How To Exercise In The Heat

Summer is finally here, for real!  We’ve had some really hot days over the last few weeks and workouts have been a challenge for me.  The heat just really seems to sap all your energy and leave you a soggy, sweaty mess with half your workout left to complete.

Credit: physiqueft.co.uk

You can get amazing workouts in the summer but, like when it’s super-cold, it takes more planning.  Here are 3 tips to help you safely exercise in the heat.

Work Out Indoors

I know, I know, it’s beautiful and you want me to stay INSIDE?  No, not necessarily, but if you find yourself skimping on your runs or hikes or whatever your exercise of choice is, moving the workout indoors can help you stay a little more comfortable so you can push yourself a little more.

If you’re a runner, give the treadmill a try, or do some cross-training in the weight room.  It’s only for a few weeks until the weather cools off.

Work Out Early Or Late

If you absolutely MUST work out outdoors (for instance if you’re like me and take your life in your hands trying to run on a treadmill, LOL!) shift your workouts to early mornings or late in the evenings when it’s cooler and the humidity is lower.

I personally LOVE running early in the morning.  It’s quiet, you have the trail to yourself and you can enjoy the rest of your day knowing you’ve done good for your body.

Stay Hydrated

If you play a sport like baseball or soccer where you don’t get to pick your workout times or where you practice, the key is staying hydrated.  Drink copious amounts of water to replace what you lose by sweating.  Watch for symptoms of dehydration like dizziness, muscle cramps and nausea.

If you play a sport where you sweat a lot in the heat, consider using an electrolyte replacement drink.  Electrolyte replacement drinks maintain better blood glucose levels than water alone, and also replace salts and minerals lost in sweat.

Be careful which electrolyte replacement drink you choose.  Many of them have artificial flavors, colors and sweeteners (yuck) that definitely don’t contribute to health or optimal sports performance.

I recommend Shaklee’s Performance which has been proven to hydrate better than water alone, is completely free of artificial ingredients, and was developed for NASA to keep the astronauts well-hydrated in space.

Through the end of July, Shaklee is running a summer athlete special on Performance.  When you buy 3 canisters of Performance (or Physique, Shaklee’s muscle recovery shake) you get 3 canisters at 50% off.  If you’re interested in this promotion please let me know – it’s only open to members but I can make some magic happen if you’d like to take advantage of it 🙂

If you’re struggling to get your workouts in because of hot weather, there are a few ways to make them safer and more comfortable.  Change up the time and/or place you work out.  Stay well hydrated, and consider adding a good electrolyte replacement to keep your stamina up.

We’ve got quite a bit of summer left!  Get out there and have fun 🙂

QUESTION: Are you having trouble getting your exercise in the hot weather?

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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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Managing Seasonal Allergies

Happy spring everybody!  The trees are green, lawnmowers are running, flowers are blooming.  People are sneezing.  Yep, allergy season is here!

Now there are plenty of medications available for seasonal allergies over-the-counter that used to require a prescription.  Antihistamines like Allegra, Zyrtec and Claritin, and nasal sprays like Flonase and Nasonex can be purchased at the pharmacy.  Fewer people need to come see me to handle mild symptoms.

I’m still seeing people who are really suffering though.  Either the over-the-counter medications aren’t helping or they’re not reducing the symptoms enough to keep people comfortable.  I’ve got big-gun treatments like cortisone shots and higher-priced prescriptions, but is there anything else you can do to get your symptoms under control before seeing the doctor?

Of course there is!  (I probably wouldn’t be writing this if there weren’t, LOL!)  There are 3 more measures you can take to reduce your symptoms on your own.

1.  Ditch the fumes

Spring means spring cleaning, so many people are moving furniture, vacuuming carpet that hasn’t seen daylight in months, washing baseboards and the insides of cabinets.  What chemicals are you releasing in your house when you clean?

Pull out your cleaning supplies and read the labels.  If it says “use in a well-ventilated area” or contains bleach or ammonia, please don’t use it in your house!  Indoor air pollution from fume-forming cleaning products is a BIG problem.  Houses nowadays are much more airtight to stop energy leaks around windows and doors.  Chronic exposure to chemical fumes and scents can lead to chronic nasal and sinus congestion from the irritation.

