Thursday, March 31, 2011

What to look for in a vitamin

In an ideal world, none of us would eat any processed food and we would get everything needed for survival from our whole, nutritious eating habits.  Before the invention of processed food, our ancestors survived sans supplements.
But, the typical American diet is far from ideal so multivitamins tend to be of great benefit for people lacking in nutrients.  The problem is that big companies have all decided they want in on the profit, meaning that cheap, easy, and synthetic processing comes into play.  The other problem is that people often use vitamins as a substitute for whole nutritional food.  Getting nutrition through a vitamin can't begin to compare to the real deal.  Taking a vitamin is fine but be fully aware that a healthy diet is the only way to gain the full nutritional benefits.

In order to make sure that you are getting a good multiV, check into the following:

Is your vitamin natural or synthetic?  Don't make the mistake of shopping for the discount or chain brand.  They primarily use cheap and synthetic supplements to keep the cost down.  You think a vitamin is a vitamin so it doesn't matter?  It does.  Synthetic isolates, which are alternatives to whole foods, are only partially absorbed into your system, if at all, and may produce side effects. 

Is your vitamin ISO and NSF Certified?  Why does this matter?  And what do those crazy letters mean?  ISO stands for the "Internal Organization for Standardization" and NSF is the "National Sanitation Foundation".  You want to make sure that your multivitamin meets the highest industry standards and that it is living up to it's health claims and not wasting your money.  You also want to be sure that no pesticides, chemicals, dirty equipment, or untrained workers have slipped through the cracks.  When you think about it, there is a lot that can go wrong.   

If your multivitamin is living up to both of these standards, it will be easy to spot.  Meeting the listed requirements is not cheap or easy so they are sure to boast about it on their labeling. 

And I'm going to repeat myself because it's important- the best nutrients come from whole foods so be sure you are getting enough of those as well!   

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Probing probiotics

This is a follow up to yesterdays post that suggested taking a probiotic to support your digestive health.  Many of you came back with the question, "Which one do I choose?". 

Use these probing questions when you are shopping:

How many bacteria strains should it have?
This varies from brand to brand.  I have seen them with as few as 1 strain and as many as 16. I have read that multi strains are best to support general digestive health and I've also read that single strains are better.  When research conflicts itself, I take the middle road.  (Mine has 9 strains)

Does is matter how many live bacteria cells it has? 
This number tends to range from 1-50 billion cells in most brands.  Anything within this number is fine.

Why are some refrigerated and others aren't?
Follow the label on this one.  Refrigerated brands are kept cold to keep the cells more stable.  The ones that are sold at room temperature claim the temperature has no adverse affect on the cells.  Personally, I find that not taking a brand that requires refrigeration is more convenient, especially when on the road. 

Check the "other ingredients"
Always check to make sure it doesn't contain anything that you have an allergy or diet discrepancy with (i.e. gelatin for kosher diets).  You also don't want to be putting a lot of processed or artificial ingredients into your system. 

I started taking a daily supplement 2 yrs ago when I was diagnosed with a stomach ulcer and found that a probiotic helps.  But, whenever possible, real food is best.  In addition to being found in your system naturally, probiotics are abundant in Miso, Yogurt, Kefir and indirectly through dandelion, Spiruina, Chorella, and blue-green algae.  I recommend always using them after being on an antibiotic.  Antibiotics kill all bacteria, the good and the bad.  Taking a probiotic during and after treatment will help restore your system to it's natural levels and help prevent post antibiotic yeast and urinary tract infections.  If you are dealing with digestive distress, try it out and see if offers any relief.  Everyone's body is different so it may or may not be the right choice for you.  

Monday, March 28, 2011

Digestive Woes

You probably agree with me in saying that most of our day-to-day ailments stem from problems within the digestive system: "tummy aches", ulcers, indigestion, food poisoning, constipation, diarrhea, and heartburn are just a few.  These maladies are incredibly uncomfortable and debilitating to our active lives.  Who has the time and energy for that?

Before you go reaching for an antacid, take a moment to stop and consider your daily diet, exercise and lifestyle habits.  Why haven't you thought to take a more proactive approach instead of the easy (and expensive) solution of slapping on a pharmaceutical band-aid? 

Here are a few proactive diet additions to help with the inconvenience of digestive ailments. 

