COVID-19 Update: Optimizing Immune Response
I hope that you are all staying well during this COVID-19 crisis. I want to take this time to update you on our current thinking on the use of supplements and diet to help protect from, move through, and recover from COVID-19. Please note that all of our recommendations are science-based. There are no supplements that are specifically known to fight COVID-19, but rather we can infer a benefit from known mechanisms of action of specific herbs and nutrients, in vitro research, and traditional use. If you do contract the virus, please don’t rely on these recommendations, but rather contact your doctor immediately. Your reaction to and resolution of any virus depends on three things: the virulence of the virus, the concentration of the virus you are exposed to, and the adequacy of host immune defense. We don’t have any control over the virulence of the virus—that is nature’s job. Following social distancing guidelines and using proper hygiene as delineated by the CDC and local governments should largely take care of the 2nd factor, the concentration of the virus. An exception of course is those that may have constant exposure to the virus. This includes health care and other essential workers that are dealing with the public on a daily basis, or those who have a family member with the virus. The third factor, strengthening the defenses of the host, will be the topic of this blog. This is where we can take the most action to ensure that even if we contract the virus we are able to move through it and fully recover. The immune system has two “branches”: the innate immune system and the adaptive immune system. The components of the innate immune system are the first responders of the immune system—stomach acid, mucosal barriers in the gut and lungs, mucous production to trap pathogens, cough to kick out pathogens, etc. This system also initiates inflammation, which has become a dirty word, but which is initially exactly what the body needs to respond to the threat. Natural killer cells and phagocytic cells that “eat” infected cells are also part of the innate immune system and require no previous contact with the antigen to be effective. Every disease that enters the body is first “treated” with this non-specific response, i.e., every pathogen gets the same treatment. The adaptive immune system specifically targets a virus or other pathogen with the help of either T cells (TH1 response) or B cells (TH2 response, we know these as antibodies). The body activates both responses when needed, and they key is to have a balanced immune reaction that does not get out of control one way or the other. Cytokines are the chemical messengers in the immune system that direct the type and degree of TH1 and TH2 response. It has been found that certain cytokines are in excess in those patients that get the “cytokine storm” immune reaction. The cytokine storm is still relatively rare, and almost without exception is happening in those with pre-existing inflammation. Those who may fall in the category of pre-existing inflammation include those with uncontrolled Type II diabetes, serious heart disease, current cancer, and morbid obesity. You also want to make sure that you are actively managing other conditions that can be characteristic of existing inflammation such as allergies, asthma, sinusitis, and excess insulin. Below are suggestions for how to support general immunity, support balanced immune reactions, manage stress, and implement diet and lifestyle changes that optimize health.
Nutrients That Optimize Immune ResponseThere are a host of nutrients that can work against various aspects of the virus. Please note that we will discuss some combination products at the end of the article that will cover many of these nutrients as it is impractical (and not necessary) to take all of them. We have focused here on nutrients that provide more than one form of protection against the virus, that have research behind them for the mechanisms described, and that are unlikely to cause harm: Vitamin D—Vitamin D enhances immune system function, reduces viral growth, and has been found to reduce upper respiratory infections. Vitamin D is also an immune system modulator, ensuring that there is balance in the immune response. The potential toxicity of Vitamin D is very low. Vitamin D deficiency is also very prevalent in the Northern hemisphere. Unless you are getting 20 minutes of unprotected, full body sun in the mid-afternoon 2-3 times per week, it is likely that your Vitamin D levels are not optimal. We recommend 5000 IUs (125 mcg) per day to keep levels optimal at this time in the absence of known lab levels. Those that are prone to kidney stones (must use with Vitamin K) or other conditions where there is a risk of calcium deposits should be cautious, even with the suggested dosage level. Higher doses may need to be accompanied by Vitamin K and magnesium. Vitamin C—Supports white blood cell defense, is an antioxidant, and has been used in some hospital ICUs to treat COVID-19. It also inhibits NRLP3, the inflammasome that can get out of control in COVID-19 and produce an excess inflammatory reaction. We recommend 1000 mg per day, and up to 3000 mg per day if you begin to feel ill. The buffered form is easier on your stomach, and the liposomal form may stay in the body longer. Vitamin A—Supports the mucosal tissues in the lung and gut and thereby strengthens barrier defense. It enhances immune function, and is anti-inflammatory. We recommend taking moderate amounts that would normally be found in a high quality multivitamin, 2000-5000 IUs. Cod liver oil is also naturally contains both Vitamins A & D, so is helpful with immune boosting. Excellent foods to include in your diet that contain Vitamin A are beef liver, sweet potato, peas, spinach, and broccoli. N-acetylcysteine (NAC)—Promotes the production of glutathione, one of the body’s main detoxifying agents. It also promotes respiratory health and has been used in formulas for allergies and in those with COPD. It has an anti-mucolytic effect on the lungs so can help to keep the bronchia clear. We recommend 600-900 mg per day. Zinc—Supports both the innate and adaptive immune systems, has strong action against many types of viruses, and can prevent or reduce the effects of respiratory illness. Zinc is often deficient in older populations and those on vegetarian or vegan diets. We recommend 30-50 mg of zinc per day in capsule or lozenge form (although the latter is tough to come by now). At doses of 50 mg or more, zinc may need to be balanced with copper so as not to create a deficiency there. Zinc should be taken with meals as it can upset an empty stomach. Elderberry—Elderberry has strong evidence as well as traditional use in early onset of upper respiratory illness. It has several anti-viral mechanisms. There have been some practitioners cautioning against its use with COVID-19, but according to the Institute for Functional Medicine there is no evidence that it could contribute to a cytokine storm. Since the virus enters through the mouth, nasal passages, and throat, using a substance that touches those tissues such as elderberry syrup can be beneficial. This is particularly true if you have a job where ongoing exposure to the virus is possible. We recommend using elderberry in amounts indicated on package instructions 2X per day. Monolaurin—Derived from coconut oil, monolaurin operates by breaking down the lipid envelope on the outside of the virus, exposing it to immune cells. We have recommended it for helping to clear a variety of viruses over time. This is the same principal as the suggested use of soap and hand sanitizers that also break down the lipid coating on the outside of the virus. Use 600 mg per day in adults and 300 mg per day in children. Doses of 3-4 times this amount can be used at the first sign of infection. Overall Immune Builders—There are a plethora of immune building substances that work on building the innate immune system from the bottom up. The most notable of these are medicinal mushrooms, colostrum and PRP peptides, astragalus, and larch arabinogalactans. If you have potential ongoing exposure to the virus, using MycoSheild, a liquid herbal that you spray into the mouth, is also good option. Those with compromised immune systems would also do well to use this type of support. Additional Anti-Viral Herbs—Andrographis is an ayurvedic herb that has anti-viral effects and is known to be useful in viruses of the upper respiratory system. It also supports the liver, which makes and breaks down many of the immune compounds. Stinging nettles has 3 possible actions toward inhibiting COVID-19 and has known action against it in vitro. Skullcap (scutellaria baicalensis) has 3 potential actions against the virus and has been active against it in vitro. Oregano and garlic also have some antiviral effects and may have activity against the virus.
Supporting a Balanced Inflammatory ResponseAlthough inflammation is part of an appropriate immune response, we don’t want the immune system to over react. Inflammasomes are immune protein complexes in the innate immune system that stimulate the inflammatory response. NLRP3 is the inflammasome that is associated with the excess reaction found in some COVID-19 patients. If you have underlying conditions that are characterized by excess inflammation, you may want to take nutrients that ensure that inflammation is balanced. Quercetin—A flavonoid found in many foods that modulates the activity of the NRLP3 inflammasome. It also has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects by stabilizing mast cells and histamine release. It is active against several types of RNA viruses and can help with post-viral recovery. We recommend 500 mg 2X per day, or lesser amounts if combined with other supportive nutrients. This is an excellent choice for those with seasonal allergies that also want protect from the negative effects of the virus. Green tea or EGCG—Modulates the NRLP3 inflammasome, and potentially inhibits one of the main mechanisms by which Covid-19 replicates. Use 3-4 cups of green tea per day, 225 mg in pill form, or lesser amounts if combined with other supportive nutrients. Resveratrol—Modulates the NRLP3 inflammasome and has been shown to have activity against other respiratory viruses in vitro. We recommend 100-150 mg, 2 X per day. This is a good choice for those with existing inflammatory conditions. Curcumin—Has been shown to modulate the NRLP3 inflammasome and may directly reduce COVID-19 viral replication. The recommended dose is 500 mg, 2X per day. You must use a form that has been treated in some way to improve its absorption. This is also a good choice for those with existing inflammatory conditions. Melatonin—Has been shown to have an inhibitory effect on the NRLP3 inflammasome and two recent papers have been published indicating melatonin may be a therapeutic agent with direct activity against COVID-19. Recommended doses are 5-20 mg. SPM’s (Special Pro-Resolving Mediators)—While the research on this has not caught up to that of some other nutrients, I find this to be one of the best supplements for resolving inflammation. It is a derivative of fish oil. Its use should be restricted to recovery or managing serious symptoms as you do not want it to quell the immune response too much.
Managing Stress, Rest, Diet, & ExerciseMany of you are under significant stress at this time, and unfortunately stress can lower immune function. Make sure you are getting proper rest and use nutrients to support a balanced stress response. Magnesium is usually my first go-to for managing stress as it has so many positive effects on the body including a calming effect, relaxing the muscles, enhancing cellular energy production, and activation of Vitamin D. Adaptogens are also excellent for managing the body’s response to stress, and increasing overall stamina. These include herbs like rhodiola, ashwagandha, schizandra, ginseng, holy basil, and others. Cannabinoids such as CBD have receptors in both the nervous and immune systems, so can both calm stress and potentially modulate immune response. Don’t forget other simple things like listening to music, taking a bath, or having some quiet time to meditate, even if it’s only for 5 minutes. Eating a healthy diet will ensure that you get a broad base of nutrients to support overall immune function and energy production. Some plant compounds that may inhibit COVID-19 are kaempferol (spinach, cabbage, dill), quercetin (dill, fennel, red onion, apple, oregano, chili pepper), luteolin (olive), Curcumin (Indian food, turmeric), naringenin (citrus fruits), oleuropein (olive), and catechin and epicatechin (green tea). Using spices liberally is supportive to overall health since many plant compounds have helpful actions in the body. Adequate protein is also essential since the majority of your immune compounds are made from protein. The amount of protein you need each day is based on a variety of factors, but women should generally have 45-55 grams per day and men 60-80 grams. Sugar should be extremely limited as it can suppress the action of white blood cells. And although it is tempting (and prevalent) to drink more alcohol at this time, this is not supportive of the liver, which makes many of the immune compounds. Moderate exercise and fresh air are very healthy, so make sure you are getting both every day if possible. Intense workouts can decrease immune function and should be avoided at this time.
RecoveryI have seen very little about supplements for recovery, but it is safe to assume that several of the immune building nutrients mentioned above can be used. I haven’t seen this recommended too often, but one webinar gave a very good suggestion of using glycine and its cofactors to detox cytokines from the body. Glycine conjugation is one of the liver’s Phase II reactions and the apparent agent for processing cytokines in the liver. It is thought that perhaps a slow recovery is due to the liver’s inability to keep up and this makes sense to me. Bone broth and collagen peptides are both high in glycine, and glycine can also be had by itself as a supplement. So long as most of your symptoms are resolved, adaptogens can likely help with getting your energy back. Green formulas, due to their complete nutrition, high antioxidants, and oxygenation qualities would also be an excellent choice. Antioxidant support will help to resolve some of the damage caused by the virus to tissue in the body.
Summary & Combination FormulasI have tried to include a complete list of the potential nutrients that can help you to ward off Covid-19, or potentially lessen its negative effects. Clearly no one should be taking all of these nutrients. One way to get a good base level of many of the nutrients is to take a top-quality multivitamin such as Phyto Multi by Metagenics, O.N.E. by Pure Encapsulations, or Super 2 Daily by Carlson. There are also several good immune formulas that have a variety of the nutrients listed above: Immune Active—Vitamin C, zinc, NAC, decaffeinated green tea extract, & quercetin Sinuplex-Quercetin, stinging nettles, bromelain, NAC, & Vitamin C AntiOxidant Formula by Pure Encapsulations—Vitamins A, C, E, B2, zinc, selenium, NAC, milk thistle, and carotenoids. Seasonal Shield—Designed to address allergy symptoms, this one also has many of the nutrients discussed above including Vitamins C & D, zinc, quercetin, boswellia, nettle, NAC, bromelain, and grape seed extract. Breathe-X-Vitamin C, magnesium, nettle, astragalus, quercetin, bromelain, and citrus bioflavonoids. If you have nutrients or herbs on the list that you know have worked well for you in the past, I would stick with those in terms of added support. You need to look at your diet and any underlying health conditions for other indications of the best supplements for you personally.
