Friday, December 30, 2011


2011 is nearing it's end. I'd like to think it's been a year in which we have all made strides to live a healthier lifestyle. For those of you who are health conscious and up to date on the latest and greatest in the world of natural treatments, the following list will serve as a nice reminder of some of the recent research and most effective supplement solutions talked about this year. For those of you who are new to the world of natural health, take a peak at what you've missed over the last 12 months. Here are the top 11 of 2011 - the most talked about natural health products of the last year. 1. Konjac Root We have Dr. Oz to thank, as least in part, for the popularity of Konjac Root, found in the name brand PGX supplement. Konjac root, or Glucomannan is a viscous form of dietary fibre that many have used to aid in weight loss, as well as regulate blood sugar levels, decrease cholesterol and relieve mild constipation. Glucommanan, or Konjac root absorbs water as it travels through the digestive tract. In doing so, this helps to rid the body of excess water weight and adds bulk to the stool, which up to a certain point, can make it easier to pass through the colon. As with most fibres, glucomannan also aids in the elimination of toxins, excess hormone, as well as cholesterol. Ingested with a food that tends to be higher on the glycemic index, glucomannan also help to slow how quickly sugars are absorbed into the blood stream, therefore how quickly and how high blood sugar levels are raised after eating, stabilizing blood sugar. 2. Acai Acai is a SuperFruit out of Central and South America, renowned for it nutritive and medicinal properties. It's high in antioxidants, reversing and preventing free radical damage in the body. Free radicals are unstable cells that cause damage in the body (tissues and organs) when they bump into healthy cells. Acai's antioxidants are said to be very well absorbed in the body, meaning that even a little can have tremendous benefit in terms of cancer and cardiovascular health risks, as well as reducing the signs of ageing. Acai is also a source of Omega fatty acids. Acai can be consumed as a juice and/or pulp, or in supplement form - powder or capsule. 3. Iodine (Potassium Iodide) Following the Tsunami in Japan in March, there was a large influx of questions regarding iodine supplementation, particularly potassium iodide. In some areas in Japan, residents were given potassium iodide to prevent thyroid damage due to thyroid uptake of radioactive iodine. This had people wanting to know more รข€“ what is potassium iodide and should we all be taking it? Potassium iodide is a salt of the chemical element iodine. The body needs iodine, but cannot make it on it's own. Therefore, iodine must be consumed through diet. The problem is very little of our food contains iodine and the foods which are highest, seaweed being one, are not common fare for most. Iodine is important because it is a precursor to thyroid hormone. Without iodine, low levels of thyroid hormone can lead to numerous other health risks and overall hormone irregularity. The most recognized form of iodine deficiency is goiter and it is thought to be the most preventable cause of mental retardation globally. All this being said, you may ask why we are not all supplementing with iodine? Well, it's not that you shouldn't but simply that you should be cautious. For one thing, iodine deficiency is not always the cause of low thyroid hormone (hypothyroidism) and therefore not always indicated in thyroid conditions. In fact, Iodine supplementation in autoimmune related thyroid conditions should , in most cases, be avoided, as these individuals are especially sensitive to iodine toxicity. Even in cases of goiter, iodine must be supplemented with caution, as too much will exacerbate or worsen the problem. Iodine supplementation in higher dosages or over long periods of time can lead to accumulation and have some very serious side effects, even for the average individual, especially young children.. Iodine toxicity can actually create thyroid problems where none existed. Talk to your healthcare professional before supplementing with iodine at dosages above what a typical multi vitamin provides. 4. Astaxanthin Astaxanthin is one carotenoid that has been getting it's fair share of attention this year! Astaxanthin is thought to be one of the most powerful fat soluble antioxidants in the xanthophyll class of carotenoids, with considerably higher free radical scavenging abilities than most. Research dedicated to the use of Astaxanthin for the treatment of diabetes found that it not only reduced blood glucose levels, but showed some promising results in terms of preventing pancreatic beta cells from oxidation. When these cells are damaged, insulin resistance ensues. Astaxanthin's fat soluble properties and relatively low molecular weight also enable it to cross the blood brain barrier and exert it's antioxidant effects on the central nervous system, including the eye, giving it the potential to prevent such diseases as macular degeneration, dementia and Alzheimer's. It has also being used topically, included in many of the latest anti-ageing creams. Astaxanthin is stored in the muscle tissue of some sea life, including shrimp, lobster, salmon and krill. 5. Krill (Oil) Krill are a shrimp-like crustaceans with significant levels of Omega 3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. Up until now, fish and fish oils have been virtually the only sources of these super omega fatty acids, as our conversion of ALA from plant sources to EPA and DHA is thought to be poor at best. Krill is also lower on the food chain than most fish, making it a less toxic and requiring less filtering out of these pollutants for supplement use. Some experts also believe that the fish population cannot sustain itself in order to meet the demand for fish oils. Krill is thought to be much more sustainable. Krill oil also contains phospholipids which, when attached the Omega 3 fatty acids in Krill, are said to give them a higher bio-availability, meaning our body can break it down and take advantage of its medicinal properties much easier and perhaps in a lower dosage than is currently recommended for fish oil. As mentioned above, Krill is high in Astaxanthin, as well as possessing all the established benefits of DHA and EPA, including but not limited to it's effect on 'good' HDL cholesterol, as well as potent anti-inflammatory effects. 