Vitamins & Supplements

  • The Link Between Probiotics and Optimal Health (Video)

    Don't know why you should be taking probiotics? Here, Dr. Tori Hudson talks about the importance of probiotics for people of all ages. In children, probiotics can be helpful for reducing allergies, asthma, eczema and digestive problems; for adults, different strains can help reduce bowel diseases, bladder infections, vaginal infections and to bring gut flora back into balance after a course of antibiotics.

  • Why Multivitamins Are Vital to Good Health (Video)

    If you're wondering whether multivitamins are necessary in your diet, learn from Dr. Tieraona Low Dog about recent research that has shown them to be instrumental in reducing cancer risk, reducing mortality rates for cancer survivors and much more.

  • Fish Oil & Prostate Health: Deconstructing the Studies (Video)

    Recent studies have concerned some men who take fish oil that it could be negatively impacting their prostate health. Here, Dr. Tieraona Low Dog talks about the study and why it is not a good indicator of the real connection between fish oil and prostate health.

  • Frequently Asked Questions About Probiotics

    Fish OilProbiotics are an important part of your supplement regimen and can support immunity, balance digestive health and more (learn more about which strains to look for based on your health concern.) Here, Tori Hudson, ND, member of Pharmaca's Integrative Health Advisory Board, answers some of the most common questions our practitioners get about how and when to take probiotics.

    I eat yogurt; aren't I getting enough probiotics?

    Not all yogurts contain active live cultures of probiotics, and not all contain the same species and strains of probiotics. In those that do contain active live cultures, there are differences in the number of these live and active cultures. Optimally, the yogurt would come with a label that reveals the species it contains as well as the number of colony forming units (CFUs) it contains. Beware though that the number of CFUs listed is based on the amount contained in the yogurt at time of manufacture. Some yogurt manufacturers will feature more information on their website about testing and quality assurance that will tell you about the stability of the probiotic strains in their yogurt.

    Two other issues with yogurt as a source for your probiotics: the dose is lower per serving than you could easily get in a pill, and many yogurts contain sugar and are high in carbohydrates and calories. Using a dietary supplement as a source of probiotics rather than yogurt is more efficient, reduces calorie/sugar intake, offers more accuracy in labeling and can deliver higher amounts of probiotics in a shelf-stable form. Some supplemental probiotics even have more sophisticated delivery systems that allow the probiotics to bypass the stomach acid so that they're even more prominent in the intestines.

    How old do children have to be before taking probiotics?

    The ideal time to introduce a child to probiotics is in utero! Probiotics are one of the most important dietary supplements a pregnant woman can take. I put it in the top three important supplements, along with fish oils and folic acid.

    Later, infants can be introduced to probiotics through mom's milk when breastfeeding, or as a powder—put on the nipple or on a finger that is then placed in the infant’s mouth. Pediatric studies confirm that when probiotics are introduced as early as week one, it can reduce the incidence of vomiting, reflux, constipation and diarrhea. Other research also confirms reduction of Colic, crying time, spitting up and constipation when introduced in the first three months. As they grow, you'll find special formulations for children of all ages at Pharmaca.

    Do seniors need different strains/strengths of probiotics?

    As we age, the microflora of the gut changes, including a reduction in the numbers of good bacteria (lactobacilli and bifidobacteria) and an increase in the numbers of potentially pathogenic bacteria. These changes can result in gastrointestinal disorders and infections, including antibiotic-associated diarrhea, clostridium difficile, constipation and irritable bowel syndrome.

    A growing body of research is showing that when the elderly supplement with some species and strains of probiotics, they're seeing positive effects such as a reduction in fecal enzymes, improvements in vitamin synthesis, cholesterol reduction, lactose intolerance reduction, reduction of potential mutagens and predigestion of proteins. Some of the research that has been done includes Bifidobacterium longum 46 and B. longum 2C, and several Lactobacilli species.

    What's the best time of day to take a probiotic?

