Allison Fletcher, Author at Wakunaga of America

Got Atherosclerosis? How to Avoid This Leading Cardiovascular Risk Naturally

And that can be a serious problem since this stealthy condition has been figured as the leading cause of heart attack and stroke.

What is Atherosclerosis?

Atherosclerosis, (also known as “hardening” of the arteries), occurs when plaque builds up inside your arteries. This plaque is made up of cholesterol, cellular waste, calcium, and a blood-clotting material called fibrin which causes the lining of arteries (called the endothelium) to malfunction. Over time, this build-up can narrow and stiffen your arteries, limiting the amount of blood traveling throughout your body and to the heart. This reduced blood flow also prevents your heart from getting the oxygen and nutrients it needs to function properly.2

Mild to moderate atherosclerosis often doesn’t have any symptoms. In fact, symptoms don’t usually occur until an artery is so narrowed or clogged that it can’t supply enough blood to organs and tissues. When they do, symptoms can include chest pain, cramping or pain in legs or arms upon exertion, erectile dysfunction, mental confusion, muscle weakness, shortness of breath, and unexplained fatigue. 3  But be aware that some people never experience any symptoms—even if their arteries are severely clogged. Their first clue might be a heart attack or stroke.

How can you tell if your arteries are compromised? While your doctor may look for risk factors like high blood pressure or elevated cholesterol levels, they may also order an angiogram. This test uses X-ray imaging to see your heart’s blood vessels and check for reduced blood flow. However, the best way to diagnose atherosclerosis is with a coronary calcium scan. This test uses computed tomography (CT) technology to scan your circulatory system and measure the amount of calcium in the walls of your coronary arteries. Compared to an angiograph, a coronary calcium scan carries less risk and is less invasive. It’s also a very accurate way to determine any blockages in your arteries.

The Inflammation Link

So what causes atherosclerosis in the first place? According to recent studies, the culprit is likely chronic inflammation. 4, 5  Here’s how it works: when damage occurs inside your arteries, your immune system sends inflammatory molecules called cytokines to the scene to heal the injury. But instead of helping to correct the problem, these cytokines create a makeshift “band aid” by encouraging cholesterol and other compounds to build up in the walls of your arteries. This, then, creates more damage, which the immune system tries to fix by producing even more inflammation inside your blood vessels. But this process doesn’t just cause artery-clogging atherosclerosis. The steady stream of inflammation can also make the plaque in your arteries more likely to burst, blocking the flow of blood and leading to a heart attack or stroke.Unfortunately, this vicious cycle doesn’t just affect your arteries. Less blood flowing through your arteries can have a downstream effect on your smaller veins and capillaries, and this can reduce blood flow to a variety of body parts like your eyes or your skin. 6

Aged Garlic Extract to the Rescue!

How can you counteract this damaging—and dangerous—inflammation? It’s easier than you might think! Recent research from scientists at Sweden’s Skåne University Hospital and Lund University reports that a daily dose of Kyolic Reserve Aged Garlic Extract (AGE) can safely reduce levels of an immune system molecule called interleukin-6 (IL-6) that triggers chronic inflammation.7  This can be a game-changer since IL-6 sparks the production of another inflammatory marker called C-reactive protein or CRP in the liver. CRP may sound familiar since it’s often measured during routine blood tests. Both IL-6 and CRP have been linked to the development of atherosclerosis.8

During another study, these same researchers found that AGE also boosted blood flow within the tiny blood vessels and capillaries that feed your extremities (think your legs, feet, and hands). It was so effective that AGE was shown to boost microcirculation by an impressive 21.6 percent.9 While this benefit might not seem nearly as important as AGE’s ability to tamp down artery-damaging inflammation, it can be critical for people with atherosclerosis. This is because impaired blood flow to the tissues in your extremities can lead to slow wound healing—and that can increase the risk of infection.10

Healthy Habits to Lower Your Risk Even More

Adding AGE to your daily routine is a great place to start when you’re looking to reduce your risk of atherosclerosis. But adding the following lifestyle swaps to the equation has been shown to reduce your risk even more.11

Focus on whole foods. Ditch ultra-processed foods in favor of a Mediterranean diet filled with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meat and poultry, fatty fish, nuts, and seeds. Going Club Med on a long-term basis has been clinically shown to slow the progression of atherosclerosis.12

Move your body. Engaging in physical activity can help your muscles use oxygen more effectively, as well as improve your blood circulation by promoting new blood vessel growth.13 What’s more, regular workouts have an anti-inflammatory effect that helps to protect against atherosclerosis.14

If you smoke, quit! Kicking those butts is the single more important thing you can do to lower your risk for atherosclerosis.15 It’s also important to avoid second hand smoke since cigarettes contains a number of toxic chemicals that, when inhaled, increase inflammation in your arteries.16

Sidestepping atherosclerosis—or keeping it from progressing if you’ve already been diagnosed with the condition—doesn’t need to be complicated. Adding Kyolic Reserve Aged Garlic Extract to your supplement routine and adopting the lifestyle strategies above can help to protect your arteries for a lifetime.

You’re Starting to Feel a Cold Coming On—Here’s What You Should Do

It’s cold season, and you’re coming down with something. But while the common cold will usually go away on its own within a couple of weeks, who has time for that? Here are some natural immune supporting health tips that can help you get a jump on cold symptoms before they get a jump on you.

