Omega 3

Healthy Q & A: Improving Children's Concentration in School

Q:  My son has started first grade this year, and he’s been having a terrible time.  His teacher has a system of warnings that they get and then they have to stay inside for recess.  He’s already had to stay in for recess now a couple times, which I really think just makes things worse.  He’s not a bad kid, he just has a difficult time concentrating I think.  Is there anything you’d recommend?  I feel horrible about this whole situation.

 

A: Transitioning from kindergarten to first grade is a huge step, and many children, particularly boys, have a difficult time. As a young child (or person of any age!), sitting in a desk all day can be really hard.  I wonder if you might be able to speak to his teacher about the punishments in her class, since staying in for recess seems like the last thing that a child who has trouble paying attention needs.  Free play and being outdoors has been shown to increase concentration and behavior in the classroom, which is exactly the goal you’re looking for.

There are a number of supplements which have been shown to help with brain function and concentration in children.  The first I’d recommend is omega 3 fish oil.  The body cannot manufacture omega 3 fatty acids, and fatty acids which are essential to the body and play a large role in brain function, so if a child isn’t eating fatty fish multiple times a week (and few are), it is likely they’re deficient in those nutrients.  Omega 3 fatty acids have been studied extensively for their role in proper brain functioning, and are safe and beneficial for people of all ages.

Omega 3 fish oil can aid in concentration as well as helping with improving learning and behavior.  Science Daily has reported on a recent study which found, “From a sample of nearly 500 schoolchildren, we found that levels of Omega-3 fatty acids in the blood significantly predicted a child's behavior and ability to learn. Higher levels of Omega-3 in the blood, and DHA in particular, were associated with better reading and memory, as well as with fewer behavior problems as rated by parents and teachers.”

Correcting an omega 3 deficiency can go a long way in improving school performance in children, especially for kids who are having a difficult time.  There have even been positive results for children suffering from ADD/ADHD and autism as well. 

I have personally had a number of our customers have very impressive results with omega 3s for their children.  I remember one woman who came back in tears because she was so happy with the change in her daughter’s behavior after taking fish oils.  She said it was like night and day.  I won’t try to suggest that that is a typical response, though I do truly believe that fish oil does make a difference for the brain functioning, especially in children.

Most parents can’t picture their children being willing to take a fish oil, though we do have several great, non fishy tasting omega 3 supplements.  The one I would most recommend is Barlean’s Omega Swirl It comes in a variety of flavors- my daughter likes the lemon best- and it’s made in a way that it has a creamy consistency, rather than an oil, similar to yogurt or custard.  I don’t tell her its fish oil, just a “liquid vitamin”, but she absolutely loves the taste, and would literally drink the whole bottle if I let her.

Next, I’d suggest phosphatidyl serine, also known as PS.  PS is a type of fat which is very prevalent in brain tissue.  It’s been researched with impressive results for enhancing memory, but has also been found more recently to help children with ADD/ADHD, not only with memory, but also attention and impulsivity.  In the study, children were given 200mg a day of PS.  The results of the study found significant improvements in each of those areas in the participants.  The abstract of the study is here if you’d like to read about the study in more detail.

Jarrow has a new chewable phosphatidyl serine called PS-100 Gummies.  I’d recommend doing 200mg a day, which were the amounts used in the research study.  Often you can reduce the amount of PS after an initial period of a higher dose.

 

I’d very much recommend both supplements, and they work in different ways, so they could be taken together if desired.

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: Supplements for Pregnancy

Q:  My husband and I are planning on starting to try for a baby.  I want to do everything right that I can, so I wanted to know what vitamins I should be taking before and during pregnancy.

A:  The first thing I’d recommend is folic acid.  It, more than anything other supplement, has been shown to help to prevent birth defects of the brain and spinal cord.  All women of childbearing age should take at least 400 mcg of the B vitamin, since most birth defects occur in the first 3-4 weeks of pregnancy, often before many women know they’re pregnant.  Even if you’re not planning having a baby, it’s still important to take enough folic acid, since you never know.  A good multivitamin will contain 400 mcg of folic acid, so it’s just another reason why taking a multi every day is a good idea.

