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ORTHODOX JUDIASM & KOSHER-CERTIFIED SUPPLEMENTS

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If you aren’t Jewish, you don’t have to bother reading this. In this topic of kosher supplements, consider yourself lucky that you can consume whatever you want. Cow adrenal glands? Sure, why not. Shark cartilage? Excellent. Basically you can move on the next (or previous) post. wave

If you are an orthodox Jew like I am, however, the source of the supplements you take is one of the most questioned and mis-understood topic that I deal with. This topic is especially important in cities such as here in Toronto, where it is difficult to find a large variety of quality kosher-certified supplements. Hopefully, this will address some of those issues and help you understand a bit better. Let me start off by saying, I’m not a Rabbi (obviously), so I do not have the authority to make decisions on whether or not the supplement you are taking is “ok”. That being said, when I first started in the field of Holistic Nutrition, I spoke with a very nice, patient and prominent Rabbi and posek in NYC, Rabbi Leibel Katz, who took the time to explain to me the following guidelines.

(1) The weight, Rebecca Lazar - ORTHODOX JUDIASM & KOSHER-CERTIFIED SUPPLEMENTSmajority of supplements are considered medicine (even vitamins, minerals and the like) and are therefore treated as such with regards to kosher laws. Therefore, any supplement in capsule, caplet or liquid form that is labelled as 100% vegetarian or vegan (such as the product shown left) is fine for anyone to take and it does not need a hechsher. A supplement that contains Vitamin D3, however, cannot be labelled as vegetarian since it is made from sheeps wool, however, it is fine to take.

(2) A supplement that is vegetarian but encapsulated in a non-kosher capsule (usually gelatin) may or may not be a problem. Most poskim agree that a hard gelatin capsule is not a problem, but a softgel cap can be a problem. This is due to the way it is processed.

(3) Fish oil sourced from kosher fish (such as sardines, salmon, etc.) is usually not a problem, but care must be taken to ensure that all the ingredients are not from traif sources. This can sometimes be difficult so unless you know a particular company’s ingredients and practices, it is best to consult a rabbi.

(4) A supplement that is completely non-kosher and has traif ingredients should not be taken in liquid, chewable or caplet form, but MAY be allowed in capsule form if (a) there’s no vegetarian or kosher equivalent and (b) the person is ill and requires the supplement to feel better. (In some cases it can be taken to prevent illness as well if this is determined to be necessary by a health care practitioner). In all these instances, a Rabbi must be consulted.

(5) If the purpose of the supplement you are taking is to get stronger or enhance sports performance (ie. creatine, whey protein) then it is NOT considered medicine and must be kosher-certified.

Obviously, if you can get kosher certified supplements that’s the best way to go. But remember, not all supplements are created equal…..the kosher brand I would recommend? Definitely Maxi Health or NutriSupreme above the other products out there. Of course, whatever supplement(s) you take, may it lead you to the best of health!

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DIP YOUR APPLE IN SOME (RAW) HONEY

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weight, Rebecca Lazar - DIP YOUR APPLE IN SOME (RAW) HONEY
Well, it’s that time of year again for my fellow Jews…..the new year is upon us, or Rosh Hashanah as we like to call it, and nothing says Rosh Hashanah quite like HONEY. For those non-Jews out there reading this, since honey symbolizes the hope for a sweet new year, we Jews dip apples and challah (bread) in honey for the 2 days of Rosh Hashanah, and some of us even do it for a few weeks after. We also eat honey cake, have roast meat sweetened with honey and heck we’ll even bathe in honey if it will give us a sweet new year! (nah, I’m just kidding…..or am I? raised eyebrows )

If you go to your typical supermarket, the only honey you’re likely to find is commercial honey. It looks pretty, doesn’t it? Nice and clear, liquidy, maybe even in a cute, bear-shaped bottle. Awwww. Well, sorry to burst your bubble, but commercial honey has been excessively heated and filtered to look that way, to pour easily and stay that way on the shelves for possibly until the next millennium. Its enzymes and nutritional value are at least partially (if not completely) destroyed, and frankly, you might as well just suck on a sugar cube. OK, I’m exaggerating, it is better than sugar, but not by much.

