Does Choosing Supplements Feel Like a Never-Ending Maze?

iStock_000008226295_SmallI have been getting some questions as a health coach about how to go about choosing from the many holistic product options, especially when it comes to supplements. So, I will summarize 4 key pieces of advice:
 
1) Make one change at a time.
This is the only way for you to feel whether a product is working for you, and it increases your chances of sticking to the new habit, because you will know EXACTLY what changed.
As a health coach, I have seen people change only what they eat with no added supplementation at all, and still reach 60-95% of their goals. Nothing is more important than what you choose as fuel for your body, what you do to keep it in shape (movement of some sort), and how you manage your thoughts (lessening stress and negativity).  
Many find it easier to start with taking a supplement, because they feel it is something they can do with less effort at first, or because they feel it will help them have more willpower. If that is you, then go ahead and try it, but JUST take your new supplements at first so you know what is changing. If you start the supplements AND you start eating better AND working out more…you cannot say which change is helping most. How do you really know? 
 
2) Research your ingredients.
Natural does not necessarily mean it’s right for YOU and your body. A year or so ago I had a friend who started taking aloe daily to help with digestive issues. After a couple months, he went for a colonoscopy. Afterwards, the doctor told him he knew he was drinking aloe juice and to stop it immediately because the continued use over time was turning his intestines black, and although it would reverse if stopped, if continued it could do damage.
And did you know that if you have a latex allergy, you should be VERY cautious of taking aloe? The aloe plant contains an aloe gel in the middle and an aloe latex before the leaf and after the gel. When the aloe ingredient manufacturing process includes both, an aloe-allergic person could react and the latex portion is what causes the intestinal damage due to its laxative effects.
Now for some, aloe has been a lifesaver and works well, but most gastroenterologists agree it should be taken as needed and not proactively/daily over time to be safest. Is it possible that some supplements have found a way to harness the good parts of aloe and not the challenging parts to ensure continued use is safe? Absolutely. But if it were me, I would want to ask and know how they are ensuring that, and I would at least want to know that it COULD become an issue so that I could monitor with my doctor. This is merely one example of why it is important to know your ingredients and be aware of all potential benefits AND risks.
Basically, do your research because not all ingredients are manufactured or processed the same, and some have risks to specific groups of people. High quality supplements cost money, so make sure the ingredients and science behind it feels worth your investment. Just be sure your research is coming from expert sources, and weigh both negatives and positives against logical tests to see if you can trust all the information (e.g., Is the opinion based on newer or older research?, Does the person have a personal interest in the advice presented?, Does the article include links to science-based studies/references?)
3) No one option works for everyone.
Every body is different, with a different natural chemical plant than everyone else. So, although some things may work for the majority, no one thing will work for EVERYONE, and no experience will be exactly the same. So, do your research to ensure the line is pure, well balanced, and ask others how it has worked for them. Then trust your instincts. If you feel it may be right for you, then try it. You have nothing to lose usually. In most cases, you will receive some benefit even if it isn’t exactly what you were looking for, and many high quality lines offer a money back guarantee the first month.
 
4) No supplement or natural product is legally allowed to claim it CURES or HEALS disease, or that it REPLACES any approved medication.
If someone is saying that their supplements will cure cancer, heal your Crohn’s Disease, or replace your prescriptions then you should be at least a bit skeptical. That sort of language is often used to convince those groups to buy, and does not always stem from truthHowever, some natural products ARE proven to be highly supportive of specific normal body functions (e.g., respiratory, digestive, etc.).
And, many times the person means well. It is completely normal process to have a product work so well at supporting a body system that a person experiences a grand improvement in their wellbeing, and of course that leads them to wanting to shout it from the mountaintops and help everyone they know feel better too! When someone says to you something like, “I took this and my reflux was cured!”, that is hopefully an accurate perception of what they believed to have happened. However, what most likely happened is that the product helped fill a deficiency within their body and that enabled that body system to fully function again. The supplement didn’t cure the reflux, it supported healthy digestion. The body then stopped the reflux because it was able to.
This is largely different than what happens when you take a manufactured drug that is synthetically produced to change how normal body functions operate in order to facilitate a change in disease state. If someone is marketing honestly and legally, then the message should be that the product supports or promotes healthy normal body functions or promotes or improves normal, everyday types of issues (aches after working out, feelings of anxiousness before a test, etc.).
According to the FDA, as soon as someone is benefiting from the sale of a product, that person can no longer say that the product stopped his or her reflux or saved them from buying reflux medicine….EVEN IF THAT IS THEIR TRUE EXPERIENCE…because it then falls under commercial speech. Someone may take that as a drug claim and purchase based on that perceived promise. How do I know? Because I carry the doTerra line of oils and supplements and our company has been cooperating fully to educate every leader and advocate in the company as to why controlling commercial speech is so important, and on how to still promote the benefits of our products in a compliant manner. I believe the best in most people, and think those who are still making those claims are doing so because they just don’t understand the laws yet, but the few who use those claims for financial gain only, the few who are the reason the FDA has to make these efforts to begin with…those are the people you want to watch out for.
The bottom line?
I think it is awesome that there are so many natural, quality supplements out there to choose from today. They are sorely needed thanks to the state of our food supply, the amount of toxins we are subjected to daily, and the latest findings that are finally proving that many of the grocery and pharmacy chains have fake supplements on their shelves or supplements without the proper ingredients to facilitate absorption (resulting in expensive urine).
 
