Whether or not you got a flu shot this year, there are a few simple ways that you can help prevent influenza. Here, Dr. Tori Hudson, ND, talks about her recommendations for natural flu prevention, including nasal irrigation with sprays or neti pots, drinking green tea, taking elderberry supplements throughout the season and keeping Boiron's Oscillococcinum on hand to take at the first signs of flu. And don't forget to wash your hands frequently, drink lots of water and keep coughs covered!
Constipation is one of the most common gastrointestinal complaints doctors see; experts say that at least 4.5 million people—the majority of them women—suffer from constipation symptoms that are serious enough to warrant medical attention. Because it can be an embarrassing topic, however, many patients self-treat their constipation and avoid discussing it with their doctor. Here are some ideas about why—and how—to treat chronic constipation.
What is chronic constipation and why does it matter?
For some, constipation can simply mean straining, and for others it means infrequent bowel movements (that differ from normal patterns for that individual). Most complementary and alternative medicine providers, myself included, would agree that a daily bowel movement—or even up to three per day—is optimal. But that might not be feasible for women, since their bowel movement frequency is generally less than that of men.[i] Studies have suggested that the majority of women have bowel movements every other day or less.[ii] Because there can be a wide range of what’s considered normal, from three times per week to three times per day, it is important to clarify what’s normal to you with your health care provider.
The current standard definition of constipation means experiencing two or more of the following symptoms for three or more months, without the use of laxatives:
- Straining with defecation more than 25 percent of the time
- Lumpy or hard stools more than 25 percent of the time
- Incomplete evacuation more than 25 percent of the time
- Two or fewer bowel movements per week
Chronic constipation can lead to a decrease in absorption of select nutrients, internal or external hemorrhoids, pelvic floor dysfunction (e.g. urinary incontinence, or bladder, rectal or uterine prolapse).
How can laxatives support normal large intestine function and relieve constipation symptoms?
Laxatives can be helpful temporary solutions to relieve symptoms and to help retrain the bowel. There are a variety of different types of laxatives that work in different ways. Here are the six basic laxative types.
1. Bulk-forming laxatives.
These can be derived from psyllium husks, ground flax seeds or methylcellulose, a synthetic material. Their basic function is to absorb water in the intestine to soften the stool, but they can also result in increased flatulence and bloating. They do act faster than food fiber but slower than other laxatives and typically take about a week to work. Bulk-forming laxatives improve transit time and are very compatible with increases in dietary fiber such as leafy greens, ground flax seeds sprinkled on whole grain, high-fiber cereals, and fresh fruits, especially berries.
2. Emollients and stool softeners
These agents aid the mixing of watery and fatty substances in the bowel both to soften the stool and to lubricate the stool so it can be passed easier. They also prevent dehydration of the stool by stimulating fluid secretion. Stool softeners can be taken orally or rectally and typically work very fast, usually within 24 hours, so they’re ideal for someone who is in pain because of hard stool. Glycerin suppositories or mineral oil are common examples, but mineral oil should be used sparingly because it can decrease absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. Herbs such as buckthorn bark also serve as stool softeners.
3. Saline laxatives
Magnesium salts have been used for decades for constipation, and act fairly quickly. They work by exhibiting a sponge-like action that draws water into the colon to soften the stool and promote transit. When looking for an appropriate product, it’s important to note that magnesium sulfate is more potent than magnesium citrate or magnesium hydroxide and should be used with caution. In addition, individuals with renal impairment or hypertension should avoid saline laxatives.
These are the newer laxatives on the block. Available as an oral prescription, hyperosmotics create a high concentration gradient to draw fluid out of the bloodstream and into the colon. Examples of hyperosmotics include lactulose, lactitol and sorbitol, and produce effects in 2-3 days. Note: Hyperosmotics can also produce some bloating and flatulence.
A polyethylene glycol electrolyte solution is what’s normally given to empty the colon before a colonoscopy. The good news is that it can also be used to treat severe fecal impaction. MiraLax is a newer prescription that uses polyethylene glycol to help relieve constipation.
6. Bowel stimulants
These laxatives stimulate sensory nerve endings in the colonic mucosa to trigger peristalsis. They also promote fluid secretion into the colon and improve the consistency of the stool. Aloe, senna, cascara sagrada and castor oil are all potent stimulants that can produce a rapid response. They should only be used for more severe cases and should not be used long term.
Are there natural solutions to constipation that I should consider?
Alternative medicine practitioners also often recommend these other methods of treating constipation:
- Probiotics to help restore normal colonic microflora, specifically the lactobacillus species
- Digestive enzymes, which enhance the digestive process
- Bitters, which work by increasing the secretion of digestive fluids. Consider yellow gentian and dandelion root for this purpose. Dandelion root also helps stimulate gall bladder function and improve bile secretion.
