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Is There a Way to Prevent and Delay Knee Arthritis?

Chronic Inflammation in the bones and the joints (osteoarthritis, OA, or commonly referred to as arthritis) is one of those hushed terms that we tend to associate with aging or obesity. Yet, as the U.S. population ages, surviving well past “old age,” and remaining physically active, more and more people will suffer from OA. Due to chronic pain and limited range of motion, OA places a significant functional limitation on the individual and can negatively impact mental health and well-being.

How do people develop OA?

Knee osteoarthritis, the most prevalent type of OA, is a main cause of disability, and affects men and women equally. Over a person’s lifetime, bones and joints are subjected to normal wear and tear. Our bodies will naturally repair itself through an inflammatory and healing process. As we age, inflammation in bones and joints can become unchecked, made worse by poor diet and other system-wide triggers of inflammation like digestive issues (imbalanced gut microbiome) and chronic stress. (You can learn more about that in Dr. Blum’s book, Healing Arthritis).   In weight-bearing joints, such as the knee, in addition to systemic inflammation, the direct and repetitive physical impact with abnormal loading forces and stress to the joint, further contributes to increased inflammation and slowing of the healing process.

How you can prevent or delay knee arthritis 

Luckily, knee OA  is more preventable than is commonly assumed. The early stages of joint degeneration often does not cause pain, and early detection is key to making sure your arthritis doesn’t progress to irreversible damage. So, what are some of the warning signs to look out for?

Signs that might indicate you have knee OA:

  • Decreased range of motion or pain on initiating movement (sitting to standing, getting up out of bed, squatting)
  • Difficulty walking up/down stairs
  • Knee swelling (with exercise or activity)

How can we solve the Knee OA problem?

Here are ways you can help make sure you don’t get OA, and how you can prevent it from getting worse:

  • Have a Physiatrist (Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation Specialist) evaluate the physical factors that might be adding wear and tear to your joints:
    • Biomechanics — addressing underlying or potential biomechanical problems leading to abnormal forces or stress on your knee joint.
    • Ergonomics — activities or position that lead to knee ache, pain or stiffness.
    • Footwear — wearing well-fitted and appropriate footwear that supports the entire foot
    • Physical and Joint Health — maintaining joint stability with muscle strengthening, range of motion and balance exercises. The key to maintaining active exercise routine is to use proper positioning techniques that are personalized to you. Using proper techniques during any activity, decrease your risk of abnormal joint stress.  
  • Work with a Functional Medicine Practitioner, such as ours at Blum Center for Health, to treat underlying medical conditions that may cause chronic inflammation, like improving your gut microbiome.
  • Work with a Nutritionist to learn how to eat an anti-inflammatory diet.

How is Blum Center of Health helping to change the course of Knee OA?

We are thrilled, that in addition to our functional medicine and nutrition team, we are now able to offer Regenerative Medicine — a state-of-the-art treatment focused on directly impacting the damage in, and around, the joint.

Treatment Options:

  • Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP)– used to repair the damaged degenerative cartilage, tendons and ligaments.
  • Bone Marrow Derived Stem Cells– recommended for more progressive and severe knee OA
  • Prolotherapy– for loose and unstable knee ligament and tendon

Remember, knee osteoarthritis (OA) is a medical condition that is increasing in prevalence in the US, as the population ages and survives longer. OA is a chronic condition in the soft tissue of joints that causes significant disability due to pain and limited range of motion. OA can be delayed, or even prevented with proper medical management and innovative/integrative medical interventions. If you or someone you love shows signs of OA, please call us to make an appointment!

Meet Dr. Aligene: Dr. Kathy Aligene is Board Certified Physiatrist, Interventional Pain Management Specialist and an innovative physician in the field of Integrative Pain and Regenerative Medicine.  Her expertise in these complementing areas of medicine has led her to successfully treat patients with musculoskeletal, joint, spine, pelvic and nerve related problems without depending on chronic use of pain medication. Dr. Aligene treats men and women of all ages and activity levels to support their functional goals and promote an active and healthy lifestyle. Book an appointment with Dr.Aligene by calling 914-652-7800.

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Summer Green Smoothie Instead of Coffee? You Bet!

Like most of you, I really love my morning coffee (my morning fuel of choice is espresso).  The nespresso machine in my kitchen has been an attractive nuisance since I bought it, making it way too easy to have one or two shots as I am revving up to start my day.  As August rolled around, I decided to do an experiment to see if my espresso was affecting how I felt, good or bad. To do this, I decided to kick the habit, and substitute my espresso for black tea (which also has caffeine), followed by a green smoothie made from contents of my garden. Yummy live food that I whipped up in my Nutrabullet.  And here is what I discovered.

It took a few days to adjust, but by day 3, I noticed that I was sleeping deeper and longer.  Since I was having my espresso only very early in the mornings, it shocked me that it had such a dramatic effect on my sleep so many hours later. I always thought that because I wasn’t having caffeine or coffee after 10 am, it wouldn’t make a difference.  Boy was I wrong!

I found myself sleeping later in the mornings and remembering my dreams.  If you are having any sleep issues whatever, I strongly recommend quitting coffee and see what happens!  It has been about 4 weeks now, and I am still sleeping great, feeling more rested in the mornings.

