Tag Archives: Nutrition

Debating Titanium Dioxide

Element Titanium

Sometime ago, a young woman came into the supplement store looking for a titanium dioxide free iron supplement. She began telling me about the research on this ingredient and the reports that it was carcinogenic. She then went on to ask why a vitamin maker would use a whitening agent only to then turn around and dye the supplement another color. The absurdity behind this process was so conspicuous; I admittedly felt a little dumbfounded. I honestly had no answer for her other than the possibility of market research leading manufacturers to believe we consumers prefer pretty colored pills to naturally hued, and whitening a substance’s natural color probably allowed another color to take better. We both had to tilt our heads and roll our eyes as the words tumbled out and over themselves, but in that moment I decided to look into the meat of the issue and find out the deal with TD.

From the research I’ve read so far, much of the studies done on the carcinogenicity of titanium dioxide have been performed on rats, not unusual, and with powdered TD. Many of these studies did find that prolonged and excessive – six hours per day, five days per week, for two years- exposure of lab rats to TD dust did result in lung tumor development. And some of these studies did acknowledge the marked difference between the ways the body of a rat processes powders and dust particles in comparison to those of larger mammals like primates and humans. There are also studies, dating as far back as the 1960’s and conducted on larger mammals and humans, that tested the amounts of titanium dioxide present in the body after ingesting the substance through the diet over extended periods of time. These studies stated that no detectable amounts of TD were found in the urine, blood, kidneys or liver, giving way to the determination that dietary consumption of titanium dioxide did not lead to its absorption and thus accumulation within the human body.

So, surprise surprise, it’s a mixed bag. Findings like these enable the FDA to deem it safe for use and consumption. And boy oh boy is it used.

If you’ve become the diligent ingredient label reader I’ve encouraged, then you know what I’m talking about. TD can be found in everything from our multi colored multi vitamins to our body lotions and cosmetics. And because it occurs naturally in several minerals, it is widely used in mineral based make-up, especially the powdered foundations, bronzers, eye shadows and blushes.

So are there any benefits? Probably the more pointed question is whether the substance serves any function, has any use?

Titanium dioxide results from oxygenation of the widely present element titanium. Its strength and resistance to breakdown, along with its pigmentation make it a successful thickening and whitening agent for a variety of products like paints, inks, pills, toothpastes, cosmetics, foods and beverages. In addition, it is an able ultra violet light absorber and thus popular component of sunscreens and blocks. But is it truly, ultimately safe; and if so, then why the fuss?

Titanium_Dioxide_43Well it turns out that the nano-sized, ultra small particle form of TD is of concern to researchers. And many of them view the synthesized state as the real threat because this form is more susceptible to collisions/reactions with other particles and can potentially infiltrate otherwise protected areas of the body. It is these traits that make for an unpredictable agent with unforeseeable consequences, and thus no definitive answer to the question of long term safety.

Given the particular concern being powdered titanium dioxide and its impact on our lungs, the greater danger may be in our exposure to the inhalable forms and not the ingestible. Only time will tell for sure, but it is certainly our prerogative to play it safe. These manufacturers may provide some effective alternatives to their TD containing counterparts.

For titanium dioxide free mineral cosmetics: http://www.rejuvaminerals.com/store/titanium.html
For nanoparticle free sunscreens and blocks: http://mexitan.com/

As for ingestible products containing titanium dioxide, opting for clear veggie gel capped supplements or color free pills and tablets is a relatively easy adjustment. New Chapter, NOW and Source Naturals all offer TD free vitamin and mineral options in their supplement lines. Finding a medication that is free of titanium dioxide is probably more challenging; but when faced with the need for immediate care, healing in the now naturally takes priority over questions of future challenges. For those needing to take medications over an extended period of time, there should be no hesitation in asking about any additional ingredients or additives that cause concern. Let us remember that these are our bodies, nourished by our minds and without peace of that mind, health cannot truly be obtained.

