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The #1 Thing You Can Do For Your Immune System Starting Today

So, let’s be real … with COVID still sweeping through communities, you might be wondering what you can do to protect yourself as we move into the flu and cold season. Yes, very soon, we will be moving indoors with closed windows and that begs the question, “How will I keep myself safe?”

With over 70% of your immune system living in your digestive tract (yes, that’s true!), it makes sense that the food you eat is the first stop in empowering your immune system to fight infections and keep you healthy. 

There are foods that are particularly good at boosting immunity, but the reality is the first order of business is to use “food as medicine” to reduce inflammation. Often when I talk with people about “reducing inflammation” their eyes glass over. It’s not easy to grasp.

Inflammation. When it’s on the outside, like arthritis, we can see it.  When it’s on the inside we can’t see it. And often we can’t even feel it. (Although I’ve heard so many times, “I didn’t realize I wasn’t supposed to feel that way.”) But if you get sick often, if you’ve taken lots of antibiotics in your life, if you’ve had stress or trauma, or if you eat inflammatory foods (like sugar) or the Modern American Diet, you’ve likely experienced inflammation. In fact, you’re likely inflamed right now.

Inflammation is when your immune system or other cells in your body release irritating chemicals that cause irritation on the inside.  Remember this is a normal process because this is how your body fights infections or an injury, and the inflammation resolves once the infection or injury is over.  

However, if high levels of these inflammatory chemicals are released continuously (which can happen if you are eating a lot of SUGAR), the normal functioning of your cells can be interrupted, and healthy tissue gets damaged, including your immune system. This is not so good-especially since more and more studies link inflammation in the body to many serious illnesses and conditions.

To make sure your immune system is in tip top shape, which will protect you from foreign invaders like COVID-19, influenza and the common cold, it’s important to avoid processed foods and eat an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant-rich diet, full of vegetables, fruits, cultured foods, healthy fats, planted-based proteins and minimal animal protein.  

If there’s only one diet change you choose to make it’s this: 

GET RID OF SUGAR TO REDUCE INFLAMMATION!

Sugar is inflammatory and suppresses your immune system. Sugar stimulates your immune cells to actively release inflammatory molecules that travel throughout your body causing damage and irritation. 

Avoid high glycemic foods like soda, white flour and processed sugar. When it comes to sugar, you always want to choose low-glycemic vs. high-glycemic foods. The glycemic index determines how quickly a particular food raises your blood sugar level. High blood sugar causes inflammation and damages your immune system, and puts you at risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease. Any food processed with white sugar or white flour is high-glycemic and should be eliminated. That means bagels, breads, breakfast cereals, cakes, cookies, crackers, candy, and soda.

Avoid an over-focus on carbohydrates as the main source of calories for the day. Make your plate for lunch and dinner half vegetables — that’s a great start. Natural, unprocessed foods, like fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains provide health-promoting vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals — all good for your immune system. Use rice and other grains like condiments.

Read the labels of everything that comes in a package. Food manufacturers are sneaky. They often add sugar (and a lot of sugar) to foods that need very little sugar. Yeah, I know our panels are in grams. Definitely annoying, but here’s what you need to know: We recommend keeping your added sugars at about 24 grams. And, 4 grams of sugar = 1 teaspoon. So, if that granola bar you love has 24 grams of sugar — that’s six teaspoons (and your allotment for the day).

Here are some substitution suggestions for common high glycemic foods: 

Do you like soda, fruit juice, sweetened drinks? Drink filtered water, herbal teas, mineral water, fruit-infused water.

Do you consume products with corn syrup, cane sugar, or any other added sugar (check your condiments!)? Try paleo ketchup, mustard, fancy vinegars, and herbs and spices, such as basil, cinnamon, cumin, dill, garlic, ginger, rosemary, tarragon, thyme, turmeric.

Do you eat dried fruit, frozen yogurt, ice cream, sorbet, cookies, candy or other sweets? Try coconut milk yogurt with your own fruit, dark chocolate covered almonds and carob.

Do you typically eat pretzels, potato chips, corn chips, cookies and crackers made from white flour, muffins, waffles, pancakes, popcorn or bagels? Switch to gluten-free whole grain cookies, gluten-free almond meal crackers with hummus or guacamole, nuts, seeds, fresh fruit. 

P.S. If you’re as concerned as I am about shoring up your immune system to protect yourself from infections like COVID-19, influenza and the common cold as we begin to move indoors, consider joining Dr. Blum and I for our new course — Immune System Strong. Four LIVE classes with Dr. Blum, 8 coaching calls with me, you’ll learn exactly what you need to do to fortify your immune system. We begin soon!

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. To learn more about Melissa’s coaching practice at Blum Center for Health, click here.

 

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COVID-19 Nutrition 101: Let Food Be Your Medicine! 

A walk through the grocery aisles early this morning was a little shocking: The produce section was overflowing and the packaged processed food aisles were … empty.

