Author Archives: Kate Tackett, ND

  • Ask Pharmaca: Why Does My Energy Crash Every Afternoon?

    SleepyQ. Every afternoon I seem to lose energy. What can I do to keep from crashing?

    A. I’ll answer your question with a few other questions.

    Are you eating the wrong things for lunch? A lunch date with pasta and bread or a bacon cheeseburger may sound enticing, but these foods are full of refined carbohydrates or saturated fats that require loads of energy to metabolize—and slow us down. Plus, refined carbs such as white bread, pasta, white rice and pastries offer no sustained energy, as they provide a quick sugar spike followed by a crash.

    A better plan is to eat smaller meals throughout the day that include solid sources of protein (eggs, turkey bacon, yogurt, white meat poultry), complex carbohydrates with good fiber content (oatmeal, sweet potato, beans, vegetables, quinoa, brown rice) and healthy fats (salmon, avocado, nuts, seeds, olive oil). Smaller, more frequent meals are easier to digest and therefore won’t zap energy or slow your constitution. They also help to maintain steady blood sugar—which is key to sustained energy all day long.

    Are you drinking too much coffee? Many of us depend on coffee to get us through the day, but even coffee leads to an eventual energy crash. That’s because caffeine stimulates release of adrenaline and dopamine, which contribute to the initial good mood and energy, but these effects wear off, prompting the desire for more.

    Instead of another cup of joe, try nourishing your adrenals with adaptogenic herbs known to help the body adapt to stress. I like to drink Tulsi tea because it contains holy basil—a great adaptogen that assists with grounding energy (and tastes great, too)! Other adaptogenic herbs to try include ashwaganda, rhodiola, eleuthero and licorice. You can also find them in formulas such as Gaia Herbs Adrenal Health, Pharmaca Adrenal Support and MegaFood Adrenal Strength. I like to take my adrenal formula in the morning and again in the early to mid-afternoon to give a second boost to my day.

    Adequate B vitamins are also crucial for proper metabolism and sustained energy. Taking a B complex in the morning or early afternoon is a great way to perk up your day. Formulas I like are Thorne Research Stress B-Complex, Integrative Therapeutics Active B Complex and Jarrow Formulas B-Right.

    Finally, are you really drinking enough water? The importance of adequate water consumption is often overlooked—and drinking enough is easier said than done! Dehydration leads to sluggish metabolism and dull energy. One of the best things you can do for yourself when feeling sluggish? Drink copious amounts of water. Bottoms up!

    -Kate Tackett, ND
    Kate received her doctorate in naturopathic medicine from Bastyr University in 2005. Kate has been helping Pharmaca clientele for more than 9 years by offering personalized advice on a variety of health concerns. A regular contributor to Pharmaca's Project Wellness blog, Kate holds a wealth of knowledge in natural health. She also sees clients in private practice.

  • More about Medium Chain Triglycerides: The Saturated Fat With Benefits!


    Contrary to popular thought, not all saturated fats can lead to heart disease and obesity. That’s because they’re not all created equal—Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs), for example, are saturated fats with many health benefits, including support for metabolism, energy and beauty. (Learn more about the beauty benefits of MCTs and coconut oil here.)

    What Are Medium Chain Triglycerides?

    Medium Chain Triglycerides are saturated fats naturally found in coconut oil and palm kernel oils (and in lesser amounts in whole milk and butter). Long Chain Triglycerides (LCTs), on the other hand, are the most abundant fat in nature, and the source of 98 percent of our dietary fat.

    Medium and Long Chain Triglycerides are named based on the length of their carbon chains, and as you would suspect, LCTs have longer carbons chains than MCTs. This structural difference affects how each fat is metabolized—LCTs pass slowly through the digestive tract, requiring bile salts and enzymes to break them down, then entering the lymphatic system and ending up mostly in fat stores as conserved energy. Conversely, MCTs are metabolized by the liver—bypassing the lymphatic system and the need for bile salts and enzymes—making them available for quick energy.

    MCTs for metabolism and weight management

    By replacing common LCTs with MCTs in your diet, you reap many metabolism- and weight-associated benefits. First, MCTs provide about 10 percent fewer calories per gram than LCTs. Consuming MCTs also slows down accumulation of fat over time, since MCTs are not stored in fat deposits the way LCTs are. MCTs may also suppress appetite.

    To get started, try cooking and baking with coconut oil to get more fat calories from MCTs and fewer from LCTs. Palm kernel and coconut oils are also great for cooking because they are stable at high temperatures, unlike vegetable oils such as canola oil.

    Other healthy benefits of MCTs

    Energy – As we’ve established, MCTs provide quick energy because they are so readily metabolized by the liver. This makes them great for endurance athletes, bodybuilders or anyone looking for a quick energy boost.

    Heart Health – MCTs promote normal blood platelet function, healthy cholesterol levels and prevent plaque build-up. Worth noting: Pacific Islanders—whose diet features a whopping 30-60 percent coconut content—show nearly non-existent rates of cardiovascular disease.

    Brain Health – MCTs may also be helpful in supporting cognitive health. Here’s why: The brain regularly uses insulin to convert glucose to brain fuel. When insulin response is compromised (e.g. through poor diet or diabetes), the brain can starve of the glucose-converted energy it needs. But MCTs can be converted into ketone bodies or ketoacids, an alternative form of fuel for the brain. In this way, the body treats MCTs more like a carbohydrate than a fat, turning it into quick brain fuel.

