Author: Joan Haynes, NMD

Fermentation Is Easy

By Joan Haynes, NMD

I’m a big gardener.  I’m a naturopathic physician.  I’m fascinated by microbiology and the impact of nutrition on good health.  Fermentation was inevitable, but, intimidating.  What a wonderful surprise to learn how easy fermentation is.

Fermentation is the process by which microorganisms – bacteria, yeast, and mold – transforms food and extends its usefulness.  It makes foods more nutritious, and delicious. Many of our common foods and drinks are fermented:  cheese, wine, bread, beer, chocolate, coffee, pickles, sauerkraut, yogurt and more.

I used the book Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods by Sandor Ellix Katz.  Much more than a cookbook – his stories helped me connect in a new way with the vital connection we have with what we eat.  Sandor is HIV positive and obsessed with fermentation.  He lives in an intentional community and has experimented time and again with recipes on the members.  His experiences and stories motivated me to give it a go.  Plus, I planted a big batch of cucumbers, and they were ripe.

The recipe I used was called Sour Pickles on page 50, which works for any vegetable. I only needed 4 items:

  • Vegetables
  • Salt
  • Water
  • Crock
  1. We got an old crock pot at a thrift store.
  2. I sliced up cucumbers, carrots, garlic cloves and added grape leaves*
  3. I poured the salt water over the veggies. (A little less than one TBSP of salt per cup of water.)
  4. Put a plate on top, weighted it, and covered with a cloth.

*Grape leaves are for the tannins which make the pickles crunchy

That’s it.  Check it every day.  It’s ready in 1 to 4 weeks, then refrigerate.

Wow, are they good!

Gluten-Free Italian crepes

by Joan Haynes, NMD

Here’s a great recipe for Gluten-Free Tortillas (Italian Crepes).  These can be used as pancakes, crepes, wraps, or even sandwich bread.  These are great to make in big bunches and store in the freezer.

This recipe makes 6

Ingredients:

  • 6 eggs (one egg per tortilla)
  • make your own Gulten Free flour:
    ¾ brown rice flour
    3 tablespoon arrow root powder
    ¼ cup tapioca
  • 1 and 1/4 cup dairy free milk
  • 1/4 cup olive oil (in the batter or melted coconut oil if you like that flavor)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Instructions:

Oil the pan well. No more than medium heat. Pour the batter in the middle of the pan and then work your way out towards the edges.  Most of the cooking is done on the first side then completed more quickly on the second.

Medical Research – A Disturbing Corruption

Doctoring Data: How to sort out medical advice from medical nonsense

by Dr. Malcolm Kendrick

Book Review by Dr. Haynes

Almost all of the medical research is funded, conducted, and reported by the corporations with vested interests.  Dr. Kendrick has been studying the problems in medical research for over 30 years.  After reading his book, I will never look at health news or published research in the same way again.  It turns out we simply can’t believe what we are being told.

Dr. Kendrick’s book was compelling and his witty, irreverent writing makes it a fun, if disturbing, read.   He explains the basics of understanding a study and then shows us how to question data we’ve previously taken as fact.  He tackles cancer, heart disease, blood pressure, hormone replacement therapy and more.  He shares that the popularly accepted “cholesterol hypothesis” has been disproven for many years but continues to thrive due to profits made from statin medications.

As a naturopathic physician, people often expect me to be skeptical about Big Pharma medicine.  But questioning the current medical system is not limited to those practicing alternative medicine.  Both the New England Journal of Medicine and the Lancet are the most well respected, peer-reviewed medical journals in the world.  Here’s what their own editors have to say about the state of medical science today:

 “It is simply no longer possible to believe much of the clinical research that is published, or to rely on the judgment of trusted physicians or authoritative medical guidelines.  I take no pleasure in this conclusion which I reached slowly and reluctantly over my two decades as an editor of the New England Journal of Medicine.” Dr. Marcia Angell, editor of the New England Journal of Medicine

“The case against science is straightforward: much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue. Afflicted by studies with small sample sizes, tiny effects, invalid exploratory analysis, and flagrant conflicts of interest, together with an obsession for pursuing fashionable trends of dubious importance, science has taken a turn towards darkness.” Dr. Richard Horton, the current editor-in-chief of the Lancet

