Category: Food and Nutrition

Bastyr Center for Natural Health: Anti-Inflammatory Diet

 Chronic inflammation can both lead to and aggravate a number of health conditions. The following dietary suggestions aim to decrease inflammation.

Eat a Low Glycemic Diet

  • Refined grains and sugars can be pro-inflammatory.

Consume 7 – 10 Servings of Fruit and Vegetables per Day

  • Colorful fruits and vegetables contain a myriad of phytochemicals that are anti-inflammatory. Choose a “rainbow diet” of fruits and vegetables from every color.
  • Green leafy vegetables, cabbage family vegetables, onions, berries, cherries, citrus fruits, and pomegranates are particularly anti-inflammatory.

Have Nuts and/or Seeds Every Day

  • Consume a variety of nuts — raw nuts are preferable. Especially beneficial nuts include pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, almonds, cashews, Brazil nuts, flaxseed, sesame seeds, and walnuts.

Use Quality Fats

  • Unsaturated fats high in omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory. Best sources include cold water fish, flax seeds, and walnuts. Flaxseed oil is an excellent plant source of omega-3 fatty acids and is great for salad dressings but should not be heated.
  • Use extra virgin olive oil as main oil for sauces, salad dressings, and marinades. Unrefined coconut oil and be used for sautéing.
  • Decrease consumption of foods high in omega-6 fatty acids, such as soybean, corn, safflower, and sunflower oils. Omega-6 fatty acids can increase pro-inflammatory markers in the body if eaten in excess. Many of these oils are widely used in processed foods, so be sure to read labels.
  • Avoid hydrogenated fats/trans fats in the form of shortening, margarine, and in many baked and prepackaged foods.

Load up on Herbs and Spices

  • Herbs and spices have strong anti-inflammatory properties and can be added in creative ways to most foods. Examples include ginger, garlic, turmeric, curry, rosemary, basil, cinnamon, hops, nettles, and thyme.

Drink Tea

  • Black, green, red, and white tea (Camellia sinesis) may help reduce inflammation due to the high polyphenol and antioxidant content.
  • Herbal tea infusions, such as rosehip and nettle, may also be beneficial.

 Get your Probiotics

  • Fermented foods are an excellent source of probiotic bacteria which help to keep the digestive tract healthy and may reduce inflammation. Food sources include kombucha, miso, sauerkraut, yogurt, kefir, and kimchi.

Avoid Chemicals

  • Many industrial chemicals and pesticides can irritate the immune system. Choose organic foods and “green” personal care and cleaning products. Refer to the Environmental Working Group www.ewg.org for more information.

Minimize Alcohol Intake

  • While modest intake of red wine has an anti-inflammatory effect, excess alcohol intake can increase inflammation and irritate the digestive tract.

Practice Stress Reduction

  • Psychological stress can increase the inflammatory response. Physical activity, yoga, and meditation may be helpful to reduce stress.

Consider Food Allergy Elimination

Food allergies can often cause inflammatory symptoms in the body. The common food allergens are milk, eggs, fish, wheat, tree nuts, peanuts, soybeans and shellfish.

3670 Stone Way N, Seattle, WA 98103 | Phone 206.834.4100 | BastyrCenter.org

Are Foods Causing Your Symptoms? Understanding Testing Options

Adverse food reactions are very common. If you have health concerns, this article will help you examine whether food might be a cause or contributing factor.

What are Adverse Food Reactions?

Adverse food reactions can be broadly classified into 2 categories:

  1. Sensitivity or Intolerance
    1. Time delayed reaction that occurs within hours to days of exposure
    2. Often IgG antibody mediated
    3. Can sometimes be caused by other factors such as histamine, enzyme deficiencies, infections, “leaky gut” and other often fixable issues.
  2. Allergy
    1. Immediate reaction that occurs within minutes to hours of exposure
    2. IgE antibody mediated response
    3. Often needs immediate treatment (i.e. epi pen)

What are IgG and IgE Antibodies?

