A blue tea cup full of lemon tea with slices of lemon next to it.

Natural Stress Relief: The 7 Best Supplements For Stress Management

Natural Stress Relief: The 7 Best Supplements For Stress Management


Stressed out and looking for natural stress relief? It’s about time you stop sweating the small stuff and start managing your stress with supplements and vitamins.

You can’t completely eliminate stress from your life, but you can mitigate its effects on your physical and mental health by using anti-stress supplements. Continue reading below to find out which herbs and vitamins are scientifically proven to help reduce and prevent stress.

How stress affects your health

There’s a good chance stress is affecting your health in ways you don’t realize! You may think decreased productivity at work, trouble sleeping, anger, headaches, and your frequent trips to the bathroom are separate issues, but in reality — they are all common symptoms and signs of stress.

A supplement in a man's hand.

Taking supplements and vitamins can make for an easy, cost-effective method for managing stress.

Different kinds of stress

Stress impacts us all differently and in a number of ways. According to the American Psychological Association, there are three different kinds of stress we experience. Acute stress, episodic acute stress, and chronic stress. Each type of stress has its own characteristics, symptoms, duration and treatment approaches. (1) Here’s a quick summary:

  • Acute stress– Acute stress is the most prolific form of stress. It’s your body’s immediate ‘gut’ reaction to something new — triggering your fight-or-flight response.
  • Episodic acute stress– When acute stress happens frequently, it’s called episodic acute stress. Think of someone who is always having a crisis and cancels a lot last minute.
  • Chronic stress– If acute stress isn’t managed well and goes on for longer and longer periods, it becomes chronic stress. Examples include an unhappy marriage or poverty.

Ever heard the description, “Type A” personality or “Worrywart”? Both are descriptions of someone who suffers from episodic acute stress. (1) The devastating effects of stress tend to build up over time and are often ignored. There is a lot of evidence supporting the link between stress and developing chronic illnesses.

Did you know?
If left unchecked, chronic stress can contribute to a range of health problems, such as heart disease, obesity, diabetes, lung disease, high blood pressure, and even cancer. (2)

People under constant stress may also get sick a lot. Managing stress is essential to staying healthy. (3)

Common symptoms of stress

Stress can have a massive impact on your quality of life, so it’s important to identify signs early and keep it from getting out of control.

On your body

  • Fatigue
  • Jitters
  • Dry Mouth
  • Change/decrease in libido
  • Chest pain
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Blurred vision
  • Headaches
  • Skin breakouts
  • Muscle pain or tension, neck or back pain
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Digestive problems and upset stomach
  • Frequent or more serious colds

On your mood

  • Restlessness
  • Lack of focus
  • Lack of motivation
  • Irritability
  • Anger
  • Sadness or depression
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Forgetfulness
  • Anxiety

On your behavior

  • Overeating
  • Undereating
  • Social withdrawal
  • Abusing drugs or alcohol
  • Tobacco use
  • Not exercising as often

A close up of a female's hand as she write on paper with a pen.

Off the top of your head, can you name the biggest stressors in your life are right now? Writing down and identifying stressors can help.

The 7 best supplements to help manage & reduce stress

If you have any of the symptoms listed above, taking smart steps to manage your stress can have a range of health benefits. (4)(5)(6) Here is a list of 7 herbal supplements and vitamins to help naturally manage and fend off feelings of stress and anxiety on-the-go or at home.

Omega-3s for fighting anger

One of the signs of being stressed out is flipping out and getting angry. Taking Omega-3s long term may help. One study found that taking 300mg of omega-3s daily over 3 months resulted in significantly reduced feelings of anger in substance abusers. Other studies have also shown taking omega-3s for at least 90 days can lower levels of anxiety. (7)(8)

Ashwagandha to stop stressful food cravings

High-concentration full-spectrum ashwagandha root has a range of benefits, including being a safe and well-tolerated natural stress remedy. A 2017 clinical trial focused on reducing chronic stress linked to obesity and food cravings found taking 300mg twice a day over 8 weeks showed impressive levels of stress reduction. Other studies were done over 2 months time (300mg/twice a day) found ashwagandha to be effective at improving self-assessed quality of life. (9)(10)(11)

Lemon balm to find your focus and improve your mood

Lemon balm is known to reduce anxiety and promote sleep and wellbeing. When it comes to stress, one study found that drinking lemon balm benefits a number of mood and behaviors affected by stress. (12)(13)

Did you know?
A simple multivitamin can go a long way at decreasing stress. A review of 8 different studies found supplementing with a multivitamin significantly reduced levels of self-perceived stress, fatigue, and confusion.

A blue tea cup full of lemon tea with slices of lemon next to it.

Drinking a beverage infused with lemon balm can help lower your stress and anxiety levels.

Chamomile for sleep after a stressful day

Have a lot of anxiety and trouble sleeping due to stress? Chamomile in capsule or tea form before bed can be a great way to unwind after a stressful day at work and get a good night’s sleep. This is especially the case if you are over 65. A study of over sixty elderly taking 200mg of chamomile extract twice a day found a significant improvement in sleep quality. (14)(15)(16)(17)(18)

Vitamin B to help you stop worrying at work

Consider yourself a worry wart? Vitamin B has a variety of scientifically-backed benefits when taken daily, including combating depression, anxiety, and work stress. A trial is currently underway looking at how vitamin B can be taken daily to alleviate occupational stress. (19)(20)(21)

Did you know?
People with chronic stress get more frequent and severe viral infections, such as cold or flu.

Valerian root for calming the body and mind

Valerian root has been found to reduce both physical and psychological symptoms of stress and is most commonly used to improve sleep. Valerian root extract has been widely used for a long time for its sedative effects. Researchers in one clinical study even found patients taking valerian had an 80% greater chance of reporting improved sleep, though there was evidence of publication bias. (22)(23)(24)

Did you know?
Taking 800 mg of valerian root for 8 weeks has been shown to improve sleep quality and lower symptom severity in people with restless leg syndrome (RLS). (25)

Low-caffeine green tea for “Type A” personalities

Theanine, which is an amino acid found in green tea, has been proven to have powerful anti-stress effects. Are you a student or someone with a lot of assignment deadlines? One study found that students who sipped on low-caffeine green tea were significantly less stressed out than those who didn’t. (26)

Did you know?
Low-caffeine green tea can improve sleep quality in middle-aged and elderly individuals thanks to its ability to suppress stress. (27)(28)

No matter what type of stress you are dealing with, you can use the following natural strategies to lower your stress levels. Stress is often classified as a negative emotion, but the right amount of it can make you more resilient to life’s challenges.

5 natural ways to reduce stress and anxiety (29)

  • Try meditating & other relaxation techniques (30)
  • Unplug from your devices & connect with nature
  • Plan ahead & prioritize tasks
  • Talk to friends & family
  • Stay active & exercise

Talk to your doctor about supplements and vitamins for stress management

The key is to pay attention to your body, mood, and behavior warning signs listed above. Before you try more intensive treatments or medications to cope with stress, it’s worth giving herbal supplements a try. Set yourself up for success and ask your doctor about natural strategies proven to help you de-stress!

Have you already spoken to your practitioner and know which supplements you’d like to try? Start shopping and order stress management supplements from our catalog today!

If you are a practitioner, consider signing up to Fullscript. If you are a patient, talk to your healthcare practitioner about Fullscript!

