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5 Truths and 5 Myths about the Common Cold

Ready or not, cold and flu season is on its way!

Take this quiz with Blum Center for Health’s resident Integrative ENT, Dr Sezelle Gereau, and test your knowledge about the health of your nose and sinuses.

True or False:

  1. Allergies, colds and sinusitis are all manifestations of immune dysfunction.
  2. If you have a cold for more than 7 days, it’s a sinus infection.
  3. 3 sinus infections in a year, which last 1 month each, means you have chronic sinusitis.
  4. Green or brown nasal secretions means it’s time for antibiotics.
  5. True immune deficiencies are rare.
  6. Saline spray in a can or squeeze bottle is inferior to a neti pot.
  7. Food allergies can give you nasal symptoms.
  8. Taking Vitamin D on a regular basis can help prevent recurrent colds.
  9. Viruses cause most recurrent colds or sinus infections.
  10. Your gut is responsible for recurrent colds.

By the way, if you are constantly dealing with colds, flu, sinus infections or allergies, you’ll want to check out Dr. Blum’s new LIVE course, The Immune Recovery Challenge! It’s a group program specifically designed to help you heal your immune system. Check it out

Answers:

  1. Allergies, colds and sinusitis are all manifestations of immune dysfunction.

TRUE

Upper respiratory infections and sinusitis are not the only ways the body demonstrates that the immune system is not working well.  Allergies are in and of themselves a way that your body is telling you that something is awry with the immune system. One way to think about this is that instead of being “weak”, and not mounting enough of a response to pathogens, your immune system is “too strong” and fires to all the wrong triggers.  Techniques for getting the immune system in better balance work for all 3 issues.

  1. If you have a cold for more than 7 days, it’s a sinus infection.

FALSE

Colds usually resolve in seven to 10 days, but some can last for up to three weeks. The average duration of cough is 18 days¹, and in some cases, people develop a post-viral cough which can linger after the infection is gone.

  1. Three sinus infections in a year, which last 1 month each means you have chronic sinusitis.

FALSE

Chronic sinusitis is defined as chronic sinus infections that last 8 weeks or longer, and/or occur 4 or more times a year.² The Center for Disease Control actually advises patients to see their practitioner for symptoms that continue to worsen or do not improve within 10 days.

  1. Green or brown nasal secretions means it’s time for antibiotics.

FALSE

Hmmmmm….not necessarily!  But the following signs are common with sinusitis vs the common cold:

  • Headache
  • Stuffy or runny nose
  • Loss of the sense of smell
  • Facial pain or pressure, especially only on one side
  • Postnasal drip (mucus drips down the throat from the nose)
  • Sore throat
  • Fever
  • Coughing
  • Fatigue (being tired)
  • Bad breath

Remember, even if it is sinusitis, you might not require antibiotics.  In my office I often perform a nasal endoscopy and a nasal culture to help differentiate a simple cold from allergies or a sinus infection.  

  1.  True immune deficiencies are rare.

FALSE

Immune deficiencies are more common than previously thought – almost 1% of people have them.  If you are suspected of having an immune deficiency, and referred to a specialist for a work up, your chances of having one are more than 64%. ³ But for many doctors, it’s much easier to give you yet another prescription for antibiotics for your sinus infection than to take a hard, long look at what might be causing the issue in the first place.

  1. Saline spray in a can or squeeze bottle is inferior to a Neti pot

FALSE

Patients should use whichever method of delivery they prefer.  There’s lots of data to show that nasal washing is important to shorten the course of a cold or sinus infection.

  1. Food allergies can give you nasal symptoms.

TRUE

Food allergies and sensitivities can sometimes cause nasal congestion and post nasal drip. But more commonly those symptoms come from environmental allergies.  Furthermore, less than 10% of the general population have food allergies, but up to 40% of the general population have environmental allergies – dust being the most common.  So, start first with allergy testing for things in the environment – then discuss with your doctor if foods might be causing the issue.

  1. Taking Vitamin D on a regular basis can help prevent recurrent colds.

TRUE

Even if your Vitamin D levels are in the low normal range, they might not be high enough to help ward off infections.  For anyone who is experiencing recurrent infections, I recommend supplementation with Vitamin D in the winter months. Taking Vitamin K2 along with this can help with the absorption of the Vitamin D.

