Spotlight on Women's Health

All About Xantham Gum and Guar Gum for Gluten Free Baking

If you have tried your hand at gluten-free baking, you will find guar gum or xantham gum in many recipes. We’ve had a lot of questions about the two, asking what they do and what the difference is, so we wanted to write a quick post to go over when you may want to use them.

Baking with gluten-free flours is a little different than with flours made from wheat, and adding xantham gum or guar gum to gluten-free recipes helps to result in a nicer final product. When using wheat flour, the proteins in the wheat bind together to help make light and fluffy baked goods. Guar gum and xantham gum also help to keep the ingredients in a recipe or batter to be evenly mixed, as well as giving a bit of stretch or body to the dough. Xantham gum and guar gum work to thicken, bind, and emulsify gluten-free ingredients.

Guar gum and xantham gum work in similar ways, though generally, xantham gum is the better choice for baked goods and foods that have a high acid content (foods made with lemon juice, for example, can interfere with guar gum). Guar gum is usually better for cold foods, ice creams, or pastry fillings.

When adding either to a recipe, it’s best to combine xantham gum or guar gum to the oil in a recipe first, which will help it to mix with the recipe better.

This is a fantastic general guide to xantham gum and guar gum, found on the Bob’s Red Mill website:

How much Xanthan Gum for Gluten Free Baking?

Cookies………………………………¼ teaspoon per cup of flour
Cakes and Pancakes………………..½ teaspoon per cup of flour
Muffins and Quick Breads………… ¾ teaspoon per cup of flour
Breads……………………………….1 to 1-½ tsp. per cup of flour
Pizza Dough…………………..…… 2 teaspoons per cup of flour
For Salad Dressings…Use ½ tsp. Xanthan Gum per 8 oz. of liquid.


How much Guar Gum for Gluten Free Baking?

Cookies………………………………¼ to ½ tsp. per cup of flour
Cakes and Pancakes………………..¾ teaspoon per cup of flour
Muffins and Quick Breads………….1 teaspoon per cup of flour
Breads……………………………….1-½ to 2 tsp. per cup of flour
Pizza Dough…………………..…….1 Tablespoon per cup of flour
For Hot Foods (gravies, stews , heated pudding)…Use 1-3 teaspoons per one quart of liquid.
For Cold Foods (salad dressing, ice creams, pudding) Use about 1-2 teaspoons per quart of liquid.

Biotin for Strong, Healthy Hair & Nails

I wanted to write about biotin this month, a B vitamin that is most well known for its benefit for hair and nails, and rightly so- it’s really amazing for strengthening the hair and nails as well as preventing hair loss.

The earliest research on biotin was done mainly with veterinary literature, where biotin was found to increase the strength and hardness of pigs and horses hooves. Those hooves are made of keratin, the same material our nails are made of, as well as our hair strands. The discovery that biotin made such a difference for the hooves (nails) of animals inspired the research to continue to humans.

Many of our customers have had great results for their hair and nails after supplementing with biotin that has also been confirmed by research studies in humans. One such study found that supplementing with biotin at a dose of 2500mcg a day increased the thickness of the human nail plate by 25%. Ninety-one percent of people taking that dosage experienced definite improvement in their nails, especially people who complained of weak, brittle nails before supplementation.

A deficiency in biotin can cause hair loss, and biotin supplementation has been linked to a reduction in hair loss and thinning hair. Other research has confirmed that biotin supplementation helps with brittle nails and thinning hair in people diagnosed with nail issues and poor hair growth. One 2015 study (linked here) found that 90 days of biotin supplementation helped women with hair loss to increase their hair density as well as reduce the shedding of hair. Additional studies have had participants report positive results on the appearance of hair and thickness after 90 days, which increased the longer that people took the biotin supplements.

In addition to biotin’s benefits for hair and nails, biotin can also be beneficial for cardiovascular health as well as increasing blood sugar sensitivity. Biotin appears to help increase the activity of specific liver enzymes that help the liver to utilize blood sugar. When those enzymes are activated, the liver is able to pull sugar from the blood to be properly metabolized. In one study, participants who took 8mg of biotin twice daily resulted in significant improvements in fasting blood sugar levels and blood sugar control in type 1 diabetics. Other research has reported that biotin combined with chromium (a mineral that can help with balancing blood sugar) was effective in reducing blood sugar levels as well as lowering triglyceride levels in the blood of type 2 diabetes patients.

High dose biotin supplementation has also been researched in some very groundbreaking studies on multiple sclerosis, though the research is still in its early stages. I just wanted to mention it since it’s always exciting when vitamins that have been around forever are found to be beneficial in new, previously unknown ways.

