Archive for the ‘Supplements’ Category

Vitamin D – How much?

Thursday, May 1st, 2008

Average adults including pregnant women need 200 IU of vitamin D daily while adults over 50 need 400 IU daily. The recommendation for vitamin D intake further increases to 600 IU for people over 70 years of age.

Vitamin D deficiency is most common in women over the age of 50. This is the age when most of us will be going through the menopause and when it’s absolutely vital to keep our bones and heart healthy due to the increased risk of osteoporosis and heart disease that menopause brings.  


Natural food sources of vitamin D are few.  It is found in oily fish.  A 100g of grilled salmon contains 7.1mcg (284ius) of vitamin D and a 100g of tinned pilchards contains 14 mcg (560ius) of vitamin D.

Diet alone, however, does not provide enough vitamin D and another great source of readily available vitamin D is from sunlight so aim to get at least 20 minutes of natural daylight.  Sunscreen will interfere with the production of vitamin D so go without any but in hot weather, avoid the hottest part of the day.  Australia, which has successfully campaigned against sun exposure for years, is now recording vitamin D deficiencies in 1 out of 4 people. Also check your cosmetics as many moisturisers will have in-built sun protection factors (SPF) and they will be blocking the vitamin D manufacture through your skin. 

Calcium supplements: The best way to protect your bone health?

Saturday, March 1st, 2008

Calcium is a nutrient that is essential for strong bones and for supporting your body’s critical functions such as controlling your blood pressure and maintaining your heart beat. Ninety-nine percent of your body’s calcium is stored in your bones and teeth. This calcium makes up your bone bank. Throughout your lifetime, calcium is deposited in and withdrawn from your bone bank depending on your needs. When your dietary calcium intake is too low, your body will withdraw the calcium it needs from your bones. Over time, if more calcium is taken out of your bones than is put in, the result may be thin, weak bones that may break more easily.


The preferred way to get adequate calcium is through a healthy, well-balanced diet but new research suggests that taking calcium supplements could reduce the risk of people aged over 50 from suffering fractures and osteoporosis.




Are you getting enough calcium from your diet?


Everybody assumes that dairy products are going to be the best source of calcium.  But there are some really good non-dairy sources including sardines, other tinned fish where you eat the bones like tinned salmon, green leafy vegetables, broccoli, soy beans and figs. 

Bear in mind that smoking, caffeine consumption, drinking alcohol, heavy protein consumption, exposure to toxic metals, and eating processed junk foods will all increase your need for calcium.


Should you take a supplement?

If you are over the age of 45 I would suggest that you take a good ‘bone’ supplement that contains not only calcium but also magnesium, boron and vitamin D.


Unfortunately, one of the cheapest forms of calcium is calcium carbonate, which is otherwise known as chalk.  It may be cheap, but it is one of the most difficult forms of calcium to absorb, and you need a highly efficient digestive system to order to manage it.  As we get older, our digestive efficiency diminishes (how many people in their 60s do you know who can eat an evening meal after 8pm and still sleep soundly?).  If you have low levels of stomach acid, as many women over 40 do, you may struggle to absorb the calcium from a calcium carbonate supplement.  It is estimated that 40% of postmenopausal women can be deficient in stomach acid and if your levels are low you might be absorbing as little as 4% of the calcium from your calcium supplement.


However, even with poor digestion, you should still be able to absorb 45% of the calcium from a calcium citrate supplement.  This is because calcium citrate is almost 30% more absorbable than calcium carbonate.  So, if you are taking a calcium carbonate supplement your dose should be higher than a calcium citrate dose, to ensure you really are absorbing enough calcium. 


One common calcium supplement is calcium hydroxyapatite, which has been shown to have only 20% absorption, and is basically bone meal. Try to avoid supplements containing bone meal, oyster shell or dolomite as they can contain high levels of heavy toxic metals such as lead, arsenic, mercury or cadmium.

(The ‘bone’ supplement I use in the clinic is called Osteo Plus which contains calcium as citrate, magnesium, boron, vitamin D3 and the added benefit of digestive enzymes for maximum absorption, see the Resources Page).

Ease arthritis naturally: the self-help guide

Friday, February 1st, 2008

If you have stiff, painful joints you can help yourself the holistic way with a number of natural remedies and therapies.


