DHA

Supplement Spotlight: Back to School Supplements

This month’s spotlight is on back to school supplements.  I feel like September used to be the back to school month, but now it seems that everyone is starting in August (I really can’t believe that we’re nearing the end of summer).

Multivitamins

A daily multivitamin is not a substitute for a healthy diet, but rather it’s an insurance policy of sorts for filling out nutrients that may be missing from a person’s diet on a regular basis.  Multivitamins for children are especially important since most kids aren’t known for having the most healthy or varied diets.   Daily multivitamin use in children has even been associated with an increase in IQ and academic performance.

 

Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Omega 3s are incredibly important for school aged children (and everyone).  Omega 3 fatty acids play a large role in brain function, focus, and concentration.  The body cannot manufacture omega 3 fatty acids, they must be obtained through diet.  If your child is not eating fatty fish on a regular basis, it is likely they are deficient.  The company Barleans has a delicious tasting fish oil liquid that is not fishy tasting at all, in fact, my daughter would drink the whole bottle at a sitting if I’d let her.  I really can’t recommend omega 3s for kids enough.  In fact, I’ve had a number of customers report an impressive change in their children’s behavior and concentration at school after beginning supplementation.

 

L-Theanine

Stress and anxiety are a real problem for many school age children.  L-theanine, an amino acid derived from green tea, is a natural and effective supplement that is helpful for children and adults of all ages to reduce stress and anxiety as well as improve focus and concentration.  Theanine works by promoting alpha brain waves, the type of brain waves that produce a calm, relaxed state.  Unlike many herbs or supplements for stress it will not make you tired.  We have theanine in chewable tablets or capsules, as well as a chewable formula made for young children called Relax-a-Saurus by KAL’s Dinosaur brand.

Healthy Q & A: Restless Legs

Q: My mother has been diagnosed with restless leg syndrome, and she has a terrible time sleeping through the night.  Is there anything you would recommend to help her?

A: Your mother certainly isn’t alone.  It is estimated that as much as 10% of the US population has restless leg syndrome (RLS).   RLS in a neurological condition that causes an itching/pulling sensation in the legs and an overwhelming urge to move them.  Symptoms get worse while resting, leading to many a sleepless night.  

Though the cause of restless leg syndrome is unknown, some experts feel there is a nutritional link.  Folic acid and magnesium are especially important for people with restless leg syndrome.  Also, supplementing with antioxidants is important to address the free radical damage that is thought to accelerate RLS.

Magnesium, when taken daily, can help with muscle spasms and jerking.   If the body doesn’t 
have enough magnesium, it’s difficult for the muscles to relax.  It’s also been found that many 
people who suffer from RLS are deficient in folate (a B vitamin that regulates homocyctene), so adding some extra folate could be beneficial.

Also, since restless leg syndrome is a neurological condition, adding a high quality DHA 
supplement would be a good idea.  DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid, is found in high concentrations in the synapses of the brain.  Taking supplemental DHA can help with the smooth transition of messages between neurons in the brain, which can improve the symptoms of restless leg syndrome.

Since there is no known cure for restless leg syndrome, natural supplements like magnesium, DHA, as well as relaxing herbs like valerian can be very useful to help people with RLS to get a good night’s sleep.

 

Supplement Spotlight: All About Omegas

There’s a lot of confusion about omega fatty acids, so I thought I’d go over some common questions about fish oil, flax oil, and the different types of omegas.

 

What are Omega fatty acids?

Omega fatty acids are essential fats that cannot be manufactured in the human body and must be obtained through foods or supplements.   They are crucial for heart health, brain function, and reducing inflammation in the body.  There are a variety of omega fatty acids, the most well known being omega 3 and omega 6.  Omega fatty acids are common in the American diet, since they are largely supplied by vegetable oils.  Omega 3s on the other hand are more difficult to come by, since they are present in fewer sources, most commonly fatty fish, fish oil supplements, or flax and chia seeds.  The recommendation for the ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 fatty acids are 1:2,but in the standard American diet, that ratio is more like 1:20.  That makes omega 3 supplements much more important for most people than a omega 3, 6, 9 supplement.

EPA, DHA, and ALA

EPA, DHA, and ALA are all forms of omega 3 fatty acids. 

 

EPA and DHA are the forms of omega 3 found in fish oils.  EPA is best known for its help in reducing inflammation, lowering triglycerides, and aiding in heart health.  DHA is a structural fat that makes up much of the brain, eyes, and nervous system and is crucial for brain function.  ALA, or alpha linoleic acid, is the vegetarian form of omega 3, found in flax and chia seeds and oil.  ALA needs to be converted into EPA and DHA in the body (when it’s fish oil, the fish has already converted it in their bodies), although the ratio of conversion is not very efficient and can vary widely.  Because of this, the serving size of flax oil compared to a fish oil concentrate is much greater, 1 tbs. per pound of body weight compared to 2 or 3 pills of a high potency fish oil concentrate (like Solagar’s Omega 950).

 

For most people I would recommend fish oil over flax, because of the conversion ratio and how important DHA is to brain health.  That being said, I take flax instead of fish oil since I’m a vegetarian.  Flax is also a much more natural form of omega 3, and can be unprocessed and organic.  Flax oil also contains lignans, types of phytoestrogens which have been correlated to a reduced breast cancer risk (possibly colon cancer as well).  Lignans may also help with reducing menopausal symptoms. 

