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Curcumin – the Anti-Inflammation Wonder Herb

Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a culinary herb that is an amazing medicinal multi-tasker! It has a bright yellow/orange hue that gives curry its vibrant color. A member of the ginger family, turmeric contains many compounds including several in the curcumin family. Curcumins are known to have anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-cancer properties.

Despite that curcumin has been used medicinally in Ayurvedic medicine in India for centuries, it is only more recently that interest has caught on in the U.S. Luckily for all of us, the enormous potential of curcumin has resulted in a growing body of research to help us understand how it works and which scenarios it works best in. Currently there are ongoing studies looking at arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease treatment, colon cancer prevention, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, to name just a few.

Cooking with turmeric is an easy and healthy way to benefit from curcumins. It adds a delicious color and flavor to dishes. Turmeric tea is another excellent way to enjoy this powerful herb.  It does seem, however, that the doses needed to get full medicinal effect are much higher than one could ever get in a helping of your favorite curry. Although I always encourage people to get their nutrition from food before supplements, this is one case where taking a curcumin supplement does much more for you than simply cooking with it.

How to use Curcumin Medicinally

Arthritis

In the case of arthritis, curcumin works by neutralizing free radicals as well as by inhibiting pain and inflammation. In fact, it suppresses multiple inflammatory chemical messengers that the body makes.  It does this by inhibiting several enzymes along the inflammation cascade, the very same enzymes that ibuprofen and naproxen block.

And research supports this. A well designed study of 367 arthritis patients found it to be as effective as the traditional anti-inflammatory drug, ibuprofen with fewer side effects1.  Additionally, curcumin has been found to decrease substance P in nerve cells which is an additional way that in can improve pain in all kinds of arthritis.A typical dose would be 500mg taken 1-3 times a day.  

PMS

As a gynecologist I am always looking for ways to help women manage their period problems. For the same reason that curcumin helps arthritis, it is logical that it would be helpful for pain associated with menstrual cramps. One prospective randomized trial of 70 women with PMS showed that 100mg taken twice a day for 10 days starting one week before menses reduced PMS scores by 59% compared to just 14% in placebo group. Effects were seen for all three symptom categories: physical, behavioral, and emotional2. What’s nice about this study is that the authors used a relatively low dose compared to other applications. Lower doses mean fewer potential side effects.

Ulcerative Colitis

Curcumin’s powerful anti-inflammatory effects and limited absorption from the GI tract make it an excellent agent to treat inflammation in the gut. There are ongoing studies looking at curcumin as a treatment for inflammatory bowel disease. One such study of 89 people with ulcerative colitis found that when in remission, those who took 1,000mg curcumin twice a day for six months, along with their regular medicine, had lower relapse rates than those who took placebo.3

Cancer

From a cancer perspective, curcumin has the ability to alter gene transcription and actually stop cell growth, known as apoptosis. Its anti-cancer properties are also thought to come from anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. It has been studied and used for prevention or treatment of colorectal cancer, pancreatic cancer, breast cancer, multiple myeloma, lung cancer.  Interestingly, there are also studies to suggest that whole turmeric has anti-cancer properties beyond curcumin extracts alone.4

Things to Know:

Because curcumin is not well absorbed by itself you will need to use a preparation that has been specially formulated so that your body can digest it. Many supplement preparations have black pepper, also known as bioperine, added to it which improves intestinal absorption by about 1000%. There is some concern that pepper is irritating to the GI lining which might be problematic. Alternatively, some brands have specially formulated the herb in a delivery system that optimizes absorption.

Dr. Blum’s non-GMO Super Curcumin, available in our online store, is formulated with super-absorbable sunflower lecithin so that you will reap the benefits of every milligram. See it Now

Who Should Not Take Curcumin

Curcumin is usually well tolerated but can lead to GI upset if taken in high doses and could cause an allergic reaction. People with gallbladder obstruction should avoid curcumin because it can cause the gallbladder to contract. This can be helpful for some kinds of digestion, but could make things worse if you have a gallstone blockage. Additionally, patients with gastric ulcers should avoid curcumin. Patients on blood thinners should be careful with curcumin. Always tell your healthcare provider if you are taking any herbs.  I don’t recommend curcumin supplements in pregnancy due to lack of safety data.