  1. https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/stress-kinds
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5137920/
  3. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/stress/index.shtml
  4. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress-symptoms/art-20050987?p=1
  5. https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/stress-signs
  6. https://healthfinder.gov/HealthTopics/Category/health-conditions-and-diseases/heart-health/manage-stress#the-basics_2
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2225526/
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4999787/
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27055824
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3573577/
  11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25405876
  12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4245564/
  13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19865069
  14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3242113/
  15. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29154054
  16. https://nccih.nih.gov/research/results/spotlight/040310.htm
  17. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3600416/
  18. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18657773
  19. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23738221
  20. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4290459/
  21. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23362497
  22. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4394901/
  23. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25495725
  24. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22863505
  25. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19284179
  26. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28566632
  27. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5703787/
  28. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5537891/
  29. https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/stress-signs
  30. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/tips/stress


Woman sitting in an office meeting room, raising her hands while speaking to others who are listening.

What is Brain Health? Simple Ways To Keep Your Mental Edge Naturally

What is Brain Health? Simple Ways To Keep Your Mental Edge Naturally


Have you ever misplaced your keys, drawn a blank on someone’s name, or missed an appointment because it slipped your mind? While these momentary memory lapses happen to all of us, if you’re over a certain age you may fear that they’re the early signs of impending dementia. Luckily for most of us, these mental hiccups merely reflect normal changes in the structure and function of the brain as we age. Memory loss or a loss of concentration can also be caused by something as simple as dehydration, poor eating habits, stress, or fatigue. Whatever the cause, there are many things you can do to enhance your brain power naturally!

The importance of brain health

Weighing in at just three pounds, the brain is the most complex and least understood organ in your body. Protected by the skull and bathed in protective cerebrospinal fluid, the brain controls countless tasks every minute of every day. (1)

  • It regulates your body temperature, blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing.
  • It directs your muscles and nerves so you can walk, stand, and sit.
  • It processes a constant flood of data about the world around you.
  • It organizes and files away your memories so you can retrieve them later.
  • It gives you the ability to speak.

Your brain contains about 100 billion nerve cells known as neurons that help you accomplish these tasks. A neuron is an on/off switch just like the one you use to control the lights in your home. These neurons shoot electrical signals through an axon (a long fiber in a nerve cell that carries outgoing messages to other cells). When the signal gets to the end of the axon, it stimulates tiny sacs that release chemicals known as neurotransmitters.

These neurotransmitters then jump across a gap called a synapse and attach to receptors on the neighboring cell. At any given moment, hundreds of these neurons are sending messages to various parts of your body via the spinal cord, causing a multitude of voluntary and involuntary reactions. (2)

Under normal circumstances, this relay system works incredibly well. But sometimes things can go awry and the neurotransmitters can’t make the leap from one neuron to the next. When this occurs, it can affect your mood, your memory, or your ability to think.

The brain and aging

Until recently, neuroscientists thought you were born with a certain number of neurons. Brain aging was thought to occur because these neurons died or stopped functioning. Today, science knows better.

Did you know?
New research in the journal Cell Stem Cell shows that the elderly have similar numbers of young neurons as teens. (3) This suggests that new neurons can form well into old age.

Woman sitting in an office meeting room, raising her hands while speaking to others who are listening.

Emerging evidence suggests that we form new neurons throughout our lives.

But the news isn’t all good. As we age, the brain shrinks. Shrinkage in the frontal lobe and hippocampus—areas of the brain responsible for higher cognitive function and storing new memories—starts around the age of 60 or 70 years. The connection between neurons also starts to degrade and the brain creates fewer neurotransmitters—brain chemicals like dopamine and serotonin—so communication within the brain isn’t as efficient as it used to be. (4)

While some of this deterioration is beyond your control, there are steps you can take now to slow your brain’s aging process. Adopting brain-healthy behaviors, no matter what your age, can also help you build better cognitive fitness.

7 ways to keep the brain healthy

Train your brain

Just like physical exercise, adding a mental workout to your daily routine can help prevent cognitive decline. Studies show that you can build your mental muscle with a variety of cognitive activities like playing bridge, doing crossword puzzles, or learning a new language. (5)(6)

Meditate

Meditating on a regular basis not only helps you manage stress, but it also forms new connections within the brain and, as a result, leads to better cognitive function. In one cross‐sectional study, people who meditated had less age‐related mental decline in key areas of the brain. (7)

Exercise

Regular workouts don’t just help you stay in good physical shape, studies show they also boost long-term brain function on a cellular level. (8) Exercise also increases blood flow to the brain and helps neurons form better connections. To get these physical and mental benefits, aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week.

Get your sleep

Good quality sleep is crucial for healthy brain function. In fact, too little sleep or interrupted sleep can actually change the gray matter in your brain—and that can have a negative effect on attention and working memory. (9) How much sleep does your brain need? Most experts recommend seven to nine hours each night for healthy cognition.

Build your social network

Staying active socially may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease, say researchers from Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center. (10) For a healthy brain later in life, volunteer, join a club or meet-up group, take a class, and make time to get together with friends.

Five people holding up drinks over plates of healthy looking foods at a social picnic.

Nourish your brain with healthy whole foods and a strong social network.

Eat intelligently

Feed your brain the nutrients it needs. Instead of a diet that revolves around refined or processed foods, opt for brightly-colored fruits and vegetables that provide free-radical quenching antioxidants. Fats matter too, since the brain is made up of at least 60 percent fat. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish like salmon, protect brain cells and enhance cognition. Other healthy fats also benefit the brain by boosting blood flow and reducing oxidative stress. (11)(12) Among the best brain-foods, açai, avocados, beets, berries, chocolate, eggs, fatty fish, green tea, and olive oil rank on top.

Use Essential oils (EO)

Essential oils can also play a role in brain health by increasing blood flow, reducing mental fatigue, improving cognitive performance, and boosting your mood. Peppermint, rosemary, sage, and vetiver essential oils are just a few with a long history of providing mental support.

The best supplements for brain health

While smart lifestyle changes are critical to ensure your brain is firing on all cylinders, these three supplements can give you an added edge. They may even offer protection from Alzheimer’s disease and all-cause dementia.

Acetyl-L-Carnitine

This amino acid provides the brain with much-needed power by preserving mitochondria—tiny energy factories found deep within all cells, including your brain cells. It also improves blood flow, protects against toxins, and helps transport fatty acids between the cells. Studies consistently show that acetyl-L-carnitine effectively treats mild cognitive impairment, and may even help those with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. (13)(14)

Citicoline

Technically known by the tongue-twisting moniker CDP-choline; cytidine 5’-diphosphocholine, citicoline is a compound naturally found in all living cells, with the highest concentrations found in the brain and liver. It plays a particularly important role in the formation of cell membranes. Supplementation with citicoline in older adults has been shown to improve verbal memory, memory performance and cognition, attention span, blood flow to the brain, and bioelectrical activity. (15)(16) All of these actions may translate to improvements in short and long-term memory, attention span, and perceptual motor capacity (the process of taking in, organizing, and interpreting sensory information about the world around you).

Lion's mane mushrooms on a wooden plate.

Lion’s mane mushrooms work in a variety of ways to enhance clarity and memory.

Lion’s Mane

This beautiful cascading mushroom contains specific compounds called erinacines that enhance cognition and memory by speeding myelination and by enhancing the production of Nerve Growth Factor. Nerve Growth Factor is a protein that plays a key role in the maintenance and regeneration of neurons. Lion’s mane also protects against brain cell death, which improves both mental clarity and memory. In one small trial published in Phytotherapy Research, researchers assigned 30 seniors with mild cognitive impairment to a daily dose of either lion’s mane or a placebo. In cognitive tests administered periodically during the study, those taking the lion’s mane showed significantly better brain function than those in the placebo group. (17)

Check out the 4 Vitamins That Work Wonders For Brain Health & Memory!