Aged Garlic Extract to the Rescue

Aged Garlic Extract (AGE), is a powerhouse when it comes to fighting off the effects of a cold. In one trial published in The Journal of Nutrition, healthy participants between 21 and 50 years old were given either a daily dose of AGE or a placebo for 90 days during cold and flu season. After 45 days, researchers noticed an increase in the number and activity of certain immune cells in the AGE group—increases that didn’t occur in the placebo group. After the full 90 days, those in the AGE group who did come down with a bug saw a reduction in their cold or flu severity. Along with fewer symptoms, they also experienced fewer days of feeling suboptimal and fewer work or school days missed.1

Other Natural Cold Remedies

Aged Garlic Extract isn’t the only natural cold fighter. The following tips will have you feeling better sooner while making your symptoms easier to deal with.

Take some vitamin C. Well known for its immune-supportive effects, vitamin C is a great addition to your immune-strengthening arsenal. Increased doses of this nutrient can help relieve common cold complaints such as chest pain, fever, and chills, as well as shortening cold duration, even if you already take a supplement.2  But don’t wait until you’re sick to start taking a vitamin C supplement. Incorporating this crucial nutrient into your regimen all year long can have a huge impact on your health. In fact, a recent South Korean study even showed that vitamin C can lessen the odds of developing a cold in the first place.8

Fortunately you can get both AGE and vitamin C in a single cold-busting supplement. Immune Support Formula 103 combines the potency of these two powerhouse nutrients, along with a premium mushroom complex, astragalus, oregano, and olive leaf extracts, to support healthy immune function.

Focus on fluid intake. You’ve heard it a thousand times when you get sick: drink plenty of fluids. But what fluids should you be drinking if you have a cold? According to a study published in the journal Rhinology, consuming a hot drink can provide immediate and sustained relief from symptoms like runny nose, cough, sneezing, sore throat, chills, and fatigue. Interestingly, drinking the same beverage at room temperature still had benefits, but it reduced only runny nose, coughing, and sneezing.3 Hot tea is a great option, but try to stick to decaf as too much caffeine can lead to fluid loss and sleeplessness.

Have some honey. You can sweeten up that hot beverage with a soothing spoonful of delicious honey. Not only tasty, honey has long been used as a home remedy to manage cold symptoms. And now there’s emerging evidence to back up its medicinal use. A study of 300 children with upper respiratory tract infections (URIs) showed honey to be more effective at relieving nocturnal cough and sleep difficulty than a placebo.4 And in a 2021 systematic review and meta-analysis, honey was shown to improve cough frequency and severity in patients with URIs.5

Take it easy—but not too easy. It’s a good idea to scale things back and try to relax when you notice cold symptoms setting in. After all, stress not only increases your susceptibility to illness; it also inhibits the response of your immune cell when you do come into contact with a harmful pathogen.6 On the other hand, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still be active—if you’re feeling up to it, that is. Moderate‐intensity aerobic exercise—activities like a brisk walk, a bicycle ride, or a session on the treadmill—has been shown to reduce the severity of acute respiratory infection symptoms and the number of symptom days.7

Keep Future Threats at Bay

With so many bugs going around this time of year, it’s practically inevitable that you’ll encounter something at some point. Typically, adults get an average of two to four colds per year and young children suffer from an average of six to eight. However, practicing good hygiene habits can fortify your immune response and reduce your chances of coming down with whatever’s going around. One of the best things you can do is to regularly wash your hands. Proper handwashing reduces respiratory illnesses, including colds, by 16 to 21 percent, according to the CDC.

Getting through cold and flu season may not be as bad as you think. Incorporating an AGE supplement and these immune-enhancing tips into your daily life can decrease the severity of your symptoms if a bug does strike. Better yet, these strategies can also reduce your chances of getting sick at all!

Got Tummy Troubles? It May NOT Be Something You Ate!

But what if it’s not from something you ate? A growing number of studies show that other, sometimes surprising, factors can also upset your digestive tract and trigger a bout of gastritis or indigestion.

Gastritis vs. Indigestion

Gastritis is an inflammation of the stomach lining. Symptoms can include upper belly pain, nausea, and vomiting. Indigestion, on the other hand, is often caused by an irritation or erosion of the stomach lining or the throat. It can cause bloating, feeling uncomfortably full after eating, gas, heartburn, and nausea.

While the food you eat can be a source of these symptoms, your stomach ache may not actually be food related. Instead, it could be caused by a seemingly random or unrelated factor like a lifestyle habit. This is particularly true if you suffer from chronic digestive upset.

Surprising Causes of Tummy Troubles

Your everyday habits and environment can play an unexpected role in triggering a stomach ache. The most common include:

Alcohol overuse. Drinking too much alcohol can trigger heartburn. This is because alcohol can cause your stomach to produce more acid than usual. If alcohol overuse becomes routine, this can gradually wear away your stomach lining, making it inflamed and painful (gastritis).1 

Antibiotics. Some antibiotics can irritate the lining of the stomach. In response, the glands in the stomach secrete more acid. This acid can then lead to greater reflux of food and acid into the esophagus, causing heartburn. Worse yet, frequent antibiotic use can cause antibiotic-related diarrhea and a recurrent Clostridioides difficile (C.diff) infection.2

Caffeine intake. Ever wonder why heartburn hits after enjoying that cup of coffee? New research reports that caffeine causes an uptick in stomach acid production and changes the bacterial composition in your gut.3

Nonsteroidal anti-Inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Whether it’s aspirin, ibuprofen, or a prescription NSAID, frequently taking these pain-relieving drugs for chronic pain can increase acid reflux and other symptoms of indigestion.4

Sleep deprivation. Studies have linked a lack of sleep to a variety of digestive problems, including abdominal pain, gas, diarrhea, constipation, nausea, and vomiting.5 This is because shortchanging your sleep can upset your gut microbiota, increase stress, and make you prone to poor food choices. 

