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10 Ways to Reduce Your Coronavirus Stress Response

Out of nowhere we’ve been blindsided. Two months ago we never could have imagined the Coronavirus pandemic that is literally bringing the world to a halt. 

We want you to be safe. We want your loved ones to be safe.  And when you stay safe, you help the greater community stay safe, too.

And besides everything you can do physically to ensure safety — washing your hands repeatedly and staying at home as much as humanly possible (yes, isolating) — you must also give your stress response a break. Seriously. Your immune system depends on it.

One of the common threads of Dr. Susan Blum’s books, The Immune System Recovery Plan and Healing Arthritis, and in all our clinical work at Blum Center for Health is this: Stress damages the immune system.

In order to keep your immune system strong, you must employ strategies to minimize the effects of stress.

10 Ways to Reduce Your Coronavirus Stress Response

Create News Blackout Periods — Constantly scrolling, listening to the radio or watching television puts your body on unrelenting periods of high alert. Put in place a news plan. When will you consume your news? I recommend once in the morning and once in the evening for no more than 60 minutes. During the rest of the day, shut off the notifications on your phone, turn off the television and stream podcasts and music that makes you feel good. 

Use Social Media Wisely — Your feed is inundated with COVID19 related news — some of it accurate, some of it false, much of it alarmist, and you likely have friends and family that are in pure panic mode. Perhaps you need to mute a few people, but more than likely you need to step away. Just as I’ve suggested News Blackout Periods, do the same with social media. No, you don’t need it to stay connected to people.  You know who your friends and family are — reach out to them the old fashioned way — call them!

Reframe Your Worries — Here’s an example: My mom is 87 and lives with me. I’m doing everything I can to minimize her exposure. And, my father-in-law is in assisted living — while the building has been closed to visitors for a week, we received notification that someone who visited a resident has since tested positive. I’m a worrier. But, every time I start to feel myself getting worked up, imagining worst case scenarios, feeling that too-familiar constriction in my chest, tingling arms,  combined with swallow breathing, or most likely, holding my breath, I ask myself: “Does my worry change anything in this moment? Is there anything that I can change that would alleviate the worry?” If the answer is yes, I do it. If the answer is no, then I shift my thinking to: “What are my blessings in this moment?” My mom is fine, I’m doing everything I can to keep her safe. My father-in-law is okay. There are no reported cases at his home, and they’ve been closed to visitors for a week. I’m grateful for the sunny day. I’m grateful for the food in my fridge. I’m grateful for an internet connection so that I can stay in touch with my family and friends.

Get Out in Nature — Take a walk. Research shows that walking in nature has a calming effect on your immune system. Take one long walk, or you can take several mini walks throughout the day. 

Breathe — If you’re already meditating, awesome! Now is a great time to deepen your practice. If you’ve been “too busy” to start meditating, well … opportunity knocks! This is the perfect time to get started.  Use an app like Headspace or Calm, and start with 10 minutes a day. There is clear evidence that a mindfulness practice reduces stress, promotes healthier bodies, including taking care of your immune system, and over time, teaches you how to respond to stressors rather than react to them. That comes in pretty darn handy in times like this!

Choose Movies and TV Shows Wisely — Watching disaster movies, action movies and Debbie Downer dramas and documentaries are probably not the way to go right now. Your brain and your body absorb all the negativity, elevating your stress response — not only in the moment, but it fuels your worries and plays a role in disrupted sleep. Choose uplifting, fun, funny shows to watch. I bet you have a list!

Use the Time to Nest — When was the last time you were told to stay home? I mean, were you ever told to stay home? Yes, it’s a very worrying time, but you can also look at the bright side. What projects do you have that have been on the back burner for when you have  more time? Clean out closets, organize your home office, spring clean, get out the clothes that need mending, make your space feel homey and light. You might even try some aromatherapy — use your diffuser, if you have one, or light candles (preferably soy-based, rather than paraffin).

Have Fun with Homesteading — What do I mean? Bake from scratch, include your kids in cooking meals, try some new kitchen skills, like sprouting beans or preserving lemons. Or maybe there’s an InstaPot recipe you’ve been wanting to try. Now’s the time!

Connect with Friends and Family via Video (or Telephone) — Just because you’re home doesn’t mean you have to be isolated from your friends and family. In fact, with nearly everybody at home, it couldn’t be easier to connect with those you love. Use video to make lunch dates or connect in the evening rather than watching television. Do you have older people in your life that aren’t comfortable with technology? A good ole phone call will make their day (and likely yours too.)

Eat Real Food — During times of stress many people lean on packaged foods, and sugary, empty calorie foods — these deplete your immune system! Focus on antioxidant-rich vegetables and fruits — at least half your plate at every meal — healthy fats, like avocado, wild caught salmon, nuts and seeds; and whole grains, like gluten-free oats, wild rice and quinoa. Legumes are a great source of plant-based protein.

What are some of the ways you reduce stress during trying times? Share them. We’d love to hear.

Wondering what else you can do?

Read Dr. Blum’s blog post: Tips for Boosting Your Immunity 

Check out Dr. Yee’s Fire Cider Brew to help boost your immune system. 

 

Meet Melissa: Melissa Rapoport is the Manager of Health Coaching and Lifestyle Programming at Blum Center for Health in Rye Brook, NY. She combines her graduate work in Developmental Psychology with her education in nutrition, health and coaching to create highly individualized programs that result in lifetime change. A contributing author to three international bestselling books, Melissa’s greatest joy is her relationship with her two daughters. To learn more about Melissa’s coaching practice at Blum Center for Health, click here.

