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6 steps to selecting the perfect supplement

6 steps to selecting the perfect supplement

  1. Know your numbers – If you’re taking prescription drugs, you’re likely deficient in some vitamins and minerals. In fact, most Americans are deficient in magnesium and vitamin D1-4. However, instead of just “guessing” what to supplement, it makes sense to work with your health care practitioner to identify your micronutrient deficiencies.  Spectracell makes a blood test that can be ordered by your health care professional, which can identify your nutritional gaps.  Note, this test may not covered by insurance companies and can cost about $100-$200.
  2. Read the label – Beware of what ingredients are in your supplement. Look at the label to identify active and inactive ingredients. The “active ingredient” is the substance you want.  The “inactive” ingredients are additives used to inexpensively “fill” or “bind” the product.  Many of these fillers or binders contain common allergens, including corn, gluten and soy.  You’ll also want to avoid any products with hydrogenated oils, artificial colors or flavors, magnesium stearate and titanium dioxide.
  3. Choose the right form – Ask your doctor or pharmacist to help you select the most “bioavailable” form, or the one that will promote quick uptake by the body of the nutrients they possess. This form could be a tablet, capsule or liquid that can easily get into the body so that it can perform the process needed to take part in activities of the cell.
  4. Select a reputable manufacturer – As with many things, you get what you pay for with supplements. Recently in the state of New York, it was found that 4 out of 5 supplements did not contain the ingredient listed on the label and included some unwanted ones as well (read more here). Even though supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), some manufacturers choose to comply with the current Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), which is a designation that can also be found on the product label.  Seek out a trusted brand through a reputable pharmacy, health food store, or from your doctor.  Be equally cautious when buying supplements online.   I personally use Ortho Molecular and Thorne.
  5. Avoid combination products – Unless directed by your doctor or pharmacist, you’ll want to avoid any products with more than one active ingredient. This will ensure you don’t get extra ingredients that you don’t need, are allergic to, or may not be beneficial to your condition.
  6. Start with one product at a time – Remember to start only one supplement at a time. Take note of how you feel, including any side effects and report back to your practitioner. Work with your health care practitioner to determine if and when it’s best to add another supplement to your regimen – usually in 2-3 weeks after the start of the first one.


  1. Dean, C. The Magnesium Miracle. New York, NY; 2003.
  2. Holick, MF. The Vitamin D Solution: A 3-Step Strategy to Cure Our Most Common Health Problems; 2010.
  3. Mercola J. Magnesium—The Missing Link to Better Health. December 8, 2013. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/12/08/magnesium-health-benefits.aspx.  Accessed May 15, 2015.
  4. Mercola, J. Vitamin D—One of the Simplest Solutions to Wide-Ranging Health Problems. December 22, 2013. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/12/22/dr-holick-vitamin-d-benefits.aspx.  Accessed May 15, 2015.

A game changer for Alzheimer’s disease

We all know someone affected by Alzheimer’s disease.  According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s disease is the 6th leading cause of death in the U.S., killing more than those with breast/prostate cancer combined.  A staggering 1 in 10 people age 65 and older has Alzheimer’s disease and every 66 seconds someone in the U.S. is diagnosed with the disease.  Pharmacotherapy to treat the disease is weak, at best.  The drugs work to “slow” the disease, but usually only target one possible cause.

I recently read the much anticipated book by Dr. Dale Bredesden, which I hope will revolutionize the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.  He succinctly describes the types of Alzheimer’s and provides an explanation of the complexity of the disease – which is VERY complex.  Considering there are a significant amount of contributors, his practical applications show that small, simple changes can help all of those along the Alzheimer’s spectrum, from newly diagnosed to severely debilitated – to those who want to prevent the disease from happening altogether.

Bredesden suggests testing for Apo-3/ApoE4 to check how your genetics affects your likelihood to get the disease, but notes that positive ApoE3/4 is not a guarantee to get it.  He speaks about “epigentics”, which is the notion that genetics alone is not a reason to get a disease – there are a multitude of changes someone can make in their environment, which can do to REDUCE their chance.  Bredesen provides a multitude of action items – from diet change, to required lab monitoring, to sleep and stress, all which can reduce symptoms and severity of the disease.

Are you concerned with Alzheimer’s disease, either with you or a loved one?  Please, please, please RUN – do not walk to get this book. Please comment below on your experience.


US News & World Report: Is There a Connection Between Gut Health and ADHD?

Check out my contribution to the article “Is There A Connection Between Gut Health and ADHD” in US News and World Report.  Excerpts from the article are noted below:

“The gut also houses over 1,000 different species of bacteria,” says Chantell Reagan, of FunctionalFarmacist.com, who focuses on nonpharmacologic ways to manage health. “Known as the ‘gut microbiome,’ each individual’s bacterial makeup is different. Much of the chronic diseases we face today can also be traced back to our gut health, including ADHD.” She explains that a combination of good and bad bacteria in the gut is necessary to achieve optimal health. When that balance is disrupted, mental and physical health can be compromised, making people more prone to everything from anxiety and obesity to depression and even cancer, Reagan says.

