Want Better Sleep? Here’s Help!

sleep remedies

I’m finding more and more information about the close relationship between sleep and overall health. I don’t know if it’s because I’m more in tune with the topic because I often have trouble sleeping or if the connection between getting a good night’s sleep and health is becoming more well known. According to experts on the subject, people who sleep well live longer, live better, and have fewer chronic diseases. So what do you do if, like me, you find yourself wide awake at 3 am more often than you’d like?

Get on a schedule

The general consensus is that you should go to sleep at the same time each night and wake up at the same time in the morning (including your days off). Sleep experts seem to agree that 10 pm is the sleep “sweet spot.” That’s because our bodies produce melatonin between 10 pm and 2 am, and we need melatonin to relax and get to sleep. Most of us need seven or eight hours of quality sleep each night.

Go into sleep mode

If you’re involved in some kind of stimulating activity just before 10 pm, the chances are slim that you’ll be sleeping during those prime melatonin-producing hours. So instead of watching TV, having a heated debate with a family member or getting some work (or homework) done after 9 pm, try something relaxing instead. Doing a bit of restorative yoga, listening to calming music and meditating are good things to try.

Sleep in the dark

This may seem obvious, but many of us do not do it. In order for your body to create melatonin, you need to sleep in as near to pitch black darkness as possible. That means the light from streetlights streaming through windows (and in my case, through skylights in my bedroom), glowing clocks, cell phones and nightlights or a television kept on while you’re trying to get to sleep are all no-nos.

And it’s not just while you are trying to fall asleep that you’ll need darkness if you want to sleep well; you’ll need it for at least two hours before you fall asleep. Of course, if you’re like most people, turning the TV off before bed or getting off the computer at night is not going to happen every night. But it turns out that if (like me) you’re that stubborn about flipping the TV off early, there are a couple of ways around it.

If you’re going to watch TV or surf  the net at night, wear sunglasses while you do it.  I learned seemingly odd tip from the Dr. Oz show, tried it the next night, and to my pleasant surprise it actually did help! According to Dr. Oz, the sunglass remedy works because certain dark lenses block out the blue light that prevents the body from producing melatonin.

Wear a sleep mask. (It’s a lot more comfortable than trying to sleep with your sunglasses on.) This may be the single best thing I ever added to my sleep routine. Credit for this idea goes to my brother!

Get help from herbs

Herbs like chamomile and valerian root can also help improve sleep. You can take them in capsule form or drink a cup of tea containing calming herbal ingredients before you go to bed. (If you drink tea, brew it well and drink only a few ounces so you won’t wake up to go to the bathroom!) When I’m feeling sleep deprived or worried that I’m going to have a restless night, I take valerian root capsules to help me stay relaxed.

Try aromatherapy

Aromatherapy works wonders for the sleep-challenged. This simple practice is my favorite trick for getting a better night’s sleep simply because I’m in awe of the tools that nature has provided in the essential oils of plants.

Science has shown that the aromas from essential oils have many remarkable properties, and one is to calm the mind, relax the body and promote sleep. Oils that are great for sleep include lavender and ylang ylang, as well as blends created just for sleep. I use “Perfect Sleep” aromatherapy blend from the Chopra Center when I wake up in the middle of the night and can’t fall back to sleep.

You can use aromatherapy oils in a diffuser that fills your bedroom with the scent through the night, or, if you don’t have a diffuser, simply dab some oil on a piece of cotton or even right inside the rim of your lower nostrils.

Sweet dreams!

I’ve tried all of these remedies, and they work for me at least 80 percent of the time (which is great, considering that at one point I was lucky if I slept through the night once a week). If you have trouble sleeping and these or other natural fixes don’t work for you, it might be worth visiting your doctor to see if you have a more serious sleep disorder that is caused by a treatable medical condition.

Valerian Root: The Sleepy Time Herb

I write a lot about herbal supplements. Obviously I can’t try every supplement I write about, but one that I have used myself is Valerian root. I use it for sleep, but I’m told that it’s also good for stress and anxiety.

What is Valerian Root?

Valerian RootValerian is a perennial plant that has a long history of use as an herbal remedy. It was used in Ancient Greece to treat digestive problems. It has also been used for centuries as a nervous system tonic and a sleep aid.

The active ingredients in Valerian root are valerenic acid and isovaleric acid, which is produced as the plant ages. Both compounds are volatile oils that are thought to work by relaxing the central nervous system and promoting sleep. In double blind studies, Valerian root has been shown to decrease the amount of time it takes for people with mild insomnia to fall asleep.