Smoking. It’s no secret that smoking can boost the risk of cardiovascular and respiratory disease. But it can also irritate the stomach lining and increase the prevalence of gastritis and acid reflux.6 Long-term smokers who suffer from chronic indigestion also have an higher risk of developing a serious precancerous condition known as Barrett’s esophagus.7

Stress. Feeling a little stressed-out? It could be causing your stomach ache. This is because stress can make the colon contract, leading to stomach pain. And since stress-related anxiety can interfere with digestion, it can also spark indigestion and heartburn.8

Happy Belly Habits

Making a few swaps to your lifestyle can improve the symptoms of gastritis or indigestion. Plus, adopting these healthy habits may even help to prevent a future stomach ache.

Boost your activity level. Research shows that regular aerobic exercise can help protect against constipation, diverticulosis, gas, and bloating. 9,10  What qualifies as aerobic exercise? Anything that raises your heart rate like walking briskly, bike riding, playing tennis, swimming, rowing, jogging, or dancing. Aim for at least 30 minutes of aerobic activity daily.

Get zen. One of the best ways to manage gut-wrenching stress and prevent stress-related digestive upset is by employing relaxation techniques whenever life throws you a curve. This is especially true for those who suffer from chronic digestive problems like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).11 Stress-busting techniques that may help restore a sense of calm to your digestive tract include mindfulness meditation, yoga, hypnosis, progressive muscle relaxation, mental imaging, biofeedback, deep breathing, and even simply listening to soothing music.

Mind your alcohol and caffeine intake. Limiting the amount of alcohol and caffeine you consume can reduce inflammation and the production of stomach acid.12,13 Swapping out that nightly glass of wine or second cup of coffee for water not only benefits your digestive tract, it also enhances your body’s ability to eliminate waste.

Trade in ultra-processed foods for minimally-processed fare. While food may not be at the root of your stomach problems, what you eat can support a healthy digestive system. Instead of fast food or convenience foods, opt for fresh fruits and vegetables, cold water fish like salmon, organic poultry, and fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, kim chi, or sauerkraut. It’s also important to eat foods high in fiber which helps to prevent constipation, lowers the risk of colon cancer and hemorrhoids, and boosts the beneficial bacteria in your gut. Some high-fiber foods include almonds, artichokes, avocado, beans, broccoli, chickpeas, edamame, lentils, oats, pears, and raspberries.

Try a probiotic. Taken daily, probiotics can help keep your digestive system operating optimally. What to look for? Studies show that a supplement like Kyo-Dophilus Max Probiotic provides a diverse array of friendly flora, including three specific types of beneficial bacteria shown to support healthy digestion. L. gasseri, B. bifidum, and B. longum¾also known as the friendly trio¾are the most prevalent bacteria found in the intestines. Combined, these beneficial probiotic strains help guard against occasional bouts of constipation, diarrhea, gas, and bloating. Plus, Kyo-Dophilus Max Probiotic is shelf-stable and is made from human probiotic strains that are guaranteed viable through the expiration date on the label.

When to Seek Help

Most bouts of gastritis or indigestion aren’t serious and resolve themselves within a day or two. But if you have any of the following symptoms, you may have a more serious condition and should see a doctor right away.

  • Black, tarlike stools
  • Bloody vomit
  • Difficulty swallowing or painful swallowing
  • Frequent vomiting
  • Losing weight without trying
  • Severe and constant pain in your abdomen

You should also see a doctor if your indigestion lasts longer than 2 weeks.

Diabetes: Are You At Risk?

What’s even more alarming, it’s estimated that that one in three American adults will develop the disease by the year 2050.1

What’s behind this looming diabetes epidemic? The spiraling rate of obesity in America plays a significant role. But even if you’re not overweight, eating a diet high in ultra-processed foods, guzzling gallons of sugary drinks, and living a sedentary lifestyle can make you vulnerable to developing type 2 diabetes, especially as you age.2 This in turn can put you at a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, amputations, and blindness.

Since November is American Diabetes Month, we thought it was important to make sure this potentially devastating disease was on your radar. But the news isn’t all bad. Read on to discover some helpful tips to help you avoid becoming one of the statistics.

What Is Type 2 Diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes occurs when there is an impairment in the way the body regulates and uses sugar (glucose) as a fuel. Typically, this happens when the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin. Insulin is a hormone that shuttles glucose into your cells so they can use it for energy. Making matters even worse, when you have diabetes, your cells become insulin resistant and take in less glucose than they normally would. This can lead to too much sugar circulating throughout your blood stream. Over time, these high blood sugar levels could lead to problems with your circulatory, nervous, and immune systems.