The Number One thing you can do to support your immune system is: Eat Real Food

Your immune system is fueled by the food you eat. After all, over 75% of your immune system lives in your digestive tract. This means that every bite of food you eat influences your gut microbiome, which in turn determines your body’s ability to mount the appropriate immune response to invaders like COVID-19. 

Stroll on by the cookies, the sweets, the empty-calorie crackers, the high sodium frozen dinners and opt for packaged foods with minimal ingredients. Take a peek at the ingredient list and use this litmus test, “Am I willing to eat each ingredient with a spoon?

Here are 6 no-nonsense things you can do right now to help boost your immune system and keep your body healthy.

Choose whole, nutrient-dense foods. 

Eat the rainbow! Focus on fruits and vegetables of all colors — They  are filled with antioxidants that support your immune system, and fiber that feeds your healthy gut bacteria. Choosing foods that mirror the colors of a rainbow ensures that you eat a large variety of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals that have enormous protective and healing powers.  

These rainbow foods are particularly good right now: 

Green produce helps boost the immune system and detoxify the body.

All healthy diets require green-colored produce and that is particularly true now. In fact, research suggests that green vegetables are the source of a chemical signal that is important to a fully functioning immune system. They do this by ensuring that immune cells in the gut and the skin known as intra-epithelial lymphocytes (IELs) function properly. (1)  Include green vegetables, such as arugula, asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, collard greens, green beans, kale, peas, romaine lettuce, spinach, swiss chard, and zucchini. Enjoy fruit, such as avocado, green grapes, and kiwi. 

Orange and yellow-colored produce help improve immune function.

Chock full of beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant, vitamin A and vitamin C, these include vegetables, such as carrots, sweet potatoes, all varieties of winter squash, yellow summer squash, orange and yellow peppers and golden beets. It also includes fruits, such as oranges, grapefruit, lemons, mangoes, papayas, pineapple and peaches. 

Pro Tip: A great way to ensure you’re getting enough vegetables is to make your plate at lunch and dinner is at least half vegetables. 

Here are a few resources for getting organic, healthy foods delivered:

Check out Misfits Market — they will send you a box of seasonal produce at up to 40% less than what you would pay at the grocery store. (Use the code COOKWME-DY5XFK for $25 off.)

You might have access to a local CSA that will deliver to your door. Do a google search for your area or you can start with https://www.localharvest.org/csa/

Check out Butcher Box — they deliver 100% grass-fed beef, free range organic chicken and heritage breed pork directly to your door. 

Ditch sugar and processed foods.

The stress and anxiety of COVID-19, combined with “Sheltering at Home” creates the perfect recipe for craving sugary and processed foods — they temporarily make us feel energized but a big crash comes shortly afterward. Beyond that sugar and processed foods SUPPRESS your immune system. To help you kick the sugar habit, enroll in our 7-Day Sugar Detox Here

Eat high quality protein foods.

Protein is critical for immune function. What’s an adequate amount? Roughly half your bodyweight in grams a day. These include plant-based proteins, such as legumes and nuts and seeds, as well as organic, clean, humanely-sourced animal protein. 

Plant-Based Protein Superstars:

  •     1 cup cooked lentils = 18 grams
  •     3 tbsp. hemp seeds = 10 grams
  •     I cup cooked quinoa = 6 grams
  •     3 ounces extra firm tofu = 9 grams
  •     1 cup chopped broccoli = 8 grams
  •     ¼ cup raw almonds = 8 grams
  •     ¼ cup raw sunflower seeds = 7 grams
  •     2 tbsp. chia seeds = 6 grams
  •     2 cups chopped kale = 4.5 grams

Wild-caught salmon has 13 grams, chicken has 18 grams, and ground beef, 11 grams — all per 2 ounces.

Eat cultured and fermented foods to feed your microbiome and support immune health.

Include sauerkraut, kimchi, natto, chickpea miso, yogurt made from coconut or almonds. These foods give your body a dose of healthful probiotics — live micro-organisms crucial to a healthy intestinal microbiome (the microbial community in the gut) — which plays a role in supporting the immune system and warding off damaging inflammation inside the body. 

Make friends with mushrooms.

Mushrooms are medicinal!  They have immune-boosting polysaccharides that have anti-viral, antibiotic properties. Shiitake, maitake and oyster mushrooms are easy to prepare — a simple roast, sauté or simmer will do. In fact, you can throw them in everything — soups, omelettes, stir fries, stews, vegetable dishes. 

Add garlic, onions, cloves, cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, rosemary, oregano and more when cooking. 

These herbs and spices not only add flavor to your food, they are anti-inflammatory powerhouses. Add them to soups, stews, vegetables, oatmeal, or just about anything! Did you know that garlic and onions offer wide spectrum antimicrobial propertiess.

Drink plenty of fluids.

