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How Infusions Can Help you Recover from Lyme Disease

I don’t know about you, but I LOVE living in the Westchester area, especially in the summer. Crisp evenings, proximity to beaches, and embracing the outdoors brings me so much joy. However, one thing I don’t love about Westchester in the spring, summer and fall are the Lyme disease-carrying-ticks that are everywhere.  The official name of the microbe that causes Lyme is Borrelia Bergdorfi.  And these annoying and harmful pests carry other infections, too, like Bartonella, Babesia, Ehrlichia and more.  Collectively we call these Tick Borne Illnesses or TBI’s.  New York, New Jersey and Connecticut are three of the ten states where the majority of Lyme cases are reported in the United States!  The problem is that we all love the outdoors and your favorite summer activities could be putting you at risk.

Most of you probably already know this and check yourself for ticks after every evening beach walk or nature walk.  If you don’t, then this is definitely your first line of defense.  If you find a tick on your body and it has been there for at least 4 hours, and has hooked itself in your skin, remove gently with a tweezer, and call your doctor.  You can save the tick and have it tested for Lyme.  At Blum Center we believe in treating aggressively, and recommend antibiotics (or sometimes we use herbal remedies) whether or not you develop a rash.  If that tick has latched onto you, whether or not is engorged or swollen, then treating right away is your best defense against developing acute or chronic Lyme disease.  

ACUTE AND CHRONIC LYME

Acute Lyme or Tick Borne Illness (TBI) usually happens in about 2-3 weeks after the infection, but can happen sooner or later than that too.  You might have a fever, chills, headaches, muscle or joint pain.  It can feel like a flu.  It can last 5-7 days and then go away.  The tricky thing is that some people who get infected by a tick never have an acute illness!  And many people with an acute TBI don’t ever remember having a tick bite!

That’s why many people (and doctors) don’t even think about Lyme when they develop chronic symptoms like fatigue, arthritis, muscle pain or brain fog that drag on for months and months.  There can also be other symptoms like intermittent fevers and heachaches and neurological symptoms like strange sensations and/or numbness or tingling anywhere in the body.  The good news is that WE do think about Lyme in every patient with these symptoms at Blum Center and do the testing and pick up hidden Lyme or Tick infections all the time.  

The name Chronic Lyme has been given to people who have these symptoms for months and sometimes years.  Some people have Chronic Lyme and don’t know it.  And even when they start treatment with antibiotics, they continue suffering with Chronic Lyme because once it’s been in your body for a long time, it’s very hard to get rid of it, even with antibiotics.

FUNCTIONAL MEDICINE FOR LYME TREATMENT 

Treating your Lyme disease requires a very personalized approach, and our complete treatment program for Lyme disease is beyond the scope of this blog.  We use at different times, and for different people, antibiotics and herbal programs to kill the Borrelia Burgdorferi (or other TBI) microbe.  But treatment is a 1-2 punch:  the medication or herbs lower the total amount of infection in your system, and then the immune system has to clear out the rest.  You can see why a highly functioning and strong immune system is critical to treating Lyme Disease.

In addition to a strong immune system, once we start treating Lyme, there are a lot of toxins that are released and can cause you to feel very sick.  And these toxins and the Lyme itself can wreak havoc with your mitochondria, the little furnaces in your cells that make energy.  Therefore from a functional medicine perspective, whether you are currently being treated by us or other doctors, or are still recovering from Lyme Disease, you should add to your program support for the immune system, the detox system and the mitochondria.  And the most effective way to do this is with Infusions because high concentrations of the needed nutrients can go right into your blood and to your cells where they are needed.  

OUR CUSTOM INFUSION FOR LYME DISEASE

Susan Blum, MD, MPH, our founder and director and author of The Immune System Recovery Plan, developed our targeted Infusion for people with Lyme.  We call it our Mito Recovery Infusion.  The nutrients in Mito Recovery target all 3 systems that need support in people struggling to recover from Lyme or other Tick Infection:  it works deep within the cell to help rebuild the damaged mitochondria; includes NAC and glutathione for detoxification support, and zinc, selenium, vitamin C and B vitamins for your immune system.   Here are the details:

Bag #1 – Mito Recovery

B Complex contains B1, B2, B3, B5, & B6 to help the mitochondria in all your cells function better and make energy.  This, of course, includes your immune system cells.

Vitamin C– a potent antioxidant, high doses of vitamin C helps your immune system work better and protects the mitochondria from injury

Magnesium– an electrolyte that is needed to keep your nervous system and muscles functioning properly & keep your body balanced and relaxed. Can also help provide pain relief (headaches) and help with sleep. Magnesium can act as an antioxidant in mitochondria improving mitochondrial dysfunction

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.

Zinc a mineral that boosts the immune system by decreasing the production of inflammatory cytokines, and has direct antiviral activity.

Selenium powerful antioxidant that decreases inflammatory markers & boosts the immune system by lowering oxidative stress and inflammation.

N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC)- Boosts the immune system, increases Glutathione (antioxidant), decreases viral replication, & reduces inflammation.  

Acetyl L-Carnitine- Boosts mitochondria function and energy production. 