    There are numerous opinions on this. Some say to take them on an empty stomach so that the stomach acid is relatively low, which may result in a higher chance of the probiotics adhering to the intestinal wall and colonizing the colon. Other researchers assert that probiotics should be taken with food for optimal colonization. I am of the belief that they should be taken with food because the increased gastric pH is more favorable for the probiotics. But I think the most important thing is to take them at a time that will work for you and not worry about the details.

    Can I take them while I'm on antibiotics?

    Not only can you, but it’s very smart to do so. By doing so, you can reduce the incidence of antibiotic-associated diarrhea, which can range from mild to severe. Probiotics, such as Lactobacillus spp., (consider L. rhamnosus, L. acidophilus, L. plantarum, Bifidobacterium spp. and Saccharomyces boulardii), can not only reduce the incidence of antibiotic-associated diarrhea by as much as 42 percent, but they can also improve antibiotic therapy as they keep the infection-causing microbe from adhering and multiplying.

    As far as when to take the probiotics in relation to your antibiotics, S. boulardii does not appear to be inhibited by the antibiotics, but the lactobacilli species can be and should be taken at least 2-4 hours after the antibiotic dose. Consider taking the probiotics for 1–3 weeks longer than the duration of antibiotic treatment.

    I've read that probiotics can help with mood elevation or depression, is that true?

    There is a growing body of evidence linking gut health to brain health, and one study showed that even daily consumption of a probiotic-containing yogurt for three weeks significantly increased mood.

    It appears that probiotics can also help to deliver neuroactive substances such as serotonin and GABA, which act on this brain-gut axis. Further research is needed to identify which species and strains are most beneficial to mood and the brain.

  • Take Five to Thrive: Supplements You Need Now

    Ready to start the new year with a stronger supplement regimen? Explore our Take Five to Thrive supplements, all highly recommended by our practitioners for their ability to provide a solid nutritional foundation and get you on the road to good health.

    Nearly everyone can benefit from a good multi that provides a variety of supplemental nutrients that are hard to get through diet alone. Multivitamins are packed with good-health essentials, such as vitamin A, B-complexes, C, D and E, and important minerals like calcium, magnesium, zinc and iron.
    Recommended: Pharmaca Men’s or Women’s Multivitamin

    A large portion of the human immune system is centered in the digestive tract. That's why probiotics, which replenish the gut with good bacteria, are essential to inhibiting the growth of harmful bacteria, promoting good digestion, boosting immune function and increasing resistance to infection.
    Recommended: Pharmaca Acidophilus & Bifidus

    Too many free radicals in your body and in our environment can activate "oxidative stress," which can wear down cells and kick-start everything from chronic illness to early aging. Supplemental antioxidants, including those from green tea, berries and other fruit, boost your body's ability to fight back against stress and help slow the aging process.
    Recommended: Pharmaca N.A.C. Antioxidant

    Fish Oil
    EPA and DHA-the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil-have been linked to lowered blood pressure and cholesterol, clearer arteries, improved mood and cognition, better skin and more. Pharmaca practitioners recommend a daily dose of fish oil to improve most bodily functions.
    Recommended: Pharmaca Omega-3 Wild Fish Oil

    Extensive research has shown that psyllium husks help maintain healthy cholesterol levels, including a proper balance of HDL and LDL cholesterol. In addition, psyllium helps promote easy, healthy elimination and sweeps waste out of the colon more quickly before toxins can be reabsorbed.
    Recommended: Pharmaca Organic Super Chia Seed

    Stop in to a Pharmaca today to speak with a practitioner about getting on the road to optimal health with these supplements.

  • Ways to Get Vitamin D in Overcast Climates

    Don't underestimate the role of vitamin D in a wide range of health benefits. While most associate the nutrient with bone development and overall health, it also helps fend off the common cold and reduce a person's risk for developing heart disease and certain types of cancers--as long as you get the correct amount. Experts recommend that people under the age of 50 should get close to 600 International Units (IUs) of vitamin D per day. So how do you get vitamin D, a vitamin hard to come by in most food sources?

