The Mediterranean Diet: The Best Overall Diet of 2021
The U.S News World & Report named the Mediterranean diet the best overall diet for the fourth time in a row. Find out why.
The Mediterranean diet is an eating plan based on traditional foods from countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, including Greece, Spain, and Italy. Like the ancient civilizations that first consumed it, the origins of the Mediterranean diet are lost in time. However, following the development of the modern concept of the Mediterranean diet in the early 1960s, a considerable – and compelling – amount of research has continuously backed its health benefits.
What is the Mediterranean diet, exactly?
Almost anyone with a passing interest in healthy eating – or anyone with a chronic disease – has surely heard about the Mediterranean diet, an eating style that focuses on fresh fruits and vegetables, fatty fish, nuts and seeds, and olive oil. But the Mediterranean diet is so much more than that.
Unlike restrictive, calorie-centered diets that focus on the foods you should avoid, the Mediterranean diet is about the foods you should eat. In that sense, it doesn’t fall into the “diet” category because its end goal is not to lose weight.
Instead, it involves plenty of fresh vegetables like tomatoes, broccoli, kale, and cucumbers, among others, always emphasizing color and variety. Because of its origins near the Mediterranean Sea, seafood, especially fatty fish like sardines and salmon, make up an important portion of the diet’s protein intake. Whole grains, like quinoa, brown rice, oats, should be consumed daily, in moderation. Red meats should be eaten only rarely, and highly processed foods should be avoided.
Like other diets, the Mediterranean diet has its own modified food pyramid developed by the Oldways Preservation Trust, the World Health Organization (WHO), and Harvard University in 1993. The pyramid doesn’t list specific serving sizes; instead, it suggests the types and frequency of foods to be consumed daily. Another interesting feature of the Mediterranean diet is that it places daily exercise and social interactions at the broadest row, or the pyramid’s base.
Lifestyle is important, too
One of the reasons the Mediterranean diet became so famous outside Europe was that people who live in the Mediterranean live longer, healthier lives than those in many other countries. Researchers theorized that their eating habits could be behind that longevity. And they were right; study after study confirms the impressive health benefits of the Mediterranean diet. But there is another important factor behind the region’s good health: lifestyle.
In a Pew Research Center survey, 84 percent of U.S parents reported eating dinner with their children at least once a week, and only 50 percent of those parents said it happened every night. But in Europe, where the Mediterranean diet is a not diet but a daily practice, people regard meals as social occasions. Cooking and eating together, sharing food, and spending quality time around the table are paramount. So is eating slowly, savoring every bit of food, moving often, and enjoying a glass of wine with friends and loved ones to cultivate stronger bonds.
Health benefits of the Mediterranean diet
The Mediterranean diet is one of the most recommended eating plans by healthcare professionals. It’s also recognized by UNESCO as an intangible cultural asset and recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans to prevent chronic disease. Some science-backed health benefits of the Mediterranean diet include:
Traditional diets around the Mediterranean Sea differ slightly from region to region, so there isn’t a concrete eating plan to follow. Instead, focus on fresh, mostly-plant based, nutrient-rich foods, like:
Vegetables, with every meal: mainly non-starchy vegetables such as bell peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, artichokes, and dark leafy greens.
Animal protein, occasionally: fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, and tuna. Seafood, chicken, turkey, eggs.
Fruits, daily: all fresh fruits. Avoid fruit juice and concentrates.
Herbs and spices, daily: garlic, basil, mint, cinnamon, paprika.
Heartburn-Free Thanksgiving | Tips for Avoiding GERD
Thanksgiving is one of the holidays that revolve around food and can be challenging for people with gastroesophageal reflux disease, also known as GERD, heartburn or acid reflux.
What is heartburn?
It is the burning, bloated feeling in the chest and sometimes throat that is caused by the leaking of stomach digestive juices containing acid and pepsin (a digestive enzyme that breaks down proteins) into your esophagus (the tube connecting your throat to your stomach) and sometimes this reflux travels up into the throat which can irritate both your throat (larynx) and voice box (pharynx), cause difficult, painful swallowing, and lead to coughing, phlegm, and hoarseness. When these symptoms develop in the throat instead of the chest cavity they are referred to as extraesophageal reflux (outside of the esophagus or LPR/ laryngopharyngeal reflux).
It is pepsin that causes most of the tissue damage to the esophagus, throat, and voice box because it breaks down the protein structure in our tissues. When left untreated GERD can lead to Barrett’s syndrome which is pre-cancer of the esophagus.
Though reflux can occur during the day, by standing up, gravity helps keep it somewhat under control but when we lie down at night its much easier for the stomach juices to flow back into the esophagus and start the symptoms discussed above.
If you are often bothered by heartburn and GERD (or possibly LPR) you may take antacid medications to try to control the acid and burning symptoms by using the most popular drugs for this purpose which are known as PPI’s (proton pump inhibitors) these are drugs like Nexium, Prevacid, Prilosec.
It is not healthy to be on these drugs for longer than a month or two yet many people are threatening their health by being on them for much longer periods of time. These drugs have been shown to:
1. Increase the risk of early death,
2. Increase the risk of kidney disease, heart disease, bone fractures, dementia, and infections.
3. Decrease absorption of important compounds like magnesium, iron, and vitamin B-12 to name a few.
So here’s what to do:
1. Never eat within 2 ½-3 hours of going to bed.
2. Sleep with your upper back and head raised.
3. Try to sleep as much as possible on your left side – The anatomy of your stomach makes it much more difficult for gastric juices to flow into the esophagus when you are on your left side. Side sleeping is an easy and effective method of natural relief that can not only relieve heartburn pain but can also help prevent damage to the stomach and esophagus. When lying on your back, the acid will pool up inside the stomach and can make contact with the esophagus. By turning to the left side and sleeping at an upward angle, excess acid will flow to its natural location, following the force of gravity, at the larger part of the stomach, reducing the likelihood of uncomfortable heartburn.
4. Decrease your use of the PPI’s slowly over 2 weeks and replace with H2 blockers like Zantac or Pepcid if you need relief and wean off those as you proceed with the other recommendations
5. Don’t eat your next day’s first meal for at least 15 hours after your last meal from the previous night. This in essence gives you a 15 hour fast which calms down your digestive symptoms, lowers the risk of reflux, and helps with blood sugar and weight control for added benefit.
6. Consider adding a forkful of natural sauerkraut during the day. It helps the stomach to maintain healthy acid levels and adds many good bacteria that can offset ingested pathogenic bacteria that can get into the stomach, release gas, and cause pressure that can force the gastric juices to reflux into the esophagus.
7. Eliminate as much sugar as you can from your diet. In addition to the danger of sugar to your overall health, it has been associated with GERD. The same applies to processed meats and foods.
8. Try using ½ teaspoon of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) in ½ glass of warm water for relief. Gargle in your mouth for a few seconds and then swallow it. If your stomach acid levels are sufficient you should burp in no more than one or two minutes. Often “too little” stomach acid is the cause of reflux and NOT “too much.” Even if you have too little acid in your stomach when it refluxes it still burns, so it is the act of refluxing not necessarily that you have too much stomach acid! In fact, too little acid leads to poor control of gas-producing bacteria and the gas pushes the stomach juices into the esophagus.
If you need additional relief during the same day, instead of taking more medicine or another dose of baking soda, try swallowing a glass of 8.8 alkaline water which is sold in supermarkets. The combo of baking soda and alkaline water works very well together for both GERD and LPR.
9. If you have LPR symptoms and the above after a month or so hasn’t brought much relief, you can add a ½ teaspoon of sodium alginate to your ½ teaspoon of baking soda in warm water.
Though the sodium alginate does not dissolve too well in water, mix it as best you can, it will be clumpy but swallow it anyway. The sodium alginate and the baking soda combo form a harmless bridge that covers the top of your stomach fluids and prevents them from flowing backward into your esophagus.
10. Incorporate psyllium (fiber) into your diet. A 2018 studyconcluded that the use of Psyllium seed in the treatment of functional constipation in patients with GERD is very safe, effective, easily available, and this treatment also minimizes the chance of recurrence of GERD compared to omeprazole (a prescription treatment for GERD). Please note that you can also take psyllium for GERD even if you are not experiencing constipation.
