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!

Armed and Immune: Part I-The VitaTrio

So here they come again, the ever-present scratchy throat, occasional sniffle, and then the full on sneeze. Could be a cold; could be allergies. Regardless, it is annoying and not at all unusual for these times of the year.

That space of time between two seasons is about serious transformation and our bodies are focused on transitioning and adapting to the upcoming changes.The brunt of burden falls upon our immune systems, and their jobs are multifold. They must properly identify a threat, confine and rid the body of it, and store the information for later use. And this has to been done efficiently, in a way that does not over tax because if and when we face that threat again, the immune system is expected to handle the situation even better than before.

Our job is to empower our systems by thinking positively, resting properly, and managing our stress levels. We can also help the process along by feeding it potent disease fighting nutrients. The selection of immune enhancers to choose from is immense, and we’ll cover both the tried and true as well as some lesser known. First up, the ACE Vita Trio!

 Vitamin A in what is called its “preformed
state” is known as Retinol. And yes, this is the same form that has taken over
the cosmetic industry’s anti-aging department. Retinol is found most abundantly
in fish liver oil – Grandma was right all along–  egg yolks, cream and butter. The
form converted to Vitamin A by our bodies, aka “Provitamin A”, is the
beta-carotene found in yellow and orange fruits and veggies and dark leafy
greens.

Vitamin A, among many other
things, is responsible for protecting, healing and growing bodily tissues
including bones, skin and the fine linings and membranes of our internal organs
and cells. It works best with sufficient levels of fellow antioxidant nutrients
Vitamin E and Zinc,”… and an adequate intake of protein”. * Our bodies need at
least 5000 IUs per day of Vitamin A to avoid deficiency. 10,000 IUs is a good
and safe amount to take in on a daily basis, but 20,000-30,000 IUs per day may
be best for those managing stressful lives and dealing with occasional anxiety.
Two medium-sized carrots a day provide the body with about 10 to 15,000 IUs of
beta-carotene that the upper intestines and liver can convert into the
necessary 5000 IUs of Vitamin A. Keeping your body stocked with adequate levels
of Vitamin C and E prevents our stores of Vitamin A from running low.

Quick Tip: Check the quality of
your night vision for indications of a Vitamin A deficiency. It is also necessary
 to the production of the chemical that allows us to see in the dark.

The Citrus V

Vitamin C, found abundantly in citrus fruits, is probably the most
relied upon vitamin of all and for good reason. It is a crucial anti-oxidant
vitamin that not only helps prevent the creation of disease-causing free radicals, it also protects the other antioxidant vitamins A and E.
Vitamin C, aka Ascorbic Acid, is not produced by the body,  and so must be obtained through our
diets. It is only found in fruits and vegetables and is most available in fresh
raw produce as its lack of stability makes it difficult to survive the cooking process.

Many are aware of the citrus vitamin’s aid to the immune system.
Anecdotal and scientific evidence exists to support its use for everything from
the common cold to cancer. However, you may not know its role in mood balance,
a significant contributor to immune system integrity. Vitamin C aids in the
metabolism of both Tyrosine and Tryptophan. Tyrosine and Tryptophan, as
previously covered, work hand in hand
for the nervous system to counteract anxiety and mild to moderate depression.
They keep us in a positive mind state and therefore more resistant to illness.

Additionally, Vitamin C aids the production of Thyroid Hormone, the
metabolism and elimination of cholesterol and the formation and maintenance of
the collagen that is present in all of our bodies’ connective tissues-skin,
joints, capillary walls, bones, teeth, you name it!

The minimum recommended daily amount is 60 mg for the average adult, 80
mg for expecting mothers and 35 mg for infants. Higher amounts are required
during stressful times and times of decreased immune function. The adult body
will absorb no more than about 1000 mg at a time and excrete any amount that it
does not need. For this reason, a time released Vitamin C supplement is
recommended to insure full absorption of this invaluable nutrient.

Vitamin E-Tocopherol

The tocopherol family, was first isolated from wheat germ oil (still
many’s preferred supplement form) and is found in the protective coverings of all
grains, seeds and nuts. To safely extract the Vitamin E from the source, one
must do so naturally such as by cold pressing the grain or seed. Due to
this heat sensitivity, the resulting oils should be consumed uncooked.
Drizzling a cold pressed nut oil over salads, veggies and meats is a great way
to boost the antioxidant value of your meal; and if your diet is heavy in
unsaturated fats, this addition  will go a long way towards improving your cardiovascular health.

“ vitamin E’s key function is to modify and stabilize blood fats so that the blood vessels,
heart, and entire body are more protected ”. *

That’s quite an order for one vitamin, but certainly not beyond its
capabilities. Much research and study is being done on the tocopherol family to
determine its benefit to ailments ranging from protection against the toxic
effects of smoke and alcohol to prevention of autoimmune diseases. What is
clear now is that it does enhance immunity and is particularly effective at
treating viruses. We also know that Vitamin E’s abilities are amplified by its
fellow antioxidant friends Vitamin A and C.

