The Truth About Salt

By Marlene Merritt, DOM, LAc, ACN


So what’s the deal with salt? You know you need some of it, but everywhere you see advertising and headlines telling you to eat less of it. You might have salt cravings but you feel guilty indulging in them because you’ve heard from everyone, the government to personal trainers to your mother-in-law, that salt is bad for you.

The way headlines sound, you’d get the impression that eating a bag of chips will raise your blood pressure enough to have a stroke right then and there! I once had an 11-year old sit next to me, watch me salt my scrambled eggs and ask me if didn’t I know that salt was bad for me! So let’s see what’s actually accurate amongst all the headlines, advertising, special interests, and advice.

Like all the topics I’ve written about, it’s not that simple to say salt is “good” or bad”. One thing to keep in mind is that salt is so vital for human health that “sal” is the basis of the word “salary” because people used to be paid in salt. Sodium and chloride are both vital minerals, used for nerve transmission/impulse conduction, fluid balance, and muscle contraction. Not having enough sodium will cause hyponatremia, a life-threatening condition that happens when someone sweats out too much sodium, or drinks too much water, and upsets the fluid balance.


Salt is a prime determinant for taste in food (along with fat) and 80% of the salt we consume is in processed foods, making it difficult to avoid. The message promoted by both the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) and the National High Blood Pressure Education Program (NHBPEP), a coalition of 36 medical organizations and six federal agencies is that everyone, not just people will hypertension, would benefit from a daily intake of 2400 mg or sodium (6 grams of salt, or about 1 teaspoon) per day, which is 4 grams less than our current average. The problem lies in the fact that the research does not conclusively show that a reduction helps with blood pressure and actually shows that low levels could lead to health problems. “You can say without any shadow of a doubt,” says Drummond Rennie, a JAMA editor and a physiologist at the University of California, “that the NHLBI has made a commitment to salt education that goes way beyond the scientific facts.”


salt One of the first studies that showed how diet lowered blood pressure was a Duke University clinician who, in the 1940’s, showed he could successfully treat hypertension with a low-salt, peaches-and-rice diet. If patients’ hypertension didn’t improve, Kempner said it showed, protestations notwithstanding, that the patient had clearly fallen off the diet. It was cited for decades as evidence that low sodium diets could treat hypertension, but there are a couple of very large problems that were conveniently overlooked — Kempner’s diet was also low in calories and fat, as well as high in potassium, and those are all factors that are also known to lower blood pressure.


A major problem with some of the biggest studies involving salt are that they are epidemiological studies, which are known for showing a correlation and not actual causality. As I mentioned in my article “That Study Is Wrong: The Truth About Research”, epidemiologists even suspect their own studies and call it a “pseudoscience”. In this particular field, it would be fair to say that there is so much bias that researchers will not consider research that doesn’t support their own position, and combined with the tendency to cite research, accurate or not, creates a case that looks as if a position has more “evidence” than it actually does. For example (and there are many), in 1991, a 14-page epidemiological study was printed in the British Journal of Medicine, concluding that the salt-hypertension link was “substantially larger” than previously thought. That same year, researcher John Swales, former director of research and development for Britain’s National Health Service, dissected the study so completely that no one at the European Society for Hypertension’s conference was left unclear by how shoddy the research was. And yet 2 years later, that same paper was cited repeatedly by the U.S. NHBPEP as compelling evidence to reduce sodium intake. In fact, Swales repeats this thought in a paper in 2000, saying, “Reviews biased by the inclusion of nonrandomized studies exaggerate the apparent blood pressure fall… Nevertheless, citation analysis shows that they are quoted much more frequently than rigorous reviews reaching more negative conclusions. This appears to be the result of an attempt to create an impression of scientific consensus.”


Here’s the first thing: there ARE some people for whom salt it problematic, but there is no test for “salt sensitivity” and even the condition itself is not fully clarified. It may be related to race (one study saw an association with African-Americans), or gender, or age, as well as a possible genetic link. However, because you cannot predict who is salt-sensitive, we’re left with creating generalized recommendations that may not actually benefit sensitive individuals, but may also harm the rest of the population.


So how does lowering salt intake cause harm? Let us count the ways, starting with cardiovascular disease. While hypertension is often blamed as a cause for heart disease, low sodium has been directly linked multiple times to increased cardiovascular deaths, and another 2011 study confirmed this. In fact, this last study also saw that sodium levels didn’t predict hypertension, and that any association between blood pressure and sodium didn’t actually translate into less morbidity or better survival.


Low salt diets also increase cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood. In fact, people with Type 2 diabetes are more likely to die prematurely on a low-salt diet, due to cardiovascular disease. A Harvard study showed that low-salt diets were linked to an immediate onset of insulin resistance. And yet doctors are consistently recommending salt restriction diets to diabetics.


