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The Autoimmune and Leaky Gut Connection

Leaky Gut and Food Sensitivities

Have you heard of the term “leaky gut” but are unsure what it is or if you may have it?

Consider this common scenario we see at Blum Center for Health.

Jane (not her real name) is a 48-year-old woman with three autoimmune conditions: Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, psoriasis, and alopecia areata, a form of patchy hair loss on the scalp. The Hashimoto’s was diagnosed after her first pregnancy at 34 when she just couldn’t get her energy back postpartum.  She eventually started on low dose thyroid replacement medication but every few years has had to increase her dose. The psoriasis began a few years after that on her elbows and she controls it with a steroid cream. And then last year she noticed a big clump of hair in the drain and looked more closely at her scalp only to find a bare spot the size of a quarter.  When her doctor told her it’s her third autoimmune condition, she knew she needed to look more deeply for answers to why her immune system is becoming more dysfunctional.

When Jane came to see us at Blum Center, she also reported that she’d had irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, for many years.  For her, that means sometimes diarrhea, sometimes constipation, occasional crampy abdominal pain, and embarrassing gas almost every day.  She had begun to feel that that was just “normal,” since she’d lived with it since her 20s.

Along with increasing autoimmunity, Jane’s gut symptoms are some of the hallmarks for increased intestinal permeability, or leaky gut.  When the lining of the intestines becomes inflamed even at a microscopic level by food, gut bacteria imbalances, toxicants, or stress, the intestinal lining cells start to lose their protective integrity.  Instead of just letting micronutrients into the body through small “gates” that can open and close between the cells, the gates get stuck in the open position and larger and larger molecules, and even your gut bacteria, can come into the body.  These large molecules and microbes weren’t meant to have access to the body, so the immune system sounds the alarm. In trying to manage the flood of disinformation, the immune system often begins to overreact leading to trouble telling what is “not me” and what is “me,” starting the autoimmune process.

The good news: we can usually fix leaky gut and along with it, improve autoimmune symptoms and markers.  When we can decrease the burden on the immune system, it often begins to heal. Start by reviewing your treatment options using these tips on how to heal a leaky gut. The first step is usually to treat dysbiosis, an imbalance in the gut microbiome.

If you suspect you have Leaky Gut, or if you suffer from digestive problems, such as cramping, bloating, burping, flatulence, diarrhea or constipation our 30-Day HealMyGut Program will help bring balance to your to gut microbiome, repair your digestive tract lining and relieve these painful and uncomfortable symptoms. HealMyGut features our exclusive antimicrobial packets in addition to 3 other gut-healing supplements, a detailed guidebook with recipes from our test kitchen — everything you need to heal your gut and feel well again. → Check out HealMyGut

 

Live in Our Neighborhood?  Come to Elizabeth Greig’s FREE talk, Causes and Treatments for a Leaky Gut, on Wednesday 4/11 at 7pm. You will learn more about what causes leaky gut, how we diagnose it, and what to do about it! And, bring your questions for the Q&A toward the end → Register Now

About Elizabeth Grieg, 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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What Your Doctor Won’t Tell You about Arthritis

The “itis” in “arthritis” means inflammation. Inflammation is the most basic problem in all arthritis, whether it is what we traditionally call “inflammatory arthritis,” like autoimmune rheumatoid arthritis, or the arthritis most associated with wear and tear on joints over time, osteoarthritis.

The traditional medical approach to these two kinds of joint inflammation is to use different medications, depending on the type or arthritis, to block the inflammation process. Although these can be successful in decreasing symptoms and can in some cases prevent further joint destruction, the medications don’t get at the root cause of why you developed the inflammation in the first place.  

Functional medicine takes a deeper look at the causes of inflammation and gives you options for reversing the process where it starts: in the gut, in the mouth, from your food, and from the stress response. Traditionally, doctors almost never evaluate these areas when addressing joint pain, but fortunately, functional medicine has the tools to do just that.

