A recent Canadian study suggests that this year's flu vaccine offers little or no protection in Canada against becoming sick enough to require medical care. Other health authorities in the US have been putting out that message as well. Here's the link to read the entire article.
While many of the health authorities are pushing anti-vitals to support/replace the flu vaccine, natural health advocates are suggesting that boosting the body's natural immune defenses by eating nutritionally, getting enough sleep, and taking supplements known to boost the immune system to give yourself the best shot (pun intended) at staying healthy this cold and flu season.
The media, even the FDA, has been reporting the decline in the effectiveness of antibiotics but most of these reports have not done a good job at revealing why scientists think this is happening. Here's a link to a good article on the current understanding of the action of pharmaceutical antibiotics and how they work against good health.. Click Here.
To summarize, the positive action of an antibiotic is to destroy the bacterial cell wall thus causing it to die. There are a couple of "side effects" of this action including the destruction of beneficial bacteria in the body which perform positive functions such as keeping candida and yeast/fungal infections at bay and general support of the body's immune system. In addition, the destruction of the bacterial cell wall seems to initiate a toxic reaction that is also harmful to the body.
More research is needed to understand the antibiotic process but in the meantime, limited use of antibiotics, use of alternative/natural immune support products, and the use of probiotics (to replenish the body's beneficial bugs) after the use of antibiotics may keep your body healthier.
Many people talk about the quality of their products but pricing is also a critical element when choosing a supplement. The supplement industry does not have a high level of regulation. This is good in that competition and free market system allows us to vote with our dollars as to which products work and which ones don't. However, a modern American attitude has emerged where cheaper is always better. The truth, at least in the natural health industry, is "you get what you pay for". The lack of regulation also puts us in charge of doing our own research...as it should be!
Margaret recently talked about being smart when choosing a supplement. Here's a link to her article which is a good one. I'm going to take this time to expand on what she says by talking about how we chose the brands that we carry. Our process is a work-in-progress but it is based on our personal experience
The first thing you need to know is how the industry works. The quality-focused companies order their raw ingredients. For many ingredients, there are only 1 or 2 sources but potency varies. Once they receive the raw ingredients, they test them to make sure that there is enough of the active ingredient in the raw material to formulate their products. If not, they reject the lot and it is returned. The deficient raw material is not destroyed but sent down the road to the next "lesser" manufacturer until someone takes it (for lesser money). This is probably the #1 reason for the differences in prices for the same labeled product.
The problem that arises for us shoppers is that all manufacturers tell you that they have the best product. So price is usually a good way to differentiate quality. You can always shop a particular brand/product to find the best price but a cheaply priced product is usually just that...a cheap, ineffective product.
But beyond price, how do choose between manufacturers? Research, referrals from people you trust, and shopping from reputable businesses. For instance, there are a handful of brands that we actually know some of the leaders/owners. We know their values and their character. This isn't a comprehensive list but some of the companies we trust include Bluebonnet Nutrition, Premier Research Labs, Biotics Research Labs (all in Texas), Nature's Sunshine, Pure Essence Labs, Nordic Naturals (fish oil people), Nutribiotics (the GSE people), Eastpark Research (the d-lenolate olive leaf folks), Vitality Works (an excellent herbal; maker of our Oregano Oil caps), and New Chapter (we're still waiting to see how their recent purchase by P&G will affect them). All of these manufacturers look to ways to make their products better including higher quality ingredients, unique formulas, synergistic co-factors (ingredients that help the primary ingredients efficacy, and independently funded trials. These are the guys who are in business to help people; not just to make a buck!
Advertising is another good way to distinguish between good companies and companies who are out for a buck. More often and not, there is an inverse relationship between the quality of a product and the amount of money spent on advertising. As you will notice, virtually none of the products listed above are ever on TV. On the other side, the products that advertise regularly are usually the ones with fillers, synthetic ingredients, an artificial additives.
Being competent in reading labels is a must...and it much more difficult than you would think. One way that brands try to differentiate their product price is through varying the level of active ingredients. In order to correctly price a product, you must take into account the number of capsules, recommended dosage (number of capsules), and the milligrams of active ingredients. In addition, the form of ingredient can also make a difference. Here's one example of label reading and product comparing...
East Park Research d-lenolate is our best olive leaf. The 30 capsule bottle is $29.95 (or $.99/capsule) and the 90 capsule bottle is $79.95 (or $.89/capsule). Each capsule is 500 mg. at 22% oleuropein (the active ingredient). Bluebonnet's standardized Olive Leaf extract comes in a 120 capsule bottle at $26.99 (or $.26/capsule) for a 400 mg. 18% oleuropein. Just looking at the price, that sounds pretty good: $.26 vs. $.89. But we need to adjust for the difference in both the mg. and % active ingredient. So we adjust the Bluebonnet price to make an apples to apples comparison and we come up with $.39/capsule which is still much better than the East Park price of $.89/capsule. But wait! You can't tell it by reading the labels but the Bluebonnet product (along with virtually every other olive leaf on the market) is in the form of e-lenolate. E-lenolate is less expensive but is not as easily absorbed at the cellular level as d-lenolate. It has been our experience that d-lenolate will work more often than other forms of olive leaf (not to say that they other forms won't work just as well in certain situations).
Hope this helps you navigate the Natural Health Maze...