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9 Telltale Signs Your Gut Needs Attention

“The whole world is suffering from this COVID-19 pandemic,” microbiologist Heenam Stanley Kim said, “but what people do not realize is that the pandemic of damaged gut microbiomes is far more serious now.” 

We are now learning that there is a strong connection between your gut microbiome and your vulnerability to develop the disease known as COVID-19, and the severity of symptoms you experience. And perhaps, most importantly, we are learning that after you have COVID, your prior gut issues can increase your risk for developing autoimmunity, or for having a flare of your existing autoimmune condition. 

You see, your gut microbiome — which includes all the bacteria and yeast that normally live in your digestive tract — keeps your immune system healthy and your intestinal lining strong.  But if you develop a condition called dysbiosis — an overgrowth of bad bacteria, yeast, parasites or other microbes like viruses — you then have an increased risk of damage to your intestinal lining, something called Leaky Gut Syndrome. If the integrity of your gut lining is “leaky,” pathogens, such as COVID-19, can cross over from the gut and gain access to your body and your immune system. Because your gut health is so important, and to support you especially right now, we are running a 10-Day HealMyGut Group Coaching Program beginning April 5th –> More Info

Remember, your gut (which includes your stomach, and your small and large intestines) is your first line of defense, and research shows us more and more every day that your gut microbiome communicates with every system and organ in your body — your cardiovascular, endocrine, respiratory, nervous, urinary and reproductive systems. Your gut is connected to your brain and mood. It’s even connected to your skin, hair and nails. 

I hope by now you can see why all of us at Blum Center for Health, and in the world of Functional Medicine, believe that The Number One thing you can do this spring for your health….is….take care of your gut microbiome!

Here are 9 Telltale Signs Your Gut Needs Attention

  • You have had COVID-19, or you are afraid to get very sick from COVID-19 
  • Have heartburn, reflux, IBS, diarrhea or constipation
  • Are frequently getting sick
  • Have fatigue or brain fog
  • Are feeling puffy or inflamed
  • Have inflammatory conditions like arthritis, autoimmune, heart disease, obesity or diabetes
  • Have food sensitivities or reactions to food
  • Have mood issues, such as depression and anxiety
  • Have difficulty losing weight

Let’s talk about the many different types of gut issues.  If you have gas or bloating after you eat, or if you experience constipation and/or loose stools, or any type of intestinal discomfort, this means that you have a problem with how your gut is functioning. If you go to a conventional doctor they will commonly diagnose you with irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS. But, this diagnosis doesn’t tell you why you’re having this problem, and they’ll likely prescribe medication to control the symptoms, which by the way only makes the imbalance worse in the long run. 

Here are three tips to heal your gut, which will not only treat your symptoms, but address the underlying problem.  And keep your immune system happy, too.

  • For your digestive symptoms, find out whether or not you’ve got food sensitivities, which could be causing the problem. Problematic foods are typically gluten, dairy and corn. The food you eat is the number one influencer on your gut bacteria.  One way to figure it out is to follow a functional medicine elimination food plan. In fact, this will be the basis of our 10-Day HealMyGut Group Coaching Program beginning April 5th –> More Info
  • Help balance your gut microbiome with supplements: 1) We use herbal antimicrobials to help remove or “prune” the undesirables living in your gut 2) l-glutamine to help shore up the lining of your small and large intestines and treat leaky gut and 3) probiotics (good gut bacteria as a supplement) to help influence the gut ecosystem and immune system.  Depending on the severity of your gut symptoms, you may also need digestive enzymes.
  • Reduce stress by learning resiliency techniques. Stress is the 2nd biggest influencer on the microbiome – in a bad way.  We suggest learning strategies for relaxation that work for you, as this will help heal and protect you from developing dysbiosis and leaky gut. 

If this sounds like just the plan you need, consider joining me for our 10-Day HealMyGut Group Coaching Program. We’ll do this together, as a group, and I will be with you every step of the way! >>> Check it out<<<

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6 Time Sensitive Reasons to Detox in January

Phew! Welcome 2021! Never in my life has the notion of “New Year, New You” been more relevant. This time last year the word COVID wasn’t in our lexicon and politics just felt like another day. Enter the realities of COVID-19, the eruption of social justice movements all over the world, and the divisiveness of the 2020 United States election and one thing is clear: We need to detox. 

First let’s answer the question: What is detox? 

On a day-to-day basis we encounter overload from unhealthy exposures such as chemicals in the air, mercury in fish, medications and bacteria in the water supply, pesticides in your food, chemicals in your toothpaste and other personal care products, and even plastics from your water bottles.

