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Vitamin D Can Help Fight the Winter Blues

Vitamin D Can Help Fight the Winter Blues

                Vitamin D is commonly referred to as the “sunshine vitamin” because we absorb it through our skin from the sun’s rays. Your body can make Vitamin D using cholesterol and sunshine, which can result in an uplifted mood. You can also get Vitamin D through your food. Vitamin D absorption results in an increase in serotonin levels. But when those cold winter months roll in, many people experience what is referred to as the “winter blues”, or an overall gloomy feeling during the winter season. It is also commonly referred to as Seasonal Affective Disorder. Due to the Earth’s tilted rotational axis, we are exposed to less sunlight which results in less Vitamin D production in our bodies. As a result, Vitamin D is one of the most common vitamin deficiencies people can experience.

                Vitamin D is used in more than one way in our bodies. Not only does Vitamin D help lift our mood, but it helps in building and maintaining strong bones and teeth, regulating our immune system, supporting brain and nervous system health, regulating insulin levels, and many other key roles that help sustain or improve our body’s health. The amount of Vitamin D varies from person to person so it’s important to remember other factors that may contribute to Vitamin D levels. For example, a person’s skin tone is one factor that contributes directly to how much Vitamin D someone absorbs. The more melanin a person has, the darker the person’s skin tone is, which makes it harder from that person to absorb Vitamin D. A person’s job and lifestyle are two very important factors when looking at Vitamin D levels. A person who works inside or doesn’t go outside regularly is more likely to have a Vitamin D deficiency.

Here are three ways to increase your Vitamin D intake:

  1. On average, you should get about 10-20 minutes of direct sun exposure per day. If you have lighter skin, you need less time but if you have darker skin or the further north you live, you’ll need more exposure. If this is the case, it is recommended to get around an hour of direct sun exposure.
  2. You can consume foods with higher levels of Vitamin D. These foods include different types o fish (halibut, mackerel, salmon, swordfish, rainbow trout, tuna, sardines), mushrooms (such as maitake and portabella exposed to UV light), eggs, and raw milk products.
  3. Supplementing your Vitamin D is also an option. Ideally you want your Vitamin D blood levels to be between 50 and 60 nanograms per milliliter. For the average adult the recommended dosage is 600 IU (15 mcg) per day. But with each person, each dosage is different, so it is recommended discuss this with your doctor and to get a blood test that tells you how much Vitamin D you actually need.

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What is Tryptophan?

What is Tryptophan?

During the holiday season we’re more likely to consume larger amounts of food. From family gatherings to work holiday parties, it’s easy to overdo it. If you can relate to this, you can probably relate to the sluggish feeling you have after consuming larger amounts of food. Stuffing yourself full does contribute some, but an essential amino acid called Tryptophan is also something many people blame for their sudden drop in energy levels. You’ve probably heard the common myth that the reason you get tired after your big Thanksgiving feast is from the Tryptophan in the turkey. Turkey does naturally have Tryptophan, but so do many other high protein food sources. Tryptophan can be found in variety of food sources, but some specific ones are eggs, fish, dairy products, beef, grains, legumes, and even bananas.  

So, what exactly is Tryptophan? As mentioned above, Tryptophan is an essential amino acid. Amino acids are known as the “building blocks” of protein and they are extremely important when it comes to our survival. Unfortunately, we don’t naturally create our own essential amino acids, so we rely on foods and supplements to provide them. Our bodies need both essential amino acids and nonessential amino acids to survive. Essential amino acids help create nonessential amino acids, and they simultaneously work together to help our bodies survive and thrive at the end of the day. Tryptophan functions as a natural mood regulator because it helps produce and balance specific hormones within our bodies. Tryptophan converts itself to serotonin, which is an important chemical and neurotransmitter in the human body, more commonly it is referred to as the “calming” hormone. Serotonin is responsible for a person’s mood, appetite, sleep, memory and learning, temperature regulation, and some social behavior. Since serotonin influences several aspects of our lives, consuming Tryptophan can result in many added benefits.

