Five ways to stay healthy and happy this holiday season

34792251_MWith so many things on your to-do list this time of the year, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. The stress of gift-giving, holiday events and activities and family get-togethers can lead to stress. Unhealthy foods and flu viruses seem to be everywhere. That’s why we wanted to share with you some simple (yet highly effective!) ways to stay healthy and happy this holiday season:

Stick with a healthy diet. At Proactive Wellness Centers, we generally favor the Mediterranean and Paleo diets. Both are balanced, healthy approaches to eating. The Mediterranean diet focuses on daily consumption of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and healthy fats, weekly intake of fish, poultry, beans and eggs, dairy in moderation and limited amounts of red meat. We understand the holidays are full of delicious sugary sweets practically everywhere you turn! Enjoy the treats of the season in moderation while remaining committed to healthy meals. The American Dietetic Association says eating healthy is a great way to boost immunity and prevent flu.

Warm up before activity. Exercise can help combat stress, but can also lead to injures if you aren’t prepared. Whether you’re shoveling snow, skiing, skating, sledding or enjoying some other type of wintertime activity, warm up first and don’t forget cool-down stretching. Warming up and cooling down can reduce your chances of injury. For some easy warm-up and cool-down exercises, go to this link.

Try meditating. Feeling yourself becoming overwhelmed? Closing your eyes, listening to some soothing music and taking deep, cleansing breaths can really help. Not sure where to start? There’s a variety of top-rated free and low-cost apps that can help. One is the Calm app. Calm offers guided meditation with soothing music in 3- to 25-minute sessions. Want to develop a daily meditation practice? Try Daily Calm, the app’s 10-minute program that helps you meditate in the mornings or evenings. You can also check out or purchase a book on meditation.

Don’t overdo it. Only commit to how much you’re willing to do, even if it means only one big event per day. If two major family gatherings happen to fall in the same time period, know it’s OK to pick just one—or invite people to come to you. Learning to say no is important, especially over the holidays.

Make time for enjoyable activities. Make sure you’re taking time during this busy season to do things you truly enjoy. Activities such as reading a book or enjoying a cup of hot tea can provide an escape from the daily hustle and bustle. Take regular breaks to simply look after your own well-being.

Founded in 2006, Proactive Wellness Centers (PWC) is a leading integrative and functional medicine practice serving Northern Virginia, Washington DC, Maryland, Pennsylvania. Learn more about us on our website:

Could your allergy really be mold illness?

51186706_MOne of the most prevalent and least appreciated health concerns today is caused by exposure to mold. A quarter of the U.S. population is sensitive to molds and don’t know it. And a major part of the problem is that mold illness is often mistaken for allergies, Lyme disease, depression, PTSD or even multiple sclerosis, among other illnesses.

Mold illness is not an allergic reaction, however. It’s an acute, chronic and systemic inflammatory response to toxins released by molds. Also known as mold sickness, mold toxicity or biotoxin illness, it can lead to severe complications — even death, in extreme cases. That’s why we take it very seriously at Proactive Wellness Centers, and develop individual plans to treat it.

Let’s take a closer look.

What is mold?

Mold is a type of fungus. Mold can be found everywhere, but it’s usually invisible to the naked eye until it has grown into large colonies of interconnected networks of individual organisms. It often appears as a fuzzy layer on food, or a slimy coating on a surface, in a wide range of colors.

There are thousands of different species in the world. Unlike plants, mold cannot photosynthesize its own food, so it needs some kind of food source as well as moisture to grow. This is why you’ll find mold growing on fruits and vegetables as well as in damp areas. It can also develop in poorly maintained air conditioning and ventilation systems.

Molds reproduce by producing large amounts of spores that spread by wind or in water. Some cling to clothing or fur, as well. When it finds a suitable environment, grows, and reproduces again. However, the spores can survive a long time before finding a favorable habitat, even in extremes of temperature and pressure.

Most molds don’t start to grow or reproduce at temperatures below 39 degrees F, which is why we refrigerate food down to that temperature. However, any mold spores on refrigerated foods will survive in a dormant stage until the temperature goes up again — which is why you may find fuzz on your peaches after you take them out of the refrigerator overnight.

Mold exposure

A few mold species produce chemicals called mycotoxins that can cause health problems or even death in other organisms, including humans.

Symptoms of mold exposure are similar to a wide range of other causes:

  • watery, itchy eyes
  • chronic cough
  • sneezing
  • headache
  • rash
  • difficulty breathing
  • fatigue
  • Sinus and nasal blockage

This is why mold illness is easily misidentified as an allergic reaction, a cold or other illness.

Black mold is often found in water-damaged buildings — in insulation or wallpaper, for instance — following a flood. It can cause severe lung problems.