 Quick Tip:To get the greatest bang for
 your buck, supplement the potent D-Alpha tocopherol form and take it in the
morning before breakfast or at night before bed. Recommended daily doses range
 anywhere from 400-600 IUs for prevention to 800-1600 IU’s for healing. Always
start on the lower end and increase your dosage gradually. And always consult
with your health care provider for any specific considerations you should be
mindful of while supplementing.

The ACE trio can be taken separately as part of a nutritional healing program or together for general antioxidant protection. And as you’ll see in this series, many great formulas combine these with other medicinal nutrients for comprehensive immune care. More on those next week, until then…

BeWell!

*Elson M. Haas, M.D., Staying Healthy with Nutrition, the Complete Guide to Diet and Nutritional Medicine. Berkeley, CA: Celestial Arts, 1992

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Sweet Dreams

Sleep deprived?

For the last couple years, it seems that my need for sleep has grown. I’ve never been a fan of early rising, but I do know that in my younger years I could function on 3-5 hours, even sans caffeine, without
feeling on the brink of a crash. That is absolutely not the case now. Perhaps it is the stress and craze of life at the moment. The work days and weeks are longer and that does require more energy. And let’s be real, most of us don’t have the freedom and luxury to fight for our right to sleep. Life demands, we
rise to the occasion, sleep takes to the back burner and we make the often empty or half full promise to make it up later in the week. And we can make up the lost hours, sleep in a day or two if we’re lucky and feel more rested. But rest is only one of the many advantages of sleep. What cannot be made up as
easily are the other crucial processes that occur while we sleep: cellular repair, regeneration, protein production, stress hormone reduction, and growth hormone production to name a few.

Ultimately, it is up to each of us to make room in our daily lives for the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep. But on those days that adequate rest seems unattainable, a natural aid can help enhance the quality of our sleep and allow for more biological benefit during the abbreviated time. Please note however that these natural alternatives are still sleep aids and, as such, capable of disrupting our natural cycles when overused.  Best bet is to resort to them only when necessary and for no more than 7 consecutive days at a time. Your physician can provide more specific guidelines based on your individual needs. Most importantly, never combine even a natural sleep aid with alcohol or other pharmaceutical aids and consult with a medical professional if you suspect you are suffering from a chronic sleep disorder. As for those of us experiencing the occasional lack of sleep:

Melatonin, a hormone naturally produced by the body, is available as an over the counter
supplement in potencies ranging 1 to 5 milligrams. Unique benefits are attributed to each the 1mg, 3mg and 5mg doses. Recent research and study indicates that Melatonin also acts as an antioxidant, halts tumor growth and therefore may be a cancer preventative. Supplemental Melatonin circulates the hormone prior to its natural release in our system, thereby altering our own natural sleep rhythm. 1-2mgs can be used to fall asleep more quickly, 3mg to sleep more soundly through the night, and 5mg is known to be helpful in regulating sleep cycles.  Jet lagged travelers supplement in 3 – 5mg doses for this purpose. Because the brain’s pineal gland secretes Melatonin at night and in darkness, people working the “grave yard” shifts are often deficient and more in need of supplementation than others. There are no foods known to increase the body’s Melatonin levels, but sleeping in total darkness will boost your production without supplementation.

Valerian Root, considered a sedative herb, has a very strong calming effect  on the nervous system and has been used for centuries to fight insomnia. Supplemented by itself or alongside other calming substances, it is available in tablets, capsules, teas and tinctures. Despite its centuries’ old use, or maybe because of it, Valerian’s reputation has been mixed and to date the science community deems the available research inconclusive. Though there are no known toxicity issues, some clinical study participants have reported side effects with excessive and prolonged use. Increase sleepiness, grogginess, upset stomach, dizziness and headaches are the most commonly reported; yet it should be noted that those effects have also been experienced and reported by study participants who received a placebo instead of Valerian Root. Additionally, studies have been conducted to gauge the safe and appropriate potency of the herb; and when unpleasant side effects have occurred, the dose used has usually been equal to or greater than 900mg.Taking doses between 450 and 600mg has shown some positive impacts on sleep quality -decreasing the time elapse before falling asleep and reducing the number of times users wake during sleep without stunting alertness or concentration the morning after. Caution should be exercised when taking Valerian for extended periods of time due to some reports of emotional numbness and agitation after prolonged use.

The tincture extractions of Valerian Root are thought to be the most effective for sleep promotion. Perhaps because some of the herb’s active oils are sensitive to high temperatures and may be stripped by the boiling water often used to prepare teas. Many of us enjoy a nice cup of tea before bed, and if this is your preferred method of supplementation keep the water temperature out of the boiling range.

L-Theanine is an amino acid derived from tea leaves and isolated from the Boletus Badius mushroom.
It can be supplemented alone, but it is often used in conjunction with other nutrients for stress relief, mood enhancement and insomnia. It increases Dopamine and GABA levels in the brain and consequently helps to balance emotions and inhibit over activity of the nervous system. L-Theanine seems to work synergistically with both calming and energizing herbs enhancing the other nutrients’ primary
action. Additionally, it acts as an immune booster by increasing the ability of the body’s T-Cells to fight disease. Because it is relatively new to the science community’s attention, research and study are somewhat limited, but its popularity and consequent use as a supplement are growing. An effective dose
for stress reduction has not been firmly established, but to date there are no known toxicity issues with higher doses and few reported adverse reactions. Headache, dizziness and stomach upset are among them. The doses used to treat anxiety range 200-250mg and sleep formulas may contain between 20 and 50mg of L-Theanine. The FDA recommends limiting our daily intake to no more than 1200mg /day.

