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, substances like orthophosphate added during water treatment, 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 2018 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 $2.21 per gallon and leaves you with lots of plastic bottles to deal with.  Shaklee’s Year of Get Clean Water costs just 33 cents per gallon at member price, 39 cents per gallon at retail price.  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 retail price.

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-win situation!

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

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Cherry Extract Health Benefits

What if I told you there was a supplement that improves blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes control, decreases inflammation, reduces muscle soreness after exercise and improves markers of oxidative stress?

No, I’m not channeling Morpheus from the Matrix. There is such a supplement. Cherry extract has all these benefits and is becoming a very popular supplement.

Higher intakes of fruits and vegetables are associated with lower inflammatory markers and lower overall disease burden in humans. We are meant to eat lots of fruits and vegetables. Most of us don’t get the number of servings we need.

Credit: https://heartsandmindspurehealth.com

Fruits that contain polyphenols (red and blue pigments that are powerful antioxidants) have incredible health benefits for our bodies. Besides cherries, red, blue and purple fruits like berries and pomegranates are rich in polyphenols. If it will stain a white shirt, it probably is good for you!

I was looking for scientific support for the cherry extract claims and found a great article published in 2018 that summarizes the current research.

  • Better control of blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol
  • Lower markers of inflammation and oxidative stress
  • Decreased uric acid and gout attacks
  • Less pain, muscle damage and recovery time after exercise
  • Better sleep
  • Decreased anxiety and improved memory and mood

Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find any third-party quality testing guidance on cherry extract supplements. If you’ve been following the blog for awhile you know I always recommend supplements from the Shaklee Corporation, and you can click this link to read about why.

Shaklee’s PM Recovery Complex is part of the Performance line of sports products and was developed to reduce muscle damage and pain after exercise. From now until the end of July this product is on sale for a 15% reduced price. Even better, from now until 7/21 Shaklee is offering free membership with any purchase!

Shaklee membership is forever and provides a 15% discount on product purchases AND you get me! Your distributor is there to provide personalized guidance based on your health goals and preferences and help handle any problems. We get to know our Shaklee family members so as to take care of them and help them live their best and healthiest life ūüôā

If you have any concerns about your blood pressure, blood sugar or cholesterol, have joint pain or other inflammatory conditions, or struggle with mood and sleep problems, you might want to give cherry extract a try. If you try it with Shaklee you’re not taking any risk – it’s guaranteed to help you!

QUESTION: Have you heard of cherry extract supplements? Have you tried them?

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Glucosamine And Joint Pain

Ellie is an older lady I see for high blood pressure and high cholesterol.  She is a sweetheart who until recently worked in a day care.  A few years ago she came to me worried that she might have to stop working because her joints were hurting her too much to keep up with her toddlers.

Changing diapers, tying shoes and bending and lifting were really taking their toll.  She was interested in ANYTHING that would help her feel better and able to keep doing what she loved.  We talked about trying glucosamine because she had used anti-inflammatories and they bothered her stomach.  She also was worried about her heart risk with NSAIDs.

A significant proportion of adults use glucosamine for joint pain.  One survey of over 10,000 American women reported 15% take glucosamine.  What is the evidence that glucosamine is helpful for joint pain?

First of all what is glucosamine?  Glucosamine is a sugar-protein hybrid molecule that is used by the body to make and repair cartilage and produce fluid to lubricate joints.  Tendons and ligaments which support joints also contain glucosamine.

Most people are familiar with using anti-inflammatories like Aleve and ibuprofen for joint pain.  They are effective for short-term relief of pain but they have significant side effects.  They are hard on the GI tract and increase the risk of stomach ulcers.  They block the effect of aspirin in heart disease patients (if you take aspirin for your heart do NOT take over-the-counter NSAIDs without talking to your doctor).  And they do not prevent the progression of osteoarthritis, which is the slow progressive loss of cartilage in the joints.

How does glucosamine compare to NSAIDs in improving joint comfort in arthritis?  Studies have shown that glucosamine is as good as celecoxib (brand name Celebrex) and significantly better than placebo at improving both joint pain and joint function.  As mentioned above, celecoxib (an NSAID) caused stomach upset and glucosamine did not.

What else can be done to improve arthritis?  In one study comparing glucosamine and exercise, both treatments significantly improved joint pain.  However, exercise was also effective at improving the thickness of the cartilage cushion.  So if you have arthritis, get moving!  Exercise helps the joints heal in addition to improving pain.

About a month after starting Shaklee’s Joint Health Complex, Ellie reported she felt significantly better, but what happened a few months later really made my day.¬† I caught up with her to see how she was feeling and she said she’d been meaning to call me.

