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Papaya Enzymes for Preventing Upset Stomach this Summer

I’ve written about digestive enzymes before for people with chronic or persistent digestive issues (bloating, indigestion, etc.) on regular use can make a huge difference in symptoms. This month, however, I wanted to write about the more basic papaya enzymes, which are great for people of all ages for occasional stomach upset or overindulgence. Enzymes are nice, since they are only beneficial- there are no negative side effects. When taken with or after a meal, they help to break down foods so they are more easily digested.  

Papaya enzymes are great for times when you may eat heavier or greasy foods, or for times when you feel overly full after eating- something that happens a lot at summer BBQs or on vacations.  They’re a great thing to keep in the house or a travel bag.  Having an upset stomach is a surefire way to ruin a fun time this summer, so keeping some chewable papaya enzymes on hand is a great idea.

I’ve also found them to be extremely helpful for when my daughter complains of an upset stomach.  Many times I don’t necessarily believe that her stomach actually hurts (since it’s frequently a bedtime complaint), but giving her one chewable papaya enzyme makes her happy.  It’s something I feel completely comfortable giving her, since it is just natural enzymes from papaya, which will help to digest any food in her stomach.  Even if her “upset stomach” is just imaginary, a papaya enzyme won’t hurt at all.  In fact, enzymes on an empty stomach can even help with reducing inflammation in the body.

Papaya enzymes can also help with heartburn.  My family usually eats pizza once a week (we’re dairy free, so I make homemade pizza with Daiya mozzarella cheese shreds), and my husband had been complaining of heartburn on pizza nights.  He started taking chewable papaya enzymes- two right before he’d eat pizza and two after if needed, and he has said it has completely taken away his pizza-heartburn.

We use the chewable papaya enzymes from American Health.  The standard dose for adults is three chewables (they’re small) with a meal or as needed.  They’re good tasting and can really help.

Again, papaya enzymes are the most basic of enzymes, so while they’re a good place to start, they might not be the best choice for everyone.  I’ll link a few articles below on digestive issues and supplements that can help:

Digestive Enzymes for Bloating, Gas, and Indigestion

Natural Relief for GERD

Natural Remedies for Indigestion and Heartburn


Protecting the Eyes from Blue Light from Electronic Devices

Q: I work in an office, and am on my computer the majority of the work day. My coworker has been talking about the blue light emitted by computers and other electronic devices and how it’s so damaging to the eyes (he even has special “computer glasses” to prevent damage). I’m wondering if this blue light is really as big of a deal as he seems to think it is, and what, if anything can be done to prevent that damage (I’d prefer to not wear the glasses though, since it’s not a great look). Any recommendations?

A: Research on the effects of blue light and its long term effect on the eyes is still in early stages, but it is definitely something to be aware of. In the past, most warnings on light damage to the eyes focused on UV light from the sun, which has been conclusively shown to cause damage to the eyes, which is the reason why optometrists and ophthalmologists for many years have stressed the importance of wearing sunglasses outside.

Blue light wavelengths are part of sunlight, but are also emitted by computer screens and electronic devices like smartphones and tablets. In just the past several years, the average person’s blue light exposure from electronics has increased exponentially, from over six hours a day for most children, nine hours for teenagers, and ten hours for the average adult. 

The most common complaints caused by this “Computer Vision Syndrome” are headaches, eye strain, and trouble focusing. Beyond those acute complaints, blue light has also been speculated to be the cause of even more severe problems over time, including an increase in age related macular degeneration and vision loss, since blue light penetrates even more deeply into the eye than UV light. Its cumulative effects may be even more of a problem over time than UV radiation.

In the past, thinking about eye health was often something that one would begin to worry about towards the end of middle age, but with the increase in screen usage, supplements for eye health would be of benefits for people of all ages, since it’s significantly easier to prevent a health problem than to try to reverse one.

Two nutrients which are absolutely crucial for preventing vision problems and maintaining proper eye health are the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, antioxidants found in leafy green vegetables and orange and red fruits and vegetables. These protective nutrients are found in the eye, but are not produced by the body, so it’s necessary to get them through foods and supplements. Lutein is present in more foods than zeaxanthin, which is found only in extremely small amounts, which makes supplementation a good idea even for people with a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables. The average American’s dietary intake of lutein is less than 2 milligrams, and the average daily intake of zeaxanthin is less than .5 milligrams, amounts that fall very short of the recommended doses found to be beneficial in scientific research.

