Can probiotics boost your immune system? The answer, as you’ll learn below, is yes … but there are some caveats.
In this article we’ll review several research studies that have explored the role probiotics play in immunity and reveal what, if any, probiotic strains may help improve your immune health. We’ll also talk about the right foods to eat to boost your immunity and situations in which you should probably avoid probiotics.
Let’s dig in …
The Microbiome, Explained
You have an estimated 40 trillion bacterial cells living inside your body at any given time.
A good chunk of these microorganisms live in your gut and are part of your “microbiome,” the collective community of microbes that reside with you.
The microbiome plays quite the important role in your body, particularly when it comes to immunity …
Scientists have discovered that 70-80 percent of your immune system is controlled by your microbiome.
And your gut microbiome is largely shaped by what you eat and drink, as we’ll explore further below. First, let’s talk probiotics …
What Are Probiotics?
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that help keep your body healthy and working well. These good bacteria can provide assistance in a number of interesting ways.
Benefits of Probiotics
Probiotics can help you maintain a healthy balance in your body by:
Supporting your immune function and controlling inflammation.
Helping your body digest food.
Keeping bad bacteria from getting out of control and making you sick.
Helping support the cells that line your gut to prevent bad bacteria that you may have consumed (through food or drinks) from entering your blood.
Probiotic bacteria have significant effects on the functionality of the mucosal and systemic immune systems through the activation of multiple immune mechanisms.
The researchers in the study discovered that probiotic bacteria induce signals in the intestine that improve the behavior of the immune system and the host’s health. Probiotic bacteria were deemed to be an “effective tool for the maintenance of the intestinal homeostasis and the stimulation of the mucosal immune system.”
Study #2: Prospective Study of Probiotic Supplementation Results in Immune Stimulation and Improvement of Upper Respiratory Infection Rate
In a 2018 double-blind, randomized, controlled trial, researchers found that a 3-strain probiotic supplement was “safe and effective for fighting the common cold and influenza-like respiratory infections by boosting the immune system.”
Probiotics do appear to be somewhat effective in preventing the common cold. More research is needed but early results are promising.
“Probiotics are particularly helpful for maintaining normal bowel function and good digestive health,” says Bruce Eisendorf, M.D., a family medicine doctor at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation. “They also keep your immune system strong so you can fight and prevent infection.”
Lactobacillus plantarum and Lactobacillus paracasei
Reduces the number of days with symptoms and severity of colds.
*Shameless Plug Alert: Our digestive health supplement, Pure Food DIGEST, contains ALL of these probiotic strains!
How to Build a Healthy Immune System By Feeding Your Microbiome the Right Foods
One way to improve the levels of healthy bacteria in your gut without probiotic supplements is to eat more foods these “good bacteria” like to eat—namely, fiber-rich foods.
This means increasing your intake of:
Nuts and seeds
Getting all your fiber from a single source (like a fiber supplement, for example) is not the best way to boost your gut health and immunity.
Your goal should be to eat a variety of fiber-rich foods each day.
Another way to promote a healthy gut and immune system is to eat foods that already contain beneficial bacteria (probiotics).
Yogurt, kefir, and other cultured dairy products (there are plant-based options available now too).
Kim-chi, sauerkraut, and other fermented vegetables.
Miso, tempeh, natto, and other fermented soy products.
Kombucha (fermented tea).
All of these products are available on grocery store shelves or you can make them yourself, which is actually quite fun. My personal DIY foods: kombucha, preserved lemons, fermented pepper paste, and pickles.
Studies show that taking probiotics may help you get sick less and reduce the amount of time you’re sick for (in regards to common colds/respiratory infections).
But there are some situations where beneficial bacteria (either from foods or supplements) can cause adverse affects.
Acute illnesses such as pancreatitis, Crohn’s, colitis, and celiac disease can lead to increased intestinal permeability, which is when bacteria penetrate the lining of the gut far enough to cause an inflammatory reaction from your immune cells. If your gut is already inflamed, that can spell trouble.