Why mold illness happens

The human body cannot process mold. About a quarter of the population has a genetic profile that makes them susceptible to mold illness. This happens because of a series of biochemical changes known as the biotoxin pathway.


At Proactive Wellness Centers, we use a multi-phase process to confirm mold response and then identify the source of the biotoxin. We use a number of different tests, including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to distinguish CIRS (Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome) from Lyme disease, and a range of different genetic and genomics-based tests to personalize the diagnosis and treatment to the individual patient’s body chemistry and needs.

Our Environment Relative Moldiness Index, or ERMI, uses DNA to determine which mold species are present in the patient’s home or workplace. This way, we can find out which biotoxins are affecting the patient, and the extent of the mold problem.


Once we have positively identified the presence of mold illness, the type of mold and its source, we can develop a treatment protocol that’s based on the specific health profile and needs of the individual patient.

  1. Get you away from biotoxins—The first step is to end the exposure to mold by getting the patient out of the harmful environment.
  2. Remove biotoxins from the body—Two binding agents, Welchol and cholestyramine, bind to biotoxins in organs and helps to carry them out of the body.
  3. Eradicate infections—About 80% of people with mold illness and other chronic inflammatory conditions have Multiple Antibiotic Resistant Coagulase Negative Staphylococci infection, or MARCoNS. This is an antibiotic-resistant staph infection deep in the nose. Removing it allows the patient to return to health.
  4. Clean up the terrain—The road back to health is different for everyone. It can involve evaluating the presence of antigliadin antibodies for non-celiac gluten sensitivity and rebalancing hormones. At every step, we re-test to confirm the body’s balance has been corrected.
  5. Clean up the environment—It makes no sense to return to a moldy, infectious environment. With the specific mold identified, we can help advise the patient on where to look for it in the home or workplace, and how to remove it. Black mold, for example, can be very harmful and may be in an out-of-the-way spot, such as a basement or attic, or between walls.
  6. Develop a proactive diet—To prevent a return of a mold reaction, we work with each patient to find a diet that avoids foods likely to carry molds and mycotoxin, including corn, rye, wheat, rice, peanuts, cottonseed, oil seeds, some cheeses, black pepper, dried fruits, bread and alcoholic beverages.

Don’t wait

Too many people suffer needlessly without realizing their fatigue, nausea, headaches, rashes or other symptoms are caused by mold illness. Many more will waste time and resources seeing allergists and other doctors who are unable to identify the cause of their symptoms, or worse, treat the wrong thing.

If you have any of the symptoms listed above and have not found the cause, call us at Proactive Wellness Centers to set up an appointment and get back on the road to health.

Healthy living for kids

19809673 - happy hispanic people parents giving children piggybackThe holiday season seems to start earlier every year. Love it or hate it, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hannukah and all the associated school and neighborhood parties can pose a challenge to maintaining a healthy diet and a healthy lifestyle.

This is especially true for children, who have a lot to keep them busy at this time of year. Not to mention that it’s also cold and flu season.

So here are some tips for parents to help keep their kids healthy at least until the new year.

Keep healthy food choices in reach

There will inevitably be lots of yummy treats, desserts and sweets available to kids from many sources at this time of year. So keep lots of healthy options on hand throughout this season — plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy snacks and nutritious meals.

Make sure everyone starts the day with a healthy breakfast to provide them the fuel and energy they’ll need for a busy day.

Try to avoid buying high-calorie, sweetened drinks — there’ll doubtless be lots of opportunity to drink those outside of the home.

Don’t use food as a reward. This encourages the development of poor eating habits.

Get kids involved

We all feel motivated to be healthier when we’re involved in the decision, and kids are no different. Involve them in meal planning and preparation. Have each child help out in making at least one meal a week.

Stay active

With shorter days and colder temperatures, it’s always tempting to give up on outdoor activities at this time of year. Which means parents need to plan ahead. Try to make sure everyone gets between 30 and 60 minutes of physical activity every day. This doesn’t have to be all at once. A couple of walks through the day can add up. Housework, taking the stairs instead of the elevator at work or at school, and physical play at home all add up.

Bring the kids grocery shopping. This gets them more involved in making healthy eating choices, and it’s physical activity, too.

If you have a stationary bicycle or other exercise equipment in your home, don’t let it gather dust just because you’re busy with planning or celebrating the holidays.

And there are still plenty of activities you can do outdoors, from simple walks to a game of catch or shooting hoops. Keep it simple and fun.

Avoid infections

Cold and flu season is here. The number one way to reduce your chances of catching one from someone else is frequent, good hand-washing with soap and warm water.

Everyone should also get a flu vaccination every year. And while you’re at it, check to make sure everyone’s immunizations are up to date.