TIPS TO ENJOY A HEARTBURN FREE THANKSGIVING HOLIDAY
Juicy turkey, savory stuffing, creamy casseroles, and buttery mashed potatoes make the perfect spread for a traditional Thanksgiving table, but if you suffer from GERD, these rich, indulgent foods, can aggravate acid reflux and lead to hours of discomfort long after you’ve put away the leftovers.
The key to enjoying a heartburn-free holiday lies in knowing which foods to choose and which ones to avoid. Also, eating too much overall or within a short time can trigger reflux.
Here are some tips for a heartburn-friendly Thanksgiving meal:
Choose lean cuts of turkey – Turkey is relatively safe for GERD sufferers, but try to choose cuts of white meat instead of dark, as they contain less fat. You can also limit the fat content by removing the skin and keeping the gravy to a minimum.
Prepare mashed potatoes with chicken broth – Mashed potatoes are a Thanksgiving tradition, but when you load them up with butter and sour cream, they become a reflux nightmare. Adding chicken broth to your mashed potatoes gives them a rich flavor without ramping up the fat content.
Season stuffing with herbs – Everyone loves a heaping scoop of warm, savory stuffing, but if it’s seasoned with garlic and onions, it’s likely to cause heartburn. Prepare your stuffing with a variety of freshly chopped herbs instead.
Make casseroles with low-fat ingredients – If your casserole recipe uses a cream soup base, you can instantly make it more heartburn-friendly by using low-fat condensed soup. Look for other ingredients that come in low-fat or fat-free varieties like cream cheese, sour cream and whipping cream.
Skip the alcohol – It may be tempting to indulge in a glass of wine or champagne at dinnertime, but alcohol is a major heartburn trigger. Keep your beverage heartburn-friendly by sticking to water, non-citrus juice, or decaffeinated tea. You can still participate in holiday toasts with a glass of sparkling cider or club soda!
Go easy on dessert – It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving dinner without the pumpkin pie, but just one slice has over 300 calories and 14 grams of fat. Keep the fat content to a minimum by choosing a smaller slice, skipping the whipped cream, and removing the buttery crust from the back portion of your pie.
Have a wonderful and healthy Thanksgiving holiday!
To the Best of Health,
Curt Hendrix, M.S. C.C.N., C.N. S.
Nuts & Nutrition – Can Eating Nuts Extend Your Life?
Nuts are nutrient-dense foods rich in unsaturated fatty acids and have been linked to lower cholesterol, better heart health, weight control, and even lower cancer risk. Read on to find out if eating nuts could extend your life.
Compared to people who avoid nuts, those who eat nuts on a regular basis also tend to have:
Fewer risk factors for metabolic syndrome and a lower risk for diabetes
Better cardiovascular health
Reduced mortality risk by 23%
Eating Nuts Could Extend Your Life!
A 30-year long Harvard study found that people who ate a small handful (approximately 1 ounce or 28 grams) of nuts seven times per week or more were 20 percent less likely to die for any reason, compared to those who avoided nuts.
Eating nuts at least five times per week was associated with a 29 percent drop in mortality risk from heart disease, and an 11 percent drop in mortality risk from cancer.
A Dutch study of 120,000 men and women ages 55-69 for 10 years researchers found that people who ate just 10 grams of nuts each day had a 23 percent lower risk of death from any cause, 43 percent decrease in neurological disease, 30 percent decrease in diabetes, and 39 percent decrease in respiratory disease plus fewer deaths due to cancer and heart disease.
I don’t know how many people actually monitor their daily salt intake, but limiting salt consumption to no more than 2,500 mg/day is recommended. For those who are sensitive to salt for blood pressure reasons, perhaps no more than 1,500 mg/day is better, and eating raw forms of nuts would be preferable.
Studies have shown that dry roasting of most nuts does not reduce their health benefits. So if you like the taste of raw nuts, go with them but if you don’t, then dry roasted nuts that are either not salted or lightly salted are the way to go. Either way, get in your daily one ounce of your favorite nuts.
I suggest switching between your favorite nut choices because they all have slightly different nutritional make-up. Pecans, for example, a one-ounce serving of pecans includes over 19 vitamins and minerals including vitamin A, vitamin E, calcium, potassium, and zinc. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Agriculture ranked pecans in the top 20 out of 100 foods for antioxidant capacity. Walnuts contain a number of neuroprotective compounds, including vitamin E, folate, melatonin, omega-3 fats, and antioxidants.
Learn how to roast nuts and enjoy super tasty recipes including; Rosemary Roasted Walnuts, Roasted Almonds with Honey & Cinnamon, Maple-Chipotle Spiced Nuts, Pumpkin Pie Spiced Almonds, Sweet, Salty, Spicy Party Nuts, Maple Citrus Roasted Pecans, Cocoa Cardamom Espresso Roasted Almonds and more.
Discover delicious ways to eat a small variety of nuts every day – a handful each day could help extend your life!
To the Best of Health,
Curt Hendrix, M.S., C.C.N., C.N.S.
Clinically-Effective Natural Alternatives for Treating ADD/ADHD
If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), you’ve probably heard that many patients are prescribed stimulant drug medications. As we will review in this article, stimulant drugs may be effective for some people, but they don’t come without risks. In fact, research shows that between 20-30% of children cannot tolerate the side effects of commonly prescribed drugs or do not respond to them.
So, what are the alternatives for treating ADHD? In this article, we introduce you to some of the common side effects of common ADD/ADHD medications and we review the research behind some clinically proven non-prescription alternatives for treating the symptoms of ADD/ADHD.
What is ADD/ADHD?
ADHD, short for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, is a neuropsychiatric disorder. Researchers have identified that people with ADHD tend to have smaller structures of some areas of the brain than people without ADHD, low levels of key levels of brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) that support communication between brain cells and differences in how networks work, specifically those involved in reward, focus, attention, shifting between tasks, and planning.
ADD/ADHD used to be known as a condition that affected only children, since it can be detected as young as two to four years of age. However, researchers now know that ADD/ADHD exists in adults as well as children.
Inattentiveness: unfocused and having a short attention span, constantly changing activities or tasks, appearing forgetful or losing things, having difficulty organizing or prioritizing tasks, making careless mistakes in work or school.
Hyperactivity and impulsiveness: An inability to sit still, fidgeting constantly, inability to concentrate on tasks, excessive talking, inability to wait their turn, acting without thinking about consequences, and excessive physical movement.
ADHD can sometimes be misdiagnosed or overlooked. Some of the symptoms overlap with other conditions that affect the brain. These conditions include anxiety disorder, oppositional defiant disorder (also called ODD, which is defined by negative or disruptive behavior toward authority figures), conduct disorder, depression, autism spectrum disorder, and learning difficulties. It is important to know that some people can have ADD/ADHD alongside one or more of these other conditions.
How is ADHD Treated?
In most settings, after a person (child or adult) is diagnosed with ADD/ADHD, they are often prescribed medication. However, medication for ADHD isn’t always effective, and the side effects may be more difficult to manage than the symptoms of ADD/ADHD itself.
There are lifestyle factors and supplements that have been clinically proven to help manage ADD/ADHD symptoms with lower risks of side effects. Below, we briefly review the pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatments for ADD/ADHD in children and adults.
Traditional Pharmacological Treatments for ADD/ADHD
There are two main types of drugs prescribed to people with ADHD: stimulant and non-stimulant drugs.
Stimulant drugs are usually the first line of therapy for children and adults diagnosed with ADHD. The most commonly prescribed stimulant drugs include:
Amphetamines and Methamphetamines, like Adderall, Dexedrine, Evekeo, Dextrostat, and Zenzedi.
Methylphenidates, like Ritalin, Methylin, Metadate ER, Metadate CD, Quillivant XR, Quillichew ER, and Concerta
While numerous studies have shown that treatment of ADHD with stimulant drugs does help to reduce some of the most difficult symptoms of ADD/ADHD, there is controversy regarding the following:
Increase in tolerance over time, meaning that the ADHD medication doses may likely need to be increased. The chemical changes that occur in the brain with ADD/ADHD with increased tolerance may lead to the worsening of ADD/ADHD symptoms.