Those with compromised immune systems, either from a severe illness or due to medical treatment for a disease, are also generally advised to avoid probiotic foods and supplements. Some studies have found that using probiotics in severely ill or immunocompromised individuals can increase the risk of adverse effects such as infections.
Get Our Best Science-backed Tips to Improve Your GI Health
Given the current state of the world, I thought I’d take a minute to share my “secrets” for staying healthy and protecting your immune system.
After developing an autoimmune disease that caused me to get sick allthetime from 2016 – 2018, I have only been sick one time in the past year (a minor cold that went away after two days).
To put that in perspective, my wife is an elementary school teacher and we have a 6-year-old in school and three-year-old in daycare. We have seen our share of germs run through our house (including, but not limited to, croup, bronchitis, the flu, pneumonia, stomach bugs, conjunctivitis, ear infections, sinus infections, hand foot and mouth disease, etc.). Not COVID-19, it seems.
Wanna know how I’ve managed to stay healthy while everyone around me is sick?
Read on to find out some proven methods you can use to give your immune system a boost.
1. Sleeping. If you struggle with sleep, I can’t stress the importance of creating habits that help you sleep better enough (more on this below). Sleep loss and disrupted sleep are strongly linked to inflammation. And inflammation makes you more susceptible to illness. I was an insomniac for years. While I still wake up a few times during the night, my sleep quality and consistency has improve exponentially since I started making sleep a priority. My best tips: i.) go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, ii.) sleep in a dark, quiet space (a white noise machine can do wonders), iii.) if your mind spins in bed, focus on slowing your breathing and thinking about the people you’re thankful for in your life.
2. Eating / Supplementing. What you eat has a profound effect on your immune system response. It’s well known the modern Western Diet is one of the worst culprits when it comes to inflammation. If you don’t put the right foods and drinks in your body, you will get sick more often. Period.
The tricky part is finding the “right foods” for you, and then creating systems (or habits) that’ll help you eat healthy habitually every day (most peoples’ systems do the opposite).
Try getting both allergy and microbiome testing done as a first step. I recommend Viome for the microbiome test … it’s $120 or so. These tests will tell you exactly which foods you should / shouldn’t be eating. As I said in one of my emails, personalized nutrition is the future of healthy eating. And the future is here and accessible to all!
My “systems” that help me stay healthy include:
Cooking everyday. I know that if I get takeout or go to a restaurant then I’m usually not going to eat as healthy. So I try to only eat out about once a week and the rest of the days I make time to cook for myself and my family. I schedule time on my calendar from 5-6ish every day to cook dinner and prepare lunches for everyone for the next day.
Planning meals ahead of time. Even if you don’t like cooking, you can still create systems that help you eat better by having a plan for meal time. If you don’t have a plan, you’ll likely succumb to the easy way out (which is usually food you know isn’t going to help you stay healthy). It can be as simple as writing down a more nutritious takeout option you’re thinking about for dinner instead of fast food, or as complex as tracking everything you eat (I prefer the former, personally). Be deliberate and specific about what you are/are not going to eat today.
Avoiding trigger foods and sticking with foods I know don’t cause an inflammatory response in my body. Again, go see an allergist and get your microbiome tested to see which foods are good/not good for you.
Spending most of the grocery budget on perishables. I don’t like wasting food, so I know if I load my shopping cart with fresh fruits and vegetables, I will make sure they get eaten. Minimize the processed, carb-laden snacks in favor of fruits, veggies, nuts, and seeds (or smoothies with all of these, ideally!). One of my easiest systems I use is creating a grocery list without junk food on it each week. If it’s not on the list, I don’t buy it.
Drinking lots of water. Staying hydrated is one of the keys to immunity. Drinking sugar-sweetened coffees and sodas is not. Also, 1-2 glasses of red wine a night may help with immune response.
3. Exercising. If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it. It’s well known that our bodies break down as we age. But there’s an easy way to drastically slow that progression: get up and frickin move!