Need Help?I realize this is a lot to digest and some of you may want or need additional help in sorting out what is best for you. If you would like to discuss what nutrients would be supportive to you, I am offering 20 minute consultations for $35. You will need to fill out a health history form as I will need to be aware of current health conditions, medications, diet habits, and supplements that you are on. If your health history is complex, we may need more time and the price will be adjusted accordingly. Please email me at email@example.com if you are interested in making a phone appointment. If you have work or other restrictions, please let me know what days and times you are available and I will try to accommodate you. The Best in Health to You All!! References: Institute for Functional Medicine: Covid-19 Functional Medicine Resources, https://www.ifm.org/news-insights/the-functional-medicine-approach-to-covid-19-virus-specific-nutraceutical-and-botanical-agents/ Datapunk: Covid2019 / SARSCoV2 coronavirus antivirals,https://www.datapunk.net/covid19/antivirals.pl American Nutrition Association: Personalized Nutrition & the COVID-19 Era, https://theana.org/COVID-19
|If you want to cure the world, don’t emanate fear-emanate love. ~Ram Das|
Viral Protection: The Best Defense is a Good Offense
In light of current events, our clients have been asking us what they can do to best protect themselves from immune illness. The CDC has put out information on prevention and treatment which can be found here https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/prevention-treatment.html. Most of these tips relate to good hygiene and tips for minimizing exposure. If you travel for work, work with the public, or just need to live your life in general, below are our ideas for products that will help you fight illness. Please understand that there is no direct evidence that these products specifically fight the coronavirus, but rather that they have anti-viral or other immune-building action and promote respiratory health. As always, if you have serious health problems check with your doctor before using any of these products. Also make sure you have us check for medication interactions in the database we use, or ask your doctor if the use is compatible with your medications. Zinc—This mineral is crucial to immune function. It also is part of the antioxidant system in the body, being a cofactor for SOD, one of the body’s antioxidants in the cell. Zinc can be taken in pill form, but is also available in lozenges. Our take—It can help and is unlikely to hurt at doses of 30-50 mg, taken short term. Please take with food as zinc can cause stomach upset if taken by itself. Echinacea Wellness—This formula combines Echinacea, andrographis, and pelargonium. Echinacea has anti-inflammatory, immunostimulatory, antioxidant, and antiviral effects. It has been used for centuries for the common cold, and more recently for viruses such as herpes and HPV. Andrographis has been found to have in vitro antiviral effects against avian influenza A and human influenza H1N1 and HIV. Pelargonium has antiviral, antimicrobial, and immunomodulatory effects. It also has an affinity for the respiratory system. Our take: this one has great antiviral action, is targeted to the respiratory system, and can aid you in resolving a virus. If we run out of this, the Echinacea Goldenseal by Gaia, Andrographis by Source Naturals, Esberitox, and others are good options. Sambu or SambuGuard—Two elderberry-based syrups known to fight respiratory bugs. Elderberry and elder flower are two strong antiviral herbs that have been used to combat colds and flus for years. Elder flower is an antipyretic (fights fevers) and has strong antiviral properties. Elderberry may prevent viral replication. Since these are liquids, they directly touch the respiratory tissue, potentially stopping bugs before they manifest in the body. Our take: This one has been used for centuries for respiratory illness. If we run out of this, other good options are the Elderberry syrup by Gaia or the elderberry-based Sambucus products. Breathe—This product combines 3 medicinal mushrooms; chaga, reishi, and cordyceps. All of the medicinal mushrooms have strong immune-stimulating effects. Chaga has a very high antioxidant capacity, so is helpful with the damage that the inflammatory process causes. Reishi has immune-modulating effects, and helps the body react better to stress such as illness. Cordyceps has an affinity to the lung and kidneys and can fortify the lungs. Our take: This product is excellent for strengthening the lungs and keeping illness at bay. Once illness has begun, it must be combined with herbs that have action against viruses. Immuni-T—This one combines larch arabinogalactans, olive leaf extract, shilajit, echinacea, andrographis, and goldenseal. Larch arabinogalactan is a polysaccharide that stimulates several aspects of immune function. Olive leaf has broad-spectrum antimicrobial effects and is used to combat viruses, potentially preventing viral replication. Shilajit is a strong antioxidant that helps to buffer the effect of any excess inflammation. Goldenseal has antibacterial action and andrographis and echinacea’s effects are listed above. Our take—This is a powerful immune builder and also has some antiviral effects. Antioxidants—Serious cases of the virus have caused lung damage that appears to be related to the an excess inflammatory reaction. While inflammation is crucial to fighting disease, when the process gets out of control it can cause lasting damage to tissues. Many of the herbs recommended herein have antioxidant qualities, but it may also be wise to support the antioxidant systems in the body. Vitamins C, E, Zinc, Selenium, Alpha Lipoic Acid, NAC, glutathione, and others can be helpful. Our take: NAC has a mucolytic effect on the lungs and glutathione is one of the body’s main detoxifying agents, so these may be the most valuable. Myco Sheild Spray—A combination of medicinal mushrooms that are known to have antimicrobial effects. Agarikon, its first ingredient, has antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal properties. Our take: Since the virus appears to be spread through droplets that enter the respiratory system, it makes sense to use protection that directly touches this part of the body. Echinacea Goldenseal Propolis Throat Spray—Three powerful herbs with antimicrobial properties in spray form that can help with the first line of defense against the virus. Our take—If you can handle the bitter taste, this one is a good bet. If you have more sensitive taste buds opt for the Throat Guardian, a propolis extract. Good Samaritan Essential Oil Blend—A blend of germ-fighting essential oils like cinnamon, lemon, clove, eucalyptus, and rosemary. Use it in a carrier oil on your hands, diffuse it into your workspace, or put a dab around the nose for germ protection. Our take: You’ll see this being diffused on our counter. We’re taking this precaution along with many others. Please note that while we want you to have some ideas about ways to protect yourself, this list is by no means exhaustive. There are many different ways to do this. Also, we want to reiterate that none of these herbs or nutrients has been shown specifically to have action against Covid-19. If you have contracted the virus, please see your doctor. The virus can develop quickly and can cause lasting damage to the lungs if you have a severe case.
The ABC’s of True DetoxificationDoing a detox is all the rage right now, but what constitutes a true detoxification program? You may feel cleaner and lighter, but is your liver really functioning better? That is the real goal of a detox program. The liver is the body’s main detoxifying organ. While toxins exit the body through the bowel and the kidneys, the liver is actually performing the work of detoxification. Toxins enter the liver through the bloodstream and are broken down in two phases. Then they are released via bile into the digestive system or are filtered from the blood through the kidneys. Autoimmune disease, cancers, allergies, heart disease, and many other diseases are now being linked to toxic load. Periodic detoxing is a great way to stay ahead of the toxic burden we face every day.
Why Detox?There are currently over 85,000 chemicals in use worldwide. Less than half of these have been tested for human safety. One study showed that newborn minority babies had more than 200 chemicals in their umbilical cords at birth. (1) Exposure of infants and young children is of great concern. Their young systems often cannot keep up with the toxic burden presented by the environment. I would conjecture that the huge rise in autism, ADD, ADHD, and other childhood diseases is directly related to environmental exposures. Pesticide use has risen substantially over the last 10 years. This is despite claims that genetically modified foods would reduce the need for them. One billion pounds of pesticides are used in the U.S. each year. 5.6 billion pounds are used worldwide. It is estimated that 25 million agricultural workers experience pesticide poisoning each year. The USDA estimates that 50 million Americans get drinking water from groundwater contaminated with pesticides. Chemicals are a real and growing threat to our health.(2) One way to reduce the threat of toxic burden is to periodically detox. But a real detox isn’t just your average juice cleanse. Cleaning up your diet is great for the digestive system and ultimately overall health. But this doesn’t do the full job of cleaning out the body.
Here is what is needed for a complete detox:1) Phase I detoxification is performed by 100 enzymes known as cytochrome P450. In this stage, toxins are converted by the liver into intermediate forms. Free radicals are naturally produced in this phase, so antioxidants are very important to neutralize them. Vitamins B2 & B3, magnesium, iron, and indoles from cruciferous vegetables are also crucial to this phase. Some of the intermediate forms of the toxins produced are more dangerous than the original toxin. It is crucial that Phase II is carried out and the job is finished. 2) In Phase II, the intermediate forms are converted to water soluble forms by a number of methods. The water-soluble form is then excreted either in bile through the digestive system, or through the kidneys. Glutathione or NAC and the amino acids glycine, cysteine, glutamine, methionine, and taurine are necessary for Phase II. Fiber binds toxins carried in the bile. It is CRUCIAL to making sure that toxins leave the system. Lots of water will also assist the release of water-soluble forms through the kidneys. 3) Heavy metals must be chelated to be removed from the system. Contamination by mercury, cadmium, and lead is now commonplace. Some detox products have nutrients that remove heavy metals and others do not. Below is a review of the types of detoxification programs out there and the potential pitfalls of each:
Specific Diet PlansHealthy diet plans eliminate “heavy” foods and those that are typical allergens. This can go a long way toward reducing inflammation in the body and getting the digestive system working properly. Foods generally eliminated are red meats, dairy, nuts, soy, wheat and gluten. These “detox diets” focus on whole foods, lots of vegetables, and moderate quantities of fruit. They are great for the body overall and represent the way we should be eating on a regular basis. They can provide the antioxidants and nutrients needed for Phase I detoxification. However, they often are short on the protein needed for Phase II detoxification. They also do not provide extra nutrients to support the liver. They may or may not have nutrients to accomplish heavy metal detox.
Juice CleansesCleansing with juice is very popular right now. Fresh-pressed juices provide excellent nutrition and antioxidants for Phase I detoxification. Because juices are low in protein you will not get the amino acids necessary to adequately perform Phase II detoxification. As mentioned above, this can be dangerous since the intermediate forms of toxins produced by Phase I are more harmful than the original toxins. They also fall short in providing the fiber necessary to make sure toxins exit the digestive system. Those with weight or blood sugar issues should avoid cleansing in this way since the sugars are concentrated in juices, and the fibers are lessened. If you are a healthy person and have a healthy weight, a 2-3 day juice cleanse may be a good rest for the digestive system and will provide good nutrition, but is not a true detox.
Herbal Detox ProgramsThese combine a variety of herbs targeted at the many channels of elimination; the liver, the kidneys, the bowel, the lungs, the blood, the skin and the lymph. Most have milk thistle and dandelion, two premier herbs for the liver. If done with a healthy diet and adequate fiber and water, these programs can do a very good job of detoxing the body. If you are on prescription drugs, you need to be aware of any interactions with herbs. For this reason, we don’t recommend herbal cleanses for those on more than one prescription drug. The chance for negative interactions is too great.
Complete Detox ProgramsSeveral professional lines offer detox programs that consist of a medical food (shake) that contains specific nutrients for Phase I & II detoxification, a quality source of protein, and often, nutrients for metal detox. The shakes are partnered with diets that eliminate potential allergens and heavy foods. The diets also contain significant fiber and focus on fruits and vegetables that contain specific nutrients that assist the detoxification process in the liver. These are the most complete programs, as well as the safest. You will feel cleaner, lighter, have more energy, improve your mood, and notice a better quality to your skin. In addition and more importantly, you will have reduced your toxic load and enhanced your liver’s ability to process toxins.
ADD and ADHD: The Right Nutrition Can Make a World of DifferenceThe CDC’s most recent information on ADD/ADHD (2016), indicates that 6.1 million children between the ages of 2 and 17 have been diagnosed with the conditions, 11% of all children in this age group. Boys are more likely to be affected than girls, and the numbers have undoubtedly grown since the survey was performed. Attention issues affect not just kids, but their parents and teachers as well. Parents are pressured to medicate their children and are not offered other alternatives. To assist those who want to make natural changes first, I have read 6 different books on the subject by various natural experts. I will summarize for you what I have learned, and what you can do immediately to help your child manage these conditions. One thing that seems to be agreed upon is that the conditions of ADD/ADHD are the result of a malfunction of the nervous system. The brain becomes overwhelmed with stimuli causing the person to either “turn off” or be overly wired. Some cases of ADD/ADHD are also accompanied by learning issues, and motor development or behavior issues. You want to make sure you have received a proper diagnosis. Things like food allergies or sensitivities, a highly energized/creative/sensitive personality, and digestive issues can be mistaken for ADD/ADHD. According to Darrell Evans in his book Ritalin: A Psychiatric Assault on Children he explains that diagnosing children with ADD is difficult. Of the fourteen symptoms listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, 7 can apply to perfectly normal children. Examples are; often fidgets with hands or feet and squirms in the seat, easily distracted by extraneous stimuli, talks excessively, often acts before thinking, needs a lot of supervision, runs about and climbs on things excessively, and has difficulty sticking to a play activity. ADD-like behavior can be caused by high sugar consumption, underactive thyroid, high copper or other heavy metals, chemical toxins, under or over-active adrenal glands, enzyme defects, previous infections, Candida, or heavy metal poisoning. We need to identify and treat underlying issues before giving drugs to kids. Just like any other chronic problem, ADD and ADHD can be the result of toxicity and/or deficiency. The growing prevalence of ADD/ADHD mirrors the growing presence of heart problems, obesity, cancer and asthma. Our children’s bodies are overloaded by chemicals and their diets are deficient in important nutrients. The following things have contributed to the increase in these conditions:
- A decrease in the amount of fresh food consumed
- A decrease in the minerals in our soils due to factory farming
- An increase in the intake of processed foods
- An increase in the amount of refined sugar consumed
- Vitamin, mineral, neurotransmitter and essential fatty acid (omega-3) deficiencies
- Insecticide and pesticide use
- Heavy metal contamination
- Chemical cleaners
- Chemical building and decorating products
- Poor quality drinking water that is chlorinated and flouridated
- Electromagnetic contamination
- Food allergies
- Increased use of antibiotics
- Genetically modified foods
- Dairy and meat raised with antibiotics, hormones and steroids
- Skin products that disrupt endocrine function and are carcinogenic
- Doctors who prescribe a pill before taking into account these other factors
Use a Magnesium SupplementMagnesium is crucial to the relaxation of the nervous system and also helps us manage blood sugar. It is involved in over 300 biochemical reactions in the body. As noted above, as many as 80-90% of all children may be deficient in this important mineral. It is found in dark, leafy greens, nuts and seeds, and kelp. If your child craves chocolate, this may indicate that they are magnesium deficient. Magnesium can be found as a powdered drink, a liquid, or in pill form. The dosage would be 100-600 mg, depending on the size of the child. Magnesium must be balanced with calcium, so if your child does not get enough calcium in their diet, a calcium/magnesium supplement may be more appropriate.
