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Curcumin – the Anti-Inflammation Wonder Herb

Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a culinary herb that is an amazing medicinal multi-tasker! It has a bright yellow/orange hue that gives curry its vibrant color. A member of the ginger family, turmeric contains many compounds including several in the curcumin family. Curcumins are known to have anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-cancer properties.

Despite that curcumin has been used medicinally in Ayurvedic medicine in India for centuries, it is only more recently that interest has caught on in the U.S. Luckily for all of us, the enormous potential of curcumin has resulted in a growing body of research to help us understand how it works and which scenarios it works best in. Currently there are ongoing studies looking at arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease treatment, colon cancer prevention, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, to name just a few.

Cooking with turmeric is an easy and healthy way to benefit from curcumins. It adds a delicious color and flavor to dishes. Turmeric tea is another excellent way to enjoy this powerful herb.  It does seem, however, that the doses needed to get full medicinal effect are much higher than one could ever get in a helping of your favorite curry. Although I always encourage people to get their nutrition from food before supplements, this is one case where taking a curcumin supplement does much more for you than simply cooking with it.

How to use Curcumin Medicinally

Arthritis

In the case of arthritis, curcumin works by neutralizing free radicals as well as by inhibiting pain and inflammation. In fact, it suppresses multiple inflammatory chemical messengers that the body makes.  It does this by inhibiting several enzymes along the inflammation cascade, the very same enzymes that ibuprofen and naproxen block.

And research supports this. A well designed study of 367 arthritis patients found it to be as effective as the traditional anti-inflammatory drug, ibuprofen with fewer side effects1.  Additionally, curcumin has been found to decrease substance P in nerve cells which is an additional way that in can improve pain in all kinds of arthritis.A typical dose would be 500mg taken 1-3 times a day.  

PMS

As a gynecologist I am always looking for ways to help women manage their period problems. For the same reason that curcumin helps arthritis, it is logical that it would be helpful for pain associated with menstrual cramps. One prospective randomized trial of 70 women with PMS showed that 100mg taken twice a day for 10 days starting one week before menses reduced PMS scores by 59% compared to just 14% in placebo group. Effects were seen for all three symptom categories: physical, behavioral, and emotional2. What’s nice about this study is that the authors used a relatively low dose compared to other applications. Lower doses mean fewer potential side effects.

Ulcerative Colitis

Curcumin’s powerful anti-inflammatory effects and limited absorption from the GI tract make it an excellent agent to treat inflammation in the gut. There are ongoing studies looking at curcumin as a treatment for inflammatory bowel disease. One such study of 89 people with ulcerative colitis found that when in remission, those who took 1,000mg curcumin twice a day for six months, along with their regular medicine, had lower relapse rates than those who took placebo.3

Cancer

From a cancer perspective, curcumin has the ability to alter gene transcription and actually stop cell growth, known as apoptosis. Its anti-cancer properties are also thought to come from anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. It has been studied and used for prevention or treatment of colorectal cancer, pancreatic cancer, breast cancer, multiple myeloma, lung cancer.  Interestingly, there are also studies to suggest that whole turmeric has anti-cancer properties beyond curcumin extracts alone.4

Things to Know:

Because curcumin is not well absorbed by itself you will need to use a preparation that has been specially formulated so that your body can digest it. Many supplement preparations have black pepper, also known as bioperine, added to it which improves intestinal absorption by about 1000%. There is some concern that pepper is irritating to the GI lining which might be problematic. Alternatively, some brands have specially formulated the herb in a delivery system that optimizes absorption.

Dr. Blum’s non-GMO Super Curcumin, available in our online store, is formulated with super-absorbable sunflower lecithin so that you will reap the benefits of every milligram. See it Now

Who Should Not Take Curcumin

Curcumin is usually well tolerated but can lead to GI upset if taken in high doses and could cause an allergic reaction. People with gallbladder obstruction should avoid curcumin because it can cause the gallbladder to contract. This can be helpful for some kinds of digestion, but could make things worse if you have a gallstone blockage. Additionally, patients with gastric ulcers should avoid curcumin. Patients on blood thinners should be careful with curcumin. Always tell your healthcare provider if you are taking any herbs.  I don’t recommend curcumin supplements in pregnancy due to lack of safety data.

Do You Suffer With Arthritis?

Are you ready to live a pain-free life? Whether you suffer with an autoimmune condition like Hashimoto’s or arthritis, Dr. Blum can help you!

