Category Archives: Blends and Mixtures

I Heart You: The Tale of Q & A

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

Coenzymes Q10 and A, Our Silent Helpers

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

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

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

The King

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

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

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

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

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

The Queen

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

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

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

United They Stand

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

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

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

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

BeWell

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

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

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

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Man Juice, The Power of Palmetto

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

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

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

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

The Male Herb

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

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

A Low Maintenance Supplement

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

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

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

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

Enjoy, Be Strong, and as always…

BeWell

Looking to be Born Again?

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

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

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

REGENERATION

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

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

The Skin’s Friends

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

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

Muscle Master

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

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

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

Bone Builders

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

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

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

Designing Your Regenerative Plan

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

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

Armed and Ready to BeWell in 2012!

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

Is it Worth “Hangin’ Round the Mistletoe”?

mistletoe ASPD P6270023
Image by eyeweed via Flickr

Season’s Greetings All

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

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

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

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

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

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

Menstruation                                                                    Menopause

heavy flow                                                                       hot flashes

chronic cramping                                                              hormonal imbalance

uterine disorders                                                              anxiety

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Solution to Holiday Weight Gain?

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

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

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

The Low Down

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

Tips from the Rep

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

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

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

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

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

Consider Health First, and BeWell

Merrily Supplement Free

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

First and foremost, go to bed!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spark up your mid-day snack.

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

Last but not least-breathe it all in.

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

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

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

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

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

A Secret Weapon for the Holidays

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

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

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

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

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

Now for the good stuff!

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

And it feels like…

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

Til next week, indulge and BeWell!

The Fat Pac: Allies, Enemies and Overkill

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Many of my clients and customers prefer to get their nutrients from food for  various reasons including their individual tolerances, concern for their other medications or simply their own prerogative. Above all, I support the individual pursuit of wellness and respect each person’s right to decide what works best for them. The following is for those still on the fence with nutritional supplements because of the
seemingly exhausting process involved in sifting through all the circulating information.

Does the body absorb everything in a single multivitamin?

What vitamins are best taken together and which ones should be taken alone?

Can I take too much, and will that make me sick?

These may be the simplest yet smartest questions to ask when contemplating a supplement plan. The first two are more straight forward than the last. So, you may need to take back the reins at that point, but the following breakdown should enlighten your way there. Let’s begin.

Allies, Enemies and Overkill-The Fat Pac

The typical multi vitamin, multi mineral supplement combines all of the essential nutrients in one formulation, providing the minimum recommended daily amount of each nutrient contained. There are vitamins that work better with and because of one another. These are said to have a “synergistic relationship” and can be taken together without interfering with one another’s work in the body.

On the other hand, there are nutrients that compete with one another for the body’s attention and interfere with each other’s absorption or uptake by the body. There are also other factors, both internal and external, that can impede on a nutrient’s ability to do its work. And sometimes, a vitamin can be its own worst enemy. The Fat Soluble Vitamins-A, D, E & K- are a perfect example. They are similar in that they are all transported through the body by our dietary fat and then stored (though some more than others) within our own body fat when not fully used at the time they’re taken.
Consequently, over supplementing them is not necessary or advised.

The widely accepted belief is that these are best utilized when taken before breakfast or bed. But they can be taken on either an empty stomach or following a fatty meal, and many authorities also recommend taking them separately from the Water Soluble
Vitamins
.

Vitamin

 Daily Needs

Sources

Alliances

Competitors

Toxicity

A 10,000 IUs Liver, Fish Liver, Carrots Vit.C & E help prevent the loss of stored Vit.A and Zinc is
needed to release the body’s stores
Excessive Iron intake More likely with synthetic A than Beta Carotene. Symptoms include
pressure headaches, nausea, dizziness, abdominal pain and hair loss.
D 800 mg Sunshine, Cod Liver Works best with Vit.A & sufficient Calcium and Phosphorus
(800mg/day)
Sunscreen More than 1000-1500 IUs/day for a month can cause diarrhea, headaches
and the hardening of the body’s soft tissues
E 400-800 IUs Vegetable, seed and nut oils Selenium (50-200 mcg) increases Vit.E’s potency Iron reduces the body’s absorption of E More than 1200 IUs may suppress the immune system
K 75-300 mcg Dark leafy greens, Alfalfa, Kelp Vit.K uses Potassium and Calcium to facilitate blood clotting within
the body
Too much E & Calcium can reduce K’s uptake Synthetic K3 can cause toxicity symptoms-sweating, flushing,
tightness of the chest- when the body does not eliminate the excess * toxicity is rare

A Little Food for Thought

  1. If your diet and lifestyle provide you with even moderate amounts of the Fat Pac, then you may want to supplement them on an as needed basis and focus more on their water-soluble and mineral allies for your every day program.
  2. You may also want to prioritize vitamin D and E during the fall and winter seasons.

Generally these seasons are less sunny than the spring and summer so our most abundant source of vitamin D is compromised.

Vitamin E is an important immune booster that can help prevent the onset of colds and flu. And, it isn’t stored by the body as much as the other fat soluble vitamins. So, toxicity is less likely.

