Tagged with 'Healthy Lifestyle'

All about Magnesium – Which Form Works Best?

Magnesium
The ever-popular mineral, magnesium, is needed in over 300 of our daily metabolic reactions. Our bodies rely on magnesium to regulate muscle and nerve function, keep blood sugar levels balanced, make up strong bones and ensure proper liver detoxification. On the other hand, when magnesium stores are low, the risk for high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and migraines increases. Why do We need Magnesium Supplements? Magnesium is primarily found in green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, and grains. This is because magnesium occurs naturally in garden soil. Today, these foods are grown in soil that is no longer the same as it was decades ago. Conventional agriculture practices include heavy use of imbalanced crop fertilization and potassium addition, which decrease magnesium levels. Heavy rainfall and aluminum runoff can also decrease magnesium stores. The suboptimal growing environment of crops leads to lower magnesium content in crops – even when we eat magnesium-rich greens and grains, it may not be enough. Plus, it is estimated that 34% of Canadian adults do not consume enough magnesium in their diets. The combination of both these factors results in a large portion of the population being magnesium deficient. The Benefits of Magnesium Supplements Because most of us are deficient, magnesium is one of the safest minerals to supplement. The advantage of supplementing with magnesium lies in its many forms – it is easy to choose the perfect one depending on your individual needs! Magnesium Citrate (magnesium + citric acid) One of the most common and cheapest forms of magnesium, this form is often taken to relieve constipation. Magnesium citrate can relax the bowels and pull water into the intestines so that the stool bulks up and is easier to pass. It’s a gentle laxative that will not cause dependency, unlike some herbs. Options: Natural Factors Tropical Fruit 250g, Natural Calm Raspberry Lemon 16 oz. Magnesium Malate (magnesium + malate) Is there anything that magnesium can’t do? This amazing mineral can help improve energy and metabolism on a cellular level. If you are chronically fatigued or have aching muscles, magnesium malate is a great option. Those with high inflammation will also benefit from this form. Options: AOR Mag Malate Renew 240 cap, CanPrev Magnesium Malate 120 cap Magnesium Taurine (magnesium + taurine) To improve your overall cardiovascular health, magnesium taurine is the best choice. Both magnesium and the amino acid taurine can improve blood pressure levels and keep heart contractility normal. It protects the heart from calcification and heart attacks.   Options: AOR Mag + Taurine 180 cap, CanPrev Magnesium + Taurine 120 cap Magnesium Glycinate (magnesium + glycine) As one of the most popular forms of magnesium, this form can work wonders for many people. Magnesium glycinate (or bis-glycinate) is highly absorbable without causing laxative effects. It is safe to take at high doses and is commonly used for muscle tension, cramps, migraines, and to improve sleep quality. When taken before bed, it helps to calm the mind and body to ensure a good night’s rest. Options: Pure Encapsulations Magnesium Glycinate 180 cap, CanPrev Bis-Glycinate 240 cap Are Magnesium Supplements Suitable for Anyone? Though magnesium supplements are relatively safe for most people, it is possible to take too much. If you experience stomach pain or diarrhea after increasing your dose, it may be a sign your body has already absorbed sufficient amounts. In this case, you may need to decrease your dose. If you are taking prescription medications, make sure to consult with your healthcare practitioner before proceeding. Author Grace Tien is dietetics and holistic nutrition grad. She creates sustainable, delicious meal plans to help clients with their health goals. Grace specializes in nutrition for healthy periods, you can find out more at @gracetien.ca on Instagram.

