October 31, 2016

393 Vitamin D-Day [31 Oct 2016]


This Wednesday, November 2, is international Vitamin D Day (see www.vitamindday.net). It was created to highlight the estimated one third of the world (over 1 billion people!) that is deficient in this essential vitamin. This incredibly high deficiency rate is caused by two factors – people living in northern countries and people living a mostly indoor lifestyle.

It wasn’t stated but I suspect the date was chosen to reflect the beginning of the season where most Americans can no longer obtain any vitamin D from the sun. In Saskatchewan the date should be September 2. By mid-August we’d have to spend a half hour naked at noon to absorb enough UVB rays to synthesize sufficient vitamin D, so from September on we are dependent on supplements or sunlamps.

Why is vitamin D so important? Its role in calcium metabolism – essential for strong bones – is well known. More recently, research has shown that D deficiency is a risk factor for many different diseases including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s, and infectious diseases like influenza. Vitamin D deficiency also makes some diseases more severe including respiratory diseases, and autoimmune diseases like MS and lupus. And researchers are finding that vitamin D can play an important role in the treatment of certain diseases including MS, cystic fibrosis, asthma and many more.

So vitamin D is probably the most important supplement you can take, and it’s inexpensive – about $.30 a day for 5,000 IU (if 5,000 seems like a high number, it’s really only 0.125 mg).

Ideally you should have your blood levels monitored, as people vary considerably in their ability to absorb and utilize the vitamin. Optimum levels are 100-150 nmol/L with anything below 75 considered deficient. If you don’t know your D levels, a supplement range of 5-10,000 IU daily should keep most people close to optimum. Make sure your vitamin D is the more effective D3 form.

There are two other options for winter vitamin D: holidays and sunlamps. A fun way to get your winter vitamin D is to spend several months down south where the sun is high enough. Remember to expose maximum skin at midday, without sunscreen, for 10 to 15 minutes, then cover up before the skin turns pink. The use of sunlamps for vitamin D synthesis will have to wait for another column.

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

October 24, 2016

392 Brain Supplements [24 Oct 2016]


I have written many times about brain function and memory. In August 2015 I listed 10 diet and lifestyle changes to help prevent loss of brain function [#333 Preventing Alzheimer’s]. To complement that list, this week I will list 5 supplements that support mental health. It’s based on an article in this month’s Vitality Magazine by Amanda Burke, CNP, called “Brain Food – My Five Favourite Supplements for Mental and Emotional Health”.

Amanda writes:
Thanks to great research in the area of nutritional medicine it is now known that good brain nourishment can not only prevent many of the health related issues associated with mental decline…and stack the odds in their favour for prevention of age-related, inherited, and environmentally-induced mental decline, but they can potentially reverse the brain’s biological age and access abilities like never before.
Her five favourite brain supplements are:
High dose Probiotic – a healthy gut microbiome is essential for good mental health [see #320 Our Gut Microbiome & Our Brain] and a good therapeutic-dose probiotic helps restore a healthy population of beneficial gut bacteria
Serrapeptase – reduces inflammation and helps heal leaky gut syndrome which can affect brain function [see #217 Serrapeptase]
Curcumin – protects the brain by reducing inflammation and blocking plaque formation [see #384 Curcumin & Alzheimer’s]
Magnesium L-Threonate – the magnesium that crosses the blood-brain barrier for optimal brain function [see #350 Magtein – Magnesium for the Brain]
B-Complex – B vitamins are essential for brain function (memory and clear thinking) [see #157 Vitamin B12 & Your Brain and #390 The B Vitamins]; a high dose coenzyme formula is most effective along with herbs like ashwagandha, rhodiola [see #39 Rhodiola rosea], and ginseng to help manage stress

To Amanda’s list I would add Vitamin D [see #336 Alzheimer’s & Vitamin D], an Omega 3 with high DHA [see #194 Fish Oil & Your Brain], and perhaps phosphatidyl serine [#248 Phosphatidyl Serine]. In developed cases of Alzheimer’s coconut oil or the concentrated MCT oil provides an alternative energy source for the brain when it can no longer utilize glucose [see #153 Alzheimer’s and Coconut Oil].

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

October 17, 2016

391 Health Benefits of Spices [17 Oct 2016]


It should come as no surprise to learn that culinary spices and herbs have beneficial properties for our health. Spices are really just herbs that we use for their taste and aroma. And as the legend goes, there are no plants without some medicinal use (the wise old herbalist sends out her apprentice to find a plant with no beneficial use and when she returns without finding any is told that she passed the test).