So, understand that natural supplement products are merely a support tool that DOES NOT give you a free pass to eat like crap and never workout, yet still expect to get healthy. Research the ingredients so you know what the potential benefits and risks are. And, maintain an accurate expectation of natural supplements’ role in your wellness goals.
They are supportive. They are not magic pills.
iStock_000008226307_SmallThey cannot immediately instill perfect willpower, turn your metabolism into overdrive, erase years of bad habits, make that hot in the corner see you as sexy, or fix your marriage.
 
However, they CAN be a HUGE part of your wellness toolkit when used properly.
 
My most important piece of advice? Don’t be afraid to try different products, and once you find one that helps you reach your goals, don’t let the naysayers and skeptics talk you out of it…stick with it until your body tells you there is a change needed.

Magic Potions? They’re Hocus-Pocus!

Screenshot 2016-01-06 15.34.12As a health coach, I respect the fact that every person is different and therefore will find different products that work for them. That is why I carry more than one, and use more than one brand of product. I choose what works best FOR ME. I also help my clients choose what is right FOR THEM, even if what’s right isn’t any of the products I can supply.

In health coaching school, we are taught that choosing real, unprocessed foods that are non-gmo and grown in a sustainable manner AND managing your primary foods (emotional needs such as stress, love, exercise that you love, and spirituality) are the foundational cornerstones of health. My experiences with my family’s health and my clients’ have proven to me that this is true.

What about all these magic potions out there?

There is no magic potion, no fancy drink or pill that will make up for choosing too much sugar, unhealthy fats, or toxic chemicals. To be at our best, most of us should be eating real foods at every meal, including a full glass of water and about 6 grams of protein within 1/2 hour of waking…and I don’t mean by adding water to a processed protein shake…I mean through FOOD.

Healthy smoothies, ground by you, using fresh veggies, fruits, and food-based-proteins are fine. And, if you choose to use a healthy, no-chemicals-added replacer shake from time to time because of time constraints that is better than nothing, but it is still NOT a healthy food replacement.

Feel free to enjoy and use some of the natural herb and essential oil based products that can naturally help curb cravings and support healthier digestion and weight loss…but just don’t think they make it so you don’t need healthy foods.

What about supplements and essential oils? Do you really need them?

Supplements and essential oils support health and can have amazing benefits, but they are not a “get out of healthy habits free card.”

The answer is that with our current food supply, yes, most of us do need supplements (even those of us who eat very healthy). Again though, they are not even close to a replacement for healthy foods. And, most supplements you find either don’t have the right kind of nutrients and macronutrients, not enough of what you need even if it IS the right kind, or they have TOO much (which can also cause problems). In all of these cases you are likely to end up with very few benefits and very expensive urine…because you likely won’t absorb most of what you take in.

Most everyone needs a BALANCED multi-vitamin and mineral (no or minimal iron unless you are low), Omega-3s, Vitamin D (if it isn’t in your multivitamin in high enough amounts) and a high quality, multi-strain probiotic.

Many companies claim to have amazing probiotics and charge an arm and a leg for them, but do you know what matters in a probiotic?  The number of healthy bacteria strains, the measurement of bacteria strains (cfu), how it is stored/protected to keep those bacteria alive until you consume it, and how those bacteria are introduced into your system and how they plan to ensure most of the bacteria make it through your digestive system into the targeted location. If your probiotic brand is not refrigerate, you have no idea how long it has sat on that shelf, has only 1-4 strains, and has no explanation of how it was specially made to ensure you will actually benefit from those bacteria (rather than merely killing them during digestion)…well, I would recommending researching them more before you spend the money.

You can skip the expensive probiotic altogether if you choose to ingest foods high in probiotics EVERY DAY such as kombucha, water kefir, sauerkraut, raw cheeses, and raw unsweetened yogurts…but these can be expensive too unless you make them yourself; and if you buy the regular processed store cheese or yogurt instead of raw, unsweetened it won’t help much (and may hurt by feeding the unhealthy bacteria with the sugars and additives they contain).

