Pharmaca Blog

  • Ask Pharmaca: Which Supplements Do You Recommend Most?

    BlondGirlSmilingQ. What supplements do you recommend most widely to your patients?

    A. Here are my top 5, in no particular order.

    A potent multivitamin, to ensure you’re meeting daily minimum requirements of vitamins and minerals. Things to look for in a multi:

    • A formula that contains greens or is plant-based. Plant based vitamins are often have enhanced
    • bioavailability and are therefore easier absorbed and assimilated by the body. Greens are a
    • source of antioxidants and help to balance the pH environment
    • A formula with a healthy dose of vitamin D (i.e. 1,000–2,000 IU)
    • A formula with methylated B vitamins for enhanced B vitamin bioactivity

    Try: MegaFood One Daily or Pure Encapsulations O.N.E. Multivitamin

    Fish oil, including a minimum daily maintenance dose of 1,000 mg combined EPA/DHA. Fish oil can help fight inflammation, balance blood sugar, balance your omega-6 to omega-3 ratio, and has antioxidant, cardio-protective, neuro-protective properties assisting with mood, memory and cognition. Ask your health care provider about therapeutic doses for treating health issues such as depression, high cholesterol.
    Try: Dr. Mercola Krill Oil or Pharmax Finest Pure Fish Oil

    Magnesium, a crucial mineral that’s involved in more than 300 metabolic reactions in the body, including protein synthesis, muscle and nerve function, blood sugar control, blood pressure regulation, nerve impulse conduction, muscle contraction, regular heart rhythm and energy production. Magnesium also helps relax smooth muscles, relieving cramps, tension, headaches and stress. It can also facilitate relaxation, better sleep and keep bowel movements regular. Note: If you have tendency toward loose bowels or diarrhrea, opt for magnesium glycinate instead of magnesium citrate or other forms.
    Kate recommends: Pharmaca Magnesium Citrate or Pure Encapsulations Magnesium Glycinate

    Probiotics replenish flora, stimulate your immune system and crowd out harmful invaders by providing daily flora replenishment.
    Kate recommends: Jarrow Formulas Jarro-Dophilus EPS or probiotics from Renew Life

    A methylated B vitamin complex. B vitamins are needed for a multitude of metabolic reactions in the body. They feed the adrenal glands and help to mitigate stress (a huge underlying contributor to many common ailments!). They also help provide us with energy. I recommend methylated B vitamins because many people are poor methylators.
    Kate recommends: Thorne Research Basic B Complex or Jarrow Formulas B-Right

    A note about methylation

    Methylation is a simple but critical process in the body that happens a billion times per second. The most obvious cause of poor methylation is a genetic variation, and a simple blood test can determine this. Poor methylators can experience high histamine, low zinc, low copper, low mood, high basophil count [associated with increased infections and allergic reactions, high heavy metals/toxicity and high homocysteine (linked to increased risk of heart attacks and strokes and possibly twice the normal risk of developing Alzheimer’s)].

  • Why Minerals Should Be in Your Beauty Arsenal

    Minerals are a must in a healthy diet—they’re essential for keeping our bodies in balance and our cells functioning properly. But did you know that minerals in our skin and hair products provide important benefits, too?

    Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide protect you from the sun.
    Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are the perfect natural sunscreens, because they physically block the sun’s damaging rays on the surface of skin. That means they don’t penetrate the skin like chemical sunscreens (i.e. avobenzone and oxybenzone) which can cause hormone disruption or allergies, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG).

    Try Andalou Naturals All-in-One Beauty Balm, SPF 30, a sheer BB facial cream with 20% zinc oxide that protects, moisturizes and strengthens skin. Coola Sport Mineral Sunscreen Moisturizer is a full-body SPF 35 cream that’s water-resistant (and orange and tangerine extracts make it smell great! For hair, try Mineral Fusion Lasting Color Shampoo and Conditioner, which protects locks from sun damage and fading, and moisturizes with super-hydrating argan and mongongo seed oils.