That should do for now folks. Until next week…

Keep it Simple and BeWell!

Back to Basics

Lately I’ve been getting a lot of questions on the basics of supplementation. So, I thought it a good time to add to our FAQs. The following are just a few of the most commonly asked.

I eat lots of fruits and vegetables. Do I really need to take vitamins?

I envy those who somehow manage to get the recommended 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. So clearly, I am not one despite knowing and believing in the importance of this practice. I also lead a very hectic and at times stressful life that is made possible in part by my partaking of caffeine, an alcoholic bev here and there and, now that it is getting colder, those lovely decadent and forbiddingly rich foods. All reasons why I feel I need a vitamin supplement.

But if you are a relatively healthy person, not taking any medications, consuming limited amounts of caffeine and alcohol, not smoking and easily managing your current lifestyle and stress level, then supplementing additional nutrients is probably unnecessary.

Some other factors for consideration are whether you are a meat and/or fish eater or are strictly a vegetarian. There are some crucial nutrients such as Vitamins A and D that are most abundantly found in animal foods. Additionally unless you are eating most of your fruits and vegetables in their raw forms, you may not be getting all of the nutrients the plant foods have to offer.

Your doctor may know best on this one, and should tell you when you are deficient in any vitamins or minerals. And, supplementation doesn’t have to be a long-term commitment. You may find that it is only appropriate for you at certain times such as a change in seasons, busier and more stressful times like the holidays, or when you feel the onset of a cold or other ailment. You may also find that during these times it’s not all of the vitamins you need to supplement but just a few like A, C and E for immune support.

What is meant by the terms “fat and water-soluble” and what difference do they make with vitamins?

Our basic vitamins are broken into two categories-fat soluble and water-soluble. The fat soluble ones- A, D, E and K-are found within the lipids (fat) of plants and animals. They are transported from our food to our bodies by essential, healthy dietary fats where they can be stored in our own body fat for future use. Because our bodies generally maintain a reserve of the fat soluble vitamins, over supplementation of them without doctor’s direction, consent and supervision is neither necessary nor healthy, especially over extended periods of time. These vitamins may be taken with or without food; but they are best taken before breakfast and/or before bed. You can also take them following a meal containing fatty foods. And although some experts recommend taking them separately from the water-soluble ones, the jury is still out. Some of the fat soluble vitamins even work better when taken with the water-soluble ones, namely A, C and E.

Water soluble vitamins-the B Family and Vitamin C- are found mostly in raw fruits and vegetables, don’t stand up well to heat and other forms of food processing and, in this way, are less stable than fat soluble vitamins.  The water-soluble vitamins are not abundantly stored in the body. It easily excretes what it does not need of these. This means we need to maintain a consistent daily intake of them and can generally take them in doses well over the recommended daily allowance without doing harm. The water-soluble vitamins are also best taken with food because they need to be dissolved and digested to be used by the body.

What’s the best way to take my vitamins-pills, powders or liquid?

This really depends on your individual system, more specifically your digestive system. But generally speaking the body has an easier time breaking down and absorbing powders and liquids than it does hard tablets. Many experts doubt even a strong digestive system’s ability to effectively access and absorb the nutrients cased in large hard tablets. The powder filled capsules are great because they are easily digested and you usually don’t have to suffer through tasting them to take them. Vegetarians however should check that the capsule is plant-based and not made of animal gelatin. There are also Kosher and Halal capsules available now. New Chapter is one manufacturer that provides these options. Parents of younger children may want to use a liquid vitamin supplement for their kids because they are most easily swallowed.

What is the shelf life of a liquid or powdered supplement once you’ve opened it and how should you store them?

First things first, always check the supplement’s container for an expiration date before you buy it. My understanding is that unopened, they’ll last a couple of months beyond that date. Once opened, I recommend using liquids, powders, whole food sourced, organic and raw supplements within their supply period. If it is a month supply, then try to use it within a month. Unless a supplement has changed colors, smells sour or rancid or has changed in its consistency it probably hasn’t “gone bad”, but the nutrients contained within it may have lost some potency.

For proper storage of a supplement, also check the container. Most pills should be stored in a cool dry place. If the nutrients are light-sensitive the manufacturer should have packaged them in dark plastic or glass containers. Live and raw supplements can usually be refrigerated safely, and I prefer to do the same for liquids unless otherwise directed by the manufacturer.

With powders like our beloved Green Vibrance, I actually had the privilege of speaking with their company rep years ago and he advised me to store the product in the freezer to extend its shelf life. Even though Green Vibrance is a freeze-dried supplement, making freezer storage logical, I now store all powdered vitamins in the freezer for safe keeping.

In the interest of time and respect for your other commitments-yes I know you have a life that does not evolve around the world of supplements like SOME people…well…me, I will pause here for now and continue next week with more on vitamin allies and enemies. Oh the saga!

Until then, Take Care and BeWell! 

