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Do You Really Know What’s in Your IV Bag? Why Quality and Dosage of Your IV Therapy Infusions Matters

As IV Therapy infusions have gained popularity over the last decade, there still lacks a governing entity or an industry standard. This leads to a lot of variation in the product, dosing, and quality you may receive from center to center. There is great responsibility on the practice and the practitioner to ensure the safety of your infusion and, as the patient, these are important questions for you to ask when determining which center to go to.

What’s are the Contents of the IV Therapy Infusions?

Before getting a vitamin infusion, it is important to ask what vitamins you are getting. Most other infusion centers have only three to four vitamins in their mixes. At Blum Center, our Basic Wellness infusion has nine and our Wellness Plus infusion has 15.  Blum Center prides itself on not only having more vitamins in each infusion, but also higher doses. 

Our Medical Director, Susan Blum, M.D. utilizes her extensive knowledge of Integrative and Functional Medicine to curate infusions that particularly serve the needs of people with medical issues, including immune system and autoimmune conditions, chronic Lyme, severe fatigue, gut issues to name a few. Our infusions have higher doses than walk-in drip centers and we ensure that they are given safely.  As you can see, Infusions at Blum Center are not just simple wellness IVs, but rather medical grade infusions that make a real difference in the body’s healing and ability to function optimally. It’s important to keep this in mind, too, when comparing prices at different locations. 

What is the Quality of Ingredients in the Infusions?

It is equally important to confirm that you are getting quality ingredients. We source our vitamin solutions from the highest quality compounding pharmacies that source their ingredients from FDA-approved facilities and are compliant with Current Good Manufacturing Processes. This means every batch is tested and every vial is visually inspected by the compounding pharmacy before it is shipped out and then visually inspected again by our Infusion Director upon arrival. We then take it one step further and do our own calculations for all the ingredients in the IV bag to avoid any potential complications.

We are proud of the extra layer of strict protocols to ensure quality.  For example, all vials on hand are stored at the correct temperature, are not beyond their use date, and are mixed with aseptic technique, so you can feel confident that you are getting the best product that is carefully maintained. 

Can you Tailor IV Therapy Infusions?

At Blum Center we work hard to ensure that your drip is compatible with your unique biochemistry.  For example, did you know that if you have a history of kidney stones you should receive a custom drip limiting the amount of Vitamin C?

Blum Center practitioners are experts in Integrative and Functional Medicine and hand select each patient’s infusion to ensure their health and wellness needs are getting met.  Whether you are new and meeting with our Infusion Director, or a current patient being supervised by your practitioner, your IV will be customized for you. We believe it is important to understand how a vitamin infusion may benefit you. 

While it may seem like a nice touch to be able to pick out an infusion from a menu at a walk-in drip center, this strategy may not be helping you meet your wellness goals. We know that high dose intravenous vitamins or specific combinations of targeted nutrients can truly make a difference for many people struggling with chronic health issues.

Come let us create a program for you!  The quality, service, and individualized care at Blum Center is unmatched.  Call us at 914.652.7800 to book your appointment. 

 

 

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Pregnancy and Pandemic

Please note: This article should NOT be considered medical advice. Information about COVID-19 is constantly evolving and subject to change. Following proper procedures for handwashing, social distancing, masking and surface cleaning remain the best interventions available. Personal recommendations for pregnancy planning should be discussed with your health care provider

Pregnancy is a time of hope and excitement as well as increased concern for what the future will bring for your growing family.   Pregnancy during a pandemic can add to the fear that any parent-to-be may feel. The areas of concern are three-fold: What effects COVID-19 (SARS-CoV2) may have prenatally, how it will inform labor and delivery, and what effects it might have in the first years of life and beyond.  Expectant mom’s need guidance to help them navigate the changing landscape of pregnancy during pandemic. Arming yourself with knowledge and a plan of action can help you navigate this confusing time. What should you know and what can you do now to protect your baby?

We do not have a lot of information about pregnancy and birth outcomes related to COVID-19 as of yet.  Studies are based on small population size, and only exist from women in their third trimester. While we do not know what, if any effects, in utero or early exposure to COVID-19 may have on baby’s early and long-term development, new information is continually emerging, and we can use the currently available data to guide our choices. 

Prenatally, protection and prevention are absolutely the first line of defense. Follow standard recommendations for social distancing, frequent hand washing, thorough surface cleaning, and face covering. Discuss with your provider their policies regarding in person vs. telehealth prenatal visits. Basic health measures such as high-quality nutrition, physical activity, restful sleep and stress reduction become even more important, even while quarantine conditions add an additional layer of challenge to achieving these goals.  Consider pregnancy safe immune support such as vitamin C and D, zinc and echinacea as appropriate, but be careful with any supplements-herbs such as licorice and andrographis being touted as protection against SARS-CoV2, they are unsafe during pregnancy. Other compounds such as quercetin and melatonin, which may have anti-COVOD-19 activity, are lacking in safety data regarding pregnancy.

