Dr. Michelle Weiner
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Vitamin B—And Why It’s Important

Vitamin B—And Why It’s Important -From Goop 

As one of the most essential vitamins, the B’s are also the most confusing—because, well, there are a lot of them. Whether it’s folate (not to be confused with folic acid), or B12, they each serve a very distinct function. We asked Dr. Frank Lipman, of Eleven Eleven Wellness Center, to explain the difference, and the best ways to incorporate each one.

A Q&A with Dr. Frank Lipman

Q

There are so many different B vitamin components (B6, B12, etc.)—why is it so complicated?

A

This is probably because they often work collectively and individually in the body, and are present in the same foods. So it gets a bit complicated differentiating one from another. But they are a group of eight chemically distinct vitamins, each one performing unique functions with specific benefits. They help convert our food into energy and play important roles in different aspects of cell metabolism, helping you stay energized throughout the day. But they are also important in promoting healthy skin and hair, balancing moods and relieving stress, helping mental clarity and focus, supporting cardiovascular health, preventing migraines, and promoting immunity.

Q

Are each of the B vitamins equally important?

A

The two most important B’s are B12 and Folate (Vitamin B9).

B12 is crucial to the proper functioning of your brain and nervous system, which means that it plays a vital role in mental clarity and focus, as well as in emotional balance and calm. It is also essential for the conduction of nerve signals and normal nerve function in general. Lack of B12 makes your body more vulnerable to physical and emotional stress—to the wear and tear that we usually associate with aging, but which I see more as lack of proper function.

Folate is a key defender against brain fog, irritability, depression, and other responses to physical and emotional stress. It helps you repair DNA and has significant anti-aging benefits too. It is also essential for pregnant women, as a deficiency can cause severe neurological birth defects. Vitamin B12 works together with folate in the synthesis of DNA and red blood cells.

Note: Although folate and folic acid are used interchangeably, it is important to know the difference. Folic acid is a synthetic type of B vitamin used in supplements and fortified foods, while folate is the natural form found in foods.

The other important B is B6. It is involved in over 100 cellular reactions throughout the body and is helpful in keeping various bodily functions operating smoothly.

Q

What are the effects of low Vitamin B? What are the symptoms?

A

Symptoms of a deficiency depend on what type of Vitamin B you lack. The most common deficiency is B12 deficiency, which is actually relatively common. It causes lethargy, fatigue, weakness, anemia, memory loss, and neurological problems and even psychiatric problems.

But B vitamin deficiencies can cause all sorts of problems ranging from headaches, irritability, and confusion to anemia or a compromised immune system, to fatigue. Skin rashes, dry skin, cracks at the corners of the mouth, frequent bruising, and wounds that require a long time to heal can be symptoms. Muscle weakness, a lack of coordination, and numbness or tingling in the fingers and toes may also occur.

Q

What foods are good for the B vitamins?

A

B vitamins are particularly concentrated in meat such as turkey, tuna, and liver. But other good plant sources for B vitamins include legumes, whole grains, potatoes, bananas, chili peppers, nutritional and brewer’s yeast, tempeh, and molasses.

Probably one of the most important things you can do food-wise to get B’s from your diet is to eat fermented foods. Gut bacteria synthesize and supply some of the B vitamins, so if you are not eating fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, or kefir, take a good probiotic daily.

Since Vitamin B12 is found primarily in meat and dairy products, strict vegetarians and vegans in particular are at risk for a deficiency. Vitamin B9 (Folate) can be found in many foods, from meats to grains to citrus fruits. Vitamin B6 can be found in fish, poultry, liver, potatoes, and non-citrus fruit.

Q

Is it possible to consume too many B vitamins?

A

B vitamins are water-soluble and eliminated in the urine, so you just pee them out. Side effects are uncommon, although taking large doses of some of the B’s may cause temporary nausea, insomnia, and restlessness, but those pass soon. The exception to this is B6. High doses of B6 over a long period can result in neurological problems.

Q

The B Vitamins are said to be important for Alzheimers and memory loss—why is that exactly?

A

This is probably because high levels of the amino acid homocysteine are linked to brain shrinkage and an increased risk of Alzheimer’s, and vitamins B6, B12, and folate are known to reduce levels of homocysteine.

Q

Is it important to take extra B vitamins everyday? What will it improve? How much is an appropriate amount?