What I Learned About Green Smoothies

I used to be more of a berries-in-the-smoothie girl, but I switched to a more tart, savory drink instead of sweet.  You will see my recipe below. After my live, green, smoothie breakfast, I am zipping to work and buzzing with a better energy than I used to get from espresso!  I decided to write this blog to inspire those of you that read this, to try this experiment. The good news is that you can get greens triple washed and ready to use, making this smoothie super easy to make each morning.  I usually go out to the garden and add fresh parsley, rosemary, basil, or mint, in addition to the kale and spinach. You can customize this to your taste.

Here are the nutrition facts:

Total calories:  265;

Fat: 12.9 grams; Carbs: 34.6 grams; Fiber: 7.2 grams: Sugar: 17 grams; Protein: 11.2 grams

Green Smoothie Recipe:

½ apple, skin on

½ banana

½ cup Baby Kale

½ cup Baby spinach

1 TBL fresh lemon juice

1 TBL fresh lime juice

2 TBL organic Hemp seeds

1 cup cold filtered water

Optional:  A twig of rosemary and a handful parsley from the garden, or other herbs of your choice like a few leaves of mint or basil.

Put all ingredients in the Nutrabullet and enjoy!

 

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Coffee Was My Lifeline. Why Did I Give It Up?

For over 20 years I have maintained, “Coffee is my medicine.” Imagine the shock when I realized recently, that, in fact, coffee has been playing havoc with my health.

Shock. Horror. Dismay.

Here’s the backstory: From the time I was a toddler I have suffered from migraines. As a young adult I went to the Montefiore Headache Clinic in New York City. I was put on a strict diet, eliminating every known migraine trigger, including coffee since too much caffeine creates “rebound” headaches. Once my system was “trigger-free” for several weeks, trigger foods were added back one-by-one to see what I reacted to.

With one exception: Coffee.

Coffee replaced all medications: One cup of coffee early in the morning, one cup of coffee around 2pm.

My mantra for the last 20 years has been: I can’t give up coffee! Coffee is my medicine! Doctor’s orders!

This came to a crashing halt recently. You see when I committed to the 14-Day Whole Life Detox, I decided to follow Dr. Blum’s plan exactly as outlined. That meant no coffee for 14 days.. The week before I started Whole Life Detox I reduced my coffee consumption from 2 cups to 1 cup.

Then one Day 1 of Whole Life Detox, the reckoning: No coffee.

What happened next shocked me! After completing the detox I decided I would add coffee back into my morning routine. I bought fresh beans, ground it to fill the kitchen with that delightful smell, and brewed the perfect cup of coffee in my French Press. I could not wait to taste it.

Oh, that coffee goodness! Full body, lovely bouquet, chocolatey, caramel flavors.

And then? A big, fat case of the shakes!

What? How can this be? I even tested it two days later to see if I was right. Yep, same response.

And the reality is …. several weeks later … I have less headaches without it.

So here’s the thing: We hold on tightly to the things that cause us pain.

I challenge you: What do you think you can’t live without? Sugar? Bread? Cheese? Meat? Whatever it is, drop it for a week and see what happens.

Looking for an easy 14-day detox to reduce your toxic load, and jumpstart weight loss & healthy choices? Check out the Whole Life Detox. It’s a great place to start. Show Me Whole Life Detox

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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Let’s Talk About Sugar

A common question I ask my client’s is, “If you could change one thing to improve your health what would it be?” I get many different answers but many times I get a return question asking me what I think is the most important thing someone can do to improve their health.

My answer in short is….

R-E-M-O-V-E     S-U-G-A-R!

Why is removing sugar from your dietary plan the single most important action YOU can take to better your health?

So glad you asked!

6 Ways Sugar Ruins Your Health

Sugar …

  1. Feeds unwanted bacteria such as candida, causing an overgrowth of these bacteria resulting in oral thrush, yeast infections, skin rashes and fungus, digestive issues, food cravings, exhaustion and more…
  2. Ages your cells and Increases the risk of developing Alzheimer’s and dementia.  
  3. Raises your blood sugar levels. Sugar in the blood causes the secretion of the fat storage hormone, insulin, causing an increase in belly fat. This results in systemic inflammation, weight gain and an increased risk of developing diabetes.
  4. Is the top fuel for the growth of cancer cells.
  5. Weakens your immune system.
  6. Raises blood triglycerides levels increasing the risk of heart disease and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
  7. And the list goes on…

This is why we created the 7-Day Sugar Detox, a FREE, easy-to-follow program designed to make sugar cravings a thing of the past. Join us and get started today! It’s FREE!  Yes, I Want Off the Sugar Roller-Coaster

Sugar is Everywhere!

Sugar exists in so many forms and carries many names. There are simple processed sugars such as fructose, corn syrup, glucose, agave, sucrose (table sugar), and dextrose. Then there are more natural sweeteners including honey, pure maple syrup, molasses, monk, date or coconut sugar.

Sugars, whether in a more natural form or highly processed, can negatively affect your health, especially in high quantities. It’s summertime, a time full of barbeques and party events where sweet treats come along with the territory. Keeping the consumption of these sugars, whether natural or highly processed, to a minimum is key!