Supplementing with biotin for hair and nails definitely has benefits, but keep in mind that it’s more of a long term thing (most studies were for at least 90 days), since it takes time to made a difference in hair and nail strength. Biotin is a water soluble B vitamin, which means that whatever the body does not use is excreted, making biotin an extremely safe supplement to take. High dose biotin can interfere with some blood tests (it’s not harmful, but something to be aware of), so it’s recommended to stop taking biotin for a week before a blood panel, or to mention your biotin supplementation to your physician (which is good advice for all supplements).

A New Line of Food Based, Certified Organic Multivitamins for Men & Women

We have a new line of vitamins I wanted to feature which are on sale for 25% off during the month of March. They’re by a company called NutriGold, which has a line of 100% certified organic, entirely food based multivitamins. I’ve been using them for a while now- I received a sample bottle, and liked it so much I made sure we got it to carry in the store. They have separate formulas for men and women.

They have one a day multivitamins for men and women in an easy to swallow capsule. They are one of the most clean products I have ever seen, without any fillers or binders or extra ingredients. Additionally, the capsules have no taste when put on the tongue (something I’m really sensitive to when it comes to multivitamins). I truly can’t recommend them enough!  In addition to being certified organic, they’re gluten free, vegan, and non-GMO verified.

A Natural Alternative to Tamiflu for Flu Prevention and Treatment

The flu this year is absolutely horrendous- health officials have said this is the worst flu season in nearly a decade, with the rate of hospitalizations continuing to increase. We all know that washing hands helps to prevent the spread of viruses, but it’s impossible to completely reduce your risk. 

Tamiflu has been approved as a prescription antiviral against the flu, but it is not without side effects, some of which can be severe.

The best way to stay healthy is to do what you can to boost your body’s own immune system, since we are every day exposed to bacteria and viruses, and it is our immune system that works to fight them off and keep us healthy; it’s when the immune system is overwhelmed that we fall ill.

There are a number of great, well researched immune boosting supplements that we would recommend at Pass Health Foods, but the best there is against the flu is elderberry syrup, also known as Sambucus. Elderberry has natural antiviral properties, and has been researched with great results for preventing and reducing the duration of the flu. In clinical trial of elderberry syrup, it found that elderberry cured 90% of flu infections after 72 hours. In the same trial, the patients receiving a placebo needed six days for recovery.

New research, however, has even found that the combination of elderberry syrup and the herb echinacea is as effective as the prescription antiviral Tamiflu against the flu virus.

The study gave 473 patients who exhibited flu symptoms elderberry extract and echinacea or Tamiflu within the first 48 hours of the beginning of the illness. The recovery rates from the combination of elderberry and echinacea were the same as Tamiflu  (the elderberry and echinacea group actually had slightly better recovery rates when compared to the prescription Tamiflu), but without side effects- the researchers reported that patients taking oseltamivir (Tamiflu) were more likely to experience gastrointestinal issues such as nausea and vomiting than the supplement group.

We have had a large number of our customers confirm this research, who have had great results taking the combination of elderberry syrup and echinacea.

Finally, I’ll share the story of one of the ladies who works at the Revival Yoga Studio in Palos Heights, which is across the street from the health food store (if you’ve never been in there, I’d really recommend stopping by- it’s a gorgeous yoga studio). She told me of how her son had contracted influenza, and was prescribed Tamiflu. A few days later, the rest of her family got sick and was confirmed by their physician that they did in fact have the flu. She decided that instead of doing Tamiflu for the rest of her family, that they would instead take elderberry syrup and echinacea. She said that the group of them that took the combination of elderberry and echinacea actually got better faster than her son that was on Tamiflu, and had didn’t have the digestive side effects that he experienced.

Elderberry can be taken preventatively against illness, but it’s best to save the echinacea until you feel the beginnings of sickness, since research has shown that that is when it is most effective. If you've been sick for a while, supplementing with elderberry alone is the best course of action, due to its potent antiviral compounds. 

We recommend Nature’s Answer Sambucus Elderberry Syrup, which is the highest potency of elderberry per dose of any available, and Natural Factor’s Echinamide echinacea extract for the best results.

Please stop by the health food store if you need any more information so we can help you further. Take care of yourselves!



Natural Help for Colic and Gassy Babies

Anyone who has had a new baby knows that it can be rough. One of the worst things is when a little one has digestive issues including gas and colic. It’s incredibly common for babies to have digestive troubles, especially around the six to eight week mark. While it’s something that most babies grow out of, there are safe, natural remedies that can help to soothe infant’s digestive problems when you’re in the thick of it.

