Monthly Archives: February 2022

The Best Supplements to Burn Fat and Lose Weight Naturally

In this article, we will uncover some of the best fat burning, natural weight loss supplements for both women and men that have actually been shown to work in human clinical trials.

That’s not to say they’re effective 100% of the time, and there are safety considerations for some that we’ll cover below … but each supplement we will review is backed by real, credible research studies, which is more than can be said for most weight loss products on the market, unfortunately.

We won’t keep you waiting … let’s jump right in.

Best Supplements to Lose Weight / Burn Fat

Green Coffee Bean Extract 

Green coffee bean extract is a dietary supplement made from unroasted coffee beans, which are high in compounds called chlorogenic acids that have antioxidant and thermogenic effects.

While an early study showed mixed results of green coffee bean extract for losing weight, more recent studies have shed new light on its effectiveness. Here’s a look …

Research Study Findings
The Use of Green Coffee Extract as a Weight Loss Supplement: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomised Clinical Trials (2011) The meta-analytic result reveals a significant difference in body weight in GCE compared with placebo (mean difference: −2.47 kg; 95%CI: −4.23, −0.72). The magnitude of the effect is moderate, and there is significant heterogeneity amongst the studies. It is concluded that the results from these trials are promising, but the studies are all of poor methodological quality. More rigorous trials are needed to assess the usefulness of GCE as a weight loss tool.
The effects of green coffee bean extract supplementation on lipid profile in humans: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials (2019) The evidence from available studies suggests that taking green coffee bean extract supplements leads to significant reductions in total cholesterol, HDL-C, and LDL-C levels, and has modest, but, non-significant effects on triglycerides levels.
The effect of green-coffee extract supplementation on obesity: A systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials (2019) In the subgroup analysis, studies that were conducted on baseline BMI ≥25 kg/m2 revealed a significant greater reduction in body weight and BMI than those performed on baseline BMI <25 kg/m2. Moreover, short supplementation periods of less than 4 weeks had no effect. The results of current meta-analysis study support the use of green coffee extract supplementation for the improvement of obesity indices, with sub-group analysis highlighting greater improvements in individuals with a starting BMI ≥25 kg/m2.
The effects of green coffee extract supplementation on glycemic indices and lipid profile in adults: a systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of clinical trials (2020) Green coffee bean extract supplementation improved fasting blood glucose and serum levels of insulin and total cholesterol. Also, there was a significant improvement in other markers of lipid profile in some subgroups of clinical trials.
The effect of green coffee extract supplementation on blood pressure: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials (2019) Results revealed significant reduction in systolic blood pressure after green coffee supplementation with low heterogeneity among the studies. In addition, a significant reduction in systolic and diastolic blood pressure  in studies with hypertensive patients, green coffee dosage <400 mg, and administered for 4 weeks was identified. The results of the current meta-analysis study support the use of GCBE supplementation for the improvement of blood pressure indices, with subgroup analysis highlighting improvements in hypertensive patients.

Does Green Coffee Bean Extract Have Caffeine? 

Yes, green coffee bean extract does contain caffeine, but in much lower amounts than regular coffee. Green coffee contains about 10% caffeine, or 10 mg per 100 mg. Compare that to 100 mg of caffeine in one cup of regular coffee.

Green Coffee Bean Extract Side Effects 

According to the National Library of Medicine, Green coffee extracts taken in doses up to 1000 mg daily have been used safely for up to 12 weeks.

Consuming large amounts of green coffee bean extract may lead to caffeine-related side effects, including headache, anxiety, agitation, and irregular heartbeat.

There isn’t enough reliable information to know if green coffee is safe to use when pregnant or breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.

Consuming a high dose of chlorogenic acid might increase homocysteine levels, which might be linked to conditions such as heart disease.

Green coffee and other supplements with caffeine should only be used under the supervision of a healthcare professional in people with anxiety disorders, bleeding disorders, diabetes, epilepsy, glaucoma, high blood pressure, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and osteoporosis.

Green coffee bean extract may cause interactions with medications and other drugs, including Adenosine (Adenocard), Alcohol (Ethanol), Alendronate (Fosamax), Clozapine (Clozaril), Dipyridamole (Persantine), Disulfiram (Antabuse), Ephedrine, Estrogens, Fluvoxamine (Luvox), Lithium, Medications for asthma (Beta-adrenergic agonists), Medications for depression (MAOIs) such as phenelzine (Nardil), selegiline (Zelapar), and tranylcypromine (Parnate), Medications that slow blood clotting (Anticoagulant / Antiplatelet drugs), Nicotine, Pentobarbital (Nembutal), Phenylpropanolamine, Riluzole (Rilutek), Stimulant drugs, Theophylline, and Verapamil (Calan, others).

Garcinia Cambogia

Garcinia Cambogia is a supplement that comes from the fruit rinds of the garcinia tree. These rinds contain a compound called hydroxycitric acid (HCA), which may help prevent fat storage, control appetite, and increase exercise endurance.

Here’s a look at some of the research studies that have been conducted on the effectiveness of Garcinia Cambogia on body composition:

Research Study Findings
Long-term effects of Garcinia cambogia/Glucomannan on weight loss in people with obesity, PLIN4, FTO and Trp64Arg polymorphisms Garcinia cambogia may reduce weight and improve lipid and glucose blood profiles in people with overweight or obesity.
Risks Associated with the Use of Garcinia as a Nutritional Complement to Lose Weight Regarding safety, although Garcinia supplements have been revealed as safe in the vast majority of the studies carried out in animal models and humans, some cases of hepatotoxicity, serotonin toxicity and mania have been reported. In conclusion, the results suggest that Garcinia-based supplements could be effective in short-term weight loss, although the data are not conclusive. In addition, the safety of the complement should be further studied.
THE EFFECT OF GARCINIA CAMBOGIA AS COADJUVANT IN THE WEIGHT LOSS PROCESS Studies suggest positive results about the effectiveness of the GC on the weight loss process. However, the ideal dosage has not been well established yet.
Effects of garcinia cambogia (Hydroxycitric Acid) on visceral fat accumulation: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial Garcinia cambogia reduced abdominal fat accumulation in subjects, regardless of sex, who had the visceral fat accumulation type of obesity. No rebound effect was observed. It is therefore expected that G cambogia may be useful for the prevention and reduction of accumulation of visceral fat.

