Pharmaca Blog

  • Your Pre-Travel Checklist

    Traveling-HealthWhether you're piling in the minivan to visit family or jetting overseas, a little prep work—and stocking up on essentials—can make traveling a breeze this summer.

    Check to see if you need vaccinations
    Many international destinations require or recommend travel immunizations. A Pharmaca pharmacist can help you identify which vaccinations you need based on your destination, and administer them in the store.

    Our pharmacists can also give you information on other safety and health considerations at your destination. Just call ahead to request your pre-travel consultation and vaccines a few days ahead of time. Learn more about pre-travel vaccinations at Pharmaca >

    Stock your travel first aid kit
    Getting sick when you're away from home can be no fun. Dr. Sarah Ouano, ND, at our Madison Park store in Seattle, talks about the travel essentials she often recommends.

    "The biggest thing in travel is prepping your body for new foods," Sarah says. That's where probiotics come in. She recommends Saccharomyces Boulardii, a strain that has been shown to prevent traveler's diarrhea; Jarrow Formulas' version is especially helpful, she says, because it combines the strain with MOS, an oligosaccharide that helps remove bad bacteria.

    She also recommends giving yourself a little immunity boost while traveling, especially if you're going to be on crowded planes and trains. "My favorite thing right now is Kick-Ass Immune from WishGarden Herbs," Sarah says.

    If you're prone to motion sickness or nausea, Sarah loves Ginger People's Ginger Chews. "They're spicy, which is what's helpful for the stomach," she says. "You need the punch in the mouth to get the salivation going." She also likes to keep WishGarden Herbs' Mo Betta Belly on hand. "It helps with anything digestively, since it's chock full of carminitives like peppermint, ginger, fennel and catnip."

    For jet lag, Sarah recommends a combination homeopathic remedy like Miers Laboratories' No Jet Lag, which can help reset your circadian rhythm when taken throughout your flight. Later, when you're headed for bed, Sarah recommends Deep Sleep by Herbs, Etc. "You do have to take it as directed—one hour before bed and one at bedtime," she says. "But it will knock you out throughout the night!"

    Pack some healthy snacks
    Leave the temptation of candy and soda behind when you keep healthy, satisfying snacks on hand. Natural energy bars, refreshing coconut waters and organic trail mixes are the perfect pick-me-up when a healthy meal is out of reach. And for a sweet treat, grab one of our delicious Pharmaca brand Chocolate Bars, Rainforest Alliance and non-GMO certified.

    Talk to a Pharmaca practitioner about the best supplements and strategies for your destination!

  • Beyond Antibiotics: Natural Ways to Fight Ear Infections (Video)

    Ear infections can be a persistent problem in young children. Here, Dr. Tori Hudson talks about natural ways to prevent and treat ear infections without having to turn to antibiotics, which can exacerbate the cycle of infection. She covers homeopathic and herbal remedies, as well as long-term prevention with probiotics.

  • 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 Chamomile

    chamomile-teaFrom our friends at WishGarden Herbs

    Chamomile is such a useful and versatile herb that I find it difficult to know where to start when singing its praises. Shall I begin by telling you about its potent anti-inflammatory action or should I focus on its effectiveness as a digestive bitter? Or perhaps, as every Beatrix Potter fan knows well, I should speak about the usefulness of chamomile as a sleeping aid for naughty rabbits? You can see the problem.

    But with a little thought, I feel I can tie everything that is wonderful about chamomile down to one word: soothing. Chamomile is an herb that soothes. From the digestive tract to the skin to the nervous system, the sweet smelling flowers of German chamomile (Matricaria recutita) are the very first thing I think of when there is a condition requiring a soothing action. Typically, these types of conditions involve irritation of some kind stemming from hyper-reactivity to stress and the environment, and more often than not this irritation and hypersensitiveness can be seen manifesting in multiple ways within the same person.