    Mineral makeup is kind to sensitive skin.
    Without skin-irritating parabens, dyes, synthetic preservatives or talc, natural mineral foundations are often recommended by dermatologists for patients with sensitive skin or rosacea, according to WebMD. Because mineral foundations are oil-free, they’re good for acne-prone skin and less likely to cause breakouts. As an added bonus, these foundations contain titanium dioxide or zinc oxide that provides an extra level of sun protection.

    Try jane iredale Amazing Base Loose Mineral Powder SPF 20, which protects skin from UVA and UVB rays, provides silky, luminous coverage and comes in 13 skin-matching shades. ZuZu Luxe Dual Powder Foundation is good for acne-prone skin with oil-absorbing and purifying kaolin. Mineral-based W3LL People Elitist Eye Shadow Powder is gentle, lasts all day and can be layered for sheer or more dramatic looks.

    Kaolin and bentonite detox and purify.
    Kaolin and bentonite mineral clays are created from naturally weathered rocks and volcanic ash, and are good for drawing out impurities and toxins without causing dryness or irritation. These natural clays also calm inflammation and neutralize bacteria, making them ideal for congested or acne-prone skin, according to research studies published by the National Institute of Health. Clay can be found in dry shampoos, too, reducing oiliness and freshening hair.

    Treat your skin to Michael Todd Kaolin Clay Detoxifying Facial Mask, a powerful blend of skin detoxifying kaolin, bentonite and red clay that deeply cleanses skin while soothing and healing breakouts. Get good coverage for oil skin with ZuZu Luxe Dual Powder Foundation featuring oil-absorbing minerals and purifying kaolin. And One Love Organics Healthy Locks Dry Shampoo with kaolin clay is the perfect take-along while traveling or camping.


    Dead Sea minerals restore moisture and repair skin.
    Salts found in the Dead Sea area are rich in minerals that bring overly dry, cracked skin back to suppleness reports the International Journal of Dermatology. Dead Sea salt features high concentrations of magnesium, calcium, potassium and zinc, which strengthen your skin by drawing moisture and nutrients from deeper dermal layers to the surface, and locking moisture in. Dead Sea minerals also help skin cells renew faster, ideal for healing damaged skin.

    Try Ahava Dead Sea Osmoter Concentrate, a concentrated serum applied under moisturizer that leaves skin glowing and supple. Or draw a bath and add Pharmaca Bath Salts in Ylang Ylang & Ginger, which help nourish and repair dry, itchy and flaky skin with Dead Sea salts and soothing ylang ylang botanical oil.

  • Chia Seeds: A Tasty Way to Get Your Omega-3s

    Chia seeds are enjoying something of a renaissance these days—researchers are rediscovering their nutritional benefits, something the Maya and Aztecs cherished hundreds of years ago.

    Chia seeds come from the plant Salvia hispanica, which grows abundantly in the deserts of southern Mexico. As such, chia was a staple in the ancient Maya and Aztec populations between 1500 and 900 BC, and was even used as a nutrient-packed ration for Aztec warriors (Chia actually got its name from the Maya word for “strength”). But when the Spanish invaded in the 16th century, the chia crop was quickly outlawed because of its association with the Aztec religion, in which the seeds were used as offerings.

    Chia’s superfood status comes from its powerful combination of omega-3s, fiber, calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc and other nutrients. They offer more omega-3s, ounce for ounce, than salmon, and three times the calcium of skim milk! Each ounce also has nearly 11 grams of fiber per ounce.

    Health experts are also interested in chia’s ability to expand in liquid—forming a gel—which is believed to be replicated in the stomach and thereby slow the process by which digestive enzymes convert carbs to sugar. And, just like fiber, they can also increase the feeling of fullness and decrease caloric intake.

    So how do we incorporate chia seeds into our diet? Just like flax seeds, they’re a versatile addition to just about any meal—sprinkle some on salads, soups, yogurt, or grind them into flour you’re using for any baking project.