What about Sugar Substitutes?

Another category of sweeteners that are popular with “dieters” are low-calorie sugar substitutes.

There is an abundance of artificial sweeteners on the market today. Some common names include: Aspartame (Equal or Nutrasweet) and Saccharin (Sweet ‘N Low), Sucralose (Splenda), and sugar alcohols such as sorbitol, mannitol, erythritol and xylitol. These substances can be found in an abundance of different foods from yogurts and salad dressings to the gum that you chew! Sugar alcohols are generally considered “safe” in small amounts when compared to artificial sweeteners but may cause some gastrointestinal upset (gas and bloating).

Artificial sweeteners are unnatural man-made chemicals that are harmful to your health and can even cause weight gain. Yes, I said weight gain! Simply said, these sweeteners tend not to satisfy the sweet addiction our bodies crave so we tend to eat more of them!

I prefer you to consider fresh fruits or organic pure Stevia instead. Stevia is an herbal plant that is 200x sweeter than sugar so you only need a little bit when you use it.

The magic question is…how much sugar should you consume?

The answer to this question becomes a complicated one. If we take a look at the latest USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans (2015-2020), it recommends no more than 10 percent of our daily calories come from sugar.To understand this better, the Dietary Guidelines are based off of a 2,000-calorie diet. So, in general, ten percent of 2,000 calories equals 200 calories. This equates to 50 grams of sugar, the same as saying approximately 12 teaspoons of sugar!

The guidelines go further to explain no more than 100 calories (25 grams or 6 teaspoons) of added sugar per day for women and no more than 150 calories (36 grams or 9 teaspoons) of added sugar for men.  The FDA recently added to the food label “added sugar” and recommends no more than 10 grams of added sugar per serving. Added sugar is the sugar added in the processing of the product but this does not account for the amount of sugar already in the product. To understand this more clearly, see the label below.

 

Image adapted from the FDA.org

 

Subtract the amount of added sugar from the total sugar to find the total amount of natural sugar in the product.  Example from the label above: 12-10=2 grams of naturally occurring sugar.

The USDA Dietary Guidelines address the importance of reducing sugar in the diet but the truth has it…these guidelines are still too much!

A leading expert who is known for bringing the research forward on sugar is Dr. Robert Lustig. Check out one of his you-tube videos below https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBnniua6-oM . It’s worth the short time you invest to watch it!

The best meal plan to keep sugar intake to a minimum is a one sourced from organic whole foods! A whole foods meal plan is devoid of refined flours and sugars, and contains food that is minimally processed and exists as close to its natural state as possible. A lot less need for math and food label reading!

Include a healthy source of protein and fat at each meal or snack to promote satiety and head off cravings for sugary treats!

Follow an organic whole foods meal plan so your body can thrive! Include:

  • An abundance of phytonutrient rich produce including leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables as well as low glycemic high fiber rich fruits such as berries.
  • Pasture raised hormone free animal sources.
  • May include a small amount of whole grains such as quinoa and wild rice.
  • Quality fats such as nuts, nut and seeds and their butters and healthy oils such as avocado, coconut, olive, flax and ghee.

Are your ready to get off sugar? Join our FREE 7-Day Sugar Detox! We will help you kickstart your sugar-free life. It’s easy to follow and FREE! Get My First Action Plan Now

Keri Lynn MacElhinney, RD, CDN, CLT, IFNCP is a Functional Medicine Nutritionist at Blum Center for Health.  She has over 20 years of professional experience as a Registered Dietitian and holds a nutrition license in New York and the State of Connecticut. In her early years, her field experience covered a wide array of areas including acute care hospitals, community health centers, substance abuse.  Make an appointment with Keri Lynn at 914-652-7800.

 

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Is Stress the Cause of Your Health Issues? Here’s 5 Ways Chinese Medicine Can Help

Modern life brings many advantages and conveniences, and also many problems.  One of the biggest causes of health issues today is emotional stress – and it is taking a toll your body.

What Happens to Your Body During A Stressful Situation?

Your stress response is what happens when the body is stimulated to produce the hormone, cortisol, and the neurotransmitter, epinephrine (also known as adrenaline). These chemical messengers are very important when you are put in a dangerous situation (and even stressful good situations!) and are part of what’s called the “flight or fight” response.  When this system is functioning at it’s best, both cortisol and adrenaline are released from the adrenal glands keeping the body on high alert and triggering biochemical changes that help you cope with the stressor. And when the threat (or stress) is gone, cortisol and adrenaline levels go back down to normal baseline.

However, in chronic or prolonged stress these hormones continue to be pumped into your body, wreaking havoc on just about every system you have.  This process can lead to the very serious health issues that are plaguing our society today such as heart disease, diabetes, autoimmune disorders, anxiety, weight gain, arthritis, digestive disorders and cancer.

Chinese medicine, with its many tools, has been used for thousands of years to treat and prevent illness. The main objective is to keep the flow of Qi, or energy, open and flowing in order to keep the body in balance. Because chronic stress creates blockages and imbalances in your body, using the tools of Chinese medicine to treat the effects of stress is a good choice for many people.