Your body depends on it, as does your immune system. Water and herbal teas,of course, but soups and broths also count! Stay away from fruit and vegetables juices — they are full of sugar (yes, even the so-called healthy ones.) 

Wondering what else you can do?

Join Dr. Blum’s FREE Friday Open Office Hours Q & A, to have all your lingering questions answered: Register Now

Schedule a 45-Minute Immune Support Consult with one of our healthcare practitioners.  Schedule an informational call here

Read my recent blog post: 10 Ways to Reduce the Coronavirus Stress Response 

 

Check out Dr. Blum’s 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

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. To learn more about Melissa’s coaching practice at Blum Center for Health, click here.

Resources:

  1. Ying Li, Silvia Innocentin, David R. Withers, Natalie A. Roberts, Alec R. Gallagher, Elena F. Grigorieva, Christoph Wilhelm, Marc Veldhoen. Exogenous Stimuli Maintain Intraepithelial Lymphocytes via Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor Activation. Cell, 13 October 2011 DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2011.09.025
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Pregnancy and Pandemic

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

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

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

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

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

For the first year and beyond

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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Surviving and Thriving on a “Quarantine Diet”

Our lives have all been powerfully disrupted in the past few weeks. All signs indicate that they will remain so for at least the near future, and the adaptations can be exhausting!  Access to food and household needs, both in person and online, can be a lesson in frustration. For those of us who rely on a healthy, whole foods diet for optimal health, or may have dietary restrictions such as gluten or dairy, the search can be both harder and longer. As a Functional Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist, I can really relate.  If we choose not to stock up on pasta, rice and dry cereal, what are the options?

Here’s what I recommend: 

YOUR FREEZER IS YOUR FRIEND

  •   Stock your freezer as full as you can with unprocessed foods, including animal protein, vegetables and fruits- minimize processed boxed items which take up extra room. 
  •   Prep the items before you freeze them- for example, cook multiple chickens and cut the meat off the bone, and cut up fresh veggies, removing any parts you will not use before freezing to maximize space. 
  •   Freeze eggs! Drop individual eggs in sections of an ice cube tray. Once frozen you can store in a safe freezer bag such as https://www.green-n-pack.com/. If separating whites and yolks, add some salt to the yolk before freezing

PACK THE PANTRY

We want to maximize the nutrient density of the items we are storing. Although I haven’t officially calculated the protein or zinc per square inch ratio, these suggestions should keep your cabinets rich in foods that keep you healthy and satisfied. 

  •   While others are clearing the grocery aisles of white flour, don’t forget that nuts and seeds, their butters and ground meal are powerhouses of nutrition in small packages. Go heavy on these items. 
  •   Canned or dehydrated vegetables can last a long time. In addition to the usual carrots and peas, add some seaweed, jackfruit (it has a meat-like texture), artichoke hearts, hearts of palm, and pumpkin puree. Forager is one of many companies that make a variety of veggie chips. Boxed or homemade vegetable soups like tomato, carrot or squash can round out the assortment. 
  •   Dried fruits are another space-saving option to pack in the nutrients. Buy organic versions without added sugar. You can make your own trial mix or purchase a ready to eat option as well. 
  •   If canned tuna is in low supply, select canned salmon. It is better to rotate tuna and salmon anyway. Choose wild or pole caught options when buying fish. 
  •   Don’t forget legumes! Beans are rich in protein, fiber, and a variety of important nutrients. The dried versions are more cost and space friendly than cans, but either will work. Lentil chips, Brami snacking beans and Biena roasted chickpeas add textural variety to your choices. 
  •   Think like a cowboy and stock up on jerkies and meat sticks (like CHOMPS and PRIMAL ) which have a long shelf life. 
  •   Energy bars like EPIC, RX  and Lara are made with only real foods, and only a few of them. 
  •   Forget wheat pasta- bean pasta is readily available online and in many stores- try fiber and protein rich Explore Asian Mung Bean pasta, Banza chickpea pasta or Tolerant varieties which are organic and free of all major allergens. 
  •   Who needs rice when you can grab up some quinoa and buckwheat? Richer in protein and fiber, gluten free and not sold out! 
  •   Keep spirulina and nutritional yeast nearby.  Just a spoonful of spirulina  adds protein, iron and potassium, while nutritional yeast contains B vitamins and has a great cheesy taste. 
  •   Make sure you have herbs and spices on hand. Stressful times tax our immune systems and we can use these ingredients to add more than flavor.  Cinnamon, turmeric, thyme, oregano and rosemary contain compounds that boost our immunity, reduce inflammation and help kill germs. 
  •   My go-to ready-to-drink shake is from Orgain. Organic, tasty and comes in a dairy and vegan option.

SCHEDULE DELIVERY

Many grocery chains are scheduling deliveries two weeks out, and stock varies widely.

