supplement research

Cleanse? Or Conscious Change?

During this time of new beginnings, usually following decadent jubilation, people often feel the urge to cleanse their systems.  The mere thought of days of deprivation and unappealing foods, not to mention the time commitment, can make most people block out the idea. But a cleanse can represent a host of different approaches, and should certainly be tailored to suit everyone.  A cleanse is usually often a limited time regimen, where your intake is mostly pre-determined and you simply follow the instructions.  But what happens at the end of that?  Why not, instead, really think about your dietary habits and, if you find some room for improvement, make it so it creates a lasting positive health change?

Some examples of change might be: eliminating a craving for a not-so-healthy food, improve the overall quality of diet by finding substitutions foods that don’t offer substantial nutrients, increase fiber or hydration, or improve gut health.

If you have cravings to shed, you should think about why you tend to have a lot of that certain food – does it satisfy an instinct? Is it convenient? Is it all around you?  Identifying why we eat more of a food will help to find the right solution – if it makes us feel good, what other ways can we find to relax, or increase energy? If it’s a boredom thing, make sure to not have it around when you are otherwise unoccupied. If it’s a matter of convenience, take some time to plan a better alternative, throwing together a quick lunch for the next day is easy while you’re prepping dinner the night before.  Or look for alternatives wherever you frequent for lunch.

Making a substitution for an unhealthy food might simply mean making a healthier version of it at home from whole foods (even cookies – made at home with non-GMO ingredients and half the sugar).  It’s still a positive change!

If you aren’t well hydrated, contemplate ways to get water with flavor….teas, infusions (great little infuser bottle can be found @, even low-sugar, all-fruit juice with a few drops of stevia or lo han, all jazz up the taste buds and bring much needed lubrication to the body!

And gut health…plenty of supplements can be instrumental in improving this, from digestive enzymes and betaine hydrochloride, to herbs to soothe irritation, to probiotics to improve intestinal lining performance, which affects total body health.  If you prefer to address this from a dietary standpoint, foods such as apple cider vinegar, fermented foods, licorice, soothing teas, can all play a role in improving your body’s ability to break down, absorb, and utilize the good foods you are eating.

Now, about cleansing, reliable data does show that a properly formulated regimen truly can improve markers of liver enzyme function and detoxification, intestinal wall health, and control of cravings.  If you are looking for a kick start to a new way of eating, then a cleanse may well be a good way to springboard into it.  Make sure you find a regimen that will support your system with nutrients such as the B Vitamins (including folate, not folic acid), Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Zinc, Magnesium, Potassium, and Sodium.

Or, if you’ve been feeling great, maybe your resolve will simply be to continue on your healthy path.  Whichever route works best for you, if you have any thoughts or questions don’t hesitate to stop by and talk to our pharmacist to discuss!

Toss My Vitamins? Not Me!

I was recently made aware of a NY Times article entitled,  “Should We Toss Our Vitamins?” and asked my opinion.  The article is filled with vague statements such as “taking vitamins does not extend life” and [there is] “limited evidence that vitamin and mineral supplementation could prevent cancer or cardiovascular disease”.  One physician, speaking on a study she was involved with, concluded, “I do think there’s room for more research.”  First, let’s consider the true clinical significance of these statements.  In the field of medical research, data should be completely objective, yet there are several points which definitely add subjectivity:

                – Types of and quality of products tested – cheaply made multivitamins contain forms of nutrients which are known to be poorly absorbed or utilized

                -Lack of uniformity in subjects being tested – variables such as diet, exercise and metabolic genetic tendencies are often not controlled

                -Broad goals being measured – longevity, cancer (often without attempt to narrow down aspecific form), and cardiovascular health either connote a variety of parameters which would need to be addressed, or may be unrealistic to expect from a supplement, especially when lifestyle parameters are not accounted for

 Given the unreliable and very difficult-to-translate data, it might help to look at a review published in November, 2013, by the Journal of the American College of Nutrition (CLICK HERE FOR FULL TEXT).  After taking into account all of the challenging variables , their end statement was: “ Based upon the available scientific evidence to date, supplementation with MVMs does not appear to increase all-cause mortality, cancer incidence or mortality, or CVD incidence or mortality and may provide a modest protective benefit.”

I did not used to feel multivitamins were necessary for the average person, but I’m beginning to change my mind a bit.  It is a true challenge to take in all the basic nutrients our bodies need, even if we are the most vigilant foodies.  Data reported in the Journal of American College of Nutrition states: “They studied U.S. Department of Agriculture nutritional data from both 1950 and 1999 for 43 different vegetables and fruits, finding “reliable declines” in the amount of protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, riboflavin (vitamin B2) and vitamin C over the past half century.”  Reports of similar findings are easy to find, including a report by the Nutrition Security Council, which cites a decline from 400 mg to 55 mg in the sum of minerals (calcium, magnesium, and iron) found in cabbage, tomatoes, lettuce, and spinach.  That means our produce now is less than 15% as nutritious as it used to be!  We really need to eat a lot more spinach!!  But make sure it’s organic, or you may well offset all the extra minerals by taking on a large load of pesticides.