As many of us age we “let ourselves go” and this leads to an endless cycle of injuries and rehab. Exercise is the absolute best way to keep your muscles, bones, and tissues strong. Being sedentary, on the other hand, is one of the worst things you can do for your immunity.
There’s no excuse not to exercise (unless you’re injured and rehabbing an injury). Find something you enjoy doing (walking, golf, tennis, gardening, hiking, biking, swimming, yoga, etc.) and schedule it into your damn calendar every day or every other day. Even 5 minutes makes a difference. Make exercise part of your daily system and you will get sick much less. If you’re still not convinced, check out some of the conclusions from this 2019 research paper:
Regular exercise training has an overall anti-inflammatory influence mediated through multiple pathways. Epidemiologic studies consistently show decreased levels of inflammatory biomarkers in adults with higher levels of physical activity and fitness, even after adjustment for potential confounders such as BMI.
There is increasing evidence that the circulation surge in cells of the innate immune system with each exercise bout and the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effect of exercise training have a summation effect over time in modulating tumorigenesis, atherosclerosis, and other disease processes.
Recent studies indicate that exercise and physical fitness diversifies the gut microbiota, but more human research is needed to determine potential linkages to immune function in physically fit individuals and athletes.
Now, the researchers in that study also cautioned that overtraining and stressful competitions can make you more susceptible to getting sick. So it’s important to make time for recovery if you’re exercising hard like I do (stretching, foam rolling, light yoga, percussion and/or massage therapy, chiropractic care, etc.).
Long story short, the best way to stay healthy is to take care of your body (because it’ll take care of you if you do).
While it’s true that most dietary supplements are complete junk that don’t do much of anything, saying all supplements have no benefit is just plain absurd.
Because there are a handful of health and wellness supplements that have very promising health benefits.
In this article, you’ll learn about 15 of the best supplements that help address some of the most common health challenges (losing weight, easing digestive issues, increasing energy, boosting immunity, alleviating pain, and decreasing anxiety).
Each of the supplements you will learn about has multiple peer-reviewed, placebo-controlled research that support its efficacy and safety.
I’m confident you’ll find something in here that can help you.
Click the links below to jump around or scroll down to get started.
*Note: Ginkgo’s effect on memory enhancement has had conflicting results. While some evidence suggests that ginkgo extract might modestly improve memory in healthy adults, most studies indicate that ginkgo doesn’t improve memory, attention or brain function.
Is Ginkgo Biloba Safe?
When used orally in moderate amounts, ginkgo appears to be safe for most healthy adults. Here are some important safety considerations when taking this supplement though:
In certain people, ginkgo can cause headaches, dizziness, heart palpitations, upset stomach, constipation, and allergic skin reactions.
If you are epileptic or prone to seizures, avoid ginkgo.
If you are older, have a bleeding disorder or are pregnant, don’t take ginkgo because it might increase your risk of bleeding.
Ginkgo might interfere with the management of diabetes.
Don’t eat raw or roasted ginkgo seeds, which can be poisonous.
Possible interactions include: Alprazolam (Xanax), Anticoagulants and anti-platelet drugs, herbs and supplements, Anticonvulsants, Antidepressants, Certain statins, Diabetes drugs, Ibuprofen
The herbal remedies collectively referred to as “ginseng” are derived from the roots of several different plants. One of the most commonly used and researched of the ginseng plants is Panax ginseng, also called Asian or Korean ginseng.
The main active components of Panax ginseng are ginsenosides, which have been shown to have a variety of beneficial effects, including anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anticancer effects.
Results of clinical research studies demonstrate that Panax ginseng may improve psychologic function, immune function, and conditions associated with diabetes.
1. Improve cognition and focus. 2. Reduce blood sugar. 3. Boost happiness and well being.
Overall, Panax ginseng appears to be well tolerated, although caution is advised about combining it with some pharmaceuticals, such as warfarin, oral hypoglycemic agents, insulin, and phenelzine.
