Search results for: 'probiotic'

  • Natural Ways to Enhance Immunity

    Hispanic woman smiling in fieldAre you the type of person that seems to get ill just thinking about cold and flu season? Do you get frequent infections throughout the fall and winter? Once you’re sick, do you have trouble regaining health? Here are some ideas to keep those seasonal illnesses at bay.

    First off, not all illness is “bad.” I tend to look at it as exercise for our immune systems—if we’re never challenged, our immune cells don’t have the opportunity to build up and create memory immune cells for quicker response against future illness of the same kind.

    Here are a few things to consider when trying to stay healthy this season.


    High levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) tend to suppress or lower our immune response to invading pathogens. So make time to decompress and reduce your stress level. If you find you’re responding to stressors in a less than positive way, work on mentally reframing the experiences—it’s not about the stressors, it’s about how we react to them. Whether you do yoga, cook, dance, listen to music (or make your own), take bubble baths or embrace your inner child and color in coloring books, do it and do it often!

    For additional support, drink some stress relief tea throughout the day and/or take adrenal support supplements. Also be sure to get adequate sleep, since increased stress and lowered immunity are among the many effects of sleep deprivation!

    Keep moving

    Exercise helps with lymph flow and the circulation of white blood cells, thereby increasing the detection of illness and helping to combat the illness more quickly. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate activity, 5 days per week, to get a decent fitness dose.  Of course, check with your medical provider before beginning a new exercise regimen.

    Eat with intention

    Eating for immunity ideally includes a lot of anti-microbial herbs such as garlic, ginger, and parsley. You should also include immune-modulating mushrooms, particularly shiitake. Combining these mushrooms and herbs in a mineral-rich broth is one of my favorite seasonal meals.

    Tried-and-true immune support products

    This is by no means an exhaustive list. As always, consult a supplement-literate physician before adding them to your regimen, in order to avoid any potential medicine interactions and to make sure they’re right for you.

    Regular use of a neti pot/saline rinse can decrease adherence of pathogens to our nasal passages, which is a common entry point of microbes. Although it can take some getting used to (and the willpower to do it), it is well worth the benefits!

    Elderberry syrup or extract is one of my favorite, tasty ways to help prevent and shorten the duration of cold and flu viruses. Not only is it antiviral, but the proanthocyanidins in the elderberries make it a potent antioxidant. Children love it, too!

    Astragalus is an adaptogenic herb that helps keep you protected by enhancing immune function, and helps you deal with stress. That makes it a great preventive herb to take on a daily basis to build up your immune system and help you cope through the holiday season.

    In the first 48 hours of feeling ill, consider frequent dosing with echinacea root. Beyond the initial phase of illness, the root may have little or likely no impact, but when used correctly can be quite helpful. The aerial parts of echinacea however, can be taken throughout the season to strengthen the immune system.

    Andrographis is an excellent immune-stimulating herb to take in the beginning stages of illness. It works to decrease the symptoms of the acute cold or flu quickly, particularly helping to provide relief from sore throat or fever.

    There is an undeniable connection between the gut and the immune system. An incredible 80 percent of our immune system is located in our digestive systems. Probiotics should be taken daily throughout the year to support beneficial flora in the GI tract.

    Vitamin C is a classic immune-boosting standby, and can be dosed in high amounts, up to bowel tolerance, as more is required during acute infections. Lower amounts can be used daily to ward off illness.

    Zinc lozenges, when used within the first 24 hours of illness, can help to shorten the duration and decrease the symptoms of the common cold. Zinc given at appropriate dosages over time can help prevent infections.

    Medicinal mushrooms contain polysaccharides and beneficial compounds that work to modulate or enhance immune function. Taking a mushroom extract or capsule supplement on a daily basis can be very beneficial in helping the immune system to function properly.

    Stay healthy this season and don’t forget to frequently wash your hands! Talk with a practitioner at your local Pharmaca for more information and product suggestions.

  • The ABCs of Adrenal Health

    Massage Lady
    Are you tired and sluggish? Having trouble sleeping? These are just a few symptoms of adrenal fatigue, which many of our practitioners believe can be the result of a nutrient-poor diet and high levels of stress.

    Finding relief can be easier when you understand how best to nourish your adrenal glands. We asked certified herbalist and nutritionist Shizandra Fox from our Sonoma store to shed some light on this all-too-common syndrome.

    What are the adrenal glands?

    Sometimes called the body’s “shock absorbers,” the adrenals are two thumb-shaped glands located above your kidneys. Kicking into high gear when we feel stress, the adrenal glands produce a variety of hormones including, cortisol, norepinephrine and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA).

    What are the symptoms of adrenal fatigue?

