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9 Telltale Signs Your Gut Needs Attention

“The whole world is suffering from this COVID-19 pandemic,” microbiologist Heenam Stanley Kim said, “but what people do not realize is that the pandemic of damaged gut microbiomes is far more serious now.” 

We are now learning that there is a strong connection between your gut microbiome and your vulnerability to develop the disease known as COVID-19, and the severity of symptoms you experience. And perhaps, most importantly, we are learning that after you have COVID, your prior gut issues can increase your risk for developing autoimmunity, or for having a flare of your existing autoimmune condition. 

You see, your gut microbiome — which includes all the bacteria and yeast that normally live in your digestive tract — keeps your immune system healthy and your intestinal lining strong.  But if you develop a condition called dysbiosis — an overgrowth of bad bacteria, yeast, parasites or other microbes like viruses — you then have an increased risk of damage to your intestinal lining, something called Leaky Gut Syndrome. If the integrity of your gut lining is “leaky,” pathogens, such as COVID-19, can cross over from the gut and gain access to your body and your immune system. Because your gut health is so important, and to support you especially right now, we are running a 10-Day HealMyGut Group Coaching Program beginning October 22nd –> More Info

Remember, your gut (which includes your stomach, and your small and large intestines) is your first line of defense, and research shows us more and more every day that your gut microbiome communicates with every system and organ in your body — your cardiovascular, endocrine, respiratory, nervous, urinary and reproductive systems. Your gut is connected to your brain and mood. It’s even connected to your skin, hair and nails. 

I hope by now you can see why all of us at Blum Center for Health, and in the world of Functional Medicine, believe that The Number One thing you can do this spring for your health….is….take care of your gut microbiome!

Here are 9 Telltale Signs Your Gut Needs Attention

  • You have had COVID-19, or you are afraid to get very sick from COVID-19 
  • Have heartburn, reflux, IBS, diarrhea or constipation
  • Are frequently getting sick
  • Have fatigue or brain fog
  • Are feeling puffy or inflamed
  • Have inflammatory conditions like arthritis, autoimmune, heart disease, obesity or diabetes
  • Have food sensitivities or reactions to food
  • Have mood issues, such as depression and anxiety
  • Have difficulty losing weight

Let’s talk about the many different types of gut issues.  If you have gas or bloating after you eat, or if you experience constipation and/or loose stools, or any type of intestinal discomfort, this means that you have a problem with how your gut is functioning. If you go to a conventional doctor they will commonly diagnose you with irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS. But, this diagnosis doesn’t tell you why you’re having this problem, and they’ll likely prescribe medication to control the symptoms, which by the way only makes the imbalance worse in the long run. 

Here are three tips to heal your gut, which will not only treat your symptoms, but address the underlying problem.  And keep your immune system happy, too.

  • For your digestive symptoms, find out whether or not you’ve got food sensitivities, which could be causing the problem. Problematic foods are typically gluten, dairy and corn. The food you eat is the number one influencer on your gut bacteria.  One way to figure it out is to follow a functional medicine elimination food plan. In fact, this will be the basis of our 10-Day HealMyGut Group Coaching Program beginning October 22nd –> More Info
  • Help balance your gut microbiome with supplements: 1) We use herbal antimicrobials to help remove or “prune” the undesirables living in your gut 2) l-glutamine to help shore up the lining of your small and large intestines and treat leaky gut and 3) probiotics (good gut bacteria as a supplement) to help influence the gut ecosystem and immune system.  Depending on the severity of your gut symptoms, you may also need digestive enzymes.
  • Reduce stress by learning resiliency techniques. Stress is the 2nd biggest influencer on the microbiome – in a bad way.  We suggest learning strategies for relaxation that work for you, as this will help heal and protect you from developing dysbiosis and leaky gut. 

