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Backwards Healthcare: Where a Prescription Fixes Everything

Have you ever gone to your doctor with a problem, talked for 10-15 minutes, and have them write you a prescription and send you on your way? Or tell you that there is nothing wrong, without any suggestions for healing what ails you? If so, you are no different than 95% of all people that go to the doctor. Doctors are on very tight schedules and there are lots of sick people out there. Our current system is crisis-based and if you are not the crisis of the moment, what are you to do?Go to your local health food store, that’s what. A high quality, family owned health food store will have lots of information and advice for you. They can arm you with information and products that are useful and possibly eliminate the need for a prescription. I can’t tell you the number of customers that come to our store AFTER they have taken multiple drugs, AFTER they have had surgeries, or AFTER they have been to multiple doctors that gave them no answers. If you are not about to die, know what your issues are, and you will not be harming your long term health, go to the health food store FIRST. A quality health food store will hire employees that are well-trained in nutrition, have lived a natural lifestyle for many years, and can suggest foundational nutrition and specific nutrients that can help your condition. Health food stores cannot give you a diagnosis. Your doctor must do that. But if you have a diagnosis, they can recommend nutrients that will support your recovery. We all want a quick fix. But if it has taken years to get in the shape you are in right now, it will likely take some time to improve upon it. Natural products can begin to repair the body at the most fundamental level. All disease relates back to fundamental dysfunction in the body, whether it is the inability to properly digest your food, a breakdown of the immune system, or an overload of your body’s detoxification mechanisms. Vitamins, minerals and herbs can help you to recover these functions. Can this be done with proper diet alone? Perhaps, but usually if disease is already present there is an increased need for certain nutrients. If those nutrients are provided in supplements then recovery will be faster. It is difficult for me to understand why anyone would take a drug to fix what a drug did to them. That is a red flag to me. People need to use their common sense and not put their health fully in the hands of their doctors. After all, it is YOUR body. You feel the sensations, you know if the drug is making you tired or slowing down your metabolism. Don’t let someone else tell you it isn’t. And don’t accept side effects as being “normal”. There is nothing normal about getting a new problem from something that is supposed to help you. According to research done by Jeffrey Bland, PhD, author of The Disease Delusion, the following are true about prescription drugs: 1) Prescription drugs do what they are designed to do for about 40% of the people who take them 2) Side effects are listed for a reason–you will likely get one or more of them 3) No drug has ever been studied for long term use and 4) No drug has ever been studied for safety in combination with another drug. So read between the lines: YOU ARE THE EXPERIMENT. If I had a dime for every time someone says that they are on “the lowest dose” of a medication, I would be a rich woman. I once looked up the supposed low dose that someone told me they were prescribed and it turns out to be the typically recommended dose. Sure, it was .5 mg, which seems low, but a small dose doesn’t mean it is a low dose. Drugs do damage to the body over time. When I suggest to someone that an issue may be caused by a drug they are on, their reply is “But I’ve been on this drug for years and never had a problem”. Isn’t it logical that something can cause damage over time? The body has many compensating mechanisms. It will use these mechanisms until it no longer can, and that’s when the real problems begin. Many drugs cause nutrient depletions and here are a few examples: Statin drugs for cholesterol control deplete CoQ10, Metformin for diabetes depletes B12, Birth control pills deplete B6, and PPI’s used for acid reflux severely deplete magnesium. Ironically CoQ10 is ultra-important to heart health, B12 deficiency can cause anxiety (which can also occur with blood sugar swings), B6 is needed to make many of our calming neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin, and magnesium is used in 300 biochemical reactions in the body. No wonder so many people are walking around feeling strung out! So why then, aren’t doctors recommending supplementation to buffer against these known depletions? Simple, because they are not trained in nutrition. Often they are not aware of these depletions and the fact that they can be directly related to side effects. Many people do not want to know what is wrong with their drugs. It is just too overwhelming for them to get information about their own health. But if you’re not willing to educate yourself about your own health then who is? With the state of the current health care system you need to be your own advocate. Your local health food store is an excellent resource for this. It’s a place to learn about foundational nutrition, support for specific conditions, and information you can discuss with your doctor if need be. Some view supplements as “just another pill” but the main difference between a supplement and a drug is that a supplement contains substances that are normally found in your body. A drug is a chemical that your body must treat and process as a toxin. A local MD that I know likes to say that when she gives her patients a prescription drug, frequently one thing gets better and something else gets worse. When she uses a supplement or homeopathic medicine, one thing gets better, and something else gets better too. Another common misconception is that we should be able to get all of our nutrients from food. If I thought our food supply was excellent, and that we were eating diets rich in vitamins and minerals as our ancestors did, then I might agree with this. You could have the “perfect” diet and still benefit from certain supplements. If you are already ill, trying to become well just by eating a good diet could take a long time. Supplements speed up the healing process. Just remember they are called supplements for a reason–they are intended to be an adjunct to a healthy diet. The RDI, or recommended daily intake, also causes confusion. When people see that a supplement provides 200% of the RDI, it often scares them away. What they dont’ know is that the RDI was designed only to prevent overt deficiencies and by no means reflects optimal levels of the nutrients. Quality supplements provide well-absorbed forms of the vitamins and minerals at a level that can correct dysfunction in the body. Taking in the RDI level of nutrients may prevent certain diseases like scurvy and pellagra, but does little to promote optimal health. Foundational supplements are great for preventing issues before they arise. Many diets are deficient in key nutrients that are needed for numerous functions in the body. Fatty acids like omega-3, found in fish oil and flax seeds, have so many benefits that it would be hard to list them all. They fight inflammation, improve the integrity of every cell membrane, lubricate the joints and other tissues, fortify the skin, provide the building blocks for brain tissue development and repair, protect the nerves, and more. Probiotics, the good bacteria in our digestive systems, bolster immunity, assist in the digestion of our food, help with cholesterol control, help us make certain vitamins, assist in neurotransmitter production, and more. A multivitamin provides vitamins and minerals to make sure our bodies have a base level of nutrition to perform optimally. A multi can help with everything from hormone balance to digestion to response to stress. Get a good health food store brand, not Centrum or the like. These brands do not have the correct forms of the vitamins, contain dyes, have fillers like corn starch, and are very low quality overall. The only decent thing in many is the Vitamin D3, so save your body the processing of all the other garbage and get a bottle of Vitamin D3. If you want good health, the best place to start is with good nutrition, not a prescription. Many of us do not get the nutrients we need to function optimally through our diets. That is where supplements can make all of the difference in the world. I personally would love to think that everything I eat is nutrient-rich and that each and every day I get all of the vitamins and minerals I need. And while my diet is better than most, the demands of daily life sometimes prevent it from being so.  Like many people I grew up eating the wrong foods, and that takes its toll over time. Not to worry though, we start where we are and give ourselves the best chance at vibrant health going forward. Changing to healthier diets and adding the right supplements can put us back on track. So visit your local health food store and start asking some questions. That’s what we are here for and if we don’t have an answer we will try to help you find one!

