Just What Are Supplements FOR?

My new student and I were talking in the office the other day.  She was surprised (and all my students are, actually) at how often I talk to patients about nutrition.  Usually without my patients really WANTING to hear my opinions about nutrition, LOL!

So we got to talking about the question, “What are supplements for?”  This is something I don’t think I’ve ever put in so many words before.

We know our diets stink.  People eat too much meat, too much junk food, too much sugar.  We don’t get enough whole fresh foods.  Even if we did get all our servings of fruits and veggies (and I try really hard) our foods aren’t as nutritious as they were in the past.

This decrease in the nutrition content of food is generally because of changes in farming practices and because we tend to get our food from far away.  We get peaches from Chile instead of from Georgia.  We get apples from Washington State instead of from local orchards.  And we want to eat apples in June when they haven’t been harvested in over 6 months.

So one of the main reasons I advocate supplementation is to make up for gaps in our diet.  A good quality, comprehensive multivitamin (and yes, Shaklee’s Vita Lea is the best on the market, the one I use and recommend) goes a long way to filling in for days when our diets aren’t the best, or when the food we eat has lost nutrition due to storage and processing.

Other than a multivitamin, what other supplements do we take to make up gaps in our diet?  People under stress tend to use up the B vitamins more quickly.  People who suffer with migraines tend to have gene mutations which make them need more B vitamins.  More than half of us don’t get enough magnesium in the diet.  We eat way too much omega 6 oil, so omega 3 fats from fish oil supplements can help correct that.  And of course nearly everyone needs a vitamin D supplement especially in winter.

These supplements as mentioned above are used from a Functional Medicine approach.  This means we give the body what it needs to function properly, and avoid poisoning it!  Supplements used in this way are generally very safe, and very few side effects.

Giving the body what it needs doesn’t just refer to food.  This includes fresh clean water, plenty of rest and quality sleep.  Practicing our faith and getting fresh air and sunshine, exercise, and time with those we love are “nutrients” as well.  The word “nutrient” comes from the same root as “nurture.”  When we nourish ourselves properly we will be healthier!

And poisons or toxins include pesticides, alcohol and excess sugar but can also include excess stress.  Negative self-talk is toxic.  Smoking, recreational drugs and artificial food ingredients are other examples of things we should avoid in order for our bodies, minds and spirits to be as healthy as possible.

How else can supplements be used?  Supplements can also be used as drugs.  Some examples are St. John’s wort for depression, milk thistle for liver disorders, and red yeast rice for high cholesterol.  These supplements are considered botanical drugs.  They have risks just like pharmaceutical drugs do.  The risks tend to be lower, but the effectiveness is lower as well.  Some supplements can be used either way.  For instance, magnesium in high doses is a very effective laxative and is used for bowel prep before colonoscopy.

How can you tell the difference between a supplement used for a functional medicine purpose and one used as a drug?  It’s pretty simple actually.  Is the nutrient or supplement found in food, and can one be deficient in it?  One can be deficient in magnesium, but there’s no such thing as a milk thistle or St. John’s wort deficiency.

I’d like to use a very current controversy to illustrate the difference.  Right now there are a lot of supplement companies starting to market krill oil as a “better fish oil.”  Early research suggests that the main omega 3 fatty acids in both krill oil and fish oil are better absorbed from krill oil and may influence cholesterol and glucose metabolism in favorable ways when compared to fish oil.

The problem is that krill isn’t food for humans.  We have little or no idea what a safe dose of krill oil would be, or what the long-term effect may be.  There are no studies showing how krill oil supplements affect heart risk or any other health risk in humans.  Fish oil supplements are generally made from edible fish like sardines, tuna or salmon.

So fish oil is a functional medicine supplement, made from a human food that most of us don’t get enough of to balance out the oodles of omega-6 fatty acids in our diets.  Krill oil is not a human food, containing a form of omega-3 fatty acids not clearly understood.  I would therefore classify krill oil as a drug, one that’s not well understood.  Certainly not well enough to recommend regular use.

Before someone recommends a supplement to you, think to yourself whether that supplement is meant to fill a gap in your diet and provide nutrients your body needs to function well.  If not, it is a drug.  Make sure you understand the risks and benefits, because there are always risks with drugs, whether they come from nature or from a factory.  Often the ones that come from the factory are safer because they’re better understood and better studied.

QUESTION: Have you ever thought before about the question “What are supplements for?”  What do you think now?

Share

The Danger Of Adulterated Supplements

When swimmer Jessica Hardy set two world records in 2008 and was getting ready to compete in the Olympics in Beijing, she had no idea her world was about to come crashing down.  She tested positive for a banned substance right before the Olympics.

Turns out she had taken adulterated supplements that contained the banned substance, undisclosed by the supplement company.  Because she was able to prove the supplement she took contained the substance, her suspension was reduced to one year instead of two.  Still, she missed the Beijing Olympics.

Given the danger of adulteration, why would ANYONE risk taking supplements?  In the United States the supplement industry is only lightly regulated so companies are free to make all sorts of outlandish claims about their products.  My personal feeling is that people are so desperate for a “quick fix” they’re susceptible to too-good-to-be-true product claims for weight loss and other problems.

