Category Archives: Quick Tips

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

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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

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

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!

Fall Starter Kit

Autumn is here and though it is one of my favorite seasons, there are definitely things to be missed about the summer months. Its long days and light, refreshing foods keep us energized and even result in a more positive disposition. And though at times an aggravation, the higher temperatures result in better circulation and more frequent perspiration which naturally expels unnecessary buildup and blockages within the body. This, in turn, keeps us feeling lighter on our feet and more attentive to adequate hydration than full tummies. We are also less inspired to stand before a hot stove and therefore eat more raw fruits and vegetables. By default our bodies organically experience crucial processes and receive health enhancing nutrients they’d otherwise have to rely upon us to facilitate and supplement. Once again I must applaud Mother Nature for this brilliant strategy! And rather than dwell in our loss of the luxury to merely semi participate in our bodies’ wellness, let us embrace this transitional time and revisit some previously mentioned practices.

Cleanse- The start of a season is the perfect time to wash away all that has lingered from our foods, beverages and surrounding environments. It’s an opportune time for making new lifestyle resolutions and cleansing is the appropriate process to reset our systems and prepare our bodies for the coming changes. To achieve that squeaky clean feeling, I refer you back to my fav:  the Ultimate Cleanse by Nature’s Secret. Remember however, if you are still nursing that annoying end of season cold it is best to wait until you have recovered to begin the cleanse.

Strengthen & Tone– Post cleansing care will certainly be enhanced by the whopping 25 billion count of probiotic cultures found in the Green Vibrance super food powder. The ongoing benefit is its potent blend of antioxidant fruits, vegetables, grains and herbs. For those who are turned off by drinking green things, I promise you it is more than worth it. It tastes great in OJ and the color is even toned down a bit by the orange. Close your eyes, take a deep breath and leap!

Adapt & Defend– We most recently covered the importance of a strong and adaptable system to maintaining health and fending off illness; and this supplement is one of the most popular and trusted immune boosters on the market. The Wellness Formula contains the antioxidant VitaTrio, protective minerals Selenium and Zinc, Adaptogenic Herbs and immune system tonics like Astragalus Root, plus the more familiar flu fighters like Garlic and Echinacea. This supplement stays on my love list in part because of its versatility. There are dosing programs to both maintain an already healthy body and heal an ailing one. Use as directed, according to your current state of health, and feel secure in the knowledge that you are insuring wellness from all angles.

Regroup & Regenerate– One of the things I like most about the colder seasons of the year is the opportunities to snuggle up with warm drinks and teas. They are great end of the day treats and simple yet effective sleep aids. If you have not had the pleasure of a cup of Milk Thistle Tea, you simply must try it. The herb has a mild flavor and slightly creamy consistency that blends nicely with honey or agave. Milk Thistle is king in liver cleansing, toning and regenerating, and a healthy liver is fundamental to disease resistance. Please note though, the medicinal potency of this herb is thought to be diluted by water. So, you are better off drinking the tea for general wellness benefits and opting for the concentrated
capsules or tinctures when seeking stronger immunity boosts and healing.

A Final Farewell…

Paying Homage To Filling the Gap With
Long sunlit days providing natural Vitamin D3 for  stronger bones, happier dispositions, and healthier hearts 20 minutes a day of protection free exposure to  the sun, cod liver oil, or 400 IUs of supplemental D3 taken with 5000 IUs of Vitamin A for better utilization
Fresh seasonal apricots, avocados, berries, citrus fruits, melons, lettuces, tomatoes and watercress providing superior  nutrition and antioxidant protection Raw multi-vitamin, multi-mineral supplements like  the Garden of Life’s Vitamin Code series with live nutrients for easier, quicker and fuller absorption

And a Warm Welcome Back

…to apples, dates, cranberries,pears, plums and figs; garlic, shallots, ginger root, pumpkin, butternut squash,sweet potatoes, turnips, yams, oats and amaranth oh my!

Let us not forget the almonds, cashews, pistachios, pecans and all of their savory oils and butters.

Enjoy and even indulge in these fall gems as many of the most praised detoxifiers, immune enhancers, body builders and brain boosters originate from them. I could go on and on, but I’ve made myself hungry and now need a hearty meal to start the day!

Happy Fall Folks, Take Care and BeWell

Armed and Immune Part II: Allergies… Really?