Add a B ComplexThe B vitamins help with 5 issues related to ADD/ADHD. They are used to break down your food, to nourish the adrenal glands, nourish the nerves, make neurotransmitters, and better react to stress. There is little harm, and great potential for benefit, by adding this for a child who needs extra support.
Add Essential Fatty Acids to the DietOmega-3s are often deficient in the American diet. The body cannot manufacture them, so they must be taken in through the diet. Omega-3s, the “good fats”, are vital to brain function and improve focus, concentration, and mood. Omega- 3 fats positively affect the health of the cell membrane. Since the health of this membrane determines what gets in and out of each and every cell, they are crucial to cell function and hence bodily function. Healthy neurotransmitter activity is highly dependent on the health of the cell membrane. Omega-3 oils break down into two beneficial components, EPA and DHA. EPA is an important anti-inflammatory so can help with any condition where this is an issue—acne, asthma, food allergies, gut inflammation, etc. DHA is high in brain tissue so is crucial to mood, attention, and overall learning. Omega-3s also help with the sensitivity of the cell membrane to insulin, allowing kids to better process the sugar they are eating. Food sources of omega-3s are fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, and cod. Good plant sources are flax, walnuts, canola (must use organic), chia seeds and hemp seeds. If you are using omega-3s therapeutically, fish oil is best because it is the best source of EPA and DHA. Omega-3s must be balanced in a 1:2 ratio with Omega-6 and the typical American diet is 1:20! Omega-6 in excess can be inflammatory, irritating almost any health condition you can think of. Omega-6s are found in grains and oils like corn oil, safflower, and sunflower. Most snack foods are loaded with Omega-6 fats. Research has found that individuals with higher omega-3 status are less sensitive to foods overall.
Take a MultivitaminVitamins and minerals are required for the production of neurotransmitters, the health of the nervous system, protection against heavy metals, enzymatic reactions, proper digestion, thyroid health, normal growth and repair (zinc), and blood sugar management. Giving your child a quality multivitamin can go a long way toward improving attention by aiding these functions. Make sure that the multi covers the primary vitamins and minerals and also has some of the trace minerals. Our staff can help you choose one that provides great support.
Improve DigestionA sensitivity to one or more foods can cause ADD/ADHD symptoms. Poor gut health caused by illness, antibiotics, and poor diet can have profound effects on the ability to concentrate. A weakening of the gut wall can allow undigested food particles to enter the bloodstream where they wreak havoc on the body. This stress on the body causes stress to the nervous system. Serotonin, one of the calming neurotransmitters, is mainly made in the gut, so the health of the gut is paramount to its production. When the healthy bacteria in the gut is compromised, tryptophan, which is normally converted to serotonin, gets converted to quinolinic acid, a brain toxin. Since most of our immune function lies in the gut, keeping the gut healthy can also protect against illness and the yeast/Candida overgrowth that can cause ADD/ADHD. Taking a probiotic can reduce allergies to food, assist serotonin production, and improve elimination (whereby we rid ourselves of toxins). Enzymes can be used in cases where it appears that food is not being properly digested like burping, a full feeling in the stomach after eating, bloating and gas. Enzymes are specific to certain foods like starches, sugars, proteins and fats. You can also find enzymes that assist with the digestion of common allergens like dairy, gluten, beans, and soy. While removing the offending food is the most desirable, I have found the enzymes useful in situations where you cannot control what your child is eating such as a birthday party, sleepover, or vacation.
Eat CleanPesticides and other chemicals in food are causing health issues. By eating organic you will avoid non-food additives, pesticides, growth hormones and the routine use of antibiotics in animal products. The excessive use of antibiotics in animals can contribute to the development of resistant bacteria and the weakening of the immune system. Infections and Candida overgrowth can promote ADD-like symptoms. All of these hazardous ingredients in your food are, by definition, excluded from organic products. Many people feel that they cannot afford organic products but I strongly suggest that you consider this an investment in your child’s health. Organic produce does not have insecticides and pesticides sprayed on it. Did you know that some insecticides literally target the nervous system of bugs and that is how they kill them? Does it make sense to you that these same insecticides and pesticides, with repeated exposure, could harm your child’s nervous system? There are roughly 3000 food additives that are currently approved for use. The Center for Science in the Public Interest names the top food additives to avoid including sodium nitrite (in lunch meats), saccharin (Sweet N’ Low), aspartame (Nutrasweet), acesulfame-K, trans fats, olestra, BHA, potassium bromate, propyl gallate, and food dyes. I would add MSG to the list. Many artificial flavorings and colorings have been banned in Europe and several Asian countries due to their link to hyperactivity in children and even cancer in animal studies. Become a label reader and go for packaged foods that offer some basic nutrition, have only a few ingredients, and avoid these additives.
Reduce SugarAccording to Parent’s Magazine, children under 12 eat a whopping 49 pounds of sugar per year! That’s 61 grams of sugar per day! The USDA recommends that kids eat less than 25 grams per day. Refined sugar causes the blood sugar to spike very quickly, causing a rush of insulin to the bloodstream. Insulin is what allows the sugar to be taken into the cell so that it can be used for energy. Being that bodies are not completely efficient, sometimes too much insulin is released. This creates a blood sugar level that is too low. Now your child craves more sugar to get the blood sugar back up. Blood sugar swings spell trouble with ADD/ADHD. Complex carbohydrates that release sugar more slowly into the bloodstream allow the body time to properly process the sugar, and are a healthier alternative. Natural sweeteners are even better alternatives. They convert to glucose more slowly or contain the nutrients in them that allow your child to process the sugar better, such as the mineral chromium. Refined sugar has had most of the nutrients stripped out of it that would allow for its proper processing by the body. We don’t have to deprive our kids of the sweet taste, but there are better alternatives like cane sugar, raw, unprocessed sugar, high quality honey or maple syrup (think farmer’s market, not grocery store), brown rice syrup, agave, xylitol, stevia, and more. Many of these can be used in place of sugar in baking if you follow package directions on how to substitute. Some are are 1:1 with sugar and others are not.
Take a Break from Electromagnetic EnergyThe importance of getting kids away from cell phones and video games cannot be over-emphasized. Talk about over-stimulation! Did you know that walking barefoot in the grass or on the beach calms the nervous system and re-grounds us? Encourage frequent outdoor play. Teens may rail against this since they are so married to their phones, but be insistent! Even a few minutes can reap benefits.
Filter Your WaterAlthough Chicago has one of the better water sources in the country, keeping our water sources clean is a constant battle. Organizations like Environmental Illinois have a mission to protect Lake Michigan from companies that would like to dump their waste there. And although water is treated before it gets to us, there are increasingly more contaminants to deal with. Prescription drugs, metals, chemicals, pesticides and insecticides are all found in water. Chlorine and fluoride are added to our water to improve and fortify it, but but these halogens can block iodine, reducing thyroid function. Filtering your water with a pitcher like Brita or Barrier takes chlorine and several metals out of your water. If you want greater protection, we have a 10-stage carbon water filter that removes over 50 chemicals from water that can be attached to any standard kitchen faucet.
ExerciseExercise can benefit just about any health condition, including ADD and ADHD. It improves circulation to the brain, lowers cortisol and therefore stress, and evens out the blood sugar. My mom used to kick us outside to play every day and what a blessing that was!
Become an EnvironmentalistIt doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the huge increased incidence of all disease in this country, including ADD and ADHD, is linked to our environment. There are currently 80,000 chemicals in use in industry, agricultural production, consumer products, skin care products, and even our foods. Only half of these have ever been tested for human safety. Skin care products are one of the things we can control. The term “fragrance” on shampoos, conditioners, perfumes, body lotions, moisturizers, shaving cream, etc. houses a dangerous group of chemicals called phthalates. Phthalates are known endocrine disruptors. That means they can wreak havoc on the thyroid, adrenals, and sex hormones. SLS is another chemical commonly used in products that foam or lather. That includes toothpaste! SLS can degrade into 1-4 dioxane, a known carcinogen. BPA is a dangerous chemical found in plastic and is commonly found in water bottles and the lining of canned foods. It is now banned from use in children’s toys! Become an informed consumer and buy only from those companies who make safe products and care for the earth. In conclusion, ADD can be complex, but often changes in diet, exercise, and supplementation can do more for the real cause of the problem than you can imagine. I have had numerous parents in the store that are looking for alternatives to medication and have found supplements that make a big difference. Some of these supplements are very basic nutrition and don’t require over-analysis. That said, if your child is being treated by a doctor for this condition, do let them know what you plan to do and certainly tell them when you have success with the changes!
Beware Cheap Turmeric
Turmeric is the best-selling supplement in the U.S. since 2013. It is used mainly for its anti-inflammatory qualities. Turmeric has been shown to benefit a wide range of organs including the liver, brain, intestines, and heart. Due to its popularity and high cost, unscrupulous manufacturers have begun to alter it. As a supplement purchaser, you will want to choose companies that have high integrity in their raw material procurement and the necessary raw material testing tools to back this up. Turmeric is the recent subject of a Botanical Adulterants Bulletin put out by the Botanical Adulterants Protection Program (BAPP). This program was started by a not-for profit organization whose purpose is to aid raw materials purchasing departments in identifying adulterated botanicals. Adulterated botanicals may be ineffective, or worse, cause harm to consumers. BAPP is a joint venture including the American Botanical Council, the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia, and the University of Mississippi’s National Center for Products Research. The curcumin bulletin, like all others they put out, is peer reviewed by 18 industry and academic experts. The recent bulletin noted the following: It is relatively easy to adulterate curcumin that is received in powdered form. However, it is not so easy to detect this adulteration. Ingredients such as starch, cassava, chalk powder, and synthetic dyes have been found in “turmeric” supplements. Colorants such as lead chromate and metanil yellow have also been detected. Metanil yellow has been connected with serious conditions such as neurotoxicity, liver cancer, tumor development, negative effects on gastric mucin (protects the lining of the gut), and lymphocytic lymphoma. Certain physical and colorimetric tests can be used to identify adulterants, and HPLC (high performance liquid chromatography) can be used to make sure the correct species of turmeric is used. The second significant issue with turmeric quality is its bioavailability. Curcuminoids are the compounds in turmeric that are responsible for its anti-inflammatory properties. Because the curcuminoids in turmeric are not readily used by the body, absorption and use by the body must be enhanced by combining turmeric with another substance. Companies may use a phospholipid complex, turmeric essential oil, black pepper, fenugreek fiber, or some other method to improve bioavailability. You will want to make sure that the turmeric has been treated in some way to address this issue. For these reasons, it is best to use a turmeric supplement that comes from a reputable manufacturer with sophisticated testing equipment, strict raw material review processes, and that contains effective levels of curcuminoids. Companies that employ these methods have very high quality, but not the lowest prices. Here is a sampling of our best-selling turmeric/curcumin and how the manufacturer ensures quality: Thorne’s Meriva—Thorne tests every batch of raw materials for identity and purity. It also tests every finished product for identity, potency, and purity. Thorne uses a phospholipid complex to ensure bioavailability. Meriva has also been the subject of numerous clinical trials supporting its efficacy. Gaia Herbs Turmeric Supreme—Whole turmeric rhizome must arrive at their organic processing facility intact to ensure species verification. This eliminates the opportunity for raw materials suppliers to alter product that arrives as a powder. Gaia uses a black pepper extract to ensure that the turmeric can be used by the body. Testing is also done for identity and purity of finished product. Curamed or Curamin by Terry Naturally—These products use a patented extract of turmeric call Curcugreen (formerly known as BCM-95) made by Arjuna Naturals. Arjuna employs strict testing procedures and the BCM-95 (now Curcugreen) has 33 published clinical studies behind it. Curcugreen uses turmeric essential oil to improve bioavailability. Theracurmin by Natural Factors—This turmeric extract was the subject of a recent AARP article. The raw material is made by a company called Theravalues that is ISO and GMP certified in the U.S.. It also undergoes the more stringent requirements of Japan’s regulatory agencies for food ingredients. Theracurmin uses a vegetable gum to reduce the particle size of curcumin to increase its solubility and bioavailability. Turmeric forte by Standard Process–Standard Process sells herbs under its MediHerb arm, an Australian manufacturer of quality herbs. MediHerb has a pharmacuetical grade manufacturing facility. It uses high performance liquid chromatography to ensure proper identity of herbs and their active ingredients. Proper levels of curcuminoids, the compound that give turmeric its anti-inflammatory properties, are also measured. A fiber from fenugreek seed is used to increase the amount of turmeric available to the blood. The bottom line is this: if you are going to use turmeric or the curcumin extracted from it, make sure you use a quality brand. The brands we carry may not be the least expensive ones you can find, but they are safe, effective, and have clinical science behind them. The moral of the story is that cheaper does not mean better! Please stop by and let us help you choose one that is right for you.
