Author Archives: Dr. Bradly Jacobs

  • Boosting Your Body's Healthy Stress Response

    We all deal with stress—and could use some extra help coping with it. Learn more from Dr. Brad Jacobs about how a variety of lifestyle changes, breathing practices and supplements can boost your body’s stress response.

    This video is part of a series of educational videos we’ll be posting from members of our Integrative Health Advisory Board.

  • Better Brain Health (Video)

    Keeping your brain strong throughout your life can help slow cognitive decline as we age. Here, Dr. Brad Jacobs talk about the importance of social relationships, good sleep, a healthy diet and consistent exercise when it comes to brain health. In addition, he talks about supplements such as vitamin D, CoQ10 and B vitamins and their role in brain function.

  • Fiber's Benefits for Overall Health (Video)

    Fiber is an important inclusion in our diets because of its ability to regulate digestion, lower cholesterol, maintain healthy blood sugar levels and more. Here, Dr. Brad Jacobs talks about good ways to get it through diet, how much to aim for each day and other ways it can be beneficial to your health.

  • The Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet (Video)

    No matter which diet you follow, including lots of vegetables at every meal is an important way to boost health and can help prevent stroke, cancer, diabetes and more. Here, Dr. Brad Jacobs talks about the overall benefits of eating 5-7 servings of vegetables each day, and supplementing with powdered greens if necessary.

  • Natural Ways to Battle Heartburn

    Did you know? Many natural remedies are available for reducing symptoms of acid reflux, GERD or heartburn. Here, Dr. Brad Jacobs talks about strategies for reducing acid reflux, as well as supplements that can coat the stomach and increase tightening of the esophageal sphincter, including marshmallow root, DGL, d-Limonene and melatonin.

    Acid reflux (otherwise known as heartburn) is more than just a minor health concern. People who live with chronic heartburn can experience serious discomfort, to the point that they have trouble eating and can’t sleep at night. Here are some natural ways to ease—or erase—acid reflux symptoms.

    “There are many different causes of heartburn,” says Dr. Brad Jacobs, MD, and chair of Pharmaca’s Integrative Health Advisory Board. An important one to keep in mind, he says, is anxiety or stress. “That can increase your production of acid in the stomach and thus increase your chances of having heartburn.” That’s why he tells his patients experiencing heartburn to try and reduce anxiety or stress through meditation, yoga or anything else that will help calm and center them.

    Different foods and eating behaviors can also aggravate heartburn. “You want to avoid things like alcohol and caffeine that can relax the sphincter between the stomach and esophagus,” says Dr. Jacobs. Other foods, such as tomatoes, can have the same effect. Because each person’s trigger foods are different, it’s a good idea to work with a health care professional to identify which foods might be causing the problem. Dr. Jacobs also encourages patients to avoid large meals toward the end of the night, since lying down on a full stomach can increase the chances of reflux.

    As far as treatments, Dr. Jacobs says there are a variety of herbs and supplements to consider. Marshmallow root, for example, helps provide a coating around the stomach that limits acid reflux. Deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) is another helpful supplement. “DGL can be quite effective—take 1-2 pills before meals to again provide a nice coating in the stomach,” he says.

    For a more intensive treatment—especially good for people who experience long-term heartburn symptoms—try d-limonene, says Dr. Jacobs. He recommends taking one every other day for a minimum of a 10-day course (find it in Enzymatic Therapy's Heartburn Free).

    Finally, Dr. Jacobs points to recent research about melatonin’s usefulness in treating heartburn. “A dose of 3 mg, taken in the evening time (usually 1-2 hours before you go to bed), has been shown to actually increase the tightening of the esophageal sphincter, thereby decreasing your risk of recurrent reflux.”

    While many people turn to medications to ease heartburn symptoms, Dr. Jacobs strongly suggests looking into these non-prescription solutions first. Why? “Those who take medications such as proton pump inhibitors often have a hard time getting off of them,” he says. “Studies have also shown that your reflux symptoms can increase as you’re coming off those medications.”

    Finally, Dr. Jacobs recommends a full examination by a physician if you have persistent symptoms and are over 40 years of age. They can take a closer look at your esophagus and stomach to ensure nothing more concerning is going in.

    Speak with a Pharmaca practitioner about natural solutions to acid reflux.

  • Alternatives for Fighting Low Back Pain (Video)

    Many people suffer from back pain—the good news is that there are a variety of natural solutions and strategies that can offer relief. Here Dr. Brad Jacobs talks about stress and posture, topical homeopathic remedies, acupuncture and herbs such as curcumin or boswellia, and their role in back pain relief.

  • Sleep: Essential to Good Health

    Want better sleep? Here are Dr. Brad Jacobs' expert recommendations for techniques and supplements that can give you the most restful sleep and set you on the path to good overall health.

    This video is part of a series of educational videos we’ll be posting from members of our Integrative Health Advisory Board.