Antibodies are a protein on the white blood cell (WBC) that helps the WBC know where and what to attack.  You can make an antibody to any substance.  It is important to know the difference between fast (IgE) and delayed (IgG) when discussing testing options.

Symptoms of Food Sensitivities (IgG Mediated antibodies and other types of delayed reactions)

Food sensitivity symptoms are typically delayed onset reactions;  symptoms can occur sometimes hours or even days after exposure.  Symptoms may persist for days after exposure. IgG antibody testing can be useful to diagnose.

  • General: fatigue, insomnia, food cravings, obesity, water retention
  • Infections: frequent colds, urinary tract infections, sore throats, ear infections, yeast infections
  • Respiratory: chronic nasal congestion, recurrent colds, sinus infections, postnasal drip, fluid in the ears, Meniere’s syndrome, tinnitus, snoring, canker sores, asthma
  • Gastrointestinal: Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), constipation, diarrhea, abdominal cramping, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, gallbladder disease, bloating, gas, heartburn, Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, hemorrhoids
  • Cardiovascular: high blood pressure, arrhythmia, angina, palpitations
  • Dermatologic: acne, eczema, psoriasis, canker sores, hives, unexplained itching
  • Rheumatologic: generalized inflammation, joint pain, muscle aches, fibromyalgia type pain, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis
  • Neurologic: migraines and other headaches, numbness, dizziness, inability to concentrate, memory issues, brain fog
  • Mental/Emotional: anxiety, irritability, nervousness, depression
  • Autoimmune conditions: Rheumatoid Arthritis, Sjogren’s, Crohn’s, Hashimoto’s, etc
  • Miscellaneous: frequent urination or burning, teeth grinding, bedwetting, infantile colic, ADHD or hyperactivity, cranky behavior in children, chronic fatigue

Symptoms of Food Allergies (IgE Mediated Antibodies)

  • Gastrointestinal tract:  nausea, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach-pain/cramping
  • Respiratory tract: swelling of the airways to the lungs, tightness in the chest or shortness of breath; and /or wheezing, swelling of the lips, tongue or mouth, anaphylaxis, reduced airflow in the nasal passageways, runny, stuffy nose, dry, staccato cough, itching or tightness in the throat, extra mucus production
  • Skin: itchy rash or hives, swelling, itching in the ears or mouth
  • Eyes: watery, swollen, itchy eyes

Diagnosing Adverse Food Reactions

Testing Method Benefits Limitations
Elimination Reintroduction Diet

The most common potentially reactive foods are removed from the diet all at once for 1 – 3 weeks, then systematically reintroduced to determine which foods are problematic

Highly accurate if done correctly.

No fee.

Can be done as part of a cleanse or weight loss program

Can help identify which foods cause which type of symptoms

Hard to do correctly (requires self-discipline, attention to detail, limited diet)

Only picks up common foods

Can take several weeks to complete.

Most effectively done under the supervision of a trained practitioner to avoid mistakes.

Not appropriate for testing IgE allergies due to possible severity of reactions

IgG Blood Test

Food sensitivity or intolerance, delayed reaction antibody test

Easier than the elimination diet

Tests 96 different foods (more if desired)

Can be combined with IgE testing

Only picks up IgG mediated reactions, will miss IgE reactions and intolerances caused by other factors

Results need confirmation with a Formal Elimination Reintroduction Diet

Fee.  Blood draw or finger prick.

IgE Blood Test

Immediate reaction antibody test for true food allergies

Safe way to screen for potentially dangerous reactions Misses delayed (IgG) reactions

Fee.  Blood draw.

Carroll Food Intolerance Test

 

Evaluates food that is not well metabolized by the body Fee.  Finger prick.
Skin Testing

Performed at allergy clinics

May be useful for environmental allergens and/or immediate food reactions. Not useful for delayed food reactions.

Scratching, or injecting allergens under the skin

Conditions that May Cause or Contribute to Symptoms and Adverse Food Reactions

Many factors go into the development of and recovery from food sensitivities.  By healing the gut and addressing underlying conditions, there is more possibility of tolerating foods.