 

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I Had My Brain Mapped: Here’s What Happened

For years I’ve struggled with migraines. Diagnosed at 4-years old, I can’t really remember ever being completely headache-free. You might be thinking, “Of course you feel fatigued. Who wouldn’t?”

But, it’s a little more complicated than that. I also had a few concussions as a martial artist, and in sports, like flag football. Perhaps most notably, I had a traumatic brain injury in my 20s when I was hit by a car on my bicycle — yes, a life-changing event. I’ve also had viral meningitis and Lyme disease twice — two more migraine triggers.

In the last year, I started wondering, “Is all of this affecting the way my brain works? Is it just one thing, or is it some combination of these potential brain-affecting ailments? How can I tease all of this apart?”

In comes Field, a wellness team currently located at Blum Center for Health in Rye Brook, NY, that offers brain optimization, or in their own words, “Much like computer software, you can think of brainwaves as code that we can train, tweak and reprogram.” 

They claim that by mapping the brain, actually seeing how the brain responds to stimuli (or lack of stimuli), they can help people rewire the brain to respond or fire differently. The treatment particularly helps people with ADD/ADHD, depression, concussions, stress/anxiety, PTSD/trauma, even insomnia.

Could this be the answer to my headaches? It certainly peaked my interest. 

I decided to give it a try.

Prior to my initial assessment appointment I filled out a questionnaire — basically, a brain health history. I elaborated on my reasons for the appointment, and although I was a bit nervous to have electrodes — electrocephalography (EEG) — attached to my head (this is my brain after all!), I felt reassured that they knew what they were doing.

On the day of my appointment I sat in a beautiful slightly reclined chair — I figured it was a way to get me to relax a bit. Co-founder Devon White sat behind a bank of computer screens, and Kitty Boyle, the technician, placed a space-age cap on my head and attached the electrodes to capture my brain’s activity. They explained everything that would happen. So far, so good.

Kitty instructed me to close my eyes and relax. I could hear the white noise of the computer working, a few whispers between Devon and Kitty and then, “Melissa, try not to blink.” Did you know that you can blink with your eyes closed? Evidently I blink a lot!

This first assessment probably only lasted a couple of minutes, but it seemed longer. Trying not to blink took a lot of concentration.

The second assessment was the same as the first — only this time, eyes open. And again, no blinking. 

The third assessment was math-related — counting down from 1,000 by 7s to see how my brain was firing when given a task.

And lastly, Devon and Kitty did a Traumatic Brain Injury Assessment to determine the impact of the injury.

Once all the data was in, all my brain images flashed up on the wall in front of me. Sitting in the comfy chair, it kind of felt like a movie screening — only it was all about me. I was so eager, and even though the assessment was in real time, the anticipation was palpable. What’s going on in there?

Devon and Kitty walked me through all the data. We looked at all the brain waves — gamma, delta, theta, alpha and beta. They took the time to explain what these meant in relation to my assessment. We looked at the Mental Math EEG and the Traumatic Brain Injury Discriminant Analysis.

Here’s what I learned:

  • I have a beautiful, fast-firing, high functioning brain. Phew!
  • One thing that popped out is that I have lots of activity at F7 — the front left of my brain — in fact, it never seems to turn off unless I’m keeping it busy with an activity. It makes me hyper alert — and it can make me exhausted if I can’t turn it off. This is so true! Now that it has been brought into my awareness, I’m noticing it all the time. During meditation, when I’m trying to fall asleep, when I just rest with my eyes closed. My brain NEVER gets quiet!
  • There is a pronounced lack of activity in the T4 region — the right temple. This could be the area of my Traumatic Brain Injury.
  • Lastly, there was a TBI, but the great news is: it’s effect is minimal. Hooray!

Devon and Kitty recommended neurofeedback, a type of biofeedback that focuses on the brain and its firing patterns. It utilizes real-time displays (EEG) of brain activity — in order to teach self-regulation of brain function. 

Here is what they recommended:

  • We would increase alpha waves while my eyes are closed in order to help facilitate daydreaming and quiet down my brain that never stops firing.
  • Give theta to T4 in order to take down headaches.
  • Use neurofeedback to find plasticity in the part of my brain that isn’t firing and discover if this is indeed residue from my TBI.

So, I’m going to give it a try! I’m hopeful and optimistic. And, I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

Interested in learning more about brain-mapping? Contact my friend Devon, at Field. 

 

Meet Melissa: Melissa Rapoport is the Manager of Health Coaching and Lifestyle Programming at Blum Center for Health in Rye Brook, NY. She combines her graduate work in Developmental Psychology with her education in nutrition, health and coaching to create highly individualized programs that result in lifetime change. A contributing author to three international bestselling books, Melissa’s greatest joy is her relationship with her two daughters. To learn more about Melissa’s coaching practice at Blum Center for Health, click here.

 

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4 Foods to Avoid Right Now if You Have Joint Pain

You suffer from joint pain. You may have an official diagnosis of arthritis, or you may suspect you have arthritis. Either way, if you’ve visited your doctor for relief, you’ve likely been told to take anti-inflammatories and to “live with it.”

That’s exactly what happened to me when a sports medicine doctor diagnosed osteoarthritis in my left knee. 

What most conventional doctors won’t tell you is: One of the most important influences on reducing pain is the food you eat.

Why don’t they address diet? 

Research shows that conventionally trained doctors only receive 21 hours of nutrition in the required curricula of United States medical schools. 

Here’s what Functional Medicine tells us: Arthritis — whether it’s autoimmune or osteoarthritis — is an inflammatory condition that can be treated through food, healing the gut, and mitigating the effects of stress.