The first we’d recommend is a specific probiotic made for infants called JarrowDophilus Infant. It contains just one strain of good bacteria, B. Infantis, which has been studied extensively for its benefits to the developing digestive tract of newborns and infants. Studies have shown that supplementing with this specific probiotic strain is associated with a reduction in gas and digestive upset in newborns and infants.

The B. Infantis strain of probiotics make up over 90% of the good bacteria found in the digestive tract of healthy, breastfed infants. It can be extremely helpful for formula fed babies or any infant with gas, constipation, colic, and any other digestive issues causing them discomfort. Probiotics, including JarrowDophilus Infant, are only beneficial, with no negative side effects. It is completely safe for daily use for babies from birth onward, and in many babies can make a real difference in helping to normalize digestive troubles.

Another product we would recommend is called Gripe Water. It’s an all natural supplement of ginger and fennel, which works incredibly well to soothe gas and colic. We’ve even had customers report that it has helped their babies to reduce hiccupping. Our Gripe Water has an easy to use dropper that can be squeezed directly into a fussy baby’s mouth. It’s definitely a great thing to have in the house if you have a newborn.

The JarrowDophilus Infant and Gripe Water can be used in conjunction without a problem. The infant probiotic is generally meant for daily use, whereas the Gripe Water is meant to be used for acute issues of gas and colic on an as needed basis.

Targeted Probiotics for Women's Health (Yeast Infections, BV, UTIs)

Most people think of probiotics as primarily for digestion, but the scope of probiotics goes far beyond that, to encompass much, much more. One of the lesser known uses for probiotics are for women’s vaginal health. There are specific probiotic strains that can help to naturally combat yeast infections, bacterial vaginal infections, as well as urinary tract infections.

The company Jarrow has two products formulated for vaginal and urinary tract health with scientifically researched strains- their shelf-stable JarrowDophilus for Women and then their refrigerated probiotic, FemDophilus.

The two probiotics offer similar benefits but differ in their use. The refrigerated FemDophilus is used more as a treatment for acute infections. It works very well to knock out yeast overgrowth and/or harmful bacteria in the vaginal tract and urinary tract. Where the JarrowDophilus Women is more for maintaining healthy vaginal flora on a regular basis.
The vaginal tract has its own specific microbiome, where good bacteria is meant to crowd out the proliferation of negative bacteria and candida. Because of this environment, targeted women’s probiotics are especially beneficial in treating and preventing vaginal infections.

Yeast infections are what most women think of when they have vaginal issues- the symptoms of yeast infections most commonly include a thick whitish discharge, irritation during intercourse or urination, and itching. It’s estimated that 75% of women will have at least one occurrence of vaginal yeast overgrowth in their lives, though some women are more prone to yeast infections and will have many reoccurrences.

Bacterial vaginosis (or BV) is less well known, but is the most common vaginal infection, estimated to affect 10-29% of women at any given time. BV can be transmitted sexually but can also occur even if a woman is not sexually active. Bacterial vaginosis is traditionally treated with antibiotics, but it has a very high reinfection rate (often 30% of infections reoccur the month following treatment and 80% of women experience recurrent BV infections after nine months). Due to this rate of BV reoccurrence, natural treatment with effective, targeted vaginal probiotics can be especially beneficial, since it treats the causes rather than just trying to make symptoms go away. Symptoms of bacterial vaginosis include thin uniform gray, yellow, or whitish discharge and and a “fishy” vaginal odor.

Treatment of BV is especially important since it can increase the risk of contracting STDs as well as increasing the risk of preterm labor during pregnancy.

In our experience, Jarrow’s FemDophilus probiotic is the best women’s probiotic available for treating acute vaginal infections and yeast overgrowth. The clinically researched strains it contains have been shown to be effective in bringing women’s bodies back into a state of proper vaginal health, both when used alone as well as in conjunction with conventional treatments (studies have even shown that the probiotic strains in FemDophilus are able to increase the effectiveness of conventional drugs treatments for both BV and yeast infections).

Thus far, I’ve mostly focused on the benefits of Jarrow’s FemDophilus, but they also have a product called JarrowDophilus for Women which is an impressive formula as well. While FemDophilus is meant to be more of a treatment for acute infections, JarrowDophilus for Women is a maintenance probiotic, formulated to encourage a healthy vaginal and urinary tract. It is especially helpful for women who have reocurrances of BV or yeast infections, since it promotes a healthy vaginal microbiome that works to crowd out those negative overgrowths, stopping reinfection.

Both are wonderful products with impressive clinically documented benefits. Stop by the store for more information and so we can help you find the product that’s right for you.