  1. Deficient stomach acid or pancreatic enzymes
  2. Leaky Gut
  3. Dysbiosis – lack of good bacteria, pathogenic microorganisms including yeast
  4. SIBO – small intestinal bacterial overgrowth
  5. Celiac Disease
  6. Helicobacter pylori infection
  7. Gallbladder disease
  8. Prostaglandin mediated responses – inflammatory foods
  9. Blood Type
  10. Epigenetics – the modification of your gene expression

How Do I Learn More?

To set up a free 10-minute consult with a BNH Clinic provider to help determine if food allergy or intolerance testing is right for you, please call our office at 208-338-0405.

The Carroll Food Intolerance Test

By Nicole Maxwell, NMD

The Carroll Food Intolerance test, also known as FIT, helps us to understand the digestive and metabolic capacity of a patient’s body by identifying foods that are not compatible with their system.  

The History: Dr. Carroll practiced from 1917 to 1962 in Spokane, WA.  He was a busy and successful naturopath, however he couldn’t help his chronically ill son Bill.  In his search for better treatment methods, he learned about the work of Stanford physician, Dr. Albert Abrams who had been experimenting with new diagnostic techniques.  Dr. Carroll modified Dr. Abrams’ work to devise the FIT. Dr. Carroll discovered that his son was intolerant to fruit, removed fruit from his son’s diet, and for the first time his son recovered.  The FIT as devised by Dr. Carroll is similar, in some respects, to the bioelectronics testing of Voll, from which many biofeedback mechanisms have evolved.

What is it testing? This new method evaluates foods that are not well digested or metabolized by the body.  Those foods become a source of dysbiosis and can lead to inadequate breakdown of food, intestinal toxemia, and chronic irritation of the body tissues.  Dysbiosis means an imbalance between the types of organisms present in a person’s natural microflora, especially that of the gut, thought to contribute to a range of conditions of ill health.

Diagnosis? The Carroll test does not diagnose a disease, nor does it diagnose an allergy.  It is a determination of a patient’s incompatibility with food groups or combinations of those food groups.

The nitty gritty: A sample of blood is collected and evaluation is done using a specific electric circuit exposed to various foods in contact with a reagent. Fluctuations in the current are detected. Most people evaluated intolerant to one of the following foods or food categories: milk, egg, meat, sugar, fruit, grain and potato. In addition, he discovered that most people had a problem with one or more combinations of food, similarly not well tolerated.*

It works! I have used the Carroll food intolerance test for the last 17 years and have had great success.  I estimate 95% of my patients experience significant improvement when following their results. Do you experience a variety of health complaints and are unable to figure out why?  Do you seem to have multiple food intolerances from other food sensitivity testing or from observation? The Carroll Food Intolerance Test is often the game changer for people to help resolve a variety of complaints, heal their gut to be able to eat more foods, or lessen the load on the body so that the body can move toward health more easily.

We over this modality at Boise Natural Health Clinic to help you have optimal digestion and health.

*http://www.songofhealth.com/carrollhistory.html

Tis the Season … To Overindulge?

By Nicole Maxwell, NMD

During this joyful and sometimes stressful season of office parties, family get-togethers and general celebration, it is possible one might overindulge in food and/or alcohol.  What can one do to help mitigate the effects?

  1. Drink lots of water to get things moving through the kidneys and out of the system.  Target 64oz a day of filtered water. If the overindulgence is alcohol, take commercial electrolytes (Nuun Sport is a good one), coconut water, or diluted juice and table salt.  
  1. When eating foods you normally avoid, take a digestive enzyme that works for your issue.  For example, if you avoid gluten and dairy then consider GFCF by Integrative Therapeutics to help digest those items.  We have many types of digestive enzymes and your provider can help you select the best one for your situation.  
  1. Homeopathic Nux Vomica 30c is great for that post party hangover. The morning after the over-indulgence, take five pellets under the tongue every 15 minutes up to three doses.
  1. Sign up for my 4-Week Clinical Detoxification Program the end of February – we’ll do a thorough clean-up of the system getting you ready to start the new year right. 