 

Bag #2:  Alpha Lipoic Acid: Powerful antioxidant to help prevent oxidative-stress related damage to all your cells and mitochondria, especially the brain and nervous system

Bag #3:  Glutathione: Powerful antioxidant that decreases inflammation and clears free radicals caused by oxidative stress, especially important for immune and mitochondria  function.  Powerfully protects the Thyroid and other tissues from damage.  Can help relieve respiratory symptoms by decreasing inflammation and mucus in lungs. Crucial support for liver detoxification and clearing heavy metals.  

Injection: CoQ10: required for optimal functioning of the mitochondria which are damaged from COVID.  Also supports the immune system and decreases the release of inflammatory cytokines. Depleted levels of CoQ10 have been linked to increased susceptibility to infection

Text or call 914-652-7800 to schedule an appointment and start feeling like your old self again!  If you aren’t sure if this is right for you, schedule a FREE consultation with our Infusion Director, Michelle Levins, NP.

 

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ANTI-AGING NEWS! IS NAD+ THE NEWEST FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH?

We are excited to introduce  NAD+ to our infusion menu.  It is the latest darling of the anti-aging movement!

NAD+ and ENERGY (MITOCHONDRIA)

NAD+ is Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide and is a coenzyme found in every cell of your body.  It is essential for hundreds of metabolic processes mainly because it is required for your mitochondria to function well.  Your “mighty-chondria” are the little furnaces inside each and every cell that make energy (ATP).  

Your muscles, your heart and your brain have the highest concentration of mitochondria because they are the most active and need the most energy.  It is estimated that each cell has 1000-2000 mitochondria inside, with the muscle, heart and nervous system having the highest concentration because they have the highest need. 

NAD+ is the critical last step in the final production of ATP.  Aging has a huge negative effect on the number and function of your mitochondria and there has been a lot of interest in using NAD+ supplements to boost athletic performance, improve memory and brain function, and repair mitochondria after they have been damaged by toxins or infections.  Boosting the cellular levels of NAD+ has therefore been an important focus of anti-aging and athletic performance research for the past several years, and we want to share this “fountain of youth” treatment with you.

NAD+ and CELL DAMAGE (TELOMERES)

NAD+ can also change your telomeres.  Telomeres are at the end of your chromosomes and function to protect the chromosome from damage.  However, each time your cells divide, your telomeres get shorter and shorter until the cell can no longer divide which results ultimately in cell death.  Interestingly, studies have indicated that NAD+ can reverse aging by stabilizing or increasing telomere length.  This is just another reason to consider adding NAD+ to your anti-aging and prevention regimen.

HOW AN  NAD+ DRIP CAN HELP IMPROVE YOUR HEALTH

Intravenous infusions of NAD+ are the best way to boost your levels.  NAD+ infusions are great for a variety of different conditions that range from heart disease to mood disorders, to helping fight infections like Covid-19 (or to recover from the infection)  to even reversing aging.

NAD+ infusions are beneficial for:

  • Increasing energy
  • Boosting metabolism
  • Regenerating cells
  • Improving concentration
  • Combating chronic fatigue
  • Protecting brain cells
  • Lowering heart disease risk
  • Improving muscle function & endurance
  • Slowing or reversing aging

Whether you are interested in NAD+ for anti-aging, cognitive function, to improve athletic performance, or to help reboot your mitochondria after battling chronic illness, NAD+ is a valuable tool to enhance the quality of your life! 

Call or text 914-652-7800 to schedule a FREE consultation with our infusion director to see how NAD+ can help you.  If you are already a patient at Blum Center, you can also contact your practitioner.  

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How to Treat Long Covid from a Functional Medicine Perspective

Long Covid is a term that has been used to describe people who have persistent symptoms after a recent documented Covid-19 infection.  With more than 43 million reported cases of Covid-19 in the U.S. alone, a number that keeps increasing daily, many are still experiencing symptoms for weeks and even months after the infection has cleared. 

It is believed that 15-30% of people who recover from Covid-19 experience Long Covid or what Dr. Fauci has coined post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV2 infection (PASC).  This means that up to 30% of people who get sick with Covid-19 (mild or severe, it doesn’t matter) will have ongoing symptoms for months, including fatigue, brain fog, gut issues, shortness of breath, palpitations, muscle aches and headaches.  There is also an increased risk of Diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, new neuro or psychiatric diagnosis, and adrenal insufficiency.  

So far, we are just beginning to understand the underlying causes of all these symptoms.  Some are caused by direct damage to organs, such as the lungs.  But others are caused by deeper issues that we are now learning are related to damage to the mitochondria and to ACE2 enzyme activity, and also persistent inflammation in the body, all of which have a widespread effect in the body on multiple organs and systems.  

The Role of Mitochondria in Long Covid 

Mitochondrial dysfunction may also play a role in the difficulty recovering from COVID-19 infection. Your mitochondria make all the energy for all your cells and are concentrated highest in the brain (nervous system) and heart (muscle).  The free radical damage (also called oxidative stress) caused by a significant viral infection can cause destruction of these critical structures and this may contribute to the many symptoms that people experience, especially fatigue and cognitive impairment.  

Therefore to treat Long Covid, from a functional medicine perspective, in addition to reducing inflammation and rebalancing the immune system, we also need to work on restoring and improving function of the mitochondria.

Here is how to help your mitochondria recover and combat free radicals.

