Category Archives: Herbs, Herbal Formulations

The Born Again’s Second Coming

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

Adrenal Awareness

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

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

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

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

Liver Love

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

  • Breaking Down Toxic Build-Up

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

  • Replenishing Protein

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

  • Counteracting Excess

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

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

  • Confronting the Over the Counters

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

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

Quick Reminder

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

Happy rebirthing!

Until next week, BeWell!

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

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Looking to be Born Again?

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

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

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

REGENERATION

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

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

The Skin’s Friends

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

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

Muscle Master

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

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

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

Bone Builders

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

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

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

Designing Your Regenerative Plan

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

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

Armed and Ready to BeWell in 2012!

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

Is it Worth “Hangin’ Round the Mistletoe”?

mistletoe ASPD P6270023
Image by eyeweed via Flickr

Season’s Greetings All

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

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

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

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

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

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

Menstruation                                                                    Menopause

heavy flow                                                                       hot flashes

chronic cramping                                                              hormonal imbalance

uterine disorders                                                              anxiety

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Solution to Holiday Weight Gain?

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

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

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

The Low Down

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

Tips from the Rep

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

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

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

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

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

Consider Health First, and BeWell

Merrily Supplement Free

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

First and foremost, go to bed!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spark up your mid-day snack.

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

Last but not least-breathe it all in.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our #1 Frenemy 

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

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

Fear Factor

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

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

Liver Lover

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

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

And If That Weren’t Enough

Rhodiola is also known to:

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

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

BeWell

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

A Secret Weapon for the Holidays

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

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

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

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

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

Now for the good stuff!

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

And it feels like…

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

Til next week, indulge and BeWell!

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

Checking in on Breast Health

pink ribbon
Image via Wikipedia

During Breast Cancer Awareness Month I took a look at the updated research for any new developments to share, and the information I discovered was quite interesting. Some previously praised supplements are actually no longer definitively considered strong preventives while other practices have been reviewed to make the reasoning behind their classification as a risk  more clear to the public. First up, some common practices that should be modified for better breast health.

Avoid Risk Safe Alternative
Antiperspirants,
especially immediately after shaving when razor cuts allow quick, easy access  into the body
Previously believed hazardous to breast health because of the
chemical and aluminum content, recent research has narrowed the danger of antiperspirants
to their prevention of toxins from exiting the body through the sweat glands in the armpits. Those un-removed toxins get deposited in the lymph nodes below the
arms. This, the upper outside quadrant of the breast, is the most common location of breast cancer tumors.
Deodorant, antiperspirant free
Sleeping in Bras or wearing them for 14 hours plus/day “…tends to increase the hormone prolactin, which decreases circulation in the breast tissue”. * Ample circulation is needed to insure your body’s natural expelling of toxic carcinogenic fluid
that accumulates in the breasts’ lymph nodes.
Limit bra wearing to 8-10 hrs /day
Drinking more than 7 Alcoholic
beverages a week and 3 alcoholic beverages per day
Heavy alcohol consumption has been linked to an increase in the risk of most cancers, including breast. A glass or two of red wine like Pinot Noir that is high in antioxidants
Synthetic Estrogens added to many dairy, meat and poultry food products Synthetic estrogens increase the estrogen levels within our
bodies and create an overall hormonal imbalance. High levels of estrogen
have been linked to increased cancer rates.
Foods that clearly state “no added hormones”

Supplements and the Extent of their Potential

Vitamin D3

Where research in the preventive power of this prohormone has been inconclusive, what has been  consistently observed is a lower incidence of breast cancer in parts of the country and cities with more sunlit days. The more overcast and cloudy areas have more occurrences of the disease. Our bodies produce D3 when exposed to UV rays, and the lower risks have been observed in those with blood levels of D3 averaging approximately 4000 IUs / day. Until more conclusive research is obtained, supplementing 2000 IUs of D3 /day along with getting 20 minutes of daily protection free sun exposure is recommended.

The Omega 3:6 Relationship

Omega 3 Fatty Acids (found in salmon, tuna, algae, krill, flax and other foods) are necessary for many reasons. The healthy fat they provide carries the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K from our food into our bodies and benefits the heart, brain and joints among other body systems and functions. However, latest research indicates that the anti-inflammatory benefits of Omega 3’s  are reduced when there is too much Omega 6 (found in poultry, eggs, avocados and most vegetable oils) present. Additionally, excess Omega 6  has been linked to increased breast cancer risks in post menopausal women. The healthiest ratio to maintain between these two essential fatty acids is 1:1. Most Americans unfortunately maintain a 1:14 ratio increasing our risk for disease development.

Melatonin

Many studies have been done recently on the impacts of melatonin on breast cancer development and treatment. And what has thus far been determined is that through its inhibitory effect of estrogen and progesterone production, melatonin can be helpful in both preventing the disease’s development and extending the survival rates of those diagnosed with it. Because our bodies’ natural melatonin production declines at age 40, supplementation in the mid to late 30’s may be beneficial. Stick with dosages between 1 and 5 milligrams as it has not yet been confirmed that more is necessarily better.

