Supplements

CHOOSING THE RIGHT SUPPLEMENTS

Have you ever walked into a natural health store and looked at shelves and shelves of supplements and had no clue what you were supposed to be looking for?   You have a feeling you should be taking something to make you “healthier” but you have no idea where to begin?

Well, you’re not alone.  So many people get overwhelmed by the amount of supplements on the market claiming all types of health benefits.  The important thing is to understand the following key elements when choosing the right supplement(s) for your needs:

  1. Research before you buy – don’t just grab the first thing off the shelf because you have migraines and the formula says “migraine-ease” or something of that nature.  Look at the ingredients; research them; make sure there is enough of each particular ingredient to help your condition and that it won’t interfere with other medications or supplements you are taking.  Find out about the brand – has the company been around a while and does it have a good reputation?  Are the tablets so large that they may not break down and be absorbed properly by your body?  Do the pills contain many “filler” ingredients or additives?  It is so important to make sure that you are putting quality products into your system that really do work.
  2. Supplements are not a substitute for a healthy diet.  Don’t believe that if you eat unhealthy, you can simply take lots of vitamins instead.  Many people take tons of supplements simply because their diets are not up to par and they believe that the vitamins will “cancel out” those adverse effects.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way, so make sure your diet is a good one before adding numerous supplements to your regimen.
  3. Something that is healthy and beneficial for someone else may be harmful to you.  A good example of this is phytoestrogens.  While helpful for women with menopausal symptoms, phytoestrogens can be detrimental to women with estrogen-related problems, such as fibroids or some types of breast cancer.

So what should you start with?

Of course it’s always best to consult with a Holistic Nutritionist or other natural health practitioner trained to provide you with personalized supplement recommendations, because each person’s requirements can differ greatly depending on age and specific health issues.  However, the following are 5 supplements that almost anyone can derive benefit from and these can be taken on a continual basis, either individually or as a complete program:

  1. Vitamin C – There are numerous benefits to this important anti-oxidant.  The amount I usually recommend is 1000 mg/day.  If you have a sensitive stomach, take ascorbic acid, which is the most gentle.
  2. Green formulas – The equivalent of a serving of vegetables, these formulas are alkalanizing to the body, help to control sugar cravings, contain numerous vitamins and minerals and are detoxifying as well.   Many come in capsule form as well, if you can’t tolerate the taste of the powder mixed with water.  1 tablespoon per day is enough to reap the benefits of this important supplement.
  3. Probiotics – Due to the abundance of anti-biotics that many people take on a yearly basis, there is simply not enough of these “good” bacteria left in the digestive tract.  With this supplement in particular it is extremely important to look for a reputable brand, because of the instability of this product.  In other words, it may say on the bottle that it contains 5 billion active bacteria when in fact in can contain less than half, or in some cases, none at all.
  4. Omega 3 Fatty Acids – these “good” fats are important for everyone and are found in fish oils (make sure they are mercury-free), flax and borage oils.  Some oils are tolerated better than others, so you may have to experiment to see which is right for you.
  5. Fiber supplement – the average person simply does not get enough fiber in their diet.  Unfortunately, many people either overload on wheat fiber or turn to supplements containing psyllium as a solution to this problem, both of which can backfire by causing bloating and constipation, as well as stomach pains.  A better choice is flax fiber (ground flax seeds), or inulin fiber, both of which are gentle and non-constipating.

One last note: Remember to take your supplements every day; if they sit on a shelf they can’t really help you! happy

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ORTHODOX JUDIASM & KOSHER-CERTIFIED SUPPLEMENTS

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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NATURAL ALTERNATIVES TO ANTI-DEPRESSANTS

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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