A report was recently published in JAMA about adulterated supplements.  Turns out almost 800 supplements have been found to have drugs in them, including sildenafil (Viagra), sibutramine (Meridia) and anabolic steroids.  The adulterated supplements are most often marketed for – unsurprisingly – sexual enhancement, weight loss and muscle building.  You can access the database yourself here at the FDA website.

Whether you’re an Olympic swimmer like Jessica Hardy, a world-class wrestler like Narsingh Yadav or Vinod Kumar, or a runner looking to PR your next half marathon, SHOULD you use nutritional supplements?  Which ones should you choose?

If you’ve been following my blog for awhile you probably know my answers to these questions 😉  Good nutrition improves athletic performance, that much is very clear.  And supplements are an efficient way to make sure the body’s nutritional needs (for vitamins, minerals, electrolytes, carbohydrates and protein) are optimally met.

So given this information, taking supplements make sense.  But before choosing a nutritional supplement, you have to ask yourself some questions.  If you have access to a representative for the company (especially if it’s a direct sales company) here are some good questions to get answered.

  • Does the company sponsor Olympic athletes?  How many medals have the sponsored athletes won?  If there are no Olympic athletes, do they sponsor athletes competing in “clean” events – i.e. subject to drug testing?  If not, steer clear.  Many sports supplements have disclaimers in the product literature stating they are not meant for athletes subject to drug testing.  Don’t take those!
  • What research has been done with the company’s products?  Ask to see the publications.  Are they peer reviewed?  You can search in the NIH’s research database to see if it’s a “legit” research article or not.
  • What are the company’s quality procedures?  Is there a money-back guarantee?  How are recalls handled?  Who do you call with a problem?

Ultimately, with supplements the reality in the United States is “let the buyer beware.”  Customers are responsible for doing their own research because the industry isn’t well regulated.  If the product is advertised to produce results that seem too good to be true, they probably are.  Do NOT buy products advertised to improve sexual performance.  No supplement has ever been shown effective for that problem – only pharmaceuticals work.

If you aren’t aware of the company I chose to partner with, I have easy and transparent answers to these questions.

  • Yes, Shaklee sponsors Olympic athletes.  We have nearly 100 athletes and a total of 144 medals to our team’s credit.  That’s a lot of hard work (and a lot of supplements)!  Learn more about the Shaklee Pure Performance Team at this link.  No athlete ever has, or ever will, fail a drug test due to a Shaklee product.
  • Over 100 publications is a LOT of science to Shaklee’s credit.  Published in respected journals like Nutrition, Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, and Journal of Gastroenterology.  You can check out research Shaklee has sponsored about athletic performance, weight management, blood sugar support and other topics at this link.
  • Every lot of raw materials is tested for 350 different contaminants like pesticides, molds, heavy metals and other toxins before it is accepted to make Shaklee products.  Shaklee is BETTER than organic, since organic products can still become contaminated in many ways.  In addition, over 100,000 quality tests are done every year on finished products before they head out to customers.  Shaklee has never had a recall.  They don’t need to!  And if you have a problem, everything is guaranteed, even if you just don’t like a flavor.  You call me, or your distributor if it’s not me, and it gets fixed.  Period.

Again and again, we see in the news reports that supplements aren’t safe, that supplements don’t work, that supplements are at best a waste of money or at worst dangerous to your health.  This isn’t true.  Nutritional supplements are a vital part of supporting health and optimizing outcomes for athletes as well as for the rest of us.  It’s just important to make sure you know what you’re buying!

QUESTION:  Do you take supplements?  Why or why not?  Is this information surprising to you?

Share

Wound Healing And Nutrition

One of the most devastating complications of diabetes is chronic nonhealing foot wounds.  I’ve had many patients in the hospital for chronic wounds that become infected.  Unfortunately many of them are unable to heal their wounds and wind up with partial or complete amputations of their foot and lower leg.

Diabetics and other chronically ill older patients often have diets that aren’t healthy.  They don’t get enough healthy fats, protein and micronutrients from the food they eat.  These problems contribute to ill health and complications like poor wound healing.

Vitamin deficiencies are more common in older adults, especially those who don’t have a varied, healthy diet.  Inadequate intake, decreased absorption and use of medications  are among the causes of nutrient deficiencies.  Protein, vitamin D, folic acid, vitamin B12 and water are examples of nutrients that older adults may not get in adequate amounts.

In the case of diabetics, elevated levels of blood sugar over time result in the formation of advanced glycation end products (AGEs) which damage proteins and increase levels of inflammation in the cells and tissues.  This is one of the main ways diabetes contributes to end organ damage in just about every organ in the body.  AGEs are thought to contribute to a number of diseases, from Alzheimer’s disease to end stage kidney failure to cataracts to atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease.

