Immunity

New Research: Probiotics May Help to Prevent Neurodegenerative Diseases

I’ve written numerous times about probiotics and their benefits to so many aspects of our health (here’s a good overview on probiotics on our website).

Probiotics help with digestion, the immune system, and reducing antibiotic side effects, though specific strains can be beneficial for IBS, vaginal health, gum disease, and more.

New research has come out linking probiotics and a varied microbiome as a preventative measure against a variety of neurodegenerative diseases.

Neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimers, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s disease are scary, since their onset can be unpredictable, and so much is still unknown about these uncurable diseases.

Scientists have begun to link viral infection as a possible cause of various neurodegenerative diseases (here’s a link to research on Pub Med), and have also linked good bacteria in the gut and a varied microbiome as a possibly preventative to the triggering of neurodegenerative diseases.

The colonization of good bacteria in our bodies known as our microbiome is still not yet completely understood, though now scientists are finding far reaching benefits probiotics and of maintaining a thriving and varied microbiome in our bodies, not just for digestion and the immune system, but also for mood, inflammation, and so much more.

Supplementing with probiotics is something I absolutely believe in, particularly when using a quality probiotic with a good potency and a nice variety of different strains. Different strains of probiotics, or good bacteria, work in different ways in the body, so choosing a probiotic supplement with a diverse makeup is always a good idea.

We have just brought in a new probiotic that I wanted to highlight from a company called Vital Planet, that has a line of probiotics available in both refrigerated and shelf stable varieties at high potency. Their probiotics come in a variety of specific formulas, including some formulated specifically for men or women, and contain 60 billion probiotics per capsule from 60 different strains that also include probiotics, to help those good bacteria to thrive in the body. I’ve been using their Women’s Shelf Stable Probiotic and I really like it.

Our Vital Planet Probiotics will be on sale through the month of September for 25% off, so it’s a great time to try them. We also have a limited amount of $3 off coupons at the store, which make it an even better deal, so stop by to check them out!

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Beneficial Supplements for Kids of All Ages

August heralds back to school for most kids, and while you begin to get back into the school routine, it’s a great time to begin a supplement regimen for your kids. Below are several different supplement ideas that may be helpful to think for the kids in your life.

MULTIVITAMINS
Multivitamins are important for filling in gaps in the diet, particularly for picky eaters or kids on the go due to sports or activities who do not always have the best of diets. We have a great selection of all natural multis for kids at the store.

PROBIOTICS
Probiotics are Important for the immune system and proper digestion. Probiotic use has been researched with children and has been found to dramatically reduce the amount of respiratory infections children contract (in research, probiotic use reduced respiratory infections by 30%). We have probiotic capsules for older kids, but also a variety of chewable probiotics for younger children.

OMEGA 3S 
Omega 3 fatty acids are crucial for brain function in children. Omega 3s are not produced in the body and must be obtained through foods. If a child is not eating fatty fish or flaxseeds on a regular basis (multiple times a week), it is likely that they are deficient in omega 3s. Omega 3 fatty acids in children have been linked to fewer behavior and attention problems, and have even been in a recent study showing benefits for helping struggling children learning to read when compared with those who took a placebo. Most kids are not getting enough omega 3s through their diet, so supplementation with omega 3s meant for kids can make a real difference in proper brain functioning.
 
OPTIONAL SUPPLEMENTS IF NEEDED

STRESS AND ANXIETY
Many children of all ages suffer from stress and anxiety at school. We recommend theanine, an amino acid found in green tea, which helps to produce a calm, focused state. Theanine reduces anxiety without feeling tired, drugged, or “out of it”. Theanine is effective whether it is used every day or only occasionally, and can help sensitive kids have an easier time of it. Theanine is safe for kids and adults of all ages. Also, for high school and college students, we also would recommend trying one of our THC-free CBD gummies, which can be very helpful for reducing stress and anxiety. Stop by the store so we can help you find the right product for your child.

EXTRA IMMUNE HELP
Probiotics are extremely helpful for the immune system, though we do have a number of other immune boosting supplements meant for children which are helpful for both keeping kids healthy, but also helping them to get better faster if they do happen to get sick, since classrooms (particularly in younger grades) are an absolute cesspool of germs.

CALCIUM
Depending on a child’s diet, calcium supplements may be a good idea. Research has found that the majority of children aged 9 to 13 years are calcium deficient. Only about 12% of girls and 17% of boys consumed the recommended daily amount of calcium. For older teens, 42% of boys and only 10% of girls consumed enough calcium daily. Supplements are a simple way to ensure that kids have the proper amounts of calcium needed for healthy bones and are available in chewable forms for kids.

 

Here are a few other articles from our website which may also be beneficial. Please stop by the store so we can help you choose the right supplements for your kids.