Do You Suffer With Arthritis?

Are you ready to live a pain-free life? Whether you suffer with an autoimmune condition like Hashimoto’s or arthritis, Dr. Blum can help you!

In her new book, Healing Arthritis, Dr. Blum presents the exact 3-Step Protocol that we use with patients at Blum Center for Health. You will learn the best food plan for arthritis, the precise supplements and dosage we recommend for an arthritis-free life, how to build resiliency so that life’s stressors won’t affect your health, and what your gut has to do with your arthritis symptoms. In essence, Dr. Blum gives you all the tools you need to fix your gut and heal your arthritis. Get The Book Now

Resources:

  1.  Kuptniratsaikul V et al Clin Interv Aging. 2014 Mar 20;9:451-8. Efficacy and safety of curcum domestica extracts compared with ibuprofen in patients with knee osteoarthritis: a multicenter study.
  2.  Khayat S et al Complement Ther Med. 2015 Jun;23(3):318-24  Curcumin attenuates severity of premenstrual syndrome symptoms: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial
  3. Hanai H, et al  Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2006 Dec;4(12):1502-6   Curcumin maintenance therapy for ulcerative colitis: randomized, multicenter, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial
  4.  Devassy JG, et al  Nutrition Reviews, Volume 73, Issue 3, 1 March 2015, Pages 155–165.  Curcumin and cancer: barriers to obtaining a health claim

 

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3 Things You Can Do Today to Stop Arthritis Pain

Yoga can help heal arthritis

As you may know we’ve been talking about arthritis a lot recently. You see our Medical Director, Dr. Susan Blum, just wrote a new book, Healing Arthritis, and it releases on October 24th. This is very exciting for us and it’s created a lot of interest in arthritis-related information from our patients.

In my medical practice at Blum Center for Health, arthritic patients most commonly ask me, “What can I do about my pain?”

3 Things You Can Today Do to Stop Arthritis Pain

The first thing you must do is make pain-free food choices.

In fact, the single most important influence on reducing your pain is the food you eat!

Here’s what you need to do:

Increase the number of healthy foods you are eating.

  • Your grocery list should include antioxidant rich dark leafy greens like spinach, kale, swiss chard; and deep colorful berries like blackberries and blueberries.  
  • Make a habit of eating clean fish once or twice weekly, it’s full of inflammation-lowering omega 3 fatty acids. Buy high-quality, grass-fed, non-GMO animal products and eat them sparingly, perhaps once each week.
  • Eat loads of healthy, high-quality oils and fats like olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds.
  • Buy or make bone broth, rich in collagen, and take a good quality  B vitamin.
  • And don’t forget to fit lots of fiber onto your plate in the form of whole grains, legumes, beans, and veggies — to feed the good bacteria of the gut. (Avoid gluten if you know you are sensitive to it, or if you have autoimmune disease).
  • Spice your foods with turmeric, the bright yellow indian spice that’s not only delicious but also combats inflammation.  

Avoid inflammatory foods — this includes highly processed foods made with white flour and white sugar, and practically everything that comes in a box.  Avoid processed flour products like baked goods and cookies, and sweetened dairy products like ice cream. Shop the perimeter of the store – buy real, whole foods in their natural state.

Remove common food allergens by doing the allergy elimination diet – what Dr. Blum calls the Leaky Gut Diet – no gluten, soy, corn, dairy, eggs, or nightshade vegetables.  After 3 weeks, reintroduce each food one at a time to see if any trigger symptoms. The elimination diet not only cuts out common irritating foods but also helps you avoid processed food and many added inflammatory fillers that often come with them. It’s a great starting point.

 

Utilize anti-arthritis supplements to decrease pain.

There are several supplements that have been scientifically proven to decrease inflammation and pain. These are some of the supplements I commonly use with my arthritic patients.