Differing risks for substance abuse based on the age of diagnosis. Children and adolescents diagnosed with ADHD and treated with psychostimulant drugs showed less risk of future substance abuse. Adults diagnosed with ADD/ADHD, however, had a higher risk of substance abuse.
If stimulant drugs are not an option for the person with ADD/ADHD or they do not want to take stimulant drugs due to the risks, some people opt to take non-stimulant drugs. The difference between stimulant and non-stimulant drugs for ADD/ADHD is that stimulant drugs increase the levels of the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine by targeting brain receptors. <
Non-stimulant drugs work in different ways to manage symptoms by regulating the system that manages neurotransmitter production. Atomoxetine (ATX), guanfacine (GXR), and clonidine are some of the most common FDA-approved non-stimulant medications prescribed to people with ADHD, usually as a second line of treatment if stimulant drugs were not effective or if the side effects were too risky.
However, the side-effects associated with non-stimulant drugs is also extensive:
The most common side effects in children and adolescents are:
• Upset stomach (e.g., nausea, vomiting).
• Decreased appetite, which may cause weight loss.
• Mood swings.
• Abdominal pain.
The most common side effects in adults are:
• Dry mouth.
• Erectile dysfunction.
• Urinary tract abnormalities (e.g., trouble passing urine, pain with urination).
• Painful menstruation.
• Hot flashes.
Alternative Treatment to Support ADD/ADHD Management
Because of the risks associated with traditional pharmacological treatment, many parents of children with ADHD and adults with ADHD have expressed interest in choosing non-prescription treatment options and alternative medicine to address ADHD.
In fact, according to a 1999 survey, parents of 64% of children with ADHD chose non-prescription alternative medicine treatments to address their children’s ADHD. Research shows that alternative therapies are as effective as prescription drugs, with a slight trend towards more effective results in the individuals who chose non-prescription treatment options, including supplements derived from nature Alternative therapies are discussed below.
Supplements That May Help Manage ADD/ADHD
There are numerous herbal extracts and nutrients that have clinical data to support their use as ADD/ADHD treatment on their own, as a cocktail of nutrients and herbs, or together with people who choose to take pharmacological treatments.
Below we describe several of these non-pharmacological components which may be alternative or supportive treatment for people living with ADD/ADHD.
Herbs and Botanicals
Bacopa Monnieri Extract
Bacopa monnieri extract, or Brahmi, is a traditional Indian medicinal plant that has multiple effects on the central nervous system. Bacopa monnieri extract can help protect the nervous system and improve problems in processing information.
A recent literature review helped to clarify how Bacopa monnieri may be beneficial to people with ADHD; it likely works through multiple signaling pathways to mitigate harmful oxidative stress that affects the central nervous system.
In one clinical study, 31 children previously diagnosed with ADHD were given 225 milligrams (mg) of Bacopa monnieri extract daily for a total of 6 months. Symptoms of attention deficits were improved in 85% of the children. More than half of the children experienced reductions in impulsivity and psychiatric disturbances. In addition, learning improvements occurred in 78% of the children. Two other clinical studies also found that Bacopa monnieri improves ADHD symptoms.
Grape Seed Extract
Children diagnosed with ADHD demonstrate higher levels of oxidative stress than children without ADHD. Higher levels of oxidative stress increase tissue damage, and the type of free radicals that is present in people with ADHD make them more vulnerable to heart disease. As a result, potent antioxidants like grape seed extract that provide protection against excessive oxidative stress and heart disease risk factors, therefore, may be beneficial for those with ADHD.
Grapeseed is easily absorbed and utilized by the body and it provides potent protection against free radicals and damage to cells and DNA.
Lemon Balm Extract
Lemon balm, or Melissa officinalis, has been used as an anti-anxiety, sleep-inducing, and memory-enhancing nutrient for over 2,000 years.
One study that investigated the impact of lemon balm extract on 20 stressed volunteers over a 15 day period found that anxiety was reduced in 70% of the study participants and insomnia was reduced in 85% of them. Given that ADHD patients often experience stress and suffer from a high rate of insomnia, lemon balm extract is likely a helpful supplement for these patients.
There is evidence to suggest that saffron (Crocus sativus) can be beneficial to those with ADHD. Initial studies have demonstrated that saffron is effective as methylphenidate in improving ADHD symptoms over a 6-week period. Another, recent study echoed these findings.
Vitamins, Minerals, and Other Components
Magnesium and Magnesium + Vitamin B6
Children with ADHD have lower levels of magnesium than children without ADHD, so researchers have long been interested in understanding whether magnesium supplementation could improve ADHD symptoms.
A clinical study carried out with 50 children diagnosed with ADHD and who were also deficient in magnesium examined the impact of 200 mg supplementation of elemental magnesium over a 6-month period. Compared to the children who did not receive magnesium supplementation, those taking the magnesium developed higher levels of magnesium in their hair, which was accompanied by a significant reduction in hyperactivity.
Recent research into the role of nutrition on ADHD has also shown that magnesium appears to influence the population of “good” bacteria in the gut in a way that could impact ADHD symptoms. While magnesium supplementation reduces the symptoms of ADHD in children with the disorder, supplementation with a combination of magnesium and vitamin B6 has been shown to lower ADHD symptoms even further.
The first study to measure the effects of vitamin D supplementation and its effects on ADHD found that supplementation improves cognitive function, inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. A recent double-blind, randomized clinical trial also showed that vitamin D taken as an oral supplement improves symptoms of ADHD, particularly symptoms of inattention and that it is especially beneficial for those who previously had insufficient levels of vitamin D.
L-Theanine is a protein-building block (amino acid) that is present in significant amounts in green tea.
L-Theanine 0has been found to have a calming effect and is used to improve cognitive and mental performance. A study found that people experience a shift toward more relaxing brain waves within 40 minutes of taking 50 to 200 mg theanine doses.
People living with ADHD taking stimulant medications may have higher risks of heart complications than the general population. Researchers have examined what components could help to protect the heart against the oxidative damage that may occur in people taking stimulant medications.
Are you getting enough Vitamin C?
Vitamin C is the most prevalent water-soluble antioxidant in the human body and plays a major role in other protective mechanisms against heart disease. Vitamin C may therefore help to mitigate the enhanced cardiovascular risks that ADHD patients experience.
Based on these findings, it has been suggested that iron supplementation may reduce symptoms of ADHD, and evidence suggest that it is effective. In one study, researchers provided children with 80 mg of iron per day and found that this iron supplementation improved ADHD symptoms. According to this study, iron therapy was also well tolerated.
The role of melatonin in people who are living with sleep disorders has been studied for decades. Common sleep disorders include insomnia, delayed sleep onset, and nighttime awakening issues.
One study showed that when children took melatonin supplements at bedtime, they were able to fall asleep faster and also experienced additional health and behavioral benefits than those who didn’t. The same study showed that, once the melatonin was discontinued, the children’s sleep and behavioral problems returned.
Over the course of a 6-week double-blind study of 44 children previously diagnosed with ADHD, zinc sulfate supplementation, given as an adjunct to methylphenidate, improved ADHD symptoms.
Other research on the impact of zinc on those with ADHD over an 8-week period suggests that a daily dose of 30 mg is effective in reducing the amount of amphetamine needed to treat ADHD and that this dosage is well-tolerated and safe.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 deficiencies have been observed in those with ADHD. Though the evidence related to the influence of omega-3s on ADHD is mixed, certain studies suggest that multiple types of omega-3 fatty acids may be effective in treating ADHD symptoms in adolescents.
A 30-week study on omega-3 fatty acids demonstrated potential therapeutic effects on ADHD symptoms in children, particularly in those who are hyperactive and impulsive. Some of the specific benefits that have been observed with omega-3 supplementation in those with ADHD are cognitive effects, including enhanced visual learning, reading, and memory, as well as improvements in hyperactivity, impulsivity, and attention.
