Mercury and Your Health

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By Susan Blum, MD 

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

Where do you find mercury and what is it?

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

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

Where does Mercury come from?

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

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

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

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

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

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

The next step is to support your liver and its ability to clear this metal out of your system. The best strategy is to do a liver detox program once or twice/year, and to make sure you are eating foods with selenium, sulfur (onions), cruciferous veggies, and lots of antioxidants. Our nutritionist can help you with a personalized program, or you can join one of our signature Detox Groups.  If you eat a lot of fish or suspect you have too much mercury already, both of these are good options.  For more information or to join our next detox group,

Sesame Kelp Gomasio

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Sesame seeds are excellent for healing the thyroid. To boost its potency, we’ve added the sea vegetable kelp to our gomasio recipe for added minerals and thyroid support!  Try this salty condiment on your raw cruciferous vegetables, or as a garnish on salads, soups, noodles, and other vegetables.

Serves 12 Tablespoons

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup, sesame seeds – toasted
  • 1/4 cup, kelp – toasted
  • 1/2 tsp, sea salt with iodine

Directions

  • In a mortar, grind the sesame seeds, kelp, and salt together until well combined, but not into a paste. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle you can blend this in a coffee grinder in two batches.
  • Store in an airtight container.

End of Summer Skin Savers

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Is your skin sending you an SOS this summer?

The season’s heat, humidity, sweat, and environmental stressors can clog pores and contribute to a poor complexion.  But before you run to your esthetician or invest in the latest, greatest miracle cream, Dr. Blum recommends that you start by changing your diet.

Here are two easy ways to get healthy, glowing skin:

1. Cut the Sweets
After eating your favorite sweet summer treat, your blood sugar rises and insulin is released into the body.  The result is inflammation, which can cause redness and breakouts.
Plus, sugar can cause the naturally occurring yeast in your pores to trigger acne and skin inflammation, too.

2. Add Antioxidants
Fight free radical damage with a daily source of antioxidants. Eat or drink a rainbow of richly-colored fruits and vegetables every day.  The darker the pigment the stronger the antioxidant power. Our top picks include berries, cherries, and veggies like peppers, beets, carrots,  and dark greens, which are an excellent source of vitamins and antioxidants that revive tired and stressed skin.

Learn more about how specific foods can help your help concern or goals in Dr.Blum’s Learn at Lunch series starting this fall.  Click here for more information and to sign up!

Immunity, Illness and Healthy Aging: An Interactive Workshop Series to Tune Up Your Immune System New York Open Center

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Blum Center for Health

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Is There a Thyroid Disease Epidemic?

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Have you noticed that many people you know have been diagnosed as having a low functioning thyroid, or hypothyroidism? And have you also noticed that they all have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease?

The conventional approach is to prescribe thyroid hormone medication, and this has become so common, that no one really thinks twice about it. However, taking the medication does nothing to address the Hashimoto’s and what might be causing that. This is very familiar to me, because 14 years ago when I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s, I made it my mission to go beyond taking medication, to find the cause and then cure the disease. And as many of you know, within 1 year, my Hashimoto’s was gone.

In the last decade, I have become additionally concerned because this problem seems to be affecting our children now, too. More and more of my patients are bringing their kids in to see me because they have recently been diagnosed with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. I believe we are experiencing a startling increase in the diagnosis of Hashimoto’s in all age groups, so I am dedicating this month’s newsletter to this topic. I am also sharing this with you because my patients and staff asked me to write about it this month!

What is Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis?
This is a disease where the thyroid gland tissue becomes inflamed and damaged (thus thyroiditis) because the immune system is creating damaging antibodies that are attacking the gland. Think of it like you are having an allergy to yourself, thus the word autoimmune. For a long time, the thyroid gland itself might function just fine, making its hormones despite the inflammation. But eventually, the gland becomes damaged, and the thyroid starts to fail-then comes the diagnosis of hypothyroidism and a prescription for hormone replacement. From a Functional Medicine perspective, you can prevent the need for medication if you fix the autoimmune issue before the thyroid gland becomes irreversibly damaged.