And beyond that, and this is important, you also add to that toxin load with negative people, social isolation, hypervigilance regarding COVID, obsessively scrolling social media, listening to the news, and having to duck and cover from the onslaught of awfulness that has permeated the year 2020. 

It is Time to Detox.

6 Time Sensitive Reasons to Detox in January

Improve immune system function — When your body is overburdened with toxins, your immune system becomes compromised, setting you up for catching viral and bacterial infections, like COVID, influenza and pneumonia during the winter months. Your immune system, which mainly lives in your digestive tract, also protects you from toxin-triggered autoimmune conditions. If you want to improve your immune system, a sound whole foods detox is a must-do.

Bolster your health —  Toxins are stored throughout your body — in your fat, bones, tissues, cells and even your brain. Long-term exposure can affect your immune system (autoimmune disease, anyone?), metabolism (trouble losing weight, anyone?), behavior and mood (depression and anxiety, anyone?) and can lead to disease (hello, cancer).  Depression, anxiety, joint pain, sluggishness, sleep disorders, brain fog and the inability to lose weight can bring you down. You must reduce your toxic load to help your body function at its best. 

Recenter — It’s been a tough year. A really tough year. Starting 2021 with a Whole Life Detox, like ours, will help you regroup and find your center. Mind-body medicine promotes looking at all the areas of life that are throwing you off balance. Daily habits, such as watching/listening to too much negative news, scrolling through social media feeds, engaging with overly activating or over depleting television before bed and not having self-care time-outs that promote wellness, are areas that often need detoxing. 

Weed out energy zappers — Who or what depletes your energy? Are there people who you experience as emotional vampires? Has working remotely left your work life and personal life so intertwined that you’re overburdened, not knowing where one begins and one ends? Sheltering at home has created new challenges (and new opportunities). A well-rounded detox helps you evaluate what needs to change.

Increase energy and promote mental clarity — Who isn’t ready for a boost of positive energy?  You will experience, both from a medical standpoint and a psychological standpoint, an increase in energy, and an uplift in mental clarity. Many people report clearer thinking and the ability to deal with stressors more easily. Ready to say “yes, please”? 

Jumpstart weight loss resistance — Yes, the “COVID 15” is a real thing — stress eating, more sedentary, boredom, isolation — has led to an average of 15 pounds per person. Detoxing helps rid the body of toxins stored in fat cells, and revs your metabolism to jumpstart weight loss.

What else you need to know: We live in a world filled with toxins. With over 8,000 chemicals in circulation in the environment, you need a program that will help your liver clear them out and reduce your toxin load.  Using targeted supplements and eating a detox diet is what we mean by detox. Otherwise your liver pathways get jammed, become overburdened, and toxins can accumulate in tissues and fat cells. You may not realize that this accumulation is making you feel crappy. Let’s detox! 

Click Here to learn more about our medically-sound, safe detoxification program I am hosting this January.  We’ll do this together, as a group, and I will be with you every step of the way! 

 

 

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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5 Ways to Protect Yourself From the Flu and COVID-19 This Fall and Winter

As we move into fall, many people are asking, “What is going to happen when COVID-19 meets influenza and the common cold? What can I do to protect myself?”  Beginning this fall we will have to deal with a flu season wrapped in a global pandemic. Many experts are expecting it to be the “perfect storm.” 

One thing we know for sure is that COVID-19 is deadly, and it does not seem to be seasonal. Remember in March when many people believed it would “die off” in the summer when actually it surged?

We can only expect that COVID-19 will complicate our upcoming flu season.

But, there are very tangible steps you can take to protect yourself.  We’ve got you covered!

This is exactly why Dr. Blum created Immune System Strong — an 8-week LIVE online course designed to fortify your immune system to fight viruses, like COVID-19, influenza and the common cold as we move into flu season Learn more here

5 Ways to Protect Yourself From the Flu and COVID-19 This Fall and Winter

The basics: As we move indoors it will be important to wear a mask in public places at all times, and wash your hands throughout the day. COVID, influenza and the common cold are all spread person to person through respiratory droplets — talking, coughing, sneezing — from contaminated surfaces and by direct touch. So come winter, you will be protecting yourself, and others, from not only COVID, but also influenza, pneumonia and the common cold. 

Make sure your immune system is functioning at its absolute best. Since over 75% of your immune system lives in your digestive tract, your gut plays a key role in your body’s ability to defend itself against infection. It is imperative that your gut is in top working order. Signs your gut needs attention: gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, heartburn, food intolerances, undigested food in your stool, feeling tired or lethargic. If you get sick a lot, this is an absolute must-do. 