Taking these simple steps now can help keep you mentally spry at every age. After all, you’re never too young—or too old—to enhance your cognition, protect your memories, and enjoy a more intellectually stimulating life.

If you are a practitioner, consider signing up to Fullscript. If you are a patient, talk to your healthcare practitioner about Fullscript!

1. The Human Brain, Explained. National Geographic. 16 October 2009. Available at: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/health-and-human-body/human-body/brain/
2. Herculano-Houzel S. The human brain in numbers: A linearly scaled-up primate brain. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. 2009;3:31.
3. Boldrini M, Fulmore CA, Tartt AN, et al. Human Hippocampal Neurogenesis Persists throughout Aging. Cell Stem Cell. 2018;22(4):589-599.
4. Nichols H. What happens to the brain as we age? Medical News Today. 29 August 2017. Available at : https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/319185.php
5. Mental exercise has long-term benefits for seniors. University of Florida News. 10 December 2006. Available at: https://news.ufl.edu/archive/2006/12/mental-exercise-has-long-term-benefits-for-seniors.html
6. Pillai JA, Hall CB, Dickson DW, et al. Association of crossword puzzle participation with memory decline in persons who develop dementia. Journal of the International Neurophysiology Society. 2011;17(6):1006-13.
7. Xiong GL, Doraiswamy PM. Does meditation enhance cognition and brain plasticity? Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. 2009;1172(1):63-9.
8. Fernandes J, Arida RM, Gomez-Pinilla F. Physical exercise as an epigenetic modulator of brain plasticity and cognition. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews. 2017;80:443-56.
9. Dai XJ, Jiang J, Zhang Z, et al. Plasticity and susceptibility of brain morphometry alterations to insufficient sleep. Frontiers in Psychiatry. 2018;9:266.
10. Wilson RS, Krueger KR, Arnold SE, et al. Loneliness and risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Archives of General Psychiatry. 2007;64(2):234-40.
11. Freitas HR, Ferreira GDC, Trevenzoli IH, et al. Fatty acids, antioxidants and physical activity in brain aging. Nutrients. 2017;9(11).
12. Gómez-Pinilla F. Brain foods: The effects of nutrients on brain function. Nature Reviews: Neuroscience. 2008 July ; 9(7): 568–578.
13. Montgomery SA, Thal LJ, Amrein R. Meta-analysis of double-blind, randomized, controlled clinical trials of acetyl-L-carnitine versus placebo in the treatment of mild cognitive impairment and mild Alzheimer’s disease. International Clinical Psycopharmacology. 2003;18(2):61-71.
14. Brooks JO 3rd, Yesavage JA, Carta A, et al. Acetyl-L-carnitine slows decline in younger patients with Alzheimer’s disease: a reanalysis of a double-blind, placebo-controlled study using the trilinear approach. International Psychogeriatrics. 1998;10(2):193-203.
15. Bruce SE. Improvements in quantitative EEG following consumption of a natural citicoline-enhanced beverage. International Journal of Food Science and Nutrition. 2012;63(4):421-5.
16. Bruce SE, Werner KB, Preston BF, et al. Improvements in concentration, working memory and sustained attention following consumption of a natural citicoline-caffeine beverage. International Journal of Food Science and Nutrition. 2014;65(8):1003-7.
17. Mori K, Inatomi S, Ouchi K, et al. Improving effects of the mushroom Yamabushitake (Hericium erinaceus) on mild cognitive impairment: A double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. Phytotherapy Research. 2009;23(3):367-72.


Glasses of water infused with pomegranate

Why It's Worth Adding Antioxidant-Rich Foods To Your Diet

Why It’s Worth Adding Antioxidant-Rich Foods To Your Diet


The term “antioxidants” is everywhere these days. It’s linked to superfoods, skincare, dark chocolate, and even red wine. Antioxidants are marketed to combat chronic disease, reverse aging, and boost overall wellbeing – but what exactly are antioxidants, where can you find them, and how are they beneficial to your health?

Let us explain.

What is an antioxidant?

“Antioxidant” is not so much the name of a substance or compound, but a description for what a range of substances can do – neutralize free radicals and help protect cells from damage. (1) All antioxidants have the ability to act as stable electron donors.

Antioxidants are molecules that make their way into cells to protect the body from unstable free radicals.

Glasses of water infused with pomegranate

Infusing water with different fruits such as lemon and pomegranate seeds is a simple (& sweet!) way to get an extra boost of antioxidants into your diet.

Let’s quickly talk antioxidants, avocados, and lemon juice

Before we get to antioxidants in the body, let’s tackle browning avocados first. Some fruits and vegetables (like avocados) contain compounds that, when exposed to oxygen, will turn a brown-black color.

Do you know the trick to keep your avocado or guacamole from browning while it’s sitting out in the open or left in the fridge overnight?

The answer is lemon juice!

A bowl of guacamole surrounded by avocado and lemon

It’s lemon juice! Just squeezing a small amount of a strong antioxidant like lemon juice can keep your guac from browning for at least a day – giving you the perfect base for avocado toast in the morning!

Since oxidation is the catalyst for the reaction, it makes sense that introducing an anti-oxidation agent would prevent browning.

Antioxidants, like lemon, neutralize free radicals in the body

Just as oxygen in the air causes a sliced avocado left on the counter to brown, oxygen in the body (along with other oxidizing agents) rips off electrons from molecules, which renders them defective. These defective atoms that are missing an electron are known as free radicals. Free radicals are a form of waste constantly being produced by cells. They are largely a byproduct of your metabolism running. (Think of free radicals as the brown mush on your perfectly good avocado)

At a molecular level, antioxidants inhibit oxidation without creating collateral damage. This means antioxidant molecules donate electrons to free radicals and neutralize them without compromising their own stability. (Like lemon juice on guac)

Oxidative stress is linked to chronic illness

When free radicals accumulate and go unchecked, they often cause a cascade of reactions which throw your body into a state known as oxidative stress. Oxidative stress hikes up your risk of heart disease, cancer, arthritis, strokes, Parkinson’s disease, emphysema, respiratory diseases, immune deficiencies, bad acne breakouts, and other conditions. The good news is, we are not defenseless against free radicals.

Consuming antioxidants along with antioxidants produced by your body can lower spiked free radical levels. (2)

Although free radicals are produced in the body, lifestyle and environmental factors can accelerate their production. Pesticides, tobacco, alcohol, poorly-managed stress, air pollution, lack of sleep, UV rays, radiation, certain prescription medications, and substances found in fried foods expedite free radical reactions. (3)

Fortunately, eating a diet rich in exogenous antioxidants has been shown to help neutralize free radicals, reduce the risk of chronic disease, and boost overall health.

A woman's hands holding a bowl of colourful fruits and vegetables including avocado, blood oranges, pomegranate, clover leaves, and more over top of a cutting board.

You can increase your intake of antioxidants by eating a more colorful variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes.

Did you know?
The body makes its own antioxidants, called endogenous antioxidants. Antioxidants from outside the body are known as exogenous.

Different types of dietary antioxidants

Antioxidants found in food can be put in two general groups: water-soluble and fat-soluble antioxidants. Fat-soluble antioxidants perform their actions in cell membranes, while water-soluble antioxidants act primarily in the fluid inside and outside of cells.

Did you know?
A common misconception is that all antioxidants are interchangeable. They are not! Each antioxidant has unique biological properties and chemical behaviors.