RAW honey, on the other hand, is basically honey before it goes through all that processing, and is, in fact, a highly nutritious food. How so? Well, since it comes straight from the extractor and only lightly filtered, it is pure, unheated, (raw honey is anti-bacterial by nature, so it not necessary to heat it!), unpasteurized and unprocessed. This means it has vitamins and minerals, including anti-oxidants, and an enzyme called amylase which helps break down starchy foods. It’s also an alkaline-forming food, like (most) fruits and vegetables, which makes it much healthier for your body. And if that wasn’t enough for you to make the switch, you should know that because of its chemical structure it does not cause the same insulin rush that sugar does. So, if you don’t care about any of that stuff, then by all means continue using your nutrition-less honey, I won’t judge you! thumbs down That being said, if you bake or heat raw honey, it will change its molecular structure in a similar manner to commercial honey, so to get the health benefits you have to eat it raw! I still bake with it though, since it tastes a lot better than commercial honey.

Here are some different forms of raw honey. They can be found at any health food store, or the health-food section of your supermarket, if it has one:

  • RAW honey will say raw on the bottle and will be solid at room temperature, like the picture shown above.
  • UNPASTEURIZED honey is a form of liquid, almost-raw honey. This means that it has been heated slightly to make it liquid but not as much as commercial honey so a majority of its benefits are still intact.
  • BUCKWHEAT honey has a stronger taste and is good for toast or pancakes.
  • CLOVER or SUMMER BLOSSOM honey is a milder, general “all-purpose” sort of honey.
  • WILDFLOWER honey has a bit more flavor and is very good for tea.
  • CREAMED honey is spreadable for those of you who like to spread honey for sandwiches.
  • MANUKA honey has a very unique taste and is a form of honey produced by bees which feed on the flowers of the manuka plant (or tea tree). This harnesses the anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties of the tea tree (by the way, this is where the antiseptic tea tree oil comes from) with the beneficial properties of honey making it effective for use in a wide variety of conditions, from sore throats to digestive complaints and even as a wound dressing. The number on the bottle relates to its active antiseptic compounds (for example, UMF 16+ contains an equivalent of 16% of these compounds) Higher numbers such as UMF 25+ are not found in nature and unfortunately are manipulated by some companies, (partly by exposing the honey to high heat), in order to increase profit — the higher the UMF, the more expensive it is. Its best to purchase organic manuka honey in the 12+ to 16+ range.

Enjoy your nutritious honey and have a sweet, happy and healthy new year! happy

P.S. For those of you who only eat Kosher, according to star-k.org, raw honey is kosher as long as it is not flavored or contains other ingredients. Read more about this at Star-K.

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REBOUNDING IS FUN (AND GOOD FOR YOU TOO!!)

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weight, Rebecca Lazar - REBOUNDING IS FUN (AND GOOD FOR YOU TOO!!)I’m not too sure why rebounding, otherwise known as bouncing on a mini-trampoline, hasn’t caught on in the fitness clubs around here. If you ask me, every fitness facility should have rebounding classes, or at the very least a couple of rebounders for personal training sessions, because I’m sure that once people tried it, they would love it. Whenever I get a client on my Rebounder, the first thing they say is “This is fun!” and isn’t that what exercising should be all about?

Aside from fun and the obvious aerobic factor of rebounding, if you google “the benefits of rebounding” you will come up with so many lists of health, fitness, and emotional benefits you will think you just stumbled upon a miracle cure for everything that ails you. Alas, it’s not a miracle, (I’m a realist, remember?) but it is a fantastic way for you and your kids – one at a time, please! winking – to exercise aerobically without all the impact of jumping on the floor or running. It also works your core like crazy, increases the strength of all your cells, improves balance and actually increases the capacity of your lymphatic system in eliminating toxins. I dare you to find another mode of exercise that can do all that, especially without putting major strain on your joints. Even with an injury it’s fairly safe to use the rebounder, although I wouldn’t suggest any high jumping with joint or back injuries, just the basic “health bounce” as it is called (always consult with your Doctor before beginning any exercise program if you aren’t sure.)

