Vitamins, nutritional supplements, dietary aids, medicinal herbs and weight loss products are everywhere these days. Some are great… others, not so much. Sifting through the panorama can be mind-boggling. I suggest doing your research. What your body might need may not be obvious. In lieu of simply popping prescriptions or trying what your friends recommend, take the time to understand what you might be taking. If you’re taking a new Rx and want to try a new dietary supplement or combine it with a product you already take, talk to your doctor or nurse about its risks and benefits and check out all the side effects before you take the plunge. Many times there are non-chemical and non-habit forming, natural vitamin and supplement options available on the market. If you’ve been feeling run down, achy, sleepy, grumpy, goofy or gassy your body may need some extra help to level off.
I have been taking vitamins and supplements for years and have personally experienced their beneficial effects. The following is a categorized selection of some of the best supplements I’ve used for various health-enhancing purposes. I’ve seen and felt them work in my body, but know that not all supplements have the same effects on all body chemistries. Just as when you take prescriptions or try new foods or herbs, you should always exercise caution when trying these products and do consult your doctor or health care provider if you’re not sure about possible allergic reactions or health complications. Also, some supplements should not be taken with prescription drugs. Please do your research before trying any new product!
The statements I make here are not meant to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease or affliction. The use of these products comes from my experiential knowledge. The purpose of this post is educational and the information I’m sharing is merely meant to help you look at options for advancing your knowledge of dietary and nutritional supplementation. The products I have pictured are brands that I trust, but there are many other great products on the market. Consult your doctor, dietician, nutritionist, herbalist or homeopathic practitioner for more information.
Inflammation and swelling are the leading causes of pain in the body and are usually the precursors for dysfunction, disorder and disease. Reducing inflammation in the body makes your blood vessels, nerve pathways, muscles, joints and digestive tract more functional and makes you feel less achy. Some of the best anti-inflammatories come from natural plant extracts. Curcumin, the main anti-inflammatory agent in Turmeric, is a fantastic supplement for reducing joint pain and swelling. Cinnamon and cayenne pepper have also been shown to lessen blood vessel restrictions due to swelling. Apple cider vinegar balances the pH of your stomach and tones the digestive tract, reducing the bloat and indigestion associated with inflammatory irritation.
A group of phyto-nutrients, called “cyanidins,” have also been proven to mitigate tissue inflammation and can improve blood glucose and metabolic disorders. Red wine, pine bark, goji berry and bilberry extracts and resveratrol have some the highest anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties and have even been shown to fight cancer cells! You may want to consider trying one of nature’s anti-inflammatories before you pop an Advil, Tylenol or Aleve. They’re much easier on the stomach and you can almost never develop an immunity to their effects.
Microbes, or microscopic organisms like bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi, are no fun when they invade the body and make a home there. Their deleterious effects on the immune system can be devastating! Some microbiological organisms are actually beneficial and essential to our health, like probiotic bacteria that eat up waste by-products in our digestive tract that would otherwise pollute our blood and kill us. But others just make us so sick we wish were dead, like Influenza, Rhinovirus, Candida or mold spores. Still there are many less common microbes like Ebola, Malaria, H1N1, MRSA and Dengue that can set up shop in the blood, skin, respiratory system and intestines and cause more long-lasting health effects. Of course, Western medical science has come up with a slew of antibiotic drugs to combat these tiny marauders. Though in recent years over-prescription and abuse of antibiotics has lead to drug-resistant strains of microbiology and destruction of disease-fighting probiotics (as most antibiotics don’t discriminate what microbes they kill). Again, some of the best alternative options for busting these bugs and boosting the immune system come in the form of herbal and plant-based extracts.
My absolute favorite anti-microbial, the one I have used at the first sign of a cold or flu for nearly twenty years, is Oil of Oregano. It is perhaps Mother Nature’s strongest and most effective non-synthetic anti-microbial. The best way to take it is in liquid “P-73” form, but fair warning, it is extremely bitter and should not touch the tongue directly or it will cause a burning sensation. It can be mixed into a soup or stew but is most powerful when taken with a dropper directly down the throat, preferably chased by an acidic juice to hide the taste. It works wonders, reducing symptoms and duration of infection to usually only a couple days if taken at the first sign of illness. It can even be applied topically for infections of the skin! Truly a diverse and divinely curative herb!
Some other astonishingly effective anti-microbials include garlic (Kyolic brand), zinc (Zicam or Opti-Zinc work great), ginger, colloidal silver, Vitamin D-3, cat’s claw and red marine algae (or Gigartina), which has been shown to reduce the viral load in HIV patients! There are still many plant extracts and herbal remedies being explored for their anti-microbial properties, but these are the major highlights and they are all worth considering if you have a temporary or chronic health issue associated with microscopic squatters.
STRESS REDUCERS, ENERGY BOOSTERS & MOOD ENHANCERS
Stress is the number one killer in the United States and we’ve been exporting that dubious cultural by-product for years now. It’s created a worldwide weakness and malaise with symptoms ranging from heart attack and stroke to eating and digestive disorders to mood and mental disorders, maybe even cancer! Thankfully there are a few natural ways of beating stress that don’t require sedatives, street drugs or murdering your boss!
