Allison Fletcher, Author at Wakunaga of America

Different Types of Inflammation – Plus, A Rockstar Anti-Inflammatory Herb

But not all inflammation is beneficial. In this blog, we are going to get into some different types of inflammation and one key herb that may help to reduce its damaging effects.

How Inflammation Works

When your cells are in distress, they release chemicals to alert the immune system. The immune system sends its first responders—inflammatory cells—to trap the offending substance or heal the tissue. When this happens, blood vessels leak fluid into the site of the injury. This causes those familiar symptoms like swelling and heat. Now we know that these symptoms may be uncomfortable, but they are essential for your body to heal. So inflammation is good, but only up until a point. If you experience inflammation for too long though—for example, when inflammatory cells camp out too long in your blood vessels—they can promote the buildup of dangerous plaque in your arteries, the primary cause of heart attacks and strokes.1

Types of Inflammation

The two different types of inflammation are acute and chronic. Acute inflammation usually comes on pretty quickly, within minutes, and is generally short-lived. Many of your body’s mechanisms that spring into action to destroy invading microbes then switch gears to carry away dead cells and repair damaged ones. This type of inflammation returns the affected area back to normal in a hours or days.

Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, can persist for months or even years, and it happens when the immune system fails to halt the inflammatory process after the initial problem has been eliminated. If this type of inflammation is not dealt with, it prompts white blood cells to attack nearby healthy organs and tissues, setting the stage for a chronic inflammatory process that could eventually cause health issues like arthritis, heart disease, asthma, and more.2

Signs You May Have Too Much Inflammation

It’s easy to spot acute inflammation because it causes symptoms like redness, heat, swelling, and pain. But what about chronic inflammation? Let’s take a look at some common symptoms.

Fatigue: Feeling tired all the time could point to chronic inflammation.3 Too little, and conversely too much, sleep can create inflammation. If you are sleeping less than seven hours or more than nine hours per night, the cells in your body may respond as if you had an illness. So even if you think you’re getting enough sleep but still feel exhausted, you may want to talk to your doctor about chronic inflammation.

Digestive Issues: Ongoing digestive issues like diarrhea or gassiness could be another sign of chronic inflammation, especially in the GI tract.4 This kind of inflammation can cause bloating, cramping, and more. It’s important not to push these symptoms aside since they could signal a food allergy, irritable bowel syndrome, or Chron’s disease, to name a few. Let your doctor know if you have been experiencing ongoing digestive issues.

Brain Fog: This may come as a shock, but inflammation can also affect you mentally.5 You may find that you forget things more frequently than usual. Or you may have trouble focusing. Many times, once you treat chronic inflammation, mental clarity will reassert itself. You can jumpstart this by making a few simple lifestyle changes. Choosing healthier food might be the most straightforward and least expensive change since fast food and processed food can lead to increased inflammation. You can start by eliminating one fast food or restaurant meal each week, and incorporating a piece of fruit daily into your diet. A gradual approach can help you ease into it.

The Herb that May Be Able to Help

You’ve probably seen it in the spice aisle at your grocery store—turmeric powder. It’s a tasty spice to cook with, but it also has powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.6 A staple in Ayurvedic medicine, turmeric comes from the underground stem of a plant that’s native to India and Southeast Asia. What makes turmeric so effective for relieving pain and inflammation is a compound within the spice called curcumin. It’s also what gives turmeric its deep yellow-orange color.

The curcumin content of turmeric isn’t very high though, so if you use it in a curry dish for instance, you wouldn’t get enough to make a material difference. If you want to experience the full health benefits from turmeric, you should try a curcumin supplement.

And speaking of curcumin supplements, we wanted to briefly touch on the bioavailability of this compound—meaning how easily it is absorbed and used by the body. In a nutshell, curcumin is poorly absorbed into the bloodstream because of its low solubility. Adding insult to injury, curcumin is also rapidly metabolized in the gastrointestinal tract and quickly eliminated by the body. Although typical curcumin supplements can provide highly concentrated amounts of curcumin, poor absorption still remains an issue. In light of this, we recommend trying to find a supplement that lists Meriva curcumin on the label since it is 29 times more absorbable than the curcumin used in ordinary supplements. As an added perk, Meriva is one of the most studied forms of the compound.

In addition to taking a supplement containing a bioavailable form of curcumin, we also wanted to end with an easy recipe for something called “golden milk.”7 This is essentially a tea containing turmeric, which is very soothing and great to enjoy before bedtime.

Golden Milk

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • ½ teaspoon of ground turmeric
  • 1 big pinch of fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 small piece of ginger root (peeled and grated)
  • 1 big pinch of cardamom
  • ¼ teaspoon honey

Instructions:

Blend or whisk all ingredients together, then warm on the stove over medium-low heat. Let it simmer for 10-15 minutes, and enjoy!