  •   Neighborhood shops may be able to meet your needs more quickly, and allow you to help the local economy. Call your local merchant and see what they offer.
  •   Sign up for a subscription service and you will know you have a steady supply of nourishing options coming straight to your door. Some of my favorites include:

o   Misfits Market supplies healthy, high quality produce at lower cost. It also reduces food waste!  (Use code COOKME-BB6IJG)

o   Walden Local Foods ships in the Northeast and supplies a wide variety grass-fed or cage free proteins (use the link to get some free eggs and bacon)

o   Butcher Box  delivers a variety of grass-fed, organic free range proteins directly to your door. 

o   Imperfect Foods https://www.imperfectfoods.com/ offers conventional and organic plans, which can be customized to your liking

In troubled times, nutrition becomes even more essential to support our immune system, modulate stress and keep us physically and emotionally resilient. Quarantine does not have to mean compromising on our well-being.

 

 

Vicki Kobliner is a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist with over 20 years of expertise applying a Functional Nutrition approach to the care of children and adults. She utilized her wealth of experience with both traditional and integrative modalities, incorporating the power of food, herbs and targeted nutrition support for both prevention of and healing from both acute and chronic illnesses.    Vicki sees pediatric patients and their families at Blum Center for Health, and has extensive experience in addressing a wide variety of childhood illnesses.

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{Recipe} Dr. Yee’s Fire Cider Brew

First, hand sanitizer became liquid gold. Then toilet paper, another commodity whose worth has skyrocketed all in an effort for people to feel safe and well-stocked.  Now, herbal and nutraceutical solutions for improved immunity have also flown off the shelves of health food stores. Finding them online has proven to be just as difficult.  Everything is BACKORDERED.  

In every single conversation I’ve had with patients these past few weeks, everyone wants to know what they can do to improve how well their immune system can prevent infection.   Recently, Dr Susan Blum had given her tips to boost immunity, and it’s a great start. If you are having a hard time procuring any of these products, read on for what I do personally to boost my immune system. 

For years, I have been taking a simple regimen of medicinal mushrooms at high doses. This year, long before coronavirus became the prevailing thought in each and everyone minds, I added a tablespoon of fire brewed apple cider vinegar to my regimen each evening and I have to say it has been extremely effective.  Granted, this is a “N-of-1” anecdotal report, but I feel quite strongly about it.  

Apple cider vinegar has been used as one of most common home remedies for a wide variety of health conditions from reflux to yeast infections to sunburns.  There is some pre-clinical data showing its efficacy as an anti-viral, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial agent but there is no hard clinical proof here. Typically I don’t recommend things without some level of evidence but here we are – empty shelves and backordered items.  It’s been working for me and its dirt cheap! 

You can find locally crafted concoctions of Fire Cider in health food stores and farmers markets but I like to make it at home.  Try this recipe while you are home social distancing and in a few short weeks you’ll have your own Fire Cider brew to boost your immunity as we get back to normalcy.  Wishing you good health! 

Recipe: Fire Cider Brew

(adapted from Rosemary Gladstar’s recipe)

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup grated fresh horseradish root
  • ½ cup or more fresh chopped onions
  • ¼ cup or more chopped garlic
  • ¼ cup or more grated ginger
  • 1 Tbs Turmeric 
  • 2-3 Tbs Honey
  • Chopped fresh or dried cayenne pepper ‘to taste’. Can be whole or powdered. 

Directions: 

  1. Place herbs in a half-gallon canning jar and cover with enough raw unpasteurized apple cider vinegar to cover the herbs by at least three to four inches. Cover tightly with a tight fitting lid.
  2. Place jar in a warm place and let it sit for three to four weeks. Best to shake every day.  
  3. After three to four weeks, strain out the herbs, and reserve the liquid.
  4. Add honey ‘to taste’. Warm the honey first so it mixes in well. 
  5. Rebottle and enjoy! Fire Cider will keep for several months unrefrigerated if stored in a cool pantry. 
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The 5-Day Fasting Cycling Diet

How to adopt strategies from the new science of fasting so that you can decrease your risk of disease and optimize your weight.

Studies have shown that by following a very low-calorie food plan with very specific nutritional rules — a 5-Day Fasting Cycle — repeated every month for 3 months in a row, can help you achieve lasting weight loss, a boosted metabolism and improved blood markers of disease and aging.

Fasting is defined as an absence of food for a specific period of time that stimulates a regenerative state of health in one’s body without intentionally inflicting harm.  Our program tricks your body into responding as if it were fasting, providing all the great health benefits without actually starving yourself!

Research has shown substantial  benefits to following the principles of the Fasting Mimicking Diet:

  • Extended Lifespan and reduced cellular aging
  • Loss of abdominal fat without loss to muscle mass
  • Reduced desire to overeat or eat sugar
  • Improved insulin sensitivity
  • Drop in loss of bone mineral density
  • Improvement in cognitive state
  • Reduced risk of developing disease
  • Improved gut health
  • Enhances the body’s innate ability to function optimally to regenerate at the cellular level, detoxify environmental toxins, and metabolize nutrients.

