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FOUNDATIONAL HEALTHby Dave Foreman
Beginning a new year means we have the opportunity to start over. I am an avid golfer, and one thing that I realize on the golf course is that if I have a bad front nine, there is always another nine holes on which to redeem myself. Well, the front nine is over and we are beginning the back nine. You can either choose to forget what is in the past and move forward…or…swallowing past poor decisions, and be stuck there forever. In the past, I have written articles on New Year’s resolutions, setting and achieving goals and kicking bad habits. My newfound focus is to look at the positive and ignore the negative. This year, I vow to help you develop a strong foundation of knowledge that leads you to better health. Even Dave Foreman (aka the Herbal Pharmacist) has things he needs to change to improve his lifestyle. I want to encourage you to join me in the daily fight against poor lifestyle choices that lead to disease and unhappiness. I pray that you get encouragement and the wisdom you need to eliminate your health issues and prevent others from occurring.
Where do we begin?
If you look back to my series “4 Steps to Building a Healthier You” (found on vitaminshoppe.com) there are pieces of the answer. Even though that series seemed like the answer to my question, I realized through speaking with you at my seminars that the series wasn’t the answer you were seeking. Here is my recent revelation: in order to build a stronger and healthier you, we need to dig a deep foundation and make sure your “house” is built on rock (not sand). If a storm comes along and your “house” is built on a weak foundation (sand), it will be washed away. For many of you who read my newsletter faithfully, this may mean a complete overhaul of the supplements that you are taking.
Too often, I meet people who are taking an abundance of supplements and don’t even remember why they are taking them. If you have been involved in natural health for several years, you probably have an arsenal of supplements stashed somewhere in your home. The list of what you take slowly increases as you learn of the “newest, latest, greatest” supplement. Out of paranoia, or to keep up with the Jones’, you add another pill to your daily regimen. After several years, you end up with 10-20 bottles of supplements and still haven’t achieved the health you are so desperately seeking. Why? You built your house on sand and not a strong foundation. Taking supplements just because we hear they are good for us is not a good place to begin. The following program is a revised version of my Step 1 of “Building a Healthier You”. This is the rock on which you need to build your house. As far as I am concerned, these supplements are non-negotiable, and should be used by everyone, regardless of age or health.
The reasons are endless as to why we need a multivitamin: foods are often low in nutrients for many reasons. They may be picked before ripening, ravaged by pesticides, victims of over-farming, etc. I asked a guest on my radio program what nutrient he thought was the most important to take. His answer was "the one you are missing." This is an awesome example of why we need to take a good multivitamin. A multivitamin won’t eliminate your health challenge, but taking a multivitamin may prevent one. Science continues to prove that prolonged nutrient depletions lead to disease. Taking a multivitamin may be the biggest thing you can do to prevent disease(s) from entering your body. Your multivitamin should contain a little bit of everything to help make up for what might be "missing" from your daily diet.
When it comes to what type of multivitamin to take, I prefer cultured/whole food vitamins. Companies such as Vitamin Shoppe, Garden of Life and New Chapter are just a few of the great companies that make whole food vitamins. I prefer whole food nutrients because our bodies are designed to get our nutrients from food, NOT from crushed rock or substances synthesized in a laboratory. If we were designed to get our nutrients this way, then we would be outside nibbling on the sidewalk to get our calcium (limestone is calcium carbonate). When we get our nutrients from a food source, they are better digested, better absorbed (get into your blood stream better) and better utilized by the body (the body doesn’t have to figure out what it is because it is already in the form it needs to be).
The next best thing to eating whole foods is using foods sourced from nature. Obtaining nutrients from natural sources (plant-sourced inmost cases) is another great way to supplement your everyday diet. Science has shown us for years that natural vitamins are a much better alternative to synthetic. Again, natural nutrients are more easily digested, absorbed and utilized by the body than their synthetic counterparts. The key point here is that we ALL need to use a multivitamin, whether it is whole food or natural, just take one!
In addition to using a whole-food multi, you should also use one that is designed for who you are: men should use a man’s vitamin; women should use a woman’s vitamin. One size does not fit all when it comes to multivitamins. The nutritional needs of a woman are different than that of a man.We can get (and should) more specific and buy a multivitamin for our age too. The nutritional needs of a woman who has gone through menopause are different than one who has not. (Post-menopausal women usually don’t require iron in their supplement, whereas a woman who still has a monthly period does). My nutritional needs (I am a 46-year-old male) are different from those of my 14 year old son. Why would we want to take the same multivitamin?
Capsules, Tablets or Liquids?
Truthful answer: It doesn’t matter as long as it is dissolved or broken down prior to leaving the stomach. This was great marketing for the liquid suppliers in the past, but I believe if you are purchasing yourmultivitamin at the Vitamin Shoppe this should not be a concern. If you take your multivitamin with a small meal or larger, the stomach acid and movement of your digestive system will break down your supplement in plenty of time to be absorbed fromyour small intestine later on.