- Turkey rhubarb has been used as a purgative for at least 2,000 years, and encourages bowel movements by stimulating peristalsis
- Triphala, whose use for chronic constipation is based on principles of Ayurveda. This unique combination of three herbs, or more specifically, three fruits, haritake, amla and bibitake, that gently stimulate the intestines, restore tone to the colon and thus enhance the elimination process while providing a cleansing effect.
When it comes to chronic constipation, most individuals will only need reassurance, education and basic advice. Others will need further evaluation and/or more sophisticated treatment interventions, whether by exclusively natural methods, conventional methods or an integration of both.
Working with your health care provider will help ensure that there is no significant underlying cause of your constipation. Your doctor can also help you get symptom relief, improve general health and provide prevention strategies for the future, all with minimal side effects.
[i] Heaton K, Radvan J, Cripps H, et al. Defecation frequency and timing, and stool form in the general population: a prospective study. Gut. 1992; 33:818-824.
[ii] Toglia M. Pathophysiology of anorectal dysfunction. Obstet Gynecol Clin North Am. 1998; 25:771-780.
Seasons 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.
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.
Keep clean hands with Pharmaca's Organic Defense Hand Cleansing Spritz, which fights germs naturally without drying out your hands.
We’ve been hearing about superfoods and superfruits for awhile—by now we know to stock up on kale and goji berries. Though these “super” labels are used often, many of them can be gimmicky catchphrases that don't have real scientific basis. Until now. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently developed a scientific classification scheme for vegetables and fruits that are jam-packed with nutrients and may reduce our risk of chronic disease. Here’s what you need to know about the proven heroes at your farmer's market or grocery store.
What is a powerhouse food?
The CDC defines Powerhouse Fruits and Vegetables as naturally “nutrient-dense,” meaning they provide anywhere from 10 to 100 percent of our daily requirements of 17 beneficial nutrients: potassium, fiber, protein, calcium, iron, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, folate, zinc and vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D, E and K. These nutrients are essential for protection against chronic disease.
Which foods were tested?
For obvious reasons, the CDC tested foods that scientists had already linked to prevention of heart disease, cancer and neurodegenerative diseases. The foods fell into five categories of fruits and vegetables: cruciferous, green leafy, yellow/orange, allium (onion family), citrus and berries.
Watercress in, blueberries out?
So which made the cut? Of the 47 fruits and vegetables tested, the cruciferous and leafy green veggies overwhelmingly came out on top. Surprisingly, raspberries, tangerines, cranberries, garlic, onion and blueberries did not make the list, even though they're rich in helpful antioxidants (so keep eating them!).
Top 15 Powerhouse Fruits & Veggies
Watercress 100.00 (wow!) Chinese cabbage 91.99 Chard 89.27 Beet greens 87.08 Spinach 86.43 Chicory 73.36 Leaf lettuce 70.73 Parsley 65.59 Romaine lettuce 63.48 Collard Greens 62.49 Turnip Greens 62.12 Mustard Greens 61.39 Endive 60.44 Chive 54.80 Kale 49.07
The next most powerful fruits and vegetables (with nutrient density ratings under 50) fall primarily into the yellow/orange category (red pepper, pumpkin, carrot, tomato and winter squash) and allium category (scallion, leek), followed by citrus (lemon, orange, lime and grapefruit) and berries (strawberry, blackberry).
The Powerhouse list is a good starting point for choosing the veggies and fruits that give us the most bang for our buck. The CDC tested these foods in their raw state, and salads can be a great way to incorporate them into our diet. But cruciferous and leafy green vegetables are also a good addition to soups or stews, or simply sautéed.
While the government's My Plate guidelines say fruits and veggies should make up 50 percent of each meal, don't forget about the important parts of a healthy diet—whole grains and lean proteins! Speak with a Pharmaca practitioner about other ways to get all the nutrients you need in your diet.
Flu season is nearly upon us--and Pharmaca has made it easier than ever to get your immunizations. All of our pharmacies can now provide shots to any customer who requests one during open pharmacy hours.
In addition, Pharmaca will hold Flu Shot Clinics every Tuesday in September, October and November, between 2-6pm. Customers can bring their questions about immunization and other health concerns to pharmacists and practitioners, and receive personalized advice about their health. Plus, if you get a flu shot at Pharmaca and you're a Feel Better Rewards member, you'll receive a $5 gift coupon to use on any non-pharmacy purchase.