This is exactly why Dr. Blum, our Medical Director of Blum Center for Health, the medical center where I am a Functional Nurse Practitioner, wrote her new book, Healing Arthritis. After being diagnosed with arthritis, she cured herself and then spent the better part of two years studying arthritis and writing this book. How do I know it works? Because we successfully treat our patients with the very same protocol every day! Learn More about Healing Arthritis

What Your Gut and Mouth Have to Do with Arthritis

The mouth and the gut are two of the biggest reservoirs of beneficial bacteria in the body. These bacteria are vital to our health and we can’t live without them. Normally, the bacteria in the gut do many good things for us, like nourishing our gut lining to keep it healthy—but keep in mind that the health of these bacteria depends on things like eating plenty of fiber, avoiding sugar, having very little exposure to antibiotics, and having strong digestive power.

Gut bacteria can become a major source of inflammation, if the bacteria are not in balance, leading over time to a condition called leaky gut, or increased intestinal permeability.  Leaky gut allows the bacteria, food particles and inflammation to seep out of the gut and spread throughout the body, especially to the joints, causing pain and inflammation. Research has borne out this connection: many people with arthritis will experience significant reduction or reversal of their joint pain and inflammation by rebalancing their gut flora with a program of food, antibacterial herbs, probiotics, and glutamine.   

In a similar way, the abundant bacteria in the mouth can create inflammation in the body in people with gingivitis or periodontal disease. The inflamed gums allow the inflammation generated by the bacteria to enter the body and cause system-wide inflammation. One of the most important things you can do to prevent this trigger for joint pain, in addition to eating a diet low in sugar and high in vegetables, is to floss every day and have your teeth cleaned regularly. Studies have shown—and it is our experience at Blum Center—that for a certain percentage of people with inflammatory arthritis, reversing their periodontal disease also reversed or reduced their joint disease.

The Food You Eat & Arthritis

At Blum Center, we have any number of patients with both osteoarthritis and inflammatory arthritis who have done an elimination diet and found out that by eliminating foods such as gluten and dairy, their joint pain got much better.  When they reintroduce these foods, they get a flare of pain. Most of the time, their rheumatologist will tell them that eliminating foods will not help arthritis, but we see the benefits every day and medical research supports the association as well.

And, Yes, Stress is a Major Arthritis Trigger

And then there’s stress!  We so often leave it for last, I think because we find it so challenging to figure out what to do about it. When stress comes into the body, it can make a significant impact on our biochemistry by changing hormone balance, energy production, and digestive power. Many of these biochemical changes lead to some form of inflammation and patients’ experiences, as well as our own, show us that a flare of symptoms often follows a stressful time. Doing practices like meditation, listening to beautiful music, restorative yoga, a walk in nature can shift this inflammatory biochemistry even when you may not be able to eliminate the life events that are triggering a stress response.  Ten minutes of focused breathing or meditation can make a world of difference as well as a difference in our world!

In her new book, Healing Arthritis, Dr. Blum presents the exact 3-Step Protocol that we use with patients at Blum Center for Health. You will learn the best food plan for arthritis, the precise supplements and dosage we recommend for an arthritis-free life, how to build resiliency so that life’s stressors won’t affect your health, and what your gut has to do with your arthritis symptoms. In essence, Dr. Blum gives you all the tools you need to fix your gut and heal your arthritis. Get The Book Now

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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The 3 Must-Do’s to Heal Your Arthritis

Did you know that about one in four people have arthritis at this very moment? This number one cause of disability worldwide affects an estimated 54.4 million Americans, which is about 22.7% of the population. The biggest misconception is that it’s a disease that only old people get. It is, I believe, the 21st Century epidemic.

This rise in arthritis is why I’ve been spending the better part of two years studying arthritis and writing a book, Healing Arthritis. You see, over the past two decades in my private practice I have seen more and more people suffering with arthritis. Learn More about Healing Arthritis 

Why So Many People Have Arthritis

  1. Evidence clearly points to environmental changes. Simply put, the food you eat and your exposure to microbes and toxins are the likely root of arthritis as well as other chronic inflammatory conditions, such as autoimmunity, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimers, and cancer.

    Scientists believe that disease and inflammation are probably the result of a mismatch between our genetics and our environment. In other words, the changes in the environment are relatively recent in the history of mankind and our genes haven’t had a chance to catch up and adapt!
  2. Your gut has not adapted to the changes in the environment. This is very important because thousands of research studies and articles have been published in the past decade proving the gut-arthritis connection, and showing us how system-wide inflammation begins deep inside your digestive system.