  • Omega 3 (EPA and DHA) & Omega 6 (GLA) Fatty acids – these powerful anti-inflammatory fats have been found to reduce pain and improve physical function in Rheumatoid Arthritis.
  • Curcumin – this plant-derived antioxidant and natural anti-inflammatory  has been found to reduce pain and stiffness in Osteoarthritis.
  • Vitamin C – the link between oxidative stress and joint damage is clear. Vitamin C (and other antioxidants) have been shown to reduce pain (and oxidative stress) in inflammatory joint disease.
  • Probiotics – when we think about joint health, our attention naturally turns to the gut and the health of the microbiome (the bacteria that live in the digestive tract).  Improving the balance of the terrain in your gut with a good probiotic can help with the arthritic pain and inflammation throughout the body.

Powerfully deal with stress: Less stress = less pain.

When it comes to arthritis, the impact of stress is largely overlooked. However, stress and trauma have serious consequences on your gut, your immune system, and your arthritis pain.  Improving your resilience in the face of stressors will keep your arthritis from flaring.  

How to destress:

  • Simplify your schedule. If you are suffering from arthritic pain this is a cry for help from your biological system. Give yourself time and space to renew and rebuild the resilience that you are lacking. Open space in your week to just be.
  • Find time for sleep. Make sure you are getting over 8 hours of sleep a night. Work backwards from your wake-up time and get into bed 1 hour prior to that. Make a routine at bedtime that is relaxing and supportive – take a bath, sip some tea, read a pleasant book. Avoid screens 2 hours prior to bed and help the whole family get on board. Doing things with support makes them much easier!  
  • Make room for movement. You don’t need to add a strenuous exercise routine right away unless you find that that helps your pain, but work towards getting there. To start, just make a plan to have a short walk outside, or put down your yoga mat and gently stretch and move your body beyond the confines of the standing and sitting of your normal day. If you’re feeling more ambitious, try a yoga or tai chi class for meditative movement.
  • Book a massage – or other bodywork – for pain relief and stress reduction.  Acupuncture, craniosacral, myofascial release are all good options to check out.
  • Explore mindfulness meditation.  This can be a simple as listening to a guided meditation on an app or with our Blum Center recordings.  It can be more regimented like finding an MBSR or TM class in your area and starting a daily practice.  It can also be as simple as breathing in and out throughout your day with intention.  
  • Consider therapy.  The stress and trauma from past experience sometimes holds us back from being able to let go of tension in the body.  We know that past traumatic experience leads to worse pain and function in autoimmune disease – and we’ve found that addressing it can lead to improved symptoms.  

The great thing is you can do this yourself!

In her new book, Healing Arthritis, Dr. Blum presents the exact 3-Step Protocol that we use with patients at Blum Center for Health. You will learn the best food plan for arthritis, the precise supplements and dosage we recommend for an arthritis-free life, how to build resiliency so that life’s stressors won’t affect your health, and what your gut has to do with your arthritis symptoms. In essence, Dr. Blum gives you all the tools you need to fix your gut and heal your arthritis. Get The Book Now

To recap, the 3 actions you can start today to decrease your arthritis pain is 1) eat an anti-arthritis diet 2) take the appropriate supplements and 3) build resiliency against stress. Do these things and you will feel better with less pain and much more energy.

Meet Darcy McConnell, M.D.:  Dr. McConnell brings her broad expertise in prevention, mind-body medicine, and women’s health to Blum Center for Health, in Rye Brook, NY. She is board certified in Family Medicine and Integrative Medicine, with postgraduate training from the Institute for Functional Medicine. Darcy lives with her husband and three sons and enjoys the outdoors, cooking healthy meals for her family and friends and is an enthusiastic yogi.

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Surviving Menopause: Hormones, Herbs, and More

Woman practicing yoga for self-care

A common question from patients is: “Should I take herbs or hormones for menopausal symptoms, and if so, which ones?”

This is a huge topic and the truth is there is no “right answer.”

Treating menopausal symptoms needs to be based on each woman’s unique situation accounting for her personal history, family history, current health goals. Without question, estrogen replacement is the most effective treatment for hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms.

While hormone replacement isn’t for everyone, there IS a lot of buzz right now around bioidentical hormones. For you to make an educated decision, it’s important to understand the difference between bioidentical (often compounded) and non-bioidentical hormones (conventional), and when you might consider using them.  In my upcoming talk at Blum Center, and further down in this blog, we will review all of this information.

