All posts by bewellwarrior

A born and bred Texan, I currently reside in New York City and work as a producer, personal trainer and nutritional supplement retailer. I first came to the city as a choreographer and performer, and I quickly saw the wear and tear on the body and overall toll busy city living can take. In 1998, I began working in the health and fitness field and shortly thereafter, as a fitness and wellness center manager. After spending the majority of my time focused on ways to strengthen the body through movement and exercise, exploring the ways to strengthen through nutrition was a natural progression. And that quickly became a passion of mine. Soon after, I enrolled in the Clayton College of Natural Health as a student of herbalism and naturopathy. My intention was to learn truly effective alternative healing methods for both my clients and myself. During this quest for wellness, I've tried formulations for the enhancement of everything from physical attributes and athletic performance to stress management and mental performance. I believe that prevention is the best defense and key to surviving and thriving through the twists and turns that life can bring. Information and self awareness are crucial in this process. The goal of BeWellWarrior is to share the knowledge and experience I've gained through my trials and errors while also shedding some light on the world of nutritional healing. Enjoy and Be Well!

I Heart You: The Tale of Q & A

There are, no doubt, many nutrients that benefit the heart and cardiovascular system, the EPA component of omega 3 fatty acids and the grape seed extract of red wine to name a couple. But two crucial nutrients are especially worthy of attention, if not for the multi faceted support they actually provide, then to dispel the claims of what they’ve been rumored to do.

Coenzymes Q10 and A, Our Silent Helpers

First, what is a coenzyme? A substance that works with an enzyme to perform its function

And so, what is an enzyme? A protein that acts as a catalyst for a chemical action*

Our cardiovascular system is comprised of the heart, blood vessels and blood that carry nutrients through our bodies. A healthily functioning system relies upon many biological conditions and processes to properly perform its duties, including effective nutrient metabolism, sufficient energy production, and efficient circulation. And these are all aided by various enzymes of which Coenzyme Q 10 and Coenzyme A are the king and queen.

The King

Interestingly enough, the existence of Coenzyme Q10 was first reported in 1957, simultaneously, by two different scientists. One Dr. Frederick Crane of Wisconsin isolated it from the heart of a cow and another Professor Morton of England extracted it from the liver of a rat. It is from this widespread presence that CoQ10 gets part of its scientific name, ubiquinone. Partially from the word ubiquitous, meaning that it exists everywhere.

Ubiquinone, aka CoQ10, is made by the body and present in every nook and cranny. But, the majority of this nutrient’s reserves are found in the heart. CoQ10 is critically involved in the production of the primary cellular fuel adenosine triphosphate, or ATP for short. All cells depend on ATP to perform their duties; but the body only stores small amounts of ATP at any given time and thus has to constantly produce the substance. CoQ10 actually carries the necessary protons and electrons into the energy producing portion of the cells for ATP synthesis. There, CoQ10 is stored and used by that cell to perform its specific actions or functions. Inside the heart, this function is to circulate blood. So, without CoQ10 the heart could not perform because it would not have the energy to do so.

Additionally, CoQ10 helps the cells break down and utilize fats and cholesterol, aids circulation and thus the flow of oxygen to the heart, helps lower blood pressure and provides a potent anti-oxidant. The body converts CoQ10/ubiquinone to the active antioxidant compound ubiquinol. Ubiquinol is thought to be more adept than Vitamin E at protecting our hearts from oxidative damage.

Because the body’s ability to convert CoQ10 to ubiquinol declines with age, it is thought that supplementation of the ubiquinol form should begin in the 40’s and should definitely be included in the treatment program of those with histories of cardiovascular disease or heart attack. Most CoQ10 supplements are in the ubiquinone form and suitable for preventive purposes. The richest natural sources are oily fish like mackerel, salmon and sardines; but good amounts are also found in organ meats, peanuts, whole grains and spinach.

Many mental and physical performance enhancers now include CoQ10 because of its role in ATP production, but you shouldn’t expect to “feel” the power of ubiquinone as it doesn’t energize in the way that caffeine or sugar does. In fact, unless you are managing a cardiovascular or circulatory ailment you may not feel the work performed by this nutrient at all. The measure of its effectiveness may instead lie in what you won’t feel-unprotected and vulnerable to cardiovascular disease.

The Queen

Coenzyme A, aka CoA, has a few things in common with CoQ10. It too was first defined in the 1950’s and it is also present in all of the body’s cells. Coenzyme A works with CoQ10 to generate energy and metabolize fats; and it supports the adrenal glands’ production of stress managing hormones like cortisone. CoA also aids the body in the removal of toxins. It is believed to be the most active metabolic enzyme within the human body, acting as a catalyst to more than a hundred different chemical reactions.**

CoA is essential to our body’s processing and utilization of carbohydrates and fats. It helps the cells generate energy from glucose, and it carries fatty acids from the cell’s cytoplasm (the jelly like cellular filling) to the mitochondria (the cell’s energy production center). In this way, CoA actually starts the process of fatty acid metabolism and initiates the cell’s energy/ATP producing cycle.

Without Coenzyme A, approximately 90% of the body’s required energy would go unproduced, and consequently the processes fueled by this energy would go unfulfilled. This includes the work of the heart muscle, to which ATP greatly contributes. CoA thus becomes a cardio-protective nutrient through its role in ATP production and ATP’s role in increasing the heart muscle’s strength, density, energy and stamina.

United They Stand

Supplemental CoQ10 is available in a range of doses and can be taken in the powdered, liquid, gel, pill and even quick dissolving tab form; but the liquid and gel forms are thought to be best. Ubiquinone is better absorbed when taken with fatty foods, and the ubiquinol form is the most absorbable, consequently requiring much lighter dosages and smaller amounts.

