How To Be YOUR Healthiest You!

Have you ever had a salesperson try to sell you something you didn’t want?  Maybe you were shopping for a new TV and the salesperson tried to get you to buy something bigger or more expensive than what you were looking for?  Or you’re looking for a new lipstick and the salesperson tries to convince you that their entire line of cosmetics is Just perfect for you!

Even worse, have you been talked into buying something and got home and found it wasn’t what you thought?

When someone tries to sell you something without knowing what would make your life better, they are wasting their time and yours.

Since I can’t possibly know each and every one of you, I try to write about a variety of health topics and let you pick and choose what is helpful for you.  (And I hope you know that I LOVE suggestions for post topics.  If you want to read about something, please drop me an email and let me know!)

There is, however, a tool to help me to know exactly what would help YOU.  What would make YOUR life better.  How I can help you meet YOUR health goals.  What would help you be YOUR healthiest you!

That tool is Shaklee’s HealthPrint personalized health assessment. This assessment is a five-minute questionnaire that asks about diet and lifestyle and your individual health goals.  It then gives you suggestions to improve your diet and lifestyle, as well as adding nutritional supplementation, so that you can meet your health goals!

I realize I’ve written about the HealthPrint before, a little over a year ago, and some of you took advantage of the assessment then.  Many of you didn’t, or you subscribed to my blog since that time.

Why am I writing about it again? Because it is still true that in order to know how to help YOU, I have to know where you’re coming from.  I have to know what’s important to you.  In order to help you be your healthiest you, I have to know what your personal challenges and goals are.  And this is such a quick and easy way to learn about you!

This week I want to invite you to take Shaklee’s HealthPrint and let me learn a little about you.  In return, I can help YOU learn a little about you too!  Maybe you already know you don’t get enough sleep.  Maybe you DIDN’T know that you aren’t getting quite enough exercise.  Maybe you didn’t realize drinking that soda in the afternoon isn’t a good choice.

Yes, the HealthPrint makes suggestions for adding supplements.  If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you’re aware that I’m a firm believer in nutritional supplementation.  Surveys show 95% of Americans don’t get all the nutrition they need from their diet.  I don’t think I eat healthier than 95% of Americans, do you think YOU do?  And going without essential nutrients just isn’t acceptable.

Nutrition therapy put my migraines in remission 8 years ago.  It helped my mother heal what SHOULD have been permanent neuropathy in her hands and feet from chemotherapy for breast cancer.  It helped my husband avoid serious adverse effects from HIS chemotherapy for multiple myeloma.  My boys are tall and healthy and strong with the highest quality nutritional support available on the market.

And it’s hard to argue with scientific proof that those who use Shaklee supplements are healthier than those who don’t use them.  Don’t believe me?  Click this link to see the research.  Want more?  Okey dokey, here’s more 🙂

Whether your health goals include weight loss, better physical fitness, stress relief, better sleep, healthy aging, or just good overall health, I can help.  Shaklee can help.  The first step is the 5-minute, 20-question HealthPrint questionnaire.

Don’t you have 5 minutes to spend, to learn how to be YOUR healthiest you?

Click this link and take the HealthPrint assessment now!

PS – Even if you took the HealthPrint last year, you can still take it again.  Maybe things have changed!  Maybe you’re eating better, or your goals are different 🙂

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Should Doctors Fire Patients?

“Just tell her to send in the f*@&ing prescription!”

Really?  This is how you talk to people?  Unfortunately, sometimes this is EXACTLY how patients talk to my staff.  The question is, how should a doctor handle a patient like this?

What if this is YOU speaking to my staff this way?  Should I fire you? Should doctors fire patients?

That is an important topic of discussion among medical personnel especially in the outpatient setting.  Clearly, a patient who uses abusive language towards staff members should get the “You have 90 days to find a new doctor” letter.  But are there other reasons why patients should be dismissed from the practice?