Preventing Kidney Stones and Urinary Tract Infections

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Kidney stones and urinary tract infections are common at this time of year, so we have a few tips for avoiding these unwanted problems. If you are aware of the Chinese medicine cycle, you know that we are coming into the season where the kidney and bladder are at the low point of their function for the year. This is why we see such a rash of these issues now. Conventional treatment for kidney stones involves either potassium citrate for smaller stones, or more invasive and potentially damaging treatments for larger ones. The treatment for UTIs is usually antibiotics. Since antibiotics are indiscriminant in their action, they can deplete the healthy flora in the bladder and urinary tract, making you susceptible to recurring infections. Here are some simple suggestions to keep these problems at bay, starting with kidney stones first: 1) Magnesium–If you have had calcium kidney stones in the past, magnesium is the first nutrient you should turn to. Magnesium balances calcium in the body so can remedy calcifications of any kind. Those with kidney stones have been found to have low magnesium levels. Take the magnesium citrate form, 120-400 mg per day. 2) Stone Free–This herbal support for kidney and gall bladder health helps to remove toxins, increase urinary volume, reduce inflammation, and soothe the lining of the urinary tract so that stones can be more easily passed. It contains dandelion, turmeric root, parsley root, ginger root, lemon balm, licorice root and marshmallow root. The herb gravel root can also be added to help break up existing stones. 3) Avoid oxalates and Balance Calcium–If you have had oxalate stones in the past, you should reduce foods that are high in oxalates. The worst offenders are spinach, rhubarb, beets, beer, French fries, nuts and nut butters, chocolate, and potato chips. Dietary calcium should not be limited and calcium in the diet can actually bind oxalate in the gut, so if you are going to eat the above foods, eat them with a good calcium source like yogurt, cheese, or broccoli. Supplemental calcium on the other hand can contribute to stones, so make sure you have the right nutrients in your formula to help you absorb the calcium like Vitamins D & K, and also make sure you balance the calcium with magnesium in a 1:1 ratio. 4) Dont’ Overdo Vitamin C (as ascorbic acid)–Too much supplemental Vitamin C in the ascorbic acid form can contribute to stones. Limit your intake to 500 mg per day. 5) Drink Plenty of Water or Electrolyte Drinks–Many of us do not drink enough water, but water is crucial in getting the kidneys to work properly. Electrolyte drinks that do not contain a lot of sugar can also be helpful as they provide potassium and other minerals that can prevent stone formation and break down smaller stones. Gatorade is not useful for this purpose (or any other in my book) because it has too much sodium relative to potassium, and too much sugar, which can also contribute to stone formation. Coconut water is and excellent choice, healthy green juices that don’t contain spinach, or Endura, an electrolyte replacement formula by Metagenics. 6) Drink Lemon Water–The citric acid in lemon juice inhibits stone formation and breaks up small stones beginning to form. It binds calcium in the urine, reducing the likelihood of calcium stones. And for Urinary Tract Health: 1) Probiotics that Focus on Urinary/Bladder Health–Two strains of healthy bacteria, lactobacillus rhamnosus and lactobacillus reuteri, have been studied for their positive effect on the flora that line the urinary tract  and bladder and thus can be used in the prevention of urinary tract infections. They are also helpful in cases where an antibiotic must be used to make sure the good bacteria take hold, reducing the risk of recurring infections. 2) Cranberry–Taking cranberry tablets or capsules prevents urinary tract infections in some people. It is thought that the cranberry makes the bacteria unable to “stick” to the cells that line the urinary tract and this prevents them from multiplying. There is conflicting research on whether cranberry helps with kidney stones, so we don’t recommend it for stones. 3) D-Mannose–This simple sugar sticks to e. coli, the bacteria that typically causes urinary tract infections. This keeps the bacteria from adhering to urinary tract cells so that the bacteria can then be washed away with urination. Since both kidney stones and urinary tract infections tend to recur, taking supplements that decrease the likelihood of occurrence can make all the difference in the world. Figure out what works best for you and make sure you supplement, especially during the period from May 15th-July 15th.     [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Better Sports: Boosting Your Workout With Safe Sports Supplements

Whether you are a true athlete, a weekend warrior, or just trying to take off a few pounds, you want to get the most out of your workouts. A few simple supplements will greatly enhance this process. The recent controversy over BMPEA, an amphetamine-like substance found in some sports supplements, highlights the need for erring on the side of safety. If it’s on the internet and it sounds too good to be true, it probably is! Our advice is to keep it simple. No need for complex muscle-building formulas, just good basic nutrition. Safe sports supplements fall under four main categories. Here are the four and what to look for in each:
  1. High quality, digestible protein
  2. Oxygenators
  3. Hydrators and electrolytes
  4. Joint, tendon, ligament and muscle care
High quality, digestible protein is key to building and maintaining muscle. Anti-aging experts identify the loss of muscle as the greatest overall contributor to aging. Many of us either do not get enough protein, or do not get enough highly digestible protein. The rule of thumb is to get .8-1.5 grams of protein per lb of body weight. You will want to be at the low end of the range if you are moderately active and at the high end if you have an intense workout program and intend to build muscle. So for a 175 lb man that is moderately active and wants to preserve muscle, that is 140 grams. And for a woman that is 130 pounds and moderately active their goal is 104 grams. I think very few women eat this much protein. If you are overweight, you should calculate the amount of protein you need based on a healthy weight for you. Meats, eggs, fish and dairy products are great proteins, but conventionally raised animal products are very inflammatory to the body. These animals are fed GMO feed, i.e. mostly grains, and this is not their natural diet. They also contain steroids, antibiotics, and other hormones, which can wreak havoc on our body processes. Pasture-raised, organic, grass-fed, and humanely raised animal products provide good protein without all the chemicals. They also contain nutrients like CLA, from grass, that help with fat-burning. Protein shakes and bars can be safe sports supplements. There is the added benefit of quick and easy preparation. There are many excellent vegan proteins available now and some of my favorites are the Sunwarrior Warrior Blend and Sprout Living’s Epic Plant-Based Protein. The Sunwarrior contains pea, cranberry and hemp proteins. Pea protein most closely mirrors muscle in terms of its amino acid profile and the hemp provides essential fatty acids. Sprout Living sprouts their proteins, making sure they are highly digestible and at the peak of their nutrition. They also add root vegetables like maca or lucuma that increase endurance and protect the body from stress. A new product that I am really excited about is Metagenics’ Ultra Meal Advanced Protein shake. It specifically addresses sarcopenia, or clinically diagnosed muscle loss. That follows, of course, that it would help you to preserve muscle even if you don’t have this condition. It is high in the branched-chain amino acids that help to build muscle, and has a full compliment of other vitamins and minerals. It also tastes great! Metagenics’ protein bars are high quality bars that are great after a workout. You should have protein and carbs within 1 hour after a workout to ensure full recovery. Shakes and bars are very convenient, but all shakes and bars were not created equal. Look for a high quality protein source, a reasonable amount of sugar and carbs, and a lack of colorants and preservatives. If you prefer to take a pill you can opt for Amino Acid caps or Branched-Chain Amino Acids capsules. Keeping the tissues oxygenated is key to muscle function. The best ways to keep tissues oxygenated are to 1) get enough breath and 2) have adequate iron. Endurance athletes like runners need to pay special attention to this. Tonic mushrooms are a great way to improve lung function and enhance the breath. Chinese athletes have long used supplements like cordyceps mushroom and chaga to enhance lung capacity. They are also a favorite of mountain climbers as they help with oxygenation at high altitudes. Cordychi, a combination of reishi and cordyceps mushroom, can support oxygenation by enhancing the breath. The addition of reishi to the cordyceps helps the body to react better to stress. A combination called Breathe that contains Chaga, Reishi, and Cordyceps is also very helpful. The addition of chaga adds antioxidant power to handle the normal free radicals produced by exercise. While it is possible for muscles to operate in an anaerobic, or oxygen-free environment, exercise in this kind of environment quickly fatigues the muscles. Vitamin C has also been found to be very helpful in preventing attacks in those with exercise-induced asthma. Iron is an important part of red blood cells, which carry oxygen to the tissues. Runners and menstruating female athletes tend to be deficient in iron. That said, you should not supplement with iron unless you have had your blood tested and you have a deficiency. Some signs of iron deficiency are dark circles under the eyes and low energy. My favorite iron supplement is the Floravital liquid iron. It is essentially pre-digested and very bioavailable. If you prefer a pill, the Blood Builder by Megafood and Vitamin Code iron are also very good. Hydration is extremely important for working out. Water may be the single most critical nutrient for exercise. Since heat is produced with all forms of exercise, it must be dissipated through sweat. Without adequate hydration, you will not produce enough sweat to maintain proper body temperature. Muscle is also made up of 70% water, so water is ultra important to muscle function. The electrolyte minerals are also needed for muscle function. We lose electrolytes through sweat, with potassium experiencing the greatest depletion. Gatorade is still a favorite among the sports set but it won’t really do you any favors. At least one study has been done showing that sugar decreases testosterone production and a 20 oz Gatorade has 34 grams! That’s about 80-90% over what we would consider a reasonable amount. Gatorade also contains artificial colors, which have been connected with attention and other issues, and brominated vegetable oil (BVO), listed by the Center for Science in the Public interest as one of the top 7 things you want to avoid in food.  BVO also may inhibit thyroid function, slowing down metabolism and therefore overall body function. Coconut water is an excellent hydrator and great for electrolyte replacement. I love the Harmless Harvest brand. Metagenics also makes a powdered supplement called Endura that is excellent for hydration and electrolyte replacement. Taking a mineral supplements with lots of water is also an option. Joints and other connective tissue sometimes take a beating with sports and workouts so we want to share some tricks of the trade with you on this. Collagen is one of the main proteins in connective tissue so is excellent for joint building and repair. We have a powdered form that is from pasture-raised animals and mixes well in any liquid, yogurt, or shake. As a side benefit, it is also great for your skin and is an important part of the bone matrix. Inflammation in the joints can cause pain and inhibit movement. Turmeric and boswellia are two herbs that calm the inflammation associated with sore joints. We also have several combination formulas that will have anti-inflammatory herbs as well as joint building materials like collagen, glucosamine, and chondroitin. For the occasional strain, sprain or bruise, T-Relief (the replacement for Traumeel) is my favorite. It combines homeopathic remedies that are good for inflammation, strains and sprains, healing connective tissue, supporting bone and more. The ultimate sports remedy! It can be found in tablet, liquid, or topical form. Arnica is mainly for bruising and inflammation, and is also great for injuries or soreness. For more serious injuries, there is Ligament Restore by Pure Encapsulations. If you tend to get very sore muscles after activity, you may be producing too much lactic acid in the muscles. Make sure you are getting enough breath while you exercise (see above). Concentrated sour cherry juice and 100% unsweetened cranberry juice can be taken after a workout to help remove the lactic acid. Electrolytes will also replace some of the minerals necessary for muscle recovery. So that’s it! There are simple steps you can take to get the most from your workouts that are safe and effective. No need to go for fancy muscle-building formulas that may have the potential to contain ingredients that are not on the label. Good basic nutrition, adequate breath, hydration, and care for the muscles and joints are all you really need.