Set a good example

Even though they may not admit it, kids learn their habits from their parents. Model healthy behavior by eating right yourself, staying active every day, not smoking and consuming alcohol in moderation.

For more information on staying healthy, visit our Nutrition and Lifestyle page.

Can you protect yourself against Alzheimers disease?

Old lonely woman sitting near the window in his house.We all forget things occasionally. We misplace our keys temporarily, take longer to perform routine tasks, or forget names, dates and other details once in a while. These are normal signs not only of aging, but of daily life.

But the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) go beyond these normal signs of aging. Our table compares normal signs of aging to signs of AD, to help you tell the difference and take action. According to Centers for Disease Control (CDC), half of Americans in nursing homes today have some degree of Alzheimer’s disease, a brain condition that leads to cognitive decline and dementia.

In total, Alzheimer’s or AD, affects more than 5 million people in the U.S., causing more than 110,000 deaths, and noted as the sixth-leading cause of deaths in the U.S., according to 2015 data. AD is also a progressive disease. It gets more pronounced over time. And there is also a phase where the disease is affecting the brain without external, obvious symptoms. However, there are ways you can detect the early signs and actions you can take to slow its progress, and the devastating impacts.

What is AD?

Alzheimer’s disease, a brain disorder, is the most common cause of dementia — literally, the “loss of mind” — in seniors. It is a condition characterized by the death of neurons, or nerve cells, and synapses, the connections between them, in the brain. It is associated with the development of plaques and protein tangles in the brain. While these are consequences of aging, people with AD and associated dementia have been found to have greater amounts of plaques and tangles.

In AD, this starts in the hippocampus, the center for memory and learning. This is why the most obvious effects of AD are loss of memory and the ability to perform daily tasks. Dementia also presents as a loss or change in personality, memory, and ability to function independently in the world. Some of the long-term effects of AD and dementia include:

  • loss of ability to do routine activities
  • loss of abilty to understand conversations or instructions
  • inability to communicate, including pain or symptoms of disease
  • difficulty walking
  • loss of balance
  • repeated falls
  • inability to swallow
  • incontinence.

Causes of AD

While no one has yet determined the exact cause of AD, a range of factors are probable. These include genetics (whether a parent or other close relative has had AD), head trauma such as concussion, and long-term exposure to toxins such as molds.

The strongest risk factor so far appears to be family history. Those who have a parent or sibling with AD are more likely to develop AD. International research has also pointed to a number of possible and modifiable risk factors associated with AD: smoking, depression, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, low education, cognitive inactivity and physical inactivity.

Most people who have AD develop it after the age of 65, but early-onset AD can occur in younger people, as well. After age 85, nearly one-third of seniors show signs of AD.

Early warning signs

Below are the early warning signs of AD and looming AD-related dementia. If you notice an increase in several of these in yourself or a loved one, consult your doctor for a diagnosis.

  • personality change
  • mood changes and mood swings
  • inconsistent or inappropriate emotional responses
  • confusion and disorientation
  • decrease in ability to read
  • withdrawal from social situations
  • apathy
  • getting lost frequently
  • angry outbursts, aggression or violence
  • distrust of family members and long-term friends
  • memory loss
  • frustration over inability to remember or communicate
  • difficulty finding the right words to communicate or explain
  • significant decrease in verbal fluency
  • difficulty comprehending conversation or situations
  • inability to remember and repeat a statement immediately after it was given
  • loss of inhibitions.

How to be sure

AD is a progressive disease, meaning that the symptoms and effects become stronger over time. But the root causes of AD have been working in the brain for some time before signs become noticeable.

There is no single test to diagnose dementia or AD. Scientifically, AD can only be proved after death. Clearly, a way to detect signs of AD early would help. That’s what the Bredesen protocol is about. Developed by Dr. Dale Bredesen, it includes blood tests, cognitive evaluations and other indications of overall health. We will also look at environmental and lifestyle factors that may be contributing to symptoms.

Next comes the ReCODE protocol that uses a number of strategies to address the specific health conditions that contribute to A.

We provide ongoing monitoring and adjustment of the

The next step is a multiple modality approach to metabolic enhancement for neurodegeneration, or MEND. The goal: slowing the advance of AD and dementia.

In other words, we take the time and devote careful analysis of evidence to develop an individually tailored lifestyle modification guide to mitigate risk of AD. If indicated by test results, this could include bioidentical hormone replacement, treatment for biotoxin and other chronic illnesses, nutritional supplements, and of course follow-up cognitive assessments at regular intervals.

Don’t put off your health

If you’re concerned about your risk of developing AD, or for a loved one, don’t put off finding out more. Read our page on AD, find more resources, and contact us through our quick contact form, or call us at 703-822-5003 during regular office hours.