30-50 mg/day of CoQ10 is appropriate for young healthy individuals, 50-200 mg is beneficial for heavy exercisers and middle-aged persons, and those with cardiovascular risks such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol may be prescribed doses as high as 400 mg/day. In most cases, CoQ10 can be taken along side cholesterol lowering statin medications without interference and can therefore help counteract the ubiquinone deficiency often caused by this class of drugs. Be selective when purchasing CoQ10 supplements; the purer the better and the color is a good gauge of this. The nutrient is naturally a bright yellow/orange color and virtually tasteless. Store the supplement in a dark cool place for safe keeping.

CoA is produced from Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid) so sufficient levels of this nutrient must be maintained in order to insure CoA levels are adequate. A 50-100 mg/day dose should do the trick. Coincidentally, pantothenic is derived from the Greek word pantos which means “everywhere” and refers to its abundant presence in foods. Sound familiar? It even has some food sources in common with CoQ10- organ meats, whole grains, peanuts and spinach. Egg yolks, fish, chicken, cheese and dried beans are also good sources.***For supplemental options, Coenzyme-A Technologies, Inc is a highly regarded source.

Please don’t hesitate to check with your physician before adding these nutrients to your regimen. Happy healthy heart month! And as always…

BeWell

*http://chemistry.about.com/od/chemistryglossary/g/Coenzyme-Definition.htm

** http://www.electronichealing.co.uk/products/coenzyme.htm

*** Hass, MD, Elson M.(1992). Staying Healthy with Nutrition. Berkeley,CA. Celestial Arts Publishing

Man Juice, The Power of Palmetto

Saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) and forest in Ma...
Image by MiguelVieira via Flickr

We’ve all got some. It’s associated with ambition, pursuit, accomplishment and aggression. In fact, women actually experience a rise in theirs after achieving higher levels of personal and professional success. And for men, it is the ruling substance of their design. Testosterone.

In a man’s lifespan, the testes begin secreting testosterone at 4 weeks of age to form the male’s sexual organs. Once the fetus is fully formed and delivered, testosterone secretion halts until puberty, when it resumes and continues forming the male’s distinct physical aspects and emotional characteristics. Testosterone production and secretion continue to grow through adolescence into young adulthood, peaking in the early to mid twenties, before gradually declining in the mid to late thirties.

The natural decline in the production and secretion of testosterone can elicit feelings of fatigue, decreased motivation and irritability with physical indications such as reduced strength, weight gain, and muscle atrophy (size decrease). In short, a seeming loss of “mojo”. And though there are currently many pharmaceutical remedies being advertised, that might not be the preferred approach. Along with accepting testosterone’s decline as a natural part of the maturing process, and adjusting to the changes it can usher in, certain nutrients may be supplemented to help ease the process and even counter act some of the effects experienced with the hormone’s reduced levels.

The Male Herb

Saw Palmetto Berries in particular have been used for centuries to strengthen and tone the entire male reproductive system. They are specifically indicated to treat prostate enlargement and infection as well as restore healthy function. But saw palmetto berries are also helpful to bladder health, enhancing its ability to contract and fully release its contents and reducing the pain associated with strained urination. In addition, extracts of saw palmetto berry have shown an ability to prevent testosterone from converting to dihydrotestosterone (DHT) within the prostate. DHT build up in the gland is thought to be a cause of prostate enlargement. Saw palmetto berry extract also enhances the breakdown and excretion of DHT to further help prevent prostate enlargement.

As added benefits, saw palmetto also has a reputation for increasing strength and power, enhancing sexual desire and potency, and aiding muscle growth. The berries contain compounds known as steroidal saponins that serve as building blocks for the body to manufacture its own growth hormones to develop and build muscle tissue. The beautiful thing about steroidal saponins is that, unlike synthetic steroids and growth hormones, they do not take the body beyond its natural capacity, nor do they overtax or negatively impact its natural hormonal balance. They merely supply the body additional tools with which to create and build. This trait makes steroidal saponin containing plants like saw palmetto uniquely beneficial to the underweight, malnourished and ailing. And it makes the prospect of aging much more palatable.

A Low Maintenance Supplement

Nature's Answer - Saw Palmetto Berry Extract, Alcohol-Free, 1 ozNature's Way Saw Palmetto Berries 180 Caps

Please don’t let manufacturers and distributors fool you. Saw palmetto is a sturdy and stable herb that does not require complicated processes to be effective. The berries and seeds are used and can be taken in the liquid tincture form (20-30 drops, 3-4 times/day) or dried and encapsulated form (3-12 grams, 3 times/day).  If you prefer to simply take saw palmetto as a ground powder, please note that it does not taste very good. So, it’s best to combine it with a smoother tasting herb like fennel seed.

Saw palmetto berries are generally safe for use by all, but a quick confirmation from your physician is always advised. For objective reviews of saw palmetto supplements please visit the consumer lab.

And for more information on herbal care specifically for men, James Green’s The Male Herbal, Health Care for Men & Boys is an excellent resource.

Enjoy, Be Strong, and as always…

BeWell

Getting to Know You

Over the last few weeks I have become increasingly alarmed and even saddened by the number of advertisements I see on television offering legal assistance to those adversely affected by some not so long ago hyped pharmaceuticals. Birth defects caused by antidepressants that are more than likely still being marketed and recommended by medical professionals. Really?

I know I shouldn’t be shocked. It is common knowledge that drugs have side effects. But, still I am. And what saddens me is that with all the technological advancements of our time, we seemingly remain in the dark ages about the human body, the human psyche, our bodies, our needs.

