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What You Need to Know if You’re Diagnosed with an Autoimmune Disease

Donna is a 35-year old woman who had her second child a year ago, but she just hasn’t been able to recover her energy. She kept chalking it up to having a toddler and a newborn. But, when the baby turned one-year old and she was still exhausted, she decided to get a thorough check-up.

Her lab work showed she had the most common of autoimmune diseases: Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.  

On the one hand she was relieved to have an answer, but on the other she was saying a big, “Now What!?”

Autoimmune diseases are on the rise, and many people are asking the same question as Donna, “Now What?”

The approach to repairing the immune system involves a few essential lifestyle changes and evaluation of some basic body functions to begin the road to healing.  

Here are the 4 Pillars of a Healthy Immune System

  • Having healthy digestion with balanced gut microbiome
  • Practicing ways to prevent stress from entering the body and changing your body chemistry
  • Cleaning up and avoiding environmental toxicants in your home and workplace, and improving the body’s ability to detoxify
  • Enjoying an anti-inflammatory diet that is high in whole foods, vegetables, healthy fats, lean protein, fruits, nuts and seeds and low in processed foods, sugar and alcohol

By the way, these four pillars are the basis of Dr. Blum’s book, the The Immune System Recovery Plan. And right now she is diving deep to create a new LIVE course: The Immune Recovery Challenge, a group program specifically designed to help relieve the suffering of people with autoimmune diseases!  

Healing Your Gut

Everything begins with healing the gut. Nearly everyone who has an autoimmune disease has a gut microbiome that is out of balance. A leaky gut, also called increased intestinal permeability, is associated with autoimmunity, and research has made it clear that to repair the immune system and reduce inflammation, you must heal the leaky gut. We repair the gut through food, proven, scientifically-supported antimicrobial supplements and building resilience to life’s stressors.

Understanding Digestive Symptoms

If you have digestive symptoms such as gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, heartburn or reflux, it’s important to get to the bottom of why you are having these, and not just cover them over with a medication, such as an antacid or laxative. You can try food-based approaches first, such as eliminating dairy and alcohol triggers if you have heartburn or reflux, increasing vegetable intake for more fiber if you have constipation, and adding a probiotic to balance gut bacteria if you have diarrhea. If these steps don’t work, then consider getting a functional stool test to look more closely at gut imbalances that can then be specifically addressed.

How Stress Fuels Autoimmunity

Stress is almost always about how we perceive our world—what is very stressful for one person can be completely neutral for someone else because of how each person views that same situation.  

The key is to figure out what your personal stress response is—for example, trouble sleeping, anxiety, slow digestion—and then finding and using tools to turn it around. A recorded guided relaxation at bedtime can help with sleep, learning a measured breathing technique can help with anxiety, and just chewing your food 15-20 times per bite can change your digestion for the better.  Having a daily practice such as meditation, prayer, or a walk in Nature without your phone, can begin to remind your body about how to relax and let go of stress. There are some great free meditation apps with Learn to Meditate courses and guided meditations, and I encourage you to try them out, too. My favorite is Insight Timer; it has lots of free guided options that are wonderful.

How Toxicants are Related to Autoimmunity

We are all exposed to multiple toxicants in our environment every day, some of which we can control through our buying and eating habits and some, like air pollution, we can’t.

Take control of the ones you can control—substitute glass food storage containers for plastic ones, use wax paper instead of plastic, use refillable stainless steel or glass water bottles instead of disposable single-use plastic ones. Visit the Environmental Working Group’s website, www.ewg.org, for more ways to reduce your exposures.

To support your liver’s ability to detoxify what’s coming into your body, eat lots of leafy greens, onions, garlic, leeks, and as many different colors of vegetables as you can every day. These have antioxidants which put out the fire of inflammatory free radicals and help stop the damage of toxins in the body. If you had significant workplace or home exposures to chemicals or molds, then you may need additional professional help to support healthy detoxification.

Food is Medicine … Especially When You Have an Autoimmune Condition

As we say everyday at Blum Center for Health, food is medicine. It’s not the only medicine, but it is an important part of anyone’s medicine who is trying to get healthy or healthier. Dietary regimens need to be tailored to each individual’s unique needs, traditions, and preferences. But some basic principles for choosing food that applies to almost everybody who isn’t vegetarian:

  •     the more vegetables, the better—a minimum of 5 half cup servings a day
  •     the more colorful vegetables, the better
  •     healthy fats such as avocados, nuts and seeds, olive oil
  •     whole grains
  •     small amounts of animal proteins without hormones, antibiotics
  •     fish that are low in mercury
  •     no ingredients that you can’t pronounce
  •     the fewer foods out of a box, carton or plastic container, the better
  •     fruit for dessert

These are the basics of what is known as the Mediterranean diet which has been shown in scientific studies to reduce heart disease and inflammation in the body.

The Importance of Discovering Your Trigger Foods

If you have an autoimmune disease it is important to identify foods that trigger your symptoms. We typically suggest starting with  a short-term elimination diet, where we take out the most inflammatory foods, and then add back each food in a methodical way, to identify exactly which foods cause problems.  In essence, you walk away with a personalized nutrition plan!