With all this doubt about truth in medical research, what is a patient to do?  I strongly believe in the tenants of Naturopathic Medicine and use them as guiding principles with all of my patients (see a more detailed description):

  1. First Do No Harm – primum non nocere
  2. The Healing Power of Nature – vis medicatrix naturae
  3. Discover and Treat the Cause, Not Just the Effect – tolle causam
  4. Treat the Whole Person – tolle totum
  5. The Physician is a Teacher – docere
  6. Prevention is the best “cure” – praevenire

I encourage all patients and practitioners interested in being savvy consumers of medicine and advocates of their own health to read Dr. Hendrick’s book.  It is one of the most informative books I’ve come across and is enjoyable to boot!

Testing for Toxic Chemicals In Your System

by Joan Haynes, NMD

Could your chronic illness or allergic reactions be related to ongoing exposure to toxic chemicals? A newly available and finally affordable lab test (only $219) screens for the presence of 168 different toxic chemicals all from a single urine sample. Exposure to these compounds has been linked to allergic reactions, cancer, obesity, infertility, fibromyalgia, heart disease, diabetes, ADHD, autism, autoimmune disorders and more. 

We all know that our modern world is full of pollutants. But did you know that chemicals do not have to be proven safe prior to being introduced into use? The new documentary The Human Experiment, narrated by Sean Penn, is available on Netflix and I strongly recommend you watch it. It demonstrates how thousands of untested chemicals are ubiquitous in our everyday products, our homes, our food, and in us. 

Here’s just one example: 

2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic Acid (2, 4-D)  A very common herbicide most commonly used in agriculture on genetically modified foods, and as a weed killer for lawns.  Exposure to 2, 4-D via skin or oral ingestion is associated with neuritis, weakness, nausea, abdominal pain, headache, dizziness, peripheral neuropathy, stupor, seizures, brain damage, and impaired reflexes. 2, 4-D is a known endocrine disruptor, and can block hormone distribution and cause glandular breakdowns. 

The Categories of Environmental Pollutants Tested by GPL-TOX lab test (168 compounds tested in total)

  • Phthalates
  • Vinyl Chloride
  • Benzene
  • Pyrethrins
  • Xylenes
  • Styrene
  • Otganophosphates
  • MTBE and ETBE
  • 2,4 Dichlorophenoxyacetic Acid (2,4-D)

Recommendations for Detoxifications of Chemicals

First and foremost, we must identify and reduce our exposure to these toxic compounds in our homes and workplaces.   Secondly, working with an expert can be helpful. Naturopathic physicians are trained in accredited medical schools how to biochemically detoxify patients. Customized programs include specific nutritional and herbal supplements to promote the removal of toxins. In addition, we always focus on the whole person, including the gastrointestinal health, nutritional habits, and the mental/emotional factors and lifestyle activities of each individual patient. 

Read more about these toxins, the lab test, and when it is recommended at The Great Plains Laboratory, Inc. To have the test ordered, and for a follow up plan of action, contact Boise Natural Health to schedule an appointment.  

5 Ways to Beat the Heat (the Naturopathic Physician’s perspective)

Joan Haynes, NMD

  1. Make sure you are staying hydrated.
    Dehydration is very common in our dry hot summers. The first sign of dehydration is fatigue, not thirst! The average 150 poundperson needs about 64 ounces of non-caffeinated fluid daily, more with hot weather &/or exercising. Avoid dehydrating beverages like alcohol, caffeine, and sugar-sweetened drinks. If you must have these treats, dilute dilute dilute!
  2. Electrolytes are your friends.
    When you sweat you lose electrolytes such as potassium, magnesium, calcium, and salt. You need electrolytes to maintain proper hydration levels (remember Gatorade?). A healthier alternative to Gatorade is Emergen-C packets added to water. This gives needed vitamins and electrolytes, in lots of different fun flavors.
  3. Heat intolerance?
    You may need to have your thyroid checked. Heat intolerance can be a sign of low or high thyroid function. If you are already taking thyroid medicine, you may be taking too much. Thyroid regulates metabolism, which produces heat. When it’s already hot outside, you may need less thyroid hormone. Check with your doctor.
  4. Hot flashes?
    If you are having brief but intense rushes of heat on a daily basis, you may be experiencing peri-menopausal or menopausal symptoms. These tend to worsen in the summer months. If you are female, in your 40’s or 50’s, and have been experiencing irregular menstrual cycles for several months, you may benefit from natural hormone balancing. Ask your doctor if hormone testing is appropriate for you.
  5. Consider losing weight.
    The bigger the body, the more heat it can produce. Fat is insulating, that’s why arctic mammals have massive fat stores.