Omega-3 supplementation appears to enable the reduction of stimulant medication doses in those with ADHD. Even though more research is required, given this impact and the safety profile of omega-3s, some experts have suggested that omega-3 supplementation may offer a suitable alternative to pharmacological interventions in those with ADHD.
Phosphatidylserine is a fat-based substance that protects nerve cells in the brain and helps them to transmit messages. Supplementation with phosphatidylserine has been shown to improve ADHD symptoms in children, including symptoms related to cognition. Some research suggests that phosphatidylserine supplementation may be particularly effective for ADHD children who are experiencing strong behavioral and emotional symptoms.
ADHD is a complex condition that can significantly affect people’s well-being. While traditional “first-lines” of treatment (stimulant drugs) are effective for about 70% of people diagnosed with ADHD, a significant percentage of people with ADHD may not benefit from these drugs due to ineffectiveness, severe symptoms, or a greater risk of addiction, among others.
Fortunately, there are several herbal and nutritional supplements, which we review here, that have been demonstrated to assist in managing ADHD symptoms. With your healthcare team’s approval, these may be used in conjunction with or instead of pharmacological treatment.
Butterbur (Petasites) for Migraine Headaches | Risks & Benefits
If you’re a Healthcare Professional recommending Butterbur (Petasites) to your patients, it’s important that you stay up-to-date on the latest information (see links at the end of this post).
As a chemist, medical researcher, and drug developer, four of the multitudinous questions you ask yourself when trying to decide if you should invest time and money into developing, using, or recommending a particular compound are:
How likely is it to be effective for the specific condition it’s being considered to treat?
Are there any known or potential side effects or adverse events that could hypothetically occur?
How do the answers to question #2 impact the risk/reward profile of the compound?
Are there any other competing compounds that seem to have similar benefits with lower risk?
Over 15 years ago when we received multiple patents describing the use of a combination of two magnesium sources, high dose riboflavin, and special extracts of feverfew for prophylaxis of migraines, butterbur had not yet been shown in a randomized clinical trial to be effective for migraine prophylaxis. Of course back in 2002, when the study by Lipton et al was published showing efficacy, I paid a lot of attention to butterbur and strongly considered creating an additional formula or adding it to our existing patented combination (now known as Akeso’s MigreLief with Puracol™). Since the release of our Original MigreLief with Puracol™ we have formulated new products with additional ingredients, for example, MigreLief+M for menstrual/hormonal migraines and MigreLief-NOW a fast-acting “as needed” formula, yet none of our products contain butterbur.
It was clear that the response to butterbur was favorable and by not offering it in one of our products we would be losing out on the additional revenue it was sure to generate. Nevertheless, we decided never to use butterbur in any of our products. We could never get comfortable with the fact that we had to rely on a manufacturing process to consistently remove the Hepato-toxic and carcinogenic pyrrolizidine alkaloids that are found in unprocessed butterbur. Of course, this was just our company’s decision, and many companies and healthcare professionals used or recommended butterbur. In fact, the American Academy of Neurology and the American Headache Society supported butterbur. As healthcare professionals, we all try to stay current on as much of the medical literature and reporting as possible.
In the last few years, much new information has surfaced regarding butterbur and we are providing you with links to that third-party information to enable you to make the best decisions for your patients (see below).
To the Best of Health,
Chief Scientific Officer, Akeso Health Sciences
“Butterbur (derived from the leaves of Petasites japonicus) is an herbal supplement that has been found to be effective in the prophylaxis of adult migraines in multiple studies. Based on these trials, the American Headache Society gave the herb a level A recommendation and declared it to be effective in the prevention of migraine headaches. This activity reviews the mechanism of action, adverse event profile, toxicity, dosing, and pharmacodynamics of butterbur and the recommended monitoring of patients taking the drug to avoid adverse effects.”
2017 “Caution: Due to reports of liver toxicity, butterbur products are being voluntarily withdrawn from markets in the United Kingdom. Based on these reports, butterbur should not be used unless a doctor determines that the potential benefits outweigh the risks. People taking butterbur should be monitored by the doctor for adverse effects.”
“…Despite butterbur’s potential efficacy, doubts are increasing about the long-term safety of this supplement given the risk of liver damage and the lack of an actively regulated preparation. Due to the mounting concerns, the American Headache Society is currently evaluating a position statement cautioning against its use.” Migraine Preventative Butterbur Has Safety Concerns
Daily Magnesium Decreases the Risk of All-Cause Mortality
Besides Its Favorable Effects on Migraines, Daily Supplementation of Magnesium Decreases the Risk of All-Cause Mortality
Like a best-kept secret, not everyone knows the importance of magnesium to good health and longevity.
What is all-cause mortality? The word mortality means death. Simply stated, all-cause mortality means the death from any cause, disease, accidents, disasters, etc. But with respect to medical terms, it means mortality from any disease, infection, or medical condition.
Risk Factors A risk factor is a condition or behavior that is known to increase vulnerability to a particular outcome disease. While mortality can be random, patterns can often be found that result from particular behaviors. Many studies aim to assess which risk factors lead to specific illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, or cancer.
What This Means for You
It may not be obvious at first exactly why certain good habits help you to avoid a broad spectrum of diseases and conditions, however; as the evidence builds over time, scientists can determine which behaviors increase good health and longevity the most such as staying active and maintaining a healthy weight. For this reason, when a study references all-cause mortality, it’s a good idea to pay attention to the advice given.
Just some of the serious diseases that shorten life span include; heart attack, atherosclerosis, stroke, cancer, hypertension, diabetes II and inflammation. Inflammation is now generally regarded as being the start of many of the diseases we contract. Other illnesses and conditions can cause stress which leads to many of the diseases just mentioned. They included migraines, fibromyalgia, depression, osteoporosis, kidney stones, angina, asthma, insomnia, and many others, too numerous to list. Stress is the biggest depleter of Mg and unfortunately, we are all under different types of stress including physical stress like exercise and working out. A disease or condition also causes daily stress and daily depletion of magnesium.
The above diseases and conditions above have one thing in common. They can be caused and/or exacerbated by the lack of magnesium.
Many of our readers know the benefits of magnesium when it comes to preventing chronic migraines, but the benefits do not stop with migraines. Other very important reasons you need to consume enough magnesium on a daily basis are:
• Helps to maintain healthy blood sugar levels
• Helps to maintain healthy blood pressure levels
• Helps to prevent heart attacks
• Helps keep the heart beating regularly
• The citrate form along with potassium helps to prevent kidney stones
• Helps with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
• Reduces risk of heart pains (angina)
• Helps prevent spasms of breathing pathway in asthma
• Helps protect the bones against osteoporosis (may be more important than calcium)
• Helps to prevent the symptoms of PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome)
A study, completed in Germany, indicates that low magnesium levels are associated with thickening of the left ventricle of the heart which can lead to cardiac dysfunction and death.
In addition, low levels of magnesium lead to increases in all-cause mortality, not just heart-related deaths.
It was found that all-cause mortality was 7 times higher in the low magnesium group and cardiovascular mortality was almost 2.5 times higher than in the higher magnesium group.
Seeds, nuts, halibut, cooked spinach, milk products, fruits, and leafy vegetables are just a few good sources of magnesium.
Taking a good multi-vitamin that contains at least 350 mg of magnesium would also help to prevent any dietary deficiencies and reduce your risk for illnesses and disease.
To the Best of Health,
Curt Hendrix, M.S., C.C.N., C.N.S.
Prevent Migraine & Avoid Middle Age Weight Gain
Is it possible to achieve long-term menstrual migraine relief and achieve your desired weight?
THE MIGRAINE – WEIGHT GAIN CONNECTION
90% of women gain weight between the ages of 35-55. The average weight gain is about 15-20 pounds, with a disproportionate amount of this weight being an increase in body fat.
What is unfair about this, is the fact that much of this weight gain and/or body fat increase, can occur without, increasing caloric intake. This is different than the weight you gain because you eat too much of the wrong foods and don’t exercise enough. It’s the stubborn, difficult weight gain or increases in body fat percentage (without weight gain) that occur in women, middle-aged, and beyond.
Why does this phenomenon occur in so many women in this age range, and what can you do to prevent or reduce the good chance this may happen to you?