Health Tonics: Our Top 5 for FallAs we move into fall, it’s time to whip out the health tonics to fortify our bodies for the coming winter. Cold & flu season has already begun and it’s best to be proactive. Stock up on these favorites to warm the body, give it an immune boost, enhance digestion, maintain flexibility, improve skin quality, and more! Each is a whole food option to add to your daily routine. Read on to see which best fits your needs:
Golden MilkOne of the traditional Ayurvedic health tonics made easy for you. It is a blend of turmeric, black pepper, ashwaganda, vanilla and dates. Turmeric is a known anti-inflammatory herb that is well-absorbed when combined with black pepper. It is also supportive to the liver and has been studied for its positive effects on Alzheimer’s, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, pain, inflammatory bowel disease, and more. Ashwaganda is an adaptogen that helps the body react better to stress, improves thyroid health, and is a component in many sleep formulas. Vanilla boosts mood and dates are a great source of vitamins and minerals. Just add to your favorite milk—coconut, almond, hemp, rice, or cow’s milk. Add a teaspoon of ghee to promote colonic health, a pinch of saffron for a bigger mood boost, and 1-2 teaspoons of honey to desired sweetness and enjoy!
Bone brothIf you don’t have the time or inclination to make your own broth, this is a great substitute. With 20 grams of well-digested protein, it is excellent for those who workout, are recovering from injury, illness or surgery, or just need to build their health. It boosts muscle, tendon, ligament, bone, and gut health. It is naturally high in glycine, chondroitin, glucosamine, collagen, and hyaluronic acid. Glycine is used to make creatine, which supports healthy muscles. It is also important to detoxification. Chondroitin, glucosamine, and hyaluronic provide the building blocks for the joints. Collagen is in literally every connective tissue in the body—bones, ligaments, tendons, the gut lining, the skin, hair and nails, and the extracellular matrix. One of the latest and greatest health tonics taken by health nuts everywhere. Get strong with bone broth!
Herbal Aloe ForceThere are so many reasons to take aloe—to quell inflammation, boost the immune system, attack gut pathogens, and quench free radicals. Aloe is soothing to the gut lining, and is anti-viral, anti-parasitic, anti-bacterial, and antioxidant. This aloe not only has the aloin removed to prevent undesirable laxative effects, but is fortified with multiple herbs that promote the immune system and its regulation. You’ll get the benefits of cat’s claw, astragalus, pau d’arco, chamomile, hawthorne berry and the “Essiac” herbs. Cat’s claw is an immune system modulator, astragalus builds the immune system from the bottom up, and pau d’arco fights pathogenic yeast. Chamomile soothes the stomach and is anti-bacterial, hawthorn improves circulation, and the Essiac herbs are potent detoxifiers and blood cleansers. Use it to improve digestive health, deal with pain and inflammation throughout the body, bolster the immune response, and oxygenate the body.
Fire CiderOur customers couldn’t love this more! Raw apple cider vinegar and a great combination of herbs make for a great tonic. It stimulates digestion, keeps colds and flus away, delivers an energy pick-me-up, is great in dressings, and will nip a hangover. You’ll find ginger, garlic, onion, horseradish, turmeric, habanero pepper, orange and lemon in this Certified Organic mix. Add to juice or tea, cook with it, or just throw a shot back!
Stamets 7 Mushroom BlendMushrooms are excellent health tonics. Pack a punch for daily immune health with this blend of 7 certified organic mushrooms. Mushrooms build the immune system due to their high polysaccharide content. They also have a full spectrum of beneficial compounds including antioxidants, minerals, fatty acids, and enzymes. The blend supports the body’s adaptation to physical, mental, and environmental stress. It includes reishi, lion’s mane, chaga, maitake, royal sun blazei, cordyceps, and messima. Take 2 capsules and be well! Ideally we want to keep our bodies strong and resilient rather than waiting until we become ill. Pick the health tonic that best suits your needs and add it to your daily regimen. If you need help, ask any of our staff to assist you. Each of these health tonics is a great way to use whole food nutrition to strengthen your body. We’ll be sampling the fire cider and the golden milk throughout the month so stop by and try them!
Collagen Peptides: Not Just for Skin!Most of us know collagen as a topical agent in skin creams and serums. It improves the quality and appearance of our skin. But collagen peptides, taken as a daily supplement, can enhance not only skin, hair, and nails, but also improve exercise recovery, fortify the gut lining, improve detoxification, and strengthen tendons, ligaments, and cartilage. Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body and lends structural integrity to the skin, the bones, tendons, ligaments, hair and nails. Dietary sources of collagen include bone marrow, organ meats, and the bones of small fish. Modern diets tend to lack a source of of this important nutrient. We also tend to lose collagen in the body as we age. Collagen is naturally high in glycine, proline, hydroxylproline, arginine, and glutamic acid, all of which relate to it beneficial properties. The peptides are hydrolyzed collagen fragments. Contrary to what you may have heard, they can be taken up in the gut intact1, and hence reach tissues where they are needed. Here are the top reasons to include these peptides in your supplement routine:
To Boost the Health and Appearance of Your Skin.The skin has two layers, the epidermis, or outermost layer, and the dermis, the supporting layer underneath. The dermis provides structure, supplies blood to the epidermis, and delivers nutrients that help to rebuild and repair the skin. Stress, aging, sun exposure, alcohol, and lack of sleep all affect the integrity of the dermis. Studies have shown that collagen peptides can reach the skin and have a stimulatory effect on dermal metabolism.1 One study of a specific collagen peptide showed a noticeable reduction in skin dryness, wrinkles, and skin-fold depth, as well as an increase in skin density and firmness in 60 days. Adding hyaluronic acid to it can also improve hydration of the skin, increase elasticity, and reduce wrinkles.2
To Strengthen Your Bones, Joints, Tendons, and Ligaments.A 24-week trial found that collagen peptides can potentially protect against joint degradation in athletes and improve measures of pain.3 Another study of older males with sarcopenia found significant improvement in fat free mas, fat mass, and sensory motor control over 12 weeks when collagen supplementation was combined with resistance training.4 Collagen peptides are naturally high in the amino acids glycine and arginine, which are good substrates for creatine. Creatine is important for energy recycling in the muscle. Studies are mixed on the benefit of collagen for osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, but it is considered moderately effective for both.6 Anecdotally, I think collagen is amazing for healing from injury, strengthening all of the connective tissues, and to boosting tissue recovery in athletes.
To Heal the Gut.The structural integrity of the gut is crucial to its proper function. The mucous membranes and underlying structure in the gut are the body’s first line of defense and support nutrient absorption. Just like our outer skin, our inner skin depends on collagen as a major structural protein. Degradation of the gut barrier is implicated in IBD, Crohn’s disease, food allergies, and many other inflammatory diseases. Collagen supports the structure of the gut and thus is important to its overall function. One study found that it may attenuate TNF-alpha induced barrier function in the gut, which is implicated in IBD.5
To Improve Sleep.Collagen peptides are naturally high in glycine, which acts as a calming neurotransmitter. Glycine is also high in the cerebrospinal fluid, showing its importance to the nervous system. Due to its calming affects, it can improve anxiety and sleeplessness.
To Promote Detoxification.Glycine is also a part of the body’s Phase II detoxification system. It binds to certain toxicants and makes them water soluble so that they can be excreted. It is one of three amino acids that compose glutathione, one of our body’s main detoxifying agents. Collagen peptides are sourced from beef, pork, chicken or fish bones. You want to make sure that you choose a well-sourced brand using grass-fed, organic, or in the case of fish, wild-caught sources Collagen is well-tolerated and has no major side effects.6 We love the Vital Proteins bran. In my opinion, this one’s a no-brainer for anyone who wants to improve skin or gut health, athletes, and anyone who has suffered an injury. References:
- Schunck M, Zague V, Oesser S, Proksch E. Dietary Supplementation with Specific Collagen Peptides Has a Body Mass Index-Dependent Beneficial Effect on Cellulite Morphology. J Med Food. 2015;18(12):1340-1348. doi:10.1089/jmf.2015.0022.
- Borumand M, Sibilla S. Daily consumption of the collagen supplement Pure Gold Collagen®reduces visible signs of aging. Clin Interven Aging. 2014;9:1747-1758. doi:10.2147/CIA.S65939.
- Clark KL, Sebastianelli W, Flechsenhar KR, Aukermann DF, Meza F, Millard RL, et al. 24-week study on the use of collagen hydrolysate as a dietary supplement in athletes with activity-related joint pain. Curr Med Res Opin. 2008; 24(5): 1485-1496. doi: 10.1185/030079908X291967
- Zdzieblik D, Oesser S, Baumstark MW, Gollhofer A, König D. Collagen peptide supplementation in combination with resistance training improves body composition and increases muscle strength in elderly sarcopenic men: a randomised controlled trial. The British Journal of Nutrition. 2015;114(8):1237-1245. doi:10.1017/S0007114515002810.
- Chen Q, Chen O, Martins IM, Hou H, Ahao X, Blumberg JB, et al. Collagen pepteides ameliorate intestinal epithelial barrier dysfunction in immunostimulatroy Caco-2 cell monolayers via enhancing tight junctions. Food Funct. 2017; 8(3): 1144-1151. doi: 10.1039/c6fo01347c.
- Arthritis Research UK. http://www.arthritisresearchuk.org/arthritis-information/complementary-and-alternative-medicines/cam-report/complementary-medicines-for-rheumatoid-arthritis/collagen.aspx
Pregnancy Nutrition: Mother, Father, and Baby Part IIPregnancy nutrition is vital to the health of your developing baby. The first three months of pregnancy are when all of the organs and the nervous system are developing. Good nutrition during this time is vital to these processes. Below we summarize the most important things you can do to ensure that you have a healthy baby.
Continue reading below or download a printable PDF versionGeneral
- Once pregnant, you should gain 25-35 lbs if you are a normal weight. It is not recommended to lose weight during pregnancy, but a gain of only 15-25 lbs may be recommended if you are overweight or obese. Those with a BMI of less than 20 may need to gain 25-35 lbs during pregnancy to ensure that both they and the baby are getting the right nutrition.
- Protein requirements increase from about 46g to as much as 71g per day during pregnancy. Use a clean-sourced protein shake if you have trouble eating enough food to satisfy this requirement.
- Low carb diets are not appropriate for pregnancy. Women require a minimum of 100-175g of carbohydrate per day in pregnancy. At least half should be whole grains.
- As much as 33% of calories can come from fat; emphasize polyunsaturated fats (fatty fish, flax oil, grass-fed animal products) and monounsaturated (olive oil, nuts and seeds, avocado). Avoid trans fats and limit saturated fat.
- Eat nutrient-dense foods like avocado, whole grains, grass-fed meats, organic poultry, low-mercury fish, dark, leafy greens, and other fruits and vegetables. Avoid processed foods that have little nutrient value.
- Dads-to-be can support the process by eating what their wives are eating–sans the additional nutrients, of course!
- Eating organic will minimize your baby’s contact with pesticides, antibiotics, steroid hormones, and most food additives. This includes fruits and vegetables, and also using organic dairy, meat, and packaged food sources.
- There is sufficient evidence from animal studies to raise concern over the consumption of genetically modified foods (GMOs). Corn, soy, and canola foods are typically GMO—look for organic sources of these foods or avoid them during pregnancy.
- Increased progesterone during pregnancy makes you more vulnerable to infection, so foodborne illness is a greater risk. Make sure to wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly and eat only well-cooked meats. Avoid raw eggs (including batter) and fish. Cat litter sometimes harbors parasites, so have another family member take responsibility for changing the litter.
- Mercury can cause serious consequences to brain health. Avoid large, predatory fish like shark, swordfish, tilefish and albacore tuna.
- Folic acid—this nutrient is essential for adequate replication of DNA, growth of the fetus, and protection from neural tube defects. It is recommended for all pregnant women to take 400mcg of folic acid per day. Requirements for multiple fetuses are higher. Those with an MTHFR gene mutation may require more folic acid in the 5-methyl THF form.
- Vitamin D–deficiencies in this nutrient are very common, especially in pregnant women. The best source of Vitamin D is unprotected exposure to sunlight. Vitamin D is very important to skeletal development and regulates over 200 genes. A good multivitamin will have 1000-2000IUs of Vitamin D. If your levels are low, your doctor may recommend up to 4000 IUs per day.
- Choline—essential for brain development in the fetus. The average shortfall in the American diet versus the requirement for pregnancy is 200mg. Meat and eggs are the best source of choline, so you may not need to supplement if you eat these foods daily.
- Iodine—the need for iodine increases from 150 to 220 mcg during pregnancy. The best source is iodized salt, along with fish and shellfish. Finding a multivitamin that provides up to 150mcg of iodine is a good way to assure that you meet the increased need for this nutrient.
- Iron—Iron requirements increase from 18 to 27 mg during pregnancy. If your iron tends to be low, if you have fatigue, or if you are vegan or vegetarian, it is important to have your iron levels checked. If stores are low, it is best to supplement separately. If adequate, a multivitamin with up to 18 mg is sufficient.
- DHA—this fatty acid is also very important to brain development. Supplementation with 400-500mg per day has been shown to give benefit.
- Calcium— the RDA for calcium in pregnancy is 1000mg and increases to 1300 mg in the third trimester. If you do not eat dairy on a regular basis you may want to consider supplementation. Great non-dairy sources of calcium are sardines, dark, leafy greens, sesame seeds, and fortified cereals and orange juice. Some people that don’t digest dairy well can tolerate whey protein or yogurt, both great sources of calcium.
- Alcohol and caffeine pass easily from the mother’s blood to the fetus. While 1-2 cups of coffee will not do harm, alcohol should be strictly avoided.