Is That Snack Working for You? Read the Label!

Last week my daughter and I decided to treat ourselves to dessert from Whole Foods’ gluten-free fridge full of baked goods. Unfortunately, we read the label AFTER we ate the cupcake we split. We discovered that it not only had 530 calories (what???), but also 56 grams of sugar, 33% of the recommended fat grams for the day, and very little else in terms of nutrients. A true lesson in practicing what you preach! Requiring your on-the-go foods to have some nutrition is a great way to make sure you don’t overeat. If we reach for snacks that give us nutrition rather than just a quick carb fix, we will eat less overall and get our bodies working better. In the weight loss groups we sponsor we spend an entire class on label reading and here are our top suggestions for finding snack foods that fuel you:
  1. Make sure it provides at least 20% of one nutrient, or 4-6% of several others.
  2. Look for snacks with 5 grams or less of sugar and 5 grams or more of fiber.
  3. Simple ingredient lists are best. Look for 5 ingredients or less and make sure you know what they are (cellulose is a plant material).
  4. Check the serving size! On one bag of Cheetos we examined, the serving size was 4! I doubt anyone looks at that and I really doubt anyone eats 1/4 of the package.
  5. Get some protein in your snack–at least 3 grams.
  6. Choose something with 20% or less of the Recommended Daily Value (RDI) for fat. An exception would be for nuts, which contain healthy fats.
  7. Check sodium levels. They should be 10% or less of the RDI.
If you are in a gas station in the middle of nowhere and are starving, pick the lesser of evils. Believe it or not, a Reese’s peanut butter cup package of two meets most of the requirements. Not that we are encouraging you to eat that, but in case of emergency! Just as notable as what is in your snack foods is what is NOT in them. The better snack companies are now adding information to their package on what you won’t find in their product. Great things to avoid are preservatives, dyes, gluten, GMOs (genetically modified organisms), artificial sweeteners, MSG, nitrates, and hydrogenated oils. So remember, choose wisely! Reduce cravings by giving your body something that will stick with you rather than empty calories.

Detoxification: What it Is and Why You Should Do It

Do you feel sluggish? Or maybe you have a bunch of “little” things wrong with you: allergies, itchy skin or eyes, constipation, stomach upset, joint pain, low energy. You probably need to detox! There are 85,000 chemicals in use worldwide that end up in our water, our air, consumer products, personal care products, and food. Less than half of these chemicals have been tested for human safety. The National Cancer Institute has said that 70% of all cancers are due to environment! Not from your genes, but from the daily stress of pollutants on our bodies. Depending on what organization you follow, there are estimates that 40-80% of cancers can be prevented. This is a great incentive to take care of yourself and a really great reason to detox 2-3 times per year. There are two types of toxins: endogenous and exogenous. Endogenous toxins are produced by normal metabolic functions and can generally be handled by the body’s detoxification system. Exogenous toxins include those that are ingested, inhaled, or taken in through the skin. They include prescription drugs, pesticides, household cleaners, personal care products, paints, building materials, chemicals in food, and more. Exogenous toxins are omnipresent in today’s world and the main reason we need detoxification. The main benefit of detoxification is to clean out the liver and get it functioning better. It improves the overall body function and hence is a great way to jump start a weight loss program. Each time I do a detox it is accompanied by weight loss. Other noticeable benefits are improved skin appearance and tone, more energy, reduced hot flashes and perspiration, better elimination and a feeling of being “cleaner, lighter”. The liver is the body’s main detoxifying organ. Toxins are transferred to the liver by the blood and digestive tract. Detoxification happens in two phases:
  • In Phase I detoxification 100 enzymes known as cytochrome P450 convert toxins to an intermediate form. Free radicals are produced by this process, so antioxidants are very important to neutralize toxins in this Phase. Adequate B2, B3, magnesium, iron, and indoles from cruciferous vegetables are also crucial to this phase.
  • In Phase II the intermediate forms of the toxins are converted to water soluble forms by a number of methods. The new form is then excreted in either the bile and through the digestive system, or through the kidneys. Since the intermediate form is sometimes more dangerous than the original toxin, you must make sure that Phase II is successfully completed. 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 converted forms through the kidneys.
Worried about how you will feel while on a detox? A detox is not for everyone. If you have recently had surgery or are in poor health, you may want to consult with your doctor before beginning a detox program. Most people, however, can successfully do a detox program without any disruption to their normal schedule. Symptoms that you may experience are headache, mild nausea, fatigue, or slightly loose stool. Symptoms occur in proportion to how toxic you are, but usually go away after a couple of days. It is possible to be sensitive to something in the detox formula and you should always discontinue it if your symptoms are severe and call the company that makes it. You may notice that old emotional issues, things you thought you were “done with” start to come out while you are on the detox. We literally hold these things in our body, so a detox can result in a purging of these emotions. Many people assume they are healthy until they are not, i.e., until they actually have a disease. A proactive approach is best. Performing periodic detoxification can prevent illness of all types by maintaining the body’s functioning. Most cleanses last from 2 days to 1 month, depending on the product. Here are the four types of detox programs you may hear about:
  • Fasting-The benefit of fasting is to rest the digestive system. We don’t really recommend this method, but if you must, do it only very short term, 1-2 days. You will not have the nutrients necessary to properly perform detoxification and toxins in the digestive tract will not be carried out if you are not eating any fiber.
  • Juice-Cleansing with juice is very popular right now. Fresh-pressed juices provide excellent nutrition. What they do not provide is the fiber necessary to make sure toxins exit the digestive system. Because they are low in protein you may not get the amino acids necessary to adequately perform Phase II. Also, 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 appropriate.
  • Herbal-These combine a variety herbs, but all have milk thistle and dandelion, two premier herbs for the liver. They can work on the many channels of elimination including the kidneys, the bowel, the lungs, the blood, the skin and the lymph. 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.
  • Homeopathic-These combine a variety of homeopathic remedies and are available in formulas that target specific toxins like yeast, heavy metals, or radiation. Homeopathic remedies do not interact with prescription drugs due to the way they are prepared, so are an option for those who take prescription medication.
  • Vitamin/amino acid-These cleanses are specifically designed to provide all of the nutrients needed for Phase I & II detoxification, as well as metal detox. They are partnered with a very particular diet that eliminates likely food triggers to inflammation. This is the most comprehensive way to detox and what we normally recommend if your schedule allows.
While it may seem daunting, detoxifying has so many benefits that it should really be done by everyone on a regular basis! Once you get in the habit, you’ll be glad you started. There are ways to promote detoxification in the body that don’t require a whole program if your schedule doesn’t allow for that right now. You can add an herbal liver formula, take NAC or reduced glutathione, use a detox tea, and improve your diet. Talk to our staff about the right way for you to add detoxing to your health regimen and check our website for upcoming detox programs!