6. Vitamin D If you've read even a couple of my articles you may have noticed I have a bit of a thing for vitamin D... if you can have a crush on a vitamin, this one has me hooked, no question! But, for good reason! It seems that everyday we are learning more and more about the amazing benefits of vitamin D, as well as learning more and more about how deficient most North Americans are. Deficiency on this 'sunshine vitamin' has been linked to heart disease and increased risk of mortality. Studies have shown it may play a vital role in pediatric bone cancer treatment, as well as the prevention of a number of other cancers, including breast cancer, and more and more research is confirming the multitude of benefit that vitamin D has in terms of supporting a healthy immune response. Vitamin D should be your go-to when it comes to the prevention and treatment of cold and flu this season. The next question I get is, 'how much'? Anywhere from 2000-4000IU/day is safe and effective throughout the winter months, with higher doses being safely administered for acute treatment. 7. Goji Berries Another so-called 'superfruit' that we've been raving about this year, Goji is packed with antioxidants. It has been shown in studies to have a protective effect on heart tissue, brain tissue, liver tissue and more, protecting these organs from oxidative damage. Goji berries are particularly high in one carotenoid called Zeaxanthin, widely known to have an affinity for the eye, helping to protect against age related macular degeneration and glaucoma. Add dried goji berries to your morning oatmeal, yogurt or trail mix for an added boost of (tangy sweet) flavour and antioxidants! 8. Vitamin B12 It has been known for sometime that individuals with reduced digestive function, as seen in most elderly individuals, have a very hard time absorbing vitamin B12 , amongst most nutrients. With the incidence of Type II Diabetes increasing in every generation, including children and the elderly, more people are at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency due to medications, such as Metformin. Individuals on anti-coagulant medications and gout medications are also at higher risk or B12 deficiency. Given that B12 is only found in animal products this also means that the ever-growing vegan population must also be diligent in protecting their B12 status. B12 is required for optimal nervous system health, research throughout this year only solidifying it's importance in this area. Studies are showing that B12 deficiency may be playing a large role in the declining cognitive function and memory loss in the elderly. It has been shown that the human brain literally shrinks when there is deficient amounts of B12 in the body. B12 deficiencies have also been closely linked with depression. Supplementation is recommended for at risk individuals, often sub-lingual (under the tongue) or via intramuscular (IM) injections, so as to bypass potential gastrointestinal dysfunction that may inhibit absorption. 9. Arginine Nitric oxide precursors seem to be all the rage these days (and here, you thought it was ironic facial hair?!) and Arginine seems to be leading the way. Arginine can be broken down in the body to form nitric oxide (NO2), a chemical that dilates blood vessels thereby increasing oxygen transport throughout the body. This can have a profound effect on athletic performance, sexual performance (erectile dysfunction), cardiovascular health and blood pressure, as well as wound healing. Arginine has also been shown to protect the liver, enhance thymus activity (and T cell activity) and generally strengthen the immune system. 10.Curcumin Is the herbal equivalent of vitamin D for me... in other words, YES, I have a bit of an herbal crush on this spicy extract! Curcumin is the principal curcuminoid of the spice TUMERIC, also responsible for giving it its bright yellow colour. Curcumin is gaining the reputation of 'anti-inflammatory extraordinaire', but not just for reducing the pain of joint inflammation. Curcumin is now being widely used to reduce inflammation in cases of inflammatory bowel diseases, such as Crohn's and Colitis. Research this year has also focused on the potential curcumin has in the treatment of a variety of different cancers, as well as its benefit in Alzheimer's. Curcumin has been shown to prevent and potentially reverse the build up of amyloid plaques in the brain, one of the features of Alzheimer's. It has also been shown to lower cholesterol and support liver function, including vital phase II detoxification. This year curcumin formulations have also advanced, making this somewhat difficult to absorb lipophilic substances even easier to absorb and utilize. 11. Coconut Oil We've changed our minds about coconut oil... it's a very good thing! Coconut oil is high in two medium chained fatty acids (MCFA's); lauric and capric acid. MCFA's have been shown to be a more fat friendly, rapidly used, and available source of energy. They do not have a stimulatory effect on insulin levels and studies are now showing they may have a beneficial effect in terms of controlling weight gain and obesity. It has been shown to increase the 'good' HDL cholesterol, while decreasing "bad" LDL cholesterol. Coconut oil also retains its nutritive properties during cooking, making it a great alternative to other vegetable oils and adding to its ease of use. Lauric acid also has anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties, making it beneficial for immune support, as well. Bonus: I also love to use coconut oil as a moisturizer! Look for non-hydrogenated virgin coconut oil at your local health food store, to ensure it is unprocessed and free of any trans fats

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