Our best selling ImmunoShield is now on Every Day Sale for 25% off

We are excited to report that we can now offer our popular Immuno-Shield by Irwin Naturals on an everyday sale of 25% off!

Immuno-Shield is by far our most popular overall immune supplement, and one that both those of us who work at Pass Health Foods and many of our customers use on a regular basis.  It can be used preventatively against illness, but also if you do happen to get sick you can take higher amounts of ImmunoShield to get better faster.

Immuno-Shield works so well because it is a blend of very powerful and well-researched immune boosters which work in a variety of ways to help you to during cold and flu season; helping to boost and activate your immune system to fight off invading bacteria and viruses quicker and more effectively.


I’ll list a few of Immuno-Shield’s ingredients below with a brief explanation of how each ingredient helps the immune system:


Vitamin C- a vitamin that supports white bl ood cell functioning that protects the body against infectious disease and foreign invaders.

Zinc- a mineral that reduces the duration of illness

Echinacea- this herb is especially effective at the first signs of illness to activate the immune system

Astragalus- an herb from Traditional Chinese Medicine which boosts immune functioning

Beta Glucan- an extract that helps to boost the function of NK cells, “natural killer” cells which seek out and destroy viruses

Cat’s Claw- an herb that can increase white cell counts, which improves the body’s ability to fight off bacteria and viruses

Olive extract- this herb enhances the functioning of the immune system, and can help prevent virus replication

Oregano Oil- an herb with strong antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties


Without fail, I think all of us at Pass Health Foods would recommend Irwin Natural’s Immuno-Shield as a supplement you should have in your house this winter. I would say more than anything else for the immune system, we have the most people who come back religiously for Immuno-Shield who attest to how well it works.

We really can't recommend it enough!  Plus, now that we’re been able to work out a deal with Irwin Naturals to have Immuno-Shield available at a discount, we’re passing on that deal to our customers!

immuno shield large.jpg

How to Stay Healthy this Cold and Flu Season

This month, as so many are sick around us, I wanted to highlight some of our favorite immune boosters in a few articles I’ll link below.


Elderberry + Echinacea: An Effective Natural Alternative to Tamiflu

ImmunoShield: Our Favorite Overall Immune Boosting Blend (it’s also on sale for February)

Zinc Lozenges: Clinically Proven to Boost the Immune System

Preventative Health for Cold and Flu Season: Vitamin D & Probiotics

Also, I wanted to mention a few new immune supplements we’ve brought in that we really like. The first are Elderberry Gummies by Nature’s Way. Elderberry, also known as Sambucus, is a fantastic anti-viral and is great for boosting the immune system. These gummies are an easy way to add some elderberry to your diet- I’ve been putting some in my daughter’s lunch (here’s an article on the benefits of using gummies for school lunches) to give her a preventative immune boost. 

In addition to the elderberry gummies, we’ve also found an amazing new probiotic designed specifically for respiratory health- their Respiratory Care Probiotic. Probiotics have long been used for helping the immune system, but this new probiotic contains specific clinically researched strains which have been shown to be beneficial to respiratory health, helping to activate the immune system against viruses as well as preventing virus replication. I’ve been taking it and feel it’s really helped.

I also wanted to share a couple articles on essential oils which can be helpful during cold and flu season. The first lists a number of scientific studies on the antibacterial and antiviral benefits of different essential oils, and the second has information on our own “Thieves Oil” blend.

Disinfecting the Air with Essential Oils (with links to research studies)

Nature’s Shield: Our Version of the “Thieves Oil” Blend

Be Well!

Help for New Year Resolutions

Two things we usually think of when the New Year rolls around are detoxing and weight loss. I’ll attach a few links below on articles about both. 

For weight loss, this is a great overview of different weight loss supplements, and how they work:

How to Choose the Right Weight Loss Supplement

This is an article on garcinia cambogia, a very well researched supplement that aids weight loss in a number of different ways. The garcinia cambogia product we recommend the most is Jarrow, since it has the highest potency per pill of any other garcinia cambogia formula, and is also better absorbing. Our Jarrow garcinia cambogia will be 25% off for the month of January.

Garcinia Cambogia: A Weight Loss Supplement that Really Works

Below are two articles on detoxing and cleansing for the new year:

Q & A: Detoxing for the New Year

Nature’s Plus Complete Body Cleanse

For those who want to do a simpler cleanse, we’d recommend Nature’s Secret’s 15 Day Cleanse and Flush. It’s a one bottle product that is on sale for 25% off- less than $10 a bottle. It’s a nice, easy way to start fresh and is also a nice way to begin a new diet regimen.