Until next time…

Be Informed, Be Selective

BeWell

Sources

http://ezinearticles.com/?Titanium-Dioxide:-Toxic-or-Safe?&id=34675

http://www.eoearth.org/article/Nanoparticles

http://www.gcsescience.com/a37-nano-science-nanoparticles.htm

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Some Supplement Combos to Avoid

Recently I was asked to clarify which herbs could not be safely combined with other supplements. I thought, “sure, no problem,” knowing that there are literally hundreds of thousands of different herbs with countless compounds, properties and actions warranting another encyclopedia set’s worth of break down. And then it occurred to me that it would be of more benefit to just list some resources that I’ve relied upon to help me sift through the herbal options and determine the appropriate combinations to supplement.

Cover of "Prescription for Nutritional He...
Cover via Amazon

My most frequent go to are the books A Prescription for Nutritional Healing by Phyllis A. Balch and Staying Healthy with Nutrition, published by Celestial Arts Publishing. The first provides both quick reference lists of select herbs and more detailed supplement recommendations for various conditions. Staying Healthy…is an A-Z guide of all vitamins and minerals plus a breakdown of different diets with suggested appropriate recipes. For a list of medications and their corresponding restrictions the Physicians’ Desk Reference is a must have, but make sure you are referring to the most updated edition as the pharmaceutical world is an ever-changing one.

As said before, a full list of supplemental conflicts could very well absorb your computer’s memory stores. Let me be clear though, not because they’re so many conflicts, just that many supplements. Generally speaking, herbs, vitamins, minerals and their active compounds are safe when used properly. But when used outside of their recommended dosages and durations, some issues can arise. And more often, these issues are not at all the same types of risks associated with the misuse of prescription drugs. Usually any risks associated with natural substances fall within the following categories:

  • Interference with the absorption of other vital nutrients
  • Development of allergic reactions due to over use and/or too prolonged use
  • Competition with, interference with, or duplication of the actions of other supplements or medications

Below is a brief list of common herbs, courtesy of A Prescription for Nutritional Healing, along with some corresponding condition, supplement, and medication combinations to avoid.

Astragalus fever (condition)
Burdock iron (supplement)
Chamomile other sedatives (medications)
Damiana iron
Dandelion diuretics (medications)
Don Quai diabetes (condition)
Echinacea auto immune disorders (condition)-for   prolonged periods of time
Ephedra anxiety, diabetes, glaucoma, heart disease, hypertension, thyroid   disease (conditions);monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitor drugs
Fever Few blood thinners, pain killers (medications)
Garlic anticoagulants (medications)
Ginger anticoagulants
Ginkgo blood thinners, pain killers
Ginseng asthma, heart disorders, high blood pressure, hypoglycemia, insomnia   (conditions)
Hops antidepressants (medications)
Horsetail vitamin B1-Thiamine
Juniper iron and other minerals
Kava Kava alcohol, anti-anxiety, antidepressants (conditions and medications)
Lady’s Mantle iron and other minerals
Peppermint iron
Uva Ursi pregnancy (condition)

Though the above should certainly not be used as a means of self medicating, it can make designing an appropriate and supportive nutritional supplement program a bit easier. Let your physician and health care professionals do the heavy lifting but take some time to do a little extra fact checking on your own.

Until next time…BeWell

I Heart You: The Tale of Q & A

There are, no doubt, many nutrients that benefit the heart and cardiovascular system, the EPA component of omega 3 fatty acids and the grape seed extract of red wine to name a couple. But two crucial nutrients are especially worthy of attention, if not for the multi faceted support they actually provide, then to dispel the claims of what they’ve been rumored to do.

Coenzymes Q10 and A, Our Silent Helpers

First, what is a coenzyme? A substance that works with an enzyme to perform its function

And so, what is an enzyme? A protein that acts as a catalyst for a chemical action*

Our cardiovascular system is comprised of the heart, blood vessels and blood that carry nutrients through our bodies. A healthily functioning system relies upon many biological conditions and processes to properly perform its duties, including effective nutrient metabolism, sufficient energy production, and efficient circulation. And these are all aided by various enzymes of which Coenzyme Q 10 and Coenzyme A are the king and queen.

