acai fruit and acai powder

What is Acai? Explore All Health Benefits Right Here

What is Acai? Explore All Health Benefits Right Here

Karolina Zaremba headshot

by Karolina Zaremba


If you’re looking to boost your nutrition game, nutrient-dense superfoods like acai are the way to do it. Acai (pronounced ah-sigh-EE) is a berry that boasts a high amount of antioxidants, vitamins, and other nutrients for its small size. It looks like a cross between a grape and blueberry and has a wild berry taste.

You’ve probably come across smoothie shops serving acai bowls, or seen photos of them online. To make one, acai is blended into a smoothie base with other frozen fruit, milk or non-dairy milk, and then topped with granola, fruit, or other toppings.

Besides creating beautiful bowls, the many health benefits are worth giving acai a try.

The antioxidant action of acai

ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) was developed by the National Institute on Aging as a measure of the antioxidant levels found in food. Acai berry has a score of 102700, putting it in the top 25 antioxidant-rich foods. However, some limitations with the ORAC score include different ways to measure that can’t be directly compared and the fact the in-vitro (test tube) studies can’t necessarily be extrapolated to in-vivo (human) results. (1)

Antioxidants protect the body by being free radical scavengers. Free radicals are toxic byproducts in your body that can cause damage to cells. They’re made when you process substances like tobacco, pollution, alcohol, and fried or processed foods, but also occur from natural metabolic processes.

Free radicals are linked to aging and diseases including atherosclerosis, diabetes, dyslipidemia (irregular ratio of, or elevated cholesterol), and others (2).

Where do antioxidants come in? Antioxidants neutralize free radicals by donating an electron. This stops the reaction and prevents cells from being damaged (oxidative stress). This is why it’s so important to get a variety of antioxidants daily from your food and natural supplements.

The specific group of antioxidants in acai that give it superfood status are called anthocyanins. This is the same group of plant compounds found in red grapes or wine. Only 10% of acai’s antioxidant capacity is understood, 90% is still to be identified in the research. (3) It’s likely that we have yet to discover other nutrients that benefit health!

acai fruit and acai powder

Acai can support digestion and immune health, as well as improve brain health.

Healthy reasons to try acai

  • Good for digestion – a 100g serving has 2-3 grams of fiber, which helps with regular digestion and elimination
  • Protects against aging and cancer – the anthocyanins found in acai are a type of flavonoid that gives the berry its deep purple color. These anthocyanins were found to suppress the proliferation (growth) of brain cancer cells in rats. (4) Interestingly, extracts from other berries didn’t have the same suppressive effect.
  • Improves immune function – one study found that the polysaccharides found in acai are immunomodulatory compounds. Consuming the fruit increased interleukin 12 (IL-12) and myeloid blood cells, both important components for immune function. (5)
  • Boosts brain health – due to the fact that the antioxidants protect cell integrity, acai has a positive effect on memory and cognition. The fruit pulp also has anti-inflammatory effects. Studies in mice and rats showed an improvement of working memory and protection of microglial cells of the nervous system in the animals that were given acai. (6,7)
  • Improves metabolic markers – a pilot study in overweight adults found that consuming acai reduced insulin and fasting glucose levels. (8) This shows promise for improving metabolic disease (which is a precursor to type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease).

two acai smoothies on a table with straws

Acai can be found as a frozen puree, or in supplements as liquid, powder, and capsules.

Where can you get the acai berry?

Acai is a small, dark berry that’s native to Central and South America, often sourced from Brazil. You can find it in grocery or health food stores. It’s found as a puree (sometimes called pulp) in the freezer section, that you can use to blend into smoothies. If your local store doesn’t carry it, you can order the frozen puree online. As the fruit itself is perishable when fresh, it’s hard to come by the whole fruit outside of its native regions.

If smoothie bowls seem like too much work, you can also get the benefits of the fruit in supplement form. Acai extract is available as different supplements, including liquid, powder, and capsule. It’s sometimes combined with other antioxidant ingredients such as greens. You can easily find Acai 600 and Acai Concentrate on Fullscript!

Should you buy into this health trend?

Acai bowls are one of the big health food trends taking restaurants, social media, and the supplement industry by storm. Acai’s rise in popularity over the last few years is due to it being a “superfood”, and to the visual appeal of bright, colorful acai smoothie bowls.

If you’re still skeptical, try it for the taste! Acai bowls are a great introduction to healthy smoothies. Because they’re fruit based, picky eaters (kids and adults alike) tend to enjoy the flavor. They’re also easy to make at home — here’s how!

Acai Smoothie Bowl

Ingredients

  • 1 (100g) packet frozen acai puree
  • 1 small banana, sliced and frozen (or ½ avocado for less sugar)
  • 1 scoop of protein powder of choice (plain or vanilla work best)
  • ¼ cup milk or plant-based milk (almond, cashew, coconut, etc.)

Toppings

  • Shredded coconut
  • Chia seeds
  • Fresh berries

In a high-speed blender, combine all four ingredients and blend until smooth. You can add some more dairy, a splash at a time, as needed for blending. The desired consistency is thicker than a smoothie, similar to soft-serve ice cream. Pour into a bowl and arrange the toppings on top. Enjoy!


turmeric plant cut up and turmeric orange powder in wooden spoon and bowl

Add Turmeric To Your Health, Add Spice to Your Life

Add Turmeric To Your Health, Add Spice to Your Life

Vaness Monteiro headshot

by Vanessa Monteiro


While turmeric health benefits are slowly but surely finding their way into our diet, turmeric has been adding a bit of spice in Ayurveda for many years. Turmeric is a well-known spice derived from the root of the turmeric plant (Curcuma Longa), a species of the ginger family. The spice is created by grinding up the dried root, which produces a bright yellow powder with a strong bitter, yet sweet taste (1). Though turmeric has been used beneficially for over 4000 years in traditional Indian medicine, researchers are now beginning to look into its chemical composition and how turmeric works to provide health benefits, one of them being an antidote for inflammation.

What is turmeric & how it works

The primary component of turmeric is polyphenol curcumin, a pigment within the spice that is known to have antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties. (2)

Antioxidant

You may often think about oxygen as the life-giving air you breathe, but oxygen can also cause your body problems. When oxygen is used to create energy in your cells the normally stable oxygen molecule is split into two oxygen atoms, each with an unpaired electron. These atoms with missing electrons — known as free radicals — hunt for an extra electron to feel complete, often reacting with other molecules in your body to take one.

By stealing an electron, the robbed molecule now becomes a free radical as well and interacts with new molecules in the same way. These free radicals can then damage parts of your cells through their interactions. When the number of free radicals grow to an unmanageable amount, your body reaches a state of oxidative stress, which can trigger a number of degenerative diseases including cancer. (3)

Your body inherently develops devices to deal with free radicals, such as taking in antioxidant molecules. These are primarily gathered from the foods you eat, such as fruits and vegetables, with turmeric (or curcumin) being a big game player. Antioxidants like curcumin break the free radical chain by offering an electron, thus stabilizing the previously reactive molecule (4). Adding to this, the curcumin in turmeric also helps modulate your levels of glutathione, an antioxidant that is made naturally in your body. In doing so, it brings more players to the field to manage unwanted free radicals (5).

Anti-Inflammatory

Inflammation is your body’s response to something it thinks is harmful and often results in swelling, heat, pain, or redness. This primarily occurs as your body increases blood flow to the front lines in order to deliver the defending cells of your immune system. Though inflammation is caused by your body’s defensive reaction, the response is not always helpful. There are cases where your body can misinterpret your own cells as invaders causing unnecessary inflammation and distress such as with chronic inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis or psoriasis. (6)

In cases such as these, substances with anti-inflammatory properties can be very useful. Turmeric (curcumin) works as an anti-inflammation agent by inhibiting a variety of different molecules that play a role in inflammation (7). Many labs and animal studies have already shown the benefits of curcumin in treating diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBS), pancreatitis, arthritis, and chronic anterior uveitis, as well as certain types of cancer through these properties (8).

turmeric plant cut up and turmeric orange powder in wooden spoon and bowl

Turmeric is created by grinding up the dried turmeric plant root, which produces a bright yellow powder with a strong bitter, yet sweet taste.

