Category Archives: Blends and Mixtures

Debating Titanium Dioxide

Element Titanium

Sometime ago, a young woman came into the supplement store looking for a titanium dioxide free iron supplement. She began telling me about the research on this ingredient and the reports that it was carcinogenic. She then went on to ask why a vitamin maker would use a whitening agent only to then turn around and dye the supplement another color. The absurdity behind this process was so conspicuous; I admittedly felt a little dumbfounded. I honestly had no answer for her other than the possibility of market research leading manufacturers to believe we consumers prefer pretty colored pills to naturally hued, and whitening a substance’s natural color probably allowed another color to take better. We both had to tilt our heads and roll our eyes as the words tumbled out and over themselves, but in that moment I decided to look into the meat of the issue and find out the deal with TD.

From the research I’ve read so far, much of the studies done on the carcinogenicity of titanium dioxide have been performed on rats, not unusual, and with powdered TD. Many of these studies did find that prolonged and excessive – six hours per day, five days per week, for two years- exposure of lab rats to TD dust did result in lung tumor development. And some of these studies did acknowledge the marked difference between the ways the body of a rat processes powders and dust particles in comparison to those of larger mammals like primates and humans. There are also studies, dating as far back as the 1960’s and conducted on larger mammals and humans, that tested the amounts of titanium dioxide present in the body after ingesting the substance through the diet over extended periods of time. These studies stated that no detectable amounts of TD were found in the urine, blood, kidneys or liver, giving way to the determination that dietary consumption of titanium dioxide did not lead to its absorption and thus accumulation within the human body.

So, surprise surprise, it’s a mixed bag. Findings like these enable the FDA to deem it safe for use and consumption. And boy oh boy is it used.

If you’ve become the diligent ingredient label reader I’ve encouraged, then you know what I’m talking about. TD can be found in everything from our multi colored multi vitamins to our body lotions and cosmetics. And because it occurs naturally in several minerals, it is widely used in mineral based make-up, especially the powdered foundations, bronzers, eye shadows and blushes.

So are there any benefits? Probably the more pointed question is whether the substance serves any function, has any use?

Titanium dioxide results from oxygenation of the widely present element titanium. Its strength and resistance to breakdown, along with its pigmentation make it a successful thickening and whitening agent for a variety of products like paints, inks, pills, toothpastes, cosmetics, foods and beverages. In addition, it is an able ultra violet light absorber and thus popular component of sunscreens and blocks. But is it truly, ultimately safe; and if so, then why the fuss?

Titanium_Dioxide_43Well it turns out that the nano-sized, ultra small particle form of TD is of concern to researchers. And many of them view the synthesized state as the real threat because this form is more susceptible to collisions/reactions with other particles and can potentially infiltrate otherwise protected areas of the body. It is these traits that make for an unpredictable agent with unforeseeable consequences, and thus no definitive answer to the question of long term safety.

Given the particular concern being powdered titanium dioxide and its impact on our lungs, the greater danger may be in our exposure to the inhalable forms and not the ingestible. Only time will tell for sure, but it is certainly our prerogative to play it safe. These manufacturers may provide some effective alternatives to their TD containing counterparts.

For titanium dioxide free mineral cosmetics: http://www.rejuvaminerals.com/store/titanium.html
For nanoparticle free sunscreens and blocks: http://mexitan.com/

As for ingestible products containing titanium dioxide, opting for clear veggie gel capped supplements or color free pills and tablets is a relatively easy adjustment. New Chapter, NOW and Source Naturals all offer TD free vitamin and mineral options in their supplement lines. Finding a medication that is free of titanium dioxide is probably more challenging; but when faced with the need for immediate care, healing in the now naturally takes priority over questions of future challenges. For those needing to take medications over an extended period of time, there should be no hesitation in asking about any additional ingredients or additives that cause concern. Let us remember that these are our bodies, nourished by our minds and without peace of that mind, health cannot truly be obtained.

Until next time…

Be Informed, Be Selective

BeWell

Sources

http://ezinearticles.com/?Titanium-Dioxide:-Toxic-or-Safe?&id=34675

http://www.eoearth.org/article/Nanoparticles

http://www.gcsescience.com/a37-nano-science-nanoparticles.htm

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Feeling Shot ByYour Energy Drink?

In recent news, reports have emerged of deaths attributed to energy shots like 5 Hour Energy, and I recently read a report that drinking more than three energy drinks per day may increase the risk of stroke and other life threatening incidents. Though it is hard to fully quantify these claims without knowing the specifics of lifestyle, family history and pre-existing health issues, it is by no means hard to believe them possible having spent years reading and researching the ingredient labels of these performance enhancers. Add to that my own personal trial usage and the claims become completely plausible. But, distinguishing the true culprit from the sometimes lengthy list of suspects is another task all together.

Caffeine and B-vitamins, energizer staples, are in and of themselves hardly hazardous in moderation. Even at their upper limits, the side effects are more easily managed and the possible damage more capable of being repaired and reversed. However when the formulators fall victim to temptation and start tossing in layers upon layers of herbs, amino acids and other ancillary nutrients, watch back! The resulting potions can be potent and seductive when we discover what we can do faster, better and longer with their assistance. I know you recall my declaration of brain buzz indulgence, and I know I am not alone. Life is demanding and the more focused and energized we are, the more confident and capable we feel. So, what’s the harm in drinking a shot or two of these enhancers, right? It’s not like they’re drugs, right? And therein lays the real question being asked by scientists and researchers. Their specific target of focus is the amino acid taurine.

