supplements

I have a bunch of invisible friends....

No, I have not gone off the deep end. Nor am I talking about an imaginary playmate (even though Jenny is always there for me when I need her)! (Just kidding.) Seriously, I have tiny friends that are not visible to the naked eye, but that nonetheless play a critical role in my health and vitality. They do the same in yours, as well. Here's the skinny on...probiotics!

Friends for life - These invisible, beneficial bacteria are our friends FOR LIFE. Yup, the word "probiotic" actually means "for life."  They do the opposite of what antibiotics do, obvi. Antibiotics have a scorched-earth policy---killing bad bacteria and good bacteria alike. Probiotics fight sickness and infection by strengthening the "good guys" and providing them with reinforcements.

It takes guts - Probiotics promote the healthy gut flora that we need for proper digestion, absorption of nutrients, and to promote health and well-being. If you struggle with constipation, headaches, bloating, gas or irritability, listen to your gut! different-headaches-400x400It's trying to tell you something. These symptoms could be a sign of an imbalance on the inside.

An inside job - Have you ever met someone who was just glowing with health? As much as Madison Avenue tries to persuade us to buy all of the right wrinkle-fighting and hydrating face creams, the real answer to outward beauty and vitality lies on what is happening inside our bodies. Probiotics help maintain the right balance of good and bad bacteria in our digestive tract, so that we can be healthy from the inside out.

So how do we introduce these popular little guys into our diets? You will see MANY foods touting them as ingredients. They are trendy. But a little sprinkling of probiotics is not the same as a product chock-full of them. Try any of the following to get the most bang for your bacteria buck:

1. yogurt - This is a delicious source of probiotics, but, pay attention! Not all yogurt has probiotics. Make sure the yogurt you buy has "live active cultures" on the label. (And, sorry, guys, even though it's fun to have a sweet treat now and then, frozen yogurt often does not meet this standard!)

2. kefir - fermented grains have many more strains of beneficial bacteria than just yogurt. Kefir is like yogurt on steroids. I get mine from the farm. It's a potent immune-system booster and has been shown to promote longevity. milk-kefir-01

3. kombucha - this fermented tea is one of my favorite ways to get healthy bacteria into my gut. It's tangy, fizzy, and yummy.

4. pickles or kimchi or carrots or beets or... - just about any fermented/pickled food is a good source of probiotics. I like to buy some of these products at the farmers market. They have zing and are so fresh. Our family likes to put these on our salads or in our tacos.

ginger-carrots What do you think of probiotics? I consider them my bffs---beneficial friends for life!

 

 

Sick and tired of being sick and tired? Here are my go-to supplements!

First off, let me set the record straight. I am not a promotor/vendor/pusher/affiliate of any particular vitamin brand or supplement provider. What I am is a fan of natural approaches to wellness. Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine said: "Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food."  food be thy med cartoonHippocrates' philosophy is mine as well. But, let's be honest, oftentimes our diets have gaps. A friend of mine describes vitamins and supplements as "filling in the gaps." Here are the go-to gap-fillers for our family:  cod liver oil and probiotics. Today's post will focus on the wonders of cod liver oil. Many ancient, hearty peoples had fish in their diets. Fish are a vital source of protein, vitamins, and nutrients. Unfortunately, the only fish I was served as a child were fish sticks---the kind that came frozen in a box, with accompanying little packages of tartar sauce.

Is this what they look like in their natural habitat?

Unfamiliar with any other fish, I ended up serving my children the same thing. Even today, with my integrative nutrition health coaching certificate on the wall (or at least close to the wall since I haven't framed it yet), I must confess that preparing fish can intimidate me. I have grilled the occasional wild-caught salmon or tilapia, but I'm still a novice in this arena. So we just don't eat fish very often in my home. If you're in the same NotEnufishinDiet camp, say "hello" to cod liver oil.  This power-packed potent little product, made from the livers of cod, has SO much to offer us, it reminds me of the magical tonic Mary Poppins gave to Jane and Michael in the iconic Disney movie.

Mary poppins

Cod liver oil (clo) nourishes and strengthens our bodies in countless ways. According to history books, clo was the go-to elixir for vibrant health for everyone from Scandinavians to ancient Romans. Even today, families around the world give it to their children as noted in a recent issue of The New York Times magazine.

We should take it and give it to our children, too. Here's why. Cod liver oil is:

- an immune-booster. Are you or your kids prone to catching whatever bug is sweeping through the school or your office?  Shore up your body with clo's heaps of vitamin A, which is critical for keeping your immune system strong, maintaining good vision and reproductive health. It also helps our organs function properly.

- a good source of the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D.  Most of us are deficient in this vitamin which keeps our teeth and bones strong and is protective against cancer (now the #1 cause of death in the U.S.), diabetes, Alzheimers and more.

- chock-full of  heart-healthy omega-3s.

- a mood-booster with its powerful mix of vitamins K, E, and coQ enzymes. 

Personally, our family uses the Green Pasture brand. This company extracts the oils and ferments the product, in the same way it was done traditionally for centuries. I've also heard good things about Carlson's clo. I mention these brands specifically because you can't just pick up any old clo product from the store shelf and expect to reap the benefits listed above. Many brands use farmed fish and add synthetic vitamins to the mix. They will not be nearly as potent or effective as brands that have a more natural approach.

Finally, clo is best taken with butter from grass-fed cows. Studies have shown that the fat from the butter helps make all of the nutrients more bio-available to your body. (For more information on clo's benefits, dosage recommendations, and more, see this pamphlet generated from the westonaprice.org.)

Next week, I'll touch on probiotics. Please comment below on any of the above. Did you grow up on fish sticks? Do you know how to cook fish? I'm open to your tips and recipes. And tell me about the supplements you currently take, if any. Do you take cod liver oil? And if not, why not?