“Pharmaca is proud to be an integrative solution for all of our customers’ health and wellness needs,” says Stuart Gratz, Pharmaca’s vice president of pharmacy operations. “By offering these immunizations at any time, we’re serving the needs of customers who feel that immunization is the best option for them—and making it most convenient for them.”
As always, the CDC strongly encourages vaccination for every season, especially for children, adults 65 and older, pregnant women and people with asthma, diabetes and other long-term conditions who are at high risk from flu complications. Learn more about the flu, including prevention and treatment, from the CDC.
Plus, we've made the process even simpler by allowing patients to download and fill out Patient Intake Forms (PDF) ahead of time! Just bring it with you when you request your immunization. Speak with a pharmacist about your immunization needs.
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:
- Difficulty losing weight
- Dry skin
- High cholesterol
- Lethargy and fatigue
- Memory problems
- 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.
Multiple times each day I find myself wandering back to the Sleep Aids aisle with Pharmaca customers who are having a difficult time finding rest. Do you have problems falling asleep? Staying asleep? Are you a night owl who needs a siesta each day? There are many reasons why people experience sleeplessness—and pinpointing the true problem can help to find the best solution.
If you find your best work is done at night but you're sleepy in the morning and throughout the day, you might have what’s called a reverse cortisol curve. Cortisol, the stress hormone produced by the adrenal glands, typically spikes around normal waking times (e.g. 6 or 7 a.m.), and again at around noon. This allows a healthy human to get the day started, with an extra boost at lunchtime. But the stresses of everyday life and the standard American diet can result in a flatline of cortisol during the day and a spike at night—which manifests in evening energy surges and complete fatigue in the morning. To correct this, you can consider using natural supplements like rhodiola in the morning to mimic the normal cortisol patterns, and magnolia bark at night to rapidly decrease cortisol. You can also begin to address blood sugar issues, as these two concerns seem to be closely linked.
For those who can fall asleep but wake frequently during the night, magnolia bark may also be helpful. This can prevent cortisol spikes from happening at night. Sometimes, eating a high-protein snack before bedtime can also help to regulate blood sugar while you sleep.
The most common solution for trouble falling asleep is melatonin. This is a natural hormone that our bodies produce when we should be sleeping, and it’s a potent antioxidant in high amounts. Because of this, melatonin loses its sedative qualities with doses higher than 5 mg. When first trying melatonin, the key to success is going “low and slow,” as some side effects can include vivid dreams or nightmares, or a groggy feeling in the morning. Start with the lowest dose possible, typically 1 mg, and work your way up to find the perfect dose for you.
There are a myriad of ways to address sleeplessness, and a qualified natural health practitioner can help you find solutions tailored to you. Stop in and chat with one of the licensed health experts at Pharmaca to help you rest easy tonight!
Our health concerns change with each passing decade. The fact is, the older we get the more important it is to pay attention to our health. To address some of women's most common issues, we turned to China Rose Zamora, nutritional therapist and herbalist at our Napa, Calif. store.
Age: 20s; Concern: Good skin care
Most important, China Rose, says, is hydration. She recommends consuming half your body weight in ounces (i.e. if you weigh 140 lbs, drink 70 oz of water). "Try coconut water for a natural source of electrolytes," she says, and reduce your diuretics such as caffeine and alcohol.
Next, make sure you're protected from the sun. "We need some exposure for healthy vitamin D levels, but try not to be out in the intense times, 11am-3pm or so," she says. If you do have to go out, China Rose likes mineral sunscreens from Badger and Goddess Garden.
She also recommends getting a good balance of healthy fats in your diet, including nuts and seeds, avocado, fish, olive oil, coconut oil, eggs or organic dairy products. She also suggests a fish oil supplement, like those from Pharmax.
Age: 30s; Concern: Fertility/Pregnancy
To prepare your body for a healthy pregnancy, China Rose suggests reducing stress levels. "High stress can throw off the intricate balance of our female hormones, making it harder to conceive or maintain a pregnancy," she says.
She adds that medicinal herbs can help reduce nervous tension and help your body adapt to stress. "My favorites are nervine herbs like skullcap and wild oats, and adaptogenic herbs like ashwagandha, licorice and holy basil."
In addition, it's a good idea to start taking a prenatal multivitamin and some extra DHA up to a year before planning to get pregnant to ensure healthy prenatal development. She likes multis from whole-food sources, like New Chapter's Perfect Prenatal, MegaFood’s Baby & Me, Garden of Life’s Kind Organic Prenatal and the DHA in and fish oil such as Nordic Naturals' Cod Liver Oil.