Your relationship with your doctor is really not like your relationship with anyone else.  It’s a unique mix of cheerleader, parent, coach and cop.  There has to be mutual respect and trust.

Patients often talk about the trust they have in their doctor.  I agree, that trust is critical.  You have to be able to trust that I know my stuff, that I’ll be able to listen to your symptoms, ask the right questions, recognize the physical findings on exam, order the right tests, then put it all together to come to the right diagnosis.

What patients often don’t understand is that I have to be able to trust YOU.  For example, I have to know you’ll answer me truthfully when I ask you questions.

For instance, how much alcohol do you drink?  Do you use drugs?  Are you taking your medicine every day?  How many sex partners have you had in your life?  This year?  This week?  Did you really lose that prescription or did you sell it?  Are you seeing three other doctors who are prescribing the same medication I am?

The relationship we have is absolutely necessary for us to be able to work together as a team.  I’m not painting the walls in your living room, I’m guiding you to your healthiest and best self possible.  Are you listening to me and giving me honest feedback?  Are you helping me craft a good treatment plan that makes sense to us both?

If I were to poll friends of mine in the medical field I would guess these are the most common reasons we have to dismiss patients from our practices:

  • Repeated no-call/no-shows (lack of respect for the office and other patients)
  • Abusive language and behavior towards the doctor and/or staff
  • Failure to pay their bill (an unfortunate reality of business)

However, I would submit there are other valid reasons to dismiss a patient from the practice:

  • Dishonest behavior such as lying
  • Consistent failure to keep up their part of the treatment plan, such as a diabetic who neglects taking their medication, going to the dietitian or checking blood sugars
  • Failure to maintain appropriate boundaries

By the way, I’m dead serious about that last one.  I had a patient once who wanted to see me socially.  That is, he wanted to date me.  Never mind the fact that both of us were married (me very happily, him not so much).  Never mind that such a thing would violate my oath, State Medical Board regulations, and all the profession’s ethical standards.  He was very persistent.  His find-a-new-doctor letter got mailed out the next day!  What a nightmare…

My patients are awesome.  I absolutely love my practice and the vast majority of my patients are a pleasure to see.  However, I’m not shy about dismissing patients.  If they make me and my staff miserable, or if I’m not effective in motivating them to get their health conditions under control to the best of their ability, then it is in everyone’s best interest that they choose a new doctor.

QUESTION:  Do you work with the public in your job?  Do you have the ability to “fire” clients?  Would you add any reasons to fire patients to the ones I listed above?

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Alkaline Vs. Alkalinizing Foods

Lately I have been seeing a lot of ads for “alkaline” foods and beverages.  Companies are marketing everything from “alkaline water” to specially packaged convenience foods to improve the pH of your body.  Companies promote these foods to decrease your risk of cancer and heart disease, arthritis and kidney stones.

Do they work?

In a word, no.  The pH of a food itself has little to no impact on the pH of your body.  The stomach is extremely acidic and easily overwhelms the intrinsic pH of the food itself.  So “alkaline water” is water that has had its pH adjusted above 7 through artificial means.

However, there is evidence that a diet rich in ALKALINIZING foods is quite healthy for you.  This change in acid is accomplished because of how the foods are processed in the body, NOT based on the pH of the food itself.

There was a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that reported the amount of acid produced by the digestion of certain foods can be estimated almost entirely based on two nutrients.

Protein, especially animal protein, produces acid when it is processed in the body, which must be buffered by the cells and eliminated in the kidneys.  Buffering the acid tends to leach minerals from the bones. This can promote osteoporosis and the formation of kidney stones in the acidic urine.

Potassium salts tend to neutralize acid and decrease the amount of acid excreted in the urine.  In fact, potassium citrate is a medication prescribed for patients with certain types of kidney stones. It also has been shown to protect bone density in patients at risk for osteoporosis.

If you want to properly balance the acidity and alkalinity in your body, which may be a marker of health and risk for disease, you should do three things.