In her new book, Healing Arthritis, Dr. Blum presents 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. Get The Book Now

Resources:

  1.  Kuptniratsaikul V et al Clin Interv Aging. 2014 Mar 20;9:451-8. Efficacy and safety of curcum domestica extracts compared with ibuprofen in patients with knee osteoarthritis: a multicenter study.
  2.  Khayat S et al Complement Ther Med. 2015 Jun;23(3):318-24  Curcumin attenuates severity of premenstrual syndrome symptoms: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial
  3. Hanai H, et al  Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2006 Dec;4(12):1502-6   Curcumin maintenance therapy for ulcerative colitis: randomized, multicenter, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial
  4.  Devassy JG, et al  Nutrition Reviews, Volume 73, Issue 3, 1 March 2015, Pages 155–165.  Curcumin and cancer: barriers to obtaining a health claim

 

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5 Easy Ways To Survive the Thanksgiving Food Fest

Gobble, gobble, indeed! According to research from the Calorie Control Council, the average American may consume more than 4,500 calories on Thanksgiving Day. Whoa! That’s more than double the average person eats on a regular day. That’s pretty shocking.

This is particularly problematic for people with autoimmune disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis or Hashimoto’s, or those who contend with joint pain, reflux or food sensitivities. Underlying conditions almost always flare! Sometimes immediately, sometimes up to two days later.

Why, oh why, do we do that to ourselves?

Of course, you hear the stories of family drama, but it seems to run much deeper than that. It’s as if Thanksgiving has become an overeating contact sport. We start preparing in advance and even start bemoaning the after-effects of too much food well before the actual event. We act as if eating until bursting point is expected and completely out of our control. And just like a football game, Thanksgiving comes replete with the after-game commentary and play-by-play.

We also tend to do what we’ve always done. Overeating on Thanksgiving, in essence, has become a habit!

The great news is: You can change that script. It is entirely possible to indulge in all of Thanksgiving’s deliciousness AND feel satiated, content and even full, WITHOUT having to resort to elastic-waisted pants for a few days.

5 Easy Ways To Survive the Thanksgiving Food Fest

Eat Throughout The Day — Often we approach Thanksgiving thinking that we will forgo food during the day in order to partake more heartily during the main event. Big mistake! In fact, when we skip meals we generally eat more. Choose small, filling meals. For breakfast, have a bowl of gluten-free oatmeal with berries and nuts. For lunch, have coconut milk kefir with nuts and fruit, or avocado toast — think slow-digesting carb with a healthy fat and protein. It will stabilize your blood sugar, keep you satiated, and set you up for a healthy Thanksgiving meal.

Skip the Snacks — One of the wonderful things about Thanksgiving is the home-cooked meal. Mindlessly eating chips, store-bought white breads, and other processed foods, not only is unhealthy and stimulates your appetite, but it’s also not tasty. Stick with real food — fruits and crudite are great choices for healthy snacking.

Forgo The Impulse to Mirror Other People’s Eating — How often do you reach for food when you see someone else eating? Right. Me too. It takes awareness. Every time you start to reach for something at the hors d’oeuvre table, ask yourself, “Why am I reaching for this?” If it’s because someone else is eating, pick up a glass of sparkling water instead.

Eat Your Veggies! — Rather than filling your plate with everything on the table, start with a plateful of salad and vegetables. Most Thanksgiving meals have salad, green beans, Brussels sprouts, and other delicious but overlooked vegetables. Start with them instead of making them an afterthought. Once you’ve enjoyed your veggies, then take a little bit of everything else. In fact, switch your plates. Use the dinner plate for the salad and vegetables, and the salad plate for turkey, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes and stuffing.

Slow Down! — Put down your utensils between bites, sip water between bites, and focus on connecting with those around you rather focusing on the food in front of you. Take the time to appreciate your food, smell it, look at it, and savor it.

Oh, and give yourself permission to leave food on your plate!

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Do you have a hard time staying on track during the holidays? Or, does holiday stress overwhelm you? Consider working with a Health Coach (hey, I’m one!) who will help you create a stress-free holiday survival plan and stick with it. 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.

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Improve Your Sleep and Improve Your Life

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

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

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

Is Your Sleep Disturbance Chronic or Acute?

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

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

Do You Have Sleep Apnea?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Supplements for Better Sleep

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Reference: 

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

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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.

 

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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

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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5 Tips To Control Your Allergies From An Integrative ENT

Tips to beat allergies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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