Posted on

How to Use Genetic Testing to Improve Your Health

My great-grandmother Greig, her son (my grandfather), and my father all had diabetes. Both my father and his father were diagnosed with it in their 40s. Being the whole-hearted, fun-loving Texans that they were, they smoked for at least 20+ years, drank bourbon and beer, and ate barbecue brisket on a regular basis. My grandfather put 2 teaspoons of sugar in his coffee and my dad couldn’t pass up dessert.

I, on the other hand, quit smoking right after college, was a vegetarian for about 20 years, and my favorite drink was hot water with lemon with an occasional glass of wine. I’m two decades beyond 40 now and my blood sugar has never been even borderline high.

Is it my genes, just my luck, or is it my lifestyle?  

Genetic Expression: Nature and Nurture

Most chronic human health conditions have multiple genes that contribute to the condition, so this often means there are a number of ways to intervene to change how that condition will show up in any particular individual. Lifestyle changes can have big effects on our genes as my family example shows. Change your lifestyle, change your genes! Or at least change your genetic expression.

How genes are expressed—in other words, how they show up in your biochemistry, which translates, ultimately, in how you look and feel—is affected by food, stress, meditation, toxins and other environmental factors. This change in gene expression can be temporary or permanent and, in some cases, can even be passed on to your children, not as a change to the gene, but as a change in gene expression.  

What this means is that you can change your genetic destiny by changing your inner and outer environment.

Genetic Testing Is Here!

The exciting news: The future of medicine has arrived! You can find out what genes may be affecting your destiny through genetic testing. Genetic testing can help to direct you to the more significant changes you can make to have an effect on how your genes turn on or off.

Genetic testing, particularly online, direct-to-consumer testing, is on the rise, but the hype can also lead to confusion and misinformation. There are lots of benefits to genetic testing and some downsides, so it’s good to think it through before you leap in.

What Genetics Testing Tells You

The job or our most important and powerful genes is to code for making proteins in the body which then build body tissues and organs and control our chemistry. There are somewhere between 19,000 and 21,000 of these genes in humans. When you get genetic testing done, you may get an overwhelming amount of information, so it’s good to know what you’re looking for so you can be selective in what you get.  

For instance, you may or may not want to know you have the gene that increases your risk for Alzheimer’s by 40% when it’s not yet clear what you can do to avoid developing Alzheimer’s. Some people like to know, though, so they can plan ahead or start doing all the fabulous things in life they were putting off until retirement. It depends on your personality and your approach to life.

To get your raw genetic data, you can do home genetic testing to get your full genome from companies like 23andMe.com. They will give also you an analysis of where your ancestors came from and for an additional fee they will tell you your risk for developing a variety of genetically linked illnesses and conditions.   

How We Use Genetic Testing

Here at Blum Center, one of the ways we use genetic testing is to have you upload your raw genetic data into a website called Genetic Genie.  They will then give you a genetic Detox Profile and Methylation Analysis — these are the genetic backbones of your ability to detoxify your inner environment, as well as create some of your brain neurotransmitters and the body’s most powerful antioxidant glutathione. These profiles can sometimes provide very useful insight into why you get sick when you are around chemicals smells or why you seem to be overly sensitive to medications. We have found these to be especially useful in people with a lot of environmental chemical and pesticide exposures (e.g., golf courses, soccer fields, horse barns, living next to I-95) who just can’t see any improvement with their chronic health condition.

Do you want to know more about your genes and changing their genetic expression? If you live in our area consider making an appointment at Blum Center with either me, Elizabeth Greig, or our Director of Nutrition, Mary Gocke. Both of us have experience making lifestyle recommendations after looking at the Genetic Genie profiles.  Are you ready for a change? Call to set up your appointment today at 914-652-7800.

Meet Elizabeth: In her dual role as our Functional Medicine Nurse Practitioner and a teacher in our Mind.Body.Spirit programs at Blum Center for Health, Elizabeth Greig, MSN, FNP, helps treat and heal patients with complex chronic health conditions. Whether she’s treating a medical condition or leading a class in meditation, Elizabeth helps people understand that when it comes to healing, it’s more about nourishing life, than it is about battling illness. Learn more about Elizabeth’s practice.

 

Posted on

10 Reasons You Can’t Lose Weight

Are you trying to lose weight and just can’t seem to get the scale to budge? You may even feel like you’re doing everything “right” to no avail. Some people blame their metabolism or wonder if their age or gender is the issue. Some people go through a life transition like a stressful time or childbirth or menopause and feel like their body has never been the same since. Does this sound like you?

If so, don’t despair. It does not have to be this way. There is usually an underlying reason to stubborn weight loss.

10 Reasons You Can’t Lose Weight

1. Portion Distortion — You might find it hard to believe but portion size alone is often a culprit, particularly in the United States where portion sizes have grown over the years. Researchers have found, for instance, that meal sizes at restaurants have tripled in size since the 1970s¹ and the plates we serve our meals on have also increased in size.2 At every turn, we are encouraged to eat more than we need.