    Immunity – The fatty acids in coconut oil (i.e. capric, caprylic and lauric acids) have many immune-benefitting properties, including anti-microbial actions.

    Ways to get your MCTs

    Ready to improve energy, boost immunity and brain power, manage weight and beautify your skin and hair? Pharmaca carries a variety of great products containing MCTs.

    NOW Foods’ MCT Oil – A blend of liquefied pure coconut/palm kernel oils.

    Nutiva’s Organic Red Palm Oil – A buttery, MCT-rich oil that’s great for sauces, sautéing and baking. (Note: Red palm oil is not to be confused with palm kernel oil that has a richer amount of MCTs.)

    Nature’s Way’s Liquid Coconut Premium Oil Made from pure, expeller-pressed coconuts, and formulated to maintain a liquid form wither refrigerated or at room temperature. A great alternative for vegetable oil in cooking, or adding to dressing, sauces and dips.

    Jarrow Formulas’ Extra Virgin Coconut Oil Made with organic, non-GMO, cold-pressed coconuts. Try the easy-to-take pill form, or the solid form that’s great for cooking, baking and for use topically on the hair and skin.

    Nature’s Way’s EFAGold Coconut Oil – Another great option made from certified organic, non-GMO, extra virgin coconuts. Cold pressed, hexane-free, unrefined and non-bleached.

  • Coconut Oil’s Beauty Benefits

    coconutBake with it, take it by the spoonful or smear it on dry elbows: No matter how you use coconut oil, you’ll find that it’s chock full of healthy benefits, due in part to its high content of medium chain triglycerides (MCTs).

    What are MCTs? First, let’s talk about what they’re not—they’re not long chain triglycerides (LCTs), which are the most abundant fat found in nature and the source of 98 percent of our dietary fat. LCTs are digested slowly and stored in fat deposits; MCTs, on the other hand, are digested quickly and used for immediate energy. MCTs also contain fatty acids that benefit immunity.

    Coconut oil has the highest naturally occurring MCT content, making it a great source of MCTs for both internal and external benefits:

    • Coconut oil nourishes connective tissues, keeping skin healthy and smooth, reducing fine lines and wrinkles, and promoting even skin tone.
    • Coconut fats are deeply moisturizing and reduce moisture loss through skin pores.
    • Coconut oil’s antioxidant-like activity provides protection from the aging effects of free radicals.
    • Coconut oil contains fatty acids (e.g. lauric acid) with strong disinfectant and anti-microbial properties, meaning it can help prevent infection when used internally or applied topically to wounds.
    • The lauric acid in coconut oil is also a great mouth disinfectant. Try swishing a tablespoon of coconut oil for 15 minutes (then spitting into the trash) for a brighter smile and enhanced oral health.
    • Coconut and palm kernel oils contain vitamin E—a powerful antioxidant that’s essential for skin growth and repair, protection from cracking, prevention of premature aging and wrinkling, and enhanced sun tolerance.
    • Proteins in coconut oil contribute to cellular health and tissue repair, providing relief for skin disorders such as eczema, psoriasis and acne.


    Our coconut oil and MCT-filled favorites:

    Barlean’s MCT Swirl – A daily liquid supplement that features the delicious taste and texture of a coconut smoothie—as well as important omega-3 fatty acids like EPA and DHA.

    Coconut Oils from Nature’s Way and Jarrow Formulas – Choose from a number of multi-use products that are made from pure, organic coconuts. Great for daily supplementation, cooking, and skin and hair care!

    Pharmaca brand Organic Coconut & Vanilla Lip Balm Our very own delicious, nourishing and moisturizing lip balm made with certified organic coconut oil.

    Eminence’s Coconut Age Corrective MoisturizerThis ultra-hydrating, pH-balancing and toning organic face cream is made with coconut oil and coconut water, natural retinol, green apple stem cells and shea butter.

    MyChelle’s Sun Shield SPF 28 Coconut Nourishing broad-spectrum mineral sun protection featuring coconut and palm kernel oils, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.

    Nubian Heritage’s Coconut Papaya Deodorant An effective natural deodorant with coconut oil to keep underarm skin moisturized and soft.

    Elemental Herbs’ All Good Organic Coconut Skin FoodOrganic, unrefined coconut oil for all-over moisturizing skin scents like lavender or lemongrass!

    Creative uses for coconut oil

    Use as an all-over moisturizer - Deep condition hair - Use as a cuticle soother to improve nail health - Try it as a shave oil - Run a small dab through wet hair to eliminate frizz - Remove makeup - Clear up cold sores with coconut’s anti-viral properties - Use as a massage oil - Combine with salt or sugar to make the perfect exfoliant - Use as diaper cream for baby’s bottom - Decrease stretch marks during pregnancy - Use as an after-sun soother - Use as a carrier base for essential oils (e.g. natural perfume or natural bug repellant) - Use in dips, spreads, sauces or add to food and smoothies - Swap it for butter or vegetable oil in baking and cooking

  • A Naturopath’s Guide to Treating Anxiety

    RedheadAnxiety, in all its forms, is a common condition that affects more than 20 million Americans. It can manifest as excessive worry or unwarranted fear, or even nervousness, shortness of breath or a racing heart. If you experience any of these symptoms, read on to learn more about anxiety and how you can treat it, naturally.