Vitamins A, C, and E, and the minerals copper, zinc and selenium are vitamins and minerals with antioxidant effects. Other dietary food compounds — known as the non-nutrient antioxidants such as lycopene, which is a phytochemical found in tomatoes — have an even greater antioxidative effect. (4)(5)

Your body produces some endogenous antioxidants, but you can also find them in lots of familiar foods, vitamins, and minerals. Some exogenous antioxidant sources include:

  • Vitamin C (oranges)
  • Vitamin A (sweet potatoes, carrots)
  • Vitamin E (avocados)
  • Selenium (whole grains)
  • Lutein (spinach, corn)
  • Beta-carotene (pumpkin, carrots, mangos)
  • Lycopene (tomato)
  • Lignans (sesame seeds)
  • Flavonoids (tea, red wine, onions) (6)
  • Polyphenols (oregano, thyme)
  • Indoles (kale, broccoli, cabbage)

Different antioxidants are beneficial for different bodily functions beyond free radicals, which is why it’s so important to have a variety in what you eat.

On top of that, different antioxidants have been shown to have a diverse range of health benefits. For example, Lutein, which is found in spinach, has been linked to a lower incidence of eye lens degeneration and associated blindness in the elderly. (7)

Man wearing a chef apron slicing a tomato on a cutting board for his salad

Men who eat plenty of the antioxidant lycopene (which is found in tomatoes) may be less likely to develop prostate cancer. (8)

Did you know?
Flavonoids, such as the tea catechins found in green tea, are believed to contribute to the low rates of heart disease in Japan. (9)

Measuring and testing antioxidant levels

There are several tests that scientists use to measure the antioxidant power of foods and dietary supplements.

ORAC, which stands for oxygen radical absorbance capacity, is a test that measures the ability of a food or supplement to neutralize oxygen-free radicals in a test tube. The higher the score – the higher the antioxidant power. You can browse foods alphabetically or search by keyword in an ORAC database. (10)

Did you know?
The USDA pulled its ORAC database off their public website, citing two main reasons: It was routinely misused by advertisers, and more human clinical trials are needed around health claims. (11)

Generally speaking, ORAC scores are a useful guideline when referring to whole foods.

Another antioxidant test is the FRAP analysis, which stands for the ferric reducing ability of plasma. This test measures the antioxidant content of foods by how well they can neutralize a specific free radical. (12)

According to the USDA, the ORAC, FRAP, and other measures for antioxidant capacity all generate distinct values that cannot be compared that well directly. This can make antioxidant ratings confusing. (13)

Blueberries are one of the best natural sources for antioxidants and superfoods. Testing has shown they are packed with anthocyanins and other antioxidants.

Did you know?
A study focusing on people with a high risk of developing Age-related Macular Degeneration, a leading cause of vision loss, found risk was lowered by 25% when treated with a high-dose combination of vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and zinc. (14)

A list of high-antioxidant foods

There is a huge variety of healthy foods to choose from that are high in antioxidants. Which are the best? The USDA tested over 100 foods common in the western diet and developed an authoritative list of the top 21. (15)(16)

21 foods highest in antioxidants

1. Small red beans
2. Wild blueberries
3. Red kidney beans
4. Pinto beans
5. Cultivated blueberries
6. Cranberries
7. Artichokes
8. Blackberries
9. Prunes
10. Raspberries
11. Strawberries
12. Red delicious apples
13. Granny Smith apples
14. Pecans
15. Sweet cherries
16. Black plums
17. Russet potatoes
18. Black beans
19. Plums
20. Gala apples
21. Dark leafy greens

Did you know?
To reap the benefits of antioxidants, foods are best consumed raw, microwaved, or lightly steamed. It’s not a good idea to heavily bake, pressure cook, or boil them. (17)

Foods highest in antioxidants, arranged by food group

Interested in learning about more foods that are high in antioxidants?

A 2010 report published in the Nutritional Journal analyzed the antioxidant content of over 3100 foods, beverages, spices, herbs, and supplements also provides an excellent guide to antioxidant-rich foods by food group.

Overall, plant-based foods offer the most abundant source of antioxidants. (18)

Fruits: Acai berries, cranberries, red grapes, peaches, raspberries, strawberries, red currants, figs, cherries, pears, guava, oranges, apricots, mango, red grapes, cantaloupe, watermelon, papaya, and tomatoes.

Vegetables: Broccoli, spinach, carrots, and potatoes are all high in antioxidants, and so are artichokes, cabbage, asparagus, avocados, beetroot, radish, lettuce, sweet potatoes, squash, pumpkin, collard greens, and kale.

Spices: Cinnamon, oregano, turmeric, cumin, parsley, basil, curry powder, mustard seed, ginger, pepper, chili powder, paprika, garlic, coriander, onion, and cardamom.

Herbs: Sage, thyme, marjoram, tarragon, peppermint, oregano, savory, basil, Indian Winter cherry, and dill weed.

Cereals and nuts: Oatmeal, walnuts, hazelnuts, pistachio nuts, almonds, cashews, macadamia nuts, and even peanut butter.

Beverages: Espresso, red wine, pomegranate juice, apple juice, grape juice, prune juice, tomato juice, pink grapefruit juice, as well as green, black, and plain tea.

A study on blood orange juice found it had significantly higher antioxidant power than sugar water with the same amount of vitamin C. (22)

Did you know?
Adding milk to your coffee or tea can block antioxidants. (19)

What about antioxidant supplements?

Having a healthy amount of antioxidants is key to overall wellbeing, but keep in mind more is not always better. When it comes to antioxidant supplements, stick to low-dose and avoid overdoing it. An overload of antioxidants can be harmful.

You can get a low-dose supplementation of antioxidants from your daily multivitamin, but be wary of overdoing it with supplements. Studies have shown that taking high doses of antioxidant supplements can promote instead of preventing oxidative damage. In fact, some studies have even shown excessively high intake of antioxidant supplements increase the risk of death. (20)

Did you know?
Large doses of vitamin E – over 400 IUs daily – have been linked to a possible increase in overall mortality. But, this risk doesn’t apply to a typical multivitamin. (21)

Research has shown consuming a diet rich in lots of fruits and vegetables, along with other nutrient-dense foods is the most effective way to absorb antioxidants.

The bottom line – taste the (antioxidant) rainbow!

As a general rule of thumb, focus on eating more colorful vegetables and fruits. Research has shown the best strategy to ensure you are getting all the antioxidants you need to promote optimal health is consuming more natural nutrients found in whole foods.

Need some simple guidance on how to fill your plate? The USDA says to fill half of your plate up with colorful fruits and vegetables for every meal. No counting or measuring required! (23)

And remember, when it comes to adding antioxidants to your diet, no one food, food group, or antioxidant should be your sole focus. Try and incorporate a variety of plant-based nutrients into your diet.

We all respond to different antioxidants in different ways, so if you’re thinking of taking larger amounts of any antioxidant supplements, ask your doctor or dietician first.

Did you know?
People who are heavy smokers should be especially careful with antioxidant supplements. Research has linked long-term, high doses of beta-carotene supplementation to an increased risk of lung cancer. (24)

Interested in some of the health benefits associated with antioxidants and want to know more about specific antioxidants? Talk to a trusted healthcare provider about ideas to add-in more antioxidant-rich (& colorful!) foods to your diet.

 

If you are a practitioner, consider signing up to Fullscript. If you are a patient, talk to your healthcare practitioner about Fullscript!


Bowls of beans including lentils, nuts and seeds on top of a cutting board

SIBO: See Why Everyone’s Paying Attention To It

SIBO: See Why Everyone’s Paying Attention To It


Not that long ago, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) was not even on the radar of most healthcare practitioners. What a difference a decade makes! Today, most practitioners—and many patients—are well aware of the negative issues that can occur when bacteria take over the small intestines.

We’re here to help you make sense of SIBO.