If someone develops a chronic wound, what nutrients are needed to help in healing?  Protein, carbohydrate, fat, vitamins and minerals are all needed.  The best sources of these nutrients come from a healthy balanced diet of course.  However, studies have shown that 95% of Americans are not getting enough of one or more vitamins or minerals in their diet.  Especially if someone is trying to heal a wound, getting enough nutrients is critical and the patient likely will benefit from a supplement.

Protein

People who are sick or have a wound to heal need extra protein.  Estimates are that such people need about 1.5 grams per kilogram of body weight.  So a woman who weighs 70 kg (155 pounds) would need about 105 grams of protein per day.  One ounce of animal flesh (beef, poultry, pork or fish), one cup of dairy milk or one ounce of cheese contains about 8 grams protein.  One egg contains 6 grams, 8 ounces of Greek yogurt contains 23 grams, one cup of navy beans contains 20 grams and 4 ounces of tofu contain 16 grams of protein.

Fat

Getting extra fat in the diet helps provide energy and calories for healing and also provides building blocks for making new cells.  Omega 3 fats help mute inflammation and encourage healing, and omega 6 fats balance things out.  Fish oil has been shown to be helpful in patients with pressure ulcers in the ICU setting.

Carbohydrates

Complex carbohydrates provide fiber which feeds the healthy bacteria in the gut, as well as calories for energy.  Our gut bacteria help support a healthy immune system.  Healing wounds and getting well is hard work!  Depends on how malnourished someone is (and how sick they are) a patient may need up to 40 calories per kilogram of body weight.  That 70-kilogram woman above would need up to 2800 calories per day, plus more if she is doing more than just lying in bed.

It’s important that these carbohydrates should be whole-food complex carbohydrates like fresh fruits and vegetables, beans and whole grains like oatmeal.  Refined carbohydrates like white bread, bagels, bakery and the like are NOT helpful and increase the production of AGEs.

Vitamins and Minerals

Vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc, selenium and antioxidants have been investigated as being helpful in wound healing.  While supplementation with high doses of single nutrients has not been shown to help, using a good quality well-balanced multivitamin is smart.  After all, if only 5% of Americans get all the nutrients they need from their diet, who doesn’t need a multivitamin?  And if deficiencies slow down wound healing, those with slow-healing wounds would benefit even more!

Unfortunately many Americans are badly malnourished.  Those with very low or very high body mass index (BMI) are most at risk of significant malnutrition.

How do you know if someone is malnourished?  They may or may not lose a lot of weight, especially if they were obese to start with.  Low blood albumin levels are a clue, as is swelling (edema).  The edema may be mostly in the legs, but the arms and abdomen may be puffy and swollen too.  They are weak, and there may be a big change in their strength and ability to take care of themselves.

People who are malnourished will have loss of muscle and fat tissue.  A good place to look is at the temples.  If the temples look bony and it’s easy to feel the skull bones and see the bones of the eye sockets, it is suggestive of malnutrition.

If you know anyone with a chronic wound, especially if they are diabetic, encourage them to see their doctor and work hard to get their blood sugar under control.  Good blood sugar control slows the production of AGEs and decreases inflammation.

Also, make sure they are getting plenty of protein and taking a high-quality multivitamin.  Antioxidants and fish oil may be helpful as well.  If your doctor isn’t able to make recommendations about specific supplements, you’re welcome to reach out to me or get a quick assessment at jenniferwurstmd.com/healthprint.

Chronic wounds are tough to heal.  In addition to careful wound care and avoiding pressure on the wound, attention to a healthy diet and smart supplementation are practical steps you can take to speed up the healing process.

QUESTION: Have you known anyone with a chronic wound?  What did it take to heal it?

Share

Update From Shaklee Global Conference

Hello Shaklee family!  This week I’m in Las Vegas for our annual Shaklee Global Conference.  Three days of training, team-building and renewing connections with others who care just as much about health and wellness as I do 🙂

August also marks my sixth anniversary of this website!  I started blogging and wrote my first post in August 2012.  Interestingly enough, that year’s Shaklee Global Conference was in Las Vegas as well.  The more things change, the more they stay the same!

Product Changes

There are big changes to a few of Shaklee’s key product lines this year.  The first one is a reformulation of Shaklee’s Life Shake.  It has always been an effective protein supplement and central to the Shaklee 180 weight loss program.  Shaklee is always working on improving products though, and they have been hearing feedback that our customers feel the shake has too much sugar.

Not anymore!  The new Life Shake has ZERO added sugar and less than 1 gram of carbohydrate per serving.  It is a great choice for those on the ketogenic diet and all of our Paleo friends.  Shaklee has stopped adding probiotics to the shake (more on probiotics later) but it has a new ancient-grain-based prebiotic fiber blend to continue to support gut health.  In addition, there are digestive enzymes added to also support healthy and comfortable digestion.

The Life Shake is still gluten free (all the weight loss products are) and now is completely plant based, because Shaklee was able to find a plant source of the amino acid leucine which is critical to protecting muscle mass during weight loss.  It is available in soy and non-soy-based versions, four delicious flavors, and was taste-tested against the leading retail brand of protein shake, and WON.  9 out of 10 tasters in a blind taste test preferred the taste of the new Shaklee Life Shake 🙂

Several of the people who have been secretly testing the newly formulated Life Shake said they had less bloating and lost inches around their waist without really trying.  One man WAS trying and lost 36 pounds in 9 weeks!  Wow!