Eat an immune-boosting diet. Food is medicine, or food can be poison. Minimize immune-suppressing foods, such as sugar, processed foods, refined carbs, fried foods, vegetable oils, artificial anything and alcohol. 

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

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

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

If you’re as concerned as I am about shoring up your immune system to protect yourself from infections like COVID-19, influenza and the common cold as we begin to move indoors, consider joining Dr. Blum and me for our new course — Immune System Strong. Four LIVE classes with Dr. Blum, 8 coaching calls with me, you’ll learn exactly what you need to do to fortify your immune system. We begin soon! Learn More

 

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

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The #1 Thing You Can Do For Your Immune System Starting Today

So, let’s be real … with COVID still sweeping through communities, you might be wondering what you can do to protect yourself as we move into the flu and cold season. Yes, very soon, we will be moving indoors with closed windows and that begs the question, “How will I keep myself safe?”

With over 70% of your immune system living in your digestive tract (yes, that’s true!), it makes sense that the food you eat is the first stop in empowering your immune system to fight infections and keep you healthy. 

There are foods that are particularly good at boosting immunity, but the reality is the first order of business is to use “food as medicine” to reduce inflammation. Often when I talk with people about “reducing inflammation” their eyes glass over. It’s not easy to grasp.

Inflammation. When it’s on the outside, like arthritis, we can see it.  When it’s on the inside we can’t see it. And often we can’t even feel it. (Although I’ve heard so many times, “I didn’t realize I wasn’t supposed to feel that way.”) But if you get sick often, if you’ve taken lots of antibiotics in your life, if you’ve had stress or trauma, or if you eat inflammatory foods (like sugar) or the Modern American Diet, you’ve likely experienced inflammation. In fact, you’re likely inflamed right now.

Inflammation is when your immune system or other cells in your body release irritating chemicals that cause irritation on the inside.  Remember this is a normal process because this is how your body fights infections or an injury, and the inflammation resolves once the infection or injury is over.  

However, if high levels of these inflammatory chemicals are released continuously (which can happen if you are eating a lot of SUGAR), the normal functioning of your cells can be interrupted, and healthy tissue gets damaged, including your immune system. This is not so good-especially since more and more studies link inflammation in the body to many serious illnesses and conditions.

To make sure your immune system is in tip top shape, which will protect you from foreign invaders like COVID-19, influenza and the common cold, it’s important to avoid processed foods and eat an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant-rich diet, full of vegetables, fruits, cultured foods, healthy fats, planted-based proteins and minimal animal protein.  

If there’s only one diet change you choose to make it’s this: 

GET RID OF SUGAR TO REDUCE INFLAMMATION!

Sugar is inflammatory and suppresses your immune system. Sugar stimulates your immune cells to actively release inflammatory molecules that travel throughout your body causing damage and irritation. 

Avoid high glycemic foods like soda, white flour and processed sugar. When it comes to sugar, you always want to choose low-glycemic vs. high-glycemic foods. The glycemic index determines how quickly a particular food raises your blood sugar level. High blood sugar causes inflammation and damages your immune system, and puts you at risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease. Any food processed with white sugar or white flour is high-glycemic and should be eliminated. That means bagels, breads, breakfast cereals, cakes, cookies, crackers, candy, and soda.

Avoid an over-focus on carbohydrates as the main source of calories for the day. Make your plate for lunch and dinner half vegetables — that’s a great start. Natural, unprocessed foods, like fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains provide health-promoting vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals — all good for your immune system. Use rice and other grains like condiments.

Read the labels of everything that comes in a package. Food manufacturers are sneaky. They often add sugar (and a lot of sugar) to foods that need very little sugar. Yeah, I know our panels are in grams. Definitely annoying, but here’s what you need to know: We recommend keeping your added sugars at about 24 grams. And, 4 grams of sugar = 1 teaspoon. So, if that granola bar you love has 24 grams of sugar — that’s six teaspoons (and your allotment for the day).

Here are some substitution suggestions for common high glycemic foods: 

Do you like soda, fruit juice, sweetened drinks? Drink filtered water, herbal teas, mineral water, fruit-infused water.

Do you consume products with corn syrup, cane sugar, or any other added sugar (check your condiments!)? Try paleo ketchup, mustard, fancy vinegars, and herbs and spices, such as basil, cinnamon, cumin, dill, garlic, ginger, rosemary, tarragon, thyme, turmeric.