    People suffering from adrenal fatigue are usually very run down, have difficulty sleeping, wake up with panic and can be overly emotional. In addition, Shizandra often notices her customers complaining of:

    • Low blood sugar
    • Poor circulation
    • Depression
    • Low self-esteem
    • Muscle weakness
    • Pain in the joints
    • Constipation
    • Compromised immune function

    How does diet affect adrenal fatigue?

    What you eat and drink can make a huge difference in how you feel, Shizandra says. That’s why she recommends that before you take any herb or supplement, you first clean up your diet—and keep it cleaned up. Here are a few simple ways to do that:

    • Choose fresh, whole foods, preferably organic and locally grown.
    • Include lean protein with each meal and snack to help stabilize blood sugar.
    • Try to prepare extra nutritious snacks to have on hand when you crave sugar and caffeine.

    Shizandra also recommends preparing the digestive tract with a combination of probiotics, enzymes and minerals that can help boost absorption of any supplements you take for adrenal nourishment. She also suggests a morning “liver flush” of 12–16 ounces of filtered water with lemon juice, and advocates for taking a good B complex that includes pantothenic acid or B5.

    What supplements can help?

    First, Shizandra has customers describe their symptoms, so she can best match an herb or supplement with what they need. “If they’re feeling primarily depleted, for example, then I might suggest rhodiola to support their energy levels,” she says. “Or, if they’re really stressed out, I might suggest ashwagandha for its calming effect.”

    Rhodiola, along with ashwagandha, astragalus and eleuthero are among a class of herbs called adaptogens, which are said to help you adapt to physical, emotional and environmental forms of stress.

    One popular adaptogen blend Shizandra frequently recommends is MegaFood’s Adrenal Strength, which includes functional food mushrooms, along with astragalus and schisandra to help to strengthen adrenals and support immune health.

    And to promote better sleep and help normalize stress-related hormones, Shizandra often suggests Gaia Herbs’ Adrenal Health, which includes a combination of ashwagandha, rhodiola, holy basil, schisandra and wild oats. Shizandra also loves Vitanica’s Adrenal Assist, a naturopath-developed formula that supports and promotes adrenal hormone production with key nutrients and a variety of adaptogenic herbs.

    Finally, because stress plays such an important role in adrenal fatigue, Shizandra tells customers to do anything they can to lower their overall stress level on a daily basis—get enough sleep, exercise regularly or breathe more deeply.

    If you’re feeling run down and are wondering how to nourish your adrenals, talk with a Pharmaca practitioner today for customized solutions.

  • Natural Eczema Relief

    PlayfulScience has yet to figure out the exact cause of eczema, a chronic skin condition, but those who experience it know there are variety of things that can set it off—causing red, inflamed, crusty or itchy patches. Children are especially prone; about 10-15 percent of babies will have symptoms. Heat and stress can trigger flare-ups, as can food allergies, soaps, detergents, perfumes and even rough fabrics like wool. If you or your little ones suffer from eczema, try these practices to help ease symptoms.

    Cleanse with shea butter or neem oil. Body washes or soaps can be very drying to sensitive skin; look for one with shea butter or neem oil that are rich in skin-saving fatty acids. Shea Moisture's Raw Shea Chamomile and Argan Oil Baby Eczema Soap cleanses babies and adults with super hydrating shea butter and argan oil, as well as soothing chamomile. Theraneem's Maximum Strength Neem Oil Cleansing Bar Soap combines neem, olive and coconut oils to calm and safely cleanse sensitive skin.

    Moisturize naturally, without synthetic chemicals. Keeping skin well hydrated locks in your skin’s own moisture in and can prevent dry patches from occurring. Moisturizing lotions or creams should be applied often during the day, but be sure they are free from potential irritants like fragrance, parabens or synthetic additives. For severely dry and inflamed skin, esthetician Renee Oleson in Portland says Avene’s Trixera+ Selectiose Emollient Cream is a customer favorite. Featuring mineral-rich thermal spring water and evening primrose oil, this soothing balm calms hyper-sensitive skin and has received a seal of acceptance by the National Eczema Association.

    For a lightweight, yet deeply hydrating, moisturizer, Alaffia’s EveryDay Shea Butter Unscented Body Lotion combines unrefined shea butter with soothing lemongrass. And for kids, parents love Babo Botanicals’ Oatmeal Calendula Moisturizing Baby Lotion, filled with gentle organic botanicals that calm and colloidal oatmeal that comforts dry skin, especially on the scalp.