Garcinia Cambogia Side Effects 

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrate Health:

  • Cases of liver damage associated with the use of garcinia cambogia products have been reported. This problem appears to be uncommon, but some cases were severe. Most of the reported cases involved products labeled as containing a combination of ingredients, but some involved products labeled as containing only garcinia cambogia. Don’t use if you have liver disease or take medications that can harm the liver (hepatotoxic drugs).
  • Other side effects associated with garcinia cambogia include headache and nausea, diarrhea, and other gastrointestinal symptoms.
  • Little is known about whether it’s safe to use garcinia cambogia during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.
  • Garcinia can worsen mania in bipolar disorder. Don’t use if you have bipolar disorder.
  • The HCA in garcinia might affect blood sugar levels and slow blood clotting. This might make it more difficult to control blood sugar and bleeding during and after surgery. Stop taking HCA at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.
  • Garcinia might increase a brain chemical called serotonin. Some medications also have this effect. Taking garcinia along with these medications might increase serotonin too much. This might cause serious side effects including heart problems, seizures, and vomiting
  • Garcinia might lower blood sugar levels. Taking garcinia along with diabetes medications might cause blood sugar to drop too low. Monitor your blood sugar closely.
  • Garicina might slow blood clotting. Taking garcinia along with medications that also slow blood clotting might increase the risk of bruising and bleeding.

White Kidney Bean Extract

White kidney bean extract is a carbohydrate blocking dietary supplement that works by inhibiting the digestion of starches. These starches are either excreted and their calories not absorbed, or fermented by bacteria in the colon.

White kidney bean extract can help fight the effects of alpha-amylase, an enzyme involved in breaking down carbohydrates into sugar. By slowing alpha-amylase activity, white bean extract is thought to prevent the body from turning excess sugar (glucose) into fat.

Here’s a look at some of the research studies that have been conducted on the effectiveness of white kidney bean extract on body composition:

Research Study Findings
It’s No Has Bean: A Review of the Effects of White Kidney Bean Extract on Body Composition and Metabolic Health The evidence presented in this review indicates that WKBE aids weight loss, inducing small (average −2.6 kg) but potentially meaningful reductions in body weight in humans on a short- to medium-term basis (28 to 84 days) compared with a placebo, particularly when consumed alongside a high-carbohydrate diet
Regular intake of white kidney beans extract (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) induces weight loss compared to placebo in obese human subjects Phaseolus vulgaris extract has the potential to induce weight loss caused by carbohydrates through its alpha‐amylase inhibiting activity.
Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of a Proprietary Alpha-Amylase Inhibitor from White Bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) on Weight and Fat Loss in Humans Phaseolus vulgaris supplementation showed an average effect on weight loss difference of −1.08 kg (95% CI (confidence interval), −0.42 kg to −1.16 kg, p < 0.00001), and the average effect on body fat reduction was 3.26 kg (95% CI, −2.35 kg to −4.163 kg, p = 0.02). This meta-analysis found statistically significant effects of Phaseolus vulgaris supplementation on body weight and body fat.
A proprietary alpha-amylase inhibitor from white bean (Phaseolus vulgaris): A review of clinical studies on weight loss and glycemic control White kidney bean has the potential to induce weight loss and reduce spikes in blood sugar caused by carbohydrates through its alpha-amylase inhibiting activity.
A Dietary Supplement Containing Standardized Phaseolus vulgaris Extract Influences Body Composition of Overweight Men and Women After 30 days, subjects receiving Phaseolus vulgaris extract with a carbohydrate-rich, 2000- to 2200-calorie diet had significantly (p<0.001) greater reduction of body weight, BMI, fat mass, adipose tissue thickness, and waist,/hip/ thigh circumferences while maintaining lean body mass compared to subjects receiving placebo.

White Kidney Bean Extract Side Effects 

  • There is some evidence that white kidney bean extract appears to be safe in doses of up to 3 grams daily for 2-3 months for most people.
  • Eating large amounts of fresh white kidney bean husks is POSSIBLY UNSAFE. Raw husks contain chemicals called lectins. These chemicals can cause stomach upset, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Cooking destroys these chemicals.
  • White kidney beans and bean pod may lower blood sugar. If you have diabetes, monitor your blood sugar closely. The dose of your diabetes medications may need to be adjusted by your healthcare provider.

Summary

So, we looked at three of the best supplements for fat burning and weight loss for both women and men that have been shown to work for some people in human clinical trials–green coffee bean extract, garcinia cambogia, and white kidney bean extract.

They may or may not be best for you personally and there are safety considerations to discuss with your doctor … but these three supplements are backed by research studies to help you lose weight and potentially burn fat, which is more than can be said for most weight loss products on the market.

Regardless, the most important thing when trying to lose weight is to create healthy habits. You can’t just take a pill and expect it to melt fat and change your body without putting in effort elsewhere (preparing healthy meals, exercising, etc.).

As many of the studies we looked at have shown, supplements may be able to help you lose weight in the short-term, but for permanent, sustainable weight loss, exercise + proper nutrition are key.

The Best Supplements to Build Lean Muscle Naturally

Most people who have tried to build lean muscle have taken supplements at some point in time. 

And unfortunately, most of those supposedly magical all-natural / herbal remedies just don’t work … especially for those of us “hard gainers” who seem to struggle with growing new muscle. 

But in this article, we will uncover three of the best muscle building, all natural supplements for both women and men that actually work in human clinical trials. That’s right–all of these are backed by real, credible research studies. [Anecdotally, I can attest to having personally used and seen great results when using this supplement stack!]

We won’t keep you waiting … let’s jump right in. 

Best Supplements to Build Muscle

Protein Powder for Lean Muscle Gain

Protein helps build, maintain, and replace the tissues in your body. Your muscles, organs, and immune system are made up mostly of protein, which is why it’s the most important nutrient if you want to build muscle. 