For additional practical tips for your home and work environment see Real Simple’s article:
23 Ways To Beat The Heat.

Staying Healthy while Traveling – 4 Tips

by Joan Haynes, NMD

If your vacation plans this summer involve travel to a foreign country, here are some tips to ensure your health stays in tip-top shape while you’re gone. Foreign lands mean foreign bugs, ones that our immune systems are less adapted too. If you are headed to a place where parasites are common, some extra precautions can be very helpful.

1. Prepare your digestive tract & prevent gastrointestinal illness

Take probiotics

Increasing your healthy intestinal bacteria for a month before your trip will leave you less susceptible to pathogens. We recommend HMF capsules one cap twice per day. This brand can tolerate room temperatures for up 30 days without refrigeration. If you are headed to a hot area without a fridge or air conditioning, buy a brand that is heat stable.

Make sure your digestive function is strong

Normal stomach acid is our best defense against pathogenic organisms. If you have symptoms such as gas, bloating, heartburn, or indigestion, check with your doctor to see if supplementing with hydrochloric acid is appropriate for you.

Don’t drink the water (or eat the salad, or iced drinks, etc!)

Hydration is very important of course, and if you are travelling to an area that has contaminated water, vigilance is required to avoid gastrointestinal illness. The best solution is to bring your own water filter and treat your water yourself. REI has some great options. If you choose to go the bottled water route, make sure that you are the one opening your bottles and check the seals. It is not uncommon in impoverished countries for locals to refill old bottles with unclean water and resell it. Similarly, do not believe any claims that the water or ice is boiled or treated. I could have saved myself a week of misery in Nepal if I had been less naïve! Peel your own fruit, insist that your food is steaming hot when it’s brought to you, and eschew raw salads and ice. You will be a less frequent visitor to the latrine.

Consider Hepatitis B vaccination if travelling to endemic areas

Hepatitis B causes an acute viral infection of the liver. Severe malaise, fatigue, and abdominal pain are common symptoms. It is transmitted when food preparers don’t wash their hands properly after using the toilet. The vaccine itself is one of the more benign ones, and could save you from ruining your vacation.

2. Prepare your circadian rhythm with melatonin

Jet lag can slow down the best of us. If you are travelling across several time zones, melatonin can be extremely helpful in “resetting” the circadian clock. Take 3 mg at the time that locals would be going to bed (and go to bed yourself). This should help induce proper sleep and wake times for that time zone.

3. Support your immune system

Get adequate sleep, and go easy on the sugar and alcohol. If you are concerned about a tendency to get sick, take an immune stimulating product such as Biovegetarian by Priority 1. As a preventative, the dose is 2 tablets per day. To treat acute illness the dose is 2 tablets 3-4 x/day.

4. Bring a travel kit and add your own natural medicines

Additional natural remedies you may wish to add:

For gastrointestinal illness:

Arsenicum 30C A homeopathic remedy that treats vomiting or diarrhea. At the first sign of getting ill, let 3 pellets dissolve under your tongue. Use every hour or two when awake until symptoms resolve.

Charcoal caps Charcoal absorbs toxins in your digestive tract. If you feel you ate or drank something that upset your system, take 2 caps (for a child) or 4 caps (for an adult). You can take 2 more capsules in another 1-2 hours. The charcoal will turn your stool black.

NF Phytofuge These capsules contain several different herbs that kill off parasites and pathogenic bacteria. They can be used as a preventative measure (1-2 caps per day) as well as to treat an acute infection (1-2 caps 3-4x/day).

Probiotics HMF caps or Probiotic Pearls (shelf stable) from the Co-op. Take 1cap with each meal to ensure healthy gut bacteria.