    Your gut microbiome, the 100 trillion or so bacteria that live within you, are key players in the health of your immune system and a healthy gut is mandatory for preventing and treating any inflammatory disease. It’s clear that healing the gut to heal the joints is a valid, scientifically supported approach to treating arthritis.

The 3 Must-Do’s to Heal Your Arthritis

  1. The single most important influence on gut health, and arthritis, over the long term is the food you eat. Hands down the most potent step you can take is eating an anti-inflammatory, anti-arthritis diet. The foods you eat have a direct impact on your gut, your immune system and your arthritic symptoms. It’s important to eat loads of vegetables and fruits, and incorporate high-quality fats and oils, (like avocado, olive oil, nuts & seeds), and to choose high-quality, grass-fed, non-GMO animal products. After all, everything an animal eats, you eat in a more concentrated form!
  2. Heal Your Gut. There is no doubt that the gut bacteria are involved in the onset of inflammation and pain in arthritis. By addressing the root cause of inflammation with food and supplements, and building resiliency to stress, you can repair your gut, reduce inflammation and alleviate the pain in your joints. In my practice we remove known inflammatory foods, such as sugar, white flour, and low-quality processed foods to allow the gut to heal in combination with gut-healing supplements, like curcumin, and l-glutamine. 
  3. Build Resiliency Against Stress. The impact of stress and trauma have serious consequences on the gut, the immune system and your arthritis. Stress can be sudden, or it can be chronic and under the surface. Even good things, like getting married, can cause a stress response in the body. Learning a new way to respond to stress before it takes hold protects your whole body, your immune system and ultimately prevents your arthritis from flaring. Strategies could include anything from mindfulness meditation to hanging out in nature or dancing to invigorating music!

The great thing is you can do this yourself!

In my new book, Healing Arthritis, I present the exact 3-Step Protocol that I use with patients in my private practice. You will learn the best food plan for arthritis, the precise supplements and dosage I recommend for an arthritis-free life, how to build resiliency so that life’s stressors won’t affect your health, and what your gut has to do with your arthritis symptoms. In essence, I give you all the tools you need to fix your gut and heal your arthritis. Get The Book Now

Another Way to Begin Healing Your Arthritis

When I discovered I had arthritis, (yes, I had arthritis!) I couldn’t believe it.  I had been treating arthritis in my clinical practice for almost two decades with great success using Functional Medicine, but never thought it would happen to me.

I decided to make it my personal mission to bring healing to the millions of people suffering with this condition.

In fact, I recently interviewed the TOP EXPERTS in arthritis, gut health, nutrition and mind-body medicine, including Amy Myers, MD, Aviva Romm, MD, David Perlmutter, MD, James Gordon, MD, and Jeffrey Bland, MD. See Who Else I Interviewed 

And I’m bringing everything I learned from them to you for FREE!

Join my FREE Arthritis Summit, a week-long series that consists of interviews from the top experts in Functional Medicine, nutrition, integrative, and mind-body healthcare. Join Now

The summit will cover the functional medicine approach to finding the triggers of the inflammation, with a focus on the research looking at the connection between the gut, your microbiome and arthritis, including specific treatment approaches with case studies. We’ll review exactly the best nutritional advice for reducing inflammation and keeping your gut healthy, and also the connection between stress and inflammation and what you can do to make yourself more resilient to the effects of stress in your life.  Yes, I Want the FREE Interviews

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10 Reasons You Can’t Lose Weight

Are you trying to lose weight and just can’t seem to get the scale to budge? You may even feel like you’re doing everything “right” to no avail. Some people blame their metabolism or wonder if their age or gender is the issue. Some people go through a life transition like a stressful time or childbirth or menopause and feel like their body has never been the same since. Does this sound like you?

If so, don’t despair. It does not have to be this way. There is usually an underlying reason to stubborn weight loss.