Many people, particularly those who adhere to a plant-based diet, struggle to get enough protein to gain any muscle. 

That’s where protein powder supplements can help. But first … 

Plant vs Whey (Animal Protein): Which Is Better for Building Muscle? 

There is not a significant body of evidence to support whey and other animal-based protein powders as being more effective than plant-based protein sources for building muscle.

  • A 2021 study found that whey and plant (soy) protein were equally effective in supporting lean muscle gains.
  • A 2019 study showed similar body composition improvements after taking whey and pea (plant-based) protein for 8 weeks.
  • A 2015 study found that supplementing with pea protein produced similar muscle gains to whey protein. 

And since an estimated 68% of people are lactose intolerant, it stands to reason that many folks probably not be consuming dairy-based proteins like whey.

There are other animal-based proteins like collagen but they haven’t been studied as extensively for building muscle as whey and certain plant proteins. Some studies have shown that collagen may not be as effective as whey for muscle protein synthesis.

Regardless of which source you decide is best for you, one thing is for certain: protein powders work if your goal is losing fat and gaining lean muscle. Here’s proof … 

Protein Powder Benefits 

Here are some known benefits:

Research Study Findings
The effects of protein supplements on muscle mass, strength, and aerobic and anaerobic power in healthy adults: a systematic review Protein supplementation may promote muscle hypertrophy and enhance gains in muscle strength in both untrained and trained individuals. Evidence also suggests that protein supplementation may accelerate gains in both aerobic and anaerobic power.
Protein Supplements and Their Relation with Nutrition, Microbiota Composition and Health: Is More Protein Always Better for Sportspeople? While studies on athletes have shown that protein and amino acid supplements may increase MPS and reduce fatigue, muscle soreness and low-to-moderate exercise-induced damage, current studies showing clear negative effects associated with high-protein diets or, e.g. BCAA supplements, are mainly reported in subjects with some type of metabolic disturbances.
Intake of whey isolate supplement and muscle mass gains in young healthy adults when combined with resistance training: a blinded randomized clinical trial Supplementation with whey protein, combined with RT can increase muscle mass with no effects on muscle strength. Whey protein supplementation may alter body composition in favor of additional fat free mass with no significant changes in body fat.
Effects of Protein Supplementation on Performance and Recovery in Resistance and Endurance Training There is robust evidence which shows that consuming protein pre- and/or post-workout induces a significant rise in muscle protein synthesis.
A systematic review, meta-analysis and meta-regression of the effect of protein supplementation on resistance training-induced gains in muscle mass and strength in healthy adults Dietary protein supplementation significantly enhanced changes in muscle strength and size during prolonged resistance exercise training in healthy adults. Increasing age reduces and training experience increases the efficacy of protein supplementation during resistance exercise. 
The Effects of Protein Supplements on Muscle Mass, Strength, and Aerobic and Anaerobic Power in Healthy Adults: A Systematic Review For untrained individuals, consuming supplemental protein likely has no impact on lean mass and muscle strength during the initial weeks of resistance training. However, as the duration, frequency, and volume of resistance training increase, protein supplementation may promote muscle hypertrophy and enhance gains in muscle strength in both untrained and trained individuals. Evidence also suggests that protein supplementation may accelerate gains in both aerobic and anaerobic power.
The Effects of Protein Supplements on Muscle Mass, Strength, and Aerobic and Anaerobic Power in Healthy Adults: A Systematic Review Protein supplementation may enhance muscle mass and performance when the training stimulus is adequate (e.g., frequency, volume, duration), and dietary intake is consistent with recommendations for physically active individuals.

How Much Protein Do YOU Need? Find out in this FREE guide.

Protein Powder Side Effects

Since protein powders are dietary supplements, the FDA leaves it up to manufacturers to evaluate the safety and labeling of products. So first, ensure that whatever protein powder you’re using is routinely third party tested for mold, pathogens, and heavy metals. Supplement manufacturers should have COAs they can share with you and if they don’t, it’s definitely a red flag! 

Some research suggests that whey protein might cause gastrointestinal discomfort.

However, there’s limited data on the possible side effects of high protein intake from a combination of food and supplements.

Don’t use whey protein if you have an allergy or sensitivity to dairy products.

Possible interactions include:

  • Albendazole (Albenza). Avoid using whey protein if you are taking this parasite-killing drug. The supplement might delay or hinder the drug’s effects.
  • Alendronate (Fosamax). Use of whey protein with this drug used to prevent or treat osteoporosis might decrease absorption of the drug.
  • Certain antibiotics. Use of whey protein with quinolone or tetracycline antibiotics might decrease your absorption of the drug.

Plant protein powders all absorb small amounts of heavy metals from the soils they’re grown in. Usually these levels are not high enough to have negative impacts on human health but it’s a good idea to check with the supplement manufacturer and review their heavy metal testing reports. 

Creatine to Increase Strength and Build Lean Muscle

Creatine is an amino acid found in your body’s muscles and in your brain. Though it can be made synthetically, most people get creatine through seafood and red meat. The body’s liver, pancreas and kidneys also make creatine.

Creatine is one of the best supplements for building lean body mass and increasing athletic performance.

Here’s proof …

Research Study Findings
Effect of creatine supplementation during resistance training on lean tissue mass and muscular strength in older adults: a meta-analysis Creatine supplementation increases lean tissue mass and upper and lower body muscular strength during resistance training of older adults. . 
Effect of creatine supplementation on body composition and performance: a meta-analysis Creatine can help increase lean body mass.
Effects of creatine supplementation and resistance training on muscle strength and weightlifting performance Of 22 studies reviewed, the average increase in muscle strength following creatine supplementation plus resistance training was 8% greater than the average increase in muscle strength following placebo ingestion during resistance training (20 vs. 12%). Similarly, the average increase in weightlifting performance (maximal repetitions at a given percent of maximal strength) following creatine supplementation plus resistance training was 14% greater than the average increase in weightlifting performance following placebo ingestion during resistance training (26 vs. 12%).
Effects of two and five days of creatine loading on muscular strength and anaerobic power in trained athletes The study found that a 5-day creatine loading regime coupled with resistance training resulted in significant improvements in both average anaerobic power, as measured by the 30-second Wingate test and back squat strength compared with just training alone. 
Effects of twenty-eight days of beta-alanine and creatine monohydrate supplementation on the physical working capacity at neuromuscular fatigue threshold Beta alanine and creatine supplementation both may delay the onset of neuromuscular fatigue. 
Effects of 4-Week Creatine Supplementation Combined with Complex Training on Muscle Damage and Sport Performance creatine supplementation combined with complex training improved maximal muscular strength and reduced muscle damage during training.
Impact of creatine supplementation in combination with resistance training on lean mass in the elderly Twelve weeks of low-dose creatine supplementation associated with resistance training resulted in increases in lean mass in the elderly.