Sweet Solutions

While writing the series on energy and mood enhancement, I was asked to address the impact and issue of sugar. Given the increased circulation of information in the last couple decades, I’m almost certain that as many of us that can attest to the immediate gratification experienced by sugary foods and beverages is as many that can list the dangers associated with their over consumption. Mood swings, obesity and Diabetes are no longer merely suspected consequences of high sugar diets. Scientific data long ago confirmed the connection and yet many still continue to consume large quantities of sugar on a daily basis. The most obvious culprits are probably the ever prevalent and highly addictive fruit drinks, juices and carbonated soft drinks. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve seen a child under the age of 10 drinking a full size soft drink…but I digress. The point of this post is not to review what we already know but to point out a few natural means of moving beyond our sugar dependencies. Let’s start at the beginning with sugar cravings.

Sugars are simple carbohydrates, and carbohydrates are our bodies’ primary source of energy and fuel. There are many forms of simple carbohydrates-fructose from fruits, honey and vegetables; lactose from milk; maltose from cereal grains and sucrose or the white “table sugar” found in sugar cane, maple syrup and molasses.  Whether simple or complex like vegetable roots and whole grains, carbohydrates eventually break down to glucose. Glucose is the primary sugar used by our cells and tissues and the only food used by the brain.

The hormone insulin, secreted by the pancreas, regulates the amount of glucose circulating in the blood and the rate at which our cells absorb the blood glucose.  When we eat, our blood sugar levels rise and trigger the release of insulin. The insulin
opens the cells to absorb the blood glucose, and as the glucose is absorbed the level present in our blood drops back down to normal range. The more complex the carbohydrate, the longer the body takes to digest it; and the simpler, the more quickly the body will break it down and turn it to glucose. As we all know, a quick rise means an equally fast fall. For this reason, sugar cravings are more associated with simple carbs (sugars) than complex. It is literally a craving for more energy that we are experiencing, a need to feed the cells and brain.

Cutting the Cravings

There are a few supplement free ways to go about this. The most widely known is a three – fold approach to eating that requires a little pre-planning.

  1. Increase your consumption of complex carbohydrates to the recommended 60% of your daily caloric intake.
  2. Add some lean protein to your carbohydrate meals and snacks.
  3. Eat 4-6 smaller meals per day to better sustain energy levels.

Some Herbal Support from the “Sugar Taste Destroyer”

Gymnema Sylvestre is an Ayurvedic herb that earned its nick name through its reputation for actually varying our taste preferences and altering our taste buds’ perception of sweet flavors. To test this theory, first sample something sweet,”…then swish gymnema sylvestre tea in the mouth for 20-30 seconds and taste something
sweet again”. You’ll find that the tea has blocked your mouth’s perception of
the food’s sweetness.*

Lowering High Sugar Levels

Diabetes occurs when our bodies either do not produce insulin or cannot properly use the hormone. In these instances, glucose accumulates in the blood instead of being absorbed into the cells.

Another benefit of Gymnema Sylvestre is that it has a molecular structure similar to sugar and has shown the ability to enhance the body’s own natural production of insulin a big plus for insulin dependent diabetics. It also reduces the digestive system’s absorption of glucose and therefore lowers blood sugar levels. 400 mg/day of the herbal extract can benefit both Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes.

If you are currently living with and managing elevated glucose levels, several other natural alternatives to pharmaceuticals have gotten very positive results. However, your physician should be consulted first to determine if there will be any interference with your current medications.

Two More to Consider

Bitter Melon– this vegetable is native to Africa, Asia and South America and has long been used as a treatment for diabetes in Ayurvedic Medicine. The whole plant,
including the leaves and seeds, has shown the ability to reduce blood sugar levels. Bitter melon can be taken fresh or dried, as a liquid extract, tea, or ground and encapsulated.

Cinnamon– yes the same spice used in cookies, cakes and pies is also known for its ability to lower blood sugar levels, cholesterol and triglycerides. One to two teaspoons per day (taken in capsule form) are recommended to obtain these benefits. But long-term daily use of the spice in this amount is not advised because of the possible accumulation of other toxic compounds like coumarin that are also found in cinnamon. For best results use the Cinnamon Cassia instead of Ceylon Cinnamon.

Still Needing Study

Chromium Picolinate is an extremely popular mineral supplement thought to help improve insulin efficiency and reduce blood sugar levels through its involvement in the metabolism of glucose. Type 2 diabetics are often found to be deficient in chromium leading many nutritional healers to recommend its supplementation as a preventive to  developing the disease. But some studies have shown that the chromium compounds used in supplements,”… can be converted into a carcinogenic form by means of oxidation in the body”. **

Until more conclusive research is available it is probably safest to get your chromium from food sources such as beef, turkey, fish, cheese, brown rice, whole grains and beer- Yay Oktoberfest! Permission to indulge!

Until next week…

Enjoy, Take Care and BeWell

*Michael Tierra, L. Ac., O.M.D., The Way of Herbs. New York, NY: Pocket Books, 1998

**Phyllis A. Balch, CNC, Prescription for Nutritional Healing 4th Edition. New York, NY: The Penguin Group, 2006