  • Limit or eliminate animal protein (meat, dairy and eggs) from your diet. Your body creates a lot of acid when processing this type of protein.  Replace animal protein with healthy plant proteins like soy, quinoa and beans.
  • Get plenty of potassium in your diet.  You can estimate the amount of potassium in your diet using a calorie tracker like MyFitnessPal.  Examples of high potassium foods are oranges, bananas, potatoes with the skins, broccoli and spinach.  You can see more options here.
  • Eat fresh whole plant foods at every meal.  Include plenty of fruit, fresh veggies, whole unprocessed grains, beans, nuts and seeds.

Don’t bother with “alkaline” foods or beverages like high-pH water.  There is little evidence they impact acid production in the body, or any other marker of health, at all.

QUESTION: Have you seen marketing for “alkaline” foods and beverages?

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What Are The Health Benefits Of Having Pets?

My cat is sick.  She has been coughing for a few weeks, which is unusual for cats.  Yesterday I took her to the doctor and found out she has asthma (I didn’t know cat asthma was a thing…) and pneumonia.  Yesterday I started her on her medicine and she already seems to be feeling better.

Because my cat has been on my mind this week, I got to thinking about how much better my life is because she (and her sister) are in it.  I started to wonder if people with pets are healthier than those who don’t have companion animals.  What are the health benefits of having pets?

There was an interesting article in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine that explored this very topic.  I learned a new word – ZOOEYIA – which is the term for pets’ benefit to human health.

Turns out there is a huge amount of research of all different types of studies that supports the benefits of having pets on human health.  Pet ownership is pretty widespread.  It is estimated that 68% of us in North America, including over three quarters of all children, have at least one pet in their home.  (Here’s a sad fact – children are more likely to live with a pet than with their biological father or with a sibling.  That’s a topic for another day.)

There are four main ways pets benefit our health.

Builders of Social Capital

Having pets enhance feelings of happiness and belongings and reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation.  As I’m sitting here my cat is trying to climb into my lap (never mind that the computer I’m trying to use to write this post is already in my lap!) and get my attention.

Pets tend to decrease the impact of stressful events on our health.  Medicare patients that have pets see the doctor less often and have lower medical costs.

Harm Reduction

Having a pet is a great way to motivate someone to reduce their harmful behaviors.  One good example is cigarette smoking.  Cigarette smoke is harmful for cats and dogs just as it is for humans.

Many people who aren’t motivated to quit smoking for their own health are more willing to tackle smoking cessation for the benefit of a beloved pet.

Motivators of Change

I can’t tell you how often when I ask about exercise that patients say they walk the dog every day.  Hooray!  Your pup is making you healthier!  Kids with dogs are more physically active than kids who don’t have dogs.  Dogs are a great exercise “buddy” and are always up for a good brisk walk.

Participants in Treatment Plans

Having a pet can directly impact your health in a positive way.  There was a study published where a pet was better than a pill at controlling high blood pressure in response to a stressful life event.  Patients with mental health problems like anxiety and depression respond well to pets.

Having pets isn’t completely without risks.  Some pets can transmit so-called zoonotic diseases to humans.  People, especially small children, are at risk of being injured by animals.  And pet owners can take on a large financial burden if a beloved pet falls sick and needs expensive treatments.

All in all, however, having companion animals in your life enriches your life and helps improve your health.  If you choose to add a new furry or feathered family member, please consider adopting rather than buying from a pet store or breeder.  Most shelters have cats and dogs, of course, but many also have rabbits and reptiles and other species available for adoption.

QUESTION: Do you have pets?  Do you feel they improve your health?

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Treat Yourself Like Your Best Friend

My patient Anna was in the office today and she shared with me that a few weeks ago she was feeling poorly.  She was on vacation and had a day where she really didn’t feel well.  On further questioning and on exam it was obvious that her symptoms could have signaled a serious problem.

She took some OTC meds and rested, but didn’t seek medical care.