A Herb for Parasites and More - Black Walnut

Black Walnut Herb
I remember my first time truly noticing the black walnut tree; what I saw was that nothing could grow around it. I found this to be quite unusual in an otherwise vibrant, diverse woodland. That day, I learned about black walnut's allelopathic (growth-inhibiting) effect on some plant species. The fact that not much will grow under a black walnut tree is likely due to its juglone compounds.  Another remarkable thing about the walnut tree is that although it may grow thousands of kilometers away from any seawater or sea vegetation, scientists have found that it's high in iodine and has the power to change one mineral to another through biological transmutation. The iodine found in black walnut (or Juglans nigra) is organic, antiseptic, and healing. Plant Description  Black walnut is a native North American deciduous tree that grows to a height of 15–23 meters, with a trunk roughly one meter in diameter. Approximately two meters from the ground, the tree divides into numerous neatly horizontal, wide-spreading branches with smooth grey bark that forms an upright, umbrella-like crown in the woods or a round-topped crown when out in the open. The leaves vary from 30–50 cm long, consisting of seven or eight pairs of leaflets along a central axis and a single leaflet at the tip. Leaflets emerge very late in the spring and are yellow-green in color; in the autumn, the leaves are yellow. Its flowers are inconspicuous in elongated green clusters. The fruit is three to five centimetres in diameter consisting of a hard shell, a furrowed nut enclosed in a green husk, and becomes darker when ripe. History It was said that in the “golden age” when people lived upon acorns, the gods lived upon walnuts hence the name of Juglans, Jovis glans, or Jupiter’s nuts. The name walnut comes from the German wallnuss or welsche nuss, which means “foreign nut.” The walnut was dedicated to the goddess Artemis in Ancient Greece, and the tree symbolized wisdom, fertility, longevity, and strength in adversity.6 The late Nicholas Culpeper, a renowned English herbalist, suggests that the bark is very astringent when he states, “Doth bind and dry very much.” He also says that the mature bitter leaves are useful for killing broad worms in the stomach, and the green hulls boiled with honey are a great remedy for sore throats and inflammation of the mouth and stomach.7 Black walnuts have historically been used to dye fabrics a rich tan to dark brown colour. The hulls have the most concentration of stain and cannot be removed with soap and water alone. Any natural fibre may be dyed with Juglans nigra. Medicinal Properties & Indications  Digestive System Juglans nigra is one of nature’s most powerful anthelmintics or antiparasitics. It eradicates the overgrowth of microorganisms like bacteria, fungi, and yeasts, as well as addresses parasites, worms, and flukes. It is used as a remedy for digestive and liver insufficiency with possible jaundice, headaches, and tissue congestion. Naturopathic doctor Jill Stansbury writes about using it when there is a dry, acrid feeling in the throat and mouth.8 It may also be used specifically when there is soreness in the tonsil area experienced as a sensation coming from the external neck and throat, rather than from the inner throat.9 Though not specific for skin disorders, the colon cleansing and tonifying effects of the herb provide benefits for chronic skin disorders caused by imbalances of digestion and assimilation. Indications:  » parasites  » worms - pinworms, threadworms, roundworms, hookworms, giardia  » flukes - liver flukes  » candida  » fungal infections  » irritation of the intestines  » inflammation of the intestines  » constipation  » diarrhea  » liver congestion  » gallbladder congestion  » intestinal permeability  » dysbiosis Endocrine System  As a superlative herb for the thyroid, Juglans nigra is both stimulating for hypothyroidism, and a nourishing trophorestorative.  Juglans nigra is the remedy for times of change in life. It’s an ally for advancing the stages of maturity (e.g., teething, puberty, menopause) or big life-change decisions that break conventions, helping us leave old limits and habits behind. Indications:  » hypothyroidism   » goitre  » low metabolism  » boils  » abscesses  » electric shocks (often due to mycotoxin illness) Contraindications & Safety  » pregnancy » breastfeeding Use caution with long-term use.  Preparations & Applications  Dosage:  Tincture (1:5): Adult: 5 mL three times daily (TID)  Children:  >1 yr: 1–3 gtts (drops) TID  >2 yrs.: 1–2 mL TID  2–4 yrs.: 1–3 mL TID  >5 yrs: 3 mL TID Tea (Infusion): Add 1–2 tsp dried hull with 8 oz hot water. Cover and steep for 10–30 minutes. Take 3 c/day for adults, ½ c/day for children between 2–5 yrs. ...