What about prediabetes? This condition simply means that your blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be classified as type 2 diabetes. That doesn’t mean it isn’t serious though. Without intervention, it’s likely to become type 2 diabetes within 10 years. But here’s the good news: progression from prediabetes to type 2 diabetes isn’t inevitable. With lifestyle changes, weight loss, and targeted supplementation, it’s possible to bring blood sugar levels back into a normal range.

Are You at Risk?

There are a number of risk factors that can contribute to the development of pre-diabetes and diabetes. Here are the most common:

Weight. The more fatty tissue you have, the more resistant your cells become to insulin. However, you don’t have to be overweight to develop type 2 diabetes.

Fat distribution. If your body stores fat primarily in your abdomen, your risk of developing type 2 diabetes becomes greater than if you store fat elsewhere, like your hips and thighs.

Inactivity. The less active you are, the greater your risk of type 2 diabetes since a sedentary life can downgrade insulin sensitivity.

Family history. The risk of type 2 diabetes increases if your parent or sibling has type 2 diabetes.

Race. Although it’s unclear why, blacks, Hispanics, American Indians and Asian-Americans are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.

Age. The risk of type 2 diabetes increases as you get older, especially after age 45.

Gestational diabetes. If you developed gestational diabetes when you were pregnant or if you gave birth to a baby weighing more than nine pounds, you are at increased risk of type 2 diabetes.

Polycystic ovary syndrome. This common condition, which is characterized by irregular menstrual periods, excess hair growth, and obesity, increases the risk of diabetes.

6 Ways to Prevent Diabetes

Even if you have a family history of type 2 diabetes, the following strategies can proactively reduce your own risk of developing the condition. As a bonus, they’ll also improve your overall metabolic health—even if you’ve already been diagnosed with full-blown diabetes.

Get tested. Because pre-diabetes and early-stage diabetes often have no symptoms, it’s smart to get an A1C test. This simple blood test provides information about a person’s average blood sugar levels over the past three months. The A1C test result is reported as a percentage. The higher the percentage, the higher a person’s blood glucose levels have been. A normal A1C level is below 5.7 percent.3

Choose your food wisely. At its core, type 2 diabetes is a nutritional disease. That means what you eat can play a critical role in preventing, managing, and even reversing diabetes. The most important thing to know is that eating a diet high in refined, starchy, or sugary foods and drinks promotes high fasting blood sugar and makes you more prone to insulin resistance, weight gain, and an increased risk of diabetes. Opt instead for foods that help keep your blood sugar on an even keel. Among the best are minimally processed foods that are low on the glycemic index (GI). These include antioxidant-rich non-starchy vegetables, high quality protein, and healthy fats. To find the GI of your favorite foods, visit glycemicindex.com/foodSearch.php.

Watch your weight. Studies show that losing just five to ten percent of your body weight can reduce your chances of developing the disease by nearly 60 percent.4 And if you’re already suffering from type 2 diabetes, shedding those excess pounds can make you less insulin resistant.

Get moving! When you engage in physical activity, your muscles require more energy in the form of blood sugar. This lowers the amount of glucose in your blood. Exercise also increases insulin sensitivity. But you don’t need to become a gym rat to experience the metabolic perks of physical activity. Research in the journal Diabetologia found that engaging in brief snack-sized portions of moderate- to high-intensity exercise before meals helped to control blood glucose levels better than spending an uninterrupted hour on the treadmill.5

Don’t shortchange your shuteye. Numerous studies report that sleep deprivation can have a dramatic effect on your blood sugar and insulin levels. Aim to consistently get seven to nine hours of quality sleep each night.6

Add supplemental blood sugar support. While diet and exercise can go a long way towards keeping your blood sugar levels in a healthy range, sometimes you need a little extra support. This is especially important if you are prediabetic or otherwise at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes. But, be aware that not all blood sugar supplements are the same. Look for a comprehensive supplement like Kyolic Blood Sugar Balance that provides clinically studied ingredients such as Aged Garlic Extract, which has been shown to improve the uptake of glucose and help reduce diabetic complications; bitter melon, which helps make cells more sensitive—rather than resistant—to insulin; and salacia, which prevents blood sugar spikes by stabilizing glucose levels.7, 8, 9  What’s more, Kyolic Blood Sugar Balance also includes two nutrients—chromium picolinate and niacin—that not only improve blood sugar but also aid in weight management when combined with a healthy diet and exercise.10, 11

Type 2 diabetes may be heading toward epidemic territory but it doesn’t have to be part of your future. Taking steps now to support healthy insulin production and sensitivity can keep your blood sugar in check and your odds of developing diabetes low. But if you’ve already been diagnosed with prediabetes or diabetes, working with your healthcare provider to develop a plan that incorporates these lifestyle changes can help you break free from this all-too-common condition.

How to Evaluate Supplements

These days there seems to be a dizzying number of supplements offering practically any nutrient you can think of, from vitamins and minerals to probiotics and amino acids. While that can be a boon to your health, it can also be a headache trying figure out which supplement is right for you. But you don’t have to feel like you’re reading a foreign language when looking at supplement labels any longer. Here’s how to decode  the Supplement Facts labels so you know exactly what you’re getting.