    So what exactly does this hyper-reactive and irritable state look like? Well, just imagine the irritable child (of any age) who has worked themselves up into such a frenzy that they have a stomach ache, a headache, they can’t sleep and they’ve broken out all over in into hives. I’m sure we can all picture multiple people like this; maybe we’ve even found ourselves in such a state on certain occasions. This is the person to whom you want to give a big steaming mug of chamomile tea before sending them to bed.

    Chamomile accomplishes its magic by working on the interface between the gut, the immune system and the nervous system. We often think of these systems as being distinct, but they are intimately connected through millions of neurons. When we are stressed, our nervous system reacts by altering digestive and immune function. Similarly, when the digestive tract is irritated, it alerts the immune and nervous systems and can put things on over-drive. In both cases, chamomile helps to bring the body back to baseline, both by soothing the nervous system with its aromatic essential oils, and by working directly on the digestion – stimulating function with its mild bitter flavor and soothing muscle spasms and tissue irritation with its moistening, anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic actions. The combined effect is one of relaxation on all levels.

    Just as chamomile exerts its effects directly on the tissues of the digestive tract, it can also be used topically to soothe other tissue inflammation – namely in the respiratory tract and externally on the skin. Chamomile tea in a neti pot is a great ally during allergy season to provide direct topical relief for sinus irritation. Warm chamomile tea bags can also be placed on the eyes to relieve dryness and irritation or can be used as a poultice to soothe and cool down a hot, itchy rash. You won’t be surprised when these topical applications also leave you feeling calm and relaxed.

    So there you have it; when you think of chamomile, think of soothing. Or better yet, when you find yourself or someone you love in an irritable state of any sort, think of chamomile.

  • Increase Fertility By Reducing Inflammation: A Nutritionist’s Perspective

    smoothiesFrom our friends at WishGarden Herbs

    Google the words “what should I eat while trying to get pregnant” and you’ll come back with hundreds of opinions, many of them countering each other. How on earth are you supposed to know what’s best? How do you get the most impact nutritionally?

    As a nutritionist, I am not a fan of throwing down a long list of rules you can’t break. That being said, there are some basics that most will agree on. If you want to make the most of trying to conceive, it’s a good idea to avoid or strictly limit the following foods and beverages:

    • Trans fats, fake butter, and fried foods
    • Farmed fish and high-mercury fish
    • Soda and alcohol
    • Soy
    • Gluten and corn
    • Processed foods
    • Caffeine
    • Anything you’re allergic to

    Some of those might seem pretty self-explanatory (trans fats, anyone?), but I like to boil all of the above down to one main reason for avoidance: inflammation. Fake fats and fried foods increase inflammation in the body. The same is true for toxins (like mercury present in farmed fish), excessive refined sugar (like soda), alcohol (because it overloads the liver), soy and gluten (well-known for inflammatory responses and being hard to digest), processed foods (usually full of soy, corn, gluten, and sugar), and foods that cause an allergic reaction.

    Why is inflammation such a bad thing? Preparing the body to house a baby for 9 months is no small feat, especially if fertility problems are present, and the most important factors are to minimize inflammation and keep blood sugar stable. But I’ll tell you a secret: when inflammation isn’t present, neither is blood sugar imbalance (barring diabetes, of course). Why? Because the foods that wreak havoc on our blood sugar are the foods that also cause inflammatory responses.

    Why is inflammation so bad for the TTC (Trying To Conceive) woman? Even on a perfect cycle where there are no fertility problems present and timing is perfect, a woman only has a 20-25% chance of getting pregnant. After that, nearly 1 in 4 pregnancies will end in miscarriage for one reason or another. While it may sound dismal, a woman dramatically increases her odds if her body isn’t full of inflammation, which when present can signal the adrenals to produce other hormones—such as stress hormones—instead of the reproductive hormones necessary for conception.