Once baby is ready to enter the world, the goal is to minimize risk to mom and newborn.  There is a higher risk of preterm delivery and low birth weight in babies born to infected mothers but thankfully, vertical transmission (from mom to baby in utero) of COVID-19 appears unlikely. In only rare cases has a baby been born with positive antibodies (a sign of prior exposure) to the disease. Horizontal transmission (from mom to baby after delivery) has occurred, likely due to exposure to respiratory droplets after birth, but in most cases, the infants have recovered well, and appear less seriously affected than adults. Because of the fear of both vertical and horizontal transmission, as well as respiratory concerns for mom, C-section deliveries and separation of mom any baby after birth were regularly initiated in early cases, but with more information these guidelines have changed.  For COVID-19 infected mothers, the World Health Organization (WHO) currently does not recommend routine C-section, unless deemed necessary for other reasons. The CDC does not support routinely isolating a newborn from its mother and WHO maintains the importance of room-sharing, skin to skin contact and breastfeeding to provide the baby with optimal immune support. There is no evidence that the virus can be transmitted via breast milk, however, COVID-19 positive mothers must use precautions such as wearing a mask while nursing, washing hands before and after touching the baby, and disinfecting all surfaces. In addition, if a mom is expressing her breast milk for any reason, including being too ill to nurse, all equipment must be carefully and thoroughly cleaned.

For the first year and beyond

Preterm delivery, C-section birth, antibiotic use, as well as maternal fever, infection and use of acetaminophen during pregnancy have been associated with an increased risk for autism spectrum disorders, ADHD, developmental delay and depression in children.  We suspect this is linked to disruption of the infant microbiome and alteration of innate immune function. Research is clear that healthy balanced gut flora exerts powerful effects on not only digestion, but immune and neurologic function as well. Alterations in these pathways are correlated with a variety of developmental and mental health challenges in children and adults. 

HOWEVER, remember that having a baby should be a time of joy and hope.  We cannot and should not live in fear of negative outcomes. What we can do is be aware, and proactive in supporting normal immune and gut health in our newborns, and be especially mindful of those who have been exposed to SARS-CoV2.  Being proactive includes breastfeeding for 6 months or longer whenever possible. Breast milk provides important immune modulating compounds as well as molecules called Human Milk Oligosaccharides (HMOs) that are used specifically by the gut flora to grow and thrive.   If appropriate, Vitamin C and D, probiotics, omega 3 fatty acids, and zinc can be used to enhance immune function.  While these nutrients are safe for both breastfeeding moms and babies, appropriate dosing is essential. Parents should watch carefully for signs of digestive and immune dysfunction such as colic, reflux, poor sleep, eczema and ear infections.   If you suspect your child is not achieving appropriate developmental milestones, then modify the familiar saying and “if you don’t see something, say something”. Work closely with a provider experienced in functional care who will take your physical and developmental concerns seriously, and intervene early.

This information is not designed to scare but to educate.  By knowing the facts, working closely with your healthcare provider to decide what is best in your individual situation, and making decisions with both short and long-term effects in mind, you can lay the foundation for a happy thriving child. 

 

Vicki Kobliner MS RDN, is a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist. Vicki has a passion for helping parents-to-be navigate preconception, pregnancy and baby’s first year of life in the face of increasing chronic childhood illness.  She employs a functional nutrition approach to optimal health and healing. Vicki also works with infants through adults with chronic illnesses, digestive disorders, food allergies, ADHD and autism and provides fertility and mental health focused nutrition counseling.   Click here to book an appointment with Vicki.

Looking for more information on being pregnant during a pandemic?  Join Vicki for a live webinar on May 14th at 12 pm where she will explain what information we know so far, and how best to use that information for prevention and protection. Click here to register.
Submit questions forVicki in the comments section – she will address them during this live call! Sign up here.

 

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Menopause Made Easy

Ok, let’s face it…every woman will transition through menopause, whether they like it or not. For some of us, it happens without any fanfare. One day your period is gone, and you’re done! (Yes, ladies, this does happen for some women). For others, it is a nightmare with hot flashes and sweats during the day and night, often ruining what used to be a good nights’ sleep. Other symptoms may include difficulty with memory, sometimes called ‘mental-pause’, low sex drive and painful intercourse when you do decide to make it happen.

So what is going on? One theory is that estrogen receptors in the brain become starved of estrogen, and this affects temperature regulation and memory. While this makes a lot of sense, there has to be more to it than that because all women have a loss of estrogen during menopause, but only some women suffer symptoms. To understand this, let’s look at the other influences on your hormones that could be the culprits.