But, not everyone wants to take extra hormones or can’t take hormones for health reasons.  Well, hope is not lost!  I will review several herbal remedies and lifestyle changes that women can use successfully.  This is a meaty topic, so let’s dive in!

“Hot Flashes?  No Hormones?  No problem!”

Many women come to me seeking strategies to address things like hot flashes, vaginal dryness, sleep disruption, and mood changes without hormones. In this case we have SO much to offer. Conventional medicine offers several antidepressants that have been found to work for hot flashes: paroxetine and venlafaxine are some examples. Gabapentin is another option.  Unfortunately, these drugs do tend to have other unwanted side effects such as sleepiness, headache, nausea, dizziness, and more. Rest assured, this is NOT our approach at Blum Center!  You don’t have to take an antidepressant to get you through menopause!

Here are just a few of the options that we can offer you:

St. John’s Wort has been shown in multiple studies to improve women’s sense of wellbeing, decrease hot flashes, improve sexual wellbeing, and reduce overall menopause rating scores (Grube, 1999 and Abdali , 2010).  Studies show that improvement was seen after 2-3 months and dose is typically around 300 mg taken three times a day.  St. John’s wort is metabolized in the liver and can interfere with the metabolism of many other drugs, so always tell your doctor if you are taking it.

Panax Ginseng has been shown to improve menopausal symptoms of depression and well being, increase energy, decrease insomnia (Wiklund, 1999 and Tode, 1999).  The dose is typically a standardized extract of 200mg a day.

Sage has been shown to decrease sweating by up to 64% in women who have hot flashes (Bommer, 2011).  If you are using dried leaf in capsule or tea take 1000mg twice a day.

Soy, Red Clover, Kudzu all contain various isoflavones such as daidzein, genistein, and puerarin. These compounds act as weak estrogen receptor modulators. Data on isoflavones for hot flash relief is mixed. Some studies show a benefit, others do not.  The tricky thing about some of these compounds, like daidzein, is that it turns out your gut bacteria have to convert it into equol to have the biggest impact. But it is estimated that only 30-50% of humans are “equol producers.” This may account for why soy seems to help some women more than others when it comes to hot flashes.My suggestion is to try it for about a month and if you see no improvement then stop. For soy, I would rather see patients eat whole, organic soy foods such as edamame, tofu, soy milk instead of taking a pill. Food is always better than supplements and foods with whole soy proteins (not soy protein isolate) are better for you. As always, any food or herb that has estrogenic qualities, you must use with caution in the setting of an estrogen-related cancer. Additionally, soy in large quantities (three times a day) can impact your thyroid function, so ask your doctor if you need to limit it. Also, these could interact with platelet/anticoagulant medicines.

Black Cohosh has shown mixed results in studies for menopausal symptoms. Many studies look at Black Cohosh along with a few other herbs. This is common practice in botanical medicine, taking advantage of the synergistic effects that herbs can have when taken together. It does make it more difficult to know if individual ingredients are beneficial. Black Cohosh is generally well tolerated and I mention it because it shows up in a lot of supplements that are geared for women’s health, menopause in particular. It is unclear if Black Cohosh directly interacts with estrogen receptors in humans, but to be on the safe side, I would avoid this one if you are an estrogen receptor positive cancer.

Clinical Hypnosis can decrease hot flashes by 55% compared to 13% in one well designed randomized study of 187 women (Elkins GR, 2013).  Hypnosis also helped with improvement in hot flash interference, sleep quality, and treatment satisfaction.

Acupuncture has been shown in multiple studies to improve sleep disruption (Chiu, 2015).  Researchers did a summary review of 31 studies involving over 2400 patients and found there was significant improvement in sleep as well as changes in blood hormone levels of estradiol and follicle stimulating hormone. And the larger the hormonal changes, the bigger the improvement on sleep. Data on acupuncture for hot flashes, however, is mixed. It appears that when acupuncture is compared to no acupuncture, there is a significant improvement seen. But when researchers compare real acupuncture with sham acupuncture, they don’t see a difference. This indicates that at least for hot flashes, acupuncture probably has a strong placebo effect. In my opinion, when the placebo effect works in our favor, it is a wonderful thing and I think we should take advantage of it!