The problem is that medical professionals work very hard to teach people about what symptoms they should watch for and what symptoms may signal a serious problem.  For instance, suppose you twist your ankle and can’t walk on it AT ALL and it is obviously deformed? You would need to see the doctor ASAP to have it checked.

What if Anna’s best friend had been on vacation with her and had the exact same symptoms she was experiencing? She wouldn’t have thought twice about taking her friend to the emergency room to be checked out.  But because it was her own symptoms, she minimized them and chose not to seek care.

Why do we DO that?!  I’m not exempting myself from this sense of frustration.  This time last year I worked almost a whole day in the office with worsening abdominal pain that turned out to be appendicitis (see this post for more information).

We can easily minimize symptoms of illness or injury. Sometimes we don’t want to inconvenience others.  Also, nobody WANTS to be sick or hurt.  However, ignoring symptoms of illness can be very dangerous.  Illnesses are often easier to treat if they are caught early.

How do you know if you should see the doctor if you’re sick or hurt?  My best advice is to treat yourself like your best friend.  Look at your situation as if your best friend was feeling this way.  If you would take your friend to the emergency room or to the doctor, then you should go.

Many people die every year because they think their chest pain is heartburn.  Even though they KNOW chest pain can be heart pain.  Or they convince themselves the severe headache is just sinus trouble. The dizziness and numbness is just a pinched nerve.

YOU are important!  YOU deserve to be treated with care and respect, and have your symptoms taken seriously.  Especially by YOURSELF.  Treat yourself like you would treat your best friend.  You deserve it!

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The Nutrient We Miss The Most

I spend most of my time (in a professional sense) talking to people about nutrition.  I encourage them to eat right.  To get plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables.  To skip the processed food, junk food and fast food.  To take a good-quality multivitamin.

But most people still skimp on one very important nutrient.  What is it?  What is the nutrient we miss the most?

It’s WATER.

Think about it.  Your body needs about one ounce of water per day for every two pounds of body weight (up to about 100 ounces per day).  For the average person that’s 60-80 ounces of water, or a half gallon or more.

Not coffee, not iced tea, not soda or lemonade.  WATER.

Water helps keep your blood pressure down.  It removes toxins and improves your digestion.  It fights fatigue and keeps your mind sharp.

When you’re a little thirsty, this can be interpreted by the brain in as hunger.  So staying well hydrated helps control appetite and promotes weight loss.

Every organ in your body depends on you staying well hydrated.  From your kidneys to your digestive system to your brain, water is critical for normal function.

So why is it so hard for us to get enough water?  I can’t speak for you, but I know why I have a hard time staying hydrated.

First of all, the most plentiful source of drinking water is the kitchen tap.  And tap water is NASTY.  Have you tasted it lately?  Ew!  It doesn’t help that I know more than is good for my mental health about what is actually in our tap water.  Pesticide runoff, pharmaceuticals, chlorine and other chemicals interact to make me not want to drink straight from the tap (or from the garden hose, but that’s another story…).

Your local water department has water quality reports available for download at their website, for those who use city water.  Cleveland’s water quality report for 2016 is available here, if you’d like to see.

The second problem I have with getting enough water to drink is that when I drink the water I should, I have to pee.  A LOT.  When I’m in the office that’s inconvenient but manageable.  When I’m traveling or pressed for time it becomes difficult for me to get all the water I need.

Honestly, there isn’t a good fix for this problem, I just tell myself to suck it up.  Every time I go, I think of all the toxins being washed away and that makes it easier to just do it.

The last problem my patients report with drinking copious amounts of water is that it’s BORING.  “I don’t like water, it doesn’t taste good.”  Which is silly, because fresh clean water has no taste at all.  It’s clear and cold and wet and refreshing!

What people are telling me when they say they don’t like the way water tastes is that they have trained themselves to expect flavor from everything that goes in their mouth, whether it should have flavor or not.  What I tell them is that their tastebuds may not like it (for now) but their bodies certainly do like water.  In fact, they NEED it, and they do NOT need all the sugar and flavorings and additives in their usual beverage of choice.