“Guess what happened?” she said.¬† “I took a basket of laundry up the stairs.”

Puzzled, I said “That’s great,” thinking “okaaaaay…”

“No, you don’t understand,” she replied.¬† “I normally have to stand at the bottom of the stairs and get ready to go up, knowing it’s going to hurt my knees.¬† I just found myself at the top of the stairs one day, and my knees were OK.¬† Sore (because they’re always sore), but OK.”

I got it.¬† Not only was she not hurting as much, she wasn’t AFRAID of hurting.¬† She wasn’t limiting herself anymore out of fear of joint pain.¬† She was just going about her life and getting done what needed done.¬† And that’s the best result of all!

Are you limiting yourself?¬† Are you afraid to do things because of joint pain?¬† Why not try Shaklee’s Joint Health Complex?¬† After all, if it doesn’t help there’s no risk.¬† As always, Shaklee’s products have a money-back guarantee.

We have special pricing for Joint Health Complex this month because it’s Men’s Health Month.¬† Until June 30th, Joint Health Complex is 15% off – so don’t wait to order!

Don’t miss out on any more bike rides, long walks and games of Frisbee or bocce with your family.¬† Click here to order Shaklee’s Joint Health Complex today!¬† Reach out to me at drjen@jenniferwurstmd.com for more information.

QUESTION: Do you suffer with joint pain?  Have you found anything that helps?

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Essential Fatty Acid Testing

Have you ever been told to take fish oil?¬† Well, as many times as you’ve heard that advice, I’ve probably told ten times that many people to take it.¬† How much should you take?¬† Well, I went over some rough guidelines in my blog about fish oil some time ago.

I was doing some reading some time ago and came across an article about doing blood tests to guide fish oil therapy.¬† Hey!¬† I didn’t even know blood tests were available to determine how much fish oil a person needed to take!¬† On I read…

Turns out, just like treating other problems of the blood chemistry (like electrolyte disturbances, low magnesium, high cholesterol and vitamin D deficiency) fish oil therapy can be guided by blood testing.  However, more information can be gotten from those blood tests than just how much fish oil a person should be taking.

Blood fatty acid testing can give an overall “wellness score” for the body.¬† It’s known that omega-3 fatty acids (like those found in fatty fish, flaxseed oil, borage seed oil and walnuts) are very good for you and are generally deficient in the Western diet.¬† On the other hand, omega-6 fatty acids (found in olive oil, corn oil and many other oils used in cooking and baking) are very prevalent in our diet.

In the body, a healthy ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids is about 1:1.  In other words, your polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) should be balanced between omega-3 and omega-6.  The more heavily skewed your blood PUFA levels are towards omega-6 fatty acids, the less healthy you are, in general.

A very brief scan of the literature revealed LOTS of evidence of positive health effects of a high omega-3/omega-6 ratio. For instance, higher ratios were protective against progression of prostate cancer, cognitive decline in the elderly, neurologic deterioration after acute stroke, and progression of coronary plaque after heart attacks (even when patients were taking a statin drug!).  Asthma patients with higher ratios have better outcomes and fewer symptoms.  Higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids were also associated with lower blood pressure.

There are two other fatty acids that can be measured, that give a lot of information about inflammation in the body.  Those fatty acid are arachidonic acid (AA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).  The ratio of AA to EPA is increased in inflammatory states.  The lower it is, the better.

So how can we use this research to help influence your health?  First you need to get tested.  If you have a cholesterol problem, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, or any other inflammatory condition, ask your doctor to order these tests:

  • Total omega-3 fatty acids
  • Total omega-6 fatty acids
  • Total polyunsaturated fatty acids
  • Arachidonic acid (AA)
  • Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)

The first measure to understand is the omega-3 fatty acid/total polyunsaturated fatty acid ratio.  Ideal would be about 50%.  To alter the ratio, you would eat more omega-3 fatty acids and less omega-6 fatty acids.  This would translate to eating more fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, anchovy, sardine and herring (SMASH is the acronym for fish with high omega-3 levels) and taking more fish oil supplements.  Using less cooking oils and eating less processed foods (which have added oils in them) is helpful too.

The second measure to calculate is the AA/EPA ratio.  The higher this ratio is, the more inflammation is present in your body.  A low level would be under 3, moderate is 3-6, elevated is 7-15, and high is >15.  If you have a high ratio, your best approach is to adopt a Mediterranean-type diet with lots of fresh colorful vegetables and fruit, fatty fish, lean meats in moderation, nuts and seeds.  Limit sugar, added oils and white starches.  Avoid food additives, especially partially-hydrogenated vegetable oils, like the plague.