Yoga has also been shown to be beneficial for hot flashes and emotional symptoms like stress in multiple studies (Joshi, 2011 and Chattha, 2008). Yoga has so many health benefits that I recommend it to almost all of my patients. In this fast-paced world, the practice of yoga slows down our sympathetic nervous system which is integrally involved with hot flashes. One caveat: I don’t recommend hot yoga as that will most assuredly make hot flashes worse!

“I’m Fine with Hormones – Bring Back the Estrogen!”

There has been a lot of research in the past few decades looking at hormone replacement for menopausal symptoms and the field is constantly growing. As with most medicines, there are risks and benefits to consider when deciding if you want to take hormones and it is important to have that discussion with your healthcare provider, or come and see me to discuss, because your personal and family history influences this decision enormously. In general, we do believe that hormone replacement therapy, especially bioidentical therapy, in low dose for the first few years of menopause is safe for most women.

My approach?  I always use bioidentical hormones and aim for the lowest effective dose, and prefer topical or local estrogen to limit unwanted effects.

“Bioidentical, Synthetic, I’m Confused…”

Bioidentical hormones are compounds that exactly mimic the hormones that we have circulating in our bodies. Those bioidentical hormones may be synthetic, in the sense that they were made in a lab, and that is not necessarily bad. Two of the most common hormones prescribed in this country are not bioidentical: conjugated equine estrogens (CEE) and medroxyprogesterone acetate (MPA). These compounds act similarly to our own estrogen and progesterone, but nevertheless, have actions in our bodies that are distinct.

Historically, we assumed that CEE and MPA would be equivalent to bioidentical hormones, but as researchers have begun to compare the two in head-to-head studies, we now know there are differences especially in the progestogens (Stanczyk, 2013). Consensus is now building that bioidentical progesterone is probably safer than MPA. Although CEE and MPA are the most commonly prescribed hormone replacement regimens in this country, there are plenty of FDA approved bioidentical options for us to choose from including estradiol pill, patch, or gel form as well as micronized progesterone in pill form.

“So What is Compounding?”

Compounding medicine is the practice of taking one or more individual ingredients and mixing them together in the lab and creating a new compound that isn’t otherwise sold as a brand name product. The new medicine can be specially formulated for an individual patient to avoid allergenic ingredients, create new doses, convert a pill to a cream, combine medicines into one, etc.

Having access to high quality compounding pharmacies is extremely valuable in expanding the range of pharmaceutical offerings to the public.  For example, one FDA approved bioidentical progesterone product on the market in the US. contains peanut oil which some women are allergic to. This is a prime example of when compounding progesterone is a life saver!

There are pros and cons to using FDA approved drugs vs compounding drugs. The advantage of using an FDA approved medicine is that the approval process is stringent in terms of demonstrating safety, appropriate dosing, and efficacy. Additionally, the FDA drugs and facilities are highly regulated. Also, since the majority of research has been done using FDA approved drugs, physicians feel more comfortable prescribing them as they have been thoroughly vetted in clinical trials.  [A side note: the drug companies are the ones that fund the bulk of research since they can afford to do so. It costs millions of dollars to carry out a large clinical trial and very few entities can fund those studies.] The disadvantage is that sometimes we might want to give a drug in a different form than is available. In terms of compounding, the advantage is the ability to tailor a medicine specific to the needs of an individual patient.  The downside is that there is not as much safety and efficacy data on individual formulas, nor as much regulation on the actual compounding pharmacies themselves.

My approach to menopause is to get to know my patient, figure out what her goals are for the menopause transition, determine her risk profile, and come up with the best treatment plan together.

Meet Dr. Fitz:  Bronwyn Fitz, M.D. is a board certified Obstetrician Gynecologist who is fellowship trained in Integrative Medicine. In her practice she melds traditional medicine with non-Western approaches, nutrition, botanicals, mind/body therapies and lifestyle interventions to help women address their gynecological and reproductive health concerns. Her interest in mindfulness and meditation led her to pursue a two-year Fellowship at The Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, under the leadership of world-renowned Integrative physician, Dr. Andrew Weil.

