In some ways, Natural Products Expo West is like a gigantic “candy store” for those of us who are passionate or, maybe, too passionate about natural health. There’s a seemingly endless array of brand new extracts and technologies with all of the bells and whistles that compete for attention. Because of this, some supplements containing time honored, well established ingredients are often overlooked. They’re simply not exciting or novel enough to make a splash. The truth is, just like many other industries, natural product buyers and sellers are susceptible to gimmicks and trends. The key, as a researcher and consumer, is not to fall prey to the flavors of the moment or unsubstantiated hype. Instead, it’s important to look for genuine substance in product formulations and to reward manufacturers who provide well crafted wares.
The first week of March marked the start of this year’s Natural Product’s Expo West. There, team Healthy Fellow convened with approximately 71,000 other members of the natural health community at the Anaheim Convention Center in California. The purpose of this massive gathering is to learn about the latest offerings in the natural products marketplace. At this year’s convention, over 2,700 companies exhibited products ranging from organic pet food to non-GMO anti-wrinkle creams. In the first column of my five-part series, I’ll feature some of the more innovative and promising supplements we came across at Expo West.
If you regularly eat garbanzo beans or hummus, lamb, lentils, pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds or tahini you’re well on your way to following my latest prescription. All of these foods are stellar sources of zinc, an essential trace mineral. For all of those who don’t eat zinc-rich foods on a daily basis, I highly recommend a daily multivitamin providing at least 100% of the RDA of most minerals including zinc. In fact, since zinc is both essential to health maintenance and safe when taken in conservative amounts, I recommend multivitamins to just about everyone. Now, you may think that I’m focusing on zinc because of its widely known benefits to the immune system. After all, zinc lozenges are probably the most popular natural cold aids currently on the market. While true, there’s so much more to zinc than just that.
When I was growing up, we had a beautiful sauna in my parent’s bedroom. But, since no one in our home was accustomed to sauna bathing, we simply used the space for storage. Looking back on it now, I wish we had put that “storage room” to better use! These days, I would love to have a sauna at home. What’s more, Mrs. Healthy Fellow grew up using saunas, so we would certainly put it to good use. Unfortunately, the probability of adding a sauna to our home is about as likely as the addition of an elevator. On the other hand, our local gym has a sauna that we can and should utilize more often. In fact, saunas are readily available in most communities. This is great news because there’s more reason than ever to use saunas on a regular basis.
A few years ago, I wrote a column entitled, “Natural Health for Dogs”. It’s a bit ironic that I focused on dogs first since I’ve always held a very special place in my heart for cats. Ever since I was a young boy, I’ve felt a unique affinity towards felines of all kinds. Something about them draws me in and inspires effortless feelings of joy and peace. Over the years I’ve had the good fortune of being a caretaker and companion to various cats. Today, in tribute to the many feline friends that I’ve known and loved, I want to share some information that can improve the lives of other cats that I will never know.
The majority of past events, even very painful ones, do not have to cause psychological distress in the present. On a rational level most of us understand this reality. However, sad and/or traumatic memories, whether fresh in history or dating back to childhood, still hold a great deal of power over many people. These hurtful, life-altering experiences often shape personalities and result in long term attempts at exorcising these mental images from the present mind. But, recent findings suggest that an unconventional form of treatment known as eye movement desensitization and reprocessing or EMDR may offer a brief, new alternative for shooing away hurtful recollections.
In today’s culture, muscle is frequently regarded as a characteristic of one’s appearance. However, if you describe muscle using the technical term “lean body mass”, the idea of toned bodies tends to exit the picture. Lean body mass (LBM) is often mentioned as a measure of weight gain or loss in scientific studies. For instance, weight loss trials commonly note the total amount of weight lost and the percentage of body fat and LBM loss. Naturally, in overweight individuals, it’s preferable to lose a significant percentage of excess body fat. At the same time, the goal is to preserve as much lean body mass as possible. The preservation of LBM becomes even more important as we age. Even in the absence of intended weight loss, older adults tend to lose muscle and strength as a “normal” part of the aging process. In some instances, age-related muscle and strength loss is even more pronounced and is classified as sarcopenia. This is of great importance because seniors diagnosed with sarcopenia are at greater risk of falls, fractures and a general decline in overall health and independence.
Recently, an old friend asked for some suggestions to protect her eyes from the “normal” visual decline associated with aging. Now, you’ve probably seen more than a few eye supplements at your local health food stores and pharmacies. And, most of these products contain similar ingredients such as beta carotene or pro-Vitamin A, copper, lutein, Vitamin C, zinc and so on. All of these nutrients and phytochemicals have been shown to benefit ocular function or health in one way or another. Having said that, some newer, far less common botanicals may provide additional protection. What’s more, these lesser known extracts are generally not found in nutraceutical formulas intended to support eye health.