Researched health benefits of turmeric

Alzheimer’s Disease

Lab-based research has shown that curcumin can break down amyloid-beta plaques, which are key components in the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. (9)

Arthritis

This disease is hallmarked by inflammation of the joints, primarily treated with pharmaceutical painkillers that often cause gastrointestinal side effects. Fortunately, studies show turmeric’s anti-inflammatory properties as a possible alternative by providing a reduction in symptoms similar to ibuprofen (ex. Advil) with limited side effects. (10)

Antiviral

A multitude of studies show curcumin can prevent viral infection by direct and indirect interference of its replication process. (11)

Cancer

Both lab and animal studies show that curcumin has the ability to kill many different tumor cell types through a variety of mechanisms. Its ability to use different methods (preventing tumor resistance), and that it does not adversely affect normal cells, makes it an ideal candidate for drug development. (12)

Diabetes

A 2013 literary review confirmed curcumin has a great potential in dealing with the main problems associated with diabetes – insulin resistance, hyperglycemia, hyperlipidemia, and pancreatic cell death. (13)

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Though not statistically significant, a 2018 review shows that curcumin results in a positive impact on symptoms with those who have IBS through its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effect and ability to modulate gut microbiota. Additionally, all studies found curcumin supplementation to be safe with no serious adverse events reported by subjects. (14)

Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)

A small trial of 70 women in 2015 resulted in a decrease of PMS symptoms while taking curcumin supplements prior to the onset of menstruation. (15)

A traditional drink that can be had casually, or when you are feeling ill is turmeric tea – a mixture of warmed milk, turmeric, and honey for taste.

Using turmeric for health benefits

Though it is a majority component of turmeric, curcumin only contributes to about 2-8% of the spice’s prepared composition. Although this does not mean that turmeric on its own is useless yet as a treatment or intervention, a supplemented version of curcumin is likely to be more beneficial.

Some researchers are concerned with using curcumin even in supplementation for treatments because it has poor bioavailability. This means your body is unable to take in the substance. This is primarily due to poor absorption, rapid metabolism, and rapid elimination (2). However, as studies already show progress with the current versions of curcumin supplementation, this may not be a grave issue.

If adequate supplementation is a concern, you are able to improve the absorption of curcumin by combining it with other products. When taken with black pepper, which contains piperine, bioavailability has been shown to increase by 2000% (16). Another way is to incorporate it into fats when cooking (as it is a fat-soluble substance) or in hot water (the temperature helps it dissolve in water), to make it more easily absorbed by your body.

Adding turmeric to your diet

Now that you can see the small and great of turmeric (and, curcumin) you may be interested in adding it more frequently to your diet. Though it may be daunting if you are unfamiliar with this spice, you can try some of the suggestions below:

  • Add a teaspoon when cooking rice. It will add a nice flavor and a great festive color!
  • Turmeric can be a great add-in for spice mixtures when you make roast vegetables.
  • Blending it in with smoothies can provide you with all the benefits, without the taste that is masked by the delicious fruit that is mixed in.
  • A traditional drink that can be had casually, or when you are feeling ill is turmeric tea – a mixture of warmed milk, turmeric, and honey for taste.

See how easily you can work some turmeric fun and flavor into your meals with so many health benefits and such little effort!


assortment of food that applies to the paleo diet guidelines

Paleo Diet 101: The Stone Age Guide To Healthy Weight Loss

Paleo Diet 101: The Stone Age Guide To Healthy Weight Loss


Imagine losing weight without counting calories, tracking macros, or starving yourself. Impossible? Not according to proponents of the popular paleolithic diet or paleo diet who believe that sticking as closely as possible to the unprocessed foods our Stone Age ancestors ate can lead to both, weight loss and better health.

But is the paleo diet really healthy? A growing number of studies have found that eating a paleo diet not only triggers sustainable weight loss, it may also reduce the risk of many chronic diseases. (1) One study published in The Journal of Nutrition concluded that eating the paleo way may even help you live a longer, healthier life. (2)

person standing on a white weight scale

The paleo diet has been proven to help with healthy weight loss.

The modern caveman: paleo in the 21st century

The paleo diet—also known as the Stone Age Diet, hunter-gatherer diet, or the caveman diet—isn’t your average low-carb diet. Instead, it’s based on avoiding any foods humans ate after the dawn of agriculture 10,000 years ago. According to Loren Cordain, Ph.D., author of The Paleo Diet, paleo includes all grains, dairy, beans and legumes, refined and processed foods, fast foods, unhealthy fats high in omega-6 fatty acids, and sugar. (3) That’s a radical shift from the modern Western diet, where it’s estimated that at least 70 percent of the calories consumed are processed, refined, and not readily adaptable by the human body. (1)

The basic premise of paleo is that we need to return to the way early humans ate before the advent of agriculture. Known as the discordance hypothesis, Paleo advocates the belief that we are genetically mismatched to the rapid dietary changes that occurred with the introduction of grains, dairy, and other human manipulated foods. (4) Instead, according to the principles of paleo (5):

  • We should eat foods that mimic those our prehistoric hunter-gatherer ancestors ate.
  • We should avoid modern foods that these hunter-gatherers never or rarely ate.
  • Foods should be the freshest and the highest quality available. Vegetables should be in-season and organic when possible. Meats should be organic or pastured. Fish should be wild-caught.
  • While counting macros isn’t necessary, Cordain notes that a typical paleo meal would typically contain approximately 38 percent protein from animal foods, 23 percent carbohydrates (vegetables and some fruit), and 39 percent from fats. (6)
  • Eat until you are full at each meal.

So what can you eat? the paleo food list

  • Vegetables
  • Fruit
  • Meat & poultry
  • Eggs
  • Nuts & seeds
  • Fats & oils

Foods to avoid: 

  • Dairy
  • Grains
  • Legumes
  • Potatoes
  • Processed foods
  • Refined seed oils
  • Sugar

assortment of food that applies to the paleo diet guidelines

When following the paleo diet, foods like meat & poultry, eggs, and nuts & seeds are essentials to consume.

But is paleo really healthy?

At its core, eating the paleo way isn’t really a weight loss diet, although there is research showing that it can help you shed pounds. In fact, clinical trials report that calorie for calorie, people who ate following the paleo diet felt fuller longer and lost more body fat—especially belly fat—than those eating a typical diet. (7, 8) That’s a happy side effect of adopting a paleo diet. But the true purpose of the paleo diet is to fuel the body for optimal health.

Two studies conducted at the University of California, San Francisco found that a paleo diet, even when eaten on a short-term basis, improved insulin sensitivity, glucose control, blood pressure, and lipid profiles in participants with type 2 diabetes and also among healthy volunteers leading a sedentary lifestyle. (9, 10) Other studies mirror these findings, reporting lower HbA1c values and body mass indices (BMI), a drop in waist circumference, improved blood pressure, a reduction in total cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol, and triglycerides, and an uptick in HDL (good) cholesterol. (11, 12, 13)

Your gastrointestinal system can also benefit from eating a paleo diet. The standard American diet often referred to as the SAD diet, is typically grain-heavy. Cereal grains like wheat and barley contain gluten and lectins that can trigger chronic inflammation, increase intestinal permeability, and downgrade gastrointestinal immunity. (14) Yet Dutch researchers have found that even adhering to a short-term gluten-free diet like paleo can change the composition of your gut microbiome. (15) This difference in gut bacteria was highlighted in a comparison between a group of Italian city-dwellers and hunter-gatherer members of the Hadza tribe in Tanzania. Those living an urban lifestyle largely ate a traditional mediterranean diet while the diet among the Hadza tribe consisted primarily of plants and game meat. Researchers who conducted the review noted that the microbiota among the tribal members was richer and more diverse than the microbiota in the considerably more modern Italians. (16) Another study comparing paleo with the mediterranean diet found that both diets reduced the risk of developing polyps in the colon—a precursor to colon cancer. (17)

Adopting a paleo diet may also boost brain benefits. Recent studies suggest that people with Alzheimer’s disease have an insensitivity to insulin similar to that seen in people with type 2 diabetes. (18) To test these findings, a group of researchers at Sweden’s Umeå University investigated how a 12-week lifestyle intervention could improve the risk of developing dementia among a group of sedentary people with type 2 diabetes. All the participants were randomized to a paleo diet with or without high-intensity exercise. Along with weight loss and improved insulin sensitivity, MRI’s of both groups showed better functional brain responses in the hippocampus and areas of the right brain. This led the researchers to conclude that a paleo diet—regardless of whether you exercise or not—might improve neuronal plasticity in brain areas linked to cognitive function and reduce the risk of future dementia. (19)

With all of these health and weight loss benefits, you might be wondering if there are any downsides to eating a paleo diet. Aside from being fairly restrictive, especially for someone who is used to eating a typical Western diet, switching to paleo is generally safe. The only issue, according to new findings published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, is the potential for an iodine deficiency—something easily remedied by taking a low-dose iodine supplement. (20)

If the new year finds you searching for new ways to lose weight, slay that sugar dragon, and foster good health from head to toe, paleo just might be for you. After all, sometimes the best way to move forward toward your goals is to tap into the wisdom of your ancestors! We recommend you should always consult with your health care provider before making health-related changes to your lifestyle.