Lowering Cholesterol For Cardiovascular Health

Cardiovascular Health and Cholesterol
High cholesterol is something that many of us deal with at some point in our lives. Cholesterol is not inherently bad; your liver makes enough naturally for proper health. The problem occurs when we add more cholesterol to our bodies through food, such as meat and dairy. These foods also have saturated and trans fats which cause your liver to create even more cholesterol the result can be high cholesterol for some people. High cholesterol is one of the major risk factors for coronary heart disease, so keeping it under control is very important. Supplementation can be an effective solution for your high cholesterol but check with your healthcare provider to see if this approach is right for you. Monitoring your cholesterol levels while taking supplements through regular blood tests is advisable. Taking cholesterol-lowering supplements consistently is essential to see positive results. AOR Cholesterol Control For vascular health and healthy cholesterol levels, AOR’s Cholesterol Control contains a proprietary extract of bergamot which has been shown to help lower bad cholesterol (LDL) and boost good cholesterol (HDL). The antioxidant and inflammation-reducing properties of bergamot also help to prevent vascular damage. It’s vegan, non-GMO, and gluten-free. A. VOGEL Omega-3 Capsules A source of omega-3 fatty acids (not derived from fish or other animal sources) which support cardiovascular health. A. Vogel Omega-3 is made from fresh plant sources and is sugar-, gluten-, lactose-free, and vegetarian-friendly. CYTO MATRIX Lipo Matrix Overall cholesterol and triglyceride support your cardiovascular health. Herbal ingredients in Lipo Matrix help reduce total cholesterol and bad LDL cholesterol (through lipid metabolism) while increasing good HDL cholesterol. It is vegan, soy-, dairy-, gluten-free, and non-GMO. GENESTRA Col-Sterol Plant sterol intake has been shown to decrease dietary cholesterol absorption. Genestra Col-Sterol Plant Sterol Formula contains 1,300 mg of Brassica napus plant sterols in each easy-to-swallow softgel, decreasing total and LDL cholesterol while supporting cardiovascular health. NATURAL FACTORS Niacin Inositol Niacin (vitamin B3) assists in the metabolism of fats, proteins, and carbs and is good for maintaining healthy cholesterol levels. Natural Factors Niacin Inositol improves cardiovascular function by promoting good cholesterol and decreasing the bad. Natural Factors niacin is delivered as inositol hexanicotinate this minimizes the flushing effect and further side effects of other niacin forms. NFH Chol Sap-15 Delivering a plant sterol intake of 1.05 g/d, overall cholesterol and LDL cholesterol can be lowered between 8-15% with NFH Chol SAP-15. In addition, plant sterols have been shown to support healthy immune function and reduce inflammation. NFH Chol SAP-15 is formulated with organic flaxseed oil, ensuring optimal absorption. Flaxseed oil is a source of omega-3 fatty acid and alpha-linolenic acid, which are essential for maintaining good health. It’s non GMO, corn, egg, dairy, yeast, citrus, sugar, wheat, gluten, and starch-free, contains no preservatives, and has no artificial colour or flavor.

Healthy Eating Tips For Veggie Haters

Healthy Eating Tips
During my years in practice, I’ve realized that for many people, visiting a dietitian does not sound like fun. Unfortunately, some of my sisters and brothers in dietetics have established a bad reputation for themselves. I’ll never forget one of my first appointments as a newly-fledged dietitian with a client who was not interested in being there. “What are you going to do—write down everything I say and then tell me what I’m doing wrong?” she asked. Cue the eye roll. But I get it. If you’re already struggling with eating healthy, the last thing you need is someone telling you you’re doing everything wrong and that you need to completely overhaul your diet. The advice given by health and wellness experts is not always relatable either; I’ve seen plenty of examples of this. I follow a fitness instructor on social media who recently suggested that people with a sweet tooth should munch on cherry tomatoes when they have a craving since they have a slightly sweet flavour. “Healthy eating tips” like that frustrate me because I know that for most people, they will actually have the opposite effect. Expecting to never eat sweets and only eat vegetables will just set a person up for intense cravings, followed by immense guilt when they give in to those cravings. I’d rather see health professionals be honest and realistic with their clients. It’s a lot easier to eat healthy when you know you’re allowed to be human. You don’t have to turn into a complete veggie lover to improve your diet. I’m proof of that. I am not a fan of the taste of raw vegetables. Hand to my heart, it’s the honest truth. I have my reasons for being “frenemies” with raw veggies—maybe you can relate to some of them. First, there’s the taste. I’ve never liked bitter flavours, and veggies like broccoli and kale taste so bitter to me when they’re raw. Then, there are the potential unpleasant stomach issues that arise after eating large amounts of uncooked vegetables—the bloating, gas, and loose bowel movements are not so fun. Lastly, I don’t find that vegetables satisfy my hunger. If I eat a salad for lunch, it won’t hold me over until dinnertime.  If you can relate to any of these veggie-related problems, don’t worry. Despite these issues, I’ve figured out how to include vegetables in my daily diet while keeping my tastebuds and body happy. Don’t Like The Taste? Try This . . .  The key to adding more veggies to your diet when you don’t like the taste is to go on a flavour exploration. The easiest way to do this is to try out a variety of cuisines. Check out the restaurants in your area, or go online to find recipes for dishes from different cultures. Exploring cuisines will help you determine what makes a dish taste good to you, which you can then apply to your own cooking. This will help to improve the taste and appeal of vegetables for you. For example, when trying Indian dishes, you might discover that you prefer your veggies to be cooked with hot, spicy flavours; you might enjoy the tangy salads from Mediterranean cultures; or perhaps you like the umami flavour of a Thai stir fry.  “If you don’t know how to make veggies taste good, you aren’t going to eat them.”  While you’re taking note of the flavours you like, also pay attention to textures and colours. Do you like your veggies to be crunchy or soft? Do you prefer to eat veggies on their own or incorporate them in a mixed dish? Are brightly coloured vegetables appealing to you, or do you prefer dark greens? These may seem like rudimentary questions, but they are important to answer. If you don’t know how to make veggies taste good, you aren’t going to eat them. So, give a lot of thought to what you enjoy and apply those concepts to your grocery shopping and cooking at home. Stomach Issues . . .  The discomfort that happens in your stomach after eating a bunch of raw veggies is the result of a fibre overload. When we’re not used to eating a lot of fibre, the microbes in the colon have a heyday with the influx of insoluble fibre found in veggies. These microbes ferment the insoluble fibre that our body’s cells can’t break down, causing it to produce large amounts of gas and organic acids—the culprits behind bloating and loose stools. However, there are a few things you can do to prevent these unpleasant side effects. Whenever you’re introducing something new to your diet, be sure to start slow and gradual, and build from there. If you’re not used to eating veggies regularly and suddenly start eating them at every meal, you’re definitely in for some gastrointestinal (GI) discomfort. I suggest adding vegetables to your diet one serving at a time. If you aren’t in the habit of eating them, begin by having one serving of veggies each day. Give yourself a solid two weeks to adjust to this change. If your gut is feeling happy, introduce another serving of vegetables to your d ...