Lutein has long been recognized for its benefit to eye health and preventing macular degeneration, though zeaxanthin is only recently becoming more well known. One of the ways zeaxanthin protects the eye from damage is by working to absorb destructive blue light; it also helps to protect the cells of the eye from harmful free radical damage, which reduces oxidative damage in the body and the eyes specifically. Lutein and zeaxanthin work almost like internal sunglasses against blue light and eye damage.

There are many eye supplements on the market, even at regular grocery stores, but let me emphatically say that they are not created equal. What it comes down to are ingredients and potency, which vary widely between products (which truly is the case with all supplements). All sorts of supplements can advertise how great they are, but if the nutrients they contain are not at a therapeutic level, or at the levels found to be effective in scientific research, they aren’t helping (or at least not to the level that they could be). 

I can’t even tell you how frequently a person will bring me in a bottle to the health food store of a supplement they’ve been taking, but when we look at the actual amount of ingredients it contains per pill, it falls short of the necessary effective dose. If you’re going to take a pill, you may as well take one that’s going to have amounts that really make a difference. There are many cases in which people are taking supplements that while they may be “better than nothing”; they are not in a dosage that is likely to produce the effects they are hoping for.

We have been searching for a supplement that had a nice high dose of lutein, as well as a good amount of zeaxanthin in one pill (zeaxanthin is difficult to find in higher amounts in supplements), and have finally found one that we would recommend by NOW Foods, a local company based in Bloomington, Illinois that contains 25 milligrams of lutein and 5 milligrams of zeaxanthin in one pill- a 5:1 ratio in the amounts shown to be of maximum effectiveness in protecting eyes against blue light damage as well as preventing macular degeneration and other degenerative vision issues.

Research has shown that lutein and zeaxanthin works best in a 5:1 ratio of lutein to zeaxanthin. In one recent placebo controlled study, researchers found that lutein and zeaxanthin, in a high dose formula, increased visual acuity and increased the macular pigment in the eyes- macular pigments work as filters against blue light damage to the retina.

The study found that taking 20 milligrams of lutein and 4 milligrams of zeaxanthin increased contrast sensitivity (an important measure of visual function in situations of low light or glare) and improved eye function, including the time it took for eyes to respond to changes in lighting from bright lights to baseline. 

Another study focused on lutein and zeaxanthin, in the same 5:1 ratio, on blue light and sleep. The participants who took the combination of lutein and zeaxanthin were found to have improved sleep quality after using electronic devices compared to the placebo. The researchers speculated that it was due to the lutein and zeaxanthin’s ability to absorb more blue light, which would otherwise disrupt the natural sleep cycle, signaling the body to stay awake. 

As to the question of blue blocking computer or “gaming glasses”, I am somewhat skeptical. Consumer Reports tested a group of blue light computer glasses and found that while the orange tinted varieties were most effective, while light yellow or clear lenses were significantly less effective. Personally, while I care about eye health, I’m not going to be going around wearing eyeglasses with orange lenses. 

There are also free apps available for iPhone and android which are said to help block the blue light on mobile devices; again, I think their effectiveness is far from conclusive, but I’ve started using one that has a timer where you can set it to go on at night (since blue light in the evenings has been shown to interfere with proper sleep patterns), and I figure it can’t hurt. Search “blue light filter” at the appstores to find one that will work on your device.

A Pass Favorite: Power to Sleep PM by Irwin Naturals

I have been having a difficult sleeping in the past few months, for no particular reason. I would go to sleep without a problem usually, but then wake up in the middle of the night and then not be able to get back to sleep for far too long. It was awful, because then I would be tired in the morning (sometimes all day) and then would find the cycle repeating, if not the next night, then usually several times a week.

As anyone who has struggled with sleeplessness knows, it’s extremely frustrating. After some trial and error, I found a supplement which has really helped- Irwin Naturals Power to Sleep PM. Power to Sleep PM contains a variety of relaxing herbs including valerian, passionflower, and hops which work well together to reduce stress and help you to sleep. Their formula also contains the amino acids L-Theanine and GABA, which help to reduce anxiety and induce calmness. It also contains melatonin, which helps to regulate the sleep cycle (interestingly, I’ve taken melatonin by itself and it did not seem to help me, but it appears that combining it with relaxing herbs makes a good combination).

