Vitamin D: A Must-Have Supplement in Your Dietary Arsenal

Recent health news boasts the merits of vitamin D well beyond its bone-boosting abilities. Current research links vitamin D to a host of other health benefits, such as warding off Parkinson’s disease, reducing rates of inflammatory conditions associated with heart disease and stroke, and even preventing cancer.

In fact, newer studies reveal that high levels of vitamin D can actually reduce the risk of breast cancer and inhibit the growth of existing tumors. These significant studies show strong evidence the so-called “sunshine vitamin” is a must-have supplement in your dietary arsenal. But before you pop those vitamin D pills or load up on fish, eggs, and fortified milk, be sure to know how much is enough, how much is too much, and the best way to get it into your bloodstream.

The primary physiological function of vitamin D is to maintain normal blood levels of calcium and phosphorus to help form and maintain strong bones. Vitamin D is also important for maintaining a healthy immune system. Research directly links vitamin D deficiency to a weakened immune system, which can decrease your body’s ability to fight off colds and flu, and worse, increase your risk of autoimmune diseases.

Several food sources including fish, eggs, fortified milk, and cod liver oil contain vitamin D, but diet accounts for very little of the nutrient that actually makes it into your bloodstream. Your skin also makes vitamin D from ultraviolet light, but too much sun causes skin damage and significantly increases the risk of skin cancers.

Supplementation offers the safest and most effective source of vitamin D, but not all supplements are alike. Vitamin D comes in two forms: D2 (ergocalciferol), which is synthesized by plants, and the more potent D3 (cholecalciferol), which is synthesized in the skin upon sunlight exposure. New research indicates D3 is the best form because it is three times as potent as D2 and more readily absorbed into the bloodstream. Most multi-vitamins contain too little D2 and include vitamin A, which can offset many of the benefits of vitamin D.

On the flip side, too much vitamin D can cause a dangerous buildup of calcium in the body. Although the FDA okays taking up to 2,000 international units per day, each person’s baseline level is different. Dr. Harper recommends testing vitamin D levels on an annual basis and adjusting dosage amounts as appropriate to achieve each individual’s optimum level.

Based on the mounting evidence that Vitamin D is a critical nutrient for health and fighting disease, we recommend you test your levels each year. Call our office today at 512.343.9355 to get more information about testing for this important nutrient.

Allergies, Cold or Flu?

Seasonal allergies make millions of Americans miserable each year, especially those of us who live in Texas. Allergic symptoms, caused by a rapid release of histamine from allergic cells in your body called mast cells, lead to nasal discharge, itchy and watery eyes, sore throat, cough, and headaches. Even though you may be prone to allergies, how do you know when your symptoms are caused by allergens rather than a cold or the flu? These three ailments share many of the same symptoms, so here’s a quick guide that may help you ferret out the nasty culprit.

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Typical Symptoms

Allergies—Triggered by exposure to an allergen such as pollen or pet dander; not contagious. Itchy, watery eyes; sneezing; runny, itchy, and/or stuffed up nose (clear mucus); headaches; cough; sore throat.
Cold—Easily spread from person to person by contact and commonly touched objects like door handles. Runny or stuffy nose (discharge becomes thicker and yellow or green as cold progresses); itchy or sore throat; cough; congestion; slight body aches; sneezing; watery eyes; low-grade fever; mild fatigue. Usually develops gradually.
Influenza—Easily spread from person to person by contact, commonly touched objects, and air via coughing, sneezing, or talking. Runny nose; sneezing; sore throat; chills and sweats; fever over 101F in adults and often higher in children; headache; dry cough; aches and pains, especially in back, arms, and legs; fatigue and weakness; nasal congestion; loss of appetite; diarrhea and vomiting in children. Usually develops suddenly.

Ways to Relieve Allergies

Medications including antihistamines, decongestants, and corticosteroids may relieve symptoms, but they also can cause significant side effects. Antihistamines block the effects of histamine from mast cells but can cause drowsiness, dry mouth, blurred vision, and constipation, and antihistamines have been associated with weight gain. Oral corticosteroids reduce inflammation, but if taken for more than three or four weeks they can cause unhealthy side effects including a weakened immune system. Fortunately, Nutritional Medicine Associates offers three safe and effective nutritional products for allergy relief: Quercetin (D-Hist), MSM, and Petadolex. These products have been clinically proven to provide allergy symptom relief without the annoying and often times unhealthy side effects.

Ways to Ward Off Colds & Flu

Most adults are likely to catch a common cold two to four times a year. The number is much greater for children, who are likely to catch a cold as many as six to 10 times annually. Anyone can get the flu, but young children, older adults, and those who have weakened immune systems are more vulnerable. As Benjamin Franklin so astutely advised, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Here are several practical steps to help you stay healthy and ward off colds and flu.

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth to reduce the spread of germs.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet.
  • Get seven to eight hours of sleep each night.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
  • Use an immune boosting product like Epicor to keep your body strong and resistant to infection especially during months where colds and flu are common or when your immune system is over worked from things like stress or travel.

A Sweet by Any Other Name

The average American eats about 130 pounds of sugar each year, which adds up to 25% of total calories per day or 40 teaspoons. And the more sugar we eat, the more we want. It’s bad enough that excessive sugar causes us to pack on extra pounds, but now many researchers blame sugar as a causative factor in a wide range of degenerative diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Because sugar comes in many different varieties, it’s important to learn to recognize some of its disguises by name.

  • Sucrose
  • Dextrose
  • Fructose
  • High fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
  • Maltose
  • Lactose
  • Honey
  • Maple syrup
  • Sucanat
  • Cane sugar
  • Barley malt
  • Concentrated fruit juice
  • Rice syrup
  • Molasses
  • Invert sugar
  • Tapioca
  • Corn sweeteners
  • Maltodextrin

Looking for a natural and safe sugar substitute? Dr. Harper recommends using the natural sweetener xylitol because it tastes about as sweet as sugar but doesn’t raise insulin or blood sugar levels. Xylitol is extracted from the fibers of fruits and vegetables and contains about half the calories of sugar. With no aftertaste, it’s a sweet alternative to higher calorie sugars and dangerous artificial sweeteners.

Did You Know?

Eating a mushroom a day may help keep the doctor away. Despite the funky appearance of these funny-looking fungi, mushrooms manage to provide a mighty impact on your health. They are packed with stress-fighting B vitamins, phytonutrients, potassium, and zinc, which help boost neurological function and maintain your body’s immune system.

Most varieties of these earthly angels contain high amounts of antioxidants such as selenium and lentinan, which provide antiviral and antimicrobial benefits and are considered effective cancer-fighting agents. Some mushroom types including the Asian food favorite—the shiitake—help lower cholesterol and blood pressure by removing lipids from blood and helping to block the secretion of LDL cholesterol.

Given the wonderful health benefits of these woody little wonders, why not serve them up regularly in a soup, salad, or sandwich? Having a fungus among us each day just might keep the doctor away!

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