These tests can be repeated to gauge progress.¬† If you make changes in your diet and add fish oil supplements, a repeat test can help to see if you’re moving in the right direction.

Don’t guess!¬† Test!¬† Then you’ll know whether your diet is helping nourish your body or if you’re causing inflammation and increasing your risk of a whole host of medical problems down the line.

QUESTION:  Do you think essential fatty acid testing would be helpful for you?  Why, or why not?

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Low Back Pain

You bend over to pick something up off the floor and suddenly feel a sharp pain in the low back.

You have a piece of furniture that REALLY belongs in the other corner of the room but you’re home alone.¬† It’s not that big, right?¬† I can move it myself.

You get home from work after 8 hours on your feet and think “I have to do something about my back.¬† I can’t handle another shift like that, the pain is too much.”

Do you have low back pain?¬† If so, you’re not alone.¬† Low back pain is one of the most common problems family doctors see.¬† From weekend warriors overdoing it at the gym, to sports injuries, to shoveling snow and pulling weeds and moving furniture, there are many ways to injure your back.

In fact, I’m having some trouble with MY low back this weekend!¬† Since yesterday afternoon I’ve had a sharp, aching pain in my right low back.¬† Standing up from sitting, rolling over in bed, picking things up off the floor and putting on my shoes have been an adventure today :-/

The most common cause of low back pain is a musculoskeletal injury.¬† For instance, you might slip on the ice and land on your back.¬† You also might lift something heavy or twist while carrying a baby. (That’s how I herniated a disc in my back over 10 years ago, bent over and twisted while putting my son in his crib.)

If you have low back pain, what do you do?¬† Well, of course the first thing to do is to see the doctor, especially if your pain is more than a simple “I overdid it” that goes away in a few days.¬† The doctor will ask questions about your pain, examine you, and may order tests and prescribe medicine to help you feel better.

When I see a patient with musculoskeletal back pain the first thing I do is to send them to physical therapy.  Most cases of low back pain are caused by two things: mechanical imbalance in the spine, and weak core support.  The therapists will help figure out what the patient is doing that might be making back pain worse (like bending and lifting improperly), teach strengthening exercises to address core weakness, and add treatments to relieve pain like traction, electrostim or ultrasound.

As I discussed in a previous post, chiropractic therapy is very helpful for low back pain as well.  Often manual therapy like massage and osteopathic or chiropractic adjustment can improve or relieve back pain very quickly.

If physical therapy and manual therapy don’t relieve symptoms in a few weeks we may discuss imaging like an Xray or MRI.¬† More serious problems may be present that need specialist care like injections or even surgery.

What are some of the danger signs that suggest low back pain is an urgent problem?¬† If you are having trouble emptying your bladder or controlling the bowels you need to see the doctor right away.¬† So-called “saddle anesthesia” which is numbness in the area between the legs (the part of you that would touch the saddle when riding horseback) may indicate damage to the spinal cord and should be checked out immediately.¬† Also, if you have a personal history of cancer then back pain could be a sign of a recurrence and should be reported to your doctor right away.

There are a few supplements that are helpful with musculoskeletal back pain.  Magnesium helps to relax muscles and can decrease pain from spasm.  Fish oil is helpful for painful conditions of all sorts, but you have to take a lot of it, as I wrote in a previous post.  Turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties.  (This is not an all-inclusive list, of course.)

Millions of people suffer with back pain every year.¬† Luckily most of the time it goes away without too much muss or fuss, with some simple strengthening exercises and pain-relieving medicines.¬† Most patients also benefit from some education on how to take good care of their back so the pain doesn’t come back.

Low back pain doesn’t have to take over your life!¬† It takes some time, work and patience, but straightening out the problems with your back is so worth the effort!

QUESTION: Do you have low back pain?  What have you found that helps?

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Multivitamin Benefits: Are They Good For You?

What do YOU think?

Anyone who knows me knows what my opinion is, but it’s been awhile since I sat down to review what the scientific research says about multivitamin benefits.

Many people believe that if they just eat healthy they will get all the nutrition they need.¬† Worse, health professionals like doctors and dietitians perpetuate this myth.¬† The research is very clear that people do NOT get all the nutrition they need from the food they eat.¬† Whether or not they SHOULD, they DON’T.

So if people are going around deficient in one or more nutrient every day, does supplementation help?  Can you get the nutrition you need from pills?

vitaminbottlesIn a word, no.¬† You can’t get all the nutrition you need from pills.¬† You need to eat healthy.¬† This is basically because we need to know that you need a nutrient before we can put it into a pill.¬† And whole-foods supplements (where they basically juice a food and dehydrate it and package what’s left into a pill) aren’t adequate because you’d have to take huge numbers of pills daily in order to get the content of a single piece of fruit or a vegetable.¬† You still need to eat healthy balanced meals and sensible portions of food.