Creatine Side Effects

According to the Mayo Clinic, evidence suggests that using creatine generally won’t hurt if taken as directed.

When used orally at appropriate doses, creatine is likely safe to take for up to five years. As with any dietary supplement, it’s important to choose a product that follows recommended manufacturing practices and subscribes to third-party testing to ensure the product’s quality.

Creatine can cause weight gain, generally as lean body mass (more muscle). 

Creatine might be unsafe for people with preexisting kidney issues. One case study suggested that creatine might worsen kidney dysfunction in people with kidney disorders, but creatine doesn’t appear to affect kidney function in healthy people.

Possible interactions of creatine include caffeine. Combining caffeine with creatine might decrease the efficacy of creatine. Use of creatine with a daily amount of caffeine greater than 300 milligrams might also worsen the progression of Parkinson’s disease. Further research is needed.

Glutamine to Speed Recovery and Increase Strength Gains

L Glutamine is the most abundant essential amino acid in our bodies and one of the “building blocks” of protein. It’s a “conditional” amino acid, which means that your body can make some on its own but uses it in large amounts. 

Around 60 percent of your skeletal muscle is made up of glutamine, which is why it has been used by athletes and bodybuilders for years to help build and preserve lean body mass.  

Let’s look at the available evidence on the effect l glutamine supplements have on muscle gains. 

Research Study Findings
The Influence of Oral L-Glutamine Supplementation on Muscle Strength Recovery and Soreness Following Unilateral Knee Extension Eccentric Exercise L-glutamine supplementation resulted in faster recovery of peak torque and diminished muscle soreness following eccentric exercise. The effect of L-glutamine on muscle force recovery may be greater in men than women.
L-Glutamine Supplementation Enhances Strength and Power of Knee Muscles and Improves Glycemia Control and Plasma Redox Balance in Exercising Elderly Women Glutamine supplementation, mainly when associated with physical exercises, improves strength and power of knee muscles and glycemia control, besides boosting plasma antioxidant capacity of elderly women.
Glutamine as an Anti-Fatigue Amino Acid in Sports Nutrition Studies evaluated observed that glutamine supplementation improved some fatigue markers, such as increased glycogen synthesis and reduced ammonia accumulation, but this intervention did not increase physical performance. 
Effect of Glutamine Supplementation on Muscular Damage Biomarkers in Professional Basketball Players Glutamine could help attenuate exercise-induced muscle damage in sport disciplines with predominantly eccentric actions.
L-glutamine Improves Skeletal Muscle Cell Differentiation and Prevents Myotube Atrophy After Cytokine (TNF-α) Stress Via Reduced p38 MAPK Signal Transduction L-glutamine administration could represent an important therapeutic strategy for reducing muscle loss in catabolic diseases and inflamed aging. 

Glutamine Side Effects

L-glutamine is generally safe but may cause side effects. Tell your doctor if any of these symptoms are severe or do not go away:

  • constipation
  • nausea
  • headache
  • abdominal pain
  • cough
  • back, leg, feet, hands, or arm pain

Summary 

So, based on a solid body of evidence, protein powder, creatine, and L glutamine are three of the best supplements for lean muscle gain. 

Finding a protein powder that works for you can be a highly personal ordeal. Whether you choose an animal protein like whey or collagen or plant-based protein, we recommend sticking with a product with USA-sourced ingredients and no added sugar (especially the latter if gaining LEAN muscle is your goal).

And any supplement you choose should be produced in a GMP-certified, FDA-approved facility, and third party lab tested for impurities like mold, food borne pathogens, and heavy metals.

The most important thing when trying to build lean muscle, regardless of your gender or age, is to create consistent habits. Supplements are just one piece of the puzzle. Doing resistance training several days a week and improving your diet with more clean, high protein foods are imperative if you want to get lean and actually stay that way! 

The Best Science-proven Natural Nutritional Supplements for Deep Sleep and Recovery

In this article, we’ll look at what nutritional supplements are recommended for deep sleep and recovery, based on the latest data and science

We’ll share a number of clinical studies published on PubMed, the online database maintained by the United States National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health. 

As we stated in our similar article about supplements that may work for anxiety, there is no magic pill that will fix all your sleep issues instantly … but there are a handful of supplements that may help you sleep a little better at the very least. And any improvement in your sleep that actually sticks and causes positive shifts in your sleep habits can make a major difference in your health. 

If you’re considering taking nutritional supplements to help you sleep better, read on to discover 6 natural herbal supplements that may help you get some relief from insomnia and a better night’s sleep.  

6 of the Best Deep Sleep and Recovery Supplements

Click to read more about the benefits and side effects of each.

CBD

Is Melatonin Good for Sleep?

Melatonin is a hormone in your body that plays a role in sleep.

It has been shown to synchronize our circadian rhythms, and improve the onset, duration and quality of sleep, meaning it may help you fall asleep faster and sleep deeper. 

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health states that taking a melatonin supplement may help with: 

  • Jet lag
  • Delayed sleep-wake phase disorder (people with DSWPD have trouble falling asleep at the usual times and waking up in the morning).
  • Anxiety 

According to the Sleep Foundation, the results of melatonin for insomnia are mixed. 