Modern science has discovered thousands of chemical compounds in plants, many of which have known health benefits. Here are a few with some of their many uses:

Cinnamon lowers blood sugar by slowing digestion of carbs and by improving insulin resistance; reduces inflammation; lowers cholesterol and triglycerides
Sage improves brain function and memory, in people with Alzheimer’s and healthy people, by slowing the breakdown of acetylcholine
Peppermint relieves headaches when applied to the temples; reduces pain in IBS by relaxing the smooth muscles of the colon; reduces nausea when used in aromatherapy
Turmeric contains curcumin, a powerful antioxidant and strong anti-inflammatory; improves brain function; reduces risk of heart disease and cancer (see 3 previous columns)
Cayenne Pepper contains capsaicin which reduces appetite and increases fat burning; relieves stomach problems; improves blood circulation; topically for neuralgia
Ginger has strong anti-inflammatory properties; reduces nausea; helps with pain and stiffness of osteoarthritis
Fenugreek lowers blood sugar by improving the function of insulin; may increase testosterone levels (and therefore libido)
Rosemary suppresses allergy symptoms and reduces nasal congestion
Garlic is well known for its health benefits (see column #40); contains allicin which improves immunity, reduces cholesterol, and lowers blood pressure

The best way to benefit from the health properties of spices is to use them liberally every day in your food. Your food will taste better too! And the freshest spices will have the most potency for both flavor and health benefits (so toss the 20 year old spices you inherited from Grandma and buy fresh, preferably organic, spices).

Source: 10 Delicious Herbs and Spices With Powerful Health Benefits by Joe Leech, Dietitian

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

October 10, 2016

390 The B Vitamins [10 Oct 2016]


The B’s are a group of eight water soluble vitamins with many important roles in the body. In writing about the function of mitochondria in the cells (columns #301 & #302) I discussed the roles of several of the B vitamins.

We normally get most of our B vitamins from our diet with some, like biotin and folic acid, produced by bacteria in our gut. Being water soluble, some B vitamin content of food is lost in processing, and dysbiosis (unhealthy gut flora) can reduce vitamin production in the intestines.

B vitamins are available as supplements as singles or all together in what is known as a “B Complex”. In choosing a B complex look for the right amounts and the right forms. Standard B complex formulas will have the same amount of each vitamin, for example 50 mg of most and 50 mcg of a few. It’s highly unlikely that we need exactly the same amounts, by weight, of each vitamin. Better formulas will have what appears to be random amounts but which are based on a more scientifically determined ratio of our body’s needs.

The form of the vitamins is even more important. The B vitamins come in several forms and the most active is often more expensive to produce. Here are the B vitamins with the biologically active or preferred form in brackets:
• B1 Thiamine (benfotiamine)
• B2 Riboflavin (riboflavin-5-phosphate)
• B3 Niacin (inositol hexanicotinate)
• B5 Pantothenic Acid (calcium d-pantothenate)
• B6 Pyridoxine (pyridoxal-5’-phosphate or P5P)
• B7 Biotin
• B10 Folic Acid or Folate (calcium L-5-MTHF)
• B12 Cobalamin (methylcobalamin)

Though not classified as true B vitamins, a good complex will also include three other related coenzymes:
• PABA Para-aminobenzoic acid
• Choline
• Inositol

Keep this in mind when shopping for a B complex supplement.

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

October 3, 2016

389 Regulating Natural Health Products [3 Oct 2016]


Canada is a global leader in the regulation of natural health products (NHPs). The current system is based on 53 recommendations made by the Standing Committee on Health (SCOH) in 1998. The SCOH considered hundreds of submissions by consumer groups, Health Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and international regulators over 6 months of consultation. Based on this consultation process, an appropriate framework was developed for the regulation of natural health products.

The Natural Health Product Regulations came into effect in 2004 with the Natural Health Products Directorate, a branch of Health Canada, established to oversee the regulations. The NHPD is responsible for licensing natural health products, approving labels, reviewing evidence for health claims, licensing manufacturing sites, compiling reported adverse reactions, and ensuring that Good Manufacturing Practices are in place. When satisfied, the product is approved for sale and an NPN number is issued. All this information is archived in a public database on Health Canada’s website.

Over the next 9 years the NHPD reviewed submissions for 70,000 natural health products, finally getting caught up in 2013. Since then all natural health products are pre-approved before allowed on the Canadian market (over 109,000 to date). The level of evidence required for approval depends on the risk of the product and the claims being made. The natural health product industry worked with the NHPD spending much effort, time and money in the process. There were some products lost, others (like tryptophan) gained that were unavailable before.

The NHP regulation process is running smoothly. Consumers can shop in Canadian health food stores with confidence in the quality, safety and effectiveness of our natural health products. Now Health Canada wants to change the system.

Based on a small survey and only six weeks of consultation (currently underway) Health Canada wants to implement a completely different system where natural health products and drugs are regulated together based on risk assessment. While there may be some advantages to this system (whatever it will be) you can be sure that it will mean the loss of many safe, effective products and a sharp price increase on the rest, with no obvious benefit to the public. If this concerns you, write to your local M.P. Visit chfa.ca for more information.

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.