Not all rebounders are created equal and if you plan on buying the cheap versions – anything under $250 Canadian – don’t bother wasting your money because I can tell you the thing will break faster than you can say “Rebound”. I personally own the ReboundAir pictured and I love it (www.reboundair.ca). It’s an excellent peice of equipment, plus it has a lifetime guarantee, which is awesome. I highly recommend it, although to be honest I have not tried the Urban Rebounder or the Needak Rebounder, which are supposed to be very good as well. JB Berns (www.jbberns.com), the man behind the Urban Rebounder, also created several rebounding fitness DVD’s for home use that are pretty good.

So take another look at this somewhat under-appreciated mode of exercise, you’ll be glad you did. happy

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WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A HOMEOPATH AND A NATUROPATH?

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As I promised on an earlier post, here is an explanation of the difference between a Homeopathic Doctor (Homeopath) and a Naturopathic Doctor (Naturopath). I am neither of these, by the way, so why am I writing this? Well, because I sometimes prescribe Homeopathic remedies, and because I am a practitioner who recommends natural foods and supplements, people assume I am one or the other (or both — now that’s impressive. Perhaps I should just nod and smile tongue ). Anyhow, here goes:

Homeopath

A Homeopath is someone who has a degree in Homeopathy. Homeopathy is a form of medicine that dates back to 200 years ago when Dr. Samuel Hahnemann discovered that if ingesting or coming in contact with a particular substance, say a plant, caused certain symtpoms in a person, if he gave that person that very same plant but in tiny diluted doses, it would trigger the body’s natural system of healing and those symtoms would disappear. This is based on the principle of “Like cures like.” For example, if someone got poison ivy, they’d be given a diluted dose (sometimes in thousand or even million dilutions) of poison ivy and those symptoms would go away. This is an over-simplification; in reality, if 2 people got the same diagnosis but exhibited different physical and/or emotional symptoms, they would be prescribed different remedies, one that matched most appropriately to the person, rather than to the diagnosis. Scientifically it can’t be explained exactly how homeopathy works, but we know that is does work. Frankly, although I am a person who can’t stand hokey, wacky treatments masquerading as medicine, I can assure you that homeopathy does not fall into that category. When you see it work, as I have seen, even in my own children – on fevers, insect bites, insomnia, even stuttering, trust me you’ll become a beleiver too. Now, I’m not saying it’s a cure-all, especially since there are literally hundreds of remedies and sometimes finding the most appropriate one is very difficult. There are also many illnesses that I don’t beleive Homeopathy can cure, and it certainly can’t help a person’s poor nutritional habits. That being said, it would still work to releive some of the symptoms, assuming you had the help of an experienced practitioner. Homeopathy can be safely used alongside conventional medicines and will not interfere with the action of medicines prescribed by your doctor. Because homeopathic medicines are non-toxic, there are no side effects and they are safe even for pregnant women and infants.

True proponents of Homeopathy believe in using one remedy at a time, and if the symptom picture changes or that remedy doesn’t work, they move on to the next. There are several companies, however, that make combination remedies for the average layperson to use based on the specific problem. If you go to a health food store, you’ll find many formulas for different ailments – if you’ve ever used Camilia for your baby’s teething pain, you’ve used a combination homeopathic remedy. As well, practitioners like myself will sometimes prescribe specialty combination homeopathic remedies to releive symptoms and speed up the healing process, without having to try several remedies to see which one works.

Naturopath

A lot easier to explain, Naturopaths are doctors of naturopathic medicine. They attend a 4 year medical school for alternative medicine and learn a variety of different ways to diagnose and treat medical problems, all using natural methods such as diet, ayurvedic medicine (a system of medicine originating in India), botanical medicine, hydrotherapy, homeopathy, naturopathic manipulation and traditional Chinese medicine, which includes Chinese herbs and acupuncture. Think of them as the “Jack of all trades” of alternative medicine. The benefit to this is they know a variety of ways to treat a person and can also perform diagnostic tests that require drawing blood; the disadvantage is it can sometimes be very confusing when you are prescribed many different modalities of treatment.