Currently, my favorite sleep supplement is Beauty Sleep by ResVitále.The full two capsule serving combines 3mg of Melatonin with 50 mg of L-Theanine. It also features a detoxifying Liver blend of Milk Thistle, Turmeric and Artichoke as well as Organic French Red Wine extract for added antioxidant
protection.  My experience with this product is a deeper more restful sleep even when the duration is shortened. I do wake feeling more refreshed and I haven’t experienced any grogginess, headaches or lack of focus the following day. Vegetarians and those more sensitive to allergens can also use this product as it contains no gelatin, corn, soy, wheat, yeast or lactose!

Once again use the natural alternatives as directed by their makers, with care and respect for their potency.

Sweet Dreams and BeWell

Come on, Get Happy: Calm Within the Storm

STRESS 

No matter how much energy we muster up nor what mood booster we seek out, if we do not have a handle on our response to life’s daily stressors their impact on the body will inevitably prevail over the temporary relief of supplemental nutrients. Thankfully Mother Nature provides more than just a means of reacting and remedying imbalances after the fact. She also offers ways to strengthen our systems and better equip them to resist the stressors.  This proactive class of herbs is known as The Adaptogens.

The adaptogenic herbs work specifically on the adrenal glands, improving the balance of our sympathetic nervous system. This is the system that kicks into gear when we perceive a situation as threatening to our status quo. We’ve all heard the phrase, “fight or flight”. This instinctive defense mechanism dates back to our primitive origins and has unfortunately not fully evolved to distinguish between a momentary drama and genuinely life threatening situation. If we don’t rein this reaction in and immediately correct its assumption that our life is at risk, it will advance rapidly and flood the body with an army of hormones ready to act. Too much of this literally causes an implosion, made visible to us in the form of acute illness and sometimes more dramatic and detrimental disease. Stress is thought to be the root cause of 70-80% of all illnesses. Adaptogens help return our bodies to their normal, balanced and stress-free states. The following are potent, commonly used adaptogenic herbs worth getting to know.

Ashwagandha Root  is an ancient Ayurvedic herb loaded with components that increase the body’s production of three very powerful antioxidant enzymes -Super Oxide Dismutase, Catalase and Glutathione Peroxidase. These detoxify our organs and protect our cells and DNA from oxidative damage. Ashwagandha rejuvenates the nervous system; and studies have shown it to elicit effects similar to those of the nutrient  Gamma- Aminobutyric Acid, thereby serving as a potential anti-anxiety aid. Recall from last week’s post that GABA acts as an emotional regulator helping us to maintain balance in our reactions.

Rhodiola Rosea  is a colder climate herb commonly found in energy, adrenal and stress relief formulas. Over the years, it has shown great potential as a mental and physical performance enhancer. It is commonly used to boost mood, improve cardiovascular endurance and recovery, and combat fatigue. Like many other adaptogens, Rhodiola’s high antioxidant content and restorative impact on nervous system function makes it a strong immune booster and anti-ager.  Two primary components thought to be responsible for these effects are rosavin and salidroside. If you decide to supplement Rhodiola, make sure the product contains at least 2% rosavin and .8% salidroside.

Schisandra Berries  are commonly used in the practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine to improve liver function, fight stress and improve physical and mental endurance. Schisandra also helps the body produce Glutathione Peroxidase and has a mild sedative effect resulting in a calming sensation for the body. It has proven effective in relieving the symptoms of emotional stress like dizziness, heart palpitations, and excessive perspiration. This herb has also proven helpful to those living with immune compromising illnesses; however, pregnant and nursing women should avoid Schisandra as should those with High Blood Pressure, peptic ulcers, gall stones and Epilepsy.

To get all three of these herbs in one formula, try Adrenal Health by Gaia Herbs. It is a simple formulation that cuts right to the source of nervous system imbalance, and the versatility of these herbs may make this supplement all you need for general mood and performance enhancement. Simple, clean and direct, just as I like it! Supplement this first on its own, without other products, to truly get a sense of its impact on your system. And for more immediate relief, brew a cup of The Republic of Tea’s Get Charged. It contains Ashwagandha, Hibiscus and other beneficial adaptogens but no caffeine to overstimulate and defeat the purpose.

Well my friends, that concludes the “Come on, Get Happy” series. I hope you’ve found it to be helpful, perhaps even entertaining as we’ve explored the realm of available options in the bad mood buster category. As always, take a moment to consult with your health care professional before beginning any supplement program; and never lose sight of our goal- to BeWell.

Until next week…

Brain Tweakers

Welcome back toCome on, Get Happy”

This week, Brain Tweakers!