There are specific techniques and natural supplements that can help balance a female body that is desperately trying (and in many cases with limited success) to balance many physiological processes, that by design, change with age. These changes can cause uncontrolled and undeserved weight or body fat percentage gains.
Much of this new weight will NOT be gained as much around the hips and thighs but in the stomach and waist area. Shifting/fluctuating hormones, stress, and insulin resistance are the guilty parties.
Women who suffer from migraines will also be glad to learn that controlling these same issues of fluctuating hormones, stress, and blood sugar due to insulin resistance will reduce their migraine frequency and intensity as well.
Why does this weight gain occur when hormones fluctuate and stress and blood sugar are poorly controlled?
Some women can start experiencing the symptoms of early menopause (perimenopause) as soon as their mid 30’s. The hormonal fluctuations of perimenopause and the few years after menopause (one full year with no period) can strongly influence your metabolism, appetite and increase your storage of fat.
Though your hormones will fluctuate during perimenopause, the general trend is for your estrogen levels to diminish with ultimately the cessation of ovulation.
The body is aware of decreasing levels of estrogen from the ovaries and searches for new sources of estrogen production. Unfortunately, fat cells are a source of estrogen and the body may convert more calories into fat.
Though progesterone levels also tend to decrease during this period, decreasing progesterone levels don’t cause weight gain but they may cause water retention making you feel puffy or bloated.
Testosterone levels may also decrease during perimenopause (and menopause). This could result in decreased muscle mass (as well as other things like decreased libido). Less muscle mass would lead to decreased metabolic rate and additional possible weight gain.
As if dealing with fluctuating hormones isn’t enough of a challenge during these years of a woman’s life, both men and women (in ever-increasing numbers, mostly due to diet) are becoming “insulin resistant”.
This is a condition where your body is no longer as responsive to the hormone insulin, as it was when you were younger. Our bodies require increasing amounts of insulin to be released to maintain blood sugar at healthy, non-diabetic levels. Insulin resistance can occur whether you are overweight or thin.
When our bodies don’t respond in a sensitive way to insulin, the sugar in our blood is not absorbed efficiently by our cells and they don’t get the source of energy that they need. The cells can feel deprived and appetites increase and fat accumulation and weight gain can occur.
In the case of women suffering from PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome), the insulin resistance that accompanies this condition leads to weight gain as well. But in the case of PCOS, the women often have too much testosterone and this causes the weight gain to occur around the stomach and waist much as it does in men. Also, hair at the crown of the head can thin, and hair may grow on the face and back.
In fact, because estrogen and progesterone levels drop more than testosterone levels during perimenopause and menopause, women may also tend to gain more around the middle than the hips and thighs. Some women tend to lose their waistline.
The fact that you can grab around your belly is NOT the problem. This is just subcutaneous fat, and though cosmetically not desirable, it is not the fat that increases cardiovascular and cancer risk.
It is the fat beneath your abdominal muscles that surrounds your internal organs that is of greater health concern. This fat is called abdominal or visceral adiposity.
It is the fat that protrudes out some men’s stomach to the point where they look like they swallowed a beach ball but yet they continue to say, “Feel how hard my stomach is!” There is so much fat underneath the abdominal muscles, pushing them outwards, that of course, the abdomen feels hard.
Insulin resistance, as well as stress and hormonal fluctuations, can successfully be controlled and reversed and your body, self-image, emotional status, energy levels, cognition, health and overall life will improve dramatically.
How do you know if you are insulin resistant?
One measurement is to measure yourself around the smaller part of your waist (but do NOT suck your stomach in when taking this measurement). Then measure your hips around their widest part.
Divide the waist measurement in inches by the hip measurement in inches. If the resulting number is .8 or larger for women or 1 for men, then you have disproportionate weight in the waist and are at greater risk of having insulin resistance.
Your risk further increases if you have hypertension, low HDL levels (below 45 if you are a woman), or high triglyceride levels (above 150).
If you have darkened skin patches around the neck or armpits, it is extremely likely that you are insulin resistant. This is a condition known as acanthosis nigricans.
The effects of long-term stress on our overall health are very significant. One of the most important hormones that are released by our adrenal glands when under stress is cortisol. This is necessary and helps us to deal with short-term stressful events or stimuli.
But, when stress is chronic, and cortisol is being released in excessive and lasting amounts, it can also lead to weight gain and other health problems. Like insulin resistance and hormonal fluctuations, stress must also be dealt with.
Bringing It All Together
Because stress, hormonal fluctuations, and blood sugar fluctuation due to insulin resistance are major contributors to chronic migraine headaches as well as weight gain, using key dietary supplements or “natural medicines” to prevent hormonal or menstrual migraines will also help resolve the related weight gain issues just discussed.
Struggling with hormonal migraines and/or middle-age weight gain?
If you are struggling with hormonal migraines (migraines that occur just before, during, or after your period or occur during menopause), here is a list of ingredients to give you the benefits you want to achieve:
Chasteberry – A specific extract of Vitex Agnus Castus, otherwise known as Chasteberry extract has been shown in numerous human studies to naturally balance the hormonal fluctuations discussed above.
Biotin – Doses of biotin, (vitamin B7) much higher than normally found in multi-vitamin products, have been clinically proven to help regulate blood sugar irregularities that can be caused by insulin resistance.
B-6 – High doses of Vitamin B6 have been shown to decrease or eliminate the symptoms of PMS (including bloating and related weight gain) caused by fluctuating estrogen levels. This vitamin is also involved in the processing of sugar and can help protect against the effects of blood sugar fluctuations caused by insulin resistance.
L-Theanine – This amino acid derived from green tea, has been shown to be very calming and helps to reduce stress levels.
Chromium Picolinate – This essential trace mineral can improve insulin sensitivity and enhances protein, carbohydrate, and lipid metabolism
Feverfew(Tanacetum parthenium) – This herb has been recorded as a medicinal remedy for millennia. It is commonly recommended for its ability to reduce platelet aggregation (which can lead to vasoconstriction & migraines) and to support cerebrovascular tone (blood vessels in the brain).
Riboflavin — High doses of Riboflavin have been proven in clinical studies to mitochondrial energy deficiencies which are common to many migraine sufferers just before an attack.
Magnesium – This mineral is needed for more than 300 processes in the body. Magnesium has numerous effects that support normal cerebrovascular tone and function which makes it very important to migraine sufferers. Among its many other health benefits, magnesium helps maintain healthy blood sugar levels and healthy blood pressure. It also helps to prevent the symptoms of PMS (premenstrual-syndrome).
Regimen for long term hormonal migraine and weight control benefits
For those of you who fear that they are insulin resistant or struggling with hormonal migraines or middle-age weight gain, I suggest the following:
Take the above-mentioned ingredients at the proper doses shown to be effective in human clinical studies
Consume at least 50 grams of dietary fiber spread out throughout the day with meals. Fiber helps to slow the body’s absorption of sugar and prevent fluctuations. Psyllium or ground flaxseed is an excellent fiber choice.
Moderate aerobic exercise of 20-30 minutes a day can also help to correct insulin resistance.
A daily B vitamin complex of 50 mg of B-1, 2, 3, 5 plus folic acid and B-12 can also help with sugar metabolism and stress or consider this combination dietary stress supplement.
Get proper, quality sleep. If you need help to reestablish normal sleep patterns, here are the natural sleep ingredients you need. Your body repairs itself by releasing growth hormones while you sleep. Those hormones stimulate muscle and protein synthesis, as well as a fat breakdown process called lipolysis. Poor sleep is a major risk factor for weight gain and obesity. Poor sleep has repeatedly been linked to a higher body mass index (BMI) and weight gain.
Diet-wise, lean meats, high fiber whole grains, vegetables, legumes, and fruit will help reestablish normal insulin levels. Until you see weight and or body fat starting to drop, keep carbohydrates in the form of pasta, bread, and sugar to a minimum.
What to expect?