References

  1. Johns Hopkins Staff. Fight Inflammation to Help Prevent Heart Disease. Johns Hopkins Medicine. N.D. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/fight-inflammation-to-help-prevent-heart-disease
  2. Harvard Medical School Staff. Fighting Inflammation. Harvard Health Publishing. 2020. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/understanding-inflammation
  3. Lacourt T, Vichaya E, Chiu G, et al. The High Costs of Low-Grade Inflammation: Persistent Fatigue as a Consequence of Reduced Cellular-Energy Availability and Non-Adaptive Energy Expenditure. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience. 2018; 12: 78.
  4. Ribaldone G, Pellicano R, Actis G. Inflammation in Gastrointestinal Disorders: Prevalent Socioeconomic Factors. Clinical and Experimental Gastroenterology. 2019; 12: 321–329.
  5. Balter L, Bosch J, Aldred S, et al. Selective Effects of Acute Low-Grade Inflammation on Human Visual Attention. Science Direct. August 12, 2019. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1053811919306895?via=ihub
  6. Hewlings S, Kalman D. Curcumin: A Review of Its Effects on Human Health. Foods MDPI. 2017 Oct; 6(10): 92.
  7. Rider, E. Anti-Inflammatory Turmeric Tea Recipe (Golden Milk). August 17, 2020. https://www.elizabethrider.com/how-to-make-golden-milk-recipe/

 

 

Easy Ways to Love Your Gut

We are here to serve as a friendly reminder to keep an eye on your gut health as the weather turns cooler. Read on for some simple ways you can “love your gut” and keep it healthy all season long.

Why Gut Health Matters

A healthy gut is more important than you might think. In fact, the state of your gastrointestinal tract can impact much more than your digestive system. It can affect your immune health, heart health, and even your brain health (and you can read more about that here). Considering everything your GI tract does for you, it makes sense to show it some love. First, let’s quickly discuss how your gut health can affect these three areas.

Immune Health: Seventy percent of your immune system lives in the gut, so it’s no surprise that the gut plays an important role in protecting against harmful bacteria and viruses.1 Just as your skin protects you against foreign invaders on the outside, your gut lining protects you from these pathogens on the inside.

Heart Health: It’s true that the way to your heart is through your stomach. A number of studies have shown that certain probiotic strains may help lower blood cholesterol, especially in people with high cholesterol levels. One of these studies found that Lactobacillus probiotics can help reduce both total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels.2 Another study of 127 people with high cholesterol reported that taking a supplement with the beneficial bacteria L. reuteri for nine weeks significantly lowered total cholesterol by 9 percent and LDL cholesterol by 12 percent.3

Brain Health: Your brain and your gut are in constant communication with each other through millions of nerves—a system known as the gut-brain axis. Several studies show that the gut microbiome may affect brain health by helping to control the messages that are sent to the brain through these nerves.4

Top Three Gut Love Tips

Now that you know how important gut health is and how it can impact different areas in the body, let’s take a look at some simple ways you can show your gut some TLC.

Eat a diverse range of foods. Eating a wide variety of plant foods and soluble fiber is linked with a greater diversity of gut bacteria.5 Here’s why: different bacteria prefer different foods, so the more diverse the diet, the more diverse the bacteria in the gut. And when it comes to bacteria, the more diverse the merrier. So try and switch up your diet day to day, and incorporate new fiber-rich vegetables, fruits, and grains into your meals.

Make exercise a priority. Studies show that exercise has a number of benefits for your gut microbiota. It increases the number of beneficial microbial species and fosters greater microbial diversity.6 Strive to get in at least 30 minutes of physical activity daily to give your microbiome the extra support it may need.

Make probiotics part of your daily routine. Probiotics are another great way to inject a bit more bacteria in your diet. Research shows that taking a probiotic supplement can help support gut health and may prevent other digestive problems. 7 Just be sure that the supplement packaging indicates that the bacteria will be live at the expiration date, rather than simply live at the time the supplement is manufactured. Keep these supplements in a cool, dark, and dry location to promote the stability of the beneficial bacteria inside.

Gut health matters a lot! And there are easy ways you can help keep your microbiome healthy and balanced. Try adding one (or all three) of these microbiome-friendly tips to your routine and give your gut some extra care and attention this fall.