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

The first step is to remove foods that cause arthritis pain and flares. Not all the foods on this list will cause you flares. But, by removing all of them at once at the start of the experiment, you can add them back one-by-one to learn which foods might be causing you pain.  Our comprehensive elimination diets remove more foods than these 4, but we have found these are the worst offenders and so we suggest you start here. Remove these foods for 3 weeks before reintroducing them, to give the experiment time to work.

4 Foods to Avoid if you Have Joint Pain

Sugar Research demonstrates that sugar is highly inflammatory, and is correlated with arthritis.  And because it is in so many foods, and because you are exposed to it daily, you may not make the connection between your pain and this highly addictive substance. When your blood sugar is high, it directly causes inflammation by stimulating your immune cells to release inflammatory molecules that travel throughout your body, causing damage and irritation in your tissues and joints. To eat a low-sugar diet, eliminate all white flour and processed sugar from your diet, high sugar fruit, fruit juices and dried fruit. This is one of the most important steps you can take toward good health.

Eating this way should be a permanent change. 

Nightshades — These contain a chemical called solanine, which can cause inflammation and joint pain in arthritis sufferers. Avoid tomatoes, white potatoes, all peppers, eggplants, paprika, salsa, chili peppers, cayenne, chili powder and goji berries.

Gluten — Found in everything from bread to pasta, gluten, (a protein found in wheat), is very hard to digest and can damage the gut lining leading to a “leaky gut”. When partially digested gluten particles get into your bloodstream through this leaky gut, you can develop an immune reaction that can cause vague symptoms like brain fog, fatigue, inflammation, and particularly relevant to you, achiness in muscles and joints. Some people also have more obvious digestive symptoms like gas and bloating.  This is called gluten sensitivity and is different than celiac disease. Gluten reactions can also trigger autoimmunity in body.

Dairy — You may think we remove dairy because of lactose intolerance. However, food sensitivities are caused by the proteins in milk called casein and whey, not by lactose, which is the milk sugar that many people think is the primary cause of their stomach pain. Dairy causes other symptoms that go beyond the stomach — congestion, sinusitis, postnasal drip, and ear infections. Dairy also contributes to a general inflammatory response that can result in …. Joint pain.

In addition to these foods, some people are also sensitive to corn, soy, eggs, alcohol, caffeine, dyes and preservatives, or high histamine foods, such as  shellfish and cured meats. Removing all of these as part of a comprehensive elimination diet would be the next step if removing sugar, gluten, dairy and night shades doesn’t help you feel better.

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

The good news is: There are also foods that help heal joint pain!

Your grocery cart should include:

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

Wondering about the other two steps of Dr. Blum’s 3-Step Arthritis Protocol? 

  • Step 1 is all about the Leaky Gut Diet for Arthritis and very specific research-supported anti-arthritis supplements. This is all about quick pain reduction.
  • Step 2 is healing the gut — there is documented connection between the digestive tract and joint pain. We heal the gut, further reduce inflammation and continue to decrease arthritis symptoms.
  • And, Step 3 tackles the most overlooked source of joint pain: stress. Step 3 also helps you continue to heal long after the program is over.  We call it “finish what you started”! Address all three and you’ll be well on your way to living pain-free again.

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

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

Oh, and what about my arthritis symptoms? The right food, the right supplements, the right type of movement, and continued stress management has me up and running (yes, literally running!) again.

Meet Melissa: Melissa Rapoport is the Manager of Health Coaching and Lifestyle Programming at Blum Center for Health in Rye Brook, NY. She combines her graduate work in Developmental Psychology with her education in nutrition, health and coaching to create highly individualized programs that result in lifetime change. A contributing author to three international bestselling books, Melissa’s greatest joy is her relationship with her two daughters.

 

 

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Try Our Joint-Healthy, Body-Loving Winter Reboot Buddha Bowl

Now that the holidays are behind us, you might be feeling all the holiday cheer has left you feeling, well, a little less cheery. If you ate a little too much, if you drank a little more than usual, you might be experiencing bloating, headaches and even creaky joints. Not to worry! Here’s our nutritious, comforting Buddha Bowl to the rescue.

Chock full of wintery goodness, this recipe will not only soothe your soul, but will also leaving you feeling nurtured and full. What could be better on a cold wintery night?

One of my favorite things about this bowl is how adaptable it is. Add your favorite vegetables or beans. (I often add pre-cooked lentils that I find in the produce section of the grocery store. Super easy!) You might want to add some other toppings. Here are some of my favorites: hummus, cilantro chutney, avocado, microgreens. Yum!

While we’re on the topic of joint-healthy food … Save The Date!  Dr. Susan Blum, our pioneering Functional Medicine doctor and author of Healing Arthritis, will be leading a FREE 1-hour Masterclass: How to Heal Your Joint Pain in 3 Easy Steps on Tuesday, January 21st at 8pm. Join Now!

Buddha Bowl with Lemon Tahini Sauce (serves 6)

  • 2 cups of cubed winter squash
  • 1 pint mushrooms, washed and trimmed
  • 2 medium beets, peeled and cubed
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
  • 1¾ cup water
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1½ Tbsp sesame seeds 
  • 12 Tbsp roasted walnuts 

Optional: sprouts, minced avocado, cilantro, toasted nori strips

Preheat oven to 375°F. 

  1. Toss the squash with 1-2 Tbsp of olive oil, salt and pepper and lay out on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat with mushrooms and beets, keeping them separate. Roast in the oven until fork tender (time will vary for each vegetable). 
  2. Add the quinoa, water and a pinch of salt to a small pot. Lower the heat, cover the pot and simmer for about 12-15 minutes or until the water is absorbed. When the quinoa is done, fluff with a fork and recover for 10-15 minutes. 