The point of this blog has never been and will not become to assault the pharmaceutical industry as I know from both education and experience that there are times when the possibility, often enough only remote, of encountering a drug’s side effects pale in comparison to the ailment we are facing and fighting. But there are also times when we, me included, are choosing the easy and seemingly quick way out. More focused on the symptoms and complications they create in our lives rather than taking the time to dig and look more deeply into the illness or prolonged condition. Yes, unfortunately sometimes we just don’t have that luxury. But when we do, are we really exercising that option to its fullest? Personally speaking, not nearly enough; so, I must take us back to my earliest lessons in wellness and healing. Know thy self.

Become an expert on you. As my grandmother once said, “…they give M.D.s to those with C’s as well as A’s”. Doctors and health professionals are human and thus capable of error. Scientific research and studies reveal new information all of the time and previously held notions frequently get shot down in the crossfire.  What should be relied upon is the time and experience we’ve gained living in our skin.

Where to start?

Observation is the natural first step in developing awareness. And there are not only physical observations to be made but also the more subtle ones of our mental and emotional states, our behavior and even our lifestyles. As I write this it comes to me that maybe beginning with our lifestyles and backtracking through our behavioral responses and their resulting emotional, mental and physical experiences may be the more efficient way to get re-acquainted with ourselves. We can start the process with some simple questions.

My Lifestyle

  • What are my daily, weekly, monthly, etc. commitments and responsibilities? i.e. rent/mortgage, tuitions, debt/loan payments, care-taking of others, volunteer work, professional and/or school deadlines, social group meetings
  • Which are the busiest times of my day, week, month, etc?
  • When, what and how do I eat, drink, sleep, relax, and recover?
  • What do I enjoy the least and the most?
  • When do/have I felt at my physical, mental and emotional best? Worst?
  • What do I worry most about? Least about?

My Behavior

  • How do I fulfill my commitments and responsibilities? i.e. fulltime work week, overtime, second job, time and/or service bartering, hired assistance, night and weekend schooling
  • How do I celebrate my accomplishments, handle my disappointments, and manage my stressors?
  • What are my healthiest and unhealthiest habits?
  • Do I have vices? Do I know and respect my limits with them?
  • Do I judge myself? What are my judgments?

My Experience

  • How do I feel at the end of my day, week, month…?
  • How do I feel when I am challenged, when I succeed, when I please others, and when I disappoint?
  • Where do I hold the most and least tension in my body?
  • What part of my body ails me the least, the most?
  • Do I want or need help changing, stopping, starting or improving any condition in my health and wellbeing?
  • What do I need?
  • Who do I trust to help me?

Some of the above may seem too obvious for review; while others may be too complex to merely bullet in a list. Look at them as opportunities to go further down the rabbit hole, if you will. Examining the demands of our routines can reveal the greatest assets and vulnerabilities within our lives and even help us get to the root of the conditions that plague us. At the very least, we become more informed of our beliefs, tendencies and preferences and are therefore better able to select and work with our health care professionals from prevention to diagnosis and treatment. For more detailed guidance in the area of self-awareness and self-care, check out the Memory Minder Personal Health Journal  by F.and D. Wilkins and the Wellness Workbook by Travis and Ryan. Until next week…

Take Notice, Take Note and BeWell

The Born Again’s Second Coming

Last week we began our exploration of ways to go beyond cleansing or rejuvenating the body and actually regenerate the vital systems within. We started with the skin and worked our way in to the musculoskeletal frame that houses and supports our internal organs. This week we go even deeper to touch two critical contributors to our health and wellbeing.

Adrenal Awareness

The adrenal glands are located on top of the kidneys and are responsible for producing many of the body’s major hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. Proper functioning of these glands is not only crucial to our physical health but also to our emotional health as the adrenals produce the four main stress hormones that help us overcome and recover from taxing, threatening situations. They are consequently highly susceptible to wear and tear. So above all, proper stress management is crucial to their healthy functioning. Some signs and symptoms of adrenal dysfunction include:

  • general weakness
  • fatigue and/or lethargy
  • headaches and/or dizziness
  • drops in blood pressure upon standing
  • fainting
  • recurrent infections
  • moodiness and depression

If you are experiencing any of these, please make your doctor aware so they can assist you in developing an appropriate treatment plan. And if regeneration is deemed a viable option, then supplementing actual raw adrenal glandular extract is a means of doing so.

The previous century’s advancements in endocrinology lead some medical professionals to view organ dysfunction more as a consequence of the body’s attack on itself than the result of its lacking nutrients. The attacks are similar in nature to but much much milder than a receiving body’s attack of a transplanted organ. Supplementation of the actual gland could calm the attacks and enable a distressed gland to heal itself and resume normal functioning. Glandular therapy was born from this hypothesis and is currently used to correct the dysfunction of many organs including the kidneys, pancreas, spleen, thyroid and pituitary glands. It is however still a controversial therapy that should not be considered lightly. So, caution should be exercised when seeking out glandular therapy and choosing the corresponding glandular extracts as many are sourced from mature animals that may have been exposed to antibiotics and growth hormones. The best glandular extracts will come from the younger, organically raised animals.

Liver Love

The various roles of this vital organ definitely make it worthy of its own post, perhaps even its own blog; but for now, I’ll stay focused on its unmatched ability to regenerate itself. The liver can naturally re-grow itself and restore its function from as little as 25% of its original tissue. Because the liver is involved in so much- digestion, blood sugar balance, fat metabolism, energy production, detoxification and the regulation of thyroid function. If and when it gets sick, the whole body feels the brunt. Liver dysfunction can be brought on by the build-up of toxins like pesticides, insecticides and preservatives in the body; low protein, high carb diets that also contain a lot sugar, saturated fat and processed foods; over-eating that causes the liver to overwork; and pharmaceutical and recreational drugs and alcohol which put tremendous pressure on the liver to excrete their toxic components. Naturally we’d prefer to avoid these scenarios; but when damage has been done, appropriate support must be called in.