Taurine is a free form amino acid naturally and easily obtained from foods like fish, meat, dairy milk, eggs and even seaweed. With the help of vitamin B6, taurine is also manufactured by the body from other amino acids cysteine and methionine. A safe daily dose of taurine is between 100 and 500 mgs per day and offers health benefits to the brain, eyes and central nervous system. Unfortunately, the amounts found in your typical energy drink can be twice this amount. Possibly even more concerning is that these drinks usually contain synthetic taurine and that combined with the large dosages can have effects on the brain and body similar to those of illicit drugs, causing an unnatural and extreme stimulation of the central nervous system followed by a hard melancholic crash in energy.

Increased blood pressure, disturbances in sleep cycles, moodiness and irritability, seizures, heart palpitations, and manic episodes are some of the reported and observed side effects of excessive taurine intake. The list only grows longer and more dangerous when use of this ingredient is combined with anabolic steroids or alcohol, as in the Red Bull & Vodka cocktail. Consequently, Switzerland and other countries are leading the way and banning taurine containing energy drinks. Although the US FDA doesn’t appear to be firmly decided, it is publicizing consumer reports of adverse reactions to the substance and my advice is to take heed. This does not necessarily mean stopping supplemental use all together, but perhaps pulling back.

  • Start reading the ingredient labels of the sports and energy drinks, checking for the amounts of taurine and caffeine as well as the number of servings in the bottle or can.
  •  Beware of the words “proprietary blend” and note that the ingredients listed first on that list are the most abundant ones.
  • Decrease daily intakes by half, reduce days of use to two per week, and take full breaks from use every four to six weeks.
  • Increase dietary intake of natural taurine according to your lifestyle and eating habits.
  • Increase the body’s production of taurine by making sure that vitamin B6 is also present in the diet.

Most importantly, tune in to your body’s reaction to these drinks pre, during and post use; and be honest with yourself regarding observations of side effects like unpleasant physical sensations, mood swings, energy fluctuations and even your own cravings for the drinks. It’s all relevant and we are all responsible. A friend of mine recently shared his professor’s view on the supplement industry as the “Wild Wild West” and there’s a lot of truth in that. So, I’ll be keeping that in mind as I venture. Til next time, be aware, be wise and…

BeWell

Resources

Break Studios, Evelyn De Matias

http://www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/dangers-of-taurine/

http://www.naturalnews.com/025148_taurine_benefits_body.html

Reformulation Alert!- Methyl Hex 4, 2

First and foremost, Happy Autumn to all and thank you so much for your support, your reads and your comments. It has been an amazing experience writing and publishing this blog and I’m thrilled to step into the second year of BeWellWarrior. I aim to keep you armed with the latest on new supplements and wellness trends. And I welcome any questions or concerns you may want me to explore. For now, take a load off and have a look at this recent change to the beloved Methyl Hex 4, 2.

Several posts ago I wrote about the then new thermogenic Methyl Hex 4, 2. This fat burner claimed to increase our metabolic rates, enhance our focus and boost our mood all in a 1-2 pill per day dose. The ingredient most credited with these capabilities was Methylhexaneamine, a supposedly pharmaceutical grade of Geranium seed extract. I speak in past tense because SEI Pharmaceuticals has recently gone the route of other supplement makers and removed this potent ingredient from the formulation.

As previously posted, Geranium seed extract was revered for its nor epinephrine like behavior (elevation of heart rate, release of glucose, increased blood flow to muscles). The resulting energy earned the herb a reputation second only to the once renowned Ephedra. But, of course, in this age of increasing demands and seemingly ever decreasing time, folks, feeling pressured to keep up, once again went overboard.

When I say, “Folks…” I’m not just referring to the consumers but also to the product producers. They are pressured to create a competitive formula that is worthy of those all too familiar tags-most powerful, strongest, fastest working, longest lasting. Additionally, supplement takers have long been pushing back from the multiple pill doses and leaning towards the ultra concentrated 1-2 pill per day trend. It seems only logical manufacturers would need to push the upper limits of otherwise safe ingredients to achieve this potency and keep their customers.

The result is performance enhancing supplements so stimulating to the system that the body and brain begin to crave and inevitably depend on them to gain advantage, increase activity and ultimately productivity. Once that occurs, so does the supplement abuse and system imbalance, which in time may lead to serious injury and illness. This is usually when sports and other governing agencies start prohibiting the use of an ingredient and effectively pull the rug from beneath it, the apparent fate of this controversial ingredient.