  • Ask the MD: Good Heart Health

    Wondering about how and when to get your cholesterol checked, or how exercise can boost your cardiovascular health? We got answers to some common heart health questions from Dr. Brad Jacobs, MD, and Chair of Pharmaca's Integrative Health Advisory Board.

    How often should I have my cholesterol checked?
    Typically we recommend you get your cholesterol checked once a year. For men that should start at age 35, and women age 45. If you have an increased risk (i.e. a family history of early heart disease), then we recommend you check it at least once between the ages of 20-35. If it's elevated at that point, continue to get it annually, otherwise you can continue with the normal guidelines.    

    When you do get it checked, make sure you have both your HDL and LDL tested, since total cholesterol is less relevant. The LDL should be as low as possible, and the "good stuff," HDL, as high as possible. The general guidelines are to aim for higher than 45 for HDL, and below 130 for LDL-unless you're at risk for heart issues, in which case we recommend an LDL below 100.

    What integrative therapies can I use to lower my cholesterol?
    The most important things are lifestyle changes. I'm a big fan of modifying people's diet. Everyone seems to know what they're supposed to eat, but it's hard to implement that in their life.

    Instead I tell people to change the proportion of types of food they put on their plate. Rather than filling your plate with half meat and carbs and a quarter vegetables, reconfigure it so that three-quarters of the plate is filled with vegetables, at least at lunch and dinner. When you do that, it can dramatically change your overall heart health and cholesterol.

    When you do eat meat and carbohydrates, make them whole grain carbs, and diversify your protein sources by incorporating legumes, fish, soy or, if necessary, a lean meat. I recommend eating red meat modestly, about 1-2 times per month. (For more information on healthy eating, I recommend the Harvard School of Public Health's Healthy Eating Pyramid by Dr. Willett.)

    Eating this way increases your fiber consumption, and reduces your saturated fat intake, both powerful tools for lowering your cholesterol and your risk for heart disease. If you can't get enough fiber through food (ideally 20 g per day), try supplements such as psyllium husks, triphala (a fiber-based compound from India), or beta glucans. Make sure you're drinking enough water as well. When you're eating this much fiber, staying hydrated allows bowel movements to flow more freely, which can help relieve both diarrhea and constipation. Vegetables themselves also allow you to have more rapid bowel movements, which can reduce colon cancer risk, allow you to lose weight, lower cholesterol, etc.

    Another important lifestyle change is maintaining a healthy weight, as weight itself affects cholesterol. If you can lose more than 5 percent of your weight you can reduce your cholesterol. Find a peer you want to lose weight with, since the buddy system almost always makes losing weight more successful. If you don't have one, try WeightWatchers or SparkPeople, fantastic programs that have hundreds of thousands of participants. (Read more about my weight management tips here).

    I also recommend the following supplements for lowering cholesterol:
    ·     Niacin: Take in small doses several times per day to help increase your HDL levels.
    ·     Garlic: Research has linked it to modest lowering of cholesterol, and it can be beneficial for overall health.
    ·     Omega-3s: Strong evidence shows that these reduce your triglycerides, and can help increase heart attack survival rates.
    ·     I've also found plant sterols to be quite effective, especially beta-sitosterols, which are quite helpful for modifying LDL. You can find them in spreads such as Benacol or in supplements like Natural Factors' Cholesterol Formula.

    What about blood pressure?
    There is some overlap with blood pressure and cholesterol. Stopping smoking, reducing your weight and managing your stress can all can reduce your blood pressure. Decreasing your alcohol and salt consumption can also help.

    As for supplements, magnesium and calcium are thought to have modest blood pressure-lowering effects, and CoQ10 is thought to lower systolic blood pressure. Finally, there is a lot of research showing that yoga can have dramatic effects on blood pressure, as it affects breathing, reduces overall stress and reduces the stress hormone cortisol.

    Should I be taking an aspirin every day?
    I am in favor of taking a baby aspirin (81 mg) for men and women over 40. Research shows that it can reduce the rate of cancer by up to 33 percent in this group, and can prevent heart disease. It's important to note that some people are at increased risk for bleeding, and aspirin can exacerbate that, so speak with your doctor before starting an aspirin regimen. Asthmatics can also see a worsening of symptoms with aspirin. 

    How should exercise figure in to a heart-healthy lifestyle?
    Exercise itself has been shown to improve cholesterol. The most important thing is to find an exercise that you like to do. What did you do in high school for fun? Try and do something based on that. Any exercise is exponentially better than none, so just getting out and walking for 20 minutes can give you significant health benefits.

    National guidelines recommend 30-60 minutes, 5 days per week. If it's too difficult to find that much time, incorporate exercise into your normal activities such as walking to/from work, taking stairs instead of elevators or doing a 'walking' meeting instead of sitting in your chair.

