Nutraceuticals: What You Need To Know

photo credit: katerha via photopin cc

photo credit: katerha via photopin cc

What is a nutraceutical? This term that sparks so much debate? A term that is used by some practitioners and scorned by others. Directly translated, it is a combination of nutrition and pharmaceutical. For some it means herbal products, supplements, minerals and nutrients. It’s a mish mash of something more than just vitamins. It is often a blend of synergistic components that strictly speaking, can help you live longer.

Nutraceuticals decrease inflammation, prevent alzheimers, lower cholesterol, prevent cancer, improve circulation, prevent eye disease, promote regularity, lower blood pressure, improve blood vessel health, improve urinary tract health, prevent cold/flu, replace deficiencies with therapeutic doses of minerals and vitamins, help with digestion and rebuild the GI tract, help with detox, normalize hormone levels and the effects of hormone issues, improve bone health, or decrease pain. It could be a functional food, an amino acid or group of amino acids, plant, antioxidant, probiotic, prebiotic, tea, or spice.

Do you recognize a common theme in what they do? Prevention. Although they can be used to treat acute or chronic issues once they occur, their primary use is to prevent long term disease and contribute to what is referred to as anti-aging.

So what are the most common ingredients that I recommend for this?

OMEGA-3

Right off the bat, this is my go to supplement. It operates along the same lines as our most prescribed NSAIDS. In fact, there are studies out there that are trying to market a slightly modified version of omega-3 to be used as an anti-inflammatory pain reliever. I have heard a physician at a lecture state how he never writes for NSAIDS anymore.  He has switched them for Omega-3. If you live and eat in North America, chances are you are low in this compared to Omega-6, and it is this crucial ratio that needs to be maintained. It is great for virtually any condition that has its foundation in inflammation (asthma, eczema, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and more).

VITAMIN D

photo credit: colindunn via photopin cc

photo credit: colindunn via photopin cc

One of my favourites- since most people in Canada are low in this hormone. Many conditions have been found to coincide with low vitamin D (MS, parkinsons disease and a host of other conditions), and supplementation of vitamin D has shown to help with various issues, such as: pain relief, statin induced muscle pain, blood pressure lowering, immune function, osteoporosis, and more.

DIM, I3C, Ca-d-glucarate

Producing good estrogen over bad estrogen by promoting healthy estrogen metabolism and detoxification is the beginning of hormone modification without prescriptions with nutriceuticals. This is key to preventing a pool of estrogen that sits around waiting to develop into cancer. It is also helpful for colon cancer, as they neutralize enzymes that can activate dietary carcinogens.

ADAPTOGENS/ADRENALS

Used in adrenal fatigue, adaptogens have the ability to increase or decrease adrenal function as needed. Ashwagandha, rhodiola, eleutherococcus, licorice extract, Cordyceps and glandulars with vitamins b5, b6, and C are all included in this group.

PROBIOTICS/PREBIOTICS

Not only does this replenish the microorganisms that reside in the gut help in digestion, but it helps in a large portion of your immune system and production of serotonin.

DIGESTION

Betaine HCl for acid supplementation at mealtime, digestive enzymes and medical foods, combined with probiotics aid in rebuilding the GI tract.

PAIN/INFLAMMATION

Curcumin is certainly one of the most popular ayurvedic herbs right now, its anti-inflammatory benefits are well known.

Boswellia, another ayurvedic substance, has been studied and proven to act at a powerful anti-inflammatory in conditions like ulcerative colitis and osteoarthritis.

Quercetin, a flavonoid antioxidant having anti-inflammatory properties- I use it as an antihistamine for seasonal allergies (that’s a lot of anti’s). It blocks the release of histamine and other mediators of the allergic response and has actually shown to relax smooth muscles in the airway for asthmatics. It also reduces the oxidation of LDL, a key process in plaque formation.

EGCG is a catechin isolated from green tea that is believed to extend life by improving hepatic, cardiovascular and metabolic health.

Resveratrol is a polyphenol that has effects on circulatory health, immunity and inflammation and wide reaching effects that contribute towards anti-aging.

VITAMIN E  

Almost exclusively you will notice on every bottle of this vitamin you pick up: d-alpha-tocopherol. This is puzzling, since vitamin E is much more than that. A mix of tocopherols (alpha, beta, gamma and delta) and tocotrienols (alpha, beta gamma and delta). Deficiency in gamma tocopherol has been implicated in prostate cancer.

VITAMIN K2

With emphasis on vitamin D and calcium, we need to direct the body to put that calcium to the bones and not in the blood vessels or organs where it will sit as deposits not helping. This is where K2 comes in.

CANCER PREVENTION (POLYPHENOLS)

MAGNESIUM: Another commonly deficient nutrient, this mineral is helpful for many issues.  It is relaxing and can help with restless legs syndrome and pain relief.

CoQ10: Actually approved for congestive heart failure therapy in Japan, it aids in the powerhouses of the cell (the mitochondria) to do their job.

ZINC: certainly my favourite in cold and flu season. It’s also great in blocking the conversion of testosterone to either estradiol or DHT, thus increasing testosterone levels. Look for combination preparations with zinc and copper if you take them long term though as zinc supplementation can deplete copper. Ironically, the same element of zinc can help treat acne by decreasing sebum production and acting as an antibacterial.

ANTIOXIDANT SUPPORT

This can include R-lipoic acid, vitamin E, C, N-acetylcysteine, astaxanthin and prevent free radical damage to cells and tissues which promotes disease and enhances the aging process.

BRANCHED CHAIN AMINO ACIDS

Vital to muscle growth and repair.  Not so much used for muscle development, they prevent protein breakdown and enhance recovery.  Good to preserve muscle in weakened conditions.

CARNOSINE

An antioxidant amino acid that prevents glycation and gets rid of advanced glycation end-products that make a cell dysfuntional .

CHROMIUM

One of my favorites for normalizing glucose levels.  Great for both high or low blood sugar.  I use it sometimes with Gymnema, cinnamon and Lipoic Acid.

MILK THISLE

Used for thousands of years to protect the liver from toxins. We use it in conjunction with detox programs.

A lot of other nutraceuticals are commonly used. Nutraceuticals can manipulate high or low hormone levels in men and women, detox, heal the gut, prevent disease, slow the aging process, help make the last ten years of your life more upright and enjoyable. It uses evidence based medicine to extend disease free living when combined with the right eating and proper exercise.

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