English: Bacopa monnieri (syn. Bramia monnieri...
English: Bacopa monnieri (syn. Bramia monnieri, Gratiola monnieria, Herpestes monnieria, Herpestis fauriei, H. monniera, H. monnieria, Lysimachia monnieri, Moniera euneifolia)- Coastal Waterhyssop, Thyme-leafed gratiola, Water hyssop, Water Hyssop, Indian pennywort, Brahmi ब्राह्मी (Hindi), நீர்ப்pராமி Nirbrahmi (Tamil), Jalanevari (Gujarati)- in Hyderabad, India. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now Methyl Hex 4,2 relies upon Bacopa Monnieri (famed for its memory boosting capacity), D-Aspartic Acid (known to increase insulin release and fat  burning) and Pilocarpus Pennatifolius/Jaborandi (used to increase the body’s heart rate, perspiration and urination) to elicit its energizing and metabolism enhancing effects. I recently sampled the new formula and definitely noticed the difference. The previous version produced a unique kind of brain buzz and uplifted mood with sustained concentration and energy. It was also very effective at suppressing my appetite. The new formulation did not leave me feeling as focused or energized and there wasn’t any noticeable impact on my mood or appetite. Mind you, I previously tried Methyl Hex for 7 days either with or immediately following a caffeinated beverage; and I only tried the new formulation once, hours after having a cup of coffee. The timing of the coffee is important because its inherent ability to perk up the brain and quickly increase energy definitely acts as a booster shot to any fat burner. None the less, I suspect the real difference is the absence of the Methylhexaneamine.

Other supplements expected to reformulate and pull this ingredient include USP Labs’ pre-workout Jack 3d and its extremely popular thermogenic Oxy Elite Pro. Currently you’ll find these products carrying another form of the Geranium extract known as 1,3-Dimethylamylamine HCI. However word on the street is this won’t be for much longer. If you are using any of these products now, I’d suggest pulling back a bit on your daily dosages and use frequency to enable your body to better adjust to the coming formulations. Additionally, these products all recommend a break after 8 weeks of consecutive use. Perhaps now is a good time to take that. In the interim, play it safe out there and as always…

Be Well Warriors!

**Please check out the below links if you have used any of the above supplements and experienced adverse reactions.

Some Supplement Combos to Avoid

Recently I was asked to clarify which herbs could not be safely combined with other supplements. I thought, “sure, no problem,” knowing that there are literally hundreds of thousands of different herbs with countless compounds, properties and actions warranting another encyclopedia set’s worth of break down. And then it occurred to me that it would be of more benefit to just list some resources that I’ve relied upon to help me sift through the herbal options and determine the appropriate combinations to supplement.

Cover of "Prescription for Nutritional He...
Cover via Amazon

My most frequent go to are the books A Prescription for Nutritional Healing by Phyllis A. Balch and Staying Healthy with Nutrition, published by Celestial Arts Publishing. The first provides both quick reference lists of select herbs and more detailed supplement recommendations for various conditions. Staying Healthy…is an A-Z guide of all vitamins and minerals plus a breakdown of different diets with suggested appropriate recipes. For a list of medications and their corresponding restrictions the Physicians’ Desk Reference is a must have, but make sure you are referring to the most updated edition as the pharmaceutical world is an ever-changing one.

As said before, a full list of supplemental conflicts could very well absorb your computer’s memory stores. Let me be clear though, not because they’re so many conflicts, just that many supplements. Generally speaking, herbs, vitamins, minerals and their active compounds are safe when used properly. But when used outside of their recommended dosages and durations, some issues can arise. And more often, these issues are not at all the same types of risks associated with the misuse of prescription drugs. Usually any risks associated with natural substances fall within the following categories:

  • Interference with the absorption of other vital nutrients
  • Development of allergic reactions due to over use and/or too prolonged use
  • Competition with, interference with, or duplication of the actions of other supplements or medications

Below is a brief list of common herbs, courtesy of A Prescription for Nutritional Healing, along with some corresponding condition, supplement, and medication combinations to avoid.

Astragalus fever (condition)
Burdock iron (supplement)
Chamomile other sedatives (medications)
Damiana iron
Dandelion diuretics (medications)
Don Quai diabetes (condition)
Echinacea auto immune disorders (condition)-for   prolonged periods of time
Ephedra anxiety, diabetes, glaucoma, heart disease, hypertension, thyroid   disease (conditions);monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitor drugs
Fever Few blood thinners, pain killers (medications)
Garlic anticoagulants (medications)
Ginger anticoagulants
Ginkgo blood thinners, pain killers
Ginseng asthma, heart disorders, high blood pressure, hypoglycemia, insomnia   (conditions)
Hops antidepressants (medications)
Horsetail vitamin B1-Thiamine
Juniper iron and other minerals
Kava Kava alcohol, anti-anxiety, antidepressants (conditions and medications)
Lady’s Mantle iron and other minerals
Peppermint iron
Uva Ursi pregnancy (condition)

Though the above should certainly not be used as a means of self medicating, it can make designing an appropriate and supportive nutritional supplement program a bit easier. Let your physician and health care professionals do the heavy lifting but take some time to do a little extra fact checking on your own.

Until next time…BeWell

Fertile Ground-Love for the Ladies

Hanging with my girls at a recent BBQ, the topic of female fertility came up. As we marveled at a 50+ woman who looked decades younger we segued into the progress that has been made in the anti-aging industries and pondered what a relief it would be if we could preserve our reproductive health as gracefully as we potentially can our beauty. As thirty something women, no matter how accomplished or professionally focused we may be, it can be very hard to avoid what my friend calls the “no baby crazies”. And though we may not be ready at this very moment those proverbial biological ticks can, at times, dong as loudly as the liberty bell, trample over an otherwise relaxed encounter and bear down on a blossoming relationship like a souped up Mack truck.

Now I know the world of nutritional healing has both its share of long guarded secret recipes as well as new and innovative approaches to slow the aging process, so I immediately focused my hunt on if and how we women could preserve our creative capabilities. Certainly the overall state of our reproductive health has to be analyzed first. Our bodies are beyond complex and so many factors come into play when making that determination. But, as that is literally an encyclopedia set’s worth of information, we will start with the assumption of an already healthy and fertile system.