There is another autoimmune condition affecting the thyroid called Grave’s disease, where the antibodies actually stimulate the gland, causing hyperthyroidism. Again, in Functional Medicine, we approach the treatment for Grave’s the same as with Hashimoto’s.

In order to cure this disease, we first need to look at what causes the problem at the root. Here are the 3 most common causes of Hashimoto’s:
The thyroid gland gets damaged from toxins such as mercury from fish and silver fillings, and from pesticides in food and on your lawn. The thyroid is very sensitive to these toxins and absorbs them very easily, causing an immune attack on the gland. To treat this, you must detoxify your body and your environment. See our free online program Do It With Us: Supporting Your Liver to learn how. Or pick up a copy of my book, The Immune System Recovery Plan.
Gluten triggers an immune reaction that produces antibodies that cross react and target your thyroid gland. There are many studies looking at the association between gluten and Hashimoto’s. Gluten also damages the gut lining and can cause malabsorption of essential nutrients, like selenium, needed to protect the thyroid gland from damage. To treat this easily, remove gluten from your diet. For help, see our free online program program Do It With Us: Using Food as Medicine.
Due to poor digestive health, the immune system becomes dysfunctional. 70% of the immune system is in the intestinal lining and an overgrowth of harmful microbes like yeast, bad bacteria and parasites can cause the immune system to ‘misfire’. It then makes a mistake and damages tissues at distant locations in the body, such as the thyroid. There is also an important relationship between stress and microbial overgrowth. Fixing the immune system by healing the gut is an important part of the program. To learn more, see our free online program Do It With Us: Healing Your Gut.
In my practice and in my book, The Immune System Recovery Plan, we work through these steps to cure the Hashimoto’s and all autoimmune diseases. I know it can be done because I did it for myself. Today I feel better than ever and am committed to sharing this treatment program with as many people as possible. Hashimoto’s and Grave’s Disease are both indeed, curable.

Mercury and Your Health

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April 2014         

Mercury and Your Health

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

 

Where do you find mercury and what is it?  

 

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

 

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

 

Where does Mercury come from?

 

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

 

The other main source of mercury is the vapor released from silver fillings.  While this is somewhat controversial, there is enough evidence suggesting this is a real issue, and why I recommend replacing your fillings if possible.  For more information on how to do this properly, CLICK HERE

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

What can you do to help your body release the stored mercury?

 

Our approach to lowering your mercury level begins with finding and removing all of your exposures.  In our Nutrition@Blum section below, Mary will review how to find the mercury in your diet, and recommend foods that will help pull it out, and foods that will help support your body’s detox systems.  

 

The next step is to support your liver and its ability to clear this metal out of your system. The best strategy is to do a liver detox program once or twice/year, and to make sure you are eating foods with selenium, sulfur (onions), cruciferous veggies, and lots of antioxidants. Our nutritionist can help you with a personalized program, or you can join one of our signature Detox Groups.  If you eat a lot of fish or suspect you have too much mercury already, both of these are good options.  For more information or to join our next detox group, CLICK HERE.

 

Lastly, we do not recommend doing a treatment program yourself, because removing mercury should be medically supervised. 

BlumNutrition

Food is Your Best Medicine 

We know that most of the mercury ingested in your body comes from seafood, which is why we recommend decreasing your fish intake to 1-2 times/week from the safe list above. Instead of eating lots of fish, eating more plant-based sources of omega-3s from hemp, flax and chia is a great way to get the nutrients you need. Also, there are certain foods that, when paired with fish, will actually help remove the mercury from your body.  These include Brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds, cilantro, garlic, chlorella and turmeric, which all contain chelating agents that bind to mercury in the gut and in the tissues to safely remove these toxins.  

 

I also recommend adding deeply colored fruits and vegetables to your diet.  Berries, pomegranates, tomatoes, prunes, and pink/red grapefruit provide flavonoids that protect your body from the damage mercury can cause while also providing antioxidants to assist the liver in detoxification. And don’t forget about cruciferous and allium vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, mustard greens, radishes, arugula, watercress, onion, garlic, leeks, and scallions! These are all sulfur-containing powerhouses that prevent the build up of mercury and are critical for your liver detoxification pathways to safely remove this toxin. Incorporating all of these foods into your diet is the perfect example of how food really is your best medicine. 