A

You’re getting some B vitamins in your multivitamin, but given the effective way B vitamins help protect your mind and body against all sorts of stress, I recommend taking more. I recommend everyone have their B12 levels measured, especially those folks who drink too much alcohol, are vegetarian, take acid-suppressing drugs (like Nexium), are over 60, have an inflammatory bowel condition, or generally have digestive problems. I am continually surprised how many folks are deficient, and do well with B12 shots or oral supplements.

My recommended minimum daily dose for the three important B’s for healthy people is: 400-800 mcg of methylated folic acid or folate, 400-800 mcg of Vitamin B12 (in the methylcobalamin form), and 50-75 mg of Vitamin B6. People with high homocysteine levels or any of the conditions mentioned above may need much more.

Q

What is methylation, and why is it important to take methylated forms of folic acid and B12?

A

Methylation is a process that your cells perform billions of times each second. Without proper methylation, your body will not be able to respond properly to stress—either to physical stressors, such as toxins and challenging foods or to psychological stressors, such as life challenges and pressures. As a result, you’ll be more vulnerable to chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic fatigue syndrome, autoimmune conditions, Alzheimer’s, and other neurological problems. Improper methylation also makes you more vulnerable to the decline in function that we usually associate with aging.

It is believed that about half of us have some type of genetic mutation that makes it difficult to methylate, so look for B vitamins with methylated forms of B12 and folic acid or look for natural folate for maximum benefit. You can get genetic testing (the MTHFR gene test) to find out whether you have one of these defective genes.

Q

Is getting a Vitamin B IV drip—something that’s become so popular these days—the best way to get Vitamin B?

A

A typical “Meyer’s Cocktail,” which is a common intravenous shot of vitamins, contains a B complex mix. Make sure you are getting methylated B12 and folic acid in IV. They have become quite popular now, but I tend to use it for my patients who are tired, are coming down with a “cold” or “flu,” or who just need a boost.

——————

Dr. Frank Lipman received his initial medical training in South Africa and emigrated to the United States in 1984. He became board certified in internal medicine after serving as Chief Medical Resident in his final year of residency at Lincoln Hospital in New York City. Becoming more and more aware of both the strengths and the weaknesses of his training, he began to study acupuncture, Chinese medicine, functional medicine, nutrition, herbal medicine, biofeedback, meditation, and yoga. He began to see that the polarization between western modalities and other healing philosophies merely negated positive attributes of both. He saw that true healing lay in a blend between the two. He now practices his unique blend of what he calls “Good Medicine,” combining all the systems in which he has trained.

Dr. Lipman is the author of three books: The New Health Rules, Total Renewal: 7 Key Steps to Resilience, Vitality and Long-Term Health,and Revive: Stop Feeling Spent and Start Living Again (previously released as Spent: End Exhaustion and Feel Great Again). He is very involved with non-profit work in South Africa and lectures throughout the world on health-related topics.

The views expressed in this article intend to highlight alternative studies and induce conversation. They are the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Goop, and are for informational purposes only, even if and to the extent that it features the advice of physicians and medical practitioners. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should never not be relied upon for specific medical advice.

Michelle Weiner
Don't Be Afraid of Fat
sugar

Fill up on healthy fats

“Don’t be afraid of fat!” stresses Malone, who says it’s essential for brain health and vitamin absorption. (And it’s been found to help you live longer, too.) “The percentage can be as much as 50 percent of your diet, as long as it’s the right kind of fat.” Of course, most people can’t stomach that much of it, so the author suggests consuming at least some healthy fats with every meal in a way that works for you—like having avocado with eggs, or adding coconut oil to your breakfast smoothie.

One thing to be cautious about: your ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats. “At one point in history, the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats in our diet was one-to-one,” she says. “Now, it’s estimated to be 15-to-one. It’s that skewed ratio that causes the inflammation issue, not total fat in your diet.”

First, be sure to eliminate processed, omega-6-heavy vegetable oils—canola, corn, soy, and peanut—as well as margarines and animal fats from corn-fed animals. (Don’t go too crazy on the avocado, seeds, nuts, or olive oil either—although they’re definitely good fats, they’re part of the omega-6 fam.) Then, balance out the ratio by adding in inflammation-busting omega-3’s through things like fish, cod liver or algae oil, chia seeds, and flax seeds.

Ditch sugar and dairy

sugar

Along with gluten, corn, and soy, dairy and sugar are the final foods that Malone recommends cutting out to curb inflammation. That’s because dairy contains a protein called casein that, she says, is hard to digest in a similar way to gluten—and as for sugar, you probably don’t need a reminder why it’s bad.