- Vitamin A can cause birth defects if taken in excess. Consumption should not exceed 10,000 IUs per day. Some Vitamin A should be consumed as beta carotene (found in orange and yellow fruits), which converts to active Vitamin A if needed.
- Avoid all chemicals and smoking. BPA disrupts hormone balance and can be found in the lining of canned foods, foods packaged in plastic, and some water bottles. Pesticides and herbicides in non-organic foods can act as estrogen in the body and upset the normal balance of hormones.
Preconception Nutrition: Mother, Father and Baby Part IPreconception nutrition is best addressed 6 months before you get pregnant, if possible. Making sure you are at your best possible health will go a long way toward ensuring the best outcome for pregnancy and your child. The first three months after conception are crucial to brain and organ development in the fetus. Yet often women do not know they are pregnant until 1-2 months into this period. There are steps both men and women can take to improve nutritional status, and hence fertility and fetal development. Here are the best ways to ensure proper nutritional status preconception1: For Men: The environment your sperm develops in and the hormones involved in reproduction are both dependent on your nutrition and health status. Sperm takes 70-80 days to mature in the body, so your habits for 3-6 months before conception will affect sperm quality. Here’s what you can do to improve your odds of healthy sperm1: Boost antioxidant power—Ensuring adequate antioxidant status may be the most important thing for ensuring sperm quality. Antioxidant vitamins C, E, selenium, and beta carotene have all been shown to improve sperm quality, quantity, and motility. They protect the outer membrane of sperm, thus protecting the DNA in sperm from damage that can be passed on to the fetus. Eat lots of lemons, limes and tomatoes for Vitamin C, nuts and seeds for Vitamin E, brazil nuts for selenium, and lots of orange and yellow fruits and vegetables for beta carotene. If you have had trouble conceiving, you may want to add an antioxidant supplement supplying these important nutrients. Eat foods high in Zinc—Zinc is both an antioxidant and necessary for testosterone synthesis and sperm maturation. Zinc is high in grass-fed animal products, wild caught seafood, wheat germ, and nuts and seeds. Vegetarians may want to consider supplementing with zinc. Other signs of the need for supplemental zinc are a lack of sense of smell, white spots on the fingernails, and frequent immune illness. Ensure adequate folate—While the use of folate is better known for its importance in female reproduction, adequate folate levels improve sperm count, motility, and quality and reduce chromosomally abnormal sperm. As with women, men’s fertility can be improved by taking 400 mcg of folate per day. Those with an MTHFR mutation may need the 5-methyl THF form and may need to take more. Reduce alcohol and avoid smoking and recreational drugs—Alcohol disrupts hormone levels, smoking directly damages sperm, and recreational drugs are known to decrease the volume and quality of sperm. Avoid environmental exposures to lead and other toxins—Job exposure to lead and other substances can build up in the body and impair fertility. Attain healthy body weight—Both over-nutrition and under-nutrition can affect sperm viability. Gaining or losing 10-15% can have significant impact, so movement toward a healthier weight is necessary in either case. A quality multivitamin can go a long way toward ensuring adequate nutrition for men, especially in cases where the diet isn’t optimal, where there is a lot of work stress, or where travelling causes a lot of eating on the run. For Women: Start a quality prenatal vitamin up to 6 months before conception. The first trimester of pregnancy is crucial to brain and organ development. Since many women don’t know they’re pregnant until a month or more into pregnancy, working on preconception nutrition is the best approach! Get a quality multi that has at least 400 mcg of folate and other important vitamins noted below1. Discontinue birth control pills—It generally takes 3-6 months for fertility to return after using an oral contraceptive so go off of your birth control ahead of when you wish to conceive. Studies have shown that birth control pills deplete several vitamins—B2,B6, B12, folic acid, Vitamin C, magnesium.2 Each of these vitamins is involved in DNA replication either via energy production, antioxidant protection, or by providing the necessary building blocks for DNA. Folic acid is well known for preventing neural tube defects and requirements for it double during pregnancy. We highly recommend starting a prenatal vitamin before pregnancy to correct any deficiencies. Those with an MTHFR gene mutation will want to take a multi that has the 5-methyl THF form of folate, and may need to take additional folate. Check iron status—Requirements for iron increase substantially in pregnancy to expand the blood supply and support neural development of the fetus. It is difficult to raise iron status after conception, making it important to ensure adequate status in advance. Have your iron checked if you are vegetarian, have had anemia or low iron in the past, experience fatigue on any kind of regular basis, are very pale, or have dark circles underneath the eyes. Attain healthy body weight—Both underweight and overweight can cause issues with fertility. Inadequate or excess fat stores affect hormone balance and hence fertility. A BMI > 20 for women is generally considered to be the level needed to conceive and to have adequate stores for pregnancy. If you suffer from anorexia or bulimia, it is important to receive treatment prior to conception. Even treatment with Clomid for fertility has been found to be ineffective until weight has returned to normal. BMIs >30 are also known to impair fertility. Weight loss is not recommended during pregnancy, so the best time to address this is before becoming pregnant. Weight loss of even 5% of body weight can have a very positive impact. Avoid excess pre-formed Vitamin A—Too much Vitamin A in the retinol or retinoic acid (i.e. beta carotene is okay) form can cause birth defects, so avoid more than 10,000 IUs per day. This includes drugs like Accutane that are used to treat acne. Avoid alcohol, smoking and recreational drugs—Toxic substances pass easily from mother to baby, and affect the hormones necessary to achieve and maintain pregnancy. Avoid nail polish, perfume and other toxins–Toxins lurk in some of our favorite things. Toluene in nail polish and phthalates in perfume are two things to avoid in pregnancy, particularly early pregnancy. BPA found in plastic water bottles, the lining of cans, and some plastic packaging should also be minimized. Each of these chemicals can disrupt hormone balance, thus affecting normal development of your baby. Balance blood sugar—Dysregulated blood sugar can have a negative impact on the fetus, so those with diabetes should make sure that their blood sugar is well under control preconception. Consume choline and omega-3s—These two nutrients will be pivotal to the brain development of your fetus, so it would be wise to supplement with them prior to pregnancy. Choline may be part of a well-designed prenatal multivitamin, but omega-3s are best taken separately. If you do not eat at least two servings of fatty fish, or 3 servings of grass-fed beef or lamb each week, you should probably supplement with a quality fish oil that has about 400 mg DHA. Address digestive issues—If you have any issues with digestion, preconception is the best time to address them. Remember you will be absorbing nutrients for both you and your baby, so you want to make sure your GI tract is up to the task. This may be as simple as using probiotics, or as complex as doing gut repair if you have had celiac disease or another condition that affects your absorption of nutrients. Use herbs wisely—Certain herbs are unsafe for pregnancy, or do not have adequate information to suggest their safety. The best safety information exists for herbs like garlic, echinacea, ginger, chamomile, cranberry, and raspberry leaf. There are many others that have shown no adverse effects with limited used. However, it is best be cautious and consult a knowledgeable source prior to using herbs preconception. With the rise in conditions such as ADHD, autism, and other childhood illnesses, we want to give our babies the best chance of optimal development. Preconception is absolute best time to do this. Come in and talk to me or our staff about ways to enhance nutrition during this important time. Also, this is the first in a series of blogs we will be doing this month about child development, so please tune in the rest of this month for more information on nutrition for pregnancy, lactation, and infancy.
Feed Your Heart: Top Nutrients for This Vital OrganAs Valentine’s Day approaches, we remember to focus on our heart. What we want, what we can put out to make the world a better place, and taking care of the physical heart at our center. An article in the Lancet dating back to 2004 concluded that exercise, optimal nutrition, healthy body weight, moderate red wine consumption, and smoking cessation could reduce cardiovascular disease by a whopping 80%. Numerous papers and directives since that time have reiterated this, including those by the American Heart Association, the CDC, and others. Yet we still use medication as our primary means of managing heart issues; statin drugs for high cholesterol and blood pressure medications. The U. S. Department of Health and Human Services just released its most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans, a publication that comes out every 5 years. Notably, it has removed cholesterol as a nutrient of concern and no longer suggests that Americans should avoid cholesterol as part of a healthy lifestyle. The reason is because “evidence shows no appreciable relationship between dietary and serum cholesterol”. Cholesterol is made by the liver. It is important to the health of the cell membrane, is a constituent of bile, and forms the basis on which our hormones are made. Very high cholesterol should be addressed, but the over-emphasis on cholesterol as a risk of heart disease may not be warranted. What do we do in the gray area where cholesterol is trending up or moderately elevated? Some think statins are the only answer. Yet statins have serious side effects. They have long been known to cause muscle and liver issues. In the last several years the FDA has added warnings for increased blood sugar and dementia. Do we still think statins are worth the risk? Blood pressure is another conundrum. The current medical model encourages us to monitor our blood pressure when it begins to trend up. Without intervention, we then sit by and “watch” until we finally need medication. Many nutrients have been studied for the lowering of blood pressure, as have weight loss programs, stress reduction, smoking cessation, and better nutrition. Our focus here will be on optimal nutrition. Newer research focuses on chronic inflammation, oxidation, and immune dysfunction as a key determinants of heart disease. Going forward, we will see nutritional and drug treatments focused on these issues. Below we discuss the most important nutrients for maintaining a healthy heart. These nutrients focus on traditional risk factors like high blood pressure and cholesterol, but also address the root cause of these issues. Omega-3 & Other Healthy Fats. It would be hard to list all of the benefits of the omega-3 fats from fish oil. At a very basic level fish oil bolsters the health of your cell membranes, ensuring proper absorption of nutrients into the cell and proper communication between cells. This helps not only with heart disease, but literally any condition that you have. Fish oil boosts low HDL, reduces triglycerides and lowers C-reactive protein (CRP), an inflammatory marker. Omega-3s are found in fatty fish such as salmon, cod, mackerel, anchovies and sardines, but you must eat them at least 3 times per week. Grass-fed beef is another good source. For those that do not these foods into their diet, 500-1200 mg of supplemental omega-3 per day is adequate. If you already have some risks for heart disease, your practitioner may suggest 3000-10,000 mg per day. Other healthy fats include those found in flax seed, olive oil, avocado, chia seeds, hemp seeds and nuts. While saturated fat should be limited, it is okay to have red meat that is organic, grass-fed and pasture-raised 2 times per week. Trans- fats and hydrogenated oils should be strictly avoided as they provoke an inflammatory response. Magnesium. Low magnesium levels are the greatest predictor of heart disease risk, according to a 2013 study that reviewed cardiovascular studies over the past seven decades. A deficiency of this macronutrient is very common in those with heart disease and the population at large. For blood pressure that is trending upward (greater than 120/80), this is the first nutrient you should look to. Magnesium relaxes the blood vessels, has a calming effect on the nerves, assists in managing blood sugar (a factor in inflammation), and balances calcium. Magnesium is used in 300 biochemical reactions in the body and therefore is a nutrient that you don’t want to be deficient in! Doses of 250-800 mg per day are safe, depending on your size, diet, and conditions you are trying to address. Magnesium can have a laxative effect because it relaxes the muscles, so start at a lower dose and build from there. Magnesium glycinate is a form that is easier on the stomach. Foods that are high in magnesium include nuts, dark, leafy greens, kelp, avocado and dark chocolate. Vitamin K2. Vitamin K2, particularly its MK-7 form, removes calcium from the arteries and deposits it in the bone. Calcium that is not directed to bone can build up in the blood causing plaque, high blood pressure, stroke and even heart attacks. Vitamin K has several different forms. Vitamin K1 is in dark, leafy greens and is relatively easy to get through the diet. Vitamin K2 and its various forms are mainly present in a Japanese food called natto, some other fermented foods, and animal livers. Since the American diet is generally low in these food sources, supplementing with K2 can greatly benefit heart health. Dosages in the range of 45-150 mcg are usually recommended. CoQ10. This coenzyme is a factor in the energy-making process in every cell of the body. It is very important to the pumping action of the heart. It is also a strong antioxidant, helping to clear toxins from the blood vessels. Ironically, CoQ10 is depleted by several drugs used to treat heart disease including statins, beta blockers, and diuretics. CoQ10 has been shown in some studies to reduce blood pressure and improve congestive heart failure. It also reduces the inflammatory marker CRP. For preventative benefit or to replace what is lost with prescription drugs, dosages of 100-300 mg are typically recommended. If your doctor is using CoQ10 to treat congestive heart failure, dosages may be much higher. Vitamin D. Low levels of vitamin D are linked to an increased risk of heart disease. It acts as a hormone, regulating more than 200 genes throughout the body. It is protective against diabetes, a huge factor in the risk of heart disease, and it tempers damaging inflammatory responses. Since Vitamin D is an immune system modulator, it could provide a buffer for damage to the arteries that originates in an immune response. A deficiency of this vitamin can be detected from the 25-hydroxy vitamin D test. Natural doctors recommend levels of 50-80 ng/ml. If you are deficient, you can take 5000 IU’s per day and retest your levels after 2 months. Daily doses for others who are not getting sun exposure are usually 1000-2000 IU’s per day. The best way to get vitamin D is from the sun, but eggs, salmon, mushrooms, and milk are decent sources. Always choose dairy products from grass-fed, organic sources. Curcumin from turmeric. Curcumin is a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. It also assists the liver in detoxification. Many recent studies support the benefit of curcumin in fighting chronic inflammation, and we can expect to see more use of this herb in the treatment of the underlying inflammation and oxidation associated with heart disease. D-Ribose and Taurine. D-Ribose and taurine can be used to provide energy to the heart where advanced disease has occurred. Heart disease takes a toll on the tissues and impairs the production of ATP, the body’s main source of energy. D- ribose is a simple sugar that is not stored by the body that can speed up healing by increasing the energy available to the heart. The recommended dose is 5 grams. Taurine is an amino acid found in large concentrations in the heart. It can be used to support congestive heart failure, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. The recommended dose is 3 grams. Fiber. Fiber consumption of at least 30 grams a day is important to heart health. Most Americans get 12-14 grams a day. Fiber is a superstar for heart health. It reduces cholesterol, lowers triglycerides, and reduces CRP. It binds heavy metals and other toxins in the digestive tract that can cause damage to blood vessels. Using a fiber supplement each night before bed is a great way to boost fiber intake and manage your blood sugar. Fruits and vegetables, a high quality fiber supplement, or flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp, or nuts, are all great ways to add fiber to your diet. Apples are considered a superfood for the heart due to the pectin fiber they contain, along with being high in potassium. B Vitamins. The B vitamins help us break down our food, produce energy, and nourish the nerves, thus reducing stress. Certain B vitamins are also directly related to the management of heart disease risk. High homocysteine, an inflammation marker related to heart disease, can be reduced by supplementing with vitamins B6, B12 and folic acid. Pantothenic acid, or vitamin B5, lowers cholesterol by blocking an enzyme involved in the production of cholesterol in the liver. It is also an excellent nutrient for the adrenal glands and thus counters a negative response to stress. If you are taking individual B vitamins to help with specific issues, then you may need to take a high-potency B complex. Potassium. Next to magnesium, potassium is probably one of the best nutrients for managing blood pressure. Potassium and sodium work together to maintain water balance, a factor in blood pressure. In a typical American diet, the sodium /potassium ratio is out of balance. Since supplements are only available in doses of 99 mg, it is best to get potassium from food sources. The best sources are coconut water (400-600mg), avocado, potato, and many fruits. To reduce your salt intake restrict packaged foods, most of which are loaded with sodium. A high quality salt that is high in minerals can then be added to whole foods that you eat. Be Aware of Drug Nutrient Depletions If your doctor has decided that a drug best addresses your heart condition, be aware that drugs can deplete nutrients in the body. Ironically, these nutrients are often beneficial for heart health. If you are unaware what class of drugs you are on, a google search is an easy way to find out:
- Diuretics—Decrease potassium, magnesium, phosphorous, sodium, chloride, zinc, iodide, CoQ10, folate, B12, B6, thiamine and selenium. Herbs like uva ursi and dandelion can be used to decrease water in the system and also have nutritive benefits.