So if our tap water is so gross, what water should we be drinking?

Bottled water?  No, that’s not a good choice.  For one thing, it’s expensive.  It also puts tons of unnecessary plastic in the landfill and isn’t necessarily cleaner or safer than drinking tap water.  Often we don’t know where the water comes from or what testing was done.

My choice for lots of fresh, clean drinking water is Shaklee’s tabletop pitcher filter.  It is certified to remove lead (most tabletop pitcher filters, including Brita and Pur, are not) and has a replaceable carbon filter so that everything else is reused.

Do you have a water filter at home?  You can check the Water Quality Association’s website to see what your filter is proven to remove from the water you drink.

And it’s CHEAP!  Just did a price check on Deer Park spring water at Giant Eagle.  Buying bottled water (this brand, anyway), costs $2.25 per gallon and leaves you with lots of plastic bottles to deal with.  Shaklee’s Year of Get Clean Water costs just 52 cents per gallon.  And after the initial investment of the reusable plastic pitcher, replacing the carbon filters gives you clean, fresh water for only 25 cents per gallon.

So what are you going to do about your hydration problem?  For me, there’s only one choice.  Saving money, drinking fresh clean water, and avoiding putting unnecessary plastic in the landfill is a win-win situation!

QUESTION: Do you drink enough water?  How do you get your drinking water?

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The Cost Of Poor Health

This topic comes up in the office all the time.  Patients tell me they can’t afford to eat healthy.  They don’t have time to exercise.  Their medications are too expensive.  There is always a reason why patients have a hard time doing the things they need to do to stay well.

Today I’m fed up.  I’m going to talk about how expensive BAD decisions are, when it comes to your health.  What exactly is the cost of poor health?

Which is more expensive?  Fresh fruits and vegetables, or a heart attack?  The time to exercise, or the time you miss with your grandkids because you died of a preventable stroke?  Your $150-for-90-days prescription for diabetes medication, or the $2,200/year pack-a-day cigarette habit?

Which costs more?  Health, or illness?  Where are you going to invest your time and money?

Now, I’m blessed that my parents taught me good eating habits and helped me learn to enjoy being active.  I’m even more blessed that my husband and best friend knows I’m happier and less stressed when I run regularly and eat right.

But I’m also an adult and in charge of my own health.  If I were not in good health, there are lots of resources I could use to learn what I need to know.  From my doctor to good books to reputable websites on the Internet (like this one, LOL!), there is plenty of good sensible information about how to improve your health.

If you or someone you love is unhappy with their health, suffering with the dreaded “I don’t feel good” disease, overweight or obese, PLEASE do three things.

LEARN

Talk to your doctor and ask for good resources to learn more about what’s going on with your health.  Ask for books, websites, referrals to specialists or nutritionists or physical therapists to skill up.

Invest TIME in learning about what’s going on with your body.  Learn how to eat, what foods are best for your particular health problems.  Ask if you’re able to exercise safely and what the best exercises would be.  Learn how to manage your stress.  Get enough hours of sleep.

LOOK

Check out your budget and track for a month where your money is going.  How much do you spend on junk food?  Do you eat out a lot?  Do you buy fast food lunches during the week?  Do you smoke?  Do you drink soda or energy drinks?  What discretionary money do you spend on things that are unhealthy, and how might you redirect that money to BUILD your health instead of tearing it down?

What money are you spending NOW because you are unhealthy?  Do you spend money on medications and treatments that you might not need if you changed your diet, improved your nutrition, exercised, got good sleep, managed your stress better?  How much is being unhealthy costing you NOW?

INVEST

Now I’m going to ask you to exercise some discipline.  I want you to make a mindful decision about where your money goes.  I want you to redirect some or all of the money you are spending on UNHEALTHY or frivolous purchases and spend it on your and your family’s health.