  • Breaking Down Toxic Build-Up

Alpha Lipoic Acid is a potent antioxidant that is naturally present in all cells and capable of working in both water and fat based body tissues. It helps the body to regenerate other antioxidants and get them out and working again.

  • Replenishing Protein

Amino acids provide the fuel for most bodily functions and are used by the liver to perform its many duties. Amino acids can be supplemented in pill, powder and liquid forms and are available both individually and grouped. Free form amino acids require no digestion by the body to be used and are quickly absorbed and put to action where needed.

  • Counteracting Excess

Glutathione, an extremely potent antioxidant enzyme, is actually produced in the liver. “It detoxifies harmful compounds so that they can be excreted through the bile”*, and, it is believed capable of protecting the liver from damage created by excessive alcohol intake. But merely supplementing glutathione has not yet been determined effective in increasing the body’s levels; study indicates it better to support the body’s ability to create its own. Enter NAC.

The body uses other nutrients to create glutathione-glutamic acid, glycine and cysteine. N-acetyl  cysteine (NAC), the more stable form of cysteine, has been found to be the most effective for the production of the antioxidant. It is available in supplemental form, in a range of potencies; however, a 600mg dose is thought to be the most beneficial. NAC should not be used by insulin dependent diabetics.

  • Confronting the Over the Counters

To safeguard your supply of glutathione look towards silymarin, the antioxidant components found within the seeds of the Milk Thistle herb. Silymarin increases the liver’s glutathione levels, as well as promotes the growth of new liver cells. Additionally, silymarin protects the liver from drugs and their toxic byproducts.

Silymarin can be supplemented by taking milk thistle, and milk thistle is available in capsules, tinctures and teas. But remember, the herb loses much of its antioxidant potency in water. So, therapeutic benefits are better obtained from the encapsulated and tinctured forms.

Quick Reminder

Even though we’ve covered many bases between the adrenal glands and liver, we can’t neglect the all important intestinal tract; and its regeneration is especially important following a cleanse because the thorough cleansers tend to strip the colon of its protective organisms. So, don’t forget to restore intestinal flora with a probiotic supplement of at least 10 billion CFU’s and keep the healthy bacteria growing with prebiotics found in fruits, whole grains and legumes.

Happy rebirthing!

Until next week, BeWell!

**Balch, Phyllis A. Prescription for Nutritional Healing, the A-Z Guide to Supplements. New York: Avery of Penguin Putnam Inc, 2002.

Looking to be Born Again?

Happy New Year folks and welcome to 2012! For me, the start of a new year is an extremely unique and powerful time because it is one of the few times that I actually embrace CHANGE. That’s right, I admit it, I don’t like the Big C. It yanks me from my illusory comfort zone and thrusts me into new frontier and that can feel a little scary and taxing. If it must come, and I keep hearing it’s what this game is all about, then I prefer it sneak in slowly and gently with some distracting fairy dust attached.

But for some reason, during the New Year season I am far less resistant to the ebb and flow and am actually welcoming, optimistic and receptive to it all. A real live grown up about it! And I know I’m not alone.

The heightened awareness of the times gets us cleansing, checking in on our states of health, visiting our doctors and re-evaluating our wellness plans. We are all so brave, ready to disassemble and rebuild ourselves. I love it! So, it got me to thinking. What else? What goes beyond rejuvenation? Bingo.

REGENERATION

To paraphrase Wiki’s entries, regeneration is the process of renewal, restoration, and growth that makes cells and organs resilient to natural fluctuations or events that cause disturbance or damage. The field of regenerative medicine holds the promise of regenerating damaged tissues and organs in the body by replacing damaged tissue and/or by stimulating the body’s own repair mechanisms …

I think I’m feelin that, especially the latter part. The notion that the human body is capable of healing itself is the cornerstone belief of wellness, and enhancing this capability, the primary agenda of its practitioner. Though we don’t have the same skills as some of our tailed, four-legged and sea dwelling friends, we humans do have some organs and parts that are capable of regeneration, namely the skin, muscles, bones, liver and adrenal glands. These organs house some of the most crucial processes within the body and impact our health and wellness in the most critical of ways. Enhancing their innate healing capacities actually gets in front of degeneration and disease and sits us firmly in the seat of prevention. And when we speak of regeneration, what we are most basically speaking of is DNA synthesis and cellular renewal. This is the source; from here a series of biological processes determines how these new cells will be used and what they will become. But complete regeneration not only refers to an organ’s form. It also refers to its function, and certain nutrients can help push the creative process along while supporting the organ’s functional development. Let’s start at the surface and work our way in.

The Skin’s Friends

The skin we live in is the largest of the bodily organs. And as such, it has some very important jobs. It covers and protects the internal body and eliminates its toxins and wastes through sweating. Exfoliation helps to clear away the skin’s dead cells and can be done by bathing with loofahs and brushes. But deeper exfoliation that sparks skin’s renewal can be achieved by adding alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA)  containing substances like milk, strawberries, pineapples and grapes to your bath. Scrubbing salts and sugars are effective as well. Too much, however, can stress the skin and break it down. Be gentle and figure out a schedule that keeps the skin fresh without over doing it. Extreme redness, slight abrasions and inflammation are sure signs you’ve gone too far.

For “inside to out” skin care, eating raw fruits, nuts and vegetables increases skin’s renewal process and the naturally occurring enzymes in unprocessed foods help the body fully access nutrients and use them for skin, muscle and bone construction.