In studies with the elderly, sodium restriction can be especially damaging. It has been shown that low salt intake leads to more falls and broken hips, and decreased cognitive abilities. Hyponatremia (too low sodium) is commonly found in geriatric patients , and yet it is repeated ad nauseum that older people should be lowering their salt intake.


You may not realize this, but this is not necessarily new information. There have been articles in the New York Times about the dangers of low salt intake and the research supporting it in 2010 and again in 2013.


Sodium intake hasn’t changed much in decades, and that certainly seems to stand true in research: in studies measuring urinary sodium excretion, spanning 5 decades, over 30 countries, and over 50,000 subjects, the normal range of sodium excretion is 3,500 mg/day. This last study also points out that renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system (RAAS) is a protective mechanism to PREVENT the loss of sodium. As sodium is clearly the backbone of extracellular fluid, ensures adequate blood volume, arterial pressure and ultimately organ perfusion, to make recommendations below 2760 mg/d (which activates the RAAS reaction) assumes that basic biology is being ignored, and that lowered intakes are not harmful (and clearly there is plenty of research showing this). McCarron et al. (2009) saw in this 26-year study that since sodium can’t be stored, it is tightly regulated by the body, regardless of how much is in the diet, and “that public health initiatives designed to lower intakes of this nutrient by altering the food supply are destined to fail.”


What IS true is that little to no distinction is being made between the salt in processed foods and what is found naturally in fresh foods or what you might add at the table. The main sources of sodium in the U.S. diet are grain mixtures (mainly pasta, breads and rolls), and processed meats like frankfurters, sausages and lunch meats. This would be why the famous DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) with it’s emphasis on generous amounts of fresh fruit, vegetables and dairy is effective for lowering blood pressure — it is simply removing most sources of processed foods. It’s also considered by many to be a preferable alternative to across-the-board sodium restriction.


Which is also exactly what is seen in research — studies that looked at fresh food, cooked at home, (with salt added for flavor) saw no impact on blood pressure but people who ate out frequently, and ate processed foods regularly had a much higher incidence of hypertension. If hypertension is a concern, it would be good to also boost potassium, as inadequate potassium will still cause hypertension, even if eating a low-sodium diet. Potassium is so available in foods that you can’t really get it as a supplement — and, you guessed it, it’s highest in fresh foods like leafy greens, bananas, avocados, melons, mango and prunes. Additionally, weight loss and reduction of alcohol intake are known to be extremely effective at reducing blood pressure.


The current U.S. recommendations are 2,300 mg/day. The American Heart Association would prefer that everyone consume as little as 1,500 mg/day, clinging to antiquated research long since disproven. In fact, in light of the overwhelming evidence, the Department of Health and Human Services will be revising the sodium guidelines in 2015. In the meantime, bring back your common sense about food, and avoid “quick fixes” with store-bought food and eat as much fresh food and food that YOU prepared as often as you can. And hand this article to your mother-in-law the next time she makes a comment as you are salting your eggs!




  1. Taubes, Gary. “Three decades of controversy over the putative benefits of salt reduction show how the demands of good science clash with the pressures of public health policy.” Science 281 (1998): 898-907.
  2. Smith, G. and Ebrahim, S. “Epidemiology — Is It Time to Call It a Day?” Int. J. Epidemiol. (2001) 30 (1): 1-11
  3. Swales, J. D. “Dietary salt and blood pressure: the role of meta-analyses.” Journal of Hypertension. Supplement: official journal of the International Society of Hypertension 9.6 (1991): S42.
  4. Swales, John. “Population advice on salt restriction: the social issues.” American Journal of Hypertension 13.1 (2000): 2-7.
  5. O’Donnell, Martin J., et al. “Urinary sodium and potassium excretion and risk of cardiovascular events.” JAMA: the journal of the American Medical Association 306.20 (2011): 2229-2238.
  6. Stolarz-Skrzypek, Katarzyna, et al. “Fatal and nonfatal outcomes, incidence of hypertension, and blood pressure changes in relation to urinary sodium excretion.” JAMA: the journal of the American Medical Association 305.17 (2011): 1777-1785.
  7. Mann, Samuel. “Urinary sodium excretion and cardiovascular events.” JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association 307.11 (2012): 1138-1139.
  8. Tikellis, Chris, et al. “Association of dietary sodium intake with atherogenesis in experimental diabetes and with cardiovascular disease in patients with Type 1 diabetes.” Clinical Science 124.10 (2013): 617-626.
  9. Rajesh Garg, Gordon H. Williams, Shelley Hurwitz, Nancy J. Brown, Paul N. Hopkins, Gail K. Adler. Low-salt diet increases insulin resistance in healthy subjects. Metabolism – Clinical and Experimental Volume 60, Issue 7 , Pages 965-968, July 2011
  10. Geboy, Alexander G., Dawn M. Filmyer, and Richard C. Josiassen. “Motor Deficits Associated With Mild, Chronic Hyponatremia: A Factor Analytic Study.” Journal of Motor Behavior 44.4 (2012): 255-259.
  11. Ayus, Juan Carlos, et al. “Is chronic hyponatremia a novel risk factor for hip fracture in the elderly?.” Nephrology Dialysis Transplantation 27.10 (2012): 3725-3731.
  12. David A McCarron, Tilman B Drüeke, Edward M Stricker
  13. Science trumps politics: urinary sodium data challenge US dietary sodium guideline. Am J Clin Nutr November 2010 vol. 92 no. 5 1005-1006
  14. McCarron DA, Geerling JC, Kazaks AG, et al. Can dietary sodium intake be modified by public policy? Clin J Am Soc Nephrol. 2009;4:1878–1882.
  15. DeSimone, John A., et al. “Sodium in the food supply: challenges and opportunities.” Nutrition reviews 71.1 (2013): 52-59.
  16. R D Mattes and D Donnelly. Relative contributions of dietary sodium sources. J Am Coll Nutr August 1991 vol. 10 no. 4 383-393