As previously stated, one part of my mood enhancement regimen consists of the mental performance formula Neuro1. This is definitely one of my favorite supplements! To break it down superficially, it totally appeals to my inner science geek. It is a powdered formula that you have to shake to mix and activate, and that once activated is so energetic it literally can blow the top off of your mixer. I do not exaggerate one bit here, last Tuesday I lost my mixer’s top on the subway platform. It popped off with a bit of a bang and soared out and into the train tracks after I obviously over did it on the shaking. Needless to say, it is a sensitive and somewhat obnoxious formulation with a lot of power and energy. Stick to secure mixers with screw top closures. Also, the powder is flavored, but be forewarned; it starts sweet and finishes with a dull bitter taste. A little chase with water and you’ll be fine.

Now digging deeper,Neuro1 is a 7 gram dose per 31 gram serving size formula containing six of the mood boosting nutrients we reviewed in last week’s post – Vitamins B6 and B12, L-Tyrosine, Inositol, 5-HTP and Biotin. It also contains the caffeine equivalent of one cup of coffee, 18 grams of carbohydrates, 10 grams of sugar, 5 grams of protein, and antioxidants C, E, Selenium andZinc. Neuro1’s first five, and therefore most abundant, ingredients are Taurine, L-Tyrosine, Glucuronolactone, Magnesium Creatine Chelate and Acetyl L- Carnitine.  Since we’ve already explored L-Tyrosine, let’s delve into the other four.

  • Taurine is an amino acid commonly used in energy drinks like Red Bull and 5 Hour Energy. It is found in very high concentrations within the brain, and it is also found in the central nervous system, heart and skeletal muscles. Taurine helps electrolytes such as sodium, potassium and magnesium flow in and out of the cells. There is a possibility that it also helps combat depression.
  • Glucuronolactone is also commonly found in energy drinks and naturally produced by the body. It is present in most of our connective tissues including the tendons, ligaments and joints. It is also considered a detoxifying chemical.
  • Magnesium Creatine Chelate is a more absorbable and bioavailable form of creatine. Though naturally produced by the body, creatine is often supplemented by athletes for enhanced strength, energy, recovery and expansion of the muscles’ cell size. Creatine needs magnesium to convert to ATP, the fuel our muscles run on. Magnesium Creatine Chelate allows supplement makers to energize us without using simple sugars.
  • Acetyl L-Carnitine, also naturally produced by the body, is a substance derived from carnitine. Carnitine is related to the B-Vitamins but similar in structure to the amino acids. It is most commonly recognized for helping the body use fats for energy and is therefore a popular weight management aid. Acetyl L-Carnitine has demonstrated an anti-aging effect on the brain and nervous system and is even supplemented to delay the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

That rounds out this formulation’s heaviest hitters and they are very promising for a variety of reasons; but they are not necessarily my favorites in the mental performance category.

Those would be Huperzine A and Vinpocetine.

I love these guys just as much as I do my dear Inositol! Be aware though, these substances are quite potent and should only be supplemented in small doses- no more than 200 micrograms/day of Huperzine A and  5 milligrams/day of Vinpocetine– to avoid any possible side effects and adverse reactions with medications. Those taking blood thinners should not supplement Vinpocetine, nor should anyone with low blood pressure, seizures and/or bleeding disorders. 

Both of these nutrients are derived from plants. But Vinpocetine is a synthetic substance developed from the leaves of the Lesser Periwinkle Plant. It is believed to increase blood and oxygen flow within the brain.

Huperzine A is a highly purified and manipulated substance sourced from Chinese Club Moss. It is known to increase levels of the neurotransmitter Acetylcholine that carries information throughout the brain and body. Acetylcholine helps to quicken the speed of our thoughts and, “…juices the mind to be flexible, quick in movement, creative and innovative…to increase our intuition, language skills, and memory retention”.* Glorious! Right? But I’m sure you can see how too much can be a problem.Acetylcholine balance au natural can be achieved by eating avocados, dairy products and nuts.

Though I currently need the quick pick-me-up effects offered by powdered and liquid supplements, I’ve had great success with the pill form supplement Focus Formula. It is a simpler formulation that includes the Omega 3 fatty acid decosahexaenoic acid (DHA) that is found in large concentrations within the brain. Focus Formula takes a couple of weeks to get into the system, but once it’s in it does deliver a good mid-day kick.

Other noteworthy brain boosters include:

Alpha Lipoic Acid a potent anti-oxidant found in spinach and broccoli that allows our cells to use sugar to produce energy.
DMAE (dimethylaminoethanol) a chemical similar to choline that is involved in the process of learning and retaining information and is helpful in increasing focus and alertness. It is best to take as needed and not on a daily basis.
Ginkgo Biloba an anti-oxidant herb originating from China that is known to increase oxygen supply to the brain and blood flow to the heart, brain, and body. It continues to be studied for it potential to strengthen the body  and help it fight  illnesses  that deteriorate memory and cause chronic neuromuscular pain.
Phenylalanine an essential amino acid not produced by the body that can cross the blood brain barrier and therefore directly affect brain chemistry. The body can convert it into tyrosine. Pregnant women and those suffering from diabetes, high blood pressure and anxiety attacks should not supplement this. Phenylalanine is used to make the artificial sweetener aspartame.
Phosphatidyl Serine a substance produced by the brain and abundantly found in nerve cells.  It has been known to enhance learning capability and short-term memory. It is thought to have an anti-aging effect on the brain.