References

  1. Rooks M, Garrett W. Gut Microbiota, Metabolites and Host Immunity. National Library of Medicine. 2016; 16(6): 341-52. 10.1038/nri.2016.42
  2. Wu Y, Zhang Q, Ren Y, et al. Effect of Probiotic Lactobacillus on Lipid Profile: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized, Controlled Trials. National Library of Medicine. 2017; 12(6):e0178868.
  3. Wang L, Guo MJ, Gao Q, et al. The Effects of Probiotics on Total Cholesterol: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. National Library of Medicine. 2018; 97(5):e9679.
  4. Forsythe P, Bienenstock J, Kunze W. Vagal Pathways for Microbiome-Brain-Gut Axis Communication. National Library of Medicine. 2014; 817:115-33.
  5. Holscher, H D. Dietary Fiber and Prebiotics and the Gastrointestinal Microbiota. Gut Microbes. 2017; 8(2): 172–184.
  6. Monda V, Villano I, Messina A, et al. Exercise Modifies the Gut Microbiota with Positive Health Effects. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity. 2017;
  7. Brown AC, Valiere A. Probiotics and Medical Nutrition Therapy. Nutrition and Clinical Care. 2004; 7(2):56-68.

This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.

 

 

Poor Circulation? We’ve Got You Covered

In this blog, we will discuss why circulation is important and we’ll also go over some easy ways to boost your blood flow.

Why Circulation is Important

The circulatory system is a vast network of organs and blood vessels that act both as a delivery and a waste removal system for the body. Nutrients, oxygen, and hormones are delivered to your cells and waste, such as carbon dioxide, are removed. Not only does the circulatory system keep our cells healthy, it also keeps you alive. The heart constantly receives signals from the rest of the body that tell it how hard it needs to pump to properly supply the body with oxygen-rich blood. For example, when you’re asleep, the body sends electrical signals to the heart that tell it to slow down. Conversely, when participating in heavy exercise, the heart receives the message to pump harder to deliver extra oxygen-rich blood to the muscles.

When you have poor circulation, your blood isn’t efficiently flowing through your body. This can lead to a variety of issues, including numbness (e.g., your hands/feet falling asleep). While occasional numbness isn’t life threatening, if your circulation is chronically poor, you are likely facing more serious problems like swelling or fatigue. If this sounds familiar, there are a few things you can do to improve your circulation.

How to Improve Circulation

Exercise. If you are dealing with poor circulation or would just like to give your circulation a bit of a boost in general, one of the easiest ways to get your blood pumping is through exercise. The good news is that you don’t have to run a marathon. Any exercise that gets your heart rate up can improve circulation.1 This includes walking! Just 20 to 30 minutes of brisk walking in your neighborhood most days of the week will benefit your circulation. Once you feel more comfortable moving on to more challenging exercises, you’ll see your circulation improve even more. But don’t overdo it! Take your time progressing to different forms of exercise like running, biking, swimming to avoid injury.

Eat fish. Not just any fish, oily fish. The omega-3 fatty acids in oily fish like salmon, tuna, and sardines promote cardiovascular health and improve circulation.2 And for those who are vegetarian or vegan, kale and walnuts actually contain a small amount of omega-3 fatty acids. Supplements containing omega-3 fatty acids are another option for people who do not eat fish.

Get rid of stress. Stress is one of the most damaging things you can do to your body. When you are stressed, the body goes into what is called “fight or flight” mode. Heightened stress can cause a sudden rise in blood pressure, which places a greater strain on the walls of your blood vessels.3 To reduce stress, try yoga or meditation, limiting your caffeine intake, and listening to relaxing music.

Cut back on alcohol. Moderate alcohol consumption can be okay for your body, but be sure you know how to define what “moderate” means. For men, that means no more than two drinks per day. For women, that means just one. Drinking any more than that can lead to your arteries hardening, which hinders your body’s ability to let blood flow properly.4

Whether you have poor circulation, or would just like to give your circulatory system a boost, incorporating these tips can help encourage a more robust blood flow, and support your circulatory system. For some tips on how to increase circulation during quarantine, click here.

 

This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.

New to Supplements? We’re Here to Help

Not only can they help fill nutritional gaps, they can also give additional support to certain systems like the heart or the brain.  But finding the right supplement for your needs can be tricky. Additionally, the supplement aisle at the drug store can be very intimidating to newcomers. There are so many different kinds of supplements, so many products with the same ingredients, each boasting to be better than the next. So where do you start? Consider this your beginner’s guide.

Quick Supplement Stats

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than half of Americans take some sort of supplement.1 More women than men do, and women age 60 and over take the most supplements of all. Not surprisingly, the most commonly consumed supplement is a multivitamin.

What’s great about supplements is that they are easily accessible. They are available without a prescription and usually come in pill, powder, or liquid form. Aside from multivitamins, the most popular nutrient supplements are calcium and vitamins B, C, and D. Calcium supports bone health while vitamin D helps the body absorb that calcium, Vitamins C and E are antioxidants that help prevent cell damage.