By following this regimen over the course of 3-6 months (3 months or less for migraines) your:
1- Weight or body fat percentages should start to meaningfully drop
2- Your hair, at the front and crown of your head, if it was thinning, should start to thicken
3- Any discolored patches of skin around the neck and armpits should start to lighten or disappear
4- Migraine frequency and intensity (if you were a sufferer) should noticeably improve
5- Energy levels should noticeably improve
6- If you are still menstruating, your periods should be much more regular
7- If you were experiencing perimenopausal symptoms, they should improve
8- If you had unwanted hair on the face or back, it should lighten and thin, if not completely go away.
Read more about some of the natural medicine ingredients written about above.
To the Best of Health,
Curt Hendrix, M.S. C.C.N. C.N.S
Chief Scientific Officer, Akeso Health Sciences
Vitamin D and the Immune System | D2 & D3
Vitamin D is a family of fat-soluble vitamins naturally present in many foods. Some people call it the “sunshine vitamin” because the body produces this compound when the skin is exposed directly to the sun. Humans typically consume two types of vitamin D: D2 and D3. Vitamin D3 comes from animal-sourced foods and D2 is man-made, for the most part. Both types are available as over-the-counter supplements, but studies suggest that vitamin D3 might be better for improving vitamin D levels.
Recent research has shown that taking vitamin D supplements reduces the risk of developing certain respiratory infections, like the influenza virus. Other studies have shown that vitamin D may protect against some types of cancer, including colon and breast cancer. Now, and in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, investigators want to know whether vitamin D could also reduce the risk of contracting the coronavirus.
Vitamin D and Immunity
Vitamin D is the master key to our immune health.
The immune system is a network of cells, tissue, and organs that defend the body against harmful invaders, like viruses and bacteria. Consuming certain nutrients can help you maintain a strong immune system. On the other hand, smoking, being obese or overweight, not getting adequate sleep, and taking certain medications may lead to a weak immune system.
Vitamin D plays many vital roles in the body, immune system support being one of the most important. Every cell in your body has a vitamin D receptor in the nucleus. Approximately 2,000 genes in our body (5% of our genome) are controlled by vitamin D.
According to a 2015 systematic review and analysis of past studies, vitamin D may protect against acute respiratory tract infections. The analysis, published by the British Medical Journal, looked at 25 clinical trials to better understand the relationship between vitamin D and immunity. Specifically, the authors wanted total to see if vitamin D supplements could potentially prevent respiratory infections.
The results showed that vitamin D supplementation reduced the risk of contracting at least one respiratory infection. Additionally, vitamin D was particularly effective at preventing respiratory infections among those who already had a deficiency.
Other reviews of the existing literature have found similar results, like this 2018 meta-analysis, which concluded that vitamin D supplements may have a protective effect against the influenza virus. However, some of the studies analyzed yielded no relevant results or showed no effects on the immune system.
But despite being so crucial for overall health and immunity, vitamin D deficiency remains an important public health issue. About 1 billion people have vitamin D deficiency worldwide, and nearly 50 percent of the entire world’s population has vitamin D insufficiency. In the United States, it is estimated that almost 40 percent of Americans are vitamin D deficient. Vitamin D deficiency is common among dark-skinned individuals, older adults, people who are obese and overweight, and hospitalized patients.
Currently, there is not enough information to say whether vitamin D3 is better for the immune system than vitamin D2.
Vitamin D and COVID-19: The best mask is a strong immune system!
A recent 2021 study shows how vitamin D could halt lung inflammation in COVID-19. The scientists discovered that in normal infections, Th1 cells, which are a subset of helper T cells that fights microbes within the cell, go through a pro-inflammatory phase. During this phase, the body clears the infection. Shortly after, the system shuts down to move onto the anti-inflammatory phase. The scientists discovered that vitamin D is key in speeding up this transition.
Vitamin D had previously been shown to have protective effects against respiratory viruses like the flu, and recent analyses demonstrate that the same could be true for COVID-19. If your level of vitamin D is at least 50 ng/ml (normal range is 20-100) you can not develop a “cytokine storm” (that which kills in Covid). Maintaining mid-levels of vitamin D in your system is crucial, however, 70% of the world is vitamin D deficient. Unfortunately, most insurance companies in America won’t pay for a vitamin D blood test to check D levels. 80% of Americans are also magnesium deficient (due to our mineral-depleted soils for growing food). Magnesium is a critical co-factor for D function.
One study led by Northwestern University researchers compared COVID-19 data from 10 countries to each country’s average vitamin D deficiency rates. They found that countries with more vitamin D deficiency had higher mortality rates, whereas countries with higher vitamin D levels were not affected as severely by the virus.
Several observational studies conducted at South Asian hospitals show that the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency was significantly higher among patients with severe coronavirus cases. An analysis of 489 patient records from the University of Chicago found that people who had vitamin D deficiencies before the pandemic were substantially more likely to receive a positive COVID-19 diagnosis than people with normal levels.
Further, according to a population-based study conducted in Israel, low plasma vitamin D levels increased the likelihood of COVID-19 infection even after adjusting for age and other demographic factors. Finally, a recently published Boston University study revealed that those who are vitamin D deficient have a 54 percent higher risk of getting infected with COVID-19.
Vitamin D had been previously shown to protect against respiratory viruses like influenza, and recent analyses demonstrate that the same could be true for COVID-19.
How much vitamin D should I take?
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the recommended daily amount of vitamin D is 400 international units (IU) for babies up to 12 months, 600 IU for healthy individuals 1 to 70, and 800 IU for those older than 70 years. However, these daily intakes vary depending on several factors, including how much sun a person is exposed to, their diet, and whether they have a preexisting medical condition.
Now may be a good time to get your vitamin D levels checked if you haven’t done so already. The normal range of vitamin D is measured in nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml), and experts recommend aspiring for a vitamin D concentration of no less than 40 ng/ml.
Vitamin D deficiency is very common and may not always produce any signs or symptoms, but the good news is that it’s easy to fix. Increasing your sun exposure; eating more vitamin D-rich foods like salmon, egg yolks, mushrooms, or fortified foods; and taking a supplement are all effective ways of boosting your vitamin D intake.
Remember that no vitamin alone, even vitamin D, boosts the immune system without help from other good health habits. If the COVID-19 pandemic has got you researching how to strengthen the immune system, consider implementing these basic but powerful healthy-living strategies:
Wash your hands frequently
Maintain a healthy weight
Eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables
Get enough sleep
Stay up to date with recommended vaccines
Build strong social connections
Cold and Flu Season is Really Low Vitamin D Season!
Everyone should supplement with vitamin D during what is known as “Cold and Flu Season”. It is believed most people get sick from illness and viruses due to the drop in vitamin D levels this time of year. You do not get as much sun exposure in the fall and winter and become immuno-suppressed due to vitamin D levels dropping drastically. It is important to note that if you live in the northern states, during fall and winter you’re probably getting zero vitamin D from the sun. Without the protection of vitamin D, you are open to contracting illnesses. Protect yourself and supplement with vitamin D!
Medical Harm Occurs in 43 Million Hospital Cases Each Year
Preventive health care, be it following a healthy diet, exercising, and taking needed and essential vitamins and minerals in the event of dietary deficiencies, all can help to keep you out of the hospital.
A report published in the British Medical Journal Quality and Safety focuses on yet another reason to avoid hospitalization. World-Wide, medical harm occurs in 43 million hospital cases each year!
It is not clear if the risk of developing nosocomial infections (infections you didn’t have when checking into the hospital but pick up while you are hospitalized) is even included in this huge 43,000,000 number of cases.
Iatrogenic illness is very, very real. (This is an inadvertent illness or serious side-effects caused by medical treatment).
Ultimately you and you alone are responsible for your health and the potentially huge financial drain that illnesses and the medical and hospital costs to treat them, can cause.
Eating healthy, exercising, and when necessary, taking supplements that are backed by high-quality published literature in peer-reviewed scientific and medical journals are relatively inexpensive and can go a long way to keeping you healthy and out of the hospital.
To the Best of Health,
Curt Hendrix, M.S., C.C.N., C.N.S.