Care and caution should be exercised when using any substance, natural or synthetic, to impact brain chemistry and function. My recommendations after all has been discussed and reviewed by your medical professionals are:

1.start with individual nutrients instead of formulations

2.first work with the whole herbs instead of their active ingredient extractions

3.begin with a clean slate, supplementing and layering ingredients one at a time

4.always adhere to a supplement’s warning label

In short, have fun but take your time. Next week, the stress buffers!

Until Then,

BeWell!

*Patt Lind-Kyle, Heal Your Mind, Rewire Your Brain. Santa Rosa, CA: Energy Psychology Press, 2009

Come on, Get Happy!!

This week’s post was originally going to focus on considerations for selecting a multi-vitamin but a very popular question came up that happens to be one of my favorite subjects- mood enhancement.

This is also one of the reasons I started BeWellWarrior. I was having one of those days we’ve all had when you just don’t know how you’re going to muster up the will to get out of bed, out of the house and into the long day ahead. That day, the question I asked out loud was, “How much does it really take to keep up the pace?” I thought about all the different ingredients I assembled to get out there and have a productive day, an enjoyable day. When I got on the train I took a look at the faces of the other passengers. Many were passed out asleep others were tuned out and into I-pods, games, or books. And some looked as though they’d had the exact same morning as I or unfortunately, worse. So here we have it-optimism, enthusiasm and feeling imperturbable. Can these be obtained from a supplement?

This is an extensive subject I think best covered in a series of posts. Getting and staying revved up for the day is about more than a good mood. It is also about our ability to adapt, focus and maintain an energized mind. We’ll touch on those later. But first, the bad mood busters!

Before we delve into the possible antidotes, let’s take a look at the various reasons we may be experiencing the blues.

Chronic Fatigue                 Stress                    Fear/Anxiety                     Hormonal Imbalance

Chronic Over Stimulation              Sleep Deprivation            Dehydration       Vitamin / Mineral Deficiency

Let me quickly reiterate that I am not an advocate of self diagnosis. Many of the above are serious conditions where melancholy is merely one symptom, and anything experienced chronically warrants consultation with a medical professional. It could save you from ongoing discomfort, as well as time and energy. For others who occasionally experience these states, first..

 Explore the root cause.                Avoid numbing the situation.                     Try a behavioral remedy.

Perfect examples are the cases of sleep deprivation and stress overload. If you can address these by going to bed earlier, scheduling a daily cat nap or incorporating meditation, supplementation may prove unnecessary.

With that said, here is what I’ve tried:

The B’s.These B vitamins are part of a larger family that works best in concert with one another. A good source for the full B-Complex is brewer’s yeast. Toxicity from high doses and long-term use is rare with most B vitamins because your body will excrete what it does not need.

  • B5, Pantothenic Acid- counteracts stress by supporting the adrenal glands’ production of anti-stress hormones. Fatigue is often a sign of B5 deficiency. Therapeutic doses for adults range 250-500 mg/day, twice a day.
  •  B6, Pyridoxine-seemingly connected to hormonal balance and water shifts within women, is found mostly in meats and whole grains. Nervousness, irritability and depression are a few common signs of B6 deficiency. Dosages greater than 200 mg/day are still being studied for possible side effects.
  • B12, Cobalamin- needed for the health of the nervous system. Animal proteins contain the most significant amounts. Mood changes with mental slowness may be an early sign of deficiency. Therapeutic doses range 500-1000 micrograms (mcgs)/day.
  • Inositol- used by some as a mild anxiety antidote. Whole, unprocessed grains, cantaloupe and lecithin are good sources. Caffeine can cause inositol deficiency. Many reports of relief from anxiety are anecdotal and experienced with daily dosages of 500-1000 mg/day. I can personally attest to these benefits, but I do recognize the impact our belief in a remedy has on its effectiveness. There is no known toxicity with inositol, but I did experience mild headaches when I supplemented in doses higher than 700 mg twice daily.

Amino Acids are the building blocks of protein. Most processes in the body including brain, nervous system, hormone and immune function involve the use of some form of protein, either produced by the body or ingested. They are often supplemented in the “L” form because it is either the more active or most absorbable form.

  • 5HTP, 5 Hydroxytryptophan- is a form of the amino acid tryptophan, found in flesh foods like turkey, eggs and dairy products; it is responsible for the contented laziness experienced after our Thanksgiving dinners. Tryptophan is the precursor of the neurotransmitter serotonin that regulates mood and sleep.
  • Tyrosine- stimulates the nervous system as one of the precursors of adrenaline and thyroid hormones. “As an antidepressant, 500-1000 mg of L-tyrosine can be taken two or three times during the day. Since tyrosine has a more stimulating antidepressant effect, taking 1000-1500 mg of L-tryptophan at night…may be a good therapeutic combination to help in mild to moderate depression”. *
  • GABA, Gamma-amino butyric acid- functions like an emotional regulator and is involved in the production of endorphins.  This is a neurotransmitter within the central nervous system that can also be supplemented. “When GABA is deficient, the emotions and anxiety…are uncontrollable”. ** It is found in spinach, broccoli, walnuts and almonds and supplemented in divided doses totaling 500-1500 mg/day. Excessive amounts of GABA have been shown to increase anxiety, and it should not be combined with alcohol or antidepressant medications.