    The best way to reduce inflammation in the body is to eat vegetables. Lots of them. Aim for 8 to 10 cups daily, but even if you only hit half that, just make sure you eat more than you were. Next, be sure to eat one-half to one cup daily of berries or cherries, which are high in antioxidants that combat inflammation. Drink plenty of filtered water, cut back on coffee and black tea, and get some form of exercise every day. It doesn’t have to be a five mile run or 45 minutes of hard cardio to count, so even if you walk for 10 minutes or do a series of basic stretching, any kind of movement improves digestive function and mood, and thus lowers the inflammatory stress response in the body.

    Here’s a smoothie recipe that can help you meet those daily requirements.

    Anti-Inflammatory Smoothie

    2 cups unsweetened almond milk
    1/2 cup blueberries
    1/2 cup raspberries
    2-4 cherries
    1/2 cup spinach
    1/2 cup kale
    2-3 Tbsp of organic pumpkin seed or hemp protein powder
    2 tsp of organic, raw honey

    Blend all ingredients together and enjoy!

    The recipe is easily customizable for fruit and vegetable swaps, but keep in mind that adding sugary fruits will decrease the anti-inflammatory benefits. I like the pumpkin seed and/or hemp protein powder because they’re gluten free, grain free and are anti-inflammatory.

  • Sun Safety 101

    AirplaneAsk any dermatologist and she’ll tell you the number one thing you can do to keep your skin healthy, prevent skin cancer and stop premature wrinkles is to block damaging ultraviolet rays from the sun. With a wide range of sun care options available, here’s what you need to know about SPF numbers, sunscreen ingredients and sun-savvy techniques.

    Derms Demand SPF 30 & Broad Spectrum
    Sunscreens are labeled with SPF numbers that let us know how long our sunscreen protects us from damaging, sunburn-producing UVB rays. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using an SPF 30 that blocks 97 percent of UVB rays. (Higher SPF numbers offer slightly more protection, but still need to be reapplied every few hours). To get protection from both UVB rays and UVA rays (which cause premature aging and wrinkles), look for products labeled “broad spectrum.”

    Chemicals or Minerals?
    Sunscreens filter out sun rays with either chemicals or minerals. Minerals like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide offer strong protection, don’t break down in the sun and are safer than chemical sunscreens, says the Environmental Working Group. In particular the EWG says to avoid chemical sunscreens with oxybenzone, as it has been shown to be a hormone disrupter and skin allergen.

    Rub it, Spray it, Use it!
    No matter how they’re dispensed, sunscreens only work when they cover all of your skin. Lotions can feel more moisturizing, and sprays are easier to use on hard-to-reach places (or squirming kids!). Supergoop's SPF 50 Antioxidant Infused Sunscreen Day Cream is a powerful mineral-based cream with olive oil, pomegranate and green-tea antioxidants that protect against skin-damaging free radicals. Hang 10's Mineral Sport Body Sunscreen SPF 30 is a good lightweight choice with maximum (80 minute) water resistance, along with soothing aloe and arnica extracts. For easy application, try Goddess Garden's Natural Sunscreen Spray SPF 30's lavender-scented spray with both titanium dioxide and zinc oxide.

    Slip Slop Slap & Wrap
    Another easy way to remember how to protect ourselves from sun damage is this catchy phrase from the American Cancer Society.

    Slip on a shirt. Clothing blocks ultraviolet rays to varying degrees and can be UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) rated. A white cotton t-shirt has a UPF of about 7, while sun-protective clothing (made with sunblock-treated fabrics) comes with UPFs of 50+, providing up to 98 percent protection from UVA and UVB rays.

    Slop on sunscreen.

    • What: SPF 30 or more, broad spectrum.
    • When: Apply 30 minutes before going out on both sunny and cloudy days, and re-apply every 2 hours or after swimming.
    • How: Use enough, about 1 oz (a shot glass full).
    • Where: Everywhere. Ears, hands, feet and lips too (try jane iredale's LipDrink Balm SPF 15, with titanium dioxide).

    Slap on a hat. For the best protection, look for a hat with a UPF of 30 or 50, with a wide brim to protect your face, ears and neck.