First, you must look at your entire endocrine orchestra and make sure all of your hormones are working optimally. These include your thyroid hormones, your adrenal hormone cortisol, and also your blood sugar hormone insulin. If any of these are out of balance, your sex hormones will be too, and you are more prone to having menopause symptoms.

Second, you must look at your detox system and make sure your liver is doing a good job of processing both every day toxins and metabolizing your hormones properly. Even after menopause you should have some healthy estrogens in your body, and these need to be processed. Faulty estrogen metabolism can result in more symptoms.

What can you do? Here are 5 tips to help make menopause a non-event.

  1. Eat for hormone balance. This means eating protein (vegetarian or animal) and plants rich in fiber with all meals and cut out the processed sugar. This will keep your insulin in balance. 
  2. Have your thyroid checked, including the hormone T3. If you are already hypothyroid, make sure you aren’t taking too much or too little medication. 
  3. Do an adrenal saliva test to make sure your adrenals are healthy. An integrative practitioner can help you do this.  Live in our neighborhood? You can have a consultation with one of our practitioners at Blum Center for Health for testing.  
  4. Improve your estrogen metabolism by eating cruciferous vegetables, rosemary. Consider trying the supplements DIM (Di-indole methane), methylfolate and methylcobalamin. 
  5. Beware of alcohol and caffeine. They can make your temperature system go haywire during this time of transition. 
  6. Consider a safe and medically sound liver Detox program.  Renew your body by eliminating your toxic load and resetting your hormones. Try our 14-Day Whole Life Detox. 

Try one or more of these steps and evaluate how you feel.  Let me know how you are doing! 

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The Functional Medicine Approach to Breast Cancer Prevention

Breast cancer is a health issue that most women will think or worry about at some point in their lives. One of the reasons is because we hear so much about breast cancer these days: in the media; through fundraising organizations; and from family and friends facing the diagnosis. Another is because it has become much too common. Perhaps you, or someone close to you, are a breast cancer survivor.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and we want to honor and support all women by highlighting our Functional Medicine approach to the prevention of breast cancer, whether the focus is on primary prevention, or prevention of recurrence. 

Because research shows that how you metabolize estrogen can increase your risk, we focus on supporting estrogen detoxification, a process that happens primarily in the liver.

HOW MUCH ESTROGEN DO YOU HAVE?

Many women believe that after menopause they aren’t making estrogen anymore.

This is not true. 

Before menopause, estrogen is produced in several places in the body, including the ovaries, adrenal glands, and produced from testosterone by the enzyme aromatase in fat cells. After your ovaries have been removed or you have gone through menopause, estrogen is still being produced, in low but measurable amounts, by these other tissues. 

You might wonder: since we all have estrogen, why do some women, and not others, end up with breast cancer? 

Well, it turns out that all estrogens are not the same, and these differences are influenced by genetics and the environment.

When estrogen is processed for elimination, the hormones are sent to the liver where they are metabolized, a process also called detoxification. During the estrogen detox process, you can end up with “bad” estrogens or “good” estrogens. The bad ones are considered “toxic” because they are very strong stimulators of estrogen receptors (causing more cell proliferation), and they can damage DNA, as opposed to the “good” estrogen metabolites that are weaker estrogens and not harmful to cells. Of course, the “good” estrogens are preferable!

Although our genetics influence how easily we make the good and bad estrogens, it turns out (no big surprise!) that food and other lifestyle factors have an enormous effect on the kinds of metabolites the liver will make. Influencing your estrogen detox pathways in a good way is what we focus on for breast cancer prevention at Blum Center for Health.

IMPROVE YOUR RATIO OF GOOD:BAD ESTROGENS

Our first step to help you reduce your cancer risk is to increase your good estrogens, and decrease the bad. 

Top 4 Ways to Reduce Your Breast Cancer Risk 

  • Eat lots of food that supports estrogen elimination and detoxification pathways, including:
    1. Lots of antioxidants and cruciferous vegetables like kale, broccoli and cauliflower
    2. Fiber from fruits and vegetables helps you excrete estrogens via the gut.
    3. Soybean that is organic and non-gmo, and in its whole form, like edamame or tofu. Or, fermented soy like tempeh or miso. Soy has a very gentle and positive effect on estrogen receptors and is actually good for most women.
    4. Ground flax seeds:  can block the conversion of testosterone to estrogen, thus lowering your levels.
  1. Consider taking the supplement Di-indolylmethane, or DIM, or it’s more powerful cousin, Sulforaphane, which are basically the active component extracted from cruciferous vegetables. This can improve the good:bad estrogen ratio with the goal of decreasing your risk of breast cancer. We also recommend it to reduce symptoms of too much estrogen, such as fibrocystic breasts, uterine fibroids or heavy painful periods. This condition is called estrogen dominance.
  2.  If you want to know more about your personal risk, genetic testing can be done to evaluate your probability for making bad estrogens, and urine testing can be done to assess your current ratio of good:bad estrogens. With these test results, we can determine how to use food, supplements and mind-body practices to increase good estrogen levels and lower bad ones. These tests are available from our Functional Medicine nutritionist or practitioners.
  3. Lower your total toxin load.  In addition to targeted support for detoxing and eliminating estrogens, keeping your general toxin load and exposure low is very important because environmental toxins like herbicides and pesticides can push your estrogens down the “bad” pathways. We recommend cleaning up your exposures, and supporting your liver with a general detox program. How to do this?  Read on!   