If this sounds like just the plan you need, consider joining me for our 10-Day HealMyGut Group Coaching Program. We’ll do this together, as a group, and I will be with you every step of the way! >>> Check it out<<<

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Common Probiotic Myths Debunked

The amount of information found online about probiotics can be mind boggling. Search “should I take probiotics,” for instance, and you’ll likely close your browser none the wiser. There’s a lot of credible information, and there’s equally loads of erroneous information, including “experts” who have extrapolated data from research studies and made umbrella statements that are just plain … wrong.

For instance, many people believe that probiotics are like seeds that plant themselves in the gut and that they are supposed to grow and flourish. In fact, studies show that most probiotics pass through our digestive tract in about 6 weeks. Bloggers, experts and the media picked up this information and, suddenly, a buzz was created that probiotics were useless. This is not true!

Here’s what we know: 

Over 100 trillion microbes live in your digestive tract. Most of them are “good” bacteria, but there’s always some “bad” bacteria that live in your gut ecosystem (like weeds in your inner garden), always looking for an opportunity to overgrow and cause an imbalance. 

There are about 500 different strains of these microbes (estimates range from 300-1000) and when you take probiotics, you are ingesting just a few of the strains that have been well studied and found to be beneficial to your health.  You can eat probiotic foods, such as cultured (yogurt) food or fermented vegetables (kimchi, sauerkraut), or you can take a probiotic supplement, with many different types that vary by the dose and the number of strains that they contain. 

What’s most important is that you think about probiotics as influencers on your gut ecosystem.  While you take them, they are exerting a tremendous influence without needing them to “plant and grow”.  Here’s what we know.

How Probiotics Help You

GUT

Many studies have shown that taking probiotics can alleviate myriad gastrointestinal symptoms, including reducing bloat, gas, diarrhea, and constipation.  While the exact mechanism for how they do this has still to be completely worked out, we do know that probiotics help improve the overall balance of the good:bad bacteria, and help heal the intestinal lining.  This really matters because a damaged microbiome can give rise to many chronic health conditions, including inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, mental health issues, obesity, increased infections and lowered resistance to viruses. 

Here’s the good news:  If you have a “leaky”gut (increased permeability of the digestive tract lining), or dysbiosis (too many bad bacteria), probiotic supplements can help restore your gut barrier as they are passing through.  They can also help improve the number and function of your own good gut bacteria, and inhibit the growth of the “bad” bacteria. This ability to influence the overall health and functioning of your gut highlights why taking probiotics helps so many people, and why probiotic foods have been around for hundreds of years in many different cultures around the world.  Pretty important stuff, right?

INFLAMMATION

Probiotics also play a huge role in helping treat inflammatory conditions like arthritis, and immune system imbalances like autoimmune disease. Think of any condition with -itis at the end — gastritis, colitis, bursitis, diverticulitis, rhinitis, dermatitis — these are all inflammatory conditions. Many of these conditions are related to a damaged microbiome, and leaky gut, where microbes and toxins are leaking through the digestive tract lining into the bloodstream. Yeah, not good, as this triggers a system-wide immune response … inflammation. 

Susan Blum, MD, reports in her latest book, Healing Arthritis, that researchers have studied the use of probiotic supplements to treat the dysbiosis (overgrowth of “bad” bacteria) of inflammatory arthritis and found that probiotics improve symptoms in arthritis sufferers. Generally speaking, when it comes to arthritis, probiotics are thought to improve all the functions of your own good flora, including helping T regulator immune cells work better and live longer, turning off inflammation and repairing the gut lining and tight junctions. Because probiotics help treat a leaky gut, and because of the gut-arthritis connection, it follows that they would also treat systemic inflammation and arthritis, and they do!  

Probiotics help reduce inflammation by helping the immune system block pro-inflammatory responses that trigger inflammation over time. In other words, probiotics are a must for any one who has an inflammatory condition, and are beneficial for anyone trying to keep inflammation at bay. 