The King

Interestingly enough, the existence of Coenzyme Q10 was first reported in 1957, simultaneously, by two different scientists. One Dr. Frederick Crane of Wisconsin isolated it from the heart of a cow and another Professor Morton of England extracted it from the liver of a rat. It is from this widespread presence that CoQ10 gets part of its scientific name, ubiquinone. Partially from the word ubiquitous, meaning that it exists everywhere.

Ubiquinone, aka CoQ10, is made by the body and present in every nook and cranny. But, the majority of this nutrient’s reserves are found in the heart. CoQ10 is critically involved in the production of the primary cellular fuel adenosine triphosphate, or ATP for short. All cells depend on ATP to perform their duties; but the body only stores small amounts of ATP at any given time and thus has to constantly produce the substance. CoQ10 actually carries the necessary protons and electrons into the energy producing portion of the cells for ATP synthesis. There, CoQ10 is stored and used by that cell to perform its specific actions or functions. Inside the heart, this function is to circulate blood. So, without CoQ10 the heart could not perform because it would not have the energy to do so.

Additionally, CoQ10 helps the cells break down and utilize fats and cholesterol, aids circulation and thus the flow of oxygen to the heart, helps lower blood pressure and provides a potent anti-oxidant. The body converts CoQ10/ubiquinone to the active antioxidant compound ubiquinol. Ubiquinol is thought to be more adept than Vitamin E at protecting our hearts from oxidative damage.

Because the body’s ability to convert CoQ10 to ubiquinol declines with age, it is thought that supplementation of the ubiquinol form should begin in the 40’s and should definitely be included in the treatment program of those with histories of cardiovascular disease or heart attack. Most CoQ10 supplements are in the ubiquinone form and suitable for preventive purposes. The richest natural sources are oily fish like mackerel, salmon and sardines; but good amounts are also found in organ meats, peanuts, whole grains and spinach.

Many mental and physical performance enhancers now include CoQ10 because of its role in ATP production, but you shouldn’t expect to “feel” the power of ubiquinone as it doesn’t energize in the way that caffeine or sugar does. In fact, unless you are managing a cardiovascular or circulatory ailment you may not feel the work performed by this nutrient at all. The measure of its effectiveness may instead lie in what you won’t feel-unprotected and vulnerable to cardiovascular disease.

The Queen

Coenzyme A, aka CoA, has a few things in common with CoQ10. It too was first defined in the 1950’s and it is also present in all of the body’s cells. Coenzyme A works with CoQ10 to generate energy and metabolize fats; and it supports the adrenal glands’ production of stress managing hormones like cortisone. CoA also aids the body in the removal of toxins. It is believed to be the most active metabolic enzyme within the human body, acting as a catalyst to more than a hundred different chemical reactions.**

CoA is essential to our body’s processing and utilization of carbohydrates and fats. It helps the cells generate energy from glucose, and it carries fatty acids from the cell’s cytoplasm (the jelly like cellular filling) to the mitochondria (the cell’s energy production center). In this way, CoA actually starts the process of fatty acid metabolism and initiates the cell’s energy/ATP producing cycle.

Without Coenzyme A, approximately 90% of the body’s required energy would go unproduced, and consequently the processes fueled by this energy would go unfulfilled. This includes the work of the heart muscle, to which ATP greatly contributes. CoA thus becomes a cardio-protective nutrient through its role in ATP production and ATP’s role in increasing the heart muscle’s strength, density, energy and stamina.

United They Stand

Supplemental CoQ10 is available in a range of doses and can be taken in the powdered, liquid, gel, pill and even quick dissolving tab form; but the liquid and gel forms are thought to be best. Ubiquinone is better absorbed when taken with fatty foods, and the ubiquinol form is the most absorbable, consequently requiring much lighter dosages and smaller amounts.