 

 


BlumKitchen

Detoxing Deliciously

For your weekly fish dish, we love this low-mercury, flavorful recipe rich in nutrients that will help your body clear out toxins.

  


Recipe of the Month

Shrimp Masala

Serves 4

 

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp. coconut oil

2 tsp. cumin seeds

2 dried red chili peppers

1½ cups diced onion

1½ Tbsp. minced peeled, fresh ginger

2 tsp. minced garlic

2 tsp. ground coriander

1½ tsp. ground cumin

½ tsp. ground turmeric

½ tsp. cayenne pepper

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes

1 lb. medium shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 cup coconut milk

¼ cup chopped cilantro 

 

 

Heat the coconut oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the cumin seeds and red chilies and cook, stirring, until the fragrant, about 30 seconds.

 

Add the onion and cook until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Then add the ginger, garlic, coriander, cumin, turmeric, and cayenne, and season with salt and pepper. Cook until dark and fragrant, about 3 minutes more.

 

Add the tomatoes and cook until somewhat soft, about 3 minutes. You can make the sauce up to this point a day ahead.

 

When ready to serve, heat the sauce over high heat. As soon as it starts to bubble on the edges, add the shrimp and cook, stirring, until the shrimp turns opaque. Lower the heat, gradually stir in the coconut milk, and gently heat it through – do not allow to boil.

 

Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to a serving platter, garnish with cilantro and serve over rice or quinoa. 

 

 

April Cooking Class

 

April 28th,  7:30-9pm: Signature Blum Detox Cooking Demo

 

Mind.Body.Spirit

Finding the Balance

 

Heavy metals, and toxins in general, can be a trigger for brain fog and mental dullness.  If this is something you are experiencing, there are different ways to detoxify your mind. One of the most effective tools is to be mindful about the information you take into your mind: bad news, fear-inducing news, gossip, and useless information can all clutter your mind.  

 

So what can you do? Be proactive and turn off the radio or television when you listen to things that make you feel anxious, angry, or bored.   Ask your friends and family to stop telling you the juicy, but destructive, gossip and tell them that you are being kind to your mind by making a choice about what’s really important for it to hear.  

 

I recently heard about a study that showed that the people who are the happiest are those whose thoughts are about what or who are right in front of them–meaning present time.  So keep your mind centered on what you are doing right now in the present, and don’t let it wander off looking for worries or troubles.  The secret to happiness is a happy mind that is enjoying the moment! 

 

 

April Mind.Body.Spirit Classes

Mind Body Skills Group Series A

6:00-7:30am: April 2nd, April 9th
*Pre-registration required, no drop-ins

 

Mind Body Skills Group Series B

9:00-10:30am: April 23rd, 30th, May 7th, May 14th
*Pre-registration required, no drop-ins

 

Restorative Yoga 4-Week Series on Tuesdays

10:00-11:00am: April 1st, 8th, 22nd, 29th

*Pre-registration required; no drop-ins

 

Guided Imagery on Thursdays

5:30-6:00pm: April 3rd, 10th, 24th  

 

Transformation Through Meditation on Fridays

10:00-10:30am: April 4th, 11th, 18th, 25th

 

Introduction to Meditation

5:30-6:30pm on April 17th  

   

Contact Us

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April Events

Wednesday, April 2nd

Private Cooking Class
Monday, April 7th

6:00-8:30pm, Group Weight Loss

Do It With Us Healing Your Gut On Line Program Begins
Thursday, April 10th

7:00-9:00pm, Mary Gocke’s GMO Talk at Rye Public Library
Monday, April 21st

6:30-7:30pm, Spring Detox Initial Meeting
Wednesday, April 23rd

6:00-7:30pm: Relaxation and Personal Transformation with Elizabeth Greig
Monday, April 28th

Do It With Us Supporting Your Liver On Line Program Begins

6:30-7:30pm, Spring Detox Transition Meeting
Wednesday, April 30th

6:30-7:30pm, Healthy Eating Club: How to be a healthy Vegan or Vegetarian

Partners
 

34 Rye Ridge Plaza
Rye Brook, NY 10573

 

Learn to Relax Tool Kit

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Our Learn to Relax Tool Kit is a do-it-yourself, at-home program to give you simple tools to balance your stress hormones, your emotions and your mood.