So what’s a person to do?¬† The short answer is to eat healthy AND take a high-quality supplement.¬† I did a literature review and here are five studies from the 1980s to today.

1.¬† In 1985, a study was published examining¬†blood nutrient levels in female college students living on-campus and eating a diet specifically designed for them by the college dietician.¬† These young women’s blood nutrient levels were significantly improved by taking a multivitamin.

2.¬† A study of healthy adults over age 60 showed that those who took a multivitamin-mineral supplement spent one-third as many days sick with infection-related illness as those who did not take the supplement.¬† (My friend Amanda knows this is true.¬† Her kids don’t share nearly as many colds with her since she started taking Shaklee supplements!)

3.  Calcium and vitamin D supplementation have been shown to decrease the rate of bone loss in postmenopausal women (many studies demonstrate this).

4.  Use of an herbal supplement (marketed by the Shaklee Corporation under the trade name NutriFeron) was associated with  significantly decreased menopausal symptoms, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, and plasma triglycerides and LDL-cholesterol.  Researchers also found lower plasma hepatitis C viral levels in patients with chronic active hepatitis C and improved symptoms as well in study participants who used NutriFeron.

5.¬† Long-term users of a number of supplements produced by the Shaklee Corporation were shown to have lower blood pressure, better cholesterol profiles, lower levels of certain inflammatory markers, lower risk of diabetes and were more likely to rate their health as “good” or “excellent.”¬† Here is the study link.

There are many more studies I can cite, but I think you’ll agree that the evidence is clear that taking a carefully designed program of supplements including a high-quality multivitamin is an important ingredient in a healthy lifestyle.

I should add that all the research I discussed above was supported and published by Shaklee.  There are over 100 research studies published in peer-reviewed journals supported by Shaklee, which you can check out at the Shaklee Health Resource.  How many studies has your supplement company published?

If you’d like more information about what supplements would be appropriate for you, please fill out a HealthPrint assessment¬†or email me at drjen@jenniferwurstmd.com.

Question:  Do you take a multivitamin?  Do you think it makes you healthier?

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Fish Oil Is Good For Body And Mind

What if I told you there was a supplement that has proven to be good for your heart, your mind, your brain, your immune system, your joints, your digestive system AND improves women’s health?¬† There is!

It’s fish oil.¬† Yep, the lowly fish oil capsule can help ALL these parts of your body.

As you know, I’m very interested in nutrition and supplementation and their role in health.¬† It’s been fascinating to read research supporting the role of fish oil in general health.

I’m beginning to think EVERYONE from birth to death should take fish oil.

First let’s talk about all the physical and mental benefits of fish oil supplementation.¬† I’ll try to be brief!

HEART HEALTH

  • Reduces the risk of atrial fibrillation after heart attack
  • Reduces blood pressure
  • Eliminates aspirin resistance
  • Helps keep grafts open after bypass surgery
  • Decreases triglyceride levels
  • Improves heart function and decreases hospitalizations in heart failure patients
  • Inconclusive evidence about preventing both first and subsequent heart attacks

MENTAL HEALTH

  • Reduces anxiety symptoms by 20%
  • Prolongs remission and decreases depression symptoms in patients with bipolar disorder
  • Decreases depression symptoms and aggression in patients with borderline personality disorder
  • Decreases symptoms and promotes remission in major depression
  • Decreases psychotic symptoms in schizophrenia

BRAIN HEALTH

  • Improves cognition and behavior in children with developmental disorders
  • Inconsistent benefit in Alzheimer’s patients (some studies show benefit, some don’t)

IMMUNE RESPONSE / PAIN

  • Decreases pain and stiffness in rheumatoid arthritis
  • Decreases symptoms in systemic lupus
  • Decreases pain and the need for pain medication in patients with nonsurgical neck and back pain
  • Decreases need for rescue inhaler in exercise-induced asthma

DIABETES

  • Decreases risk of type I diabetes in children
  • Decreases insulin resistance in type II diabetes

WOMEN’S HEALTH

  • Significantly reduces menstrual symptoms in women
  • Reduces the frequency of menopausal hot flushes (but not their severity, unfortunately)
  • Decreases testosterone levels in women with PCOS
  • Decreases the rate of preterm birth when used in pregnancy

Wow, fish oil is good for such a long list of conditions and problems!¬† So how much fish oil is the right amount?¬† It depends on why you’re taking it, and what your diet is like.