10 Reasons You Can’t Lose Weight

1. Portion Distortion — You might find it hard to believe but portion size alone is often a culprit, particularly in the United States where portion sizes have grown over the years. Researchers have found, for instance, that meal sizes at restaurants have tripled in size since the 1970s¹ and the plates we serve our meals on have also increased in size.2 At every turn, we are encouraged to eat more than we need.

In my health coaching practice at Blum Center for Health, I find that many people overdo it on “healthy” foods. Prime example: Nuts are healthy addition to your diet — they are a healthy fat, a good source of protein, fiber and have anti-inflammatory properties. But, one serving of Brazil nuts, for example, is two nuts. Yes, one serving is only 2 nuts! One serving of almonds is six nuts. If you’re eating nuts like popcorn, you’re not going to lose weight.

While I’m not a big fan of calorie counting, I do think using a phone app, like My Fitness Pal, for a week will give you an accurate view of your caloric and nutrient intake. How much fiber are you consuming? How much sugar, for example? This is important information for weight loss.

2.  The Right Mix of Nutrients — Beyond the amount you are eating, is what you are eating. Are you living on rice cakes and cottage cheese, thinking that low-calorie diet foods are going to help you reach your goal? That strategy is likely undermining your weight loss objective. Weight loss is often about moving away from processed foods and into a whole foods, anti-inflammatory food plan that includes increased fats, ample protein and unlearning the reliance on empty carbs, even the so-called “healthy” ones like gluten-free bread and “nutrition” bars. This will ramp up your metabolism, jumpstart weight loss and teach you to eat for life, rather than going on and off diets continually.

3.  Chronic Stress — Stress is a major player in stubborn weight loss. We live stressful, fast-paced lives. Stress elevates cortisol and adrenaline, hormones responsible for “fight or flight” in what your body perceives as an emergency — something as serious as jumping out the way of a careening car, or something as nerve-wracking as public speaking. Once the event is over, our cortisol and adrenaline levels return to normal. This is a healthy stress response.Chronic stress, however, creates havoc in the body. Cortisol levels, which spike during a stress-inducing event, remain elevated. Think … a stressful job, a stressful relationship or even the everyday stress of “getting everything done.”This rise in cortisol puts a damper on weight loss. In fact, chronically elevated cortisol can cause weight gain!3  And, perhaps even more importantly, as Susan Blum, MD, discusses in her book, The Immune System Recovery Plan, this increased baseline can damage the immune system and prevent it from healing. Ultimately, chronic stress can have a negative effect on the levels of good bacteria in the gut, reducing the ability of the immune system to fight infection and puts us at risk for autoimmune disease.

4.  Lack of Consistent Quality Sleep — Research4 demonstrates that even slight sleep loss boosts cortisol levels and can accelerate the development of insulin resistance. In fact, one study found that getting just 30 fewer minutes sleep than you should per weekday can increase your risk of obesity and diabetes.5 Not getting enough sleep is related to a host of other issues including heart disease, high blood pressure, accidents, mood disorders, depression and decreased productivity.

5.  Inflammation — Do you unknowingly fill your body with foods that create systemic inflammation, a slow, quiet disturbance that never seems to shut off?The fact is, If we could “see” the damage, like we can feel and see a swollen ankle, surely we would ban those substances from ever entering our mouths!Systemic inflammation is our body’s immune response to substances it sees as a foreign invader. Over time chronic inflammation can lead to many heavy-hitting diseases, such as heart disease, many cancers and even Alzheimer’s. It is also associated with allergies, anemia, asthma, autism, arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, celiac, Crohn’s, fibromyalgia, gall bladder disease, GERD, Hashimoto’s, psoriasis, and more6.

Inflammation makes us feel sluggish, bloated, and gives us achy joints or muscles. It is associated with high blood pressure, blood sugar problems, headaches, depression and anxiety.

And for those struggling to lose weight, inflammation makes you, well … inflamed. You see, there is a very important hormone, called Leptin, that regulates your body’s level of fat by controlling your appetite and metabolism. In healthy people, the production of leptin signals the brain to suppress appetite and speed up metabolism—leading these people to feel less hunger, burn more calories and lose the excess fat. Chronic inflammation, however, impairs the brain’s ability to receive leptin’s appetite-suppressing message.