  1. Kowalski LM, Bujko J. Evaluation of biological and clinical potential of paleolithic diet. Rocz Panstw Zakl Hig. 2012;63(1): 9-15.
  2. Whalen KA, Jedd S, McCullough ML, et al. Paleolithic and Mediterranean diet pattern scores are inversely associated with all-cause and cause-specific mortality in adults. J Nutr. 2017;147(4):612-20.
  3. Cordain L. The Paleo Diet. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2010, p23.
  4. Pitt CE. Cutting through the Paleo hype: The evidence for the Paleolithic diet. Aust Fam Physician. 2016;45(1):35-8.
  5. Cordain L. The Real Paleo Diet Cookbook. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015.
  6. Cordain, L., The nutritional characteristics of a contemporary diet based upon Paleolithic food groups. J Amer Nutraceutical Assoc. 2002; 5(5):15-24.
  7. Jönsson T, Granfeldt Y, Lindeberg S, et al. Subjective satiety and other experiences of a Paleolithic diet compared to a diabetes diet in patients with type 2 diabetes. Nutr J. 2013;12:105.
  8. Otten J, Stomby A, Waling M, et al. Benefits of a Paleolithic diet with and without supervised exercise on fat mass, insulin sensitivity, and glycemic control: a randomized controlled trial in individuals with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Metab Res Rev. 2017;33(1).
  9. Masharani U, Sherchan P, Schloetter M, et al. Metabolic and physiologic effects from consuming a hunter-gatherer (Paleolithic)-type diet in type 2 diabetes. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2015;69(8):944-8.
  10. Frassetto LA, Schloetter M, Mietus-Synder M, et al. Metabolic and physiologic improvements from consuming a paleolithic, hunter-gatherer type diet. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2009;63(8):948-55.
  11. Jönsson T, Granfeldt Y, Ahrén B, et al. Beneficial effects of a Paleolithic diet on cardiovascular risk factors in type 2 diabetes: a randomized cross-over pilot study. Cardiovasc Diabetol. 2009;8:35.
  12. Boers I, Muskiet FA, Berkelaar E, et al. Favourable effects of consuming a Paleolithic-type diet on characteristics of the metabolic syndrome: a randomized controlled pilot-study. Lipids Health Dis. 2014;13:160.
  13. Pastore RL, Brooks JT, Carbone JW. Paleolithic nutrition improves plasma lipid concentrations of hypercholesterolemic adults to a greater extent than traditional heart-healthy dietary recommendations. Nutr Res. 2015;35(6):474-9.
  14. de Punder K, Pruimboom L. The dietary intake of wheat and other cereal grains and their role in inflammation. Nutrients. 2013;5:771-87.
  15. Bonder MJ, Tigchelaar EF, Cai X, et al. The influence of a short-term gluten-free diet on the human gut microbiome. Genome Medicine. 2016;8:45.
  16. Zopf Y, Reljic D, Dieterich W. Dietary effects on microbiota—new trends with gluten-free or Paleo Diet. Med Sci. 2018;6:92.
  17. Whalen KA, McCullough M, Flanders, WD, et al. Paleolithic and Mediterranean diet pattern scores and risk of incident, sporadic colorectal adenomas. Am J Epidemiol. 2014;180(11):1088-97.
  18. Neth BJ, Craft S. Insulin resistance and Alzheimer’s disease: Bioenergetic linkages. Front Aging Neurosci. 2017;9:345.
  19. Stomby A, Otten J, Ryberg M, et al. A Paleolithic diet with and without combined aerobic and resistance exercise increases functional brain responses and hippocampal volume in subjects with type 2 diabetes. Front Aging Neurosci. 2017;9:391.
  20. Manousou S, Stål M, Larsson C, et al. A Paleolithic-type diet results in iodine deficiency: a 2-year randomized trial in postmenopausal obese women. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2018;72(1):124-9.


apple sliced up with two clear glasses of apple cider vinegar

Apple Cider Vinegar: 5 Evidence-Based Health Benefits

Apple Cider Vinegar: 5 Evidence-Based Health Benefits


Apple cider vinegar is a centuries-old natural remedy that has a range of uses. For over 2000 years, apple cider vinegar (ACV) has been used to flavor and preserve foods, heal wounds, fight infections, clean surfaces, and even manage conditions such as diabetes. (1)

Today, apple cider vinegar is one of the most affordable and versatile natural remedies out there. However, its longstanding popularity and lack of large-scale clinical trials make it difficult to draw the line between fact and internet folklore.

That’s why we’ve laid out 5 impressive health benefits of apple cider vinegar that also have the research to back them up. Continue reading below to find out more!

But first, what exactly is apple cider vinegar?

Apple cider vinegar comes from the fermentation of apple cider.

Yeast digests the sugars in apples and converts them into alcohol. A bacteria, acetobacter, then turns the alcohol into acetic acid. (2)

The “mother” refers to the combination of yeast and bacteria created through the fermentation process. Chances are if you’ve ever looked at the bottom of an apple cider vinegar bottle, you may have noticed there are little “mother” strands floating around.

Many integrative medical experts attribute some of apple cider vinegar’s effects to the “mother.” There is some accuracy to this because the mother does count as a probiotic. But, the importance of the mother has not been well established with sound analysis.

Aside from probiotics, it also contains other substances such as citric, lactic, and malic acids, and bacteria. But the high levels of acetic acid in apple cider vinegar are thought to be the main ingredient behind most of its supposed health benefits. (3)

Taking apple cider vinegar & ACV dosage

ACV can be consumed in food, small diluted quantities can be taken in liquid form, or it can be taken as a supplement. Like other naturally distilled vinegar varieties, the key component of ACV is acetic acid.

One to two tablespoons per day is the commonly recommended dosage by alternative health experts. (4)

While most people are generally open to adding apple cider vinegar to their daily routine, there are a few formal warnings from physicians to note:

  • Vinegar should be diluted if you aren’t taking it in supplement form. Its high acidic nature can be damaging to tooth enamel when sipped “straight.” Consuming it in, for example, vinaigrette salad dressing or in diluted form with warm water are better options.
    (5)
  • According to some experts, ACV may cause or worsen low potassium levels. That’s particularly important to note if you are already on medications that may lower potassium levels. (6)

apple sliced up with two clear glasses of apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar comes from the fermentation of apple cider.

Five scientifically-backed apple cider vinegar health benefits

Lowers Heart Disease Risk Factors

Multiple animal studies suggest that ingesting apple cider vinegar regularly can help lower triglyceride levels and cholesterol, as well as several other critical heart disease risk factors.