Supplements Soaring in Popularity 

Over the last couple of decades, supplement use has seen a steady increase with multivitamins, calcium, protein, and vitamin D leading the pack. 2 According to the National Center for Health Statistics, from 2007–2008 to 2017–2018, the use of dietary supplements among American adults rose from 48.4 percent to 56.1 percent. Women tend to be more likely to make them a part of their daily regimen than men do (63.8 percent to 50.8 percent). And almost one-quarter of adults aged 60 and over report taking four or more dietary supplements.1 With stats like these, it’s no wonder that the global dietary supplement market was valued at more than $150 billion in 2021!3

Flashy Labels

When you’re in the market for a supplement, it can be difficult to determine if a product is any good by just looking at the label on the front. That’s because the bright and flashy front labels are often splashed with marketing techniques designed to get you to buy a company’s products. Claims like “#1 Doctor Recommended,” “Advanced Formula,” or “High Absorption” all sound good but they are subjective and don’t necessarily mean that a product will work for you. Instead, it’s the back label that you should be focusing on.

supplement fact panel image

How to Review the Supplement Facts Label

Every dietary-supplement company is required to place a Supplement Facts label on their product. And all Supplement Facts labels must include some basic info. The FDA mandates that five statements be listed:4

  • The name of the dietary supplement
  • The serving size and servings per container
  • The quantity of each nutrient
  • A full and accurate list of ingredients
  • The name and place of business of the manufacturer, packer, or distributor

A good place to start is with the serving size. Usually the first thing listed on the Supplement Facts label, this will let you know how much you should take to get a full dose.

Then you’ll want to pore over the nutrients listed. Depending on what type of supplement you’re looking at, this may be a single item or a laundry list. A basic magnesium supplement will typically only contain magnesium. But a multivitamin will list dozens of nutrients.

To the right of these nutrients, you’ll see the quantity of each nutrient, usually presented in grams (g), milligrams (mg), or micrograms (mcg), as well as the Percent Daily Value (%DV). This tells you what percentage of your daily need of a particular vitamin or mineral is provided in the supplement, based on the average 2,000-calorie diet. If a product contains 25% of the DV for a certain nutrient, say calcium, then that means the supplement will supply 25% of your daily recommended calcium, and you should get the remaining 75% from other sources, ideally from the foods you eat. Oftentimes, supplements will offer much more than 100% of the Daily Value.

What Else to Look For

In addition to those basic requirements, there are a few more items to consider:

Suggested usage. Even though the serving size will be listed under Supplement Facts, that may not be the amount that you’ll be recommended to take. Be sure to look for the “suggested use” instructions to get an idea of how many times per day you’ll need to take a particular supplement for maximinum benefit.

Other Ingredients. These are typically the ingredients used to bind the nutrients together so that they’re consumable. Cellulose, gelatin, magnesium stearate, calcium carbonate, silicon dioxide are common to see in this section.

If you are vegan or vegetarian, you’ll want to pay special attention to these additional ingredients. Unless it says otherwise, you can bet that many of them are animal based. Most capsules are made of gelatin, which is derived from animal body parts. But other animal byproducts can fly under the radar, too. With names such as pepsin, lipase, collagen, glycerin, they can be easy to miss.

Free of. Some supplements won’t just tell you what’s in them; they may also tell you what’s not. From “no artificial flavors” to “gluten free,” these claims can be listed anywhere on the packaging. Manufacturers may also warn that, even though foods such as wheat, gluten, soy, milk, egg, fish or shellfish are not used in the supplement, trace levels may be present due to their being produced in the same facility. This is critical info if you have food allergies.

There are certain symbols to look out for as well. The letter “K” in a triangle signifies that it’s kosher. “Non-GMO” means that a product doesn’t use genetically modified ingredients. And “DNA Sequencing Verified” indicates that a probiotic supplement’s bacterial strains have been confirmed.

Ingredient names. Most ingredients are pretty easy to identify, whereas others can be a bit more tricky. For instance, vitamin C could be listed as ascorbic acid or ascorbate. And then there are probiotics, which typically have not only two names but also a strain code: for instance Lactobacillus (genus) gasseri (species) KS-13 (strain code). While these differences may seem minor on the surface, they can mean the difference between getting the relief you’re expecting and wasting your money.

For example, Bifidobacterium longum MM-2 helps manage cholesterol as opposed to Bifidobacterium longum BB536, which support gut immunity.5 6 And since researchers have identified nearly 8,000 of unique bacterial strains in the gut microbiome, it’s important to know which one you’re getting.7

When buying a probiotic, it’s also smart to check the number of CFUs (colony-forming units) it contains. This tells you how many beneficial bacteria you’re getting in each dose. Most doses range from 1 to 10 billion CFUs that you take once or twice a day. Also look for “guaranteed live at expiry” so that you know the probiotics will be viable all the way through the supplement’s shelf life.

CGMP compliance. Current Good Manufacturing Practices, or CGMPs, are standards set by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and all dietary-supplements makers are required to adhere to them.8 These rules cover every aspect of supplement production, from the raw materials, facilities, and equipment to the training and personal hygiene of employees. These regulations ensure that a product is safe for use and that it provides the ingredients and efficacy it claims to provide.9

Certifications. Some supplements are endorsed by a third-party group, such as NSF International, the US Pharmacopeial Convention (USP), or ConsumerLab.com. These organizations perform independent analyses to certify that what’s on the label is in the bottle. Typically, these include toxicology and contamination tests to ensure the product your purchasing is safe and doesn’t contain any ingredients not listed on the packaging.