Here are 3 benefits of Tryptophan:

  1. Reduces Anxiety and Depression: When Tryptophan converts to serotonin it helps make more essential amino acids available for your body to use. In return, this helps regulate and calm stress hormones while uplifting someone’s mood. Continuous stress can lead to higher risks of anxiety and depression, but it can also cause other complications such as IBS, heart disease, insomnia, migraines, learning and memory impairments, and several other problems.
  2. Promotes Better Sleep: Since Tryptophan can regulate a person’s mood, it naturally has a calming effect, which can aid in a better sleep. Sleep is incredibly important, and a lack of sleep can cause a person to be more prone to depression, anxiety, sleep apnea, lack of concentration, and weight gain. Tryptophan’s calming effect aids in a better, more restful sleep, while reducing the risk of negative repercussion from a lack of sleep.    
  3. Improves Physical Performance and Recovery: Tryptophan can help improve physical performance, increase recovery time, and fight fatigue. Tryptophan aids in building and repairing muscle tissue but it can also help lower performance anxiety which makes it popular with athletes.

Again, Tryptophan can be found in a variety of high-protein foods. While it does have calming effects, eating these high-protein foods won’t cause you to fall asleep like the Thanksgiving myth suggests. The strongest benefits of Tryptophan have been found when taking supplements, rather than just relying on food sources. Taking Tryptophan supplements is easier for your body to absorb, rather than using extra energy to break down food as well. If you think taking a Tryptophan supplement would benefit you, it is always important to do you research and read about correct dosages.

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What Are Adaptogens and Why Do People Take Them?

You’ve probably heard the word Adaptogens pop up in the health and wellness industry more recently than ever. Adaptogens, or Adaptogenic herbs, are known for their abilities to combat stress and fatigue. Adaptogens are unique in the sense that they are not a single plant or even a single family of plants. But rather, they are a variety of reactions and results produced by plants that help protect the body against mental, physical, and emotional stressors. Since we’re living in such a fast-paced society, stress and fatigue are at an all time high. Stress can have many negative effects on a person. Adaptogens help regulate and stabilize the hypothalamic, pituitary, and adrenal glands which are involved with our stress response.

So, how exactly do Adaptogens work? To discuss Adaptogens we first we need to understand how stress works and the effects it has on our bodies. When your body is stressed, the response is to release a hormone called cortisol. Since stress has become so persistent in today’s world, when cortisol levels remain high for a long period of time, chronic stress can begin to take its toll on our adrenal and thyroid glands. When cortisol levels are raised our bodies go into “fight or flight” mode. This evolved as a method of survival. But in our modern society many people experience the fight or flight mode on a regular basis, which eventually exhausts the adrenal glands. If there is long-term adrenal stress, this can lead to adrenal fatigue or other health concerns. So, when an Adaptogen is taken it doesn’t necessarily target a specific stress reaction. The Adaptogen will help alleviate and regulate your overall physiological functions to adapt to stress when it is induced.

Here are five popular Adaptogens and what they can be used for:

  1. Ashwagandha: Reduces stress and anxiety, reduces inflammation, supports adrenal function (read more about Ashwagandha here)
  2. Holy Basil (or Tulsi): Protects against infections and diseases, promotes mental balance, reduces stress and anxiety
  3. Licorice Root: Increase energy and endurance, regulates stress response, boosts the immune system
  4. Rhodiola (Rhodiola Rosea): Reduces stress related fatigue, boosts mental focus, has antioxidant properties
  5. Cordycep Mushrooms: Boosts exercise performance, enhanced antioxidant activity, anti-fatigue abilities

If you’re thinking of adding an Adaptogenic herb to your routine, consider one of the five listed above. More importantly, the first thing you should always do is your research. Some herbal supplements can interact with prescription medications. There are many other Adaptogens available. There are also many ways to add Adaptogens to your diet. You can find these herbs in teas, tinctures, capsules, or pure powder form and add them to anything — smoothies, soups, granola, or even pancakes.