- Beta blockers—Decrease CoQ10. As noted above, CoQ10 is crucial to heart health and supplementation is necessary to make up for the depletion.
- ACE Inhibitors—Decrease zinc, exposing you to immune issues, low testosterone, slower wound healing and anxiety.
- Angiotensin Receptor Blockers—Decrease zinc, same issues as noted above.
- Statins—Decrease CoQ10, selenium, omega-3s, Vitamins E, A, & D, carnitine, and free thyroid hormone. The warnings on this drug say it all—muscle issues, liver problems, increased blood sugar and dementia—there’s got to be a better way!
Sport Shorts: Not Your Usual Sports SupplementsSports Shorts: Not Your Usual Sports Supplements Using a few simple sports supplements can make a huge difference in your enjoyment summer activities. Whether you are running, biking, canoeing, playing team sports, or are just a weekend warrior, we have solutions for you! Pick one or more to stay hydrated, retain energy and avoid pain. Need Energy? It’s hard to find the energy for activity after a long week at work. If you’re stressed out and over-worked, or just participating in intense activity, try one of the adaptogenic herbs. They help the body react better to stress and provide an even, sustained energy. Try maca, rhodiola, ginseng, schizandra, or eleuthero. D-ribose is also a great energy booster. Out of Breath? Lung capacity keeps some of us from enjoying a long bike ride or other activity unnecessarily. Studies have shown that Vitamin C, taken before exercise, can reduce the incidence of exercise-induced asthma or shortness of breath. (1) Cordyceps mushroom has long been used by Chinese athletes to increase performance and is also used to combat altitude sickness. Take it by itself or in combination with Chaga and Reishi mushrooms in a supplement called Breathe. Want to Minimize Joint Pain? A collagen or gelatin supplement (think lazy man’s bone broth) is a great way to increase the strength of all your connective tissues—muscle, tendons, ligaments, and bone. It’s also great for your skin. The key is to get a well-sourced one that is from grass-fed animals. And we have the one for you. It is made by a local company too! Turmeric is another favorite for joint inflammation. Add it to your smoothie or take it as a pill to reduce inflammation. I also love T-Relief, which comes in pill, gel, or ointment form. It is a homeopathic combination remedy that has things for inflammation, swelling, muscle soreness, nerve pain, and healing of connective tissue. Great to have on hand for the average aches and pains that come with activity. I like to take some before and after more intense physical activity. Dehydrated? Water is my beverage of choice for hydration. Gatorade and the like have too much junk in them (read SUGAR, colorants, and preservatives). However, plain water may not be enough at higher temps or with more vigorous exercise. Add an electrolyte powder to your water to boost its hydrating qualities and supply minerals that are depleted with exercise. We have a great one by Metagenics called Endura, or one by EmergenC. Worried about stress fractures? A recent study in the Journal of Foot and Ankle surgery found that those with Vitamin D levels (25-hydroxyvitamin D) less than 40ng/ml had double the risk of stress fractures.(2) The study coincides with an earlier one done on female navy recruits. Whether you are a true athlete or just want to protect your bone health, Vitamin D supplementation is for you! Sore muscles dragging you down? Arnica, taken internally or applied as a gel or cream, is a great sports aid to have on hand. Take it or apply it before exercise to prevent sore muscles. Sour cherry juice is also great for this purpose—it removes lactic acid from the muscles and uric acid from the joints. Magnesium gel applied topically is also great for relaxing muscles after a long day of activity, or take a soak in one of our bath salts. In the sun all day? Protect your skin from burning with a natural sunscreen that has a physical block like zinc in it. Other ingredients should be healthy oils and antioxidants. We love Suntegrity—they have great regular, unscented, and even tinted options. We have some great facial sunscreens as well. Stay hydrated (see above) and if you tend toward sunstroke use a flower essence formula called Solaris by Australian Bush. Need a convenient source of protein? In addition to the above sports supplements we also have some great protein powders that are really clean. One of our newest combines collagen and whey protein–a great combination for sports! We also have several great plant-based proteins. Add a greens powder for oxygenation and a great nutrient boost! (1) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25788952 (2) http://www.jfas.org/article/S1067-2516(15)00374-9/abstract
Ten Essentials for Women’s HealthWomen’s health is all about hormones. It has always been a favorite topic of mine. As a teen and 20-something you deal with PMS, erratic periods, acne, and cramps. In your thirties you have all of the hormonal ups and downs that go with pregnancy, childbirth and breast feeding. In your forties you are may have heavy bleeding, depression or anxiety, and mood swings and in your fifties it’s hot flashes, vaginal dryness and wondering when it will all be over with. Surely it wasn’t meant to be this hard, so why is it? Many of us have minor hormone issues that can turn into major ones if they are not nipped in the bud. Here are ten products we think every woman should know about: Adrenal Health by Gaia—This is only one of many good adrenal products, but I love this formula for its combination of calming herbs and adaptogens. Adaptogens are herbs that help the body better handle stress. Most of us are pulled in a million different directions—kids, jobs, husbands, ailing parents, volunteering commitments, and more. Excess adrenal activity can cause high cortisol, sending us into “fight or flight” mode. Excess cortisol also reduces progesterone in the body because they share receptor sites. This can cause estrogen dominance, causing us to be irritable, have heavy periods, and become sluggish. If chronic, estrogen dominance can result in fibroids, endometriosis, and even breast cancer. When natural doctors look at the hormone cascade they first treat the adrenals, then the thyroid, and the sex hormones are last. Too many women are led to thyroid meds and hormone replacement when the real issue is burned out or stressed adrenal glands. Excess cortisol can also contribute to belly fat. Bolster your adrenals with this supplement or one of the other great ones on our shelves. Fem Rebalance by Vitanica—An amazing herbal formula that is great for many issues where the balance of hormones is off—hormonal acne, lack of ovulation, very long periods, and more. Its work is subtle, so you’ll have to take it for at least two cycles to get a result. Doctors often recommend birth control pills as a “go to” for any issue where the cycle is upset. Think of this product as a replacement that works with the body rather than altering the natural hormone cycle. Save the birth control pills for what they were really designed for–contraception. BioSil—Great for the health of hair, skin, and nails, this special form of silica “turns on“ the beauty proteins. It boosts keratin in hair and nails, and elastin, and collagen in the skin and connective tissues. Consult with your doctor about hair loss if the source of it is unknown. Hair loss can relate to anemia, thyroid problems, medications, hormone imbalance, and other things. It is best to find out why you are losing hair before doing anything about it. In addition to addressing underlying conditions, this supplement is a great one for re-growing hair. It also promotes bone growth, and has the “side effect” of fortifying bones. DIM Pro, milk thistle, dandelion, or BroccoMax—Did you know that after your body uses estrogen it must be broken down by the liver? The proper detoxification of estrogen from the body is crucial to the prevention of hormone-sensitive women’s conditions like fibroids, endometriosis, and many breast cancers. Herbs like milk thistle and dandelion that support liver function can aid in the breakdown of estrogen. Compounds like diindolylmethane (DIM), indole-3 carbinole, and sulfurophane directly relate to the detoxification of estrogens. They are found in cruciferous vegetables, or can be taken in supplement forms like DIM Pro or BroccoMax. There is also a great Host Defense product called Myco Woman that contains a number of mushrooms and herbs aimed at breast health. If you have a family history of breast cancer, this is a great one to check out. Vitamineral Green powder or caps—A favorite greens formula that is great for overall health. It gives an amazing nutrient boost, oxygenates the entire body, has sea veggies for thyroid support, and tastes better than most of the others out there. It is also excellent for daily detoxing. I love to put it in my smoothies, add it to salad dressing as a nutrient boost, or just mix it with half juice and half water. Even if you don’t do it every day, this one is a winner. Natracare tampons and pads—When I found out that conventional feminine products contain bleach, the pesticide glyphosate (a known carcinogen), viscose rayon treated with anti-mildew chemicals, and synthetic fragrances, I was shocked. It’s no wonder women have so many issues with their menstrual cycles. Traditional brands have begun to disclose the ingredients in their products in response to consumer demand. Natracare uses only organic cotton and plant-derived ingredients, and includes all ingredients on the label. Using cleaner products on a monthly basis is sure to improve vaginal/urinary health. Neu Eve suppositories or cream—A non-hormonal solution for vaginal dryness, painful sex, itching, burning, and prevention of urinary tract infection. Developed by a local doctor in response to patients were looking for a natural solution to these problems, it contains only natural ingredients. It helps to rebuild the mucous membranes by supplying nutrients to heal them. Suppositories require only once a week use, making them very convenient. The cream can be used daily if you are currently experiencing an issue. Acteane—A homeopathic hot flash remedy containing several common remedies for hot flashes. Getting great reviews from our customers! Probiotics—These “good bugs” assist with digestion, immunity, and mood. Bloating is a common complaint of women and can be greatly relieved by a probiotic. Having a strong microbiota protects us from infectious agents. Certain strains are even targeted at the bacteria that typically cause urinary tract infections. Other strains target IBS, general immunity, and gut inflammation. Since more than 70% of our serotonin is made in the gut, healthy gut bacteria can go a long way toward improving mood. Some of the B vitamins and vitamin K are made from the gut bacteria, so probiotics are important to stress relief, skin health, and bone health. Progesterone cream—Extracted from wild yam, progesterone is instant relief from irritability, helps with heavy periods, soothes perimenopausal symptoms, lessens cramps and relieves stress. Our endocrine system is very intricate and inter-related. An imbalance in one hormone can lead to imbalance in others. Xenoestrogens are prevalent around us and can affect hormone health. Xenoestrogens are substances that act like estrogen in the body by binding to receptor sites for estrogen. We have been trained to think that a lack of estrogen is the root of so many female problems, but the truth is many of us have too much. Excess estrogen in the body can cause bloating, heavy periods, depression or anxiety, acne, PMS, weight gain, uterine fibroids, ovarian cysts, fibrocystic breasts, endometriosis, memory loss, and even breast cancer. It can also block the uptake of thyroid hormone in the body and may be the genesis of the many thyroid disorders we see today. Good health is all about prevention and female hormonal issues are no exception. Putting good self- care habits in place and correcting minor hormone issues before they develop into something more serious are crucial to female health.