Muscle Master

Until doing research for this post I was naïve to the scope of work performed by glutamine. In the world of sports nutrition it is recommended for muscle recovery; a few months ago a customer educated me on its benefits to the digestive tract; but it was looking further into regeneration that brought me to a point of praise for this amino acid. “Glutamine is the most abundant free amino acid found in the muscles of the body. Because it can readily pass the blood-brain barrier, it is known as brain fuel…and is the basis of the building blocks for the synthesis of RNA and DNA”.*

Not surprisingly, glutamine is a star in our defensive line. It increases antioxidant protection and is released by the muscles into the blood stream during times of stress, injury and trauma. It prevents our muscles from wasting away. Consequently, those on bed-rest, with arthritis, managing auto-immune disorders, living with cancer and/or immune deficiency syndrome or trying to overcome sugar and alcohol cravings can benefit from supplemental glutamine in the form of L-glutamine.

L-glutamine can be purchased in pill and powder forms and should be taken as instructed by the product’s label. The supplemental form should also be stored in a completely dry space as moisture will cause it to break down into, among other compounds, ammonia. Not a good thing. Some natural sources include raw spinach and parsley, cabbage and ricotta cheese. Glutamine does not stand up well to cooking. So the raw sources will always be the best.

Bone Builders

While it is certainly true that calcium, magnesium, phosphorous and Vitamin D are necessary to bone’s health and structural reinforcement, actual bone building requires more. Methylsulfonyl-methane (MSM) , a natural compound of the mineral sulfur, is found in all of the body’s connective tissues and is used by the body to build cells for these tissues. Meat, milk, fresh fish, fruits and vegetables all contain MSM, but MSM is easily lost during food processing. Again, the raw approach best insures a natural supply of this nutrient.

MSM along with glucosamine and chondroitin are needed by the body to develop bone. These three are also widely supplemented for joint health and come in a variety of potencies. They are available both individually and together and should be supplemented as directed by the product’s label.

Copper , another mineral found in almonds, avocados, beets, broccoli and garlic, aids in bone formation; and Vitamin K , found in dark leafy greens, yogurt and egg yolks, is essential to the production of bone protein. Follow the less is more rule for both of these as deficiency of either is rare. The current RDA for copper is 1 mg and approximately 100 mcgs for Vitamin K. Neither should be over supplemented without your physician’s awareness and consent.

Designing Your Regenerative Plan

To support an ongoing renewal process, aim to add the natural food sources to your daily diet, and look to the supplemental forms as needed to assist with particular conditions. Our bodies are often a few steps ahead of us. So tune in and respond accordingly. If your seasonal cleanse has left you underwhelmed and wanting, then you too may be due for some regeneration. Next week we’ll take a deeper dive and explore the renewal of a few precious organs. But until then…

Thank you for visiting and supporting BeWellWarrior. I’ve had an amazing time researching and writing these posts and I love reading the responses you provide. I look forward to bringing you more. So feel free to drop a line and tell me what you really want to know.

Armed and Ready to BeWell in 2012!

*Balch, Phyllis A. Prescription for Nutritional Healing, the A-Z Guide to Supplements. New York: Avery of Penguin Putnam Inc, 2002.

Is it Worth “Hangin’ Round the Mistletoe”?

mistletoe ASPD P6270023
Image by eyeweed via Flickr

Season’s Greetings All

I hope it is treating you well, providing full homes, full bellies and full hearts. And in the spirit of the season, I decided to do some digging into our beloved holiday symbols. Mistletoe seemed a natural object of investigation. If you’re like me, you may have wondered what if any medicinal value there is to this long revered plant. But before we go there, let’s first cover a few interesting tidbits.

Turns out this romantically objectified plant has a villainous reputation and somewhat sorted past. For starters it is a parasitic plant that preys on hardwood trees like apple and oak. Mistletoe also possesses strong survival acumen and rarely kills its host knowing that it would perish right along with it. What is most interesting though is during Mistletoe’s life cycle it devolves from a self-sustaining plant capable of producing its own food through photosynthesis and thus living on its own to a parasitic one relying upon the nutrients of another to survive. These qualities are in fact the opposite of those rumored to have earned it its good luck charm status.

Some say our kissing beneath the Mistletoe goes back to the Vikings’ association of it with Frigga, the goddess of love, or to the first century Druid belief in the plant as a miracle worker with the power to increase fertility. People have been looking to Mistletoe to insure their love lives for quite some time. So for all the hopeless romantics and believers out there looking to get the most of their moment, the correct kissing etiquette is as follows:

  1. The man removes one berry when he kisses the woman.
  2. Once all the berries are gone, kissing is no longer allowed beneath that plant. *

Now for my fellow herbal enthusiasts, myth also has it that the Druids believed Mistletoe to be capable of healing diseases and sure enough today it is considered a useful home remedy for high blood pressure, migraines and breathing difficulties such as Asthma. Preparing a tea with Mistletoe leaves and drinking a cup one to three times per day is thought to be helpful with these conditions.

Additionally, Mistletoe is especially helpful to women in reducing post delivery bleeding (childbirth), and alleviating the symptoms associated with menstruation and menopause.

Menstruation                                                                    Menopause

heavy flow                                                                       hot flashes

chronic cramping                                                              hormonal imbalance

uterine disorders                                                              anxiety

A dose of one to two cups is indicated for the above and can be taken as needed for relief. To make Mistletoe tea place 5 grams of finely chopped Mistletoe leaves in 250 milliliters of cold water and let it stand at room temperature for 12 hours.**

Please note that there are different species of Mistletoe, the most popular being the European and American, and the berries of most types are poisonous. When it comes to the leaf tea, the maximum amount that can be safely taken in one day is twelve cups.

Children and pregnant or nursing women should not use Mistletoe, and your physician’s consent should always be obtained before using this herb. Kissing beneath it, however, requires no medical clearance what so ever. So love it up, and enjoy this seasonal charm. Smooches to you and yours, be safe and BeWell!

For more interesting facts and medicinal uses of Mistletoe check out:

* “How Mistletoe Works” by Barbara Suszynski & Sam Abramson at  http://people.howstuffworks.com

**http://www.naturalremedieshealthbenefits.com/herbs/health-benefits-of-mistletoe/

A Solution to Holiday Weight Gain?