In my health coaching practice at Blum Center for Health, I find that many people overdo it on “healthy” foods. Prime example: Nuts are healthy addition to your diet — they are a healthy fat, a good source of protein, fiber and have anti-inflammatory properties. But, one serving of Brazil nuts, for example, is two nuts. Yes, one serving is only 2 nuts! One serving of almonds is six nuts. If you’re eating nuts like popcorn, you’re not going to lose weight.

While I’m not a big fan of calorie counting, I do think using a phone app, like My Fitness Pal, for a week will give you an accurate view of your caloric and nutrient intake. How much fiber are you consuming? How much sugar, for example? This is important information for weight loss.

2.  The Right Mix of Nutrients — Beyond the amount you are eating, is what you are eating. Are you living on rice cakes and cottage cheese, thinking that low-calorie diet foods are going to help you reach your goal? That strategy is likely undermining your weight loss objective. Weight loss is often about moving away from processed foods and into a whole foods, anti-inflammatory food plan that includes increased fats, ample protein and unlearning the reliance on empty carbs, even the so-called “healthy” ones like gluten-free bread and “nutrition” bars. This will ramp up your metabolism, jumpstart weight loss and teach you to eat for life, rather than going on and off diets continually.

3.  Chronic Stress — Stress is a major player in stubborn weight loss. We live stressful, fast-paced lives. Stress elevates cortisol and adrenaline, hormones responsible for “fight or flight” in what your body perceives as an emergency — something as serious as jumping out the way of a careening car, or something as nerve-wracking as public speaking. Once the event is over, our cortisol and adrenaline levels return to normal. This is a healthy stress response.Chronic stress, however, creates havoc in the body. Cortisol levels, which spike during a stress-inducing event, remain elevated. Think … a stressful job, a stressful relationship or even the everyday stress of “getting everything done.”This rise in cortisol puts a damper on weight loss. In fact, chronically elevated cortisol can cause weight gain!3  And, perhaps even more importantly, as Susan Blum, MD, discusses in her book, The Immune System Recovery Plan, this increased baseline can damage the immune system and prevent it from healing. Ultimately, chronic stress can have a negative effect on the levels of good bacteria in the gut, reducing the ability of the immune system to fight infection and puts us at risk for autoimmune disease.

4.  Lack of Consistent Quality Sleep — Research4 demonstrates that even slight sleep loss boosts cortisol levels and can accelerate the development of insulin resistance. In fact, one study found that getting just 30 fewer minutes sleep than you should per weekday can increase your risk of obesity and diabetes.5 Not getting enough sleep is related to a host of other issues including heart disease, high blood pressure, accidents, mood disorders, depression and decreased productivity.

5.  Inflammation — Do you unknowingly fill your body with foods that create systemic inflammation, a slow, quiet disturbance that never seems to shut off?The fact is, If we could “see” the damage, like we can feel and see a swollen ankle, surely we would ban those substances from ever entering our mouths!Systemic inflammation is our body’s immune response to substances it sees as a foreign invader. Over time chronic inflammation can lead to many heavy-hitting diseases, such as heart disease, many cancers and even Alzheimer’s. It is also associated with allergies, anemia, asthma, autism, arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, celiac, Crohn’s, fibromyalgia, gall bladder disease, GERD, Hashimoto’s, psoriasis, and more6.

Inflammation makes us feel sluggish, bloated, and gives us achy joints or muscles. It is associated with high blood pressure, blood sugar problems, headaches, depression and anxiety.

And for those struggling to lose weight, inflammation makes you, well … inflamed. You see, there is a very important hormone, called Leptin, that regulates your body’s level of fat by controlling your appetite and metabolism. In healthy people, the production of leptin signals the brain to suppress appetite and speed up metabolism—leading these people to feel less hunger, burn more calories and lose the excess fat. Chronic inflammation, however, impairs the brain’s ability to receive leptin’s appetite-suppressing message.

To put the fire out on inflammation a great place to start is with an elimination diet to determine which foods are triggering inflammation. A program like HealMyGut includes the ever-important elimination diet and all the supplements you need to address shoring up your gut lining and returning bacterial balance to your digestive tract. I just finished it myself after taking antibiotics for a month to treat Lyme Disease. I feel great! Learn More.

6.  Thyroid Dysfunction — The American Thyroid Association7 estimates that 20 million Americans have a thyroid problem, and that up to 60% are unaware of their condition.  Whoa, that’s jaw-dropping! Hypothyroidism, a condition where the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone, is characterized by unexplained weight gain and/or difficulty losing weight. To find out if your thyroid gland is functioning properly, you will a blood test ordered by your doctor. I highly recommend working with a functional or integrative physician who will look beyond whether or not your numbers are “in range,” including lifestyle and mind-body medicine.