  

Preventative Immune Health for Kids and Adults

Improving Children’s Concentration in School

A Helpful Tip: Chewable Gummy Vitamins for Kid’s Lunches

 

DIY Preventative Essential Oil Lice Spray for Hair

Fish Oil + Lutein for Kids to Protect the Eyes from Electronic Devices

 

The Many Scientifically Researched Benefits of Black Seed Oil

I wanted to write about Black Seed Oil, also known as Black Cumin Seed Oil, since it has been gaining in popularity, though it seems to have a vagueness that surrounds it as to what it actually does.

Most articles on black seed oil seem to say that it’s “cures everything”, a claim that always makes me extremely skeptical since it brings to mind the unscrupulous snake oil salesmen of the last century.

The more I looked into black seed oil, however, I found that there has been study after study done on its benefits, with great results. Research has found it to have beneficial effects on so many different aspects of health, including metabolic syndrome (a condition characterized by excess weight and high blood sugar), high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, respiratory health, skin conditions, and more. It’s impressive due to the sheer volume of studies that have been done that have shown benefit for so many vastly different things.

Here’s a link to a review on Black Seed Oil studies.

This is another review on the researched benefits of black cumin seeds.

One of my favorite benefits for black seed oil is its effect on the immune system. One of black seed oil’s natural compounds is thymoquinone, a potent immune booster that strengthens and activates the immune system’s T-cells (the white blood cells that help to identify harmful invaders like bacteria and viruses). Research has shown black seed to have antibacterial and antiviral effects against a number of infectious diseases including strep and h. pylori bacteria and viruses like hepatitis and even HIV. That isn’t to say that black seed oil is necessarily a cure-all for those conditions, but that it has been found to have beneficial antibacterial and antiviral effects against those diseases.

In addition to immune boosting effects, black seed oil has further benefits to the respiratory system itself, including being extremely helpful for asthma patients. In one study, people with asthma used black seed oil daily for three months and experienced impressive benefits in respiratory functioning and a reduction in asthma symptoms.

The interesting thing about black seed oil is that it does not just seem to have immune boosting effects, but rather has shown to have an immune modulating activity- boosting the immune system when needed, but also helping to calm down the excessive immune response seen in autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis. One placebo controlled study on rheumatoid arthritis found that women who took black seed twice daily for a month found a reduction in their symptoms of RA.

Black seed oil also appears to have protective effects for a number of the body’s different systems and organs, reducing destructive, toxic effects on the brain, liver, lungs cardiovascular system, and the digestive tract. This article has more in-depth information on the significant protection black seed has from toxic damage from a variety of sources (scroll down to about halfway through to read more about black seed oil’s beneficial protective effects).

Black seed oil can also have beneficial effects on eczema and psoriasis and for those conditions can be taken both internally and used topically for relief.

I feel like I’ve gone on and on already about the benefits of black seed oil, but in truth, there are so many more and I’ve only mentioned a few. Black seed oil has a long history of use for a variety of ailments. It is native to the Middle East and Africa, and has been mentioned in both the Old Testament and the Quran. The prophet Muhammad is even quoted as saying, “Use the Black Seed for indeed, it is a cure for all diseases except death.” Suffice it to say that it has a long history of impressive benefits and use- even back to the time of the Egyptians!

The black seed oil we recommend is by a company called Talya. As many of you know, we’re particular about the brands and products we carry. We chose this brand of black seed oil specifically since it has the highest amount of the beneficial active ingredients in black seed oil and is unrefined and cold pressed. Also, Talya does third party testing on each batch of black seed oil for potency and to make sure that it is free from pesticides, herbicides, as well as other chemicals and contaminants. Talya’s black seed oil meets France’s standards for “Eco Certification” and is in the process of undergoing organic certification processes by the USDA.

The recommended dosages for black seed oil is one teaspoon twice daily for preventative health or two teaspoons twice daily, up to as much as six teaspoons a day (in divided doses) for acute needs or for recovering from an illness.

Black seed oil should be taken with food to help absorption and it’s also important to shake the bottle vigorously before using it, since its beneficial compounds can separate when the bottle sits.

We will have a representative in the store on Saturday, March 9th from 10-2 to offer samples of our Talya black seed oil and to offer further information. Be sure to stop by!

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New Delicious Elderberry Zinc Gummies for Both Kids and Adults

We have a new product for the winter “Fight Against Illness” in stock that I’ve been really impressed with- our new Zand Elderberry Zinc Gummies. Zinc is a fantastic immune booster, and has also been shown in numerous studies to help reduce the duration of colds and respiratory infections. 

The trouble with zinc is that it generally tastes terrible (sorry zinc lozenges, but you know it’s true). I don’t know what kind of witchery Zand has performed on these gummies, but they taste amazing (and they still contain a bunch of zinc).