Valerian root is a sedative, so it is also used to treat anxiety and stress. In fact, it can be used for any condition related to being tense. Some people find it helpful for muscle aches and tension headaches because it acts as a muscle relaxant.

Valerian Root Side Effects and Dosage

Valerian root has few side effects. It doesn’t cause the grogginess that you might get from a prescription sleep aid or even some over the counter remedies. You can take it in capsules, tablets, tinctures or liquid extracts. I use tablets and capsules.

The maximum recommended intake of Valerian is 15 grams of plant material, which is usually about 15 to 20 drops of tincture several times daily or 450 to 500 mg of concentrated, standardized extract. Standardized extracts should contain between .5 % and 1% volatile oils.

You can also make Valerian tea by steeping 1 teaspoon of the dried root in a cup of hot water for ten minutes, and there are time-release formulas of Valerian that you can use for a sustained feeling of relaxation throughout the day. If you take Valerian for sleep, take it an hour or so before bedtime.

Of course, you should use this herb conservatively. If you have serious anxiety or insomnia, you may need to talk to your doctor. If you’re already on any kind of prescription medication, you should not combine it with Valerian or any herbal remedy without medical advice.

Using Essential Oils as Herbal Remedies: What I Learned from ACHS

essential oilsI’ve been interested in therapeutic uses of essential oils for a while now, so when I was offered the opportunity to attend a free webinar on the topic, I jumped at the chance. The event was presented by Dorene Peterson, a trained naturopath from New Zealand who is currently the president of the American College of Healthcare Sciences. I discovered this school recently while searching for places to learn about essential oils. ACHS is located in Oregon and offers accredited training in herbal medicine, holistic nutrition, aromatherapy, and other wellness topics. I signed up for their newsletter and got an email inviting me to attend a webinar, so I thought, “Why not?”

The webinar topic was “Harnessing the Herbal Powers of Essential Oils.” At first, I wasn’t exactly sure why the phrase “herbal powers” was being used to describe oils, since I’ve always thought of herbs more in terms of the stems and leaves of plants. But, of course, essential oils are also derived from plants, and they have therapeutic properties in the same way that other constituents of plants often do.

The therapeutic herbal properties of essential oils

As the webinar progressed, I was happy to see that there are many studies to back up the claims that one oil or another can be used to treat a particular problem or ailment. Of course, there’s a lot of anecdotal evidence as well. I’ve personally experienced a number of therapeutic benefits from using essential oils; ylang ylang, lime, lemongrass, frankincense, and lavender are my favorites. Lavender is apparently the most popular oil by far, which, of course, is not surprising. If you’ve used essential oils for any purpose, I’d be willing to bet you’ve had some experience with lavender. I’ve personally used it as a sleep remedy, to de-stress, and even to help reduce swelling (it sure seemed to work for me, though perhaps that particular result was just a coincidence).

Peterson went on to discuss four of the most popular oils: lavender (of course), peppermint, frankincense, and eucalyptus. Here’s her rundown on the uses of each:

Lavender (Lavendula angustifolia)

• reduces pain
• reduces anxiety
• improves sleep/reduces insomnia
• antimicrobial
• antibacterial
• antifungal

Peppermint (Mentha piperita)

• anti-carcinogenic
• helps with nausea
• reduces mental fatigue (uplifting)
• antibacterial
• antifungal

Frankincense (Boswellia carterii)

• anti-inflammatory (great for arthritis, IBS, and any other chronic disease rooted in inflammation)
• helps enhance memory

Eucalyptus (globulus & E. smithii)

• antimicrobial
• antibacterial
• enhances absorption and penetration of topical remedies

Choosing essential oils for their herbal properties

Another issue discussed during the webinar was how to choose an effective product. As Peterson pointed out, there are a lot of essential oils on the market, but in order to be therapeutically effective, certain quality standards must be present. Some oils have interesting labels like “therapeutic grade” and “all natural,” but, according to Peterson, these labels are mostly marketing tools because the terms themselves are not regulated. That doesn’t mean the products that use these labels are ineffective; it just means that the labels themselves don’t distinguish one product from another in any meaningful way.