No matter what your goals are, the right supplement can help to improve your health and performance. That being said, you should always know what exactly you’re putting in your body. In other words, don’t take anything you don’t understand.

Top Supplement Tips for Beginners

Let’s take a look at some of our top supplement tips.

  1. Talk to your doctor. The first step before starting a new supplement is to talk to your health care provider. It’s important to consult your doctor before you start taking a new supplement to avoid the risk of medication interactions or overconsuming certain nutrients. Be sure to come in with your current list of medications, medical conditions, and any issues you’d like to address.
  2. Read the label. After consulting with your doctor and getting the go-ahead, read the label of the supplement you are considering. Product labels can tell you what the active ingredients are, which additional nutrients are included, the suggested serving size, and the amount of nutrients in each serving.
  3. Check for supporting science. If a supplement sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Credible, reputable companies have peer-reviewed, double-blind clinical studies to support the use and effectiveness of their products. Also make sure that the recommended dosage is supported by science. If it is, it will be likely discussed in the supporting studies as well.
  4. Buy your supplements from a reputable source. Some supplement companies do not go through the hassle of quality control processes to ensure the label matches the product and that the ingredients in the bottle are pure. Established brands that are committed to high quality products follow Good Manufacturing Practices established by the FDA and provide honest, truthful advertising following FTC rules. Your local health food store is good place to start if you are interested in trying a new supplement. The store staff is well educated on the products and brands that they carry.

At Wakunaga of America, for example, all of our products are produced according to the Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) established by the World Health Organization and Food and Drug Administration. In addition, Wakunaga has earned the ISO 9001:2015 certification by Intertek. These certifications recognize our compliance to U.S and international quality standards and demonstrate our commitment to the Quality Management System. Wakunaga also takes part in many peer-reviewed double-blind randomized clinical studies, to support the efficacy of the nutrients in our supplements.  Learn more about our science here.

  1. Store supplements in the appropriate environment. Some supplements need to be refrigerated and others kept away from the light. Be sure to follow proper storage instructions.
  2. Start slowly. Begin with only one new supplement at a time. Wait a period of time (typically a month) before you throw any additional supplements into the mix beyond those you are currently taking. This will help you determine if this particular supplement is making you feel better or if you’d like to try something else. If you do experience an adverse effect, stop taking the supplement immediately.

There’s a lot to consider when purchasing a new supplement. It is a good idea to spend some time doing the research so you can make sure it’s the best, safest, highest-quality supplement for you. In the end, your improved health will be all the proof you need that supplements really can make a difference.

 

This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.

Understanding the Immune System and How to Keep It Strong

The Immune System Explained

The immune system is made of special organs, cells, and chemicals that fight infection. It is a finely coordinated collection of specialized cells, communicating to each other via unique chemicals and specialized receptors. Immune cells have their own circulatory system, which is called the lymphatic system. Lymphatic fluid bathes the body as it transports white blood cells to areas of infection or injury. Immune system cells are located in various lymph nodes that are strategically positioned throughout the body. The spleen, located in the upper left part of the abdomen, manufactures lymphocytes and traps foreign antigens in order to trigger an immune response.

“Main Players” in the Immune System

Here are the primary players in the immune system, that help the body protect itself.1

Phagocytes: The first line-of-defensive “scouts” of the immune system are phagocytic cells called dendritic cells, macrophages, and neutrophils. All of these phagocyte cells zip through the body, and engulf and kill antigens. This immune process of engulfing/devouring antigens by phagocytic cells provides your natural immunity. After killing the antigen, phagocytic cells return to the lymph nodes to start their next course of action, which is to stimulate other cells of the immune system to activate “acquired immunity”. Acquired immunity begins after a phagocytic cell “devours” an antigen. It then signals the next group of immune cells, T and B lymphocytes, to spring into action.

Lymphocytes: These are a type of white blood cell that are mainly made up of T and B lymphocytes. They act on virus-infected body cells and also attack fungi and parasites. In addition, T-cells are an important part of the immune system’s destruction of cancerous cells. After being triggered by a phagocyte, T-cells attach to the antigenic cell and inject a protein that kills it.

Killer cells: Killer cells are lymphocytes that rush out, bind themselves to infected cells and kill them by injecting poison.

T-cells: When stimulated into action by a phagocyte, helper T-cells stimulate T or B cells to destroy the antigen. Helper T-cells are known as TH1 cells. Those that stimulate B-cells are known as TH2 cells. When activated, primed B-cells multiply rapidly and mature to become plasma cells. Plasma cells are factories for an outpouring of antibodies directed against a specific antigen.