7.  Insulin Imbalance — If your blood sugar levels and insulin are off, you can experience carb cravings, difficulty losing weight and excess belly fat. Insulin resistance means your cells can’t absorb the extra blood glucose your body keeps generating from the food you eat, and your liver converts the glucose into fat. Processed foods, including beloved foods like pasta and bread, sugary drinks, and even foods marketed as “healthy,” like granola bars, play a role in insulin resistance. Insulin imbalance can give rise to Type 2 diabetes so it is important to get those numbers under control. Again, I recommend working with a functional or integrative physician who will also address lifestyle factors that contribute to insulin issues.

8.  Estrogen Dominance — Too much estrogen relative to progesterone plays a role in weight gain. Estrogen dominance can cause increased cravings and decrease metabolism. If you are experiencing more cravings, and particularly for sugar, it’s entirely possible to fall into a loop that feels like you have no control over those cravings. Increased cravings combined with a sluggish metabolism is a recipe for weight gain.To learn more about Estrogen Dominance, and its symptoms, check out this article: Do You Have Estrogen Dominance.

9.  Low Testosterone — Research8 shows that testosterone levels in men often drop with age and this can cause an increase in body fat, insulin resistance, heart disease and even certain cancers.  The inverse is also true: being overweight causes testosterone levels to drop even more.  A tell-tale sign of low testosterone is belly fat in the mid-section that is resistant to weight loss.

10.  Toxic Overload —  Everyday you are exposed to chemicals, pesticides, herbicides, heavy metals, hormones, medications and other toxins that create a toxic load in your body. These toxins are found at every turn — in your food and water, household cleaning products, cosmetics, candles and plastics. Even seemingly healthy products, including shampoo and conditioner, face cream, toothpaste and your favorite sandwich bread, can contain toxic ingredients.Toxins affect hormones and can create hormonal imbalances that lead to weight-loss resistance. When you carry a toxic burden, leptin, the hormone that tells the brain to burn fat for energy, does not do its job of informing the brain to burn fat. So, even if you are eating well and exercising weight loss becomes stymied when your body is in a state of toxicity.Personally, I detox at least once a year and use Dr. Blum’s Simply Detox program. It includes everything — a real food detox food plan, detox supplements and daily email. Learn more.


Losing weight can feel difficult but it does not have to be impossible. Your hard work can pay off. It’s a matter of figuring out the underlying challenges. Not sure where to start? Explore one area at a time and put a plan in place. If you feel overwhelmed, you might want to consider working with a Health Coach (hey, I’m one!) who will help you create a plan and stick with it. Even if it’s not me, (sniff, sniff), a health coach can be your greatest ally, helping you clear away the noise and the overwhelm that often gets in the way of success.
Learn more about 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.

 

Resources:
  1. Young, L. R., & Nestle, M. (2002). The contribution of expanding portion sizes to the US obesity epidemic. American Journal of Public Health, 92(2), 246–249.
  2. Wansink, B., & van Ittersum, K. (2006). The visual illusions of food: Why plates, bowls, and spoons can bias consumption volume. FASEB Journal, 20(4), A618.
  3. Moyer, A. E., Rodin, J., Grilo, C. M., Cummings, N., Larson, L. M. and Rebuffé-Scrive, M. (1994). Stress-Induced Cortisol Response and Fat Distribution in Women. Obesity Research, 2: 255–262. doi:10.1002/j.1550-8528.1994.tb00055.x
  4. Leproult R., Copinschi G., Buxton O., Van Cauter, E. (1997)  Sleep loss results in an elevation of cortisol levels the next evening. Sleep. 20(10), 865-70.
  5. Endocrine Society. (2015, March 6). Losing 30 minutes of sleep per day may promote weight gain and adversely affect blood sugar control. ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/03/150306082541.htm
  6. Marquis, D.M. (2013, March 7) How inflammation affects every aspect of your health. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/03/07/inflammation-triggers-disease-symptoms.aspx
  7. American Thyroid Association. General information/press room. https://www.thyroid.org/media-main/about-hypothyroidism/
  8. E M Camacho, E.M., Huhtaniemi, I.T., O’Neill, T.W., Finn, J.D., Pye, S.R., Lee, D.M., Tajar, A. … and the EMAS Group (2013). Age-associated changes in hypothalamic–pituitary–testicular function in middle-aged and older men are modified by weight change and lifestyle factors: longitudinal results from the European Male Ageing Study. European Journal of Endocrinology, 168 445-455, doi: 10.1530/EJE-12-0890

 

Posted on

Leaky Gut and Food Sensitivities

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

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

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

Causes of leaky gut vary, but the most important is dysbiosis, which is an imbalance in the bacteria in the gut, also called the gut microbiome.  Dysbiosis can be an overgrowth of harmful bacteria, yeast or parasites, or not enough good bacteria, and is commonly caused by a poor diet, a course of antibiotics, frequent use of antacids, and stress. These gut bacteria are important because not only do they interact with your immune system to keep it healthy, they also turn the food we eat into healthy compounds, especially something called short chain fatty acids which heal the tight junctions between your cells and protect the integrity of the gut barrier.  This is why food is so important, too, because the food you eat determines which bacteria will thrive and what kinds of compounds they will make when they digest your food.  