Laying the Foundation

A diet rich in anti-oxidant foods and supplements is extremely important to overall reproductive health. These nutrients counteract potentially damaging effects of environmental and metabolic toxins. Protective super-foods like vibrantly colored fruits and vegetables along with anti-inflammatory essential fatty acids and the absence of risky habits like cigarette smoking and heavy alcohol consumption (more than 1-2 drinks/day, 3-4 days/week) definitely provide ongoing nourishment to an already healthy system. Additionally, certain vitamins and minerals are especially significant to women.

B6 is believed to both regulate and extend the length of a woman’s Luteal Phase. The Luteal Phase is the portion of the menstrual cycle beginning the last day of ovulation and continuing through the first day of menstruation. The results are the formation of corpus luteum and the secretion of the progesterone hormone. The progesterone hormone prepares the uterine lining for implantation of the fertilized egg and helps to sustain that egg through the first trimester of pregnancy. Consequently, a healthy Luteal Phase is critical to both conception and full term pregnancy. 300 mg/day of B6 is a good supplemental amount; and as vitamin B6 is water-soluble (any unused amounts are excreted by the body) a sustained release version is preferred over the quicker forms.

Getting a Head Start

I’ve previously written about the importance of a good multi-vitamin supplement and that could not be truer than for those looking to conceive in the near or far future. Many health professionals recommend taking pre-natal vitamins in place of generic formulations to get more targeted nutritional support that provides appropriate amounts of those nutrients critical to both an expecting mother and her growing child. The prenatal vitamins will have at least 400 mcgs of folic acid to insure the full development of the baby’s brain and spinal cord and more modest amounts of vitamin A to protect against the birth defects that have been linked to the excessive intake of this vitamin.

Another extremely important nutrient to the baby’s brain formation and functioning is docosahexaenoic acid or DHA. This component of omega 3 fatty acid is obtained from cold water fish such as wild salmon, tuna and mackerel. Due to the risk associated with ingesting high levels of mercury when consuming large amounts of seafood, supplementing 300 mg of purified DHA per day may be the safest way to obtain adequate amounts of the nutrient.  Some prenatal multi-vitamins now also include DHA in their formulation.

Herbs for Her

It’s no surprise that my hunt uncovered two commonly used tonic herbs, Vitex or Chaste Tree Berry and Don Quai. Each of these has a long history of use by women to tone the reproductive organs and regulate hormonal activity. Consequently, both herbs are frequently recommended for female conditions ranging from PMS and menstrual irregularities to post partum care and menopause.

Studies on Vitex have revealed its ability to positively act upon the pituitary gland and thereby increase the duration of the Luteal Phase and resulting luteinizing hormone production and progesterone secretion. Did I mention we women were operating some complex machinery? In the simplest of terms, it can help enhance the processes and hormones that enable and sustain pregnancy while decreasing those that prevent it. Vitex should not be taken alongside fertility drugs and should not be used while pregnant. I currently take 400 mg/day and find it very helpful in regulating my cycle and soothing some of the discomfort experienced towards its end.

Don Quai or the so-called “female’s ginseng” has been used for centuries by traditional Chinese doctors to promote overall reproductive health and vitality, increase sexual desire and enhance energy. However, it contains certain compounds that act as estrogen does and may consequently increase risk levels and complications with estrogen related ailments like uterine fibroids, endometriosis and cancers of the reproductive system. Don Quai also contains the volatile oil safrole that may be cancer causing when taken for long periods of time. Therefore, it is safest to take a whole herb supplement or crude extraction instead of a highly processed and concentrated blend of the herb’s active chemicals. Crude preparations tend to keep a more volatile herb safe by maintaining the various compounds in proper proportion to one another, naturally protecting the consumers from danger. Studies have confirmed 3-15 grams/day of the crude herbal extract to be safe. I have personally experienced significant improvements from taking a daily 550 mg dose of the whole herb in capsule form. But because I do suffer with fibroids and adenomyosis, and have seen improvements in the latter condition, I will continue my supplementation at the lower level.

Like Vitex, Don Quai should not be combined with other fertility drugs and should not be taken by women who are already pregnant or nursing. Additionally, Don Quai contains the chemical coumarin that shortens blood clotting times and should therefore not be combined with aspirin or other blood thinning medications. My experience has also lead me to think that Don Quai has the potential to increase menstrual flow and should therefore be suspended in the days leading up to and on through a woman’s period. Both herbs are considered very safe when used as directed by the manufacturer or health care practitioner.

As I close out, I can actually feel my no baby crazies cooling down. Although I believe our bodies definitely do have a mind of their own, I also have faith in nature’s bounty, and think with her wisdom and our thoughtful application anything is possible. The following article may also be helpful.

http://www.conceiveonline.com/articles/pros-and-cons-fertility-supplements

Let’s keep caring for ourselves ladies! Until next time…

BeWell   

Sources:

Balch,Phyllis A. Prescription for Nutritional Healings. New York: Avery of
Penguin Putnam Inc, 2002.

http://thefertilityshop.com/fertility_herbs_vitamins.htm

3 Little Things to Better Your Vaca

Well it’s officially here folks! And based on the east coast’s starting scorchers, this summer just may be the record breaker.  After months of illness and injury, I’m personally determined to make it just that in the way of joyful and memorable moments. Tis the season! So, I plan on soaking up as many outdoor festivities, beach days and water park adventures as I can, perhaps even a far away excursion. Now if the latter is what you’ve really set your eye on, the following three items can provide insurance in the areas that count the most, providing protection from inside out and making your travel experience unforgettable in all the right ways.