HOW TO REDUCE YOUR ENVIRONMENTAL EXPOSURES AND LOWER TOXIN LOAD

We always recommend doing a simple Liver Support Detox program in the spring and fall to help keep these toxins from building up in the body and causing problems. Check out our do-it-yourself 14-Day Whole Life Detox to get startedAdd a bottle of Broccoprotect (sulforaphane) if you are concerned about your estrogens and you’re all set.  

And if you are confused about what to do?  Make an appointment with our health coach, Melissa Rapoport! She will help you form a plan to reduce your toxic load and bring balance back to your body. Either call 914-652-7800 to set up an in-person appointment, or go to CoachMe to set up a video or phone appointment. 

Want to learn more about detoxification? Check out these detox blog posts.

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How Stress Effects Your Heart and What You Can Do About it

For those of you who know me, either personally or professionally, you know that Mind-Body-Spirit self care strategies are at the core of what I practice and preach for preventing and treating chronic disease.  I meditate every morning and spend lots of time in nature. But more than this, I teach others about how stress affects your health and offer tools to do something about it.

For this month, I offer a guest blog on this topic from my friend and colleague, Dr Alon Gitig, a gifted cardiologist who I work with to help my patients get the best care, including prevention and treatment of various conditions.  Mind-Body Medicine for too long has been the step-sister to conventional medicine, but now you can see for yourself that it’s not any more!

Enjoy this perspective from a traditional cardiology practice!

Susan Blum, MD, MPH

 

Guest post by By Alon Gitig, MD, FACC

Health blogs talk a lot about “mindfulness” these days.  Many of us have read claims that controlling our emotions can improve our health, and are left wondering whether there’s evidence to support this.  Research into mind-body techniques is accumulating, as investigators look for ways to lower the risk of chronic diseases above and beyond the proven—yet incomplete–benefits offered by medications.  In the field of cardiology in particular, despite major gains in the past 50 years, there is still an unacceptably high burden of heart disease, even when people are well-treated with evidence-based therapy.  Let’s take a look at the evidence base behind whether stress management might help tackle this problem.

Psychological stress can have profound effects on our bodies.  

Studies suggest that up to 60-80% of all primary care visits are related to manifestations of stress.  A Mayo Clinic analysis identified stress as the most powerful predictor of cardiac events, while other studies indicate that mental stress predicts cardiac death more strongly than cigarette smoking.  Depression roughly doubles the risk of heart attack. Both anxiety and anger have been linked to a 6-fold increased risk of cardiac events, including arrhythmias and sudden death.

Stress activates the sympathetic nervous system, with potential effects on blood pressure and heart rate.  There is also evidence that elevation in cortisol levels, increased platelet clotting, and abnormal reactivity of artery walls might be triggered by psychological distress.  What’s more, the brain may also directly affect the heart via descending nerve pathways.  Amazingly, recent research reveals that subjects who intentionally generate positive emotions, such as gratitude, influence the heart’s beating into a pattern that is associated with healthy cardiovascular function and decreased risk of arrhythmic death.

These observations prompted studies attempting to improve health outcomes via stress-reduction techniques, such as meditation, yoga, and biofeedback.  Results have been mixed, confounded by practical, methodological limitations inherent in conducting such trials. Not surprisingly, all of these modalities have generally led to significant improvements in psychological well-being, both in healthy volunteers and specifically in cardiac patients.

Some studies have demonstrated improved control of cardiac risk factors as well.  Statistically significant reductions in blood pressure or resting heart rate have been achieved in patients with coronary disease, congestive heart failure, and atrial fibrillation.  Interestingly, the magnitude of blood pressure lowering in some studies (i.e. 10 mmHg) mimics that seen in certain trials of hypertension drugs.

The data suggest that clinical symptoms and physical functioning can benefit from relaxation techniques as well.  Patients with established coronary disease randomized to a 24-day intensive stress-management program experienced less angina episodes compared to baseline (versus no change in the control group).  These patients also exercised longer on follow-up treadmill tests, and demonstrated improvements in blinded measurements of cardiac function.