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How Chasteberry Supports Women’s Health

Vitex agnus-castus, also known as Chaste Tree or Chasteberry is a powerhouse herb in women’s health. Indigenous to Central Asia and the Mediterranean, it has been used for thousands of years for menstrual irregularities, premenstrual syndrome, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, breast tenderness, infertility, and more. The Latin root: agnus castus means “chaste lamb” purportedly alluding to the ancient culinary use of Vitex (also “monk’s berry”) to curb libido in monks!   

Historical uses aside, what we DO know about Vitex is that it contains glycosides, flavonoids, essential oils, essential fatty acids (oleic and linolenic). It works at the level of the brain to decrease prolactin levels, increase progesterone levels, and bind opiate receptors — which might be how it improves anxiety, food cravings, physical discomfort associated with premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Vitex is approved by the German Commission E for use in menstrual cycle irregularities, premenstrual disturbances, and mastodynia (breast pain).

3 Reasons To Consider Taking Chasteberry

Do you have PMS?

There are multiple studies that validate chaste tree for gynecological problems including PMS. One well-designed study of 170 women compared Vitex to a placebo pill during three consecutive menstrual cycles and women who got the herb reported 52% improvement in symptoms compared to just 24% in the placebo group. Specific symptoms looked at in this study were irritability, mood changes, anger, headaches, breast fullness, bloating and ALL had significant differences between Vitex and placebo pills1.  

Heavy Bleeding

Many women suffer from heavy bleeding during their periods.  This can be especially true for women who have a copper containing intrauterine device (IUD). One prospective study of 84 women looked at Vitex compared to mefenamic acid (an anti-inflammatory medicine) to reduce heavy bleeding in IUD users over the course of 4 menstrual cycles. Researchers found that women in both groups had significant improvement in symptoms, 52% in the anti-inflammatory group and 46% in the Vitex group2. I look forward to seeing additional studies with more subjects and that include a placebo group to fully understand the role for Vitex.

Irregular Periods

Many women have irregular periods and are often prescribed progesterone to help regulate their period, either in the form of birth control pills or sometimes progesterone alone.  Since we know that Vitex increases one’s one progesterone production, it makes sense that we would use it to help regulate an irregular period. Additionally, chaste tree works by decreasing prolactin, which for some women is the culprit in causing too few periods. I always lean towards supporting your body’s ability to make its own hormones over prescribing additional ones, especially if the ones we give are synthetic progestins. After all, synthetic progestins (the type of progesterone in birth control pills) can cause side effects such as weight gain, bloating, acne, moodiness, hair loss: not what you are looking for when suffering already from period problems!

Chasteberry and Infertility: A Word of Warning

Some people take Vitex for infertility due to irregular periods since it increases progesterone. Adding progesterone during infertility treatments is quite common. The studies on Vitex for infertility are mixed, leaving us without firm conclusion that it will help you get pregnant. While historical use supports this approach, there is no safety data on Chaste tree during pregnancy or lactation. For these reasons, I do not recommend starting it specifically for fertility and I DO recommend stopping the herb if you become pregnant.  

How to Take Chasteberry

Chasteberry does take time to see full impact, so stick with it for at least three months before deciding if it is working for you.The dose is usually 200-500 mg a day of dried fruit or 20-40mg/d of extract standardized to agnuside or casticin. At Blum Center for Health, we use Chasteberry Plus, at the dose of 1 tablet in the morning and 1 in the evening, with or without food.  Because Chasteberry has an impact on your body’s hormone production, it is wise to avoid if you have a hormone sensitive cancer, are pregnant, or are nursing. It could potentially impact hormonal birth control. It could interfere with dopamine-related medicines, such as some medicines used in Parkinson’s and some antipsychotic medicines. Side effects are not common but include GI upset, headaches, fatigue, increase in menses, hair loss. Rarely women with a history of depression may see a worsening of their symptoms.  Before starting herbal remedies, if you are taking other medications or have any hormone related health issues, remember to always check with your doctor, or come and see me at Blum Center.

Live in our neighborhood and want to learn more about using herbs for women’s health? Make an appointment with Dr. Fitz!  In her practice at Blum Center for Health she takes a multi-pronged, holistic approach, a combination of medical and lifestyle considerations, to address, diagnosis and treat your condition. For more information, call 914-652-7800.