SIBO can be a complex issue to address. According to Sarah Cook, ND, the author of a research guide on the subject published by the Natural Medicine Journal, SIBO’s “many causes, manifestations, and comorbid conditions make it much more complex than a simple infection. As researchers discover more about the complex interactions between the intestinal microbiome and other body systems, dysbiotic conditions like SIBO become increasingly relevant”. (1)

While researchers continue to crack the code regarding SIBO causes and comorbidities, there are many aspects of this condition that have become crystal clear. This is due mainly to clinical information that can be gleaned from the scientific literature. Let’s take a closer look at what we know for sure when it comes to SIBO.

Definitive diagnosis

A doctor examining a patient's stomach

While awareness about SIBO was limited for quite some time, anywhere from 6 to 15 percent of healthy, asymptomatic people have SIBO.

Statistics vary dramatically when it comes to determining just how prevalent SIBO is among the general population. According to a 2016 article written by Amy Nett, MD, anywhere from 6 to 15 percent of healthy, asymptomatic people have SIBO. Nett concludes that “SIBO is largely under-diagnosed. This is because many people don’t seek medical care for their SIBO symptoms and because many doctors aren’t aware of how common SIBO is”. (2) Proper diagnosis of SIBO symptoms is the key to identifying the condition in clinical practice.

In addition to thorough health history and evaluation, healthcare professionals are now recognizing that hydrogen/methane breath testing is the best way to diagnose SIBO. According to a 2017 paper published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, the North American Consensus group had 100% agreement that hydrogen/methane breath testing is an effective diagnostic tool for the diagnosis of SIBO. (3) In addition to breath testing, understanding risk factors are important.

The risk factors for developing SIBO include: (4)

  • Structural/anatomical issues such as small intestinal diverticula or strictures, fistulas, or gastric resection
  • Motility disorders such as gastroparesis or celiac
  • Metabolic disorders such as diabetes
  • Organ system issues such as those with the liver, kidneys, or pancreas
  • Malnutrition or immunodeficiency
  • Recurrent use of antibiotics or gastric suppression medications

Did you know?
People with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) are also at increased risk of SIBO. Some estimates show as high as 80 percent of people with IBS also have SIBO.

The digestive symptoms associated with SIBO can be the same as IBS, Irritable Bowel Disorder (IBD), and other digestive issues. Ronald Hoffman, MD, provides some natural treatment suggestions for IBD here. You can also find more information about addressing digestive health concerns here.

Once SIBO has been identified, there is no question that diet can play a key role in balancing bacteria in the small intestines.

The food-first approach to understanding SIBO

Because food directly impacts bacterial balance, it makes sense that diet would be a great first place to start when it comes to addressing overgrowth. The focus of any SIBO related dietary recommendation is on reducing ingestion of fermentable carbohydrates.

Just as information about SIBO has been emerging over the past decade, so has knowledge of the FODMAP diet. FODMAP stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols. No wonder it’s called the FODMAP diet! These poorly absorbed, short-chain carbohydrates found in some foods are rapidly fermented and can cause excessive fluid and gas accumulation, bloating, abdominal pain, and distention. Research shows that a FODMAP diet can help patients who have IBS, a SIBO-related condition. (5)

Bowls of beans including lentils, nuts and seeds on top of a cutting board

Food directly impacts bacterial balance and diet can play a key role in addressing overgrowth in the small intestines.

FODMAPs are found in some vegetables and fruits, beans, lentils, wheat, and dairy products that contain lactose. Foods containing high fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners are also considered FODMAP foods. When offending FODMAP foods are eliminated from the diet, digestive issues diminish and bacterial balance is achieved.

Another diet for SIBO actually isn’t really a diet at all. It’s an elemental formulation that the patient takes in place of food for several days or as long as a month. (6) These formulations contain macronutrients fortified with essential vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and electrolytes. These elemental diet formulations should only be consumed under medical supervision.

According to Cook, “Other dietary recommendations for patients with SIBO often combine features from the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD), the Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) diet, the low FODMAP diet, and the Bi-Phasic Diet.” You can find a table that she created comparing these diets here.

Supplemental interventions for SIBO

In addition to diet, herbal antimicrobials can be considered for patients who do not respond to antibiotics, those who relapse frequently, or patients who simply prefer natural therapies. Many natural therapies have been shown to be effective and are worth considering. In fact, a 2014 trial demonstrated that herbal therapy was just as effective for SIBO compared to the antibiotic rifaximin. (7)

Medical herb called Clove in plant form

When you eliminate offending FODMAP foods from your diet and add herbs such as cloves, digestive issues diminish and bacterial balance is achieved.

A variety of herbs have anecdotal or animal studies demonstrating antimicrobial efficacy. These medical herbs include:

  • Berberine
  • Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium)
  • Mugwort (Artemesia vulgaris)
  • Pomegranate (Punica granatum)
  • Oregano (Origanum vulgare)
  • Neem (Azadirachta indica)
  • Enteric-coated peppermint oil (Mentha piperita)
  • Clove (Syzygium aromaticum)

Regarding probiotics and prebiotics, there are a few small clinical trials suggesting that they may help (8); however, there are also studies showing that probiotics can worsen SIBO. (9) In fact, aggravation from prebiotics or fermented foods is actually considered a key clinical clue that may help diagnose SIBO.

Final thoughts

This issue of addressing SIBO in clinical practice has become so important that there is now an annual conference devoted to the subject. You can find interesting takeaways from the 2017 Integrative SIBO Conference by clicking here.

SIBO should definitely be on the radar of all healthcare practitioners, especially those who have patients with any functional digestive issues. According to Allison Siebecker, ND, MSOM, LAc, who presented at the 2017 Integrative SIBO Conference, it’s also important to note that about two-thirds of SIBO cases become chronic or relapse, which requires a proactive plan for ongoing management. (10) This can be accomplished through an integrative approach that includes diet and dietary supplements.

Do you have any thoughts to share on SIBO symptoms, treatment or diet? Drop us a note, we’d love to hear from you!

If you are a practitioner, consider signing up to Fullscript. If you are a patient, talk to your healthcare practitioner about Fullscript!

  1. Cook S. Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth: A clinician’s guide to evaluation and treatment. Natural Medicine Journal. 2017.
  2. Nett A. SIBO—What causes it and why it’s so hard to treat. Kresser Institute. 2016;July 5.
  3. Rezaie A, Buresi M, Lembo A, et al. Hydrogen and Methane-Based Breath Testing in Gastrointestinal Disorders: The North American Consensus. The American Journal of Gastroenterology. 2017;112(5):775-784.
  4. Dukowicz AC, Lacy BE. Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. Gastroenterology & Hepatology. 2007;3(2):112-122.
  5. Magge S, Lembo A. Low-FODMAP diet for treatment of irritable bowel syndrome. Gastroenterology & Hepatology. 2012;8(11):739-745.
  6. Altman L. The elemental diet for SIBO and other gut conditions: An interview by Tina Kaczor, ND, FABNO. Natural Medicine Journal. 2017;9(9).
  7. Chedid V, Dhalla S, Clarke JO, et al. Herbal therapy is equivalent to rifaximin for the treatment of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. Global Advances in Health and Medicine. 2014;3(3):16-24.
  8. Khalighi AR, Khalighi MR, Behdani R, et al. Evaluating the efficacy of probiotic on treatment in patients with small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)—a pilot study. Indian Journal of Medical Research. 2014;140(5):604-8.
  9. Rao S, Rehman A, Yu S, de Andio N. Brain fogginess, gas and bloating: a link between SIBO, probiotics and metabolic acidosis. Clinical and Translational Gastroenterology. 2018;9(6).
  10. Scarpignato C. Takeaways from the 2017 Integrative SIBO Conference. Natural Medicine Journal. 2017;9(6).