Do you eat dried fruit, frozen yogurt, ice cream, sorbet, cookies, candy or other sweets? Try coconut milk yogurt with your own fruit, dark chocolate covered almonds and carob.

Do you typically eat pretzels, potato chips, corn chips, cookies and crackers made from white flour, muffins, waffles, pancakes, popcorn or bagels? Switch to gluten-free whole grain cookies, gluten-free almond meal crackers with hummus or guacamole, nuts, seeds, fresh fruit. 

P.S. If you’re as concerned as I am about shoring up your immune system to protect yourself from infections like COVID-19, influenza and the common cold as we begin to move indoors, consider joining Dr. Blum and I for our new course — Immune System Strong. Four LIVE classes with Dr. Blum, 8 coaching calls with me, you’ll learn exactly what you need to do to fortify your immune system. We begin soon!

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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COVID-19 Nutrition 101: Let Food Be Your Medicine! 

A walk through the grocery aisles early this morning was a little shocking: The produce section was overflowing and the packaged processed food aisles were … empty.

The Number One thing you can do to support your immune system is: Eat Real Food

Your immune system is fueled by the food you eat. After all, over 75% of your immune system lives in your digestive tract. This means that every bite of food you eat influences your gut microbiome, which in turn determines your body’s ability to mount the appropriate immune response to invaders like COVID-19. 

Stroll on by the cookies, the sweets, the empty-calorie crackers, the high sodium frozen dinners and opt for packaged foods with minimal ingredients. Take a peek at the ingredient list and use this litmus test, “Am I willing to eat each ingredient with a spoon?

Here are 6 no-nonsense things you can do right now to help boost your immune system and keep your body healthy.

Choose whole, nutrient-dense foods. 

Eat the rainbow! Focus on fruits and vegetables of all colors — They  are filled with antioxidants that support your immune system, and fiber that feeds your healthy gut bacteria. Choosing foods that mirror the colors of a rainbow ensures that you eat a large variety of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals that have enormous protective and healing powers.  

These rainbow foods are particularly good right now: 

Green produce helps boost the immune system and detoxify the body.

All healthy diets require green-colored produce and that is particularly true now. In fact, research suggests that green vegetables are the source of a chemical signal that is important to a fully functioning immune system. They do this by ensuring that immune cells in the gut and the skin known as intra-epithelial lymphocytes (IELs) function properly. (1)  Include green vegetables, such as arugula, asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, collard greens, green beans, kale, peas, romaine lettuce, spinach, swiss chard, and zucchini. Enjoy fruit, such as avocado, green grapes, and kiwi. 

Orange and yellow-colored produce help improve immune function.

Chock full of beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant, vitamin A and vitamin C, these include vegetables, such as carrots, sweet potatoes, all varieties of winter squash, yellow summer squash, orange and yellow peppers and golden beets. It also includes fruits, such as oranges, grapefruit, lemons, mangoes, papayas, pineapple and peaches. 

Pro Tip: A great way to ensure you’re getting enough vegetables is to make your plate at lunch and dinner is at least half vegetables. 

Here are a few resources for getting organic, healthy foods delivered:

Check out Misfits Market — they will send you a box of seasonal produce at up to 40% less than what you would pay at the grocery store. (Use the code COOKWME-DY5XFK for $25 off.)

You might have access to a local CSA that will deliver to your door. Do a google search for your area or you can start with https://www.localharvest.org/csa/

Check out Butcher Box — they deliver 100% grass-fed beef, free range organic chicken and heritage breed pork directly to your door. 

Ditch sugar and processed foods.

The stress and anxiety of COVID-19, combined with “Sheltering at Home” creates the perfect recipe for craving sugary and processed foods — they temporarily make us feel energized but a big crash comes shortly afterward. Beyond that sugar and processed foods SUPPRESS your immune system. To help you kick the sugar habit, enroll in our 7-Day Sugar Detox Here

Eat high quality protein foods.

Protein is critical for immune function. What’s an adequate amount? Roughly half your bodyweight in grams a day. These include plant-based proteins, such as legumes and nuts and seeds, as well as organic, clean, humanely-sourced animal protein. 

Plant-Based Protein Superstars:

  •     1 cup cooked lentils = 18 grams
  •     3 tbsp. hemp seeds = 10 grams
  •     I cup cooked quinoa = 6 grams
  •     3 ounces extra firm tofu = 9 grams
  •     1 cup chopped broccoli = 8 grams
  •     ¼ cup raw almonds = 8 grams
  •     ¼ cup raw sunflower seeds = 7 grams
  •     2 tbsp. chia seeds = 6 grams
  •     2 cups chopped kale = 4.5 grams

Wild-caught salmon has 13 grams, chicken has 18 grams, and ground beef, 11 grams — all per 2 ounces.