    Wrap on sunglasses. Choose sunglasses labeled with 99-100 percent UVA/UVB protection and UV 400 (shields eyes from even the smallest rays). Be cool (and safe) and wear them whenever you’re outside, even on cloudy days.

  • Fighting Migraines: Two Natural Supplements to Try (Video)

    If you suffer from migraines and want to try a more natural approach to finding relief, listen to what Dr. Tieraona Low Dog says about the herb butterbur and the supplement magnesium, both of which have powerful evidence for their effectiveness in migraine relief.

  • Demistifying Hormone Replacement Therapy (Video)

    If you're considering hormone replacement therapy (or HRT), learn from expert Dr. Tori Hudson about why it can be an effective, safe way to manage menopause symptoms. Dr. Hudson confronts questions about increased breast cancer risk and the difference between synthetic and bioidentical hormones. She also talks about the benefits of different delivery methods and dosages available through a compounding pharmacy such as Pharmaca.

  • 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.

  • Is it IBS? What you need to know about Irritable Bowel Syndrome

    DigestionYou may have heard the term IBS….but what exactly is Irritable Bowel Syndrome? Here, Dr. Brad Jacobs, MD, and chair of Pharmaca’s Integrative Health Advisory Board, talks to us about IBS symptoms, and how to effectively manage them with simple changes to diet, lifestyle and supplementation.

    The first thing to realize is that the term Irritable Bowel Syndrome can be a catch-all term for digestive disturbances. “Typically people have bloating, pain, cramping, constipation and/or diarrhea,” says Dr. Jacobs. “Symptoms can go from mild to disrupting your ability to work and lead a normal life.”

    IBS is usually diagnosed by the absence of evidence of other issues, such as food intolerance, or more serious issues such as Crohn’s Disease or Inflammatory Bowel Disease. That’s why it’s important to get a full examination by your primary care provider to ensure you don’t need to address something more serious. (Note: Blood or mucous in the stool can be an indication of these, and should be discussed with your doctor immediately.)

    Dr. Jacobs says that while doctors are still unsure of the causes of IBS, they do know that it involves the nervous system, which affects the “motility” of the gut, or the way the bowels are able to move food through the digestive tract. Prescription drugs can help balance the nervous system to reduce symptoms, but Dr. Jacobs feels that the risks of these medications can outweigh the benefits. The good news is that IBS is very manageable without prescriptions. “I see dramatic, life-altering results from the following recommendations,” he says.

    “There’s a lot of research to show that regular exercise and sufficient sleep can help alleviate symptoms of IBS,” says Dr. Jacobs. In addition, he recommends getting at least 20-25 g of fiber a day—through whole grains or a gluten-free supplement like chia or flax—along with 8 glasses of water or tea to ensure the fiber is well digested (fiber can worsen symptoms otherwise).

    Dr. Jacobs also recommends a good probiotic, especially one with at least 2 billion CFUs, and boosting your intake of food-based probiotics such as fermented foods and live culture yogurt.

    “You can also attack specific symptoms like pain and cramping with natural supplements such as peppermint oil, which has anti-spasmodic properties (take twice daily), or digestive bitters such as fennel, mint or dandelion—to take before or with meals,” says Dr. Jacobs.

    Dr. Jacobs is also a big proponent of an elimination diet to help identify any food intolerances that might be triggering IBS symptoms. This is part of what he calls the three Rs:

    -Remove offending agents—such as food allergens
    -Repair the gut tissue—with nutrients such as glutamine and zinc (find those in Metagenics’ Ultra InflamX)
    -Restore good digestive function—with prebiotics and probiotics

    Dr. Jacobs also encourages anyone suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome to consider acupuncture, which has been shown to be very helpful in treating IBS, as it helps restore normal bowel function from a Chinese Medicine perspective.

    Finally, he says, decreasing your stress can dramatically improve IBS symptoms. “Try yoga, meditation or tai chi. These practices will help harmonize your nervous system and decrease your stress.”

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