Best by date. This one is obvious but it bears acknowledging. Make sure to check that your supplement will still be good by the time you intend to use it; otherwise it may lose its potency and its effectiveness.

Keep In Mind

There’s one more thing you’re sure to notice. Somewhere on the packaging you’ll see the advisory “these statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.” Remember that the FDA regulates dietary supplements as food, not as drugs. In fact, supplement companies don’t have to provide FDA with the evidence it relies on to substantiate safety before or after marketing its products.10 Rather, the companies are responsible for ensuring that the dietary supplements it manufactures or distributes are not adulterated or misbranded.

Do Some Digging

Aside from scrutinizing the label itself, it’s also smart look into the manufacturer. While you might be drawn to a certain product for its purported benefits, don’t just take the label’s word for it. Do a quick Google search and check out the manufacturer’s website. Quality supplement manufacturers will highlight the science behind their ingredients and their finished products. This includes randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled human trials, which are considered the gold standard in research.

Supplement shopping can be overwhelming. But with a little knowledge of what to look for and how to decipher the ingredients, you’ll be able to translate a Supplements Facts label with ease.

Improve Your Mood with Probiotics

With all the burdens of work, family, and finances combined with a constant 24/7 news cycle and social media pressures, it seems easier than ever to struggle with your mental health. It’s not your imagination either—researchers have found that day-to-day stress and a sense of lower overall well-being are much higher now than compared to just a few decades ago.1

Feeling the Blues

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly 10 percent of US adults, aged 18 or older, have experienced some type of mood disorder in the past year. But even though it may seem logical to think that a mood disorder means that something is “off” in the brain, that may not be the case. Instead, there may be something wrong in your gut.

The Gut-Brain Axis

The gut and the brain are connected. In fact, they are constantly talking to each other, with one of the main lines of communication being the vagus nerve. The longest cranial nerve in the body, the vagus nerve extends from the brain all the way down to the gastrointestinal tract, where your gut microbiome resides. And what affects one can affect the other. Disruption of this axis is linked to all kinds of gut issues, including gastroesophageal reflux disease, peptic ulcers, indigestion, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, and even food allergies.2 And an imbalance in your gut bacteria can affect your mood and your susceptibility to stress and anxiety by influencing the activity of your vagus nerve.3

Probiotics to the Rescue

Clinical studies have shown that people suffering from depression have an abnormal composition of their gut microbiota compared to those who aren’t depressed.4 Fortunately, boosting the health of your microbiome—and therefore your brain—can be as easy as taking a probiotic supplement. By introducing beneficial bacteria, you can get a handle on your mental well-being by balancing your gut. In fact, probiotics can influence everything from anxiety and depression to obsessive-compulsive disorder and memory.5

And there’s no shortage of recent scientific evidence that shows the positive effect probiotics have on mood:

In one double-blind, placebo-controlled study, 38 healthy volunteers were given either a daily dose of probiotics or a placebo. After six weeks, researchers noticed a significant improvement in the probiotic group, with participants showing reductions in depression, anger, and fatigue, as well as an improvement in sleep quality.6

In another double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 423 new mothers, a daily probiotic was shown to significantly improve depression and anxiety symptoms from pregnancy to six months after delivery.7

And a four-week trial of people experiencing chronic sadness showed a considerable improvement in rumination and aggressive thoughts among the subjects taking a multispecies probiotic compared to those receiving a placebo.8

What to Look For in a Probiotic

As beneficial as probiotics can be, they aren’t a one-size-fits-all solution for your mental well-being. Since certain probiotic strains are much more effective at regulating your mood than others, it’s important to look for a supplement that provides specific strains based on your needs. You can also opt for a multi-strain supplement that combines benefits for both the body and mind.

It’s also important to check the CFU count. You’ll want a supplement that provides at least one billion colony-forming units (CFUs) to be effective. Although some products on the market can contain 50 billion CFUs or more, that doesn’t necessarily mean all those beneficial bacteria will be alive when you take them. Look for “guaranteed live at expiry” on the label so that you know you’re getting viable probiotics throughout the product’s entire shelf life.

Mood-Enhancing Habits

As effective as probiotics can be at improving your mood, they aren’t the only thing that you should focus on to improve your mental health. Here are some lifestyle tips that can also have a big impact:

Exercise. Breaking a sweat can have a huge impact on your mental state. Studies show that moderate-intensity exercise is associated with better mood. And it doesn’t take much—just 10 to 30 minutes of exercise can be enough for a brain boost. For the most benefit, opt for anaerobic exercises like interval training, weight lifting, Pilates, or yoga.9

Meditate. A 2021 review shows that meditation provides a wealth of positive benefits for your mood. It increases self-compassion and results in brain changes in regions related to emotion regulation while decreasing blood pressure, heart rate, and cortisol—a hormone known to influence stress.10

Laugh. Laughter is the best medicine. And science backs that up: laughing has in impact on mental health by enhancing positive emotion, stimulating cognition, reducing stress, promoting positive coping skils, and improving interpersonal relationships.11

Be social. Getting together with friends can make a world difference on your mood. Social support is so effective that Australian researchers found that it’s the strongest indicator of depression in older adults.12

Probiotics can do so much more than keep your digestion on track. A wealth of emerging evidence shows that probiotics also play a significant role in mental health. Whether you’re feeling a little blue or you’re suffering from more long-term anxiety or depression, a probiotic supplement may give your mood the boost it needs.