To put the fire out on inflammation a great place to start is with an elimination diet to determine which foods are triggering inflammation. A program like HealMyGut includes the ever-important elimination diet and all the supplements you need to address shoring up your gut lining and returning bacterial balance to your digestive tract. I just finished it myself after taking antibiotics for a month to treat Lyme Disease. I feel great! Learn More.

6.  Thyroid Dysfunction — The American Thyroid Association7 estimates that 20 million Americans have a thyroid problem, and that up to 60% are unaware of their condition.  Whoa, that’s jaw-dropping! Hypothyroidism, a condition where the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone, is characterized by unexplained weight gain and/or difficulty losing weight. To find out if your thyroid gland is functioning properly, you will a blood test ordered by your doctor. I highly recommend working with a functional or integrative physician who will look beyond whether or not your numbers are “in range,” including lifestyle and mind-body medicine.

7.  Insulin Imbalance — If your blood sugar levels and insulin are off, you can experience carb cravings, difficulty losing weight and excess belly fat. Insulin resistance means your cells can’t absorb the extra blood glucose your body keeps generating from the food you eat, and your liver converts the glucose into fat. Processed foods, including beloved foods like pasta and bread, sugary drinks, and even foods marketed as “healthy,” like granola bars, play a role in insulin resistance. Insulin imbalance can give rise to Type 2 diabetes so it is important to get those numbers under control. Again, I recommend working with a functional or integrative physician who will also address lifestyle factors that contribute to insulin issues.

8.  Estrogen Dominance — Too much estrogen relative to progesterone plays a role in weight gain. Estrogen dominance can cause increased cravings and decrease metabolism. If you are experiencing more cravings, and particularly for sugar, it’s entirely possible to fall into a loop that feels like you have no control over those cravings. Increased cravings combined with a sluggish metabolism is a recipe for weight gain.To learn more about Estrogen Dominance, and its symptoms, check out this article: Do You Have Estrogen Dominance.

9.  Low Testosterone — Research8 shows that testosterone levels in men often drop with age and this can cause an increase in body fat, insulin resistance, heart disease and even certain cancers.  The inverse is also true: being overweight causes testosterone levels to drop even more.  A tell-tale sign of low testosterone is belly fat in the mid-section that is resistant to weight loss.

10.  Toxic Overload —  Everyday you are exposed to chemicals, pesticides, herbicides, heavy metals, hormones, medications and other toxins that create a toxic load in your body. These toxins are found at every turn — in your food and water, household cleaning products, cosmetics, candles and plastics. Even seemingly healthy products, including shampoo and conditioner, face cream, toothpaste and your favorite sandwich bread, can contain toxic ingredients.Toxins affect hormones and can create hormonal imbalances that lead to weight-loss resistance. When you carry a toxic burden, leptin, the hormone that tells the brain to burn fat for energy, does not do its job of informing the brain to burn fat. So, even if you are eating well and exercising weight loss becomes stymied when your body is in a state of toxicity.Personally, I detox at least once a year and use Dr. Blum’s Simply Detox program. It includes everything — a real food detox food plan, detox supplements and daily email. Learn more.


Losing weight can feel difficult but it does not have to be impossible. Your hard work can pay off. It’s a matter of figuring out the underlying challenges. Not sure where to start? Explore one area at a time and put a plan in place. If you feel overwhelmed, you might want to consider working with a Health Coach (hey, I’m one!) who will help you create a plan and stick with it. Even if it’s not me, (sniff, sniff), a health coach can be your greatest ally, helping you clear away the noise and the overwhelm that often gets in the way of success.
Learn more about CoachMe.