Some experts reviewing it find some evidence in favor of melatonin while organizations like the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) have concluded that there is not sufficient scientific support for melatonin in reducing insomnia.

Long story short, melatonin works for some people while for others, it may not have much of an affect.

Melatonin Side Effects and Drug Interactions 

The Mayo Clinic says that melatonin is generally safe for short-term use. Treat melatonin as you would any sleeping pill and use it under your doctor’s supervision.

As far as side effects go, melatonin can cause:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Drowsiness

Possible drug interactions include:

  • Anticoagulants and anti-platelet drugs, herbs and supplements
  • Anticonvulsants
  • Blood pressure drugs
  • Central nervous system (CNS) depressants
  • Diabetes medications
  • Contraceptive drugs
  • Cytochrome P450 1A2 (CYP1A2) and cytochrome P450 2C19 (CPY2C19) substrates
  • Fluvoxamine (Luvox)
  • Immunosuppressants
  • Seizure threshold lowering drugs

Will L Theanine Help You Sleep? 

L-theanine is an amino acid found primarily in green and black tea and some mushrooms. It’s also available in pill or tablet form.

Research on the effect of L-theanine for sleep is limited, but here’s what we know based on current evidence: 

A 2019 study found that a combination supplement of GABA and L-theanine “has a positive synergistic effect on sleep quality and duration as compared to the GABA or l-theanine alone.” 

A 2019 randomized, placebo-controlled trial found that: 

Stress-related symptom (i.e., depression, anxiety-trait, and sleep) scores decreased and cognitive function (i.e., verbal fluency and executive function) scores improved after four weeks of L-theanine administration. The reduction in sleep quality problems (disturbances in sleep latency, sleep disturbance, and use of sleep medication) was greater in the L-theanine administration compared to the placebo administration, while verbal fluency, especially letter fluency, was improved in the L-theanine administration among individuals who showed relatively low performance at pretreatment. Moreover, L-theanine administration was safe and well complied with. Therefore, L-theanine may be a suitable nutraceutical ingredient for improving mental conditions in a healthy population.

And a 2011 study found that “400 mg daily of L-theanine is safe and effective in improving some aspects of sleep quality in boys diagnosed with ADHD.” 

L-Theanine Side Effects 

When taken by mouth: L-theanine is possibly safe when used short-term. Doses of up to 900 mg daily have been safely used for 8 weeks. It isn’t clear if L-theanine is safe to use for longer periods of time. It might cause mild side effects, such as headache or sleepiness.

Is L-Tryptophan Good for Sleep? 

Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that plays an important role in a handful of different bodily processes. Many people associate tryptophan with turkey and feelings of sleepiness after holiday meals, but it is found in a wide variety of foods and beverages. Some people also take tryptophan supplements, though their safety and efficacy is limited. 

A 2022 metaanalysis that looked at several studies of tryptophan’s effect on sleep found that taking a tryptophan supplementation at a dose of ≥1 g can help improve sleep quality, notably reducing the time it takes to fall asleep. 

L-Tryptophan Side Effects 

L-tryptophan supplements are considered potentially safe for short-term use. Potential side effects include headaches, blurry vision, drowsiness, stomach pain, diarrhea, or vomiting. 

L-tryptophan supplements have not been extensively studied and more research is needed to pinpoint why and how they affect the body.

L-tryptophan supplements may interact with certain other medications and produce some undesirable side effects. People who take tryptophan along with medications, herbs, and supplements that have sedative properties may experience breathing problems and excessive sleepiness. Issues may also arise with serotonergic medications, herbs, and supplements, since they – like L-tryptophan supplements – can increase serotonin production. Excessive serotonin levels can lead to vomiting, seizures, and heart problems.

Does CBD Help You Sleep Better? 

CBD, or cannabidiol, is one of 113 naturally-occurring compounds called cannabinoids created by the Cannabis sativa L. plant species. 

CBD can be extracted from one of two types of Cannabis sativa plants: hemp or marijuana. The main difference between marijuana and hemp is that hemp contains only trace amounts of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the molecule that causes the “high” that marijuana is famous for. 

More controlled clinical trials are needed, but mounting scientific research (both animal and human studies) highlight CBD’s potential as an adjunct treatment for a wide range of maladies, including (but not limited to):

So what benefits does CBD have, if any, for sleep? 

  • CBD may hold promise for insomnia, REM sleep behavior disorder, and excessive daytime sleepiness, according to this study.  Researchers said, “Preliminary research into cannabis and insomnia suggests that cannabidiol (CBD) may have therapeutic potential for the treatment of insomnia.”
  • In a 2020 research review, scientists stated that endocannabinoids like CBD “play a prominent role in sleep and sleep neurophysiology.” 
  • CBD does not appear to alter your sleep-wake cycle like benzodiazepines and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. 

Keep in mind certain types of CBD get absorbed by your body faster …

Onset Time With Capsules Vs. CBD Oil Tinctures

  • Capsules generally take 45-60 minutes to begin working. 
  • CBD oil tinctures tend to take effect within 15-30 minutes when applied directly under the tongue. 

Is CBD Safe? 

CBD is non-toxic, non-intoxicating, and non-habit forming, with few negative side effects. 

Your body does not build a tolerance to CBD, so there’s no physical withdrawal symptoms or need to continue upping doses once the therapeutic impact you desire has been achieved.

That being said, there are several serious safety considerations:

  1. CBD can thin blood, so people with thin blood or who are on blood thinners should consult a doctor before taking it. 
  2. CBD is known to inhibit the CYP450 enzyme system which is a primary means with which the body processes a large assortment of conventional medications (NSAIDs, antipsychotics, benzodiazepines, steroids, anesthetics, etc.). Meaning, with both CBD and these drugs in the system, they’re processed slower than normal which can lead to problems, especially liver toxicity. 
  3. Another issue is that certain drugs are designed (prodrugs, like codeine which metabolizes into morphine inside the body) to activate during processing, and CBD can inhibit the amount of the drug being activated. 

Side Effects of CBD Usage

According to a 2017 review from the journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, the three most common side effects from clinical studies looking at patients who used CBD to treat epilepsy and psychotic disorders were strong changes in food intake, some diarrhea, and tiredness at high doses. 