While the quinoa is cooking, heat 2 Tbsp of olive oil in a large sauté pan on medium high heat and add the onions. Without stirring, let the onions brown or caramelize. Stir the onions and continue to cook on a low heat, about 10 minutes. 

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together Lemon Tahini Sauce (recipe follows) ingredients. 
  2. To serve, place ½ cup quinoa in a bowl and add the onions as well as each vegetable around the quinoa. Garnish with your desired toppings and drizzle the tahini sauce on top. 

Lemon Tahini Sauce (makes 1 ½ cups)

  • ¾ cup hot water 
  • ½ cup tahini 
  • ¼ cup lemon juice 
  • 2 tsp grated ginger 
  • 2 tsp honey 
  • ¼ tsp salt  
  1. In a small saucepan, heat the water. Add the tahini, lemon, ginger, honey and salt, and whisk until smooth and pourable. 

If you want to start the new decade (Yikes! 2020!) taking control of your arthritis to live a pain-free life, attend Dr. Blum’s FREE 1-hour Masterclass: How to Heal Your Joint Pain in 3 Easy Steps on Tuesday, January 21st at 8pm. It is the only time this year she will be leading this class.  Join Now!

Meet Melissa: Melissa Rapoport is the Manager of Health Coaching and Lifestyle Programming at Blum Center for Health in Rye Brook, NY. She combines her graduate work in Developmental Psychology with her education in nutrition, health and coaching to create highly individualized programs that result in lifetime change. A contributing author to three international bestselling books, Melissa’s greatest joy is her relationship with her two daughters.

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Common Probiotic Myths Debunked

The amount of information found online about probiotics can be mind boggling. Search “should I take probiotics,” for instance, and you’ll likely close your browser none the wiser. There’s a lot of credible information, and there’s equally loads of erroneous information, including “experts” who have extrapolated data from research studies and made umbrella statements that are just plain … wrong.

For instance, many people believe that probiotics are like seeds that plant themselves in the gut and that they are supposed to grow and flourish. In fact, studies show that most probiotics pass through our digestive tract in about 6 weeks. Bloggers, experts and the media picked up this information and, suddenly, a buzz was created that probiotics were useless. This is not true!

Here’s what we know: 

Over 100 trillion microbes live in your digestive tract. Most of them are “good” bacteria, but there’s always some “bad” bacteria that live in your gut ecosystem (like weeds in your inner garden), always looking for an opportunity to overgrow and cause an imbalance. 

There are about 500 different strains of these microbes (estimates range from 300-1000) and when you take probiotics, you are ingesting just a few of the strains that have been well studied and found to be beneficial to your health.  You can eat probiotic foods, such as cultured (yogurt) food or fermented vegetables (kimchi, sauerkraut), or you can take a probiotic supplement, with many different types that vary by the dose and the number of strains that they contain. 

What’s most important is that you think about probiotics as influencers on your gut ecosystem.  While you take them, they are exerting a tremendous influence without needing them to “plant and grow”.  Here’s what we know.

How Probiotics Help You

GUT

Many studies have shown that taking probiotics can alleviate myriad gastrointestinal symptoms, including reducing bloat, gas, diarrhea, and constipation.  While the exact mechanism for how they do this has still to be completely worked out, we do know that probiotics help improve the overall balance of the good:bad bacteria, and help heal the intestinal lining.  This really matters because a damaged microbiome can give rise to many chronic health conditions, including inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, mental health issues, obesity, increased infections and lowered resistance to viruses. 

Here’s the good news:  If you have a “leaky”gut (increased permeability of the digestive tract lining), or dysbiosis (too many bad bacteria), probiotic supplements can help restore your gut barrier as they are passing through.  They can also help improve the number and function of your own good gut bacteria, and inhibit the growth of the “bad” bacteria. This ability to influence the overall health and functioning of your gut highlights why taking probiotics helps so many people, and why probiotic foods have been around for hundreds of years in many different cultures around the world.  Pretty important stuff, right?

INFLAMMATION

Probiotics also play a huge role in helping treat inflammatory conditions like arthritis, and immune system imbalances like autoimmune disease. Think of any condition with -itis at the end — gastritis, colitis, bursitis, diverticulitis, rhinitis, dermatitis — these are all inflammatory conditions. Many of these conditions are related to a damaged microbiome, and leaky gut, where microbes and toxins are leaking through the digestive tract lining into the bloodstream. Yeah, not good, as this triggers a system-wide immune response … inflammation. 

Susan Blum, MD, reports in her latest book, Healing Arthritis, that researchers have studied the use of probiotic supplements to treat the dysbiosis (overgrowth of “bad” bacteria) of inflammatory arthritis and found that probiotics improve symptoms in arthritis sufferers. Generally speaking, when it comes to arthritis, probiotics are thought to improve all the functions of your own good flora, including helping T regulator immune cells work better and live longer, turning off inflammation and repairing the gut lining and tight junctions. Because probiotics help treat a leaky gut, and because of the gut-arthritis connection, it follows that they would also treat systemic inflammation and arthritis, and they do!  

Probiotics help reduce inflammation by helping the immune system block pro-inflammatory responses that trigger inflammation over time. In other words, probiotics are a must for any one who has an inflammatory condition, and are beneficial for anyone trying to keep inflammation at bay. 

IMMUNITY

Did you know that the majority of your immune system resides in your gut? In fact, about 80% of your immune system lives in your digestive tract. With your gut playing such an important role in your body’s ability to defend itself against infection, it’s imperative that your gut microbiome be in tip-top shape. 