  • ACV has been found to have an acute effect at combating the hardening of arteries. (7)
  • A recent 2018 study with male rats with high-fat content (i.e. fat rats) also found that ACV lowers cardiovascular risk factors when taken daily. (8)

Did you know?
Heart disease is currently the world’s most common cause of premature death. (9)

Acts as a Natural Disinfectant

Apple cider vinegar has historically been used as a disinfectant. And recent research has shown that ACV does, in fact, have antibacterial properties that help kill pathogens. (10)(11)

Lowers Blood Pressure

ACV has been shown to be very effective at reducing blood pressure in animal studies. (12, 13) The only human evidence so far is an observational study from Harvard showing that women who ate salad dressings with vinegar were better protected from heart disease. (14)

Improves Insulin Function and Blood Sugar Levels

According to recent research, apple cider vinegar has shown great promise for helping lower blood sugar levels and improving insulin levels after meals, making it notably beneficial for people with Type 2 diabetes. (15, 16, 17, 18, 19)

Promotes Weight Loss

Human studies suggest that ACV can increase feelings of fullness and help people eat fewer calories, which leads to weight loss. (20) One study conducted over a three month period with 175 people showed notable weight loss and reduced belly fat in the subjects while ingesting apple cider vinegar daily. (21)

  • 15 mL (1 tablespoon): Lost 2.6 pounds, or 1.2 kilograms.
  • 30 mL (2 tablespoons): Lost 3.7 pounds, or 1.7 kilograms.

Is apple cider vinegar a natural cancer treatment?

There is a lot of online-hype in the natural health community about the anti-cancer effects of taking apple cider vinegar. And there have been some studies to back up vinegar’s cancer-combating properties, though none of them have been done on humans or have been large-scale clinical trials with ACV.

While apple cider vinegar could be a viable natural option for treating cancer, much more research needs to be done before any recommendations can be made.

  • Various types of naturally fermented vinegar were shown to kill and shrink cancer cells in a study on rats. (22)
  • Another study done on isolated human cells in a lab found that sugarcane and rice vinegar inhibits the proliferation of human cancer cells. (23)

doctor cloak with stethoscope and pens in pocket

Ask your doctor about using apple cider vinegar, so that they can optimize the usage for you specifically.

Ask your doctor about taking apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar has a broad range of proven health benefits for certain conditions but it is still not recommended to be used medicinally without professional guidance. While recent research has been promising, experts say there need to be more large-scale clinical trials before apple cider vinegar can be recommended as a treatment option. If you’re considering using apple cider vinegar as an alternative remedy, it is best to check in with your doctor or dietician first.

Apple cider vinegar is not a “miracle” or a “cure-all” like some people claim, but it does clearly have a range of proven health benefits. It is very valuable for people who like to keep things chemical-free and as natural as possible.

If you have questions about any claims have read or heard about apple cider vinegar, talk to your doctor or dietician about adding apple cider vinegar to your diet. Apple cider vinegar may very well become the “mother” of flavorful benefits in some of your favorite recipes!


person lifting a dumbbell off of a dumbbell rack

No Pain… Still Gain: Natural Ways to Relieve Muscle Pain & Cramps

No Pain… Still Gain: Natural Ways to Relieve Muscle Pain & Cramps

ROSS-Bailey-headshot

by Ross Bailey


Muscle pain relief is on top of almost everyone’s list. Whether this need for natural muscle pain relief is brought on by long days at the office, or by delayed onset of muscle soreness from physical activity, muscle pain is not only… well… painful, but can also reduce the overall quality of life. Similarly, muscle spasms and cramping can also bring painful instances of muscular contraction which can be debilitating if they are recurrent.

Thankfully, there are many natural ways to provide muscle pain relief and muscle cramp relief. There are also various supplements that can be used to reduce muscle pain, fatigue, and even provide natural muscle spasm relief. ‘Sore’ you ready to learn more about natural ways to reduce muscle pain? If so, let’s get those eye muscles flexing and read on!

woman with two white boxing gloves on

Muscle pain is derived from eccentric contractions as your body responds to the microdamage caused by the lengthening of your muscle fibers.

Muscle soreness can be related to a number of key aspects in your lifestyle. It may be brought on by excess stress and tension that causes your muscles to tense up over long periods of time. It can also be brought on by other factors such as joint pain. Muscle pain from joints occurs from the associated nerves that run with the tendons that secure your muscles to bony attachments at junctions within your body. We do also recommend keeping up on your bone and joint health to support muscular function.

Regardless of the source, muscular pain and spasms cause frustration and can have a negative impact on your day to day lifestyle. As you go about your day, whether this is through walking, keeping your body in an upright position, or even through an exercise regime, your muscles undergo various contractions in order to create movement or stabilize your limbs.

There are three different types of muscle contractions: concentric, eccentric, and isometric. As a simple example with a bicep curl, a concentric contraction would be where the weight is lifted upwards (reducing the length of the muscle fibers) towards the shoulder as the elbow bends inwards; an eccentric contraction would be where the weight is lowered back down from the shoulder to open up the inner elbow joint (thereby lengthening the muscle fibers); and isometric contraction would be if you were to hold the weight steady in one position (maintaining muscle fiber length).

Muscular soreness comes from eccentric contractions, or as you lengthen your muscle fibers rather than the other types of muscular contractions (1). It is popularly believed that lactic acid causes muscle soreness, though this is not the case (2). Rather, it is thought that the inflammatory response that is brought on after muscular damage through unaccustomed muscular lengthening is the main factor in muscular soreness, especially in delayed onset muscle soreness experienced after exercise (3).

Muscle cramping, on the other hand, whether this is exercise-induced or from another source, is a sudden and involuntary contraction of muscular fibers often accompanied by pain and muscle knotting (4). In contrast, muscular spasms are uncontrolled or abnormal muscular contractions (with or without pain) that are sustained and can have gradual onset or offset (4).

person lifting a dumbbell off of a dumbbell rack

Muscle soreness can happen to anyone, but there are great ways that you can naturally combat, prevent, and reduce muscle pain!

Natural ways to reduce muscle soreness and cramping

There are a number of natural ways that you can reduce muscle soreness and cramping. Here is a short list of evidence-backed techniques to help out your muscles!

Cryotherapy

Immersion in cold water of less than 15 degrees celsius has been a popular way to reduce the severity of muscle soreness, and literature reviews show some evidence that cryotherapy can be useful to reduce muscular pain compared to just rest alone following exercise (5). It is believed that this is achieved by reducing the effects of the inflammatory response from muscle damage following sustained contraction (6).

Foam rolling

Using a foam roller not only feels nice, but it has also been shown to reduce muscular soreness. Using a foam roller is thought to improve blood flow to the connective tissues that encase and are embedded in muscle to both reduce pain and — as an added bonus — can improve exercise performance (7).

Massage

Similar to foam rolling, massage is a technique that can be used to reduce muscle soreness after exercise (8). Massage, including vibration therapy for muscle pain relief, has shown similar effects (9). Massage has also been shown to reduce the incidence of night cramping in patients who are susceptible to cramping (such as in kidney treatments) (10) and this may also be related to improvements in inflammatory responses and blood flow. Many healthcare professionals have also begun to use essential oils through topical applications in massage and, dermatology as well as with aromatherapies to sooth the body by improving blood flow and the inflammatory response as well.

Stretching

Interestingly, there is conflicting evidence suggesting that contrary to popular belief, stretching can reduce the severity of delayed onset muscle soreness post-exercise. While stretching is important for reducing the prevalence of injury, it has little influence over reducing incoming or present muscle soreness. This seems to be the case with static stretching (11), passive stretching (12), and dynamic stretching techniques (13). This is also shown to be true with pre-exercise, during exercise and post-exercise stretches (14). Stretching can interrupt muscular cramping (15). So, if you are experiencing a muscle cramp, try to gently stretch out the area.

watermelon slices on a wooden table

Watermelon is a great natural source of citrulline malate which can help to reduce muscle soreness and boost athletic performance.

Supplements for sore muscles

In addition to the natural techniques that can be used to assist with relieving muscular pain and cramping, there are a number of nutritional supplements that can be used to help with these same issues. While there is limited evidence for using vitamins for muscle pain relief and vitamins for muscle cramps in general, there are still a wide variety of other natural supplements for sore muscles and cramping.
Here is a list of some of the natural supplements that can provide muscle soreness relief:

Vitamin C and E

Vitamin C and E are natural antioxidants that can help with reducing oxidative stress created by free radicals in the body (14). There is some evidence to support that high dose of vitamin C (2000mg/day) and vitamin E (2000U/day) over a short term (4-day) protocol can attenuate muscular damage and inflammation incurred from exercise (15).