Click Here to Download Our Free Infographic, How CBD Impacts Sleep

Does Ashwagandha Make You Sleep Better? 

Ashwagandha is a herbal treatment commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine. 

One study showed that ashwagandha may benefit sleep quality as well—researchers found that study participants slept much better when taking an ashwagandha supplement compared to placebo. They stated: 

Ashwagandha root extract is a natural compound with sleep-inducing potential, well tolerated and improves sleep quality and sleep onset latency in patients with insomnia at a dose of 300 mg extract twice daily. It could be of potential use to improve sleep parameters in patients with insomnia and anxiety, but need further large-scale studies.

A randomized, double-blind clinical trial showed that ashwagandha root extract can improve sleep quality and can help in managing insomnia. 

More research is need but early results seem promising for ashwagandha and sleep. 

Ashwagandha Side Effects

Side effects of using ashwagandha may include:

  • Nausea 
  • Headache
  • Drowsiness
  • Stomach irritation
  • Diarrhea 

Avoid ashwagandha or talk to your doctor if any of the following apply to you:  

  • If you have any issues with your thyroid, check with your healthcare provider before taking ashwagandha.
  • Don’t use ashwagandha if you’re pregnant because it may cause abortion (end your pregnancy).
  • Talk with your doctor if you have hormone-sensitive prostate cancer because ashwagandha may increase testosterone levels. This can interfere with your treatments.
  • Ashwagandha may increase the drowsiness effects of some prescription medications so talk with your healthcare provider before taking it.

Does Taking Valerian Root Work to Fall Asleep Faster? 

Results from multiple studies indicate that taking valerian root may reduce the amount of time it takes to fall asleep and help you sleep better

However, not all studies have shown valerian to be effective, and the exact dosage needed to sleep better is unclear. 

Valerian seems to be most effective after you take it regularly for two or more weeks

Valerian is also used in patients with mild anxiety, but the data supporting this indication are limited. 

Valerian Root Side Effects and Drug Interactions 

Although valerian is thought to be fairly safe, side effects such as headache, dizziness, stomach problems or sleeplessness may occur. Valerian may not be safe if you’re pregnant or breast-feeding. If you have liver disease, avoid taking valerian. And because valerian can make you drowsy, avoid driving or operating dangerous machinery after taking it.

Valerian may increase the effects of other sleep aids. It also increases the sedative effect of depressants, such as alcohol, benzodiazepines and narcotics. Valerian can interfere with some prescription medications. And it may interact with other dietary supplements, such as St. John’s wort.

If you’re thinking of taking valerian, talk to your doctor first to make sure it won’t interact with other medications or supplements you’re taking and that it’s safe to take with any health or medical conditions you have.

Summary

Does taking nutritional supplements to sleep better really work? 

Based on the current body of evidence available, there do seem to be some supplements available in pill form that can help you fall asleep faster, wake up less throughout the night, and sleep deeper … but oftentimes it can take some trial and error to figure out what works well for you. Larger studies are definitely needed to better understand the efficacy, safety, and dosing for most natural sleep aids. 

Talk to your doctor if you’re having sleep issues before taking any new supplement, so they can help determine the best option(s) for you. 

Ultimately, supplements should be a short-term fix.

If you focus your efforts on creating better sleep habits, like going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, turning off electronics 30 minutes before bedtime, and limiting light exposure in your bedroom, that’s what really going to help you create sustainable changes that improve your sleep over the long-term. 

Learn More About Pure Food Sleep Supplements

Packaging Update

To cut back on the waste we produce (and fossil fuels required to transport it), we’re switching from plastic tubs to recyclable stand up pouches. Here’s a look at the new packaging:

If you’re a current subscriber, there are a few changes you should be aware of:

  1. We got rid of scoops. So if you like having the scoop, hang onto one from your current tub.
  2. Because we got rid of scoops, the serving size on the package has changed. While the total amount of powder in the pouches is the same as it was in the tubs, the new serving sizes are as-follows:
    • Pure Food Plant Protein Powder (Vanilla): 3 Tablespoons (18 grams), which gets you 11 grams of protein per serving and 28 total servings per bag.
    • Pure Food REAL MEAL (Chocolate): 3 Tablespoons (22 grams), which gets you 11 grams of protein per serving and 24 total servings per bag.
    • Pure Food Plant Protein Powder (Chocolate): 3 Tablespoons (18 grams), which gets you 11 grams of protein per serving and 28 total servings per bag.

To get 20 grams of protein (our old 2-scoop serving size), you would add about 5.5 Tablespoons to your smoothie (which amounts to 32 grams of vanilla/cacao plant protein or 40 grams of Real Meal).

If you have any questions for us, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

The Best Immune Booster Supplements

Finding ways to boost your immune system naturally with supplements is all the rage these days. From vitamin D to elderberry capsules to zinc and vitamin C, in this article we’ll take a deeper dive into some of the best immune defense supplements out there. 

We’ll share the latest and greatest research about the benefits, risks, and optimal dosing for several of the best natural immune booster supplements, according to science. 

Vitamin D 

What Is Vitamin D?

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin found in a small amount of foods and a hormone our bodies make. 

Since few foods naturally contain vitamin D, for most people the best way to get enough vitamin D is by spending time in the sunshine (which is good for getting vitamin D but not-so-good for your skin) or by taking supplements. 

Vitamin D Benefits 

  • Helps the body absorb more calcium and phosphorus, both of which are critical for building bone.
  • Supplementation with 800 IU of vitamin D per day reduced hip and nonspinal fractures by about 20%. 
  • A randomized clinical trial in Japanese school children tested whether taking daily vitamin D supplements would prevent seasonal flu. The trial followed nearly 340 children for four months during the height of the winter flu season. Half of the study participants received pills that contained 1,200 IU of vitamin D; the other half received placebo pills. Researchers found that type A influenza rates in the vitamin D group were about 40% lower than in the placebo group.
  • A large meta-analysis of individual participant data indicated that daily or weekly vitamin D supplementation lowers risk of acute respiratory infections.
  • One study of people with autoimmune conditions found “the beneficial effects of supplementing vitamin D deficient individuals with autoimmune disease may extend beyond effects on bone and calcium homeostasis.”
  • In the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, nearly 50,000 healthy men were followed for 10 years. Those who had the lowest levels of vitamin D were twice as likely to have a heart attack as men who had the highest levels. 