Reagan suggests several strategies to improve gut health, including chewing food slowly. “We’ve all heard of ‘you are what you eat,’ but really, you are what you absorb,” she says. “Try to maximize digestion by being in a relaxed state while eating, taking small bites and thoroughly chewing your food.” She also recommends identifying inflammatory triggers, from medications to foods. “Chronic medication use with antibiotics, antacids and steroids can disrupt the gut permeability,” Reagan says. She also advises consuming more probiotic foods or a probiotic supplement; in a blog post on the topic, she writes that foods like kefir, kombucha, raw sauerkraut and low-sugar, full-fat yogurt from grass-fed cows, especially if they are homemade or obtained from local sources, are an ideal way to obtain a range of bacterial strains. If choosing a supplement, she says to make sure it contains “a high colony-forming unit count of 10-40 billion CFUs.”

How one little word can rock your world

“Cancer…it seems as if everyone is affected by it.  Whether you know a friend, loved one or yourself, no one is immune to it.  It’s becoming a common, chronic condition in our nation and around the world.  Did you know that one in two people in the US will develop cancer at some point in their lifetime?  Of those who develop cancer, 75% will develop a recurrence.  It’s a stunning statistic and one we should not take lightly.

I’ve had very close friends (in their 30s and 40s) diagnosed and treated for breast cancer.  Last month, we discovered my mother has stage 3A peritoneal cancer with metastases to her lower bowel.  WOW, those words literally took my breath away.  She’s already undergone surgery and in the midst of chemotherapy.  As I’m passionate about treating her root cause of disease, we’re also implementing a lot of functional medicine practices, like diet modifications and smart supplementation.  On my quest to learn more and do more for her, I came across a new book hot off the press…. “The Metabolic Approach to Cancer”.  Authors Dr. Nasha Winters,  and Jess Higgins Kelly have succinctly summarized an incredibly challenging topic with lots of action steps.  They’ve identified ten “physiological and emotional human elements that require balance and optimization” – called “The Terrain Ten”, the many things we can control which affect cancer.

  • Genetic/epigenetic/nutrigenomic modifications
  • Blood sugar balance
  • Toxic burden management
  • Repopulating and balancing the microbiome
  • Immune system maximization
  • Modulating inflammation and oxidative stress
  • Enhancing blood circulation while inhibiting antiogenesis and metastasis
  • Establishing hormone balance
  • Recalibrating stress levels and biorhythms
  • Enhancing mental and emotional well being

Each one of these topics has it’s own dedicated chapter in the book.  It’s packed with data, practical tips and recommendations.  Some things that I learned:

  • Mistletoe is a potent ant-iinflammatory agent and a viable treatment option in cancer
  • High dose melatonin (20-40mg) is an also under-utilized option, but since it is a hormone, should be used under direct supervision of a physician
  • Targeting the endocannabinoid system (ECS) has been shown to have anti-inflammatory, anticachechix, metabolic, pain managment, antiseizure and sleep promoting effects.  It might be it’s own “Terrain” by the 2nd edition of this book!
  • Get tested!  There are many suggested tests noted in the book, which can easily be done by an oncologist or family pratitioner, including circulation (fibrinogen, VEGF, serum copper and ferritin)
  • “Our genes are screaming at us to stop eating sugar”.  Implemeting a ketogenic diet, starves off cancer cells.  It’s not only what you DON’T eat, but what you EAT (i.e. superfoods), that can help too
  • Take care of your emotions.  Determine if you have a “Type C” personality and keep a “mood-food” journal of how you feel after eating certain foods

Favorite quote of the book: “We’ll say it again:  Cancer is a metabolic, environmental and emotional disease.”

My goal is for everyone to read this book and realize that there is HOPE.  This book is for both those being treated for cancer and those who want to prevent it.  Outside of genetics and “bad luck”, you have the power to change your destiny based on epigenetics and lifestyle factors!


WINTERS, N and HIGGins Kelly, J.  The Metabolic Approach to Cancer: Integrating Deep Nutrition, the Ketogenic Diet, and Nontoxic Bio-Individualized Therapies. 2017


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Antidepressant use in the news and book giveaway

Happy New Year to all!  Last month, an interesting article appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), which noted that approximately 1 out of 6 US adults reported taking at least one psychiatric medication for at least a year or more.  Usually the drug was an antidepressant (i.e Zoloft or Celexa), an anti-anxiety medication like Xanax or a drug like Ambien for sleep. The findings were based on 2013 government data, which assessed 242 million adults.  Though these medications can be helpful in certain situations, they are certainly not without risk.  What was concerning in this data is that over 80% of those taking these medications are using them on a long-term basis.  Most of these antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications are recommended for shorter use and carry a number of serious risks, like withdrawal effects, panic attacks and suicidal thoughts.  I also expand upon the seriousness of these medications in my previous post “Antidepressants are even more dangerous in kids”.