IMMUNITY

Did you know that the majority of your immune system resides in your gut? In fact, about 80% of your immune system lives in your digestive tract. With your gut playing such an important role in your body’s ability to defend itself against infection, it’s imperative that your gut microbiome be in tip-top shape. 

Your immune system has an innate response and an adaptive response. Innate immunity is an immediate inflammatory response — a signal that your body needs to defend itself from an invader, such as an allergen. Adaptive immunity takes longer to come to fruition. It is the body’s way of developing antibodies to pathogens — for example this is the way a vaccination works. When you consume probiotics, you are directly tuning up your gut-immune system, because the probiotics “talk” to your immune cells as they are passing through.  This is like arming your gut to protect you from foreign invaders!

CHOLESTEROL

Studies show that certain probiotics, particularly Lactobacilli, can help reduce cholesterol. They do this by preventing cholesterol from being absorbed, as well by helping to break it down. Evidently, probiotics can bind with cholesterol in the intestines to block it from being absorbed, and they also influence the metabolism of bile acids, which then affects the way that your body metabolizes fat and cholesterol.

MENTAL HEALTH

You’ve likely heard of the Gut-Brain Axis — meaning that neurotransmitters not only reside in your brain, but also live in your gut, and they communicate with one another. Take care of your gut, and you take care of your brain.

In fact, researchers recently found that probiotics improved psychiatric disorder-related behaviors including anxiety, depression, autism spectrum disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and memory abilities, including spatial and non-spatial memory.

Probiotics help your mood and your functioning? Pardon the pun, but this is a no-brainer.

ANTIBIOTICS

Probiotics can also help offset the bacterial imbalance caused by taking antibiotics. Antibiotics kill good bacteria along with the harmful ones, often leading to gas, cramping or diarrhea. These side effects often drive patients to the pharmacy in search of an appropriate probiotic.

What’s perhaps more important, and lesser known, is that frequent or extended use of antibiotics can lead to leaky gut and is implicated as an underlying root cause of autoimmune disease. 

Research demonstrates that probiotics strains can act as adjuncts to antibiotic therapy by reducing side effects, protecting the digestive tract lining from leaky gut and they can actually improve antibiotic function.

ORAL HEALTH

Flossing and brushing aren’t the only ways to care for your mouth. Emerging research is demonstrating that the microbiome of the mouth benefits from probiotics. From preventing plaque to fighting bad breath and reducing gingivitis, and even to preventing oral cancer, probiotics are proving to be good for the mouth, too! Pucker up with confidence!

SKIN

Who doesn’t want clear skin? People predisposed to skin conditions, such as acne, eczema or rosacea, tend to flare when their gut microbiome is out of balance. It is well documented that probiotics help prevent and treat skin diseases including eczema, atopic dermatitis, acne, allergic inflammation, skin hypersensitivity, wound protection and even UV-induced skin damage.

Which Probiotic Strains to Take

Look at probiotics and you might be wondering, “How the heck do I know which one to choose?” Great question. 

General recommendations call for ingesting 1 to 25 billion colony-forming units (CFUs) daily. To put these guidelines into perspective, most store-bought probiotic yogurts only contain about 1 billion CFUs per serving. 

We are now learning that perhaps different strains are effective for different health issues, but research has a long way to go until we can choose a specific strain for a specific condition.  Case in point: Studies performed in inflammatory bowel disease suggest that high doses of combinations of different probiotic strains are more effective in decreasing inflammation and maintaining patients in remission than a single probiotic strain. This is one of the reasons that we always recommend multi strain formulas.  

For this reason at Blum Center for Health we recommend 25 billion CFUs to best support your gut microbiome. Ours is a hypoallergenic blend of 12 certified probiotic species — a complete spectrum of microorganisms. And, it’s on sale right now!  Learn More Here

Ready to improve your gut and improve your health? A probiotic is a great place to start.

 

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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10 Ways to Influence Your Immune System and Autoimmune Recovery

Truth #1: Autoimmune recovery is possible.