How We Can Help You Reverse Your Autoimmune Disease

If you want personal one-to-one treatment, come to Blum Center for Health. People travel from around the world to meet with our practitioners. You’ll meet with your practitioner for an hour and a half, meet with our Functional Medicine Nutritionist, and receive your first treatment plan. Get More Info

If you want a do-it-yourself approach, follow the 4-step plan outlined in Dr. Blum’s bestselling book, The Immune System Recovery Plan. Written specifically for people with autoimmune conditions, this book will put you on the road to recovery.

And if you want to do-it-with us, keep your eyes peeled for Dr. Blum’s new LIVE course: The Immune Recovery Challenge!  We begin in October (it will be here before you know it!) The Immune Recovery Challenge is the step-by-step companion to The Immune System Recovery Plan. During the course, you will follow the 4-Step Immune System Recovery Plan protocol together with Dr. Blum, using video and live coaching. It’s devoted to your HEALTH TRANSFORMATION! I hope you’ll join us!

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

 

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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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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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{Recipe} Alkaline Green Smoothie

One of the ways I suggest to refresh your body for spring is to start the day with an alkaline green smoothie.  Not only do you get an abundance of vitamins and nutrients from the fresh kale and spinach, it also helps with digestion.

Every spring I pull out my Alkaline Green Smoothie recipe to jumpstart morning and help set healthy habits for the rest of the day.  Try it out and let me know what you think!

Alkaline Green Smoothie

Ingredients: 

2 cup fresh kale and spinach mix

½ cucumber

½ green apple (with skin)

1 celery stick

1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon

½ tbsp fresh parsley, minced

1 tbsp ground flax seed

16 ounces filtered water

Directions: 

Blend all ingredients in a blender and serve!

 

 

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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{Recipe} Bok Choy Sautee

In the Spring, the land once again becomes fertile and the earth is wanting to feed us with fresh, crisp, and alive food to give us a boost of energy from the long, dark, and cold winter days. An abundance of lighter vibrant vegetables should now be included in your diet each day along with a variety of sulfur-rich sources such as cruciferous vegetables, which are great for detoxing during the spring months.  The best picks for the spring include cabbage, broccoli, asparagus, collard greens, garlic, onions, and Swiss chard. My favorite is Bok Choy.  Here’s an easy to re-create recipe with nutrients and flavor abound!

Bok Choy Sauté

Ingredients:

4 cups fresh bok choy, roughly chopped

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1-2 tbsp sesame oil

1 ½ tbsp coconut aminos

salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

In a large skillet, heat oil. Add garlic and Bok Choy stems, sauté until tender. Add Bok Choy greens and coconut aminos and continue to cook on low until wilted but not mushy. Season with salt and pepper.

 

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 Mold Making You Sick—or Sicker?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Mercury and Your Health

Sardines

By Susan Blum, MD 

Are you concerned about your exposure to mercury from the food you are eating?  If you eat fish at all, then you should be. This can be confusing, but is very important because mercury can cause autoimmune disease and other health-related problems.  That is why I decided to dedicate our April newsletter to this topic…to shed some light on this issue and to help you decide what to eat, and what to do to protect yourself from this environmental toxin.

Where do you find mercury and what is it?

Mercury is part of a group of compounds called heavy metals. There are ‘good’ heavy metals like iron, cobalt, copper, manganese, molybdenum, and zinc.  They are good because humans require these metals to function properly.  However, keep in mind that these too can be toxic at excessive levels.

On the other hand, heavy metals such as mercury, lead, and plutonium are ‘bad’ toxic metals and if they accumulate in the body over time, can cause serious illness.   For our purpose today, I will focus on mercury because there is plenty of data that explains what it does in the body and how we are exposed.

Where does Mercury come from?

There are 2 main sources of mercury that we are exposed to.  First, mercury is released into the air from coal burning power plants and from volcanoes.  After it settles in the oceans and soil, we end up eating it from the fish or plants or animals that grow and live in these places. The big fish eat the little fish, and the mercury bio accumulates, which means it gets more concentrated in the bigger fish.

The other main source of mercury is the vapor released from silver fillings.  While this is somewhat controversial, there is enough evidence suggesting this is a real issue, and why I recommend replacing your fillings if possible.

There are also other places you can be exposed to mercury, like in the preservative of some vaccines, and old thermometers.  But fish and silver fillings are the biggest problem.

How does mercury accumulate in your body and make you sick?

Your body was created with multiple detox systems in place to clear out the mercury you are exposed to.  One of these, called the glutathione system, is very active in your liver and also in all the cells in your body.  If you are exposed to more mercury than this system can handle, the mercury can build up in your body and cause damage to your nerves, thyroid, immune system (autoimmune disease, for example), and all the cells in your body by causing something we call oxidative stress.  This simply means that you run out of the important antioxidants that your body needs to protect itself, resulting in free radicals created by the mercury that can then damage the tissues.

To protect your cells and tissues, it is critical that you keep your liver detox system in tip-top shape by eating lots of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables with plenty of color.  In addition, you can take specific antioxidant supplements to boost your glutathione.  Our favorite and most convenient way to do this is by taking our BlumBox Immune & Antioxidant Support Packets, created for just this purpose.   

The next step is to support your liver and its ability to clear this metal out of your system. The best strategy is to do a liver detox program once or twice/year, and to make sure you are eating foods with selenium, sulfur (onions), cruciferous veggies, and lots of antioxidants.