SAMe, S-adenosylmethionine- is produced by the body’s cells and supplemented in doses of 1600 mg/ day for antidepressant benefits. As with most substances found within the body, it has many uses including joint health and liver function. Because SAMe supplements are typically on the pricier side, I found it hard to consistently take in the higher dosages indicated for mood balance.

Not everything that is natural is completely safe. The following should be used with caution due to known side effects and negative interactions with other herbs and medications.

St. John’s Wort, antidepressant                 Kava Kava, calming                Valerian Root, sedative 

My current mood enhancement regime consists of two supplements, taken on alternate days of the week:

  • Neuro1 Mental Performance Formula, by Nutrition 53. This is a powdered formulation that combines many of the above listed nutrients with others for focus and alertness. It picks me up, takes the edge off, doesn’t cause me to crash and doesn’t keep me from sleeping, even when taken later in the afternoon.
  • Coco Energy Restore, by Resvitale. These gel caps contain cocoa powder, herbs that help the body adapt to stress and caffeine sourced from natural tea extract.

I generally prefer to take mood enhancers in powder or liquid forms because the effects are felt more quickly, but many encapsulated supplements are now designed with such advanced delivery systems that the body is able to access the nutrients almost as quickly as if they were in liquid form. All of the supplements listed here are available in a variety of forms that allow their benefits to be felt within 20-30 minutes of taking them.

Lastly, don’t feel pressured to start with the maximum dose. Everyone is different and you may not need the higher amounts to feel the desired effects. Our bodies do grow tolerant of substances, causing us to need stronger doses to achieve the same effects. Additionally our minds can become dependent on those felt effects. Gradually increasing the dosage and going supplement free one day a week and/or seven consecutive days for every four weeks of supplementation is a good way to prevent this.

Until Next Week,

BeWell!

*Elson M. Haas, M.D., Staying Healthy with Nutrition, the Complete Guide to Diet and Nutritional Medicine. Berkeley, CA: Celestial Arts, 1992

**Patt Lind-Kyle, Heal Your Mind, Rewire Your Brain. Santa Rosa, CA: Energy Psychology Press, 2009

After the Cleanse is Done

 

For those who are now squeaky and new inside, insure that your work was not done in vain with the following post cleansing care package.

During and Immediately After

Replenish with probiotics. These protective tiny living organisms like bacteria, viruses and yeast are similar to those residing in our gastrointestinal tracts. They are the “good bacteria” that have been known to help protect from infection and illness, and they are often stripped from the intestines by colon cleansers.  Yogurt, soy, kefir and miso are among the many foods that naturally contain live probiotics. But rest assure, if those foods don’t appeal to your tastes, probiotic supplements have been the buzz for quite some time and are available in liquid, powder, pill and chew forms (these usually contain freeze-dried bacteria).

The strongest I’ve seen available over-the-counter is 150 billion CFU’s. These, and counts above 10 billion are typically recommended by health care professionals for use after a cycle of antibiotics or to help manage certain GI issues.  4-10 billion CFU’s are appropriate for maintaining overall health and wellness and can safely be taken as directed by the product guidelines. Some of the terms you’ll come across on the packaging labels include:

  • CFU or Colony Forming Unit- indicating how many units are able to divide and form colonies. One unit equals a single bacterium.
  • Flora – often used interchangeably with bacteria, referring to the microscopic organisms that line the intestinal tract and are necessary to its normal functioning.
  •  “Live and Active Cultures”- this seal is placed on yogurt and other fermented foods or beverages that contained at least 10 million living and active bacteria per gram of the substance when it was manufactured. The “Active Cultures” statement is commonly listed on freeze-dried probiotic supplements.
  • Strains- there are many different strains of bacteria with histories of benefitting many different conditions. They can be supplemented individually or in groups, both large and small. Two commonly used strains are the lactobacillus acidophilus, known for its beneficial effect on gastrointestinal health, and bacillus, often used to relieve symptoms associated with IBS (irritable bowel syndrome).Other commonly used strains include bifidobacterium, saccharomyces, streptococcus, and enterococcus.

Probiotics should not be supplemented when we are ill or functioning with a compromised immune system. If you are not certain whether supplementation is necessary or safe for your particular condition, researching the benefits associated with that condition and the use of probiotics will provide some clarity. But you should refer to your doctor for the strain and potency most suitable to your needs.

Immediately After and Ongoing

Restore with prebiotics. These non-digestible nutrients sustain and promote the growth of the healthy bacteria living in the intestines. Many foods contain prebiotics including dairy products, oatmeal, honey, berries, garlic, onions, asparagus, and kale. Consuming prebiotic containing foods helps maintain healthy levels of the beneficial bacteria and therefore, general gastrointestinal health.