Marlene Merritt, DOM, LAc, is a licensed acupuncturist and runs a wellness center in Austin, Texas. She specializes in Oriental medicine and nutritional protocols.

Boost Your Immune System

By Julie T. Chen, MD

I know most of us think that we only have to worry about our immune system during the winter months but a healthy immune system throughout the rest of the year is actually important in helping us ward off infections during the winter months.

A strong healthy diet foundation is essential for immune support. Many of my patients in my clinic of integrative medicine in San Jose CA think that as long as they have one vegetable or fruit a day, they are fine. But I highly recommend patients to eat vegetables at every meal and they should be eating a variety of colors of vegetables. In doing so, patients can ensure that they are getting all the vitamins and minerals they need for a healthy immune system.


When it comes down to it, our immune cells need both vitamins and minerals and if you don’t want to have to figure out all the minutiae of which to take, you should just get into the easy habit of eating a rainbow colored diet of vegetables, beans, nuts, healthy fats, and whole grain starches. If you eat a balanced diet at every meal, you’ll ensure that your immune soldiers are well fed hence able to help you combat colds.


vegetables Another factor that is important for immune function is sleep. Sleep is when our body heals and repairs. Oftentimes, when people are lacking sleep or under a lot of stress, that is usually the time when you would catch a cold. So, make sure to put aside time for sleep and relaxation. In doing so, again, your immune function will be better equipped to help you ward off infections.


Finally, exercise is important in keeping your body efficient in protecting itself from outside sources of harm…like infections. Mild to moderate exercise about 3-5 days per week should help keep your body’s immune system healthy. Extreme exercise can suppress immune function so if you are someone who likes to do extreme marathon training or sports activities, make sure to allow your body to heal and rest in between your training sessions so that you do not over-tax your immune system.


If unfortunately despite good healthy efforts at supporting your immune system, you are still unable to ward off a cold, you can try supplements such as black elderberry, vitamin C, vitamin D3, Echinacea, and Zinc, just to name a few options. I highly recommend taking these only if cleared by your doctor to make sure you are not on medications or do not have any medical issues that may prevent you from safely taking these. You should also see your doctor before starting these to evaluate the seriousness of your infection and to see if you need medications like antibiotics for it.


Finally, there is one last thing to do that will help you to avoid infections…make sure you wash your hands frequently and wipe down public areas where germs are easily spread before you touch it. Prevention is always key to the healthiest you we can achieve.

Dr. Julie T. Chen is board-certified in internal medicine and fellowship-trained and board-certified in integrative medicine. She has her own medical practice in San Jose, Calif. She is the medical director of corporation wellness at several Silicon Valley-based corporations, is on several medical expert panels of Web sites and nonprofit organizations, is a recurring monthly columnist for several national magazines, and has been featured in radio, newspaper, and magazine interviews. She incorporates various healing modalities into her practice including, but is not limited to, medical acupuncture, Chinese scalp acupuncture, clinical hypnotherapy, strain-counterstrain osteopathic manipulations, and biofeedback. To learn more, visit

Weight Training: Are Cheat Reps Worth It?

By Linsay Way, DC


While resting between exercises at the gym recently, a young lifter asked me for a spot on a set of barbell bench presses.