Elderberry is a potent antiviral, and taking zinc at the very first signs of illness has been shown to help reduce the duration of colds.

These new gummies are perfect for picky kids (or adults) as an immune boosting treat. I’ve been putting a couple in my daughter’s lunch every day and she loves them (honestly, she says like they taste like candy).

Best of all, they’re on sale this month for 25% off, so be sure to give them a try!

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A New Favorite: Renew Life’s Organic Prebiotic + Probiotics

We have a new line of probiotics that I wanted to write about since I’ve been really impressed with them. It’s a new line of probiotics from Renew Life that combine well researched probiotic strains with organic prebiotics.

Prebiotics are special fibers that help good bacteria to flourish in our bodies. Prebiotics are a newer ingredient, and the idea of combining them with probiotics into a supplement seems like a really smart one to me, since you’re not just taking probiotics, you’re giving those good bacteria what they need to multiply and be sustained in your body.

I’ve been taking their Strong and Ready Organic Prebiotic + Probiotic for a little over a month now, and have been really happy with it. They’re in easy to swallow vegetarian capsules, which I love, and the strains contained in that formula have been researched to help specifically with boosting the immune system and preventing respiratory infections, which definitely sounds good to me!  They’re also gluten, dairy, and soy free, which I appreciate.

They also have several different formulas with targeted probiotics for a variety of issues like constipation or diarrhea or even for women’s health that contain cranberry for preventing UTIs as well as unique strains that help with vaginal health.

The nice thing about these blends are that they address specific conditions, while still having the basic strains needed for everyday health. I feel like this is especially noteworthy, since we have several probiotics at the store that we would especially recommend for specific, acute issues, but they are just kind of focused on those problems, and wouldn’t fill the role of your “every day probiotic” for general digestive and immune health.

Another thing about these prebiotic + probiotic blends is that they contain documented types and amounts of prebiotics (the substances that help to feed and support the body’s own good bacteria) that have been shown in scientific research to make a true difference. In speaking to an educator at Renew Life about these new products, he had a quote I wanted to share since I really liked it. He said a lot of probiotics (and I would say many supplements in general), “Shout on the front, whisper on the back”, meaning that prebiotics have become a buzzword of sorts, and that many products have advertising “shouting” something on the front of the label, but then will have just a whisper (or a tiny, negligible amount) of actual beneficial ingredients on the back of the label where it lists the nutrition facts. That’s what we’re about at Pass Health Foods- finding and offering supplements that make a real difference, that are scientifically documented as being effective, beyond whatever the advertising says.

Since we’re featuring them this month, we’ll be having all the new organic probiotic + probiotics from Renew Life on sale for 25% off from now through the end of December. Additionally, we have a good supply of $3 off coupons for them, so with the sale plus the coupon it works out to a really good deal!  If you’re looking to change up your probiotic, or you don’t take one on a regular basis, this is a great one to try.

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Preventative Immune Health for Kids and Adults

Now is the time for preventative immune health for both kids and adults, particularly since it’s been such a warm fall, transitioning to cooler, damp weather can sometimes be a shock to the system- not to say that cold weather causes illness, but being indoors more frequently with other people’s germs makes falling prey to illness more likely. Also, interestingly, some viruses like rhinovirus (the cause of the common cold) replicates better at cooler temperatures, and the flu virus is thought to survive better in cool, dry temperatures.

Rather than reinvent the wheel, I’m going to post some links to previous articles about a variety of immune boosters which can help both prevent and reduce the duration of illness.

Our Favorite Immune Boosting Supplements

This article really runs down the full list of immune supplements and how they work.

Zinc Lozenges: Clinically Proven to Boost the Immune System

A Natural, Herbal Version of Tamiflu for Flu Recovery

Experts are already forecasting a bad flu season for this year (I can’t imagine how they know that, but I’m inclined to believe it). If there’s one thing that is best against the flu virus (and that’s backed up by research), it’s elderberry.

Vitamin D, How Much to Take?

Ester C, a Better Form of Vitamin C for Boosting Immune Function

Keeping Kids Healthy This Winter

We also have a new kid’s probiotic that I wanted to mention, a chewable kids probiotic from Renew Life called Ear, Nose, and Throat. It contains a combination of probiotics that have been specifically chosen for their researched benefits for the entire respiratory system (literally the ears, nose, and throat, like the name), one of the probiotics it contains has even been positively researched for its benefit in helping to prevent strep throat and other bacterial infections.

One study published on PubMed found that kids with recurrent strep throat who took this specific probiotic strain and had an 80% reduction in streptococcal infections when compared with the control group. I do feel like certain kids are more prone to strep throat for whatever reason, so while this probiotic would be great for all kids during cold and flu season, I would definitely recommend it for those kids who have had recurrent strep throat.

