Choosing the Best Fish Oil Supplement

choose-the-best-fish_oilIf you’re reading this post, I’m assuming that you’re already familiar with all the health benefits that can be derived from taking fish oil (improved cardiovascular health, lower blood-triglyceride level, reduction of arthritis symptoms, reduced inflammation, reduced symptoms of some mental illnesses, reduced symptoms of Alzheimer’s, healthier skin, etc). The primary reason that fish oil has these effects is because it’s high in Long-Chain Omega-3 Fatty Acids: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and doposapentaenoic acid (DPA). These essential fatty acids (meaning your body can’t produce them), cause a cascade of beneficial anti-inflammatory (or mildly inflammatory) actions in the body. In order to obtain their benefits, however, they must be consumed in a high amount, because they compete for use by the body with Omega-6 fatty acids. Most americans consume far too many omega-6 fatty acids, which cause negative inflammatory response in the body (vasoconstriction, allergies, Reactive Oxygen Species, etc) and not enough omega-3 fatty acids. Therefore, while many supplements out there advertise having Omega-3s, Omega-6s, and Omega-9s, it’s really only Omega-3s that are needed as a supplement in our diets. It should also be noted that Omega-3s from fish are far more potent and effective in the body than the type of Omega-3 obtained from flax seeds or walnuts (called ALA), because it doesn’t have to be converted to the forms useable by the body. With that in mind, here are things to look for when choosing a fish oil supplement for your daily regimen:

1) High-potency: You need something that is mostly Omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA). Most of the fish oil supplements on the market contain only 30% of Omega-3s per capsule, about 300 mg per 1,000 mg of fish oil. In order to obtain the amount of Omega-3s that provide any real benefit (thought by many to be about 2,500 mg per day), you would have to take 8-9 capsules of market-grade fish oil. The thing is, you would also be consuming over 5,000 mg of others types of fats from the fish that can cause gastrointestinal irritation. You also place yourself at a higher risk for consuming too many toxins. Find a fish oil supplement that is at least 60% EPA and DHA per serving, and take a minimum of 2,500 mg of omega-3s per day. The FDA recognizes 3,000 mg per day as generally safe for consumption (of course always consult your personal doctor before starting any new supplement). FIsh oil can be found in both capsule and liquid form. If you don’t like taking large capsules, liquid form might be better for you. There are products available that provide over 2,500 mg of Omega-3 in a one teaspoon serving.

2) Purity: Though not as much of a problem any more, when fish oil supplements first came out on the market many of them weren’t filtered well for mercury, arsenic, dioxins, or PCBs. Due to consumer awareness, today most fish oils are manufactured using a high level of filtration, but it’s still important to check. Make sure the label clearly lists the chemicals the fish oil was filtered for and to what level they were removed. Dr. Sears, author of The OmegaRx Zone, recommends the following levels:

Mercury: less the 10 parts per billion

PCBs: less than 30 parts per billion

Dioxins: less than 1 part per trillion

These amounts are written as follows:

1 ppm = 1 mg/L =

1/1 million = 0.000001

1 ppb = 1 µg/L =

1/1 billion = 0.000000001

Visit this article for a helpful explanation of PPB and PPM.

3) Fish type: If the fish oil is purified from contaminants, the type of fish it comes from really isn’t that important. Some companies use fish type (such as salmon) as a marketing strategy, but it might just increase your cost. Nevertheless, it may be a good idea to stick to oil that comes from fish that are lower on the food chain (sardines, mackerels, anchovies, salmon, herring), as they accumulate fewer amounts of toxins than larger fish (like shark and tuna). Nearly any fish oil produced for Omega-3 fatty acids is derived from cold-water, ocean fish. Cold-water fish store Omega-3s because they consume high amounts of the algae that make it. Farm-fished, by contrast, usually aren’t fed high quantities of expensive algae and, therefore, aren’t as high in Omega-3s.

The bottom line is that fish oil with at least 60% Omega-3s (EPA/DHA) and filtered for toxins is one of the most important supplements you could add to your daily routine. The Western diet is drastically short on cold water fish and the grass-fed meats that are high in these important nutrients. Our bodies thrive on the right balance of essential fats, but we’ve thrown that balance off by consuming refined oils (canola, corn, soy) that are too high in Omega-6s. Cut out the refined oils, eat more meats that thrive in God’s creation (especially cold-water fish), and add some fish oil to your diet to help your body function at it’s optimal state.

Originally posted 2012-11-09 22:40:00.

Health Benefits of Turmeric

The health benefits of turmeric have been known for thousands of years. Indeed, this pungent spice has long been used throughout Europe, Asia and Africa to treat maladies ranging from wounds to cancer. Turmeric may just be familiar to you as that bright-yellow spice that bestows an earthy, peppery flavor to your rice dishes or some of your favorite condiments, but the true benefits of turmeric lie in the good things it can do for your long-term health. Read on to learn about the health benefits of turmeric and why this aromatic spice can pep up more than a few dishes — can actually make you feel better and help you live longer, too! 