Of note, a strict vegan diet was part of the experimental regimen, hence the impact attributable directly to the relaxation intervention is uncertain.  Several studies of congestive heart failure patients treated with meditation or yoga demonstrated improvements in symptoms of breathlessness and fatigue, along with improved walking distance on standard 6-minute walk tests.  Here too, the magnitude of the increase in distance walked was comparable to benefits seen in trials of drugs for angina and pulmonary hypertension. Three months of yoga therapy in atrial fibrillation patients resulted in less symptoms and fewer detected arrhythmia episodes on wearable heart rhythm monitors.

But do these techniques prevent heart attacks or prolong life?  Believe it or not, there are two studies demonstrating reduced long-term risk of death following 3 months of meditation training.  Since the magnitude of benefit observed was far greater than would be expected from the brief exposure to meditation, these results are intriguing, but far from definitive.

So what’s the bottom line on stress?

First, it’s clear that psychological stress, anxiety, and other adverse emotional states often cause or exacerbate a variety of symptoms, and that relaxation practices can offer symptomatic relief.  Furthermore, evidence supports that emotional-regulation tools are very safe. For these reasons, two separate American Heart Association committees have endorsed their use as “reasonable to consider” in the care of cardiac patients.

For many people, the benefits of improved emotional equilibrium are motivation enough to try out these practices.  If you’re hoping that your yoga class will control your palpitations, improve your exercise tolerance, or cut your risk of heart attack, there’s no guarantee.  But if you are struggling with persistent symptoms despite your doctor treating you with the best available, evidence-based care, then there’s reason to be optimistic that mind-body practice may offer you the extra relief you’re looking for, with little to no downside to giving it a try.

By Alon Gitig, MD, FACC
Mount Sinai Riverside Medical Group
Yonkers, NY

Do you suffer with stress and arthritis? If you are interested in learning how to become resilient to life’s stressors, and what your gut has to do with arthritis symptoms, join Dr. Blum for a FREE Arthritis Masterclass on 1/22.  Save Your Spot

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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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Viewing Depression Through a New Lens

Many people accept depression as natural or even earned.  But everyone deserves full access to their rich potential, which is why treating depression first starts with acknowledgement. Once acknowledged, the next step is searching out proper care for ailing self and loved ones.  

Careful diagnostics are necessary to identify the specific type of depression and what factors underlie it. Diagnosis drives treatment. We need root cause insight into why one is depressed.  Then a comprehensive and personalized treatment plan can be developed regardless of the cause, because there is always something constructive to be done to help.

In the case of major depression, medical assessment, psychodynamic interview, exploration of mental health history, and detailed psychiatric categorization combine to reveal sophisticated diagnostic conclusions. A thorough workup is productive. And a comprehensive treatment plan maximizes the likelihood for an optimal outcome.  

Orthodox, functional and holistic medical interventions often make a huge difference. Direct manipulation of brain chemistry by medicines – natural or synthetic or nutraceutical –  can be profound.  Various psychotherapeutic interventions can bring sizeable reward. A major facet of an inclusive strategy for managing depression is self-help and the nurturing of self-perception that emphasizes patient empowerment and health over passivity, powerlessness/valuelessness, and sick role. Healthy lifestyle also plays a key part in supporting optimal mental health. And an enriching doctor-patient relationship is a virtual prerequisite to push patient health forward.

Many Depressions, Many Treatments

There is depression like, “These hapless New York Knicks depress me.”  And there is depression like “I am ill, with overall dysfunction, and with loss of interest in things.”  This kind of depression can come wIth sadness, plus hopelesssness and worthlessness, with lethargy and apathy.  It can even come with changes in eating and sleeping or with suicidal thinking. Same word, two very different entities.  Different causes.

Depression can have many different root causes.  Once we determine the root cause, the treatment can be targeted and personalized.  Underlying causes include:

  • Bipolar disorder  
  • Various metabolic, neurological, immunological inflammatory and infectious diseases cause depression.  
  • Substance abuse is a prime culprit for depressive outcomes.
  • Traumas, catastrophes and maladaptations will fuel depressive reactions.
  • Environmental and interpersonal “toxins” feed depression.  
  • Certain Psychodynamic and personality features tilt one towards mood problems.  
  • A biochemical predisposition to depression  will result in episodic, seasonal, and chronic depressive states.  

Here’s the Great News: Depression Can Be Reversed

Sufferers with major depressive disorder and dysthymic disorder (chronic depression) alone represent the second most costly disease on planet Earth and number roughly one in seven of us! All forms of depression ruin lives and can be reversed. Major depression alone is a devastating illness but it is amenable to improvement.  Nothing works better than a comprehensive, integrative, game plan. Let’s make one for you.