    Here's a look at ways to get the recommended daily dose of vitamin D naturally:

    • Catch Some Rays
      It’s true that in overcast climates, the sun isn't beaming down on you with the same intensity as in a tropical climate, but being outside and soaking in vitamin D-producing rays is still good for you. Even on cloudy days or in overcast climates, UV rays can still make their way to your skin.
    • Go Fish
      Varieties of fish such as swordfish, salmon, trout, tuna and eel contain fatty acids, which thereby contain vitamin D. A 3-ounce salmon filet, for example, contains about 450 IUs of vitamin D.
    • Do Cry Over Spilled Milk 
      Drink lots of milk and consume other fortified dairy products, like yogurt. A fortified 8 ounce glass of milk contains as many as 100 IUs of vitamin D, while yogurt can offer up to 80 IUs. If you're not a fan of dairy products, pick up some fortified orange juice, which offers a similar amount.
    • The Yolk's On You
      Over the past several years, egg whites have increased in popularity due to the fact that they are low in calories, saturated fat and cholesterol. But before you write off the egg yolk entirely, think again. Not only does the egg yolk contain approximately 40 IUs of vitamin D, it's also a good source of vitamins A and B, iron and calcium.

    Knowing how to get vitamin D, regardless of the climate you live in, doesn't have to be difficult. Getting outdoors and eating right are the essential keys to getting the proper amount of vitamin D. And as an added bonus, there are plenty of vitamin D supplements to help you boost your intake. Look to Pharmaca brand vitamin D supplements, in formulas for children and adults--and stay active and maintain a healthy diet--and you'll be on your way to reaping the benefits that vitamin D provides!

  • A Special Thanks from Vitamin Angels

    Since 2004, Pharmaca has been a proud partner of Vitamin Angels, a non-profit organization that raises funds to help at-risk populations in need--specifically pregnant women, new mothers and children under 5--gain access to life saving and life-changing micronutrients. Donations to Vitamin Angels go toward distribution of prenatal vitamins, vitamin A and children's multivitamins, which help increase immunity and boost overall health to increase these populations' chances for health and success.

    In addition to the Vitamin Angels donations cards always available at the register (ask a Pharmaca Team Member if you can't find them), Pharmaca runs several special promotions each year to encourage customer donations. We're proud to say that through the generosity of our customers, we were able to donate more than $20,000 in 2012, enough to serve more than 82,000 children in the US and 49 other countries. We hope that you'll help us contribute to our growing 2013 contribution next time you're at a Pharmaca store!

    Below, Vitamin Angels staff member Kelsey speaks to us from Honduras, where Vitamin Angels is working with Feed the Children to provide both food and nutrients.

  • Snapshot: Different Probiotic Species and Strains

    As a follow up to our post on how to choose a probiotic, here's a snapshot look at different probiotic strains, when they're useful and where to find them.

    Probiotic species & strains  Health benefits Where you'll find it

    B. longum


    The most significant and important probiotics in the body, and among the first to colonize in the sterile GI tract of a newborn infant (also found in human breast milk). Stimulates the immune response and promotes microbial balance by crowding out bad bacteria that cause discomfort and neutralizing everyday toxins in the gut. Aids production and absorption of B vitamins, blocks harmful invaders, boosts the immune system and helps maintain regularity. Helps break down carbs without producing excess gas. May help to prevent or minimize various allergies or allergic reactions, inflammation associated with Crohn’s disease, or colitis.May have positive impact on cholesterol levels.

    Lowers the pH of the intestine/vagina to inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria.



    L. acidophilus

    Most commonly used probiotic.Lives in the mouth, intestines (maintains integrity of the wall of the small intestine, aiding nutrient absorption and supporting immunity) and vagina (adheres to the walls of the vagina and urinary system where it can fight infection). Helps to synthesize vitamin K and many antimicrobial substances, giving it antibiotic properties.


    L. rhamnosus GG

    One of the most effective strains for combating antibiotic-associated diarrhea and traveler’s diarrhea. Lives in the intestines, and fights infections both in the gut and urinary tract. Assists in dairy digestion and lactose intolerance.