But why is leaky gut associated with inflammatory disease like arthritis? When the contents of your gut, which includes pieces of food and gut bacteria, “leak” into your body, your immune system is activated creating inflammatory chemicals that travel throughout your body and cause system-wide inflammation, especially in the joints. And this happens non-stop until your gut microbiome and lining are repaired.  

The good news is that you can rebuild your microbiome and repair your gut. Food has the most influence on the diversity of the microbiome, and that’s why you should always start with changing your diet by increasing fruits and veggies, especially those rich in polyphenols, bioflavonoids, and fiber because these tend to increase the good bacteria that make short-chain fatty acids and heal the gut. Also, you need to remove foods from your diet that feed the bad bacteria like sugar, processed flour products, alcohol, and too many animal products.  You also need to test yourself for food sensitivities and remove sensitive foods such as gluten, dairy, soy, corn, eggs and the nightshade vegetables. Our elimination diet explainer shows how to do this.

The next step is to treat your dysbiosis. At Blum Center for Health we start with cleansing herbs like berberine, grape seed extract, black walnut, and oregano that can clear out bad bacteria and yeast. In fact, we created our own custom herbal antibiotic mix called Gut Cleanse. Once you have eliminated the bad bacteria and yeast, probiotics and the right food can help you rebuild the good stuff, repair the gut lining, reduce inflammation, and eliminate food sensitivities.

For more, please review the video above.

Posted on

Herbs As Medicine: What You Need To Know

Herbs are used medicinally all over the world. For instance, morphine comes from the Poppy plant, aspirin comes from Willow Bark, digitalis comes from Fox Glove, taxol an important cancer drug, comes from the Yew tree. The list goes on.

It is ironic that doctors in the U.S. don’t learn about the healing powers of plants given that many powerful medicines are derived from plants. As a traditionally-trained Ob Gyn I was taught to prescribe a lot of medicine —  hormones, antibiotics, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), to name a few.

The problem is that many of these medicines have pretty hefty side effects.  NSAIDs are prescribed widely for menstrual pain and heavy bleeding, but prolonged use can cause GI bleeding. The three month injectable progestin shot, medroxy progesterone acetate (aka: “Depo”) works very well to prevent pregnancy, but at the expense of bone density.  It is well established that Depo users sustain a decrease in their bone density while taking the shot, but long term outcomes were not known until relatively recently.  According to a 2015 Cochrane review, we now we have evidence that postmenopausal women who took Depo in the past have increased risk of bone fractures.  

After practicing in the traditional model for many years, and being concerned about these types of side effects, I began to wonder, “what other choices do we have?”  This quest for more options to offer my patients led me to pursue an Integrative Medicine Fellowship, where I received extensive training in herbal medicine. I can tell you for certain that herbs are a wonderful addition, and sometimes replacement, for traditional pharmaceuticals.

3 Ways Herbs Outperform Standard Medicines

  1. Lower dose and less toxicity — The medicines I listed above — morphine, aspirin, digitalis and taxol — are all made from an active ingredient that has been isolated, extracted, purified, and packaged in a highly potent form. With high potency, comes increased risk of toxicity and side effects.  When you consume an herb in its natural form (root, leaf, bark) you are often getting lower doses of the active ingredient, which are often less toxic.  Still, even herbs can have side effects and can interact with other herbs and medicines that you might be taking.  It is important to be well informed about these potential side effects and interactions.
  1. Herbs are multi-faceted — Most medicines have one active ingredient whereas each plant has multiple active ingredients that work synergistically. There can be hundreds of distinct compounds in the plant that potentially contribute to its medicinal properties.  Sometimes these compounds work together to make the herb more efficient.  

For example: Red Yeast Rice, the fermented product of a fungus, Monascus purpureus, is known to contain monacolin K, which is lovastatin, a commonly prescribed cholesterol lowering drug. Many studies have proven that Red Yeast Rice also lowers LDL cholesterol by 30%. Some wonder how Red Yeast Rice, which has relatively low doses of monacolin K, can result in such great clinical outcomes when compared to the typical dose of lovastatin.  

Likely the answer resides in the fact that monacolin K is not the only compound in it.  Red Yeast Rice contains eight other monacolins, plus other plant compounds with beneficial health effects such as sterols, isoflavones and monounsaturated fatty acids.  