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What is CBD?

Cannabidiol, also known as CBD, has made quite the impact on the health market within the last several years. If you’ve been paying attention to the news, you’ve probably heard of the non-intoxicating marijuana extract that has a wide range of benefits. It is just one of 104 chemical compounds known as cannabinoids from in the marijuana plant. CBD has been known to treat anxiety, depression, gastrointestinal issues, physical pain, insomnia, seizures, and many other medical problems. Since CBD is non-psychoactive this tends to make the plant a more appealing option for patients who are looking for the significant medical benefits, without the high from Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

CBD might be new to the market, but the hemp plant is not. Cannabis has been known to treat pain as far back as 2900 B.C. Within our bodies there is a system called the endocannabinoid system (ECS) that processes cannabinoid receptors. The ECS is one of the body’s largest neurotransmitter networks and it regulates various cardiovascular, nervous, gastrointestinal, and immune system functions. Our brains naturally produce endocannabinoid molecules which can be found in your brain, organs, connective tissues, glands, and immune cells. The ECS is a homeostatic regulator. This means it balances your system. If there are any issues the ECS sends extra neurotransmitters to receptors, which ultimately regulate and normalize the way you think and feel. If your ECS is not operating properly, you may have a difficult time regulating emotion, memory, appetite, etc. It Is also important to remember that every person’s system is different.

In December 2018 the Farm Bill was signed into law. The Farm Bill contains a provision that legalizes hemp. This legalization has made such an impact on the CBD industry just within the last few months. It is believed by 2020 the industry will easily hit $1 billion in sales. CBD can be found in forms of oils, tinctures, vaporizers, gummies, topical creams, and beverages. More recently in the nutraceutical industry the rise of CBD protein powders and supplements has taken off. As mentioned above, CBD can reduce inflammation, joint stiffness, promote relaxation, and help with muscle recovery. Adding CBD to a supplement is an easy way to experience the many natural benefits. While there is still a stigma against the hemp industry, CBD has been quite the trailblazer. Once again, CBD has no psychoactive properties and is something most people could benefit from. The easiest and best ways to experience the benefits of CBD are by ingesting, vaporizing, or applying topically.

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Can Elderberry Help You This Cold and Flu Season?

Elderberries have been proven to be a great way to boost and balance your immune system from the flu, common colds, bacterial, and viral infections. The widely known antiviral herb is best known for its natural healing properties and abilities. With cold and flu season quickly approaching, adding elderberry to your supplement routine can be extremely helpful. Even if you’ve received a flu shot or generally have a great immune system, the beneficial properties that elderberries provide should not be overlooked.

Specifically, Elderberries contain a chemical compound called anthocyanidins. Anthocyanidins have immunostimulants which are substances that stimulate the immune system by increasing activity of any of its components. Elderberry has been shown to reduce influenza if used within the first two days of onset flu symptoms. If Elderberry is taken in a timely manner it can reduce the overall duration of the flu four days sooner than without. In addition to the antiviral effects, Elderberry also possess anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. This greatly helps with sinus infections and aiding in the recovery of the respiratory system. Healing properties within Elderberries help break down mucous while calming congestion and coughing. These properties may also help reduce swelling in mucous membranes which relieves nasal congestion.

Elderberry has a long history of being used throughout the world, so it is no surprise that historically, this plant can be traced back to prehistoric times. Elderberries importance can be seen throughout ancient Egypt, but most historians associate this antiviral herb with the Greek Father of Medicine, Hippocrates, who first acknowledged the benefits as early as 400AD. This herb was also popular among Native Americans, Europe, Northern Africa, and Asia. The elder plant itself is often referred to as the “medicine chest of the country folk” since it’s versatility can be used to make teas, syrups, jams, and medicinal wines. In reference to more modern times, in 1995 the Panama government actually employed the use of elderberries during the flu epidemic and it is accredited to aiding in the help of ending the epidemic altogether.