The bar was loaded with a moderately heavy amount of weight that at first glance appeared to be too heavy for his frame. He began his set and immediately began bouncing the bar off his chest. As he progressed in reps and began struggling with the weight, he arched his back, thrusting his pelvis up and pushing his head into the bench. I just had to shake my head as he got up looking immensely satisfied with his set.

I get this question from my athletes often: When it comes to weightlifting, are “cheat” repetitions worth it? You’re probably not surprised to know my short answer is “no.” The long answer, however, is that not all cheating is created equal. Some of the world’s best physiques, such as bodybuilder Ronnie Coleman’s, were built utilizing momentum to help lift progressively heavier weights. On the other hand, bodybuilder Dorian Yates is religious about using perfect form on just about every exercise he does. Who’s right?


Biomechanical Considerations


weight traingin First let’s differentiate between the two types of cheating when it comes to lifting weights. The more allowable of the two is the extended-set cheat, in which reps are performed with as perfect form as possible before using momentum or additional muscle groups to push past the point of failure for one or two reps.


If you’ve been training hard consistently for years and your progress has stalled, this is the type of cheating that can help push past a plateau. For everyone else, however, it’s not necessary. Beginning and even moderately experienced weightlifters will build muscle without going to failure. They should be focused on perfecting form, not looking for ways to undermine it.


The other variety is the heavy cheat, in which a “looser” form is used through the entire set to lift heavier weight than normally possible. This is the type of cheating that should be discouraged for all lifters, no matter what their experience level or which exercises they’re doing. The benefit gained is minimal compared to potential risk of injury.


The second consideration is injury history, as most cheating involves movements that are risky for joints, muscles and ligaments. For example, if you have a history of back / pelvis injuries, it’s not wise to be bouncing the bar off the pins while deadlifting. Even a slight slip in form can result in a serious injury if you’re working with compromised joint and ligament function. The 6-8 months of lost time and lost progress spent recovering from an injury isn’t worth the minimal extra muscle fiber activation.


The final consideration is the type of lift being performed, as certain exercises lend themselves to cheating reps better than others.


Allowable Cheat Exercises


  • Lateral deltoid raises: Performing strict reps to failure and then swinging the weights slightly will hit your deltoids hard with little chance of injury.
  • Dumbbell curls: Using some knee-bend and body English can extend the set past failure relatively safely.
  • Triceps pushdowns: Use the lats and pecs to push past failure one or two reps.
  • Seated leg press: Put your hands on your legs to get a few extra reps.
  • Dumbbell / cable rows: Utilizing proper form until failure and then using momentum to keep going can be done with minimal injury risk.
  • Lat pulldowns: It’s difficult to injure yourself performing these, so cheating at the end of a set isn’t usually a problem.


Asking for Injury: Cheat Exercises to Avoid


  • Deadlifts
  • Barbell rows
  • Shoulder shrugs
  • Bench presses
  • Chest flyes
  • Squats
  • Leg curls
  • Preacher curls
  • Calf raises
  • Upright rows
  • Parallel bar dips
  • Lying triceps extensions
  • Chin-ups


Better Options to Maximize Gain


It’s a shame that cheating is so overused, as there are better techniques for getting the maximum benefit out of a set. Drop sets, for example, are a great option for lifters looking for significant gains in mass. Drop sets are done by performing a lift to failure or just short of failure, then dropping the weight or resistance by about 15 percent and continuing repetitions. Once failure is reached again, an additional 15 percent of resistance is dropped, and so on. The idea behind forced sets, in which a spotter assists progressively more as your muscles fatigue, is similar.


If you’re going to utilize extended-set cheaters, don’t go overboard. Use strict form on the majority of sets and avoid cheating on any more than one or two sets per muscle group. Most weightlifters can make significant, consistent gains by using textbook form 100 percent of the time. As discussed above, there are some situations in which some extra “oomph” is needed to push through a plateau, but these are the exception, not the rule.


Cheat reps can be used with caution to add intensity on occasion if done at the end of sets and during the right exercises. Personal-injury history should also be considered. But as a general rule, listen to what your mother always said: cheaters never prosper.

Linsay Way, DC, a 2010 graduate of Palmer College of Chiropractic, practices at Wellness Way Chiropractic in Milwaukee, Wisc. ( She is recognized for her work training and treating Milwaukee-area gymnasts.

Protect Your DNA With Omega-3 Fats?

By James P. Meschino, DC, MS

A remarkable study published in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity showed that overweight, sedentary adults who were given a daily omega-3 fat supplement realized a lengthening of their DNA telomeres and reduced blood markers of inflammation and free-radical damage compared to subjects given placebo.