Because ginseng may affect blood sugar levels, people taking drugs for diabetes should not use ginseng without talking to their doctor first. Ginseng can interact with warfarin and with some medicines for depression. Do not take ginseng without consulting your doctor if you take any medications. Caffeine may amplify ginseng’s stimulant effects.
Given the lack of evidence about its safety, ginseng is not recommended for children or for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Turmeric is a spice that’s a member of the ginger family. It’s commonly used in several types of Asian cuisine. Turmeric roots contains a yellow-colored compound called curcumin that has some pretty impressive health properties.
In addition to the digestive benefits below, there is strong evidence that shows turmeric is high in anti-oxidants, which help protect your cells from damage and can help reduce inflammation, pain, anxiety and even symptoms of depression.
1. Relieve IBS 2. Aid digestion 3. Ease heartburn 4. Reduce gas and bloating
According to JECFA (The Joint United Nations and World Health Organization Expert Committee on Food Additives) and EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) reports, the Allowable Daily Intake (ADI) value of curcumin is 0–3 mg/kg body weight.
Despite this well-established safety profile, some negative side effects have been reported. A small percentage of people in several clinical studies reported nausea and diarrhea.
Dietary fiber is a plant-derived nutrient that can’t be digested by your body. This is a good thing because fiber helps move material through your digestive system.
Problem is, most Americans still aren’t getting enough of it from their diet, especially if you follow a low carb or ketogenic diets.
The recommended daily intake of fiber is at least 25-30 grams. Most people get around 15.
A 2019 meta analysis of studies and clinical trials conducted over nearly 40 years showed that the health benefits of eating at least 25g or more of dietary fiber a day included:
1. Lower your risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, many types of cancers. 2. Improve digestive health. 3. Live longer.
If you’re struggling to get enough fiber from whole foods in your diet, then a supplement containing a little extra fiber may help. In rare cases, eating more fiber can lead to side effects. Here are some specific examples:
Is Fiber Safe?
Fiber supplements may decrease the absorption of some medications. Therefore, you should not take supplements within 2 hours of taking other medications.
When using fiber supplements or increasing dietary fiber intake, you should gradually increase your intake over a few weeks to avoid or reduce adverse effects such as intestinal flatulence, bloating, diarrhea, and cramping.
If you have a preexisting medical conditions, and especially one in which you need to restrict fluid intake (e.g., renal dysfunction or congestive heart failure), or if you’re currently taking any medications you should discuss the use of fiber supplements with your primary health care provider.
If you have intestinal ulcerations, stenosis, or disabling adhesions you should avoid fiber supplements because of the possibility of fecal impaction or intestinal obstruction.
The Best Supplements for Immunity
Zinc is an essential trace mineral and the second most abundant metal in humans. Since the human body does not store excess zinc, it must be consumed regularly as part of the diet. Zinc deficiency in humans is quite prevalent, affecting over two billion people.
Here are some proven benefits of taking a zinc supplement:
1. Boost your immune system. 2. Treating common cold and recurrent ear infections, the flu, upper respiratory tract infections.
Source: Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Arsenic, Boron, Chromium, Copper, Iodine, Iron, Manganese, Molybdenum, Nickel, Silicon, Vanadium, and Zinc
Is Zinc Safe?
Zinc is likely safe for most adults when applied to the skin, or when taken by mouth in amounts not larger than 40 mg daily.
In some people, zinc might cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, metallic taste, kidney and stomach damage, and other side effects. Using zinc on broken skin may cause burning, stinging, itching, and tingling.
Zinc should not be inhaled through the nose, as it might cause permanent loss of smell. Avoid using nose sprays containing zinc.
Taking more than 100 mg of supplemental zinc daily or taking supplemental zinc for 10 or more years doubles the risk of developing prostate cancer. There is also concern that taking large amounts of a multivitamin plus a separate zinc supplement increases the chance of dying from prostate cancer.
