Category Archives: Vitamins and Minerals

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.

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Thankful for Food Euphoria

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Steamed kale and slivered almonds
Image via Wikipedia

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

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

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

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

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

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

Absolutely delicious and vibrantly green!

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

Happy Thanksgiving and BeWell!

The Fat Pac: Allies, Enemies and Overkill

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

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

Does the body absorb everything in a single multivitamin?

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

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

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

Allies, Enemies and Overkill-The Fat Pac

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

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

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

Vitamin

 Daily Needs

Sources

Alliances

Competitors

Toxicity

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

A Little Food for Thought

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

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

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

That should do for now folks. Until next week…

Keep it Simple and BeWell!

Back to Basics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until then, Take Care and BeWell! 

Pumpkin’s Power

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

Pumpkin’s Nutrients, The Anatomical Breakdown

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

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

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

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

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

Pumpkin’s Potential

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

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

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

Be Safe and BeWell

Perking Up That Sluggish Thyroid

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

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

Hypothyroidism Some Possible Symptoms

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

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

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

Supplement

Benefits

Dose

Other
Sources

Competing
or Conflicting Nutrients

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

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

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

Be Informed and BeWell

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