It is well known that calorie restriction or changes in dietary composition can enhance healthy aging. The trick was for researchers to figure out HOW to help people implement calorie restriction in a way that is sustainable.  

Here are a few key studies demonstrating how and why these programs work.  They are all published by Valter Longo, PhD, the researcher who has led the way and created a fasting program that produces these medical benefits.  

  • “Fasting-mimicking diet and markers/risk factors for aging, diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease”.  Published in 2017, this research triggered a huge buzz in the functional medicine and nutrition community because it was the first to show the results of a fasting-mimicking diet (FMD)—low in calories, sugars, and protein but high in unsaturated fats—on markers/risk factors associated with aging and age-related diseases. They compared subjects who followed 3 months of an unrestricted diet to subjects who consumed the FMD for 5 consecutive days per month for 3 months. They found that three FMD cycles reduced body weight, trunk, and total body fat; lowered blood pressure; and decreased insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1).  (Wei et al., Sci. Transl. Med. 9, 8700 (2017))
  • “Dietary Restrictions and Nutrition in the Prevention and Treatment of Cardiovascular Disease”.  In this article, Dr Longo discusses how intermittent and periodic fasting interventions can help prevent and treat CVD. (Circ Res. 2019;124:952-965.
  • Fasting-Mimicking Diet Modulates Microbiota and Promotes Intestinal Regeneration to Reduce Inflammatory Bowel Disease Pathology. This study showed that cycles of a fasting-mimicking diet (FMD) reduced intestinal inflammation, increased intestinal regeneration, and stimulated the growth of protective gut microbial populations in a mouse model displaying symptoms and pathology associated with IBD. They also show that a similar FMD is safe, feasible, and effective in reducing systemic inflammation and the consequent high levels of immune cells in humans. (Rangan et al., 2019, Cell Reports 26, 2704–2719).
  • Cancer:  FMDs can reduce cancer incidence and aging-associated immunosuppression/ immunosenescence, a process aided by hematopoietic stem cell-based regeneration (Brandhorst et al., 2015; Cheng et al., 2014)
  • Multiple Sclerosis and Diabetes:  FMD cycles ameliorate or reverse disease progression in mouse models of multiple sclerosis (MS), and type I, and type II diabetes (Choi et al., 2016; Cheng et al., 2017).

PUTTING THE FASTING CYCLING DIET INTO PRACTICE

Whether you want to lose weight or need to treat a health issue, it is clear that this strategy helps everyone.  The definition of health isn’t simply the absence of disease; it is optimal functioning throughout your lifespan.  Using intermittent fasting as a strategy is a proven strategy and a practice that can be built into every day lifestyle goals.  

To do this, with the help of Keri Lynn MacElhinney (our Nutritionist at Blum Center for Health), we built our NEW, signature weight loss program around this central core concept and created the Blum Alternate Fasting Diet (AFD).

For our Blum AFD, we combine the principles of anti-inflammatory plant-forward eating with intermittent fasting and low calorie 5-Day Fasting Cycles, creating  a whole-foods, sustainable program that promotes healthy weight loss, and improves  metabolism and markers for disease — all while eating delicious food that supports the gut microbiome and the removal of environmental toxins that store in your fat cells preventing weight loss.

Our Blum Alternate Fasting Diet, features a 3-month guided weight loss program that includes one 5-Day Fasting Cycle per month.  

We provide all the information you need to follow this yourself, but to make it easy and convenient, we have teamed up with Organic Pharmer to create a fixed 5-day menu that follows the nutritional guidelines and provides a delicious and satisfying whole foods, ready-to-go option for the 5-Day Fasting Cycle part of the program. (LINK)   

There is also a supplement company that created packaged foods for you to eat during the 5-Day Fasting Cycle and you can read about them HERE.  

DO IT WITH US!

We will be offering our Blum Alternate Fasting Diet as a group program for the first time at Blum Center for Health, starting June 3.  I will be teaching the first class and would love to have you join us! LEARN MORE ABOUT THE PROGRAM HERE

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The Best Key Lime Pie Ever (Paleo and Elimination Diet Friendly)

Whether you are following a special food plan, or just love dessert, you’ve got to try this Key Lime Pie recipe. It suits all kinds of diets — Paleo! Gluten-free! Dairy-free! Egg-free! And it’s chock full of gut healthy ingredients, including my magic ingredient: avocado!

If you’ve never used avocado in baking, it’s creamy, and picks up the flavors of your ingredients. And here’s the magic: It doesn’t taste like avocado. Not even a little bit. Once you try this Key Lime Pie recipe, it will become one of your go-to desserts.

The Best Key Lime Pie Ever

One of my all time favorites!

For crust:

1 cup unsweetened, shredded coconut

1 cup raw walnuts

¼ teaspoon sea salt

6 medjool dates, pitted

For filling:

1 ½ cups avocado (approximately 3)

2/3 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (~2 limes)

¾ cup raw honey

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

½ cup virgin coconut oil, melted

Zest of one lime

Fresh raspberries (optional)

 

Instructions:

For crust:

1)    To a food processor with an S blade, add coconut, walnuts and salt. Blend until finely ground.