The most commonly used parts of the plant are the berries and flowers. Botanically known as Sambucus nigra, the tree produces cream-white flowers and blue-black berries and can reach the height of 32 feet tall. If you’re harvesting the plant from the wild, you can usually find it among moist places like riverbanks or woodlands. If harvesting this berry isn’t accessible or it’s simply not your thing, you can easily stock up at your local store with capsules, syrups, and powders.

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What is Ashwagandha and How Can It Benefit You?

Botanically known as Withania somnifera, the adaptogenic herb Ashwagandha is one of the most well researched and commonly used plants. Adaptogenic herbs are natural substances that work with a person’s body to help regulate hormone levels which can lead to lowered levels of stress and fatigue while increasing energy levels and supporting the immune system in response. Ashwagandha is also considered a “Rasayana” which means it benefits both mental and physical health. Ashwagandha can also be referred to as “Indian ginseng”, “poison gooseberry”, or “winter cherry”. With an extensive history dating back thousands of years Ashwagandha has many purposes and benefits several different parts of the body.

When harvested, both the leaves and root hold the beneficial properties of Ashwagandha. The potency and health benefits come from the active ingredient within Ashwagandha called “withanolides”. Withanolides are steroids that have been shown to have a number a benefits including fighting inflammation and stress reduction. If you’re looking to add Ashwagandha to your daily routine, always pay attention to the amount of withanolides within the product. Currently the highest concentration available is 5% HPLC. Your Ashwagandha should have the highest level of withanolides. By choosing a product rich in withanolides, you are most likely to enjoy the benefits of Ashwagandha.

Here are five health benefits of Ashwagandha:

  1. Improves Thyroid Function: Ashwagandha has been shown to support people with an underactive thyroid, or hypothyroidism. Research has shown that Ashwagandha improves serum thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) and thyroxine (T4) levels. Since Ashwagandha increases thyroid function, it is not recommended for people with hyperactive thyroids.
  2. Aids in Reducing Stress, Anxiety, and Depression: Ashwagandha is known as one of the best natural remedies for reducing stress, anxiety, and depression. Ashwagandha works by reducing inflammation, balancing hormone levels, and stabilizing moods. It is comparable to commonly prescribed pharmaceutical drugs but lacks the common and sometimes discouraging side effects such as drowsiness, insomnia, loss of sexual desire, and increased appetite.
  3. Supports Adrenal Function: Ashwagandha has been shown to support adrenal function when overcoming adrenal fatigue. Adrenal fatigue is caused after exposure to long-term stress. Your adrenal glands release the hormone cortisol in response to stress. When you have long periods of stress, your body’s reaction is to produce extra cortisol to feel better. Your body is unable to continuously produce cortisol, which can lead to adrenal fatigue.
  4. Lowers Blood Sugar Levels: With the presence of phenolic compounds, like flavonoids, Ashwagandha is said to have anti-diabetic effects. These include normalizing blood sugar levels, improving insulin sensitivity, and reducing inflammatory markers.
  5. Boosts Memory and Cognitive Function: The withanolides that are found in Ashwagandha are a naturally occurring steroid that increases brain function and improves cognitive function. Researchers found that the withanolides help improve cell outgrowth, reverse behavioral deficits, decrease plaque buildup, and reduce amyloid beta burden. Ashwagandha has also been shown to improve attention, help with information processing, and overall progress mental skills.

If adding Ashwagandha to your supplements routine seems like it’d be beneficial to you, there are many options available online and in-store. You can find Ashwagandha in both capsule and powder form and easily incorporate the supplement into your diet. It is recommended to take at an increasing dosage of 750mg per day to 1,250mg with the maximum amount of withanolides, 5% HPLC. Capsules might be the best option for most people, especially if they are sensitive to smells. When translated, Ashwagandha literally means “smell of horse” which can be unappealing in powder form. If you do choose to use the powdered Ashwagandha, you can easily incorporate it with other foods and drinks.

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