 

I also wanted to further highlight DHA, and say that it is absolutely crucial for fetal brain and eye development.  I’d venture to say that every pregnant woman should be taking DHA.  There are also vegetarian DHA supplements that are sourced from algae if that’s a concern.

 

Things to look for in a supplement

Fish oil supplements vary greatly.  It’s important to look for a quality brand which is ensured to be free of contaminants.   Make sure the fish oil you’re taking says either it’s molecularly distilled or has been tested to ensure that it is free of mercury, lead, and other contaminants.

 

Another thing to check are the amounts of EPA and DHA contained per pill.  Concentrations of EPA/DHA vary widely, where one product may need several pills to equal one pill of a fish oil of a higher concentration.  The highest amount of EPA/DHA per pill that we have in the store is Solgar’s Omega 950, which rivals the concentration (in fact it’s higher!) than the prescription fish oil Lovaza. 

 

When it comes to fish oil supplements, it’s all about the amounts of EPA and DHA, so I see no reason why anyone would ever take one that would be at a lower concentration where they would need to take more pills per day.

Supplement Spotlight: Back to School Supplements for Children

It goes without saying that a healthy, balanced diet is important for children, but the fact is that most children’s (especially young children) diets are far from that.  It’s been said that the top two vegetables eaten by American children are French fries and ketchup, which should give everyone pause. 

 

Research from the U.S. Department of Agriculture has determined that “Less than half of children consume the USDA recommended number of servings in any give food pyramid group and almost 80% do not eat the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables.”

These missing nutrients can cause a number of problems for growing bodies, and can also evidence itself in concentration and attention problems at school.  One study, for example, researched kids ages 8-14 who took a multivitamin for three months and had “significantly improved cognition and mood”.

 

Another study found that “Children who took dietary supplements showed more positive emotions and fewer negative emotions.”  Yet another study found that multivitamin use among children improved cognitive performance.

 

One area where supplements are important for children (I would almost venture to say that they may be even more important than a multivitamin) are omega 3 fatty acids.  Omega 3 fatty acids are absolutely crucial for brain function and development.  It’s important to note that the body cannot manufacture its own omega 3s, and that they must be added to the body either from foods or supplements.  Omega 3s can be obtained from fish or flax, though for children and brain function fish is greatly superior, though there are vegetarian forms that are as effective as fish oil (it’s important to look for vegetarian products with DHA).  Most kids aren’t a big fan of fish, plus there are concerns about mercury contamination, so supplements are an ideal choice.

 

For most parents the idea of getting their child to take a fish oil supplement is laughable, but there are some fantastic and great tasting fish oil supplements on the market.  The one I most recommend isBarlean’s Omega Swirl, which is made in a way so that the texture is similar to a cream or yogurt and it’s not at all fishy.  My daughter would literally drink the entire bottle if I’d let her. 

 

There are a large amount of positive studies on the benefits of omega 3 fish oil supplements for children and its help in concentration, impulse control, depression and hostility.  For children with ADD/ADHD, supplementation is even more important, as research has found that those children are often severely deficient in omega 3s.  I even had a woman who came in the store literally in tears because she was so grateful at the night and day difference in her daughter after giving her fish oil.  While I can’t say that results like that are going to happen for everyone, I do firmly believe that omega 3 supplements are of great benefit for everyone, especially children.

 

Other areas of importance are of Vitamin D, especially in the winter, since vitamin D deficiency can cause brittle bones and osteoporosis in later life.  Vitamin D also enhances immune function, and vitamin D supplementation has been found in research to reduce the risk of illness in children, especially respiratory infections.  Calcium supplements are also important for children, especially those on dairy free diets.

 

We have a lot of very high quality children’s vitamins and supplements at the store, so come by- we’d love to help you.

Healthy Q & A: Radiation Treatment

Q:

My Dad who is 86 will be starting radiation treatment for cancer on one of his vocal cords.  My question is should he be taking any supplements or be applying any sort of lotions or creams on his neck?  He is in good health gets around great, and we would like to keep him that way.

A:

There are a number of supplements which have been found to be beneficial in conjunction with radiation.  A good probiotic supplement can help to prevent the diarrhea that can sometimes be a side effect of radiation therapy.  Ginger can also help with the nausea that frequently accompanies radiation.

 

Another suggestion would be to supplement with curcumin, the beneficial extract from turmeric.  In animal studies, curcumin helped to prevent the skin damage caused by radiation and the curcumin supplements were associated with fewer burns and blisters.  You can read more about the study here.  Topical aloe vera gel or calendula cream can also be helpful in soothing skin irritated by radiation.

 

DHA, a beneficial component of omega 3 fatty acids, may also be helpful.  There was a recent groundbreaking study on breast cancer which found that DHA was able to sensitize tumors to respond better to treatment.  In the animal study, tumor size decreased by 60% at 12 days after irradiation in the group that was supplemented with DHA compared to 31% in the control group.  The research on DHA and cancer is still very preliminary, but very exciting.  You can read the study’s abstract here.

 

Other ideas would be panax ginseng, which could help to counteract the fatigue he may experience.  Eating a diet full of high antioxidant fruits and cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage) is a good idea as well.

 

Be sure to mention any alternative therapies you're considering with his physician.  I hope that helps!