NHPs are our conduit to good health
Hip hip hooray! Celebrate the many natural health products from teas to supplements that improve our health and enhance our lives.
From November 2 to 8, the Canadian Health Food Association (CHFA) is presenting NHP (Natural Health Products) Week, “A Week of Happy. A Lifetime of Health,” a cross-Canada event designed to spread the word about the importance of natural health products. To help get the word out about the many ways in which natural health products can improve our health—and our lives—CHFA has prepared a quiz, which you can access at chfa.ca. But alive, always your go-to resource for information about natural health and wellness, has prepared a tutorial for you—just the tool you’ll need to ace your NHP Week quiz!
Probiotics are living microorganisms (bacteria) that provide a health benefit when taken at sufficient doses. They are especially effective at reestablishing a healthy balance of good gut bacteria when illness throws levels off. More exciting is that outside the gut, probiotics are finding new applications in mental health, immune system support, and skin health.
Though research is preliminary, probiotics are being studied for their effects on mood, anxiety, and depression. Recently, researchers at the Leiden Institute for Brain and Cognition in the Netherlands assessed the moods of 20 healthy young adults following four weeks of supplementation with a probiotic supplement containing eight probiotic strains. They found that, compared to the placebo group, the probiotic-taking participants reported reduced reactivity to sad moods and fewer depressive thoughts.
Our immune system takes a beating during the winter months. New research shows that probiotics may be important for keeping our immune system primed and ready to combat winter bugs. A recent study examined the impact of probiotic intake (in the form of a probiotic drink containing about 6 billion colony-forming units) in school children. The incidence of influenza in children who were provided the probiotic drink for eight weeks was 15.7 percent, while the incidence in those who did not take the probiotic drink was 23.9 percent.
Because probiotics introduce healthy bacteria to the gut, helping to create a barrier to inflammation, researchers are looking at the benefits of probiotics on certain skin conditions, such as acne, eczema, rosacea, and aging. A small pilot study, for example, treated eczema patients with a probiotic mixture and found a significant improvement after one month, compared to the placebo group.
Drinking tea is an excellent way to consume more water and stay hydrated in all weather. However, the benefits of tea extend well beyond hydrating our bodies. This ancient beverage has been linked to the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anticarcinogenic effects of bioactive plant compounds found in tea, called polyphenols.
When polyphenol-rich tea is consumed, or even applied topically to the skin, it is thought that these natural compounds reduce oxidative stress and inflammation caused by UV exposure. It is this oxidative stress and inflammation that can lead to premature wrinkles, as collagen in the skin breaks down and the elasticity of the skin degrades.
It should be noted that while tea has been linked to sun protection, there is no replacement for sunscreen to protect from damaging UV rays.
Since there are few natural dietary sources of vitamin D (some of the best include fatty fish, eggs, milk, and yogurt), taking a daily supplement is recommended, especially for infants and the elderly.
A growing body of research shows that having enough vitamin D increases the germ-fighting action of some immune cell types, while increasing the immune cell population and preparing the body to fight off future infections.
Getting enough vitamin D throughout our lives is critical since it is used by the body to help calcium and phosphorous build and maintain strong bones and teeth.
Hundreds of research studies are also looking at the many potential associations between our vitamin D levels and other major health risks such as heart disease, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and some types of cancer.
Although 99 percent of the calcium in our body is stored in our bones, the 1 percent that isn’t is of the utmost importance. Calcium is essential for regulating blood pressure, nerve transmission, muscle contraction, blood clotting, and ensuring a balanced body pH to thousands of enzyme and hormone reactions.
Despite its significant health benefits, calcium is one of the most inadequately consumed nutrients among Canadians of all ages (vitamin D intake is the lowest).
An essential part of our diets, protein is used by every cell and organ of our body, our connective tissue, our bones, and all our muscles as well as our metabolism. Ensure your muscles have access to the protein they need by consuming protein-rich whole foods, such as lean meats, eggs, fish, legumes, nuts, seeds, and grains, such as quinoa.
We know that having a regular weight-training routine is important, but we also need to ensure our body has access to the building blocks of muscle: protein. A recent study found that consuming a protein supplement just before sleep resulted in improvements in muscle strength and lean muscle mass in men who did resistance training exercises.
A multivitamin is a safe and effective way for many people to bridge a nutritional gap. For expecting mothers, especially, taking a good quality multivitamin before and during pregnancy can help maintain levels of folic acid to prevent neural tube defects. A multivitamin also provides omega-3 fatty acids for neural and brain development, iron for increased blood capacity, and adequate levels of vitamin A.
Why is eating organic important? Being strategic in our food choices can significantly reduce our family’s exposure to pesticides, herbicides, hormones, and antibiotics. The certified organic label also assures us that we are not buying foods that have been genetically modified (GMO free).
When we buy organic foods, we are not only investing in our health—and the health of our loved ones, but we are also supporting sustainable practices, which reduce the agrochemical pollution in our environment, as well as humane animal welfare.
Canada has one of the world’s most advanced regulatory frameworks for natural health products (NHPs), which includes vitamins, minerals, probiotics, herbal products, and homeopathic remedies. All products licensed for sale in Canada have an 8-digit natural product number (NPN).
NHPs available for sale in Canada and those manufactured outside of Canada must be assessed and licensed by Health Canada before they can be legally sold in the Canadian marketplace. The Natural Health Products Directorate outlines the range of evidence that can be submitted in support of the safety and efficacy of a natural health product and the quality of a natural health product, or of a homeopathic medicine.
For more information on the CHFA and to compare your quiz results with the rest of the country, visit chfa.ca.