That may mean eating out once per week instead of three times.  That may mean packing a healthy lunch every day instead of hitting the fast-food drive-through.  That may mean getting up 15 minutes early and drinking your coffee at home instead of stopping at Starbucks on the way to work.

You might decide to decrease your pack-a-day cigarette habit to a half-pack and spend the other $100 per month on a gym membership and a high-quality supplement program.

After all, which is better?  Spending 2 hours a week in the gym, or spending 10 hours a week in the dialysis center?  (And no, that’s not a stretch.  The number one cause of renal failure requiring dialysis is diabetes which responds beautifully to regular exercise and a sensible diet.)

I have no idea what is going on in your life or in your budget.  However, I don’t know anyone (including myself) that doesn’t spend money on things that harm their health.  Think about how that money could be better spent.

What are you giving up in terms of money, time, and the ability to do the things you desperately want to do, because of your health?  What small changes (or really HUGE changes!) could you make that would pay big dividends in health and wellness?

You deserve it 🙂

QUESTION: Is your health costing you anything?  What are you investing to make it better?

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When Fear Blocks Transformation

One of my patients, let’s call her Anne, is massively obese.  She is a very sweet woman with a supportive husband and family.  Her family is well off financially and she is educated.  Why on Earth would she struggle so with her weight?

She has the means to hire the most expensive trainers available.  She could build an entire gym in her own home.  She can buy potions and pills and exercise videos galore.  Why can’t she lose weight?

I’m not sure, not with any real confidence, because we haven’t taken the time to dig into the whys and wherefores.  I’m not a trained counselor, after all, and it’s not something we can really get into in the confines of a 15-minute visit when I also have to address all her medical problems and refill all her medications.

But if I had to venture a guess, I’d say she’s scared.  Terrified, even.  There is something about the PROCESS of weight loss that has her so frightened it is easier for her to stay massively obese than to tackle her weight.  What can we do when fear blocks transformation in your health, your career, your life?

Lately I’ve been doing some reading in the leadership coaching industry in the interest of skilling up my ability to help patients with behavior change.  I AM first and foremost a coach, after all.  I’m not a surgeon to take out appendices or cancerous growths.  My most effective tool is my ability to help patients change their lifestyle to change their health for the better.

One of the most fascinating insights I’ve had in the reading I’ve been doing is the idea that patients resist change not because they don’t want the results but because they’re scared.  They see the goal, they know how to get there, they’ve gotten practical advice and a roadmap that works.  But there is something about the roadmap that scares them to death.

Even though I don’t know what Anne’s fear is, I know there is one.  Something about weight loss triggers her brain’s threat response and makes her completely UNABLE to move beyond that point in her efforts to get healthy.  We can speculate that maybe as a child her parents withheld food as a punishment.  Now anytime she even THINKS she might get hungry that threat response is triggered and she compulsively seeks to eat to reassure herself that she is not that helpless child anymore.

Maybe she has confined herself to the role of a sick person so thoroughly that if she gets healthy she won’t know who she is anymore.  She’s afraid her husband won’t take care of her anymore if she is able to care for herself.  Maybe she’s afraid if she loses weight he’ll want to have sex with her again and there’s a history of sexual abuse in her past buried so deep she can’t bear to remember it.

I don’t want to speculate about my friend Anne.  I would love to have the time to sit down with her and really dig in with her as a willing participant, to figure out what frightens her so.  I KNOW something does, because she tells me she wants to lose weight but we can’t make any headway.  She’s not weak, not weak-willed, and not self-sabotaging.  She’s afraid.

What about you?  What are you doing that you KNOW is hurting your health?  Do you eat the wrong foods when you KNOW which foods will support your body’s health and even know tasty recipes to cook them for yourself and your family.  Do you continue to smoke even though you hate every stupid cigarette you take out of the pack?  Do you find yourself making excuses about exercise even though when you drag yourself to the gym you feel amazing and sleep so much better?