In the USA we eat a LOT of omega-6 fatty acids.  They are found in nearly every oil used in cooking.  Omega-3 fatty acids are harder to get.  They are in flaxseeds, hemp seeds, purslane and walnuts as well as in fatty fish.

The best and safest sources of fish oil are small oily fish (like anchovies, sardines and herring) found low down on the food chain.¬† Fish high on the food chain (like tuna, mackerel and shark) tend to store up toxins from fish they’ve eaten, a phenomenon called bioaccumulation.

Recommended dosages vary based on why you’re taking it.¬† For general health purposes it’s reasonable to take 500-1000 mg daily.¬† Those with heart or vascular disease (including high cholesterol) should consider 1-3 gm daily.¬† Much higher doses are needed for those with autoimmune disease, neurological or psychiatric problems, or chronic pain.¬† A therapeutic trial of 5-10 gm daily is reasonable for these conditions.

Be careful which fish oil products you buy, some are not labeled accurately according to a review I found at ConsumerLab.com.  (I subscribe to this website because it gives me third-party testing results for all sorts of supplements.)

Want to know what fish oil my family and I take?¬† (Bet you can guess, if you’ve been reading this blog for awhile.)

OmegaGuard from the Shaklee Corporation is ultrapurified fish oil made from sardines.  Two capsules gives 1200 mg fish oil, free of mercury and other contaminants.

And no fish burps!  Yay!

Here’s a link to more information about OmegaGuard.¬† You can order it through this link.

QUESTION:  I was surprised to learn that fish oil was so effective in controlling chronic pain.  Was there one use for fish oil that surprised you?

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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.¬† That means you have to treat 53 people to keep one person URI-free.¬† (The rest either would have been URI free without the supplement, or would have still gotten respiratory infections in spite of the supplement.)

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%.¬† Your number needed to treat dropped from 53 to 7!

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%.  (NNT=3.5)  That is a huge impact!  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.  (NNT=8)  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 to make sure you’re taking enough of a supplement, because some people need more than others.

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 wondering how to get enough vitamin D, please check out Shaklee’s 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?

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Preventing Falls And Fractures

With the Snowpocalypse on its way this weekend I’ve been thinking about the rash of injuries that result from snow and ice every winter. Wrist fractures, back injuries, and the dreaded hip fracture happen when older adults slip and fall on snow and ice. What are some ways we have of preventing falls?

It’s obvious that preventing falls is much better than treating injuries when they happen. About 20% of hip fracture patients won’t leave the nursing home afterwards. Prevention strategies can be broadly divided into two categories: environmental measures and personal factors.

Environmental Measures

What can we do to make the environment safer and prevent falls? Snow removal and preventing the formation of ice (where possible) are obvious steps to take. Less obvious are installing railings on stairs, improving lighting, and placing awnings to prevent accumulation of snow and ice on landings and access points.

Personal Factors

Let’s face it, we live in northern Ohio. Snow and ice happen for about half the year. We can’t avoid it altogether and we can’t remove it all. So improving each person’s ability to avoid falls and avoid injury if they DO fall is critically important.

If you’re faced with ice and more snow than you’re comfortable with, stay home if possible. If you must go out, keeping one hand on something stable like a railing is smart when navigating stairs or other risky places. Using a cane if you have one can help.

Exercise, particularly Tai Chi, has been shown to reduce the risk of falls in senior adults. Better body awareness, better muscle strength and tone, and better balance are some of the benefits offered by regular exercise and Tai Chi in particular.

For the more adventurous, martial arts like jiu jitsu teach the student how to fall safely and reduce the risk of injuries in a fall. I myself have avoided serious injury in a fall not long ago, due to my training.

If you’re a woman over 60, make sure you’ve had a bone density (DEXA) test. This is a simple Xray that measures the strength of your bones. Using your bone density and other risk factors like age, gender and medical history, your doctor can estimate your fracture risk. If your fracture risk is high, you should discuss with your doctor what you can do to reduce your risk.

One important thing to do to keep your bones strong is to take vitamin D and a bone health supplement daily. Here in northern Ohio adults need 2000-3000 units of vitamin D every day, all year around. A lot of doctors tell patients to take calcium but bones need calcium, magnesium and vitamin D to be healthy. I recommend Shaklee’s OsteoMatrix which provides SMALL coated caplets proven to be well absorbed to support bone health.

Avoiding falls and avoiding injury from falls is very important. First, you have to stay on your feet. If a fall does happen, being able to fall safely and having strong bones to prevent fractures is critical.

QUESTION: Are you afraid of falls? What do you do to avoid them and stay safe?

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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?

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