Truth #2: There is no one way to get there — everyone is unique. What works for me may not work for you. And, what works for you may not work for me. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Truth #3: There a multitude of core principles at play and finding your right mix is critical to reversing your condition. 

Truth #4: There is one key to this entire process that no one mentions. Stick with me and I will share it with you.

For the past 3 years I’ve had the privilege of working side-by-side with Dr. Susan Blum, one of the foremost authorities on autoimmunity. I work with patients at Blum Center for Health and with individuals through our CoachMe online platform, to implement the four steps of Dr. Blum’s international bestselling book, The Immune System Recovery Plan.

From working with hundreds and hundreds of people, I can tell you this: The Four Steps Work!

You might be wondering, “What are the four steps?”  They are: 1) Food as Medicine 2) Learning to Relax 3) Healing the Gut and 4) Supporting the Liver

Within those steps there’s a lot to learn, and it’s within those steps that things get personal. Here’s where YOU come into the equation. If you’ve been struggling with an autoimmune condition and autoimmune recovery, look at little deeper — look within the steps.

Keep your eyes peeled for her new LIVE course: Immune System Strong!  Slated to start late September (it will be here before you know it!) Immune System Strong will feature 4 LIVE classes with me that feature tangible next steps that you will be able to implement immediately, as well as community, accountability, group coaching and access to the answers you need on a daily basis.  Details will be available soon! Get On The First-To-Know List (even if you’re only a little bit interested), because we’ll be rewarding with an offer that won’t be available to anyone else.) I want the special reward!

10 Ways to Influence Autoimmune Recovery

Eating the Right Foods — You’ve probably heard the phrase, “Food is Medicine.” Indeed it is! And, it can also be your poison. The first step to relieving symptoms, and getting a grip on which foods are right for you, is to do an autoimmune elimination diet. This is not only therapeutic, but it is also diagnostic. When done properly you walk away with a personalized nutrition plan.  How does this differ from person to person? Someone with an autoimmune arthritis, for example, may need to remove nightshades. Someone who is struggling with digestive distress may need to consider high lectin foods that might be exacerbating symptoms. The great news is, that once this short-term food plan is complete many people successfully reintroduce favorite foods back into their diet.

Healing your Gut — About 70% of your immune system lives in your digestive tract!  Nearly everyone who suffers with an autoimmune condition needs to heal their gut. Think of your gut as a garden with trillions of good bacteria, and includes hundreds of different species. Pretty cool, right? But when all those beautiful good bacteria get infiltrated with bad bacteria, yeast or parasites, the good bacteria get crowded out. And that, right there, can compromise the integrity of your digestive tract lining, creating minuscule breaks in the barrier where food leaks into the bloodstream. This is known as Leaky Gut Syndrome. Healing your gut is a CRITICAL component to healing your autoimmune condition.  And the amount of gut damage is different from one autoimmune person to another, and thus the treatment and focus will need to be different, too. 

Supporting your Liver — We live in a world filled with toxins that can trigger autoimmune disease and harm the immune system. These include pesticides/herbicides, hormones and plastics in food and water, solvents and mold in our homes and heavy metals in the fish we eat and water we drink. Others can come from cosmetics and products we use at home. At Blum Center for Health, we also believe that some relationships, home and work environments and thoughts can be toxic and have a negative impact on the body. We highly recommend detoxing at least once a year. This is another place where things get personal – your toxin exposure is going to be different than everyone else’s, and how much detox you need will be different, too. 

Taking the Right Supplements — Targeted supplements facilitate healing, reduce inflammation, heal the gut, and remove toxins. It’s important to use medical grade supplements that do not contain fillers, preservatives, additives, gluten, dairy, soy or corn. You’ve got to check labels carefully. You could very well be putting something in your body that’s contributing to your autoimmune condition!  