I hope this season treats you well and wish you the best of health.

– Dr. Nicole

How to Turn Coffee into a Super Food

by Joan Haynes, NMD

I’m a coffee lover, as are many of my patients.  Instead of feeling guilty about our habit, let’s focus on how to drink this delicious brew to improve our health:

 

Here are some highlights of health improvements you can look forward to:

  1. Better Cognition The daily and long term performance improvements and neuroprotective benefits of coffee are not due to caffeine alone, but also to other bioactive compounds in coffee.
  2. Decreases Sugar Cravings Caffeine binds to your opioid receptors, prohibiting you from cravings something else, such as sugar.  Coffee also lowers your blood glucose level.
  3. Increases Your Metabolism Coffee increases your metabolism up to 20 % if consumed before exercise without sugar.
  4. Disease Prevention There are many studies about coffee and the majority are quite positive.  Some of the conditions which coffee lowers the risk of include type II diabetes, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s Disease, prostate cancer, liver cancer, and stroke.
  5. Benefit to the Microbiome Increases the metabolic activity and/or numbers of beneficial Bifidobacteria in your gastrointestinal tract.

 

For a more in-depth discussion about the health benefits of coffee, see Dr. Mercola’s article.

 

Dr. Joan’s Three Coffee Rules

  1. Amount matters

Stick to drinking coffee in the morning and limit yourself to one mug a day – okay, maybe two.  Although, some studies encourage drinking more.  Watch for side effects like rapid heart rate, anxiety/irritability, trouble sleeping.  (If you are caffeine sensitive or have an adverse reaction to coffee, you may not have the same reaction to a different brand, a different type of bean, or a different brewing method.)

  1. Quality counts

Buy organic, fresh roasted, whole beans and grind them yourself.  Darker roasts have less caffeine and more of the health promoting compounds than light roasts.

  1. Healthful Additives

    • “Milks” – My strong preference is coconut cream. It comes in a can and is thicker than regular coconut milk.  Transfer it to a jar, store in the fridge, and use 1 TBSP in each mug.  Coconut cream is full of MCTs (medium chain triglycerides) shown to provide quick energy, boost fat burning, and help prevent Alzheimer’s.
    • Sweetener – None is best, but I use ½ teaspoon of local honey in my cup. Stevia is another great choice but gives a distinct taste that some don’t care for.  Stay away from artificial sweeteners.
    • Turmeric – 1 – 2 teaspoons in each mug. Don’t be afraid to try this!  So yummy.  All the anti-inflammatory and anticancer benefits of turmeric with an amazing East Indian flavor.  You can add a dash of cardamom, cinnamon, or nutmeg.  Wonderful with coconut milk and honey.

Correcting Your Iron Deficiency

By Joan Haynes, NMD

Symptoms of Iron Deficiency

  • Fatigue
  • Poor attention, memory, and work productivity
  • Sore tongue
  • Poor condition of skin, nails, or hair including hair loss
  • Cracks or sores at the corners of mouth
  • Wounds heal slowly
  • Shortness of breath
  • Paleness
  • Restless leg syndrome

Reasons for an Iron Deficiency

  1. Blood loss – through heavy menstrual cycles, intestinal bleeding, etc.
  2. Low intake of iron rich foods (see attached list)
  3. Gastrointestinal problems:
    • Low hydrochloric acid and digestive enzymes
    • Celiac disease
    • Intestinal parasite infections
    • Intestinal bleeding (which the patient may not notice)
  4. Supplements and Medications that interfere with iron absorption
    • Calcium – in dairy foods and calcium supplements
    • Antacids such as Rolaids and Tums and acid-blocking medications such as Pepcid and Prilosec
  5. Health Issues
    • Chronic diseases such as hypothyroidism, cancer, and blood abnormalities.