The high proportion of processed, grain-containing foods in the average person’s diet usually means that percentage of their diet is going to be low in nutrients, despite the fact that those foods are often “fortified”.  The nutrients which are used to fortify foods (folic acid, for example) are often not a high-quality form usable by the body.

And don’t forget about fats…the human body ideally wants a high ratio of omega 3:6, but again the high levels of omega 6’s found in processed foods make an adequate amount of omega 3 almost unattainable without taking in inordinate amounts of fish, which raises the risk of inadvertently taking in heavy metals or PCB’s.

In the end, although I feel nutrients from foods are the best form, getting enough from our diets has become increasingly difficult, even for the most disciplined eater.  The time involved in sourcing, purchasing, and preparing the most nutrient-dense foods can be overwhelming for many who already struggle to get all of their tasks taken care of.  Adding a multivitamin to help cover some of the bases can help ease the stress of trying to get the best nutrition.

From an economic standpoint, I believe the best  way to achieve optimal nutrition is to

                Eat whole, clean foods                               

Produce – organic is sometimes more expensive than conventional, so reserve it for the produce highest in pesticides – For a great guide, CLICK HERE.

Grains – use whole grains which are not commonly produced using GMO technology (spelt, quinoa, buckwheat, oats, etc.)

Eat clean meats and dairy products – again, somewhat more expensive, so reduce  serving sizes

Maintain good digestive health – make sure you are absorbing the nutrients from all the goodfood you are eating with proper stomach acidity, digestive enzymes, and a healthy intestinal lining

Take a quality multivitamin – this will set you back $20-$25/month, but provide very significant levels of minerals, trace minerals, and vitamins needed by the millions of different enzyme pathways in our bodies

Popping a multivitamin (especially a poorly formulated one) may not guarantee prevention of cancer, heart disease, or early death from any cause, particularly if it is not coupled with a healthy lifestyle.  However, I have experienced  overwhelming response from clients who have realized significant improvement in everything from digestive health to renewed energy and vitality when using a well-thought-out supplement regimen, especially when coupled with positive lifestyle changes.  Some of these improvements are purely subjective, as in “I feel so much better!” or “my abdominal pain is relieved”.  However, some are completely objective, as in homocysteine levels (a pro-inflammatory risk factor for heart disease and other issues, easily measured by blood test), which come down with a small combination of nutrients.

An optimal supplement regimen for you may or may not include a multivitamin, but it is far from accurate to proclaim quality nutrient products a “waste of money”.   A  large body of research on individual nutrients, which can be found by CLICKING HERE, supports the judicious use of supplements for optimal health.

Winter Wellness – Vitamin C

Ask just about anyone to name one vitamin that is helpful for colds and Vitamin C is bound to be the one named.  Dr. Linus Pauling is credited with sparking interest in Vitamin C, not only for immune function but beneficial effects on heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.  He personally used high doses of Vitamin C and felt it greatly reduced the number of colds he experienced.  His claims received much attention beginning in the 1970’s, so that numerous studies were conducted in the next 3 decades.  Analysis of these studies by Dr. Harri Hemila found an overall benefit in regards to prevention and duration.  Results were more favorable in groups of participants more prone to stress, whether through sports or jobs (e.g. soldiers).

These findings are well supported by work done by Dr. James Wilson, who has analyzed the role of Vitamin C in our stress response, including the proper production and use of cortisol, the stress hormone.  Perhaps the need for Vitamin C to prevent colds is even greater now than in the previous decades, owing to the fact that our lifestyles as a whole have become much more stressful?

Would taking Vitamin C be helpful for you?  To answer this you might look at benefit versus risk.  What are the risks of vitamin C supplementation?  It is a water-soluble vitamin and has shown remarkably low toxicity.  Because it enhances iron absorption, it is possible that it could lead to high levels of iron, so intake of iron should be assessed before taking mega-doses on a consistent basis.  The only other side effect which occurs regularly is diarrhea, which is actually used by many practitioners to serve as a guide to knowing what the correct dosage is for a patient.  It is commonly recommended that patients take 500 mg every hour until their stools are loose and watery, at which point they should stop and maintain a dosage 500 mg less than that which induced the effect.

Because it is water soluble and readily excreted, taking Vitamin C in smaller quantities throughout the day, and/or using a supplement which is sustained-release will increase its effects.

