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How to choose quality dietary supplements

If you are a regular consumer of dietary supplements, you’ve likely seen the action taken by the New York Attorney General took against prominent retailers for selling inauthentic herbal supplements. Four national retailers — GNC, Target, Walgreens, and WalMart — all received cease and desist notifications demanding that the retailers “desist engaging in the sale of adulterated and/or mislabeled herbal dietary supplements.” While this action took place in February 2015, the news is still spreading wildly among supplement users and being brandished by those opposed to supplements.

Those opposed to supplements have used this action to decry all supplements as worthless and even harmful. Yet, the benefits dietary supplements provide to today’s stress-laden, nutrient-starved, and pollution-sucking human population has never been more necessary.

While industrialized countries like the United States are not facing true famines like some third world countries, they are indeed experiencing starvation and a nutrient famine. Today’s fast foods, boxed convenience foods, genetically modified crops, and sugary beverages are little more than empty calories — and sometimes introduce harmful substances into the body to boot — devoid of the nutrition your body needs to operate at its best. These “foods” devoid of nutrients leave the cells starved of key nutrients, leading to inefficient function of vital body systems.

This makes dietary supplements that supply missing nutrients and support cellular and body systems function critical to overall well-being. While they are not meant to replace eating better — that’s why they are called supplements, not replacements — they can complement eating better. One key is that these supplements must be derived from whole foods or herbs that the body readily recognizes and utilizes to encourage optimal function of key body systems. Synthetic nutrition, vitamins, and minerals — like that perfect 25 percent of vitamins and minerals found on cereal boxes — added to foods or masquerading as a dietary supplement cannot replace whole nutritious foods and supplements.

So, how does one choose a quality supplement that is authentic, pure, and unadulterated? Here are five tips to choosing a quality dietary supplement:

NSF certification. Look for supplements with the NSF certification on the label. NSF International is a respected and recognized third-party certifier of dietary supplements that ensures the capsule-1079838_1920retailers comply with strict standards and procedures. Basically, the NSF certification on the label means that the product has been tested and met or exceeded standards for purity, quality and that what is on the label is in the product and nothing more. Most importantly, NSF certification involves regular inspections and re-testing of products to ensure that the retailer continues to meet high-quality standards.

United States Pharmacopeia. Review the label for USP certification. The USP is a non-profit scientific organization that sets standards for potency, quality, authenticity, and purity of medicines, food ingredients, and dietary supplements. The widely recognized standards set by the USP are used by more than 140 countries globally and reduce the introduction of contaminants and adulterants in dietary supplements.

FDA tainted dietary supplements list. Check the FDA list of tainted supplements before purchasing. The United States Food and Drug Administration maintains a list of some of the dietary supplements that have been found to contain potentially harmful hidden ingredients or are considered hazardous to human health. Check the list regularly to avoid purchasing fraudulent and harmful products.

Good Manufacturing Practices. Buy supplements from a company that follows the current GMPs. The GMPs are a system designed to ensure that products — in this case, dietary supplements — are consistently produced and controlled according to established quality standards. These standards include all aspects of production such as raw materials, facilities, equipment, and the training and hygiene of staff.

Scientific research, evidence in support of the supplement. Look for reliable evidence that the supplement you intend to purchase has a proven benefit in scientific research. PubMed — the National Institutes of Health (NIH) database — is a great resource to look for research and evidence. Another option it to ask the retailer for any published studies that support the efficacy and safety of the supplement you want to buy.

To learn more about the best forms of vitamins and minerals, as well as optimal doses, see The Doctor’s Guide to Surviving When Modern Medicine Fails

When to take your probiotic supplement to maximize effectivenss

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To many it probably seems counter-intuitive to intentionally introduce live bacteria into the human body. Bacteria causes disease, right? So, who would want to willingly introduce bacteria into their body? The reality is that trillions of bacteria — some harmful, some beneficial to human health — live in and on the human body.

These beneficial bacteria are known as probiotics, and the growing body of evidences suggests that the balance of healthy to harmful bacteria within the human gut is critical to human health. Research suggests that probiotics influence immunity, digestive health, inflammation, allergies, mood, and nutritional status. Indeed, probiotics aid the absorption of calcium, fats, B vitamins, proteins, and phosphorus. To learn more about how these tiny organisms benefit human health, and what the therapeutic dosage is, read pages 99-100 of my book The Doctor’s Guide to Surviving When Modern Medicine Fails.

Now, the question I am frequently asked — when is the best time to take a probiotic supplement. If you search the internet for this answer you are likely to get a number of varying opinions and answers. Some say to take them on an empty stomach, some at night, others in the morning, and still others say they must be taken with food. So, what is the right answer?

As usual I looked to what science tells us about this question and applied the evidence to come to my conclusion. To answer this question it is first important to understand that probiotics are living organisms that must remain viable in order to provide a benefit. They must also be able to survive the acidic environment of the stomach and then colonize the intestines.

Research suggests that probiotics are able to survive a stomach with a pH of 3 or higher. Unfortunately, the stomach has an average pH of 1-3 when empty, but it usually remains at a pH of 2 — too low for probiotics to survive. However, when food is in the stomach the pH rises as high as 4 or 5 pH, which is ideal for probiotic survival. This helps us answer part of our question — that it is best to take a probiotic with a meal.

Now, to the timing debate. Is it better to take your probiotic in the morning or at night? Again, this requires a knowledge of how a meal affects stomach acidity (or pH). One study evaluated the effect of meals on stomach acidity and found that breakfast increases stomach pH to 2.5 to 3, whereas a high-fat dinner raised the pH to between 4.0 and 4.9. Interestingly, a spicy lunch induced a stomach pH of 3.0 to 4.2. The study authors concluded that a fatty meal had the greatest buffering effect on stomach acidity. That tells us that taking your probiotic with dinner may be best — as long as it includes some healthy fat.

So, now we have a solid evidence-based answer as to when we should take our probiotic to maximize survival and effectiveness. The best time to take your probiotic supplement is with a meal and at dinner time, with some healthy fat.

Now, one last thing before we leave the subject of probiotics. People are often concerned about how antibiotic medications alter intestinal balance of bacteria and if natural antimicrobials like essential oils harm friendly bacteria. It is unquestionable that antibiotics severely disrupt gut balance, and some researchers believe this alteration is permanent. Researchers have also investigated the effects of antimicrobial essential oils on probiotics and found some interesting conclusions. To discover these conclusions refer to pages 45 and 46 of Evidence-Based Essential Oil Therapy.

The Doctors Guide to Surviving When Modern Medicine Fails-smCover_EvidenceBasedEssentialOilTherapy