 There’s a new burner on the market that claims, as most now do, to”suppress appetite, control carb cravings, support mental focus, clarity and energy,” in a one cap per day serving. MethylHex 4, 2 is a 206 mg proprietary blend of thermogenics (fat-burners), neurotransmitters and endurance activators, with its most abundant ingredients being caffeine and a pharmaceutical grade extract of geranium leaves and stems called 4-Methylhexan-2-Amine HCL or methylhexaneamine.

Methylhexaneamine is a chemical component of the plant Pelargonium graveloines that is known for its adrenaline mimicking qualities and has the reputation of being similar in action to ephedra ( Ma Huang) but less stimulating to the central nervous system. Some of you may recall the back in the day burners that made you feel like you could easily conquer the world, not to mention that day’s workout. Due to gross misuse of ephedra based products, this potent decongestant, diuretic and stimulating herb was banned from use in over-the-counter remedies. Methlhexaneamine has also been removed from many products due to its prohibited use by professional athletes, some police forces and various other competitive sport governing agencies. It is considered a strong performance enhancer perhaps because of its norepinephrine like behavior (elevation of heart rate, release of glucose, increased blood flow to muscles).

Now because my goals are primarily energy, focus and mood enhancement not weight loss, I tried this supplement to evaluate its impact in these areas. For seven days I took one pill a day, in the morning, on an empty stomach, following or with a caffeinated beverage. On the days that I danced in the evening, I skipped my usual pre-workout powder. One day I had half of a super fruit drink that contains the energizing herb guarana and has about 50 mg of caffeine/serving. So, that day I had approximately 25 mg of caffeine as a pre-workout. On another dance day, I skipped both the pre-workout powder and the energy drink and just had my usual a.m. cup of Joe. I had a 12:00 drum class followed by two hours of dance class and felt good, even great, all the way through.

The Low Down

After day one, I could already see the potential to really dig this product. I had smooth energy that set in about 45 minutes after taking it. I also experienced the brain buzz that I admittedly enjoy and a great sense of focus. And yep, yep, yep, despite the stress of the day my mood stayed relatively positive; minor glitches felt like merely that. No sweat, just things to handle and move on. Bingo! My agenda was met, and in addition to that, I didn’t feel especially hungry throughout the day. I didn’t even feel that strong hunger sensation on my longer and more active days. I only really ate because I knew I should or at times had those “yeah, I could eat moments”. So I’m thinking that I could definitely get used to the mental and energetic sensations, and I do see the potential for weight loss if used for a longer duration of time.

Tips from the Rep

I had the opportunity to speak with a representative from the MethylHex 4,2 makers SEI Nutrition, and his recommendations were as follows:

  1. Only take one pill at a time.
  2. If you feel the need to take a second pill, only do so after 6 hours have passed from when you took the first, and take no more than 2 pills within a 24 hour period. Methylhexaneamine’s effects on the body last for at least six hours.
  3. If you need or enjoy an immediate burst of energy, take it with a simple (non-geranium containing) caffeinated beverage.
  4. If you work for an organization that performs drug or blood doping tests, take the product with you to show the officials what may register in your “sample”.

In addition to the rep’s advice, I also suggest that you:

  1. Recall your medical history and know your family’s. The most active ingredients are considered safe for use but the label does state that anyone with a history of stroke, heart attack, high blood pressure, liver, thyroid and/or kidney disorders should consult with a physician before taking. Don’t be alarmed. Most fat burning products have a similar warning on the package.
  2. If you decide to use the product, do so for no more than 8 consecutive weeks and then take a few weeks off.
  3. Adhere to the 6 days on, 1 day off/4 weeks on, 1 week off approach if possible. Natural products can elicit physiological effects that we can become mentally reliant upon, and habits are not fun to break.
  4. Eat 4-6 well-balanced meals per day even if you are not super hungry. This will naturally boost your metabolism and sustain your energy throughout the day.
  5. Try it as a standalone supplement before layering on others, especially other energizers, including caffeine.

In all, I think it is a good all-in-one weight management product, best used as a jump-start to more long-term lifestyle changes such as regular exercise, proper meal planning and stress management techniques. I definitely see its usefulness in getting through and past the holidays without worrying about and actually gaining extra weight. As long as you fall outside of the warning label’s restrictions and use it responsibly, for a limited period of time, it should be fine. Of course, always consult with your doctor if you are uncertain about any product’s appropriateness for you. Play it safe folks!

Consider Health First, and BeWell

Merrily Supplement Free

Many of my clients and customers simply do not believe in supplementation. Maybe, just maybe they’ll entertain my suggestions of Vitamin C for immunity’s sake. But as soon as I start with the antioxidant protection, mood enhancement, energy, blah blah blah, they’re pulling out their guns and loading,” I eat well. I hate pills. I’m allergic.” And I get it. So here’s to you folks who are determined to go full speed ahead into this winter holiday season sans supplements.

First and foremost, go to bed!

My favorite commercial is the one where the mom declares that “…someone needs a time out,” and low and behold she is referring to herself. So in the same spirit, I repeat, grown folks take your a$$ets to bed! Among other things, lack of sleep decreases our cells’ sensitivity to insulin and consequently elevates our blood sugar levels. As we know, the short-term effects of this can be frequent sugar cravings, mood swings and increased irritability; but the more serious long-term effects include obesity and Diabetes. Sufficient sleep will keep you from biting your___’s head off and add some extra years to your lovely life.

