Topics discussed in Natural Healing Secrets newsletter include: Health and wellness, vitamin, herb, supplement benefits and side effects, nutritional study outcomes, and alternatives to prescription medications.
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Ray Sahelian, M.D. is a world renowned expert on natural medicine and highly regarded for his wide range knowledge and cautious approach to dietary supplements. Dr. Sahelian is the best selling author of more than a dozen books, including Mind Boosters and Natural Sex Boosters, and has been quoted by Newsweek and seen on CNN and major networks. He allows us to send his newsletter to our list of customers and we consult with him and his research staff on many research topics. If you would like to receive a Free health and wellness and natural healing newsletter by email every 3 weeks, all you need to do is place your email address on the left in the box and click subscribe. There is no spam and the emails are kept confidential. For prior issues of the newsletter, see Newsletter 2006, along with Newsletter 2007 , Newsletter 2009 and later years. For a more detailed biography of Ray-Sahelian, M.D. bio. Below you will find an honest discussion on the common questions we are often asked and Dr. Sahelian's thoughts on these topics.
Some of the most common questions we are asked relate to how often a supplement should be taken, whether it is safe to use for prolonged periods, whether a particular supplement can be taken the same day as another supplement or combined with prescription medicines, or how to treat a medical condition with natural herbs and nutrients. There are no easy answers. It is very difficult to give guidelines that would apply to everyone since there are many factors that influence your need or response to supplements. Some of these factors include your age, sex, body weight, family history of medical diseases, allergy history, overall health status, blood pressure, liver and kidney metabolism, results of lab studies, immune status, your mental status, stress level, sleep quality, activity level, climate you live in, the foods you eat, amount and types of fluids consumed - alcohol, tea and caffeine use - whether you are currently on prescription medications, hormone medications, the dosage of your prescription medications, whether you hold positive or negative views regarding natural supplements, your sensitivity to supplements, whether the herbs are whole herb or concentrated extracts (some concentrated extracts are several times the potency of the whole herb), whether the supplements are taken with food or on an empty stomach, your ability to absorb from your GI tract, the time of day they are used, the dosage of the supplements, how long the supplements will be used (days, weeks, months, years) and the quality of the products.
One point we would like to emphasize: When you take a supplement you have never been exposed to before, do your best to try it a on day when you are not using other supplements or medications. This way you can better tell what kind of effect this new pill has on you. Also, if you are sensitive to herbs or supplements, or are over the age of 50, or have health conditions, at first use a portion of a capsule or tablet to avoid any potential harmful effects, particularly if you are taking pharmaceutical medications or are taking hormones.
Q. I am interested in natural healing but my medical condition requires that I take prescription medications. How do I know whether the supplements I want to take interact with the medications?
A. There are thousands of pharmaceutical medications and thousands of herbs and natural supplements. It is not possible to know all the possible interactions between vitamins, herbs and supplements when combined with prescription drugs. Hardly any studies have been done with such combinations. Plus, each person may have a different response based on age, overall health, and other factors. As a general rule, when introducing a new supplement, use a low dosage, even if it means taking a portion of a tablet or capsule, and consult with your health care provider if you have a serious health issue. Side effects regarding interactions between medications and supplements are related mostly to dosage. The lower the dosage, the less likely untoward reactions will occur.
Q. I am purchasing Mind Power Rx, Passion Rx, and MultiVit Rx. Can I take them the same day?
A. If you buy several supplements, we suggest you first learn how each one works for you by itself for a few days or about a week (Passion Rx is taken 2 days on, one day off, or every other day). Once you have a good idea on how they work for you, then you can determine how often and when to take them. We don't suggest taking these supplement pills together the same day since they are all potent. If you are sensitive to supplements, are over the age of 50, or are taking medications, consult with your doctor and start with half a tablet or capsule.
Q. A while ago I read in Dr. Sahelian's newsletter that it is important to take supplement holidays in order to get the most benefits from supplements, to prevent tolerance, or to minimize possible side effects, but I don't remember what his guidelines were. Is it to take off one day a week and 4 days a month?
A. There are no strict guidelines set in stone. Each supplement is different and the dosage makes a huge difference. If a dosage is low, a supplement can be taken longer without breaks. Some supplements are very safe, such as vitamin C and psyllium fiber, while others, particularly hormones such as DHEA and pregnenolone, can be dangerous if misused. There are other factors to consider including the age of the person (older people do not tolerate high dosages as well as young people), overall health condition, medications used, the medical reason the supplement is being used for, etc. There are no simple answers that apply to all situations but, as a rough guideline, it is a good idea to take a day or two off a week and a few days off each month. .
Q. I read with interest your comments about taking supplements but how is one to tell which supplements an individual should take for health improvement reasons based on age, sex, medical conditions, etc.?
A. There is no easy guide or formula regarding supplementation that applies to everyone. Research in the field of nutritional supplementation is very early and many products are on the market that have hardly been tested in humans. There are literally tens of thousands of nutritional products on the market. Every doctor, herbalist, nutritionist, or scientist is likely to have a different opinion on what supplements a person should or should not take and in what dosages. Some health care providers don't believe that any supplements are necessary while others recommend their patients take a dozen or more. I fully recognize the fact that many consumers want precise answers, but you have to accept the fact that no such thing is possible. Life is full of uncertainty. Does anyone know what would happen if you took, for instance, a vitamin E pill every day for 40 years? No. What about if you took 20 units compared to 100 units or 400 units. What if you took a synthetic vitamin E pill versus a natural vitamin E complex? How do we know whether it is better to take curcumin or to take resveratrol, grape seed extract, green tea extract, or the hundreds of herbs or nutrients that are available to us? Just consider now the countless possibilities of various combinations of vitamins and herbs in varying dosages. And since many people are taking pharmaceutical medicines in varying dosages and combinations, imagine the endless potential interactions that could occur.