The recommended dose is two softgels a half an hour before bedtime. I have been using it and have found it to work incredibly well, especially for helping me to sleep through the night. We do have some samples at the store so you can try it for a night to see if it helps, it really did help me!  

A New Favorite: Carlson's Omega 3 Olive Oil

We have a brand new product in stock from Carlson that I really wanted to highlight- it’s a premium olive oil with added omega 3’s called Olive Your Heart. As many of you know, omega 3s are absolutely crucial to our health- it’s not called an “essential fatty acid” for nothing!  

Omega 3s are important for both children and adults for their many benefits for brain function (including concentration and focus, reducing the symptoms of depression), heart and cardiovascular health (by reducing inflammation and lowering cholesterol and blood pressure), arthritis and more. 

Omega 3s cannot be manufactured in the body and must be obtained through diet. If you or your family members are not eating fatty fish or a good amount of flax and chia seeds multiple times a week, a deficiency in omega 3s are extremely likely.

I love this olive oil by Carlson, because it’s an easy way to boost omega 3s in your diet. Even for people who take vegetarian sources like flax or chia I would recommend it since the omega 3s in flax and chia do not contain EPA or DHA, but rather ALA, which the body then converts to the necessary omega 3 forms, EPA and DHA. The trouble with ALA is that not everyone converts it at the same rate, that there’s really no way of knowing how much EPA and DHA you’re getting. This is especially important for brain and eye health, since it’s primarily DHA that gives those benefits. For more information on the differences in various forms of omega 3s, see our article, All About Omegas, here.

When I first heard about this new “fish oil olive oil” by Carlson, I was skeptical, since who wants a fish flavored olive oil, even if you’re a fan of fish?  Well, we tried the Olive Your Heart olive oil and everyone loved it, there was no fishy taste at all. I’m a vegetarian, so I just smelled it, but let me say this- I am extremely sensitive to the smell of fish, and there was no fishy smell at all.

Even though we’re a vegetarian family, I do give omega 3s from fish oil to my soon-to-be second grade daughter because the research on omega 3 fish oil, particularly DHA for children’s developing brains, is too important and conclusive. When I gave her a bit of Carlson’s Olive Your Heart on her pasta, she thought it was delicious, and didn’t notice any strange smell or taste. Liz, who works at the store, has also been using this omega 3 olive oil with her family (without advertizing the fact that it contained fish oil) and they all think it tastes great.

Fish oil supplements can sometimes be a pain to take, so this is a great tasting alternative to omega 3 softgels. Even for people who regularly take omega 3 supplements, it’s a great way to get an extra boost for your health.

Click on any of the above photos to enlarge.

Peppermint Oil Softgels for IBS

Q: I have been dealing with IBS symptoms which seem to have gotten worse lately. I have a terrible time with intestinal cramping and gas, which have made life really difficult. So you have any recommendations of something that could help?  I’m kind of desperate.

A: Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, is a common digestive disorder that encompasses a variety of symptoms which includes recurring abdominal pain, gas, bloating, and changes in normal bowel movement (constipation and/or diarrhea).

The first supplement I’d recommend are peppermint oil softgels. Peppermint oil is a natural antispasmodic, which means that it reduces cramping, particularly in the bowels. Peppermint oil can also help with relieving excess gas. For IBS and digestive issues, it’s important to take enteric coated softgels, softgel capsules which have a protective coating so they are able to make it to the intestines without opening in the stomach, since peppermint oil in the stomach can cause heartburn. 

One study done by the American College of Gastroenterology found that 75% of people with IBS symptoms who took peppermint oil softgels twice daily had a significant reduction in symptoms and many found the peppermint gels completely stopped their IBS problems.

We’d especially recommend the enteric coated Peppermint Gels by NOW Foods. They’re a local Illinois company, and have added a bit of ginger and fennel to the peppermint oil, which further help to soothe the digestive tract. It’s an inexpensive and effective supplement, so it’s definitely one to try if you’ve been dealing with IBS.