  1.  Viruses cause most recurrent colds or sinus infections.

TRUE

Nine out of 10 cases of sinusitis and upper respiratory infection in adults and 5/7 cases in children are caused by viruses.² So antibiotics won’t work.  What does work are techniques such as good hand washing, staying home when sick and keeping your immune system at its best with proper diet and supplements.

      10.Your gut is responsible for recurrent colds.  

TRUE

The vast majority of the immune system lies in the gut. So, directly or  indirectly it plays a key role in all immune issues. Nearly everyone who struggles with recurrent colds has a gut microbiome that is out of balance. A leaky gut, also called increased intestinal permeability, is associated with chronic illness,, 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.

How We Can Help You Improve Your Immune System

“Do It With Us” with Dr. Blum! Yes, that’s right! Dr. Blum’s new LIVE course, The Immune Recovery Challenge is open! The Immune Recovery Challenge is the step-by-step companion to Dr. Blum’s bestselling book, The Immune System Recovery Plan. During the course, you will follow the 4-Step Immune System Recovery Plan together with Dr. Blum, using video and live coaching. It’s devoted to your HEALTH TRANSFORMATION! Get the Info

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

 

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

 

Resources:
  1. Ebell, M. H.; Lundgren, J.; Youngpairoj, S. (Jan–Feb 2013). “How long does a cough last? Comparing patients’ expectations with data from a systematic review of the literature”. Annals of Family Medicine. 11 (1): 5–13.
  2. https://www.cdc.gov/antibiotic-use/community/for-patients/common-illnesses/sinus-infection.html
  3. https://www.amjmed.com/article/S0002-9343(12)00274-4/pdf

 

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Here’s the One Easy Solution to Your Food Allergies

For many people with food allergies, completely avoiding problem foods isn’t easy or even practical. Accidental exposures happen and, as we’ve seen recently in the press, can lead to dangerous and sometimes lethal consequences.  

Sublingual immunotherapy (allergy drops) for foods, otherwise known as SLIT, can help both adults and children safely build tolerance in case an accidental exposure to allergens occurs. For some, it can help them enjoy many foods that once caused reactions.  

While it is common knowledge that shots can be helpful for patients with  environmental allergies, SLIT is not as widely recognized in the United States. Just as shots work by injecting tiny amounts of the tree, dust, or pollen that you are allergic to, SLIT works by giving that same substance as a drop placed under the tongue. The amount is enough to prime the immune system to stop reacting to the substance, yet is below the level that triggers an allergic reaction.  

Allergy drops are safe and effective as treatment for both environmental and food allergies.  They have been used in the US and Europe for over 50 years.

6 Common Questions About Allergy Drops:

How does sublingual immunotherapy for food allergies work?

All forms of immunotherapy work in the same way – by giving you small amounts of allergen so that your body learns to tolerate them without having reactions.

What food allergies can be treated with sublingual immunotherapy?

The most common food allergies that are treated with sublingual immunotherapy are the usual culprits –  egg, milk, corn, yeast, wheat, soy, peanut and shellfish, but more than 100 different foods can be treated if needed.   Your doctor formulates a special prescription of drops for you – you then take these 3 times daily to impart what is known as “tolerance”.  This gives your body the ability to be exposed to the food without reacting.

How are food allergies diagnosed and what tests are performed?

Diagnosing food allergies starts by observing symptoms when troublesome foods are included in a person’s diet.  Runny nose, mouth itching, or skin rashes can occur with food or environmental allergies.   Other symptoms, though, such as upset stomach, fatigue and loose stools are more specific to foods.   There are a number of ways to test for these allergies, and determine the level to which your body is reacting to the allergen. Special blood tests reveal the level to which your body is reacting – and the drops are formulated specifically for your unique level of reactivity to those specific allergens.

What about my seasonal allergies?