We also have four new additions to the YOUTH skin care line.  I had a number of customers try the YOUTH Anti-Aging Regimen and have to stop because it irritated their skin.  Shaklee has unveiled the YOUTH Hydrating Collection for those who have sensitive or dry skin or who aren’t as interested in anti-aging products!  These products are also available as a package to start and as individual items to replace as you use them up.

Clinical testing is part of how Shaklee rolls, and the Hydrating products are no difference.  Women had a tripling of the measurable hydration of their skin after one application of YOUTH Moisture Activating Serum.  There is also a new YOUTH Moisture Lock Day Cream to lock in the moisturizing effects.  Want to try it yourself?  I’ll be hosting after-conference events, watch your email for your invitation!  The first one will be Sunday, 8/26 at 9 AM at the Coffee Club on Broadview Road in Broadview Hts, OH.

If you enjoy pampering yourself with a facial every now and then, you’ll love these next two products.  The YOUTH Hydrating Gel Mask applies soothing deep hydration, and the YOUTH Purifying Clay Mask removes impurities to reveal healthy skin.  I haven’t used them myself, I’ll be able to try them when I get home.  Can’t wait!

As always, Shaklee’s products are backed by an unconditional guarantee.  Also, our skin care products are free of 2500 harmful or questionable ingredients so you can be confident our products are safe for your skin, responsibly sourced, and gentle for our environment.

One last product to tell you about, and that’s Shaklee’s new Optiflora DI.  This is a brand new probiotic supplement that has grown out of the explosion of recent research on the effect of our microbiome on our health.  Our microbiome consists of the trillions of bacteria that live in our digestive tract, oral cavity, genital tracts and on our skin.  They outnumber our own cells ten-to-one and influence our health in countless ways.  The research is moving FAST and it’s clear that just about every system from our digestion to our brain is affected by the health of our microbiome.

Optiflora DI contains healthy bacteria proven to support healthy digestion AND healthy immunity.  With 70% of our immune system living in our gut, a healthy population of microorganisms helps keep our immune system healthy.

Business Changes

Shaklee has also has made big improvements to our business support that will help business people like me keep connected to our customers while on the go.  Better follow up will help keep my customers supported in meeting their health goals!

If you’re one of the over 50% of people age 21 to 65 who would like to work to build your own dream instead of someone else’s, who want more time freedom or just want a side gig to earn extra income, please let me know.  Shaklee’s business opportunity may very well not be right for you, it’s not right for everyone!  But we won’t know until we talk it over 🙂

QUESTION: Which of Shaklee’s new products is most interesting to you?  Are you interested in learning more about Shaklee’s business opportunity?

Share

The Best Way To Control Your Blood Sugar

Don’t eat fruit.  Don’t eat meat.  Don’t eat sugar.  Eat before exercising.  Exercise while fasting.  Don’t eat after 7 PM.

If you read books by the popular health gurus or look at Facebook posts you can get completely confused by all the conflicting advice offered for diabetics.  What is the best way for a diabetic to control their blood sugar?

Get To And Maintain A Healthy Weight

The most important thing to do to get blood sugar under control is to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.  Just that one thing will get most of our diabetics to good blood sugar control, even without medication.

It isn’t even all that critical to get to a “normal” weight for blood sugar to improve.  Even losing just 5% of body fat (10 pounds for those starting at 200 pounds) has been shown to improve glycemic control.

I have a lot of patients who ask me what they SHOULD weigh.  I tell them I’m not sure, but let’s start with 5 pounds.  The same skills that get rid of the first 5 pounds will get rid of the first 100 pounds, you just have to stick with it!

For those who are looking for a healthy, effective, simple weight loss program, I always recommend the Shaklee 180 program.  If you’re interested in more information, please click this link to check it out.  If you like to watch videos, here’s one on my YouTube channel that’s very informative.

Eat Real Food

A lot of people are afraid of eating carbohydrates.  So many people want to eat Paleo, keto, low-carb…  The list goes on!  There are a lot of problems with trying so desperately to avoid carbs that you swing the pendulum WAY in the other direction and eat more meat and dairy.  Any diet that gets you to avoid eating processed food is a step in the right direction, but plant foods are much healthier than animal based foods.

The only diet that has been shown to improve health in diabetics (blood sugar control AND heart and vascular health) is the plant-based diet.  That means fruits and veggies, root vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds and whole unprocessed grains.

I always laugh when keto and Paleo people try to say fruit is unhealthy.  Come on, now.  Anyone who tells you steak, bacon, sausage and cheese are healthy but apples will make you fat is either misinformed or outright lying to you!

A word on sweeteners.  Be aware that artificial sweeteners are not a good choice, and all sweeteners that contain calories are pretty much the same.  For instance, high-fructose corn syrup, table sugar, agave syrup and honey all impact the body about the same.  You should reduce ALL of them, and avoid artificial sweeteners altogether.

