Monday, July 15, 2013

Client questions: Supplement edition

This blgo will be regularly updated with questions clients as well as readers ask me.  If you have a specific question you would like answered about nutrition, supplements, exercise, or anything related to health and fitness send me an email, post a question on facebook, or ask one in the comments section.

Do you recommend any probiotics and if so what kind and how many CFU?
This is a question I get asked a lot and there is actually a simple answer: It depends.  For the most part, I think most people put way too much stock in probiotics.  For one, if you use probiotics that need to be refrigerated, it seems odd that they are so fragile that they cannot survive outside of the refrigerator but not so sensitive that they can survive 8 hours immersed in your digestive juices and a 98 degree environment before settling down safely in the large intestine.  I think more focus, and the research bares this, should be placed on eating foods high in prebiotic fibers such as fruits and vegetables.  Prebiotics are substrates that probiotics ferment, so they are basically food for the bacteria.  My personal strategy is to eat fermented foods and tons of fruits and vegetables and I don't take probiotics in supplement form.  They may have some utility if you need to take a course of antibiotics.  In this instance I would take a high CFU probiotic(10-15 billion) that contains prebiotics as well or I would take a prebiotic supplement as well.

Do you recommend taking any antioxidants?
I don't see anything wrong with taking antioxidants, and you obviously need antioxidants such as vitamins C and E which are necessary for good health.  When making your decision on whether or not you should take antioxidants, it makes sense to understand how they work.  Free radicals are atoms, molecules, or ions that have an unpaired electron.   Since this makes them unstable, they react with nearby atoms, molecules, or ions and steal an electron.  This makes the object they reacted with a free radical and, thus, unstable.  Antioxidants donate an electron to free radicals, but this makes the antioxidant a weaker free radical.  The free radicals you get from food work in this manner, but you have an endogenous(it's made inside the body) antioxidant called glutathione that acts as a super-antioxidant.  Not only does glutathione donate electrons to free radicals, it donates electrons to antioxidants that have donated their electrons.  This essentially recharges the antioxidants you eat and allows them to get back to work.  Certain foods increase glutathione production in the body including the omega 3 fatty acid DHA found in fish, curcumin from turmeric, blueberries, and the cruciferous vegetables.  One thing of note: since the cruciferous vegetables are goitrogenic, it's a good idea to limit their consumption.  The good thing is, the effects from the cruciferous vegetables appears to last for 3 days so daily consumption is unnecessary.  N-Acetyl Cysteine and undenatured whey are supplemental ways to improve glutathione status.  Ingesting glutathione itself won't work because it is destroyed by stomach acid.

What type of protein supplement do you recommend?
For the most part I recommend people get their protein from animal flesh.  The only type of protein powder I recommend outside of that is Mercola Pure Power Protein.  I recommend this protein because it comes from grass-fed cows and contains prebiotics.  Since it is whey, it can be completely digested(Casein is the problematic protein in milk) and will help improve glutathione status.  It's also 99% lactose free so it is tolerated by most people.  Supposedly, since it's undenatured(Not heat processed) it's better at improving glutathione status but I have seen studies showing regular whey to work perfectly fine for improving glutathione status.