Longer life. Turmeric contains powerful antioxidant compounds, referred to as curcuminoids, that are known to “scavenge” free radicals (molecules that damage cells and can result in cell death). Antioxidants help promote good cellular health, which can reduce the spread of diseases and keep you healthier longer, thereby contributing to improved mental and physical well-being and longevity.

Treating uveitis (eye inflammation). One preliminary study suggested that the antioxidants contained in turmeric extract may improve the symptoms of uveitis, or inflammation around the area of the iris of the eye. 

Better digestion. Turmeric has long been used as a remedy for dyspepsia, or indigestion (the uncomfortable pain, gas or bloating that comes from digestive problems). Turmeric is thought to stimulate bile secretion from the gallbladder, which aids in the digestion of food, thereby reducing the symptoms of dyspepsia.  

Reduces inflammation and osteoarthritis. The curcumin in turmeric has proven anti-inflammatory properties, which can alleviate the pain and swelling associated with inflammation. One study demonstrated that patients who used turmeric, along with other popular herbs applied in Ayurvedic medicine, a type of traditional herbal treatment used in Indian medicine, showed a reduction in joint pain and swelling, two common symptoms linked to osteoarthritis.

Fights ulcerative colitis. Curcumin’s anti-inflammatory properties may help soothe the inflammation associated with diseases that affect the bowels, such as ulcerative colitis. One preliminary study indicated that patients who took curcumin (a main constituent of turmeric), showed improved remission in cases of ulcerative colitis.

Reduced cancer risk. As previously mentioned in this article, the phytonutrient curcumin, found in turmeric, promotes longevity by scavenging free radicals. Curcumin may also reduce cancer risk by preventing cells from mutating as a result of damage by free radicals. Cell mutation can lead to the spread of malignant tumors, or cancer. Antioxidants, such as those found in turmeric, have been proven to play a role in cancer risk reduction.

The health benefits of turmeric make this spice a must-have as both a flavorful addition to dishes and a powerful extract to help you live a healthier life. Consume no more than 3 turmeric (curcumin) powdered capsules per day, or use as a tincture of no more than 30 drops 4 times a day.  Turmeric makes it easy to add zest to your condiments and food while adding good health to your future!

 References for “Health Benefits of Turmeric:”

Photo credit: manabray

Originally posted 2014-01-08 12:56:52.

Health Benefits of Ginger

The health benefits of ginger may not be as well known to you as its spicy taste, which can pep up everything from salads to casseroles. This strong-flavored root has been used for thousands of years, and was once a popular remedy for everything from nausea to bronchitis. Ginger is still one of the most popular spices in use today, for both its food-boosting flavor and its amazing health-boosting side effects. Here are a few of the health benefits of ginger:

Ginger provides health benefits during pregnancy: Morning sickness, as any expecting mom knows, can strike any time of day and add misery to what should be a magical, joyous time. Research has shown that ingesting ginger can treat morning sickness, or the nausea and vomiting that can occur during a pregnant women’s first trimester. Consume 1g of ginger daily to alleviate the symptoms of morning sickness.

Ginger for an upset stomach: When it comes to treating nausea, ginger isn’t just for expecting moms! Studies indicate that children and adults can benefit from the nausea and upset stomach reducing effects of ginger. Consult with a physician before treating upset stomach in children under 2-years-old with ginger to ensure you administer the proper dosage. Adults may take 1g of ginger daily to alleviate upset stomach and nausea.

Ginger may provide relief for osteoarthritis: If you are suffering from pain and swelling caused by arthritis inflammation, ginger may provide some safe and natural relief. Research has shown that ginger’s anti-inflammatory compounds, called gingerols, can alleviate inflammation. Take 250 mg of ginger 4 times a day to treat osteoarthritis symptoms.

Ginger to relieve symptoms of  Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS): Irritable bowel syndrome, a condition that causes unusual contractions in your large intestine that can lead to diarrhea, constipation, pain and gassiness, has affected between 10 – 20 percent of the population at some point. Studies have shown that using ginger as a herbal supplement can treat the symptoms of IBS. Take 1g of ginger daily for IBS relief.

Health benefits of ginger for motion sickness: Some studies indicate that powdered ginger may help alleviate motion sickness, or a state of dizziness and nausea caused by a disruption of a person’s balance or equilibrium, often brought about by travel on a plane, boat or car. Do not exceed 4 g of powdered ginger daily to treat motion sickness.

Ginger for heart disease: Some preliminary studies suggest that ginger may help prevent blood from clotting and help lower cholesterol, both of which can reduce your risk of heart disease. Ask a doctor before taking ginger as a natural treatment for heart disease.