A word of caution: it is important to do research to find a reputable brand of herb to take because there is also the unfortunate practice of cutting herbal products with both active drugs (Red Yeast Rice can be spiked with lovastatin), heavy metals, or the opposite problem of not having enough active ingredient.  Working with a good Herbalist or Healthcare provider who is trained in herbs is essential.

  1. Less Side Effects — There are numerous examples of herbs that have fewer side effects than conventional medicines. St. John’s Wort (SJW) is a perfect example.  We often recommend SJW for mild depression. It has been extensively studied and found to be safe and efficacious. There is even a Cochrane Review (traditional medicine’s gold standard of evidenced-based medicine) that evaluated 29 studies of over 5,000 patients and concluded that SJW is more effective than placebo, as effective as other antidepressants with fewer side effects.  A word of caution, however: SJW can interfere with some medications (like birth control pills, antidepressants, coumadin, digoxin, cancer therapies, immunosuppressive agents) so ALWAYS check with your provider before taking it.  

Herbs are worthwhile additions to your medicine cabinet. Unfortunately, herbs are not well understood, particularly in places like the United States, where traditional medicine is the norm. Over the next few months I will be writing an informational series highlighting some of my favorite herbs for women’s health. Keep your eyes peeled!

Live in our neighborhood and want to learn more about using herbs for women’s health? Make an appointment with Dr. Fitz!  In her practice at Blum Center for Health she takes a multi-pronged, holistic approach, a combination of medical and lifestyle considerations, to address, diagnosis and treat your condition. For more information, call 914-652-7800.

Meet Dr. Fitz:  Bronwyn Fitz, M.D. is a board certified Obstetrician Gynecologist who is fellowship trained in Integrative Medicine. In her practice she melds traditional medicine with non-Western approaches, nutrition, botanicals, mind/body therapies and lifestyle interventions to help women address their gynecological and reproductive health concerns. Her interest in mindfulness and meditation led her to pursue a two-year Fellowship at The Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, under the leadership of world-renowned Integrative physician, Dr. Andrew Weil.

Posted on

Are You Tired of Being Sick and Tired?

Processed foods are defined by The International Food Information Council Foundation as “Any deliberate change in a food that occurs before it’s available for us to eat”, and are usually found in a bag, box or can. When you eat these foods, they sabotage the powerhouses inside your cells called mitochondria.  I call them powerhouses because mitochondria take the fats, carbs and protein that you eat and combusts them for cellular energy, much like the engine in your car burns gasoline.  They keep our bodies running, and are the prime driver of metabolism, which we all need to maintain low levels of body fat and to keep a healthy weight.  When they die, the cell dies, too.  Because your magical mitochondria take a BIG hit when exposed to processed food, you can be left feeling sick and tired.

There are over 50 food based nutrients that are needed for proper mitochondrial function – no easy task to consume daily.  But, with some concerted effort on incorporating foods that boost mitochondrial function you can reach your goals regularly.

Foods to Eat for Healthy Mitochondrial Function:

Eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, you have heard this before –but it is critical. Be sure to include red, blue, purple, yellow and green fruits and vegetables, the deeper, darker colored foods are the best. Gradually increase the number of servings that you have a day to reach 9 cups a day. Find your farmer’s market and get to work. You can do it! Be sure to add some seaweed into the mix for iodine.

Eat more omega-3 rich foods. We do not make omega-3 fatty acids in the body so they must come from the diet daily. Include wild fish, grass-fed meats and omega-3 rich eggs. Boost this brain food — the brain has lots of mitochondria — by adding one to two tablespoons of flax or hemp oil, or seeds, to your vegetables.

Build your meal from the foundation of vegetables up, then add your omega-3 rich protein, some legumes, like your favorite beans, for fiber, toss in some dulse or seaweed, sprinkle with nuts and seeds, douse with a healthy oil for dressing and you are good to go – literally go, because eating this way you will give you more energy to go!

Two Other Factors that Boost your Mitochondrial Function:

Intermittent fasting and calorie restriction increase your ability to generate energy while increasing the number of mitochondria in the cells.  A simple way to practice intermittent fasting is to eat no food (you are allowed to have herbal tea or broth) for 12-14 hours overnight, from dinner to breakfast. Calorie restriction can be done by eating only vegetables for 600 – 800 Calories in one day, perhaps one day each week.

Reduce your intake of carbohydrates. This shift causes your body to switch to using ketones (produced by burning fats) instead of glucose as its primary source of fuel. Ketones are efficiently used for the generation of energy in the mitochondria while increasing the number of new mitochondria.

 

Need Help Making These Changes?

 

For personalized support I am available in person or by Skype/Phone. I will help you create a personalized nutrition plan based on your needs and goals. To learn more, or to set up an appointment, call 914-652-7800.