    Find the following chia products at

    Pharmaca brand Super Chia Seed
    Barlean's Organic Chia Seed
    Garden of Life Organic Chia Seed

    We’re excited to try these Caramelized Banana & Chia Pancakes. Have a chia recipe to share? Let us know.

  • Ask Pharmaca: How Do I Choose a Fish Oil?

    Q. So many choices for fish oil! Why do I need it and how do I pick one?

    A. Not all fish oils are created equal! And there are definitely some things to know before buying, since there is a huge variety in the quality of different fish oils—such as purity, freshness, potency and absorbability—that can affect their therapeutic benefits.

    First, let’s talk about essential fatty acids (EFAs) and why we recommend fish oil in the first place.

    Essential fatty acids are healthy fats our bodies have to have, but don’t produce, so must be consumed through diet or supplements. There are two families of EFAs (omega-3s and omega-6s) that are best consumed in equal ratios to achieve optimal health.

    Diets today are heavily skewed torward omega-6 fats (e.g. from corn, palm, soybean, safflower and sunflower oils) and sorely lacking in omega-3 fats (salmon, mackerel, sardines, herring, lake trout, anchovies—which are even lower in omega-3s when they’re farm raised). In fact, American diets are on average 10 times higher in omega-6s than omega-3s! This Imbalance predisposes us to a variety of chronic health problems, such as cardiovascular disease and depression. Some signs of omega-3 deficiency include mood swings, fatigue, poor memory, heart problems, dry skin and eczema, weak immunity and reproductive problems.

    Here are a few things you can do to address an omega-6/omega-3 imbalance

    1) Decrease dietary sources of omega-6s

    2) Increase dietary and premade sources of omega-3s

    3) Increase dietary sources of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a plant-based omega-3 found in flax and chia seeds, fruits and vegetables that converts to EPA and DHA in the body (albeit inefficiently—only about 10% of ALA is converted to EPA/DHA).

    Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are the two most beneficial omega-3s, offering support for body functions including cardiovascular, immune, gastrointestinal, musculoskeletal, brain and nerves, and are critical in maintaining healthy inflammation levels.

    Finding a quality fish oil

    Outside of eating fish, purified fish oil is the best biologically active source of omega-3s. But beware, fish oil quality varies greatly. Quality concerns include purity (chemical contaminants), freshness (stability of the oil) and potency (omega-3 content).

    The International Fish Oil Standards Program (IFOS) is the gold standard for certifying good fish oils, and offers free consumer reports on specific brands and products. Any good supplement company will also be cGMP certified (current good manufacturing processes) through the FDA.

    What to look for in a fish oil:

    • The right form: There are two primary forms of fish oil—the triglyceride form and the ethyl ester form—each with different therapeutic properties. While the natural triglyceride form may be better absorbed, the ethyl ester form helps concentrate DHA and EPA to therapeutic levels.
    • IFOS certification: Check to see if your brand has an international third-party certificate of analysis to verify purity and freshness of oils.
    • Current Good Manufacturing Processes certification (cGMP): Regulated by the FDA, cGMP ensures that supplement manufacturers use proper design, monitoring, and control of their processes and facilities.
    • Sustainable fishing practices: The Marine Stewardship Council works with scientists, fisheries, seafood producers and brands to promote sustainable fishing and safeguard seafood supplies for the future. Any environmentally responsible fish oil manufacturer should offer transparency into their fishing practices.
    • Normal smell and taste: Does the fish oil smell or taste fishy? Are you burping fish flavor? These are strong signs of rancid oil. Rancid (oxidized) oils should be avoided as they yield less-than-healthy effects. Be sure to store your oil as directed on the bottle and stick with far-out expiration dates to avoid rancidity.
    • The right potency: A plethora of products exist with varying levels of EPA and DHA (listed on the back of the bottle). Talk to your doctor or a Pharmaca practitioner about formulations appropriate for your health needs.

    Here are some of my top picks for quality fish oils:


    Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega – An excellent, quality product containing potent levels of EPA and DHA. Available in softgels or liquid.