Ways to Increase Iron Absorption

  1. Increase acid in the digestive tract
    • Vitamin C – 250-2000 mg can be taken at the same time as your iron
    • Vinegar – 1 ounce of apple cider vinegar with your iron or on your iron rich foods
    • Hydrochloric acid – if too low will inhibit mineral absorption. Read my article: Reflux: Could you have LOW Stomach Acid.  Caution: do not take hydrochloric acid unless you start very slowly and read the contraindications.
  2. Meat sources of iron are more easily absorbed than plant sources
  3. Combine plant and animal sources in the same meal to enhance the absorption of iron from plants
  4. Cast Iron cookware releases iron into food

Ways to Decrease Iron Absorption

– Try to not ingest the following with your iron supplement or iron rich meals, especially if you are having trouble getting your iron levels to rise.  Avoid them 1 hour before and 2 hours after iron ingestion.

  1. Oxalates – found in many foods, even iron rich foods like spinach and kale which prevent the iron from being released. But, if you cook those veggies it will help with availability.  Other high oxalate foods include beets, nuts, chocolate, tea, wheat bran, rhubarb, strawberries, oregano, basil and parsley.
  2. Phytates – this compound is found in whole grain, fiber supplements, walnuts, almonds, sesame, dried beans, lentils, peas and soy protein.
  3. Polyphenols – another plant compound found in coffee, tea, chocolate, walnuts, apples, blackberries, raspberries and blueberries.
  4. Calcium – cow’s milk products (cheese, yogurt, milk) and calcium supplements
  5. Antacids such as Rolaids and Tums and acid-blocking medications such as Pepcid and Prilosec

Testing for Iron Deficiency

  1. The most commonly ordered test is part of a Complete Blood Count which shows hemoglobin and hematocrit levels. However, these markers are unreliable and miss many people’s iron deficiency.
  2. It is much more useful to run a Serum Ferritin which will measure your iron stores and can reveal low iron levels much earlier than a CBC. We like levels above 90.

Taking an Iron Supplement

  1. There are different forms of supplemental iron, some of which are more easily absorbed. The commonly recommended form ferrous sulfate often cases gastrointestinal issues.  Amino-acid chelates are usually tolerated better such as iron bis-glycinate.
  2. Iron is best absorbed on an empty stomach. But if you experience stomach cramps, nausea or diarrhea, you can take with a small amount of food.
  3. If you need to take your iron with food, avoid taking it with the list above under Ways to Decrease Iron Absorption.
  4. For medications and supplements, wait at least 1 hour before and 2 hours after calcium, antacids, tetracycline, penicillin, ciprofloxacin, and drugs used for Parkinson disease and seizures. Check any other medication you are taking for iron contraindications.
  5. Black stools are normal when taking iron tablets.
  6. Liquid iron supplements can stain your teeth. Use a straw.
  7. If your iron is causing constipation, diarrhea, nausea which doesn’t go away by taking with food, contact the clinic and we can recommend another form of iron. There are forms of iron that are easier on the digestive tract.
  8. An iron deficiency may be a sign of other nutritional deficiencies as well. Be sure to take a multivitamin which includes a full spectrum of minerals too.
  9. Don’t give up – it takes time for iron stores to correct. Get tested regularly so you know your therapy is working.  If your ferritin levels are not increasing, make sure you follow up with your provider to investigate the reason.

Keep iron supplements out of the reach of children.

If your child swallows an iron pill, contact a poison control center right away.

Iron Rich Foods (from www.healthcastle.com)

The amount of iron you need depends on your age and iron status.  The recommended daily allowance varies from 0.27 mg/day for an infant to 27 mg/day for a pregnant woman.  An anemic person will need more until their condition is stabilized.