    What is anxiety?

    Anxiety is a normal, albeit unpleasant, human emotion that all people experience, ranging from mild unease to intense debilitating fear. But anxiety is different fromfear; fear is a rational response to real danger, whereas anxiety usually lacks a clear or realistic cause.

    Feeling anxious about a work presentation, preparing for a test or anxiousness over meeting a blind date constitutes normal anxiety. Abnormal anxiety happens consistently and at higher levels that interfere with normal life. For people with anxiety disorders, life can be overwhelming, and their symptoms can manifest into physical disorders such as adrenal fatigue, compromised immunity and heart disease.

    Common symptoms of general anxiety include the following:

    • Feelings of panic, fear, and uneasiness
    • Problems sleeping
    • Cold or sweaty hands and/or feet
    • Shortness of breath
    • Heart palpitations
    • Inability to be still and calm
    • Dry mouth
    • Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
    • Nausea and gastric upset
    • Muscle tension
    • Dizziness

    What causes anxiety?

    Many factors can contribute to a person’s likelihood of experiencing anxiety. Here are a few common causes:

    • Biochemical problems, including substance abuse [e.g. alcohol, drugs (recreational or prescribed), caffeine or tobacco], stress hormones and neurotransmitter deficiencies (e.g. low GABA or serotonin levels)
    • Genetic abnormalities, or errors with neurotransmitter receptors
    • Environmental factors such as trauma, life stress, toxicities or fungal exposure
    • Psychological factors, including daily stress

    Conversely, the effects of long-term anxiety on the body and overall health can be significant. The stress hormone cortisol is elevated during periods of stress and anxiety, and chronic cortisol elevation can lead to poor learning and memory, low immune function, low bone density, weight gain, increased blood pressure, cholesterol and heart disease, and more.

    Treating anxiety naturally

    The two divisions of the autonomic nervous system—the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems--are heavily involved in our anxiety response. When we’re anxious, we go into sympathetic overdrive, also known as the fight-or-flight response. On the opposite end, the parasympathetic nervous system works to regulate repair, maintenance and restoration of the body.

    The below treatments are focused on supporting the work of the parasympathetic system by addressing nutritional factors that can immediately help bring the body back into balance and reduce anxiety symptoms.

    1. Avoid alcohol
    2. Avoid caffeine
    3. Avoid sugar
    4. Address B vitamin deficiency (particularly B1, B3, B6)
    5. Address calcium or magnesium deficiencies
    6. Address and eliminate food sensitivities and allergens

    Adopting a healthy lifestyle is pivotal to managing anxiety. Here are a few vital lifestyle changes that can help relieve anxiety symptoms.

    1. Exercise regularly. It can help reduce tension, anxiety and mild depression, and improve mental outlook, self-esteem and our ability to handle stress.
    2. Get 7-8 hours sleep. Sleep deprivation disables mental and physical function, and makes anxiety worse.
    3. Eat a whole-food and plant-based diet that includes a rainbow of fruits and veggies and complex carbohydrates, balanced protein and good fats. This will also help reduce exposure to toxins (pesticides, heavy metals and food additives) and support blood sugar.

    And remember, stress management is critical in managing anxiety. Efforts to calm the mind and body can help generate a physiological relaxation response. To achieve this response, try deep breathing or progressive relaxation (whereby one compares muscle tension with muscle relaxation to bring awareness to tension throughout the body and thereby consciously change tension to relaxation). Joyful, relaxing activities—such as a walk on the beach, a hot bubble bath, a cup of tea by the fireplace or yoga—along with quality sleep, can evoke a relaxation response.

    Supplements for anxiety

    Fish oil. Anxiety sufferers tend to be deficient in omega-3 fatty acids. DHA, a fatty acid found in fish oil, nourishes the brain and nervous system. Try Nordic Naturals or Pharmax brands for superior quality and absorption.

    Pharma-GABA. GABA is an important neurotransmitter that slows down the firing between the synapses in the brain. People with low GABA are prone to anxiety and depression, so supplementing with GABA can help to slow down the rapid-fire worry. Try Thorne Research’s PharmaGABA, Natural Factors’ Pharma GABA or Jarrow Formulas’ GABA Soothe (also featuring a blend of relaxing herbs).

    L-theanine. Theanine is an amino acid found in green tea that helps promote alpha waves in the brain; alpha waves are calming brain waves that promote a relaxed physical and mental condition. Theanine also increases GABA. Try Natural Factors’ Suntheanine L-Theanine or Jarrow Formulas’ Theanine 100.

    Kava Kava. Kava has been shown to significantly reduce anxiety symptoms such as nervousness, heart palpitations, chest pains, headache, dizziness and gastric irritation. Kava is effective for anxiety in peri-menopausal and post-menopausal women. Note: Do not use kava if you have liver problems or regularly consume alcohol. Try Herb Pharm’s Kava or Pharmaca brand Kava.

    Magnesium. Magnesium relaxes small muscles throughout the body and aids in metabolism; deficiency has been known to exacerbate anxiety. Try Pharmaca brand Magnesium Citrate, Natural Vitality’s Calm powdered magnesium or Pure Encapsulations’ Magnesium (glycinate).