Two hands preparing eggs in a pan with cheese and tomatoes

This Is Why You Need to Understand The Low-Carb Diet

This Is Why You Need to Understand The Low-Carb Diet


Ask almost anyone what they need to do to lose a few pounds and they’ll probably tell you to ‘cut back on the carbs’. This is an overly simplistic view of the low-carb diet plan. So, what is a low-carb diet plan? What are its side effects? What are the significant benefits of a low-carb, high-protein diet? We’re here to help you understand some simple takeaways of the low-carb diet.

More than a decade and a half of anti-carb messaging in diet books and online have had a significant impact on our attitudes and behaviors with respect to carbohydrates. Most people now assume that carbohydrates are inherently fattening!

In fact, a 2018 survey conducted by the International Food Information Council Foundation (1) found that 24 percent of respondents were currently on some form of carbohydrate-restricted diet, and an almost equal percentage pointed to carbs as the primary culprit for weight gain.

But is a low-carb diet really healthy?

What is a low-carb diet?

A common question with the low carb diet is ‘how many carbs in a low carb diet?’ Well, since there is no official definition for a low carbohydrate or ‘low carb’ diet, this means that there is no standardization in terms of how much carbohydrate low-carbohydrate diets must have. Usually, diets that restrict or require you to count carbohydrates are usually called low-carb diets. They usually encourage high consumption of protein, fat and healthy vegetables.

Current dietary guidelines (2) suggest that we consume 40 to 60 percent of our total daily calories from carbohydrates. So if you consume 2000 calories per day, you would eat 200 to 300 grams of carbohydrate each day to meet that guideline. Technically then, anything below that could be considered a low-carbohydrate diet.

Generally, a low-carbohydrate diet is one that contains 20-70 grams of carbohydrate per day. Some diets are very low in carbohydrates, like the ketogenic diet. On this diet, you consume most of your calories from fat and the rest from protein and carbs. The ‘keto diet’, as it’s commonly referred to, is sometimes prescribed by physicians to manage seizure disorders, but some dieters find it to be an effective means to lose weight.

Two hands preparing eggs in a pan with cheese and tomatoes

Breakfast food, including eggs and a variety of vegetables, can help you manage carb intake.

Low-carb diet foods

Your diet should be based mostly on foods that have been minimally processed. Acceptable foods on a low carb diet include:

  • Meat: chicken, turkey, beef, lamb, and pork
  • Fish: salmon, trout, haddock and many others
  • Eggs
  • Vegetables: leafy greens like spinach and kale, cauliflower, broccoli, and many others
  • Fruits: apples, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, oranges, and pears
  • Nuts and seeds: almonds, sunflower seeds, walnuts and many others, including nut and seed butter
  • Unsweetened dairy products: plain whole milk and plain Greek yogurt
  • Oils: coconut oil, olive oil, rapeseed oil

Low-carb beverage choices include:

  • Water
  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Sugar-free carbonated beverages, such as sparkling water

The difference between low-carb diets: High-protein vs. high-fat

When referring to low-carb diets, people can mean different things, adding to the confusion of what a low-carb diet actually is. For example, which type of low-carb diet is more beneficial, high-protein or high-fat?

Low-carb diets are already good at helping keep hunger away, but so is protein. Upping the protein content of your low-carb diet may be even more helpful in your weight-loss journey if you’re struggling with hunger.

The low-carb, high-fat diet, which is also known as a ketogenic diet, is what most people do when they follow a low-carb diet. They shift their calories from carbs to fat, increasing their intake of higher-fat protein foods, full-fat cheeses and nuts and adding more fat to their food such as butter, oil, and mayonnaise.

When it comes to weight loss, either diet works (3). So, ultimately it may come down to personal preference or taste, especially since both seem to work at not only helping you lose the weight but also keeping hunger at bay.

Do low-carb diets work?

Low-carbohydrate diets may initially produce more rapid weight loss when compared to other diets, but most of the loss, in the beginning, is water weight rather than fat. In the medium term, low-carbohydrate diets also tend to result in faster weight loss than traditional low-fat diets: up to around six months.

Weight loss on low carb diets has been associated with eating less food and overall calories. This has been attributed to the novelty, simplicity, and monotony of the diet supporting tight compliance in the initial phase. There is also evidence that the higher protein content of the diet enhances feelings of fullness.

But are low-carb diet better than other diets over the long haul?

Research says not! Over the long term, any differences between low-carb and other diets tend to even out. (4)

Man sitting at a desk with a laptop and a coffee putting his hand over his eyes as if he's exhausted

Among short-term side effects of not getting enough carbs, one is lack of energy and tiredness.

The problem with not eating carbs

As a strategy to lose weight, cutting carbs can work for some people. If it didn’t, Atkins would have never become popular in the first place.

The thing is, cutting carbs comes at a cost! (5)

Most of us require some level of carbohydrates for our bodies to function optimally over the long term. This is especially true for people who work out.

Short-term side effects of a low carb diet include:

  • Constipation
  • High cholesterol
  • Headaches and brain fog
  • Lack of energy
  • Nausea
  • Bad breath
  • Decreased athletic performance

Longer-term side effects of a low-carb diet may include:

  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Loss of bone density
  • Gastrointestinal problems

Is a low-carb diet right for me?

Some people should not follow a low-carb diet unless instructed to do so by a healthcare practitioner. These groups of people include teenagers, those with kidney disease, people living with diabetes who use insulin, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, and individuals recovering from an eating disorder.

If you’re considering any type of diet, whether it be keto, paleo or low-carb, it’s important to consult with a healthcare practitioner to ensure the diet is right for you. Your practitioner can help you plan your diet and ensure that the diet is followed safely and effectively.


Lavender

How Are Herbs Named?

When you read your supplement labels, you might notice that herbs often have two other words in brackets and italics after their name, like this:

Echinacea (Echinacea angustifolia)

The first word outside of brackets is the herb’s common name. The words in brackets are the latin binomial names of the herb: the capitalized first word is the genus of the plant, and the second lower case word is the species of the plant. Sometimes you’ll even see it written simply as “E. angustifolia”, but it’s referring to the same latin name we mentioned above.

Why are plants named like this? Let’s bring you back to high school biology and Linnaen Taxonomy. Carl Linnaeus created a way to keep track of all of the different kinds of plants (and animals!) in the world, so that as new species were discovered, they could be grouped according to how similar they were to others.

Kingdom → Phylum → Class → Order → Family → Genus → Species

Let’s use Echinacea as an example. Echinacea (Echinacea angustifolia) is a plant that has a common name (what we call it normally) that is the same as it’s genus name, but this isn’t always the case. For example: Pumpkin (common name) is actually called Curcubita pepo (latin name).

medicinal herbs and supplement names

The most important sections of the Linnaen Taxonomy for dietary supplement purposes are Family, Genus, and Species.. Let’s break down Echinacea’s linnaean hierarchy:

 

Kingdom: Plantae

Phylum: Anthophyta

Class: Dycotyledonae

Order: Asterales

Family: Asteraceae

Genus: Echinacea

Species: E. angustifolia

 

Knowing the family of an herb can help explain why some people can have mild allergies to echinacea if they already have seasonal allergies. Ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia) and echinacea (Echinacea angustifolia) come from the same family of plants (Asteraceae), and share some similar chemical constituents because of that, even though they have completely different genus and species.

You will also see “spp.” instead of a species name at times: this designates that several different species are being grouped together from the same Genus. 

For example, there are multiple different kinds of Echinacea species. In addition to Echinacea angustifolia, Echinacea purpurea is also found in dietary supplements. To mention several plants from the Echinacea genus at once without naming Echinacea purpurea and Echinacea angustifolia individually, “Echinacea spp.” is often written.