Meet Dr. Fitz:  Bronwyn Fitz, M.D. is a board certified Obstetrician Gynecologist who is fellowship trained in Integrative Medicine. In her practice she melds traditional medicine with non-Western approaches, nutrition, botanicals, mind/body therapies and lifestyle interventions to help women address their gynecological and reproductive health concerns. Her interest in mindfulness and meditation led her to pursue a two-year Fellowship at The Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, under the leadership of world-renowned Integrative physician, Dr. Andrew Weil.

 

References:

  1. Schellenberg R BMJ. 2001 Jan 20;322(7279):134-7.
  2. 2. Yavarikia P, Shahnazi M, Hadavand Mirzaie S, Javadzadeh Y, Lutfi R. J Caring Sci. 2013 Aug 31;2(3):245-54.
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How To Choose The Right Supplement

Choosing the right supplements

You eat a healthy diet—fresh vegetables and fruits every day, lean animal protein or high quality vegetarian protein, and whole grains—and you limit your intake of processed foods, right?

Do you still need a multivitamin or any kind of supplement?

In functional medicine, we often find the answer to be yes, because there are multiple reasons why you might not be getting what you need just from food.

First, we eat food for energy and nutrients:

The food we eat is more or less nutritious depending on the soil it is grown in or, in the case of animal protein, the feed the animals have been given.  Conventional farming puts only a limited number of nutrients back into the soil through fertilizers, so food grown on those farms tend to have lower nutrient quality over time.  In particular, zinc often becomes depleted.

Organic farming has a greater potential for higher nutrient quality because the soil is often fertilized with richer nutrient sources than just standard fertilizer.  But again, if the soil has been used for decades for agriculture, it may become depleted especially of trace minerals.

Before we became such an urban culture, people ate much more of the “whole” of whole foods—nothing was thrown away.  We ate organ meats like pancreas, kidneys, liver, brain that all have nutrients that aren’t necessarily found in vegetables or the usual meats we eat.  We ate much more fish and so got our omega- 3 fatty acids we need for healthy cell membranes.  We also used vegetable skins to make soup stocks and roasted pumpkin seeds for snacks (think zinc) to get minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants.  Overall, then, we have narrowed our nutrient sources by just eating the “good” parts of our foods.

Supplement Suggestion: In order to compensate for these changes in our foods and diets, we recommend a daily regimen of:

  • A daily multivitamin-mineral
  • Omega 3s, and
  • Vitamin D

These will meet the basic needs of almost everyone.

Looking for these essentials in an easy daily packets? Our specially-formulated Once Daily Vitamin and Mineral Essentials  has everything you need, and is third-party tested for purity.

Then there is your digestion:

If you are not digesting your food well, then you may not absorb your nutrients well.  We can determine what the problem is with your digestion by doing functional testing.

Then, while you work on improving your digestion, targeted supplements based on what’s going on in your body can really make a difference in how you feel.

We determine that based on symptoms or medical conditions that are associated with certain deficiencies in addition to the testing.  We do with each person who comes to Blum Center to tailor a program specifically to you.

When choosing supplements you also want to be aware of the quality of the products you are taking. 

News reports come out frequently about how the supplements at some of the chain stores don’t have the nutrients they are labeled to have.  Professional quality supplements have third party verification of their ingredients and also have testing for contaminants like lead.  We are careful at Blum Center to choose high quality, third party verified supplements.  We can advise you on resources to check supplement testing for products as well.

Do you live near Blum Center in Rye Brook, NY? Join Elizabeth and Darcy McConnell, MD for their community talk, What You Need to Know about Supplements, on Wednesday, April 19th at 7pm. Register Now! 

Meet Elizabeth: In her dual role as our Functional Medicine Nurse Practitioner and a teacher in our Mind.Body.Spirit programs at Blum Center for Health, Elizabeth Greig, MSN, FNP, helps treat and heal patients with complex chronic health conditions. Whether she’s treating a medical condition or leading a class in meditation, Elizabeth helps people understand that when it comes to healing, it’s more about nourishing life, than it is about battling illness.