Got Pain? Heal Your Joints Naturally

Whether it’s a hot, burning pain, cracking or crunching in the joint, or just stiffness, joint pain can keep us from activities that we enjoy. Up to 55 million Americans experience this kind of pain on a regular basis. According to the CDC, that number is growing by 1 million each year. There are over 600,000 knee and hip replacements each year in the U.S., and almost 50% of these are for people under the age of 65! Clearly we need better tools to address this growing problem. Arthritis is a catch-all term for several different conditions that result in joint pain. The most common of these is osteoarthritis, typically diagnosed in individuals over 50 or those with previous injury or over-use (such as with athletics).  The joints break down without the compensatory replacement of cartilage and other joint material.  Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder and conversely, is characterized by generalized inflammation.  It can affect younger individuals, and can result in pain throughout the body, even small joints like the hands and wrists. Gout, ankylosing spondylitis, lupus, lyme disease, and psoriatic arthritis can also produce arthritis-like symptoms. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) are the most common Western treatment for arthritis.  NSAIDs include over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, Medipren & Nuprin) and naproxen (Aleve, Anaprox & Naprosyn) and prescription medications like Celebrex and corticosteroids. These medications reduce inflammation and hence pain but do little to rebuild the joint.  According to Best Pills, Worst Pills, NSAIDs can cause serious side effects including gastrointestinal bleeding resulting in hemorrhage, increased risk of heart attack, and worsening of heart failure and kidney problems. In my own experience, NSAIDs and cortisone shots are quite temporary in the relief they provide.  Narcotic pain relievers can reduce pain, but have serious side effects including cardiac toxicity, potential addiction, and memory impairment. Natural remedies, conversely, are quite safe and promote true healing for these chronic conditions. Remedies target joint repair and inflammation, which go hand-in hand in terms of healing the joints.   Some simple rules apply for finding the solution that will work best for you:
  • Always take into consideration prescription drugs you are on for any reason.  Certain nutrients and herbs are contraindicated with prescription drugs.
  • If you are on multiple prescription drugs, consider using homeopathic medicines as these do not interact with drugs.
  • Herbs have multiple actions in the body due to their many constituents, so choose an herb that will give you more than one benefit.  By way of example, sour cherry juice is excellent for removing uric acid from the joints (known as gout).  It is also high in melatonin and potassium, aiding healthier sleep and heart health, respectively.
Repairing the Joint Certain nutrients are essential to the maintenance of joints because they promote the formation cartilage, tendons, muscle and joint fluid, they protect against oxidative stress in the joints, and they relax muscles that can put pressure on joints.  A great way to take these nutrients is to find a formula that combines several of them. Stop by and our staff can help you choose the one that’s best for you. Combo formulas we love are Mobili-T by Life Seasons, Joint Relief by Redd Remedies, and Curamin by Terry Naturally. Hyaluronic acid is a compound found in the joints that acts as a water magnet, lubricating the joint when present.  Its absence is indicated by a crunching and grinding sound in the joint.  It is also excellent for skin maintenance due to its hydrating abilities. MSM (or methylsulfonylmethane) is a naturally occurring compound found in green plants such as horsetail, algae, fruits, vegetables and grains and is also a part of many joint supplements.  MSM is a natural source of sulfur, an integral component of cartilage.  It promotes joint repair, prevents joint deterioration, and reduces inflammation.  MSM can be taken by itself or in combination with glucosamine/chondroitin.  The recommended dose is 800-3000 mg per day. Natural Eggshell Membrane (NEM) naturally contains chondroitin, hyaluronic acid, and collagen, all important joint building materials.  In one clinical study, NEM reduced joint pain by an average of 72% and improved flexibility by 44% after 30 days of use, without side effects. It is available by itself or in a formula with anti-inflammatory herbs including turmeric and boswellia. Magnesium relaxes the body and can benefit arthritis sufferers by preventing tremors and spasms that cause stress on the joints.  Magnesium is one of the most common mineral deficiencies in the United States.  A safe dose for most people is 400 to 800 mg.  Magnesium may cause diarrhea in large doses, but forms like magnesium glycinate can lessen this effect. Glucosamine is an amino sugar that the body uses to make compounds found in tendons, cartilage, ligaments and synovial (joint) fluid.  Many studies have linked the use of glucosamine to the resolution of pain related to mild to moderate arthritis.  It is often found in combination with chondroitin, also a natural component of joint material.  A dose of 1000 to 1500 mg per day is recommended, along with 500 to 750 mg of chondroitin.  Those with asthma or high blood sugar should consult their practitioners, as the use of these supplements has been linked to a worsening of these conditions.  Glucosamine sulfate typically comes from shellfish, so if you have an allergy choose glucosamine HCL instead. Vitamin C is very important to the formation of connective tissue in the body.  Taking 1000-2000 mg 2-3 times daily can help rebuild joint tissue. Vitamin C also promotes skin and immune health and is a great antioxidant. Put Out the Fire of Inflammation Inflammation is required for healing, but becomes detrimental when it is in excess. Herbs, fatty acids and several other nutrients are effective for reducing excess inflammation and may have other benefits to the body, as noted below. You must always check herbs and targeted nutrients for potential interactions with drugs you take for any reason. Fish oils and GLA will help curb inflammation.  Fish oils contain omega-3s that break down to the useful components EPA and DHA, which have numerous studies supporting their anti-inflammatory effects. The other benefits of fish oils include but are not limited to providing lubrication to the joint, bolstering eye health, reducing blood lipids, thinning the blood, and bolstering the health of every cell membrane. Doses of 1200-5000 mg may be recommended, depending on your situation. GLA can be found in black currant seed oil, borage oil and evening primrose oil.  These oils are often recommended for menopausal and premenstrual symptoms, and thus will provide additional benefit for women. Boswellia is an ayurvedic herb that deactivates hormonal triggers for inflammation.  It shrinks inflamed tissue by stimulating the growth of cartilage.  The active ingredient in boswellia is the boswellic acids, so it should be standardized to contain 60-65% boswellic acids. This herb is well-studied for its anti-inflammatory action. Turmeric is an herb that is anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving.  Its active ingredient curcumin is now a much-studied compound and has been found to have wide-ranging beneficial effects on the body.  It is an antioxidant, especially for the small joints in the body.  It is thought to switch off the protein that triggers joint swelling and destruction.  It has been found to have beneficial effects for inflammatory bowel disease, heart health and even cancer.  Turmeric is difficult to absorb, so make sure you buy a brand that prepares the herb to increase bioavailability by adding black pepper extract, extracting the curcumin, or using a patented extract called BCM-95. Proteolytic enzymes are proteins that perform thousands of different functions in the body, including the regulation of a normal inflammation response.  Proteolytic enzyme formulas assist in balancing this process and in doing so can help control unhealthy inflammation. Bromelain is an enzyme from pineapple that has anti-inflammatory properties.  It is also excellent for inflammation in the sinuses and digestive tract.  Take 500 mg 3 times daily. Montmorency cherries in concentrated juice, capsule or whole cherry form, are a great healer for joints.  They are especially known for clearing uric acid, the prime cause of gout.  Cherries have the added benefit of promoting sleep because they are high in melatonin. They are also high in potassium, which is crucial to heart health. Pycnogenol, a pine bark extract, inhibits COX-2 and LOX-5, two pro-inflammatory pathways in the body.  It also counteracts the degradation of the protein matrix of the bones.  It also promotes skin health, is an antioxidant, and lowers C-reactive protein, making it important to heart health.  Pycnogenol is not recommended if you have rheumatoid arthritis as it may have immune-stimulating effects. Homeopathic Aids & Topical Medicines Individual homeopathic remedies such as Rhus Tox or Bryonia are commonly used for arthritic complaints.   Combination homeopathic formulas are available that are effective for a variety of people.  Zeel or Traumeel are two such formulas, the former being indicated for osteoarthritis and the latter being indicated in cases of over-use or injury.  Both of these formulas can also be found in topical form as an ointment or gel. Arnica, Topricin, and Tiger Balm also give topical relief. Dietary Suggestions A change in diet may not be enough to completely relieve pain and rebuild joints, but it can definitely lessen pain.  Eat lots of fiber in the form of vegetables and low-acid fruit, which will help sweep away mineral and acid build-up and keep the digestive system free of harmful bacteria.  Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower also have anti-inflammatory properties.  Other vegetables like asparagus, cabbage, garlic and onion are rich in sulfur, an important component of connective tissue, so eat up on those!!  Fresh pineapple contains bromelain, an enzyme helpful in fighting inflammation.  Tart red cherries, as mentioned above, have pain-reducing effects. Joint pain can be a reflection of too much acid in the diet, so eat foods that are alkalinizing, like most fruits and vegetables.  Foods or beverages that are very alkaline and are considered “rescue” foods include any kind of melon, a good quality mineral water like Pellegrino, most greens, chestnuts and pumpkin seeds, seaweeds, lemon or lime juice, and onions. Foods and beverages that you will want to lessen or avoid include red meat, saturated fats, hydrogenated oils, sugar, foods high in gluten (pasta, breads and pastries), refined carbohydrates, dairy, caffeine, soda pop, and alcohol.  All of these foods are known to increase inflammation in the body if used frequently, or if you have a particular sensitivity to them. Food sensitivities can also be a culprit in joint pain. I find that gluten aggravates my joints. If I stay away from it, I have no joint pain. Identifying food allergies can be difficult as symptoms can be removed from the ingestion of the food by several days. Keeping a food diary can assist you. Note your symptoms relative to the foods you are eating within the next 3-4 day period. Undigested proteins from milk, soy, gluten, corn and peanuts are common food sensitivities. The nightshade vegetables (tomatoes, peppers, white potatoes and eggplant) can aggravate arthritis symptoms in some people.  They have a substance called solanine in them that can interfere with the enzymes in the muscles, causing discomfort. Overall toxicity can cause joint pain, so doing a periodic detoxification program can reduce symptoms. Andrew Weil did a study of rheumatoid arthritis sufferers and found that a 3-5 day juice cleanse reduced symptoms of an attack just as quickly as corticosteroids or other pain medication. We also offer other detoxification kits by Metagenics, Renew Life and even some homeopathic options. Talk to our staff about what is best for you. Cold water fish and flax seeds provide healthy oils that are useful in reducing inflammation.  Water is also very important in flushing toxins and pain can be related to dehydration.  Keep well hydrated at all times. I love coconut water for hydration as it is high in potassium and other electrolyte minerals and is also very refreshing! And finally, as always, move!!   You have heard about the benefits enough that I don’t need to repeat them here.  They are in every health article known to man.   Exercising in water is helpful if your joints are extremely painful. The key for me is in variety.  Find a number of activities that you enjoy doing and rotate them so you don’t get bored.  Make sure you pick at least one that is convenient enough to do just about anywhere. Don’t think too hard about it, just do it! “Find a place inside where there is joy and the joy will burn out the pain.”~Joseph Campbell                                                      