 

Dr. Stephan J. Quentzel, MD, MA, is an Integrative Psychiatrist at Blum Center for Health.  In his practice, Dr. Quentzel sees teenagers and adults for the widest of psychiatric concerns. He integrates brain sciences and psychiatry with general medicine, psychopharmacology, psychology, philosophy, ecology, psychotherapies, preventive medicine, herbal pharmacotherapy and nutritional studies, self-help, lifestyle improvements,  and the healing strength of compassion,  all in pursuit of optimal broad health and happiness for each client, specific to their unique needs and interests.  Man an appointment with Dr. Quentzel at 914-652-7800.

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Hypothyroidism: A Silent Epidemic

Guest post written by Jill Grunewald

If you’re even loosely tuned into online health communities, it probably seems as though “thyroid” is all the rage. Everyone appears to be talking about it. But that doesn’t mean that addressing—or assessing—thyroid health is a fad or “the next big thing.”

In fact, although the thyroid is a tiny gland, it is a big thing.

Why? Because every cell has thyroid hormone receptors. This is why the symptoms of hypothyroidism can run the gamut from mild fatigue to pronounced depression, for example. Additionally, more and more women—and to a lesser but no less concerning degree, men—are being diagnosed with hypothyroidism or low thyroid function. The problem is even starting to affect young girls, for reasons discussed below.

Hypothyroidism as a condition isn’t new. Lab testing for thyroid function has been around since the 1950s. You may have had a grandma or great aunt who had a “glandular problem,” which often meant they were hypothyroid.

What is the Thyroid?

This little butterfly-shaped gland in our neck is the maestro of our endocrine (hormonal) system. I like to refer to it as the spoon that stirs our hormonal soup.

Thyroid hormones—primarily T3 and T4—play a significant role in energy and metabolism. This is why the thyroid is often called “the master gland of metabolism.” These hormones also influence the brain, gallbladder and liver function, body temperature regulation, the gastrointestinal tract, our reproductive and cardiovascular systems, red blood cell metabolism, steroid hormone production, and bone metabolism.

The thyroid takes a mineral and an amino acid, iodine and tyrosine respectively, and converts this combination into T3 and T4. T3 is the most biologically active thyroid hormone—it’s what helps keep us lean, sharp, and warm.

Familiar symptoms of hypothyroidism include:

  • Fatigue
  • Brain fog
  • Constipation
  • Depression
  • Weight gain/weight loss resistance
  • Hair loss, including outer third of eyebrows
  • Dry skin
  • “Thyroid hair” (dry, brittle hair)
  • Weak reflexes
  • Feeling cold when others are comfortable

Symptoms often not recognized as being associated with hypothyroidism include:

  • High cholesterol
  • Edema/fluid retention (often present around the eyes/face)
  • Recurring infections
  • Going prematurely grey
  • Low libido
  • Anxiety
  • Headaches
  • Infertility
  • Miscarrying
  • PMS
  • Pronounced morning fatigue
  • Being stiff and achy upon waking
  • Digestive issues
  • Irregular menstrual cycles
  • Parched mouth
  • Gravely voice

One of the reasons that hypothyroidism is a silent epidemic is that too many of the above symptoms are viewed in isolation—too often, an underactive thyroid isn’t suspect. If you’re depressed, you may get a prescription for an antidepressant. If you’re constipated, a laxative. If you’re gaining weight or weight loss resistant, a recommendation to eat less and exercise more. If you’re struggling to get pregnant, a suggestion to try IVF.

To complicate matters, even when thyroid function is tested, it’s often not evaluated thoroughly—doctors often run a simple TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) test, which only tells a small part of the story. TSH should always be taken in the context of other thyroid hormones, especially considering that TSH can be within normal limits in the face of hypothyroidism. These additional labs include Free T3, Free T4, Reverse T3, and thyroid antibodies that could show the presence of Hashimoto’s (autoimmune hypothyroidism): thyroperoxidase antibody (TPOAb) and thyroglobulin antibody (TgAb).

Hypothyroidism: Root Cause?

Hashimoto’s is the most common form of thyroid dysfunction—it’s estimated that over 90% of people with low thyroid function have the autoimmune form of the condition. In fact, Hashimoto’s is the most universal autoimmune disease and it’s estimated that 30 million women alone have it, whether they know it or not.

Historically, iodine deficiency has been considered the culprit, but this too tells a small part of the story. Today, iodine-deficient low thyroid function, without the autoimmune component, is unusual, but that’s not to say that those with Hashimoto’s can’t be low in this important mineral.

