Author: <span>Julie Lachman</span>

Supplements VS. Whole-Food

Whole-Food and Synthetic Nutritional Supplements: Is one better than the other?

A fresh, whole-foods diet is the optimal way to obtain nutrients. However, environmental conditions and farming practices have depleted the soil of key nutrients we would typically obtain from food, making it impossible to get everything we need from food alone. Nutritional supplements provide a way to support the body’s needs. There are two broad categories of supplements to choose from – whole food-based and synthetic (lab-created). Is one better than the other?

There aren’t many studies comparing whole-food supplements to synthetic varieties. Whole-food supplement manufacturers claim their products are superior, but there is no specific criteria to define “whole food” in the supplement market. Many different practices can be used to claim a supplement is whole-food. Some brands do add concentrated fruits and vegetables to their product. Others simply add yeast and use a fermentation process. Does this make a supplement more available to the body for absorption? Not necessarily.

From the research available, we know that the bioavailability of a nutrient depends on many factors including:

  • a person’s state of health
  • the proper production of stomach acid necessary for vitamin absorption
  • whether or not the supplement is digested in the stomach; pills that pass through the stomach are less bioavailable
  • the supplement manufacturing process

The only way to measure bioavailability for comparison purposes is to do blood tests and there simply is not enough valid and reliable research that makes such comparisons.

Of course, better digestibility and assimilation by the body are important factors for anyone considering nutritional supplements. The bottom line is that either type of supplement may be better than the other depending on the reason it’s being taken (for general health or a specific medical need) along with the factors mentioned above. In some cases a truly food-based supplement could be the better choice; but not always. The best way to ascertain your need for supplements is to consult with a natural medicine physician who understands the manufacturing practices for nutritional supplements, as well the physiology of how different types of nutrients work in the body.


A Sustainable Food System?

A Sustainable Food System: It’s Everyone’s Job and It’s Easier than You Think

Across the globe, health and environmentally-conscious individuals and groups are advocating for a sustainable food system; this includes farming practices, seed to harvest to distribution practices, and waste management. Every action we take – and every inaction – affects the food we eat; our choices impact taste, appearance, variety available, and nutrient quality and has an impact on our health and the sustainability of the planet. Each of us can make a difference, as there are many “pro-sustainability choices” and most are easier than you might think.

Why Sustainable Choices Matter: Planetary Health and Human Health

The relationship between the environment and human health is complex and intricately linked to nine key “planetary boundaries” that scientists use to measure changes in the planet’s air, land, and water systems. When these boundaries are breached, there are rapid, irreversible environmental threats that impact our health and food supply and the very conditions under which humanity can thrive on Earth.

To date, four of the nine planetary boundaries have been crossed: climate change, biosphere integrity, land-system change, and the global nitrogen cycle. The evidence for these breaches is seen in a number of scientific observations:

  • loss of biodiversity
  • soil, air and water pollution
  • polar ice-cap melting
  • rising sea levels and ocean acidification
  • species endangerment and alterations in habitats
  • inadequate development of water and land resources to meet food and energy needs

These changes have unalterable effects on planetary and human health, including increased:

  • disease carried by wildlife (e.g., Lyme, West Nile, Ebola)
  • novel viruses transmitted by wildlife
  • food and waterborne disease (e.g., bacterial illness)
  • malnutrition in both industrialized and non-industrialized countries
  • cancer, heart disease, respiratory illness, diabetes, and other chronic diseases

Farms & Feed, Gardens & Groceries

A major contributor to environmental rifts and the degradation of health is our reliance on factory farms (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations or CAFOs). In the U.S., most meat, poultry, egg and dairy come from CAFOs. Whether in the U.S. or around the globe, acquiring the land needed for such farming often means deforestation, a practice associated with habitat destruction, changes in ecosystems and biodiversity, and climate change.

Mounting evidence from the past two decades shows deforestation is also associated with rising rates of infectious disease in animals and humans. When wildlife lose their natural habitat to deforestation, they are forced to migrate into a new ecosystem where they are biologically ill-equipped to fend off bacteria or viruses that exist in the new ecosystem. When animals and humans intermingle within ecosystems that have been typically foreign to one another, this sets up a pathway for pathogen transmission from wildlife to humans.