A Herb for Calm: Lavender

Lavender Herb
Lavendula angustifolia is a scent that most of us can recognize perhaps you’ve had the good fortune of visiting a field full of lavender to experience it. At one time, lavender was a natural, wild-crafted crop that could easily be cut and harvested in the hills of the Mediterranean. Over time, it was domesticated and has gradually become one of the major ingredients in the manufacture of perfume and scented cosmetics. The highest-quality essential oil is derived from steam-distilling fresh lavender flowers. The amount of volatile oil found in lavender is often very small; it makes up only 0.005–10 percent of a single plant. To obtain 454 ml (1 lb) of this essential oil, you need 150 lbs of lavender. Knowing this, we might wish to consider using essential oils sparingly, as large quantities of land and plant life are required to produce even small amounts of essential oils. Plant Description  Lavendula angustifolia (English Lavender) is a perennial plant native to Eastern Europe, northern Africa, and the Mediterranean. There are many genotypes, but English Lavender is most commonly grown and used. It has narrow, grey-green leaves and a long spike with purple flowers that attract pollinators. The flowers are covered in star-shaped hairs. The name Lavendula originates from the Latin lavare, meaning washing or bathing; the herb was venerated for its cleansing and purifying properties. The Romans used lavender to perfume their baths, and for centuries it has been infused into laundry water in Europe. The Virgin Mary is reputed to have been especially fond of lavender because it protected clothes from insects and preserved chastity.  Pedanius Dioscorides - a Greek physician, pharmacologist, and botanist posited that the fragrance of lavender surpassed all other perfumes. Herbalists in 16th-century Europe Herbal Profile Lavendula angustifolia (formerly Lavendula officinalis)  Common Name: Lavender, lavendula, lavandin Family: Lamiaceae, mint family Parts Used: Aerial parts—flowers, flower buds, leaves. Collect fully-opened flowers and leaves, usually between June and August. They should be gently dried at a temperature not exceeding 40°C.  Taste: Cool, aromatic, dry Energy: Cool, relaxant ACTIVE CONSTITUENTS: Lavender has over 100 constituents, including: Tannins, 0.5–¹ /5% volatile oil, coumarins (including coumarin, umbelliferon and herniarin), flavonoids (such as luteolin), 0.7% ursolic acid (found in the leaves)³  The essential oil contains: Linalyl acetate, geraniol, cineole, limonene and sesquiterpenes4 , linalool (which has the distinct smell of lavender)  Herbal actions: Nervous antidepressant, anxiolytic, and relaxant; digestive anti-inflammatory, carminative, antacid, and anti-emetic; integumentary anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and cicatrizant SYSTEM TROPISM: Nervous System: Nerves, muscles, neurovascular system  Digestive System: Stomach, intestines, liver Integumentary System Did you know? One of Ontario's loveliest jars of honey comes from a small organic farm in Prince Edward County that grows organic lavender and keeps honeybees. 24 the whole family | Look Inward Early Summer 2023 recognized lavender’s medicinal virtues, and the Italian herbalist, Mattiolus, observed that “it is much used in maladies and those disorders of the brain due to coldness such as epilepsy, apoplexy, spasms and paralysis; it comforts the stomach and is a great help in obstructions of the liver and spleen. Medicinal Properties & Indications  Nervous System  Lavender is a wonderfully uplifting and calming herb. It can lighten the mind, helping us to move through emotional blocks that may present as anxiety, emotional instability, and depression. Herbalist David Winston describes using it for stagnant depression, a situational depression often associated with emotional trauma, where one seems to be “stuck” on an event replaying over and over in their mind. Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and the unrelenting grief of becoming fixated on a traumatic event or tragedy (e.g., loss of a child, parent, spouse, pet, or job) fall into this category. Lavender may remedy physical symptoms as well, such as tension, headaches, migraines, trembling, and insomnia. Lavender in the bath, either the herb itself or a few drops of essential oil, can ease a restless child or adult to sleep. It works especially well when combined with Epsom salts. Sleeping with a lavender pillow is an age-old remedy to induce a restful night as well (see recipe at the end of this article). When used for aromatherapy, the essential oil of lavender was found to benefit sleep in studies done in elder care facilities. The residents fell asleep with greater ease and had improved sleep quality. This purple herb may also be used as a strengthening tonic for the nervous system to treat those suffering from nervous debility and exhaustion. Indications: » Anxiety  » Depression&nb ...