Healthy Arteries, Healthy Heart

Without healthy arteries to carry oxygen and vital nutrients to the rest of your body, you could be at risk for a host of health issues, even death. Unfortunately, clogged arteries, medically known as atherosclerosis, is an all-too-common problem these days.

What Is Atherosclerosis?

Atherosclerosis is a chronic inflammatory disease in which fatty deposits build up in your arteries.1 Known as plaque, these deposits slowly develop as cholesterol, fats, and other substances accumulate over the years, causing your arteries to narrow and stiffen. This not only reduces blood flow but also decreases the crucial supply of oxygen and other vital nutrients to the rest of your body. Atherosclerosis is the underlying cause of about 50 percent of all deaths in the Western world.2

Are You at Risk?

There’s a decent chance you already have atherosclerosis and don’t even know it. According to the National Institutes of Health, about half of Americans between the ages of 45 and 84 are unaware that they have this potentially deadly disease.

Several factors can contribute to your risk of developing atherosclerosis:

Poor diet. Your eating habits may have the biggest impact on arterial health. The more high-fat foods you eat—especially those found in ultra-processed food—the better chance you have of clogging up your arteries. According to the American Heart Association, chowing down on saturated fats, and especially trans fats, causes your body to produce LDL cholesterol, which can accumulate in the arteries and contribute to blockages. Elevated levels of LDL cholesterol are directly associated with a heightened risk for atherosclerosis development and atherosclerotic cardiovascular events.3 4

If you eat a meat-centric diet, you may be putting your arteries at a higher risk of atherosclerosis. That’s because animal protein can increase the production of an amino acid called homocysteine. And high homocysteine levels have been shown to cause arterial inflammation and atherosclerosis.5

Physical inactivity. If you live life as a couch potato, you aren’t doing your health any favors. Spending your free time in front of the TV not only has a negative effect on your weight; it also has an unhealthy impact on your cholesterol levels.6

Smoking. The danger smoking poses to your lungs is well established. But this harmful habit also creates a serious risk to your cardiovascular health and has been identified as an independent risk factor for atherosclerosis. Tobacco smoke contains nicotine, which can wreak havoc on your arteries by increasing inflammation and stimulating receptors that accelerate the formation of atherosclerosis.7

Other health concerns. You’re more liable to face problems in your arteries if you already suffer from another health issue. For instance, diabetes increases the incidence of coronary artery disease.8 And patients with high blood pressure are also more susceptible to coronary atherosclerosis.9

Love Your Heart

Fortunately, it’s not all doom and gloom. You can reduce your chances of clogged arteries—and even reverse atherosclerosis—by getting all of the major risk factors under control.10 Here’s how:

Check with your doctor. Because atherosclerosis can fly under the radar, it’s a good idea to check with your doctor to make sure your cardiovascular health and cholesterol levels are up to par. It’s even more important to seek professional medical advice if you’re experiencing common symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, and muscle weakness. These are all signs that you may have a blockage in your arteries.

Tweak your diet. Avoid or minimize foods with a high saturated fat content, such as soft cheeses, bacon, fried foods, and commercial baked goods (which are usually loaded with trans fats). That doesn’t mean you have to give up on your favorite fare, though. Use an air fryer instead of traditional frying. Opt for healthy cooking oils that are low in saturated fats, such as olive oil. And incorporate a superfood or two, like avocado, into your meals. In fact, eating an avocado each day can reduce oxidized LDL in overweight and obese adults, according to a 2019 report in The Journal of Nutrition.11 Also, make sure to get plenty of fiber. Soluble fiber can reduce the absorption of cholesterol into your bloodstream.

Get your heart rate up. Physical activity has a huge impact on the health of your arteries. Endurance exercise, like jogging or biking, can reduce early aortic lesion formation.12 Swimming has been shown to activate autophagy and reduce atherosclerotic lesions in the aorta.13 And for those with existing cardiovascular disease, exercise improves vasodilation (widening of the blood vessels) and quality of life, while reducing the inflammation that causes the development of atherosclerosis.14

Break unhealthy habits. Quitting smoking, no matter your age, will have an immediate impact on your health. Not only will your lungs begin to heal, but your blood pressure and circulation will improve, and your risk for heart issues will quickly start to decline. It’s also smart to cut back on alcohol as excessive drinking can lead to all sorts of cardiovascular problems, including high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and peripheral arterial disease.15 But don’t worry—you can still enjoy that morning cup of joe. Several studies have shown that a higher coffee intake is associated with a reduced risk of heart failure.16

Add a supplement. You can give your artery health a boost with a targeted supplement. One supplement in particular, Aged Garlic Extract (AGE), is known to have big benefits on the cardiovascular system. AGE has been shown to slow the progression of coronary calcification in those with coronary artery disease.17 It also prevents coronary artery calcification, and lowers blood glucose levels and blood pressure in patients at increased risk of cardiovascular events.18

For general cardiovascular support, look for a high-potency AGE supplement, such as Kyolic Cardiovascular Health One Per Day Formula 250, which helps maintain proper circulation and overall heart health.

