The 3 Best Supplements You’ve Never Heard Of

More than one-third of Americans now use some sort of ‘alternative medicine’ for the purpose of improving health, of which, nutritional supplementation is heavily relied upon. The use of nutritional supplements is an appealing route for many as it involves little more than simply ‘taking a pill’. However, there are a few things relating to supplementation that are important to keep in mind:

1)   A whole foods diet will always be superior than relying on isolated vitamins and minerals to make up for a poor diet.

2)  A change in diet and lifestyle is the cornerstone of any health-related change in which, supplementation may play a small role.

Despite the fact that the supplement industry is highly un-regulated, there are some very effective and well-researched dietary supplements that go beyond simply improving nutritional deficiencies. Here are a few herbal supplements (that likely you have never heard of) that have promising evidence for health-related use.

Ashwagandha; stress reducer

An herb commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine, Ashwagandha is often referred to as an “adaptogenic” herb. Adaptogens are compounds that are able to prevent the physical and chemical effects of stress. Ashwagandha can significantly reduce cortisol (our main stress-hormone) concentrations and the immunosuppressive effect of stress.

Beyond reducing stress levels, ashwagandha may also improve the formation of memories, suggesting that it can be a useful treatment in those with Alzheimer’s disease.

Practical Application: For those that feel like they are under excessive amounts of stress and/or have a low tolerance to stress, ashwagandha could be beneficial by reducing anxiety, improving energy, and helping to reduce stress hormones that may be affecting daily energy levels and interfering with restful sleep.

Berberine; blood sugar manager

Berberine is a plant compound traditionally used in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine that may soon be one of our most powerful natural therapies for preventing and treating a wide range of conditions—particularly insulin resistance and diabetes.

At the most basic level, berberine has been shown to stimulate the uptake of glucose into the cells, reduce glucose production in the liver, as well as improve insulin sensitivity. Glucose, a simple sugar found in carbohydrates and produced in the body, is one of our primary fuel sources. People with poor blood sugar (glucose) regulation and lowered insulin sensitivity are at greater risk for weight gain and Type 2 diabetes.

Practical Application: Berberine would be a useful product for those people that feel like they may not handle starchy carbohydrate foods well, like bread, pasta, potatoes, rice, etc. Similarily, those who tend to store more body fat in the upper back, love handles and belly button areas may be experiencing poor blood sugar regulation and reduced insulin sensitivity, in which case berberine use would be indicated.

Bergamot; cholesterol reducer

Originating from southern Italy, bergamot fruit extracts are among the most powerful new natural extracts that have been shown to have positive effects on what many health professional are now referring to as “Diabesity”. Also referred to as ‘metabolic syndrome’ it is characterized by a group of metabolic risk factors including central obesity (a large waistline), high triglycerides and blood pressure, low HDL cholesterol, insulin resistance or high blood sugar levels, and being in a pro-inflammatory state (e.g. having high C-reactive protein levels in the blood).

According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, “In general, a person who has metabolic syndrome is twice as likely to develop heart disease and five times as likely to develop diabetes”.

Bergamot fruit extract has been found to lower cholesterol levels by basically blocking the livers production in a similar way to statin drugs, like Lipitor and Simvastatin.  In fact, some research suggests that bergamot may work synergistically with statins which may enable doctors to prescribe lower doses, potentially leading to less harmful side effects from the statins.

Similar to it’s cholesterol lowering affects, bergamot has been shown to have beneficial effects on glucose and fatty acid metabolism (fat burning), thereby improving the bodies ability to manage blood sugar and prevent the accumulation of fat, particularly around the midsection.

Practical Application: For those with larger waistlines and more than one metabolic risk factor (see above), using bergamot may help reduce inflammation, improve blood sugar regulation and blood lipids.

The increasing use of nutritional supplements in place of, and in conjunction with conventional medicine is a rapidly expanding and integrative practice. There is a growing body of evidence that is highlighting the numerous benefits of nutritional supplements that has legitimate value for those proactively seeking out ways to improve their health and turn back the clock of disease progression.

Disclaimer: Given the abundance and conflicting nature of information now available about dietary supplements, you may need help from a health practitioner to sort the reliable information from the questionable.

Do not self-diagnose. Consult your doctor before taking herbal supplements.

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References:

1)   http://examine.com/supplements/Ashwagandha/

2)   http://www.drwhitaker.com/what-is-berberine-research-and-benefits

3)   http://www.nutraingredients-usa.com/Suppliers2/Statin-like-bergamot-extract-offers-novel-approach-in-fight-against-diabesity

4)   http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20843083

5)   http://www.poliquingroup.com/ArticlesMultimedia/Articles/Article/1067/Your_New_Ally_Against_Heart_Disease_and_Obesity_Be.aspx

6)   http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/ms/

7)   http://www.siliconvalleyfit.com/blog/bid/346102/Cholesterol-Lowering-Properties-of-Polyphenols-and-Phytosterols

8)   http://www.examiner.com/article/popular-citrus-bergamot-may-be-replacing-statins-with-some-cardiologists