I know this works from personal experience.  In medical training I developed what I was told was indoor allergies.  All winter I suffered with sinus congestion and occasional sinus infections.  It was worse when I spent nights in the hospital on call, and I figured that call rooms were just dusty places.  It got better in the warmer weather and I thought since the windows were open I was just not being exposed to as many indoor allergens.

When I joined Shaklee and switched my cleaning products, my indoor allergies went away!  Turns out I wasn’t allergic to dust and mold (I’m not any better at housekeeping now than I was as a medical student, LOL!) but I was reacting to the cleaning products I used.

If you’re suffering with allergy symptoms, I strongly suggest you change to nontoxic cleaning supplies.  Get rid of everything that has a scent or makes fumes.  Those of you who love scented candles and perfume and lotions, I recommend you pack them ALL up for 2 weeks and switch to unscented personal products to see if it makes a difference to your symptoms.

Shaklee has cleaning products that clean like crazy but won’t hurt you, your family, your pets, or the environment.  I encourage you to check out the Get Clean lineAll-purpose cleaning solution, disinfectant, laundry products, kitchen products, and personal care items are all available.  As always, if you don’t love them they have a money-back guarantee.

2.  Alfalfa

If switching cleaners doesn’t work, one supplement that really helps allergy symptoms is alfalfa.  Before you get really confused (thinking alfalfa is for horses and rabbits), yes, alfalfa is a very nutritious and perfectly edible salad green.  It also seems to tell the immune system that grasses and plants are safe for you!

Taking alfalfa by mouth seems to down-regulate the immune reaction to grasses and pollens (this is called oral immunotherapy).  Since 2/3 of the immune system lives in your intestines, and in THAT location it seems to be primed to ignore allergens, this response makes sense.

If you don’t want to eat a big alfalfa salad every day, Shaklee has alfalfa tablets which are produced organically.  I have customers with allergies who have been happily taking alfalfa tablets for years to control their symptoms.

3.  Food allergies

Yes, I see food allergies EVERYWHERE!  However, that’s because the symptoms that food allergies cause are everywhere too.  One of the many symptoms related to food allergies is chronic sinus congestion.

If you have switched your cleaning products and ditched scented, fume-forming products and added alfalfa and STILL have allergy congestion, you should consider a 3-week food allergen elimination diet.  The one I give my patients is found here.

Got allergies?  You’re not alone.  If nonprescription meds are not working or you’d prefer a non-pharmaceutical approach, there’s a lot you can do to reduce your symptoms before calling in the professionals 🙂

QUESTION:  Are you suffering with allergy symptoms this spring?  What are you doing about it?

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Nutrients For Fracture Healing

As many of you know, almost a week ago my husband broke both bones in his right ankle.  After a late-Sunday urgent surgery and a short overnight stay in the hospital he came home and has been keeping my couch from escaping pretty much ever since.

Since I am NOT loving the extra stress here at the start of summer, I am invested in getting his fracture healed as quickly and as well as possible.  What does the literature say about important nutrients for fracture healing?

Vitamin D

It’s no surprise that there’s been a lot of research about vitamin D and fracture.  It’s well known that calcium, magnesium and vitamin D are required for healthy bone matrix and vitamin D deficiency accelerates bone loss and osteoporosis.  It has been shown that vitamin D deficiency is more common in fracture patients, and there is preliminary evidence that vitamin D supplementation improved fracture healing.  Since in northern Ohio we can’t get any vitamin D from the sun in the winter, it makes sense to take supplemental vitamin D.

Pro-Angiogenesis Factors

In order to put down new bone matrix, the body must grow new blood vessels. This process is called angiogenesis.  There are nutrients that are known to promote the development of healthy new blood vessels and, in theory may help to speed the healing of bone fractures.  These nutrients include fish oil, antioxidants and polyphenols like resveratrol, and ginseng.

Other Nutrients

Good nutrition will support wound healing and help fractures heal properly.  From a high-quality multivitamin to trace minerals to probiotics.  Soy and zinc have also shown to be helpful in supporting healthy bone.

So what do I have my husband taking? He is taking Shaklee products, of course.  Vitalizer and Vivix, extra vitamin D and OmegaGuard and Chewable Cal Mag.  These are part of his normal supplement regimen so I don’t believe we need to make any changes at this point.

We didn’t plan on a serious fracture but it’s nice to know we are taking the right supplements to heal it if it happens.

QUESTION: Have you ever had a fracture?  Did you use supplements to help it heal?