    L. plantarum 299V

    Reduces pain, bloating and improves constipation in Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Helps with antibiotic-associated diarrhea.
    • Jarrow Formulas Ideal Bowel Support

    S. boulardii

    A probiotic yeast resistant to stomach acids and antibiotics. Effective against reducing acute diarrhea in children and adults. Protects against both antibiotic and travelers’ induced diarrhea. Promotes immune and digestive health.

    B. infantis

    Excellent for both children and adults, B. infantis is one of the first colonize in the newborn’s digestive tract. Helps to impede the growth of harmful bacteria.Excellent producer of B vitamins. Offers good results with IBS (bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation, urgency and abdominal discomfort), IBD, ulcerative colitis and traveler’s diarrhea.

    L. casei





    Helps control diarrhea, has potential anti-inflammatory effects on the GI and aids in relieving antibiotic-associated diarrhea. Produces lactic acid to lower the pH of the gut, impeding the growth of harmful bacteria. Lives in the mouth and intestines of both infants and adults.

    L. reuteri



    Provides strong protection against infection and helps maintain a healthy immune system. Treats and prevents diarrhea. Helps relieve colic. Releases a substance capable of killing bacteria, yeast and fungi, making it popular for vaginal infection support against candida, UTIs.


    S. thermophilus


    One of the most useful strains in the commercial food industry. True starter strain for making yogurt (used in making cheeses too). Ferments milk sugar (lactose) that turns into lactic acid, which is effective at preventing lactose intolerance and also lowers the pH of the yogurt preventing the growth of harmful bacteria causing food poisoning. Keeps microflora of intestines balanced.May have benefits for chemotherapy patients.

    B. breve

    Unique in its ability to compete against harmful bacteria due to the large variety of molecules it can digest (including plant fibers otherwise thought non-digestible). Inhibits E. coli. Present in the intestines and the vagina (inhibits growth of candida albicans, the primary cause of yeast infections). Decreases occurrence of gas, diarrhea and bowel irritations.

    L. helveticus

    Exerts antimicrobial activities against pathogens, helps reduce symptoms of lactose intolerance by breaking down lactose, helps to prevent and reduce diarrhea, may have implications on lowering cholesterol and blood pressure as well as help with calcium absorption. Lives in the intestines.


  • Coenzyme Q10: A Heart-Healthy Antioxidant for Optimal Aging

    SunCare2-ArticleCoenzyme Q10 (aka CoQ10 and ubiquinone) is a simple molecule that is naturally produced in our cells’ mitochondria. CoQ10 has the important role of helping convert sugar into energy or ATP—an energy source that’s essential for helping cells perform their primary functions. Coenzyme Q10 is used in enzyme systems that provide 90 percent of a cell’s energy, making it critical to our health.

    CoQ10: An invaluable antioxidant
    A second function of CoQ10 is to act as a natural, potent antioxidant. Antioxidants travel the body in search of free radicals that create what is called oxidative stress. Free radicals are also natural, forming as a byproduct of metabolism, but form at a greater rate when the body is exposed to environmental and lifestyle factors such as excessive sunlight, smoke and exhaust, poor diet and alcohol consumption.

    Oxidative stress occurs because free radicals are unstable molecules looking to find stability in another molecule—rendering the secondary molecule unstable. This chain of events can lead to disruption of healthy cells, cell death and damage to tissues, similar to what is believed to happen during the aging process. That’s why ample antioxidants are critical to us as we age.

    As with many important nutrients, natural CoQ10 production decreases with age. What makes CoQ10 different is that it is the only fat-soluble antioxidant our bodies naturally produce that has a special ability to restore itself back to its healthy state after successfully scavenging free radicals—making it an invaluable antioxidant in the fight against aging.