 

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

 

Resources:
  1. Young, L. R., & Nestle, M. (2002). The contribution of expanding portion sizes to the US obesity epidemic. American Journal of Public Health, 92(2), 246–249.
  2. Wansink, B., & van Ittersum, K. (2006). The visual illusions of food: Why plates, bowls, and spoons can bias consumption volume. FASEB Journal, 20(4), A618.
  3. Moyer, A. E., Rodin, J., Grilo, C. M., Cummings, N., Larson, L. M. and Rebuffé-Scrive, M. (1994). Stress-Induced Cortisol Response and Fat Distribution in Women. Obesity Research, 2: 255–262. doi:10.1002/j.1550-8528.1994.tb00055.x
  4. Leproult R., Copinschi G., Buxton O., Van Cauter, E. (1997)  Sleep loss results in an elevation of cortisol levels the next evening. Sleep. 20(10), 865-70.
  5. Endocrine Society. (2015, March 6). Losing 30 minutes of sleep per day may promote weight gain and adversely affect blood sugar control. ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/03/150306082541.htm
  6. Marquis, D.M. (2013, March 7) How inflammation affects every aspect of your health. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/03/07/inflammation-triggers-disease-symptoms.aspx
  7. American Thyroid Association. General information/press room. https://www.thyroid.org/media-main/about-hypothyroidism/
  8. E M Camacho, E.M., Huhtaniemi, I.T., O’Neill, T.W., Finn, J.D., Pye, S.R., Lee, D.M., Tajar, A. … and the EMAS Group (2013). Age-associated changes in hypothalamic–pituitary–testicular function in middle-aged and older men are modified by weight change and lifestyle factors: longitudinal results from the European Male Ageing Study. European Journal of Endocrinology, 168 445-455, doi: 10.1530/EJE-12-0890

 

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What is Dysbiosis – and What You Can Do About It

Dysbiosis is like having weeds in your gut garden

You have within you trillions of microbes – bacteria, fungi, viruses, even parasites – all living together in your gastrointestinal tract.  This lively bunch of microbes is known as your microflora. Often referred to as “The Garden Within,” your microbial garden can shift out of balance. Think about how a garden can become overgrown with weeds. When that happens, we say a person has dysbiosis.

Three Ways Dysbiosis Can Impact Your Gut

  1. Too much of the bad stuff overgrowing in the gut is the most basic imbalance.  An overabundance of “bad,” typically inflammatory, bacteria, or too much yeast (candida albicans is a particularly common and unwelcome yeast in large amounts), are two examples of overgrowth that cause dysbiosis.  An unwelcome virus or parasite can also cause overgrowth imbalance.

    To treat this type of dysbiosis we sometimes prescribe medications to kill unwanted bacteria, parasites, or yeast, but more often we use gentler, broad-spectrum anti-microbial herbs to weed the garden, improving the balance of good and bad bacteria. We also use probiotics and fiber-rich foods to encourage growth of the good while we get rid of the bad.
  2. Microbial undergrowth can be the culprit. It is rarer than the situation above, but sometimes a stool test result shows an under-abundance of all bacteria – good and otherwise.  An under-abundance indicates we need to work on improving the terrain (the gut lining) where the flora will take residence, as well as supporting the growth of the flora we want to encourage. We do this with probiotics, prebiotics, lining supportive supplements like glutamine, and healthy, bacteria-supportive foods.
  3. Your microbiome settles in the wrong place. Living microbes are wanted, but we need them to live where they belong, and not take up residence in places where they cause problems. Most frequently, this type of dysbiosis is SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth). SIBO occurs when the gastrointestinal microbiome has shifted from primarily growing and thriving in the large intestines (the colon) to taking up residence in the small intestine in too great a number. This tends to cause digestive problems and bloating, but can be silent as well.  Herbs and antibiotics are our go-to for treating SIBO.

Could you have dysbiosis?

In our medical practice at Blum Center for Health, we suspect an imbalance in the flora (a dysbiosis) in anyone who complains of stomach troubles. Digestive difficulty of absolutely any kind suggests there’s something wrong with the trillions of microbes inside the gut. If you have stomach upset after eating, indigestion, the extremely common GERD (reflux), heartburn, slow digestion, or bloating, we think of dysbiosis.  If you have bowel problems, like excessive gas, lower belly pains, constipation, or diarrhea – then dysbiosis is our prime suspect too.

Dysbiosis as the Root Cause of Seemingly Unrelated Disorders

It surprises many patients that other symptoms, including those that on the surface seem to have nothing to do with the gut, also make me suspect dysbiosis.  We are becoming more and more aware the impact our microbiome has on our whole being – our whole health – and our disease processes.