Antibodies: Antibodies are proteins that are released from plasma cells into the blood. Once triggered, these proteins discharge molecules called cytokines, which stimulate cells to move to areas that need help, almost like a commanding officer shouting out orders.

Immune Health Strategy

Our immune system doesn’t just spring into action during the height of cold and flu season like some might think. It fights inflammation, which is the main cause of all chronic-disease, throughout the year. Various immune-health supplements and nutrients can empower our immune system to perform even stronger, and one of the best nutrients to do this, is Aged Garlic Extract. The properties that make Aged Garlic Extract such a powerful tool in maintaining cardiovascular health give us a window into why it also benefits the immune system. It supports healthy inflammation response and reduces oxidation. In moving the system away from chronic immune activation, it frees the body to fight invaders rather than constantly work to do things like push blood through inflamed arteries.

The aging process strengthens garlic’s antioxidant content, helping the body to make more lymphocytes, including powerful killer cells, as well as more antibodies. It also cranks up the action of existing lymphocytes as well.2

Other Immune Boosting Nutrients

Besides Aged Garlic Extract, there are a few other nutrients you can add to your diet to keep your immune system in fighting shape.

Astragalus: Astragalus is an herbal supplement that has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine. Some evidence suggests it can enhance the immune system and reduce inflammation by increasing the body’s production of white blood cells (which are the cells of your immune system responsible for preventing illness).3

Zinc: Zinc has become a popular treatment for the common cold. It keeps the immune system strong, and also helps to heal wounds. Some studies have shown that zinc may reduce the duration of the common cold by one to two days, and may reduce the number of upper respiratory infections in children.4

Vitamin C: Vitamin C, an antioxidant, is essential for immune cells to function properly. It is depleted during infections, so a vitamin C deficiency may increase a person’s risk of getting sick. Adding more Vitamin C to your diet will not reduce your risk of catching a cold, but it may speed up your recovery time and reduce the severity of your symptoms.5

Build up your immune system with the nutrients mentioned above, and proactively support your immunity year-round, so you can enter (and exit) the cold and flu season with ease.

This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.

 

Yoga Poses for Better Digestion

We’re talking about yoga! In addition to its other health benefits, including increased flexibility, increased muscle strength, improved energy, and increased circulatory health, there is another little known benefit, and it has to do with your digestion. You can think of your yoga exercises as a massage for your internal organs. If you’re dealing with gut issues, gentle yoga poses and deep breathing are great ways to relax the gut. Yoga is also very detoxifying, a key factor in improving digestion. The twisting postures can help to enhance your digestion, and encourage your liver and kidneys to flush out toxins1. Yoga can also help with bloating, increasing the amount of oxygen to the area.

Understanding Digestion

Before we get more into yoga and look at special poses to help with digestion, let’s talk a little more about digestion. The body uses the process of digestion to break down food into a form that can be absorbed and used for fuel. The organs of the digestive system are the mouth, esophagus, stomach, pancreas, liver, gallbladder, and the small and large intestine. More organs than you thought, right? Recognizing how these organs work together is important in understanding how digestion works.

The digestive process starts in the mouth. Even before you eat, the anticipation of eating stimulates the glands in the mouth to produce saliva. The digestive system carries out three main processes in the mouth, mixing food, moving food through the digestive tract, and then using chemicals to break down this food. Next up is the esophagus. This is a long, muscular tube connecting your mouth to your stomach. When you swallow, the muscles squeeze together, moving food downwards to the stomach. The stomach contains hydrochloric acid and enzymes that starts the process of breaking down food. The muscles in the stomach churn food and break it all down into a liquid. The small intestine is where most chemical digestion happens, using bile and enzymes. The large intestine, commonly known as the colon, absorbs water and electrolytes. Bacteria here produces Vitamin K and biotin. The pancreas then secretes hormones including insulin and glucagon, as well as digestive enzymes to further break down carbs, fats, and proteins. The gallbladder stores bile, a liquid made by your liver, which helps digest fats and some vitamins. Lastly, your liver produces hormones, stores glycogen (used for energy), breaks down red blood cells so that we can replace them with healthy ones, synthesizes proteins, and detoxifies2.

Deeper Dive Into Yoga

The reason yoga is so beneficial for your digestion, is because it can help to relieve some common digestive problems, like constipation, stomach pain, gas, and even acid reflux, with that gentle massaging action that we mentioned earlier. There are many yoga poses that can stimulate the intestines, pancreas, and stomach, helping keep these organs strong and healthy.