Health benefits of ginger for digestion: The next time you have that unpleasant abdominal discomfort after a large or spicy meal, just try some ginger. Studies have shown that ginger can be used to effectively treat the symptoms of indigestion and sooth your stomach. Take 1g of ginger daily to alleviate indigestion. 

Enjoy the health benefits of ginger by consuming this spicy root as an extract, in capsule form or as a tea. Consult your doctor before using ginger as a natural treatment for serious health conditions. You can also enjoy ginger in common foods and drinks like ginger ale, gingerbread, and just in time for the holiday season, gingerbread houses! A health-booster and amazing flavoring for sweets, soups, teas and many recipes, ginger is a beneficial, aromatic treat any time of year.

 Sources for “Health Benefits of Ginger:” 

Originally posted 2013-12-05 12:18:43.

The Benefits of Using Ghee (Clarified Butter)

 Ghee and Its Benefits: When you think of butter, you probably picture that rich, creamy medium you cook many of your favorite meals in; but not all butter looks, acts or tastes the same. Ghee or clarified butter, for example, is what you get when you remove the water and the milk solids, resulting in a pure butterfat. When butter is cooked long enough for the water in the butter to completely evaporate and for the milk solids to brown and produce a nutty flavor, you get a butter product called ghee. Ghee has a long history in Indian culture-and many other parts of the world!-for its use not only in meal preparation, but in holistic remedies as well. If you’ve never tried ghee, you may want to consider it for one of these delicious or healthy applications: 

Use ghee to fight inflammation: Ghee has been shown to reduce leukotriene secretion and reduce prostaglandin. Prostaglandin levels and leukotriene secretion both play a role in inflammation, which can not only lead to unpleasant physical reactions (redness, swelling, itchiness, etc.), but it can also accelerate the aging process.

Use ghee if you’re lactose or casein intolerant: The method of clarifying butter to turn it into ghee removes most of the lactose and casein contained in butter. Many of those who are lactose or casein intolerant can enjoy ghee without any negative reactions.  

Use ghee for a healthier butter choice: Although saturated fats, commonly found in butter products, should be consumed in moderation, ghee butter has been linked to decreased cholesterol levels in lab trials. Other butter products, such as margarine, are hydrogenated and have been shown to contribute to increased cholesterol levels, a leading cause in heart disease.

Use ghee to boost your daily dose of antioxidants: Ghee contains carotenoids and vitamins A and E. These antioxidants fight free radicals and promote skin cell growth, good vision and immune system health, as well as reduce the risk of certain cancers and heart disease. 

Use ghee to boost your micronutrient intake: Ghee is excellent source of vitamin K2 and CLA,  nutrients that aren’t found in very many other foods. Vitamin K2 may help prevent calcification of the arteries by activating the body’s system that removes calcium from the arteries to deposit it where it’s supposed to be, in the bones. Then there’s CLA, which is a special kind of fat that may provide anti-oxidant benefits and help promote a healthy metabolism.  

Use ghee to increase the effectiveness of some herbs: Ghee helps transport the medicinal properties of some herbs, when ingested, to organs and cells. Some herb mixtures used in Ayurveda (the Hindu system of holistic medicine) that contain ghee have been shown to enhance memory, increase the body’s wound healing ability and display anticonvulsant and hepatoprotective (liver-protective) properties.

Use ghee for flavor: Ghee’s nutty and intense flavor gives it a unique flair in the world of butters. Enjoy ghee on your popcorn without worrying about the soggy factor-the lack of water in ghee keeps the kernels dry! Rice and vegetables also complement ghee’s flavor and texture well, but you can try ghee on any food in your plant-based diet for a strong kick of buttery, nutty sweetness!

Use ghee for cooking: Ghee has a high smoke point, meaning it can be cooked at high temperatures without burning. Use ghee to fry or sauté your favorite foods to produce flavorful dishes, sans the singe!

The next time you’re planning a meal, you may want to walk past the margarine and vegetable oil in the grocery aisles and opt for ghee instead. This exotic butter will spice up your foods and add a little extra health to your diet!

References: University of Kansas Medical Center (inflammation); PubMed

Originally posted 2013-10-22 10:33:48.

Benefits of Ice Baths (Cold Water Immersion Therapy)

As a standard recovery technique used heavily by athletes the world over, the ice bath is regarded as an effective way to get the body ready for its next challenge. If you are like me, you may not be thrilled at the prospect of immersing your body in excruciatingly cold water. Wouldn’t a warm bath and a hot cup of coffee bring just as much benefit? Admittedly, it is easy to be reticent when considering the notion of generalized icing (as opposed to isolated icing – see my previous article on the Benefits of Icing). It certainly is not the most comfortable or convenient option. But the research indicates the body has a very specific response to cold water immersion and that ice baths may be beneficial.