So, I asked, what should you look for when choosing an essential oil for therapeutic use? As it turns out, there’s no simple answer to that question. The only way to ensure the quality of an essential oil is to research the product and make a decision about its quality after gathering as much information as possible. Here are some tips recommended by ACHS:

1. Find out if the oil was tested for purity (and what the results were).

Gas chromatography and mass spectrometry are the methods used to test essential oils for purity. While they are somewhat expensive tests to administer, they provide essential (no pun intended) evidence that an oil is pure (or not). You can contact a manufacturer or distributor and ask about the use of gas chromatography and mass spectrometry. Some companies provide this information on their website or as part of their marketing materials.

2. Look for the product’s Latin name and know what it means.

You don’t have to be fluent in Latin to discern which oils are therapeutically useful, but it’s important to understand that many oils have more than one variety, and the one you choose may make a significant difference in the oil’s effectiveness. For example, many lavender products are made with lavandin (Lavenula intermedia), which, according to ACHS, is not as effective for therapeutic use as true lavender (Lavendula agustifolia). When you read or hear about a study touting an essential oil’s effectiveness in treating a certain condition, make sure you know which variety of the oil was used in the study.

3. Remember that (most of the time) you get what you pay for.

We all love to save money, and it’s certainly possible to purchase good quality essential oils without emptying your wallet, but don’t expect to buy safe and effective products at bargain basement prices. Remember that quality oils must be tested; the process costs money. In addition, pure oils cost more than oils with additives and extenders. But spending a bit more for products that work can be a wise investment. In the long run, it will be a lot less expensive than prescription drugs and visits to a doctor. The bottom line is that most inexpensive essential oils have little use beyond the pleasant fragrance they may provide, so if you’re interested in health benefits, you’ll probably need to invest a bit more. But before you choose the most expensive product on the market, do some research; compare prices and ask for recommendations from health care providers who have experience with these products, and perhaps be wary of any company that claims to have the only oils worth buying.

4. Find a supplier or practitioner you can trust.

Once you find a supplier that meets the criteria we’ve discussed, you can simply return to that source for all of your essential oil needs. Many companies have rewards programs or offer free products and other incentives to regular customers, so it’s actually a good idea to have a go-to company. Just be sure to choose that company based on the quality of its products, not the cleverness of its marketing campaign. If you’re not sure you can do this on your own, ask someone who is trained in aromatherapy or contact an aromatherapy school for recommendations.

Essential oils are a true gift of nature, and there are many ways to incorporate them into your healthy, happy life. They can be used to calm the mind, help you sleep, heal the body, sanitize your home, and even to improve the health of your pets! But don’t take my word for it. First, spend some time learning for yourself. Find out as much as possible about the science behind essential oils from experienced people who know the facts so you can be sure that you’re choosing products carefully and using them appropriately. I’ll be writing more about this as I learn more myself!

 

 

 

 

 

Are Your Supplements Safe and Effective? Practical Tips For Your Health and Your Wallet

supplementsWhen I first became interested in complementary and alternative medicine, the general belief was that the Food and Drug Administration did not care much about supplements. It’s true that the government does little to regulate the use of dietary supplements. The reason is simple. Dietary supplements are classified as foods, not drugs.

I learned very little about supplements in my formal classes when I studied nutrition in the mid-nineties, and I suppose there was a good reason for that. It was not until 1994 that Congress even defined what a dietary supplement is. This occurred with a law known as the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA).

Dietary supplements are products that contain ingredients such as vitamins, minerals, herbs, botanicals, and amino acids. They may also contain enzymes, organ tissue, glandulars, and metabolites. They come in tablets, softgels, liquids, and powders. You probably know what they are.

Not Drugs or Foods

The thing that’s important about DSHEA is that it puts dietary supplements in a special category. They are not considered drugs, but they are not conventional foods either. They do fall under the umbrella of foods, but they must be specifically labeled as dietary supplements.

What’s new?

DSHEA also distinguishes between a “dietary ingredient” and a “new dietary ingredient.” This is important because the only time a manufacturer needs to inform the FDA about a new product is when the product contains a “new” dietary ingredient, that is, any ingredient that was not already being sold as a dietary supplement before October 15, 1994.

In other words, a company that makes vitamin C tablets does not need to get approval from the FDA before it makes this product. Since there’s no definitive list of “old” dietary supplements, it’s up to the manufacturer to determine whether an ingredient is new. (To use an extreme example, if you decided to market shredded paper as a dietary supplement, you’d have to clear it with the FDA first!)

Does the FDA regulate dietary supplements?