Your immune system has an innate response and an adaptive response. Innate immunity is an immediate inflammatory response — a signal that your body needs to defend itself from an invader, such as an allergen. Adaptive immunity takes longer to come to fruition. It is the body’s way of developing antibodies to pathogens — for example this is the way a vaccination works. When you consume probiotics, you are directly tuning up your gut-immune system, because the probiotics “talk” to your immune cells as they are passing through.  This is like arming your gut to protect you from foreign invaders!

CHOLESTEROL

Studies show that certain probiotics, particularly Lactobacilli, can help reduce cholesterol. They do this by preventing cholesterol from being absorbed, as well by helping to break it down. Evidently, probiotics can bind with cholesterol in the intestines to block it from being absorbed, and they also influence the metabolism of bile acids, which then affects the way that your body metabolizes fat and cholesterol.

MENTAL HEALTH

You’ve likely heard of the Gut-Brain Axis — meaning that neurotransmitters not only reside in your brain, but also live in your gut, and they communicate with one another. Take care of your gut, and you take care of your brain.

In fact, researchers recently found that probiotics improved psychiatric disorder-related behaviors including anxiety, depression, autism spectrum disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and memory abilities, including spatial and non-spatial memory.

Probiotics help your mood and your functioning? Pardon the pun, but this is a no-brainer.

ANTIBIOTICS

Probiotics can also help offset the bacterial imbalance caused by taking antibiotics. Antibiotics kill good bacteria along with the harmful ones, often leading to gas, cramping or diarrhea. These side effects often drive patients to the pharmacy in search of an appropriate probiotic.

What’s perhaps more important, and lesser known, is that frequent or extended use of antibiotics can lead to leaky gut and is implicated as an underlying root cause of autoimmune disease. 

Research demonstrates that probiotics strains can act as adjuncts to antibiotic therapy by reducing side effects, protecting the digestive tract lining from leaky gut and they can actually improve antibiotic function.

ORAL HEALTH

Flossing and brushing aren’t the only ways to care for your mouth. Emerging research is demonstrating that the microbiome of the mouth benefits from probiotics. From preventing plaque to fighting bad breath and reducing gingivitis, and even to preventing oral cancer, probiotics are proving to be good for the mouth, too! Pucker up with confidence!

SKIN

Who doesn’t want clear skin? People predisposed to skin conditions, such as acne, eczema or rosacea, tend to flare when their gut microbiome is out of balance. It is well documented that probiotics help prevent and treat skin diseases including eczema, atopic dermatitis, acne, allergic inflammation, skin hypersensitivity, wound protection and even UV-induced skin damage.

Which Probiotic Strains to Take

Look at probiotics and you might be wondering, “How the heck do I know which one to choose?” Great question. 

General recommendations call for ingesting 1 to 25 billion colony-forming units (CFUs) daily. To put these guidelines into perspective, most store-bought probiotic yogurts only contain about 1 billion CFUs per serving. 

We are now learning that perhaps different strains are effective for different health issues, but research has a long way to go until we can choose a specific strain for a specific condition.  Case in point: Studies performed in inflammatory bowel disease suggest that high doses of combinations of different probiotic strains are more effective in decreasing inflammation and maintaining patients in remission than a single probiotic strain. This is one of the reasons that we always recommend multi strain formulas.  

For this reason at Blum Center for Health we recommend 25 billion CFUs to best support your gut microbiome. Ours is a hypoallergenic blend of 12 certified probiotic species — a complete spectrum of microorganisms. And, it’s on sale right now!  Learn More Here

Ready to improve your gut and improve your health? A probiotic is a great place to start.

 

Meet Melissa: Melissa Rapoport is the Manager of Health Coaching and Lifestyle Programming at Blum Center for Health in Rye Brook, NY. She combines her graduate work in Developmental Psychology with her education in nutrition, health and coaching to create highly individualized programs that result in lifetime change. A contributing author to three international bestselling books, Melissa’s greatest joy is her relationship with her two daughters.

 

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10 Ways to Influence Autoimmune Recovery

Truth #1: It is possible to reverse your autoimmune condition.

Truth #2: There is no one way to get there — everyone is unique. What works for me may not work for you. And, what works for you may not work for me. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Truth #3: There a multitude of core principles at play and finding your right mix is critical to reversing your condition. 

Truth #4: There is one key to this entire process that no one mentions. Stick with me and I will share it with you.

For the past 3 years I’ve had the privilege of working side-by-side with Dr. Susan Blum, one of the foremost authorities on autoimmunity. I work with patients at Blum Center for Health and with individuals through our CoachMe online platform, to implement the four steps of Dr. Blum’s international bestselling book, The Immune System Recovery Plan.

Two years ago we created the Immune Recovery Challenge — an online program that allows people from all over the world to learn directly from Dr. Blum in a LIVE group setting. It only happens once a year, and it’s coming up soon! Learn More

From working with hundreds and hundreds of people, I can tell you this: The Four Steps Work!

You might be wondering, “What are the four steps?”  They are: 1) Food as Medicine 2) Learning to Relax 3) Healing the Gut and 4) Supporting the Liver

Within those steps there’s a lot to learn, and it’s within those steps that things get personal. Here’s where YOU come into the equation. If you’ve been struggling with an autoimmune condition and autoimmune recovery, look at little deeper — look within the steps.

10 Ways to Influence Autoimmune Recovery

Eating the Right Foods — You’ve probably heard the phrase, “Food is Medicine.” Indeed it is! And, it can also be your poison. The first step to relieving symptoms, and getting a grip on which foods are right for you, is to do an autoimmune elimination diet. This is not only therapeutic, but it is also diagnostic. When done properly you walk away with a personalized nutrition plan.  How does this differ from person to person? Someone with an autoimmune arthritis, for example, may need to remove nightshades. Someone who is struggling with digestive distress may need to consider high lectin foods that might be exacerbating symptoms. The great news is, that once this short-term food plan is complete many people successfully reintroduce favorite foods back into their diet.