If you live near Blum Center, consider joining one of my group programs. The next one is our popular 10-Day Easy Summer Detox, which will include discussion of mitochondria and weight loss.. The group kicks off July 10th at either 10:00am or 6:00pm.
J
oin Now

 

About Mary: Mary Gocke, Director of Nutrition at Blum Center for Health, has been successfully using food and nutrition science to treat and heal people with chronic illnesses and acute conditions for over 25 years. When Mary’s not helping people feel better through nutrition, this mother of two grown children can be found practicing yoga, which she has taught for years, or in her kitchen cooking something colorful.

Posted on

Is Mold Making You Sick—or Sicker?

Chronic headaches, strange rashes, recurrent allergies, chronic sinus symptoms, fatigue, brain fog, chronic infections or inflammatory conditions that get better and then relapse again and again—these are just a few of the symptoms that exposure to moldy environments are associated with.

There are good molds and bad molds—true for just about everything!  The good molds are the source of some of our best antibiotics, most delicious cheeses, and helpful probiotics.  The bad molds, like those that grow behind water-damaged walls, in a basement, or on wallboard and wood, can make us sick without being obvious.

Often water damage to a building goes unnoticed for quite some time because it’s hidden from view and an odor doesn’t develop to warn us. Only when we discover the leak or smell the smell, do we realize it’s time to do something about it.  By then we may have already had significant personal exposure to their toxic effects.

Molds reproduce themselves by producing tiny spores that easily become airborne and are blown from place to place, including through the ventilation ducts in our home.  We can then breathe them in or swallow them.  

While many of these spores will move through the body, sometimes they lodge on the mucus membranes of our nose, sinuses, airways, and gut and take up residence.  They then bloom into molds and release mycotoxins, chemicals that can be absorbed into the bloodstream, accumulate and be harmful to our bodies.  

The spores go through cycles of blooming and spreading and can stay in the body for a long time.  Not everyone gets sick from mycotoxin exposures, but people with weakened immune systems and chronic inflammatory conditions seem to be more likely to get sick from them.

If you know you have had mold problems in your home or workplace, and you have some of the symptoms above that you can’t explain or get rid of, then consider an evaluation for mycotoxin-related illness.  Even if the mold in your house was remediated, you may still personally have mold that may be making you sick.

At Blum Center, we can help you figure out if mold might be what is making you sick. We do this through detailed questioning about your exposures and symptoms as well as medical testing to look for signs of mycotoxin-related illness in your blood and urine.  If it looks like that is indeed one of contributions to your condition, we will work with you to create a plan to address it.  We start with helping you to ensure that your house or workplace is mold-free, and then design a step-by-step plan to begin to eliminate the mycotoxins from the body and support healing.  It is not necessarily an easy process, but it may be the key to finally getting well.

Are you concerned about mycotoxins, or your toxic load in general? Consider following our 21-Day Simply Detox Plan. With our program you will detox your body and walk away with your own personalized food plan. The Do-It-Yourself E-Guidebook helps you every step of the way with daily instructions, a healthy eating food plan, and easy-to-follow recipes. Learn More

Meet Elizabeth: In her dual role as our Functional Medicine Nurse Practitioner and a teacher in our Mind.Body.Spirit programs at Blum Center for Health, Elizabeth Greig, MSN, FNP, helps treat and heal patients with complex chronic health conditions. Whether she’s treating a medical condition or leading a class in meditation, Elizabeth helps people understand that when it comes to healing, it’s more about nourishing life, than it is about battling illness. Learn more about Elizabeth’s practice.

Posted on

5 Tips To Control Your Allergies From An Integrative ENT

Tips to beat allergies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Posted on

An Integrative Gynecologist’s Advice for Teens and Young Adults

Gynecological advice for teens

Making the transition from childhood into the teenage years and young adulthood is a tender time for most young women. Navigating the world of menstruation, sexual relations, sexual health, and even understanding how her body works, can create anxiety, wonder, excitement and, inevitably, loads of questions.  How can we best support young women as they make this transition? The answer lies with using a more holistic approach to Gynecology.

Traditional gynecology is solely focused on reproductive health. It can feel cold and medicalized no matter how warm the practitioner is. And, let’s face it, our reproductive system is only a small part of our entire body.

The Integrative (which includes Functional Medicine) approach to Gynecology focuses on the entire body. This holistic way of viewing a woman addresses nutrition, exercise, stress management techniques, and lifestyle choices, all of which positively sets up a young woman for a lifetime of excellent reproductive health. Often, all kinds of issues, like PMS, painful periods, and polycystic ovarian syndrome, can be treated using lifestyle approaches, either alone or coupled with herbs and supplements.

Perhaps the most important difference between me and a conventional gynecologist, is that when I start working with you or your daughter, my goal is to develop a relationship. It is important to create a partnership based on trust and respect in order to most effectively help you, the woman sitting in front of me. What are your goals?  These drive everything. I start with a detailed history, paying great attentiveness to your physical, mental, and spiritual well-being.