5 Ways Chinese Medicine Can Help Reduce Stress

Acupuncture:

Acupuncture can alleviate stress symptoms by releasing endorphins which lead to feelings of euphoria, reduced appetite, enhancement of the immune response, and a meditative state in the brain, which can help with insomnia issues as well as anxiety. 

Meditation:

Meditation is a wonderful tool that anyone can use to calm the mind and body. By using any combination of breathing techniques, guided meditation, visualization and a body scan, you can bring the mind and nervous system into an alpha or meditative state.

Tai Qi/Qi Gong Exercises:

These are exercises that have been practiced for generations in China for the purpose of circulating ones qi or energy throughout the body in order to remove blockages. Anyone can do these exercises. They are slow, easy movements and have been proven to lower blood pressure, increase circulation and calm the body and the mind.

Chinese Herbal Medicine:

Chinese herbs are very helpful when stress has caused more serious internal issues such as digestive issues, insomnia, or heart palpitations, for example. Herbal formulas can come in pills, powders, tinctures or teas and can be found for every imaginable condition.

Dietary Therapy:

The Chinese, like Hippocrates, use food as medicine and can be used to treat the effects of stress especially on the digestive system. Soothing broths and light foods would be suggested for a nervous stomach, for instance, and spicy or greasy foods should be avoided. At Blum Center for Health, nutrition is at the core of all treatment, and Chinese Medicine is no different.

 

About Donna Bunte: Donna Bunte has practiced Chinese medicine, acupuncture and nutrition for over twenty years. She’s held private practices in NYC and Greenwich, CT, and has joined Blum Center for Health as our in-house acupuncturist. To book an appointment with Donna contact 914-652-7800.  

 

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9 Easy Ways To Boost Your Health This Summer

When it comes to summer health care we often hear about the need to apply sunscreen, wear sunglasses to protect our eyes, and hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.

But the longer days of sunlight and warm weather create an opportunity to buoy our health in ways that impact our lives well into the Fall. Check out these summer health tips to deepen and expand the health of your body, mind and spirit.

9 Easy Ways To Boost Your Health This Summer

  1. Enjoy Summer’s Seasonal Bounty – Oh, the ecstasy of summer foods! Cherries, watermelon, peaches, tomatoes, corn, arugula, rhubarb, melon, berries — it is a feasting bonanza. Take a walk through any farmer’s market and delight in all the produce summer has to offer. Get it while you can!
  2. Deepen The Spiritual Awakening of Spring — We commonly “Spring Clean” our lives, cleaning out the cobwebs physically, mentally and spiritually with greater attention toward renewal. Deepen this “awakening.” For instance, did you declutter any part of your home? Think about the emotional and mental impact this had and delve into how incorporating a “no-clutter” attitude, replete with loving every item in your home, amplifies your overall wellbeing. Or, did you perhaps “Spring Clean” your body? Think about how well you felt after the cleanse and consider adapting a cleanse-like mentality to your everyday nutrition.
  3. Take Advantage of the Weather — In other words … be outside every moment you can! Don’t sleep away your weekends. Get up, get active, and enjoy every moment of the gift of long warm days.
  4. Try Something New — It’s a great time of the year to try out an abundance of activities. Landscape painting, trapeze school, any number of outdoor sports (have you always wanted to know how to play lacrosse? Join a summer beginner’s league.), surfing, bicycle touring, or whale watching. Make a list and go!
  5. Slow Down — Summer is chock full of delights for the senses. Meander through a botanical garden, plant an herb garden (even on your window sill!), or enjoy your local farmer’s market or take a sunrise walk before the hustle bustle of the day starts. See, smell, taste and the joys of summer. Take the time to notice the seasonal changes from day to day.
  6. Experience Nature — Research shows that walking in green spaces reduces stress and increases calm, creativity and productivity. But beyond the health benefits connecting with nature allows us to connect with the Earth. It serves as a reminder of our joined destiny, our interdependence, that we are connected to the trees, the plants and all the little creatures big and small that share it with us.
  7. Relax and Breathe — Create the time to hang out in a hammock, sit on a beach, find a shady spot under a tree in your favorite park and mindfully breathe. There’s something about summer that makes it particularly easy to cultivate a breathing practice. Breathe, stretch, read, write — all great ways to spread your wings, find your voice and connect to your source.
  8. Visit A Farm — Farms are aflutter with life! Baby animals, growing plants — visiting a farm gives us an opportunity to connect with our life source! We are accustomed to food arriving on our plate without giving thought (or thanks!) to its origin. When we become aware on a conscious level, our relationship to the food we eat changes. We slow down and appreciate all the work that went into the food we are about to consumer.
  9. Volunteer — With so many hours of daylight it’s a great time of the year to volunteer out of doors. Walking trails, nature trails, community gardens, farms, and conservancy organizations would all welcome your help. Meet other like-minded people, give back to your community and experience the boost in mood and wellbeing that service provides.

What summer health tips would you add to this list? Let us know!

Are you feeling the effects of too much summer fun — weekends full of parties, BBQ’s and cocktails? At about midway through July many people feel heavy, bloated and blah. Join our 10-Day HealMyGut Summer Reboot — it’s exactly what you need to bring your intestinal flora back into balance. Relief is on the way! (And, it’s on special for the month of July!) Get the Special Price Now

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

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Is Summer Eating Making you Feel Heavy, Bloated and Blah?