Animal Sources Containing Heme Iron which is more easily absorbed

  • Clams – 23.8 mg per 3 oz
  • Oysters – 7.8 mg per 3 oz
  • Liver per 3 oz
    • Chicken – 8 mg
    • Beef – 5.8 mg
  • Mussels – 5.7 mg per 3 oz
  • Sardines – 2.4 mg per 3 oz
  • Turkey – 1.6 mg per 3 oz
  • Beef per 3 oz
    • Extra lean ground – 2.5 mg
    • Prime rib – 2.1 mg
    • Short rib – 2 mg
    • Rib eye – 1.7 mg
    • Sirloin – 1.6 mg
  • Lamb chop – 2.1 mg per 3 oz
  • Egg – 1.2 mg per 2 large eggs

Plant Sources Containing Non-Heme Iron

  • Pumpkin seeds – 8.6 mg per 1/4 cup
  • Firm Tofu – 8 mg per 3/4 cup
  • Beans per 3/4 cup cooked
    • White beans – 5.8 mg
    • Red kidney beans – 3.9 mg
    • Soybeans: 3.4 mg
  • Lentils – 4.9 mg per 3/4 cup cooked
  • Some whole-grain breakfast cereals (per cup)
    • Total – 18 mg
    • Raisin Bran – 10.8 mg
    • Cheerios – 8.9 mg
    • Special K – 8.7 mg
    • All-Bran – 5.5 mg
  • Baked potato with skin – 2.7 mg
  • Chickpeas – 2.4 mg per 3/4 cup cooked
  • Blackstrap Molasses – 3.6 mg per Tbsp
  • Prune juice – 3.2 mg per cup
  • Dried fruits per 1/2 cup
    • Peaches – 1.6 mg
    • Raisins – 1.4 mg
    • Plums – 1.3 mg
    • Apricots – 1.2 mg
  • Nuts per 1/4 cup:
    • Cashew: 1.7 mg
    • Almonds: 1.4 mg
    • Pistachio: 1.2 mg
    • Walnuts: 0.9 mg
    • Pecan: 0.7 mg

Calcium . . . Friend or Foe?  A Fresh Look at Bone Health and Osteoporosis

by Joan Haynes, NMD

Still think 1200 mg of calcium daily will build good bone?  Think again.  That much calcium might only not help, but actually harm.  Excessive calcium might compromise cardiac and kidney health.  Here’s a fresh look at osteoporosis and the host of minerals, cofactors, diet and lifestyle recommendations that are necessary for good bone health.

Careful with Calcium

Health professionals are beginning to question the recommendations on calcium supplementation.  A study published in the British Medical Journal in 2008 showed a positive correlation between calcium supplementation and an increased risk of myocardial infarction (heart attack) in older women through calcification of coronary arteries.  Other studies showed too much calcium leads to deposits in the kidneys leading to kidney stones.

Not All Calcium is the Same

The type of calcium is always important to consider.  At BNH we recommend calcium citrate or calcium citrate-malate.  These are highly absorbable forms of calcium and we recommend that women stay under 500 mg a day.  The popular and inexpensive calcium carbonate form is what chalk and Tums are made from.  Calcium carbonate actually blocks its own absorption through buffering stomach acid.

Low Stomach Acid

You might be getting plenty of calcium and other minerals in your diet, but if you don’t have enough stomach acid to break them down, you can’t absorb them.  Symptoms of low stomach acid might be acid reflux, heartburn, burping, gas, bloating, and nausea.  Low stomach acid is associated with an inability to digest meat well and often people’s stomach feels heavy or overly full after meals, despite eating a normal amount.  Sometimes, even if there are no gastrointestinal symptoms, it is useful to screen patients for low HCL if they have poor mineralization health conditions, such as those with anemia, osteoporosis, thinning hair, thin nails, and nervous system problems like insomnia, anxiety, and restless leg syndrome. READ MORE about low stomach acid in an article on our web page.

Bones are MUCH More than Calcium

To build and maintain bone we must also have optimal amounts of vitamin D, vitamin K, magnesium, potassium and essential trace minerals such as boron.  Adequate protein is also needed as well as omega-3 oils.