Lack of adequate blood flow can affect many areas of the body. When insufficient circulation targets the legs, it’s frequently caused by a condition known as PAD or peripheral artery disease. In PAD, hardening of leg arteries and accumulation of plaque lead to a narrowing effect and diminished blood flow. Subsequently those with PAD often suffer from uncomfortable symptoms, including leg cramping, numbness and pain – especially during periods of physical activity. More importantly, a PAD diagnosis may increase the risk of heart attack, stroke and poor wound healing in the lower region of the body. Fortunately, emerging research indicates that certain foods and exercises can limit PAD symptoms and some of the associated risks.
Unless you have very high or low blood pressure, you probably don’t think a lot about the the blood pressure spectrum. As an example, a significant number of people have higher-than-normal blood pressure, but not high enough to treat with medication. This is typically defined as “prehypertension” and is marked by blood pressure ranging from 120-139 systolic and 80-89 diastolic. If you consistently have blood pressure in this range, you may well be a candidate for using a variety of natural options to drop your readings into the “normal” category of 120/80 mmHg or less. However, I want to point out that in some instances having higher than normal blood pressure may actually be advantageous. For instance, some research has found that higher blood pressure may actually reduce the risk of balance issues, dementia and all-cause mortality in seniors. So, when in doubt, consult with a cardiologist to determine what’s right for your unique circumstance.
Vitiligo is an autoimmune disease that affects up to two million adults and children in the United States alone. However, unlike many other autoimmune conditions, vitiligo is visibly apparent to those living with it and those around them. In most cases, the characteristic loss of skin pigmentation can’t be fully concealed with clothing or cosmetics. What’s more, conventional treatments used to manage vitiligo are often expensive, risky and not entirely successful in slowing its spread and/or repigmenting affected white patches. Thankfully, there is hope to found in the form of affordable, natural remedies with good safety profiles.
Sometimes we eat certain foods or ingredients and don’t even realize it. This is especially true when trying dishes that aren’t a common part of our diet. Take as an example, sumac berries. Rhus coriaria or sumac is a primary component of the Middle Eastern spice blend known as zatar. You’ll often find zatar added to couscous, chicken and fish entrees, or simply sprinkled on top of fresh feta cheese, hummus or sliced tomatoes. It can also be blended into extra virgin olive oil as a flavorful dip or dressing.
As 2014 comes to an end, I’d like to share some good news about supplements which hasn’t garnered much attention in the mainstream media. As a side note, a few of these items were recently featured on my Twitter thread as well. So, if you’d like to stay current on everything I post, which may or may not appear on this site, follow me on Twitter or review my Twitter profile on a regular basis. I find that it’s a great way to communicate a lot of breaking information on a daily basis.
There is often disagreement about the safety and validity of medical tests in the holistic, health community. Perhaps the best examples are the use of mammography to detect breast cancer and the PSA blood test to ferret out prostate cancer. However, colonoscopies tend to be less controversial for a number of reasons. Firstly, there really isn’t any alternative, stand alone test currently available. Secondly, the documented benefits of colonoscopies far outweigh the low risk of significant side effects. Lastly, as I stated in part one of this column, colonoscopies not only detect potential malignancies, they also remove questionable growths while still benign. For these reasons, integrative health experts such as Dr. Andrew Weil and Dr. Stephen Sinatra endorse this particular test.
Nobody wants to get a colonoscopy. But, much like going to the dentist, it’s a preventive care necessity. Unlike most other diagnostic tests, colonoscopies not only detect cancer, but can also prevent it by removing polyps which may develop into cancer. In fact, researchers from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard recently concluded that colonoscopies are by far the most accurate tests to identify and reduce the risk of cancerous growths both in the distal (right) and proximal (left) sides of the colon.
A stunning new survey sponsored by the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids reports that 20% of all college students and roughly 15% of non-student young adults abuse stimulant medications. The legal drugs in question, intended to treat ADHD, include best sellers such as Adderall, Ritalin and Vyvanse. The most commonly cited reasons for the noted abuse include a desire to enhance academic or work performance and to stave off normal feelings of nighttime sleepiness. What’s even more disturbing is that 28% of the young adults surveyed, aged 18 to 25, misrepresented the severity of their ADHD symptoms in order to attain higher dosages of these conditionally dangerous drugs. In addition, the practice of selling and/or sharing said medications with family, fellow students and friends is quite common.