“At the very least, avoid pasteurized cow’s milk—and if you are going to drink milk, I would go for the raw, full-fat kind. That’s where you get the active enzymes, live active cultures, soluble vitamins, and the good fats.”

Again, even if you don’t think you’re sensitive to any of the “Big Four” triggers, Malone says you might be surprised about how you feel when you give them up. “I don’t think people even realize how crappy they feel,” she says. “There are so many things that we accept as being a normal part of life—like anxiety, skin issues, or constantly feeling tired—and we get used to them. But when you do take these things out, you’re surprised by how good you feel.” In Malone’s case, it caused her pain to disappear within weeks—totally worth ditching the pizza and soy lattes for, right?

Eliminating inflammatory foods doesn’t have to be a drag—it can even be delicious. Here’s how to swap fruits and veggies for your bread and pasta, make a delish dairy-free chocolate “ice cream,” and whip up a vegan falafel pizza (!). 

Michelle Weiner
Harvard Study: Clearing Your Mind Affects Your Genes And Can Lower Your Blood Pressure
harvard study

Harvard scientists have come up with evidence that the mere act of clearing your mind for 15 minutes each day actually alters how your genes operate.

A new study indicates that people who meditated over an eight-week period had a striking change in the expression of 172 genes that regulate inflammation, circadian rhythms and glucose metabolism. And that, in turn, was linked to a meaningful decrease in their blood pressure.

The study is small, and it didn’t include a comparison group of non-meditators. So it doesn’t count as absolute proof that meditation lowers blood pressure by altering gene expression. But its authors hope it will be seen as a milestone on the long road to convincing skeptics of the power of meditation to promote health and reverse disease.

“This is a major step to overcome the innate bias that has developed in medicine over the last hundred years or so,” says Dr. Herbert Benson, who started promoting what he called “the relaxation response” more than four decades ago. “Going back to penicillin in the 1920s, we have been inexorably dependent on medication, surgery and procedures.”

In the face of often-withering criticism from his Harvard colleagues, Benson has insisted that the mind plays a critical role in the body’s health and disease states. He says that a simple intervention aimed at emptying the mind of the constant barrage of intrusive thoughts can achieve major benefits for the body.

“Breaking the train of everyday thought,” the 82-year-old Benson says, “has a medical application that has to be integrated with our marvelous drugs and surgeries.”

His goal is to establish the relaxation response and other techniques that calm the brain — yoga, t’ai chi, breathing exercises, repetitive prayer and other meditative practices -- as a “third leg” of medical treatment, along with medication and surgical procedures.

The time may be right to push this idea forward. Last fall, the American Psychological Association declared the nation has reached a new high point in the nation’s stress quotient. The APA’s “Stress in America” survey found that nearly two-thirds of Americans are stressed out over the nation’s future, and more than half are distressed by the divisiveness that dominates our public life.

Around the same time, the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association expanded the definition of high blood pressure, raising the number of people considered hypertensive from 72 million to 103 million -- nearly half of all adults.

While the new treatment guidelines are controversial, under either the old or new definition, tens of millions of Americans are at risk of heart attacks, strokes, organ damage and premature death because their blood pressure is too high.

“With the new guidelines, patients and physicians alike are going to be more and more interested in non-drug therapies that might control blood pressure or potentially augment their medications,” says Dr. Randall Zusman, a Massachusetts General Hospital cardiologist and co-author of the new study, which is in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.

“This adds to our toolbox for patients who are willing to do the relaxation response technique,” he says.

There are as many as 200 anti-hypertension medications and drug combinations, but many carry troublesome side effects that make it hard for patients to take their pills faithfully. Meditation, on the other hand, is trouble-free, other than the daily time commitment it takes.

High blood pressure lends itself to study of the relaxation response because it’s clearly defined by what doctors call a "clinical read-out" -- a set of numbers that determines whether a patient has the disorder, and whether the disorder responds to a given treatment.

Previous studies of other diseases, such as inflammatory bowel disease and rheumatoid arthritis, have suggested improvement after meditation. But, "this is the first study where we have a nice, clean, clinical read-out," says Towia Libermann, a study coauthor who specializes in the genetic markers of disease at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

The new study involved 24 people with high blood pressure who underwent eight weeks of training in how to achieve the relaxation response — weekly sessions with an experienced trainer and a 20-minute CD they could play at home. The technique is fairly simple, involving deep breathing, muscle relaxation and concentration on a one-word mantra while passively ignoring intrusive thoughts.

Researchers measured whether patients’ blood pressure dropped by at least 10 points (the systolic or higher value, when the heart contracts) and 5 points (the diastolic or between-beats value), and whether their blood pressure was within a desirable range of 140-over-90.