Healing your Gut — About 70% of your immune system lives in your digestive tract!  Nearly everyone who suffers with an autoimmune condition needs to heal their gut. Think of your gut as a garden with trillions of good bacteria, and includes hundreds of different species. Pretty cool, right? But when all those beautiful good bacteria get infiltrated with bad bacteria, yeast or parasites, the good bacteria get crowded out. And that, right there, can compromise the integrity of your digestive tract lining, creating minuscule breaks in the barrier where food leaks into the bloodstream. This is known as Leaky Gut Syndrome. Healing your gut is a CRITICAL component to healing your autoimmune condition.  And the amount of gut damage is different from one autoimmune person to another, and thus the treatment and focus will need to be different, too. 

Supporting your Liver — We live in a world filled with toxins that can trigger autoimmune disease and harm the immune system. These include pesticides/herbicides, hormones and plastics in food and water, solvents and mold in our homes and heavy metals in the fish we eat and water we drink. Others can come from cosmetics and products we use at home. At Blum Center for Health, we also believe that some relationships, home and work environments and thoughts can be toxic and have a negative impact on the body. We highly recommend detoxing at least once a year. This is another place where things get personal – your toxin exposure is going to be different than everyone else’s, and how much detox you need will be different, too. 

Taking the Right Supplements — Targeted supplements facilitate healing, reduce inflammation, heal the gut, and remove toxins. It’s important to use medical grade supplements that do not contain fillers, preservatives, additives, gluten, dairy, soy or corn. You’ve got to check labels carefully. You could very well be putting something in your body that’s contributing to your autoimmune condition!  

Learning to Relax — Stress, even low grade stress (you know, they kind we wave away, like having to make lunch everyday for your kids to take to school) fuel the fire of autoimmunity. Even good stress, like getting ready to go on vacation, can cause a flare. Many people will get on board with the food plan, and start taking the appropriate supplements, but have a hard time implementing a stress reduction process. This may very well be the most difficult part of an autoimmune program. And this is where coaching can make all the difference in the world. In a world that’s built on distraction and endless motion it can be difficult and uncomfortable to be quiet with oneself. 

Implementing Exercise When You Don’t Feel Well — Exercise is one of those “loops”— you don’t feel well so you don’t exercise (don’t worry, I feel the same) and when you don’t exercise you don’t get its anti-inflammatory benefits. Drop all the ideals you have about exercise: the person running on a treadmill, the women pushing weights at the gym, the man doing headstands in a yoga class, the people doing hardcore spin. You don’t have to go to the gym! You don’t have to run on a treadmill! You don’t have to do weights! You just have to start with moving. Start slow. Start low. Start with something you enjoy. Just start.

Getting enough Sleep — The research is clear: Lack of sleep or poor sleep impacts just about every system in your body, and increases inflammation. It increases your risk of autoimmunity and if you already have an autoimmune condition it impedes your ability to heal it. And by the way, lack of proper sleep drives sugar cravings and carb cravings, which makes it nearly impossible to stick to a healthy, anti-inflammatory food plan!

Learning to Say No — This is not scientific, but this is my observation in working with hundreds and hundreds of women: You can heal your autoimmune condition by holding your boundaries firm. No more giving away your time, no more saying yes to things that don’t serve you. Taking care of yourself means saying no. Or in other words, when you say no, you give yourself the space you need to heal. Want to read more on this subject? Check out 8 Reasons All Women Need Non-Negotiable Self-Care

Understanding Hidden Infections: Doing everything and still symptomatic? You may need additional testing. Functional medicine will help you get to the root of the problem.

AND FINALLY:  

The KEY that I promised you – CONSISTENCY:  

Yes, consistency! Taking imperfect action daily. Notice I said “imperfect.” We’re not trying to be perfect. In fact, it’s impossible to be perfect. It’s not all or nothing. When someone starts something new, they often give up. If they can’t do it “right,” they don’t do it at all. (Think New Year’s Eve resolutions. Done by February 1st!) You can be consistent. You can even learn to be consistent if it’s eluded you in the past. It’s all about figuring out your personal plan … a combination of what you need right now and the baby steps you need to get there. 

And, this is where it’s important to have a coach or a coaching program so that you’re not figuring it all out alone.

Are you ready to begin reversing your autoimmune condition? Join Dr. Blum and me for the Immune Recovery Challenge — a 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 to help you personalize it just for what you need. It is a wonderful opportunity to learn from Dr. Blum in a group setting. Join Now

 

Meet Melissa: Melissa Rapoport is the Manager of Health Coaching and Lifestyle Programming at Blum Center for Health in Rye Brook, NY. She combines her graduate work in Developmental Psychology with her education in nutrition, health and coaching to create highly individualized programs that result in lifetime change. A contributing author to three international bestselling books, Melissa’s greatest joy is her relationship with her two daughters.

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Is Your Cell Phone Sabotaging your Health?

Chances are you check your cell phone for messages, alerts, or calls even when your device isn’t ringing or vibrating. You probably sleep with your phone next to your bed to be sure you don’t miss any calls, text messages, or other updates during the night. And you likely feel lost without your cell phone, reports a Pew Internet & American Life survey.

In fact, the average cell phone user checks their phone 110 times a day, with the highest users hitting the 900 mark, says Locket, an Android app that has collected data on over 150,000 users.

Yes, we are addicted to cell phones.

And the cost of this addiction to our personal well-being is substantial. The tethering to our cell phones interferes with our mental health, physical health and even our relationships.