What are telomeres? They are short fragments of DNA that act as caps at the end of the DNA in each of our cells, and can be likened to the protective plastic tips at the end of a shoelace. Every time a cell divides, the telomere shortens slightly. Once the telomere reaches a critical level of shortening, the cell is much more prone to be converted into a cancer cell or stop functioning altogether; and has been associated with increased risk of other degenerative diseases. Thus, re-lengthening of telomeres is an important finding linked to prevention of cancer, reversal of the aging process and possibly prevention of various degenerative diseases.

In this study researchers examined immune cells in human subjects, witnessing a re-lengthening of immune cell telomeres. This is truly remarkable. The study also showed that overweight, sedentary individuals who took the omega-3 fatty acid supplement had reduced blood markers of inflammation, namely inteukin-6 (IL-6), which was 10-12-percent lower than the placebo group. The omega-3 fat group also showed 15 percent less oxidative stress compared to the placebo group, as measured by the presence in the blood of F2 isoprostanes (a blood marker for free-radical damage).


DNA Of particular interest is the fact that the placebo supplement was comprised of a mix of oils representing a typical American’s daily fat intake. The group given the placebo fats exhibited a rise in inflammatory markers (IL-6) of 36 percent during the study period, illustrating the inflammation-promoting effect of the standard North American diet.


The study included 106 adults, average age of 51 years, who were either overweight or obese and lived sedentary lives. The study population was disease-free and reported very little stress. The researchers excluded people who were taking medications to control mood, cholesterol and blood pressure, as well as vegetarians, patients with diabetes, smokers, those routinely taking fish oil, people who got more than two hours of vigorous exercise each week, and those whose body-mass index was either below 22.5 or above 40.


In general, the findings of the study suggest that simply taking a supplement containing sufficient omega-3 fats (1,250-2,500 mg) each day may significantly reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, and re-lengthen telomeres. This combination of effects has been shown to have important implications in the prevention of cancer, heart and cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease, and may improve the management of a variety of inflammatory disorders (e.g., arthritis), and slow the aging process in general.


This research adds to the evidence that omega-3 fatty acids provide multiple health benefits, whereas many of the fats found in the standard North American diet promote negative health effects. Talk to your doctor of chiropractic for additional information.

James Meschino, DC, MS, practices in Toronto, Ontario, Canada and is the author of four nutrition books, including The Meschino Optimal Living Program and Break the Weight Loss Barrier.

Healthy Mother = Healthy Baby: What to Know Before Pregnancy

By Claudia Anrig, DC


Deciding to have a baby is one of the most important decisions a woman will ever make. But how many women are really prepared for a healthy pregnancy? Lifestyle choices that expose them to chemicals, stress and poor nutrition may negatively effect their ability to become pregnant and/or prenatal outcomes.

Here are some of the key considerations to discuss with your health care provider before deciding to become pregnant.

1. Birth Control


More than 100 million women worldwide take the pill – including some for non-contraceptive reasons; for instance, to regulate their period or decrease the severity of the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome. Regardless of why they’re taking it, many women are under the impression that as soon as they’re ready to get pregnant, they only have to quit taking the pill and within a month or two they’ll conceive. While this may be the case for some, it is not the case for others.


Many doctors recommend waiting at least 2-3 months after stopping the pill before even attempting to get pregnant. The typical reason given is to allow the body to return to its normal hormonal rhythms, though there really is no research regarding what possible effects the extra hormones may have on a developing fetus.


You should also know that it may take time to conceive once they stop taking the pill; in roughly 10 percent of cases, a woman may not be able to conceive even a year after they stop taking the pill.


pregnancy 2. Other Drug Use


With more than half of all pregnancies unplanned, it has been estimated that more than a million babies have been exposed to drugs in the first or second month of pregnancy. A study performed by Boston University and reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that 70-80 percent of pregnant women have reported taking at least one medication.


The concern is that 90 percent of medications approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration from 1980-2000 had insufficient data to determine if they were safe to take during pregnancy. While many women are being prescribed these medications, studies have not been done to determine if these chemicals will cross the placenta and affect the fetus.


From 2010-2012, several studies reported that not only is antidepressant use during pregnancy on the rise, but also that their use has been linked to birth defects. Additional studies have shown that children whose mothers took Zoloft, Prozac and similar antidepressants were twice as likely to be diagnosed with autism or related disorders.


If you have a history of medication use, talk to your physician to possibly look at alternative choices, and to dialogue about the risk and benefits of medication use during pregnancy.