Curcumin

Derived from turmeric (Curcuma Longa L.), curcumin is often used as a natural means to reduce inflammation. It has been shown the reduce the inflammatory response and markers of muscle damage post exercise, whereby users report less pain compared to the control group (16). It has been suggested that curcumin can also offset the performance-hindering effects of muscular soreness and damage (17).

BCAAs

There are three BCAAs (otherwise known as Branch Chain Amino Acids) that are considered as essential amino acids that our body cannot create. They are called leucine, valine, and isoleucine. BCAA supplements can contain one or many of these three kinds of amino acids. One study showed that leucine, in particular, reduced perceived muscle soreness when consumed just before and after exercise, though valine, isoleucine and a combination BCAA also significantly decreased perceived muscle pain following exercise (18). It has been noted that there is a potential dose-response relationship between the amount of BCAAs consumed and their effects on decreasing muscle soreness whereby larger doses (18g of BCAAs) attenuate muscle soreness to a greater extent than smaller doses (4g of BCAAs) by helping the body repair the micro-tears in muscle following eccentric contraction (19). Ingesting BCAAs before bed has also been shown to be an effective way to reduce muscle cramping in the legs of patients with cirrhosis while sleeping (20).

Citrulline Malate

Citrulline Malate is a supplement that can be taken to reduce muscle soreness and improve athletic performance (21). Citrulline is a precursor the amino acid arginine, which has various effects on increasing the nitric oxide (a vasodilator) levels in our bodies to increase blood flow to our muscles thereby assisting in flushing out metabolites associated with muscle soreness from muscle cells. Ingesting citrulline malate can also play a role in buffering against the use of energy pathways in our bodies that produce metabolites such as lactate and ammonium that are associated with muscle pain (21). Watermelon is a great natural source of citrulline malate!

L-Carnitine

L-Carnitine is a derivative of two amino acids in the body and is most well known for its use in energy production through fatty acid oxidation. A recent literature review has supported its role in reducing muscle soreness where ingesting 2g of L-carnitine per day can reduce the metabolites associated with muscle soreness (22). Ingesting 6g of L-carnitine has also been shown to improve the frequency and severity of muscle cramps in individuals with diabetes over the course of four months (23).

Whether you have sore muscles after exercise, or if they are achy from your day to day lifestyle, you can rest assure that there are many natural ways that you can achieve muscle soreness relief and even decrease the frequency and intensity of muscle cramping! Why not try some of these natural techniques or even include a dietary supplement in your wellness plan? After all, it couldn’t hurt to reduce hurt!

  1. https://ro.ecu.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=&httpsredir=1&article=4450&context=ecuworks
  2. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00913847.1983.11708485
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9018476
  4. https://journals.lww.com/acsm-essr/fulltext/2013/01000/Origin_and_Development_of_Muscle_Cramps.3.aspx
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22336838?dopt=Abstract
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29161748
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24343353?dopt=Abstract
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12547748?dopt=Abstract
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3939523/
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4868507/
  11. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1600-0838.1999.tb00237.x
  12. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1600-0838.1998.tb00195.x
  13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28742609
  14. https://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/bitstream/handle/2027.42/44796/10863_2004_Article_BF00762775.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y
  15. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6097262/
  16. https://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1550-2783-11-31
  17. https://www.physiology.org/doi/full/10.1152/ajpregu.00858.2006?url_ver=Z39.88-2003&rfr_id=ori:rid:crossref.org&rfr_dat=cr_pub%3dpubmed
  18. http://www.mattioli1885journals.com/index.php/progressinnutrition/article/view/5825/4828
  19. http://eprints.lincoln.ac.uk/25871/1/Dorrell%20and%20Gee%202016.pdf
  20. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22825550
  21. https://journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/Fulltext/2010/05000/Citrulline_Malate_Enhances_Athletic_Anaerobic.9.aspx
  22. https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/10/3/349/htm
  23. https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/endocrj/65/5/65_EJ17-0431/_article/-char/ja/


woman putting on sunscreen on her face

The Healthy Skin “It” List: 8 Top Natural Supplements And Vitamins

The Healthy Skin “It” List: 8 Top Natural Supplements & Vitamins


Are you looking for ways to get naturally younger-looking, clear skin? The following dietary supplements and vitamins have been scientifically proven to help clear up clogged pores, boost radiance, calm inflammation, reduce imperfections, and even slow down signs of aging. Read on to find out which nutrients and vitamins that skin of yours may be screaming out for, and what you can do to get naturally luminous skin.

The connection between your skin health & your diet

People are often quick to credit enviably clear complexions to great genes or potent products, but naturally bright skin often starts with diet choices. You’re probably aware that some of your habits affect your skin — things like whether you wash your face daily or whether you wear SPF regularly, but more and more research shows a strong connection between the nutrients you are getting and your complexion.

Did you know?
In a recent study, people with acne were shown to suffer from vitamin E, A, and zinc deficiencies. (30)

The 8 Best vitamins and supplements for naturally clear skin

VITAMIN A – The acne antagonizer

Dermatologists often recommend vitamin A to patients with acne-prone skin. This is because vitamin A is a very effective antioxidant that decreases the size of sebaceous glands and the amount of oil skin produces.

Antioxidants protect the skin by limiting the production of free radicals in the body, which otherwise damage skin cells. When your body doesn’t have enough vitamin A, dead skin cells build up, clogging pores and triggering breakouts. Vitamin A has been shown to:

  • Help the body shed off dead skin cells. (1)
  • Reduce inflammation. (2) If you’re experiencing a breakout, vitamin a can help calm down swollen, red areas on the skin. Patients with severe acne were found to have lower levels of vitamin A. (3)

We highly recommend consulting a doctor before taking vitamin A in supplement form. This is because studies have shown that high levels of vitamin A may lead to vomiting, dry skin, hair loss, or birth defects. (4)

Did you know?
Self-confidence is often negatively affected by acne, and depending on the severity, studies have shown that acne can have a pretty huge and devastating impact on our mental health if left untreated. (5)

slides pineapple and crushed pineapple in glass jar

Pineapple is a natural example of rich vitamin C, good for skin health.

VITAMIN C – The fixer upper

If you have scarring, hyperpigmentation, rosacea, are recovering from a major acne breakout, or just generally feel like your lifestyle habits have led to having duller skin when you look in the mirror, you may want to consider asking your doctor about supplementing with vitamin C.

Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, acts as an antioxidant, helping to protect your body’s cells from the damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are compounds formed when bodies convert food into energy. People are also exposed to free radicals in the environment from cigarette smoke, air pollution, and ultraviolet light from the sun. (6) This powerful antioxidant has been shown to:

  • Help boost collagen production. (7)
  • Repair sun-damaged skin when taken orally for at least 8 weeks. (8)
  • Have a strong, hydrating effect on dry skin. (9)
  • Help heal wounds and address discoloration when applied topically and, daily for at least 3 months. It can also help smooth out scars and fade brown spots. (10)

A Note for sensitive skin & topical Vitamin C. When used topically, Vitamin C can be too harsh for certain skin types, and may even react poorly with ingredients found in some cosmetic products. (11) If you have sensitive skin, ask your doctor about supplementing vitamin C orally.

Did you know?
Pumpkins contain antioxidants Vitamin A and Vitamin C which help soften skin, calm irritated breakouts, and boost collagen production to prevent the signs of aging. (12)

collagen powder in wooden bowl with wooden spoon

Youthful skin often means fewer sweets in your diet. The ingestion of sugar, in particular, has been shown to accelerate the signs of aging. (21)

COLLAGEN – The age defying booster

If you are over 30 and feel like the changes in your complexion may have to do with your age, you may want to consider taking collagen daily. (13) In fact, the typical woman will likely lose 1 to 2 percent of her body’s collagen every year as early as her mid-30s, the rate increasing with age. (14) Ingesting collagen has been shown to:

Result in anti-aging effects for the skin and boost skin collagen production. (15)
Increase skin elasticity. (16)

Did you know?
A few randomized trials have shown that herbs and spices, such as oregano, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and garlic are effective for the treatment of dermatological disorders. (17)

woman lying down and relaxing while getting a facial massage

Magnesium can help improve your skin’s overall appearance.