High Calcium Foods are High Mineral Foods

We all know that dairy foods are high in calcium, but many of our patients avoid dairy.  The best food sources of calcium, other than dairy, include whole grains, beans, almonds and other nuts, dark green leafy vegetables like kale, bok choy and turnip greens, also salmon and sardines. It is interesting to note that individuals who avoid dairy due to lactose intolerance do not experience a corresponding increase in osteoporosis.

A Word about Strontium

In my patients that have demonstrated bone loss with a DEXA scan, I recommend the mineral strontium citrate.  This mineral has been shown to increase bone density.  Caution: calcium will inhibit the absorption of strontium if taken together so they must be ingested at different meals.

Alkaline Diet

A diet high in animal protein, grains, and sugar and low in vegetables and fruit can cause an increase in urinary excretion of calcium, leading to bone loss.  These foods acidify your system, causing a leaching of calcium from the bone to keep your body’s pH normal.  A whole-foods, plant-based diet create a more alkaline environment.

Exercise

Always at the top of the list to build and maintain healthy bones is exercise.  Both weight bearing and cardio together have been shown to be the most effective.

Don’t Wait to Take Bone Health Seriously

About one in two women over the age of 50 will develop osteoporosis but what is often overlooked is one in four men over the age of 50 will also develop the disease.  Be proactive with your bone health.

At Boise Natural Health, we can help you design an effective bone health program that includes individualized supplementation and overall health optimization.  Call today to make an appointment 208-338-0405. 

Tired? You Might Have Low Iron

By Joan Haynes, NMD

Fatigue can have many causes, but a fairly easy cause to figure out and treat involves iron. Iron deficiency is an under-recognized cause of fatigue and can be missed on standard lab work.

Symptoms which may be linked to iron depletion are:

  • Fatigue
  • Poor work productivity
  • Poor attention and memory
  • Sore tongue
  • Poor condition of skin or nails
  • Hair loss
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Cracks on the corners of mouth
  • Pica – cravings for non-foods such as ice or even dirt

Iron does some important things in the body:

  • Carries oxygen to tissues
  • Needed in the mitochondria which makes energy
  • Helps synthesis of thyroid hormone
  • Converts tyrosine to dopamine (one of our feel good neurotransmitters)
  • Important in immune function

Testing

Most clinics order a CBC (Complete Blood Count) which will pick up the advanced form of iron deficiency anemia with a low hematocrit and/or hemoglobin (the color and volume of your red blood cells). But an earlier form of low iron levels can be detected with a serum ferritin test. The “normal” range for serum ferritin is broad, from 8 – 250 ng/mL, but hair loss, fatigue and other symptoms can occur when the number gets below 90.

Uncover the Cause of the Low Iron

Besides just identifying the problem, we need to discover and address the causes of the iron deficiency. It could be the patient just doesn’t eat enough iron-rich foods, but it could be something more serious. For example: heavy menstrual bleeding, low stomach acid, celiac disease, low B-12 and folate levels, hidden bleeding in the colon (a potential sign of colon cancer), small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), chronic disease, inflammation, high lead levels and more.

Iron Supplements

Many people complain about gastrointestinal symptoms when taking supplemental iron, usually the ferrous sulfate form. But there are easier forms to absorb. At Boise Natural Health Clinic we use iron bis-glycinate with Vitamin C, between meals. It can take months for iron levels to come back up.

Iron absorption is inhibited by:

Low stomach acid, acid blocking medication, H. pylori infection, coffee, tea, soy products, wheat bran, wheat gluten, oat, nuts, casein, egg white, whey protein, some herbal teas.

Iron absorption is enhanced by:

Hydrochloric acid and vitamin C

Caution is advised with iron supplementation can be toxic, it is the leading cause of poisoning in children. In general, men and non-menstruating women should not take iron supplements or even a multi with iron in it unless they test low.

If you are suffering with any of the above symptoms, come in for a visit with and we’ll do a thorough health history and run labs to discover if iron deficiency, or something else, could be contributing to you not feeling well.

 

Could Your Symptoms be Due to a Lack of Water?  Sometimes it’s That Easy!

Joan Haynes, NMD

Did you know that 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated?   