For trauma:

Arnica 30C

A homeopathic remedy that treats acute injuries by helping to reduce pain, swelling and bruising. Take 3 pellets under the tongue as soon after the injury as possible. This can be repeated every hour until symptoms subside.

Traumeel gel

A homeopathic topical gel that works similarly to arnica. Apply to affected areas every 2-3 hours as needed for pain and swelling.

For sunburn:

Aloe gel Soothing and healing to the skin following a burn. Do not apply to blistering or broken skin. Available at the Co-op.

For sleep/ jet lag:

Melatonin Take 1-3 mg at bedtime in your new time zone.

For colds/flu or general immune support:

Biovegetarian 2 caps per day as preventative, 2 caps 3-4 x/day for acute illness Consider purchasing a homeopathic first aid kit and book for other illnesses and injuries such as sunburn, insect bites, earaches etc.

All products are available at Boise Natural Health unless otherwise referenced. Happy Travels

 

Recommendations for Preventing and Treating the Flu

Joan Haynes, NMD

Prevention

  1. Read the “8 Natural Tips to Prevent a Cold” on WebMD for the basics.
  2. Boost your immune system
    • Eliminate or reduce sugar. Sugar decreases the activity of white blood cells, your primary immune defense system.
    • A quality multivitamin, fish oil and probiotics will go a long way to ensure your immune system has what it needs.
    • Eat nutritious foods such as fruits and vegetables daily. Alternatively, a green drink such as Nanogreens can help supplement the nutrients found in fruits and vegetables.
    • Eat garlic – try to get a clove in every day.
    • Correct a Vitamin D deficiency if you have one.  If you don’t know your vitamin D status, take 2,000 iu a day.  Testing is available through our office.
    • Rotate immune supporting herbs such as astragulus, mushrooms extracts, and echinacea.
    • Alterative Tea is an herbal preparation designed to help immune support while gently detoxifying the body.  1-3 cups daily is used for immune support.  Available at Boise Natural Health.
    • Exercise daily and reduce your stress!
    • Use essential oils regularly – in the air, on your skin orally.
  3. Take something to prevent the flu.  If you aren’t getting a flu vaccine, consider an alternative.  Homeopathic flu prevention preparations such as Muccococcinum are available to the public at our clinic.  Similar preparations are available at better vitamin shops and natural food stores.

Symptoms of the Flu

  • Common symptoms of the flu include:
  • Fever
  • Runny Nose
  • Cough
  • Body aches
  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Fatigue

Treating the Flu

Below is a list of treatment options you can choose from. Because some products are contraindicated in children or pregnant women, it is suggested that you consult your physician regarding what would be best for you.  Early treatment is best.

  1. Stay at home from work or school until all fevers subside for 24 continuous hours.
  2. General immune support with herbs and nutrients in combination products such as Biovegetarian or Wellness Formula.
  3. Elderberry has been shown in studies to reduce the duration and severity of the flu.  Boise Natural Health carries a high quality elderberry extract that tastes good.
  4. Specific herbs for cough.  We can create a tincture for you.
  5. Homeopathy.  Specific remedies can be useful to lessen symptoms and shorten duration.
  6. Warming Socks Treatment. Please ask for a copy of instructions for this very simple and effective treatment.

When to See your Physician

  1. Most people with the flu will recover without medical help. However, if you or your child have any of the following severe symptoms, please seek medical care:  prolonged illness longer than 5-7 days, shortness of breath, chest pain, intractable vomiting, confusion, sudden dizziness, dehydration, any progressively worsening symptoms, or in a child, non responsiveness, bluish skin color, or fever with rash.
  2. If you need help creating a treatment plan, call our office and set up an appointment.

 

Massaged Kale

By Joan Haynes, NMD

High in nutrients and low in calories, kale is an ideal food to eat regularly. There are over 60 nutrients found in kale. It is a rich source of the antioxidants lutein, zeaxanthin, beta-carotene, and vitamin C. Kale also contains manganese, copper, omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, folic acid, vitamin B6, vitamin E and potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, iron, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, niacin and protein.

Kale also provides a large amount of sulfur compounds. Sulfur compounds increase the liver’s ability to produce enzymes that neutralize potentially toxic substances and may help in the prevention of cancer.