In creating a reproductive wellness plan I incorporate nutrition, exercise, mind/body techniques, supplements, and herbs.  I may recommend acupuncture, massage/manual therapies, energy work.  Of course, if birth control is desired also, we do include contraception with or without hormones. Again, it is co-created with you, and It all depends on your goals.

For a teenager or young woman an initial appointment often may not include a pelvic exam.  This is because, truthfully, many questions/concerns don’t require one.  Eventually we’ll get to an exam but first there is benefit in educating you about your own anatomy.

Often our first visit is just a “talk” visit.  I understand that there can be fear surrounding a pelvic exam. My belief is that we don’t need to do anything that is not necessary, especially if it is uncomfortable or anxiety provoking!  Even for mature patients, we are moving away from reflexively doing a pelvic exam at each visit because the evidence shows that it is not always necessary.  I would rather spend our time with education.

So many routines that are started in our youth carry forward.  What better time to take the steps needed to build your bones up, maintain your gut microbiome, establish food choices that support reproductive health and decrease the long term risks of cancer, diabetes, heart disease?  We also teach mind/body techniques like deep breathing, meditation that helps you to handle all the stress that our crazy world throws at us.  As a young woman, the sooner you learn to manage this, the better off you will be.  It’s also important for you to learn about how toxins in the environment, food, plastics, cosmetics impact your reproductive health.  If you take steps early in life to lower the toxic load, we can ensure your future wellbeing.

You can see that I believe strongly that if we can teach the young women of today the principles of nutrition, exercise, stress management and toxin avoidance, they will be a much healthier generation tomorrow!  And my goal is to help make that happen.

Would you like to learn more and live in our neighborhood? Join Dr. Bronwyn Fitz at Blum Center for Health on May 4th at 7pm for her free community talk, An Integrative Gynecologist’s Advice for Teens and Young Adults. Dr. Fitz will describe the Integrative approach to some of the common health concerns that face young women: irregular and difficult periods, birth control, HPV vaccination, sexually transmitted infections.  Register Now 

About Dr. Fitz:

Dr. Bronwyn Fitz is a board certified Obstetrician Gynecologist who is fellowship trained in Integrative Medicine.  In her practice she melds traditional medicine with non-Western approaches, nutrition, botanicals, mind/body therapies and lifestyle interventions to help women address their gynecological and reproductive health concerns. Her interest in mindfulness and meditation led her to pursue a two-year Fellowship at The Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, under the leadership of world-renowned Integrative physician, Dr. Andrew Weil.

Posted on

How To Choose The Right Supplement

Choosing the right supplements

You eat a healthy diet—fresh vegetables and fruits every day, lean animal protein or high quality vegetarian protein, and whole grains—and you limit your intake of processed foods, right?

Do you still need a multivitamin or any kind of supplement?

In functional medicine, we often find the answer to be yes, because there are multiple reasons why you might not be getting what you need just from food.

First, we eat food for energy and nutrients:

The food we eat is more or less nutritious depending on the soil it is grown in or, in the case of animal protein, the feed the animals have been given.  Conventional farming puts only a limited number of nutrients back into the soil through fertilizers, so food grown on those farms tend to have lower nutrient quality over time.  In particular, zinc often becomes depleted.

Organic farming has a greater potential for higher nutrient quality because the soil is often fertilized with richer nutrient sources than just standard fertilizer.  But again, if the soil has been used for decades for agriculture, it may become depleted especially of trace minerals.

Before we became such an urban culture, people ate much more of the “whole” of whole foods—nothing was thrown away.  We ate organ meats like pancreas, kidneys, liver, brain that all have nutrients that aren’t necessarily found in vegetables or the usual meats we eat.  We ate much more fish and so got our omega- 3 fatty acids we need for healthy cell membranes.  We also used vegetable skins to make soup stocks and roasted pumpkin seeds for snacks (think zinc) to get minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants.  Overall, then, we have narrowed our nutrient sources by just eating the “good” parts of our foods.

Supplement Suggestion: In order to compensate for these changes in our foods and diets, we recommend a daily regimen of:

  • A daily multivitamin-mineral
  • Omega 3s, and
  • Vitamin D

These will meet the basic needs of almost everyone.

Looking for these essentials in an easy daily packets? Our specially-formulated Once Daily Vitamin and Mineral Essentials  has everything you need, and is third-party tested for purity.

Then there is your digestion:

If you are not digesting your food well, then you may not absorb your nutrients well.  We can determine what the problem is with your digestion by doing functional testing.

Then, while you work on improving your digestion, targeted supplements based on what’s going on in your body can really make a difference in how you feel.

We determine that based on symptoms or medical conditions that are associated with certain deficiencies in addition to the testing.  We do with each person who comes to Blum Center to tailor a program specifically to you.

When choosing supplements you also want to be aware of the quality of the products you are taking. 