MAGNESIUM – The de-stressor

If you feel like your breakouts are connected to stress or are hormonal, consider asking your doctor about taking a magnesium supplement. Magnesium can help improve your skin’s overall appearance. Magnesium can be helpful in reducing acne and other skin disorders by lowering cortisol levels, stabilizing hormonal imbalances, and improving overall cellular function. Magnesium has been shown to:

  • Minimize Inflammation. (18)
  • Reduce levels of cortisol, which is a stress hormone. (19)
  • Make vitamin C more effective if you have enough magnesium. (20)

Your body actually releases magnesium as a defense against stress, but sometimes you need more if you are not getting enough in your diet. Incorporating a daily supplement may give you the amount you need to clear up your skin.

Did you know?
If you think acne only happens to teens, think again. Studies show between 40 and 55% of adults in the US deal with low-grade acne. (22)

woman running fingers through her hair

Using zinc shampoo can help reduce stress-related scalp acne.

ZINC – The head healer

When zits happen, zinc can help. Zinc is another powerful antioxidant and important micronutrient required for the normal functioning of the skin. Feeling stressed out and noticed you have what feels like tiny pimples on your scalp? You could likely benefit from getting more zinc in your diet orally or try a topical zinc treatment, such as zinc shampoo. (23) Zinc has been shown to:

  • Successfully treat erosive pustular and crusting of the scalp when taken orally in zinc sulfate form. (24)
  • Assist with the healing of damaged skin (25). Topically applied zinc can help to treat acne and accelerate wound healing.
  • Pajamas treated with zinc have been shown to be effective in the treatment in the quality of sleep and stress of Atopic Dermatitis (AD) suffering individuals. In one specific study, zinc oxide-functionalized textile was shown to control infection and reduce inflammation. (26)

Did you know?
Give your skin a sip of red wine. Resveratrol, a powerful antioxidant found in red grape skins, has been found to prevent the wrinkles, lines, and sagging caused by environmental skin agents like smog and second-hand smoke. (27)

olive oil, avocado, walnuts, hazelnuts, fish, and supplements on wooden table

Omega-3 fatty acids have proven to help lessen redness of the skin.

OMEGA-3 The calming combatant

Omega-3 fatty acids are some of the best natural anti-inflammatories on the planet. And if you suffer from psoriasis, you definitely want to ask your doctor about getting them through a dietary supplement. Supplementary treatment with omega-3 fatty acids has been shown to help treat psoriasis. (28) Omega-3s have also been shown to:

  • Counteract inflammation of the skin. (29)
  • Help lessen redness of the skin. (30)
  • A lack of omega-3 has been linked to rough, scaly skin and dermatitis. (31)

Did you know?
Acne is the most common skin condition in the United States. It affects up to 50 million Americans annually. (32)

vitamin e oil in bottle

Vitamin E oil helps with acute sub damage to the skin.

VITAMIN E – The environmental protector

Using a vitamin E oil can actually somewhat lessen the effects of spending a lot of time outside without proper SPF protection. And it has been shown to be especially effective at repairing acute sun damage (i.e. sunburns) when taken in combination with vitamin C. (33) Vitamin E has also been shown to:

  • Reduce acute and chronic skin damage caused by UV irradiation. (34)
  • Neutralize free radicals and act as a powerful antioxidant. (35)
  • Improve immune function and skin durability. (36)

According to the National Institutes of Health (37), teens, adults, and pregnant women should consume around 15 milligrams of vitamin E (mg) each day. We recommend asking your doctor about supplementing vitamin E topically before bed or orally.

woman putting on sunscreen on her face

It is essential to have enough vitamin D to help treat skin damage and keep skin healthy.

VITAMIN D – The UV fighter

If you have sun-damaged skin, vitamin D can also be especially beneficial. Vitamin D has been shown to:

  • Help heal skin and address discoloration from long-term sun damage. (38)
  • Researchers are exploring the relationship between vitamin D and skin health more. (39) Preliminary findings show that a deficiency in Vitamin D can make you more prone to suffering from acne.

Did you know?
Vitamin D can now be delivered topically in a cream form. A randomized control study in 2014 safely delivered D3 through the dermal route. (40)

You can find a selection of different types of clear skin supplements mentioned in our Fullscript catalog.

Consult your doctor about taking supplements for skin health

It’s always a good idea to seek consultation from your practitioner or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have concerning a skin condition and using a natural remedy for treatment.

It’s always best to try and get any nutrients you may be missing in your diet from food. But if you’re finding it hard to get skin healthy nutrients into your diet, chances are you will benefit from dietary supplements. Now you know, you can actually wine and dine your way to get clear skin, naturally!

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4384860/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29099763
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5579659/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5579659/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5029236/
  6. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminC-Consumer/
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5579659/
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12419467/
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3673383/
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10522500
  11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5579659/
  12. https://fullscript.com/blog/health-benefits-of-pumpkin
  13. https://fullscript.com/blog/what-is-collagen
  14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3583892/
  15. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5742730/
  16. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5742730/
  17. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92761/
  18. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25023192
  19. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5452159/
  20. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4530145/
  21. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20620757
  22. http://www.sciepub.com/reference/130968
  23. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3158327
  24. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7082580
  25. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4120804/
  26. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3656624/
  27. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3583891/
  28. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3133503/
  29. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28341437
  30. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25573272
  31. https://www.nap.edu/catalog/10490/dietary-reference-intakes-for-energy-carbohydrate-fiber-fat-fatty-acids-cholesterol-protein-and-amino-acids
  32. https://www.aad.org/media/stats/conditions/skin-conditions-by-the-numbers
  33. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9448204?dopt=Citation
  34. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8502584
  35. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3997530/
  36. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15753137
  37. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminE-HealthProfessional/
  38. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28576736
  39. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4580068/
  40. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3976443/


Spoons with different types of flour on table

Gluten-Free Diet: Health Facts You Need To Know

Gluten-Free Diet: Health Facts You Need To Know

Janelle Cahill

by Janelle Cahill


You may have noticed that over the past few years more restaurant menus denote some of their meals as “gluten-free”. You may also have noticed the increased gluten-free labeling in grocery stores as the market for gluten-free products and options has grown substantially over the past few years (1). Why does the gluten-free diet seem to be so popular these days? And should you be following this diet, too?

What is gluten?

Gluten refers to the proteins found in wheat, barley, spelt, triticale, and rye (2). Gluten is what gives dough made with these grains the elastic, squeezable texture, and helps the dough rise up when baking. Gluten is commonly added to many processed foods, as gluten doesn’t just improve food’s texture but also improves its moisture retention and flavor (3) — a triple treat!

Loaves of bread and plates of pasta — two food items that commonly contain gluten — are not the only sources of gluten. Foods such as cereals, beer, cakes, cookies, soups, sauce mixes, and soy sauce can all contain gluten. Even non-food items, such as lip balms, over-the-counter medications, nutritional supplements, and play-dough can contain gluten (4).

Reading the ingredient list on products is super important for those who need to avoid gluten (5). Products that you may think are gluten-free may actually be made with other products that have gluten in them. Familiarizing yourself with the common names of gluten sources (6) can be helpful when doing your grocery shopping or ordering lunch at your local deli.

Common names of gluten sources

  • Atta
  • Barley
  • Bourghul/bulgar/bulghur/bulgur
  • Bran
  • Couscous
  • Dinkel
  • Durum
  • Emmer
  • Farina
  • German Wheat
  • Graham Flour
  • Kamut
  • Malt (barley)
  • Oats
  • Pilcorn
  • Polish Wheat
  • Rye
  • Semolina
  • Spelt
  • Triticale (a hybrid of wheat and rye)
  • Wheat
  • Wheat bran
  • Wheat germ

Spoons with different types of flour on table

Reading the ingredient list on products is super important for those who need to avoid gluten.

What does gluten do to the body?

A vast majority of people can digest gluten without any issues or consequences. However, for individuals who have a gluten sensitivity or celiac disease, gluten needs to be avoided in order to prevent serious side effects, such as damage to the intestinal villi (little projections into the small intestine that increase the surface area for nutrient absorption).

If a person is gluten-sensitive, their body experiences an adverse reaction when gluten is ingested. Reactions can vary from fatigue, bloating, constipation and/or diarrhea, but generally does not damage the intestinal villi (7).