Whether of not you NEED essential oils is a very personal opinion, but they are not magic potions either, but just as with supplements, they can provide great benefits and be a supportive part of your wellness toolkit.

What about a cleanse? Are they really helpful?

I believe I owe my life to a healthy, food-based elimination diet cleanse. Literaly. I am not exaggerating. So, of course I feel a cleanse can be helpful.

But be careful. There are some very UNHEALTHY cleanses out there being touted as safe, when in reality they can cause harm. For example, your body needs fiber to remove toxins, and juicing releases a lot of toxins from your system. So, if you stay on a juicing-only cleanse for many days without adding in any fiber, or even worse, while also adding in supplements to enhance the detox, you could easily overload your filtering organs and get very sick.

Any cleanse should be primarily food-based (or all). Remove all sugar, processed foods, trans-fats, and inflammatory foods for 10-30 days. That along with increased water intake of 64-96 ounces of water per day will make most Americans feel like a million bucks (at least after the first week of detox sludginess…that is a word according to me). 🙂

If a cleanse says you don’t have to change what you eat, or worse yet, that you don’t have to eat at all, please look for another one. Supplements can support cleansing, but the right foods are still what matters most. Great cleanses will teach you healthier habits you can maintain even after you are finished with your cleanse.

And as usual, don’t blindly take my word for it…do some research…look up some of these things for yourself and make an educated decision on what works best for you.

What do I advise?

Please throw out this search for magic potions and fountains of youth, and instead consider these three primary steps to work toward and maintain your version of healthy:

1) Eat real, healthy, unprocessed foods.

2) Move your body every day…in whatever form of exercise makes your heart sing. Take a hike, go for a walk, do yoga on your bedroom floor, join a fitness class group (peer group, belonging, AND exercise…helps with number 3 too)…just move somehow.

3) Take care of your emotional needs. Make your self-talk kinder, surround yourself with people who help you stay positive and celebrate your strengths instead of pointing out your challenges, learn how to say no unless you are excited about saying yes, and make yourself a priority. You deserve to be healthy, but almost no one can be healthy if they aren’t first HAPPY.

Feel free to supplement these steps with any of the holistic complimentary therapies that work for you. In my family, some of the things we supplement with are regular chiropractic care, herb and whole-foods based supplements, essential oils, an annual cleanse, and pet-therapy (we have two of the cutest dogs ever who smother us in unconditional love, laughter, and cuddles).

Which of these three primary areas do you do well in? Which would you like to focus on improving this year? What are some of the complimentary therapies you find helpful? I’d love to hear from you!

 

Nascar Bullies Those with Celiac & Food Allergies

In my last blog post I wrote about how I once had a stranger say that in the past, food allergies would have been called natural selection: implying that my son was weak somehow and the world should just let him die sooner because he is flawed. Food allergic people run into this a lot, where people feel it is a horrible inconvenience and unfair to them that they have to sacrifice what they want to eat in their school or place of work. But, I had hoped that this sort of bullying was dissipating; that people were starting to see how serious food allergies can really be, starting to see that it really is a community problem that we need to tackle head on.

I guess I am wrong, because a soon to be released Nascar Super Bowl ad says, “When our idea of danger is gluten, there’s trouble afoot. Yes, we the people have gotten soft.”

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Though I can see the larger “joke,” this is why I have never liked sarcastic, slap-stick humor. I don’t see how making fun of people who live with real challenges just because they are different is funny. This is the very definition of bullying, trying to reap some form of personal gain (e.g., inflated sense of self-worth or popularity) by publicly making fun of or taunting others who are perceived as weaker for some reason.

Just as with kids who are bullied, the truth usually is that those being bullied are really the stronger and kinder human beings. The same holds true here. My kids suffer from multiple foood allergies, some life threatening. They have to learn every day how to be strong enough to be OK with who they are even though those around them see the challenges they live with daily as an inconvenience, a lie, or something to be afraid of. They have to figure out how to NOT define themselves by what they can and cannot eat, even though many of those around them do so constantly. They have to figure out how to live with the knowledge that food could kill them, when kids are supposed to grow up feeling invincible. The fact that they’ve figured all that out and are still successful makes them some of the strongest people I know.

And the fact that whomever wrote that ad, and Nascar execs who approved that ad felt they needed to disparage an entire community in an effort to make a “catchy” and “edgy” ad that will incite a large amount of attention makes them some of the weakest people I’m glad I don’t know.

This world needs far more compassion and empathy and far less sarcasm and apathy.

I will end my soap box rant now.

If you agree and wish to share your disapproval, a petition to have Nascar pull the ad is here.

If you need to see it in order to decide for yourself, the link to the ad is here.