3. Lifestyle Changes


While having a baby is the most natural thing in the world, convenience increasingly interferes. Processed foods, caffeine, aspartame, high-fructose corn syrup, and chemicals for depression and contraception have all affected our bodies and potentially caused areas of concern. That’s why, before considering conception, it’s important to make a few lifestyle changes to ensure your pregnancy has the best chance of success:


Avoid the Chemicals: Most women agree that chemicals are unhealthy for them, but there have been links even between many food additives and pregnancy risks. For instance, an American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study published in 2010 concluded that daily intake of artificially sweetened soft drinks may increase the risk of preterm delivery. In addition, when aspartame, commonly known as NutraSweet, is consumed during pregnancy, it may potentially contribute to autism and spina bifida.


Another concern is caffeine. Studies have shown that it crosses the placenta and can cause birth defects. Additionally, it can actually reduce fertility or delay conception. But perhaps the greatest concern is that two studies in 2008 showed women who consume 200 mg or more of caffeine daily are twice as likely to miscarry. Since over half of pregnancies are unplanned, it’s wise for all women of childbearing age to reduce their caffeine intake. Just 2 cups of coffee contains almost 200 mg of caffeine.


Healthy Eating: What a woman eats is the fuel her body uses to help her fetus develop, so make sure that only the healthiest and most nutritious foods are being consumed. First, eat organic as much as possible. The chemicals and pesticides used on commercially grown foods have not been tested for the effect they may have on the fetus. Genetically modified foods should be avoided as well since they have not been tested.


Besides eating organic, eating six small meals a day is ideal, as is drinking at least 8 glasses of water: natural spring, not purified or tap. Add in at least five servings of vegetables, along with healthy fats. The omega fatty acids are critical for fetal development, with omega-3 being especially important for neurodevelopment.


Omega-3s are found in seafood, flaxseed oil, nuts, seeds, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower and winter squash. Omega-6s are in flaxseed and grapeseed oil, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, and pine and pistachio nuts. Omega-9s are readily available in olive oil, avocados, almonds and most other varieties of nuts. It’s important to try to consume some of each of these fatty acids each day.


Exercise and Yoga: It’s been shown that women who are not physically active prior to conceiving are unlikely to develop an exercise program after conceiving. Start by walking 15 minutes, out and back each day, five days a week. Then gradually increase by 5 minutes until your patient is walking an hour a day. Walking has been proven to be beneficial for each trimester of pregnancy.


A regiment of yoga has also been shown to be helpful for pregnancy-related muscular pain, helping strengthen those muscles used in birthing and decreasing stress hormones.


Chiropractic Care: Along with following the above advice, a regular regimen of chiropractic care can not only assist with a biomechanical advantage, but also influence hormonal and immune well-being during pregnancy. Talk to your doctor of chiropractic for more information about the best ways to ensure you – and your future child – are as healthy as possible.

Claudia Anrig, DC, practices in Fresno, Calif., and is on the board of directors of the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association, an organization that can answer your questions regarding the value of chiropractic care during and after pregnancy.

Fishing for Fish Oil

By Tina Beaudoin, ND


How many times a week do you eat fish? Unfortunately, we do not eat enough fish in my house. One study found that modest fish consumption (1-2 serving per week) reduced the risk of fatal heart attacks by 36%.

Fish oil supplementation is an easy way to get some of the health benefits associated with regular fish consumption. DHA and EPA are the omega-3 fatty acids in the spotlight when it comes to health benefits. One of the central benefits of omega-3’s is that they support healthy inflammatory responses. Arthritis, diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease are some of the common diseases associated with chronic inflammation.

Many people are looking for additional ways to avoid illness and increase wellness. Unfortunately, our world is a bit more complicated now. Our oceans and waterways are more contaminated than they were 100 years ago. Eating fish can be a significant source of dietary heavy metals and persistent organic pollutants (POPs). When it comes to fish oil, it would be unwise to make your selection solely on which one is cheapest and the least fishy. Contamination of fish oil supplements has been in and out of the news over the past decade. You want to be sure to purchase your fish oil from companies that carefully remove toxins without leaving behind harmful solvents and residues.


Another important consideration when selecting a fish oil supplement is dosage. You wouldn’t take a sip of water and expect all the benefits that come with being well hydrated. There is significant variation in the amount of milligrams of EPA and DHA that you find in stores. A good rule to follow when seeking the benefits of fish oil is to make sure there are 1,000 milligrams combined of EPA and DHA per serving. Don’t be fooled! There are many products that advertise 1,000 mg on the front of the bottle but when you read the label you will find that it has only 100 milligrams of EPA and DHA. When it comes to fish oil, you really are getting what you pay for. Be sure to read labels and purchase products free of contaminants.

What’s the Connection? Protein & Weight Loss

Protein and Weight Loss: What’s the Connection?