    B Complex. B vitamin deficiency also exacerbates anxiety, since B vitamins are critical to many functions in the body including calming the nervous system. Try New Chapter’s Coenzyme B Food Complex, Thorne Research’s Basic B Complex or Pharmaca brand B Complex.

    Multivitamin. Take a quality multi everyday to ensure you’re receiving adequate vitamins and minerals, since deficiencies can aggravate anxiety. Try food-based and readily absorbed multis from New Chapter or MegaFood.

    WishGarden Herbs’ Emotional Ally is a specialized combination of emotionally supportive herbs such as St. Johns wort, skullcap and passionflower that can help you ground and re-center.

    Hyland's Calms Forte is a simple, non-toxic homeopathic blend to aid nervous tension and sleeplessness. A great product to partner with other herbal anxiety remedies or try alone!
  • Kick Off the New Year With a Cleanse!

    featIMGWhy should I consider a cleanse?
    Cleansing can help reduce cravings for unhealthy food and set you up for good eating habits in the new year. Cleansing can also help reduce inflammation, enhance immune function, improve energy and boost overall health. So get the year started off right by breaking those bad eating habits. Who knows—you may even shed a few pounds in the process!

    How do I start?
    First off, eliminate three important toxic offenders: sugar, processed foods and alcohol. A diet heavy in these three can lead to diabetes, weight gain and cardiovascular disease, and can be a toxic burden on your liver. Getting rid of them allows your liver to focus on clearing out old toxins rather than processing current ones.

    Next, add these cleansing foods to your shopping list: Brazil nuts, blueberries, broccoli, parsley, cilantro, onions, sesame seeds, cinnamon, garlic, ginger, beets, basil, fennel, avocados, cucumber, hemp, green tea, kale, lemons, olive oil, dandelion leaves, flaxseeds, cabbage, apple, almonds, seaweed, asparagus, artichoke and turmeric.

    Finally, make sure you’re drinking plenty of fluids. Many metabolic waste processes need water to function, and water is critical to flush out toxins. In other words? Make water your go-to drink. You can also sip on your favorite herbal tea, or try one that’s meant for cleanses such as Gaia Herbs’ Cleanse and Detox Tea that nourishes the liver and digestive system—and tastes good, too!

    What can I do to support my body’s efforts?
    Pharmaca offers a variety of supplements that can help support your cleanse.

    Thorne Research’s Basic Detox Nutrients is a complete multivitamin with daily detoxifying extras such as green tea, milk thistle, curcumin, broccoli and dandelion.

    Vital Nutrients’ Detox Formula is a unique blend of amino acids and herbs that’ support detoxification, liver and immune function.

    Natural Factors’ Detoxitech Detoxification and Cellular Cleansing features a blend of antioxidants and phytochemicals that support natural detoxification processes and assist in elimination of environmental chemicals and heavy metals.

    Pharmaca’s Liver Cleanse Booster includes herbs that support liver function and cleansing.

    Herb Pharm’s Herbal Detox Compound is a simple but potent herbal detox tincture that’s easy to take even on the go.

    Gaia Herbs’ Liver Cleanse is a proprietary herbal blend to help support and nourish the liver and promote bile production.

  • Prevent Respiratory Infection: Build Immunity Now!

    SnifflyboySeasons are shifting, school has started and germs are making their way around! The Centers For Disease Control (CDC) estimates 10-15 million viral respiratory infections affect Americans each year, with the season peaking in September and October.

    This year, a normally quiet virus strain—Enterovirus D68 (aka EV-D68)—has made headlines because it has caused the hospitalization of hundreds of children across the US. EV-D68 started appearing in force in the Midwest, but has now spread to Utah, Colorado and the northeastern states. In fact, more than 900 children in Denver, Colo. have visited the emergency room since August 18with a respiratory illness.

    There are many different strains of enteroviruses and generally they cause intense common cold symptoms. Though this particular strain, EV-D68, was first reported in the 1962, it has not seen an outbreak of this proportion until now. Top health officials at the CDC say this could be just the tip of the iceberg as far as the number of infections and hospital visits we will see this season.

    Other viruses such as Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)—common in the fall and winter months—can also infect young children and adults with low immunity, causing symptoms that last for 1-2 weeks and potentially pneumonia.

    Who is at risk and what are symptoms of respiratory virus and EV-D68?

    Anyone can be infected with a respiratory virus, but infants, children and teens are more susceptible because they haven’t built up immunity to the viruses. Children with asthma or prior respiratory problems are particularly vulnerable to EV-D68, which can cause severe symptoms or intensified breathing difficulties. Adults and the elderly with compromised immune systems are also at greater risk.

    Symptoms of respiratory virus infection include runny nose, sneezing, coughing and lethargy. Symptoms of EV-D68 start the same as other respiratory viruses, but the cough can become especially severe, including difficulty breathing or wheezing. It is sometimes also accompanied by fever and rash (note: experts recommend seeing a doctor immediately if you are experiencing this combination of symptoms).

    Prevention for respiratory viruses

    There is no specific conventional treatment for EV-D68 and there is currently no vaccination for it. Conventional medicine suggests getting plenty of rest and fluids and use of over-the-counter cold medicines.