This is an easy way to incorporate kale into your daily diet.

Massaged Kale

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch kale (Curly Kale works best for this)
  • 1 tsp sea salt or Celtic salt

Instructions

De-stem the kale leaves and save for soups or stir fry. Slice the leaves into ribbons (1/4 – 1/2 inch wide), sprinkle salt and start massaging the salt into the leaves. After a few minutes you’ll be able to feel the kale soften, making it much easier to chew and digest. You can store this kale for days in an air tight container and sprinkle it on your morning eggs, lunch time salads or add
to dinner in stir fry or soup.

Massaged Kale Salad

I’ve adapted this recipe from The Wellspring School for Healing Arts in Boise. It is a sure-fire  hit at pot lucks for your foodie friends.

Mix Together

  • 1 bunch kale & 1 tsp salt – chopped, salted and massaged
  • 1 bunch fresh spinach – washed and chopped
  • 1/4 cup diced red onion
  • 1/3 cup currants
  • 3/4 cup diced apple
  • 1/3 cup sunflower seeds, toasted
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 TBSP apple cider vinegar or seasoned rice vinegar
  • Optional – 1/3 cup Roquefort cheese, crumbled, sheep cheese is a good option

Could It Be Your Gallbladder?

Joan Haynes, NMD

Do you suffer from bloating, gas, belching, or abdominal pain with meals? If so, maybe your gallbladder is causing the symptoms.

The gallbladder is a digestive organ located in the upper right portion of the abdomen directly underneath the liver. The liver makes bile which is stored and concentrated in the gallbladder. As food leaves the stomach and enters the small intestine (duodenum), bile is secreted. The main function of bile is the digestion and absorption of fats. Bile also helps us absorb fat soluble nutrients and eliminate drugs and other compounds such as hormones.

Gallbladder

Symptoms of Gallbladder Dysfunction

Symptoms of Chronic Gallstones

  • Can have no symptoms
  • Abdominal pain following meals high in fat
  • Right sided abdominal pain but can be anywhere in abdomen
  • Radiating pain to the right shoulder
  • Bloating, gas, belching

Symptoms of Acute Cholecystitis (gallbladder attack that may require immediate surgery)

  • Abdominal pain with fever, nausea, vomiting

Tests Used to Diagnose Gallbladder Problems

Adapted from www.webmd.com

There are many choices of tests your doctor may order for you depending on your symptoms. Some are more commonly used than others.

  • Liver function tests (LFTs), which are blood tests that can show evidence of gallbladder disease.
  • A check of the blood’s amylase or lipase levels to look for inflammation of the pancreas. Amylase and lipase are enzymes produced in the pancreas.
  • A complete blood count (CBC), which looks at levels of different types of blood cells such as white blood cells. A high white blood cell count may indicate infection.
  • The use of ultrasound testing which uses sound waves to image the intra-abdominal organs including the gallbladder.
  • An abdominal X-ray, which may show evidence of gallbladder disease, such as gallstones. (not commonly used, may be an incidental finding)
  • A computed tomography (CT) scan that constructs X-ray images of the abdominal organs. This test may follow ultrasound if there are more questions.
  • A HIDA scan. In this test, a radioactive material called hydroxy iminodiacetic acid (HIDA) is injected into the patient. The radioactive material is taken up by the gallbladder to measure gallbladder function. This test also is referred to as
    cholescintigraphy.

Food Allergies and Sensitivities can be a root cause of gallbladder attacks

Since the 1940’s, James Breneman, MD reported that food allergies can initiate gallbladder  attacks and gallbladder disease. One study found that 100 percent of a group of patients were symptom free after following an elimination diet. Dr. Breneman believes that food allergies cause inflammation and swelling of the bile duct, which restricts bile flow from the gallbladder.

At Boise Natural Health Clinic, we offer ways to help identify food sensitivities with lab testing and formal elimination-rechallenge diets.

Treatment for Acute Attacks

  1. Fever, nausea and vomiting may require immediate medical attention and surgery.
  2. If immediate medical attention is not needed, your Boise Natural Health physician can make other recommendations such as the herb wild yam room (among others) that is antispasmodic, to provide relief of gallbladder spasms and pain.
  3. Specific homeopathic remedies may also be recommended chosen based on your specific symptoms may also provide symptom relief.