Getting There

One of the biggest challenges in traveling far is avoiding the jet lag set back. Our bodies are literally rhythm reliant and, for some, changes in time zone can be very disruptive to the waking and sleeping cycles. The body has a hard time adjusting to the time difference and finds itself wanting to sleep when it should be awake and unable to sleep at its new bedtime. Much of our ability to sleep and thus the quality of our sleep is determined by the body’s production and release of the hormone Melatonin. A.K.A the “nighttime hormone”, Melatonin’s release is triggered by darkness and regulated by how much or little daylight we’re exposed to. Supplementing with 1-3 mg of Melatonin before and during your trip may help you get past the dreaded lag.

Be aware though that timing and dosage are critical when using Melatonin to counteract the sleeplessness of jet lag. Those traveling east into time zones with earlier bed times will likely have more success than those traveling further west where they’ll find themselves needing to retire later. West bounders might find Melatonin most helpful if and when they wake during their night’s sleep. And east bound travelers may find that taking Melatonin and going to bed earlier in the few days before their trip will help them adjust to the earlier bedtime of their destination.

Melatonin can be taken in pill, sublingual, quick dissolving and liquid forms. The latter will go to work more quickly and all should be used only as directed by the product’s instructions. This usually includes taking the supplement 30-60 minutes before the desired bedtime and not combining it with alcohol and/ or other sleep aids.

For the Foodies

If you’re anything like me and my friends, you’re all about indulging in good food and drinks when you travel and really diving in to the local cuisine. And if you are truly a foodie, you know that daring spirit isn’t without its obstacles, namely the gastro upset while adjusting to the food and water born bacteria native to your destination. The milder versions can amount to no more than a brief bout of travelers’ diarrhea, while the more extreme of these can come in the form of dysentery and even more troublesome, salmonella and/or staphylococcus exposure.

Symptoms of these infections can range from nausea and abdominal pain to fever, diarrhea and dehydration. But maintaining a healthy level of competing beneficial intestinal bacteria can increase your defenses against these illnesses. Increased defenses in turn aid the immune system and boost our resistance to all sorts of environmental irritants.

Multi strain probiotic supplements come in many forms including yogurts, enriched baked goods and beverages and more travel friendly options like capsules, chews and powders. A daily diet that includes a probiotic count of 5 to 25 billion culture forming units (CFUs) will help prepare the body for far away travel and exotic cuisine, but once you’ve arrived observation and sound judgment may offer the best protection. Salmonella is most commonly found in egg, chicken, beef and pork products. Local yogurts may help your system adjust to the types of bacteria native to your destination, but if you find yourself uncomfortable with the ways food and beverages are prepared then, simply say ,”no thank you”. Better safe than sick and sorry.

And the Beach Bums

One of my new favorite things is the super anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory supplement Astaxanthin. Asta zwhat? Yep Astaxanthin, the carotenoid responsible for the pink pigmentation of salmon and lobster, is on the rise in the preventive nutrition world. Not only is it cardio protective through its ability to relax the heart vessels and thus promote overall circulation and blood flow, it is also gaining a positive reputation for benefitting blood pressure, diabetes and even dementia. But none of these assets are qualifying qualities for our vaca- bring- along list. That, my dears, would be its inside and out sun-blocking super powers.

In clinical studies, Astaxanthin exhibited a unique ability to stand up to the sun’s more damaging UV rays. Consequently it’s recently made its way into the exclusive anti-aging sect of the beauty biz. Astaxanthin, as both a dietary and topical supplement:

  • reduces the signs of UV damage
  • protects against UV skin lesions
  • helps maintain healthy levels of inherent antioxidants like glutathione and superoxide dismutase
  • slows the onset of sun wrinkle development
  • increases skin cell regeneration

The above benefits were experienced after three weeks of supplementing 4mg of Astaxanthin each day. For more serious health benefits some wellness professionals recommend supplementing 8-12 mg/ day of Astaxanthin for 4-6 weeks and then shifting to 4mg daily for the long term. My suggestion for travel to sunny and tropical climates is 8-12 mg/day for the three weeks leading up to the trip and then 4-8mg daily while traveling. After returning, maintaining with 4mg/day should be sufficient.

Until next time, enjoy your travels, play it safe and as always…

BeWell

Sources

http://jetlagformula.com/about-jet-lag/jet-lag-articles/melatonin-for-jet-lag/

Phyllis A. Balch. Prescription for Nutritional Healing.The Penguin Group. NY, NY, 2006

http://www.anyvitamins.com/astaxanthin-skin.htm

Side Stepping the Stroke Slope

Stroke- “the interruption of blood flow to the brain”*– can result in conditions as correctable as slurred speech to those as irreversible as paralysis and, sadly, death. Not all strokes are alike in cause. The less common hemorrhagic stroke is caused by bleeding within the brain and the more common ischemic stroke is caused by clotting within a vessel supplying blood to the brain or by a clot that has traveled from another part of the body to the brain.