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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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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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Supplements For Soft Tissue Injuries

Many of you know I had surgery 2 weeks ago to remove varicose veins in my leg.  The pain, bruising and swelling were of epic proportions but they are subsiding slowly.  As a very active and busy person it has been very difficult for me to exercise patience to allow my body to heal at its own pace.

This week I decided to do some research on supplements to help my leg heal faster.  As expected, I found that a good multivitamin and plenty of protein are essential for healing.  However, I was surprised to find evidence of efficacy of a certain type of supplements for soft tissue injuries.

Proteolytic enzymes are chemically active protein substances that act to break down other proteins.  Those who remember their Biology 101 will remember that enzymes are proteins that make chemical reactions happen faster than they would on their own.

Why are proteolytic enzymes helpful in wound healing and in repairing other types of tissue damage?  Well blood is protein, and in order to get all the blood broken down and cleaned up by macrophages in the tissues you need enzymes to break down the hemoglobin and other blood proteins.

Those familiar with Chip and Joanna Gaines on the show “Fixer Upper” will remember Chip’s joy on Demo Day.  The first part of a major remodel is breaking up and taking out the cabinets, appliances, drywall and other bits and pieces that need to be gotten rid of.  The first step in healing a soft tissue injury is a similar process to Demo Day.  Damaged proteins like collagen and hemoglobin must be cleaned up in order to make way for new healthy proteins to be put in place.

So what’s the evidence that proteolytic enzymes are helpful for soft tissue healing?  I found articles published in the 1960s that showed supplementing with proteolytic enzymes produced remarkable healing of athletic injuries from a wide variety of sports.  There is more recent evidence too.

  1. In 2009 researchers showed that a protease preparation containing fungal enzymes, papain and bromelain made a significant difference in muscle strength recovery after running downhill for 45 minutes.
  2. It was also shown that protease supplementation (containing bromelain, papain, trypsin, chymotrypsin and several other enzymes) improved recovery of leg muscle strength and soreness after running downhill.
  3. A small study showed statistically significant improvement in fatigue and markers of muscle damage and inflammation with supplementation of bromelain in competitive bicycle racers.
  4. A list of surgically relevant herbal preparations listed bromelain as helpful in accelerating wound healing.
  5. A very extensive discussion of the effect of supplements on surgical wound healing mentions bromelain as effective at reducing swelling, pain and healing time.

To summarize, if you have a sports injury or a surgical wound, it would be reasonable and safe to add a proteolytic enzyme supplement to reduce swelling, bruising and time to heal the injury.  Make sure anything you choose contains bromelain because it seems to have the best research data to support its use.  As always, be sure to tell your surgeon what supplements you take or are planning to take that may affect your surgery.

Before you ask, yes, I started taking a supplement containing bromelain (among other enzymes) a few days ago.  And I’m taking some research articles to my follow up appointment with my surgeon for him to review!  I wish I had known about bromelain before my surgery, I might have had less pain and swelling to deal with.

QUESTION: Are you surprised that taking enzymes orally helps healing injuries and surgical wounds?  Would you take them yourself?

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Hormone Supplements With Gland Extracts

I have a confession to make.  I lost it this week.  COMPLETELY lost it.

A new patient came in because she wasn’t feeling well and had some health problems she wanted to discuss.  Nothing new and unusual, right?

On reviewing her medication and supplement list, it turned out a health care provider was having her use supplements from a well-respected company that contained extracts from animal glands.

This lady was taking extracts from animal thyroid, brain, adrenal, ovary and testicular glands.  FIVE different types of endocrine glands were being used.  She had been taking them for over a year and had never had labs drawn to check hormone levels.

“What’s the big deal, Dr. Jen? These are all-natural supplements and are safe, right?”  I can hear some of you asking me this.

Well if you know me, see me in the office, or have been following my blog you know that I feel nutritional supplements are powerful medicine.  It’s like a knife that can be very useful but can cut you if you’re not careful.

So why are gland extracts dangerous?  Gland extracts contain hormones that, despite the claims of some practitioners, do NOT “balance” your natural hormones.  They replace them.  And if that “hormone replacement” goes on long enough your glands can lose the ability to produce those hormones, making you dependent on those supplements for the rest of your life.

An example from the medical side of things is prednisone.  There are patients who have inflammatory conditions that require long-term prednisone treatment.  They are known as “steroid dependent.”  Asthma, Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and other forms of autoimmune disease are among the many conditions that can require long-term steroid treatment.