Smart Supplementation

There are a few nutrients that are helpful for maintaining blood sugar control.  For instance, chromium supplementation is well-known for helping to improve glycemic control.  In fact, there was a smallish study published out of Iran that found about 1/3 of diabetics actually have deficiencies in chromium.  (I think I might have to start testing my patients and prescribing a supplement!)

Other nutrients are helpful for diabetics, like vanadium and zinc.  The amino acid taurine also is protective and improves blood sugar control.  Magnesium is important for everybody but especially those with diabetes, high blood pressure, and increased cardiovascular risk.

Shaklee’s Glucose Regulation Complex is based on solid scientific research and formulated to promote healthy blood sugar levels.  If you’re interested, you can check this link to learn more about it.

Diabetes is getting more and more prevalent.  Two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese, which seriously increases their risk of diabetes.  Losing weight, eating real food and smart supplementation are things you can do to improve blood sugar control.

QUESTION: Are you diabetic? What do you find helpful in controlling your blood sugar?

Share

CBD Oil – Is It Legal?

Lincoln is a young patient of mine who suffers with a number of medical problems.  He sees a host of physicians who haven’t had much success in controlling his symptoms.  Lincoln finds it very difficult to manage his life day-to-day.  He has a history of addiction problems and recently confided that smoking marijuana helps with his pain, his anxiety and with sleep.

I’ve advised him that, particularly as an asthmatic, smoking marijuana isn’t a smart idea.  At his last visit, he was proud to tell me that he had switched to using marijuana edibles rather than cigarettes, and was looking into CBD oil.  He assured me that CBD oil was legal to use in all 50 states and that it did not contain THC so there were no concerns about drug testing.

Is this true?

Well, in a word, no.  If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is, right?  Cannabidiol (CBD) oil from cannabis is legal over-the-counter only in states that have legalized recreational marijuana, and can be legally used by prescription in states that have legalized medical marijuana.  17 other states have CBD-specific laws, the list can be seen here on WebMD.

Hemp oil, which is legal, has only very small and inconsistent levels of CBD.  Most supplements don’t tell you what amounts of CBD are in them.  There’s a good reason for that.  According to the FDA, CBD oil cannot be sold as a dietary supplement.  Companies are hoping that by NOT labeling their products as containing CBD they will escape the FDA’s oversight.

I checked with Amazon and found a HUGE number of hemp oil supplements being marketed for reducing chronic pain, anxiety, insomnia and other symptoms.  THIS IS ILLEGAL.  As someone who markets supplements, I was cringing as I was reading the Amazon listings.  These companies are asking for HUGE fines from the FDA.

Another issue with CBD oil is that there is very little evidence that it works for anything.  The best evidence is for treating certain severe types of seizures, and in fact there is a formulation called Epidiolex which is working its way through the FDA approval process as a new drug.

There is only weak evidence for CBD oil helping anxiety, insomnia, chronic pain, inflammation or any other problem in humans.  Some animal trials have been done but they are of limited use.

Also, testing of CBD oils from cannabis showed over 60% of products didn’t have the amount of CBD shown on the label.  Some had more, some had less.  Worse, 20% of tested products were contaminated with THC, which is psychoactive (causing the “high”) and potentially causing positive drug tests.  Those who must take random drug tests as part of their employment should not use CBD oils.

CBD oils are not perfectly safe either.  It is fairly common to have increased liver enzymes, and the products can interact with medications too.

In Ohio, medical marijuana has been legalized but the infrastructure isn’t in place with dispensaries and training for medical personnel yet.  Everything is targeted to be in place later this year.  Presumably at that point those who are trained to prescribe medical marijuana will also be able to prescribe CBD oil for those who prefer a treatment with no risk of intoxication or dependence.

In the meantime it is important to remember these points:

  • CBD oil use without a prescription is against the law in states without legalized medical marijuana, recreational marijuana use, or special state provisions.
  • CBD oil cannot be sold as a nutritional supplement by FDA regulations
  • Hemp oil, which is legal, has very inconsistent levels of CBD and cannot be marketed with drug claims (such as reducing anxiety or pain or fighting cancer)
  • There is no consistent evidence that CBD is effective for anything other than intractable seizures
  • CBD has side effects of its own and can interfere with medications

QUESTION:  Have you or someone you love tried CBD oil?  What was your experience?

Share

“Adrenal Support” Supplements Contain Hormones

Yet again we have evidence that supplement companies are either not testing their products or are deliberately adding pharmaceuticals to their supplements.

In a report released in March, researchers at the Mayo Clinic purchased bottles of the twelve most popular “adrenal support” supplements at a “popular online shopping website.”  The publication does NOT specify which website or which supplements were tested, more’s the pity.