A little over half the patients achieved these criteria and were called “responders.” It’s not clear whether the other 11 “non-responders” failed to learn the relaxation response -- not everyone can do it successfully -- or whether they had a different type of hypertension that doesn’t respond to meditation.

Blood samples from both groups revealed a clearly different genetic “signature” among the responders. That is, 172 different genes associated with inflammation, circadian rhythms and glucose metabolism were either switched on or switched off in ways that were different from the non-responders.

“To our knowledge, this is the first study to identify gene expression changes specifically associated with the impact of a mind-body intervention on hypertension,” Libermann says.

It makes sense that high blood pressure is involved with genes that regulate inflammation, Libermann says, because it’s well-known that blood vessels are sensitive to inflammation and also release “all kinds of pro- and anti-inflammatory molecules.” In addition, immune cells play prominent roles in triggering inflammation or damping it down.

Inflammation is involved in a wide variety of disorders, including heart disease, liver disease, cancer and auto-immune disorders. So if this study is borne out, mind-body therapies may be useful for many patients.

Another blood pressure study is under way that involves a control group, seen by scientists as necessary to determine if a treatment works. Libermann says the group would like to mount a large study of up to 500 patients with hypertension followed over five years “to see whether we get similar responses.”

Meanwhile, Benson says there is no harm if patients with high blood pressure want to try the relaxation response, “providing you and your physician are on the same page and agree.”

He says meditation is already routine in the MGH’s rehabilitation programs for people who have had heart attacks, even though genomic proof is currently lacking. In one case, he says a patient who used the relaxation response achieved unexpected healing of his damaged heart – possibly because of the anti-inflammatory effect suggested by the new blood pressure study.

“What we’ve been able to do,” Benson says, “slowly, over the years, is change the whole paradigm that the mind and the body were separate.”

Michelle Weiner
Is The Ketogenic Diet Worthwhile? I would be interested in your take on the ketogenic diet.
Ketogenic-Macros.png

This one seems to be getting a lot of buzz lately.

The ketogenic diet is very low in carbohydrates: in its strictest form, carbs make up only five percent of daily calories, along with 20 percent from protein and 75 percent from fat. Some versions of the diet allow a little more protein (about 35 percent of calories) while others alternate five high-fat days with two high-carb days. The object of the emphasis on fat is to bring about ketosis, the metabolic state of burning fat instead of carbohydrates for energy. There’s little doubt that you can lose weight this way, although there is no scientific consensus on how this occurs. Some researchers contend that weight loss on this diet is a simple matter of consuming fewer calories, while others propose an appetite-suppressant effect of ketosis.

Whatever the mechanism, a number of studies have concluded that you can lose more weight faster on a ketogenic diet than on a low-fat diet. However, you may have to contend with negative side effects of ketosis, such as headache, fatigue, constipation, increased cholesterol level, and bad breath – although these are usually temporary. If you have kidney disease, the diet isn’t for you; it can worsen this condition

Some history: The ketogenic diet has been used at least since the 1920s as a treatment for young children with severe epileptic seizures that are difficult to control with medication. We don’t know why inducing ketosis decreases the frequency of seizures, but it often does. It seems to work best for kids ages one to 10.

More recently, some studies have found that ketogenic diets may have value for treatment of other health problems. In a 2013 review published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, an international team of researchers wrote that there is “ample evidence to support the notion that a low-carbohydrate diet can lead to an improvement in some metabolic pathways and have beneficial health effects.” They cited research showing that a ketogenic diet can have favorable effects on risk factors for cardiovascular disease including elevated cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Other studies have found that a ketogenic diet can help individuals with metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes by improving glucose control and insulin sensitivity. The review also cited “persuasive, although not yet conclusive” evidence that it can reduce the severity and progression of acne. They also maintained that the ketogenic diet shows promise “as an aid in at least some kinds of cancer therapy and is deserving of further and deeper investigation.” The review also suggested that it might be useful in the treatment of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

Michelle Weiner
How old is your body really?

Watch this interesting video by Adam Cole.  Learn about how our body regenerates. 

Do all of your cells get switched out for new ones every seven years or so? Does anything remain with you throughout your entire life?

karola hawk
Success

The Best Career Advice, From Successful People Who Made It to the Top

Success leaves clues. No. 1: Start by taking a hard look at yourself and deciding what you want.