Heart Smart: Natural Solutions for a Healthy Heart–Part III

Thanks for joining us for Part III of our series on heart health! In Part I of our series we talked about the real causes of cardiovascular disease, more detailed testing your doctor may want to perform, and foundational nutrition for heart health. Our top 3 foundational supplements for heart health are fish oil, magnesium, and fiber. In Part II we covered other important heart nutrients including potassium, Vitamin D, Vitamin K-2, CoQ10 and B vitamins. Here in Part III, we will cover how to quell inflammation, diet misconceptions, and how your heart medication can contribute to heart disease. New research is finding that the real story for heart disease may lie in factors that previously were not given emphasis. Inflammation, oxidative stress, high blood sugar, immune system dysfunction, and toxicity are now considered paramount to the true risk of cardiovascular disease. Markers of inflammation such as CRP and high homocysteine are being found to be much more predictive of heart disease than diet and cholesterol. High homocysteine causes a 3-fold increase in the risk of heart attack. Dr. Paul Ricker of Harvard, an expert on CRP, has demonstrated that high CRP also increases the risk of heart attack 3-fold. When high CRP and high small particle LDL are both present, a 6-fold increase in risk occurs. MPO, or myeloperoxidase is an inflammatory and oxidative stress marker. MPO has anti-infective properties but it also oxidizes HDL (the “good” cholesterol), rendering it ineffective, and oxidizes LDL (the “bad”), promoting plaque. Elevated levels of MPO can increase the risk of a cardiovascular event by 16-fold! Pre-diabetes and diabetes are a huge and growing problem in the U.S. It is well-known that heart disease occurs frequently in diabetics, so it should be no surprise that less-than-optimal blood sugar increases heart disease risk. If you have a diet that is high in sugars or white carbs like white rice, cereal, bread, potatoes, or alcohol, you are increasing your risk of heart disease. High blood sugar is directly related to high triglycerides and is pro-inflammatory. Immune system dysfunction has recently been connected with heart disease. Food sensitivities to things like gluten or dairy can cause the immune system to over-react, causing injury to the blood vessels. Undigested material gets through the intestinal wall, a condition known as “leaky gut” syndrome, and causes a reaction. Probiotics and proper diet can bolster the health of the gut thereby reducing this risk. One strain of probiotic called reuteri has been shown in studies to lower cholesterol. Vitamin D also plays a large role in immune system modulation, and was one of the nutrients suggested in Part II of our series. Toxicity is a factor in heart disease, as well as cancer, joint problems, respiratory issues and myriad other diseases. There are 85,000 chemicals in use worldwide and only half of them have been tested for human safety. It has been found that those with low levels of glutathione, one of the body’s main detoxifying agents, are at greater risk for heart disease. This constant assault on our bodies creates a need for periodic detoxification. Three day to month-long detoxification options are available and are a highly recommended health habit. As an alternative to a full detox program, N-acetylcysteine, or NAC, is a nutrient that boosts glutathione levels and promotes overall detoxification. Doses of 500-1200 mg are usually recommended. Herbs and other nutrient are especially helpful in quelling inflammation. Curcumin from turmeric is a powerful anti-inflammatory herb and a great antioxidant. It has been found in hundreds of studies to have a positive effect on inflammation. It also assists the liver in detoxification. Doses of 500-1000 mg are usually recommended. Resveratrol, found in red wine, grapes, and chocolate can also benefit those with heart disease risk accompanied by high inflammatory markers. It also reduces MPO. It activates a gene called SIRT1, known as the longevity gene. Recommended doses are in the range of 200-350 mg. Make sure you get trans-resveratrol, the only form that the body recognizes. If you are a healthy weight and have optimal blood sugar, drinking 2 glasses of wine per day is thought to be beneficial in the prevention of heart disease due to its resveratrol content. There are many diet misconceptions related to heart disease. Fat has been demonized, along with foods high in cholesterol. In truth, only 30% of our cholesterol is taken in through the diet and newer studies suggest that changing cholesterol intake does not have a significant effect on overall levels. The fats that should be avoided are trans fats and hydrogenated fats, found only in processed foods. Saturated fats, monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats can all be part of a healthy diet. The key to healthy saturated fats is to get animal products that are organic and pasture-raised. This eliminates chemicals like steroids and antibiotics that can affect our own hormones and immune systems. Eggs are very well digested due to their lecithin content and need not be avoided. Just last week the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee has decided to remove its longstanding warning against high cholesterol foods like eggs and shrimp, but recommended sharp new limits on sugar intake. Nuts, seeds, and olives are other great sources healthy fats and should be part of any heart-healthy diet. Dairy products should also be from organic sources. While dairy can be difficult for some people to digest, using cultured dairy foods like yogurt and aged cheeses usually alleviates this. These foods contain the good bacteria that enhances their digestion. If you melt cheese, you are destroying the good bacteria that help you to digest it. Sugar, as mentioned above, is your worst enemy in the prevention of heart disease. Eliminating packaged foods, sodas, and alcohol are three great ways to reduce sugar in the diet. Even some whole wheat breads have more sugar per serving than a Snickers bar! Pay close attention to nutrition facts on the label and look for servings with 5 grams or less of sugar. Last but definitely not least, be aware of nutrient depletions caused by your heart medications. This is probably the last place we would think to be concerned about, but very important. The nutrient depletions are often directly related to side effects. Here are a few:
  • Diuretics decrease potassium, magnesium, phosphorous, sodium, chloride, zinc, iodide, CoQ10, folate, B12, B6, thiamine and selenium. Wow! Maybe dandelion root, hawthorn, or juniper berry would be better options for managing blood pressure.
  • Beta blockers deplete CoQ10, a nutrient that is vital to heart health (see Part II)
  • ACE inhibitors decrease zinc, very important to testosterone production and immune function
  • Angiotensin receptor blockers decrease zinc
  • Statins decrease CoQ10, selenium, omega-3s, Vitamins E, A, and D, carnitine and free thyroid hormone
The key to great heart health is getting the nutrients your body needs. We set out in Part I to arm you with information about foundational supplements for heart health. In Part II we talked about other crucial nutrients and how to get them through diet or supplementation. Here in Part III we talked about ways to quell inflammation, diet misconceptions, and ways that your prescription drugs can be contributing to heart disease. Your doctor can do more advanced testing, as noted in Part I, to determine your true risk of heart disease. Then you can improve your diet and add supplementation to make sure you have the best outcomes. While the treatment of heart disease is best left to your doctor, there are steps you can take to minimize your risk. Remember, up to 80% of all heart disease can be prevented with proper nutrition, management of inflammation and oxidation, cessation of smoking, stress management and exercise!            