    Ideally, you should aim for exercises that strengthen the body and improve your cardiopulmonary system. I'm also a big fan of exercises that affect the mind, like tai chi, yoga, since they stretch and strengthen the body while relaxing and calming the mind, (which can lower blood pressure).

    What is the connection between oral health and heart health?
    There's thought to be a relationship between oral hygiene and heart health, since people with poor oral hygiene are thought to have chronic inflammation in the body, which puts you at higher risk for heart attack. Chronic inflammation in the mouth is like a low-grade infection, which keeps your system in a revved up state where the cytokines and immune system are always activated. That's why a diet that's high in anti-inflammatory compounds can reduce your heart disease risk.

    For more advice about maintaining good cardiovascular health, speak with a Pharmaca practitioner today.

  • Ask the MD: Healthy Weight Management

    We've gathered some common questions about weight management and posed them to the chair of our Integrative Health Advisory Board (IHAB), Dr. Brad Jacobs, MD. Here is his sage advice about maintaining a healthy weight.

    What integrative therapies can I use to manage my weight?

    First off, keep in mind that there are no quick fixes. But if you are willing to be persistent, then you can lose all the weight you desire. Exercise, diet, stress and sleep all play a critical role in weight management.

    A good first step is to increase the amount of exercise you get. Modify your diet with smaller, more frequent meals, and make sure you're managing your stress and mood. Stress can indirectly affect your weight, so try yoga, breathing practices, guided imagery, or supplements, if necessary, to manage stress. It's also important to improve your sleep, so explore different natural therapies if necessary. As far as supplements go, I recommend people increase their fiber intake to increase feelings of fullness and improve digestion.

    It is important for me to know my Body Mass Index (BMI) score?
    BMI is a measure of body fat based on height and weight, so it's a good thing to be aware of (you can find many BMI calculators online). Healthy people should achieve a BMI between 18.5-25, 25-30 is considered overweight and over 30 is obese. Note: People who are large boned or have significant muscle mass can have skewed BMI numbers. A doctor can help determine your BMI goal for your body type.

    How should exercise figure into my weight management program?
    People think of exercise as beneficial strictly because it burns calories. But that's the least of its benefits. Exercise can help you lose weight in three ways: First, it increases your metabolic rate so that you burn calories more rapidly throughout the day (it's like turning up the furnace in your house which in turn burns fuel more rapidly). Second, exercise can improve your mood and reduce stress, so it makes you less likely to crave foods for psychological reasons (one of the main reasons we overeat). It also helps you to sleep better, and lack of sleep is strongly associated with weight gain.

    In terms of guidelines, shoot for exercise 5 days a week, 30 minutes a day. Keep in mind that even 15 minutes of exercise provides 65 percent of the benefit. By expanding your definiteion of exercise to include activities such as taking the stairs, walking during work meetings, walking to work, to name a few, you can easily exercise daily and it doesn't have to take a lot of time out of your day. I recommend people get a pedometer and aim to walk 10,000 steps each day.

    What dietary changes should I make?
    The most important thing to consider is the quantity of food being eaten in terms of calories. You can track your intake online via WeightWatchers or SparkPeople.

    Next, look at the types of food you're eating. Try what I call "going brown," or switching out refined carbs like white rice, bread and pasta for whole grain breads, brown rice, etc. These increase your fiber intake, which makes you feel fuller for longer and with fewer calories. In addition, increase your total vegetable intake, which increases the amount of phytonutrients you're getting and improves the quality of food.

    Try to eat frequent small meals. A good breakfast is important (including whole grains and a little protein), then mid-morning eat a good snack (protein mixed with a little fat and carbs, such as yogurt, a handful of nuts, or celery with peanut, almond or cashew butter). Have a light lunch (like a large salad), and a mid-afternoon snack before dinner. By eating multiple meals per day, you are less likely to crave sweets and salt and to eat large meals. You will also sustain your blood sugar levels instead of creating spikes and drops that can affect your mood and therefore your food choices.

    Could my extra weight be caused by a medical condition or a prescription I'm taking?
    You can gain extra weight if you are hypothyroid, so if you think this may be a contributing factor, get your thyroid levels checked by a doctor. Together you'll be able to determine the best approach to regulating thyroid levels. Other conditions that can lead to weight gain are sleep depravity, depression and in rare cases, polycystic ovary syndrome.

    As far as prescription medications go, the most prominent are insulin (for diabetics) and prednisone (a corticosteroid used for autoimmune conditions), which tends to make you crave food more and therefore can cause weight gain.

    Each month we'll be tackling a new topic and posing questions to members of our Integrative Health Advisory Board. Next month we'll cover heart health, stay tuned!

  • Video: Managing Your Cholesterol Naturally

    Need to lower your cholesterol? Here, Dr. Brad Jacobs talks about natural ways to maintain healthy cholesterol levels through diet, exercise and supplementation.

    This video is part of a series of educational videos we'll be posting from members of our Integrative Health Advisory Board.

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