The researchers analyzed the products and found that ALL of the products contained thyroid hormone.  UNDISCLOSED thyroid hormone.  This means that if someone who took these products was also taking thyroid medication for hypothyroidism, the supplement may very well disrupt their treatment and make adjusting their medication dose very difficult.  For instance, one of the supplements contained 1.2 mcg of liothyronine per recommended daily dose.  Those who take liothyronine (brand name Cytomel) will know that the smallest dose tablet is 5 mcg which means this particular supplement DEFINITELY would have affects on someone’s thyroid function.

Other hormones found in these “adrenal support” supplements include pregnenolone and 17-hydroxyprogesterone (female hormones), androstenedione (male hormone), budesonide, cortisone and cortisol (adrenal hormones).  These hormones are present in biologically meaningful amounts.  They are NOT just contaminants and unimportant.  These hormones will change the way the body functions.

I know WHY they are in these supplements.  A number of these supplements have declared animal gland extracts documented on the labels.  (I wrote in a previous post about why this is problematic.)  However, a number of these are considered “herbal” adrenal support supplements with NO gland extracts.  There is NO way these hormones got into “herbal” supplements by accident.

Why would a supplement company “dope” their adrenal support supplements with hormones?  Easy.  They can improve fatigue symptoms, which is what these supplements are marketed for.  However, the hormonal environment in the body is very finely balanced, and supplements with undisclosed and unregulated hormone ingredients are NOT the way to go about treating fatigue!

If you have fatigue symptoms PLEASE see your doctor, nurse practitioner or naturopath and have testing done BEFORE starting any supplement that promises to fix your “adrenal fatigue.”  Especially beware of and avoid any product that has the words “bovine,” “porcine” or “ovine” anywhere on the label, because those indicate ingredients that come from cow, pig or sheep body parts.  (Ewww…)

If you choose to use supplements (and I definitely recommend that you do, because only 5% of Americans get all the nutrition they need from their diet on a daily basis), be sure to choose a company with a long track record of safety, quality testing, and a commitment to advancing the understanding of human nutrition for the benefit of all humanity.  This is why I partner with the Shaklee Corporation!

Want to see if you would benefit from Shaklee supplements (and get personalized recommendations for diet and lifestyle changes to get and stay healthier)?  Click this link to get your HealthPrint today!

QUESTION: Do you have fatigue?  Have you tried supplements to improve your symptoms?  What was your experience?

Share

Reduce Colds And Flu With Vitamin D

How many colds and bouts of bronchitis do you have in any given winter?  Two?  Three?  Or are you one of those people who gets over one cold just to come down with the next?

Are you envious of those who don’t ever seem to get sick?  What if I told you the difference could be in your blood?  AND that it’s something EASY to change?

Turns out taking a vitamin D supplement reduces the risk of acute respiratory infections!  I’ve written about vitamin D before.  This nutrient has a lot of health benefits that we’re just starting to understand.  It helps keep bones strong.  It has mental health benefits.  Vitamin D levels are linked to the risk for multiple sclerosis.  We really don’t understand everything about how vitamin D works.

Credit: https://www.humnutrition.com/

Researchers in the UK wanted to know if there was a link between vitamin D levels and risk of colds and flu.  Specifically, they wanted to know if vitamin D supplements helped prevent respiratory infections.

Last year their study was published in the British Medical Journal.  They analyzed 25 other papers involving over 11,000 people to see if there was evidence that vitamin D supplements protect against respiratory infection.

They found that people who took vitamin D supplements did have a lower risk of acute respiratory infection, but the effect was pretty modest.  Overall, those who took vitamin D supplements had a 40.3% risk of acute respiratory infection, while those who didn’t had a 42.2% risk.

Not a big effect, right?  Well let’s look deeper, OK?  The authors looked at those who were deficient to begin with, having a blood level less than 25 nmol/L, and found that with supplementation the risk dropped from 55% to 40.5%

The authors also wanted to know if it mattered how you took your vitamin D.  In Europe apparently it’s common to give a huge dose (>30,000 IU) every once in awhile, called bolus dosing.  In the US we usually dose daily or weekly instead.

The study found that bolus dosing was NOT effective, and if you just looked at the studies that gave the vitamin D supplements on a daily or weekly schedule the effect was quite dramatic.

Those who started with low vitamin D levels saw their risk of upper respiratory infections drop from 59.8% to 31.5%.  That is a huge drop!  The fact that correcting deficiency had such a big effect is good evidence that this is real and not just statistical fancy footwork or a coincidence.

They also found a big drop (46.2% to 33.6%) in children aged 1-16 years who were supplemented with vitamin D.  Since kids in school are exposed to germs all the time, this reduction is very important.

How can we use this information?  If you live in northern Ohio (or anywhere north of 40 degrees north latitude) you ARE vitamin D deficient unless you are taking a supplement.  So everyone in Cleveland needs to take a supplement all year ’round.  You also should have your levels checked periodically by your doctor or health practitioner.

I prefer to have my patients take their vitamin D every day rather than once per week.  It is easier to remember to take something every day, just make it part of your morning routine.  The best dose I’ve found is 2000-3000 units daily.  What is in your multivitamin is NOT enough.