2)    Add dates and mix until mixture combines but do not over process.

3)    Press mixture into the bottom of a 9-inch pie plate, set aside.

For the filling:

4)    In a food processor, add avocado, lime juice, honey and salt and blend.

5)    Add coconut oil and process until mixture is smooth.

6)    Spoon mixture into pie plate evenly and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Garnish with fresh raspberries if desired and serve cold.

 

Keri Lynn MacElhinney, RD, CDN is a Functional Medicine Nutritionist at Blum Center for Health.  She has over 20 years of professional experience as a Registered Dietitian and holds a nutrition license in New York and the State of Connecticut. In her early years, her field experience covered a wide array of areas including acute care hospitals, community health centers, substance abuse.  Make an appointment with Keri Lynn at 914-652-7800.

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Summer Green Smoothie Instead of Coffee? You Bet!

Like most of you, I really love my morning coffee (my morning fuel of choice is espresso).  The nespresso machine in my kitchen has been an attractive nuisance since I bought it, making it way too easy to have one or two shots as I am revving up to start my day.  As August rolled around, I decided to do an experiment to see if my espresso was affecting how I felt, good or bad. To do this, I decided to kick the habit, and substitute my espresso for black tea (which also has caffeine), followed by a green smoothie made from contents of my garden. Yummy live food that I whipped up in my Nutrabullet.  And here is what I discovered.

It took a few days to adjust, but by day 3, I noticed that I was sleeping deeper and longer.  Since I was having my espresso only very early in the mornings, it shocked me that it had such a dramatic effect on my sleep so many hours later. I always thought that because I wasn’t having caffeine or coffee after 10 am, it wouldn’t make a difference.  Boy was I wrong!

I found myself sleeping later in the mornings and remembering my dreams.  If you are having any sleep issues whatever, I strongly recommend quitting coffee and see what happens!  It has been about 4 weeks now, and I am still sleeping great, feeling more rested in the mornings.

What I Learned About Green Smoothies

I used to be more of a berries-in-the-smoothie girl, but I switched to a more tart, savory drink instead of sweet.  You will see my recipe below. After my live, green, smoothie breakfast, I am zipping to work and buzzing with a better energy than I used to get from espresso!  I decided to write this blog to inspire those of you that read this, to try this experiment. The good news is that you can get greens triple washed and ready to use, making this smoothie super easy to make each morning.  I usually go out to the garden and add fresh parsley, rosemary, basil, or mint, in addition to the kale and spinach. You can customize this to your taste.

Here are the nutrition facts:

Total calories:  265;

Fat: 12.9 grams; Carbs: 34.6 grams; Fiber: 7.2 grams: Sugar: 17 grams; Protein: 11.2 grams

Green Smoothie Recipe:

½ apple, skin on

½ banana

½ cup Baby Kale

½ cup Baby spinach

1 TBL fresh lemon juice

1 TBL fresh lime juice

2 TBL organic Hemp seeds

1 cup cold filtered water

Optional:  A twig of rosemary and a handful parsley from the garden, or other herbs of your choice like a few leaves of mint or basil.

Put all ingredients in the Nutrabullet and enjoy!

 

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Protecting Your Skin from the Inside Out

It’s no secret that the summer sun takes a toll on our skin. Of course, it’s important to wear sunscreen, protect your skin and eyes, take cooler showers, and hydrate, hydrate, hydrate (a little more on that later!).

But did you know that what you put on your plate is as important as what you put on your skin?

In fact, your food choices affects your skin at the cellular level, and since skin is your largest organ, you want to pay close attention to the foods you eat to support and protect your skin.

Here are some of our favorite summer foods to help protect your skin and give you a healthy glow:

Blackberries, Blueberries and Strawberries  — Packed with antioxidants, researchers¹ have found these three fruits in particular protect the skin from free-radicals that damage skin cells. Berries have the added benefit of being a superfood and, in fact, help with weight loss and sugar cravings.

Flax Seeds, Walnuts, Salmon, Sardines, Mackerel — Omega-3 Fatty Acids are one of the keys to healthy skin. Our bodies do not produce these “essential fatty acids” — we only get them from the foods we eat. Essential fatty acids are the building blocks of healthy cell membranes, which hold in water. The stronger the barrier, the better your cell walls will hold moisture — resulting in, yes, hydrated, plumper, and younger-looking skin.

Avocado — Avocados are full of healthy fat, vitamins C and A. Add them to just about anything — they enhance your complexion and fight aging skin. Pass the guacamole please!

Spinach, Kale, (as well as all dark leafy veggies), Sweet Potatoes, Carrots, Cantaloupe — Yes, the dark leafy veggies and the orange veggies and fruits are loaded with beta carotene, which your body converts to vitamin A. These powerful antioxidants improve skin color, reduce wrinkles and other signs of aging — particularly damage by the sun, pollution and smoking.