Eat cultured and fermented foods to feed your microbiome and support immune health.

Include sauerkraut, kimchi, natto, chickpea miso, yogurt made from coconut or almonds. These foods give your body a dose of healthful probiotics — live micro-organisms crucial to a healthy intestinal microbiome (the microbial community in the gut) — which plays a role in supporting the immune system and warding off damaging inflammation inside the body. 

Make friends with mushrooms.

Mushrooms are medicinal!  They have immune-boosting polysaccharides that have anti-viral, antibiotic properties. Shiitake, maitake and oyster mushrooms are easy to prepare — a simple roast, sauté or simmer will do. In fact, you can throw them in everything — soups, omelettes, stir fries, stews, vegetable dishes. 

Add garlic, onions, cloves, cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, rosemary, oregano and more when cooking. 

These herbs and spices not only add flavor to your food, they are anti-inflammatory powerhouses. Add them to soups, stews, vegetables, oatmeal, or just about anything! Did you know that garlic and onions offer wide spectrum antimicrobial propertiess.

Drink plenty of fluids.

Your body depends on it, as does your immune system. Water and herbal teas,of course, but soups and broths also count! Stay away from fruit and vegetables juices — they are full of sugar (yes, even the so-called healthy ones.) 

Wondering what else you can do?

Join Dr. Blum’s FREE Friday Open Office Hours Q & A, to have all your lingering questions answered: Register Now

Schedule a 45-Minute Immune Support Consult with one of our healthcare practitioners.  Schedule an informational call here

Read my recent blog post: 10 Ways to Reduce the Coronavirus Stress Response 

 

Check out Dr. Blum’s 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

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.

Resources:

  1. Ying Li, Silvia Innocentin, David R. Withers, Natalie A. Roberts, Alec R. Gallagher, Elena F. Grigorieva, Christoph Wilhelm, Marc Veldhoen. Exogenous Stimuli Maintain Intraepithelial Lymphocytes via Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor Activation. Cell, 13 October 2011 DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2011.09.025
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Coconut Quinoa & Broccoli Bowl with Ginger-Lemon Dressing

Here’s a wonderful recipe that will not only take the chill out of spring, but it also is good for your gut  … which makes it good for your immune system.

Check out all these gut-loving, immune-boosting ingredients: 

  • Broccoli and snow peas — green vegetables are the source of a chemical signal that is important to a fully functioning immune system. They do this by ensuring that immune cells in the gut and the skin known as intra-epithelial lymphocytes (IELs) function properly.
  • Coconut milk and flakes — Coconut contains lauric acid that is known for its antiseptic properties. It assists the body in fighting infections caused by bacteria, viruses, and fungi.
  • Quinoa is a complete protein and is critical for immune function.
  • Sesame seeds contain iron, zinc, vitamin B6, vitamin E, selenium and many more which support the functioning of the immune system.
  • Ginger has powerful anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-inflammatory compounds that keep rhinoviruses from binding to cells in the mucus membranes.

Enjoy this easy-to-make crowd-pleaser!

Ingredients:

For the quinoa and broccoli bowl:

  • 3/4 cup quinoa
  • 1 1/2 cups full-fat coconut milk
  • 1 pinch sea salt
  • 1/2 head broccoli florets
  • 1/2 cup snow peas, thinly sliced
  • 1 spring onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup large coconut flakes, toasted
  • 1 tablespoon black sesame seeds

For the dressing:

  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • one 2-inch knob fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

 

Directions:

  1. Rinse the quinoa under cold water for about 30 seconds. In a medium pot, add the rinsed quinoa, coconut milk, and sea salt. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 15 minutes, until quinoa has absorbed most of the liquid. Remove from heat, let sit with lid on for 5 minutes, and then fluff with fork.
  2. Lightly steam the broccoli until just tender and bright green, no more than 5 minutes once the water boils. Then, rinse broccoli under cold water to stop its cooking, and to retain its color and texture.
  3. Place the coconut quinoa in 4 bowls. Add the warm broccoli, and then top it with snow peas, spring onion, toasted coconut flakes, and sesame seeds.
  4. To make the dressing, place lemon zest, fresh ginger, honey, lime juice, and oil in a small blender and combine until smooth. A If needed, add a teaspoon or two of water to reach the right consistency.
  5. Drizzle the dressing over your  bowl.

 

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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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.