For those with celiac disease, the body interprets gluten as a toxin. When a toxin is present in the body, the body’s response is to protect itself. In doing so, it will attack the gluten proteins that have invaded its space. Unfortunately, it also packs a punch to tissue transglutaminase, an enzyme in the cells of the digestive tract. This assault damages the intestinal villi, causing malabsorption, and increasing the risk of osteoporosis, severe digestive issues, anemia, and other ailments.

Healthy ways to be gluten-free

Fortunately, should you need to follow a gluten-free diet, there are many healthy options available to you. And it doesn’t mean you have to eat the same boring foods day in and day out.

Eating unprocessed, single-ingredient foods is the easiest way to avoid gluten. There are a ton of substitutions you can use. Set your sights on foods such as those listed below, and you will soon find many ways to embrace a gluten-free diet!

  • Vegetables
  • Fresh fruits
  • Meats and fish (not battered or processed)
  • Eggs
  • Dairy — plain milk, plain yogurt, and cheese (be wary of flavored dairy items as they may have added ingredients that contain gluten)
  • Nuts and seeds — a handful of almonds make for a great snack and packs in some protein too
  • Oils, such as avocado and olive are gluten-free and are healthy fats to have in your diet
  • Herbs and spices — use to your heart’s content to flavor up your kitchen creations!

avocado cut in half with raw avocado oil in dish

Oils, such as avocado and olive are gluten-free and are healthy fats to have in your diet.

Benefits of a gluten-free diet

Taking gluten out of your diet can be trying and can mean a lot of work — however, that hard work can pay off in the long run! One of the biggest benefits of removing gluten from your life is that the damage caused by ingesting gluten may be reversed (8). By removing the aggravator, your body can start to rest and repair itself from the inside out. You may soon notice that a gluten-free lifestyle can help reduce chronic inflammation, give a welcome boost to your energy levels, and may even help you lose some weight (9), all in addition to easing up digestive symptoms as well.

Removing gluten is not recommended without seeing your healthcare practitioner. After reading the facts and educating yourself, consulting with your health provider is the safest and best was to ensure your success with a gluten-free diet and/or other diets. Remember everyone is different and can react differently in a change in lifestyle and diet. If you suspect you might have a gluten sensitivity or intolerance, consult with your healthcare practitioner.


man sleeping in his bed

How Sleep Deprivation Has Critical Health And Wellness Consequences

How Sleep Deprivation Has Critical Health And Wellness Consequences


For some of us, sleep deprivation is a norm and sleep has become a luxury rather than a necessity! If folks don’t get the sleep they need a few nights a week, they think it’s no big deal. Integrative healthcare professionals are in a great position to educate patients as to why sleep health is actually a very big deal.

During the most restorative stages of sleep, the body’s blood pressure & body temperature drops, and breathing becomes slower as muscles relax. It’s during this exact time of relaxation that some parts of the body become even more active than they are during our waking hours.

Sleep health is supported by the tissue growth and repair that occurs while important restorative hormones are released during sleep. While you are sleeping, the immune system is regenerated, blood sugar levels are balanced, the brain is activated, and the hormones ghrelin and leptin are regulated, which play a key role in appetite control when you are awake. Because of this flurry of activity, if a person does not get enough sleep, they can be at risk of developing obesity, insulin resistance, a weakened immune system, and cognitive issues.

The fact is, while some patients may feel they are being “unproductive” while sleeping, the exact opposite is true. One-third of our lives are meant to be spent sleeping—and for good reason: immense health benefits of sleep.

man sleeping in his bed

Sleep health is supported by the tissue growth and repair that occurs while important restorative hormones are released during sleep.

The research on sleep health is clear

Several studies have demonstrated that short sleep duration is linked to reduced insulin sensitivity and can lead to insulin resistance. In a 2010 study (1), just one week of sleep deprivation (five hours per night) led to reduced insulin sensitivity in healthy men. Another 2010 study (2) involving both healthy men and women showed that even just one night of sleep deficiency (four hours per night) put the body into an insulin resistant state. A 2015 small randomized crossover study (3) confirmed these results and went one step further to explain that “short sleep duration is associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.” The researchers of that study delved more deeply into the mechanisms of actions and found several indicators.

According to an article published by the American Society for Nutrition (4), there is a clear link between increased risk of obesity and lack of sleep. Researchers who published a 2016 study (5) involving children from 14 to 17 concluded, “short sleep duration, poor sleep quality, and late bedtimes are all associated with excess food intake, poor diet quality, and obesity in adolescents.” In other words, sleep deprivation effects can be manifest pretty early on in our lives. These same effects of sleep deprivation are experienced by adults as well.

Regarding the immune system, the research, including a 2017 review (6), makes a clear connection between sleep deprivation and a decrease in natural killer (NK) cell activity and lymphocyte blastogenesis, and an increase in IL-1 and IL-2. An interesting 2017 study (7) involving identical twins – to rule out familial confounding factors – demonstrated a clear connection between habitual short sleep & immune dysregulation and increased inflammation.

Sleep is also closely connected to mental health. Research demonstrates that lack of sleep can lead to mental health issues and conversely, getting enough sleep can help mental health. According to Harvard Medical School (8), lack of sleep “wreaks havoc in the brain, impairing thinking and emotional regulation.”

There is no question that sleep deprivation or periodic sleep deficiency can increase the risk of ill health on many levels. Fortunately, there are many nutrients and herbs that can help your patients get the quantity and quality of sleep they require to feel healthy and energetic.

Sound sleep supplements

Some of the most well-known natural sleep supplements to encourage and support sound sleep include:

  • 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) = to help increase REM sleep and maintaining sleep
  • Gamma butyric acid (GABA) = to fall asleep quickly and stay asleep longer
  • L-theanine = for stress-associated sleep issues
  • Melatonin = to fall asleep quickly and ideal for jet lag or shift work
  • Valerian = to improve overall sleep quality

woman sitting on couch and looking out of her window as the sunny day with a mug in her hands

Studies have shown a correlation between low vitamin D levels and sleep issues in hemodialysis patients.

Benefits of vitamin D for sleep health

In addition to these sleep supplement “staples,” integrative practitioners may want to consider vitamin D and magnesium levels. Adding vitamin D and/or magnesium into sleep supplement protocol may be warranted to improve sleep health.

A 2018 meta-analysis (9) looking at nine studies featuring 9,397 participants demonstrated a clear association between vitamin D deficiency and sleep issues. This is consistent with a 2017 study (10) that also showed a correlation between low vitamin D levels and sleep issues in hemodialysis patients; as well as, a 2018 small study (11) involving women aged 60 to 65 who were struggling to fall asleep.

The study with the women combined vitamin D with melatonin. Interestingly, people with obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome (OSAS) have also been shown to have low vitamin D levels. In a 2018 study (12), the researchers recommend screening OSAS patients to determine vitamin D status.

Magnesium deficiency is common. A 2017 paper (13) estimated that between 56 and 68 percent of Americans don’t get enough magnesium from diet alone to meet the recommended daily allowance. In a 2018 paper (14), researchers remind clinicians that, “Because serum magnesium does not reflect intracellular magnesium, the latter making up more than 99% of total body magnesium, most cases of magnesium deficiency are undiagnosed.”

Magnesium plays a key role in sleep so supplementing with magnesium, as a general rule of thumb in patients who are sleep deprived may make sense. A 2012 study (15) involving elderly people demonstrated that supplementing with 500 mg of magnesium daily significantly improved the subjective measure of sleep efficiency, sleep time, sleep onset latency, and early morning awakening. Concentrations of serum melatonin and cortisol were also improved in the magnesium group compared to the placebo group.

By considering vitamin D and magnesium supplementation, integrative practitioners are working toward getting at the root cause of sleep deprivation or sleep deficiency in many patients. From there, they can recommend one or more of the many nutrients and herbs to help patients get the quantity and quality of sleep they need to help reduce their risk of illness and to protect and enhance their health.

In addition to dietary supplement support, there are many lifestyle sleep tips that your patients will appreciate, for their sleep and mental health. For more information about sleep “dos and don’ts” to share with your patients click here.


measuring food on a scale to measure the weight of it

Counting Macros: Easy as 1… 2… 3!