After a period of time patients on long-term prednisone cannot come off it.  Their adrenal glands lose the ability to produce endogenous steroids like cortisol and patients taken off the steroids will die.  They have what is known as iatrogenic Addison’s disease.

My new patient has been taking supplements that contain an unknown amount of animal adrenal gland steroids (among other things) for over a year.  Without any blood tests or monitoring at all.  Now can you see why I saw red?  I was able to stay professional (mostly) but it was a near thing.

My readers need to be aware of two things.

  1. Go and check all of your supplements.  I don’t care where they came from or who recommended them to you.  If ANY of the ingredients have the words “gland extract” in them, make an appointment with your medical provider (preferably an MD or DO) and ask whether you should continue taking them or stop.  If you are told to stop them, ask for specific instructions on HOW to stop taking them safely. If you have been taking them for some time, you may need to slowly and gradually decrease the amount you take to wean off and give your own endocrine glands time to resume functioning normally.
  2. In the future if a medical professional (doctor, naturopath, chiropractor, etc.) recommends to you that you take a supplement like this (for “adrenal support,” “thyroid support,” “menopause support” or for any other reason) they need to order bloodwork before starting.  Insist that they check bloodwork, NOT saliva testing, and demonstrate that the gland(s) in question are not functioning normally.  Ask how long to expect to need the supplement and if they say you will need it for the rest of your life, get a second opinion from a medical doctor.

Taking hormone replacement is a big deal.  Supplements are not tested to the same standards as pharmaceuticals and supplement-quality hormone testing and labeling is NOT good enough.  If you have Addison’s disease (the only thing that would require you to take adrenal steroids for “adrenal support”) this is a very serious disease.  Same with hypothyroidism, ovarian failure or testicular failure.

DO NOT take supplements with animal ovarian extracts for menopause.  They contain estrogen and progesterone.  If they contain enough to improve your hot flashes and night sweats, they contain enough to stimulate breast and uterine tissue and to increase your risk of heart attacks.  You cannot get the good effects without the risks.  Anyone who tells you different is misinformed or deliberately misleading you.

There is a lot of crap out there.  Unfortunately some practitioners in their zeal to help patients feel better believe the marketing hype of some supplement companies.

Be careful, be skeptical, and above all be safe!

QUESTION: Have you ever taken supplements with gland extracts in them?  What was your experience?

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Forskolin For Weight Loss

This week I had a patient bring in a bottle of a weight loss supplement, saying it had helped her brother lose a bunch of weight.  She told me she was thinking of taking it but wanted my opinion.

The supplement was called forskolin and though I had heard of it I didn’t know much about it.  Always willing to dig into supplement weight loss claims, off I went to the research database!  What info is out there about forskolin for weight loss?

I didn’t find much, to be honest.  I only located two studies published using human subjects.

One study administered 250 mg of a 10% forskolin extract twice daily to 15 men, with 15 men as controls taking placebo.  Over 12 weeks, the men taking forskolin lost an average of 4.5 kg (9.9 pounds) of fat and gained an average of 3.7 kg (8.14 pounds) of lean mass, compared to no significant change in those taking placebo.

Interestingly, the authors found a small increase in testosterone levels in men taking forskolin.  In addition, there was a significant change in free testosterone in the men taking forskolin compared to those taking placebo.  Since testosterone increases muscle mass and decreases fat mass, and low testosterone contributes to obesity in men, this may explain some of the changes seen in the men taking forskolin.

The authors had the subjects fill out diet journals and found no difference before and after the study in how the subjects in either group ate.

The other study administered 250 mg of a 10% forskolin extract twice daily or placebo to 19 overweight and obese women.  Over the 12-week trial there was no effect on weight, body composition or any other measured parameter in either group.

What side effects have been reported with use of forskolin?  There is a risk of low blood pressure (producing dizziness and possible fainting episodes) and high heart rate (with palpitations).  People taking blood thinners or medications for blood pressure or heart or lung conditions shouldn’t take forskolin without talking about it with their doctor.

What does all this mean?  There is very little evidence that forskolin is helpful for weight loss.  More research is needed to explore the risks and benefits.

Anyone looking for a proven effective weight loss program should consider Shaklee 180.  Green tea extract is effective at increasing metabolic rate, leucine is a branched-chain amino acid that preserves muscle mass, and modest calorie restriction is most effective for gradual loss of fat tissue.