What scares you?  What’s holding you back?  I would love to have you email me at drjen@jenniferwurstmd.com and tell me about it.  I will let you in on a secret – once we address that fear and make a plan to help you feel safe, you will be able to transform your habits, meet your goals and make your life even more amazing than it is now.

I’m a coach, after all.  This is what I do.  I help people transform their health and, by extension their lives.  But I can’t do it alone.  I need you to be brave, be honest and real and raw.  I will not judge you – I make my living dealing with real people and real problems.  Send me an email at drjen@jenniferwurstmd.com and let’s get started!

QUESTION: Would you like to share one of your fears?  I’ll start – I eat too many sweets because they soothe me when I’m stressed (stress = fear).  One of my goals is to find ways to soothe stress that do NOT involve food.  I have good days and bad days with that, like most of us.

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How To Choose A Multivitamin

I get asked all the time “What multivitamin should I take?”  My answer is usually to recommend Shaklee’s multivitamin of course 😉 but sometimes I can’t discuss product brands by name.

This week I got an email from Dr. Steve Chaney, a PhD biochemist and professor emeritus from the University of North Carolina where he taught nutrition to medical and dental students.  If you’re interested in such things, please subscribe to his website at by clicking this link.  And you can scroll down to see his post from 3/28 which is what inspired me to write about this topic this week!

This week’s email was about how to choose a multivitamin and his suggestions were fascinating and so USABLE!  Here are the three takeaways that struck me most from Dr. Chaney’s email.

Before you read any further, go get your multivitamin bottle.  You’ll want to look at the label as you read this article.

Your multivitamin should be COMPLETE

There are 24 nutrients for which the US FDA has set Daily Values (DV).  The DV is the amount which is judged to be able to prevent nutritional deficiency in nearly all healthy individuals.  Notice this is not necessarily OPTIMAL intake, just what is needed to prevent deficiency in healthy people.  Those who have medical problems may need different amounts.  The DVs also vary based on age, gender, pregnancy and lactation status.

Your multivitamin should have all 24 nutrients (23 if it doesn’t contain iron).  Count them to make sure.  If it doesn’t have all 23/24, don’t buy it, it’s not complete.

Let’s look at two labels for comparison.  First is the label for Shaklee’s Vita Lea with Iron.

All 24 nutrients are present and accounted for.  You’ll also note that most of the nutrients are present at 100% DV (daily value) or better.  For some (like magnesium, which can cause diarrhea, and calcium, which can cause constipation) the amounts are lower to avoid side effects.

There are also nutrients that the FDA believes are important for humans but there isn’t enough evidence to set a DV.  These nutrients have a “dagger” symbol next to them.  If you see the five trace minerals at the end of the label above, those have the dagger next to them.

Let’s look at another label for a very popular brand of vitamins sold at every grocery store and pharmacy in America.

Credit: Walgreens.com

This one has only 21 nutrients in it.  No magnesium (and if you know me, you’ll know magnesium is one of my FAVORITE nutrients to prescribe), phosphorus or molybdenum.  Not complete.

Your multivitamin should only include safe ingredients

If your multivitamin’s ingredient list includes artificial colors or sweeteners, don’t buy it.  This includes aspartame, acesulfame, and anything that has a color plus a number (like Red 40).  These ingredients have no business in a nutritional supplement.

I want to say a word about gummy vitamins for a moment.  Look at your gummy vitamin’s nutritional panel.  I’ve included a popular one for reference.

Credit: Walmart.com

Definitely not complete.  Here’s the ingredient list:

Credit: Walmart.com

Sugar (3 grams and 10 calories per serving), artificial colors and artificial flavors.  NOT healthy.

Gummy vitamins are candy pretending to be healthy.  If you can find one that’s complete and has no added sugar or unnecessary calories, artificial flavors, artificial sweeteners or artificial colors, by all means buy it and send me the info so I can put it on my website and issue an official apology.  Until then, if you want candy buy candy, but if you want a high-quality nutritional supplement that will support your overall health, a gummy vitamin is worse than not taking a multivitamin at all.