More importantly, excess melatonin can cause some side effects like drowsiness, nervousness, sweating and/or heart palpitations upon waking. For a natural boost in your melatonin production make sure you are sleeping in a completely dark room and that if you have to get up in the middle of the night, you don’t turn on the lights. “…production of melatonin rises from bedtime until the middle of the night, and then slowly declines throughout the rest of the night. If you get up during the night and turn on the light or open the refrigerator door, your melatonin production will abruptly stop.” **

Considerations for Complimentary Treatment

One of the greatest gifts from Mother Nature is the vast selection of healing plants, trees and vegetation from which we create our medicines. The following herbs have long and strong reputations for effectively aiding the fight against cancers. They can be further researched by you and your physician to determine their compatibility with your current treatment plan. They can compliment, but they should not be viewed as replacements for conventional treatment. More information can be found in Rosemary Gladstar’s Herbal Healing for Women, 1993.

  • Chaparral Leaves- blood purifier, antibiotic, useful against both bacteria and viruses
  • Pau d’ Arco Bark- slows and inhibits the growth of tumors and cancers
  • Reishi Mushroom- enhances immunity, reduces nausea associated with chemotherapy, increases radiotherapy’s effectiveness

Closing Thoughts

As the body of research in breast cancer grows, so do our means of protection and options for treatment. Regardless of our genetic make-up, family history and other perceived predispositions, we always have the power of the present moment on our side. The love we have for ourselves can be demonstrated everyday in the way we respond to our stressors, choose our health over work and task management and tune into our bodies’ most subtle yet perceptible signals and signs. We should never deny ourselves the leverage and upper hand that information provides. Nor should we accept an “expert’s” opinion over our own instincts. For the more closely and frequently we listen, the louder and clearer the messages lying within will become. Until next time…

Be Strong and BeWell

* Williams, David MD.  Natural Health for Women, Breast Cancer Prevention, Natural Healing. www.shirleys-wellness-cafe.com

** Minton, Barbara L.  “Melatonin: A Hormone That Protects Against Breast Cancer and Aging”. 10 April 2008 http:www.naturalnews.com/022981_melatonin_cancer_breast.html

Hair’s Return

For quite some time I’ve wanted to try Natural Factor’s BioSil Advanced Collagen Generator, and about a month ago I finally began using this collagen booster to help increase hair growth  and thicken the existing hair around my hairline and front of the head. I’ve worn my hair in locks for about ten straight years now, and after a while the weight of the fused strands combined with the twisting and re-twisting  of the locks stressed the follicle and caused hair thinning. I’ve always had a fuller head of hair in the back of the head than in the front, but sectioning off the hair in small segments to form the locks really accentuated this fact. Needless to say, I had been seeking a solution to this problem for a while and was really excited to hear the positive feedback received on the BioSil supplement.

Now because BioSil is a collagen generator, it benefits not only the hair but also the skin, nails, joints and even internal organs. Our bodies produce less collagen as we grow older and start to exhibit the tell tell signs of age due to this decreased production. Consequently collagen, actually a protein, is frequently included in antiaging supplements and programs. Like other supplements, it can be taken in liquid, pill and powder forms as well as applied topically and injected. The oral dietary supplements are thought to be more beneficial and offer longer lasting results than the topical and injectable forms; but the oral forms are usually sourced from chickens, cows or pigs, as with gelatin (a natural source of collagen), preventing vegetarians and pescetarians from experiencing their benefits.

Though I’m neither a vegetarian nor a pescetarian, I chose this vegetarian booster over an actual collagen supplement because I prefer to enhance my body’s capabilities while it is still generating the protein rather than completely relieve it of its production duties. And I am very happy to report that I definitely see the difference! My hairline is fuller as is the hair atop my head! Finally, a solution!

 BioSil uses forms of Silicon and Choline to boost collagen production. Silicon is the second most abundant element on Earth after oxygen and necessary to the formation of collagen. It also stimulates the immune system and prevents our bodies’ tissues from aging. It can be supplemented naturally by eating beets, brown rice, bell peppers, leafy green vegetables, grains and the herb horsetail. The other ingredient Choline is a member of the B Vitamin family and is needed in the production of our cell membranes. It is found most abundantly in lecithin, egg yolks and brewer’s yeast.

I should also mention that I have been taking a daily 3000 mcg dose of Biotin, another member of the B Vitamin family, for a few months as well. Biotin is known for its positive effects on hair growth and health through its support of protein formation within the body. And though I’m sure it helps increase the growth and overall strength  of my hair, the fullness in my hairline did not become noticeable until I started including the BioSil in my program.

BioSil is available in both liquid and capsules and should be taken twice per day for optimal results. Remember that the body can take anywhere from four to eight weeks to show sustained benefits, and it appreciates a brief seven-day break after four weeks of consecutively using any nutritional supplement. I’m on a break now and can’t wait to start again so I can report the improvements seen over a two month period. I’ll keep you posted!

As always, please don’t hesitate to speak with your doctor if you’re unsure about a supplement’s appropriateness, and be sure to let them know of any other supplements you may be taking.

Until next week, take care of you and be sure to BeWell!