Taking 450 mg or more of zinc daily can cause problems with blood iron. Single doses of 10-30 grams of zinc can be fatal.
Vitamin D is a nutrient your body needs to keep your bones healthy. Our bodies can only absorb calcium, the main part of bones, when vitamin D is present.
Vitamin D is not naturally present in most foods … but you will often find it in fortified milk, cereal, and fatty fish such as salmon.
Our bodies can also make vitamin D from sunlight.
The amount of vitamin D your skin makes from sunlight depends on several factors, including the time of day, season, latitude and your skin pigmentation. Depending on where you live and your lifestyle, vitamin D production might decrease or be completely absent during the winter months. Sunscreen, while important for preventing skin cancer, also can decrease vitamin D production.
Many older adults, in particular, don’t get regular exposure to sunlight and have trouble absorbing vitamin D.
If your doctor suspects you’re not getting enough vitamin D, a simple blood test can check the levels of this vitamin in your blood.
Taking a multivitamin with vitamin D may help improve bone health. The recommended daily amount of vitamin D is 400 international units (IU) for children up to age 12 months, 600 IU for people ages 1 to 70 years, and 800 IU for people over 70 years.
1. Decrease risks or falls and fractures in the elderly. 2. Reduce risk of cardiovascular disease. 3. Lowering risk of colorectal cancer. 4. May improve inflammation and clinical symptoms in COVID-19 patients.
Taken in appropriate doses, vitamin D is generally considered safe.
However, taking too much vitamin D in the form of 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
Confusion and disorientation
Heart rhythm problems
Kidney stones and kidney damage
Possible drug interactions include:
Aluminum. Taking vitamin D and aluminum-containing phosphate binders, which may be used to treat high serum phosphate levels in people with chronic kidney disease, might cause harmful levels of aluminum in people with kidney failure in the long term.
Anticonvulsants. The anticonvulsants phenobarbital and phenytoin (Dilantin, Phenytek) increase the breakdown of vitamin D and reduce calcium absorption.
Atorvastatin (Lipitor). Taking vitamin D might affect the way your body processes this cholesterol drug.
Calcipotriene (Dovonex, Sorilux). Don’t take vitamin D with this psoriasis drug. The combination might increase the risk of too much calcium in the blood (hypercalcemia).
Cholestyramine (Prevalite). Taking vitamin D with this cholesterol-lowering drug can reduce your absorption of vitamin D.
Cytochrome P-450 3A4 (CYP3A4) substrates. Use vitamin D cautiously if you’re taking drugs processed by these enzymes.
Digoxin (Lanoxin). Avoid taking high doses of vitamin D with this heart medication. High doses of vitamin D can cause hypercalcemia, which increases the risk of fatal heart problems with digoxin.
Diltiazem (Cardizem, Tiazac, others). Avoid taking high doses of vitamin D with this blood pressure drug. High doses of vitamin D can cause hypercalcemia, which might reduce the drug’s effectiveness.
Orlistat (Xenical, Alli). Taking this weight-loss drug can reduce your absorption of vitamin D.
Thiazide diuretics. Taking these blood pressure drugs with vitamin D increases your risk of hypercalcemia.
Steroids. Taking steroid mediations such as prednisone can reduce calcium absorption and impair your body’s processing of vitamin D.
Stimulant laxatives. Long-term use of high doses of stimulant laxatives can reduce vitamin D and calcium absorption.
Verapamil (Verelan, Calan SR). Taking high doses of vitamin D with this blood pressure drug can cause hypercalcemia, and might also reduce the effectiveness of verapamil.
The Best Supplements for Pain / Inflammation
Almost a third of Americans suffer from chronic pain–nearly 100 million people.
Prescription pain medications like opoids have become a major problem though.
Here are some supplements that can help relieve pain naturally, without the use of prescription meds:
Glucosamine / Chondroitin
Glucosamine is a supplement derived from shellfish that may provide minor pain relief and help people who suffer from arthritis (particularly of the knee).