Interested in reading more articles like this? Let us know!


Trusted Resources

Trusted Supplement Resources

It can be hard to stay up-to-date with the amount of information about supplements online and in the news. For that reason, our Integrative Medical Advisory Team wanted to help make it easier for you by curating some trusted resources for your research. Whether it is learning about ingredients, products or the industry as a whole, the following list is a great place to start.

Examine.com 

Why we like them: Examine.com is a free and unbiased resource that explains supplements in plain language. It’s easy to understand supplement efficacy, uses, and reliability of the evidence with their Human Effect Matrix. Along with being easy to read, all articles are highly referenced, which make it a great place to come and learn about a supplement quickly, or even to do a deeper dive on ingredients.

examine.com supplements

Natural Medicines

Why we like them: Naturals Medicines was one of the first websites to curate a massive amount of information about almost every supplement imaginable. There are in depth pages on each supplement, and lots of other clinical aids such as an interaction checker (to see which supplements can interact with drugs), and a depletion checker (to check which vitamins and minerals are depleted by drugs/supplements).

natural medicines

Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 

Why we like them: The Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition regularly releases position stands on supplement use in athletic populations. While the site not only provides you with an overview of a supplement ingredients, it also acts as a reliable assessment of whether there is a use in certain athletic populations.

jissn logo

If you are curious about understanding more about supplement regulations and what it takes to get a product to market, check out the links below. Since supplements are regulated nationally and sometimes the regulations can vary by state/province, it is always important to check the specific area where you live or practice before starting to take supplements, import supplements, or recommend supplements to patients.

US:

https://ods.od.nih.gov/Research/CARDS_Database.aspx

Canada:

https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/drugs-health-products/natural-non-prescription.html


practitioner pointing to supplement bottle while talking to a patient

How To Swap Products From Your Active Recommendations

How To Swap Products From Your Active Recommendations


Change happens. In the integrative healthcare industry, new research is always surfacing in order to help healthcare practitioners provide the best patient care. These updates can affect products practitioners are recommending. New regulations can impact brands and products, resulting in discontinuations or backorders.

Updating treatment plans containing outdated information is an extremely time-sensitive task when patient care and adherence are top priorities.

Practitioners’ product preferences can also change, depending on a variety of factors. You might want the option to easily swap one product to another.

practitioner pointing to supplement bottle while talking to a patient

Fullscript is the only online dispensary that offers product swapping features for practitioners.

Why is the product swapping feature important?

Your responsibility to your patient doesn’t end when they leave your clinic; they rely on you to help them stay adherent and foster the best possible outcomes. In the following situations, a product swap is the best way to support your patients on their path to wellness:

  • New or outdated research
  • Supplement industry changes
  • Product is back ordered
  • Product is discontinued
  • Product is reformulated
  • Practitioner preferences change

Using the product swapping tool helps you avoid disruptions to patient care. Benefits of using the tool include:

  • Save time on editing prescriptions – swap a product for all affected recommendations and patients at once without missing anything due to manual error.
  • Communicate with your patients – by opting into an email communication upon swapping, you let your patients know about the change.

We highly recommend that practitioners send an email to all impacted patients.

  • Optimize adherence – there are no disruptions to your dispensary. If a product becomes discontinued or is on backorder, an alternative can be made available to patients by their practitioner instantly.

Fullscript’s product swapping tool was designed to give practitioners the autonomy to replace products across multiple impacted treatment plans. Your Fullscript dispensary dashboard will flag affected or at risk products and suggest alternatives. You can then swap products across multiple recommendations with one click.

Get started with the feature: 3 easy steps

Follow these three simple steps to ensure a product swap is successful within your Fullscript dispensary.

1. Get notified

We’ll notify you in your Fullscript dashboard if a product swap is needed. When you log in, you’ll see a banner with an alert. Click on the alert to access the product swapping feature. We’ll show you a list of all the patients affected.

2. Choose an alternative

Next, select a replacement product from our curated and vetted list of alternatives, or find a different product in our catalog through a quick search. Recommended substitute products are called similar products, on our platform.

Within the Fullscript catalog, the similar products tab lists all products that have been marked as similar by our in-house medical team.

3. Replace new product

Once the ‘old’ and ‘new’ products have been selected, click the button that says “Swap these products” and the change will be implemented automatically across all affected recommendations.

TIP: Activate the checkbox that says “Send an email notification to the patients impacted by this swap” to avoid confusion.

Visual tutorial of the Fullscript Product Swapping feature.

How are similar products curated?

Our in-house Integrative Medical Advisory team curates similar products through reports, reviewed research, and knowledge from the integrative medicine industry. They consider similar ingredients, dosing, and quality standards.

Can I swap a product that is not flagged on my dashboard?

If your personal preferences change and you’d like to replace a product on all recommendations, you can open your dispensary, go into the catalog, search the desired product, click on it to open the product description, and select the ‘Related Patients’ tab to see all the patients who are currently using the product. On the same page, you have the option to swap the product for all treatment plans containing the product.

The bottom line

Fullscript’s product swapping feature helps practitioners maintain patient adherence even when changes or disruptions occur. Swapping products in your Fullscript dispensary is safe and effortless, so you can focus on patient care while we do the rest!

If you have any questions or feedback about this new feature, please contact us.

Read more about product swapping and other adherence management tools. 


curcumin feature image

Curcumin

Curcumin is the plant-based chemical that gives turmeric its electric yellow colour. It’s most well studied as a treatment for inflammation caused by chronic conditions such as Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis, and osteoarthritis.

Because curcumin is fat-soluble rather than water-soluble, manufacturers often add a binding agent to aid in its digestion. This has caused great diversity in its formulation from one manufacturer to another.

What is it?

If you’ve ever cooked an Indian dish with turmeric (and found yourself scrubbing its yellow stain from your hands), then you’ve been up close with curcumin. In fact, turmeric’s Latin name is Curcuma longa. And while curcumin shows up in many other Curcuma plant species, turmeric is its most common vehicle—though it only accounts for 3% of turmeric by weight.

Turmeric belongs to the plant family Zingiberaceae, which also includes ginger. The two root herbs look similar, although turmeric has smaller curls and whorls than ginger and its colour is deeper, almost orange. Curcumin is the reason for that vibrant shade, which is sometimes called “Indian Saffron” (and often used as a dye by clothing manufacturers).

Variations of this deep colour are found in plants known as flavonoids (think blueberries, raspberries and cacao). Flavonoids have diverse health benefits; that’s why dietary recommendations often include a colourful spectrum of fruits and vegetables. In the case of curcumin, those benefits include anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Ayurvedic medicine has long used curcumin as a common remedy; it’s gained popularity in western medicine more recently.

How is it made?

Curcumin’s natural bioavailability is low. In other words, our digestive systems have a hard time absorbing it and making its health benefits “available” to the body. That’s because curcumin dissolves in fat, not water—and our bodies are designed for water-soluble nutrition.

Many manufacturers work around this barrier by adding a fat-based binding agent like soy to their curcumin formula. As a result, curcumin formulations vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, making it difficult to broadly compare different products (see the sidebar for more on this).

In general, most manufacturers follow this basic process:,

  1. Start with raw turmeric root.
  2. Dry the root and grind it to powder.
  3. Add ingredients and liquids to extract curcumin from the ground turmeric.
  4. Filter the curcumin solution to remove impurities.
  5. Separate the solution into various elements.
  6. Isolate curcumin from the solution.
  7. Add bioavailability factors to aid the body’s absorption of curcumin.