    Practitioners of natural medicine, however, encourage patients to focus on building the immune system before sickness can take hold. The higher functioning your immune system is, the better chances you have of preventing contraction of EV-D68 and other germs going around this season. Beat the bug, don’t let the bug beat you!

    Follow these fundamentals to improve your chances at staying healthy:

    1) Wash your hands often with soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds, especially after using the washroom or changing a diaper. Use hand sanitizer throughout the day for added protection.

    2) Avoid or limit your exposure to people showing symptoms of illness (including kissing, hugging, shaking hands and sharing food or utensils).

    3) Avoid or limit touching your face, mouth and eyes.

    4) Clean and disinfect surfaces often (e.g. countertops, toys, doorknobs, shared telephones).

    5) Get plenty of rest and decrease stress where possible, since stress can negatively affect your immunity.

    6) Eat a healthy, whole-foods diet balanced with bright-colored fruits and vegetables, complex carbohydrates, healthy fats and adequate protein (avoid saturated fat, simple sugars and alcohol).

    7) Drink plenty of healthy fluids (e.g. water, herbal tea, electrolytes).

    8) Do your part and take care of yourself; stay home if you're not feeling well!


    Additionally, some of the products below can go a long way toward building your immune system.

    A high-potency multivitamin helps ensure adequate daily nutrition, especially for those that tend to stray from a whole-foods diet. Try New Chapter's One Daily for Adults and Rainbow Light's Kids One MultiStars for children.

    Vitamin D shows a broad range of immune-enhancing effects. Try Pharmaca brand for adults or kids.

    Herbal blends such as WishGarden's Daily Immune or Kick-Ass Immune for Adults or kids or Kick-it Immune for kids, which combine effective immune building and virus-resisting herbs.

    Elderberry is an antiviral that builds immunity, supports upper respiratory health and tastes good, too! Try Gaia Herbs' Black Elderberry Syrup for adults or kids.

    Vitamin C plays an important role in immune enhancement and is antiviral and antibacterial. Try vitamin C with bioflavonoids to help increase the beneficial effects of vitamin C. Try American Health's Ester C for adults or Bluebonnet's Super Earth Animalz Vitamin C for kids.

    Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that inhabit the gut, improving immunity and crowding out harmful bacteria. Try Udo’s Super 8 Hi-Potency Probiotic for adults or Pharmax's HLC Child for kids.

    Keep clean hands with Pharmaca's Organic Defense Hand Cleansing Spritz, which fights germs naturally without drying out your hands.

  • Hypothyroidism: Your Questions Answered


    Got the blues or serious fatigue? Feeling weak and having difficulty losing weight? It could be a sign that your thyroid gland isn't functioning properly. Read on to learn more about hypothyroidism and how it could be affecting you.

    What is the thyroid gland and why does it matter?

    The thyroid is a small butterfly shaped gland that sits at the front of your neck (just below the voice box). It secretes hormones that regulate metabolism in virtually every cell in your body. Because of this, an out-of-balance thyroid can have negative effects on virtually all systems in the body.

    Hypothyroid is the condition in which thyroid hormones under-function, or slow down metabolism; hyperthyroidism is characterized by increased levels of thyroid hormones. People can experience hypothyroidism to varying degrees, from mild deficiency states that go undetected in blood tests to severe deficiency that can be life threatening.

    Hypothyroidism is a surprisingly common condition that often goes unrecognized. Approximately 5-10 percent of the adult population has some form of hypothyroidism, and the number is much higher in the elderly. Thyroid disease also is 2-8 times more common in women than in men.

    What are the signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism?

    The most common first symptoms of hypothyroid are depression, weakness and fatigue. Low thyroid leads to a general decrease in the utilization of fat, carbohydrates and protein, which can lead to weight gain and sensitivity to cold weather (i.e. cold hands and feet). Hypothyroidism also affects other hormones in the body that can result in menstrual problems, low sex drive and infertility.

    Here is a more comprehensive list of symptoms of hypothyroidism:

    • Depression
    • Difficulty losing weight
    • Dry skin
    • Headaches
    • High cholesterol
    • Lethargy and fatigue
    • Memory problems
    • Constipation
    • Menstrual problems
    • Recurrent infections (low immunity)
    • Sensitivity to cold (cold hands and feet)
    • Brittle, thinning hair
    • Muscle and joint pain, tenderness and slow reflexes

    What causes low thyroid?

    In the US, the most frequent cause of hypothyroidism is an autoimmune disorder in which the body attacks itself called Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. In cases of Hashimoto’s, your body produces antibodies that work against your thyroid gland and prevent it from making sufficient levels of hormones.

    Globally, the most common cause of hypothyroid is iodine deficiency. The thyroid gland combines iodine with the amino acid tyrosine (in the presence of other minerals) to make the necessary thyroid hormones. Insufficient iodine can result in goiters (unattractive swelling and enlargement of the thyroid gland) and impaired thyroid function.

    In an effort to reduce this issue, in 1924 the FDA began adding iodine to table salt...and Americans began to shake their saltshaker! But when salt was later connected with increased blood pressure and fluid retention, American diets used less and less table salt.

    Iodine deficiency has also increased for other reasons: more people are eating out and restaurants tend to not use iodized salts, commercial breads are no longer made with iodized compounds, and dairy products now have less iodine. Another reason can be the consumption of goitrogens, naturally occurring chemicals that are ingested in food or drugs. Goitrogens either induce production of antibodies that cross-react with the thyroid gland or they can interfere with the enzyme, TPO, that is responsible for adding iodine during production of thyroid hormones. The end result of excessive consumption of goitrogens is decreased thyroid function and possible goiters.