As long as there are no so-called “new dietary ingredients” in a supplement, manufacturers do not need approval from the FDA to make and sell the product. However, firms do have to register with the FDA before they can legally manufacture and market dietary supplements. For the most part, it’s up to the company that makes a supplement to do the necessary research to ensure that a product is safe and effective. Equally important is the responsibility of individual consumers to be aware of the ingredients in the products they are using and to learn as much as possible about the safety and efficacy of these ingredients.

Good practices

In 2007, the FDA published guidelines for companies to use when creating dietary supplements. According to the FDA website, “These regulations focus on practices that ensure the identity, purity, quality, strength and composition of dietary supplements.” So if you want to know how reliable and safe a product is, find out if the company follows Current Good Manufacturing Practices (sometimes abbreviated CGMP or GMP) as dictated by the FDA.

How must supplements be labeled?

The FDA requires the following information to appear all dietary supplement labels:

  • The name of the supplement, which must include a statement that it is a “supplement”
  • The name and address of the manufacturer, packer or  distributor
  • The net contents of the product
  • A “Supplement Facts” nutrition label that lists all  ingredients in the product

All ingredients in the product must be listed either on the “Supplement Facts” panel or below the panel under the heading “other ingredients.”

Who ensures the safety of dietary supplements?

The law states that manufacturers are responsible for determining the safety of their products. Since supplement companies do not need approval from the FDA to sell most products, it’s up to you to decide whether or not you trust a particular brand and product. (Before you decide whether or not this is a good thing, consider that FDA does approve prescription drugs, and it would not be a stretch to conclude that the drugs it approves are not always safe.)

So the bottom line, at least in my opinion, is that it’s up to you to find out what you’re taking, whether it’s safe, and whether it’s effective for the reason that you’re taking it. You should also be aware that while FDA does not approve supplements, it can ban the sale of supplements shown to be unsafe. Supplement manufacturers are required to submit reports of adverse side effects to FDA, but it’s much more likely that health care providers and you, the consumer, will be the ones responsible for alerting that government that there is a problem with a particular product. You can do this by filing a report with FDA yourself.

How to choose supplements

Before you get the idea that I’m discouraging the use of supplements or that I think the FDA always have everyone’s interests in mind, let me say that neither of these is necessarily the case. I do think there are many supplements have tremendous value. And there are many more that are useless and a waste of money. Hopefully, there are not too many that are downright dangerous. As far as how much I trust FDA, that’s not really the subject of this post, so I won’t comment one way or the other on that.

Supplements which have been on the market for a long time are probably safe (though this does not mean they’re effective). Newer supplements may not have been around long enough to determine whether or not they are safe. However, even if you’re buying something as common as calcium, it’s still a good idea to do some research and choose wisely. The FDA does have some common-sense tips on this:

  • Consider your overall diet before deciding that you need a supplement.
  • Talk to your doctor and get his or her input on the need, safety and efficacy of a supplement that you want to use.
  • Find out if the supplement you are considering has any interactions with any prescription or over-the-counter medications you are taking.
  • Carefully evaluate the source of information you find on the web or in other places, and look for actual research studies that support any claim that a supplement manufacturer makes.
  • Think twice before accepting a claim that sounds too good to be true.
  • Don’t assume that “natural” necessarily means “safe.”
  • Contact the manufacturer for more information about a product if you have any remaining doubts about using it.

It’s up to you

When it comes to dietary supplements and your health, it’s up to you to decide what’s good for you and what’s not. That can mean finding someone that you trust who has done the necessary research for you or taking the time to do it yourself. In most cases, it will probably mean a little bit of both.

Simple Ways to Reduce Stress Naturally

stress reliefThere are times when I feel really stressed. I know; it happens to everyone, even those of us with a generally calm demeanor. Life has a way of throwing a lot of tiny little challenges at us – and, unfortunately, sometimes some bigger ones. Stress can add up, so managing it in small doses before the symptoms spiral out of control is a smart thing to do.

With the holidays approaching, stress is an especially timely topic. People seem to get crazy around this time, but I don’t think it has to be this way. Some simple strategies can help you cope.

You do have time to manage stress

Maybe you’re thinking that adding a stress-management strategy to your routine is just one more thing to do –and your to-do list is what’s causing the stress to begin with, right? Remember this: A step in the right direction is better than taking no action at all. And once you take one step, you’re likely to take another – and another. You don’t have to have the perfect plan that guarantees you will never feel stressed, but the more tools you have in place the better, even if you don’t use all of them all of the time.

So what are some simple ways to manage stress effectively (without a trip to your doctor for a prescription)?