On a final note, Vitamin C absorption and usage has been shown to be enhanced in the presence of bioflavonoids, a large group of antioxidants from fruits and vegetables.  Using a Vitamin C supplement which contains a 2:1 ratio of Vitamin C: Bioflavonoids is the optimal  form for immune and stress-response support.  Since the basis for such a supplement is to mimic how Vitamin C is found in nature, it makes sense that incorporating plenty of raw vegetables and fruits which are high in Vitamin C would be the ideal form for overall health.  Produce with highest amounts of Vitamin C include oranges, grapefruits, sweet red pepper, broccoli, potatoes, and strawberries.  A daily diet including 2.5 cups of a variety of fruits and vegetables is estimated to contain roughly 200 mg of Vitamin C, which may be adequate for some, but may well create a need to supplement for individuals under various forms of stress.

Vitamin C may seem like an “old housewife” remedy, but its safety and usage are well documented and its availability is widespread and economical, making it a perfect tool in helping to fight the viruses to which we are continually exposed.

Linus Pauling Institute Newsletter, January 2006; Jane Higdon, Ph.D.Updated in November 2009 by: Victoria J. Drake, Ph.D.
Reviewed in November 2009 by: Balz Frei, Ph.D.
Director and Endowed Chair, Linus Pauling Institute
Distinguished Professor, Dept. of Biochemistry and Biophysics
Oregon State University; Copyright 2000-2010  Linus Pauling Institute

Winter Wellness – Zinc

This mineral is more important than you “zink”!

No, that’s not my German Opa talking… science has proven that ZINC truly is a crucial nutrient for several body systems.  It’s role in the immune response became clear in the 1960’s when studies revealed that those suffering from widespread infections in endemic areas of the world were overwhelmingly found to be zinc deficient.    More common in the Western world are mild deficiencies, which are still linked with increased susceptibility to various infections.

Although we know zinc is so important in keeping our resistance to infections high, it is not yet clear whether taking lozenges at the first sign of a cold is helpful.  Some studies say yes, some show no difference.  The nasal spray, Zicam, was removed from the market because of a predisposition to cause a loss of sense of smell.

While the issue of whether benefits are produced acutely is still under question, how can you take advantage of zinc’s protection during the winter months?  By making sure you are topped off as a preventative measure.  A listing of the foods highest in zinc content is listed below.  It is also available in supplement form, in a variety of salt forms.  Zinc picolinate is well absorbed, as are the sulfate and chelates.  It is best to take zinc separated from foods as they may hinder absorption.  A maintenance dose of 15 mg is usually sufficient, although using 30 mg daily for a short period of time may help to bring up levels which are low.

Is there a way to know whether your zinc levels are low?  Yes, in the form of a taste test called the Zinc Challenge.  We can give you a small amount of liquid to hold in your mouth for 30 seconds.  If you get a strong taste of something like hydrogen peroxide right away, it is a good sign and means your body has adequate stores of zinc.  Tasting nothing, or deriving only a mild flavor indicates additional amounts are needed to keep your immune system ready for exposures.  Stop by the pharmacy at any time to take the challenge!

Below are food sources as mentioned…..

Shellfish, beef, and other red meats are rich sources of zinc. Nuts and legumes are relatively good plant sources of zinc. Zinc bioavailability (the fraction of zinc retained and used by the body) is relatively high in meat, eggs, and seafood because of the relative absence of compounds that inhibit zinc absorption and the presence of certain amino acids (cysteine and methionine) that improve zinc absorption. The zinc in whole grain products and plant proteins is less bioavailable due to their relatively high content of phytic acid, a compound that inhibits zinc absorption (5). The enzymatic action of yeast reduces the level of phytic acid in foods. Therefore, leavened whole grain breads have more bioavailable zinc than unleavened whole grain breads. Recently, national dietary surveys in the U.S. estimated that the average dietary zinc intake was 9 mg/day for adult women and 13 mg/day for adult men (4). The zinc content of some relatively zinc-rich foods is listed in milligrams (mg) in the table below. For more information on the nutrient content of specific foods, search the USDA food composition database.

Food Serving

Zinc (mg)

Oysters 6 medium (cooked)


Crab, Dungeness 3 ounces (cooked)


Beef 3 ounces* (cooked)


Pork 3 ounces (cooked)


Chicken (dark meat) 3 ounces (cooked)


Turkey (dark meat) 3 ounces (cooked)


Yogurt, fruit 1 cup (8 ounces)


Cheese, cheddar 1 ounce


Milk 1 cup (8 ounces)


Cashews 1 ounce


Almonds 1 ounce


Peanuts 1 ounce


Beans, baked 1/2 cup


Chickpeas (garbanzo beans) 1/2 cup


*A three-ounce serving of meat is about the size of a deck of cards.