The reason I am vague in my discussion on this topic is because I want to be scientifically honest. I could easily make a list of several supplements and suggest that everyone should buy these particular products. But that would not be right or honest. You have to accept the fact that science does not have such answers at this time. If you happen to be the type of person who wants exact recommendations, I am sure there are websites or marketers out there that will ask you to fill out a questionnaire and then make recommendations for you to buy their particular products that they are likely to recommend to everyone no matter what information they provide on the questionnaire.
It is up to each person and their health care provider to learn all they can about supplements and then decide which products appeal to them. As a general guideline, if you are sensitive to herbs, are female, are older, or taking pharmaceutical medicines, begin with low dosages. One option is to try a supplement by itself for a week or two to see how it makes you feel. Over time, experiment with different ones and then you can find a few that you really like. Once in a while you can try a different one. I actually enjoy the process of trying out different supplements and I pay attention to how they make me feel in terms of mood, energy, wellbeing, clarity of thinking, vitality, side effects, etc. Much, of course, also depends on whether you are treating a particular medical condition such as high blood pressure, joint problems, prostate problems, vision decline, sexual health, etc., and this could lead you to particular supplements or combinations that specifically address these health conditions.
If you take too many supplements it is possible that side effects could occur such as restlessness, excessive energy or fatigue, heart rate increase, elevated body temperature, and sleep disturbances. If these symptoms occur, take a day or two off and resume with fewer pills.
General Guidelines on supplement usage
As a rule, I recommend that you take a break once in a while from your supplements. This could be a day or two off a week, or a full week off a month, unless the supplements are being used to treat a particular medical condition that requires continuous use. Here are my reasons:
Note: The dosage makes a huge difference how often to take breaks. If your dosage is very low, you can take supplements for prolonged periods with fewer breaks. If the dosage is high, you would need to take more frequent breaks. Also, if you are taking a supplement for the first time, take it by itself without other medicines or supplements, even a multivitamin, so that you know how it affects you without interference.
1. Certain fat soluble supplements, for instance Vitamin E, can accumulate in tissues. Some accumulate without harm -- such as beta-carotene leading to orange-colored palms (carotenemia) -- but others may continue accumulating and potentially cause problems.
2. Overstimulation can occur. For instance, the effects of SAM-e can continue building up in the body and cause restlessness, anxiety, insomnia and irritability if a high dose is taken over several days or weeks.
3. Many herbs, hormones and supplements have a stimulatory nature. Some of these include acetyl-l-carnitine, CoQ10 or Coenzyme Q10, DMAE, DHEA hormone, ginseng, alpha lipoic acid, pregnenolone, rhodiola, St. John's wort, tongkat ali and most sexual herbs, trimethylglycine and tyrosine. Taking too many in high doses can potentially cause increased body temperature, heart rhythm irregularities, increased blood pressure, restlessness, anxiety, insomnia, early morning awakening, especially when combined with other stimulants such as caffeine.
4. We just don't know enough about the long term effects of many supplements and herbs if taken daily for periods of months or years. A few examples include 5HTP or 5-HTP, graviola, mangosteen, nattokinase, serrapeptase, ahcc, and others.
5. Some of the supplements may interact with the medicines you may be taking or interact with over the counter drugs or even interact with other supplements.
6. Certain supplements may benefit the immune system in the short term, but when used daily for many months may be counterproductive. For instance echinacea is helpful in stimulating the immune system. If taken daily for several months or years, it is possible that in rare cases it may initiate an autoimmune condition.
7. Long term, high dose, daily use of hormones -- such as DHEA and pregnenolone -- could stimulate tumor growth or lead to scalp hair thinning. Taking "hormone holidays" is likely to significantly reduce the risk.
8. Tolerance can develop. For instance, melatonin and tryptophan may not work as well if taken every night and you may need a higher dose for the same effect. Certain libido herbs may work by stimulating testosterone release or release of other substances in the brain and body and the body may need a break for a few days to replenish these substances so the herbs can be effective again. Another form of tolerance is that you may get used to the feelings that the supplements provide and not realize how well you are feeling until you stop them for a few days.
9. Certain supplements may influence the endocrine system (hormonal balance) in ways that we do not yet fully understand.
10. There may be impurities in the products or the binders and fillers that could be tolerated by the liver or other organs if consumed occasionally, but toxic if consumed daily for prolonged periods. Or, an allergy could develop.
Supplements that can be taken almost daily (I still suggest you take at least a day off each week):
The B vitamins (less than 20 mg daily of B1, B2, B6), Vitamin C (less than 1,000 mg), Vitamin E (less than 200 units a day), Vitamin D (less than 1000 units), Vitamin A (less than 15,000 units); most minerals such as calcium and magnesium; carotenoids, flavonoids, fish oils, green tea, probiotics, psyllium, stevia; herbs used as spices such as basil, curcumin or turmeric, fennel, ginger; most supplements used for joint health such as glucosamine and chondroitin; most herbs used for prostate health such as saw palmetto and pygeum; most herbs used for menopause support such as black cohosh, chaste berry and red clover. Products from Physician Formulas that fall into this category include Prostate Power Rx, MultiVit Rx, Mind Power Rx, and Joint Power Rx.
Take frequent breaks from the use of Passion Rx since its effects carry over for several days. Use Good Night Rx not more than 3 nights a week.