Are you taking the right B vitamin?

Are you taking the right B vitamin? This is a question I ask of all my patients. So right now I am going to walk you through 3 things so you can answer this question yourself:

  1. What B vitamins do
  2. How to test
  3. How to supplement

And of course, ask your doctor before initiating any new supplements, because I am not your doctor.

There are MANY types of B vitamins and they all do different things:

  • B1 – Thiamine – nerves
  • B2 – Riboflavin – energy, headaches
  • B3 – Niacin – cholesterol
  • B5 – Pantothenic acid – histamine, adrenals
  • B6 – Pyridoxine – pregnancy nausea, estrogen detox
  • B7 – Biotin – healthy hair
  • B9 – Folate – neurological system, RBC production, influences DNA
  • B12 – Cobalamin – energy, fatigue, mood disorders

I generally recommend B vitamins to people because B vitamins are used in almost every single biochemical reaction in the body – so if you are deficient in a vitamin – that means the cellular processes in your body get “stuck” and that ultimately leads to symptoms.

B vitamins help us with energy, focus, healthy red blood cell production, hormone balance, mood support, hair growth, healthy cholesterol levels, good neurological health, adrenal function, mitochondrial function, clearance of hormones and histamine, and MORE!

So if you’re not getting enough B vitamins, it’s a problem!

But first it’s important to make a distinction between TRUE deficiency and FUNCTIONAL deficiency.

In developed countries like America, rarely does someone have a true deficiency of B vitamins. Though the most common true deficiency I see is B12. This normally happens in people who are older, or people who have compromised digestion and poor absorption.

We figure out how much B vitamins you need by a couple of different tests:

  1. Blood tests
  2. Urine tests
  3. Or both

You can test for almost all the B vitamins in the blood.  The ones that tend to be the most reliable are B12 and folate, which is B9.

Folate is measured in ng/mL and needs to be above 4.6 – your ranges may be different if you use a different lab – and the lab stops testing it at >20. For folate, I like people to be on the higher end of the range – between 10 and 20

B12 is measured in pg/mL and the range is about 230-1245. For B12 I like people to be in the functional range of 800-900.

People who are taking a B vitamin supplement often show as high levels on each, which is ok. If high levels come up and you are not taking a supplement or have not had a B vitamin injection lately, then definitely see your doctor to check things out. These tests are great, but they are not perfect. They just tell us what is floating around in the blood, and that can fluctuate depending on intake and activity levels.

I like to look also at a homocysteine marker and a CBC- complete blood count. Inside the CBC you have a marker called MCV which is mean corpuscular volume – which has to do with Red blood cell SIZE. You need healthy DNA to make healthy properly sized red blood cells, so if there are not enough folate or B12, the cells tend to become larger, because the cellular machinery doesn’t have the right tools to create the cells in the proper size, and so they get larger.

Homocysteine is a blood marker that when elevated, is linked to increase risk of cardiovascular events. If homocysteine is high, it indicates a deficiency in B2, B6, B9, or B12, or all four! Proper supplementation will bring down levels. I like to see homocysteine less than 7. Unfortunately, most labs won’t flag your result until it’s greater than 15, and that’s too high. Once homocysteine gets over 10, I get worried, and I get people on a supplement.

Urine testing is great for testing for specific byproducts in the urine that correlate with a lack of B vitamins. This is often part of a DUTCH test I run when I look at someones hormones. But you can run this many different ways, whether it’s at a traditional lab like LabCorp or whether it’s a specialty lab like an organic acids test. MMA (methylmalonic acid) is one of my favorite tests because if it’s elevated, then that indicates a B12 deficiency.

Every so often, a person will have a genetic mutation that affects their ability to use B vitamins in the body. You’ve probably heard of MTHFR – which is methylenetetrahydrafolate reductase – the enzyme that helps create active folate. Some people’s MTHFR gene doesn’t function optimally so they do not make much active folate.  Active folate (5-methyltetrahydrofolate) is used by the body to convert homocysteine to methionine, and so that is why homocysteine is often high in people who are low in B vitamins. Just because you have an MTHFR gene mutation does not mean you need to supplement with large amounts of folate or B12 – so ask your doctor about what dose is needed for you.  But what I can say is that people who have an affected MTHFR gene, do tend to need “methylated” B vitamins. Methylated B vitamins are vitamins that are active, and have undergone that “methylation activation” step in the lab, so the body doesn’t have to do this – which is helpful for those with MTHFR!