    Coenzyme Q10 and heart health
    In healthy heart tissue, CoQ10 is found in abundant supply. In fact, since the heart is the most active muscle in the body and uses the most energy, its cells tend to produce the highest concentrations of CoQ10. Individuals with heart conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, a history of heart attack or congestive heart failure tend to have lower levels of CoQ10. It’s not clear whether CoQ10 deficiency is the cause of these conditions or simply an effect. Research, however, supports the idea that CoQ10 can help improve cardiovascular health and other heart conditions.

    Supplementing with Coenzyme Q10
    CoQ10 is found in minimal quantities in foods such as whole grains, nuts, beans, seeds, soybeans and eggs, with the highest concentrations found in meats and fish. The common doses used in research studies range between 90-400 mg/day. Ubiquinone, the oxidized form of CoQ10, is fat-soluble and is not well absorbed from the stomach and intestine. Ubiquinol, on the other hand, is the reduced, active antioxidant state of CoQ10 and is significantly better absorbed, particularly as we age.

    Is it time to start supplementing with CoQ10? Natural production of CoQ10 starts to slow down around age 30-35. If you have high blood pressure or cholesterol or a family history of heart disease, supplementing with CoQ10 can help protect you from the damaging effects of oxidative stress and provide your heart with the ability to work more efficiently.

    Here are some CoQ10 supplements I recommend:

    Pharmaca CoQ10 Ubiquinol QH 100mg
    Thorne Research Q-Best 50
    Metagenics NanoCell-Q (liquid CoQ10)
    Natural Factors Coenzyme Q10 200 mg
    Jarrow Formulas Ubiquinol QH-absorb
    New Chapter CoQ10+ Food Complex

  • How Do I Choose a Probiotic?

    We know now that probiotics are good for us. But with so many to choose from, how do we choose one that’s right for us? Not all probiotics are created equal; different varieties of bacterial strains have different benefits, in addition to differing potencies, routes of ingestion, manufacturing methods and so on. Read on to learn how to choose a probiotic that’s right for you.

    First, identify why you need probiotics. It may be to counteract a course of antibiotics, to support digestion, to treat a yeast infection or simply to boost immunity. While many products are formulated to suit a particular need, others are general in their labeling. Here are a few things to keep in mind when looking for a probiotic that suits your needs.

    While taking antibiotics
    Antibiotics are good at their job of wiping out invasive bacteria. The problem is that they are also good at killing beneficial bacteria, setting the stage for gastric distress, diarrhea and possible secondary infection—making it critical to take probiotics concurrently. Note that you should always take antibiotics and probiotics on opposite schedules so their effects do not counterbalance each other (i.e. take probiotics at least 2 hours away from antibiotics).

    While on antibiotics, take a higher-potency probiotic (20-100 billion) to replenish gut flora, and continue them for a month or more after your course. For this purpose I recommend Renew Life’s Ultimate Flora Critical Care,Nature’s Way Primadophilus Optima, Pharmaca’s Ultimate Probiotic Blend and Pharmax High Intensity products.

    Yeast and women’s balance
    Probiotics are very effective in balancing vaginal flora, which helps guard against infection and prevent overgrowth of candida. Suppositories offer a direct method to assist vaginal flora—be sure it has at least a billion lactobacillus to support vaginal flora. Taking oral probiotics at the same time can offer maximum coverage. Try Jarrow Formulas’ Fem-Dophilus or Vitanica’s FemEcology. Both of these products are formulated for vaginal flora balance and can be used as suppositories as well.

    Probiotics for children
    Probiotics are extremely important for developing digestive tracts and supporting immunity. Kid-specific products are formulated to make them appealing for little ones. Try Jarrow Formulas’ Yum-Yum Dophilus or Nature’s Way’s Primadophilus Kids.

    Potency is measured in colony forming units (CFUs). A good first step is to ensure you choose a product that gives a “good until” date to ensure potency until a certain date. (Some manufacturers only stamp their CFUs at the time of manufacture, e.g. “1 billion active L. acidophilus and B. bifidum at the time of manufacture.”) Because probiotics are live organisms at the time of manufacture, over time you can expect a slow die-off of bacteria, which ultimately renders the probiotic useless. This happens much faster if the product is improperly stored.