Though not applicable to all sufferers, there is an ever-growing theory that, though seemingly an unpredictable occurrence, the likelihood of a stroke can be predetermined from a list of five causative conditions. This group, called “Syndrome X” or the “Metabolic Syndrome”, consists of five hazardous health characteristics-abdominal obesity, high blood sugar, high triglycerides levels, high blood pressure, and low high density lipoprotein (HDL) levels. When we find ourselves struggling with any three of the five, we in turn find ourselves teetering along the edge of a very slippery slope.

The below chart lists each individual risk with methods of preventing its onset and, if necessary, improving the already existing condition.

Abdominal Obesity
Prevention:

  • Include   adaptogenic herbs like Rhodiola to reduce cortisol production
  • Walk,   run, swim, cycle and/or dance 3-5 times/week for 20-45 minutes to maintain   healthy overall body fat percentage.
  • Increase   the amount of Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs), decrease saturated fats, and avoid   trans fats in the diet.
Improvement:

  • High –linoleic Safflower oil increases the belly fat   hormone adiponectin that increases both fatty acid breakdown and blood   glucose regulation.
  • CLA, conjugated linoleic acid helps the body break down fatty –   acids that would otherwise be stored by the body.
  • L-Carnitine helps bodies utilize stored fat for energy.
High Blood Sugar
Prevention:

  • Choose   foods on the lower end of the Glycemic Index.
  • Limit   the consumption of simple carbohydrates and sugars.
  • Try   sweetening with natural sugar alternatives like agave nectar and stevia.
Improvement:

  • Include   the mineral Chromium Picolinate and   the herbs Bitter Melon and Cinnamon to   help the body better metabolize sugars and maintain blood sugar balance.
  • Help reduce sugar cravings with Gymnema Sylvestre.
High Blood Pressure
Prevention:

  • Incorporate   stress management techniques such as physical and/or intellectual exercise,   yoga, meditation or prayer.
  • Maintain   proper electrolyte (sodium, potassium, magnesium) balance within the body.
  • Reduce   dietary intakes of fried, fast and processed foods.
Improvement:

  • Grapeseed extract helps the body maintain healthy blood   pressure levels.
  • Pycnogenol helps to strengthen blood vessel integrity.
High Triglyceride Levels
Prevention:

  • Avoid   overeating, especially late at night when we’re less active.
  • Reduce   intakes of alcoholic beverages.
  • Maintain   a diet low in sugar and fat.
Improvement:

  • Treat   inflammatory ailments with non-steroidal and non-diuretic medications when   possible.
  • If   overweight, reduce bodyweight by as little as 5-10 lbs to help lower   triglyceride levels.
  • Eliminate   cigarette smoking.
High LDL and/or Low HDL Cholesterol  
Prevention:

  • Choose   foods low in cholesterol and unhealthy fat.
  • Include   fiber containing foods in the diet.
  • Increase   HDL levels by keeping moderate aerobic exercise in your life.
Improvement:

  • Phytosterols, plant sterols, compete with less healthy   animal sterols for absorption and thereby help lower total cholesterol   levels.
  • Policosanol, derived from sugar cane, has shown promise   in lowering LDL while increasing HDL levels.

Not at all surprising are the above recurring themes- getting regular exercise, eating a diet low in sugars, simple carbs and unhealthy fats, limiting alcohol and cigarette smoking, and adding stress management techniques to our daily lives. These lifestyle adjustments are at the core of most preventive plans and, in spite of their consistent need for attention, are not that hard to accomplish. My suggested starting place and current mission is the ever elusive concept of stress management. In my observation and experience, so many bad habits begin with the attempt to cope with our lives’ loads of stress. Whether we opt for the high fueled emotional rant, extreme veg out or over indulge in our spirited, sweet, rich and creamy cravings, it’s all in a desperate effort to overcome what can seem an insurmountable mound of worry- to do’s, to have’s, to be’s. This necessary adjustment has led me back to some age-old adages like doing what feels good for activity and exercise, seeking the middle ground with food and alcohol, and fighting the feeling in emotionally toxic scenarios. With no panacea to turn to, it’s a daily endeavor that’s sometimes only attainable through minute by minute milestones; but I’m beginning to believe that when faced with life’s most trying times, when missteps and bad choices can force us out of the game, slow and steady really does win the race. With that in mind…

Be aware of where you stand, be willing to move and as always, BeWell

*Balch, Phyllis A. Prescription for Nutritional Healings. New York: Avery of Penguin Putnam Inc, 2002.

My Favorite Edible Flower

They’re here!!! The May flowers promised to us by April’s downpours are here! We’ve gotten a taste already with the stately Cherry Blossoms and graceful Tulips, and there are so many more blooms to come like the glorious Magnolias and Lilacs. Certainly, these flower-full spectacles are a delight to the eyes and nose (pollen allergies aside), but they are fast becoming known as a delight to the palate as well. Wildflowers are especially regarded in this manner as they’ve long served as that “secret- ingredient” sneaked into our favorite soups, sauces and stews. And my favorite is no exception.

Thyme. Picture taken in 2003.
Thyme. Picture taken in 2003. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My beloved Thyme. For whatever the reason, I just can’t get enough. And I’m clearly not alone, for it has admirers spread about the globe with at least two dozen different countries indulging in its versatility. Native to North Africa, Asia and Europe, this perennial plant is a savored ingredient in Nigerian, Caribbean, Indian, French and Italian cuisine. Alongside its culinary praise lies a rich history dabbed with a few folkloric claims. In Egypt, the Ancients used it to embalm their deceased; and during the Middle Ages the Europeans employed it as a sleep aid and declared it a wartime good luck – charm.