While taking a vitamin D supplement is helpful, there’s more to staying healthy and warding off colds and flu than taking vitamins.  Make sure you’re washing your hands regularly.  Drink plenty of fresh clean water, get enough sleep, and watch your stress levels.  Stress depresses the immune system so if you’re feeling overwhelmed make sure to beef up your self-care routine!

If you’re a Shaklee customer of mine, please check out Vita D3.  It’s an inexpensive way to add insurance for heart, bone AND immune health!  If you’re not already a Shaklee family member, why not click this link to get your personalized health assessment?  There’s no cost and no commitment, just individual recommendations for diet and lifestyle changes (and smart supplementation of course) to meet your health goals.

I have so many friends and patients suffering cold after cold this winter.  Now you have one more tool in the toolbox to keep you well!

QUESTION: Do you take vitamin D every day?

Share

Probiotics And Cancer, What’s The Link?

Cancer is an unfortunate reality in my line of work.  Screening for it, thinking about it, looking for it in patients with a large variety of symptoms, and figuring out how to break the news to patients when we find it take up a lot of my time and energy.

I would love it if cancer were LESS of a reality in my job.

That’s one of the reasons I was so excited to read reports of studies showing that a certain type of supplement can be helpful in the prevention and treatment of cancer.  What is the link between probiotics and cancer?

There has been some recent research published showing a role for probiotics for treatment and prevention of some types of cancer.  Those who have a more diverse population of bacteria in their intestinal tracts seemed to respond better to some types of cancer treatment.  Also, those who have had their microbiome (a collective term for all the non-human organisms that live on and in our bodies) damaged by antibiotics don’t respond as well to cancer therapy.

Why does this link to probiotic supplements?  Well we can modify our microbiome by changing our diet and by taking probiotic supplements.

What is the microbiome?

Our microbiome is all the bacteria, fungi, protozoa and viruses that live on and in our body.  In fact, there are 10 times as many organisms in our microbiome as there are cells that are “us.”  We are walking, talking colonies of nonhuman microscopic organisms!  They influence our mood and the inflammatory state of our body, they make vitamins for us and have a huge influence in general on the state of our health.  They even digest our complex carbohydrates for us!

One of the most important ways the microbiome influences our health is by modulating our immune system.  Our immune system interacts with the microbiome in ways we are just starting to explore.  We know there is an association between autoimmune disorders like Crohn’s disease and alterations of the microbiome known as dysbiosis.  Healthy immunity influences our ability to fight infection and also affects our ability to identify and eliminate abnormal cells before cancer gets a foothold and starts to grow.

How can we influence the microbiome?

There are three significant ways we can change our microbiome to be healthier.  First is to eat a healthy diet low in processed foods, artificial food ingredients and added sugar, and high in whole fresh plant foods.  Soluble and insoluble fiber are our healthy helpful bacteria’s favorite food.  We should get at least 30 grams of fiber in our diet every day.  Not sure how much you’re getting?  You can use a calorie tracker like MyFitnessPal which gives you your daily intake of macronutrients like protein, carbohydrates, fat and fiber.

Soluble fiber turns into goo when you cook it.  Think of beans, apples and oatmeal – three great sources of soluble fiber.  Insoluble fiber doesn’t care if you cook it, it stays hard and rough.  The ribs of celery and the brown coats of brown rice grains are good examples.

A second thing that really influences our microbiome is taking antibiotics.  There is research that shows the gut microflora can have changes that persist for years after a single 7-day course of antibiotics.  We really need to resist the temptation to seek antibiotics for every little cold and respiratory illness that comes along.

The third way we can influence our gut microflora is to take probiotics.  These are supplements that contain living bacteria in a form that is protective from the stomach acid.  They deliver the bacteria to the intestine where they can change the balance of bacteria from more-harmful to more-helpful.

There is research that shows that probiotic supplements can have a role in both the prevention and the treatment of cancer which is really exciting, because they are so very safe, inexpensive and easy to take.

Prevention

There isn’t a lot of research yet published about probiotics and cancer prevention.  However, it is feasible that probiotics may be protective against cancer by strengthening the immune system.  Probiotics also can act by changing the microbiome to a more healthy population of bacteria.

For example, one study did show that soy milk fermented with probiotics has been suggested to be protective against the development of breast cancer, although more study is needed.  Also, the cells lining the colon use the short-chain fatty acid butyrate for most of their energy needs.  Butyrate forms from the fermentation of soluble fiber by bacteria in the colon.  It promotes the growth of healthy colonocytes as well as suppression of proliferation (i.e. cancer formation).  Colon cancer is associated with a relative lack of butyrate-forming bacteria as well as with a lack of fiber in the diet.  Increasing fiber in the diet encourages the growth of butyrate-forming bacteria.  This explains the decrease in colon cancer risk with higher fiber intake.

Treatment

This is brand new and really exciting.  The idea that the success of cancer treatment can be influenced by probiotic therapy is pretty radical.  Probiotic supplements can also be used to decrease unpleasant symptoms caused by conventional treatments.  For instance, probiotic supplements were successful in preventing and treating diarrhea caused by chemotherapy and abdominal and/or pelvic radiation.  

