I am 31 years old and, before I had children, I was very active—I swam, lifted weights, cycled and ran a little bit. When my kids were babies I let my exercise slide, but I have recently started exercising more and I love it. I am cycling and lifting weights. However, I am really struggling with knee and occasional other joint pain. My trainer has really been pushing dietary supplements to help with my creaky joints. I am wary of supplements in general, largely because I do not even know where to begin to educate myself. My trainer has highly recommended fish oil and glucosamine chondroitin. I am allergic to shellfish and never really developed a taste for seafood. Do you think supplements are a good idea? If so, what supplements do you recommend for aging gracefully? With my allergy, can I even take fish oil or a similar supplement?
If you are allergic to shellfish, I do not recommend that you take glucosamine chondroitin or any other supplement that contains shellfish. The reason fish oil is recommended is that it has the omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce inflammation. Besides fish, you can get omega-3 fatty acids from ground flax seeds, flax oil, and walnuts. The best way to age gracefully is to eat a whole-foods diet, avoid processed foods, get regular exercise and sleep and practice stress management techniques. There is now a lot of research about antioxidants and their anti-aging benefits (for example, berries, grapes, beans, apples, onions, green tea, and dark chocolate). Antioxidants protect the blood vessels by preventing damage from free radicals, support the immune system, lower allergies and have anti-inflammatory properties.
I think you have asked an excellent question about whether supplements are a good idea. In general, it is important to rely first on our diet to meet our nutritional needs. Eat a whole-foods diet, with 6-8 servings of vegetables and 2-3 servings of fruit each day, and avoid processed foods. A multivitamin is intended to “supplement” areas in the diet where nutrients may be missing or not be consumed in sufficient quantities. There are specialty lab tests available to evaluate one’s nutritional status, and to adjust the nutritional and supplementation plan accordingly.
Quality control is also a big issue. Make sure you select products that are hypoallergenic. Many companies add unnecessary ingredients such as binders and fillers. Before starting any supplement, consult with your physician or a naturopathic doctor, as there may be adverse interactions, especially if you are taking certain medications. It is always best to take supplements devised for your individual needs. Naturopathic doctors have extensive experience in this area.
I am wondering what remedies are available for eczema and environmental allergies (dust, pollen) and whether there are any lifestyle/nutritional changes that are helpful.
With regards to eczema, there are often delayed food sensitivities that need to be identified. The component of the immune system that is responsible for delayed food sensitivities is called IgG. The most common food allergies are wheat, eggs, dairy, soy, and corn. That said, there may be other foods that could be triggering eczema. There are a few specialized lab companies that test for IgG delayed food sensitivities. Identifying these can provide a great deal of information to those with chronic lingering symptoms. Another method, which is the gold standard, is called the Allergy Elimination Diet. This involves complete avoidance of all the suspected food allergens for at least 2 weeks followed by their re-introduction, one at a time. Should certain symptoms such as eczema dissipate upon elimination, this alone is a sign that there are food allergies involved. And should the symptom return upon re-introduction of that food, complete avoidance of that food is recommended. Allergy Elimination Diet is a powerful way to make the connection between how particular foods affect the individual’s energy and overall health.
While there is a genetic susceptibility to allergies, environmental factors can play a significant role in the development of both food and environmental allergies. Naturopathic Doctors refer to this as the “total load,” in that a cumulative effect of stress (mental emotional, physical), continual exposure to the allergens, a weak immune system, poor digestion, alcohol, smoking and chemical pollutants can overwhelm the immune system and eventually lead to the allergy cascade. Treatment therefore involves reduction of these factors. Also keep your home free of chemicals, mold and dust, and use hypoallergenic products.
Finally, I have found homeopathy to be very effective in the treatment of eczema and seasonal allergies. Homeopathy’s effectiveness is dependent upon the selection of the correct remedy based on the individual’s constitution. Homeopathy is safe for babies, pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, and does not have side effects like certain antihistamines or decongestants.
My 2-year-old toddler recently ate some food that was contaminated with heavy metal. Thus I have a few questions about detox. I read parents’ comments that apple pectin takes out certain contaminants. Is apple pectin OK for a 2-year-old, if I mix 1/4 teaspoon with 4 oz. juice? Should I give it to him with food or without food? I read parents’ comments that edible clay (if previously screened for lead, etc.) also takes out contaminants. Have you come across such use?
I do not recommend using apple pectin or any other home remedy. Heavy metal toxicity is a serious issue. If you suspect any kind of heavy metal ingestion, consult with your pediatrician.
Dr. Lena Kian is a California Licensed Naturopathic Doctor. She is a graduate of Bastyr University, known internationally as one of the leading institutions in the field of natural medicine. She is passionate about naturopathic medicine, and has been Co-Chair of the Professional Development Committee at the California Naturopathic Doctors Association (CNDA) since 2008. Dr. Kian has a private practice in Sunnyvale, and is the founder of Harmony Healing Naturopathic Clinic. She is fluent in both English and Farsi. For more information please visit www.harmonyhealingclinic.com, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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“Ask the Doctor” questions are submitted anonymously via the PAMP discussion forum and have been edited for print. (Similar queries have been combined.) Remarks from Dr. Lena Kian are meant to be generally educational and should not be construed as direct medical advice. If you are considering medical treatment of a condition, you should seek individual consultation with a qualified health care provider, such as Dr. Kian.