Now MTHFR isn’t the only gene that plays a roll, there are other types of MTHFR genes that are related, that can affect how you feel. I often see people with COMT issues. COMT is an gene that helps clear out certain neurotransmitters, including estrogen. And methylated B vitamins don’t always treat people with COMT mutations that well, because it can overstimulate them. So if you tend to feel jittery with methylated B vitamins, have your doctor test your COMT gene.

That’s all I want to say about genetics before the whole topic runs away with me.

Let’s talk about what MOST people will tolerate.

I generally recommend methylated B vitamins to everyone, and they tend to be the most tolerated overall. And I know someone is getting high quality vitamins if they are methylated.

Here are the forms you are going to look for- write this down:

  • B1 – thiamine hydrochloride
  • B2 – riboflavin-5-phosphate is better than riboflavin
  • B3 – niacinamide
  • B5 – pantothenic acid or pantothenate or calcium D-pantothenate
  • B6 – pyridoxal-5-phosphate is the better than just pyridoxine
  • B7 – biotin is biotin
  • B9 – “methyl folate” you’ll often see this as “l-methylfolate” or “quatrefolic” – DO NOT BUY A PRODUCT THAT HAS FOLIC ACID – this product actually prevents you from making active folate
  • B12 – look for adenosylcobalamin, hydroxycobalamin, and methylcobalamin – DO NOT BUY CYANOCOBALAMIN – it has a tiny molecule of cyanide inside, and it’s really cheap to make and relies on your body to convert it to be useful, so avoid this

If you are sensitive to METHYL folate or METHYL cobalamin, then you can take hydroxy- or adenosyl- cobalamin; and you can take FOLINIC acid and not folate.

My favorite B vitamin brands are OrthoMolecular, Seeking Health, Thorne, and Pure Encapsulations. Remember – get your B levels checked before you supplement, and be sure to ask your doctor which form is right for you.

And if for some reason you can’t supplement, you can EAT your B vitamins. Just follow the recommendations below.

  • B1 – White rice, pork, beans, sunflower seeds
  • B2 – Beef liver, oats, yogurt, mushrooms, spinach
  • B3 – Beef liver, chicken, salmon, tuna, turkey, peanuts
  • B5 – Beef liver, chicken, shitaake mushrooms, avocado
  • B6 – Chickpeas, beef liver, tuna, turkey, salmon, sweet potato, banana
  • B7 – Beef liver, eggs, almond, sweet potato
  • B9 – Beef liver, lentils, spinach, asparagus, pinto beans, turnip greens
  • B12 – Clams, beef liver, trout, salmon, tuna, beef, yogurt, cheese

For more information on this topic, visit my YouTube channel, and watch my B vitamin video!

2020 Gift guide for the healthy woman

Every year when gift guides come out, I am always sad I didn’t release one! Throught the year I’m always recommending different products to my patients in order to help support their health and make their life EASIER! So this year, I am finally complining a list of products that that have made a difference in my life – or that I know a woman in your life will LOVE!

I am not associated with any of these products, and the only affiliate links I share are at the bottom, and labeled!

I hope this guide gives you some great ideas 🙂

For the plant lover:

  1. Hamama growing kit – Grow your own microgreens for salad toppings, at home!
  2. Watering can – The right watering can actually makes a big difference.
  3. Fiddle leaf fig tree – Have a bright window? Your fiddle leaf fig will thrive in front of it.
  4. Plant mister – Keep plants fresh, and it’s cute on display!
  5. Mini succulent pots – Everyone loves a succulent window sill.

For the coffee/tea lover:

  1. Milk frother/blender – Blend powders into drinks easily, or froth warm milk!
  2. Nontoxic French Press – An absolutely ZERO plastic french press
  3. Clean Coffee – Coffee is one of the dirtiest crops – this coffee is mold-free, organic, and more!
  4. Hand wrap mug – Warm up your hands and cozy up with your favorite warm beverage.