    Pharmax Finest Pure Fish Oil – A very popular, effective product. Available in softgels or liquid.


    Nordic Naturals EPA Xtra and DHA Xtra – Two high-potency formulas, each heavily balanced toward EPA or DHA to suit specific health needs.


    Renew Life Critical Omega or Super Critical Omega – These quality formulations include lipase, the fat-digesting enzyme. Can be taken on an empty stomach.


    Metagenics EPA-DHA 720 or OmegaGenics EPA-DHA 1000 – Metagenics products are tested for purity and quality and provide a great source of omega-3s.


    Dr. Mercola Antarctic Krill Oil – Many people prefer to get their omega-3s from krill, which are at the bottom of the food chain and therefore found to be much freer from pollution.


    Barlean’s Omega Swirls – Potent, pure and delicious alternative to pills or oil. Try Mango Peach, Lemon Zest, Pina Colada or Key Lime.

  • Boosting Your Body's Healthy Stress Response

    We all deal with stress—and could use some extra help coping with it. Learn more from Dr. Brad Jacobs about how a variety of lifestyle changes, breathing practices and supplements can boost your body’s stress response.

    This video is part of a series of educational videos we’ll be posting from members of our Integrative Health Advisory Board.

  • Key Prenatal Nutrients for Ensuring Healthy Babies

    Taking a good prenatal vitamin is vitally important if you are planning on becoming pregnant, are pregnant or are breastfeeding. However, there are four nutrients that are very important during this time that might not be in your prenatal or may not be present in sufficient quantities. Here’s what I want you to know.

    Calcium helps to regulate the constriction and relaxation of blood vessels, which is why it may be particularly important during pregnancy. A review by the prestigious international Cochrane group evaluated 13 trials that involved 15,730 pregnant women and found that supplementing with at least 1,000 mg per day of calcium, starting at approximately 20 weeks of pregnancy, significantly reduced the risk of pregnancy-induced high blood pressure and preeclampsia—a condition that presents with a rapid spike in blood pressure during the last trimester accompanied by swelling and protein in the urine—which can be life-threatening to mother and baby if left untreated. These protective benefits are more pronounced in women who normally have low calcium intake.

    Given the horrific news about lead found in the water systems in Flint, Mich., it’s also important to talk about calcium’s role in protecting against lead toxicity. Lead exposure during pregnancy, breastfeeding and early childhood can lead to behavioral problems, lower IQs and learning difficulties. But calcium reduces the amount of lead that is absorbed in the GI tract and prevents it from being released from the skeleton, which is where lead is typically stored in our body.

    A study by Harvard researchers examined the effects of calcium on pregnant women, who received either 1,200 mg per day of calcium or placebo beginning in their first trimester. At the end of the study, the women who took calcium had 11 percent lower levels of lead in their blood compared to the women who took the placebo. Similar reductions in lead in breast milk were noted in women taking supplemental calcium.

    While the United States has been considered “iodine sufficient” for decades, the most recent large government nutrition study found that women of reproductive age in this country are now borderline iodine insufficient. This is particularly troubling given that low iodine in pregnancy increases the risk for ADHD, lower IQ and mental retardation in babies. The RDA for iodine is 150-290 mcg for adults and the American Thyroid Association now recommends that all pregnant and nursing women take a vitamin that provides 150 mcg of iodine as potassium iodide every day. Unfortunately most prenatal vitamins do not contain iodine.

    In 1998, the Institute of Medicine recognized choline as an essential nutrient necessary for the structural integrity of cell membranes, proper liver function, heart health, synthesis of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, the prevention of birth defects during pregnancy, and the healthy development of the brain and nervous system of young children. But many Americans fail to meet the recommended daily requirement of choline (450 mg/d)…and up to 40 percent of us may have a common gene variation that further increases our need for choline!

    Like folic acid, choline may play a role in preventing birth defects and may provide the child life-long protection against anxiety and exaggerated responses to stressors. Given the state of today’s world, even a small degree of protection may prove invaluable. There is very early research that suggests adequate intake of choline during pregnancy and early childhood may promote life-long mental health.