Bruce Harpham June 30, 2016

Building a successful career draws from several important disciplines. These time-honored practices, proven to work in every industry, are vital to those striving to achieve success. Whether you need inspiration to start a new practice or a boost of motivation to get back on track, take and use these four leaders’ experiences to bolster your own.

Related: 10 Pieces of Career Advice for My 21-Year-Old Self

1. Self-knowledge is the foundation.

Without self-knowledge, the pursuit of success is frustrating. In the ancient world, philosophers encouraged their followers to reflect. Today’s leaders use their self-understanding to define and reach success.

  • “At several points, my mentors have served as a mirror for me and helped me to understand myself better,” says Kim Ulmer, regional president of Royal Bank of Canada. Ulmer’s responsibility includes managing more than 170 branches and 3,000 staffers.
  • Dave Kasabian, chief marketing officer at Tagetik, a management software company, says, “My philosophy of growth is to look inside myself: What do I enjoy? What are my skills and passions? Based on that knowledge, I make decisions on how to develop.”
  • Assessment tools provide helpful insights in understanding strengths. For example, Michael Hyatt, author and entrepreneur, referred to StrengthsFinder 2.0, a personal development favorite, as he exited a corporate career to start a new chapter as an entrepreneur. His strengths, according to the model, included a focus on achievement and the future.

Self-knowledge requires reflecting on your experiences, good and bad. Think about last week and take note of when you felt the greatest satisfaction. You might take greater satisfaction from solving thorny business problems. Or you might relish the challenge of guiding a new graduate through their first few months at work.

2. Curiosity is powerful.

 

“Formal education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune.” —Jim Rohn

 

An open and curious mind is vital to make the most of learning opportunities. Curiosity means looking for an opportunity to learn and apply ideas outside of the classroom. And engagement and focus is increasingly vital in leadership roles because your actions and words will quietly influence many around you.

  • “I usually take one or two courses per year at a business school to keep my skills sharp,” says Rich Crawford, CEO of Global Integrated Services.
  • “I have a thirst for knowledge and regularly go out to meet with business owners to understand their situation,” Ulmer says. “Recently, I found David Zinger’s “10 Principles of Engagement” and have found that to be a helpful resource. It has encouraged [reflecting] on my work several times per day to see if I am truly engaged.”
  • “One of the most valuable books I’ve read in my career is Peter Drucker’s The Effective Executive, says Ben Sawa, director of marketing at GEI Consultants Inc., one of the largest engineering firms in the U.S.
  • Entertainment executive Brian Grazer—producer of Apollo 13, The Da Vinci Code and J. Edgar—attributes much of his professional success to curiosity and learning from those around him as he describes in his book, A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life.

3. Mentors provide new perspectives and better questions.

Successful leaders consistently reach out to mentors throughout the course of their careers. The conversation might start with business, but the lessons are often applicable to a range of concerns and issues.

  • “I have had several mentors over my career including family mentors and those in the business community,” Ulmer says. “Mentors have helped me to adopt a broader perspective and ask questions such as, ‘Have you taken the time to understand the situation before acting?’”
  • “Every meaningful mistake I have ever made has involved poor communication. [That’s] a lesson I learned from a CFO who mentored me. That was an important insight,” Sawa says. “I also think it is valuable to seek mentors who are different from you because they can provide a fresh perspective.”
  • “My mentors have helped me to get outside of the day-to-day flow of work to ask bigger questions,” Kasabian says. “In 1994, I was given a powerful question from a mentor: ‘Draw where you want to be in five years.’ That exercise helped me to think about my career and the direction of my life much more deeply. I ended up making a move to another state, among other decisions as a result. It was a powerful experience.”
  • “I’m a huge believer in mentors,” Crawford says. “At present, I’m working with two mentors and I’m learning much from both of them. I learn about industry best practices from one and work life matters from another. YPO [Young Presidents’ Organization] had an excellent mentorship program that I found valuable.”

4. Keep the right company to achieve your goals.

The company you keep has a major impact on your success and self-concept. Jim Rohn’s observation that “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with,” rings true for many leaders.

  • “My participation in Young Presidents’ Organization has been tremendously valuable. It is rare to find so many other executives and CEOs who are facing similar challenges,” Crawford explains. In addition to informal networking, Crawford has benefited from YPO’s mentorship program and specialized educational programs that serve the needs of executives.
  • “It is important to choose thoughtfully when it comes to joining organizations,” Ulmer says. “I’m currently involved with Junior Achievement because they operate on a national level and work on major problems. I’m also involved with the Manitoba Business Council.”

Where do you find peers to challenge you and help you grow?

karola hawk