Choose stress-relieving nutrients

Different kinds of foods affect your body – and your stress response – in different ways. The trick to managing stress with nutrition is to choose foods that are calming, nourishing and soothing over those that will give you a jolt or make your blood sugar sour. Three simple nutrients to start with are vitamin B6, potassium and magnesium.

Vitamin B6 helps create serotonin, the “feel good” chemical that quickly gets depleted when you’re stressed. You can increase the amount of B6 in your diet by eating leafy greens, seeds, beans, egg yolks and fish. Potassium and magnesium help relax muscles that tend to get tense when you feel frazzled. You can get potassium from whole grains, potatoes and bananas, while spinach, nuts, beans and chocolate are good sources of magnesium. (If you opt for chocolate, don’t overdo it; sugar will quickly counteract the relaxing qualities of magnesium.)

Try some calming herbs

Herbs that can help you stay calm include chamomile, valerian, passionflower and lemon balm. There are capsules and tinctures that can you can take as supplements or you can brew a nice cup of herbal tea. You’ll want to be sure to choose a high quality product so that you can truly experience the herb’s anti-stress properties.

Stay active

If you don’t exercise regularly, ask yourself why not? You will never regret finding time to get up and move your body. You don’t need to work out for an hour or spend a lot of money to do this. Ten minutes three times a day will do if that’s all the time you have. If you have time for a coffee or internet break, you have time for a quick, brisk walk, some light weight lifting or simple stretching. And if you do have more time, do more. Join a gym or sign up for tennis lessons. Or turn on some music and dance! Do whatever works for you – as long as you’re moving.

Practice yoga and meditation

While yoga can come under the heading of exercise, it is really so much more. Combined with meditation, it’s the ultimate antidote to stress. The physical yoga postures help tone and strengthen the body and get the blood flowing throughout your body – even to your brain, where you’ll need it to deal with all the things that life throws your way. You can do all kinds of yoga, from the most passive, restorative poses, to all-out power yoga. Again, do whatever works for you.

No matter what kind of physical yoga practice you choose, keep in mind that one of the most important goals of yoga is to prepare your body for meditation. If you can cultivate a regular meditation practice, whether for 5 minutes, 30 minutes or even an hour or more each day – you will be amazed at what a powerful stress-management tool this is. And it doesn’t have to be a formal practice. Even paying attention to how you’re breathing while you scurry about doing all of those tasks can count as part of your meditation practice

Surround yourself with relaxing aromas

Did you know that your brain processes emotions and scents in the same area? That’s why aromatherapy is so effective, so if you want to feel calm, fill the air with relaxing aromas from high quality essential oils. Some pacifying scents include sandalwood, lavender, geranium, cedar, jasmine and lemongrass. Use a diffuser, or add essential oils to bath water or unscented body lotion.

Stress does not have to get the best of you

Chances are at least one of the tools on this list that will work for you, so why not start there? If you need more, try another. As you get more skilled at stress management and develop your own set of strategies, you’ll uncover an amazing truth: Calm is a powerful thing.

A Complete Protein Supplement for Vegetarians and Vegans!

CTPI recently came across a product unlike any other I’ve seen before. It’s called Complete Truth Protein Powder, and it is a raw, plant-based supplement designed primarily for active women. Now, I’ve never used or seen the need for protein powders since I’m just an average active woman whose most strenuous exercise would be a half hour on the treadmill or a long hike, but this supplement intrigued me. Why? Because when I read about it, I discovered it could be used for baking, and this discovery could not have been timelier. I’ve been looking for something easy to carry with me when I need to eat breakfast on the road. I like a moderate amount of carbohydrates with my breakfast, but I don’t want to go overboard. In other words, I don’t want a bagel or any other kind of commercial bakery product. At home, I usually have something like scrambled eggs and a slice of sprouted grain toast or a bowl of oatmeal with peanut butter for breakfast, but obviously those are not foods I can throw in a baggie and take with me to eat in the car! So when I came across CTP, I thought this might be my answer.

The Truth about Complete Truth

While it’s labeled a “protein supplement,” CTP is really much more than that. It’s a whole food; it’s raw, and it’s 100% vegan. It also provides a good source of nutrients like magnesium, iron and zinc. These are not qualities that are easy to come by in a single package. If you’re a healthy vegan or vegetarian (yes, there are unhealthy forms of these diets), you know that you need to pay attention to the way you combine plant foods to be sure you are getting all of the essential amino acids (protein building blocks) that your body needs. If I asked you to name a plant that provides a complete source of protein, the one that would probably come to mind is soy. But soy can be problematic for some for several reasons, such as allergies or the desire to stay away from the hormone-like compounds known as phytoestrogens that soy contains.