30-50 mg/day of CoQ10 is appropriate for young healthy individuals, 50-200 mg is beneficial for heavy exercisers and middle-aged persons, and those with cardiovascular risks such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol may be prescribed doses as high as 400 mg/day. In most cases, CoQ10 can be taken along side cholesterol lowering statin medications without interference and can therefore help counteract the ubiquinone deficiency often caused by this class of drugs. Be selective when purchasing CoQ10 supplements; the purer the better and the color is a good gauge of this. The nutrient is naturally a bright yellow/orange color and virtually tasteless. Store the supplement in a dark cool place for safe keeping.

CoA is produced from Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid) so sufficient levels of this nutrient must be maintained in order to insure CoA levels are adequate. A 50-100 mg/day dose should do the trick. Coincidentally, pantothenic is derived from the Greek word pantos which means “everywhere” and refers to its abundant presence in foods. Sound familiar? It even has some food sources in common with CoQ10- organ meats, whole grains, peanuts and spinach. Egg yolks, fish, chicken, cheese and dried beans are also good sources.***For supplemental options, Coenzyme-A Technologies, Inc is a highly regarded source.

Please don’t hesitate to check with your physician before adding these nutrients to your regimen. Happy healthy heart month! And as always…

BeWell

*http://chemistry.about.com/od/chemistryglossary/g/Coenzyme-Definition.htm

** http://www.electronichealing.co.uk/products/coenzyme.htm

*** Hass, MD, Elson M.(1992). Staying Healthy with Nutrition. Berkeley,CA. Celestial Arts Publishing

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! 

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!

A Few Words About Natural Healing

The following are noteworthy when considering a nutritional supplement product or program:

The FDA disclaimer,” These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, ” often appears on commercially manufactured dietary supplements that specify their use or effect on the body. This statement is usually not placed on the packaging of products that do not state a specific use or benefit to using the supplement.

  • The Food and Drug Administration does not dedicate extensive attention or resources to monitoring the business of herbs and vitamins and minerals. It is responsible for , “..overseeing food sanitization and quality, acceptable manufacturing procedures, nutrition labeling and truth in packaging laws, interstate shipping of foods, and additive usage rules,”.* However certain filler ingredients can be lumped into broader categories such as, “…natural and artificial flavors”. Seek out as much unbiased information and feedback as possible before determining whether one is an appropriate supplement to include in your program.

Pills, Powders, Gummy’s and Chews, Liquids, Sheets…Oh My!

  • The most important consideration when selecting the form of supplement you’ll use is in what form you are most likely to take it and take it consistently. If you can’t comfortably swallow pills, then chewable or drinkable supplements will be better options. However, if you cannot stand to taste more bitter or acrid flavors then the sweetened chews and gummy’s will be more suitable alternatives.
  • The form of the supplement does impact its absorbability and therefore effectiveness for your body. Liquids are absorbed most quickly and fully by the body, followed by powdered nutrients and those broken down in the mouth either  by chewing or sublingually ( under the tongue ). Capsules are easier for the digestive system to break down than hard tablets, and large dense pills are the most challenging and time-consuming for the body’s digestive system. The deciding factors are both the overall health and efficiency of your digestive system as well as your individual preferences.

How strong, how much and how long?

  • If you are a basically healthy person with a well-balanced diet – complex carbs, fruits and vegetables, lean proteins and healthy fats – then a high quality multi vitamin and mineral complex offering 50-100%  of the nutrients’ recommended daily allowance should suffice. But, if you’ve been advised to supplement due to deficiencies, such as anemia, then higher doses may be more appropriate for limited periods of time.
  • Herbs, by mother nature, are in most cases designed to work more gently and slowly in the body than a pharmaceutical product. Consequently, they can  safely be used for longer periods of time.  Still, there  are herbs and natural substances that contain toxic components and should therefore be used with  caution, in milder concentrations, smaller amounts, and/or for shorter durations of time.

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