News reports come out frequently about how the supplements at some of the chain stores don’t have the nutrients they are labeled to have.  Professional quality supplements have third party verification of their ingredients and also have testing for contaminants like lead.  We are careful at Blum Center to choose high quality, third party verified supplements.  We can advise you on resources to check supplement testing for products as well.

Do you live near Blum Center in Rye Brook, NY? Join Elizabeth and Darcy McConnell, MD for their community talk, What You Need to Know about Supplements, on Wednesday, April 19th at 7pm. Register Now! 

Meet Elizabeth: In her dual role as our Functional Medicine Nurse Practitioner and a teacher in our Mind.Body.Spirit programs at Blum Center for Health, Elizabeth Greig, MSN, FNP, helps treat and heal patients with complex chronic health conditions. Whether she’s treating a medical condition or leading a class in meditation, Elizabeth helps people understand that when it comes to healing, it’s more about nourishing life, than it is about battling illness.

 

 

 

Posted on

8 Reasons All Women Need Non-Negotiable Self-Care

Woman practicing yoga for self-care

Women are told that they can have it all — parenthood, families, careers, relationships, and community involvement.

Women are not told, however, that by juggling all these hats they put themselves at risk for feeling perpetually burned out.

Many women become so busy taking care of kids, partners, parents, in-laws, pursuing careers, and managing the day-to-day maintenance of running a home (cooking, cleaning, shopping), that everyone else gets their best. They get shortchanged.

Some women even put basic needs on hold — doctor’s appointments, haircuts, coffee with a close friend. If this resonates, you might feel dissatisfied, lonely, unappreciated, haggard, cranky, disheveled and even unattractive.

Having it all leaves you with no strength and no time to care for yourself.

I remember one particular Mother’s Day, sitting in one of my favorite cafes overlooking a park in bloom, surrounded by my two daughters and my then-husband. I was absolutely exhausted — caring for two small children, working, taking care of the house, attempting to keep it all together. Sitting there, on Mother’s Day, fighting to keep my eyes open, all I could think was, “What about me?”

Research (1) has shown that women today are less happy than they have been over the past 40 years. Why? Theories abound, but l suspect a lack of “me-time” is a major reason. All the hats we juggle leave many women not taking adequate care of ourselves — the very thing we need to give us the strength and energy to address all the responsibilities we have.

It’s a depletion loop. We keep taking and taking and taking from ourselves without giving anything back.

In fact, the chronic underlying stress of keeping all these hats in the air can lead to serious health conditions, such as anxiety, depression, headaches, digestive problems, weight gain, memory issues and even autoimmune disease. Self-care is an important antidote in battling all of these conditions.

Yet, in my health coaching practice at Blum Center for Health, most women tell me that they “don’t have time” to take time for themselves. When we delve a little deeper, however, it becomes clear that “time” is not the issue.

What’s the issue? There is an insidious undercurrent of guilt for taking care of herself.  Many women internalize the implied message that it’s her “duty” to minimize her needs in order to care for others. That, if she is taking care of herself, then she is taking time away from caring for someone else.

Every women requires self-care for peak performance and heightened self-esteem. After all, if you don’t carve out the time to truly care and love yourself, if you avoid things that make you feel mentally and physically well, you deplete your self-esteem. Essentially you’re robbing your own bank!

So, I ask you: “What do you want for you?”

8 Reasons to Put You First on Your List

  1. You will be better equipped to communicate your needs, and the support you require, to your partner, family, friends and co-workers.
  2. Putting yourself first will make you stronger and healthier.
  3. Attending to your needs, and learning to put yourself first, will raise your level of contentedness and happiness.
  4. Setting compassionate boundaries will make you feel cared for, nurtured and loved.
  5. Putting yourself first will recharge your battery, make you better rested and give you the space to discover (or rediscover!) your passions.
  6. You will feel more appreciated, and in turn, you will feel more appreciative and grateful toward the people in your life.
  7. You will be a more patient, attentive and attuned partner, parent, sibling, daughter, and/or professional.
  8. If you are a parent, you will demonstrate to your children what it looks like respect yourself. Kids learn from their parents. Do you want to teach them to put their needs last, or do you want to role model what it looks like to take care of themselves?

Ultimately, self-care is essential and non-negotiable. From getting enough sleep, to taking care of our basic needs, to setting personal limits and boundaries, to being honest with our partners, it’s making our health and wellness a non-negotiable priority.

Need help getting started?  Melissa can help!  Head over to our CoachMe page and learn how you can work with her to begin your self-care journey.

Do you live near Blum Center in Rye Brook, NY? Join Melissa for her special 4-session series, Reclaim Your Body, Love Your Life: A Women’s Group for Lasting Change, that begins April 26th: Learn More and Sign Up 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.

 

Reference:

  1. http://www.webmd.com/women/guide/womans-guide-to-me-time#1