By G. Douglas Andersen, DC, DACBSP, CCN


Recently I was asked by the staff at To Your Health to referee some of their water-cooler discussions regarding nutrition. Topping their list was this one about protein and weight loss: “Why is protein important for weight loss and how much should I eat (to lose weight)?” Before I answer, I would like to share a few thoughts on weight loss in general.



Weight Loss: A Tricky Topic

I believe the topic of weight loss is much more confusing, contentious, complicated and controversial than it should be – for a number of reasons, including the following:


  • The marketing of diets, exercise plans, fitness equipment and a huge array of nutritional supplements is a billion-dollar industry that is very competitive.
  • The Information Age we live in produces a constant stream of new research that is rapidly disseminated, selectively edited, commonly misinterpreted and excessively extrapolated – usually for secondary financial gain.
  • The biochemical and physiological diversity of people means there is more than one path to the top of the weight-loss mountain.


To lose weight, there must be caloric deficit, period. Caloric deficit is achieved by eating fewer calories, burning more calories or a combination of both. Now we are ready to address the question about protein and weight loss.


protein Why Is Protein Important for Weight Loss?


When people lose weight, it is a combination of lean mass (muscle) and body fat. When people say they want to lose weight, what they actually mean is that they want to lose fat. It is impossible to lose only fat, but:


  • Consuming enough protein can reduce muscle loss at the expense of fat loss in varying degrees, depending on the person. This can be amplified with exercise targeted at the muscles a person does not want to lose.
  • Protein can satisfy hunger with a greater degree of effectiveness than fats and carbs in many (but not all) people.
  • Dietary protein requires a higher percentage of the calories it provides to metabolize than carbohydrates and fats. It can raise a person’s metabolic rate for as long as 10-12 hours. (See Table 1)



Table 1: The Thermic Effect of Food

Protein: 20-30 percent of calories ingested
Carbohydrate: 5-10 percent of calories ingested*
Fat: 3-7 percent of calories ingested

*When carbs are converted to fat (lipogenesis), it requires ~20 percent of the calories.

Please note that the numbers in Table 1 vary widely from person to person. To complicate matters even more, the vast majority of calories we ingest are mixed. A fair estimate is that 10-15 percent of the calories we eat are used to metabolize the other 85-90 percent of calories.

How Much Protein Should I Eat (to Lose Weight)?


There is no exact answer to this question because “just enough and not too much” is quite variable. The amount of protein a dieter should eat is the level that reduces the most body fat and least muscle in a way that best moderates the degree of hunger. This number depends on age, sex, genetics, activity, sleep, stress and more. Ask 10 weight-loss professionals this question and you’ll get a variety of responses.


Table 2: Protein Recommendations (Grams Per Kilogram of Body-Weight Per Day)
Infants 1.5-2.0
Children 1-6 1.2
Children 7-14 1.0
Women 15 and older 0.8
Men 15-18 0.9
Men 19 and older 0.8
Hospitalization 1.0
Pregnancy lactation 1.0
Endurance – athletes 1.2-1.4
Strength – athletes 1.6-1.7
Surgery 1.5
Multiple traumas 1.5-2.0
Severe burns / sepsis 2.5

Now look at Table 2 and notice there is no recommendation for weight loss. When we look at weight-loss studies that compare different amounts of protein, the results are the average of individual responses. In other words, when we see a conclusion that the group that ate X protein lost more weight than the group that ate Y protein, not everyone in group X will lose more than everyone in group Y.

Finally, when a person asks me this question, I will ask them, “How much protein are you eating now and how much protein were you eating when you gained the weight?” In most cases they cannot answer either question, so giving them a number is meaningless until I determine their current intake and the results they are experiencing.


The Best Advice


Confused? Don’t be. Just remember that to lose body fat, every step and every bite count every day. My rule of thumb for protein is this: If a person is losing weight and maintaining their exercise strength, endurance and recovery, they are getting enough protein. And that means, if you look at Table 2, they are getting no less than what is recommended for athletes, which is around double the RDA of 0.8 grams per kilogram of body-weight per day.


G. Douglas Andersen, DC, DACBSP, CCN, is a sports chiropractor and certified clinical nutritionist who practices in Brea, Calif. He can be contacted with questions and comments via his Web site:

Insomnia: What It Could Mean

By Julie T. Chen, MD


Sleep is essential for your body to heal…so what happens if you can’t fall asleep or you have trouble maintaining sleep? When that happens, it can be extremely frustrating because for most of us, how we perform or feel the next day, depends on how well we’ve slept the night before.

I know that I personally am not at my best if I don’t get a good night of sleep. So, what are the concerns in regards to insomnia? Why is poor quality of sleep such a health problem?