By solely isolating curcumin content and stripping away the other constituents in the herb, there could be health effects that are absent in synthetic curcumin-only products as opposed to curcumin products that still have the herb as raw material. Meanwhile, emerging research reveals new information about curcumin almost daily, including recent studies that have uncovered the health effects in more isoforms of curcumin than previously identified (bisdemethodycurcumin and tetrahydroxurcumin).

Note: All formulas are not equal!

 

Many of us expect nutritional formulas to be relatively comparable between companies. When you buy Vitamin C, for example, you know what you’re getting from one manufacturer to another. Not so with curcumin.

 

Because of its insolubility in water and the complexity of its formula, true comparisons between different forms of curcumin are difficult. Some companies run bioavailability studies in which they track the metabolized (or “glucuronidated”) form of curcumin in the body, while others test the non-metabolized (or “free”) form. This means that one gram of curcumin from Company A is not comparable to one gram from Company B. Keep this in mind when considering options.

How is it delivered?

Although curcumin is the most studied active ingredient in turmeric, it only accounts for 3% of turmeric’s weight. That’s why whole ground turmeric, while beneficial to patient health in some ways, isn’t an effective vehicle for delivering curcumin to the body.

Instead, choose a curcuminoid product formulated to help your body absorb the supplement quickly and effectively. Some products combine the ingredients or formulations listed below, which are often found side-by-side on retail shelves.

95 Curcuminoids

This formula is an extraction of the active ingredients in turmeric. It’s so named because 95% of its weight is accounted for in some form of curcumin. Which form, though, is usually unclear. That’s because manufacturers don’t test for the specific identity and amounts. Possible forms include tetrahydrocurcumin, bisdemethoxycurcumin, and hexahydrocurcumin.

Unformulated Curcumin

This form of curcumin is pure, with no added solubility agents. Without such agents, the curcumin’s bioavailability is diminished, and the body has a harder time absorbing it from gut to bloodstream.

This form uses soy lecithin, sunflower lecithin, or other chemical emulsifiers as binding agents, helping the body better absorb curcumin. This emulsified formulation defined the first wave of products focused on bioavailability and are still prominently used today.

Liposomal

This option improves on emulsification technology. The curcumin is delivered inside fat packets called liposomes, enabling the body to absorb the serum more effectively.

Nanoparticals

This option delivers a lower percentage of curcumin by weight, but the trade-off comes with a benefit: these nano-curcumins achieve higher peak levels and stay in the body longer than other forms of curcumin.

curcumin health benefits

What does it treat?

  1. Short-term and chronic pain

Curcumin has an inhibitory effect on the COX-1 and COX-2 receptors. These are the same receptors that aspirin and other NSAIDS (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs) target to help deal with both short-term and chronic pain.

  1. Inflammation

Although it’s sometimes touted as an inflammation cure-all, we urge you to use caution and apply curcumin to chronic conditions studied in a clinical setting (such as Chron’s, ulcerative colitis, and osteoarthritis) rather than any inflammation-related syndrome.

There are normally three steps in the inflammation process: initiation, resolution, and termination. Unlike most anti-inflammatory therapies, which stop inflammation before it begins, curcumin focuses on the second and third steps by helping to resolve inflammation already in the body. This makes curcumin especially good for conditions which happen over a longer period, like arthritis and autoimmune disorders. It’s less effective for acute conditions like strains and sprains.

Curcumin works as an anti-inflammatory agent by downregulating NF-KB, a transcription factor in the body. NF-KB creates inflammation and changes how proteins are made, which contributes to cancerous cell growth. By inhibiting NF-KB, curcumin supports the body’s ability to clear out inflammation cells and chemicals. Curcumin and the natural phenol Resveratrol are two of the only supplements that modify NF-KB effectively.

Note: Modifying how a transcription factor works doesn’t change a person’s genotype (or genetic code); instead, it changes the phenotype (or the way that genetic code is expressed).

  1. Antioxidant

Advice in this category is not as simple as, “Avoid oxidants and take antioxidants.” For example, a large study released in the early 1990s uncovered surprising effects of antioxidant supplementation in smokers. Those receiving beta carotene (a potent antioxidant) demonstrated a HIGHER risk of death from lung cancer and other causes than those not taking the supplement. These results ran exactly counter to the researchers’ expectations and revealed the complexity of resolving oxidant stress in the human body.

Enter NRF2. Its name stands for nuclear factor erythroid 2–related factor 2, which regulates how cells deal with oxidative stress. Like NF-KB, NRF2 is a transcription factor which can upregulate or downregulate its function. Modifying the NRF2 function provides an alternative to high doses of a single antioxidant for a long time (as in the beta carotene study). Curcumin helps by inducing NRF2 function, which supports the body’s normal ability to handle oxidant stresses.

What are the side effects?

Like ginger, curcumin thins the blood, which introduces a bleeding risk. Always check for any interactions with your current drug program before taking curcumin, especially if you’re already using blood thinners.

While curcumin effectively decreases episodes of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), it can cause bloody stool in rare cases of patients with IBD. This is a well-known and dose-related side effect.

Finally, remember that the vibrant colour of curcumin is the same stuff that stains your hands when cooking with turmeric. It’s harmless but may take a few days to disappear. Keep this in mind, especially if applying curcumin topically, such as in cases of oral mucositis.

Curcumin is Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) by the FDA, and poses minimal concerns for the user. As always, speak with your practitioner if you notice a new symptom that may be related to this or any supplement.

References

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  2. Curcumin for Maintenance of Remission in Ulcerative Colitis | Cochrane. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD008424.pub2.
  3. Daily JW, Et al. Efficacy of Turmeric Extracts and Curcumin for Alleviating the Symptoms of Joint Arthritis: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Cli… – PubMed – NCBI. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27533649
  4. Avey, Tori. “History of Turmeric | The History Kitchen | PBS Food.” PBS Food, 9 Mar. 2015, http://www.pbs.org/food/the-history-kitchen/turmeric-history/.
  5. Bagchi, Anamika. Extraction of Turmeric. IOSR. Volume 1, Issue 3. Sep-Oct. 2012. P.1-16. https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/8757/6569eaf7f23ec1fa9a8784c9135ba5da76f1.pdf
  6. https://www.fda.gov/downloads/food/ingredientspackaginglabeling/gras/noticeinventory/ucm549247.pdf.
  7. Prasad, Sahdeo, et al. “Recent Developments in Delivery, Bioavailability, Absorption and Metabolism of Curcumin: The Golden Pigment from Golden Spice.” Cancer Research and Treatment: Official Journal of Korean Cancer Association, vol. 46, no. 1, Korean Cancer Association, Jan. 2014, p. 2.
  8. Serhan et al. Resolution of inflammation: state of the art, definitions and terms. FASEB. Vol 21. No. 2 Feb 2007. http://www.fasebj.org/content/21/2/325.long.
  9. Kocaadam, Betül, and Nevin Şanlier. “Curcumin, an Active Component of Turmeric ( Curcuma Longa ), and Its Effects on Health.” Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, vol. 57, no. 13, Sept. 2017, pp. 2889–95.
  10. Alpha-Tocopherol, Beta Carotene Cancer Prevention Study Group. “The Effect of Vitamin E and Beta Carotene on the Incidence of Lung Cancer and Other Cancers in Male Smokers.” The New England Journal of Medicine, vol. 330, no. 15, Apr. 1994, pp. 1029–35.
  11. Ma, Qiang. “Role of Nrf2 in Oxidative Stress and Toxicity.” Annual Review of Pharmacology and Toxicology, vol. 53, NIH Public Access, 2013, p. 401.
  12. https://www.fda.gov/downloads/food/ingredientspackaginglabeling/gras/noticeinventory/ucm549247.pdf.