Once pregnant it’s important to switch to a true prenatal vitamin, and would be a good idea to switch now if you’re planning on getting pregnant.  Certain vitamins need to be in a lower dosage than what a person would normally take when pregnant.  Excess vitamin A and E for example, can be harmful to a developing fetus.

Another supplement which is crucial to a developing fetus is omega 3 fatty acids, either a fish based supplement or a vegetarian DHA supplement like Flora’s Vegetarian DHA.  Flax oil is a good source of omega 3 for vegetarians, but it does not contain DHA (one of the beneficial parts of omega 3 fatty acids) like omega 3 fish oil does.  DHA is extremely important for fetal eye and brain development.  DHA is also important during breastfeeding, so don’t stop taking it after you’ve had the baby.  Here’s a great article which reports on a variety of studies and benefits on DHA and pregnancy.

When I was pregnant, I also took probiotics, or “good bacteria”.  It was one of the only supplements for boosting the immune system that was safe during pregnancy (you need to be very careful with taking herbs and whatnot during pregnancy, since what is beneficial for a regular person can be harmful during pregnancy).   I had also read some studies which linked probiotics during pregnancy to a reduced risk of allergies and eczema in children.

Finally, I’d recommend the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler.  It’s a fantastic book for explaining hormone and fertility cycles in women.  I really can’t recommend it enough.  Another book I liked when I was pregnant was The Natural Pregnancy Book by Aviva Romm.

Healthy Q & A: Heart Disease

Q:

Heart disease runs in my family.  I think I’m reasonably healthy, but wondered what I can do to prevent it.

A:

Family history is definitely something to be aware of, but by no means is it an absolute.  In fact, in cases like this, knowing your family history can be of great benefit, since you can take steps to ensure that your cardiovascular system stays in top shape.

 

One of the most important things to consider is exercise.  Exercise helps to maintain a strong heart, fights obesity, and helps with everything from depression to osteoporosis.  The most difficult thing about beginning an exercise program is actually starting, but once you get into the habit, and see the positive changes it can cause, it makes it easier to stick with it.

 

A number of supplements can be helpful as well.  The first I’d mention is omega 3 fish oil.  Fish oil has been proven to help with cardiovascular health and in treating high blood pressure.  Solgar’s Omega 950is a wonderful, high potency formula that we highly recommend.  Fish oil can also help with everything from brain function to joint pain, so it’s something I think everyone would benefit from.

 

The next I’d most recommend is supplementing with CoQ10.  CoQ10 is a substance found in every cell in the body.  The body manufactures it on its own, but as we age, the body’s production of the nutrient is greatly lowered (and some prescriptions, like statins, further deplete the body of CoQ10).  CoQ10 literally gives the cells the energy required to function, and is found in the highest concentrations in the heart.  Research has found benefit of supplementing with CoQ10 for preventing heart attacks, particularly a second heart attack, as well as for people with congestive heart failure (there’s a good article on CoQ10 and heart failure here).  CoQ10 has been researched extensively; here’s a nice overview of more of its benefits.  Another thing to mention is that most people with heart problems would benefit from the ubiquinol form of CoQ10, which is much better absorbed than the more common ubiquinone.

 

High blood pressure is another problem which goes hand in hand with heart disease.  One easy way to help lower it is to drink 3 cups of hibiscus tea daily (Republic of Tea has several flavored varieties which are particularly delicious).  Something else that can be of great benefit is garlic extract- the brand Kyolichas odorless garlic capsules.  Garlic can also help with boosting the immune system, so it’s a great supplement to take in the winter.

 

Heart health is an extensive topic, so be sure to stop in the store so we can help you more thoroughly.

Healthy Q & A: Seasonal Affective Disorder

Q:

I think I have seasonal affective disorder.   These dark days are killing me, and I just feel down and like I have no energy to do anything.  Do you have any ideas of something natural that could help?  I do not want to go on prescription antidepressants.

A:

Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is very common this time of year as the amount of daylight is so short.  Some people who work in an office may hardly even see the sun in the winter months, which makes it very easy to become depressed.  First, I’d like to say not to absolutely rule out prescription antidepressants.  I am all for doing things naturally, and believe a natural approach should be tried first, but there are times when pharmaceuticals are both beneficial and necessary.