Chondroitin is a supplement frequently paired with glucosamine as a combination therapy to help with joint pain and stiffness, and other symptoms of osteoarthritis.
No serious side effects have been reported in large, well-conducted studies of people taking glucosamine, chondroitin, or both for up to 3 years.
However, glucosamine or chondroitin may interact with the anticoagulant (blood-thinning) drug warfarin (Coumadin).
A study in rats showed that long-term use of moderately large doses of glucosamine might damage the kidneys. Although results from animal studies don’t always apply to people, this study does raise concern.
Glucosamine might affect the way your body handles sugar, especially if you have diabetes or other blood sugar problems, such as insulin resistance or impaired glucose tolerance.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are considered essentialfats—your body can’t make them from scratch and therefore must get them from food. Foods high in Omega-3 include fish, vegetable oils, nuts, flax seeds, and leafy vegetables.
Omega-3 fats are an integral part of cell membranes throughout the body and help regulate blood clotting, contraction and relaxation of artery walls, and inflammation.
There are three main omega-3s:
Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) come mainly from fish, so they are sometimes called marine omega-3s.
Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), the most common omega-3 fatty acid in most Western diets, is found in vegetable oils and nuts (especially walnuts), flax seeds and flaxseed oil, leafy vegetables, and some animal fat, especially in grass-fed animals.
Omega-3 fats have been shown to help with a variety of health conditions …
1. Prevent heart disease and stroke by lowering cholesterol and triglycerides. 2. Control lupus, eczema, and rheumatoid arthritis. 3. Play protective roles in cancer and other conditions. 4. Reduce symptoms of depression. 5. Reduce arthritis-related joint pain.
I personally use Krill Oil, and highly recommend it.
Are Omega-3 Fatty Acids Safe?
Side effects of omega-3 supplements are usually mild. They include unpleasant taste, bad breath, bad-smelling sweat, headache, and gastrointestinal symptoms such as heartburn, nausea, and diarrhea.
Several large studies have linked higher blood levels of long-chain omega-3s with higher risks of prostate cancer. However, other research has shown that men who frequently eat seafood have lower prostate cancer death rates and that dietary intakes of long-chain omega-3s aren’t associated with prostate cancer risk. The reason for these apparently conflicting findings is unclear.
Omega-3 supplements may interact with drugs that affect blood clotting.
It’s uncertain whether people with seafood allergies can safely take fish oil supplements.
Pine Bark Extract (Pycnogenol
Pycnogenol, also known as “French Maritime Pine Bark Extract,” contains catechins similar to those found in green tea, grape seed extract and cocoa polyphenols.
Pcynogenol does appear to possess dual anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and its benefits include increased blood flow and improved blood glucose control.
1. Promotes healthy aging. 2. Improves symptoms of knee pain for patients with osteoarthritis. 3. Shows anti-inflammatory effects. 4.Increases antioxidant capability. 5. Improved endothelial function in hypertensive patients.
One study showed unwanted effects of a “mild and transient nature,” such as gastrointestinal problems, vertigo, headache and nausea.
The Best (Legal) Supplements for Building Muscle and Losing Fat
Proteins are organic molecules made up of amino acids (the building blocks of life). Protein helps build, maintain, and replace the tissues in your body. Your muscles, organs, and immune system are made up mostly of protein.
It’s well known that eating an adequate amount of protein is necessary if you’re trying to alter your body composition (gain muscle, lose fat, etc.).
Many folks, particularly those who follow a plant-based diet, struggle to get adequate protein from food alone though.
That’s where taking a protein powder supplement may help.
Here are some known benefits:
1. Build lean body mass (muscle). 2. Reduce body fat. 3. Maintain a healthy weight. 4. Strengthen bones as you age.
Since protein powders are dietary supplements, the FDA leaves it up to manufacturers to evaluate the safety and labeling of products.
Some proteins, particularly dairy-based ones, may cause digestive distress. People with dairy allergies or trouble digesting lactose can experience gastrointestinal discomfort if they use a milk-based protein powder.