Age: 40s; Concern: Preparing for a Healthy Menopause
"We can do a lot to prevent and reduce common menopausal symptoms by taking care of our adrenal glands," China Rose says. "Get enough rest, reduce alcohol and caffeine consumption, keep blood sugar balanced throughout the day and get regular exercise."
For symptomatic support, she likes maca, an herb that supports the whole hormonal system and can help to reduce symptoms like hot flashes, mood swings and low energy levels. "I also like to use liver-supportive herbs that help the body clear any excess hormones, like estrogen, that might be causing symptoms." She loves combinations of milk thistle, dandelion, yellow dock, and Oregon grape root like those found in Pharmaca’s Liver Cleanse Booster.
Age: 50s; Concern: Osteoporosis
"Calcium is important, but not all calcium supplements are created equal," she says. "I prefer to use those from food sources like New Chapter's Bone Strength Take Care." She likes it because it includes other important nutrients like vitamin D, magnesium, vitamin K and strontium that help to maintain strong bones. At the same time, make sure your digestion is up to par, since digestive problems can hinder the absorption of these vital minerals. Caffeine and soda can also leach calcium from your bones.
Age: 60s; Concern: Heart Health
While she always recommends a diet high in plant-based foods, China Rose feels it's especially important as women start thinking about their heart health. "A wide variety of fruits and vegetables provides a diverse source of antioxidants," she says. In addition, make sure you're getting a good amount of cardiovascular exercise: walking, swimming, cycling, etc. "Your heart will thank you for it!"
She also recommends hawthorn berry as a general cardio tonic. "It can help to lower moderately high blood pressure levels, as well as support healthy heart function," she says. She recommends Flora's Hawthorn Heart Formula. In addition, she likes motherwort, an herb that can help alleviate mild heart palpitations as a symptom of menopause.
Finally, continue to be aware of your hormonal balance. "Though hormonal levels naturally lessen as we age, we continue to need healthy levels of estrogen and progesterone to maintain strong bones," she says, so speak with a practitioner about supporting your hormonal system.
Pharmaca's practitioners can help you address your health concerns at any age.
Hormones can be the cause of a variety of health concerns—from teen acne to mood swings to, eventually, hot flashes. And they can get out of balance for a variety of reasons, says Rebecca Phillips, doctor of chiropracty at our Albuquerque store. Fortunately there are solutions for bringing them back to the right levels, and treating the associated symptoms in the meantime.
If it seems though a person’s symptoms do lean toward hormonal imbalance, Rebecca will often recommend a saliva test, available without a prescription from our pharmacies. The tests reveal levels of estrogen, progesterone and the adrenal glands. Within 10 days, she says, they’ll have a much better idea of how to help address their issues, and the data can be used as a baseline for future tests.
If estrogen is low, for example, Rebecca would recommend something like black cohosh, which mimics the presence of estrogen in the body to relieve symptoms like hot flashes. If the levels are totally out of balance, she might recommend pregnenolone, which converts to either DHEA or progesterone, depending on the body’s needs (we carry Pure Encapsulations’ Pregnenolone). Maca also which offers natural support for hormone balance.
While awaiting test results, Rebecca says, she will often recommend supplements that can help ease symptoms on their own. “If they have sleep issues, for example, we can give them GABA,” she says. Or if they’re experiencing hot flashes at night, it may be a nutrition issue. “Sometimes people’s diets are just too high in sugar and that’s fueling the fire.” That’s when she might recommend a green powder, like those from Vibrant Greens, to help cool the body.
Green foods are also an important way to support the liver and ensure proper filtering of estrogen, which is key, Rebecca says, for avoiding hormonal surges of acne in your teen years and beyond. “Most people that have adult acne need to get off sugars and onto lean proteins and greens.”
The adrenal factor
“Our hormones don’t come just from our ovaries,” Rebecca says. Throughout our lifetime, 25 percent come from our adrenal glands, which convert pregnenolone into DHEA, progesterone or cortisol depending on what the body needs. Because it works so hard, it’s often depleted during high-stress periods.
But after menopause, when the ovaries have stopped producing hormones of their own, our bodies rely on the adrenals for all of our hormone balance. “If your 25 percent is up and functional, you might not experience the hot flashes.” But if you’re over-stressed, there’s a good chance you’re operating on less than 25 percent, and can experience exacerbated menopause symptoms. That’s why it’s so important to practice good stress management habits throughout our lives. A Pharmaca practitioner can also talk to you about adaptogenic herbs such as eleuthero and rhodiola—or even specific herbal formulas—that can be helpful in nourishing the adrenals.
Ask a Pharmaca practitioner for guidance if you feel your hormones are out of balance.