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!

 


 

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.

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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!

Zinc Lozenges: Clinically Proven to Boost the Immune System

As the weather gets cooler, an increase in illness is often the unhappy companion of autumn. I wanted to share a simple thing to add to your arsenal against colds and respiratory infections- zinc. Most people have heard that zinc lozenges are good for the immune system, and of course I know they’re good for you, but that knowledge up until now had not made me ever want to take them- for the simple reason that I’d had them before and thought they tasted disgusting, and I basically swore them off.

Then recently, I read a new study on zinc lozenges and the immune system, and I was pretty much astounded. The analysis, published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine Open, found that zinc lozenges containing zinc gluconate were found to shorten the duration of colds by 33 percent!  Well, that convinced me (since that’s really an amazing amount). Strangely, zinc lozenges that contained vitamin C (a nutrient long used for the immune system) were significantly less effective.

Science had convinced me, and I began a search for the best tasting (or at least one that I could stand the taste of) zinc lozenge. Thankfully, my quest was not in vain, I found Zand’s Zinc Elderberry Lozenges- lozenges that contain the requisite zinc gluconate and no vitamin C. I’ve been really impressed by how good they taste (even my seven year old loves them), particularly since they contain zinc, which isn’t the greatest tasting mineral. An added benefit of these zinc lozenges is that they also contain elderberry, a superfruit with fantastic antiviral properties and they’re also low in sugar. 

Since I wanted to write about how great zinc lozenges are, we put all of our Zand zinc lozenges on sale for 25% off. We have a number of other flavors, but zinc elderberry is my favorite. Zinc taken in supplement form is good for the immune system as well, but the action of slowly sucking on a lozenge containing zinc is what has been shown to make the biggest difference when it comes to reducing cold symptoms.

I’d definitely recommend keeping a few bags of zinc lozenges in the house if illness happens to visit you. Best of all, zinc lozenges can be used in conjunction with other immune boosters for an even greater immune response. 

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The Many Benefits of Probiotics, the Good Bacteria Your Body Needs

There are many wonderful natural products that have all sorts of benefits, but probiotics are part of a handful of supplements which we believe are vitally important for people of all ages- they’re a group of supplements that everyone would benefit from.

Probiotics, or “good bacteria”, are best known as an aid to digestive health, where they have impressively documented benefits for helping the body to digest and process foods. Probiotics also help the body to assimilate nutrients from foods and improve nutrient availability.

Probiotics are also fantastic for the immune system, enhancing our bodies own disease fighting white blood cells. One yearlong study showed that children who took probiotic supplements had significantly fewer upper respiratory infections (colds, etc.) and had a 30 percent reduction in missed school days. Research also found similar immune system benefits for adults.

In addition to activating the immune system against illness, it appears that probiotics are also able to modulate the immune system to diminish over reactive responses to allergies and autoimmune diseases.

Interestingly, new research is also showing benefits for bone health for people who use probiotics. One new study found that in animals with hormone changes similar to what happens in women after menopause those who consumed probiotics were able to stave off bone loss compared to the group that was not given probiotics. The control group that did not use probiotics lost half their bone density compared to the probiotics who were able to retain bone density.

Also, pregnant women who use probiotics have been shown to have children with a lower incidence of eczema and atopic dermatitis. Additionally, research has suggested that pregnant women who use probiotics may have children with fewer food allergies.

Probiotics can also have benefits to overall brain health and mood. One study which was measuring the benefits of probiotics on IBS found that the probiotic takers had twice as many people that saw decreases in depression and depressive symptoms when compared with a placebo.

There are many wonderful, high-quality probiotics that we have at the store, but I wanted to specifically mention one by Flora called Udo’s Choice Super 8 Probiotic, a probiotic which has actually won a number of different awards. Flora is a small company that makes exceptional products. They don’t come out with a ton of different “hot, new products” every year, but instead specialize in a few different areas, like probiotic supplements, where they really excel.

Flora’s Super 8 is a mix of eight well researched, scientifically identified strains that have been shown to survive in the body and form colonies.

Udo’s Choice Super 8 Probiotic has probiotic strains that aid digestion, breaking down carbohydrates and helping to synthesize B vitamins. It also contains specific strains which have been shown in research to help inhibit the growth of bad bacteria in the colon and GI tract. Super 8 is also formulated with strains that have been found to help reduce gas formation as well as other strains that help with urinary tract health and even a strain that helps with lowering cholesterol levels!

Best of all, it’s a high potency probiotic (42 billion per pill) that is very reasonably priced, especially when compared to other probiotics at similar potencies. This September, we’ll be having our Udo’s Choice Super 8 Probiotic on sale for 25% off, so it’s a great time to try it!