Summer is full of fun — parties, BBQ’s, cocktails — and about midway through July many people feel heavy, bloated and blah. It’s an easy time of the year to slowly, or for some, not so slowly, slide back into old ways.

For some, (like me!) you have a hamburger bun and three days later think, “Well, I had a hamburger bun and nothing happened so I’ll eat another one today.” Before you know it hamburger buns and white bread become the norm.

Or, for some, you eat the hamburger bun,  feel like a complete failure and go right back to your old way of eating.

(By the way, this is exactly why we created the 10-Day HealMyGut Summer Reboot for the month of July. We know how hard it is to stay on track and this will reset your system and make the rest of the summer easy as pie. Learn more and get the limited time offer)

Here’s the good news: It is possible to navigate summer eating fun AND stay on track with health goals.

The trick is to rewire the way we think about summer eating and to understand that making healthy choices begins WAY BEFORE the actual event.

Think about it: How possible is it to show up at your best friend’s BBQ — full of hot dogs, hamburgers, potato chips, cold slaw, macaroni salad, cheeses, charcuterie, baguette, beer, cocktails, and pie — and think that you will only eat salad? Not likely! In fact, I would say impossible.

Besides, what fun would a BBQ be if you only ate salad?

On the other end of the spectrum, who wants to over-indulge on everything and then feel crappy physically and feel crappy about themselves?

The great news is that there is a way to find a middle ground to enjoy these food events, and even indulge, without a food hangover, shame, guilt and defeat.

10 Ways to Enjoy Summer Eating Without the Side Dish of Guilt

  1. Eat throughout the day — This goes for everyday, of course, but this is particularly problematic during the summer. Many people skip meals, or skimp on meals, thinking they will “save up” for the event —this backfires every single time. We end up eating more then we would have had we nourished and fueled our body during the day. When we skimp on nourishment our blood sugar drops and our body goes into starvation mode. We end up not only over-eating, but also eating foods we probably would not have found so tempting.
  2. Stock Your Fridge with seasonal foods and partake in extra servings of fruit and veggies leading up to the event. I find it helpful to have an extra smoothie or a green juice. Not only is it nourishing but it serves as a reminder that you are committed to treating your body with love and care.
  3. Exercise first thing in the morning — even if it’s just a walk. It revs your metabolism, reinforces healthy habits and sets a healthy tone to the day.
  4. Visualize yourself at the event — Let’s say you know you are going to a beach wedding in two weeks. Don’t wait until the last minute and start fretting about food. Every morning sit silently and envision yourself at the reception. Visualize yourself having fun, feeling great in your clothes. Visualize yourself being choosy when you take hors doerves. See yourself asking for fish and filling your plate with healthy, delicious food. See yourself having just a few bites of cake with a generous helping of berries. In other words … PRIME YOUR BRAIN!
  5. Plan in advance, Part 1: — Going to a BBQ and not sure what the pitfalls will be? Call or email your friend and ask what she/he will be serving.
  6. Plan in advance, Part 2: — Ensure there will be something you like to eat? BRING IT!
  7. Place everything you eat ON A PLATE — Eating mindlessly out of the potato chip bowl is a recipe for disaster.
  8. Plan for alcohol in advance — Planning on two drinks? Sip slowly and drink a full glass of water between drinks. Pace yourself and drink with awareness.
  9. Be aware of your surroundings — Are you eating because you are choosing to eat OR are you eating because you are mirroring someone else’s eating?
  10. Walk away! — If you feel like you are unhappy with the choices you are making …. walk away. Cognitive psychology demonstrates that when we change our environment we disrupt the behavior and can change the behavior in that moment. For instance, can’t stay out of the potato chip bowl? Grab a friend and go for a walk.

Lastly, have fun! Summertime is all about fun. Wear sunscreen, stay hydrated and eat all the summer produce you can before it’s gone — watermelon, peaches, berries, green beans, sugar snap peas — load up before it’s sweet potato time!

Looking for a quick way to reset the gut? Try our HealMyGut Summer Reboot to bring your intestinal flora to a state of robust health and diversity. Relief is on the way! Get Our Special Summer Reboot

 

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

 

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Hashi-toxins: The Link Between Pesticides and Hashimoto’s

By Jill Grunewald

If you’re someone who keeps your finger on the pulse of holistic health and wellness, you’re likely doing so many of the “right” things: tending to your gut health and microbiome, eating nutrient-dense foods and minimizing processed foods, sleuthing out food sensitivities, eating organic as often as your pocketbook will allow, taking the right supplements, hydrating, exercising, and cooking at home as much as possible.

All of these factors are important for overall health and taming the inflammation that the science has shown can lead to degenerative disease—and they’re also, not surprisingly, important for thyroid and immune health. In fact, many are able to manage their Hashimoto’s (autoimmune hypothyroidism) and other autoimmune conditions simply by heeding the above.

Yet another important consideration is environmental toxins. I know, it’s a broad term—and one that overwhelms many. Unfortunately, all of us are victim of a modern world where chemicals abound. There’s no way around it. And when the amount of incoming toxins exceeds the outgo, our “body burden” increases, affecting our health on multiple levels including our hormones, immune system, respiratory system, and cognitive function.