Aid digestion with enzymes. Found naturally in saliva and secreted by the cells lining the stomach, pancreas, and small intestines,  enzymes help the body break down foods for fuller absorption and utilization of their nutrients.  More fully digested food also means less build-up within the gastrointestinal tract. Remember that one of the main purposes for cleansing the system is to remove undigested matter from the body.

Enzymes are also naturally occurring in certain foods, and when supplemented, they are taken during or immediately after a meal. Tropical fruits supply most supplemental enzymes:

  • Papain, found in papayas, helps with protein digestion.
  • Bromelain, from pineapple, also aids the breakdown of proteins. It is an anti-inflammatory helpful in remedying tissue irritations such as those experienced after surgeries and injuries.

Some enzymes like lactase, found in the small intestines and responsible for breaking down the milk sugar lactose, are supplemented to offset a deficiency. Supplemental enzymes are often measured in milligrams and come in varied dosages.

In the case of lactase deficiency/ lactose intolerance, it is important not to self diagnose and treat this condition. Instead, consult a physician or GI specialist for accurate assessment and appropriate recommendations.

Long Term Maintenance

Cleansing should not be a once in a lifetime occurrence. Ideally we should aim to do this 2-4 times per year, provided our immune systems are not compromised. So, there is no need to stress the occasional indulgence or period of laxity with our diets; however, a few consistent points of focus can keep us functioning at optimum levels between cleanses:

  • 8-10 eight ounce glasses of pure, clean water per day to help the body remove toxins
  • 25-35 grams of dietary fiber per day to help maintain intestinal health
  • fruit and vegetable washes to remove pesticide and/or herbicide residues
  • super food blends such as my favorite Green Vibrance from Vibrant Health to help fill any nutritional gaps left by our food choices, time constraints and occasional splurges

Last but not least, let your original goals for cleansing dictate your food and beverage choices. There’s nothing better than starting fresh with a clean slate! Respect the investment you’ve made.

Take Care and BeWell 

 

 

Keeping it Clean

First and foremost, thank you for visiting and supporting BeWellWarrior. Your comments and questions are much appreciated and I’m thrilled to have offered useful info for some and simply shared a similar experience with others.  On that note, let’s jump right into last week’s most frequently posed question.

Cleansing…

It’s perfectly logical with the onset of summer. A change in season often signals us to take special care in tidying and cleaning our homes, and feeling inspired to do the same for the body is a natural extension of this instinct. Cleansing gives the body the opportunity to rid itself of accumulated waste from undigested foods, preservatives, additives and other substances absorbed from the environment like exhaust, fumes, and even chemicals from water, detergents and cosmetics.

Signs that it may be time to cleanse:

  • Feelings of lethargy and/or irritability
  • Indigestion, constipation or irregular bowel movements
  • Fluid retention and bloating
  • Skin eruptions such as acne and/or rashes
  • Dullness or discoloration in the whites of the eyes
  • Phlegm and lung congestion
  • Dizziness, migraines or headaches
  • Nausea, gas and weight loss

The types of symptoms you are experiencing will help determine which organs and systems are affected, what types of cleansers are appropriate, and which nutrients may be helpful.

lethargy , irritability Liver  dandelion, milk thistle
indigestion , constipation Colon/Intestinal Tract plantain herb, cascara sagrada, psyllium
fluid retention Kidneys and Urinary Tract cranberry, uva ursi
skin eruptions Blood red clover leaf, echinacea*
lung congestion Respiratory System mullein
dizziness, migraines Heavy Metal Toxicity** glutathione, NAC ( n-acetyl-cysteine )
nausea , weight loss Parasite Infection** goldenseal, wormwood

*Speak with your physician first if you are taking cholesterol lowering medications.

**Consult with your physician for accurate diagnosis and treatment.

When we experience more than one of these symptoms simultaneously,  are planning to change our diet (i.e. switching to vegetarianism, starting a weight loss program), or its been more than six months since our last cleanse, a total body detox may be warranted.

Renew Life’s line includes a first timers’ total body cleansing system that is both gentle and effective. The line also carries heavy metal and parasite removal systems. Nature’s Secret makes colon and total body cleansers including, my system of choice, the Ultimate Cleanse. This is a strong system that works through all of the body’s elimination channels. It also contains laxative herbs that can make using it during a busy week less than ideal. I’d suggest taking a probiotic complex afterward to replace the protective bacteria stripped by the process, especially if you are planning to travel out of your home country or spend time in any environment that might stress the immune system.

How should I prepare for a cleanse?

Because cleansing can weaken the body’s defenses, doing so while you are fighting or recuperating from an illness is not advised. Strengthen the body with vegetables, whole grains and highly nutritious foods. Take your multi-vitamin for a nutritional boost before the cleanse.

How long should the cleanse last?

Depending on your individual constitution and type of cleanser used, detoxification can take anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of months. The length of time you choose to cleanse should be determined by the demands of your lifestyle, your current state of health, and your goals for cleansing. If your current daily life involves a lot of multi-tasking and errand running, you may want to wait until you have a period of downtime as the process can be draining. If you are cleansing to prepare for a dramatic change in your diet or lifestyle, then you may benefit from the discipline required to complete a month-long program.