FOOD:

Eating a diet rich in plants, especially antioxidants is key!  Antioxidants are found as the usual known suspects like vitamin A, beta carotene, Vitamin C and E and polyphenols found in the rich colors of a rainbow diet.  Additionally, mitochondria love a compound called PQQ. Eating PQQ rich foods is a great idea. These include parsley, green peppers, kiwi fruit, papaya, green tea and tofu. 

EXERCISE:

While it’s important to exercise, make sure to focus on reconditioning and do not engage in strenuous exercise that causes a crash the next day.  That is counter productive.  Best to slowly gain your stamina back and only exercise to the level that you can sustain, day after day, without crashing.

STRESS & SLEEP:

Critical repair happens at night so make sure to get a good night sleep.  The goal should be to go to bed before 11pm and if you are having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, you might benefit from a health coaching session to focus on improving this!

INTRAVENOUS VITAMINS:

In conjunction with the right diet, proper sleep, and easing into exercise, our new Long Covid Infusion Protocol of intravenous vitamins and amino acids work deep within the cells to help recover and repair any damage done to the mitochondria.  We’ve paired healing the mitochondria with powerful antioxidants to bring down inflammation and give your immune system and cells a reboot after fighting to clear a Covid-19 infection.

With so many people experiencing gut issues after a Covid-19 infection, we believe the best way to receive these nutrients is through an IV. An infusion bypasses the GI tract, ensuring your cells absorb 100% of our targeted formulation to help you recover and feel like your old self. 

Our innovative new protocol created by Dr. Blum, includes three infusion bags and an injection. The first IV bag is a foundational Myers cocktail with added L-Carnitine, NAC and Selenium.  Bag 2 is Alpha Lipoic Acid; Bag 3 is Glutathione; and the final injection is CoQ10.  All items are available a la carte, but bundled together gives you a 20% discount.

SUPPLEMENTS:

If you live far away and can’t come in for an Infusion, check our Dr Blum’s Long Covid Supplement Protocol here on Fullscript.  Please note you will need to set up a free account in Fullscript in order to view the supplement recommendations.  

For more information on our Long Covid drip, contact your practitioner or schedule a consultation with our Infusion Director at 914.652.7800.  We are open to existing patients and the public alike! 

 

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Do You Really Know What’s in Your IV Bag? Why Quality and Dosage of Your IV Therapy Infusions Matters

As IV Therapy infusions have gained popularity over the last decade, there still lacks a governing entity or an industry standard. This leads to a lot of variation in the product, dosing, and quality you may receive from center to center. There is great responsibility on the practice and the practitioner to ensure the safety of your infusion and, as the patient, these are important questions for you to ask when determining which center to go to.

What’s are the Contents of the IV Therapy Infusions?

Before getting a vitamin infusion, it is important to ask what vitamins you are getting. Most other infusion centers have only three to four vitamins in their mixes. At Blum Center, our Basic Wellness infusion has nine and our Wellness Plus infusion has 15.  Blum Center prides itself on not only having more vitamins in each infusion, but also higher doses. 

Our Medical Director, Susan Blum, M.D. utilizes her extensive knowledge of Integrative and Functional Medicine to curate infusions that particularly serve the needs of people with medical issues, including immune system and autoimmune conditions, chronic Lyme, severe fatigue, gut issues to name a few. Our infusions have higher doses than walk-in drip centers and we ensure that they are given safely.  As you can see, Infusions at Blum Center are not just simple wellness IVs, but rather medical grade infusions that make a real difference in the body’s healing and ability to function optimally. It’s important to keep this in mind, too, when comparing prices at different locations. 

What is the Quality of Ingredients in the Infusions?

It is equally important to confirm that you are getting quality ingredients. We source our vitamin solutions from the highest quality compounding pharmacies that source their ingredients from FDA-approved facilities and are compliant with Current Good Manufacturing Processes. This means every batch is tested and every vial is visually inspected by the compounding pharmacy before it is shipped out and then visually inspected again by our Infusion Director upon arrival. We then take it one step further and do our own calculations for all the ingredients in the IV bag to avoid any potential complications.

We are proud of the extra layer of strict protocols to ensure quality.  For example, all vials on hand are stored at the correct temperature, are not beyond their use date, and are mixed with aseptic technique, so you can feel confident that you are getting the best product that is carefully maintained. 

Can you Tailor IV Therapy Infusions?

At Blum Center we work hard to ensure that your drip is compatible with your unique biochemistry.  For example, did you know that if you have a history of kidney stones you should receive a custom drip limiting the amount of Vitamin C?

Blum Center practitioners are experts in Integrative and Functional Medicine and hand select each patient’s infusion to ensure their health and wellness needs are getting met.  Whether you are new and meeting with our Infusion Director, or a current patient being supervised by your practitioner, your IV will be customized for you. We believe it is important to understand how a vitamin infusion may benefit you. 

While it may seem like a nice touch to be able to pick out an infusion from a menu at a walk-in drip center, this strategy may not be helping you meet your wellness goals. We know that high dose intravenous vitamins or specific combinations of targeted nutrients can truly make a difference for many people struggling with chronic health issues.

Come let us create a program for you!  The quality, service, and individualized care at Blum Center is unmatched.  Call us at 914.652.7800 to book your appointment. 