But if high cholesterol and homocysteine levels are more your concern, opt for a supplement that combines AGE with the B vitamins. Kyolic Total Heart Health Formula 108 contains a powerful blend of artery-smart Aged Garlic Extract and specific B vitamins, which have been shown to lower homocysteine levels and the risk of cardiovascular disease.19

Atherosclerosis can pose a serious danger to your health. But by taking action early, you can prevent—and even reverse—arterial problems so your cardiovascular system can stay health for many years to come.

Podcast: Dietitian Carolina Schneider Talks Healthy Diet Tips, Including Supplementing with Aged Garlic Extract

She discusses healthy dietary changes everybody can make, her experience going vegan, and how to cover nutritional gaps in your diet – noting that the best way to do so is through supplementation.

One of the supplements she mentions is Aged Garlic Extract – she talks about its aging process and how this process compounds the amount of antioxidants present, how it is great for cardiovascular health, great for supporting healthy blood pressure, cholesterol, and more. She first mentions Aged Garlic Extract at the 3:55 minute mark.

Click here to listen to the full segment.

About Carolina Schneider, MS, RD

Carolina Schneider is a Registered Dietitian and nutritional writer, as well as a consultant for health & wellness brands.

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.

Make Back to School Healthy

Make Back to School Healthy

That’s because fall also heralds the start of cold and flu season. Although it’s important to make sure the little scholars stay healthy in the classroom, students aren’t the only ones who get sick this time of year. Teachers and parents are also at risk of catching any bug that’s circulating around campus. And the last thing you need right now is to be stuck on the sidelines with an illness. Let’s make back to school healthy!

Back to School Means More Colds and Flu

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, most kids get six to eight colds per year—and children who attend daycare get even more. Most respiratory illnesses have been shown to occur in the fall and winter, when children are indoors and exposed to more germs.1 And that means your exposure goes way up, too! Making matters worse, humidity also drops this time of year, and that makes nasal passages drier, putting you at greater risk for infection.

Tips for a Healthy Back to School

Sidestepping illness isn’t always easy. But following a few proven steps can help to keep your risk of getting sick this year to a minimum.

Wash your hands. Germs live on surfaces—and kids seem to touch everything. That’s why washing your hands can be one of the most effective ways of eliminating any bacteria and viruses you may encounter throughout the school day. The Centers for Disease Control recommends washing with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds, which is about how long it takes to sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice. And remember: hand sanitizer should be used as addition to, not as a substitute for, handwashing.

Make sure that you’re eating healthy. Back-to-school schedules can leave you with little time to focus on eating right. Though the drive-thru or pizza delivery may be crowd-pleasing time-savers, the foods they offer are typically devoid of any meaningful nutrients, and that can create the perfect environment for an illness to take hold. That’s because what you eat has a direct impact on the makeup and activity of your gut microbiota, which affects both your physical and mental health.2 Fast and prepackaged meals are also loaded with unhealthy fats and additives. A recent study showed that a high-fat diet can hinder the activation of T-cells, which help protect the body from infection.3 So instead of leaving your dinner choices to the last minute, take a couple of hours over the weekend to meal prep for the upcoming week. That way, you can make sure you’re eating healthy while saving time when you need it most.

Try to manage stress. Let’s be real: back-to-school stress is unavoidable. No matter how good a planner you are, the sudden flurry of activity that the fall brings can leave you feeling frazzled. Schedules are instantly more hectic, and the constant stress of being pulled in every direction can leave your immune system vulnerable to harmful invaders. If back to school stress becomes chronic, it can wear your immune system down, and open you up to a host of more-serious health issues, including inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).4

Take five. Blocking out a little time each day to unwind can do wonders for your well-being. Meditation can not only clear your head and reduce stress, it can have an impact on excessive or persistent inflammation that comes with a sluggish immune system.5 If you’re new to this practice, a good place to start is by downloading a meditation app on your phone, such as Calm, Headspace, or Serenity.

Get plenty of sleep. Shifting schedules, extracurricular activities, and late nights can really mess with your sleep routine. But not getting enough shut-eye can negatively affect immune response and lead to increased pro-inflammatory activity, which can increase your risk of catching whatever’s going around. It can also increase your risk of developing an inflammation-related chronic disease over the long run.6 However, if you find that getting the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep each night just isn’t in the cards, at least try to keep a consistent sleep schedule. Hit the sack at the same time every night, as a regular sleep schedule may be more important than how many hours you log each night.

Level up your immunity with a supplement. Even if you take precautions this cold and flu season, it may not be enough to ward off every bug you encounter. That’s why it’s smart to give your immune system a little added support with a clinically proven supplement. One supplement that has been shown to be effective at reinforcing your immune response during cold and flu season is Aged Garlic Extract (AGE). Taking AGE can enhance immune-cell function and reduce the severity of colds and flu.7 It’s also been shown to reduce inflammation and improve your gut’s microbial profile.8

Even better, a supplement that pairs AGE with other immune-supporting nutrients can provide you with an extra layer of protection when it’s time to go back to school. Look for a supplement containing not not only the power of aged garlic but also vitamin C, which has been reported to both prevent and treat respiratory and systemic infections.9  But it’s immune-supporting benefits don’t stop there. This unique formula also boasts astragalus, medicinal mushrooms, and oregano—a trio of proven herbs shown to upregulate your defenses.

Going back to school is challenging enough on its own. But adding in cold and flu season requires giving your health a little extra attention this fall. With these steps, you can protect yourself so you and your students won’t miss any time away from school.