Vitamin D Adverse Effects / Risks 

According to the Mayo Clinic, vitamin D is generally considered safe when used in appropriate doses. 

However, taking too much vitamin D supplements can be harmful. Children age 9 years and older, adults, and pregnant and breastfeeding women who take more than 4,000 IU a day of vitamin D might experience:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Poor appetite and weight loss
  • Constipation
  • Weakness
  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Heart rhythm problems
  • Kidney stones and kidney damage

Possible drug interactions include:

  • Aluminum
  • Anticonvulsants
  • Atorvastatin (Lipitor)
  • Calcipotriene (Dovonex, Sorilux)
  • Cholestyramine (Prevalite)
  • Cytochrome P-450 3A4 (CYP3A4) substrates
  • Digoxin (Lanoxin)
  • Diltiazem (Cardizem, Tiazac, others)
  • Orlistat (Xenical, Alli)
  • Thiazide diuretics
  • Steroids
  • Stimulant laxatives
  • Verapamil (Verelan, Calan SR)

Talk to your doctor about vitamin D supplementation if you’re taking any of these. 

Vitamin D Dosing

According to the Harvard School of Public Health, many people may not be getting enough vitamin D. 

Recommended Dietary Allowance for vitamin D (the daily amount needed to maintain healthy bones and normal calcium metabolism in healthy people, assuming minimal sun exposure), is: 

600 IU daily for men and women 19 years and older, and 800 IU daily for adults >70 years. 

The Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL)–the maximum daily intake unlikely to cause harmful effects on health–is 4,000 IU of vitamin D for adults and children ages 9+. 

Vitamin C

What Is Vitamin C? 

Vitamin C is an essential nutrient involved in the repair of tissue, the formation of collagen, and the enzymatic production of certain neurotransmitters. 

Vitamin C Immune Defense Benefits 

Vitamin C is one of the most powerful antioxidants for immunity. It has been shown in clinical studies to: 

Since the human body can’t create or store its own vitamin C, it needs to be constantly replenished and that’s where supplements can help. 

Vitamin C Adverse Effects / Risks 

According to a 2020 research review, potential adverse effects of Vitamin C supplementation include headaches, flushing, nausea or vomiting, and dizziness. There have been reports of migraine headaches with a daily dose of 6 grams.

Significant amounts of vitamin C can increase the risk of kidney stones and elevate uric acid and oxalate because it acidifies the urine.

Vitamin C supplementation is contraindicated in blood disorders like thalassemia, G6PD deficiency, sickle cell disease, and hemochromatosis. Avoid taking supplements immediately before or following angioplasty. Diabetic patients should take vitamin C supplements with care as it raises blood sugar levels.

Vitamin C Dosing

The average protective adult dose of vitamin C is 70 to 150 mg daily.

Zinc 

What Is Zinc? 

Zinc is a trace mineral that’s found at high levels in oysters, beef and crab, and in lower amounts in legumes, tofu, pumpkin seeds, cashews and other nuts and seeds. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that between 17% and 30% of the world population has a zinc deficiency. 

Zinc Immunity Benefits

Zinc is known as the “gatekeeper” of immune function and its immune-boosting benefits include: 

Zinc Adverse Effects / Risks 

Acute adverse effects of high zinc intake include nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, and headaches. 

Taking 150–450 mg of zinc per day have been associated with chronic effects such as low copper status, altered iron function, reduced immune function, and reduced levels of high-density lipoproteins. 

Zinc supplements can interact with several types of medications, including: 

  • Antibiotics
  • Penicillamine
  • Diuretics

Talk to your doctor about using a zinc supplement if you’re on any of these medications. 

Zinc Dosing

Zinc has been studied in clinical trials in doses ranging from 45 mg to 300 mg. Research has shown that use of total daily zinc lozenge doses of over 75 mg reduced the duration of the common cold, whereas lower doses did not. 

However, the U.S. Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) has established a daily Upper Limit (UL) for zinc because long-term intakes above the UL increase the risk of adverse health effects. 

Age Male Female Pregnant Lactating
0–6 months 4 mg 4 mg
7–12 months 5 mg 5 mg
1–3 years 7 mg 7 mg
4–8 years 12 mg 12 mg
9–13 years 23 mg 23 mg
14–18 years 34 mg 34 mg 34 mg 34 mg
19+ years 40 mg 40 mg 40 mg 40 mg

We recommend starting with adding 15 to 30 milligrams of zinc to your daily supplement regimen daily, especially during the fall and winter months and at the first signs of cold or flu. If you get sick, talk to your healthcare professional about upping the dose of zinc for the duration of your symptoms for increased immune defense.

Turmeric

What Is Turmeric? 

Turmeric is a spice that comes from the root of curcuma longa, a plant in the ginger family. Its main active ingredient is a compound called curcumin, which gives turmeric its yellow color. 

Turmeric Immune Health Benefits 

Turmeric is known for its antioxidant profile and anti-inflammatory properties. 

  • One study showed turmeric/curcumin may help protect your body from free radicals. 
  • A 2020 research review found that turmeric’s antioxidant effects may also stimulate the action of other antioxidants in your body.
  • A 2017 research review found that turmeric “aids in the management of oxidative and inflammatory conditions, metabolic syndrome, arthritis, anxiety, and hyperlipidemia”.
  • In one study of patients with ulcerative colitis, a common autoimmune disease, patients who took 2 grams of curcumin / day along with prescription medication were more likely to stay in remission than those who took the medication alone. 
  • Turmeric may reduce joint swelling and stiffness from rheumatoid arthritis. 
  • A 2018 study found that “turmeric shows pivotal role in the modulation of immune system”. 