CAFO farmed livestock are fed hormones and antibiotics to prevent disease and promote faster growth. It has been well established that antibiotics in animal feed is a primary factor in human antibiotic resistance, a serious public health problem. Farms that promote “grass-fed” beef are more humane for animals and the meat produced is better for humans, but we must keep in mind that aspects of all farming practices can damage delicate ecosystems. We have to feed billions of people, many of whom consume too much of any kind of meat. As part of the solution, we can each commit to consuming less meat and more vegetables and make good, sustainable choices.

Simple Sustainable Choices You can Make

Grow Your Food. Growing food saves money and reduces the environmental cost of factory farming. Start a garden or even an organic container garden. Remember: if you use commercial, chemically-laden soil, fertilizer or feed, you are not only damaging your personal ecosystem, you are also diminishing the quality of nutrients and vitality of the food you are growing. Use organic soil, native plants, natural fertilizer and pest control, and compost. Practice conservation-friendly watering to help your garden grow.

Be a Conscious Consumer. When you can’t grow your own foods, buy organic, in-season foods from a local farm market or CSA (Community Supported Agriculture or crop-share) in your area.

Veg-out More Often. Even just one day a week, replace meat-based recipes with savory vegetarian options.

Expiration Date Knowledge. “Sell-by” and “use-by” dates are manufacturer suggestions for peak quality. The dates are not federally regulated to indicate safety, except on certain baby foods. Not sure if you should keep a food or toss it? Refer to a shelf life guide.

Net-Zero Your Fridge. Before you grocery shop to restock, try to make use of all perishable food: Leftover meat and vegetables can be turned into a casserole, stew or broth. Fruit can be frozen. Learn what food can be canned or preserved for later use. Your biggest impact will come from what you do with your groceries (or garden harvest) so that as little food as possible goes to waste, ending-up in an environmentally destructive landfill.

Be Freezer Friendly. Freeze leftovers (ideally in reusable containers) if you won’t have the chance to eat them before they go bad. Refer to this chart for freezer-life of common foods.

These choices aren’t complicated; they only require that you pay attention to what you choose to buy or grow and how you go about doing it. Start with one or two of these approaches and try others over time. Your health and your planet will thank you.


Fighting Candidiasis!

Natural Medicine Approaches to Candidiasis

Candida albicans is a type of fungus living in harmony with millions of other microorganisms that are part of our body’s normal gut flora. However, it can get out of control, resulting in a condition known as candidiasis, or candida overgrowth. When that happens, it can trigger a number of seemingly unrelated health issues, from athlete’s foot to yeast infections. Candidiasis typically affects women more than men and often is first noticed as a vaginal yeast infection.

Many people believe candida lives only in the intestines or in the vaginal area. In actuality, candida can live in every tissue in the body. Overgrowth often starts in the intestines, disrupting the healthy balance of gut-friendly bacteria and fungi. The candida spores spread through the digestive tract until they reach the throat and then the lungs. From the lungs, spores enter the alveolar sacs where blood is exposed to oxygen. From here, the bloodstream carries candida throughout the body. The extent of infection by this opportunistic fungus – and what systems it infects – are a complex mix of factors including age, lifestyle, diet, pre-existing conditions, among others.

Typically, a combination of factors trigger an overgrowth of candida; sometimes, however, it only takes a single element to incite an infection. Some of these factors include:

  • Taking antibiotics
  • A weakened immune system, either from a health condition or from taking immunosuppressive medications like steroids or chemotherapy
  • Taking hormonal contraceptives, especially high-dose estrogen birth control pills
  • Eating a diet high in refined carbs or sugar
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • High levels of stress

Depending on the extent of the overpopulation of the fungus and the systems affected, candidiasis can bring on a variety of symptoms, including:

  • A white, cottage cheese-like coating on your tongue, inner cheeks, throat, or the roof of your mouth can all be a sign of candida overgrowth in the mouth, called oral thrush. The same type of substance in vaginal discharge can indicate a vaginal yeast infection.
  • Frequent urinary tract infections can be another sign of candida overgrowth.
  • Fungus can manifest in the toe nails, under or within skin folds, and over-populate other bodily symptoms resulting in surface symptoms that do not resolve.