If your energy is sapped by stress, you might want to start taking a ginseng supplement. For centuries people from Eurasia have taken different breeds of ginseng root to lift their spirits and boost their energy, mood and productivity. Panax ginseng is one of the most common forms and can be found at your local health food store, or as I call it, my “home away from home.” Bee Propolis is another supplement that makes your nerves fire more efficiently and enhances cellular health and energy output. Of course, a solid, bio-available Vitamin B-Complex is essential for maintaining daily energy. If you’re not getting your B’s through proper nutrition, a supplement can work wonders for your energy and endurance.
Stress can put a significant strain on your adrenal glands. If you’re consistently tense and troubled, fighting and flying everyday, they may need to be detoxified every so often. I have had a great experience using Gaia brand Adrenal Health Formula and would recommend using it to anyone who’s been through a traumatic or turbulent time. If your mood is low, you may want to consider using the L-tryptophan amino acid by-product, 5-HTP, a plant extract from Griffonia Beans. Start with a low 100 mg dosage and increase only as needed. It is a precursor to Serotonin and helps correct brain chemistry so you feel less moody or depressed. There are many other supplements that can uplift your mood, raise your energy or reduce stress. These are just a sample of what I’ve used and found effective.
WEIGHT LOSS, DETOX & DIGESTIVE AIDS
If you want to shed pounds, improve your body’s waste management or cure digestive disorders there are several nutritional supplements that can help. Digestion is they ultimate key to having and maintaining good health. Some estimates state that perhaps 90% of our immune response comes from the digestive tract. So if your diet is poor, so is your health. No supplement can take the place of eating and drinking well. But a good fiber supplement, detox program or probiotic and digestive enzyme supplement can steer you in the right direction.
Here’s the skinny on losing visceral or belly fat, the most deadly kind of fat storage that leads to health problems associated with obesity, arterial decay, heart disease and diabetes. Eat more fiber! Fiber, in vegetables, fruit or whole grains breaks down fat and protein and keeps your intestines healthy. No fiber? Big problems! If you aren’t getting enough, try a daily fiber supplement like Fiber-3, Metamucil or Fruit-Eze. But also, really consider changing your lifestyle and eating habits to include more plant based fiber nutrition until you lose the weight and gain the healthy digestion you need to live a long, fruitful life!
Aside from that, there are some fabulous detox and weight loss supplements I’ve tried with stupendous results. Apple Cider Vinegar or Aloe juice seem to fix most common digestive disorders like indigestion, gas and bloating and can be used as a short-term, reactive detox after indulging in acidic, sugary or fatty foods. The best detox I’ve used is the Garden of Life brand Wild Rose Herbal D-tox, a twelve-day gentle digestive detox system that clears waste and undigested food from your gut! I love a good probiotic, too. I prefer an Isotonic formula (powder you add water to and drink), but most with a high potency, 50 billion or more live cell count will do nicely. ReNew Life Ultimate Flora is a solid go-to brand.
The best supplements I’ve used to shed or keep off excess pounds include Green Coffee Bean extract, Pau D’Arco (Candida support formula), Bladderwrack (Fucus Kelp) and Raspberry Ketones. Conjugated Linoleic Acid (or CLA) is another great way to reduce the loading of your fat cells when dieting. Ginger tea and alkaline water also reduce intestinal swelling and help improve digestion and shed water weight generated by an acidic pH imbalance.
Can’t sleep? You’re not a lone! More than half of all Americans complain of occasional or chronic insomnia. A lack of sufficient, quality sleep can have far-reaching ill health effects including poor focus, lowered immune function, obesity, mood swings, dependency on stimulants, accidents and impaired mental functions. With so many work deadlines, social responsibilities, media distractions, bright lights, alerts and technological buzzes and beeps keeping us awake until all hours, we’re on the verge of a zombie apocalypse. So how do we recapture those essential Vitamin Z’s?
The amino acid L-tryptophan, found in warm milk and turkey or taken as an oral supplement helps the brain to produce relaxation hormones like serotonin and can help you catch up on sleep, but may require a significant dosage if you’re deficient. Melatonin is another brain relaxing sleep hormone tied to your circadian rhythms and can be found in rice and fruit like tomato and grapes or can be taken in pill form. I’ve had excellent results with Valerian poppy extract, taken as a sub-lingual liquid supplement. But with all these, you must go to bed within fifteen minutes of dosing.
Bach flower remedies natural Rescue Sleep aid and Rescue Remedy formula, in liquid or pastille form are an excellent option for non-habit forming sleep assistance as they calm the central nervous system with all-natural flower extracts. The homeopathic sleep aid, Calms or Calms Forte brand, taken in tablet form can also be a lifesaver when nothing else seems to make you drowsy enough to drift into dreamland. If these options don’t help you and counting sheep has become sheer nonsense, you may want to consider having a sleep test or reducing the stress and distractions in your life so you can find your bedtime Zen.
As with any health, fitness or wellness program, the effectiveness of all nutritional and dietary vitamins and supplements depends on consistent and regular usage. Often supplements take four to six weeks to start working so one bottle, used at random, probably won’t give you the results you’re looking for. Consult a health care practitioner or nutritional expert if you’re not certain what product or dosage will work for your individual health and dietary goals and do your research before you explore the possibilities. The most important supplement to your health is always a quality education.