Certain yoga poses have been known to bring about the following improvements: eliminate constipation problems, decrease gas, increase production of mucous, reduce acid, improve absorption of food, and even improve gastrointestinal circulation3. It is important to note though, if you plan on practicing a few yoga poses for healthy digestion, there are a few precautions to take. The first, is to perform yoga poses in the mornings, on an empty stomach. Also, try not to hurry to do each pose, practice breathing and relax. Refrain from practicing yoga if you have just had a surgery or suffer from appendicitis, hernia, or other abdominal injury.

Without further ado, here are the top two yoga poses for better digestion:

Downward Facing Dog

Begin in this post in a plank position, arms and feet hip-distance apart, hands and feet grounded. Begin to lift your hips upwards, strengthening your core and letting your head drop. Have a slight bend in your knees, gently pulling your shoulders away from your ears and lengthening your spine. Hold position for 1-3 minutes, and repeat 8-10 times.

Cat/Cow Posture

From a seated position, get onto your hands and knees, knees hip-distance apart.  Place hands firmly on the ground/mat. Have your shoulders positioned beneath your hands. Inhale deeply, bringing your shoulders back, raising your face and looking upwards and lift your hips, gently, curving your back. Hold, and deeply exhale, curving your back upwards, dropping your head and look downwards, and pull your sit bones inwards. Repeat 10 times.

In addition to improving digestion, these poses may also contribute to increased relaxation, and restore energy. Good luck, and namaste!

 

This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.

Key Supplements for Better Heart Health

Before we get into the best supplements for your cardiovascular health, let’s take a closer look at some basics regarding eating well for a healthy heart. Now, you may be eating plenty of food, but your body may not be getting the nutrients it needs to be healthy. Nutrient-rich foods have vitamins, minerals, protein, fiber, fats and carbohydrates, and are generally lower in calories. They may help you to manage your weight, cholesterol, and blood pressure levels. Overall, a heart healthy diet emphasizes eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, skinless poultry and fish, nuts and legumes. Try to limit saturated fat, trans fat, sodium, red meat, sweets and sugar-sweetened beverages. If you choose to eat red meat, compare labels and select the leanest cuts available. One diet that fits this pattern is called the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension)1. Most healthy eating patterns can be adapted based on calorie requirements and your personal food preferences.

Top Supplements for Heart Health

In addition to eating well, you may need to consider adding a few heart healthy supplements to your routine to help fill any nutritional gaps in your diet.

Aged Garlic Extract (AGE)

Aged Garlic Extract is one of the most heavily researched herbal medicines today and is among the most commonly used supplements in people with heart disease. In studies, AGE is the type of garlic supplement that has been most consistently shown to have favorable effects on heart health. Kyolic AGE is produced through a proprietary aging process that eliminates garlic odor and harsh side effects. A heart-healthy dose is 1,200 mg daily. AGE can support healthy blood pressure levels, keep bad cholesterol in check, protect LDL (bad cholesterol) from oxidation, increase adiponectin (a hormone that helps protect against inflammation), thins your blood, and staves off plaque in your artieries2.

Coenzyme Q10

CoQ10 is a natural compound made by your body that has antioxidant properties. It is considered an “energy generator,” that enhances your heart’s pumping ability. Your body naturally makes some CoQ10, but it only makes a limited amount. CoQ10 is especially important to take if you are on a statin drug, because studies show that when you take a statin drug to lower cholesterol, you deplete CoQ103.

Red Yeast Rice

Red Yeast Rice is a fermented rice supplement produced by growing red yeast on white rice. Red yeast contains a small amount of a naturally occurring statin that lowers cholesterol. So it works like a statin drug by blocking an enzyme that is involved in making cholesterol4. If you’ve had side effects from taking a statin drug though, such as muscle aches and weakness, you should be cautious with red yeast rice, especially high doses, as you may experience the same side effects from the supplement. It is always best to talk to your doctor before starting a new supplement regimen.

Phytosterols

Phytosterols are compounds naturally found in the cell membranes of foods from certain plants, and they have a chemical structure that’s similar to cholesterol. Because of that, they can compete with cholesterol for absorption in your gut, which may help lower LDL in your bloodstream5. You consume small amounts of phytosterols when you eat vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Foods containing at least 0.65 grams per serving of plant sterols, eaten twice a day as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering cholesterol levels. Adding a supplement with Phytosterols can ensure that you are doing all you can to keep your cholesterol levels in check.

Take charge of your heart health by eating well, keep exercising and working some of these cardiovascular supplements into your daily routine.

This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.

Plant Sterol Esters Explained

So what are plant sterols? Actually, let’s back up…what is a “sterol?” Sterols are a family of molecules with a specific shape and structure. Phytosterols (“phyto” meaning plant) are sterols found in plants. They are similar in structure to cholesterol in the human body.1


When phytosterols are consumed, they compete with cholesterol absorption in digestive tract, blocking it and, as a result, lowering blood cholesterol levels. Some studies have found that getting just two grams of phytosterols a day may help you lower your LDL cholesterol by as much as 10%. Unfortunately though, most people aren’t getting nearly this much in their everyday diets. In fact, today, dietary intake of phytosterols ranges between 78 and 500 mg per day, even with food manufacturers enriching common foods we eat with these compounds.