Other, “modern” causes of hypothyroidism/Hashimoto’s include:

  • Exposure to environmental toxins (including heavy metals and pesticides) *
  • Unrelenting stress, which can result in adrenal dysfunction/HPA axis dysregulation
  • Systemic/cellular inflammation
  • Intestinal permeability
  • An infection
  • Nutrient deficiencies

* Environmental toxins in the form of chemicals added to skin care and cosmetics products is why we’re seeing Hashimoto’s—and other forms of autoimmunity—much more frequently in the female population, including younger and younger women. As Dr. Susan Blum states, “. . . 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.”

Spotlight: Nutrition for the Thyroid

Perhaps you’ve already been diagnosed with hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s. You may be on thyroid hormone replacement—or maybe not. Regardless, the thyroid is extremely nutrient dependent and being mindful of your diet is critical for managing Hashimoto’s and giving your thyroid the nutritional love it so depends on.

Eating minimally processed foods with naturally occurring vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and phytonutrients is one of the best ways to support the thyroid—and immune system.

Genetically modified foods (GMOs), artificial sweeteners and additives, toxic oils, and antibiotic- and hormone-laden foods—all part of the standard American diet (SAD, and yes, it really is sad), trigger oxidative stress, which in turn affects how our cells communicate. Knowing that every cell has receptors for thyroid hormone, it’s not difficult to recognize how a diet deficient in key nutrients can disrupt this cellular communication.

So, what are these key nutrients?

I spent many weeks digging deeply into thyroid- and immune-supportive nutrition and then identifying foods rich in those nutrients. This meticulous research and subsequent ranking system became the foundation, the “nutritional springboard” for my best selling cookbook, The Essential Thyroid Cookbook.

This first-of-its-kind cookbook will leave no trace of doubt that our recipes are uniquely beneficial to your thyroid and immune system. They’ll support you for a lifetime of peak thyroid function no matter where you are on your wellness journey.

And finally, as for the multi-faceted nature of hypothyroidism symptoms, often, they no longer need to be seen as silos warranting individual treatment. Support the thyroid and immune system, and likely, you’ll see far-reaching improvement with these previously maddening symptoms.

Jill Grunewald, HNC, is an integrative nutrition and hormone coach and best selling author of The Essential Thyroid Cookbook.

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The 5 Most Common Food Sensitivities And How to Avoid Them

Trigger Foods

Food sensitivities result when undigested food slips through gaps in an unhealthy (leaky) gut and triggers an immune response, which can cause inflammation, pain, and swelling in the joints. Food sensitivities are extremely common, though little known, in those with arthritis, autoimmune disease, and chronic ailments.

Since food sensitivities activate the immune system they can aggravate and even cause symptoms in chronic conditions. Thus, eliminating certain foods prevents a great opportunity to reclaim wellness.

In My Practice, I’ve Identified 5 Major Culprits

Gluten

You need to read food labels and look at the ingredient lists for the words wheat, barley, kamut, rye, or spelt. For example, did you know that soy sauce is made from wheat?  Or that beer is made from barley?  Probably not and you’re certainly not alone. Because it is not possible to list all the foods that contain gluten here, reading food labels is key. Oats are only okay if the label says “gluten free oats.”

What to Eat Instead: Look for grains made from quinoa, millet, buckwheat, and rice.

Dairy

This includes any milk product made from cow, goat, or sheep such as yogurt, cheese, milk, kefir, and butter. Often after doing an elimination diet test, many patients realize that milk is causing other symptoms that go beyond their stomachs. These include chronic congestion and sinusitis, post nasal drip, ear infections, and more.

What to Eat Instead: almond, rice, hemp, or coconut milk.  These milk substitutes are also made into yogurt, kefir, and cheese so you can get your fill, without having to settle for dairy.

Corn

When I say corn I don’t just mean corn on the cob. It is used for other purposes, like making an ingredient called high fructose corn syrup that is used in many, many foods because it tastes sweeter and is cheaper than sugar!  Remember, you need to remove whole corn whether on the cob, in a can, or frozen, and popcorn, too. You also need to be careful about reading labels, look for the word corn, which can often be found as corn starch, corn syrup, corn syrup solids, and high fructose corn syrup.

What to Eat Instead: Look for natural sweeteners or stevia (though, keeping sugar consumption down is a good idea too!).

Soy

Soy is on the list here because it causes digestive upset and inflammation for many people, something I’ve seen in my practice over and over. Soy is also used as an additive in many foods, especially packaged processed foods so you must read labels and avoid anything that lists soy protein, soy lecithin, or soy oil in its ingredient list.  When you start reading labels looking for these words, you will be shocked at how many foods contain them!

Eggs

Eggs are usually the food that people are the most upset that they have to give up!  Unfortunately, eggs have proteins that are common allergies and that’s why they are also common triggers for food sensitivities, too. Eggs are often found as ingredients in other foods, and again, you must read labels to make sure you eliminate it completely.