 

 

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Why You Should Receive IV Therapy in a Medical Setting

The popularity of IV therapy has skyrocketed in recent years.  Everyone from celebrities and influencers, to moms and CEO’s, have turned to intravenous injections (IV) as a way to boost their vitamin intake.  No doubt, having adequate levels of vitamins and minerals is necessary for our bodies to function properly. 

Why has it become so popular?  When we take vitamins orally, the dose you take is greatly reduced as each nutrient travels from your mouth to your cells.  This is because these nutrients first have to be absorbed in the gut (a process compromised in many people with digestive issues), and then they get processed in the liver, which can further reduce their availability.  When these vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and antioxidants are given intravenously, they bypass these metabolic processes, making  them 100% available in the bloodstream for maximum benefit. 

Another big reason that Infusions are so popular, is the development of Medical IV’s.  Medical IV’s supplement the treatment plan for people who are struggling with health issues. We have developed excellent medical treatments for conditions that require high doses of specific nutrients that are not as effective when given orally.  For example, high dose Vitamin C for Epstein Barr Virus or Cancer treatments.  Another example is Glutathione for detoxification, and yet another is a custom cocktail for people suffering with Long Covid.  These Medical IV’s take simple vitamin infusions to a whole next level.

While the benefit from intravenous infusions is clear, what is not as well known is what to look for when choosing a place to receive your IV Therapy.  

4 Reasons to receive your IV in a Medical Setting: 

Personalized Screening and Drips: There is no one-size-fits all Vitamin IV. At Blum Center, our principle to  provide personalized medical care in a safe, unhurried environment is reflected in our Infusion Program.

If you are already a patient here, your provider will determine the best IV prescription for you to meet your health goals and support your treatment plan.  If you are a new client to Blum Center, our Infusion Director will meet with you for a simple but powerful screening consultation, so that she can prescribe exactly what you need, too.  

We are very strict and buttoned-up about safety in our medically supervised setting.  Before you start  we ensure your well-being with this basic screening and labs.  This extra step can give you the comfort that you will receive maximum benefit and the safest possible visit. Any business that does not screen you or take labs is potentially putting you at risk, especially if you have ongoing health issues that need that next level of attention and care.

Quality:  We pack in more vitamins and at higher doses than  walk-in drip centers. We have  done extensive research on each vitamin cocktail and how to safely give high doses to help you get the most positive effect from our infusions. You can feel confident you are getting the most out of each treatment.  

Expert Care:  Michelle Levins, NP, our Infusion Director is on the National Infusion Center Association Standards Development Team that implements nationwide protocols to all infusion centers across the country. These standards are already being used at Blum Center. You will have a master prepared Nurse Practitioner with years of extra education and training administering your infusions.  

Patient Safety: We are dedicated to providing the safest and highest quality of infusion care and have strict protocols in place to decrease potential risk as much as possible. 

IV THERAPY IN WESTCHESTER COUNTY

We take Covid precautions seriously and have various protocols in place to minimize exposure risk.  First, we now have multiple rooms in use for IV’s, which allows us to infuse high risk or unvaccinated patients by themselves in a separate room.  We are using HEPA air filters in the infusion room, requiring masks to be worn, and limiting the number of patients seen at the same time.  

Our Infusion Program sets itself apart from other centers through our individualized care, high quality infusions, and utmost cleanliness with strict protocols in a comfortable, calming environment. Come in and see for yourself! 

Click here more information on our Infusion Center and to view our current menu of IV drips. We are open to patients and the public alike!  To book an appointment or schedule a consult with our Infusion Director, please call 914.652.7800

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Fall Update on Supplement Usage During the Coronavirus Pandemic

As of 10.1.2020

By the team at Blum Center for Health:  Susan S. Blum, MD, MPH; Pamela Yee, MD; Elizabeth Greig MSN, FNP 

As the pandemic wears on and the seasons change, we find ourselves preparing for winter, a time when we will be back inside with less opportunity to see people, connect and socialize, as we might have been doing in warmer weather.  I can say that for me, I am not looking forward to this and am trying to stay focused on and appreciate this moment, when we have beautiful fall weather in the Northeast.  I encourage you all to spend as much time outdoors as possible while you still can!  Of course I am also making a commitment to myself to bundle up and still make myself go outside this winter…we will see!  

Since the pandemic began, I have been updating my recommendations for using supplements to support your immune system.  As time keeps marching on, and we prepare for month #8, and the likelihood of a surge in COVID during the winter months, I thought I would go back and update my supplement recommendations.  It’s really important that we step up our game and renew our vigilance for protecting ourselves from getting sick, and if we do get COVID, to have a mild course of illness and recover quickly.  From a Functional/Integrative medicine perspective, we continue to focus on nutrients and herbs that have been well studied, for their ability to support, modify or boost the immune system, or to fight viruses.  

**Please note that these recommendations are NOT medical advice.  Most are not safe for pregnant women, and if you are taking medication or have any serious health condition, please check with your doctor.

Immune Boosting Supplements 

These are generally safe for those with Autoimmune Conditions. For pregnancy check dosing with your doctor.  We recommend that you take Vitamins D and C now at a minimum, and add Vitamin A and NAC if you are exposed or get sick. 

