pear.  These symptoms can be worse if the birch tree is in bloom.  You can find lists of cross-reactive foods at:

https://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/library/allergy-library/outdoor-allergies-and-food-allergies-can-be-relate

Wondering if you have food sensitivities? You might want to follow our 21-Day Simply Detox Plan. With our program you will discover, through a process of elimination and reintroduction, exactly which foods you have sensitivities to. You’ll detox your body and walk away with your own personalized food plan. The Do-It-Yourself E-Guidebook helps you every step of the way with daily instructions, a healthy eating food plan, and easy-to-follow recipes. Learn More 

 

Meet Dr. Gereau: Sezelle Gereau, MD, is an integrative ENT/Allergist with more than 20 years of experience. She uses an integrative and functional medicine approach to conditions such as allergies, chronic sinusitis, sleep apnea and headaches. She is one of the few physicians in the New York City metro area certified to prescribe allergy drops.

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3-Steps to Finding Chronic Headache Relief

Find Chronic Headache Relief

 

Headache blogger Kerrie Smyre expresses the sentiments of many with migraines or other forms of chronic headache.  “Headaches steal so much of your life. The list is long, but includes jobs, relationships, having children, self-respect, ambition and identity”.

Headache symptoms can vary from a dull ache, to razor sharp pain that stops you in your tracks. Even the simplest headache can be life altering.  In making your way through treatment options, often there aren’t good choices– either the medications don’t work, or they work for a while. And then over time, you find yourself taking more and more medications, which can also end up paradoxically being the actual cause of (rebound) headaches themselves!

There are many different triggers for headaches, and uncovering the cause of yours is essential to finding the cure. Many of our headache patients come in thinking that their sinuses are the cause.  Usually they are not!

The 3-Prong Approach to Alleviating Chronic Headaches 

IDENTIFY THE TRIGGERS:

Could It Be Food?– There are many foods that can cause headaches. Unfortunately, they are not universal. For one person it may be raw onions, for another it could be vinegar, red wine and aged cheese. Just as every person is different, so are individual triggers. The good news is that a skilled practitioner can help identify your triggers and help you remove them.

Could It Be Non-Food Lifestyle Triggers? – There are a significant number of lifestyle triggers that are often overlooked as a cause of headache. For instance, do you get a headache if you don’t wear sunglasses? How about going in and out of air conditioning? Again, just as with food triggers, it is possible to figure this out and then help you make a personalized plan.

Could It Be Stress? (Particularly if you say you don’t have any!) – Stress and headaches often go hand-in-hand. It does not have to be acute stress (“Oh my gosh, I’m so stressed?”) It is also related to long-term, under-the-surface stress, like financial pressure, a troubled relationship, or putting off life decisions. It is important to work with a practitioner to learn mind-body tools to help you relax for headache prevention, and also for in-the-moment when-you-need-it-most stressful situations.

Could It Be Hormones? – Many women find that headaches are in some way related to their cycle. Once you and your practitioner determines that this is the issue, these kind of headaches can be treated easily with herbs that help balance your hormones.

Could It Be Toxins? – Toxins like pesticides, heavy metals, and plastic residues can build up in both your body and your brain, and trigger headaches. A skilled Functional or Integrative Medicine practitioner can evaluate your toxic load and then help you reduce the toxins in your body and treat your headaches with a detox program that provides supplements and a food plan to help support the liver in doing this important toxin-clearing work.

Could It Be A Structural Issue? – A common cause of headaches for many people is an issue in their musculoskeletal system. Problems like TMJ (temporomandibular joint inflammation), neck issues, myofascial pain syndromes (muscle pain in the scalp, shoulders and neck radiating up into the head) and others, can all be causes of headaches. Once we figure out this is the issues, we can treat it and the headaches can be gone for good!

Could It Be Sinusitis? – Of course it could be! But now you know that there are many other possibilities and we need to check for them all. However, sinusitis remains on the list and if it turns out this is the culprit, there are great herbal and alternative ways to treat this other than antibiotics. Also, food and environmental triggers are often an underlying issue, and these can be treated as well.

2. WORK WITH A HEADACHE PROFESSIONAL

It takes skill and experience to create an individualized plan. At Blum Center for Health, while all the practitioners treat headaches, it is a particular focus of my practice. I work with my patients to uncover and treat the underlying causes. Remember, it is critical to find someone who will be your partner – if they are only throwing medication at the issue, walk away!

3.  STAY COMMITTED:

It takes vigilance and attention on your part and mine to discover all the triggers that contribute to your headaches, but it can be done and I can show you how. Most importantly, once this is sorted out, you will have the tools and strategies you need to remain headache-free.

Ready to take aim at your headaches? A great place to start is with our 10-Day or 30-Day HealMyGut program — it’s a total gut reset with a nutritional plan, recipes, just-right supplements, daily email support, and a private online community. Our 30-Day program includes the added bonus of a weekly chat with our Functional Nutritionist to answer all your questions. Find out which program is ideal for you: Take the Assessment

Meet Dr. Gereau: Dr. Gereau is an Allergy and ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat) specialist who uses an integrative and functional medicine approach to conditions such as chronic sinusitis, allergies, sleep apnea and headaches.

CLICK HERE to learn more about Dr. Gereau.