Slippery Elm: Healer or Hype?

Slippery Elm
If you’ve ever looked for a natural treatment for heartburn, sore throat, or constipation, you may have come across slippery elm. This large elm tree often flies under the radar, but its inner bark has a slippery mucilage, meaning it contains a polysaccharide that becomes a useful gel when mixed with water. It can be added to teas, supplements, and medicines to soothe skin and mucosal membranes and help facilitate movement in the digestive tract. Mucous membranes exist throughout our bodies. They are the lining of the respiratory cavities (e.g., nose, mouth, and throat), and digestive and urogenital tracts. These membranes can become inflamed after spicy meals or when you’ve picked up the latest daycare virus. With inflamed mucosal linings, you may experience symptoms like heartburn, indigestion, a sore throat, and congestion. Soothing these concerns is often a target for natural treatments like slippery elm. Psoriasis A collection of case studies using nutritional modifications and slippery elm in patients struggling with psoriasis found that all subjects saw improvement in their symptom ranking over a six-month trial, as well as a reduction in markers for intestinal permeability. Many of the studies that mention slippery elm are small and outdated at this point, but new studies are assessing its benefits in digestion and cholesterol, and the results are exciting! Digestion: Constipation  Stress is a significant issue seen in healthcare today that can impact the health of your digestion. One condition often associated with stress is irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). People struggling with this can experience abdominal symptoms like bloating, gas and discomfort, as well as changes in bowel movements (e.g., constipation, diarrhea, or both). Because of its connection to stress and brain function, healthcare providers lean on psychotherapy to address these concerns. Cognitive behavioural therapy, relaxation therapy, and hypnosis may all be worthwhile investments if you are struggling with IBS. Natural options, like slippery elm, may also work.  The fibre content in slippery elm is a bulk-forming laxative which may help with constipation. In patients with constipation-type IBS, the slippery elm formulation was found to significantly improve bowel habits and reduce other side effects. Another small study associated slippery elm with improved digestive symptoms, including indigestion, heartburn, nausea, constipation, abdominal pain, and flatulence. On closer inspection, the stool of participants also showed improvements in healthy bacterial populations and reduced markers for leaky gut. “Because slippery elm contains insoluble fibre, it has become a natural consideration for the treatment of high cholesterol.” The same soothing effect slippery elm provides for people struggling with IBS can also be used to treat heartburn and sore throats. This demulcent coats the throat, easing irritation and coughing symptoms. Some older anecdotal evidence suggests that slippery elm has the ability to soothe inflammation and swelling, improve mucosal irritation, and ease laryngitis and acid reflux—but more investigation is required to understand the mechanism of action and effectiveness. Cholesterol High cholesterol (hypercholesterolemia) is a very common issue in Canada, with 28 percent of people aged 18–79 fulfilling the criteria for diagnosis. While lifestyle changes are helpful recommendations in the management of high cholesterol, many people require medication therapy to bring cholesterol into the normal range and reduce the risk for heart disease.  The first line of treatment is a drug family called statins. As with any medication, statins are not without side effects that may impact results. Because slippery elm contains insoluble fibre, it has become a natural consideration for the treatment of high cholesterol.  A recent randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial demonstrated that patients with untreated high low-density lipoprotein (LDL) who received 500 mg of Ulmus macrocarpa Hance (large-fruited elm) daily for 12 weeks showed a greater decrease in LDL and total cholesterol in comparison to the placebo group. In addition, none of the participants reported any notable adverse events. Having an effective treatment option for managing a prevalent health concern like hypercholesterolemia—without side effects—is very exciting! How To Use Slippery Elm  Slippery elm comes in convenient capsules and teas, but you can also add the powder form to a smoothie or try making your own soothing lozenges. Regardless of the form, always take doses a couple of hours apart. Lozenges Ingredients » ½ c slippery elm powder  » 6 Tbsp honey Instructions Combine the slippery elm powder in a bowl with your favourite honey and mix well.  Roll the mixture into small balls using your hands (use about ½ tsp for each ball).  Roll each ball in a little extra ...