To read more about how to do an elimination diet see my article on conducting an elimination diet.  

 

Check out my FREE 3-part video series! How To Boost Your Immunity and Resiliency to Viruses: DOWNLOAD FREE NOW

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Protecting our Youth from Colorectal Cancers

cancer

By: Pamela Yee, M.D.

A photograph of a beautiful, vibrant, 22-year old woman with the following headline recently caught my eye: Colon and Rectal Cancers Rising in Young People (1). As reported by The New York TImes, the American Cancer Society cites an increase in the number of young adults developing colon cancer, a disease most associated with that of an aging population.

Interestingly, researchers are at a loss to explain this rise.

The connection is obvious to me.

I strongly believe our diet foremost, and plethora of toxic environmental exposures, cannot be ignored. These exposures, both food and environment, begin in the womb and continue throughout childhood.

The larger question is, how can we collectively get our children to develop good eating habits to set the stage for optimal health?

FOOD

What’s Changed? The MEDIA!

As a kid of the 70’s I witnessed the early blossoming of processed foods.  Doritos, Lucky Charms, Kool Aid and Twinkies were common kids’ staples and few spoke of organic food. But, coming from a family that immigrated from China, these foods were kept at bay since my Grandma home-cooked almost all meals. There was no need, or pressure, for convenience foods — they were seen as treats.

Also, the art of corporations marketing to children had just began taking off. The allure of characters beckoning children to sample their spaceship-shaped waffles or cookies bathed in food coloring could not readily reach children through TV and other media. I believe the kids I grew up with benefitted from this relative media innocence.

A crucial point in 1980 changed everything.  The Federal Trade Commission had been trying to set restrictions on advertising to children. Their argument was that young children could not discern commercials from entertainment programs and older children could not understand the long-term health consequences of eating lots of sugar.  But pressure from the sugar, toy, candy and cigarette industries and farmers growing wheat for sugared cereals, all swooped down to prevent this from happening.

In 1980, Congress passed an Act that “mandated that the FTC would no longer have any authority whatsoever to regulate advertising and marketing to children, leaving markets virtually free to target kids as they saw fit,” wrote Anna Lappe, author and food advocate.

This one act launched the onslaught of marketing to children, and morphed into the complex state it is today where movies create characters which then show up on cereal boxes, plastic toys and candy wrappers.  [To read more about this pivotal act in detail, you can read Anna Lappe’s take on it here.

It’s surprising there was no extended commentary on the New York Time’s report on why this increase in colorectal cancers are being seen in young adults, and that the reasons are “baffling.” To me it all boils down to the environmental change that has occurred over the last four decades. And if food is the “medicine” that we put in our bodies all day, processed by our gut and microbiome, it seems that there would be an association between diet and incidence of disease.  Of course we can wait and wait for further studies to elucidate or we can do something about it now.

HOW TO HELP OUR CHILDREN

ROLE MODELS

From a preventative sense, one of the most potent things we can do for ourselves, and for our children, is to set a behavior we want modeled.  The younger you start with children, obviously the better. But, discussions with older children about why and how food impacts how they feel are powerful. They may not take to them right away, but you are sending a verbal message that you then reinforce by walking the talk. If mom and dad are eating sugar or convenient processed foods on a regular basis how can you expect your children to take you seriously?

MEDIA

Another way we can help our children is to limit media.  Easier said than done, I know as tech is the easy babysitter we employ so that, as parents, we can do chores around the home or placate an angry toddler on an airplane.  But the more we rely on that easy solution the more detriment it imposes on our children, not only because of the advertising and marketing, but also on the very relationships parents have with their own children.

Catherine Steiner-Adair Ed.D, a clinical psychologist and expert in child development and education, wrote the book, The Big Disconnect: Protecting Child and Family Relationships in the Digital Age after extensive interviews with children and parents on how social media and technology change the way children learn, grow and make connections with others.  She also gives advice to parents and educators on how to deflect the detrimental effects of media on our children.

These suggestions can all translate to better eating — not only because of the reduction of media influences — but because it will force us to pause, parents included. When both parents and their children employ awareness and make conscious choices surrounding food, media and their relationships with one another, family health automatically comes to the forefront. Suddenly you will find that you’re at the dinner table, without your devices, and enjoying a meal together, conversation included.

Reference:

(1) https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/28/well/live/colon-and-rectal-cancers-rising-in-young-people.html?smid=fb-share&_r=0]

Meet Dr. Yee:

Pamela Yee, MD is an Integrative Physician at Blum Center for Health in Rye Brook, NY.   Dr. Yee has a special interest in integrative cancer care and creates highly personalized treatment plans for each of her patients. She lives in Nyack NY where she and her husband manage their own organic micro-farm.

CLICK HERE  to learn more about Dr. Yee.