The Skinny on Your Skin Care ProductsIn anticipation of our annual skin care event: Love Your Skin Inside and Out on April 14th (sign up here), we want to remind you why natural skin care is important for both your skin and overall health. Most of us assume that the government is carefully scrutinizing the safety of the ingredients in the skin care products that we use daily. However, neither finished products nor ingredients are subject to FDA approval, with the exception of color additives. The FDA does not even have the ability to make a recall of a cosmetic product. Cosmetic firms are responsible for substantiating the safety of their products and ingredients before marketing. Manufacturers are required to provide a list of ingredients, but that list sometimes hides questionable ingredients under blanket terms like “fragrance”. The skin is the largest organ in the body and is a two-way membrane. This deserves emphasis because whatever you put on your skin gets into your body—roughly 70% of it. Toxins are eliminated through the skin via perspiration and absorbed through the skin into the body’s systemic circulation through hair follicles and sebaceous glands. One square inch of skin contains 65 hairs, 100 sebaceous glands and 650 sweat glands, providing a large area for absorption. Every day the average person uses 10 or more products on their bodies including shampoo, facial care, toothpaste, soap, deodorant, hair conditioners, lip balm, sunscreen, body lotion, shaving products, and make up. The chemicals in these products may seem negligible if you look at individual products, but they do add up. Any substance not normally found in the body must be processed as a toxin by the liver. Chemicals absorbed through the skin can reach the liver in just 4 minutes. There is growing concern over the long-term health effects of the synthetic chemicals being used in cosmetic products. President Obama recently banned microbeads, small plastic beads used for exfoliation, from skin care products. Strangely, it’s possible you have been exfoliating with plastic! A woman was recently awarded a $72 million settlement from Johnson & Johnson for putting talc in their baby powder, which she used extensively and believes caused her ovarian cancer. There are over 1000 other cases pending regarding the same issue. Yes, that’s the company we trusted to make our baby products! Parabens (which are used as preservatives) and phthalates (which are used to add texture and luster) have been identified in over 100 studies to disrupt both male and female hormone functions. To make things even more difficult for consumers, the current labeling laws contain a “trade secret” loophole that allows the use of generic terms such as “fragrance” rather than identifying actual ingredients. Many synthetic fragrances contain phthalates. There is concern over the impact of these chemicals related to their negative effect on our reproductive systems, as well as their impact on wildlife, rivers and streams. These chemicals are being washed off our bodies and flushed down our toilets. At Walsh Natural Health, we examine each ingredient in all of the skin care products we carry. The European brands such as Dr. Hauschka and Weleda Skin Care conform to higher standards. There are only 9 ingredients banned from personal care products in the U.S., but over 40 are banned in Europe. Dr. Hauschka Skin Care products are certified by Natrue (natrue.com), a European skin care certifier with strict standards. In the last several years more and more U.S. brands are also being developed that have safe ingredients. Check the ingredients in the products you use. An excellent reference is the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database www.ewg.org/skin deep, a not-for-profit environmental watchdog group that has a database with safety ratings on over 50,000 skin care products. The database has its limitations relative to European products, but is a good resource for looking up products made in the U.S. For example, they rate anything with the term “fragrance” as high hazard, regardless of the source of the fragrance. If the fragrance is from essential oils and is clearly labeled as such it is quite safe. If it is synthetic, it’s more likely to contain phthalates and other questionable ingredients. When you read a label, ingredients are listed in descending order of their quantity in the product. A general rule is to divide the list in thirds:
- the top third contains about 90-95% of the product
- the middle third around 5-8%
- the bottom third, 1-3%.
Tooth or Consequences: Maintaining Your Pearly WhitesOral Care is often overlooked, but is essential to your health. The mouth isn’t just a home for your teeth: disease often enters through the mouth and nasal passages. Keeping these areas free of bacteria and other pathogens can boost not just dental, but overall health. Natural products have a lot to offer for this purpose. A healthy tooth is a living structure nourished by blood vessels and supplied by nerves. The root is covered by a shock-absorbing periodontal tissue, and the base of the crown of the tooth is held in place by gums that are pale pink and do not bleed easily. The enamel that covers the crown of the tooth is one of the hardest substances in the body. The dentine layer beneath it is softer and contains nerves and blood vessels that allow sensation and nourish the tooth. Regular Oral Care Good dental hygiene consists of brushing and flossing the teeth on a regular basis and regular cleanings by a trained professional. Tongue cleaning, with a specific tongue-cleaning device, is a lesser known but important way of cleaning bacteria from the mouth. Chewy, fibrous, non-sugary and non-acidic foods also keep teeth healthy. The bacteria that typically reside in the mouth feed on sugar and produce an acid by-product that erodes tooth enamel. Foods that contain citric acid can also be harmful to enamel if eaten in large amounts. This is why it is not wise to take a chewable Vitamin C on a regular basis without brushing afterward. Good dental habits can overcome the lack of a good diet, but only for a time. Many of the everyday oral care products we use are filled with sugar, chemical whiteners, sodium lauryl or laureth sulfate, and undesirable preservatives. Paying attention to the foods we eat, the gum we chew, the mints we use, and our toothpaste is integral to dental health. Xylitol–Secret Weapon for Dental Health? Caries is a bacteria in the mouth that acts on the sugar we eat and produces an acid that erodes tooth enamel, exposing the tooth to damage and decay. Caries is the most common reason for tooth decay. While we are not born with Caries bacteria in the mouth, most of us have acquired it by casual contact by the age of 18 months. Caries cannot feed on xylitol and thus is unable to thrive in the mouth. Studies have also shown that in the presence of xylitol, bacteria in the mouth and upper respiratory system lose their ability to adhere to the tissues, allowing the natural cleansing process to wash bacteria away. Xylitol is an alcohol sugar with 5 carbons that is used as a sweetener in everything from baked goods to gum and mints. It is naturally found in the body. Since Xylitol tastes very much like sugar it can be used as a sugar substitute in baking, cooking, or even your coffee or tea. Using Xylitol is a great way to reduce your glycemic load (it has a GI rating of only 7 versus 68 for sucrose), improving blood sugar and reducing the inflammatory effects of sugar on the body. It has 40% fewer calories than sugar and can be used 1:1 in baking. Larger amounts of xylitol can cause gas and bloating in certain individuals, so you may want to use half xylitol and half raw sugar. Know Your Toothpaste Toothpaste may seem unimportant, but as a daily habit, it is important to health. Toothpaste can improve oral health by using ingredients that enhance the condition of the mouth. It comes in direct contact with the mouth, and ingredients can be absorbed into the bloodstream. Avoid ingredients like sodium lauryl sulfate, DEA, aspartame, propylene glycol, microbeads, and even fluoride. Flouride is in the water supply and its use has been questioned multiple times over. No need to have it in toothpaste—it is redundant. Drug store brands may have these ingredients as well as added sugar, mineral oils, colorants, detergents, and synthetic preservatives. The following are good ingredients to look for and their benefits:
- Sodium bicarbonate—good old baking soda! It neutralizes plaque acids preventing the build-up of plaque.
- Sea salt—encourages natural saliva production, keeping the gums and teeth strong. Also a good natural whitener for the teeth.
- Ratanhia—a plant ingredient that is a natural astringent, tonifying the gums and oral cavity
- Natural chalk—gently and thoroughly cleans the teeth.
- Silica—a natural component of teeth and bones, it also a mild abrasive to help remove plaque build-up.
- Calendula—very soothing to the mucous membranes and healing any sores or cracks in the mouth.
- Tea tree oil—a natural antiseptic, it helps clean and tonify the mouth.
- Myrrh—an astringent that acts on the mucosa and cleanses rotten gums. It can also be helpful for excessive salivation.
- And of course xylitol—as noted above
- CoQ10 is very important for providing energy for gum cell growth and healing of gum tissue
- Vitamin C with bioflavanoids promotes healing, especially of bleeding gums, and also retards the growth of plaque. Do not use a chewable form if your dental health is already compromised!
- Vitamin A is important for the healing of gum tissue.
- Applying aloe vera gel directly to the gums and teeth is very soothing and also has anti-viral properties
- Chamomile or Calendula tea are both soothing and can help the tissues to heal
- Goldenseal is a powerful antibiotic and kills the type of bacteria that causes periodontal disease. You can take an extract of the herb internally, or put some directly on a cotton ball and apply to the affected area. An alcohol-free form is best to avoid stinging. Because goldenseal is powerful it is not to be used as a preventative, but rather only if infection is present.
- Neem Tooth and Gum Oil is a combination of essential oils that fight bacteria, tighten up the gums, clean the mouth and sooth inflamed areas.
Is Your Detox Program Really Working?Doing a detox is all the rage right now, but how do you know if your detox is truly effective? You may feel cleaner and lighter, but is your liver really functioning better? That is the real goal of a detox program. The liver is the body’s main detoxifying organ. While toxins exit the body through the bowel and the kidneys, the liver is actually performing the work of detoxification. Toxins enter the liver through the bloodstream, are broken down in two phases, and are then released in bile into the digestive system or are filtered from the blood through the kidneys. Autoimmune disease, cancers, allergies, heart disease, and many other diseases are now being linked to toxic load. Periodic detoxing is a great way to stay ahead of the toxic burden we face every day. There are currently 85,000 chemicals in use worldwide and less than half of these have been tested for human safety. One study showed that newborn minority babies have more than 200 chemicals in their umbilical cords at birth. (1) Exposure of infants and young children is of great concern as their young systems often cannot keep up with the toxic burden presented by the environment. I would conjecture that the huge rise in autism, ADD, ADHD, and other childhood diseases is directly related to environmental exposures. Pesticide use has risen substantially over the last 10 years despite claims that genetically modified foods would reduce the need for them. One billion pounds of pesticides are used in the U.S. each year and 5.6 billion pounds are used worldwide. It is estimated that 25 million agricultural workers experience pesticide poisoning each year. The USDA estimates that 50 million Americans get drinking water from groundwater contaminated with pesticides. Chemicals are a real and growing threat to our health.(2) One way to reduce the threat of toxic burden is to periodically detox. But a real detox isn’t just your average juice cleanse. While cleaning up your diet is great for the digestive system and ultimately overall health, neither of these really does the full job of cleaning out the body. Here is what is needed for a complete detox and what forms of detox programs will “get you there”: 1) Phase I detoxification is performed by 100 enzymes known as cytochrome P450. In this stage, toxins are converted by the liver into intermediate forms. Free radicals are naturally produced in this phase, so antioxidants are very important to neutralize them. Vitamins B2 & B3, magnesium, iron, and indoles from cruciferous vegetables are also crucial to this phase. Some of the intermediate forms of the toxins produced are more dangerous than the original toxin, so it is crucial that Phase II is carried out and the job is finished. 2) In Phase II, the intermediate forms are converted to water soluble forms by a number of methods. The water-soluble form is then excreted either in bile through the digestive system, or through the kidneys. Glutathione or NAC and the amino acids glycine, cysteine, glutamine, methionine, and taurine are necessary for Phase II. Fiber binds toxins carried in the bile, so is CRUCIAL to making sure that toxins leave the system. Lots of water will also assist the release of water-soluble forms through the kidneys. 3) Heavy metals must be chelated to be removed from the system. Contamination by mercury, cadmium, and lead is now commonplace. Some detox products have nutrients that remove heavy metals and others do not. Below is a review of the types of detoxification programs out there and the potential pitfalls of each:
- Following a specific diet plan—Healthy diet plans that eliminate “heavy” foods and those that are typical allergens can go a long way toward reducing inflammation in the body and getting the digestive system working properly. These diets generally eliminate red meats, dairy, nuts, soy, wheat and gluten, and focus on whole foods and lots of fruits and vegetables. These programs are usually great for the body overall and can provide the antioxidants and nutrients needed for Phase I detoxification. They often are short on the protein needed for Phase II detoxification and do not provide extra nutrients to get the liver functioning better. They may or may not have nutrients to accomplish heavy metal detox.
- Juice cleanses– Cleansing with juice is very popular right now. Fresh-pressed juices provide excellent nutrition and antioxidants for Phase I detoxification. Because juices are low in protein you will not likely get the amino acids necessary to adequately perform Phase II. As mentioned above this can be dangerous since the intermediate forms of toxins produced by Phase I are more harmful than the original toxins. They also fall short in providing the fiber necessary to make sure toxins exit the digestive system. Those with weight or blood sugar issues should avoid cleansing in this way since the sugars are concentrated in juices, and the fibers are lessened. If you are a healthy person and have a healthy weight, a 2-3 day juice cleanse may be a good rest for the digestive system and will provide good nutrition, but is not a true detox.
- Herbal detox programs– These combine a variety of herbs targeted at the many channels of elimination, the liver, the kidneys, the bowel, the lungs, the blood, the skin and the lymph. Most have milk thistle and dandelion, two premier herbs for the liver. If done with a healthy diet and adequate fiber and water, these programs can do a very good job of detoxing the body. If you are on prescription drugs, you need to be aware of any interactions with herbs. For this reason, we don’t recommend herbal cleanses for those on more than one prescription drug. The chance for negative interactions is too great.
- Clinically studied detox programs—Several professional lines offer detox programs that consist of a medical food (shake) that contains specific nutrients for Phase I & II detoxification, a quality source of protein, and nutrients for metal detox. They are partnered with diets that eliminate potential allergens and heavy foods, contain significant fiber, and focus on fruits and vegetables that contain specific nutrients that assist the detoxification process in the liver. These are the most complete programs, as well as the safest. They ensure that inflammation is lessened in the body, that the functioning of the digestive system is improved, and that heavy metals are removed from the body. You will feel cleaner, lighter, have more energy, improve your mood, and notice a better quality to your skin. In addition and more importantly, you will have reduced your toxic load and enhanced your liver’s ability to process toxins.
Are Your Supplements Safe?In a word, YES! You may have seen recent media reports that question whether supplements are safe and we want to clear up any misconceptions. The vast majority of supplements are inexpensive, effective, and safe. The most important things to know about supplement safety are as follows:
- Claims that supplements are unregulated are false. Supplements are regulated under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994. According to the FDA’s own website the “FDA regulates both finished dietary supplement products and dietary ingredients” and the “FDA is responsible for taking action against any adulterated or misbranded supplement product after it reaches the market.” (1)
- The FDA’s website includes tips for using dietary supplements, information on how to report an adverse event, and what is required for a new dietary ingredient to come to market.(1)
- Pre-market approval of each product is not required because supplements are natural substances found in the body and in food and are regulated as such. Drugs require pre-market approval because most of them are chemicals not normally found in the body that require a higher degree of scrutiny.