The good news is that there are ways to mitigate the inflow of any environmental toxin (offense is your best defense), but there are also simple ways to support our glands of detoxification (see below) so that these chemicals don’t rule the roost and we don’t end up living life with our “toxin goggles” on.

As far as pesticides go, the benefits of eating a chemical-free diet—whether it’s “organic” or simply “sustainably-grown”—are vast and beyond the scope of this article. It’s indisputable that they’re chemicals. But there’s been a significant “campaign” attempting to convince us that they’re not harmful chemicals.

I don’t believe that every morsel of food that passes our lips needs to be organic and as the saying goes, “The dose makes the poison.” But know that “a little here, a little there” can increase your toxic body burden, slow thyroid function, and affect how our immune system functions.

Highlight: Your Thyroid

One of the primary reasons that pesticides (including herbicides, fungicides, insecticides, and nematicides) are so impactful to our endocrine system is that many of them interfere with thyroid hormone metabolism. Dr. Mark Hyman states, “One of the most important factors that lead to hypothyroidism is exposure to environmental toxins, such as pesticides, which act as hormone or endocrine disruptors and interfere with thyroid hormone metabolism and function.”

The list of pesticides commonly administered to crops is dizzying, but methyl iodide, for example, is a known carcinogen and neurotoxin and is associated with thyroid abnormalities. Additionally, a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that women exposed to the pesticides aldrin, DDT, and lindane were at much greater risk of developing thyroid disease.

Another significant source of pesticides that many don’t consider is toxic lawn care chemicals, which are often tracked into homes from our shoes. (If you’re a golfer or live with one, know that golf courses contain some of the most toxic turf known.)

Pesticides also interfere with thyroid hormone conversion, interrupting our ability to convert T4 (our “storage closet” thyroid hormone) into T3 (the more bio-available “big daddy”). One of the issues with taking thyroid hormone replacement, while often warranted, is that some are unable to convert T4 into T3.

Pesticides are also considered xenoestrogens, the synthetic compounds that mimic estrogen. Xeno means “foreign” or “outside the body.” Among other issues, xenoestrogens set the stage for an increasingly common condition known as estrogen dominance (ED). (ED is somewhat of a loose term and doesn’t always mean that there’s excess estrogen—for women, you can be estrogen dominant simply by having too little progesterone. EDs don’t just affect women, by the way. For men, it can show up as aggression, decreased sex drive, or male breasts.)

Additionally, pesticides contain bromine, a well-known endocrine disruptor. Bromine is a halide that competes for the same thyroid gland receptors that uptake iodine, which inhibits thyroid hormone production and can result in hypothyroidism.

Highlight: Your Immune System

The association between pesticides and the immune system is robust. Remember, pesticides are xenoestrogens. Dr. Susan Blum states, “You need to know about [xenoestrogens] because they play a role in the development of autoimmune diseases. A group of researchers from the University of Milan conducted a review of all the studies looking at the role of environmental estrogens and autoimmunity. Over and over, they found a positive association between exposure to different agricultural chemical pesticides and [autoimmune diseases].

“We know that estrogen affects the immune system, because all immune cells have estrogen receptors and these hormones also encourage your immune cells to begin to make too many antibodies. The role of estrogens in autoimmune diseases has been well studied.

“… every chemical you are exposed to adds to your toxic load. Having a high toxic load makes it harder for your liver to handle pesticides and environmental estrogens, toxins that we know will affect your immune system.”

How to Reduce Your Toxic Load

Keep in mind, the recommendations below can apply to most any environmental toxin, whether it’s heavy metals, plastics, antibiotics and hormones in meat and dairy, flame retardants, and toxins in home cleaning supplies and skincare/cosmetics.

Firstly, I realize it’s not feasible for everyone to eat all organic/sustainable all the time. Do the best you can. If you can’t afford to go completely organic, avoid the “Dirty Dozen.” These are the foods shown to have the highest levels of pesticides. For more information on the “Dirty Dozen” (and the “Clean 15”), visit the Environmental Working Group.

Our bodies have six built-in detox mechanisms: lungs, skin, kidneys, colon, lymph, and liver. Once we slow the onslaught of toxins entering our bodies and also support these systems on an ongoing basis, we’re better able to rid ourselves of the toxins already present.

