Natural vs. Synthetic Vitamins

Not all vitamins are created equal. Just as whole foods are healthier than processed, natural vitamins are more beneficial than synthetic because their nutritional components are better absorbed, utilized and retained by the body. This "bio-availability" makes natural vitamins a better deal despite being more expensive. Natural vitamins are derived from food sources and contain a complex array of nutrients that are bonded to proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. They contain beneficial co-factors such as antioxidants and bioflavonoids, which are essential for better absorption and maximum utilization.

Synthetic vitamins are isolated chemicals that mirror their counterparts found in nature. Although synthesized vitamins will work if you are deficient in a particular nutrient, you will not be getting the same benefit due to the lack of bioflavonoids. Furthermore, many synthetics are derived using harsh solvents and may include coal tar derivatives, fillers and preservatives.

The most important rule when buying vitamins is to look for brands using plant or animal sources. For example, vitamins A and D are natural when derived from fish oils, vitamin B complex from yeast, and vitamin C from citrus, rose hips or acerola berries.

I advise my patients to take vitamins only to address a particular problem and not to just “cover your bases.” Save your money and eat a wide variety of fresh, minimally-processed foods instead. If you strive for 20 different whole food ingredients daily, you will be getting all the nutrition you need directly from food.

Traditional Food Pyramids

Government nutritional advice is still greatly watered down due to the effects of food industry lobbying, advertising, and co-opting of experts. The good news is that Oldways, a food issues think-tank, has developed alternative Food Pyramids based on four, centuries-old dietary traditions: Asian, Mediterranean, Latin American, and vegetarian.

Read More

Warm a Cold, Cool a Fever

When life is interrupted by sudden sneezing or a sore throat, you can easily make the following at home from common pantry items: • For common cold with runny nose, chills, head/neck ache, but no sore throat: Sweat it out with a soup of fresh ginger, scallion, cilantro, cabbage, and cayenne (high in vitamin C). Drink cinnamon stick tea (gui zhi) or fresh ginger tea (sheng jiang) with brown sugar. Avoid cold foods like salad, iced drinks and ice cream (sorry!). This is called "wind-cold" in Chinese medicine and is the most common type of cold.

For swollen sore throat, bodyache, fever and possibly a cough: Drink tea made from a Chinese herb like peppermint (bo he). Chrysanthemum tea (ju hua) is also great but you might have to make a trip to the Asian market. Keep food intake light, drink lots of fruit and veggie juices, and add honey to your tea. This is called "wind-heat" and can correspond to the flu or tonsillitis in Western parlance.

Herbs for Tummy Trouble

Does your child ever complain of a tummy ache? Try fennel (xiao hui xiang), a Chinese medicinal used to treat stomachache and colic. Make a tea by pouring boiling water over 2 tsp. of crushed fennel seeds, let cool and then drink. You can also get fennel extract from an herbal practitioner.

If Irritable Bowel Syndrome or "nervous stomach” is what troubles your child, try enteric-coated peppermint capsules such as Pepogest brand. Peppermint oil (called bo he in Chinese/Pinyin) helps ease spasms but shouldn't be used for acid reflux.

Probiotics from the refrigerated section of the health food store will also help over the short and long terms, especially if your child has had to take antibiotics, and they now even make them specifically formulated for kids.

Curious About Ayurveda?

Curious about Ayurveda, the traditional medicine of India? Discover which of the three energies (doshas) predominates in your constitution with this diagnostic test, then get balanced and maintain best health through food therapy, massage and yoga (not to mention acupuncture). Many of the questions are things you've probably never asked yourself! TEA RECIPE: Good Chai: 2 c. water; 3 peppermint teabags; 1 qt. cow or soymilk; 1 stick cinnamon; 1/4 t. ground cloves; 1 t. dry ginger; 3/4 t. ground cardamom; 1 t. black peppercorns; 2 T. honey. Pour boiling water over teabags, steep 20 mins then remove. Add milk, spices and sweetener. Heat on low for 30 mins, then strain. (From The Ayurveda Cookbook).