Part II–Heart Smart: Natural Solutions for a Healthy Heart

Welcome back to our three-part series on heart health! In Part I of our series we talked about the real causes of cardiovascular events, more detailed testing of cholesterol that your doctor may want to perform, and foundational nutrition for heart health. Our top three foundational supplements for heart health are fish oils, magnesium, and believe it or not, fiber. In this second part of the series, we will talk about additional nutrients that are important to heart health. Deficiencies in any of these nutrients can contribute to poor heart health, and supplementation can improve heart health. Choose those that are specific to your own issues. Potassium. Next to magnesium, potassium is one of the best nutrients for managing blood pressure. Potassium and sodium work together for water balance in the body, which is a factor in blood pressure. Many people use diuretics to manage blood pressure when they would be better off drinking coconut water or dandelion root tea! The real reason so many of us have high blood pressure is that our potassium/sodium balance is off. The typical American diet has potassium/sodium in a ratio of 3 :5 when the ratio for optimal function may be as high as 6:1, depending on what source you consult. By law, potassium supplements can only be 99 mg, so you are better off consuming foods high in potassium. The best sources of potassium are coconut water, avocado, white beans, yogurt, acorn squash, baked potato with the skin, and salmon. Rather than going salt-free, reduce your intake of processed foods, and use a high mineral salt like Himalayan salt or a high quality sea salt. The Spice House  here in Evanston has lots of great choices. Vitamin D. Low levels of Vitamin D are linked to heart disease. Vitamin D acts as a hormone, regulating over 200 genes in the body. It is protective against diabetes, a huge risk factor in heart disease. It also tempers inflammation. Since it is an immune system modulator, Vitamin D can be protective in cases where there is damage to the arteries originating in an immune response. Adequate Vitamin D levels also ensure the proper absorption of calcium. Calcium and magnesium are vital to the pumping action of the heart. Vitamin D levels should be in the range of 50-80 ng/ml. Most individuals can safely take 1000-2000 IUs. If blood test confirm that you have a serious deficiency you will need more, up to 5000 IUs per day. Vitamin K2. Vitamin K2, particularly the MK-7 form, tells our bodies how to use the calcium we consume. It directs calcium to the bone rather than letting it build up in the arteries where it can contribute to plaque, high blood pressure, and even stroke. Vitamin K2 is found primarily in a Japanese food called natto, other fermented foods, and animal livers. A typical American diet does not include these foods, so supplementation is helpful. Typical doses are in the range of 45-150 mcg daily. CoQ10. Coenzyme Q10 is the “spark plug” for the energy-making process in every cell and is vital to heart function. The heart is very metabolically active and requires energy for its pumping action. Ironically, CoQ10 is depleted by several drugs used to treat heart disease including statins, beta blockers, and diuretics. Replacing what is lost is crucial to heart health. CoQ10 is a strong antioxidant and helps to clear toxins and debris from the body. It also reduces CRP, an inflammatory blood marker that is very predictive of heart events. For preventative benefit or to replace what is lost by taking prescription drugs, the recommended dose is 100-200 mg per day. B Vitamins. B vitamins help us break down our food, produce energy, and nourish the nerves, thus reducing stress. Certain of the B Vitamins are directly related to the management of blood markers that are factors in heart disease risk. Homocysteine, one of these markers, can be reduced by supplementing with B6, B12, and folic acid. Pantethine, or B5, lowers cholesterol by blocking an enzyme involved in the production of cholesterol in the liver. It reduces LDL and triglycerides and increases HDL, the good cholesterol. It also helps reduce stress by nourishing the adrenal glands. The B vitamins work together in the body so it is advisable to use a B complex alongside of any single B vitamin. Nutritional yeast, raw honey, and spirulina are excellent food sources of the B vitamins. Spirulina is a micro-algae high in vitamins and minerals that can be found in pill or powdered form. If you already have heart disease, you will definitely need one or more of these nutrients. Adding the recommended foods is crucial, but extra nutrition is also necessary until your body gets back into balance. Stay tuned for Part III in our series, where we will be discussing anti-inflammatory herbs for heart health, diet misconceptions related to heart disease and more!  