In my home, thyme is key. I use it to season fish, poultry, lamb, root veggies, stuffings and sauces. And though I’m aware of its therapeutic and medicinal components, I must admit that my experience in those ways only barely scratches the surface of this herb’s reputed worth.

  • A topical astringent and soothing body rub
  • An oral antiseptic for gum and throat infections
  • An internal worm expellant

The volatile oil within thyme contains antispasmodic compounds like phenols, thymol and carvacrol with calming qualities that soothe joints, muscles and organ systems. These compounds not only aid in the relief of discomfort and pain for rheumatoid arthritis sufferers, but also make thyme tea a recommended remedy for labored digestion and flatulence.

To make thyme infused massage oil simply place a full sprig of the plant in the oil of your liking and let it keep a few weeks before using. Agitating the infusion with a gentle shake or two per day will trigger a release of the plant’s volatile oils. This oil can also be placed in the bath to counteract muscle aches and made into an ointment to treat everything from minor skin infections to severe viruses.

Thyme tea is prepared by pouring a cup of boiling water over one teaspoon of dried thyme. Cover and let it steep for fifteen minutes before straining, use this same mixture as a gargle for sore throats and mouth sores.

Thymol and carvacrol are also antibacterial and anti-fungal, and thus act as expectorants, breaking up mucus and helping relieve symptoms of the common cold, whooping-cough and bronchitis. To prepare a cough syrup, pour one pint of boiling water over one ounce of dried thyme and let it cool to room temperature. Once cooled, strain the liquid and add one cup of honey and mix well. Store in the refrigerator and shake before using.

A general rule of thumb when working with herbs is to use more when they’re fresh and less when dried. This is especially true for cullinary use but also applicable for therapeutic  mixtures. Though I’ve gotten quite happy with thyme in many of my dishes, I have never felt that I went too far. So trust your palate, indulge and enjoy!

Til next time…

Be Bold and BeWell

SOURCES

Richard Mabey, The New Age Herbalist. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster,1988

Jude C. Williams, Jude’s Herbal Home Remedies. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 2001

My Earth Day Homage to El Yunque

In honor of Earth Day I am taking the opportunity to rave about one of my many favorite places on the globe-Puerto Rico!

I feel very blessed to say I believe we live on an incredibly gorgeous planet, and even more blessed to vividly recall how magically I saw the world as a child and be able to say that I still do see it in that light. The thing about PR is how many natural beauties exist in such a small space. It is actually the smallest of the Greater AntillesCuba, Hispaniola (the Dominican Republic & Haiti), Puerto Rico and Jamaica. The island spans approximately 3500 square miles and boasts the world re-known surfing haven of Ponce, the sister isles of Culebra  and Vieques, and the Rio Camuy Caves (one of the world’s largest); and this is, to say the least, a very abbreviated list of PR’s glorious wonders. The island’s volcanic and plutonic rock foundation is primarily mountainous and lies at the intersection of the North Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea.  Its precarious positioning not only makes it geographically diverse but keeps it geologically vulnerable. Beneath the island, the corresponding plates of those two bodies of water are shifting, sometimes moving along past one another, other times facing off at their meeting points. These various interactions are reshaping the island and making it susceptible to some extreme geological conditions. But geographically speaking, one might argue that that would be the price of the magnificence found in PR. Another perfect example is the inviting El Yunque National Forest, the United States’ only tropical rain forest.

El Yunque, as it is affectionately called, sits nearest to the northeastern city of Rio Grande, is predominately within the Luquillo Mountains and covers approximately 28,000 acres of land. Despite its relatively small size, El Yunque has some truly impressive stats:

  • Its namesake peak El Yunque is one of the highest points on the island
  • It was considered a holy place by the island’s indigenous Taino Indians
  • Houses over 100 different species of wildlife
  • Contains more species of trees than all of the forests in the US Forest System combined
  • Is home to more than 200 different species of trees and plants
  • More than 300 of the rainforest’s plants are valued for their therapeutic or medicinal properties

One medicinal plant with which you may be familiar is the Stinging Nettle or Ortiga Brava. Originally from the much colder regions of Europe and Asia, it is commonly found about the rainforest and known as a formidable shrub because of its tiny needle like hairs that, if touched, easily break off into the skin and release a poisonous liquid called Formic Acid. The stinging hairs are mostly found on the shrub’s twigs and lower leaves and usually only leave their victims with mild to severe skin irritations. If you should have a prickly run in with one, remove the needles as best you can, keep your hands away from your face, and wash them as quickly and thoroughly as possible.

Some other healthful constituents of the herb include chlorophyll, acetylcholine, histamine, Vitamins A and C, silicon, potassium, fiber and protein. Stinging nettle has been used for centuries to relieve or counteract a range of different physical ailments including:

  • Increasing the flow of urine
  • Expelling of mucus from the lungs and throat
  • Constricting hemorrhages and inflammatory conditions
  • Increasing the secretion of mother’s milk
  • Alleviate early symptoms of benign prostate enlargement (BPH)

These actions within the body make Stinging Nettle beneficial for asthma, allergies, malnourishment, pain management, urinary conditions, internal bleeding and arthritis. Currently, research is being done on the herb’s impact on blood pressure, blood clotting and blood sugar. Consequently, caution should be used and medical clearance obtained before combining Stinging Nettle with pharmaceutical hypertension treatments, blood thinners or diabetes medications. Stinging Nettle should not be consumed by pregnant women or women trying to conceive.