There are so many supplements out there marketed to produce “miraculous” weight loss.  Beware of inflated claims of amazing results.  If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is (and might be dangerous to boot).

QUESTION: Have you ever tried forskolin?  What was your experience?

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High Protein Diet Blocks Health Benefit of Weight Loss

It’s a tough thing, counseling people on how to eat to lose weight.  There are a gazillion weight loss diets out there.  Plant based, low-carb, low-fat, Paleo, Adkins, you name it.  Everyone has an opinion about what diet is best.

Most of the time doctors tell patients some variation of “any road is fine as long as it gets you where you need to go.”  Meaning, whatever diet you can stick to is fine as long as you get the weight off.

Some recently published research calls that into question.  Dr. Bettina Mittendorfer and her colleagues from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis found that the amount of protein people ate while losing weight impacted insulin resistance.

Why do we care about insulin resistance?  Insulin resistance is a major determinant of risk of diabetes.  We know that obese people have a higher risk of diabetes than lean people, and insulin resistance seems to be the reason why.  What’s the link between a high protein diet and insulin resistance?

Dr. Mittendorfer and colleagues found that when people losing weight ate a modest amount of protein (0.8 grams protein per kilogram of body weight per day) they lost weight and their muscle tissue had improvements in sensitivity to insulin.  When people ate a higher amount of protein (1.2 grams protein per kilogram of body weight per day) they lost weight but their muscle tissue had NO improvement in insulin sensitivity.

One of the reasons doctors tell people lose weight is to improve the metabolic problems associated with obesity.  These abnormalities are tied to insulin resistance.  Insulin resistance is part of the metabolic syndrome which includes abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes (or high fasting blood sugar, often seen before diabetes develops), high triglycerides and low HDL (called “good”) cholesterol.  Having these markers significantly increases your risk of having a heart attack.

We tell people who are obese and have diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol abnormalities that they need to lose weight all the time.  We may need to start telling them HOW to lose weight in more detail.  Low-carb diets (which by definition are high in protein and fat) are touted to decrease cholesterol and decrease the risk of heart attacks, but if they don’t improve the metabolic abnormalities of insulin resistance we might need to rethink this advice.

What does this new research mean in practical terms?  Let’s use my body as an example.  I’m 45 years old and weigh about 160 pounds.  Let’s round me down to 70 kilograms.  (Yay!  Instant weight loss, LOL!)  0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight gives me a target of 56 grams of protein per day.  This corresponds to about 15% of my daily calories coming from protein.  1.2 grams of protein per kilogram is 84 grams protein per day, or just over 20% of my calories from protein.

I use myfitnesspal.com (actually I use the app which is awesome) so it’s easy for me to track my protein grams.  Meat has about 6 grams protein per ounce which means that, if I ate meat, 9 oz of meat would be my entire protein allotment for the day at the lower protein target.

If you are someone who eats Paleo or any other low-carb diet in trying to lose or maintain your weight, I would encourage you to take a look at your protein intake.  Track your intake for a week or two to get an idea of where you are.  It is taken as a given that we need to eat a lot of protein in order to maintain muscle while losing weight, but do we really need to?

Dr. Mittendorfer’s subjects lost weight, and both groups lost the same amount of weight.  The lower-protein group lost a little more muscle, amounting to less than a pound of muscle loss difference between the two groups.  However, the higher-protein group had NO improvement in insulin sensitivity which could be interpreted to mean NO improvement in risk of diabetes and heart disease.

This is not a done deal.  It is far from understood exactly how much protein people need, and what are the dangers of a high protein diet.  For instance, Dr. Mittendorfer’s study enrolled only women.  Would the same findings be seen in men?  Would the same findings be seen if people ate only plant protein?  More research is under way and desperately needed to better understand the impact of protein intake on health.  In the meantime, however, these findings are concerning and should make us take a closer look at our dietary protein intake.

Are you trying to lose weight?  Why?  Is it all about how you look?  Or are you trying to lose weight for the health benefits of a leaner body?  If you are more concerned about how healthy you are than about how you look, think carefully about the weight loss diet you choose.  Think carefully about how much protein you’re eating, or you could be working hard to lose weight and not getting all the benefits you seek.

QUESTION: Do you eat low-carb to control your weight?  How much protein do you get per day?  Will this research change how you eat?

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