Turmeric Adverse Effects / Risks 

When taken orally in supplement form, turmeric is usually well tolerated. 

In human studies, doses of up to 8000 mg / day of turmeric / curcumin have been used for eight months without toxic effects. 

The most common side effects were GI-related, including:

  • diarrhea
  • constipation
  • abdominal distension
  • flatulence
  • dyspepsia
  • nausea
  • gastroesophageal reflux
  • vomiting
  • yellow stool
  • stomach ache

Turmeric extracts can trigger biliary colic (abdominal pain) in people with gallstones. About 7% of the adverse reactions reported to the MHRA for curcuma were for hepatobiliary disorders or abnormal liver function test results.

Turmeric or curcumin-containing preparations may cause heart rate or rhythm disorders.

Curcumin may also have antiplatelet (blood thinning) effects.

Talk to your doctor before supplementing with turmeric / curcumin

Turmeric Dosing

Research shows that 500 milligrams of a turmeric / curcumin supplement twice daily with food appears to be a safe and efficacious dose for most people. 

The dose that’s right for you depends on your overall health and pre-existing conditions you may have. More isn’t necessarily better, and in some cases can be worse, so talk to your doctor first. 

Another important caveat: on its own, curcumin is poorly absorbed. So look for a curcumin / turmeric capsule with piperine (a black pepper extract) or combine it with some healthy fats (olive oil, avocado, nuts, etc.) to increase absorption. 

It’s usually best to take turmeric with or immediately before a meal to avoid any side effects. 

Elderberry

What Is Elderberry? 

Elderberries come from a tree variety known as Sambucus. The berries and flowers of these trees are edible, but must be cooked before they’re consumed (because they’re toxic and can cause diarrhea, vomiting and nausea if consumed uncooked). 

Elderberry Immune Boosting Benefits 

A 2016 randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial of 312 economy class passengers traveling overseas from Australia sought to investigate whether elderberry extract has beneficial effects on physical, especially respiratory, and mental health. 

Researchers found that the group that didn’t take the elderberry supplement had a significantly longer duration of cold episode days and the average symptom score over these days was also significantly higher. These data suggest a significant reduction of cold duration and severity in air travelers. 

Elderberry also may be an effective option for:

It should be noted that elderberry’s ability to fight the flu has been a point of contention, with one study showing “no evidence that elderberry benefits the duration or severity of influenza”. 

Elderberry Adverse Effects / Risks 

  • Raw unripe elderberries and other parts of the elder tree, such as the leaves and stem, contain toxic substances that can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea; cooking eliminates this toxin. Large quantities of the toxin may cause serious illness.
  • Little is known about whether it’s safe to use elderberry during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.
  • Don’t rely on elderberry or other dietary supplements for prevention or treatment of COVID-19. They have not been shown to be effective.

Elderberry Dosing

Elderberry is available in many different types of products, including syrups, mouth rinses, and capsules. But there are currently no dosing standards for elderberry supplements. It has been studied in doses ranging from 500 mg to 1200 mg daily. 

Long story short, elderberry is a promising but understudied supplement: it may reduce the symptoms of colds and the flu, but the evidence is still preliminary.

Larger controlled clinical studies are needed to better understand the safety, efficacy, and dosing. 

Probiotics 

What Are Probiotics? 

Probiotics are gut microbes that may exert some health benefits. 

Which Probiotics Support Immunity? 

Here are the strain-specific probiotics that may work for boosting your immune system:

Probiotic Strain Immune System Benefit
Bifidobacterium bifidum Reduces cold and flu incidence.
Lactobacillus brevis Reduces the incidence of flu.
Lactobacillus GG Decreased risk of upper respiratory infections for children in daycare.
Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidum  Reduces the risk of colds in school-aged children.
Lactobacillus rhamnosus Reduces the incidence of pneumonia in people in the intensive care unit.
B. longum  Helps prevent the flu in elderly patients.
Lactobacillus plantarum and Lactobacillus paracasei Reduces the number of days with symptoms and severity of colds.

Also, a 2016 review and meta-analysis of 23 randomized controlled trials found that probiotics appear to decrease the incidence of respiratory tract infections in children. 

See our article Which Probiotics Are Best for Immunity? for further reading on this topic. 

Probiotics Adverse Effects / Risks 

According to the Cleveland Clinic

Because microbes used as probiotics already exist naturally in your body, probiotic foods and supplements are generally considered safe. They may trigger allergic reactions, and may also cause mild stomach upset, diarrhea, or flatulence (passing gas) and bloating for the first few days after starting to take them.

There are certain people who need to use caution when using probiotic supplements, including those who:

  • Have a weakened immune system (those going through chemotherapy for example).
  • Have a critical illness.
  • Recently had surgery.

Caution should also be used when giving probiotics to very sick infants.

Always talk to your healthcare provider before starting a probiotic supplement.

Probiotics Dosing

Probiotics are measured in colony forming units (CFUs), which indicate the number of viable cells. 

Many probiotic supplements contain 1 to 10 billion CFU per dose, but some products contain up to 50 billion CFU or more. 

However, higher CFU counts do not necessarily improve the product’s health effects.

And unfortunately, at this point there are too many strains and not enough clear evidence about the optimal dose for each strain, so probiotic supplementation can often take some trial and error. Be sure to stick with supplements that use strains that have been studied for safety and efficacy in clinical trials (like the ones mentioned above). 

How to Find the Best Natural Immune Booster Supplements  

There are a few things to look for to find the best immune boosting supplements for you

  1. Stick with supplements that are supported by research and have some efficacy and safety data to support them: vitamin D, vitamin C, zinc, elderberry, and probiotics. 
  2. Choose a product with optimal doses for efficacy and safety (if optimal doses have been established). 
  3. Look for supplements made in the USA in a GMP-compliant, FDA-approved facility that have been third party lab tested for purity and safety. 

We recommend trying an elderberry with Vitamin C and zinc supplement, along with vitamin D and probiotics to support immune health

If you’re interesting in exploring Pure Food supplements for a strong immune system, read more here:

Pure Food Immunity Bundle: 4 Proven Immune Defense Supplements