The main forms of arthritis are rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is caused when the lining around a joint becomes inflamed. This usually affects the same joint on both sides of the body, such as both hips. Osteoarthritis occurs when cartilage around bones wears thin and their rough edges rub together, causing pain and swelling. Young people, especially those who smoke, are more likely to experience rheumatoid arthritis with osteoarthritis more common in older people, or those who have damaged joints through injury or excessive sports. Both types are usually treated with anti-inflammatory drugs and painkillers, which can have side effects, but you can also ease symptoms naturally:


  • Exercise: Regular exercise has been shown to increase joint mobility and flexibility in arthritis suffers. It can also help keep weight down as being overweight puts extra pressure on bones and joints. Studies have found that yoga in particular offers pain relief but don’t do a session when your joints are inflamed and inform your teacher of your condition.
  • Hydrotherapy: Water exercises a few times a week can help control the amount of pain you have. Exercising in water is non-impact, so this way there is no shock to the joints which cause pain. Also while you are in the water there is less chance to hurt yourself because you won’t fall.
  • Physical/Heat/Massage/Relaxation Therapy: Arthritis is pain in the joint area and it can strike in any part of the body where joints exist. This pain isn’t always the result of damaged joints. It can be caused by overworked tendons, a build-up of scar tissue, frayed nerves and tense muscles. These types of therapies are oftentimes effective because they generally are designed to focus on the affected area. Rubbing and kneading, applying heat, or using a walker or other type of device designed to improve mobility and posture can all help to promote improved blood circulation and loosen overly tight areas. The goal of these types of therapies is to work on the root of the pain and hopefully, after repeated treatments if necessary, make the pain disappear permanently.
  • Nutrition: Because arthritis is an inflammatory disease you need to eat foods with anti-inflammatory actions such as omega 3 fatty acids. Eat omega 3 rich oily fish or nuts and seeds such as pumpkin and sesame several times a week and up your intake of complex carbohydrates such as grains, fruits, peas and beans and dark green leafy vegetables. You should also eat plenty of red and purple berries as these are packed with antioxidants. It may also help to avoid wheat as this can lead to inflammation and aggravate symptoms. Finally, studies show that vegetarian meals may ease inflammation so cutting out meat, especially red meat, is strongly advised. 
  • Supplements: A number of nutrients may be able to ease arthritis. Bromelain, an anti-inflammatory enzyme found in pineapples can help. Ginger has been found to have anti-inflammatory properties as have omega 3 supplements. According to neurologists at the University of Pittsburgh, omega 3 supplements may work just as well as prescription drugs to ease arthritis pain. (I use Omega 3 Plus fatty acid supplement in the clinic as it is a good combination of both EPA and DHA – see the Resources Page). 


A recent study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill also found that there appeared to be a clear relationship between selenium and osteoarthritis. A 2001 study of patients with knee arthritis found that an extract of ginger reduced pain while standing and after walking. By using ginger, patients were able to reduce their pain medications after 6 weeks. Glucosamine is an amino sugar found naturally in the body’s cartilage, and may help with joint repair.  


Several studies have shown that it may be moderately beneficial for the pain and stiffness of osteoarthritis, particularly of the knee. Other studies suggest that it may be as effective as ibuprofen for pain relief, although the supplements needed to be taken for at least 2 weeks to have an effect. Try to get a glucosamine supplement combined with MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) which occurs naturally in food and helps to maintain healthy connective tissue, keeping the joints flexible and reducing pain.  (See the Resources page for information on MSM Plus).   


Finally, vitamin C is one of the key vitamins for joints and bones but its importance is often forgotten. Vitamin C is needed for the manufacture of collagen and collagen is essential for joints, muscles, ligaments and tendons. Use an alkaline form of vitamin C such as magnesium ascorbate rather than the acid form, ascorbic acid, as it is thought that the more alkaline the diet, the less severe the symptoms of arthritis.  (see Vitamin C Plus, an alkaline form, on the Resources Page).


  • Herbs: A number of herbs and spices can help ease arthritis. Devil’s claw is renowned for its anti-inflammatory and painkilling properties as is white willow bark, although you should avoid this if you are allergic to aspirin. Turmeric strengthens connective tissues, while nettle cleans the body and prevents a build up of uric acid which can cause pain and inflammation. Apple cider vinegar is often is recommended for patients who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis.  (A good anti-inflammatory supplement combination I use is Boswellia Plus which contains a number of anti-inflammatory herbs including ginger and turmeric see the Resources Page).
  • Aromatherapy: For osteoarthritis you may want to try a warming aromatherapy blend to ease muscle spasm, stiffness and poor circulation. Try blending three drops of ginger, three of lavender and four drops of black pepper in 20 ml of carrier oil. For rheumatoid arthritis go for gentle, soothing anti inflammatory oils: Blend two drops rose otto, two yarrow and six drops palmarosa oils in 20 ml carrier oil. Do not massage on the joints if there is pain, apply gently to the surrounding tissues instead.
  • Acupressure: Both acupuncture and acupressure may be able to ease the pain and swelling of arthritis. Try these exercises: Press the fleshy part below the web between your thumb and forefinger for one minute. This may help relieve pain and can be used as a relaxant if stress triggers your arthritis. You could also locate the point in the web between your big and second toes and exert medium pressure for a minute on both feet.
  • Homeopathy: The homeopathic remedy bryonia is often recommended if you feel fine in the morning and find that your symptoms get worse as the day goes on. If you wake up stiff but find that movement eases the stiffness try rhus tox. For both cases use the 6c potency in the morning and evening for a few days and stop taking once symptoms improve.