Why are plant sterol esters such an integral part of healthy eating, and of lowering cholesterol? Let’s take a look.

More on Phytosterols

When it comes to lowering your cholesterol, your first strategy is usually to change the way you eat. You replace the unhealthy fats (trans and saturated) with healthy ones (monosaturated and polyunsaturated), and increase dietary fiber by emphasizing whole grains, fruits, and veggies. If these strategies haven’t worked to their fullest potential, or if you want to work on lowering your bad cholesterol even further, this is where plant sterol esters come into play.

As part of a heart-healthy eating program, eating foods containing plant sterols have been shown to reduce cholesterol up to 10% and LDL (bad) cholesterol up to 14%. This reduction is in addition to other cholesterol-lowering strategies you may have started, like eating more heart healthfully or taking a cholesterol-lowering medication. The effectiveness of plant sterols is so strong, so recognized, that the National Cholesterol Education Program recommends people with high cholesterol consume two grams of plant sterols every day.3

How to Incorporate Plant Sterol Esters in Your Diet

The National Institute of Health Reports that there are over 200 different kinds of sterols, and the highest concentrations are found naturally in vegetable oils, beans, and nuts. But what you might not know, is that many products also have added plant sterols. At the store for example, you might see orange juice or margarine advertising plant sterol content. Foods containing at least 0.65 grams per serving of plant sterols, eaten twice a day as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering cholesterol levels.4

The following foods contain the highest amounts of phytosterols (plant sterols):

Nuts: Nuts contain high amounts of phytosterols, ranging between 95 and 270 mg per 100 g serving of nuts. Studies have shown that a handful of most nuts can have a favorable impact on your lipid profile.5 If you’re going to load up on nuts, these nuts have the greatest amount of phytosterols: almonds, walnuts, and pistachios. Avoid eating salted nuts, since these may have adverse effects on your health.

Whole grains: Foods with whole grains, like barley, rye, and oatmeal, are high in many types of nutrients. Some whole grain products also contain high amounts of phytosterols, so aim for these: flaxseed, wheat germ, and rye bread. Flax seeds can be added as a nutritious oatmeal topping, as can wheat germ. As for the rye bread, try toasting it and adding nut butter, as opposed to a sugary jam, to reap the greatest benefits.

Fruits and Vegetables: Fruits and vegetables contain less phytosterols than nuts and whole grains, but they also contain lot’s of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other healthy ingredients that are great for cholesterol. These fruits and vegetables contain the greatest amount of phytosterols, so load up: broccoli, red onion, carrot, corn, Brussel sprouts, spinach, and strawberries.

Add Supplements

In addition to adding these plant sterol-rich foods to your diet, a supplement containing plant sterol esters (a.k.a. plant sterols) can help too. Studies have shown that, on average, supplements containing plant sterols produce an average decrease in LDL cholesterol of 5 percent to 15 percent, with greater decreases shown with higher doses (2 grams per day). Notably, there is also individual variation in how much people respond to these sterols. Genetics and other factors may play a role as well.

Foods containing at least 0.65g per serving of plant sterol esters, eaten twice a day, for a total intake of 1.3g, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering cholesterol levels.6

So if you’re looking to up your heart-health game, plant sterol esters can help support that goal. Try adding in some of the foods mentioned above, and a quality supplement, and reap the cardiovascular benefits.

This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.

 

Keep Your Immune System in Balance with Plant Sterols

The openings of your mouth and nose can be thought of as your immune system’s border control. If invaders get inside your body through the mouth, nose, or even a cut, the immune system sends out lines of defense, whether in the blood, organs, muscles, or bone. This internal “police force” is vital to our health, but sometimes it can get a little “off balance.” When this happens, the immune system can work against us, causing allergic reactions to foods or environments, and sometimes even autoimmune conditions.1 Why does this happen, and what can we do to prevent it?

What causes your immune system to be off balance?

You’re washing your hands, not touching your face, practicing good hygiene practices…but you still feel a little run-down, and get infections easily. What gives?