Mol Med. 2008 May-Jun;14(5-6):353-7.  Zinc in human health: effect of zinc on immune cells.  Prasad AS.

Shankar, A.H. & Prasad, A.S. Zinc and immune function: the biological basis of altered resistance to infection. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 1998; volume 68: pages 447S-463S.  (PubMed)

Winter Wellness – NAC

NAC is a supplement you may not hear about all too often but it has potent activity, as shown by many studies which demonstrate its protective effect. NAC is an acronym for N-acetylcysteine – a form of one of our amino acids (which are the building blocks of proteins). Linked together with two other amino acids, glutamine and glycine, it forms something called glutathione. It is actually the glutathione which is thought to be responsible for improving several different parameters of immune function.

Although it is the glutathione which does the work, supplementing with glutathione directly is not as beneficial since it is not absorbed very well from the intestinal tract. Since glutamine and glycine are usually plentiful in the diet, boosting cysteine levels with NAC will increase glutathione and create the beneficial effects. Supplementing with a dosage of 600 mg once daily can be a safe and effective addition to efforts to optimize immune system strength.

NAC also has mucolytic activity and thins mucus by breaking bonds. It has been used in conditions such as emphysema, bronchitis, tuberculosis, and COPD.

As an antioxidant, NAC, helps to support respiratory and detoxification systems to help us fight off infections. This becomes a harder job for our bodies in the winter, as we are more impacted by exposure to inside pollutants during the winter months, when many of us don’t have as much access to fresh air throughout the day.

Respiration. 2000;67(5):552-8. Inhibitory effect of N-acetylcysteine on adherence of Streptococcus pneumoniae and Haemophilus influenzae to human oropharyngeal epithelial cells in vitro. Riise GC, Qvarfordt I, Larsson S, Eliasson V, Andersson BA.

Free Radic Biol Med. 2008 Nov 1;45(9):1252-62. Epub 2008 Jul 27. The glutathione precursor N-acetylcysteine improves immune function in postmenopausal women. Arranz L, Fernández C, Rodríguez A, Ribera JM, De la Fuente M.

Winter Wellness – ‘Shroom Power

Welcome to the Winter Wellness series! In the next series of posts we will highlight a different immune-boosting nutrient each day, to help you navigate the large maze of supplements and get through the cold and flu season with as few sniffles as possible. Keep in mind that we all get exposed to and feel the beginnings of colds, but the stronger we keep our immune systems the shorter and less severe the infection course will be, hopefully with no down time to suffer through. To kick off the week, we’ll take a look at something that should be in everyone’s Sunday dinner salad….

As winter draws near and farmer’s markets disappear, it becomes harder to create those beautiful, colorful salads. Overlooked by many because of their lack of color, mushrooms are seriously underrated. They are actually packed with immune-supporting substances. Maitake mushrooms in particular have been studied extensively, but even the common white button mushroom has shown considerable evidence of benefits.

Substances called polysaccharides (specific carbohydrate structures) in mushrooms show ability to activate macrophages (the large cells responsible for “swallowing” infectious material) and natural killer cells. They also seem to exert stimulatory effects on T-Cells, and B-Cells (thereby both the immediate and learned immune response). One might find them in supplements listed at 1,3 Beta Glucan, or in a proprietary blend from Japan by the name of AHCC.

Mushrooms also contain high levels of a form of Omega 3 fatty acid called CLA (Conjugated Linoleic Acid), which has been studied for its anti-tumor activity. It is not yet certain how this activity occurs, but several immune effects are being considered.

Finally, high levels of antioxidants in mushrooms help protect your body’s organs and tissues from free radical damage. In one study comparing vegetable ORAC values (a system designed to test antioxidant potency), mushrooms proved just as valuable as green beans, broccoli, and red peppers.

Be sure to add mushrooms to your weekly diet this winter to boost your body’s ability to ward off infections. If you do feel something trying to take hold at some point, consider using a supplement containing a mushroom extract to help fight it quickly.


Stimulation of humoral and cell mediated immunity by polysaccharide from mushroom phellinus linteus International Journal of Immunopharmacology Volume 18, Issue 5, May 1996, Pages 295-303. Kim HM, Han SB, Oh GT, Kim YH, Hong DH, Hong ND, Yoo ID.

Immunological effect of active hexose correlated compound (AHCC) in healthy volunteers: a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Nutr Cancer. 2008;60(5):643-51. Terakawa N, Matsui Y, Satoi S, Yanagimoto H, Takahashi K, Yamamoto T, Yamao J, Takai S, Kwon AH, Kamiyama Y