Eggs and Tuna — Some people’s bodies have a hard time converting beta carotene into vitamin A. Get some of your vitamin A directly from the source with eggs and tuna. (Tip: Be sure to buy skipjack tuna as albacore and regular tuna tend to be high in mercury.)

Bell Pepper, Papaya, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Strawberries, Pineapple, Oranges, Kiwi, Cantaloupe, Cauliflower, Dark Leafy Greens — These are the fruits and vegetables that contain the highest levels of vitamin C. Usually equated with cold relief, vitamin C is essential to the production of collagen, a protein that provides the framework for our skin and gives it elasticity and strength.

Watermelon and Tomatoes — These fruits are two of the best sources of the anti-aging antioxidant lycopene. Lycopene, the phytochemical that makes tomatoes watermelon and tomatoes red, helps eliminate skin-aging free radicals caused by ultraviolet rays. (Tip: Your body best absorbs lycopene when tomatoes are cooked.)

Sesame seeds — These tiny powerhouses are chock full of good stuff for the skin. They have a high concentration of copper, a trace mineral with anti-inflammatory properties, and a necessary component of collagen production. They also pack in zinc, another essential mineral for producing collagen, and selenium, an antioxidant mineral that helps protect the skin from sun damage and maintain firmness and elasticity.

And last but not least ….

Water, water and more water — About 60% of your body is made up of water so it makes sense that water would play an important role in your body’s function. Think about a houseplant … what happens when you don’t give it enough water? The leaves start to droop, and ultimately without proper hydration they start to discolor and dry up. Same with our skin and as the largest organ in our body it needs water — anywhere between 4-10 cups, depending on your climate, activity level and what works best for you.

You can also get an extra dose of antioxidants with our Multivitamin with Antioxidants. This is a great way to combat the toll of summer fun — protect your skin with antioxidants and fill in the nutritional gaps left from typical summer eating!  Get it 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. Huang W, Zhang H, Liu W, et al. Survey of antioxidant capacity and phenolic composition of blueberry, blackberry, and strawberry in Nanjing. Journal of Zhejiang University. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3274736/.
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Can Food Be Making You Sick?

It seems that no matter what the event these days, there is food criteria to attend to. From your child’s school, to the local restaurant, to friends and family, food sensitivities are knocking on your door. Food sensitivities effect so many people that they can’t be ignored.

The CDC, Center for Disease Control and Prevention, reports, “allergies are the 6th leading cause of chronic illness in the U.S. with an annual cost in excess of $18 billion…50 million Americans suffer from allergies each year”.  According to FARE, Food Allergy Research & Education, food allergy facts and statistics in the United States, there are “more than 170 foods that have been reported to cause reactions in the U.S.”.

PUT A CHECK IN EACH BOX BELOW THAT APPLIES TO YOU:

◊  Depression and/or mood changes

◊ Anxiety

◊ Muscle aches or joint pain

◊ Nasal congestion

 ◊ Constipation and/or diarrhea

 ◊ Acid reflux/indigestion

 ◊ Bloating or gas

 ◊ Dark circles or bags under your eyes

◊  Headaches

 ◊ Rashes or skin dryness/itchiness

 ◊ Fatigue

 ◊ Unintentional weight gain

Did you check one or more of the symptom boxes above?

You could be suffering from food sensitivities.

ARE YOU SUFFERING FROM FOOD INDUCED INFLAMMATION?

Do you feel like your weight fluctuates or you just can not get rid of the those unwanted pounds. Do you feel like you have done it all and you just can’t lose the weight? This can be truly frustrating indeed!

Food sensitives cause inflammation in the body. This Inflammation increases our risk of developing disease, ultimately obesity.

Although we hear food allergies and food sensitivities interchangeably, they do differ. How do we know which one we are suffering from?

There two types of food mediated reactions, immune mediated and non-immune mediated

Immune Mediated:

  • Food Allergies

Non-immune mediated:

  • Food Sensitivities
  • Food Intolerances

Food allergies are known as IgE, immunoglobulin E, mediated type 1 hypersensitivity reactions and are generally immediate in response. These bodily reactions can range in severe such as hives to more critical in response such as anaphylaxis and can be fatal. Some of the most common allergy foods include tree nuts, peanuts, eggs, fish and shellfish, milk, gluten, and soy. Foods that we are allergic to must be avoided and can not even be consumed in even small quantities.

Food intolerances are non-immune related and are a result of a metabolic reactions such as a lack of an enzyme to digest the foods such as lactase. When this happens, they are considered intolerant and will no longer be able to digest dairy foods.