  • Vitamin D: 5000 IU daily in absence of serum levels from blood test   
  • Vitamin C: 1-3 grams daily
  • N-Acetylcysteine (NAC): 600 – 900 mg twice/day (precursor for Glutathione (GSH), or can take GSH
  • Vitamin A: up to 10,000 – 25,000 IU/day (not safe for pregnancy)

We do not recommend the following supplements for those with Autoimmune Conditions or pregnancy.We recommend that you take 1 of the following at the recommended dose, or a blend that includes several of these, in which a lower dose of each are typically used:

  • Elderberry: 500 mg daily (of USP standard of 17% anthocyanosides)
  • Beta Glucans: 250 – 500 mg daily
  • Mushrooms: Shiitake, Lion’s mane, Maitake, Reishi. D Mushrooms: Shiitake, Lion’s mane, Maitake, Reishi. Dose depends on preparation
  • Astragalus: Dose depends on preparation
  • Echinacea: Dose depends on preparation
  • Andrographis: 200 mg/day

To make this easy for you, we added our favorite herbal blend to our store, called Immune Support. You can read more about it HERE.

Anti-Viral Supplements

These are generally safe for those with Autoimmune Conditions. For pregnancy, check dosing with your doctor.
We recommend that you take Zinc and add Quercetin if you are exposed or get sick:

  • Zinc: 30 – 60 mg daily in divided doses
  • Quercetin: 1 gram twice/day. Phytosome: 500 mg twice/day

At BlumHealthMD.com we offer our signature Antiviral Bundle, with all the supplements you need to keep your immune system strong, plus a Mediterranean Food Plan to follow! Check it out here.

Reduce Cytokine Storm

The illness caused by coronavirus, COVID-19, can cause a “runaway train” of inflammation in some people, causing terrible tissue and organ damage that can lead to the worst outcomes. This group of herbs and supplements appear effective in turning off this overactive immune response and helping bring the immune system back into balance. 

These are generally safe to use for those with Autoimmune Conditions. For pregnancy check dosing with your doctor.

We recommend that you choose a minimum of 1 of the following and add more if you get sick:

  • Curcumin: 500 – 1000 mg twice/day. Choose absorption enhanced.  
  • EGCG: 4 cups daily or 225 mg daily.
  • Resveratrol: 100 – 150 mg/day
  • Melatonin: 5-20 mg/day

Remember, you should also be focused on improving the functioning of your immune foundations.  Here are the things you should continue to do for risk reduction:

  • Good gut health: which means lots of beneficial bacteria. Take a probiotic every day with at least 20 billion cfu of mixed strains lactobacillus and bifidus species and join our 10-Day Spring HealMyGut Coaching Program
  • Balanced stress hormones: Get a good night’s sleep and don’t overwork yourself during flu season. Stress harms your ability to fight viruses.  Practice some form of mediation daily.  Melissa, Blum Center’s Health Coachwrote a great blog with tips for managing stress during this time. 
  • Eat foods that are good for your immune system: Avoid processed foods and focus on fruits and veggies that are rich in antioxidants and vitamins. Support the removal of toxins by eating lots of cruciferous veggies, which boost the detox system in your liver.

Sending prayers and good wishes for you and all of us to stay safe and well during this challenging time!

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It’s Flu Season – Is the Flu Shot Right for You

Every year, this is a common question I get asked from our patients and also submitted by the public on social media and online. This year it’s even more confusing and the answers aren’t easy for many with chronic illness or autoimmune conditions.  It doesn’t help that public health officials and the media are promoting the flu shot as a critical part of the fight against COVID-19.  The main concern is that people could get both illnesses at the same time, which would increase the risks of severe complications or death if this happened.  

However, let me just add a few words of calm into this storm.  First, if you are a high risk person and quarantining this winter, or at least being extremely cautious and wearing a mask and maintaining social distance guidelines when outside your home or your “quarantine bubble”, then you are unlikely to get either the flu or Covid.  The same measures you are doing not to get coronavirus will drastically reduce your likelihood of getting the flu.  

I think we need to continue to discuss the flu shot in the same context that I have talked about it for years.  In my opinion, all medical decisions should be based on comparing the risks vs. benefits of any medication or treatment for each individual person. This approach is called Personalized Medicine, and how we approach all treatment decisions through the lens of Functional Medicine at Blum Center for Health.  What is good for your friend might not be good for you.

IS THE FLU SHOT RIGHT FOR YOU?

In general I do recommend the flu shot, especially this year, for people who could likely become hospitalized or die from getting the flu: children, anyone over 65; those with pulmonary or respiratory diseases like asthma and emphysema; and people with any chronic illnesses like cancer or severe/life threatening illnesses.  And for those at high risk of becoming hospitalized or dying from COVID:  people with obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease.  Also important to note, if you are a caretaker for the elderly or anyone at home who fits the criteria above, or if you are a parent to children living at home, these would be additional situations you need to keep in mind as accepted indications for receiving the influenza vaccination.  And this holds true for this winter, during the COVID pandemic.

However, on the flip side, some people with autoimmune conditions, or who take immune suppressing medications, should talk to their doctor before getting the shot.  The aluminum used as adjuvants, and the mercury used as preservatives, can cause side effects or flares for those with autoimmunity, and those on certain immune suppressing medication might not even become immune after getting the vaccine.  For you, it is a personalized decision and I cannot give you medical advice about that here.  But it might be that during this pandemic, your decision might be different than it usually is.