Do I have to fast while cleansing?

Though fasting is used as a cleansing method, it is neither necessary for thorough cleansing nor appropriate for everyone’s lifestyle. Eating light, simple and wholesome meals is fine, and choosing organic and fresh or minimally processed foods over fast and frozen is even better. Fruit naturally detoxifies and helps the process along. If you can eliminate complex seasonings and complicated food combinations, this will help reduce the body’s workload and give it more energy to cleanse and repair itself. Drinking 8-10 glasses of filtered water is also important as it helps flush accumulated toxins from the body.

Most importantly, have patience with the cleansing process and respond to your body’s needs. The subsequent after glow and light energetic feelings are worth it. 

As Always, BeWell!

Keep Cool Kit

Welcome  to BeWellWarrior!

Those who know me personally know that I am  very, very sensitive to heat and humidity. I often joke that a deep thought can cause my forehead to bead up with moisture. And because breaking a sweat for no good reason at all (like merely blinking or changing my facial expression) puts me in a really bad mood, I’ve gathered a few tips and created a brief Keep Cool Kit.

Enjoy and Be Well!

  • Start your day with a cooling shower courtesy of Dr. Bonner’s 18:1  Hemp Peppermint Castile Soap. An organic blend of coconut, olive, hemp, jojoba and peppermint oils allows even the hottest showers to finish with a refreshing sensation. It rinses clean. So, fragrances can been worn without any interference. It is also made in both liquid and bar forms. Those with more sensitive skin can easily dilute the liquid , which incidentally works great in a cold compress for the face.
  • Adding Watermelon to your diet is a great way to stay hydrated and nourished. Containing Vitamins A, C and B6,  it is praised for its antioxidant value, immunity boosting power and energizing capability. It also has the highest levels of lycopene-great benefit to men, and the rind contains the amino acid citrulline which helps our muscles resist fatigue.
  • Treating yourself to an iced Hibiscus tea provides a wonderful pick-me-up as well as helps to reduce heat induced swelling. Sorrel, as it is known in Jamaica, is an  antihypertensive. So if the morning workload was unusually stressful, Hibiscus tea can help bring the blood pressure back down.
  • End your day with the healing touch of Aloe Vera. The gel of this plant can be used topically to repair sun and environmental damage  and internally as a mild laxative. Those looking to ingest the gel or juice may want to opt for the pre-prepared versions. Lily of the Desert makes both the gel and the juice. Go organic to avoid allergic reactions to pesticides and herbicides.

As always, please speak with your doctor if you are taking medications you think may be complicated by any of the suggestions provided.

A Few Words About Natural Healing

The following are noteworthy when considering a nutritional supplement product or program:

The FDA disclaimer,” These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, ” often appears on commercially manufactured dietary supplements that specify their use or effect on the body. This statement is usually not placed on the packaging of products that do not state a specific use or benefit to using the supplement.

  • The Food and Drug Administration does not dedicate extensive attention or resources to monitoring the business of herbs and vitamins and minerals. It is responsible for , “..overseeing food sanitization and quality, acceptable manufacturing procedures, nutrition labeling and truth in packaging laws, interstate shipping of foods, and additive usage rules,”.* However certain filler ingredients can be lumped into broader categories such as, “…natural and artificial flavors”. Seek out as much unbiased information and feedback as possible before determining whether one is an appropriate supplement to include in your program.

Pills, Powders, Gummy’s and Chews, Liquids, Sheets…Oh My!

  • The most important consideration when selecting the form of supplement you’ll use is in what form you are most likely to take it and take it consistently. If you can’t comfortably swallow pills, then chewable or drinkable supplements will be better options. However, if you cannot stand to taste more bitter or acrid flavors then the sweetened chews and gummy’s will be more suitable alternatives.
  • The form of the supplement does impact its absorbability and therefore effectiveness for your body. Liquids are absorbed most quickly and fully by the body, followed by powdered nutrients and those broken down in the mouth either  by chewing or sublingually ( under the tongue ). Capsules are easier for the digestive system to break down than hard tablets, and large dense pills are the most challenging and time-consuming for the body’s digestive system. The deciding factors are both the overall health and efficiency of your digestive system as well as your individual preferences.

How strong, how much and how long?

  • If you are a basically healthy person with a well-balanced diet – complex carbs, fruits and vegetables, lean proteins and healthy fats – then a high quality multi vitamin and mineral complex offering 50-100%  of the nutrients’ recommended daily allowance should suffice. But, if you’ve been advised to supplement due to deficiencies, such as anemia, then higher doses may be more appropriate for limited periods of time.
  • Herbs, by mother nature, are in most cases designed to work more gently and slowly in the body than a pharmaceutical product. Consequently, they can  safely be used for longer periods of time.  Still, there  are herbs and natural substances that contain toxic components and should therefore be used with  caution, in milder concentrations, smaller amounts, and/or for shorter durations of time.

* Elson M. Haas, M.D., Staying Healthy with Nutrition, the Complete Guide to Diet and Nutritional Medicine. Berkeley, CA: Celestial Arts, 1992