Treatment for Chronic Symptoms

Many times a gallbladder ends up being surgically removed. However, it may be possible to preserve your gallbladder and improve long term digestive health with proper care. You may want to consider:

  1. Correct dehydration to increase water content in bile
  2. Identify and remove or desensitize food allergies
  3. Decrease fat in diet and increase dietary fiber
  4. Repair nutritional deficiencies found in gallstone patients – vitamins E and C and omega 3 fish oils for example
  5. Increase solubility of the bile by using nutritional lipotropic (liver supporting) compounds and herbal cholagogues (stimulates bile flow). Your Boise Natural Health physician can customize a formula for you.
  6. Chemical dissolution of gallstones using plant terpenes, bile acids and lecithin

If you’ve had your gallbladder removed, consider the following:

  1. Replace the function of the gallbladder with bile salts. 1 to 2 tablets of professional quality bovine bile salts with each meal improves digestion and the absorption of fats.
  2. Evaluate what dietary and lifestyle factors contributed to the dysfunction of your gallbladder.

Oliver Oil Gall Bladder Flush

At Boise Natural Health, we do not recommend olive oil flushes to treat gallbladder problems. We have been taught that this procedure is dangerous because the large amounts of oil causes contraction of the gallbladder which in turn can cause existing stones in the gallbladder to become lodged in the bile duct causing an emergency situation. Some people see “stones” in the
toilet after doing an olive oil flush. A 2005 study in the Lancet (a much respected medical journal) analyzed the chemical makeup of the “stones”. These are not gallstones, but are soap solids created in the emulsification process of the olive oil.

In Summary

Gallbladder symptoms diagnosed early and will lead to earlier treatment and may function may be restored. If the gallbladder cannot be saved, there is still work to do by identifying the cause of the malady in the first place and supporting digestion for optimal absorption.

Choosing a Good Multiple Vitamin and Mineral Supplement

Joan Haynes, NMD

This article is not intended to tell you which vitamins to buy specifically, but rather how to make an informed decision. You are making a financial choice in your vitamin purchase; choosing the highest quality vitamin makes your purchase worthwhile.

Why do I need to take a multiple vitamin and mineral (MVM) supplement?

In theory, we should be able to receive all the nutrition we need from diet alone. But the fact is that most of us do not.

  • Few of us eat the recommended 5 – 8 servings of fresh fruits and vegetables a day.
  • Our food is often picked before it is ripe and transported long distances.
  • The soil in which our food is grown has become depleted of nutrients.
  • We rely on quick, processed foods with our busy lifestyle.
  • We live in a highly toxic world.
  • We have individual health needs and challenges.

A multiple vitamin and mineral (MVM) supplement does not replace a good diet. There are compounds in food that just can’t be replaced in a pill. Evidence shows that a good diet is still your best tool for staying healthy. However, a good MVM supplement is important insurance for optimal health.

How will I know its working?

You may experience higher energy levels, improved brain function, fewer colds or infections, reduced symptoms and other health benefits, or you may feel nothing.

Just because you may not feel anything doesn’t mean that the higher nutrient levels you are ingesting are not being used by your body. One study has shown that children taking a MVM supplement increased non-verbal intelligence (1). Another has shown that the elderly had significantly fewer infections compared to a placebo group (2). Use of a MVM supplement has also been associated with decreased mortality rates due to cardiovascular disease (3). The evidence for taking a MVM supplement is becoming overwhelming.

How much do I really need to take?

You will notice on supplement bottles the amount of each nutrient followed by the % DV. This number is the percent of the total daily amount recommended by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA). (There are nutrients for which a %DV has not been established.) %DV on labels can be misleading because it is an average amount needed for most healthy people and does not reflect age, gender or health status.

A quality MVM supplement will show a %DV that may exceed or go below 100%. This is because there is a difference between the amount of nutrients needed to ward off illness and the amount needed for “optimum” nutrition. The amounts of nutrients that are recommended by different experts will differ if their goal is to simply avoid signs of nutrient deficiency or if their goal is to allow a person to function at the highest degree possible. The %DV also does not take into account the form of the nutrients and its bioavailability.