If you’ve made the decision to eliminate or reduce the amount of soy in your vegan diet, what do you do for protein? You may wonder if there are any other options out there that provide a complete source of this important nutrient. Well, there are: quinoa and hemp, which just happen to be the only two ingredients in Complete Truth Protein Powder.

What’s so great about quinoa and hemp?

You probably know that quinoa is a high-protein grain, but did you know that its protein is complete? I love quinoa as an alternative to rice, so I was pleasantly surprised to find a protein powder with quinoa, not soy, as one of its basic ingredients. The other ingredient, hemp, is also a complete source of protein – this time in a seed. And hemp’s got some other benefits as well, most notably it’s omega 3 content. In fact, both hemp and quinoa are in the category that I would call super foods. If, like me, you are a vegetarian or vegan who enjoys a moderate amount of carbohydrates but wants to balance them out with protein and healthy fats, there are few foods on the planet that are better choices than quinoa and hemp.

Finally, a Complete Protein Breakfast Muffin!

Drew Taddia, a fitness expert who designed Complete Truth Protein Powder, says he did so after searching for a product that was a whole, raw, plant-based source of complete protein and did not contain long list of added ingredients that could not be pronounced. Not surprisingly, he could not find such a product…so he created one himself!

Perhaps if I looked long enough, I would find a whole food high protein breakfast muffin that has all of the essential amino acids and also a good amount of omega 3 and other nutrients, but why look? Now I can make one myself!

My Complete Truth Protein Banana Muffin

There is a recipe book that accompanies Complete Truth Protein Powder, but since I didn’t have all of the ingredients on hand for any of the recipes, I decided to try CTP in a banana muffin recipe that I often make with oats and whole wheat flour. All I did was substitute Complete Truth for the flour, and in about 30 minutes, I had a healthier version with a complete source of protein! I can store them in the freezer and take one (or two) out whenever I need something to carry with me for breakfast on the run. I’m guessing you can do the same with anything you bake – muffins, cookies, breads, etc. But if you’re not a baker, you can also add CTP to yogurt, oatmeal, shakes, and smoothies to make those foods more balanced and healthier.

Antioxidant Highlight: Alpha Lipoic Acid

Antioxidant Powerhouse

ALA

While alpha lipoic acid (ALA) may not be the first thing you think of when you hear the term antioxidant, it may be one that is worth your attention. Anyone interested in health has heard of antioxidants and their power to eradicate oxidative damage, boost and immunity and protect the body from disease. Both a fatty acid and a coenzyme, alpha lipoic acid packs a powerful punch in a very unique way. While most antioxidants are either fat-soluble or water-soluble, alpha-lipoic acid is both. That means, in a sense, that it’s capable of double-duty when it comes to maintaining your health. Found in the cells of the body, ALA is especially important if you have any issues with blood sugar metabolism because it is involved in the process of turning glucose (sugar) into energy. Put simply, alpha lipoic acid can help your body process carbohydrates more efficiently.

Alpha lipoic acid and blood sugar metabolism

I don’t take a ton of supplements, but I do take this one. I learned about it while researching ways to lower my blood sugar, which, though still in the range that’s considered normal, began to creep up in the years after my fortieth birthday. It’s not unusual for carbohydrate tolerance to decline with age, but I wanted to find some tools for keeping things in check. What I found out about ALA is impressive. In Germany, alpha lipoic acid is used regularly to treat neuropathy, nerve damage that develops when blood sugar levels remain very high over a long period of time. ALA may also help to minimize the damage that excess blood sugar can do to the heart, kidneys and blood vessels, and it appears to be useful in treating numbness and tingling in the extremities as well. But you don’t need to wait until you’re suffering from complications of diabetes to benefit from this nutrient.

Should you take ALA supplements?

You can get alpha lipoic acid from foods like liver, spinach and other meats and vegetables, but many people do not eat enough of these foods. If you do, that’s great. If not, doctors like integrative medicine guru Andrew Weil recommend taking a supplement to help maximize the benefits of ALA. You can take alpha lipoic acid in capsule or tablet form in doses of 100 to 200 mg twice per day. According to Dr. Weil, ALA supplements are very safe, but some people, such as pregnant women and those with certain medical conditions (including diabetes) should consult their medical provider before taking supplements.

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