Learning to Relax — Stress, even low grade stress (you know, they kind we wave away, like having to make lunch everyday for your kids to take to school) fuel the fire of autoimmunity. Even good stress, like getting ready to go on vacation, can cause a flare. Many people will get on board with the food plan, and start taking the appropriate supplements, but have a hard time implementing a stress reduction process. This may very well be the most difficult part of an autoimmune program. And this is where coaching can make all the difference in the world. In a world that’s built on distraction and endless motion it can be difficult and uncomfortable to be quiet with oneself. 

Implementing Exercise When You Don’t Feel Well — Exercise is one of those “loops”— you don’t feel well so you don’t exercise (don’t worry, I feel the same) and when you don’t exercise you don’t get its anti-inflammatory benefits. Drop all the ideals you have about exercise: the person running on a treadmill, the women pushing weights at the gym, the man doing headstands in a yoga class, the people doing hardcore spin. You don’t have to go to the gym! You don’t have to run on a treadmill! You don’t have to do weights! You just have to start with moving. Start slow. Start low. Start with something you enjoy. Just start.

Getting enough Sleep — The research is clear: Lack of sleep or poor sleep impacts just about every system in your body, and increases inflammation. It increases your risk of autoimmunity and if you already have an autoimmune condition it impedes your ability to heal it. And by the way, lack of proper sleep drives sugar cravings and carb cravings, which makes it nearly impossible to stick to a healthy, anti-inflammatory food plan!

Learning to Say No — This is not scientific, but this is my observation in working with hundreds and hundreds of women: You can heal your autoimmune condition by holding your boundaries firm. No more giving away your time, no more saying yes to things that don’t serve you. Taking care of yourself means saying no. Or in other words, when you say no, you give yourself the space you need to heal. Want to read more on this subject? Check out 8 Reasons All Women Need Non-Negotiable Self-Care

Understanding Hidden Infections: Doing everything and still symptomatic? You may need additional testing. Functional medicine will help you get to the root of the problem.

AND FINALLY:  

The KEY that I promised you – CONSISTENCY:  

Yes, consistency! Taking imperfect action daily. Notice I said “imperfect.” We’re not trying to be perfect. In fact, it’s impossible to be perfect. It’s not all or nothing. When someone starts something new, they often give up. If they can’t do it “right,” they don’t do it at all. (Think New Year’s Eve resolutions. Done by February 1st!) You can be consistent. You can even learn to be consistent if it’s eluded you in the past. It’s all about figuring out your personal plan … a combination of what you need right now and the baby steps you need to get there. 

And, this is where it’s important to have a coach or a coaching program so that you’re not figuring it all out alone.

Are you ready to begin reversing your autoimmune condition? Join Dr. Blum and me for Immune System Strong!   Get On The First-To-Know List (even if you’re only a little bit interested), because we’ll be rewarding with an offer that won’t be available to anyone else.) I want the special reward!

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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Should You Take Probiotics?

Probiotics are living bacteria normally found in the human digestive tract that are usually ingested to improve the quality and quantity of the gut’s beneficial bacteria. One of the goals of taking a probiotic is to shift the population of gut bacteria toward one that is more healing and low inflammatory. But most people don’t know that probiotics do a lot more than just influence the population of the microbes that live in your gut.

Many studies have shown that probiotics can repair a leaky gut, reduce intestinal permeability and help increase the production of butyrate (a short chain fatty acid made by good gut flora that is very good for us).  In their role as influencers on the gut microbiome, probiotics have been found to specifically reduce proinflammatory bacteria such as Escherichia coli, Enterobacter aerogenes, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Streptococcus viridans, Bacteroides fragilis, Bacteroides uniformis, and Clostridium ramosum. When these and other potentially harmful bacteria are present in high amounts, they create a pro-inflammatory, leaky gut causing condition called dysbiosis. (1)  The term dysbiosis was introduced over a century ago by the Nobel Prize laureate Elie Metchnikoff, who used it to describe a disruption of the normal balance of the bacteria in the gut and then proposed using yogurt with active bacterial cultures to improve both the gut and human health.(2)

Probiotics have gotten bad press recently because many people believe that probiotics are like seeds that plant themselves in the gut and that they are supposed to grow there and flourish.  When studies recently showed that probiotics in fact pass through us in about 6 weeks, the buzz was that people shouldn’t bother taking them. This absolutely is not true, because probiotics exert their influence without needing to plant and grow.  They help improve the whole ecosystem of the gut and also have a huge role to play in helping treat inflammation like arthritis, and immune system imbalances like autoimmune disease.

