The Born Again’s Second Coming

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

Adrenal Awareness

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

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

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

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

Liver Love

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

  • Breaking Down Toxic Build-Up

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

  • Replenishing Protein

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

  • Counteracting Excess

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

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

  • Confronting the Over the Counters

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

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

Quick Reminder

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

Happy rebirthing!

Until next week, BeWell!

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

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Looking to be Born Again?

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

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

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

REGENERATION

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

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

The Skin’s Friends

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

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

Muscle Master

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

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

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

Bone Builders

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

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

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

Designing Your Regenerative Plan

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

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

Armed and Ready to BeWell in 2012!

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

Is it Worth “Hangin’ Round the Mistletoe”?

mistletoe ASPD P6270023
Image by eyeweed via Flickr

Season’s Greetings All

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

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

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

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

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

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

Menstruation                                                                    Menopause

heavy flow                                                                       hot flashes

chronic cramping                                                              hormonal imbalance

uterine disorders                                                              anxiety

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Solution to Holiday Weight Gain?

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

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

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

The Low Down

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

Tips from the Rep

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

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

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

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

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

Consider Health First, and BeWell

Merrily Supplement Free

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

First and foremost, go to bed!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spark up your mid-day snack.

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

Last but not least-breathe it all in.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our #1 Frenemy 

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

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

Fear Factor

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

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

Liver Lover

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

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

And If That Weren’t Enough

Rhodiola is also known to:

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

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

BeWell

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

A Secret Weapon for the Holidays

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

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

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

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

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

Now for the good stuff!

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

And it feels like…

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

Til next week, indulge and BeWell!

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...
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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! 

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