Here are 5 warning signs and symptoms of chronic dehydration, and tips on optimizing your water intake so you can feel your best all year long.  

  1. Fatigue
    Dehydration is the number one cause of daytime fatigue. Dehydration of the tissues causes enzymatic activity to slow down (slowing the metabolism.)
  2. Constipation
    When chewed food enters the colon, the body absorbs excess water via the colon walls, allowing the stool to form properly. In chronic dehydration, the body sacrifices the ideal consistency of the stool in order to give water to more vital parts of the body. The result: hard dried out stool that is difficult to pass.
  3. Excess weight
    Thirst is often confused with hunger. One glass of water shut down midnight hunger pangs for almost 100% of the dieters studied in a University of Washington study.
  4. Pain
    Pain can be a localized sign of dehydration. Headaches are commonly caused by lack of adequate water. Preliminary research indicates that 8-10 eight-ounce glasses of water a day (half of that coming from food and drinks other than plain water) could significantly ease back and joint pain for up to 80% of sufferers.
  5. Brain-fog
    A mere 2% drop in body water can trigger fuzzy short-term memory, trouble with basic math, and difficulty focusing on the computer screen or on a printed page. Obvious signs of dehydration include dry mouth, crinkled skin, excessive thirst, or absence of urination for over 6 hours. These are more serious symptoms and need to be corrected immediately.

Tips to Optimize Water Intake

  1. How much is enough?
    Thirst is not always a reliable indicator, so it’s good to keep track. Experts disagree on the exact amount of water each person needs. A commonly used calculation is to divide your weight in pounds by two, then convert this figure to ounces, and drink that many ounces of water daily. Example: 150 pounds/2 = 75 ounces of water per day. A simpler version is the 8-10 (8 oz) glasses per day rule. Learn to read your body’s signs, be willing to experiment, and you will find the right amount for yourself.
  2. What counts?
    Contrary to popular belief, caffeine is only a mild diuretic so a cup or two of coffee and/or tea can count toward your total fluid intake. Avoid energy drinks that often have huge amounts of caffeine and sugar. Alcohol subtracts from your daily fluid total, as it is a diuretic and will cause dehydration. In general, filtered or spring water is best but if you are having trouble getting it down, consider using some diluted fruit juice or lemon slices to add some flavor.
  3. What are the best times to drink?
    Good times to drink water are on rising, at least 1/2 hour before meals and 2-3 hours after. If you don’t like waking at night to urinate, stop drinking after 6 pm.  It is recommended by some health experts that you not drink much water with meals as it is thought to dilute the digestive juices.
  4. When is more needed?
    You need more if the temperature is hot or if you exercise. A general rule is to add an extra 2 glasses per day for every 5°F over 85°F if you are at rest, and more if you exercise.
  5. What about electrolytes?
    Adding electrolytes is important with exercise, in hot weather, and if you have become dehydrated. Electrolytes increase water absorption, and replace vital minerals lost in sweating. Instead of Gatorade, consider a healthier version called Recharge available in natural food stores. Coconut water is a good (although expensive) option. Another option is to eat salty snacks on heavy exercise days.  Some people hydrate regularly, but still feel thirsty and dehydrated and adding electrolytes work wonders for them.  

Here is my own favorite way to get myself to drink water regularly and to rehydrate if I’ve gotten low:

Steph Davlantes

This tasty drink goes down much easier than water, rehydrates me quickly, relieving muscle tension and headache, and increasing my energy and alertness.

In a quart mason jar or large glass, fill it 80-90% of the way with filtered water.

Fill the remaining 10-20% with Simply Lemonade (or another grocery store lemonade with real lemons and real sugar – you can use other brands or other juices, the little bit of sugar is important to absorb the water more quickly, so don’t use just lemon juice for best effect.)

Add 1/8 – ¼ teaspoon salt (I prefer Celtic sea salt or an electrolyte supplement).   

I find that adding a (reusable) straw and ice in warm weather helps me drink more. 

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