In either case, my approach is to help you build a strong immune foundation so that you don’t get sick from any virus. A strong immune system is the basis for staying healthy in general, and should be a year round strategy…not just during flu season. This is, by far, the best prevention and protection! 

Click here for more on supplement recommendations to strengthen your immune system.

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Your Autoimmune Disease and COVID-19

It’s September!  I don’t know about you, but this is usually this time of year I am preparing to buckle back down to work after a summer spent outdoors, with some of it on vacation. If you are raising school age or college kids, and this is usually back-to-school time.  

But, as we are in the midst of an infectious disease pandemic, these are not usual times. In fact, as we are preparing to move into fall, you might be struggling through and muddling along, coping with coronavirus and hoping not to get COVID-19, the illness that is caused by this virus.

But some of us worry more than others about what would happen if we get this virus.  I am thinking about all of my autoimmune patients, who have been writing and asking me very specific questions about how their autoimmunity might change their risk, and what to do about the supplements they should take to prevent the virus from making them very sick were they to be exposed.  I decided to write this blog to answer these questions all in one place.  For all of my autoimmune patients, clients, friends and family, this is dedicated to you!

Does my Autoimmune condition put me at a higher risk for getting very sick if I get COVID-19?

The most important thing to understand is that there are over 100 different autoimmune conditions and they are all different.  Thus, it is hard to answer this with a quick answer.  But there are some guidelines that you can follow:

FIRST: There is no evidence that your Autoimmune disease itself puts you at a higher risk for getting very sick with COVID-19.  The underlying imbalance in Autoimmunity, where the immune system is mis-directed and attacks your own body, hasn’t been identified as a risk factor. 

However, in studying the underlying mechanisms of autoimmunity in people with systemic rheumatological diseases like Lupus (SLE), Sjogren’s Syndrome, Scleroderma, Polymyositis among others, researchers have found that while part of the immune system is overactive, the lymphocytes that fight viruses might be underactive.  

Therefore, if you have one of these conditions, you might be at a higher risk of getting COVID if you are exposed.  But there are supplements you can take to boost this part of your immune system, and I will share that below. 

SECOND: If you have an Autoimmune condition, is that you might have secondary issues like weight gain, high blood pressure, or disease-specific issues, like increased risk for making blood clots, and other possible problems that would influence your risk.  To determine if your specific Autoimmune issue could be putting you at risk, you need to check with your doctor.

THIRD: If you are taking immunosuppressant medications to treat your condition, you are definitely at increased risk for getting sick because these medications can reduce your ability to fight the virus, and you should follow the strictest social distancing and mask wearing guidelines.  

That being said, never stop your medication on your own.  But it’s good to set out a goal for being able to stop.  First, meet with your doctor and see if you have any other options.  Second, from my perspective, using a Functional Medicine approach and treating the underlying issues like repairing the gut microbiome and reducing toxic load, it is possible to taper off medication as you feel better and your condition improves.  

If I get COVID-19, will my Autoimmune Disease get worse?

There is no information that I have read about people with Autoimmunity and what happens to their illness when they have COVID-19.  But based on medical logic and experience, my guess is that your current health issues are likely to flare and get worse if you were to get sick.  This might be triggered by the virus itself, but more likely from the widespread immune and inflammatory reaction the body mounts against the virus. If your Autoimmune disease is very active and you still have symptoms and are still struggling, consider yourself at high risk and practice stricter social distancing and mask wearing.

Which immune-boosting supplements are good for me and which one’s should I avoid?

I have a great Blog on supplements for boosting immunity to fight coronavirus.  You can read it HERE.  For this discussion, I want to zero in on the concerns of my patients with Autoimmunity.

GOOD FOR EVERYONE: First, here are the categories of supplements that are all completely safe for all of you, and my previous blog reviews the dosing:

  1. Antioxidants:  Vitamins A, C, Glutathione, NAC, Quercetin, EGCG
  2. Antiviral and Immunomodulators:  Zinc, Vitamin D
  3. Anti-inflammatory:  Fish oil, Curcumin.

See dosing  HERE.

IF YOU HAVE AN AUTOIMMUNE CONDITION: You need to choose supplements carefully.  The concern is that these are immune boosting, which means they stimulate an increase in your natural killer cells.  On one hand, this is a great thing for fighting viruses.  However, for some people with autoimmunity, this could conceivably make your condition worse, although this is a theoretical concern because there haven’t been any studies on this.  Therefore, I recommend you check with your health practitioner before taking these.

Immune Boosting Supplements:  take with caution

  1. Mushrooms:  maitake, reishi, shitake, beta glucan
  2. Astragalus and echinacea
  3. Elderberry and Andrographis

If you’d like to learn more about how to use supplements to protect yourself from viruses, like COVID-19, consider joining my new LIVE course, Immune System Strong, led personally by me! Learn More 

What can I do to reduce my risk of getting very sick with COVID-19?  

Let’s end this blog on a high note!  There is plenty you can do to improve your immune function and reduce your risk of getting sick with COVID.  These same steps will also help repair your immune system and reverse your Autoimmune condition.  My main focus as a Functional Medicine physician is on the foundations of a healthy immune system:  food, stress, gut health, toxin load, oxidative stress and inflammation. 