Additionally, the amount of stress hormone cortisol present in our system is linked to our circadian rhythm-“a daily cycle of biological activity based on a 24-hour period and influenced by regular variations in the environment, such as the alternation of night and day.”* Regular and predictable sleep patterns help to modulate the secretion of this hormone and a healthier stress response not only makes your hectic day feel more manageable, but it also keeps your waist trimmer and protects you from countless other stress oriented ailments and diseases like stroke and hypertension.  Our bodies’ cortisol levels are generally higher when we wake and typically take a fast drop after breakfast, bringing me to the next supplement free suggestion.

Run; don’t walk, to the breakfast table.

Not only will you naturally regulate your cortisol and blood sugar levels this way, but you will also set yourself up for more appropriate eating patterns during the day. Skipping breakfast has more recently been linked to increased weight gain. This is due in part to the subsequent tendency to eat more throughout the day. In a sense, when we skip this first meal we spend the remainder of the day playing catch-up and can consume an average of 100 calories more than usual as a result.

Another motivator is that breakfast is the perfect opportunity to indulge in heartier and richer foods.  You have the remainder of the day to burn and use those calories, so take advantage and fill your plate:

  • eggs are an exceptional protein source and loaded with choline (for brain, nervous system and liver health); sulfur  (for hair, skin, nail and joint health); and lutein (for eye health)
  • whole grain cereals are rich in minerals and dietary fiber for healthier hearts and colons
  • yogurt is a natural probiotic source that helps replenish our intestinal tracts and maintain stronger immune systems
  • fresh fruits add even more fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to our daily arsenal

Spark up your mid-day snack.

Whether it’s a mini meal or a quick coffee break that gets you through that afternoon slug, putting a little pepper in it will do both your mind and body good. Chiles, paprika and especially cayenne act as stimulants and antispasmodics. They warm the blood, increase circulation and counter act inflammation. In fact one ¼ teaspoon dose taken three times a day is a commonly prescribed herbal tonic for the treatment and prevention of depression, headaches, arthritis, colds and flu.**And if you haven’t had hot chocolate with cayenne, you simply must. Absolutely delightful!

Last but not least-breathe it all in.

It may seem too common of knowledge and therefore not necessary for review, but I am constantly reminded how easy it is to forget to breathe. I catch my clients and myself holding in breath all the time, and as soon as it’s released there’s an increase in power, ease of movement and overall energy. Guaranteed.  Remember the big oxygen bar craze a few years ago? Many of the herbs that enhance mental clarity and capacity, such as Ginkgo Biloba, do so by increasing circulation and oxygen flow to the brain. If you are determined to conquer stress and fatigue this season without a supplemental “middle man”, then try out a breathing technique to push you through.

  • Calm an overactive nervous system– inhale for 4 counts, hold for 7, and exhale for 8. Repeat the cycle three times
  • Energize the mind– inhale and exhale 10 times, as you count each inhalation one by one to the tenth breath in. Repeat this cycle four times.

To all of you going Commando this season, I’m in your corner and wishing you the very best. Be sure to take a moment, to take care, and of course, to BeWell!

*http://www.thefreedictionary.com/circadian+rhythm

**Michael Tierra. The Way of Herbs. Pocket Books:NY, NY, 1998.

Stress Buster, Gut Blaster, Mind Mender-What Doesn’t Rhodiola Do?

Greetings folks, during last week’s post I proclaimed  Resvitale’s  Cocoa Energy Restore my little holiday secret, not only for its energizing and mood enhancing powers but also for its inclusion of three highly regarded adaptogenic herbs- Schisandra, Ashwagandha and Rhodiola. Quick study break:

“Adaptogens deliver minute shocks of mild stress that condition your physiology to respond to more major stresses in a favorable way. Adaptogens exert a normalizing effect, allowing organisms to increase healthy functions that are impaired by stress, and to decrease unhealthy responses that are triggered by stress, without any risk of ‘overshooting’ and creating an unbalanced response…adaptogens simply enhance the body’s ability to maintain homeostasis and fight age-inducing stress.”*

So, as the season of giving rolls in, I’ve been paying particular attention to how much I give in to anxiety and lack-luster energy. I haven’t researched the exact stats, but I’d venture to say that this time of year is at least one of the most marred by those annoying, albeit momentarily, incapacitating little illnesses.  AND I REFUSE TO GO DOWN LIKE THAT!!!  Sorry to be so aggressive in my declaration, but I am extra determined this year. Anyhoo, in my quest for efficient and cost-effective ways to stay healthy, invigorated and yet still at Level 2 (as my friends say), I’ve directed my attention to the class of nutrients most qualified for the job. Now, I admit that I tend to fall fast. Frankly, I first developed a serious infatuation with Schisandra and Ashwagandha because their names are so dog gone cool. And now, I am seeing that Rhodiola too is a genuine keeper. Let’s get started.

Rhodiola Rosea typically grows in colder, mountainous environments and has been used for centuries by natives of Central Asia and Northern Europe to combat the resulting stresses in living with the colder temperatures and higher altitudes of those regions. The root of this flowering plant has and continues to be the more studied part and is therefore most commonly supplemented. There are many healthful nutrients contained within Rhodiola giving it the ability to serve in several different capacities including antioxidant, antiviral and antibacterial. By definition, adaptogens work their magic in a number of different ways through various biological systems, but what I find most appealing and seasonally appropriate about this one is its ability to 1) reduce our production of the stress hormone cortisol 2) seemingly outwit anxiety and 3) prevent toxin induced stress to liver cells. Let’s be real, this time of year can usher in a serious case of the “I need a stiff one to take the edge off’s”, so (not suggesting a means to over indulge in unhealthy behavior) any assistance in the area of damage control is much appreciated.

