Category Archives: FAQ’s/ ABC’s

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.

Thankful for Food Euphoria

Giving thanks for the people, circumstances and opportunities in our lives is a necessary and often under-recognized component of wellness. Sharing loving sentiments and actions with others strengthens our sense of connection with the world and receiving this in return goes a long way in building our self-esteem. This is truly one of my favorite holidays and the meal that is shared…oh the meal… It is hands down my favorite of the year!

We all know how satisfying and stupefying the Thanksgiving menu can be, hence the almost guaranteed over indulgence. But many, myself included, may be underestimating how nutritionally potent this feast is. Here’s a brief breakdown of the basic items:

The headliner-Turkey is a wonderfully lean source of protein that the body digests relatively easily, unlike beef and pork. It provides a healthy supply of B vitamins and the amino acid L-tryptophan. L-tryptophan, with the aid of carbohydrates, increases brain serotonin levels and creates that calming sensation often experienced after the meal.

Cornbread stuffing or “dressing” as it’s called in my family has the makings of a genuine tonic. Cornmeal, especially when whole and un-milled, contains abundant amounts of an array of nutrients including fiber, amino acids, vitamins and minerals. Some highlights include:

  • B vitamins Niacin, Thiamine, Riboflavin, Pantothenic Acid and B6. Niacin increases food utilization and reduces cholesterol. Pantothenic Acid (B5) is known as the “anti-stress vitamin”
  • Antioxidant “Fat Pac” members Vitamin E and K to fight the signs of aging and aid calcium in strengthening our bones
  • Minerals Iron for blood building, Magnesium for relaxation of the musculoskeletal and nervous systems and Zinc and Selenium for immune system enhancement

Factor in the garlic, onions and peppers and you have a disease fighting power house. Allicin, found in both garlic and onions, is the active healing component that makes these herbs protective against ailments ranging from the common cold to cancer. Onions also contain the anti-inflammatory bioflavonoid Quercetin which makes for an effective and natural antihistamine. Bell peppers, especially red, contain phytonutrients that, through their ability to prevent blood clot formation,  provide a wide range of health benefits including reduced heart attack and stroke risks.

Those sweet, sweet, Sweet Potatoes…each 3ounce potato contains over 19,000 IUs of Vitamin A (compared to the US RDA of 10,000 IUs) and over 11,000 mcgs of carotenoids for added protection against inflammatory diseases like Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Now on to the greens, and whether it be Collards, Mustards, Spinach, Cabbage or

Steamed kale and slivered almonds
Image via Wikipedia

Kale, all contain heaping amounts of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients  and fiber known to strengthen the body’s defenses against infections and viruses. Collards, cabbage, kale and other cruciferous vegetables also contain a unique chemical called Indole-3-carbinol that enhances DNA repair within the cells. It is thought to be specifically beneficial to cancers and diseases associated with hormonal abnormalities such as breast and prostate cancers and Lupus. Try first chopping or mincing and then steaming or stir frying these to bring out and preserve the most healing components of the greens.

And last but not least, the Cranberry Sauce! In addition to their widely known antioxidant potency, cranberries also have the unique ability to protect the urinary tract from bacterial infections. This mighty little berry helps prevent bacteria from sticking to the urinary tract wall. Cranberry juice concentrate and cranberry herb are included in most total body cleansers for this reason.

Now of course, the fresher the ingredients, the more nutritious the dish, and preparation certainly matters. Many of the above health benefits can be lost with cooking methods that over process the food or use a lot of saturated fat and cholesterol containing oils.

Quick tip: choose extra virgin olive and or coconut oils when possible for added flavor, healthier fats and lower cholesterol levels.

 I have my sister/friend/cousin K.G. to thank for this:

  • first lightly blanching kale in salted boiling water
  • then sauté in coconut oil

Absolutely delicious and vibrantly green!

Well folks that’s it for now, as I know the feasting will start soon. Eat up, enjoy and do so knowing that you’re not just indulging your palates but are also stacking your plates with some seriously potent nutrients.

Happy Thanksgiving and BeWell!

The Fat Pac: Allies, Enemies and Overkill

The Ancient Egyptians knew that feeding a pati...
Image via Wikipedia

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! 

Pumpkin’s Power

Happy Halloween! I have to admit that this is one of my favorite days of the year, so a minute of pumpkin worship in its honor must be given. Everyone is long accustomed to indulging in the traditional pumpkin pie throughout the holiday season, and more recently pumpkin loaves, soups and muffins have joined the list of autumn treats. Yet the nutritional value of this fruit makes it worthy of consumption all year long.

Pumpkin’s Nutrients, The Anatomical Breakdown

Starting with its skin, the rich orange pigmentation is a naturally high source of beta carotene. This converts in the body to Vitamin A, and is highly regarded as one of the most important antioxidant vitamins and most potent anti-aging nutrients.

Along to the pulp. Also rich in beta carotene, it contains a good amount of fiber and water making it helpful to digestion, colon health, blood sugar balance and weight management. One half cup contains 5 grams of fiber, that’s over 12% of the recommended 40 grams per day!