Other supplements that can be helpful would be probiotics, particularly Solgar’s Probi probiotics, since they contain a specific a strain that has been researched with fantastic results for helping with IBS (see our article here for more information), as well as aloe vera juice and digestive enzymes.


Surprising Benefits of B Vitamins

B Vitamins are well known for their benefits for energy, which is the reason most people take them, but as time goes on, more and more research is appearing about the many varied benefits of B vitamins for a host of different issues.

Different B vitamins have benefits for an assortment of health issues, but in general, B vitamins do work best when taken together, since they’re closely related. I’ll list some of the more surprising benefits of B vitamin research below:

B1 (thiamine) helps to protect the body from nerve damage and can help to prevent neuropathy. High doses of B1 may also work as a natural insect repellent, since it changes the way that you smell to mosquitoes. 

Niacin (vitamin B3) can help with increased repair of DNA, something that is beneficial for neurodegenerative diseases among others. Niacin can also help with lowering cholesterol and low levels have even been linked to erectile dysfunction. 

B6, especially when taken as the form known as P-5-P (the active form of B6) can help with nerve problems like carpal tunnel and sciatica.

Vitamin B12 deficiency is especially common among the elderly, and one of the ways a B12 deficiency can manifest itself in older adults is with confusion, memory loss, and slowed motor skills. Low B12 levels can even cause lower brain volume which has been linked with dementia.

B12 deficiency can cause other brain problems like depression, anxiety, and mood disorders. B12 has also been shown to reduce the risk of fractures among older adults.

I’ve only listed a few of the unique benefits of some of the different B vitamins, but there are many, many more, which makes it smart to supplement with a B complex vitamin to ensure you’re getting the necessary amounts of each.

There are many forms of B vitamins, and while the standard forms commonly found in multivitamins or a regular B complex are good, there are new, coenzymated forms of B complexes, like Jarrow Formula’s B-Right which offer superior absorption. Choosing a coenzymated B complex ensures that you are getting the best form possible of each vitamin.

A regular B complex isn’t bad; it’s just a matter of choosing “good” vs. “best”. 

Jarrow’s B-Right will be on sale at Pass Health Foods for the month of May for 25% off.

What is CBD?

CBD is an extract from the hemp plant which has similar chemical and health properties to the THC (like the psychoactive extract of the plant known for its “high”) in marijuana, but without the mind altering effects.

THC from medicinal marijuana and CBD from hemp have been shown to have similar benefits for pain relief and help with anxiety (including PTSD) as well as very impressive results with seizure disorders in children (especially drug-resistant epilepsy). CBD has also shown neuroprotective effects for degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and more.

CBD oil is probably best known for its benefits for pain relief, like medicinal marijuana, especially for people who have unsuccessful results with conventional pain medication. In one large-scale survey by Project CBD participants who had used both high THC medical marijuana and CBD extract from cannabis and reported that there were no significant outcomes in pain relief between THC and CBD.

In America, medical marijuana and all extracts from the cannabis plant are illegal for use without a prescription. Because of this regulation, CBD oil available in America is sourced from the hemp plant. CBD oil ranges vastly in quality, potency, and effectiveness. Conventionally grown CBD from hemp can also have a large amount of toxins in it because hemp is naturally a “bio-accumulator” plant, which means that it draws toxins from the soil.

Because of this, we’ve been careful in the types of CBD oil that we’ve decided to carry in the store, and have chosen the brand Green Gorilla, a high-quality CBD extract consisting of entirely organic ingredients. We have it in two strengths, a 150mg product which is considered a daily dose for overall health, and then a higher 600mg product which is what is recommended for acute issues and pain relief.

We would very much recommend trying our new CBD oil from Green Gorilla. Also, its fast acting- results of the 600mg dose are usually seen within 20 minutes for pain relief. Last, I wanted to say that our CBD oil is completely safe for drug testing, the amount of THC (the compound in marijuana that shows up on a drug test) in our Green Gorilla CBD is 0.003%, so there is absolutely no worry about any problems with a drug test (which I can’t say is the case with all CBD oils on the market).

Finally, we will be having a representative from Green Gorilla in the store on Saturday, May 6th from 11-2 so people can taste their product before purchasing. See you then!