Ultimately, it is better to prevent than to treat cancer, right?  Prevention depends on a healthy diet based largely on plants with plenty of fiber.  Fiber may be the single most important nutrient we can take in our diet, as far as cancer prevention goes.  This is largely due to its profound influence on our intestinal microbiome.  Probiotic supplements have their role too as a way to fairly quickly influence the microbiome in a positive direction.

For those who are new to the blog and/or not aware, I choose Shaklee supplements for myself and my family.  I also recommend them for my patients and friends.  You can check this page to see why.  Click this link to browse my online store and this link to specifically check out the OptiFlora probiotic supplement.  Please feel free to email me with any questions you may have.

QUESTION: Are you concerned about your personal risk for cancer?  Do you get enough fiber in your diet?  Do you take a probiotic supplement?

Share

New Goals For Blood Pressure Control

Well it’s happened.  For the last 6 months I’ve been warning my patients that the powers-that-be are going to be tightening up the goals for blood pressure control.  This week the American Heart Association, the American College of Cardiologists and a number of other professional organizations released new blood pressure control guidelines.

Why now?  For years the definition of hypertension has been a blood pressure over 140/90 for patients under 60 years of age, and over 150/90 for patients 60 and over.

There have been a number of new studies published showing that patients with blood pressure over 130/80 are at higher risk for heart attack, stroke and kidney disease due to the wear-and-tear of elevated pressures on the circulatory system. Our hearts and blood vessels and kidneys were not designed to deal with elevated blood pressures for long periods of time.

My cardiology colleagues hate when I compare the circulatory system to a water pump and piping, but the analogy works.  Too much pressure and the pump wears out sooner.  Too much pressure and the pipes can fail.  In the case of the living tissues of the human circulatory system, too much pressure strains the pipes and the chronic injury heals as scarring which shows up as plaque.  Too much pressure and the delicate filters of the kidneys get damaged.

I’ve known for a long time our guidelines were wrong.  Any number of times I’ve had patients with “normal” blood pressure need an echocardiogram (heart ultrasound) for a murmur or some other problem.  When the echo is done the report mentions that the heart muscle is stiff (called diastolic dysfunction).  Why does the heart muscle get stiff?  From chronically working against too-high blood pressure.  I treat my patients with diastolic dysfunction with blood pressure medication, regardless of the numbers I get with the BP meter.  My goal is typically to lower the top number and bottom number both by 10 points.

Why treat patients with diastolic dysfunction with blood pressure medication?  Because whatever the numbers, their heart is telling us that THE PRESSURE IS TOO HIGH.  The heart is working too hard, “lifting weights” like the big muscle-bound guys at the gym, and the heart muscle is too thick and stiff to function properly.

These new guidelines are actually not as aggressive as I expected.  The SPRINT trial, one of the primary drivers of the new guidelines, actually showed that controlling blood pressure below 120/80 saves lives from heart attacks and strokes and prevented the development of kidney disease.

Here is a picture graphic showing the new guidelines:

What are we supposed to do with patients whose blood pressures are considered “elevated” or “high?” We are SUPPOSED to start with lifestyle changes.  “Aggressive” lifestyle changes, in fact.  Yay!  That is right up my alley!  Unfortunately, many doctors are likely to skip the lifestyle change talk and move right to medications.

We cannot medicate away a bad lifestyle.  This is something I teach my students in no uncertain terms.  If a person wants to be healthy you MUST start with a healthy lifestyle.

A healthy lifestyle means avoiding smoking, excessive alcohol and other harmful substances.  It means eating more fresh whole colorful plant foods, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds and healthy fats and avoiding or limiting animal foods like animal flesh, eggs and dairy.  A healthy lifestyle means drinking fresh clean water instead of soda and juice.  It means getting plenty of sleep, plenty of exercise and plenty of fresh air and time in nature.  A healthy lifestyle means doing what you can to minimize toxic stress and your exposure to negative, toxic people.  Respecting your body, respecting your mind and respecting your spirit are integral to health.

Supplements have their place as well.  I have patients for whom the only blood pressure “medication” needed is a magnesium supplement once or twice daily.  Fish oil can also help to reduce blood pressure especially in doses over 2000 mg daily.  Please reach out to me if you’d like more information on using supplements to help with elevated blood pressure.

If the next time you’re at the doctor you’re told your blood pressure is too high, please make sure to discuss diet, exercise, other lifestyle changes, weight loss and supplements with your doctor.  If your blood pressure is over 150/90 you likely will need medication right away, but don’t give up on the lifestyle changes.  One of my favorite things to do is to take patients OFF of blood pressure meds!  It definitely happens often enough to keep me hoping 🙂

So these new guidelines mean we’re going to be prescribing more medications but also hopefully that we will be pushing harder on people to make healthier lifestyle choices.  Which ultimately will be good for us all.

QUESTION: Do you have high blood pressure?  Are you sure?  Do you think the next time you see your doctor you will be discussing your blood pressure?

Share