For starters, sleep is the time when our cells and organs can repair and heal itself. So if you do not get a good night of sleep, the concern is that over time, the body is never given adequate restoration or healing time. Also, many illnesses can lead to sleep issues so if you are having new insomnia issues, you may want to be checked for diseases such as, but are not limited to, autoimmune diseases, thyroid diseases, adrenal fatigue, dementia, depression, anxiety. Therefore, when you are having trouble sleeping, it may be an indication that your health isn’t at its optimal state.  If you are indeed having new insomnia issues, you should definitely ask your doctor for a physical exam and lab tests for evaluation of your health status.


So, what can you use for insomnia without being worried about creating a dependency to medications or supplements for insomnia?


insomnia In my clinic of integrative medicine, I usually recommend a few supplements as a starting point for insomnia. These supplements tend to be safer for the general public and people taking them can feel safe that they won’t become “dependent” on them. My top three favorites are:


  1. Theanine
  2. Magnesium
  3. 5-HTP or L-Tryptophan


Theanine is an amino acid that helps to calm anxiety and promote relaxation and rest. It is mild and can be used for those who find that they can’t shut off their mind when trying to go to sleep. You would take 100-200mg about 10 minutes before bed.


Magnesium is great at calming anxiety and for helping with quality of sleep as well. If you want to take it, have your doctor check your magnesium level and make sure you are safe to take it and ask your doctor at what dosage you should take it based on your labs. Magnesium is also necessary for muscle activity and will help those with leg cramps or muscle tightness and spasms if you are seen in your labs to be deficient. It tends to loosen your stool so it will help with constipation as well, but be wary of using this if you have a tendency towards loose stools or diarrhea already. Those with kidney disease may not be able to clear this as well, so make sure to check with your doctor before using this.


5-HTP or L-tryptophan has the added benefit of helping your mood and helps to put you to sleep. If you have low mood and insomnia, this potentially would be a good option for you. I generally recommend about 100-200mg of 5-HTP per night or 500mg of L-tryptophan per night for the average person with average weight and health. If you are on any anti-depressant drugs or any drugs that already have serotonin effects, you should not be using this and should clear it with your doctor first before trying it.


Although these options tend to have the most benefit with the least amount of problems and grogginess in the mornings, there are still a potential for interactions if you are on other supplements and medications so please clear any new supplements by your doctor first.


I know that most of you with insomnia probably have already looked into supplement options so probably know about other options like valerian root, lemon balm, melatonin, kava kava, and passionflower, just to name a few other options. But in my experience, these tend to cause more drowsiness in the morning and potentially have more side effects if you have environmental allergies to various plants. Having said that, these are still viable options for those with very severe insomnia and need stronger agents to get to sleep.


Either you use these herbs or the options I mentioned above, you should always clear your supplements with your doctor to make sure you are being safe…and most importantly, practice good sleep hygiene and avoid caffeine, turn down the lights a few hours before bed to get your body more relaxed and increase your own melatonin and don’t do activating activities like work or watch stressful shows before bed. Ultimately, good sleep hygiene is the most effective and safest way of helping your own body enter naturally into the restful stages of sleep you so desperately crave.

Dr. Julie T. Chen is board-certified in internal medicine and fellowship-trained and board-certified in integrative medicine. She has her own medical practice in San Jose, Calif. She is the medical director of corporation wellness at several Silicon Valley-based corporations, is on several medical expert panels of Web sites and nonprofit organizations, is a recurring monthly columnist for several national magazines, and has been featured in radio, newspaper, and magazine interviews. She incorporates various healing modalities into her practice including, but is not limited to, medical acupuncture, Chinese scalp acupuncture, clinical hypnotherapy, strain-counterstrain osteopathic manipulations, and biofeedback. To learn more, visit

Beat High Blood Pressure with Yoga

If you are looking to lower your blood pressure, yoga might be the answer. A new study has found that yoga has countless benefits for people who have high blood pressure.

The study was presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Hypertension recently.

By simply practicing yoga, people with mild to moderate hypertension could decrease their blood pressure, according to the research presented.

The study included 120 people with an average age of 50, 58 of whom completed the study. All the study participants were organized into one of three groups: One was assigned to do yoga two or three times a week in a studio for 24 weeks, while another group was assigned to do a walking/nutrition/weight counseling program. The third group was assigned to do both yoga and dietary counseling. Researchers analyzed their blood pressure at the beginning of the study, 12 weeks into the study, and 24 weeks into the study.


yoga They found that the people who did yoga had decreases in their systolic blood pressure at the 12-week mark, and decreases in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure at the 24-week mark. However, the researchers noted that the other two groups also experienced positive effects on their blood pressure.


Yoga has also been proven to be effective for other medical issues such as stress and anxiety. If you are looking for a natural way of reducing your blood pressure, take up a yoga class – you might be able to see benefits right away.