Pharmaca Blog

  • 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.”

  • Cleanse-Tone-Treat: Your Step-By-Step Skin Care Guide

    WashingFaceWe invest time and money into stocking our beauty cabinets with skin care products that have the potential to make our skin look and feel better. But do you know which order to apply them in for the best results? Should serums be under or over moisturizer? And where does sunscreen come in? Esthetician Jeanette Hickox in Novato walks us through the five easy steps of healthy, beautiful skin.

    Step 1: Cleanse

    Prepping your skin for treatment is the first step, says Jeanette. She recommends a thorough cleansing with either a Clarisonic device or a “double cleanse.” This means washing your face twice, first gently massaging cleanser into your skin to open pores, then washing it again to be sure the loosened debris and oil are removed.

    Step 2: Exfoliate

    It’s important to exfoliate on a regular basis to remove dead cells on the surface of the skin; this allows treatment products to penetrate better and makeup to go on smoother. Try DeVita’s Gentle Aloe Facial Scrub; it exfoliates with pure, round jojoba beads that are kind to skin. Note: If you use a Clarisonic you’ll need to exfoliate less often, since the device already supports everyday exfoliation.

    Step 3: Tone

    Often overlooked, this step is all about balancing the skin. A toner can restore skin’s natural pH, which cleansers sometimes disrupt, Jeanette tells us. Toners can treat skin, too. For oily skin, try a toner that balances the skin without stripping moisture. The Skin Balancing Pore-Reducing Toner from Paula’s Choice helps calm skin and reduces redness, while evanhealy’s Lavender Facial Tonic Hydrosol is a good choice for sensitive skin, protecting it with natural plant antioxidants.

    Step 4: Treat

    Serums are an intensive treatment made to quickly penetrate the skin. Apply them directly to clean, toned skin, says Jeanette. Depending on its ingredients, these concentrated solutions deliver nutrients that can plump, firm, repair, brighten, treat blemishes and more. Some serums, such as Shea Terra Organics’ Argan and Green Coffee Around Eye Beauty Serum, target eye-specific problems like puffiness and dark circles.

    Step 5: Moisturize

    Moisturizers keep skin hydrated and seal in the treatment products you’ve applied. But they are not made to penetrate the skin like serums are. Instead, moisturizers stay on the surface of the skin, creating a barrier that locks in moisture.

    Daily moisturizers are lighter than night-time moisturizers, and many have SPF protection, combining two steps into one. MyChelle’s Daily Defense Cream SPF 17 hydrates with olive and wheat germ oils, and protects skin from sun damage with a clear zinc oxide. At night, Jeanette says, try a richer moisturizer that includes antioxidants or peptides that can repair skin while you sleep. Andalou Naturals’ Super Goji Peptide Perfecting Cream has both!

    (Important) Bonus Step: Protect

    If your daily moisturizer doesn’t have an SPF of 15 or higher, you’ll need to apply a sunscreen next (and liquid makeup or foundation after that). Don’t forget to apply sunscreen to your neck and ears…and lips! Try Alba Botanica’s Very Emollient Lip Care Sunscreen SPF 25 for lip hydration and protection.

    A good rule of thumb: When applying skin care products on clean skin, layer them by weight, lightest to heaviest!

  • Omega-3s for Better Health (Video)

    Learn why omega-3s are an important part of your diet. Here, Dr. Tieraona Low Dog talks about why you should be getting fish in your diet or supplementing with fish oil. Fish oil is especially vital during pregnancy and early childhood because it supports cognitive development and eye and nerve health, and can be great for supporting cardiovascular health in later life. Some evidence has even shown it can help prevent cancer, support weight loss, improve insulin resistance, reduce inflammation and more.

  • Why We’re Sweet on Honey

    HoneyOur love affair with honey started thousands of years ago. What time has taught us is that besides being one of the finest natural sweeteners, honey has amazing health benefits that can improve our skin, fight infections and reduce inflammation. Here’s the scoop on the sweet stuff.

    Honey's health benefits
    Honey’s natural components make it an effective antioxidant, antibacterial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory agent. Studies show it contains a high level of polyphenols and flavonoids, powerful antioxidants that are also found in cocoa, berries and tea. It neutralizes disease-causing bacteria with a protein called defensin-1, and small amounts of hydrogen peroxide (really!). Honey is effective against viruses too, especially the virus that cause shingles and chickenpox. Adding to its superhero status is honey’s apalbumin 1 protein, which helps reduce inflammation.

    All honeys are not the same
    While all honeys may be sweet, the type of plant or tree nectar collected makes a difference in the taste and healing properties of the honey. For example, dandelion honey is rich in vitamins A and K, and beechwood honey is a good prebiotic, full of minerals including zinc, copper and magnesium. (Try Wedderspoon's Gold Organic Raw Dandelion Honey or their Organic Raw Beechwood Honey.)