The popularity of these questions is exactly why I designed a new just-in-time, 8-week program called Immune System Strong to teach you in real time with verified, no-nonsense information on how to fortify your immune system to fight viruses, like COVID-19, as we move into winter flu season!  We begin soon! Learn More

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The Never Ending COVID-19 Summer and What to Expect This Fall

It’s been a while since I wrote or spoke on the Public Health issues with COVID-19 swirling around us.  When the pandemic started I held open live office hours every Friday for about 8 weeks to answer your questions, and to share my Public Health expertise to make sense out of what we were going through collectively. 

As our long summer days at home (and hopefully outside, too) come to an end, I feel the need once again to provide information and to offer my view of where we are and what to expect as we are now moving into the fall.

THE GREAT MASK DEBATE

Public health is the understanding that decisions need to be made by the government to protect the health of the public — with the known understanding, and acceptance, that these laws or rules can infringe on someone’s personal liberties. The idea is that individual people need to sacrifice some personal liberties for the sake of the community.  

Public health has always been the place where there has historically been tension between individual rights and the collective.  And nowhere has this been on grand display but in the United States for the past few months and the great debate over whether it’s ok to make people wear masks. 

While in many places in our Country you are seeing a shift toward individual sacrifice for the greater good, not everyone feels this way. I am not saying this to make a political statement, but to point out this has always been understood as a classic public health dilemma, and we are seeing it play out right before our eyes.  

Evidence continues to mount every day proving that wearing a mask slows the virus spread, and my hope is that this battle will finally end.  We seem to be moving in the right direction.  But the battle lines have already been drawn, and I expect other public health initiatives (like vaccines) to be met with resistance in many parts of the country.  Our country’s internal war has added to the stress and burden that we all carry during the pandemic.

WHEN WILL COVID-19 END?

I am not terribly optimistic. Get used to your current living situation, or make plans for the winter now, because I predict we will be living like this until Spring 2021.  Here are the various ways we will get out of the pandemic, with my rating of the likelihood of each one:

COVID-19 VACCINE

We still don’t know how long immunity lasts, which means that even if we get a vaccine, we don’t know how long it will protect you. Any early vaccines will be fought over between all the countries of the world, and in our country, it will be doled out, based on who-knows-what formula. Which means that I wouldn’t expect the general public to have anything until next spring. Which suits me just fine, because I wouldn’t recommend being the first guinea pigs to get the vaccine for the first few months anyway!  

Bottom line: Don’t count on the vaccine to save you this winter.  Hopefully there will be available vaccines that work by the spring. And…be prepared for the possibility that no vaccines will work.

BETTER COVID-19 TREATMENT 

Some promising drugs are out there, but there hasn’t been a centralized effort to get enough doses produced to distribute to everyone. Remdesivir is a good example of a drug that has been shown to work in hospitalized people to reduce virus load and decrease hospital stay.  It has been distributed to only some hospitals, and even those hospitals are now running out. Everyone is fighting for a share of the limited supply.  Without a national response, treatment is hodge-podge depending on what hospital you go to, and which state you are in.  And there is the issue of affordability now that the drug company is charging full cost going forward. This in my opinion has been a disaster.  I think we won’t get this organized until there is national leadership on this issue.  

There are some interesting new treatments in the pipeline, but I don’t expect we will see them before the winter if they even prove effective.

Here’s one:

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/costa-rica-readies-horse-antibodies-for-trials-as-an-inexpensive-covid-19-therapy/

And this one I think is really interesting:

https://www.ucsf.edu/news/2020/08/418241/aeronabs-promise-powerful-inhalable-protection-against-covid-19

Bottom line: Don’t count on life going back to normal again this winter based on the treatments that we have so far.

HERD IMMUNITY 

Think of herd immunity as something that happens when the virus runs its course through a population.  It keeps going until it infects enough people and then fizzles out because there aren’t enough uninfected people to keep it burning.  Public health dogma has always been that at least 50% of people need to be infected for this to happen, and we are far away from this number.  Unless there is a drastic change in our approach or some big medical breakthrough (which would be GREAT), this virus will continue like a forest fire that will keep burning until it’s done.  If this is the scenario, then we will all be home perhaps longer than next spring.  

HOWEVER, cases have started leveling off in our country (probably due to more widespread mask wearing and social distancing) and some areas are doing well, like here in NY.  I am wondering if the virus might also be slowing down in some areas (like NY) because there is more immunity in the community then we think, and/or that herd immunity is being reached sooner than we expected in areas that saw the worst outbreaks. These are intriguing ideas and I am hoping these are true!  

Bottom line:  Even if there are pockets of immunity to the virus, most areas are still very susceptible and this fire will continue to burn well through the winter.

BEST CASE COVID-19 SCENARIOS

OK, now that I’ve been a real downer, I will end this blog by sharing what I hope will happen.  This is the information you should be looking for in the news to give you some optimism.  

Here is what to pray for every day:

  1. Antibodies to the Coronavirus last at least 1 year after infection or vaccine, and protects you from reinfection.  This is a requirement for almost everything else to work!  
  2. A mutation in the virus makes it less deadly (this is the one that I pray for the hardest because it doesn’t rely on humans to figure out the solution).  I think there is a fairly good chance this might happen.
  3. Herd immunity happens much sooner than anyone thinks.  Some new mathematical models suggest for this virus, it could be 20-30% of the population instead of 50-60%.  This would mean the forest fire would still rage unchecked for months, but self-extinguish sooner.  There are signs this might be happening!
  4. The people in our country unify around best public health practices to slow the spread and save lives. I pray that our internal war on Public Health will end.