    Breastfed babies have a high need for choline in their mothers’ milk to ensure brain development in areas involved with thought and memory. The RDA is 550 mg per day for nursing mothers, though most women fall far short. The FDA requires that choline be included in infant formula, but most prenatal supplements do not contain choline.

    During the last trimester of pregnancy, neurological development is very rapid and omega-3s, particularly DHA, are concentrated in the baby’s brain and eyes. Studies show that babies born to women consuming fish/fish oil during pregnancy score higher on tests that assess intelligence, attention and visual acuity. DHA may also reduce the risk of premature birth. Higher maternal intake of DHA may also offer some protection against allergies and asthma in the baby. Babies continue to need a steady supply of DHA for at least the first two years of life to ensure the proper development and function of their central nervous system. DHA is added to infant formula, but the level in breast milk depends exclusively on the mother’s diet.

    In 2007, a European committee composed of more than 50 nutritional experts from the Perinatal Lipid Nutrition Group and Early Nutrition Programming unanimously recommended that all pregnant and lactating women consume a minimum of 200 mg of DHA per day. This recommendation was supported by seven international scientific organizations. Eating fatty fish twice a week should provide this level of DHA, but the committee endorsed the use of supplements for women who don’t regularly eat fish. After reviewing the available studies, the committee found no evidence of adverse effects or outcomes for mothers or babies when mothers took up to 1,000 mg per day of DHA.

    In spite of the vast evidence of benefit and safety, studies repeatedly show that women in the US and many European countries are not getting anywhere near the recommended levels of DHA in their diets.

    Tieraona Low Dog, MD, is a member of Pharmaca’s Integrative Health Advisory Board and author of National Geographic’s Fortify Your Life: Your Guide to Vitamins, Minerals and More.

    Council on Environmental Health, Iodine deficiency, pollutant chemicals, and the thyroid: new information on an old problem. Journal of Pediatrics 2014; Jun;133(6):1163-6.

    Ettinger AS, et al. Effect of calcium supplementation on blood lead levels in pregnancy: a randomized placebo-controlled trial. Environmental Health Perspectives 2009; Jan;117(1):26-31.

    Hofmeyr GJ, et al. Calcium supplementation during pregnancy for preventing hypertensive disorders and related problems. Cochrane Database Systematic Reviews 2014; Jun 24;6:CD001059.

    Jiang X, et al. Maternal choline supplementation: a nutritional approach for improving offspring health? Trends Endocrinology and Metabolism 2014; May;25(5):263-73.

    Koletzko B, et al. Dietary fat intakes for pregnant and lactating women. British Journal of Nutrition 2007; Nov;98(5):873-7

  • Easy Switches for Chemical-Free Cleaning

    CleaningWomanNews flash: Scrubbing bubbles, chlorine bleach and strong chemicals are out. These days, a sparkling clean, great-smelling home comes courtesy of natural household cleaners that safely, effectively remove dirt and grime. Here’s more about healthy swaps to make in your cleaning cupboard.

    Say NO to asthma-inducing spray cleaners.
    Many of the all-purpose spray cleaners lining grocery store shelves contain “asthmagens” (i.e. substances that can cause asthma) like ammonia or ethanolamine and have poor safety ratings, says the Environmental Working Group (EWG) in its Guide to Healthy Cleaning.

    Say YES to plant-based spray cleaners.
    Natural all-purpose spray cleaners made with plant-based surfactants break down dirt and grease safely and are free of petroleum, phosphates and ammonia. Try Earth Friendly Products Parsley Plus Surface Cleaner (with a fresh parsley scent!) or The Honest Company Multi-Surface Cleaner that fights dirt with coconut and organic grapefruit oil.

    Say NO to chlorine bleach, ammonia or sodium borate in laundry detergents
    Chlorine and ammonia can cause a host of breathing problems, as well as reproductive system toxicity and skin irritation, according to the EWG. And sodium borate (i.e. borax) is banned in Europe for potential endocrine and reproductive risks.