Luckily, the pumpkin seed’s nutritional benefits are no secret. They are high in protein, minerals, essential fatty acids and phytosterols. Their protein content makes them a good alternative to meat, and the minerals supplied keeps them on the list of healthy snack options. Some highly concentrated minerals are:

  • Iron- the blood builder
  • Magnesium-the muscle relaxer and de-stressor
  • Potassium- the regulator of water balance
  • Zinc– the immune enhancer and wound healer

Both the Essential Fatty Acids (omega 3 and 6) and the phytosterols (plant sterols) aid the cardiovascular system by decreasing inflammation and decreasing cholesterol. Phytosterols do this by competing with other cholesterol for absorption, and this competition keeps the LDL, aka “bad cholesterol”, levels low. The EFAs also support blood vessel, nerve and tissue health, all important components to increased heart health.**Note: Heart disease is still the leading cause of mortality in women**

Pumpkin’s Potential

The benefits of this superior fruit do not stop with the above list. Pumpkin is also used in the treatment of several ailments and illnesses. Some of its uses are more supported by anecdotal evidence than scientific, but others are in the process of clinical testing and pumpkin’s future as a healing plant is looking bright.

  • Prostate HealthPumpkin seeds have long been used as a general preventive to prostate problems, but research is indicating that the specific benefit is to preventing benign prostate enlargement and the subsequent complications with urinary flow. This is possibly through the high amounts of zinc. Many prostatitis and prostate cancer patients have been found to have low levels of zinc. A healthy prostate gland typically contains high concentrations of the mineral.
  • Sexual Function– Again zinc takes center stage, and this time it is for the benefit of both males and females. We’ve all heard of the oyster’s reputation… and, by the way, they contain over 10 times the zinc of other foods. But, increased desire is not the only benefit, especially for men. This critical mineral is necessary to normalize testosterone production and maintain reproductive fluids.
  • Mood Enhancement– This time the amino acid tryptophan, also found in pumpkin seeds, gets the credit. Tryptophan is used by our bodies to make serotonin. And serotonin is necessary to proper mood balance and sleep. One gram of pumpkin seeds has the same amount of tryptophan found in that warm cup of milk. More great news for vegetarians!

That’s plenty for now, but trust me. I could go on and on with the power of pumpkin, but I must get ready for the parade and trick or treaters! Have a blast tonight and of course…

Be Safe and BeWell

Perking Up That Sluggish Thyroid

I recently came across a headline stating Americans may be
Iodine deficient due to heavy fluoride consumption and the current focus on low
salt diets. This returned my attention to a question posed by my Lil’Mommy a couple of months ago on natural alternatives to treating Hypothyroidism. The most
familiar herb associated with this condition is kelp, specifically for its naturally high iodine content. However, there are a few other recommended nutrients that can be supplemented for additional support. Before we delve into
these options, let us first clarify the difference between hyper and hypothyroidism.

The thyroid gland, at the base of the neck, is the body’s temperature regulator. It does this by secreting two hormones-thyroxine and triiodothyronine-that control the rate at which the body uses calories and energy. If too much of these hormones are secreted, hyperthyroidism occurs. Too little and the result is hypothyroidism.

Hypothyroidism Some Possible Symptoms

  • Low body temperature and Intolerance to cold
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Reduced appetite
  • Tendency to gain weight easily
  • Elevated cholesterol
  • Yellow bumps on the eyelids and/or droopy, swollen
    eyes

A Suggested Self-Test: Using a thermometer, take the temperature underneath your arm as soon as you wake in the morning. Do this before getting out of bed, while lying down still and quiet. Hold the thermometer under your arm for 15 minutes; and repeat this test for the next 4 days, logging your temperature each morning. A consistent measurement of 97.6 degrees Fahrenheit or lower may indicate an underactive thyroid and should
thus be discussed with your physician.

If you believe and receive confirmation of hypothyroidism, your doctor may prescribe a thyroid hormone depending on the extent of the condition and cause of under-activity. If medication is prescribed, request a recommended eating plan to follow and get their thoughts on your supplementing additional supportive nutrients that will not conflict or interfere with your prescribed medication. Once all appropriate information is reviewed and clearance is obtained, the below list of supplements may be helpful in managing the condition. Please note that sometimes medications and even simple foods can interfere with both the body’s natural processes and the helpful benefits of otherwise supportive nutrients.

Supplement

Benefits

Dose

Other
Sources

Competing
or Conflicting Nutrients

Kelp Natural source of iodine,
important to the synthesis of thyroid hormones
2000-3000mg/day sea salt, seafood, dulse, asparagus, garlic, mushrooms, sesame seeds,
soybeans
Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, spinach, kale,
mustard greens, peaches, pears, turnips, chlorine, fluoride: Known to block
the thyroid gland’s absorption of iodine when consumed in large amounts
L-Tyrosine Thyroid hormones originate from this amino acid 500 mg twice a day, on an empty stomach. For better absorption, take only
with water or juice, 50mg of Vit.B6 and 100 mg of Vit.C
Almonds, avocados, bananas, poultry, dairy, pumpkin seeds Anti-Depressant Medications of
the MAO (monoamine oxidase)
inhibitor class. The two combined can cause dangerously high blood pressure
Natural raw thyroid glandular Can be used as an alternative to synthetic thyroid hormone As directed by your physician and supplement’s dosing instructions Armour Desiccated Thyroid Tablets;Natural Sources Raw Thyroid Blood thinners, estrogen therapy including birth control pills,
diabetes medications including insulin: may interact negatively with
glandular thyroid supplements

For more information on nutritional healing for hypothyroidism, Phyllis A. Balch’s Prescription for Nutritional Healing is an amazing resource, both thorough and user-friendly.

Thank you for visiting. Hopefully this information helps simplify and clarify some options available for managing this condition. Until next week…

Be Informed 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