WHAT YOU CAN DO TO BOOST YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM

It is frustrating to have such little control over the world around us. But you can feel more empowered if you take control over your own health. Making sure your immune system is primed and ready to go, just in case it encounters the coronavirus, should be your number one job during the pandemic.  

I have written before in previous blogs about supplements, but my main focus as a Functional Medicine physician is on the foundations of a healthy immune system:  food, stress, gut health, toxin load, oxidative stress and inflammation.   If you haven’t read my book on this topic, The Immune System Recovery Plan, what are you waiting for?!  

I have a lot more great info coming out in the next weeks and months on this topic.  To start, check out my FREE 3-part video series!  How To Boost Your Immunity and Resiliency to Viruses: DOWNLOAD FREE NOW

Keep your eyes peeled for my new LIVE course: Immune System Strong!  Slated to start late September (it will be here before you know it!) Immune System Strong will feature 4 LIVE classes with me that feature tangible next steps that you will be able to implement immediately, as well as community, accountability, group coaching and access to the answers you need on a daily basis.

Details will be available soon! Get On The First-To-Know List (even if you’re only a little bit interested), because we’ll be rewarding with an offer that won’t be available to anyone else.) I want the special reward!

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How Your Gut Affects Your Immune System

Did you know that your biggest exposure to the outside world every day is through your mouth?  That’s why 70% of your immune system lives in your gut, lying in wait to protect you from anything that seems foreign to the body (called antigens because they stimulate the immune system), which believe it or not includes food and the toxins and microbes that ride along with the food that you ingest while eating.

Your gut, which starts in your mouth, travels through your stomach, small intestine, colon or large intestine, and ends in your rectum, is supposed to be a closed tube – with the intestinal lining creating a barrier that separates the inside of your body and immune system from these outside exposures.  When you digest your food, the intestinal lining can then selectively choose what can enter your body by opening and closing special gates called tight junctions.

In functional medicine, an intestinal barrier with damaged tight junctions that isn’t keeping antigens out of the body is known as a leaky gut.  Studies have increasingly found that a leaky gut can damage the functioning of your immune system and is also associated with arthritis, autoimmune disease, allergies, and food sensitivities.

Causes of leaky gut vary, but the most important is dysbiosis, which is an imbalance in the bacteria in the gut, also called the gut microbiome.  Dysbiosis can be an overgrowth of harmful bacteria, yeast or parasites, or not enough good bacteria, and is commonly caused by a poor diet, a course of antibiotics, frequent use of antacids, stress, and many other things like medication and toxins. These gut bacteria are important because they interact with your immune system to keep it healthy, and they turn the food we eat into healthy compounds called short chain fatty acids which heal the tight junctions between your cells and also support immune health. 

The good news is that you can rebuild your microbiome and repair your gut, and this is the best thing you can do to maintain and improve the health of your immune system. Here is how to do this:

  1. CHANGE YOUR FOOD:  has the most influence on the diversity of the microbiome, and that’s why you should always start with changing your diet by increasing fruits and veggies, especially those rich in polyphenols, bioflavonoids, and fiber because these tend to increase the good bacteria that make short-chain fatty acids and heal the gut. Also, you need to remove foods from your diet that feed the bad bacteria like sugar, processed flour products, alcohol, and too many animal products (more than 30% of your daily diet).  You also need to test yourself for food sensitivities and remove sensitive foods such as gluten, dairy, soy, corn, eggs and the nightshade vegetables. Our elimination diet explainer shows how to do this. 
  2. TREAT YOUR DYSBIOSIS:  At Blum Center for Health we start with cleansing herbs like berberine, grape seed extract, black walnut, and oregano that can clear out bad bacteria and yeast from the gut ecosystem. In fact, we created our own custom herbal antibiotic mix called Gut Cleanse, and we use this in our do-it-yourself 10 or 30-Day Gut Cleanse Program.  Once you have eliminated the bad bacteria and yeast, probiotics and the right food can help you rebuild the good stuff, repair the gut lining, reduce inflammation, and eliminate food sensitivities. 
  3. TAKE A PROBIOTIC:  These are supplements filled with different strains of beneficial bacteria that help positively influence your gut ecosystem and improve the functioning of your immune system.  We recommend probiotics as a foundation for supporting immune health.  

These simple steps will not only improve your gut function, but will also lay down a foundation for immune health that will continue to improve in the future.

 

 

Check out my FREE 3-part video series! Last month I led live classes on the immune system and I’m happy to share with you the three videos:  How To Boost Your Immunity and Resiliency to Viruses: DOWNLOAD FREE NOW

Susan Blum, MD, MPH an Assistant Clinical Professor in the Department of Preventive Medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, has been treating, healing and preventing chronic diseases for nearly two decades. A Preventive Medicine and Chronic Disease Specialist, Dr. Blum is the Founder and Director of Blum Center for Health in Rye Brook, New York, where she leads a multi-specialty team of physicians, nurse practitioners, nutritionists and health coaches, all providing cutting edge Functional and Integrative Medicine services.