Stinging Nettle supplements are made from the specific parts of the plant as well as the whole plant and available in tincture, powder and capsule forms. Use as directed on the product’s label and always inform your physician of any herbs included in your nutritional regime.

As we move into the week, I intend to carry Earth Day with me and reflect on the alluring beauty of our world. I know Puerto Rico is just one of many healing places we are blessed with, so please feel free to share some others with me.

Until next week, Be Wild and BeWell

Sources

http://www.medicine.nevada.edu/wps/Proceedings/45/20-22.pdf

http://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/elyunque/learning/nature-science/?cid=fsbdev3_043029

http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/stinging-nettle-000275.htm

Tierra, Michael, O.M.D. The Way of Herbs. Pocket Books, NY, NY. 1998

Meet the Mac, A Guy and Girl’s Best Friend

In my quest for truly effective energy enhancers that don’t overheat, over stimulate or become habit-forming to the system I happened upon Maca Root, or Lepidium Meyenii for the truly technical speakers. Now I’d passed this herb over several times because of its prevalence in men’s health and performance products; but it recently pulled me in after multiple female customers came in requesting it. So, I decided to give it a try. Let’s meet the Mac.

This herb hails from the Peruvian and Bolivian rainforests of the Andes Mountains. It is in fact a diet staple of those native to this region. Similar in size to a turnip, the Maca is a cruciferous root vegetable belonging to the potato family. It is able to grow in very cold harsh conditions where few others can survive, including potentially contaminating pests, which allows for a mostly organic cultivation of the plant.

The Reputation

Rumored to be the pregame fuel of the ancient Inca warriors, the root of the Maca plant is indicated for enhancements in strength, endurance, virility, sexual appetite and immunity. The roots are prepared as other vegetables of the kind-roasted, baked and/ or boiled, mashed and blended into porridge, but rarely if ever eaten raw. The leaves, less medicinally revered, can be eaten as a raw salad or cooked green. There are yellow, red, purple and black hued variations of the Maca, but the yellow seems to be the preferred food and the black may be the most healthful for the male reproductive system. All are apparently used to make Maca supplements.

Why it Works

The Maca’s reputation as a super herb is by no means unwarranted. For, its contents meet the majority of our nutritional needs. Richly diverse, it is a high carbohydrate food that still contains protein and approximately 20 different amino acids. It also houses some health benefitting fatty acids like linolenic, palmitic and oleic oils. And the vitamin and mineral contents surely contribute to its potency:

Lepidium meyenii maca
Image via Wikipedia

Energizing B Vitamins 1, 2 and 12

Blood building Iron and Copper

Bone nurturing Calcium, Magnesium and Phosphorous

Thyroid aiding Iodine

Immune Boosting Vitamins C and E with minerals Zinc and Selenium

Maca root also contains phytochemicals like tannins, saponin, beta-sitosterol and stigmasterol. Tannins are thought to help protect the body against viruses, infections and parasites. Saponins have shown the ability to help nutrients penetrate our bodies’ cellular walls, and beta-sitosterol is a type of plant cholesterol that helps reduce the bodies’ absorption of the less healthy animal based sterols. Stigmasterol, also a phytosterol, benefits us in the same way and is used by the body to make estrogen, testosterone and natural steroid type hormones that counteract inflammation and stress. All of these components combine to create an herb that is fully beneficial to both the ladies and gents.

What it Helps Most

Females                               Males                                    Both Genders

Anemia                                  Decreased virility                    Depleted energy

Menstrual issues                     Low sperm count & motility     Immune deficiency

Menopausal symptoms            Impotence                             Chronic Fatigue

Supplemental FYI

Maca powders are made from both the raw and dried roots. These are available for use in drink and smoothie mixtures, teas, capsules and liquid extracts.

Dosages may range from 100mg per serving for the pure powder to 500mg per serving for the encapsulated versions. Maca Root can be supplemented alone or formulated with other herbs and nutrients for specific health benefits. Always use a product as directed by the manufacturer’s label.

Current research indicates that supplemental Maca is generally safe; however, pregnant and nursing women are advised to consult with their physician beforehand for clearance. And anyone taking pharmaceutical meds should also speak with their doctor about possible negative interactions or interference with their prescriptions.

I’ve only been taking Maca Root capsules for a short time, but so far my experience has been good. I’m anemic, which is what really caught my eye with this herb, and it has made a positive difference in my overall energy levels and, therefore, mood. Many of my more mature female customers swear by it for hot flashes and hormonal balance. It is not a stimulant in the usual sense, so don’t expect to feel that caffeine like rush. The energy is more sustained and results in me feeling less worn through the day. If you’d like to give it a whirl, the following link has some great information and supplement options. Maca Root can also be purchased from your general health food and vitamin stores. Enjoy the new-found vigor! And until next week…

Be Happy, Be Strong and BeWell

Resources

http://www.wholeworldbotanicals.com/best-maca-root-product

http://www.ams.usda.gov/

Sources

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lepidium_meyenii

Balch, Phyllis A. A Prescription for Nutritional Healing. NY, NY. The Penguin Group