Part I–Heart Smart: Natural Solutions for a Healthy Heart

In this three-part series, we will take a look at the real cause of heart attack and other cardiovascular events and talk about nutrition and other lifestyle factors that can significantly reduce your risk of an event. In Part I we will discuss tests that your doctor can do to more accurately assess your risk of heart disease and foundational nutrition to address it. In Part II, we will discuss additional nutrients that are important to heart health and in Part III we will address other factors that affect heart health and how you can manage those factors. New information shows that the top 5 risk factors on which the medical profession has been evaluating the risk of heart disease for years do not fully predict the risk of a cardiovascular event. Little emphasis is placed on nutrition, exercise, and stress management, three crucial factors in the management of heart disease. As far back as 2004, the medical journal Lancet published a study purporting that exercise, optimal nutrition, optimal body weight and composition, moderate red wine consumption, and smoking cessation could decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease by a whopping 80%! More than 50% of those who have heart attacks have “normal” cholesterol, yet we are lead to believe that taking a statin drug is our main ally in avoiding a heart attack. Newer research suggests that 1) looking at the make-up of cholesterol and other lipids 2) attention to markers of inflammation and oxidative stress, 3) testing for high blood sugar and insulin 4) looking at immune system dysfunction and 5) appropriate detoxification will allow us to better predict the risk of a cardiovascular event. Once that risk is determined, we can use diet, supplements, exercise and stress management to better manage it. Let’s take a look at numbers 1) and 2) above, tests your doctor can do to more accurately determine your risk of heart disease. The beauty of this early testing is that once you have an accurate picture of your risk you can use natural means to reduce it. A VAP panel is advanced testing of cholesterol and other lipids. It further analyzes components of fats in your blood. For example, you may have low LDL (the “bad” cholesterol), normally considered a good thing, yet have a high particle number, indicating a risk of heart disease. Or you may have very high HDL (the “good” cholesterol), normally considered a good thing, but it may not be functioning correctly because the particle size is too small. The test measures subclasses of LDL and HDL, triglycerides, IDL (intermediate-density lipoproteins), VLDL (very low-density lipoproteins) and Lp(a), or lipoprotein (a). High triglycerides alone do not cause heart attack, but are a driving force behind an increase in both small LDL and VLDL. High triglycerides also signify issues with blood sugar management. Lp (a) is a direct cause of plaque formation and rupture that can cause a heart attack. High Lp(a) is often implicated in the early heart attacks that occur in 40-50 year olds. Using the VAP panel to identify your own risk factors will allow you to target nutrients that address them. Tests that identify the potential for damaging inflammation or oxidation are as follows:
  1. Homocysteine. This is an inflammatory marker that, when elevated, causes injury to the arteries, increases oxidation of LDL (promoting plaque), constricts arteries, and provokes blood clot formation. The net result is a 3-fold increase in the risk of heart attack.
  2. C-Reactive Protein. Another marker that measures systematic inflammation. High CRP increases the risk of heart attack 3-fold. When you also have high small particle LDL, there is a 6-fold risk.
  3. Fibrinogen. A principle blood-clotting protein that, when elevated, can indicate a risk of blood clot formation. In the absence of a blood clot, it can also accelerate plaque formation.
  4. MPO (myeloperoxidase). An inflammatory and oxidative stress marker that has anti-infective functions but at higher levels oxidizes HDL, the good cholesterol, rendering it ineffective. It also oxidizes LDL, promoting plaque. Elevated levels increase cardiovascular risk by 16-fold!
Now that we have covered the basics of how your heart disease risk can be accurately assessed, let’s talk about what you can do about it! Below are 3 foundational nutrients that can be used to manage your risk of heart disease:
  1. Healthy Fats. Low fat is old news and the right fats are what you should be focused on. Omega-3 fats, found in fish oil and certain plants like flax, chia and hemp, are ultra-important to heart health. Omega-3s bolster the health of the cell membrane, increase HDL, and reduce IDL, triglycerides, VLDL and C-Reactive protein. A true bonanza for improving blood markers for heart disease! Three servings of fatty fish per week will protect a healthy person against a risk of heart disease. The highest fish sources of omega-3s are salmon, cod, mackerel, anchovies and sardines. If you eat less than this, taking a fish oil supplement is a great way to protect against heart disease. A typical dose is 1200 mg, but your doctor may recommend in the range of 3000-10,000 mg on a short term basis if disease is present. Other plant fats like those found in avocado, olive oil, coconut oil, and nuts are very heart healthy. The most important thing to stay away from are trans fats and hydrogenated fats, found mainly in packaged foods. Saturated fats from animal sources are okay in smaller amounts, say 1-2 servings per week. The key is to find meats and dairy that are grass-fed, pasture-raised, and free of antibiotics and growth hormones. Grass-fed meats contain CLA, a fat that has been found to reduce the visceral fat surrounding the organs, a factor in heart disease.
  2. Magnesium. Low magnesium levels are the greatest predictor of heart disease according to a 2013 study that reviewed cardiovascular studies over the past seven decades. A deficiency of this macronutrient is common in the U.S. due to over-farming and the resulting depletion of magnesium in our soil. For blood pressure that is trending upward, greater than 120/80, this is the first nutrient you should look to. It relaxes the blood vessels, calms the nerves, assists in blood sugar management (a factor in inflammation), and balances calcium in the blood. Magnesium works in concert with calcium in the pumping action of the heart, and the contraction/relaxation of the blood vessels. Add 250-400 mg of magnesium a day to manage stress, support healthy blood pressure, and balance calcium. Magnesium can be laxative at higher doses, so be aware of that. Great food sources of magnesium are kelp, dark, leafy greens, nuts, avocado and dark chocolate.
  3. Fiber. Boring, but important! The recommended amount of fiber per day is 35 grams, but in Paleolithic times we consumed almost 3 times this amount. Many Americans fall short of even the lower amount and average 10-15 grams per day. Fiber is a true superstar in heart health. It reduces markers that are negative for heart health including Lp(a), triglycerides, VLDL, and CRP. It also binds heavy metals and other toxins that can negatively affect heart health. Using a fiber supplement before bed is a great way to improve your heart health and manage blood sugar. Another key way to add more fiber is more fruits and vegetables! Apples are considered a superfood for the heart due to the pectin fiber they contain, along with a higher level of potassium. Whole grains can also provide fiber, but grains in excess of 2 servings a day can contribute to heart disease due to their effect on blood sugar. Adding 2 tablespoons of ground flax seeds, chia seeds, or hemp seeds to a protein shake in the morning is another great way to add fiber. It’s a simple and effective way to manage heart health!
Those are our top 3 for now. Remember that protecting your heart health is not just about low cholesterol and being on a statin drug. There are important nutrients and diet changes you can make that can have a profound effect on heart health. Above we have summarized tests your doctor can do to identify your true risk for heart disease, along with three foundational nutrients that all of us should consider taking for heart health. Tune in next week for additional supplements that can be used to improve heart health…  