  • The constant barrage of notifications increases our stress level, likely contributing to high blood pressure, headaches, eye strain, and anxiety.
  • The anticipation of messages keeps us constantly checking our phones and creates anxiety.
  • Cell phone use interferes with human relationships. Studies show that in face-to-face interactions a phone present made the other person think negatively about the cell phone holder. 
  • The incessant connection to one’s phone makes us less inclined to participate in conversation with those around us. We become less aware.
  • Our dependence on our phones as entertainment is a constant source of distraction, making it difficult to be with oneself in a quiet, still, disconnected space.
  • When we don’t have our phones we become bored, antsy and depressed.

Clients often tell me they want to feel less controlled by their phones. They want to take back their peace and quiet. 

The key? Baby steps and commitment.

8 Ways To Kick Your Cell Phone Addiction

Make No Cell-Phone Zones — Make a pact with other members of your household no cell phones at the table. Ever. Live alone? Put down the electronics, set the table, light a candle and enjoy your meal. You will taste your food, remember what you ate, and be more aware of how much you’re eating.

Bring On The Zen — Introduce meditation, yoga, tai chi or one of the other meditative practices into your daily routine — even if it’s for only 10 minutes it will slow you down, bring your awareness back to your body and reap a myriad of health benefits, including better concentration, lower blood pressure, reduced stress, better mood and better sleep.

Home From Work? Just Say “No” — Implement limits and boundaries in relation to work-related email and messages. Just because someone sends you an email at 10pm in the evening does not mean you have to answer it. When you answer emails you set the precedent that you are available. When does your work day end? You decide: “I will not answer any work-related emails after 7pm in the evening or on the weekends.” And then stick to it. If the mere thought of that makes you anxious create an auto-responder letting people know you will answer their email first thing in the morning.

Blackout Periods — Schedule “No Cell-Phone” Periods during your day. Start small — even 10 minutes. Put it on your calendar (or set an alarm) and disconnect for that time. After a week increase the time, or add another Black Out period to your day. Week by week increase the time until you are able to disconnect for several hours a day.

No Fly Zone — When you travel for holiday set your phone to “no data roaming” so that you only receive messages when you are connected with Wifi.  This will limit the amount of new communication that is coming your way and provide a more peaceful journey.

Your Boots Are Made For Walking — Take a walk and leave your phone at home. Look up, look down, pay attention to your surroundings. Taking a walk is a great way to boost your mood, find solutions to challenges, and increase productivity.

Engage With The World — Make a decision to not use your phone in the presence of others. Pay attention to your conversations, make eye contact and give 100% to the other person/s you are with.

Sleep It Off — Do not use your cell phone as an alarm clock. Leave it outside your room. You might consider implementing a sleep routine to help you wean — reading, or listening to music.

Put down your cell phone? The answer is clear. Just say “yes.”

Do you find that you start a new habit but get derailed? Consider private coaching! I help people attain their goals by unraveling those self-sabotaging behaviors that get in the way. Let’s play! I’ll help you create new habits that lead to long-term change. Get what you want. Finally. Check out CoachMe

Meet Melissa: Melissa Rapoport is the Manager of Health Coaching and Lifestyle Programming at Blum Center for Health in Rye Brook, NY. She combines her graduate work in Developmental Psychology with her education in nutrition, health and coaching to create highly individualized programs that result in lifetime change. A contributing author to three international bestselling books, Melissa’s greatest joy is her relationship with her two daughters. To learn more about Melissa’s coaching practice at Blum Center for Health, click here.

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Start Your Day with a Taste of the Tropics Smoothie

Start your day with a smoothie that will make you smile! This colorful and refreshing pineapple kale smoothie is a great way to add greens into your breakfast routine with a taste of the tropics.  Kale has detoxifying benefits for the liver and pineapple is loaded with digestive enzymes that are good for the stomach. The coconut oil provides your body with healthy fats and a flavor that instantly transports you to a tropical island getaway.  A VitaMix-type blender is the best blender to achieve a smooth consistency. There’s happiness in every sip!

Wondering how to pick a ripe pineapple?

It’s pretty easy, actually. Just follow these three steps and you’ll be choosing perfectly sweet, slightly tangy pineapples: 

Check the color — The exterior of a pineapple changes from green to yellow as it ripens. The more yellow the exterior, the more ripe the fruit. Once it starts to turn an orangish color, it’s gone too far. 

Give it a gentle squeeze — A ripe pineapple will “give” a little bit when you squeeze it. If it’s hard, leave it at the grocery store!

Smell it — If it passes your color and squeeze test, sniff the base of the pineapple. If it smells sweet and fruity, you’re good to go. If it smells funky, or like vinegar, it’s past its prime.

Pineapple Kale Smoothie

Ingredients

  • ½ cup coconut water
  • 1 tsp coconut oil
  • ½ cup seeded and diced cucumber
  • 1 cup fresh pineapple
  • 1 cup loosely packed kale, washed, stemmed and chopped
  • ½ tsp lime juice

Preparation

Blend all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Serves 1-2.

Serving Size: 1 cup

ENJOY!

 

Do you find that you start eating healthy but get derailed? Consider private coaching! I help people attain their goals by unraveling those self-sabotaging behaviors that get in the way. Let’s play! I’ll help you create new habits that lead to long-term change. Get what you want. Finally. Check out CoachMe

Meet Melissa: Melissa Rapoport is the Manager of Health Coaching and Lifestyle Programming at Blum Center for Health in Rye Brook, NY. She combines her graduate work in Developmental Psychology with her education in nutrition, health and coaching to create highly individualized programs that result in lifetime change. A contributing author to three international bestselling books, Melissa’s greatest joy is her relationship with her two daughters. To learn more about Melissa’s coaching practice at Blum Center for Health, click here.