It’s always important to treat environmental allergies either first, or relatedly. Environmental allergies are much more common than food allergies, and the symptoms are often confused. Also, once environmental allergies are more under control, the body could become less reactive to foods, and thus you can treat fewer allergens, or perhaps not treat the foods at all.  If you begin immunotherapy for environmental allergies and aren’t seeing results after three to six months, you may consider asking about food allergy testing and treatment.

How long does it take to see results?

Studies show that improvements in immune tolerance begin within days, while more permanent changes require more than a year of treatment. The length of treatment depends on the severity of your allergies and how compliant you are in taking the prescribed treatment. For mild to moderate allergies, a common treatment length is three to five years; more severe food allergy cases can take longer.

What is the end goal for the patient treated with sublingual immunotherapy for food allergy?

The goal of sublingual immunotherapy treatment for food allergy will vary by individual. If you have mild to moderate allergies, it may be possible to reintroduce allergic foods into your diet. If you have severe and life-threatening allergies, the goal is to reduce the likelihood of an allergic reaction to an accidental exposure.

Live in our neighborhood?  Join Dr. Gereau for a free community talk, A Novel Approach to Treating Food Allergies.  Come fInd out more about allergy drops and if they are right for you and your family.  Sign up here.  

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.  Make an appointment with Dr. Gereau.

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What’s the Difference between a Food Allergy and a Food Sensitivity? An Interview with Sezelle Gereau, MD

There’s a lot of buzz these days about food allergies and sensitivities. There’s a lot of confusion too. We spoke with our resident expert, Sezelle Gereau, MD, to learn the difference between the two and why it matters.

What is the difference between a food allergy and a food sensitivity?
When one is allergic to a food the body recognizes it as a pathogen, and goes through a set of immunologic responses to attack and contain it.  They can be life threatening, as we recognize with children and peanut allergy.  While sensitivities can be uncomfortable, they do not trigger the immune system in the same way.  So, one can be either allergic or sensitive to a food, although the two are often confused.  For example, one can have a true allergy to milk, or a lactose intolerance, which is more of a sensitivity and not a true allergy.

If a food sensitivity does not trigger the immune system in the same way as a food allergy then why are they so uncomfortable?
Sensitivities are different, both in their symptoms and their underlying mechanisms. Most commonly one will present with gastrointestinal symptoms such as gas, cramps, bloating, heartburn, headaches, or irritability. Some will complain of brain fog and fatigue. The most common food sensitivity is lactose.  Sulfites and alcohol are other frequent offenders.

What about gluten?
Common, but not as much as generally thought by the public, is gluten sensitivity – you can be allergic to wheat, or have a sensitivity to gluten. A gluten sensitivity is not a true allergy, but can trigger a set of responses that feel like an allergy.  Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease also related to sensitivity to gluten, but again, not an allergy. It is important to know if one has gluten sensitivity, as it can lead to issues in other parts of the body, such as your thyroid gland.

Do we outgrow allergies and sensitivities?
One can outgrow food allergies. Many children have food allergies early in life, and they commonly outgrow them by about age 8.  Food sensitivities are idiosyncratic, and there is no specific pattern.  The best way to train your body to outgrow both allergies and sensitivities is to eliminate the food completely.  Sometimes foods can be re-introduced on occasion without adverse effect, but if one has a severe reaction it is recommended that you completely eliminate these foods from your diet for good.

How do I know if I have an allergy or a sensitivity?
There are a number of ways to test for food allergies, including blood tests such as IgE or IgG.  You may have heard of the ALCAT or MRT testing.  Your doctor may choose to do any one of a number of these, and each has its pros and cons – but the best way to understand if one is allergic or sensitive is to eliminate the food strictly for 3-6 weeks and then reintroduce it in small amounts, one by one over a series of days and observe for reactivity.

When should I call a doctor?
Many times a functional medicine doctor, such as one of our doctors at Blum Digital, LLC, can help you sort out these issues.  They can help you start to grapple with your reactions and relationship to foods.  A comprehensive history with some additional testing can help one to understand if this is truly reactivity to foods, or if something else is out of balance in the body.

What’s new and exciting?
An exciting new treatment available for food allergy is allergy drops – which offers a way to eliminate the allergy entirely, not just control symptoms.  It is safe and effective for both adults and children. Come in for a visit if you’d like to learn more.