So, as you see, there is some overlap in both fields, as well as my field of Holistic Nutrition, but next time you enter in a conversation about natural medicine and some of the different types of practitioners, you’ll feel incredibly smart and knowledgable. smug

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NATURAL ALTERNATIVES TO ANTI-DEPRESSANTS

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weight, Rebecca Lazar - NATURAL ALTERNATIVES TO ANTI-DEPRESSANTSI was watching TV last night when a commercial for an anti-depressant pharmaceutical drug came on. The commercial started off with the usual “Do you or a loved one suffer from depression? Well, the drug [fill in popular anti-depressant drug here] can help”. Not only can it help, but you will feel sooo good that from now on peaceful happy music will be playing in the background of your life while your once forlorn and tearful self will be dancing in slow motion with a loved one in a beautiful meadow.

Ah, but wait, there’s more. In addition to all this fantastic uber-happiness, you may also experience, according to the very low and super-fast voice of the naarator, the joys of “drowsines, urine difficulites, sexual dysfunction, breathing difficulties, ringing in your ears, dry mouth, constipation, sore muscles, heart palpitations…….or thoughts of suicide.”

Wait……. HUH?? If I wasn’t suffering from depression before, let me tell you after watching this commercial, I was feeling not only depressed, but anxious over the possibility of having to take this medication for my new-found depression!! Why would anyone want to take this stuff when there are natural alternatives that have proven to work for many years just as well as, if not better than these drugs with little or no side effects? Good question. Educate yourselves, people, that’s all I’m saying. Know your options before you decide what’s right for you, and don’t be “sold” on those commercials.

So, what are the options? Well, first and foremost, I can’t stress enough the importance of a healthy diet, taking vitamins and minerals that you may be lacking, and to find ways to decrease your stress. These factors are important in ANY ailment as the first step to recovery, and are especially important for mood disorders. That being said, here are 2¬†¬†excellent alternatives to pharmaceutical anti-depressants:

(1) 5-HTP: Tryptophan, an amino acid, first converts into 5-HTP, which then converts directly to serotonin. Simply speaking, serotonin is the chemical in your brain that keeps you from being depressed. Typical anti-depressant drugs such as Prozac, are SSRI’s, otherwise known as Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors. SSRI’s work by keeping the little amount of serotonin you have in your brain in a sort of recycling program but never actually increases the amount you have. So as long as you take your SSRI’s you’ll feel better, but good luck after you stop. Tryptophan, on the other hand, gives you more Serotonin and builds it up over time until you no longer need to take it because your brain will have enough to keep you from being depressed. OK, so why not just eat more protein foods that contain tryptophan? You should, and it will help, but the problem is that protein foods such as turkey, beef, chicken and eggs, etc, have much less tryptophan than other amino acids, partly because of the low-tryptophan feeds like corn that these animals are being fed. Since protein foods contain much lower amounts of tryptophan than they did years ago, it kind of gets lost in the shuffle as the other amino acids make it to your brain. By the way, tryptophan was used to treat depression sucessfully for years, even by mainstream medicine, but due to an unscrupulous Japanese supplement manufacturing company, a tainted batch was distributed in the US in 1990 which resulted in a widespread ban of the sale of tryptophan supplements. Thankfully, along came 5-HTP which has proven to work just as well, if not better in some cases. (Always make sure you get any of your supplements from a reputable brand).

(2) St. John’s Wort: This is an ancient herbal remedy that is a really effective natural serotonin booster. Much of the research on this herb has been done in Germany, where it outsells Prozac as an anti-depressant because it is just as effective but without the side effects. So aside from its name which makes people mistakenly think it’s a treatment for warts, it is extremely helpful especially for those people who don’t have success with 5-HTP.

There are other options of herbal remedies & supplements, depending on your particular symptoms, as well as taking into account other health issues that may be present; it’s best to consult with a natural health practitioner.

Cue background music and meadow-dancing, please…..

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