    Ease the itch with herbs and minerals. Topical ointments can help soothe the itch, and prevent infections in scratched skin. Herbal remedies with burdock root and barberry like Derma E’s Psorzema Creme are great for reducing inflammation. Water can soothe itchiness too, and Avene’s Thermal Spring Water Spray's cooling mist is pH balanced and rich in trace elements and minerals. Or try a warm epsom salt bath—the magnesium in the salt helps reduce swelling (stick with just a teaspoon of salt in the water for babies, and be sure to moisturize afterwards). Hydrocortisone creams are a quick fix, but aren’t recommended for long-term use because they gradually thin the skin and make it more prone to infection.

    Add anti-inflammatory and immune-strengthing supplements to your diet. Supplements like fish oil and probiotics can help, says Dr. Lee Dennis, a naturopathic doctor in Portland, by adding important nutrients that reduce inflammation and modulate the immune system to keep it healthy. Fish oils, like Pharmaca’s Omega-3 Clinical Strength Fish Oil, are rich in omega-3 fatty acids that researchers say can reduce leukotrienes, an inflammatory substance that plays a role in eczema. Probiotics are another good addition, as they can keep our immune system strong. Try Jarrow Formulas’ Jarro-Dophilus EPS Higher Potency capsules or Baby’s Jarro-Dophilus Powder, which deliver a blend of beneficial probiotic bacteria.

  • Treating Chronic Constipation

    SpringladyConstipation 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.

    4. Hyperosmotics

    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.

    5. Osmotics

    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.

  • Prevent Respiratory Infection: Build Immunity Now!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Prevention for respiratory viruses

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

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

    Follow these fundamentals to improve your chances at staying healthy:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Hypothyroidism: Your Questions Answered


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

    What is the thyroid gland and why does it matter?

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

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

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

    What are the signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism?

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

    Here is a more comprehensive list of symptoms of hypothyroidism:

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

    What causes low thyroid?

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

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

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

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

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

    Am I hypothyroid? When and what to test

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

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

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

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

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

    How can I naturally support the thyroid gland?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • 5 Healthy Reasons to Eat More Nuts

    Mixed NutsIsn’t it great when one of our favorite snacks turns out to be good for us? Here’s why eating a handful of nuts every day isn't such a bad idea.

    1.     Nuts are heart healthy.

    Studies have shown that eating a small portion of nuts each day helps lower LDL cholesterol levels. Almonds and walnuts are two of the best for heart benefits, since walnuts are high in beneficial omega-3 fatty acids that slow the growth of plaque in our arteries, and almonds are full of good monounsaturated fats that improve blood cholesterol levels and stabilize heart rhythms.

    2.     Nuts can help us breathe better.

    Nuts that are high in vitamin E, like almonds and hazelnuts, help improve lung function. The oil in nuts is anti-inflammatory and helps reduce mucus production, so they're a great thing to include during allergy and cold seasons.

    3.     Nuts (just a handful!) fill us up.

    Nuts make a great snack because they are high in protein and fiber. Choose nuts that are low in calories and saturated fats. Almonds, for example, are high in protein and low in fat: a ¼ cup serving has about 160 calories and 4 g of fiber. Cashews and pistachios are good low-cal choices, too. Just eat macadamia nuts and pecans in moderation, as these have the highest amount of saturated fats and calories.

    4.     Peanuts count.

    Although technically a legume, peanuts offer many of the same benefits as tree nuts. In addition to being a good source of protein and fiber, peanuts have high levels of vitamins E and B, as well as antioxidants such as resveratrol (which helps reduce diabetes risk and heart disease) and p-coumaric acid (a beneficial probiotic that helps digestion). Dry-roasted (or boiled!) without salt are the ones to choose, as these have fewer calories and lower sodium.

    5.     Nuts are easy to add to our diet.

    Here are a few easy ways to incorporate more nuts.

    • Pick up Pharmaca's healthy nut mixes for ready-made nutrition! Try our Antioxidant Trail Mix, a blend of almonds, walnuts, pecans, cherries, cranberries, apples, cashews and peanuts. Gorp with Chocolate is another favorite, featuring peanuts, raisins and chocolate gems. Or go for straight nuts with Raw Almonds or Organic Raw Cashews.
    • Add nuts to salads. A sprinkle of nuts offers an extra protein boost even to pre-made salads.
    • Try incorporating the best of a Mediterranean diet (fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts) and add nuts to whole grain pasta dishes or sautéed greens like spinach or broccoli.
    • Use nut flours in soups or stews, or to replace white flour in baking recipes.
    • Make a quick, tasty dessert.  A quick recipe? Chopped bananas, honey, a sprinkle of almonds and walnuts, and a dash of cinnamon.

    Tell us: What's your favorite way to eat nuts?

  • 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.

  • 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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