Protein powders often have gut-disrupting gums and fillers, as well as added sugars or artificial sweeteners, many of which are carcinogenic.
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 …
1. Increase power and anaerobic running capacity. 2. Build lean mass. 3. Decrease fatigue.
When used orally at appropriate doses, creatine is likely safe to take for up to five years. However, there is concern that creatine taken in high doses is possibly unsafe and could damage the liver, kidneys or heart.
Creatine can cause: Muscle cramping, Nausea, Diarrhea, Dizziness, Gastrointestinal pain, Dehydration, Weight gain, Water retention, Heat intolerance, Fever
Don’t take creatine if you have a history of kidney disease or you have conditions such as diabetes that increase the risk of kidney problems. There also is some concern that creatine might increase mania in people who have bipolar disorder.
Many drugs might interact with creatine and increase the risk of kidney damage. Possible drug interactions include: Nephrotoxic drugs, Caffeine and Ephedra. Combining caffeine with creatine might decrease the efficacy of creatine. Combining caffeine with creatine and the supplement ephedra might increase the risk of serious side effects, such as stroke.
Beta–alanine is a non-essential amino acid that is produced naturally in the body.
While beta alanine hasn’t been studied as much as creatine, there’s some compelling evidence about the effects of beta-alanine on body composition:
1. Improve exercise performance (particularly HIIT). 2. Stimulate lean body mass growth.
Ashwagandha is probably safe when taken by mouth short-term. The long-term safety of ashwagandha is not known. Large doses of ashwagandha might cause stomach upset, diarrhea, and vomiting.
Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Do not use ashwagandha if you are pregnant. There is some evidence that ashwagandha might cause miscarriages. Not enough is known about the use of ashwagandha during breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.
Diabetes: Ashwagandha might lower blood sugar levels. This could interfere with medications used for diabetes and cause blood sugar levels to go to low.
High or low blood pressure: Ashwagandha might decrease blood pressure. This could cause blood pressure to go to low in people with low blood pressure; or interfere with medications used to treat high blood pressure.
Stomach ulcers: Ashwagandha can irritate the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Don’t use ashwagandha if you have a stomach ulcer.
“Auto-immune diseases” such as multiple sclerosis (MS), lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus, SLE), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), or other conditions: Ashwagandha might cause the immune system to become more active, and this could increase the symptoms of auto-immune diseases. If you have one of these conditions, it’s best to avoid using ashwagandha.
Surgery: Ashwagandha may slow down the central nervous system. Healthcare providers worry that anesthesia and other medications during and after surgery might increase this effect. Stop taking ashwagandha at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.
Thyroid disorders: Ashwagandha might increase thyroid hormone levels. Ashwagandha should be used cautiously or avoided if you have a thyroid condition or take thyroid hormone medications.
Possible Drug Interactions
Medications that decrease the immune system (Immunosuppressants).
Sedative medications (Benzodiazepines).
Sedative medications (CNS depressants).
The following haven’t been studied as much as ashwagandha but preliminary evidence suggests these can also help ease anxiety:
Lemon balm is a perennial herb from the mint family. The leaves, which have a mild lemon aroma, are used to make medicine.
According to several small studies, it does appear effective at inducing calmness and reducing anxiety:
Lemon balm is likely safe for most people. When taken by mouth, lemon balm can cause some side effects including increased appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dizziness, and wheezing.
When applied to the skin, lemon balm may cause skin irritation and increased cold sore symptoms.
Special precautions should be taken for the following conditions:
Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Not enough is known about the use of lemon balm during pregnancy and breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.
Diabetes. Lemon balm might lower blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. Watch for signs of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) and monitor your blood sugar carefully if you have diabetes and use lemon balm.
Surgery: Lemon balm might cause too much drowsiness if combined with medications used during and after surgery. Stop using lemon balm at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.
Thyroid disease: Don’t use lemon balm. There is a concern that lemon balm may change thyroid function, reduce thyroid hormone levels, and interfere with thyroid hormone-replacement therapy.