Speedy Recovery: Healing From Injury, Surgery, or Other Trauma

This subject is near and dear to my heart after both a recent injury and surgery that affected my back, abdomen and nervous system. It was a true test of my knowledge of how to repair the body, my willingness to get the help I needed, and my patience (with which I am not that blessed)! I admit that I had moments that I thought I would never get better and had pain so severe that I had to use prescription painkillers. Given my natural aversion to drugs, this was a big deal for me! The good news is that I am feeling much better and nutrition and supplements were a crucial part of my healing process. After my own experience I want to pass on what I have learned. If you have experienced any trauma to the body, including surgery, an injury, or just prolonged stress that has affected your physical health, there is something here for you. The most surprising part of this whole process has been all of the ancillary issues I had to deal with due to the surgery. First there was the pain in my throat from the trache tube—slippery elm lozenges got rid of that in a snap. Then there was the pain from the catheter—the perfect job for marshmallow root. For laparoscopic surgery they pump you full of CO2 gas. You can suffer the discomfort of that for a week or you can take fennel tincture to get rid of it in a couple days. The brain fog was the worst. I couldn’t call up words, forgot what I was saying mid-sentence, and was overall just dull-witted! Needless to say that was kind of frightening and was aggravated by the pain meds I had been on. No loss, though, because I was able to try PQQ, a nutrient from which three recent studies have shown positive effects on the brain. I used a combination of CoQ10 and PQQ with great results! It took about a month, but definitely got my marbles back! I would love to say that there is an herb or combination of herbs that will alleviate severe pain but if there is I don’t know about it. Before I had the surgery I was in so much pain that I had to take the pain meds. The goal, of course, is to use them as little as possible and get off of them as quickly as possible. The brain fog, damage to the stomach lining, and potential for addiction argue for using them wisely. The Acute Phase Immediately after trauma, the body responds with inflammation. The homeopathic remedy arnica, 200 CK or above, works really well to minimize inflammation and swelling at the time of the injury or surgery. I took arnica 200 ck the day before and the morning of my surgery, as well as for 4-5 days after. This works amazingly well for pain too. After my surgery, I only had to use the pain meds a couple of times. The only caution for this is if you are required to take Coumadin after your surgery (required in many hip replacements). There is some evidence that arnica can thin the blood so paring it with a blood thinner may cause additive effects. If the injury or surgery affects any area that is nerve-rich such as the back, the eyes, the hands or feet, then alternate the arnica with hypericum. Hypericum will assist in nerve healing. Healing of the nerves can also be accomplished with the B vitamins, particularly B12 and benfotiamine (B1). When bone is involved, use the cell salts Calc Phos, Calc Flor and Silica internally to heal the bone. Proteolytic enzymes, taken between meals, are essential to quelling the inflammatory response. These enzymes, if taken with a meal, will be used to digest your food. If taken between meals, they will actually help your body “digest” inflammatory substances. These enzymes should be taken several times per day for 2-3 days after the initial trauma. I don’t recommend enzymes when the injury or surgery involves the digestive tract. The tract will need to be healed before the use of enzymes is advisable. Also, you may want to avoid these if you been on pain meds for a while. The idea is to use them instead of the pain meds, if possible. There are many herbs that quell inflammation including turmeric, boswellia, ginger, and cayenne pepper. Bioflavonoids can also reduce inflammation. These can be found separately or in combination formulas. Vitamins A, C, & E are very important to healing tissue, including the skin. Sea buckthorn is high in these vitamins, and also adds the benefit of omega-7 for healing the internal and external “skin”. Add sea buckthorn for speedy healing of incisions and any damage done to tissue by surgical instruments. Vitamin E can help prevent excess scar tissue. Quality protein is important when healing from an injury or surgery. Proteins are used for the manufacture of new tissue, repair of old tissue, making hormones and making the enzymes necessary for body processes. Whey protein powder is perfect for building muscle as it is high in the branched chain amino acids, which are used for this purpose. It also has immune-building benefits so can keep your immunity up while you are rehabilitating. There are also vegan proteins that contain soy, brown rice, hemp protein, cranberry protein, pea protein, or some combination of these that are good sources. Omega-3s in the form of fish oil, a multivitamin, and a probiotic are base nutrients that will assist the body in repair. A multi will assure that you have a base level of nutrients like Vitamin D and zinc that help with healing. Omega-3s will help with cell renewal and repair, and probiotics will replace the good bacteria depleted by any antibiotics. They will also prevent illness while you recover. I personally did a healing shake every morning and here is the recipe:
  • 2 scoops whey protein
  • 1 oz sea buckthorn juice by Genesis
  • 1/2 c. raspberries, cherries, beets or strawberries (good for blood building)
  • 1 c. organic coconut water
  • 5 large ice cubes
  • 2 tsp Udo’s oil (for omega fats, optional if doing fish oil separately)
  • 2 tsp powdered Vitamin C by Healthforce
  • Handful of greens (spinach, arugula, or kale)
  • ¼ avocado
  • Local honey to taste
Add to a blender and blend away! And last of all REST. Any injury or surgery is a trauma to the body and trying to “power through” will not do you any favors. You will do yourself more harm than good if you try to get up and about too soon. Putting pressure on the affected area will cause more swelling and inflammation and will use the energy that your body could devote to healing. The Sub-Acute Phase After 3 days it is time to move around a little more. Doing some movement will help the lymph system to clear toxins and get circulation flowing to the affected areas. Move in any way that you are able, even if it means just circling your hands and feet while laying down. Continue with anti-inflammatory herbs and arnica. For an injury where connective tissue is involved, take a supplement that supports the regeneration of that tissue. Several are available, but look for these ingredients: UC-II type collagen, amino acids proline, lysine, and glycine, vitamin C, MSM, manganese, turmeric, glucosamine and chondroitin, and silica. A B-complex will assist in the digestion of food and make sure you have adequate energy reserves to do the work of healing. It will help repair any nerves that were damaged in the injury or surgery. It also helps the body recover from the stress of the trauma and any worry you have about not being able to perform your regular duties. Continue the multi, the omega-3, and the probiotics. This basic nutrition will ensure that the body has a base level of all the nutrients you need to get better. If you can get out of the house I highly recommend doing acupuncture, reiki, or other energy treatment. These treatments can help the body get back into balance, which is crucial to overall healing. If you have a chiropractor that uses kinesiology, electronic stimulation, or other non-invasive method that is helpful too. Don’t consider these things a luxury. Proper healing from injury or surgery prevents re-injury, excessive scar tissue, and ultimately, expensive medical bills down the road. I ran into a friend the other day that is having a second abdominal surgery because the scar tissue from the first surgery has wrapped around her intestines, causing a narrowing and the need for more surgery. If it’s not covered by your insurance do it anyway. You are worth it! Once you are back to work, make sure you get adequate rest in the evening. It’s amazing what your kids can and will do when you really need them to help out (this includes your husband too). It is tempting to overdo, considering all of the things that are left undone while you are convalescing. Resist the temptation! Maintenance and Well Care  After 2-3 weeks of doing the above you should feel quite good. At this time, you will probably be allowed to get back into the water. Since water is the nurturing element it is amazing for healing. The single most helpful thing I did to calm my nervous system and allow me to move without pain was to go in a warm water therapy pool. Evanston Athletic Club , the “Y”, the Park Center in Glenview and Galter Life Center on the north side of the city all have one. These pools are heated to 102 degrees, so will keep the muscles relaxed. At first all I could do was float and do very gentle movements, but within a couple weeks I could exercise in the water. The water supports you so that you can do what you could never dream of doing on land. If there was some emotional trauma associated with your accident/injury, then you might want to check out a therapy called Watsu. A practitioner does guided movements with you in the water and it is very nurturing and calming. If you can’t get out to a warm water pool then take a bath. Just relaxing in the tub will do wonders for your healing.   When we are injured or have surgery we tend to compensate with body movements that avoid pain to the affected area. This puts the musculoskeletal system out of balance. A chiropractor can be very helpful in re-balancing these compensations so that we don’t continue to use muscles in an unnatural way, potentially causing re-injury down the road. In my own case, I had been compensating for a long period of time due to two past injuries. In addition to chiropractic work I had to retrain my core, which I am still working on as we speak. It involved doing micro-movements called somatics. Basically, you have to re-teach the brain the correct movement. Make sure you work with someone that has an excellent knowledge of the muscle structure, compensating patterns that are common after certain injuries, and ways to retrain the body that prevent you from “cheating” and repeating the incorrect movements. I highly recommend Cindy at Fitness Defined. After just 3 weeks I have made so much progress.   Do any kind of exercise that your injury allows—walking, yoga, bike riding or swimming. Start slow and be okay with the fact that it may take months to get back to what you could do before. Heaven Meets Earth and One 2 One Yoga do restorative yoga with very gentle, supported movements. This is great for stress relief and giving the body some movement without stress on the joints. David from One 2 One has a great knowledge of the muscles and has been very helpful to me. I believe they will also come to your home.   Continue with the basic nutrition and focus on joint repair, reducing scar tissue, and any leftover inflammation. I found that once I began exercising more that the tissue in the area of the surgery would get inflamed and very hard. Homeopathic silica is useful for breaking up scar tissue. Topically, I used arnica and Traumeel on the affected area. Traumeel has homeopathic remedies for connective tissue, swelling and inflammation, and even bone. I also used anti-inflammatory herbs and nutrients like ginger, turmeric, boswellia, quercetin, and cayenne. Ginger is a personal favorite because it also promotes circulation, prevents colds & flu, and aids in digestion. It is a great add to a smoothie as well.   Once you are feeling really well think about doing a detoxification program. These programs last 10-21 days and are important for cleaning out all of the toxins in the body that can occur with injury and/or surgery. The body naturally produces free radicals and other toxic chemicals as we heal and we also want to remove any prescription drugs left in the system. By improving the functioning of the liver, we can ensure a full return to health. If you have specific questions, or would like to have a plan in place for an upcoming surgery, I do individual consultations with clients. I am especially adept at helping with trauma to the back and abdominal area. If you just have simple questions you are welcome to talk with me in the store as well. Good luck for a speedy recovery!   Lynn Bednar, CNC – (847) 864-1600

Here Come the Bugs!: Nature’s Remedies for Fighting Immune Illness

“Seasonal flu is now a pandemic that lasts for years and years because you’ve got so many people that it’s jumping back between northern and southern hemispheres and moving itself around the world. By the time it gets back to where it started, it’s changed sufficiently so that people are no longer immune.” ~Nathan Wolfe We’ve seen a lot of immune illness coming through our doors in the last couple of weeks. There is no reason to ever have a cough, cold or flu that hangs on for three days or more. Nature has so much to offer us in terms of speeding through any illness, even more serious infections. Most people are familiar with old favorites like Echinacea, Elderberry, and Oscillococinnum. What we want to share with you here are some lesser known but extremely effective products to protect from and get rid of immune illness.

And Here Are Some of Our Favorites

Before you get something is a great time to think about your immune system, particularly if you typically pick up a lot of the bugs that go around. Certain professions, like teachers or health care workers, may also want to boost immunity going in to the sick season. Here are our favorites for boosting immunity: Vitamin D-I would be remiss if I did not mention Vitamin D when taking about immunity. It falls under the “boring but important” category. Vitamin D is a great immune modulator and therefore boosts immunity, as well as aids in tempering autoimmune illness. For those with difficulty absorbing Vitamin D (i.e. you cannot get your levels to go up) this emulsified D liquid is my first choice. Get 2000 IUs in just one drop! Vitamin C plays a vital role in many immune mechanisms. It is recommended for immune health and can be taken in higher quantities if you are ill. We love this one as it is strictly food, from acerola berry. Just mix with water. It is much easier on the stomach than ascorbic acid and is very well absorbed. We love it! Stamets 7 is a combination of 7 different mushrooms: Royal Sun Blazei, Cordyceps, Reishi, Maitake, Lion’s Mane, Chaga, and Mesima. The polysaccharide content in mushrooms account for their immune building effects. Each mushroom offers different protection, so this combination is good for protection against cold, flu, and coughs, and even more chronic conditions like asthma and allergies. Agarikon mushroom has been found to be one of the most potent anti-viral substances on earth. The Department of Health and Human Services, under Project BioShield, tested Agarikon along with numerous other substances in the hopes of protecting the public in the event of bio-terrorism. It was found to be in the top 10 for its anti-viral activity, showing activity against such serious viruses as cowpox, swine and bird flus, herpes I & II, certain strains of tuberculosis and even smallpox. Great for fighting common cold and flu, shingles, herpes, mono, and other viruses. Propolis is a resin that bees use to protect their hives. This resin is high in anti- bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral properties. This propolis product contains a patented extract of propolis that concentrates the flavanols, the active component, that has activity against pathogens. Use this product as a daily immune boost or higher quantities when there is a challenge to the immune system. The above are by no means a catch-all and we have great tried-and true formulas like the Wellness Formula that are great for kicking colds and flus. Vita Biotic by Eclectic Institute is great for illness that has hung on and you just can’t seems to shake. For those who prefer not to take herbs because of drug interactions, we also have lots of homeopathic options available.