Milk Thistle: Your Liver Will Thank You

Milk Thistle for Lever
Are you struggling to “bounce back” after the holidays? It could be stress, it could be burning the candle at both ends, or it could be the over-indulging that so many of us enjoy in December and pay for in the new year. How can you help your body get back to better health? One way is to support your liver with the herb milk thistle. On any given day, the liver is involved in digestion, metabolism, detoxification, storage, production, and immunity.1 It’s a very important organ! When the liver isn’t working to the best of its ability, you might experience symptoms like bloating or abdominal pain, nutrient deficiencies, issues with cholesterol or blood sugar, aggravations of PMS and menopause symptoms, skin rashes, or fatigue.2 Because the liver’s functions are so broad, the side effects of dysfunction are as well. The best way to tell if the symptoms you’re experiencing are due to your liver is through blood work. If you haven’t had blood testing done recently, ask your doctor if they can help you investigate the health of this organ. Checking Liver Function If your blood testing results indicate that your liver isn’t performing as well as it should, some of the most important (and basic) things to consider changing are nutrition, movement, and alcohol intake. Milk thistle is a liver-loving herb in many naturopathic doctors’ toolkits. If you’re looking for gentle liver support, it might be the right fit for you. Milk thistle has been used for cancer care, hepatitis, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. It’s often considered for women’s general health and wellness too, as milk thistle supports liver function, blood sugar management, and lower cholesterol levels. Fatty Liver and Hepatitis Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a condition that affects about 20 percent of Canadians.5 While it’s generally benign, over time and unaddressed, this can progress to non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). In addition to excess fat in the liver, NASH presents with inflammation and scarring of the liver that can progress to cirrhosis.6 While experimental studies have shown milk thistle to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antifibrotic benefits, it has yet to be demonstrated consistently in clinical trials.7 More research is required to help determine milk thistle’s appropriate dosage in people managing fatty liver and hepatitis, but this treatment has generally been shown to be highly tolerated and safe. Blood Sugar and Cholesterol Blood sugar and cholesterol management are very common concerns. People are often looking for alternatives to get things under control so they might avoid prescription medications. In a 2018 clinical trial, participants with type 2 diabetes who received 140 mg of silymarin (from milk thistle) three times a day, demonstrated significant decreases in total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL). This group also showed improvements in high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and insulin sensitivity. Hormones Milk thistle has been researched for its estrogenic (promoting estrogen production and activity in the body) effects on women’s health. In one clinical trial, menopausal women treated with this herb reported a decrease in the frequency and severity of hot flashes they had been suffering with. Another Interesting Application A 2021 clinical trial found that a milk thistle ointment applied to the perineum after episiotomy (a procedure sometimes required during labor and delivery) improved healing time and decreased the severity of pain experienced by women.11 Given the research available today, milk thistle has its great- est influence on patients with cholesterol and blood sugar management issues, while showing some interesting potential for women’s health and cancer care. How beneficial it is for those struggling with fatty liver remains to be seen; but given its safety profile, it may still be a good consideration for general liver health. An important point to clarify is that although supplements can help with detoxification, it’s your liver that is always doing that job—supplements or not. Your liver is always working.12 How efficiently it’s working depends on a combination of genetics, age, and overall health. The first step is to see your healthcare provider check on how your liver is working, which will require blood testing and possibly an abdominal ultrasound. It can then be decided whether milk thistle is the right fit for you and your health goals.