The Body and Cold Water Immersion (CWI)

 An ice bath can help enhance the speed and comprehensiveness of your recovery. Consider the following post-workout benefits:

  • Facilitating Fluid Transport – The immediate effect of Cold Water Immersion on the body is vasoconstriction, or the shunting of blood flow from extremities to interior portions of the body. The fluid transported away from extremities includes left-over waste fluid, which left alone would fester in muscle tissue, slowing recovery and even causing muscle soreness. Immediately following Cold Water Immersion, fresh blood free of waste is circulated throughout the extremities, enhancing recovery and preventing delayed onset muscle soreness.
  • Aiding Nervous System Function – Intense physical activity disturbs the “rest and digest” component of the nervous system, also known at the Parasympathetic Nervous System. This disturbed function continues in the minutes immediately following a workout, creating an overall state of flux in the body’s systems. Studies show that Cold Water Immersion is a boon to to Parasympathetic function, acting as a kick-starter in the minutes following a workout. And since the Parasympathetic Nervous System controls the process of recovery, this speeds the body’s recuperation from intense activity.

Tips for Incorporating Cold Water Immersion (CWI)

Taking an ice bath is not something you would want to do every day, but it can be a great way to boost your readiness if you have two bouts of intense activity planned very close together. Below are some ideas for working an ice bath into your post-exercise routine.

  • Immediacy – For best results, you will want to take the bath while your body is still warm. If your body has already cooled, the benefits of CWI will be lost.
  • Brevity – While it may be uncomfortable to take an ice bath longer than 15 minutes, it can also be dangerous. Extended exposure to frigid water can increase chances of hypothermia and frostbite.

Ice baths can be helpful, depending on your fitness level and goals. It is recommended that you check with your doctor before trying this or other methods for post-workout recovery.

References: “Effect of cold water immersion on postexercise parasympathetic reactivation,” M. Buchheit , J. J. Peiffer , C. R. Abbiss , P. B. Laursen, American Journal of Physiology

Originally posted 2013-10-02 16:38:00.

The Benefits of Icing and Best Practices

the benefits of icing physiological techniques swelling injuries

Are those weekend bouts of exercise leaving your body with aches and pains? Are you taking any steps to prepare your body for your next workout session? Post-workout icing is an effective and under-utilized method for reducing inflammation, soreness, and enhancing the healing process. If you’re not consistently icing, take  time to consider your body’s positive response to and the overall benefits of icing. Then use the strategies at the end of this article to get the most from your icing practice.

 Physiological Response

How does the body react to temperature therapy at the cellular level?

  • Cellular Response – At a fundamental level, muscles exposed to high degrees of resistance and pressure will develop microtears, which is also called microtrauma. Severe muscle soreness and connective tissue strains can cause cellular damage. In this case, cell membranes are breached, leaving cells damaged and in need of recovery. Cellular function itself is inhibited, and fluids accumulate in the cell and surrounding tissue, further impeding the healing process. Reducing the cell temperature through ice application relieves the cell’s burden to process and eliminate fluid, thus promoting cellular efficiency and healing.
  • Reduction of Inflammation and Muscle Spasms – In a more general sense, larger injured areas receive an augmented flow of blood, which in turn can increase swelling and cause further inflammation. Nerves will also become increasingly sensitive, and thus increase the likelihood of painful spasms and contractions. Applying cold pressure to the injury site causes blood vessels surrounding the area to constrict, inhibiting the flow of fluid and lessening the inflammatory response, muscle sensitivity, and the potential exacerbation of the injury.

 Proper Methodology

We know that icing is beneficial. But how does one go about it most effectively? To maximize your benefit, consider creating a precise plan using timing, target, and duration.

  • Timing – When it comes to icing, time is of the essence. A crucial window of time is available immediately following an injury, when the area in question is especially prone to swelling and inflammation. It’s during this window that the area is particularly responsive to an immediate and direct application of ice. Injuries that are not treated soon will inflame and swell, further irritating the area and inhibiting the healing process. One crucial thing to remember is that icing should only be a post-workout treatment. Cooling and numbing your muscles prior to physical activity can increase the chances of injury.
  • Target Area – When it comes to icing, it’s best to concentrate on one area at a time. A specific application point will give the problem area the attention it needs, reducing swelling and contributing to healing.
  • Duration – Application of ice for a protracted period of time is not only unnecessary, but can actually reverse the intended benefit of reducing inflammation. A reduction of soft tissue temperature to a great degree for a prolonged period can trigger a bodily response of blood and fluid to the injured area. Though recommendations as to duration vary, most agree that it is acceptable to ice between 10 to 20 minutes. 

Reference: Soft tissue thermodynamics before, during, and after cold pack therapy. (Enwemeka CS, Allen C, Avila P, Bina J, Konrade J, Munns S.)

Originally posted 2013-09-18 13:04:02.