    Potency varies widely in probiotic supplements, generally between 1 and 100 billion CFUs. Currently there are no standardizations for dosing and potency with probiotics. You may need a period of adjustment to identify what potency is optimal for you, but here are some general guidelines to help you start.

    • For mild digestion problems (gas, bloating, diarrhea) try starting with a lower dose (5-10 billion CFUs) and working up.
    • For more severe digestion issues (chronic diarrhea, gas, bloating and infections), you may want to try taking a lower potency every other day and working your way up to a much higher potency (since there can be gas and bloating associated with probiotics colonizing in the gut).
    • For bowel regularity, try New Chapter’s Probiotic GI Tract.
    • For general intestinal maintenance, try taking 1-2 billion CFUs per day, as in Enzymatic Therapy’s Acidophilus Pearls. Many people choose to take a much higher maintenance dose because they have found that it gives them optimal digestion and immunity. A popular product for daily use is Jarrow Formulas’ Jarro-Dophilus EPS,which contains 5 billion per dose and does not require refrigeration.

    In addition, probiotic formulas are often formulated with added prebiotics—non-digestible food that feeds probiotics and promotes healthy flora. Examples of prebiotics include FOS and inulin. Try Jarrow Formulas’ Jarro-Dophilus + FOS or Pharmaca’s Acidophilus and Bifidus.

    Other considerations


    Since many probiotics are grown in a culture that contains dairy, people who are completely lactose intolerant must look for dairy-free formulas. There may also be traces of gluten in some products, so be sure to check the label or ask a qualified health practitioner for a gluten-free option. A few allergen-free products to try include Pharmax HLC, Jarrow Formulas’ Allergen-Free Jarro-dophilus or Thorne Research’s FloraMend.


    Many probiotics require refrigeration to maintain potency, which can be inconvenient—especially for travel—but there are several good probiotics that do not require refrigeration. Try Jarrow Formulas’ Jarro-Dophilus EPS, Essential Formulas’ Probiotics 12 Plus Original Formula or Enzymatic Therapy’s Pearls. Be sure to follow proper storage of your probiotic, paying attention to moisture, light and temperature.

    Delivery methods

    There are a variety of delivery methods for probiotics, including liquids, powders (great for infants!), capsules, chewables and suppositories. Fermented foods are also a terrific source of probiotics, including kefir, yogurt, sauerkraut, anything pickled, miso, tempeh and soy sauce. Kombucha is a popular fermented tea that is a great source of probiotics.


    Be sure to read directions thoroughly! Products can differ based on whether or not they should be taken on an empty stomach.

    Side effects

    Probiotics are considered generally safe and well tolerated, and serious side effects are fairly uncommon. Possible side effects include gas, bloating and tenderness in the gut (either to the touch or with motion) and possible diarrhea or constipation. Because these symptoms occur while the bacteria are colonizing in the gut, they tend to become less pronounced with ongoing use. There have been rare reports of infection occurring in the severely ill or immune-compromised.

    There is no evidence that higher doses of probiotics are unsafe (even though they may be more expensive and unnecessary for some). When in question, start lower and work your way up. Back off on potency if you are experiencing uncomfortable symptoms from the probiotics, but don’t give up! Speak with a qualified health practitioner if you have concerns with any side effects from probiotics colonizing.

    Trusted manufacturers

    Perhaps the most important aspect in choosing your probiotic is purchasing from trusted manufacturers with good manufacturing practices and quality control! These brands should have research available to demonstrate the effectiveness of their products, including proof of potency and ability to survive the environment of stomach acids and bile salts. Special manufacturing techniques are required to ensure the probiotics make it to their destination for colonization (i.e. small or large intestine). Examples of these techniques include enteric coating and “beadlet” technology. A few examples of trusted manufacturers include Pharmax, Metagenics, Pharmaca, Renew Life, New Chapter, Jarrow, Udo’s and MegaFood.

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