Food sensitivities are delayed in onset, up to 72 hours or more, and are non-immune mediated reactions and are a result of an ingested food. Food sensitivities maybe present as any of the following conditions:

  • Crohn’s disease
  • GERD
  • Irritable bowel disease/diarrhea/constipation
  • Migraines
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Eosinophilic esophagitis
  • Arthritis
  • Attention deficit disorder
  • Eczema

Food sensitivities can be the body’s response to a chemical naturally occurring in a food such as solanine, histamine, and salicylates. These reactions many times are dose related and sometimes can be consumed in small amounts but when a threshold is reached, a reaction occurs. Each person’s threshold will be different and some people may need to remove this these foods from their diet to become asymptomatic.

4 COMMON CAUSES FOR FOOD SENSITIVITIES 

  • Leaky gut! When our intestinal barriers break down from bad bacteria, parasites or infections passing through, this is considered leaky gut. When this happens, our immune system becomes compromised and food particles can enter the circularity system and create systemic inflammation. Sometimes these foods that cause our body havoc and can be difficult to assess because these reactions are often delayed. Food sensitivity testing can be done to help us get a baseline for what these foods may be. Elimination diets are implemented to remove those foods for generally 6-8 weeks to essentially calm or better yet reduce the inflammatory response.
  • Chronic antibiotic use. The use of antibiotics sometimes can’t be avoided, but this can compromise the immune system. Antibiotics kill off the bad bacteria it was intended to but also do a number on the good bacteria that keep the ecosystem in balance.
  • Chronic stress and toxic exposure. Every day we breath in air, drink water, and eat food that have chemicals and pesticides that our liver has to work overtime to filter out. This insult can result in toxic overload causing us to feel fatigue and run down. This can impact our immune systems negatively making our bodies even more susceptible to food sensitivities.
  • Too much of one food. Ever think about how many times you eat the same food in one day? Let’s look at a scenario that can be commonly seen in many diets.

EGGS! Breakfast time, you eat 2 eggs over easy over paleo bread (made with egg whites) and butter with a piece of fruit. Lunch time, Chicken cranberry walnut salad made with mayonnaise (this contains egg), over bib lettuce. Snack: RX bar (contains egg). Dinner meal consists of veal parmesan (breaded and dipped in egg) with green beans. Sometimes we can eat a particular food in a small quantity but when we are exposed to it multiple times in one day we can hit our threshold. In this case, it would have been 5 times in one day!

CAN DIET REALLY MAKE AN IMPACT ON OUR HEALTH AND SIGNIFICANTLY IMPACT OUR DAY TO DAY SYMPTOMS?

Yes, changing your diet can be life altering!

5 COMMON FOOD SENSITIVITIES FOR YOU TO CONSIDER

  • Histamines. The most common symptoms of histamine sensitivity include itching and headaches. Foods to consider reducing or eliminating from your diet plan include aged cheese and meats, citrus, spinach, bananas, and fermented foods and many spices too!
  • Solanine. A common symptom of solanine sensitivity is muscle and joint pain. I find that this is one of the hardest groups to decrease because it contains tomatoes and potatoes, in other words, tomato sauce and french fries!! Other solanine rich foods include eggplant, goji berries, and peppers.
  • Sulfites. Common symptoms of sulfite sensitivity include difficulty breathing or wheezing, loose stool or trouble swallowing. Sulfites can be found naturally in food or added as a preservative. Foods that contain sulfites include dried fruits, shellfish and crustaceans, cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage Brussels sprouts, premade packaged foods such as instant potatoes and doughs, and malt beverages and wines.
  • Soy. Soy sensitivity can manifest itself in different ways in each person. Some symptom may include flushing, lip swelling, loose stool or abdominal cramping. Soy is found soybeans, bean curd, edamame, miso, natto, soy sauce, soy milk, many vegan products and additives such as TVP (textured vegetable protein).
  • Gluten. Common symptoms of gluten sensitivity may include brain fog, rash, loose stool, and bloating. Gluten can be found in breads, cereals, premade packaged foods, veggie burgers, breaded meats and meatballs, malted products, make ups and

Rather than guessing what these offending foods are, we can get this information from food sensitivity testing.

The FIT test (Food Inflammation Test) measures 132 foods, colorings and additives that can result in delayed food sensitivity. The FIT test is unique in that it measures IgG antibodies along with complement that is produced from immune complexes as a result of food that crosses through the intestinal lining. It is also a great way to understand if you have a leaky gut and if it’s causing food sensitivities.  Learn more here.

As a Nutritionist, I knew a lot about food but removing my food sensitivities was a true eye opener for me and one of the largest positive impacts I made on my health and well-being.

 

 

Keri Lynn MacElhinney, RD, CDN, CLT, IFNCP is a Functional Medicine Nutritionist at Blum Center for Health.  She has over 20 years of professional experience as a Registered Dietitian and holds a nutrition license in New York and the State of Connecticut. In her early years, her field experience covered a wide array of areas including acute care hospitals, community health centers, substance abuse.  Make an appointment with Keri Lynn at 914-652-7800.