  • Apple cider vinegar - (Read this previous post for the health benefits)
  • Cayenne Pepper- Cayenne aids in the assimilation and elimination of foods and actually helps rebuild the lining in the stomach, making it a great herbal medicine for ulcer sufferers. 
  • Garlic- A daily dose improves digestion. Garlic assists in normal functioning of the intestines and also has antibacterial properties that make it hard for pathogens to live in the body.  Try to incorporate more garlic into your diet when you are traveling to deter acute intestinal infections. 
  •  Probiotics- Probiotics are live microbial bacteria aka "good bacteria" that are naturally present in the digestive tract.  In addition to taking a supplement, you can also find them in foods like: yogurt, miso, some soy products, and milk.  Just look for the words, "live active cultures".  They help treat digestive ailments like diarrhea, constipation, IBS, Crohn's and also aid in fighting other ailments such as yeast infections, and urinary tract infections.  They are most commonly recommended by health practitioners during and after antibiotic use. 
When we are in digestive distress, it's hard to enjoy anything else going on around you.  On a personal note, I had a stomach ulcer a few years back and was prescribed pharmaceutical..  I took it for 4 days and abandoned it because of the horrific side effects.  That's when I started doing research on food and natural remedies.  It's actually part of what led me to health coaching, as I was in need of a complete diet and lifestyle overhaul.  Don't always go for the easy fix.  Your body may be telling you to take a step back and take a look at your diet and lifestyle.  If you think you are in need of a "health makeover", sign up for a consult here.  It's free and you've only got your health to lose.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Air"fare"- What to eat when you are traveling

Eating on the go is something that I’ve started to consider my specialty.  I’m on the run for 12 hrs and I’ve mastered what my body needs for a day full of subway riding, NYC tourist dodging, dancing, rehearsing and teaching!  So what do you do when you are off your normal routine or traveling away from home when you can’t carry a full artillery of energizing munchies?
Here are some guidelines for keeping your body healthy, energized and running at full speed while you are away. 
  • Pack a stainless steel water bottle.  You can fill it up as soon as you get through airport security and won’t have to waste a ton of money on overpriced (not to mention environmentally harming) bottled water.  Keep it full and on you at all times to stay hydrated and to help flush potential pathogens quickly from your system.  Hydrate!  Hydrate!  Hydrate!
  • While we’re talking H2O, be careful if you are traveling to a country where the water isn’t as filtered as we’re used to.  Residents in that country are used to it but our bodies don’t always find it “agreeable”.  If this is the case, purchase bottled water for drinking and teeth brushing and make sure that it is sealed.  You can try to limit your water intake and eat more fresh fruit to hydrate instead.
  •  Pack raw nuts and dried fruits in your carry-on.  I always throw in a few protein bars (although I’m not a huge advocate) in case I find myself starving on the plane or in between meals. 
  • Make a grocery store run as soon as you get to your destination.  I always stock up on things that don’t need refrigerated like baby carrots, natural nut butters, raw nuts, natural trail mixes, bananas, apples, oranges, etc.
  • By now you know that I’m not a fan of processed food but canned tuna and instant oatmeal packets (with some fresh food added) are good in a pinch.
  • If you have access to a mini fridge, stock up on leafy green lettuce, humus (I use this as a dip and dressing on my salads when traveling), mushrooms, yogurt, hard boiled eggs-most grocery stores sell them, cheese for a protein punch and 100% whole wheat pita.  It’s amazing how many different meals this combination will get you.  You just have to be creative!  
  • Always pack a spill proof bowl with a lid, a Ziploc bag or two and a set of utensils.   I promise they will come in handy for all your mixing and concocting!
  • This isn’t necessarily a health tip but I always pack a wine opener!  It’s the one item I end up always having to buy when I’m away.  I’m on vacation.  I like to indulge!

Of course this isn’t the end all to eating while traveling.  I’ve just found that it works pretty well for me.  What are some of your go-to’s when you are away from home?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Got Lactase? Didn't think so.

Did you know that a whopping 60% of adults don't produce lactase?  Lactase is the enzyme needed to break up the sugar, lactose, in dairy. 

Humans are the only species on earth that continue to consume milk beyond childhood.  A majority of our bodies stop producing lactase between the ages of 2 and 5 yrs. This means that lactose doesn't get digested, travels straight to the colon and starts to ferment.  In other words, that delicious pint of Ben and Jerry's just became the gas that's causing cramping, bloating, nausea, flatulence and diarrhea.  Yikes!  

Scientists and researches actually find it a phenomenon when people can digest dairy.  They call it lactase persistence.  If you are part of this minority group, you are the result of a genetic mutation that allows humans to consume milk into adulthood.  I'm a mutant myself.  The mutated gene generally shows up in people of Northern European decent.  

This is all bona fide proven research.  So why is it that the government is putting so much funding into the "Got Milk" campaign and trying to scare the bejeebers out of us for not getting enough calcium and vitamin D?  Hmmm?

So you think you may be lactose intolerant?  Now what?  Try cutting dairy products out of your diet for a few days and see how you feel.  If your symptoms improve you may have your answer. Try out some other options such as soy, almond and coconut milk.  The switch can take some getting used to but you can't help but love them once the bloating and cramping is gone!  
Join us for Tai Cheese on Wed, March 16 for a workout and then stay to learn some yummy recipes and non dairy cheese alternatives!