Immune Support Protein Powder

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At Blum Center for Health, we’ve noticed that our adult patients tend to eat less and less protein as they get older. Some people lose their taste for it, while others find it too hard to digest animal meat. And most people aren’t as familiar with eating vegetarian protein like beans, nuts, and seeds. But protein in the diet is crucial. It’s broken down into amino acids that are critical for good immune function, among other things. Plus, protein will help you feel full, keep you from getting hungry and is a cornerstone to all weight loss programs. A breakfast smoothie is a great way to make sure you get the protein you need.

Does Gluten Cause Disease?

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It seems like everywhere you look there’s another food package labeled “gluten-free”. Is this the latest food fad or is this really a healthy choice for you?  And what is gluten free, anyhow?  There is a lot of confusion in both the media and the grocery aisle, and as you read on, I hope to shed light on this important topic.

In my new book, The Immune System Recovery Plan, I focus on using food as medicine as one of the 4 steps to treat autoimmune disease, specifically focusing on gluten and answering the question:  What is Celiac disease and how is it different from gluten intolerance?  And can you get sick from gluten even if you don’t have Celiac disease?  The answer? Absolutely.

Celiac disease is a very specific autoimmune illness that is defined by damage to the villi of the small intestines.  The trigger for this damaging immune reaction is gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, spelt, rye and kamut.  The conventional dogma is that if you don’t have this intestinal damage you don’t have a gluten problem.  Wrong!  It turns out that gluten can trigger other immune reactions and symptoms without any damage to the small intestine, thus you can test negative for Celiac, but still be gluten intolerant.  And there is good evidence that gluten is associated with other autoimmune diseases as well, like Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and Graves disease.

In the United States, wheat has been hybridized over the past 50 years so that it no longer is genetically the same as the wheat our ancestors ate. Wheat contains lots of gluten, and these genetic changes have increased the amount of gluten in the wheat we consume. Gluten is very hard for the body to breakdown, and doesn’t always get digested completely. When partially digested gluten particles get into our blood stream, they can trigger an immune reaction causing vague symptoms like brain fog, fatigue, inflammation and achiness in muscles and joints. Some people also have obvious gut symptoms like gas and bloating which are clear signs of gluten intolerance.

How do gluten particles get into your blood stream? First, certain conditions damage the lining of the intestinal tract. For example, antacids, antibiotics, severe prolonged stress, not enough good bacteria, and too much bad bacteria or yeast (a condition called dysbiosis) are all conditions that cause leaky gut syndrome. This means the intestinal lining becomes “leaky” and the gluten protein sneaks into the body, causing an emergency reaction from the immune system.

To make matters worse, the gluten protein “looks” like our tissues, so the immune system can get confused, attacking the body and causing an autoimmune disease.   This is called “molecular mimicry” and is one of the ways you can get sick from gluten.

For this reason, I always recommend that you remove gluten during a detoxification program, for treatment of autoimmune diseases or for treating irritable bowel syndrome or digestive symptoms.  You can do the experiment yourself: remove gluten for three weeks, and then eat it as a test to see if you notice any reaction. Be very mindful when you reintroduce it, paying attention to the appearance of symptoms of any kind. Sometimes you just feel puffy from the inflammation.  These are classic gluten intolerance symptoms, and if you react this way, you should adopt a gluten free lifestyle.

There are many gluten-free products on the market. Be careful to choose breads and crackers that are made from whole grains and that are rich in fiber. Sometimes gluten-free products are made with processed rice flour or potato starch and this makes them high glycemic—increasing your blood sugar in a bad way—so it’s best to avoid these. Some tips:

  • Go to a health food store or a healthy market like Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s to select items.  You can also find good quality gluten-free products online.
  • I love quinoa and buckwheat. You can also get pasta made from these ingredients.  If you opt for rice, be sure to choose brown instead of white.
  • Even if you don’t remain gluten-free, it is good to eat less of it.
  • All of the recipes in my book, The Immune System Recovery Plan, are gluten-free so you can learn to cook other delicious ancient grains like quinoa and millet to add more variety to your diet.