For the eco friendly homebody:

  1. Laundry detergent – Actually get the STINK out of your workout gear!
  2. Dr. Bronner’s soap – This basic product can be transformed into floor cleaner or foam soap!
  3. Mason jar pour top – Make storing and pouring liquids easier on your mason jar loving lady!
  4. iLids mason jar storage tops – Storage options with zero-spill.
  5. Clean/dirty magnet – Keep track of what’s in the dishwasher!
  6. Over the cabinet/wall organizer – Hang this on the wall or in the cabinet. Stores cutting boards or baggie boxes!

For the foodie:

  1. Go Macro Bars – Great pre-workout or bedtime snack!
  2. Coconut milk – I love coconut milk that doesn’t taste like a can…
  3. All Clad pan – Non-toxic pans that last forever.
  4. OXO storage – These food storage containers are the best I’ve found (and I’ve tried many).
  5. OXO spatula – This spatula is so useful and stands the test of time!
  6. Lid storage – Not going to lie this product changed my life.

For the beauty products queen:

  1. Shampoo brush – Got dandruff? Scalp psoriasis? Seb derm? This helps exfoliate your scalp.
  2. Dry skin brush – Great for stimulating the lymph = happy skin!
  3. Scrunchies – Scrunchies are back and I am so excited about it.
  4. Face serums – Ladies love serums 😉
  5. Organizer bag set – Organize makeup, serums, scrunchies, travel necessities, and more!
  6. Hydro-Flask water bottle – Gotta hydrate to keep skin glowing, and this water bottle is non-toxic!

*My affiliate products that I love:

  1. Mantra Bands – Wear encouraging, minimalistic, simple jewelry with YOUR OWN mantra on it! (Code: DRMEG)
  2. TempDrop – A wearable basal body temperature tracker, so you can cycle track effortlessly! (Code: BRV433UDFLUE5)
  3. Lucky Iron Fish – Get your iron levels up without an iron supplement. (Code: none – click the link!)
  4. Paleo Treats – The highest quality, most delicious pre-made desserts on the market. (Code: DRMEG)

*As you know, I am very choosy about what I recommend. I am affiliated with these products (meaning if you click the link and buy you get a discount and I get a small amount of $), because I LOVE them, I use them personally, and I recommend them to patients almost daily.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays and happy gift-giving! I hope you have a wonderful and safe holiday season!

Choosing Safe Candles

Did you know that most candles are toxic?

I’m here to tell you why and what you should be looking for.

My own research into this topic started when I was young. Candles were a big part of my childhood. Growing up in New England, my mom was BIG into “Yankee Candles” which is a large candle company on the East Coast. They make these really big candles in cool glass containers of all different flavors, and you can burn them for hours.

We started to reevaluate our use of candles when they would leave “soot” on the ceiling, and when scents would give us headaches. We thought — this can’t be right… if it’s making soot, then we are obviously breathing it in right?

My mom and I were on the right track and I started to learn how horrible traditional scented candles are for you.

The good news is that you can still enjoy candles, because they can be made healthfully!

Here’s what you want to avoid:

  • synthetic paraffin candles, and soy wax sometimes isn’t any better*
  • scented candles of all kinds
  • pretty much any traditional candles you see in the store because of their fragrances, dyes,

WHY:

  • they release VOCs (volatile organic compounds) which are widely known for their toxicity, PMID: 25588193
  • candles can release chemicals whether they are being lit or NOT, PMID: 25588193
  • they release formaldehyde, PMID: 26495830
  • lead is commonly used as a stiffening agent for wicks, and when burned release lead into the air, PMID: 12398334, PMID: 10811249
  • ever heard of airborne contact dermatitis? it’s thing, and breathing in fragrances and chemicals helps cause it

Here’s what you want to purchase:

  • 100% beeswax candles
  • 100% natural cotton wick
  • naturally saturated fat candles, like palm or coconut oil
  • candles naturally scented with essential oils and other botanicals

So what about incense? It doesn’t look like incense is any safer or a good alternative, PMID: 26614451. The burning of fragrances plus wood? Exposure to wood smoke is actually a recognize cause of respiratory disease, PMID: 27382275.

If you look this subject of scented candles on on PubMed, you’ll get a variety of opinions. Even one study said that typical use of scented candles doesn’t pose health risk, PMID: 24582651, but I have no idea how they can say that when we know these candles release VOCs and other chemicals like formaldehyde, and we have multiple studies that demonstrate with multiple testing methods the hazards of chemicals released by scented candles being over the acceptable limits.