Last week I wasn’t sure if my sniffling and scratching was due to allergies or the onset of a cold. This week, as I awake to puffy eyes and eagerly await the afternoon to see my face restored to its usual size and shape, I’m leaning more toward allergies as the culprit. And as I watched my dear friend rapidly progress from itchy eyes to a full-blown sneeze attack, any remaining doubt disappeared. Wait a minute though, allergies seem unlikely because the seasons for pollination have passed. Right?

Actually, not quite. I did a little more research, and sure enough, fall allergies are not just figments of our imaginations. Ragweed, which begins to pollinate in August, is considered the greatest trigger of the coming season.
And mold, another offender, will get a tremendous breeding boost when its spores take up residence in the piles of fallen damp leaves soon to decorate our streets and yards.  Both of these irritants can take flight, travel hundreds of miles, and share their joy with unsuspecting victims in faraway places. Nature- got to love it.

But our immune systems sure don’t. They are equally agitated and confused by these bullies-identifying them as harmful threats and
striking back with the same vengeance they would a bacterial or viral
infection. Although last week’s VitaTrio is a wonderful foundation for the immune system, enabling it to protect and sustain us, some assistance from more trigger ready nutrients can offer the immediate relief most desired when up against  inflamed sinuses, watery eyes, runny noses and fatigue.

MSM, or methylsulfonylmethane, is mostly regarded for its ability to heal body tissue and is consequently included in many hair, skin, nail and joint formulas. As a dancer, I’ve used it for years to help care for my overstressed knees and hips, and I was surprised to learn that it “has antiallergic properties equal to or better than those of antihistamines,” helping to detoxify the cells, relieve inflammation and alleviate pain.*

MSM is contained in fresh fish, meats, fruits and milk but is sensitive to food processing procedures like heating and drying and is therefore usually eliminated from our diets before the food can make it to our
plates. Thankfully, supplemental MSM is available in liquid and pill forms and can safely be used in high doses for extended periods of time, without side effects or adverse interactions with other medications.

Combining MSM with a Vitamin C supplement will increase its benefits, as will taking the supplement on a consistent basis to avail a constant supply to our systems. The recommended starting point is 1000 mgs per day, taken in divided doses, twice daily, with meals. Benefits may be experienced in as soon as two days.

Quercetin is one of the bioflavonoid nutrients that are essential to our bodies’ absorption of Vitamin C. Peppers, grapefruits, lemons, apricots, blackberries, elderberries, rosehips and the white material beneath the peels of citrus fruits all contain bioflavonoids. And many Vitamin C supplements are formulated with them for enhanced absorption.

In medical studies, quercetin reduced allergy sufferers’ histamine release by as much as 96%. It decreases the immune system’s response to pollen, certain foods and other allergens such as dust and has also shown potential in treating and preventing asthma symptoms. Quercetin’s absorption
and effectiveness within the body is enhanced by the enzyme bromelain, found in pineapples. Bromelain also reduces inflammation, the root cause of much allergy induced sinus pressure and head pain. Start with 500 mgs of quercetin, 100 mgs of bromelain and 500 mgs of vitamin C together, twice per day, and gradually increase as needed.

Just a Spoon Full of Honey…

Once, out of desperation, I tried an over the counter antihistamine for relief, but I found it to be too drying to my nose and throat and that was almost as uncomfortable as the actual allergy symptoms.
Surprisingly, and luckily, a recommendation of state produced honey panned out and did the trick. You want the honey produced within the state because it contains the pollen you are having the allergic reaction to. This is similar to receiving a vaccine to increase your body’s defenses against a particular virus. Take about one tablespoon, as needed, to provide immediate relief of mild to moderate symptoms and increase overall immunity. I find that the honey works best when taken straight, but it may be easier for some to swallow in a tea. Using it to sweeten lemon, elderberry or rosehips tea will provide a double dose of protection due the quercetin contained in these foods. Until next week…

Arm Yourself and BeWell!


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

Armed and Immune: Part I-The VitaTrio

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Citrus V

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

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

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

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

Vitamin E-Tocopherol

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

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

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

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

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

BeWell!

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

Sweet Dreams

Sleep deprived?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sweet Dreams and BeWell

Come on, Get Happy: Calm Within the Storm

STRESS 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week…

Brain Tweakers

Welcome back toCome on, Get Happy”

This week, Brain Tweakers!

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

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

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

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

Those would be Huperzine A and Vinpocetine.

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

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

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

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

Other noteworthy brain boosters include:

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

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

1.start with individual nutrients instead of formulations

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

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

4.always adhere to a supplement’s warning label

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

Until Then,

BeWell!

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