Senna: An FDA-Approved, Non-Prescription Laxative

Senna Leaves
Senna is an herb – also known as Senna alexandrina, that is a popular laxative available OTC without any sort of prescription required.  Herbal extracts of the leaves and flowers of senna have been traditionally used as a laxative and stimulant. Senna derives its benefits from “glucosides” – called senna glycosides or sennosides.  How Does Senna Work? These sennosides are not absorbed in the intestine but rather utilized by bacteria to release active compounds (rhein, rhein-anthrone, moieties). These compounds function as irritants within the colon, which promotes evacuation and thus, the ‘laxative’ effect people have come to know senna for.  Usually, senna is very poorly absorbed itself – rather, it increases the water/moisture content of stool by preventing water and electrolyte absorption and increasing secretion via the colon.  What are Sennosides and Glucosides?  A “glucoside” is a glycoside derived from glucose within plants, herbal extracts, and foods. Different glycosides from different plants can have certain immune-modulating effects on the body, or display antioxidant properties.  Sennosides are just a type of glucoside. Sennosides are sometimes given by themselves as a medication to help treat constipation. They can also be used in medical settings to clear the intestinal system prior to a bowel exam or surgery.  Other metabolites present in senna, like “rhein,” can also exert protective and beneficial effects – anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, hepatoprotective, and antimicrobial. Rhein “suppresses the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines like interleukin-1 and interleukin-6.”  Is Senna Safe – How Long Can I Take It? Often, senna will be included as an active ingredient in over-the-counter (OTC) laxative medication – with the typical dose being 15 mg-30 mg sennosides two times daily. Senna, like other laxatives, is only a short-term recommendation. They should not be used for prolonged periods of time as they can cause a severe electrolyte imbalance. Long-term use can lead to diarrhea, weight loss, and abdominal pain.  When senna is used at the recommended dosage for a limited period of time, there are few reported side effects. Most of these side effects are completely mild and are related to the product as a laxative herb — diarrhea, namely. In very rare cases of prolonged overuse, liver injury was reported. In these individuals, it was always mild and resolved immediately with discontinuation of the senna. This was after 4-5 months of prolonged, daily use.  Senna has been known to interact with certain medications, such as birth control pills. Senna can actually decrease how much estradiol is absorbed from each pill. Senna may also interact with blood thinners like warfarin or diuretic drugs.  When taking senna, you always want to ensure you have adequate electrolyte balance and are consuming enough potassium. Senna should never be used if you are dehydrated or already having diarrhea/loose stool.  We always recommend consulting with a health care practitioner prior to use when it comes to senna or any other herbal laxative. 