  1.     For lungs, simply breathe, deeply and fully, on a regular basis. Overall, try to avoid shallow breathing. Additionally, high quality oils (coconut, olive, and avocado) and dark leafy greens (spinach, Swiss chard, kale, watercress, collard greens, arugula, etc.) help to support the lungs and cleanse our respiratory filtration system.
  2. For skin, dry brushing and sweating (via exercise or sitting in a sauna—or both) are two of the best detox strategies. Antioxidant-rich, free-radical fighting foods from a wide variety of colorful fruits and vegetables also help to keep our skin breathing. Quality oils are also helpful, as are bone broth and chlorophyll-containing foods like dark leafy greens, including cilantro, parsley, and sprouts.
  3. The kidneys filter our blood—more than 48 gallons of it daily. And what’s the best way to support our kidneys? Drink water. Get plenty of it and make sure it’s clean and filtered. Kidney-supportive foods include cranberries, blueberries, lemon, beets, sea vegetables, and spinach.
  4. It’s critical that your colon is working optimally. If waste backs up in your bowels, toxins can be reabsorbed into the body. Daily fiber helps to keep our trains running smoothly—if constipation is an issue, supplemental fiber may be in order. Some experts claim that fiber is the most clinically important deficiency in our diet. Fiber-rich foods include true whole grains (vs. processed grains/flour), vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and legumes.
  5. The lymphatic system is a head to toe network of organs, nodes, ducts, and vessels that transport lymph fluid. It removes waste from every cell in our body while helping to regulate our immune system. One of the biggest contributors to lymph stagnation is dehydration. Other strategies for keeping things flowing are dry brushing, sipping warm water throughout the day, and drinking warm water with fresh lemon juice first thing in the morning. Sitting in a sauna and exercising also helps.
  6.  Ah, the liver. Another “big daddy.” It’s a giant filter and next to our skin, is our largest gland of detoxification. Not only does it filter toxins from food, water, pharmaceuticals (including supplemental hormones), air, and what our skin comes into contact with, but it also helps with thyroid hormone conversion (T4 to T3).

Dr. Susan Blum states, “Think of your detox system as a little engine that is inside every cell, with the biggest engine in the liver.”

Gentle liver support includes:

  •   Drinking warm lemon water first thing in the morning
  •   Choosing herbs (via teas, foods, or supplements) like dandelion, nettles, milk thistle, and turmeric
  •   Getting plenty of fiber
  •   Choosing DIM-rich foods (diindolylmethane) found primarily in the cruciferous vegetable family: cabbage, kale, broccoli,      Brussels sprouts, etc. (You don’t have to worry about these foods slowing your thyroid function.)
  •   Other liver-supportive foods include garlic, walnuts, grapefruit, avocado, dark leafy greens, beets, olive oil, coconut oil, apples, and apple cider vinegar.

Remember, offense is your best defense. It’s not only important to be mindful of where toxins live and how to best avoid them, but also to support your glands and organs of detoxification. It doesn’t have to be complicated—and as you can see, some of the most delicious whole foods can give toxins the heave ho. Get these foods regularly and you’ll be way ahead of the game.

Jill Grunewald, HNC, FMCHC, is a functional nutrition and hormone coach and best selling author of The Essential Thyroid Cookbook.

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Protecting Your Skin from the Inside Out

It’s no secret that the summer sun takes a toll on our skin. Of course, it’s important to wear sunscreen, protect your skin and eyes, take cooler showers, and hydrate, hydrate, hydrate (a little more on that later!).

But did you know that what you put on your plate is as important as what you put on your skin?

In fact, your food choices affects your skin at the cellular level, and since skin is your largest organ, you want to pay close attention to the foods you eat to support and protect your skin.

Here are some of our favorite summer foods to help protect your skin and give you a healthy glow:

Blackberries, Blueberries and Strawberries  — Packed with antioxidants, researchers¹ have found these three fruits in particular protect the skin from free-radicals that damage skin cells. Berries have the added benefit of being a superfood and, in fact, help with weight loss and sugar cravings.

Flax Seeds, Walnuts, Salmon, Sardines, Mackerel — Omega-3 Fatty Acids are one of the keys to healthy skin. Our bodies do not produce these “essential fatty acids” — we only get them from the foods we eat. Essential fatty acids are the building blocks of healthy cell membranes, which hold in water. The stronger the barrier, the better your cell walls will hold moisture — resulting in, yes, hydrated, plumper, and younger-looking skin.

Avocado — Avocados are full of healthy fat, vitamins C and A. Add them to just about anything — they enhance your complexion and fight aging skin. Pass the guacamole please!

Spinach, Kale, (as well as all dark leafy veggies), Sweet Potatoes, Carrots, Cantaloupe — Yes, the dark leafy veggies and the orange veggies and fruits are loaded with beta carotene, which your body converts to vitamin A. These powerful antioxidants improve skin color, reduce wrinkles and other signs of aging — particularly damage by the sun, pollution and smoking.

Eggs and Tuna — Some people’s bodies have a hard time converting beta carotene into vitamin A. Get some of your vitamin A directly from the source with eggs and tuna. (Tip: Be sure to buy skipjack tuna as albacore and regular tuna tend to be high in mercury.)

Bell Pepper, Papaya, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Strawberries, Pineapple, Oranges, Kiwi, Cantaloupe, Cauliflower, Dark Leafy Greens — These are the fruits and vegetables that contain the highest levels of vitamin C. Usually equated with cold relief, vitamin C is essential to the production of collagen, a protein that provides the framework for our skin and gives it elasticity and strength.

Watermelon and Tomatoes — These fruits are two of the best sources of the anti-aging antioxidant lycopene. Lycopene, the phytochemical that makes tomatoes watermelon and tomatoes red, helps eliminate skin-aging free radicals caused by ultraviolet rays. (Tip: Your body best absorbs lycopene when tomatoes are cooked.)

Sesame seeds — These tiny powerhouses are chock full of good stuff for the skin. They have a high concentration of copper, a trace mineral with anti-inflammatory properties, and a necessary component of collagen production. They also pack in zinc, another essential mineral for producing collagen, and selenium, an antioxidant mineral that helps protect the skin from sun damage and maintain firmness and elasticity.