If you notice that you get sick a lot, feel run-down, or have other symptoms you can’t quite figure out, it may mean that your immune system is off-balance, or weakened. When this happens, there are usually a handful of culprits that may be contributing:

Stress level

Do you ever find yourself getting sick after pulling an all-nighter on a big report for work, or after a really emotional situation at home? According to the American Psychological Association, long-term stress weakens the responses of your immune system.2 This is because stress decreases the body’s lymphocytes, the white blood cells that help fight off infection. The lower your lymphocyte level, the more you’re at risk for catching a cold or other viruses.3

If you think you are experiencing a high level of stress, it can be helpful to meditate, and also practice breathing exercises, such as “box breathing.” Box breathing can calm the nervous system down, and help you to feel more relaxed. All it requires is for you to breathe in for four seconds, hold your breath for four seconds, and then breathe out for four seconds.

Gut issues

Another signal your immune system might be off balance are underlying gut issues. If you have frequent diarrhea, gas, or constipation, it could be a sign that your immune system has been compromised. Research shows that 70% of the immune system resides in the gut. The beneficial bacteria and microorganisms that live there defend your gut from infection and support the immune system. If these beneficial bacteria are in low supply, it opens you up to viruses, chronic inflammation, and also autoimmune conditions.4

You feel tired all the time

Burning a candle at both ends is not a healthy way to live, and can really take a toll on your immune system. Try to prioritize your sleep routine, and aim for 6 to 8 hours of sleep per night. On the flip side, if you are already getting enough sleep and are still feeling fatigued, it might be your immune system trying to tell you something. When your immune system struggles, so does your energy level. Your energy level is down because your body is trying to conserve energy to fuel your immune system so that it can fight off germs and other invaders.6

Tips for Regaining Balance

If any of the above concerns sound like they might apply to you, it may be time to make some lifestyle adjustments. This includes things like eating a balanced diet including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, getting 6-8 hours of sleep, exercising 30 minutes most days of the week, and trying to find ways to minimize stress.

If you incorporate these adjustments into your daily routine, you can give your immune system the best chance to get back to a healthier place. That being said, the key to longterm health is more than just a balanced diet, regular exercise, and the like, especially when it comes to a strong immune system. This is where phytosterols come in.

How phytosterols (sterols and sterolins) can help

In addition to the lifestyle adjustments above, plant sterols and sterolins can help to support your immune system too. Sterols are compounds found in plants that resemble cholesterol (i.e. are structurally similar to cholesterol). When a supplement with plant sterols is consumed, it can help to bring overall balance to the immune system by enhancing an underactive immune system, and modulating an overactive one. While sterols do not “fix” the immune system, they do give it the nutrients it needs to be balanced.7 Sterols and sterolins allow the immune system to regulate itself: “upregulating” or boosting an underactive response and “downregulating” an overactive one.

When looking for a quality supplement containing these plant sterols, which can benefit adults and kids alike, it is helpful to look for one that has research behind it, and one that has the right sterol to sterolin ratio. Research has shown quite clearly that the blend of sterols and sterolins in a 100:1 ratio, exhibit the best immune balancing activity.8

One thing to remember is to not take a sterol/sterolins supplement while ingesting cholesterol heavy foods (animal fat), including all meat, dairy, eggs, seafood, etc. Cholesterol has a very similar molecular structure and the two compounds “compete” for absorption.  Take your supplement between meals.

And did we mention kids? Yes, your children’s immune system can get out of balance too. They are exposed to any number of germs from their peers and from the environment, and have their own levels of stress and digestive problems. Building a strong, well-balanced immune system from an early age will benefit children for a lifetime. Talk to your pediatrician about supplements that contain phytosterols and see if they may be right for your family.

If you think you have a weakened or imbalanced immune system, don’t fret! There are steps you can take to keep yourself and those around you healthy, and maximize your immune function.

Before taking Seterol and Sterolins consult your health care professional:

Recipients of foreign organs and tissues, including bone marrow and corneal transplants, are cautioned not to take any immune regulating nutritional supplements. Therefore, sterols and sterolins are NOT recommended for transplant patients.

People with synthetic replacement/reconstruction will not be affected, such as in hip replacement, knee replacement, breast reconstruction and pacemaker implant.

People with multiple sclerosis should take plant sterols and sterolins only under the guidance of their health care practitioner.

Diabetics should monitor their blood sugar closely as many have experienced a reduction in insulin requirements. They should start with one capsule daily to ensure a gradual increase in sterols and sterolins.

 

This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.


References

  1. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/can-immune-system-go-haywire-falter/
  2. https://www.apa.org/research/action/immune
  3. https://www.pennmedicine.org/updates/blogs/health-and-wellness/2020/march/weakened-immune-system
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3337124/
  5. https://kyolic.com/best-practices-for-buying-taking-and-storing-probiotics/
  6. https://www.pennmedicine.org/updates/blogs/health-and-wellness/2020/march/weakened-immune-system
  7. https://www.moducare.com/faqs/
  8. https://www.moducare.com/faqs/