Lycopene – The Natural Red Pigment that Can Help Prevent Disease

Lycopene to Prevent Disease
You probably know that the pigment which lends bold color to certain veggies (tomatoes and pumpkin, for example) is linked to powerful antioxidants – called carotenoids. Most people probably don’t consider taking these carotenoids as individual supplements for overall longevity and improved health.  The benefits of carotenoids like lycopene are vast; including enhanced respiratory, vision, and cardiovascular health. Lycopene is also useful for men experiencing BPH or prostate issues.  What is Lycopene? Beyond Tomatoes In Western countries, tomatoes make up the predominant intake of lycopene, accounting for close to 90 percent. Lycopene is the carotenoid that lends vegetables and fruit (namely tomatoes) their bright red pigment.  Beta-carotene is another popular carotenoid, known for lending a bright orange color to carrots, squash, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin.  Research clearly demonstrates carotenoids as being healthy for us, and reducing the risk factors for all-cause mortality – lycopene specifically offers its own unique health benefits that make supplementing with it worth it.  Lycopene is an exceptionally affordable supplement, with very low risk/interactions and is tolerated well by most people. You won’t be able to get the same amount from food sources that you would in the form of a supplement, even if you consumed tomato-based products with every meal.  The Health Benefits of Lycopene: Prostate Health, Cardiovascular Health, and More Lycopene appears to protect sperm cells – improving count, and motility, and reducing oxidative damage.  Higher blood plasma levels of lycopene were associated with fewer cardiovascular events, strokes, and heart attacks. Conversely, lower levels of lycopene were associated with an increased risk of heart disease.  Other observational studies seem to indicate lycopene as protective against atherosclerosis – the primary risk factor for heart disease, stroke, and cardiovascular disease.  Intake of only ~25mg per day of lycopene was shown to lower “bad” LDL cholesterol levels and lower blood pressure.  Other observational studies indicate that an increased tomato or tomato product intake was correlated with better blood vessel function, better artery function + better arterial health, and lower LDL cholesterol levels.  There is an apparent connection between lycopene intake and prostate cancer. Those with the highest amounts of lycopene intake were noted as having 15%-20% lower occurrences of prostate cancer.  Lycopene appeared to prevent earlier cognitive decline in rat study models, by reducing oxidative damage to the brain in those with diabetes and/or Parkinson’s Disease.  Lycopene appeared to prevent memory related deficits and depression, by reducing inflammation in the brain’s hippocampus.  In women, lycopene supplementation appears to reduce pelvic pain symptoms, and the pain associated with pelvic inflammatory disease. It can also reduce diabetic nerve pain by reducing the amount of circulating inflammatory compounds. 

Marshmallow Root – A Potent Digestive Aid for Better Gut Health

Marshmallow Root
A cursory Google search will prompt plenty of results associating marshmallow root with better digestive health, and “healing” the integrity of the gut for better health. But how exactly does it do this, and does it really work? First, let us touch on what marshmallow root is – before we approach it as a potent digestive aid for better gut health.  Marshmallow root is “Althaea Officinalis,” a perennial herb that is most commonly native to Europe, West Africa, and West Asia.  As an ancient ‘folk remedy,’ with widespread use across Middle Eastern countries, it has been consumed for thousands of years for relief of digestive and respiratory ailments.  Most commonly, it is consumed in capsule, powdered, or tea form – occasionally, you will see alcohol or glycerin-based tinctures. Marshmallow root is also typically added to many ‘natural’ cosmetics and personal care items.  How Marshmallow Root Protects the Lining of the Gut and can Help Restore Optimal Digestive Health In one study from 2011, an extract of marshmallow root was shown to help protect against gastric ulcers, platelet aggregation (clotting), and digestive inflammation. The extract also raised HDL cholesterol (the “good” cholesterol) while having no adverse impact on the liver or other health markers.  When ingested, marshmallow root tends to bulk up, and form a gel-like consistency. This extract can help coat the stomach lining.  Both marshmallow root and marshmallow tea – and by extension, supplements that are sold as “marshmallow extract” act as “mucilage.” This means that it sort of swells up when it comes into contact with water, and functions as a kind of fiber.  Naturally, marshmallow root will contain various bioactive compounds, all of which seem to contribute toward beneficiary effects on digestive health: flavonoids, polyphenols, polysaccharides, and phenolic acids.  Various studies proclaim an immediate effect by protecting “inflamed mucosa” or intestinal membrane. This is also seen in the respiratory tract.  Marshmallow Root Dosage and Safety Profile Marshmallow root seems to have a high safety profile, and no negative side effects have been reported in people taking the supplement for colds, flu, cough, sore throat, respiratory issues, digestive issues, or IBD. Generally, the only concern is for those who may have diabetes, as it has been demonstrated to lower blood sugar levels. Otherwise, marshmallow root does not appear to impact any other health markers negatively.  Marshmallow root comes in powders, capsules, tinctures, and tea forms. If you are taking marshmallow root specifically for digestive distress/disorders, your best option is to go for a capsule, alcohol-based tincture, or raw powder/tea. With tinctures, you’ll get the most concentrated dose, and with capsules, you’ll have the most possible control over the among you’re taking compared to teas or powders.  Always stick to the recommended dosage as outlined on the product/bottle itself. The concentration may differ between brands, but the guideline for those with Crohn’s / UC or IBD is around ~6g daily, split into 2-3 daily doses.  If you’re using a powdered form or raw tea, you’ll want to ensure you consume enough water as it can form a more gelatinous substance. As always, you should consult with a healthcare professional prior to use if you have any sort of pre-existing medical condition. We’d also advise taking it a couple of hours before or after other medications.
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