    Examples of goitrogenic foods include turnips, cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprouts, mustard, kale, cauliflower, non-fermented soy, peanuts, pine nuts and millet (note: cooking goitrogenic foods can partially inactivate the goitrogens). Chemicals such as fluoride (commonly added to toothpaste) and mercury, as well as certain medications, can also act as goitrogens. Excessive iodine intake (more than 1,000 mcg per day) can also interfere with thyroid hormone production.

    Am I hypothyroid? When and what to test

    If you're experiencing symptoms of low thyroid function but have normal thyroid blood test results, you are probably experiencing hypothyroid syndrome. This could also mean the beginning of a more serious hypothyroidism such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.

    If you think you might have an under-functioning thyroid, it’s best to check in with your practitioner and ask for a blood test. And be sure to ask for a “full thyroid panel.” Here’s why.

    Standard testing practice only measures a portion of variables that show the current health of your thyroid. Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) is the hormone secreted by the brain that stimulates the thyroid to make its hormones and has a rather broad "normal" range (0.2-5.5). Many natural practitioners perceive anything over 2 to be high and indicative of thyroid dysfunction. That's why the other thyroid hormones, T3, T4 and RT3 (including free T3 and free T4) should also be measured. And since iodine is crucial in thyroid function, it is also an important measurement—levels too low or too high will interfere with thyroid function.

    A full thyroid blood panel would also look at Thyroid Peroxidase (TPO), an enzyme needed for the production of thyroid hormones and autoantibodies (anti-TPO and anti-TBG). While this panel can be used to diagnose Hashimoto’s, the treatment will be the same as what's used in all cases of hypothyroidism. Doctors will simply prescribe thyroid hormones and monitor blood levels, adjusting medication accordingly. As other hypothyroid symptoms evolve, doctors may add in other powerful medications (such as anti-depressants) or, in drastic cases, remove the thyroid all together.

    Finally, measuring basal body temperature (i.e. when your body is at complete rest) is another method for checking for low thyroid function. Body temperature reflects your metabolic rate, which is largely determined by the hormones secreted by the thyroid gland, thus low basal body temperature is often a sign of hypothyroidism. Normal basal body temperature is between 97.6 and 98.2 degrees Fahrenheit.

    How can I naturally support the thyroid gland?

    Medical treatment of hypothyroid involves the use of desiccated thyroid (from an animal source) or synthetic thyroid. In most cases of hypothyroidism, thyroid hormone replacement is necessary to treat the disease, especially in the case of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. In addition to thyroid replacement, there are several natural measures you can take to aid in healing an autoimmune disorder, including:

    • Eating a clean diet including whole, unadulterated foods (stay away from factory-farmed and processed foods)
    • Detoxifying your liver
    • Eliminating food allergies and sensitivities
    • Supplementing wisely (e.g. vitamin D, fish oil, multivitamin and DHEA)
    • Addressing and eliminating stressors in your life
    • Avoiding everyday chemical exposure (i.e. toxic cleaning and body care products)
    • Treating dysbiosis in the digestive tract by eliminating detrimental intestinal flora and using probiotics to heal the gut

    In addition, there are several key nutrients that are needed for the production of thyroid hormones: Zinc, selenium, iodine and vitamins A and E. Any deficiency of these nutrients can result in decreased thyroid hormone synthesis. You can prevent these deficiencies by taking a good multivitamin every day or finding a thyroid-specific supplement that contains these nutrients.

    Here are some other recommended products that can help support thyroid function.

    Enzymatic Therapy's Metabolic Advantage Thyroid Formula is an excellent comprehensive formula containing essential nutrients for the thyroid, including thyroid extract and a multi-glandular compound for added support. Green coffee bean extract is added to support metabolism. Highly recommended!

    Emerald Labs' Thyroid Health is a gluten-free formula with thyroid glandular powder, ashwagandha, rosemary, trace minerals and a raw whole-food proprietary blend to naturally support the thyroid.

    Natural Factors' Thyroid Health Formula provides nutritional support for the thyroid, including iodine, tyrosine, ashwagandha and guggul extract.

    Gaia Herbs' Thyroid Support offers ultimate support for metabolic enhancement including trace minerals, ashwagandha, tyrosine, kelp and bladderwrack.

    Pharmaca brand Iodine with Kelp features a good amount of iodine along with ethically harvested kelp.

    Thorne Research's Iodine & Tyrosine offers essential mineral and amino acid support for making thyroid hormones.

    DHEA has been found to be beneficial for a variety of autoimmune disease, including Hashimoto’s (caution: do not use DHEA if your are hyperthyroid). Try DHEA from Pure Encapsulations or Integrative Therapeutics. Be sure to speak with a health care practitioner before taking DHEA.

  • Is it a Cold or Allergies?

    SnifflesYou have a runny nose, cough and congestion…but is it a cold or allergies? It's a common question during summer, when pollen counts are high but colds are still going around. Allergies and colds share many of the same symptoms, but causes—and treatments—are different for the two.