Natural Alternatives for Optimizing Immune Function
Our immune systems work around the clock protecting us from infection and disease. Feeling ill is never a good experience. Whether it be a seasonal cold, an ear infection, thousands of other potential ailments, we feel discomfort, a lack of energy, and even pain. The good news is that our immune system exists specifically to help keep our cells and organs properly functioning so that we feel well, stay healthy and live longer. It is the built-in first line of defense for our bodies.
While the immune system has always had a vital role in human health and wellbeing, it has gained even more attention over the past several months as the world battles the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ve been presented daily with evidence of the immune system’s amazing strengths and heartbreaking vulnerabilities. The population, doctors, and researchers alike have had a growing interest in understanding how we can better prepare our bodies to respond and defend if exposed to the virus.
This article gives you an easy-to-read overview of the immune system and discusses actions you can take to help support the natural immune response. In addition to evidence-based lifestyle suggestions and a close look at conventional treatments, we look at the evidence behind how different natural supplements support a healthy immune system.
What is the Immune System?
organs, and chemicals responsible for identifying and removing cells, toxins, bacteria, viruses, and fungi that could potentially cause a person to get sick.
When the innate immune system cannot stave off an illness, the adaptive immune system takes charge. This second line of defense works to build and activate cells called B cells and several types of T cells. These cells are responsible for identifying specific illness-causing cells and creating a response system to eliminate cells that are causing illness so that they can feel well again.
In most cases, the immune system remembers how to fight against certain types of viruses and bacteria so that, if a person is exposed to the same pathogen again, it can respond well enough, so we don’t get sick.
How to Support Immune System Health
Lead a Healthy Lifestyle
Several lifestyle factors are at the base of healthy immune system function. These include:
A balanced diet that supports optimal nutrient intake and weight management
Minimizing sugar intake, as this could trigger an immune response
Regular physical activity and exercise
Avoiding exposure to toxins
Getting enough sleep and rest
Despite everything we know about living a healthy lifestyle, normal life circumstances do not always make it realistic to lead a perfect immune-supporting diet.
When we experience stress, are overloaded with toxins, aren’t getting enough sleep, or aren’t eating a balanced diet, the immune system can become overwhelmed or deficient. We are at greater risk of getting sick, and our bodies may have a more challenging time fighting off illness.
In these cases, treatments and supplements may help support the immune system response, reduce illness time, or alleviate symptoms.
Conventional Treatments for Seasonal Illness
When you get sick with the common cold or flu, there is no cure. You must wait until your adaptive immune system responds to the illness. In the meantime, it is common for people to take conventional over-the-counter medicines like paracetamol, ibuprofen, acetylsalicylic acid, and antiviral drugs. In most cases, these drugs only address illness symptoms without supporting natural immune activity, and they may have unpleasant side effects.
As a result, researchers have gained a growing interest in natural supplements that enhance natural immune function to take in addition to, or instead of, conventional treatments.
Natural Herbs and Nutrients (Vitamins and Minerals) that Support the Immune System
This section includes a description of nine herbal extracts and naturally-occurring vitamins that researchers and herbalists have identified as natural treatments to support the immune system. For each natural supplement, we describe how they work and what the research says regarding its role in preventing and treating different illnesses.
Andrographis extract comes from the Andrographis paniculata plant, which is commonly known as create or green chiretta. It is an ancient herb that has been used in Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine for centuries for many chronic diseases and acute ailments, including cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, skin diseases, upset stomach, and influenza.
Researchers have identified many of the properties of Andrographis extract that help support the immune system and relieve symptoms. Some of the most essential conclusions of research on the effects of Andrographis extract include:
Combats the symptoms of respiratory infections, the common cold, earaches, throat infections, and other viral illnesses.
How does it work? Many of the immune-supporting properties of Andrographis extract are due to the high concentration of andrographolide lactones found in the plant. These lactones stimulate the immune system and have potent antiviral, anti-allergic, anti-diarrheal, hypoglycemic, and anti-inflammatory effects.
Elderberry extract has been researched in the lab for centuries, and scientists have identified multiple properties that are to credit for the herb’s immune-supporting effects. It has explicit antiviral activities, even inhibiting the replications of certain viral strains.
Vitamin A is a vital component for immune system development and maintenance. Vitamin A has confirmed anti-inflammatory capabilities and can boost immunity. Some of the most recent research has confirmed that vitamin A may:
Improve the way our bodies respond to infectious diseases, with some studies showing that it may reduce the mortality of measles and diarrhea in populations with malnutrition.
Vitamin A likely works to boost immune health in many ways, including supporting the production of cells that are part of the adaptive immune system, including T-cells, antibodies, and antigens.
Vitamin C is one of the best-known nutrients known to support the immune system. It is essential for the healthy functioning of immune cells. Yet, since vitamin C deficiency is relatively common, most people’s immune response is also depleted.
Some of the research-backed benefits of vitamin C for the immune system include:
Most people know of vitamin D as a nutrient that supports bone health. While this is true, it is also essential for immune health. In fact, before the invention of effective antibiotics, vitamin D was used to support immune response. Scientists know a lot about the role of vitamin D in immune response. Vitamin D:
Modulatesadaptive immuneresponse cells. In people with autoimmune diseases, vitamin D has a vital role in supporting the healthy activity of B cells and T cells, which are the main response cells of the adaptive immune system.
Vitamin D is an essential component of several vital cells in the immune system. Its presence supports the physical barrier of cells in the immune system and supports the capacity of immune cells to eliminate pathogenic cells through a process called phagocytosis.
Biotin (vitamin B7) is best known for its role in supporting hair and nail health, but it is also indispensable for immune functioning. Some of biotin’s roles in supporting immune health include:
Even though humans only need chromium in trace amounts, it is not easy to obtain in significant amounts in commonly consumed foods. Deficiencies in chromiumare associated with a range of chronic diseases and metabolic deficiencies that influence immune health.
Research has shown that chromium deficiencies influence immune health by:
Implicated in infectious diseases: people with infectious diseases like HIV, tuberculosis, and pneumonia are more at risk of having a zinc deficiency. Deficiencies of zinc are also linked to excessive inflammation and poor outcomes, and zinc supplementation has an essential role in preventing complications.
Supports healthyimmune cell function: Zinc is vital to the healthy functioning of several immune cells of the innate and adaptive immune systems, and zinc deficiency interrupts the function and multiplication of healthy cells.
Helps to eliminate pathogens due to zinc’s antioxidant properties and due to its ability to signal dangerous cells.
Regulates anti-inflammatory function by controlling exaggerated immune responses while signaling immune cells when an inflammatory response is appropriate.
Having a stable immune system is essential for living a healthful life. While our DNA gives the immune system instructions on how to develop and when and how to respond, there are daily actions that we take that can either support or weaken our immune response.
A healthy lifestyle, including a nutrient-dense diet, regular exercise, and rest, are essential for supporting the immune system. However, factors over which we have less control, like stress levels and exposure to toxins, and exposure to viruses and bacteria for which the body is not prepared, make it almost impossible to continually have a healthy immune system.
One of the ways to support immune health is through taking natural herbs and supplements. In this article, we reviewed nine herbal extracts and vitamins that are scientifically-shown to have potent properties that support the immune system response while also reducing the symptoms of illnesses.
For more details on how to support the immune system naturally, you can read my WHITE PAPER.
To the Best of Health,
Curt Hendrix, M.S., C.C.N., C.N.S.
Chief Scientific Officer, Akeso Health Sciences
What You Need to Know About Knee Pain and Arthritis
For several decades I have played competitive tennis on the cement courts in Southern California. In hindsight, being slightly bowlegged exaggerated the pressure and forces on my knees, so it is not surprising that I developed knee arthritis and significant knee pain.
I am a pharmaceutical chemist for those who don’t know me and have a master’s degree in clinical nutrition. Unfortunately, the pain developed close to 30 years ago before I became an expert on plant chemistry and its potential benefits. Because of this expertise, I became the principal investigator of several studies funded by the National Institutes of Health exploring the benefits of natural compounds for the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease. I mention this so you understand I am a scientist, not just some marketing person at a dietary supplement company. Because the pain occurred before my plant chemistry studies, I agreed to do bilateral knee surgery, which was unsuccessful and made my pain worse.