 

That being said, there are a number of supplements which can be very helpful for people with seasonal affective disorder.  The first thing that comes to mind, which has been shown to be incredibly effective for people with SAD, is a supplement called SAMe (pronounced “Sammy”) which is short for S-adenosyl-L-methionine.  SAMe works by helping to boost the manufacture of “feel good” or mood boosting neurotransmitters in the brain.

 

Research has shown it to be as effective as prescription anti-depressants (some studies have even found it to work better) without the side effects of conventional pharmaceuticals.  Instead of having side effects, SAMe has the side benefits of helping with pain and inflammation and also aiding in detoxifying the liver. 

 

SAMe is most commonly used for seasonal affective disorder and depression, but is also used effectively for fibromyalgia and joint pain.  Many natural mood enhancers can take a bit of time to gain full effectiveness; in fact, some like St. John’s Wort can take several weeks before the benefits are seen.  I particularly like SAMe since its benefits are felt quickly, usually within the first week and for some people within just a couple days. 

 

SAMe is most effective when taken on an empty stomach.  Most people find 400mg daily to be an effective dose.  If you suffer from seasonal affective disorder or depression, I would very much recommend giving it a try.  I know several people who take it with great success.  My one caution would be for people with bipolar disorder, since there has been some research which has linked SAMe supplementation with an increase in manic episodes for people with bipolar disorder.

 

Other supplements which can be of benefit to people with SAD (along with everyone else really), would be a quality omega 3 supplement as well as additional vitamin D.  One of the benefits of omega 3 fish oil is its help for brain function and mood.  Many people are deficient in omega 3 fatty acids since the body is unable to manufacture them- they must be obtained through diet, so unless you’re eating fatty fish several times a week, or consuming flax or chia seed regularly, you are likely deficient in that nutrient.

 

Vitamin D is great for everyone to take in the winter months, since it is usually made in the body from the reaction of sunlight on the skin.  Vitamin D can help with immunity, bone health, as well as proper mental health.

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!

 

Health Q & A: Detoxing

Q:

My new year’s resolution s to be healthier.  I wanted to kick it off with a cleanse of some kind, but I’m unsure of which to do since I’ve heard stories of people doing colon cleanses and then being stuck in the bathroom all day.  I don’t want that lol.  Do you have any recommendations or ideas for me? 

A:

A goal to be healthier this year is a wonderful resolution, and a whole body cleanse is a great way to begin.  Many people are afraid to take cleansing products for the reason you mentioned, but we have a number of great ones at the store which are gentle but still very effective.  A new product we’ve gotten recently in that I really like is Nature’s Plus Complete Body Cleanse.  It’s a formula with vegetarian capsules that are taken morning and night.  It contains three different bottles- a cleansing formula with probiotics and organic herbs which helps to detoxify the liver, colon, lymphatic system, blood, kidneys and more; a fiber formula, and a gentle nighttime herbal laxative formula which also contains probiotics and probiotics.  I’d say it’s definitely the most complete whole body cleanse we have and the one I would recommend above all others.

 

For general health after your cleanse, there are three supplements which I think everyone should take, the first being a quality multivitamin which will help to fill in nutritional gaps in your diet.  The next woule be vitamin D, which most Americans are deficient in, especially in the winter months.  Vitamin D is crucial for the immune system, bone health, cardiovascular health and a myriad of other benefits.  The third supplement would be omega 3 fish oil.  Omega 3 fatty acids are needed for proper brain function and also help with reducing inflammation in the body as well as lowering cholesterol (specifically triglycerides) along with a long list of benefits for other health conditions.  It's important to note that the body cannot produce omega 3 fatty acids- they must be obtained through diet.  If a person is not eating fatty fish or flax/chia seeds on a regular basis, it is extremely likely that they are deficient in omega 3 fatty acids.

 

A quality diet is also important for vibrant health, with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains, as is being physically active.  Exercising can be difficult in the winter months since the freezing temperatures aren’t really conducive to outdoor exercise.  Groupon has been having good deals lately for exercise classes in the area, sothat’s worth looking into.  There are also some great free exercise videos available online.  Fit Sugar is a website I really like that has wonderful quick 10 minute workout videos.   Another good one is Fitness Blender.  They have a fast 8 minute workout that’s really great and still gets the heart rate up.