    Allergies happen when the immune system reacts to a substance it believes is harmful, called an allergen. During the immune reaction, histamine is released from immune cells, causing the typical symptoms of allergies: congestion, red and itchy eyes, nose and throat, coughing and sneezing.

    In severe cases, hives and rashes can develop. Allergens are specific to the individual and can be anything, including pollens, dust, food, grasses, mold and other environmental substances. Allergies are not contagious and symptoms can continue as long as a person is exposed to the allergen.

    Common colds

    Common colds are caused by hundreds of different viruses. Your immune system recognizes a virus and mounts an attack by producing different proteins and antibodies. The attack can result in common cold symptoms: sneezing, coughing and congestion. Colds are contagious and are spread from person to person through respiratory droplets (coughing and sneezing), and bodily contact such as shaking hands. Colds generally last less than 10 days.

    Sinus Infections

    Sinus infections develop when mucus builds up in the sinus cavities, creating a welcome environment for bacteria to collect and cause infection. The reason for the mucus build-up is because the nasal lining is unhealthy and inflamed, most often due to allergies, a cold or, less frequently, an underlying dental infection. Sinus infections can be acute or chronic, but allergies are the main cause for chronic sinus infections. Sinus infection symptoms include pressure around and behind the eyes and cheeks, runny/stuffy nose lasting more than a week, headache, fever, cough and thick green/yellow mucus.

    Is it an allergy or a cold?

    The most notable difference between a cold and allergies is the duration; a cold usually doesn’t last longer than 10 days. If your symptoms persist beyond two weeks, contact your doctor to determine if it could be allergies or something different such as a sinus infection.

    Allergies tend to have itchiness in the eyes, nose and throat where colds do not. Seasonally speaking, allergies (hay fever) predominate in the spring and summer, and colds predominate in the winter and fall.

    Here are a few other rules of thumb when it comes to determining the difference:

    Characteristic Common Cold Allergy Sinus Infection
    Pathogen Virus Allergen Bacteria
    Duration 3-14 days Indefinitely Acute or chronic
    Time of Year Most frequent in fall and winter, but possible anytime Any time, but seasonal allergies predominate in spring and summer Any time
    Symptom Onset 12-36 hours following exposure to germs Can begin immediately following exposure to allergen Usually a history of cold, allergies or dental infection prior to symptom onset
    Symptom Common Cold Allergy Sinus Infection
    Cough Often Sometimes Occasionally
    Aches Occasionally Never Occasionally
    Fatigue Occasionally Sometimes Occasionally
    Fever Rarely Never Sometimes
    Itchy, watery eyes Rarely Often Rarely
    Sore throat Often Occasionally Occasionally
    Runny or stuffy Nose Often; usually yellow mucus Often; usually clear Often; yellow or green mucus

    So I know what I’ve got. Now what? 

    Relief from the common cold

    The key to preventing and treating colds (and sinus infections) is boosting the immune system and avoiding germs. Remember to wash your hands often, drink plenty of liquids, avoid sugar (it impairs the immune system) and get plenty of rest. You can also try the following products:

    Vitamin C is antiviral and reduces the severity of symptoms and duration of a cold. Try MegaFood’s Daily C-Protect or American Health’s Ester-C.

    Zinc lozenges serve a dual purpose: they relieve sore throats and are a critical nutrient for optimal immune functioning. Try Nature’s Way’s Sambucus Organic Zinc Lozenges or Source Naturals’ Wellness Zinc Lozenges.

    Umcka, (aka South African Geranium or Umckaloaba) is very healing for a cough and shortens the duration and severity of a cold. Try Nature’s Way’s UmcKa ColdCare Original.

    Shop all cough & cold relief >

    Relief from sinus infections

    Anything that causes swelling of the sinuses can result in obstruction of drainage and a subsequent sinus infection. Keep the nasal passages healthy and drained to avoid infections—daily nasal irrigation with a neti pot can help to keep the passages clear—and don’t forget to support the immune system by using the products suggested for a common cold. For sinus support specifically, try these products:

    Pharmaca brand Sinus Relief Soother, a traditional Chinese formula for immediate sinus support and relief

    XClear’s Sinus Nasal Spray with Xylitol helps to wash, hydrate and moisturize the nasal passages.

    Mucolytics help to break down mucus. You can find them in Jarrow Formulas’ N-Acetyl-l-cysteine (N.A.C.), Enzymedica’s SerraGold or Jarrow Formulas’ Bromelain.

    Shop all sinus care >

    Relief from allergies

    Reducing exposure to allergens and stabilizing histamine reactions is key to preventing allergies. Some common allergens are pet dander, trees, pollen and grasses, dust mites, cockroaches and molds such as mildew and fungi.

    Try the following products to tame allergy symptoms:

    Plantiva’s AllerDx can help to quickly calm histamine reactions and improve nasal airflow.

    Ortho Molecular’s D-Hist provides nasal and sinus support by breaking down mucus and stabilizing cells that release histamine.

    Learn more about Dr. Tieraona Low Dog's recommendations for natural allergy relief >

    Shop all allergy relief >

  • Inside Out Beauty: Supplements for Skin Concerns

    Young caucasian woman receiving a head massageConcerned about dry skin? Perhaps wrinkles, fine lines or acne have been your concern. Read on to learn about supplements and strategies for restoring your skin to radiant health.