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Blueberry Lime Margarita Anyone? It’s our New Summer Go-To!

It’s so easy to overindulge in alcoholic drinks in the summer. Who doesn’t love cocktails with friends when it’s balmy outside and light well into the evening. This summer, why not drink to your health? It’s easy to reduce your alcohol consumption by discovering a fav mocktail. Put it in your favorite cocktail glass, add a garnish, and voila, you will have a satisfying non-alcoholic drink. 

Try our Blueberry-Lime Margarita — it’s a breeze to make!  It will give your body ample potassium to help manage fluid and energy balance and loads of health supportive antioxidants-all without the excessive calories and refined carbohydrate of traditional margaritas. The unbelievable flavor will easily satisfy any summer fruity drink craving, too. Cheers!

While we are on the topic of cocktails, here’s a common question: It’s summer and I really want a cocktail, will having one ruin all my hard work? Find out here. 

Blueberry Lime Margarita

Servings: 4

Ingredients

4 cups ice

 2 cups organic frozen blueberries

1/2 cup organic unsweetened pomegranate juice

1/2 cup seltzer

1/2 cup fresh organic lime juice

4 organic lime wedges, for garnish

sea salt, for garnish (optional)

 

Preparation:

  •  In a blender, place the ice, blueberries, juice, seltzer, and lime juice
  • Blend until smooth
  • If salting the rim of the margarita glasses, rub a lime wedge around the 
  • rims of 4 glasses.  
  • Dip rims lightly in sea salt
  • Pour Margarita into glasses and place lime wedges on the rim of 
  • the glasses
  • Serve and enjoy! 

 

Meet Melissa: Melissa Rapoport is the Manager of Health Coaching and Lifestyle Programming at Blum Center for Health in Rye Brook, NY. She combines her graduate work in Developmental Psychology with her education in nutrition, health and coaching to create highly individualized programs that result in lifetime change. A contributing author to three international bestselling books, Melissa’s greatest joy is her relationship with her two daughters. To learn more about Melissa’s coaching practice at Blum Center for Health, click here.

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It’s Summer! Which cocktail is best for me?

Here’s a common question: It’s summer and I really want a cocktail, will having one ruin all my hard work?

Ahh, summertime … cocktail parties, bbq’s, dinner alfresco, family gatherings, rooftop parties … add a little heat, add the celebratory nature of being outside and you’ve got the perfect recipe for cocktail time.

Whether you’ve got a hankering for gin, vodka or tequila, there are a few things you should know.

The good news: If you’re in good health, and at low risk for cancer, then alcohol in moderation is likely okay. What is moderation? A few social drinks a week. There’s no need to drink every day, afterall, plan for them — wait for the rooftop get-together or the weekend summertime bash.

What you need to know about summer cocktails: 

Any amount of alcohol consumption of any kind, increases your risk for cancer. If you are concerned about cancer because you have a strong family history, or you have had cancer yourself, you should not drink. Period. Does this mean that an occasional glass of wine or cocktail will hurt you? Probably not. But chronic daily consumption, or drinking several days every week, is not a good idea.

Alcohol stresses your liver. Alcohol is viewed as a toxin by the body and needs to be processed in the liver just like mercury, pesticides, plastics and everything else you are exposed to in the environment. If you have known issues with your liver, other toxin exposure like mold or heavy metals or pesticides that are causing issues with your health, you shouldn’t drink, or only consume alcohol on occasion. If you have multiple chemical sensitivities, such as you can’t tolerate smells like perfume or cigarette smoke, this can be a sign that your liver is stressed with too many toxins.

TIP: Pad the lining of your stomach before drinking alcohol with healthy fats like nuts and seeds, avocado, or something made with olive oil or coconut oil.  This will slow the emptying time of the stomach so that alcohol will be absorbed slowly into the body, allowing you to excrete it more easily and then resulting in less accumulation of toxins.

Alcoholic beverages are high in sugar. If you have diabetes, insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, or are trying to lose weight, keep In mind that when you drink a glass of wine or a cocktail mixed with juice, you are consuming a glass of sugar. This can trigger cravings for bread and dessert and other high starch foods, and cause you to make poor food choices that undermine your healthy eating goals. 

TIP: Be sure to skip the mixers and choose low sugar options, such as a cocktail with club soda or fresh lime juice.

All alcoholic drinks are dehydrating. Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning you might notice you’re running to the bathroom more often. Alcohol suppresses the hormone that regulates how much urine we produce. And, all the added trips to the bathroom strip water and electrolytes from the body. Even a small amount of alcohol can make you feel like you have a hangover.

TIP: Drink two glasses of water for every alcoholic drink you consume. Be sure to hydrate during the day as well. 

Better yet, give our delicious Blueberry Lime Margarita Mocktail a try. Put it in a beautiful glass with a spring of mint, and you won’t even miss the alcohol! Get the Recipe

 

Feeling like you’ve been having a little too much fun this summer — feeling bloated, heavy or out of control and need a quick, effective reset? Check out our HealMyGut Summer Reboot. Relief is on the way! Get Our Special Summer Reboot

 

Meet Melissa: Melissa Rapoport is the Manager of Health Coaching and Lifestyle Programming at Blum Center for Health in Rye Brook, NY. She combines her graduate work in Developmental Psychology with her education in nutrition, health and coaching to create highly individualized programs that result in lifetime change. A contributing author to three international bestselling books, Melissa’s greatest joy is her relationship with her two daughters. To learn more about Melissa’s coaching practice at Blum Center for Health, click here.