    Manuka. A super honey.
    There’s been a big buzz (sorry!) lately on honey that comes from bees who get their nectar from New Zealand's manuka trees. Manuka honey has all the same health benefits as other honeys, but with a bonus: It’s high in methylglyoxal (MG), a natural antibacterial compound, which makes it a powerful treatment for wounds, stomach troubles and a variety of infections. The higher the MG concentration the more powerful the antibiotic effect. Flora's Manuka Health New Zealand MGO 550+ Manuka Honey Blend and Wedderspoon's Premium Raw Manuka Honey Active 16+ are two of the most potent. Try a tablespoon mixed with warm water for a healthy boost.

    Honey's skin-saving properties
    Cleopatra had the right idea with her legendary milk and honey baths—the special healing properties of honey make it a great treatment for skin. Honey is a natural humectant, drawing moisture to the skin, keeping it soft and supple. And honey’s antibacterial nature purifies the skin surface, making it particularly useful in treating acne. A few honey-infused skin care products to try:

    For an easy do-it-yourself facial mask, try mixing equal parts raw honey with yogurt (or coconut oil) and avocado to ease dry skin. Wedderspoon's Manuka Honey On the Go packets are just the right size to whip up a quick mask!

    What's your favorite healthy way to use honey?

  • 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.

  • Exercise: Your Best Friend in Health

    BikingIf you really want to improve your life, maintain muscle tone and bodyweight, keep your bones strong, lift your mood, protect your brain and reduce your risk for diabetes, heart disease and cancer—look no further than your workout clothes and walking shoes.

    That’s right: Exercise has been shown to do all of these things and more. There is no vitamin or prescription pill that can come anywhere close. There are many ways exercise can give you an edge when it comes to your health. It improves your circulation, lowers blood pressure, strengthens your heart, and lowers inflammation, insulin and insulin-like growth factors. These last three are vitally important for staving off chronic illness. While the mechanisms are still being explored, studies going as far back as the 1980s consistently show that regular exercise keeps you mentally and emotionally healthy.

    The latest recommendations are for adults to get at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity each and every week. And kids need to be moderately active 60 minutes every single day!

    What exactly is "moderate activity?” Activities like going for a bike ride, walking briskly or working in the garden. Vigorous activities are those that make you sweat and breathe fast and deep. So get moving! Invest in a pedometer and work your way up to 10,000 steps per day. If walking is painful or difficult, get down to the local pool and start swimming.

    Remember, a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. Here’s to an active spring and summer!

  • Natural Ways to Battle Heartburn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • On Trend for Spring: Radiant Orchid

    OrchidPink, fuchsia and purple all come together in this year’s Color of the Year, Radiant Orchid. Pantone, the color experts, choose a new "it" color each year that influences everything from fashion to makeup to home furnishings. According to the folks at Pantone, this year’s color inspires creativity, imagination and joy. What better way to welcome spring and perk up our makeup palette? Esthetician Nicole Mueller in Albuquerque shares some fun ways to try this cheerful color.

    Pretty pout

    Lip gloss or tint is one of the easiest ways to add radiant orchid to your makeup bag. These four work well with any skin tone. For the softest hint of color, Burt’s Bees' Tinted Lip Balm in Blush Orchid is a lightly tinted balm that nourishes with shea butter. Another soft wash of color can be found in Pacifica's Color Quench Lip Tint in Sugared Fig. This tint is packed with moisturizers like coconut and avocado oils for smooth, soft lips. For a little more intense color, Nicole recommends Love and Toast's Misbehavin’ Lip Glaze, which includes botanical oils that bring the shine factor up a notch. For staying power, try ZuZu Luxe's Lip Gloss in Mania, a long-lasting gloss that protects your lips with SPF 8.

    Fresh blush

    Orchid can be more of a cool tone, says Nicole. For those with a cool undertone to their skin (pink, red or bluish tone), orchids blend beautifully. Those with naturally warmer skin undertones (yellow, peachy or golden), can use orchid blush by first balancing the warmer tones with an overall bronzer on the face. Try applying jane iredale's Quad Bronzer in Rose Dawn, then lightly brushing orchid on your cheekbones. Or try ZuZu Luxe's Blush in Nymph, a subtle orchid that gives a fresh, natural look.

    Pop of color for your eyes

    If you’ve got green eyes, Nicole says, radiant orchid is made for you! It complements the green and makes your eyes really stand out. W3LL People's Elitist Mineral Shadow in Luminous Cassis is a plummy orchid that can be layered for more intensity. Blue, brown and hazel eyes can wear orchid, too—try jane iredale's Eye Steppes Go Cool, a four-shadow compact featuring the right shade for every eye color.

    Make a statement mani or pedi

    Radiant orchid nails are a fresh way to let the world know you’re ready for spring and summer.  Deborah Lippman's Nail Color in Makin’ Whoopee is a high-energy orchid that conditions your nails with biotin and green tea extract. SpaRitual's Nail Lacquer in Disco Inferno is a good choice for those who prefer colors with a shimmery finish. Bonus: These vegan lacquers are free of toxic chemicals like toluene, formaldehyde or DBP (dibutyl phthalate).

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