Garcinia Cambogia for Weight Loss - It Really Works

Q: I want to lose weight but I’m not sure what supplements are really best for weight loss and what really works. Do you have any recommendations?

A: The supplement that we would recommend the most is the extract of a tropical fruit found in Indonesia called garcinia cambogia. Of all the weight loss supplements available, we believe that there is the most positive scientific research for garcinia cambogia over any other weight loss supplement. Dr. Harry Press, a researcher from Georgetown University, reports that garcinia cambogia is three times more effective than diet and exercise alone. It’s not a miracle pill, but when combined with diet and exercise, it can make a real difference.

Garcinia cambogia works in several different ways to aid weight loss, which is part of why it’s so effective. First, it works to delay the emptying of the stomach, and also prolongs glucose absorption from the small intestines, both of which help you to feel full and satisfied longer after a meal.

Another way that garcinia cambogia works in the body is that it helps to boost serotonin, the “feel-good” neurotransmitter, in the brain. Higher amounts of serotonin in the body help with reducing appetite and stress eating, as well as boosting mood overall, which is always a good thing. The only concern would be for people taking SSRI antidepressants (like Prozac) which also boost serotonin; if you’re on a prescription SSRI antidepressant, it would be best to avoid garcinia cambogia. 

Garcinia cambogia also helps with weight loss in another way- it helps fat to be used as energy rather than stored as fat deposits. Since it is helping the body to burn fat more effectively, garcinia cambogia works best when people are not consuming excessive dietary fats or a high alcohol diet.

Of any garcinia cambogia supplement, we’d recommend the brand Jarrow. They have the highest amount of the active ingredient in garcinia cambogia per pill over any other brand we’ve seen. Also, their specific garcinia cambogia extract is actually protected by nine different US patents, and has been shown to have better absorption and a higher range of benefits when compared with other garcinia cambogia extracts.

Finally, making sure you’re taking the recommended dosage is important for seeing true effectiveness. One other thing to mention would be that in a few studies, it took one to two weeks of supplementation before weight loss began, so if you start taking garcinia cambogia, be patient. The science it behind it is solid, it really does help with weight loss. Keep in mind however, it’s meant to be an aid to weight loss, giving an extra boost to diet and exercise. Another benefit of garcinia cambogia is that unlike some other weight loss supplements, it's safe for people with high blood pressure.

Unfortunately, the miracle pill that will let us sit on the couch all day eating junk while looking like a supermodel has yet to be invented, but every step makes a difference for leading a healthier life. Weight loss is not just about being happy about how you look in a swimsuit, excess weight literally impacts every aspect of health, so making a change for the better can truly give you a better- and longer- life!




A New "Hair Loss" Enzyme for Men

Q: A friend sent me an article on the discovery of an enzyme that’s supposed to cause baldness in men. The article said that they are working on a medicine that will block the enzyme, but there were other natural things that could block it too. It’s supposed to be a miracle for male pattern baldness. I wondered if you’d heard of it and knew of anything that could block the enzyme and help with hair loss.

A: Several years ago, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania published a paper on the discovery of a new enzyme, called PGD2 that prevents hair follicles from maturing. It was found that balding men had much higher levels of this enzyme, which inhibits hair growth. A prescription blocker of the PGD2 enzyme is said to be in the works, but it is many years from being released.

There are some natural products which have been researched to block the same “hair loss” enzyme; quercetin, a compound found in citrus fruits, and resveratrol, an antioxidant found in red wine. Both have been found in research to be able to suppress the PGD2 enzyme which is linked to male hair loss. 

The research is very preliminary, however, and even though studies have found quercetin and resveratrol to be effective in inhibiting the PGD2 enzyme, it does not necessarily mean they will help prevent or reverse hair loss. Both supplements are safe and beneficial to take, however, and some men may decide to begin taking the supplements to see if they make a difference. Quercetin also has benefits for allergies and the immune system, and resveratrol is well know as a potent antioxidant with anti-inflammatory anti-aging properties.

So, yes, there are natural products that can block the “hair loss” enzyme, but I would be hesitant to call them a “miracle cure”. Still, there’s no harm in trying it, since they are supplements which have additional benefits for anyone.