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Category Archives: Vitamins

Very few products available in your local pharmacy can claim as many uses as Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s are a type of unsaturated fat that are found in high quantities in certain fish (such as salmon, herring, sardines) as well as plant sources (such as flax).

The two most common Omega-3s found in supplements are EPA and DHA. Some supplements will have their Omega-3s derived from fish oils while others will be derived from plant sources. Be sure to choose a product that lists the amount of EPA or DHA per capsule.

There has been some concern by patients over the levels of heavy metals (such as mercury) in Omega-3 fish oils. However, heavy metals tend to accumulate in the protein of the fish rather than the fats. In addition, Health Canada tests all Omega-3 products for their heavy metal content before being made available to the public.

Here are 5 common medical conditions that Omega-3s can help treat:

1. Arthritis – Omega-3s have been shown to help decrease inflammation in the body, therefore they may help relieve some of the pain associated with both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Between 3 – 5 grams of EPA and DHA for 12 weeks are needed for the anti-inflammatory effects.

2. Hyperlipidemia – Omega 3-s can help lower triglyceride (fat) levels circulating in the body. High triglyceride levels contribute to the formation of fat deposits in blood vessels. This can lead to hardening of the arteries, which allows for the formation of dangerous clots which can cause a heart attack or stroke. Studies have shown that 2 – 4 grams of fish oils can lower triglycerides by 20-50%.

3. Hypertension – Omega-3s have a modest effect on reducing blood pressure and may be a viable option for patients with mild hypertension who do not wish to start a prescription medication at this time. Omega-3s reduce the production of agents that constrict blood vessels and increases production of agents that open blood vessels. For cardiac health, 1 gram of EPA plus DHA daily is recommended.

4. Depression – Studies have shown that 1 gram of EPA twice daily may yield anti-depressant and/or mood stabilizing effects. Omega-3s may be suited for the treatment of specific populations, such as pregnant or lactating women where conventional antidepressants must be used with caution.

5. Loss of Vision – Recent studies have shown the beneficial effects of omega-3s on vision, specifically decreasing risk of age related macular degeneration. Further investigations are needed to confirm the results of these studies, however many ophthalmologists are now recommending that their patients take Omega-3 supplements.

If supplements are not for you, try to replace the meat in two of your meals per week with fish. Certain populations (such as Mediterranean and Inuit) that eat high amounts of fish and little amounts of red meats have much lower rates of cardiovascular disease compared to the North American populations.

Omega-3s are not for everyone. For patients on blood thinners such as Coumadin (warfarin) or Aspirin (ASA), be sure to check with your physician or pharmacist before starting on Omega-3s as they may increase the risk of bleeding.

 

Grapefruit and grapefruit juice are an excellent source of many nutrients that contribute to a healthy diet. Grapefruit is a good source of vitamin C, fiber, and the pink and red hues contain the beneficial antioxidant lycopene, thought to have a role in preventing various diseases such as cancer and heart disease. Studies have shown that grapefruit helps lower cholesterol, and there is evidence that the seeds have antioxidant properties.

However, there are compounds in grapefruit called furanocoumarins that can interfere with the way your body metabolizes certain medications. This can lead to dangerously high levels of medication in the body and may increase the risk of rare but serious or life-threatening side effects such as slowed heart rate and muscle deterioration. For a few medications, it can lead to decreased effectiveness because these medications need to be metabolized in order to become active. Don’t take these interactions lightly, as some can cause potentially dangerous health problems.

Both grapefruit juice (either fresh or frozen) and the fruit itself can affect certain medications and the effects have been seen with as little as one 8-ounce (250 mL) glass of grapefruit juice. The effects of grapefruit juice on medications can last up to 3 days, so taking them at different times of day will not help. Naturally sweet orange juice has not been shown to affect medications the way grapefruit juice does, but tangelos (which are related to grapefruit), lime juice, andSeville(sour) oranges may affect medications.

Many medications may be affected by grapefruit juice, including medications for:

Allergies Fexofenadine (Allegra)
Anticoagulation Dabigatran (Pradax)
Anxiety/Sleep Buspirone (BuSpar), Diazepam (Valium), Triazolam (Halcion), Alprazolam (Xanax), Clonazepam (Rivotril)
Arrhythmia Amiodarone (Cordarone)
Blood Pressure Amlodipine (Norvasc), Felodipine (Renedil, Plendil), Nifedipine (Adalat)
Cholesterol Simvastatin (Zocor), lovastatin (Mevacor), atorvastatin (Lipitor)
Depression Sertraline (Zoloft)
HIV Saquinavir (Invirase, Fortovase), indinavir (Crixivan)
Seizures/Epilepsy Carbamazepine (Tegretol, Mazepine), Clonazepam (Rivotril)
Sexual Dysfunction Sildenafil (Viagra), Taldafil (Cialis)
Transplants/Autoimmune Diseases Cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune), tacrolimus (Prograf, Advagraf), sirolimus (Rapamune)

This is not a complete list; grapefruit juice may affect medications for conditions other than those listed here. Also, if you are taking any natural health products, check the labels to see if they contain grapefruit, tangelo, Seville orange, or lime juice. Avoid these fruits and juices until your doctor or pharmacist has told you it’s safe to have them.

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Contrary to popular belief there really is no magic pill.  Many people come in search of the right vitamin, or supplement, hoping it will help them sleep better, feel better, or perform better.  Unfortunately there really aren’t any magic supplements that can cure all that ails you.  Even prescription medications are limited.  They can lower your blood pressure or your cholesterol but no pill is going to fix everything.

People want to take herbals because they feel a natural product is “safer” for them.  This is not necessarily true.  Whether you are taking a prescription medication or a natural product you are putting a chemical in your body which can alter your body’s chemistry.  As such you are subject to the effects of the medication either good or bad.

Pharmacists are not against herbal products.  Many of them have evidence to show they can provide some benefit.  However, not all herbals and natural products have undergone standardized testing to ensure that they only contain what’s on the label.   It has even been shown that some products contain very little of the ingredient they are being sold for.  As a consumer it is important you educate yourself regarding which manufacturers have their products tested, and which companies conduct clinical trials to ensure their products are safe and effective.  Some companies now have an NPN number on their products.  This number serves as notice that their products have been tested and contain what is claimed on the label.

As far as supplements are concerned the best thing to do is follow the Canada Food Guide.  A well balanced diet can provide you with all of the vitamins and nutrition you require.  The few supplements that may be worthwhile to purchase are Calcium and Vitamin D.  Even with a well balanced diet most people do not get enough of these.  Recent studies show that almost everyone has a vitamin D deficiency.  New evidence shows that vitamin D is important for bone health as well as preventing some cancers.  It is also important to make sure you are getting enough Omega 3’s (DHA and EPA).  These supplements are linked to both heart and brain health.  Again, they are deficient in most people’s diets.

If you are interested in taking a supplement or vitamin consult your doctor or pharmacist.  Many times you don’t need to spend the extra money.  If you would like to take an herbal product do as much research on the company as possible.  Ask your pharmacist about safety and reliability.  Herbals can interact with your prescription medications and cause liver and kidney toxicity.  For exampleSt. John’sWart can affect the birth control pill, and melatonin can increase blood pressure.  Many herbals can also interact with warfarin, and could be dangerous for some people to take.

It can be confusing with media and advertising if you should be taking a supplement or herbal product, please come and talk to a pharmacist if you have questions about these types of products.