Possible Drug Interactions: Sedative Medications (CNS depressants). Lemon balm might cause sleepiness and drowsiness.
Reishi, also known as ganoderma lucidum or lingzi mushroom, is frequently used in traditional Chinese medicine. Its popularity extends to Japanese and Korean medicine, and it has been making its way west.
Reishi has anti-oxidative/anti-stress effects and also has a therapeutic effect on insulin resistance, reduces the risk of prostate cancer, and can help treat a variety of conditions associated with metabolic syndrome.
On top of that, the lingzi mushroom is well known for its anti-cancer effects. It is able to activate natural killer cells, increasing their activity and the body’s ability to fight tumors, and reduces the chances of metastasis, which is when cancer spreads to another part of the body, in certain types of cancers.
1. Reduce anxiety and stress levels. 2. Improve subjective well being. 3. Reduce fatigue. 4. Slows development of certain types of cancer.
Reishi mushroom may cause side effects including dryness of the mouth, throat, and nasal area along with itchiness and rash, stomach upset and diarrhea, dizziness and headache, nosebleed, and bloody stools.
Special precautions should be taken for the following conditions:
Pregnancy and breast-feeding: There is not enough reliable information about the safety of taking reishi mushroom if you are pregnant or breast feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.
Bleeding disorder: High doses of reishi mushroom might increase the risk of bleeding in some people with certain bleeding disorders.
Low blood pressure: Reishi mushroom might lower blood pressure. There is a concern that it might make low blood pressure worse. If your blood pressure is too low, it is best to avoid reishi mushroom.
A clotting disorder called thrombocytopenia: High doses of reishi mushroom might increase the risk of bleeding in people with thrombocytopenia. If you have this condition, do not use reishi mushroom.
Surgery: High doses of reishi mushroom might increase the risk of bleeding in some people if used before or during surgery. Stop using reishi mushroom at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.
Medications for high blood pressure (Antihypertensive drugs. Reishi mushroom might decrease blood pressure in some people. Taking reishi mushroom along with medications for high blood pressure might cause your blood pressure to go too low.
Medications that slow blood clotting (Anticoagulant / Antiplatelet drugs). High doses of reishi mushroom might slow blood clotting. Taking reishi mushroom along with medications that also slow clotting might increase the chances of bruising and bleeding.
I felt compelled to give an honorable nod to CBD because everybody’s talking about it.
CBD, also known as cannabidiol, is a compound derived mainly from hemp plants (which are cousins of the marijuana plant–so it does not cause a “high” like THC found in marijuana).
With the passage of the 2018 U.S. Farm Bill, as long as CBD is extracted from hemp and grown by licensed farmers in accordance with state and federal regulations, it is now legal to purchase.
In humans, CBD exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential…. To date, there is no evidence of public health related problems associated with the use of pure CBD.
World Health Organization
Although research is preliminary, it appears CBD has some legit benefits, the strongest scientific evidence being for its effectiveness in treating some of the cruelest childhood epilepsy syndromes, such as Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS), which typically don’t respond to antiseizure medications.
More recently, CBD is quickly becoming the treatment of choice for people who suffer from anxiety, insomnia, and chronic pain.
A study from the European Journal of Pain showed showed that CBD applied on the skin could help lower pain and inflammation due to arthritis. Another study demonstrated the mechanism by which CBD inhibits inflammatory and neuropathic pain, two of the most difficult types of chronic pain to treat.
More study in humans is needed in this area to substantiate the claims but its effects appear to be very promising.
The Bottom Line About Supplements
1. Do your homework. Make sure whatever supplement you’re thinking about taking has been studied for safety and efficacy. Examine.com and Pubmed are good sources.
2. Talk to your doctor before taking any new supplement. Especially if you have pre-existing health conditions.
3. Listen to your body. If a supplement makes you feel better, keep taking it. If it doesn’t, stop taking it.