A holistic physician can diagnose candidiasis with a simple test. Because yeast is a morphogenic organism – it changes shape throughout its lifecycle – treatment requires adjustments. Your health practitioner will likely use different herbs and supplements at different points in your treatment plan.



Fecal Microbiota Transplantation

Fecal Microbiota Transplantation: Cutting-Edge Intervention to Rebalance the Microbiome

All that bacteria in your gut? Trillions of bacteria, in fact. It has a job to do: protect your microbiome and ensure it remains in balance. But when there’s trouble – when a microorganism becomes overgrown, the resulting imbalance damages the integrity of the microbiome, leaving it open to disease processes that affect other systems in the body. One particular bacteria that is a normal part of our gut biome, but which is likely to overgrow and cause damage, especially after antibiotic use, is C. difficile, which is often difficult to control.

An innovative, cutting edge treatment is Fecal Microbiota Transplantation (FMT), or stool transplantation; in randomized, controlled clinical trials, it has resolved 80-90% of infections caused by C. difficile. With FMT, an infusion of bacteria from a carefully-screened, healthy donor’s stool is transplanted into the recipient’s colon. The procedure may be done in different ways, depending upon the needs of the patient. Methods used for FMT include: colonoscopy, naso-enteric tube or capsules, each having unique risks and benefits.

Experts indicate that FMT works by repopulating the patient’s microbiome with diverse microorganisms that rebalance the microbiome. Other health conditions that may be helped by FMT include Irritable Bowel Syndrome, obesity, metabolic syndrome, and Crohn’s Disease. However, more research must be conducted to confirm the safety and efficacy for these conditions. Current FDA guidelines permit the use of FMT only for the treatment of C. difficile infection that is not responsive to standard antibiotic therapy. It is not recommended for people who are immunocompromised.

The procedure is performed by a licensed physician (Holistic or Medical Doctor). FMT can lead to serious health complications if performed by untrained individuals. To be considered for this procedure, you must have a complete medical evaluation and be assessed for your candidacy. Consult with a holistic physician for more information.



Your Gut & Cinnamon!

Cinnamon’s Sweet Surprise: It’s Good for Your Gut!

A favorite sweet herb for cooking, cinnamon has been used for centuries to treat health concerns such as fever, menstrual problems, congestion, sore throat and cough, and gastrointestinal distress. Preliminary research shows that cinnamon helps support the optimal environment for “friendly” gut bacteria to thrive, while suppressing the growth of “unfriendly” bacteria. This effect appears to be adaptogenic, meaning the bioactive chemicals in cinnamon adjust to your body’s specific needs.

Cinnamon has four main varieties, with dozens of subtypes. The two most commercially used are Cinnamomum cassia – aka Cassia Cinnamon or Chinese cinnamon, and Cinnamon zeylanicum – aka Ceylon or True Cinnamon, from Sri Lanka. The other two, Saigon and Korintje, are often used for their essential oils. Each contains a varying amount of biologically active compounds.

Ceylon is the most commonly studied because it has the lowest levels of coumarin, which is high in other varieties, and can be toxic to the liver. Preliminary evidence suggests that Ceylon has anti-microbial, anti-parasitic, antioxidant and free radical scavenging properties. This means it supports the body’s innate processes for reducing inflammation, protecting the cells from damage, supporting detoxification, and maintaining the integrity of tissues, particularly in the intestinal lining. In a nutshell, cinnamon appears to exert its beneficial effects on the gut by supporting a healthy balance of beneficial bacteria, while decreasing the inflammatory effects of “unfriendly” bacteria.

Almost every part of the cinnamon tree, including the bark, leaves, flowers, fruits and roots, has some medicinal or culinary use. The chemical composition can vary drastically in each of these parts, which suggests each may have different effects in the body as well. As a medicinal supplement, each of us responds to different doses and forms of cinnamon whether used in cooking or taken as a supplement. Because cinnamon can change the way some medications work, it’s important to speak with a holistic physician before taking a cinnamon supplement.