    The first step to preventing and reversing dry skin, of course, is making sure to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of healthy liquids. The following supplements may also help.

    Sea buckthorn berries contain more than 190 biologically active compounds, including vitamins, amino acids, folic acid, tocopherols, flavonoids and an omega 7 fatty acid that provides antioxidant protection, anti-aging and health support. Try Genesis Today’s Sea Buckthorn 100 liquid or New Chapter’s Supercritical Omega 7.

    Omega-3s—and EPA in particular—are essential for healthy skin because they help regulate oil production. Try Nordic Naturals’ Ultimate Omega or EPA Xtra.

    Hyaluronic acid (HA) is a naturally occurring component in skin that helps maintain its moisture, but production decreases with age. Try supplementing with Hyaluronic Acid from Pure Encapsulations or Jarrow Formulas.

    When pores become blocked with excessive keratin or sebum—often a result of a hormone imbalance—it can cause bacteria overgrowth and promote inflammation. If you’re experiencing acne, I recommend a whole foods diet and avoiding sugar, milk and fried foods, especially those with trans fats. Proper supplementation may also help keep acne under control.

    Zinc is vital to normal skin function and wound healing. Try Jarrow Formulas’ Zinc Balance or Thorne Research’s Zinc Picolinate.

    Vitamin E and selenium are beneficial antioxidants for controlling acne. Try Bluebonnet’s Vitamin E 400IU + Selenium.

    Proper intestinal flora balance is critical in controlling skin breakouts; try supplementing with a probiotic containing both lactobacillus and bifidobacteria with at least 5-10 CFUs per day. I recommend Pharmax’s HLC Intensive or Pharmaca brand Acidophilus & Bifidus.

    A green foods supplement can be a good way to add a flavonoid-rich, plant-based antioxidant formula to your daily regimen. Try Paradise Herbs’ ORAC-Energy Greens or Health Force Nutritionals’ Vitamineral Green.

    Wrinkles naturally develop over time as collagen, keratin and elastin production decreases, and loss of fat cells weakens the structure of skin and its ability to retain moisture. In addition to wearing sunscreen, getting adequate hydration, and eating a whole food-based diet, you can further support your skin by supplementing with collagen or formulas that support your body’s own production of collagen.

    Try Reserveage Organics' Ultra Collagen Booster or NeoCell's Super Collagen + C Type 1 & 3 for quality sources of collagen. Natural Factors’ BioSil is a good way to boost collagen production, and is clinically proven to reduce fine lines and wrinkles and increase skin elasticity.

    Under eye circles
    What exactly causes dark under-eye circles? Some of our thinnest skin is around the eye and the area is susceptible to showing the inflow and outflow of fluids. Many different imbalances can contribute to under-eye circles, including allergies, sinus infections or colds, food sensitivities, anemia, hormone disruptions, kidney issues, toxicity, adrenal fatigue or lack of sleep. Check with your practitioner to rule out more serious issues. Here are a few suggestions, depending on the cause of dark circles:

    Allergies: I recommend quercetin, a bioflavonoid known to support healthy histamine levels and allergy responses. Try Pharmaca brand Quercetin or MegaFood’s Quercetin Strength. I also recommend a neti pot to help relieve fluid build-up related to circles. Try Himalayan Institute’s Neti Pots and Salts.
    Anemia: Try MegaFood’s Blood Builder or Floradix’s Iron + Herbs.
    Sleep: Try Pharmaca brand Sleep Formula or Gaia Herbs’ Sleep Thru.
    Adrenal fatigue: Try MegaFood’s Adrenal Strength or Vital Nutrients’ Adrenal Support.

    Speak with a Pharmaca practitioner about supplements for beautiful skin.

  • Ask the Practitioner: What Are Some Natural Remedies for Adult ADHD?

    Q. I have taken prescription stimulants for ADHD in the past, but would like to stop taking Ritalin and try a natural remedy instead. What can I take to help keep me focused on my work and other responsibilities during my hectic day?

    A. It's great that you want to try more natural remedies! There are many supplements that can help calm the mind, but here are my top suggestions:

    DHA is one of the two main essential fatty acids in fish oil (EPA being the other), and is very nourishing and supportive to the brain. Nordic Naturals makes a product called DHA Xtra that features a very concentrated dose of DHA in 2 pills per day. Give this supplement a few weeks of consistent dosing to build up in your system, as it is a fat-soluble oil.

    Albizzia Calm by Planetary Herbals is a wonderful herb for calming the mind and spirit as well as promoting happiness.

    Cut out or seriously minimize sugar, alcohol and caffeine. These all act as stimulants and have a draining effect on the body. Avoid processed foods, especially those with food dyes. Adopt a whole food-based diet. Eat smaller meals packed with protein throughout the day, as healthy sources of protein will stabilize your blood sugar and help your brain to stay focused.

    Exercise daily. Elevate your heart rate for a minimum of 20 minutes every day. Exercise increases serotonin, norepinephrine and epinephrine—three brain chemicals found to be lower in those with ADHD and required in proper amounts for calmness, focus and happiness.

    Try calcium and magnesium to help relax your body and ease tension (and support your bones while you're at it). I like Natural Vitality’s Calm Plus Calcium or Pure Essence Lab’s Ionic Fizz Calcium Plus—both in powder form for rapid and optimal absorption.


    The information provided here is intended for educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.

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