Don’t fall for marketing hype!

If there is no DV or dagger symbol next to an ingredient in your multivitamin, that ingredient probably does not add anything of value to support your health.  (Notice I’m talking about your multivitamin, not herbal products taken for proven health benefits in addition to your multi.)  Similarly, a lot of multivitamins have marketing buzzwords on the label like “organic,” “natural,” “whole-foods,” etc.  Also be aware that the individual nutrients in a multivitamin are highly purified and contain no DNA or protein so “non-GMO” is meaningless.

Companies also will claim that their products are safer than other companies’ products.  Ask for proof.  How do they know?  How many quality tests do they run on their raw materials and finished products?  How often do they issue recalls?  What is the procedure if a customer has a problem with a product?  Is there a guarantee?

Now that we’ve discussed how to make sure a multivitamin is complete, whether its ingredients are safe, and whether you’ve unwittingly fallen for marketing hype, let’s check in with you, Dear Reader.  How did your multivitamin do?  Leave me a comment and let me know!

PS – If you found your multi isn’t all you thought, please check out Shaklee’s Vita Lea multivitamins or email me at drjen@jenniferwurstmd.com with any questions.

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Money And Health

With all the wrangling and fighting in Washington over the federal budget and also over the future of the Affordable Care Act, I’m feeling philosophical today about the connection between money and health.

What is the connection between money and health?  Can money buy health?  Can lack of money keep you from being healthy?  Well, yes and no.  It has been shown pretty convincingly that, in general, poor people are not as healthy as those who are better off financially.  Whether that is due to educational disparities, differences in access to health care, different diet quality, or other factors isn’t really clear.

Does being better off financially equal better health?  No, of course not.  Look at movie stars and celebrities.  Every week it seems there is another celebrity drug overdose or story about a movie star committing suicide in the depths of mental illness.  Wealthy celebrities struggle with obesity just like everyone else does.  Even access to infinite health resources does not guarantee one will be healthy.

What is money anyway?  Why do we need it?  Money is an artificial construct that makes it easier to engage in trade.  It is a symbol that everyone has agreed in advance has a certain value.  It is easier to trade coins or paper money for foodstuffs than to take a goat or bales of wool or stacks of animal furs to the grocery store.

The only thing that will motivate a person to open their wallet or pull out a credit card (another artificial construct, BTW) is the belief that the thing they are buying will make their life better.  Whether it’s underwear, carrots, legal advice, prescription medication, or a Ducati motorcycle, the thing being purchased will make the buyer’s life better in some way.

(BTW the government is selling you something in return for the taxes you pay – the right to stay out of prison.  There is an interesting thought, right?)

OK.  So if you need money to buy the things YOU need for food, shelter, clothing, etc, you have to have something to trade for that money.  The things we possess to trade for money all fall into three broad categories:  goods, time and expertise.

So what brings money into your household?  We spend an awful lot of time doing whatever we do to earn money.  Shouldn’t it be something that gives us pride and pleasure?

Too many people sacrifice their health in the pursuit of money.  There is a sweet spot where your career and your health are balanced.  Your stress is enough to keep you motivated and energized but not so much that you are at risk of getting sick from it.

Money cannot buy health.  You don’t have to have a lot of money to do the things you need to do to be healthy.

  • Eat a balanced diet with plenty of fresh fruits and veggies in season, whole grains, nuts and seeds with limited amounts of meat and dairy.
  • Move your body every day in a way that you enjoy.
  • Get plenty of sleep
  • Drink plenty of fresh, clean water
  • Play and laugh and spend time with people who make you feel good

We all need money, but we DON’T need to be so focused on it that we make ourselves sick in the pursuit of it.  Take a moment today to examine whether your career and health are in balance or whether you need to reevaluate the relationship between money and health in your life.

QUESTION: Do you think you are sacrificing your health in order to earn money?  Why or why not?

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