When I see someone whose health concerns are not primarily digestive in nature – even those who report having a perfect digestive system – I usually investigate their microbiome, and will almost always prescribe a probiotic. Why? Because sometimes dysbiosis is silent gut-wise, while still causing trouble in other areas of your body.

Here are a few examples:

  • Hormonal imbalance – we know that certain bacteria encourage an imbalance in hormones.  
  • Autoimmune diseases show clear links to overgrowth of some bacteria.  
  • Joint aches and pains can be caused by leaky gut, which is usually a consequence of some kind of imbalance in the gastrointestinal microbiome.  
  • Neurological and psychiatric disease is being traced back to problems with our microbes.  
  • Weight loss resistance is often a consequence of over (or under) growth of the bacterial flora.  

Basically, any inflammatory process can be traced back to the gut.  

How do you know if you have dysbiosis?

How does your internal garden grow?  The tests we most often request are simple:  Stool, breath, and urine testing – all of which give us a picture of what your personal microbiome looks like.  We learn from the test results how many beneficial bacteria are growing, and how many malicious bacteria have taken up residence in your gut. We use that information to create your personalized treatment plan.

With some patients we assume dysbiosis without testing – and just get you started on the good stuff  – probiotics and healthy, fiber-rich foods.

Not sure if you have dysbiosis? Take our Assessment and find out!

How did you get this dysbiosis?

There are many reasons we harbor the microbes we do. Our developing microbiome begins at birth – it is different if we are vaginally delivered or born via c-section, for instance. Our food choices (throughout our lives) affect our microbiome, as does any antibiotics we might have taken.  Other medications, both prescription and over the counter, also affect the microbiome.

What to do if you suspect you have dysbiosis:

If you live in our neighborhood, make an appointment! In our practice at Blum Center for Health we take a multi-pronged, holistic approach, a combination of medical and lifestyle considerations, to address, diagnosis and treat your condition. We take your health seriously and get to the root of the problem rather than simply throwing medication at it. For more information, call 914-652-7800.

Don’t live nearby?  A great place to start is with our 10-Day or 30-Day HealMyGut program — it’s a total gut reset with a nutritional plan, recipes, just-right supplements, daily email support, and a private online community. Our 30-Day program includes the added bonus of a weekly chat with our Functional Nutritionist to answer all your questions. Find out which program is ideal for you: Take the Assessment

 

Meet Darcy McConnell, M.D.:  Dr. McConnell brings her broad expertise in prevention, mind-body medicine, and women’s health to Blum Center for Health, in Rye Brook, NY. She is board certified in Family Medicine and Integrative Medicine, with postgraduate training from the Institute for Functional Medicine. Darcy lives with her husband and three sons and enjoys the outdoors, cooking healthy meals for her family and friends and is an enthusiastic yogi.

 

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Healing Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Stomach pain from IBS

In my Functional Medicine practice, many people come to me with stories of terrible digestive distress, often labeled as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or “IBS. ”This diagnosis is often given to people with a wide range of functional digestive issues like GERD or reflux, heartburn, burping, bloating, feeling full, abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation,  or incomplete bowel emptying. Conventional approaches to treatment usually begin with an acid blocking medication, called a proton pump inhibitor (PPI), like Prilosec or Prevacid.  Many studies show these medications cause more harm than good and are not the ultimate answer.

Instead, we need to get to the root cause of these issues and this is where Functional Medicine really shines!

Here are the most common causes of digestive issues that need to be explored and treated to heal Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

Once you address these, you can be cured once and for all:

  • Food sensitivities or allergies
  • Lack of appropriate digestive enzymes or stomach acid
  • Motility disorders
  • Inflammation of the gut lining
  • Imbalance of the microbial flora
  • Digestive disorders that don’t allow nutrients to be absorbed
  • Leaky gut causing systemic inflammation
  • Overgrowth of certain bacteria that are associated with systemic illness.

