Category Archives: Vitamins and Minerals

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

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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

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

Come on, Get Happy!!

This week’s post was originally going to focus on considerations for selecting a multi-vitamin but a very popular question came up that happens to be one of my favorite subjects- mood enhancement.

This is also one of the reasons I started BeWellWarrior. I was having one of those days we’ve all had when you just don’t know how you’re going to muster up the will to get out of bed, out of the house and into the long day ahead. That day, the question I asked out loud was, “How much does it really take to keep up the pace?” I thought about all the different ingredients I assembled to get out there and have a productive day, an enjoyable day. When I got on the train I took a look at the faces of the other passengers. Many were passed out asleep others were tuned out and into I-pods, games, or books. And some looked as though they’d had the exact same morning as I or unfortunately, worse. So here we have it-optimism, enthusiasm and feeling imperturbable. Can these be obtained from a supplement?

This is an extensive subject I think best covered in a series of posts. Getting and staying revved up for the day is about more than a good mood. It is also about our ability to adapt, focus and maintain an energized mind. We’ll touch on those later. But first, the bad mood busters!

Before we delve into the possible antidotes, let’s take a look at the various reasons we may be experiencing the blues.

Chronic Fatigue                 Stress                    Fear/Anxiety                     Hormonal Imbalance

Chronic Over Stimulation              Sleep Deprivation            Dehydration       Vitamin / Mineral Deficiency

Let me quickly reiterate that I am not an advocate of self diagnosis. Many of the above are serious conditions where melancholy is merely one symptom, and anything experienced chronically warrants consultation with a medical professional. It could save you from ongoing discomfort, as well as time and energy. For others who occasionally experience these states, first..

 Explore the root cause.                Avoid numbing the situation.                     Try a behavioral remedy.

Perfect examples are the cases of sleep deprivation and stress overload. If you can address these by going to bed earlier, scheduling a daily cat nap or incorporating meditation, supplementation may prove unnecessary.

With that said, here is what I’ve tried:

The B’s.These B vitamins are part of a larger family that works best in concert with one another. A good source for the full B-Complex is brewer’s yeast. Toxicity from high doses and long-term use is rare with most B vitamins because your body will excrete what it does not need.

  • B5, Pantothenic Acid- counteracts stress by supporting the adrenal glands’ production of anti-stress hormones. Fatigue is often a sign of B5 deficiency. Therapeutic doses for adults range 250-500 mg/day, twice a day.
  •  B6, Pyridoxine-seemingly connected to hormonal balance and water shifts within women, is found mostly in meats and whole grains. Nervousness, irritability and depression are a few common signs of B6 deficiency. Dosages greater than 200 mg/day are still being studied for possible side effects.
  • B12, Cobalamin- needed for the health of the nervous system. Animal proteins contain the most significant amounts. Mood changes with mental slowness may be an early sign of deficiency. Therapeutic doses range 500-1000 micrograms (mcgs)/day.
  • Inositol- used by some as a mild anxiety antidote. Whole, unprocessed grains, cantaloupe and lecithin are good sources. Caffeine can cause inositol deficiency. Many reports of relief from anxiety are anecdotal and experienced with daily dosages of 500-1000 mg/day. I can personally attest to these benefits, but I do recognize the impact our belief in a remedy has on its effectiveness. There is no known toxicity with inositol, but I did experience mild headaches when I supplemented in doses higher than 700 mg twice daily.

Amino Acids are the building blocks of protein. Most processes in the body including brain, nervous system, hormone and immune function involve the use of some form of protein, either produced by the body or ingested. They are often supplemented in the “L” form because it is either the more active or most absorbable form.

  • 5HTP, 5 Hydroxytryptophan- is a form of the amino acid tryptophan, found in flesh foods like turkey, eggs and dairy products; it is responsible for the contented laziness experienced after our Thanksgiving dinners. Tryptophan is the precursor of the neurotransmitter serotonin that regulates mood and sleep.
  • Tyrosine- stimulates the nervous system as one of the precursors of adrenaline and thyroid hormones. “As an antidepressant, 500-1000 mg of L-tyrosine can be taken two or three times during the day. Since tyrosine has a more stimulating antidepressant effect, taking 1000-1500 mg of L-tryptophan at night…may be a good therapeutic combination to help in mild to moderate depression”. *
  • GABA, Gamma-amino butyric acid- functions like an emotional regulator and is involved in the production of endorphins.  This is a neurotransmitter within the central nervous system that can also be supplemented. “When GABA is deficient, the emotions and anxiety…are uncontrollable”. ** It is found in spinach, broccoli, walnuts and almonds and supplemented in divided doses totaling 500-1500 mg/day. Excessive amounts of GABA have been shown to increase anxiety, and it should not be combined with alcohol or antidepressant medications.

SAMe, S-adenosylmethionine- is produced by the body’s cells and supplemented in doses of 1600 mg/ day for antidepressant benefits. As with most substances found within the body, it has many uses including joint health and liver function. Because SAMe supplements are typically on the pricier side, I found it hard to consistently take in the higher dosages indicated for mood balance.

Not everything that is natural is completely safe. The following should be used with caution due to known side effects and negative interactions with other herbs and medications.

St. John’s Wort, antidepressant                 Kava Kava, calming                Valerian Root, sedative 

My current mood enhancement regime consists of two supplements, taken on alternate days of the week:

  • Neuro1 Mental Performance Formula, by Nutrition 53. This is a powdered formulation that combines many of the above listed nutrients with others for focus and alertness. It picks me up, takes the edge off, doesn’t cause me to crash and doesn’t keep me from sleeping, even when taken later in the afternoon.
  • Coco Energy Restore, by Resvitale. These gel caps contain cocoa powder, herbs that help the body adapt to stress and caffeine sourced from natural tea extract.

I generally prefer to take mood enhancers in powder or liquid forms because the effects are felt more quickly, but many encapsulated supplements are now designed with such advanced delivery systems that the body is able to access the nutrients almost as quickly as if they were in liquid form. All of the supplements listed here are available in a variety of forms that allow their benefits to be felt within 20-30 minutes of taking them.

Lastly, don’t feel pressured to start with the maximum dose. Everyone is different and you may not need the higher amounts to feel the desired effects. Our bodies do grow tolerant of substances, causing us to need stronger doses to achieve the same effects. Additionally our minds can become dependent on those felt effects. Gradually increasing the dosage and going supplement free one day a week and/or seven consecutive days for every four weeks of supplementation is a good way to prevent this.

Until Next Week,

BeWell!

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

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