What does a good multiple vitamin and mineral supplement look like?

Choose Capsules, not Tablets

Capsules: A capsule is usually made of animal or vegetable derived gelatin. Capsules are free of binding agents, glaze, and coloring allowing the nutrients to be more easily available and absorbable.

Tablets: Tablets are made by combining all the ingredients and compressing them together. Sometimes these tablets are then coated with pharmaceutical glaze. To obtain the nutrients, the body has to digest this highly compressed tablet. If you have digestive weaknesses, you may or may not digest the entire vitamin.

An easy test to determine if you are digesting your MVM supplement is to check if your urine turns bright yellow. If your urine is not bright yellow after taking the vitamin, either you are not absorbing the vitamin, or there are not enough B vitamins in the product to spill over into the kidneys.

Number of Capsules

A one-a-day pill cannot give you all the nutrients you need, making it a poor value. The dose of a high-quality encapsulated MVM supplement is usually 6-8 capsules a day.

Age and Gender Specific

Your age and gender, along with your health status will determine the amount of nutrients you specifically require. This is best determined in conjunction with your health care provider. You can also do your own research. We recommend the book Prescription for Natural Cures, by James F. Balch, M.D. and Mark Stengler, NMD

Bioavailable Forms

There are better forms of individual nutrients than others. You get what you pay for. Many lower cost products will use cheaper forms of vitamins and minerals. Unfortunately, many times cheaper forms also mean nutrients which are poorly absorbed or not usable by the body. Below are a few examples of nutrient choices.

  • Vitamin D: Cholecalciferol, D3, is the active form of Vitamin D and is the preferable form.
  • Vitamin E
    • The best form of Vitamin E is d-alpha tocopherol with mixed tocopherols (dalpha, gamma, beta, and delta).
    • The synthetic form of Vitamin E is dl-alpha tocopherol. Note that the difference in labeling is “d” vs. “dl” before the alpha. “dl” is not a healthy choice.
  • Vitamin B12: The best form of Vitamin B12 is methylcobalamin. Cyanocobalamin is the form in most vitamins and is usually fine for most people. If someone has chronic disease however, a methylcobalamin form is recommended.
  • Vitamin B6: The active form of B6 is pyridoxine 5-phosphate. This is usually designated at P-5-P.
  • Minerals: There are many forms of minerals which are bonded to compounds; the physical form of a mineral is usually designated by the last word of the name. Example: magnesium citrate or magnesium oxide. Each form has different amounts of the basic elemental mineral as compared to the size of the whole compound and will determine how absorbable the mineral is.
    • For example: calcium carbonate (this includes coral calcium) is a large molecule with a lot of elemental calcium. The large size of this molecule means that it is not easily absorbed. Calcium carbonate also tends to be constipating for some people. Calcium citrate, by contrast, is a smaller form of elemental calcium, and is much more easily absorbed than the carbonate form. (An interesting note is that certain antacid medications contain calcium carbonate and are marketed as a source of calcium. However, because the purpose of an antacid is to inhibit stomach acid, and stomach acid is necessary for making minerals available for absorption, the body has a harder time actually utilizing the calcium!)
    • Similarly, magnesium oxide is poorly absorbed and causes water to stay in the intestines, thus causing a looser stool. Thus, magnesium oxide can be useful to treat occasional constipation. Alternatively, magnesium citrate is a better choice because it is more easily absorbed. (Caution, however, the citrate form may also cause loose stools for some people.)
    • There are other forms of mineral compound chelates including gluconate, aspartate, asparotate, and lactate. The gluconate form is not recommended.

Hypoallergenic

A good multivitamin will be hypoallergenic, meaning it does not contain wheat, dairy, corn, soy, or artificial dyes or colorings.

Other Ingredients

Before you read what the active ingredients are, read the label for “other ingredients.” Many supplements contain extra ingredients that may cause side effects or impair absorption. If you have lots of unnecessary “other ingredients”, it does not matter how much active ingredients you have, the MVM supplement is already a poor choice. We recommend researching any ingredient that is unfamiliar to you.