Using Functional Medicine To Treat IBS

  1.  Fix your food.
    This can be as simple as modifying your diet — adding gut-healthy foods and eliminating your personal food triggers are imperative to healing your gut and reducing symptoms. We always start with an elimination diet for 3 weeks, removing gluten, dairy, soy, corn and eggs, the most common triggers for IBS. Remember, this is an experiment and has 2 parts: after the 3 weeks are finished, carefully reintroduce each food, every 3 days, one at a time, and this is when you can really determine if the food is a trigger for you.
  2. Consider stool and breath testing to take a closer look at your gut microbes and digestion.
    If changing your diet doesn’t fix the problem, then we recommend further testing. We need to evaluate your gut microbes, which are the 100 trillion bacteria that live in your intestines. They need to be in balance….. after all, your microbiome is your inner garden and you want to be sure your garden is flourishing. We also need to make sure your digestion is working well.  We use functional testing to get more information, and the results help guide my treatment with herbs, supplements and probiotics to gently nudge the bacteria into a healthier state, support your digestion, and resolve your symptoms.Here are some suggestions to try on your own and get you started.
  • Digestive enzymes
  • Bitters or ginger
  • Probiotics
  • Magnesium citrate – when constipated.
  • Cleansing herbs like berberine – in cases of bacterial overgrowth.
  1. Remember, the single most important thing to do is to change your understanding of your gut.
    Let’s start to think of the gut as what it really is – a seemingly simple but actually incredibly complex tube, responsible for grabbing the necessary nutrients out of the food you eat, keeping you healthy by killing infectious disease, removing toxins from the body through the stool, supporting your immune system, and even moderating your mood by producing and affecting neurotransmitters and hormones like serotonin and estrogens.  The gut is important!

In our practice at Blum Center for Health we take a multi-pronged, holistic approach, a combination of medical and lifestyle considerations, to address your gastrointestinal condition. We help you change your relationship to food, make necessary adjustments to exercise, sleeping and stress reduction, all things that influence motility and the health of your gut. Lifestyle changes works in unison with dietary and our medical solutions to provide lifelong relief.

Are you ready to calm your irritable bowel? A great place to start is with our 10-Day or 30-Day HealMyGut program — it’s a total gut reset with a nutritional plan, recipes, just-right supplements, daily email support, and a private online community. Our 30-Day program includes the added bonus of a weekly chat with our Functional Nutritionist to answer all your questions. Find out which program is ideal for you: Take the Assessment

 

Meet Darcy McConnell, M.D.:  Dr. McConnell brings her broad expertise in prevention, mind-body medicine, and women’s health to Blum Center for Health, in Rye Brook, NY. She is board certified in Family Medicine and Integrative Medicine, with postgraduate training from the Institute for Functional Medicine. Darcy lives with her husband and three sons and enjoys the outdoors, cooking healthy meals for her family and friends and is an enthusiastic yogi.

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3 Simple Steps To Great Gut Health

By Susan Blum, MD

If you have gas or bloating after you eat, or if you experience constipation and/or loose stools, or any type of intestinal discomfort, you have a problem with how your gut is functioning. While this is commonly labeled irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, the diagnosis doesn’t tell you why you’re having this problem.

Usually, the issue is something called dysbiosis, which means your gut flora isn’t healthy. You might have an overgrowth of harmful bacteria, yeast or parasites, or you might not have enough of the good stuff: those probiotics you find in yogurt and cultured foods.

But who cares about a little gas or bloating?

You should! Your gut flora needs to be fixed, because the symptoms you’re having could just be the tip of the iceberg. A whopping 70% of your immune system is located in your gut and if the flora are out of balance, you have an increased risk of something called Leaky Gut Syndrome, and this can lead to autoimmune disease.

Here are my tips to heal your gut, which will treat your symptoms and keep your immune system happy, too.

  1. For your digestive symptoms, find out whether or not you’ve got food sensitivities, which could be causing the problem. Check yourself for gluten and dairy by removing them both from your diet at the same time for three weeks, and then reintroduce each one at a time, four days apart and monitor how you feel.
  2. For your flora, eat cultured food every day, like coconut or almond milk yogurt and kefir, sauerkraut or kimchee, and consider taking a probiotic supplement.
  3. If the above doesn’t do the trick, consider a gut-cleansing program using herbs like berberine or oregano to remove the harmful microbes. Our new HealMyGut program will help you do just that!