Counting Macros: Easy as 1… 2… 3!

ROSS-Bailey-headshot

by Ross Bailey


If you’re thinking counting macros is about what you should eat to meet your daily nutritional needs, you are on the right track. And if you’re looking to learn more about the main source of energy in your body, look no further… you can count on us!

Who doesn’t love food? We eat when we’re hungry, we eat when we’re bored, and we eat sometimes just for the sake of the taste of food itself! Most importantly, however, we eat to fill the nutritional needs of our bodies so that we can function on a daily basis. This is where counting macros becomes a significant consideration.

As our appetites need to be satisfied throughout the day, so does our need for macronutrients, (or for short, macros). Macronutrients are the carbohydrates, fats, and proteins that we consume in our foods and liquids. Compared to micronutrients, which are substances that we need to ingest in trace amounts (such as vitamins or minerals) but yield no energy, macronutrients are the main source of our energy.

Counting macros (i.e., counting the amount of carbs, fat, and proteins that you are ingesting) has become a popular mode to monitor your nutritional intake and maintain a healthy and balanced diet.

Macronutrients consist of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.

What are macros and calories?

As mentioned, macros are the carbohydrates, fats, and proteins that we ingest to meet our daily caloric intake.

To learn about counting macros, we need to understand the concept of a calorie. Most commonly, people understand that the term “calorie” is used to describe the energy that we gain, use, and/or store after consuming and digesting various foods and liquids. While the term is often vilified in the media as the source of weight and fat gain, calories are arguably the most important nutritional elements of our existence, other than water (which in opposition, contains zero calories!).

As a simple science, the more calories that you ingest, the more that you will store unless you burn an equal or greater amount. When more energy is stored than is spent in the body, you gain weight. Conversely, when more energy is spent than is ingested, you lose weight. If the amount of energy that you ingest matches the amount of energy your body spends, your weight will be static.

You can either use a complicated equation (1) or a calorie calculator (2) (which are free online and available through various apps) to calculate your energy expenditure. Either method allows you to calculate the number of calories that you would need to meet your daily intake per day based on your age, sex, weight, height and perceived exercise level.

Similarly, a BMR calculator (Basal Metabolic Rate) (3) can be used to estimate your caloric needs even if you did not move all day. It is important to note that these calorie calculators are derived from statistical calculations that can apply to the “average population” and while they may be useful for estimating caloric needs, for more accurate caloric assessments, they should be used in conjunction with consultation (4) from healthcare practitioners who have nutritional expertise.

measuring food on a scale to measure the weight of it

Calories come from 3 main sources: Carbohydrates, Fats and Proteins.

But where do calories actually come from?

Calories come from three main sources (5): carbohydrates, fats, and proteins (Macros).
Each macronutrient contains a different number of calories per gram:

  • carbohydrates contain approximately 4 calories per gram
  • fats contain approximately 9 calories per gram
  • proteins contain approximately 4 calories per gram.

Though studies have traditionally focused on how the overall intake of calories affects our health, other recent research has been published that demonstrates that the ratio of macronutrients (6) (carbohydrates: fats: proteins) is most important in relation to certain health metrics such as cardiometabolic health and aging.

These types of studies have led to a number of diets such as the Keto Diet that focus on controlling the ratio of the macros as a means of enjoying a healthy lifestyle while meeting dietary needs. A “macros diet” does not focus on counting the calories that you ingest, but rather on the proportion of macros that you eat. It requires fitting the ratios of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats into your total caloric intake based on the breakdown of their respective calories per gram (i.e. 4 cals/gram, 9 cals/gram, etc).

The World Health Organization’s recommended breakdown of macronutrients from population statistics.

How to count macros

Understanding the difference between calories and macros can lead us to the following questions: how many macros should I eat; or, what should my macros be? And the answers to these questions are… well… it depends!

In general, the steps to calculating your macros are as follows:

  1. Determine your caloric needs, based on your goals (calculators above)
  2. Use a macros calculator or follow population-based guidelines to break down the optimal source of your calories and adjust macro ratios within recommended guidelines to meet your goals
  3. Measure the weight of the foods and liquids you consume to determine the macros you ingest with each meal

Similarly, as to your caloric needs, your age, sex, weight, height, and activity level will play a role in determining optimal macronutrient ratios to maintain a healthy and balanced diet. Your optimal macros intake also depends on the dietary goal (i.e. maintaining, gaining or losing weight). You can use a macro calculator (7) in order to estimate your macronutrient ratios, though again, this should be used in conjunction with proper consultation with a healthcare practitioner who has nutritional expertise.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has published an extremely useful table (8) (see below) detailing ideal macro ratios to maintain population-based nutrition goals to prevent chronic illness from diet-related causes. It is important to note that the information in the table does not specify the total amounts of calories individuals should ingest, and does not detail micronutrient needs, which are both independent factors for predicting health outcomes.

The World Health Organization’s recommended breakdown of macronutrients from population statistics. *full chart with all info

As a summary, the WHO recommends that the average population should break down their macronutrient intake into the following ratios:

  • Carbohydrates (55-75% of caloric intake)
  • Protein (10-15% of caloric intake)
  • Fat (15-30% of caloric intake)

As an example of demonstrating how to count your macros using the WHO’s guidelines and assuming that you were ingesting 2500 calories per day with your macros set to 55% carbohydrates, 15% proteins, and 30% fats, you could determine the following:

  • 2500 cals * 0.55 = 1375 cals. à 1375 cals/4 cals per gram = ~344g of carbohydrates
  • 2500 cals * 0.15 = 375 cals. à 375 cals/4 cals per gram = ~94g of protein
  • 2500 calories * 0.30 = 750 cals. à 750 cals/9 cals per gram = ~83g of fats

…And Voila! These weights now represent the amount of each macro that you will need to ingest to meet your optimal ratio!

The final step to counting your macros is to count the weight of each food and beverage that you consume, using a food scale. You can use the nutrient labels that appear on most food products in order to calculate how many grams (and therefore calories) of each macronutrient you are consuming. For instance, with the nutrition label below, you could determine the following:

Nutrition Facts label with a red circle around serving size and serving per container to explain macros

You can use the nutrient labels that appear on most food products in order to calculate how many grams each macronutrient you are consuming.

If you had a half cup of this food (55g), you would have ingested 7 grams of fat, 7 grams of protein and 32 grams of carbs (27 grams apply when calculating calories as you can subtract the dietary fibers). For simple calculation, keeping the calorie estimates for each macronutrient can be done as follows:

  • Fat: 7g X 9 cal/g = 63 cals
  • Protein: 7g X 4 cal/g = 28 cals
  • Carbs: 27g X 4 cal/g = 108 cals

Total = 199 cals

Remember, these calorie counts per gram are approximations and can vary (9) by a few decimal points from food source to food source, so your final caloric calculations may slightly differ from the amount displayed on the nutrition label.

If you don’t want to do these calculations, you can always find a food macro calculator (10) which can tell you the amount of each macro in specific foods and beverages based on weight as well. You just need to make sure that the overall proportion of the macros that you ingest aligns with the overarching goals for your caloric intake.

Keep in mind, different populations may need to adjust their macronutrient ratios to meet their specific needs. For instance, athletes have different macronutrient (11) needs than inactive populations as they often spend more energy and require adequate nutrients for proper recovery. It has been recommended that athletes primarily consume 5-12 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight and 1.2-1.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight depending on the level of physical activity. In general, athletes are recommended to break down their macros into the following ratios:

  • Carbohydrates (45-65% of caloric intake)
  • Protein (10-35% of caloric intake)
  • Fat (20-35% of caloric intake)

Notice that athletes are often recommended to alter their macronutrient needs to ingest more protein, reducing ratios of carbs and fats, though this can also depend on the nature of their sport (i.e. endurance vs sprint sports). Ingesting higher ratio of proteins can be challenging for certain individuals such as vegetarian or vegans since many protein sources are animal based. However, there are many plant-based protein options that can assist you to meet these ratios.

All in all, the healthy way to go about counting your macros requires determining your caloric needs based on your physiological characteristics and goals. You then determine the amount of carbs, fats and proteins in each food and liquid that you ingest, using nutrition labels and weights, and match these ratios with your predetermined macro goals!