The following is not a comprehensive list. Some “other ingredients” to avoid:

  • Glucose, fructose, dextrose, maltodextrose, corn syrup, sucrose, lactose. These are sugars and unless these are added for flavor in children’s chewable vitamins, they are not needed. As soon as possible, wean your child from a chewable to a capsule to minimize their dependence on sugar and risk to their teeth.
  • Sorbitol. This is a sugar alcohol, and although is not purely sugar, it is not beneficial in a vitamin. For diabetics this is an absolute must for avoidance! Sorbitol can also cause diarrhea.
  • NutraSweet, Equal, Aspartame, Sucralose, Splenda. These are artificial sweeteners and are NOT beneficial to the body.
  • Polyethylene glycol. Although non-toxic, this chemical, when used in large dosages, is a treatment for constipation. It is unnecessary for use in highly absorbable vitamins.
  • Mineral Oil. Mineral oil is derived from petroleum and prevents absorption of nutrients. Given these two facts, taking a vitamin with mineral oil does not seem a good choice.
  • Canuba Wax. Canuba wax may inhibit the digestion of the ingredients and make it less absorbable. This is especially true if digestive weaknesses are already present.
  • Dextrin. This is a binding product, making the nutrients less available for digestion.
  • Di-calcium phosphate. Di-calcium phosphate is an excipient (an inactive ingredient) and is not available to the body as calcium. A vitamin labeling both calcium and phosphorus may be counting the di-calicum phosphate as calcium, but it really doesn’t add much to the calcium content nutritionally.
  • Any coloring
  • Any pharmaceutical glaze
  • Magnesium stearate, calcium stearate, stearic acid. These are not nutritional ingredients but rather fats that act as lubricants, they allow the manufacturing process to run faster and prevent the capsulation/tabulating machines from clogging up. Many times, these lubricants are animal based. Each particle of your vitamin can be coated by the lubricant, which then needs to be dissolved before you can access the vitamin. If you have digestive problems such as irritable bowel, a missing gallbladder, or acid reflux, it may be difficult for you to get benefit from your MVM supplement if these lubricants are present.

I always forget to take my multi. How can I remember?

Find a visual trigger and make it a habit:

  • Buy a little shot glass or small candle holder, fill it with your vitamins and set by your usual meal place (we have a basket of free ones at our office)
  • Medication holders – found at drug stores
  • Small baggies – create a week’s worth on Sunday night
  • Involve your family – set out everyone’s supplements at once
  • For a month, create a checklist to record each time you take your supplements

When should I take my MVM supplement?

The best time to take a MVM supplement is when you are eating. This is when your gastrointestinal system is optimally prepared to absorb the nutrients. Many people think they cannot tolerate a MVM supplement but it is simply because they’ve only tried taking it on an empty stomach. Divide your daily dose in half and take it with breakfast and lunch or dinner.

In Conclusion

While good supplements are available at reputable stores, it can be overwhelming even for the most knowledgeable consumer to know what to choose. Choosing a MVM supplement may seem as easy as grabbing one off the supermarket shelves, but with a little knowledge, the one you choose can be the right one for you. Read the labels carefully and make an informed decision. Your health is valuable and making informed choices can help your health and your pocketbook.

The supplements available at Boise Natural Health are professional grade and are manufactured by very reputable companies. We strive to bring you supplements that are thoroughly researched and provide the best available ingredients. Please note, we sell only to current patients. You can look at the following links to see some information provided by some of our manufacturers:

  • Thorne Research http://www.thorne.com/media/supp_facts_2003.pdf
  • Pure Encapsulations http://www.purecaps.com/QualityControl.asp
  • Wise Women Herbs http://www.wisewomanherbals.com/about_our-products.html

References

1 Benton D and Roberts G: “Effect of vitamin and mineral supplementation on intelligence of a sample of school children.” The Lancet 1:140-3, 1988
2 Chandra RK: “Effects of vitamin and trace-element supplementation on immune responses and infection in elderly 
subjects.: The Lancet 340:1124-7, 1992
3 Watkins ML, Erickson JD, Thun MJ, et al. Multivitamin use and mortality in a large prospective study. Am J Epidemiol 152:149–62, 2000