Our #1 Frenemy 

Cortisol is the hormone released by our bodies when we encounter stressful situations. In short bursts for brief periods of time it helps us to survive what the mind perceives to be threatening circumstances. Remember the “stress response” cycle that kicks in gear when confronted with these scenarios– rush of adrenaline, increased heart rate and blood pressure and elevated blood sugar levels. It serves our survival in the short-term, but can dramatically cut our life span in the long. Frequent, repeated release of cortisol with little to no recovery time between is a consequence of chronic stress, and the dangers of chronically elevated cortisol are weight gain in the abdomen (more work for the heart), hypertension, hyperglycemia and suppression of immune function. Rhodiola confronts the stress response cycle by acting directly on,” the brain – adrenal gland system to reduce cortisol production while enhancing stress resistance…”*

So, less cortisol without losing the ability to perform and overcome stress, I’ll take it.

Fear Factor

In studies conducted on actual human subjects (not that mice don’t have their problems too, but…), participants struggling with symptoms of general anxiety disorder-frequent, excessive worry, difficulty concentrating, irritability, muscle tension, sleep disturbances-experienced significant reductions in their symptoms after receiving 340mg of Rhodiola Rosea extract daily for 10 weeks.

Ok ten weeks, taking us through the New Year and straight into the recovery phase. Something to look forward to.

Liver Lover

The liver acts as our body’s filter. Macro and micro nutrients, hormones, supplements, medications, alcohol and an innumerable amount of other substances are processed by the liver. In many ways, our body’s health depends on our liver. As an antioxidant, Rhodiola protects the cells of the liver from damage by toxins and other stressors. It has also shown the capacity to reduce liver dysfunction and even restore the liver’s own natural antioxidants.

Whether you’re boosting your immunity with vitamins, your disposition with spirits, or your recovery with medication, you can’t go wrong caring for the liver.

And If That Weren’t Enough

Rhodiola is also known to:

  • Improve physical performance by increasing oxygen intake and decreasing muscle damage
  • Decrease inflammation
  • Protect and restore brain cells
  • Enhance immune function
  • Inhibit cancer cell growth
  • Slow the aging process

Rhodiola can be supplemented alone or in combination with other adaptogens. Beware of supplements that only contain extractions of the Rhodiola constituent Saldroside. Many manufacturers believe it to be the most healthful nutrient in the herb, and only supply that. Opt for the whole root extractions instead because there are many other beneficial nutrients within the Rhodiola herb. And, as with most herbs, the nutrients within are each naturally present in the most healthful amounts and balanced in a way that best compliments the other components. Choose a supplement that provides about 200-300mg of Rhodiola Rosea root extract per serving, standardized to supply the individual constituents of the herb in the amounts most consistent with the natural plant. Nature knows best. Trust in her and as always…

BeWell

*Jan Whiticomb, “Reducing the Risks of High Cortisol,” LifeExtension September/October 2011: 46 and 49.

A Secret Weapon for the Holidays

I don’t know about you, but the end of daylight savings and the subsequent earlier than ever sunsets have got me feeling drowsy. All the time! Not to mention the fact that, at least here in New York, the weather can’t seem to make up its mind. Cold and rainy one day, mild and clear the next. It’s been putting a real damper on my spirits and draining me of my energy. So, not one to wallow, I’ve been seeking out assistance from one of very favorite product lines, Resvitale.

When ResVitale first burst on to the supplement scene its primary focus was resveratrol. It quickly expanded into the realm of cocoa and have a very well received CocoaWell line featuring pure organic cocoa (cacao) powder.

The line includes a 100% pure cocoa supplement- Cocoa, a heart tonic featuring coenzyme Q10- CocoaHeart Q10, and my current fav- Cocoa Energy Restore. Before I go into what makes this a supplement of choice, let me first pay homage to my dear sweet cocoa and all of its power and glory!

If you have not received the memo, cocoa is now a world recognized highly regarded super fruit; and a major source of its acclaim, the flavanol epicatechin, is so potent it has both the science and healing communities questioning whether or not it should be considered as essential to disease prevention as our current list of required vitamins and minerals. Epicatechin is the bitter component of dark chocolate that gives it its anti-oxidant power. Some other antioxidant nutrients found within natural cocoa are EGCG and catechins, green tea’s claim to fame. The super fruit’s many benefits include but are not limited to:

  1. Enhanced circulation
  2. Anti-Inflammation
  3. Anti-Oxidant Protection
  4. Mood Enhancement
  5. Improved mental alertness
  6. Increased cardiovascular health
  7. Reduced incidence of heart failure, cancer, diabetes and stroke
  8. Enhanced physical energy and muscle recovery

Now for the good stuff!

What I like most about the Cocoa Energy Restore-aside from the way it makes me feel-is not only does it include 350 mg of pure cocoa (that’s almost the antioxidant value of 100 grams of dark chocolate) per  serving, it also has 400 mg of green tea flavanols for added anti-oxidant protection plus three of the most potent adaptogens-  Ashwaganda, Rhodiola and Schisandra. As you may recall, adaptogenic herbs help our bodies adjust and better handle stress. As an added boost, Cocoa Energy Restore rounds its formulation off with pure tea extract providing a little over 140 mg of caffeine. These ingredients are all encased in a 100% vegetarian capsule that contains no corn, soy, gluten, dairy or fish products. So it’s safe for most diet restrictions. Unless of course you are allergic to chocolate! If so, I am so so sorry.

And it feels like…

Smooth sustainable energy, topped with a scoop of optimism, and sprinkled with an ounce or two of the “take it easies”. What better way to get through the shop frenzied, crowd weaving, gift wrapathoning, office partying, secret Santa-ing, quality time with the…  holidays that we so anticipate, savor and love? And for a limited time you can gift yourself with a two for one on the entire CocoaWell line! That’ll be the Zen sled that carries me through the New Year unperturbed and unscathed. But if supplementing isn’t your thing, feel free to dive into that cup of hot cocoa and make your favorite deserts as chocolatey as you can. Remember, the darker the better!

Til next week, indulge and BeWell!