For example, researchers have studied the use of probiotic supplements to treat the dysbiosis of inflammatory arthritis and found that probiotics improve symptoms in arthritis sufferers.  Generally speaking, when it comes to arthritis, probiotics are thought to improve all the functions of your good flora, including helping T regulator immune cells work better and live longer, turning off inflammation and repairing the gut lining and tight junctions.  Because probiotics help treat a leaky gut, and because of the gut-arthritis connection, it follows that they would also treat systemic inflammation and arthritis, and they do!  

The bottom line? The strains researched in arthritis with the most evidence for an anti-inflammatory effect are Lactobacilli:  casei, acidophilus, reuteri, rhamnosus GG and salivarius. There is also good evidence for Bifidobacterium bifidum.  Bifidobacterium infantis, E coli nissle, and Lactobacillus plantarum were found to improve tight junctions and heal leaky gut, even if they weren’t studied for their effects specifically on arthritis. This data tells me that a multi-strain formula that includes as many of these as possible, with a priority given to those that have been studied in arthritis patients, is best when using probiotics to reduce inflammation.

If you have arthritis or any inflammatory condition, taking a probiotic is a great place to start.  But to treat dysbiosis, functional medicine offers a more complete approach that includes an herbal program to clean the “weeds” out of the garden.  The HealMyGut program can be done by itself, or as part of the Arthritis Challenge.  

And finally, I leave you with a brief suggestion for choosing a probiotic.  This can be confusing! I prefer to use a multi strain formula that has as many anti-inflammatory strains as I can find.  I love Klaire Labs, because they have been around as long as I’ve been practicing Functional Medicine (almost 2 decades!) and I know they work since I have been using them all this time.  My favorite product is Therbiotic complete, because it includes all the above strains. That’s why I use this for my private label BCH! PURCHASE HERE

Klaire Labs Therbiotic Complete: 12 strains

  •      Lactobacillus rhamnosus
  •      Bifidobacterium bifidum
  •      Lactobacillus acidophilus
  •      Lactobacillus casei
  •      Lactobacillus plantarum
  •      Lactobacillus salivarius
  •      Bifidobacterium longum
  •      Streptococcus thermophilus
  •      Lactobacillus bulgaricus
  •      Lactobacillus paracasei
  •      Bifidobacterium lactis
  •      Bifidobacterium breve

 

[1]  Parian A, Limketkai B, Shah N, Mullin G. Nutraceutical Supplements for Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Nutrition in Clinical Practice. 2015. Vol 30, Number 4. 551-558.

[2] Zeng MY, Inohara N and Nunez G. Mechanism of inflammation-driven bacterial dysbiosis in the gut.  Mucosal Immunology. Online publication 24 August 2016. doi:10.1038/mi.2016.75

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9 Easy Ways To Boost Your Health This Summer

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

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

9 Easy Ways To Boost Your Health This Summer

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

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

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

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

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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.

 

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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.

Check out Dr. Blum’s FREE 3-part video series! How To Boost Your Immunity and Resiliency to Viruses: DOWNLOAD FREE NOW

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

 

Resources:
  1. 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

 

Check out my FREE 3-part video series! Last month I led live classes on the immune system and I’m happy to share with you the three videos:  How To Boost Your Immunity and Resiliency to Viruses: DOWNLOAD FREE NOW

 

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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!