If you suffer from knee pain, I don’t have to tell you how negatively it affects your quality of life. Walking up and down stairs is not only a real challenge but potentially dangerous due to the instability the pain causes. Standing up from a chair or doing a deep knee bend to pick something off of the floor can be difficult and painful.
Having the training and ability to access and analyze medical studies and wanting to avoid drugs, I experimented on myself with those dietary supplements and herbal extracts that had clinical documentation to potentially reduce knee pain. I tried glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate at the proper dosages and for the proper amount of time but found little or no benefit. This was not particularly surprising because several randomized placebo-controlled studies also found no benefit while some other studies did. It is important to note that many supplements you read about sound good but don’t have quality human studies supporting their use.
Inflammation is a significant component of osteoarthritis that causes the pain we experience. Inflammation is a component of every chronic degenerative disease that we may develop as we age. So controlling it is crucial to reduce the pain of arthritis and decrease the risk of developing age-related chronic degenerative diseases.
I understand what happens physiologically and chemically in the body allowing inflammatory compounds called cytokines to develop and take hold causing damage and pain. There are literally dozens of plant phytochemicals that have some degree of anti-inflammatory mechanisms of action. The goal of my research was relatively simple. I had to determine which of these phytochemical compounds were the most effective at reducing inflammation and pain.
If I found a particular phytochemical compound to be superior, the fact that it might cost more had absolutely no impact on my decision to use it when formulating dietary supplements. Often in the dietary supplement industry, certain compounds are substituted or used at reduced non-therapeutic doses by companies trying to save money. Making these kinds of decisions is foreign to my nature and my ethics.
After several years of experimenting with the various anti-inflammatory phytochemicals I believed had the most potential both individually, and combined, I discovered a formulation that reduced my knee issues by 70 to 90% depending on normal day-to-day fluctuations. This combination also improved the health of my muscles, ligaments, cartilage, and bones for the long term, and drastically improved the active, mobile life I now enjoy.
Click HERE for the best natural herbs, vitamins, and minerals for joint comfort and mobility.
If knee or joint pain is an issue in your life, I strongly suggest you also read the free white paper I created for the thousands of physicians, nurse practitioners, and other healthcare professionals who either use or recommend my formulations. The white paper describes pharmacological and non-pharmacological interventions and discusses the data on traditional options as well as individual natural alternatives for joint comfort, integrity, and function.
Psyllium – Dietary Fiber, Health Benefits and Uses
Dietary fiber, sometimes called roughage, is a fundamental component of a healthy diet. It is found naturally in various fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. While it is mainly known for its digestive benefits, fiber plays an essential role in your overall health.
There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber absorbs water and gets broken down into a gel-like substance that supports digestion and improves blood glucose control. Insoluble fiber adds bulk to the stool and promotes a smooth passage of nutrients and waste through the gut. Some estimates indicate that only 5 percent of adults in the United States meet adequate fiber intake recommendations.
Are you getting enough fiber in your diet?
Psyllium has been used for centuries to promote digestive health, increase fiber intake, and support cardiovascular health.
What is psyllium? Psyllium is a plant-based soluble fiber derived from the husks of the psyllium seed (Plantago ovata), an herb native to India but that is now grown worldwide including growing wildly in the southwest U.S. The name psyllium comes from the Ancient Greek “psúlla,” meaning flea or spider because each plant can produce up to 15,000 tiny seeds that resemble clusters of small insects. Clinically, psyllium is used as a mild laxative or supplement for people experiencing frequent constipation or that need to add more fiber into their diet.
Health benefits Evidence suggests that taking a daily psyllium supplement can bring many health benefits.
Constipation Constipation happens when the colon absorbs too much water from stool during the digestion process, causing the stool to become tougher in consistency and harder to evacuate. The most common causes of constipation include not eating enough fiber, stress, sedentarism, and certain medications (especially antidepressants and iron supplements). Psyllium works as a bulk-forming laxative and can help relieve and prevent constipation. Bulk-forming laxatives work by drawing water into your intestines to produce bigger, easier-to-pass stools.
In one study of 170 individuals with chronic constipation, those who took 5.1 grams of psyllium twice a day experienced positive changes in their stool composition and number of bowel movements.
A small analysis looking at the characteristics of the bowel movements of participants taking different types of fiber supplements (psyllium, wheat bran, or a combination), found that psyllium had a more significant effect on the stool bulk and amount of water. Participants taking the fiber supplement also reported significantly fewer “hard” bowel movements.
In another study, drinking psyllium seeds dissolved in warm water reduced constipation in patients with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Compared to a common GERD medication (omeprazole), psyllium was also more effective in minimizing the risk of recurring GERD symptoms.
IBS IBS is a common disorder that affects the colon. It is the most commonly diagnosed gastrointestinal condition globally. In the United States, it is estimated that 10 to 15 percent of the adult population suffers from IBS symptoms. There are three major types of IBS: IBS with constipation (IBS-C), IBS with diarrhea (IBS-D), and IBS-A, which alternates constipation and diarrhea. Psyllium can help reduce discomfort for any type of IBS.
Research shows that psyllium not only helps relieve constipation – it can help treat diarrhea, too. In a study, individuals undergoing radiation therapy who took a psyllium supplement experienced fewer radiation-related diarrhea instances. Furthermore, a study from 2017 showed psyllium supplementation significantly reduced the number of IBS-related abdominal pain episodes in children with IBS.
Heart health Fiber, including psyllium, contributes to heart health in several ways. According to a 2018 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, psyllium helped lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels and two other risk factor markers for heart disease. The gel-like fiber created when psyllium absorbs water may also play an important role in lowering our “bad” LDL (low-density lipoproteins) cholesterol via a similar mechanism to that of cholesterol-lowering drugs. This mechanism involves psyllium binding to bile acids in the gut and preventing their re-absorption. This has important implications for our health as studies have suggested that high LDL cholesterol is associated with various cardiovascular diseases. A review of studiesconcluded that increasing fiber intake could help prevent high blood pressure.
Glucose Control Controlling blood sugar levels is essential for good health. Studies show that adding psyllium husk to the diet has been shown to control spikes in blood sugar following a meal by reducing the rate of carbohydrate absorbed. This helps to reduce blood sugar swings and the energy crash that commonly follows a meal. Psyllium husk also helps to improve long-term glucose control according to another study.
Weight Control Water-soluble fibers like psyllium promote satiety, or the feeling of fullness, which may help you lose weight and prevent cardiovascular risk factors like obesity and type 2 diabetes. The high fiber content of the psyllium husk has been demonstrated to help slow the digestion of food within the stomach and increase feelings of fullness following a meal.
GERD (reflux) GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease impacts tens of millions of people, and proton pump inhibitors PPI’s (medication that reduces the production of acid in the stomach like Prilosec) have significant side effects and the potential to create other pathologies. If you are one of the people with both Gerd and constipation psyllium is a perfect solution. A 2018 studyconcluded that the use of Psyllium seed in the treatment of functional constipation in patients with GERD is very safe, effective, easily available, and this treatment also minimizes the chance of recurrence of GERD compared to omeprazole (a prescription treatment for GERD). Please note that you can also take psyllium for GERD even if you are not experiencing constipation.
How to take psyllium You may find psyllium in many forms: powdered, granulated, in capsules, liquid, and more. Typically, dissolving one tablespoon of psyllium in a glass of warm water (8 oz. – 16 oz.) and drinking twice a day before a meal can help prevent constipation and maintain regularity. To prevent gastric discomfort, it is recommended to start with lower doses to allow the digestive system to get used to the increased fiber. Psyllium can be purchased in grocery stores, health food stores, and online. Common brands are Meta Mucil Fiber, NOW Psyllium Husk Caps, Viva Naturals Psyllium Husk Powder, and Anthonys-Organic-Psyllium-Powder to name a few.
Fiber drink mixes are available on the market
As low-fiber diets appear to be a risk factor for heart and gastrointestinal issues as well as other health issues, it is important to add fiber to your diet. The benefits listed above can be achieved through a range of whole food sources, and the addition of 1-2 teaspoons of psyllium husk each day.
To the Best of Health,
Curt Hendrix, M.S., C.C.N., C.N.S.