Antioxidants are of major importance when it comes to reducing our body's risk for disease caused by free radical damage. Free radicals come from many sources. Some are produced by the body as byproducts of natural processes; some come from toxins in our food, air and water. Free radical damage is now linked to most of the major health challenges that we face. Free radicals can have a negative impact on any cell or organ in your body: heart, lungs, eyes, skin, liver, bones, etc. We use antioxidants to help the body neutralize free radicals and hopefully keep us from having to face these health challenges. With regard to picking your antioxidant, I recommend using either a blend (all in one bottle), or buying multiple individual antioxidants, since it takes more than one to get the job done.
Before you go crazy buying all of the antioxidants known to man, why not start by finding out which antioxidants address the health issue(s) you have or don’t want to get. This requires a little homework. In order to find out what supplements are considered good for your health challenge, you may need to use the help of your friendly Vitamin Shoppe Health Enthusiast (store associate). Use the references available on vitaminshoppe.com or the books available in the stores to find out what ingredients are good for your situation. Then, find out which of these nutrients are considered antioxidants. Make a list of these antioxidants and then either search for a combination formula that contains a majority of your lists or purchase several of these nutrients separately and make your own antioxidant cocktail. For example, it's widely known that bone and joint health are supported by these antioxidants:
turmeric, ginger, cayenne, vitamin E and zinc. If joint flexibility is my special need, I would look for a combination antioxidant formula which contained as many of these ingredients as possible. In most cases you won't find a formula that contains every ingredient on your list, but if you can find one that comes close, you are more likely to get the results you want. If you have multiple special needs (health issues that you are trying to treat or prevent), I suggest you make a grid like the one below to find the best combination product for your multiple needs. You can easily draw this on a piece of lined paper. The idea with the grid is to write down the known antioxidants for your special need(s). This grid is for a person with both high blood sugar and macular degeneration. I highlighted in blue the antioxidants that are beneficial to both of this person's special needs. Your objective, if you were this person, would be to find an antioxidant combination that contains the majority of the antioxidants with both health issues in common (in blue). The homework part of this is to first research your health challenge and make the grid. Then, you need to play "spin the bottle" (not the game from when you were a child). In other words, you need to read the supplement facts panel on the side or back of the bottles and see which product meets or exceeds your needs. Example: The Vitamin Shoppe's Occu-Plus.
Omega-3s (Fish Oil, Chia or Flaxseed)
Omega-3s are also referred to as EFAs (Essential Fatty Acids). They are called essential because your body cannot make them, and therefore they need to come from the diet. I believe that fish-sourced EFAs are best (Read my past newsletter article "The Real Deal Behind Fats" on vitaminshoppe.com) to find out why. Fish oil is high in both EPA and DHA, which science has shown have therapeutic benefits in areas including: rheumatoid arthritis, high blood triglycerides, high blood pressure, cardiac arrhythmia, infant brain development and cancer. The list is endless! It is because of benefits with these health challenges that I am including them in my foundational health program. I used to preach just fish oil, but recently I have changed my tune. I now believe in getting my omega-3s from both fish and plant sources. The omega-3s in fish are different than those found in the plant kingdom. In my home, we use chia seeds to get our ALA (one of the Omega-3s). We sprinkle a scoopful on our salads at night and get 3000mg ofOmega-3s in one serving. If I don’t have a salad, I will often sprinkle the seeds (no grinding required) on something else in my meal.
Using both a fish source and a plant source for your Omega-3s will assure you that you are getting a good balance of the essential fatty acids required to build your house on.
Probiotics are friendly, life-promoting bacteria naturally found in the digestive system. They are essential to the digestive process, as we need them to help break down our foods and supplements into the micro-particles necessary for absorption. Probiotics serve two main functions: to aid digestion and to support your immune system. Without an abundance of these good bacteria, you may expose yourself to diseases caused by yeast, fungus, parasites and pathogenic bacteria. Even worse, you may become nutrient-deficient, which over time can lead to very serious health challenges. By taking a good, broad-spectrum probiotic, you are replacing the friendly bacteria needed to maintain great overall health (not just digestive health). Even if you are eating a great diet and taking the best supplements, if you aren’t digesting them fully (aided by probiotics), you are wasting your money.
As you can see, there are four areas to focus on when building your supplement foundation. Just like in a big construction project, the stronger the foundation, the better the finished structure. The bigger the building, the deeper and more reinforced the foundation will be. If you want to have the strongest possible body, then you need to focus on building a strong foundation. Keeping my analogy of building a strong foundation, your homebuilder wouldn’t just pour rock in the trench for your home’s foundation. They would use rock, concrete and in some cases rebar. The more we can use to support our structure, the better.
My reason for this change in position on Omega-3s is due to my own increased knowledge. To truly be healthy, we need to have balance in our life. Focusing only on EPA and DHA may leave my body open to other forms of disease. Incorporating ALA (found only in plant source foods) will as sure me (you too) that I won’t be missing a nutrient critical for my everyday health.