    Say YES to natural enzyme and clay laundry products.
    Naturally derived and biodegradable ingredients clean clothes and remove stains effectively without irritating skin or releasing dangerous fumes. Try Grab Green Fragrance Free 3-in-1 Laundry Detergent Pods, which are especially good for those with sensitive skin or those prone to allergies or asthma. To whiten clothes, try Biokleen Oxygen Bleach Plus, which is highly rated by the EWG for safely brightening clothes with natural clays and non-chlorine whiteners.

    Say NO to toxic drain cleaners.
    Warning labels on many common drain cleaners and clog removers should be just that—warnings to avoid the chemicals inside, like sodium hydroxide. Severe burns, blindness and dangerous chemical reactions can occur if these products are misused or mishandled.

    Say YES to enzymes and helpful bacteria to open drains.
    Solid wastes in clogged drains and septic tanks quickly and safely dissolve with natural enzymes and bacterial products. Try non-toxic, non-polluting Earth Friendly Products Earth Enzymes Natural Drain Opener on kitchen sinks, bathroom drains and garbage disposals.


    Say NO to phosphate-laden dish detergents.
    Although most states ban the use of phosphates in detergents, some companies still manage to add phosphate-laden additives, according to the EWG. Phosphate compounds are harmful to the environment because they wash into waterways and cause extensive algae growth, leading to massive “dead zones” in our waterways.

    Say YES to dish detergents with natural minerals and plant enzymes.
    Detergents with natural, non-toxic sodium minerals and plant-based enzymes break down dirt and grease and remove dried-on food easily. Try Grab Green Fragrance Free Automatic Dishwashing Detergent Pods, which are gentle but effective on all household dishes, even baby bottles. Another good choice is Mrs. Meyer’s Liquid Dish Soap in Rosemary, which degreases with soap bark extract and naturally disinfects with rosemary and peppermint leaf oils.

    Say NO to air fresheners that just mask odors
    Spray air fresheners cover odors with chemical fragrances that can trigger allergies or asthma attacks, and some contain the suspected endocrine disrupter sodium borate.

    Say YES to natural odor absorbers.
    Botanical essential oils like lime, pine and tea tree oil neutralize and eliminate odors naturally, even strong pet and mildew smells. Try Fresh Wave Natural Odor Eliminator Crystal Gel or Kanberra Gel Clean & Green Combo Pack Odor Remover and Air Purifier.

  • Recipe: Fish en Papillote with Tomatoes, Corn & Asparagus


    This recipe is part of our #CookWithPharmaca contest! Make this recipe, snap a photo and post on social media and you could win a $150 gift card! Details >

    From The Anti-Inflammation Cookbook
    By Amanda Haas and Dr. Bradly Jacobs

    Cooking fish in parchment packets seals in moisture while creating a beautiful presentation with loads of flavor. Learn this technique and use it over and over again with any type of fish and your favorite seasonal vegetables.

    Preparation time: 30 minutes
    Cooking time: 20 minutes
    Serves 4

    Four 4-oz [115-g] fish fillets, such as halibut, salmon, or snapper, pin bones removed
    Kosher salt
    Freshly ground black pepper
    Extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling
    2 lemons, preferably Meyer, ends trimmed, cut into 12 slices about 1/8 in [3 mm] thick
    Kernels from 2 ears of corn
    16 asparagus spears, bottoms trimmed, sliced on the bias into 1/2-in [1 2-mm] pieces
    1 cup [160 g] cherry tomatoes (optional if nightshade-sensitive)
    2 Tbsp finely chopped assorted herbs, such as basil, chives, parsley, tarragon, and dill

    Preheat the oven to 400°F [200°C]. Cut four pieces of parchment paper each 18 in [46 cm] long.

    Place a fish fillet on the center of a piece of parchment. Season with a small pinch each of salt and pepper, then drizzle with olive oil. Place three lemon slices on the fillet, overlapping them slightly to cover the fish. Sprinkle one-fourth each of the corn, aspar­agus, and tomatoes (if using) evenly around the fish, then drizzle with a little olive oil and season again with a small pinch each of salt and pepper.