The thing about looking at the literature vs thinking critically is that scientifically if they cannot make a positive correlation, then the jury is still out. The way I choose to see some of these controversial topics is thinking back to basic human physiology. If we know a substance releases toxin X, and toxin X is a known carcinogen or xyz, then I am not going to recommend anything or any product that contains the substance that releases or contains toxin X. Simple right?

*It’s important to note, that just like olive oil, the candles can be marketed as a “soy candle” and contain 51% soy wax and 49% cheap paraffin wax. Soy wax candles ARE better than paraffin candles, but because of this, that’s why I said they aren’t much better. You’d need to look for 100% soy wax on the label, and buy from a company that you trust.

Paraffin is a problem because it’s a by-product of the petroleum industry. The way that paraffin is created involves a significant refining and bleaching process to get the “wax” you and me know today. There is no way to ever fully get rid of those chemicals use in the refining process – so when a paraffin candle is burned, some of those chemicals remain and are burned into the air you are breathing.

The candle industry will say there is no issue with “sooting.” But you and I know better. The microscopic particles that are left behind can cause health effects.

So if candles are so bad… what did they use back before electricity? They used BEESWAX candles. Beeswax candles actually release negative ions into the air which are beneficial for human health. Beeswax candles have natural color and do not need to be dyed. They are often scented with natural essential oils and botanicals, which are safe. Beeswax candles do not aggravate asthma, allergies, and most people who are sensitive to fragrances can use beeswax candles comfortably.

One of my favorite companies is a local company in Seattle, WA, where I went to medical school. Big Dipper Wax Works https://www.bigdipperwaxworks.com/ But there are MANY other companies out there at are safe. Take the list above, and do your research. Let me know if you find any hidden gems!
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Now, go switch out your candles! 🙂

Grain-free Chocolate chip cookies

These cookies are my go to for a healthy, simple treat. Versatile in many ways. You can sub the coconut oil for butter. You can add walnuts. You can add raisins. You can use coconut sugar instead of brown sugar. They brown up beautifully in the oven, and have just the right hint of sweetness!

Chocolate Chip Cookies

makes about 28 cookies (2 dozen, plus 3)

  • 4 cups almond flour
  • 2 TBSP coconut flour
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil , melted (non-vegans can use butter)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup (at room temperature)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar or coconut sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 TBSP vanilla extract
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips (or cacao nibs, for sugar-free)

Directions:

  1. Mix wet ingredients (vanilla, egg, maple syrup, coconut oil, egg) plus brown sugar in large bown with a whisk until homogenous and incorporated. Using coconut sugar results in slightly drier cookie, so bake for shorter time.
  2. Add dry ingredients to the wet ingredient bowl, and mix well with spatula.
  3. Use a cookie scoop and scoop cookie dough onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes. Check at the 10 minute mark to assess cookie progress. Cookies will be ready when they are slightly golden in color.
  5. Remove prompty and let cool before serving.
  6. Cookies stay very nicely in a air-tight sealed tupperware container on the counter. For longer shelf life, place in air-tight container in the refridgerator.

Grain-free pumpkin muffins

These muffins are delicious and easy to make. We enjoy adding different ingredients into the batter, whether it’s chocolate chips, raisins, or walnuts!

Grain-free Pumpkin Muffins
makes about 2 dozen muffins

    2 cups  blanched almond flour
    1 tsp  baking soda
    1/2 tsp  sea salt
    1/2 tsp  each: nutmeg, allspice, cloves
    1 cup  pumpkin puree
    3 real eggs – ours were large!
    1/4 cup  organic extra virgin olive oil
    1/2 cup  honey/maple syrup
    1 cup  chopped nuts (for topping)
    Optional add ins: raisins, walnuts, chocolate chips

To make your muffins:
  1.  Preheat oven to 350. Prepare muffin tins with muffin liners.
  2.  Mix dry ingredients together in a medium bowl, be sure to remove lumps.
  3.  Mix wet ingredients together in a large bowl.
  4.  Add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients.
  5.  Pour batter into muffin tin, about 3/4 cup full for each.
  6.  Bake for 22-24 minutes or until a tester inserted in the middle comes out clean.