- Recent actions by the Department of Justice (DOJ) relate to adulterated products which, by definition, are not supplements at all. They often contain drugs or unapproved dietary ingredients and are being marketed as supplements by companies with unethical business practices.
- Tainted products show up almost exclusively in three categories: sexual performance, weight loss, and sports supplements. (2)None of the recent actions by the DOJ against supplement companies are for vitamins, minerals, probiotics, fish oils, herbs, or most other products that people purchase at a store like ours.
- The overwhelming majority of supplement manufacturers are reputable businesses that follow FDA guidelines, including Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs). GMPs require certain standards for identification, purity, strength, and composition of raw materials. Many companies we carry go beyond FDA requirements with additional certifications by third parties like USDA certified organic, NSF, Eurofins, and United States Pharmacopeia (USP).
- Early this year, the New York Attorney General issued cease and desist letters to four large retailers including GNC, Target, Walgreen’s, and Walmart demanding that they stop the sale of certain herbal supplements. The demand was based on DNA bar code testing and the AG’s office claimed that the products contained unrecognized ingredients and did not contain what was claimed on the label. The main objection from industry experts was that DNA bar code testing is not a valid testing method for herbal extracts, which constituted most of the products tested. Herbal extracts make “the naturally occurring constituents more available, and there is no reason to retain intact (and therefore detectable) DNA to do so. There is no relationship between the quality of an herbal extract and the presence of detectable DNA.” Many other experts noted that other methods such as chromatography should have been used to confirm the results but were not.(3)
- Also within the last year, the FDA sent warning letters to manufacturers selling supplements that contained BMPEA, DMAA, and DMBA, all illegal substances found in sports supplements that do not meet the statutory definition of a dietary ingredient. The FDA was criticized by industry experts and others for not ensuring these products were immediately removed from shelves. The FDA also sent warnings to several companies for selling pure, powdered caffeine supplements that presented an unreasonable risk of illness or injury to consumers.
- In October, the Oregon Attorney General sued GNC, accusing them of selling 22 workout and fat-burning supplements that contained picamilon, a prescription drug in Russia used to treat neurological conditions. It also accused them of selling supplements containing BMPEA, an amphetamine-like synthetic ingredient in supplements, even though it knew as far back as 2007 that the ingredient was not legal. Industry experts agree with the removal of these illegal products from the market, but question why the FDA isn’t taking action rather than leaving it to the states.
- The New England Journal of Medicine recently published a report that supplements were responsible for 23,000 adverse events per year, based on data taken from 63 emergency departments in the US from 2004 to 2013. The NPA challenged the findings because the laws that regulate supplements have a clear mechanism for reporting adverse events, as noted on the FDA’s website. (1) Data from this reporting shows a very different picture—that there were only 3249 events reported in 2012. This is an extremely low number given the widespread use of supplements, demonstrating their safety. (4)
- In November, the DOJ and four other government agencies announced actions against several companies, most notable USPLabs, maker of weight loss and sports products like Jack3d and Oxy Elite Pro. The products contained illegal ingredients and did not conform to the definition of a dietary supplement. These “supplement companies” are named as such in the press, but don’t really represent the supplement industry because they do not meet the legal definition of a supplement.
Good Digestion: A Key to Overall HealthOne of the most important areas of health to take care of is digestion. Nutrients are broken down and absorbed in the digestive tract; nutrient distribution throughout the body begins here; and toxins are eliminated from the body here. Additionally, most of the immune system resides in the gut, and the majority of our serotonin is produced here. The health of this system affects literally every other system in the body. From mild gas and bloating to acid reflux, to food allergies and sensitivities, to IBS and Crohn’s disease, nearly everyone has some digestive issue. Over time, these issues can affect our health in profound ways. If we don’t absorb our nutrients, we can end up with problems…from our heads to our toes. Why Do So Many People Have Digestive Issues? The origin of digestive issues can be found in antibiotic use, exposure to pathogens born by food, poor diet, prescription drugs (NSAIDs & PPIs, e.g.), overuse of alcohol, environmental toxins and food sensitivities. Repeated use of antibiotics can upset the balance of the good bacteria in our digestive system, because they knock out the good as well as the bad bacteria they are targeting. Acid-blocking drugs, proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) such as Omeprazole, Prilosec, Nexium, Prevacid, Protonix, and Aciphex, can cause a range of health issues due to their suppression of stomach acid that is needed to absorb minerals and some vitamins. PPIs cause a major depletion of magnesium that can lead to anxiety, muscle cramping, poor blood sugar management, inability to handle stress and bone fractures. Longer term use of PPI’s can also lead to B12 deficiency causing memory issues, low red blood cell count, and nervousness. These drugs also interfere with the liver’s ability to make SAMe, which affects melatonin production and in turn affects your ability to sleep soundly. Lastly, PPIs can deplete Vitamin C, an important vitamin for the immune system, a good antioxidant, and a crucial component of blood vessel health. NSAIDs like aspirin, Advil, Naproxen and others are well known for causing damage to the lining of the digestive tract. Many doctors put patients on PPIs to protect the stomach from NSAIDs, a questionable method of treatment given their long term impact. Approximately 50% of all foods on grocery store shelves didn’t exist 15 years ago. We have gotten so far away from truly natural foods that our bodies are screaming in response. Food allergies and sensitivities are now common. The most common allergies are to wheat or gluten, soy, corn, dairy, yeast, and nuts. When you begin to learn some simple facts about the evolution of our food supply, this is no surprise. I believe that genetically modified foods will come to be known as one of the great food disasters in history. Distinct from traditional breeding for desirable traits in plants, genetic modification of foods combines two separate species such as a bacteria and a plant together so that the plant can, for example, withstand certain pesticides. We modify our foods to make them more resistant to pesticides, so we can use more pesticides? Brilliant! There are many animal studies to support the harmful effects of genetic modification on body systems, including kidney and liver failure. Packaged foods also cause health issues, because of their high sodium content, dyes, preservatives, and the general “refining” out of nutrients. Chemicals in food essentially only benefit the companies that make them because they extend shelf life and artificially “enhance” taste to make us want more. Trans fats, common in packaged foods, are not recognized by the body and fats cooked at high temperatures do not retain their healthy qualities. Refined sugar causes elevated blood sugar and can be a factor in inflammation. Cheese and other dairy products can be difficult to digest. In essence, packaged foods, particularly snack foods, are not doing us any favors. Supplements for Better Digestion and Elimination Below are the top supplements for digestive health. Read each to see what best fits your own situation, or ask our staff for their advice. Probiotics—The “good” bacteria that live in your gut aid in breaking down food, protect the lining of the digestive tract, fight pathogens, enhance immunity, and help synthesize certain vitamins, including some of the B vitamins and Vitamin K. It would be difficult to overstate their benefit. Probiotics are key to recovery from any digestive or urinary condition, and are important to the everyday functioning of your system, including easy digestion, nutrient absorption, and ease of elimination. There is a plethora of new research on the connection between the gut and the brain as well. Probiotics are measured in CFU’s, or colony forming units. A probiotic made to support everyday health may be as low as 1 billion CFU’s or as high as 12 billion. Much higher potencies are also available to target specific conditions like vaginal yeast, diarrhea, antibiotic use and other digestive issues. Taking a course of probiotics after antibiotic use is crucial to replacing beneficial gut bacteria. B Vitamins—The B Vitamins are cofactors in many aspects of digestion. Vitamin B1 is used to make hydrochloric acid, which helps us digest our proteins. We often see the B Vitamins suggested for energy production and this is because they help to digest our food, our source of energy. The B vitamins also nourish the nerves and can be depleted by stress. It is important to add them during very stressful times in your lives to keep digestion going and energy up. DGL (deglycyrrhizinated licorice)—A form of licorice with a compound removed (that can cause high blood pressure if taken on a regular basis) is my first go-to for acid reflux. Licorice enhances overall digestion, protects the lining of the stomach, and is helpful with a cough caused by acid reflux. DGL is also helpful with the healing of ulcers. Enzymes— Digestive issues like gas, bloating, and a very full feeling in the stomach after eating are often caused by an incomplete digestion of food. As we age, the body produces fewer enzymes to break down our food. A broad spectrum enzyme can be used to correct digestive issues. Short term use is best as you want the body to make its own enzymes if possible. Good digestion can then be reinforced with probiotics and a good diet. Specific enzymes can help with the digestion of gluten, dairy or soy. While it is best to avoid foods you are sensitive to, the enzymes are helpful in cases where eating out or travelling prevents this. Bitters—Bitters are a combination of herbs that can be taken before a meal to stimulate the digestive juices. Bitters stimulate bile, which emulsifies fats to aid in their digestion. Angostura bitters, Swedish bitters, or Gallexier bitters all work well. Bitters can be especially helpful with fat digestion after gall bladder removal. Raw Apple Cider Vinegar (with special culturing agent)— Vinegar made from organically-fermented apples that contains pectin (a soluble fiber), beneficial bacteria, enzymes and 19 minerals. It is very helpful in maintaining a healthy acid-alkaline balance in the body. Proponents of apple cider vinegar claim that it helps regulate cholesterol, blood pressure, weight, arthritis, gall bladder health, skin issues and more. Take 1-2 tablespoons before a meal. Aloe—Taking aloe internally is soothing to the digestive tract, calms inflammation, is mildly laxative, and if swished in the mouth can help heal mouth ulcers. It can be used in cases of inflammatory bowel issues to soothe the tissue and has the side benefit of being anti-viral. L-Glutamine—An amino acid that is imperative to rebuilding damage in the gut wall. A probiotic called Ultra Flora Integrity also assists in gut repair. Do not use l-glutamine if you have issues with over-excitability such as severe anxiety, ADHD, or autism. Turmeric—A root that is great for calming the inflammation that accompanies many intestinal issues. It has been studied for its positive affect on the symptoms associated with inflammatory bowel diseases. It also stimulates liver function, thereby aiding digestion. Peppermint—An herb for promoting digestion and soothing the digestive tract. Enteric coated capsules can provide relief for those with IBS. Enteric coated fish oils—An enteric coating on fish oil capsules makes sure that the omega-3 nutrients get to the intestines where they can help to heal the lining of the digestive tract. They also have an anti-inflammatory effect. Fiber/Elimination—Fiber provides bulk to the diet. Both soluble and insoluble fibers are important to keeping the lining of the digestive tract healthy as well as aiding elimination. Flax meal is great for this purpose and also provides omega-3 fats. Several combination formulas also exist to provide this function. Foods, Spices, and Teas That Enhance Digestion Cultured foods are number one for promoting healthy digestion. They provide healthful bacteria that aid the body in digesting food, support your immune system, and even assist in making certain vitamins. Remember when your grandparents drank buttermilk? Smart people! Think yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, tempeh, tamari, kefir and other fermented foods. Raw fruits and vegetables contain live enzymes to promote digestion and fiber to assist elimination. Spices like fennel, cumin and dill are carminative, i.e., they relieve gas and bloating. Warming spices like ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, cayenne and coriander stimulate the digestive juices. Just spice up your food a bit to enhance taste and promote healthy digestion. Raw honey is high in B vitamins which are cofactors in the breaking down of food and energy production. Flax meal provides necessary fiber and omega-3s that are crucial to the integrity of the lining of the gut. Teas like dandelion, fennel, peppermint, ginger, and milk thistle can promote healthy digestion and elimination. Quality is really the most important factor when making food choices. We must, of course, stay away from foods that we are sensitive to. But no category of food is bad as a matter of course. It all relates to our own unique chemistry and getting foods in the form that nature intended. Here are some tips on eating foods that are more readily digested:
- Eat grass-fed, not grain-fed beef. Grain-fed cattle consume a diet high in omega-6s and their meat is therefore more inflammatory. Grass fed beef contains a high concentration of a healthy fat called CLA that helps you burn fat. It has been clinically studied in supplement form to assist in the loss of belly fat.
- Reduce the amount of wheat in your diet. Wheat has changed so much over time that gluten content has increased from 5 % to 50%. Many people’s systems have not adjusted to this change.
- Eat organic produce as much as possible. Pesticides can act like estrogen in the body, throwing off the delicate balance in the hormone cascade. The rise in pesticide use could be a factor in the rise in breast and other cancers.
- Use organic and cultured dairy products as a source of calcium. Regular cow’s milk products can have RBGH hormone and steroids which can cause health problems. Raw, aged cheeses are digested well because they contain live probiotics that aid in their digestion. Melting cheese makes it lose this beneficial quality. Yogurt and kefir also contain beneficial bacteria.
- Stay away from non-organic corn, soy and canola oil. These foods are genetically modified and the animal studies show negative effects from them. Or look for Non-GMO certified products.
- Eat your omega-3s through flax oil or meal, or cold water fatty fish like salmon, cod, sardines and anchovies. Our diets are way too high in omega-6 fats relative to the anti-inflammatory omega-3s. Omega-3 fats help maintain the health of the lining of the digestive tract and cell membrane, allowing nutrients to pass through more readily. Stay away from trans fats as the body does not recognize these as food and doesn’t know what to do with them.
- Eat enough fiber. Most Americans get 10-15 grams of fiber per day but really need more than twice that. Fiber slows the absorption of sugar into the blood, and helps with elimination.