The New York Times also covered the story.  A professor of psychiatry at Columbia University, Dr. Mark Olfson, noted that the new data reflects a growing acceptance of and reliance on prescription medications” to manage common emotional problems”.  At the same time this article was released, I was reading a book by Dr. Kelly Brogan titled “A Mind of Your Own“.  She is board certified in psychiatry, psychosomatic medicine, and integrative holistic medicine, and is specialized in a root-cause resolution approach to psychiatric syndromes and symptoms. Consider there is another way to “treat” your depression or mental illness by exploring a functional medicine looking at the root cause.  I feel so strongly about her approach, I think everyone who is considering taking an antidepressant or anti-anxiety medication should read her book before starting the drug .  I’ve highlighted some of the important take-away messages below:

  • Most of the antidepressants on the market don’t even work that well to begin with.  Dr. Brogan goes into exceptional detail about how antidepressants were FDA approved and the lack of data found to support their use.  This quote from the British Medical Journal in 2013 summarizes it best: “Unfortunately the balance between benefits and risks, it is an uncomfortable truth that most drugs do not work in most patients.”
  • Dr. Brogan provides an easy to understand explanation of the “the gut-brain connection”, and it’s high correlation to those suffering with depression and mental illness.  If one does not have a healthy gut, then you cannot expect to have a healthy brain.  For more reading, I’ve published an article on “The Gut-Brain Connection in Complex Kids” as well as a blog post “All Disease Starts in the Gut“.  Dr. Brogan calls out the major gut disruptors: gluten, dairy, GMOs, artificial sugars, and drugs like antibiotics, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (i.e. Motrin) and proton pump inhibitors like Nexium.
  • Common environmental toxins can cause depression-like symptoms.  Consider the drugs noted above, as well as others like birth control, vaccines and fluoride.  Additionally, as I point out in my “Take Control of Environmental Toxins” post, there are a multitude of other toxins to consider eliminating from your life.
  • It all goes back to Hippocrates: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”  Dr. Brogan states “Food isn’t just fuel, it’s information”.  She stresses a natural diet, free of processed food and emphasizing whole foods, healthy fats, promoting probiotics and eating mindfully.
  • Dr. Brogan highlights other incredibly important lifestyle factors one must address when holistically treating depression, including meditation, sleep and exercise. These tools are often overlooked and underappreciated for the value they bring to optimized health.  I’ve written more on the “Importance of Sleep“.
  • Consider important testing and supplementation in your treatment protocol, which can be guided by a Functional Medicine Practitioner.  For example, did you know that patients with thyroid disease often present with depression?
  • Most importantly, she provides a “30 day plan of action” which can easily kick-start anyone interested in improving their mental health.  The program simplifies the principles noted above, complete with easy-to-follow recipes included.

I love Dr. Brogan’s work so much that I’m giving one free copy of her book away!  How would you use this book to address your 2017 goals?  For yourself?  For a loved-one?  Please comment below by Fri 1/13, when I’ll announce the winner!  Here’s to a year with better mental health!

Treating ADHD Naturally with Dr. Carri Drzyzga

I was honored to be a guest on “The Functional Medicine Radio Show“.  Check out my most recent interview with Dr. Carri Drzyzga DC, ND (“The Functional Medicine Doc”) on treating ADHD naturally where we explore the following:

  • How does a child get diagnosed with ADHD and what are the treatments?
  • What is the functional medicine approach?
  • What is a leaky gut and why is it bad?
  • What are your recommendations for patients who have these symptoms?
  • What is the 4S approach?

If you haven’t already, follow Dr. Carri, Naturopath and Chiropractor and her functional medicine approach: http://www.drcarri.com/

Interested in learning more about my 4S approach?  Contact me at functionalfarmacist@gmail.com for more information on my next “4S Approach to ADHD” 4 week webinar.

Impact ADHD: Guest blog post on the top vitamin/mineral deficiencies in ADHD

The latest guest blog post on “Treating the top vitamin and mineral deficiencies in ADHD” is live on Impact ADHD‘s website.  Have you used supplementation in your ADHD protocol?  Let me know in the comments below.  Pharmacist tip: always make sure to make sure that you’re working with a healthcare practitioner to obtain accurate lab values BEFORE supplementation.  Additionally, sign up for my blog posts and receive my “Six Steps to Selecting the Perfect Supplement” for even more tips.

Impact ADHD: Guest blog post on the connection between food sensitivities/allergies and ADHD

Next in my series of guest blog posts on Impact ADHD‘s site, I explore the link between food allergies/sensitivities and ADHD. Click this link to learn more!  Please ask questions and leave any comments online.

New to Impact ADHD?  CONNECT with them on Social Media:

What’s been your experience?  Did you notice a food trigger contributing to ADHD symptoms?

Guest blog post series on ImpactADHD

I’m honored to be featured as ImpactADHD’s Guest Expert this week with my first blog post in a series titled “An Integrative Approach to ADHD“.  This week, I’ll explain the integrative/functional medicine approach is and how it differs from our traditional, Western medicine approach.

Please check out ImpactADHD online and CONNECT with them on Social Media:

Lastly, I encourage you to sign up for their free newsletter, and you’ll get a new Guest Expert post every week (and receive a free gift, too!).

I would love to hear your comments and questions either below or online!