    Bring the long sides of the paper together, and fold the top edges down together to create a 1-in [2.5-cm] seal, then continue to fold down tightly over the fish and vegeta­bles. Twist the open ends of the parchment in opposite directions to prevent steam from escaping.

    Repeat the process with the remaining ingredients and parchment. Place the packets on a baking sheet. (If not baking immediately, refrigerate for up to 4 hours.)

    Bake until the packets are lightly browned and have puffed up, about 15 minutes. Transfer each packet to a plate and let stand for 5 minutes. Using sharp scissors, cut an X into the center of each packet and carefully pull back the parchment and sprinkle with the herbs. Serve immediately.

    Reprinted with permission from the Anti-Inflammation Cookbook by Amanda Haas with Bradly Jacobs, photographs by Erin Kunkel, Chronicle Books 2015.

  • Ask Pharmaca: What's the Best Joint Supplement for Me?

    RunningManQ. My doctor recommended glucosamine for my joints, but there are so many choices! What is chondroitin? What about MSM? Which one should I pick?

    A. It’s true, there are many choices when shopping for glucosamine. We’ll unravel the differences between glucosamine, chondroitin and MSM, but first, let’s talk about osteoarthritis (OA)—most likely the reason you’re looking for joint support to begin with.

    OA is a degenerative joint disease experienced by 80 percent of adults over 50 years old, and by 70, it’s nearly universal. It’s hallmarked by the loss of cartilage (the tough connective tissue that cushions your joints), which can cause pain, stiffness, swelling and eventual loss of joint function. Most OA occurs in the knees, hips or shoulders, and often interferes with mobility.

    Because OA is a progressive problem, it is important to support joints before irreversible damage is done and joint replacement becomes your last option. So cheers to your doctor for recommending joint support now!

    Now, on to a breakdown of the different options.

    Glucosamine provides the natural building blocks for growth, repair and maintenance of cartilage. It also attracts water that serves the gel-like nature of joints, helping to maintain lubrication and shock absorption. Glucosamine is also a structural component to other important tissues such as tendons, ligaments, heart valves, mucous membranes, hair and nails.

    But as with many bodily processes, glucosamine production decreases as we age. Studies suggest supplemental glucosamine can reduce stiffness, swelling, pain and degeneration associated with OA, as it is a key component in cartilage and joint health.

    Chondroitin is also a major component of cartilage and joint health. It helps by absorbing water and providing resistance to compression. Studies suggest it can reduce pain, stiffness and swelling and improve joint function associated with OA. But chondroitin is not absorbed nearly as well as glucosamine and, head to head, glucosamine appears to be more effective. Nevertheless, chondroitin can be a good complement to the work your glucosamine is doing.

    Methyl-sulfonyl-methane (MSM) is a biologically useful form of sulfur, the third most abundant mineral in our bodies with widespread applications throughout. Sulfur is a critical building block for cartilage, and sulfur from MSM strengthens joint tissues and helps with elasticity. Known as “nature’s beauty mineral,” MSM also improves skin health, strengthens hair and nails, and can improve detoxification, accelerate healing and increase energy.

    Identifying the differences between the three can help you understand why you might want to include chondroitin and MSM in your glucosamine regimen—it can offer more comprehensive relief from arthritic pain and help improve joint function.

    Here are my recommendations for glucosamine, chondroitin and MSM in all of their combinations:

    GlucosamineThorne Research Glucosamine Sulfate or Pharmaca Glucosamine Sulfate

    Glucosamine & chondroitinThorne Research Glucosamine and Chondroitin or Natural Factors Glucosamine & Chondroitin Sulfates

    Glucosamine, chondroitin & MSMJarrow Formulas Glucosamine + Chondroitin + MSM or Pharmaca Glucosamine, Chondroitin & MSM

    MSMJarrow Formulas MSM Sulfur Powder or Pharmaca MSM

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