And last but not least ….

Water, water and more water — About 60% of your body is made up of water so it makes sense that water would play an important role in your body’s function. Think about a houseplant … what happens when you don’t give it enough water? The leaves start to droop, and ultimately without proper hydration they start to discolor and dry up. Same with our skin and as the largest organ in our body it needs water — anywhere between 4-10 cups, depending on your climate, activity level and what works best for you.

You can also get an extra dose of antioxidants with our Multivitamin with Antioxidants. This is a great way to combat the toll of summer fun — protect your skin with antioxidants and fill in the nutritional gaps left from typical summer eating!  Get it 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.

 

 

Resources:

 

  1. Huang W, Zhang H, Liu W, et al. Survey of antioxidant capacity and phenolic composition of blueberry, blackberry, and strawberry in Nanjing. Journal of Zhejiang University. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3274736/.
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Flu Season Isn’t Over Yet: Keep Your Immune System Strong Through the Spring!

At this time of the year many patients ask me how can they enhance their immune system.  The truth is that our immune systems are designed to work just fine if we eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly and get enough rest.  However, if you find yourself getting sick with an upper respiratory infection (URI) there are some herbs and supplements that can shorten the duration of symptoms.  They work best if taken at the very first sign of a URI, and stopping them when those symptoms clear.

7 Supplements for Immune Health

Elderberry : Elderberry has both antiviral and antibacterial effects. Research suggests its efficacy — even against the H1N1 virus. Four tablespoons of the elderberry fruit syrup Sambucol daily for three days, has been shown to reduce symptoms of fever and muscle ache by about 50 percent. For kids, reduce the dosage to one tablespoon twice a day.

Medicinal Mushrooms: Mushrooms have been shown to work against bacteria, viruses and some forms of detrimental mold. They contain polysaccharides, a component of cells that can prevent bacterial growth in the laboratory setting. I have my patients keep on hand a product known as Mycommunity, which is a blend of 17 fungi types.

Zinc: You want to make sure you’re taking a good multivitamin with zinc – 15 milligrams is generally thought to be a good amount for maintenance, but you can go up to 30 daily.  Zinc glycinate and zinc gluconate are usually well tolerated, and start with 10 milligrams as these are least likely to give you stomach upset. Otherwise, take as directed on the package.

Andrographis:  Andrographis — sold under the name Kold Kare — is an herb widely used in Ayurveda, the traditional form of medicine in India. When started within 72 hours of the onset of symptoms, it can improve symptoms of the common cold.

American Ginseng: There are various forms of ginseng and some may be beneficial if used early in the onset of cold symptoms. Some evidence suggests that taking 200 milligrams twice daily of the American ginseng extract CVT-E002 (brand Cold-fX) during influenza season may decrease the risk of developing URIs, and seems to reduce both the severity and the duration of symptoms. Another combination ginseng product called Kan Jang, which contains Siberian ginseng and Andrographis, may also prove effective.

South African Geranium: A number of studies have shown that extracts of the South African geranium can be helpful in reducing symptoms of bronchitis, sore throat, sinusitis and the common cold. Both children and adults tolerate it well. These products are usually readily available in your local health food store, marketed under the brand name Umcka.

N-Acetylcysteine (NAC): One of my favorites for preventing cold and flu.  NAC is widely used in the medical community for a number of conditions, and has terrific clinical data that shows it to be helpful for patients with chronic respiratory illnesses.  It also helps to keep the immune system in its best condition for warding off illness. It can be helpful with coughs, cold, runny noses – it also converts to Glutathione, the body’s most powerful antioxidant.  I usually recommend 900 milligram tablets – start with one twice daily and increase to two twice daily as needed. Pharmanac, a Canadian brand that comes in an effervescent form is easy to take as a fizzy drink – even for children!

My thoughts on immune enhancement:

If you wanted to take something throughout season that will help to keep you healthy, I’d recommend Vitamin D.  It is essential for immune health, and our levels often drop during the winter months because we get less sun exposure. A large study performed in elderly adults at Yale University suggests that even patients with low-normal levels of Vitamin D are more prone to URI’s than patients with higher levels. Many of us are deficient in Vitamin D, so try at least 2000 iu of vitamin D3 – and include a good quality fish oil, as it will give you an additional D boost but will also serve as  a great antioxidant. One that has at least 1,400mg EFA/925 DHA is a good dose to be used twice daily in patients with underlying asthma and allergies as well.

As in with any supplement, be cautious in taking with medicines, or other herbs or supplements.  Ginseng can interact with medicines for diabetes. Fish oils can cause blood thinning. And if you have allergies or are on medications, please check with your doctor first before adding any new her or supplement.  All of these products must be avoided if you are on medications or other herbal supplements that thin the blood.

I’m here on Thursdays if you need more advice or have chronic sinus or ENT issues – happy to see you for a consultation!

Live in our neighborhood and need help with chronic sinus or ENT issues?  Make an appointment with Dr. Gereau. She will address your concerns and develop an integrative plan that focuses on holistic, high-impact treatments. To make an appointment, call 914-652-7800.

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.